Twenty-five groups of writers get their prompts including genre, location, and object at midnight on Friday. By midnight on Sunday, you have to submit up to 1,000 shiny words incorporating those prompts. Flash fiction on caffeine. There will be a second round in about 4 weeks. From the first two rounds, the top 5 in each group, based on their scores from the two rounds, advance to the semi-finals.
My prompts were: Comedy/Rainforest/Water Balloon. Yeah, I know. We're allowed to share, so I'm not going to suffer in silence. You can read below, or go to this link to see it in Google Docs. I hope you like it and it raises a smile. OMG, please, just one smile . . .
Two years on the waiting list and I’m finally here, competing for a million buckaroos on “Like Your Life Depends On It,” the hottest reality show on television. Only thing left is to meet the rest of my group and wait for the game to begin. I’d hoped for the beach, but the Hoh Rainforest National Park is sweet. The interlocking tree canopy around the clearing is like a vast green tent with small patches of blue woven into the design. It’s hard to believe I’m in Washington and not on some exotic tropical island.
You have got to be kidding me.
After barely slowing down, the Range Rovers chugged away, leaving people at three corners of the clearing. From one point, a clown in full regalia picked his way through the moss and from the other, a woman in a tight red dress and ridiculous platforms minced toward me. At least the last guy, a burly black man, looked fit and determined. This was my team.
I know the producers like to screw with us, but this is bad. Advancement to the next round is based on the team’s performance in the challenges. Foul-ups cost points and two of these three looked like they had black belts in uselessness.
Even though I’d only beat them by five minutes, I felt like the host. Extending my hand to the normal guy, I said, “Hi, I’m Jack. Welcome to camp, um, you know, just, camp.”
“I’m Bill Waylon of Waylon’s BBQ in Kansas City and I hope to win enough for a new restaurant. I’m plenty proud to cook for y’all here at ‘Camp Just Camp.’ You stab it, I’ll slab it.” His handshake and warm shrewd eyes told me this was a guy I could hang with for four weeks in the wilderness.
The woman stepped forward and planted her hands on her hips. “I can see that I have work to do here. First off, we need to name our encampment in order to promulgate unity. The competitive paradigm promotes divisiveness rather than positively impacting the creative synergy of the cohesive whole.” I liked how the humidity made her slinky dress cling to her rack, but her chirpy voice was like a dentist’s drill in my head.
“In my corporate motivational seminars we examine the roadblocks to crosswalking our key competencies into the appropriate wheelhouses. By commencing with a commonality in kickoff points, we can leapfrog to the next evolution without the hindrance of incrementalism.”
Oh bitch, do not make me move your cheese.
I became an IT geek-for-hire to get away from that shit. Now I had to live with it and depend on it? I looked over to Bill who shrugged.
“So what’s his story?” I said, pointing to the clown. He was swatting bugs out of his puffy pink wig and sweat rivulets were forming in the heavy makeup on either side of his bulbous nose.
“You’re going to love this. His name is Floppo and he’s an interpretative, deconstructuralist, cross-disciplinary mime,” said Bill.
“Beats the hell out of me. According to the card he gave me, his rap is to ‘eschew verbal communication in favor of the universal corporeal language of laughter in order to showcase the tragedy of existence.’ Or some such bullshit.”
Kill me now. I’m stuck here with Kafka the Klown.
Stranded at the corner of pompous and pretentious, my dreams of financing a freelance studio were melting faster than Floppo’s mascara. A loudspeaker at the edge of the clearing interrupted my misery.
“The water will flow for ten minutes. Collect it or lose it. The challenge is yours.” The echoes of the announcement had barely faded when a spigot at the edge of the clearing began to spew.
“Bill, do you see any pots or buckets? We have got to get that water,” I said.
He ran toward the flow. “No man. Let me check to see if they left us anything or if I can find some big leaves.”
Floppo and Miss Manners were oblivious. She was gesturing and talking a mile a minute while he tied a balloon animal.
“Dude, let me have those,” I said pointing to his bandolier studded with latex rosettes. We can fill them with water and have plenty to drink.”
Either I didn’t speak interpretative mime correctly or Floppo was being an unctuous prick. Instead of the balloons, he gave me a slow pseudo-tragic frown and a pink poodle.
“Allow me to rephrase. Hand them over or there will be clown white all over the grass.” I pulled back my fist as punctuation.
The shriek behind me startled the birds in nearby trees. “Leave him alone! He is protecting his expressive tools from the dominant Euro-centric patriarchal power structure. He needs those balloons. They are conduits of his soul. They complete him.”
“We need that water.” I grabbed a handful of balloons and threw them to Bill before she jumped on me. Since I doubted I was getting lucky, I assumed she thought it was time to crosswalk into my wheelhouse.
Later that afternoon, the fire crackled in perfect three-part harmony with the frogs and crickets.
“Bill, I have to say, I didn’t expect you to mean what you said when you introduced yourself quite so literally.”
He laughed and tossed more wood on the blaze. While he’d worked by the fire, I’d built a lean-to. A dozen bulging water balloons hung like ripe pastel fruit. I doubt anyone had a more squared-away operation. I could almost hear the points racking up for Camp Just Camp.
“My pleasure. You did the hard work. I just made it palatable,” Bill said, wiping his hands on a scrap of red silk.
“And palatable it was. I will say, what that crazy chick lacked in judgment, she certainly made up for in taste. But I have to ask, what happened to the clown?”
He shook his head. “It tasted funny.