I do indeed like this challenge as you guys brought some fresh perspectives we didn’t see the first time this challenge was run.

Brendan Bonham

The ancient cozied into his burrow preparing for his long rest. One of the nearby kit meandered over.

“Ancient!” the kit whispered, “are you resting?”

“No,” the ancient labored, “I’m off to a far-off land. A place much different from this.”

“The land of behemoths?” the kit squeaked.

The ancient creaked a smile, “This once was the land of the behemoths, but I suppose yes, in a way.”

“How do you know they’re there, ancient?”

He eyed the kit. “I was there,” he said somberly, “the day they left for it.”

“Tell me! Tell me!” the kit pleaded.

The ancient labored to sit up.

“The behemoths were beasts to be feared,” he trembled, “enormous, and lo be to any of our kind who caught their eye. They could race at speeds unfathomable—rulers of this land with gnish-gnash teeth, claws able to rend  in a single blow. Many flew. Even those who ate like us cast shadows eternal. They could pry leaves from the green pillars cast towards the sky.”

The ancient stared deep into the kit’s eye.

“Then, one bright day, a great ball of fire raced across the sky smashing into the great blue.  Walls!” The ancient’s hands came alive, “Walls of the great blue rushed inward. None were foe that day—we all raced against it. Many succumbed to its grasp as it receded back.”

The ancient sat quiet. “What—what next?” the kit asked.

“The sky once bright shone no more. The green pillars turned brown. The behemoths slowly fell, one by one, drifting into the next world.”

The ancient settled in again.

“Some say the behemoths are a myth—tall tales to scare kit like you” he closed his eyes, speech trailing, “but I assure you they roamed when the moon shone bright ages ago.”

B: I was not expecting someone to go the full dialogue route, but I’m glad you took this chance. This is very much a Mufasa to Simba type of conversation and it’s a solid one. I like how the clues to what’s going on make sense for the animals yet slowly peel away the mystery to the reader of what’s going on. “Walls of the great blue” is great. Overall, a unique perspective for the dinosaur extinction. GOLD

BD: The basic idea of personifying cats in this way feels too straightforward, to be honest. The writing is strong, with the exception that some sentences don’t quite hit the ‘Universal Fantasy LanguageTM’ tone right. In particular, I’m not sure that ‘lo be to any of our kind’ makes sense. I like the characterization of the ancient a lot, though. BRONZE

Gilman: The idea behind this story feels like it might hold some potential for really interesting eye-witnessing, but the choice to have it be related in the form of an ancestral fable makes it feel kind of weak to me. It’s executed pretty well, but it wasn’t grabbing me with the degree to which it granted its unidentified mammalian species the capacity for abstract language. I dunno, this is just one of those approaches that will rely on execution for it to be really successful, and not enough about this story stood out for me.

Pete: It’s easy to make animal talk needlessly dumbed down, but this story doesn’t fall prey to that at all. I like the almost mystical quality that the ancient’s story has. The language is well done, and the age-old tradition of storytelling and narration proves its worth again. GOLD

Margaret Martin

Their lunches attracted her to the building: brown paper bags stained with grease – pastrami, peanut butter, beans.

They had shoved stacks of boxes to one side and created a wide-open space near the windows. When the sun was highest they would sit there, rumbling and roaring and dropping oily crumbs.  Out of the wind and away from the birds, she avoided the occasional swat and made herself fat.

This day the upper floors of the building were quiet. She buzzed the room, pausing before each window.

There was always noise on the street, and plenty of food: trash cans brimming with used coffee cups, little humans in strollers with sticky treats and no reflexes, grassy knolls dotted with dog feces. But down there the wind blew her off course. The birds threatened. And human cars were fast, their windshields smeared with corpses.

On this day a great crowd had gathered below. Birds were scarce, and the cars were moving slowly, their tops open and passengers waving. She would be safer.

She sought a way out; antennae flicking. There was a current in the dusty room; she followed it to an open window. A human was there with a big brown paper bag. She circled his head and landed. He didn’t notice.

He opened the bag. Not food. She tipped her head to see it with her kaleidoscope eyes. He pushed one end of it through the open window, and held the other end up to his face. She flitted along its length; it was angled downward, and she followed its path to the street below, eventually alighting on the leather seat of a slow-moving car.

Crack! The calm was shattered. She flew off briefly but soon returned to eat at a drop of warm blood.

B: There’s always the risk going with an enormous historical event that has been covered from so many angles, but you do an excellent job here of making this about the insect, not the event (with enough hints to let me know where we are). Nicely done. GOLD

BD: I had a hard time getting into this idea, but I do really like the last two paragraphs. I find myself distracted by a lot of the punctuation in this story. For instance, I think that first colon should probably be a semi-colon. The next colon works, as it is followed by a list, but the way it is written makes it sound like the babies are one of the foods the fly eats (which is hilarious in its own way). Overall, it’s a good concept with some shaky writing and a strong ending. BRONZE

Gilman: Not an event I expected to read about, nor was it a perspective I would have guessed we’d get. I worry that a lot of these stories are going to use the “moment of recognition” as their fulcrum, expecting a reveal of a historical moment to carry the brunt of the story’s impact to the reader. As it is, this one relies more on evoking an inherent sense of housefly-ness rather than spend too much time nudging us to figure out where and when we are. As it should be, food and feces are the important things to our wee protagonist. SILVER

Pete: Ha, it took me a second to figure this one out. Our culicidaean friend does a fantastic job of touring the entire scene, always keeping focus on its own concerns, but slowly setting the stage for an earthshattering event….that it could not possibly care less about (other than free blood, I suppose). Well done. GOLD

Abby Stansel

I crouch next to a tree, a mouse hanging limply from my jaws.  Yes! Silver will love this!  Then, I hear roars fill the air. Terrified, my claws find the tree and I shoot up it. Their roars hang in the air as I move.  “Yes!” they shout.  “Finally.  Equality.”   I scramble across the branches of this tree to the next, as I work my way back home.  I take a running leap off the final branch, and land on my tree.

The branch dips under my weight, and I pull back in terror.  Under me runs a river of faces, hands, bodies, feet.  Their calls and howl fill the air around me.  I grip on to the branch tighter, trying to keep my grip.  They finally stop moving, and I creep from my branch back to my hole and crouch within it.  Bright suns flash across the air, and I accidentally let out a squeal of fear.  Next to me, she cries out, unsure and nervous.  I lick her ears gently.

They seem restless, uncertain, like my daughter before I let her nurse.  Hungry for something but I don’t know what.  Suddenly, there is a screeching noise.  I hit the ground, searching the area around the entrance of my hole for a monster, one with massive wings and a sharp beak, that isn’t there.  One of them steps forward, and the river roars.  “Hello, everyone,” she says.  Her voice is high, sharp.  Her fur dark.  “I, President Jazz Jennings, would like to applaud the Supreme Court in their ruling of our new bill, the LGBT+ full rights bill.”

Their howls make up every sound.

B: I’m grateful someone went with a future event, though this one seemed to take us away from the animal a bit to advertise the importance of the humans involved. I’m also confused as to what the animal is experiencing. Did the President have a tree cut down? Why? BRONZE

BD: This is an intriguing and unique choice for this prompt. However, this story spends way too much time running in circles, which makes the ending feel a bit like an afterthought. A few more hints as to where this was going (as opposed to just waiting until the last sentence to tell us outright) would’ve made the narrative flow better.

Gilman: Can’t really get a fix on what this animal’s supposed to be. Opossum, maybe? Are they carnivorous? I guess squirrels sometimes eat meat. Whatever, I think the author was trying to make a point about how removed from human events most of the natural world is, but it’s a tough point to make in a small word count, and picking a “future” event with a semi-famous president brought too much attention to the event to make it feel unimportant, even from an animal’s eye view. There’s some tightening that could be done from a proofreading standpoint too. BRONZE

Pete: I’m…not sure that’s how the Supreme Court works. Nitpicking aside, I like a lot of the parallels in the life of the small predatory mammal  and the Equal Rights rally happening under her feet. I like the descriptions of the rally. At times, the animal’s perspective loses me a bit. BRONZE

Shelbi Sarver

It’s 1963 and I’m perched on a statue watching some parade. Everyone seems incredibly elated to see this guy waving at them. Humans are weird that way.

Everything was going fine, but then there was a loud bang and everybody starts going crazy. They’re sobbing and everybody is freaking out. I hear somebody say, “president Kennedy,” and something about a…”fun?” No, that wouldn’t make sense. Nobody seems to be having fun. No, they said “gun.”

I watch as a bunch of them in blue run up to some building. I’m assuming they’re looking for the guy with the gun, but they went the wrong direction. There’s a guy with a gun standing over in the grass, but they haven’t seemed to notice him.

I’ll poop on him! Maybe they’ll notice!

They didn’t.

Oh, well. I’m sure it isn’t that important.

B: Two JFK shootings in four stories! Unlike the first one, this one tells us what’s going on just by saying it’s 1963, and then if we weren’t absolutely sure it was JFK we’re reminded there is a parade, and then the mention of the President’s name. And then the bird seems a little too aware of its surroundings for my taste, though I like to think a bird intentionally pooped on Oswald.

BD: Hey, another Kennedy assassination story. I like the idea of a sardonic pigeon crapping on the shooter, but most of the details here a too on-the-nose. For instance, the ‘No, they said “gun”’ line is unnecessary; the reader will definitely understand what you mean without having to state is so plainly. Plus, what the bird does and does not know is confusing. It knows what guns are and seems to have a functional grasp of the Gregorian calendar, but doesn’t know the cops?

Gilman: Dealey Plaza, take two. This whole piece felt like the written equivalent of a half-shrug, frankly. So much so that even the lightly humorous bent it takes from the get-go starts to feel like the author almost couldn’t be bothered to bring the joke home. Even if you’re gonna underscore the whole exercise’s ridiculousness by overemphasizing “gun/fun,” I would’ve liked to see the author go for broke and take it way over the top.

Pete: Heh, at this point, literally half the stories are about the Kennedy assassination. This one even features a grassy knoll! This brave bird could have unraveled the entire conspiracy. The ending is a little sudden.

Matt Novak

Mama always said, “life is like a box of kitty litter.  You never know what you’ll dig up.”

My mama always did whatever she could to help me, including screwing some other random cat so that I could learn to walk.  Not sure how those two things were related, but soon enough, I was running as fast and as far as you pussybly can.

Well, one thing led to another, and soon I was running in Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, even though I was a cat.  And then soon after that I was in some terrible war that fits into this timeline.  Let’s say Afghanistan.  Where I developed a relationship with a soldier that became one of those heartwarming little clips they show you at the end of the news to placate you, after getting your ire up during the rest of the show.

Well, that soldier took me home and I was right there by his side while he tried to start a fishing business.  Some sort of cat-tastrophe struck everyone except us, so we became rich, and instead of eating leftover fish guts I was treated to the fanciest feast at every meal.

Then I somehow met a president, but I furget which one.

Then I started running again, because that seemed like the thing to do.  Truth be told, I was feline pretty good on my run, and so I just kept running. But then I got hit by a car.

B: I’m always up for making fun of Forrest Gump, and I’m always up for puns. “Screwing some random cat so I could learn to walk” made me smirk and I laughed at “pussybly.”  The laughs tail off after that.

BD: Apparently the CdL is populated by cat lovers. The jokes here are too inconsistent for me to score this highly, but several of them got a chuckle out of me (the Afghanistan bit was the highlight). There’s also plenty of deliciously shitty puns. BRONZE

Gilman: Yes! This is what I’m talking about! Exactly like this: over the top, ludicrously self-referential, and committed to its snark down to the bones. Meshing some Feline Gump foundation throughout also kept me laughing as I read, and it finishes up by dismissing every element of the whole endeavor like a kitty shaking litter off its hind-end. SILVER

Pete: I did notice that Forrest Gump was on TV tonight. Apparently, our intrepid author did, as well. Lots of puns – really bad ones, too. I got a chuckle out of it. And then, we end up shooting the shaggy dog (err… cat), because life is pain.
Joshua Longman

Quintus bent down and smelled the damp depressions.  Find something?  A voice rang in his head.

Yes, come to me.  

Moments later Philo emerged from a patch of shrubs, his tawny fur a shade redder than his sibling’s.  Humans again?

Horses too, several of them, Quintus added.

BANG!  The brothers lifted their heads toward the commotion as birds flitted from the treetops.  The sound came like a thunderclap in spite of the clear sky above, but Quintus and Philo knew what it meant.  They ran.

Killing again, Quintus intoned as he leapt over a log.  

At random?  Philo asked.

Retribution perhaps.

The wolves and the chicken coop last night.  Philo darted around a boulder.  That may be it, but it is not for us to understand the ways of men.

Quintus slowed his stride.  I’ll check their den.  You follow the tracks.


The trail was easy to follow so Philo ran hard. Sunlight shattered on the canopy overhead as tree trunks flew by in an umber whir, but quickly enough he saw a speck of orange in the distance.  Philo trotted up to it.

Quintus, their preyit…it’s a vixen.  Technically, every beast in the glen resided under their watchful domain; but when tragedy befell a fox, it hurt.  Seemed like kin.

Philo felt a sudden, searing pain in his neck and growled.

Philo!  Quickly, the den!  His brother said in a panic, but Philo was already sprinting.  He followed the men’s tracks, but couldn’t smell them anymore.  Smoke was overtaking his senses.  He spied Quintus’ white-tipped tail upright and blending with the dancing flames.  Philo joined him but had no words.  This age was nothing but a confusion.

Fire twinkled and glittered on four bottomless black eyes that watched what they were sworn to protect burn away.

B: Not breaking huge ground here, but I love the atmosphere you’ve created. I imagine this is what Gary Paulsen might write if he were doing this. SILVER

BD: This is very pretty prose, and I found myself drawn deeply into this world. This is a wonderful entry, and the only issue I have is that I get the feeling the event being depicted is of historic importance, but I just don’t know what it is. It’s a small issue, though, that is easily overcome by the power of the writing. GOLD

Gilman: Jumping right back into the serious story-type, this one had me gripped from the start. The foxes are presented in a believable light, with rational thought and communication that didn’t feel strained or supernatural. Their interpretation of the humans’ behavior also rang true, and it allowed us to get the gist of the event without having to spell it out. Good stuff. GOLD

Pete: This reminds me a fair bit of the Fox and the Hound (for obvious reasons). Downer of an ending. The names obviously hold the key to the puzzle of what all of this is actually about, but i’m not coming up with anything. Sorry for failing you, author. I did like the story quite a bit, anyway. SILVER

Sama Smith

First, came the electric blue, sparkly eye shadow. It burned as it crept into the corners of my eyes.

I stayed still.

Next, the hot pink blush was brushed profusely onto my jowls. It made me want to sneeze.

But I remained still.

Then came the bright red lipstick, smeared around my mouth, catching on my teeth a couple times. It didn’t taste half bad.

I tried not to lick it off.

Lastly, my paws get delicately painted with midnight blue polish and yellow moon tips. Her technique was really improving.

“You look fabulous, darling,” Lizzie crooned at me.

She set the tiara on my head with a flourish and wrapped the bright green feather boa around my neck. Afterward she danced around the room, hopping from one floor pouf to another like the floor was lava. She scream-giggled and fell to the floor in a heap of hazy pink scarves and beaded necklaces.

“You are so pretty Oliver, you are so pretty!” She yelled with girlish glee.

I rested my head and waited for a treat. No longer annoyed at being her princess.

Then I heard the footsteps. Lizzie shot up straight, her face horrified. Before she could grab my collar to hide, the door slammed open.

Her mother looked down at us with squinty, bloodshot eyes.

“Damn it Lizzie, you can’t keep doing this to the poor dog,” Mother said. She ripped off my tiara and feather boa, kicking me in the side to move away. It hurt, but I stayed still so it would not hurt more.

Mother snatched up the girl and hit her hard across the face, causing her tiara to fly off.

I waited for the crying.

“Fuck you, mom!” Lizzie screamed, rubbing her cheek and walking away.

I still miss how lipstick tastes.

B: There’s a tense change early on that threw me out for a second “my paws get” instead of “my paws were.” Any way, this is pretty cute. It feels right that this dog would just put up with it and sort of enjoy something because it makes their owner happy. I’m thinking the significance of this event is that for the first time, Lizzie doesn’t cry when her mom hits her; she actually fights back. And changes, too, since this appears to be the last time she works on her dog. The last line hits that home. SILVER

BD: Holy shit, that escalated. I’m not sure how I feel about the wildly dark turn this story took, but I’m inclined to reward this just for the sheer impact. Also, this is one of a few entries this week that dances around the edges of the prompt, as I’m not sure if you could necessarily call this an important event. Nonetheless, this story is not going to be easily forgotten. GOLD

Gilman: Entertaining story with a cute little sidekick there, and a timely message as well. In these days of polarizing national opinion and the advent of repressive so-called “Bathroom Bills” in state legislatures, we must remember that you can take the lipstick off the dog, but you can’t take the dog off the lipstick or whatever. BRONZE

Pete: Well, that….turned. I’ve read it a couple of times now, and I don’t know if the dagger is effective or not. I think it is, but maybe only by default. The dog’s patience is well written, but the girl’s transition from “dressing up the family dog” to “cursing out mom” seems awfully jagged. I like the dog and feel bad for both the dog and Lizzie, so maybe this was more effective than I let on. BRONZE

Shawn Ashley

Rolling Stone Interview, Sebastian, 4/9/16

I was eager for this interview. Sebastian has been something of an enigma since the 90s- turmoil and gossip piqued my interest.

He stumbled through the door, beanie pulled way down over his beady eyes, a newspaper trapped between his claws.

I waved hesitantly; Was that him? I took a moment to size up the former The Little Mermaid star, who’s best known for the song, “Under the Sea”.

He collapsed in the booth, reeking of cheap scotch.

“Sorry I’m late,” he coughed.

Word on the street was that things were tough for him since the movie. I wasn’t aware how tough.

“This will be recorded, are you alright with that?”

[I press play on the recording device]

RS: Sebastian, as a lobster-“

SEB: I’m a crab.

RS: Excuse me?

SEB: I’m a crab. White people think all crustaceans look alike.

RS: [paper shuffles] My apologies. As a crab with a considerable amount of fame-

SEB: Look, everything was different for me once I moved out here from New York after the movie.

RS: The movie came out in ’89?

SEB: Yeah, but then The Riots, man. The Riots killed me.

RS: You said on the phone you had a store in Inglewood, correct?

SEB: Yeah, it was all happy shit, yo. Happy crab posters, soundtracks. Once I was looted…


RS: It’s ok. Take your time…Do you ever hear from Ariel? Or Eric?

SEB: Naw, man…they have their place in Bel-Air. I don’t, um, see them much.


SEB: The Riots destroyed this place. Destroyed ME. Haven’t been the same since. Drinking, drugs…

RS: Kind of gives “Under the Sea” a whole new meaning.

SEB: [crying] It’s definitely not better down where it’s wetter.

RS: We will end here. Thank you, Sebastian.

B: After the initial joke wears off, this doesn’t really go anywhere. Straight interviews are really hard to pull off as you’re totally dependent on the dialogue to create pathos, which is tough. Also, I wish I knew more about why he moved out of New York.

BD: Oh man, I was really enjoying this while it lasted. The imitation of a Rolling Stone interview is right on, and I love the washed-up, drunk Sebastian. It’s a shame you were burdened by the word-limit, because this ended just as it was hitting its stride. SILVER

Gilman: The author’s taking a big risk here, playing this loose with the prompt, and I’m sure they know it. The heavily telegraphed exposition at the beginning, and the densely collapsed interview format at the end does this piece no favors, and reduces it to a bit that exists just for a punchline that doesn’t really land.

Pete: Parody of this sort always runs the risk of seeming really esoteric. I don’t really need to know why Rolling Stone wants to interview the crab from The Little Mermaid 27 years after the movie came out (it’s been that long already? Goodness), but the writer doesn’t seem to know, either. As such, it’s really just going to be about which references and jokes land, and I don’t know that all that many do.

Annette Baron

The harbor with the people in it is FUN! My family came here for the squid.  So many squid all in one place makes me so happy! My family can swim and eat and swim and eat.  I can swim in circles with my mouth open and squid get in it!

This harbor has lots of people.  The people throw things for us to play with.  Sometimes for us to eat.  They laugh and point and we jump and swim fast and then they make big sounds.  I like people!  Mostly they stand on their big floating places, but sometime they come home with us and splash around.  They are slow and I like to jet by them very, very fast.  They always reach out to touch me but I never let them.

Today they make a lot of sounds.  Big booming sounds that hurt my head. Bright flashes of light and heat. We poke our heads above home.  So much to see!  Things fall from the up and the air tastes really bad. It feels like danger and home is vibrating with warning. We argue about whether to stay or go out to the deep.

Then people are splashing down around us and a people place stops floating and drifts to the bottom. We can taste blood and fear and poison and we no longer argue together.  This is not a fun game and we race for the deep.  There is no jumping and racing; we feel sad and anxious.

On our way, we pass the first wave of sharks, full of hunger and intent. The harbor is tainted and we cannot stay. We will remove this place from our many squid hunts; this part of home is too full of death.

B: I like the meter of this story quite a bit and the descriptions make sense to me from the animal’s perspective. SILVER

BD: I feel like too many stories this week took this kind of approach i.e. 1) Take an animal and give it a somewhat silly voice, 2) describe the every-day life of the animal for a few paragraphs 3) end by thrusting the animal into the big event. Regardless, I still enjoyed this. The characterization is more consistent than some of the earlier entries, and funnier, too (‘I can swim in circles with my mouth open and squid get in it!’ made me smile) SILVER

Gilman: I like the way the author words the understanding of the surrounding ocean through this young fella’s eyes. Good, believable word choice and recognizably dolphin-like playfulness to the perspective. Expanding that outward to some generic, polar-opposite experience when HUMAN WAR turns things tragic just reminds me of the sucrose-infused painting from The Simpsons: a mushroom cloud in the background, while a unicorn stands in the foreground, crying, with a thought bubble that says “why?” Still, my own pissy curmudgeonly attitude aside, this was a splendid effort. BRONZE

Pete: This is kind of the type of story I expected to see this week. The almost childish point-of-view of the narrator feels a little forced at times, but is generally good.  BRONZE

Christina Pepper



I’d emerged so recently from my pupal case that my wings were still wet when I felt the first urge. Desire rippled through my thorax and down into my abdomen, and I set off in search of her.

I surveyed my surroundings through my thousands of ommatidium. The air was filled with winged creatures, and I hoped that at least a few of those dark specks were of the same species as me.

As I experienced the curious sensation of propelling my body through the air, I marveled that the world was so much larger than anything I’d imagined in the days when I’d been a wee maggot.

And then, from an open window, I picked up the most fantastic odor. It was the smell of . . . rot!

I zoomed closer and discovered an incredible sight: an uncovered trash bin! Half eaten fruit in the early stages of decomposition mingled with sandwich crusts and fatty bits of meat.

I landed on an apple core and stepped across it, taking in its flavors through the hairs along my tarsi.

I was just beginning to suck up the apple’s liquids through my proboscis when–glory of glories–another arrived at this feast. I smelled her pheromones before I saw her, and when I followed her scent trail, I came upon such a large and lovely female I could scarcely believe my compound eyes.

I bumped into her and to my amazement, she did not flee. We retired to a nearby wall, and I gently spread her wings. She extended her ovipositor and placed it in my abdomen. We remained in this glorious posture for a full twenty minutes as I released my sperm.

She flew off, but I remained, stunned. It is now of no consequence to me whether I live another day.

B: I really like the perspective you chose here and the use of scientific words contrasted with the joy of getting laid for the first time made it a fun read. The bee is perhaps too self-aware at times, but overall I think you hit what you were aiming for. GOLD

BD: I’m not sure what to think of all the science-y language. At first it felt a little dry, and it’s jarring that this fly(?) knows nothing about the world and yet understands its own biology in excruciating and disgusting detail. By the end it came across as genuinely humorous, though. BRONZE

Gilman: Somehow…this one is perfect. Ain’t (scientifically specific and biologically accurate) love grand? GOLD

Pete: Fly erotica! This is gross and really weird and bizarrely detailed and fantastic all at the same time. I laughed aloud at the second to last paragraph – it was a gasping, awkward laugh, which seemed fitting. GOLD

Bret Highum

Albert opened bleary eyes and yawned hugely. His mouth tasted like shit and he had a bad itch on his ribs.

He didn’t realize he was strapped in until he tried to reach under his white suit. Damn it!  Albert had enough of this shit. Twisting and wiggling and prying at the straps, he quickly gained enough space to bring his teeth into play and quickly gnawed his way to freedom, though he felt strangely heavy and slow.

Itch scratched, Albert explored his cramped surroundings. The walls were blank except for a small window, but Albert didn’t see anything out there but sky, and he wasn’t interested in that.

Aha!  A little panel, partially hidden behind his seat.  Smashing it open, Albert found a handful of colorful wires. They didn’t smell good, but Albert pulled them out far enough that he could take a bite…

“Oh, hell…” Frank swallowed the curse. Not professional.  He controlled himself and keyed the mike to give his report.  “We lost it. Diagnostics read we lost guidance, then pressure releases opened. At that speed, the V2 tore apart almost instantly.”

The radio crackled and the general’s voice came through the static. “10-4.  Prepare the next rocket, and tranquilize Albert II. Launch window is still open until 1700 hours.  Control out.”

B: Aww, space monkey. The conflict of this story seems apocryphal; it’s doubtful to me there was this first failed attempt before NASA realized they should probably anesthetize the monkeys. Still, it’s cute and sad and it doesn’t give itself away too early. It perhaps overly relies on the exposition at the end; the last two paragraphs aren’t from the animal. BRONZE

BD: Aww, poor Albert! Using the first monkey in space as the inspiration for the story is clever, and this is definitely my favorite concept of the week. It’s short, though, and so doesn’t have enough time to really develop. Which is a shame since you had a decent amount of words left. SILVER

Gilman: This is a genius idea for a story, and it played it coy quite nicely at the outset, making me wonder exactly what I was reading about for a few paragraphs. The historical accuracy is a nice touch as well, and it seems a perfect fit for this word count. Really well done. GOLD

Pete: This reminds me of a really good story from earlier in this site’s history about Laika, the doomed space dog. Whereas that story went for the panicked isolation, this one goes for annoyance. I do kind of like the comparison of Albert’s irritated profanity versus Frank’s professionally shaming self-censorship. SILVER

Melissa Diamond

The man squeezed through the crowd at the deli door. Inside, voiced chattered about the parade, about the politics of the day.  None of them dropped a scrap of food.

This new man ordered a sandwich. Michele watched, stomach churning.  The smell of coffee made it worse.  The man looked as hot as Michele felt. He wiped at his forehead, tugged at his mustache as if nervous, until the sandwich appeared.  Even then, he seemed unwell.  He took small bites of the sandwich. Michele hated him.

A ruckus sounded outside. Michele twitched, glanced towards the shouting, but fortune kept her from fleeing. Fortune made her turn and see the man drop the sandwich, push the chair back, race towards the crowd that shouted and exclaimed.

“It’s him!  It’s him!” they said. “The archduke!”

The man took off from the table, reaching into his bag for something Michele could not see and cares nothing about. The man left the table, and Michele leapt upon it.

Sharp blasts. Screams. A scuffle at the door.  All things that would have made Michele start, take off into the ally, look for garbage outside instead of stay — but not today.

She had a sandwich.

“He’s dead!  The archduke is dead!”

Michele purred. The ham was delicious.

B: Three assassination stories! Like the second JFK story, this one relies on human dialogue that the animal can’t understand to clue us into what’s happening, so my focus on the animal is taken away a couple of times. Still, I like the obliviousness of the cat to the significance around her. I wish I had known it was a cat sooner. BRONZE

BD: All in all there’s nothing that I disliked about this. But there’s also nothing that really makes it stand out, especially since a lot of the other entries have a very similar feel. BRONZE

Gilman: Essentially another visit to Dealey Plaza, with the benefit that it feels a little more realistic in its perspective than the others. Maybe the fact that we’re dealing with a higher order of animal helps. Maybe there were delis back then in Austria (for when you felt Hungary?), maybe not. But this was a nice brush with one of history’s most infamous assassins, and it reinforces one of history’s key lessons: nothing trumps a sandwich. BRONZE

Pete: I can confirm. My cat, Zoë, would not care one whit if a dignitary was assassinated nearby if she got a delicious sandwich out of the deal. It seems, though, that this one was rewritten a bit, and that part of the original remains, which causes the assassin to drop the sandwich and race toward the crowd, then take off from the table. Actually, it looks like the man leaves the table three times. Still, Michele gets her sandwich, and everyone lived happily ever after. BRONZE

Kelly Wells

I’m excited about every day, even though I am old. I have not had an interesting life. But I have had a very happy life and I am such a good boy. Girl-helper is home from school.

Girl-helper is followed in by a man who is not man-helper. He has a hand over girl-helper’s mouth. Girl-helper is crying and the man sees me. He puts one finger over his lips to girl-helper and tells her to sit on the couch. He motions for me to sit and I do. He does not give me a treat for this and I am disappointed.

The man who is not my helper puts tape over girl-helper’s mouth. He puts rope around her wrists and something is stirring in me.

The man picks up my girl-helper and something stirs in me again and I watch him carry her away. He goes into her room and shuts the door and he does not know that the latch is faulty.

I drag my bones to the door and I listen. I knock open the door and the man cannot turn around fast enough to avoid me tearing flesh from his leg. He swings at me and hits me on the head and I do not care. I tear his neck and splash his blood everywhere. I bite his arm, his ear, his skull. He passes out and girl-helper fumbles for a phone and dials and tries to yell through the phone with muffled screams as someone else says that help is coming.

I look at girl-helper and her eyes are alight with laughter and tears and she loves me. I look at the bad man and he is dead now and I am old and fat and mostly slow but I am such a good boy.

B: Yay doggie! You are a good boy. I wish we had more emotion from the dog, especially given this moment. But I do like the bookends about his reflections on age. BRONZE

BD: For the first half of the story I was not sure if the atmosphere was working for me. The events seemed very dark in contrast to the lighthearted narrative voice. The dog is genuinely likeable, though, and that’s what won me over. I also appreciate how this ended with a nice dose of justice. GOLD

Gilman: Heroism to end the night! A story that addresses the eternal question of who’s a good boy. Who is it. Is it you. (Yes, as it turns out, you’re a good boy.) I’m curious to know if this is somehow based on a true event, but probably not. In all, I’m a sucker for mostly-accurate (or believable) stories about the perspective of a pet dog. They just love their role in life so much. SILVER

Pete: I was really hoping this one would have a happy ending. Good boy. SILVER


Congratulations to Ms. Pepper, who becomes the next person to almost score a quad-gold, nabbing down three along with 16 points to get the best score this week. Joshua also scored 16 points to tie her. Margaret finishes third for the week with 14 points.

As far as the standings go, not a lot of changes. With three weeks to go, Sama remains in the top spot, though both Christina and Joshua caught up a bit. Novak continues to plunge downward to 7th, though he’s still sitting with a good score. The biggest news is probably Mr. Wells nabbing his first gold medal in six weeks, inching himself closer to the final playoff spot, still held by Bret.