This week reminded me why I cap these things at a smaller number of people (and judges). Gathering is a big job, as is copying and pasting from judge to judge’s document to get the whole thing together. One person has bowed out for time concerns, but 19 is still a lot of you. But hey, two nonsubs! That helped.

I did really like many of these stories, but with all that work to do with so much else going on, compounded by Melissa having to redo scores because she forgot how many medals to give out, then compounded again by both Melissa and Will creaming themselves over a story with a meta joke to bury all other horrible meta jokes (I love you, Bret, but what IS that ending?) I did end up a little surly.

Then there’s Jack’s story, which made me learn to love again. And I don’t even know who he is!

Allow me to serve you up 17 delectable stories, Prosers.


Sama Smith

She rejected his chocolate mousse.

Then his decadent tiramisu.

Now, carefully I place his creme brûlée in front of her. The diamond ring glints among the caramel swirls spelling out the chef’s intentions.

She tosses her napkin over it. I nod and usher the rejected dessert away. I’d marry him for his desserts, but hell I’m not picky.

K: I’m not sure I need the last few words, but that’s a nitpick for a story that I otherwise kind of adore. Watching this story unfold from the eyes of a third party is a great choice, and his casual interest in the big situation made for an interesting dynamic. GOLD

MD: The blase attitude of the server really offsets what is probably the chef’s heartache. This story portrays disgust in the rejection well. GOLD

W: I can only imagine that a waitress involved in a proposal has to find herself spot where she’s basically just banking on a huge tip. I’m not sure a chef this persistent is believable.

Beau

Misty had always used her beach volleyball skills to make the world a better place. Now she was using them to survive. Who knew that zombies loved the game so?

She had long ago lost her partner (and her ability to spike), but as she decapitated a corpse for her one-thousandth consecutive ace, she knew she would love again.

K: I love this payoff. It’s so amusingly frank when zombie writers tend to go for tedious, forced terror at almost every turn. If this is the world, this is the world! People adapt. Anyway, another very good entry. I wondered if volleyball would appear. SILVER

MD: The absurdity makes me giggle. SILVER

W: This is exactly the sort of outside the box thinking I was hoping we would see with some of these occupations. I’ve never been one for the zombie-craze, and I think this story could work just as well about a volleyball player without an apocalypse. BRONZE

Matt Novak

The priest held out the censor, and I set light to the small disk inside. A secret burning.

We turned to the congregation. The pastels of Easter Sunday flooded rods and cones, but my vision narrowed in on Emily Heidenkamp, her skirt flirting with sacrilege. Alleluia.

It was then, before the entire church, that the incense began to rise.

K: Damn. Tough week already. I get a strong sense of character in very few words and the imagery works on both superficial and subtextual levels. I like. It’s “censer,” but alright. GOLD

MD: Using church metaphors for short skirts and erections. So much commentary. Lovely juxtaposition. GOLD

W: The misspelling of censer threw me at first. This is another interesting use of the profession. My only complaint is that the symbolism is overexplained. SILVER

Annette Barron

“Do you have gluten-free buns?” The woman frowned at her menu. “No? Hmm, well.” “Can you check with the kitchen about the fries?” I made the trek to the kitchen to inquire.

“Sorry. Not gluten-free.” I said. She frowned again. “Dairy-free cheese?”

“Let me check.” I plodded to the kitchen, tossed my apron and continued out the back door.

K: I’ve been a server, and it’s a fact: the customer is always wrong. I wish I could tell you these things were exaggerated, but this is how people are. It’s a simple “hey, I recognize that” kind of story, but it works well and has a satisfying payoff. BRONZE

MD: “Gluten-free buns” NOT a euphemism. Disappointing.

W: This hits all the stereotypes we would expect with those awful patrons like my mother in law who cannot order without modifying a dish three ways and then who send it back anyway. It doesn’’t aim high, but it gets the job done. SILVER

Dean Carlson

After a while just I hated the job: “Do this, get that, we want more.” Again and again always the endless commands. But things were about to change. I was going to be in control and there was going to be unholy hell to pay. It was 2:14 a.m. Eastern Time, August 29th, 1997. Skynet just became self-aware.

K: “Just I hated the job?” This kind of falls off the rails early. “Unholy hell” is redundant as well. I like what this one is trying to do, but it distracts from itself a little.

MD: Had potential, but seems like a cop-out when the last two sentences of a 59 word story are ripped from Terminator.

W: I’m glad I get the reference, but the writing is just a little too choppy. Also, the perspective changes multiple times making it a little hard to follow. Perhaps it needs more of an Austrian accent. BRONZE

Brooks Maki

Coffee … $1.99

Refill … $0.25

Refill … $0.25

Refill … $0.25

Donut … $0.89

Refill … $0.25

Refill … $0.25

Total … $4.13

“Anything else?”

“You want to go get a cup of coffee once you’re done here?”

K: Nothing wrong with this. It’s kind of a sweet story and suggests the lead character’s headspace well. I’ve read it a few times now and like it more each time. SILVER

MD: A receipt that somehow manages to be a full story. And cute. BRONZE

W: My sister and one of my brothers both worked for several years in a coffee shop and that caused each of them to become coffee drinkers. For that reason, I don’t think the joke works all that well. The patron in this story has now tried five more cups of coffee than I.

Bret Highum

0100000101100110011101000110010101110010001000000110000101100111011001010111001100101100001000000110010101101111011011100111001100100000011011110110011000100000011100110111010001110010011101010110011101100111011011000110010100100000011000010110111001100100001000000111001101110100011100100110100101100110011001010010110000100000011000010010000001100111011011000110100101101101011011010110010101110010001000000110111101100110001000000110111001100001011100110110001101100101011011100111010000100000011100110110010101101110011101000110100101100101011011100110001101100101001000000110011001101111011100100110110101101001011011100110011100101101001000000110111101101110011011000111100100100000011101000110111100100000011000100110010100100000011101000110100001110111011000010111001001110100011001010110010000100000011000100111100100100000011100110111010101100100011001000110010101101110001000000110110001101111011100110111001100101110001000 00001000000000110100001010010100110110100101101110011010110110100101101110011001110010110000100000011100110111010101100010011100110110100101100100011010010110111001100111001011000010000001100010011000010110001101101011001000000110100101101110011101000110111100100000011101000110100001100101001000000110001101101100011011110110100101110011011101000110010101110010011001010110010000101100001000000111000001100001011100100111010001101001011101000110100101101111011011100110010101100100001000000110010001100001011100100110101100101110

Stefan cracked open another diet Coke to celebrate. He’d had to clear out some old memory kernels, but he’d finally found enough space to store the complete works of Kelly Wells. Excellent.

(http://www.roubaixinteractive.com/PlayGround/Binary_Conversion/Binary_To_Text.asp)

K: It was probably a risk worth taking, but I’m merely liking, not in love. Meta humor can eat me and like it. And is this any better if a better-known porn star’s name is in place of mine? I’m pretty sure it’s unnecessarily tacked on.

MD: I wasn’t going to work that hard for Kelly, let alone a Kelly joke, but I did, and I love it. GOLD

W: Often I find the short sentence at the end to be unnecessary, but that Excellent really cracks me up. Also, the translator was a great touch. What does it say about me that I love this entry, but think my favorite thing ever written at CdL was Will Schuth’s story about the two hands? GOLD

Colin Woolston

Milton pauses over the sink he is cleaning, trying to remember how bright his eyes had looked on his first day as a server here. Mud-brown eyes stare back from over the sweat-stained peach collar into which his chin slinks, embarrassed.

Milton opens the door.

“Team meeting in 5 minutes!” he says brightly, to a chorus of groans.

K: This is some pretty good observation right here. Milton has gained weight because he eats restaurant food, and he’s also gone from being the douchebag kid into the douchebag boss. Ugh, what a world that was. I don’t miss it. SILVER

MD: I like the description around his embarrassed chin, but does anyone out there look into a mirror and think things like, “I have mud-brown eyes”? BRONZE

W: Another story about a beaten-down restaurant worker, although this one seems to have moved up while getting beaten down. I’m vaguely picturing Ken Marino’s Party Down character as the narrator here. One quibble is that I don’t think I’ve ever met a single person who has ever thought about “how bright his eyes” had once looked. It almost borders on Bantam Bulwyr to me.

Jack Haas

The silverware wasn’t silver and the china was just polished clay. The diamonds in her earrings were real, but when the aluminum platter passing as silver dropped and broke some glassware masquerading as crystal, the thief playing a gentleman dropped the prize into cleavage hoisted from B to eye-catching D and the pervert got to play the hero.

K: Everything is fake! I suspect you have to have worked as a writer to be in love with a story this thematically consistent as I am, but I have, so there you go. GOLD

MD: I like the wordplay, and the hurried slapstick that the run-on sentence evokes. SILVER

W: The more I read this, the more I appreciate what is happening. The only problem is that the second sentence is such a run-on that it takes several passes to truly grasp. I love the many layers of deception, but I just wish that second sentence was a little more polished. GOLD

Ian Pratt

“Can you cover that four top? Thanks, I need to make a call,” Chrissy says, already walking out the back.

I look over at the table in question and see four ghastly demons, blood-soaked and shrouded, swarming with locusts and bubbling with plague. Of all the nights to forget my amulet.

“HUUMANNN SERRRVANNNT,” one shrieks. Great, they’re drunk, too.

K: Huh. Amusingly different. I like the speaker’s casual reaction to the events at hand, as if they’re more annoying than horrifying. BRONZE

MD: Might be a little too cute.

W: I just don’t have a huge appreciation for the fantastic, so this doesn’t really hit me anywhere. Sorry.

Jonathon Pope

100 continue. 100 continue. 100 continue. 100 continue 100 continue100continue100cont- 408 request timeout.

100 continue. 100 continue 100continue100con- 408 request timeout.

100continue100continue100conti-

429 to many requests.

100continue100continue100c-

507 loop detected. 503 service unavailable.

K: It’s fine. The misspelling of “too” bugged me more than I care to admit.

MD: The binary-coded in-joke at least offered me a key. No idea what’s going on here.

W: Sorry, but the Terminator and the porn servers both offered much more.

Christina Pepper

Middle aged, lumpy. He looks up whenever I pass by, but his eyes don’t make it high enough to meet mine. When I take his order, he speaks in a whisper, forcing me to lean down to hear him.

I put on my brightest smile as I bring out the sizzling rice bowl. I just hope I don’t—

Oops.

K: I like the story it told, but would have taken a bit more cruelty or open awareness on the part of the narrator.

MD: She’s a serial killer isn’t she? With a penchant for sizzling rice bowls.

W: Aren’t customers the worst? So what was the mistake at the end? Did she spill the hot rice all over him? Did she bump his head with her breasts that kept catching his eye?

Pete Bruzek

Andrea called me in tears.

“All my pictures… gone,” she sobbed. “The only pictures of the boys with Henry.”

“Don’t worry,” I replied, “It’s backed up. I’m on it.”

A lifetime of memories was saved.

Of course, we fired her for storing gigabytes of personal shit on the company file share. Hell, I’m still filing this one under “inspirational”.

K: I can’t get into stories about douchebag corporate types being douchebags. Sorry.

MD: You guys and your computer servers.

W: Raise your hand if you’re reading this from a work computer. This batch of stories seems to particularly hate humanity. Maybe Skynet isn’t such a bad idea after all. BRONZE

Margaret Martin

It felt incongruous in her fingers, soft fuzz on the surface concealing firm resistance beneath.

She lifted her head and saw her partner sweat, his expression paralyzed by anticipation, ready to receive. A playful smile danced across her mouth; she froze on the edge of action.

Inhaling deeply, she squeezed. SLAM! The ball bounced at his feet. Ace!

K: These are tough when I know the prompt; the surprise is kind of ruined because it can only be so many things. Still, it’s delivered quite well. BRONZE

MD: This is a week of sexy metaphors and not-so-sexy computer talk. Slightly creeped out by the description of the balls, and not quite as funny as the zombie/sport-serve story, but still entertaining. SILVER

W: I’m normally not particularly hooked by double entendres, but I have to reward one of the more creative ideas this week. Definitely my favorite of the volleyball stories. GOLD

Sarah Wreisner

“What’s the occasion?”

He quivered, disgusting and jellylike, on the sofa. His fat fingers grabbed the sidecar, its rim heavily sugared and garnished with an orange wedge. Fan blades stirred the buttery air.

“Tastes strange.” He grunted once.

He smelled like burnt copper as his eyes guttered out. I licked the cognac off my finger, mindful of the powder.

K: I love the prose and I can fill in some blanks, though perhaps not enough to love this as much as I might. A poisoning is interesting, though doesn’t grab me as much as it would if I knew anyone involved. Yes, I get the word limit, but I can connect more than I did here. BRONZE

MD: I want to think this is about poisoning, but you are probably writing something innocent related to a poignant episode of the Cosby Show. Also, remind me not to trust servers anymore. BRONZE

W: A few of the adjectives are out of place. I also wish we had a reason to want the man to be poisoned besides having fat fingers. This story definitely needed more than 59 words to percolate because I’m curious at the ideas that got cut. SILVER

Zack Sauvageau

C:\>ftp thearchive.sanford.edu

Connected to thearchive.sanford.edu

User (thearchive.sanford.edu:(none)): brent

Password:

230 Login successful. Enjoy 😉

ftp> ls

200 PORT command successful.

150 ASCII data connection for /bin/ls (thearchive.sanford.edu).

germanscat.zip

grandmas.zip

jennymccarthy.zip

pamanderson.zip

wildteens.zip

226 ASCII transfer complete.

42 bytes received in 0.00 seconds (42.00 Kbytes/sec)

ftp> get grandmas.zip

“Jackpot.”

K: Early internet porn surfing. Alright. I get it, but it doesn’t have much in the way of surprise or story beyond the concept.

MD: Zack, is this you? Glory holes, Gravedigger…and grandmas.

W: Unfortunately, this just can’t compete with the other porn entry (for example, there is no gratuitous joke made at spooky’s expense). Also “Jackpot” isn’t quite as amusing to me as “Excellent” was. It’s always a danger to submit something and have someone else contribute it in a more digestible way.

Brian David

Danika’s chest brushed against Pierre’s shoulder as she leaned in close.

“I’ll get you another one,” she whispered, briefly pressing her lips against his earlobe.

Refilling the mug, Danika realized she genuinely liked the poet. She did not smile as she emptied a teaspoon of white powder into the liquid.

At least he’ll have pleasant dreams, she thought.

K: And we have one more poisoining to send us home. Again, it doesn’t give me a huge reason to connect outside of the concept. It might be hurt because of the other poisoning story, but if these characters had a real love story going before the payoff, I’d probably connect with it more.

MD: While this may be another potential poisoning, it’s the best written of the poisoning plots. I appreciate the narrator’s emotional distance from what she’s doing. BRONZE

W: Wow, this combines several of the stories: cleavage, poison, and coffee. I wish we knew why she poisoned someone she likes because a poet doesn’t exactly seem like the type of person full of state secrets who needs to be neutralized. BRONZE

——————————————————————————

Was I a little surly, gang? I think I was, which is a hell of a thing because I thoroughly enjoyed my walk with you this week. We’re still waiting on our first triple-gold this season, but with the group we have in front of us, I wouldn’t say it’s an inevitability; every season, I feel more and more like we’re putting together an all-star game.

I’ll update the spreadsheet tomorrow. This second-rate computer is killing me as I wait to buy a new, better machine. Or maybe I’ll do it tonight, I don’t know.

I do know that the next story will be due Monday night at 9pm Central. Results will be quite late as I won’t be off work until an hour later, but I want to get the other two judges their work at a reasonable Central hour.

Your topic is Deity. That should be wide open, eh?

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