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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Confused (08/16/07)

TITLE: A Contentious Woman is an Old Blue Hen
By Dee Yoder
08/17/07


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“Roger, get in here right now!”

I set my jaw as I watch Grandma go back inside. I sometimes hate that old woman. She’s got a beak on her that looks exactly like the one on Ruby Orwieler’s mangy pet owl, and I hate it, too. Ruby showed me how to feed it chicken once, and it nearly took my thumb off.

I shuffle reluctantly up to the door, press my nose against the dusty screen, and do a quick surveillance inside. I spy my grandpa sitting on the ragged couch shoved against the wall. He sees me peeking in and throws a thumb out toward the kitchen. His mouth has a hint of laughter in it, but he keeps his chuckles to himself. Grandpa John knows better than to pick a fight with the Old Blue Hen.

I open the screen door slowly, trying to keep the rusty hinges from squealing on me, but Grandma’s hearing is too keen. I hear her coming before I see her with her black Red Cross shoes shuffling over the gritty wood floor. My ears close tight against the quarrelsome and cantankerous whining I know is coming.

“I never saw such a boy as you! You load your stomach with food every day, but can you so much as hoe one row of potatoes? No! And those brothers of yours don’t do a thing to help either. Take right after your Daddy, and you do, too! Your old man is the laziest son was ever born to a woman. Why I ever had one like him, I’ll never understand…”

Her background noise is tiresome, and, inside, it eats me up. She knows I can’t help it if my Daddy took off to Michigan after Mom died. My brothers and me are just as flummoxed over his leaving us as she is. What he did’s not right; most folks know, but they don’t blame us or rag on us about it. He’s gone, so why does she have to keep beating a dead horse?

When she turns her ranting self toward the kitchen again, I glare a hole into the back of her head. Grandpa rises stiffly and steps silently over to me.

“Roger, I found a nice place to sit and think. Want to come along?”

”What about her?” I jerk my head in the direction of the kitchen.

Grandpa puts his finger to his lips and smiles. He reaches over and switches on the Crosby radio sitting by the window. The sounds of the Grand Old Opry fill the musty room as he eases us out the door and onto the porch. The scrawny chickens scatter as we scurry across the sparse grass together.

“Where’re we going, Grandpa?”

“Up there,” he points ahead of us.

The dirt road winds away to the edge of the horizon under trees heavy with summer foliage. Our shoes kick up mini dust tornadoes around our ankles, and the heat presses down on our bare heads like a hot iron. After awhile, we leave the road and climb the steep hill that rises before us. I’m surprised to find a shack hanging precariously to the side of the mountain, its front porch sagging downward like an old man’s mouth. We scramble up and sit with our feet swinging in the air.

“Grandpa, why’s she like that? Why’s that Old Blue He-“ I stop.

He grins at me and wipes his forehead with his red bandanna, but he doesn’t say a word.

“Anyway, she hates me so bad, and I haven’t done anything to her!”

“It isn’t you, Boy. It’s your Daddy. She’s all stirred up. She loves him, but she knows he isn’t doing right by you kids. It makes her feel mean and ornery, and you get the short end of the stick because of it.”

“I wish she’d just let up. I wish…” I shut my eyes against sudden tears.

Grandpa pats my shoulder, and we sit in silence a while.

“A foolish son is the calamity of his father: and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.”* Grandpa turns and grins at me again. “That’s from the Bible, and I reckon I got to pray about both of those things. You can help me pray if you want to.”

“I guess I can.”

My mind is mixed up with all my worries, but, as I sit with Grandpa, I start to feel better.


*Proverbs 19:13 King James Version
Word Count: 741


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This article has been read 985 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dianne Janak08/23/07
Great story... I loved the understanding of Grandma's anger behind her emotions.. and how Grandpa was dealing with it... Just sweet, sad, delightful and endearing... great writing..
Janice Cartwright08/23/07
Such talent and skill demonstrated here. I love your catchy phrases, wonderful descriptive lines, and insight into that mixed-bag phenomenon we call human nature. Wonderful writing.
Lynda Schultz 08/23/07
Love the title and love grandpa too! Very well written story.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/23/07
This superbly written story is a delight to read. The dialog is so authentic and the descriptions masterful.
Jacquelyn Horne08/24/07
How sad that such verses had to be included in the Bible. The Lord surely knows his own, doesn't he?
Joanne Sher 08/25/07
Your dialog is absolutely superb, as is your voice. This is absolutely masterfully crafted. (Don't change your style, my dear!) A complete delight to read!
Marilyn Schnepp 08/25/07
So glad that Grandpa explained the Why's of Grandma's contentious personality - otherwise I was beginning to think the kid was ungrateful. Well written.
c clemons08/26/07
Your gift is storytelling at it's finest, a short one but it packs a wallop. Good job!
Gregory Kane08/27/07
Outstanding dialogue and descriptive writing. I heard it all – I was there! The only thing that rang a wrong note for me was the continuity of the piece. Why was the boy called inside? Just to be a writer’s excuse for a rant? If for a chore, then why was this forgotten? Likewise I found it odd that the boy kept his peace until they reach the shack – wouldn’t it be more natural for him to let rip the moment he was on the road? Again this struck me as a writer’s construction rather than a natural progression to the story. But that said, I love it. Hope you do really well.
Debbie Roome 08/28/07
Felt like I was right there. Wonderfully descriptive.
Linda Watson Owen08/28/07
Oh, I do love your style too! I could see, hear, and 'be' these wonderfully written characters. So well done! What a treat!
Beth LaBuff 08/28/07
This is a great illustration from the Proverbs. Love the "Old Blue Hen" description of the Granny. :) Great writing!!
Julie Ruspoli08/28/07
What a wonderful story. The dialog is perfect and the story kept me interested throughout. Very good writing.
Joy Faire Stewart08/28/07
Love the tone of the story. The descriptions made me feel I was there. Perfect dialogue. Excellent writing.
Jan Ackerson 08/28/07
Wonderful title, and superb characters, and just so much to love in this gentle story.

This is entirely personal choice, but I'm not sure if present tense works for this young boy's voice. He's so down-home and real, and present tense (one of my favorite devices) is more artsy-literary.

I felt as if I knew all three of your characters, a masterful achievement in so few words. Excellent!
Betty Castleberry08/28/07
Great slice of life and great voice. I understand the tie-in with the topic, but I don't know how strong it is. Then again, I'm easily confused. :0) Doesn't matter, because this is superb. Reads like the beginning of a novel. I would like to see it expanded.
George Parler 08/28/07
This was a wonderful read. I loved the understanding wisdom of the Grandfather and that he has something every Grandfather has and shared it with his grandchild, a quiet place. I really enjoyed this. Thank you.
Rita Garcia08/28/07
I love this story, a lot! Enjoyed the picture you painted of each character!
Lisa Holloway08/29/07
Cute, and easy to picture. The title got my attention, too.
Ed VanDeMark08/29/07
You might like Proverbs 21:9 as well. The Good News Bible version is "Better to live on the roof than share the house with a nagging wife."

Your story tells of true confusion. It's a good story but a hard story and unfortunately too often a true story.

Keep up the good work.
Brenda Welc08/29/07
Wow! Great indepth writing here. Loved it!
Katherine Kimbley08/29/07
I truly enjoyed this one. Impressive descriptive phrases, specifically the comparison of the position of the shack to that of an old man's open mouth. Great writing. Thanks for posting!
Loren T. Lowery08/29/07
I so much enjoy your writng style. This story could definetly be expanded in so many directions, but I'm most drawn to the grandmother and her possible reconciliation with her son.
Sara Harricharan 08/29/07
This reads like the first chapter in a coming-of-age-novel. nice job, the setting and the characters. Pretty good! ^_^
Patty Wysong08/29/07
I love this voice--it's fantastic!! Between the dialog and descriptions I felt like I was in a 3D theater. Grampa is a hoot. I loved the image of his thumb--I could see it quite clearly. lol. :-) Hugs!!
Jacqueline Zerres08/30/07
Your title intrigued me and the story lived up to its title. Great characterization.
Martha Ford08/31/07
Beautiful and touching story; your writing is so vivid I could smell the air and fell the heat. I can't wait for your stories so I can drink them in, pause as in another world, sign and smile as you evoke a personal memory. Bless you.