Trouble In The Shrub
by Patsy Hallum
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A fine day in the neighborhood started with sunny skies, light wind, and a temperature of 72 degrees. The paper boy whistled as he threw the newspapers into the bushes along the street. The street sweeper had been through earlier, leaving his brush marks around the parked cars. The milkman had left his wares on the porches where the papers should have been. If you listened real close, you could hear the Garbage truck about 3 blocks away, gears and metal banging and screeching while emptying containers. The train just over the hill was coming to the crossing at Hill St. blowing the crossing signal on his air horn. The neighbors were rising and turning lights on, automatic sprinkler systems were turning on or off to keep the lawns and flowers green and growing.
Mrs. Reeds yard had been beautifully in bloom all spring. Right now, there were roses, some on bushes, some climbing up trellises or walls. Brilliant reds, yellows, pink mixed together in a very eye pleasing arrangement. Near the sidewalk this year she had put variegated Lantana. She was having trouble keeping it from getting to big for its area, so she was out there trimming it back while it was cool. She was humming hymns, stopping to say something to the flower or the bugs, then resuming the hum.
Mr. Cole was in his yard 2 houses down from Mrs. Reed. He had his wheelbarrow filled with compost and was surrounding his garden plants with it. He would take a shovel full and carefully shake it out around the plant. He was growing tomatoes and peppers in amongst his chrysanthemums, marigolds, and hosta. His dog Gruff, a Beagle, was trying to find gophers and moles, sniffing the yard from side to side.
Woof! Woof! Woof! , Gruff signaled Mr. Cole..G r r r r r .
Mr. Cole looked around at Gruff when he growled. “What is it Gruff? That's not a Mole bark. Show me boy.”
Gruff went up close to the Baby's Breath Shrubbery, barking and growling continually.
Mr. Cole grabbed his shovel to use as a weapon against whatever Gruff had cornered. He advanced carefully towards the shrub. “Who's in there?” He called. “You had better show yourself!”
Mrs. Reed heard him from her yard and hurried down to where he was. “What's wrong?” Mr. Cole motioned her to get back.
“Who ever is in there, better say something, Now!” Mr. Cole called as he took the last 2 steps toward the shrub. He swung his shovel with all his strength, sweeping it through the shrub. Just as the shovel came out, so did a horrible odor. Gruff had found a Skunk!
“WWWHHHUUUUUU” Mr. Cole said. Eyes burning he turned and started running toward the house.
“Stop!” Mrs. Reed shouted. “You don't want to take that smell into the house. You tell me where the hose is. I'll get it here so you can wash your face and Gruff's, while I get soap and rags to help.
“On left end of house, middle.” Mr. Cole stammers as he sank to the ground. “Come here Gruff”
He could hear Gruff whimpering. Gruff scooted with his face to the ground till his head was on Mr. Coles leg. They were both very uncomfortable, smelly, and hurting. Even in their pain, they were there to comfort each other.
“Here,” Mrs. Reed handed the hose to Mr. Cole. “Wash!”
Mrs. Reed ran to her house to get rags and soap to help. The neighbor between them had seen what was going on and came out to see if she could help.
“Just a Minute.”
There was silence while Mrs. Reed gathered supplies...”Mr. Cole and Gruff found a skunk.” can't you smell it?
“No, I can't. I have no sense of smell right now, bad sinus.” Replied Mrs. Snow.
They had arrived back to the forlorn pair. Mr. Cole took the soap and rags and after soaping his face, soaped Gruffs, then rinsed.
“Soap won't do much good.” Mrs. Snow said. “Skunk scent needs acidity to cut it. We need lots of Tomato Juice and maybe some vinegar. White.” While she was talking, Mrs Snow had taken over the hose so Mr. Cole could use both hands to soap and rinse. “Mrs. Reed, I think you need a bath in it too. You were pretty close to the spray area. I will go get a change of clothes for Mr. Cole, then get one for you. I will also get a blanket so you can change out here without embarrassment. Then I will go to the store and buy all the tomato juice I can find and 2 large tubs. One for each of you to soak in. Gruff can get in with Mr. Cole.” She handed the hose to Mrs. Reed and took off without any further ado.
“Boy, I'm glad someone knows what to do. I didn't realize that I would smell too!”
“Yes, Mrs. Snow is a great neighbor. She has helped me a lot since Susan passed away. For awhile I was hard put to take care of myself, much less my yard. She had her son mow and her husband trimmed the edges while she took care of my garden. I wouldn't have made it without them.”
“I am afraid to go look to see if the Skunk is still there..Do you want to?” Mrs. Reed queried.
“No, and I don't think Gruff wants to either.” Gruff still had his head on Mr. Coles leg, moving only when he had to for washing. “We will just let him have the shrub for now. We will have enough trouble getting one dose off of us and our clothes, don't want a double!”
“My thoughts exactly. Lets just kick back, get as comfortable as we can and wait for Mrs. Snow and our bath. Do you like to find shapes in the clouds? I do. Look, there is an angel.” Mrs. Reed said as she pointed to the sky.
“I see it! To the left is a cross! See it?”
“Yes,” She muttered as she looked around. “There, above the cross and to the right..an outline of a face. Could it be Jesus?”
“Uh huh, its Jesus..We are getting a Bible lesson right here..The ministering angel, Holy Spirit, brings peace and knowledge, The Cross, a symbol of Christs death, Then Christ himself, taking all our cares and troubles upon his shoulders so ours can be free to serve him with thanks giving, by telling others about him. With these three things in our life and hearts, we will never go wrong. Do you read your Bible a lot?”
“Well, I should read more, but I try to read a few verses everyday. I also like to read books by Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Hagin and a lot of other people that write about the Bible. I listen to preachers on T.V. I try to attend Sunday School and Church each week. I haven't actually...Oh, Look, There..That's a horse... As I was saying, I haven't actually done anything for the church lately. I used to
help with Womens Ministry, teach kids and stuff like that.”
“I still do. I teach boys age 7 to 9, sing in the choir, Usher. It gets hectic at times, but I love it. Wouldn't change a thing. Would do more if time permitted. I know works will not get you into Heaven without faith and giving your heart and soul to God, I just feel that I am doing what God wants me to do at this time. It is a great feeling.”
“I think I hear Mrs. Snow coming with the Juice and tubs. I think I will have her set me up in my yard. It will be better, cause less talk in the neighborhood, don't you think?”
“Yes, the Bible says for us not to give the appearance of evil, so I guess it would be a good thing. I am sorry I didn't protect you better. Hope I will see you tomorrow and we will both smell better.”
“I'll look forward to it.” Mrs Reed said as she walked to Mrs. Snow's car. “Mrs. Snow, I am going to ask you to set me up in my yard for the bath. Is that too much trouble?”
“No, but it would be easier if you would consent to do it in my yard. Then I could help both of you without walking so far.” She continued to remove stuff from the car as she talked. “Don't touch my car with your clothes please, I don't have enough juice to dip it too.” She laughed as she continued to prepare.
“I'm sorry, I won't, I'll be glad to use your yard, I thank you so much for knowing what to do and, being willing to do it. You are worth your weight in gold. I know God will bless you mightily.”
“He does, every minute of every day. Now, grab your tub and the stuff in it. Put it over by the shed. Grab the hose and drag it over there. Then start opening the juice and pouring it in the tub. I'll be back to hold up your privacy blanket in a minute. With God's help, we can get this done in time to watch Billy Graham.”
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Hi Patsy! How are you? I had to thank for your critique of my story and give you one in return. Anyone who reads the lengthy chapters I write deserves at least one! Suggestions: Does garbage truck need to be capitalized? “keeping it from getting to>too big for its area” “I used to (connect sentence) help with Womens Ministry, teach kids and stuff like that.” Some lines of dialogue should have the speaker mentioned before or after them so the reader can keep track of who is speaking. For this line “Boy, I'm glad someone knows what to do. I didn't realize that I would smell too!” I didn’t know who was saying it. Is it necessary for the neighbors to shower outside? That seems a little awkward (even though they have privacy). The conversation between Mr. Cole and Mrs. Reeds near the close could sound a little more natural. Praise: The part with the skunk was very funny, and I think you could do more with that; make the story a little funnier overall. It felt like it was taken a little too seriously when you have a chance for more humor. Good desriptions of everything. Good message of salvation at the end. I feel like there’s some potential here to make it ever better. Sorry I don’t have more right now. God bless!
You have a good message in there. I personally found the first few paragraphs too descriptive and found myself wanting to skip over all the colors of the flowers. But you brought it in when the dog started barking. you could almost start your story with that paragraph. It alerted me to possible danger and I found myself sitting up straighter. You ended with a nice strong lesson and a good giggle with the line about not having enough juice to dip the car.
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