Deathmatch 2014 Quarterfinals Round 1

Deathmatch Moderator

Braydon Beaulieu competed in the Deathmatch in 2011. In 2013, No Press published Braydon’s first poetry chapbook, Flight Patterns. He currently studies at the University of Calgary, where he hopes to get a doctorate in creative writing. He is boring. But he’s pretty good at Pokémon.



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.

Dent-O’s ‘Taste-O’ the South

by Suzanne Crone

Rosco Perdu sits under his impressive Chippendale desk brushing his teeth. He is cross-legged on the plush Wedgewood-blue carpet, and surrounded by spent toothpaste tubes; some rolled up, others simply twisted and discarded. The orphaned lids are assembled on the floor in a line that resembles an ammonite, or the concentric swirls of exiting water down a drain. He hiccoughs, and in the time it takes to swan another curl of toothpaste on his brush, he notices the buttons on his shirt. He’s a tall man, ectomorphic, so it’s difficult to sit under this desk, but requires that his fitted white business shirts have more buttons than, let’s say, his father, Mr. Farquhar Perdu. Farquhar was a short ass. Rosco is at least six feet, eleven inches tall; his height gifted undoubtedly from his mother, Celia, who towered over Farquhar. Piled on top of Rosco’s desk, and on the floor to the left of his lair underneath, are the fresh, plump tubes of the toothpaste he is so intent upon; the labeling clear and bright, Dent-O’s ‘Taste-O’ the South’ Bourbon Mardi Gras. This is the Dent-O Company’s newest success that, much to the surprise of the public, and the shareholders, and now Rosco, not only keeps cavities at bay, but takes the stress out of the day at 80 proof. Rosco Perdu, the CEO of the Dent-O Toothpaste Company, is blasted.

Read on...


by Andrea Wrobel

Pause for a second. My name is Samantha Able and I am currently choking on the little pink bit of eraser that used to be attached to my HB number 2 pencil. I liked the way the little pink prince would squeak against the edges of my teeth. Like it was shining my canines up real nice. In the precise moment the little jerk came loose I was fantasizing about scrubbing the two so white that people would think I was a vamp upon first glance just because they’d stand out more than the others. I could hear the squeaking in my head and wondered if it was as loud to anybody else. No one seemed interested. I was almost invisible. But I guess I got a little too into it. Squeak, squeak, squeak. It’s good to have goals. Squeak, squeak, I did, trying to see if anyone would turn around. Is the lecture that boring? Maybe they’re all asleep. Squeak, squeak. Like a symphony of a dollar store quartet. That’s probably where Aunt Nancy got these HBs from. Are they even real? I checked. They’re real. Aunt Nancy only ever shops at Value Plus (damn those discounts) and No Dollar Taller (and damn this little pink prince now wedged in my throat so stubbornly I might actually die).

I might actually die.

Let me paint the rest of the picture for you.

Read on...

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  5. R. Daniel Lester says:

    Well, I would have commented sooner but I was working on the Captcha answer. Phew, that was a tough one.

    Congrats to both authors.

    And double congrats to Andrea for emerging victorious.

    • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      R. Daniel Lester! Just saw this. Late to the party, eh. Maybe I can use that somehow next week….. Can’t say I didn’t warn you (though I’m sure you won’t see this).

    • Johnny 2 shoes says:

      Hi Moderator Braydon, before this round completes and not meaning to distract from this conversation you sparked but can you enlighten on how the 8 finalsists are selected vis a vis what round/timing their piece comes into the Deathmatch arena? is their some quality review assessment that determines this or just a coin toss?

      • DM Moderator Braydon says:

        I’m afraid, Johnny 2 shoes, that I’m once again not going to be much help. I don’t work for Broken Pencil — they brought me in to mod because (a) I’m a previous competitor, and (b) let’s face it, I’m pretty adorable. We actually wondered this pretty often in the 2011 Deathmatch. Some of the stories going head-to-head seemed thematically linked or similar in style. Other match-ups seemed random. Maybe Colin Brush can elaborate?

    • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      I’m sure some people can agree with me that sharing work that you’ve created makes you feel vulnerable. Here, where there’s an open floor for people to call your work shit or call you a shallow writer for whatever reason, it’s easy to think, even for a moment, that this is how the ENTIRE WORLD feels about you. This competition really tests how much you believe in your work, and you have to.

      I’d say it’s a lot more stressful that I’d imagined but I am obvious twisted enough in the right way to want attention of this sort.

      • Suzanne Crone says:

        Yes, sharing your work is stressful. It makes you absolutely vulnerable. It’s important to keep in mind that the best criticism doesn’t insult. Any caring, thoughtful reader respects what you are doing and knows that name-calling or derisiveness is unnecessary and hurtful. It’s good to get clear criticism. You want that.

      • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Suzanne, I think you dealt with it well! You definitely had me challenging myself.

        Do you think you’d feel differently if you were ahead?

        • Suzanne Crone says:

          I’ve been wondering that myself, Andrea. I guess I would. Losing this way is just like getting stomped repeatedly for a whole week. It’s like all these people rejecting your work but never having to say why. If I knew that each person logging in and voting had actually read both pieces, that would soften things a great deal. It would be interesting to be able to revise through the week and have a final kind of “staging” on, perhaps the Saturday, with a final round of voting on Sunday. So, you’d have a week of voting but not without comment/criticism. Writers could revise, or risk not revising. Voters would be invited back to read, and then, vote again with comments. It might be a bit more productive and invite more thoughtful participation on the part of the voters.

          …but that would be a different contest.

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  6. DM Moderator Braydon says:

    In the interest of maybe picking up some discussion here: Suzanne and Andrea, what are your creative processes? What sorts of things do you write other than short fiction? Are your processes different for different genres/modes/projects?

    • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      The second I learned to write my name, I was a writer. It sounds silly, but it’s true. It’s the only act in the world that I know I can always rely on for release, for a creative outlet, for therapy, for fun, for work… And I know no one can take that away. My mom said I walked into kindergarten and taught my class how to spell ‘love’. When I learned to write my name, I wrote it everywhere, even on the kitchen wall.

      But in all seriousness, I’ve kept a journal since I learned to write. I have a massive box in my closest, full of pages even I don’t care to read right now. In high school I began to transfer my thoughts into creative-nonfiction pieces which I would share, and then fictional short stories. I got into journalism and wrote for newspapers in high school and then again in university. I switched my major to film and then I began writing scripts for the screen, while still playing with all of the above. I have one completed script and a few on the go. I write a lot of creative non-fiction and poetry and, now, do interviews and reviews for Toronto Social Review, a hyper-local blog about the ongoings in Toronto. I guess writing makes me feel like I’m ‘getting things done.’

      I still keep a journal, and also a dream journal. I am a visual person, if nothing else. My stories come together in images before they are words, and in feelings before they are images. The mood I am in is highly indicative of what I’m writing, which is why it is hard for me to continue on with a piece I put down and come back to. This is why short stories are good for me, but I’d like to grow up and get bigger. I am trying.

      I am a new writer and I’m still figuring out what works for me. I love learning about peoples reactions and thoughts and routines which is what I’ll take in big part from this experience. I love that Suzanne, someone who’s on to her second novel, can say that she’s still learning on certain things. This excites me. I never want to stop learning or changing, in whatever medium I am writing. But I am rambling about myself now…

      Back on topic, I write in silence. When I’d get interrupted while working I often get unbelievably upset and think, irrationally, that now my piece is garbage because I’ve been interrupted… but I’m finally learning to use my words. As I’m visual, I’ll try to make everything I look at image-wise one that can spark inspiration at any given moment, so if I have trouble starting, I just need to look around. There’s a long list of what this includes but I won’t go into it here….!

    • Suzanne Crone says:

      The first novel I wrote was triggered by a friend who told me to just write and not edit at all along the way. It was a wonderful exercise once I got into it and stopped hesitating. It was interesting to see how, though with little planning, themes came together. The second one that I’m editing now, was much more intentional from the outset. I wrote it, left it in the drawer for, almost two years, and had a wonderfully fresh perspective on it. A friend lent me “The Dramatic Writer’s Companion” which helped me work on my characters. As I am fleshing them out more, the mechanics of the story flow much easier. The characters almost navigate on their own if I am true to them.
      The poetry I wrote that’s on my blog, really wasn’t mine. That came through listening and inspired by some classical music pieces…but I was just a conduit. That was the most wonderful process. I would be out cycling and I would get a tone, or a few words in my head. Once I got home, I would sit in front of the computer and, in the most “other-worldly” feelings, the words would come. This was thrilling.
      The non-fiction pieces I have written were triggered by personal events but as an excellent exercise, it forced me to have a different perspective on things. I’m still learning about this method because I think my language was not as clear as it should have been…my downfall in all my writing; I love a good word and a poetic phrase, but often, it isn’t quite right for the piece.
      I think all of my writing begins with a tone, come to think of it. I have a feeling, before I start, what the cadence is going to be like. Some of my writing is like a hot, slow summer day, while other writing is like a quick brown fox. ‘Still learning on this.
      Probably the most influential quote I have heard that affects my writing was made my the French Director, Jacques Tati. In an interview, he referred to entertainment not being in the theatre or on the stage, but out on the street. That’s where the real comedy is. I find that he’s right. If you watch how people behave, let’s say, when they have to sit beside each other in a waiting room, or walking down the sidewalk and they find they’re walking at the same pace, well, it’s actually pretty funny. But it’s subtle. If I can learn to convey that subtlety, then I might be on my way. Maybe.
      As far as everything else, I can’t write while people are around, and I can’t have music playing. Being strung out on coffee helps initially, but as the day grows, a bit of scotch is good. It’s contemplative. I like to have my desk covered with my material, books, and stuff. It’s all good energy.

      I’m sure I’ll think of more once I’m away from this computer.

        • Suzanne Crone says:

          I’ve read almost all of Cormac McCarthy’s work. I’ve never read an author before who made me weep inside of two sentences, and gasp out loud later on in the same book(The Crossing). I started to read “Blood Meridian” but stopped because of the violence. My son suggested I try again, but with the perspective of McCarthy’s examination of humanity and and how people behave when “this is all they know.” I found the scale of love/hate to be just as strong as that among civilized folks, but just moved a bit to the left on the spectrum. He can write.

          I’m going to see Osage this evening.

        • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          I’m always intrigued by the films that inspire people. I absolutely adore film. I am head over heals for films like The 400 Blows, Jules et Jim, Vivre Sa Vie, It Happened One Night, Spellbound. Good stories. Recently I’ve fallen for Her and Frances Ha, two films that explore extremely personal relationships.

          Have you read Cormac McCarthy? I bought a copy of The Road because I heard it was a beautiful read and that the movie was also great but I haven’t started on either. My to-watch to-read lists are endless.

          Also just saw Meryl’s new one August: Ausage County and it was far, far better than I thought it would be. I would watch it again.

        • Suzanne Crone says:

          Wes Anderson films, all. Fight Club. Pulp Fiction. A River Runs Through It. The English Patient. Anything with Meryl Streep. Fargo. My Week with Marilyn. The Princess Bride. Bagdad Cafe. Mr. Hulot’s Holiday. …

        • Suzanne Crone says:

          From “All the Pretty Horses:”
          He thought the world’s heart beat at some terrible coast and that the worlds pain and beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of the multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.

          From “The Road:”
          Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were the vermiculite patterns that were the maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.

          Of course there are lines from De. Seuss books, Caddy Shack, Blazing Saddles, and then, the poets that I have in my head, Bugs Bunny,To Kill a Mockingbird, Woody Allen films, Monty Python, Eddie Izzard, …

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  7. Suzanne Crone says:

    Suzanne opened her eyes. She was sideways in the fetal position on the couch facing the coffee table, two stuffed chairs and the back of the office. The sun was just making its way into the room, scuttling the shadows back into hiding for the day. Rosco was still asleep under his desk. Suzanne could just make out his foot beneath the front wood panel. The riot of color that was the sticky notes moved slowly and methodically with Rosco’s breathing. She sat up and looked toward the window then stood and turned. The char mark from the mig event was still visible in the middle of the floor. She could still smell notes of cordite, melted carpet, and charred crazy person. She heard a yawn from the ceiling and suspected Moderator Braydon rousing. She walked out of the office into the reception area and the coffee maker in time to see the light flicker on the elevator panel. There was a “ding,” a pause. The elevator doors pulled back slowly, each side like the third eyelid on some predatory animal waking from slumber or in the middle of some throated battle.
    He stood just inside the elevator. He pushed his worn brimmed hat back on his head, removed a glove and, with his index finger, began working at something lodged between his teeth. There was a nicker that came from deeper in the elevator, a rattle of tack, and an impatient stomp from something big. Suzanne stopped where she was and stared, her hands by her sides, her eyes wide and most of the feeling gone from her legs. She could not believe what she was seeing, but there it was; there HE was, and after a quick examination of the offending ort that had worried his gums, he flicked it to the corner and here he came.
    The man was of normal height, but the eyes set in his head took in the whole world, more than one person his size would be expected to, or allowed to. Was it his choice, or was this a curse, to see so much and have to endure? ‘Fine if it was all delight. ‘Fine if it was the sight of the trout navigating the stream or the sound of a coyote pup echoing through the mesa. But the behavior of man was not so dependable as that and the lines on this man’s face gave clues to the hardship, perhaps the horror of his past.
    “‘Mornin’,” the man said. He nodded and stepped over the elevator threshold, his worn boots out of place on the pristine carpeting. He glanced back as he moved. With him, out of the elevator, came a beautiful bay gelding, possibly sixteen hands, with a blaze, a star, and two front socks. There was a scar running down its flank below a brand mark: CmcC. The saddle was not fancy, fitted with a gun sheath, saddlebags and a bed roll. Suzanne noticed an old canteen hung over to the close side of the rig, but also a wind of rope pulling from the pommel, taught but disappearing behind the far side of the animal. As the man moved ahead, the sound of great pounding came with him as his horse, and three more behind stepped their way out of the elevator. All three of the pack horses had people on them. One horse had two and was skitting sideways until it hit a side board, upsetting the vase of red tulips sitting on it next to the client phone. The vase toggled against the back of the sideboard and then launched against the horse’s flank sending him skating away from it and into the next horse, a white mix of one part durable, and three parts evil. The white horse leveled its ears back as far as they could go, wheeled around and bit the leg of the person sitting in front. He let out a cry and dropped his latte on the floor. The man with the hat stepped back to the head of the white horse and grabbed the bit ring and gave it a shake.
    “Here now. Quit.”
    The horse snorted out of its spiraled nostrils, stamped and flung its tail in annoyance. The two people on the horse were ashen. The one in the front was sucking in air through his teeth and holding the fresh wound on his leg with his right hand and the pommel in his left. The man behind, set back behind the cantle, was holding onto the man in front and struggling because his nose ring piercing was caught in the back of the front man’s sweater. The man with the hat turned to check the other two horses, a grey and a chestnut and their cargo. The man and the woman on these two horses, respectively, were busy looking at their phones. The woman had earphones in. The man was scratching his courier-de-bois beard and adjusting his knitted hat that sat on the back of his head. The man came forward toward Suzanne.
    “Hiya. I brought you some stereotypes. Broken Pencil organizers. Ya know…’kind that would think somethin’ like this was a good idea. ‘Name’s Ben.”
    He offered his hand. Suzanne took it and they shook.
    “Nice to meet you. Uhm, you might as well come into the office. ‘Seems to be where everything happens.”
    She showed him the door. “Go on in. I expect that if I made some coffee, you might join me in a cup?”
    “Right I would. I didn’t get your name, miss.”
    ” Sorry. Its Suzanne. I’ll be in in a sec Ben.”
    She stepped to the coffee maker, threw in a filter and four giant scoops of coffee grounds, mindful that Ben would undoubtedly appreciate a strong brew. She looked up in the process and watched as the horses disappeared into the office, the fellow on the tall chestnut smacking his hip forehead on the top of the doorframe. His phone fell to the floor in time for the horse to step on it with its right back hoof. Suzanne filled the water reservoir on the machine, hit the button, then ran to the office door. The back end of the chestnut was taking up all of the room just over the threshold. She put her hand on its rump and pushed until the horse stepped to its left, enough for her to squeeze into the room. She loved the feeling of the horse; like silk, like calm, like all of the earth’s wisdom and power; an animated version of the core of creation that just ‘is’ with no need to impress, or to put up with nonsense, feeling her hand, her frustration, her heartbeat in one touch. “If only humans were like this,” she thought. She was standing there, hand still on the horse when she noticed movement from above. A ceiling tile moved slightly out of kilter. She knew Moderator Brandon was watching. She heard a gasp and then the opening of a book and frantic page-turning. She imagined him, in all his muscles, searching the rule book again.
    All at once, the horses spooked and threw their cargo, bodies hitting the ground hard like guitars off of an airplane. They gathered back in the corner near the window staring at the desk. Rosco had come out from underneath. Most of his sticky notes were no longer stuck to him. Now he was just naked and randomly flecked with colorful squares. He shivered and cupped his hands in front.
    “I don’t feel good,” he said.
    “Well,” Ben said, “ya look like ya feel then. ‘Spose that’s something’ good. Otherwise I might think you were a bit strange…though I ain’t quite sure yet.”
    The people on the floor were standing, moaning, and heading toward the couch. Suzanne stepped through them toward the desk.
    “Rosco, hey, this is Ben. Ben,” she turned toward him,” this is Rosco.” Rosco moved as if to shake hands but then thought better of it and sat down instead. Ben nodded his head, then stepped back to the horses. He undid the right-side pouch on his saddle bags and withdrew a small burlap sack. He undid the tie and poured out a ration of sweet feed in front of each horse. He moved back and loosened the girth on each saddle, one by one, and strung the reins up over the pommels. He ran his hands down their necks to settle them, then moved over and swung one thigh up on the window sill and leaned back against the frame.
    “Well, ain’t this something’ we’ve all got into, hey?”
    Suzanne left and came back in with three cups and the pot full of coffee. It smelled good. Mixed with the smell of the horses and the sweet feed, she was about as happy as she could be. She poured Ben a cup and took it over to him. He took it, his leathery hand around the body of the cup instead of the handle. He nodded toward the scorch mark.
    “‘Happened here?”
    “Oh, just a thing. Nothing of consequence, really.” She paused,” So, who are these stereotypes here with you?”
    “Oh, I don’t know. ‘Jes trying’ ta figure out who thought this kind of contest might be a good idea?”
    “I see. But it was my fault. I signed on for it. I would never do it again, but that’s where it is.”
    There was a sound from above and Moderator Braydon dropped to the floor, landing like a cat, but on two legs.
    “I, uhm, don’t think this is a good idea. I mean, shouldn’t you be scrounging for votes?”
    Suzanne looked at him.
    “Oh come on. Even you don’t believe in that. You know this is simply an effort in loading up on email contacts. If this was about the writing, people would have to comment with each vote. Now THAT would mean something.”
    The people not he couch were quiet. The poor fellow who had lost his phone was sharing with another. Nobody made eye contact. The back part of the pair was still trying to untangle his nose ring from his friend’s sweater.
    “Is this really what the organizers look like?” Suzanne asked.
    “Oh I don’t know. I got no idea really. ‘Thought it might be funny. We could see if they’ve got a sense of humor.”
    Ben took a drink of his coffee and wiped his chin. “‘Sgood.”
    Rosco freed his right hand and took a drink of his that Suzanne had put on the desk in front of him. He put the coffee back down and returned his hand to where it was.
    “Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting this. This social media stuff is really nuts. All of this writing for free. The world has gone bats. BONKERS!”
    Moderator Braydon walked toward the closet behind one of the stuffed chairs and opened the door. He reached in and pulled a pair of pants off of their hangar, took a folded white shirt off of a shelf and handed both to Rosco.
    “Would you put these on please?” He then turned toward the scorch mark on the floor.
    “Suzanne I still don’t know how I’m going to explain all of this,” then he looked back at the stereotypes.
    “They’re not really…”
    “Might not even be close,” she answered. “Ben could be completely off on them so don’t even bother.”
    “Yep. ‘Might be. Fun though, huh?”
    Suzanne laughed. She took a draft on her coffee.
    “At least it’s something. This whole swath of time has been tiresome and irritating, like pulling off a band aid over the whole week. I’d rather just lose and be done with it.”
    Ben shifted on the sill and lit a cigarette. He took his hat off, set it beside him and ran his free hand through his hair. He was actually ruggedly handsome. Suzanne began having thoughts of him taking her roughly on the couch…decided against it for now. ‘Too many people in the room plus she was more inclined…
    “Can you hand me a belt?” Rosco asked. Moderator Braydon complied and grabbed one from the closet.
    “I have to go now. I have to file a Moderator Report. ‘Nice to meet you Ben.”
    He waved at Suzanne then jumped to catch a ceiling pipe with his right hand. His enormous muscles on his right arm rippled and bulged. He pulled himself up.
    “Man. Andrea isn’t this much trouble. I must say, this IS FUN though. CmcC. Hmmm. Nice,” he said, then secured the ceiling tile back to its spot.
    The horses were quiet now. They stood, each on three straight legs with one back leg bent. Each had a relaxed lower lip and a drowsy look to them. Even the stereotypes settled back for a nap. Rosco sat in his chair and put his feet up on his desk. He and Ben and Suzanne chatted, drank coffee and waited to see if Andrea was going to offer up something. It was now mid day.

    • DM Moderator Braydon says:

      Moderator Braydon does enjoy that he’s become a character in this new story. That’s because Moderator Braydon is an incurable narcissist, though.

    • Suzanne Crone says:

      The phone rang in the office. Rosco answered it and put it on speaker phone.
      “Suzanne, it’s someone in the lobby for you with some kind of riddle.”

      The someone spoke:

      “Knock, knock,”
      “Who’s there?”
      “I’mthe who?”
      “I’mthe Grim Reaper, is this Death Match over yet?”

      “I wish,” Suzanne groaned. ” You might as well come up to the office. Wait. Stay there. We’ll send a horse for you!”

    • Suzanne Crone says:

      Ben looked up from his coffee and noticed that the bay gelding was talking on a phone. He had a giant Bluetooth piece in his canoe-sized ear and was neighing in low, soft tones.
      “Hey, fella. Who ya talking’ to?”
      He replied, in neigh-speak, “Oh, it’s just my friend Flicka…”

    • Suzanne Crone says:

      There was a knock at the door. Rosco answered it.
      “Hi, Mr. Perdu. Frank Shikadance from building maintenance. ‘Odd question, umm,” and he looked around the office.
      “Horses? You have horses in your office?”
      “Yes. Yes Frank, I do. Why?”
      “Oh, no reason sir. I just finished cleaning something up in the lower foyer and I thought…never mind. have a nice day sir.”
      “Okay then. Right Frank. Keep up the good work!”

  8. hat says:

    boy-o-boy-o-boy this thing is getting quite. I guess no one sticks around when there’s a lost cause before the weekend hits. Maybe Suzanne will tap into some global network of bridge players and take it all back in a swooping hour when Andrea is docile and complacent.

    Sooooo, I guess we’re here to talk about stories, and how good and bad they are. Everyone wants to write a good story packed with meaning and content and no one wants to be accused of leaving the juice out.

    I’m going to pick on Eraser for a bit because it’ssss the easier target. All this ‘the daughter stands for something in her relationship to her mother.”Sometimes the best and most important part of a person is the part you don’t know about.’

    Does anyone else just want to say ‘fuck it’ and read this story at face value? There’s a woman who’s choking on an eraser and is somehow too proud to ask for help and then you find out she’d not 19 but super old and think ‘that’s funny’ and you read the notes she leaves behind for journalists and think ‘that’s funny’ and then laugh at how nervous she is to die in such an embarrassing way. It was super fun to read. And all these clues seem like bullshit. I truly don’t believe we’ve got some hidden meaning behind this one. I don’t think it’s travelling to the depths of our human psyche. But whatever it’s fun to read anyway.

    Andrea, are you OK being labeled a shallow writer with a strong sense of wit? It seems like you’ve got a bigger fan base anyway and isn’t that what this is all about?

    • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      I read an article in the Star where they spoke to last years winner of their own contest Fred Ni and what he said inspired me to try comedy, which I don’t normally write. Here’s the snip-it:

      “These short stories are short. Write one emotional breath, no more,” he wrote in an email. Ni also advised writers to look on the bright side. “The majority of short stories are dark and sombre — not sure why,” he wrote. “Maybe to display sensitivity?”

      “I can understand that but if you want to stand out, write something hopeful, happy even. I know it’s harder to write something positive but dare to be different from the rest of the literary crowd. In general, smile and pretend you’re happy.”

      So I tried that, albeit it’s far darker than I’d hoped for.

      The way a reader interprets my story is up to them. Just like in life, you can choose to take words at face value, or read into them. Based on your comment, I am assuming (for the sake of argument) that you’re the type of person who takes words at face value. You want everything to be obvious and, when it’s not, you say ‘fuck it.’ Not everything is going to resonate with you and that’s fine, but I wouldn’t ever discount the meaning behind anything, just because I don’t understand it.

      No, I’m not okay with being a shallow writer and it’s too bad that you see me that way. I am pretty witty, though, so we have that belief in common.

      And for the record, I don’t think middle-aged is super old, but now I’m just arguing for argument’s sake.

    • Johnny 2 shoes says:

      May as well get it out there so I can leave this conversation with my head held high. I pulled the pin on this voting method wayyyyy earlier this week when my primordial brain stem kicked in and said, hey what exactly is going on here??? Ya, I know, if you don’t like it, well there’s the door… but really? This is how to select a writer that may get another review??? I think this forum can and has provided good opportunity for both writers to get some critical analysis on their submissions that can help them improve. Whoever gleans the most from those comments will carry the day (or week). The responses tell the tale on that one. That’s where it stops, for me anyhow. Enjoy the rest of the entertainment..

      • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        David Brown who won deathmatch a few years ago said that you’ve already won if you get accepted into the competition so that’s all I was personally hoping for. Unfortunately, it’s rare that people often remember the runner-up so there’s my bring it on attitude.

        My favourite, part, however, is the feedback that’s here. I like that the people with positive comments use their real names and the ones with negative comments use nicknames. Fueling thoughts for another little piece I’m writing.

        Either way, this is quite enjoyable… although I’m getting worried about Suzanne. I fear she won’t ever be able to converse in any other form than narrative.

  9. Peggy Jennings says:

    If one of the criteria for landing top spot in the Broken pencil competitiom is that the characters be born of off-the-wall brainy zingers then Suzanne Crone’s ‘Dent-O-Taste’ must surely spin through the roof. Now there’s a talent worth celebrating.

  10. Suzanne Crone says:

    Moderator Braydon Beaulieu opened his eyes and cursed. Another fitful night sleeping in the ceiling over Rosco’s office. He had seen the whole event yesterday with the sticky notes, the lunatic and the mig fighter jets through a shifted ceiling tile. He spent the next four hours scanning the rule files but couldn’t find anything that seemed to restrict air traffic or ordinance. He ended up playing more Portal until the smoke cleared. Night came and went. Now, dawn was breaking. He shifted the ceiling tile over further and jumped down to the floor with his moderator kit belt in his hand. He hated it. It pinched and he was constantly sticking himself with the sword. Braydon dropped the belt on the sofa and stretched. This was important because Braydon Beaulieu was ripped. He pulled off his shirt and began and indexed roll call of his muscles; he flexed them one at a time, because he could. Two hours later, he completed his task and sat in the lotus position in front of the window with the now-higher sun beaming in on him. He meditated for a half hour and actually levitated three feet off the floor, because he could. Calm and contemplative, he looked ahead and noticed the tape on the windows that had been installed after the strafing yesterday. He took a slow breath and removed the tape, all four pieces, with his mind, because he could. He got up onto his feet and looked out over the city. He took his “moderator” sign out from his belt along with the sword and went through the various moderator moves that he was trained in. He moved like a cat. He was swift…maybe like a cat made out of smoke. His feet never even bent the rug pile. No motion sensor would ever have picked him up. The display wasn’t so much Moderator Braydon Beaulieu moving through the three sets of moderator poses, but instead, a collection of atoms thinking as one, like a flock of birds shifting and diving in the wind. He flexed his muscles again. Two hours later, he heard commotion; the work day was beginning. He made himself a cup of coffee, took some crackers and a pack of cookies from the office kitchen, and pulled himself back up into the ceiling with one hand. He replaced the ceiling tile, fired his laptop, and situated his belt within arms reach in case he should need it. Moderator Braydon settled in for another day.
    “Oh god. Oh god another day.” He thought.

  11. Wendy Anderson says:

    I don’t know how getting one’s pals to vote as many times as their fingers can muster equates to choosing the best short story – if it’s even possible to determine that as it is entirely a matter of taste. Frankly, I grow tired of popularity contests determining the artistic value of anything – but – BUT…if it can spawn the kind of camaraderie that we all get to voyeuristically take pleasure in like displayed between these two authors (proving the pen is mighty mighty) then I’m all for it – LOVE what you two have done with this socially uncomfortable situation – huzzah for you!

  12. Suzanne Crone says:

    Just as Samantha made the diary entry about Suzanne falling so far behind in the votes, a radio man walked into a commanders office, somewhere in the Pacific.
    “Monkeys on the ceiling, Sir,” he said.
    Minutes later, in Toronto, while a bloated Rob Ford Moron Float bobbed down the main street drawing focus, six mig fighter jets dropped below the cloud deck and veered toward the office tower. They banked and screamed past the window on the 30th floor, unloaded their cargo and screamed back up into the sky. Samantha caught all of the fire and frankly, just evaporated. Rosco wasn’t missing even one sticky note. He stepped over the char spot towards the window as one of the migs came around for a solo pass. He could see the pilot. It was Giselle. She had her visor up and blew Rosco a kiss and smiled. Her teeth were all white and gun-fighty. Then she disappeared back up above the clouds.
    Rosco turned to Suzanne.
    “I love that darn Giselle.”
    “I know Rosco. Help me clean up these fucking erasers, would ya?”

    …O’Henry, O’Henry, O’Henry…

  13. Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Diary,

    Samantha here. Had the most peculiar dream last night. It began with me standing in the hallway of a dimly lit office. There wasn’t anyone around, at first. The walls were yellowing and there were old posters of toothpaste ads stuck on the wall with tape that was beginning to dry up. Some of the corners peeled and curled up in quiet an uninviting manner. I felt nervous, like the building might collapse with age.

    At the end of the hallway there was a cupboard full of brand new HB pencils. These little jerks have been haunting me every night since… God. Do I need to say it? I can’t even stomach the site of them, even in my dreams. I threw up in the corner.

    I was wiping the vomit from my chin when a hilariously tall yet meager man turned down the hallway towards me. He was naked, I think, save for the yellow post-it notes that were grasping on to the tiny hairs all over his body. Even on the… private part.

    “Rosco?” I said.

    Who Rosco is, I don’t know. Because of later events (see below), I’m thinking I met him at that alternative bird watching club I joined because Abigail said I needed a hobby. I had to quit, though, because bird didn’t mean the animal and alternative meant sex. (Note to reader: my diary entry on that disaster is in the purple silk book with the woman’s face sewn on the front.) Anyway… Rosco turned into Suzanne’s office, who I knew in my dream, but can’t recall in real life.

    Alone again, I felt a compulsion to put a pencil or two into my purse. I resisted mentally but my dream carved this path for me and I was forced to take it. Next thing I knew I was in Suzanne’s office, crouched on the floor beside the couch where naked Rosco sat. I started to draw little circles on his post-it notes because I was afraid that, if I didn’t put the pencils to work, the pencils would make me swallow them whole.

    Suzanne was explaining the rules of this writing competition to the utterly daft and, as it became obvious, drunk Rosco. It was clear that she’d been crying over falling so far behind in the votes but I didn’t feel bad for her. She had published novels and newspaper articles authored to her name all over her desk and I know that Andrea is working hard to get a desk that looks like that.

    After a while, Rosco yelled, “Buttons!” at my v-neck tee and grabbed for them. My breasts sat directly beneath where they were sewn so you could imagine my surprise. His hands knocked the pencil I was holding loose and it jumped to life, stabbing me in the leg. Blood EVERYWHERE. It was here that I woke up.

    Another point for pencils on the nightmare front. Must remember to look into the meaning of the rest of the dream. More importantly, must work on the second draft of the plan. Got some good feedback. If all goes well I’ll be meeting with Claire on Saturday. Round 2.

    Yours forever and always,
    Samantha Able

  14. Suzanne Crone says:

    “Writing is one of the loneliest efforts. I…”
    A door opens.
    “G-g-gooodmoooorning Su-ssssSuzanne.”
    She turns to see what appears to be a full grown man covered in sticky notes.
    “Rosco? Are you…naked under all that?”
    He looks down, staggers and pulls a sticky note off of his chin.
    “Yep. I guess…I guess I am.”
    He reaches over to Suzanne’s desk, takes a pen and begins writing on the sticky note he pulled off of his chin:
    “Noooooote-tooooo-self. Ge-e-e-ettttt sssssso-o-ome clooooothezzzzzzzzzzon.”
    He puts the pen down and sticks the note to his forehead.
    “I’m on it chief!”
    He salutes and then drifts himself and all his glory onto the couch.
    “Rosco, what’s going on? This isn’t in the story?”
    “Oh, I know, but I was bored and as CEO of the company, I have access to ALLL of the sticky. Giselle and I passed a very nice night together. I actually never made it home. She ended up coming back to get me.”
    Suzanne pushes her chair back, turns towards Rosco and folds her arms in front of her.
    “Let me guess. She came in through the air vents and then down to your office through…”
    “Through the evelator…evlemator…el…ding-box.”
    “You’re drunk again…or is this STILL?”
    Rosco holds his hands straight up.
    “I am yes what I am.”
    He raises himself up on one elbow and looks at Suzanne. He reminds her of a giant bird from the Outdoor channel.
    “Sssso, hey. Wha’s going on around here? Who’s that weird lady over there with the pencils?”
    Suzanne turns and looks through the door. She sees Samantha Able rummaging through the cupboard where the pens and pencils are kept. She seems to be stowing things in her purse.
    “Well, we’re in this contest, you see. My story has been chosen as one of the eight finalists in the Broken Pencil Death Match 2014.”
    Rosco sits up.
    “Really? You mean your story all about meeeee?”
    “Yes, believe it or not.”
    Suzanne leans over and hands Rosco a pillow.
    “Here. Please.”
    Rosco takes the pillow and sets it on his lap and laughs.
    “Ooooops. Sorry. Sometimmmmmes, sticky can be TRICKY!”
    He snorts. Suzanne drinks coffee.
    “Well that’s jes fine! Congratumations. Confabu…nice work chief!”
    He leans back. A moment passes. Suzanne looks over at him and sees that his head is down. He has one hand with thumb and fingers holding his forehead and his shoulders are shaking. She hears a soggy intake of breath.
    “Rosco? What’s wrong? Are you crying?”
    “I yes love you soooo much. ‘Cause you made me. An’ you made my beautiful wife Giselle. She is soooo hot, and sooooo smart that I can…I love you so mush. An’ now you’ve won a contest. …sooo proud.”
    “Hang on. It’s not that simple.”
    Suzanne gets up and goes into the kitchen. She comes back holding a kleenex box and offers one to Rosco.
    “Don’t cry Rosco. Your stickies will all come off.”
    He takes a couple and blows his nose. She puts the box down.
    “It’s just that this contest is a bit different.”
    “Differn’t? How?
    “Well, it’s called a DEATH MATCH.”
    “Oh, arch, you’re not gonna die are you?”
    “No, no…no Rosco. Not today. But this is a competition.”
    “Oh, right. It’s a competition about the writing. Of course.”
    “Well, yes and no.”
    “Suzanne, I’m conflu…cons…I don’ unnerstand.”
    “Yes, initially, it was about the writing. My story was chosen and that made me so happy! You. Yes, Rosco, You were chosen! And then I was slated up against another story…”
    Samantha comes into the room.
    “Yes, my story.”
    “Right, Samantha’s story that Andrea wrote. Our stories were put up on a website beside each other and now, we’re in the middle of a week-long voting mash up. People come to the site and vote for which story they like better.”
    “Tha’s so cool. What a great idea.”
    “Yes, it is, and people can log in and comment. I’ve gotten some excellent feedback and constructive criticism from people. Thoughtful. Oh, and from our moderator too. He’s nice.”
    Rosco shifts.
    “I like that he’s nice. An’ your nice. Giselle is nice to. I mean, she’s reeeeally nice.! Voting is nice. But did you win? How long…a whole week?”
    “Yes, and people can vote as many times as much as once an hour.”
    Samantha sits down beside Rosco.
    “Geez. I can’t wait around here all this time? I have to go find Claire. She’s evil, you know!”
    “Yes, so I’ve heard. Well, I guess things wrap up Friday night. Social media at its best. ‘Wish I had an old copy of the census or some of that info hacked from TARGET.”
    Suzanne looks over and notices that Samantha is taking Rosco’s sticky notes off, one at a time, and drawing patterns on them with the pencils she has stolen. She has completed three and stuck them back onto Rosco’s thigh.The notes are covered with small circles and begin, as she keeps going, to make it seem like Rosco’s wearing dotted pants. Suzanne shakes her head and gets back to her work. Over the next hour, she hears giggling and laughing. She looks back and Samantha has organized Rosco into a sticky-note-three-piece suit covered in circles.
    “This is sooo strange,” Suzanne says to herself. “‘Hope I’m not losing my mind.”

  15. Suzanne Crone says:

    “Day three. We heard the pack ice closing in on the boat. Groans and yowls shot up from the sides that could have intimated some scene set in a bayou or Appalachian darkness. I looked down at my coffee and pulled my coat tighter. The dogs were upset, but quiet. The other men sat wishing they were elsewhere. Elsewhere, any elsewhere, would have been a dream.”

  16. Troll says:

    I think the man behind the curtain at broken pencil secretly revels in the power and mayhem that is deathmatch. I believe he is happiest knowing we’re staying up all hours of the day and night chained to our hourly votes to vote for our dear friends, hoping to ensure their success. LOVE LIVE DEATHMATCH.

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    • Johnny 2 shoes says:

      Aha, that’s it isn’t it!!! This has nothing to do with the authors or the stories! They are just pawns in a bigger game and the voting public is being drawn into the vortex… How stupid of me not to have known nothing is sacred. Hopes dashed…

  17. Johnny 2 shoes says:

    Thanks Stacey-Anne for lending some common sense here. This voting once per hour does what exactly beyond inflate numbers? I vote for one vote period. Hello moderator…

    • Momma Bear says:

      GO TEAM ANDREA !!! It pays to have a large loving family, not only at Christmas. The friend network spreads from Country to Country, not city to city. TEAM ANDREA !!! Or yah, I did read the essays too. But what do I know. My highest English mark in high school was 69.

    • DM Moderator Braydon says:

      Unfortunately I have no control over this! But I do hope Broken Pencil listens to your feedback and considers it for future Deathmatches. For what it’s worth, I agree (and I also think rounds could be shorter). But I see why Broken Pencil hasn’t changed their formula over the past few years – funding for their magazine might depend, in part, on site hits and engagement. And other reasons, I’m sure.

      • Johnny 2 shoes says:

        No worries (and thanks for your vote :)!. The format is the format and clearly there likely is a method to the madness that escapes me.

        Ok, back to the bantering/sparring oh yeah, and voting…

  18. DM Moderator Braydon says:

    Both stories are wonderfully weird and they exemplify the type of writing that Broken Pencil champions. (Can’tLit?) I want to highlight a couple strengths and areas for improvement that I see in these stories. That’s what I’m supposed to do as moderator, right? I dunno. Whatever. Here goes.

    “Dent-O’s ‘Taste-O’ the South” succeeds because it’s just deranged. It’s an extreme vision of a culture of instant gratification. This story is where we go when anything we need or want is just a One-Click Buy away. I think there’s an interesting critique going on here – a critique that suggests that the pursuit of happiness (through consumer culture) is an absurd pursuit. I think the story could be stronger if toothpaste were the only product that grants these abilities and whatnot. You can only use it so many times a day before you actually start damaging your teeth, so it would be a great way to show the “too much of a good thing” concept if characters started losing their teeth because they brush them for so much instant gratification. Sort of like the orgasm mouse or whatever.

    “Eraser” is an effective story because of its limited timeframe. It’s just odd to imagine Samantha Able spending (what she thinks are) her last moments writing a description of her death. The confined nature of its setting allows for some pretty effective description and time-warping narration. It’s a bizarre story that had me legit laughing out loud at parts. And its use of repetition seems very on-point. I wonder, though, if the concept of “erasure” could be pushed here. What does the eraser erase while it’s lodged in Samantha Able’s throat? This is a story of someone who, effectively, loses her voice, but we never really see any ramifications of her temporary muteness (maybe because the story’s setting is a classroom, where she mightn’t talk anyway).

    Okay, /intrusion. Carry on.

    • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Very good thoughts. Concept of erasure is definitely something I could explore in great depth. Might bring up a stronger ending as well. Thanks much!

    • Suzanne Crone says:

      True, and thank you. But the picture is about the broader societal framework and how we buy into the “lifestyles” of all of the products that we buy. This is what leads Rosco to be so enthralled with his buttons. They are the only things in his life that seem to be straight ahead and pure. The “too much of a good thing” idea here, I like, and might like to work that in more in that we become what we buy and lose touch with who we really are. I kind of like the loop I’ve made as it brings the consumer smack into “Truth.” Yes, ending needs work, but I like that theme.

      • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        It’s worth a look at the parallels or connections between the father/son here, as well. Would Farquhar want to give in to a quick fix? You play with height difference and mention Farquhar might be against the way Rosco’s doing business so perhaps this and other binaries should be emphasized? In the end it’s Rosco coming ’round to his father’s ways…? Just thoughts…

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        • Suzanne Crone says:

          Yes, I would love to go back from the moment he takes the box of toothpaste into his office and go from there. A stronger thread from his father woven with his disillusionment at the zeitgeist(fake teeth) to, pardon the pun, “button up” the ending. ‘Seems so clear now. Damn it!

  19. Stacey-Anne says:

    Suzanne’s story is overwritten in parts, causing distraction from the tale. Andrea’s story is underwritten. It’s easier for people to vote for an underwritten story, as it is faster to digest…and this is the internet. Andrea will probably win (and I did vote for the story because I liked the amount of thought and perspective coming into a moment of perceived dying). Also, two days ago I wondered how people know what they are actually allergic to, vs what the doctor tells them about their own body / existence. However, this does not necessarily the better writer make, but will get Andrea through this round.

    A real ending is actually needed, Andrea. Andrea’s story shows the makings of a writer but lacks the maturity to pull all the ideas she has dropped in together. I suggest delving in in your rewrite for the next round and figuring out your ending so that you can drop something meaningful in sooner to tie to the more satisfying new ending and come full circle. I don’t really care about the dog. There has been no relationship built around the dog for me to care.

    Also, the middle-age woman comment made earlier (re Andrea’s story) is interesting. It was a surprise, indeed, especially since (as pointed out), her thought and language is quite young. So, if she is middle-age, then more showing / hinting at her being an anxiety-ridden middle-age woman would benefit that stream.

    Suzanne: look closely at your sentences and see if you can cut a bit here and there to keep me closer.

    Andrea: if you continue to answer editorial / reader feedback with “I don’t have to put it all in the story, use your imagination,” you will limit your future writing career and the potential strength of your work.

    Thanks for two interesting reads, ladies. Good luck out there. I would never vote more than once per round.

    • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Blink twice. Pat your belly, then your head, then both at the same time for 45 minutes. Stand up. Sit down. Meditate for 10 minutes. That should shorten the hour.

      Did you get me a coffee?

  20. Trichotillomania Tyrannosaurus says:

    Hmmm… This board really needs to get some discussion happening beyond the competitors telling each other how bored they are… so sad… Andrea, why do you turn your somewhat interesting narrator and her rival into middle age women near the end of your story when they clearly do not have any foreshadowing to that effect and sound like they should be normal college students? Claire and Samatha could very well have a great twenty-something beef happening but then suddenly they’re middle age? Yawn… Why? What purpose does this serve in your story, especially when Samatha sounds so young? If you want your reader to buy the whole “I’m choking on an eraser and dying and yet would rather write my story than ask someone for a Heimlich”, then you really need to give us a reason to give a shit. Tell us sooner that she’s middle age and then that makes her plight more believable. I don’t care about the setting at all – Samatha could be choking on an eraser in a much more interesting settting than a lecture – and if it’s a lecture, make something appropriate happen.
    And Suzanne… if toothpaste is all that, then why doesn’t Rosco use “better than viagra paste” and go home with his super hero wife and forget his troubles or why doesn’t he use “nuke the competition to hell paste” and blow up the bastards who gasp… make someone likeable! Your story is capitaving but the ending sucks ass. It doesn’t live up to the promises of it’s beginning. I really like the dummy wood teeth. Reminds me of Slappy from Goosebumps and Anthony Hopkins in “Magic” which was a truly creepy movie. You should have had everyone’s teeth fall out from the toothpaste and Rosco sitting in his office with Daddy’s wooden chompers in his mouth.

    Both stories have promise and are intriguing but neither is over the top enough to care – I think you both need some editing…

    • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Hiya Trichotillomania Tyrannosaurus. Thank you for your thoughts. It’s a good question about not alluding earlier to Samantha’s age. It’s something that I toyed with but wasn’t sure how to bring it up without drawing attention to it until I was ready. I didn’t want a twenty-somethings beef because that feels too common. These things go on, though. I hear stories. I wanted this beef to be something that has gone on… and on… and on… so much so that now Samantha’s adult daughter is now involved.

      Samantha not asking for help when she’s choking is a whole other attribute. She’s obviously passive. She isn’t supposed to be in the class. She’d be invisible if she’d bought that type of toothpaste from Rosco. She wouldn’t ask for help. I don’t think I need to spell that one out.

      Aaaaand Slappy from Goosebumps. An image I did not want to be reminded of.

      I was thinking about Suzanne’s ending and the idea of fabricating a persona versus being and building one on your own. Should Rosco have a more obvious ah-ha moment here? The beginning is so visually striking and quirky but I feel this isn’t maintained to the end. Maybe Rosco needs to be more over the top for us to come to terms with also wanting to be without supernatural toothpaste.

      • Trichotillomania Tyrannosaurus says:

        Yes, I agree that maybe Rosco should be more over the top at the end of Suzanne’s story. She ends up pushing the reader out of the story instead of ramping it up and really bringing us in at the end.

        And I agree a middle age beef (that long and that intense) in your story is an interesting twist, but we really need to see more of this so it resonates and makes the reader want to know more. You have a lot of great material to work with to tweak your story.

        Good luck to both of you.

    • Suzanne Crone says:

      Agh, there it is. I knew I was going to take heat for the ending. Thanks for reading at least! The ending, in my head, happened a lot slower than it seemed to come out on paper. Your idea is a good one but the heart to the story is about reality versus the cloaks and tweaking we do to make life seem just fine and Rosco realizes this. Nothing is what it is. The story is about getting back in touch to some kind of reality…through dental hygiene. And I was jammed by the word count.

      Boy, I really need coffee…

  21. Shambles says:

    Eraser has nearly double the points of that Dent-O story. Well, Andrea looks like a young buck. Fresh out of school. She probably has am energetic young friend list and a better handle on facebook than that self described big-banger. Lets watch her keep a steady lead over the fossil from the left side of the screen. But Dent-O is a way better story. Boozing on toothpaste vs erasing your teeth till you can’t breath. Lets call that even in the creativity department. Why not. But the rest. What’s this student-stalker wearing. We don’t know. She doesn’t talk to her buttons. Where was she a day, a month, a year ago. Give me something about her daughter. Give me something about the sabotage plan. She’s a train wreck with rubber caught in her throat. She’s witty so i like her, I care, but I only half as much as I should because I don’t know anything about her.

    But this Dent-O wash up. His dad with the doll teeth. The swollen lip that keeps him from giving off advice. It’s super bizarre. He’s driving the family company to the ground, so he’s getting drunk on the goopy bourbon he made. We have a whole make-believe world where it’s too easy to be liked. We’ve got a wife that breaks through windows. We’ve actually got a life flesh out.

    Eraser is fun. But Dent-O is fun, wacky, and wildly impressive.

    So Suzanne, get your kids to show you how to spam a contact list. You deserve this. Then when it’s done we’ll all toast with a round of tubed booze.

    • Anna Mackay-Smith says:

      Totally agree with this summation. Suzanne’s story is fantastic and yes bizarre but in exactly right way. Don’t let this be a popularity contest of facebook friends. And although I agree Andrea’s story is great too, I think Suzanne’s should win, hands down.

    • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Hi Shambles. Hope you’re doing okay today.

      Thank you for the compliments regarding my age. About my story, thanks for the input. But why is what Samantha is wearing important? Who cares where she was before this? Don’t you ever have moments where you’re wholly in something that what comes before and after don’t matter? If not, I’d be happy to suggest some hobbies.

      As for the daughter… okay… I get it… Yes, I do need to add a bit more on that front. She’s elusive and stands for something in her relationship to her mother but I don’t want to spoon feed my readers. My story strives on subtleties. You’re smart. You can figure it out.

      There aren’t enough words involved in this competition to delve into trivialities like that.

        • Suzanne Crone says:

          I’ve read Didion, Winterson, and the Glass Castle. Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” is a masterpiece, I think. I learned a lot about writing reading that and some of his short stories. Similar to your writing in that he doesn’t give it all away, but he gives us enough (:)). Recently I read a bazillion Cormac McCarthy books. It wasn’t so much that I was keen on his subject matter, New Mexico, and all that, but that I fell in love with his sentences. I actually carry a couple of his paragraphs around with me because I don’t know if I’ve read anything more beautiful in a long time. I would finish one of his books and keep it with me for a week or so because I would turn back to something or other. He made a big impact on me. I think the biggest thing I learned was to take my time. Sometimes I feel, when I’m writing, that I have to scurry through a scene, but if I slow the pace, beautiful things happen. Poetic things. I read “The Road” and the final paragraph of that story is one of the one’s that I carry with me. It is so beautiful. Books appeal at certain times though. I don’t know that I would have gotten as much out of Cormac five years ago. Or Wallace, for that matter.

        • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          I haven’t, though his work has been recommended to me on more than one occasion. Do you recommend anything specifically?

          I’m a big fan of Jeanette Winterson, Joan Didion, Chuck Palahniuk… Irvine Welsh. Aphra Behn. I enjoy Miriam Toews and pulpy books like The Glass Castle. And poetry… Bukowski. Edna St Vincent Millay…

          Who do you read?

      • Suzanne Crone says:

        One brilliant clue is “…when they excavate my house and find all my diaries…understand my brilliance.” That gives me the impression that there may be/have been money, at least enough to buy a house. The word “excavate” makes me think that Samantha may be a hoarder, supporting the already evident mental instability. But yes, the daughter…

    • Suzanne Crone says:

      Hey, thanks Shambles. I do feel I need somebody’s list. But nobody put a gun to my head to sign up for this. Grateful for your comments. Happy for criticism. Sitting, blinking while the ship pulls away is a bit tough.

      • Suzanne Crone says:

        I just got in, and I might just go out again and find an all-night root canal stand. The thought of this going on all week is barbaric. I must have pinched kittens in a previous life. ‘Should have given this story to The Malahat, or Toothpaste Quarterly. fuck it.

        • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          Oh yes, I see what you mean. I didn’t have them in italics, though I played with it. I always wondered how one could write without quotation marks and italics at all and still have readers understand where it’s going. I try it often. I suppose I’m still finding my way.

          I was wondering about formatting being a bit off in the posts. Oh well.

        • Suzanne Crone says:

          I might have separated things differently. Opened with a colin. You may have had the “Squeaks” in italics in your submitted copy. I had italics in mine but they disappeared on the board here…which kind of bugs me because it’s part of it. Did you?

        • Suzanne Crone says:

          Yes. Coffee here too. What about punctuation Andrea? My pet peeve. I know it’s picky but it’s a thing. I know there are authors out there who seem to do their own thing.

        • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          Gosh. Need coffee. You’d come back *as a fly and EAT poop.

          I guess either or is worse than what you’ve got now. But to each their own.

        • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          If you were a really mean person, you’d come back as fly and poop. So you must have done something right!

          Also, didn’t I read that you’ve been published before? I’m basically soliciting votes to get into that club.

    • Brian Cauley says:

      Shambles, sometimes those extrenious details are that, extrenious. Contiouslly omitting elements can be a sign of courage in writers. It forces us, the readers, to focus and imagine. In the case of Eraser, we must consider the main characters nerosis, nay, we must stare at it. Who she is is secondary to her motives; which really say everything about a person – you are your choices.

      • Suzanne Crone says:

        You do need to develop the characters at least to a point where we can understand a percentage of their impetus, their context. We need a reason to care or feel moved by them. Otherwise it’s simply a ramble. If we’re still scratching our head at the end, we haven’t connected with them. By adding just a few more clues, the whole character of Samantha could be even more unsettling.

      • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Noticed you used ‘spent’ twice in reference to empty toothpaste tubes. It felt a bit repetitive given that it’s such a short story.

        I’m also wondering your thoughts on why Farquhar would wonder if bourbon is an appropriate direction for the 78th year? I was looking for a link in Farquhar’s story that would suggest he’d be against liquor but it didn’t come up.

        • Suzanne Crone says:

          Thanks for that. Nice catch. You’re right. And I was pondering Farquhar’s attitude toward the Bourbon, because he does say that “Change is good.” I think I need to work on this a bit as evident of his attitude towards the marketplace and sound business decisions. Good point.

          ‘Back soon.

  22. Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I can’t stop thinking of teeth. When I was 10 I was visiting with my Grandma and we were getting ready for bed when she told me she had to clean her teeth.

    “You mean brush, Grandma?”

    “No. Clean. I have to take my teeth out and clean them.”

    I must have looked curious and sweet because she smiled and offered to show me. As you can imagine, I went along with this. The wonders of figuring shit out when you’re a kid.

    Worst. Decision. Ever.

    She popped her teeth out and I believe I lost all colour instantly. it was then that she started to laugh. A toothless, laughing Grandma. And I couldn’t look away. It was gross. I almost blocked it out of my mind but then I found the cup with her teeth in it the next morning and that pretty much solidified it all in my memory bank.

    And now it’s back. Thanks Farquhar.

  23. Johnny 2 shoes says:

    I really liked your story Suzanne. Lots of bits in there for one to ponder (even to Google for some!). I enjoyed the characters you framed out nicely. A good balance without being smothered…Don’t get stressed about the numbers. No one was thinking the Seahawks would move past San Fransisco! It’s all about substance and the 4th quarter!!…

  24. Suzanne Crone says:

    So this is how it’s going to be all week? You’re just going to slaughter me without any attempt at discussion, verbal sparring, or at least, a reading of a grocery list? Anything? You could at least hum Nimrod’s Adagio as I’m lowered into the ground. Geez.

  25. Deb Lawther says:

    Loved reading the Eraser! It captured the speed of thought and forced me to read at the same pace to discover the conclusion. Perhaps that was not the intent and my age became a factor in the speed I felt compelled to maintain in order to comprehend what seemed like rapid fire thought.

    • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      The pace is intentionally quickened by using long sentences with lots of words and action. Pair this with short choppy ones and fragments and it keeps you going. Glad you read it that way Deb! Thanks for reading!

      • Suzanne Crone says:

        It’s funny, there’s a Garrison Keillor novel about a radio station. The news guy is reading the news and someone lights his pants on fire. He reads the news really fast, but gets it done, I think. ‘Thought I’d share that before heading off to bed.

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  26. DM Moderator Braydon says:

    Everyone good? Everyone’s good. Good.

    I like you two. You’re civil. That’ll probably change, though. I’ll keep the mop and the bleach handy.

  27. Tester tick says:

    I don’ know. Eraser kinda feels like it’s missing something. Don’t know what the whole big sabotage plan is. I don’t know how Clair Jenson was ruining her life. Did Andrea forget to add that part? Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

  28. Wendy Thorne says:

    For a short while I was in her head this morning; viewing the world through Samantha Abel’s eyes. Always fascinated by others and how they deal with life….and death. Poor Samantha, her life erased by a pink multi purpose rubber! Great job Jeanie Beanie!

  29. Suzanne Crone says:

    Excellent idea Braydon. Safety first! Me? I slept up in a tree last night, fitted in my winter suit of armor. Winter sword and all. I just wasn’t sure if someone was going to sneak up while I was sleeping and make punctuation comments. Nothing happened and now I’m just cold and clangy. My sword caught as I was jumping out of the tree and walloped me on the back of my helmet… or was that a dream?

    Perhaps coffee now.

    Andrea? Are you up?

  30. DM Moderator Braydon says:

    Welcome to the Deathmatch, folks. Suzanne, Andrea: Good luck! If you’ll excuse me, I have to cut the erasers off all my pencils and file a patent on bourbon toothpaste. See you tomorrow.

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