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Over Twenty Percent
Title: Over Twenty Percent
Genre: Fiction
Word Count: 398
Notes: Notes, including introspective philosophical rambling and an alternate version of the story, are here.

Kharis brings our drinks. She distributes them to the party while leaning over the table directly across from me, giving me a long shot of her cleavage. I take a long look, long enough to ensure that she sees me looking, but short enough to still have time to look her in those dark, dark eyes. I need to show that I know that she knows I looked, as needlessly complicated as it sounds. She finishes distributing all of the glasses but mine, then takes mine around the table. Over my left shoulder, (she knows I'm old fashioned), she slips in between Mason and I, placing the drink in front of me on the table. When she puts the drink down, she rests her arm on the table, next to my arm. She stops for a moment. Her hand is not touching mine and neither is her arm. Instead, the whole of her body is resting just a second away from mine, incredibly close to but not actually touching it at any point. The merest of jostles should change that – and in this crowded bar there are a lot of jostles – but she remains at a fixed point.

"Can I get you anything else, Sacramento?" she says, lips at my ear, leaving everything to the imagination.

I didn't ask for this attention, but I'm a regular. I tip somewhere between good and exorbitant. Objectively, I suppose, it's tragic. Even if there was a chance for friendship or love between us, the money changing hands forever mars it. I can't guess Kharis' motives in flirting. I don't even know that she has a motive, outside of hooka lounge custom or waitress survival technique. And the money that's the basis of our fling is running out. I burn my trust fund at both ends; it will not last the night.

I turn to look at her. She is beautiful. No, that's wrong, she is not beautiful, Little about her good looks are conventional, but she exudes glamour, and mixed with her almost sentimental sensuality, I am wholly intoxicated. This amazing woman, whom I mean so little to, is for our brief exchanges, wholly attention on me.

"I think some of the others need more hot water," I say. Our moment is fleeting. I'm buying her affections. I will run out of money. I can't afford this.

Yeah, like I care.

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I read both versions of your story (as well as your notes) and I must say I like this one a lot more.

The phrasing keeps me at arm's length. I'm at the bar, but I'm merely an observer. The narrator details the scene with the keen eye of a writer, but he doesn't actively inject...what's the word I'm looking for? emotion maybe...? He doesn't tell us how to feel, we draw the conclusion from the dialogue and his inner thoughts. You lead us to have certain feelings about this character through the aforementioned aspects, but you never tell us directly how we should feel.

I pity Sacramento. He's lost himself and the only way he can feel good is by executing a "not quite fling" with the bar waitress.

I also like the new names in this one. They underscore the exotic feel of the bar and the strange exchange between Kharis and Sacramento.

There's so much I like about this piece. Good luck this week!

I like this one better than the other one, though apparently the Sacramento is not as much a "fool and his money" as Smith is in the other one. But I think Smith's story nails the prompt a little too hard on the head... (which is probably my error too in this round).

Nice descriptive images, but the bit about her almost touching but not was a little blase for me. I like the ending and how their moment fizzles out at the end. It's very easy to relate to. Wonderful work, as usual.

I liked the names you used. Very interesting... Did you make up the waitress' name or did you find it somewhere? It would be so cool if that was an actual name from some exotic country~!

I actually know two Kharises, though one spells her name 'Caris.' No, they're not both strippers, and that is their given names. It's a mythology thing.

After checking out both version, I definitely understand why you picked this one. The brevity adds to the emotion charging the scene, while the added background in the alternate seems to distill it. In this submission, there is no Jane or Ed, and Ben is only mentioned to give a point of reference for where Kharis leans. Despite the impression of the crowded lounge, the reader is aware that for all intents and purposes, it is just Sacremento and Kharis and the money that lies between them. Very powerful!

I like the shortness of this, the brevity. You don't know the whole story, but you know enough to get the picture.You get that feeling of "Oh, he's one of THOSE guys," but at the same time, you have given us enough well placed details to wonder what else is going on. I like it, thanks for sharing.

(Deleted comment)

Re: red pen 2.0 is fully armed and operational

"hooker?" - Shisha, to be formal.

"o.O Roald Dahl reference?" - St. Vincent Millay, actually.

"Anyway, I enjoyed the other version better: it packed more punch in the ending and there was more development in the protagonist's train of thought." - You nail the problem right there. I couldn't quite get to something as short as I wanted while still maintaining the punch in the right ways that I wanted.

Thanks for the edit.

Hi, I'm your other editor for the week. I really like the line in the first paragraph about her resting just a second away--I think that's very accurate description and something everyone can relate to having felt. However, the rest of that paragraph reads a little slowly, kind of like a list of what Kharis is doing and I think you could break that up a little with more descriptions or thoughts or something like that.

I only have two things to add to what your other editor said. The first is is about this sentence: "I need to show that I know that she knows I looked, as needlessly complicated as it sounds." I think the fact that you have to acknowledge it's needlessly complicated is a problem.

The second thing, changes I would make in bold: This amazing woman, to whom I mean so little, is, for our brief exchanges, wholly attentive to me.

I like the ending; it's emotionally charged and loaded and that last line is great.

Nice job :)

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