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

TITLE: Ms. Clara in 2B
By Debbie Sickler


“You have a lovely garden ma’am. Been meaning to tell you so for quite some time now.” The old woman’s voice startled me as I jabbed my key into the lock of my front door. I had grown accustomed to viewing the silent figure by the door of 2B, as a piece of furniture. Nothing more.

“I beg your pardon?” I pulled Jason’s cap down below his ears and fussed with the collar of Brian’s polo shirt. “I don’t have a garden. The patios here are too small for that. And forgive me for saying so, but if I were to have a garden, how would you know it’s lovely? I always thought you were blind.”

“There are all sorts of gardens ma’am. All sorts.” My neighbor sat rocking slowly in her wooden chair as she spoke her riddles. “I used to have me a wonderful garden, I did. So beautiful. Shoulda spent me some more time enjoying it while I had it. Drunk driver put an end to it though. Put an end to my eyes too.”

“Well, I’m sorry for your loss. Maybe one day you’ll plant another?” I was running late to get Jay to school and was too short on patience to figure out the ramblings of an eighty-year-old blind woman with imaginary gardens.

“My time for gardening has come and gone. There won’t be any more flowers springing up for this old soul. Just make sure you enjoy yours while it lasts. The blooms fade so quickly sometimes. So quickly.”

“Yes, well, I really must be going.” I tried to scoot the boys past her door and down the hall.

I had almost made it to the elevator when she called out. “The names Clara Johnson. Ms. Clara’s fine. You have a lovely day and take care of that garden now.” She continued rocking and staring off into the distance with eyes as clouded as her thinking seemed. I pushed the down button a few extra times without saying another word.

When we returned that afternoon, I was in a foul mood; Brian’s diaper had leaked all over me. I hardly noticed Ms. Clara with all the scolding I was busy doing.

“Bri, when are you ever going to learn to use the potty?” The overstuffed diaper was creating an awful stench and I couldn’t wait to get inside.

“Sounds as though you’ve got your hands full.” The crackle of her voice matched the creaking of her rocker perfectly. I hardly glanced up as I dug around for my keys, which had managed to settle to the bottom of my purse already.

“Oh. It’s this stupid diaper. It leaked all over my new blouse.”

“You have to expect a little dirt if you want to have a garden.”

“Dirt I wouldn’t mind. It’s this fertilizer that’s getting to me.” I managed a smile at my own cleverness. “If this kid would just stop being so dense and catch on. I think he takes after his father. He wasn’t too bright either.”

“Now how on earth will your buds blossom if you pelt them with pebbles like that?” A wry smile spread across Ms. Cara’s wrinkled face.

I had to stop and think about that one for a minute.

“Each one is different. Some will thrive in the bright sun, while others would simply wilt. Some need constant pruning so they won’t snap beneath their own weight. Others are meant to grow free and confident. It is up to the gardener to recognize their seedlings and apply the proper care.”

I still wasn’t sure Ms. Clara was all there, but she was starting to make sense. I looked down at my little ‘garden’ as she called it. They really were great kids and it had been awhile since I’d stopped to admire them.

Keys finally retrieved from my bag, I turned to unlock the door.

“Have a good evenin’ ma’am.”

I paused and looked back across the hall at apartment 2B. “My name’s Meg. You have a good night too Ms. Clara.” I herded the boys through the narrow doorway with a gentle, guiding hand.

Remembering the advice to enjoy my garden while it lasted, I inhaled deeply. Then I remembered Bri’s current potty emergency and regretted it. I rushed him to his changing table, but not without offering up a silent prayer for my wonderful garden, fertilizer and all.

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This article has been read 967 times
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Marilyn Schnepp 09/15/06
Very unique take on the topic "garden" - but very, very good. I liked it and the writing was very good. Enjoyed the read and creativity.
Jan Ross09/16/06
How incredibly creative! I love it, the disguised lessons, the visuals, and even the faint scent of "fertilizer" as I walked through this experience with Meg and her "garden"! Very well done! :)
Jen Davis09/17/06
A well written story and clever take on the topic. You did a good job of characterization and the dialogue. Nicely done.
Donna Haug09/17/06
So cute! I enjoyed reading this story - fertilizer and all. Great reminder to enjoy our children while we have them. Thanks for that!
Amy Michelle Wiley 09/17/06
I love this! Really well done. I saw a couple of minor grammer troubles, but Very creative.
Rita Garcia09/18/06
Wow! You engaged all the senses with a creative and delightful story. The heartwarming message is woven throughout like a lovely ribbon woven through lace.
Alexandra Wilkin09/19/06
Oh I liked this - an imaginative take on 'garden' and a gentle reminder to stop and appreciate what really matters. Good stuff! God bless. xx
Lynda Lee Schab 09/19/06
Very clever and creative entry on topic! I absolutely loved this. Excellent work!
Joanne Sher 09/19/06
So wonderful and creative - I LOVE this take on the topic. Wonderful characterization and analogy. Really enjoyed this!
Teri Wilson09/19/06
Debbie, This is wonderful. Great take on topic and excellent writing. I really enjoyed it.
Rebecca Livermore09/19/06
Very clever take on the subject, and excellent writing. Good job!
Donna Powers 09/19/06
Very nice! A wonderful reminder that our gardens are our gift from God. Thanks for sharing it!
Ann Grover09/19/06
Some minor comma issues, but other than that, a delightful read that captured all the senses! Good writing!
Shari Armstrong 09/19/06
I could so relate to this. It's hard on those crazy days to stop and smell the roses over the fertilizer ;) well done :)
Jan Ackerson 09/19/06
What a clever entry! I enjoyed this a great deal!
Val Clark09/20/06
Delightful entry, very creative take on the topic. Loved the nuances about the loss of Ms Clara's 'garden'. big smile at the end for the deep intake of breath. Phew! :-) yeggy
Cheryl Harrison09/20/06
Very good! I enjoyed this.
Betty Castleberry09/20/06
Unique interpretation of garden. Ms Clara is truly wise, isn't she? I love the way you made her come to life, and also her advice to the young mom. This was a fun read.
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/20/06
I loved this story! The humor was at just the right touch. At first, I had started a piece for "garden" about my children as the garden God gave me to tend, with the seed continuing on to their children. Your thoughts were so very much more creative than mine that I'm glad I changed direction!