The Year-Ago You

Fall Flash Fiction Contest Winner

by Christine Stroik Stocke

A year ago this would have bugged you. You wouldn’t have gathered all of your morning things, much less carried them fifty feet, down the walk, through the gate, over the road to the beach. There isn’t a desk, much less a coaster for your coffee. And let’s say you had made it all the way without spilling, what then? Then the sand’s always at least a little wet. Then there are always some bugs. There’s always that morning breeze, and you, of course, didn’t have a third arm to carry a jacket.

This morning I realized something I hadn’t perched quite high enough up the sand slope. I also realized that would have been the end of it for you. When that big wave rushed up unexpectedly, wetted your pages, soiled your dress, mixed your coffee with the ocean, that, most certainly, would have been it. You would have stomped back to the house, something about your spoiled morning. Me, I’m writing about the way the sand spreads out below my ass when I wiggle. I don’t flinch when the waves boom, don’t so much as look up when I hear the white water whispering its way up the shore, which is why this message will not be in a bottle. You, the last-year you, the you who started all these pages in the dry quiet kitchen, this morning, you were swept out to sea.


If you enjoyed this story, try these:

"Memories Like Heat" by D.M. Hedlund

"Mango Tree" by Anne Marie Audrey

"Playing Alive" by Elena Martin


Christine grew up fishing on a small lake in Wisconsin. She didn’t become an architect, because someone told her it involved a lot of calculus. So now, she observes. She takes notes. She asks inappropriate questions. Christine received her bachelor’s degree in English from Washington University in St. Louis and her master’s from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Other works by Christine can be found in numerous literary journals, including the Rio Grande Review, Wisconsin People & Ideas, Structo, and the Best New Poets anthology. You can follow Christine online at She currently lives and works in The Netherlands.

About the TBL's Quarterly Flash Fiction Competition:

Four times a year (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall), Tethered by Letter hosts a global flash fiction competition. Focusing on writers with engaging stories, vivid characters, and fresh perspectives, TBL publishes the very best flash fictions in our quarterly journal.

If you are interested in submitting, there is always a contest open. Check out our current competitions!

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0 #12 RE: "The Year-Ago You" by Christine Stroik StockeChristine PS Stocke 2014-06-17 08:27

Thanks for the kind words. I really find that I write comfortably in the second person. And I feel like folks either love it or hate it, so I'm glad you're on the good side. ;)

0 #11 RE: "The Year-Ago You" by Christine Stroik Stockezoramcm 2014-06-15 01:52
Hi Christine!
I just came across this. Pretty sure I'd read it before becoming an intern. I'm surprised I didn't comment then, but it's a wonderful story, so I thought I should say that now. I really love the transitions from I to you.
+1 #10 RE: "The Year-Ago You" by Christine Stroik Stockebputtroff 2014-01-29 18:05
Powerful. I love when a minute piece of writing unleashes a mountain of thoughts, emotions, memories, and connections. Beautiful!
0 #9 RE: "The Year-Ago You" by Christine Stroik StockeLilyTaylor 2014-01-23 00:54
THE LAST SENTENCE! Good gracious, I loved this. It makes me want to just sit down a write, just to give the next-year me a lot to live up to! Congrats, and this was wonderful!
0 #8 Re-reading with new eyesEssie 2014-01-10 19:14
Wow. I love how stories are so organic that their meaning can change depending on the person, perspective, or even the day. Re-reading this flash fiction today, I don't even know how I got what I got out of it last time! I didn't even catch that the narrator is talking to her/his old self. Nicely done! I love it even more this time around, if such a thing is possible.

Also, I completely agree with Keren's comments. All the way.
+1 #7 RE: "The Year-Ago You" by Christine Stroik StockeBrokenSticks12 2014-01-09 06:25
The end of this story is just brutal. Well done.
+2 #6 RE: "The Year-Ago You" by Christine Stroik StockeKeren Toledano 2014-01-07 16:26
This story encapsulates the meaning of flash fiction, the capture of a single moment that spans countless others, the way that every millisecond of time encases the ones that came before. One year is one thousand, the time it takes to move from the house to the shore. I have that feeling when reading this. Good work!
0 #5 RE: "The Year-Ago You" by Christine Stroik StockeTHarding 2013-12-11 23:30
I've always loved this flash fiction, for the first moment I read it. Wonderful use of narrative structure!
+1 #4 Character BackgroundsSkyTy 2013-10-08 23:49
Hey guys! I really enjoyed this story too. I remember my creative writing teachers saying that an author has to know everything about a character, even if we are only shown the smallest moment, in order for the character to feel real. I
think you really get this from this piece. Even though we get such a small look at the narrator, she feels complete. I feel the years that led to her change whispering in the background.

Really great stuff!
+3 #3 The Opportunity Online Writing AffordsChristine PS Stocke 2013-10-07 11:53
Thank you for the feedback. As you probably both know, writers don't always get to be so directly connected with folks who are reading them. I appreciate this forum and what you each took from the piece.