WEP Ribbons and Candles full critique

WEP contest Dixie Jo Jarchow FC. Full critique 983 words

“Your offer is appreciated, Ryan. We admire your resolve to make a difference but we have selected other candidates to be featured in the Ribbons For Cancer calendar.” Ryan tossed the letter across the table to his mother. “I guess I don’t have that “cute” cancer look they’re searching for. No sense in applying for next year.” He stalked to his room.

“Ryan!” His mother sobbed. All she did was cry. At least he’d tried to make a difference with the 13 years he’d been alloted.

“I should gone with my own calendar.  Only problem is it would be a half year calendar by the time I’m done,” he muttered, looking at the corkboard wall of refusal letters.

He’d written the FBI body farm, teaching hospitals even the Children’s museum and no one wanted his cancer ridden corpse. No takers.

“I just want to make some kind of difference before I die. Even the organ donor people said no.”

“You’ve made a difference to me,” his mother stood in the doorway, sniffling. The ache inside him felt like a hollowed out pumpkin. Thirteen years on this Earth and nothing to show for it.

“You got another letter.” She held out the slim envelope to him. Maybe one of the testing labs he’d written to could use his tissues for research. Ryan snatched the letter and tore it open.

“Crap. Eighth grade birthday party. Lame.” Ryan tossed it aside. He had more important things to do with the time he had left. He just had to figure out what.

His mother picked up the invitation. “You should go. Enjoy yourself. Maybe a new idea will come to you. You could make a friend.” Her lips were pursed so tight, he wondered her lips weren’t bleeding.

“It’s a pity invite,” he scoffed.

“So what? Maybe you’ll touch someone’s life while you’re there.” She stabbed a pin through the invite, attaching it onto the wall. “And it wouldn’t hurt you to have some fun. Just be careful, you know what the doctor said.”

Ryan glanced at the invitation. A Halloween party. Should he go as “cured”?  Be careful. The doctor had explained it in gruesome detail.

“Ryan, you have a rare side effect of cancer, hemophilia. Do you know what that is?” The eyes peered over his dirty glasses at Ryan as if he were an interesting bug.

“Yeah, if I get cut, I bleed to death.”

“Not just that,” the doctor said with enthusiasm. “If you hit your head or your hand too hard, there can be catastrophic internal bleeding. If you cut yourself, chances are you’ll be okay if it is shallow. Deeper, definitely call 911, let them know your condition.” He smiled at Ryan as if he wasn’t dying.

“Maybe I’ll go.” He told his mom just to get her off his back. Her smile rewarded him. “I think I actually know this kid.”*****

“Here, we spiked the punch.” Jerry handed him a plastic cup. “Oh wait, you can have stuff like that, right?”

“Yeah,” Ryan sipped the pink drink, grimacing at the bitter taste. “Uck”

“Vodka’s an acquired taste,” Jerry smacked him on the back.

Ryan winced, thinking about internal bleeding. Dying at a party would be more interesting than laying in hospice.

He sipped the drink again. What would happen when it mixed with all the other crap the doctors had him taking? It burned his throat and his head spun, but not unpleasantly.

Jerry slipped away into the crowd. Ryan watched him. He knocked on a door. A bedroom door? It cracked and Ryan could see the room was lit by candles, a girl he knew peeked out and then admitted Jerry. Ryan knocked gently on the door. Jerry opened the door a crack. “Hey Ryan.”

“What’s going on?”

Ryan glanced back and then opened the door to admit him. “We’re an edgy group. You know?”

“No, what does edgy mean?” Ryan said looking around the dim room. No one met his eye.

“We’re cutters, Ryan,” the girl whose name he couldn’t recall said to him.


“We cut ourselves,” Jerry took Ryan’s arm and drew him into the candle-lit glow of the room. The door shut behind him.

“Jesus, why?” Ryan asked. He looked at the proffered arm of the girl and saw the parallel slices that marched up her arm like stitches.

“It feels good.” She told him. He watched in a horror of fascination as she took a new razor blade and drew it across her arm, above the crook. She hissed and closed her eyes as the blood seeped out of the inch long cut.

“Is this healthy at all?” Ryan wondered aloud.

The girl shrugged her thin shoulders. “We like it. It isn’t that bad. Not as bad as smoking. Nobody’s forcing you to.” She turned away.

Ryan felt an invisible curtain fall between him and the group of cutters. They bent over their arms and busied themselves with slicing their tender flesh open.

Ryan turned away. It was wrong, it revolted him but what could he do about it?

Make a difference, he thought grimly. He would make a difference.

“Give me the razor,” he said quietly.

“Dude!” Jerry patted him on the back. “One of us.” Murmurs of welcome ran the room and the girl handed him a new razor blade, unwrapping it for him.

Ryan caught the light with the razor and made several deep slices across his arm.

“Whoa, try one at a time. Savor them,” she told him.

He savored them, the cuts, the ribbons of blood reflecting the candlelight. He savored his life dripping away in the darkness. Maybe his sacrifice would shock them, make them stop this destructive behavior. He hoped his story would outlive him.

He heard the screams as if in a dream.

Published by dixiejarchow

I'm the author of two published books under Daisy Jerico: The Love Thief and Sparks Fly, and three published as Dixie Jo Jarchow. I’ve proofread for the Surgeon General’s office, a physics textbook and a terra cotta textbook. My passion is to write and help others write. Write on! And have a normal life with GDP.

21 thoughts on “WEP Ribbons and Candles full critique

  1. Hello Dixie. I had to read this on my phone. I really don’t know what’s gone wrong with your formatting, but most people won’t persevere as the right-hand side of the text is blacked out.

    But the story is certainly engaging and thoroughly creepy. I hope he taught those kids who think cutting is cool that it so isn’t!


  2. This struck a chord with me. It’s so dark and sad and powerful. I felt for Ryan and what he was going through. I guarantee one thing. While we cannot be sure he changed the self-destructive behavior of others, those other kids will certainly never forget that party.


  3. The formatting made it a bit difficult to read this, but it was worth the effort.

    Wow. Such a powerful piece, and I’m afraid Sue’s right. Ryan’s sacrifice probably won’t change the other kids’ behavior one bit. Just like drug addicts who witness an overdose, they think things like that can only happen to other people.

    Nice job!


  4. The re-formatting worked. Got the whole thing. And WOW, that was some story, but I could see it happening. But I’m praying their are no cutter parties, at all!

    Have a lovely holiday, and a bright New Year!


  5. It’s a very strong piece, but hard to read. Half the screen is dark, and the word wrapping doesn’t work, so I had to scroll endlessly to the right for every paragraph. I think something is wrong with your theme.


  6. It is still impossible to read on screen. I followed EC’s method. Powerful story concept. Will Ryan’s actions make a difference? Not sure, but he’s heroic for trying and one can’t help but admire him, poor kid. And poor mum.

    I don’t know if it’s the same formatting problem but the text does also appear to be in a single block, no white space, making it further inaccessible. I hope you’ll be able to sort the formatting – good luck.


  7. Despite the format – which I won’t go into since it must be frustrating for you and beyond your control – WordPress updating just before this post was due had me sweating – I found your story very poignant and true to life. I think it’s exactly how a 13 year old with cancer would behave, specially a child who felt so annoyed at being rejected at all his attempts to make a difference. Very chilling and tragic.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m a late-comer so the formatting seems fixed for this powerful story – WOW.

    Sad too as I fear that his sacrifice might have been in vain. Do kids every learn from others’ mistakes? Well, I suppose a few do and try to make this a better place.


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