Happy Friday to all of our literature lovers! Today is a day to kick back on the shore, but keep your toes out! You never know what lurks beneath.
This week we took a trip to the lake and asked our authors to show you what hiding in the lake.
Albert Berg brings you “The Pond Monster.”
Ian C. Williams fights back with “Something in the Water.”
Let’s see what our judges have to say.
Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our first judge this week. Donald strives to write what he calls “haiku fiction,” stories that are small in scope but big on impact. Find out more about haiku fiction here. He welcomes comments at his blog http://haikufiction.blogspot.com or via Twitter @haikufictiondju).
Right to my thoughts on the stories this week with no preamble.
“Something in the Water” – This story is a lot like its main character. Just like Hazel, there is a smooth charm to the narrative, a soft, underspoken gentleness that wraps the reader like a comfortable sweater. The town seems like it would be a wonderful place to live.
But I as a reader kept wanting something more. I know that the lack of a climax is part of the point, but I felt more like I was getting a tour of the town leading up to a longer tale than I was getting a full story. I wanted more conflict and got a charming travelogue filled with local legends and a twist at the end that I had guessed a quarter the way in.
I don’t mean to dismiss in any way the delight of what is on the page. But not sure about the fashion in which it rolls smoothly on like Hazel’s cart, without any obstacle in its path.
“The Pond Monster” – It’s always a surprise to see which Albert Berg will show up to compete in the Arena. This week we have a meditation on lost childhood that could have been taken from the pages of Ray Bradbury, but written in a Big Fish modality. (Am I the only one who envisioned this story as a movie?)
Like the narrator, we don’t get all the answers we might want. But in my mind, that only puts us more strongly in the narrator’s head. Adults like to think we have everything figured out. It’s a good thing to be reminded that we don’t. It’s a good thing to be reminded that the universe still has wonder and mystery in it. And it’s ok for the mysteries to be wondrous and sad at the very same time.
Two very different reflections on Americana this week (if I may be so bold). The story that had the greatest impact on me this week was:
“The Pond Monster,” by Albert Berg.
This was one of those weeks where I read the prompt, immediately formed an idea of what kind of stories we were going to get, and then got completely surprised. I had “Creature from the Black Lagoon” in my head and instead we got two very subdued, cerebral stories. Nothing wrong with that at all. Let’s take a look:
“Something in the Water” – We open on an old woman pushing a beat up shopping cart down a street with her pet chicken. Such vivid imagery implies so much more about the woman and her lifestyle.
The interactions inside the convenience store seem very real. Coming from a small town myself, the man and owner chatting about town happenings was very familiar. Hazel’s inclusion in the conversation and easy banter with them worked very well to establish her as a fixture in the community.
Really loved the very subtle foreshadowing in the dollar store: fish food, Hazel’s reaction to the talk about the old town in the valley, Hazel lives “over toward the lake”. These are the things that make me smile the second time I read a story.
One thing about this story I wasn’t quite sure about is the scene with Polly. I am really not sure what purpose she serves. I would have liked some kind of hint here; maybe Polly knows Hazel is inhuman and makes mention about the lake or how it used to be, or Polly remembers Hazel being around when Polly was a child. I don’t know, it just feels like it is missing something.
The actual ending was a little bit disappointing to me also. I liked how we were led one way and then taken completely the other. Hazel is worried about what people say they saw in the lake and almost doesn’t stop to look at it due to her unease but then it’s revealed that she IS what they saw in the lake. That was a nice surprise, but in this instance I feel like I needed more explanation. Sometimes less is more, and sometimes more is more.
“The Pond Monster” – First off, the voice in this story is perfect. Very simple, with some child-like qualities. It reminded me in a lot of ways of the movie “Big Fish” but was original enough not to bother me.
This story has a very natural flow about it too, the narrator starts talking about how he spent his days during that summer, which leads to how he met Charlie, that leads to what they usually did, which leads to the catfish, etc. I enjoyed that.
Things take a little turn when we start to get the picture of Charlie’s home life. You know he has experienced things that a 10 year old shouldn’t and he has a different outlook on life because of it. He sympathizes with the catfish, they are both stuck somewhere they don’t want to be and can’t see a way out.
It was a nice touch that our narrator admitted that he didn’t realize what was happening as it happened, but only after the event finally occurred. Charlie giving himself to the lake and the fish was a slow process, not a spur of the moment decision. Even though the event was precipitated by a single event, the murder/suicide of his parents, it had been building for a long time before.
The last scene with the trophy and the two fish was nice, as close to a ‘happy ending’ as we could have gotten out of this story. Well done.
Two talented authors, two great stories, but I can only vote for one. This week, in my mind, one of the stories stood out just a little bit more than the other. That story is “The Pond Monster” by Albert Berg.
A judges victory for Albert Berg! Al took us to some deep water with that one and definitely earned a victory. Let’s take a look at your votes to see if it is unanimous.
It would appear that the people have chosen Ian Williams this week. It’s a split decision in the end, but when our judges agree, they choose our champion. Congrats on a great story Ian, and congratulations to Albert Berg for winning the battle of the water feature!
Check in next week for some malpractice as Tony Southcotte takes on D.M. Slate.