No time for a long introduction, but there’s some interesting stuff here, both funny and sad. I know some of you may not be experienced writers, but I think you all acquitted yourselves well.

It’s a good thing I announced a tiebreaker scenario.

Hybrid Carlos

From: BVerbeck@fulton.com

To: DIST-LIST-SAVANNAH-OFFICE

Subj: Happy New Year!

Sent at 8:05 am

Greetings,

I want to welcome everyone back to the office after a great Winter Break. We have a new employee,

Anna Thurman, who is taking over for Gloria as our new secretary! Anna is a former English teacher

from Wilmington Junior High School. Be sure to say hello to her today and pick up a donut from the

food table.

One housekeeping note: Due to the parking lot being repaved we need to start parking beside the west

door instead of the north door.

Thanks! And Happy New Year!

Brian Verbeck

Sr. Marketing Manager

(912)555-7867

_____________________________________________________________________________________

From: AThurman@fulton.com

To: DIST-LIST-SAVANNAH-OFFICE; BVerbeck@fulton.com

Subj: Re: Happy New Year!

9:14 am

Thanks to everyone who has said hello to me. You are all so very kind.

It’s so nice to be among adults again!

Mike, just so you know, you should say “because of” instead of “due to”

Sincerely,

Anna

_____________________________________________________________________________________

From: BVerbeck@fulton.com

To: DIST-LIST-SAVANNAH-OFFICE ; AThurman@fulton.com

Subj: Re: Happy New Year!

9:17 am

Anna,

Thanks for catching that. I know who I’m sending my memos too for editing. Ha ha.

Brian

_____________________________________________________________________________________

From: AThurman@fulton.com

To: DIST-LIST-SAVANNAH-OFFICE; BVerbeck@fulton.com

Subj: Re: Happy New Year!

9:19 am

Brian, not a big deal, but I think you meant to say “to” not “too.”

_____________________________________________________________________________________

From: BVerbeck@fulton.com

To: DIST-LIST-SAVANNAH-OFFICE ; AThurman@fulton.com

Subj: Re: Happy New Year!

9:20 am

Right you are!

_____________________________________________________________________________________

From: MWilson@fulton.com

To: DIST-LIST-SAVANNAH-OFFICE ; BVerbeck@fulton.com

Subj: Re: Happy New Year!

9:22 am

Hey, guys, you don’t need to copy everyone on these emails. It effects our servers

_____________________________________________________________________________________

From: AThurman@fulton.com

To: DIST-LIST-SAVANNAH-OFFICE; MWilson@fulton.com

Subj: Re: Happy New Year!

9:24 am

affects

_____________________________________________________________________________________

From: DBrighton@fulton.com

To: DIST-LIST-SAVANNAH-OFFICE; MWilson@fulton.com

Subj: Re: Happy New Year!

9:26 am

Mitch, stop trolling the new secretary!

Debra

_____________________________________________________________________________________

From: BVerbeck@fulton.com

To: DIST-LIST-SAVANNAH-OFFICE; DBrighton@fulton.com

Subj: Re: Happy New Year!

9:27 am

Okay everyone, that’s enough.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

From: BVerbeck@fulton.com

To: AThurman@fulton.com

Subj: Re: Happy New Year!

9:27 am

Anna, please come to my office

Thanks,

Brian

P.S. Could you bring me a donut?

DK: A good joke, and it fits well with this prompt. Like a lot of stories I’ve seen for this one, it shows a tendency to overexpose its joke near the beginning and keep spinning the same thing out; it’s not hard to see how things will progress after the old and new jobs are clear, but the very end is a nice cap to it and the creative format helps it feel fresh. BRONZE

CP: Cute. This is perhaps more of a situation than an actual story–it just kind of riffs on Anna correcting people–but it plays out enjoyably. Anna is perhaps a bit too similar to me in certain ways (ahem), but I do love her for that. GOLD

Dusty Rutabaga

Another day on the line. Well at the end of the line at least I have access. Ripe, organic and unspoiled, a far cry from the smells I’m accustomed to. I’ll take anything fresh over anything with rot any time. Unless it might be fermenting, but that isn’t a good habit either.
Use the whole thing, people waste everything. I can find those who will buy the cheeks, maybe even the tongue. You know the Michelins will want the brains and white kidneys.

They’ll toss out the rest. Cut out the spine, save the eyes, and set the sweet breads aside. Clean the meat off of the bones. Throw it into the big lunch pail.

Next, prep the vegetables. Wash them in the colander that hangs above the sink. Watch the dirt seep down the drain and the colors reappear. Peel the starches, but cut them deep. Save the tops and leaves. It all goes in the pail.

Take them home for the kids. They love awful and stock. Bones, scraps, and herbs make a great meal. Easy enough to cook in the kitchen for them. I saved the table, chairs, stove, and pans from the landfill. I was blessed to be able to find those things, selling more of this “trash” put me through Le Cordon Bleu. It will always amaze me what things people throw away. I guess I should be thankful.

What people leave behind says a lot about them. That’s why working the overnight garbage detail after years of waste opened my eyes.
Butcher, peel, chop, keep, and repeat. Six days a week. The kitchen is closed Mondays, so I take the family out for dinner. It’s the one day that we’re not eating someone else’s leftovers. But that’s the way I like it. I hope they like it too, but if they don’t it’ll be a good lesson anyway.

Learn to keep your garbage empty and your pail full.

DK: The aesthetic choice to run through all the details of things the narrator takes and saves is not the most interesting one on a plot movement level (although few of these, to be fair, have much plot movement), but in terms of character it shows a lot of depth in his meticulousness and the ways his previous occupation shaped him. It almost gets to the point of overexplanation but I think it hangs just shy of that and is more effective for it. SILVER

CP: Did you mean “offal” rather than “awful”? (Oops, I just went all “Anna” on you!) So . . . the details here are nicely specific, which I enjoy. I do which this story involved more of a specific scene playing out–we’re basically just hanging out in the narrator’s point of view finding out about his or her past and present. I find the character plenty interesting, though. SILVER

Lester Sweetums

“Martin Zapala, you are on trial for the murder of two inmates,” Prosecutor James rephrased from the original statement after the objection from my lawyer. “In your own words, would you take us through the events that took place on the morning of July 27th, 2009?”

“Like I said, it was a normal morning,” I started to recant my story for what seemed to be the millionth time. “Nothing was out of the ordinary until it came time to monitor the prisoners during breakfast.”

I knew this prosecutor was there to take everything I say and mold it into the image of a guy who loves nothing more than killing people, a soulless shell without a single concern, with no regards to the gift of life. Maybe he is right, but I don’t see myself this way. In another life, I am considered a hero. I have saved over 1,000 men, mostly fellow Marines, during my last two deployments. I am a killer. I have killed for my family, I have killed for freedom, I have killed for this country, and I have killed for God.

I’ve killed more men than I can even remember. When you first kill someone, you see them everywhere, reminding you that there is one less person on this planet because of you. After you end the life of a few dozen terrorists, that more or less fades away. There are just too many shadows to dicern one from another. The one exception to this is when you end a person’s life with your bare hands. Feeling a man’s last fleeting moment escape in a desperate shudder, seeing the lights in a man’s eyes twinkle for the last time as their soul leaves its home, your senses are in maximum overdrive and it does not matter how much time passes, your entire being is imprinted with every nanosecond.

“And what is it that took place during breakfast?” Prosecutor James asked me.

“I killed those two prisoners,” I replied. “They were arguing over a muffin. The argument escalated and became violent so I went over to break them up.” I don’t care what happens to me next, just as I never cared about my guard position with the prison. I will not try to garner sympathy by waiving my PTSD flag. I am a killer.

DK: My count showed this to be over the word limit, so I have to disqualify it from medals. That said, it actually shows one of the better plot progressions of this set even as it also kind of spends a little too much of its space on backstory exposition. It’s a little unbalanced in that way, but delving into the mindset of a former soldier like this – and the choice to make his character express his views on that past in the way he does at the end – is interesting and not obvious, which I appreciate.

CP: Unfortunately, this is over the allowable word count. That aside, here are my comments: I think you mean “recount” instead of “recant.” And “discern” instead of “dicern.” (Ack! I did it again!) Martin’s point of view is both interesting and chilling. I am not sure a trial scene was the best way to set up this story, though, as it’s all telling and no showing. Still, you’re working with some pretty powerful ideas here.

Christy Bubblepumpkin

The beeping pager woke me from my well-earned sleep with a start at about four in the morning. “New job, same old routine,” I thought to myself getting ready while half asleep.

I rushed into the operating room and asked my assistant, “Is the body prepped?”

He urgently replied, “Yes sir, we put the patient down several minutes ago, he should be ready for you now.”

“Of course he’s asleep, he’s a cadaver!” I replied in my own head, strongly resisting the urge to snap back with one of my usual sarcastic quips to someone I had only met briefly.

I put on my gloves, approached the cadaver, and observed the lifeless body before me for the first time.

I paused momentarily because something seemed slightly different about this corpse than the thousands of others I have worked on throughout my career but I thought nothing of it.

“Prepped? I thought you told me you prepared the body?! You haven’t even marked where I need to make my incisions on the abdomen and thorax of the patient!” I snapped at my assistant, no longer able to control my growing disappointment with his performance thus far.

“But sir, the patient is here for…!” he started to reply before I cut him off.

“I know what he’s here for. Grab me my scalpel and some formaldehyde.”

“Formaldehyde, why on earth would you need th…” he protested again before I cut him off.

“Listen, I’ve done this thousands of times, stop questioning me and do what I asked.”

He returned with the scalpel, but not the formaldehyde.

“Why didn’t you…” I started to ask before he cut me off.

“Sir, I know you requested formaldehyde, and I know I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure a hip replacement does not require formaldehyde under any circumstances!”

It was at this moment that I finally woke out of my early morning haze and remembered I was no longer a coroner but was now an orthopedic surgeon.

“I know!” I replied, “I was just messing with you, now let’s get to work!”

DK: This one, as well, is a good joke that tends to overplay itself by the end. Especially with the way the couple final paragraphs are presented, it seems to think it’s a little more subtle than the opening sequence of events actually are. That, and the less inventive format choices, are why it comes in a little behind the others here for me.

CP: Groan. Not that these are supposed to be realistic, but I’m finding it hard to believe that a coroner would switch jobs to become a surgeon. I also wish you could have showed us the interplay of old job and new without coming out and informing us what both the old and new jobs were. Still, I always enjoy when a writer goes for humor.

The Sacred Pillow

“Can I help you?” Mariah asked the last patient in line.
The man smiled. “Hey there, sweetheart. “I have a 3:15 with Dr. Fischer.”
“Last name, please.”
“Olsen.”
She found his name in the calendar then shuffled through paperwork to find the patient questionnaire.
The man watched her. “You’ve gotta be the cutest receptionist here. Are you even old enough to work?”
She didn’t respond. She placed the questionnaire in front of him, handed him a pen, avoided his gaze.
He laughed under his breath. “If only I was 30 years younger…”
That never stopped them before.
Mariah swallowed back the words, the flashes of memory. “Thank you, Mr. Olsen,” she managed to say instead. “Please fill out that paperwork and the nurse will take it from you when you go in back.”
“Sure thing, sweetheart.”
Mariah watched him take a seat in the waiting room, then she reached under her desk and pulled out her notebook. Tattered, stained. Her best friend.
She opened it to the last page and scribbled a line. Benito found me like that. He said, “You can’t be old enough to be out this late, little girl.” He bought me my first drink. He laced it.
That notebook was heavy. It held enough memories to keep her anchored to real life…for now. Until it overflowed, anyway, and she had to burn it, start a new one to survive. If the memories were in that book, they were out of her head. When the men approached her and they said the same things they always did, she wrote them in that book to prove they didn’t control her anymore; to prove she wasn’t that person anymore.
Hey, pretty girl, I got something here you might like.
You want a drink, sweetheart? I just ask for a little company in return.
Smile, chica. Men don’t spend money on girls who don’t smile.
“Hey, lady.”
She blinked and looked up at the next patient. “Can I help you?” she said.
H frowned. “Sure. And maybe you can try smiling a little, huh?”

DK: I can’t really punish this one for being such a snapshot of a character’s inner thoughts rather than a plot progression since almost everything this time is like that, and as far as being what it is, I think this succeeds more than anything. It’s a little bit melodramatic, but the underlying darkness outweighs that and there’s a good use of subtext here that allows the reader to fill in the details of the past without overstating them. GOLD

CP: Aw, Mariah. On the one hand, I feel sympathetic toward her. On the other hand, I wish this story hadn’t been quite so heavy handed. Calling the notebook “her best friend” is a little much. Not that it couldn’t be true, but just that I don’t love how it’s stated so explicitly. It’s also just so . . . convenient for the story that she has this notebook so that the reader can find out everything they need to know. This is a strong concept, all the same. BRONZE

—–

So Ham-Hands Brant nonsubbed for the second time. If he stays in the game after this eviction vote, he will be in line for a penalty nomination next time.

We actually had a three-way tie in this challenge, and because he/she/it got my highest score, The Sacred Pillow has won the Power of Veto. Pillow, get me your reaction to this as soon as possible and if it’s tonight we’ll have a vote or new nomination by tomorrow.

UPDATE: Pillow has chosen not to use the Power of Veto, so Brant and Dusty remain nominated. All Houseguests, except the two nominees and Pillow, the HOH, are required to send a vote to evict Brant or Dusty to me by Thursday (tonight) at 8 PM Central.

Nice job, Houseguests.

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