It's week #2 of the WRiTE CLUB play-off rounds – which I promised would come at a rapid fire pace -- and we have four more bouts scheduled. I must say I'm a little disappointed with the participation we've seen so far. Last year we averaged 31 votes per round one bout in the playoffs, and this year we are averaging 27. Yes, it is early, so the numbers could rebound, but it is also up to all of you to help make that happen. Please help out in any way you can to ensure that the work from these wonderful writers is seen by as many readers as possible.
Last week I posted five bouts (Mon-Fri) and this week are the last four (Mon-Thur). The voting for all nine bouts will remain open until noon on Sunday, August 31st. Your task remains simple…read the submission from each WRiTER carefully and leave your vote for the sample that resonates with you the most. If you haven’t already done so in the previous rounds, offer some critique if you have time. Anyone reading this can vote, so blog, Tweet, Facebook, text, or smoke signal everyone you know and get them to take part in the fun. Vote on as many bouts as you can get around to. Whether that is one bout, or all nine, how much you participate is up to you.
Here’s something else to keep in mind for this round...every vote counts. That’s because 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 still advance to round 2.
The winners will be posted late in the afternoon on August 31 and then round 2 will kick off the following Monday, September 1st, with all new 500 word submissions from the nine advancing contestants.
Good luck to all of the WRiTER’s!
In this corner welcome back to the ring.....Miss Drake
The last time Benjamin Marshall ate a corned beef sandwich was the same day he killed more than six hundred people. It was early afternoon, and the wind had been bitter, coming off the frozen shallows of the lake. It made Benjamin feel as if the fine hairs in his nose were freezing together, so he had ducked into The Berghoff to thaw. He hadn’t expected an interruption, so his hands were knuckle-deep in his corned beef sandwich, pulling off the strings of sauerkraut, wiping away as much of the bitterness as he could.
Someone called his name, and when Benjamin looked up, his fingers deep in his sandwich, Minnie Dorsey was running at him, her face drawn tight. Her hair was piled in a loose knot on the top of her head, golden curls frizzling out from the mass. Most of the women Benjamin knew kept their hair pinned tight, any curls revealing themselves in a calculated, cascading way, but not Minnie. Everything about Minnie was different than the other woman Benjamin knew.
It was well-known that women weren’t allowed in The Berghoff, a mostly unspoken rule. Benajmin glanced around and everyone’s eyes were on him. On Minnie, really. If it were anyone but Minnie, he would have prepared himself for a slap over something he’d done, but Minnie was one of the fun girls, never seeming to mind when she caught Benjamin out with a different girl on his arm, dizzy with champagne.
“Ben,” she gasped again.
“Benjamin,” he corrected her, as he always did. He had been Ben as a young boy, sometimes Bennie. He’d be drawing on a large sketch pad in the yard, trying to decipher the varying whistles from the train tracks a few miles away, and then his mother’s long, “Be-en!” to call him in for supper. Now, he went by Benjamin, only Benjamin.
As a boy he was constantly scolded by his school teacher for doodling instead of working on his arithmetic. “Our little artist,” his mother would say when company came over. The problem with being an artist was that Benjamin couldn’t draw faces—the shadows and expressions were lost when he sketched on paper. He never got the look of happiness or of despair quite right and his portraits would end up looking like chiseled stone: cold and solid. But lines he could manage—he drew squares and arches and rectangles that spoke to people more than any two-dimensional face did.
Still, it frustrated him that no matter how hard he tried, he would never be able to sum Minnie Dorsey up with lines on paper. Standing before him, her cheeks were flushed rosy. She looked so wild, so Minnie that Benjamin wanted to reach out and touch her face, but everyone was looking and it was The Berghoff after all. “What is it?” he asked her.
“Benjamin Marshall,” she said, with an edge to her voice, a mix of urgency and now, annoyance. “Your beloved theatre is on fire.”
And in the other corner, also anxious to return to the ring, let me re-introduce.... Dreamer
Gillian lurched, then steadied herself against the side of the bridge, its ancient stones damp from loch mist. Setting down her bag, she stared up at the castle, letting the afternoon wind sting her face and have its way with her hair.
To return here, terrifying, but to stay away. . . worse. She needed help, and only Kinsman could give it. She hoped.
Hoisting her bag, she glanced over her shoulder at the rental car, then crossed to the high arched door.
She grasped the thick iron ring, and banged it sharply. The door swung in so quickly she barely had time to release the knocker.
Without a greeting, the steely-eyed Alva took her bag and closed the door behind her. The sound wasn't unlike that of a crypt being sealed, and it echoed into the dank air.
Again Gillian stood under the high ceiling, encircled by tapestries and larger-than-life portraits of her ancestors. Their stares remained as she remembered them, remote with a hint of malevolence.
“He's waiting for you.” Her back more hunched than three years ago, Alva stood at the bottom of the stairway leading to the second floor.
Gillian flinched. Where was her Scottish courage—the mettle Kinsman used to remind her was in her blood? The day she left, she’d said terrible things to him, hurtled down these stairs and outside, frantic to be gone. Now she’d returned. She needed him. Desperately.
She counted each step to the library. Its door stood open.
“May I come in?” Rotten start. He'd sense her nerves unraveling in a weak request like that.
Kinsman turned from the fire to face her. Eyes, as dark and shrewd as she remembered, confronted her.
She ran her tongue over her lips and swallowed. “Did you get my message?” Another feeble question. Now she'd wait for him to speak.
The clock's pendulum became the loudest sound in the room. Her pulse drummed at her temples. The fire burned steadily, but gave little warmth. She needed a drink. A Valium. Damn. She needed sleep.
Kinsman drew his chair closer to the fire and sat with his back to her. “Do you intend to stand at the door the rest of the evening?”
He'd asked her to sit with him. He would hear her out. Without hesitating, she took a seat and waited.
“Why have you come?”
“The dreams. They've returned. . .only this time they’re. . .deadly.”
The tension between them melted with her words. At last she’d told someone who understood. None of the expensive doctors who made pages of notes and prescribed medicines for depression or anxiety or whatever they thought caused her condition, knew what she meant when told them about The Dreams, dreams that made her embrace days and dread nights.
“Then it’s time for you to know,” he said and the shadows stirred around them.
Like long, dark fingers they clutched at her, and she reached for Kinsman’s hand. Her guardian. Her protector.
But could he save her?