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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Postcards (08/29/05)

TITLE: Scarlet Embroidery
By Donnah Cole


"Look at this one, Marge. It's Somes Sound...the only natural fjord on the East Coast. It's situated in the middle of Acadia National Park. Isn't it beautiful?" Hillary peered over her spectacles to study her friend's reaction.

Marge's affect was flat.

"Marge?" she rubbed her hand gently. "Don't you think Beth would enjoy this postcard?"

Marge stirred slightly in the overstuffed recliner, but her eyes remained fixed on the paisley adorned carpet. Hillary's eyes brimmed with tears as she stifled the ache in her throat. Silence, the enemy, invaded the great chasm between the two friends.

Their friendship had developed in elementary school and survived the turbulent high school years. Double dating twin brothers resulted in a double wedding, and it was no surprise when they both became pregnant simultaneously and delivered daughters on the same day! How often does that happen? Their husbands had refused respectable jobs elsewhere just so they could live in the same neighborhood and attend the same church. Together, they had faced midlife crises, experienced the joy of grandchildren, and Hillary had comforted Marge when Ralph dropped dead from a heart attack at 54. Marge's depression began after the loss of him, but it catapulted into a death spiral when her only daughter, Beth, was convicted of cocaine trafficking and sentenced to 5 years in the state penitentiary.

Doc Halliburton's diagnosis: A nervous breakdown. His prognosis: Grave ~ no chance of recovery. Hillary had doubted his hurried conclusion...until now ~ Marge lived a nonexistent life.

"Lord... I believe You'll heal Margie," she whispered.

"Margie ~ you've gotta help me out here. It's time to send Beth a beautiful picture so she doesn't have to look at those concrete walls. Don't you think this one will go nicely with the Portland Head Lighthouse we sent last week? Blink your eyes three times if you agree," she pleaded.

Time stood still as Hillary stared at the vacant eyes. She even failed to notice the CNA transporting trays of food down the nursing home hall or the stench of soiled laundry as an orderly pushed it by her chair.

And then it happened...ever so slightly...Marge blinked...one...two...three...

Hillary smiled. "Thank you, Lord."

Hillary's decision was a surprise to herself. Fear had always mandated her indecisiveness, but this time she knew God wanted her to deliver the postcard to Beth. As she stared at the ominous and uninviting prison compound, her confidence vacillated though, and she primed the car's engine preparing to leave. She excused herself with the postman's motto, one that reflected their willingness to risk their lives to deliver the mail ~ rain, sleet, snow, and...criminals.

"I believe their motto includes convicts...Right Lord?" Her fingers drummed the steering wheel as she justified her reasoning.

She wasn't expecting a spiritual nudge.

"The Lord is your helper; Do not fear, What can man do to you?"

Convicted, she whimpered and turned off the sputtering motor.


Sounds of scraping metal, clanking chains, and heinous laughter mixed with the sights of uninspiring walls and ashen ceilings heightened Hillary's fear as she was escorted to Cell Block 789. Her echoing footsteps halted as the female sentinel's guttural voice rattled her skeleton.

"Five minutes max!"

Bars barricaded Hillary from the deplorable conditions of Beth's residence. As her eyes scanned the cubicle, she witnessed wool blankets, a paper-thin pillow, a soiled toilet, and a tiny rectangular window that in all probability allowed sunlight for one hour a day.

Beth lay asleep on the steel cot with a book resting on her chest. Hillary inched closer. The corners of her mouth turned up as she realized the book was the Bible. A full-fledged smile erupted, however, when she noticed the postcards hanging above Beth's head. Sewn together with scarlet thread, they were arranged in the shape of a cross. The beautiful pictures were hidden from view. All Hillary could see was the display of words she and Marge had inscribed: "We love you," "We miss you," We're praying for you." Beth's laborious endeavor to remind herself of her family and God's love seized Hillary's heart.


Marge's fingers caressed the embroidery as a deluge of tears splashed upon her daughter's work of art. Hillary communicated the story of Beth's scarlet thread of atonement so well that it compelled Marge to burst forth singing,

"Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so..."

Doc Halliburton changed his prognosis: Recovered.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Shannon Redmon09/05/05
Uplifting story! Loved the scarlet thread that tied the post cards together in the shape of a cross.
Julianne Jones09/06/05
Lovely story. And who said pictures speak louder than words! It's in the words that there is life and hope. Thanks for sharing.
Julianne Jones09/06/05
Oops, it's 'actions speak louder than words', isn't it? Duh! I was actually thinking of that song "If a picture paints a thousand words." It was the importance of the words on the back of the postcards to Beth that made me think of this.
Jan Ackerson 09/07/05
Very well done! The only change I'd suggest is to trade the ~ for a more conventional punctuation mark. Gripping story...thanks!
Anita Neuman09/07/05
Great story - worth expanding beyond the 750 word limit.
Shari Armstrong 09/10/05
A very well written story.