WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Cage Bout #6

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!

The voting for each bout will remain open for as long as possible from the date it is posted (except for this one) 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 Cha-REL.

I’m not even wearing a bra. I’m fifteen minutes late, I haven’t washed my hair since God knows when, these “yoga pants” are my pajamas—yup, I slept in them—I have coffee-flavored morning breath, and I’m not even wearing a bra.
To be expected, there are no spots in the school parking lot, so I have to park across the street and sprint, which means I’ll be sweaty on top of everything else—damned 90-degree August mornings—and of course there’s Kristin Barlow.
“He-ey, Kaa-aate!” she calls in a voice that is like saccharine if it had a sound, waving at me as her long, lithe legs carry her across the parking lot and into her silver Model S. The first time I saw her, I was positive Kristin was a former runway model or something, but I was wrong. No, she’s a graduate of Yale Law who provides pro-bono legal counsel for underprivileged, inner-city families. Her husband owns a large venture capital firm so she’s able give back to the communityin addition to being a perfect mom, a trophy wife, and the head of the PTA. She’s also never late to parent-teacher conferences.
“He-ey, Krii-stiin!” I warble, waving and then smacking my knuckles against the glass as I miss the door handle, and if I were more like Kristin my husband would probably still be around.
There’s a dad sitting on the bench in the school lobby and I cross my arms over my chest because my t-shirt-clad nipples don’t understand it’s not polite to point. He’s not Kristin’s husband, but I would bet my morning coffee his wife is a sun-kissed, blonde-balayage counterpart to mocha-haired-cover-girl-look-alike Kristin. I bet his wife teaches Pilates. Or hot yoga. Or a barre class. Or all of the above. He’s overtly handsome and his well-fitting gym clothes showcase the fact that he’s in better shape than the average late-thirty-something male, and I bet he just came from a spin class taught by his perfect wife. I sit as far at the other end of the bench as possible without letting one of my never-even-seen-a-Pilates-studio ass cheeks hang off the edge.
“Kate,” comes the voice of Lindsay, the receptionist-slash-office-manager, who is neither saccharin nor sugar, rather she’s more like cilantro because people either love her or hate her. “Ms. Lawson is still in another conference. It’s okay.”
“Oh, she is?” I ask, trying and failing to suppress my huffing and puffing.
Lindsay gives me a brisk and amused nod as she disappears into the door behind her desk. She reemerges a moment later carrying a styrofoam cup and holds it in front of my face.
“Everything’s fine,” she says, and I love cilantro. Cilantro gets me and knows without me telling her that I only had one cup of coffee this morning because I can’t keep track of time to save my life.

In the other corner, we have Doctornoir.

Raunch sat on the edge of the pool with one foot on the drowning man’s back and wondered if he had time for a cigarette. Turns out you really can drown someone in less than three feet of water­—if you knock him out first.

He thought it would be more difficult. Not the physical punch—he was as tough as they come, if he dared say so himself—but the emotional wallop. Despite an extensive criminal record for a variety of minor offenses, he’d never whacked anyone before, and he expected a rush of fear or horror or…something. Instead, he felt numb. The way he saw it, if the mob wanted this poor guy dead, he wasn’t a stellar citizen to begin with, and when you’re hungry and months behind on the rent, well, the truth is, money makes a great anesthetic.

The neighbor’s hound dog howled a warning. The scraggly brown hedge separating the two suburban houses rustled. The darkness obscured the source. Raunch tapped his cigarette back in the pack and pulled out his gun instead.

“Ow!” The hedge’s brittle branches snapped as a spandex-clad arm and leg broke through the six-foot tall barrier. The flailing continued until, with a final heave, a masked man hurtled onto the manicured lawn and rolled to a rest on his back.

“Jesus, Frank, you trying to wake up the whole neighborhood or what?” Raunch slipped the gun under his belt, covering it with the tail of his Phillies team jersey and removed his foot from the dead man’s back. He shook the water off his shoe. Dammit. He knew he should’ve worn boots. His sock was soaked. His sneaker squished when he walked toward Frank, ruining his attempt to look casual—and innocent. He leaned over Frank, who lay motionless with his eyes closed.

“Frank, buddy, you okay?”

Frank groaned and attempted to roll to his side, but his long cape snagged on a spindly branch, pinning him to the ground. He engaged in a brief tug of war, wrenching on the cape with both hands until the green fabric tore free. Exhausted from the effort and with his legs tangled in the tattered cape, he thrashed around like a bunny snared in a net until Raunch took pity on him and set him free.

“Dude, you’re embarrassing. Good thing there’s no one around to witness how pathetic you are.” 

Raunch grabbed Frank by the shoulders and hauled him to his feet.

Frank hunched over, gasping for breath. “I’m. Lambda. Man.” He lowered his voice, forcing Raunch to lean closer. “I told you not to use my real name when I’m on patrol.”

“Last I checked, ‘Lambda’ is your real name. Whatever. Are you okay, Lambda Man? Shrubbery appears to be your Kryptonite.”

Frank’s breathing slowed to normal. He straightened upright and gagged at the sight of the dead body bobbing in the shallow end of the pool. He was too late.

“My God, Raunch. What did you do?”

And finally, I.N. Summer

Here is the chair where the old woman sits, beside the window with the streamers of fly paper hanging from the frame. When the wind blows in, the coils of sticky parchment swirl in the breeze, and the bluebottles twitch.

One of the flies struggles to escape, and the old woman crushes its head between her fingers. As she wipes its ooze off on her apron, she thinks about the camouflage scraps, the melted buttons, those bits and pieces disfigured by shrapnel and gunfire.

The flies will be getting to them now.

Here are the ruts that the legs of the chair have worn into the floorboards. They are almost like the ruts created by the old rocking horse with the ratty mane, the one she rides as she waits for the front door to open.

It never opens.

In the golden years, she was too heavy to ride the rocking horse, but fear has eaten away at her. She is almost as light as a child herself now.

When she rides the wooden horse, she feels close to the boy that is gone. She feels that if she just rocks fast enough, she will reach out and touch him.

She never does.

Here are the framed portraits on the wall. The boy smiles at her from each of them. He’s a soldier now, she proudly tells her friends.  He’s fighting overseas for his country.

What she doesn’t say is that Uncle Sam is a cannibal god, and war is his black mass. She does not speak of the weary days by the window, or how she has taken to sleeping on her son’s bed. Or how every day she stands in the front hall, praying that when she opens the door, there will not be two consolatory men, waiting.

But she knows there will be, and every day, she must rock the horse to dispel her clairvoyance.

She remembers that the boy kissed her on the cheek. How proud he was to wear his uniform. When he dies, will they bury him in it?

Never. She will never allow it.

She must ride the rocking horse to prevent it.

Here are the ashes in the fireplace and the charred flag—that flag they told her was draped over—no, she doesn’t dare think about it. Three rifle shells gleam from the soot, and the soot is like the food she must force down, dry and tasteless.

Here is the pile of letters overflowing from the mail slot. She gathers the envelopes without reading them, and places them on the counter, next to the bowl with the moldy fruit.

Here is the rocking horse, with its inbred smile and dead fish eyes. She strokes its frayed yarn mane. Its piebald spots are flaking off, but the paint inside its open mouth is red like blood. Maybe it has fed recently.

She sits down on the leather saddle and begins rocking.

Soon, her son will come home.

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

Next week we move into the Quarter-Finals and the winners of the cage matches will be back with ALL NEW WRITING SAMPLES.

Remember - this is WRiTE CLUB, the contest where the audience gets clobbered!


  1. Another group of wonderful entries. For breaking my heart all over again, I.N. Summer gets my vote.

  2. I love all these entries: Cha-Rel for being hilarious, Doctor Noir for dry humor and the promise of a rip-roaring tale. But I.N. Summer brings it all home to me, a clear-eyed study in crushing grief, a deeply personal consequence of war.

    I.N. Summer gets my vote once again!

  3. Each of these is wonderful. As noted about, the humor of Cha-Rel and DoctorNoir are spot on. In another bout, either of them might have gotten my vote, but I.N. Summer is just so fresh and clean and powerful. Good work to all!

    I.N. Summer has my vote today.

  4. All excellent in their own way.

    My vote goes to Cha-REL for a well-executed, imperfect slice of life that compels me to read on.

  5. Ugh, whhhhyyyyyyy are these paired? I AM Cha-REL, but the snark of DoctorNoir gets me every time. My vote goes to the Dr.

  6. Vote for I.N. Summer
    This one was the most impactful for me of these three. The gloom and trauma is palpable.

  7. Doctor please! The superhero friends with contract killer makes me want to know more!
    JoAnne Turner

  8. Oooh no, I liked all of these in very different ways. Very hard choice.

  9. My vote goes to DoctorNoir for introducing us to two characters I’m looking forward to learning more about.

  10. All so different, all so good! Tough decision. Cha-REL's story I relate to on so many levels. Doctornoir introduces an intriguing pair of characters and a situation I really want to explore more deeply. I.N.Summer's portrait of crushing grief is flawless and crystal clear. How to choose?
    I decided, after a lot of thought, to go with Doctornoir, solely because it makes me want to read more. My second choice would be I.N.Summer, which is wonderful but complete in itself and doesn't draw me in to learn more. Tough choice, though.

  11. My vote is for I.N. Summer for writing a story I could not get out of my head!

  12. I.N. Summer. So powerful, thank you.

  13. This one is really tough for me and has taken a few days for me to decide. My vote is for DoctorNoir.

  14. My vote is for Cha-REL. That voice is fantastic and relatable.

  15. Three great fighters, but I.N. Summer packs the biggest emotional wallop. Hope we get to see another offering from you!

  16. Vote to I.N. Summer. Nice unraveling and details.

  17. Vote Doctornoir- nice mystery with touch of humor

  18. I'm too late to vote. But DL, I love the image you used for Round 6. Ha ha ha, that's great.
    (I would have voted for Cha-REL.)




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