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An Unfortunate Event · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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If Not Now, Then When?
Gina was doing ninety when the semi truck in front of her blew a tire. Freak accident. Nothing anyone could have done.

The whole tire exploded around the hubcap, shredding against the merciless pavement. Hot ribbons of rubber spewed from beneath the massive machine.

Two found Gina’s windshield. The first pulverized the shatterproof glass but failed to break it. The second finished the job. The wind propelled thousands of shards of swirling glass into Gina’s face.

The car rolled. The world shifted into a dimension of pure noise. Screaming and chaos and tires pumping against a road that was no longer beneath them.

Then, inexplicably, she thought of dancers.

In the slowed state of time brought on by near-death, Gina saw endless rows of them, leaping across an infinite stage. They coalesced into a single beam of bright, a fixed spotlight falling, coalescing into a perfectly-poised ballerina, one leg bent like a flamingo’s, the other straight from the hip to the tip of the toe.

The ballerina looked up and said,


The car came down in the median.

When Gina came to, a team of doctors surrounded her. Bright lights and blurry vision and surgical masks obscured their faces.

Her husband was arguing with another doctor in the corner. Gina couldn’t see him, but she sure could hear him.

The doctor said in an impatient voice, “It would kill her if we started now.”

Her husband, ever spineless, said, “If not now, then when?”

When Gina was in college, she’d studied to be a dancer. Now in her late forties, she had quit the competitive and bodily-destructive art form to pursue a life of education. She still interacted with dance three times a week, driving to the inner city to teach disadvantaged grade schoolers the joys of the art she loved.

Her drive followed a two-lane highway typically clogged with semi trucks.

The impact shattered a majority of the bones in her body but didn’t kill her entirely. Her legs, in particular, had taken a beating. Think plastic shards mixed into jello. The doctors said she’d never use them again. Don’t even think about it. Don’t hold out hope.

Twelve surgeries, two million dollars, and four years of extensive therapy later, and Gina finally had some semblance of motion again. With the aid of a walker, she could hobble around the ground floor of their vast suburban mansion. It wasn’t so much walking as throwing her useless legs forward with a swing of her hips. For Gina, it was a miracle.

That first day back from the hospital, with her walker and her husband to lean on, felt like she had walked through a gout of fire, fusing her into a single piece of fragile glass. But she was alive. And she was mobile. Things could be worse.

The following night, she threw her useless legs one in front of the other into the garage to grab a beer from the refrigerator, where she found her husband of twenty four years fucking the doctor from the hospital on the hood of their replacement car.

“You were going to figure out somewhere along the line,” he said, not even trying to pull his pants up. “If not now, then some other time.”

Gina made the long walk from her car to the front gates of the auditorium, where a waiting concierge with a wheelchair helped her to her seat. It was not often she could leave her assisted living home. The nursing team was short-staffed, and transportation was a luxury, and at any rate none of them really liked dance anyway.

The lights went up, and the dancers roared onto the stage, a stunning modern adaptation of La Sylphide.

The chorus girls leapt in unison. Gina’s shattered legs almost twitched in anticipation. The dancers prepped for an intensely acrobatic synchronized leap. There came the run-up, the tense, the leap--and they were flying through the air, weightless, exuberant, beautifully perfectly alive.

They landed with hardly a sound. The chorus girls faded away until only one remained, a lead frozen in place, one leg bent up like a flamingo’s, the other straight from the hip to the tip of her toe.

The ballerina looked up, right at Gina, her eyes teasingly serene as if to say, If not now, then when?

Gina felt her foot move.
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#1 ·
Strong prose, nice story. Probable shoo-in of my slate, if not of this round.

Sorry for being terse, it’s late. Will come back tomorrow with more to say. Good job.
#2 · 1
Nicely done:

But some of the details made me blink. I mean, if it's a "vast suburban mansion", why does she have to go to the refrigerator in the garage to get a beer? And why's she in an assisted living home at the end? I assume she divorced her husband, but did she get nothing in the settlement even though he was cheating on her? Wouldn't she be able to afford live-in help?

But still, yeah, very nice pretty much all the way around.

#3 · 1
coalesced into a single beam of bright, a fixed spotlight falling, coalescing into

Take care not to reuse phrases so soon like this, or it feels like you're just not paying attention to what you're writing.

This is the second story I've seen with a double blank line between paragraphs, and I makes me wonder if this site suffers from the same idiosyncrasy as FiMFIction, where pasting something in from GDocs occasionally gives you one of these.

Some of the phrasings the narrator uses make it seem like he's breaking the 4th wall, but you haven't set him up as one who will, so it throws me for a bit of a loop whenever he does.

I'm afraid the meaning is lost on me. Before that a bit, I can't visualize where Gina is sitting. If she's near the stage, she'd likely be below it, but the dancer looked up at her. Thus she must be sitting pretty far away, but then how does the dancer notice her in the dark?

But back to the end. The repeated usage of the title is fine, but each time, it's a sort of transition to the next scene. The one about her husband cheating on her doesn't transition, though, and there's no indication of what happened as a result. Did they divorce? Is she in the nursing home because she no longer lives with him? I also don't know the significance of her foot moving. She could already move it, so it's not like she's emerging from paralysis or anything. I don't know what importance to assign to it.

Very lovely writing, but I feel like I'm missing the connecting dots and the message.