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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Measure (01/10/13)

TITLE: Weigh Off-Course!
By Noel Mitaxa
~4th Place


The narrow, winding mountain road clung desperately to the edge of a steep and narrow valley, as it wound its tortuous course downwards to a curved, defiant stone bridge across a river in the village on the valley floor. On the other side of the bridge, from high upstream, the river ceaselessly continued its life-work: cascading over rocks and catching its breath in the deceptive stillness of pools between the rapids, before launching itself onto more rocks below, so that it might subdue the hills and one day make the valley much longer and wider.

After crossing the bridge, the road was flanked by the river and a village green that lay in shade for most of each day, firstly by the hills on its east until late morning, when the spreading branches of oaks and cedars that defined its perimeters took their turn, before handing on the baton of shade duties to the hills on the western flank.

The village was a half-circle of about fifty cottages that lined the narrow lanes which radiated away from a cluster of small shops, an inn and stone church with a yard that led a double-life as the local cemetery. Everyone knew everyone else, so if at any time you did not know what you were doing, everyone else did. And there was never any luxury of a secret arrival or a secret departure in this idyllic setting, for the road out of town clambered its way up the other side of the valley, so travellers were clearly visible long before they arrived and long after they departed.

The valley was also narrow enough to enable travellers on each road to actually converse with each other on their separate journeys.

The strength of this community was the trust that villagers had in each other.

Most of the time.

But now the baker was feeling more than slightly suspicious about the ethics of the butcher, whose shop was right next door. Could this man be cheating him and, quite likely, the whole town? He did not want to complain before he could be sure, but yes, those one-pound cuts of meat were now regularly proving to be a few ounces short.

On the other hand, the butcher had become one of his most regular customers. In fact, he was buying bread each day, even before he displayed any meat for sale. And in small towns reputations cannot be slandered lightly.

The baker’s suspicions increased as he began quietly asking his friends to check the meat they had bought against his scales. Suspicion became hard evidence, so it quickly became time to take a stand. Now, publicly accused the butcher of dishonest trading, he arranged for him to face trial the next week, when the visiting magistrate was due.

The big day came and angry villagers crowded the square as the baker’s damning evidence unfolded before their august visitor, evidence that was corroborated by many other sworn testimonies, which further fuelled the noise and the tension.

The magistrate held up his hand for silence, which reluctantly arrived on the scene. “Before I can give any verdict, I must hear what the butcher has to say.”

Every eye was on the butcher as he stood before the whole town and opened his mouth to speak. “Your honour, I thank you for this opportunity to defend myself, as honestly as I can.

“Each day, for the last three weeks, while waiting to have my broken scales fixed, I have been buying a one-pound loaf of bread as a reliable measure!”

Case dismissed!

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Member Comments
Member Date
Linda Goergen01/17/13
Now that is what I call poetic justice! Loved it! Great detail, great story, so well written! Thumbs up all the way!
Sarah Elisabeth 01/19/13
lol! I imagine the baker will have his scales repaired next...

My only critique was that, while the opening description painted a stunning word picture, I kept looking for clues as to what the story was about, and didn't find any. Maybe if you found a way to hint at the coming controversy (specifically, not in general of everyone knowing everyone's business), that would create tension and interest right from the start and give meaning to the beautiful imagery.

Fun ending, made me smile. Good job!
Danielle King 01/19/13
I walked every step of the way through the first four paragraphs. Your beautiful word pictures drew me in and I was hoping to find a house for sale. I became a bit lost after that because I didn't know where we were heading, but the last line was perfect. I wasn't expecting it.
Lillian Rhoades 01/19/13
It took a while to get there, but when the plot finally arrived, it was worth waiting for.

The title was dead on perfect and the concluding twist reminded me of the speck vs. plank in the Scriptures.
Allison Egley 01/19/13
Hehehe This is cute. I suspected it has something to do with the baker, but wasn't sure where it fit. The only thing is if he was using the baker's pound, wouldn't the baker's scale had read the same? Unless there was another "secret" scale the baker used... Hmmmm....
lynn gipson 01/19/13
You made me want to live in this beautiful town. Your beautiful descriptions of the hills and rivers and valleys took me far away from the metropolitan area I live in.

This is just extraordinary Oz, it reminded me of the characters in Mayberry on the Andy Griffith show.

I felt like I was there. Loved this excellent writing!

God Bless!
Beth LaBuff 01/19/13
Ha! I knew we were in for an exciting story. I so enjoyed the trip over mountain and stream to get to this obscure village, with its resourceful butcher. :) And as usual, your title is a riot (and perfect for this story). You had some great word choices in this! Great work!
Ellen Carr 01/19/13
Great ending! Can a village so perfect stay perfect, with humans involved? Shonky weights were the theme of mine too (as will be revealed when names appear). A most enjoyable read.
Joe Moreland01/20/13
Ooooh! This was so good and so very subtle. You drew us into the trap so well and, like a good magician, hid the surprise from us unti just the perfect moment. You even very subtlely revealed the charactor of the baker to us, ever so slightly so as not to give away the ending. But, when you know how the story turns out, the fact that the baker almost didn't bring his accusation because the butcher had become one of his best customers, you kick yourself for not having figured it out.

As for your wonderful scenes you draw for us with your words - I loved the part about handing of the baton of shadeing and the part about if you didn't know what you were doing, someone else surely did.

Awesome job on this piece. I absolutely love it!
Myrna Noyes01/20/13
Very descriptive writing in this interesting story! I love the clever twist at the end, too, and the important lesson contained! Great job! :)
Bea Edwards 01/21/13
You painted an idyllic setting I wanted to visit then drew me into the drama of accusation. And then wham, the perfect punchline and a grin from ear to ear. Fabulous execution.
C D Swanson 01/22/13
Great detail in this well-written entry. It was entertaining and clever, and I simply adored the ending! Nicely done. Great job with delivering a classic theme with a lively message to boot. Thanks...loved it.

God bless~
Margaret Kearley 01/23/13
Oh,this is so clever and (as others have said) a great unexpected twist at the end, taking us all by surprise! Brilliantly written, a lesson to remember, and right on topic. Thankyou for this.
Loren T. Lowery01/23/13
Clever in every aspect and your writing style only added to the pleasure of reading the story. Great job, Noel. Poetic justice, indeed.
Margaret Kearley 01/24/13
Fantastic Noel! Many congratulations. I loved this one so much that I printed it out for my husband to read! A great story - and a message to remember.
Myrna Noyes01/24/13
CONGRATS, Noel, for your E.C. win this week for your superb piece!! I'm not a bit surprised that you nailed it with this very clever, descriptive story! WAY TO WRITE!!
Loren T. Lowery01/24/13
: ) : ) I knew it! With that O'Henry ending, how could it not place? Great job, Noel, and Congratulations on your EC.
Carolyn Ancell01/24/13
Wonderful story, wonderful suspenseful writing with a heart.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/24/13
Oh man I should have seen the ending coming but it was a delightful surprise. Congratulations and yes for you, A Happy Dance!
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/24/13
Congratulations on your EC for this beautifully descriptive and utterly delightful story.
Joe Moreland01/24/13
Congratulations Max on a very well deserved EC! Great job, once again.
Joe Moreland01/24/13
Sorry, Noel...don't know why I called you Max...other than the fact that your writing reminds me very much of a friend of mine who goes by Max. Anyway, it doesn't change my congratulations - I still meant it for you. :)
Beth LaBuff 01/24/13
Super congrats, Noel! This was weighed in the balance and found to be superb! :)
lynn gipson 01/24/13
Congratulations on you HC and that ever elusive HC! Great, great story!
lynn gipson 01/24/13
I meant that ever elusive EC! Just so excited for you.
C D Swanson 01/25/13
Congrats Noel on your win, and EC! I'm thrilled for you. God bless~
Ellen Carr 01/26/13
Congratulations on your Highly Commended and your EC, Noel. Well-deserved!