Sometimes, guys, you’re so depressing that I hope for nonsubs. Well, we had three, which sets a record for the season! WOOOOOOO

…seriously, guys, there are only two left after this. Surely you can see out the season.

These are pretty good. They’re also pretty depressing, mostly. Proceed with caution.

Sarah Wreisner

Father McCall was pinned to the wall, crushed by the student bus. I squatted behind the dumpster to watch.

He sputtered and cursed. I was afraid of the priest: his eyes bulged and he always smelled like eggs.

Our fieldtrip was cancelled. Firemen pried the steel bumper from his thighs.

His legs never healed; he transferred to another parish.

K: That’s an uplifting beginning. It’s actually sadder to me that this ruins his life in every sense rather than kills him. Take note, dramatists. BRONZE

MD: Two major questions. 1) How did this happen? 2) Why was the student (or whomever) hiding behind the dumpster? I guess the third question to ask is whether this was an “accident” or not, but that’s something I like about this story. It doesn’t imply that it was a purposeful event, and it doesn’t imply anything gross and pervy. What a relief. SILVER

W: That’s not a very uplifting story. If there’s a story in there about Catholic priest abuse, I’m missing it.

Margaret Martin

“Here?” Raj held a thread.

Sarah smiled. “No, don’t pull from the neckline. Always work from the bottom. The loose end is underneath the hem. Catch it with your fingers, like this.”

“I don’t want to disappoint you.”

She smiled again. “You’ll do fine. Remember, get as close to the embassy gate as you can before you pull.”

K: Holy frijoles. The gentle teacher-student dynamic against this backdrop provides one of the strongest dichotomies I’ve ever read here. You can be so horrifying with characters like this. Dramatists, take note. GOLD

MD: They’re planning to strip their clothes off and streak the embassy, aren’t they? I did like the way this started out seeming like a seamstress teaching her student, and turning it into something much different and potentially explode-y. Motive would’ve been nice, but we only have 59 words, so I’m going to have to deal. BRONZE

W: A decently developed teacher-pupil relationship here. I wish we had a little more time to learn how much Raj comprehends what he’s about to do.

Jonathon Pope

“Look up! Look at your partner! Smile!”

He could hear the words in his sleep, and probably do the steps in his sleep as well. Every day the same, until the day the words didn’t come. Instead “Good, nicely done!” And then “Try this step this way.” Followed by “Look up! Look at your partner! Smile!”

K: I’d take a little more clarity of character, but this is so different from the norm that I kind of dig it. Plus, I’ve been there.

MD: I feel like this one isn’t telling a story, or really painting a slice of life. It seems to simply be a couple of lines about dancing. I’m not sure what could be added to turn it into something with more pizazz. Maybe jazz hands.

W: We don’t really get to experience the man’s development throughout the story. This could benefit from more explanation of the characters learning because it’s unclear just how little (or much) the character struggled to learn.

Ian Pratt

I’ve been thinking about systems.

My psych professor called me late last night.

The universe is changing, slowly spiraling wider and wider. When I close my eyes I can see the spaces between molecules.

He said he was having a bottle of wine. He told me how much he enjoys seeing me in class.

I’ve been thinking about entropy.

K: Man, I really like this stream of consciousness. These don’t always work, but there’s a very clear story in the student’s disjointed thoughts and though I feel I’ve only just begun to get into this, I liked it enough at this length, too. SILVER

MD: This week, you guys succeeded in making my skin crawl, and my very being aches for all the exploited people and children out there, and I’m…I’m just going to go do a little bit of crying, and I’ll be back. Alright. Done. BRONZE

W: While this story has a lot of potential, it doesn’t quite pop for me. I wish the student could apply her (his?) learning in a way that wasn’t quite so blatantly symbolic. When done right, this type of story has limitless potential, but I think this tries to outsmart itself. BRONZE

Erik S

Seisetsu sipped his morning tea as a young student informed him of the damage caused by floods the previous night.

Incredulous, Seisetsu demanded to know why the student did not do more to prevent the damage.

“Only the river can decide where it wants to go,” the student responded.

Seisetsu the dropped his tea glass and instantly obtained enlightenment.

K: I wondered how long it would take the student to become the teacher. It’s kind of cute in an almost eye-rolly way, but the prose is so committed, it sort of gets away with it.

MD: I feel like I may be missing something. There appears to be an aspect of “the student is the teacher” here. However, there appears to also be some kinda punchline that may infact be related to “the student is the teacher” cliche. I want to medal this because it doesn’t make me weep for humanity, but I just don’t “get it”.

W: Again, I’ve never been drawn to philosophy. Everything about this story, from the student who failed to live up to expectations to Seisetsu’s philosophy, seems to rely on Asian stereotypes. #CancelColbert

Ben Johnson

“Faggot!” A word I didn’t know, though I understood its weight more completely with each swing. I can still see the arteries bulging on his neck as he shouts it in time with each blow of his clenched fist.

Looking back, it’s a funny thing to recall, the arteries.

I wondered if mine looked the same to my son.

K: Ugh. This sucked my soul. Though it’s a trifle manipulative for me as it touches on a topic I care deeply about, the use of “student” is so clever and depressing that I have to give this some props. Be better fathers, men. Please. GOLD

MD: The bully here is a strangely self-reflective one. And, seriously, I thought we were on student now, and not “parent”. Some of you are stuck, and Freud would like to have some words with you. I do like that we get a less obvious “student” with the sons taking that role in the abuse cycling through the family, which makes me like it more. BRONZE

W: Whoa, that’s a very dark ending. Are child abusers usually that self-aware? I’ll definitely give this the benefit of the doubt because the so much was conveyed about the father in that first paragraph. SILVER

Brian David

Natasha cut along the abdomen. After several more incisions the stomach was out and resting on the table. She was surprised to feel something hard through the lining. Working carefully, she pulled out a small ring, lined with diamonds.

Natasha looked around and then slipped the ring into her pocket. It wasn’t cheap to go to med school, after all.

K: Oh, you. This is too absurd to be real and too plain to be absurdity, I think. The payoff is fine but only in a story with a heightened sense of reality, for me.

MD: I never considered this kind of thievery a possibility. I now get to wonder at what “treasures” med students find. I also get to wonder what the corpse did to get itself corpsed. Was it just the swallowing of a ring that did it? This one takes a traditional student but makes the situation (hopefully) untraditional, and I like that slight tug of quirkiness. SILVER

W: I heard some pretty disgusting stories about cadavers from Sheenie’s sister when she was in med school. I’m a little curious how this story popped into the author’s brain. BRONZE

Pete Bruzek

Of course, it was difficult to difficult to write on essay on “The Joy of Music” the day after Sheena left him, but Steve probably could have come up with something more clever than “Relationships die and life is pain.”

“Life is pain”. Seriously.

Later, he would ruminate on that essay as the precise moment where everything began to fall apart.

K: Man, that first sentence needs to be taken out back and shot. (Thanks for that one, Beau). This one doesn’t reach me in particular anyway as it sort of sits and doesn’t go anywhere.

MD: I think something may have fallen apart for the story writer, too, if the multiple typos are any indication. This feels like something that should have more meaning to me. I looked up Sheena and Steve on Google, and while I found an entertaining story about Steven Perry doing background vocals for Sheena Easton, I don’t think that’s the story here.

W: The punctuation and spelling detract a little here. It’s a little disconcerting to discover that his life didn’t begin to fall apart when Sheena dumped him, but instead a day later when he wrote an an essay about it.

Matt Novak

Prayer beads stretched from the rope belt, jittering across finger pads in anticipation. After years of preparation, he stood before the Elder.

“What do you seek?”

“Elder, in these short hours, teach me what I need most.”

The Elder’s eyes continued their forward gaze.

“Please, bring me some water.”

“But the nearest stream is miles away.”

“I will wait.”

K: Poor bastard waited all his life to meet an asshole. This gets away with being both poignant and humorous, which I’m all about. The Elder’s calm dickishness really, really gets me, as I think a lot of folks that are revered like this are prone to exploiting their own celebrity. GOLD

MD: I am wondering what is meant by “in these short hours”. Depending on the significance behind that, it makes the trip to the stream potentially more poignant. I wish we had a tiny bit more than 59 words as I’d really like to know what the stakes are.

W: The student will definitely be learning a lesson here, but I’m again not entirely engaged with a philosophical story about life. Still, there’s plenty to like here. The characters here are much better developed than in the story about Seisetsu. BRONZE

Jack Haas

I’m physically ill, the vomit now swirling the drain is the only thing that’s been produced in the last few hours. The midterm project, once just a blank sheet, now swells to feel like a boulder, still blank. Inspiration is no longer an option, so I’m opting for perspiration. Flop sweat makes just as little progress.

K: Meta? I always wonder when reading stories about writing. This does a decent job on the palpable dread but again, sort of sits where it is with no resolution nor hint of one. Also, you missed nature’s greatest punctuation mark, the semicolon, in the first sentence.

MD: A student overcome with writer’s block? To be honest, this is the first time I’ve heard of “flop sweat”. I’m glad I looked it up because it did give the story more meaning.

W: The frustration is palpable and there’s nothing worse than a completely inability to start a project. The idea is universal to students and done effectively. SILVER

Bret Highum

I’m not writing very well, but I press on- as long as the angles are right, and the lines unbroken…
The chanting is hard, too. Master Enken despaired of me learning the pronunciations, but I proved him wrong today.
Successfully de-energized, the gleaming portal slowly fades, leaving me broken and alone with the limp, bloody halves of Master Enken.

K: Sweet Jesus. Satanic ritual? I’m not sure where this is taking me, but I do see enough of it for it to work. I’d like to spend just another sentence finding out how our narrator feels about these proceedings, but this cold and hard ending is probably the intent and not a product of the word limit. BRONZE

MD: This…has potential. I can see some world-building trying to sneak into the story, but 59 words is woefully small. I also wonder how the narrator can think something so callous as “leaving me broken and alone” when Master Enken is far more broken, and neither of them is really alone. Jerk. SILVER

W: It’s pretty tough to slog through the first sentence. I like the idea quite a bit and there’s some really good nuggets here, but another edit or two could have improved this immensely. BRONZE

Christina Pepper

“How was school, honey?”

“Great! Did you know that cheetahs can’t roar? They can purr, though.”

“Did the spelling test go all right?”

“Yes, Mom. But did you know cheetahs are diurnal?”

“I didn’t know that.”

– – – –

“How is he?”

“No matter what I ask, he keeps telling me more about cheetahs.”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s just a phase.”

K: Uh-oh. This is meta. It’s not meta enough for me to barf, as Brooks is my favorite subject, but the story doesn’t tell me anything new or great and hinges on me knowing the backstory, which is the problem. I can’t love a story just because I know why it exists.

MD: Oh man. Kelly’s going to shit a gigantic brick of self-righteous anger [K: no, just righteous. Fuck meta] after this one. Or does this not qualify as meta enough?

W: A meta story about Brooks that just seems so . . . unassuming. The first half is excellent, but the second is unfulfilling. Why not highlight his modesty?

Brooks Maki

Gar stabs with his dagger. The thrust, blocked, is countered with the expected slicing downstroke, the same sequence that cost Gar his ear 14 years ago.

Kneeling atop his foe Gar snarls “You thought I wouldn’t return. You thought I couldn’t learn to fight like you. Well, now we can say the student has beco

“Next lesson. No monologues.”

K: Wow. You can only get away with breaking the rules of writing when you’ve somewhat mastered them, and I think that’s what we’re getting here. I love that the “hero” was cut off and I love how it read. SILVER

MD: I was enjoying this just as a dagger fight story because I was admiring the portrayal of action and suspense in so few words. I did laugh at the purposeful lameness of “the student has become the master”, and then the abrupt interjection about monologues. However, I would’ve liked to see how you would’ve wrapped up a pretty good action scene. BRONZE

W: Another story similar to one last week in which the prose is so tediously inept, but it pays off by the author’s self-awareness. This is a great way to apply the prompt and had me chuckling. GOLD

Annette Barron

“Pawns only kill on the diagonal.” My father warned me. I corrected my move, pretending I didn’t see the open pajama fly or his hand lazily stroking himself.

If I can just beat him 2 out of 3, he won’t want to play anymore. He hates to lose. I studied the board like my life depended on it.

K: Fucking hell, who gave me this? Now I hate life. I just re-taught my daughter how to use pawns, too, which makes this all the worse. It’s effective drama, though. I hope this kid turned out alright. SILVER

MD: Jesus. You make me hate life. The Annie/Daddy Warbucks story was absurdity that didn’t make me have to think about how shit like this happens for real all the time. This, however, makes me want to binge drink, curl into a ball, and dissociate. I get to struggle with whether I want to give it no medal because it’s gross, or give it a gold because it makes me so upset and that means it succeeded in its purpose. I’m going to go cry for a minute. Okay. I’m back. GOLD

W: Oh dear God. This is somehow a much, much worse father. The dichotomy between the calm, normal first paragraph and the horrific second, with all the unspoken horrible things, is incredible. GOLD


The quick reb fox

Flustered, Terrence started over.

The quick red fox jumped ovr teh lazey

Why was this so hard?

The quik fox red jum

He tore out the sheet, fighting back tears.

“Hey Terr, wanna shoot some hoops?”

He nodded. Something he was good at. He closed the notebook, grabbed his dorm key, and joined his roommate.

K: Ah, yes, another one that does both depressing and funny. Tragically funny, but whatever. The setup and tone sets the payoff up beautifully. BRONZE

MD: So much is going on here. 59 words, and you manage to encapsulate a learning disorder; the fact that the learning disorder did not keep this kid out of college because, most likely, he played basketball well enough to get a scholarship; and enough empathy to not be mad or feel this kid is “coasting” on a sports scholarship. GOLD

W: Again, the things in the final paragraph that are left unspoken really help this story. My only quibble is that if his inability to write could push Terrence to tears, would he really be so willing to quit just to play basketball? That doesn’t seem as persuasive knowing that he’s old enough to live in a dorm. SILVER

Sama Smith

I’m invisible in the darkness. It’s better that way.

Her footsteps approached. Bright light blinded me.

“Time to rejoin class, Jared.”

She removed the cloth and untied my hands.

“Ye-ye-ye-yes, M-Missus Barnes,” I mumbled.

“I don’t tolerate stutterers in my class. Do you understand, Jared?”

I nodded, tugging my sleeves down over the red rope marks around my wrists.

K: It’s great that I could end with this story so I could hate humanity all over again, gang. Though I don’t have a great read on the backstory, it’s enough to get the point across. It suffers primarily because other stories hit me with great drama as well as clarity, I guess, but this and everything I scored above it was very, very high. It crushes me to give it BRONZE

MD: Wow. I’d say that was an over exaggerated response to poor Jared’s stuttering, but seeming as they used to beat left-handed kids, there’s no saying this kinda crap didn’t actually happen. Or maybe I have no hope for humanity after reading that daddy chess story. I’m so sad, and this story seems far more unlikely than the chess stor, so I’m…ugh. I’m going to go cry for awhile. GOLD

W: You guys really brought the awful adult thing today. Jared’s shame is well established, and Mrs. Barnes is despicable. The abuse here is not quite as horrific as some of the other stories, but there is more of a complete story here. GOLD


I thought I might be underrating that last one, and it looks like I did. Well, it got 11 points, so no matter. I imagine shit got real in the standings here, but I haven’t figured that out yet. I’ll do it tonight, though, because I’m motivated, listening to good music and drinking Victory HopDevil (well, not yet, but I’m about to).

Thanks again for a great week, Prosers. On Monday night at 9pm Central, get me a story about an artist.