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[Writing Contest] - THE ARENA

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,269 ✭✭✭GalwayGuy2


    Hmmm, I'll take pooka if ye want?


  • Registered Users Posts: 112 ✭✭The Pooka


    Can't do this weekend I'm afraid, maybe next week?


  • Moderators, Arts Moderators Posts: 17,231 Mod ✭✭✭✭Das Kitty


    Are you folks going to tussle this week?


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,269 ✭✭✭GalwayGuy2


    Oh, I completely forgot.

    I'm up for it if he is?


  • Registered Users Posts: 112 ✭✭The Pooka


    Oops, me too! Sure thing, how about this weekend? A deadline sometime on Sun would prob suit me best, if that works for you :)


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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,269 ✭✭✭GalwayGuy2


    Sure :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 112 ✭✭The Pooka


    Cool, feel free to throw up the challenge sometime today!


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,269 ✭✭✭GalwayGuy2


    Magic.

    Write a story with a supernatural, or Gothic, or what have you, element :)

    Does that fit the rules?


  • Registered Users Posts: 112 ✭✭The Pooka


    Sounds good - challenge accepted! :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,269 ✭✭✭GalwayGuy2


    Cool :)


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  • Registered Users Posts: 112 ✭✭The Pooka


    FORTUNES

    I don't believe in 'fate', but I've never been one to let that stop me. 'Twasn't fate that got me into RADA; got me my first audition; got me my first of many rejections. Sure, 'twould be easier to blame someone – or something – else when things go wrong, or to picture a benevolent old bugger with a beard smiling down at you when shit actually does work out, but I've seen enough to know we make our own luck. And, contrariwise, our own misfortune.


    ***


    It had started merely as a side job; an easy way to earn a quick buck and put at least some of my skills to use. Convincing: that was the word used by every acting tutor I'd ever had – and, since there was no way in hell I'd go down the clichéd waitress/struggling actress route, it seemed only natural to try to become a professional 'convincer' while awaiting my big break.

    I had settled down in a small town near the coast of Dingle, where every weekend the main street would be transformed into a marketplace boasting stalls selling fruit and local produce, along with any number of charlatans and chancers peddling their wares. And thus, Madame Sosorito was born.

    I set up shop in a little tent in the shade of a mighty oak, complete with crystal ball, tarot cards and various spooky accoutrements. And it was easy; in fact – pardon the pun – almost predictable: suspicious spouses, guileless old biddies, down-on-their-luck millennials who didn’t really buy into this sort of thing but a friend of a friend had said etc. I told them what they wanted to hear, or kept it vague enough that they'd fill in the blanks themselves, and then we all got on with our lives richer in spirit and pocket, respectively.

    So, when the guy – this burly, lumbering troglodyte with limbs as thick as tree trunks – came in and started jabbering away about the Euromillions, I assumed 'twould be the usual. Highest jackpot ever, €200 million: what were his chances, was there a fleet of Mercedes in his future, which card denoted prosperity? I duly gazed down at my crystal ball, focusing hard on looking like I was focusing even harder, when I felt the cold impress of a revolver barrel pressing against my cheek.


    ***


    “Betcha didn’t see that comin',” he crowed, grinning – a low blow, but fair. “Here's what yer gonna do, Mystic Mary; predict the winnin' numbers and write 'em down on this slip o' paper. Then Mangan here'll keep watch while I pop to the shops –”

    My visitor’s weedy lackey stepped from the shadows: slight build, shrewd eyes, what seemed like a permanent sneer etched on his face.

    “I'll pick meself up a ticket,” the caveman continued, “we'll hang about here 'til the draw, and if yer right, ya won't be seein' us again. But if not...well, the same applies, but fer very different reasons.”

    “But I don't – I don't do that!” I protested, neglecting to mention I didn't do any of it. “I just get a general –”

    “Pfft! I know yous lot can predict the Lotto if yis wanna – real Derren Brown shit, like.”

    I chose not to point out the contradiction inherent in this statement.

    “And I've heard yer the very best there is – so get writin'.”

    Convincing. Why did I have to be so fucking convincing.

    I was left with no choice but to pluck the requisite numbers out of the air, my arse, wherever, and jot them down – “AND the lucky feckin' stars!” – before handing the page over.

    “Rightio,” the cretin said cheerfully. “Be back in a mo'.”

    Wait! Let me just read your palm, see what lies in store – ” I grabbed his oversized paw. “Ooh, you've a nice long lifeline – ”

    “Geroff me, ya bleedin' tinker!”

    I was left alone with Mangan.


    ***


    I had bought myself – what? Maybe half an hour for him to get to the shop, discover my substitution, and return; then however long it took to search me and find the pilfered phony prediction; then until the draw itself, where I had a 1 in whatever gazillion chance of not getting exposed...

    I shut my eyes and, for perhaps the first time in my life, sincerely prayed.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,269 ✭✭✭GalwayGuy2


    As long as I have my fedora

    Mark slicked back his hair and put on his fedora.

    Okay, he was ready for this college graduation. He had his proud bit of beard, which sprawled gracefully across his neck, and he had perfected his trick. Flame danced on his fingers and he gave himself the ould ‘**** me eyes’. The ladies wouldn’t be able to resist his chivalric charms.

    The real collection of monsters collected in the auditorium. Wizards, ghouls, leprechauns, witches, and Mark even saw a fine lookin’ Pooka. A club was floating pizza slices through the air. When someone reached for them it moved half an inch away. By degrees, it slowly led confused college students to the club’s sighn up sheet. His eyes caught a flash of black hair and, boy George did his heart stop in his chest. That woman…oh her eyes were as blue as sapphires and her skin as soft as a rabbit’s bottom. She had no chest to speak of, but, quite simply, he had never seen a woman so beautiful.

    He stuck out his hand, ‘Mark. Please to meet ya.’

    ‘Oh. Hi.’

    God, she had the prettiest face. It lit up in a vampiric smile and she stood closer to him than most people. She even punched his arm when she laughed. They spent hours just talking and joshing together like two men. They met up with others. One was a succubus clad entirely in black with a fedora on her head. The other was a man with olive skin and a necklace of teeth. Mark spent a bit, a small bit, of time talking to him. Truth be told he had never seen an ind- a native American magician before.

    Mark stuck his hand out, ‘Howya. You know, I’ve never seen a native American magic user before’.

    He glared at Mark and spoke in thick Dublin accent, ‘I’m Irish, buddy. For feck sake me father was from India and I keep getting gob****es coming up asking if I’m a feckin’ indian. ****in’ hell, I’m a leprechaun!’

    ‘But…what about the necklace of bones?’

    ‘So what people trade me their teeth for me lucky charms? You got a ****in’ problem with that?’

    ‘No, but wouldn’t that make you a tooth fairy?’

    Surprisingly, the conversation didn't last long after that. The four of them wandered around in amicable silence for the most, and awkward for some. They were outside and Mark saw his chance. Alex, the vampiric queen of beauty that had first set his heart into a timbre, put a cigarette on those luscious lips. She struggled to find a lighter and Mark found his time to shine.

    ‘Here. Let me give you a light’, he clicked his fingers to summon fire and gave her a wink from under his fedora, ‘M’lady’.

    ‘Never been called a lady before’.

    ‘A woman like you deserve to have all honorifics showered upon you like mountain dew-‘

    ‘Dude. I’m a, you know, Dude’.

    Mark laughed. When Alex didn’t, Mark frowned. When he ignored the long hair…oh.

    ‘But…you’re as pretty as a woman’.

    ‘Yeah, Anna Rice got that part right. She erred on most though. Dude, you thought I was a woman?’

    The Succubus looked at Mark with new respect, ‘That is the most gender normative thing I have ever seen’.

    He and Alex did get a tad awkward, but, after a few pints, they were the best of friends.

    Although, the succubus did threaten to steal his hat if he called her ‘M’lady’ once more.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,269 ✭✭✭GalwayGuy2


    Pooka, did you know your username is a supernatural creature in Irish folk lore :) It actually gave me the idea on the whole theme.

    Anyway, I really liked your story. The pacing is spot on, and you imagined to bring the magic into it without actually makind the story part of the speculative fiction genre. Also, I liked your conman's, or conwoman's, character. Finally, IMO, it was wrote better than my own story. The language flowed and showed the characterization of the main character.

    Although, it did end rather abruptly. Kind of like it was a chapter or part of a broader story. (Which I only say to critique something. I'm used to being forced to critique people's works when they show it to me :P)


  • Registered Users Posts: 450 ✭✭Agent Weebley


    My hat goes off to you, The Pooka, but my fedora also goes off to you, GalwayGuy2 - educational, as well as funny.

    Both stories were great, but I laughed a lot at GalwayGuy2's story. Did you mean to crack all those funny jokes? The Mountain Dew one, was really subtle, and boy George, I laughed so hard I cried (just kidding.)


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,252 ✭✭✭echo beach


    As always so difficult to choose. I enjoyed Galway Guy's take but found it a little too 'busy' for a short piece.
    The Pooka focused on a strong central character and a very simple but effective plot line and that swung it for me. I would like to know what happens next. Maybe you could open a new thread to post the conclusion or just let us use our imagination and finish it for ourselves.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,269 ✭✭✭GalwayGuy2


    echo beach wrote: »
    As always so difficult to choose. I enjoyed Galway Guy's take but found it a little too 'busy' for a short piece.
    The Pooka focused on a strong central character and a very simple but effective plot line and that swung it for me. I would like to know what happens next. Maybe you could open a new thread to post the conclusion or just let us use our imagination and finish it for ourselves.

    I might be breaking forum decorum by replying to a critique, but I'd just like to point something out.

    The part in bold is completely true. I mention it because it explains what I meant by 'better written' in my own critique. Pooka's story flowed. Mine was a bit 'this happened, then this happened, oh, and this happened again.' I liked it, but, I guess, I tried to fit too much in.
    My hat goes off to you, The Pooka, but my fedora also goes off to you, GalwayGuy2 - educational, as well as funny.

    Both stories were great, but I laughed a lot at GalwayGuy2's story. Did you mean to crack all those funny jokes? The Mountain Dew one, was really subtle, and boy George, I laughed so hard I cried (just kidding.)

    Yes :) I enjoyed playing around with words there :P I liked the 'thimbre' word.It's poetic, doesn't really make any sense, but is very close to the word 'timber'. Heh, into a piece of wood. A little bit durty, but I did have a bit of a giggle at it.


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,027 ✭✭✭Ficheall


    I'd quite like to cross words, though mine are a little rusty.

    How does one summon the pooka?


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,551 ✭✭✭Rubecula


    Throw out the challenge when accepted give a theme/title and go from there
    Your post could be construed as throwing out the challenge


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,027 ✭✭✭Ficheall


    Cool - consider it thrown.

    A deadline sometime over the weekend would be perfect if possible, and I hate picking themes, so if someone else could pick one, it would save me using a random word generator... If that is acceptable to the pooka, of course.


  • Registered Users Posts: 112 ✭✭The Pooka


    Sure - first interested 3rd party, fire up a topic, and we'll go 24 hours from when we've both accepted!


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  • Registered Users Posts: 112 ✭✭The Pooka


    Any takers? Would ideally get started today... :)


  • Moderators, Arts Moderators Posts: 17,231 Mod ✭✭✭✭Das Kitty


    The Pooka wrote: »
    Any takers? Would ideally get started today... :)
    Here you go:

    Roll of the dice


  • Registered Users Posts: 112 ✭✭The Pooka


    Das Kitty wrote: »
    Here you go:

    Roll of the dice

    Splendid! Ready when you are, Ficheall :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,027 ✭✭✭Ficheall


    I'm ready.

    Thanks, DK.


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,027 ✭✭✭Ficheall


    Roll of the dice

    This was it. A one in six chance that all her worries were over.
    Funny how she'd ended up here. A one in six chance that that particular story would end up doing the rounds for a while, give or take a few details. There'd be no need to tell anyone what she'd been up to otherwise, of course.
    She wouldn't have to set foot in that crappy office again either - and they'd sure miss her when she was gone. A one in six chance at a one-way ticket out of that shithole.
    No more worrying about the mortgage, or whether the kids would have enough food to eat every day. A one in six chance to put that particular brand of wretchedness behind them.
    No more listening to her husband bitch and moan about how hard he'd been working all evening when she could clearly see that slattern's lipstick smeared across his fat little face. A one in six chance to leave him to fend for his fat little self - and maybe she'd find that angelic yard boy they couldn't afford any more - now that truly would be a fucking paradise, so to speak.
    No more waiting list bullshit from the HSE to sort that dull yet persistent ache behind her eyes. She'd be seen to for sure. One in six.
    COME ON!

    Some awful song by the Boss attempted to blare from a cheap radio in the corner.

    She'd never had a chance. Well, at least no more than most people, which was practically the same thing when you needed an excuse.
    She'd dropped out of college - not that that in and of itself was a bad thing - she'd read an article the other day in the Independent about how one in six students drop out of college before their second year.
    The bad thing had probably been the crowd she had fallen in with. They had set her on a slippery slope - backwards and at about an eighty-point-five degree incline, she would have guessed, off the top of her head, if someone.. aha.

    She looked around the dimly-lit table. Dimly-lit courtesy of six "energy-saving" bulbs; aptly, one working - the others, presumably, saving energy.
    Her opponents, for want of a worse word, were all watching her while they waited, regaling each other with quiet horseshit, drinking and laughing to play it cool, but never taking their eyes off her. She took her time to steel herself - their turn would come soon enough.
    She hated them all. But that was okay, because they hated her too.

    She shut her eyes.
    One in six. One in six. One in six.
    She'd never been very good at probability. She was wrong.
    Not that it would have mattered. Odds were, she'd be back.
    It wasn't really the money - she didn't care about the money. Well, that wasn't strictly true - everybody cares about the money, no matter how little it is, or how much they lie.
    The adrenaline was something else though.
    That was what brought her here.
    That and the whiskey.
    The whiskey and the adrenaline and the money.
    Maybe the cocaine.
    Sweating like diced onion in a little oil on a pan at low heat, she pulled the trigger.
    Click.
    Hands trembling, more dopamine flooding through her than either her limp-dick husband or the spin cycle of the washing machine could ever elicit, she passed the revolver to the guy on her left, who promptly blew his brains right out of his head and all over the wall.
    She fucking loved Thursdays.


  • Registered Users Posts: 112 ✭✭The Pooka


    MISS A TURN

    Lucas Hodge had long felt envious of one very particular subset of Manhattan society: the (often elderly) gentlemen who made daily excursions to Central Park’s chessboards to compete before a modest crowd of appreciative onlookers. An entire community seemed to have built around this custom, a feat which Lucas hoped to one day replicate amongst his own socialite coterie – though even in such a relatively elitist circle as his, the royal game was seen as that bit too egregious, the scantest suggestion of a match resulting in inevitable wisecracks: “Hey. didya hear? Two guys were playin’ chess and one of ’em says: How’s about we make this interestin’? So they stopped playin’ chess...”

    But games were Lucas’ livelihood and – he’d go so far as to say – calling. He was a senior developer at Hasbro (admittedly a touch more ‘commercial’ an enterprise than he would have liked), where he’d been tasked with finding ways to keep the company relevant in the face of consoles, the Internet and the general, relentless scourge of modernity. Little wonder, then, that he thought of little else – or so Sandra Hodge, who saw constant proof of just that, told herself. But then, she had fallen in love with, had married this eccentric, creative genius; she couldn’t very well turn around now and complain about these same attributes.

    “Most other games,” Lucas’ latest treatise typically began, “have at least some element of luck to them. Chess, however, is pure skill – if unevenly matched, it’s conceivable you could play 1000 games in a row and lose all 1000. Yet it has that stigma: a snob’s sport, a ponce’s pastime...”
    And so, Lucas set to work designing a whole new game; one like chess, but more...accessible – whilst, of course, retaining what made the original so special. He also hoped to bridge the gap between ‘high’ and ‘low’ board games, ‘fixing’ both in the process: where chess comprised two competitors, to the natural exclusion of everyone else, most others were supposed to bring people together but more often than not led to bitter quarrels and family feuds. Wholly misdirected anger, though understandable enough: when one couldn’t blame one’s loss on one’s own shortcomings but rather on the vagaries of fate (chess involved taking responsibility for one’s performance), it was only natural to lash out at those present.

    Did he not owe it to the ‘old-school’ gaming world to eradicate this well of discord? He had a family himself; indeed, was it not for young Alice and her future schoolfriends that he was toiling so hard on creating this perfect chimera? Lucas knew what he had to do, what gave chess its ‘edge’: that magical fusion of chance with skill, probability with proficiency – but how to transpose this into the spin of a die, the whim of a card, the placement of a de facto snake or ladder?

    Sandra would hear him muttering to himself: “6 factorial times n to the power of...”, and then he’d tweak something or add some new feature and the process would continue.

    And then one day – long, long after first embarking on the project that had come to consume him – Lucas emerged from his study and shakily announced: “It’s...it’s finished. I’m ready to submit.”
    “Well done, dear,” Sandra intoned from the stove.
    “Ooh, will you play it with me, Daddy?” Alice Hodge asked excitedly, looking up from her homework.
    “Now, honey, don’t be silly; you know it doesn’t work like that,” Lucas answered matter-of-factly. “It’ll have to go into trial mode first, beta testers and so on... Anyway, I’d imagine the ages will be strictly 12 and up, and you’re only 7–”

    There followed an odd pause.

    “9, Daddy. I’m 9.” Though she tried to hide it, it was obvious the girl was crestfallen.
    “9?” Lucas repeated, sounding genuinely stupefied. “Oh. Slip of the tongue.”

    As their daughter disappeared into her room on the pretence of fetching a textbook, Sandra turned to stare at him; her eyes held reproach, mixed with something else.
    “Y’know those guys you’re always on about, in the park?” she said stiffly. “Well...you’re closer to ’em than you’d think.”
    “You knew that going into this,” Lucas replied, his manner suddenly brusque. “That’s the chance you took.”

    As his wife finished preparing dinner, Lucas gratefully returned to his designs; at least here, he reasoned to himself, he made the odds.


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,551 ✭✭✭Rubecula


    I loved the line:

    "She looked around the dimly-lit table. Dimly-lit courtesy of six "energy-saving" bulbs; aptly, one working - the others, presumably, saving energy."


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,027 ✭✭✭Ficheall


    I do believe the pooka holds onto the belt for now, but I'll be back :P


  • Moderators, Arts Moderators Posts: 35,224 Mod ✭✭✭✭pickarooney


    Sorry, I only checked the times on the posts after I voted just now.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 628 ✭✭✭hcass


    Me too - sorry.


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