Sunday, May 29, 2011


This challenge was based on MacGyver.  These were our instructions:

In this story, your protagonist – who is not MacGyver – is MacGyvering out of a situation in which he or she feels trapped. Whether the trapping is literal or they’re just trapped in a bad situation is your business.
Your character is assumed to have duct tape and a Swiss army knife. It is not required that they be used, but your character has them.
At least three of the following items, though, must be used by the character to solve the problem:
Clothesline, Rubber Ducky, Pizza Box, Hard Candy, Moisturizing Cream, Calculator, Gold Ring, and a Fedora.

My entry:

Fred and Nancy never went to cocktail parties. Their marriage never would have survived 30 years if they hadn’t stopped partying long ago.  As it was, they had barely managed to deliver their relationship from its infancy.  To do it Fred had finally agreed to give up partying, which he loved; he’d chosen Nancy instead.  And Nancy had given up drinking anywhere but home, where the horribly offensive, unlike-anything-she-even-believed-sober shit she was bound to say would fall on knowing ears and could do no harm. 

Tonight’s party was one they could not skip though.  Their son had recently become engaged, and his fiancée’s parents were throwing the young couple a party.  Fred had been nervous since the day he’d seen the invitation. He had a lot to lose if Nancy couldn’t control herself. There would be the personal, familial disasters, naturally, but Fred also stood to suffer financially as well. His son’s future father-in-law, Eli Abramson, was the biggest client of the law firm Fred started ten years ago.  It was not hyperbole to say that Fred could not afford to lose him as a client.   He shared all of this with Nancy, who loved money as much as Fred loved being well-connected.

“Please don’t drink tonight,” he had begged Nancy as they got ready.

“Well, I’m not going to raise a glass of water.”

“Fine. One glass of champagne.  Then stop. ”

As he worked the room, Fred kept an eye on his wife.  He was relieved to see that she had switched to seltzer after the toast.  When he saw her chatting up the Abramsons, he made his way over to her.  He was relaxed, having fun. He wanted to be with his wife.

“Let me tell you this:  the fucking Holocaust never happened.” he heard Nancy say just as he joined the group, “I don’t hold any of it against you, mind you. It’s not your fault.  Hell, you weren’t even born yet.”

“Well…” Eli began to say something.

“You are obviously nice people. It must make you mad, too, all these people running around, ‘Holocaust this, Holocaust that! Wah, wah, wah! Feel sorry for me! Give me your money! I need money!’“

Fred knew a few things instantly. First of all…fuck.  And he knew that his son was fucked, his family was fucked and his business was fucked.  But, more important to the immediate situation, he knew that he had to get out of this house. Now.  With or without his wife, preferably without, he had to leave.  He was so humiliated, so conflict-avoidant, so mad, so many things that made any minimal damage control he may have been able to do impossible, that walking, no running, away was his only possible choice.  He looked around the room for a way out. He saw:  a pizza box (which immediately registered as odd), a bowl of hard candy, and a calculator.  He had a small tube of moisturizing cream and a Swiss Army knife in his pocket. In addition to his suit and tie he was wearing a watch, gold ring and a fedora.  He guessed that he could also count on there being a clothesline, rubber ducky and duct tape somewhere in the house, though he doubted he would need them.

Thinking quickly, though admittedly not well, he walked calmly to the candy dish, tipping his cap to the ladies he passed along the way. He picked out a piece of butterscotch, unwrapped it, and put it in his mouth.  As he did he looked around the room. The uneasy situation from which he had just walked away was beginning to turn heads. He smiled at a man who stood next to him at the candy dish.

“What’s going on over there?”  The man asked.

“Yeah, I don’ know.”  Fred replied as he pulled the moisturizing hand cream out of his pocket. “Want some?”

“Oh, uh, no thanks,” the man said before walking nervously away.

Fred struggled to maintain an outward appearance of calm as he applied the moisturizing hand cream, but the odd looks he was now getting told him he wasn’t succeeding.

From his spot next to the candy dish Fred could see the front door. Freedom!  He ambled in that direction, careful not to walk straight to it, afraid someone might stop him.  He saw the pizza box sitting on a table.  He bent down and pretended to read the preheating instructions. He was closer to the door now.  The calculator, on the back of a chair very near the door, was his next stop.  He picked it up, bit his lip and squinted his eyes.  Looking around the room he saw that this wasn’t drawing anyone’s attention.  Yes!  They all think I’m over here working a problem. No big deal.  

He made for the door. Just as he put his hand on the doorknob, he heard his wife.

“Fred, stop!”

He did, and slowly turned around.  Nancy and the Abramsons approached him, smiling.  Smiling?

“Why didn’t you introduce us to your wife sooner, Fred?”  Eli asked, “She is damn funny.  And I was more than glad to help make my lawyer squirm!  Nancy told us to expect an awkward exit from you, but the calculator?  Ha, ha! No one saw that coming.”

“My knight in shining armor!  I know I can always count on you, honey.”  Nancy smiled at him and put her arm around his neck, pulling him away from the door.  “Come on, join the party.”

Judges reaction:  They thought it was okay, didn't love the joke of having all the items in the story. (If I would have thought I had a chance at winning immunity last week, I probably wouldn't have gone for those cheap laughs.  This is the type of challenge at which one of the other competitors is usually unbeatable.  And he was, luckily, so I don't regret the gag.)

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