A hearty congratulations to our second winner, Swick, for winning Bout #2 and securing a spot in the play-offs. Voting for Bout #3 remains open until 11:59 PM on Sunday, June 25th.
For anyone who's dropping by for the first time, here's a summary of what's taking place. On May 3rd we began taking submissions from WRiTER’s far and wide, spanning the globe, representing all ages and multiple styles of WRiTING. We received 167 entries in all! Those 500 word samples went under careful consideration by 11 judges and that panel narrowed the list down to 32…which are the ones that are pairing off in the ring over the course of eight weeks.
Note: The submissions can be an excerpt from a larger work...or a standalone piece of flash fiction. The only rules are that they be 500 words or less, and never previously published or posted on a blog. Although I'll never instruct someone how they should choose a winner, I would recommend considering this when doing so. It shouldn't be about how much information is contained in those 500 words, but the way a contestant goes about communicating the information that is.
These illustrious WRiTER’s are not only from all walks of life, but they also occupy various levels of the publication world. But none of that matters here, because inside this ring everybody stands as equals. You know why? Because no one uses their real name…the only identification you’ll ever see is their pen name. This is not a popularity contest. The focus here is on the writing, where it should be.
Today is the fourth of sixteen bouts, two bouts per week, with a new one posted every Monday and Thursday. The winners are decided by votes left in the comment section and anyone can vote. The voting for each fight will last for one full week, so you can vote for a Monday battle all the way until midnight on Sunday, and you can vote for a Thursday brawl up until midnight the following Wednesday. And when you do vote, please let the contestants know what you liked and disliked.
Understand what’s going on now? Good…then here we go!
Here are this bouts two randomly selected WRiTER's.
Standing in this corner, representing the Literary Fiction genre and weighing in at 500 words, please welcome to the ring……..Anna MacKenzie.
It’s 4th of July.
Mr. Harrelson brought over live lobsters for the cookout. “You put ‘em in cold water,” he said, holding one in front of my face. Smelled like seaweed. Its pinching claws clacked against my sunburned shoulder.
Mr. Harrelson set the lobster in the pot with the others. “Cold water eases them into getting cooked, keeps the meat tender.” I watched them sit there until the water bubbled. They never moved, never knew what hit them. Mr. Harrelson said the screaming was actually their shells contracting.
Me and my little brother, Jake, ate hot dogs.
After fireworks, Mom scooted us off to bed, even though I’m eleven and deserve to stay up later. Vowing to keep awake, I fell asleep.
A mosquito wakes me. Or maybe it’s the ocean. It takes some getting used to, sleeping in an unfamiliar place. Not entirely unfamiliar. We come to Capistrano Beach every summer, the same beach house every year, so I know a little about it.
To muffle the sound of the ocean, I pull the blanket over my head and hold it away from my face, in case there really is a mosquito. They bite you when you can’t hear them.
I got sucked in a wave today, my whole body tossing and churning and scraping sand. Then the ocean spit me out like water from a blow hole. Air. Sky. A seagull.
Downstairs, music plays: Brenda Lee singing I’m Sorry. A party. The adults are loud. Some voices I know already, some I don’t, like the cougher.
Wide awake now, I get out of bed and crack the door. The air is thick with cigarette smoke, loud with talk and music. They’ve moved the tables and chairs to one side. Mr. and Mrs. Harrelson are dancing. Daddy, who usually complains at having to dance with Mom, is dancing with Mrs. Rilke. Both of her arms are locked around his neck, mashing down his collar—the one he wanted ironed so bad. Now, he doesn’t even care.
Mrs. Rilke wears a beauty mark near the tip of her eyebrow tonight. I’ve seen her when it wasn’t there—in the daylight when she drinks coffee with Mom. Tomorrow, she’ll act like she never wrapped her arms tight around Daddy’s neck when she really did. She has a stupid laugh.
I shut the door and lay down on my bed, hope I don’t have to wait forever for sleep to take me. I look at Jake snoring with his mouth open; probably where the mosquito is.
In the morning, I hear them. Mom’s voice is... I don’t know the word.
My insides hurt.
“Don’t start again, Marjorie.” It’s Daddy. “You always do this.” (She does.)
“I saw you. I saw you.”
I cover my ears.
In the afternoon, I scour the beach for shells. For ones that don’t scream. I only find a hermit crab carrying its house on her back.
If it was me, I’d leave it behind.**************************************************************************************************
And in the other corner, representing the Memoir genre with 500 words, let me introduce to you……….Nanato4.
My father, in the tradition of his Irish ancestors, was a great storyteller, slipping into a brogue as effortlessly as the wind blows across the fair green isle. His stories had a moral and a bit of humor, but as children we were transfixed by the waggle of his bushy eyebrows, the rising rosiness of his cheeks and the characters he brought to life,each with their own accent and gestures.
One of his favorite stories concerned an incident when he was about ten years old. It was the height of the depression, and his parents, like so many others, struggled to feed their family. My dad, the eldest of four children, did his part by working in the vegetable garden, feeding his baby sister and running errands.
“Bubsy, go next door to the Steinberg’s and get some eggs,” his mother said, handing him a precious dime.
“How many should I get?” he asked, knowing a dozen cost fifteen cents.
“We need a dozen for supper and breakfast tomorrow.”
“Yes, Mommy.” Confused, he hesitated, squeezing the dime in the palm of his hand.
“Ask for the cracked ones.”Handing him an empty wicker basket, she nudged him out the door.
The Steinbergs were an elderly couple, who made ends meet by keeping chickens in their basement. Dad both feared and admired his stern neighbors, having watched Mr. Steinberg whack the head off a chicken with a single swipe of a hatchet.
In a pitch perfect Yiddish accent dad quoted Mrs. Steinberg answering the door that day. “Robert Enerson, you are a sight. Have you brought back my cookie tin?”
“No ma’am.” He stared at his scuffed brown shoes.
“Then what is it boy, I haven’t all day.”
He opened his palm and held out the dime. “I’d like some eggs, please.”
“Come in, young man.” She took the basket and the dime. “You want eight eggs, then?”
“A dozen please.” He looked up at her raised eyebrows, quickly adding, “but only the cracked ones.”
“Sit yourself down,” she waved him toward a sofa as she headed to a door that led to the basement.
“Saul!” she shouted down the stairs. “Robert needs a dozen cracked eggs.”
“I haven’t any cracked ones.” Came the distant reply.
“I said I need a dozen cracked eggs,” she said, a bit more sternly.
Dad got off the sofa and crept closer to hear.
“I haven’t got any cracked eggs, I tell you.”
Sotto voce, she replied, “Then crack some.”
The story was about charity and dignity, for there isn’t one without the other. I wonder if, in our government efforts to ameliorate poverty, we haven’t lost two important things. One, a sense of satisfaction by personally giving to others in need, and two, the dignity of taking only the assistance necessary to live, for the shortest time possible, and graciously accepting cast-offs to that end.
Dad has passed away, but his stories are with me always. Stories meant for enlightenment as well as entertainment.*********************************************************************************************
Enjoying the words of two talented writers is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward to the playoffs. In the comments below leave your vote for the winner of Bout #4. Which one tickled your fancy? After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well. The voting for this round will remain open until noon Sunday. Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world. It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers.