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In Name Only · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Saint's Day
The postcard was unstamped and unaddressed—a simple rectangle of matte cardstock, with the Church of the Holy Saints' insignia on one side and a checkbox on the other:

☐ I hereby relinquish February 14, 1998 A.D., unto Saint Valentine. Witnessed by the eyes of the Lord, blessed be His name.

"It's good they do that," Gary said, lacing his fingers over his portly belly as he watched me from the porch of the adjacent apartment. "A goddamn public service, if you ask me."

I frowned as I flipped through the rest of my mail. Bills, circulars, holiday coupons. A card from my mother; a thin envelope from Monica. I threw that in the trash unopened.

"Normally, yes, but this one is creepy," I said. "How do they decide who gets one? Where does your day go?"

Gary shrugged his shoulders. "Saint Valentine, apparently."

"But it's not like the other holidays, where your time does something. Christmas, and the big donation drive for Saint Nicholas? You wake up the next morning with a thank-you card from an orphan who got a gift. And when I signed up with Saint Philemon for Thanksgiving, I got to read the newspaper article about the miraculous feast at the homeless encampment. This, though?" I brandished the card at him. "Literally nothing happens."

"That's because on the other holidays, they're asking you for sacrifices. This, Eddie, is a gift."

I scowled. "What kind of 'gift' is stealing a day from you?"

"Easy, man. You don't like it, don't check the box. Some of us appreciate the chance."

"… You got one too."

"Yeah, I did. And I'm doing it." He wiped his nose with the back of a finger, then pointed at me with it. "You know how much it sucks to be single and looking on Valentine's Day? For the past two weeks I've been working my ass off to avoid it. I've written a hundred replies to personal ads and dating-site profiles. Not one nibble. So I could go down to a bar, trying to ignore giggles and kisses and marriage proposals for hours, and roll the dice on hooking up with some chick whose sole redeeming quality is that she's as desperate as I am—or I could skip the whole mess, wake up on the 15th, and get on with my life once the world isn't focused on love any more. That's not a hard choice."

"But it's no gift," I snapped. "Helping is a gift. This is a screw-you. It's just… it's like police shooing homeless guys away from the mall because they're disturbing the shoppers."

"Hey," he said defensively. "It's not Valentine who decided I'm not dateable. The world did that on its own. Valentine's just letting me trade the worst day of the year for no day at all." Gary leaned forward in his chair. "And it's not Valentine who slept with your brother."

I felt my cheeks heat. "Oh my God, Gary."

"It sucks that you're torturing yourself about it, but that doesn't give you the right to take it out on me. And don't blame the saint for giving you an alternative."

I stormed inside wordlessly and slammed the door behind me.

Then I ripped the postcard into pieces and flung it into the air, watching confetti shower around the living room.

The 14th dawned cold and grey, clouds smothering the sky. I balled up in a big, empty bed, staring out the window at the sparse holiday traffic on the interstate.

I finally dragged myself out of bed when my stomach rumbling grew too insistent to ignore. On autopilot, I put four slices of toast in the toaster and cracked three eggs into the frying pan Monica had bought us. The eggs were almost cooked when I realized what I'd done.

I threw half the food away—then the other half, too, as my appetite fled.

I pulled on a sweater and lunged for the door, hoping a walk would take my thoughts off of the apartment's unnatural emptiness. But as I left, I glanced through Gary's front window. Apparently he had been watching the late shows when midnight hit. His form was a statue on his couch—raised arm holding a remote control, unblinking eyes staring at his TV set as the glow from soap operas played over his frozen face.

I turned around and went back to bed, then spent the morning counting cars as they passed my window.
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#1 · 1
Alternate Title: Death to Valentine's Day, Long Live the New Flesh!

This is one of those entries where the premise given is more intriguing than the story the author tells with it. The premise being that, apparently, holidays are events where people voluntarily render themselves unconscious and do something in the spirit of the holiday they wouldn't have otherwise done.

Or something like that.

I'm not sure how this works or how it would've started. I guess the Church of the Holy Saints operates in mysterious ways. Still, it's an interesting crossbreed of Christianity and occultism.

Unfortunately, the characters we're stuck with are not the most captivating. The narrator is okay; he reminds me of a lot of myself, except even more vitriolic. I know what it's like to go through the aftermath of a tough breakup. Most people do. The narrator is kind of a non-person, though, because he really only functions as someone to argue with the real "protagonist" of the story, Gary.

And let me tell you something: Gary is quite the shit. He is a chronically envious incel plebeian who needs to do some stomach crunches, and who will tap out of Valentine's Day completely because he is that jealous and spiteful of other people's happiness. I'm not a fan of the holiday myself either, but I must say this is going a bit far.

I think this is why the ending doesn't hit me; it does the same thing most horror stories do, in that it presents a character too unlikable and alien for the audience to get behind. So I'm not particularly moved by Gary's fate at the end. I mean, I guess he turns out okay? He would have to turn back to normal at some point, as indicated by the deal he made with the Church, so it's not like he loses anything, really.

The biggest justification for this ending that I can think of is how Gary's situation might reflect the narrator's, in that the narrator is someone who is perhaps on the road to becoming someone like Gary, but who may or may not change his ways at the end, after seeing Gary in his statuesque state.

On the technical side of things, this entry is pretty solid. No glaring typos I could make out, and I'm curious as to how the author formatted the "letter" in that way.

I think this entry has a good starting point, but the author could do far more with it.
#2 ·
That observation out of the way, let's start reviews!

There's slang in the newspaper industry: "burying the lede." This is the term for when a story, which is supposed to be written in a top-down structure with the most compelling facts at the top, starts out with things that are less important and throws in an arresting fact later on.

That's not what's happening here: the big idea is right up front. I love the big idea. But having established the big idea, I almost feel like this is burying the plot. I do like the Gary/Eddie contrast you're aiming for, and I think it's almost at great, but it doesn't really focus on the thing that makes it most compelling:

"Helping is a gift. This is a screw-you. It's just… it's like police shooing homeless guys away from the mall because they're disturbing the shoppers."

The Gary/Eddie divide is that Eddie takes this as an insult and Gary takes it as a kindness. I think that's the tension to play up if you're contrasting them; right now, that feels a little more background-y.

(Are you trying to take sides, btw? Because Gary does seem correct based on the day each of them had. That's kinda cynical.)

It might also be interesting to contrast Eddie, not with Gary, but with the people celebrating the day. I have to admit it would be more satisfying to see him reject Gary's capitulation and go out and try to enjoy himself -- although given the down-and-out you're focusing on here, satisfying might not be the intent.

Thanks for writing!
#3 · 1
I'm interested to know why you left the "service" part of this transaction a mystery. Because, to me, it's not clear exactly what Gary is providing. On X-mas a kid gets a gift, and on thanksgiving the homeless receive a feast, and on Valentine's... it's unclear. What conversion is taking place here?

I mean, the paragraph describing the different holidays seems a little muddled, because I'm not sure if the other holidays also take a day from you like Valentine's Day does. The other examples look like they could just be a toy/money drive, except that Eddie says he "wakes up the next morning" with a note on Christmas, so I'm thinking that all the holidays are day-stealing deals. But then he says later that Valentine's Day is stealing a day as if the other's don't, so... which is it? Add on to this the fact that Gary implies that all other holidays are sacrifices, whereas VD is a gift, but... an orphan got a gift on X-Mas! And isn't a gift just a type of sacrifice? Not sure what Gary's line signifies there.

So, yeah, I'm just confused. I'm all for getting the reader to make the connections, but when the argument presented in the story hinges on what the sacrificer gives to the world, and that info isn't concrete, then I can't have my own opinion on the whole event. It might be a day well-spent, but it might be stupid.

Sorry, author. I'm at arm's length. But thanks for submitting! Best of luck in the shakedown.
#4 ·
I think the idea is a nice once, being able to skip a holiday—Valentine or Christmas or w/e—just because you don’t adhere to the philosophy that underpins it. Well, the comparison with Christmas is not fair, because at Christmas you get one, or two, day(s) off, that you can enjoy regardless of what you think of it, whereas for Valentine's you get nothing but being bullied if you can’t celebrate it properly.

That being said, the story really does not venture much beyond that argument ("I'd like to skip that day if I was given the possibility to"). There’s no twist, nor further idea/concept thrown in. You could’ve had, say, a girl knocking or phoning at 8 AM to ask if Gary was available for an evening date, and Eddie trying to vamp some excuse for him to not be. Or whatever other twist. Instead, you turn it into a stone statue, which is fair, but not really something we didn't expected. It maybe a salt statue, but it doesn’t add much salt to the story.

And without any substantial to add into the mix, we’re pretty left with talking heads debating why Valentine's is obnoxious to single people, pros, cons, which, frankly, which is, in all truth, a tired argument.

Once again, not bad, but could’ve benefitted from a better ending with a dash of fantasy.
#5 · 1
This has great characterization. I just don't know what I'm supposed to get out of it. It's just a kind of day in the life of two desperate men, desperate for different reasons.

I have no idea how to interpret the ending. Because Gary gave up his day, he's now inanimate or something? That's kind of creepy, but there's no conclusion made about it. It's not painted as if he made a good or bad choice, whether he's better off than Eddie, or... whatever.

And if it's the case that he's inanimate, I guess the implication at least is that he'll be fine tomorrow? That he just gets put in stasis for a day or some such? That seems like a strange thing for the church to be involved in, and it starts diving into the "anime has no idea how Catholicism works" trope pool. Plus I don't see what the church, or anyone else, gets from the people giving up this day. Gary rationalizes it as a mercy to folk who don't want to participate, but the postcard makes no claims about it at all, so I don't know what the recipients are supposed to read into it.

As a character portrait, I like this, but as a story, I don't have the first clue what it's trying to say. I guess just that Gary was right: he's effectively comatose while Eddie is miserable? Okay. That'd be true for some people and not for others, so it's not like it's getting at a larger truth. It starts off a little on the creepy side and then just stops.
#6 ·
I'd have figured giving up your day gets someone else laid.

Neat framework concept and the story told with it works okay enough. It's fine.Not really sure how I feel about it otherwise. Sorry. I want to give a more cognizent bit of feedback, but that's just of the feeling I was left. This is fine. I don't really have ideas to make it better, but there's nothing to super call out as a problem.

Also, this story made me self-conscious because I cook 2-3 eggs for myself sometimes. =(

Prompt Relevance... less sure here. There might be something if I puzzled at it, but it isn't immediately jumping out at me as strong guided.