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

TITLE: Eye of the Sparrow
By Ann Grover
07/19/07


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“Mama, wait for me.” Helen picked up the basket of wilted greens, dust puffing around her bare feet as she followed her mother through the parched garden.

“Catch up, love.”

“These greens are so droopy, Mama.”

“I know, but they’ll be fine.”

“You always say that. The greens will be fine. We’ll be fine.”

For answer, Mama pulled at the spindly, limp stalk of a potato plant. Dust rose like smoke, wrapping both of them in choking clouds. Mama clawed through the powdery soil, but found only two shrivelled, scabby potatoes in the dry dirt.

“Mama?”

“Could you check Baby Carolyn, please.”

Helen sprinted toward the weathered house beyond the garden, dodging stones and brittle grass with her bare feet. Mama smiled and shook her head as the screen door slammed. Moments later, it slammed again as Helen reappeared with the baby.

“Papa’s still sleeping.”

“Mmm. Well, sleep doesn’t cost anything.”

“Why does Papa sleep so much?”

“He’s tired, love.” Mama added another wizened potato to the pitiful pile she’d already dug up.

“But, Mama, he doesn’t do anything.”

“Helen,” warned Mama as she gathered up the pathetic tubers and made a spot for them in the basket next to the greens. Together, they took the sorry vegetables to the house.

“Now, my dear girls, let’s get the baby carriage and some bowls and see if we can’t find some wild strawberries,” suggested Mama.

Carolyn squealed with glee when Helen pushed the deep carriage into view. An outing, even if it was just across a barren field was cause for excitement!

Helen pushed for a time, but soon grew weary, so Mama took a turn while Carolyn chortled and pointed at trees and sky.

“You, poppet. What do you see?” Mama began to sing a merry tune to amuse the girls. Carolyn clapped, but Helen frowned at Mama with a querying look in her eyes.

They came to a shaded glen, a place that, in better years, always produced wild strawberries in abundance. Now, with any luck, in spite of the scarcity of rain, there might be a few berries.

“There’s some here, but they’re small.” Mama hunkered down. The grass was sparse, like an old man’s thin pate.

Helen picked the tiny, ruby-coloured berries, but she looked at her mother’s nimble fingers, stained, nails rimmed with dirt, blue veins showing through transparent skin. Mama hummed her tune as she searched beneath yellowing leaves.

“Mama, how much longer will this wretched Depression last? When will the drought end?”

“I don’t know.”

“When will Papa work again?”

“I don’t know that, either.”

Carolyn suddenly shrieked, and they both turned to see, but instead of alarm, Carolyn’s face was suffused with delight. A sparrow was perched on the handlebar of the carriage, looking at the baby with what appeared to be curiosity, cocking its head to the side, bright eyes fixed on Carolyn. Carolyn clapped and bounced in glee, but the bird was not perturbed.

“How amazing!” exclaimed Mama.

The little bird swooped down next to Helen and gazed upon her, then bobbed over to Mama, eyes bright and shiny. Movement on their parts did nothing to startle the creature. It pecked in the dust, found a few mites, then flew up to the handlebar of the carriage again.

Speechless, Mama and Helen watched the sparrow, scarcely able to believe their eyes.

“Mama?” began Helen again. “Is Papa mean to you because of the Depression? Is that why he says bad things to you?”

“Yes, because he can’t work and provide. I don’t let his words hurt my heart, honey. It’s his own hurt speaking. If I let its poison touch me, it’ll harm us all.”

The only sound was the soft plop, plop of strawberries falling in the bowls and Carolyn’s merry laughter as the sparrow strutted back and forth on the handlebar.

“That’s why you say everything’s fine. Bad potatoes. A few strawberries.”

“It’s what we’ve been given, honey. And we have each other. I see blessing in that every single day.”

“And that’s why you sing?”

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, His eye is on the sparrow... * I’m happy, Helen, because I have you and Carolyn, and I am free of the horrible things your Papa says. And God’s eye is on us. Helen, do you think...?”

Helen and Mama turned to look at the sparrow. It gazed at them intently, then flew away.

***
* “His Eye is On the Sparrow.” Words: Civilla Martin, 1905. Music: Charles Gabriel.


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This article has been read 886 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Janice Fitzpatrick07/19/07
Oh but how I love this one hon. Dramatic and meloncholy, with a bit of joy wrapped in the morsels of every day gifts that were given. Beautiful text, and I liked how you worked the little sparrow in yoru wonderful story. What a treasure. I could almost see the mother trodding along with her two daughters and the littel bird hoping along the handle of the carriage. Kind of enraptured me and took me back to my own childhood. God bless you for sharing this with us. Thank you.Janice+-
Joanne Sher 07/21/07
This is amazing (as usual, if this is who I think it is!) - the descriptions and characterization and dialogue and EVERYTHING are just wonderful. So poignant.
terri tiffany07/21/07
Wonderful story telling! I could see the action and the bird part was so real but when she sang the song - really good writing!
Jan Ackerson 07/21/07
The most telling line, for me, was "I am free of the horrible things Papa says...", and I love the simple, homey details you add to this piece to make these characters so absolutely real. Heartbreaking, beautiful, full of hope. Thanks for sharing...
Dee Yoder 07/21/07
Very beautiful story. Touching and sweet the way Mama sees the good even in the middle of trouble. The ending is perfect. (The song is one of my favorites!)
Joyce Samuel07/22/07
This to me is an illustration of some of the wonders of the Christian faith: the ability to see beyond the temporal; the ability to have a heart free of bitterness in spite of being hurt...pure simple faith working through love. Very moving and well written.
Sara Harricharan 07/23/07
This gave me goosebumps. Wow. Double Wow. Amazing. I liked the descriptions, but most of all the interaction between the mother and daughter. There was something so 'real' there. The touch of the Sparrow was great. ^_^
Joy Faire Stewart07/23/07
Love the dialogue and the sparrow is the perfect touch. Beautiful descriptions.
Delores Baber07/23/07
My favorite line was, "I'm free of the the hateful things Papa says." That's what God's peace does. Otherwise the sentence would be, "One day I will be free of the hatful things Papa says." No! She speaks of the joy Christ brings in the midst of difficult times. Great writing.
Judith Hope07/24/07
Yes. I am new to Faithwriters. Worked like yours is simply a great inspiration. Thank you.
Elizabeth Baize 07/24/07
Your story is so alive! I can picture the setting in my mind from the mother clawing for tubers to the sparrow strutting on the baby carriage. (By the way, I love the song "His Eye is on the Sparrow.")
God Bless,
Elizabeth
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/25/07
This si absolutely beautiful writing, the descriptions, the dialogue, the characters, the message. What a talent!
Kristen Hester07/25/07
What a strong and grounded Mama. She has such peace and wisdom. Great story.
Teri Wilson07/26/07
Ann, This is really beautiful. I was sorry to see that it did not place. Probably my favorite this week. Blessings, Teri
valerie chambers07/27/07
There is a book in here AWESOME as usual.