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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Time-consuming (02/24/11)

TITLE: "Do-gooder Days"
By Helen Curtis


Lisa kicked at the old rusty tin in an outward display of her inner frustration.

“It’s not fair!” Her cries echoed as she walked under the footbridge to Mrs. McKenzie’s house. Over the years Lisa had heard people use many other terms to describe the old widow’s abode. Hovel, dump and pigsty were some of the less-offensive names. She once heard the church worship leader call it a brothel, but Lisa was never quite certain if this was a literal or figurative description.

And now, here she was being sent there by her mum, on yet another “Christian display of charity.” More like another time-consuming errand her mum couldn’t squeeze into her over-scheduled “do-gooder’ days. And today, of all days, her mum had pounced on her the minute she walked in the door. She knew I had to go to the shops this afternoon. I’ve been talking about buying that scarf for days! Lisa had other scarves, but she’d never seen anything like the scarf gently draped over the mannequin in Foster’s boutique. The intricate pattern had been carefully hand-sewn onto soft, baby-pink angora wool. It was more than just a scarf; it was, in Lisa’s eyes, a work of art by a master craftsman, and she wasn’t the only one to recognise its beauty. There was no doubt by closing it would be adorning the neck of another.

She soon turned into Mrs. McKenzie’s street. Her stomach lurched as she found number 19 and opened the creaky gate. A crumbling cement footpath lead her past weeds resembling small trees and up to a veranda with most of the tiles cracked or missing, and toward the “crazy lady’s” abode. OK Lisa, all you have to do is be polite, give her the food and then get out, fast!


Lisa heard footsteps approach the door, accompanied by the jingling of her mangy silky terrier’s registration tags. One lock, a chain, another deadlock and then, finally, the door creaked to life.

“Hello love! Thanks so much for dropping my shopping around. Stupid foot; gives me grief in this colder weather. Got time for a cuppa?”

On entering Mrs McKenzie’s house Lisa was shocked. It was not the filthy, dank, dungeon-esque lair she and her ignorant friends had unquestioningly believed it to be. It was, in fact, not unlike her own home, with friendly floral patterns and myriad photos along every wall. The aroma of “proper coffee” and freshly baked muffins permeated her senses, and Lisa suddenly felt a deep sense of shame.

“Through here darl.” Lisa’s thoughts returned to this mysterious and so misrepresented lady. How had they gotten it so incredibly wrong? As if reading her thoughts, Mrs McKenzie spoke. “It’s a bit different on the inside, isn’t it? I really should get out and clean up the front, but my bones won’t co-operate with me! Now tell me, do you want chocolate dusting on your cappuccino?” Lisa sat at the ornately carved table, humbly accepting the offerings of her gracious host, completely unprepared for what was about to transpire.

“Lisa, do you believe in the Holy Spirit? I believe in Him and about a week ago he told me I would have a visitor, and that I should use every spare moment to prepare something special for her.” Lisa was more than a little perplexed at this, and held her breath when this lady, surprisingly a little like her own mother, returned from a drawer carrying a parcel wrapped in tissue-paper. “I believe this is for you, Lisa Mitchell.” Mrs McKenzie’s smile beamed as Lisa gently removed the wrapping, barely able to register its contents. “What?! Um, how could you possibly have known about this…and what do you mean ‘prepare’ it…?” Suddenly, Lisa’s heart quickened and she knew she’d discovered the creator of the scarf in Foster’s. But the one she now held, which had been painstakingly fashioned just for her, was exquisite.

“This would have taken you hours to make.” The tears in Lisa’s eyes were full of many emotions; shame for years of judging this beautiful lady, gratitude for her mum’s heartfelt need for social justice, and above all a renewed sense of faith in Jesus Christ.

Mrs McKenzie took a sip of her coffee and smiled. “I learned a long time ago, Lisa, our time will always be consumed; the real question is, do we squander it on earthly pleasures that will not last, or bring nourishment that will last for all of eternity?”

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This article has been read 563 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mary Toll03/04/11
I enjoyed how you lumped society, Lisa, Lisa's mother, and this stranger in this well-written tale. Our enemy, the devil, didn't have a 'prayer' sowing judgement, gossip, or discord, with a God kind of power spreading through town.
diana kay03/05/11
wow! such a clever tale and i loved the way it unfolded I was kept guessing right until the last package opened! you describe the prejudice and the teenage thought processes well. I think a sappier title might have made me turn to this one earlier.
There are so many good entries to beginners this week and this on is defo in my favorites pile :-)
Bonnie Bowden 03/07/11
I really liked this story. I believe too much time is spent on idle gossip and not enough on quality time with people.

I have a feeling you are from the UK, from some of the expressions you used. I think they added more charm to your piece.
Author Unknown03/08/11
if you're not from the UK, you've certainly mastered the art of setting your scene :)

this was great! frankly, I'm starting to get nervous- it seems the beginners aren't so beginnerish anymore. The competition is about to get stiffer :)

I love how you didn't just tell one moment, but you wove in a little backstory, too.

I really enjoyed this.

There are minor things that I would tweak, just to tighten up the story- but really-- this is very well done.

Excellent job!
Rachel Phelps03/09/11
Really, really excellent. the only complaint I would have is that the switch seemeed a bit fast, and the ending a bit too "perfect," but these are somewhat silly things to complain about. Well done.
Loren T. Lowery03/09/11
Thoroughly enjoy reading this story and ending, well, to me, it was perfect - and unexpected which made it that much gooder.
My only critique would be to break up your paragraphs paying attention to when someone is talking and making a transition to another's thoughts or dialogue. Hope this places high.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/15/11
Congratulations for placing 6th in level one!