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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 383

Take Out the Nuts

page index
The All-Time Record
Helping Hands
Mount Vernon
My Rightful Place
Over at Floater’s
Past Imperfect
The Neighbour’s Cat
Rose Petals in a Dark Room Fall
Rusted Chrome
Watching the Twilight

  1. In Karlos Allen’s Rusted Chrome, Detective O’Leary’s secretary, the artificial intelligence named Margie, has emerged as the most intriguing character. Why?

  2. In Bill Bowler’s “Over at Floater’s,” in High School Honey, does what we’re told of Honey’s motivation confirm or add to what we’ve learned about her so far?

  3. In Graham Debenham’s “Past Imperfect”:

    1. How does Cynthia explain indirectly “Uncle Wally’s” apparition on the commuter train and his intervention in Nigel’s life?

    2. What lesson does Nigel learn from his experience in an alternate reality?

  4. In Andrew Cochrane’s “Watching the Twilight”:

    1. How do we know from the outset that George Cole has a serious Oedipal complex?

    2. Why might the reader conclude that George’s denunciation of his father is entirely believable?

    3. What is the significance of the fact that George does not quite succeed in replacing the patio tiles as they had been?

  5. In Bertil Falk’s “The All-Time Record”:

    1. The running track is described as “floating in space.” Would the athletes be able to move, let alone run? What other innovation must be assumed?

    2. Cinder running tracks date to the first half of the 20th century and were notoriously slow. What kinds of surface are used today?

    3. Irving Highspeed finishes the race before it starts, although replays verify that he does not false-start. What does time travel imply about identity? Is the Irving Highspeed who sets the record in negative time the same person as the one at the starting line?

    4. The story satirizes the “anything goes” mentality in professional sports. Explain the irony in Irving Highspeed’s high-minded conclusion.

  6. Arthur Mackeown’s “The Neighbour’s Cat” is an example of flash fiction purely in dialogue, but it is not a stage or film script. Imagine it being acted as a one-scene play:

    1. At what points would the actors make at least mental notes to pause and to communicate by facial expressions or other body language how their mood is changing?

    2. Are such notes needed in the current text or can the reader be relied upon to supply them?

  7. Michael Lee Johnson’s “Rose Petals in a Dark Room Fall” ends with: “I walk behind the footsteps of no one.” The normal idiomatic expression is “in the footsteps,” but that wording would deny the historical tradition to which the Gospels appeal. What, then, might “behind” imply?

  8. Is Bryce R. Piper’s “My Rightful Place” a religious poem like Michael Lee Johnson’s, although of a different order? Is the “diamond” shape a religious symbol? Or does the shape derive from the line breaks’ reflecting a progression of ideas, and does the poem deal with a “castles in Spain” motif like that of La Fontaine’s “Milkmaid and the Jug of Milk”? (One might translate La Fontaine’s poem somewhat differently, but the example gives an accurate idea of the meaning.)

  9. Liana Alaverdova’s “Mount Vernon” dwells to an appreciable extent on the slaves at Mount Vernon. George Washington’s will emancipated them. How does the historical fact affect your reading of the poem?

  10. How does the joke in Liz Rivera’s “Helping Hands” match Stephan Pastis’ “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip quoted in Tantra Bensko’s “On the Unexpainable,” in issue 381?

Responses welcome!

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