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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Every Dark Cloud has a Silver Lining" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (02/28/08)

TITLE: Emily's Aunt
By Mary Hackett


Everything, but everything was fodder for her pen. Any incident in her life—in the life of anyone she knew—no matter how catastrophic, no matter how joyous; no matter how intimate or how public, was carefully documented through the activities of the characters that poured from her invention. Each novel she wrote was essentially a narrative of her relations, romanticized. She was Emily’s aunt.

Emily’s aunt was an eccentric. She lived alone on a hill, in a mansion painted brilliant green. Despite her seclusion, she always knew what was going on in the life of every member of the family. Her books, for some odd reason that carved lines of puzzlement on the faces of Emily’s family, sold like hotcakes. Each new story she churned out—and there were many—received critical acclaim and, what was more, the love of millions of people. They could somehow relate to the novels and plays of Emily’s aunt.

Emily’s family, on the other hand, were not a bit pleased to observe various incidents from their lives chronicled in such detail for all the world to see. Exasperation grew to alarm as their friends and neighbors recognized each one of them through the magic pen of Emily’s aunt. For Emily’s family was human indeed—far from perfect. Emily’s brothers were scrappy and wild and Emily’s parents seldom argued quietly. Emily herself didn’t always wash behind her ears. And they were rather poor.

When little Bix Benderby down the road asked Emily if it was really true that the blue china platter had a crack through one corner from the time Emily’s mother brought it down on the side of Emily’s father’s head, it was the final straw. A council of war was called. For once, Emily’s parents were unanimously resolved on something.

“We cannot run the risk of offending your aunt,” Emily’s father said. “She has plenty of money and no children of her own. On the other hand, we cannot have each private thing we do on display for the world to see.” Emily’s mother nodded agreement.

“So,” continued Emily’s father, “We will make our lives so boring that she cannot put us in her books at all. We will get along so well that she will have nothing to write about us whatever. We will be models of uprightness. We will not fight. We will always be polite and share everything with each other. We will do this well and thoroughly.” Emily’s brothers looked at each other in dismay. But Emily’s father meant what he said, and they obeyed.

From that day forth, Emily’s family was a model of propriety. They dressed in Sunday clothes and order filled their home. The floors were spotless, the chairs dusted, and the back of Emily’s neck was always clean. No more cracks were put into the blue china platter. They barely spoke at mealtimes, for they were attending to their manners and being careful not to spot the tablecloth with gravy. The boys never fought or ran barefoot. Emily’s family led a stiff, starched, and colorless life.

And then things changed. Emily’s aunt was suddenly taken ill and died. The will was read to her breathless relatives; it revealed that she’d left all her money to her favorite charity. Emily’s father and mother were angry and sad. Depression settled in the air.

But then, as the family gathered around the table that night, Emily’s mother looked up. A gleam was in her eye. It grew into a twinkle, then a mischievous glow. The glow danced from face to face and lit on the blue china platter, set prominently on the kitchen shelf. Emily’s mother tiptoed over to it. Reverently, she took it down. And smashed it.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 03/08/08
Wow! I call this entry a very creative idea, by making "goodness" so unique and boring that Emily's Aunt hasn't anything to write about. Enjoyed the romp through this family's household...and had a pleasant surprise in the end. Nicely done.
Jason Swiney03/08/08
Very creative as mentioned above. Good stuff, and very well written. As a reader I'm not sure about the last two paragraphs (the aunt's death and family's depression being the result of being good). But I liked it, keep submitting good stories!
Joanne Sher 03/09/08
Very very clever - I especially LOVED the voice of this. Creative take on the topic, and your writing is very descriptive.
Edy T Johnson 03/22/08
Hey, Mary, I missed this one! I think Emily's aunt sounds like such a character she should have her own novel. And, such a "novel" idea it would be to see how she romanticizes all the family anecdotes. Perhaps you could even weave a bit of mystery story throughout--it seems made to order.

This is delightful reading, as you know I love everything you write!