It’s late; no intro.

Dean Carlson

With half-scribbled upon sheets of papers strewn across the floor Mike knew that, at this rate, meeting the script deadline forced upon him by the studio wasn’t going to happen, not with the elusive wisps of a plot and stock characters he had just barely sketched out. “Goddamn this mess; where’s my red stapler? Let’s get this shit organized.”

K: One thing that always throws me off is when characters say things out loud that they’d never say out loud. If any of you actually talk this way, let me know so I can treat you as the strange curiosity that you are. It was pretty risky to go with a Mike Judge reference, but I got it.

MD: Is the studio the judge? Is Mike his own judge? Also, the “wisps” have reappeared. Is this Ben, or is Ben influencing other writers? Though it’s hard to beat “riotous bedhead wisps”. BRONZE

W: “Half-scribbled upon” is a very awkward phrase. I’m pretty sure all three words should be hyphenated because the sentence took an extra read to clarify. A Mike Judge joke is the sort of silly thing I would submit, but would have benefited from more President Camacho. BRONZE

Ian Pratt

Impassive. Implacable. Cruel. Words that Drumlin used to describe the captain as Crullers was shoved overboard.
“There’s only one law aboard this ship,” spoke the captain later to the assembled crew. “And only one judge.”
The captain read Drumlin’s journal after he had the man tossed over a few days later. He paused on the word implacable. Implacable. Implacable.

K: Wow, two mutineers(?) tossed ashore in one 59-word story? It didn’t feel rushed, though, given the way in which it was told. The Captain’s self-indulgence comes across, as does his self-doubt. Interesting character. SILVER

MD: I like the possibility of the captain having to puzzle over the word of his dead subordinate, but there’s not enough clarity for me here. Did he have Drumlin shoved overboard for calling him a word he didn’t understand, or for other reasons that just so happened to make the captain match the word ‘implacable’? BRONZE

W: I like the story itself, but the rhetorical flourishes seem a little overwrought. Still, I appreciate the unique setting and can completely invade Drumlin’s mind. SILVER

Sarah Wreisner

She was always sobbing: an obese woman in stained muumuus with milky eyes. She was disgusting, living in cat-infested filth. Then, last week, she fell silent.
An ambulance came. She’d run out of insulin again: the EMTs wore masks from the smell. Her son had forgotten her, the landlord whispered. How cruel, I thought, peeking through the curtains.

K: Ugh. This is just a hard character to read all around, and a hell of a way to fit “judge” into the prompt. Without a word of dialogue I already know the obese woman and kind of have a read on the storyteller. Well done. GOLD

MD: This is either about some terrible incident in Sarah’s past, or it’s a Cosby Show episode about the dangers of not watching your blood sugars. The problem is that, without the prompt, I wouldn’t necessarily see the “judge” in this. Knowing the prompt, however, it gives this a slightly sinister air in that one wonders the full role of the narrator. Did she remove the insulin, or did the son truly forget the obese woman? It feels like this tale is trying a little too hard to push my “appreciates dark sinister tales” button. SILVER

W: When I was clerking with the public defender, I had an incredibly ridiculous case involving a client who plead guilty to peeping. What that person observed was a little more bizarre here, but this captures that horrible portion of ourselves that can’t help but gawk at those less fortunate and take some pleasure in their lives. This just missed being a bronze.

Beau

“You are guilty,” Judge Arundel bellowed, “of banging my gavel.”
“Objection, Your Honor,” ADA Franks replied, bending over. “Move to strike.”
“Your briefs are definitely out of order.”
She cooed, looking back. “And the jury is well hung.”
Bradford sighed, setting his pen down. He didn’t know how they made state, but high-schoolers shouldn’t write their own dramatic duo.

K: Oh boy…I could tell you a lot of weird stories about high school speech, which is one of the saddest things to which I ever gave significant time. As it happens, I DID typically do dramatic duo. This is pretty fun, in its way, as it has a bunch of eye-rollers leading to a good reason for them to exist. SILVER

MD: I was going to roll my eyes if it was going to turn out to be an out-and-out sex joke. Then it turned into a sex joke written by teenagers, and it was slightly more entertaining. The downfall? The name “Arundel” just made me think of Arendelle, and now it’s STUCK IN MY HEAD AGAIN. “Arendelle’s in deep, deep, deep, deep…snow.” BRONZE

W: I was getting pretty annoyed with the cheesy dialogue, so I’m glad Bradford was, too! I can only imagine Bradford having to score a whole bunch of godawful stories while remaining sane and trying to provide some constructive feedback. BRONZE

Jonathon Pope

When Jasper Mack gave Dolores Johnson’s pumpkin pie a rating of “BLERF,” the assembled crowd became aware that he wasn’t feeling well, though he had been trying to conceal that fact. The doctor said he was lucky to be able to speak at all after having let his impending stroke go so long without seeking medical attention.

K: Not bad, though I like the “blerf” better if it’s setting up Mack to have completely lost his mind. There I go, though, judging something on what it could be instead of what it is. It’s a decent dark joke, though it doesn’t quite go far enough for the darkness to really shine.

MD: Got somewhat of a giggle out of me with “BLERF”, and then I was made sad by the seriousness of his stroke. Ths also came off as one of those last-minute written stories when the deadline suddenly appears.

W: Now that’s a visual. For some reason, the matter-of-fact second sentence just doesn’t quite click for me. I think it just needs a little punching up.

Matt Novak

“You’re the only friend I’ve got, Allison. Ever since the incident.”
“The incident?”
“Uncle Jerry was playing ‘got your nose.’ I called him a turkey, and *poof!* he was transformed.”
“I know about the incident, Jane. I meant that’s not why you don’t have friends.”
“Oh?”
“The reason you don’t have friends is because you’re a total bitch.”
*poof!*

K: I love the idea of this gag, though I wish the dialogue was cleaner. If Jerry knows about the incident, why would Allison say it? I’m also not sure both of them should have the power, though that’s not as big of a deal as I did get where you were going.

MD: There are lots of somewhat silly stories this week. How have we not yet run into a meta one in which three judges aptly give a piece of short stories gold? I’d give that one gold for sure. Will probably would, too. Kelly would *poof* us all.

W: Allison is implied to have said something before the story begins, but I think it would benefit markedly by not having it excluded. Plus, I would like to know into what she was transformed.

Brooks Maki

Timed dog feeder, potato clock, the latest in glitter dispersal technology… At least they had tried, this kid had nothing but a picture of himself holding a blue ribbon in his booth. Greg leaned in for a closer look. “What is this supposed…” Greg stopped as he recognized himself in the frame, presenting the prize.

K: Ah, a little Twilight Zoney, eh? Humorous or creepy, take your pick. The punctuation is sort of a mess, though the story is rather fun. I like it more the more I read it, which happens to me a lot with supernatural twists. GOLD

MD: Subtle and awesome. This one has a typical judge in it, but then turns the situation around into an atypical science fair project. I really hope, though, that these kids somehow manage to combine the time machine and the latest glitter dispersal technology. GOLD

W: Ooh, what a great invention. I invented a childproof marker cap when I was in fifth grade and got to present it at the Science Museum. I also have attended the Minnesota Inventor’s Fair in Redwood Falls a few times, and it’s always fun to see the totally random stuff people have created. Plus, this story again makes good use of the adult scoring kids who has to provide constructive and positive feedback to some pretty crappy work. GOLD

Christina Pepper

No one knew how long Marge Olafson had been judging, but legend had it she could pick out a pie crust made with margarine from one hundred paces.
I imagined her face as I sliced ripe, juicy peaches and placed them into a tender, flaky crust. “Magnificent,” she’d say. “Transcendent.”
Opening day, I raced across the fairgrounds. Second place.

K: Did our narrator lose to Marge herself? If not, why did she lose? I don’t know exactly what I wanted out of this, but some clarity would have helped.

MD: I can’t tell if ‘second place’ is good news or bad news for this character. I also can’t tell if there’s some insidious meaning behind the character imagining the judge’s face while slicing peaches. “She gives me second place every year. Well, I’ll slice HER!” Or is this person slicing peaches while simultaneously imagining faces, and is otherwise a perfectly innocent pie maker?

W: This seems like a biographical week for me because I have accompanied Sheenie to the State Fair the past three years as she submitted some baked goods for judging (she’s finished fifth twice). The judges at the Fair are reaching mythical proportions because she just can’t figure out how to hit their sweet spot. Anyway, I know she is at work on the day the Fair opens clicking F5 until about 8:30 to 8:45am when they post the results, so this slice of pie (um, I mean life) connects well. GOLD

Sama Smith

Yellow cotton candy hair, blinding white teeth and electric blue eye shadow clack downstage. Familiar hairspray hazes under the bright lights.
The next winner.
“Now our judges will ask each girl a question, starting with the reigning Miss Virginia.”
I put down my question cards. The blonde steps up to the microphone.
“How do you get away with cheating?”

K: If there’s a reference here, I’m not set up to catch it and a bit of Googling didn’t help. Without a reference, it’s just a bit of schtick that doesn’t punch hard enough. I like the relating of her empty good looks, though.

MD: That first set of images makes me think of a literal clown. Then I found it difficult to believe that a list of attributes could “clack”. Then I re-read it several times to try and determine if the blonde Miss Virginia asks the question about cheating, or if the judge asks the question to Miss Virginia. It’s kinda cynical and mean if the judge asks it. It’s somewhat funny if the blonde asks it.

W: Oooh, throwing a curveball at a beauty pageant is a delicious idea. I just wish we got to see the aftermath a little more rather than the long description of the next winner. BRONZE

Zack Sauvageau

The senator opened the envelope to find a check from Corrections Corporation of America for $750,000.
“We need your vote on S.3645.”
“Is that the…”
“Yes. It replaces the judges in the country with one central Artificial Intelligence.”
“But why?” the senator asked with a smirk. “You can’t bribe an A.I.”
“We can program one. Prisoners are profit, Senator.”

K: Do they get more cynical than this one? I’m not sure they do. It’s an okay scene if there’s more to give it color, but as it is, it lacks a little nuance.

MD: We went from somewhat absurd to extremely cynical. I had to look up the bill to make sure it didn’t truly exist. Luckily, S.3545 is actually the Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act. Whew.

W: Unfortunately, my imagine can’t strain enough to envision this dystopian future U.S. Plus, the only way to overhaul the federal judiciary is with Constitutional amendments, not bills.

Bret Highum

The sword swung down and easily sliced through the wiggling form. The two women watching gasped.
The clay limbs of the neatly bisected figure flailed disjointedly. The court sorcerer frowned, stroking his beard.
“I believe my spells can bind the golem halves to the child halves well enough, your Highness. Shall we bring in the disputed infant and proceed?”

K: Wow. I’m always up for something nearing absurdity if it can still tell a coherent story. This does, and adds on a solid punchline to boot. (Note: sorry. An atheist is going to miss a few Bible references here and there). SILVER

MD: Well, this is a strange and creepy version of the Bible story. Unless I didn’t read that story thoroughly enough and missed this part all-together. If the women were watching this display ahead of time, it makes the one woman’s choice to split the baby all the more terrible. Or it makes it beneficial as…both ladies get a “baby” then? GOLD

W: I like the unwritten few minutes before Solomon’s famous decision. The extra threat probably helped convince the mother to spare her child’s life. The judge for whom I work made a similar threat recently on a case in which two divorcing parties were fighting over who could stay in their marital home while the case is pending. He offered them three choices: a) let him come to the house and draw chalk lines on the floor to divide the rooms; b) put the house on the market and let anyone (including either of them) buy it; or c) figure it out like fucking adults. GOLD

Annette Barron

Peering through the blinds, I inspect the teenage boy parking out front: a sedate sedan, probably his parent’s. He’s sporting a button-down shirt and dark khakis. As he walks up the drive, he’s rubbing his palms against his thighs. They’re undoubtedly sweaty.
Good, he better be nervous.
“Daddy!” Amber hisses, catching me.
She’s my heart.
“Be home by midnight.”

K: Lots of peering through the blinds this week! Okay, maybe it was just twice. Dad is the ultimate judge – I’ve been a part of that dynamic several times, with my mom often telling me when I was in high school and college that a girl was too unintelligent to keep me interested (I fought her on it every time, and she was right EVERY TIME) and of course, as the dude who married someone else’s daughter. This is a long, pointless way of saying I believe it. It doesn’t strike with any big moment, but as a slice of life, it works. BRONZE

MD: Someone took to heart Kelly’s declaration that stories about fathers with daughters work on him. I feel like there could’ve been a more interesting story in finding out HOW the dad judges this boy to be worthy of his daughter or not, rather than taking the tale from the early part of the interaction when he hasn’t even met him (potentially).

W: Spookybait for a few years down the road! The father here is more developed than the gawker on the obese woman, so that pushes this story a little higher up my list. It’s not a new idea, but it’s executed well. SILVER

Ben Johnson

“Steven, what have you prepared for us?”
I describe my entrée, watching for her reaction.
Bemused, she furtively runs her tongue between teeth and lips, tingling and already swelling imperceptibly.
We make eye contact. I smile.
I exit the kitchen, wheezing gasps and coughing rising behind me.
“Shockingly amateurish” appetizer? Perhaps my secret ingredient will add a little zest.

K: I read about so many sociopaths that it’s tough to get into them unless they try something new. Why is our cocky narrator willing to do this when it’s so easy to trace back? In the case that the narrator doesn’t care, why should I? Even if I feel like I’ve essentially read this story hundreds of times, I still appreciated the way it was told.

MD: Maybe this is more a look into my mind than the intent of the writer, but I at first read this to be some kind of romantic encounter, and the whole “tingling and swelling” was some weird sexual response. (Side note: if it’s “tingling and already swelling imperceptibly”, how does the narrator manage to perceive it?) It took a turn towards poisoning, though, so I can at least say I was surprised. SILVER

W: I recently caught the Seinfeld episode where the chef does this to George after George hides a suit going on sale. A short and sweet revenge story is always a great F59 idea although an attack on the people using their cellphones to take pictures of food would have been better than one on a critic. SILVER

Margaret Martin

Indoor heating sucked the moisture from Angela’s airways, and snot dried against her nostril.
Distracted, fighting the urge to pick, she looked again at the Judges’ names.
No party affiliations. Hmm. Sharon L. Kennedy? Must be a Democrat. Angela picked her.
Back in the car, Angela picked again. In the ensuing oxygenated clarity, she realized her mistake.

K: I looked up Miss Kennedy to see if there was anything specific in Kennedy’s background, other than her being a Republican, that made this story work. There really isn’t some big reveal there, and the nose-picking was more gross than it was helpful to the story. It’s one of a kind, though, and I don’t want to discourage that.

MD: I had to look it up, and it appears this judge is a Republican somewhere in Ohio? That seems a very obscure reference to make, with the hope that somebody would pick it up. Or it was a strange coincidence. The imagery was pretty gross, so I’ll give it that.

W: This is just weird. (Total aside, but I would score the Mariners’ pitching coach’s mustache very highly if I was judging baseball facial hair.) Did she have an intention to vote against Kennedy before entering the stale voting location? I just can’t see a reason someone would care that much about electing a judge.

Erik S

Judge Bianca removed his robe, revealing a fastidiously ironed shirt and sharp bowtie.
After dispensing with the usual correspondence, he eyed the thick file received arrived on his desk. He began stroking his right eyebrow with his finger, a tell few but his wife would recognize.
Some judges waited their careers for this case. Judge Bianca only felt tired.

K: And here’s a slice of life that captures the fact that any job , no matter how important, can run you down in the end. It’s not exactly uplifting, but it’s honest and doesn’t hinge at all on the case we know nothing about. I know Judge Bianca now, and that’s far from a given in these. BRONZE

MD: I think this is a well-written slice of judge life, but I’m not entirely sure what I should get from it. I know it’s only 59 words, but I’d like a bit more about what this ‘case’ is and why it’s important. BRONZE

W: The weariness of Judge Bianca is well established, but there isn’t much happening here. The story hints at great stakes, but without any additional details it doesn’t motivate me to fill in the unknown.

Pete Bruzek

The defense attorney said that it was “really fucked up” to try a six month old infant for embezzlement. The judge saw through his mind games.
The verdict? GUILTY.
The gavel fell, then the tears began.

K: I feel like this was only getting its footing in the first paragraph, as it opened with a pretty great absurd joke. Unfortunately it fizzles without another payoff, and we peak too early. I’ll still reward it for having a high peak, but the best moment should be saved for the end. BRONZE

MD: Was this a last minute, “Crap, the deadline just came up!” kinda story, too?

W: Sorry, but the best absurdity has some grounding in reality. This is just impossible on so many levels that I can’t really even engage it.

Jack Haas

All rise.
The early morning crowd crams the bus. Still, I have a seat to myself. Must be the stench of a night under the bridge. A sniff. My presence objectionable.
I overrule, remain in my seat, making hopeful eye contact. The stop comes. The bus empties with my cup still light.
I mouth one word through the window.

K: Interesting. I’ve read about vagrants fashioning fantasy worlds for themselves before; would mental divergence really be a horrible fate for someone who lived on the street? Thank you for not overexplaining this one – that’s the difference between an okay one I’d forget and what it is now. GOLD

MD: I like this one. Whether you take it from the perspective of some yuppie on the bus with a cup of coffee, being sniffed at by the folks who live under the bridge and ride the bus for a place to be all day…or whether you take it as the bridge bum with his donation cup sitting there and hoping for money. #bustribe SILVER

W: So what did he mouth? Dismissed? I’ve given this a few reads, but I’m not drawn or intrigued by the homeless judge at all. The message is not working for me, and it feels like too much telling rather than showing.

Brian David

Soka pulled the knife from the leopard’s throat. The animal shuddered as the capacitors buried in its skull sparked wildly.
He turned toward the crowd. The Judge’s face, flat glass and white noise, blinked. A red pixelated hand appeared, thumb pointing down.
Soka’s shoulders slumped, just for a moment. Then he braced himself as the coliseum doors slid open.

K: Is this BattleBots? I don’t know if Soka is a human fighting robots or a robot fighting robots, but either way, it’s far from the norm, and an amusing curiosity. BRONZE

MD: There is something potentially awesome going on here. I like the mixture of historical gladiator images with a potentially futuristic, dystopian media as the audience. GOLD

W: The judgment of gladiators is ridiculous (although probably no more ridiculous than anything else involved with the gladiators). I think this story would have been stronger if it was just straight historical fiction rather than incorporating the fantastical elements. BRONZE

———————————————————————————–

I’m not sure why, but judging was really tough this week. I shuffled these for quite some time. Spreadsheet updating isn’t happening tonight and could easily be pushed until tomorrow night, given the schedule.

In the meantime, look at that! Brooks finally pulls down the first triple-gold.

Look at this! Colin nonsubbed. What a wienerhead.

Also, look at this too! We’re due on Thursday at 9pm and the story will be about a student.

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