Monday, January 17, 2011

Topsy Turvy Entries! Come vote!

Thank you to all who sent me entries for this contest (and to those who helped spread the word). I was so excited to read your work and it was very brave of you to let me post it up and invite commentary.

Here are the stories that turned up.

Story One: Untitled

“You’ll be okay, Mommy. Just use the bucket if you have to throw up. Try to be careful not to get it on the sheets.” Lily’s small hands did their best to be soothing as she secured her mother’s long hair into a bun. It was better to do this now than to have to worry about it getting gross stuff in it that she would have to wash out later.

Her mommy whined and pulled away, almost knocking her off the bed. “You’re hurting me!”

“Shhhh, shhhh.” Lily rubbed her Mommy’s temples, behind her ears. “You’ll be fine. Be my brave girl, okay?” Mommy’s head was hot to the touch.

Lily got up and scampered to the bathroom to find the medicine. Cursing to herself, she unscrewed the adult-proof cap. These were far too easy to open. She wished the manufacturers would stop making the medicine taste so good. If Mommy were able to figure out the lid, and Lily was sure she would given enough time, she would probably down the whole bottle of Margarita flavored Tylenol.

Mommy sobbed again and burped loudly in the general direction of the bucket. Lily brought over a syringe full of the lime green liquid and Mommy smiled.


“Remember, medicine is only for when we are sick.”

“I know already, Lily.”

Lily excused Mommy’s tone of voice. Mommy was a sick woman and needed compassion, not a lesson about attitude. “If I give you the medicine do you think you can keep yourself from throwing up?”

Mommy nodded, burping once more.

Well, if she threw it up, they could always try a cool bath to lower the fever. It was never Lily’s first inclination: getting Mommy into and out of a bath required strength and a functioning knowledge of physics. Lily did well enough, but it was always a struggle.

It was exhausting taking care of a sick Mommy. She hoped she could get some sleep tonight before she had to be at school in the morning. Mrs. Weston had said they were going to make marshmallow snowmen and Lily didn’t want to miss that. If Mommy didn’t get better, she might have to take the day off and stay home with her. She didn’t want to miss school if she didn’t have to. First grade was a very important growth year

My commentary:

Let me just say that I want some margarita flavored Tylenol. This is a very cute piece with smooth, sold writing. The role reversal is presented in a way that makes me believe it. Lily is caring and responsible but even in the small space we are given it is clear that she still thinks like a six year old and cares about six year old things. There isn't a major story arch taking her from one point to the other but I don't feel we need one in this case. It is enough to see that a small girl who would normally be the one who needs caring for is willing and able to take care of her mother.

Story Two: Trithos

There was a time long ago, When people would be granted an extraordinary gift so others could learn from their story. Trithos lived during these times and Trithos was granted a gift, he could live three times.

Trithos took his gift and put it to immediate use and his name was known in every winery and every eatery there was no time when Trithos was without food or drink because he would borrow from everyone, he had 2 more lives to pay them back, so he didn’t think twice about it. This continued for several years and Trithos grew massive and his wine slowed him while his food choked him and Trithos was dead.

Trithos was born his second time, and from an early age he had a debt to many people. It wasn’t long before Trithos decided that he didn’t have to work it off, he had one life after this, he could just steal everything he needed and enough to live from. So he traveled far from anyone who knew him and he murdered a wealthy family and took there belongings and sold them for a great amount. He paid his debt but his portion did not last long and it never did time and time again until Trithos was known as a villain and the sight of him was awful and he died alone.

Trithos was born for his third and final time. Everyone still knew who he was “Trithos the vile”. And so he was imprisoned for the rest of his life. Trithos had many long hours to think to himself and very little company that was even less kind. Trithos felt he had wasted all three of his lives before the final one had begun, he had to do anything he could to make one of them count. From those moments forward taught the guards who told the world he would teach them and he taught them to work hard, not to take what is not yours and to always take the honest route.

And although Trithos spent the rest of his life imprisoned he was content knowing that People he couldn’t see outside his world were making there days count because of him.

My commentary:

The idea of someone with three lives to spend is very intriguing and I think this was, for the most part, handled well. The fact that because Trithos has been given so much more he only wastes so much more is depressingly accurate. I like the vague, old tale quality of this piece but can also see how it would benefit from some more specific details and world building. Three life spans are a lot to cover in 1,000 words or less but a few specifics about the mistakes Trithos made during his first two lives could go a long way in helping us understand who he is and who he becomes. It would also drive home his solace at the end by giving us, people a long way off, something particular to learn from. The conclusion itself could also have been more powerful if it had been left unstated simply by going back to idea in the opening line: that all these gifts are given so that others could learn from them. Trithos could wonder what on earth others could learn from him when he had done everything wrong and begin telling the guards what he would do different if he had been given a fourth life to live. There are also a lot of grammatical errors that trip the reader up but, over all, the arch and concept of this piece hold together nicely.

I will also say that the first time I read this story I didn't see where the “topsy turvy” element was but on closer examination a teacher who has made all the mistakes can be very upside down indeed.

Story Three: Moment

As we hold hands we push our way through the crowded entrance to the theater. The room is already dark and the seats filled with people. We look at each other with our eyes wide. Somehow we manage to find seats. The movie begins and its interesting and funny and amazing yet for some reason I just... Just have to know what the other movies are like.

"Lets go sneak into the other movies." I turn to Him and say.

"What? Why? Don't you like this one?" His face looks hurt but my curiosity wont yield.

"well yea I like this one a lot but i just have to see the others. We can come back and finish watching this one later." I smile but my eyes beg.

"OK.." He gives in.

We leave the theater room my body filled with anticipation. We enter into the other theater room. The screen is filled with bright colours... Or is it a stage? There's people dressed head to toe in bright yellows blues greens and purples. Almost neon's. They look almost as if they're wearing body suits with beaks on their head. In the back ground there's huge bright flowers. The characters are dancing around and... singing? How I love children shows. Before I can figure out what it is about they begin dancing off the screen and onto the now large space between the seats and the screen. They interpretive dance around this large neon splattered drum in the center of the open floor. He and I float out and dance with them. My head spinning with colours and music. We're part of the music.

I suddenly get a craving for soft serve so I turn around to where the seats used to be, but now a serve yourself ice cream dispensers line the walls? I place the cone that is in my hand underneath a vanilla dispenser and pull down the lever, but it squirts melted ice cream out in all directions! So I try the next one, this one chocolate, but it does the same thing! so I try a few more going down the line frustrated, but they all do the same thing. Till finally I reach the last one that squeezes out vanilla and chocolate swirl. I turn back around to the dancers to tell Him, who was now also wearing bright colors?... about the ice cream when I realize I can't taste it. I look back at the stage and see that the ice cream had splattered all over the entire room including on the floor underneath the dancers feet . Why is this happening? The frustration coming back full throttle. Then some of the dancers fall slipping on the white cream splatters onto the floor.

A male dancer wearing bright but dark blue dropped a girl dancer wearing yellow because he slipped. Everyone gaspes including the audience Somewhere behind the ice cream dispesners. Is the girl hurt? Is she dead? Every one starts running around frantic. I look at my ice cream. I still can't tast it. When I look back at the girl she is gone. What Is going on? Am I part of the show? They try to redo the moves they had been in the middle of doing, but it just isn't the same, and the girl doesn't leap up into the blue guys arms. She isn't there at all... Where is she? The croud all makes a disappointed "Oh!" sound... My skin gets hot. This is all my fault. What have I done? The dancers and Him Come toward me angry and yelling. Their faces distorted and strange.

"You ruined the engagement proposal!"

"Look what you did!"

"You just had to get ice cream!"

"Look what you did!"

"She was supposed to be my fiance!"

"What is wrong with you?"

"I wanted to stay and watch the other movie. But no, you HAD to see all the other ones too!"

Proposal? What? I didn't know? How was i supposed to know? No. No! I didn't' mean to! But it is all my fault and I did do this... Now I'd lost Him. And the poor girl. was she OK? oh god what have I done? But it's to late.

I wait in the booth at this western themed bar. It's empty and silent. Everything is the same bleak and bland colour of wood. The floor, the seats, the tables, the two steps leading to the upper level closer to the bar, and the odd elaborate carvings on the back boards of the booths where I sIt, my head in my hands. Something is about to happen. Something is coming.

It was all my fault and so I must lose everything.

My family appeares in front of me asking so many different questions all at once I can't make any of them out. But I know why they are here.

I had lost them too.

Then they all go silent.

I'm now standing.

I feel... weird... week... sweaty...

I look down at myself. My skin. It's leaking. Leaking blood. Whats happening? It begins dripping down to the floor.

My knees buckle underneath me and I fall to the wooden floor, a pool of blood all around me.

Its over. This is it.

My body feels more and more drained and I can hardly breath. Till I have to give up... I stop breathing. It's not as painful as I thought it'd be...

I stare up at the lights on the sealing. Everyone just huddles around me and watches. Watches as everything goes fuzzy.

My commentary:

I like the dream quality of this piece, enhanced by the present tense. Many of the descriptions are a bit vague however and the writer could have edited and polished a bit more

Send the title of the pieces you would like to vote for to

Polls close at noon tomorrow (Jan 18) pacific time.

NOTE: My commentary is not in any way conclusive. It is a single opinion and only meant to get you thinking, not sway votes or decide the worth of a piece. If you disagree with me please say so. The participating writers deserve it.


  1. The idea of Trithos is intriguing. He had the first two lives to screw around, always thinking he had the third chance to do it right. Of course, the first two times mattered. It reads like a fable with a good moral. Now counts.
    Neat entry.

  2. I enjoyed both stories very much, each with their unique twists on "topsy turvy". Thanks for doing this Taryn!

  3. I like all three stories... they all have a very different interpritation of topsy-turvy... its facsinating. i do feel however that the untitled one needed more story, the trithos one needed some editing and more details, and the moment one needed to be refined and edited a few more tiems.