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No Such Thing as an Unimportant Day · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Days Gone By
Twenty years ago, this beach was ours.

We spent almost every day in the sun, until our limbs tanned in stripes from the shirts and shorts of different lengths we wore.

Her nose was perpetually peeling from sunburn; the skin beneath was always pink and speckled with just a little blood. I thought it was a little weird at first, because I was eight and kids are like that. But she told me not to worry (because it happened every summer) and I got used to it quickly, because kids are like that, too.

The beach was always empty, save for the occasional vacationing family from the city. We didn’t like it when there were other people on our beach, so we’d always find an empty stretch to build our sandcastles. We knew every inch of the wet sand for miles either way—like I said, it was our beach.

Plus, there was a secret spot, that no family with loud dogs and angry teenagers ever found. It was a secret because at one point the sand would end and meet a rocky stretch that old fishermen liked to set their chairs up on. It looked like the end of the beach, to anyone else.

But we knew better. We’d pick up some of the rocks (the smoothest ones, that skipped better), and we’d walk past the sleepy fishermen through a pathless stretch of thorny brush. The brush deterred everyone else, so the prize it hid—a hundred lonely feet of sandy shoreline—was all ours.

When we graduated from sandcastles and splashing, we talked and we swam. She was older by a year, so when she left our little K-through-8 and started attending high school in the big city, I had questions for her every day. She said my questions were silly, but she answered them the best she could. She’d talk about her new friends, and we’d speak for hours until we had to go home because we were out of water and snacks and were too hungry and thirsty to stay any longer.

One year, she began to take a yellow floral parasol with her, to keep the sun off her face. The first time I saw it, it was the most feminine thing I’d seen in her possession, so I made fun of it. She blushed, and sputtered that it was to keep her nose from peeling. And even though I laughed at her, she brought it the next day, and the next.

Her nose never stopped peeling, though.

Today, the beach is loud and choked full of people playing music on Bluetooth speakers.

I blame the internet. There are no secrets anymore, including good beaches.

I haven’t been back in town for more than ten years. The little school building is the same, but the asphalt roads and the smell of spent gasoline is new.

I almost don’t want to visit our secret spot, because I realize that I’ve never been there by myself. When I reach the rocky place, I pocket a smooth stone, because I'm pretending that things haven't changed.

The thorny brush isn’t there anymore. Now it’s a parking lot for a movie theater.

And when I reach out secret spot, I see that it's just as full as the rest of the beach. I don’t get a chance to skip my stone, because there are too many kids swimming in the water, and I would hit them if I tried.

As a final insult, there’s a new whitewashed concrete building sitting just where the sand and asphalt meets. It’s a little ice cream shop, with a bad logo and a cheesy name. No way in hell it’s part of a chain.

I’m thirsty, so I walk inside to get a soda. The inside of the store is air-conditioned and just as quaint as the outside. Pictures and seashells hang from wooden pegs off the wall, and Beach Boys plays from a ten year-old amp.

And then I see it, proudly sitting on a little shelf next to the faded framed photos and gaudy miscellany: a sun-bleached yellow parasol, with white flowers printed on it, exactly how I remembered it.

While I’m staring, the owner of the little store comes up to my barstool to take my order. She’s wearing a fishing vest over a bikini-top and jean shorts. The tip of her nose is sunburned and peeled.

Just as I’m beginning to fumble with my words, a flash of recognition widens her eyes.
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#1 · 2
Very nice:

My only comment--as useless as it is since you're right at the word limit--is "more!" More details, more dialogue, more character bits--I'd like an idea of what drove our narrator away and what kept the female character here. Basically, all I got is: turn this into a short story. 'Cause it's a short story that I really, really, really wanna read!

#2 ·
I liked the use of repetitions and callbacks, here. I think it does a pretty good job of making the two halves of this story feel connected to one another.

But I do think your tone/mood could use a little bit of clean-up. As it is right now, it kind of feels like the reader is getting talked at a bit. The narrator maybe sounds a bit too detached from what they're saying, which makes it harder to sympathize with them. It's almost as though this piece were holding out its emotions at arm's length in that sense.

So I think you should probably work to make your narrator feel more distinctly personal. We learned a lot of little details about the girl, but we learned very little about the narrator. A couple of concrete traits thrown in there will really make the piece as a whole do much better, I think.
#3 · 1
Well played, well played indeed. The twisty little words we weave, eh?

The telegraphy in this story was palpable and thematic in exactly the way that my high school lit teacher praised Finnegans Wake, something I didn't understand then but live now. While you shoveled like beach sand your philosophy about valuing the moment, and nailing the theme incidentally, you also created a sense of angst and foreboding while illuminating character and drawing the reader, me, unrelentingly to the end. Locked in my conclusion of what would be, that ending hit me like a sledgehammer and drove your message home. It all seems perfectly planned, the loaded words, the melancholy tone... If it wasn't, study what you did here.

Good job.
#4 · 1
· · >>Oblomov
This is another sweet story. If I was 100% forthright, I'd say that the idea of “I had a wonderful boyhood here, but had to leave and when I come back years later everything is spoilt and sullied” is not really new, and had been used so many times it's bordering on cliché. But there is a sort of freshness here, and I particularly appreciated the little details you added, like that nose which never tanned but burnt. This sort of little touch makes your characters less generic, and it's easier to connect with them. Also, one could argue that the end seems contrived, and, yeah, it is somewhat, but I found that easily forgiveable.

I don't know. Maybe that story speaks to me at some inner level, because I, also, have witnessed many things I knew in my youth change. I have kept seeing the same dentist along the years, and he still has his office in the small suburban town when I grew up. Last time I visited him, three weeks ago, I was there a bit early so rather than twiddle my thumbs in the waiting room, I took a walk in the quarter where my parents lived at that time: most of the shops have disappeared, some houses too, and it looked a bit alien to me. It is the same town, but it is not the same, too. Colder, emptier, distant.

Unfortunately, I didn't bump into the first girl I puppy-loved so many years ago.

So yeah, I can't help, but be touched by this little story. Good job, author.
#5 ·

Of course one of the first stories that Mono seems to like is this Boomer stuff