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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Park (10/25/12)

TITLE: Wha'? Huh? Can Anyone Answer Me, Please?
By Mary Knoll Santos
10/31/12


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I've done it again! The thousandth! How embarrassing! How can I be so stupid. At least everyone thinks so.

Like me, at your most inhibiting stretch for knowledge, does the thought of humiliation for asking urges you to bury your head and throw the trowel forever? Wishing that everyone forgets the incident of you being the central joke?

You keep this inside, “Will someone help me, please? Why is it that I'm the only one, here, who doesn't know a thing?”

Why is it that you can't question?

I eye the man-in-question.

David had prompted my husband to arrange a meeting. He had asked for an evening in the week. And I, the mom-of-the-bride-to-be feel a little way too human.

This new idea. What? My first child getting married? Peripheries circling my universe begin to change.

Think with me for a minute. This young man is going ask for my daughter’s hand in marriage! My baby daughter!

Why not a grand leg-o’-lamb roast for a picnic at the park on Saturday?

-----

I fork my salads into my mouth.

I attempt to look for words. I look at my feet. Yeah, they’ll fit into my mouth. So, what the heck!

“So... what d’you think of us? D’you like us?”

“Oh, you’re terrible!” Mrs. Hently cracks up a joke.

I like her. I decide.

After desserts, teas and cappuccinos, my husband begins, “We gather here to formally announce, David’s ‘honourable intentions’ for our Jamie.”

I place my hand on my husband’s. He eases. I try to contain myself with some questions reserved for later.

“In our Eastern culture, a man formally asks a woman for her hand in marriage from her parents. Everyone’s here. Uncles and aunts, and cousins. They’ve drove up all the way to see this.”


“U-humph” David and his parents cough.

I think they’re nervous.

They’ll get used to us, I hope.

I never knew David--whiter than his already pale Caucasian color. Red rushes shade his face.

“Your shoes on, David? You can make a quick run out in the woods, out the gate.” David’s mom jokes.

That’s funny.

My husband takes in for the ride, “You can back out, David.”

“No. I’ll never! That’s inconceicvable!” His fingers whisk pretend crumbs off the table.

Hmmm. He’s okay. I create a point-system in my head.

“So, David. Will you declare your intentions for our daughter?”

Suddenly, he blocks out. His mouth won’t open. I wonder. Is this some Western look-down churchy-thing against our Eastern tradition?”

We’re not asking for dowry! But he wants Jamie!

The sun’s right. The sky’s blue. For crying out loud. I’ll go straight to the point. Maybe, that will frank him up a bit.

“David, what do you wish to do with our Jamie?”

“Mom!” My children jettison in whiny tones.

“When is the wedding?”

I’m a bit nervous now.

“Oh, Mom!”

“Wha’...?” Blush isn’t my color.

Mr. Hently nearly opens his mouth. But clams up.

“You wanna’ say something, Stephen?”

“Nah, nah...I might say too much.”

“Say it! Your opinion counts. For heaven’s sake!”

“Mom!”

Hmmm I can market this story!

“You can breathe now, David. I give up.”

“David and I have talked about this.” My husband tries to help.

“Oh, yeah? And leave your wife out?”

Hasn't anyone researched about cross-cultural marriages? So they can fittingly respond to what might surprise them--by some "ridiculous question" as mine, confronting the issue?

“I think, I’ve asked the silliest questions--simply because I want to know.”

Everyone thinks that I’m dumb, a commando trying to pick up a fight.

I begin to dissuade my mind in their line of thinking—that I’m an embarrassment to my family!

If I can only speak up to let them know that I’m not starting a hate-war.
I just want truth!

The smoldering coals sputter smoke. Cold shoulders. Stupidity sizzling in my face.

“Uhm, lamb sandwiches, anyone?”

Aunt Esmeralda butts in, "Children, let your Mom tok as she wishes. If you weel not behave nicely, go have a wok at da lake. Da Hently’s are about to supply us wid information wer ol dying to heeerr! Weel you, David, get to da point? Do you love Jamie, or not?”

“Yes, I do love her. Eversince Jamie’s Dad gave me permission to enter courtship with her, I’ve been blessed more. And I do want to marry Jamie.”

“Ask Jamie’s hand in marriage then! Say it!”

“Now, will you pleeese pass da meeeet?”


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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/02/12
This is an interesting story that kept me in smiles throughout, except for the occasional empathetic prickle of embarrassment. You did a great job of building the characters.

I have just a bit of red ink. In the beginning you switch from the first person and you begin to talk directly to the reader. Instead of doing that, I think it would pull the reader in more and let the reader know the MC better if instead of: You keep this inside,
Change it to: I keep this inside. Then you can even show the reader more of the angst of the MC with something like: I nibble on my lower lip as I swallow. I was sure everyone in the room could hear me gulping.
The other bit of red ink is that it is a tad weak on topic. I realize the scene took place in the park but it could have taken place anywhere. You want the park to be the highlight of the story.

Now, red ink aside, I think you tackled a difficult subject. There can be huge differences from the Eastern cultures and the Western ones. You did a grand job of highlighting that. I also really enjoyed the kids crying out Mom! I could almost see them squirming in their seats while bits of red speckled their cheeks. I also like the heroine of the story. I'd love to see more stories of this spunky aunt. You did a nice job on this. Keep writing as I have no doubt that God has huge plans for your stories.
Marie Hearty 11/02/12
I enjoyed your story. You did a good job with the characters and I could picture them wondering what was going to happen next. Good job.

God bless!