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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Bloom (11/22/12)

TITLE: Forgiveness
By Addie Pleasance
11/28/12
~3rd Place


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My Grandpa Lee was a prodigious pray-er; he could turn Sunday grace into a three-point sermon while the gravy was curdling in its little boat. Holidays were even worse, with the whole family as his congregation around the supper table—he’d evangelize with his eyes closed and his face to heaven, lest one of us had strayed from the fold. My cousins and I always wrangled for Uncle Donald to pray (we all remembered his “I reckon we’re thankful dear Lord amen” followed by a lunge at the turkey drumstick), but Grandpa wasn’t about to let that sacrilege happen twice.

On Easter Sunday of 1962, I tugged at the itchy collar of my hideous dress while Grandpa pontificated. Daddy had held out the dress for me that morning, an apology in his eyes; he knew I’d rather wear anything but a dress, and this one was particularly odious. He’d done his best picking it out—my mama died when I was born, and I lived in overalls, mostly—but the dress had puffed sleeves big enough to hide entire hams, and it was covered in pink cabbage roses.

When Grandpa’s prayer rounded into second base, I sighed and peeked across the table where my prissy cousins, Ella and Della, were sitting. I wanted to gauge the distance from them to Grandma’s buttery rolls and to calculate the speed needed to beat them to the basket. Ella was peeking, too; she pointed to my huge sleeves and stuck her tongue out at me, then folded her hands piously in her lap. She and Della were wearing frocks with pretty sprigs of lavender and yellow. I yanked my collar again and scowled at my cousin.

Grandpa droned on, alarming me with “Thou hast said, O Lord, that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.” My understanding of Easter was that of an eight-year-old; there was church, a big dinner, sickly-sweet smelling lilies. Bunnies were mysteriously involved. I was surprised at Grandpa’s juxtaposition of forgiveness and blood. I had a few secrets from my Daddy (I’d been experimenting with various forms of cussing at recess), and I didn’t like to think that my blood would be required to gain his forgiveness.

I thought about blood all through that meal. “You okay, Cooter?” asked Daddy, and I nodded, wondering how much blood would be required to forgive a mild cuss. When the eating was finished and the family separated by sex, I followed Daddy, unwilling to spend the afternoon in the company of Ella and Della.

Uncle Donald had set up some sawhorses and tin cans in Grandpa’s back yard. My boy cousins were to have target practice while the girls did something feminine in the house (I had no idea what, as their ways were mysterious to me. Something that involved lace and perfume and tea, I supposed). Uncle Donald smiled when he saw me. “Get outta that silly dress, Cooter,” he said. “Junior, fetch your cousin some shootin’ clothes.”

Once suitably attired, I watched Junior and his brother, Buddy, pick off the cans with their pellet guns, my fingers itching for a turn. After a bit, Uncle Donald summoned me over and gave me Buddy’s gun. “Aim for that big tomato juice can, Cooter,” he said.

The can was on the closest sawhorse and I was momentarily insulted, but I shed my pique when I realized how hard it would be to hit it, even that close. I was unwilling to look like a silly girl while Junior and Buddy were watching, and I wanted desperately not to miss. I raised the gun.

Even now, when I remember that moment, I am amazed at the spectacular timing of the next few events. A large white bird—I’ve never figured out what kind of bird it was, perhaps an albino crow—flapped down from the sky and landed on the sawhorse…I pulled the trigger…my Daddy called out, “Cooter!”…and there appeared on the bird’s breast an extravagant red bloom as it fluttered its wings once, twice, then toppled to the grass.

I threw Buddy’s gun to the ground and ran to the white bird, crying, horrified at the terrible crimson flower on its breast. My grandfather’s words about the shedding of blood rang in my ears. “I’m sorry, Daddy!” I shouted. “I’m sorry!”

Daddy ran to me and took me in his arms. Uncle Donald and Junior and Buddy came, too, and stared at the dead bird. Someone whistled, a low hoo-boy.

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Member Comments
Member Date
lynn gipson 11/30/12
My Gracious! You do know how to spin a tale! You took me back to the days of growing up in the country, and put a big smile on my face. (except for the bird). Thank you for sharing this excellent piece of writing. This is the kind that makes you wish it was a book!

God Bless, Lynn
Francy Judge11/30/12
Awesome story! You have such depth to the characters that I could see this developed into a novel. I love the funny details like Grandpa's prayers compared to Uncle Donald's. You are a talented writer.
Loren T. Lowery11/30/12
Wonderfully woven tale in the vein of Capote or Faulkner. The characters, the setting the foreshadowing all leads to something more waiting to unfold.
Bea Edwards 11/30/12
Interesting tale to be sure. You spun a good ole fashioned yarn. But I'm not so sure the topic was highlighted well.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/30/12
Wow! You have packed so much into this piece. I am super impressed. Your subtle sense of humor delighted me from the description of Ella and Della (love those names, I'm not sure if they are real people but if so it speaks volumes about the parents)to the mental picture of hiding a ham in the dress. I wasn't sure how you were going to bring the topic in, I thought maybe the young MC was blossoming into adulthood) but then when the bird entered the scene I thought it was a brilliant and creative take on the topic. My heart ached for the little MC and my mind went back to the first time I had killed an animal with my car. The scene is still fresh in my mind. I have to applaud your efforts on this piece. One way I can tell a piece is well-written is if the story sticks with me. I have no doubt that this story will be floating around inside of me for some time. Kudos.
Noel Mitaxa 12/03/12
Strong characters and vivid descriptions, all infused in a very evocative story.
Danielle King 12/03/12
I thought you'd forgotten the topic until the bird dropped by--(or dropped dead!)Your stories captivate me each week but I think this one tops them all with its attention to detail and creativity. Another winner for sure.
Allison Egley 12/03/12
Wow. This is amazing. There is so much here in so few words. I hope the MC (fictional or otherwise) found the answers to her questions.

By the way, I'm pretty sure I also owned that dress...
Eddie Snipes12/04/12
Nice article. Remind me not to be downrange when you have a gun :) Very descriptive article. I could picture being there!
Camille (C D) Swanson 12/04/12
This reads like the beginning of an old fashioned "literary classic." I almost expected it to go on getting lost in the moment!

Great depth to this multi layered descriptive piece. I felt so sorry for the bird and the young MC but realized that was the impact of the story overall. Nicely done.

God Bless~
Leola Ogle 12/06/12
Congratulations, Addie! As usual, reading your entries is a pleasure.
Camille (C D) Swanson 12/06/12
Congrats! Blessings~
Beth LaBuff 12/06/12
This is a wonderful story. I loved how an 8-year-old mind tried to sort out spiritual truths. Congrats on your EC.