Contest #149 shortlist ⭐️

Them Indiana Boys, On Them Indiana Nights

Submitted into Contest #149 in response to: Write about a character who is trying to convince others to play a game.... view prompt

58 comments

Adventure Sad

This story contains sensitive content

(TW/CW: Mentions of active drug use, drug activity, STD's, infidelity, foul language)


➾➾

Your loved ones stopped by your apartment last night. Their faces twisted in disgust as they scanned your space looking for a clear spot to sit. Their faces–solemn and united– and you thought, well, this can’t be good. 


When did you last see Aunt June? Or your old best friend Hank? He hadn’t returned a single one of your calls in ages. Dad lingered in the doorway in his oiled up coveralls looking like he’d prefer to be anywhere but here. Mom’s tears had already begun making their journey down the front of her disheveled grocery clerk’s apron. 


Instead of hugging them like you did when you were four-years-old, you just panic-cleaned around them as if your place had a tornado whip through it unknowingly. Your ex-girlfriend, Lena– God, she was so damn beautiful, still– grabbed your wrist, pulled you from the destruction. 


“You should sit for this, Mac.” 


The rest was a blur. There were honest-to-god letters handwritten on papers in each of their laps. It wasn’t the Oscar’s and there were no awards, just a long list of things that you messed up. You’ve been good at fucking things up for so long. It’s all you’ve ever known. An award for stealing the most family jewels, and using your friend’s identity as your own isn’t one that you’d put up on the fridge with a gold star. No sticker charts for you. 


It started with your dad, all monotone and robotic.


“Mac, your behavior has affected me in the following ways…”


He didn’t hold back in reminding you about all of your shortcomings. Like the time you wrecked his brand new diesel truck into the side of the garage, leaving him with a pile of bills that he surely couldn’t pay. 


They all took turns, like they were taking a roll call of all your ailments.


“Drug addict?” Here.


“Alcoholic?” Here.


“Chronic liar-thief-depressive?” Here.


It ended with your father’s ultimatum. 


“Mac,” his voice choked and you knew then that this was a precipice. 


“Son, if you choose to use and play this game where you will continue to kill yourself every single day, you need to know that we will lay our chess pieces down. You will win. Checkmate.”


Chess felt like a funny way to describe your father’s finality with you. He was more of a digital Yahtzee kind of guy, and only while on the shitter. 


Your mother, on the other hand, was always one for positive reinforcement. When you would run through the house with your muddy shoes as a kid, she’d say, “Mac! I can tell you played hard today. Look at all this mud.” 


She could have hollered at you for dragging the bulky Indiana mud across her dingy-used-to-be-white linoleum, but she chose to focus on the positive, and with delight. That you were just a little boy with bright eyes, playing in the soil, while enjoying his simple little life. 


“Son, your father is right. You can’t play this game anymore. It’s time to choose a new game. Will you accept the help that is being offered to you today?”


➾➾

The first rule you learn about this new game is that you have to get honest. Admit that you’re a piece of shit, or that maybe you’ve just got a lot of trauma and this is how your brain chooses to cope.


Or not cope. 


Or whatever.


Get honest.


Denial is not allowed in this part of the game. 


Admit it, you’re an addict. Move ahead two spaces, and draw a card. 


➾➾

There’s a tiny aluminum canoe on your nightstand that captures the reflection of your face. You can’t tell if it’s the crinkles in the foil that make your face appear carved out, or if this is just how your face looks now. Deep grooves etch your cheeks like someone has taken a lathe to them


God, you had no idea you looked this bad. Lift the foil to your face for a closer look and catch the familiar scent of vinegar. To everyone else the putridness would cause them to turn their faces away. Not you. You lean in further, inhaling the place that feels like home. What if you just heat up some of the residue? Just once should be fine, right?


Think back to what Hank said, “You’re gonna need more than willpower, Mac. You’re gonna need an outta this world deity to get you through.”


God? What good has he been for you lately?


Turned you into a druggie with no friends and family.


If not God, then who?


Someone you suppose.


Anyone really. 


Believe. Shake the Magic 8 Ball and ask it who your higher power is, if not God. 

“Reply hazy, try again later.” 


➾➾

The card you drew two spaces back said to get yourself to a meeting. That the fine people there would help you sort out the rest. A well dressed business looking woman takes the podium. She’s a high end attorney that lost custody of her kids due to her drinking while driving her kids to soccer practice. 


She’s got twenty days and you’ve got three. Remind yourself, it’s a game not a contest. No one gets awarded a certificate for the most sober person ever with a lifetime discount to their local grocery store.


It’s just one day at a time. One roll of the dice. 


Each person that approaches the stand looks different from the next, and you realize that they’re all playing too. You want the same prize. 


Surrender. Stay in the spot you’re in and don’t move ahead until you know where you’ve gone wrong.


➾➾

Hunger. That’s not something you’ve felt in a long time. Search the cupboards for something to quell the clawing sensation within your belly and find nothing but a ramen seasoning packet. 


It’s fine. 


Put the kettle on and boil some water until the sound wreaks havoc on your ears and the blood pounds in your skull. Find an empty cup, one not laced with liquor or vomit. Pour out the mug with, “None of this is my business, but I need it to be” written on it, and allow the tap water to rinse away the ashes and butts of variegated cigarettes. 


Smack the shiny packet of MSG against the counter and pray that it’s not shrimp, but something more agreeable like chicken or beef. Brew your broth of 10¢ noodles without the noodles and hope that it stays down once it hits your lips. 


Shrimp. Dammit. 


Start with your resentments. 


I resent my mom for making love look so easy. She told me that I was an Indiana boy and that on some Indiana night I’d find a girl to love just like my dad did, like it was as easy as breathing from there on out. It affected my future relationships because I was often frustrated and filled with anxiety. This made me selfish and caused me to stray into the nights looking for a girl named heroin. 


Morals. It’s a small detour back four spaces. Wait your turn.


➾➾

“Hi, my name is Mac. I’m an addict, and like many of you I have brought harm to the people I love the most. I’ve been clean for a little bit now. I try not to count too far ahead. Numbers sort of feel like pressure to perform for me. If I have twenty dollars I can buy a bag. If I buy a bag…” 


Heads nod in rhythm to your confession. You’ve always felt nervous talking to strangers but somehow these people are familiar. 


Declare. You can begin to do repairs now. 

Roll the dice, because this next move is tricky.


➾➾

Your sponsor Ron is a piece of shit just like you. He plays this game too. It was his dying mother’s last wish for him to participate, and because she was pretty much the only person left willing to speak with him, he plays. 


Going on ten years now.


Imagine ten minutes without heroin before you imagine ten years without the glass touching your lips and the lighter burning your calloused fingers. 

Better yet, start with ten seconds. 


Ron says, “Mac, are you ready to turn your flaws over to someone mightier than you?”


You’ve told him this a million times already, that you don’t believe in God or Goddess. As if he knows what you’re about to lecture him about, he cuts you off.


“I don’t care if you turn your defects over to mother nature herself in a big ass canyon, or spit them into the river. Get rid of ‘em.”


Ready? Empty out your pockets onto life mountain and await your next assignment.

➾➾

If you ask for help from someone else, think about how you’ll never feel the way that the smoke crawls up past your eyes and down your throat at the same time. The entrancing dance of pain melting away has always looked most beautiful in the form of smoke. 


“Dad, I need help.”


Humility. It’s a hard lesson to learn at times, but you’re handsomely rewarded with an all-inclusive stay at a rehabilitation facility. Stay as long as you need.


➾➾

Make the list. 


Broke mom’s heart. Gave Lena an STD. Wrecked dad’s truck. Lied. Drank. Drugged. Stole.


Stop the list there. Straighten out the front of your Indiana Hoosiers shirt like it’s your alma mater even though you didn’t make it past the first week of Chemistry 101. 


Now that you’ve made half a list, the directions state you have to take inventory of how your actions have harmed people. You might spend more time here than you hope to. 


Make the list, so that you can move forward. 


Inventory. This itemization will move you ahead one space.


Just make the list.

➾➾

Call Hank. Leave a message and let him hear the clarity in your voice. If he calls you back, make the amends.


Knock on Aunt June’s door. Accept the genuine smile she delivers to you. If she invites you in, make the amends.


Swing by your mom’s grocery store. Ask her and dad over for dinner in your place. If she nods with hesitation, make the amends.


Do not call Lena. Leave a note under the windshield wiper of her car. Don’t harm her anymore than you have.


Amends. Say you’re sorry for fuck’s sake and wait your turn.


➾➾

Keep showing up, it works. Keep taking inventory because you’re still a piece of shit. 


Say you’re sorry.


Say you’ll do better.


Do the work.


Then do the work some more.


Maintain. But make it personal this time. For each time you admit wrongdoing you may advance a single space.


➾➾

Find a way to clean up your life in other ways. Start running until every muscle feels like it might burst through your skin. Notice how the high from running makes your heart race all the same. Run at night. Run when it’s freezing cold, when your breath swirls in front of your face and down through your lungs like ice. The entrancing dance of a true deep breath: one that’s not riddled with need and sadness. It looks beautiful because you, are so fucking alive. 


You’re breathing. 


Indiana nights mean something new. You’re not looking to score. You’re seeking to connect with your body in the form of feet pounding the asphalt and with the meditative rhythm of your panting. 


Prayer. You don’t have to move ahead or back now. Just be.


➾➾

You don’t have ten years like Ron, but four years ain’t nothing. The game never ends for fuck ups like you, considering you’re someone everyone wants to be around. It takes you a few tries to get through the steps. Extra amends felt contrived and hollow after the third time. 


But now, foil is only used on your baked potatoes and your MSG packets are happy companions to dehydrated noodles. It’s not about how you play the game, but that you always continue to play. 


A new guy grabs your attention from the back of the room. He’s sweaty and uncertain about what he just walked into, so you invite him to the front to speak.


Words spill from his weathered lips as quickly as his eyes dart to and fro. At some point you notice the concentration of tears pooling in his eyes. You think to yourself, God, did I look like that?


Take a page out of your mom’s playbook and approach him after the meeting. You recognize what dragging Indiana mud all through a nice clean house looks like, and this guy is caked in it.


“Hey, you’ve lived hard. Look at all this mud.”


Service. Give a newcomer their day one coin. You’ve got work to do, return to start.






June 10, 2022 03:58

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58 comments

Zack Powell
21:40 Jun 11, 2022

Where to start, where to start? First, we missed you last week, so I'm glad to see that you submitted a story this time around. Everyone's really been stepping up their Reedsy game in the past month, and you are no exception. Let's start with the game motif. Fantastic interpretation of the prompt, and the references to other games (Yahtzee, Monopoly, Life, Magic 8 Ball, Chess) were not lost on me. What a great way of driving home the theme of the story. You have all these lighthearted family games juxtaposed with the very serious, very real...

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Shea West
00:56 Jun 12, 2022

So, I actually had an idea last week and attempted to write it but it felt really forced. So I'll use it at another time when I can give it more of my time. The game motif came to mind for one reason. Someone I love very much got sober. I remember feeling so much frustration in those early months because they were sober, but also they seemed to act like a 15 year old and I was certain clarity would come with sobriety. Instead what happened is, this person regressed a bit, back to the age at which they started using. They had to use simple...

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Zack Powell
14:19 Jun 17, 2022

Congrats on the shortlist, Shea - the contests in the 140s were good to you! This was one of the most competitive weeks I've seen on Reedsy, so I'm glad to see this piece get recognized. Gives all us 2nd person POV fanatics hope. ❤️

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Shea West
14:28 Jun 17, 2022

I hadn't realized that the 140's were so good to me, so thank you for the reminder. I'm grateful for the win and recognition, and you're right-- it was a tough week!

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Jay Mc Kenzie
07:04 Jun 11, 2022

Such a beautifully creative take on the prompt. I love the structure and the POV and, as someone else pointed out the 'steps'. I love the end: giving the positive love he received from his mother to someone else. Love breeds love, right? So many gorgeous lines. Here are my favourites: "I resent my mom for making love look so easy". "Run at night. Run when it’s freezing cold, when your breath swirls in front of your face and down through your lungs like ice. The entrancing dance of a true deep breath: one that’s not riddled with need a...

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Shea West
19:30 Jun 11, 2022

Jay, I am so glad you picked up on The 12 Steps in each of the vignettes. I intended to use them but I didn't want them to be overt. Using them like a game felt like a clever way to do that. It sounds sad that he resents his mother for resenting her for that. But there are many who have good examples of love that still struggle, and when they do it feels foreign and wrong. Like if they can do it, why can't I? The run at night line came from the part where he thinks of what the smoke looks like as he breathes it in, slowly killing himsel...

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Jay Mc Kenzie
21:01 Jun 11, 2022

Sending hugs.

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K. Antonio
00:33 Jun 11, 2022

Ooooo, I actually really liked the premise of this entire story. BUT what I enjoyed the most was the experimental structure and use of scene breaks. I thought the narration and use of second person and game instructions was such a clever way to weave in the prompt and push the envelope. The paragraphs being short (sometimes being only one line) really allows the reader to move from one point to another quickly. Also the tense of the story, being in present tense, created this feeling that either their was a narrator hovering above the ...

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Shea West
19:32 Jun 11, 2022

I've been pushing myself to write more in present tense! It's a bit tricky for me, so here I am trying! I think sobriety, or active recovery is just like that for many. Giving yourself orders to do the next thing, so you can get to the next thing. One day at a time to stay sober and be sober. Thanks for your words, K!

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Ron Davidson
04:58 Jul 31, 2022

Great story Shea! I love the use of the second person POV for this story! It really pulls the reader into the story. Once again, you are so creative with the prompt! Great story telling...so many details that you can see, smell, and feel. Congrats! -Ron (It is okay that you used my name as a shitty sponsor! LOL)

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Shea West
22:07 Aug 08, 2022

I'm low-key obsessed with 2nd POV! I'm very sorry your name volunteered as tribute in my brain for the sponsor. Of course it's another Ron! We can let bygones be bygones right? LOL Thanks for the read.

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Ron Davidson
22:16 Aug 08, 2022

I knew it couldn’t be me! 😂 2nd person trips me up a little. I haven’t been brave enough to try it yet. I have recently read several good examples of it, yours included. -Ron

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Shea West
22:23 Aug 08, 2022

Thank you!! This my second shortlist on Reedsy in second pov, my other is Wet Sheets

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Ron Davidson
22:26 Aug 08, 2022

I’ll read it.

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Daniel R. Hayes
21:15 Jun 27, 2022

Hi Shea, congrats on being shortlisted!! I can't believe I missed this story. It was amazing. Keep it up!! :)

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Shea West
21:23 Jun 27, 2022

Thanks my friend! I hope you're busy getting that book published!

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Daniel R. Hayes
21:29 Jun 27, 2022

You're very welcome!! "Tales from Mr. Macabre," will be available very soon on Amazon. In the meantime, you can check out my author page on Facebook to stay up to date. I have a book trailer and the cover to get people excited! :) The book is done and formatted perfectly, I just need my cover designer to adjust the cover to KDP, and I also decided to do a hardcover. https://www.facebook.com/DanielRyanHayes

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Oliver Bisky
23:31 Jun 22, 2022

Shea, I am simply obsessed with this piece. Mac's unique point of view is represented perfectly here; his nonchalance is sad to see from an outside perspective, but so, so fitting. Like addicts of any kind, drugs or otherwise, he's become tolerant to his own bullshit. There's so much to love about this--your personal spin on the prompt, your dialogue.. everything is so real. And the way you navigate it all through your writing is just a joy to read. Thank you so much for sharing this!

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Shea West
20:14 Jun 23, 2022

I think we're all tolerant to our own bullshit hahahah! I appreciate the read and the comment. It means a lot!

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23:50 Jun 17, 2022

Shea, like everyone else, I absolutely loved this - congratulations on the shortlist. Well deserved. :)

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Shea West
01:13 Jun 18, 2022

Shuvayon! Thank you!

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Kevin Broccoli
19:17 Jun 17, 2022

Congratulations Shea! I missed you last week as well, but way to come back swinging. I loved the concept and I really thought you used every creative resource to your advantage. Bravo.

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Shea West
19:22 Jun 17, 2022

Thanks Kevin, that means a lot! Your work is some of my favorite and be recommended alongside your stories feels like prize enough. Appreciate it!

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Chris Morris
18:03 Jun 17, 2022

Brilliant stuff as always, Shea. Obviously worthy of its place on the shortlist. Congratulations!

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Shea West
18:32 Jun 17, 2022

Thank you so much Chris! I'm real proud of this one.

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L.C. Schäfer
08:10 Jun 16, 2022

What a great interpretation of the prompt 😁 No criticism, I was completely immersed.

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Shea West
13:50 Jun 16, 2022

Hey thanks so much! For reading and commenting.

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L.C. Schäfer
13:58 Jun 16, 2022

You are very welcome, can't wait to read more of yours!

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Zelda C. Thorne
17:19 Jun 15, 2022

Oh wow, this is something special. So profound and honest and brutal. Every part built his journey up. The list of wrongs only being half the list was very sobering. I liked that he said sorry, and waited, because it's true that the people he has wronged have a right to not forgive. Wonderfully handled. You're so good at tackling these darker subjects. No critique. You know I struggle to find anything to critique with your writing! It's great.

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Shea West
20:47 Jun 15, 2022

Thank you Rachel. Your comment made me cry. Thank you for seeing my writing for what it is, and knowing where my strengths lie. It's priceless to know that I have that in a writer friend!

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Andrea Doig
14:12 Jun 15, 2022

Yes. Great story. Happy ending for the win. I need to try me some of those ;) (happy endings haha). Enjoyable read and of course I was rooting for Mac all the way - glad he came through for me hehe. Interesting take on the prompt too!! Thanks for sharing x

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Shea West
20:49 Jun 15, 2022

HAHAHAH! I am a sucker for a Happily Ever After... On this one though, there's just a do the work and know that it won't always be happy, but be okay with it. I tried to focus on the twelve steps and how even though you "finish" the steps, you're never actually finished. I appreciate you giving it a read.

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Thom Brodkin
15:38 Jun 13, 2022

Death, taxes, and Shea recommended. Three things certain. There are people on Reedsy who leave the very best comments full of insight and citations. I am not that person, I read and enjoy good writing mainly because it touches me. This reminds me so much of my friend Jason, you might have read my story about him. He has fallen and gotten up so many times I've lost count but he is and will always be the finest man I know. It's why I cry when he stumbles and rejoice when he gets back up to try again. I have to think this story is personal. ...

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Shea West
16:42 Jun 13, 2022

I think you are sorely mistaken. Your comments are fan faves among a group of us. It is personal, not that I went through it myself, but someone(s) I love very much has navigated sobriety.

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Amanda Fox
14:28 Jun 13, 2022

I love the choice of second person perspective for this story - it works really well.

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Shea West
02:43 Jun 14, 2022

Thanks so much for reading

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Mike Panasitti
19:14 Jun 12, 2022

Good stuff. The kind that makes one want to thing twice about using the bad stuff.

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Shea West
02:43 Jun 14, 2022

Something like that! Thanks for reading

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L. Maddison
17:27 Jun 12, 2022

Hi Shea, You’ve captured a remarkable journey with such grace. I really felt the despair of his parents and his resistance. I love that he’s struggled hard with every step but there are these little moments of insight that just keep him putting one foot into the other. This packed a punch and is incredible.

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Shea West
17:39 Jun 12, 2022

Thank you so much. It's a story that's near to my heart, so it brings me a lot of joy to know that folks are liking it.

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Riel Rosehill
10:47 Jun 11, 2022

Hi Shea!! Awesome story! I loved the boardgame themes and I so admire your talent for exploring so many extremely different characters' POV. Old apple collectors, wasps and addicts alike - the variety just blows my mind I wish I was so andventurous with picking themes and characters as you are. I loved the paragraph of when he started running (some stunning sentences in there that I read a few times to savour before moving on) and the ending, with “Hey, you’ve lived hard. Look at all this mud.” and your last sentence. So GOOD. I wish you a...

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Shea West
19:21 Jun 11, 2022

Your edits were spot on. I don't know how I missed those! So you are very appreciated for those finds. Your sentiments about my diversity are welcomed. I only have variety because I'm trying to find my writer's voice I think LOL. I get bored easy too! Look at all this mud was something I felt could be used as a positive reinforcement sort of thing just like his mom did. Just because something was dirty and heavy doesn't mean that there wasn't good that came from it! Thanks for reading friend!

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A.G. Scott
22:10 Jun 10, 2022

I drove across northern Indiana last night, and ran over: 1) two raccoons 2) a rat 3) a deer's entrails Beside the point, just felt compelled to share. I also wrote about addiction this week; I like your take on it, the game idea. The short sentences that come in the second half of the story feel like an inner voice, commands for how to get through just the next little chunk of time. I feel like the title could be better, more confrontational, like the story is. Enjoyed it!

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Shea West
19:38 Jun 11, 2022

Glad you picked up on that inner voice part. It's a lot of self talk getting sober. It can get you in trouble or it can get you over some things too.

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Michał Przywara
20:48 Jun 10, 2022

This was a great story, and a great journey! The beginning conveyed a kind of shock and disbelief, as the main character scrambled to find seats for his people. Then the severity of their visit hit hard. The subsequent scenes showed us progress, very slow and tentative at first, but progress all the same. It was clear it was hard won, with all the doubts plaguing the mind. That's one thing that struck me about this. It's pretty clear the main character doesn't want to be this way – addicted, a screw up, hurting his loved ones, etc. The...

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Shea West
19:37 Jun 11, 2022

Michal, Always a pleasure to see your words, thank you. I hoped to convey, albeit briefly, what the twelve steps looks like for someone. The frustration, the trials, the hard work etc. How it isn't a game, but in some ways it is. Most addicts I know don't want to be this way I suppose. Thanks for that edit, I clearly missed!

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Michał Przywara
21:39 Jun 11, 2022

"I hoped to convey, albeit briefly, what the twelve steps looks like for someone." On that note, I think you succeeded. I'm not familiar with the 12 steps, other than having heard of them, since these days they're part of culture at large. So when you gave us the stand-alone single words for each step, and paired it with the action, it was pretty quickly clear to me what was going on. That's what I meant about the journey. I think it comes across well.

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Michał Przywara
21:00 Jun 17, 2022

Congratulations on the shortlist, Shea! :D

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Shea West
21:05 Jun 17, 2022

Thank you😍😍

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Aeris Walker
08:37 Jun 10, 2022

Hi Shea! What an absolutely clever and creative response to the prompt. You writing is smooth, soulful, and felt so natural in the 2nd person. You had so many beautiful descriptions just casually woven throughout. I really liked these lines: “Run at night. Run when it’s freezing cold, when your breath swirls in front of your face and down through your lungs like ice.” Small typo in this line here maybe where you say “out” twice? “Straighten out the front of your Indiana Hoosiers out like it’s your alma mater even though you didn’t make it...

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Shea West
12:27 Jun 10, 2022

Aeris! Good catch on the out part. It's meant to say shirt. I really enjoy writing in 2nd pov and it pleases me endlessly to know it felt smooth to you. I love a lot of sober folks in my life, so it felt pertinent to write. Thank you for reading😍

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Aeris Walker
12:41 Jun 10, 2022

I struggle to write from that perspective, so well done. You can sense that in the writing, that the importance of sobriety is a topic close to your heart and you creatively and clearly communicated how deeply others-loved ones—are affected by addiction.

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