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February Story Chat: The Trophy Cabinet

Welcome to Story Chat where the authors come right into your living room to chat with you and your friends about their short story. You can ask them any questions you want. And they can ask you some, too. 

Story Chat

So let’s peek in and see what’s going on. First of all, who’s here? The first two links for each participant takes you to a specific blog post. The remaining links go to the participants’ website.

Participants in Story Chat

  1. Hugh W. Roberts
  2. Marsha
  3. Robbie
  4. Kevin Cooper
  5. Willowdot21
  6. the Eternal Traveller
  7. Anne Goodwin
  8. Dgkaye
  9. Derrickjknight
  10. Joylennick
  11. V.M.Sang
  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake
  13. Cathy Cade

Summary 99 Words No More No Less

Detective Inspector Triblane (Blane) Pettimoron responded to a call about the murder of the doctor who had preformed surgery on him ten weeks prior. Nervous and itchy, he pointed out several clues that Detective Sergeant Dribble missed. 

They found a cabinet containing vials labeled and filed alphabetically by the patients’ last name filled with testicles. The evidence pointed to men who might have a motive for murder, when they discoverd one of their testicles was missing. When did Pettimoron know there would be a jar with his name on it? So many unanswered questions for the detectives and readers.

Story Chat
Trophy Cabinet

Controversy about Open Ending

By the time the Hugh Roberts had read all the way to the end of the story without finding out if Pettimoron was investigating a murder he committed, the controversy erupted.

Hugh: “I love open-ended stories where the reader can come to their own conclusion.”

Geoff responded, “One challenge in this case was Blane’s interior monologue. How can I maintain the essential ambiguity in his position and not appear to be deliberately hiding anything from the reader (were there to be anything to hide)!? Is his nervousness a result of guilt or embarrassment? Glad it left you thinking (which was my aim) but is that as satisfying to you as a neat resolution?”

Hugh: “Where murder is involved, I think most readers like a resolution.”

Geoff: “When I wrote this the main issue was the resolution. Should I point at the culprit? Or leave it to the reader to speculate? What is more satisfying? Are you short changed by this or given something for your imagination to work on after you’ve finished.”

Hugh: “When murder is involved, I believe most readers like an outcome. The TV show ‘Murder In Paradise’ comes to mind where we find out whodunit and how they did it.”

Geoff: “On TV and film, I’m with you utterly because I fear I’ll miss the sequel or they’ll not commission it!! Though in literature a hanger is not that unusual, I suppose because the author decides if they are going to finish it off. I’ll ponder on the follow up!”

Robbie: “I have drawn my own conclusions, Geoff, so it isn’t really open ended for me. I quite like being able to do that. I enjoy this type of story that allows the reader to do this.”

Marsha: “In a book or a Netflix series, I would eventually want to know the end or I would be dissatisfied, maybe mad even. I’d feel like I invested my time reading or watching only to not know what happened and I’d feel cheated. Even a movie makes me mad if there is not a good resolution.”

What do you think?

Should a short-story murder mystery have a cliffhanger or come to a resolution?

Liked Open EndedDidn’t Like Open EndedNot Committed
Hugh W. RobertsKevin Cooper
the Eternal Traveller
Anne Goodwin
D. Avery @shiftnshake
Cathy Cade

Emotional Responses to “The Trophy Cabinet”

  • Kevin Cooper Made me feel squeamish.
  • TanGental It’s not easy typing with your legs crossed…
  • Dgkaye There’s a helluvalot more to this gross but intriguing story LOL. A true Geoff story! I read it because I enjoy Geoff’s stories, but I gotta tell you guys, sounds eerie and gross, lol, but fabulously written!
  • Joylennick Gross subject but well written
  • D. Avery @shiftnshake Great balls of fire, Geoff. I’m left with a whole lot of whys, and what the hecks, feeling like there’s, if not two of everything, at least two mysteries here. A real head scratcher and a fun story.
  • Anne Goodwin Ha, fun story. I love the names, but they also confused me.
  • Cathy Cade Love the names.

Discussing the Case

The Clues

There were clues that might lead the reader to think that Pettimoron (don’t you love that name?) was definitely guilty.

  • The itchy groin.
  • The basement, but kept that to himself.
  • The blue door he remembered from before.
  • Pointing to the secret door in the corner.
  • The place was as he remembered: all-white walls and tiles and sharp lighting.

Questions and Some Answers

Q Hugh  W. Roberts Well, the clues are all there, aren’t they?

Q Marsha Why would he give the DS all those clues?

Q Marsha Was the Sergeant trying to help or implicate Pettimoron?

 Q TanGental Is his nervousness a result of guilt or embarrassment?

Q TanGental Is the perp Blane, who is using his position to try and manage the investigation?

Cathy Cade. I suppose it was about halfway through it became clear Pettimoron had been there before and Something Was Up. I didn’t get the impression he was necessarily the murderer – just one of a long list of possibles. He knew the sergeant wouldn’t keep the find to himself but I reckoned he would spread the story all around the station to get a laugh. I got the impression his discomfort was from embarrassment rather than guilt – otherwise he would have been more concerned about getting into that basement and hiding the evidence.

Q Marsha Was the end an admission of guilt?

A TanGental No, I don’t think the end was an admission of guilt,  not really, more an admission of anxiety but why… hmmm!

Q TanGental One question around the doctor’s motivation that I worried at is Blane’s knowledge. He knew about the room and it appears to be secret. So why not report what appears to be an egregious medical assault to the authorities?

Q Marsha I hadn’t considered that he should have reported the misdoing. Do they have mandated reporters in England?

A TanGental I know there are a lot of professions required to report these days to report all sorts – lawyers if suspecting money laundering, social workers and police is suspecting human trafficking, child exploitation and so on, so a policeman would be duty bound if he thought there was a crime… though he might have his own reasons not to!! 

Q TanGental Or could he be so embarrassed about what happened to him he tried to pretend it didn’t exist and now he’s both exposed and looks guilty?

A Anne Goodwin I never suspected for a moment that Pettimoron was the murderer – is that because embarrassment is more my thing?

Q Anne Goodwin I’m thinking of the medical issues. I know police are very juvenile but if he’s had to have an orchiectomy, wouldn’t it be for something serious, in which case, would he be so embarrassed? So maybe his discomfort IS about him being a murderer.

Marsha I don’t think he had an orchiectomy on purpose. I think he was having erectile dysfunction issues and he came out of surgery minus one important body part. I didn’t think someone would itch that long after surgery.

Anne Goodwin Gosh, Marsha, I see what you mean and what I missed. Fascinating how we bring our own issues to a reading. I was triggered by the image, but read on because it was Geoff, not realising what must’ve been going on for me underneath! I have to disagree, however, that skin can itch as it scars.

TanGental So much to chew on, Anne! I am certain that, even if it had been a serious issue – testicular cancer say – as a man he’d have been awfully embarrassed especially in a macho profession like the police. I had a triple hernia – no biggy but after I told two colleagues they told me they had too but had hidden it as they were embarrassed, given it related to their view of their robust maleness. Maybe younger men are more able to be open than my generation and above. My father for instance wouldn’t have told anyone if he could possibly avoid it. So embarrassment is a likely cause of his anxiety, especially if he’s been the subject of egregious male banter already.

Marsha Either way, what plans could the creepy doctor possibly have for all his specimens unless they were for a biopsy? 

kevin cooper Not sure I want to know. Lol

TanGental I’m sure there is a sexual perversion in there somewhere, or maybe he has a little side hustle as a purveyor of novelty Christmas decorations…

Anne Goodwin You’re probably right about the machismo. I guess that’s also a foil for other anxieties any of us might have in relation to alterations to our bodies.

I like the idea of the fake testicle. Must be possible, I presume they create them for trans men.

TanGental Yep, I have a friend who I played rugby with. He had one removed – cancer – in his late twenties and was more concerned about how lop-sided he might look than a return of the cancer – or so that’s how he made it sound. But rugby men are good at bravado and crap at honesty emotions. Back then anyway…

Marsha I would be more concerned with what the doctor put in place of Blane’s testicle. how clean it was, what material was used. He could be allergic to latex or some other material used in the prosthetic device. Also what did Doc Pretty fill it with? Maybe the prosthetic leaked. My mind is all over the place trying to solve the mystery of how to fix this poor guy, not how to solve the crime of the doctor’s murder. 

TanGental In my head Marsha is right; he didn’t actually know he’d lost a testicle; in one scenario it is replaced by the good doctor with something akin to a fake one; I wonder if they do that for people who have had one removed?

Story Chat
Trophy Cabinet

Author Talk

Anne Goodwin I think you could do more with the alphabetical listing at the end. It could build up more tension. And as we’re in Pettimoron’s POV, and can see he’s unusually anxious, it might be fun if they got to the other guy first. Not sure.

TanGental You’re right about the reveal; I could have made more of the discovery of his jar. Part of me feels the whole ending is rather rushed and would benefit from a longer exposition – maybe he tried to hide the jar or remove it. 

TanGental It’s very difficult, knowing where the ‘line’ is in writing gross material. A bit like trying to write a convincing sex scene (I can’t, it’s hopeless). But gross out is slightly easier. I was encouraged to try my hand at horror and I’ve had a couple of stories in anthologies. I tried, mostly to push myself into areas that are uncomfortable. You know you’re going to risk upsetting some people. 

When I did a Creative Writing masters, the Professor who was moderating the course took issue with a character in what became my first book. It was the mother of the main character and someone who you were meant to empathize with. But because the book was set in rural Hampshire in 1976, when the character found herself dealing with an Indian immigrant her unconscious racism came out. My prof thought I’d alienate my reading audience whereas I thought this was exactly how that character would have reacted in white rural Hampshire in the 1970s. I stuck to my guns and she marked me down. Tricky!

Anne Goodwin I agree with you but I’ve subsequently cut the term ‘darkie’ from my next novel. It was culturally appropriate, even mild for the times, but it wasn’t essential for the story. But I’ve left ‘loonies’ and ‘nutters’. It’s a tricky balance.

TanGental It’s a balance and in the end it’s what you are comfortable with. My current WIP has a twenty something lesbian protagonist. Some will say I shouldn’t write from that POV as an ancient pale male, because I cannot understand their experience. But why on Earth not? As with all my characters I need to use my imagination and the work will stand or fall by the effort I made to understand that character. There are characters I can’t imagine writing – a paedophile (pedophile) for one, someone addicted to violence – but that’s because I don’t want to use my imagination in their service. Personal choice again.

Dgkaye Your style brings us in the story, but though a bit gross subject does not give off a horror vibe despite, lol. That’s what makes your stories true Geoff LePard! Don’t change your style to accommodate anyone’s requests. 

V.M.Sang That’s not good, Geoff. You were right to stick to your guns and write what would have been true in the period of the book. Bad on her for marking you down.

And with that, everyone wagged their finger at the imaginary writing professor, finished their drinks and headed back home. Thank all y’all for joining us for Story Chat this month. March will feature authors Kid and Pal and their handler D. Avery telling us about Wanda-lust.

Friends, I hope you’ve enjoyed this Story Chat as much as I have. Please feel free to leave comments. You never know when you, too, will be quoted!

Story Chat
Friends sit around the table discussing a book.

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Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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