Here, finally, are some spaghetti stories.  If anyone was placing bets on the likelihood that DG and I would agree on much of anything, I think you’re going to lose.

IAN

Derek’s parents both worked nights at the hospital, so sleeping over at his house meant a pile of cash to order delivery. If it was just me and Derek they’d leave $50, but when Drew was there too they’d leave $100.

“What do you guys want from Patrucci’s?” Derek yelled down from the kitchen. Drew and I were down in the basement playing on Derek’s computer.

“What are you getting?” I whispered.

“Spaghetti,” Drew whispered back.

“We both want spaghetti,” I shouted up to Derek.

Derek sauntered down a few minutes later.

“I can’t believe you’re both getting spaghetti. You guys are such losers.”

“Patrucci’s spaghetti is good, dude,” I said.

“You wanna see spaghetti, check this out,” Derek said. He grabbed the mouse from Drew and clicked out of the game we’d been playing. He typed an address into the browser.

“Get ready, bitches.”

The title of the video was “Rebel Spaghetti.” It was shaky, filmed in pale sunlight on a cell phone from a window looking out on a rubble-strewn street. A man with a rifle was crouched behind a telephone pole. He was dressed in a ragged blue jacket and khaki pants, with a concrete-gray stocked cap on his head. After a few seconds of nothing, the man’s head exploded and the screen went black.

***

I woke up to a poke in the ribs.

“Hey, Eli,” Drew whispered. “Wake up.”

“What is it?”

“I don’t feel good,” he said.

“Why don’t you get Derek’s parents? They’re doctors.”

“They’re not home.”

I looked around in the dark. We were in Derek’s bedroom, in sleeping bags on the floor. Derek’s bed was empty.

“Where is he?” I asked. Drew just shook his head.

I padded down to the basement, to the blue glow from behind the door to the computer room, to Derek hunched in the chair, to the Rebel Spaghetti video fading to black, to Derek, calm and unblinking, moving the mouse and clicking the play button one more time.

DG: The introduction of the video is appropriately chilling and we learn along with the other two boys, just how warped Derek’s mindset is.  I like how this is set up and executed.  GOLD

DK: I really liked the premise here, and the meticulous way it’s set up.  The ending, as a consequence in part, suffered a little from compactness – the necessary payoff was conveyed but didn’t land sharply.  Still, the initial parts were strong enough to get my attention.  BRONZE

YICKIT

“I taste that whiskey from last night.” His head pounds, but the crisp air brings comfort.

Maggie brushes bangs out of her eyes. Seeing him clearly for the first time this morning. “I can smell it over here.” Its not the first time she’s seen him this way, but it always unnerves her.

John lumbers over as she puts down her magazine. He sits down next to her. They both look across the lake to the cabin she shares with Tom. Michigan waters shimmer at dawn.

“We have to tell him today?” The question marked by months’ discussion.

“Yes.” John knows that for his cabin to fill someone else’s must empty.

Maggie sighed, “He will not understand John.”

“He he needs to be a man, or this country will chew him up.”

“Not today, I cannot tell him today.” Difficult conversations were something Maggie avoids at all costs.

“Fine. Tomorrow then.” John knows this promise is the last of many that came before. One way or another his guilty conscious will be relieved.

Maggie’s relief shows, “Tomorrow then.”

“If not, tomorrow this is over. I cannot keep doing this to him. He deserves a decision from you.”

“John, don’t say that, you know how much I care for you. I’m here. I came over after he was asleep. I rowed across the lake even instead of using the motor.”

“Tomorrow, and we can stay here.” Maggie admires his authority for a moment.

“Okay, I gotta get back before he wakes up. He will want breakfast before he goes. Can you shove me off; I can’t use the motor if we don’t want him to suspect anything is about to change.”

“I’ll give you a push,” an easy task to finally get what he wants, “I will watch for the bus, we can go to town after. He needs a bed here before tomorrow.”

DG: The conversation gives us the complete story, but doesn’t feel overly expositional, which I appreciate.  What holds this back from being great is that there maybe isn’t quite enough action or consequence for these decisions.  SILVER

DK: This felt somewhat perfunctory.  All the players in this affair are laid out without really getting a sense of their motivations or the deeper issues between them.

JOE

I bit into my left thumbnail again.  I quickly remembered that the nail was already past the tip, so I went to the right thumbnail.  Mom snapped at me to quick biting my nails, and my hands flew to my sides.  She wore but a scown, waiting for Dad to get home.  The punishment is never as bad as the waiting.

He stomped through the door, clearly having heard from mother.  He set down his briefcase harder than he usually did.  He joined the two of us in the living room and sat next to Mother, across from me.

“All right Daniel, tell us your side.”

I inhaled deeply, passing all my thoughts through a filter to decide just how much truth to let out.  There was so much to try to explain.  Tommy couldn’t get permission to drive his dad’s Mustang, so we took it anyway.  After that we bought some beers with the fake ID’s that Craig hooked us up with.  We went to the east side strip clubs and spent mom’s emergency cash on hookers and blow.  Coming back home we sideswiped a cop pulling someone else over.  We barely escaped him and got back to Tommy’s at about two in the morning.  I snuck in through the back window and broke a flower pot.

I woke up the next day to my mother scowling at me and telling me that I was in a lot of trouble, and that when my father arrived home from his business trip, we’d all be having a little meeting.

I sat there in silence, trying to decide what to say.  “Well?!”  My father replied.  “How do you explain that God-forsaken mess in the microwave?!”

Now I have to explain why I was laughing so hard.

DG: The description of Daniel’s bender actually made me laugh as it escalated, purposely over the top as it was.  BRONZE

DK:  Heh.  Have to say I enjoyed the way that punchline popped out; the list of Daniel’s actual escapades was suitably ridiculous and increasingly intense to make that ending work.  BRONZE

BEAU

“Mommy, I want breakfast!”

The sound barely registered; it became a raven’s cry in her nightmare. She rolled off the mattress and fell the six inches to the floor. Her hand landed in an ashtray. The raven pecked at her fingernails.

“Mommy!” Caleb was shaking her hand now. “I want breakfast!”

One eye opened. He was wearing shorts, covered in ketchup stains.

“Get it your fucking self. I’m tired.” Her eye closed.

A foot stomped. “I can’t!”

Both eyes open now. “Goddammit. Fine.” She reached for a bottle, tipping it over. Shards of crystal laid at her son’s feet. “Just give me a minute.”

He stepped–almost jumped back. “s’okay, Mom. I’ll get it myself.”

She grunted, her eyes closing. The raven returned, only now it was flying away. Towards the sun, like Icarus. Up it flew, higher and higher. And then a…crash?

She jolted awake. What she saw was worse than a nightmare. In slow motion. Caleb was falling backwards, off a chair. One arm was behind him, the other above, grasping a box of cereal. Frosted flakes surrounded him, as if they had exploded from his torso. Both he and the chair were nearly parallel to the ground. Her mind lurched, as if to rescue him. Her body laid still. And then came a crunch as his head slammed against the counter.

*******************

She sat beside the hospital bed, feet on her chair, hugging her knees. The doctor was talking. She couldn’t look at him. The floor was safe.

“You’re both extremely lucky, Ms. Butler. Caleb has a nasty laceration and a mild concussion, but the scans came back negative. He’s malnourished too, but…”

The doctor waited for a response. The IV beeped.

“Social Services will talk to you now.”

Footsteps approached. She saw knees, bended.

“Ms. Butler. Our goal is for you and your son to be together. However, we have concerns…”

“Anything,” she interrupted. She looked at her boy. Her sweet, beautiful boy.  “I’ll do anything. Just help me, please.”

DG: This one sets up its premise early and then follows through.  The mother is neglectful and pays the price.  This is well-described and well-written, the only thing I wanted was one jolt of discovery in the story.  SILVER

DK: I may not have been in the mood for quite such a tearjerker this time, or maybe something about this just felt off.  I like the raven image, but I think the ending sentiment is incongruous with her initial reactions to the boy (I’m not saying that’s not realistic, just that it didn’t fit well in the context of this small space).

JONATHON

“Well, I impersonated a lawyer. Easier ‘n I thought it would be.” Mac seemed proud of himself.

The pounding in Jim’s head made it hard to answer quickly. Eventually he managed to croak out a few words. “Thanks. Sorta…unnecessary. Just a drunk and disorderly.” The previous night was hazy, and the sunshine wasn’t helping anything come into focus.

“Heh. You don’t remember much about las’ night, do you? After what happened… I jus’ couldn’t leave you there. I’d regret it as much as the time I made spaghetti in a microwave.”

Jim almost didn’t notice his growing unease over the pounding in his head. “Mac? Where are we going? God, Nora’s gonna be pissed. Why did I go out drinking last night, anyway?”

Mac gave a quizzical look, then burst out laughing. “Well shit, Jim, you really don’ remember! Now that’s funny! Why, you were drinkin’ when I got to your place last night. Look, Jim, I gotta apologize. I should’na come over last night. I… wasn’ thinkin’–”

Jim interrupted “Aw, forget it Mac. I shouldn’t have been drunk. Nora hates when I do that.”

Mac stopped the car. Jim looked over as quickly as his hangover would allow. Mac had a tear on his cheek; He opened the car door and stepped out. A moment later Jim could hear him rummaging in the trunk. Jim stepped out of the car and squinted, then closed his eyes because squinting hurt too much.

“Now Jim, you gotta understand, I forgot what night it was. I forget sometimes.” Mac was suddenly right next to him handing him a beer. “Drink that, it’ll help with your head. Now I couldn’t leave you in jail, with a murder charge hangin’ over your head. I’m real sorry, Jim. It’s better this way.”

Jim looked at his friend, already in mid-swing with the tire iron. He flashed on an image of Mac as a wolf, and Nora screaming, and wild gunshots. And then there was nothing.

DG: A dishonest werewolf?  Where do you guys come up with this stuff?  Anyway, there are hints at what Mac knew, but then it’s spelled out in the last paragraph.  I might have liked this with more clues and a less explicit ending (maybe that’s just me). BRONZE

DK: I liked this quite a bit; it had character flavor, as well as a nice sense of creeping tension as the reader gets pieces of the real picture along with Jim.  I’m choosing to ignore if you’re getting CdL-ish meta there at the end cause I enjoyed the rest of the ride enough.  SILVER

PETE

LET LOVE IN TRAILER

Fade In

INT: MORNING: Apartment

 

ALAN KEYES

Kids! Breakfast!

GINNY and DAVID enter sleepily from the living room. They stare at their plates in disgust.

DAVID KEYES

Spaghetti?

GINNY KEYES (exasperatedly)

Did you microwave that?

 

SUPERIMPOSE: Being a parent is tough enough when you have help.

EXT: DAY: Park

 

FRANK

You’ve got to get it together, Alan. She’s been gone for two months, man. It’s time to move on.

DAVID

Dad!! Ginny put toothpaste in my shoes!

ALAN

Oh, for the love…

 

SUPERIMPOSE: Sometimes, fate needs to intervene

EXT: EVENING: Sidewalk

ALAN and CARLA are both carrying groceries, they collide.

 

ALAN

I’m so sorry

CARLA

No! I should watch where I’m going.

ALAN

Oh no, I’m the one apologizing here. I’m Alan.

CARLA

Pleased to bump into you, Alan. I’m Carla.

ALAN (hesitantly)

This is going to sound a little crazy, but would you like to do dinner sometime?

 

Phillip Phillips’ “Home” plays

INT: DAY: Office

 

FRANK

Alan, this is crazy. When I said you needed to move on, I meant “go to a couple clubs, have some fun, not “Go find a replacement wife!”

 

SUPERIMPOSE: Sometimes you’ve got to let fate take the wheel.

EXT: DAY: Park

It is raining. The KEYES FAMILY and CARLA are flying kites. They are all laughing. ALAN casts a knowing glance at CARLA.

 

ALAN

I don’t know what it is about her.

DAVID

I do, dad.

 

SUPERIMPOSE: This Christmas…

INT: NIGHT: Restaurant

ALAN and CARLA are sharing a quirky sushi dish. They are laughing.

 

ALAN

I don’t know how I made it this long without you in my life.

 

They kiss.

SUPERIMPOSE: Let Love In

Fade Out

SUPERIMPOSE: In theaters 12/23

DG: The only interesting line that gives the reader a moment of pause is David’s last one, and I have to admit that I can’t suss out what it’s trying to say.  This evokes the romantic sappy tone it’s going for, but doesn’t really do much with it that I can see.

DK: Yep, points for creativity here and for amusingly recreating the familiarity of this kind of trailer.  I just love the immediacy of Alan’s dinner inquiry.  By the way, Frank’s got to have one of those hipster beards in this, right?  SILVER

BRET

That was the start.  Yep, I’d have to throw away that microwave.  But first I moved it out on the deck and threw in some balls of aluminum foil and some old flatware and set the timer for 30 minutes.

It was relaxing watching sparks fly around inside the appliance, almost like watching a campfire made of metal, humming angrily instead of crackling merrily.  I took another sip of my warm beer and tried not to think about Tracy.

The microwave died before the 30 minutes was up, the stink of overheated electronics and burning paint searing my sinuses.  I threw my empty beer at it and missed badly, so I grabbed another dead soldier from my carefully lined up row and winged that one at it, too.  The second try was better, the bottle chunking off the top and ricocheting back into the side of the house, shattering and spraying foam on the siding.  Whoops.  I popped another beer and contemplated what else I should fuck up, since I was on a roll.  My phone rang, some pop song that Tracy had set for her ringtone.  I pulled it out and looked at it for a moment before chucking the phone out into the alleyway.

It was tough getting the mattress out onto the lawn by myself, but if you don’t really care what you break, it’s doable.  There weren’t many pictures left hanging on the walls of the hallway, I know that much.  A judicious dousing of gas and a carefully flicked match, and ka-whoomp!  I giggled merrily as I lay flat on my back, thrown down by instinct and maybe the fireball.  I was pretty sure my eyebrows would grow back.

“What in the hell are you doing!” screamed Tracy, pulling up to the curb in the Honda we’d bought, Ed “from work” riding shotgun.  I sneered at her and raised my last beer in a toast to them, then flopped down on the mattress and watched our house burn.

DG: The entire story is in the last paragraph.  I don’t know that the narrator’s point of view changes enough from beginning to end to warrant this many words.  The reader wallows with him for the whole story (I must say that is evoked effectively) and we end just as consequences for his actions arrive.

DK: This really pulls off creating a resonant character in a short space, juxtaposing the incidents in the microwave with the mistakes of his life.  Plus, the escalation of his retaliations gives it a great build to the solid ending.  GOLD

———–

So I guess the winners are Ian and…Popester?  Bret, perhaps, just cause I liked him?  Or perhaps, you’re all winners this week.  Happy Festivus, Prosers.

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