Has everyone had enough turkey? Stuffing? Can-berry sauce? Not me. I like to indulge enough to get a nice tryptophan coma on until midway through December, so I don’t have to witness too much of you Christians’ insufferable harmony and peace and such. This year I had no Thanksgiving to speak of, so I’m sadly, maddeningly alert and aware. Which means I just have to feast on your creative efforts, tearing the meat from your musings. Who will survive the carnage? Ch-check it out…MATCH A 

1 – Will Young


2 – Ian Pratt



MATTHEW: Oh, you guys. Happy Thanksgiving. 

Novak – There’s no excuse for this (eh?  eh?).  Double losses.

WINNER: Nobody. Double losses for you two.



1 – Eric Schapp

Ms. Smithydown asked me why I wasn’t seated on time for Thermonuclear-dynamics. I couldn’t tell her that while zipping my fly I got my junk stuck…I told her the first thing that popped into my head, that I was working on the ABC Conjecture.” She said it was the first time anabelian geometry had been successfully used in class.

2 – David Larson

“The Director needs his money — now.”

“I’m their daughter, and I don’t want you calling them anymore!  You’re getting no more money from them.  They’re on fixed incomes; they don’t even have a TV!”

“Lady, we know where they live…”

“Call again and I’m reporting you!  Goodbye!”

“Mom, Dad — that’s it; absolutely no more pledging to PBS!”


MATTHEW: Story 1 doesn’t really feel like an apology to me. Or an apology for someone else. Which is too bad, because it’s the first time anabelian geometry has been successfully used in one of these stories. Meanwhile #2 gave me a chuckle, and I like to chuckle. WINNER: #2

ANDY – I’m not sure what to make of the entries that force us to go on Wikipedia. Are you to be rewarded for the obvious extra effort, or do I fall back on my lazy nature, where I want to “get it” on the first read? I’m not sure about the first-person voice in #1. It’s not quite working for me. And I’m not sure the character is fully formed. #2 goes for the laughs, and succeeds, but it’s not quite a home run, as it suffers from a bit too long of a build up to the obvious punchline. Not to be too harsh, I actually enjoyed both of these. I’m going with #2 in a difficult call. The voice and flow is a little bit more consistent.

Novak – Oh, these are both clever.  The exchange in 2 is solid, but it could have been punched up with a descriptive detail or two; maybe just one excuse?  #1 is a bit awkward with the ellipses, but the genius of the approach is much appreciated.  Of course, #1 isn’t someone giving an excuse for someone else, it’s giving an excuse for themselves.  And on that technicality, I give the victory to #2.

WINNER: David Larson



1 – Colin Woolston



2 – Beau

“I hate math!  I’ll never finish in time!” Jenny threw her notebook on the floor.

Bosco was smart. He didn’t know what Jenny said, but knew she was upset. Not at him, but at the paper.  When Jenny left, Bosco got an idea. He sniffed the paper, determined it was safe, and began chewing.  Jenny would be so proud!


MATTHEW: Awwww, Bosco! You good doggie. I like you and your story, so you would have won even if the dog hadn’t eaten Story 1. WINNER: #2

ANDY: Cute. Nice work getting the character of Jenny across in a short space, it works. And I chuckled. Instant win against a non-sub. I have a feeling this might have been good enough against real competition anyway.

Novak – #2 would have probably won anyway.  I was hoping for something like this, but the execution here is top-notch.




1 – Kelly Wells

As she did a few weeks ago, my wife cries on my shoulder..  “I’m sorry,” I say.  “This part of town is so wild…a dog could disappear anywhere.”

A week from now I’ll suggest that we get another one.  I feel a little guilty doing this to her, but god damn, my snake has a huge appetite.


2 – Erik Dikken



MATTHEW: Another cute little dog story (but cute in different ways) that’s aided by a nonsub. Oh well. WINNER: #1

ANDY: Well, I didn’t see that one coming. Normally I like the random twist in the end humor, but this felt a little too random. But then again, this is the kind of humor that, when you’re in the right mood, will garner quite the guffaw. And it wins versus a non-sub!

Novak – #1 would have probably won anyway, because I’m laughing pretty hard at this.

WINNER: Kelly Wells



1 – Zack Sauvageau

Sarah was home sick, and Jorge was more interested in seeing her than going to school Before he left Jorge remembered he’d need a note. Sarah said she’d try her hand at forging a note for him.

The next day, Jorge was summoned to the principal’s office. Sarah’s forgery was perfect.

Except for the signature: Mrs. Jorge’s Mom.


2 – Sarah Johnson

Caroline told most of the truth.

“Your daddy drank too much, sweetheart. That’s why.” She swirled creamer into her coffee.

“Where is he?” The alcove stank of pine and new paint.

Caroline didn’t want to lie.

“We don’t need him, sweetheart.  We’re tough guys.”

Lennie buttered his toast. A Spiderman slipper brushed the sunlit tile of his father’s grave.


MATTHEW: It took me a few read-throughs before I got to an “oh. I get it.” moment for story #2. I’m still unsure if it was a suicide, a misadventure due to alcohol, or a homicide. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but it dulls the impact for me. Now, story #1 has its own issues, the biggest one being that it’s a joke overtold for decades now. Sorry, story 1. WINNER: #2

ANDY: You wrote a nice little joke there, #1, and I enjoyed it. The only critique I have is that maybe it was a little too long of a set up. But the punchline is a classic. Unfortunately, you went up against a solid dramatic entry in #2. I have to commend the deft handling of difficult subject matter, which is easily tipped into cheesy or overdone areas. Tighten up the last two sentences and you’d have an A++. For now, I’ll just give it a straight A, and declare you the winner, #2.

Novak – #1 is a funny I didn’t see coming.  The typo and quickly repeated language (“a note” and “forging/forgery”) distract a little, but it’s strong enough to overcome those.  It’s not quite strong enough to overcome #2 though, which is beautiful and sad and makes me want to inhabit this world a little longer, which is weird given the subject.  Very well written.  #2 wins.

WINNER: Sarah Johnson



1 – Dean Carlson

John found everything exactly as Mary described it – the guard away on break; the back door slightly ajar – so that when he fired the single bullet into his rival’s head and jumped down upon the stage, he questioned the whole sordid situation he found himself in and thought “maybe it wasn’t such a good idea banging the President’s wife.”


2 – Erik S

“…In closing, I can only offer my heartfelt sympathy to both the victims and their families.  Though it may offend some, my heart breaks to know that the young man you see as a vicious monster was once my innocent, sweet little boy.  I have no idea where he went wrong, but it will haunt me every single day.”


MATTHEW: Now these are two stories that compelled me throughout, and I’m glad I read them both. Story #2 gets the edge for me because it’s straight-up honest, direct, and effective. I’ve no idea how I would handle the situation it describes. Story 1 is also an interesting take on a well known story, but it doesn’t really include an apology, does it? Technicality, I guess. But I liked story 2 better anyway. WINNER: #2

ANDY: It’s pairings like this that make judging a tough task. These are both solid entries, and so difficult to compare against each other. I’m sorry it has to come down to something like this, but I have to reward #1 for a creative idea, and original writing. Plus, it’s quite funny. #2 had a great idea, but the prose itself could have been taken from a news story, so it doesn’t feel as original. Please don’t get me wrong, #2, I think this was really good, I just had to find something to help me make the tough call. Winner: #1.

Novak – Well how-di-do to both of these.  What an excellent concept in #1.  I think the word “banging” takes us out of the tone of the rest of the piece – but not out far enough to be an effective flip.  I’m smiling just thinking of the idea though.  Pow.  #2… it’s hard to find words to say to this sort of entry.  You’ve hammered home in 59 words one of the most difficult realities of any tragedy – that dehumanizing is itself a tragedy (sometimes, perhaps, a necessary one, depending on the people involved, but a tragedy nonetheless).  That power pushes you over the top in my “Close Call.”  #2 wins.



1 – Pete Bruzek

“Tracy, we need to talk…” the therapist began.

“I told you. Al doesn’t mean to hit me” came the reply.

“You know he does, but he’s not the problem here.”

“But he…”

“You’re boxers. You are supposed to hit each other as hard as you can.”

Needless to say, Tracy failed his post-concussion check.


2 – AMR

Ms. Johanssen,

Please grant Randall an extension on his essay.  I can attest that he had finished.  The final paper and all drafts were saved on our family computer, onto which I later downloaded an unsavory virus.  Geek Squad is working on it.  Randall will re-write his essay longhand, if they can’t fix it by Friday.


Frederick Walters


MATTHEW: I don’t know if the signed name at the end of Story 2 is supposed to strike recognition in me. It’s a straight-up statement of facts, though, but unexciting. Meanwhile, Story 1 did tweak my expectations with a nice little a-ha moment that left me smiling. WINNER: #1

ANDY: You have a nice idea here, #1, it just stumbles a little getting to the punchline. It feels like you had the punchline, worked backwards, but didn’t quite find the best flow for the setup. But, solid entry. #2 is my winner this week, as it’s chock full of great phrases like “unsavory virus”. And this is exactly the kind of note I imagine these poor teachers get all of the time. Nice work.

Novak – #1 is interesting.  I think I’d like to see it play out where you reveal the type of therapist, which gives us more insight into the type of hitting, as opposed to the other way around, as it’s done here.  That’s probably a much tougher task.  Good use of dialogue to introduce a sense of character.  #2 is a great approach.  It’s maybe a bit plain, but something about that last line sends it home for me, and reveals a lot about who Frederick is.  It’s enough to push it over the edge.  #2 wins.




1 – Melissa D

“But she said she was 18, officer!” the boy exclaimed.

“She’s 43.  Look!  You seriously thought THAT was 18?”

Her frown deepened her wrinkles.

“Oh, and he’s not an adult, ma’am,” the officer told her.  “He’s 16.”

She gasped.  The officer cuffed her, and he dragged her out of the bedroom.

“But he said he was 18!” she exclaimed.


2 – Christina Pepper

Hi Kurt,

Nicole didn’t mean to run over your foot, I swear. Her new wheelchair apparently has steering issues and we were running late to AP Econ. Also, you were right in the way, talking to that Missy Schultz.



P.S. If you get your cast off by Oct. 21, will you go to Sadie Hawkins with me?


MATTHEW: Oh, story 1, we have all been there haven’t we. Story 2 was a cute little study into high school mentality…I guess we’ve all been there too. I enjoyed the goofy laugh at the end of story 1, though. WINNER: #1

ANDY: Way to send us off with some fun entries, you two. This has been a nice, tame week, without all of the normal depravity and disturbing imagery (which I actually like if it’s done well). I really like the image of the frown deepening her wrinkles, #1, that was awesome. I think the joke in #2 works a bit better overall, so that’s my winner. But nice work to both of you.

Novak – These both have a nice popcorn quality about them.  They’re succinct, they’re fun, they’re clear.  I enjoyed the role-reversal in #1, and the blatant effort to cover for the older woman.  Hilarious.  By the same token, I love the double excuse in #2, where the letter itself is an excuse to cover for the P.S.  Now that’s some quality layering.  I would totally go to Sadie Hawkins with the writer of #2.  ‘Cause they’re a winner.

WINNER: Christina Pepper


Oh folks, folks. This is getting exciting, right? Your next theme is to write a story that involves a department store Santa. I figure this one has the potential to be autobiographical for pretty much everyone! Your matchups consist of:

Beau vs. DPWY

Colin Woolston vs. Peter Bruzek

Ian Pratt vs. Erik S.

AMR vs. Sarah Johnson

Dean Carlson vs. Kelly Wells

Zack Sauvageau vs. Eric Schapp

Erik Dikken vs. Christina Pepper

David Larson vs. Melissa D.