View Poll Results: Please vote by March 19th.

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  • Fame

    4 44.44%
  • Tico, Tico

    3 33.33%
  • In Reality

    2 22.22%
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Thread: February '14 Elimination

  1. #1
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    February '14 Elimination

    Please vote for the story you like best and the winner will be taking part in the final vote at the end of the year.

    Discussion of the stories, to avoid influencing the outcome of the poll, are not allowed.

    If contributors would like to ask questions, they should email us at [email protected].

    Please note that the authors agree to keep their identities secret when they enter the competition.
    Those who breach this rule will be disqualified automatically.

    Good luck, everyone!



    Competition Rules
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    Note: This poll will close on March 19th, 2014
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    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  2. #2
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Fame

    She keeps looking at me, expectantly, in the rear view mirror. One eyebrow cocked in an amused way, but if it’s a joke I'm not getting it. I press some buttons on the sat-nav for something else to do. There’s no need to consult it really. I know these streets like the layout of my own bedroom, not that I see much of that these days. Ferrying rich drunken people around London all night in a posh cab tends to impact on the old sleep.

    I smother a yawn with the back of my hand and catch her eye again. Now she seems to be almost nodding at me in an encouraging way. I'm obviously missing something here.
    “Up to anything special tonight then, love?” I ask to break the tension.
    “Oh you know, just going to watch a film.” She grins now as if I have made a funny and she is playing along. So that helped, I involuntarily roll my eyes.
    “Well, least you will be indoors out of this rain. You wouldn't want to get that fancy frock wet.”
    “No, quite.” As she tips her head back to laugh there are little tell-tale silver scars glinting along her jaw line. She’s had work done I wonder how old she is.

    Just like this one, I'm used to my fares being a bit mysterious. Hired mostly for my discretion, I often pick them up from the seedier parts of town and drop them off in the more glamorous ones or vice versa. The bold ones enjoy their true baser passions early in the night before hitting the hotspots to be “seen” in the right places later on. While others have to be steaming drunk or high before they have the balls to go slumming it.
    I wonder what this lady's story is - a toy boy tucked away in a cheap motel surrounded by lines of coke seems most likely.

    “Still, this weather is good for me, keeps me busy”. I find my self chirping. It seems especially busy tonight. Clearly something is going on in the city centre this evening so I sweep around a back way I know to try to cut through some of the traffic.
    She lets out a sigh and I can almost see her wishing she was still with Mr Young, naked and handsome in the sleazy hotel room.

    “There’s some champagne on ice in the back there for you, if you want it.” I offer, hoping to cheer her up a bit before she hits the party and presumably meets with some poor sap of a husband – probably a rich sugar daddy.
    “Yeah, thanks.” She mumbles and then pours herself a glass before saluting the city streets ironically.

    Another sigh.

    “Well we’re nearly there, better get my game face on I suppose” She raises the flute to me and then chucks the bubbles down her neck. “Cheers”. Next she fishes a compact from her purse and dabs unenthusiastically at her face, before snapping it shut and chucking it back in the bag.

    We finally inch our way into Leicester Square to find it packed. There are crowds cordoned off to either side and a red carpet leading up to the theatre. I pull up and move around to open her door. As she slips out she gives me a winky smile and stuffs a big tip in my hand.
    “Thanks for being so cool about this” she seems to say, but most of the words are lost to me, buried beneath the roar of a thousand screams.

    As my passenger begins to move along the carpet, two frantic aids run up and begin fussing over her. One puts up an umbrella and the other mouths “Where have you been?” A question she shrugs off with one graceful shoulder.

    Now it’s a different woman, all reluctance gone, she glides down the carpet generously lavishing attention on her fans. Looking up I am stunned to see a giant movie poster of my fare arm in arm with Johnny Depp above the theatre entrance but before I can find out who she is, I am being bundled towards my car.

    “Come along now you've had your few minutes of fame” a hefty security guard grunts as he’s pushing me away.

    Oh well time to get back on the road – I must remember to google her if I ever get home tonight.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  3. #3
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Tico, Tico

    Many of Dennerline‘s previous workplaces had been worse than the current one, but he couldn’t think of any at the moment. At Hayward’s Pianos and Organs, business was energy-sapping, fatigue-inducing, and mind-numbingly slow. Make that dead. The deadliest of all was the silence.

    He killed a couple of minutes by dusting the satiny finish of a console for the sixth time. Or maybe it was the seventh. The topic of boredom as an occupational hazard hadn’t popped up during the interview. The franchisee –-Hayward himself -- seemed to ignore the red flags around Dennerline’s employment history, the near-compulsive job-hopping, glossed over as “extensive inside sales experience” on the resume.


    A week and a half later, Dennerline hadn’t rung up a single transaction, not counting the occasional ancillary item, like keyboard polish or a “fake book” of easy-to-learn tunes. Although he blamed the sales drought on everybody’s favorite scapegoat, “the sluggish economy,” it never occurred to Dennerline that he was not particularly smart.

    He knew little about “big ticket” consumer items, and when it came to musical instruments like organs, he was completely clueless. His so-called “career” was an open-ended exchange of one far-flung stopping point for another without gaining much expertise about the particular commodity he’d been selling. He knew nothing about the refrigerators in the Snow Belt over in Chili, zip about the “energy-saving” thermal windows down in Johnson City, nada about four-wheel-drive vehicles at Chick’s Auto Sales and Service in frozen Peru just off U.S. 9 near the Canadian border. Likewise cell phones, all-weather tires, wholesale restaurant supplies, aluminum siding, and a myriad of durable goods and services during his short stints in outposts across the Great Northeast.

    What he did know was how to sell. Or so he’d like to think. Over the years he had developed a mental template, a basic spiel easily adaptable to the specific consumer product he happened to be promoting at the time. Dennerline believed he possessed a peculiar skill -– he liked to refer to it as a “gift” -- of sizing up customers, an uncanny ability to distinguish the “just lookers” from the receptive “live ones,” ready to be reeled in.

    Among these receptive customers were distinct subgroups for whom Dennerline had a pre-set repertoire of various persuasive techniques. A retiree with a healthy pension and a desire to fill in the empty hours with a new hobby, or a nouveau riche single person with an outrageous amount of disposable income burning a hole in the pocket of his designer jeans, or a new homeowner who’d not only survived the housing bust of the past decade but even managed to upgrade into a bigger McMansion which immediately required pieces of handsome furniture and entertainment devices to fill up its cavernous spaces: upon all of these, Dennerline could cast a specialized spell of magic words.

    Attempting to transform the just-lookers into live ones –- that was hard. Trying to convince them to buy a luxury item absent from their priority list was harder, but to Dennerline’s mind, doable. Sitting on the edge of a piano bench, he mentally conjured up a Typical Family Man -- curious but cautious, tight with a buck. With self-generated confidence Dennerline rehearsed his patter. “You’ve got some great-looking kids there. Every time I see a guy like you, I think, gee, maybe it’s time to settle down, get a family of my own. . .I imagine it’s tough at times, with them all running off here and there, for soccer practice, dance class and what-not, and even when they’re home, they’re really not, am I right? I mean with them holed up in their room with the text messages and the Twitter. Back in the day parents didn’t have this problem. Everybody gathered in the living room, maybe playing cards or board games, making music and singing along, just doing things together. As a family. Wouldn’t it be just great if we could go back to that? That’s why you might want to consider purchasing a state-of-the art ________( electronic game system, billiard table, home organ.) Don’t think of it as an expense –- think of it as an investment. Family togetherness –- you just can’t put a price tag on that.” Sure-fire, Dennerline believed. You wear down the resistence with flattery, follow up with psychological arm-twisting, then move in for the kill. Of course, first he had to get them inside the store.

    A sharp noise snapped Dennerline out of his reverie. He’d been so accustomed to the dead silence that it took him a moment to realize it was the store phone. He bit his lip and prayed. Oh, please don’t let it be somebody with a technical question about tone wheels or the Leslie speaker. “Hayward’s Pianos and Organs. . .Uh, that’s okay. Their number is just one digit different from ours. No, I don’t know their delivery hours.”

    While he was fielding the call, Dennerline sensed a swish of movement behind him, a change in the air. Turning around, he saw a pudgy youth park himself in front of
    a high-end organ. Dennerline could hear Hayward’s warning in his head. “Don’t let any of those mall rats in. They’re loud, they crack dirty jokes, and they scare the legit customers away.” What customers? None in the immediate vicinity, not counting the kid.

    Before Dennerline could ask “May I help you?” the intruder had triggered the start button. Instantly the instrument exploded into song, which only took a few notes to identify -- “Brazil.” The kid’s chubby fingers skittered along the keys while his feet simultaneously pumped the pedals with flawless coordination. The boy’s slightly-matted black curls bounced; a stained line down the back of his bulky jacket jiggled.

    A conscientious employee would have stopped the kid, but Dennerline wasn’t quite sure how. Nor was he conscious of the exact point when his own shoulders had begun to sway. The smooth melody was romantic, the Latin rhythm contagious.

    Somewhere in the evolution of shoppers, they had acquired a collective immunity to the ambience of the average mall. They tended to ignore -- if not totally tune out-- the ubiquitous canned music. But that night they felt something different, something powerful enough to be actually heard. Something live. The sound compelled them to follow it, like a Pied Piper or the Lorelei, except that they weren’t being led to their doom but to a free concert.

    One by one the curious drifted in, gradually gathering into a crowd, and before Dennerline knew it, the place was packed. “He’s fabulous!” a lady gushed. “But from the looks of him you’d never know it. Where’d he learn to play like that ?”

    “Oh, you’d be surprised, Ma’am. Anybody can learn to play,” Dennerline announced with authority, though he’d find it a challenge to plunk out “Chopsticks” on the keyboard --make that “manual.” In order to be heard above the rollicking music, he had to shout, as if he were ordering a drink in a noisy bar. “You might be interested in our package deal. Ten free lessons with the purchase of any new console or spinet. . .”

    Meanwhile the kid had segued into another number. The tune sounded familiar, but Dennerline couldn’t remember what it was called. Something like “Tick-Tock.”

    “Bizarre, isn’t it?” A guy standing next to Dennerline shook his head. “He’s probably a nuisance like my kids, but this mystery boy is fascinating. Like finding a sparrow in the cornmeal, you know?”

    “I’m sorry, what?” Dennerline gave him the once-over, sized him up, took a shot. “I”m sure you’ve got a wonderful family. But I imagine it’s difficult these days, with all the activities. Bet you wish you could spend more quality time with them, am I right? You know, you just can’t put a price tag on family togetherness. . .”

    A final arpeggio and the kid was done. He flipped the toggle switch off, pushed the bench back with his butt, and just as unceremoniously made his exit, despite the applause, a smattering of disappointed groans, a couple of yells of “Encore,” though there was no longer a need to shout.

    Two or three nights later, a man with a puzzled expression entered the store. “I’m sorry to bother you, but –-“

    “No bother at all. As you can see I’m not exactly swamped with customers. . .”

    “Well, I’m just curious. I was here the other night and there was a kid playing the organ. I was wondering if he was coming back.”

    The sales clerk shook his head. “Haven’t seen him.”

    “I guess I’m not surprised. You know how these kids are today. Flighty. Short attention spans.”

    “Right,” Dennerline said. By now he’s probably miles away.”

    “ ‘With still a million things to say.’ ”

    “I’m sorry, what?”

    The man gently ran his hand across the shining top of a console. He seemed momentarily lost in thought; then he shook his head. “Well, I just thought I’d ask. Thanks anyway.” He started to head out the door but suddenly stopped. “Maybe if he shows up, you ought to hire him as a demonstrator or something.”

    “I’ll mention it to Mr. Hayward,” Dennerline lied. He had no intention of telling his soon-to-be-former boss any more than was necessary. Nor would he breathe a word about the fantastic opportunity that had just opened at a Suzuki dealership in Sharon, Connecticut.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  4. #4
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    In reality


    The doctor said that I am making real progress. I tried to not be so self-defeatist and keep the view that his smiles were forced or awkward, even more than my own... He said that it is obviously positive to see how much weight I had lost, which is never an easy achievement when one is in deep depression.
    We parted and are to meet again in a few days, since a week already passed.
    I did try, in this week, to make use of his statements, uttered in a voice which was not really immediately discernible as extending some pretense. I think he believes I am getting better. I did lose the weight, and now look like I used to so many years ago. Sometimes complete strangers smile when I speak to them, regardless of what insignificance I had sounded about, almost in a whisper.


    To them, it seems, I am getting better as well. Some who saw me for the first time might even think I am just fine. Maybe I appeared a bit too introverted, or silent, or immobile, or positioned my body as if I was not a man but a child, or some woman who was forgetting where she was. But I suspect that is all in my head, and the doctor is right in regards to that.


    But I cannot arrive to the same view when I think of his equally conclusive tone, about my fear for leaving my house. He always asks the same thing: “well, you did leave it once more so as to get to this office, didn't you?”. Yes, I did, I always reply. But this is not all. It is mostly like asking a soldier to quit claiming that about the barricaded earth where artillery fractured what seemed like everything which was, as if invisible hands tore out massive trees, along with the insect-like humans moving hopelessly about. He asks that I should not be of the view there was a hell, just because I left that behind several roads ago...


    Then again, to his defense- as if I am meaning to see him as a shield I am carrying and wish his own value to be strong for my own good- he has only a sporadic drop from the sky to examine, and I am more wrong than him when I expect his eyes to glow with the realization that in my world everything has already drowned below some ancient cataclysm. And now, when I just try to pass the final stair and leave this building, I can easily see that, yet again, despite the doctor's smile from his chair, there is only horror to be met with, when one is sunk beneath the fine cloth of puppetry waved by the infinite arms of what crawls about, in reality.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  5. #5
    Justifiably inexcusable DocHeart's Avatar
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    Not a bad start to the year. Looking forward to more!
    Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine...

  6. #6
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Since the poll ended in a tie, the voting still goes on!
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  7. #7
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    We need more votes!
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  8. #8
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Going once...
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  9. #9
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Going twice...
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  10. #10
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Congratulations to the writer of "Fame", who is the winner of the February elimination.

    Please don't forget to send your stories in by March 31 for the April round.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  11. #11
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    Tico, Tico,very nice story.thanks

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