Irish Summer (A Very Short Story in the style of Cynthia Rylant)

That summer seemed to last forever.  Every morning my mother would wake my sister and I and slather us in SPF 30 Coppertone and make us put on our dry bathing suits under our tennis whites for camp[1] (just as she did every summer).[2]  But that summer the damp air was as cold as the sticky sunscreen that she squirted out of the pink bottle with the picture of the dog tugging on the little girl’s bathing suit.[3]  I had to put on my ugly white sweatshirt over my polo shirt, and under my white shorts my legs had goosebumps.  

I wished I could wear jeans instead.[4] 
        That summer,
[5] as I wheeled my bike from under the porch overhang to the rack on the back of my mother’s car, bits of wet, green grass stuck themselves to my white sneakers.[6]  Usually, the drizzle would have already started up, but that wasn’t a guarantee that I’d be let out of my freezing, miserable first-block swimming lesson.  If you’ve ever been forced to swim outside in fifty-eight degree weather, you can probably imagine my simmering resentment for Chris, my relentlessly determined swim coach.[7]
        That summer, standing in our kitchen and breathing loudly and stirring lemon into her tea,
[8] my Nan told me, “This is an Irish summer,”[9] and, being Irish herself, she seemed to enjoy it.  Easy for her to say: she spent most of it sitting under the porch overhang, wearing a sweater, and watching the birds hop around our yard.

Meanwhile, that summer I stood shivering and drenched in a line of campers at the edge of the outdoor pool, wishing I was baking hot and desperate to dive in, I biked through cold puddles of mud, wishing I was skidding across dry sand, I played game after game of Uno in the tennis house while it poured, wishing I was suffering through a tennis lesson instead.[10]  (I hated, and still hate, tennis.)[11]  I wished the Irish would take their stupid summer back and return the long, hot East Hampton summer days that I’d previously been accustomed to.


[1] An example of an “And” Series.

[2] An example of Value-Added Parentheses.

[3] I added more description here because Rylant is a very descriptive author and I wanted the reader to picture the sunblock bottle.

[4] In a few books, including An Angel for Solomon Singer, Rylant sets off a short sentence in its own paragraph for emphasis.

[5] I was trying to create parallel sentence structure here by beginning several sentences with “that summer.”  Rylant does this in When I Was Young in the Mountains -- she starts more than half the sentences with the title phrase.

[6] I was trying to make this story driven by the setting, so I put in lots of little details about the place.

[7] This is an example of Breaking the Fourth Wall.

[8] Another “And” Series.

[9] This is an example of putting dialogue in the middle of a longer sentence, which she does several times in An Angel for Solomon Singer.

[10] I modeled this “seesaw” sentence after a favorite of mine from Solomon Singer: “So much of Indiana was mixed into his blood that even now, fifty-odd years later, he could not give up being a boy in Indiana and at night he journeyed the streets, wishing they were fields, gazed at lighted windows, wishing they were stars, and listened to the voices of all who passed, wishing for the conversations of crickets.”

[11] Another Value-Added Parentheses.