I’ll be honest folks, I had a crap weekend. I’m going to just leap right into the judging. Oh, and I apologize in advance for being such a grump in my reviews. But maybe if y’all didn’t suck so much as writers, we wouldn’t have these little problems, would we?

Sorry. I’m sorry. That’s just the bourbon and spite talking. Onward:

MATCH A

1 – Erik S

Though the dim light in the casino’s dressing room was generous, he was still disappointed.  Her tits were trending towards 6 o’clock, and he was pretty sure that was a C-section scar.  Still, it wasn’t 1983 anymore.  Coke had been replaced by Cialis.

Resigned, he flashed his best Tiger Beat smile and asked, “So, baby, you ready for looooove?”

 

2 – Eric Schapp

The noise created by Flock of Seagulls would cover what he was doing. It was unlikely that even the Gullies standing next to him would hear the telltale squeal. One person will make that sound, but the darkness and decibels will give him cover. It would finally happen; he would sing “I Ran (So Far Away)” with the band.

 

MATTHEW: I gotta be honest, I don’t know that I’m getting everything Story 2 is laying out. Or intending to lay out. Did he just want to sing along at a concert? Why make such a big deal out of being heard? And what of the squeal? I dunno man. Story 1 is a well-worn tale of well-worn people, but I do get its through-line. So on that standard alone, it gets the win. WINNER: #1

Novak – Solid character in #1.  I love the C-section scar line.  It takes an expected idea and executes it beautifully.  #2 is not what I saw coming, and I love it for that.  This is a fantastic challenge, and tough to pick.  The surprise I got from #2 pushes it over the edge.

ANDY: Both solid entries, but #1 runs away with it. The details are spot on, and the pacing is great. Well done, #1. Tough, luck this week, #2, I don’t have a lot of criticism for you. Just went up against superior competition tonight.

WINNER: Erik S

 

MATCH B

1 – Zack Sauvageau

James asked who was opening tonight when he paid for his ticket.

“The Bookworms” she replied. James fucking hated The Bookworms. He made a bee-line for the bar to start taking advantage of the $2 Old Style pounders.

Their set was worse than expected. This is why he rarely showed up early for shows anymore.

 

2 – AMR

My first BJ was at a concert, in the bathroom.  She was a drunk cougar who had been watching me earlier.  “I got some things to teach you,” she said and closed the stall door.

During the show’s finale, I made eye contact and sang along with Sharon, Lois, and Bram, “Skinnamarinky-doo, I love you.”  Mrs. Warren looked away.

 

MATTHEW: Story 1, you accomplished the right tone for a show whose opening act was boring and dull. There was little about the story that was worth showing up for. It seemed like the exposition for a much longer, more impressive story. As for Story 2, OH MY GOD. Godddddd. Goddamn. Oh, oh. Ew. Story two, eewwww. Ew. You win. WINNER: #2

Novak – #1 has a believability to it that smacks of someone’s real-life position on crappy opening bands.  #2’s reveal was big enough that it got me going back and re-picturing the entire scene.  It’s a funny bit, and enough to win.  #2.

ANDY: #1 just wasn’t compelling for me. I need a more original concept than this, or really evocative writing, but this just didn’t go anywhere. #2 gets us back to the depravity that we’ve all come to know and love here at CdL. I didn’t love it, but it’s enough to get you past #1.

WINNER: AMR

 

MATCH C

1 – Pete Bruzek

I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was moshing at a Bludgeoned By Lobsters show until some shithead dislocated my jaw. I made my way to safety. I turned, and there she was.

Fake blood rained upon us from the ceiling. She looked beautifully unholy; gore slicked and bathed in pyrotechnic hell-light.

Nine months later, there you were.

 

2 – Christina Pepper

She’s so alive out there, her skin glowing under the lights. She and her guitar are as intimate as old lovers, and she coaxes sounds from it I’ve only dreamed. Backstage, I watch silently. I’ll be the one in her bed tonight, but I long to provide as much pleasure as she gets from that sea of screaming fans.

 

MATTHEW: I figured there had to be a conception story in this week’s entries. I think it’s interesting that you made the act of love, as it were, no more or less intense than the dislocated jaw. It makes the story that much more distant, which makes me think there’s something pretty screwed-up about the father/child relationship. Meanwhile, story 2 felt a bit pat to me. Some of the language was lovely, but other parts of it felt rote and expected. By a slight margin, I’m going with the first one. WINNER: #1

Novak – #1 is jam packed with awesomeicity.  That the last line is a big reveal almost spoils it.  Almost.  #2 introduces some solid character motivations, and when you can hit that depth in 59 words, I appreciate the heck out of it.  I expected “guitar” over “screaming fans” but I loved the choice.  This one is tight, but I’ve got to reward #1’s totally over-filled genius.

ANDY: Nice concept #1, and the twist in the end works. I’m not sure the voice in this piece is as good as it could be for the concept, but it works well enough. I appreciate the idea you’re going for #2, but it failed in the execution. I feel strange saying this about a story where the narrator is talking about sex, but it felt a bit on the sappy side. I guess I was looking for a little more edge. Winner: #1.

WINNER: Pete Bruzek

 

MATCH D

1 – David Larson

“Alright class, it’s time to look at your Inukshuk dioramas.  Justin, yours is first – can you tell us about it?”

The shy fourth grader stood up.  “Mrs. Hornette, it’s a rock concert.  And these guys on stage are the Rolling Stones.”

“Well, it’s an excellent diorama, Justin, but I’m giving you a week of detention for those bad puns.”

 

2 – Colin Woolston

Emily wiped her mouth.

“I can go backstage now?”

“Yeah. Why you’re so excited to see Cold Play, I have no Idea, but here’s your badge.”

Emily concealed her disappointment while grabbing the badge. She had been hoping for something better than Cold Play, but, a chance at a paternity suit is a chance at a paternity suit.

 

MATTHEW: Ugh. I have to say, neither of these stories worked for me. First of all, the pun wasn’t that successful, since Inuksuit don’t roll. And the second story didn’t really feel like there was any driving emotion behind it. Not even opportunistic greed, or scheming. I don’t think you did yourself any favors by starting with the mouth-wipe and ending with the announcement of the paternity suit: the main character feels loathsome, and not in interesting ways. (There’s also the fact that Coldplay is one word, not two.) However, the edge does go to #2 because #1 wasn’t even tangentially related to a concert event. WINNER: #2

Novak – Oh you kidders.  These are both funny.  #1 makes me proud to have been that kid.  #2 has a fantastic twist, but that last sentence comes off a bit awkward.  It’s my “Close Call” of the week, but I gotta go with the one after my own heart… #1 wins.

ANDY: Minus 1 point for misspelling Coldplay. Just unforgivable (not really). Both went for the funny here, and I have to say, #1 really nailed it for me. The dialogue put me right there in the setting, and the language was perfect. It didn’t hurt that the joke was great, too. Congrats, #1.

WINNER: David Larson

 

MATCH E

1 – Sarah Johnson

Camille isn’t blinking.

Her temples sparkle in the windshield, a rouge-sticky smile locked in place. Camille had front row tickets. We met the drummer: a nearly perfect city night.

Camille isn’t moving.

Sirens scream from the west. Gasoline vapors warp the starlight and I smell burning hair.

My legs are broken.

Crickets sing; the sirens fade away.

 

2 – Kelly Wells

We face one another, as close as lovers.  I sing as he wails on the guitar.  Like every night, we are as one.

We lock eyes.  There’s something new in there.  A coldness.

He knows I’m sleeping with Janine.  He forces a smile, committing to the moment and to the performance.  It’s the last show we’ll ever perform together.

 

MATTHEW: Both stories are nicely chilling in their way. But each also seemed to shoehorn something into the narrative in clumsy ways. The first story forced the mention of the concert itself, when it almost would have been better without mentioning it (even though that’d probably disqualify it.) The “sleeping with Janine” element seems forced too, and I wonder if it would have heightened the story to not include a reason. Both stories came pretty close to knocking me sideways. I’m giving the edge to the musicians. WINNER: #2

Novak – I expected some band turmoil, and #2 doesn’t disappoint.  I think the last line probably gives a little too much info, but it’s written with a rhythm that fits the subject.  #1 blows me away.  I thought it would be darker – he did something awful to her, etc. – but with the narrator injured too…  it ramps up the impact.  And it doesn’t say too much, which is fantastic.  #1 wins.

ANDY: #1 successfully straddles the line for me between true style and floweriness for its own sake. The short sentence structure comes close to being too much, but again, comes down on the right side. This is the edge I’m looking for. Evocative, and an original idea. #2 doesn’t have a problem with the writing for me as much as it feels a little cliche. Tough assignment this week, but I was hoping for something a little more.

WINNER: Sarah Johnson

 

MATCH F

1 – Will Young

He scanned the room and counted.  Sixteen people: eleven swaying, four talking, four checking their phones, and one counting.

He wandered to the bar and ordered a whiskey.

“Five-fifty.”

“No, I’m in the band – the main one,” he explained.

“Oh, sorry.”

For the eighteenth consecutive day, he wondered why he turned down that architecture gig to pursue this dream.

 

2 – Melissa Diamond

Bass thumping.  Sweaty bodies pressed close.   Ears ringing when it’s done.  The night outside is crisp and filled with shouts of “We’re rock stars!”  Sex, drugs, and…

…my alarm clock.

At six a.m.

Head thumping.  Pelvis aching.  Who the hell is this next to me?  How am I supposed to work today?

Never, ever again.

Or maybe next weekend.

 

MATTHEW: Interesting how the stories are matching up this week. Two disillusioned folks in this pairing, both scraping what little charm they still can out of their rock ‘n’ roll dream. I think the “maybe next weekend” is a lovely touch which makes the fate of the protagonist just that much more upsetting. In a good way. WINNER: #2

Novak – Another good match-up, both looking at the not-so-shiny part of the scene.  Both of them also do a fantastic job with economy of words.  Those last lines in #2 are perfectly exact.  The last lines in #1 do a little too much “telling” but the rest of the story engages in a very real way.  #1 wins.

ANDY: #1, either you didn’t proofread your result, you can’t do math, or you’ve decided to write one of these logic puzzles (“If there are 16 people in a room, and 11 of them are swaying, four of them are talking, and four are checking their phones, how many, at most, must be swaying and checking their phones?”). In any case, it’s not enough to bother me too much in this otherwise solid story. The last sentence feels a bit tacked on, but it doesn’t take too much away. #2 is an example for me where going for the short sentences doesn’t work. The idea feels a bit unoriginal as well. Winner, #1.

WINNER: Will Young

 

MATCH G

1 – Erik Dikken

“Where are you? What? No, listen, I can’t…. hey, asshole! Hands off! The bathroom? Which one? Of course the girls, what side of the arena? Hey! I said hands off! Okay, meet me outside near the entrance in ten minutes. The north entrance! Where we parked! Okay, bye. Stop touching… alright, fine. But I only have ten minutes.”

 

2 – Ian Pratt

ŽŹŻ usually began his shows by riding onstage on a thirty-foot wormbeast, but after it got loose in Rio and ate some back-up dancers he switched to a low-key entrance.

He swooped into Tokyo astride a bat-eagle thing, its deafening screeeeches cutting through the guitar reverb as its giant wings beat great gusts of air over the delirious crowd.

 

MATTHEW: How could you deny the awesomeness of Story 2? Sounds like the ultimate gig, if you ask me. Even if he just does Tiny Tim covers afterward. Story 1 loses something by the realtime retelling, I’m afraid, especially since it’s so difficult to keep that first person voice and get enough detail across to the reader. I didn’t feel connected enough, in the end. WINNER: #2

Novak – I love your creativity #2.  It’s not much of a story, but I love it.  #1 does a better job of showing than telling than just about anything yet this season.  It’s a trap I fall into all the time (and hence why I have so many damn comments about it), but this is expert.  #1 wins.

ANDY: Wow, this is a tough one. #2 is so out there that it would be hard to compare this to any other story. But you know what, it works, and I really like it. Going for originality on its own isn’t enough, it has to be executed well, too. You did it! In fact, you had me at wormbeast. #1, this was a fine effort and I really enjoyed both the concept and the way it was written. The only problem was that it took me a few read throughs to really get the flow of the conversation, and when the caller was talking to whom. #2 hit me on the first read-through and that’s enough to win. #2.

WINNER: Ian Pratt

 

MATCH H

1 – Dean Carlson

Gazing down at the crowd of crazy hot women in black rock tees, ripped jeans, and gel-tousled hair grabbing at his boots, Peter just knew he was going to get laid tonight.  Before he and his cover band “Cheaper Trick” kicked into Surrender, Peter looked at his childhood friend Dave and shouted, “we should have done this years ago.”

 

2 – Beau

“You lied to me.”

“You would have said…”

“No?  Maybe.  I might have said yes.”

“We paid seventy-five dollars!  Now what?”

“Stubhub?”

“This is so unfair!” Sofie ran upstairs.

He sighed. There’d be no Halestorm tonight. Hailstorm, maybe.  He wondered if he was a good father.

“I hate you!” she yelled, slamming her door.

He loved her like crazy.

 

MATTHEW: Now, I really liked BOTH of these. Nicely built and delivered stories, believable situations, and kept me interested throughout. I have to say, though, the last line of story 2 just killed me. Really drives home the bad-guy parent doing what he has to do, even when it hurts. WINNER: #2

Novak – #1 does a good job of setting a scene and getting into character motivation, but there’s no much conflict to speak of.  Petty for 59 words, but when it’s up against the ultimate conflict in #2, that kind of matters.  #2 is another great approach to this challenge.  I’m impressed by the topic.  A bit heavy handed with the “wondering if he was a good father” but you had to get that point across somewhere, I suppose.  One of my favorites this week.  #2 wins.

ANDY: Neither of these really captured me like I would have hoped. #1 just isn’t an original enough idea for me. #2 is slightly more original, but didn’t quite bring me all of the way there. Again, as I stated in an earlier critique, I think I was looking for something a little edgier this week. I enjoyed #2 a bit more and that’s my winner tonight.

WINNER: Beau

 

And so another week has come and gone. You’re all much more patient and talented than my comments would indicate. For next time, your story should be about someone trying to defuse a crisis of some kind. Here are your match ups:

AMR vs. Beau

Dean Carlson vs. Ian Pratt

Zack Sauvageau vs. Colin Woolston

Erik Dikken vs. DPWY

David Larson vs. Pete Bruzek

Melissa D vs. Erik S

Christina Pepper vs. Sarah Johnson (CHICK FIGHT!!!)

Eric Schapp vs. Kelly Wells