Mars: Ah, nothing to make a story like a good heist plan! It's interesting how this story doesn't seem to have any conflict at a first glance, but a closer look shows the man vs man thing going on here between the two characters--the main character trying to win over the other with their plan, and succeeding. Nice little resolution. This does leave me wondering what exactly they're stealing back--I don't understand the motivation behind the plan very well. Technically, it's not needed for the plot here, but it's always nice to know why characters are doing things. The dialogue exchange about being a cop amuses me--I probably would have replied something snarky like, "Well, we wouldn't be having this conversation if you were a cop, now would we?" Hah!
Si: I really liked how this story actually gives a good reason for the jackhammer + peppermint in the prompt! And it makes sense! Love how we discover the main character's plan through the thoughts of the second char--kind of a Sherlock and Watson set up? Very effective to deliver needed info to the reader without spoon-feeding. I like the way the two characters connect though we're not totally sure what's going on as a reader. I like the suggestions of a massive plan in place just about to unfold. One thing I wold add is maybe more description to set the scene, and give us more of a handle on the characters. The dialogue is great but I think a bit more anchoring would be good. Well done!
First Runner Up
Bill's The Canary
Mars: Normally, I don't really like present-tense stories. I also don't normally like description-paragraph dumps, but you've got me on both accounts with this story. My favorite line of the piece is probably, "She looks like a million dollars that someone embezzled thirty years ago and buried in a cellar"--the tone shines through right here; it's kind of a reflective piece--almost like a memoir in story form. I thought Benny's voice could have been developed a little bit more; the writing doesn't have to be so formal ("She's" instead of "She is" or "She has", perhaps), and maybe he has some other affecations of speech (similar to 'guzzle' instead of something like "downs" or "drains", etc.,). The "Not guzzles. // Sips. // Something's working," bit is a nice touch; it shows the readers that, not only is Benny attentive, but he cares for Rosie. Nice work.
Si: First off, I loved the way you slightly twisted the prompt to work with your setting. Excellent description of Rosie, it's a very dynamic description that easily could have felt more like an info-dump, but is interesting and active enough that I didn't feel that. Curious what Rosie's detoxing from (alcohol? My first thought was hard drugs, but the story seems to point to alcohol). I loved the line: "didn’t totally burn up, but never soared again." I liked the theme of memories and what things used to be like--Rosie, her past, the ending scene. I would add perhaps more dialogue, and give us some description through that. We want to know more about what's going through Rosie's head.There's no major conflict but this story doesn't really need one. Great use of short sentences in the last half to set the scene. I especially liked how deeply we're immersed in the main character's POV though we don't really "see" them. Great story!
Wait for it! Drum roll, please--!
with Preparing the Ground
Mars: It turns out she didn't know her enemy as well as she would have liked! I like how this piece is humorous and suspenseful at the same time. The last few lines made me laugh--I was expecting a more gruesome ending, particularly with the line about husband-stealing; the twist ending was an amusing surprise. I have to wonder if the witch knew why the main character brought her to the garden to kill her--or if Iris only read that the main character wanted to kill her, and got to the punch first? Was Iris really trying to get the main character's husband? The character dynamics are great here, though--both of them playing around the true reason Iris was there made for great development. (I still love that matter-of-fact ending. No italics, just, "Whoops. She really is." )
Si: ANOTHER WIN STEPH STOP BEING SO GOOD.
Love the writing, the humor, and the ending! Very polished writing, no tone breaks or issues at all throughout the story. I loved the Betty Crocker line and jackhammer and its "positive vibrations". The set-up is excellently done, no info-dumps, and we quickly get to know the two characters and the setting. Well done slipping in the line about the MC's husband--very subtle, but the tone of the story distinctly changes, connecting with the increase in tension at the ending. There's good foreshadowing too--"Know your enemy." "To prepare the ground". I would add a line about what excuse the MC used to call the witch over--what was wrong with her garden? For the first half of the story the reader is trying to guess the reason. But of course, the REAL reason is soon revealed, to excellent conclusion. Wonderful job!
Preparing the Ground
“I can do it, but I’ll need a jackhammer and all the peppermint you got.”
Sally had told me the girl was a witch. But I hadn’t thought she meant it literally . . . until I saw the ad. Know your enemy, went the old saying. And so here she was. She handed me her card.
‘Iris Flatly, Wiccan Priestess. Healer, Psychic and Spreader of Wisdom. Available 24/7. Thursday Spell Special . . . Buy One Get One Free.’
“You were right to call me,” she said. “Real bad vibes here. You won’t grow anything in this garden until the ground is cleansed.”
I was ordered to stand back as she scattered the peppermint in a circle around us. Then she started up the jackhammer. This didn’t seem very witchy to me.
“Who did you say you were apprenticed to?” I shouted. My mum had led her own coven until an unfortunate incident with Farmer White’s bull. It had put me off following in her footsteps.
She turned off the drill, paused for slightly too long. “Old Betty Crocker,” she said finally.
“Isn’t that a cake mix?”
She shrugged. “Unfortunate coincidence.”
“And the jackhammer is to . . . ?”
“Create positive vibration, Jah know.” She grinned and tossed her dreadlocks. I’d never come across a Rastafarian witch before. But witch or no witch, she wasn’t getting her hands on my husband.
“You do know why you’re here, don’t you?” I said.
“To prepare the ground,” she replied.
Well, she had that right.
By now a huge hole had opened up at our feet. Old plans had revealed a disused well in this part of the garden. A good push was all that was needed . . .
Her hand was on my back before I could even finish the thought. Damn. She really was psychic.
SEE YOU ALL ON SATURDAY, JA?