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The Endless Struggle · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
Why Gardening is So Good for You
Gardening is fun.

I wipe the back of my hand across my forehead. The sweat and dirt on my hand smear across my skin. My shirt and shorts are sticking to my back. It’s one of those hot days where all my clothes will have to be washed afterwards, along with myself.

I pull at another weed. I really have to yank, the stubborn little thing fighting my arm until finally going out with a bang, spraying dirt in my face.

I wince and spit out the dirt in my mouth. Once it’s safe to open my eyes, I break apart the dirt clumps still clinging to the roots. Then I throw down the worthless weed into the weed bucket, a feeble attempt to prove my sovereignty over my garden and my dominance to a small dead weed.

I sigh, shifting on my stubby garden stool to try and alleviate my sore rear for only a few seconds. And my sore back. And my sore neck. And down I bend again to pull out the next weed.

I let out a shaky breath as I wrap my fingers around the next weed. I’m getting agitated again. I need to stop. This is supposed to relaxing. Gardening is a common hobby, a calm activity that many people enjoy and use to alleviate stress and give them a sense of purpose. It’s supposed to be fun, not stressful.

I breathe in and out, slowly, focusing on my breath. Don’t struggle too much to yank out the weed. It needs a slow, gradual, gentle but firm pull. All it takes is patience.

That’s it, then. Patience. I give the weed a gentle but firm squeeze, and lift the weed with gentle but firm force.

The leaves of the weed snap, leaving the roots intact in the ground.

I curl my fingers into a gentle but firm fist and pound the dirt.

Which is not childish. It’s actually to pack down the dirt again. Once weeds are pulled out, the dirt becomes loose, and you have to pack it down to, um…

…No, it’s childish.

I put my hands on my knees and hoist myself up to a standing position. I stretch. My watch says 2:34 pm. I’ve been out for almost two hours now. I grasp my dirty water bottle, take a swig, and survey my garden.

It’s not like the catalogues yet. Not yet an “after” shot in a home improvement show, when the host with bleached hair leads the young couple out to the grand mini-ecosystem of a backyard, where the greens are luscious and the purples are vibrant and little hummingbirds sing in a three-part harmony and someone posts it in one of those “Top 10 Gardens You’ll Never Have the Time, Energy, or Money to Actually Make but Boy Howdy Does it Look Neat” articles. No, mine's not even close.

Well, I mean, it isn’t bad. There are some bushes, some flowers. The bricks that outline the garden are cracked at the edges and look uneven. The centerpiece is a water-stained glass box, a failed attempt to make one of those impressive-looking water fountains. Could never get it to stop leaking. So instead of giving up and wrapping the whole thing in practical-but-ugly duct tape, I gave up altogether.

But I couldn’t give up on the garden, no. I’d put in so much work, and there was yet more work to do. It’d be all worth it in the end. Soon, I’d have that picturesque garden and be proud of my hard work and weed it to keep it looking nice week after week after week. Weeding for years to come. Nothing but weeding.

All so my backyard looks nice.

It doesn’t look nice.

For the most part.

Okay, it's passable.

It doesn't look awful. Dare I say, it looks decent. Most folks don’t have a garden at all. Maybe it adds a cent or two to my property value.

I look down at the bucket of weeds, not even a quarter full. I pick it up, carry it over to the compost bin, and dump it. Then I go get my stool and trowel to put back in the garage.

Maybe I’ll take up painting. I’ve always wanted to try it--though, without spending too much on canvases, paints, paintbrushes… Maybe there’s a five-week class or something I can take. If I don’t like it, I could try something else.

But who knows, could be fun.
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#1 ·
Why Gardening is so Good for You
TAILS (sum of 20 points)
T-3 A-5 I-5 L-3 S-4
Gestalt (Considered) : Strong

Technical (Correctness) : 3
supposed to relaxing <<< dropped word: supposed to be relaxing
a common hobby, a calm activity <<< comma-splice of two independent clauses
gentle but firm <<< hyphenate? "gentle-but-firm"

Abstract (Clarity) : 5
Gardening can be one b:yay:ch of a hobby.

Impact (Consequence) : 5
Anyone who has toiled at weeding or gardening can connect with this at some level. The turn at the end is both bittersweet and comical, capping the work with a wry chuckle.

Language (Congruence) : 3
Really, this is torn in two directions. In one direction, it wants to be conversational: first-person, present tense, colloquial wording, irregular focus, and so on. In the other direction, it wants to be poetic: no one thinks in terms of "I grasp my dirty water bottle, take a swig, and survey my garden" or the long-winded (if humorous) fake article title.

Water thoroughly with nouns (and nounal imagery), place in unshaded view of active verbs, and cover with a level inch of themes and this will yield fruit all season. Do not over-fertilize with sentence fragments.

Structure (Composition) : 4
Meanders somewhat, but shows piece by related piece of the task that maybe has lost its appeal over time, building to the conclusion.
#2 · 1
I like this one. Author really knows the feel of working hard for something out of reach, wrapped up in a nice, empathetic story.
#3 ·
A good boring slice of life story, with a chuckle here and there.

#4 · 2
· · >>ShortNSweet
practical-but-ugly duct tape

They'll be shattered to learn duct tape isn't waterproof. :P

I had some idea what was going on here as soon as they had to yank a weed. My parents actually had one of those magazine-level gardens when we were living in the tropics and they could grow things like calla lilies and orchids and bird-of-paradise flowers that take seven years just to bloom. For your garden to look that good, it takes continual attention - and you never, ever wait so long to weed they grow roots you have to yank. When they're an inch tall, they really are easy to pull up.

For this person, though, might I suggest a trowel, or even a hoe? A little mechanical advantage goes a long, long way to making things less frustrating.

In the end, I dunno. While I understood the frustration, it seemed to stem more from their lack of skill than anything else. So what I mostly got out of this was 'it sucks to be bad at things, so just give up and try something else.' And I don't really like that message a whole lot, overall. There's a pretty good chance that painting has it's bad spots, too, and if this person never takes the time to learn how to actually deal with the problems they face, they'll just continue being frustrated.

On the other hand, this was nicely written and had something of an arc to it, while also displaying story on the surface and thematic levels, which is good.

Well done overall, even if the 'moral' I found seemed personally distasteful.
#5 ·
· · >>Not_A_Hat
Fun fact, my mother and also my grandmother used to have a huge sprawling garden in the backyards of their houses, which they co-opted me into help tend, because nothing is better than free child labor. Weeds suck, and I hate them.

Neuroses regarding gardens aside, this is a strong, if quaint little story that I think is being a bit unfairly overlooked in this competition. The narrative voice has a ton of charm and character to it. He/she is perfectly unaware of the limitations and inadequacy of his/her skill but nonetheless is able to appreciate doing the task and have fun with it. By the end, she/he's accepted that while her/his results weren't even close to the goal he set, the result he achieved was acceptable. Not everyone has to be a landscaper to be proud of a garden.


'it sucks to be bad at things, so just give up and try something else.'

I disagree with this read. My understanding of it is this: "Try new things, even if you're bad at it and you don't reach your goals. You can always try something else." I read it as not being discouraged by previous failures, rather than advocating giving up entirely.

Rating: Strong
#6 ·
>>ShortNSweet Hmm, I think I can understand that interpretation, and I do like it better than mine. I'm not quite sure I think it's stronger, though. I find someone who struggles through a hard task admirable, but someone who struggles through a task that doesn't need to be hard seems a bit... silly, honestly. I also think weeding sucks; but only because it's boring, not because it's actually difficult.

I guess, to me, giving up on gardening before even learning how to properly deal with weeds seems like way too early to think you've learned much of anything about what gardening is like. I mean, have they even tried mulching? Perhaps that's unfair to this character, though. I dunno. Maybe these were the only two weeds they've had trouble pulling up, but they were just the last straw in a bunch of frustrations. And while getting a trowel seems to me like a very elementary step, perhaps that's my misconception; things that seem obvious to one person could be opaque to another.

Maybe this would work better for me if it was focused on a problem that covers a bit more time than a single weed; spending all afternoon digging out a tree stump, or growing a whole bed of flowers and then having deer eat them just before they bloom, something that's a bit more obviously annoying?

I dunno. I maybe it's just my preconceived notions getting in the way. Overall, I did like a lot of what this story did; maybe I just took the wrong tack in interpreting the main character's frustrations. It's also possible I missed something important; I'm not always the closest reader.
#7 · 1
· · >>FrontSevens
6 paragraphs in a row start with "I." There are some other small technical snafus, but that's the big one.

Otherwise, I like this well enough. It could probably stand to be a bit shorter though? There is a very long lead to the meat of the story, and I think it would be a net positive to tighten it up a bit.

Otherwise I think the message is fine. This kind of reminds me of my foray into game design. I was not good at it, admittedly, but I also hated coding. Like legit did not enjoy it. And in cases like that, I think it's fine to pack it in.
#8 ·
I think this could do with less sentences that begin with a conjunction (and, but, etc.). I do it too, but not quite this much. I think it's okay to use sparingly in first person POV or dialogue, but overusing it can be distracting. I took a second look, and I think what I meant to say was incomplete sentences. Some of them started with conjunctions, so I thought that was the problem.

Also, agreed with >>AndrewRogue on the "I"s. The repetition can be an "I"-sore (ba-dum-tsh).

However, it's a nice little slice of life piece. It's got a theme, a character that I like and can relate to, and a story arc. I don't really have much else to say about it.

That's it for the under-reviewed stories I hadn't yet reviewed. All I have left now are... the rest :o
#9 ·
I found the repetitions somewhat distracting. Many “weed”, “yank”, “pull”, “alleviate” twice in a row, or, case in point: I breathe in and out, slowly, focusing on my breath. While these aren’t egregious, they tend to itch me. I think a good editorial pass would be no luxury.

Oh, 2:34 PM? Why not 3:45 or 4:56? :P By the way, gardening during the warm hours isn't really advisable. It's a good way to have a heart attack.

But otherwise, yeah, this is fair enough, the tediousness of stubbing out weeds comes across quite clearly. The idea is neat, the execution could be more concise though. The long section about how the garden isn’t suitable for a catalogue is a bit too rambling for me. Clean up the vocabulary and the prose, and you have a strong entry.