When Lucky Means Sad too

September 2021 (Round Three)
Genre: Open
Word: Grow
Action: Chasing Something
Time Constraint: 24 hours
Length: 100 words

We sit in the hard belly of the windowless plane, shoulder to shoulder with countless others. Although the sour reek of desperation followed us from the runway, the tension eases from Mother’s shoulders.

The plane rumbles forward, and the back door begins to close. Outside, the forsaken crowd chases the narrowing gap of hope through the dusty gunfire. Pleading hands thump against our unyielding savior, their cries growing increasingly forlorn.

The door shuts, and Mother sags, eyes glistening. “We are lucky.”

But that seems wrong. How can lucky mean sad too?

Perhaps that’s what it means to be a refugee.

JUDGe’s Feedback

This one didn’t place, but the feedback is below!


{1846}  The specificity in the language and the detail are working wonderfully here to evoke emotion. For example, the detail of the windowless plane and its “hard belly” subtly reflects the hard bellies and hard lives of desperate refugees. Likewise, the description of the airplane as an unyielding savior is great. I loved the incredible image of “the forsaken crowd” that “chases the narrowing gap of hope through the dusty gunfire.” Wow! The detail of the mother’s body language, how she sags and her eyes glisten is fantastic. The lines “But that seems wrong. How can lucky mean sad too?” are heart rending, and wise.

{2059}  I loved the line “How can lucky mean sad too”. It’s such a  striking observation (and, on a side note, it’s the perfect line to incorporate into the title of this story). You also do a lovely job of fleshing out this scene (I especially liked “Outside, the forsaken crowd chases…pleading hands thump against our unyielding savior”).

{2035}  The setting details brought this world to life. I particularly liked the “sour reek,” the hands thumping against the plane, and the dust. All of it drove home the desperation and the “luck” of the protagonist’s family. 

{1943}  ‘When Lucky Means Sad Too’ was a very poignant, evocative story. I liked the description of the “sour reek of desperation” balanced against the physical signs of relief from the mother. The image of the people hitting the airplane in desperation to escape was very powerful. I loved the sense of the child processing her experience, wondering how they could be lucky in the midst of this human misery. This was powerful writing – very well done.

{1908}  I love the theme you have of luck versus sorrow. You do a great job of communicating both the relief the narrator’s mother has and the horror of the situation, especially of those left behind. It is a very moving story.


{1846}  One possible approach to revision is to give a little slice of detail specific to the narrator as an individual, and what they are leaving behind. This might be a reference to a friend, a family member, a beloved place or object in the home, or even a tradition. In order to make room for this additional information, it’s possible to cut the final line from the narrative, and make it the title. Additionally, another approach to revision is to rewrite or reimagine the phrase, “although the salary of desperation followed us from the runway” by providing a specific sensory example or description of the smell rather than the abstract “sour reek of desperation.”

{2059}  I wasn’t quite sure that the last line felt necessary to me. It’s perfectly fine, but I wondered if this story might be better off not explicitly mentioning that these characters are refugees (you do a nice job of alluding to this before that last line). This is, of course, only one reader opinion, but I’d encourage you to think about what that last line adds.

{2035}  To me, those final lines made the character seem rather young. However, the rest of the lines made them seem like an adult, well aware of the situation around them. I think exploring every line from the same vantage point if it’s in the first person would really help deliver a sense of continuity into the world from start to finish.

{1943}  Your writing is very descriptive and well polished. I wonder if the next step might be to see where you could make some more unusual or unexpected word choices. I liked the appeal to our senses with the “sour reek of desperation”. Could you convey a sense of the other sensations in the plane? What about as the door shuts, could we hear how that sounds, rather than just “shuts”? I wasn’t sure that you needed your final line, which felt like it was there to explain your plot. It was clear that they were refugees, so maybe you could use those extra words to create more sensory images in the description of their escape?

{1908}  So much of the emotional landscape is clear and well executed here, but I think that the reason for the narrator’s sorrow could be a little more clear. There are obviously a lot of awful things happening in the background of the story, but it’s not clear what the narrator is reacting to when they say that lucky can mean sad. I think you could clarify this by showing the narrator’s reaction to just one of the things you described earlier in the story. You do such a good job of showing the mother’s emotions through tiny details that only take up a few words of space, so I think you could do something similar for the narrator and even replace some of the descriptions of the mother’s emotions if necessary. I have course would love it if you could keep all of the details, but that is what I would suggest looking at since you have such a limited word count.