Welcome back, Houseguests. I didn’t absolutely love any of these, but they all had their moments and points of interest. Well, and one of them I kind of wanted to kick in the face. Which one? Come along and find out.

FAT MABEL

Coyote met the devil on a night when Death had swallowed the moon.

The devil, in the black of midnight, ran a hand down Coyote’s spine. “Death wants you, my friend. The moon won’t return until you submit.”

Coyote laughed with teeth flashing silver. “I’ve fooled Death too many times to count. How will this time be any different?”

The devil smiled. “Death knows your power comes from the moon. You are weakened here in the dark.”

Coyote laughed once again, this time with a mouth opened wide enough to show the devil that the silver glow came from the moon that was lodged in Coyote’s throat. “Death has nothing but a shiny rock that I switched out with the moon.”

The devil laughed, suffering of others was a favorite form of entertainment. “What will you do when Death comes for you this time?”

Coyote sat and fixed the devil with a stare. “That’s where you come in, old friend. We will switch places, and when Death believes it has killed me, the devil will be on the way to hell to release me back into the world.”

The devil found Death and capered around taunting Death with reminders of previous failures. Death only smiled and reached out one skeletal finger to pry open the devil’s mouth. “There is no moon here. Surely you miss it? Here, I have an extra one.” And Death took the shiny rock that had been put in place of the moon and shoved it deep into the empty throat. The devil did not die. But the stone touched by death paralyzed him and made him unable to speak.

Coyote, trapped in hell, sends the moon out every month to try and find the devil, but every month the moon returns with no report except wordless howling lamentations of a lost soul in the desert.

DK: I love that opening line. The interactions between Coyote and the devil are also a lot of fun and full of a nice style. I feel like, in reading it, the ending is a little compacted, but I’m not sure how else you would do it; in general I like the idea of casting the “last meeting” as a moon myth enough that that doesn’t matter. GOLD
CP: Oooh, a trickster tale! Great idea; it stands out nicely from all the other stories this season. (Speaking of semicolons, you could have used one in the sixth paragraph.) The tale is a bit more challenging to follow than I would have liked–the first line gave me the impression Coyote and the devil had never met before, but later it seems that they’re old friends. The final paragraph, however, works quite well as a creative explanation for natural phenomena. GOLD

LESTER SWEETUMS

Mary Beth had been with Alan for almost 20 years when she decided to leave him. After 19 1/2 years of abuse, he must have finally knocked some sense into her. It was already too late to pick up the pieces though. Her two children from her previous marriage, Lynette and Joe, were both teenagers when they decided they couldn’t take it anymore and left 14 years ago. The rest of her family and friends had alienated her after she abandoned her children. Mary Beth was 54 years old and worked was a gas station manager. She had partial brain damage from the amount of blows she took to the head. She had no one to turn to.

She realized how much of her life was ruined. Ruined because of her choice to stay with Alan. Part of her actually liked the abuse. Mary Beth saw the violence as a sign of passion and she never felt so alive as the times he brought her within an inch of death. While she was afraid to leave him, the main reason she stayed was out of love. However, something had changed over the last few years. She could not take it any longer. The physical pain he caused took much longer to heal. Alan had been having health problems from decades of alcohol abuse. She was tired of taking care of him. He had long ago stopped apologizing to her because he knew she’d stay whether he tried to make it up to her or not, but Mary Beth had secretly been saving money and she finally had enough to leave him.

When she broke the news to Alan earlier that day, he was enraged. He managed to land a few punches before the cops came and he was carted away. Mary Beth packed her bags and sat in her car. She had the tried to leave, but she had no where to go. She had lost all hope of reconciling with her children. She hadn’t seen her kids in 14 years, and she was a horrible mother before that. She had let Alan take the best of her and she was but an empty shell.

She knew Alan would be released the next morning, his brother always bailed him out. Instead of pulling out of the driveway, Mary Beth headed back towards the house. She made a pot of coffee and waited for him to come home. She’d just finished writing letters to Lynette and Joe when she saw her brother in law’s truck pull up to the house. Grabbing Alan’s gun from on top of the fridge, she waited for him to enter the kitchen. Alan was greeted with the bruised face of Mary Beth, void of expression.

BANG.

She watched her husband fall to the floor. Finally it’s over.

BANG.

DK: This is suitably dark and harrowing, certainly. There is a little too much exposition in the first sections here setting up the background of the situation and Mary Beth’s past, and this could use instead some more establishment of Mary Beth’s psychology or emotion – or lack thereof – in the immediate moments of the progression of the actual plot. The hints we get near the end are nice, but I’d like more. Still, this is a solid structure and it has an effect on me that isn’t just eye-rolling (unlike somebody this time, you know who you are). BRONZE
CP: This is a powerful situation, but it reads like a description of a story rather than an actual story. It’s waaaaay too much telling and too much backstory. I would have liked to have seen an actual scene play out here, as I think that would have been more dramatic and would have helped pull me in as a reader.

MAY DANDERFLUFF

“One, two three, four, five, six, seven …”

“What are you doing?” Enkidu asked flatly.

June flashed a smile. “You’ll see!” she said cheerfully.

As the rest of the players entered the room, a short, blading man with a colander slipped out of the room. Seeing Jeff, the man smiled warmly and gave her a hug.

“I don’t see how having all of us here is clearly showing the final meeting between two people,” Otto said, “first of all, there’s too many of us here, second, we’re all people that you’ll be meeting again.”

“That is true, June” Diddy’s voice boomed down from the clouds, “Also, I shouldn’t even really be here. I’m pretty sure I said not to have secondary characters obfuscating the meaning.”

“Yes,” said June, “but they’re all giving me vital assistance in bidding adieu to my bitter enemy, writer’s block!”

The room went silent. Three pairs of eyes dumbfoundedly stared at June.

“You know,” Enkidu said dryly, “Metafiction is the last bastion of those without ideas.”

“Not ‘without ideas’, just ‘without good ideas’” June retorted, “Besides, how do you know this isn’t a good idea? We’ve barely begun!”

“I’ll explain. As the rest of you entered the room, my old nemesis writer’s block packed up his things and left. We said goodbye, he tried to brain me with a colander. Classic writer’s block.”

“That doesn’t sound like any writer’s block I’ve heard of.” Otto said suspiciously.

“Maybe,” replied June, “but as we all know, writer’s block takes different forms for each individual writer. Yours might be a 300 pound Burmese cat sitting on your typewriter, mine is a wicked little idiot who tries to hit me with kitchen utensils.”

“That doesn’t even make sense!” complained Otto, “the prompt was a ‘last goodbye’. Are you saying you’re never going to have writer’s block again? Besides, ‘writer’s block’ isn’t a character, it’s an idea.”

“That would be true,” said June, “but by recontextualizing my writer’s block as the antagonist in my own little story, I’ve turned it into a living breathing character that I won’t be using again! You’ve surely heard of ‘character as device’, well, now you’ve seen ‘device as character’ firsthand! Hell, he gave Jeff a hug on his way out the door.”

“He sure did!” Jeff chimed in, “nice guy, WB.”

“He certainly is,” said June, “except that he’s the worst. Always remember that he is the enemy.”

“Wait, what? That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works!” pouted Otto.

“No kidding,” said Enkidu, “the level of denial that this takes is making my head hurt. You aren’t going to get out of this without explaining exactly how all the characters in this story don’t obfuscate the meaning.”

“Oh, I totally would” replied June, “but remember when I said ‘we’ll see’? Well, now we’re seeing, and what we’re seeing is that we seem to be running out of words!”

“What? How is the even possible? This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever

DK: Here I really regret that I can’t say more directly to you, dear author, since this is supposed to be a doubly-anonymous game. I am going to pretend that “Jeff” is Big Jeff Schroeder, though. Yeah, sometimes I get a kick out of meta stuff, but this one is a bridge too far. And it might be speaking too soon to say this is your last meeting with Writer’s Block.
CP: Oh boy, hello Enkidu, my old pal. Writer, I’ll have you know I studied the Epic of Gilgamesh in my least-favorite college class. I am not a huge fan of stories that go this meta, especially in the context of having no ideas, but I’ll confess this one did provide me with some amount of amusement. I assume you do know that in the Epic, it was Enkidu who died tragically, right? His death inspires Gilgamesh to seek immortality, but I guess it’s a bit too late for that in this game, eh? BRONZE

PRINCESS SPATULA

I was very happy working on my project ALONE. So when she sat down next to me, I ignored her completely, hoping she’d take the hint. She watched me silently for several long minutes.

I poured more sand on the top, smoothing it down over the sides, reveling in the moist feel of it. Tentatively, she reached out a hand and patted the side closest to her, compressing it inward. I scowled at her but she just smiled back. Her eyes were big and blue and round, like my beach ball.

I tried hitting it too, hard. Some of the sand fell away, leaving a straight edge that I liked. She smacked the sand again, like I did it, and the hill turned into a different shape. She giggled. I liked the sound of that; it made me happy. Together, we smacked the pile until it was almost square and then we made fists and pounded it flat.

She picked up my cup and handed it to me so I could scoop the sand up again. She smelled like applesauce, my favorite. When I had another high pile, she helped me smooth it all over. Our hands kept bumping into each other, which we thought was funny. She reached over the side of the sandbox and grabbed a little stick, which she stuck in the top. It was so pretty.

We were pounding it flat again, laughing hard, when she was snatched up and away from me. “Come on, Junebug, break time is over. Still hours to go before we make it to Gramma’s house. Whew! Someone needs a diaper change!”

She started screaming and struggling in the lady’s arms. Alarmed, I reached for her, yelling as loud as I could for help, but the lady just kept walking away. I tried to follow, but then my mother picked me up, hugging me to her. “Awww, Danny, baby, she has to go bye-bye now.”

The lady got in a red car. I tried to get down, pushing hard against my mother’s arms. “Someone needs a nap!” Exhausted, I slumped against her. She rubbed my back as I sobbed, heartbroken.

DK: This is cute, and a nice little slice of a very young life. This does a very strong job of keeping the narration within a youthful-enough sounding voice (sure, it’s a cheat that a boy this young could narrate at all, but you know what I mean). It feels a little familiar within this framework as a concept, so it didn’t grab me overall as much as the first story did, but for what it is, it’s very enjoyable and well-told. SILVER
CP: Oh, babies. Seeing as how I have one of these, I wasn’t surprised by the direction the story went in. I appreciate, though, that there’s a lot of showing (rather than telling) and nice description here. Some phrases seem a bit advanced for a baby’s point of view (e.g. “hoping she’d get the hint”), and I think the adults give away a bit more than is necessary in their dialog at the end. My biggest issue with this story, though, is that it feels more like an anecdote than a true story. While the ending is certainly very true to life, it just isn’t very satisfying. SILVER

——-

Double-golds can win BOBs on their own, as you know. Of course, Lester pulled his own weight and picked up a medal from me, and that along with Mabel’s double mean they win the Battle of the Block. Lester and Mabel are safe for the rest of this cycle, and Jameson is removed from HOH power and safety. I’ll put up the new Veto challenge in the morning; haven’t decided entirely yet what it will be, so I want to think about it tonight. Pillow, May, Spatula, and three others of you will compete in that one. Till morning, hope none of your meetings are your last, Houseguests.

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