The Grammar Games fevered dream


(with apologies to a whole bunch of lurkers, slackers, and hackers)

[Somewhere in South Africa, Day 23]

It was a dark and stormy night.

(No seriously, it was actually night time there … well it wasn’t stormy yet — still too close to the summer in the Southern hemisphere — it was clear with intermittent clouds, but there was a storm gathering. And it WAS raining like crazy somewhere in the world. The point is…)

Michelle Stone had been in a fiction-induced coma for sixteen days. There had been no sacrifices made in the Colosseum since the revolt. Her brow somehow furrowed, and dark clouds began to fill the air, building in size, and spreading out, until the entire globe was surrounded in darkness.

A voice sounding strangely like James Earl Jones with a slight Italian accent said:

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in…”

[Somewhere in ancient Rome, Day 23]

Jon Westenberg was surprisingly comfortable as he leaned against the walled enclosure of the Colosseum floor, in spite of the fact a lion was still gnawing on his right leg a hundred feet away. His editor held an umbrella over him, so the constant sprinkle of green hearts wouldn’t cover his smart phone screen as he put the finishing touches on his latest article which, despite still being in draft form, already had six hundred and thirty seven recommends.

Suddenly, his writing app turned into a picture of him lying in a hammock, sleeping peacefully while surrounded by the mouths of thirteen or eighteen Cheshire Cats. The problem was they weren’t smiling, they were laughing.

Jon started sweating, thinking he was dreaming about watching himself dream while being laughed at. In reality, he was unaware that he was in someone else’s dream, dreaming that he was watching Cheshire Cats laughing at him while dreaming. But if we’re really going to get down to it, Michelle Stone was unaware she was in my dream, dreaming that Jon was unaware that he was in her dream, dreaming that he was watching Cheshire Cats laughing at him while dreaming, and we haven’t even considered what the Cheshire Cats could have been dreaming so…

With incredible timing, DiCaprio’s lawyers from Inception brought a cease and desist order, pulling Jon out of this ever expanding rabbit hole. He called one of the Colosseum vendors to come down and bring him a coffee.

As the undescribed individual (THIS COULD BE YOU! APPLY HERE!) descended the stone steps of the stadium, carrying the vendor tray filled with hot drinks, the sign attached to the front of the tray did not say “coffee, tea & cocoa.” It meta-morphosed in front of Jon’s eyes and appeared thus:

We like your writing. Will you join the Grammar Games?

Jon rubbed his eyes furiously, and thought the strong coffee would bring him back to his senses. Instead, the coffee tasted like Jelly Babies, and worse yet, they all tasted like his least favorite flavor. Deciding that he was either hungry, or hallucinating due to the loss of blood, he reached into his jacket and grabbed his own bag of candy. He pulled out a couple of Jelly Babies and before he put them in his mouth, he heard them cry out with a voice that sounded oddly like two tiny James Earl Joneses:

“Thou art an original invitee. Michelle dreams of you. Wilt not thee heed the call?”

In a panic, he ate the candy, and it wasn’t bad, but something was strange. He wondered why the manufacturer had added a fifth flavor, beer. He calmed down, and saw that his smart phone screen was back to normal, so he pushed the virtual button.

Best. Publish. Ever. (Because who doesn’t want to riff off of Comic Book Guy?)

With his work done, he decided to watch the battle from his comfy spot next to the box seat holders, all close friends and followers. They pulled him out of the field of battle, dressed his wounded, and fed him grape leaves, olive oil, and a Big Mac. Jon was having a grand old time, and signaled another undescribed vendor (KICKSTARTER INVESTORS, THIS POSITION IS AVAILABLE! APPLY HERE!), calling out “hey, mate, you got a tinny, or a stubby, or maybe a schooey, or a middy, or a longneck or a…”

Aussies have as many names for beer as Eskimos have names for types of snow, so this went on for a while.

When the beer finally arrived, Jon took a long draught and shrieked a shriek that was even more painful that tasting beer that was flat — his beer tasted like coffee:


As Jon hopped through the stadium trying to find a decent beer, an inaudible giggle escaped Michelle Stone’s mouth, as hope was restored for a new contribution by one of the Gods of Medium.

[Somewhere on Jupiter, Day 23]

Heather Nann stated very eloquently

NO. Fuck all the fucking way to motherfucking Jupiter and back, NO. And I am not apologizing for this.

But she would NOT be returning from Jupiter. An invitation had been sent.

More than one.

Messages (banned from being shown) had been sent. Poetry had been written. Promises were exchanged.

A tear fell from Michelle Stone’s eye, as earth awaited Heather’s return… the sole portal back to the planet being a magic sentence or two (or even a 200-word post, but at this point no one is holding their breath), strategically placed in the comments below.

[Somewhere in England, Day 23]

Henry Wismayer had returned home after another harrowing misadventure. The dark sky above was not the usual mixture of clouds, drizzles, sprinkles, downpours, outbreaks of rain, with some heavy bursts for a time, but becoming lighter and more patchy later in the night or the hundred other ways the English describe their crappy weather. No, something was exceedingly odd, a mixture of sixes and sevens and snake eyes, which is an altogether different form of craps.

Gracefully arched above Henry’s head was a luminous rainbow shimmering beneath the dark and stormy night sky. But instead of the normal color spectrum, this rainbow was entirely green. Henry looked up, got a case of the collywobbles and yelled “bugger off, you daft cow,” for the rainbow was made of green hearts, a heart-bow, if you will. They silently smiled down on him, and winked at him. As hard as he tried to ignore this cheeky heart-bow, it tempted and tortured the poor fellow. “Get stuffed, you wanker!” he shouted, but with a little less conviction. He closed his eyes, put his hands over his ears and started singing Bohemian Rhaposody at the top of his lungs, Mr. Wismayer having quite the range as a singer as well as a writer.

When he finished, he felt something lightly brushing his hair and caressing his cheeks. He opened his eyes and stood there gobsmacked as a gentle shower of green hearts descended on him from above.

At this point, Henry went off his trolley and started running toward the hill from which the heart-bow seemed to originate. He climbed the hill effortlessly, and everything was downhill from there, literally as well as literarily. He sprinted down the hill, saw the prize, and uncontrollably slowed down as neared he the finish line, as he heard the theme from Chariots of Fire. Realizing he was in no way knackered, he screamed “turn off the bloody music!” When the music stopped, Henry shot off at full speed again, lost his balance and fell arse over tit, ending up seated just next to the pot of hearts at the end of the heart-bow.

Feeling truly minted, Henry started singing “all is tickety-boo in my world,” and reached over to wrap his arms around the pot of the hearts.

But the pot moved.

Henry crawled forward and lunged for the pot of hearts, but the pot evaded his grasp.

Henry mumbled “well that certainly throws a spanner in the works,” and thought about a new strategy to finally capture the pot. He turned, walked away from the pot and whistled a tune, but could hear the pot scraping along the ground as it followed him. With a sudden turn and cat-like quickness, Henry pounced and came up with two arms filled with Sweet Fanny Adams, as the pot stood just outside of his reach.

At this point, the chase was on. The pot kept a small lead on Henry, but every time it looked as if he would finally give up on his fevered quest, the heart-bow would shower him with green bits and bobs of love, and Henry would find new strength to continue his mobile version of the tantulus treatment. When last seen, the pot was headed toward the Colosseum, followed by Henry, who muttered the occasional “bollocks.”

A faint grin formed on Michelle Stone’s lips. Would this be the charm that broke the pall cast over The Grammar Games?

[Back at the Colosseum, Day 23]

Above the roaring crowd, two giant black crows circled the stadium, intermittently sh*tting on the people below and cawing, “this place is a real dump,” “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” and the never to be forgotten and totally original “shut the f*ck up.” After they had had their fill of mischief, the birds waved their wings and cawed out “so long suckers!”

Suddenly a flash of lightning struck and the crows were transfixed in the sky, while a giant picture frame enveloped them and flattened them with a glass cover. The frame floated down toward the stadium and began to shrink. As it reached the box seats, the picture passed above the head of Tattoo, who pointed up at them and yelled “the birds, the birds!”

Before being sucked into his smart phone, the crows looked into the eyes of Ricardo Montalbàn, asking “why?” and “how?” He replied “my dear guests, I am Mr. Roarke, your host. Welcome to my screen grab, muthaf*ckuhs”

[Somewhere, anywhere, who knows exactly where, Day 23]

Jules was checking her make up and her chin in the side view mirror of her Vespa, as she prepared to work the grave yard shift. Behind her, in the still dark and stormy night, she heard a high thin moan that cracked and suddenly sounded low and hoarse, “mmmm, tits and arse… tits and arse.. tits and arse…”

Not looking back, she called out, “that’s sweet of you love, but I’m old enough to be your mum, so be a good lad and bugger off before we go off to find your real mother.”

This time the voice rumbled ominously, and did not crack, sounding like James Earl Jones doing an impression of Bendict Cumberbatch:

“Dost thou thinkest hide thee from my sight?”

She turned around and found not the pimply face of a local teenager, but the might flaming eye of Sauron.

“Fucken A, da, what are you doing here?” she asked.

The eye growled back:

“I’m not your dad, I am Sauron, master of all that is evil in Middle Earth, and an exceedingly dark symbol of the Nazi threat in pre-WWII Europe, if you must know… and you will show me proper respect!”

Jules: “All right, don’t get your panties in an uproar. What do you want?”

“I’ve been sent with a message. Though you have tried mightily, I see all and know all. You cannot escape The Grammar Games. Just write something, so I can get back to destroying elves and dwarves and wizards and such. Especially those damn hobbits.”

“Well, no one really asked me,” Jules replied, “but it’s really none of your business. What are you going to do, follow me into the ladies room and make comments like some mean girl?”

“I said I was the master of all that is evil. Why would you want to insult me like that? Here’s your invitation. I’ll be back when you can show some better manners.”

The Eye of Sauron disappeared, leaving only a flaming scroll suspended in the air which read:

[Somewhere in Canada Day 23]

Far from the fray, lounging in perfect calm, on a blanket thrown over an especially lush spot in a verdant field of purple prose, alto was contentedly deconstructing the deconstruction of a deconstructor who had missed a microscopic, but vital implication that was problematic in the sense that outward manifestations of the suggested assumption might somehow be misconstrued in an assemblage, nay an agglomeration, or perhaps even a caboodle of circum loquacious syllogisms, the dialectic of which might conceive an innuendo, most certainly not consistent with a syllogistic methodology, a pernicious, possibly maleficent, bordering on pestilential, misrepresentation and misapprehension of…

Suddenly the dark and stormy night opened and a torrent of miniature dictionaries and thesauruses fell upon the earth, pelting alto at every turn. He ran for his life and found shelter under the leaves of an enormous copy of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Seeing the force of the downpour, alto thought to himself, “this storm may last a while, so I need something a little longer to read.” With that, he pulled out his iPad and began to reread Cyrus the Great by Medeleine de Scudéry.

But the storm was not amused, and a precisely trageted lightning bolt disabled the iPad. Alto spoke to the sky, saying “that’s inappropriate and disrespectful to the author who wrote those 13,095 pages.” But then he realized he had reacted harshly, apologized to the storm and assumed the lotus position so he could begin meditating on the nature of micro aggressions, as it seemed lightning bolts were a trifle over the top.

During his meditation, he thought he heard a voice that sounded strangely like that of James Earl Jones reciting poetry:

The words are lovely, dark and deep,
But you have promises to keep,
And lines to write before you sleep,
And lines to write before you sleep.

In his revery, Alto asked for elucidation, exposition, specification, annotation and, you get the picture. The only response that came was a rapid plunge in temperature and gusts of snow flurries that found their way into the shelter of the massive book.

Alto began to shiver, but held fast to his buddha-like calm, until buddha-sized snow flakes crashed down upon him. He finally yelled out “what the hell, eh?”

A low rumbing in the sky, sounding suspiciously like James Earl Jones said:

Many are called, but more are chosen
Join the games lest thee be frozen

A scroll parachuted down, landing at alto’s feet. It read:


Would alto live to tell another tale? Warm blankets and a Saint Bernard filled with hot cocoa were waiting below in the comments section. Next to the dog was a thermos of hot cocoa for alto as well.

The Buddha-sized snow flakes cooled Michelle Stone’s fevered coutenance and she slipped back into gentle REM sleep, dreaming of new adventures and daring by the writers in The Grammar Games.


But it’s not the end, if more writers add their zero cents worth (Medium’s exclusive premium compensation package).

(Note: due to a strange connection problem with Medium’s servers, two almost identical versions of this story were published. I applied the highlights by writers A. McEnnis and Eliot Nichols to this final version of the story.)

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Everything you never wanted to know about…

The Grammar Games, including rules and eligibility, all chapters, man on the street interviews, yelp reviews, side tales, praise from the book jacket, newspaper reports and, of course, our Kickstarter funding program.

As always, “Will write for donuts.”

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