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  • “Mom, look!”

    “Not now, you little shit, Mommy’s watching the baseball.”

    George’s mother slouched half-drunk on the living room armchair; her unshaved legs splayed outwards onto the coffee table. A glass of cheap wine lay idle in her hand, and a dirty cigarette hung limply out of her mouth. Last night’s baseball game was still playing on the ancient television set, barely visible through the thick cigarette smoke.

    “But Mom, it’s important!”

    She sighed deeply. Taking another long drag of her cigarette, she let out a soft groan, sprinkling ash onto her unwashed bathrobe. Errant strands of greying hair were stuck to her face with make-up.

    “Fuckin hangover…” She muttered sleepily. “Alright, bring it here if it’s so damn important.”

    George rushed into the room, carrying a large cake in his arms. He smiled warmly as his mother’s cold eyes stared him up and down with confusion.

    “Happy Mother’s Day! I made it just for you! It’s your favourite: black forest cake with cream, dark chocolate icing, and cherries on top. Here, try a slice!”

    George held up a small plate of cake as his mother looked down at him disdainfully.

    “Whoever heard of a Mother’s Day cake?” She cackled, letting a brief smile spread over her face. With the last drag of her cigarette, she blew smoke in George’s face, before extinguishing it in the cake’s icing.

    George slowly moped back to the kitchen, cake still in hand.

    “She’s too smart for me…” He grumbled as he scraped it into the wastebin, along with the empty bottle of rat poison.


    George giggled to himself as he pushed the car keys into the lock, the door opening with a small click. He reached inside to turn the keys in the ignition, and the engine quickly spluttered into life. It hummed softly as he shut the door again and tiptoed around to the side of the car which was facing their house. While yesterday’s plot had been a humiliating failure, this time, George was sure he would get the results he wanted.

    George’s mother stumbled sleepily from her bed to the sound of her son’s grating voice. A quick glance at the clock showed it was only 7am, much earlier than the late afternoons she so often awoke at during the weekends. Annoyed, she rubbed her eyes and followed the commotion to outside the front door.

    “Mom, come quick!” George shouted as he knelt at their battered family sedan.

    “Oh, what the fuck is it now?” His mother moaned, leaning wearily against the doorframe.

    “There’s a little puppy dog stuck under the car! I think it’s hurt! Can you get it out for me?”

    George’s mother laughed mockingly, still half-awake.

    “An injured little mutt? Ha! Yeah, I’ll get it out. Maybe we can have it for lunch if it’s got enough meat on its bones.”

    George was ecstatic as his mother lay down to check the undercarriage, placing her head conveniently close to the sedan’s front-left tire. Silently, he crept around the front of the car and hopped into the driver’s seat.

    “I don’t see any fuckin’ dog!”

    “Keep looking, I’m sure it’s there!”

    A worrying realisation came over George. He had no idea how a car worked. He had watched his mother clumsily operate the sedan’s controls on their occasional car journeys together, but when it came to driving the thing himself, he barely knew where to start. Which gear went backwards?

    “You’re fuckin’ seeing things, George,” His mother shouted. “There’s no damn dog under this car!”

    Realising he was running out of time; George hastily shoved the gear shift to the D position. As he moved downwards towards the pedals, his foot slipped and came down hard on the accelerator. Only a glimpse of his mother standing beside the car window could be seen before the sedan zoomed away from the house. Screaming, George pulled himself up to the steering wheel, barely managing to swerve out of the way of the neighbours’ cars and eventually rolling to a stop in a nearby ditch.

    “What have I told you, George?!” His mother’s faraway voice echoed. “You’re far too young to drive!”


    Three weeks. Three long weeks of brooding and planning for George’s next scheme. And unlike the last two, there was no possibility of failure. George had got it down to a science.

    He stood at the end of his genius contraption, tweaking the final few details and admiring its beauty. He had built it in the unused attic, adding new bits and pieces whenever his mother was away from home. And now, after hours and hours of meticulous crafting, it was ready. All he had to do was call her in.

    “Mom, mom, I have something to show you!”

    George couldn’t help smiling as he heard his mother’s footsteps slowly getting closer. At last, she appeared from around the corner, slouching miserably.

    “You’re killing me, kid. First, I had to put up with yesterday’s mayhem, and now you’re interrupting my prime-time television.”

    “It’ll be quick and painless, I promise.”

    “Huh?”

    “Nothing, nothing,” George corrected himself. “Just…follow me inside.”

    His mother walked slowly behind him as George dashed into the planned position. He began a countdown in his head as she approached the perfect spot.

    Her hand lightly brushed the first string, pushing a marble down into a small glass. George yelped in delight as the machine set into action. The marble tipped out of the glass and onto an old book, setting off a chain of dominoes that catapulted the marble out of a teaspoon along a new path. A brush fell and pushed it down a small ramp, causing it to pass through a teapot and a course of rubber bands.

    George’s mother watched in bewilderment as the Rube-Goldberg machine just kept going, so big, it stretched across the entire room. There were old Hot-Wheels tracks and plastic cups and all manners of strange junk George had picked up across the house incorporated into the contraption somehow. It felt like hours before the marble finally rolled into its final sequence.

    The marble rolled into the entrance of a huge trebuchet, with a gleaming knife tied to the back. A few seconds of clunking and rolling later, it fired, launching the knife through the air at a sizzling speed. Unfortunately for George, his calculations had been more than a little skewed. Instead of landing perfectly between the eyes of his mother, the knife soared right into the bulls-eye of a musty dartboard pinned up to the wall on the opposite side of the room.

    “Uh…um…ta-da!” George finally spoke, after a brief, but awkward silence.

    George’s mother almost looked like she was about to congratulate him on building such a complex machine, but the light soon faded from her eyes.

    “Shouldn’t you be at school or something?” She spoke tiredly, before walking out of the room and returning to the television set.

    George was devastated. He staggered over to the contraption, ready to dissemble it and start work on a new master plan. As he lifted the surprisingly heavy trebuchet, he found his feet scrambling to keep support of his shifting balance. Quickly, he found himself stumbling, then tumbling out of the second story window. With a light splat, he landed in the open dumpster outside, his impact closing the lid right as the garbage truck made its way around the corner.

      Loading editor
    • “Mom, look!”

      “Not now, you little shit, Mommy’s watching the baseball.”

      George’s mother slouched half-drunk on the living room armchair; her unshaved legs splayed outwards onto the stained coffee table. A glass of cheap wine lay idle in her hand, though [<-should be ‘and’] her breath stunk [do a bit more research, but my understanding is that “stunk” is the past participle, and the past tense of stink is “stank”.] of alcohol as it wafted between her yellowish [<-maybe come up with a specific colour, or something else to add to the “yellowish”. Maybe her teeth are mustard coloured, or nicotine-stained. You get the idea] teeth. Last night’s baseball game was still playing on the ancient television set, barely visible through the thick cigarette smoke that floated through the room.

      “But Mom, it’s important!”

      She sighed deeply. Taking another long drag of her cigarette, she tilted her head back and moaned silently to herself [it’s not good to word things in a way that readers need to “correct” their mental image. In this case, you’re asking us to imagine a verbal cue (moaning) and then asking us to re-imagine it as a silent moan (silently to herself) in an order that requires us to back-track]. Small piles of ash began to sprinkle onto her unwashed bathrobe.

      [Consider alternate wording: “She took another long drag of her cigarette before tilting her head back and letting out a silent moan, sprinkling ash over her unwashed bathrobe.”]

      “Fuckin hangover…” She muttered sleepily. “Alright, bring it here if it’s so damn important.”

      George rushed into the room, carrying a large cake in his arms. He smiled warmly as his mother’s glassy eyes stared him up and down. Errant strands of rapidly greying hair were stuck to her face with smeared make-up.

      “Happy Mother’s Day! I made it just for you! It’s your favourite: black forest cake with cream, dark chocolate icing, and cherries on top. Here, try a slice!”

      George held up a small plate of cake as his mother looked down at him with a disdainful expression.

      “Whoever heard of a Mother’s Day cake?” She cackled, letting a brief smile spread over her face. With the last drag of her cigarette, she blew smoke in George’s face, before extinguishing it in the cake’s icing.

      “Nice try, kiddo.” [I’d lose the “whoever heard of a…” completely and instead have the story go:

      “Nice try kiddo.” She cackled, letting a brief smile etc. etc.]

      George kept his head low as he moped [head low/moped are redundant. They both say the same thing] back to the kitchen, cake still in hand.

      “She’s too smart for me…” He remarked [<- there are better words. “remarked” feels tonally out of place. Chandler makes remarks when Rachel gives him the wrong coffee. In my head, this kid is grumbling or mumbling or moaning or complaining, etc.] as he scraped it into the wastebin, along with the empty bottle of rat poison.

      -

      Mechanical issues: Nout.

      Style issues: So you still occasionally slip into purple prose but it’s nothing compared to before and there are some things you really nail. You’ve got great imagery, creative wording, good flow. It really works. The style of this story is its best asset. My only criticism, and it’s a minor one, is that you tend to maybe go into over-kill. You don’t need to guide your reader so meticulously from point to point. Try to avoid tilting heads, moans, sighs, etc. I do this all the time myself. I’m really bad for people turning and looking at things. But it doesn’t contribute anything outside of style. And if you do your job right, all these little touches will be there in the reader’s head without you having to go over every laborious detail. For example, where the mother tilts her head back, rather than describing her physical movements in order you could just say something along the lines of:

      She took a long drag of her cigarette and groaned.

      It’s got so much less detail, but the funny thing is you’d find that most people might not even notice! Details like her ashing over herself can be squeezed in elsewhere (it is a good detail).

      Like I said, these are minor issues. You have a lot of fun with language and your readers will have fun with you, but you do go a bit overboard with detail and spelling every little thing out.

      Plot issues – What plot? Consider writing a few of these. You could have a string of connected scenes where the kid keeps trying to kill his surprisingly wily mother and failing. Sounds like a good way to mine black comedy and it’s not like they’d need to be long. Four or five of these scenes could come in under 3000 words and be a lot of fun to read.

      But if you want to keep this as a micropasta then you need to understand that micropastas are, basically, jokes. They have a set up, and a reveal. You botch your reveal with the name and the over-the-top styling that immediately tells the audience to be on the look-out (the mother is so evil, the kid so nice, there aren’t a lot of moving parts here. A smart reader will piece them together in the first line or two). If you really want to stick to a short format, you need to give us a set up that provokes a set of expectations and then have a reveal at the end that utterly shatters those very expectations. To do that, the set up needs to be sincere or else the misdirection won’t work: the audience will be ahead of you, trying to guess what clever thing you’re up to.

      A story can play its own premise straight and have a good chance of actually surprising a reader. Or it can go a different route, like yours, and telegraph everything with fun, well-written stylistic representations of over-the-top characters. But you can’t really pull the wool over anyone’s eyes with the latter. And, given that the only point of a micropasta is to shock audiences, it means that the end-result kind of feels like self-sabotage. Does this story want me to have fun? Or does it want to surprise me? It’s like that friend who pulls a prank, but they find their prank so funny they spend the entire set up laughing and giving it away, so that by the time the bucket full of water finally falls, everyone has seen it coming and no one but the pranker laughs.

      Overall, great writing. You can do a lot with this. I just don’t think it suits the micropasta format, and would be more enjoyable if we got a few more entries showing similar scenes. (Hey mom I dropped my favourite toy down the garbage disposal! Hey mom I think there’s a stray kitten under the car! Hey mom, stand here under this innocent rube Goldberg-esque device involving a bowling ball, gasoline, and a honey badger I stole from the zoo!).

        Loading editor
    • ChristianWallis wrote: “Mom, look!”

      “Not now, you little shit, Mommy’s watching the baseball.”

      George’s mother slouched half-drunk on the living room armchair; her unshaved legs splayed outwards onto the stained coffee table. A glass of cheap wine lay idle in her hand, though [<-should be ‘and’] her breath stunk [do a bit more research, but my understanding is that “stunk” is the past participle, and the past tense of stink is “stank”.] of alcohol as it wafted between her yellowish [<-maybe come up with a specific colour, or something else to add to the “yellowish”. Maybe her teeth are mustard coloured, or nicotine-stained. You get the idea] teeth. Last night’s baseball game was still playing on the ancient television set, barely visible through the thick cigarette smoke that floated through the room.

      “But Mom, it’s important!”

      She sighed deeply. Taking another long drag of her cigarette, she tilted her head back and moaned silently to herself [it’s not good to word things in a way that readers need to “correct” their mental image. In this case, you’re asking us to imagine a verbal cue (moaning) and then asking us to re-imagine it as a silent moan (silently to herself) in an order that requires us to back-track]. Small piles of ash began to sprinkle onto her unwashed bathrobe.

      [Consider alternate wording: “She took another long drag of her cigarette before tilting her head back and letting out a silent moan, sprinkling ash over her unwashed bathrobe.”]

      “Fuckin hangover…” She muttered sleepily. “Alright, bring it here if it’s so damn important.”

      George rushed into the room, carrying a large cake in his arms. He smiled warmly as his mother’s glassy eyes stared him up and down. Errant strands of rapidly greying hair were stuck to her face with smeared make-up.

      “Happy Mother’s Day! I made it just for you! It’s your favourite: black forest cake with cream, dark chocolate icing, and cherries on top. Here, try a slice!”

      George held up a small plate of cake as his mother looked down at him with a disdainful expression.

      “Whoever heard of a Mother’s Day cake?” She cackled, letting a brief smile spread over her face. With the last drag of her cigarette, she blew smoke in George’s face, before extinguishing it in the cake’s icing.

      “Nice try, kiddo.” [I’d lose the “whoever heard of a…” completely and instead have the story go:

      “Nice try kiddo.” She cackled, letting a brief smile etc. etc.]

      George kept his head low as he moped [head low/moped are redundant. They both say the same thing] back to the kitchen, cake still in hand.

      “She’s too smart for me…” He remarked [<- there are better words. “remarked” feels tonally out of place. Chandler makes remarks when Rachel gives him the wrong coffee. In my head, this kid is grumbling or mumbling or moaning or complaining, etc.] as he scraped it into the wastebin, along with the empty bottle of rat poison.

      -

      Mechanical issues: Nout.

      Style issues: So you still occasionally slip into purple prose but it’s nothing compared to before and there are some things you really nail. You’ve got great imagery, creative wording, good flow. It really works. The style of this story is its best asset. My only criticism, and it’s a minor one, is that you tend to maybe go into over-kill. You don’t need to guide your reader so meticulously from point to point. Try to avoid tilting heads, moans, sighs, etc. I do this all the time myself. I’m really bad for people turning and looking at things. But it doesn’t contribute anything outside of style. And if you do your job right, all these little touches will be there in the reader’s head without you having to go over every laborious detail. For example, where the mother tilts her head back, rather than describing her physical movements in order you could just say something along the lines of:

      She took a long drag of her cigarette and groaned.

      It’s got so much less detail, but the funny thing is you’d find that most people might not even notice! Details like her ashing over herself can be squeezed in elsewhere (it is a good detail).

      Like I said, these are minor issues. You have a lot of fun with language and your readers will have fun with you, but you do go a bit overboard with detail and spelling every little thing out.

      Plot issues – What plot? Consider writing a few of these. You could have a string of connected scenes where the kid keeps trying to kill his surprisingly wily mother and failing. Sounds like a good way to mine black comedy and it’s not like they’d need to be long. Four or five of these scenes could come in under 3000 words and be a lot of fun to read.

      But if you want to keep this as a micropasta then you need to understand that micropastas are, basically, jokes. They have a set up, and a reveal. You botch your reveal with the name and the over-the-top styling that immediately tells the audience to be on the look-out (the mother is so evil, the kid so nice, there aren’t a lot of moving parts here. A smart reader will piece them together in the first line or two). If you really want to stick to a short format, you need to give us a set up that provokes a set of expectations and then have a reveal at the end that utterly shatters those very expectations. To do that, the set up needs to be sincere or else the misdirection won’t work: the audience will be ahead of you, trying to guess what clever thing you’re up to.

      A story can play its own premise straight and have a good chance of actually surprising a reader. Or it can go a different route, like yours, and telegraph everything with fun, well-written stylistic representations of over-the-top characters. But you can’t really pull the wool over anyone’s eyes with the latter. And, given that the only point of a micropasta is to shock audiences, it means that the end-result kind of feels like self-sabotage. Does this story want me to have fun? Or does it want to surprise me? It’s like that friend who pulls a prank, but they find their prank so funny they spend the entire set up laughing and giving it away, so that by the time the bucket full of water finally falls, everyone has seen it coming and no one but the pranker laughs.

      Overall, great writing. You can do a lot with this. I just don’t think it suits the micropasta format, and would be more enjoyable if we got a few more entries showing similar scenes. (Hey mom I dropped my favourite toy down the garbage disposal! Hey mom I think there’s a stray kitten under the car! Hey mom, stand here under this innocent rube Goldberg-esque device involving a bowling ball, gasoline, and a honey badger I stole from the zoo!).

      Thanks for the review. I wanted to reply to this much sooner, but I just got back from Portugal where the Wi-Fi is about as reliable as my dad's decade-old Toyota.

      You've given me some really useful tips here, and I now have a much better vision for what I want to do with this pasta going forwards. Purple prose is an issue I have with a ton of my pastas and I would consider it one of my biggest writing flaws.

      So yeah, once again, thanks for the tips, and I'll be putting out Draft 2 at some later date.

        Loading editor
    • Second draft has just been published :)

        Loading editor
    • A FANDOM user
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