submit or we will zebra-stripe your wood!

I've had enough of natterjack toads. I find red squirrels tedious. Sand lizards do nothing for me. Even great crested newts are boring. The only sign of any of these animals is their cracked and faded representations on the information notice boards. 

I walk through the woodlands down to the beach. Hairy Kath is buried up to her neck in sand. I kneel beside her and extract her left foot. I squeeze her little toe until she squeals. Remarkably, Hairy Kath's toes aren't that hairy, except the middle one. It's very hairy.

This one looks like Chewbacca, I say. 

She squints. 

And this one, I pinch her little toe again, is R2-D2. This one, where the skin is puckered at the top, is Obi-Wan. And this one, I kiss the blackberry bruise where she'd kicked me the week before, is Darth Vader. And this, I pull her big toe until the cartilage pops, is Jabba the Hutt. 

Fuck off, asshole, she says. 

Will do, I say.

I'd fucked Kath the week before. The nickname started then. Her legs are hairier than mine. Her pubic hair is fundamental. 

John, Dave and Harvey are playing soccer. Coke cans and beer bottles are goalposts; Juicy Lucy and Brain Jane sit behind them and apply oil and sarcasm.

I join the game. The sand on the ball stings my naked feet. I stop to put on my deck shoes. I sit on the sand. I take off my deck shoes. I'd say indolence washed over me, but it didn't. I just don't want to play any more. I watch the boys and listen to their descent into cliché and idiom.

On me 'ead. Cross! To feet. Pass! It's there. Now! 

The girls look up. Look down. The sun behind me makes me invisible, so too the girl's lack of interest.

Wanna go for a walk, I ask Jane.

No, she says.



Where's Michael? 

Jane points.

I use my right hand as a visor and look toward the treeline. Michael has come to the beach in a black wool suit, shirt and tie. He stops to take a photograph. I look to where he's pointing the camera. There is nothing to take a photograph of. Sand. Sea. Men. Women. Beach dreck. 

I do not like Michael. No reason. Last week, I stole a postcard from his room and used it as a birthday card for a girl I used to see. He asked me if I knew what had happened to the card. I said I didn't.

The girls read magazines. The boys drink beer. I take my book from my bag and head to the shore. The sand is sand but with cigarette butts, cans, ice cream and chocolate wrappers. There's a dead seagull. Waves edge onto the sand.

I walk in to the sea and the water laps over the cuffs of my rolled-up chinos. The sea is cold. The sea is pale grey. It is wound round me. It has a certitude I don't trust but I can't be bothered to explain it. I step out. 

I sit in the sand. The sun dries my trousers. Purple and green streaks appear in the fabric. Taking my book from the waistband of my chinos, I pretend to read but I can't concentrate. Purple and green streaks. I dig a hole in the wet sand, drop the book in the hole and replace the sand, pat it down and place a chocolate-wrapper banner on it.

I get up and walk down the beach away from the boys and girls. In the distance are metal grilles set in raised concrete circles. I'd looked into one earlier. A smell of old sea and oil came from it

The stretch of sand ahead is blotched. Young boys poke at the blotches with splintered sticks. I walk over and the young boys slink away. It looks like some marine god has hawked up pink intestinal goodies. 

Hundreds of jellyfish measle the beach. I tiptoe through them. Some are dead. Some are not. I kneel down beside one. 

I take out my cigarettes and light one. I hold the burning tip just above the jellyfish. Nothing. I flick ash on it. Nothing. I blow on the tip of the cigarette and burn a tentacle. Nothing. I plunge the cigarette into the body. Nothing.

I look back to the treeline. Michael is behind a tree, taking photographs of the beach. I leave my cigarette sticking out of the jellyfish. I walk back to where the boys and girls are. Drinking beer. Reading magazines. 

Please realize this was contributed by a Londoner.

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The short of it is this:
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"You Are a 14-Year-Old Arab Chick . . ." by Randa Jarrar
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Here's the long of it: by clicking the words above you can help this youngish Arab-American Austinite lady win the "storySouth Million Writers Award for Fiction." According to storySouth, "The purpose of the Million Writers Award is to honor and promote the best fiction published in online literary journals and magazines during 2003." Around 600 stories were nominated, then fifty-something stories were chosen as notables (including Jamie Allen's "REO Speedwagon"-related story and Steven Coy's "Car Singer" as well as many other stories posted elsewhere by Eyeshot contributors including Gary Glauber, Kelly Daniel, Tom Bradley, Karen Ashburner, Christopher Monks, A.C. Koch, and Claudia Smith), and now it's down to ten stories, including Randa Jarrar's, which you can read here as long as you promise to click here or many inches above or one below and vote for her to win. We're sure it would make everyone involved very happy if Randa won. So click here and place your vote for Randa Jarrar to win the storySouth Million Writers Award for Fiction.