Before jumping into challenge #10, thought I’d mention that I won another of the Twins’ radio trivia questions during Friday night’s game by emailing in the correct answer. Considering that I first mailed in the wrong answer, and then took quite a while to send in the right one, I was surprised to have won this one.
Q: In which year did the Twins send the most players to the All-Star game, and who were they?
I first answered 1987, knowing the Twins sent a slew then (5), but discovering that they’d sent five at least one other time, I considered going back farther in time, when there were fewer teams. Bingo!
A: 1965 – Grant, Battey, Killebrew, Versalles, Hall, Oliva
Now that the medal streak is over, it’s time to get back up on that horse! Play with the Prose challenge #10: write about a person at the end of his/her life reflecting on their defining moment. Oh yeah?!
|“Truth or dare!” said Horace from his wheelchair.
Stan looked up from his tray of food and replied, “Er, truth?”
“What was your biggest contribution in life?” Horace asked, an impish smile on his wrinkled visage.
“Hmmm…I wrote the lyrics to ‘In the Air Tonight’.”
Horace gaped for a couple seconds, and then burst in a spasm of chuckling. “Sorry, friend, I’m calling horse droppings on that!”
“No, really, I just wrote the chorus.”
“What, ‘I can feel it comin’ in the air tonight, oh lord’ repeated several dozen times?!”
Stan could no longer keep a grin from splitting his gray-trimmed face. He drank in Horace’s laughter and the scene in the assisted living cafeteria where they sat. In a moment of introspection, Stan uttered, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
Horace put down his fork and wiped a laugh-tear from his eye. “You’re getting very zen on me, old man. Did I touch a nerve?”
Standing up and taking a moment to straighten his creaky knees, Stan looked down at Horace and winked. “If you can stage a good diversion, I think I can procure us each another slice of apple pie!”
I avoided the defining moment a bit here…did it work? RESULTS
The judges’ comments:
K: Okay, the entire idea of this story is hilarious. It’s the saddest, most pathetic “biggest contribution to society” that someone could possibly manage, and yet Stan is perfectly content with the life he’s lived and he’s going to die happy. This joke didn’t ruin itself by getting too broad, and it easily could have. Tons of fun. SILVER
P: I like these old guys. They’re well written characters that feel rounded and real. It doesn’t even matter if Stan actually wrote the words to the song. The switch to the impending apple pie caper suggests that there’s a bit of life left to these two. I’m glad to hear it. GOLD
Nice recovery from last week! STANDINGS
- This one came to me on Saturday while Mo and I sat eating at Jimmy Johns. I could tell the 5-6 workers were getting into “In the Air Tonight” playing overhead (it surprised me, as I thought they were too young to know that song well), and had to chuckle when they got into the drum break near the end.
- Did I side-step the challenge with this one? Probably. Still, I don’t feel that a life necessarily has a defining moment — it IS a defining moment. And it gave me a way to show an interchange with a couple oldsters that consciously decide to leave the grumpiness to others. Hopefully that’s me some day far in the future.
Well, we’ll have to “see” what happens with the next challenge…
Definitely the most difficult Play with the Prose challenge to date: in 300 words or fewer write a story about a person’s or group’s first taste of power. After shaking off several uninspiring ideas, I put fingers to keyboard at the 11th hour and typed out this simple tale:
|For the first time that he could remember in his short life, Cody felt flush with the full attention of his family on him, waiting on his every word. It was HIS turn. His father, who was keeping an eye on the ice-trimmed road ahead of him as he drove them onward towards Florida, cocked his head in order to catch what Cody was about to utter. Sisters Shelly and Marilynn sat squirmily in their car seats on either side of him, waiting for the 20 minutes to be up so they could return to their Tinkerbell movies. Brother Jeff slouched in the van’s back seat among the baggage, impatiently holding his AT-AT walker between bouts of battles with The Empire. Even mom had put down her Sudoku pencil in careful anticipation. Cody glowed under his family’s focus, drinking it in.
It was Jeff of course who broke the silence. “Come ON already!”
“Jeff, be nice,” scolded Cody’s mom. She turned to Cody’s middle seat between his sisters and put her hand on his knee. “Whenever you’re ready, Cody.”
Suddenly Cody felt nervous, and his gaze went out the window. “Uh…” The methodical bumps of the van over the expansion joints in the highway didn’t help his concentration. “Er…” His glance wandered more, and suddenly he realized he was ready.
“I spy wiff my eye something…WHITE!”
The aftermath: RESULTS
The judges’ comments:
K: Cute, again. I suspected he was choosing the restaurant, but this got us to the same end. It also is, in its way, the most honest story of the lot, as this kind of situation at this age is probably the first taste of power for most people (albeit on a very small level). I’m not sure how this small story will stack up against the rest in the end – this is proving to be a very strong week. BRONZE
P: Heh, this season has certainly held a lot of “gotcha! It’s a kid!” stories. To be fair, this one doesn’t really try to hide that fact too much. Beyond that, I do get a chuckle out of the fact that Cody has been the opportunity of his life, and he wastes it on “spying” something snowy.
THE MEDAL STREAK IS OVER! Well, I’m not at all surprised. STANDINGS
- We jokingly play this type of “I spy” on road trips, where we’ll name a color of something where there is only one obvious answer. Good for at least one chuckle.
- I tossed around someone at a pharmaceutical meeting where a vote is being taken for a drug to go to human testing and lots of other so-so ideas, but didn’t have the gumption to tackle any of them.
Time now to reflect on the defining moment of someone’s life…
This time around our Play with the Prose challenge was to write the denouement of a story, in 200 words or fewer. Well, here’s how it wrapped up:
|As the first emerged from their bunkers, they were greeted by a ruddy red glow on the northern horizon, as well as two active volcanoes towards the east. The strong gusts of wind did nothing to dispel the 120° heat of the pre-dawn air. Others tentatively climbed out into the growing throng, some scanning the landscape in shock, while others searched a sky filled with ocher, scudding clouds.
A lone figure climbed onto a large rock where he could be seen by the milling crowd, and lifted his strong voice over the howling wind. “When scientists warned us that asteroid TTS-150a was on a probable collision course, we all feared for our future, and prepared for the worst.”
Steadying himself from a short ground tremor, he scanned the faces nearest him and smiled. “Thankfully, those dire predictions were wrong! This calls for a time of celebration! Hug your younglings, and offer your gratitude to The Great Ukko!”
A light sulfuric acid rain fell on the joyous upturned scaly visages of the crowd, as the planet’s red giant sun rose higher over the clouds of volcanic ejecta, the beginnings of a beautiful — and unexpected — day on Triskelion Three.
So, do they fall for it? RESULTS
The judges’ comments:
K: I know it’s tough to do without cheating, but this one had a character come out and say what happened in the story. The concept could be fun, but I’m being hit over the head by this one. BRONZE
I admit, I fell for it. When the conditions of the post-asteroid world were being revealed, I thought “ah, we’re going to get a downer ending”. When the leader begins thanking the great Ukko, I was envisioning a ‘The Stand’ style thing. Then the reveal happened, and I felt a little silly having thought any of that. I like where it goes, though. ‘A light sulpheric acid rain’ is a wonderfully oxymoronic line that feels perfect for the world the writer created.
More medals — the streak goes on! STANDINGS
- When it comes to denouement, the king is Sherlock Holmes, and originally I thought of writing a wrap-up where Holmes begins, “The proof is in the pudding!” followed by some twisted logic, and then Watson asking, “But in order to prove that, you need the [insert item]!” whereby Holmes replies, “I told you — check in the chocolate mousse!”
- The second idea is this one that I submitted. I asked myself, what if I paint a post-apocalyptic landscape where I hide the fact that it is not Earth and not populated by humans, but is in fact a the typical environment, and lead the reader to think the worst outcome?
- I think Rod Serling had an influence on me, because many of my stories could work as Twilight Zone episodes. After thinking about it, the reveal in this story reminds me of “The Eye of the Beholder” quite a bit.
- Heh heh — I used Triskelion.
The next challenge isn’t doing anything for me so far…
And who do I write like with this story? Why, of course:
This week’s Play with the Prose challenge left me struggling the most so far: write a story about a family reunion, in 300 or fewer words.
|Windom Arms Hotels
August 24, 2012
Here is a summary of the activities in question, as requested by Windom’s law department, regarding the two family reunions held on the weekend of Aug. 11/12, as recorded in the hotel log:
5PM – several lobsters were found in the sauna. Medical attention was summoned for the two women who found them.
6:45PM – elevator maintenance was called after 18 people overloaded the east elevator, stopping it between 3rd and 4th floors. Service was restored after 55 minutes.
8:10PM – police notify the front desk that toilet paper rolls were unfurled and blowing from a 4th floor window. The parents in room 308 were warned.
3:35AM – bathtub in room 447 overflows, causing ceiling damage. Tub was unattended; drain was blocked by a condom. Guests in 347 were relocated.
8:40AM – approximately four dozen doughnuts disappeared from kitchen storeroom.
3:20PM – law officials were called after a fight broke out in the pool area. Several people in street clothes had been thrown into the pool; many others had their swimwear pulled off of them. Warnings were handed out but no citations were issued, to our knowledge.
10:55PM (at various times for roughly 5 hours) – many calls regarding noise disturbances, two handled by the hotel detective, and one in room 312 requiring animal control intervention.
2:00AM – bathtub in room 447 overflows, once again unattended and due to condom blocking the drain. Guests were moved to a first floor room.
8:30AM – food fight breaks out in the restaurant after waffle mix on the floor causes several falls. Eight injuries were treated.
We sincerely hope that our hotel ratings were not hurt, but we would like to add that if the Fodor or Zagat family reunions are ever held here again, we will refuse to work those days.
Terrence Range , Corrine Horle, Stan Best
Lead Shift Managers
Judging was delayed for a bit; here are the RESULTS
The judges’ comments:
K: My not-so-well-kept secret: the underplayed joke, told with a stone face, gets me every time. Certainly, hotel managers are constantly put in situations where they have to relate hilarious situations in businesslike language. Maybe this shouldn’t seem like a story to me, but in this setting, it was a blast, and managed to have a beginning, middle and end. GOLD
P: Ceiling floods. Ouch. I like the gag here. The ongoing descriptions of the mayhem are funny (and occasionally what isn’t explained ends up being almost as funny), if they don’t exactly tell a ‘story’ per se. In fact, that’s really the only reason this story gets a bit lower marks. It sort of tells a story, but it don’t actually show us a story. BRONZE
The medal streak continues, and my current position is more solidified. STANDINGS
- After a three day stint at the Downtown DoubleTree in Omaha, this idea came to me rather quickly. I like making myself run with an early idea, but this one didn’t hold my interest well enough to get it done prior to an hour before the deadline.
- The judging was delayed partly due to flooding from a bathroom in the apartment above Spookymilk’s. That’s, uh, pretty freaky.
- “Windom Arms” is named as a tribute to the wonderful actor William Windom, who died just a few days ago.
- At least two of the items in the list reflect circumstances (more-or-less) from my past. Not that I was involved, necessarily.
Onward to the next challenge…
Our Play with the Prose mission, should we choose to accept it: to write a story about someone dealing with a wrong decision they had made (200 word limit). Here’s my take on it:
Fiery pain ripped through Stim Tremplent’s left thigh, followed quickly by the sting of his suit’s epi-painkill and a thrumming numbness as the suit resealed and repressurized. He awkwardly dragged himself into the gaping hole in the nearby alien architecture caused by the same chem-missle that just wounded him.
Stim released a spybot drone to assess his situation. The renneretts, big ugly bastards resembling gray slugs with undulating carapaces that made kill shots difficult, were everywhere around the maze-like cityscape, and all manner of weapons fire dotted his helmet’s heads-up display.
Once more Stim found himself regretting choosing a two-year stint in the Zealand Defense Force instead of the mandatory decade of tedious desk work in the Census Ministry, which his lottery number dictated. No one anticipated this initial small confrontation would take such a horrible downturn.
As the spybot zipped back to him, he reached out to deactivate it; instantly his head snapped back and his world went black…
…he awoke to Platoon Leader standing over his medibed. “Tremplent, we’ve reviewed your mental blackbox; your lack of focus has cost us greatly! Three more months have been added to your enlistment.”
The judges’ comments:
K: I really loved the prose here, and the character felt believable (despite the bizarre name (which I liked)). I’m not sure I buy that three months would be added to his enlistment after he nearly got his entire platoon killed, though. Maybe an ending where they “punished” him by having the remainder of the two years behind a desk? Anyway, good stuff regardless. SILVER
P: I like the sci-fi element, since I’m a sucker for that sort of thing, anyway. I like the concept behind the regret of taking a few hellish years instead of a number of boring ones. What I really don’t like is the “DAMN IT” exclamation at the end. I would think that such a statement could be reasonably assumed. It doesn’t damper my opinion of the piece too much, but it’s unnecessary. BRONZE
Well, the unfortunate aspect of a 200-word story is that you can’t fully clarify things. Still, the medal streak continues! STANDINGS
- I had idea about how I wanted to start the story — it only made sense to bookend it. Even if not everyone thought so. For some reason I heard Stim’s voice sounding like
Brock Samson Patrick Warburton.
- Who doesn’t love coining futuristic words and names?
- Some of the sentences got pretty run-on, but that’s a requirement of pulp SciFi, isn’t it. The initial draft came in with an extra 30+ words over the limit; it’s a fun challenge to leave the virtual kettle over the fire and boil off the excess.
- I thought it great irony that his dwelling on the bad decision that put him into a two year battle cost him even more time there.
Time to begin planning that family reunion 😉
This time around, our Play with the Prose challenge was to write a 300-word or less story about someone halfway to a large goal. I gave it a go:
|Jeremy went to his small closet and carefully got down a hard-shell suitcase. The other residents at the assisted living facility were twice Jeremy’s age, but he was still going to miss them. Later today he would be moving into hospice.
His intention was to pack following lunch, since his energy had been flagging lately. At least the back of his head only throbbed lightly nowadays; the stronger pain medication was doing wonders – gone were the days of eye-squinching, fetal position headaches, although he really had problems maintaining his focus.
In the suitcase Jeremy made a base of socks and underwear from his top drawer, and then added pants on top of them. The changing pictures of the digital photo frame on the dresser caught his attention, and he picked it up just as an image of a cocker spaniel appeared. He heard from the adoption center that Clara was in good hands now; she was the closest thing he had to family. Jeremy turned off the frame and placed it carefully into the suitcase, then without thought climbed onto the bed for a short respite.
The afternoon on-duty nurse knocked lightly before entering the room, smiled, and walked over to the bedside where he carefully moved the half-filled suitcase off the foot of the bed to the chair nearby. As he fixed the man’s upturned collar, the nurse stiffened, then quickly felt for a pulse. He paged the front desk, confirming the D.N.R. order, and the doctor on call was notified.
The nurse’s smile returned, sadder now, and he rubbed away some moisture from his left eye with the back of his hand, smoothing out Jeremy’s half-opened jacket. Waiting as footsteps partway way down the hallway approached, he gently lowered the suitcase lid.
The judges’ comments:
K: This is an oddly comforting little story. I thought I was going to be distraught by the unknown as Jeremy left the building, but I enjoy that this story closed the book on his life, and did it with class and dignity. I could stand to go that way. SILVER
P: The tone set here is good. The small parts, like the digital photo frame are done with care, and the implied tragedy of only getting to life half the life is haunting. This story did a good job of weaving the half filled suitcase into the overall narrative. GOLD
More bling! So now, where does that leave things? STANDINGS
- I wanted to do something with a little more emotional impact this time around. I think I did that.
- My idea came while choosing music videos for WGOM, where I was the VJ for the week; my muse was Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill“, and the ending was inspired by the ending of a story I remember from HS English class, “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Anne Porter.
- Besides the half-packed suitcase, I threw in a lot of other half references: half the residents’ ages, waiting half the day to start packing, half-opened jacket, halfways down the hallway…
We’ve already got our marching orders for the next challenge — hopefully I choose wisely…
The latest Play with the Prose challenge required us to write a story about a person or community of people no more than an inch tall. Interesting! Let’s see how this works…
|“Mr. Demopolous? Mr. Carter from the Vancouver Board of Labour is here to see you.”
Oscar Demopolous stubbed out his cigarette, reached into his upper left drawer for a bottle of Maalox and took a swig, then thumbed the intercom and replied, “Send him in.” He stood and greeted the man as he entered, then offered him a chair.
The investigator took his seat opposite the large desk. “I understand you were at the set during filming; tell me what happened.”
“Everybody knows the unusual story of the tiny Jankowicz’ family. It occurred to me a while back how wonderful it would be to hire them for our minatures filming — after all, they are 1:72 scale! CGI can do wonders, but every director likes live-action shots, of course.”
“I understand this, but let’s get to the incident…”
“Yes, yes. Well, we follow the strictest safety standards and always have a fire safety officer on set. We had been filming an exciting segment for our film 2013 with explosions and falling buildings and the like. It went exactly as it was choreographed. But at the end of the day, who would have known there was a cat hanging around the trailers?!”
The judges’ comments:
K: I rolled my eyes, but it was mostly in the good way. This could feel like a stupid nudge-nudge twist but it’s foreshadowed properly. BRONZE
P: Simple gag, fun results. The idea of a director using a miniature family for model shots is funny, and a cat would totally ruin a one inch tall human’s world. BRONZE
Alrighty — still on the medal stand: STANDINGS
- Once again I went with my first instincts: what would I hire people less than 1″ tall to do? Acting in miniture special effects shots!
- Oscar Demopolous is my shout out to Dino DeLaurentiis.
- Probably should have been the British Columbia Board of Labour, but that’s an extra word I couldn’t afford.
- I considered the old saw “Never work with aminals or children,” and the ending fell into place.
Pressure’s on to continue the medal streak, and looks like I’ll have to come up with a “halfway” good submission this week, too…
The latest Play with the Prose challenge required us to write a story about a character with a superpower, in 300 words or less.
|I woke to the insistent ringing of a cellphone. It was the HSA’s scrambled line – great. I cleared my head and answered.
“Is your end secure?” asked the voice on the other end. “One of our generals reported this week’s Atlantic submarine fleet movements have been stolen – can you find them?”
Yes, of course I could. After studying my cuticles for a few seconds, an image formed. “Locked in the top drawer of the second filing cabinet in the general’s anteroom. Probably left them sitting out, and his secretary secured them for him.” Idiot.
“Thanks, we’ll get back to you if they don’t happen to be there.”
“Oh, they’re THERE alright, sitting on top of three phone books.” I hung up before he wasted more of my time. Another idiot.
I got up, took a leak, then switched on the coffeemaker (what good is the timer when I wake up before it?) and the laptop. Geez, 47 emails already.
Josh, can you help me find a gift for Ginger and Ronny’s wedding? Thanks! -Aunt Cynthia
You’re kidding me – even my family is piling on! I took two deep breaths. I’ve told you before, I can only find a specific item, not something vague like that. Another deep breath. Buy them a coffeemaker. With a timer. –Josh
Why couldn’t I have a real superpower? A costume? A name? I’m just “the finder”, and not even with capital letters. Crap, even The Kidnapper wears a cape, and how stupid a “superpower” is that, being able to get children to sleep?
Checking the pile of mail by the door, I saw the plane tickets, and couldn’t help but smile. Who else could find the perfect location to finally get away from everyone?
The judges’ comments:
K: I really like this character. He’s cynical and he’s funny. The touch of “finder, but not with capital letters” alone gives this character more depth than some Marvel superheroes. GOLD
P: Ha! “Kidnapper” is my favorite gag this week, and it’s just a throwaway line. The little touches in this one go a long way. The hero gets a vacation in the end! It’s stakes are low, but damn, that ‘kidnapper’ gag. SILVER
Solidly in second, knocking on the door for first place: THE STANDINGS
- The only two superpowers I considered were this one and my personal fave, the guy who could explode at will.
- I wanted a second superpower for the story (a lame one), and catching part of a news story about a kidnapping was just the mental slap that I needed.
- When I considered that the guy would be swamped with requests on a daily basis, and that he’d want to escape somehow, the last line just fell into place.
- I like to work from a skeleton framework and then flesh the story out; still, the initial completed draft came in at 335 words, so some paring was required to fit the word limit.
For the next challenge, I’m going to have to think on a smaller scale…