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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Yellow (11/12/09)

TITLE: Shades of Dignity
By Rachel Phelps
~2nd Place


“Honey, you’re not planning on wearing that to church, are you?”

Allen stopped midway through knotting his tie to observe his wife’s reflection in the mirror. Karen stood with arms akimbo, pantyhose dangling from her right hand, shaking her head at him. His eyes refocused on his own reflection and did a quick scan. Slacks neatly pressed, unstained shirt, a tie that didn’t clash. He blinked.

“Well… yes.”

Karen clicked her tongue. “You can’t be serious. You’re an usher today, remember? You can’t wear that shirt.”

He spread his hands. “It’s clean!”

“And yellow.”

Allen glanced down to confirm. “Yes. Excellent color identification, dear.” Her glare told him the sarcasm was not appreciated. “I think it looks good on me.”

“Remind me to address that later,” she said, dismissing his objection with an eye-roll. “It is my duty to keep you looking your best. Remember, the church board elections aren’t far off.” She stepped closer, picking some miniscule lint from his shoulder with a wrinkled nose. “Where on earth did you get this thing?”

Allen shrugged to avoid the pinching fingers. “Mom gave it to me for Christmas last year, remember?”

Karen’s expression radically changed for a moment before settling back into a rigidly pleasant one. Allen chose to ignore it and returned to tightening his tie.

“Honey…” Karen’s voice was getting strained. She rested her hands on his shoulders and turned him away from the mirror. “Do you remember the last man to wear yellow at our church?”
He stared at her. “You honestly expect me to remember?”

“Simon Fleming, last Easter Sunday.”

Allen winced. “You mean…”

“Yes, the man who swings his hips when he walks and is no longer notified when it’s time to sign up for greeter rotation. Charla was telling me yesterday that he wants to join the witnessing team – can you imagine?”

“Well, at least it’s not as bad as the woman who started coming with Sam and Brenda – the one who wears those miniskirts and leather jackets and all the cheap-looking gold jewellry.”

“Lemon-hair Lisa?”

“That’s the one,” Allen confirmed, quickly steering the subject away from her wardrobe. “I hear she’s asked the pastor about doing hospital rounds during the holidays. She’d probably give some of the patients heart attacks, walking in with Pastor and looking the way she does.”

“I tell you, our church just isn’t like it used to be,” Karen said, sitting on the edge of the bed to put on the hose she still held. “All these newcomers, most of them unchurched and fresh off the streets. It’s getting to where people just don’t care at all about dignity and the way to behave in God’s house.”

She looked up, eyes narrowing at Allen’s shirt again. “For example, deliberately choosing to wear a shirt of a certain puky yellow hue that might give most people the impression that you have… an overly–developed feminine side is hardly a fitting attitude to take on a Sunday morning.”

Allen sighed, pacing away from the mirror. “Not that it matters, but I happen to think it looks fine.”

Karen simpered a little. “Yes, dear, I’m sure you’re manly enough to handle wearing it. I’m just thinking about how much you want to get off the Sunday School board and onto the general church board.”

Allen’s forehead wrinkled as he reached for his suit coat. He held it in front of him rather than putting it on right away. “You really think people will talk about it?”

“Do they talk about Lisa’s miniskirts and platinum hair?”

“Well, yes, but…” Allen couldn’t think of a Sunday-morning-appropriate way to finish that thought. “Don’t you think it’s a little late to change? I’ll barely make it on time as it is.”

“What is more important to you, dear? Getting there on time or dressing appropriately? You have an example to set, after all.”

Allen headed to the closet, loosening his tie with one hand and unbuttoning the shirt with the other. Karen began searching for her heels.

“Did you invite the Kellys to church this week?” she called as she attempted to gracefully get on all fours to check under the bed.

Allen came back out wearing a spotless white shirt. “I thought about it, but then I saw a few beer cans in their recycle bin Thursday and thought better of it.”

“You’re right, of course. We’ll wait until they get that under control. We don’t need any more people like that at our church.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
larry troxell 11/19/09
Powerful message. excellent writing. nice flow. got the message without you saying they were hypocrites.
cindy yarger11/21/09
Well you got my emotions stirring anyway! I'm glad that you left it as it was with no comments on the right or wrong of it all and left the reader to churn through their own response to it. Very good on a subject that should be rehashed over and over until it no longer exists.
Mona Purvis11/25/09
Your writing is clean and flows so well with excellent timing.
The message is clear. I wanted a little more drama or conflict.
Excellent entry.
Sarah Elisabeth 11/25/09
This had so many great lines in it. And the characters you created were so real to life, it's not hard to see a bit of ourselves in them. You have an amazing gift of that.

On a side note, our Pastor (Cowboy Church) says that if there aren't a few trucks in the parking lot on Sunday morning with beer cans thrown in the back, we're not reaching out to enough people ;-)
Barbara Lynn Culler11/26/09
Good food for thought-and sadly, so true.

Congrats on your win!
Dusti (Bramlage) Zarse11/26/09
Wow. How sad. I can imagine Jesus shaking his head.... Excellent dialogue, excellent story, excellent job. Congratulations on your editors choice. Well deserved! You are a gifted writer!
Marita Thelander 11/26/09
I read this yesterday and was going to leave a comment but got seriously distracted. So, I will just say congratulations on your EC, Rachel. WooHoo!!
Diana Dart 11/30/09
Ouch. You have quite the way of putting a message out there, using regular situations with believable characters. Truly great writing and bang on dialogue.
Rita Garcia09/09/11
FANTASTIC! Thanks for the many lessons to be taken to heart!