Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's Back! Wordsmith's Challenge


We have liftoff! The newest Wordsmith's Challenge is now online, and all systems are go.
The picture:

The Rulez:
1) All entries must be 500 words or less. NO KIDDING!
2) All entries must be relevant to the challenge provided. Be creative, but stay on topic. Try not to repeat themes or styles within your writing.
3) Spelling and punctuation are important, except where rule departures are used for effect.
4) Entries must be submitted by the deadline given. You may submit your piece by providing a link in the comments section of the monthly challenge.
5) You should be willing to read the other entries and comment in a constructive fashion, pointing out high and low points of the piece in workshop fashion. Feedback from other writers is half the point of Wordsmiths Unlimited, and as a participating writer you're expected to critique the other submitted works.

And since I already knew Tiff was gonna use this photo, I got a head start. So to keep things fair, I'm negating my handicap by posting way early.
My Offering
She cocked her head to the left, sizing up the man sitting at the opposite end of the patio. The familiar hollowed cheeks, battered baseball cap, layers of jeans and tee shirts probably representing his entire wardrobe. Most familiar of all were the vacant, haunted eyes, red-rimmed with the whites striking sharp contrast to the ashy, coffee colored skin around them.
"Getting late, huh?"
He started slightly. Casual conversation wasn't something he was accustomed to.
"I got no place to be." he answered, avoiding her eyes.
"No place to be meaning no place to go." she mused. Then: "So I guess if you have no place to be, this is as good a place as any, right?"
He paused for several moments, deciding if he was more curious or annoyed at her intrusion into his private world. Practicality and curiosity won out.
"Reckon so. Sometimes if I hang out until they close, they gimme sump'n to eat."
"When's the last time you ate?"
Annoyance was creeping back into the picture, but the girl seemed genuine enough.
"Sometime yessaday I think, ma'am."
"You think? You don't know when you ate last?"
"Not ezzackly, ma'am, no."
"Well come on, I'll get you a sandwich at least."
"Aw, naw, thass alright ma'am. They'll close in a hour or so an' I'll get sump'n then."
"Oh don't be stubborn about it."
He started to protest, but she was already out of her chair. She emerged a few minutes later carrying a fully loaded sandwich and ludicrously sized paper cup. She set it in front of him, then took the seat opposite him.
She chatted idly as he attacked the meal with the subtlety of a ravenous pit bull.
"Guess I's hungrier'n I thought", he drawled, "Ma'am, but I got to axe you..."
"Why?" she finished for him.
"Yeah, I mean, yes ma'am. Mos' folks... how come you did all this?"
"Karma", she smiled.
She suppressed the amusement she felt in watching him try to fit "karma" into his lexicon.
"Ma'am, I don' know what that is, but I'm mighty grateful. Can I do sump'n to pay you back for it?"
She narrowed her eyes thoughtfully for a moment, then as if reaching a decision she responded, "Well my car's down the block and it's kind of late. So if you'd walk with me we'll call it even."
"Awright. Sho'. I can do that, no problem."
It was half the length of the block before he felt the world begin to tilt. His knees refused to support him any longer, and he sank to the cracked paving stones slack jawed in surprise. The GHB numbed him to a point that he never felt the sharp steel that punched into his left lung, or the Nike clad foot that rolled him onto his back. But as the edges of his vision blurred, he saw the yellow halo of her hair framing a twisted mask of fury and loathing hissing, "How do you like it motherfucker??".
Wordsmiths Button - Image by Smarmoofus  is a monthly writing challenge hosted by Tiff and Kingfisher.
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15 comments:

Mojo said...

Betcha didn't see that one coming didja?

ettarose said...

I appreciate you coming over to my blog. After reading you I felt kind of juvenile. Not that I feel too bad about that. I love to write, just not that great at it. I very much enjoyed the sucker punch you threw at everyone with the ending. Amazing. I am humbled.

smarmoofus said...

Whoa. Jerk! I loved that old man! *pout* Cool twist.

But if it's Karma, then what did he do to her? If you have any room left in your story, her last line should allude to some long-ago hurt. Tie it all together. Well done, though.

Mine is up, consistent with all my other sentimental drivel.

-smarmoofus

Farrago said...

Yeah, that was quite a twist! I like the setup and the description of his sudden, increasing wooziness, though I have no idea what GBH, or whatever, is.

I like the innocent foreboding with "she sized him up" at the beginning.

"Karma" takes on the opposite understanding by the end, but I'm at a loss as to why or what she's striking out at. Obviously, someone harmed her in the past. Was it him? Was it an anonymous homeless person?

On one hand, I seek some clue as to who did what to her. But on the other, I'm comfortably disturbed (?!) by your apparently deliberate omission of any such facts. Is she vengeful, or just a wack job? We'll never know.

Nicely wrote ...writed ...wrut...

Nice job.

Farrago said...

And another thing...

I checked out your link to xkcd.com based on your description of it to Tiff on her blog, basically because I believe I AM a little off-center.

I laughed my ass off at the Ghostbusters strip. I think I'm just off-center enough, and will be reading the site all night....

Mojo said...

It's easier to understand how I got there if you consider that the story is sort of a metaphor for itself. I set you up for the kill in the same way the girl set up her victim. The "karma" remark was -- both for her and for me -- an answer of expediency. He asked "Why?" and she tossed out an answer that wouldn't set off an alarm for him. Every single thing she did from the first line was calculated, cold, and ruthless. There really wasn't enough "time" to develop a back story on her, so the reader's left to fill in the blanks. She's certainly psychotic, but how she got that way is open to interpretation.

Besides, the ending was supposed to be a punch in the gut. And that's a lot more effective when you've been lulled into a false sense of security.

GHB is a fairly simple "date-rape drug". I'm not clear on exactly the effects it has, but it leaves the victim pretty much unable to resist. I don't think it's actually a paralytic, but it may as well be. It's not uncommon to find college chemistry majors who can whip it up without any trouble at all.

And one of the things I was trying to do here -- besides shock the hell out of my usual readers -- is to explode a stereotype. Anybody who suspected something nefarious was in the offing would probably have cast the girl in the role of victim. Would the guy be the aggressor? Not necessarily, but not very many would have suspected the girl of having evil intent. Just goes to show ya... Evil comes in all kinds of packages.

Mona said...

This is something that would totally happen in India & all too often.It usually happens in trains, where the innocent victims are offered food spiked with drugs & are looted!

Norie said...

You write well, very well. I just hate getting socked in the gut though. There's enough disturbing news out there, not to have this in our fiction.

She turns her head to the right in the photo, not the left as you write. Was that intentional on your part?

I know a ton of people like disturbing entertainment - look at the success of the latest Batman movie, so you should do well. It's not however for me.

I'll check out your photos, hopefully you have some that inspire hope.

Mojo said...

Norie: Turned to the right maybe, but cocked to the left. As in tilted downward toward the left shoulder (rather than rotated to the right side on the "Y" axis). And yes, it was intentional. Cocking the head to the left indicates calculation (right indicates fabrication -- unless I have them backwards in which case it was still intentional, just wrong). In any case, the story doesn't have to begin in the instant the shutter opens.

One person has already suggested I have a Machiavellian bent because of the ending... and honestly, it disturbed even me that I could conceive of an ending like this one. But you gotta get outside the comfort zone sometimes... keeps you sharp.

Dave to You said...

First off, thanks for your visit and words.
You hit hard and quick regardless of subject matter. You'll find I'm not much of a critic. You set it up and pulled the rug.

Doctor Err said...

wow, dude.

Doctor Err said...

wow, dude:
what is it about this picture that so many of us thought about nefarious endings?
you don't screw around with the whole nefarious bit, do you?
:)
you have a nice way with dialog. it reminded me of when I read 'their eyes were watching God' with some students once, and couldn't do the dialog bit.
JC calls it 'southern fried'... I can just now (thanks to a stop at bojangles on the way to the beach) hear it when i read it.
dialog is tough, i think.
also, you do a nice bit of slick foreshadowing with the blonde's actions and they way her outer dialog doesn't match her inner dialog.
so, um, yeah. doooooode.

Cravey said...

not entirely sure how I missed this.I just went looking for it today. Weird.

Um, sucker punch is right. But I did suspect she was up to something. Call it my innate trust of blondes. And paper cups.
The bitch.

jc
:)

Don said...

Good. You set it up with her seeing something familiar about him, but the reader thinks it's the familiarity of homelessness, not of himself specifically. I agree with your choice not to explain what he did. The reader can figure it out.

the only daughter said...

The ludicrously sized paper cup did go out there like a beacon, an uh oh moment for me.

Some of the other commenters brought up the points that occured to me and you've answered those so I will say that I enjoyed the story, even the sucker punch.

I think if fewer descriptors were used up top some room could have been made for a bit of a tie up (as to the blonde's motivations). But given the context and the constraints, this works for me.

Nicely done.