Welcome to your results show! As ever, no filler here, kids. Just two quick reminders: we’ve got #FlashPoints tomorrow, in which one of your fine tales is parsed (ish) line by line (or so); and a BIG reminder that the cash-prized #DogDays is waiting for your trouble-making entries right here (deadline July 22).
Judge Betsy Streeter says: It was fascinating how strongly many people picked up on the notion of two men, longtime friends, ending up in a deadly duel. That story obviously carries a lot of impact for many and maybe makes us think about friendship in general, and how people and relationships change over time – and don’t.
I loved how much came across in so many of the stories – whole lives and worlds that could be inferred, or even created by the reader. Little details, use of words, and getting inside the heads of the characters – all of these were happening all over the place. Congratulations to everyone!
William Goss, “Touched By a Hot Reminding Breeze.” I loved the way this story was able to encapsulate so much about the characters using a countdown, which served to naturally build the tension. Their friendship’s life flashed before the duelers’ eyes as they fast approached this inevitable end to their relationship. And then the ending touches on the universality of the story by suggesting that this fate comes around and around again, in a cycle. So much contained in this story. Great job!
Clive Newnham, “Tommy and Vince.” This one I fell for because of tone. The story commits to its narrator and stays committed, contrasting a seemingly small-town voice and perspective with the lives of the two boys who had supposedly moved on to bigger and better things – only to have their origins and rivalry catch up with them in the end (to the narrator’s regret). Again, a great deal packed into few words and a lot to think about. Terrific!
J M Filipowicz, “The Time Travelers’ Guild.” I’m a nerd so time travel is great, but it’s really the idea of people’s values and perspective deteriorating that caught my attention. The way the story is constructed of fragments of sentences and thoughts, captured the way the thoughts of the characters were falling apart too. This is a great example of combining format with narrative and having them reinforce one another. Loved it!
SECOND RUNNER UP
Mark A. King, “Daily Duel.” It is always tricky to take a very unique approach and get it across in so few words without confusing the reader. This story does a wonderful job of making it very clear what is going on with the reveal halfway through, but doesn’t spoil it at the beginning. This required really confronting that rival in the mirror and speaking of him with full disgust, before letting on that this was really contempt for the self. “His life is in my hands…” because his life is my life. This story takes the duality of the self and places the mirror in the middle as a weapon, creating a painful moment to watch and giving us all pause to consider how we treat ourselves. Wonderful.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Brian Creek, “If You Go Down to the Woods Today.” This story brings the reader’s attention to the all-consuming emotions of witnessing a duel, only to step deftly outside of them and offer a unique perspective on how those emotions might prove a weakness. “I sell one of those pistols I could feed my gang for a month” is a great way to make a point, and maintain a voice, while using natural language to do so. The tension isn’t the duel itself, but rather the thief’s contempt for the duelers and their culture and station. I love that this story expanded the scene around the duel and brought in such an interesting character with compelling motivations.
And now: for his first time, it’s Flash! Friday
There was one phrase that kept me coming back to this story again and again. That was, “dabbed the scarlet at his lips with a handkerchief and straightened his coat.” There was so much conveyed in this little gesture, it just brought me to a screeching halt. It brought to mind the scene in “Immortal Beloved” when Beethoven is abusive to his brother, causing him to collapse from consumption and cough up blood. The imagery here and the implied suffering brought with them a sense of this character’s destruction and attempt to grasp control and dignity from the outside even as he was dying from the inside. His friend’s act is one that only one dedicated fully to another person could commit. In addition, the language in this story makes it a pleasure to read; it is one that I could enjoy over and over again and kept coming back to. And that is a sign of a great piece of writing. Congratulations!
Congratulations, Todd! Your to-die-for winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your dawn’s early light winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:
“Gentlemen: five paces, turn and fire,” called the second.
‘Gentlemen,’ Charles smirked. Were they gentlemen when they pelted Widow Green’s poor hound with apple cores? When they pilfered candies at the general store? When they put-on professor Staub at University? Or when they bolted from the pub trailing card and coin? Surely they did not feel so as they earned “glory” among cannon shot and bayonet. Gentlemen? assuredly not; but friends? Friends, yes, ever to the bitter end.
At five paces Charles turned and raised his pistol. His friend was doubled over in another coughing fit. Charles graciously waited until William finished, stood tall, dabbed the scarlet at his lips with a handkerchief and straightened his coat. Then Charles pulled the trigger. William deserved that. The “offense” writhed about in William’s lungs. It was reducing him to a bitter end indeed. Charles agreed to spare him such, to give William his satisfaction, allowing him the death of a gentleman.