WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Semi-Final #2


Today is the 2nd and final WRiTE CLUB bout where the readers have a say in the outcome.  After these two bouts, it will be in the hands of the celebrity judges. But first, we need to decide who gets that opportunity.

The voting for both of this week's bouts will close on Sunday, June 16th (noon central time).

Here once again are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3) Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

Like the man say's



Welcome back to the ring our first contestant...Organized Confusion



“What do you call that one?” Nikki asked the old rancher standing next to her. She pointed at an enormous dark gray gelding watching from the depths of the muddy pasture. An electric shock of recognition zinged through her, although she'd never seen this particular horse before.

“You don't want that one, ma'am,” the man said around the wad of tobacco in his lip. “That one's trouble.” He spit a copper stream at the ground in emphasis.

*

Her father leaned back on the sofa, eyes hard, as Nikki fell silent. “Not in my house,” he said.

Her mother said nothing, only sat blinking with one hand over her mouth. Finally, she lowered her hand and smoothed at invisible wrinkles on her skirt.

“Nicolette, sweetheart …” She faltered. “What your father is trying to say—”

“I'm not trying to say anything, Marjorie. I'm saying it. If she wants to get up to that kind of—” He grimaced. “—filth, well, she's made her choice.”

“Dad—” Nikki wanted to take it back. After thirty-eight years, the weight of hiding had become unbearable, but she hadn't been prepared for this. She just wanted her parents to see the real her, the whole her.

Instead, he stood, looking past her. “You need to leave.”

“Daddy—”

“I'm not your Daddy. The daughter I raised would never break her mother's heart or disrespect God's laws in such a way. I don't know you.”

He left without making eye contact. She watched him walk heavily down the hall and out of sight. The bang of the screen door jolted her mother out of her paralysis. Like Nikki's father, she stood. Unlike him, she studied her daughter's face.

“I don't understand why you always have to cause such trouble, Nicolette,” she said.

*

Nikki walked the fence-line, mesmerized. She'd come looking for a new riding horse, but her mental list of requirements had evaporated at the first glimpse of rich coat and bold stance.

“What's his name?” she asked the rancher.

“He ain't got no name. Ain't gonna be here long enough to need one.”

At Nikki's questioning look, the man shrugged. “S'the way it is. Can't sell a horse won't let hisself be broke.”

She watched as the animal's velvet nose flared, reading the wind. Her heart thumped in time with his hooves as he galloped to the far end of the field. He slowed near a gnarled old tree and turned to look at her again.

The gelding held her gaze a moment before dropping his massive head to nibble at the grass. I see you, his eyes said. You don't have to let them break you, either.

“I'll take him,” Nikki said, surprising herself almost as much as the old man. All she knew was that she needed this horse and he needed her. They'd figure the rest out together. “I'll pick him up this afternoon.”
#################################################################################



Also welcome our second contestant...Sicaria



The hounds bay in the distance, their mournful cries shattering the quiet of the morning.
“Your red hair will give you an advantage,” Melody, my handmaid, says as she finishes coiling my tresses into elaborate braids.
I glance out the window. Across the manicured lawn, the brilliant autumn colors turn the forest into a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and yellows. A breeze carries with it the smell of woodsmoke and the promise of an early snow. “Perhaps.”
Melody grabs a makeup brush and draws swirls of brown on my face, followed by black. “Are you ready for the hunt?”
I swallow my fear. “Of course.” It’s the expected answer after I declared I would rather participate in the hunt to keep my land and my home instead of marry that imbecile, Lord Timothy. In the moment, it’d seemed the better choice.
My words don’t fool Melody. “It was the right choice, Lady Celeste.”
I almost laugh. It was an impulsive choice made by an impulsive girl. Father always said my inability to think before I speak would be the end of me. I bite my lip to stop the tears from falling. If he hadn’t died, my future would be secure.
Outside, the sound of men whooping and yelling races toward my window, and terror coils around me like a boa constrictor squeezing its prey.
“Do you think I’ll be fine?” My voice is barely a whisper.
The love in Melody’s eyes is reminiscent of my mother. “I’ve seen several hunts, and winning always comes down to being brave and smart. You’re both.”
“I’m not brave.”
“You are.” Melody sets down her brush and pulls me to my feet. “You’ll do well.”
“I wish I didn’t have to wear this.” I smooth my camouflage skirt with trembling hands.
Melody gives me a soft smile. “If only ladies could wear pants.”
“If only ladies didn’t have to fight for what’s rightfully theirs.” The bell tower chimes eight, and my breath quickens.
“Come.” Melody opens my door and ushers me downstairs and outside.
“I’ll see you in an hour?” Tears prick at my eyes as I look at Melody for reassurance.
“In an hour.” She kisses my cheek. “Now go.”
I lift my skirts and hurry across the lawn toward the forest. Near the edge, men on horses wait with their hounds.
“My lords.” I eye the five men on horseback. Lord Timothy glares at me when my gaze locks with his. My refusal cost him his honor, and if he wins, he gets that back along with my home and fortune. I lift my chin. He won’t win.
“You get a five minute lead,” says Lord Andrew. “If we don’t find you, then,” he waves his hand as though he doesn’t believe it’s a possibility, “you win. And if we do, well…”
I nod, determination mingling with fear to create a potent fire. They won’t find me—I refuse to die today.
Lord Chambers cocks an eyebrow. “You better start running.”
#################################################################################


Please leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detractions.

We’ll be back Monday with the final 1,000 word battle. 

Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!





WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Semi-Final #1



We're not messing around anymore! This journey began with 189 submissions and by the end of this week we will determine which two contestants will be submitting their 1,000-word writing sample to the panel of celebrity judges. In order to do that we must first hold a pair of semi-final bouts, and today is #1.

We do ask that you leave a brief critique for both of our contestants because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

The voting for both of this week's bouts will close on Sunday, June 16th (noon central time).

Here once again are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3) Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

Like the man say's



Welcome back to the ring our first contestant...IshYouNotIshMe



The car shuddered as the cop pushed Daddy against the hood. Mom screamed and hid her face behind her hands. Daddy caught my eye.
Take care of your mama and sister, his wink said.
I nodded and pulled Amy into my side. Her wide, scared eyes asked the question none of us could voice: Why?
We sat there, frozen from fear and cold, until long after the red and blue lights faded into the night. Snow, hard as sand, clicked softly against the windows and the car rocked every time a semi rumbled past.
“Mom,” I said through chattering teeth. “Amy’s cold. Can we go?”
Mom sighed heavily and scooted into Daddy’s spot. Her hands shook as she turned the key. Pat Benatar cautioned that love is a battlefield, but Mom cut her off.
“There’s nowhere to go; we were evicted.” Her voice slurred around sobs. She pulled onto the dark highway and headed down the mountain.
We slid into a booth at a Village Inn. Mom lit a cigarette and counted coins. “How am I supposed to bail him out?” she whispered through tears.
The waitress brought us a pancake face with scrambled egg hair and a bacon smile. Chocolate chip eyes tried to reassure me, but I didn’t need reassurance, I needed Daddy. And sleep.
My next memory is waking up on a couch in a strange apartment. Amy breathed heavily on the other end, and I pulled a scratchy army blanket over her. My bladder threatened to explode, but snooping would be rude, so I chased sleep again. Eventually, the waitress from Village Inn came out of a bedroom and showed me the bathroom. She asked if I was hungry. My stomach growled but I said no; she poured me a bowl of Lucky Charms anyway.
I don’t know how long we stayed, but it felt like weeks. Mom and the lady left every morning, cautioning us to say inside with the door locked. I occupied Amy with stories about what really happened to Daddy. He hadn’t been arrested, that was a cover. No, he was a spy on a mission to save the Queen of England. We just had to be brave until he came back.
When I saw Daddy again, he wasn’t a spy. He was in an orange jumpsuit, and the smeared glass between us didn’t hide his black eye. His swollen lip. Mom cried as she held the grimy phone to her ear. I longed to hear his voice, but she hogged all the time.
When he finally got out, Daddy wouldn’t talk about what happened. I’ve spent decades trying to untangle why they kept him so long. Tomorrow marks two years since he died, and I’ve been saving up for something to honor his memory. When the idea hit me, it felt as right as my favorite sweater. Tomorrow, I’ll bail out a stranger. And, maybe, I can save another kid a lifetime of unanswered questions.
#################################################################################



And their most worthy opponent...give a hearty welcome to Ms. Sunnydale



Sadie took a long drag of New York City winter and blew it out in a wet, white cloud. She felt like one of the older girls, with their lit burners pressed between pink lips so the men noticed their mouths.
But Sadie would be noticed regardless. She had hair the color of a Kerry Bog Palomino, and the men in this town loved their ponies. Her brother took their bets down at the Fourth Ward pub, and she saw the hunger in their eyes whenever they got a good tip about a thoroughbred and chased it with gold coins.
A gentleman in a longtail coat stepped off the curb and stumbled. Sadie watched him correct himself and tug at his hem for balance. He didn’t need to come closer for her to smell the whiskey on his breath, but he came closer anyway. 
“Are you an angel?” he slurred.
“I can be, if that’s what you fancy.” Sadie clasped her hands in front of her skirts and looked up at him through blackened lashes. 
His lips curled in a lazy smile. “You’re a pretty one. I should like to take y’dancing.”
She laughed and it was an enchanted thing, like a hundred silver bells snagged on a harbor breeze. “I’ve not been taught proper dancing. I might step on your toes.”
“You won’t hurt me, darling.”
He offered her an unsteady arm, and the two walked together up Mulberry and into the guts of the Five Points. The man didn’t belong in that neighborhood but, like most highbrow merchants from upper Manhattan, he seemed to know it was where to get your fix of sin. The alcohol was copious, the brothels bursting, and there was always someone willing to do anything for your money.    
Music poured through open windows as they passed. Women sang siren songs with otherworldly lilts. The smell of pig entrails and horse dung didn’t faze Sadie anymore, but the man retched as the stench stirred the stagnant liquor in his belly.  
“Perhaps we should rest,” Sadie suggested. And so as not to make him feel weak, she added, “These boots hurt my poor feet.”
Approving the excuse and keen on playing savior, he tugged her into an alleyway where clothes dripped idly overhead and rotting stairs traversed the shadows between brick tenements. She pulled up her petticoat to perch on a low rung and noticed a familiar hunger flash across the man’s face. One that would feed her own.
She stiffened as he approached, flinched when he cupped her cheek. It would take more than fifteen years to train away those childish impulses.  
“Shh, that’s a good lass,” he said softly to her, as though gentling a wild colt.
But there was the trouble. Sadie was no one’s pony. And not even gambling man would have predicted it when she cracked the man’s nose with her skull and walked out of that alleyway a richer woman than she’d entered.
A good lass, indeed. 
#################################################################################


Please leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detractions.

We’ll be back Thursday with our second semi-final bout. 

Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!





WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Playoff Bout #3



Reminder - Playoff Bouts 1-2 are still taking your votes. Please make those your next stop if you've not voted there yet.

We are now down to just six contestants and it's time to see how they match up with ALL NEW MATERIAL.

This is the 3rd of three playoff bouts and you need to pay special attention to when voting ends because a staggered timeline will be used again. Speaking of voting, it has a special significance during the playoffs because in addition to three winners advancing to the semi-finals, a fourth Wildcard winner will also be selected. How is the WC chosen? It will be the loser that had garnered the most votes among all three losers. So every vote counts - win or lose.



We do ask that you leave a brief critique for all of our contestants because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

The voting for today’s bout will close on Wednesday, June 12th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the semi-final round where they’ll face a different opponent with another NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3) Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

Like the man say's



Please welcome back into the ring, with all new material - 

Organized Confusion



I sweep and sweep, but pale ashes remain, marking the asphalt. They get into the tiniest cracks and refuse to be removed. My memories are the same; I can't cry enough to wash them away.

Each time I fall asleep, I relive the accident: the glare of headlights, the screech of twisting metal, fragments of safety glass raining down on me like malevolent diamonds.  My brother's screams call to me each night.

“Kari! Help me!”

“I'm hurt!”

“I need you, Kari!”

I'm always stuck, just like that night, pinned in place by the seat belt across my chest and the shaft of the steering wheel in my right thigh. I twist as far as I can and reach behind me—whether to comfort him or myself, I'm still not sure.

His screams fade to cries … whimpers … silence.

I clutch at his hand. “Wake up, Teddy!” I stretch one more inch out of my already strained shoulder and shake him.

I keep my arm wrenched behind me, fingers wrapped around his limp hand despite the cramps in my shoulder blade, until help arrives. Paramedics pry us apart to whisk me away in an ambulance. They intentionally block my view of the tiny body in the back seat.

My parents pretend they're not angry, but I hear them talking late into the night. In a hushed, grief-thickened voice, my father asks, “Do you think she was on her phone? Texting, maybe?”

My mother takes a second too long to say, “I'm sure she wasn't.”

I never looked at my phone with Teddy in the car. They don't ask me—they wouldn't believe me if they did—but it's true.

Teddy's ashes sit in their plain black box on our mantle for weeks. The stark white label pasted to the front announces his name, his birthday, and the date of the accident, but says nothing about the sparkle of his laughter or the annoying way he chewed carrots with his mouth open.

Mom and Dad finally decide how they want to release his ashes.

“Balloons—red and blue ones,” Mom says. “Friends and family can come to the house, share a memory before we let him go. He always wanted to explore the world.” She chokes on the end of her sentence. Dad puts his arm around her and blinks back tears. I press a thumb down on my wounded thigh until it's all I feel.

A cold wind blows the day of his memorial. The wind and the old oak trees lining the drive conspire against Mom's plan. Brightly colored orbs snag in the branches one-by-one, bursting. Ash rains down on us.

The gunshot sounds of each memory's aborted journey fold my mother into a crumpled version of herself. Dad takes her inside and puts her to bed. Those who gathered to pay their respects disperse, fleeing in the face of so much unfathomable pain.

I find a broom and fail to save my brother once again.
#################################################################





Our second contestant is Sydney Slayer


It is our turn to tend to the dragon.
We live at the top of the dragon-wrapped mountain and on this day we tend to the dragon that gives us his magic. Being so close to him does something; it changes us. We can’t ever walk away from it. It’s in our blood, our lungs; our eyes.
Our eyes.
Sameera watches me unpack my kit and re-pack it; it’s a tradition, the morning of dragon day, to make sure we have everything. I like the ritual. I like touching the bottle of oil, feeling its weight; checking the tools. The other girls do it quickly and most of them are done repacking their kits while I’m still touching all my things.
“Do you wish to delay the inevitable, Ryu?” Sameera asks, her eyes glittering sapphire. That’s the thing about jewelled eyes; it’s harder to tell what we’re thinking. Sameera can pretend all she wants but we both know she isn’t being kind.
“I just like to make sure everything is perfectly ready, Sameera. Some of us don’t like to push things before their time,” I reply, my eyes glittering back at her. I smile and tilt my head and her face flushes; she does not like to be reminded of how she pressed Grandmother last year to let her vision-travel, after Grandmother told us we weren’t to try it yet. Sameera doesn’t like to get in trouble; she just wants to be the best. The first at everything.
“When you get tired of fondling your kit, maybe the dragon will let you fondle him,” she says crudely, and the other girls gasp, looking from one to the other.
I turn my back on her; she shames herself with her words, not me.
Not me.
Grandmother is waiting in the teaching square for us as we file out of our room, packs slung over our backs, silent and solemn as is proper for such a sacred duty. She stands under the shoyu tree and her black diamond eyes do not shine as she watches us walk, single file, Sameera in front as always, me bringing up the rear, the other two girls an ineffectual buffer between us.
Grandmother hands us tea mixed with honey and sings to us, a chant, a melody, something soothing that makes everything fall away until our minds are clear as a mountain lake, a dark pool that holds everything and nothing in complete stillness. My annoyance with Sameera drowns in that pool along with all my thoughts of leaving the mountain. She croons to us and the stillness brings peace; a necessary peace, so that our wild girlish notions and loud emotions will not disturb the dragon’s rest.
It is very, very important not to disturb the dragon.

Wrapped in song and stillness we leave our home and take the winding path up the mountain, snow drifting like blossoms around us, our footsteps silent in the hush of the misty path.
#################################################################

Please leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detractions.

We’ll be back next week with our two semi-final bouts. 

Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!




WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Playoff Bout #2



Reminder - Cage Bouts 5-6 are still taking your votes. Please make those your next stop if you've not voted there yet.

We are now (or soon will be) down to just six contestants and it's time to see how they match up with ALL NEW MATERIAL.

There will be three bouts this week (Mon-Wed-Fri) and pay special attention to when voting ends because a staggered timeline will be used again. Speaking of voting, it has a special significance during the playoffs because in addition to three winners advancing to the semi-finals, a fourth Wildcard winner will also be selected. How is the WC chosen? It will be the loser that had garnered the most votes among all three losers. So every vote counts - win or lose.



We do ask that you leave a brief critique for all of our contestants because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

The voting for today’s bout will close on Monday, June 10th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the semi-final round where they’ll face a different opponent with another NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3) Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

Like the man say's




Please welcome back into the ring, with all new material - 

Hijinks Aplenty



He first noticed the fingernails.

Toweling his hair, steam clinging to his shoulders, Drew had walked into his closet and stepped on something sharp.
“Dammit!” he shouted. His good mood from pumping iron at the gym evaporated as he threw the towel down. Wobbling on one leg, he examined his right heel. A thin scratch veined down the center.

He rubbed his foot and scowled. No belt buckle or stray thumbstacks that he could see. No metal object at all. He squatted and stared at the faux wood tile of his floor more closely.

And that’s when Drew saw them: three fingernails.

They were full nails, perfectly manicured, except one, which bore a jagged split in its middle. They were painted. Red? Auburn orange? He didn’t know what you’d call that color. The polish meant they couldn’t be his. And the only nails he should be finding were the slivers he occasionally chewed off and spit out around the house.

Drew reached down to collect them, only to discover they were embedded in the tile. He picked at them. They wouldn’t budge. He held one tightly and tried to jerk it out, wiggling it left and right. But it refused to yield. It was almost as though they were growing out of the fake grain, attached to some root he couldn’t see.

He thought about trying his pliers. But he had that damned 8:00AM meeting, and he didn’t want anyone giving him crap for coming in late. Well, too late. He could count on Griff to roll in at ten after. And Drew intended to be sitting with scoff of disapproval at the ready when that happened.

So he snatched the towel up and dropped it over the nails, hiding them from sight. He finished gathering his clothing. Closing the closet door, he didn’t notice the towel shifting, a twitching of the fabric.

As he was lacing up a shoe, Drew’s phone vibrated from his end table. Unlocking it with his thumb, he glanced at the new text message. 

*You didn’t give me the right number*

Not a number he recognized. The phone buzzed in his hand, a second message coming through.

*The ladies let me know*

“The hell?” he muttered. Drew started to text back “Who r u?” when the phone buzzed a third time.

*We’re trying to reach you*

He didn’t have time for this. Whatever this was. He deleted the messages and blocked the number.

Gathering the last of his stuff for the day, Drew locked up and threw himself into his lime green Charger. He didn’t glance over his shoulder as he peeled out. If he didn’t hit any red lights, he could still make it to the office before Griff. Cutting off a Camry, he forgot all about the fingernails in his closet.

That is, until he found the tongue. 
#################################################################





Our second contestant is Ms. Sunnydale


I wait in the back of the nave, staring down the long, pillared throat of the St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church. For all its soaring arches and cerulean sunlight, it feels suffocating. Perhaps it’s the eyes staring back at me—not those of the parishioners, but of the angels and saints and Savior affixed to its walls, appraising the wretches gathered before them.
If only to avoid them, I slip into the first pew and bow my head in equal parts veneration and guilt. It’s been too long since I’ve been through these doors, and too soon since I’ve been tumbling in someone else’s bed. And to top it off, now I’m just minutes from being handed my mortal reckoning by a bleedin’ mob boss.
Sunday funday, indeed.
From the pulpit, the priest reads from the gospel of Luke. I don’t recall it from the days of children’s Mass, when Callum and I would drive Sister Mary Clare mad with our antics, but I get the gist: holy joes and humbled sinners and hard-won mercy.
Mercy. Psh. I doubt I’ll ever earn it… me, and all the other poor sobs standing on the receiving end of judgement. Whether it’s served by the Lord, or the Law, or the devil himself, it doesn’t matter. Retribution flows like a river through this town and I reckon it will drown us all in the end. 
            “You look well for a ghost.” The man sliding onto the bench beside me is the picture of old-money self-assurance. If his peacoat is expensive, his watch is fecking obscene—a classic Day-Date Presidential with a pearlescent dial and price tag you could live a modest life on. His face is clean-shaven, his smile just subtle enough to make you doubt yourself. He smells of nice cologne and cold blood. “It’s been too long, Quinn.”
            I let Donahue pull me into a hug and run a broad palm over my back. I could convince myself that this is just a mentor greeting his apprentice, but I know the gesture is one of protocol—he’s checking me for a wire.
            Feeling nothing under my t-shirt but a thunderous heartbeat, he turns to the service.
            “I’m sorry to hear about your brother. Still missing, is he?” He clicks his tongue. “Such a tragedy.”
            My throat tightens at the word. I know all about this man’s relationship with tragedy. I know because he was the one who taught me all the ways to inflict it. But he never mentioned what to do when it turns on you.
“Tell me…” I swallow and try again. “Tell me you weren’t involved. Tell me you didn’t hurt him.”
 The congregation swells in joyous song, so at odds with the sickness in my gut. Donahue closes his eyes and tilts his head in time with the music. When he opens them again and turns them on me, there is no mercy there. “Do you want me to tell you that,” he asks, “or the truth?”           
#################################################################

Please leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detractions.

We’ll be back on Friday with our final playoff bout. 

Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!




WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Playoff Bout #1


Reminder - Cage Bouts 3-6 are still taking your votes. Please make those your next stop if you've not voted there yet.

We are now (or soon will be) down to just six contestants and it's time to see how they match up with ALL NEW MATERIAL.

There will be three bouts this week (Mon-Wed-Fri) and pay special attention to when voting ends because a staggered timeline will be used again. Speaking of voting, it has a special significance during the playoffs because in addition to three winners advancing to the semi-finals, a fourth Wildcard winner will also be selected. How is the WC chosen? It will be the loser that had garnered the most votes among all three losers. So every vote counts - win or lose.



We do ask that you leave a brief critique for all of our contestants because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

The voting for today’s bout will close on Sunday, June 9th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the semi-final round where they’ll face a different opponent with another NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3) Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

Like the man say's



Please welcome back into the ring, with all new material - 

IshYouNotIsMe



“Look,” Jordan said around a mouthful of pumpkin ravioli. “It’s not that I don’t want to play Happy Family with you, but there’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
I swallowed down half my Malbec before topping it off again. “It’s whatever, Jordi. I shouldn’t have even asked. Let’s just enjoy dinner, okay?”
“I want this so much, Neil.” He reached across the table and took my hand in his. “But you don’t know what you’re walking into.”
“What don’t I know? Are you secretly straight? Are you in some vitamin selling cult? Help me understand.” I rubbed small circles on Jordan’s always-cold hand and waited for him to say something.
“Remember that old cooking competition, Teflon Tantrums?” His voice wobbled and he squeezed his eyes tight.
“The one where kids cooked outrageous shit? What about it?”
“I was on it.” He grimaced and pushed his ravioli away.
I choked back a laugh with another swig of wine. “Bullshit. You can’t even cook.”
“Actually, I cooked well enough to win the show and a boatload of cash.”
“Is this some kind of joke?” I pulled my hand away and leaned back in my chair. “If it’s true, you’ve been lying about not knowing how to cook all along. What the hell?”
“Oh, God. Please don’t be mad.”
“I’m not mad, I’m confused.”
Jordi took a deep breath and pressed his lips together. He seemed to shrink in front of me as the waiter cleared our half-eaten dinners.

“My mother was the Pageant Mom of cooking. By the time I was six, I could make a pie from scratch. My childhood sucked, and that fucking show was just the ganache on the cake.”
“Your mother taught you how to cook when you were little, and it ruined your life? I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t. Nobody does, that’s why I don’t talk about it. Can you imagine the pressure of cooking an entire holiday meal for fifteen when you’re only eleven? Or having to make your own three-tiered birthday cake? I would have given anything for her to just make me a boxed cake like a regular mother.” He spit words like venom. “And God help me if I didn’t show a hundred fancy skills. Sugar work, piping, mirror glaze.” Jordi blotted his eyes with his napkin and reigned himself in.
“After graduation, I ran far away, changed my name, and never looked back. But I can’t outrun her. I didn’t lie, Neil, I literally cannot cook. Cooking throws me right back into her kitchen where she still screams at me. Man up! Whip harder! Stop. Your. Crying!  When I cook, I still see lasagna dripping off the walls because the sauce was too garlicky.”
I slid into his booth and wrapped my arms around his shivering body. “Baby,” I kissed the top of his head. “As long as I’m around, you’ll never have to cook again. I adore you. Marry me.”
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Our second contestant is Sicaria


A single black curl bobs on the doll’s ancient porcelain head. One. Two. Three bobs. A shift in the air. The curtain flutters. Pale moonlight dances across the floor, reaching for me, wanting me.
I slip my hand under my pillow, searching for the small packet hidden there. I can’t find it. Keeping one eye on the doll, which is blissfully still at the moment, I lift my pillow with practiced steadiness. The pills are gone. Did Mom find them? Did she suspect I was doing drugs after I told her what was happening, convinced I was making it all up to get attention? Or did IT take them? Can it do that?
A picture frame wobbles on my dresser, almost falls, and then steadies as though an invisible hand caught it. Tears prick my eyes as I scan the floor for the pills. Addicted at fifteen—every girl’s dream. But I need to sleep. It’s been weeks since this started. Or maybe days. I’m losing count.
A faded stuffed bear topples off a pile of childish junk destined for Goodwill. I swallow a cry as it crawls back to the top like a spider claiming its web. Gripping my comforter, I pull it to my chin, shaking beneath its thick warmth. “I’m not making this up.” I choke on the words.
And then it comes. The soft, singsong voice that worms its way into my bones and is getting harder and harder to resist.
Come with me, it whispers. I shake my head.
Come with me. More insistent this time.
A whimper escapes my lips. “No.”
A feather-light touch on my hand, icy, compelling. Please.
It’s never said please before.
Come and play. Loneliness and hope flit around the words. I should play with it. Keep it company. I swing my legs over the side of the bed, toes brushing against the thick patterned rug.
Come and play. Laughter skips through the room, bright and tinkling.
I stand, the rug now freshly mown grass beneath my feet, the sweet smell of spring filling the air. Velvet wisps of fog curl around me, beckoning, glowing in the light which now filters through my second-story window, chasing away the night.
I grasp the small, translucent hand reaching toward me and take a step.
“Maddie?”
Misty haze swirls around me like a cozy blanket, enveloping me, smothering me.
“Maddie! What are you doing!” Mom’s voice is muffled, distant.
Shadows creep around the window frame, stealing the light, stealing me.
Play with me.
“Maddie!”
“No,” I whisper, reaching back, back toward safety, back toward Mom.
Now!  I dig my feet into the ground, one hand pulled toward the fading light still seeping through the window, the other flailing as I struggle to find something, anything to grab. My fingers graze Mom’s. One last desperate yank. The light vanishes, and I lie huddled in Mom’s lap.
A threat, a promise, rings in my ear. Tomorrow.
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