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Matt Ty's picture

The Sleepover

By Matt Ty in Arrest Us

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An absurdist tale. Five foul mouthed and precocious-bordering-on-anachronstic friends try to unravel a not-so-great whoddunit. A comedic crime-drama in 5000 words. Naughty language abound.


Matt Ty's picture
Matt Ty from All over. is reading Best American Short Stories June 9, 2014 - 10:45am


Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Wheel of Time June 9, 2014 - 1:00pm

This is a cool one. I like that you went for a very different setting and character group while still going with the "crime" theme. It was funny, cool and unexpected. Also the Sun Tsu references were a nice touch. A quirky way to mock the seriousness of the situation. Nice job.

I had a little struggle trying to figure out the age of the boys. Some of the dialogue suggests they're teens or near teenage, while the footsie pajamans suggest a lot young. That was really my only issues.

Thanks for the fun read. Good luck in the contest.

Matt Ty's picture
Matt Ty from All over. is reading Best American Short Stories June 11, 2014 - 7:46am


Thanks for taking the time to read. Regarding your question about the boys' age: they are around 12 years old, give or take a year, and the reason for the "advanced" patterns of speech is purely my choice--I liked the idea of young kids acting closer to "adults", akin to something like South Park.

Geert Mostrey's picture
Geert Mostrey from Belgium is reading Gone Girl June 10, 2014 - 12:35am

Hi Matt,

I  really enjoyed reading this story. It's original, flows well and funny. Like Joe my only suggestion would be to make it more clear what age these boys are and make sure their dialogue is consistent with their age. Sometimes I had the feeling that some of the things they said wouldn't normally be something a young teenager would say.

Other than that, it's all thumbs up from me. Good luck and feel free to comment my story if you feel like it.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 14, 2014 - 10:14am

Nice idea and concept, but the Dawson's Creek dialogue kept dragging me out of the story and questioning their ages. As previously mentioned, the Art of War references were a nice touch.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations June 15, 2014 - 10:09am

Hey Matt,

Kudos for doing something a little different, and I think it works for this contest because you take the police procedural approach (or at least a kids version of the police procedural). Kudos also for nearly making a story about BMs work - they are an anathema to short stories. But "Nearly" it is.

First off, decide whether you really want your "Art of War" quotes in there. Who is supposed to be delivering them? What age are these kids, after all? If you want to keep them, may I suggest italics to keep them distinct from speech?

Secondly, what age are these kids? Superhero sleeping bags and sleepovers in the den suggest pretty young, but does their language quite match? I can kind of accept they're watching TV they shouldn't be (Kill Bill, and CSI...) but I don't quite buy it, and calling them precocious (what, all 5?) is I think just trying to excuse this discrepancy.

Third, the denouement. I was expecting the interruption from upstairs at some point, but by parents, not elder brother not yet mentioned. Maybe hint at him earlier? (Maybe the reason they are having a sleepover is because old brother is out for the night, and Morris excludes him because he assumes out overnight, rather than just back late...). Also, the practicalities of a half drunk older brother sneaking into a darkened den and taking his BM while younger brother is upstairs and doesn't hear this, or pass on the stairs, etc, is a wee bit too far fetched. Not sure what the solution is, but the story does seem to have that as problem.

So it's a narrow down vote from me. There's some nice dialogue work in there, and some nice phrases (sucking down Albuteral canisters like they were whippets) but style alone does not maketh a story...

Keep at it,



Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday June 18, 2014 - 6:19am

I agree with the above comments about their age being a bit unclear.  After a few pages it became clear that they were young but talking above their age.  Liam's comment about adding a mention of the brother earlier on is a great idea.  It's not a perfect story, but ti's different and fun so it's a thumbs up from me.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 19, 2014 - 3:37am

This is a nice take on doing something a little different within the rules of the contest. As a story I think it has some issues that undermine it, but it is fun to read and flows well.

I think it could do with more in the way of stakes overall. The crime element is a minor one, and though it has humour value to it, it’s not as if there is any danger of loss of life here. Why should we care if Morris finds the culprit or not? The ending is interesting, but there is little lead up to it. The other kids are playing along to a degree, and even accusing each other, yet as soon as the brother pops up, they all decide to give Morris the beats? You could introduce a group tradition – where an accusation is made, if someone is guilty they get beats, and if an accusation is made which is proved to be false, the accuser gets beats. Straight away that gives us potential repercussions that raise the stakes.

The start of this is muddled too. The first paragraph adds nothing to the story. It does not set up a sense of place (it’s a den), and comparing the BM to a landmine is just confusing given we don’t know it’s a BM yet. You set up the dog, only to tell us it isn’t even there at the moment, so that’s not information we need to know.  Get rid of the first paragraph and you’d start with, “It was three in the morning when Morris woke up the other boys.” Immediately we have a sense of time, place and characters.

Others have talked about the language used not fitting with the ages of the boys in question, so while they are spot on, I don’t want to go on about the same issue. I note in your reply that you were going for a kind of South Park dynamic, but I’m afraid that doesn’t come across at all. The dialogue feels instinctively unnatural – “Literally can’t even go from unconscious to conscious without telling some dick joke, or whatever.” Nobody talks like that, least of all a twelve year old kid. Their speech needs to be consistent, and each of them need their own voice. At the moment you have fairly generic interchangeable kids. I had to keep flicking through to remind myself which kid it was speaking. I don’t know any 12 year olds who would be able to quote from Sun Tzu. To me this comes across like you as a writer showing off your influences, rather than the kid. On that subject, be careful of certain words you use in the narrative – obfuscating is not a word you hear in conversation often, and as such, it sticks out too much.

I don’t want to metaphorically soil your sleeping bag with these comments (I’m so sorry, I just couldn’t resist going there), because what you have here is a good basis to work from. It’s one of the more imaginative takes I’ve seen, and with a little more effort I think this could work, and work well. It has a lot of potential, and I hope you keep working on it.