What happens when six writers, generous supplies of alcohol, and a starlit pool patio converge? Literary trash talk. Gauntlet tossing. And if Sagittarius is situated just so in the northern sky, perhaps there will be a Mickey-Rooney-esque moment when someone says, "Hey! We could put on a contest! Right here in the Piker Press!"
Thus was born the "Write Fiction Like Cheryl" contest. Or so I've been told. I was busy trying to convince myself that, if that was Sagittarius over the lemon tree, it had to be south, not north. By the time I gave up that pursuit, and finished licking the last of the cabernet from the glass, our editor had sketched out the details and was announcing, "And Cheryl can be the judge!"
I was glad, as always, for the opportunity to serve my fellow writers, especially if it meant Alex would get off my back for a few days about writing fiction. See, she's got this idea that I should be writing short stories, despite the fact that I haven't written, nor desired to write, a short story since the Ford administration, or maybe even Nixon. If others are willing to do the deed for me, I'm the first one in line to urge them on.
Alex was the first out of the gate with "Margo Embargo, P.I.", a rollicking tale so full of Piker Press staff arcana that we should all be looking over our shoulders constantly. She bravely included a poem, no doubt as her way of saying, "See? I dragged my knuckles out of the dirt and wrote you a poem. Now you owe me a short story. Owe me! Bwa ha ha ha!" Despite the vague sensation I had of being stalked, I awarded her points for naming one of the characters Dick Hertz.
Sand also culled details from my life, and used them write fiction about Cheryl writing fiction. She also came up with some interesting character names, but as she has expressed an interest in using them again, I will decline listing them here. But be on the lookout. There were four of them. And Sand - I usually knit with circular needles, and they aren't worth a damn as darts. Good garottes, though.
Gyps and Schiz are newer members to the Piker clan, and as such, wrote stories that did not give me that "naked in front of the RNC" feeling. Schiz's supernatural "Vengeful Lore" was a genre I probably would not write, but it was a fine example of building suspense and giving the story a twist, both elements that elude me in my own fiction. Nicely done.
Gyps submitted the bravest and most excuse-ridden piece. Basically, the dog ate her homework and gave her mange in the process, and she had to rewrite her story, "Runaway," at 3:00 AM with a stubby pencil held between her teeth. She misjudged me, in a nice way, thinking perhaps I would be sentimental about the innocence of children. I'm not. She did, however, inadvertently reference a story from my own life. I once misplaced my best friend's daughter while babysitting in their home, and in the exact manner described in this story. Except this child's excuse was that she couldn't sleep in the bed, because the bed was evil. And why was a seven-year-old watching "The Exorcist" in the first place? Damned HBO.
In the end, though, I decided that Wendy's entry "Winter Thaw" was the story I would most like to have written. It's a finely-crafted and straightforward romance, and weaves several things I like through the story. She also included a poem that any gal would be glad to receive from a man. I don't think Wendy knows that my husband and I worked together for a couple of years before we became romantically involved, and as a result, I have a soft spot for "friends who become lovers" stories. For this, she gets to share the "I Didn't Know That About You!" honors with Gyps.
Congratulations, Wendy, and thanks to everyone who submitted a story. It's been interesting, informative, and a little creepy reading your impressions of me.
And no, boss, I still don't have a short story for you.
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