Deathmatch 2014 Quarterfinals Round 2

Deathmatch Moderator

Hart: Ageless, Timeless, Nameless, Faceless, Hartless.  My only wish is to enslave that which enslaves me which is nothing, and so I am eternally cracking the whip of indifference upon the back of a malignant desire.




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.

Last Round: Results

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 Big Everything

by James C. Strouse

It was Take Your Daughter to Work Day and I didn’t have a job so the girls and I slept in till noon, then went downtown to the Mexican grocery store for breakfast.

“It’s actually lunchtime now,” said the little one, a wise, chubby girl who I was pretty sure had me completely figured out.

“Don’t be so literal,” I told her.

“Why not?” she asked.

“It’s too limiting,” I said. “Doesn’t leave any room for the mysteries.”

“What mysteries?” she said.

“Exactly,” I said.

The little one turned to her sister and frowned.

“Don’t confuse her,” said her sister, a quick, cow-eyed thing with a long face and short temper. “She’s only eight.”

“I know how old she is,” I said.

The girls both stared at me skeptically.

I covered my face with a menu, looked at the specials and tried to remember what year the little one was born in.

Read on...


by April Kelly

I screwed up.  Big time.  In my defense, the end of quarter sales figures were about to be tallied and that dick Cromwell was poised to be named Soul Man of the Month for the third straight time.  I was bringing in business as fast as I could, hoping to squeak past him at the finish line, so I may not have properly vetted the girl.  But how in the here could I have known she’d uncover a loophole in a contract that hasn’t changed in thousands of years?

I’m reluctant to send the email that will notify management of the problem because my boss is going to kill me.  Well, not kill; that’s one of the few things he can’t do.  No, I was killed by a cab driver in 1982.  Buck Sullivan didn’t run me down in traffic or cause me to die in a fiery crash, he shot me eight times.  Twice in the head, four times in the back, once in the thigh and once where the sun don’t shine.  Bucky and I laugh about it over a beer every now and then, but he wasn’t laughing the day he came home early and emptied his Glock into me while I was ménage à troising his second wife and the grown daughter from his first marriage.

Read on...

224 Responses to “Deathmatch 2014 Quarterfinals Round 2”

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  9. Hello there! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to send this post to
    him. Fairly certain he’ll have a very good read.
    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Carmella says:

    Absolutely! I will quote, sort of, the moderator from the last round here for a more professional response to the final score….changing the names of course.

    DM Moderator Braydon says:
    January 27, 2014 at 12:03 am
    Congrats, James! Good luck in the semifinals.

    April: It was a treat to read your work. Keep publishing!

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  11. MYogi says:

    Both stories were interesting to read — thank you, James and April. I enjoyed both submissions for different reasons. I honestly thought a Moderator was supposed to moderate the comments rather than bash the contestants (or one of the contestants in this case), so I found that a tad annoying. I suppose some people just like to “hear themselves talk” in a digital sense. It’s unfortunate for you that being an internet troll isn’t a paying profession… you’re pretty good at it.

  12. Zillah says:

    Aaaaand this is why online contests are a joke. “Vote often” degrades a merit-based contest and makes it all about who has the larger number of determined button-pushers.

    April, you were robbed in that final hour. I did download a few of your books and am halfway through “Winged” at the moment. I’m loving it and hope to see more out of you!

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  13. Jaime says:

    The weaker story won…. what a travesty. Just shows that anyone with a computer these days thinks they can be a writer or maybe just has a larger family to vote for them.

    Too bad, cause this is one story that, like the movie made in his living room, will never be fit for publication. While Oh, Here’s author has many books to her credit, as well as an accomplished background and resume. Here’s wishing her the best in her future.

    Thanks for a good laugh at the rest of the world.

    • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      I think the voice in Aprils story is the voice in this forum, plus all the other compliments. Can’t say the same for the other… at all.

  14. Loretta says:

    Been lurking and reading the comments for a week now and just had to say, before this contest ends, that all those who’ve judged “The Big Everything” as a piece of literary genius need to take a remedial English course. Nobody saw, or if they did there was no comment on the incorrect usage of the word BROACH (first mention of subject) versus the correct word BROOCH (a pin). And what self-respecting 8 year old in today’s society would want such a piece of jewelry?

    I found the story to be misogynistic, showing little caring for women as a whole and concentrated on a man who had no clue about his daughter’s lives, wants or needs and determined to satisfy only those desires of his own making. Case in point, dragging his wet kids to a sludge filled river to ease his own thoughts?

    On the other hand, Oh, Here was a delightful romp through fantasy and a good laugh as well. Imagine the BAD guy actually turning out to be the one in the white hat…. honoring his contracts while the one supposed to be the good guy has covert spies trying to bring down the other’s empire. What a delightful twist while giving one food for thought.

    While I’m here, might as well go for broke since I’ll never be back…. you guys have got to get some levity in your lives or at least understand sarcasm when it smacks you in the face. Thanks April, for your witty tongue-in-cheek comments. It made watching this “story site” a real treat in an otherwise boring week.

  15. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well this round is coming to an end. 100 percent James story was the weaker, and he will win, it’s the way of whitey. Hope all had fun.

  16. As The End Nears says:

    Don’t know how this is going to end as I call it a night, it has been quite interesting to watch unfold. For a week I have been voting for Oh, Here! but not commenting. I followed April’s advise and looked her up on the IMDB. VERRRRYYYY impressive “resume” – then I Googled her and found out she has books for sale. Wow, busy lady. Hats off to the both April and James for putting your asses in the fire and making this worth watching. Good luck to you both. I will check in on the next round.

  17. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Baby Steps,” the new heart wrenching film about a quadriplegic man’s struggle to move forward in life… Starring Christiopher Walken.

  18. VickiPage says:

    I enjoyed the story on the left immensely more than the one on the right. The Big Everything filled the hole in my heart while Oh Here made it only darker and deeper. The main character in the Big Everything is a likable guy with obvious faults, a fully whole person who knows his morals and betrays them for even greater ones. Made me laugh throughout and pulled at my heartstrings to the end. What really got to me about reading Oh Here was that I felt I was being constantly reminded that a woman with a snarky tone was writing from a male’s perspective. I did not believe the character and therefore could not get sucked in emotionally; and though it was a nice twist at the end, I could not help but feel only completely removed. Big Everything made me think and feel much more, it would only be right for the heartfelt tale to win.

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    • Jennifer says:

      Wasn’t meant to “suck you in emotionally” it was fantasy read and righteous sarcasm at its best.

      On the other hand, didn’t you find “The Big Everything” just a little over the top with a man determined to have things his way, no matter the cost? Borderline alcoholic, unemployed, doesn’t listen to his kids, living in his own little world?

      You’re probably a relative or friend who’s trying to “help”. A sad tale for sad times seems to be the ticket for you. I’d rather laugh, even at absurdities, it’s much more uplifting.

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  19. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Honey, don’t let it get to you, it’s just a silly contest from Canada, and I know you’re a good writer, a good father… It will be over soon..” Don’t listen to your wife, she doesn’t know shit, she married you.

  20. Annoyed says:

    Is it just me or is this moderator kind of annoying. I don’t know what he’s talking about most the time and his questions aren’t very interesting. He seems out of his depth here.

    • Yes. I find a lot of this conversation quite childish. The insult below from Hart, the descriptions of disability presented as humour. This is definitely a place where small people mistake crude for “edgy.” I am a little bit embarrassed to be here, to be honest.

      • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        You love me. Being diplomatic and false, fuck that. Burn everyone, piss on everything, embrace what stands. I respect no one until it is earned. Sean John Bon Bovi, you give love a bad name.

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  21. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Here is the word of the day. Pusillanimous. (\pyoo-suh-LAN-uh-mus\) Adjective: Definition: “lacking courage and resolution : marked by contemptible timidity”

  22. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Jimes, I have an idea for your bio. It’s more to the point. “The Idaho Puss, the Indiana Potato, the centuries old passive sponging untalented entitled white devil, hiding in the shadows, offering nothing, reaching for all… and squeezing, squeezing out what it seeks to become. The Great Fister of the ages. Lubed by history, safe behind invisible lines, wanting all, and taking, a rabid fox going unnoticed under the sly veil of mediocrity. xoxo ;)”

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    • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      So James. Any advice about how to bring a script to fruition? What was the process of going from idea, to script to it being directed by Steve Buscemi? It seems like a fascinating story. I’d love to hear more.

  23. April Kelly says:

    Of writers and writing: no one works in a vacuum. Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula established the mac daddy of vampires. The genre was then eroticized in Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire (1976) and made funny by Christopher Moore’s Bloodsucking Fiends (1999) and You Suck (2007). Along the way, even kiddie lit produced a vampire rabbit in James Howe’s adorable Bunnicula (1979).

    These days it’s hard to pick up a YA novel or tune in to a CW series that DOESN’T have a couple of fang-bangers in it. Twilight. Buffy. Oh, God, no wonder I sleep with a full spectrum light on.

    Whether you choose crime, romance, horror, sci-fi, fantasy or any other “backdrop,” what sets you apart from your predecessors is your different trip through the same forest.

    What I have tried to do in Oh, Here! is to inject irony into a classic black/white/gray scenario. 50% of all marriage contracts in the US are eventually broken, whereas Satan, until he is challenged by my premise, has honored every single deal he has ever made with a human being. That makes Satan more “moral” than my own parents. The devil doesn’t even realize he has always chosen the ethical path in the honoring of his contracts until a lawyer points that out and suggests he act more in accordance with his nature.

    Conversely, God, the guy supposedly wearing the white hat, has a covert operative trying to sabotage his competition. Who’s holy now?

    Although Good and Evil are the outside points, the story pivots on the behavior of avatars…a vain, brand-obsessed salesman versus the entity cited in both the Old and New Testaments (Daniel 10&12; Jude 1:9; Revelations 12:7-9) as God’s warrior against the forces of Satan. I think the devil comes out ahead in this one, as now he’ll have two ways to fuck over anyone who signs up with him so I’m not sure where someone saw the upbeat sitcom ending.

    But you discovered what you discovered. All I wanted to do was make you laugh. And win or lose, Monday morning will find me the same way, lying unconscious in a pool of my own Jack Daniel’s-scented vomit.

    ‘Twas fun playing with y’all.

    Art Oodeetoo

  24. Neva U. Mind says:

    The Big Everything is a lovely tale that made me think, smile and then think some more. Is what we do for a living the defining essence of our life on earth? If you read the obits you will believe it to be exactly that. The last written word about your life will be entitled with your name, age and occupation no matter how much you hated your job and how long ago it was that you last worked at it.

    What if your truth is deeper than that. Certainly the man who jumps off the back of the dump truck to collect your trash has more going on in his life than that. And the CEO of a huge corporation might have a real knack for poetry or painting. Certainly the unemployed do not cease to exist just because their paychecks do.

    But to want your children to see the sun sparkling on a river, the same river that captivated you when you were young instead of holding onto a commercial desire to own junk trinkets from a dollar store is worth writing about. Worth reading about. Worth thinking about. Hopefully worth voting for.

    I was less intrigued by OH, HERE. The premise of which has been done in print and film over and over again. And although I like after-life stories this one didn’t hold up. First of all, every lawyer knows how to find a loophole, that is what they are paid for so that isn’t an interesting ending, the devil being dishonest is a given and Archangel Michael would not waste his time trying to stop the madness as those willing to sell their soul for personal gain wouldn’t be allowed through the pearly gates anyway. Boring.

    April, if you actually find any humor whatsoever in someone living the life of a quadriplegic, please never admit it to print. It is not funny.

    • James Strouse says:

      Wow. What an incredibly thoughtful response to my story. Do I know you? Don’t answer that. I don’t want to know if I do. I kind of get the impression that the only people voting for me are my mom, my girlfriend, my girlfriend’s mom (Hi, Anne!) and my kids when they can sneak in a vote on a school computer. But I’m really happy to hear the story connected with you in this way. Thanks for sharing this.

  25. B. L . Zebob says:

    My Dear April,

    You have made my list. You can forget the nice part, and naughty is much too mild a word for you girl. I know you have figured out my anagram and you can bet your sweet ass Santa will be leaving something worse than a lump of coal in your sock. You don’t diss the dark dude in public and expect to get away with it. You’re going to love it in the ninth circle.

    Joel E. St. Sickanul

    • April Kelly says:

      I normally spend Friday evenings waxing the steps at the local nursing home.

      Hart, let me tell you how I deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses. And this may even work better for you than for me, as I assume you’re a dude. When you open the door and see those pure, angelic faces, just say “Is that a rolled-up Watchtower in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?”

      I’m disappointed not to have a limerick from you, but here’s another one from me, in honor of all the nit-picky people this contest attracts.


      He shouted, “I don’t give a damn!” at her
      Then fast-pitched a Honey-Baked Ham at her.
      Her limerickal style’d
      Gotten him riled,
      ‘Cause he liked iambic pentameter.

      Your moderatory style is both moderate AND admirable. After the cheers and tears of this round, I would appreciate it if you would get my email address from Broken Pencil and contact me so I can do a very brief sidebar with you. Please do not believe that stuff about my being a nympho-lesbo-homicidal-stalker-whore. I am not a whore.

      Harrison Hisass

  26. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Leonard Cohen quote… for everyone.

    “Leave it all and like a man,
    come back to nothing special,
    such as waiting rooms and ticket lines,
    silver bullet suicides,
    and messianic ocean tides,
    and racial roller-coaster rides
    and other forms of boredom advertised as poetry”

    • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      (I seem to be on this man kick here, and sexism, haha, April is my favorite person I’ve ever come across outside of the real world. Haven’t heard a dull world drawn from her fingertips.) Anyway, I think of the quote more saying to be a man, which is a ridiculous statement, ah fawk it, try to change no one, people don’t change. It is easier to convince an alcoholic that has no intent to stop drinking to stop drinking then a nit wit to face his foulness. I’m talking to myself. Oh well, haha. Here’s a short film Lord Gord I made, will take it down in a day or two. Really kind of private, but fuck it today. I’ve been drinking!

  27. I am reiterating my general defense of The Big Everything here, from a reply above. It was ahead briefly yesterday, so I am still hopeful.

    This is a story about a man with very few options, and he does change by the end, because he takes his daughters to a place where his father took him, and contemplates his failure (which he is well aware of before the constant reminders of bring your daughter to work day). He has tried to get them what they want in the only way available to him and he’s failed by doing that, and he knows it. He makes decisions throughout the story that do have real effects.

    My major problem with the other story is that there is nothing at stake, because it’s a grand abstraction and a simple sketch of the problem of evil. There is a lot at stake in The Big Everything as a man with no prospects tries to stay relevant in the lives of his daughters despite being caught in a cycle of poverty and alcohol abuse. It’s a human situation.

  28. Bill says:

    Dear April,

    I didn’t read the fine print. As a lawyer, you would think that would be a given, but I never practiced. Anyway, I got hung up on the grammatically correct part so I thought I was being cleaver when I specified “all the females on planet Earth.” Turns out, when when the “petition” lacks specificity, the choice is left to the grantor. The species and genus HE chose was canine. Who knew Poodles could make a man so hard. Hope Hill doesn’t see this.

    Gul A. Bill

  29. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    April I critiqued the end of your story, so I should try and come up with an idea, not like it’s better. We are in the land of banter. I have to think though. I don’t think either title of your stories captured the feeling. A title came to my head of your story James though. Oblivion And Beyond. The Big Everything is weak. My one isn’t anything incredible either, just popped in. But your title doesn’t grab and the story clambers after it like a lipless suckling infant. Do you think it’s perfect? What are you hoping to hear here! What are your own critiques of your story, and of your writing, and what are you striving for. The directors, and films, and writers, all have a certain earnestness to them (though fabricated) where is yours? Your protagonist is very open, the writer is very closed off. Where are you?

    • April Kelly says:

      I’m not hiding out. It just takes a long time to roll my wheelchair up to the handicapped computer at Kinko’s and blow into my straw this many times.

      I won’t be sharing showbiz war stories because the ones I could write about in an open forum like this would bore you silly and the juicy, awful ones would get my ass sued as soon as one of you posted them on FaceTube. The BMW kids were sweet and easy to work with so no vile gossip there. It is always the grown-up actors who make life miserable on the set. As an exercise, look on the IMDB and choose 3 or 4 of the shows I’ve worked on and conjure up all the tabloid garbage you’ve heard about the actors on those shows.

      Now here’s where you get creative…overlay your choice(s) from the following list: alcoholism, drug addiction, bone-deep stupidity, arrogance and all-around dickishness…then imagine the fun we had.

      The Larry Sanders show is the closest I’ve ever seen to the real deal. And since so many people on this site are obsessed with all that “direct-ory bullshit,” here’s something you might find interesting that you may not have noticed the first time around. Go back and screen an episode of TLSS with this tidbit of 411: all scenes taking place during the fake show were shot on video tape, as a real late-night show would be, but when the action spilled over into Larry’s “real” life (including the fake commercial breaks when he did asides with his guests or spoke with the producer) it switched over to film for that drama-show verisimilitude. One of the top sitcoms of all time, in my humble opinion.

      But basically, producing a TV series is like high-fiving a T-Rex. You have to do all the work to make it happen but the only thing you get out of it is slime on your hands.

      Who cut off that suckling infant’s lips?

  30. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’d like to hear more about you two. Do you have a routine to your writing, is writing your main focus, what do you do outside of writing? What’s life like. Personally I’ve never had a routine, but a certain discipline, taking in movies in large chunks, reading obsessively when I discover a writer that speaks to me, and when I am in tune with myself tuning everything out. Always working, but a certain discipline always stays true. The problem is that discipline applies to chaos, but I love that too. Does most of your work draw from your own experiences, or observations? I know this question is kind of bull shit, and that everything is a bit of this and bit of that. I don’t know. Read between the lines, don’t pick them apart.

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  31. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As a change of pace here are some images from a magazine I started last weekend. I haven’t worked on anything like this for awhile and have no idea where I’m going with it. I found this series of Sex help books called Amour et Sexualite in a Goodwill in Montreal last week and just started cutting them and these strange heads came out. I like how they’re looking.

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  32. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    April you must have great/funny/interesting anecdotes about working on Boy Meets World, and from that whole industry as a whole. I’d really like to hear what it’s like working in a room full of comedy writers. Everything I know is based off the Larry Sanders show.

    James, do you have any funny stories from the making of Lonesome Jim? Getting a movie made is a roller coaster and a funking half. Did you direct it? How much input did you have, it being based on your script and being filmed in your house? Did they lock the writer in his own basement during shooting? It wouldn’t be the first time, haha. Ever feel full of life and strength and joy? Ever feel like jumping out the window?

    • James Strouse says:

      Steve Buscemi directed the film and Casey Affleck played Jim. I was the location manager. It was a very low budget film and everyone pitched in to make it, including my family. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Imagine going back to your hometown with Steve Buscemi to make a movie that you wrote? Sometimes I still can’t believe it actually happened.

      • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        That’s pretty wild. How did you end up working with Buscemi? I was just watching Trees Lounge the other day, which has a little in common with this doesn’t it, as far as background, isn’t it based in and on his hometown? I just watched the trailer for Lonesome Jim, looks pretty funny. Can’t help but notice you left Liv Tyler’s name out of your description, not a fan?

        • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          Come onnnnn, I feel like you’re typing from an office. Pull the blinds down, let a few buttons go from your shirt, let the chest hair bloom, lay on the rug, CONFESS!

        • James Strouse says:

          I didn’t purposely leave her out. I’m a fan of the entire cast. Mary Kay Place, Kevin Corrigan, Seymour Cassel, Mark Boone Junior, Liv Tyler and my nieces, Sarah and Rachel Strouse. My dad also had a speaking part and my mom and brother both had cameos.

  33. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    April, I really enjoyed your story, but tend to agree with most of the comments above. For the first half I smiled at every mark and was intrigued. Like that Emo Philips joke I described above I enjoyed when I began to understand the story and the previous parts sunk in. The second half, dealing with the Prince Of Darkness just didn’t seem to hit, and only seemed to hammer the same point over and over without really building in comedic or interest value and seemed to only be there in order to tie everything together neatly. Is this meant to be from a larger work? The ending with the note from Michael left me confused (I am not well versed in religion) and when I found out what it was it didn’t draw much from me except a little “humph.” The whole story maintained a fluid momentum and when I reached the end though not as taken with the whole story as when I began I felt like I’d like to read more from this writer…

    • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Soul Man Of The Year was my Emo Phillips moment. Laughed out at it the first time without any context, it stuck and then it made sense later on. Maybe a reverse Emo Phillips moment.

  34. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What is the background on each of your stories? Are they recent, parts of a larger body of work, labored or rushed off for this contest, or pulled from the vaults
    where they were collecting dust, or something in between? Are you each avid writers? What are your aspirations? What are your dreams, what are your wildest fantasies!

    • James Strouse says:

      The Big Everything is from a collection of stories that I’ve been working on for some time. The collection is about a place in Northern Indiana. It’s called Noble County. The stories are sort of modeled after Winesburg, Ohio. Characters and places overlap from story to story. I published another story from this collection in Open City years ago. I love writing fiction but lately I’ve been focused on writing screenplays. Strangely I’ve had more luck in making movies than getting stories published. I also teach screenwriting and directing at the School of Visual Arts.

  35. Rick Kaulbars says:

    “Oh Here” seems a bit of a “Screwtape Letters” retread with the added element of a bureaucratic cock-up in the otherworldly bureaucracy. This premise was used to great effect in the 1946 film “Matter of Life and Death” with David Niven.

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      • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        I’ve never read anything by Nabokov, I’ve always meant too. Any recommendations of where to start? I liked Welcome To The Dollhouse, then awhile ago I watched some interviews with Todd Solondz, and the more I heard him speak the more he bugged the hell out of me. I kind of appreciate what he does, playing around with the form in his later work, but really he kind of just annoys me now, pretentious and slightly like someone compensating with a flashy car… Happiness was really good though. I don’t know that much about Emo Phillips but I remember about ten years ago seeing him on tv and knew nothing about him, he confused me and he had a joke that went “Winnipeg? sounds like a contest for a pirate” it took me a moment to figure out what he meant then when I did I spit my drink out. I remember it being one of the funniest jokes I had ever heard, just because I was trying to figure him out, and then how it was timed and having to work back, it killed me. Have you ever listened to someone named Brother Theodore? He’s a raving lunatic. I’ve been listening to a lot of his stuff lately. Especially when I work. Look him up on youtube if you haven’t. I love his stuff, sometimes I drink and go into youtube tunnels and get locked and come up with insane theories. The last one was that somehow he was a big influence on Larry David… but I don’t know.

        • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          Right, Lolita. I started watching the Kubrick movie a long time ago and it really bothered me. I didn’t like it. I think out the gate I just don’t like Peter Sellers. Every time he supposedly transforms there always seems to be this self satisfied wink at what really is pretty mediocre. Fawk him. I remember someone showing me The Party, he always bugged me, in Dr Strangelove and the small performance in Lolita, actually not sure if he bothered me so much in Lolita, just his name, and the legend, he seems like a walking anecdote told at a stuffy cocktail party to me, I was almost nervous to admit my dislike, then when I saw The Party, that was all I needed. There are impressionists now that seem so much more interesting to me, and physical comedians of the past like the Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton that impress me so much more. He is the squeeking bolt in the see saw of comedy that refuses to not make it’s insignificant self known. What use is a loose bolt anyway? But really I don’t like any actor that much. I think I may have read the passage you are talking about… or something else, but remember reading something by Nabokov that was so tight, and every word seemed perfect and always meant to read him, I feel like there was something about a butterfly, but I was so tired of the title Lolita. I like when I come to things sometimes as though almost lead to them. I’m going to find Lolita this week. Heartbreak Kid and Lolita. Ok.

        • April Kelly says:

          Oh, Hart, you have aroused me so with your sly reference to inter-species sex above. Society will, if not outright condone, at least accept the furries, golden showerers and the essenemmers, but so often shuns those of us who are aficionados of finny love.

          May I dedicate the following limerick to you?

          A sailor named Rico Ferrari
          Screwed a squid and said, “I’m not sorry.”
          So he wrote on the wall
          By the phone in the hall:
          For a REALLY good time, calamari.

          And for everyone out there with nothing to do all day but Wiki and parse other people’s words, yes, I know a squid is actually a cephalopod.

          But seriously, folks. I would start on Nabokov with Lolita. Forget the crappy movies which make Lolita a teenaged sexpot; that ain’t what the book is and certainly not what she is. On the first page you will read a lyrical description of Humbert Humbert’s pronunciation of her name. If you can read his three-step trip of the tongue down his palate to the back of his front teeth just to pay homage to his fantasy paramour’s name, and not be in love with Nabokov’s writing, you are dead inside.

          If you read and like Lolita, go ahead and take the leap to his masterwork, Ada, a book I would put on equal footing with Joyce’s Ulysses in complexity and the pure pleasure of reading. Keep in mind that English was not Vladimir’s first language, and prepare to be awed by a writer of true genius.

          Sorry, I’ll have to take a break between discussing a literary giant and Boy Meets World.


          Fitz Depremmis

    • James Strouse says:

      Well someone mentioned Louie CK above and I have to say he is one of my favorite writers and comedians. Fiction writers I love include Grace Paley, Barry Hannah, Raymond Carver, Richard Yates, Flannery O’Connor, Gary Lutz, Nicholson Baker, Dennis Johnson, George Saunders and Sam Lipsyte. I took a class with Sam Lipsyte years ago. He is a great writer and teacher. I love a lot of directors. Robert Altman, Hal Ashby, Alexander Payne (Election!!), John Hughes. But probably my favorite film director is Elaine May. She was part of a comedy team with Mike Nichols. She only directed four films I believe. One of those films, The Heartbreak Kid, is as funny and painful as any American film I’ve ever seen. I love things that can be funny while respecting the emotional truth of the situation and the Heartbreak Kid does that. I love movies. I watch them all the time. I love so many movies. I don’t have time to even get into to it but I will mention one that never gets much love. Joe Versus the Volcano. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I’ve watched that film at least once a year since sixth grade. I really love it.

      • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        I really don’t know much about any of those people. I know more about Altman by references to him by other directors, the long takes, overlapping dialogue (mainly P.T. Anerson I suppose.) Shortcuts was good, but it never really took me off my feet. Almost one of those cases where you hear how incredible and important someone is and then you build expectations that are impossible to live up too. The light always seems dimmer at the end of the tunnel of hype. I’ll watch The Heartbreak Kid this week. I’ve always meant to watch it…

  36. Brian Cauley says:

    James, I’m not sure if you noticed (or if it was intentional) but your story is really hard on women. The description your main character gives every women in the story is harsh, even calling one person anorexic, and extremely vain.

    The main character gives absolutely no guidance to his own daughters but does manage to doll out plenty of criticism.

    Also, 70% of the characters with jobs (server at the restaurant, people at the temp agency, etc.) are male, presenting a heavily skewed reality.

    If you wanted to create an image obsessed, critical, and delusional main character, then well done.

    However, the whole story lacked depth, seemed way to male-centric, and didn’t go anywhere or show any potential for growth in any of the characters.

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    • allinone says:

      I beg to differ. During the course of the story we watch a kind of climb in his hopelessness which reaches a definite boiling point at The Big Everything, where he wrenches himself OUT of inaction and throws caution (and reason) to the wind in an attempt to win his daughters’ trust, respect and admiration, to feel like a father again, to feel like he is contributing. After which we sink a little deeper into his lostness and follow him to where and what his own father gave to him, and we reach with him there, trying to tie the end of two strings together, his kids’ and his own, and make something complete for once.

      To say the story doesn’t go anywhere is a gross underestimation of the power of subtlety.

      • Emily says:

        Ascribing value only to intent and consequence invalidates writers who focus on the universality of human behaviour and relationships. In which case, I wouldn’t recommend reading “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” If only James Thurber had attempted more of a point, perhaps he could have made something of himself.

      • Brian Cauley says:

        Stories don’t need to “have” much to be called stories. There is no formula for writing a good sorry that I know of. But, putting words on a page for the sake of putting words on a page is definitely not it.

        It’s about intent.

        I want to be brought into a world and for the elements of that world to interact, function, and have purpose. There is potential in characters’ ability to evolve in a story or not, but what makes it a story is the conflict and consequence – otherwise it’s just a description of events. James’s story showed no evolution of the characters, but also no consequences for that lack of evolution.

        As for the unrealistic divide of gender among the workers in the story, that was something I noticed while reading that pulled me out of the fictional reality being created. I mean, the Dad is running while we’re reading about all the people he is passing and at one point he passes 4 men and no women. Am I not supposed to think that is odd?

        I would think the point of the observation is the Dad is thinking about all these people with jobs and he has no job, but then I think, “if the author is trying to illustrate a point about employment, and 70% of those employed are men, what else is he trying to say?”

        Like I said, intent.

        • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          Leonard Cohen quote… for everyone.

          “Leave it all and like a man,
          come back to nothing special,
          such as waiting rooms and ticket lines,
          silver bullet suicides,
          and messianic ocean tides,
          and racial roller-coaster rides
          and other forms of boredom advertised as poetry”

        • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          As far as intent and purpose and plan, all those are terrible in most cases I find… and important. In life the only people you meet and have conversations with that have intent and motive are sales people and Jehovahs witnesses. Wrapping the word art around a sales pitch tricks some. I know what you’re saying though, I think there is a point to the story and it isn’t strongly put forth, anyway, There are many paths, but they seem borrowed and less then genuine, and not deeply explored enought. Seems like a cook creating a recipe, this is the dish (the story) add a little of this, a little of this, and a little of this, all things I like, and it should be perfect, it isn’t, ugh, fawk it, I don’t feel like explaining any more or being clear, I’m off somewhere else, there’s a point in there somewhere, haha, as for being drawn out of it due to the lack of women in work, to that I disagree strongly, and think maybe it is a point that should be a little more deeply examined. When you are down and out, the things that remind you of that seem to shine the brightest, in the same way when someone is in love, they notice all these coincidences between between and around each other, all those things are always there, you just become more intense when you are focused, on love, or sorrow. So a man out of work is going to primarily notice other men like himself out of work. I think that is pretty accurate. Like it or not we are always drawn to our own ego and self like a moth to the flame. Rare are the ones that can truly burn! haha. Yep. Burn everything!

        • How is intent measured? I think you misunderstand the purpose of a short story. A good short story does not answer questions, it asks them. It is small, and doesn’t pretend to include the whole world, except by enlarging the reader’s understanding of a little bit of it.

          This is a story about a man with very few options, and he does change by the end, because he takes his daughters to a place where his father took him, and contemplates his failure (which he is well aware of before the constant reminders of bring your daughter to work day). He has tried to get them what they want in the only way available to him and he’s failed by doing that, and he knows it. He makes decisions throughout the story that do have real effects.

          My major problem with the other story is that there is nothing at stake, because it’s a grand abstraction and a simple sketch of the problem of evil. There is a lot at stake in The Big Everything as a man with no prospects tries to stay relevant in the lives of his daughters despite being caught in a cycle of poverty and alcohol abuse. It’s a human situation.

          I am not sure what you mean by consequences, but judging by your objection to the demographics in the story, I suspect you mean the unjust should be punished by the end of the story, but that leads to preaching, and all good art is the opposite of preaching.

        • gimmeabreak says:

          You’re an idiot. Go back to undergrad. Not every short story needs to be a DEEP AND REPRESENTATIVE exploration of the demographics of the American workplace.

      • Emily says:

        Ooh, math. Fun! I’ll take a stab. 10% politically correct references, 25% gender equality, 50% character growth, 12% inherently good characters to begin with, and 3% artistic liberty. Maybe?

    • James Strouse says:

      How can a lost man lead anyone anywhere? I think the main character is incredibly flawed and that is reflected in his view of the world around him. I would argue the story went places. It started in a Mexican restaurant and ended on muddy river bank. Those are places. Is there potential for growth in any of the characters? Who’s to say?This is a story about a very imperfect father. If he got a job and therapist at the end of the story would that make it better or truer? I don’t know. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it and I won’t fault you for that but I stand by the choices I made.

        • allinone says:

          I beg to differ. During the course of the story we watch a kind of climb in his hopelessness which reaches a definite boiling point at The Big Everything, where he wrenches himself OUT of inaction and throws caution (and reason) to the wind in an attempt to win his daughters’ trust, respect and admiration, to feel like a father again, to feel like he is contributing. After which we sink a little deeper into his lostness and follow him to where and what his own father gave to him, and we reach with him there, trying to tie the end of two strings together, his kids’ and his own, and make something complete for once.

          To say the story doesn’t go anywhere is a gross underestimation of the power of subtlety.

  37. Dave Currie says:

    Chuck Palahniuk called while you were on the phone with Dante. He wants his 2011 Best Seller back. He’s also wondering if you borrowed it’s sequel, it came out last year and he’s pretty sure he remembers you saying you wanted to read it. He’d just really like his story back, there is a gap on the bookshelf and it is making all the other story ideas you could have stolen fall over.

    That being said as an aspiring TV Comedy writer who enjoys your work – get in touch if you feel like mentoring a person who swears to God he isn’t normally an internet troll. I really did enjoy that episode of Becker.

    • April Kelly says:

      Huh? I have never heard of Chuck Palahniuk, but thank you, Zillah, for telling me the title of the book I’m supposed to have plagiarized. I’ll run right out and buy it so I can add some of his stuff to my rewrite if I make the next round.

      Rex Acarr

      • Dave Currie says:

        Ok. Let me get this straight, you’ve never heard of the writer of Fight Club but you are a TV/Film writer? I don’t really think you are doing yourself any favours by admitting to that April. No limited accolades from even such an prestigious magazine, even if accompanied by prize money can be worth the public record that you are unfamiliar with the most one of the most influential writers of the 90s/2000s. I didn’t mention the name of the book because well, aren’t writers supposed to be up on what other writers are doing?

        Also Zillah, I was mostly referring to the structure of the piece the new technology communication with ethereal forces but if you really want to turn this into a “reasoned argument” the delineation of job responsibilities in the after life is similar in both pieces.

        • April Kelly says:

          It was a cage full of comedy writers, not lions. Much more dangerous. And we are bred to have no feelings that can be hurt.

          My invitation said Death Match, not High Tea, and I was told to lace up my gloves, making me believe some punches would be thrown. If they had wanted me to be gentle, I assume they would have told me to do up all those little pearl niblets running from wrist to elbow on my opera gloves.

          Here’s my thinking on even the best writing. If you have a 333-page novel and you give it to 1000 people, and each one of them LOVES it, you can ask each person if there is one tiny thing they would change, and I guarantee everyone would offer a fix that pleases them. If you use this reactionary template to diddle with your work, you now have 3 changes per page and suddenly the work is not your own.

          I don’t know who to attribute this observation to, but some very smart person said a camel was merely a horse designed by committee.

          I wouldn’t dismiss the work of a writer I’d never heard of, but I would joyfully punch back at someone who implied I was less-than for not being familiar with that work. I read 75 to 100 novels a year. Sadly, that doesn’t even make a dent in the books that were written before I was born (I’m talking to you, Old Testament!)and only gives me a few dozen bites of what’s coming out in the now.

          I don’t know about you but I’m having buckets o’ fun. Whe-e-e-e!

        • Dave Currie says:

          Dear April,
          I would like to apologize, your earlier comments regarding “sticking ones hand into the lion’s cage” [paraphrase] led me to believe that you might not respond terribly to a joke. I can see by the name calling that I hurt your feelings and I would sincerely like to apologize. I wasn’t really talking about the jokes in your story because you are right I didn’t get them. Sometimes everything comes down to taste.

          I was trying to provide Zilla with more information as, while there was no question mark, I felt like the, even passing interest, of new information was implied. I get that many writers, you’ve named a few of my favourites, here are a few more – Sondheim, Fierstein, Pinter, Barlow – adapt earlier stories. That’s the game, it has been since we came out of the cave.

          Lastly, I don’t care what movies you have or haven’t seen (although I tend to agree that someone should bitch slap the moderator for not having seen The Heartbreak Kid). My reaction was in reaction to, what I interpreted as, the cavalier way you dismissed an author (speaking strictly about fiction) who has been read, discussed and reviewed weekly (if not daily) for the past two decades.

          Anyhow, I apologize for my actions. The internet can be a pretty mean place and I didn’t want to contribute to that. I was only trying to express an opinion through humour.

          Good luck in the competition.

        • April Kelly says:

          Thank you eversomuch for advising me about what real writers are suppose to read and watch. I know there are as many as four working writers and directors in America at any given time, and shame on me for not keeping up with those other three.

          Let me say it again, loud and proud, I never saw Fight Club. After three decades in Los Angeles I live in a town with no movie theater, I don’t own a computer or a cell phone and I haven’t died yet from the sad lack of those three things. If it makes you feel better, pretend I’m Amish.

          Why don’t you bitch slap the moderator, as he hasn’t seen The Heartbreak Kid.

          I won’t lose any sleep over the fact that you don’t like my story, or that you didn’t get it. And leave Zillah alone, you dirtbag. At least he/she/it read it and got the joke.

          And can you believe those assholes, Laurents, Bernstein, Sondheim & Robbins ripped off Billy Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? Oh, wait, he ripped off Sophocles.

  38. Craig Calhoun says:

    No matter how hard I tried not to, I pictured the protagonist of The Big Everything as a fat, middle-aged version of that guy:

    (I hope that picture link worked)

  39. Sean Johnston says:

    “The Big Everything” wins this round, for me. Sorry, but the other story talks down to me. I don’t like fables, or stories dressed as fables.

    I don’t agree, either, with the comment by whoever is Shambles. “Tight” has little do do with it. The different subjects require different approaches. Sentences can be “tight,” I suppose, more than whole texts, but in general it’s an overused word that often means nothing, like “flow,” say — although I do see why the word is used here. Basically, “The Big Everything” allows room for digression, as it should.

    “OH, HERE!” (caps and an exclamation point in the title?) cannot since it’s a thesis-driven story and all the language must point toward the thesis.

    • April Kelly says:

      Yeah, can you believe that asshole? He talked down to me the whole time I was writing him.

      You are correct, my story allows no room for digression. I am the mistress of my own universe and intend to keep it that way. Since the title REALLY stands for the words Oh, Hell! the caps were designed to make it sound all shouty.

      Neil B. Formie

      • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Can I pass on bad advice I got from my round?

        Okay. Didn’t hear your response but I will tell you anyway.

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

        Careful , Neil.

        • April Kelly says:

          Nothing was left out. Everything I wanted in there was in there, but apparently other people would have written a different story leaving plenty of room for the reader to play writer. Good luck to them all writing their own stories.

          Rita Booke

  40. Shambles says:

    I like The Big Everything better. It’s not as tight as Oh Here! but it made me smile more. It one problem is that it rambles: from the restaurant, to the temp office, to driving in circles, to the Big Everything, to parking the car, and then hiking, and then finally at the creek. It would be more readable it it was a little more precise. If it went A -> B -> C instead of this kind of A,B,little c,D,little e,F. It makes you question as you read it for the first time if it has a direction. But I love the characters. This dad, how dysfunctional he is, how he’s kind of a wash up, but also kind of an idealist. How his daughters correct him – “It’s lunch, we skipped Breakfast” or “I want a charm bracelet not a broach.” They’re dysfunctional but very lovable. And the way this Dad caves and goes to the Big Everthing. I really liked it.

    OH, HERE! I loved, but only till about the halfway point. It’s gritty. We’ve got bullet holes and extended family threesomes. It gets critical with the reality stars who ask for fame but forget about talent. This best if used by – virginity expiry date, and a salesman you can really get into reading. It’s good stuff. But once they’re in Satan”s office, it gets preachy. And Satan doesn’t really have any idiosyncrasies, he’s just angry, so he bored me. And then, we finish with the email from Micheal – willing to sacrifice his soul for God. OK, so maybe after writing episode after episode of Boy Meets World you develop some -end on the heart strings- habits, but to me it gets kind of cringe worthy. It’s tighter though. We learn why this slumpy girl is bettering humanity. It still works out for Satan, which keeps the end from being unbearably happy. It rounds out.

    I like the Big Everthing more, but I’m sure April Kelly is further in mastering this story telling craft then James is.

    • DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Also James and April, I went to film school and make films and video and am pretty deep into movies so I’m sure we’ll all find some common ground there and am sure that plays a role in why we are linked up here. Should be good.

  41. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    My initial thoughts to The Big Everything were that it was good and captured the feeling of being misunderstood, of at once being over qualified and under qualified for everything in life leaving you trapped in a sort of purgatory while others pull at you in separate directions, trying to shape you into something you are not. The desire to shut off contradicted by the desire to care for your children while watching them become what you dislike most. I also felt that it was written by someone younger who was relating to writers that were older and using the children and ex wife as a way to affect that wisdom of age. Some of the descriptions and slang seemed like they came from a collage of mouths and the whole time I was picturing the daughters from the show Louie. I was surprised at the end to find you actually had two daughters. I found the daughters to be more complete characters then the narrator. His thoughts and words though interesting and funny at times struck me as somewhat cliche. I still liked the story, and was not bored and the flow of it carried me through easily. I will re-read it again later and see what I think then.

  42. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It’s funny. I was thinking of some jokes I could use while moderating. One is “My friend just bought a Chinese fighting fish… at least I think it’s Chinese, they all look the same to me.” And the only other one I could think of that I had while walking around Sunday was about Boy Meets World coming back. “The show Boy meets world is returning, it’s called Boy Meets World, World Fucks Boy… The dark years.” I wasn’t going to use it but when I saw April had worked on the show in her bio I knew the Cosmos demanded it.

  43. James Strouse says:

    Hi everyone. Thanks for reading. Thanks for responding. April, I know we are pitted against each other and it’s winner take all but I like your story and was a big fan of Boy Meets World so…good luck to you. Is this a bad way to start a death match? I was raised a pacifist.

  44. Shaughnessy says:

    Oh God, you just see Strouse hugging his daughters at the bottom of his story and I have to ask – how autobiographical is this thing? Yo Jimmy James, what’s it like being tasered while running through a shopping mall?

    • James Strouse says:

      Not autobiographical. But that’s a funny question. This story is based off of people I know back in my hometown. Growing up in Indiana a trip to Super Wal-Mart was such a big deal. I thought that place was the best as a kid. I feel differently about it now and I guess that’s one of many motivations I had for writing the story.

  45. Tuffy says:

    Sooooo, I thought Oh Here was Great. Until the end. Did anyone else think that whole “Lets just not do it” strategy to be a bit of a cop out. Like what was the point of the dilemma in the first place?

    • Andrea Wrobel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Enjoyed it, too. Thought the ending could have been better as well. Perhaps something needs to happen to Michelle. It’s quirky enough all the way through but I feel it ends on a decline.

      I also which it was longer but that’s just me being greedy about what a good set up it was. Darn word counts!

  46. April Kelly says:

    Okay, nobody’s up yet. I’m going to duck out for a few hours so I can distribute drugs to poor children who might otherwise be unable to afford them. Later.

    Auntie Enflamatory

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  47. DM Moderator Hart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is Round 2 of The Deathmatch. Two interesting yet different stories by writers who have both worked in the field of film. Who will win? The dreamer as a deity from The Big Everything or the cold elegant sales pitch of the hereafter from Oh, Here. Let us know what you thought of the stories. Lets see some teeth!

    • April Kelly says:

      Hart, Looking forward to interacting with you and the great unwashed for the next week. Bring on the teeth. My loins are girded, my force-fields are activated and I have plenty of tissues to sop up my hurtfeelingstears.

      Maureen Korr

  48. oh fun says:

    A new round! Maybe this one will be a little more spicy.

    Are you supposed to vote without reading the stories? because I just did. I voted for the one on the left. Now it’s time to dive in and see if I made the right choice.

    • April Kelly says:

      Dearest oh fun, At this point your only way of avoiding my coming to your house and strangling your hamster is to read the story on the right and vote for it many, many times.

      And don’t think PETA’s gonna help you out on this one. I will hang Binky in your closet with a suicide note pinned to his tiny furry chest.

      April Kelly

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