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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: River (08/31/06)

TITLE: I won't do it!
By Sue Dent


Frustrated sixteen-year old Toby threw his shovel aside. After two hours of scooping mud out of the garage, he’d had it.

“Every year it’s the same thing,” he said to his father who was shoveling muck as well. “The spring rains come, the river rises and floods everything we have.”

The metal blade of the shovel scraped concrete as his father continued to work. “Could be worse,” he said. “If the house weren’t built up high enough to avoid being flooded, we’d be shoveling it out too. And replacing drywall and—”

“Yeah, yeah!” Toby had heard it all before. “But I’m sick of it . . . sick of the blisters, sick of the work! Mostly, I’m just sick of trying to figure out why a man with your education and brains continues to replace and repair when you know the same thing is going to happen again next spring!”

“It’s what I do, Son. And I sure could use your help.”

A slither of defiance surfaced. “No!” Toby said.

His father stopped shoveling. “What was that, Son?”

He was even more assertive the second time around. “No! I won’t do it.”

“But I thought you understood. The river rises and—”

“—and floods the fields leaving behind fertile and rich nutrients so our crops can thrive. Good! Great! Wonderful! But instead of shoveling out and spending all this time cleaning up, why don’t we just move away from the river. Far away! Far, far away.”

His father leaned on his shovel now.

“Toby, you’ll just exchange your troubles for other troubles. They aren’t going to go away. Instead of shoveling mud, you’ll be shoveling debt. Instead of cleaning up, you’ll be wondering why you have nothing to clean. Instead of eating, you’ll be wondering why you have nothing to eat. I know it’s a little clichéish but don’t forget about how green that grass looks on the other side of the fence.”

* * *

Sixteen years passed and Toby was once again shoveling mud out of the very garage he’d shoveled mud out of every spring since that conversation with his father. He was even thinking about the day he dared to challenge what he’d been told to do when he heard the same words echoing around him.

“No! I won’t do it!”

He turned to face his own son, fourteen and very much the same as he was at that age.

“What was that?”

“I said no. I ain’t gonna do it. I’m sick of doing this. Every spring it’s the same thing.”

Toby found his father with his eyes. He was taking a break, leaning against a wall, drinking a glass of water. He said not a word. Just grinned knowingly.

“Son,” Toby started before being cut off.

“Don’t talk to me about the grass being greener either. If I hear that again I think I’m gonna be sick.”

Toby nodded. “Okay, I won’t talk about that.” After all, it didn’t work for him when his father told him either. “Let’s talk about something else.” He turned to his father and winked. “You know that car you and me have been working on.”

Attentive eyes met his. “Yes sir.”

“Well, you know it needs a few more parts before we can get it up and running good.”

Undivided attention now.

“The way I see it, if we have a good crop this year, we can buy those parts and have it looking good for your senior year. Of course, we could move further away from the river, live a little more comfortably but we’d have to sacrifice a little. I’m sure we’d have to sell off just about everything we own, including that car—”

Just like sixteen years ago, the shoveling started all over again.

"Works everytime," he heard his father mutter.

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This article has been read 908 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Paynter09/07/06
LOL! Where do you get your ideas from? I could live a thousand years and I'd never have come up with this story. Loved it.
Donna Haug09/07/06
I love the way the conversation flowed. Good life lesson too.
geoff anderson09/07/06
I lived in a town whose river flooded houses regularly and what was so shocking was that this river was made of water and yet it left behind all this mud!
Your piece has natural dialogue and makes a serious point very gently.
Rita Garcia09/07/06
Wonderful, creative and delightful story! Love it!
Brenda Craig09/08/06
I agree. Where do all these stories come from. (hmm... could it be from Him) This was great and the dialog simply wonderful. A great life lesson here. You never cease to amaze me, that is for sure. Wonderful!!!!
Marilyn Schnepp 09/08/06
Fantastico! Great story, and written extremely well. Couldn't even find one goof-up; and I tried! (smile)
Such reality in the dialogue, and such a great message echoed down through two generations! I loved it...kept me interested from top to bottom. Kudos!
Jan Ackerson 09/10/06
Very good! You've created very believable characters with distinct personalities, in just 750 words. First rate!
Chrissi Dunn09/10/06
Great dialogue. Loved the characters and the idea of history repeating itself.
Joanne Sher 09/10/06
Loved this, Sue! Great dialogue, and I really enjoyed the whole "full circle" issue. Great character development, too!
william price09/10/06
Oh Sue. I really enjoyed this. My eyes watered, I smiled, and just really enjoyed spending time reading your story. I loved it. A very solid, professional, smooth piece of writing. You're one of my favorites. God bless.
Donna Powers 09/11/06
Great story and your dialog and characters rang true! I can easily imagine this being true! Well done!
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/11/06
Exceptionally well told story
terri tiffany09/11/06
What I like - loved the dialogue, very realistic. Felt like I was watching a scene from a movie.
What I might change - nothing at all - well written, Great job!
Kaylee Blake 09/12/06
Ooooh, that's good! Great job with the characterization and the dialougue. That thing about the car...that'd get my attention right quick!
Phyllis Inniss09/12/06
Great stuff. Great writing.
Marty Wellington 09/13/06
Well, I think it's all been said. But, I'll say it again. A wonderful vignette with a great life lesson. Excellent in every way. Blessings, Marty