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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Melody (08/24/06)

TITLE: Chasing Claire
By Jan Ackerson
08/26/06


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Claire was awake, but her eyelids were too heavy and dull to open. She flung one weighted arm toward the middle of the bed: still empty. Tom would never sleep there again—he was honeymooning with Jessica. Younger. Slimmer. Blonder.

She rose and made coffee, a melody buzzing in her ears like a persistent insect. The newspaper contained the usual: Mideast violence, rising gas prices. Claire plodded to the bedroom and pulled on gray sweats.

The song grew louder, crowding out thought. Fourteen notes, over and over. They nearly drowned out the television news. Just as well; the perky newswoman annoyed Claire. Must she always smile?

Although it was Saturday and she had a list of chores, Claire’s leaden arms made housework wearisome. She tried to read, but was stymied by the melody in her head, insistent and unchanging. With a frustrated cry, Claire stomped to her car and drove to a store that sold keyboards and electric guitars.

She sat at a keyboard and attempted to pick out the notes. D-E-D-B, then G-E-D came fairly quickly, but Claire struggled to find the next note. She played the sequence again, then stared at her fingers, willing them to continue.

“Can I help?” The woman’s badge read ANGIE, on a treble staff.

Claire sighed. “It’s this song. I’ve had it in my head all day, and I don’t know what it is. I’m going insane…” She played the seven notes again.

“Oh, I love that song!” Angie sat beside Claire. “Is this it?” She played the entire song, in lovely simple harmony.

Claire listened with closed eyes. When Angie finished, she realized she hadn’t been breathing. “Yes. That’s it. What is it?”

Angie’s eyes sparkled. “I’ve known that hymn forever. It’s ‘Rock of Ages.’”

A hymn! Claire couldn’t have been more surprised if Tom had walked into the store and kissed her. She murmured her thanks and hurried away, driving randomly until the sight of a church caused her to brake suddenly and veer into the parking lot. She sat very still, long-dead memories resurrecting themselves.

Seven years old…summer with Gran…Gran’s crackly singing while she slices cucumbers…patent leather-clad feet swinging from a wooden pew…Mom looking tired and sad when she comes to Gran’s…slapping the Noah’s Ark coloring book from her hands... “Why are you filling her head with this nonsense, Mother?” …Running up the porch steps to see Daddy…he’s gone, he’s never coming back…

Claire had never since been in a church, save for a few awkward weddings where she sat stiffly, the pew pressing into the backs of her knees. Now she found herself inside this church, flipping through a hymnal for “Rock of Ages.” There—number 189.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.


The words made no sense. Claire had an absurd mental picture of Gran, hiding behind a boulder. Nonsense. She gathered her keys and purse and prepared to leave. The hymnal lay open on the pew.

From behind her, a male voice spoke. “They don’t sing that one much any more, do they?”

Claire looked into a pair of smiling gray eyes. “I’m sorry…I was just leaving.”

The man’s gesture took in the entire room. “What’s your hurry? The teeming hordes won’t be here until tomorrow. Why were you looking at ‘Rock of Ages’?”

“I was just chasing down the melody. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.”

“Sounds to me like a melody was chasing you.”

Oh, for Pete’s sake. “Listen, reverend, it’s a pretty song, and you have a pretty church. Let’s just leave it at that, shall we? Don’t bother trying to save me. I’m beyond redemption.”

She stood to sidle past him, and he handed her a card. “If you’re ever being chased again, feel free to run back here.”

Claire shoved the card into her purse and spent the rest of the evening clear-headed. The melody was gone, but some of her heaviness seemed to have left with it. She fell quickly asleep.

When she woke, there was a distinct picture in her mind: Gran in her blue dress, her spotted hands holding a yellowing hymnal…standing on tiptoe to see the words…words that make her miss Mom…Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home…

I am weary, thought Claire. I want to come home. Exasperated and amused by her own folly, she dug in her purse for the card from the gray-eyed pastor. She would call him, she knew, some day soon.


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This article has been read 1424 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Kevin Kindrick08/31/06
And we're all being chased - and often run away so fast.
This reminds me of a friend of mine named Clare - who was also running from God. It's good to know that He never stops chasing us - no matter how long we run.
Thanks for sharing this touching story.

God bless,

Kevin
Sara Harricharan 08/31/06
Very well written, I wish there had been more room to know what happened when Claire went back.
Nancy LaGree09/01/06
This is good. Keep up the good work!
Beth Muehlhausen09/01/06
Wow, this is cool. It's definitely true that songs (melodies, refrains) can come unbidden and stick in our minds! I find myself "hearing" snatches of the score from "The Passion of the Christ" movie - they just show up every now and then, and won't leave.

I like your link with grandmother...that adds the relational touch. And the hope at the end...sigh...just an all-around rewarding read. :-)
Lynda Schultz 09/01/06
I love it! When David picked the men who were to lead worship in his new united kingdom, he described them as "prophets" - music is forthtelling, the ministry of the Word, and the Word does chase us down. Wonderful!
Bonnie Derksen09/01/06
As I pray for those around me who have turned their shoulder away from Jesus, I wonder as to how He, their Shepherd, will bring them back. Your story has given me a delightful and refreshing perspective on another of God's tools. It's not so easy to get rid of the songs that play over and over in our minds!! Thank you for your very well-written story that has lifted my heart and given me another reason to smile. Well done.
Debra Elliott09/02/06
Great story, we have have ran away haven't we at some point in our life....
Amy Michelle Wiley 09/02/06
Oh yes, I have had times when I was struggling with something, only to realize that the hymn I was absentmindely humming contained the answer I sought. Great story!
Brenda Craig09/05/06
Wonderful story! I can't count the times "Words of Worship" waft through my thoughts when I need them most. All though you hinted to her future redemption, I would still love to see it continue. Excellent job!
Lynda Lee Schab 09/05/06
Excellent writing and vivid story-telling. As someone else pointed out, I loved the hope at the end. The added memories helped give a glimpse into Claire's life and the Reverend showing up confirmed God's hand in it. Nicely done.
Venice Kichura09/05/06
Excellent! Perfection! I'm betting this is a winner!
Joanne Malley09/05/06
Love the story and the subtle way you've weaved the lesson. I like it! Great job. :) Jo
Ann Grover09/05/06
You didn't give too much away... there's hope, but room to wonder and ponder. Songs - melodies - can have a powerful influence on our memories... and you used that fact. Convincing dialogue... Good job... as always!
Jen Davis09/05/06
A great story! I liked the ending as you wrote it. To do more in 750 words may have seemed rushed and possibly unrealistic.

Claire's character rang true from beginning to end. A favorite paragraph: "Oh, for Pete's sake..." I liked his response too. Very nice writing.
Teri Wilson09/05/06
Absolutely wonderful, as usual! I love the thought that God chases each and every one of us because we are so precious to Him. Your ending was perfect - hopeful, but not too pat. Excellent writing.
Debbie Sickler09/05/06
I really loved the flash back paragraph's descriptions and how you ended with a call "someday soon". It left it more believable to leave things open ended with hope. Great job overall. Oh, and I liked the pastor having gray eyes too. Nice touch. :) Made me wounder if he was a handsome, single gray eyed pastor...
Joanne Sher 09/05/06
This was so REAL. You really do have a marvelous way of putting us right in the middle of these! I love the hope at the end, and all the little "circumstances" that led her to where she was. Wonderful!
Deborah Bauers09/05/06
I loved the believability of this piece! Coming to Christ is more often a process...I see the process in your story. Great work!
Shari Armstrong 09/05/06
very nice - I love the melody getting stuck in her head :) Been there! Nicely done, nice ending
Sue Dent09/05/06
And I can hear my Grandma leading the singing as she did just before my Grandaddy led the service in their small country church while I sat in the pew and absorbed it all. Thanks for the memory.
Rebecca Livermore09/05/06
This is a beautiful reminder of the powerful way that music never leaves us once it has been embedded in our hearts. Thanks for sharing!
Jeffrey Snell09/06/06
Wonderful. You convey the emptiness and unnamed stress she feels so directly and intimately, I was right next to her before I even realized it. Nice job!
Jan Ross09/06/06
Excellent, as usual! Looks like you may have another winner here! :) Great writing by an extremely talented writer!
T. F. Chezum09/07/06
Excellent, very believable. Great job as usual.
Suzanne R09/07/06
Oh, there are so many good things about this piece. Overall, it is EXCELLENT. I can't add anything to what has been said already. Great work.
Val Clark09/08/06
Love the way the 'Hound of Heaven' keeps hounding! One song and then another. Glad that you left the story open ended but with lashings of hope. yeggy