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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)

TITLE: To Speak or Not to Speak
By Kathleen Langridge


“Donna, look at that! I don’t believe it, they have just let their dog off the lead,” Kelly spoke, none too softly.

“Shhhh! They will hear you!”

“They’ll hear me all right, when I go and ask them what they’re playing at? Can’t they see those sheep in that field? Besides the park is clearly posted and they just stepped through a foot bath, for goodness sake!”

“Yes, but I don’t think they will appreciate being reprimanded by an American in their own country. Perhaps someone else will speak to them as they walk through the park.”

Kelly remembered all the empty fields, the sorrow she felt as she looked out the train window travelling from Birmingham to Stockton. Her emotions raged within her cooled only by concern not to act unwisely. Donna was right, her American accent wouldn’t help matters, when she asked the people why they were ignoring the warning, not to let dogs off their lead.

“You know Donna, you could speak to them.”

“Not unless my life depended on it, and it doesn’t. My mother always told me to keep my nose out of other people’s business and life would run more smoothly.”

“I wonder if the farmer who owns those sheep and all the other farmers who have watched their livestock burn on pyres, up and down this country, would agree with you? Foot and Mouth disease is helped to spread by thoughtless acts of people, like that couple. The dogs roam through the fields and pick up the bacteria and carry it to the next field, spreading the disease as they go. Did you see those empty fields as you drove up the motorway? I even saw some burning pyres from the train window and it made me ill.”

“Yes, I saw the empty fields and it made me sad. I thought I saw smoke but I didn’t want to look too closely. Since we haven’t had any cases near us, it hasn’t really hit home, until now. Maybe we should have spoken to those people? I guess, in a way, my life does depend on it because this country cannot afford this great loss of livestock.”

“Not to mention the ban on meat exports to all of Europe. Well, I guess we’d better get back to Scargill House so we can change for tea. If we see that couple with the dog I will speak to them, but kindly, American accent or not,” Kelly said with a smile.

Arriving back at Scargill house Kelly and Donna paused at the gift shop before heading for their room to change. As they left the gift shop Kelly looked out the window and grabbed Donna’s arm.

“Look, isn’t that the couple with the dog, we saw in the park? Come on let’s talk to them. They must be staying on the grounds somewhere.”

Reluctantly, Donna followed Kelly, trying to keep up, as she hurried out the door.

“Pardon me, hello?” Kelly tried to speak loud enough to be heard, without shouting.

The couple stopped and smiled, “Hello, is that an American accent we hear,” said the husband, motioning for the dog to sit.

“Guilty as charged,” Kelly replied smiling. We saw you in the country park this afternoon. I am Kelly Cumming and this is my friend Donna Wood.”

“Its nice to meet you Kelly. Donna, are you an American, too? I am Bill Tavener and this is my wife Jilly.”

“Hello, not me, English born and bred from Worcestershire.”

“Nice to meet both of you. So Kelly, have you flown over just for the conference?”

“No, I live here, I work with an Anglican Church in Old Hill. I was wondering why you let your dog off the lead in the park?”

“Whoa, do you Americans always get straight to the point like that?”

“Sorry, I’m afraid I do, when I am concerned. This Foot and Mouth outbreak is so devastating, and I care. Maybe we can go into the café and have a cup of tea before the evening meal and talk more about the situation?”

“Good idea, Bill let’s put Chester in the cabin. We’ll meet you in 15 minutes, alright,” Jilly asked.

“Great, see you in 15.”

After chatting for over an hour Bill admitted he had acted without thinking and said, “We looked forward to hearing about humility at this conference, but I never imagined that the best lesson would come from an attendee, and an American, at that!”

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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/14/11
This was a delight to read. My sister lived in Belgium a bit ago for about a year and they didn't eat any beef. It's easy to be isolated in the States. I liked how your story educated me without being preachy. And I loved that a "stupid American" could be both wise and courageous. Nicely done!
Cris Cramer04/14/11
Nice story. I spotted a couple of expressions in your American character's dialog that sound more like British-isms to my own American ears, but otherwise I think it's well written.
Catrina Bradley 04/14/11
This is a wonderful story! I learned something AND enjoyed the read. Don't feel that you have to "wrap every thing up" at the end. You could cut the last three paragraphs and let the reader figure out the response, for example. I'm glad I chose this entry to read - great job with this topic!
Kara Dunham 04/14/11
I like the unique idea you wrote about, and how a simple matter of letting a dog roam free could have serious consequences. It was definitely educational.
It almost seems too happy though, as well as a lot of the dialog being very scripted. It had a nice flow to it, and you did a good job at positioning the characters. I think a lot of information can be passed in what is unsaid, so you don't necessarily need to spell everything out.
Seema Bagai 04/23/11
I agree with Kara's comments. This is a unique story and I liked the perspective you chose for the narrative. Try to work on showing rather than telling and don't feel like you need to explain everything in your writing.