How to Win an Unwinnable War

Submitted into Contest #178 in response to: Write a story about an unconventional holiday tradition.... view prompt

53 comments

Holiday American Gay

This year it's my turn to host our family's annual war. That's why we're doing 75 along the highway now, me and Mom and Dad, who's sitting in the back seat loading our guns. It's one of the reasons, anyway.


The timing couldn't be better; there's nothing I need more than a diversion from my own war with Jasper last month. That was messier than anything will be today. The way we turned the living room into a battleground, hurling books and words like live grenades. The way he packed what was left of his stuff and screeched off in the dead of night and left me alone to pick up the shrapnel. Breakups do that to you, I guess. Turn you into a worse version of yourself.


That's the other reason we're doing 75. It helps me forget about Jasper. At least, that's the answer I give when Dad asks why we're going so fast.


"It's important to remember your history, Danny," Mom used to tell me on the drives to the battlefield, just as she does now. Whether she's referring to my breakup or today's excursion, I can't be sure. "You can't change it, but you can learn from it. Right, dear?" She searches the rearview mirror for Dad's reassurance.


"You betcha," he says, and jams more red paintballs, his ammunition of choice, into his gun.


"Take the annual family war, for instance," Mom adds. "You know why we've done it every year since you were little? Because it's history. Because it teaches you something."


But even she can't remember when or why, or even how, the tradition started. It's just something we do every Fourth of July. Some families have block parties and barbecues and set off fireworks. We pretend to kill each other.


***


The battlefield today is the same one from my childhood. I can recall, as a kid, the memory of this place being like our family's own private jungle, stippled with vegetation and wild animals. In my mind, the grass was a vast green ocean that traveled up to my knees, not the yellow, weed-infested wasteland here now. Back then, the gnats and mosquitos were tiny soldiers, not annoyances to be swatted down and wiped off on pants and shirtsleeves.


Only now, at thirty-three, do I see this place for what it is: a dump of land in the middle of nowhere that my father is able to rent for cheap each year because of its poor maintenance and disrepair. And I'm not afraid to let my parents know that when we pull into the northern parking lot.


"That's just the breakup talking," Mom says, like the retired psychologist she is. This, coming from the woman who's been married to her high school sweetheart for fifty years. "You used to love this place," she says.


"I used to love a lot of things," I remind her, stepping into the July heat.


A few people are here already. I recognize some of them, all dressed in the same navy blue trousers and wool coat that I'm wearing—the uniform of the Civil War soldiers from the Union. Other members of the extended family are like perfect strangers, bound together only by a last name and an obligation to withhold tradition. A few cars down we spot my older sister, Phoebe, and her new pencil-necked husband. We say our hellos.


"Hey, where's Jasper?" she asks. There's no malice in her voice, no hint of a knife being twisted. "Did he decide to go rogue and fight for the South this year?"


It's taken me a while to realize that having parents who don't gossip is both a blessing and a curse. It was nice years ago, back when I was still coming out, and my parents allowed me to tell the rest of the family at my own pace. But at times like this, I wish everyone already knew the tattered details of my personal life so we could avoid awkward explanations and on-the-fly excuses.


To my sister's credit, she must recognize something's amiss, because she changes the subject to her husband's promotion when the only thing I can think to say is "Um." More than once I catch her staring at me.


Midmorning bleeds into afternoon. More family shows up. More questions are asked. By way of distraction I preoccupy myself with my hosting responsibilities: helping Mom lug her homemade postbellum feast into the standby medical tent, teaching new in-laws how to aim their paintball guns, explaining to my cousins who haven't yet gone to war the guidelines, which are simple. Really, there are only two rules to our family's Civil War re-enactment: 1) If you get shot, you're out of the war, and 2) The North always wins.


Finally, at three o'clock, we gather like good Union soldiers at the edge of the battlefield. The air around me is charged with the promise of a victory for the North. Somewhere on the other side of the plain, another set of family members is waiting—the Confederates, the South, the enemies.


Last year, our re-enactment finished in record time thanks to Jasper, whom I'd brought along. We were both fighting for the North, but that's where our similarities ended. Whereas I'd failed to make anyone a casualty of war, Jasper darted across the battlefield like he was possessed by the spirit of a bona fide Union soldier, raining paintballs on the Confederates. I don't think he missed a single shot. Later, when family members came to introduce themselves and congratulate him, he shook his head and said I'd landed most of the shots. Everyone told us we made a great team.


I try not to think about that as Mom emerges from the medical tent holding a megaphone. Phoebe walks behind her holding a flare gun to the sky. It's a little dramatic, I think, but that's just another part of the tradition, of history. Plus, her husband is eating it up. It's been a while since I've seen someone look at their partner like that.


"Let the annual Ackerman Civil War begin!" Mom blares into the megaphone, loud enough for the people on both sides on the field to hear. And for good measure, just before they return to the safety of the medical tent, Phoebe blasts a flare heavenward to let us know it's time to shoot each other.


***


Maybe my accuracy has improved. Or maybe some of Jasper's dishonesty last year accidentally rubbed off on me and now I really can land shots. Whatever the reason, when the people from the other side of the field appear, dressed in their Confederate-gray jackets and their slouch hats and their brogans, I feel something surge through me. Something that's hard to put into words.


Something that makes me shoot at my seventy-year-old Uncle Albert and watch as the paintball explodes across his trousers and travels down his leg in a red river. Then again, when my cousin with the braces is aiming his shot and I clip him in the chest before he can connect it.


At first, I tell myself that I'm trying to beat Jasper's record. That's what's going through my mind, at any rate, when I barrel roll away from Aunt Ruth's stray shot and counterattack with a hit to her thigh, and again when I pretend to be a fallen soldier only to catch my second-cousin Henry by surprise. It isn't until I shoot my father's brother, my favorite Uncle Louis, that I understand what I'm really doing. How I'm using Jasper not as a benchmark but as a way of redirecting my anger. I can almost hear Mom saying that now, analyzing me like one of her patients on the chaise lounge.


But it's true. When I shot Uncle Albert, I was getting revenge for the time Jasper missed our movie date to work late. And with Aunt Ruth it was justice for when he broke the spine of my favorite Stephen King hardcover during our fight, even though I'm the one who started it. And even with Uncle Louis, that was retribution for last year, when he came here and got more love and acceptance from the strangers in my family than I'd ever felt.


Gunshots pierce the stale air around me. Men are yelling. It's surreal, watching people you know only from these wars get hit by stray fire. Even more so when you're the one shooting.


I almost feel bad when I shoot a boy, no more than fourteen, in the shoulder as he's reloading paintballs. Couldn't even tell you his name. He winces, falls to the ground dramatically, kicks his legs like a dying lizard. The guy standing next to him jumps, whirls around, tries to determine where I'm shooting from. I've got his face in my line of sight, my finger on the trigger.


And then it's off the trigger when I realize I'm looking at Jasper.


Even from all these yards away, I recognize his bleached-blond hair, his checkerboard of freckles. He grips his gun tightly, glances over his shoulder. This year he's dressed as a Confederate. The enemy. This, even though he knows how this war ends.


The thing is: I didn't invite him. As this year's host, I was responsible for sending out emails, letters, Facebook messages. Not once did I try reaching out to Jasper, even when I explained the breakup situation to Mom and she asked me to invite him anyway to "work through our differences."


Something in me tells me I need to have a talk with her when I get back.


It's funny. For all the time I've spent today imagining shooting Jasper, I can't will my finger to clamp down on the trigger. My grip on the gun slackens as I trace the outline of Jasper's retreating back. Two paintballs whiz past him in rapid-fire, two missed shots, and then he's gone. To my right, Dad is lowering his rifle and unsquinting his eye.


"Consarn it, boy!" he shouts. Out here on the battlefield he speaks in a heavy southern accent, even though he hasn't volunteered to be a Confederate in years. "That there was the enemy! What were you thinkin'?"


Before I can answer, Dad's screaming about his artificial hip, and down he goes. A ring of red stains one side of his waist. I look around, hold my gun out in front of me like a shield. Whoever shot him is gone. Crouching down to meet him, I ask if he's okay.


"Promise me, son," he whispers, milking the moment for all its worth, his fingers grabbing weakly at my shirtsleeves, "that you'll always remember—"


He chooses that moment to play dead. Typical Dad, stopping himself before he can give any meaningful advice. The rest of his sentence joins my jumbled thoughts in this no-man's-land.


***


It turns out we've set a record in the opposite direction this year. It's already past nine o'clock and the war is still on. I'm still in, and at least one person's still out there on the Confederate side.


Over the horizon the sunlight is dying but still no fireworks come. That's how we know when the game is over, that the last of the Confederates have been defeated, when that big red-white-and-blue flag spans the night sky in a burst of gunpowder and glory. I trek back to the center of the battlefield, where there's a ledger with the names of all of the day's soldiers. Per the rules, everyone signs it once they've been shot and removed from the game. As quiet as it is now, I figure there can't be that many survivors left.


Scanning the record book in the soupy darkness, I can see almost nothing but red Sharpie lines. Most of the names are crossed out, some ran through so many times they bleed into the next page.


The only ones still intact are mine and Jasper's. Everyone else has gone home, or else they're in the field pretending to be dead, or in the medical tent stuffing their faces with Mom's potato salad and baked beans and pink lemonade.


I'm double-checking the list of survivors when a paintball whooshes by my ear. A warning shot.


Across the field Jasper stands with his gun cocked. I can't read his face but I know this: he's not one to miss a shot. He avoided hitting me on purpose.


Jumping up, I mirror his stance, hold my rifle close to my chest, steady my grip. My heart is beating against the butt of the gun, against the pit of my throat. I open my mouth to speak.


Jasper is quicker: "Get ready, Danny. Next time I won't miss."


Even now, even here, his voice soothes me, like a massage to my ears. It's been so long since I've heard it—I mean really heard it, and not just the leave-a-message-after-the-beep number on his phone.


"I know," I tell him. And it doesn't sound quite as badass as his line, so I add, "Neither will I."


This is not how I imagined our reunion would be. Sometimes, late at night, I like to imagine us going to the same coffeeshop where we met. Sometimes we sit down at our table by the window, and sometimes I tell him I'm sorry for what I did with his coworker that caused us to have that fight. I tell him it's history, that I'm sorry I can't change it, but I can learn from it. Sometimes he forgives me. Sometimes he doesn't.


I don't know what happens this time, now that we're actually face to face again.


We're silent, appraising one another. And in the memory of so many fights, so many arguments, the quiet feels right. It's his fingers against mine. The next shot decides it. He must know how this ends, that he's in a dire situation. Civil War rule number two: The North always wins.


I see Jasper make his move. He's quick.


I'm quicker.


The unmistakable sound of a paintball making contact rings through the air. In this battlefield, this makeshift graveyard, it's the only sound to be heard.


The war is officially over.


It hurts more than I'd like to admit, taking one of those paintballs to the leg, especially at such a close range. Even the protective padding doesn't quite soothe the ache away. The blood-red paint is oozing its way down my thigh as Jasper runs toward me, his gun abandoned at the same spot on the ground that it was when I pointed mine down and shot myself.


Jasper crouches over me, his eyes meeting mine. "Why?" he asks, in a tone that tells me he already knows the answer. "Why'd you do that?"


"I thought," I tell him, after some consideration, "that I'd make a change."


Behind him the soldiers who've been playing dead are approaching, eager to see the results, and in the distance the medical tent opens and family spills from its bright confines like sardines out of a tin. As they all come closer, I hear voices—questioning, confused. The boy I shot earlier, the one with the lizard legs, the one I explained the war rules to hours ago, shakes his head when he notices what color Jasper's wearing. "That's not right," he says. "He's gray. That's not the way it happened in history. That's not how it went."


Before he can say anything else, we all lift our heads up. We hear it before we see it. The sky brightens with a firework in the shape of an American flag. It bursts and pops in a triptych of color: first red, then white, and finally blue. We watch the flag hang heavy in the air, a symbol of our country's history. Just before the light disappears, I steal a glimpse at Jasper. And it's funny: here in the dark, in the fading glow of the fireworks, you can't even tell what color his jacket is.

December 31, 2022 04:40

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53 comments

J.C. Lovero
15:06 Dec 31, 2022

Going 75 on the highway and loading guns. Way to hook us here! I love how you keep us invested with the high of Danny getting all the shots as a form of revenge therapy, and then the sudden complication of Jasper showing up. I really like how you ended it - felt very symbolic. Though we don't know what happens between them after this, there is a change in Danny that feels earned in the end. We all know when we have done stupid things, and it isn't until we take a good look at ourselves and see the ugly before we can move on. The last line ...

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Zack Powell
23:15 Dec 31, 2022

My favorite hermit! You know I had to end 2022 with a bang, and what better way than with guns getting loaded in the first paragraph, amirite? Huge thank you for the compliment on the conclusion. I was very conflicted on how to end this, but opted for a more subtle, symbolic route. Glad to see it wasn't lost on the reader. As always, I appreciate the love and the kindness. Wishing you a happy new year, and good luck in the contest this week! xoxo

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Riel Rosehill
20:20 Dec 31, 2022

Alrighty Zack, WAY TO CLOSE THE YEAR! This gotta be a new favourite for me. I was not expecting it from you, to have Jasper turn up and then make them the last survivors on opposing teams, and that shooting himself in the foot (ok, leg) move! Wow wow, it was a wild ride and I loved it. Awesome family tradition too, to pretend to kill eachother! Absolutely loved this story of yours. Some of my favourite lines: "The way we turned the living room into a battleground, hurling books and words like live grenades." - ouch. "Midmorning bleeds i...

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Zack Powell
23:11 Dec 31, 2022

🥂 Happy New Year! Side note: Now that you mentioned it, I am absolutely KICKING myself for not having Danny literally shoot himself in the foot! What a missed opportunity! 😭Such good wordplay, left by the wayside. Where were you ten minutes before the deadline when I posted this!? (LOL, just kidding) Thanks as always for the kindness and for the favorite line shout-outs, my dear. It means so much to me. Hope 2023 treats you well, and I hope your own writing is going smoothly. (Let me know when I can preorder your book - I promise I will!)

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AnneMarie Miles
08:29 Jan 02, 2023

What a fun family tradition! Pretending to kill each other. That sounds pretty harsh, but I bet actually doing it is exhilarating; at least you make it seem so! I wanted to take a highlighter throughout this story and just mark up all the little bits of it I liked, all the details I loved, but even if I could, I think it'd end up like my old textbooks, with more than half of it being bright yellow. I'll share a few, though: I think my absolute widest smile came from the dad fake dying before finishing his sentence. That is such a dad move...

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Zack Powell
02:14 Jan 03, 2023

What a whopper of a comment, Anne Marie! I just came from your story (which I adored), so this seems like the highest praise. And I also imagine this would be an exhilarating tradition. (Definitely some members of my family I wouldn't mind pegging with paintballs.) Elaborate is a good word for this stuff, for sure. And now I'm wondering if I should've had one of the characters use another as a shield! That hadn't even crossed my mind, but hey, if someone is just lying there on the ground... Glad to hear the breaking of the rule came across...

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AnneMarie Miles
05:25 Jan 03, 2023

I'm sure there are plenty of families out there using paintball wars to resolve arguments or simply to let off steam! I'm curious...in the past I think it was you who said you are a panster. Was it always the plan for Jasper to be dressed as a confederate? I'm also wondering what the chances are that they're getting back together? Seems like a good post-break-up ice breaker 😂

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Zack Powell
06:08 Jan 03, 2023

Could definitely be families out there who use paintballs like that. It's better than using the real thing, I suppose. 😅 I very much am a pantser, and Jasper being a Confederate is one of the few things in this story that was pre-planned. Everything else was more or less word-vomited onto the page. In my mind, I'd like to think this is the start of a second chance romance, because nothing says love like shooting yourself so someone else wins. But none of that made it onto the page, so now it's a choose-your-own-adventure instead. 😂

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AnneMarie Miles
16:06 Jan 03, 2023

I think we all wish our vomit was as pleasant as this. 😂 Maybe there's opportunity for a sequel of this in the future. I hope so. 🤞

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Rama Shaar
07:38 Jan 02, 2023

Excellent story, Zack! I love how the narrator leads us on to thinking he was somehow the victim but slowly throughout the story we realise he's more mad at himself and still in love with his partner, allowing him to win this war. Very well-written, touching and thrilling in equal measure!

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Zack Powell
17:41 Jan 02, 2023

Thank you very much, Rama! I'm beyond glad to know that the narrator's self-anger came through. Didn't know if that would translate to the page. Appreciate the kindness, and Happy New Year to you!

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05:39 Jan 02, 2023

Your sentences flow so well and carry so much emotion and subtext with them. Amazing. I'm still learning how to write action and phrases like "gunshots pierce around me" really bring this to life.

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Zack Powell
18:00 Jan 02, 2023

Thanks, Scott! Action scenes are definitely not my forte, so I'm just glad they were able to come through here in any capacity. And I'm happy to know the sentences flow well - with a writing style as basic as mine, I would hope that's the case!

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Naomi Onyeanakwe
14:46 Jan 01, 2023

Happy New Year, Zack! First story I'm reading this year and, what a way to begin the year. From the amazing first paragraph, I already knew this was going to be good, and it didn't disappoint AT ALL. I loved this story so so much. There are soo many things I loved about it, I can't even start to put them in words. Creative, so well written, very good storytelling and really entertaining. And that ending! This has become one of my favourite stories from you. And if it doesn't get recognized at the end of the week, I swear I'll fight. Well don...

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Zack Powell
01:26 Jan 02, 2023

Thank you very much for starting 2023 with this story, Naomi, and a Happy New Year back atcha! I was really banking on the first paragraph being a decent hook, so it's amazing to hear that it proved effective for someone out there. This was a really fun piece to write. Thanks as always, for the read and for ranking this among your favourites of mine. You're too kind!

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13:34 Jan 01, 2023

HAPPY NEW YEAR ZACK!!! Also great story to kick off 2023!!

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Zack Powell
01:26 Jan 02, 2023

Thank you, Ms. Wafflez, and a Happy New Year to you! Glad to start off 2023 on a good note.

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Laurel Hanson
19:38 Dec 31, 2022

Holy cow this is good. Completely engaging hook. The story unfolds at a crisp pace while still framing up so much information about the character, his relationship, and the family. I want a family that can have a paintball war. But still, the whole metaphor - just great. A poignant and touching conclusion. I really liked this.

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Zack Powell
23:16 Dec 31, 2022

Thank you, Laurel! Pacing is my worst enemy, so I'm glad this felt crisp and informative at once. Equally glad the metaphor came through for you. Thanks again, and congratulations on your win! You earned it.

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Wendy Kaminski
16:48 Dec 31, 2022

It's a beauty, Zack! Everyone else has critiqued this so well already, but I just had to say this line made me laugh out loud: "It's surreal, watching people you know only from these wars get hit by stray fire. Even more so when you're the one shooting." Thanks for the fantastic story!

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Zack Powell
23:25 Dec 31, 2022

Thanks for the read and for the never-ending kindness, Wendy! I was giggling a little when writing that line, so it's nice to know it worked for you. Have a happy new year!

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Wendy Kaminski
00:21 Jan 01, 2023

Thank you, Zack, and you as well! :)

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Delbert Griffith
15:17 Dec 31, 2022

This is a really good story; the symbolism of the annual war is subtle yet apparent. There are, in fact, other symbolic items here, and my favorite is the South winning the war. The North won the Civil War, which was appropriate; they defeated those who betrayed the Union. Jasper, likewise, won the war for the South during this holiday outing because Danny had betrayed their union. It seems quite fitting. I loved the last sentence. In war, the colors cease to matter after a while. Nicely done, Zack. Nicely done.

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Zack Powell
23:23 Dec 31, 2022

Thanks, Delbert! Just came off reading your story, and boy was I blown away, so this is high praise. I was wondering whether or not the various symbolism bits would come through, and it seems like nothing was lost on you. You caught it all, and for that I thank you (doubly so for your comment on the last sentence, which I was very uncertain about)! Thank you, thank you.

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Delbert Griffith
00:46 Jan 01, 2023

The last sentence was stellar! In war, nothing matters except surviving, after a while. In these two guys' relationship, nothing matters after awhile; they are apart. That sentence was amazing, Zack.

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Suma Jayachandar
07:08 Dec 31, 2022

Zack, What better setting to place this intense emotional battle than the paintball battle field! This piece went in with all guns blazing from the word go. A solid opening paragraph that piqued interest, then a middle detailing the inner turmoil of Danny, to the most satisfying ending. Many beautiful lines in this one. The ones I liked the most were, 1. Midmorning bleeds into afternoon. 2.Typical Dad, stopping himself before he can give any meaningful advice. Delivered with an emotional punch that leaves the reader breathless, as most of...

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Zack Powell
23:21 Dec 31, 2022

Thank you as always, Suma! Your comments are always a ray of light. I can't thank you enough for your generosity and for reading with such a keen eye. The "midmorning" line was probably my favorite, so it's nice to know someone else is right there with me on that. Thanks again, and have a happy new year!

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Suma Jayachandar
02:30 Jan 01, 2023

Thank you, Zack and you as well 😊

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Marty B
07:06 Dec 31, 2022

The metaphors drip down from this story like the paint from a shot to the chest- family fights at a holiday party, Ex’s switching sides, Mom and sister trying to act as medics to the men fighting, history being repeated and refought when no one knows why. I prefer my war stories to have a more definitive ending than this does, but maybe that is how battles go. The fireworks celebrate a good story!

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Zack Powell
23:18 Dec 31, 2022

Thank ya, Marty! This is definitely the personification of family fighting cranked to eleven. You caught everything I was going for, too. Kinda wish I'd gone for a more definitive ending here, but like you said, sometimes that's just how it goes. Thanks again, and a happy new year to you!

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Scott Skinner
21:42 Jan 06, 2023

This was fantastic. I wasn't expecting Jasper to be part of the war (literally) so that 'twist' was interesting for me and I really enjoyed how it played out and broke the rule of the North always winning. Your stories don't ever have loose ends. You do a good job at giving background detail quickly like here, ""That's just the breakup talking," Mom says, like the retired psychologist she is." and here, "It was nice years ago, back when I was still coming out, and my parents allowed me to tell the rest of the family at my own pace." Whi...

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Zack Powell
04:19 Jan 07, 2023

Thanks, Scott! I've really been trying to improve just about everything you mentioned ("twists," loose ends, and slipping in bits of background detail), so this feels like I'm taking a step in the right direction. Appreciate the great feedback!

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Raey Kubiak
22:19 Jan 05, 2023

A nice story. Well written and easy to follow with the appropriate amount of descriptive and contemplating narrative. Well done. PS It felt a bit overAmerican towards the end but if that was the intention then it’s not a problem at all 😌

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Zack Powell
02:01 Jan 06, 2023

Thanks, Raey! This story definitely was made to have an American vibe to it, but maybe I went overboard a little bit trying to push that theme. 😂 Thanks for giving me a new perspective!

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Amanda Lieser
21:49 Jan 05, 2023

Hi Zack! Wow! This one was crazy. I loved the idea of the annual war. I was super intrigued from the very first mention of it. I also love how much this family cares for each other(the parents don’t gossip, the sister swoops in to save the day). I love that you had these characters hash out the relationship on the battle field. That final firework imagery was incredible. Nice job!!

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Zack Powell
01:39 Jan 06, 2023

Thanks, Amanda. All's fair in love and war, as they say. So what better place to hash out a relationship, right? Appreciate the comment!

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Keith Maynard Jr
17:23 Jan 05, 2023

Truly a beautiful story, I like it.

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Zack Powell
18:42 Jan 05, 2023

Thank you so much, Keith.

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17:13 Jan 05, 2023

This is brilliant. Every word had me hooked. Well done.

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Zack Powell
18:10 Jan 05, 2023

Thank you very much, Tamar!

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12:19 Jan 05, 2023

I really enjoyed reading this! The story was funny, heartfelt, and wonderfully action-packed. I wish my family had this unconventional family tradition, and my fingers are crossed for Danny and Jasper. Loved it!

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Zack Powell
19:44 Jan 05, 2023

Thanks, Phoenix! Just came from reading your story, which I loved, so I'm glad to have that positivity reciprocated. I'll keep my fingers crossed with you for the future of these two characters. Thanks again!

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Michał Przywara
21:35 Jan 04, 2023

Killer opening :) I actually thought this might be a clever metaphor for a contentious family dinner, which would have been neat, but instead we're treated to an actual family war, which is very cool :) A Civil War re-enactment for the 4th of July makes sense. It's also a good frame for a broken relationship, because each is a family that's broken. I did wonder if somehow Jasper would wind up on the other side, mostly because there were a few hints about how big this family was, and how many unrecognized members there were. It was nevert...

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Zack Powell
22:41 Jan 05, 2023

Thanks as always, Michał. Now I wish I'd saved this opening for a metaphorical use! That idea's gonna say in the back pocket from now on. Kudos to you for catching onto the Jasper twist early - I was hoping there would be enough hints to make it seem more like "Oh, that makes sense now" instead of "Oh, what a random, out-of-nowhere inclusion to the story." And as usual, you caught everything I was going for here, with the themes and the ending. Nothing gets past you!

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Tommy Goround
02:57 Jan 04, 2023

-pencil neck -two rules -It's been a while since I've seen someone look at their partner like that. Nice parallel. -I feel something surge through me. Something that's hard to put into words... (It's not yet clarified... Do the guns resemble contemporary black ball rifles that really shoot paint rounds? Single shots. Or did they allow the family to go modern on this item?) Civil war reenactors can be very very stringent. -At first, I tell myself that I'm trying to beat Jasper's record. There's really a brotherly love that you're describing. ...

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Tommy Goround
02:59 Jan 04, 2023

Oops. That was Kevin's Tuxedo. This statement works otherwise

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Zack Powell
09:18 Jan 04, 2023

Standing to clap after reading this, Tommy. You hit on everything I was going for, and then some. The brotherly/romantic/national love comment is absolute gold. (I wish I were smart enough to say I planned it out that way, but hey, that's what draft #2 is for.) Also going in draft #2: More weight on the part about the dad shooting at the ex. This whole comment is pure, 100%, solid gold. And that Tuxedo shoutout. Forever clapping. Side note: In my mind, the guns were modern paintball guns, which would probably be fine for a family affair but...

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Tommy Goround
11:19 Jan 04, 2023

Nah. They have sniper paint... Actually better for shots around 80 yards. Whereas the machine gun style paintballs are tournament or maybe 40 ft.. so it is highly plausible. In fact, I have relatives over there were Gettysburg happened. They actually own the farm that was ground zero for Gettysburg and have a current museum (Spangler Family Farm)... I would totally go over and do one of those reenactments if it was real live paint fire.. great concept. Old men with fake guns is so boring to me. Consider taking off Gay tag. I could read thi...

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