WRiTE CLUB 2013 Play-offs Round Two - Bout 1






Here we go with the second round of the WRiTE CLUB play-offs.  In this round our ten contestants will be battling it out with a brand new writing sample, which could very easily turn the tide.  The bouts will be posted on Mon - Tue - Wed - Thur - Sat, but the voting will remain open for all bouts until Sunday at noon.

Once again...every vote counts. The contestant who doesn't win their bout...but garners the most votes amongst all of the other losers...will become a wildcard winner and advance to round 3.  

Whether you've been following along from the beginning or this is your first time here...no matter...it's just a matter of choosing the one you feel deserves to move forward. Please offer some critique if you have time.  Anyone reading this can vote (after signing up on this LinkyList) so blog/tweet/facebook/text/smoke signal everyone you know and get them to take part in the fun.  

And now...stepping into the ring with a brand new story to tell...here is Philangelus.





If the customer was any more in my face, I'd be tasting her mouthwash. "You were supposed to give me an estimate!"

We don't have bullet-proof glass at the garage, so I raise both hands. "But we didn't--"

"I was waiting right here." The woman's angular cheeks go purple, and she's got a white-knuckled grip on her purse. "If you think I'm paying for that, you can forget it."

I thrust her the keys and the paperwork. "You don't have to. You're free to go."

For a moment she huffs in the otherwise-still waiting room. A whiff of exhaust ghosts the air while passing cars hum outside the windows, which are dusted outside with snow and inside with peeled paint. Finally she says, "What?"

Poised to dart back from the counter, I circle the total at the bottom of the invoice. $0.00.  "The car is fixed. You're all set. Have a nice day."

Two regular customers watch from the corners of their eyes. I'd like to think both men would have saved a damsel in distress, but this is Brooklyn--they'd have bolted outside before their abandoned Daily News pages finished fluttering to the floor.

The keys crunch together as the woman slips them into her coat pocket. "It's fixed?"

Okay, crisis averted. Breathe, Lee. Breathe.

This late in the day, the vinyl floor bears a salt and dirty-snow grime, and I'm as tired as last month's Christmas decorations. The sun already sits below the rooftops, and my last cup of coffee happened four hours ago. At least, I assume that was coffee. I found it in the coffee pot, so that should count for something.

Back to the customer. "Our test drive confirmed the gasoline odor in the car, but that wasn't the smell of a bad fuel pump. Your gas cap had a cracked gasket which allowed fumes to get sucked in through the trunk whenever you accelerated." I slip onto the stool beside the computer, bringing myself up to eye-level with the woman. "Knowing a locking gas cap isn't standard on the Taurus, we popped the trunk and found the original cap rolling around the spare tire bed. New test drive, no odor, no charge." Leaning forward, I rest my elbows on the counter. "If you aren't satisfied, we'll provide a full refund."

Silence for five seconds.

She bites her lip. "The first mechanic swore it was the fuel pump."

"And agreed to change it for $300," I venture, "while throwing in a new gas cap for free?"

She bursts out laughing. That's less than a week's rent, but hey, money's money. "Tell the mechanic I want to marry him."

I make my eyes big. "That would be me." When she steps backward, I add, "But I'm happily single, so I'll decline your proposal."

Now I've shocked her twice. "But you're a girl."

Staring down at myself, I gasp. Yep, still the same me: grease-stained pants, denim shirt with our logo, and work boots.
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And with their own brand new piece of writing, welcome back to the ring....Dinah Annella.





I only went out with him in public once, to a grocery store. He’d promised his wife he would bring home a few things after working late. We had spent the time before in his office, as always, on the couch behind his desk, on the gray blanket.

“I don’t want to say goodbye yet. Come with me to the store.”

“You’re crazy.”

“We’ll pretend we don’t know each other.”

I followed him in my boyfriend’s car and parked two aisles over. I watched him walk into the store, then sat in the silent darkness for a half a minute before getting out.

I always felt a little drugged after we were together. That night in the store, I felt hypnotized. I glided through the aisles, blinking a little at first from the white light. I couldn’t see him. There was only the sound of my shoes on the tile, the hum of the coolers, a faint jingle from the cashier.

I picked up milk and cereal, a loaf of bread, some bananas. He stood at the only open register. I walked up behind him with my basket, closed my eyes and breathed in. I could smell him, just a little.

“Hey, I know you.” His voice shocked me. “You’re in one of my classes, right?” He turned to face me as he waited for his change.

“No, I don’t think so.” I didn’t know what to say. We weren’t supposed to speak.

“Sure? Okay, I guess not. You look like somebody.” He picked up his bag and touched my arm. “Well, have a good night, whoever you are.”

When I went out to the parking lot, his car was already gone.

———

Older men are so grateful. That’s what I had told the one friend I confided in about the professor. After the first time, he buried his head into my shoulder, stroked my hair, my breasts, my hips. “You’re amazing ... you’re so beautiful,” he murmured. Then, in just a whispery breath, “Thank you.”

Here’s one truth: I believed I was doing him a favor. I was enhancing his life, letting him escape from being 44, from the job, the house, the wife and kids. In our affair, there was only amazement, only gratitude.

“You have ensorcelled me,” he told me once, a couple of weeks into it, as he knelt on the floor, looking up at me on his couch. The previous week, he had lectured on ensorcellment in Macbeth, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He reached up to hold my breasts. His eyes glistened in the light from the parking lot below. Maybe he was the hero and I was a plot device; all I knew then was that no one had ever worshiped me like that.

The fear and worry, the guilt and the tears eventually came: our denouement, our own Act V. No one ever found out.

He gave me a B+, the grade I deserved.
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Leave your vote and we'll see you back here tomorrow for the next match-up!
Remember the WRiTE CLUB motto, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!
 
 

24 comments

  1. In spite of one sentence that made no sense to me at all -- A whiff of exhaust ghosts the air while passing cars hum outside the windows, which are dusted outside with snow and inside with peeled paint.-- I am voting for Philangelus. I enjoyed how the scene played out.

    Dinah's piece is well-written, but there's a distance to the narrative that doesn't draw me in, as if she's talking about events that happened long, long ago. I'd be much more likely to continue reading about the girl mechanic.

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  2. Philangelus get my vote - great job!

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  3. It's really great to see new writing samples from the contestants. Here we have what appears to be two entries which both offer "more of the story" from their previous submissions. That helps in that I'm already a little familiar with the situation and characters, but at the same time, I really want to judge both entries on their stand-alone basis as separate pieces of writing. I think that's the only fair way to treat them since other entries may be completely stand-alone pieces which don't depend on prior exposure to setting, situation, or characters.

    But all that said, it doesn't make today's judging any easier -- I like both of these pieces and find them very evenly matched. So this is a tough choice!

    Philangelus gives us another scene with the female MC who does "guy things" interacting with characters who give her the "but you're a girl" reaction. Before it was her mother as she fixed a toilet. This time it's an irate customer who's shocked to find out that a woman can actually do mechanical things. I guess it's a bit ironic then that the whole "anti-stereotype" mechanical female is starting to seem a little too stereotypical to me -- the struggle of the woman breaking down barriers was a staple of the late 1960's and 1970's, and we're thankfully many, many years beyond that. Maybe it's just that I have no problem accepting that a female can fix a toilet and be a mechanic, so the premise gets more of a shrug than anything from me -- I actually find it a little unrealistic that the MC gets so much resistance to her being who she is. But be that as it may, the story is interesting, and the writing is solid -- I would certainly keep reading.

    Dinah Annella gives us more on the college student having the affair with her Shakespeare professor, and she addresses some of the questions I had earlier about the MC's motivation. I think the characterization is interesting and done well, and I like the insight into MC's inner thoughts as she describes the affair. There is some very nice writing here -- the descriptions from inside the store and the hints of characterization of the older professor are excellent. I do hate the unattributed dialog -- at least anchor it for the first line so we're certain who's speaking from that point on. A simple "he said" would eliminate any distraction from the reader having to figure out attribution from context. I also find the jump from the store to the end of the affair a little jarring. I get that trying to squeeze everything into a 500-word sample is very tough, but it just feels like we've skipped over the bulk of the story. Also, with everything feeling like it's over, it gives the reader little reason to want to read on. And maybe it's just me, but I'm still a little confused as to what the MC's motivation was -- to make him grateful like a mercy mission, or because "no one had ever worshiped (the MC) like that." Still, this is a strong entry and I definitely enjoyed it.

    Like I said -- a very tough choice today. There are a lot of things to like about both pieces, but since I have to choose one, I'll go with Philangelus. I think the overall flow of the narrative was just a little smoother.

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  4. My vote is for Dinah. The writing was smooth and insightful and I would have continued reading. In Philangeuls' piece, the writing is solid and I loved the line about the Christmas decorations, but I felt there was nothing at stake and revealing that she's a woman at the end felt like a punchline.

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    1. Same here - I love the slick writing and fine-grained details in both, and was disappointed that Dinah's ended on kind of an anticlimax ("we eventually broke up" in a sentence or so). But at the end of the day, I prefer a big surprise given short shrift, to a non-surprise played up for maximum effect. (I keep going back to that one scene in The Simpsons, where Lisa marches onto the football field all fire and brimstone, declaring that yes indeed, a GIRL wants to play FOOTBALL... and is profoundly disappointed to see four other girls happily at practice.)

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  5. My vote goes to Phlangelus. I enjoyed the story and it flowed well (but that sentence Dianne mentioned did pull me out - maybe tighten it up or make it two sentences?).

    The verb tense in Dinah's piece confused me, since the scene seems to have happened in the further past and she's now telling a story in the current past (does that make sense?). Hard to tell what is "now" and what was "then" and it jarred me one too many times.

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  6. I liked both of these, but my vote goes to Dinah!

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  7. Philangelus. The dialogue drew me in even though some areas felt slowed. Dinah's I was not attached to. Felt distant in the writing and the moral I can't agree with.

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  8. It's great to see these samples--they validate that the two writers voted forward certainly deserve to be here. Good work, both of you!
    Some of the things I liked most were present in both pieces: a steady narrative flow, a clear voice, emotional resonance (even though the emotions were very different).
    Dinah, I thought this excerpt succeeded better than your first in making me believe the situation. Still, I'm lacking that something which is making me truly connect with your character. I think if you want to throw someone into that kind of situation, you have to be really careful to get the motivations just right.
    Philangelus, I did find it a little odd that the mc's being a woman mechanic was handled with such shock--I'm presuming the piece is contemporary (I'm no car geek myself, but I have the general feeling Tauruses have only been around since about the 80's), and I have a nice handful of girl friends who know their way around cars. Also, did you want it to be a surprise that Lee is a girl? I'm guessing you did as you gave her a gender-neutral name...but I think I would have enjoyed it more knowing from the beginning. The story flows along well enough without that "surprise ending."
    My vote goes to Philangelus, mainly for the few bits of description that felt just genius. I could smell the shop and hear the salty grime crunching beneath my feet. Well done.

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  9. Ooo, I can see why both of these terrific writes have advanced. I'm going with Philangelus this round...but it was a tough choice! I liked the writing and surprise endings of both pieces. Great work, writers!

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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  10. The piece offered by Philangelus was the smoother read.

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  11. Gosh, what a hard choice this time. I really like both pieces for very different reasons. But I think my vote goes to Philangelus this time around.

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  12. I like Philangelus' piece just a tad more. I'm liking the idea of new samples, as well!

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  13. Dinah, definitely. Every little bit more of this piece that I read makes me want to read the full story even more! There's a detachment in the voice that I find extremely compelling and curious. I want to know how it falls apart (which I think it will soon, if I'm seeing some of this foreshadowing correctly!).

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  14. Dinah, the writing was a little distanced but it was smoother than the other one.

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  15. Dinah gets my vote. The first half was as good as your first entry. But the second half came off as exposition. I realize you needed to cover great distance in few words, to get from the initial affair to the B+, but I think it could have been done without being so distant.
    I appreciate the clever writing and humor of Philangelus but the conflict was too mundane. The reveal, though unexpected, wasn't exciting.

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  16. I think the writing was excellent by Philangelus, but the reveal isn't all that shocking... and it is set up to be a dazzler.

    I really liked Dinah's piece, too. It was difficult having the break in time periods. I think I would have started the piece with the second bit that begins, "Older men are so grateful...." Then I would have inserted the entire first section after "...all I knew then was that no one ever worshipped me like that." Then I would have finished it off with "The fear and worry..." I think that simply rearranging the information for the purpose of this contest would have given the piece better flow.

    All that said, I am voting for Dinah's piece. Excellent job writers!

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  17. Tough choice. Both were interesting and well written. I'm voting Philangelus.

    ......dhole

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  18. I really like both pieces. I think they are evenly matched.
    But today I'm voting Philangelus.

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  19. My vote goes to Dinah today, but just barely.

    Both of these entries read effortlessly but there's a sort of melancholy to Dinah's piece that makes me want to know more about the MC. The scene in the grocery store shows the excitement of the affair while also revealing a tinge of sordidness. Her rationalization for cheating on her boyfriend with her married, much older college professor and the subsequent literary references show the MC trying to convey to the reader, but also to herself, the magic of that moment in time the affair held sway. Then we find out that the homage of an adulterer, the manifestation of his "worship," is a B+! Ouch, and well done, Dinah.

    Philangelus's offering instantly brought me back to any garage I've ever been in/ waited outside of/ or sat in the waiting room of and l found the MC engaging. The entire scene reads wonderfully.

    These writers are so evenly matched that I had to go with the entry that made me want read on a smidge more than the other one did.

    Bout 1 was really, really hard.

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