Books, Writing

Let’s Have a Book Duel

In Rash & Rationality, Marty and Brandy work in a bookstore. When things are slow, they have what they call a book duel. Here’s how the game works:

  1. Both of you Pick a Book
  2. One person calls out a number.
  3. The other person reads the first sentence on that page.
  4. You keep that up, working through the books and making an entirely new story.

Rash & Rationality’s First Book Duel

With a stage-magician flourish, he dropped a book into her just emptied hands. Brandy stared at it in confusion. Did he need her to shelve it or was it a request? “What—?”

“It’s Excerpt-O’clock,” he declared, causing her to groan.

“We haven’t done that in… I can’t even remember.”

He held his own book tight to his chest, his eyes blazing with a familiar mischief. “Exactly the reason to bring it back. Audience favorite, really play on the nostalgia vote.”

Brandy finally took in the cover. It was one of those airport novels written by a late-middle aged man who wanted to pretend he was a twenty-year-old who drove every woman wild. And he probably stopped the president from being exploded by bombs attached to pirates, or something like that. They had more important work to do.

Still… Marty danced back and forth in place, his shoulders doing most of the moving. She sighed. “Okay.”

“Yes!” Marty pumped his book in the air, which looked like it bore a fancy dress with the woman’s head cut off at her chin. Oh, boy. “Twenty-three,” he said, setting off the game.
Brandy grimaced at having to go first, but she flipped to the twenty-third page in the book and read the first full sentence. “‘Armed only with the M1 Garand I pulled from the mannequin’s cold, plastic fingers, I knew it was up to me to stop the terrorists from taking over the Smithsonian.’”

A snort erupted from Brandy at that perfect summation, and she stared at Marty. “Sixty-nine.”

“Nice,” he said, cracking open the book. “‘For today is not a day to be a…’ Wait. Sorry.” He coughed, raised his voice an octave and slipped on a ‘Southern belle’ accent. “‘For today is not a day to be a wilting flower. I shall become a vengeful desert rose.’”

So we were working with an armed vigilante about to protect the Smithsonian from Scarlett O’Hara. This should be fun. “Forty-seven,” Marty said, guiding her to the next page.

“Ooh, this one’s dialogue. ‘Tell the devil Clint Hardback sends his regards!’ Clint Hardback? Holy…okay, um, one hundred and five.”

“’He lingered near my bridal trousseau, his hand caressing the sanded wood as if it’d touched every woman in this town.’ This is getting juicy,” Marty said, and he kept reading further down the page.

“Hey, stick to the rules you made up,” Brandy said, slapping a hand over the book.

“Fine, next number.”

As they kept trading sentences, Clint Hardback sent numerous nameless goons to their gory deaths, and the Duchess of Cottonwood Cove lingered behind the scenes. In their jumbled retelling, it seemed as if the duchess wanted to take control of the Smithsonian in order to screw over her second cousin who had tried to marry her under false pretenses. Clint’s motivations were that he had a gun and that seemed to be it.

“…’And now the entire county knows your dark secret,’” Marty said, his voice cracking from the overuse of falsetto. “Well? Don’t leave the duchess hanging—she might chop off your finger to convince the priest you were consorting with witches.”

“I need a number, remember?” Brandy said.

“Oh, right, uh. Let’s skip to the end.”

With a smirk, Brandy flipped to the back. “‘Thank you, Mr. President, but I can’t accept your offer to become Secretary of Protecting the Homeland. I’m so dangerous it would only encourage more terrorists to try and take me down.’ Well, Clint is certainly confident. Okay, your turn.”

Smiling wide, Marty crushed open his book to the end. His bandages flew like a neon blur until he landed on the page. “‘However did…’” He coughed and rubbed his throat. “Sorry, gotta go back to regular me. I hope the duchess will forgive me.”

“After you take your lashings, of course.”

Marty laughed and dove in. “‘However did I miss you? Your genteel company, your hand forever by mine? Your golden eyes peering from across the parlor? It is as if a veil has been lifted and, by God’s graces, I can see what He laid before me.’ Well, that wasn’t what I was expecting…”

Silence, save for the tick of the clock, permeated the room. Brandy gouged at the back of her neck and glared at her book. She could feel Marty staring at her, only amplifying the confusing pit in her stomach. Say something. Tell him that…