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

TITLE: Terrorizing Rachel
By Jan Ackerson


Rachel walks into Lit. class with an ashen face. As she passes my desk, I silently will her to meet my eyes, to see the triumph there, but she slumps into her seat without glancing in my direction.

She fumbles in her backpack as Mrs. Crandall starts her boring Beowulf lecture. A wadded-up paper rolls out and she jams it back inside, blushing furiously. I recognize that paper—I taped it to her locker, knowing she’d find it between classes. It’s a masterpiece, although my teacher wouldn’t appreciate it; I managed to insult not only Rachel but her wimpy religion, in vocabulary that Mrs. Crandall might call crude, but effective.

Mrs. Crandall calls my name—“Lisa, do you have something to contribute?” and I realize that I must have snorted.

“No,” I say, and I pretend to take Beowulf notes. Instead, I compose several sentences beginning with “Rachel is a --”. My plan is to pass the paper to my best friend, Shana, three rows to my right. Shana and I have made Rachel-baiting an art form, and I know this will make her day. I add a sketch of Rachel in church, doing an activity not often seen beneath stained glass windows.

Honestly? She makes it so easy. She carries a Bible in her backpack, and wears a WWJD bracelet, and hangs out with losers like spastic Jessica and Patty the Fatty. She thinks she’s better than us, with her weirdo clothes and her NutriSweet smile. Our goal—Shana’s and mine—is to eliminate that nauseating smile. Today’s locker note may have done it.

My counselor says I should be using my brains to get better grades, that I’m not “living up to my potential.” Last session, I told him I’d make a deal with him—I’ll start to care about Beowulf and quadrilaterals and the Constitution when he can put together a sentence without psychobabble clichés. He responded with something about my co-dependent relationship with Shana, who exposes me to excessive peer pressure. Guess who’s going to win that deal?

I fold the note into a compact square and wait for Mrs. Crandall to turn her back. While she writes “Quiz tomorrow!” on the board, I lob the note to Shana. Unfortunately, it bounces off her desk and skitters across the floor, landing at Mrs. Crandall’s feet.

Of course she reads it, so I spend the rest of the period in the office, waiting for the principal to summon me. This isn’t the first time I’ve been sent to the office, and I’m very familiar with my student handbook; I’ve earned a five-day suspension for my literary and artistic efforts.

Thirty minutes have passed when I hear Rachel being paged, and she sidles past me into the principal’s office. The door is closed for a long time, and then I’m called inside. I wonder if I’ve made Rachel cry, but she’s calm, even smiling a little. What the…?

Mr. Hartley regards me, his fingertips pressed together. “I’ve been talking with Rachel about this…incident. This isn’t the first time you’ve harassed her, is it, Lisa?” While I’m formulating an answer, he continues. “Rachel has told me of a number of occurrences. It appears that you’ve been terrorizing her for most of this semester. Unfortunately, with your record of referrals, you’re now eligible for expulsion.”

Expulsion! Not five days’ suspension? I flash on the scene at home when they get the phone call from school: my stepdad’s furious anger and the smack of knuckles on flesh.

Mr. Hartley continues. “However, I do have some latitude, which is why I asked Rachel in here. She’s shown the most extraordinary mercy…she’s asked me to forego punishment altogether. And while I’m not inclined to do so, Rachel was most persuasive. She begged for mercy on your behalf, and so mercy it shall be. Go back to class, girls.”

I look at Rachel in disbelief and scoot out of there as fast as possible. Biology has started, and I can’t wait to tell Shana I got away with it.

Shana slips me a note as I take my seat. peas 4 lunch, it says. lets fill her backpack.

Shana grins, and I look from her to Rachel, who is already working on today’s worksheet. Perhaps she senses my eyes on her; she meets my gaze for the briefest moment. I think about the satisfying squish of peas on canvas, and then I think about mercy.

I write a note to Shana. Not today.

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This article has been read 1696 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/29/07
You did a great job of making your MC real and showing what true mercy is--a very interesting story.
Lynda Schultz 11/29/07
Not only "turn the other cheek" but forgiveness and an act of mercy—lots of good stuff here. Nicely done.
TJ Nickel11/29/07
Great portrait of gifts, and an even better portrayal of a long lost virtue in your MC. I won't say what that one is.
Great rhythm throughout, especially in the last sentence.
You've captured experience and internal dialogue in characters in a unique way.
Paula Titus 11/29/07
A beautiful demonstration of the gift of mercy.
Yvonne Blake 11/30/07
This touched a tender chord with me. Well done.
Dianne Janak11/30/07
Loved this. The reality of sin in a girl's heart with her peers, is just so believable, relateable and true to life. Loved how Rachel was able to turn her other cheek, forgive and ask for mercy. This touched me and made me remember times I acted like the MC way back in the day. Good writing...
Janice Cartwright11/30/07
I have heard it said that grace is the distinguishing factor of Christianity that which sets it apart from other religions. And what is grace but to cover a multitude of sins? Beautiful, incredible writing with insight into human nature and its cure. Loved this!
Emily Gibson12/01/07
You captured the scourge of teenage hostility and the gift of mercy perfectly. Very well done.
Sharlyn Guthrie12/02/07
Your story is believable and your character authentic. What a wonderful illustration of the gift of mercy...I would never have thought of a situation so everyday and ongoing, yet it's perfect.
Betty Castleberry12/03/07
Teens can be so mean. I'm glad your MC has compassion. I like her, too.
Great message.
Dee Yoder 12/03/07
Love this coming from the other side. The high school girl dialogue is spot on, and the characterizations are wonderfully accurate, too.
william price12/03/07
Great writing once again. You out do yourself each week. God bless.
Kristen Hester12/03/07
This is great. The voice of Lisa is so real. I think she's in my daughter's class (and her friend Shana). What a remarkable gift of mercy Rachel has. This story touched me. I love every word. Very well written. Great job!
Laury Hubrich 12/03/07
Poor Rachel:( You resurrected the girl only to get tormented. She is a very good example of how to forgive and turn the other cheek and all those things I'm so bad about:)
Patty Wysong12/03/07
Wow--you really captured those girls. I was holding my breath at the end. Great example! Hugs!
Holly Westefeld12/03/07
This is in a dead heat with "Glad She's Crazy" for my favorite in Masters this week. Both exemplify what I admire, but fear I might not do if faced with a similar situation.
Temple Miller12/04/07
I love all the unique sensory details, especially NutriSweet smile. Your POV is excellent. You've allowed the reader to access Lisa's thoughts and senses. I loved the message, too. Great story!
Joanne Sher 12/04/07
Excellently vivid descriptions and characterization. Such a lesson for all of us in this story.
Sheri Gordon12/04/07
Wow, what a creative approach to the topic. The characters are so realistic, and your descriptions make it easy to be right in the middle of the story. Your writing is sheer pleasure to read.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge12/04/07
Rachel walks her talk... she's secure in her relationship with Christ, making it easy for Him to flow through her. The story is definitely not over :)
Joy Faire Stewart12/05/07
The situation is a perfect example of what goes on in some classrooms. The characters are realistic and great message shown from the MC's reaction.
Sara Harricharan 12/05/07
Hmmm, I think this is a new favorite of yours for me. I wish I'd known a little more about Rachel though, she seems just a tad bit too good to be true, but the ending was good with "Not Today". Very realistic intereaction between characters.
LaNaye Perkins12/05/07
I really like how you wrote this. Very discriptive, engaging, and believable. I liked it alot. Well done!
Mariane Holbrook 12/06/07
Beautifully and masterfully done! Having been a teacher, I know first-hand the kind of peer pressure you describe. While Rachel may seem to be a bit too good to be true, there are those Christian students out there who have opted to remain in the public schools rather than attend private Christian schools just so there would be a witness among those teens who don't know Christ. These are the brave students, the Rachels, who deserve all the support they can get because some indeed do "suffer greatly for righteousness sake." A well-deserved win. Congratulations!
Sheri Gordon12/06/07
Congratulations on your EC. Again, very much deserved. You really know how to make your characters come alive.
Peter Stone12/06/07
Congrats on your EC placing. And please, don't ever stop entering the WC - I always look for your article every week. You are such an inspiration to me. I found this story a wonderful take on the topic, focusing on the gift of mercy in a realistic setting.
Catrina Bradley 12/06/07
Fabulous! I was inside your MC's head, and I didn't like it much. A wonderful example of mercy, and the change it can bring to the person on the receiving end. Congrats on your Well Deserved EC! :) Love, Cat
Norma-Anne Hough12/07/07
Loved the story. Well done on your success.
Kimberly Lane12/07/07
Great writing with wonderful, vivid descriptions. You truly have a God given talent!
Venice Kichura12/15/07
Excellent writing, as always---so realistic! This has to be written by a teacher. Congratulations on a well-deserved win!