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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 475 Response

“Another Day in Paradise”

with Sandra Crook

Another Day in Paradise” appears in issue 475.

Joe’s name is mentioned in the first sentence of the story but is singularly absent until the second half. Why might that be?

For me this was the natural progression. For the time that the tale takes to unfold, the narrator is unaware of Joe’s name, and only learns it when the other customer addresses him by name. Once it is known, the narrator uses it, as often as it is necessary, I hope, to distinguish the male persona of the doctor from the male persona of the patient.

Why might Joe have exiled himself to a place where he feels so uncomfortable and out of touch? Or would it matter where he lives?

Joe came to Tenerife — for this is where the tale takes place — for the same reasons as most retired expats. They take a holiday in the sun, and seek to recreate that situation permanently as soon as they are free to do so.

We’ve lived in several countries (whilst working) and have from time to time observed a certain kind of British expatriate. In South Africa, they were called the ‘whenwies’: they started every sentence with “when we lived in England.” This usually preceded some unfavourable comparison of their home country with their new place of residence.

Wherever we’ve met expats, the majority say they would never go back to England, but that doesn’t stop some of them complaining about the local nationals and seeking to create ‘little England’ in their new country.

So I’m not sure Joe feels uncomfortable, I just think he seeks affirmation of his choice of lifestyle from other Brits and grouses in the same way as he would at home.

If he lived in England, incidentally, he’d probably spend most of his time complaining about the immigrants.

Joe is in an earthly paradise but doesn’t appreciate it. The narrator is also in paradise, but in a quite a different sense. How does that happen?

Joe’s ‘paradise’ revolves around sunbathing and cheap booze. He prostrates himself to the sun, gets through more daily booze than he should and sits with his back to the magnificent ocean. He’s recreating his holiday experience as a daily life and availing himself of what he didn’t have regular access to in his earlier life. He hasn’t taken on board the well-publicised risks of his indulgences.

The narrator’s paradise is also what she didn’t have access to in an earlier life, i.e. sunshine, the sea, magnificent scenery and peace and quiet — if she can get it. There may have been a time when sunbathing and cheap booze were attractive facets of a holiday for her, but they’re not major drivers for her any more, particularly in view of the risks associated with both.

So I suppose it boils down to the fact that Joe’s development and aspirations arrested somewhere along the line.

Thank you, Sandra, for the commentary on “Another Day in Paradise.” It’s always interesting to see how authors read their own works. Sometimes authors and other readers will agree, but just as often they won’t.

As you say, Joe is a character type representative of the “expats” you cite. As such he doesn’t even need a name until he’s in the same scene with the doctor. And since the doctor is man, grammar alone requires that Joe have a name, to avoid ambiguity.

And as for the narrator, I don’t think the readers have a clue that she’s female. Such a thing would matter only if the story were translated into a language where gender distinctions are made systematically.

However, another member of the Review Board has pointed out that Joe is just another nameless type — until he gets the fatal news from his doctor. Then he becomes a person. And a person deserves a name.

That ties in neatly with the narrator’s paradise. She doesn’t like Joe; she could very easily turn her back on him, and who could blame her? Nonetheless, she does him the favour of acting as an interpreter when he needs one. And at the end she accepts his offer of a drink — and a “long afternoon” of conversation she won’t enjoy. It doesn’t matter where they are: by her kindness she is in paradise.

Copyright © 2012 by Sandra Crook
and Bewildering Stories

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