You guys decided to go out on a goofy note. I suppose that’s my fault…when I set a prompt, people take the “unlikely” approach and have a way of being predictable by conforming to nonconformity. It did have a way, though, of making this a fun and easy read, even if I can’t say it was the “best” week we’ve had all season. Shut up and get to the playoff scenarios, Kelly. Fine, fine.

Brooks Maki

“and they were never seen again.”

.
.
.

The campers stared into the fire.

“So, there are monsters all around us?”

“Some of us are monsters?”

“The monster reminds us that we’re all going to die?”

“The monster is your penis!”

Jesus, I’m never taking English majors on this trip again.

K: I totally misread this story last night in a haze after a tallboy Green Flash Imperial IPA hit me a little harder than I expected. It’s sort of fun and gets across how irritating teenagers are. There were large groups of them at Disneyland…they were by far the worst. BRONZE

MD: This round is filled with lots of “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am” jokes. I’m not usually big on them, but as a former English major, I can appreciate this particular one. I assume he just read them Lord of the Flies or maybe Interview the Vampire. WE ARE THE MONSTERS! BRONZE

W: Someone has been listening to my dislike of symbolism. Sometimes a tree is just a tree, right? BRONZE

Sarah Wreisner

Willow branches swing and he steps from the trees. Thrumming insects whirl before him like confetti.

He edges closer. Seven elbows bend six scrawny arms; an eye rolls, swollen and weeping. Moss dangles from clumps of hair. Twigs snap beneath him.

I’m shivering behind an oil drum. I have a match and a blade.

He stops: I don’t breathe.

K: This is a pretty effective creepy monster, particularly “seven elbows bend six scrawny arms.” This tells a story as basic as you could expect given the prompt, but does it so well that no twist is necessary. SILVER

MD: Upon first read, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. When coming back to it, though, I find myself liking the imagination that goes into the creature. I also like the somewhat MacGuyver-like stance of the narrator with the match and blade, and I can give a thumbs-up to the abrupt cliffhanger of an ending despite the peculiar colon. SILVER [K: What is with this site’s inability to spell “MacGyver?”]

W: There is a lot of staging here to set the scene, but nothing has really happened yet. As the beginning of a longer story, this is very good at drawing me in. As a 59-word story, it’s constricted.

Pete Bruzek

His own damned fault, really. You don’t go to The Green Iguana, sip the Barkeep’s Special Cocktail and then spit it in his damned face.

He actually did that… Could have discretely spit it into his glass (even better, choked it down). No, he needed to be a dick.

The lumberjack accosted him first. “You fiend!”

The brawl started around that point.

K: This unfortunately comes off as a bunch of stuff that happened, rather than a complete story. It also has demanded several reads from me and I can’t figure out what the deal is here. Paul Bunyan? Beyond that, what?

MD: The specific name of “The Green Iguana”, and the reference to a lumberjack, makes me suspect that I am, once again, missing some reference. The monster is the guy who’s spitting in the Barkeep’s face, but what is the significance of this to everyone else? What about that makes him a monster?

W: Our first story in which the monster is just an everyday person acting like, well, a dick. I was curious how many people would go there with the prompt. Again, this story could use a little more space to percolate because there’s a lot of things implied but not enough of the world is explained to really justify the customer getting into a brawl with the lumberjack.

Dean Carlson

Nimble fingers deftly move across the Frankenstrat’s frets while the amplifier strains under the wailing chords prompting the pulsating crowd to howl in delight as the first notes of Eruption ring in receptive ears. It’s the first night of the sold out Monsters of Rock Tour and Eddie Van Halen thinks to himself: I AM the monster of rock!

K: Do I have to comment on this?

MD: I appreciate that this isn’t Sesame Street. However, the Van Halen reference doesn’t win me over. The sentences are sprawling, and while that can work in some narratives to create tension or feelings of losing control, that does not appear to be the point in this particular story.

W: On the one hand, that first sentence just runs on and on and on. On the other hand, I could definitely picture Eddie Van Halen’s stream of consciousness doing the same thing.

Sama Smith

Raped, beaten then shoved down a flight of stairs ending in a miscarriage and a broken jaw.

She revealed it to me 45 years later.

I found him on my own.

Grease and stale marijuana sifted around us; he didn’t recognize her photo or recall that summer fling.

Sun caught in his eyes as my bullet went between them.

K: Hmm. That’s a lot to take in for a story that short. The fact that the heel doesn’t even know his victim can be effective dickishness in a longer story, but here it kind of stifles the drama. Still, the prose works and I did feel a sort of satisfaction as the rapist was found. BRONZE

MD: For god’s sake, Sarah, you really just need to write a book about your relatives. If this isn’t about one of Sarah’s relatives, then um…hm. Awkward. This one suffers from being 59 words because it feels like it’s too short to treat the subject with the gravitas it wants. The backstory seems to have been pared down too much, but I like the description of the loser, who remains a loser 45 years later. GOLD

W: The missing comma, two words in, really detracts from the story here. This might become a standard refrain today, but it seems like 59-words isn’t long enough to really capture the depth of a monster. Here, the awful actions make the person an obvious monster, but in other stories there isn’t enough support to justify it. I’m not blaming y’all, but it seems like nuance might not be coming this week. Anyway, this is a perfectly fine revenge story without any surprising twists.

Bret Highum

The adventurers watched the basilisk, surrounded by stony remains.
Berle ordered “Throw the halfling in.”
Martyn looked at Gregor. The two fighters thrust the thief forward, to be petrified and bashed.
The others attacked, easily defeating the distracted basilisk.
Berle restored the thief to his normal drunken state.
“Wizard- how’d you know that would work?”
Berle grimaced.
“Bad hobbits are hard to break.”

K: Wow. So, we worked all season toward a week full of silliness. I guess the heart wants what it wants. I don’t totally hate this, as it does effectively lead up to the payoff without telegraphing that it’s going to be a joke. BRONZE

MD: Wah wah waaaaaah. There were many characters, which muddled up the already George Takei-level pun. More interesting words could’ve gone into the places where names had to be placed instead.

W: I want to PUNch that last sentence in the face. Even with the cringe-worthy pun (and I’ve used more than my fair share in stories at the CdL), the unique world here stands out this week. BRONZE

Matt Novak

There Is A Monster At The End Of This Story

“Hello, friendly reader, I am lovable, furry Grover!

“Did that say there is a monster at the end of the story?

“It did? Oh no! I am sooOOOooo afraid of monsters.

“Pleeeease stop reading! Reading brings us closer and closer to the monster.”

“Holy fuck, it’s Cthulhu! I warne–

K: What got INTO you people this week? I have the Grover book in question so I know what we’ve got here, but I just can’t get around Grover acting this way. I’m not trying to be a purist, because that’s really not my thing, but it comes off as manipulative shock value.

MD: Yet more jokes. You guys are weird. Prompt about parents? Let’s write the most awful, heartbreaking stories. Prompt about monsters? Fun and laughs, guys! This one did make me grin, though, because I’ve recently even read this book to my kids. I’m not sure I like the last line, but I love the creepiness of the character breaking the 4th wall to insist to the reader that they not read the book. GOLD

W: Perfect. I love this entirely too much. GOLD

Margaret Martin

Catching their scent, he broke into a crooked run, his eyes rolling with hunger and desperation.

Eventually he reached the clearing. The cabin stood silhouetted against glittering stars. Through the windows, he saw the troop giggling and checking the locks.

He grew excited at the sight and shoved violently through a window.

Girl Scout screams pierced the air.

“COOKIE!”

K: See, now here’s a Sesame Street character in his milieu, used more effectively and more surprisingly at the end. Is the last word unnecessary? Possibly, but that’s a nitpick. SILVER

MD: Of the Cookie Monster stories, I like this one best. It uses the 59 words to create more tension and draw the story out longer before hitting the punchline. This also uses horror movie cliches in a fun way, taking the lone cabin in the woods and the vaguely sexual possibility of giggling girls and turning that on its head. SILVER

W: And here is the weekly winner of the Really Good Idea But Was Out-Executed By Another Contestant Award. The visual of Cookie Monster rampaging through a cabin full of Girl Scouts is excellent. This one hides the joke better than the other Cookie Monster story. GOLD

Annette Barron

A bloodcurdling scream erupted behind me. I whipped around in the grocery aisle, primed to rescue. The man was holding a box of Cocoa Puffs high above a small girl; red-faced and wild-eyed.

“Daddy, I HAVE it!” 32 inches of determination stretched for the sugary cereal. He was shaking his head, but I could see that he was doomed.

K: I kind of love this. Here’s a little hint about me: if a story is thematically consistent and “monster” can refer to more than one thing, you’ve got my attention. “Thirty-two” should be spelled out because it opens the sentence, but that’s a nitpick. GOLD

MD: Those little monsters get me every time I’m at the grocery store. This one is an innocent, slice of life portrayal of a relatively pleasant type of monster.

W: Another cute visual with a Monster known to children. Who would have thought that I would be so drawn to lovable children’s stories in a week about monsters? SILVER

Brian David

Sawtooth Jack picked through the cigarettes and beer cans laying in the dirt.

“Gotta’ be five of ‘em,” said Billy Bones, eyes bright as lanterns and voice shaking. “They killed two sheep, Jack.” Billy sniffed. “Didn’t even eat ‘em.”

Jack bared his teeth, hair rising and nails growing long.

“Fuckin’ monsters.”

He looked up to the moon and howled.

K: Let me get this out of the way: I LOVE these character names. Names are an underrated tool to get a character across in a space this small. I’m trying to determine whether these two are unaware that they’re the monsters, or they really aren’t the monsters (this time) and are defending their turf. I like it better the latter way, and I’m thinking that’s what I’ve got. GOLD

MD: At first, I read this to be about two werewolves who are upset at regular wolves who ate a few sheep. I see that it’s more of a “reveal”. Billy didn’t realize his good friend was one of the 5 who raided the sheep. I like the buildup, specifically the way Billy Bones speaks. It matches how one would think a guy named Billy Bones would talk. The ending kinda fell flat for me, though. SILVER

W: I love the showing without telling about what the men did that angered Billy and Jack. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with a werewolf considering someone else to be a monster. HOOOOOOWWWWLLLLLLL, bitches! SILVER

Erik S

Edmond sat with his fingers wrapped around a dented thermos, occasionally glancing at the kitchen clock with the clouded face. Seconds slowly ticked amidst the hum from the fluorescent above the sink.

Soon curfew would fall, and Edmond could more justifiably move around on the street. While he waited for 10 o’clock, the world waited for him to die.

K: It’s interesting how boredom can be an effective story if the character is well-drawn. This isn’t the intent, but I think this could be a pretty nice opening to a comedic story about monsters, where the author takes the expectations of what you’ll get and smashes them to pieces. SILVER

MD: I really like the descriptions in the first paragraph. I can see perfectly what this room with the clouded clock and humming fluorescent light must look like. Add the dented thermos, and I have a pretty succinct picture of Edmond despite the limited word count. It’s not clear what type of monster Edmond is supposed to be, though the curfew reference makes me think he’s not allowed to be around youngsters. I like the ambiguity around his monstrousness, though. GOLD

W: The monotony and misery of Edmond’s life is well established. There’s not much happening here, but what this story lacks in action, it makes up for with the most complete character of the week. SILVER

Zack Sauvageau

I didn’t know what to do. I was covered in sweat. My breathing was getting heavy.

Then it happened.

I saw my solace, glistening in front of me.

A tall, cold Monster brand energy drink. Refreshing. Energizing.

Monster™ – Unleash the Beast.

K: The trademark symbol does help to make the joke, though the setup made the joke so obvious it was hard to fully appreciate.

MD: In a round filled with silly jokes, this one actually worked on me. I think it was the slogan in the end. I can hear it in my head, spoken in a deep man’s voice. This also takes on a “monster” concept not utilized this round. BRONZE

W: Um ok. I’ve never had a Monster (or a Rockstar or any of those things), so I don’t know what I’m missing. [K: I got addicted to them when I had a stressful job for a while in MN. What you’re missing is a drink that tastes like a Gummy Worm and gives you a mild heart attack] Was this an attempt to avoid a nonsub?

Jonathon Pope

He stared sadly at the girls as they ran away. He didn’t want to hurt them, he just wanted what they had. It would be nice if they gave it to him.

At least they’d left them behind this time. He sang softly to himself as he opened a box, “C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me.”

K: Two stories about Cookie Monster stalking Girl Scouts? Huh. This one doesn’t set up the joke as nicely as the first, though it still isn’t half bad.

MD: The CdL-Writer fascination with Cookie Monster is a little alarming. Unfortunately for this particular story, I appreciated the Girl Scout vs Cookie Monster angle a little more. This one seemed to try to go for the gross at first, making us think some sicko wanted something from these girls. It didn’t do that effectively, though, before turning to Sesame Street.

W: And this is the winner of the Really Good Idea But Was Out-Executed By Another Idea That Was Exactly the Same While It Was Being Out-Executed By a Similar Idea award. I think my biggest complaint here is that Cookie Monster was never as melancholy and morose as in the first paragraph here. I also don’t think he sings softly. I also realize that the character could just be a random hungry person who isn’t Cookie Monster, but that ambiguity doesn’t help. BRONZE

Beau

“Mrs. Harris, I doubt you would intentionally harm your child.”

Susan’s first year in child protection was proving difficult. She watched Tyler scramble into the squad car.

“Still, the tox screen was positive. Get sober, and we’ll help him return home.”

Susan almost regretted sneaking cocaine into Tyler’s sippy cup. However, she would do anything to save these children.

K: Here’s one of our trademark cynical stories. I think this can work, but the reveal is kind of awkward and it feels like “Exposition Hell,” as those in the business call it. The characters feel more like cutouts and cliches than real people, and it’s hard to score as a result. BRONZE

MD: Hm. Someone’s trying to appeal to the social worker in me. FINALLY. I like how this starts off with Mrs. Harris and Susan possibly being the same person, only to develop (as slowly as possible in 59 words) into a story about a social worker Gone Bad and spiking a kid’s drink. She tries to justify it with good intentions, but jesus. What if Tyler had actually used the sippy cup!? BRONZE

W: Oh my. What a way to capture the twisted logic in the minds of people struggling with addiction (or other mental health problems). I thankfully don’t know much about the CHiPS program, but how much unsupervised time would a mother have with her son to be able to pull this off? GOLD

Christina Pepper

“I’m done,” I told him. “Snip, snip.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said.

Another year later, I’m the one with an appointment.

“God, those signs outside were awful,” he says, taking my hand.

I nod, not making eye contact. A nurse calls my name.

Fuck this. Fuck everything.

K: I have a feeling this is telling a very clever story about a doctor getting what’s coming to him, but I can’t make it out. A vampire getting de-fanged, and complaining about the bright neon lights outdoors? If not, I’ve got nothin’ here.

MD: Is it wrong of me to think this is about vasectomies? Reading this multiple times, I’m still convinced that’s what it is. Is this a canvas talking before Da Vinci paints the Last Supper on it? Otherwise, I don’t get it.

W: I keep re-reading this story and it is going way over my head. A doctor performs a procedure on a patient and then a year later the doctor has to visit as a patient himself. What am I missing?

Jack Haas

The lizard emerged from the ocean ten stories tall and bee-lining for the city. Having lived its life underwater it’s unaware of our expectations of breathtaking mayhem, so it falls to us to provoke the behemoth. Like the monster I hadn’t left home with this purpose in mind and my shoe bouncing off its webbed feet is completely ineffectual.

K: I like this more the more I read it. The idea that everyone involved in this disaster is just trying to get along and live, but can’t help screwing it up, makes me grin. GOLD

MD: The tone of this tale is too clinical for me. The sentences are strangely structured, and at least one missing comma throws off the rhythm. The first sentence, for instance, could be describing either the lizard or the ocean as being ten stories tall and bee-lining for the city. I’m trying to determine if this is another Godzilla story, but the idea of someone being able to kick at the webbed feet makes the creature sound smaller than Godzilla.

W: Is bee-lining a verb or is this one of those times like in Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin decides he wants to verb words? The matter-of-fact tone could be really, really effective, but doesn’t quite click. Instead, everything feels very rushed.

Ben Johnson

I’d caught him in bed with her stinking of alcohol, sweat and unwashed bodies. I knew what I’d find, but was still surprised at how calmly he’d turned around when I pushed into the room, a small pant leg wedging under the door as I opened it.

“No bruises this time Ed. Her teachers noticed the last time.”

K: And THIS had to be the last story. Pete, when you gather, could you please not try to give me the most depressing story last? Oh well. Now that I think of it, I’m a little surprised there weren’t more of these. It would be sadder if it wasn’t so manipulative, and the second part of the line comes out feeling like forced exposition and not something that would be said aloud.

MD: After several reads, I’m reading this as a story of a little girl busting in on her parents having sex, and then dad plans to beat her up. He’s the monster. The construction kinda throws off the full emotional push this story could’ve had. I’m kinda wondering, for instance, why a little girl would narrate a tale with a line like, “a small pant leg wedging under the door”. I realize this is an attempt to age/size the character, but it’s awkward. The initially-mysterious POV does give this story some individuality, though. BRONZE
W: The monster here isn’t as believable as Susan as a psychopath. I’m also curious what Ed’s role in this whole horrific ordeal is. BRONZE

Note: The next entry is mini-Martini’s (Margaret’s son Carl’s), and not an actual entry.

The moon was an eye: round, lidless, staring into the creaky old house.

It sizzled in his veins; a drug. The worst trip imaginable.

His flashlight darted around each corner. All clear. Safe to step again.

It itched his skin, shook his hands. Another corner.

His flashlight clattered down, but the moon lit the mirror well enough. Terror.

Lycanthropy.

K: Huh. I’d like this cat to write more around here, if he’s so inclined. I’m always curious about whether the short-burst sentences are intended tension-builders or a function of the word limit. Anyway, it could be punched up but I do feel for this character.

———————————————————————————

That’s as close as we’ll ever really come to a consensus, gang (but seriously, “Holy fuck it’s Cthulhu” is Gold? I guess it’s just not clicking with me. However, it’s enough to move Novak into the playoffs, and he did write a lot of good stories that did not end with “Holy fuck it’s Cthulhu.” What else happened? Who’s in? Who’s out? That’s a damned fine question, Prosers.

I can tell you this: Ian and Colin nonsubbed (that’s not like them!!!!) and are out. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for me to update the spreadsheet to find out. Or I guess you could go over and figure it out for yourself before I do.

If you are, in fact, one of the 3rd-6th seeds, then by Monday night at 9 you should have a story in about a rebel. If you played all season or are named Carl, and you feel like writing one anyway, go ahead and I’ll read it (I can’t promise the others will, but I suspect they would). We’ll each give a gold, silver and bronze to one story each of the four, and the two top stories will move on to the semifinals. Tiebreakers will be points during the regular season.

Thanks for a great season capped by a very, very strange week, dudes and dudettes. I wasn’t feeling PwtP at the time I started and was just placating the many people who seemed to need it, but I’m awfully glad I ran it. You were all a joy, and I’ll see to it that a stranger hugs you today in my stead. So when it happens, just…let it happen.

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