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WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Cage Bout #5

Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE, and remember, the bouts stay open for one week.

The contest started with 181 submissions from 132 writers and we've narrowed that down to 18 (fifteen 1st round winners and three that were SAVED). The DFW Conference is in less than four weeks and its time to get serious. That means - it's CAGE BOUT time!

Here's how this works. Instead of two writers competing against one another, now it's THREE. The contestants will be using the same writing sample that allowed them to get this far, and the readers/voters will have to choose one of the three to move on.  There will be six bouts (M-S) this time.

If you voted in the preliminary round, then there is no need to leave a critique this time, however, if this is your first time seeing these writers we do ask that you leave a brief critique for the writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-S), the voting for each bout will remain open for as long as possible from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Thursday, May 24th (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent with a NEW WRITING SAMPLE

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) 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 result in 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!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –

In one corner, we have MujerConHistorias.

With her head on the sofa’s armrest, her eyes follow the roach. That movement, a wobbly taka-taka as the roach busily makes its way across the hardwood floor, is what made her eyes focus. She can’t recall the last time she ate but the image of her picking out that floor three years ago when they moved in is as vivid as the roach’s shiny black back. Her husband had loved the floor. She’d hated how every speck of dust showed like a star on dark sky. The roach, usually undetectable on the espresso floor, leaves a trail on the dust with its airy taka-taka.

She sits up inch by inch, her side bursting into shooting pains. A head-shaped depression remains on the cushion, the fabric retains the outline of where her body was laying. She lifts her shirt and traces the sores on the side of her body with her fingertips. She’d found them last week. This she remembers. She lets the shirt fall down.

Her ear is about to touch the armrest again when she hears the cry outside. Soft. Timid. It persists until she drops her legs over the edge and stands. Her living room spins, her nails dig into the armrest.

The cries get closer. She shuffles like an elder from couch to patio door and slides the glass door open. An orange fluff ball meows again. It parades up and down the concrete porch, rubbing against patio furniture and planters with shriveled plants. Probably hungry. Her head turns toward the kitchen, an image of her mother-in-law with grocery bags flashes.

They used to have a cat the first year of their marriage. It was really his mom’s, Sandra’s cat. He returned it, eventually.

Sandra, the only one who rang her number long after she’d stopped picking up. Sandra gave up like the rest, months ago.

The feline, waiting for her to get distracted, speeds past her legs and bounds inside. Like on a mission it runs straight to the roach and licks it lips after swallowing it. She follows the cat down the hallway she’s seen hundreds of times, but not in this dimension. It’s curled up already, of all places, on the bed that hasn’t been slept on for a year, on top of her husband’s pillow.

“Hey.” Every cell of her body must’ve quivered, her own tongue not recognizing the taste of her voice.

In the shower, she gags at the fumes that rise off of her. She hits her heel, feeling for the ledge while stepping in reverse, not once letting her eyes meet the mirror. Afterward, she lathers aloe all along her sides.

She switches the TV on, the last thing they were watching resumes—last year’s Olympic games—right before he left for milk and was rammed by a semi at the corner.

It hurts to exhale. “I’ll tell you all about ‘em the day I see you, hon.”

She hits pause and picks up the phone to dial Sandra.

In the other corner, we have Stella Sterling.

I sit with my butt planted in the sand and my back resting against the Joshua tree. People think I’m outta my gourd, coming all the way out here for a phone call. But that tired, dusty phone booth—eight miles from the nearest paved road and fifteen miles from the closest highway—it’s my lifeline.
               The phone rings. It’s a harsh, metallic sound. It’s out of place in this scorching stillness.
               I scramble into the booth. “Hello?”
               That rhythmic, beautiful sound.
               The call disconnects.
               Relief crashes over me in a welcome torrent. My chest heaves with elation. I return the phone to its cradle as if I might hurt her by performing the task carelessly.
               I wave goodbye to the woman who’s standing in a wide stance a few yards away, hands on her lower back. She tips her head in acknowledgement. I don’t know when her call will come, but I sure hope it’s before sundown. I hike back to my truck, which I was instructed to park at least half a mile away. Something about interference. I keep my windows down and drive for two hours, the smell of desert sage all around me. It’s dark out when I get home. As soon as I pull into the driveway, my wife yanks open the front door.
               “Jimmy…” she says, a look of tentative hope on her face.
               I don’t scold her for being on her feet, which is against doctor’s orders. For the first time, I know that everything’s gonna be alright. “I heard her, Annie,” I say, bringing my hand to my wife’s round belly. “I heard her heart beat.”
               My wife erupts into tears and shaky laughter.
               I hold her and press my lips to the crown of her head. “We won’t lose another, Annie. This time, everything’s gonna be different.”

And finally, welcome back Martian Magnolia

I stumbled into the storage closet of an apartment. The only place on the entire space station that belonged to me. Bigger living quarters would have been nice, but I didn't have the credits to throw away on luxury. And after a sixteen-hour shift, as long as it had a bed, I didn't care.
The doorbell chimed.
I put the pillow over my head.
For the love of Pete. I stretched my arm to hit the intercom. "What?"
A deep masculine voice, like a rough caress filtered through the speaker. "Beatrice."
Benedick. Station Commander Benedick. Just my luck. A double shift in the hell of the main generator compartment to be followed up by a visit from my ex. 
"Can I help you?"
"Where's Phillip?"
Doing something you'd rather not know about. "He's indisposed."
"How indisposed? It's urgent that I speak with him."
It's urgent that I get some sleep, too, so let's make sure you don't linger. I moaned. "Silk Ropes and body oil kind of indisposed. It could be a while."
The one good thing about having a failed relationship with the guy in charge was knowing how to push his buttons. He knew I'd never sleep with his brother. But it'd still make him madder than a wet cat to think about.
Before I settled into sleep, his fist pounded a tattoo on my door. "Open the damn door, Bea!"
I may have overplayed my hand. "Not on your life."
My digital unit chimed. "Senior Command Lock Override."
"What the hell?" I asked the six plus feet of ochre skinned perfection when his mahogany eyes bore into mine from the passageway. He could have at least broken out in lesions since our split. But no. Because the universe hated me.
"Where's Phillip?"
"He's not here."
"But you know where he is."
True. I smiled.
He glared at me. No, he wasn't glaring. Sixteen hours of sweat and grime and he stared at my mouth. With a look in his eyes that promised...No. That way lay dragons. And copious amounts of ice cream and tears.
His voice dropped to a purr. "You can tell me and spare yourself the trouble, or I'll find him and put you both on probation."
I snorted. "Good luck with that."
"You don't think I can?"
A chuckle escaped me. "I think it's more likely that I'll strip naked and do a jig in front of you than it is that you'll find Phillip in the next six hours."
His eyes softened and he leaned against the doorframe. "Care to make that a wager?"
My throat went dry. "What's in it for me?"
He smiled. "If I don't find him in the next six hours, I'll upgrade you to a suite, no extra credits required. But if I do, that jig better be a good."
Oh my. 
I stuck my hand out. "Deal."
He took it, only to raise it to his supple lips. "Deal."

Oh, Phillip, don't screw this up. 

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

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


  1. I blame Stella Sterling for "sterling" my heart with this one.



    Bah, Jim. Since when did you become such a critic? One point to Stella Sterling, in any case.

  2. Pain mixed with that glimmer of hope at the end still get me.
    Vote is for MujerConHistorias

  3. I don't completely know what's going on in Stella Sterling's story, but I don't care - it still makes me catch my breath. I vote for that one.

  4. Stella Sterling!

  5. My vote goes to Stella Sterling.

  6. Tough call between the three, but Ima go with Stella Sterling.

  7. MujerConHistorias gets my vote.

  8. Talk about a tug of the heart. Vote for the vivid story in MujerConHistorias.

  9. One vote for Martian Magnolia!

  10. I voted for all 3 of these originally, so this was a tough decision. I think they're all great in their own ways, but since I have to pick one, I'm choosing Stella Sterling

  11. Once again, my vote goes to MujerConHistorias.

  12. All good, as usual. But for this round, MujecConHistorias gets my vote.

  13. I'm going with the Much Ado...Martian Magnolia

    JoAnne Turner

  14. I vote for Stella Sterling for so much world in so few words.

  15. My vote goes to MujerConHistorias.

  16. My vote is for Stella Sterling because come on 300 words? Awesome!!!

  17. Vote MujerConHistorias for the powerful ending

  18. It looks like this match ended in a tie between MujerConHistorias and Stella Sterling with 13 votes each. Being that I'm the tie-breaker, I should make the call as who should move forward. Problem is, I find them both equally deserving and can't choose between them. So, to solve this dilemma I went back to the votes of our Slushpile judges and by a slim margin - Stella Sterling had the most votes from our judges. So I am declaring Stella as the victor here, but as you can see, it was REALLY REALLY close!

  19. I vote for Martian Magnolia. It was the most fun to read for me personally.




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