Word Count: 464
“Ten-time Galactic Champion. THE CLAW!” the referee shouted.
Branford Stanley–The Claw–stomped forward, his arms held high as the crowd roared their worship.
The cheers and applause pierced Henry’s ears and he strained not to cower. You have nothing to lose, he reminded himself, and trembled, sweat gushing from his brow. He flung the salty drips stinging his eyes, careful not to use his right hand.
The referee raised his palm and the volume dropped. “Our challenger…HENRY!”
The wrestling cage filled with riotous guffaws. Patrons clutched and yanked at the chain-link fence, rattling the thin barrier.
Henry glared at The Claw, who laughed.
The ref said, “Winner takes all—one million dukkits!” The crowd cheered. “Come forward, gentlemen.”
Branford stomped his giant frame to the hovering platform at the center of the cage. Henry took three strides on his lanky legs.
“You know the rules,” the referee explained. “Get your grip, nod when you’re ready.”
Branford slammed his elbow onto the levitating tabletop, fingers spread wide, a grimace of challenge transmogrifying his face. “You’re mine!”
Henry placed his elbow on the floating surface and a sickening thud rammed into his stomach. Do it for her.
The Claw grabbed Henry’s hand.
Henry winced. “Be sure you give it a good squeeze,” he goaded with a quivering voice.
The Claw laughed. “You can count on it, kid.”
When the referee’s hands covered their clutched fists, they both nodded. “Go!”
Henry squeezed, praying to be able to hold on long enough for his plan to work, and grunted when Branford crunched his hand. Pain sliced through his palm. Yes! Just hang on a little more.
“Not bad, kid,” Branford growled. “But it’s not enough to prove to your mom you’re the man of house.” The Claw leaned closer. “That’ll be me from now on, whether you like it or not.”
Henry ground his palm into Branford’s. Please let the venom micro-bots be worth what I paid.
Branford’s scowl wavered through Henry’s watery gaze. Henry blinked. His face tingled. No! Not yet! Just a little longer! His breathing quickened as razor-like shards slashed through his shoulder. He searched the crowd…and found her face. “I’m sorry, Mom,” he mouthed as she clenched the chain-link fence, tears glistening on her blackened eye.
Branford heaved. His eyes grew wide. He released Henry and lurched, blood streaming from his lacerated palm. Smiling, Henry collapsed. The glass capsule he’d taped to his palm did the trick, just like the smuggler at the spaceport promised.
The referee failed to catch the toppling champion. “Medic!”
“It’s okay,” he mouthed to his mother. He hoped her tears didn't sting her swollen and bruised eye. “Pain is temporary,” she used to say. Now it would only be a memory, since Branford would never touch her again.
Okay, first week is up!! Feedback is encouraged!!
I wrote this short story in about 10 minutes during Lisa Kessler's Writing Short & Powerful class in San Diego. I spent the first 20 minutes of our allotted time trying to figure out what the hell I was going to write. After brainstorming an old idea and trying to explore a few new ones from Writer's Digest writing prompts, I trashed all my notes and started over. The first thing that came to my mind was, “An arm wrestling match gone wrong.”
This was the first story I “pantsed” – wrote by the seat of my pants. I am NOT a Pantster. I'm a huge advocate of plotting. Plotting just didn't work for this story, though. I had no idea what Henry was up to until Branford crushed his hand. Nor did I know why he was doing it until he saw his mom's face in the crowd. *shudder* Scary experience, this pantsting. I don't know how my friends do it.
Next week, I'll be starting with a fresh idea instead of using the one from my class. Looking forward to seeing how that turns out! Until then…I'd love to know your thoughts on this story. Good. Bad. Caught you by surprise? Predictable? It will all make me a better writer, so please be nice but honest.
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That's my two pence,