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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/03/08)

TITLE: January Thaw
By JoAnne Potter


Snow melted and dripped lazily from the garage roof onto Ann’s head as she broke up the last islands of ice in the driveway. This January thaw, so rare in a usually deep, frigid Wisconsin winter, gave her an opportunity to clear away much of the snow and ice that had piled up since November. More snow would inevitably fall before spring came for good and the work she did now, while a pale, almost-warm sun blessed it, would make later shoveling easier.

Her ice-breaking this day conformed to Ann’s pattern, her habit of keeping one vigilant eye on today and the other on an easier, well-ordered future. Her regular daily activities usually reflected this disciplined prudence: scheduled medical screens that catch illness early, oil changes in her car every 3000 miles to avoid engine problems later, or the purchase of food staples on sale before she needed them. As she worked, Ann mentally walked through her life’s resulting ease. In living this way, she had reaped good health, trouble-free transportation, and food enough for unexpected guests. Carrying the shovel back to her garden shed, she smiled.

Inside, a cup of hot chocolate warming her hands, she stood at the window looking at the careful result of her work. All appeared well and in order, but, just for an instant, an unfamiliar tug took hold. She felt something grab her, then the tidy scene before her shifted and faded, shedding its contours, separating into two dimensions rather than three. Suddenly flat, the carefully piled snow took on new features, replacing the white, icy hillocks with lighthearted faces opened in wide laughter. It took Ann a moment to recognize them as the children who used to come to sled while she shoveled. These faces wore the same inviting grins whose play she’d repeatedly refused until invitations eventually stopped coming.

As the faces faded, the tug gripped her again, this time harder. Another vision swam up. This time, the vacant passenger seat in her perfectly operating car yawned in an empty echo. Again, a hard, twisting pull grabbed her and she remembered night after night of empty chairs around her plentiful table, and shadows of guests never invited.

She reeled as from blows. Nothing looked familiar any more. Neat piles of snow searched for joy. Safe transportation reached for heart. Uneaten meals cried for love. Ann felt a final wrenching kick just below her ribs and her cup crashed to the floor only a moment before she did. At last, her visions, her plans, her ordered, easy life, melted into unquenchable flame, finally tasting eternity.

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This article has been read 579 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie Wistrom01/10/08
Not sure how I'm feeling about this, I was happily enjoying her preparedness and then felt bad that her life had been so empty of love.
Great writing, you pulled some heart strings here!
Helen Paynter01/10/08
Wow - you really subverted the message! Interesting story, and a real kick at the end.
Temple Miller01/10/08
You caught me in your trap. Good job. I was unprepared for the reversal. It really got your point across. Nice work.
Jan Ackerson 01/11/08
Almost unbearably sad--and very good writing.
c clemons01/15/08
Good job and good writing. Very good message. Her prepardness was only in the natural.
Holly Westefeld01/17/08
Congratulations! This was my personal favorite in Intermediate this week.
Paula Titus 01/18/08
I just read this today, and I must say it absolutely capitvatived me. Beautiful writing.