Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Don't Cut off Your Nose to Spite Your Face" (without using the actual phrase or litera (02/14/08)
TITLE: The Big Red Button
By Ron Hale
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It was a slow summer afternoon on the front porch when little Jake’s world changed forever. The antique rocker began to crackle as Grandma Callie leaned forward spitting her snuff into the yard, swiping her mouth with her apron, she said, “I hear them Russians have a big red button they can push and missiles will be sent over here to destroy America.” Like a tire spewing air, one could almost hear the innocence seeping from young Jake’s life. He had never thought about death and dying. The thought of people on the other side of the world hating Americans had never entered his realm of reality. Little Jake had never paid serious attention to words like: Atomic bombs, the Cold War, Communism, or radioactive fallout.
Jake’s Mom and Grandma continued shelling butter beans oblivious to the torrent of fear now inundating the young boy’s heart. Hours later, Gladys, Jake’s Mom, scolded him for not eating his supper. He even shied away from eating his favorite dessert – banana pudding. It was a long night. Young Jake had nightmares. The vivid icon of a gigantic red button loomed larger than life in every dream that horrendous night.
Jake awakened in a cold sweat early the next morning. Life seemed different. He rushes into the kitchen to see if his family was still alive. Fortunately he smelled the aroma of stout coffee in the air. His little Granny always made coffee so thick it seemed to ooze. On Jake’s right, he saw the morning newspaper in the air, as his Dad read the front page. Peering over the slightly lowered paper, Jake’s Dad said, “Son, did you sleep well?” The boy burst into tears.
“What’s wrong Jake, what’s the matter with you?” His Father continued asking questions as young Jake cried hysterically. Walter, Jake’s Dad, had never seen his son act like this. He put his right hand on his forehead feeling for fever. Suddenly and intrinsically, the father knew his son was hurting far more deeply than a boo-boo on his knee or elbow. He felt his deep sobbing anguish. But Jake would not talk about his fear.
One month later, Jake heard the squeaky brakes of the school bus stopping outside his house for the first day of school. Jake liked school and hoped the third grade was going to be as enjoyable as the previous year. He sat down next to Billy Boone and noticed him reading a comic book. Billy looks up with a serious expression on his face and said, “Jake, did you know that Captain America just saved America from a Russian missile attack?” Jake was stunned. He quietly sat down and breathed a sigh of relief that Captain America had saved the day. Billy kept reading while Jake sat silently.
Just after lunch, the booming voice of Principal Young startled most students as he shared instructions for the new Civil Defense air-raid drill over the class intercom system. He said, “Attention teachers and students, we will practice the “duck and cover” drill in case of nuclear attack. When you hear the bell, drop to the floor out of line of windows. Bury your face in your arms.” Little Jake froze in fear. The bell rang loudly as befuddled students hit the deck and covered their heads. Several girls started crying. Jake sat motionless. Mrs. Pierce yelled out, “Jake get down! Get down right this minute!” Billy Boone tugged at Jake’s cuffed-up blue jeans from across the aisle and said, “Get down Jake, them Russians might be for real.”
Principal Morgan could be heard again over the intercom system saying, “Attention, obey your teacher. Go to your assigned shelter quietly and quickly.” Students knocked over several desks jumping up from the cool concrete floor. It all seemed too much for little Jake. He sat there and started scratching his arms. It seemed to be the only thing he had control over. He scratched harder and faster. Mrs. Bond grabbed both of Jake’s hands and yelled, “Stop young man! Stop hurting yourself like that!” Blood could be seen on both arms.
Several times a week Jake’s parents or his teacher would catch him scratching his arms until they bled. They had no clue that Jake was one of the early causalities of the Cold War between the two most powerful nations on earth. The school counselor told Jake’s parents, “Your son is overreacting to something and being self-destructive. Why? I don’t know.”
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