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Master Plotto Week Three Winner: Yasuko Thanh

A martial arts instructor. A parachuting pornographer. A cowboy Minotaur. Turns out there are plenty of professions out there that can be a hindrance to a healthy (and safe!) relationship.

Congratulations goes out to Yasuko Thanh, this week’s contest winner, whose cautionary tale about dating a Matador reminded us of something you might encounter during the midnight screening of a foreign film festival.

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

Last week’s prompt: {A’s} profession is a hazardous one—aviator, automobile racing driver, steeple jack, “human fly”—and {B} considers this fact an obstacle to their marriage.

The Matador Mystery

At dinner, Sandwina gave her husband, The Matador Mystery, an ultimatum. He would retire after the Chicago show or she would leave him. It must be understood that, for Sandwina, Matador’s performances were simply excuses to show girls the intricate beadwork on his costume, and then invite them to his caravan for a display of more.

He had a hale chest and eyes the colour of water stains on a wooden table. He swallowed rubies and shot them out of his mouth into a spittoon placed across the room. He would swallow three fishbowls of water and eject a fountain that would hit the ceiling before flowing into a small waiting basin. In his best act, he set a metal castle on fire with kerosene he had swallowed and then put it out with water he had consumed first.

Matador got drunk and stayed awake all night.

When they heard cursing behind his wagon—the giant, the crone, the fat lady, the midget, the three-legged boy, the armless wonder and the thin man—all anticipated a good show because Hector, if nothing else, was always a charismatic performer. Even if it was unheard of for him to practice his act before breakfast.

Everyone knew that after Matador set up his metal castle in the field, he would swallow the kerosene, put on his protective lenses, take off his sombrero with the flammable fringe, and light the little candle inside the bell tower.

The men cheered Matador on, mistaking his exuberant swallowing for enthusiasm, his clumsiness with the bottle of kerosene for excitement after a night of gin, and no one noticed his tears. The children couldn’t make up their minds whether to watch his wide mouth overflow with kerosene, or to watch the tattoo of a phoenix on the back of Matador’s hand that moved its wings when Matador moved his fingers. Sandwina suddenly tapped him on the back.

Wearing a peignoir, she was as rested in appearance as Matador was dishevelled. Sandwina had come out holding a cup of chicory coffee in her right hand. Her head cocked to one side, her shoulder shrugged, she said, “Matador. Go to bed.”

A breeze caused her peignoir to open before she’d had a chance to button it. Matador lit the candle.

“Say something kind,” the Fat Lady said, touching Sandwina’s shoulder.

But Sandwina succeeded only in creating waves of tension with her admonitions, where before there had merely been some cheering men, whispering women, and children watching the phoenix on the back of Hector’s hand.

The crowd gasped as the Matador vomited kerosene onto the candle, lost his balance and fell into the explosion he’d created. Frantic, he beat at the flames that were consuming him. People came shouting and running from the caravans with buckets of water. But before they could arrive, Matador looked wildly into Sandwina’s eyes, and vomited again. Flames engulfed him.

Yasuko Thanh lives in Victoria, BC, Canada, with her husband and two daughters. Her first book of short stories, Floating Like the Dead, comes out this April with McClelland & Stewart. She also sings and plays guitar in an all-girl rockabilly band.

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Comments: 3

(1) Comment

  1. Sam Dobridge says:

    Good choice! The level of writing of these keeps getting stronger every week.

(2) 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 Plot Challenge. Each writer is [...]

  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 Challenge. And, Plottoists, keep [...]

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