So after many arduous battles with the copy/paste functions in google docs (seriously google, you gotta have better than a 30% success rate on that function), I managed to resolve the crisis and collect the final results. Half of you will probably like them. Half of you will probably not. But all of you submitted, for the some-number-of-times in a row (2?) so really, we’re all winners! Except the losers. You guys still lost.

 

MATCH A

1 – Dean Carlson

The sudden lights and opening of the garage door caught Gary by surprise but he was ready. Within seconds, Gary’s laptop was safely exited and closed. As keys jingled in the back door Gary was sitting on the couch, blankets strategically placed on his lap. Gary’s wife walks into the room and says “hi hon!, whatcha been up to?”

2 – Ian Pratt

“Sir, Mr. Voschev just called. He said his installation will require 15 more corpses.”

“He tells us now? For fuck’s sake, we open tomorrow!”

The curator sighed. Running an art gallery was stressful, but new exhibitions were killer. He looked out the window at the kids playing in the park across the street, counting. About 15, give or take.

MATTHEW: Ooooooo…kay. Two stories making me somewhat uncomfortable to start. Looks like we’re in for a fun evening. Y’know, when I was a teenager, my mother would refer to my purloined nudie mags as “art books.” So what, you ask? Me too. I don’t know how to define a good story, but I know it when I see it. WINNER: #2

Novak – #1 has a tight story. It’s not quite a conventional defuse but I’m guessing a lot of these won’t be. A couple of awkward phrases or missing commas hurt though. Picky picky, huh? #2 is fantastic in concept. The word-play a style strike a nice light/dark balance. #2 wins.

ANDY: I’m going to assume that Gary was buying a nice anniversary present for his wife online, and not surfing http://www.shaved-apes-shaving-apes.com. But wait, this is CdL, right? A clever concept, but it falls short in execution, I’m afraid. Too many mentions of Gary by name and the punctuation errors give this piece an unpolished feel. #2 gives us disturbing thoughts of a different kind, and I found it more compelling with a bit more polish. Winner is #2.

WINNER: Ian Pratt

MATCH B

1 – Christina Pepper

When Ricochet climbed to the top of the cell, I had no choice but to follow.
“Dude, this match is worked,” I yelled, pounding his meaty face into the steel cage.
He stood and spit out a tooth. The crowd began chanting his name.
“Chill, man,” I growled.
He unleashed his choke slam, sending me airborne. Landing’s gonna hurt.

2 – Sarah Johnson

“Standard procedure, ma’am – another quick operation. Please sign here.” Her husband sucked at the tracheal tube.

I had closed him up that morning. The post-op film showed brilliant surgical skill: my pager wasn’t on the nightstand after all.

I couldn’t lose my license over this.

She reached for the clipboard as muffled beeps filled the room.

MATTHEW: Story 1 suffers a little in that the actual crisis is a little undefined. Not knowing wrestling patois may be a small detriment for me there, but otherwise I liked the visceral immediacy of it. It took me four read-throughs before I figured out what was going on in story 2. It still escapes me a bit, because I don’t know how a post-op film would show a nightstand. And don’t get me started on tracheal tubes. Gonna have one in me in about a week. In the end, I was more excited by story 1. WINNER: #1

Novak – Hot dang these ones are good. I finished #1 and was impressed by the vivid color in this little world. #2 matches the brilliance of #1, it’s funny, but it’s not a joke. That’s the difference between good and great writing. It’s my “Close Call” of the week, and #1 is sticking with me just a little more, so it gets the edge.

ANDY: This is a strange one, because while I found that the flow of the writing worked slightly better in #2, #1 felt like a much more cohesive, straightforward story. #2 had me going back, rereading to try to glean understanding of the situation, and it was more difficult than I would have liked. I’m still not quite sure what the surgical skill has to do with the pager. With the short format, I’m going with the story that got its point across a bit better and had good voice and character. Winner #1.

WINNER: Christina Pepper

MATCH C

1 – Colin Woolston

Standing over Iver, him to the elbows inside the screaming ewe, Helda registered the teardrop on his cheek; an unwelcome stranger on what had been an unconquered shore. She knelt to help hold Iver steady. Their eyes met briefly, and she saw his fear. Today God would decide, lamb or ewe. Tomorrow she would decide, love or survival.

2 – Zack Sauvageau

It only took Julie an hour to regret eating at Denny’s. She pulled over immediately and ran to the ditch. After she had already shit, she realized she had no TP.

“What am I going to do?” she sobbed.

Shane and Julie started to fuck as soon as she walked in the door. “You went commando for me?”

MATTHEW: You’re kidding me, right? A hands-on (and -in) farm birthing scene and a scatological melodrama? Did you guys contact each other in advance and say “hey, let’s really fuck with the judges heads this week”? Aside from the viscera and offal, story 1 still eludes me with its highly indirect style. I have no idea why Helda would be leaving Iver. None. Meanwhile, I have far too much of an idea what went down in story 2. Ulp. WINNER: #2

Novak – #1 required a slower read, and it earned it. I’m not quite sure what the last line is getting at though – it hints at backstory, at threat to survival, etc., but we can’t quite get it in so little time. Still, I love the style and the word choices. Gorgeous. #2 is funny. It’s also gross. And the fact that it’s gross isn’t what makes it funny, it’s the fact that a character was unwise enough to eat at Denny’s that makes it funny. #1 is the winner.

ANDY: #1, I like what you’re going for here, but I feel like you might have pushed it a bit with the flowery language. The problem is, when it works it really works, but when it doesn’t, it can take me out of the moment and become more aware of the writer’s process. This can really change from reader to reader, and even on the mood of a single reader. Although I’m intrigued by the characters and their situation, I do feel a bit pulled out by the language. Ah, shit. I require at least one shit story per week, and this will fill the quota nicely. Took me second to register the particulars of the resolution, and then, there it was. I’m giving this one to #2 for a successful gross-out. You may not find me in such a mood very much more often, I’m afraid, #2, but for today, congrats. #1, you’ve got the makings of greatness in you, but today wasn’t your day. Chin up.

WINNER: Zack Sauvageau

MATCH D

1 – Erik S.

Matthews, undetected, had flanked the robber while his partner O’Meara engaged him, pleading for him to release the cashier.

Matthews took his shot just as the robber unexpectedly jerked the shopkeeper backwards.

A bloody haze was still dissipating around the robber’s stunned face when O’Meara put three bullets in his chest.

This was going to be so much paperwork.

2 – Melissa D.

…with a sigh. No blaze of glory. You once imagined You vs the Man. You vs God. A final battle that meant something.

But this? Pill bottle. Liquor bottle. Cell phone by your head, a dim glow keeps you awake.

A text vibrates and reads, “You there?”

Thoughts swim in circles. Do I struggle, or do I go out…

MATTHEW: A few more words and I’m sure story 1 would’ve included “I’m getting too old for this job.” I
liked it a lot, for what it was, which was pretty on the nose. But it didn’t feel unearned, and it flowed well. Unfortunately, story 2 is a small piece of intensity, and I like how it hints at repeating itself. It’s pretty chilling. WINNER: #2

Novak – For me, these are both stories that resonate with potential, but both are cut a bit short. #1 feels the need to go for the gag when it had been a nice, tight story until then. It worked on a comedic level, but it didn’t match the tone of the rest of the story, and felt like it sold it a little short. #2 gets where it needs to, but the terseness of the language prevents some of the emotional connection you want in such a tale. Ultimately though, I appreciated the way it stayed true to itself, so #2 wins. A close match-up though, so take solace other writer.

ANDY: #1 is a nice, neat story that gives us a setup, the action, and a nice conclusion. Nicely constructed within the word limit, and the voice works well. I want to give kudos to #2 for the attempt to tackle some heavy subject matter, and you came oh-so-close to having something great here. Unfortunately, I feel some dissonance in the perspective of the narrative: third person or first person? However, I am successfully pulled into the moment and the mind of this character. Close call, but I’m giving the edge to #1, which felt a little more polished.

WINNER: Melissa D.

MATCH E

1 – AMR

“Fuck! Where’s the check?”
Christy sees I don’t understand.
“The fucking insurance check! I set it right here so I’d remember to deposit it!”
As if I hid it from her. “I don’t know; I don’t use that table.”
Her nostrils flare. She thinks I’m blaming her. “Don’t worry, it’ll show up.”

It didn’t. The rent bounced. I split.

2 – Beau

The sun was blackening. His brethren were banging on pots and drums to scare away the dragon. Yang Tsen knew better. His family long held the responsibility of protecting Chengdu and he could think of no greater honor. He handed his katana to his eldest son, kneeled, and awaited his glorious sacrifice. The sun would live another generation.

MATHEW: Really not a lot to say about story 1. It doesn’t really feel like a crisis, because we’re seeing in through the speaker’s eyes, and he obviously couldn’t care less. Story 2 borders on the epic, and it’s really effective storytelling for 59 words. WINNER: #2
Novak – #1 drives me crazy – it introduces a conflict but doesn’t resolve it, it just walks away from it (both literally (because it’s literature… get it?) and figuratively). Introducing the threat – rent bouncing, and all that – earlier could help the conflict gain consequence earlier in the story. #2 is fantastic. Especially the double entendre in the last line. Ultimate sacrifice, cool fantasy setting… I feel like I haven’t been rewarding these enough this season, since I usually love ‘em, so I’m glad to give #2 the nod this time.

ANDY: #1, you had me invested in the characters and where the story might be going, but that ending just really jolted me out of the story and felt really tacked on and sudden. Unfortunately it ruined what was a great opening few lines. #2 is my favorite piece this week, and one of my favorites of the whole competition. Everything is working for me here: setting, voice, character, language, originality. The story is very nicely contained within the word limit as well. I loved it. Easy choice for #2.

WINNER: Beau

MATCH F

1 – Kelly Wells

The terrorist walks past my seat, threatening us.

Mom whispers, “Happy birthday. I was going to give you Twilight Sparkle. I love you so much.” I wipe her tears.

The bad man passes by once more. I trip him and a good guy takes him down.

I’ve been asking for Twilight Sparkle since I turned five. She’s brave too.

2 – Eric Schapp

Pete took his hand off of the throttle. Damn birds. You never know when you’ll hit them.

But it seemed everything was okay. He turned off the no smoking sign. Even though the icon no longer made sense in modern airplanes he didn’t want to test his luck.

He gave the controls to Becky and lit up a Camel.

MATTHEW: I guess friendship really is magic. I have to say neither of these stories really gripped me, but I thought the post-crisis cigarette was a nice touch. In the case of story 1, the mention of Twilight Sparkle felt very heavy-handed and shoehorned in. I don’t think it added as much to the story as the author hoped it might. I’m giving this one to story 2. WINNER: #2

Novak – #1 is a little unclear in the setting, but I’m going to assume it’s a plane, because then we’ve got a fun Airplane! matchup. Shirley, that’s a strange coincidence (eh? eh?). I think #1 does a good job using motivation, how a kid would do something others might not, and it’s obviously the right thing (or at least it works out). There’s a believability in that motivation, even if it’s a bit extreme in the particular case here. #2 is a funny gag. Plus it introduces another fun fantasy element – female co-pilots! (eh? eh?). I smiled pretty big at the reveal. It’s a tight one, but #2 wins the airplane battle for me.

ANDY: #1 has a great, original concept and it’s executed well. It fits within the word limit nicely as a complete story. I enjoyed it. I can’t find very much fault with #2, the idea of turning off the no smoking sign is a clever one, and I liked it a lot. Neither stories are perfect, but I guess I’m more sympathetic to the protagonist in #1, and it gets my nod.

WINNER: Eric Schapp

MATCH G

1 – Erik Dikken

Oops. I now realize that I won’t be able to write my story tonight. Will Young will win by default AGAIN. My only method for defusing this crisis will be to submit something terribly meta. I hope this doesn’t affect my playoff hopes. Oh, I’ve only won once so far? Well consider that crisis defused.

2 – Will Young

Thome’s violent swing caught Redmond’s head. Gardy stared dejectedly ruing the day Corky Miller was released. With Mauer in the lineup, Gardy pondered his available moves. He doffed his cap, rubbed his hands through his balding hair, and clenched his teeth. Matt Garza would have to hit for himself. The horror!
And that’s why Drew Butera has a job.

MATTHEW: Ha-ha. Meta. Suuuupermeta. Ubermeta. The thing is, I don’t really feel like Story 2 earned the victory either. It’s a bit too (wait for it) “Inside Baseball” for me to connect with it, although I liked the accurate description of Gardenhire’s physicality. I dunno, I got a smile out of story 1. WINNER: #1

Novak – #1 is funny. #2 is not. (I was tempted to not write any more commentary, but that seems like poor sportsmanship from a judge somehow.). #2 is a bit too much like a sesame street character – it’s not showy, it’s telly. (eh? eh?). But I can at least appreciate the material. #1 is really quite funny in it’s meta approach. I like true meta – where the writing calls into question the nature of writing – but often dislike “faux meta” – where folks are just writing CdL fanfiction. #1 falls more into that category, but it’s quite witty in doing so, and also, screw Drew Butera. #1 wins.

ANDY: Nope, it’s not working #1. Nice try. Although I almost gave it to you after reading #2. This one really didn’t work for me, sorry. Baseball is really only interesting to me if it’s like a metaphor for something (even that is highly questionable), and this was straight up baseball inside humor. I’m sure there are many people out there who might get a kick out of this, unfortunately, I ain’t one of them. But, it’s better than a non-sub. Winner: #2.

WINNER: Erik Dikken

MATCH H

1 – David Larson

Shelly sat in the kitchen kneading her temples and staring at the blank paper in front of her. “Dad, I need a 59-word story about a man-made disaster, or my Creative Writing grade is sunk.”

The man left, and returned shortly with an ink-scrawled scrap of paper. “A spinning cat…the end of the world… 59 words – great! Thanks Dad!”

2 – Pete Bruzek

Every night, another cat.

From off the street he rescues them. They all have names, and he keeps track of them. When I tried to bring a few to the shelter, he found out and stopped me.

“I get it, Bob, you’re turning fifty next month.” I say.

My God, why can’t he just buy a damned convertible?

MATTHEW: Slightly less meta, story 1, but still meta. Again, doesn’t really bring me into a feeling of crisis or the aversion of same. Story 2 was an interesting take on the idea of a midlife crisis, and the last line actually made me chuckle. WINNER: #2

Novak – #1 is more of the true meta I was talking about. And I enjoy that. It’s a bit campy, but I applaud the effort to introduce character in meta. #2 has a funny last line. For the life of me, I can’t figure out where you could have added anything more, but the tone of the narrator makes them a fairly blank slate, and I wanted more character there. A solid entry. Also, what’s up with double cats? Are you all collaborating on your matchups just to mess with the judges? Anyway, I liked ‘em both, but the meta one won me over. #1 wins

ANDY: For a second you guys had me fooled into thinking you were working together to create the most awesome spectacle of a matchup ever! Oh well. Sorry, #1, you went totally meta on me and I missed the reference. Was it from this season? I’m too tired to remember or look it up, sorry. However, the concept comes across just fine whether or not I get the reference. It’s the fact that I recognize it as a reference that’s important, right? Also, why did you call the dad “the man”? Anyway, on to #2. Rescuing cats as midlife crisis? OK, not sure I would have ever thought of that, but it’s certainly an original idea. I felt like a bit more effort and time went into #2, and without a clearer distinction to help me make the call, that’s what I’m going with. Winner: #2.

WINNER: Pete Bruzek

For your next gag – I mean ‘gig’ – you’ve got to write a joke.  It can be a new joke.  It can be an old joke, re-purposed.  Heck, it could just be an old joke.  It doesn’t even really have to be funny.  You could take an old joke and turn it into a sad story (chicken crosses road… to get to a job where he slaves away every day for a boss that hates him and a wage that’s too low).  But there has to be a joke, and if you’re doing the “not funny” thing, you’d be wise to start from a joke that you’re sure the judges will recognize…

Match-ups are somewhere, but I don’t have ’em right now, so I’ll put them up later.