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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Gifts (of the Spirit or service) (11/22/07)

TITLE: Rebecca Maloney and Mr. Sneed
By Betty Castleberry


Rebecca dismounted her horse in front of the blacksmith’s shop. She straightened her long skirt and tipped her bonnet down, protecting her fair skin from the blistering sun.

The blacksmith smiled. “Need new shoes?”

“Yes, his front feet.” She stroked the gelding’s velvety brown neck. “I’m going to the mercantile while you shoe him.”

She walked across the street to the general store. Mr. Johnson was busy pouring coffee beans from a burlap bag into a glass container. He glanced up and nodded at Rebecca. She nodded back and examined some cotton fabric. It was pale blue and would make a lovely dress. The two dresses she owned were getting badly worn, but she couldn’t ask Mr. Johnson to let her charge the fabric. She hoped he would be kind enough to allow her to charge the flour and dried beans she had come after.

Taking a deep breath, she approached the counter. “Mr. Johnson, could I have some flour and beans on credit?”

He hesitated. “Mrs. Maloney, you already owe me three dollars.”

“Yes, I know. I should have some money coming in by next month. My hens haven’t started laying yet.”

“I’ll let you have the flour. I’m mighty low on beans, and the next shipment won’t be in for two weeks. I need to save them for paying customers.”

Rebecca’s bottom lip trembled. “I understand.”

Mr. Johnson’s countenance softened. “I wish it was different, Mrs. Maloney, but I do well to break even.”

She nodded, her lip still quivering.

He continued. “They’re building the railroad soon. It shouldn’t take supplies so long to get here then.”

Mr. Johnson weighed her flour and handed her the bag. “Bring me some eggs when your hens start laying, and I’ll trade with you.”

“All right.” She returned to the blacksmith shop.

After a short wait, the blacksmith had finished. “He’s ready. This will be the last time I can shoe him for free. I figure I’ve repaid my debt to your late husband now.”

“Yes. Thank you.”

Rebecca was about to mount her horse when the stage coach made its usual stop in front of the mercantile. The wheels had barely stopped turning when an obviously distraught woman bounded out and ran in the store. Rebecca watched as she stayed inside only a moment, then came running across the street to the blacksmith’s shop.

The woman spotted Rebecca. “Are you Rebecca Maloney?”

“Yes.” Rebecca couldn’t help noticing the woman’s fine satin dress and feathered hat with the pearl hatpin.

“My brother is ill. They said there’s no doctor for fifty miles, but you care for the sick. Come.”

She turned and ran back across the street, with Rebecca following.

The young woman threw the coach door open. “He took ill yesterday afternoon.”

Sweat beaded the forehead and upper lip of the young man. His eyes were glassy, and he didn’t respond when Rebecca spoke to him.

She motioned to the driver. “Follow me.”

She got her horse and led the driver and the young woman to her house. The three of them carried the patient inside and put him in Rebecca’s feather bed.

The driver returned to his route, leaving the two women. Rebecca had lots of questions. “What’s his name?”

“George Sneed. I’m his sister Katherine. We’re here to do some planning for the railroad.”

“He’s awfully ill.” She drew a damp cloth across his forehead.

“Will he be all right?”

“If it’s the Lord‘s will. Stay with him while I get something.”

She returned shortly and placed a strong-smelling poultice on his chest. “Let’s pray.”

Bowing her head, she offered a prayer for the stranger.

Rebecca stayed at his side, dusk falling around them. She lit the oil lamp and sat with him all night, taking turns mopping his brow and holding Katherine’s hand.

By morning, George’s fever had broken, and he opened his eyes.

The first thing he saw was Rebecca’s green eyes staring back at him, and he spoke. “You’re lovely.”

She blushed and turned to Katherine. “I think he’s going to be okay.”

“We owe you so much. You truly have a gift. I’m going to the mercantile and tell them to let you have whatever you want. George and I will pay the bill.”

“I can’t let you do that. This is just what God has called me to do.”

“And God has called me to be generous.”

A broad smile broke across Rebecca’s face. Katherine smiled back.

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This article has been read 1145 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/29/07
This was a wonderful journey to the past--the descriptions just right. I loved the read.
Lynda Schultz 11/29/07
Lovely story.
Janice Cartwright11/29/07
I loved the simple straightforward not too flowery voice. I also liked that there was always something "doing" throughout the story. It drew me in away and held my interest to the end. Nice polish. Good work~
Sheri Gordon11/30/07
I love this line:

"And God has called me to be generous.”

That is a gift that too many people don't understand is a true gift from God.

Very good writing, and a great picture of two important spiritual gifts.
Patricia Todd11/30/07
Very well written.
Sara Harricharan 12/03/07
Loved the last lines here! This was great with plenty of action and no lazing around with details here and there. I really liked it!
Yvonne Blake 12/03/07
I love the setting, especially inside the general store. The ending was a little too 'convenient', not really believable. Too bad you had to keep it under 750 words!It would be a great story.
Jan Ackerson 12/03/07
Very charming! Super job with the era and with personality development of your characters.
william price12/03/07
Excellent job! I enjoyed the setting and the set-up. Good stuff. God bless.
LauraLee Shaw12/03/07
I liked this story so much. It felt like I could actually watch it like an episode on television. Your ending was perfect.
Dee Yoder 12/03/07
Wonderful story. I would like to read the whole adventure! I like the way you incorporated a past, and a hint of a future in a few words; it fleshes out the characters beautifully.
Kristen Hester12/03/07
Oh, I just love this! So many words come to mind: charming, delightful, sweet. I could picture the whole scene in my mind. I loved the comment about being called to be generous. Bravo!
Joy Faire Stewart12/03/07
I enjoyed the western setting of the story, the details, and the message. Very enjoyable story!
Temple Miller12/04/07
I loved it. Your details presented the setting just right.
Patty Wysong12/04/07
Well, I certainly hope she gets to live happily ever after!! I loved the hint of romance here and the compassion shown by the characters. Being generous is certainly a gift--great job! Hugs!
Shelley Ledfors 12/04/07
Lovely! I was drawn right in to the characters. So descriptive...and a great message as well!
Joanne Sher 12/04/07
Just lovely. Wonderful job setting the scene and with characterization. This is a rich, beautiful piece, my friend!
Angela M. Baker-Bridge12/04/07
How did you get so much emotion into 750 words besides what everyone has said? Rebecca's embarrassing frustration over finances, anxiety for the future, joy for blessings, feminine thrill over a compliment... the storekeeper's conflict to help without the means... a matter-of-fact disconnect from the blacksmith... desperation, protectiveness, gratitude, then sweet surrender to God from Mr. Sneed's sister... loved it:)
LaNaye Perkins12/05/07
You have such a gift for getting so much written in so few words. This was very touching, expressive, and written so well. I loved it.
James Dixon12/05/07
Very well crafted. You built up the tension very well. The most gripping piece I have read so far.
Pam Carlson-Hetland12/05/07
Excellent story. Great fit for the topic, as well. I echo the comments above with how much you have woven into the story with charcterization and emotion. Another wonderful piece.
TJ Nickel12/06/07
Great structure and writing throughout to work in the topic of the week.
Red pen:
Re: Flatness - any flatness comes from the beginning not hooking in quickly enough and the ending, therefore, doesn't have the tension of a full release. The opening paragraph is a great description, but doesn't account for the problem. We wait for the problem and immediately see circumstances at hand that can solve the problem, so I, as a reader, never feared that all would work out for her in the end. This causes a limited empathy for the MC.
Maybe too good. This sentence: "The first thing he saw was Rebecca’s green eyes staring back at him, and he spoke. “You’re lovely.” is perfect, but not smooth. Something like 'Rebecca's caring, green stare met his awakening eyes. He spoke...' may remove the singular vs. plural issues at hand in the sentence.
What a great story. The plot is quick and the setting is rich, as is the presentation of this week's topic.
Peter Stone12/06/07
I enjoyed this story. It is a good example of the gift of generosity, but I think the story would have entered a deeper level should the main character had anointed the sick person with oil, and seen him healed as a result, ie, the Gift of Healing.