For some reason, I kept forgetting what the prompt was this week. It turns out it was a fairly inspiring prompt, as I thoroughly enjoyed a great many of these and was impressed by much of what you all brought to the table. Particularly, I speak of the comedic realm; for the first time in a very long time my golds only went to comedies. Well, there were only two golds to give out, but whatever.

Good week, gang. Let’s do this.

The Sacrifice.

One or both of the participants in a first date is pretending to like or put up with something that they cannot stand, because otherwise the date is going well.

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WORD LIMIT: 350
TIME LIMIT: 30 minutes

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Brendan Bonham, For the Love of Pete
“And that’s when, like, I decided to become a pediatrician.”
She shoved another handful of tortilla chips in her mouth. Thank god they were free.
“Very interesting,” she responded, plastering on a smile, “speaking of interesting, are you interested in another margarita?”
He looked at her glass and then his, hers empty and his full to the brim. He did it again, eyes darting back and forth, even more puzzled.
“I, uh, no, I think you can kinda go ahead and get one. I have to work tomorrow. Full’a them sick kids, right?
She made bullets at the waiter. After a moment he came over. She ordered another drink, her third. She was happy she lived three blocks up, and that he’d certainly be calling it an early night.
“So Kathy, uh, what is it that, ya’know, you do?”
Another chip purposely chewed and swallowed.
“I’m a linguistics professor at Stony Brook.”
“Well,” he smiled, lifting his drink in a toast, “ain’t that somethin’?”
Each error was like an imprecise knife butchering butter. “That’s how you use ‘like,’ you ass,” she couldn’t help but think. Each improper contraction, all the filler words, the malapropisms– he was ripping out, one by one, bricks of a church so carefully laid over hundreds of years of careful diction. When, over the phone, he said he wanted to come to Salsa N’ Salsa because they do “flamingo” dancing on Wednesdays, she was certain it was a mistake—he was a doctor! No, now she was certain he was a moron doctor.
On the other hand, he had great teeth, a great job, and she hadn’t been laid in forever. She was an educator, why couldn’t she just educate him?
She hadn’t noticed the awkward silence until he broke it:
“So,” he smiled, making just great eye contact, “I guess for all intensive purposes, we’re both doctors, ya’know?”
She took a long draw of the margarita and thought about where she could get condoms on the way home.

K: I was already loving this dynamic and “intensive purposes” put it over the top. I love the subtle move of placing an ‘n’ in the name of the place where they’re eating. I was in the position of the teacher a couple of times, way back…I certainly remember the sad feeling of knowing I’d forgive a lot for the sake of seeing someone naked. SILVER

MN – This nailed the necessary jokes, but missed for me on a story level, because you’re telling us her motivations instead of showing them, and in so doing we lose what might be otherwise believable desperation. I laughed pretty hard at “moron doctor” though.

Joshua Longman, The Hidden Legends of Temple Grandin
“I can’t believe after all of these years I never knew you were a beer lover!”, Todd exclaimed as they strolled through crowded pavilion housing the 3rd Annual Beerchus festival.
“Me? Pssch, I totally love it! I don’t know how you never noticed. My favorite is Kettlehouse.”, Leslie replied, the lie rolling off her lips easily. She had found Kettlehouse on a list of the top 10 microbreweries and hoped her comment made her seem seasoned. In reality she had a glass of merlot maybe once a week while watching reruns of Gilmore Girls.
“Hmm, haven’t heard of that one. Hey, what’s that?” he said as he took her by the arm and headed toward a scotch-IPA table. “Yeeah! I heard these guys make a fuckin’ awesome brew, it’s made in scotch barrels!”. He offered her a cup; the concept alone made her stomach turn, but those cerulean eyes she’d long stared at from across her desk made her reconsider. She gulped it down, masking an involuntary cringe.
“Anyway, like I was saying earlier, Cactus is such a screwball! I took him to the dog park the other day and he peed all over a Chihuahua!” she yelled over the raucous noise of the crowd.
“Uh, huh. Hey, sorry, I gotta piss. I’ll be right back, OK?”
Man, she never shuts up about that goddam dog. Let’s just get this over with, Todd thought as he flushed the toilet and headed back to find her.
“Hey, I’m feeling a little queasy, do you mind if we take off?” She yelled over the din.
“Yeah, sure. Wanna head back to your place?”
“Sure! I just need to get away from all these people I think.”
Back at her place, she headed to the bathroom to freshen up.
Finally, time to see what quiet little Leslie is made of! Todd thought as he undressed on her pillowy, immaculate bed. While taking off his socks the door crept open. Hearing a menacing growl he looked up and saw a hulking, angry Cactus. The Doberman snapped his jaws at him menacingly.
“….sssssshhhhhhhhit.” He mumbled.

K: Doesn’t like beer? Dude, she’s not worth the time you’re investing. The first line is too awkward and sounds like exposition; it’s clear you wanted to get out the fact that they’ve known each other for a while, but having one character say it in this way is a bit unrealistic. Outside of that, I like that we have two very different characters here; I’d just spend a little less time explicitly telling us what they’re thinking, and more showing us through their actions and words. BRONZE

MN – 2 in, and I’m wondering if these stories don’t work as well when both characters are sacrificing something? I probably would have taken that approach too, but I think with this word count we don’t get close enough to either character to really root for or against them. The jump from her perspective to his really breaks this story in two unfortunately. I really really liked the first half at least.

Shawn Ashley, Hidden Legends

He’s cute, I thought, as I watched him run around to open my door. His perfect hair. His eyebrows probably a little too shapely for a straight man. I pushed the thought away. He was cuuuuute.

“M’lady,” he said with a smile that only turned up in one corner. He offered his hand to me and whisked me away like a princess.

In my life I hadn’t been in a restaurant this nice. I was from a small town- the best restaurant was Ma Gormley’s, serving up Tater Tot Hot Dish as the nightly special.

He grinned at me over the top of the menu. “I’ll order for us.” I happily agreed. I couldn’t read a word of it anyway.

As we waited for food that I couldn’t pronounce, I was swept up in his stories. He loosened his tie- boy, did I want that off. I pictured his crisp Tom Ford button-down wrapped around me after an evening of sweaty coitus.

“Enjoy.” I heard the waiter and was pulled out of my fantasy. I looked down at my plate.

Filled with raw fish and what looked like a black kooshball.

He looked at me, proud of his ordering accomplishments. I should have told him that I was mildly allergic…but those eyes, blue pools of promising sex…I picked up my fork, made a silent prayer.

The first cut I made was into a brightly colored flesh- tuna, I think he had declared- but I couldn’t remember now.

I chewed for a long time, as I nodded. Pretended to listen to whatever he was telling me. I knew that I had to swallow. I had to.

But oh god, I couldn’t. My throat caught the now minced, fishy blob and wouldn’t let it go down.

I closed my eyes. It will go down.

As it did, I felt the reflex start, my stomach churned. No. No, please don’t throw up.

Just as it came up, up, up, I swallowed hard and pushed it back down.

“Good, isn’t it?” He slipped a chopstick-full between his lips.

“Mmmmmm, yes! You were saying?”

K: I expected a bigger payoff, but in hindsight I think this is a pretty fair ending. Will her allergies fight her? It would be easy to ask why she didn’t mention her allergy before, but given this girl’s small-town background and will to be this man’s princess, I found it fairly easy to believe she’d just get swept up in all of it. I really liked reading this character; she was given a complete identity without the benefit of many words. SILVER

MN – Even as a fairly routine scene, this works pretty well for me, and a few very funny lines peppered throughout really bring it together. I take some issue with the phrase “mildly allergic” because you’re not cluing the reader into the real problem… I kept thinking her throat was swelling up, but it was just the disgust, really. BRONZE

Jordan Graham, Hidden Legends

The smell hit her before she even saw him, and Kelly knew the date was over.

That same cologne from back….then. And now it was dancing off the neck of this handsome hunk.

He stared in her eyes, extended her hand, and her heart pounded.

“Hi,” the man said, towering above her, “I’m Jeff. I’m so glad Cheryl finally set this up.”

“YES!” Kelly exclaimed nervously, rubbing both her elbows simultaneously, failing to meet his grasp. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Her hand shot out like a gun, and he met it with an oversized palm, warm and gentle. His hand enveloped hers, and made her feel small.

A midday date in the park was safe, she thought. It was cold nonetheless, the icicles hanging from a nearby statue and the pines beyond – but she preferred it this way.

“Want to take a stroll?” Jeff asked.

And she did.

Down busy Fourth Street they walked, looking at the antiques, then the Christmas windows at Sapphire’s and a cup of coffee to follow. His cheeks flushed red in the icy breeze, as they sat on the store bench among the holiday shoppers and talked.

Family. Jobs. Aspirations. He wanted to see Madagascar one day, he said. She agreed.

And the joke, something about a porcupine on a date, she hadn’t laughed that hard in years.

But there was the smell, always infiltrating her nostrils when she came within a foot or two. Why was she sitting so far away, he asked, and moved closer.

The holiday lights buzzed as the snow began to fall, and Jeff leaned in.

And then, all of a sudden, she was back there, in that room, in the dark, helpless beneath that smell.

Jeff called after her as she hurried away.

Kelly slowly climbed the stairs to her floor of the two-flat, and entered her kitchen.

Pushing aside the bleach and the dish soap and the carpet cleaner, she soon found what she was looking for – a small bottle of Calvin Klein One.

And as she held the open vessel under her nose, she began to cry.

K: Aaaaahhh. Well done here. You never overexplained, and I found her actions to be realistic at every turn, and you deftly avoided a melodramatic meltdown, allowing the reader to put together the pieces of her hurtful backstory. SILVER

MN – This one touches on something very real, but it’s a bit too jumbled to really come together for me. The start is really the end, but then you go too long before bringing it up again. The use of the word “nonetheless”… doesn’t work. But this has some real darkness to it that does work, and I’m glad some drama was brought to this challenge.

Joseph Rakstad, Hidden Legends

“Get yer own damn ketchup!” Deb yelled at us after giving us our burgers. I was lucky my plate didn’t skitter off the table. Paula offered to get up and get the ketchup for us. I watched her as she walked away. It was pure magic.
She approached the table and threw the bottle my way, me barely reacting in time to catch it, albeit with a few juggles. I sank my teeth into my bacon double cheese. The juices ran down my chin and throat. I moaned. Ed Debevic’s was a great suggestion.
“Hey, wanna go halvsies?” She suggested as she grabbed a knife and started to cut her grilled Reuben in half. I paused. Time stood still. The last time I ate corned beef I nearly hurled my lunch all over my cousin. And don’t even ask about sauerkraut. She slowly picked up half of her sandwich, and started to put it on my plate.
“Nah-uh!” I mumbled, my mouth still full of angus awesomeness. Swallowing, I continued, “Eat yer own damn sandwich!”
Paula recoiled. Then her mouth curled into a frown. I could see my night death spiraling into oblivion. I had to act fast.
I broke into laughter. “Ha! I’m just kidding. Of course I’ll share with you!” I hoped that I didn’t come across too insincere. I grabbed my knife and proceeded to cut my delicious, savory, applewood smoked bacon cheddar cheese half pound burger, and offered the slightly smaller portion to Paula.
She took a bite and moaned in bliss at the taste of the meat medley. I nodded in agreement. “Right!”
She returned a smile. “Mmm-hmm… I definitely like yours better.”
Heh… Me too honey. Me too.

K: I like the less obvious date setting here, and always relish the chance to read about a couple of rednecks for some reason. This crisis was introduced and resolved awfully quickly, though, so mostly it was a simple slice of life. A nice one, yes, but I’m not sure it has the impact of some previous stories. BRONZE

MN – These are quite the characters. And this kind of dilemma is one I can get behind. A bit too much telling instead of showing, but it’s all fun. An absurd metaphor or two would have topped it off perfectly. BRONZE

erik sunshine, for the love

Susie thanked the waiter after he had filled her glass for the second time. She normally didn’t drink so much, but she was so nervous that her hand kept reaching for the glass for something to keep it occupied.

They’d been hanging out with the same group for so long that Susie didn’t ever think she could get him to herself. But, thanks to some sly maneuvering and subtle suggestion, she was finally able to spend some time alone.

He casually looked up from his meal to find Susie staring intently at him, beaming. His eyebrows slightly scrunched up in mild bemusement, then turned back to his dinner.

Susie didn’t know how it happened. They’d all been hanging out for so long together that she’d never even considered it. Just, one day, the light had hit his face just right, and she instantly knew she was in love. Susie wasn’t sure how or why, but she just felt, no, knew that he was everything that she wanted the man in her life to be.

And now, for the first time, here they were. Alone together.

Then, that same dark cloud that had been hovering in her mind for days unleashed a new torrent of despair. They would be so amazing together, but for that one thing. Taking another sip from her glass, she frowned slightly while watching him continue his meal.

One thing. Just one thing keeping her from happiness. Why did he have to have that one thing that she seemingly couldn’t get past? Could she live with it? Could she live with herself?

A dropped wine glass across the room caused his head to involuntarily shoot over, looking for the source of the commotion. She saw his face in profile: the light stubble, the firm line of jaw, and she instantly knew.

She already knew what everyone would say. She knew she could get past it; they could get past it.

He turn back to her love-struck gaze.

“Um, you okay, Sus?” he asked. “You’ve been acting kind of strange.”

“I’m fine,” she said, smiling. “Everything’s fine, Dad.”

K: I knew this was going to have a groaner of an ending, the way that danged near the whole story was exposition, running in place. If you’re going to pay off a story in this way – and to be sure, it isn’t the first time – we need characters that seem real and complete; with what we have here, it all seems like a device to get to a punchline that isn’t satisfactory enough for the time invested.

MN – Eeeewwww. Eew. Eew. So much set up. So much belabored, unspecific, needless, repetitive, agonizing set up. So well executed. I’m slowly clapping. Eeew. BRONZE

Annette Barron, The Devil Wear PRADAZ

Marley:

Wow, he’s super hot! When does that happen? When Britt told me she had the perfect man for me, I automatically eye-rolled. But she had pictures and he’s an architect; I pretty much had to go.

I weaved my way through the tables at The Melting Pot, ridiculously pleased that I ultimately decided on the short skirt and lacy top and not the jeans and tee shirt I started out with. He stood as I approached and held my chair (no one does that anymore). He has a great beard. God, I’m a sucker for facial hair.

Jim:

Oh man, those legs . . . don’t stare. Long, long legs in a tiny skirt and a shirt playing peek-a-boo. Britt gets flowers tomorrow, for sure. The restaurant was her idea too, but seriously? Fondue? Was she fucking with me? It was all I could do to leave my hand sanitizer in the car.

“I ordered the bread and vegetable pot, I hope you don’t mind.” I look into her warm, green eyes.

Marley:

Oh fuck, cheese. “Sounds great!” I can do this. Just can’t linger or have dessert. I’m in for a miserable night, but his smile makes me want to take him home (zero chance of that). My roommate is going to suffer.

Jim:

She genuinely listens to me and draws me out. I’m talking about myself and we’re laughing. But really, how do people stand eating like this? It’s disgusting. I steel myself not to shudder. At least she’s not double dipping; I’ll freak out if she does.

During the main course, I’m able to relax a little. The silverware appears to be clean and the glassware is spotless. Nothing to set me off, thank god. We’ve read and loved the same books. I want to slide my hands up those tanned thighs.

Marley:

My digestive tract is sending me a DEFCON 1 alert. He’s so charming, but there is no time. Like Cinderella, I’m going to have to bolt. He looks bewildered when I mumble about a deadline; so I kiss him, (with tongue) and take off at a dead run.

K: I was very much hoping for a story where both characters were putting up with the exact same thing, while assuming the other was on board. I think there’s a future for these two, and that makes me happier than I care to admit. I do wish they’d discovered this and had a laugh about the venue, but all the same, it was fun to live in each of their heads a little. BRONZE

MN – I appreciate the risk you took with the format, but I don’t think the execution quite worked out. We’re not close enough inside their heads, and their thoughts don’t sound quite enough like thoughts for it to have the effect you wanted. But you’ve brought two characters with legitimate issue and we end up rooting for their possibility as a couple.

Zack Sauvageau, PRADAZ

About a block from Jennifer’s house, she turned and asked Ryan if he wanted to stop in at Darneaux Creamery.

“It will be a perfect end to a great night! And we can talk a little longer. I’m really glad you swiped right, Ryan.”

They had both recently left long-term relationships, so a sleepover was not at all in the cards. Ryan was fine with this, but he didn’t want the night to end either.

“Sure, let’s head in.”

A man with a well-groomed mustache greeted them as they walked in the door. “Welcome to Darneaux, Jennifer! And who is your friend?” His name tag said Bradford.

“This is Ryan,” she said. She felt her cheeks got hot when she said his name.

“Has he been here before?” Bradford asked.

“I haven’t, actually, but I’ve heard good things,” Ryan said.

“Well Ryan, we serve only the finest, hand churned artisanal ice cream here. I even milk the grass-fed cows myself,” Bradford said proudly.

Jennifer excitedly asked what today’s special flavor was.

“Blackberry and clover honey swirl with some crumbled honeycomb for crunch,” Bradford said.

“That’s what I want! What about you, Ryan?”

Ryan thought that sounded good, but wouldn’t be a very good idea. “Do you have any sorbet?”

Bradford scoffed. Ryan noticed. “Only when we have strawberries in season. But we do have 9 other flavors today if you don’t want the special.”

It wasn’t the flavors, they all sounded delicious. It was his god damn lactose intolerance.

“C’mon don’t be a drag, Ryan! Have some ice cream with me!”

Ryan hesitated. As long as he had her home within about an hour, he would be able to stave off the worst until he got home. She was smiling at him, and he couldn’t resist.

“Ah what the hell, I’ll take the caramel fudge chunk.”

K: Huh…I guess the whole “I can’t eat this, but whatever” backdrop is harder to avoid than I thought. There’s nothing wrong with this and I felt pretty immersed in it thanks to the language, though the similarities between this and some previous works don’t help any of them.

MN – After the first two stories had characters angling for a hook up and nothing else, I was afraid we’d see too much of that. I like the way this one adds some character depth by avoiding that exact scenario. (Also, I’m a prude)(Well… I was before I was married)(Stop making this about me!). The point is, you have more fully realized characters here, which makes their actions seem more believable. In most of these stories, I don’t see why the characters wouldn’t just be honest. Here, there feels like there’s maybe some real reason behind it. I like that. SILVER

Bret Highum, For the Love

His eyes were so beautiful, Heidi thought as they gazed at each other.
Her hair is so beautiful, Bradley thought, holding the door for her as they left her house.

Then they got to his vehicle and he walked around her to open the car door, beaming in pride at his gleaming, spectacular Phantom.

“I’m not riding in that,” Heidi stated flatly, tossing her glorious hair defiantly.

Bradley deflated visibly, his beautiful eyes drooping sadly.

“It’s a Rolls Royce! Pinnacle of British engineering!” Bradley exclaimed. “I…I…I don’t understand,” he mumbled dejectedly, even as he marveled at her figure.

“I don’t ride in foreign cars,” Heidi informed him, though she almost changed her mind, seeing how dejected he was. “It’s a long story, but I just can’t.”

Bradley wasn’t going to let this setback stop him, though his curiosity was roused. “Well,” he offered, “There’s a nice cafe a few blocks over, if you don’t mind walking?”

Heidi considered briefly, surprised how quickly he could accept her idiosyncrasies, and then flashed a glorious dimpled smile and reached out her hand.

Bradley blanched slightly, but forced himself to reach out and take her cool, slightly clammy hand. He was going to have to get out the bleach when he got home.

K: She won’t get into a foreign car? Does she have something against surviving? Anyway, I think the characters were altogether far too explicit with their feelings for this to be a first date; a little subtext goes a long way. I also felt like we were just getting started with the good stuff when it ended.

MN – This is another one where we don’t get quite close enough to either character to really get them and their issues. You don’t tell too much, which is good, you just let their quirks exist. The dialogue works well. Knowing a bit more about Bradley’s issue earlier would have helped a bit too.

Colin Woolston, Long Distance Phone Call for Friendship

Aaron felt a slight twitch in his right eye. Not like a full blown twitch that needs to be masked as an errant eyelash, just a gentle pulse. A knock on the door from his overclocked and overloaded mind.
There was another awkward silence.
“So.” He elongated the O too long and the awkwardness kicked up a notch.
“Yeah. Um. Do you listen to podcasts?” She began the end-of-sentence pitch incline too early, and the sentence ended at a strained pitch somewhere north of ridiculous. He watched as her perfect lips peeled back from her gorgeous, straight teeth in something like a grimace, and Aaron knew she felt as awkward as he did. He felt a burning need to reassure her that he, that he what? That he was better than he was being?
“Yes. Sometimes. I really dug the recent piece on that book Negroland,” He watched her wince as he pronounced the title of the book with an out-of-nowhere Texan twang, “ the one by that Margo Jefferson lady?”
“I loved that one!” She recoiled from her own too-loud voice at the same velocity and subtle distance as Aaron did, and he imagined a small afterimage between their heads like a cyan, purple and lime-green apple.
“Me too!” He exclaimed. He almost dropped his head in shame. He did drop his eyes.
“Um.” She paused with her mouth open, her lips just barely coming together, beginning to welcome a lovely vowel or consonant to the world. She looked up at him and he raised his eyes at the same time.
There it was. The connection he had felt when they first saw each other. A cool, soft rain on his mind, and a gravity that firmly, inexorably set him squarely inside himself. A recognition. He watched as her shoulders dropped from her ears, and she exhaled, mouth still slightly open. She sat up a little straighter.
“I’m glad you invited me out.”
“Me too.”

K: I fucking love these two nerds. I giggled with glee throughout this story as they obsessed over the most insignificant crap imaginable; I immediately believed the two of them despite their crushing inability to have a normal conversation with someone they’ve just met. It’s weird…while I never had a big belly laugh, this is all the same one of the best and most enjoyable experiences I’ve had reading a comedic piece around here. I also adore you for giving them the final moment; these two are going to be just fine together. GOLD

MN – This is my favorite. You just keep throwing the punches and they keep having a bigger and better effect. We can love these characters because of their imperfections and their struggles and their eventual triumph. Great use of language and nice job breaking down the awkwardness in very technical, but readable ways. GOLD

Brooks Maki, Phone Call

Peter reached the top of the trail, where it opened into an expansive view of the clear mountain lake and realized that he’d been wasting his time in graduate school.

Molly reached the top of the trail, about 2 minutes after Peter had. She glanced at the confetti of Peter’s poetry scattered on the hill and laughed at Peter standing with his arms outstretched. “I’m not used to a view like this on my first date.”

Peter seemed not to have heard. He realized now that his sister was only testing the boundaries that he put up because she needed reassurance that he loved her.

Molly tried again. “It’s so quiet, how far away do you think the nearest person is?”

Peter realized that his own life was one long “fuck you” to his father. He looked at Molly and said gravely “Fuck you, Dad. I’m in a beautiful place with a beautiful woman, and that’s enough.”

Molly smiled and shrugged and snuggled into his outstretched arms. “I guess fuck you, Peter’s dad.”

K: So…Peter knows they’re siblings, and Molly doesn’t? Or are they half-siblings? There’s some interesting language here and I really like the first sentence’s explanation of beauty, but this one leaves some necessary words on the table that could have cleared up the question.

MN – Wait… so are they, or aren’t they, siblings? There seem to be conflicting implications. If that was your intent… imply siblings, then reveal not… I think that first one needed to be stronger. I really like that character here, and I think he’s got some very interesting backstory – it might approach a cliche, but it doesn’t quite get there – and the fact that you just give us peeks adds to the scene we’re seeing now.

Melissa Diamond, Phone Call

“It’s my favorite ,” she said, as the waiter brought a plate of pecan pie.
Nate watched the waiter slide the plate in front of Angie. Her smile was perfect–straight teeth, soft red lips, and that dimple in her right cheek. Her eyes lit when she smiled, and that pecan pie caused a hell of a lighting ceremony.
She took a bite. Savored it. “Back home, pecans symbolize luck,” she said, “and you know what?”
“What?” he asked, doing his best to ignore the stirring in his pants.
“Well…I feel like we’re really clicking here. Is that weird of me to say?”
“No, I feel that, too. You’re incredible.”
She laughed. She’d laughed a lot this evening, and it wasn’t the fake I-found-you-on-Tindr-and-you-looked-cute-but-now-I-realize-you’re-a-one-night-stand laugh. He had a chance here.
The silence built between them. He put a hand out, rested it on hers. She pointed at the pie with her fork. “We should both eat this. For luck. For us.” She bit her bottom lip, and now her foot was creeping up the side of his leg. He wish that pie wasn’t tied to so many benefits.
She held out a forkful for him.
He did his best to look delighted and ate it.
She changed seats, sitting next to him and bringing the plate closer to him. He couldn’t tell if it was hard to breathe because she was so close to him or because pecans were evil. She ate the last bite of pie and licked at her lips. She put a hand on one of his thighs. Breathing was definitely getting heavier.
The waiter brought the check. She paid it. A good sign.
She turned to him. “Let’s go to my place,” she said.
He sucked in as deep a breath as he could.
“I’ll call a cab,” she said.
“No,” he said, as white spots burst in front of his eyes. “Call 911.”

K: More allergy-related stories! This one really does cross the line; nut allergies are not to be trifled with, and I just don’t know if this character gave me reason to believe he’d overlook it to impress this girl.

MN – This scene executes quite well what a lot of the stories attempted. And reading it makes me realize that I feel like this challenge needed stories where characters were putting up with character flaws, not… allergies. Because who would willingly eat something they’re allergic to? Who wouldn’t be honest in those situations? Anyway, this one executes the idea better than most. SILVER

Pete Bruzek, PRADAZ

As it turned out, LaRoche’s was a great place to take a date. The lighting was exquisite, and the live jazz band was blazing hot.

“This band is blazing hot!” Sandy said, gazing in awe at the bass player as he dexterously plucked the strings.

Brian’s eye twitched for a moment. Had she…? No, he decided, that was obviously impossible.

With picture perfect timing, the waiter came to discuss the evening’s dessert menu. Crème brûlée was LaRoche’s specialty, and Brian’s mouth had been watering all night at the mere thought of it. He would be the gentleman and let the waiter finish the list before…

“Oh, LaRoche’s Crème brûlée! My mouth has been watering all night at the mere thought of it!” Sandy exulted.

This was becoming weird.

It had only happened twice, right? Then Brian thought back to various points of the night. Sandy was uncanny. Was she psychic?

Brian ate his Crème brûlée in relative silence. Sandy’s enjoyment of the band made things seem less awkward, but Brian’s mind was racing. He was thinking of numbers between one and ten, or a color, or how to organically and politely ask if his date was telepathic.

The meal ended without incident. Technically, the entire evening had. There was no reason to jeopardize anything. Other than these repeated bizarre coincidences, they had such great chemistry.

“We really have such great chemistry, Brian. Don’t you think?”

Brian nearly screamed.

The night was winding down. Brian had no idea what to think of this girl or what to do next.

“Brian, I think we should do this again next weekend.”

What was that?

“It’s been such a lovely night. I don’t really want it to end.”

Did she mean…

“Do you know what I’m thinking?”

Brian laughed aloud. “I have absolutely no idea.”

K: This one peaks quite early. I love the first gag, and the second is fine; explaining the problem too early was probably the undoing of this one. If we’re watching the action as this guy is, we definitely understand what’s going on without being explicitly told. The ending line is nice, though we kind of sputter weakly to that point, in comparison with the very strong opening bit.

MN – I like that you really get us in Brian’s shoes here. We’re not quite sure what to make of it either, and when we get to the end… well, we still aren’t. And that’s fun. The humor is there, but it’s really nicely balanced with a legitimately interesting plot that drives it forward. Fantastic. SILVER.

Brian David, Hidden Legends

“Well, I don’t know. . .”

Marlene looked at the menu and scrunched her nose.

“I’ll just have the Cobb Salad. With. . .um, with no cheese.”

The waiter glared briefly at Marlene and nodded.

“Indeed. And for you, sir?”

Dartmoor flared his nostrils and stared down his glasses. After a few moments he set the menu on the table.

“I don’t know, Marceau. I don’t suppose you have a few chopped carrots in the kitchen?”

Marceau stood quiet for a moment, then made a very subtle nod and then walked away. Dartmoor laughed.

“Don’t mind him. Marceau takes his job too seriously. You were saying?”

Marlene smiled and blushed.

“Oh, I don’t know. It wasn’t that dramatic. I skipped town when I was pretty young. How about you? There’s got to be a story there.”

The waiter returned and set a heaping plate of carrots on the table.

“Here are you are, sir.” He nodded briefly towards Marlene and walked away. “Your salad will be ready soon, madam.”

“Anyway,” said Dartmoor. “I don’t think my life is as interesting as you might think.”

He reached over and grabbed a handful of carrots, shoving them in his mouth.

“I grew up in a small town, too.” His words were half garbled, flecks of carrot falling out onto the table.

Suddenly Marlene gasped. “Oh, what is that smell?”

Dartmoor’s eyes widened.

“Dear me, Luscious! Luscious! Get over here and scoop this up.”

A man swooped in from nearby and scooped up a small pile of green manure that lay near Dartmoor’s hooves.

“Pardon, sir, I wasn’t paying attention . . .”

Marlene stood and straightened her dress.

“Look, Mister. . .um, Mister Dartmoor. It’s been lovely. But this is just a little too strange.”

Marlene grabbed her purse and walked out of the restaurant.

Dartmoor chewed on the carrots and stared lazily into nothing. Luscious stood nearby, gently caressing Dartmouth’s hind quarters. Finally, Dartmouth threw his napkin on to the table and reared up his hind legs, neighing loudly.

“Let’s get out of here, Luscious. Tomorrow’s another day.”

K: There is no Earthly reason I should like this as much as I do, but by the end I was laughing my ass off. This is so good because you played it perfectly straight, never letting on that it was THAT big a deal for these characters to co-mingle. The information is delivered at a smart pace that allows for some pretty big laughs by the end. GOLD

MN – We know something strange is going on, and in asking us to just accept this world instead of trying to explain it, you make a very smart decision. The strangeness is maybe a bit too obvious a bit too early, and could have been helped by a bit more dialogue between Marlene and Dartmoor, instead of the whole ordering scene, but it’s a very small change to a very well-executed story. GOLD.

Beau, Hidden Legends

Jessica reached back and grabbed the headboard, using the leverage to give him a better angle. She was surprised, somewhat by his size, mostly by his stamina.

“You’re so fucking hot,” he said, thrusting. “You got me more turned on than my new ASUS laptop.”

She thought that sounded like a joke, but she had just put up with two hours of him talking about SQL databases. If it was a joke, he needed to work on those, too.

“You know what babe?” she moaned. “Stop talking and fuck me.”

It had been seven years since she scratched that itch. And dammit if he didn’t do the trick.

*********

She reached back and grabbed the headboard, thrusting her tits at Matt in a show of pure ecstasy.

“You’re so fucking hot,” he said. “You got me so turned on right now.”

She was so shy. She had barely said a word the whole night. Dinner was good, but he felt he had to force the conversation at times.

“You know what babe?” she moaned. “Fuck the shit out of me.”

No girl had ever talked dirty to him. With renewed vigor, he gave her a night she’d never forget.

K: I like this as an idea. A lot, actually (Rashomon is one of my favorite movies, so this is no surprise). Are the two perspectives different enough? I find it interesting how our minds partially lie about memories and I think this could be explored in a longer space; there are some words left to use, and both halves could use a stronger identity.

MN – Hmm. The two views of the same scene… I think I get the effect you’re going for, but they might be a bit too similar to really nail the conflicting sacrifices. And since they’re already mid-coitious when we join them, the tension is already drained from the scene. It’s a clever approach, that just misses.

—————————————————————————————-

So what have we here? TWO double golds? High five, Brian and Colin. For me, the silvers were right there as well.

But let’s get to tribal results, which is sadly all of what some of you will read:

Long Distance Phone Call for Friendship: 10-0-3 = 13/3 = 4.33
The Hidden Legends of Temple Grandin: 1-4-3-2-10-0 = 20/6 = 3.33
The Devil Wear PRADAZ: 1-3-3 = 7/3 = 2.33
For the Love of Pete: 3-1-0 = 4/3 = 1.33

4.33, 3.33, 2.33 and 1.33? What are the odds? Well, For the Love of Pete, I know you’re probably anxious for a merge-type situation, but we’re not there yet. Votes are due by tomorrow night at 9pm Central. If they all come in early, I’ll get the new challenge up as well; if they don’t, I expect everything will be up quite late because of work.

Cheers, Survivors.

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