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The Endless Struggle · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Flowers for Beauregard
The garden was much as Herman expected it, except for the corpse in the middle of his bed of nasturtiums and the loose dirt thrown around which indicated it had not gone easily into its present state of death. Thankfully, the body was fresh instead of rotten with maggots and other such untidy creatures, but it still needed a proper disposal. For a moment, Herman considered just digging a hole right there to provide his flowers a little extra nutrients, but Beauregard would just use the smell of decay as an excuse to excavate, and then flowers would fly everywhere again.

Howard decided not to consider source of the problem in order to give his anger a little time to cool off. Instead, he slipped the hoe under the body of the dead squirrel and held it up with a disapproving look of his own. Once the body had been disposed of into the trash can, he considered calling over the fence to Eugene, but decided against it. His ‘assistance’ cleaning up the mess would have only killed more innocent flowers and raised Howard’s stress level into a second heart attack. Gardening was supposed to be relaxing. Calming. Peaceful. Not cleaning up after a hellhound disguised as a little terrier.

Several times over the last few months, Howard had been tempted to do something… rash. After all, a hoe was just a stick with a sharp blade on it, and Beauregard was an infernal menace from the deepest depths of Hell. Certainly, whatever few squirrels remained in the neighborhood would rejoice, and the mailman would quit walking his route while holding a can of pepper spray in one hand. His neighbor’s yard was about as useful in keeping Beau restrained as some prison in a superhero comic book, because at least once a week the little terrorizing terrier broke out to spread doggie vengeance upon the nighttime neighborhood.

It made it more difficult to hoe the dirt back where it belonged and put whatever flowers he could rescue back into their places, since in three nights, it would happen all over again. One night for the dog to spend on the leash in the yard while whining loud enough to keep all the neighbors up, one night to be released and run around the yard, yapping loud enough to wake the dead, and the next night…

Once the last wounded flower was put back and Howard got into the car to pick up replacements, he made a pledge. Next time it would be different, and the last time. All he needed was a few extra purchases.

“Howdy, neighbor.” The slender form of Eugene draped over the back fence again, but this time he had a nervous expression much like a rat. “You know, I think Beauregard may have gotten out last night.”

Howard made as if he had not heard, but continued to move dirt around his flowerbed.

“You… ah… haven’t seen him around, have you?”

This time, Howard nodded, but kept moving dirt around the larger pile in his garden.

“What’s that?” asked Eugene with a sudden panicked look at the pile fresh earth, about the size of an annoying dog.

“The flowers were doing poorly,” said Howard. “So I got them some fertilizer.”

“You… How could you…” spluttered Eugene as he ran toward his house. “I’ll call the police!”

Howard waited until the slamming of the back door before he propped the hoe up against the fence. It only took a few steps to reach behind the rhododendron bush and lift the gate on the live trap so the terroristic terrier could waddle his way back through the garden and vanish through the hole he had dug last night. There was enough tuna in his oversized doggie gut to hold him for a while, so after pushing some dirt into the hole and shoving a rock over the escape tunnel, Howard returned to his gardening.

After all, the cow manure he had purchased for his flowers was not going to work its way into the flower bed all by itself. And maybe this time, they could grow.
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#1 · 1
· · >>georg
Guess I'll try to read a few as the caffeine that fueled my writing binge works its way out of my system.

Read this wondering if it was a "Flowers For Algernon" reference/homage. (It isn't.)

What's here feels a little underwhelming, unfortunately. My reaction to the twist (Howard didn't kill Beau) was, "Yes, and?" The points he raised about Beau's destructive effects on both local flora and fauna remain legitimate and aren't permanently addressed by the ending, and the line about calling the police promises further plot escalation that never materializes. And it's possible that this is just too slice-of-lifey for my tastes, but the core conflict didn't feel terribly compelling to me to begin with. What was here felt vividly described, though, with nice little details like lifting the squirrel up on the hoe.

Tier: Almost There
#2 · 2
· · >>georg
Similar to Horizon, I feel this narrowly misses being interesting and, ironically, I suspect falls victim to wanting to stick closely to the prompt. The promise of "this time will be different" thuds dully into the very likely truth that no, this time won't be any different.

On the whole, the whole story just feels too understated.
#3 · 1
· · >>JudgeDeadd >>georg
Here's the thing. There was no point at which you had me questioning what happened. Meaning no mystery.

At first it seems completely as if Howard has done away with Beauregard, and there is no hint that it might be otherwise. Then, in a heel-face turn, we find out that it was otherwise. Cool! But there's no suspense there. I shift immediately from being totally convinced of one proposition to being totally convinced of its opposite.

No suspense, no tension. No tension, dull story. Simple as that.
#4 ·
I had the opposite reaction -- I thought the weakest thing about the story is that the punchline is immediately predictable.

On the other hand, the entire first scene is well-written and funny, and the opening is engaging (even when it turns out the "corpse" is a squirrel - amusing, and I didn't see that coming!)
#5 · 2
· · >>georg
In contrast to most of the other readers, this worked perfectly well for me. I enjoyed the experience throughout, and while the payoff isn't revelatory, it fits in with your overall tone. This feels like a slice of life or more laid-back story that still has perspective and an arc and proper flow. Thank you for writing it.
#6 · 1
· · >>georg
At first, I thought Beau was the squirrel and was confused but intrigued that someone would name a squirrel, whether they kept it as a pet or not. I think it'd help if something clearly stated that Beauregard is the dog and not the squirrel.

I see the twist, I think it's charming, but I think the problem might be that I didn't care for the main character? I could hem and haw about why: the first part might be a bit drowned in things that had happened, or it might be that the sarcasm is a little lost in the narrative which tends to ramble a bit and use language that's too rich... which might be very small reasons, but maybe they're adding up? I'm not sure. Just pointing them out as possible reasons. I agree here or there with other reviewers. I think the twist works, though it's a bit muddled through the problem above that I can't put my finger on.

Also, the first line is almost a hook, except it runs on a little too long after [except for the corpse in the middle of his bed of nasturtiums]. If you had put a period at the end of that part, it would've been great, I think.
#7 · 1
· · >>georg
I’m with those who found that the story missed the mark. I didn’t think that he really killed the dog, so there was no suspense, and thus I didn’t empathize with Eugene’s reaction. Adding detail to the buildup and making more a connection between the characters may help here.

That said, the surface polish is good. The author knows how to construct a tale and build a joke.
#8 · 1
· · >>georg
Beauregard is really a ridiculous name for a dog. Back in my youth in the Alps, the owner of a shop was nicknamed "La baronne de Beauregard” because she had a squint (Beauregard means “nice look” in French, Belvedere in Italian).

Anyway. That story missed the target for me. The ending is much too foreshadowed, thus 100% predictable, which means the story fell flat. And besides the final twist, there's hardly anything to redeem it. It's a nice story, but once it's been gutted from its ending, there's no real meat left except a thin layer of fluff.
#9 ·
okay slice of life story, not much else. good writing, good premise, boring execution

#10 ·
· · >>georg
I'm not sure if you intended the link to Flowers for Algernon, and I'm not sure if it's a problem or not.

I was momentarily bothered by the initial perspective shifts, but they landed seamlessly into the narrative's attempt at painting a picture of the protagonist. I wouldn't change a thing about that.

It's a good story, but I don't understand the ending. Did he just trap the dog before the dog could cause mayhem? At the end of the story, you suggest that the cow manure was what would allow the flowers to grow, but that stands completely in opposition to the rest of the story because it should no longer be necessary. Consequently, the message is muddied a little.
#11 · 2
Lessons learned this writeoff (The Endless Struggle)

>>horizon >>Trick_Question (Horizon, Trick Question)
1) Don’t use a title that can be mistaken for a classic to which the story… isn’t.

>>AndrewRogue >>RawCringe >>FrontSevens >>GroaningGreyAgony >>Monokeras (AndrewRogue, Rawcringe, Front Sevens, GroaningGreyAgony, Monokeras)
2) Next time, kill the dog.

>>FrontSevens (FrontSevens)
3) Don’t write anything that can be considered a twist ending. It’s not worth it.

>>Ferd Threstle (Ferd Thressle)
4) Sometimes people understand what you write. Worry about that.

Also, don’t write for a competition while suffering a cold, the flu, or any combination of the two. Dull neurons do not a good story produce, or a good review create. I didn’t even get the second slate ranked. Blah.

The longer, uncropped version of the story will be on Written Off shortly. I’m going to take some decongestants and head for bed.