Challenge 97 — The 2014 Winter Solstice Open Championship

Challenge 97

The Iron Writer

2014 Winter Solstice Open


Iron writer

The Authors:

The Jennifer Egan Bracket winner: D.L. Zwissler

The Donna Tartt Bracket winner: E. Chris Garrison and Dani J. Caile (tie)

The Adam Johnson Bracket winner: Dwight Wade

The Paul Harding Bracket winner: K.A. DaVur

The Elements:

1968 Elvis Presley Comeback Special

INV07928(Courtesy of

Someone mowing/cutting grass

A note left on a car

Argyle socks

Breakfast with DadDwight Wade

Dwight Wade

Brian awoke to the sound of a lawn mower. Before 9:00The lawn mower woke him before 9:00. Again.

Stupid neighbors, Brian thought to himself. All he wanted was to sleep in. He’d come home well after midnight. The note on the back of dad’s car warned him to be quiet. Brian found him sleeping in front of the TV and managed to sneak by without waking him. Dad didn’t usually fall asleep in his chair but his heart was getting worse and he’d been tired a lot lately. He’d probably just stayed up too late and fallen asleep in his chair. Brian was glad to avoid a confrontation.

“Oh my head,” he said, swinging his feet off the bed.

He slogged through his morning routine. Shower, shave, teeth. He changed into sweatpants and a t-shirt. He wouldn’t be getting much done today judging by his headacheHe could tell from the size of the headache he wouldn’t be accomplishing much today.

As he reached the top of the steps a silky voice floated up from the living room.

Honey you lied when you said you loved me. And I had no cause to doubt you.

Elvis on the TV. Dad loved his Elvis. In fact, Brian was pretty sure Elvis was on the TV when he’d gotten home last night.

“Mornin dad” Brian said as he reached the bottom of the steps. “Look, I’m sorry I was so late. Won’t happen again.”

No answer. Brian could see dad’s argyle socks under the chair. Just where they’d been when he got home. Had he slept there all night?

“Want some breakfast? I’m gonna cook some eggs. How about some coffee?” He asked before muttering to himself, “Good lord I need some coffee.”

Elvis moved on to a gospel number. Dad must be watching the comeback special again. Always was his favorite. Brian pulled some coffee beans out of the cabinet and tossed them in the grinder.

“I thought we could just hang out and watch football. That sound good to you?”

The silence hung like a weight pressing against Brian’s chest. Dad must be really ticked off, he thought.

“Look, I uh, I know I told you I wouldn’t be out late. Time just got away from me. I promise I wasn’t drinking again though.” His headache spiked, a penance for the lie.

Still nothing. A sour pit formed in Brian’s stomach. Dad never ignored him like this. I really screwed up this time, he thought.

Brian worked in silence, finishing up the coffee then moving on to scrambled eggs with some bacon and toast. When everything was plated he poured a mug then walked breakfast into the living room.

K. A. DaVurOf Kings and Queens

K. A. DaVur

Gordy, a pale boy with unfortunate coke-bottle glasses, nervously scratched at a scab below his knee. The brownish crust pulled off and blood began to trickle apathetically towards his argyle socks. “Let’s stay here,” he whined. “We get caught; my folks will flip their lids.”

“We ain’t gonna get caught.” Dennis scorned. “I’ve done this dozens of times. Where’s Jimmy?”

“Grounded ‘cause he didn’t mow his lawn,” Rob said in a knowing voice. Rob said everything in a knowing voice. It was a surprise that Dennis didn’t pound him more often.

Dennis scoffed. “Who mows their lawns in December?”

“Rob’s folks.”

Dennis glared at Rob and curled his fingers into a fist. Presently, he decided against it, returning to his post at the window.

From the living room, horns blared “Trouble”. “Come on, fellas,” Gordy implored, standing up. “The King is on.”

“You go watch the King, I’m waiting for the Queen,” Dennis said. Rob giggled, a high, girlish sound. Gordy sat back down and resumed scab-picking.

A light went on in the house next door. “Let’s go,” Dennis said, sliding his window open. He wriggled out soundlessly. Rob followed. Gordy hung back. “You got me running, got me hiding,” Elvis crooned.

“Lay it on me,” Gordy murmured before pushing himself gracelessly over the sill. He landed poorly, clasping his hands over navy and tan diamonds. “My ankle,” he cried.

“Balls to your ankle,” Dennis hissed, “Come on.”

They ran single file across the sideyard and ducked behind the fins of the Chevy parked in the drive. Dennis pointed.

Gordy had seen a naked woman before, had crowed and guffawed as they pored over Playboys snitched from Dennis’ father. Those women, posed and paper, didn’t prepare him for the thrill of seeing one in real life. His cheeks flushed as he stared. Her breasts hung, heavy and full, and wiggled as she toweled herself. He found himself mesmerized by the sleek thatch between her legs. Gordy tugged uncomfortably at the front of his pants.

“Fine as wine,” Rob murmured shakily.

Suddenly, the woman looked up. Her eyes locked on Gordy’s. He saw them widen, fill with tears. Her beautiful strawberry mouth fell in an “O” and her breasts heaved one last monumental time as she dove for the shade.   Behind the real flesh was a real person, Gordy realized. One who hadn’t wanted to be seen like that. Real. Like his mom. His heart sank. His penis stubbornly refused to follow suit, and Gordy hated himself for it. Hated himself for coming in the first place.

Dennis chucked his shoulder. “Let’s book.”

“In a minute.” Gordy rummaged through his pockets with trembling hands, convinced that any minute he would hear sirens, footsteps, his parents. He produced a bubblegum wrapper and two matches before he found what he sought. The pencil was stubby, chewed to bits but it would do. “I’m sorry,” he scrawled, and stuffed the note under the Chevy’s windshield wiper. There. He felt better. Some, anyway. Gordy hobbled back to the house. If he was lucky, he’d be there before the King sang “Heartbreak Hotel.”

One Night (With You)Eric Garrison

E. Chris Garrison

I sat at the bar, waiting for the moment. My great-grandmother’s clothes itched. The pleated skirt, the thigh-high argyle socks, the shiny Mary Janes, the teal sweater, they all matched the fashions of the times. Impregnated by the scent of a century in her cedar chest, they’d waited for this day. Somewhere, not far from here, they’re hanging in a shop, waiting for mom’s grandma to pick them out. How meepy is that?

I’d finished college classes yesterday, my head still buzzing from the Immersive Learning Induction Machine, and I left the house to get in my Googmobile. Google asked where I wanted to go. I paused as I spied a slip of paper under the windshield wiper.

It said: “Attic. Cedar chest. 6-3-68”

I knew what it meant right away. Grandma had willed the chest to me rather than mom. I ran inside, pulled it from the attic, and retrieved the lock box from within. Typing the numbers into the keypad rewarded me with a click. Inside, a brooch glowed and flashed atop a letter, handwritten in archaic cursive script.

So here I sat, decades before my mom had been born (before grandma had even been born!) transported by a memory and a time-travel device pinned to my sweater. Sipping a sugary soda. Waiting for royalty.

Then he swaggered in. The King, a comical figure in my time, filled the room with his presence. Even wearing those outrageous sideburns, my breath was taken away, and I sat staring, open-mouthed.

Elvis sat at the bar next to me. He quirked his lip and winked as he said those magical words to me: “Afternoon, ma’am.”

“It really is you,” I breathed.

The King let out a chuckle. “What’s left of me, baby, yeah.”

“What do you mean?”

He ordered a Pepsi-Cola, and under his breath, asked the bartender to add a shot of “something special”.

“But you’re the King! You’re a living legend!”

“Awww, you’re sweet. Tell that to Hollywood. Tell it to Vegas, baby. Even the Colonel’s about to throw it in.”

I put a hand on his arm, and his eyes focused on me. Parts of me turned to butter. “B-but King, what about television?”

“Oh man, I’d as soon shoot a TV as watch it.”

“Not watch it. Be on it! Make your comeback! Show those Roaches!”


“Uh, the old guys from England? Love me do?”

“The Beatles? Aw baby, they’re killin’ me.” He took a long drink.

I worked up the courage to smile at him. “Guess you could always go back to Memphis and mow lawns, hmm?”

Elvis shoved the spiked Pepsi-Cola away from him and slammed his palms on the bar. “Baby, you’re right. The King don’t give it up. I’m tellin’ Parker to call NBC today!”

He kissed my cheek and left. I spilled my soda on myself. Zzzzzt! The brooch shorted out.

I’m stuck in the Sixties! Now what’ll I do?

Well, at least I have that special to look forward to…

Not So NeighborlyDani-J-Caile

Dani J. Caile

“What’s the matter, dear?” asked Doris, entering the lounge.

“The matter? Can’t you hear it?” Bob pointed out to the backyard.

“Oh, the neighbor.”

“Yes, the neighbor!”

“Well, he has the right to mow his lawn…”

“At 2am in the morning?”

Doris grabbed her duster and busied herself with the mantelpiece.

“You were a bit loud with that music the other night, dear. Not everyone is an Elvis fan.”

“A bit loud?”

“He even left a note on your car…”

“Don’t talk to me about that note!” Bob paced up and down on his tiger skin rug.

“…though I think ‘country’ is spelled with an ‘ou’…”

“But he started it! He cut my hedge!”

“You put nails on his drive, dear.”

“And he set fire to my postbox!”

“You can’t prove that.”

The sound of the Flymo resonated throughout the house.

“I’ve had enough of this, where’s Elvis?”

“Please, dear, no.”

Bob took out his three-disc deluxe edition box set of ‘Elvis: The ’68 Comeback Special’ and loaded a DVD, turning up the volume on the television as it came to life. He sat there in utter disbelief.

“What the…!”

On the screen wasn’t the fantastic hip-swaying undisputed King of Rock ’n’ Roll, bashing out ‘Trouble/Guitar Man’, but coverage of an old US golf Open focusing on a strangely dressed man.

“What the heck is this?”

Doris paused in her dusting and looked over at the screen.

“Looks like Payne Stewart, dear. I always loved his argyle socks.”

“But…how…?” He took out the DVD and looked at it. “This is a sticker! Someone messed with my DVDs! Did you…?”

“No, dear, I wouldn’t dream of touching…oh.”


“The neighbor.”


“Remember when he did that drilling last Sunday?”

“How can I forget! He went on until midnight!”

“Well, he came over the other day to check if he’d done any damage. I thought that was nice of him…”

“You let him in?”


“This means war!”

With the sound of the neighbor’s Flymo outside still breaking the beautiful silence of the night, Bob ran over to his gun rack and grabbed his loaded pump action Winchester.

“I’m gonna blow that damn thing to kingdom come!”

“You’re not going all Islamic on me now, are you, dear? You must admit, he gets 10 out of 10 for ingenuity, copying labels like that.”

“Ingenuity? Ingenuity!” Bob grit his teeth and paused in sudden reflection. “What happened?” he demanded. “Everything was fine until I went to that Las Vegas Elvis Fest. Then all hell broke loose! Did you do anything while…?”

“No dear, just a small Tupperware party with the girls from the bridge club.”

“And then what…?” The Flymo hit a tough bit of grass and screamed in the darkness. Bob flew out of the French windows, screaming blue murder.

“Come to think of it,” mused Doris through the sound of shotgun blasts, “perhaps hiring those male strippers and the All Boy Carribean Steel Drum band was a bit over the top…”

The Un-Costumed SuperheroesDanielle Lee Zwissler

Danielle Lee Zwissler

If someone would have told me ten years ago that I would be mowing my lawn with Argyle socks pulled up to my knees, I would have laughed right in their face. But now, here I am mowing this damned lawn, argyles pulled up like beacons on my white, hairy legs while my proud son watches from the living room. I look up at the window and grin, and then continue. Jacob just waves. His toothy grin meets my every turn.

I think back to when I was growing up and bought my father a tie for his birthday, it had #1 Dad all over it in cheesy font—probably Helvatica. My dad was watching the comeback special in ’68 with Elvis Presley. I will never forget because he was so happy that the King was performing once again. I was in the kitchen with my mom preparing a cake while Blue Suede Shoes blared from the television. When I came into the room with that tie, dad grinned at me. I remember thinking my dad was a superhero. Yet, now looking back I saw him there in those tighty whiteys, a wife beater and a grin on his face that would melt a polar ice cap.

He was a hero, and he was my dad. He died that summer, and we buried him in that tie.

I let go of the mower’s handle and turned toward the window again, my son still watched. I made my way to the garage and put the lawn mower away. When I was just about to walk into the house, I saw a note attached to my windshield wiper. I pulled it off and read:

My Daddy’s the best.

Drawn underneath was a handcrafted picture of myself with the socks.

I knew right then what I needed to do. I went into the house, and wrote a letter to my son. It was dated for the future, and to be read upon my death.


They come in all shapes and sizes… Today, I mowed the lawn with the help from a present from my son: a pair of Argyle socks. You saved up to buy me these socks, and you were so excited to give them to me. While wearing the socks, I remembered my own father, wearing a tie that I had bought for him. He loved that tie, and he wore it any chance he could get to show his appreciation and love for his family. Today, I vow to be the hero to my son that my father and his father before him were. I have two requests, become a man that you will be proud of, one that will sacrifice for his family, do things that he would never have done otherwise, and be a hero to someone in your life. My other request, bury me with the socks, surround me with happy times, and never forget that your old man loves you and will love you no matter what.

Because we aren’t just men, Son. We are the un-costumed superheroes, and people look up to us.

Love always,


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