Well, everyone, this one was difficult. There was much to like throughout and it’s as tough a time I’ve had scoring just about ever. With just one week after this to pull yourself into the playoffs, who pulled it off? It’s kind of a mess, because there were so many great stories, they sort of held each other back from getting great scores.

Sama Smith

Her pale face flushed with more tears.

We told her why she was here; now what?

Someone suggested paints.

Canvas swirled with blood rain, charcoal limbs and screaming eyes.

Her fingers dripped; emulsion pooled around her feet.

We waited for memory to spark. Each brush stroke a match ready to flicker into flame and ignite everything.

K: This is one of those defining CdL stories that shocks and shocks but does nothing I’ve never seen and doesn’t reach me on a character level to make it stand out from others of its ilk.

MD: This is…abstract. It does create a picture in my mind like a painting with charcoal and blood streaks and droplets, etc. It’s not a clear painting, but it’s potentially lovely. My warped mind is seeing this as a kidnap/murder scene, but maybe…it’s…something else. Gold fish? The reference to sparking memory throws me off. GOLD

W: The imagery is beautiful, and this story incorporates the oft-used “tortured artist.” I hope this is the start of a very strong batch of submissions. GOLD

Annette Barron

Marinate the pork overnight in lime juice, garlic and spices. Slow cook for 3-4 hours in stock, chipotle chilies and adobo sauce until it falls apart. Shred crisp cabbage and chiffonade cilantro. Dice heirloom tomatoes and wedge perfectly ripened avocado. Serve on warm, fresh tortillas.
You bolt it down in three bites and leave abruptly to watch baseball.

Heathen.

K: Not a bad joke, but it would probably work better with an even longer setup. I’d also cut the last word and leave it flatly with baseball. Referring to “You” in that last sentence of the first paragraph was jarring, and didn’t jive with the way I was reading the recipe.

MD: This is, at least, an interesting foray into what counts as “artistry”. The pork does sound delicious as well. For some reason, though, the joke doesn’t work for me. Maybe I needed to know something about baseball to get the pork joke. Something to do with RIBs? BRONZE

W: This really hits home as Sheenie loves baking (ok, so she’s not cooking like here) while I gladly partake in the final product without taking her work for granted. Plus, this recipe looks extremely delicious. Was it borrowed from meat? [K: note to those who don’t know: “meat” is the screen name of a guy from here who has much love for both art and food] SILVER

Jonathon Pope

My very first gallery show was when I was 22. I was so angry I named the exhibit “Fuck You, Dad: An Exercise in Subtlety”. The gallery owner never asked me to do another show even after every painting sold. When my father died and I found all of the paintings in his basement, I understood.

K: Huh. This could be extremely dramatic, though the jokey setup doesn’t help it along. I want to love this so much.

MD: The name of the show is hilarious, on so many levels. Then the story tries to make it a poignant tale, but it doesn’t have quite the emotional tug to pull it off. BRONZE

W: The rare story (first in a couple of weeks) that got an audible laugh from me. Unfortunately, it peaks a little too early, but the exhibit and the father-child relationship is excellent. SILVER

Pete Bruzek

The brush first dipped into the pigment, then lightly caressed the canvas. Blues, yellows, and whites combined to create a lovely beach.

The sneeze came without warning. A jagged, red scar cut into the landscape.

He gaped at the painting for a moment before adding a giant lizard breaching the water. This painting was now claimed by Godzilla.

K: Har! This is fantastic fun, and the calm whimsy of the final sentence kills me. We know so little about this artist, but I love him and it’s the sort of opener that would keep me reading a much longer story. GOLD

MD: This has a strange combination of “normal story” and “streak of silliness”. I’m not sure what to think about it. It does reminded me of Bob Ross, but instead of a bird covering the mistake, it’s Godzilla. “We’ll just make it a happy Godzilla.” BRONZE

W: Another excellent joke about art here. It’s probably not surprising that artists (people who are perpetually misunderstood) are ripe for parody (and, coincidentally enough, may also double as men with low self esteem). BRONZE

Margaret Martin

It was Julie’s first opening. She lingered by the showcase installation, broken buildings of a brittle city piercing through wind-blown satin dunes.

Beautiful. Julie gently brushed the pleated waves.

Shit! Real sand. She yanked her hand away, but four finger-shaped scars remained.

The artist shouted. Julie was escorted out.

Fuckin’ art. Blinking back tears, she walked back to campus.

K: This is so realistic I almost suspect it’s based in truth. The world of art (any art) can be extremely intimidating and I think this captures just that.

MD: I can appreciate the twist on what it means for her “first opening”. I can also appreciate her “mistake” because I’ve intercepted my son doing this…twice. He set off alarms on one exhibit when he tried to make off with priceless artifacts.

W: Nicely done by having the artist hurt by the success of her exhibit. My only quibble is that Julie was able to develop enough to understand why being yelled at caused tears. A few more words would have really helped.

Brian David

We find each other, spinning across the distance
Moving in rhythm and driven by the constants of the universe
Our bodies collide and we are absorbed
Swirling and tumbling and gasping for air
We rise up
Fused together until we forget who we are:
Brimstone in the heart of the world
Pigment on the brush

K: This is raw enough to be somewhat memorable on the whole even without the knowledge that it’s two colors on a palette being joined to make another. It improves on subsequent reads and rewards the reader as well. SILVER

MD: This might be a little too artsy for me. Is that a thing? I had to read it a few times before I realized…it’s actually quite nice. It seemed to me to be a poem about the creation of the planet earth. A bunch of debris colliding. A molten core. I kinda like that interpretation. GOLD

W: I’ve mentioned it before, but the more philosophic of “deep” stories with symbolism and undertones just never strike. Credit for the unique idea, but it’s just not my thing.

Dean Carlson

George Bush absentmindedly wipes his paint-splattered left hand on his tattered work shirt and simultaneously places a wet paint brush behind his ear while admiring his latest portrait. “Vladimir Putin. I really think I captured the sadness in his eyes” Bush muses as places one last violet smudge on the background flowers. “Mission Accomplished.”

K: This one is missing a word and contains a line that wouldn’t be spoken aloud, but hey, it proves that a story about Bush painting Putin CAN be done in 59 words.

MD: Alright, despite the random punctuation, this was kind of sweet, if one reads it as the story of a poor, feeble-minded guy who overcame serious handicaps to become President of the United States and now channels his inner turmoil into art since he’s pretty terrible at using words. *wipes a tear*

W: The punchline is groan-worthy, but the rest of the story is decent. Holy shit, CBS actually just showed George W. Bush as I’m writing this comment (sitting behind Tony Romo and Jason Witten), and they didn’t even mention him. What are the odds? Anyway, this Deanish story is just fine, but will probably get lost in one of the stronger weeks.

Sarah Wreisner

Small gestures, that’s all: fleshy Polaroids in a purse, perfume planted on a scarf. Bitter notes pinned beneath wiper blades.

Today I thumbed lipstick onto a dog’s collar and dropped pantyhose into the neighbor’s yard –subtle yet conspicuous.

Now I sip gin and cradle my binoculars, waiting. Evidence is easy. I suppose I’m a sculptor: a connoisseur of fiction.

K: Heh. This character would be a lot of fun to watch, and his/her comeuppance would be hilarious, I’m sure. Great use of the prompt and congratulations on creating another peeper in a season seemingly dripping with them. SILVER

MD: The last line was too much. I was enjoying the more liberal usage of the term “artist” in this stalker/embittered lover story. Then you outright said what you were trying to do, and that kinda killed it. BRONZE

W: Excellent story about those artists who live among us. In high school, some friends and I would frequently do really weird things to classmates’ lawns besides teepeeing, so I can respect the befuddlement this character is creating.

Christina Pepper

I got home too late to shower last night; my hands and forearms are still flecked with blue. I feel Sam watching me, and I inspect my coffee mug.

“I fell asleep waiting for you,” he says. “Again.”

“It’s almost done,” I reply. “Promise.”

I reach over to stroke the back of his neck, and he looks away.

K: Huh. It’s just a small story about suffering for art (in multiple ways), but perhaps because I know how the arts can suck your time away, it speaks to me. It’s not a real big story, but it rings true. BRONZE

MD: Oh, how art can come between a couple like the extramarital affair that it is. I like how this portrays that all encompassing compulsion to create, or maybe I’m reading too much between the lines. SILVER

W: A very complete story about a quest for perfection and how it may detract from relationships. Absolutely nothing wrong here. BRONZE

Erik S

Though unseen from this high in the rafters, he can feel the audience. He’s ready; his contraption and gravity will take care of the rest. After he jumps, the blades will open his torso like a medicine cabinet and his innards will issue forth like an upside-down jack-in-the-box suspended on high.

He wishes he could see the papers tomorrow.

K: Fucking Christ. Where the first one felt familiar, this one truly shocked me and felt new in every sense. I’ll remember this in the same way I’ll remember Shawn Ashley’s marionette. GOLD

MD: I really like the simile of opening his torso “like a medicine cabinet”. Very potent. The descriptors become a little overwhelming, though, when you throw in the upside-down jack-in-the-box. With a simile like the first one, you need a calmer second half of the sentence to balance it out and make it especially beautiful and macabre. SILVER

W: Who allowed Shawn a guest submission? This piece of performance art is bizarre, and I am a little horrified trying to envision the contraption. The final sentence here really helps the story as it humanizes the artist.

Colin Woolston

“An artist is someone who sees the world uniquely, and then uses their chosen craft to communicate what they see to the rest of the world.”

Ari paused, giving his words a chance to settle among the gaping mouths and unwashed ears; he rolled his shoulders.

“Now, if you’ll open your Coolidge Community College binders to ‘Science.’”

K: The little joke works (sort of), and it’s pathetic in an entertaining way, though it doesn’t punch as hard as I’d like.

MD: I’m not sure how to take this. It reads like it’s supposed to be a joke, but the joke doesn’t work. Portraying science as an art could be a cool angle, but this makes it hard to determine what the intent of that portrayal is.

W: The story falls a little flat as other stories have better shown the absurdity of some art.

Zack Sauvageau

It wasn’t that long ago Jared was starving. He almost gave up on his dream. There wasn’t a lot of money in erotic Sonic the Hedgehog drawings. Thank The Flying Spaghetti Monster his friend showed him that episode of My Little Pony. Apparently he wasn’t the only dude who wanted to fuck Twily.

The clop business was booming.

K: Zack, I really don’t know what’s wrong with you. I’m not sure, though, whether I hope you get well. I’m pretty into the idea of a story about a guy who exploits his talents for trashy erotica, although the jokes are all a little “nudge nudge” for my tastes.

MD: This doesn’t happen to be about the same Jared who got locked in a closet for being a stutterer, is it? Because he may need to be re-locked in that closet. While I did laugh at the Sonic erotica; and while I give kudos to the FSM reference; and while I was appropriately shocked at anyone wanting to fuck Twily (Rainbow Dash is where it’s at, weirdo), the combination of all these gags together didn’t work for me.

W: A give you full credit for creativity. This story is ridiculously absurd and is committed to the absurdity.

Matt Novak

David watched as the man shouted insults.
“Worthless!”

Another crumbled candidate was escorted away, and David worried that his development had been entrusted to a brute. What could he know about art?

Then the man was standing close, tapping on David’s unchiseled marble.

“You.”

An unexpected softness, a glint in his eyes erasing doubt. The Pieta had been right.

K: A story from the perspective of Michaelangelo’s David? Huh, interesting. This again captures beautifully the rage and romance inside the heart of an artist. GOLD

MD: I have a feeling I’m missing a reference. The Pieta is a work by Michaelangelo, but knowing that didn’t help me better get the possible reference because a guy named David is doing the sculpting…which…may be another MIchaelangelo reference? David hadn’t sculpted a thing, and yet he was chosen by the “brute”…and…who is the brute, exactly?

W: Both the Pieta and David were stunning in person. The idea of the marble being worried about Michelangelo’s ability is excellent, but I recall learning that the story of David was the exact opposite: that many other men could not figure out how to use the slab of marble and it was considered “unworkable” until Michelangelo got ahold of it. Either way, great idea. GOLD

Brooks Maki

“It’s Namirala Day!” the children chorused as he stepped outside. “Will you dance for us?”

“In time.” he replied.

“Why does Namirala come only once a year?” the youngest complained.

Because there was only one day in a year that was the anniversary of the soldiers sweeping through the town from the north. One day in a year that his love had stepped into the street

“Because that keeps it special.”

K: This felt real enough that I Googled it, but Namirala Day is not a thing. This story probably needs more time to completely hit with the intended drama, but I do feel for the lead character here.

MD: The lack of comma in that second sentence is KILLING ME. Then there’s a missing period in the second to last sentence, and I…I…a piece of me has died. I am also, as with the story before this, not entirely sure what’s happening here. Namirala doesn’t appear to be a real thing, so there was some world-building going on here that got stunted by the low word count, I think.

W: The perversion of a tragedy into a celebration is a great idea. The innocence of the children contrasted with the mourning dancer is an excellent dichotomy. GOLD

Ian Pratt

“Why does a funeral home need a make-up artist?”

“For open caskets,” his date explained. “Families want their loved ones to look nice.”

He remembered his father lifting him up to say goodbye to Nana, the paralyzing terror of it. He’d spent the rest of the funeral under a table, peeking out at a forest of black pant legs.

K: When my grandfather was young, his grandfather died and they had to keep him in a bed in his home for a week, while he tried to wrap his four-year-old head around what had happened. This is a nice little story about our death traditions, which really are pretty weird, and a child would recognize that. BRONZE

MD: This story feels like it ends abruptly. I’m wondering why this guy’s date took him to a funeral home. The date must be a makeup artist, and that makes me wonder if maybe the romance ended not because they’re in a funeral home but because the narrator was traumatized by the last makeup job he’d encountered in a funeral home.

W: A simple story about an unappreciated job. The stakes aren’t very high, but I also remember being disturbed by the appearance of a grandparent at a viewing. It’s just so creepy.

Beau

Louisa picked up a checker. “If I move it there, it looks like a tree!”

Harry squirmed on his elbows. “But that’s against the rules!”

“Or here, and it becomes a spaceship!”

“Mom!” Harry ran to the kitchen. “Lou’s not following the rules!”

Louisa ignored her brother. “And if I move these…” She smiled proudly. “It’s a unicorn!”

K: I can dig this. Harry’s obsessed with the game and Lou’s obsessed with the art. I do like a story where both characters are the good guy and the bad guy in their own way; funny that something this simple would be the one to manage the feat best this week. BRONZE

MD: This doesn’t involve kittens. Boo. However, this also doesn’t involve child molestation. YAY! It’s endearing and normal, and oh my god, I’m so relieved. SILVER

W: I liked the children celebrating Namirala more, but Louisa is cute enough. I have a brother who made a living sandbagging games he was growing bored playing, so I completely understand Harry’s exasperation.

Jack Haas

When the painting was slashed, the guard lunged for the vandal, who plead the first amendment before he was even caught. A passing judge denied the motion by sticking out a leg to trip the fugitive and everyone agreed that the pool of seeping blood where he cracked his head was true art.

K: Wow. Fun wordplay throughout, even if it’s a little detached. BRONZE

MD: Is this another one from the author who declared we’d soon have AI running our judicial system? It has that same cynical tone. That first sentence is very passive, which is sad. The joke doesn’t hit home for me, either, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good joke. It just didn’t hit me as hard as that floor hit the art-slasher.

W: That’s an amusing little story. Again, it’s just running up against a really strong week. BRONZE

Ben Johnson

“What am I looking at?”

Irritated, I respond, “The moon, waning over Half Dome.”

He gestures at the photograph, questioning. Insinuating.

I frown, “What?”

“Still no color? For Christ sake, it’s 1961. You’ve mastered technique, control; your execution is without equal. People want color…why can’t you do this in color?”

“Not, can’t.” I say. “Won’t. No one said can’t.”

K: I love the bullheadedness of artists. It doesn’t really matter if he’s right or wrong; vision trumps everything. I also love the empty “but people want this” attitude shared by interchangeable producers, and such. Another small story, but real.

MD: I’m not sure what message I’m to get from this. It otherwise reads as a story about yet another completely misunderstood artist who is being crushed by pop culture.

W: Adams’s photo makes Yosemite almost look as if it’s from another world. I wouldn’t want to listen to any moronic critics who can’t respect its beauty. This reminds me of Calvin’s dad’s explanation of why old pictures are in black and white (because the whole world was black and white back then) and Calvin’s struggle to understand why paintings turned to color. BRONZE

Bret Highum

Sandro cradled her tiny foot in his rough hands. He slid his fingers over the bones, feeling the joints and tendons. Gently setting her foot down, he picked up his tools and began chiseling. Marble flew, scraps spattering across the room.

Sandro paused to sweep a translucent chip off her unblinking blue eye, his touch lingering on her cheek.

K: What could appear grisly works as a real story of love from an artist for his lost infant(?) as well his creation. I felt it completely. SILVER

MD: This could’ve gone to terrible places. It’s what I expect from you guys these days. In fact, I expect such terrible things that, when the story is JUST about a dead child and the father who is sculpting her in his grief, it seems refreshing! I can sigh in relief! This story makes me intensely sad, but it’s also…kinda beautiful. Reminds me of The Red Violin. GOLD

W: It’s only right for the week to conclude with yet another great entry. Seriously, you guys absolutely brought it today. Sandro’s growing infatuation with his own work is impressive, but I’m a little partial to the creativity in the David story among the two about sculpting. SILVER

————————————————————

Part of the difficulty was because you all showed up again. Well done, bastards. That took a long time. (Seriously, I’m pleased with you, though)

Your final story is due Thursday night at 9pm Central. However, results won’t go up until sometime Friday because one anonymous judge who hates you all will be attending a rock concert because he’s Will Young and he does what he wants. I’ll get on the spreadsheet here and see what’s what, and oh, let’s go ahead and make that last story about a monster. Yeah, that should be fun.

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