And the Winner Is . . . (Plus Photo Prompt)

Hey writers,

After combing through all of the stories from the last month, battling indecision, falling for many pieces, and filtering everything through our own negotiable subjectivity, we have a favorite pick from the July/August prompts.

Guest judge/WD Editor Jessica Strawser and I selected Beth Cato’s “That Strange Day” response to claim this month’s swag. She’ll grab a copy of Jill Dearman’s Bang the Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Practice, Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman’s Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language, the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing newsstand publication, and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Creativity newsstand publication.

Below you’ll find a photo prompt from the Kentucky State Fair. I’d go into detail about the goings-on in the photo, but don’t want to sully your impressions of the character. Although he was wily. And feisty. And wearing make-up.

Also, Jessica is writing over at Jane Friedman’s publishing blog this week. Check out her post on “thought viruses” and how they can poison your creativity.

Finally, a sincere Thank You to everyone who wrote in the last month, vets and fresh voices alike—and for doing it here. How you all produce the stories you do—with the frequency and in the time frames you do—continues to baffle.

Yours in promptland,

Zachary

*Beth, please send an e-mail to writersdigest [at]
fwmedia [dot] com marked “Attn: Zachary Petit,” so I can get the goods
shipped out to you!

PROMPT: Life in the Booth
In 500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring:

Write a scene about this man—perhaps a pivotal moment in his life—in the dunking booth, or elsewhere.

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    It had been a rather cloudy day. Maybe that was why there weren’t many people at the fair that day. A chill arose suddenly, and stroked Bozo’s bones. As quickly as the chill came it vanished, and that’s when he saw her. She had a wad of bills, and she was going to use them at Bozo’s dunk booth. Bill looked pleased. Why shouldn’t he? The day had been slow, and this girl seemed content to give Bill her money. How could Bill possibly misinterpret that glint in her eye? He saw excitement; Bozo saw hatred. Why not? He had walked out on her mother ten years ago, then turned his back on her when she found him two years ago. His daughter, his own flesh and blood. He’d wanted nothing to do with her, with the responsibility of being a dad. He didn’t want the restrictions and burdens of being a suburban man. That wasn’t his American dream. He wanted the freedom of an open road and to be able to ramble wherever his feet took him.She dunked him on the first try. She had a good arm. She didn’t look any more muscular than when he saw her last. She picked out a small blue dog, and handed Bill three more singles. She dunked him again.
    "Well done!" Bill yelled out. She threw two more balls, dunking him each time. Bozo was barely able to catch his breath before she sent him back into the water.
    "My God," he thought, climbing back into his seat. "She’s trying to drown me!" The chill picked up, and a small crowd gathered.
    "Bill," Bozo wheezed. "Don’t give her anymore baseballs. She’s trying to kill me!"
    "You should have thought of that before you abandoned your family!" Bill replied. Bozo went under again. When he pulled himself back onto his seat, the wind had picked up. The crowd had dispersed, and Bill was chatting with Bozo’s daughter. He ran his fingers through her hair, and she smiled.
    "Hey!" Bozo called out, but the wind carried off his words. The rains came. Bill pulled Bozo’s daughter into a passionate kiss, running his hands across her back, buttocks, and sides.
    "Hey!" Bozo yelled out again, but he was drowned out by the rain, and now thunder. Bill walked off with Bozo’s daughter. They were heading back to the trailers where the workers lived. Bozo tried to climb out of the booth, but he kept slipping. He wanted to call out his daughter’s name, but he couldn’t remember it.
    "Oh God. How can I not remember my own daughter’s name?" Bozo tried the doors of the booth, but they were padlocked. He tried to climb out yet again, but kept slipping.
    "Bill!" he screamed out. "Bill!" But Bill had taken the girl into his trailer and slammed the door. The wind blew harder. The fairgrounds were empty except for Bozo. There was a scream- a high-pitched woman’s scream that came from Bill’s trailer. The wind carried the screams, a horrible disembodied sound. The rain and thunder stopped. The screaming stopped. The wind slowed, but never stopped. The door to Bill’s trailer slammed open, and Bill stepped out. He was covered in blood. Bozo began to scream and bang on the booth as Bill laughed.

  13. Zachary Petit

    Hey Duane and Mark,

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  14. Teever

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  15. duane sosseur

    ….Beth’s story is good. A couple of writers digest coffee cups and a couple of writers digest t shirts thrown in with your complimentary books would sweeten the prize, I must say. Best writer of the month might seem empty without a tshirt to wear around town or a coffeecup to drink out of…
    …You don’t have any of those, you might say. My response would be to get some, there just isn’t any better advertising! I assume you won’t, and will refer to budget constraints…
    …But I think Beth’s story rates at least a tshirt and coffeecup, aside from the books shes getting. "Best short story of the month, writers digest july/august 2009" on a tshirt is a reason to walk around and be proud…
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    ……………………………….

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    The ball whistles through the air and smacks against the canvas backdrop. My heart skips with relief.
    “You’re a wimpy kid. Sit the bench too much?”
    The kid mumbles something I can’t hear and everyone laughs and swears at me. Apparently I’m nothing more than a useless bastard of a clown—not funny enough for center stage.
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  17. Mark James

    Door Number One

    “Hey, kid.”

    I kept going, tucked my head lower, let more of my hair cover my face.

    “Come on, kid. Take a swipe.”

    I turned back. The man in the Dunk Tank was sitting on a narrow red bench, his face painted red, and I thought – how come the make up doesn’t wash off in the water?

    “Yeah. You. Come over here.”

    The crowd moved by me real slow, the way people do at carnivals, like nothing matters, like there’s no place to be, like nobody’s chasing your ass through three counties.

    Except for a spotlight on the name – ‘Make Bozo Splash’ – the tank was deep in shadows. I slipped into the dark, looked up at him.

    He was grabbing the bars of his tank, like a prisoner who wants out real bad. He’d gone all out with the make up. His hands were just as red as his face. “You got a cigarette, kid?”

    “I don’t smoke.”

    He let go the bars, sat back on his wooden bench. “You should.”

    I knew I should get walking, but Bozo – he had me going. “How come?”

    “Cuz all that worry on your face – it’s gonna kill you. You might should smoke it up and let the coffin nails get you first.”

    I looked up at him, all round eyes and pale cheeks.

    “Who’d you mess with, kid?”

    Past the clown make up, surrounded by red paint, his eyes were sharper than shark teeth.

    I could have lied; maybe I should have. I don’t know anymore. “The wrong people, I guess.”

    “No shit. You’re walking around like your hair’s on fire and your ass is catching.”

    He reached down and pulled a sign out of the water – ‘Drying out. Be back when I’m sober’ – and stuck it to the bars somehow. I couldn’t help noticing his wrist – it was red.

    He stood up, slid along the narrow bench like a tight rope walker, and climbed down a ladder outside the tank. A door opened and he came out, looking a whole lot bigger than he looked behind bars.

    “Come on, kid.”

    It was dark behind the tank, like it was a velvet curtain back there. He walked into the dark, still talking. “Got something to show you.”

    I followed him and stopped short. There was no place to go. Back here, it wasn’t dark at all. Two lights shined on two red doors in a black brick wall. One door said, “There”; the other door said “Here”.

    “Where you wanna go? Here or There?”

    “What?”

    You’re looking to get lost, right?”

    I didn’t say anything, kept looking from one door to the other.

    He snapped red fingers in front of me. Now that he was out of the tank, I could see the nails were blue. “Hey, kid. You listening?”

    “There.” Why not? Back here in the dark, behind one of those doors was as good for getting lost as the dark highways I’d been hitching.

    He opened the door. Light came flooding out, and a cool smell hit me, like autumn in the air.

    “Go on,” Bozo said. “It’s nice over there. You’ll like it.”

    Now, here I am walking down this road. He was right. It’s nice over here; real pretty country.

    I try not to think about how come the grass is red and the trees are a little crooked, or why it looks like there’s two suns in the sky.

  18. J. Alvey

    "Dunking Booth"

    I was borne
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    placental goo clinging
    to my raw pink flesh
    as I came splashing into sunlight
    peeking through the blinds,
    my mother
    purple in her agony,
    my father
    nowhere to be found.

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