‘The Sea Shell’ by Osama Alomar
Read it here in about 1 minute (there are two flash stories on the page – scroll down for ‘The Sea Shell’).
Thinking about use of narrative point of view…
This magical little flash story features an unnamed man walking down a beach in an unnamed land, and finding a sea shell.
The story opens with an omniscient narrator switching between describing the man’s actions (‘He was walking’; ‘He bent down’), and aligning to his point of view (‘enjoying his yearly vacation’; ‘meditating’ on the beauty of sea).
The combination of minimalist language and structure to tell, and sudden, unexpected maximalist descriptions to show, is effective at depicting the man’s wonder at the beauty of nature.
For example, all of the sentences, save one, begin with a pronoun, and most have a verb as the second word (‘He was / He bent / It was / He put / He felt /He wished’). But the sentences move like waves lapping on the shore, with some shorter, and some longer, reaching higher, further in the sand, and becoming more maximalist: ‘ It was a big shell.’; ‘the golden pearls embedded in the creases of the waves far out to sea beneath a sun held up by ecstatic joy.’ The man cannot help but be captivated by the beauty he sees, which renders him poetic.
Here, alliteration mimics the echo of the seashell: ‘enjoy the enchanted echo of the wave’.
Then, mid-paragraph, we switch without warning, and the omniscient narrator aligns to the female shell’s point of view. Now, we have a long sentence containing multiple clauses – an overwhelming list of the pain the man causes the shell by holding her to his ear, because, in a wonderful twist, while the man hears the sea, the shell hears the pain in his soul. The author is Syrian, and based on what the shell experiences, we can count this story as a subtle piece of protest writing: ‘the wailing of the tortured, the cries of mothers who had lost their children, the tears of orphans’.
The final sentence continues this switch, as the man throws the shell back in the water: ‘She dove excitedly into the depths… and he returned to his sea.’ – the man is released, into his sea, as it were, and the shell is released into hers.
This story is beautiful. I’ll be looking out for more of Alomar’s work in future.