Oh my. No word limit? Bad idea.

Normally I’ll have more for the intro, but this just took too long and I’m ready to move on and…I don’t know. Drink, or some such.

This bizarre prompt inspired some bizarre ideas, as I had hoped.

Please note that Novak didn’t include his initials before his judging comments, which are always the paragraph below mine. He has been sacked.

Your first challenge is called The Misadventures of Clem.

Clem is a popular TV host with a cooking show. If you want Clem to be female, “Clementine” works just fine. Write a story about something going horribly wrong on the set of Clem’s show.

Unlikely ideas are not only welcomed, but celebrated.

You have THIRTY MINUTES from the time you got this email.

I’m not going to set a word limit, but if these end up being crushingly long, we’ll look at changing that for the future.

Get after it, Survivors.


1

Don’t cry. Please God, don’t cry.

The tears welled up in the small child’s eyes, and Clem tried to maneuver his hand below the counter so that the blood wouldn’t be obvious to the cameras. The kid wasn’t wailing. Which was a start.

The cameras. Shit. How long had it been? How much dead air while Clem tried to process (bad word choice), while Clem tried to come to grips (oh Jesus), while Clem dealt with the situation? She saw her producer half out of her chair already. Time to see if she could save this.

Smile. Don’t mention the accident, the kid has crouched down behind the counter, sitting on the floor. Looks like shock. Good. Shock is quiet.

“And remember always put a little bit of yourself into every dish you make!”

The producer’s flying tackle got her 4 million views.

K: Nice start to the season. The situation is probably predictable enough, but Clem’s bizarre attempt to save the situation makes the story fun…and sad, I guess. SILVER

Tight. Funny. Gives us enough to paint a very good picture but doesn’t belabor the point. A very good start.

2

Things were out of hand. Sure, the show was popular enough, but the network thought it could be more. Ever since they threw more money at the show and made it the centerpiece of their evening lineup, things were simply out of hand. Clem understood at first. New, sexy wardrobe? Sure.

Sidekick/announcer? Why not. Special guests? Naturally. But Clem was starting to believe that no cooking show should have an animal segment.

It started off easily enough. The animal trainer from the zoo brought out a baby rhesus monkey, which looked very cute stirring a pot on the stove, even though Clem thought it a tad unsanitary.

There was also a pig and a hawk in the segment. There was a moment, brief and shining, when Clem believed that this would go off without a hitch. The moment was pierced by a shriek from the hawk, just before he took flight. After several loops around the studio, he dove for the roast that was tonight’s main course, the star of the final segment.

The baby monkey was spooked by the hawk’s flight. He jumped off the counter, upsetting the pot and spilling hot broth down the front of the nearby animal trainer. His screams upset the pig, who ran after the monkey. The monkey, with no way out of the studio and still holding the stirring spoon, jumped onto the back of the pig and began to ride as they both frantically sought a way out.

It was the most unlikely horse and jockey pair Clem had ever seen, and they were charging directly at her. She tried to dodge, but there was no way out. Clem lost her footing, and landed on top of the animal trainer, and her new sexy tank top that was a part of her new sexy wardrobe chose that moment to give out under the stress it had been under all show long.

The screen went black and a bemused announcer/sidekick said “we’ll be right back, after some technical difficulties are sorted out.”

Cooking with Clem had it’s strongest showing in the ratings the week following that show.

K: The wrong “its” at the end is unfortunate after such a weird ride, but hey, it’s Turbo and we’ll have some of that. I would’ve reordered this a little – just jump right into the bit with the monkey riding the pig and then give us the pertinent backstory in waves, but again…it’s Turbo, so we’ll have that. BRONZE

There’s a scene in Gravity’s Rainbow where an aerosol can goes flying crazily around a room. This reminded me of that kind of absurdity. This needed a bit more setup to be believable, or perhaps a bit less (or a different kind?) to be more absurd? The last line is unneeded, but “technical difficulties” is the perfect note to go out on.

3

“Clem? Clem! It’s time to go!”
Clem brought the cellphone down from his ear and waved frantically at the stage manager.
“Two minutes, just. . .”
The cellphone slipped from his fingers and fell to the floor. Tiny cracks splintered across the screen.
“Oh, Jesus. . .” Clem lunged at the phone. “Jesus.”
Clem brought the phone to his ear.
“Hello?”
No one answered.
“Hello?! Please . . . are you there?! I’m sorry, I dropped the phone, I. . .”
Steve marched over to Clem and jabbed a finger into his chest.
“The cameras just went live. Get the fuck out there!”
Clem stared at the phone for a moment. No sound was coming through the speaker. Steve grabbed his shoulders.
“Hey. Are you alright man?”
Clem brushed a tear away from his face and shoved the phone in his pocket.
“Fuck it.”
He walked out on stage and raised his hands, the crowd cheering loudly. Saddling up to the counter, he pulled a knife from the wooden block.
“Good evening, and welcome!”
The crowd erupted again, but Clem quieted them with a raised hand.
“I’ve got a special treat for you all tonight,” he said, squinting slightly. “The kind of meal you can make when you’re really in a pinch.”
Clem rubbed his head and took a few quick breaths.
“The kind of meal you can make when. . . when you’ve lost everything.”
The crowd was silent. Clem set his hand on the cutting board.
“It’s easy to get started.”
With a swift motion, Clem brought the knife down, sliding the edge deep into the knuckle of his index finger.

K: Here’s another that could benefit by starting with the action. If we see more of Clem’s self-mutilation and the reactions to it and less of the phone business, we still get the point but the dark comedy comes through much more strongly.

Great job showing us the pain Clem is feeling, and building that in, without coming out and just saying what he was upset about. The pressure really builds in this one, heading toward an ending that both comes as a surprise and feels natural to what came before.

4

Clem Faley is the highest rated cooking host on Eating Network. He’s a Steel Cook, owns three restaurants, is the author of five best selling books, and EVERYONE adores him! Now he’s taking on all challengers on his new show: Whoop Clem Faley!

Today’s challenger, Shay McMousey is a caterer in her home town of O’Lost, Ireland. She’s known for cooking up delectable seafood culinary delights!

Shay McMousey,” My dream, if’n I beat Mr. Faley, is ta open me own pub n go some place tha do’na smell like fish.”

Well let’s see if Shay can make that happen shall we! As the challenger, Shay get’s to choose what the dish they will be making.

Shay McMousey, “Clem Faley, the dish I challenge ya to make is…..Fried Cod Sperm”.

Clem Faley, “Ah, what was that?”

Shay McMousey, “Fried Cod Sperm. Are ye deaf man?”

Clem Faley, looking of stage at the producers with a furrowed brow, “Is this a joke? Am I being punked or something?”

Someone from of stages says, “No Clem, she’s serious. It’s what she want’s to cook.”

Both Chef’s go to their stations. When Clem is presented with his Cod Sperm he looks at it skeptically. As any good Chef would he touches it, smells it, then goes in for the taste.

Clem Faley, “Pfffft! GAHHACK! Holy Shit that’s Awful!”

Shay McMousey, “Ye posed t cook it first ye arse!”

Clem Faley, “I CAN’T Work like this!!!” screams then runs of set.

Shay McMousey stands stirring her Cod Sperm grinning. “Guess I won, eh?”

K: This is a nice bizarre idea, and the characters come through fairly strongly, although the wayward apostrophes were a little distracting and the strange, play-like way that the characters spoke wasn’t ideal for prose, either. This is a really fun idea that needs some technical tightening.

Eew. I don’t usually go for gross-out humor, but in this case the gross-out is narrative, not just humor. This feels very much like a joke you’d read in one of those old joke books, and I like the complete narrative and tightness of this piece. I’m guessing it got some good editing attention in the 30 minutes, and that helped it.

5

“Were here in Rockefeller Plaza with the first live taping of the wildly popular cooking show, A Serving of Clem!”

Matt Lauer beamed for the camera along with several dozen New Yorkers clad in Sak’s earmuffs and scarves. Cheers drowned out the host for a few seconds.

“Good morning everyone, and especially to Clem Laraby, the hottest new chef in America. Tell me Clem, what are we making this morning?”

“Well,” Clem chortled. “I thought this morning we could make a creme brulee, but since this is live TV I would like to do something special for you all first.”

“What’s that?” asked Maris, his sprightly co-chef.

Clem turned towards her and bent down on one knee. As he opened up a box, the roar from the crowd was deafening. Lauer looked to the camera, as if on cue, and dropped his jaw. Marilyn brought her hands to her mouth.

“Maris, will you marry me?”

The crowd fell silent. Tears welled up in Maris’s eyes. “No, I’m sorry.”

“Err…” mumbled Lauer, looking at Clem.

“I figured as much,” said Clem. “That’s why I poisoned this already prepared brulee.” He brought it towards his mouth. “Now will you marry me?”

Lauer let out a nervous giggle. “Nice one, Clem.”

“This ain’t no joke Matt. If Maris doesn’t agree to marry me, there is no point in anything.” He began to tip the brulee into his mouth.

“Yes!” Maris shouted. “I will marry you!”

The crowed groaned a collective sigh. Clem smiled and downed the brulee in one gulp.

“Wait!” said Lauer. “So it isn’t poisoned?”

Clem smile grew. “Oh no, it most certainly is. I’ll be dead within minutes.”

Everyone glared at Clem.

Clem continued. “I hate everything, even cooking, since my ex-wife Lucy left me. Last time I saw her I told the bitch that I’d find someone else better than her. She said it would be a cold day in hell before anyone agreed to marry me again.”

Clem looked around for reactions, grinning the whole time. Nothing but silence. He grabbed Lauer’s microphone, then turned and looked into the camera.

“Lucy, you just got your last serving of Clem,” he said, and dropped the mic.

K: This isn’t believable enough to be dramatic nor absurd enough for strong laughs; it seems to want to toe the line and instead doesn’t nail either. Again, a spurned marriage proposal is a pretty good idea for a prompt, but the whole conversation was just too unbelievable.

You did a nice job building on everything that came before, just layering on another piece of the story, turning it from a realistic scene to a silly one, to a creepy one. The end may have said a bit too much. Good use of dialogue and balance with exposition. BRONZE

6

He mixed the egg yolks and sugar until well blended. The whisk moved quick and sure; the metal against metal like a soft humming ring. He didn’t know if anybody else heard that song or if they understood it to be as beautiful as it was. He whisked in the milk then put the liquid over the burner to boil. All the while, he spoke, describing each step. Making peaks out of cream was tough but rewarding, but even more so was making it sound interesting to the viewers; making them love the process as much as he did.

“My favorite part of Tiramasu is the ladyfingers,” he said, the cameras pointed at him, the lights hot on his back. Those lights affected his baking in minute, infuriating ways, but he’d learned to get used to that. Baking, like love, required patience, hope, and flexibility.

The drizzled his personal rum and espresso mixture over the lady fingers, and while the crew went on break, he worked to arrange them painstakingly. He included his secret ingredient, and as he placed it, he smiled up at Annaliese waiting behind the scenes. Tiramasu, the dessert they’d had on their first date; to celebrate their first anniversary; on their first trip to Italy. He’d brought her here today to sample it on his show, a special episode for his viewers about Italy. About love and baking.

Viewers never saw behind-the-scenes. They didn’t know the hours that went into things. They didn’t see the hours that passed between layering the Tiramasu and allowing it to settle in the fridge. They’d see now, though, as the cameras went back on, as the director cried action, and as Clem’s girlfriend glided on screen to enjoy his dessert.

“For you,” he said under his breath, kissing her forehead right before the filming started. She was sweaty under these lights and looked uncomfortable. She did this for him, not because she liked the limelight as much as he did, but because she loved him.

“And now for the grand tasting!” Clem declared, cutting out the corner piece, placing it on the plate, and smiling as it glinted in the lights. She smiled, glanced at the camera the way one unaccustomed to filming would, and cut into the piece.

She hit resistance, frowned. Confused, she dug through the Tiramasu to find the ring he’d placed there.

Clem grinned broadly at the camera, then back at Annaliese. “You are my light, my love,” he said. “Will you marry me.”

Her jaw dropped. When she glanced at him, she looked embarrassed. She glanced at the camera again. She put the ring down.

“No,” she said, and ran from the studio.

The crew whispered, the director shouted, camera’s went off.

Clem shrugged. “Stagefright,” he said to no one in particular. He grabbed the ring, put it in his mouth to suck off the coffee and rum and crumbs, then put it in the pocket of his chef coat. “I’ll ask her again tomorrow.”

K: Two rejected proposals in a row? What are the odds? This one works better because it focuses on the drama of the situation, although the story rampantly misuses semicolons (each clause has to work as a complete sentence! Look at all those fragments!). This story perhaps doesn’t give us as much information as we’d like, but for a story knocked out in a half hour, the drama works fairly well. BRONZE

I love the absurd ending. I’m wondering if it was tacked on or if it was the point to which you were driving the whole time? I know in Turbo there can tend to be a push to start right away, which can leave endings feeling unprepared, or unnatural, or just absent. This didn’t feel that way to me at all, and I thought it really fit with the tone. So even though it was absurd where other things weren’t, I really felt it fit perfectly. SILVER

7

Clem Bordoglio flashed a plastic grin at the arc of cameras waiting for him to speak, the sweat condensing on his palms a direct juxtaposition to his confident exterior. The live studio audience murmured under their breath to one another as the Clem could feel the anticipation rise to an almost palpable degree. He had never lost a contest on his show, Cooking With Clem: Kitchen Wars, but tonight might be different as he never faced a chef of this caliber before. But Clem had a plan. It was a risky plan, but well worth it. Just wait until this bastard gets a load of the secret ingredient, he thought. A line of perspiration made a trail down his nose, a bead quivering precariously at the end. He shook it off with a quick shake of the head.
“Welcome….to Kitchen Wars.” He boomed as the crowd erupted with pent up applause. After the uproar subsided he moved onto the opposing chef’s introduction. “As you well know, I have never lost a competition in my own kitchen before, but tonight’s competition will be a challenge. Chazz Aprons is a world renowned chef who has earned his chops in many world class restaurants from Tokyo to Amsterdam. He now owns 12 different throughout the globe and was recently titled awarded “Best Chef of 2015” by Grub magazine. Please give him a warm welcome.”
The crowd clapped politely as Chazz strolled onto the set with a gracious grin.
“Greetings, chef.” Said Clem.
“Greetings, chef.” Said Chazz.
“Now Chazz, it i well known that you are reputed sushi chef. I thought it would be a good idea to see just who can prepare the most authentic slice of fish to be judged by the authority on these matters, the legendary Masatomo Tanaka of Tokyo.” The camera panned over to an acient Japanese man who nodded politely in response.
“Hmmm, that’s interesting, chef. I’d like to take you up on this.” Excellent, thought Clem. I’ve been training secretly in the art of sushi for 2 years now. I know all of the techniques. “I’d like to pick the fish, if that’s all right.” Chazz mentioned.
“Why not?” Clem responded.
“How about the fugu?” Chazz offered? Clem’s stomach tightened nervously.
“Sounds good.”
On the way to the hospital, Clem used his last thoughts trying to figure out where he went wrong. He thought he avoided all of the fugu’s poison, but apparently he didn’t. He was happy he tried his product first before being handed over to Tanaka-san. Accidental suicide was better than manslaughter. The lights faded in his peripheral while his vision started to tunnel. He couldn’t feel the bumps of the ambulance anymore and the sirens were fading. Fuck, he thought.
I finally lost one.

K: I can’t eat fish, but luckily I knew “fugu” without having to look it up because of The Simpsons. Thanks, Matt Groening! There are a few missed words in here, no doubt the result of rushing to beat the clock, so maybe one look-over before sending is a good idea in the future. It’s still one of the more successful stories so far, as the story works as intended. I suppose it’s not very believable that Clem would sample pufferfish without the producers making sure he wasn’t going to die, but whatever. BRONZE

Really raised those steaks! (eh? eh?) The tales of hubris never get old though, as time and time again they prove apt. They really strike a raw (eh? eh?) nerve. I would have liked to see a bit more of the critical moments, not just the before and after, but those two parts are… well done (eh? eh?)

8

Clementine continued her chiffonade of chives, italian parsley and sage without even looking. Her fingers magically saved themselves each stroke, but it always seemed a close call. She directed her prep cooks like a Master Drill Sergeant. “Pound the breasts down to about a half an inch. Fluff the rice before you put in in the over. Marty! I’m going to need a powder right before air.” She blew her bangs out of her eyes.

The studio audience would be thundering in any minute. As soon as it leaked that her guest today was going to be Zander Gallant, tickets became a hot commodity. They were awarded by lottery, as all her shows were, but rumor had it they were going on E-Bay for $500 a piece.

Scraping the finely chopped herbs off her cutting board and into a small glass bowl, Clem dropped her knife and escaped off stage to slip into her pressed chef jacket and calm herself before the show. Her show had always been live, but having the man she was cheating on her husband with on to cook stuffed chicken breast . . . yeah, this was a first. When he offered to boost her ratings through the roof by appearing, she couldn’t bring herself to decline; but it had meant postponing breaking up with him. He was getting just a little too serious; pushing her to tell her husband about them.

Like that was going to happen. David was her producer as well as her husband and the reason she had bloomed from a cooking teacher to an afternoon cooking show host, with a face that was getting to be well known. They weren’t very faithful sexually, but they were a strong couple business-wise.

. . .

The show went off without a hitch. Perfect conversation and perfect chicken, complete with a wine pan sauce that Clem talked her visiting soap opera heartthrob into making himself. The audience swooned when he spoon fed her some rice with his sauce and she closed her eyes in ecstasy.

“That’s it for today, cooks! Thanks for stopping by my kitchen. As always, you can download today’s recipe at my link at KWDG!”

Zander put his arm around her and smiled warmly into the camera. “Oh, and David? Clem and I are fucking.” Clem’s smile froze as her eyes widened. “See, Babe?” Zander purred in her ear, “Problem solved.”

K: This is such a strong setup that the relatively punchless ending is kind of a letdown. Plus, if David isn’t faithful sexually either but recognizes the business benefit of the marriage, this could be a funny double-switch with David mentioning he knew all along and didn’t care. I suppose I’m also required now to point out that there are semicolons followed by what would be sentence fragments. All this said, the story, though it did rush, was written well. BRONZE

Another relationship one. This one was something I thought I saw coming the whole time, then you had the line about the show going off without a hitch, and you let the tension kind of release, and then built it back up again with the quick-reveal. I like that tactic, and I find Zander’s charm and stupidity to both be believable, which is not always easy to do. BRONZE

9

The sink leaked. On top and bottom, so the feeling of inevitableness, of being trapped in a cave, was made complete with the incessant drip drip drip drip and always-on-the-periphery stench of rot.
Clem peeled his gaze from the pregnant droplet of water poised to give birth to itself on the moldy faucet head, and felt it pulled to the door to the outside. His eyes widened, his pupils contracted – a panic reflex. His hands clenched, and then relaxed. A ragged breath hitched and sighed it’s way through his body, making his belly pitch and wobble. His shirt was stained.
“Ghleghm. Clem coughed and tried again.
“Clem.”
He raised one swollen hand to his forehead, wondering at its rough, papery feel, and pushed himself up into a seated position. He raised his other hand, and discovered it was still holding a bottle of blackberry brandy. It was warm and tasted slightly salty.
“Clem.” Clem slid his feet underneath his thighs, and pitched his head to the left, which was obediently followed by his shoulders and considerable midsection. Thus he rose, a marionette to his own will. He watched the drop of water fall from the faucet and turned the water as hot as it would go. He watched the skin on his hands turn red, and felt his focus pulled again to the door to the outside. Five minutes maybe. He splashed the water on his face and neck, and began to clean.
“Clem. Clem Jenson.” He scrubbed and wiped with practiced efficiency. He organized, placed and prioritized with as close to a gleam as his eyes had seen in over a decade. He found a shirt in the bread box, and a chef’s hat in one of the convection ovens, and his jacket in with the soufflé pans.
Clem Jenson’s Cooking Hour, with me, Clem Jenson.” Clem pulled himself up under a new bottle of gin, which was quickly stowed under the sink, behind the disposal, as the first signs of life stirred outside the door to the outside. The latch tripped, and he turned as the door swung open. Two operators and a grip, and an eager PA filed in.
“Morning Clem! First one in, as always!” The grip kept his eyes averted and made a show of being as busy as possible.
“You know me, Gary.” Clem smiled with practiced efficiency.

K: Spoiler alert: I love a good, seedy, realistic alcoholism story here and there. Clem’s probably better realized as a character here than in any other story; I know this version of Clem better than I know any of the others. I love the touch of the grip working around Clem and essentially enabling him by ignoring the problem. Subtly gritty, that. GOLD

I wanted to see the way his drinking problem affected the show, but I guess that was exactly the point: it doesn’t. It felt a bit slow to start, but I loved the line about the pregnant droplet giving birth to itself. GOLD

10

Clementine knew what she was going to make the minute she woke up that morning, her grandmother’s famous habanero salsa. She spent the entire drive to the studio replaying her grandmother’s smooth movements around the kitchen, memorizing each step that lead to the amazing spicy goodness that she so loved as a child. While her makeup people powered and primped her she thought of the warm tortilla chips fresh out of the oven that made the perfect little boat for the salsa to travel to your taste buds on.

“We’re live in 5….4….3…”

Clementine started out perfectly, she was gliding through the set she knew so well and she hadn’t stuttered once. This is was the first live show she had done in years, she was definitely out of practice. she sliced and diced away while shooting off nutrition facts about tomatoes four heirlooms perfectly diced… a handful of cilantro… one habanero pepper. She felt the tickle of a loose eyelash on her cheek, probably caked in mascara, she brushed it off ever so slightly trying her hardest not leave a streak of black makeup on her cheek in the process.

While the blender was going she started to feel a slight discomfort in her eyes, and then a burning that she couldn’t explain. With every second she was sure it would stop but it only got worse, then she remember the eyelash and her careful swipe to keep from ruining her makeup, now she had streaks of burning tears streaming down her cheeks and she could hear her grandmother’s voice “Don’t forget to wear gloves when you dice the hot peppers, Pumpkin…”

K: Cute, even if it doesn’t particularly take us anywhere as far as the stories before it. This one MISSES a bunch of semicolons, awkwardly substituting commas. By this time, you should all know that I’m a big proponent of semicolons. Anyway, it feels like this was only getting started when it ended, but that’s a time limit for you.

I can completely see this happening. This story is so very real. Another, fuller, flashback might have really rounded off this story in a beautiful way. At the same time, I also love the completeness and tightness of this story. BRONZE

11

Clem took a deep breath.
“Welcome to Capable Clem’s Classic Country Cuisine 50,000th Episode Spectacular!”
He walked out and waved to the crowd, smiling as broadly as he could. He didn’t understand why the meat bags enjoyed watching other people cook food, but he was apparently very good at it. Jaxthar and Buzentyr had personally asked him to host the show, as they’d heard he was quite a capable cook.
“Thank you everyone for tuning in today! I am humbled that you have let me be a part of your week for the last 962 years, and I want to use today’s show to celebrate all the time we have spent together.”
Well, Clem thought that he was a good cook. He wasn’t, but that wasn’t really his fault. Even the new and improved seventh edition Reploidbot had no need to be able to smell or taste things. And it wasn’t like the meat bags needed to eat food. They were metered out a carefully regulated dosage of a nutrition rich liquid daily which would allow them to perform the work that was assigned to them by the Judicial Corps.
After the applause died down, Clem shared that there would be a very special guest for today’s proceedings. He pulled down a curtain to reveal a tall, smooth cylinder. “This time doohickey allows us to return to the past, and bring back a former TV host. I’m sure all you meat bags in the audience will be thrilled to see them return!”
As complex as the A.I. was in Clem, and the rest of the Reploidbots, a concept of time wasn’t something they had. The meat bags who toiled for the empire were about 50 generations removed from those who used to watch “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”
The cylinder lifted and Guy Fieri, all mirrored sunglasses and frosted tips, greeted the crowd. “I’M GUY FIERI AND TODAY I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO A TRIP TO FLAVORTOWN WITH CLEM.” The robot crowd whooped and hollered.
Clem made Guy his signature dish: the Syntholstein Fauxcheese Hamburger-Style Sandwich (brevity was not his specialty). Guy excitedly grabbed the burger “ALRIGHT PEOPLE OF 3143, IT’S TIME FOR ME TO SHOW YOU THE HUNCH.”
Guy hunched over the burger and bit in, Sytholstein grease running down his beard. It was at this time that the Reploidbots and meat bags realized that eating human food was disgusting.

K: That’s some prime absurdity right there. It’s reasonably funny for a story where the writer had very little time to punch it up, and Guy Fieri frankly fits in well with this future race. I do love that you called out how silly it is for the Reploidbots to watch the show, since they have no concept of taste. GOLD

Guy Fieri is an easy target, but, yes, absolutely, he makes eating food seem disgusting. You nailed his tone, and the absurdity which you brought to the story was very fun (no concept of time!).

12

Blood rained from the sky. The foundations of the earth shook from their moorings. God himself wept.

It had all started so well.

‘Clem’s Campfire Cookin’ ruled the 3am block on channel 6. Clem was a proud man, and he treasured all three of his “Best Cooking Show (Pedestrian Food Division)” Edmonton Emmys on his mantle, and was out to get a fourth to accompany them. Nothing was going to stop him from his goal – least of all that upstart Rodrigo.

‘Rodrigo’s Tasty Grilling Hour’ was not only a horrible name for a show, it was a mockery of all that Clem and his breed stood for. “Rodrigo” (his real name was Cletus) often created vaguely Latin-sounding dishes, covered them in salsa and threw them on the grill. He would switch out these monstrosities with more appetizing alternatives during the time lapse. His actual creations were nearly inedible….and he was attracting viewers by the dozens. Rodrigo would would smile and shrug “it’s all in the presentation” he would affably say.

Clem had to dethrone this false prophet.But how?

One day, as he was contemplating how to keep his slim lead in the ratings, a shadowy man came up to him. He procured a dusty book from his cloak.

“This may hold the answers you seek!” the man cackled, “or you may be the death of us all! Do you have the strength to resist?”

Clem eagerly took hold of the tome and opened it. Inside, there was a single recipe: Seventh Circle Chilli. The ingredients checked out, with the exception of a strange herb Clem had never heard of. He turned to ask the man about the strange ingredient, but the man had disappeared.

The day of the chilli cook came, and Clem had found the herb, but at what cost, he wondered? He flashed his winningly gap-toothed smile at the camera and began to add the pieces to the soup. He had been cooking for about fifteen minutes, when he read the fine print at the bottom of the page.

“Do not cook over gas, or you will summon the ancient chilli demon and destroy the world”

For a moment, Clem thought nothing of it, but six seconds after the sixty-sixth minute, a booming voice filled the studio.

“WHO DARES SULLY MY RECIPE WITH A FLAME OF GAS?”

Clem’s face went white as an unholy flame filled the studio, devouring the live studio audience. He was only able to whimper half an apology before the studio and the eight miles around were swallowed into the earth.

K: This opening, given where the story goes in the end, is one of my favorite openings ever at CdL. EVER, I says. Absurdist humor is always difficult to do, but this one remembers the fact that even great absurdity hinges on the fact that we have characters and we need to get into their heads a little. The idea that this prompt would inspire a story about Satan devouring the world fills me with glee. GOLD

Great concept. I love the opening line, and I like that you managed to pepper in (eh? eh?) some things like “false prophet” early on, which really kept the tone consistent, when the concept got higher and more absurd. GOLD

13

Not many dogs have a cooking show.

Well, actually Clem is the only dog that I know of that’s ever had a live TV cooking show.

Not that Clem actually cooked. But he’s a photogenic Golden Retriever that barked on command and ate nearly anything the actual cook put in front of him with gusto and delicacy, somehow at the same time.

It’s a good show. Not great ratings, but for a weekday morning show when you’re competing with Regis and Kelly and the daytime game shows for retired people’s attention, you don’t need much. The host, Samantha, is a white-hot brunette beauty with a weakness for married men and a penchant for recreational drug use that can really get her flying around the kitchen, chattering a million miles per hour and combining ingredients into a dish that looks good but often smells like how I imagine a Port-a-potty outside a Mexican restaurant would smell if you lit it on fire.
Whatever, Clem eats it and I just run the camera.
Last Thursday, due to an extremely loose and low-cut blouse, I have more trouble than usual avoiding long camera shots of Samantha’s cleavage. Not that I mind looking, but we don’t need more letters from the Women’s church groups. She bends over the pots all the time, what am I supposed to do? I can only take so much video of Clem panting.
So I was busy enough trying to find different camera angles that it didn’t really register when something small slipped out from inside Samantha’s bra and fell down into the stir-fry. She certainly didn’t notice the quick reek of burning plastic, since it was mostly covered up by the massive amounts of cumin and garlic anyways. And Clem certainly didn’t seem to mind, as he gobbled down the plate set in front of him to the polite clapping for the studio audience.
It took about ten minutes to kick in. Evidently Ecstasy has the same effect on all mammals. Did I mention Clem was a male dog? And weighed about a hundred, hundred and ten pounds? Probably ten to twenty pounds more than Samantha.
I guess if you’re a dog with a cooking show, it’s a bad career move when you hump your co-host while on camera. Poor Clem.
K: It was a fantastic idea to put this story in the eyes of a camera operator – a dude who just does this job to make a buck and smiles with bemusement at the vapidness around him (I’m not sure if this was written by someone who would know, but this is pretty legit). This is another great opening line and I found myself very interested in how this would play out, given the information presented. GOLD

This is definitely a unique concept. I found the parts where you had the narrator actively doing something (finding angles, etc.) to be the most engaging, which is probably to be expected in this kind of narrative structure. Kudos for getting a passive observer to do something active at times, and thereby get us closer to the action.

14

Ancient and unaimed flood lights came up, though mistimed, with Clem’s organ theme music. The studio’s obsolete equipment compounded the ambient hiss of Clem’s home recording gave the theme song an unintentional oceanside feel.

Clem stood behind a modest kitchen island with poorly applied makeup pancaked across his jowls. A triangle of gut was exposed where the suspenders weren’t quite strong to keep Clem’s waistband completely over the front side of his shirt.

The boom operator, distracted by the sports podcast he was listening to, hovered his charge over the pot bubbling away on the stove. Unbeknownst to him, Clem’s pinched and nasal tone, normally delivered with the cheery force of squeaky shopping cart, fought to be heard over the boiling water.

“Hello and welcome back to Clem’s Kitchen, here on Chattanooga’s own public-access station, CommuniTV. Before the break we—”

What little audience at home there was, if any, saw a strained flash of annoyance cross Clem’s face as the camera slowly meandered down to the triangle of bare stomach. Clem walked up to the camera and readjusted it for the dozing cameraman.

He walked back to his mark, and got as far as “We—” when the camera slipped back
down.

The quiet stream of obscenities was drown out by the bubbling pot as Clem, after 35 years, abruptly decided to retire. He walked to the coat closet and opened it to find two wide-eyed teens, part of the useless summer high school program. Clem yanked his checked sports coat from the young man’s hands, who had been using it to wipe off his girlfriend’s slop from his dick.

Bristling, he pulled the pork pie hat over his head, and stormed out.

K: Huh. This really builds and builds, all leading up to a fairly flat ending. Clem walks out thanks to a fairly small slight and then walks into the coat closet where a bigger insult awaits, but barely registers. I can’t tell if this story tried to do too much and ran out of time, or if it just needs a punched up ending. Until the last couple of paragraphs, it’s really quite good.

Something about this tickled me throughout. There’s excellent descriptions, and I can just see this episode being the last straw. The last line of the second-to-last paragraph was probably over the top, and implication would have had greater effect, but this was fun. The absolute lowest stakes, and a great ride to get through them. SILVER

15

Voice-over: And now, it’s time for everyone’s favorite cooking hillbilly, Clem Roosterbaker

Clem: All-right-ee lad-ees and gen-teel-men, it’s time to learn some good ol’ down home cookin’. Today we’ll be fryin’ a turkey, but we ain’t gonna use no wussy regular oil fryer, that’s for Yankees. We know you got a bud-geet, so we’re going to use things you got lying around the house.

Now, here in our garage, we got a perfectly good used oi-eel drum. This will work just fine. You don’t – need to go to no store and pay and arm and a leg for some shiny silver tin bucket. (Dag-gum Walmarts charge too dang much). And no need to pay for oil, we just heat up some ol’ lard and grease from the keech-een that we’ve collected over the months. All that beef fat and sausage fat and cheese fat and leftover grit scrapings all work to give that turkey some good ol’ down home flavor.

Now, as you know, we aim to save on this show, so we ain’t gonna buy no overstuffed bird and no supermark-eet. We like to eat organic-like at the Roosterbaker household. Unfortuantely, all of Mrs. Shandaggle’s turkeys next door got dead due to that Asian bird flu. So we had to go a county over to ol’ Dirk Henneberry’s Turkey farm. His di’nt get hit quite so hard, so we got a better chance of finding a good one.

Ol’ man Henneberry’s turkeys are pretty fast for an ol’ fart like me to catch ‘em, so we set up a trap near the fence line. Under this box over here is a mighty-fine gobbler. He’s makin’ lots o’ noise under there.

All I do is just lif’ this edge up and… ow! Dag-gum fowl frakker, pecked my dang finger. I’ll show him a thing or two about bitin’ me. I’ll just give him a bite on his neck. Agh-gh-rgh.

Damn, I think he’s got some nasty cyst or somethin’. Somethin’ done popped and oozed when I bit him.

Oh well, more flavor if ye ask me. So now that we got him, we take him back to the oil drum, which is… damn-it, some peckin’ me with a that dirty pecker, you rag-eatin gobbler. We’re goin’ back to the oil drum which is at a nice respectable 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, my lovely assistant Pearl will hold the bird while I chop off the head.

All right, hold ‘er steady now. CHOP. Damn, missed. Lemme try again. CHOP. Dag-gummit, quit movin’. CHOP Aw frak it, just throw her into the pot. The oil’ll take care of the rest.

Pearl, damn it! Did you get oil on you? Someone get her to the doctor. OW!! Damn bird stay in the damn barrel! Someone hand me that ol’ rusty hoe over there. Thanks. WHAM! Dag-gum, finally, that bird is killt. Well, kiss my grits… part of that hoe fell into the oil. I ain’t getting’ it. Oh well, more flavor if you ask me!

K: This is a lot of atmosphere that really doesn’t get to much of a satisfying climax (I was really hoping Clem would die, as this was by far the most irritating iteration). Like many readers, I have a love-hate relationship with written-out dialects. This one wears thin quickly, and from there it’s all on the story to keep this thing afloat, and unfortunately, given the Clem presented, I didn’t think this was a day unlike any other in his world.

Way to commit. It’s a bit over the top at times, and there’s a couple things that would have been helped by narration and then showing the reaction, instead of all narration by Clem, but I laughed throughout. BRONZE

16

“Today is yours to conquer. Today you create the reality you want to live.”

A fit woman stares into her reflection in a dressing room mirror. Bright bulbs illuminate her cherry red lips as she applies mascara and repeats after the gentle but confident voice of Jane Seymour.

“Today is mine to conquer. Today I create the reality I want to live.”

A quick rap on the door. “Alright, Clemmy. Camera rolls in three.”

Clementine smiles at her reflection. “Be right out, Larry!” She gracefully makes her way down the hall and begins situating herself at “Clementine’s Contessa”, her on-set kitchen where she records her show live five days a week.

Fans howl and shake signs in the still lit audience. Clementine soaks it in, waves. She makes her way to the front of the stage.

“How are ya’ll doing today? Are we ready, folks?!”

The crowd goes wild. Clementine steps into the crowd to sign a few posters and waving cookbooks. She hugs a young mother and pats her toddler on the head. She accepts a kiss on her hand from a swooning male audience member. Then she takes a few more steps and stops dead in her tracks at the sight of a mousy little brunette in the back row.

“Debbie…” Clementine nearly falls backward down the stairs. The audience too carried away to sense the sudden shift in energy.

“Wow, Clementine?,” Debbie whispers as she stands and slowly makes her way down the stairs toward her. Clementine scrambles backwards. Debbie pursues quicker now, hurdling stairs toward Clementine, who has now made her way to the kitchen counter. Now, the audience goes still, assuming the show is starting.

Clementine reaches behind her a grabs a knife. Pulling it on Debbie.

Debbie corners Clementine between the stove and pantry. Seems to consider her next move carefully. “Now, Jeffrey, isn’t the knife a bit of overkill?”

The audience breathes in unison, “Jeffrey?”

Clementine’s mascara begins to run, her brow sweating under the hot stage lights. “Please, Debbie. Don’t do this.”

“I’m sorry that you chose to hide in plain sight, Jeffrey. I mean, you’re on national TV. Sure, the woman thing was an…interesting touch, but did you really think I wouldn’t find you?”

“DON’T TAKE THIS FROM ME, DEBBIE!”

“You probably didn’t even know I got out, did you? I guess part of protecting the witness is keeping them in the dark. I know they told you that ratting on me would put me away for good, but here I am.”

Clementine’s voice wavers and cracks. Suddenly the crowd falls silent at the sound of a deep manly voice, “But you killed them, Debbie! I had nothing to do with it, you bitch!”

Debbie just laughs and pulls a gun from her waist. Clementine charges with the knife, landing on top of Debbie, and planting the knife in her chest. Debbie gets a shot off, directly into Clementine’s stomach.

The audience members dive into the stands. After a few moments, they begin to peak out and stare in disbelief as blood pools around Debbie and Clementine’s bodies, surrounding the kitchen island.

K: This backdrop practically begs for black humor, but it instead plays it straight and doesn’t pop as well as it might. I certainly can’t complain about the payoff lacking, but like a few others, it started out strong with an interesting setup, and descended into near-unbelievable territory far too quickly.

Another one that does a very good job showing us what’s going on, and then clues us in on the few remaining questions. The end could have been perked up just a little bit somehow, but the characters are well-defined and the story is very interesting. GOLD.

17

Clem spent most of his nights staring at the ceiling before taping that episode. Cold sweats. Seconds felt like minutes. Minutes felt like hours. Something just wasn’t right.

Damn it Clem, you’re a fucking master chef. You’ve been at it for years. You can do this. It’s just a simple recipe.

The lights were brighter on the set that day. Clem’s eyes looked glossy, and his hair was disheveled. It didn’t take a professional to know he was not right. However, the show must go on.

“QUIET ON THE SET!” The Producer yelled. It was time. The intro music played and all eyes were on Clem. Although he wasn’t all there, this wasn’t the first time Clem was forced to half-ass an episode. As soon as camera one’s light flicked on, he hammed it up.

“Good afternoon everyone! Welcome to today’s episode of Cooking Veggie with Clem! As always, I’m your host, Clem Clementine! Today we are going to be taking our pans and trading them in for a griddle and some deep fryers! That’s right, I’m about to prove to you that it IS possible to have a fast food burger taste WITHOUT fast food murderous guilt! We are going to prepare some perfectly crispy fries and as all good fast food should have, a nice tasty bur-”

SHWOOM!

The camera quickly panned to stage right. Maybe stage left. Fuck it, Clem never learned that shit. He was too busy trying to close the gap caused by his jaw hitting the floor as he stared into the gigantic vortex that had just opened to his right. He had no idea what he was looking at. Three dark figures stepped out of the vortex. It was… he couldn’t tell for a moment. He recognized them, but it didn’t register right away. Then Clem accepted what he saw. Two pissed off cows armed with space blasters and donning space helmets were following behind… Dave Thomas? How was that possible? Wasn’t he dead?

“WHERE’S THE BEEF CLEM?!” Dave Thomas shouted as his Space Cow escorts grabbed Clem. “WHERE’S THE DAMN BEEF?!” The Space Cows slammed Clem’s face against the counter. He screamed in pain. He could feel his nose, but it just didn’t feel like it was where it should be. “MY BEEF WAS NEVER TAKEN IN MURDER CLEM, I TOLD YOU THIS!” Thomas yelled. “THESE COWS AREN’T MEANT LONG FOR THIS WORLD, THEY YEARN FOR THIS RELEASE!” The Space Cows slammed his head against the counter once more. His nose was definitely broken.

“Please! Just make it stop!!!” He begged them. The cows lifted him up from the counter and dropped him on the floor. Clem quickly jumped up, and they were gone. No Dave Thomas, no Space Cows. He looked at the counter and all he saw was a note written in his blood.

DON’T FUCK WITH MY BEEF.

Clem cooked with beef from there on out.

K: My favorite thing here is the insinuation that Clem continues to do his show despite this horror. Although this has the least believable sentence in the lot (dude…Clem would HAVE to know stage right from stage left), it’s also got a very eager voice and ballsy concept. SILVER

MN: Fantastic absurdity. It was a bit slow at the start, but I laughed, and, strangely, I could totally picture it all happening.

18

Hard-boiled private eye Hathaway Butler wearily sifted through the charred remains. Black, grimy soot covered the stove and nearby floor. Butler always got an hour before the studio brought in the outside authorities. The acrid odor of vinegar enflamed his nostrils and a few menthol-aided coughs escaped his pursed lips. Crouching over the stove, he examined a chuck of burnt steak that had affixed itself to a nearby burner after the explosion. With his rubber glove, he pried it free. The bottom of the steak was gummy and taupe. Butler placed it in the closest receptacle he had to an evidence bag: a blender.

After thirty minutes, he decided to stop looking for clues. Instead, he decided to extract them.

Someone had gotten to Clem. Her droopy eyes pleaded with Butler to walk away, but she dutifully provided staccato answers to my inquires: “Nope.” “Don’t know.” “Nothing.” No matter what he tried, Butler could not pierce Clem’s intransigence. She held her breath briefly when Butler tried to use gaffer’s injuries for sympathy. But her steely veneer reset on her face within seconds. “I’m sorry about him, but I don’t know anything.” It was easily her longest answer to Butler’s inquiries; it also led him nowhere closer to an answer.

“You’re finally going to be canceled,” Butler said as he turned to walk away. Clem stared back.

Butler approached the studio man and reported on his fruitless investigation. He pleaded for more time, but was told the information lockdown was about to be lifted. One more paycheck in the bag, but one more crime unsolved.

K: I’m a bit let down by the fact that this is going unsolved, although given Clem’s responses and the time allotted, this is the most honest ending possible. Although this one doesn’t really grow from where it starts, I really dig the prose all the way through, and appreciated the smarter humor offered in the wake of a lot of melodrama and broad humor. SILVER

You can almost never go wrong with a detective story in my book. This certainly hits the tone perfectly, and I like that it does a good job showing instead of telling. I just wanted a bit more clarity on either the mystery, the solution, or the motive. Of course, maybe that would have led to too much telling, so… I’ll take the tradeoff. SILVER

19

Since 1993 Clem’s cooking show had been widely viewed by over thirty thousand viewers. The show had a reputation for making redicliously insane food items such as: pretzel smores, ketchup cake etc. Typically the show ran smoothly until that one day.
It was 2017, the task at hand was to create the most rediclious food item they had ever done on the show. They had a few ideas in mine but nothing seemed just right. Until if finally hit Clem’s producer, Jason that they needed to have Clem bake a cake with super spicy icing, that they would later set on fire.
When the idea was approached to Clem he was extremely nervous, he had never done anything potentially dangerous before the producers all assured him it would be fine.
Finally the day came to make the cake, normally they would run through with a practice one to see how it would turn out and if it was worth putting on the show. This time however, they did not.
Clem felt incredibly nervous as be had no clue what was even going to happen, there was no turning back now he thought to himself as he heard the opening music to his show starting.
He smiled at his live audience and gulped down his fear ” hello everyone today we are going to be doing something a little different today, we are making a semi basic cake…. Except the icing is going to be spicy and we are lighting the cake on fire” the audience gasped and gave looks of confusion.
“The reason for lighting it on fire is to see if it adds any different taste to the cake” Clem told them reading the screen with the words on what to tell him.
” so first you’re going to need all your ingredients, standard baking items” he told the audience as he pointed to each and every item.
” for the spicy icing we are going to add some wasabi, jalapeños and habaneros” the audience once again gasped, Clem knew today was going to be a bad day on set he could feel it.
” to set fire to the cake I will cover it in burban and simply light it on fire” the audience ohhed and aweed.
The actual baking of the cake went rather well, it would given the simplicity of it. It was time to make the icing, as Clem was cutting up the jalapeños and habaneros that is when he started to get really nervous, and he hadn’t even added the wasabi into it yet. The rules of the studio stated that he had to show the audience how good the products were as he went along, so he diped his finger into the icing and instantly regretted it. He felt like he was going to die.
They suddenly cut to commercial and an assistant came and brought him some milk to cool Himself down.
” that is beyond vile, why did you guys think this would be a good idea?” He asked coughing a little bit.
” people like strange food items” his producer James told him with a sly smile.
” but why?” Clem had started to ask when he heard the music play up again.
Clem rolled his eyes and went back on set ” well ladies and gentlemen that Is one hot icing” he told them coughing.
” now onto the part I’m sure you’re all looking the most forward to” he said pulling out the burbon.
The cake had been pre baked for the show as does all items on every cooking show, so all he had to do was layer on the icing.
He pulled off the cap for the burbon and took a quick chug of it to get his nerves settled. With one quick motion he poured all the burbon onto the cake, he exhaled a deep breath and got out the lighter.
Standing back a little bit he lit the cake…. Nothing happened. Clem shot a look to the camera and just grinned ” ah reality TV never know what will happen”.
Once those words had escaped from his mouth the whole cake just blew up in flames. Clem fell to the floor in hopes of not catching himself on fire. The audience started to scream and run out of the building. Clem eventually got up and made his way out of the studio.
Fortunately no one died in this tragic and bizare accident. Clem’s cooking show was canceled due to ” potentially dangerous situations “. As for Clem, he has given up eating cake forever.

K: There’s some…interesting…spelling in this one. This is a pretty good idea, but there are so many words here, I have to assume some of the time allowed could have gone toward cleaning before the story was sent rather than wordiness. I also found it funny that we had a teleprompter in the story, although the writer doesn’t know what it’s called. Anyway, this writer isn’t short on ideas, but needs to use some time to fix errors.

This story had some distinct high notes (the cake not going off right away was an excellent idea… make us wait for it, wonder what’s up…), but some of them got lost in the volume of writing that was here. I’m guessing the author was definitely feeling the time crunch? As the season goes, I’m guessing the author will be able to find the balance with editing vs. writing.

20

There are not really a whole lot of places to hide on a TV set, which is a very bad thing when there’s an alligator on the loose.

“Can alligators climb?!” Clem screamed from the set’s counter top.

A gaffer nervously laughed. No one really knew what to say.

“You, Chuckles, what’s so fuckin’ funny about this?” Clem couldn’t see the humor in his situation.

“Sorry, Mister Clemens, just…uh…sorry,” the gaffer said perched atop the audience bleacher, “I don’t think they can climb. It wasn’t in a documentary I saw on ‘em once.”

The set producer was nervous for an entirely different reason—this was his idea all along.

“Brian, I swear to Christ,” Clem seethed, staring at the 8-foot gator that was looking right back at him, toothy mouth agape, “I swear to Christ,” he reiterated for emphasis, “you better have an updated resume.”

“Hey man, I’m so, so sorry. I thought it was a good idea. Alligator ribs, a live alligator! Paula Deen doesn’t do that shit. I thought this would, you know, spice things up a little.”

“Brian,” Clem muttered, exasperated, “are we really doing food puns right now?”

“Uh, sorry boss, totally unintentional.”

“And where the hell is that wrangler guy anyway, he said he was going to his truck or van or whatever the hell you transport an alligator in; he’s been gone for like, 10 minutes!”

“Sorry, sorry, Mr. Clemens,” Brian put his walkie-talkie to his mouth, “Hey, has anyone seen Mr. Pountry?”

There was a long silence on the other end until finally someone snapped back, “Uh, I just looked outside. His van is gone.”

Clem and Brian stared at each other. The alligator moved. Everyone shrieked.

“Alligator ribs aren’t even good, man!” Clem pleaded to no one in particular, “they’re gamey as shit, they don’t hold sauce. Where—where would our audience even find alligator ribs? Brian, what do our ratings look like in Florida?”

“Eh.”

“Eh? Exactly! Eh! This is an eh recipe, and Now I’m pretty sure I’m going to die.”

Brian smirked, “Clem, don’t you think you’re egg-aggerating?”

“IS THAT ANOTHER FUCKING FOOD PUN, BRIAN?”

“Sorry.”

“Yeah, you know what, for real, you’re fired. Get out. Get out now.” Clem was staring at the alligator

again.

“But,” Brian paused, “But Clem, there’s like, an 8-foot alligator between me and the door.”

K: I want the egg pun to work better, but either Brian has to do more food puns, or this pun has to be alligator-related. You answered the questions I would have asked – why is there no wrangler? Why did they have a live alligator? So, from that angle you’re good. The jokes could have hit harder, though, and the final line from Brian seems like a weaker choice than Brian bolting while Clem is eaten or something. It’s a solid foundation; I think the writer has a lot to offer.

The dialogue is realistic, and funny. The concept is strong enough, without being too out there. I want to keep watching this. GOLD

21

Clem was an eager man with dreams of glory. Unfortunately, Clem often fell short of the goals he had in mind, or else just gave up on them briefly after coming up with them…this had been the story of his life until he auditioned for and was accepted for a chance to win his own show on the local, lower budget version of the cooking channel. Clem had always been an instinctual, and unconventional chef, with a blaring personality and a way with words. After winning the local comp, he was given his small time show and gained popularity quickly with his with and candor…not to mention his clever flavor combinations and innovative recipes.
Things had come along fast and Clem’s life was changing. He was gaining respect among his circle of friends, and, more importantly, he was regaining confidence that he had sort of abandoned several years prior. Before he knew it, he had gained notoriety among the cooking show circuit, and was even invited to compete in a national competition for a chance at his own show on the coveted Food Network. He was flown to L.A. and all his friends and family were excited for him, and in his corner…what could go wrong? Win or lose, Clem had a chance to do something that nobody in his circle of friends and family had achieved.
When Clem got to the studio and met the other contestants, he began to worry. There were some big personalities present, and they were, mostly, very accomplished chefs. He thought he would be in a field of local yokels like himself, and he suddenly felt very uncomfortable with the situation, and disliked the possibility that he would humiliate himself in the end. So Clem came up with a plan.
The evening of the first competition took place on the third of August, and was set to be a blind competition, so everyone was supposed to be on the same plane. Clem, however, had decided that He would be the last man standing among the 12 total chefs. Prior to the start of the challenge, Clem drank a pint of cheap vodka mixed into a gator aid (Fierce Grape) and had loaded a gun (22 caliber pistol). When the comp began, each contestant was given a task to make their personal “comfort meal”. For Clem, this was spaghetti, but he knew that he couldn’t make his own personal sauce within the time allotted. So he decided to use his own special immunity and pull out his gun about 10 minutes in. Everyone thought he was joking at first, until he shot the first person, directly to his left, in the face. At first, people were frozen and unaware…they had gone tharn. This allowed him to quickly discharge the remaining shots (6 more total) but he only succeeded to hit one, which was the host. Then he pulled out the butcher knife from his station and tried to cut his own throat, but he didn’t get deep enough, and wound up only losing a lot of blood and winding up in a psych ward.
Clem wound up as the chef in his institution, and he felt like a winner after all! He ended up the hero of The Beaker institute…
K: This is the kind of story that’s definitely been told here more than a few times, so it has to have a very new or interesting presentation. Again, I appreciate the commitment to a big and strange idea, even if it doesn’t have the characters to make it pop. Generally speaking, if you’re going to go this route, it can’t just be plot. We have to feel something a little stronger for Clem.

I like where Clem starts, and I like where Clem ends. The story concept was very complete, which will never cease to amaze me in turbo survivor. I wish we had seen a little more of his journey from point A to point B, instead of just being told.

22

“And now, you mix it in ze pot wiz ze mirepoix!” Chef Clem announced to the live studio audience. The audience ooed as the steam and sizzle came out of the pan on the stove.

He worked the pan expertly. He is a two-Michelin starred chef, after all. He turned and grabbed the pan with the pig’s head in it, to throw it in the oven to roast.

When it blinked.

And then spoke.

“Hello, Clem,” it said, its face surrounded by potatoes, wild leeks and bright heirloom carrots.

“What ze fuck?” Clem bellowed.

One of the line producers from off-camera heard it through his walkie. “What was that?” He turned to his monitor and there he saw Chef Clem staring down inside the pot. Appearing as if he saw a ghost.

“What is he doing?”

The Assistant Director took off out of his seat and ran to the stage as the producer kept staring in disbelief.

“What are you talking about? I braised these leeks!” Clem was shouting into the pot, by the time the young AD rounded the corner. The AD hesitated. He wasn’t sure that the audience knew anything was going on yet.

“Chef…,” the young man softly called.

But Clem was not hearing any of it as he yelled into the pot. “You call ME a shitty chef?? ME? I have two…count zem, TWO Michelin stars!”

The pig looked up at Clem from inside the pot with disgust. “You couldn’t get a Michelin tire with this food.” The pig scoffed. “You should take tips from that Andrew Zimmern guy. At least he would know what to do with me.”

Chef Clem was horrified. “I will fucking KILL you, you nasty pig!”

At this, the young AD knew he had to stop him as the audience was staring at Clem, shocked. He ran onto stage as Clem started screaming and throwing things. A few of the crew ran to help.

Up in the booth, the producer was staring at the monitor in disbelief. Clem’s intern assistant came in, eating a donut. “What’s going on?”

“Clem has lost his mind.”

The intern laughed. “Must be from the schrooms I gave him.”

The producer turned to the kid slowly. “You gave Clem shrooms??”

“Well, yeah. He asked me to get him mushrooms this morning. So I gave him my shrooms.” The intern smiled. He liked this job. So far, anyway. It was only his second day.

“MUSHROOMS, you idiot!!!” The producer ran from the room.

K: The ending is kind of a sad trombone, and I’d cut the last sentence (the audience definitely gets the joke) but it’s another nice piece of absurdity before that. “What ze fuck?” was the only time I laughed out loud this week (I’m a tough audience when I’m reading, even when I like the work) and was a case of someone using the written dialect for them, and not against the reader. SILVER

A very good job showing and not telling. The ending may have belabored the point a little, but that’s a common theme for me on this first week. Again, I find this concept to be perfectly believable while still being nutty enough to be entertaining. SILVER

———————————————————————————————————–

…well then. I guess I’ll be enforcing a word limit in the future, because this was a ludicrous undertaking for so early. Still, I’m glad I allowed everyone some space early on to get their feet wet.

There are two nonsubs. Each of these two will have a two-medal-point penalty for their first story once we have tribes. Plus, a non-player wrote a story (not included) and if he writes a story for the next challenge and either of those people don’t, he’ll replace them.

—————————————————————————————————————-

So, our four captains are the folks who wrote these stories, and when we draft, this is the draft order for the first round.

12
9
18
22

You four writers, please send me (that’s Kelly – straight to my email) your list of the other 18 stories in order of preference as soon as possible, and I’ll do a snake draft to determine who you get. You will be anonymous, and so will your teammates.

There’s more to cover, but it can wait. This was a looooong process tonight, kids.

Cheers, Survivors.

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