Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: The Short End of the Stick( 02/20/14)
By Christina Banks
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I stand on the porch steps watching my brother bounce down the road in the back of Grandpa’s wagon. Sure, Eli’s a boy and a little older than me, but why does he always get to do exciting things on the farm, while I’m stuck here doing chores with Mom. I’m strong. I can help too.
Mom touches my shoulder and directs me back into the house. Now that spring’s here, she’s determined everything must be organized, scrubbed, and polished. I wonder if we’ll ever be done.
Dust swirls around me as I swing the carpet beater over and over again. I wonder what Eli is doing. This week he helped deliver a colt, Grandpa taught him to rope a calf and use the plow. But best of all, Eli got to eat Grandma’s cookies every day for lunch. I hate being stuck here, left behind from all the fun.
Back in the house, Mom arms me with a bristle brush and a bucket of soapy water. I don’t dare voice my complaint as scrub the floor. Dingy water seeps up my dress from where I kneel. I imagine the fun Eli must be having. Is he planting crops or helping deliver more baby animals? It really isn’t fair that he always gets to go while I have to stay.
The floor dries slowly, but Mom is pleased with my work. She releases me to play, but there isn’t anyone to play with. Even the dog went with Eli to Grandpa’s farm. I sit on the swing under the big tree and wait for my brother to return.
Hours pass before I see a cloud of dust rising from the direction of the farm. Someone is coming. I rush to the gate and wait for Grandpa’s big mare to pull the wagon into the yard. Eli grins from the seat, his hands on the reins. My jaw aches from clenching it so hard. How many times has Mom said Eli wasn’t old enough to drive the wagon?
Eli hands the reins to Grandpa and jumps down. He pulls my braid on his way up to the house. I wave to Grandpa before dashing after my brother. He sits at the table recounting his adventures. Muddy prints trail across the floor to his chair. I place my hands on my hips and glare.
“And then Grandpa showed me how to keep the rows straight and even. He says I’m the best helper he’s ever had.” Eli takes a bite of fresh bread.
“I’m a good helper, too.” I say.
“You are.” Mother says, slicing another piece of bread. “You’ve been very industrious today.”
“But I want to be helpful at the farm. Can’t I go tomorrow, instead of Eli?”
“Grandpa doesn’t need any help from a girl.” Eli scowls at me.
“I don’t think you’re the one to decide that, Eli.” Mother’s face is stormy. “Sarah will go to the farm tomorrow.”
I hardly sleep and am ready for the day before sunrise. I’m going to the farm for an adventure. I’m going to be really helpful.
Eli grumbles as I slide into the seat beside Grandpa. I wonder what we will do today.
My excitement quickly turns to dread as Grandpa hands me a shovel and directs me to the hen house. Today we are removing the waste that’s gathered over the winter months. I hate this job. Why do I get stuck with the gross work? I ask Grandpa and he chuckles.
“Didn’t Eli tell you? He’s been spending his days mucking stalls and hauling manure.”
Eli tricked me.
He’ll be gloating when I get home. I just know it. At least there will be Grandma’s cookies at lunch, unless he fibbed about that too.
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