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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Prosperity (05/11/06)

TITLE: Prosperity, Mississippi
By Rhonda Clark


Beads of sweat rolled down Josiah’s spine one after another as the midday sun bore down. Straightening his stiffened back, he pulled the red handkerchief from his dusty pants and swiped it across his face. Taking a moment, he watched a weather-beaten barge glide down the Mississippi River. He thought how lucky he was to still see the mighty river beyond his acres of cotton fields. Not many people in Prosperity could say that anymore—most of them had sold their plots to the ritzy casinos that now dotted the delta and forever changed the landscape of this once sleepy town. Those folks then turned their dividends into mini-marts, restaurants and antique shops so as to cater to the influx of tourist with nothing more than money to burn. They also couldn’t believe why Josiah was bound and determined to hang onto to a prime piece of land that bordered both the new highway and the river. Everyone kept telling him how he could retire a wealthy man if he’d sell out. The men in the expensive suits from the casinos even told him he could live like a king, buy a new house, drive a fancy car, and travel the world—all he had to do was sign a piece of paper. He just smiled and told them how his house was all he needed, and his old truck got him to all the places necessary; those things just didn’t interest him. So, the men decided to convince him that he would enjoy the luxuries of life, and to prove this, they gave him a free night in one of the local resorts, as well as a dinner show and breakfast on them, plus a hundred dollars in tokens to wager. Josiah agreed to see what all the fuss was over. Disappointment filled his heart as soon as he walked into the door. The flashing lights and constant noise of the casino compounded with the pungent smell of alcohol mixed with cigarette smoke disgusted him. He shook his head in sadness and thought how wasteful to wager hard-earned money on long shots and pipe dreams. The amount of money most people lost here in one night could pay his bank note for months. He pondered this as he rode the elevator to his suite. Once there, he surveyed the plush surroundings, and then lay down on the bed. Flopping from one side to the other, he couldn’t get comfortable. The familiar squeaks from his own bed were absent, as well as the photograph of his sweet Martha on his nightstand. Again, the ache of her loss pierced his soul as he thought how she would have been tickled to be allowed to spend the night in such posh surroundings. This wasn’t him, though, and he immediately checked out of the hotel and went back to his own home. When the townspeople found out he had declined yet another offer, they were furious. They insisted the money could be used to improve schools and build new roads, and the casinos would bring jobs and new families to the area. Josiah would just smile at them. Bending down and raking his hands through the red clay ground, and crumbling a hard, dry, chunk into dust, he understood their anger; he was all for better schools, but after what he had seen that night in the casino, he didn’t want any new roads or new families invading his part of paradise. Watching the dust fly in the breeze, he again gazed out over the wide river as he thought how prosperous this land had been for him. Not only had he raised mounds of cotton, he had also raised a school teacher, engineer, newspaper columnist, and a preacher’s wife. For him, Prosperity was more than a small town on the Mississippi River; rather, it was what he had made of the life God had given him, and from his point of view, that was worth more than any of those casinos could ever profit.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 05/18/06
This is really good stuff. I suggest you put some white space between paragraphs - that lack almost caused me not to read it, and that would have been my loss. Congratulations.
Edy T Johnson 05/20/06
"long shots and pipe dreams" sounds like an intriguing title for future writing! You have a poet's flair for words, for sure! I enjoyed reading this and look forward to discovering the author. God bless your writing!
Helen Paynter05/21/06
Really nicely written, but you DO need to break it into short-ish paragraphs, and space them as Lynda suggests. Such a shame to let your writing talent go undetected becasue the dense page of writing puts the reader off. Keep up the good work!
Jan Ackerson 05/23/06
Here's a suggestion to get rid of that pesky "formatting" problem. If you type in Word, single space, and don't indent. Then be sure to put a double space between each paragraph. Finally, when you're submitting your story, hit "preview" before you hit "submit", and you'll be able to see what your final entry looks like, and add more spaces if needed. Once it's all okay, hit "submit."

Don't be discouraged, please--your writing is very high quality, and you're likely to move up in the levels, once you've got this paragraph thing down pat.
Jacquelyn Horne05/28/07
This is simply fabulous! I don't know how I missed reading it before. Thanks for sharing this encouraging story.