Contest #102 shortlist ⭐️

28 comments

Fiction

Someone is talking to me but all I can see is their teeth, so round and yellow they look like cooked corn. We are sitting on the parking lot outside of my apartment, the black tar heating under us and turning our insides to mush. The asphalt has been running a tiff with the sun for hours now, finally reaching a fever pitch as the sun lets loose its rays in a constant barrage against the stubborn pavement. It refuses to surrender its stance, though it has remained solely on the defense. All I can feel is its warmth heating the undersides of my outstretched legs. I am an egg incubating under its mother. All I can see is Someone’s yellow corn-teeth biting at each other, reminding me of other summers, other suns.

I remember I went to summer camp when I turned nine. We ate yellow sweetcorn soaked in syrup on Styrofoam plates. The syrup would escape the corn, trickling to other parts of the plate as it ate a path away from its captives. It was an unwilling warden at a prison camp. I was an unwilling captive at a prison camp.

There were other foods there; biscuits with our gravy, sausages, pieces of pig curled up in woolen rolls. I didn’t eat much the first few days. I was sick to my stomach after having seen the way they poured eggs from plastic pouches and served them with straight faces promising health and long lives. Most of the girls my age boycotted the yellow masses permeating other unwanted foods on their flimsy plates. Most of the boys ate them without complaint, believing the large women in clear caps when they pointed to the older boys’ arms and swore they consisted mostly of pouch-eggs.

There were four cabins in total. Two for the girls, two for the boys. All four cabins looked the same on the outside, but never on the inside. Two were stifling, or so I heard, smelling of wet towels and blankets piled over unwashed bodies. The other two smelled of gossip and toothbrushes and bracelet-making. We were always making bracelets, finding new ways to stack beads in patterns we could claim had meaning. Smiling as we made them for boys who would only suspect friendship and grimace when we included pink.

Two times a week we went to the pool. It was crowded and sat in a little valley surrounded by a metal fence. We filed through the gate in a line that made us look like penguins in our inflatable muscles and flipper-feet. Once inside, we were instructed to swim in more lines so the lifeguards could determine our buoyancy. We prayed we wouldn’t be confined to the shallow end and added salt to the water when we were. Boys splashed girls who could only suspect ill-will. Girls dove to stand on their hands and inquire behind pruned fingers if so-and-so had seen. If you looked on from above, you would see that we all looked like insects, legs treading air when we were flipped upside down. Arms flailing wildly as we swam to the nearest group of friends. We were falcons when we dove. We were prey for the bottom of the pool when we saw the three-foot warning and dove anyway.

Three times a week we trekked to the zip-line. It was intimidating from the ground, even more so from the tower. We climbed stairs that were more like ladders to lock wide eyes with counselors who told the boys ‘One at a time,’ and the girls how to climb back down the steps without stepping on anybody’s hands. Some of us noticed the boys smiled at the brave girls and so held hands until it was our turn. Heights are only scary if you imagine how many of you would fill the distance to the ground. Stacked on top of each other. Heights are only scary if you whisper this three times to your nearest friend.

At night we played games like Kiss, Marry, Kill. The older boys were found twice as desirable when compared with those who grew armpit-hair on their upper lips. When compared with those who got pouch-eggs stuck in their mustaches and didn’t think to notify each other when this happened. There was that boy who ate salt straight because he liked it and another who spoke out of the side of his mouth but still helped Suzy when her towel fell in the mud on the way to the pool. There was the boy who was smaller than the others. He died a thousand deaths. There was the boy the girls called a man, who committed polygamy and was never tried. He was excused for eating pouch-eggs. He was the one the lunch-ladies pointed to when the little ones refused.

We ate, drank and breathed bug spray. It was the duct-tape of the forest. Our ankles, our wrists, our arms, the shower water at the end of the day. It was an aroma that never escaped. Some of us showed the boys the swollen red splotches we sustained on the parts we forgot to spray. We searched diligently for ticks on our scalps and gasped hastily when we encountered a freckle or mole.

The last day of camp was always the hardest. This was the day best friends were separated. Those of us without phones exchanged slips of notebook paper with addresses printed neatly in tight lines like cornrows. Those of us who could, signed the boys’ shirts in our best cursive. Treasured were the words exchanged as little hands took sharpies to cheap cotton. Treasured were the smiling faces added to the end of so-and-so’s name or shortened, abbreviated nickname.

The sun is not-so-high in the sky, and Someone has left me for another who will maybe listen. The asphalt has cooled, now, and I push myself up with my arms, wobbling on mush-legs as I make my way back into my apartment. The sun settles red on the back of my neck as I push the door open, lending a golden hue to the wooden floor. There is a plate on the counter when I reach the kitchen, unrinsed, left there by my husband. I sigh as I turn on the sink and let warm water run over the remains of his dinner. Sigh as I think of the man most likely sleeping even as the sky turns blue with dusk. The man who was never afraid of the zipline. The man who still eats pouch-eggs. 

July 10, 2021 23:17

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28 comments

Lisa Lacey
21:08 Sep 10, 2021

Congratulations on being shortlisted! I loved your descriptions. They brought back a lot of memories of attending summer camps as a kid. I swear I could taste and smell the bug spray after reading that. It never failed to somehow find its way into the mouth!

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Amelia Bowen
22:10 Sep 10, 2021

Thank you!

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A.Dot Ram
14:44 Jul 26, 2021

Congratulations on the short list. You had some lovely imagery and the whole mood at camp felt just right--that pervasive atmosphere of mild sexual tension felt relatable. Also the food. Camp food can be gross. You captured that in such minute detail. I'm intrigued by the layer that the present adds to the story, and most curious who this "Someone" is. It adds an unspoken tension. Who was this person? Why were they meeting? Was she on the verge of starting an affair?? I almost got that vibe. And which both did she get from camp? Was there a ...

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Amelia Bowen
21:13 Jul 26, 2021

Thank you for your comment! All of these questions are good ones that I will have to explore. I think overall she is dissatisfied with the husband, though I didn't spend much time on the present. I may revisit in future to answer some of them. Thank you for your feedback!!

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A.Dot Ram
00:13 Jul 27, 2021

Great. I really enjoyed the story. Some attention to the present and the current day conflict that the camp story informs would make it even more meaningful.

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Amelia Bowen
00:14 Jul 27, 2021

Thank you:)

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Sophie Maclang
01:48 Jul 26, 2021

Lending a golden hue to the wooden floor- gorgeous, just gorgeous!!

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Amelia Bowen
03:27 Jul 26, 2021

Thank you!

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Tamara Bowman
00:05 Jul 25, 2021

Really enjoyed reading this story, very well written and love the little twist at the end!

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Amelia Bowen
00:45 Jul 25, 2021

Thanks so much!!:)

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Dee Wes
03:42 Jul 24, 2021

This was truly a great story...well written.

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Amelia Bowen
04:18 Jul 24, 2021

Thank you!:)

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Shea West
02:31 Jul 24, 2021

As a grown up who went to Girl Scout camp 4 summers in a row, this story was darling. I love the way you played with the imagery and the essence of youth. Congratulations on your shortlist!

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Amelia Bowen
03:05 Jul 24, 2021

Thank you so much!

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Amanda Lieser
21:59 Jul 23, 2021

Amelia, I absolutely adored this story! Especially, the beginning and the theme of yellow. I also loved how you captured the innocence of summer-camp and touched on memories a lot of us have. I thought you had such a sweet ending to this story, too. Thank you for writing this story and congratulations on getting short listed.

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Amelia Bowen
22:22 Jul 23, 2021

Thank you so much for your comment!

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Kate Winchester
14:52 Jul 23, 2021

Awesome imagery! I felt like I was a part of your story. Great story!

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Amelia Bowen
14:55 Jul 23, 2021

Thank you!

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Kate Winchester
15:25 Jul 23, 2021

You are welcome 🤗

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14:30 Jul 23, 2021

Congratulations on the shortlist!!!!!

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Amelia Bowen
14:47 Jul 23, 2021

Thank you so much!! This is such a pleasant surprise!!

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Angela Walters
23:42 Jul 21, 2021

What a wonderful, vivid childhood memory of camp.. So, many questions about the husband!! It sounds like she scored the camp stud but now he might be the husband dud?? At first, I thought he left her for another, but the sleeping line threw me. I thought it was a great read. It kept my attention and reminded me of my camp days. Well done!!

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Amelia Bowen
01:48 Jul 22, 2021

Thank you for your feedback! I might revise some parts of the last paragraph to make it less confusing. Essentially, yes, I attempted to draw everything together by hinting at her now being married to the guy from camp:)

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Jon R. Miller
10:18 Jul 14, 2021

This was really beautiful! The imagery used to describe the memories transported me back to a child's mind. :>

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Amelia Bowen
14:39 Jul 14, 2021

Thank you:)

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Andrea Magee
09:04 Jul 12, 2021

Excellent....you are a talented story teller.....I did not get the the memory/present transition until the end....the very last line actually..but it was still a great read.

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Amelia Bowen
14:06 Jul 12, 2021

Thank you so much! I will explore ways to make it more clear:)

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Amelia Bowen
23:25 Jul 10, 2021

This is still in the process of being edited- CRITIQUE IS MUCH APPRECIATED- I was having some trouble with the transitions between memory and present and don't know if that shows. Suggestions much encouraged.

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