Greetings, gang. I hereby thank some of you for not feeling the need to go all the way with the word limit. This was a tougher prompt – probably best run later in the game – but I decided we were probably going to get all twenty people to show up and wanted to celebrate.

A decent number of these stories merely fulfilled the prompt, but some were truly interesting character studies. Read on, friends.

Oh, and the prompt was to write about a character who was the last to know about his or her declining fame.

Joshua Longman, The Hidden Legends of Temple Grandin

“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Aerotrade. You’ve been put in my hands because this is your first week here and, well, frankly you don’t know shit.” A couple of young trainees chuckled uncomfortably.
“Maybe some of you have heard of me?.”
He slicked back his white hair, a large silver ring set with a ruby donned his manicured hand. He picked up a piece of chalk and with loud, confident clacking he scrawled “Gus Van Belkin – Senior Partner” on the board.
He introduced himself. “In their infinite wisdom, my fellow partners chose me to be the initiator for our new blood. This is because of my undeniable stage presence and my reputation as having the longest, highest sales record this company, nay this industry has ever seen. I’ve been here since day one, kiddos, and I basically BUILT this fucking company.”
Nobody even whispered. Good, got them in awe, he thought. Time to get their feet wet.
“I sincerely fucking hope you know why you’re here by now. For all the braindead out there, let me explain. You will be selling anything that can be bolted onto an airplane; this includes batteries, plastic components, steel forgings, intricate electronics systems, refrigeration systems – the list goes on and on. Hell, I’d sell stewardesses too if it wasn’t illegal.”
This last bit always got a few laughs, but this time a sheepish girl raised her hand.
“I thought they were supposed to be called flight attendants now?” She squeaked.
Fucking soft punks these days, it’s shit like this that makes me glad I left the field. He ignored her.
“I want you to know who the players are in our field. There are only a few you really need to know. Let’s called them greenlights. Who knows what’s green?”
MONEY”, someone shouted from the back.
“That’s FUCKING right!”, he howled. “Our customers have these things called buyers, and buyers are the ones you need to convince to hand over their business. Sweet talk em’ and give em’ a good price and they give you the “Go” signal. Now, there are these creatures I call redlights, you may have heard of them by their other name, engineers. These will be the most annoying pieces of shit you ever meet, but just like a red light, you gotta pay attention to em’. Otherwise you never get the ‘go’, capiche? Now, onto yellowlights….”

As Gus droned on, one dapper young man in back leaned to his neighbor.
“You believe this shit?” The brown-haired boy asked.
“What?”, said the blonde one.
“This load of bullshit he’s feeding us. People are like lights? How’s that supposed to help us? My dad is Barry Figmore, another one of the partners. He told me they put old, decaying Gus up for babysitting duty because he couldn’t cut it any more. Hasn’t made a sale in years. Can’t even fucking use email!”
The blonde boy giggled. “You know what my dad told me? Those who can’t do, teach.”

K: That is…over-explained, unfortunately. We really don’t need the two guys at the end to tell us what the story’s about; you’ve done a decent job getting the story across with the reactions of the young folks throughout. This could have gone further, by suggesting that Gus was not only just a teacher, but also a teacher of those with low expectations. If he’s got that little respect, why is he entrusted with a class at all?

MN – This is a fantastic character to follow. We almost didn’t even need the last exchange because you really delivered on the unreliable main character. This feels so real, so very well drawn. Just a ton of fun. SILVER

Melissa Diamond, Long Distance Phone Call for Friendship

Vera wandered out onto the balcony. Her dress was so tight she could hardly breathe, but the air outside…the air had cooled in that perfect way desert air could after a hot day. It cooled her cheeks, dried the sweat in her cleavage. The contouring there was going to rub away if she wasn’t careful.
Her sister didn’t even notice. Mandy leaned with her back against the railing, pretending to ignore the paparazzi two stories below. Her eyes were closed. She never noticed when Vera walked into a room. Or she pretended not to.
“Is Kay-J still in there?”
“Yep.” Still hitting on the little girls. Maybe that’s why Mandy’s eyes were closed, though the corners of her lips turned downwards. Her makeup artist had contoured her face so that not a single, smoke-induced wrinkle or coke-carved pore had a chance, but those wrinkles at the corners of her mouth said it clear enough. She wasn’t fifteen anymore.
Vera smirked.
Below, paparazzi cameras popped and flashed. Mandy’s eyes remained closed, so Vera leaned over the railing and waved at the crowd below. She allowed just enough cleavage to garner those poor people a few bucks. Nothing like underaged cleavage to sell a picture.
“Show some class,” Mandy said.
She was watching now. She put her cigarette out in the potted plant then tossed it over the railing at the bystanders. She glanced at Vera’s cleavage. “You’re seriously being gross.”
“Well, Kay-J thinks I’m classy. He likes the cleavage.”
They stood in silence. Mandy’s eyes narrowed, and Vera braced herself. She thought of the countless magazine covers she could throw at her sister. Those ridiculous, cash-grabbing glossies of her sister holding Kay-J’s hand, a yellow slash down the middle to separate them with some ridiculous headline like ‘Trouble in Paradise? Divorce on the Horizon’? Those pictures on the tabloids of her sisters cellulite, and the Instagram photos she’d doctored to make her waist three inches smaller.
She grinned. “That was a total bitch thing of me to say.”
Mandy pulled another cigarette out of her clutch. “Yeah it was.”
“He said my boobs were classy, but he didn’t like, mean it all weird or anything.”
“He’s not a pervert”.
Right, the guy who released the sex tape to Vivid wasn’t a pervert. “I know. I just got made. You’re so famous. I wanna be just like you.”
Mandy smiled. It might have been genuine. “You’re a sweetheart. Go back to the party.”
“You should come in, too.”
“I just gotta smoke this other cigarette.”
Vera pretended to think about this. She glanced to her left, arched her neck, rested a hand on her waist. She knew her sister was comparing their bodies, wishing she was fifteen again, wishing words like tight, or taut, or fit still applied to her.
“I’ll see you later,” Vera said.
Mandy nodded and lit another cigarette.

K: I’m not sure if you were intending this to be a couple of specific Disney kids, but it sure felt like it. The inner thoughts of the girls felt genuine, but the dialogue was so straightforward and blunt, it really killed the story’s potential. People don’t say everything they mean, particularly if they’re siblings, and subtext is much more interesting for drama. BRONZE

MN – The idea of youth being past prime… That’s a pretty good indictment of our current state, and getting into these character’s heads is truly creepy. A few ideas repeated which made it not drive forward quite as much as it might have otherwise.

Brendan Bonham, For the Love of Pete

The entire thing was working parties, but the pay was pretty good. You’d just circle the room, people would gawk, smile, wave. Some would ask for pictures, others just a few words before they hit the open bar. Things dried up a little when there were only 15 or 20 minutes left before cut-off. People loved double-fisting when they didn’t have to pay for the beer. It didn’t matter, the gig paid the same.
And it was getting about that time. 45 minutes, maybe an hour, and he’d be out the door with a fat tip, a check, and his GPS pre-loaded with the directions to the next gig.
A man approached Trent giggling. He was used to having fans, but usually it was old waspy women who spent all day at home watching TV or playing cards with friends. This guy was…not that. Bald, fat, slurring, not the usual kind of person asking Trent to sign their chest, or something.
Still, he was paid to engage, as his manager all-too-frequently reminded him.
“Hey man,” the man slurred, “say…say what you just said.”
“Huh?”
“You know, the thing. It’s all over the—the internet, man. C’mon,” tonic splashed from the fat man’s drink, “say what it is you just said.”
“I—I’m sorry” Trent stuttered. Surveying the room, he noted that more and more, eyes were on him.
The man set one of his drinks down on a nearby table and fished around in his jacket pocket for a moment, ultimately revealing a phone. A few taps and a quick turn later, there it was:

LA PLAYBOY PAUL RICHARDS SCREAMS SLUR AT SPA SERVICE AID – VIDEO
More and more people began shuffling over
Trent’s mom told him it was a bad idea to go into the celebrity look-alike game, but it was easy money, and who ever turns down a chance to be rich or famous? Or, at least a chance to act like it.
A woman approached, “Say it!”
“I—I just saw it myself,” Trent balked, “I never even met the guy!”
Still the crowd came. First just another straggler here or there, all wanting him to spout off some drivel he didn’t even know.
As Trent bee-lined for the exit more and more people put that name to his face. There were hoots and boos—a mix of both, but most of it was the liquor talking. Trent knew he wasn’t coming back from this. This Kelly Lambert impersonator was last seen working at a Shaker’s for tips.
He called his manager, but it went to voicemail.

K: Spa service “aid?” There’s some punctuation completely missing, too, which isn’t something I officially “rate” but it does hurt the flow of a story. I don’t know if I buy the idea of an impersonator paying for the sins of his subject, but if this story had gone with the idea that it had “merely” killed his career rather than made him a pariah, I would have been along for the ride.

MN – Another very creative idea, layering the effect of fading fame, or transition to infamy, as the case might be. A tip or two hinting at the layer earlier would have been a nice add. The last line was the perfect note to go out on.

erik sunshine, For the Love
It must be a fortnight til Worthington. The mudsills of my vanguard all shinned out days ago. O, scalawags to the last of them! They swore their protection to us, William I, Premier of the Dakotas, Guardian of the Great Lakes! I shall catch them all and nail them to the counter for their treachery! To make us ride the shank’s mare. To be back in the Old States where they were civil and kind. Nothing but cabbagers and jayhawkers going down the line with quirleys hanging from their mouths, all soaked and stumped here in this muddy, forlorn hope.

But that is why they have chosen me! No simple dude or granger of shoddy sight. We, William I, are of the crust! Ace high and in apple pie order! No, we’d never take French leave at the first quiver of trouble. We are of the highest moral fortitude and vigor!

Meanwhile, the ruffians of this hamlet are well-heeled and seem on the shoot. The horizontal refreshments crone wouldn’t accept my tender! My own face on it! Legal bills of the Datokas! The scandal! Unbelievable!

K: The earnestness of this story sells the hell out of it. There’s no stilted dialogue or unbelievable self-delusion; I find this character’s hubris easy to believe, and I smiled throughout, knowing how off the mark he was about to be. GOLD

MN – The language here is fantastic, and so unique. The clarity of the action isn’t all the way there. I’m enjoying piecing things together, but could use a few more landmarks directing me. I spent some time looking up historical possibilities, and getting nowhere, so I don’t know that I’m missing something obvious. Hopefully I’m not. Because this deserves a lot of love. BRONZE

Eric Schapp, For the Love

“Huh,

All of these places. Byzantine”

“Okay I understand nated j
you now we’re in difficult position\s
yes
so
This link is weekk.

K: I know about the Byzantine Empire, owing to my interest in Greek and Roman culture, but even with this few words I don’t know what this story wants to tell me.

MN – Did I get the whole submission? If so, at least it’s not a non-sub!

Beau, Hidden Legends

Every day as far as Lucy could remember was awesome. The attention was intoxicating. She could have whatever food she wanted. There was always something fun to do.
Today seemed different.
Her driver was not waiting for her at the front door. She waited for almost an hour, patiently as she was taught. Eventually, her well-trained composure broke down and she did the unthinkable. She whimpered and scratched at the door.
“I’m sorry Lucy.” She craned her neck, trying hard not to frown. That was her master, Nathan. He was tying his robe. “We’re all done with the movie. You get to stay home with me, now.” Nathan crashed into the leather couch and turned on his tablet.
She didn’t understand. She looked at him hard, turning her head from side to side. When he didn’t look, she whimpered again.
“Aw, buddy. It’ll be okay. Maybe we’ll get you another part someday. Come here.” Nathan set aside the tablet and snapped his fingers.
Lucy trudged over to the living room, limping. She placed both paws on the couch and climbed up, pushing through the pain. She rested her head in his lap.
“There, there,” Nathan said, scratching her ears.

K: This is the exact type of concept that usually becomes cloying and tiresome most of the time, but brevity and honesty helped a lot. The author didn’t try to imbue Lucy with an unlikely amount of human emotion, and the story was much stronger for it. SILVER

MN – I don’t always connect with animal stories the most, but this was handled wonderfully. It was tight and well paced, and didn’t rely on the reveal, but really built a connection. It shows well how less can be more, and really nails the balance of dialogue and action. SILVER

Annette Barron, The Devil Wear PRADAZ

I am not the Chief. I am first warrior; I lead the war parties and raids. Only the very strongest can lead to battle and I have been the strongest for 20 winters. Women want to lay with me and young men look at me out of the corners of their eyes. It is good to be Laughing Crow.

River Woman hands me food and I sit in the council circle. Our Chief is very old and it is harder to hear him now. “Our enemies move closer and closer, with each moon. They will take what is ours and leave us naked in the snows.” Blue smoked curled into the old man’s eyes. “We must strike first and with a fist of fire to drive them back to their own villages for the cold.”

“I hear your words and I will drive our enemies away.” I spoke formally, to show my respect.

The Chief inhaled again slowly. “Laughing Crow, we depend on your wise counsel in these matters.” I nodded. Falcon Wing stood before I could speak, throwing back his hair and puffing out his bone vest. I remember his mother at his age. She had very shiny hair and a round face.

“I will lead the warriors now. Laughing Crow should stay in the council and be treated with the respect for an elder.” He bows his head toward me, but I want to hit him to the ground and kick him until he begs me to stop.

“Honored Chief,” I began, “Falcon Wing is a very fine warrior. One day, with much teaching, he will be a fierce leader.”

Falcon Wing resumed his seat and River Woman passed more food around. I made myself eat, although the food was like dirt in my mouth.

The Chief finally spoke again. “Laughing Crow is very wise.” I felt my breath unknot in my chest. “Falcon Wing does have much to learn.”

Falcon Wing’s face became stone and I feel his hurt pride. I was young once.

“This is why it is time for him to lead the warriors.” The Chief spoke to everyone around the circle, but I felt his words like an arrow only for me. “He will learn fast that way, as did you, Laughing Crow.”

I cannot do anything but put my face down to eat. It is hot, like the fire stones, but it is dark. I pray no one can see.

K: I hope nobody’s noticed how much I adore stories about the natives, because if it becomes common knowledge I’ll be inundated with them. It’s probably easy to exploit the traditions of the natives for prose, just as the white man exploited them in every other way, but given my experiences, this story is honest and reverent toward the traditions they employ. GOLD

MN – I think we knew where this was going early on, but it still built well to the final punch. You introduce a lot of this culture, the pressures, the history, all within this small scene. Good dialogue, and good structure, coming back to the food a few times. BRONZE

Roxanne Lewis, PRADAZ

Six weeks in the number one spot; how do you go from a cover on youtube to interviewing on NBC? She had no idea that when she uploaded her poorly edited cover of Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning, she was signing herself up for her fifteen minutes. She felt light as she sat in the chair getting ready to step on set, brushes flew around her face coating her in powder and she still felt a twinge of regret for leaving her boyfriend after her first hit was released, he’d always loved Ellen.

It felt so nice to be out, Jaymee hadn’t had the chance to leave her house in weeks; spread across her front yard 24/7 was a sea of pressing paparazzi. She had been avoiding all contact of the outside world, like her mama always said, “Sometimes you gotta power down and breath in, Cookie” Jaymee was thrilled when her publicist showed up to tell her about the interview, she felt the excitement over her song simmering down in the media and in the itunes sales. This would be her new start.

The lights on the stage were so bright, she felt blinded as she made her way towards the plush white chairs and Ellen’s beaming face. As soon as she sat she turned on the charm, the banter was fun and witty and Ellen seemed really excited about her, which of course they danced to. The end of the interview was approaching and she felt Ellen’s stare get serious, “OK Jaymee, we have to talk about it, that tape that was released this morning, anything to say?” Jaymee’s eyes widened in disbelief as she realized was happening, “THAT COCK SUCKING MOTHER FUCKER” Everyone rushed around and Ellen brought it to a hasty commercial break as Jaymee sat there in disbelief…

He had always loved Ellen.

K: I have no beef with the story – the ex-boyfriend is foreshadowed well enough – but this could use some edits for punctuation and flow. I could take it to task for the fact that the lead character seems to know she’s nothing special, but that part is more forgivable.

MN – And here’s one where I had no idea what was going to happen. The descriptive scenes are great, but the story would jump to a new level with dialogue added in. I liked the tone of this story, very balanced between humor and drama, such that I actually cared, and that surprised me in a very good way.

Daniel Caouette, PRADAZ

Phil finished his day out with his routine slice of pie at Judy’s Pie Stop. Saving a cat from the local zoo really did prove to have its perks, and Phil was happy to take advantage of them. The immediate aftermath from saving Sergeant Galahad proved fruitful for Phil. He had kids asking for autographs, newspaper headlines, and even a potential deal with Friskies on the table. Actually it was more like his cousin Paul wrote to the CEO of Friskies, but it was nice for him to imagine the deal. Phil certainly liked the pie more than the rest of his actual rewards, but he took all the fame he could get.

Then that damn squirrel came into town. He was just passing through, but he swept the town overnight. Phil wasn’t aware of it until 3 days after the cat aftermath (caftermath?) when he walked out to his driveway, retrieved his newspaper, and felt a cold chill. His ceremony photos were no longer on the front page. It was just that fucking squirrel. Phil shrugged it off. Clearly his community paper was just trying to stay “unbiased”. Phil carried on, but the greetings seemed flatter and the autographs disappeared. At least Judy still had that pie. Boy, did Phil love pie. The only problem was that Judy didn’t love that freeloader, and Phil was awarded the check without love.

Phil skipped work the next day. How could the world forget him so soon? He saved that cat’s life! Desperate for attention he deserved, Phil pulled the squirrel’s article from the trash.

DEEP SEA DIVING SQUIRREL DRIVES TOWN NUTS

“I could do that.” Phil thought. “They will love me again.”

After roughly 32 minutes spent searching for scuba videos online and finding pricing for scuba gear, Phil came to two conclusions. First, Phil wasn’t going to pay that much for gear. Two, he could easily hold his breath long enough to “drive the town nuts”. He went to the pier and jumped into the ocean.

His breath did not last him. No one was watching. The town was definitely not nuts. Things went dark for Phil fast. The only thing he had a chance to do before embracing the light was realize that no one had time for a feline hero. The darkness embraced him.

Phil awoke on the shore, spitting up water and… cat hair? He sat up and looked around. This just didn’t add up. There was no one around for miles, except for Sergeant Galahad.
“You!” Phil gasped.
“Yes, it is I.” Sergeant Galahad replied heroically. “This will be our little secret! We are now even, and if I hear you utter one word of this to another, I’ll gut you like a fish!”
Sergeant Galahad hopped onto his magical Roomba and flew off. Phil did not know what to make of it, but one thing was for sure. At least there was someone who thought he was still a hero.

K: You grabbed me hard with “caftermath” and there I was held; this absurdity worked very well while not abandoning the importance of character and plot. Phil’s inability to see that the squirrel headline was a “nut” pun and not something he could recreate was hilariously sad. Damn, this one was fun. GOLD

MN – This was so funny. Picking up the most unlikely of stories, this built on it in a true enough fashion, while maintaining the humor. It dragged a small amount at points, but it was seriously hilarious and madcap, and the ending was very strong.

Brooks Maki, Phone Call

“Spare some change?”

The woman mumbled some reply that might have been an excuse, but it was hard to read lips when she didn’t make eye contact.

That’s odd.

“Spare some change?”

Now that gentleman’s glare was downright hostile. Is that anyway to treat the only homeless man in Winthrop?

“Spare some change?”

“You bums are ruining this nice town!” Shouted from a passing pickup. What the hell?

Time to find a different street, South Main is getting uncomfortable.

“Spare some change?”

I didn’t say that. Who the fuck said that?

It’s another homeless guy. Jesus, no wonder.

“Hey, you need to clear out of here. This town isn’t big enough for the both of us”

“Well hello Clint Eastwood. I’m fine here thanks.”

“No, these people like having one homeless man. It’s kind of a big-city problem that makes them feel more metropolitan, but if you put another homeless man in there? Now it’s an infestation. Things are only going to get worse around here if there are two of us. You need to leave because this won’t end well for you. They like me, they’ve supported me. They don’t even know you.”

“I guess we’ll see.”

If this were a Hollywood movie there would have been an escalating series of pranks and setups and hilarious injuries traded between the two of us. But instead I just left. Collected my savings and bought a house (what can I say? Begging in Winthrop was a good gig.) Eventually got a job and faded into respectability.

I drop a bill or two in his hat whenever I see him. He’s the only homeless man in Winthrop and it makes all of us feel good to know there’s someone depending on us.

K: The social commentary on this works very well – it’s cynical and pointed, but stops short of being preachy (at least for me). I don’t love the dialogue, but I almost never do, so whatever. “[I] faded into respectability” was a brilliant and gorgeous turn of phrase, and I mean that without hyperbole. SILVER

MN – This is another very funny story. The last few lines feel like a tacked on ending, and maybe put too neat a bow on the story. The dialogue was great, and the opening did a perfect job of showing what we were dealing with.

Bret Highum, For the Love

Jasta screamed as she shook the bloody axe overhead, a sound like the sea eagles that flew over the harbor cliffs. It was her victory cry, and for this, her hundredth kill in the arena, it could barely be heard over the thunderous applause of the bloodthirsty crowd. Wild eyes staring, chest heaving, she was magnificent. She celebrated her hard-won freedom that night.
Two weeks later, Jasta waited to enter the ring, eyeing the pack of half-trained dire wolves and their slightly less feral handles that she would be fighting shortly. The roar of the crowd when she entered was louder than ever, amazed to see her back in the ring- only to be outdone by their jubilation when she stood over the twitching, whimpering remains of her foes.
Ten victories later, Jasta wiped the lion’s blood from her face and screamed her sea eagle’s scream, the piercing cry echoing from marble beams and silencing the hushed murmurs of the crowd. She threw her hands up as she glared defiantly into the stands. They had never had a champion like her!

K: I relish any chance to be dropped into the world of George RR Martin, although this doesn’t really surprise me in any way, and the story is essentially told in the first line and never changes for the duration.

MN – This develops a very intersting world. That she would give up her freedom (presumably) to keep chasing the glory of victory is an awesome enough concept. That you express how this society views that so efficiently in their reactions… I really like that approach. I think you could do more with this world, but what you did, you did so effectively that all I can really say is “I want more.” GOLD

Colin Woolston, Phone Call
“Just put your plate in the sink, please, and go help your sister.” She let her anger out just enough to be clear about how she felt, but not enough to ruffle any feathers. Expert level parenting, there. I replayed her expression a few times in my mind, trying to lock it in my memory. Good stuff for commercials and family dramas.
“Mom. Khaleesi can wipe her own butt. She’s three. Did you know my lego set? The one, with, um, the one, um, the one with,”
“Yes, honey?”
“The red ones?” He still held his plate in his hands, its outward edge slowly tilting toward the floor. A crust of bread reached its full potential and began to slide, as Louella’s hand, graceful and seriously Kung Fu in its movement and the way her whole arm just radiated some motherly Zen shit. Too bad I’ll probably never get to play a mother. I could nail that shit with this level of research.
“Of course, dear, but please just put away the plate before anything else comes out of your mouth. I may love you, but my patience is -”
“But mom, the wheel is missing.” Kai walked his plate over to the sink. He dropped it in, shattering two wine glasses. He turned to look at me, his chin tucking and the corners of his mouth dropping as his eyes began to fill with tears. Have to lock that look down, it could be good for something. I realized that I was already yelling before I even knew what I was saying. I stopped, mostly because Louella put her hand on my arm and stepped forward.
“Honey, it’s just glasses ok? Daddy’s tired from working. Right honey?” Her look was pointed, but she seemed like she genuinely empathized with me. Gold. I nodded, and realized that I was standing so I sat back down. A beer was on the table in front of me, perfectly poured into a mason jar. I could hear the head fizzing and the aroma of hops and grapefruit was pure pleasure. Awesome.
“Let’s go see if we can find the wheel, Ka, and leave Daddy alone. He just got home from a work trip and could use some time.”
“Daddy will you help me look?” Jesus you could sell anything with that look. Like an internet meme puppy and rainbows and hope for the future kind of look.
“Baby I love you so much, but mom’s right. This week was enormous, and the egos and the deadlines and…” I don’t know why I do this. He doesn’t understand the business. He’s six. “I just need a few minutes to rest, and then I’ll come help, ok? Go on now.”
The beer was amazing. Some imperial hand-crafted-by-geniuses wizardry right there.
I knew I should stop trying to explain work to the kids. It’s hard when it takes up so much of your life, though. I mean, selling insurance isn’t easy. And.
And.
Maybe another beer.

K: Annoyingly meta, to be sure, but the relationships here are easy to believe and the father’s exasperation and frustration are easy to understand, though most of us aren’t so cold even in our darkest moments. This could be the beginning of a long and interesting character study of a man on the way up or down, but even as written, it’s too real to ignore. BRONZE

MN – This scene that plays out is so layered. The sentence about the Zen arm ended up getting cut funny in your submission, but what you were going for is obvious enough, that it’s really too bad it didn’t get pulled off. A little simplification might have been in order, but the emotional connections and the pain of fading glory are very palpable. SILVER

Shawn Ashley, Hidden Legends
Each stroke was genius, each face with perfectly lined lips. Eyelashes curled around the edge of a perfectly painted eye.

He held his breath as he leaned over her, carefully drawing the flints of light into her auburn hair.

Maggie, he thought. Maggie was a good name.

He knew a Maggie once. With her breath that faintly smelled like pickles. She had pawed at him at the bar until he bought her a White Zinfandel and then fucked her in the back alley next to the rotting dumpster.

“Will I see you again?” She breathed at him as she struggled to find the legs of her panties. He never should have taken them off, he remembered thinking.

He suddenly wanted a burger.

“Yeah, sure, whatever. When I’m in town next.” He took a swig of the bourbon bottle the bartender had slipped him as he sauntered back inside.

So Maggie it was. She had been eager. He liked that.

He had had a great show that night, played a couple new songs. Audience went wild.

He propped the doll up in front of him, to see her in his work lamp light.

The door flew open- light poured in. “Yo, Frank, man, I’ve been calling and calling you…what the…” Jones- Frank’s manager- stopped in mid-sentence as he scanned the room.

There had to be a hundred hand painted dolls lining the room. There were so many that the shelves could no longer hold them and blank eyes caught the light as they looked up at him from the floor. So many eyes.

“What’s going on, man? You ok?” Jones finally tore his eyes from the dolls to Frank.

He hovered over Maggie, paintbrush working his magic.

“I’ve really never been better, Jones.”

Jones sucked in his breath. Maybe he was joking. “Uh…you playing tonight?”

Frank didn’t look up. “Troubadour.”

Jones nodded. “Good, good.” He hesitated. “We really need you to start getting back out there.”

Frank chuckled under his breath. “I have a packed show tonight, man. What more do you want?”

He took one more look around, then Jones headed for the door. “Ok, Frank…ok.” He was almost outside when he stopped. “You’d tell me if everything was alright?”

“This is Maggie,” he said, ignoring Jones’ last statement. “She’s new with us tonight.” He brushed down the crinoline of her white dress.

Jones quietly shut the door behind him.

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

Frank walked out on stage, lights blinding. He stumbled a bit, from the scotch, but he managed to pick up the mic.

“Welcome, everybody. It’s good to see all of you again.” He started to play one of his most popular songs.

Jones took a swig of his beer at his place at the bar. He looked past the two other people in the place to see Frank, lost in his mind, lost in his song.

“I’ll have another.”

K: Is the segment after the break necessary? I think we’ve all got it pretty well figured out by then. Regardless, this one really did take the prompt to a different level, with a lead character who is completely lost and depressing, but not wholly impossible to believe. SILVER

MN – Man, this is excellent. I wasn’t sure the last scene was needed at first, but without it, I kind of imagined him playing to his dolls, and that wouldn’t have been nearly so poignant as what you actually gave us. The words “his manager” could have been cut, especially because you really did show us that relationship as it developed, and telling us broke the flow, ever so slightly. That’s such a tiny little thing though, as this was simply amazing. Just wow. GOLD

Danyel Logue, Phone Call
“I’m telling you, Dave, this last roadtrip nearly killed me,” George sipped a Johnny Walker Black on the rocks. Years on the road had left him looking like an old leather shoe.
George sat in Dave’s parlor, decorated with hunter greens and mallards. Behind George, Dave looked through drawers and shelves, searching for something.
“These girls, wow, they sure aren’t what they used to be; they just keep getting younger. They don’t just wanna party all night; they’ll go for three days straight. I don’t think I can keep up anymore.”
“How do you feel now?”
“Exhausted. Old. But I swear to you, I still get that rush when I’m out there— and not just from the coke— ya know? When I step on stage, they still look at me like I’m 19 years old. Hell, they still ride me like I’m 19 years old.” George flashes a jagged smile into his drink.
“I’ve been thinking about you, ya know?”
“Well what the hell for? I’m fine. These old bones just wanna complain. You think if Frank were still around, he’d believe we were still selling out shows? 20 years later, God rest his soul?” George leaned down to the coffee table to snort a casual line.
“Frank’s been gone a long time…”
“I know that! That’s what I just said, dammit! Good riddance; he didn’t have it in him, to live this life. The road’s what killed him.” George looked out the window into a mostly empty parking lot, puzzled “What happened to your garage, Dave? You finally put the ole’ Rolls out to pasture? We aren’t making enough for you, anymore?”
“Dave’s been gone a long time, too, Daddy…”
George slowly turned around. A young woman in her thirties bent down to meet his eyes.
“God, you have the most beautiful eyes,” whispered George, with tears in his own.
“Oh, daddy, you always called me your Moon Girl,” the woman smiled gently, clutching his hand. “Hi, there; it’s me, Marie. Welcome back.”
George looked around the room. The parlor was gone along with the taxidermic ducks. A lamp dimly lit up the small private room, illuminating a painting of mallards on a pond above a small bed.
“What is this?” George tried to stand, but realized he was fastened into a wheelchair. He began thrashing about.
Suddenly, a large nurse appeared. She helped Marie hold him down and soothe him.
“It’s ok, Daddy; I’m here. You’ve just forgotten a few things. It’s alright.”
“How long? How long?” he cried.
“It’s ok, Georgie,” the nurse calmly cooed. “We’re old friends; you been with me now for eight years. Now let’s just settle down and I’ll bring you some dinner.”
George relaxed, but his head was jumbled and full of blank space. He reached for his drink, trying to calm his nerves. He took a sip. Apple juice.

K: I actually prefer the vibe we had going early, although it’s hard to say something like “stick to that” when I know the early part only existed to get to the ending. Given what we have – a second straight story where an old rocker has lost his grip on reality – it’s another strong entry, and sad in the proper ways, though it might be more impactful if the audience is in on the truth from the beginning. Though, watch for tense changes. BRONZE

MN – There’s something about the fact that George has someone to look after him that makes me more interested in his story than maybe I would otherwise be. You didn’t go for “rock legend in the gutter” you went for “rock legend out to pasture” and that’s a much more interesting story. The transition is a bit sudden, but I imagine it probably would be for George too, so that’s something that works where it might not otherwise. BRONZE

Jordan Graham, Hidden Legends
He had been tracking the rounds and habits of the nurses for a week when he finally decided to make his escape.

I’m Harvey Fucking Paicely, John thought. No prison can hold me.

“John, right?” said the plump nurse, entering his room, holding one cup full of water and another full of pills.

Someone new, he thought. Might have to improvise.

“I don’t need no fucking pills!” John screamed, smacking the woman’s hands, sending the water and pills tumbling to the floor. “Don’t you know who I am?”

The nurse let out a long sigh. First patient of the morning and it already wasn’t going well.

“Yeah, you’re John Nicolai,” she said. “What of it?”

John’s phone rang. As he shooed the nurse away, he picked up the receiver with his purple-veined hand, wincing for a moment at the sight of his own paleness.

“Dad, that you?” said the voice.

“Yeah,” answered John. “What do you want now, Sean?”

“You won’t believe it!” Sean said. “We we’re going through some old boxes in the attic and we came across some mint-condition Agent Paicely watches. Still in the boxes and everything. There must be $15,000 worth of collectors’ items in there.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, and I just wanted to let you know that we’re gonna get rid of it. Ashley and I are gonna go to Italy in a couple months, and, well, we’re a bit light on cash these days.”

“You gonna bring it by here later?” John asked, a slim smile creeping across his face. “Wanna sort through it together?”

“Ahhhh, pops, this week’s no good. Maybe early next month, we could visit? Wait, no, that’s Ashley’s friends birthday. A few weeks after?”

Sure, John said, and hung up the phone. It didn’t matter when they came, he thought. He’d be long gone by then anyhow.

John peered out his door and saw Bernice waddle to the end of the hallway and turn. Now, he thought, slinking out his door to the right. Soon, he knew, he’d be back with his adoring public, surrounded by fans.

The sun beat down on John’s thin skin as he trudged through the Oakford Mall parking lot and into the relief of air-conditioned building. This is where the people were, he thought. And he began to walk around.

As the morning turned to afternoon, he could see a group of girls in the distance talking and pointing.

Damn right, he thought. I’m Harvey Fucking Paicely.

“Oh my god! It IS you!” the girl with the big tits and tight beige halter top Said, striding in his direction.

Finally, a fan, he thought. Time to bask in the light once more.

“Do you know where you are, sir?” she said. “Are you lost? I saw your face on TV a half hour ago. They said you had gone missing. Said you might be confused.”

John frowned.

His spit rebounded off the girl’s flushed cheek and onto the pavement.

I’m Harvey Fucking Paicely, he thought, walking as fast as he could in the opposite direction, losing himself among the packs of patrons at the busy mall.

K: So…THREE straight stories with entertainers long past their sanity. Huh. The conversations seemed like quick devices to tell the story; I’d have to think John’s son would have been a lot more careful with his words when he announced his intentions to sell. I also don’t know if this character, as explained, is likely to have his wits about him enough to escape. BRONZE

MN – I like this story, and I like the character and the world you’ve built. I once wrote a spy-in-a-home story for Survivor, so I have some love for this approach. It’s fun to see this guy out and about. But is 20 words over the limit too much? I don’t know. I do know that I counted because it felt a little too long, and this is one time where just a little bit less would have been a whole lot more.

Pete Bruzek, PRADAZ
There had been hints before the Café, but the human mind has ways of avoiding unpleasant truths. He hadn’t gotten a big role in a year or two, but the sitcoms paid the bills, and Larry said that he had gotten some big offers in the past week or two. Warren’s star still shone.
Warren didn’t mind the jaws (all agape) or the attention (all swooning), it just got tiring after a while. A ballcap, a pair of dark (but not “look! I’m hiding!” dark) glasses – Warren had become excellent at keeping a low profile.
The Café appearance was supposed to build Kitten Cancer Awareness or something. In reality, it was a shameless plug for his recurring role on…well, he couldn’t remember the show’s name, but it was terrible and wouldn’t last the season. The cast was going to be there, and Warren felt an obligation to go. Besides, this was helpful face time. He was saving kittens. What a great guy.
He made sure to appear fifteen minutes early. The doorman gave him a quizical look as he approached, but said nothing and opened the door for him. The rest of the crew hadn’t arrived, so he decided to go up to the counter and order a coffee. The barista smiled pleasantly as she took his order, a hint of recognition playing at the corners of her eyes. Warren had always enjoyed that quick sparkle in people’s eyes, especially if they were polite enough to wordlessly acknoledge it and let him go about his life. Five minutes later, he was sitting at one of the tables, coffee in hand.
A half an hour had passed, and there was still no trace of anyone. Warren grew impatient.
“Excuse me, miss” he motioned to the barista, “do you know when the kitten cancer thing is happening?”
The girl looked mildly horrified, “the what, now?” she asked.
“Kittens? Cancer? Being aware of kittens with cancer?”
“I’m…I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Let me go get my manager.”
Warren watched as the girl talked with a man in a nice suit. He couldn’t make out what they were saying, but the girl kept casting worried glances his way. Eventually, the manager approached.
“I’m sorry, Mr….”
“Davis? Warren Davis.”
“Yes. I’m sorry Mr. Davis, but we don’t have any record of there being any sort of awareness campaign” the manager said, looking unsure of how to proceed, “do you need any help getting home?”
“What? No. I need to be here. I need to do this.”
“Do you have any family we can call?”
Warren stared back at the man with a knit brow, “No, I don’t need you to call anyone, and if this is the way you’re going to treat me, I’m going to leave.”
With that, Warren picked up his coat, grabbed his cane and walked out of the Café.
“Who was that?” asked the manager.
“I dunno” shrugged the barista, “he kind of looked like my grandpa, though.”

K: So…FOUR straight stories with former stars that have lost their grip on reality. Warren is more interesting because he isn’t clinically diagnosed as being mentally divergent or whatnot, but the thoughts he shares with us are more nudge-nudge crazy than believably crazy. Or to put it another way, more “look at me! I’m hiding!” than actually hiding.

MN – I really want to know where the kitten cancer thing is! This is unreliable narrator through and through, and you nailed that. It’s not easy to do. I think if you’d stayed with Warren through the end, it would have felt more natural – we certainly got that she didn’t really know who Warren was without her coming out and saying it. Hard to know where that balance between too much and not enough is, especially in Turbo. Like I said, you nailed the narrator, and that put it together for us. BRONZE

Zack Sauvageau, PRADAZ
Carissa checked her lipstick in the mirror. No smudges. She picked up the card and read it again: “Happy anniversary, babe. I have a special surprise planned, so be ready by 6. You best look good. xxx J”
This was the first anniversary they were able to line up a sitter and actually be able to celebrate in many years. James rarely surprised her anymore, so she was hoping that this would help break them out of the rut they’d been in.
It was 6:11 when James pulled up. Carissa got in the car and they kissed. “Buckle up, babe. It’s going to be a little while before we get there.”
Carissa couldn’t believe that James got on the highway to leave town. She was super excited now. Despite being 45 minutes from the city, they basically never went. She found their little town oppressive and boring, but James loved it. You’re probably obligated to love your town when they name a street after you…
“Where are we going?” Carissa asked excitedly.
“I told you, it’s a surprise. I’m not going to ruin it.”
When they finally arrived at their destination, Carissa gasped. “Risé! You’re taking me to Risé!?” For the last six months, Carissa had been hearing endlessly about how good this new-American bistro was. If it was hard to convince James to leave town, it was next to impossible to convince him to try new foods. She was convinced that the Old Country Buffet was the only place they’d ever go out to eat again.
“Happy anniversary, Carissa.” They held hands and walked in the door.
“Table for two,” James said to the host.
“And what name was that under?” the host asked as he started scrolling through the reservation list on his iPad.
“Butler. We don’t have a reservation. We just need a table for two.”
Carissa frowned. It was going to happen again.
“Well, Mr. Butler, we are booked solid for the next 3 months.”
“Look, I am James Butler. The star quarterback of Lotown High. The only championship winning Lotown QB. Who beat Montcalm’s ass.”
Carissa fell in love with James the year they won that championship. No one outside of Lotown gave a shit. Yeah, Montcalm was upset when they lost. But that was eleven years ago.
“James, let’s just go.”
“No, God dammit, Cari! I am James Fucking Butler. I’m sure they can find us a seat.”
But their relationship, like James, had been coasting on that for the last eleven years. Another shitty anniversary was just starting.

K: Yeaaahhhh…I know these guys look back to their accomplishments in high school a lot, but the idea that he thinks people several towns over will care just doesn’t fly. A little self-awareness goes a long way toward making someone believable. This is a caricature more than a character – James Butler is the kind of jock that high school nerds really believe exists.

MN – Oh, this is sad. Like, really, really sad. I don’t know if it’s believable that someone could be so deluded, so in that way, it’s funny. But also very sad. The storytelling works well, and the pace is good – we get all of the reveals just as we need them.

Brian David, Hidden Legends
Jackson grabbed his harmonica and set it in the mouthpiece. He picked up the guitar and adjusted the mic, carefully pointing the diaphragm just underneath the pick guard. He leaned forward.
“Check, check.”
His voice echoed through the barroom, bouncing around the hard-angled walls and steadily rising in sharp feedback through the speakers. Jackson turned his head and covered his ears as the noise became deafening.
“Whoa. Whoa!”
The sound man rushed from the bar and headed to the mixing board, quickly cutting the volume. Jackson raised his hands.
“Dude, what the fuck?!”
The man fidgeted with the knobs without looking up.
“Yeah, sorry about that, Jackson. Give me just a sec. . .”
Jackson set his guitar in the stand and paced around the stage. He brushed his hands through through his long, gray hair.
“What time is it?”
The kid checked his phone. “10:20, Jackson.”
There were three men sitting at the bar, hovering over their beers while the bartender leaned against the counter. The rest of the room was empty.
“Alright, fuck it.”
Jackson grabbed the guitar, sat on the stool and sidled up to the mic. He began to stamp his feet and blow into the harmonica, strumming heavily on the guitar.

Troubled in mind, I’m a little blue
Bet you, I won’t be blue always
‘Cause that ol’ sun’s gonna shine
On Jerry Lee Lewis’s back door step someday

There were no girls dancing on the floor. There were no label reps talking into their phones. There was no one singing along.
Jackson kicked over a beer that was sitting on the stage, and the liquid began to spread toward the monitors. He stopped playing for a moment and could hear the sound man cursing under his breath.
Then Jackson closed his eyes and stamped his feet louder than before, small drops of beer sprinkling up from the wooden stage.

I’m gonna lay my head
On somebody’s lonesome railroad line
Let that ol’ midnight special
Ease my troubled mind

K: This backdrop is more engaging than most we’ve had, but in the end, the story seems to have been told in the beginning. We know that very few people will show, and that he doesn’t have a lot of fans anymore. That’s kind of the minimum we expect, and the story didn’t do much beyond that.

MN – This is really beautiful. There’s no surprises, but I don’t want there to be. The descriptions you give us are spot on, and the dialogue between Jackson and the sound guy paint the struggle everyone is having with this situation. I love the lyrics too. Nice addition. GOLD

Joseph Rakstad, Hidden Legends
I slammed back another oxycodone chased by some Jack Daniels.

The crowd volume made even the locker room vibrate. Some schmuck in a headset peeked in and told me to get ready. I sucked in a deep breath and pushed it out, doing some deep-knee bends to get the blood flowing. No one out there was expecting me tonight.

I walked down the hallway and recognized only one face, that of Big Bad Duke Malloy, an old fart who was friends of the commissioner. I knew the turnover was bad, but not like this.

The entrance music blared, my adrenaline started to flow. At just the right guitar riff, I flashed out from behind the curtain and the let the pyro announce my presence. I raised my arms in victory.

Kids, too young to ride a damned roller coaster lined the path to the ring. All of them scrunched their faces wondering who was this jackass? I saw a few backward hats pointing at me, marking out. I pointed back at them and tried to salvage what I could from the silence. Some of them out there knew who I was. Wish I knew where the rest of them were.

I jumped into the ring and ran to the turnbuckle, climbing it to build up the crowd. I couldn’t figure out why no one recognized me. Who didn’t know about The Jackhammer, Ron Douglas?

Behind me I heard a roar from the crowd. I turned around in delight, sure that the crowed finally came to their senses. A red blur with an outstretched arm collided with my face. What the hell, I thought I was wrestling some guy named Mick Dragon, some newbie to get my feet wet. I struggled to sit up and was met with a kick to the nose. Dammit, who was this asshole? Another foot, and another. Dazed, I rolled to my left, aiming for the floor. I was going to kill Greg for getting me this gig.

The crowd cheered as the red flash grabbed my foot, preventing my escape. He picked me up, threw me against the ropes and whipped a spin kick at me.

I didn’t realize until later that the match ended when I blacked out. It had worked though, I had gotten the new kid over with the crowd. Some crowd.

K: Honestly, pro wrestling is a perfect backdrop for this.prompt; fame can be fleeting and, based on a few documentaries I’ve watched, some of these guys honestly don’t know when their careers are essentially over (that’s what happens in the arts, though; if you love it, you love it). The actual character was mildly believable but one-dimensional.

MN – I’ve commented to people before that I wish I could write unreliable narrators better than I can. I applaud your commitment to this character, and the level of detail you get in here, the richness you’re bringing to the scene. The plot is a little too straightforward to believe this narrator really doesn’t know what’s going on, but the character is believable in every other way, while being completely unreliable. And that’s an accomplishment.

Will Young, For the Love
Even though they’re rolling our projects out separately, Norm, Darrell, and I got to spend the most time together in about twenty years. Darrell, of course, had prepared meticulously. He had the cadence, the posture, and the gravitas you would come to expect. Norm, of course, hadn’t prepared in the slightest. He had the sarcasm, apathy, and bewilderment that makes him such a priceless icon. I was just me.

When I accepted the gig, a few thoughts ran through my head. First, I thought about how much I had adhesive facial hair. Thankfully, the Colonel wasn’t nearly as hairy as Goat Boy. Then, I thought about accents. Darrell’s would be spotless, Norm’s would be non-existent. I thought about sliding somewhere in between, but my range stretches from New York Mafioso to stoned New Yorker. If I had to place an elderly Kentuckian, it seems like the slow drawl would be closer to stoned. It seemed like the right decision because I spent some time getting into character with Norm.

Thanks to my earlier work with Pizza Hut, the Yum! Brands seem to always be wanting more. This project is much more amusing than those ridiculously stupid State Farm commercials, and, frankly, Yum! offers a lot of future options. Always keep working, so they never forget you. That’s what my agent repeats to me, and thankfully it’s true. No one ever remembers Mark McKinney, but the morning zoo in Pittsburgh tells me I can’t be booked enough. It’s good to be in demand.

K: No one remembers Mark McKinney?! Dude, he was a Kid in the Hall, and his SNL run is a total afterthought. Meanwhile, I can’t even remember Darrell’s last name. Regardless, a true story works just fine, although there’s not so much a scene here as a summary. On the upside, it reminded me that Jim Breuer stopped being famous.

MN – I love you for going with this. Comics in decline is maybe the saddest thing there can be, unless we’re laughing at them. Here, you let us laugh at, but also connect with, Jim Breuer, of all people. Crazy.
——————————————————————

That was a good time, gang. Also, please note that I do listen to you; one of you commented to his or her tribe that the time limit wasn’t enough for the prompt and word limit. This is necessary feedback, y’all, and you should let me know how you feel so I can either respond to it or ignore it, depending on how much I care about you as a person.

And now…results that matter! No nonsubs!

The Hidden Legends of Temple Grandin: 3-6-8-1-5-0 = 23/6 = 3.83
Long Distance Phone Call for Friendship: 1-3-4-2 = 10/4 = 2.50
The Devil Wear PRADAZ: 6/0/5/1/0 = 12/5 = 2.40
For the Love of Pete: 0-6-0-5-0 = 11/5 = 2.20

It was a close one, but For the Love of Pete, you are the next to shrink down to four. Send a vote by Friday night at 9pm Central. I’m at work then, and results might be late. Cheers, Survivors.

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