I really enjoyed reading the entries for this challenge. Maybe because I’m an irrepressible snoop and I cannot be trusted with diaries and the like. The kind of things we reveal about ourselves in a private journal are different from any other kind of writing, except maybe the cash-in tell-all. But I’m glad to say that pretty much none of the journalist-characters below will be blowing up the gossip rags with what they write about. They’re too busy dealing with death, war, survival, cryptozoology and body issues. Now, if all that stuff was in ONE diary, we might have a best seller on our hands. Right now we’ve just got fifty-nine word snapshots of compelling lives that won’t show up on E! Network.

A caveat: Andy’s been having a rough go of some travel these last few days, and he apologizes for both his lateness and the terseness of his judgments. He’ll be back in top form next challenge, I’m sure. Onward!


1 – Beau

Sunday (I think)

I am at the breaking point.  I do my boss’s dirty work and get none of the glory.  I’ve been working for him for what seems like an eternity, but now I’ve fallen down the ranks.  If our meeting today goes poorly, my office might just go up in flames.


God is not pleased.

2 – Christina Pepper

May 14, 1863

The odor of rotting flesh is no longer so bothersome to me. I have become expert at dispensing medication and good cheer to my charges in Ward B. The sergeant who lost his foot at Chancellorsville bears his condition well. Yet we hear news that the rebels are not five miles away. God help us all.

MATTHEW: Both of these are compelling, and the trickery of #1 doesn’t bother me as much as a reveal this cheeky sometimes does. Interesting how they both end in four word sentences starting with God. I guess in the end, #2 feels a bit more compelling to me, and it handles its exposition well without over-explaining. WINNER: #2

NOVAK – Well we’ve started on a strong foot here.  #1 is a tight little story.  I appreciate the heck out of playful, pun-filled stories.  #2 is amazing.  “bears his condition” is the phrase that makes this entry for me, bring me authentically to this place and time.  To do that so effectively in such short order?  Wow.  Apologies to #1, but I give the win to #2.

ANDY – Well, I like both of these quite a bit. I feel more like I’m there in #2, so, #2.

WINNER: Christina Pepper


1 – Will Young

After two months, I’m feeling welcome at the church.  Alex sought me out after service and introduced me to Charlie.  Everyone in town always speaks fondly of Charlie, “The Blind Guy.”  I have heard frequent stories about the ways he helps people appreciate their lives.  He surprised me by complimenting my tie.  Apparently he sells blinds for Lowe’s.  Ouch.

2 – AMR


MATTHEW: Oh man. I could practically hear the trombone notes at the end of story #1. Lucky for you your opponent was a no-show, because I might feel bad rewarding an ending like that. WINNER: #1

Novak – Ha!  #1 wins by way of the non-sub, obviously, but that’s actually a pretty solid gag.  I approve.

ANDY: Not as fluent as I’d like, but a funny concept and it pays off well. Against no one, you win, #1.

WINNER: Will Young


1 – David Larson

The attendant looked up as the exterior door opened and a soldier schlepped in, snapping off a sloppy salute.  “I’ve got the post commander’sWSJ, sir.”

With obvious disapproval, the attendant straightened the private’s tie, brushed away doughnut crumbs, took the paper from under the private’s arm, smoothed and refolded it, and handed it back.  “Knock first, then enter.”

2 – Kelly Wells

1933(?): We are now just twelve, and we have eaten most of our dead.  If this journal should ever find its way out of this place, I urge all of Spain: do not search for Cibola.  I cannot properly describe its beauty and grandeur, but while there was almost no way in, there is absolutely no way out.

MATTHEW: Story #1: Yeah, I get it. Wall Street Journal. That trombonist is going to be very winded at the end of this season, I can tell already. #2 gave me a nice chill, though, so I don’t feel any remorse in awarding it the win here. WINNER: #2

NOVAK – #1 – Private?  Check.  Entry?  Check.  Journal?  Check.  Well played sir or madam, well played.  #2, I love the concept.  Somehow – and I’m going to blame the 59 words here – it misses just a bit of the impact I expected it to have.  Still, there’s enough there, and a high-enough level of execution, that it’s enough to win the challenge.  I still want to encourage the kind of wit we see in entry #1 though.

ANDY: Didn’t you just break the rules, #1? I hate that. But in another way, it makes my job easier. #2 wins by default. But I enjoyed it a lot anyway, #2. I’m intrigued, and I’m thinking you won anyway.

WINNER: Kelly Wells


1 – Pete Bruzek

Again, I awoke today with the crimson robed demon sitting at the foot of my bed. In his hands, the same blond haired poppet he had clutched on previous trips. “I lay claim to what is mine” he said before absconding, leaving the effigy on the nightstand.

I stood outside Annie’s room for hours.

The doll’s likeness is unmistakable.

2 – Dean Carlson

Dear Diary,

Descartes ascribes error to a discrepancy between God-given gifts: understanding and free will. God gives understanding an incomplete form, while free will can only be either given completely or not at all. If one is presented with a certain amount of understanding and acts outside of that, he is in error.  Oh and Jeter is pussy.


MATTHEW: Woof. We might have to get a brass quartet up in here. I WAS surprised by the joke, though, and I think it would have won against some other stories from this week. But I have to say, the way Story 1 gets across that sense of dread really well. Something bad’s a-goin’ down in that household, and I’m intrigued/disturbed. WINNER: #1

NOVAK – Color me fascinated by #1.  There are so many interesting elements, but it doesn’t quite come together for me.  And something about starting a piece with the word ‘again’ doesn’t sit right for me.  Weird, right?  It really is a great entry though.  #2 is aimed right straight at my heart.  Beautiful philosophical prose and baseball, and, specifically, ripping on the Yankees.  You know me too well, gentle writer.  #2 wins. 

ANDY: Again, both strong entries here. I enjoyed both thoroughly. Both authors are one’s to watch. Today, I’m feeling comedy. #2 wins.

WINNER: Dean Carlson


1 – Colin Woolston

65th of Fall – No sightings.

66th of Fall – No sightings. Found 3 cans food. Beautiful day!

67th of Fall – 3, No contact.

68th of Fall – 3, 1 kill. Remaining in pod behaved strangely. Did not retreat, remained past daylight (!)

69th of Fall – 5, No contact.

70th of fall – 8, No contact. Bunker is surrounded, must use

2 – Ian Pratt

I met a bee this morning, he flew in my window. I named him Victor.

Hey Victor, buzzzzzzz

Victor why are you

Don’t die Victor. I can’t


Victor was a good friend.  He never even got to use his stinger. I took his empty body and stuck the point into my palm, taking his poison nice and slow.

MATTHEW: Man, story #2 creeped me right the hell out. I like the start-stop rhythm of the narrative, and how the ending retains a calm and direct voice even though what’s happening is off the rails weird. I wish I could get more of a handle of what’s going on in story #1, since it’s adhering to some rules and systems that make internal sense to the author, obviously. But I can’t find a way in. WINNER: #2

NOVAK – I expected to see more entries like #1.  It’s a good way to deliver a much more overarching plot to one of these entries.  I think the number of words dedicated to the days, numbers, and “no contact” were limiting.  When such extreme word economy is needed, a strange strategic thinking has to enter into the planning of the entries.  It’s not just “what’s the setting? first person or third?, etc.”  #2 is a pretty neat concept – at least, what I’m picking up.  I have a feeling the author was thinking of a lot more depth here, and this is certainly one where character comes across in short order, and I want to stay with this character and learn a lot more.  #2 is my winner.

ANDY – Tough call again. Although I liked it, #1 feels like it maybe erred too much on the side of ambiguity, so I’m going with the bee story. #2.

WINNER: Ian Pratt


1 – Eric Schapp

I’m still sitting here on this plane. The peanuts and bloody Mary mix are not helping. Three hours late for no reason. So stupid. At least give us a reason why we boarded and have been the tarmac for 120 minutes. This sucks.

2 – Melissa D

I once thought the most satisfying thing about you, Diary, was filling you with words.  Spilling my thoughts into you.  Releasing frustrations.  Peace can’t be found in scribbles from the past, though.  Peace is in the days yet to come and the words yet to be written.  There are few things more promising than a diary’s blank pages.

MATTHEW: Oh, the ridiculous and the sublime. It’s so hard to judge two entries like these against one another, because they both capture their subject well, and they communicate it genuinely. Sadly, as much as I felt kinship for the person in #1, #2 was just too nicely poetic not to reward. WINNER: #2

NOVAK – #1 strikes me as not being fiction?  And I’ve been there before (haven’t we all?) and this certainly captures the experience.  #2 goes for the philosophical, the “nature of a diary” stuff.  I dig that, and #2 gets the edge.

ANDY: #1 just wasn’t compelling for me. I found #2 a bit corny, but it’s a bit better written and so you’re my winner today.

WINNER: Melissa D


1 – Erik Sundberg

Sadly, not much for you today either.  Those 4 weeks before you were born were a nice vacation from the Chemo, but I’m back in the chair today.

As I’ve said, this book could be the only thing that you’ll know me by, the one chance I’ll have to tell you anything.

And I never know what to write.

2 – Zack Sauvageau

Thursday Morning: Six strips of bacon, Denver omelet, two blueberry muffins, one quart of orange juice. 112.8 pounds.

Thursday Afternoon: Work bathroom, three flushes. Target bathroom, one flush. 109.7 pounds.

Friday Morning: Egg McMuffin, Sausage McMuffin, four hashbrowns, two large Cokes. 111.3 pounds.

Friday Afternoon: Woods behind work. Upstairs bathroom, one flush. 107.9 pounds. I’m almost there. I can do it.

Saturday Morning:

MATTHEW: Both of these were sort of heartbreaking. I don’t know what the inclusion of “Saturday Morning” does for the second story; it does give it a sense of continuation, but I don’t know if that strengthens the story or not. I almost would have preferred it end on “I can do it.” Meanwhile, #1 is sort of devastating in its conciseness. Laid out a smidgen too neatly, though. But there’s no denying the pain in that last line. This is my close call of the week, no doubt. I think the edge goes to #1.

NOVAK – Talk about two amazingly sad entries.  Well freaking wrote, you bastards.  That last line in #1 is tragic because it is so entirely true.  #2 is calculating and cold and effective for exactly that reason.  The subtext in #2 is brilliant.  In my “Close Call” for the challenge, the edge goes to #1.  It’s one I know will stick with me forever.

ANDY: Yikes. Guess I got my daily dose of depression today. Um, believe it or not, #1 depressed me less. I think #2 came up with a little more original idea and that’s why I’m choosing it today.

WINNER: Erik Sundberg


1 – Sarah Johnson

Christ, what are these things?

They’re in a Folger’s can under my cot. We found a pile on the shore.

They look like thumbs – boneless pink blobs we found in the muck. They’re getting warmer. Their insides are shifting. Are they full of blood?

Steve wants to call the DNR.

I’ll tell him they disappeared.

2 – Erik Dikken

Dear Diary,

I am hidding under my bed. This is what mommy told me to do if strangers ever came into the house. I herd mommy yelling and there was a loud bang. I think they shote her. I am trying be very quiet but I want to cry. Dady will be here soon. He will save me and

MATTHEW: Another close pairing, but in each case I think the authors were just shy of hitting the notes they were reaching for. I want to know more about whatever’s affecting the decision guy-in-story-1 is making, but there’s no way to really get that across in 59 words. I almost want story #2 to be a little less mysterious, so there’s something for me to latch onto other than the innocent one being attacked. Because of the what-the-fuckness of it, I’m going to give the edge to the first story. WINNER: #1

NOVAK – You know what Kelly Wells?  You can go to hell for compiling these this way.  Seriously?  This is the last one for the challenge?  What kind of a sick, twisted freak are you?  Seriously.  It’s tough to provide any commentary on #1, after experiencing that ride in #2.  Still, #1, I think you tapped into a very exciting curiosity with your entry.  I like that both reader and “writer” are trying to figure it out.  Well done.  #2, you win.  You win it all.  You stabbed my soul.  I’m going to go cry for about a week.  I’m not going to let my wife read these because she’ll cry for at least twice that.  Wow.  My soul is bleeding.  Wow.

ANDY: Please please please no kids dying stuff you guys! Eeeek! No, it’s OK. It’s just that I’m apart from my kids the next few days and I don’t think I can take it. In any case, these are both well written. But #1 is just awesome. Nice work, #1. You win!

WINNER: Sarah Johnson

There you have it, confessors. You’ve got the next challenge as well, so here’s who you’ll be butting literary heads with:

Beau vs. Melissa D.

Christina Pepper vs. David Larson

Eric Schapp vs. Erik Dikken (“with a c” vs. “with a k” ROUND ONE)

Kelly Wells vs. Zack Sauvageau

Sarah Johnson vs. Dean Carlson

Erik S. vs. AMR

Pete Bruzek vs. Ian Pratt

DPWY vs. Colin Woolston