Aloha, Survivors! Aloha means hello. Also, it means goodbye, which is likely what we’ll be saying to the person who nonsubbed this week, unless his team decides otherwise.

Bad news aside, we had a very exciting, interesting round of stories here. I didn’t mean to score on a forced curve, but it almost became one just because the best stories were so good. I knew this would be a great season so it’s boring for me to mention it, but I’ll add that we had more variance in concepts and tones than I can remember having in Survivor X. Can this season live up to those lofty expectations? My gut says yes. Prove me right, bitches.

On with it. After all, it’s been hours since the last game got done here already.

Matthew Gilman, Brimley

“Look,” dad growled, “I know you left your friends behind. And it’s hard to adjust. But we moved here for YOU girls. That place was full of danger and bad influences. So be as pissed as you want at me, but no matter angry you are, we’re NOT moving back to Sodom!! Okay?”

My sister sniffled, “…I miss mom.”

K: It’s just a quick joke, but the payoff is strong. Can more jokes be padded into this? Probably not. This will be my first of many “I liked it, but it didn’t stand out enough for a 4 on the Netflix scale” scores of the season. 3

DK: An amusing spin on the Biblical tale, but the way it’s structured to build to that reveal didn’t land for me. And I promise I’m not usually this picky, but on Fiction 59 when you accidentally a word to hit the right number, it doesn’t land well either. 2

Melissa Diamond, Teo

My walls are blue. Hers were pink, like the skirt she wore that day. A flash of color disappearing into his car. Pink as sharp and bright as her screams.
Daddy!
I chased after them, shouting. The last to see her. The first to be accused. My name read in court.
Daddy!
These walls offer no comfort.
Do hers?

K: First of all, fuck you. This is a manipulative little ditty, but entirely believable and it didn’t get too big for its britches and try to pay off this story or make it more than the story about the many ways a kidnapping destroys the victims. Was this a reference to the Jaycee Dugard case? This was very, very close to what happened to her stepdad in the wake of the kidnapping. 4

DK: Very nice. Sharp images, economy of language, a powerful emotional impact, and a concise, complete story. 5

Matt Novak, Lycanthropes

“I’ve realized, dear Edward, that the pathos in recognition is insufficient. Cognition is not cure.”
“Sure, sure Doc… we got problems. Where’s the vic?” Eddie scratched his arm, a junkie waiting for his fix.
“Patience, Edward. The gravity of our psychosis demands a final response.” Doc paused, sharpening the blade with hesitance and deliberation. “Besides, there are two victims.”

K: Here’s the first of our many startlingly dark entries. Yay!(?) It’s vague enough to be a little annoying at first, so it demanded a couple more reads. 3

DK: I like the suggestion drawn here without being overt about the character(s), and the contrasts between them. 4

Shawn Ashley, Brimley

There’s sun,
she said.

And shade,
offered he.

A good place to be
laid to rest.

Side by side.

Forever.

The soil looked good;
not too dry,
not too moist.

And just enough room for
three, thought he.

A terrible time to think of
the mistress.

K: So pretty, so sweet and such a hilarious payoff. Thank you for this. The wording is gold in that penultimate stanza. 5

DK: I like seeing different things done with this format, and the joke here at the end was pretty good. 4

Erik S, Brimley

Robyn hung up the phone once it reached voicemail. Dwayne quietly stacked blocks in the empty center among sanitized tables and stacked chairs bathed in a cheerless autumn sunset. Miss Lillian had instructed her to call CPS if this happened again, but she just couldn’t put Dwayne through that.

Robyn dialed Dwayne’s mother yet again, desperately hoping she’d answer.

K: Damn. This story is small enough to be told here but suggests something much bigger. Any expansion on this would have been extraneous; in this forum, the story imparted just the right amount of information. Did I think I’d be handing out a 5 to a story where the only actions are a kid silently stacking blocks and a woman making an unanswered call? Nope, and I love you for it. 5

DK: Also like how this develops its scene through its tone and not through too much exposition. 4

Peter Bruzek, Brimley

The horseman cut a path between the enemy’s foot soldiers towards his quarry.

He savored the moment before exclaming “checkmate, you son of a bitch!”, decapitating the opposition’s monarch.Tactically, the battle of Gründzschong was disastrous, but one of the defeated soldiers gathered his experiences, fashioning them into a pastime he’d been designing.

The game? Hammerschlagen.

The rest? History.

K: I’ll admit that I don’t like having to Google things to get the full effect of the story, but the trouble was worth it in this case, as the narrative gets a lot funnier and weirder when I have that context. 4

DK: The way it jumps from battle to the “rest” is almost a little jarring, but the quick cuts also somewhat helps the humor of it. 3

Sarah Bizek, Lycanthropes

Despite his erratic heartbeat, trembling body, and puckered mouth, he shuffled to the ringing phone, compression stockings gathered at his ankles.

“Liberty?” he whispered desperately.

There would be no delivery.

Sweating profusely, he withered to the floor, dropping the empty syringe he’d been holding. His eyes closed and darkness engulfed him.

Wilford Brimley had eaten his last Quaker Oat.

K: This is so stupid I probably shouldn’t encourage it, but I’ll be damned if I can help myself. Is this a Brimley member, or was it just inspired by the name? Either way, it’s not the tightest “story” I’ve ever read, but I giggled, so eff it. 4

DK: I’ll try not to make too many cracks like this this season either, but…I’m glad no one took inspiration to write about a certain dead girlfriend here. 3

John Wreisner, Brimley

A woman’s intuition, she said. I grudgingly went to the obstetrician with her, again. Hypochondria, I was certain, but there it was in stark, monochromatic relief. Two heads. We went home and she sobbed in the dark. I bought a new pair of scissors and cut another neck hole in each one of the brand new onesies. Problem solved.

K: This is brilliant. Not a wasted word, and two legitimate laugh-out-loud moments. The narrator’s casual “problem solved” is either idiotic because of his wife’s reaction or sweet because of his own. Both options are fantastic. 5

DK: For some reason this juxtaposition of dread and the simplistic pragmatism of the narrator really works for me. Another story I feel fits the limit within its scope perfectly. 5

Jonathan Pope, Teo

It wasn’t there.

The money wasn’t fucking there.

Burt looked at the hole he had dug, and saw every mistake of the last two weeks. Pansy had died for nothing. Jeb too. Momma had double-crossed them. Again. Dad was going to be pissed.

Burt decided he wasn’t going home anymore. This family wasn’t worth the trouble.

K: “Dad was going to be pissed” is an excellent line, suggesting on the surface that he’s a Dad who lost a daughter but underneath, it smacks us with the realization that Dad’s using the kids as pawns in this ugly war just like Momma. 4

DK: This appears appropriately tragic and/or suspenseful, but something about the scenario or the characters aren’t drawn sharply enough for the full impact. 3

Joshua Berwald, Brimley

“I nearly was killed, but I did manage to steal the weapon plans before Ratailian arrived!”
“And you weren’t seen?”
“Not at all. I was the perfect double agent- I’m just shocked that Ratailian didn’t hire a double agent of his own!”
“That’s why I like you, so trusting. Now, any last words?”

K: These were very matter-of-fact lines. There’s a story in here but it either doesn’t fit the small space allotted or just needs some punching up. A little bit of narration wouldn’t have hurt, particularly in place of the last line. 2

DK: This is probably a dumb criticism for a F-59, but I found the first character a little too naive for a good double-agent, and the overall twist somewhat predictable. 3

Nancy Jack, Brimley

She worried he loved his quest more. Three months gone, and people often disappeared in the Everglades. She prayed for his safety; only man to ever love her. He came home with snapper, bluegill and the stench of the swamp. “No, darling, I have not yet captured my clever, elusive Skunk Ape. But never now will Carl Bailey neither.”

K: I looked up Carl Bailey just to see if there was truth to this. Turns out he played seven minutes for the Portland Trailblazers in the 1981-1982 season and scored two points. Good for him. Anyway, it’s cute enough and nicely written, though it somehow lacks the wallop that the semi-twist ending is going for. Too big for the space, maybe? 3

DK: I like several of the particular touches here, but I think the idea is one that has reach beyond the limits of the format, and so it feels compressed down to this size. 3

Brooks Maki, Brimley

Green sparklers fizzed, falling to earth.

“They do 4th of July in Canada?” she turned her head on his lap, crinkling the letter in his pocket.

“Sure as shit don’t do it in Saigon.” A new explosion illuminated the sky. Amid the chorus of ooh’s he watched the smoky skeleton of the sparklers as they floated to the east.

K: There’s subtext here, which is great. Once I got my footing and realized when this was happening, it gave me a nice moment of catharsis. I’ll err on the higher side of the line. 5

DK: I’m going back and forth on whether I find a real story here, but the strength of the imagery and the feeling of weariness mixed with satisfaction is winning out. 4

Sarah Wreisner, Brimley

We threw popcorn to dirty seagulls; bloated eels bobbed in the waves. The sea drained from the lock’s rusty walls. I thought they looked bloodstained.

A ship from the aluminum company approached: Grandpa worked there until he got sick.

“Can they see us?”

Grandpa shrugged. He was coughing again.

I waved to the captain. No one waved back.

K: Sarah, what the hell is your obsession with ghosts and death at sea? Also, why do I always fall for your stories about sea ghosts? I feel like I’ve read this from you before, which is the only criticism I have. 4

DK: Really like the eeriness of these descriptions, and the sense of impending doom. 4

Michael Battista, Lycanthropes

* Did you deserve to win?
# I won didn’t I?
* But how did you win?
# Sometimes it is not how you won but that you did. Would I have not won if I had not deserved it? There are not rules for every competition. If you won then you deserved to win.
* If that is so then enjoy the prize.

K: I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment, particularly as a Survivor fan (if you got people to vote for you in the end, you had to have done it somehow). I like the asterisk/pound bit, for some reason, but the story seems like just a small piece of a much larger puzzle. 3

DK: I admit this is a pretty good summation of my philosophy on Survivor winners, but this is so bare-bones that it’s difficult to grasp onto anything else here. 2

Tom Morgan, Teo

A man and woman sat in a steamy SUV in a parking lot. They were on their first date in months. They’d driven here and had sat talking and crying.

“Do you want me to leave tonight? Or can we go in and get Emily’s birthday present?” he finally, timidly asked.

Silence…“Let’s shop.” She wiped a tear. And smiled.

K: I thank you for the last two words, since people typically go for the jugular around here and a little bit of happiness isn’t such a bad thing. The story isn’t as tight as some, but it did manage to make me care about the characters within it. 4

DK: I like the poignancy, and the melancholy. I could imagine this being a real experience, actually, it might hit a little close. 4

Zack Sauvageau, Teo

Drip drip drip.

The sickening sound of those drops of water woke her up. She knew there was only one way to fix it.

Drip drip drip.

She covered his mouth with duct tape. He was alarmed. She was not.

Drip drip drip.

She dumped his body in the river.

Just like her brother’s all those years ago.

K: I like this a lot, but I think it would have been memorable on an all-time level with a much different final line. It came off as too manipulative, with the single-line paragraph begging for attention, but I think with this character it would have been more effective to go with a simple, dismissive “…adding it to the pile” or some such. Still, I love a good sociopath. 4

DK: In this case I’m not sure the repetition helps the effect. Also, the build of the tension, while solid, may not need the added brother thing on top at the end to really hit. 3

Colin Woolston, Lycanthropes

Oh, Ethan.

Ethan’s toe stuck out from under the comforter. It reminded me of his pathetic cock, his clumsy hands that pawed at my breasts. Ethan, who slept in every morning while I fed and organized the kids. Ethan, who drank beer and leered while I cooked and cleaned.

Ethan, with the paring knife sticking out of his ear.

K: Cruel, casual, elegant. This is as strong of a punchline as we can reasonably expect in Fiction 59. 5

DK: I liked this more the second time I read it (which doesn’t usually happen for me). I think I thought at first it was bigger than the space, but it’s not really, and the darkly comic tone is pretty consistent. 4

Margaret Martin, Lycanthropes

“Sing a song of sixpence”

Creeping up behind the bird, chubby cheeks and concentration.

“Pocket full of rye”

Opening her sweaty little fist, revealing the seeds she found – all by herself!

“Four and twenty blackbirds”

Sitting as still as a porcelain doll, the bird pecking at her palm.

“Baked in a PIE!”

She snaps its neck. Chicken dinner!

K: Good God, what’s wrong with you? Shawn, maybe? This feels gimmicky, but in a good way, because it’s a young kid in the story, which is really something we don’t see very often. Evil children can come off as eye-rollingly lame (and nearly always do in film, because they can’t pull it off) but this went right up to the line of believability and no further. 4

DK: Here the added touches that illuminate the child’s mindset at the center of the story add a lot to the effect. 4

Patrick Lofton, Lycanthropes

For twenty years, Geoffrey was called incessantly by collections agencies. But Geoffrey didn’t owe anyone a cent; they just mistook him for someone with the same name. It got so bad that Geoffrey cancelled his phone service. So, he never received the call from Publisher’s Clearing House that he had won a million dollars. My, my, doesn’t life suck?

K: Har har. Poor bastard. It’s just a nudge-nudge monologue joke, but a nice break from the serious stuff. I’d cut the last line, but it wasn’t a huge deal. 3

DK: It’s funny, but I’m going to break out my catchphrase for the first time this season and say it might be a little too on the nose…I hope this isn’t Colin’s story. 3

Gary S, Teo

A Jew walks into the bar, says ouch. Mendel orders some Schnapps, says a prayer and drinks it. He pays with a large tip because he is overcompensating for stereotypes. He walks over to an Asian girl mumbles an attempt to pick her up, fails, says ouch, dies a bit inside, walks out of the bar and heads home.

K: I’m wrestling with the makeup of this one. Should the first line be the last line? I’m not sure it unfolds as cleanly as it can, but I did smile at this idea. 3

DK: A little awkwardly structured, and maybe too straightforward for me, but it tells a complete story within the limits effectively. 3

Conner Burke, Lycanthropes

I walked on the field as if it were any other game. Conducted my plate meeting, chatted with my partners, and used seven words throughout the two hour time frame;
“Play, Out, Safe, Fair, Foul, Ball, Strike”

It wasn’t until I called the final out and saw the Celebration that I realized,
I had just called a Perfect Game.

K: There’s not a lot lying under the surface of any word, and it’s very simple. The punctuation doesn’t help and the writing is a little plain compared to the field, so I think I like it but the competition is just so fierce. 2

DK: You’re not usually going to go too wrong using baseball in your stories, but this is one where it’s a little big for the space, since the logistical setup might get in the way of developing the emotional impact of the event. 3

Will Young, Teo

I’m not sure why, but we left the city to walk to a town last night. This morning, we retraced our steps. It seemed pretty pointless to me. Anyway, we were starving, but the first fig tree we crossed didn’t have any fruit. While we stood there, it withered away.
“Jesus . . . ,” Matthew said to me.
“Yup,” I replied.

K: Another quick nudge-nudge joke that worked in its way, but isn’t as memorable as the two-headed baby. Sorry, everyone, that you have to be compared to that. 3

DK: People are rolling with the Biblical stuff so far. Unfortunately, the only time that’s ever done that much for me was that one Novak Moses story. Otherwise it usually feels like a bit much disguising the origin only for the purpose of making a reveal at the end. 3

Beau du Bois, Teo

Scott’s jerk neighbor had built a bike ramp and his heckling wouldn’t cease until Scott took a turn. He promised to take care of his bike, not crash it. Scott didn’t see his father pull in as he peddled slowly over the ramp. Worried about a scolding; Scott was surprised when his father said, “Peddle faster next time.”

K: It’s “pedal,” but anyway, here’s another refreshingly bright story on a site usually known for depressing stuff. It doesn’t stand out as a story in any way but was an enjoyable read. 3

DK: I like this; concise, yet affecting. Nothing too fancy, but Scott is easy to identify with, and the father dynamic is a nice one. 4

Bret Highum, Teo

I reach, hugging myself, stretching my arms around my back. At the tips of my fingers, I feel the tender bumps; the budding nascent wings. I wonder without caring- soft feathers or leathery folds? I shiver in delight and laugh quietly, full of joy.

The orderly dispassionately eyed the giggling girl in the straitjacket and readied a syringe.

K: Huh. This story has all the right elements in place, but the change in perspective from the first to second paragraphs absolutely kills it. I love this idea and it’s probably a 5 if the payoff is cleaner and told in the same narrative voice. 3

DK: The format again makes something a little difficult for me that I normally don’t have a problem with: I think perspective shifts like this in this short of a space can blunt the ability to tell the story to its full effect. 3

Josh Mitchell, Lycanthropes

Marvin, the two-toed sloth, was crossing big water when she appeared.
Painfully, he recalled the sweet nothings whispered as the pair
engaged in their careful circumvention before… His rate of
locomotion had ensured he’d miss locking with her claws by the length
of a toe. Trudging on he pondered: Why hadn’t God made him a
three-toed sloth?

K: This is so far from the norm at this place that I can only love the idea. It’s sweet and a little pathetic, with a charming payoff. 4

DK: I can’t really say why I found this so funny, but Marvin’s plight is somehow right in that spot. 4

Brian David, Lycanthropes

How did this start?
A flash of light, then a switch fell off.
Arduino hadn’t noticed it before – hadn’t noticed anything before. He felt alright. What was left that really mattered? Arduino had to know. He burned off another switch.

* * *

How did this start?
A flash of light, then a microcontroller fell off.
K: Again, I’m not sure I want to encourage people forcing me to do the Googling, but once I checked out “Arduino” I fell in love with this funny little ditty. I always praise the creativity in this place, but this week stood out even as a week at the CdL. 5

DK: This is, in my view, another great usage of the format to tell something precise and economical, yet emotionally affecting. 5

—————————————————————-

I love it when random.org puts a perfect scorer at the bottom of the list. It would be more exciting if the scores mattered, but whatever.

Here are the scores per person per team, in case you’re curious, factoring out the nonsub:

Wilford Brimley’s Personal Death Squad: 3.78
Perennial Lycanthropes: 3.61
Manti Teo’s Dead Girlfriend: 3.50

However, Teo’s team produced a nonexistent player: Survivor II winner, Survivor V runner-up and Survivor III and IV co-judge Ryan Fossum. Anyone seen him? This is a bummer.

Teo, your team has to make an elimination vote by tomorrow night (Tuesday) at 9pm Central to get rid of one of your players. Ryan will automatically vote for himself by virtue of not showing up. I’ll post results and the new challenge at that time (or likely a few hours later because I’ll be working). It’s a somewhat complex little thing, but I think it’ll be worth the trouble.

Cheers, Survivors.