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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)

TITLE: Wearing Pink Lipstick in a Pine Box...It Will Make You Smile!
By Lisa Harris


The clothes line was in full view outside her bedroom window. Both daughters’ clothes had been washed and hung out to dry in the summer breeze. Junie McClain was almost envious of the dresses moving freely outside while she lay dying. Now, no one, not even the doctor told her for sure she was dying…but she knew. Deep down in her gut she figured since the rheumatic fever stole most of her childhood and then asthma took its hold, her days were numbered a good bit shorter than some. She made up her mind that she didn’t want to be bitter over dying young; she only wanted to know the sweetness of greeting her Maker.

Junie also wanted to write her final wishes… for there were some things that she wanted done and some things that needed saying, but she was just so dreadfully weak. With determination that came only from God himself she picked up pencil and paper and with an unsteady hand wrote out her request…

“Holice... these are my plans I want you to carry out as near as you can. First, I want my sister, Effie to take the children. Holice you work and give Effie the money to feed, dress and school them. Please do all in your power to help her bring them up in the right way and you live before them like a father should. I hope the children will love and help you in every way and when you’re too disabled to work they will give you a home. I hope the children will not give you any trouble and will make good Christian girls... I want you all to meet me in heaven. Please dress me in pink or white for the funeral and please thank everyone who ever helped me during my sickness.”

Not very eloquent, but then Junie was plain and simple. She and Holice were sharecroppers who lived more basic than some. Junie wore plain cotton print dresses, her brown hair was cut short and her bangs held back with a bobby pin. Her smile and quick wit was contagious on her petite frame that was almost too big for her size four feet to carry. Her only adornment was her thin gold wedding band that held no shine against her inner glow.

Junie also decided to die plain. No need to change now. Just a pink or white dress would probably be enough to spruce up the simple pine box she’d be lying in. She wanted Effie to put a tad bit of pink lipstick on her because even if a woman is dead she certainly wants to look her best. Junie was like most women in the area of compliments, she liked getting them on occasion and even though she wouldn’t be able to hear them…she wanted them said nonetheless.

She laid her head back on the soft cotton pillows. She could tell as she gasped for breath that death was minutes away. She looked over and saw her husband Holice, grief already etched in eyes…he was holding their three-year old daughter, Shirley in his arms. Six-year old Julia was standing next to her head.

“Mama,” Julia said, “Do you see angels yet?”

“Not yet honey, but I hear their wings…can you hear the swooshing sound Julia?” Junie barely whispered out.

Julia just stood there looking around trying to see angels or hear their wings.

“Holice,” Junie whispered, “would you and the girls lie beside me; I want to meet Jesus with my family in my arms.”

Holice laid Shirley next to her as Julia also climbed in. He slid next to Junie and held her in his arms.

“Mama,” Julia squealed breathlessly, “I hear the angels wings…do you hear them?”

“Yes baby, I do.”

In that instant, Junie was gone.

Holice began sobbing and when the girls saw this they began to cry also… too young to truly understand the full impact of their heartbreaking loss.

With great sadness, Effie did as promised and dressed Junie who was barely 37 years old in her best white cotton dress. She dabbed a little pink lipstick on her lips and then put just a little on her colorless cheeks to match. Then Junie McClain was gently placed in her simple pine box on August 23, 1942.

“Oh, Junie,” Effie said, “You are the prettiest thing, everyone will say so.”

As Effie looked upon her sister, she almost swore Junie smiled ever-so-slightly.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Fay Ternan06/04/09
Liked the story. If you'd shortened the title to "Pink Lipstick in a Pine Box", the smile would have been more a surprise.
Jan Ackerson 06/04/09
Great job with the setting, both time and place.

Sorry to make another comment about the title, but I think it sets the wrong mood for this quiet and sweet piece. I was expecting humor.

This was lovely, simple, gentle.
diana kay06/06/09
Good poignient peice. I was a bit put out when effie suddenly arrived at the end. She seems somehow to intrude. I also agree that the title does not really work with the peice although it is certainly eye catching
Mildred Sheldon06/07/09
Such a touching story. Thank you for such a tender story. Life does have bitter moments and sweet ones that take your breath away.