Deathmatch 2013 Quarterfinals Round4

Deathmatch Moderator

Annie Wong is an international moderator of various death matches. This is her first one between fictions.






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.

Previous Rounds: Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3

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.

The Offbeat

By Jeanie Keogh

I belly-flop onto the king-size hotel bed. Tomorrow we are on the road at eight. Tonight is still in its package.

Rich is next door talking incoherently to himself. His words are sounds trying to stand on new legs. He gets into the shower and falls. I expect to hear expletives but there is only silence.

The door to his room is wide open. A Hansel-and-Gretel trail of clothes leads from the bed to the bathroom. Today’s music festival pass is hung over the bathroom mirror. He is lying naked in the tub, dead drunk. An umbilical feeling of concern curdles to accusation in my voice.

“Why didn’t you put the rubber mat down?”

“What do I look like, a geriatric?”

Read on...

The King Beet

By Graeme Lottering

The sun is below me, bright and vivid—my lashes unable to contain it. I see glassy micro-droplets of morning dew captured in the v-shaped chute of the freshly cut grass. I see crystalline rainbow flares in the sky beneath me, and looking up, a microcosm of greenery protrudes from the top of my vision. I’m doing a headstand, part of a stretching routine I do during times of turmoil, or whenever it is particularly sunny outside. I find myself looking deep into the roots of the soil, legs balancing precariously in a rabbit-ear pose.

I am foiling gravity. Up is down and down is up.

Read on...

173 Responses to “Deathmatch 2013 Quarterfinals Round4”

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  3. Philip says:

    I read both of these stories with care…thanks to both writers for taking me to somewhere other than where I was. In my opinion, both pieces significantly reflect and rely on the use of language. Graeme’s long complex sentences, which contribute to a mood, unfortunately exude a somewhat self-conscious style in both writing and conception. Jeanie’s poetic, surprising, lyrical yet edgy punchiness marries form, style and content seamlessly, and transports me far more deeply and immediately inside her character than all of Graeme’s “I” statements manage to accomplish, despite their profusion. Jeanie’s story has greater punch, is tighter, flows smoothly, has pace, grips me, keeps me wondering, eager to read on. Graeme’s more reflective story, while bringing some basic existential truths to light, veers a little too close to sentimentality with an unfortunate dash of beetroot penis puerility. Jeanie’s story has consistent drive and sexual sophistication Graeme’s slower pace unfortunately drags from time to time. If I were to describe these stories through the metaphor of a river: Jeanie’s is a surprise strewn, fast flowing, tumbling, waterfall filled, cascading, dangerous stretch that challenges. Exhilarating. A kayaker’s dream. Graeme’s is a broad pastoral stream, beneath a wide sky, meandering through fields, drifting round bends, sweeping now and then beneath overhanging branches. A quiet Sunday afternoon row boat excursion. Pleasurable. A little nostalgic. Both stories and writers have much to commend them. However, for literary merit, emotional appeal, maturity of voice, and edge, my vote goes to Offbeat. I find it to be a truly first-rate piece of writing about two musicians aptly combining lyricism, melody, rhythm, syncopation and variation of dynamics that gives it its own music…a tone poem in its own right. Congratulations, Jeanie.

  4. Annie Wong (Moderator) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Previously on Broken Pencil’s Deathmatch Round Four: Graeme plays the gentlemen card and gracefully concedes defeat by day three; by day six things suddenly get interesting as Jeanie demonstrates that her invective is just as sharp as her Care-bear-stare against “Sea Shepherd” Wong- the Moderator! On day Seven, King Beet faces the chopping board after all and is sliced in to a 1895 pieces (as of 7:30pm) by the brawny Offbeat. Four more hours to go and unless King Beet has a few more phallic minions up his sleeves, it looks like this beet just may be BEAT. Stay tuned for the next episode of…


    X + 7 = 13
13 – 7 = X

  5. Trivates says:

    Hey folks…

    Moderators are supposed to be neutral parties.
    Jeanie… somebody’s god… I never knew you had it in you. If I wasn’t married… I would be single.

    Dolphins are awesome… on rye bread with Mayonnaise. I also like Shark and Bake.

    And really? Flame on? I am seaman and I get all up in your face with my fluid of choice.

    • Annie Wong (Moderator) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Re: “Moderators are supposed to be neutral parties.”
      Hey Graeme and Jeanie, this was actually pretty fun. If you guys are in T.O we should all grab a beer. And Jeanie, if you’re really upset with me consider it an invitation to come punch me in the face.

  6. Annie Wong (Moderator) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Day six into the round and the ring just got HOT! Heavy hitter Jeanie-Care-Bear-Scare, wary of her literary opponent, is now taking her offense directly at…wait for it…the Moderator! Neutrality? Dead. Constructive criticism? Dead. Dignity? Dead. It is on.

  7. Guppa says:

    I refer back to my comments at 2:16 on February 12. Not particularly close. If the voting continues like this, it will be all women from hereon in. Love this battle of words.

  8. Annie Wong (Moderator) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Throughout my history of deathmatch moderating, I have never seen such a bloodless deathmatch. Day four and not a single left hook, instead what I get are Valentine exchanges, surreal dreams, and worst…constructive criticism! What are we the Paris Review?

    Go Vote!

    • AND! The only time I became bloody (and dolphins would probably not bleed if I were to punch them, their goofy smiles would just increase) you went all Greenpeace on me and I started “to scare you” and you moderated my comment. For the love of god woman, figure yourself out. Do you want a fight or don’t you? If you’re not careful I’m going to put you in the belly of a whale. How do you like that Moby Dickess?

    • What, do you want me to kick a man while he’s down, Annie? You’re pretty cutthroat. What’s left to say? My goal was to win, not to make enemies in the process. And, on the subject of enemies: keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer. Perhaps you should read The Art of War?

      • Annie Wong (Moderator) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll put it on my list. Right now I’m reading this lame-ass short story about some old chick with baby issues and her drunk ex-lover. The female voice is disappointingly weak- and worse the character falls within the “straight-and-narrow” repertoire of conventional female protagonists. Meanwhile, the incompetent douch’s got 99 problems, but that bitch ain’t one- and so this makes her sad. You’ve heard of it?

        • Fajer Al-Kaisi says:

          Whoa! Aren’t moderators supposed to be neutral parties?! This is anything but…and smacks of catty jealousy more than anything else. Or maybe its the cliche “I’m going to side with the underdog” kind of principle. Also inciting a bloodbath by punching the winner and then retracting your comments is SOOO lame… pathetic really. This is why nobody likes you Wong….I got yer back Jeanie K.

        • No, I’ve not heard of it. Is this a short story of yours that you’re revising because you’d like to send it out to editors but it’s still not quite there yet? Good luck, Annie, rejection is hard but you just have to put yourself out there and trust that the universe will find a way to reward you for your efforts.

          PS. Do you like to cut yourself by any chance? How bout you make your skinny, hipster self into sushi. Keep trying to be original with those comments, cynicism is so poignant; poetic even. Don’t worry, Wong, you’re not alone, there are lots of lame-ass chicks just like you out there. Society’s full of them (not to make you feel conventional or anything)

  9. Beet: Who are you?
    Heart: I’m an internal organ.
    Beet: I’m a phallic symbol.
    Beet: So, what do you do?
    Heart: Blood circulation is my day job, but love is my passion.
    Beet: You want to go somewhere quieter so you can teach me a little about that passion of yours.
    Heart: It’s a nice offer but I have to work in the morning.

  10. DM : Graeme Lottering says:

    Well, I’m 177 votes behind at this point, so I’m just about ready to concede. Jeanie, well done. You have me beet. Hehehe. If anything, losing to you was a pleasure. Good luck in the next round.

    • Graeme,
      I’m with Brittany, the story has all the elements it needs to become something really great. But you take me to half-way places and I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to feel. Overall, I like the sense of impending doom and hopelessness that one feels in a particularily idyllic place, especially when that place is home. I think I get the beet thing, the cultural powerlessness of the renaissance man that is so often seen as akin to impotence(?) And I like the birds of prey/golden retriever puppy thing, and the double imagery that the predator which we take as strictly dangerous, is in a way just as vulnerable as the hunted thing for being aimless and lost, like the dude in the big pick-up truck that never goes offroading. My favourite line is: “I feel like one of those Romans sometimes. It is a feeling that creeps up on me when I do my taxes, or renew my passport.” I have no idea if this makes any sense to you, or any sense in general. Take what you will.

  11. Brittany says:

    Both stories are well written and well matched. I’m going with Offbeat though, cause I felt it was easier to get inside the story and the characters were more compelling. Graeme, you’ve got some awesome imagery happening here and the makings of something truly wonderful, but there were a few points where I feel you needed a “lighter touch”, if that makes sense. Like you didn’t trust the reader enough.

    p.s. I miss Emily. Is that weird?

  12. Jerome says:

    You both deserve a beating.

    King is well written, but leaves me with a sense of, so what?
    If King is supposed to be some sort of jab at vegans or rawists it
    lacked bite, but after reading your comments, I know why.
    You may be afraid of your own shadow.
    Where the story could have delved it remained a decaying duck
    on water.

    Off is also well written. It is filled with so much helplessness,
    self-doubt and not knowing when to say when (booze and feelings for
    a charismatic deadbeat) that I feel sorry for all involved.
    It’s like a reality TV show that makes you feel better about yourself
    because everyone on-screen is so fucked-up.

    Since when did you become so nice Jeanie?

    It was close, as both brought out an emotional response, however negative,
    but I went with Off because I’ve been that guy (minus the celebrity status).
    It reminded me of how far I’ve come.

    • Jerome, if you do know me, you know that I have never been nice and I never will be but nobody bloody well understands what the hell I am so I have had to adapt like a goofy smiling dolphin pretending to like life in an aquarium. Those stupid things should be punched. I would like to be the person they chose from the audience to feed the damn thing fish just so I can punch the thing on its melon when it’s mid air with it’s pathetic squeak-chirping beak open. Anyone else with me? Closeted dolphin punchers?

    • DM : Graeme Lottering says:

      Firstly, Jerome, I think you meant “beeting”.

      Secondly, I think both stories are about the futility of life. How things happen wether you want them to or not. The reign of the Beet King comes to an end as all empires must, including or own.

      Offbeat is about how there is no amount of fame that can cover our basic needs as human beings. That deep down, despite how popular we are (or how many votes we have on Literary Deathmatch, for that matter) we all yearn for a more rational life. Both stories are, in a sense, a dirge for a past golden age, a time when things were right and they made sense. A time we could understand and fit into.

      And scared of my own shadow? Jerome, I’ve bit off ears bigger than you, my friend. I ain’t scared of nothing except for dysentery.

  13. DM : Graeme Lottering says:

    I think we should look at the central messages behind these two stories? What do you guys think? Is it time to open the gates to hell? You know, spur on the ultimate demise of literary criticism? I say let’s do it!

  14. DM : Graeme Lottering says:

    Aww, Jeanie! That the nicest thing an opponent has ever said to me since that guy in a unitard tried to kiss me during a wrestling match in high school.

    • Well be happy about it because my boyfriend just threatened that he was going to start voting for you as of tomorrow due to that comment if I don’t get my massage hands ready. I am now preparing said massage hands by washing them clean of Deathmatch blood. Practice your math, those Captcha equations are tough, eh Graeme cracker? I WILL CRUMBLE YOU!

  15. Guppa says:

    Very interesting competition. Both tales were quite readable to me, but I was rivitted to The Offbeat and just reading about The King. I love the commentary, but I do not feel it will be a close match as the week progresses. Jeanie needs to be more aggressive, Graeme less. Both quality writers.

  16. I understand now why politicians look so haggard after election campaigns. Graeme I imagine you rubbing your sleep-encrusted eyes and repeating the mantra: Every. Vote. Counts. while sitting on the toilet, brushing your teeth and Tweeting.

  17. Graeme, I had a horrible anxiety dream that you beat me in a Dutch-language spelling bee and then jumped on a unicycle to race around to different internet cafes to vote several times in one hour. And then you disemboweled me as you pulled my intestines I saw that they were the words of my story unravelling out of me.

  18. Day Two and I feel like ground beef (although the fact I am up 75 votes makes me feel more like steak tartar) My autocorrect has somehow switched to French, the internet is patchy, my horoscope overview for the week was bollocks, I’ve started speaking in tongues and I am in deep fear for my relationship, not to mention my sanity. Don’t worry Graeme, there is no need to fight, I will probably not last the week. (Disclaimer: this post is not intended to attract the pity vote although if that is the outcome, I am that much happier.

    • Anty Bee says:

      heh heh heh…

      I lost the thread on that one, too…
      & here I was blaming my “Stress-Related Short-Term Memory Loss”!
      I’m SO relieved!!!
      Lulu’s blameless, yay!

      Happy Valentine’s Day! is anyone else wearing PINK?

      • Anty Bee says:

        that comment went in entirely the “wrong” place, Jo.

        To: Garbanzo aka ‘Hazelnut’ my reply abt politesse was to be:

        I was wondering where the ‘Kill them with Kindness’ approach went?
        Dainty’s Granny Mabel wasn’t wrong on that one, was she?

  19. Two very different stories but I can see why they were set mano a mano (in this case, mano a womano), aside from the echo in the titles. I’m finding this a tougher choice than the other rounds. I will continue to mull these two combatants over. BTW I like Jocelyn’s reference above to phallic minions.

  20. Jocelyn says:

    Both stories make great use of imagery, detail and metaphor, but I found Jeanie’s to be more alive and compelling. Somehow I care about her characters and could relate to them after only 500 words. I found myself untouched by and indifferent to the Beet King, his narrator and his phallic minions.

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