If anything became clearer this week, it’s that the judges spend hours glancing back and forth between their Pulitzers and the stories, coming to more or less the same conclusions, giving the authors very clear opinions and direction going forward.

Oh, wait. That didn’t happen.

So, here’s my advice: write what you enjoy writing, and other than grammatical suggestions, just ignore us (Quinn already has!).

Brendan Bonham

“Ouch! Jeeze, Becca!”

“Quiet, mom’ll hear,” Becca whispered, closing the safety pin above the navel. “I didn’t whine when you did me.”

“Think the 8th-graders will notice?” Shannon wondered, admiring herself in the mirror.

Becca dabbed away the running blood and buried the tissue in their bedroom’s garbage.

“Zack will,” Becca glanced at the trees blooming outside, “I hope.”

B: This is really simple, but I think it pretty much captures the situation as well as it can. The final line is overly dramatic (“glanced at the trees blooming”) but it still works. I really hope this writer is trying to attract the real Zack back to the game. BRONZE

BD: This prompt is sure to inspire a lot of dark ideas, which makes me appreciate that our first entry is unexpectedly light-hearted. It’s a creative approach, although for a story that’s 59 words it does explain itself a little too much. BRONZE

Gilman: Nice, skillfully paced use of the limited word count. Gets across a scene, a feeling, and an anticipation of what might come. Economical! SILVER

RZ: So we have young sisters self-piercing so that older boys will notice them.   You sure do know how to give a father of 4 young girls something to look forward to, don’t you.  Well written and an original take on the cue. GOLD

Matt Novak

A bird of silver in flight, the knife struck wood solidly, splitting Maria’s thighs.   Her chest heaved with relief, and Guillermo’s matched her.

He had watched as Maria lovingly sharpened the blades, their weights so precise.  She shooed him away.

“After,” she said.  “Do not distract me.”

Guillermo had not listened.

Now, he stilled his breath and took aim.

B: “A bird of silver in flight” is a bit purply-prosy for me, but the rest of the story is evocative. I like the cliffhanger ending as the heart of the story doesn’t rely on the climax for its weight. I like that you created a story where the recipient of the pain asked for it. GOLD

BD: Ooh, very slick writing here. A story like this is all in the telling, since we’ve heard it many times before. Thankfully, this is some very sharp telling. GOLD

Gilman: The order of each image and detail was quite deliberately chosen, but it feels just east of building tension the way the author intended. You might have done well to draw a little more attention to the weight of each blade, as that (I assume) is whats allowing for the potential disaster. BRONZE

RZ: Good story, and again a good take on the prompt.  The idea that Guillermo unintentionally causes pain later by lovin’ earlier is a good idea. GOLD

Christina Pepper

No one messes with Miss Q.

It is not done.

So when those fuckers said she was just a dude in lipstick . . .

Well.

Kilo and I jumped on the closest one; almost ripped his ear clean off.

The other one bolted before we could get to him.

That prick’s screams, though.

Gonna haunt me for days.

B: Sentence fragments can work sometimes, but these don’t do as well as I hoped in telling us more about Miss Q. At first she seems like a take-no-prisoners kind of gal, and then at the end she seems to regret her temper. I know it’s hard to get across a character in 59 words. BRONZE

BD: Using a trivial insult to jump into a topic like this is a clever trick. Wrap that in some perfectly paced writing, and you’ve won me over. GOLD

Gilman: Man, I dunno. I think maybe the line breaks worked against the author here. Everything feels a bit too deliberately paced, and therefore dulled.

RZ: This certainly isn’t a bad story, but it lacks some depth.  The last two sentences are also somewhat difficult to read.  Is the prick the guy who got his ear ripped off or the one who bolted?  I imagine it’s the one who got jumped, but it isn’t clear. BRONZE

Annette Baron

“I’m in the hole, Mom.”  (Imperceptible quaver.)  Gregarious and charming, solitary confinement is particularly cruel.

“How long?” (Unnaturally upbeat; strangle-hold on my phone.)

“Five days.  I was running a bible study group.”

“But that’s not against the rules!”

“Fighting is; I got jumped.  But, hey!  I protected my nose this time!”

“That’s good, honey.” (Unshed tears burn like acid.)

B: The parentheticals definitely threw me. I had a hard time telling if I was reading a TV show script or if this was more of an avant-garde poetry sort of thing. This has a lot of potential for hitting a bunch of emotional notes for me, but the perspective shifts were too jarring.

BD: This is another unique take on the prompt, but I’m having a hard time embracing the narrative style. It’s a bit too stilted and melodramatic, which hampers an otherwise excellent idea. BRONZE

Gilman: Another entry where the unorthodox pacing (parentheses here) detracts more than it adds. Hate to nit-pick, but if the quaver is imperceptible, then the mother (whose point of view we share) wouldn’t detect it, would she? BRONZE

RZ: I’m glad I read this one a few times.  On my first reading, I didn’t get this all, as isn’t immediately clear who the POV character is.  Once I understood the story, though, I loved the idea. GOLD

David Lauer

It had been six hours. Neither had been to the bathroom in 47 turns. She was gaining the upper hand, but then he landed on goddamn Free Parking. It had to end it.  He read his Community Chest card announcing he won $10 from a beauty contest. So she jammed the thimble in his eye. Not so pretty anymore.

B: I really want to like this one, but it has several problems. “It had to end it,” seems like a grammatical mistake or an awkward declaration. The guy is on Free Parking and then suddenly he’s on Community Chest. I smirked that the most pathetic card in the game drove the girl over the edge.  

BD: There’s trivial, and then there’s trivial. Without any more sense of character, the final moment of this story doesn’t have enough impact. The lady just comes off as a sociopath engaging in meaningless violence.  

Gilman: A cute punchline, but not much more going for this one. And I’m sure I won’t be the only one to mention that you don’t draw any card when you land on Free Parking.

RZ: The story is somewhat disjointed, though the idea of monopoly engendering violence certainly rings true to life.  

Shelbi Sarver

“Say it again,” said I to the happy customer.

“Say what?”

“YOU KNOW WHAT YOU SAID.”

“That it was nice outside and it’s too bad you’re working?”

I leap across the lane and tackle the customer to the ground.

I was serious when I said I’d take out the next person to say I was missing a beautiful day.

B: There are at least two tense changes here that take me out of the story. I like the idea of a cashier going berserk, and yet without characterization it feels like a random act of violence.

BD: Much like Jello, there’s always room for good workplace humor. I like the joke, but I feel like the punchline could have been more subtle. There’s also a lot of ‘saying’ in those first few lines.

Gilman: Aw, I think there was an opportunity to present that final line in some way other than straightforward. As it is, this had nice immediate tension to it, and it picked up right where it should have. Reminded me of the “SAY WHAT AGAIN” line reading by Sam Jackson. BRONZE

RZ: This got a laugh from me, but the tenses of the verbs disagreed and the sentence structure was a bit off, which hurts the readability of a short story. BRONZE

Joshua Longman

Serious-Sam was an irritable man, craving standard civility.

Instead his milieu, an insensitive crew, encouraged his insensibility.

 

He finally snapped, strangled Fat-Nat, for cutting line without asking;

Committed a spree, feeling sinfully free, slaying three in his passion.

 

A dazzling flash concluded his dash, precise in its perforation;

Dreadfully rude – Sam stubbornly mused – Ruined my little vacation.

B: The meter here is pretty strong and we get a lot of characterization in a very little space making this random violence more interesting than in the last story. I’m not sure about rhyming “asking” and “passion” but the last stanza makes up for it. Great use of dashes. GOLD

BD: There’s a lot to like here. For the most part, the rhyming is well crafted, although I find the second stanza a bit awkward. I mean, you could have just used ‘passing’ and it would have been fine. Regardless, the combination of nursery rhyme and Clockwork-Orange-like violence is strangely fun. SILVER

Gilman: Is it wrong for me to wish there was a cheery little tune to accompany this piece? If so, then I don’t wanna be right. GOLD

RZ: Rhyming for rhymings sake is unexpected.  While I certainly don’t mind that style of prose, this one kind of breaks down in the second stanza, which hurts the effect. BRONZE

Quinn Meyers

Quinn sighed. “I don’t know, probably something sappy about Robin Williams or like a poem written by God or some shit.”

Brendan slapped him. “Those are fucking awful ideas, Quinn. Write what you know.”

“You’re right,” Quinn replied, lifting his leg and letting out a wet, eggy fart. “You said they hate meta stuff right?”

B: Well, I smirked. Though I have to say you didn’t hurt me. I would have liked this more if you didn’t literally just take my suggestion in the prompt and do exactly that.

BD: You cheeky bastard. I’m going to reward you a medal out of spite. In all seriousness, though, I really hope the concept here was to strike out at the judges over a trivial writing competition, because that would be a wildly clever take on the prompt and would make this perhaps the most meta-y meta story that ever meta’d. SILVER

Gilman: Especially when there’s farting involved.

RZ: This got a chuckle, but I am not around the casa enough to really get the meta in-jokes, so it’s a bit lost.  

Roxanne Lewis

An old rock tune rolling from a cracked front door.

Keys are set on the table by the door, like always.

Bang!

Club to the back of the head.  

Blackness.

So cold. Why is it so damn cold?

A bed of blood-stained ice beneath you.

A six inch poorly-stitched wound in your side.

One black market kidney for sale.

B: Oh, the ol’ kidney stealing urban legend. I like that this is narrated by the bad guy in the second person. Gives it an extra creepy feel. BRONZE

BD: At first I found the writing overbearing, but the last line casts everything in a very dark, comedic light. Such serious writing for such a silly payoff, which I guess is the whole point of the prompt. BRONZE

Gilman: Eep! Dark little piece here, and in this case the line breaks seem to work in its favor. Not a fan of second-person stories as a rule, but rules were made to be defied. GOLD

RZ: This is a tough sell for a story because it is so disjointed.  It gets the point across, but doesn’t give the reader enough time to really appreciate what is going on or to conenct to the main character.

Margaret Martin

“Here she comes.” Aimee bristled.

Lynn turned to see Marnie approaching. She greeted their former friend cruelly. “Oh look! It’s the tattle-tale.”

Aimee was too disgusted to be clever. “Go away, you FAT COW!”

Marnie’s face fell. Blinking back tears, she ran.

Crouching in the stall, still crying, Marnie figured out how to get two fingers down her throat.  

B: Almost every woman I’ve talked to lost a friend in middle school or high school over something petty, even if that petty thing was just a rumor that never happened. I’m glad this story doesn’t focus on the specifics but rather the emotions. Not only do we have one character hurting another for a seemingly trivial reason, but we have a character hurting themselves as well for a seemingly trivial reason. That’s pretty much adolescence in a nutshell, eh? Good take on the challenge. GOLD

BD: It’s a great idea and I appreciate what you’re going for here, but it’s just not something that fits well into 59 words. I really wish you could bring this idea to a prompt that’s a few hundred words longer.

Gilman: A touch too neat in its cause/effect structure, it does benefit from not trying to force exposition at the beginning. SILVER

RZ:  Here we have another story where it is completely believable.  Good descriptive verbs and intro to the characters and their motivations. SILVER

Melissa Diamond

“You have beautiful eyes.”

“Thank you.”

“Can I buy you coffee?”

She started packing up her books.  “Sorry. I have class.”

They always had somewhere else to be. Someone else to see.  Fine.

He punched her.  Again and again.  Regret flashed behind her eyes.  Regret always came. They all eventually realized their error.

Too late. He’d find someone better.

B: Another psychopath and I like his treatise on regret. I might like it better without the last line, or with more setting. Did he just punch her in front of students? By her locker?

BD: I feel that we see a lot of this type of thing around here. Still, I can’t deny that it is an exquisitely written, entirely self-contained story. That’s an impressive feat no matter how you cut it. BRONZE

Gilman: I think a reaction THIS disproportionate needs a little more explanation or discovery, and a 59 word story can’t provide it. Maybe not the best idea to carry through this week.

RZ: So we have a serial killer who is just searching for true love?  It isn’t a bad story, but the necessary lack of backstory hurts it here.  Mainly, why are the two of them alone in an area where the dude can kill her with impunity?  Also, neither character is named, which adds a bit of distance from the story for the reader. BRONZE

Kelly Wells

I read the words I had scrawled, piss drunk, to Natalie: “Bitch. Walked to Ben’s. Fuck you.”

The argument was over the game TriBond, and whether the word cartoon was allowable when the answer was ‘comic strip.’ I texted that it was just another drunken fit and I wanted her home.

She didn’t respond. She’ll call today.

B: I’m guessing the author had an argument over TriBond recently? I like that this story packs some history and specifics. Rather than a blank slate psychopath, we have an alcoholic and his co-dependent girlfriend. Good showing. SILVER

BD: I find this little snippet of a story to be very heartbreaking, especially since I’ve known people who have had surprisingly similar experiences to this. It’s all very trivial, and a little too real. GOLD

Gilman: I don’t really know what to say about this one. It’s a familiar scenario, but the story doesn’t feel much more than familiar.

RZ: This one is a more poignant story that really addresses the topic.  It feels real, which is difficult to do it the word limit.  Good job! SILVER

Sama Smith

Prickly hair, bristling black, and ready to pluck. Deanna marveled at the fresh, virgin skin. Disinfect, spread the wax and quickly rip. But the paper resists. Tightening her grip, Deanna tugs and the innocent hairs give. A shriek, an expletive, and moan singe the air. Red droplets form on the pink, shiny skin. Deanna’s steady hands continue their descent.

B: Not so much of a story, yet it gets its point across really well without having to get inside Deanna’s head. One too many adjectives for me (are hairs innocent?) but the final line hits the ridiculousness of the whole exercise home. SILVER

BD: The type of pain we inflict on ourselves over ideas of beauty is a good approach to take. Although it’s not necessarily the same subject, I feel like this story hit a lot of the notes that the early story on eating disorders missed. Nice prose, too. SILVER

Gilman: Goodness. I may be blinkered a little by the activity being described here, but there’s a distinct headiness about the descriptions that makes the process feel…well, a bit wrongly erotic to me. At least, that’s what I think the author wanted me to see in Deanna.  SILVER

RZ: The description of wax hair removal was surprisingly well written.  While I hardly find it a fascinating topic, it does meet all the criteria.  With that said, it doesn’t do a good job of introducing (or acknowledging) a second character, as Deanna could very well be waxing herself. SILVER

Abby Stansel

Tom sat on the couch, watching his sister Lucy play with a toy.  He scrambled on awkward, uncoordinated legs to try and grab the toy from her, but she scrambled away from him, letting out a high-pitched squeal.  Tom grabbed for her again, but she smacked him on the nose with her foot.

Spooked, the little cat leapt away.

B: I think by definition almost everything young siblings fight about is trivial, eh? A nice little slice of life. The cat kind of comes out of nowhere. BRONZE

BD: I’m curious if the formatting here is intentional or not. Regardless, the concept is a well executed, and I have no serious criticism except to say that it just doesn’t resonate with me.

Gilman: Cute twist at the end, but the story doesn’t have much more to it than that reveal. And two uses of the word “scrambled” that don’t refer to a breakfast dish. BRONZE

RZ: The twist here seems unnecessary, which detracts from the story.  While I understand the difficulty in writing a 59 word challenge, the fact that they are cats doesn’t really add anything.

Brooks Maki

Suddenly, it hurts.

I’m not dying, but damn that hurts quite a bit.

And for such a trivial reason. Hard to believe it suddenly came to this.

But here we are in this situation so I guess we have to move forward.

My entreaties fall on pointedly deaf ears. Suddenly, it turns out it was a cat all along.

B: Using lines directly from the prompt, “a trivial reason,” without actually hinting as to what the trivial reason is kind of feels like the author couldn’t think of an idea and just threw that in in order to fit the prompt. The reveal at the end — that it was just a cat — is fun but would be stronger if we knew who the protagonist had originally blamed in his or her head. Also, dear author, please eradicate the word “suddenly” from your vocabulary.

BD: This is an odd little story. I imagine that if the prompt itself were conscious it would be thinking this. And there’s the whole cat thing. It’s intriguing, but I’m not sure what to make of it all.

Gilman: Two cat surprises in a row. But for the life of me, I don’t understand how the cat fits into this at all. Also, if something was a cat “all along,” then there’s nothing “suddenly” about it.

RZ: Too many suddenlys in this story.  It’s really difficult to pull off a story using present tense, as it requires verbose verbage to walk the reader along without feeling artificial.  Having so few words to word with, and repeating so much makes this story fall flat.

Shawn Ashley

It was hot,

sweltering.

 

High-collar dress,

sweat down her back.

 

Moisture on palms,

hand gripping handle.

 

Glimmering ax.

 

“Lizzie, time for breakfast!”

 

Small smile.

B: Hey, a psychopath we already know and love! While this does rely on the reader knowing a little bit about Ms. Borden, I think it would be strong even if you had called her “Angela” or whatever. It’s creepy and evokes images and smells that bring me into the story. The last line is a home run. SILVER

BD: It can be easy to fall into poetry when doing a Fiction 59 prompt, but it doesn’t really work here. Which is a shame, because I really like the idea of Lizzie Bordon being set off by simply being called for breakfast.

Gilman: I honestly chuckled at the reveal here. Again, a situation where the line breaks seem to help. Sweet little pastiche here. GOLD

RZ: While this falls under 59 words, it is a retelling of a known story that doesn’t really stand on it’s own.  While the description is nice, the disjointed text jolts the reader and reinforces that the story here doesn’t stand on it’s own.

Bret Highum

Harry holstered his smoking revolver, and spat at the twitching corpse.

He would never lose another customer to Franklin’s Stylin’ Sunglasses  Cabana again.

B: I have a feeling this was written quickly to avoid a non-sub. It’s a good start, but needs more words to help it stand out among all the other random psychopaths this week.

BD: I’d like to imagine that the reason Harry won’t be losing anyone to the Cabana is because he has just murdered the only customer that ever actually came into his shop.

Gilman: Overkill! Get it? I wonder if this was a last-minute effort. So many unused words available here.

RZ: Well, that certainly falls under 59 words and it tells a story of pain for a trivial reason. Unfortunately, the story it tells involves mostly not having the time to work on PwtP this week.

———————————————————————

Novak is this week’s big winner with 16 points, followed by Joshua with 14 points and Sama with 12 points (a quad-silver!). That elusive quad-gold remains up for grabs.

The standings page is updated and we have a three-way tie for first place between the same three people. After being disqualified in the first week, Kelly has stormed back into 8th place already despite just 6 medals. Meanwhile, Sama, Novak, and Pepper have 13 medals each.

We have three players non-sub for the second time (Colin, Ian, Erik) and all lost 7 points in the standings. Ian drops out of a playoff spot as a result. With nine weeks remaining, everybody’s in the game, so don’t give up!

 

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