We’ve reached the end! Who’s the fairest of them all? Sorry about that atrocious opening, gang. I just want to post this, and the writers are antsy to find out what happened.

Beau

Ashley Masterson was the prettiest girl in school. Thanks to our names, she sat directly in front of me.

“I heard you won the school chess tournament, Rollie! Can you teach me sometime?” Her smile was radiant. My palms were sweaty.

“Earth to Roland!” boomed Mr. Daniels.

Ashley turned around–for real this time–and giggled.

K: Poor Roland. Not only is he daydreaming about a girl, he’s also daydreaming about a nickname that sounds less dorky than his actual name. Before I changed dramatically in about ninth grade, this hopeless romantic daydreamer was me. I roll my eyes at Rollie, even while totally understanding and loving the kid.

MD: Isn’t this a scene in Mean Girls? Well, the sexes are switched, but I’m pretty sure it’s Mean Girls. That’s the thing that’s bringing this story down — it’s a semi-cliche picture of a nerdy guy’s school existence. I otherwise have nothing against it. It’s clear, succinct, and a perfectly fine portrayal of a scene in everyday life. Technically, the other story is all of these things, too. It just includes a tiny bit extra imagination (from the writer, and not just the characters), and so it gets the nod from me. SILVER

W: Wow, both of you decided to use children for your stories today. I love that Roland succeeds, but not through his initial plan (well, ok, his initial plan was working, but getting called out by an authority figure clinched the deal). The stakes are small, but this story is very cute and accessible. GOLD

Sama Smith

I strip the skin off my greasy turkey leg and shove it all in my mouth.

“Huzzah!” yells the knight, trotting his victory lap around the sandpit arena. I return to playing Tetris.

Mom burps, kisses my cheek and finishes her fifth pint.

“Next weekend it’s Disneyland, kiddo.”

Maybe dad will get me a new game before then.

K: A family of gluttons. We get a good look at the attitude pervading them in a pretty small space, as they’re all spending like sailors but nobody’s enjoying their time together because they’re too busy with their selfish consumptions. This is so plain on the surface, but I’m kind of in love with it, as it tells a story we rarely see here with characters that rarely find their way onto my site: realistic pigs.

MD: This reminds me of the last Survivor story Margaret wrote about Thanksgiving that may have been a prediction about life for me and Brian post-Survivor. In other words, as with the story above, it’s a portrayal of an everyday part of a family’s life, but it takes on an added absurdity. It has the anachronistic Knights and Tetris references, and almost everybody in this story could be a champion. Mom’s a champion drinker. Younger sibling is a champion … knight. And the narrator is a Tetris and angst champion. Way to make the references to the prompt ambiguous but not too ambiguous. GOLD

W: And here is a more depressing story about a child being forced to entertain always entertain himself. I’m assuming that the game here is Zelda although I never really have gotten into into fantasy games. If the child had just won the Super Bowl with Bo Jackson or been playing with the Ninja Black Sox, it would have been more biographical to me. Anyway, I’m not going to dock this for choosing a game I rarely played, but I think I give the edge to story one just for having Ashley as a more developed complementary character than the mother. SILVER

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If it wasn’t obvious, I chose the second one, though I appreciated that both of them were a bit out of nowhere as final stories, given this site’s propensity for darkness upon darkness.

That means your winner is Sama Smith, a CdLer I know very little about, but who brought the pain most every week with tales from the whimsical to the macabre to the depressing. Well done, Sama! Add me on Facebook, or something?

As for Beau…man, this guy and second place. It was another great showing for him after a long layoff, so I’m going to go ahead and predict 100% that he wins Survivor XV (no pressure!). One thing that makes Beau one of my all-around favorites, even in weeks when he doesn’t put forward his best work, is that he’s committed to telling stories from different angles than the ones we’re used to seeing. I like a lot of his single works, but like Ian, he’s more than the sum of his parts because he constantly stretches himself out (well, okay, he sometimes does the social worker stuff, but he has to, right?).

Thank you, everyone, for an excellent season. I got into it more than I expected I would, thanks to the large number of unconventional stories – seemingly a number more than in previous seasons. We’ll see you in Survivor XV, everyone, and I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.

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