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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Whine (05/23/13)

TITLE: Unknown Gifts
By debbie edwards


“Boy y’all snap these beans like a pro!” Grandma shrieked. “Ever think about goin’ to school to cook?”
“Not really Grandma.” Johnny answered and reached in the silver bowl for more beans. “It’s nothing. I’m not good at anything.” Johnny said somberly.
Grandma looked up into the grove of Joshua trees and said,
“I recall when Daddy used to wind up the model “T”truck and make it go-start. After it started to sputter like a frog getting’ too much water then it would whine kinda like. Mama always said daddy done put a scorpion or two in the gas tank for paybacks after it stuck Mrs. Frost’s Dog Clarence. The dog lived ok. Daddy gave it a half a vest bottle of whisky. He figgered that either Clarence would die happy from all that whisky in him or it will chase the milk right out of him. In those days there wuz no vet to care for animals like Clarence. Why we had one year a vet and a doctor in one. As soon as Dr. Buttercup came in from delivering a baby at the Oaks place he was sent out again to deliver a horse being borned breach. That’s how it wuz in those days. It was the depression. We had to take things how they came. It was a whole new way of giving thanks. Daddy had a way with critters. He didn’t see it that way but it was a gift just the same. So, daddy took of his hat, gave thanks to Jesus then picked up the scorpions with his snake pickin’ up tongs and put them down in the gas tank just to get back at them. Mama said they rattled around for a while and the car started to whine ever since.” Grandma popped another raw string bean in her mouth then chewed it slowly. “We was migrant people from the dust bowl in Kansas. The Government swiped our land out from under us while Mama was pregnant with Suzy June. A northern city man came and bought up most of our stuff knowing we’d burn it before the Government got a hold of it. They gave us far less than the furniture and doo dads was worth but it gave us travelin’ money.”
“So how did you prairie folks end up in the desert?” Johnny asked her and reached for beans to snap.
“Well sir.” She answered and played with a skinny string bean. “Daddy couldn’t find work in California. We kids waz hungry. So, we found a shack in the desert we staked claims to. When we wuz settled Daddy drove to the only place open in town besides the tavern. He walked in the drug store and asked who owned the land with the shack. Mrs. Frost wuz jest walkin’ by our car with Clarence when folks said she owned the land. Daddy ran to her and asked her but she folded her arms and said no dust bowl migrant will settle here.” Jest then the scorpions stuck Clarence who let out a holler. Daddy grabbed the flax of whiskey from his pocket and emptied the rest of the bottle down Clarence’s gullet. After his miraculous healing and the droppin’ of scorpions in the gas tank so they wouldn’t bother any more Mrs. Frost give the land to daddy and all the furniture we needed extra plus the supplies to fix the shack.”
“What about the snakes Grandma?” Johnny asked, “You started saying something about the snakes.”
“Oh that.” Grandma giggled. “Well that’s how daddy earned his living. He would catch the snakes and milk the milk. Then he would sell it to labs for research. He made more money doing that than anyone in the depression. When sales wuz low he skinned the snakes to make doo dads to sell as desert souvenirs. So ya see, when ya think ya have no calling in life ya find it in the places you thought weren’t. Oh and the truck with the whine? Well I’m coming to that. Every time Daddy started that car with a rattle and a whine, it reminded him to be thankful to Jesus for teaching him how when you think you have nothin’ to give, you have everything even for the little critters.”

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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/31/13
I absolutely love this story. You did a great job of grabbing my attention right away as my heart hurt for Johnny. I liked how you started right off with the conflict.

You may want to consider using some narrative lines instead of taglines like he said or she shrieked. For example: “It’s nothing. I’m not good at anything.” Johnny hung his head and slumped his shoulders.
Not only can something like that tell the reader who was speaking, but it also shows the reader a picture about Johnny's emotional state.

At times, you did an excellent job of using the slang words in Grandma's dialog. It really develops her character, but then at other times you slip back into a more formal voice. Just try to be consistent, if you leave the g of words like goin', then leave it off other ing words as well. I loved the word wuz and something like fer would be a great fit too.

Also you may want to break the monologue into shorter paragraphs and double space in between so as to not overwhelm the reader and give more white space.

Overall, I think you have a wonderful knack for storytelling. I was totally mesmerized by these charming characters. You had me smiling as I pictured the antics of the dad. You did a nice fresh job of writing on topic too. This was an enjoyable read and left me feeling lighthearted. It's great to remember those older stories and keep them alive for the next generation. Great job.
C D Swanson 05/31/13
What a delightfully entertaining tale! I loved this whole piece and was sorry it had to end...great job.

God Bless~