I just read it again. It is pretty dreadful.
The rules were :-
1000 words maximum 48 hours after this prompt….
Horror/ A wave pool/ A pitchfork.
SPEAR OR PITCHFORK?
An unfaithful husband receives an unexpected reception at an exclusive spa resort.
“Spear or pitchfork?” he was being asked.
Looking down from above she could hear little other than the excited cheers of the women, of course, and the impatient roaring of the beast. But she could feel the fear and confusion projected by her husband’s eyes.
Earlier that day, upon arrival, he had shown only his usual bravado, joking about his continued infidelities. “I must say, Sarah,” he had said, “you are being terribly decent about all of this. A holiday together? One was expecting a more traditional response.”
“Well, Simon,” she had retorted, “one must develop a stiff upper lip, I suppose, when one’s tits begin to sag.” It was an unveiled reference to text messages that she had found only recently on his phone. “One must summon a dignified response.”
If he had given any thought to the meaning of this then he had not shown it. He was examining the elaborate foyer with interest. “Impressive,” he conceded, “not my cup of tea, of course, but impressive nonetheless. These fake columns look to be of solid marble.”
A staff member had joined them by then, slim and beautiful and displaying an impossibly perfect smile. She injected herself professionally into the conversation. “Corinthian, Sir. Covertly extracted from ruins forty miles south-west of Pompeii. Here at the Hotel Vesuvius we do try to inject a certain level of authenticity into our deception.” She paused for a second to let her polite correction settle. “I am Minerva, and I will provide a brief tour of the facilities.”
“Oh,” he had said, embarrassed both by tact and beauty, “my mistake.”
His mistake, indeed.
The Hotel Vesuvius, according to the brochure, was an ‘invitation only’ spa and resort occupying fifty-seven acres of otherwise unusable desert land and claimed to be ‘a faithful reproduction of Rome before the birth of Christ … yet only four hours drive from Los Angeles.’
Minerva was continuing with her duty to support such a claim, “In the Roman baths”, she informed them, “one may enjoy all the indulgences of the ancients whilst simultaneously benefiting from modern technology. The baths themselves are built with stone sourced from quarries at the base of Mount Etna, but the water that runs from one pool to another in a constant cycle fell originally as snow on the Swiss alps before being filtered via mountain streams on its journey south. The mineral springs are heated by the energy of our own desert sun but with solar technology derived from the Russian space program. The masseuses are, of course, all Swedish.”
As if on cue several tanned and spectacularly muscular blond men smiled in unison as they passed by in white shorts and tight shirts ferrying towels from one room to another.
“And all gorgeous,” Sarah pointed out, perhaps unnecessarily.
“The wave pool, is located within the Gardens of Lucullus, and is central to everything.” Minerva continued methodically as they stepped out into the sunlight, “From the beach you can see all of the resort in its entirety. Spa to the right, gardens and Colosseum to the left. It is not authentic, of course, but the design has origins in early Venetian research into the nature of perpetual motion championed by Leonardo da Vinci. The gentle movement of waves ensures the continued purity of all our water as well as a tranquil ambience by which to relax.”
Simon was not listening. His focus was, by then, on near naked women swimming or sunning themselves beneath umbrellas. The stark imbalance in the male/female ratio had not alluded him. “Tell me”, he asked, “do you get many men here?”
“Apart from the masseuses and the Centurions we see very few men, Sir. So, when husbands attend with their wives, it is a special occasion.” She paused, perhaps to gauge his reaction before continuing, “And so I might ask you now to wait here as such an occasion is prepared.”
They sat there, mainly in silence, for perhaps an hour enjoying, for entirely different reasons, the view.
“Excited?” she asked him.
“Should I be?”
“Oh, yes, I think you should.” But he was clearly becoming uneasy.
When Minerva returned she was in the company of two Adonis-like figures in formal military attire. Both stood well over six feet tall. Simon leaned towards his wife and whispered in her ear, “They got this bit wrong. Back in Roman times no man would have been more than five seven.”
The men were, in fact, physically perfect. “I don’t think it really matters, do you?” she said.
“Shall we take a peek at the Colloseum?” suggested Minerva.
When they arose every woman arose likewise and they found themselves in a long procession. Women now were openly staring at him and even touching him. Minerva was completing her spiel as they approached the gates. “Erected by Sicilian craftsmen in 2014 it is one quarter the size of the original, but still, you will agree, imposing.”
“The original Colosseum boasted a capacity of ten thousand. We can manage a little over three. At a pinch.”
The swelling crowd was clearly audible above them now, the sound interrupted only by the sudden roar of a wild beast beneath them. “The tiger,” Minerva continued mechanically, “was sourced from India.”
“Women enter upwards via the stairs. Men go down.”
“I’m not sure that I like this,” Simon managed to blurt out.
By then the Centurions had him by each arm and he was forced into the darkness beneath the stadium.
“Spear or pitchfork?” They thrust his selection forward and then ejected him out again into the sunlight and into the deafening roar of the crowd. He was immediately turning in panic, running first left then right attempting to locate the gate behind which his predator was contained. He had chosen the pitchfork.
The women around her were chanting and baying for blood. She contented herself with a simple smile and waited for the tiger to be released.
9 thoughts on “A confession of failure”
I realise that I put this down as an adjunct to an earlier post on the same, sad subject. You will have to scroll down to learn how I did on this little challenge …
Or I can save you the trouble.
The highest score possible was 15
The lowest score (conceivably) possible was 1
I scored 0
So here, the thing – I copied and pasted it into a word document and noticed that there are more than a thousand words. You think that might have disqualified you?
1000 was the max. Was there a min?
I think it was a neat idea for the tiger/ Colosseum punishment.
Maybe the extra words were in the title and synopsis – which dont count.
The fact is that it was a very ordinary effort.
But I have seen other entries which, quite frankly, are unintelligible. The entry that WON my heat was pretty woeful too, in my opinion. But, clearly, my opinion is not of much worth.
As luck would have it I will be working for the weekend of the second assignment … so I probably would not have been able to continue anyway. My plan is to spend no more than half an hour or so on it (and forbid any editing) and see if I can muster one point.
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I didn’t do a word count for your piece. But I find if I want to write something I do. It’s not usually recognized by the challenger. Disappointing, but I just write for me, not them. I liked your story.
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I sometimes look at other submissions and wonder what I was thinking entering the pool. But like you said – it was a part of me. Some might like it. Some might not. What’s most important is that I did. (But I actually do have to like it for that to work).
In the cold light of day I feel that I should apologise for my sad plea for sympathy. It really was a fairly dreadful effort. I got what I deserved.
I’m not a good loser (though I should be – with years and years of practice).
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That was your plea for sympathy? You could have fooled me.
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The summoning of a dignified response. Hmm.
Oh God …. don’t bring that up. It really was a poorly written effort. I should have strangled it at birth.