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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: This Side of Paradise (not about the book) (07/14/11)

TITLE: One Man's Trash, Another Man's Treasure
By sandra hoolihan


Monique pushed against the rim of the toilet to leverage herself up from the floor. Room 1206 of the Banana Bay Resort was the last room on her cleaning schedule, but before leaving the room, she allowed herself a brief pause to gaze at the ocean from the oversized window.

Never would she have imagined that a high rise hotel of this calibre would be on Paradise Island, the rickety island of her ancestry. The resort had initially met with resistance from the residents when a British investor had proposed a colossal vacation property the west side of the island, but his glamorous vision and pledge to bring money and jobs to the struggling nation had convinced the Minister of Tourism to allow the development.

In exchange for the promise of jobs and opportunity, Monique and her fellow citizens had handed the pristine land over for tourist to luxuriate in like unwelcome house guests who had no respect for the home owners. A wrought iron gate served as a gaudy reminder to the locals of their second class status on their own island. Even the hibiscus plants, bougainvillea and Palm trees grew only where they were told along the winding concrete walkways instead of freely and untamed. The once virginal waters of the west end of the island now seemed dressed up like an upper class call-girl. The beach, once quiet and uncrowded, was now covered with water sport vendors and uniformed servers who delivered frozen drinks to weekend visitors.

Now, the closest she could come to enjoying the crystal clear blue waters would be from behind spotless windows that she now cleaned. The beach, once called Taino Beach in honor of the original indian settlers, was now renamed White Sands to evoke a more tranquil state of mind. Monique had spent her childhood days on that beach exploring the shore during low tide gathering her treasures in empty cool whip containers and watching the water glisten as the sun began to set for the day. She would eat the sweet pulp of sea-grapes in the shade of the scrub along the beaches and chase iguanas until they ran to safety high in the trees.

Lost in her thoughts, she barely heard the door open as a grey haired man entered the room.

“Afternoon Sir, I was just finishing up,” she said with a curtsy. “I fancy you are enjoying a beautiful day on this side of Paradise?”

“I’m not enjoying this bloody heat.” he said turning the nob to the air conditioner and plopping down into an upholstered chair.

“Well, November is really the best time of year for the beach. The weather is ideal,” she offered enthusiastically remembering November days spent reading magazines on the cool white sand while sucking the juice from pineapple rinds.

“Well, I certainly don’t care to hear how nice it is going to be six months from now.” he said.

“Of course. I’m sorry. I’ll be out of your way.” At times her national pride got the best of her. The General Manager, Mr. Montford, insisted that the workers be wary of that.

“Tourism is the biggest industry on this island,” he had said in his thick British accent. “ You must remember that the dollars that these guest’s bring will take this island out of poverty. They don’t, however, wan’t your unnecessary chit-chat.”

“Can I get you anything before I head out, Sir,” she said with a shallow bow.

“No, but you can dispose of this piece of trash. I no longer need it and don’t intend of packing it to carry home,” he said handing her a bright red umbrella and a folded up five dollar tip without offering any look in her direction.

“Of course, Sir. Thank you, Sir,” Monique said and quietly exited the room and headed toward the lobby. She had arrived at work at five in the morning and would be back the next day just as early, but for now the idea of heading home filled her mind with pleasant thoughts.

Outside the property in the summertime heat, her aching feed would carry her two more miles to the rusted chain link fence surrounding the crudely built shanty she called home. The entire way she sang her psalms as she walked home in the shade of her new rose colored umbrella.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke07/21/11
This has a nice gentle lilt to it. Nice bits of island history woven in as well.
Juliette Chamberlain-Bond07/24/11
I like this story of what has become a faux paradise.
Monique's memories of the island before it is commercialised is so evocative that one feels the pangs of regret which she is experiencing.
So many beautiful places have been sold short...

'...her aching (feed) feet...'

'At times her national pride got the (best) better of her.'

'They don't, however, (wan't) want you...'

A delightful read despite the echoing sadness.

Noel Mitaxa 07/26/11
I like how you have highlighted the hidden side of tourism, to emphasise the dignity of the local people, and done so in a credible narrative.