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Hello from your humble Round 2 moderator, Alison! This was the “Food” round of Deathmatch, with the tasty themes in each competitor’s story naturally revealing something deeper and quite often, sadder. Aerin Fogel’s “Chicken n’ Bits” is a gently surreal tale of a woman dealing with the rejection of her sister (after she stole her sister’s boyfriend.) Scott MacAulay’s “Bombay Blossom” features down-and-out Mickey, who borrows a suit jacket and eschews the soup kitchen for his first-ever meal of Indian food. There has been a lot of agonizing snack talk on the comment boards (much like Round 1, actually) with people talking up beef jerky and other salty delights.

Each writer has spoken eloquently about what makes their stories tick. MacAulay says:

Food is central as an experience of temporary decadence in another wise bland world of soup kitchen food: canned soup, Kraft dinner, canned beans and wieners, canned stew. The smell, too. Nothing takes you out of yourself, your situation than beautifully aromatic food. Your nose clears. Your eyes see colours you’ve never imagined. The main character is away from rooming house alley, away even from Liverpool. I hope for a moment he is in Bombay.

Fogel says:

Weird is definitely my cup of tea… I also hoped to clutter the map with misanthropy and banality in such a way that it exposed the character’s simultaneous lack of awareness, and broken psyche. as if she is constantly on the verge of waking up through challenge after challenge, yet instead of taking hold of the reins she goes back to sleep. metaphorically speaking of course. though she probably does go back to sleep quite a bit.

In fairly typical Round 2, commenters have been shockingly well-behaved – steeling themselves, we suspect, for the finals. Some, however, have asked insightful questions. At one point, Fogel’s central character alights upon a rock in the yard and develops a fixation upon it. Commenter sara says:

I have been voting for “Chicken and Bits,” but there is something about the rock that bothers me. It seems that the rock is really central to the story, but the detail/imagery around the rock is a bit confusing. I like what Aerin says above about this just being “real human life,” but there does seem to be a tripping-up and then a shedding-of-ties with both the lover and the rock. But where does the sister fit in? Is she a tie that cannot really be broken? I guess I’d just like more closure with that part of the story, and I feel like the rock-lover connection could be a way to do it.

Fogel notes that the rock represents her sibling connection:

“…..she is connected to her sister like the minerals of the earth whether or not she admits it, and so that theme continues to surface for her. Perhaps if she had stuck with the rock long enough and through the mess and out the other side, she might have found closure.”

Not too many folks have picked apart “Bombay,” and one commenter breathlessly stated that the story was “fucking beautiful.” Votes seem to be favouring Fogel’s weird vision. Can you tip the scales?

Go, read, vote and comment over at the Deathmatch Round 2 Arena.