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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)

TITLE: Three Sisters
By Sandra Petersen


By the time I ditch my bike near the last garden row, the sun’s rays are retreating behind the stand of pines that surround the old house. My breath puffs frosty in the autumn dusk.

The last time I was in this garden I was fleeing for my life.

Why I choose to visit this place of desperation, I do not know. Perhaps to lay to rest the memories that haunt me. I do not know. But I am drawn to this place once again.

I find the mounds where mammoth zucchini leaves shade the fruit of the vines beneath. In the spring of this year, we had planted in the Native American way. ‘Three Sisters’. I smile at the thought. In the center of each mound, a corn stalk stands sentinel duty. Green and wax beans, dependant upon the stalk for their support, send tendrils toward the sky. Zucchini leaves protect thirsty roots. Each plant supports the others in their growth.

My smile turns to a grimace. Two weeks ago, in this lush portion of the garden, the ‘Sisters’ helped me escape.

Sinking to my knees and closing my eyes, allowing the gigantic leaves to embrace me, I remember.


“Where’s my supper!” I cringed when I heard Jack’s bellow, my hand involuntarily shielding my bruised cheek

Had I missed anything? I scanned the table with frantic eyes.

The bread!

I could hear him hang his work jacket on the hook by the entryway door.

I grabbed a knife from the holder and the loaf of homemade bread from the plastic bag.

Already he was removing his steel-toed boots and scuffing his feet into slippers. I had little time to make up for my forgetfulness. Slice after slice filled the cutting board.

He came from behind without warning. Pain shot through my palm. I stared stupidly at the knife in his hand, at the blood streaming from my hand and staining the kitchen linoleum.

He pushed his face close to mine. “Why isn’t supper ready, woman?”

My gaze traveled from his furious eyes to the knife. His knuckles were turning white from his grip. I sensed that the demons I had prayed against for so long had taken full possession of his faculties.

“Where have you been all day? What have you been doing?” I started to speak but his open hand drove the answer from my lips.

“You’ve been in that garden, haven’t you?”

I trembled and my hand throbbed.

“Praying again, I suppose.” His hand found my bruised cheek. Tears pooled in my eyes.

“What’s the sense of keeping you around, woman? Tell me why you should live!”

Get away. Run while you can. The Lord’s warning was clear and my legs obeyed.

I stumbled from the house and ran toward the garden. Where could I hide? The screen door slammed. He followed me. Huddling under the zucchini leaves, I prayed for invisibility. Close by, I heard Jack swear under his breath, then return to the house. My eyes closed and the Lord granted sleep.

Nearby rustling sounds startled me to wakefulness. I lifted my head above the leaves, wary of any movement. In the milky light of the moon, close to where I lay, a doe raised her head from the lettuce she was nibbling. Flicking her tail, she picked her way toward the end of the row and melted into the brushy darkness beyond. I glanced toward the house before following her example.

That was two weeks ago. I stayed with family members, dreading my husband’s attempts to find me. He never would.

One evening, my husband reacted to the tormenting voices inside his mind. The authorities discovered his body slumped in his favorite armchair, discharged pistol at his side. Strange, how much passion and pain I experienced while he was alive, and how little anguish and sorrow I felt at his death.

My mother, who accompanied me to identify his remains, listened helplessly as afterwards I vented my long-restrained anger. For the first time in months, I could speak my mind without fear. But my heart was not satisfied.

I come to the garden this evening to seek something. As I pray for wisdom, I receive it. There, in the darkness, kneeling by the ‘Three Sisters’, I know what I must do. The words almost threaten to close my throat as I obey.

“Lord,” I whisper, my breath crystallizing in the air, “I choose to forgive.”

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This article has been read 1340 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Kevin Kindrick09/14/06
Truly a touching story. Would that we could all forgive such...cruelty. Would that we could all hear the Lord so clearly.

Thank you, and God bless,

Val Clark09/16/06
Gripping, strong visual story! Those who forgive much will be forgiven much! Stories like this drive me to examine the much smaller injuries and slights I often choose not to forgive. Oh, and thanks for the gardening tip, knew about the corn and beans but not the zuccini! :-) yeggy
Marilyn Schnepp 09/18/06
A Very suspenseful and heart-wrenching story of family violence. My mind always wanders... "what did she see in him originally?; Why did she fall in love with him back When?" However, this story is written very, very well. Good Job.
Betty Castleberry09/19/06
Oh, my goodness. I literally have chills. While this is a bit dark, it has a very powerful message, and it is written with excellence.
Beth Muehlhausen09/19/06
Touching, sad, and yet victorious at the end!

Emotion is well expressed, imagery is clear, and I like the way you introduce the story in the present and then do a flash-back. Effective!
Dennis Fletcher09/19/06
Very well done. I found myself picturing the entire garden just from what you described. I almost felt the pain she must have had and then the anger I know she would have had. At the end, I realized that there are things I need to forgive and things that require me to seek forgiveness for.

Thank you.
Sharlyn Guthrie09/19/06
You did a great job of engaging the reader and describing the garden. The act of forgiveness at the end was very touching. Nice job!
Joanne Sher 09/20/06
Excellent description - so vivid! I felt like I was right there - and what an ending!!! You gave me chills.
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/20/06
Very well written. Only God could provide forgiveness in such a sad situation.
Melanie Kerr 09/20/06
I am still not sure what the “three sisters” were, but I found the main section of your story quite gripping. How sad for both the husband and the wife to live with the tormenting voices!