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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Inner Person (09/09/10)

TITLE: Old Gunk
By DK Landers


Melissa Stover kissed her eleven year-old daughter, Sienna. Melancholy bathed her insides as her daughter left for the weekend with her father. Visitation had been routine since Sienna could walk. She had no memories of her parents together or how she cried when her daddy left. Melissa wondered if he ever regretted that choice. She closed the front door.

Ben came in from watering the vegetable garden. He saw the expression on her face and gave her a hug. “It never gets any easier, does it, honey?” He stroked her long, auburn hair hanging loosely around her shoulders.

“Old gunk,” she said, smiling, “but I’m grateful for my loving husband.”

“You make it easy,” he said, kissing her. “Speaking of old gunk, I need some steel wool to clean the barbecue grill.”

“Under the kitchen sink.” Melissa opened a cupboard, dug out a box and handed it to him. “Thanks for cooking the chicken, hon. Kelli’s always raving about it.”

Kelli Rayburn located her cell phone on the hallway credenza below an over-sized, scroll leaf, gold mirror on the wall. She straightened her new, French blue “Juicy Couture” top, admiring her recent increase in bust size before punching in a phone number.

April answered in two rings. “Hold on, conferencing in Melissa,” Kelli said.

In seconds, the three women were chatting about food for the Saturday afternoon game of Mexican Train--a version of Dominoes Kelli’s parents had learned via their travel club.

“I picked up a prawn platter and coleslaw at Costco,” April said.

“I have a fruit tray from Franco’s Deli,” Kelli said. “Anyone bringing pasta salad?”

“I made a cold penne pasta last night,” Melissa said, laughing at their barbs about her being “such a Martha Stewart”.

“With three hours to kill, how about pedicures?” April's voice faded into the roar of a lawn mower.

Kelli peered outside. “It’s the Barkers,” she said. “They’re across the street doing yard work.”

April raised her voice. “Why would they be mowing Tina Prince’s lawn?”

“Who knows why the Barkers do what they do,” Kelli said, laughing.

“Must be better things to do on Saturday than somebody’s lawn,” April said.

“I haven’t seen Tina since Jim left her,” said Melissa. “I hope she’s alright.”

“Probably embarrassed about Jim’s cheating,” April said. “How about that pedicure girlfriends?”

In ten minutes, they were climbing into Kelli’s shiny black Escalade. The Barkers smiled and waved as they headed for the salon.

April sat in front, examining her cuticles. “Maybe a manicure, too. What do you think of this color, Melissa?” She held up her fingers so her friend could see them from the back seat.

“Too dark for me, but looks like you,” Melissa said, distracted. “I think the Barker’s are generous to help Tina. What Jim did really reeks.”

April shoved Kelli’s shoulder. “You should’ve referred Tina to your surgeon. Maybe Jim wouldn’t have strayed.”

Kelli laughed.

Melissa exhaled loudly. “That’s ridiculous.” She couldn’t make light of Tina’s suffering.

The next morning, Meg Barker opened her door, greeting Melissa with a warm hug. Her rosy cheeks were highlighted by a pink cotton blouse.

They sat in a cozy, yellow breakfast nook with a sunny window. On the table, Meg’s glasses perched on top of and open Bible. Melissa admired a handmade quilt draped over a chair arm.

“Each fabric square came from my late mother’s dresses,” Meg said, smiling. “It’s like draping her arms around me.”

Melissa smiled, and said, “Tina must be grateful for your help yesterday.”

“My gracious,” Meg said. “We are glad to do it. She’s working two jobs and caring for twins.”

“I was once divorced,” Melissa said. “It was the worst time of my life.”

“Did your friends disappear, too?”

Melissa blinked, and then nodded. “People fear getting involved.”

“How did that make you feel?” Meg patted her hand.

“Abandoned by the world.”

Meg nodded. “But not by God. He sent you a loving husband.”

“Yes, an answer to prayer,” Melissa said.

“Sweetie, what’s on your heart?”

“I remember when any gesture of kindness made a big difference in my life. Do you think that I can help Tina?”

1Peter 3:3-4 (New Living Translation) Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

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This article has been read 521 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mildred Sheldon09/16/10
Loved the story. Sometimes God uses painful situations from our lives to reach out to others. Thank you.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/17/10
This is a great story. I was caught a tad off guard by the sudden change in storyline from the backyard to the phone call, but once I realized what was happening I settled back into the story and enjoyed it. There's an important message there too. You did a great job in bringing that out.
Nancy Sullivan 09/17/10
A very timely story and a reminder for your readers to set aside insignificance and reach outside ourselves. Good job.
Sarah Heywood09/18/10
You did an excellent job with this! I suspect that the next big hurdle in Melissa's life will be when she realizes the company of her old friends pales beside her new life in Christ.

I loved this - great job!
Fern Brown09/18/10
None of us really enjoy the heartaches we go through, but we do become more sensitive to others feelings because of them. We need to share what God has brought us through with those who hurt. God bless you.
Christina Banks 09/20/10
I enjoyed this story very much. I was a little distracted by the hops in Point of view, but your message came out loud and clear. Thank you for sharing this with us.
Catrina Bradley 09/20/10
This is wonderful, from beginning to end! A double space or a line to separate the "scenes" would help the reader. You really packed a lot of story into the word count, and a good story at that!
Allison Egley 09/20/10
:) I liked this. You captured the "girlfriend talk" well.

As others have mentioned, a division when you switched to Kelli's point of view would have helped. At first, I thought Kelli was another one of Melissa's daughters.

Great job over all. Keep writing!
Barbara Lynn Culler09/20/10
So very true!Seems those who have already "been there" are the ones who best understand and can help.

I also found it a bit hard at first to follow the plot.
It would help to put a little spacer line inbetween segments.

I like how you touched on the shallowness of vanity.
Rachel Phelps09/20/10
The story has an excellent message. I love it. Always look for ways to tighten your story. I felt as if the main thrust - the contrast between the two groups of characters, could have stronger if more time could have been devoted to the Barkers. Awesome creativity.
Kristi Peifer09/20/10
I think most of my sentiments have already been covered by the other comments. Nice message.

The only other thing I saw and questioned was "The Barkers smiled and waved as they headed for the salon." I had to read that again. It reads like the Barkers themselves are going to the salon, when it was really the girlfriends. I knew what you meant because of the context, though.

I'm glad you submitted this!
Loren T. Lowery09/21/10
You did a wonderful job of capturing the dialogue (or at least what I expect it to be like)of some "catty", gossipy women. I was so caught up in the story as it progress, I wasn't too sure it was headed, but then you reeled it in with a sincere heart-felt conclusion that made absolute sense.
Brenda Rice 09/21/10
You wrote about real life and real people even if this is fiction. I liked it and I followed you though I had to think about at certain points. I knew what you were saying and who was saying it, but as already stated it could have been clearer. This is a creative piece that packs a puunch. Good work.
Kate Oliver Webb 09/21/10
A really great read here, with a powerful message. I agree with the others: giving more identity to the speakers and changes of scene would have cleared up the wee bit of confusion I felt. However, all in all, a great story, and I enjoyed being drawn into it, and loved the positive ending.