Short Story: Beside The Sea

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About this Short Story

Written by
Desmond Kelly


Returning to a childhood memory is not recommended, unless it leads to an unexpected insight.


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The gulls flew down like starving Harpies waking after a fast, causing an old lady scattering bread to flee; but she must have known the consequences, but then I expect the elderly easily forget.

I had travelled to the seaside willing myself back into a child-like frame of mind. It’s not so easy; the adult world conspires to force a man into a pattern of behavior either he adopts without complaint, or stands outside of and must become an innovator or a fool.

The birds remained querulous, strutting like gaunt fashion models in search of prey. Before long they had flown, off to inspect the bins or hunt up bloated carcasses floating ashore.

The sea itself was a mass of churning, surging white foam, dashing itself to pieces among rocks and shingle. It reminded me of when I was a child and had one of those visions in which I saw beneath the surface,…

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Adam West Guest Editor said "Your MC Des has to be the most well observed unpleasant curmudgeonly prejudiced sorts I have across in a long time. Meeting every Daily Mail stereotype in the space of one horrible afternoon - trolls and trollopes and council house benefit scroungers and Special Brew swilling youths and nasty single mother types at every turn~~~~Sipping a Guinness I was reminded how the seaside has become a haven for those on benefits, or so it seemed, but how can the poor afford to drink?~~~~ was typical of his bitter cynical rant at life and how bad it had treated him. Like him I was glad to get out of there - many thanks, Adam"
3 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Point(s) taken, Des - as you know I read all your writing and admire your ability as a writer and observer of mankind - I wouldn't wish to fall out with you - not for a second - I was being frank and of course respect that your life experiences will have been different from mine and therefore your viewpoint will necessarily differ accordingly - yours in literary brotherhood, Adam"
3 years ago
Desmond Kelly replied saying "Hi Adam, I don't want this to become a protracted argument, but some of the seaside resorts I visited in the last few years have been tacky and tasteless. I live down south and maybe this is the difference. Anyway, I wrote it not out of spite but from pure observational experience, and the reasoning for going back came from a standpoint of searching for something meaningful and memorable in a life grown empty because of unemployment, and depression. The journey was my own, and what I found was also largely mine. Maybe I put too much emphasis on the downbeat melodrama, but as a writer I sometimes use a little licence. I think what I was trying to say was there's no point looking in the old places for comfort or reassurance, and that sometimes you have to move on to create/discover new experience. I'm not pretending to wisdom or insight in this arena, but this was a conclusion I drew from the experience. I respect the opinion of others and if you found it lacking, I'll go along with you in the hope the next piece you read improves your opinion. Cheers Des."
3 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "I wasn't sure if it was you or not. I didn't read any of the other comments so my comments were totally blind but I was a little surprised your MC got much in the way of empathy - the going back thing alone could make anyone feel bitter and/or sad - it was the judgements that you made that surprised me somewhat. All the resorts near me on the east coast Filey Brid, Scarboro', Whitby et al are the haven for the well-to-do pensioners that migrate there and totally out of reach of anyone on benefits wishing to locate on the coast. Not that there aren't an army of plebeians who already live there ready to man the arcades and the ice cream parlours and cafes. I actually thought it was well written, Des, but maybe lacked some redeeming quality (the mother and child could have been it perhaps thanking the MC for helping them out when hassled by some louts? Anyways onwards and upwards as they say - ATB - Adam"
3 years ago
Desmond Kelly replied saying "Hi Adam. I suppose I wrote it to get back at something. You know how it is???? Some of this is actually true & cobbled together from a number of trips I made to seaside locations. The MC is really me wearing a Groucho Marx nose & glasses. Anyway, pleased you read it. Des"
3 years ago
Patsy R Liles said "There's power here, Des. You have reached everyone, because the sea and a day like this happens to all of us at some time, and remembering is worth the trip. You have portrayed the emotions in so many little ways, I especially love the eye contact with the dog....so uplifting; the girl with the baby annoyed me, we have people on street corners in heavy traffic with signs that say I'm hungry and their jeans are new and stiff, their boots are in better shape than mine, and well you know what I mean about her... Excellent, worthy of a snug place in a book of your stories. I would want to have it on my shelf for reading many times over. That's life at its best. Patsy"
3 years ago
Desmond Kelly replied saying "Thanks Patsy, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Des"
3 years ago
Diane Dickson Guest Editor said "Hi Des. This was a lovely thoughtful piece and I was able to identify with so much of it. I don't know about going back, we have done it a couple of times and it is so often not quite what we expected. This was perfectly observed and I recognized your characters so very easily. I love the seaside and the sea but yes, there is something terribly melancholy about a resort on a wet day out of season isn't there. Well written of course from your pen (well keyboard but hey) I enjoyed this read very much - thanks - Diane"
3 years ago
Diane Dickson Guest Editor replied saying "I love it when the story had a mind of its own. This was a very poignant and melancholy piece but it was lovely for that."
3 years ago
Desmond Kelly replied saying "Thanks Diane. I did try for a cheerful approach to what was supposed to be a stroll down memory lane, but the story itself took over and sent me in another direction. I know the memory plays tricks, and we aren't supposed to get sentimental about the past, but sometimes it's a case of hope over experience. I did attempt an uplifting finish as I wanted to be more positive at the end. I think I should in future only travel where I've never been. I'll pack my bag. Thanks as always, Des"
3 years ago
Nik Eveleigh Guest Editor said "Hi Des. I got the sense when reading this that memory, experience and fiction were being woven together seamlessly and it seems from your comments below that it's true. This was bleak and sad but a powerful and compelling read. The line regarding "smiling at the kids but it may have been misinterpreted" was a brilliant way to show how the world has changed. It's great that you are concentrating on pleasing yourself when writing rather than trying to write for others. Your descriptive ability is always a joy to read and it can only be enhanced when you are being true to yourself. All the best. Nik"
3 years ago
Desmond Kelly replied saying "Thanks Nik. I'm glad you enjoyed this piece. Des"
3 years ago
Kate Smart Guest Editor said "I enjoyed this very much, and I do hope that you are having your thoughtful and well-written work published elsewhere. Not that it isn't great to have it here - I just think it is good enough to appear in a 'proper' publication."
3 years ago
Kate Smart Guest Editor replied saying "I know exactly what you mean. It feels like a closed shop. That is partly why I think Shortbread should do its own publishing, even in the form of e-books - much of the work on here is definitely up to an excellent standard that deserves to be out there."
3 years ago
Desmond Kelly replied saying "Kate, you're very kind in your remarks, but no - I do not enjoy publication elsewhere. I have tried down the years to get 'proper' agents and publishers to take an interest in my submissions, but alas they do not. I've now reached an age where I think more passively about the publishing industry, and am happy to be seen in Shortbread which is my window to the wider world. Thanks once again. Des"
3 years ago
Anthony Wobbe said "Des, I will do my level best under the small spell of profound effect your story had on me, to critique and not sound like a bumbling idiot. I've been on this site for a few months now and have been pleasantly surprised with some of the fire power and flavor here regarding talent. But never more than today. The story itself was good...maybe even better than good, but I have to say I've never seen so many paragraphs that could have easily stood on their own. Your ability with descriptive phrases and words is remarkable, and this story is going on my shelf as an example of how to be thorough with the written word. This, as an example of how to write, was "off the chain" good. Thanks for sending it."
3 years ago
Desmond Kelly replied saying "Anthony, you are more than kind. I've gone through the process of trying to please on this site, and been disappointed by the outcome. Lately, I've gone back to pleasing myself with the hope I entertain others. This piece grew from a few simple phrases and became a bit of a personal diatribe against the world. Parts of it are actually true, including the girl in the car park scenario. I try not to be jaded, but experience has made me the way I am and tends to influence my work. Thanks for your interest. Des"
3 years ago
Desmond Kelly said "Robert, thank you for reading & commenting. I'm afraid the USA escaped my globetrotting, but I've seen enough movies to know what you mean. Thanks for your interest. Des"
3 years ago
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