Since they add the scores from both rounds to determine the top five, I’m down at number seven overall.
So I guess I’ll just submit that little story around elsewhere before sharing it with y’all. Sorry to leave you hanging.
Since we’re now on round two, I’m sharing my first challenge submission. The assignment was suspense genre, located at a radio station headquarters, and including the object an ice cream scooper. Do leave feedback, please!
Hector sat at his desk and stared at the piles of paperwork before him. Seriously? he thought. Wasn’t technology supposed to clean all of this mess up? He sighed and bent to his work. Running a radio station was more trouble than it was worth sometimes.
A crash sounded from the reception area, followed by another, and another, this one louder than the rest. Hector knit his brow and rose, pushing his chair back. He tried to peek through the blinds over his office window, but the angle was bad. As he walked around his desk to open the door, Barbara burst in, disheveled and crying.
“Barbara?” Hector had never seen her anything but calm, cool, and collected. He reached out to steady her, and she collapsed into his chest, sobbing.
“I don’t know what happened. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know…” she trailed off into more tears.
Hector was on red alert at this point; he settled Barbara into one of his waiting chairs and set a box of tissues on her lap before edging out of his office with no idea of what to expect.
One of the potted ferns in the lobby was overturned, loose dirt scattered across the carpet like a bizarre, dark constellation. Just a little closer, and I can see if Bev is okay.
Bev was not okay. She was crouched behind the remains of her desk, a portable bar that Hector had found on clearance and liked the look of. The sneer on her face was directed at a bag from the nearest fast food joint.
Hector was becoming more and more confused and less and less sure of himself, as a station owner, and as a judge of character. He’d personally done all the hiring. But really, nobody has a handbook for employees who’ve become unhinged by their cheeseburger. At least she doesn’t have a gun. He hoped.
Bev didn’t have a gun. When Hector’s toe nudged a pen, the noise startled her into looking up at him. She brandished her weapon, an ice cream scooper.
An ice cream scooper? I’m getting back into insurance when this is all over, thought Hector.
The sudden, blaring da-da-da of the phone off the hook broke the silence in the room.
“Bev, everything all right in here? “ Hector asked, more timidly than he intended. “I see the fern fell over. You okay?”
“It’s not okay at all!” Bev was screaming, and tightened her crouch, becoming nearly fetal. “Look at this mess!”
Hector was relieved that she was no longer pointing the ice cream scooper at him, but he was in no way comfortable with the direction this confrontation was heading. If Barbara hadn’t made this mess, and Hector would never assume that she had, the only person left out here was Bev. He turned his head to look through the glass to the broadcast room. The lunchtime DJ, Randy, put his hands up and slowly shook his head as if to say I don’t know a thing.
The blinds were closed to the remaining office, so Hector had no way of knowing what was going on with Steve, his ad manager. He turned his focus back on Bev.
Palms out and eyebrows raised in reassurance, he took his time kneeling amidst the wreckage in front of Bev.
“I see the mess, Bev, and we’ll take care of it. Don’t worry. Why don’t you go ahead and take the rest of the day. It’s Thursday already, so just take a long weekend, okay? I’ll get this cleaned up and back how it was and—“
Bev leapt from the floor, uncurling like a cat, pouncing on Hector and knocking him to the ground. She wrapped her left hand around his throat and dug her claws in as she held the ice cream scooper to his eye socket and hissed wordlessly in anger.
Randy double-checked the lock on his door.
Hector’s first instinct was to bat away the weapon as his knee went for her crotch. The knee didn’t have any effect on Bev, but her attention followed her ice cream scooper as it flew into the one and only gold record on display, something Hector had picked up secondhand and spray-painted. The glass shattered raining shards onto the still-vertical potted fern.
Bev cocked her head as if reading the matrix in the reflected fluorescent light. When Hector saw that she was distracted, he pushed her to the left, pinning her underneath his greater weight.
He looked down, and the crazed light went out of Bev’s eyes, and she seemed completely normal again as she apologized.
“Hector, I’m so sorry.”
He was opening his mouth to reassure her one last time as she grabbed a chunk of glass, slicing her palm to the bone, and slit his throat. As his blood washed over her, Bev laughed. Hector slumped to the ground beside her, his eyes already glazed in death.
Randy looked on in horror.
Bev wriggled from underneath Hector’s corpse and dropped the piece of glass she had murdered with. She took two steps to retrieve her ice cream scooper.
When the police showed up, ninety seconds later, she pointed the scooper at them, whispering “Bang!”
Randy ducked, fearing the worst, but the first officer in identified her weapon as a mostly harmless dessert utensil and quickly disarmed her.
As they cuffed her and walked her to the cruiser, Steve exited the bathroom after flushing the remainder of the LSD he had put into Bev’s cheeseburger and hour before.
“You should have given me that raise,” he whispered toward Hector’s body. “I didn’t know this would happen, but it’s been so much more enjoyable than what I imagined.”
Tonight I made chicken and sausage gumbo. It was a last minute decision. Last minute as in I didn’t have time to simmer chicken to make stock and cook the chicken.
I don’t recommend this. It’s hard to find a rotisserie chicken after nine at night.
I didn’t find one.
It’s also hard to find frozen cooked chicken that isn’t breaded or fajita seasoned.
But I found some.
And I got my assignment for my first contest story!
I just signed up for a writing contest. If you want to get in on this, do it now, because today’s the last day to register. Sorry, I just found out about it.
Why this one, you may ask.
It’s right up my alley. Participants are assigned a genre, setting, and object. You know I can do that like nobody’s business!
And the title? I don’t really know about the competition. I haven’t gone to read anything from years past yet. But somebody’s gotta know what they’re doing, right? Right.
Remember when I announced that I’d won the Listserve? Of course you do! That was this week.
Man, that was a super awesome feeling.
I generally don’t believe people when they say oh, I’ve never won anything. I mean, the odds are totes against that. Nearly everyone is won something. Yeah, yeah, I know that conversely, people do exist who actually have never won a single thing. But that’s like meeting someone born without a nose. It can happen, but probably won’t today.
So just about everybody has felt that thrill of winning, which is fantastic, because it makes you feel special. We all need that, except for one person (I have a really short list of people I hate).
Heck, last month I won four Most American Thickburgers from a local radio station just because I know Bruce Springsteen is the Boss. I was glowing from that triumph for like a day and a half, and it was hamburgers, for crying out loud. But it didn’t even have to be a prize. Winning is winning, isn’t it?
I’ll have to paraphrase since I don’t have my copy with me, but I read in Robert Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax how intermittent reward is most effective for us as humans. I’ll admit I have no idea how fact-based that statement was, but it makes sense to me, especially since I live in a gamblin’ town. If we win all the time, winning loses meaning.
Winning is like success: the satisfaction of any win is directly proportional to the amount of intrinsic value personally allocated to the contest.
I like hamburgers; I was happy I won. I won a Cobb salad from Hooter’s about ten years ago, and I like salads, so I was happy I won. If my husband had won a salad, he would not have been nearly as happy, because he doesn’t like salad. He’d have been happy to give me his prize, but winning or losing the contest wouldn’t have meant as much.
I shit bricks that I won the Listserve. I don’t even know the number to multiply my hamburger win by to get how thrilled I was. And for hours! Even now, days later, I can feel my eyes begin to glaze as I consider the magnitude of the whole thing. I shouldn’t have stopped to consider. Now I have this whole jittery wave of mind-blown-ness passing over me.
But that’s the thing. I sent off my email Monday night, and I don’t know when it’s going to go out. The longer it is, the harder it is to deal. I did my usual let’s type this up and make a couple minor edits before sending it out into the world thing, and now I’m second guessing.
What if nobody reads it? Okay, that one’s not really on me. I came up with a fair subject line. But still.
What if nobody likes it?
What if they laugh at me?
What if, what if, what if?
I’m so insecure.
I’m really not that worried. That bubbly excitement of winning is still outweighing any doubts I have come up with so far. And after writing this, my doubts are even smaller, because the little voice of reason is getting louder with its two-word answer.
So I grin and bear it. It’s so exciting! And it’s far too late anyway. It was too late already once I hit send.
It’s around Listserve o’clock now, and I can’t help obsessively checking my email to see if today’s the day, even though I don’t really believe that today’s the day.