The Iron Writer Challenge 55 – Grudge Match #5

The Iron Writer Challenge #55

Grudge Match #5

The Grudgers:

Heather Johnson & M. D. Pitman


Neal Sayatovich & DL Zwissler

The Elements:


A Zombie Apocalypse

A 1936 Chevy Corvette

A Coyote

A Snow Plow

Please Vote for your favorite story. The poll is below the stories.

Thank You

Five Graves for Wiley ‘Coyote’ BarnesDanielle Lee Zwissler

DL Zwissler

Behind a false brick in my childhood home, I found blueprints for a time machine, a 1936 license plate and keys to a Chevy Corvette.

My grandfather was an inventor and worked for NASA. He had always talked of time warps and black holes, feeding my mind with stranger-than-fiction ideas. It wasn’t until the world started to fail that I realized how important those talks with my grandfather were to me. Like much of my life, he was a mystery, always hiding things around the house, talking of the Great Depression and then the War right after. They hid things, my grandparents, in time capsules, false bricks, a vase or oddly enough the cookie jar in the kitchen.

After two years of fending off the zombies, nearly running out of ammunition, I took a serious look at the blueprints for the time machine and decided to go for it. The instructions were precise and most of the supplies could be found in the shelter that my grandfather had built years ago. I only added one thing to the design: a snowplow that I had found in the garage. I needed something to clear the dead bodies. I often wondered if my grandfather had the gift of foresight, when he built the shelter all those years ago. I wondered if he was preparing for WWII or if he knew that the world would one day come to this.

When I heard the sound emit from the walkie talkie, I knew it was time.

“Coyote, are you in? Coyote, this is Tomcat.”

Tomcat was my best friend, Brody, from High school.

“Coyote here, what’s your 21?”

“Outside the shelter. They’re everywhere. Are you getting ready to move out?”

“Yes, I really hope this works,” I said, feeling somewhat confident. “I’ll be back when I can. I want to warn my grandfather about the walls.”

“I really hope this works. Good Luck.”

“I’ll need it. Godspeed, Tomcat.”

“Godspeed, Coyote.”

After breaking the connection, I took a deep breath and pulled out the letter that I had found in the brick where the license plate was stored. It had instructions on where to drive, how long and what to take. I thought it was a long shot, but knowing my grandfather, I figured I had better adhere to his words. I set the year to 1936 and prayed for the first time in a long while.

Two days later, I appeared outside of the same house that I had lived in for the last 36 years. My grandfather was standing in the front yard, and when he saw me, he swallowed deeply.

“Back again?”

“What, I’ve been here before?”

“Yep every day for the past five days.”

I swallowed, finally realizing why the date on the note was crossed out and rewritten so many times. I took a pencil from my pocket and crossed the last date out and wrote another, and then wrote something new and in bold letters ‘STRONGER WALLS’.

“You going to die on me, too?” he asked.

Just then, before I blacked out, I saw four graves with the same name. Wiley ‘Coyote’ Barnes.

Courier of HopeHeather Johnson

Heather Johnson 

When the dead returned, they feasted exclusively on live humans. After two years, their food source was nearly exhausted. Almost one hundred people, including The Genius, made camp in a suburban high school. In the beginning, he could contact his colleagues via radio. They were certain that together they could save the world, but then all communication ceased. Fewer than fifty people remained when The Genius knew how to make the stiffs stay still. “I need them and their equipment,” The Genius barked, punching a cafeteria table. “Otherwise, my solution is impossible.” The Mechanic had a car he called a ’36 Corvette, a bricolage of a dozen vehicles with a snowplow blade on the front. He felt sure it would make the journey.

A month after his departure, the stiffs kept multiplying. It was clear The Mechanic hadn’t been successful. The Genius requested volunteers for a radical scheme. Wyatt stepped forward after he was promised the last of the morphine and a chance at a peaceful death. After some discussion, The Hunter live-trapped a coyote (reasoning that a dog would not have the fortitude to eat the most available protein) and Wyatt memorized the route. Then they performed the surgery.

He awoke next to his human body. The top of its skull rested in its right palm like a bowl of borscht. Using a hind foot, he scratched at the staples across his brow. He was glad there was enough coyote inside the skull that he didn’t have to relearn to scratch himself. The Hunter secured a crossing-guard vest around his torso. On it, she had written in large letters, Hope for Humankind, Do Not Harm. He remembered that hope was not just the name of the girl who got devoured while hauling water. Hope was believing that someone out there would read his vest. “When you return, you will be The Hero,” she whispered, stroking his ear.

He scampered through the hordes, pausing only for distractions—the musky smell of a female, a crow snatching an eyeball from a moving corpse, the itch he soothed with a roll in coarse grass—to rest, and to eat. His coyote senses were magnificent. The first time he sampled a stiff, his mind filled with brilliant colors. The odor, which to his human nose had been unbearable, was sophisticated and pleasing.

After three days, he reached the post office where half of The Mechanic sprawled over the hood of the ’36 Corvette, his spine wriggling beneath a ragged sweatshirt. Knowing he was near, the coyote dashed toward his destination. Six gaunt men met his barks and whines. Inside their refuge they removed his vest and read aloud the document beneath it. They hooted and exclaimed, “I knew The Genius would come through!” and took turns scratching his belly and telling him he had done well. He fell asleep as the men talked excitedly and built a fire. “To The Hero!” they toasted several hours later, raising their bowls and picking at bits of grey fur that stuck to their lips. The rich, fortifying broth tasted like a better tomorrow.

Prologue: I am El CoyoteMichael Pitman

 M. D. Pitman

My name is Hugo Costello and I am a city worker who drives a snow plow in the winter and works in the parks during the summer. Like most people, you don’t know who I really am – yet. For those that know me as Hugo, they know be as a simple man, but I’m far from that. You may have heard of my other name, the name most people fear: El Coyote.

I will soon abandon my nice guy persona and embrace my true, masochistic self. I see myself as a businessman, and I’ve ran my “business” since high school. I ordered around thugs and hooligans that dealt drugs for me and helped with “problem elimination.” It wasn’t until after I school I added prostitution to my “business portfolio.”

Just like some other private business that started in a garage, my “business” will go public when it’s ready, though there won’t be any IPO or investment opportunities.

People now only recognize El Coyote by my ride, my “36 Corvette” – a Burgundy 1936 Buick Coupe with a 1972 454 cubic-inch, 7.4 liter Corvette engine. The paint job has been referred by some newspaper editorials as “the Zombie Apocalypse” because of the skulls that decorate the hood and side panels. With the sight and the roar of my Corvette, people cower – and that makes me feel good. That makes me feel powerful.

It’s only a matter of a few days that plan to take over the city, to form my syndicate will be primed to launch. This will be done with the help of my top two lieutenants: Tony Garrison, a childhood friend who’s not only killed for me but saved my life countless times, and Yuriko, a Japanese femme fatale. They have helped me grow from a small-time secret crook into the man – no at this point El Coyote is more of an idea – that everyone fears.

I was nine years old when I moved to Cincinnati with my parents. That’s when I met Tony. We ran our high school, though we made sure nobody actually knew that. Pot, fixed grades, and a modified version of my current “problem elimination” service were what we offered. The killing didn’t start until after college.

Tony and I went to the University of Cincinnati after high school. Partly to keep up the charade with our parents, but mostly we wanted more. That’s where we met Yuriko, who became one of my most trusted allies after we became lovers.

My parents weren’t happy when I took the job with the city after college – they said something about “throwing my education away” – but this job is strategic. I’ve learned the lay of the city and who I could and could not bribe. I’m ready for my parents to disown me.

The story you are about to hear is one of growth, personal perseverance and determination. It’s not yet a story of triumph, because triumph presumes an end and I’m just getting started.

Last WillNeal Sayatovich

Neal Satayovich

Well my luck has finally run out.

As I’m writing this letter I am slowly bleeding out from a bite in my thigh. My purpose for this note is simple, someone please find Veronica before it’s too late. I am no longer able to keep her safe in my current condition and hoping whoever reads can protect her.

Veronica and I met back when I was passing through Newark, Ohio. Ever since the infection broke out and the… zombies… started roaming around, I have been drifting from city to city in search of survival items. Newark was different than my normal scavenge and relocate routine though. While I was leaving a K-Mart I heard a woman scream and there she was, surrounded by three zombies.

I removed my pistol and dispatched the three zombies. She asked to come with me and I let her, God knows I needed the company. We bonded more and more every mile. While we were in Virginia we shot and cooked coyote on the roadside. We used to play trivia to keep ourselves busy. One question I enjoyed was when I asked her what was the first Chevy produced and she told me it was a 1936 Corvette.

Things went south while we were here in Kentucky. My little Toyota ran out of gas and we coasted into this small town, Marysville I think, looking for either gas or another vehicle. After we didn’t find anything in around us, we cut through the local graveyard. The irony was not lost on me. Then they came from everywhere, all I remember is a wall of infected people.

Veronica took off ahead of me as I fired a couple of quick shots into the group. She yelled at me that she found a vehicle with the keys still in the ignition. When I got to where she was I saw the monstrosity of a vehicle. She had found a Dodge Ram with a snow plow mounted to the front. As weird as it was, something was better than nothing.

I opened the door to the driver side and a body fell out of the cab. I thought it was just another corpse, until it bit my leg. I have never felt pain like that before. I shot the zombie, a decomposed brunette, and knew what had to be done, Veronica did too. I stepped away while she started the truck and stared at me through the window. She was crying and it hurt me knowing that I was doing this to her.

She drove off as if going back to Ohio without me getting the chance to tell her how I felt. So I’ve locked myself in this office to write this for whoever finds my body. Before I become one of them, I’m making my last bullet count.

I love you Veronica.

Challenge 45 – 2013 Winter Solstice Open, Preliminary Round

The Iron Writer

2013 Winter Solstice Tournament!

Sixteen Authors!

Four Elements!

Four Days!

500 Words!

The Elimination Round is now on!

The Authors:

Emily Bronte Bracket

Karen Huber

Mamie Pound

Suzann Smith

Paul Arden Lidberg

Jules Verne Bracket

Matthew E. Morgan

Angela Yuriko Smith

Tannis Laidlaw

Mac Bartine

Edgar Allan Poe Bracket

Amy Eye

M.D. Pitman

K.A. DaVur

Dani J. Caile

Margaret Atwood Bracket

Jordan Bell

Richard Russell

Patricia Stirnkorb

Heather Johnson


The Elements:


A Judge

A Liberal

A Conservative

A Victim

Stories will be posted  January 2, 2014

Margaret Atwood Bracket

The Iron Writer

2013 Winter Solstice Open

Margaret Atwood Bracket

>Margaret Atwood has   extolled the virtues of the   social media site, Wattpad.

Jordan Bell

Richard Russell

Patricia Stirnkorb

Heather Johnson


The Elements:


A Judge

A Liberal

A Conservative

A Victim

Please Vote in the Poll Below!

Judging Lefse

Heather Johnson

The livestock smell gave way to the odor of fried everything as Julia and Henry entered the demonstration building lugging large plastic totes. They immediately spotted a banner that read “Lefse Competition,” and pushed through the mob toward their destination.

In booth 1B, Julia strategically placed a round griddle, a ten-pound sack of flour, and two rolling pins—one was a backup—on her work surface. “Henry! My stick?” Her husband, a man of no unnecessary words, laid a yard-long, flat, thin, wooden stick beside the griddle.

A man with a clipboard, closely followed by a woman whose voice Julia instantly recognized from the radio, entered the competition space and stopped just feet from 1B. The radio host sounded flustered. “My producer said I would be judging pie, but the pie people sent me here. I don’t know what lefse is, much less how to judge it. Can I switch?”

“We wanted our celebrity judge at the most popular contest—lefse! It’s essentially, a potato tortilla. Judge on texture, flavor, and presentation. Traditional fillings are butter and/or sugar. The liberal contestants use curry, venison, sardines, etc.”

“It sounds,” she sighed, “awful.”

“The judges’ table is there. The Bertram County Fair is excited to have you!” he called as he jogged away. The radio woman sat across the aisle from Julia, whose face burned with nervousness.

In the neighboring booth, 1A shot Julia a sideways smirk. “You know what they say about not being able to take the heat?” She was small and stout and, like Julia, around seventy years old. She wore a galaxy-print apron and wielded a flat stick that had been painted to look like a light saber. To punctuate her barb, she used the stick to transfer a twelve-inch circle of white dough from her table to the hot griddle.

Julia sneered. “You’re the one who should get out of the kitchen, Potato Flakes.”

“Waste your time peeling potatoes. If our grandmothers had had potato flakes, they would have used them.”

“It’s a liberal interpretation of ingredients, if you ask me,” Julia growled. “Hardly the same thing.”

They cooked silently during the next fifteen minutes. More contestants arrived. Spectators filled the seats. The smell of burning flour hung over the arena.

“Let me guess—butter and sugar?” asked 1A.

“There’s nothing wrong with a perfectly executed conservative recipe. What’s your filling? Stewed raccoon?”

“I’ve had enough of you,” 1A growled, jabbing her rolling pin in Julia’s direction.

Julia straightened from her hunched dough-rolling pose. “And I, you. And your dumb apron,” she hissed, leaning over the table between them and causing it to wobble slightly. Julia’s extra rolling pin rolled off the table and landed handle-first onto Henry’s sneaker-clad foot. Tears filled his eyes but he swallowed the string of profanity that almost escaped his mouth. “Suck it up, Henry,” Julia snapped. “Be ready to help me carry my winnings to the car.”

“We’ll see about that,” 1A scoffed, brushing a smudge of flour from her apron.

The radio host smirked as she scribbled notes onto the back of a judging form. The competition was heating up.


Jordan Bell

Dean awoke in darkness, but it was artificial. He had something on over his eyes. He went to feel for what, but his arms were lashed down. His heart began to race. He jerked upward with his arms to no avail. Panicked, he tried to break free and his head flung back and knocked into something hard.

A pained moan came from directly behind him, only inches away from his aching head.

Someone else was there with him. He tried to turn but couldn’t and realized he was tied in a chair of some sort.

“Ungh, what hit… Oh shit, I cain’t see nuthin’. Oh sweet Jesus, I’m bound up, oh help me Lawd,”came a woman’s panicking voice.

“Sorry about that,” Dean said. “My name is Dean. I am tied up behind you. I freaked out too. I think I may have head-butted you.”

The woman groaned. Dean felt his bindings cinch slightly as she wrestled with hers. She stopped. Her breathing steadied.

“Shantice,” she offered. “Where we at?”

“I don’t know,” said Dean. “I am blindfolded. I am guessing you are too.”

“You got dat right,”she agreed.

“How’d we get here anyway mister.”

Dean thought it about for a minute. He honestly couldn’t say. The last thing he remembered was sitting in his Jetta in the drive thru lane at Dunkin Donuts.

“I can’t say for certain. I was on the southside–”

“Shoo, I was just leaving the Neiman Marcus store.”

Dean’s face screwed up. That was on the opposite side of town.

Shantice sounded like a young woman, probably still in her twenties. Dean was in his fifties. He was white and he was fairly sure she was African-American. What possible connection could they have?

“What kind of work do you–,” Dean began, when a metal door in the room grated open on rusty hinges.

Clacking footsteps drew close.

The stranger in the room circled the pair, stopping in front of each for a few moments before continuing around. Shantice felt a hand brush her cheek. She recoiled. The stranger tsked at her.

“Let us go,”Shantice demanded.

“First, a question,” said the stranger.

“Like what?” Dean asked.

“Like, whatever I want, Mr. Allen.

“Did you vote for Obama, Ms. Dupree?”asked the stranger.

“Hell nah. What you think cause I’m black I voted for his dumb ass?”

“And you, Mr. Allen?”

“Yes, he supported my right to marry.”

There came a long silence. Dean was about to speak when he felt a cold sensation on his neck and heard a whisking sound. Intense pain and sickening heat came next as blood spilled from his neck down his chest.

“You have been found guilty of treason Mr. Allen,”said the stranger as Dean bled out, his protests coming out only as a raspy gurgling.

Shantice screamed and thrashed in her seat.

The stranger spoke, “You are the victim Ms. Dupree. Your kind have been brainwashed by the Democratic party for so long that black republicans are outcast among–”

“You didn’t hafta kill him.”

The stranger sighed.

“Ms. Dupree, I disagree, it was my civic duty.”

Shantice began to weep.


Patricia Stirnkorb

“Ringing in the New Year always brings to mind the possibility of what is to come,” said Randall Watson, a well-known conservative activist in the Tea Party. “We hold the future in our hands.”

“That’s right,” said Judge Marcus White. “But the future is sometimes put into motion for us by the actions of another.”

“It’s an amazing world in which we live,” said Sandra Wellington, Liberal tree-hugger. “The birds, the animals, nature in general–a spectacular place! But why are we not doing more to protect it?”

“Why, you ask? Why? Because no one cares! Look at us—the four of us have been fast friends for most of our lives, yet we have all gone in different directions. If it hadn’t been for that one event on graduation night, who knows where we would be today,” said Rebekah Shew. “I’ll never forget that evening. It ruined my life and changed the course of all our paths.”

No one commented.  The four friends sat around playing dominoes on New Year’s Eve.  After growing up in the same neighborhood, attending the same high school and graduating together, they all left a party together and the rest is history. In those days, no one was “exclusive” with one another and each of them considered the others their best friends. The girls were together most of the time, as were the two boys. But it was not unusual for any of them to spend time with one, two or all three. They would each give a kidney for any of the others. And their friendship had endured the test of time.

“Can you believe it is 2014?” Randall asked.  “Two-thousand and fourteen! This will be the year the politics in this country turn around! It’s time for America to wake up and see the trees are filled with crooks!”

“Really Randall? That’s a bad illustration! The trees have no way of selecting who is hiding in them,” Sandra laughed.

Rebekah sulked as she had no play on the game board. “I don’t know,” she said. “The world doesn’t seem to be getting better. We found no justice. What makes you think that anything will ever change?”

“Well, in all honesty, what could the outcome be?  I mean, really, we are all fine.  You are a successful writer, Marcus is the most respected judge in town, Randall has his career, and I am happy just being….me! Surrounded by the Wellington Nature Preserve that my parents started in my name!”

“You are so cute! You always have had a way of looking at things from a different perspective,” Marcus said. “Maybe we did get the short stick in the draw, but it was our destiny. Would you really change anything that happened?”

Three hands went up in around the domino table.

“I would!” said Sandra.

“Me too,” said Randall.

“As would I,” said Rebekah. “Heck yes, I would change things!

It’s 2014. Change your World.


Richard Russell

I had a dream last night.

All my friends were dying.

When one of them would have a problem, he’d go to court to get help, and never come back.  I got curious about this, so I went to the courtroom to see what was going on.

The courtroom gallery was packed with people of every kind, from everyplace; men, women, young, old, some spoke English, others spoke different languages, and they were dressed in all kinds of attire.  I saw a baseball player, an engineer,  sanitation worker, doctor, housewife, gang member, polo player, drug addict, and the list goes on.  They all seemed anxious and talked among themselves with fervency.  I walked on past them and made my way up to the front where there was quite a commotion going on.

There was a judge sitting behind the bench.  He wore a blindfold and sat with both arms out to each side and each hand was full of money.  People dressed in black wearing felt slippers would walk up to each side and place money in his hands and then quietly walk back.  Every now and then that judge would stand up and leave, and another one took his place; then he would do exactly as the previous judge did.

Then there were two men who walked around and around in front of the bench speaking big words with much emotion and force.  One of them was blue, and the other one was red.  They disagreed on everything the other one said, and their arguing got to be so intense, I thought for sure it would come to blows.

Then I saw one of my friends standing to the side.   It was Jack, a past co-worker who had lost his job.   The red man and the blue man were arguing about what to do about Jack not having a job.   They argued so long that Jack starved to death, and fell over dead right there in the courtroom.

A couple of bailiffs dragged Jack’s body away, and threw it on a pile out back, and the judge called, “Next case!”

Then I saw my friend, Betty, standing where Jack had been.  She was pregnant, and didn’t want to be.   Those two men did the same thing.   They argued back and forth, and back and forth for so long about how to help her that she delivered, but with a complication, and she and the baby died, right there.  Well, they hauled their bodies out to the pile as well, and the judge called the next case.

Then my friend, Bob was in her place.  He was afraid of terrorists.   So, those two guys began arguing about that until a bullet flew in through the window and killed Bob.  They threw him on the pile, and called the next case.

Then I looked and discovered I was now standing in the same place as Jack, and Betty, and Bob had stood.   Fear gripped me, and that’s when I woke up.