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Master Plotto Week One Winner: Laura Horley

A big thank you to the over 50 of you who submitted to Week One of the Master Plotto Contest. With stories ranging from nuclear catastrophe to cats on a beach, our editorial board was impressed by the number of divergent paths the prompt inspired.

This week’s crown goes to Laura Horley, who won us over with her tale of misbegotten foreplay.

Be sure to check back later today for this week’s new prompt.

Last Week’s Prompt: {A} a needy person picks up two pairs of cast-off shoes, one pair discarded by a clergyman, and the other pair by a man of reckless nature and “shady” reputation. Page 243

The shoes weren’t my idea. Mary said that after six years of marriage we had to mix things up. I thought booze might inspire some fun. Whiskey was purchased and had in the way we used to have it; in large quantities and all at once.

Looking out the window of our second story apartment, we waited for the drink to let our minds speak. A pair of shoes dangled from a telephone line, and Mary said, I know, let’s throw our shoes over the wires. I’d hoped the evening would take a sexier turn, but the way her muscles tensed when she spoke got me going a little, and I imagined her later, flushed with rebellion, and that seemed alright to me too.

It was decided that we wouldn’t sacrifice our own shoes. I was feeling bold. To the church, I said. Because there was a church two blocks from our house.

Alms, I said. Alms for the shoe-poor. It was almost midnight. No one came to the door. There was a box under the awning. A sort of take-a-penny-leave-a-penny arrangement. In it was a modest pair of black orthopedics. They’d belonged to a clergyman. I took them. Fr. James O’Connor was stitched into the right instep.

I tied the laces together while Mary laughed and poked my bicep. I threw the shoes and missed the wire. Mary squeezed my bicep and I threw them again and they swung once, twice around the wire and settled. Mary hugged me. She smiled and it was almost enough but not quite.

I looked at the shoes and saw the priest who’d worn them—old and alone and looking for fulfillment in ways that only those more pious than myself can understand. Let me help, I told the shoes. Let me find your symbiotic partner.

Mary didn’t like what I did next, but I hope that one day she’ll understand. I needed the shoes of a man who needed a priest. We walked until I saw someone crouched in the doorway of a closed restaurant. His eyes were shut and he clutched an empty forty. That was enough for me.

He came to when I pushed him to the ground. Mary screamed but I held him down and even though I was drunk it wasn’t hard. He was drunk too, and old besides. Take off his shoes, I told Mary, but she was crying. He was flailing. I got frustrated. I accidentally smashed his head into the concrete. It didn’t bleed or anything but it made an unsettling noise. I was scared but he held still after that and I didn’t know what else to do so I ripped the shoes off his feet. A pair of dirty old Reeboks.

Mary ran home, but I walked back to the wire. When I got there, I aimed straight for the priest’s shoes. The laces hit the line, and the right sneaker nestled between the soles of the holy pair. For a moment, I was satisfied.

Laura Horley lives and writes in Tucson, AZ. She is interested in dusty boots, emotionally engaged characters, and shredding on her moped.
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Comments: 8

(5) Comments

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  2. daniel britt says:

    great story laura. love that creepy turn. you’re an animal.

  3. Brandon Downing says:

    Haters will hate, Laura. I really liked your story. Nicely done!

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  5. Brian says:

    Interesting story indeed. I would say our protagonist was definitely needy, needy for attention from Mary and certainly needy for redemption himself if on a whim he is willing to steel a drunk’s shoes. I think this set-up is telling of the whiskey-induced state of stupidity that our protagonist is in, and resonates in a drunkenly poetic way, a la a frat boy poet society:

    “I looked at the shoes and saw the priest who’d worn them—old and alone and looking for fulfillment in ways that only those more pious than myself can understand. Let me help, I told the shoes. Let me find your symbiotic partner.”

    Its convoluted logic and resulting actions cause the exact opposite of the apparent intention: to, even symbolically, help a priest achieve fulfillment.

    Though it seems that the Tin House editorial board was very loose with its interpretation of meeting the perceived “requirements” of the plotto prompt. For example, in what universe could one possibly interpret stealing shoes off a passed out drunk as being the same as picking up a pair of cast-off shoes. They weren’t cast-off, they were on his feet! Also, I can certainly see how a man passed out drunk in a doorway would be seen as reckless, but how would we consider this “someone” to have a “shady” reputation, as he’s presented as a stranger?

    I think the editorial staff might want to indicate that these prompts are just meant to get an entry started, and that their details are not meant to be considered as requirements for the entry.

(3) Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. [...] weekly Plotto contest winners: Laura Horley, Richard Osgood, Yasuko Thanh, Henry Leung, and Randall Brown are hard at work on The Final Master [...]

  2. [...] sure to stay tuned while weekly winners: Laura Horely, Richard Osgood, Yasuko Thanh, Henry Leung, and Randall Brown face off in the Final Master Plot [...]

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