WRiTE CLUB 2013 – Bout 2





We are off to a rip-roaring start with the votes pouring in from all corners of the blogosphere for WRiTE CLUB’s first bout on Monday! Thank you to everyone who stopped by to make a selection and special thanks to those of you who tweeted, re-tweeted, and blogged about it. A reminder: the voting will remain open for Round 1 until noon on Sunday, and the winner will be announced in the Round 3 post.

However, not everybody is reading (or abiding) the rules.  I received numerous votes from people who have not signed up on the participation Linky List.  Votes from commenters who are not on that list WILL NOT COUNT towards determining a winner or the drawing at the end of the contest.  The list of commenters below fall into that category.  This is the last time I’m allowing people to retroactively add their names on the Linky List…from now on I will simply ignore the vote. 
John Purget
Zuesses Maximus
Cynthia
Ice Girl
Jennie Bailey
Nancy
Writerlysam
Katie Past
Damyanti

Hurry up now, find an open seat.  Things are getting a bit tight in here and it seems like the word about WRiTE CLUB has been making the rounds and tickets are going fast.  That's alright, we're all friends here so let's get cozy.  The action is about to begin once again.

So, without further ado....


Here are this bout's randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 500 words and representing the women's fiction genre, please welcome to the ring……..Philangelus







Friday night I spend exactly as a woman of my stature should: on her knees in front of her mother's toilet.

And I have my niece with me. Won't my brother be proud?

Actually, Randy will be proud. After Amber phoned from school five times, I agreed to get her early. Then as I was about to leave, I got a call from my mom because the toilet was busted.

It says something about Amber's current social situation that repairing a toilet with her maiden aunt is the best game in town. She perches on the bathtub's edge, churning out one unending sentence about girls with nothing better to do than remind her of the ways she is their inferior.

"Hand me the wrench." Amber watches me tighten the shutoff valve and then flush to release as much water as possible. An inch remains, so I soak it up with a ratty Mickey Mouse towel.

Amber stops her monologue. "Where'd you learn to do this?"

"One of the best things a woman can do for herself is learn to fix a toilet." I huff as I rummage in the tool box for the WD-40. "For your sixteenth birthday, ask for a set of Craftsman tools and learn to use them."

My mother huffs. "She'd be better off learning to apply makeup."

"You need the makeup to bat your eyes at a guy so he'll fix your toilet. Skip a step." The inside of the tank is dry, and everything is lubricated. "This is the inlet supply for the tank. You'll remember to turn off the shutoff valve, right? Because that's important. Otherwise we'd all get sprayed when I do this." I disconnect the inlet supply and am rewarded with no gush of water. Wouldn't that be embarrassing?

Mom says, "A husband isn't good only for fixing toilets," and she walks out.

My mother was a single mom all those years. When she got my uncle to do maintenance or install a ceiling fan, I used sit by the wall listening to Uncle Mickey. "This is a circuit breaker," "You spread on the joint compound thin," "Let me tell you about the time I forgot to test to see if the wire was live," and all for an audience of one. He didn't realize I was deciphering how the world got put together, and that I could put together a world by myself when I rejected the one my mother had ready-made for me.

Amber says, "Did you study engineering?"

I laugh. "Most engineers can design a bridge but can't change their own oil." I know--I listen to their phone conversations while they're paying me to change it.  "I squeaked through college with a degree in Family Studies. I hadn't thought beyond graduation."

Shocked, Amber says, "They tell us to have a plan."

"No one told me that." Well, no one but Bucky, who spouted enigmatic speeches like "You're graduating in a month. Have you thought about getting a job?"

************************************************************************

And in the near corner, representing the adult short story genre with 498 words, give it up for ………Matilijas.




*Matilijas, Rohdea japonica--a perennial and native to California. It thrives in sun, is easy to grow, but difficult to transplant elsewhere.*

The July sun ran the thermometer up to ninety degrees by eleven that morning. The corn tassels drooped in the vegetable garden watered only two hours before, and even Elaine's curls clung lifeless against her forehead. She leaned back against the stone wall that still held some of the night chill, letting the long, leggy stems of O'Keefe-splendid poppies shadow her face.

The Matilijas, unlike the rest of the vegetation, looked fresh. Their wide open petals strained upward like true sun worshipers, unafraid and trusting. Elaine acknowledged their bravery and resented it at the same time. How she yearned to trade the pinched feeling inside herself for such openness and faith. Yet common sense had not abandoned her yet. Turning her face skyward in this heat was out of the question. She sat in the shade of the poppies, her knees pulled tight against her chest, her chin resting on top.

Between eleven and noon in the summer, Elaine always sat next to the rock wall, under the Matilijas, and, since she'd lived alone, she huddled under an umbrella in the winter when the Matilijas had been cut to stubble and sulked underground, waiting for their next season.

Winter-waiting was the most difficult for her. No Matilijas to see or touch, so she had to draw on memory of their gold centers and floppy white perimeters. She had to hold on to her belief that they would return in June. They always had.

The mail delivery came about the same time each weekday, and she didn't want to miss the snub-nosed blue and white truck with its messages from other places. One day a letter would arrive and it would change her life—no—bring her to life. Everyday she acknowledged that what she did now and had done for three years was not living. Since the accident she'd not worked, not met her friends, not left the house for more than groceries in town. She had become like a rooted thing, holding on to the earth. But it was only until the letter came, she knew . . . or she believed.

When the girls had been alive and the summer heated the asphalt to a shimmer, they’d joined Elaine under the Matilijas, and Elaine remembered how much fun they'd had together. Sometimes they'd pretend to be bandits or to be hiding from kidnappers, not daring to breathe as the evildoers crept past their hiding place. Elaine brushed her forehead, remembering the heat of those other summer days. On truly hot ones like this, they'd sip lemonade and make faces because Elaine refused to put too much sugar in the mix.

“Not good for your teeth, darlings!” she'd say.

The girls would sip the tangy juice, scrunch their faces and laugh. The Matilijas would nod overhead from the laughing and the bitter-lemon shuddering.


************************************************************************

You folks have your work cut out for you again.  It’s up to you to decide who moves forward to the playoffs.  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner of round 2.  Get your friends to join in the fun and make a selection as well.  The voting will remain open until noon next Wednesday (7/17). 

Remember, here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!


63 comments

  1. This is a hard-fought bout. There are several things to like in both pieces.

    I like the lyrical writing style of Matilijas. I like the character and how she is linked to and echoed with the nature and descriptions of the flowers. I like how the emotional content is built slowly and how a simple thing like sitting under flowers can be used to establish character and the much-deeper backstory of the loss of the MC's daughters. I like the depth of how "she knew...or she believed" that some letter will come that will bring her to life. By the end of the piece, I've been slowly pulled in and emotionally invested in the story of Elaine, curious as to what happened to her and her daughters in the past, and wondering what the letter will bring and why she is so intent on it.

    I also really like the character in the piece by Philangelus. I love the voice and the deft touches of self-depreciating humor. I like how there is action in the scene -- the backdrop of even something as mundane as fixing a toilet adds so much to the flow of the narrative. This isn't just inner rumination. There are events occurring that keep the pacing up, plus -- more impressively -- the simple events add to our knowledge of the characters and their backstory. We learn a lot about the MC, her niece, and her mother as the narrator fixes that toilet. This shows that a piece doesn't need "big action" to be effective, and in fact -- understated things like this are often more-so. Also, the use of dialog is excellent and also keeps the scene moving forward and again adds to the characterization. Finally, we have clear conflict and tension shown between the MC and the mother, as well as in the niece and her relationship to the other students her age. Voice, action, character, pacing, conflict, and dialog -- it's all here in just 500 words, and done deftly and subtly.

    So while I do like the piece by Matilijas, I have to vote for Philangelus in this round.

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  2. Geez! This is a really tough decision. I liked both pieces, but I'm going to go with Matilijas for this round.

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  3. Well, talk about being called out for not being registered! How embarrassing! FYI--I'm a rule-follower. Inherited that little trait from my dad. I'm number 73 - Be A Real Writer. When I comment, it shows up Jess*Jessie*Jessy. Please check it out and count my vote....

    for Matilijas.

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  4. My vote is for Philangelus! I do like them both though - the second one has a great rhythm and tone, but the first is more my kind of topic.

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  5. My vote goes to Philangelus. I'm not sure where the story is going, but it had action and dialogue, where Matilijas' didn't. In fact, not much is happening in that second piece, and for a short story, it should be moving somewhere quickly (at least, that's the way I see it).

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  6. My vote is for Philangelus!

    I don't usually read womens's fiction but i would keep reading this one.

    Matilijas was very well written, it's just not my cup o' tea (too slow a build for my tastes)

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  7. My vote goes to Matilijas.

    Philangelus gave us a delightful offering. At first, I thought the MC was a wasted babysitter vomiting in front of her charge, and then we learn she's wielding a wrench and WD-40 as she fixes the toilet. That was genius! But I was a bit off-put by the dialogue. As a reader, I was "getting it" and then I was "told it" through the dialogue, making the dialogue feel like it was using the characters rather than the characters were using it. The ending lacked tension, because we already know she has a job. Still, I really, really liked it and I was so glad to find out the MC was not a child-neglecting drunk.

    I was deeply moved by the offering from Matilijas. The time in the garden, the flashbacks within the scene to "winter waiting," the sorrow made luminous by the element of hope introduced in the wait for the letter, and even though we know the MC's girls have died tragically, the ending still feels like a premonition. I cannot wait to read more of this.

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  8. This is a genre I don't often read, but both pieces were beautifully written. However, I found that I was drawn more towards the independent woman fixing a toilet, and it seemed that nothing happened in the second piece, as beautiful as the descriptions were.

    I have to go with Philangelus.

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  9. Love both, but this line won me "You need the makeup to bat your eyes at a guy so he'll fix your toilet. Skip a step."
    I'll vote for Philangelus

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  10. And here we have the one drawback to the random entry system... Are we doing the wildcard system this time? Because both these pieces show serious skill and deserve to make it to the next round.
    First, some comments that apply to both: I love that these pieces showcase the fact that action does not equal tension. The emotion you built was real and authentic, and you didn't need any swords or guns or fireballs to get me hooked. Both pieces use language confidently and deftly, and some of your descriptions are just marvelous.
    Philangelus: excellent job with the understated humor. So hard to pull off, but you did it excellently.
    Matilijas: I loved the details you incorporated in your setting, and how you used it to forward your story instead of as a mere backdrop. Clearly this place is part of who your character is, so you were able to make very good use of only 500 words by utilizing this connection.
    I really, really like both these pieces, and I'm honestly saddened by the realization that one of them won't be moving forward. Whoever you end up being, keep on writing and remember that not only do you have one of the most worthy pieces in this competition but you had the honor of competing with another writer who's a real heavyweight in the ring.
    Very reluctantly, I'm going to vote for Matilijas. For me, you had the edge with the excellent setting and deep, but never melodramatic, emotion.

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  11. My vote is for Philangelus. I liked the character building.

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  12. Wow, tough. I liked them both, though women's fiction isn't my genre of taste. Liked the sass of Philangelus, but like the beauty in Matilijas a bit more.

    I vote Matilijas!

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  13. oops. I don't think I signed up on the linky list...I was thinking it was for entries. Yes, I am that rotten blogger who doesn't completely read all the directions.

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  14. Philangelus. I found myself skimming Matilijas--too much internal narrative for such a short offering, too large blocks of text, and weirdly too much repetition of "matilijas" for me.

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  15. Boy, this was a tough one! I agree that I loved both of them.

    I love the quality of Philangelus' writing- very like a memoir, personal and touching. And I did love the clear connections of the relationships- you got a strong sense for who these women were. The only thing I didn’t like was that last sentence. Bucky sort-of comes out of nowhere with a very simple question that seemed like it should have been in the middle of the vignette rather than the end. Just felt truncated in an awkward way.

    Which is why my vote has to go to Matilijas. While this one was also enigmatic with reference to a life-changing letter we know nothing about, the piece on the whole felt more full. It’s clear this woman is a product of a great loss and even without knowing the details we can feel the emotion. And there were SO many achingly beautiful lines. The way that she relates to the flowers- both admiring and resenting their bravery and wishing she could feel it herself. The image of her “winter-waiting” under an umbrella. And my favorite: “She had become like a rooted thing, holding on to the earth.”
    Reminded me a little bit of Amy Bloom, whom I adore.

    So, yeah- Matilijas is my vote. But I’ve got nothing but love for Philangelus.

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  16. Matilijas I liked the smoothness as I read. Relaxing.

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  17. This was definitely a tough choice. When I first read the two pieces, I was leaning towards Philangelus, but after a second and third read, I came to appreciate the depth of emotion in Matilijas.

    My vote goes to Matilijas.

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  18. I was a little confused as to who was saying what in the first one. I vote for Matilijas.

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  19. Whew! I wasn't on the list of people who didn't follow the rules. So often I am. "Duh! Was I supposed to do that?"

    #2

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  20. My vote goes to Matilijas. Smooth writing, with all senses evoked. I liked the situation in the first selection -- especially the first line making us think she was hungover. But something about the sentence structures jarred me. It wasn't quite as smooth to read as the second selection.

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  21. Neither story grabbed me today. I vote for Philangelus.

    Phil: Too many characters are mentioned too soon. When mother huffs and refers to makep, it came as a surprise because until that point, I was sure there were only two people in the bathroom.
    I like the protagonist's bitterness. It translates to dialogue well. It seemed forced when Amber asked, "Did you study engineering?" over her aunt simply fixing a toilet. I appreciate that you spoke on the subject of fixing toilets and doing wiring with a degree of real know how. It adds authenticity to the story.

    Mat: I think this entry could have been compressed into about half the words. And not just because nothing happened at all. The emotional impact of the entry's second half is lost due to summarization and vagueness. What accident? What letter? What girls?
    In short, I think too many words are in the first half, not enough in the second.

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  22. Both of these are well done and deserve to move on. Unfortunately, I have to make a choice. Matilijas: your writing is luminous. I appreciate that you engaged all the senses. But to me, there's too much telling here and not enough happens. Philangelus: Love the humor. Was a little confused by all the names introduced, and as David points out above, I didn't even realize the mother was in the bathroom! But it's a scene I can picture and a character I'd like to read more about.

    So I'm voting for Philangelus.

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  23. Uh, oh, this is going to be harder than last year, isn't it. I swear this year I will not flip a coin even when they are this close. Philangelus. (But using a wrench on a shut-off valve?)

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  24. This is hard because I liked both pieces almost equally but Philangelus' entry was clearer to me. I got a better picture of where the characters were.

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  25. Matilijas gets my vote, but this is only going to get harder isn't it!

    "Their wide open petals strained upward like true sun worshipers, unafraid and trusting." Won my poetic heart!

    Well done!

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  26. Both are good, (so what's new?) but my vote goes to Matilijas. Her entry touches my heart.

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  27. Though I was confused by the immediate introduction of what initially feels like five characters (plus the narrator--I had to reread to get my bearings), my vote is for Philangelus. The character is truly shown in what she does and comes across as markedly strong. The piece also has a wonderful voice. The second selection feels like literary fiction, which i very much enjoy. But the first one spoke to me more.

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  28. I liked both pieces, but for different reasons. But at the end of the day, I have to vote for Philangelus because the voice and character comes through so strongly and I know the narrator is someone I'd enjoy spending time with.

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  29. Matilijas has my vote this round. I felt an edge more intrigue for this piece than the other, although they were both very nice pieces.

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  30. That's really odd... I was sure my comment had come through yesterday, but now it's gone! I won't repeat the whole thing, but my vote goes to Matilijas because it's the piece I'd rather read in novel form. Love the writing style.

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  31. #1 for me. Both pieces are well done.

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  33. MY VOTE IS FOR PHILANGELUS.

    I thought both pieces were well written.

    Matilijas was a little too much introspection for me. Perhaps a shorter stretch of introspective thought with some movement in between. I get that this person is depressed/anxious/worried into stillness, but with no clue as to why, I lost interest easily.

    Philangelus has a few places were the dialogue is a little bit confusing, but on the whole the piece is smart, quick and very descriptive. I can see what each person is doing and am even able to imagine their facial expressions.

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  34. I'm confused, but that's not new. I'm now reading bout #2, but didn't vote last time, because I'm a rule follower and knew that you could only vote if on the linky, but thought that only PARTICIPANTS who were contributing pieces were allowed on the linky. I'd love to be a voter, commenter, but have no time (and I know it's too late) to be a contributor. So IF I can still join and vote, I will do so with your permission.
    For today, I gotta go with the toilet. I was hooked from the opening line, and loved the sassiness of the whole piece. Besides, fixing toilets is all too real around here with three males sharing my household. Although I do know HOW to do it, I'm forever grateful that I'm fourth in line should it need to happen.

    Matilijas was a beautiful piece, but it seemed more like an excerpt than a full offering. Too many unanswered questions and too much intense emotion thrown all at once. I'm just too fragile myself to handle all that right now, though the writing was exquisite, and I'd love to read more of the story. But maybe I'm wrong that the entries are to be stand-alone...sigh. So much to learn. All I know is I read two great (make that four) pieces this week and even if I don't get to vote, I will read WRiTE CLUB. DL, you're a genius for inventing this.
    Tina @ Life is Good

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  35. Oh maaaan, I hate it when two pieces I love get paired against one another. I'm afraid I'm going to be totally useless once again as I sincerely have no critiques to offer. Both were-polished, both were well-paced---the second slower than the first, but that's what was right for this piece. So my vote comes down to personal preference, and my vote goes to Philangelus. LOVE that character.

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  36. I skimmed this bout at work during lunch and at the time I wasn't sure which I would end up voting for because neither really grabbed me. Now I'm home. Had a nice dinner and read them for real. I'm still struggling over which to vote for but this time it's because I find them both so appealing in entirely different ways. (Obviously the problem is work, and I should never go back!)

    OK, after my third read through I'm ready to vote.

    Philangelus has a dry humor that reminds me of Janet Evanowich. The main character reminds me of her main character as well. I can tell the book would be an enjoyable and quick read, especially once I figured out who was who. (There may have been a few too many characters for 500 words.)

    Matilijas had some beautiful imagery and left me wanting to know more. What happened to her daughters? What might this long-awaited letter contain? But in a way it left me wanting a little too much more. I would have liked to either have more happen, or know more about what had already taken place.

    Both were superb pieces. I'm voting for Philangelus because it's more along the lines of a book I'd bring on vacation with me.

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  37. This was a hard one! But a day later, the piece that stuck with me was Matilijas. Beautiful, lyrical voice.

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  38. Both are so good, it's hard to choose. I loved the humor in Philangelus's piece, especially the exchange between the narrator and her mother. And of course, a woman who can take of herself is always appealing. But the introduction of so many characters was jarring in such a short space and kept me from engaging with it more. I had no idea how old the niece was.

    I thought the writing in Matilijas's story was lyrical and beautiful and I loved the way it flowed. I especially loved the sun-worshipers metaphor. Although not that much happens, I was carried away by the writing and intrigued enough to want to know what the letter will say and how it will affect Elaine's life.

    Because the writing felt more polished to me, I vote for Matilijas.

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  39. Another two great entries and quite different styles and themes Had to come back and re read to help me make a decision. I liked the setting and humour in the first piece, the main character seemed like a feisty independent lady. I'm sure she would make for interesting reading in the full length piece. The second was beautiful and in places quite haunting. A lady touched by tragedy and the loss of her daughters.

    Really tough but I'm going to vote Philangelus. Good luck to you both.

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  40. I'm voting for Philangelus. Loved the humor in it. It was a little unclear who spoke the first line of dialogue though.

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  41. Tough choice. Philangelus drew me in instantly, and I liked the interaction of three generations of women expressing their world views. This one gets my vote.

    Matilijas has a great metaphoric opening, and carried the theme well through the reading. Some of the sentences were not well written, and I had to read this a couple times to really get the sentiment. However awkward the beginning, this is a story I would read. Keep at it.

    .....dhole

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  42. Philangelus has my vote. This is a novel I'd love to read more of.

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  43. Wow. These are both ladies that I'd love to read more about..

    My vote is for Philangelus. It just felt a little more solid, and I loved the interplay between three generations of women.

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  44. Wow. These are both ladies that I'd love to read more about..

    My vote is for Philangelus. It just felt a little more solid, and I loved the interplay between three generations of women.

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  45. Both had strengths that appealed to me. In #1 I liked the voice and the humour (outside of the first line - the image that came to my head was a college kid vomiting after a party and I thought it was sarcastic). #2 had beautiful writing, but didn't have the same pull for me to keep reading as #1. So my vote goes to #1

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  46. My vote goes to Matilijas. Good job to both

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  47. Great job for both, but my vote goes to Matilijas

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  48. Both are so well written, but I think the first one grabbed me more. My vote is Philangelus.

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  49. I enjoyed both of these, but my vote goes to Matilijas. The descriptive writing made me stand there with her, enduring the searing heat. A very touching end too.

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  50. So, I see my name, WriterlySam, on the "naughty" list--but it's ALSO #10 on the "nice" list, aka, participation Linky List...ahem, awkward moment...does this mean I'm considered naughty and nice? Can I vote now?

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  51. After reading Philangelus' piece, I was sure it would get my vote. It pulled you right into the scene and was engaging and witty. Matilijas' piece didn't pull you in as quickly, but it had a literary, melancholy quality that I really enjoyed. It immediately set me to thinking about my own writing. In my book, when a piece of writing inspires my own creativity, there's no better read. My bote goes to Matilijas. (#79 & 80 on the Linky List, BTW)

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  52. Philangelus on this one!

    This is a time when the stronger writing doesn't win for me. Matilijas was beautiful, but it was really dense so I found myself wanting to skip around to see if something, anything, else was going to happen. That being said, the prose is beautiful.

    Philangelus has really great characters, though I agree with the sentiments above. It was a little tough figuring out who was who at first and I had no idea the mother was in the bathroom until she made a noise.

    Great bout!

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  53. My vote goes to Matilijas! I enjoyed both though. This isn't easy.

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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  54. Spoiled for choice here! Matilijas definitely has it for beautiful writing, even before the sly knife of "when the girls were alive" gets slipped between the reader's ribs.

    I guess what really moves me about Philangelus, as others have said, is the dialogue. The narrative is jarring in places, with characters appearing abruptly, which makes me wonder if lines had to be cut to get this under the 500 mark. But while I sympathize with Elaine, I can wholeheartedly root for Philangelus' narrator, and we get strong hints even in this first page about where the fault lines of this story's conflict lie.

    I'll vote for Philangelus.

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  55. Loved how Matilijas really pulled you into the scene and story. That's my vote. Writer’s Mark

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  56. Boy, both of these entries are worthy to go on to the next round so this is not easy.

    Philangelus, I really like your voice--an easy flowing balance of dialogue and description with back-story woven in seamlessly. The narrative tension was very subtle and perhaps could have used some strengthening but besides that, very well done.

    Matilijas, Beautiful lines...very lyrical. The only thing I wish it could have had was perhaps a little more tension. While the writing is very good, I felt it may have been a stronger entry if there was something else pulling me through. More narrative tension or at least the foreshadowing of future tension would have helped.

    I'm going to vote for Philangelus because the voice offers the possibility for good humor which I'm a sucker for.

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  57. Two great pieces. This is so hard but I have to vote Matilijas.

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