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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Craft (as in handcraft) (02/08/07)

TITLE: Patricia
By julie wood



“I’m Mrs. Bruner, your new teacher. And what’s your name, little girl?”

“I’m Patricia!”

“Welcome to Sunday school, Patricia.”

I’m glowing when Mrs. Bruner calls me that. My new name magically transforms me. Patricia’s hair glitters with golden fairy dust. Her voice, when she sings, is a sparkly silver ribbon. She leaps and twirls about the room with help from filmy wings. And beneath her flying fingers, the crafts bounce together by themselves.

Mine do not. My crafts are glue sliming my fingers like snail-ooze. Scissors slashing leak-holes straight through Noah’s Ark. Crayons leaping outside the lines of Joseph’s rainbow-colored coat. They are smudges from erasers that turn everything stone-gray. Tulip bulbs that sprout nothing but tumbling dirt. And paints that splatter everything except my drawing paper.

But my new teacher, Mrs. Bruner, doesn’t need to know that. Nor does she need to know the many things that frighten me. The bathroom fan that roars like a rudely-wakened lion whenever anyone switches on the light. Ruthie’s bossy bellow when I accidentally slip across to her side of the room: “Get out of my house!” The bangs that punch my ears whenever Stewart pounds the piano. The third finger missing from the left hand of Mrs. Pringle, my old teacher.

Mrs. Bruner still has all ten of her fingers. She uses them to pull Stewart away from the piano, to reprimand Ruthie when she grows too demanding, to flick off the bathroom light and send that lion back into slumber. And right now she’s using them to show us how to make a cross—by gluing one Popsicle stick sideways against another.

Ruthie nudges who she thinks is me. “That’s wrong, dummy! You made an X, not a cross!”

I would normally shrink into myself, tears burning my eyes as they rolled out to snake down my cheeks. But today, I remember, I’m Patricia. “It’s not either one,” I say calmly. “It’s a spider. A spider with only four legs.”

“Oooooh! You’re not s’posed to make that! I’m telling!” Ruthie’s hand is spinning through the air. “Mrs. Bruner, Mrs. Bruner…”

“Just a minute, Ruthie. Wait your turn, please…. Johnny, that’s a terrific job!” Mrs. Bruner is distracted by Eric eating glue, and next she must stop Stewart from smearing it all over Bobby. She never does get round to me. Today I am Patricia, and the spider clutched inside my hands remains something right and beautiful.

It’s Memory Verse Time. “Let’s recite it all together, boys and girls. ‘I was glad when they said unto me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord…”’

Up goes my hand just as soon as we’ve all finished reciting.

“Yes, Patricia?”

“What does God do with all that lettuce?”

Mrs. Bruner frowns. “What lettuce, dear?”

“The lettuce that goes into the house of the Lord!”

“Well, Patricia…”

I’m glowing inside. It doesn’t matter that the whole class is laughing. Or that Ruthie’s calling me dummy again. Or even that I miss most of Mrs. Bruner’s explanation. I’m Patricia! And Patricia can’t do anything wrong. When she spills her punch at Snack Time all over her dress, the stain spreads in a perfect red rose. When Mrs. Bruner takes her to the bathroom to wash up, the faucet-spray is watering the rose. The light flicked on in there is sunshine warming it, and the lion roaring inside the fan doesn’t frighten her.

Nothing frightens Patricia!

“There you are, honey!” Mommy’s wrapped her arms round me tight, and I’m still glowing. Today I can tell her that I liked Sunday school, because I got to be Patricia….

“Goodbye, Patricia!” Mrs. Bruner waves, and her smile is sunshine warming me. Until—

“Why, her name’s not Patricia! It’s Katie!”

“No! No, it’s not! It’s Patricia….” But my sobs can’t sprinkle fairy gold back into my mud-brown hair.

I stumble out the classroom with a punch stain—not a rose—smeared across the front of my dress. Questions about lettuce still whirl unanswered through my brain. The craft clutched in my hands is no four-legged spider, but simply an X. A cross made wrong. And next Sunday the bathroom lion will once again wake up and send me screaming from his roars….

Until, unless, I again become Patricia.

I’m praying that next week we get another new teacher….

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This article has been read 777 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marilee Alvey02/15/07
I LOVED THIS STORY! My heart ached that, already, this little precious child of God wanted to be somebody else...and just having a different name could convince her that, somehow, she would be "better" if she wasn't frightened by the lion, or didn't spill on her dress, etc. I could imagine it being my granddaughter and I wanted to put my arms around her and say, "Patricia, Katie, or whatever your name might be next week, I love you and think you're just perfect, no matter what, just like Jesus does." Thanks for this touching and telling piece. Tremendous job!
Marilyn Schnepp 02/17/07
This is a delightful and touching story; a child with problems in a "make believe" world with a new name. Precious. I liked this interesting and unusual story of Patricia. Very creative and writing is very good. Nice job.
Jen Davis02/18/07
A fantastic story that was such a joy to read! I loved the comparisons you made in the 6th and 7th paragraphs. The part about the lettuce was really cute, and the children’s voices were so real. My favorite part, though, was when Katie’s mother picked her up. You pulled the story together perfectly. Excellent writing!
Julie Arduini02/18/07
I loved this. The lettuce, the spider cross, the punch stain, such vivid writing. I heard from a 60 something grandma that she did this same thing as a child and the new name stuck and her mother never said a word. How funny...
Jacquelyn Horne02/19/07
Our first reaction to this could be, "Why was she lying?" But I think you answered it beautifully. We need to be more careful when we deal with children. We never know what is behind their actions. Maybe they are hurting and no one knows. Good story.
terri tiffany02/20/07
This was wonderful! You had such good detail and you put me right there in the heart of the little girl. Nice writing!
Ed VanDeMark03/15/07
I'm writing this two weeks after it appeared as a challenge piece. I'm not sure if you will go back and read the comments on your former articles but I hope you will this time. When I read this story I wrote to a fellow faithwriter and asked her to read it. The two of you write like identical twins. Look up terri tiffany's work and I think you will agree. I love her work and I'm coming to love yours as well. Many of your other pieces make me think of her as well. When people comment on my work I look up their profile...that is how I got back to this article. Keep up the great work.
Patricia Casey03/20/07
I chose to read this article because the girl's make-believe name is the same as mine. What a fascinating story, told with great detail and made believable with your great talent. I am blessed to enjoy your creativity and brilliant writing.

In Jesus' Name,