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

TITLE: A Short History of Red Clayman
By Janice Cartwright


“What do you think, Red, will this one do? She’s the best of the whole string!” Swede’s ice-blue glance flashed at Red like winter sunshine.

“She’s a fine one alright,” Clayman directed his own gaze elsewhere and polished off the last of a tasty fruit - core and all. “This will take some thought! How about if I get back to you in a week or so?” He longed to run his hand along the lustrous, muscled flank but something held him back.

“No hurry.” Swede led the mare gently away, but was back again in no time. “By the way, thought of a name yet? Just in case, you know.”

“Not exactly, but I’m working on it. It needs to be just right, something that suits her. Say, what’s that you’ve got there, Swede?” Red tried to place a nameless hunger that stirred in him.

“Only the best companion this side of Eden.” Swede patted the head of a magnificent golden retriever at his side. “I thought seeing as how you’re all by your lonesome up here you might like to try her out for a few days.”

“Well, sure. That’s mighty decent of you.” Red lowered himself to his haunches at canine eye-level. A honey of a dog she is, too. Think that’s what I’ll call her. What kinda’ price tag you got tacked onto this one?”

“To the right person, a real good price. I’ll be around in a day or two; we can talk more.” Swede moseyed back to his van and after a bit Red heard its rumble disappear in the distance.


Toward evening of the same day Clayman’s kingly realm began to call to him. Red required his 'thinking spot,' the grassy banks of water and woods, more and more, of late. For a long while he watched the deer drink and a bear and her cubs play at the far side of the stream. The birds in the trees sang a twilight song and grouse ruffled into their nests on the ground. Darkness quilted around him and Honey edged in closer.

Red stretched backward in the lush grass. With one hand still curled into Honey’s soft fur he fell into a deep and trance-like sleep in which he thought Swede knelt beside him. Light seemed to fill his body, and warmth, and creatures stepped out of a forest to stare at him with large eyes. The mare and Honey traipsed before him and a cat named Calico licked herself daintily in his presence. But at each of them he shook his head, full of regret. Then blackness inked over him and sponged up time.


In all the dappled, leafy light of morning, a single slanted ray found Red’s eyelids. It got under them and pried them open and he sat up. Feeling rested and not sleepy at all he had only a vague recollection of last night’s dreams. He heard a lapping sound at the stream and he stood up and saw that it was Honey. A cool swim might be just the thing he thought but as he reached the bank and peered over, poised to leap, he froze in place.

The words he wanted to speak,“Who are you? What are you?” seemed locked in his throat. She (how do I know it’s a she?) looked at him as if she knew everything. She laughed and the sound of it was like the splash of water that shimmered around her feet.

She was like him, yet not like him. Where he went straight, she curved; in places where he was all sinew and bone, she looked as soft as a mushroom cap. When she slipped near, his knees felt wobbly and his side itched. She put her hand where his rib had been and her touch soothed him wonderfully. The sensation of yearning that had recently plagued *Red Clayman abated and he said,

“… this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23 KJV)


Across the river through the trees Swede trotted the mare away a second time, Honey shook out her coat, and Calico continued her bath.

And the Lord God saw their wonder, the man and the woman, that it was good.


* Adam (red earth) - the name given in scripture to the first man. Smith’s Bible Dictionary by William Smith, LL.D.

-Swede is a stand-in with the sole purpose to lead away mares and readers.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 09/13/07
Love it! This is fearfully and wonderfully written. :) When I read your title I expected the "history" to be a little on the dry side...but it wasn't at all. You are an amazing writer.
dub W09/13/07
A wonderful read, obviously well thought out and professionally done. Bravo. Put it in the puppy pen.
Jan Ackerson 09/16/07
Oh my goodness, oh my goodness--I read this with increasing wonderment and awe, and when I got to that last bit about Swede, I just about sprayed my monitor with Diet Coke. One of the best single lines I've read anywhere. This piece goes waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to the top of my list. Please please send me a PM and tell me who you are!
Sheri Gordon09/17/07
Wow. This is very, very creative -- and extremely well written. Beautiful narration. Great job.
Dee Yoder 09/17/07
Great story. Masterful and beautifully creative!
Amy Michelle Wiley 09/18/07
Oh wow, you surprised me! There were a few slightly confusing spots, but this was awesome! I appreciated the footnote about Swede, too, because I was wondering, "But who's Swede?" Great job!