Play With the Prose VII–Challenge 1: Bret Highum

This will be my fourth Play with the Prose contest. I’ve made the semifinals once and the finals twice, but remain a bridesmaid. This time around we have 17 contestants. The moderator’s prompt this season is to write like previous contestants. There may even be a week where other people have to write like me! While that seems bound for lots of in-jokes, the themes should be general enough.

There will be 12 challenges, I think. Top 8 make the playoffs. This might be the strongest group of writers yet. Wish me luck.

The first challenge was to write like Bret Highum. Or specifically, about an emotionally repressed redneck.

Hazel sat straight in her chair, trying her best to appear calm. The hospital room did not have the best acoustics. Ernest Tubb was belting out his greatest hits from Lillian’s nightstand but was being drowned by the whirring of her oxygen tank.

“Have you told them yet?” Lillian was awake again. Her skin was paper thin, her face sunken.

Hazel gripped the arm of her chair. “No.”

“You have to.” Cancer was ripping through her, yet her annoying persistence remained.

“I want to, but…”

“Hey.” Lillian propped herself up on her elbow. “You could lose everything. The farm. The accounts. Our pictures.”

“I’ll get a lawyer.”

“No!” Lillian collapsed into bed. “No fighting. They…” Lillian wheezed, “…think I’m delusional. Please, Hazel. Tell them. Show them.”

Lillian’s son Martin, family in tow, entered the room. “Show who what?”

Hazel looked out the window. “Nothing,” she replied. “How are you guys?”

K: Not a bad idea, but I thought this was a little wordy on the part of the characters. More atmosphere and less vocalization would have driven home the melancholy vibe you were going for; the final bit can be strong but it’s kind of an obvious ending with the setup as it is.

CW: I read through this one a couple times and it just didn’t flow right to me. I don’t see the redneck at all, but here we’ve got a woman dying of cancer that refuses to tell her family? I think this was rushed to fit and lost something on the way.

Neither judge figured out that Hazel and Lillian were partners, so the impact I was hoping for was lost. It wasn’t my best effort anyway. No worries, though. Last season I also got zero medals in the first week and wound up getting a first-round bye.

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