Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Hundred & Twentieth

A dark forest sits beneath a starry sky. Creepy black goo drips over the scenery. White whimsical letters read: “Fit the Hundred & Twentieth: Davy Jones’s Tiki Trunk.”

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA.]


TL;DR: Writer X and friends discover the danger of visiting a place made by a writer with a slippery grasp on Setting.

Hello, All! Melanie here.

Last week was the first time we’d heard directly from Writer X since she broke her wrists in a time machine-related mishap.

She, her boyfriend Tod, and her best friend Tryxy the Demon are back in our favorite crazy town of Cradensburg, NH, and in the writerly, summerly swing of things. 

In her last email, X learned of the Barguwar, a magical, shy creature responsible for relieving writers of our dumbest or undeveloped ideas. Tod—who has “Irish skin”—was suffering from sunburn on the soles of his feet, and Tryxy let us know why we hadn’t heard from him in several weeks. The town of Cradensburg was also taken over by forty-two vaguely Renaissance festivals. 

Without further ado…

Subject: White walls and talking heads!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

Have you gone to the new bar and grill in town called Davy Jones”ss Tiki Trunk??? DO NOT RECOMMEND!!!!!

It all started innocently enough. Tryxy was depressed over his Instagram followers and needed something fresh to serve his raving fans (all sixteen of them,) and I was feeling like my significance as a writer was disintegrating with every passing day.

That’s when my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, wandered into the living room in a bathrobe with his phone floating in front of his face and said, “Can you believe Mike Slovens started a tiki bar?”

Tryxy sat straight up. “A tiki bar???? Where??? Does it have good lighting??”

“Tryxy,” I said. “You have a cat hair.”


“Right here.” I pointed to my upper lip and Tryxy groped around until he found one of #bestkitten’s stray white hairs and drew it off his face. Then, he placed it on the arm of the sofa for #bestkitten to find later.

My unsuspecting boyfriend showed Tryxy his phone screen. “In town. You didn’t see?”

“Booooorrrrring,” I yawned, but not because I meant it. I was just cranky because I didn’t see how a tiki bar was going to make me feel like the next big epic fantasy writer of all time and neither of them were focusing on MY crisis.

“ZOMGS!!!! It has nautical decor!!!! I don’t have any pics with nautical decor!!!!” (Tryxy.)

“Yeah. It’s Mike Slovens, though. You shouldn’t take any decor for granted.” (My boyfriend.)

“None of this has anything to do with my crisis.” I said this a little more loudly than I had said “Boooooorrrrring.”

“What crisis is this?” asked my boyfriend over his shoulder.

“I don’t see what any of this has to do with my writing.”

My boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, smirked. “Are you honest-to-god going to actually write something?”

“Of course not,” I snapped at his smirk. “How am I supposed to write something if I don’t feel like the next big epic fantasy writer of all time???”

“It’s already got five stars on Yelp!” Tryxy pointed this comment at me. Tryxy was giving me his best puppy dog eyes.

“What are you looking at me for?”

“Because you’re my bestie and you have to come with me so that I don’t look like a loser going to a new tiki bar by myself. We have to pose for pictures and look like we’re having a good time.”

“Good luck with that,” said my boyfriend. “You won’t catch me anywhere Mike Slovens has made.”

“But it has five stars on Yelp.” (Tryxy.)

“Why? What’s wrong with Mike Slovens???”

“Remember how I told you I used to have a writing critique partner before I found our current group??”


“Well, he was a pretty good writer, but his use of setting was incredibly uneven.”

I sat straight up in my chair. “You never told me Mike Slovens is a writer!! He’s never met me. You can’t have a writer friend who hasn’t met me. How come you’re hiding a writing friend who hasn’t met me??”

“How was his setting uneven?” asked Tryxy.

“Oh, you know. His stories always started strong. Adequate sense of being in a specific place and time. Cool worldbuilding. But as the scenes went on, it just turned into white walls and talking heads.”

“It has five stars on Yelp, though.”

“You can’t have a writer friend that I don’t have. That’s not fair!!!”

A half hour later, Tryxy and I strode into the muggy coconut and fry oil scented air of Davy Jones’s Tiki Trunk. My boyfriend, still in his bathrobe, slunk in behind us and hid behind a paper cut out of Long John Silver complete with wooden leg and parrot on his shoulder. A lone jukebox by the door blared “A Pirate Looks At Forty” so that the bass notes on the guitar made the speakers buzz so violently it was impossible to decipher the key.

Brightly colored parrots hung from the ceiling on little metal wires. Someone had suspended one bird too close to a ceiling fan and every time the blades smacked the parrot, the bird would ricochet widely on its string, thumping against the ceiling only to swing back to be battered by another stroke of the fan. 

My boyfriend looked shiftily to his left and right.

“I hope we get a good seat,” said Tryxy. And by “good seat,” he meant something that would look good for the ‘gram.

“Why is there straw on the floor?” I asked.

The host seated us at a table with chair backs were made from nautical wheels. There were pictures from Gilligan’s Island on the wall lit by a blacklight that made all the white parts glow an eery blue. I asked the host if they knew if the owner was in but they gestured to their ears and then the overly-loud jukebox to let me know they couldn’t hear me.

“Oooo! Black light photo op!” said Tryxy.

I searched the scenery for the movements of any writer I didn’t know lurking in the shadows. You have to watch writers, Gladys. They scuttle like crabs.

“So why isn’t he your critique partner anymore?” I shouted at my boyfriend whose face got as red as his beard. Not from the sunburn. Just from embarrassment.

“I told you, his use of setting is incredibly uneven.”

“Why does it look like you’re trying to disappear under the table?” Tryxy bellowed above the music as “A Pirate Looks At Forty” ended and the jukebox launched into another round of the same song.

“I’m not,” I yelled.

“No. I meant Tod,” shouted Tryxy.

“I can’t believe you’re such a writing snob. You’re just too conscious about class and status,” I said to my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins.

“I’m not a writing snob,” he hissed. “Okay, I am a little. But this has nothing to do with me being a writing snob and everything to do with—Oh god!” My boyfriend jumped but it was only the host bringing us some menus they forgot. “Can I get a beer? Any beer? Big. The biggest.”

Our host apparently heard this.

“I’m not a writing snob. He’s just one of those guys that argues with you if you give him an honest critique. Like, he asks you to critique his story and then spends forty-five minutes arguing with you why you’re wrong.”

My nostrils flared. “And??? What’s wrong with that?? Maybe you’re just wrong.”

“I’m not wrong about setting.”

“What’s so important about setting?” asked Tryxy. But he wasn’t looking at us, he had his phone out and was swiveling around the room trying to pick out a spot that might host the world’s most perfect selfie.

My boyfriend gave Tryxy a flat look. “Really? Do you not sense the irony anywhere in there?”

Tryxy was sitting in the lion’s share of the black light.

“Tryxy,” I said. “You have a cat hair.”

“Oh, no! Where?”

“Everywhere.” I gestured over his face, hair, and clothes where about a thousand white cat hairs glowed blue. Tryxy diligently began to pick off each one and set them on the chair next to him for #bestkitten to find later.

Tryxy stopped. “O-M-G. I just had an idea! What if you go find your writer friend and we all take a picture with the owner and I’ll post it????”

“Not gonna happen. No way,” said my boyfriend as the host set a tall frosted mug of cold beer on the table in front of him with a meaningful thunk. 

I smacked the table and knocked over the salt cellar. “Why not??? He hasn’t met me yet. You can’t know a writer that I don’t know!!! How is that fair???”

“Because. My love. My darling. My pinkest of pink. Remember how I told you he used to be my critique partner? I kinda never sorta told him that I wasn’t his critique partner anymore and he sent me a new story kinda sorta last month and is still awaiting my feedback.”

“How was the story?” asked Tryxy.

“The setting was uneven.” My boyfriend gazed down into his beer pointedly. “See? This is what good setting does. Look.”

Tryxy and I craned over my boyfriend’s beer glass. The light over the table threw his shadowy reflection over the liquidy amber surface. Me and Tryxy’s faces appeared beside him, blotting out the light entirely so all there was was shadowy beer. 

“You see that? Good setting isn’t just the painted western town you throw in the back of your cowboy scene. It’s solid.” He knocked on the table. “It tells you where your characters are in relation to each other. It has consequences that affect your character’s choices and show you who they are.” He swept spilled salt into his palm and then threw it over his shoulder. “It has the potential to surprise you.”

There was a snapping sound as a battered parrot fell from the ceiling and onto the empty chair at our table like a member of our party arriving late.   

That’s when it happened, Galdsy.

Or at least that’s when I think it happened.

Something that started almost imperceptibly.

Tryxy was the first to point it out. “Wasn’t there music playing?”

My boyfriend went gray. “Shit. It’s happening. The son of a gun is doing it again. This is why I told you we shouldn’t have come here.” Then, he put both his palms against the table and rocked onto the back legs of his chair. “Oh, no.”

“What is it?” (Was it Tryxy or me saying this? I don’t know!)

“There’s no sound. The chair should creak a little. The setting is failing.”

“Didn’t the chairs have nautical wheels on them?”

“Next thing you know it’s just gonna be a bunch of talking heads. The characters start losing the motivations that make them unique and it’s just plot points. You won’t be able to tell one person from the next.”

“Didn’t we have menus?”

“What is this place anyway? There aren’t any lights.”

“There aren’t any shadows either.”

“Who are you?”

“Who me?”

“I guess. Who are any of us?”

“What sound is my voice making right now?”

“You guys, I don’t have hands!”

“How do we get out of here if there’s no door???”

Anyhoo. Zero out of zero stars!!!! Do not recommend!!!!

Pages next week, Gladys!!!










Discover more from File 770

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

2 thoughts on “Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Hundred & Twentieth

  1. Oh, dear… I’ve read books that lose their sense of setting, but not quite to THAT extent….

    (By the way, Melanie, I just want to say that I do truly enjoy this epistolary story. Don’t want you to feel you’re shouting into the void!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.