Thursday, November 08, 2007

Answers.com Creative Writing Competition


For whatever reason (kidney stones, laziness, Law & Order...) I've waited until now to post this. I won first place in the Answer.com Creative Writing contest. You can find out more about the contest itself at, of course, answers.com, or at larsonidealog.com, but the gist of it is that you have to use words from a list they provide in your story, and use them correctly. So, below is my entry.


The Shrieking of the Monkeys

Savannah. August. A midsummer fug envelops the usual early afternoon crowd of reprobates taking up space in the Shark Tooth Bar. The air is stale, unhealthy. I’m here recovering from a two-day salted nut roll binge, the sugar still coursing through my veins, sitting alone at my usual table. Actually, this is my office. My name is Brock Holberman, private investigator.

A beautiful but nervous doll nearby keeps glancing my way. She has trouble written all over her, and a number of other odd tattoos, but I ignore her, stirring my gazpacho.

Then the raven-haired tomato sashays over to my table likes she’s walking down a fashion show runway.

“What’s the matter? Don’t you like gazpacho?” she asks.

“I’m waiting for it to cool.”

She leans down. I smell lavender and tuna salad. “It’s supposed to be cold,” she whispers.

“Do we know each other?”

“I know you by reputation, Mr. Holberman. The Opus murders?”

“I got lucky. The tenor sang.”

“But you were the star of the show.” She sits sans invitation. “Claire Robin. I have a case, if you have the time.”

I knock my cup of coffee into my lap and stifle a scream. “A…case. I’m listening.”

“My late husband William Robin was the Duke of Hemmels-on-Taddemshire. We were living in Britain two years ago when he was brutally murdered at Kew Gardens by a man known only as The Simian.”

The Simian. “I helped put that big ape in the Big House.

“He’s out and he’s here in Savannah. I need you to get the goods on him.” She scribbles on a piece of paper. “He’s living in a trailer down by the river. Here’s the address.”

I suddenly have a bad case of horripilation. Was I being set up?

“Is this on the level?” I ask.

“What do you think?”

“I think recycling is a good idea.”

She slips me an envelope and stands. “Your retainer. Finish your gazpacho before it gets warm.”

I thumb through the contents of the envelope: five hundred bucks and two tickets to Sesame Street on Ice. Not bad.

I find The Simian’s trailer and it reminds me of my own salad days living out of an Airstream making money hand over fist as a freelance sheepherder.

It doesn’t take long for The Simian to make an appearance. He slips out of his trailer at 10:05 a.m. wearing a banana suit. Strange, I think. Why 10:05? I follow my bright yellow suspect to the city zoo where he spends the next hour taunting the spider monkeys. That pervert’s going down, I promise myself.

I head back to his trailer for a little snoop work. The place is a mess and smells of wet fur. Books are strewn about. One catches my eye. The Fifth Column: And Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War by Ernest Hemmingway. Funny. “Hemmingway” doesn’t sound like a Spanish name.

Then I hit pay dirt. In an envelope taped under a table, I found photos of The Simian, dressed in his banana suit, holding hands with Lady Robin, who’s wearing a Mr. Peanut costume. Then it all falls into place.

I abscond with the photos and head back to the Shark Tooth. Fortunately, Claire is there enjoying a glass of Ovaltine at the bar. After ordering my regular, I pounce.

“Mrs. Robin. Or should I say, Mrs. Peanut?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I slam the photos down on the bar. “That’s what I’m talking about.” The bartender is agog at the images, but I quickly get rid of him with an order for Yak milk. “You didn’t think I’d find out about your…appetites.”

Claire is squirming. “So I like to dress up like a peanut. That doesn’t prove anything.”

I hold up a piece of paper. “Ah, but this does. It’s a letter written and mailed by your husband only hours before his death. It names names”

Several of Savannah’s finest enter and join us at the bar. The ice woman finally cracks.

“That lousy…. He was going to expose us. Humiliate us in front of the entire world. All I wanted to do was hear the monkeys shriek.”

“And once banana boy was out of the picture, keep all the inheritance for yourself.” The cops cuff her. “Now you’re going to find out what it’s like on the other side of the bars, Peanut Butter. Take her away. My gazpacho’s getting cold.”

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