How are your nights going, gang? This might be going up late, but on the upside, there’s also an elimination at the end of it. Maybe that’s not an upside for everyone, I guess.

These concepts are great. That’s what the prompt sort of begs for, but you guys really brought it. Well done. Execution of course was hit and miss, but there were some huge hits.

Novak had a busy night and was on his phone; some of his comments, as a result, are kept rather short. Don’t worry – he still cares. At least, he cares as much as he does about anything that doesn’t involve a chance that he’ll win.

Challenge Two: We’ll Make Something Up.

You are writing the story of the first time two future lovers meet. However, the story is so dark or awkward or seedy that if asked in the future, the couple is likely to tell a lie about the first time they met.

Word Limit: 250
Time Limit: 30 minutes


Pete Bruzek, The Devil Wear PRADAZ

The evening had been delightful. Ryan had done his homework; Celia liked seafood, hated coffee, and found discussion of various pop culture inanities to be both stimulating and charming. The walk along the bridge would pretty much guarantee a second date. The air was crisp with the onset of Fall; perfect walking weather, Ryan reasoned to Celia, so they set out into the night.

The city skyline was beautiful this time of night, and there was no better vantage point than the Old Clark Bridge. That the bridge was remote and made for a perfect makeout spot was a bonus.

As they approached the bridge, the pair saw a young man restlessly gazing into the churning black water below. For a moment, Ryan considered keeping to the plan – the man would surely become awkward in the presence of the couple and move on. Instead, he decided to leave the man to his thoughts and pursue other venues.

Then came the splash.

“Was that…” Celia started, before the realization hit her. Her face blanched.

Ryan began to run down to the water’s edge. He began to remove his jacket, but then considered what he was about to do. Between the water and the chill in the air, was he risking his life?

That hesitation was enough to freeze him. Ryan felt for his phone. There was no way help would arrive in time.

Ryan got his second date, and a third. Neither Ryan nor Celia ever mentioned the Old Clark Bridge.

K: Sometimes I consider what I would have written given the prompt, and mine was something like this. I think it might have more dramatic oomph if the two were indirectly responsible rather than passive bystanders, but the writing was decent and I found the date portion to be charming. BRONZE

MN – A good thrill, but… Did he save him (implied by getting the second date), or not (implied by not talking about it)? Very believable, and I like that, and the little bits like getting in the name of the bridge. SILVER

Danyel Logue, Long Distance Phone Call for Friendship

Nancy was down on her luck. This latest case— the mystery of the phantom pooper— was going nowhere.

In recent months, it had somehow become an industry joke to bring in Nancy to solve fabricated problems on set. This time a cookie cutter NBC comedy called Momma’s Drunk Again! had hired her to find the culprit behind chronic monster shits being left unflushed in each stall of the women’s bathroom.

One morning a mousy little writer, Danny, caught Nancy, “Yo, Drew. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a lead for you.”

“Oh brother…”
“I come in an hour earlier than most of these clowns, and I noticed a massive floater this morning. I think it must be an overnight janitor or something.”

That night around 9pm, the 4’6’’ Nancy posted up in the bathroom’s under-sink storage space. She sat for hours inhaling Clorox fumes. As the night wore on, Nancy fumed over what had become of her life.

Someone entered.

She crept out of her hiding space into the dark; there were two! One of them attacked. He was twice her size, wrapping his hands around her neck. Her rage mounted and she pulled the knife she kept in her back pocket, stabbing him repeatedly.

The overhead lights flipped on. Frank Hardy bled out on the linoleum floor.

“Fucking Hardy’s…” she whispered.

Joe Hardy now towered over her. They stared at each other for a long beat.

“It’s over,” he said.

He lifted her off the ground and they savagely kissed.

K: As always with absurdity, I just want it to be a little more absurd, I guess. The comedy is fine despite toilet humor not really being my thing, and I smirked, even if I didn’t laugh out loud.

MN – Funny stuff, but the conclusion is a bit out of left field, with them hooking up. I like that you kept weaving these worlds together.

erik sunshine, for the love of pete

Normally used as bait or to feed pets, Tatsuro’s crickets were well known for their healthiness and heartiness. As such, he’d been reluctant to take the job. The sheer amount alone meant it would be weeks before he could replenish his stock. However, the pay was thrice the normal rate, and while he’d had reservations about their fate, he supposed that they usually met their end in even grizzlier fashions.

Tatsuro sighed at the scene before him. Tubes of various sizes were scattered among the body parts of hundreds of thousands of crickets. Lying in the center of it all was that poor woman. They had stuffed her completely full. A couple of those tubes were even small enough to fit in her nostrils, and sure enough, the bugs marched right in single file. Though they informed him of their plan, he had still stood horrified in the corner, mouth unknowingly hanging stupidly open throughout the whole ordeal.

Once the 5 gentlemen had “finished”, everyone, actors, crew, they all just kind of wandered off, leaving the woman lying in the gunk of multiple species. When it became clear no one was going to help her, Tatsuro grabbed a towel and walked over.

The woman’s dead eyes sparkled a bit, startled by the hand suddenly offered to her. She allowed herself to be pulled up as Tatsuro meekly avoided her eyes.

“Hi, I’m Fujiko,” she said. She held up a dish brush.

“Could you maybe help clean me out?”

K: Okay, now here’s a dark little concept that’s sure to stick with me for a while (I loathe crickets, even under normal circumstances). This one indeed took the idea of an awkward first meeting to heart. Though the word you meant is spelled “hardiness.” GOLD

MN – This is sick in all the right ways, as it sets up a real bit of sweetness. This isn’t a thing though, right? It had better not be. SILVER

Jonathon Pope, For the Love

I was working for the democrats, and so was she, but neither of us knew it. I was a plant at the Republican National Convention. I know now that this meant my side was suffering a crisis, but at the time it seemed exciting and daring. I was planted as an aide to a republican delegate, and even now I don’t know how that was accomplished. Julie caught my eye on the convention floor.

That night she and I got very drunk, and talked circles around each other. We were trying to get useful information from each other, without realizing that neither of us had anything useful to give. I don’t remember how we ended up in bed together, I wasn’t even sure whose room I was in at first (it was hers).

I didn’t realize my mistake until I went to report. Waiting outside the office for the boss, I was taken aback to see her walk out. The look of confusion on her face was nearly worth the embarrassment of admitting to the boss what had happened.

We were told not to talk about it, and for years we haven’t. Both of us got out of politics after that, and obviously neither of us became spies. We didn’t see each other for a while, I was too embarrassed to talk to her. She called me a few months later, apparently she had clearer memories of that night than I did. Fond memories as well.

We told everyone we met at work.

K: Well, they DID meet at work, at that. This actually doesn’t seem like the kind of thing people would hide from close friends, actually, but then I’m a little more open than most. The story is a decent idea, but we’re passively hearing about the scene rather than experiencing it.

MN – The concept and plot here are really strong, but a little more character would have helped.

Brian David, The Hidden Legends of Temple Grandin

Charles turned on his camera light and propped it up in the grass. The bright LED washed across the fresh dirt and illuminated the bottom of the headstone.

He grabbed the handle of the shovel with a sweaty palm and stabbed it into the ground. Three minutes had passed when Charles realised this would be a lot more work than he had expected. He pressed on, ignoring the aches and pains.

After many hours the shovel struck something hard, vibrating in his hands. Charles smiled, brushed the dirt away and knocked on the top of the casket.

“Bingo,” he said.

Someone knocked back.

Charles leaped up and fell against the muddy sides of the grave. The knocking continued.

Charles collected himself and continued to clear away the dirt. Another agonizing hour passed before he was finally able to lift the lid.

A women, young and beautiful, leaned up out of the coffin, coughing heavily and sobbing.

“Oh, god, oh thank god!”

She wrapped her arms around Charles. Out of the corner of his eye he saw it, wrapped around her neck and shining in the moonlight. He had expected to find the necklace; he had not expected to find this.

“How — how did you know? How did you know I was here?” The women lifted her face from Charles’ chest and stared at him with her emerald green eyes, tears staining her cheeks.

Charles stared back.

“I — um, I don’t –”

He held out his hand.

“I’m Charles.”

K: This seems like it might be a pop culture reference that I’m missing, because the story seems to be hinting at more details that aren’t shared explicitly. Despite my irritation about not being able to place it, and I recognize that this may not even be the case, it’s a great concept and the dialogue does well to go in a minimalist direction. SILVER

MN – I love that each of the two characters has a different reason for not talking about how they met, and for not talking about it with each other even. That’s a great progression on this topic, and though this starts a little slowly, it really matures. GOLD

Eric Schapp, For the Love

Adam had been in the demilitarized zone for nearly two years and his watch was finally almost up. Growing up in Hudson, Wisconsin he had always loved to ruffle feathers. Teachers, friends, family, it didn’t really matter they were all adversaries.

Rocking debate and neo-punk tunes didn’t really lend itself to studying. How he ended up at Presidio was a bit of a fluke, but terrible grades made the military a great option. Korean came easy, maybe even easier than English, and soon his post in Seoul was assigned.

It was only a short time before he arrived and met Chung-Ae a college student on a scholarship from China. A few long nights at punk bars drinking soju, lead to many long talks about Kant, Hume and Confucius. The feelings were so intense that he purposed before he went north for his duty. Chung-Ae agreed.

It was months later when Adam received the documents he was meant to translate. A Chinese General with a daughter studying in South Korea was attempting to sell arms to their mutual neighbor. Destroying the folder, Adam walked out of the office to make a call.

It was easy enough for Chung-Ae to obtain her visa; after all she was a student from South Korea. She lives with his aunt and uncle on a dairy farm outside of Eau Claire. Adam knows that though the eighteen months have been hard on them both, the worst is over. He’s coming home to them.

K: Again, engaging concept, but man, put us there among the action. There’s a dramatic scene in here that could play out in the space allotted, I promise. There are some pieces of punctuation missing early; not sure if that was a computer translation issue or what.

MN – There is so much backstory here, all of it very interesting, but in such a small space it’s a little rushed, so we don’t quite connect with the characters. The last line of the second-to-last paragraph was probably the place to end it – sometimes the neat bow can be too much.

Brooks Maki, Phone Call

Silence descended over the bar in the way that inevitably happens in any crowded room. Pete wiped his mouth, scanning to be sure that no one was looking his direction. “Not now” he thought, everything was almost finished.

From his breast pocket a small cheep turned a couple heads, but he avoided eye contact and soon enough they turned back to whatever conversation had momentarily lulled. He leaned over his plate, closed his eyes and pulled the napkin around his lowered eyes, leaving only his non-sight senses active. The hatchling cheeped again, but the normal volume of the bar made sure no one heard it but him.

The bird was halfway to his mouth, the earthy panic smell of it watering the back of his throat, “Now you’re curious” he thought as the bird stretched toward the dark perceived safety of his mouth. At that moment the girl pulled back his improvised curtain.

The bird jumped. They always jumped.

He sensed the girl there, felt he recoil as he closed his mouth. His eyes stayed closed and he concentrated only on the soft tickle of down against the back of his teeth. Not chewing, savoring the smell and the incomparable taste that leached from the increasingly active animal, he waited, focused on the held breath of the girl, the slowing of his prey, the realization of the inevitable that this trap never failed to yield.

K: I’ve read two stories about eating birds in cruel manners here in the last few weeks. What’s with all of you? This twisted scene is relayed to us rather nicely, and the subtext of the final sentence is a ton of fun. GOLD

MN – This did a nice job ending in exactly the right place, and I am amazed again at the strength of concept. BRONZE

Zack Sauvageau, PRADAZ

It was even busier than Janet expected. Sure, it was a holiday Monday and pretty much everyone thought Minions were adorable, but she wasn’t thinking she’d have to queue up for hours to get her picture with them. She was about 20 years older than anyone else in line, so she pulled the hood of her Minions hoodie up and kept her headphones in.

As Janet shuffled through the line, she felt a tap on her shoulder. Assuming it was some kid or parent that was going to be creeped out by her presence, she ignored it. But the tap started again, with much more purpose this time. Janet turned around and saw one of the most beautiful women she’d ever seen in her life.

“Are… are you here alone?” Andrea said, barely containing her smile.

Janet blushed fiercely and mumbled “yeah…” She wanted to crawl in a hole and die.

Andrea’s smile got broader, “oh thank god I’m not the only adult here alone!”

Janet relaxed a bit. “Really? You don’t think I’m weird?”

“Of course not! Who doesn’t just love Minions?” Andrea extended her hand. “I’m Andrea by the way.”

Janet shook her hand excitedly. “I know right? I can’t help myself, I just fucking love Minions!”

Andrea leaned in and whispered to Janet. “Yeah, well I love fucking Minions.”

Janet turned as red as Scarlet Overkill’s dress.

K: Cute idea, even if the dialogue is stagey and overly aggressive for a first meeting. It’s a good embarrassing first meeting, but the characters still aren’t self-aware enough for this to work as well as it might.

MN – The conversation was really good here. I think if it were interspersed more with the narration of the first two paragraphs it would have really punched up the whole thing.

Colin Woolston, Phone Call

Sunlight dappled the sidewalk, illuminated the leaves and warmed Todd’s shoulders in the crisp fall air; it was a perfect day for a run downtown.
He picked up his pace a bit as he passed a sorority house, but managed not to puff his chest out. Progress. He was feeling pretty good about, well, just about everything. He pushed a little harder, and smiled through the burning in his lungs.

***
Emily’s patience was, at best, thin. A parking ticket, late for two classes, those freshman idiots looking up her skirt and giggling like, like idiots. Dammit. She picked up her pace and ignored how her skirt kept riding up and ignored how unreasonably warm the sun was through the trees. It was not a good day to be prepared for October. It was never a good day to be late to Dr Brichbahl’s class. She picked up the pace again. She veritably scampered.

***
Todd saw her first, though he knew the frat boys lined up on couches out front of their house would see her shortly. Her skirt had ridden all the way up to her waist, and she seemed determinedly oblivious to the fact that her (quite shapely) ass was hanging out.

“Dude!”

There it was, the first “dude” or “woo” or whatever the idiot conglomerate on the porch was bound to come up with. Todd pushed faster to catch up. She really did have a cute behind.

“Miss!” He then saw her headphones. Oh man this was going to be awkward. “Miss! Hey!” He was almost right behind her, so he started to slow down to a walk, just as she started to turn to see who was clomping up behind her. Todd reached with his right hand to point to her skirt.

“Mish!” A long line of drool escaped his mouth just as his right hand contacted her left buttock, landing on her sandaled left foot. Todd tried to wipe his mouth and recoil his hand and look apologetically innocent at the same time, to disastrous effect.

Emily registered the ridiculous look of shock on the man’s (nicely symmetrical) face and, for a moment forgot about, um, everything.

Todd stared stupidly and, drool still fighting its way out of his mouth, smiled. And forgot about, well, everything.

“Now that’s a fine ass!”

Emily and Todd turned at the same time to the idiot brigade on the couches and said in unison “Suck it, you ignoramus!”

K: I kept waiting for a bigger moment here, but it was all ass and banter. Two of my favorite things, to be sure, but the awkwardness – provided even by the narration – seemed to hint at a much bigger moment that just didn’t come. Despite these misgivings, though, I did like the awkward speech throughout. What I like less is the massive number of words it went over the limit.

MN – I love it. Unfortunately, it’s more than 150 words over the limit.

Brendan Bonham, For the Love

It was just the grand affair he had called for in his will. There were thousands of white roses. 88 doves—one for every year of his life—were released as he was lowered into the spongy Florida grass. They even buried him with his lucky Krugerrand.

Mr. Poshton knew he had done an exemplary job; he earned the trailing zeroes on his check. Making his rounds, he found himself with Mrs. Hestern.

“My condolences,” he said to the widow. Feigning conviction was just one of his many talents.

“Oh, why—why thank you,” Mrs. Hestern spoke softly, “he was just so…”

“Yes,” Poshton reassured her of…something.

“I’ll miss everything about him,” she murmured.

Mr. Poshton wasn’t listening; he could hardly take his eyes off her glistening neck. She looked so supple. He snapped back to it.

“…yes, especially the club access.”

Poshton drew his eyes up, “Oh, Clearwater has plenty of country clubs that I’m sure would love to have you, Mrs. Hestern. I could introduce you to Mr. Lowes, the President of Den Springs. I belong there, you know.”

“I would like that very much,” her eyes glistened with youth. She smiled, “you’re so much younger than everyone else here.”

“Please,” Mr. Poshton—again, the feigned conviction—“I’m old enough to be your father.”

“He was old enough to be my grandpa. Tell me, is the club very exclusive?”

“Very exclusive,” Poshton reassured her.

K: I freaking love this one. The dialogue is realistic and funny, the reactions are believable and I have simultaneous contempt and admiration for Poshton. Great characters, great idea. GOLD

MN – Very well done. There are questions of relative ages that come up as you read, and they’re answered perfectly. GOLD

Roxanne Lewis, PRADAZ

He lifted the velvet rope for the first customer of the night, a little guy. The ladies all flocked to him with money sparkling behind their eyes, poor guy doesn’t stand a chance.

“I REFUSE TO PAY THESE ABSURD PRICES’’

They got these guys every once in awhile at Kittens; the ones who came in and stiffed the girls a few dances. He enjoyed kicking them out now, almost as much as he enjoyed the hefty tip that often followed from all the girls. This guy was different, he came in every week just to get kicked out.

As he lifted the small, slender man from his chair he saw the man grip him tightly and look into his eyes. They’ve been fucking ever since.

K: Hmm. Feels a bit rushed. This story can work but we literally have no idea why it exists until the final moment. It doesn’t have to have more words, but those words should give us more insight to the slender man.

MN – This is short and sweet and very effective, but the fact that he sees him grip him, instead of feels him grip him… throws me for a little loop, right where the story needed that to not happen.

Beau, Hidden Legends

Emily blushed. He kept smiling at her. No guy had ever made her feel like this before. Eric was good-looking, sure. He was tall and cute. The white button-down shirt he wore made him look smart. She wondered if he liked Pleasantville. She saw that last night with her best friend Olive. She figured if he saw it, he probably did.

She was was just sitting there reading A Wrinkle In Time when he came over and sat down next to her.

“Hi,” he said. “I’m Eric.”

She smiled at him. “Yes, you said that a little while ago.”

“Just wanted to make sure you didn’t forget.” He looked down. “Whatcha reading?”

She showed him.

“Ah, good book. Do you like tesseracts as much as I do?” He winked.

“Yeah,” she spurted out. Ugh! Why did he make her feel this way?

He put a hand on her shoulder. “The story just gets better.” He smiled again and walked away.

Is this was love feels like? That sounded stupid, but she couldn’t help herself. She vowed to finish this book tonight so they could talk about it later.

“Okay!” Eric called out. “Can anyone here tell me what the bottom number of a fraction is called?

Emily shot up her hand, a little too excitedly. He pointed at her. “A denominator!”

“Correct, Emily! The denominator is a key component of algebraic equations…”

She could listen to his voice all day.

K: Wow. This is so, so gross considering the prompt. I was going to complain that the characters seemed disparate in age until I realized that this was the intention. The payoff happens at the right time, and believe me, I feel as gross as the writer hopes I do. SILVER

MN – As I was reading this, I thought “this seems normal enough” so from the prompt I knew something awful was coming. You delivered in spades. SILVER

Joseph Rakstad, Hidden Legends

Damon stared idly at a painting across the room. Jenny stared at her shoes, equally numb. The nurse called Jenny’s name, Damon didn’t even move, just glanced as she walked to the back.
A stunning blonde walked in not a minute later, asking about services for “a friend.” She sat across from Damon, and flashed him a smile. He did the same.
He recognized her from one of his classes, Theology 101. He guessed that she was there for an M-R-S degree. He wondered if she recognized him.
“How’d you do on the mid-term?”
She looked stunned at his question. Suddenly she realized that he knew her and that he could ruin her reputation if he said anything.
“Don’t look so scared…. Why do you think I’m here?” They talked for 20 minutes. He learned that her name was Sarah, that she was a sophomore and had gotten more involved with a senior than she’d planned. He revealed that he was a pastor’s kid and he had no intentions of actually following in his father’s footsteps, but he didn’t have the courage to tell his parents the truth.
Jenny was wheeled out of the back, tears streaming down her face and post-op instructions in her lap. Damon knew that he and Jenny were done, there was no going back. However, a year later he showed up at his family’s Thanksgiving with Sarah on his arm. As far as anyone knew, they had met in Theology 101.

K: Interspersing dialogue with description is fine, but if the description is long it can really kill the flow of the conversation. I had to read over certain sections a few times to retain the story. Sarah is kind of an accessory to the story; the concept may have too much dramatic potential to be confined to this space.

MN – This story nails the awfulness, in a way that doesn’t overwhelm. The last paragraph maybe says a bit too much. BRONZE

Joshua Longman, Hidden Legends

I met her on Tinder; as love stories go, it’s common enough these days. I flicked through a handful of pictures (I forgave one misguided duckface) and thought she was cute, so I swiped right.

We met at some hipster bar uptown, same as every other one: flanneled, mustachioed bartenders, tattooed hostesses with ruby red lipstick, and predictable hoppy beer. She’s there before me, waiting with a wheat ale I had mentioned I’d liked. She resembled her pictures, blonde, shiny, and gorgeous, but that quickly faded along with my awareness. What man ever thinks about getting roofied?

I wake up, red-eyed and head throbbing near some dumpster in the alley behind the bar. As a painful fog settled I pieced together what happened, but it wasn’t hard to figure out considering my phone, watch, and wallet were gone.

I located my phone off a library computer; she only lived a few blocks away. Wished I had money to buy a coffee or something before I confronted her, but fuck it, that just made me more pissed off.

My phone is located in a seedy and smoked-stained brownstone; I knock on number 5 before I find the one. The unspoken threats and accusations quickly dissipated when a doe-eyed little boy answered the door. As it swung open I saw his little sister consoling their mother, blood trailing from a swollen nose.

She didn’t have my wallet or watch anymore, but that’s alright. I’m a sucker for a damsel in distress.

K: I’ve been roofied. College was weird, dudes. Anyway, it’s written station to station and we don’t spend enough time with the two of them. I know there’s a tendency to commit to either plot or character with these, but honestly, you can do both. I do find the man’s thoughts interesting, though, and if we’re just going to be in the head of one person with no dialogue in the scene, he’s an engaging enough guy. SILVER

MN – Sometimes these first person narratives feel a bit generic in voice, but I thought this one had a distinct character. BRONZE

Jordan Graham, Hidden Legends

To tell the truth, I can’t remember what I was looking at when I hit Delilah.

All I remember thinking is how I wanted to fuck Cindy at work and how Cindy was paid at least double what I made and how I secretly hated Cindy when – THUMP – and then I hit the brakes.

And then screaming.

“You killed my fucking dog you miserable piece of shit!”

The first time I heard Amy.

And god, was she beautiful. Slender arms and thin waist and her amber hair pulled back and those tight olive shorts and a vicious scowl.

And her fucking terrier was in my wheel well.

Well, Delilah popped out with a quick tug and soon we were on our way to the veterinarian, the dog bleeding out all over my front seat and on Amy’s thighs. I’ll never forget those thighs.

“Hurry!” she yelped, and as I made a left onto Sepulveda, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Amy was by far the prettiest girl I’d ever had in my car, and with the sunset, it was almost perfect.

The vet was blunt. The dog was dead. Had been for at least 20 minutes.

But I thanked and paid him anyhow, and walked Amy to a bar, and she was sobbing, and oh, how cute she was when her cheeks turned all red.

The whisky will help the pain, I remember saying. Have another shot.

And I’ll never forget how cute Amy was, stumbling across my living room and entering my life.

K: This miserable piece of shit talks about Amy as if she left his life after she entered it; there are many lines of remembrance here that don’t seem to fit with the idea of the two of them spending their lives together. It’s not comical enough to get away with the narrator’s repulsiveness, mostly because the lead character’s thoughts were sneeringly evil and just not very believable. A little humanization goes a long way toward suggesting someone is a complete person. BRONZE

MN – This one also has a distinct voice, and a bit more action. Probably a bit too heavy on the descriptions of Amy? As I read it, I had this feeling you were going to have him hit another dog on his way to the vet, and then that person would be the one he hooked up with. BRONZE

Annette Barron, PRADAZ

“Stop limping! You know it doesn’t hurt. You just want me to feel bad.”

Richard didn’t respond and we walked into the ER. I left him at the registration window and wandered off to the ladies. He didn’t protest; I suppose he didn’t want an audience while describing his predicament. I sat on the toilet and played Candy Crush until my phone battery beeped.

Richard was with an ER doctor behind a curtain when I found him. “Was it the burnt end of the candle?” The doctor sounded concerned and Richard’s voice rose, “I don’t know!!”

“Is it important?” I pushed my way in.

“Not at all.” Warm, brown eyes met mine and I burst out laughing. Richard’s frown deepened, probably setting in concrete. This man really wasn’t going to work out.

“Sorry,” the doctor murmured, “I just wanted to lighten the mood.” Our eyes met again and I felt the hair on my arms stand up.

“Can we just get this over with?” Richard growled. “Fran, waiting room, please.”

“I’ll be back in a few, Mr. Smith.” The doctor followed me to the nurses’ station. “This will only take a few minutes and you can take him home.”

“Yes, I’ll drop him off before I go home.” I smiled up at him. “Pretty sure Mr. Smith and I are quits after tonight.”

“Really. Andrew Greenly.” He stuck out his hand.

“Francis Purdy.” I didn’t want to let go. “Here’s my number. Wait a couple of months, please?”

K: This one has mostly fine dialogue, but the concept is as ordinary as any. That might not be a problem if everyone had gone “small,” but in a week of big concepts, this one is bound to get lost in the shuffle. BRONZE

MN – The line about Candy Crush says it all. Very effective and to the point.

Will Young, For the Love

Kathleen tried to stifle her sobs. Don’t make any noise. Don’t. Make. Any. Noise. Don’t! Make! Any! Noise! Her body trembled; she could feel her heartbeat pounding against the back of her skull. She had no idea if she was complying with her internal instructions about silence. Internally, she was screaming these instructions.

She opened the gap between her knees slightly. 3:12 p.m. She had heard the news at the top of the hour before All Things Considered, so she could only have been inside here for, at most, about seven minutes. How long before they entered? She remembered her partially completed deposit slip crumbled inside her fist. Not long. Surely someone pulled an alarm. The authorities must be nearby.

Sirens faintly wailed. The pace of the footsteps quickened. She glued her eyes back to the floor. Footsteps approached. Ratty tennis shoes stopped just in front of her feet. She shuddered. Her arm was tugged. She went limp. The grip on her arm was tightened. Insurance, she heard, over the thundering heartbeat in her head.

K: “Don’t make any noise” seems like it’s a bit overplayed in the beginning, but it does effectively set up the tension of the scene. This one did very well to stay away from the first exchange between the hostage and captor, allowing the reader to fill in the very dark and strange blanks. SILVER

MN – I’m piecing this puzzle together in my head still. Sometimes that drives me crazy. This time, I kind of like it, because all the options I’m seeing work. Still, you might want to be slightly more clear.

Daniel Caouette, PRADAZ

“So tell me something, beautiful. Did it hurt when you fell in love with me?”

“What? Don’t you mean when I fell from heaven? Nice try, moron.” The beautiful woman moved to the other side of the bar.

Ted did not have the mojo working in his favor that night. No matter what line he used, no matter how he approached them, he wasn’t having any luck with getting lucky. It was getting late.

Craaaaaaap. I can’t go home alone tonight. I have to get laid!

He chugged down his beer and grabbed one last bottle. It was time to check the stock of ladies in the bar. Most of the attractive ones had already left either with friends or some other lucky guy, and it showed. Ted’s vein mind had more bovine sounds than logical human thoughts. He was not impressed, but he was desperate. Ted looked down at the bar.

“Why so glum sugar plum?”

Ted popped his head up to see who it was. Great. It was Berta. She almost always was at last call, and no one was ever surprised. She wasn’t just big, she was dirty too. It would be hard to keep clean with that many fat rolls.

“How about we go home handsome?”

Ted sighed. He needed to get laid. “Sure, let’s do this.” Ted got up from the bar and followed Berta out.

“Where did I leave that condom?” He thought.

Like I said, it just wasn’t Ted’s night.

K: Hmm. Some technical issues here. Why is the narrator talking about himself in the final line? Why does the perspective change to first person for just one short paragraph early on? The characters come off more as caricatures, with little to ground them to reality, so they really don’t rise above their archetypes.

MN – Oof. I don’t know who I feel worse for.

Melissa Diamond, Phone Call
Leah loved biking with her hair down. Even with the helmet pressed firm against her head, the wind could still caress that hair, let it tickle her shoulders. Up ahead, her boyfriend’s sweat had soaked through his t-shirt in a Rorschach V. She loved that t-shirt

“Michael!” she shouted at him. She could hear a car coming up behind. With that sixth sense of a biker, she knew the car was too big and moving too fast.

“Michael! The sidewalk! Let’s–”

Her vision exploded into pain and light. She hit the ground. A concussion roared through her head, deafened her. Michael was under the car. His legs were motionless. The driver screamed somewhere; shouted into his cell phone.

She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, the man was leaning over her. He was crying. “This one’s alive,” he said into his phone.

He took her hand. His eyes were very brown. Very large. Perfect.

If I die, at least I had those eyes, she thought.

She cried, and through the smell of her blood and tears, she could smell him, too. Like new car. Like aftershave. Like hope.

She closed to the lullaby of ambulance sirens.

K: Why did she abandon Michael so quickly? That turns the story from properly dark and awkward to rather hard to believe. I can believe – easily – that she falls in love with this guy down the road. I just can’t believe she immediately embraces the thought of the guy who ran down her boyfriend – whom she obviously loves, right down to the t-shirt – as she believes she’s also dying at his hands because of a pair of pretty brown eyes.

MN – I love the descriptions in this one. SILVER

Bret Highum, For the Love

He looked up from the fading ripples on the dark and bottomless water, and reached for the last tightly-wrapped garbage bag. Movement on the bridge above and to his right caught his eye, and he crouched down, cursing the bright moon and the dry, overgrown weeds on the bank behind him that would give away his position if he tried to sneak into the trees.

An awkward bundle fell loosely from the bridge and splashed into the river with an oddly-muffled thump, then swiftly slipped from sight. A head surrounded by a nimbus of hair- a woman, his mind registered- peeked over the railing, focused on the spreading ripples. She turned to go and their eyes met. He noticed her smeared mascara and a spreading bruise on her cheek. She could see his hair was matted with blood from a scalp wound, black in the moonlight.

He nonchalantly pitched the package he held into the river, without breaking eye contact, then gave her a little smile and a shrug. She started breathing again, not having noticed she was holding her breath until then.

“I could use a drink,” she said, her voice low and breathy.

“I could use a ride back to town,” he replied.

K: This is a properly sick backdrop for a first meeting – believable given the severe damage each of them bring to a relationship – although there’s a whole meme dedicated to making fun of lines about women who “don’t notice they’re holding their breaths.” Keep it simple; it’s easy to cross the line into cartoonish melodrama. Still, I love the concept and the smile/shrug of our Dexter. BRONZE

MN – This is dark comedy like dark comedy should be. GOLD

Shawn Ashley, Hidden Legends

Tuesday. A normal Tuesday.

Cigarette smoke wafted in front of her; she brushed it away without thought.

Her yellow eyes narrowed towards the road, she just barely made out the bus as the haze from the heat blurred the colorful lines together. Blue. Maybe blue.

One hand clutched her apron to keep her pens from falling out. The other brought the cigarette to her lips. She hoped she wouldn’t be late, yet, she usually was.

She flicked the butt into the dirt and crushed it, just as the bus came to a stop with an exaggerated sigh. She got onto the full bus and wedged in next to the guy with headphones in.

Her nostrils took in Tide and aftershave, despite this heat. Her eyes closed for a moment, letting her mind go. She inched closer to him and found the back of her hand rest next to his thigh.

Both of them didn’t react to it.

She didn’t move it. Her eyes flicked down to the hand.

She leaned into him.

Earbuds still in. He looked lost in his own world.

She leaned a little more and slowly turned her palm to let it fully rest on him. Her eyes lifted slowly up into his.

He looked at her.

The bus came to a stop- neither of theirs- and she slightly nodded to him.

As they silently walked towards the 76 Station’s back bathroom, she knew for sure that she was going to be late.

K: Is this an embarrassing first meeting? It doesn’t seem so bad. Maybe that’s because I totally would have done this back in my youth. There’s some wording that could use some work here. “Both of them didn’t react to it” just needs one quick edit, so I suggest going back to make things read more conversationally, as a general rule.

MN – This did a great job setting the scene through sensory cues.

———————————————————————————————————-

Brendan pulls down a double gold, anchoring a very solid week for For the Love.

For the Love of Pete: 8/0/0/10/3/6 = 27/6 = 4.50
The Hidden Legends of Temple Grandin: 8/6/1/4/2/0 = 21/6 = 3.50
Long-Distance Phone Call for Friendship: 0/6/0/3 = 9/4 = 2.25 (but a nonsub, too)
The Devil Wear PRADAZ: 4/0/0/1/0 = 5/5 = 1.00

The nonsub means only the Phones have to vote. Which – bonus! – I had them do already, given the nonsub.

Vote One: Rene Pare. (nonsub vote)

Vote Two: Rene Pare. “Oh Rene…”

Vote Three: Rene Pare. “Le sigh.”

Vote Four: Rene Pare. “ I have no words.
.
.
.
Strike that. It was you that had no words.”

Vote Five: Rene Pare. “Paré in French means “ready” or “prepared”. I’ve never been so badly duped by a surname before.”

Third Elimination from Spookymilk Survivor XVIII: Rene Pare

I think the upcoming Big Brother may be more her thing. We’ll see her then.

As for the new challenge, it will go up tomorrow and run through Sunday night at 9pm Central. The word limit will be VERY short because we’re going to try something new; don’t worry, I’m not going crazy. I’d post it now, but these posts take forever and it’s time to get the old Picross/MST3K pre-sleep routine going.

Cheers, Survivors.

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