Deathmatch 2013 Quarterfinals Round 1

Deathmatch Moderator

Colin Brush placed 2nd in Broken Pencil’s 2011 Deathmatch. Then last year he moderate all seven weeks of the stress-packed competition. Now his boss Hal wants him to moderate this year’s opening week, but his attitude towards the Deathmatch is – “fuck the Deathmatch.”


Step One: Read the stories.
Step Two: Vote for your favourite. Repeatedly. You can vote once every hour.
Step Three: Sound off in the comments.
Step Four: Blog, tweet, tell all your friends – help your favourite author win!
Step Five: Repeat until an Ultimate Winner is declared and all others lie bleeding in the dust.

Click here for Deathmatch rules and regulations and for links to all the people and presses that have generously donated awesome prizes for our winner and runners-up.


by Mikael Raheem

I walk confidently towards my car, parked under a street lamp. The click of my shoes bounces off the walls behind me as I leave the alley and move onto the sidewalk. Click. Click. Thump. As I move into the light, a hand covers my mouth from behind and jerks me backwards. I see the moon flash through my line of sight as I’m pushing to the ground.

It’s his eyes that stand out: they are entirely human, calculating.


I ring the doorbell and wait. They always take a while to answer. Finally, after three or four minutes of tapping my shoe and contemplating ringing the doorbell again, the handle turns and I’m greeted by two familiar faces.

Read on...

Cardigan Blues

by Nana K. Adjei-Brenyah

We are those dudes. The muscle and the gavel, the Friday night lights. Together we run shit, because we can, because we have to. We brothers bound irrevocably by two parts popularity, two parts personality, and three parts fear, are the power at Eliot Becker High. If you haven’t spotted us already we wear cardigans.

Red cardigans. Blue cardigans. Green cardigans. Cardigans of every color, from heavy earth tones to summery pastels. We do wool cardigans over mock turtlenecks and cable-knit cardigans over button-ups, basic cotton cardigans over graphic tees or V-necks, cashmere cardigans to be fancy and, of course, for girls to feel on. Cashmere is made from the wool of goats raised way up in the mountains, and it’s expensive, expensive and classy. We have class, so, on occasion, we wear cashmere. When we wear cashmere we let them know we’re wearing cashmere. We do not wear cardigans every day, but on any day, within the group, there are one or two cardigans. Trust.

Read on...

166 Responses to “Deathmatch 2013 Quarterfinals Round 1”

  1. Colin Brush says:

    I guess that’s that.

    Congratulations Nana! That was a clean win. You seem to know a thing or two about writing, so hopefully it goes well from here. I’m sure you’ve sensed the victory for a while now but it always puts things at ease to get it recorded. Good luck with the re-write. Enjoy your time off. And long distance isn’t easy, so good luck with that too.

    Mikael, you fought well. And you’ve got the imagination to write a great story, so hopefully with a bit of polish the writing prizes will start coming easier. Good luck with whatever’s next. And stick around this here comment board if you’re up for it. The Deathmatch can always use a little maturity.

  2. Nana K. says:

    Well right now I’m kinda involved in a long distance type things but…

    Seriously, I think I write because of the feeling of impossibility that comes with every attempt at a story. The feeling of absolute nothing that can be nurtured into something that is alive. I personally write because as I get better it gets more difficult and because now, I think almost exclusively in metaphors and writing helps me sort out the things going on in my head.

    And Mikael thank you for not giving up early and really challenging me to think about the piece. After this first round I realized I wasn’t quite the store cold killer I might have believed I was and the idea of really trying to tear down somebodies hard wrought work is a little sickening. But that’s the nature of things I guess and you have to play the game sometimes. The ideas that have been given over the last week will definitely not be dismissed without consideration. I think that you have talent and potential as a writer and I hope that nothing that’s been said here made you doubt that.

  3. Mikael says:

    Well, it looks like this one is pretty much done. Nana got this significant lead early on and I just couldn’t make the 350 vote margin any smaller.

    This was fun. I started commenting on this thinking that I had the live up the advertising of “brutal competition” and “not for the faint of heart” but that’s actually pretty depressing. Now that it’s over, I kind of wish it had been set up as a bit of an online workshop type of thing. People had a lot of great advice on here and a lot of insight. Why channel that through a premise that says you have to do it in an insulting/offensive way? But, I suppose that won’t really draw in the crowds. The truth is, I bet it would draw in more writers and less peanut galleries.

    But anyways, congratulations, Nana. I’ll be following the competition the rest of the way through and I’m excited to see your revision. Hopefully you’re not too much of a “stone cold killer” to take some of our suggestions to heart!

  4. Colin Brush says:

    Well, the stretch is almost over. Eleven hours to go and no one seems to want to talk stories anymore. Maybe it’s just not close enough to entice the viewership. So what does that leave us? Small talk?

    Nana, can you tell us about your love life? Mikael, have you ever turned your back on a friend?

    But if you don’t want to answer those questions, what about this: Why do you guys want to be writers? What do you get out of this competition? I’ve taken part before – it eats you up inside. So it must be a little important to you.

  5. Nana K. says:

    The first draft of Cardigan Blues was written quite a while ago and as I was writing it I was getting especially inspired by Denis Johnson, who is still one of my favorite authors. The stories of “Jesus’ Son” were probably in my head most. The voice in his narratives is pretty inspiring.

  6. Colin Brush says:

    don’t think I’ve ever seen so few cheep shots in a Deathmatch. Even integrity doesn’t go over well in this place. You just can’t please these mongrels. So far it looks like Mikael wins the award for most participation, but maybe it just feels that way because Nana’s picture isn’t showing up beside his comments. It’s supposed to. I don’t know what’s going on with that.

    So far a few people have likened Cardigan Blues to the Virgin Suicides. Nana, what were you reading when you wrote this, anything particularly inspiring. Mikael are there any writers you fantasize about being?

  7. Renee says:

    I wonder if people realize that once you get past a paragraph, people QUICKLY lose interest. Keep it brief people. Because honestly, no one gives a strawberry shortcake about your half baked literary analysis. (Get it…strawberry shortcake…half baked…)

    And I am including myself and my comment in this.

    And Jenn…Jen…Gin.

  8. Jerome says:

    Cardigan Blues: Harriet is a naive, but ultimately kind person. The Cardigan Crew are definitely jocks. Have you seen what NBA players are wearing these days?
    The fact that the CC get pissed-off after realizing they’ve long-since burned any bridge that would enable a chance to hook up with ‘Heffer’ is the most satisfying part of the story. There is hope for some of the CC.
    Hipsters are quite sensitive, eh?

    Marie: I did enjoy much of the story, but the whole religious stream throughout the story took away from the potential power it could have had.
    Punches were clearly pulled (ie: using the word ‘crotch’) and because of that I vote Cardigan.

    • Mikael says:

      I’m curious as to what you meant by the potential power of Marie. What was it that you liked/wanted to see more/less of?

      I’m not sure what you mean by “punches were pulled”? Did you mean that it was just a shock value phrase?

  9. Jerome says:

    I think the authors of the shorts should be prevented from commenting until the contest is over.
    Kinda takes away from outside comment if they are going to continuously chime-in.

  10. Colin Brush says:

    All these comments seem so critical and deliberate. I don’t know what happened to the days of internet trolls and unsightly insults and “your story made me vomit my starving stomach acid.” But I miss those days.

    I’m trying to look at the numbers and figure the possibility of a comeback push. For a while Marie was only getting a quarter of the votes. Now it’s well breached the half-way point, so it is climbing. Plus the weekends almost here where people tend to have more free time. Crazier things have happened.

  11. Jenn says:

    Marie describes her rapist as having “eyes that stand out: they are entirely human, calculating.” which comes to brilliant effect later as she imagines her fetus having “…calculating, human eyes and a penis and the thought makes me want to melt into the pavement and disappear.” I love what Mikael has done here to show us how she struggles with the probably that the child inside of her body will share features (and possibly characteristics) with the man who raped her.

  12. Gabrielle says:

    Well, after reading Jenn and Grace’s comments above describing and explaining both stories well, I will suppose this:

    Voting for this competition MAY be largely based on the reading ability of the voter and the catchiness of the story “blurbs” (for lack of a better word) at the top of this page. SOME voters may be turned off by the syntax initially presented by Marie, and turn immediately to the easier read. In this instant-Internet age, we all expect results instantaneously, and if a voter were to click on this page via Facebook (etc.), he/she MAY choose to vote for the story that immediately seems the most interesting, or catchy.

    I would assume, however, that if you have voted, are planning to vote, or are planning to continue voting, and you are READING THROUGH THE COMMENT SECTION, then you have also read both stories. If you haven’t read Marie because the initial segment didin’t turn you on, you are better prepared now (after reading through Mikael’s comments, and the praises/critiques of the story) to read and ENJOY it! It makes you think, it makes you ask questions, it makes you want more from it! In this competition, it is like being at a 5-star restaurant where the chef is choosing every course, and you have no idea what will be next. You do know however, that every bite is delicious and stimulates your curiosity: “What is this? Where do I get it? How do I prepare it?” Cardigans hands you a McDonald’s Value Meal and sends you on your way. You know what’s in the bag: a Big Mac, a large fries, and a Diet Coke. And while it might taste good now, voting for it will likely cause regretful indigestion.

  13. Nana K. says:

    “It’s possible that what bothers me the most is that the author has taken a real story, and attempted to make it a work of art. Is rape a work of art for him? Is that the advice we ought to give women who are raped, to make their rape a work of art? If it is, then they are the ones who must make that art, not Nana. He doesn’t have the right to tell this story unless he himself accepts that he is the soul behind at least one of his characters. In this, we may have different opinions of what a writer ought to be. I can forgive Mikael for his style of writing, since he freely admits he has room to grow, as do we all. We all are able to relate to the desire to do better, but not Nana. Ultimately, I can’t forgive Nana until he decides to become honest with himself and us.” -Jenn

    Again wow. I don’t know why I’m responding to this but I guess I will because it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. This story is fiction. Period. If what you are saying in this paragraph is true than you must hate any piece of fiction that engages difficult subjects. I happen to believe it is the job of writers fiction and non-fiction to engage unpleasantness so we can learn to deal with it and to overcome it.

    Cardigan Blues is obviously not a perfect story and I am obviously not a perfect writer. I can defend it and do so because I’ve put the work in and if I say that too strongly I apologize. But I believe in the things I do as does every one in this competition I’d assume. When you are being attacked you should defend yourself. At least that’s my style.

    And by the way I don’t know what you are talking about but Art is nothing if not therapeutic. IT is nothing if not the translation of pain and suffering into beauty. If a woman is raped and wants to make a poem about the hate, pain, anger she feels and more importantly, how she overcomes all these things SHE SHOULD. Why shouldn’t make art out her pain. Why should she not make something beautiful out of something so ugly.

    The idea that I think I am perfect is again plainly false. I’ve already credited some commenters on suggestions that I will take into account. Of course I know I have a long way to go… If I were perfect I would not be in this competition. But your vote is personal. And again I get that but make it plain.

    Basically what I’m saying is “Sheesh, relax.”

    • Jenn says:

      I’m already generally relaxed when doing something that I enjoy, and it was a pleasure critiquing your work. I’ve stated my opinion, and I’m happy to leave it at that. I’m satisfied with the questions I raised, and whether or not you deem them valid, these are the questions that matter to me. They might not matter to you, or to Sapphire, and that doesn’t bother me. Everyone is free to generate their own questions, to decide what is relevant for them and to seek the answers as they so choose. And for the record, of course my vote is personal, are you trying to say that your vote is impersonal? I don’t understand how something that originates from my person, is anything but personal and personally, I rather like Marie.

  14. Graeme says:

    Well, as much as I like voting for the underdog, I’m going in the opposite direction here. I did start liking ‘Marie’ more after I reluctantly decided to see it as a modern re-write of the Bible story.

    I’m voting for ‘Cardigan Blues’ mostly because of the narrative voice. I like the idea of making the narrator the bad guy. Interesting idea, but I did find some typos. Better clean it up before the next round, Nana.

  15. Grace says:

    Also, I’m sorry, but “Twintuition”? One pun does not ambitious language make. That was one of the most disappointing parts of the story for me; had Mikael engaged in that kind of wordplay throughout it might have fit in, but as it was (the single instance), it stuck out and felt cheesy and clumsy.

      • Grace says:

        Aaahaha so bad, but so good.

        It’s not that ‘Twintuition’ is a bad pun, just that given the gravity of the situation you were related, it seemed a bit out of place, you know? I’m all for comic relief and injecting a little levity, but I think here some variety of black humor would be more appropriate. Like the part where Adam has that zinger about God’s vasectomy? Perfect. I loved that. It’s biting and bitter and conveys all his frustration about the situation his twin sister is in. Something more along those lines again might have worked better.

  16. Grace says:

    Um, DUH rape culture. I think that’s pretty obviously a major theme in “Cardigan Blues,” except the story doesn’t glorify it, as so many of these commenters seem to believe. We all agree that the Cardigans’ actions are pretty heinous, right? That what they do to Harriet is unacceptable, from beginning to end? That they objectify her, harass her, and ultimately assault her? Is there any point in the story where the actions of the protagonists (and Harriet is NOT, I’ll remind y’all, the protagonist) are portrayed at all in a favorable light? The answers to these (admittedly rhetorical) questions are yes, yes, yes, and no. Just because an author writes characters who do terrible things doesn’t mean he himself endorses them. “Cardigan Blues” may be about a rape, but it in no way trivializes it, and in fact pretty clearly places the blame on the perpetrators rather than the victim.

    Nana does a remarkable job of sketching relatively quickly the entire trajectory of Harriet’s relationship to the Cardigans: she used to be fat, they bullied and ostracized and excluded her, she lost a bunch of weight and became conventionally attractive, aside from her presence at school she’s a minor player in their lives (tutoring them, babysitting their siblings). WE DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT HER BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT HER, OTHER THAN SUPERFICIAL IMPRESSIONS. So what do we know? At the beginning, she was an easy target because she was fat. When she got thin, it got harder to bully her in the same way – they can’t call her ugly, because she’s not anymore. They can’t call her stupid (something people frequently and erroneously automatically attribute to people who are fat) because it’s obvious (since she tutors them) that she isn’t. They don’t have a reason to dislike her because she, in spite of everything, is nice to them. And the reader gets the impression that Harriet is fairly well-liked around the school, especially now that she’s pretty. So the Cardigans are stuck. They’re stuck because they’ve already branded her a nothing, but now she defies the definition they pinned on her on every count. She’s pretty. She’s smart. She’s well-liked. So why don’t they just back off?

    Because they are the muscle and the gavel, the Friday night lights. They’re the top of the totem pole and the hand that carves it. They can’t be wrong, ever. And letting Harriet off easy – god forbid one of them is publicly nice to her, let alone dates her – is to admit that they were wrong. And being wrong is being weak, and as soon as people think that what the Cardigans say doesn’t matter, the Cardigans won’t matter.

    So Harriet is the emblem of their shame (the shame they have at having wrongly estimated her), and she even has the gall to DRESS WELL, which is (in their eyes) the equivalent of giving them the finger. There’s even a point in the story where the Cardigans, remarking on Harriet’s beauty (something about noticing her green eyes, now that they weren’t buried in fat), say explicitly that they don’t like it. And they don’t like it because the very fact that she exists in this state – pretty and smart and well-liked – is a threat to their authority, because she represents a flaw in their judgement. She represents their own weakness (doubly so, since they want so badly to possess her sexually as well – something they can’t do, not in public, because of their own rules, but something they want to do because she’s beautiful and because they recognize the good in her on its own merit). Harriet, BY DOING NOTHING, has managed to personally offend the Cardigans.

    And from there I think it’s pretty obvious how the assault takes place. You’ve got a pride of teen boys on the prowl for blood, a little drunk and a little cocky and a lot entitled, already angry at her in particular, and then she’s in the hallway, doesn’t notice them, has to piss really badly, and runs into the men’s room (something I don’t find so hard to believe, actually; isn’t it a widely held cultural conception that there’s always a line to the women’s bathroom and never a line to the men’s? and don’t women sometimes just go to the men’s room, when they’re desperate at clubs or whatever?). And there, Harriet’s a sitting duck. Actually, some of the commenters’ idea that she should know better than to walk into a men’s room, or be more mindful of the people she’s surrounded by – essentially, that she needs to live in fear of men in order to be safe and simply to function at a normal level – is more representative of rape culture than what we see in “Cardigan Blues.” Rather than saying that it’s a woman’s responsibility not to get raped (victim-blaming!), what we have here is a clear demonstration of how it’s men’s responsibility not to rape. (also, can I mention how absolutely relevant this story is – it’s practically allegorical – to the Steubenville, OH high school rape scandal?)

    In conclusion, “Cardigan Blues” handles its subject matter in an eminently mature, even elegant way, by forcing us inside the heads of the rapists and showing us their motives and exactly how ugly they are. As for disparagements on the language – good writing makes the reading effortless, so ease of reading isn’t exactly an insult. Nana’s control of the voice in this story is impeccable; throughout the whole story it’s tightly coiled, as sharp and precise as a steel trap. There is rhythm, there is absolute self-confidence (on the part of the narrators), there are beautiful, memorable phrases. “Cardigan Blues” is a good story, well-told. And that (rather than lingering high school animosity) is why so many people have voted for it.

    • Mikael says:

      Holy crap, we’ve got people writing whole essays in the comments. I love it.

      As for the rape fantasies bit: that’s a hard one to navigate. As such, I won’t even try.

      While I do agree that, when I read Nana’s story, I was left feeling a bit like “so they just molest this girl, and then what?” In a weird way, I feel like they kind of got away with it. The vomiting wasn’t really enough for me to think that it really affected them. Maybe that’s what’s missing: a character arc. Classically, the main character(s) (let’s just forget the word protagonist right now, since it seems to be messing with people) will have a difficulty, a challenge, a chance for change/redemption, and then the reader sees the result. Typically, comedies are when the character(s) changes for the better/redeems him/herself and tragedies are when the character misses that chance. My biggest problem is that I really didn’t feel the culmination of anything in Cardigan Blues. Was the bathroom scene the chance for redemption? How? And if it was, why did it feel so rushed? The revision should definitely have some sort of peeling back, if only for a second, of the group think. It would be awesome for a second to have one of those “His name was Robert Paulson” moments where the mob mentality is broken just for a second and we get to see some humanity, or at least some individuality. I’m not even saying that that’s how it should end, only that it would feel more complete if that climactic feeling let me care about the main characters a bit more.

    • Jenn says:

      When did it become socially unacceptable to protect yourself from a clear and present danger? I guess in your world view when you see a guy waving a gun around you walk up to him to find out how his day is instead of what seems more logical, to run the fuck away. Even animals have the instinct to leave the forest when there’s a fire. Harriet has been given every reason not to trust the men around her, and yet according to you it’s best that she go into the bathroom, where her perpetrators are waiting around outside of what is essentially a closed cell. Harriet isn’t the problem, and ultimately, neither are the boys. They are both the product of a obviously diseased system that has sadly failed the both of them. I never once said Harriet needed to be in fear of men. I think all would agree she needs to be in fear of these men, and any men like them.

      • Grace says:

        Oh, I’m not saying at all that it’s unacceptable for women to defend themselves or think of their own well-being, I just think it’s an unfortunate truth that they’re saddled with that responsibility rather than being able to live free from fear. I’m just saying (again) that it’s not totally unbelievable that Harriet would go to the men’s room, and even fits her character (what we know of it, at least): she’s not so scared of these boys that she won’t tutor them after school, and since there’s no indication that they’ve made violent sexual overtures to her before, who’s to say she’d be expecting them? So I think we’re agreeing here: Harriet isn’t the problem. She’s not responsible. And she and the Cardigans are exemplary of a failed system that privileges a power hierarchy in which males are unequivocally on top. But it’s the Cardigans who assaulted her, and if it hadn’t been her, couldn’t it have been any girl ballsy enough to go into the men’s bathroom? Nana makes it very clear that what they’re doing is awful and wrong (and managing to get that across from within the We is pretty impressive, to show in quick glimpses the shards of self-doubt that are quickly glossed over with groupthink). Writing about a rape doesn’t make you a rape apologist (or a rape fantasist), especially when you’re not making light of either the victim or the gravity of the crime itself. The ad hominem attack on Nana’s character is unwarranted, and I’ll go a step further and reply to your assertion that he “set Harriet up.” Yes, he did. He set her up from the beginning. The Cardigans talk about her from the beginning, they concentrate all their energy on her, they’re maybe a little bit obsessed. They narrate the change in her, along with their thoughts on it, and their collective voice becomes gradually more menacing until it reaches a fever pitch when they assault her. When you ask the question “Why did she have to get raped,” what you’re really asking is “Why did you choose to write a story about rape?” He didn’t place Harriet in the hallway for no reason: there was a long line of girls waiting to go to the bathroom, and Harriet was ostensibly in that line, got out of it, thought for a minute, and then dashed into the men’s room because she had to pee so badly. There was a clear reason why she was in the hallway, and a clear reason why she went into the men’s room (whether you agree with those reasons or not), and since the tension between the Cardigans and Harriet had been building for almost the entire story (conveyed through the menace in their voice), the assault is the logical place for the story to go. Frankly, I’m surprised that anyone is surprised. And during the assault, it’s blindingly clear that the protagonists (the Cardigans) are at their absolute worst and most despicable, barely even human – they describe themselves as dogs. So overall, what “Cardigan Blues” gestures to IS the failed system, it’s pointing to it as a cause but lays the blame for rape squarely on the rapists. So I just don’t see what everyone is so upset about.

        • Jenn says:

          Thank you for your comments Grace. I think your response it well written, and while I don’t agree with the entirety of it, you make valid points. It might be the arrogance of it that gets to me. I don’t appreciate a woman being set up for rape, even by a fiction writer. The perceived arrogance of Nana bothers me, and the parallel between his attitude and that of his characters is for me, unsettling. Yes, why choose to write a story about rape?How do writers choose the subject matter that they will write about? Is he writing about a subject that has no interest to him? If so, why should I care about what he is attempting to inspire in me?

          The defence of his piece is not clear to me, and falls back on his basically saying he’s awesome, and this story is his proof. There is a reason journalists are impartial with real stories, because if a story hasn’t actually happened to you then you’re better off being impartial. If you’re not impartial, at least be respectful. If even that is impossible for you, then write what is easily agreed upon as myth. The author of Cardigan Blues does none of these things to a level I appreciate. Is a writer no longer responsible for the voice of his work? I agree with Gabrielle, it is sad that this is the type of story that gets the votes, especially if it is any reflection of what the reader relates to. If you are not voting for what you relate to, then you are voting for pretty phrases joined in a effective melody and this is not a poetry contest.

          It’s possible that what bothers me the most is that the author has taken a real story, and attempted to make it a work of art. Is rape a work of art for him? Is that the advice we ought to give women who are raped, to make their rape a work of art? If it is, then they are the ones who must make that art, not Nana. He doesn’t have the right to tell this story unless he himself accepts that he is the soul behind at least one of his characters. In this, we may have different opinions of what a writer ought to be. I can forgive Mikael for his style of writing, since he freely admits he has room to grow, as do we all. We all are able to relate to the desire to do better, but not Nana. Ultimately, I can’t forgive Nana until he decides to become honest with himself and us.

  17. Gabrielle says:

    Well… Marie is definitely not as strange as some of Mikael’s other work (thankfully – conceptual poetry…no comment!). The ending was unexpected in that I had no idea where the story was going and didn’t know what to expect. But, I think it gave the story of Jesus a very human feel, which I believe was his point. My favourite part was the description of the “semen/milk” concoction. Half-and-half and shampoo… only an imaginative author could have conjured that!

    On the other hand, I CANNOT believe Nana thinks his story was… what did he call it? “More ambitious in terms of language and writing”! Ummm, one word: “Twintuition”. BAM! While I understand the literary devices at work re: the repetition of “cashmere”, “cardigans”, “we”, etc., which accurately narrated the story from a high school student’s point of view, it also made it feel as though the story was written by a high school student. It wasn’t very in-depth, glazed over sexual assault, and as Jenn pointed out above, screams RAPE CULTURE! Cardigans does not deal with its subject matter at a maturity level that I would expect of a university student (or even anyone who has graduated from high school). While it was an easy read, it wasn’t the best read. And it makes me sad that so many people have voted for it.

    • Mikael says:

      Appreciate the comments, guys.

      I think both of the stories definitely have their own style. I DO think, however, that Cardigan Blues’s style is definitely more in your face. I was talking about this today and realized that the type of language in Cardigan Blues is perfect for drawing the reader in immediately: it’s quick, catchy, has a lot of pizzazz. It’s the equivalent of opening a movie with an action sequence. This is not a bad thing at all.

      On the other hand, Marie is much more straightforward in its language. It doesn’t skip around too much and is fairly bare bones. This is how I try to write in general. Maybe that’s a mistake. I like every detail in my stories to have significance for the themes I’m shooting for, and sometimes that means skimping on describing the colour of the curtains. BUT, I feel like that approach to style has held me back in the past because, obviously, no one really wants to watch a movie that looks like it was set in that loading stage from the Matrix movies where it’s all white. That being said, I like to think that my readers can picture scenes without me there to hold their hands.

    • Adam says:

      I really agree with you Gabrielle.
      I find it very immature that Nana finds it necessary to focus on really a minor part of the piece with such childish behaviour; bringing it up more than once in these comments.. Really? we all read your distain the first time.
      I think it’s ridiculous to assert that it’s only value is ‘shock value’.

      I feel like Mikael’s requires a little more thought to really grasp as it leaves so much to the reader. Maybe in part of the word restriction on the competition, maybe partially literary style. It takes a thoughtful mind to dissect it and understand it.
      I like how it makes you ask questions, want more from it. That’s how those writer’s hook so many of you on TV shows.

  18. Colin Brush says:

    Mikael neglecting his part-time university courses? I thought you were between programs. Never trust an author bio. But kudos to him for the jump in comments counts today (not sarcastic).

    I’ve gotta say I like Marie much more after reading these new comments. How Adam feels about his DNA being used – a subtle reference I admit I missed. And all those other explanations you made up there that I don’t feel like re-finding right now because I’m crunched for time. There is more to these character titles than first expected. Maybe there’s more to this story. Have you ever thought about making it 1000 words longer?

    This got me curios though – “maybe I just don’t know enough about Jesus.” It’s possible that a women’s studies course could give you enough know how to write this story. But it did leave me wondering, what’s the extent of your knowledge on these names you were writing about?

    Looking over Cardigan Blues – I think these jock may have more doubt about the assault scene than people are crediting to them. “We’re watching all of this and we’re thinking that Heffer goes to the same church as us or that she used to babysit our little sister.” and when they say – “he’s the sophomore, our youngest. We shouldn’t have let him drink so much.” it makes me think they’re not completely emotionally vapid. And it changes the story. You know in Catcher in the Rye when you find out Holden’s been talking to a shrink? – who are the cardigans talking to?

    • Mikael says:

      How much do I know about these icons is a good question. I drew from what I knew about them in popular culture, including the news. Did I research them and read big fat books that I’m sure exist on each one? No. Not when I haven’t even finished watching Band of Brothers all the way through yet. I almost think that knowing more than surface knowledge would ruin the characters. I didn’t want to overthink what I was doing with them.

  19. Nana K. says:

    Considering the character Harriet we have to remember that she is described exclusively by her predators. The fact that she tutors a member of the group that terrorizes her is a little more understandable when we look at the the individuals. Heffer persists upon individuality, hence she sits alone, hence she breaks away from the other girls and uses the men’s bathroom, hence she calls out the boys by their individual names. He hates the groups but calls out the individual names because she knows at that level they are living and sympathetic. It is for that same reason that on an individual level you can imagine her tutoring.

    The clothes she wears: blue heels, tight legging, and the disdain the narrators have for her show how she’s emerged into a confident young woman and the instance at the bathroom may have been hubris on her part, maybe she felt that she had developed to the point that she could not be reached by the boys. Still it is understandable that she might do what she did based on the details used to build her as a character.

    • Jenn says:

      Nana, I get that you love your story. I get that you really, really love your story. I get that you love your story so very much, and thank you for making that abundantly clear for all of us. What I would love for you to make clear are the reasons for some of the choices your characters make. I’m not sure I get why wearing leggings is a sign of confidence. I mean, that’s almost saying something like-oh I don’t know- she’s wearing blue heels so of course she must want to be raped. “I mean, come on officer you know how it is, her shoes were blue!” I’m wearing leggings today so you know I’m fairly confident on this.

      The way you set up your character makes me wonder if you don’t have a few rape fantasies of your own. There’s no reason for her to be out in the hallway. I’ve waited for enough occupied stalls in my time to know it’s perfectly legitimate to wait inside the doors of the washroom. Is there a fire in the bathroom that we don’t know about? You place your character in the hallway for no apparent reason, except that it is convenient for what happens next. The assault that must absolutely occur for you, and I want to know why you achingly want this assault to happen. Why do you as the author, as the god of this make believe world, want to set Harriet up?

      I’m to believe that Harriet has to pee so badly that she is not going to look around to see who is watching her go into the men’s room, that she won’t most probably see the boys who have tormented her daily for years standing nearby, and once seeing them, then conclude that there is nothing even slightly unintelligent about going ahead into the washroom. I thought Harriet was supposed to be smart. She must be smart enough at math to tutor, so why can’t she figure out the simple equation that this might not develop into a winning situation for her. You set her up.

      You want me to believe that Harriet is at a level of desperation that I can’t believe, or at a level of individuality that begs the question- why didn’t she just go outside to pee? Or is this all part of the ploy, for us to attack Harriet’s stupidity, her innocence, her poor decision making skills in an assault this is clearly not her fault. I’m just going to say the thing people are never supposed to say- you made Harriet out to be asking for it and you like it like that. You set her up.

      Now what I want to know is if you did it without the courtesy of doing it seamlessly, or has this happened by accident and that is why seams are showing? What I dislike the most about what you wrote is not that it isn’t as Fresh as you say it is, but that it took no searching on your part to put the words down. There is no search from you in this piece. You know what has to happen. It is an A to B with a slice of- “Come with me, I’ll do all your thinking for you.” I think that’s more than lazy. I think you are like your characters. You like to dress your words up all fancy, you like to tell us how silky the fabric feels, how this wool is special because it comes from goats high up in the mountains. Don’t look now, your cashmere sweater has puke on it.

      It’s looking like you will win this fight. How could you not, you have the usual people as the heroes of this type of story, the men. Harriet will never talk, as usual. It seems that’s the norm for both her, and for assaulted women in general. Your story is as comfortable as an old afghan, handed down from mother to daughter along with the story- men do the raping as they please and the women take it, properly. And for your information, any unwanted sexual advance is considered rape. If you live where it isn’t deemed so, that’s what is crazy.

      • Chris ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        “I’m not sure I get why wearing leggings is a sign of confidence. I mean, that’s almost saying something like-oh I don’t know- she’s wearing blue heels so of course she must want to be raped.”

        “The way you set up your character makes me wonder if you don’t have a few rape fantasies of your own.”

        What appalling, pathetic bullshit. It’s great you want to cheerlead your friend’s entry, but trying to act as though you believe CARDIGAN BLUES and Nana endorse a rape fantasy is an embarrassing attempt to discredit him and his story. One so offensive all your previous comments are rendered worthless.

        You should be ashamed of yourself.

        • Mikael says:

          I’m not sure how your comment here is any better, Chris.

          Let’s fight about this. I’m gonna fight on the internet.

          “Dear Diary,
          Today, I was butthurt yet again. But I showed those noobs. So much pwnage.”

        • Jenn says:

          The author made the comment that wearing leggings is a sign of confidence. I would love to know how that same line of thought is any different when applied to blue shoes inviting rape, illustrating the point that it is ridiculous to think that Harriet wearing leggings is a sign of her supposed confidence.

          I’m sorry to disappoint but in no way do I feel ashamed for suggesting that Nana might have rape fantasies. There is a good percent of the population that do indulge in these eroticisms statistically speaking, and I believe his story warrants the question by how easily he sacrifices Harriet in the Cardigan Blues. Take careful note that I did not in any way call him a rapist, which is an entirely different accusation. According to psychology and the current law, what we do inside our own minds has yet to be a crime. Yet, as usual Nana shies away from explaining his character in any concrete way, and instead laments on how my challenging him does not bode well with his idea of friendship.

      • Nana K. says:

        Wow Jenn, and I thought we were about to be friends and laugh about the time you told me you wished my story would be turned into a movie so you could download it illegally and not pay attention to it… guess not.

        But really I honestly can’t believe that you believe that this story makes the narrators the Hero. I think even their own voice turns against them consistently and they even know that Harriet is far greater than them. Just because they narrate they are, by no means the protagonist. They are the negative force in the story, they fight among their own conflicting voices and these voices are heard most clearly in the bathroom scene.

        “The way you set up your character makes me wonder if you don’t have a few rape fantasies of your own.” – Jenn… really? I’m not going to justify that with anything but a confused shrug and a glance up to when you were talking about being provoked and just wonder how you could be forced in something like this. Again I don’t mind, I can defend the story, just the back and forth is a little unsettling.

        Heffer as a character is used to highlight the evil of a collective group. I believe most readers can cheer for her and be happy that she, at least gets to punch one of them in the face before leaving. The story does not necessarily end happily but it absolutely does not justify the actions of the narrators. It does provide some hope that if they can escape the group they could be good people, i.e the youngest cardigan tosses his cardigan in the trash. Mike however is in to deep, even blood stained the cardigan, the symbol of the group mentality remains.

    • Mikael says:

      I get what you’re saying here, but I think you might be more convinced than we are about the goodness of Harriet. I think that your revision should really try to push everything you said a bit further into the description of her. Sure, she’s described by the narrators exclusively so it’s gonna be hard to make her seem likeable, but maybe that’s the challenge; that’s what will make the story hit a level of “ooh, I get it,” even if the narrators don’t. I’d be a lot more excited to read a story like that, with a moment (at the end, or maybe spattered about) where the reader but not the narrators know that Harriet is truly someone that saves the story.

      • Nana K. says:

        This I can definitely respect. And yeah it is definitely a challenge I’ll have to think about for sure. That balance is what has to be found so both sides can be realistically represented.

        • Mikael says:

          That’ll be tough, but would also be awesome if you could do it smoothly. For something like this, I would typically just brainstorm a list of actions/words/etc that can be misinterpreted then play with those till they fit. I don’t think any reader would have trouble believing that these narrators could misinterpret a good deed.

  20. Terri says:

    They’re probably afraid of something and assaulting Harriet is one way to make sure they’re not challenged by others. Hurt one person and others don’t threaten you because they see how dangerous you are. I think that fear line makes sense. I’d still like to see Harriet have her revenge though. Unlike what Jenn said, I don’t expect a hero out of this story but I’d like to see some retribution…Harriet seems strong and not-strong at the same time. At least let her mis-tutor the Cardigans at Functions & Relations so they fail grade 12 math.

  21. Emily says:

    I like Cardigan Blues as well, and was not thrown by Harriet tutoring the assholes. Some people are overly nice! (Maybe she’s a good God-fearing Christian?) The only part that threw me a bit was the explanation in the beginning that includes, “three parts fear.” Are these guys really that self-aware, considering they spend the rest of their story believing in a backwards way of thinking?

    • Grace says:

      Just re: Harriet tutoring the Cardigans: I don’t think it matters whether she would /really/ tutor those asshole guys, or whether she’s “believable,” because she’s not the one we have to believe in. Harriet is not the protagonist; it doesn’t matter whether she’s fully developed because she’s not the main character. In fact, that we see her as largely two-dimensional is appropriate, given that we’re seeing her from inside the We – we’re seeing her as the Cardigans do. How likely is it that THEY conceive of her as flesh and blood, as a human being with feelings and worth? They see her for what she can do for them – help them with math homework, apparently – and for what she looks like. They take her at face value, and that’s what Nana gives us. It doesn’t matter why she slimmed down (although one would imagine that one “Heifer Week” would have been more than enough impetus), simply that she did. Because now she is, by everyone’s standards, gorgeous, and the Cardigans are doubly chagrined: they passed judgment on her for her weight, harassed her and ostracized her and branded her “Heifer,” an outcast, a nothing – but now her beauty renders her the golden calf, idol of the high school boys, and even they are not free of its thrall. They have to deal with being wrong about her, and more than likely resent her for it, which in turn (combined with their own animal lust) fuels their virulent cruelty. Heifer is the object in this story, not the subject – the Cardigans are the subject, and Nana gives us their every thought laid bare. There’s not meant to be a hero to this story, and if it makes you uncomfortable, that means it’s doing its job.

      I think Marie represents the inverse of this problem, because she IS the protagonist. The difference between “Cardigan Blues” and “Marie” is not so much one of motivation/aftermath as predator/victim (respectively). While we don’t need to know about Harriet’s past, we do need to know about Marie’s, and I think Jenn is right in her assessment that “Marie” would probably have more success as a longer piece, because it does have potential. But we know more about everyone around Marie than we do about the girl herself, and therein lies the problem. Her interactions with others are minimal in that she does very little; to me she seemed listless, grey – she just let things happen to her, she let other people make the decisions (even her decision to keep the baby was dictated in part by Adam, her similar personal feelings aside). All of the characters probably would have fared better and been more believable if they’d been more fleshed out, but because Marie is central – the story takes its title from her name – she should be the most important, and she feels only incidental. Perhaps the biggest flaw in this story is that it tries to take on too much. But you do have to applaud Mikael’s ambition.

      My only other criticism, or question, has to do with Marie’s half-dreaming memory of Joey shaking her and calling her a cunt after the non-pregnancy. Mikael, did that play a larger part in your initial version? Because as it is it’s sort of a disturbing loose end – why would she stay with a violent man? (although perhaps that’s part of why she didn’t want to tell him about the rape) – but in a larger arc I think that storyline could be really compelling, and where your story would really depart from the traditional biblical vein. Mary/Marie as abused not just by god, but by her husband? That’s a character with a real story to tell.

      • Mikael says:

        Yeah, the part about her getting attacked by Joey was cut down a bit for space. Initially, it was a bit of a conversation between them and it got heated and what not. It does read a bit too violent now that I go back and read it without that context. Why she would stay with an abusive man is a good question. And it’s a question that the story is meant to make you ask. Why would a lot of people? Who can really say that they are a champion of all that’s good and proper and that they’ve never done anything because they were scared or didn’t want to hurt someone they loved? The point is to show Marie as more complicated than the “Virgin Mary” that she’s been seen as for 2000 years. Maybe she isn’t perfect.

  22. Jenn says:

    Perhaps what bothers people (consciously or not) is that Mikael has taken characters that have traditionally been exalted through their myth, and made them human. Some will argue that they don’t believe in the Son of God, or the Virgin Mary, yet I think anyone would be hard pressed to say that those characters (I’m not sure that’s the best word here) have not in some way shaped the story that we all collectively share. Even in the denial that such a situation ever even occurred is a choice to stitch a personal story that continues to be written by each of us.

    This might be why I chose the Marie story to begin with. I can’t say I don’t like Nana’s style, because I do. It makes his story hard to pick apart because I like how it’s written. It has flash. It’s direct. It reads in parts with the rapid-fire of spoken word. Still, when I go back to the development of the characters, I’m not as interested in getting to know their motivations as I am with the characters of Marie. This is why I suggested to Mikael that perhaps his story doesn’t sit quite as well as a project of this-many-words-or-less.

    Now, it might be that I chose his story because I’ve always been fascinated with the humanity of these characters, the actual people behind the biblical text. What makes it easier for me to read a character in a story today, like Life of Pi for example, and believe in them? Is it because I know for sure that present day India exists?Or that there is such a thing as a zoo, that I can visit and see with my own two eyes that it exists.There are some illogical situations that occur in that movie as well, not unlike holy conception. One such scene (I will stray from the obvious one of living in a life raft with zoo animals) is when Pi has come to an island in the middle of the ocean, and after spending the briefest of times there finds teeth wrapped in a piece of fruit. Is that as disturbing as a description of drinking semen mixed with breast milk? It is for me. However, it is a sad reader who takes things literally all of the time, and who doesn’t at some point quest for another deeper meaning. Perhaps this breast milk is a reference to how often we trust those who are in a position of power, or to the pull to trust, and when they say “here, drink this…” we do. I have unknowingly consumed drugs this way. When I found out later that the rice dish was cooked with a special kind of oil, who did I blame? I had been more meek than Marie. I didn’t ever ask what was in the communal supper. I think Mikael you have done something wonderful with the imagery, because I don’t want to think about semen drinking, it is revolting… though some sexually charged individuals might disagree with me. I am disturbed and how is this any different, or less disgusting than a commonly held belief (at least, among Christians) holding that it is essential to consume the flesh and blood of Christ? I think it was a brilliant idea to use the semen, because are we all not too accustomed to the flesh? The milk was given in lieu of blood, brilliant!

    I think Mikael would do well to play even more on the innocence of Marie. She is a young girl. She has a husband, is he older? How did they meet? She has odd friends she doesn’t understand, and yet accepts them much on the same way a child accepts any simple kindness shown to them. I want to see her in a longer text, where she is playing nintendo with her cousins. She is petting a kitten. She is being chastised by her mother for some since forgotten offence. She is being introduced to God and Goddess. She is walking confidently to her car, because what happens to other girls could never happen to her. I used to walk confidently in the very early hours of the morning thinking that if I walked like a predator, then predators would see me as one of their own, and leave me alone. This thought was easy for me to come to, and seemed perfectly logical at the time. It isn’t until later, when knowledge and experience are applied that I can accept some truths as being completely false.

    I love this story! I love how much space Mikael has given me to come to my own conclusions, to relish thinking about it. I love how it follows me into the bathroom, even after I close the door. Do you get that? I LOVE that it follows me into the bathroom, that it hears me peeing, that it waits for me to come out of the stall, that it pushes me up against the wall.

    Now, that’s a story I would have loved to have read from Nana. Why did Harriet lose that weight? What gave her the motivation, because for me the answer to that is non-existant at this point. I can’t imagine she lost it because her mom or her doctor told her to, not at that age, not when rebellion is so fresh and inherent. I used to be fat in school, and I used to think all the time about putting on a dress, and being beautiful. So, where is that in Harriet? Where is the slight amount of pride that she is now gorgeous? She can’t have missed that, even if she was as dense a cow as they come. The teasing would have stopped, which would have been clue enough. I remember a girlfriend of mine growing out her short boy-cut into long soft locks of golden flaxen hair, and leaning up a little bit on her frame. I saw her change.

    After never having any attention, where Harriet is reviled to the point that boys will sit on top of each other and risk the homophobic (this school fits THAT bill) reactions of friends, never once do I see something in her that shows she’s different. If she seemed that nice girl on the outside, there’s no way she wasn’t reeling from this experience on the inside. There is NO WAY a girl like that, knowing the filth these guys are already capable of, would go into the men’s bathroom. I’m speaking about the women I know. A woman I know who pee’d her pants (seriously) before she would break the social code. I’m speaking about myself, and holding it in to the point of absolute agony, until it ebbs for a few more minutes to offer some relief.

    I will not go where I have been conditioned not to go. Since Nana said I was on the canine attack earlier, perhaps that speaks again to my dog-like tendencies. I wish in this story, she had pissed herself. That would have been beautiful. If she had looked them square in the face, squared her body to them and pissed herself. That would have shown me she was no dog, that there were no conditions left to place on her, and it would have affected my vote a lot more that a half-hearted lashing out and punch to the face. That’s not to say that this is what Nana should have written, because he obviously believes in his story. I’m only saying what would have made more of a impact on me, and maybe it’s my own fault that in Nana’s story I’m hoping for a hero, and in Mikael’s story, I’m not.

    I hope I explained myself and my vote better this time around, instead of just flailing around not understanding why people aren’t fully grokking Marie yet. I don’t get why more people aren’t fully grokking it!!

    • Nana K. says:

      Jenn I appreciate your apology and believe me no harm has been done. You gotta do what you gotta do. Your conceit about the positives of my story do make you seem altogether less crazy.

      That said the simple fact is Marie IS ambitious, it DOES leave a lot to the reader but ultimately it falls short in its inability to make the reader care. Another thing it doesn’t do as well as Cardigan Blues is move the story along in an interesting manner. Honestly, on the sentence level I think everyone who reads both stories knows that Cardigan Blues is more ambitious in terms of language and writing.

      Marie drinks the semen and breast milk of her friends… (???) She also tells Joey her child conceived immaculately and it is only marginally resisted… (???) We get that Joey is religious but his belief is not stressed in a way that makes him seem like anything less than stupid. Because of plot weaknesses like these compiled by the fact that on a sentence level the story does nothing risky or even lively it feels flat and also accounts for the story dragging at parts.

      Mikael mentioned originality and this point is one I’m sure you’ve already come to since you wrote the story you did but I’ll address it anyways. There is rarely anything completely original under the sun. It is in the execution that a personal identity and thus originality can emerge. Cardigan blues is about a group of people…and it is told from all of their perspectives while at the same time giving us brief insight into what the individuals of the group might feel: fear, aversion to what they’ve become and sympathy for their victims.

      Marie, with with Bible’s greatest hits characters, takes the names of religious characters and not much else. The purpose is not entirely clear and it makes it feel cliche and plainly unoriginal.

      I will say that I’m glad both you and Jenn do have some appreciation for the factors that make Cardigan Blues what it is but the key to it all is that, not to toot my own horn but, *toot toot* it is well written. That’s why what could have been another high school story still feels fresh.

    • Terri says:

      Yeah, good point — I think ‘Marie’ is ambitious (the story, I mean) but could have used more room to breathe life into the characters. I like the voice in “Cardigan Blues” but Harriet seems like a doormat…she’s really going to tutor these assholes? Hmmmmm.

  23. Terri says:

    I wonder whether these stories read differently inside the Deathmatch arena than they would outside of it. ‘Marie’ requires more attention — more characters for one thing.More swings of the camera. ‘Cardigans’ has a straightforward narrative arc, which makes it easier to follow. Does Deathmatch reading favour the story with a simpler narrative line? I say yes. Just throwing it out there while I await the arena myself.

  24. Mikael says:

    I apologize to all that seem to be annoyed with my lack of involvement (I seriously hope they’re not referring to my lack of votes, cause I spammed the shit out of my friends, family, classmates, and pretty much anyone who didn’t ignore me or spit on me at that one street corner).

    I will try to neglect my full-time job and part-time university courses more effectively in the future.

  25. Colin Brush says:

    Wow, this comment board has dried up quick. It seems every year there’s one writer who doesn’t really compete, which is odd, because there are countless writing competitions that involve zero second effort. Usually when faced with a loss the contenders play a little more offensive. But, it’s even more of a bummer when it happens in round one.

    I looked at the ending of Marie again. So we’ve got Adam who is the “paragon” of the family – and hates it. Now Marie has just given birth to a child that the father will see as immaculate, the next generation paragon. He probably won’t have the most psychologically balanced upbringing. But we could already guess that without the Adam timeline, so I feel there’s another layer missing. It gets me curios about what was cut from the earlier draft. Is there more about Joey we don’t know? Any info about how Marie herself is going to treat this kid? What’d you leave out that you had a reason to insert in the first place?

    • Mikael says:

      There were some more bits with God and Goddess that explored some philosophical stuff. Maybe I should have left that in to make it a bit clearer as to what I was going for. It seems I should have been more explicit.

      It’s true that that kid won’t have a psychologically sound upbringing; this is the point. “Marie” is supposed to hint at the fact that Jesus himself might have been the product of extreme pressure, might have been a man that just wanted to chill and do some dope carpentry, but because of the expectations around him, maybe he never felt that that would be good enough. Maybe I just don’t know enough about Jesus.

      • Chris ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Your last comment makes me curious; what is it you find interesting about these ancient religious symbols (Eve, Adam, the IC ect…) that you wanted to write a story swirling around them?

        • Mikael says:

          Well, I originally wrote it as a response to a Women’s Studies class I was taking. The project was to challenge an existing order or thought. I found it hard just blatantly going against the grain, so I tried to make something that would be ambiguous enough to attract attention and debate, just like pretty much all contemporary feminist theory.

          As for the symbols themselves, what attracted me to them in the first place was their aura. Each one of the people mentioned have a mythos about them that doesn’t leave room for their humanity. But, in reality, they were just human beings. They would have had their own issues, their own habits. What I’ve seen mainstream religion do is strip them of that humanity and give them labels. Virgin Mary. Son of God. Trying to avoid reducing humans to one thing, one role, is really what spurred this story on. I also really like the idea of Eve, who is basically described as slightly less evil than Satan in some circles, is actually the second half of God. I thought that maybe choosing to eat the apple was actually a good idea and that maybe she’s more human than Adam (biblical Adam, anyhow) because she was too complex for Eden. She wasn’t just rebellious or vindictive against God, she was curious (Tree of Knowledge!), and that’s I think what defines us as a species.

    • Emily says:

      Do other writers comment when it’s not their round? I’m under constant fear of accidental disqualification over here… But I am curious too about the 1,000 word cut. Sometimes I realize there’s significant pieces in stuff I cut, and have to paste them back in sneakily, like removing superfluous words from somewhere else to keep within the count. With a bit more tweaking the story could probably feel more fully realized.

  26. Mikael says:

    This is a good point; it does feel rushed. I had to cut it down about a thousand words to fit into the length limit that the magazine wanted. In retrospect, probably not a good move.

  27. Grant says:

    Marie is about feeling out of place and out of sorts, even amongst those we call our friends. We accept their bizarre rituals and idiosyncratic tendencies because we want them to accept us. Marie isn’t religious by nature, but she has submitted her trust to a pair that she calls God and Goddess, she willingly follows their rituals even if they are perverse. This is the dogma of Marie, the self imposed trappings. She fears the abortion because she fears for herself, for her morality, a morality which she did not construct for herself and she does not understand.

    Cardigan Blues also is a story of self imposed trappings, they kind found basically every high school/middle school/setting anywhere. They aren’t faces or names, they are cardigans ( cardigans themselves are also necessarily replaceable in this context with whatever symbols is currently relevant such as the aforementioned lettermans, or whatever commodity is most relevant). The cardigans are never likable, but they are “cool.” The narration doesn’t ask for your permission, it tells you how. But it’s also a road map to something that anyone who examines themselves on more than a “we” level will reject. It gives us a villain but it doesn’t tell us why. Unless the answer is the cardigans. But next year those will be as faded as any lettermen.

    • Mikael says:

      I like what you’ve said here. It’s true, what I was going for in “Marie” was a sort of mix of religious and non-religious people and pointing out the ways in which the two types overlap. Marie doesn’t believe in Joey’s religion, but she does have some sense of morality that might not be explained or reasoned out. She trusts deities (metaphorically) to guide her even though she doesn’t necessarily share their belief. I had originally intended this story to be a flat out debasement of the Virgin Mary mythology, but as I wrote I found it harder and harder to reject any sort of morality in the characters and eventually ended up trying to write in people that were more complicated than just “religious” or “atheistic.” It was hard to navigate that, and maybe the story doesn’t really get into that enough. Although, that’s what revisions are for, I guess.

  28. Renee says:

    First off, Mikael’s story felt rushed, which is awkward because it was so long. There was an apparent rape, then she told her husband immaculate conception (and he believed it??). Then there was a twin, and god and goddess, and we can’t forget the semen and breast milk. Vasectomy.

    I mean come. on.

    There was a hell of a lot going on, and yet nothing actually went on. She got raped and had the baby. I didn’t learn why she cried. I didn’t feel the guilt that she “apparently” felt. Basically too much was implied, and not enough was executed.

    With Nana’s story, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed the we-ness (lol) of it all. The “we” not only de-identified the collective, but it also included us, the reader. We became part of the crew. We knew what they talked about, what they did to Heifer those times, where they were going, everything about them, because we were them. We became part of the 13 that ran the school.

    I was at first bothered by the Heifer character. I thought her reaction and actions were unrealistic and not believable. But when I approached it from the angle of Heifer representing good, it made a lot more sense. To me, she’s not supposed to be a real person, but rather good that remains good in the midst of bad. Her good did not adapt to the attitude and evilness of the person. It remained exactly as is, which is annoying because that was good does.

    We live our life, adapting our values to the circumstances not necessarily staying true to what’s good, and eventually the adaptation starts off looking like the sophomore, young and eager to just fit in, and turns into Mike, the ring leader of all that was cool…and wrong.

      • Renee says:

        Don’t you dot dot dot then answer me. I’m the queen of the “…..” then answer. It makes people feel sheepish…which makes me laugh.

        But I know she cried “because she was raped.” But do you REALLY think it’s as simply as she was raped therefore she cried. Because it’s not. Trust me. I would encourage you to do some research and really look into the people who are victims of rape. They cry bc they feel dirty, or they feel responsible. Or they feel hurt or hated. Not just because they were raped.


        • Renee says:

          Mikael slash Amber, that’s all I wanted to see. Like I know why she cried, but most non-literary people aren’t going to superimpose a back story on Marie. Like I said, I don’t think it was poorly written. I just think, like you said, it’s a difference in writing style preference. But congrats on making it this far.

          Jenn if you wanna talk offline about the deep rooted insecurities you seem be harboring, let me know.

        • Amber says:

          I guess the biggest problem is audience. Not everyone is going to sit down and think about it, cause not everyone reads like that (or WANTS to read like that). I would agree, though, about my characters not being transparent enough, as that’s been a problem for me before. It’s been really interesting seeing what different people have to say about how much explanation they wanted from Marie as a character, especially on this board.

          Nana’s story is interesting, because it’s the exact opposite as far how much he is telling the reader what the characters are thinking. Both ways of telling a story are great, but I have my own style and I enjoy it. What I did like about Nana’s story is that, even though we do get a lot of “telling” and not necessarily “showing,” it’s still engaging and doesn’t feel too condescending. That being said, I’m still going to win…

          *desperately clicks Refresh and checks vote count*

        • Renee says:

          Jenn, ain’t NOBODY talking to you. NOBODY. Never forget your irrelevance.

          Mikael, I get that you want your readers to think, but I think it might have been useful to just once let us into the psyche of Marie. It seemed like Marie was just a series of interactions, which I suppose is a point of view. I’m just not sure it’s one is as powerful without the comparison of her own view points.

        • Mikael says:

          I have met many people who’ve been victim to sexual assault. I wasn’t explicityly going to say “I was crying because I was sad because I was raped and that made me feel dirty and ashamed.” I like to think that my readers can figure stuff out like that. I try not to hand over meaning that easily. To me, writing isn’t good writing until you have to think about what you’re reading.

  29. Jenn says:

    Nana, I hope your story gets made into a breakfast club type movie. I will wait for it to go out on video so I can download it for free, and play it in the background while I pay attention to everything more meaningful.

    • Nana K. says:

      Jenn, you are Mikael’s attack dog, we get that. And really you must be to be had over by the drinking of Semen (which was random and basically happened for shock value alone)… And I’d like to say I’m honored that you’d purchase the DVD interpretation of my story just to hear it in the background. I hope that the story you’re supporting, Marie, gets made into something too, like, let’s say, a better story:

      One that is not heavy handed and overt, one that allows us to actually care about the rape that occurred, one that has interesting use of language. One that is not so lazy as to neglect to use details in a meaningful way, one that does not include clumsy sentences like”Their house holds an amalgamation of almost every religious object you can think of” This is lazy writing, get specific, make us see that scene.

      Basically, I hope that one day Marie is made into a story that makes us care.

      Love your willingness to fight though. Just wish you had something of substance to say to me.

      • Alex P. says:

        And thus Nana spoke and said, “speaketh no more Jenn, for your words are as pointless and meaningless as what you hope to defend. ” The people then said, “Amen.”

        • Jenn says:

          Haha, nice one Alex. Thank you for all your comments Nana, you have some great feedback. Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic. I attacked you because I allowed myself to be provoked into it and then continued along that line of defence. I like your writing style. If you win (and it’s looking right now like you will) then I hope you gain whatever it is you desire out of this match. Good luck.

  30. Colin Brush says:

    So day one was quite one sided. Mikael is letting this thing slip away; we’re not seeing much fight from him. He’s got to offer something if he wants to stand a chance. Maybe he has a life or responsibilities or something like that – for shame.

    Nana, I get having 4x the vote might give you leeway to withhold a grand effort. But you’re a self-described stone cold killer. It’s no Deathmatch faux pas to kick a man while he’s down. Remind people why they’re not voting for him. Who knows, maybe later this week Mikael will get some free time and launch a full comeback.

  31. Udit says:

    Interpreting the main characters in Cardigan Blues as hipsters shows a lack of true reflection on the behalf of the reader, for if one uses their choice of clothing as the way to define them vs. their actions/behavior it shows that there is more of a deficiency in reading ability as opposed to the author’s writing ability. Cardigan Blues really comes out on top here, as the issue of sexual assault is addressed no longer from the prism of the victim…but from that of the assailant. The brilliance of it lies in its depiction of the cashmere crew, didn’t everyone know these people in high-school? Their clothes weren’t important, in your school they may have worn varsity jackets, in this school and in schools such as mine they happened to dawn cashmere cardigans and declare themselves the unequivocal ambassadors of swag. What is universal is their remarkable lifestyle of contradiction, their personalities defined by alpha-male status…while at the same time this “status” imprisons them…as they become slaves to their own egos, their own self-constructed prison of “cool.” Addressing their condition, because that is often what it is…a condition, is not only a challenging feat, it is dangerous…often because our first reaction to such a piece is moral indignation and disgust at the actions of the cashmere crew. But the author in this piece addresses the challenge by calling out to us, showing us the lords of “cool” that exist in our schools…and why? Who gives them the means to be both ‘muscle and gavel’…who gives them the monopoly on our definitions of cool and comfort? As we ask ourselves these questions while reading Cardigan Blues we come to the realization that creatures such as the ‘Cashmere Cardigan Crew’ exist among us always, and while their acts are monstrous, they also are products of something far more sinister…our own worship of power.

    • Mikael says:

      Not entirely sure about where the “worship of power” comes up in Cardigan Blues, but I won’t focus on that.

      I don’t understand your insistence that, because of the fact that everyone knew people like the cashmere cardiganers in Nana’s story, this somehow makes the story of extreme value. To me, the story doesn’t necessarily answer the huge question of “So what?” when I was read it. I agree with a lot of people that the style of the story is very clever, and that the collective narration makes a lot of sense with what I think Nana is trying to do. What bothers me the most is how this story isn’t any DIFFERENT from the cheesy high school dramas that are still being churned out. I’ve heard the argument that my story isn’t original (as if that were some criteria for quality), but this story does anything but be original. What I would have loved to see is a twist, a change in the narration, anything that would stop the train that was Cardigan Blues’s plot from just falling into a classic high school myth story.

    • Mikael says:

      I like the one about the bullied nerd who, through a series of hilarious mishaps and adventures, becomes the school hero. Also, he gets to kiss a girl at some point.

  32. Colin Brush says:

    It’s funny, everyone seems to focus on Cardigan Blues as some homage to shallow hipsters. I didn’t really see hipsters when I read this story. I saw jocks. The popularity and the cockiness and the Friday night lights lead me there. Maybe it’s because at my high school hipsters didn’t really have strength in numbers, but I assumed the cardigans were a reach for something less cliché than letterman jackets.

    The narration in this story is impressive. I kept expecting it to stop catching me and settle down to a generic tone, but it really didn’t. And I love how unapologetic and cocky it is. As if when we read “Heffer got her milk. Trust.” the narrator expects us to think –“Good. I was worried she got away.” And it’s shocking how void of empathy these guys are as you realise how much respect you have for Heffer.

    Although, I was little turned off by the mention of Heffer tutoring them. I can’t bring myself to believe she’s so strong willed that that could happen.

    One thing that I’m still working over in my head is the importance of the collective “we” and how Heffer stabs them just by saying individual names. It feels significant, it’s pointing to something, but I haven’t quite solved it yet.

    • Nana K. says:

      I think you’re right on with your reading of the narrators. The term hipsters is definitely a misnomer assigned by those who chose to read the story with a certain lens. They are not hispters because they are never against the mainstream culture, they are the ones who constitute and enforce the status quo.

      The choral We is, for me at least, essential to the story because the narrators are powerful as members of the popular group. The We is their sword and shield and when they are called out individually, the reality that they are a collection of individuals ,each independently choosing to do what they do is painful for them because they’ve been stripped of their collective power.

      The character Harriet is a paragon of good, and the fact that she could help tutor one of the members of this terrible group points to that. Had it been all of them, she probably would never help but in a one-on-one tutoring session she would be willing to help because, as she demonstrates in the bathroom scene, she sees the individuals despite their desire to be seen as a WE.

      • Mikael says:

        I can’t help but see Harriet as weak because there is no indication that she’s tutoring them out of her own good will. It seems more like fear. You could include a sentence or two about the group members’ individuality coming up during the tutoring to maybe make that more clear.

        As for the definition of “hipsters,” I guess that’s a bit of a circlejerk as well. In my opinion, you’re a hipster if you’ve become so concerned with NOT fitting in that you’ve actually just created a group of people that all fit in with each other. Hipster no longer really refers to the swimming-against-the-current type of person they originally were.

        Wow, people are really hung up on the fact that the protagonists were rapists, as if this were some new invention. Welcome to literature. Lolita. Zeus bangin’ chicks left and right. Tons of examples.

        • Mikael says:

          I don’t understand what you’re saying here, Nana. They are bad kids who “PERHAPS got into a bad situation”? They tried to rape a girl. This is attempted rape. I can see what you’re saying though. I think you might see their humanity as being more fleshed out than it actually is. By the time I got to the bathroom scene, I didn’t see any shred of compassion in them. I saw the group mentality, sure, but there’s not much here that would make me think that their “complexes are developed enough that we can see them as rapists as well as not being anything more than cocky jocks.” To me, cocky jocks stop being just cocky jokes when they become attempted rapists. Maybe it’s my own morality getting in the way, but no amount of “explaining” makes what they did okay. I think, for your revision, I’d love to see you suss out that humanity in a more explicit way. WHY should I feel for them? What makes them different or less evil than the murderers we see on the news?

          Maybe I just didn’t fully understand your comment. What exactly were you trying to say? That first sentence of your comment is a bit of run-on so I hope I understood.

        • Nana K. says:

          Once again the protagonists are not, I repeat NOT rapists, they are bad kids who perhaps got into a bad situation but their complexes are developed enough that we can see them being rapists as well as not being anything more than cocky jocks. The instances in the story as well as the Voice that describes all the action gives them depth. Something your characters unfortunately lack.

  33. Chris ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I too, thought of “The Virgin Suicides” after reading “Cardigan Blues”. Adjei-Brenyah’s use of a collective voice, rather than reading gimmicky or confusing, was smooth and natural. Clearly the best way to tell his story. A story that fills me with shame at the memory of my own time in high school, and the “heifers” it never once occurred to me to raise my voice to help.

  34. Colin Brush says:

    The comment board is getting charged up now. How exciting!

    I like this match-up. I think we’ve got too good stories, both feel like unique pieces of writing, both touching the sexual assault. And Nana already noted the distinction – one story is the lead up, and one is the aftermath.

    I’ll give some thoughts on both stories, but I’m going to start with Marie because it’s the one on the left.

    The intro I like – how you know she’s being attacked without giving it away. It’s how the story should open. Although it bugs me, maybe more than it needs to, that she “walks confidently” to her car. She just came out of an alley. Even people who’ve never been attacked have nerves.

    I love God and Goddess – the forced nicknames, the aloofness, their take on a mixed drink, and how you finally know its rape when Marie tells them “my crotch still hurts” – perfect.

    But I want to beg you to write the rest of your story that stimulating. There’s some good content, but sometimes it drags on; I think some of the dialogue with the brother could be cut or shortened. But then you give us God and Goddess again, which makes me happy.

    Right now I’m unsure about the ending. It has an air of significance, but I’m not quite getting it. Maybe I just need to read it over again. There’s enough to the story-line that for now I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

  35. Grace says:

    I dislike “Marie” because its conceit is a gimmick without a clear purpose. The heavy-handed naming (Adam and Evelyn, a cameo from Dante, Marie and Joseph and a less-than-immaculate conception) leads the reader to expect something to come of all the biblical allusion, but nothing does – except for some fairly overt moralizing on the subjects of rape and abortion and the sanctity of human life. When Goddess, after all, pulls out her book of Genesis, we see that ALL humans, good and bad, are her children; they all have stories and belong to two heterosexual parents. How touching. And the child of Marie’s rape is a gift from god? I’m sure Eric Cantor and Todd Akin would love this story.

    And can we just touch for a moment on the episode where Marie drinks a mixture of Goddess’s breast milk and God’s semen? What? Other than being totally bizarre (and mildly disgusting), what was the point of that? I think the story could do without God and Goddess altogether (because really, what purpose do they serve in the story? do they advance the action in any way? wouldn’t it be more interesting to see inside Marie’s head, rather than merely what she tells us about what she tells other people?), but that bit in particular could easily be excised without hurting it.

    “Cardigan Blues,” on the other hand, showcases as strong a use of the choral we as I’ve seen since Jeff Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, and to write it off as hipster-hate is both reductive and unfair (to the story and to hipsters – who are, believe it or not, more than just what they wear). That voice is compelling – not just for the beautifully crafted phrases or the verbal tics (which help to establish the tone), but because it makes the reader complicit in the “we,” and puts us inside the action. We see what they see, and what they don’t want us to see (and don’t want to see in themselves). There’s a clear conflict between what they know is wrong and what they’ve come to believe is their right – that is, ownership and rule, particularly over female bodies (that they name Harriet “Heifer” positions her as a piece of meat – a cow hanging on a hook). The two come to a head in Harriet’s assault, and in the end, amid their anger and their strangled shame, as they dust themselves off and remind themselves that they have class, we’re not sure whether anything will change. But we know that they know that it should.

    • Mikael says:

      January 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm
      I dislike “Marie” because its conceit is a gimmick without a clear purpose. The heavy-handed naming (Adam and Evelyn, a cameo from Dante, Marie and Joseph and a less-than-immaculate conception) leads the reader to expect something to come of all the biblical allusion, but nothing does – except for some fairly overt moralizing on the subjects of rape and abortion and the sanctity of human life. When Goddess, after all, pulls out her book of Genesis, we see that ALL humans, good and bad, are her children; they all have stories and belong to two heterosexual parents. How touching. And the child of Marie’s rape is a gift from god? I’m sure Eric Cantor and Todd Akin would love this story.

      And can we just touch for a moment on the episode where Marie drinks a mixture of Goddess’s breast milk and God’s semen? What? Other than being totally bizarre (and mildly disgusting), what was the point of that? I think the story could do without God and Goddess altogether (because really, what purpose do they serve in the story? do they advance the action in any way? wouldn’t it be more interesting to see inside Marie’s head, rather than merely what she tells us about what she tells other people?), but that bit in particular could easily be excised without hurting it.

      “Cardigan Blues,” on the other hand, showcases as strong a use of the choral we as I’ve seen since Jeff Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, and to write it off as hipster-hate is both reductive and unfair (to the story and to hipsters – who are, believe it or not, more than just what they wear). That voice is compelling – not just for the beautifully crafted phrases or the verbal tics (which help to establish the tone), but because it makes the reader complicit in the “we,” and puts us inside the action. We see what they see, and what they don’t want us to see (and don’t want to see in themselves). There’s a clear conflict between what they know is wrong and what they’ve come to believe is their right – that is, ownership and rule, particularly over female bodies (that they name Harriet “Heifer” positions her as a piece of meat – a cow hanging on a hook). The two come to a head in Harriet’s assault, and in the end, amid their anger and their strangled shame, as they dust themselves off and remind themselves that they have class, we’re not sure whether anything will change. But we know that they know that it should.

      I love how this reads so much like a book review. You could have a career here if you don’t already.

      As for what you said: I understand how you would see my story as “gimmicky.” A played out subject and I didn’t even think my own names?! Well, it’s not really that easy, although I guess on a quick read, it is. “Marie” is complicated because it doesn’t just hand out morality. If it did, Marie would have had an abortion or been honest with Joey about everything. She wouldn’t have gone to see God and Goddess.

      The ambiguity of her actions and of her decisions is the point of the story. She claims to not be religious but frequently consults with “gods.” She doesn’t believe in abortion, even if it is her “best” option, but not because a book told her so (or worse, some old guys who read the book at one point told her so. Adam is ashamed of his role in “creating” woman. Nowhere in the popular myths of Adam does it describe his reaction to being used as a DNA sample for Eve. Joey is not the righteous step-father to the “Son of God.” It’s this not-so-clear-cut version of the myth that makes the “Marie” more thought-provoking than you give it credit for.

      That being said, I do agree that the chorus of “We” in Nana’s story is effective. I liked the style (to a point: the alliterations of cashmere and cardigans started to drag on) and I applaud the formal stunts he used to back up his main drive in the story.

      • Mikael says:

        crap. I copied your comment into the comment box so I didn’t have to scroll up all the time, then I forgot to delete it.

        Note to BP: upgrade commenting system, especially comment trees.

  36. Nana K. says:

    That was just my criticism of the concept and how you set a high bar for yourself when you try to do something done so much before. My biggest problem with Marie is I think the story stretches to put together theses biblical iconic figures that make the story feel cliche more than human. I think there is a story to be told but this one didn’t make me feel for the main character, probably because I was wondering if she really drank the semen of a character named “GOD” and the breast milk of “Goddess”

  37. Mikael says:

    Fair enough, although I think the argument of “it’s been done before” is a bit of a cop out for any criticism about writing. Every story has been done before and “Group Think” stories are no exception. A Rose for Emily comes to mind.

    It seemed to me that the cries for help were actually shown as more a frat mentality of rolling your eyes, nudging your buddies, and muttering “pledges.” If you’re asking for empathy when there doesn’t see to be much room for any, you might be left wanting.

  38. Nana K. says:

    First thank’s for kind of reading but Cardigan Blues isn’t “about” rape. Your story, however, is. The Hipsters, or rather the popular kids are, of course, the narrators and the negative force of the story but I think that they are pretty purposefully developed to the point that you can understand their motivations and the holds of “Group Think.” And if you yourself have depth you can do more than just hate them.

    All the language of the narrators reflects their personalities, specifically, their narcissism and callous towards the people around them – sometimes even themselves when one tries to break away from the group. But their are cries for help from within the group.

    Marie uses a retelling of THE story: the Bible’s greatest hits Volume 1. It’s been done before. It will be done again and in a more compelling way. It’s about a rape. Cardigan Blues is about some of the motivations that could cause a rape to occur and more.

    • Jenn says:

      I understand the Hipsters you are writing about. They like sweaters, and following pretty recently slimmed
      down girls into the bathroom. I understand and I just don’t care.

      The reason I like Marie is because it is an old story, and you’re probably right in that it will be done again. However this time and with this telling, I thought I knew where it was going and then suddenly, when I thought I was driving the vehicle, I realized Mikael is in fact taking me somewhere. We are headed on a road that looks much like any other, what makes it a little more interesting is the conversation going on in the car. He had me at semen drinking.

  39. Jenn says:

    The story Cardigan Blues ought to throw a few more words like “cashmere” or “cardigan” around because really, you can’t use those two words enough. Oh wait…my mistake, you can use those words enough. Actually, you can use them too much, even to the point of annoyance, all the while instilling the brain neuron cluster fuck that resulted from what only seems like a thinly veiled hate-on of hipsters. Did they not let you into their cool guy club last semester? That’s sad for you, especially since it resulted in this dribble.

  40. Nico ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sorry, Mikael Raheem. You’ve got some interesting ideas here, but they’re not grounded in the characters’ thoughts or actions. I’m just not buying it.

    Nana K. Adjei-Brenyah I love the imagery and repetitive language. It really works for this story. But holy fuck, the ignorance and evilness of teenage boys… I know these kids as men – they haven’t changed and the world is still a terrible place.

  41. Mikael says:

    Smart, pairing up two stories about rape. Even though I’ll admit that Cardigan Blues (ironic title? not really sure) is funny at times, I feel like it’s trying pretty damn hard to just hate on “hipsters” by turning them into bullies and rapists. The whole time I was reading it, I just pictured some kid scribbling in their journal: “One day, one day I’m gonna show those guys. Then they’ll be working for ME!”

    Honestly, can’t say I loved the protagonists (even Harriet is a bit of a pushover, tutoring her bullies) and overall it just seemed like an excuse to play off a well-known hatred for hipsters by making them seem like pure evil. To me, it was akin to when people say “hipsters are basically Hitler.” No, they’re not.

    But it WAS smart to submit a story that would grab all the bandwagoners’ votes. For that, I commend you.

  42. Colin Brush says:

    We’re ten hours in and still no word from either of these writer. That’s no way to win a Deathmatch. Usually by now there’s harsh attacks made and at least one attempt at an ego crippling criticism. So far one person has tried to start a bickering war, but no one is seizing the bait. How am I supposed to know which story is better if no one on the comment board is telling me?

    Plus you’re supposed to have spammed all of your facebook friends for their sacrifices and support. Mikeal, I can’t help guessing you know more than 11 people who’d be willing to click on a webpage for you. I hope.

    • Jenn says:

      5. All entrants must agree to have their submissions posted on the Broken Pencil website to be voted on and discussed by visitors to the site; writers whose stories are chosen for the voting rounds must agree to maintain a blog on the website while their story is being judged in order to promote and advocate for their entry. Remember: this is an anything-goes contest – comments from visitors to the contest can be hurtful. Be prepared for battle.

      It’s too bad Nana forgot this point in the rules and regulations. His story comes from hard work, he says. I can’t help but think his work is a flash in the pan.

      • Nana K. says:

        What was the point of this comment… Also Jenn what happened to the Jenn of yesteryear
        “Thank you for all your comments Nana, you have some great feedback. Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic. I attacked you because I allowed myself to be provoked into it and then continued along that line of defence. I like your writing style. If you win (and it’s looking right now like you will) then I hope you gain whatever it is you desire out of this match. Good luck.” – Jenn (the reasonable one)

        I like this Jenn better and honestly yeah I did work hard and I think somewhere you agree with that.

        • Jenn says:

          Well now, it is pretty important to me whether or not you think I’m reasonable. I certainly reckon I may not even be able to sleep tonight after all this bothering you gone done me. Nana, why don’t you turn your attention to the questions that have been brought forward to you by various readers? This isn’t the final match of the contest in case you’ve forgotten. Unless of course you want to keep this good time rolling, then I get to continue not caring what you think about me until the heifers come home.

    • John Ellis says:

      As an adult reader, the Cardigan story just affirmed that there are still jerks in every high school. The cardigans, as props, could have set this story in the 60s. The boys would have been spoiled lettermen at a US college. I wanted to learn more about the characters. I wanted to hear them explain why it’s still cool to still be that way.

      Marie was contrived but there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe it was too literal but it was an attempt to layer something on top of a story. If the holy couple showed up in a Richard Brautigan novel, they would probably be weird and lovable. This could be a dark, comedic novella in the hands of Woody Allen.

        • Jenn says:

          Pretty sure the shallowness is written from his inability to formulate anything else. If it wasn’t, then why does everything he writes reverberate with it right down to what he expresses on the message boards? His shallowness was on purpose because on purpose Nana is a lame writer with a pretty coat. Ahem- I mean, cardigan. He owns about a billion of them, you know.

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