I've been petting the Duchess of Yowl, and reading the new Bob Woodward book. Both are compelling, but each in their own way.
Herewith the results:
Special recognition for two lines that have real zing:
Falling out of love was predictable. It always started with a list: duct tape, gloves, rags, hydrogen peroxide…
Here are the entries that resonated with me:
Tabitha reached into the icebox and hurled a piece of fruit in William’s direction. It slapped his open palm.
“Fuck off. You need to tell her. Tonight.”
“No way.” He gathered his pants from around his ankles. “Mrs. Williams would be crushed.”
“After I apologize.” He scrawled a few words, fingertips sticky with black juice.
“Of all the - ” she fumed, reading his slanted script. “You’re apologizing . . . for eating the plum?”
He shrugged. “It was the last one.”
“Some fucking poet.”
“Hey, at least it’s got stanzas. Last time I published my grocery list.”
This entry requires the reader know the poetry canon, specifically William Carlos Williams' work. I had to dig around to find "two pendants for ears" the poem with the grocery list, but I'm always up for poetry research.
'He's had a fall.’
She focussed on the tips of the nurse’s spring yellow nails. 'Ernie’ll... be okay, right?’
Ernie called her spring chicken. She let him. Naturally. Unless his daughter was there - too tactless.
‘I'm afraid he’s broken his hip.’
She pictured that miniature plummet,knew exactly where. The listing paving stone, where she'd stamped her Jimmy Choos when the concrete was wet. That slant, sly as his eyes when they’d first met.
Geriatrics don't survive broken hips, she told herself in the Jag, later.
Sobbing for that nurse had been draining.
It was hard being a gold-digger sometimes.
That nice little twist in those last two lines really got me.
Then, when I went back to re-read, I noticed the line about stamping the listing paving stone, and I wondered if she'd stamped it so it listed MORE, thus causing the fall. Little ambiguities like that, that make your reader wonder, those are just lovely.
Me: I give up. You’d thing I was trying to feed him offal.
L: I struggled with him all day. It’s your turn to figure it out.
Me: Come on buddy, you need these prunes. Much as I appreciate the clean diapers, you gotta poop, pal! Open up, please?
L: You think I didn’t already try begging? Amateur. Just face it – my mom was right. The little guy’s got a condition.
Me: Which is?
Me: That’s not a real thing!
L (with a shrug): It is to him. You ain’t gonna win an argument with a baby.
Well, of course, Steve Forti is always an interesting read, first for what he does with prompt words. This entry was no exception. But Mr. Forti must meet a higher standard than most of the other writers here; a handicap like that given to standard bred trotters to even the odds.
In this entry it's that last line. It's funny and clever up to that point, then wham: wisdom.
“Listen,” she started her slurred confession. She always swayed as if she were tipsy when the morphine hit her bloodstream. “I stole it. All of it. My windfall wasn’t because of some loaded dead relative. I have to make it right.” She sucked in a breath. “I need to return it, before I…before the end.”
I nodded empathetically. She needed to rest. I shushed her while making the injection. Her heart rate plummeted. It wouldn’t be long now. I scribbled her slanted signature on the DNR. Her secret was safe with me. So was the money.
This whole story appeals to my evil nature.
Brigid is giving Mr. Forti a run for the Steve Forti deft use of prompt words award this time!
Elle barely listened. “I’m sorry, Lannie, I’m going out.”
By the looks of it, she was going far. That dress. Her chignon hid her neon tips entirely, and she was dabbing crème céleste over her telecom scar.
“Solferino's not your usual shade. And is that a plum—?”
“Met a guy.”
“He's marvelous, Lan, too marvelous for words. To keep him, I'll have to be showstopping.”
“Where are you going?”
She pinned her last curl and stepped into the whirring NEXUS. “If all goes well, not The Ford’s Theatre.”
Lannie shouted, but the curtain fell.
Lovely use of prompt words here.
And I love the use of NEXUS as the time travel machine.
Sweet Plum met her fate and was missed
In a fall from a cart which did list
It slanted and tipped
The farmer, he tripped
Now he’s a purple-tailed agriculturalist!
I'm a sucker for a clever poem of course, and "purple-tailed agriculturalist" is my new favorite phrase.
He scrabbled through the tall grass under the slanting trees, feeling for the round firm falls, bruised from their plummet to earth, but could find nothing.
He found them on the way home. His brother held one out to his sheep—by the knuckles, to avoid bitten fingertips.
“Seriously? Again? I told you.”
His brother frowned. “They were getting mushy. You couldn’t possibly use them.”
“We stew them, feed them to Enoch.”
“You feed apples to your baby? Seriously? After what happened to Mom and Dad?”
He huffed. “Listen. Keep your mitts off my apples, Abel. Or else.”
This depends on the reader know who Enoch is. And Abel. It's subtle and clever.
John Davis (manuscript) Frain
Soon as I saw the contest posting, I sent him tickets. Weekend getaway. No wifi. No phones. Commune with nature.
Finally, an opening. I labored over my wordplay. Edited. Polished. Proofed. Ready to submit.
Then I saw it. My heart plummeted on cue. He’d already entered. Hope had fallen to zero.
I gathered my writing team in the lower forty.
“Check the blacklist,” I said to my assistant. “Which direction does he live?”
“He’s north by northwest from where you’re standing, sir.”
I turned fifteen degrees. Tipped my cap. Slanted my head. We all solemnly bowed in Forti’s general direction.
This just cracked me up completely.
Fall brought the miserable diagnosis.
She started a bucket list. As few as four—as many as ten!—months. How was a dying woman to plan? Infuriating.
In the end, just one idea made her tingle, right to the tips of her toes.
Day 30 AC (after cancer, as few as three—as many as nine!—months left).
She climbed the sharp slant of the arch. At the apex, she smiled. The Bloukrans River sparkled 700 feet below.
Geared up, she plummeted. Five long— Exhilarating! Life-altering! —seconds.
As few as 1—as many as 2!—seconds.
I love the twist here (so to speak!), the surprise.
The World War I flying ace cradled the controls, fighting to maintain the dance. His trusty Sopwith Camel spat black blood as she slanted earthward. Pulling hard, he regained altitude. But hope exploded with the engine, and the Camel plummeted, her graceless fall ending in a ball of flame.
Outside the fourth wall, the bespectacled man chewed his pencil, its once-sharp tip a nub, then breathed a sigh of mixed relief.
“That’s how we end it.”
God had seen enough.
“Listen, Chuck, I totally get the ‘My creation’ thing. But I’m exercising My right to veto. You can’t kill Snoopy.”
Any story with Snoopy, God AND the Sopwith Camel is just plain terrific!
They called me “Slant” every stinking day. Jerks! So what if my left three legs are a micrometer shorter than my right three?
I’d been expelled from the colony after dismal performance reviews. The harder and faster I worked, the more I spun in circles. So, I became a rogue among rogues.
The fall rains came earlier than expected. Everyone scurried for higher ground. I concentrated on going straight. But growing listless, I unintentionally veered left. Just in time. The others didn’t realize they’d reached the tip of the hill. Full speed ahead, they plummeted.
Nobody’s calling me “Slant” now.
This is even funnier when you realize that it's first person ant. I had to look up how many legs an ant has to be sure.
Found out tonight my baby’s one of the fallen ones. Though tbh I don’t know exactly what she did, she won’t tell me.
I ask her, What’d you do?
(Not so much fallen as plummeted.)
Sometimes her skirt’s too short, maybe that’s it.
Or too much smiling. Smile all the time, people get ideas, that’s how it works.
I ask her, Were you tipsy?
Her long-lashed eyes slant over at me, daring me to ask twice.
(Too much mascara?)
The tech pulls a checklist out of the rape kit and gets to work.
Guess I’ll never know what she did.
The unusual point of view here, that's the compelling thing.
The character you loathe, but somehow still have sympathy for.
This is masterful, subtle writing. (no surprise, given the author)
My insides plummet.
We're at Dina’s Diner, number one on Seattle Times’ list of best brunch spots and where I've just seen a ghost.
“It's the waitress,” I tell Robert, “We dated.”
“When we were kids. I don't think she recognizes me. Do I say something? God, what do I tip? How much to make up for-”
“Shush,” Robert says, adjusting my slanted glasses. “It wasn't your fault.”
“Whatever it was. I know you better than you think.”
I smile back at my ghostbuster, the only man--only person--I’ve ever fallen for.
Lovely twist on the word ghostbuster.
Those kinds of twists always delight me.
Notes to self:
1. If Client’s list of stipulations exceeds one side of paper (double-spaced), reject and refer - preferably to someone you don’t like. (I’m thinking Julie, the treacherous hag.)
2. If any stipulations mention fallen angels, dogs of war, horsemen, apocalypses etc., then Client’s worldview may be slanted away from full respect for your dignity at work/personal wellbeing/life. Reject and refer. (Julie again, hah!).
3. If, in course of delivering assignment to Client, you have to choose between plummeting to fiery death in pit below and grabbing rope ladder dangled by Julie, don’t automatically dismiss the pit.
This just cracked me up completely. Gorgeous deft writing (again, no surprise given the writer)
Either I can't tell time, or I'm in a very weird time zone, cause my clock says close to 2am, not 5pm.
I really admire all these entries. But somehow it was Richelle Elberg who really hit me this week. The "ya never know" element of that story really resonated.
Richelle, get in touch and I'll send you a prize!
Thanks to everyone who took the time to write and enter this week. I had a lot of fun reading your work.
The Duchess of Yowl however, she's still Not Amused. (Tuna will alleviate her suffering!)