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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: PICNIC - deadline 7-12-12 @ 9:59 AM NY Time (07/05/12)

TITLE: Tailgatin'
By Jess Capps


Nikki stared at the mass of people crowding the parking lot. The scent of charcoal smoke and sizzling meat filled the air as thick as the southern accents competing for time on the radio. It was a golden fall day, the kind that invited you to come out and play, but Nikki wasn't sure she was ready. She was new in town, newly married, and still trying to make friends. That was the only reason she'd agreed to come to this "tailgating party." That and the fact that Jackson was on call at the hospital this weekend. It seemed like the new doctors got most of the weekend shifts.
Tailgating. Like a picnic, Julie said. Well this certainly wasn't like any picnic Nikki had ever been to. Picnics had blankets spread on the ground, food you made at home and carefully placed in a basket, and maybe a bottle of champagne. A romantic atmosphere. Not an asphalt lot with pickup trucks blaring all the different local country stations, portable grills sending out their smells like an offering, and people all over, in lawn chairs, in truck beds, swarming like unwelcome ants.
"Yoo Hoo! Nikki!" Julie's voice rang out. Nikki turned and saw her new friend, light bouncing off of her carrot curls, waving wildly for Nikki to join the group.
Nikki waded her way through the crowd. "Hi, Julie," she said and smiled shyly at the mixed group around her.
Julie grinned. "Well, you know Lisa and Jared. And these guys are Drew, Ryan, and Jason." The three guys hanging out around the grill gave Nikki a chin up nod. "I think you met Drew at church. He's the youth minister. Ryan is a chemistry teacher at the high school. And Jason is the town veterinarian. Jason's wife, Mali, will be here soon."
"Yeah, she had to get Talia to her mom's house. She's a little young for tailgating. She is bringing Bruce though."
"Are they your kids?" Nikki asked.
"Talia is our daughter. She got her good looks from my side of the family. Bruce is my Great Dane," Jason answered. Looking around, he saw them and called out "hey, Babe! Bruce! Over here!"
Nikki looked over and saw a beautiful black woman walking with a dog the size of a pony. "I think I'm a little young for tailgating," Nikki laughed.
"Nah, you're cool. Want a burger?" Jason held a plate out to Nikki. "Grab a lawn chair. Whatcha drinkin'?" he asked.
"Uh, lemonade?" Nikki half questioned. Drew handed her a Dixie cup with the cool, refreshing drink. The condensation was already running down the sides of the cup. Nikki took a long drink, having to keep herself from smacking her lips at the end.
"So, Nikki, we know y'all are new in the area. How'd you get down here?" Lisa asked.
"I married Jackson when he had just finished his residency, he was offered a job in the pediatric oncology ward down here, so here we are." Nikki answered simply, her foot absently tapping out the rhythm to the nearest country song.
"You like it here?"
"Yes, I do. It's different, I'm used to a bigger city, but I think I could get used to this place," Nikki answered. And the people, she thought. So this was tailgating: burgers, laughter with friends, a cold glass of lemonade and the twang of a guitar on the radio. A larger version of a picnic, but a picnic none the less. And after it all, a football game.

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This article has been read 262 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/12/12
I enjoyed this story. I could relate to the MC feeling a bit timid in an unfamiliar setting. She also taught me not to let my fear win or I could miss out on some amazing people, and some great food. For me, it's way too easy to stay home and hid but your message makes me think I do need to get out and embrace life again, even if it is new and different.

The only suggestions I might make is to double space between paragraphs and make sure when a different person speaks that you start a new paragraph, even if it is just one word. White space helps the reader follow who is speaking and helps them not to feel overwhelmed while reading (especially when reading on a computer screen)

But those are things that you can easily adjust the next time you write. I'm sure at least half of the people don't think about double-spacing at first. I know I didn't realize it until someone pointed it out so that really is a tiny thing.

Another thing some people have trouble with is writing on topic but still having a fresh, out-of-the-box story with a good message. You, however, handled that like a pro. i think tailgating as a picnic topic is unique and the story was a fun read.You ended with an uplifting paragraph that left me feeling good.
C D Swanson 07/13/12
This was fresh and different in the approach for the topic on hand. I loved the closing paragraph and the meanings that were subtle, yet so obvious throughout this strong piece.

Good job. God bless~
Noel Mitaxa 07/15/12
I like how you have woven the fabric of this story around us so descriptively. I must admit that the slab of unboken print was a deterrent at first glance, but I'm glad I didn't immediately click on the arrow to go on to the next entry.
Leola Ogle 07/16/12
Having so many males in the family, I am familiar with tailgating! BUT.. living so close to the University of Phoenix Stadium (home of the Arizona Cardinals), I definitely know about tailgate parties! It is a big deal to so many people although I've never tailgated. You did a great job and I agree with the spacing between paragraphs. However, I do my entries on a document that has the space between paragraphs but when I copy and paste the entry, the break between paragraphs is never there, so I have to manually do it. Thanks for this entry. I enjioyed it. God bless!
Hiram Claudio07/18/12
This was so much fun! I really found the story, and the MC's point of view, compelling. I also enjoyed how you showed us the many sights, sounds, and smells of true tailgating. This was very well written and was a unique and welcomed take on the topic. Nicely done!