‘Memorial Day’ by Peter Cameron

Memorial Day by Peter Cameron, 1983

The magic trick:

Generating a past-present comparison immediately

Today’s holiday special features a nice entry point. A boy, our protagonist, opens the story in the present tense. Ah, but he very quickly references the past. “I am eating my grapefruit with a grapefruit spoon my mother bought last summer…” he says. So, even before the first sentence is complete, we’re already comparing the current situation with the previous summer.

He goes on to relate that anecdote about the grapefruit spoon purchase. There is symbolism and theme galore, if you want to dig in. If not, you can move on. We get a very nice segue: “That was about a year ago. Since then, a lot has changed…” The stage is set. And that’s quite a trick on Cameron’s part.

The selection:

That was about a year ago. Since then, a lot has changed, I think as I pry the grapefruit pulp away from the skin with the serrated edge of the spoon. Since then, my mother has remarried, my father has moved to California, and I have stopped talking. Actually, I talk quite a lot at school, but never at home. I have nothing to say to anyone here.

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