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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Happy (07/12/07)

TITLE: Portrait
By Maxx .


The breeze, softened and cooled by goldenrod and trumpet vine, circled about the deck as twilight embraced us in a star sprinkled cocoon.

Daddy laughed, the sound of tubas on parade, as he tickled Mama’s ears with a foxtail near the fire-pit.

“Morton, I swear…” She waved her hand and spun, swatting at the offending weed. Her face blossomed the color of flame. “The children …” The roundness of her cheeks lifted hazel eyes into gleaming crescents as she glanced from Mable to me in the ancient hickory porch swing.

Through a well chewed straw I pulled hard at the last tired drops of NeHi lost in the bottom of a dewed bottle. I giggled, warm, dangling my feet.

“Eunie?” Grandpa called, lounging in the white slatted rocker near the citronella candles, “How ‘bout some lemonade afore I die of heat stroke.” The folds in his brow curved and he winked at me. “And could you bring that plate of cookies you got hidden in the larder?” Thick lashes dipped like a broken shutter over circles of playful green as the corner of his mouth lifted ever-so-slightly. “I may just swoon with famish.”

Mable clapped her pudgy four-year-old palms, ringlets transformed into bouncing springs.

I grinned.

The fire spit and snapped, sending embers skyward as Daddy tossed another log on the already eager flames. Charcoal smoke swirled, a woolen blanket causing an orange-red glow to flicker across his farm weathered face, the traces of an ever present smile accentuated.

Mama had a finger through the belt loop of his Levis. Her hips swayed to an unheard melody, bare feet caressing the silver-blue grass.

In the fields our soybeans were rich with a healthy, abundant, bloom.

The screened door eased open. “Are you gonna survive, Harry?” Grandma’s voice lilted in an exaggerated roll, dripping sarcastic concern. In her narrow grip, the handles of a serving tray large enough for me to sleep on … and I had when I was a littler kid. It always carried something good. She placed it on the wicker table.

My legs tensed as I lurched to the edge of the swing, but I caught myself, halting Mable as well. Not yet. Like stones in a fully stretched slingshot, ready, waiting.

Condensation trickled down the side of a brimming glass pitcher, pooling near a chipped pie plate stacked with fresh baked oatmeal raisin cookies.

Grandpa poured a cup and reached toward the mound. He stalled in mid-motion. “You know,” he studied Mable and me, “Your Grandma here makes the best oatmeal raisins in the tri-counties area.”

I knew. It was one of my favorite summer-night stories.

“Now don’t go torturing the kids with that old tale.” She hushed him by dropping a cookie on his knee, but her back straightened just a little, her head lifted, and hidden crow’s-feet freshened. She glanced at my sister and me, nodding. “Come on, help yourself.” She bent to us, voice conspiratorial. “You can take two, but keep it our secret!”

Her hand on my hair was like warm parchment. The scent of powder and lilacs mingled with flour and vanilla.

I inhaled.

“Yup,” Grandpa licked at an errant crumb on his thin lips, “blue ribbon at the fair. Bested Amelia Stenchfield. Pastor’s wife.” He took another bite. “Goes to show even with God on your side you can’t beat Grandma’s cookies!”

She plied a smirk beneath a beaming visage. “Don’t you listen to him. The Almighty sure doesn’t need my help to make something wonderful. Just look at the two of you.” She handed us each a cup of lemonade. “Besides, Amelia was suffering from the monthly bloat. Wasn’t a square contest.”

Grandpa’s laughter gurgled like a mill pond, infectious and pure. I joined him, unable to help myself.

In the distance a cardinal whistled; the sound drifting, soft.

Mama began to hum, the throaty murmur a soothing hug.

I sipped my drink, mouth upturned. Mable took my hand.

Grandma sat on the arm of the slatted chair as Grandpa caressed her back.

“Content in the arms of my God.” Mama sang, a musical prayer.

Daddy turned to her, brushing stray blond wisp from her face.

My throat tingled and I felt as if I was nestled in down. I bit into my cookie, happy.

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This article has been read 1258 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Betty Castleberry07/19/07
What a comforting, homey picture you paint. This story is just my cup of tea, or in this case, my oatmeal cookie. Wonderful!
Joanne Sher 07/20/07
Absolutely PERFECT title for this piece. I truly felt like I was looking at a very detailed, masterfully crafted portrait. You certainly have a way with detail. Marvelous.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/21/07
I love the wonderful imagery of this piece--just a perfect portrait of childhood.
Dee Yoder 07/21/07
I was so involved in the characters and the story, I thought I could reach out and pick up a delicious cookie myself! Such a loving picture of a simple, family moment. Great writing!
Sharlyn Guthrie07/23/07
You have certainly managed to heighten all of my senses with this piece. I enjoyed all the glimpses of warmth and security in this rural family setting. Masterful!
Judith Hope07/24/07
Yes, I too, responded to your story as all the others have done. And, for me, it was excellent in that it seemed to tread dangerously near overly emotional depictions and that horror of horrors, sentimentality. Yet, it was quite safe from both in your capable hands.
A true and beautiful account of a loving, harmonious and happy family. I loved it.
Dianne Janak07/24/07
Family life depicted in such a happy atmosphere is a rarity anymore and so needed and refreshing to give hope to those who have had few happy memories... A true joy to read!
Catrina Bradley 07/24/07
You created such a real place, my world faded away, and I was sitting on the porch, watching the fire.
Loren T. Lowery07/25/07
The atmosphere of this piece brought happiness to me as it reminded me so much of former times back home when my grandparents were still with us and we lived very much the scene you painted here.
Sara Harricharan 07/25/07
Nice portrait! This makes me want to call my grandmother. The story is good and especially the tale of the cookies. Good job. ^_^
Sheri Gordon07/25/07
This is so beautiful. What a serene picture you paint. You involved all of my emotions -- including tasting those cookies. Very well written. Excellent job.
Kristen Hester07/25/07
What a beautiful portrait. I am blessed with a wonderful family and have a few memories where I think I felt like your MC. You story is so pleasant and peaceful. I enjoyed seeing this ordinary moment through a child's eyes.
Marilee Alvey07/26/07
Maxx, you've done 'Happy' such justice. As I grow older, I give God praise for 'ordinary days.' After the storms we've all encountered in our lives, those restful 'ordinary days' are appreciated. You have described one such day, and, as I grow older, I appreciate so much those times, those regular days, spent with my parents and grandparents. You've captured it all with such vividness. I had to study this over several times so that I could learn such imagery. You took the word limit and described such a short happening, exquisitely. I always run out of words, but your focus is sharp, clear and defined. I run off like some racehorse, but you take off at a canter. It's so relaxing and suitable to this piece. Thank you for helping me to grow from this marvelous story.
Sara Harricharan 07/26/07
Dee Yoder 07/26/07
Congratulations, Maxx! This is a beautiful story!
Sheri Gordon07/26/07
Congratulations. I loved this story and am so glad to see it placed. Very much deserved.
Seema Bagai 07/26/07
Exquisite. Every line is rich with detail and emotion.
Amy Michelle Wiley 09/15/07
Knowing who wrote this, I kept waiting for a twist. It never came and this was simply a lovely, happy story. I've spent many similar childhood days. Good job!
Sally Hanan01/19/08
I never got to read this one until now. Absolute perfection.