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Last Call · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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“Brian, my son! How’s your first day?” Brian’s mother’s shrill voice pierced his eardrum. He moved the cell phone away from his head and grimaced.

“Mom, please,” he replied softly, placing the phone back to his ear, “not so loud! It’s an open office here. And I’m not even supposed to answer private calls!”

“Oh come on!” his mother protested. “Your manager won’t mind a short call this early, will he?”

“Hold on.” Brian looked around for a more private space. He spotted the “Zen Cubicle”, with its coffee machine and garish beanbags, strode to its entrance and onwards to the window across. He looked down at the Hudson River. From that high up, the sight was amazing.

He leaned against the pane. “Okay,” he resumed in a muffled voice. “In a semi-private area now. What’s the matter?”

“Oh, Brian, are they throwing you straight to the wolves on your first morning?”

“No, no, Mom. Go ahead, but make it snappy please. I only have so much time.”

“I wanted to tell you Dad and I just saw the picture you sent us. My God, Brian, you look gorgeous.”

Brian blushed a little. “Thanks Mom! I mean, a lawyer has to look swanky. They all do around here. All decked to the nines.”

“Did you send that picture to Jessy? She’d be amazed by your new look.”

“No, no, I didn’t.”

“Then we’ll do it for you!”

“Mom, please don’t! I’m planning on giving her a surprise when she comes over next week. Besides, I’ve already told you that I’m old enough to handle my own business. I’d really appreciate if you stopped interfering.”

“Alright,” his mother said, sighing. “But what about the ring which you—”

“Mom! I—” Brian blurted aloud. He covered his mouth with his other hand and craned around, self-conscious. Fortunately, no one was near enough to overhear. “I hope neither of you mentioned that to her,” he continued angrily.

“Of course we didn’t, dear! Do you think we’re unable to keep a secret?”

Brian grunted.

“Say, they didn’t throw you in the deep end, did they? I’ve heard that in those law firms—”

“Mom! It’s going to be alright, I promise. There’s no need to worry. The manager is very helpful, as is everyone else.” He looked at his watch. “Now, if you will excuse me, I really need to start working.”

“Fine,” his mother replied. “But be sure to call back tonight to tell us all about your day, okay?”

“I will Mom. Definitely. Have a nice day and if you run into Jessy today, let her know I love her and I miss her. Goodbye!”

Brian hung up, smiled to himself, and rolled his eyes. He put his phone in a pocket, then turned around to face the window. The view from here truly was breathtaking, from the glossy grey river down up to the blue expanse of the late summer sky. Idly, he watched a tiny gleam high above, like a fleeting mote of dust in the morning breeze. It seemed to grow by the second.
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#1 · 4
· · >>Miller Minus >>Baal Bunny >>Monokeras
I assume you left the "/" out of the title to make it less obvious. If that was the case, then I would have moved the mention of the Hudson river to later in the story, perhaps make a mention of how Autumn is about to start in a few weeks to get the reader's mind into the timeframe of the event.

Anyway, I get what you were going for here, and though I think you succeeded to some degree, I think this story could have used a tighter focus. Once the story is over, and we realise what will happen to Brian, the contents of his conversation are meant to hit us like a brick, because we know all of that will be lost.

Here's the thing, though. The conversation Brian has with his mom lets us know she's a bit overbearing and even though Brian loves her, there's some distance between them, and that distance comes across to the reader as well. You've not sold us on that relationship the way you could have.

Jessy, though. Now there's potential.

I think I'd rather have the story center around Jessy and Brian having a phonecall and make a few mentions to how much Brian's mom loves him. That way I'd be fully invested in the relationship shown, and once the ending comes, then we are hit with that sense of loss.

But hey, I still think it's better executed than Remember Me
#2 · 3
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa >>Baal Bunny >>Monokeras
I'm with >>Zaid Val'Roa on this one, except that I would go one step further and say you play your hand even earlier than that.

Here's my thought process: Okay, so it's called 911. Which means either it's about emergency calls (I got really excited about that prospect; it would fit the prompt and everything!) or it's about 9/11. Or maybe something completely different.

And when it's immediately clear that it's not option 1, I'm already thinking incoming before you've even mentioned the Hudson River. And when you did, I didn't know where that was, so I googled it, already pretty confident it would be in New York.

The problem is that you're basing the impact of the story on the reveal of the attacks. So when it comes across so early, the rest of the story feels like an exercise in waiting for it to happen.

However, I can't fault the writing style at all, and the only real point I would make is that there were better options for the phone call as Zaid mentioned (like Jessy). If the title were less obvious and the Hudson River was moved allllllll the way to the last line of the story along with the approaching mote of dust, the impact would have hit me like a...

No, I won't say it.

Thanks for writing!
#3 · 3
>>Miller Minus
the impact would have hit me like a...

Like a drone attack? :D
#4 · 4
· · >>Anon Y Mous >>Fenton >>Monokeras
I sometimes wonder:

How I manage to put my shoes on every morning without getting the laces looped around my throat.

'Cause I got to the end here and still had no idea what was going on. It wasn't till I read the comments that the light dawned. The title wasn't enough for me. The clues in the story itself weren't enough for me So I guess the lesson is that, for every clever reader like >>Zaid Val'Roa and >>Miller Minus out there, there are also dolts like me stumbling around with their shoelaces tied together.

This one'll go at or near the top of my ballot. Why should I punish the author for my idiocy? :)

#5 ·
There is not much to add that the others have not already said. The execution is fine, and contrarily to what Zaid says, I agree that emphasising the relationship between Brian and Jessy would’ve been like writing Titanic 2 – made the whole story very sappy at best. I like the image of the mother hen.

I have a hard time pointing out any specific weakness here. With that sort of story, there’s a delicate balance to strike between being too terse or too loquacious, too obvious or too obscure. It’s not an easy task, and I think you succeeded pretty well, even though the title could’ve been changed for something less on the nose.

Anyway, quite a nice entry.
#6 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
>>Baal Bunny
same with me. I was about to comment "a meteor? like the dinosaurs?" When it dawned on me why the title was that way (thanks to the actual smart people out there haha ^^).
Very clever story. Probably one of the best. Good job!
#7 · 1
· · >>Monokeras >>Monokeras
Jet fuel can't melt steel beams and using a real and tragic event doesn't make me care more (probably because I'm not from the US. Or because I'm a dick, it's one of them. Probably the latter)

However, and like >>Baal Bunny, I'm an idiot and I didn't understand what it was about before a second reading of both the story and the title. As a result, the whole interaction between the mother and the son is quite engaging and interesting. I started to care about them, before everything abruptly stopped. And I get it, that's the point but it felt likes this:
backstory backstory backstory... end of backstory
So I'm left with a question, where is the story? I mean, like the mention of MLP in another entry, I don't see how this guy is related to the event. Aside from just being a casulty, it could have been anyone else (like the cleaner, or the delivery man), it doesn't seem like it would have changed anything.

I'm exaggerating things here but I don't know how else I could have explained them, and there is still some skills on display here. Unfortunately, there aren't really aimed in the right direction for me.
#8 · 1
You’re back? Nice!
#9 · 5
· · >>Monokeras
I know where the Hudson River is (from watching Gargoyles), so I figured out the twist as soon as that was mentioned. Other readers still couldn't recognize it was 9/11 at the end, until reading comments. So this is simultaneously too obvious of an idea, with too subtle execution. See, I'm not even hiding the surprise in spoiler tags, since it hits everyone either too soon or too late.

I've seen this story a thousand times already. Especially with 9/11, and sometimes other events loaded with historical significance, but it could just as easily involve any unexpected cause of death like a common car crash. Even with the cliches taken out, it's a story type that rarely ever seems to be saying anything. People die to random chance. A fictional character's life got cut short. He was gonna go home, buy a nice little farm, and settle down. i cri evrytiem.

He doesn't see the attack coming (except literally), he has no power to affect it, nor any time to react to it. Unlike say, the characters of Titanic running around trying to survive. It doesn't even feel like Brian's story here. It's like the opposite of fluff. Feel-bad porn.
#10 ·
· · >>Monokeras
I find that so many stories and other creative works have been based on 9/11 that a new one pretty much has to reach off the page or out of the screen and slap my face to get my attention. No matter how well it may be constructed, I can’t get engaged with this one. I should probably abstain.
#11 · 3
>>Zaid Val'Roa
>>Miller Minus
>>Baal Bunny
>>Anon Y Mous
Thanks for all the reviews. Thanks also a bunch to Ranmilla for helping me get this piece much more punchy.
I know this was going to be divisive and I wrote it as a feeler: it didn't disappoint me in this respect. For those who liked it, thanks. For those who found flaws, you were right. As long as the writing was fine and could pass for a native speaker’s writing, I’m fine.

So, to everyone, thanks again and see you in two rounds.
#12 · 1
I don't actually have much to say about this. There's a nice charcter interaction going on, and we learn just enough about Brian to start caring what happens to him. But then the story takes a left turn. I have to bring in the title to understand what the ending means, but this is a very common twist. You build up this character just to chuck an "oh, he died" at me. And having an imminent proposal just before his death is pretty cliched. To me, this is where the story actually begins. You're giving me the background to where the interesting things start to happen. I had a discussion once with Blueshift about whether a story is actually required to have a climax, and we decided a good writer could go without one. You do have one here, but it comes after the story, and this doesn't even make for the kind of open ending that works especially well, because we know exactly what happens.

We don't really learn anything about the character, we don't see him (or any other character) grow in any way. I can't off the top of my head remember which one, but there's a professional flash fiction writer who talks about twists, and he hates seeing them in short fiction. I can't say I agree, but there's a difference between a twist that changes my understanding of a story and one that the story just exists in service to. And that's what this feels like to me: a twist with a story written around it instead of a story that happens to have a twist. Plus that this feels like the lead-up to the real story.

I couldn't gauge who wrote this, so I just went with one of the authors unknown to me. I'm actually impressed monokeras got the editing as good as he did here.