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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “All that Glitters is Not Gold” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/24/08)

TITLE: Narrative From a Too-Short Bed
By Leigh MacKelvey


It was not all that difficult.

In fact, my decision to accept the Republican nomination for Presidency of these great States was somewhat like a cliché, an easy slide off the tongue or spill off the tip of a pen. You see, my law partner spoke truth when he claimed my ambition was a “little engine that knew no rest.” The Missus, too, set her sights on the sparkles of Pennsylvania Avenue, box seats for the theater, children rolling jacks in the oval office and spinning hoops in the Rose Garden. I confess my suspicion that Mary wanted this run in the White House primarily for the social status it would afford, along with a lessening of scorn piled high by her family for her marriage to a poor man with an ugly face who rode the Illinois circuit of courts for years with little promise of making good for himself. I agreed it would be a feather in my cap. (cliché again … let it be known I never once used a cliché in my Inaugural Address or my speeches, always careful to write my words with no dilution) As Commander in Chief, I desired to build a strong government and to put an end to the inhuman practice of enslaving a race of men with treatment less kind than the beating of a slobbering mule horse. Half slave, half free … this government would not endure permanently. I grasped tightly the power I could not possess as a mere citizen. I began my office, expecting the outcome of a better nation and the following of laud, glory and riches given the man who makes the decisions that protect us all.

And then the war.

Southern states dropped away like grapes falling from a cluster as I took my stand on slavery. We fought hard, the Confederates and Union, fellow countrymen pitted against each other. We raped, murdered and pillaged until we all turned yellow with guttural sickness that clogged the mind as well, made it numb, and sent this President into darkened chambers to suffer migraines and melancholy for weeks on end. The corpses, their flesh turned molten with rot and heavy with rank odor were piled layer upon layer in common graves in wide dead fields, torn bits of both blue and gray cloth looking up at the sky as if they were pleading for the mercy that had already passed over. They reminded of nothing human, except the shudder one feels in the face of misery born of hard decisions. The political cartoons distorting my height, my beard and the grotesqueness of my face worsened my unrest. Captions, too cruel to tell, blamed us for the troubles of war and deplorable condition of homeland and families. Poor Mary was brought to tears, and then angry tantrums. Her southern family called her traitor while the North pointed it’s long cold finger towards “Confederacy spy.” She bore me four children, three who did not live to see adulthood. Little Willie never delighted to romp in the Rose Garden. Alas, she has closets of ball gowns she will never wear to social events at which she is unwelcome.


Last night I awakened from a dream. In my dream future presidents ran cowardly from the bedroom that carries my name, declaring that my ghostly form stood at the end of the great long bed, gazing at them with woeful eyes. I laughed and went back to sleep knowing that once this weary president leaves the earth, he will not come back to spook any living soul.

And now this.

Lain out in a stranger’s room with feet hung over the end of a too short bed, the blood oozes from my body, sacrificial, mirroring the blood that pours out of the nation; my nation, torn apart like the flesh from this bullet hole. I, who desired malice towards none, am rendered lifeless through the malice of one. Mrs. Lincoln is pulled from my body, her hysterical wails echoing the sobbing of a country in need of healing I cannot offer. She has surely lost the rest of her mind, half gone already by this Presidency she so coveted. And I? I await the arms of my Savior with newfound wisdom advising me that His arms carry the only true glory and the laud of high office is as useless as the blowfish I caught and threw back as a boy on the riverbanks of Kentucky.

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This article has been read 1141 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 01/31/08
Wonderful title, and the glimpse into history is very well done. I wonder how many other presidents have ended their terms wondering what they had thought was so attractive about it in the first place.
Catrina Bradley 02/01/08
Simply masterful writing - reads as easy as if it was a "spill off the tip of a pen." The voice seems very "Lincolnesque". Excellent title, captivating writing. I was unsure of how it worked for the topic until the last line. Then I thought, How perfect!" I'd quote favorite lines, but every one I read became my new favorite. Extraordinarily excellent!
Sharlyn Guthrie02/01/08
Excellent historical fiction! I like how you gradually reveal who the speaker is throughout the first section. You've included many wonderful details, adding to the authenticity of the piece. The words spoken from "the too short bed" are expecially poignant.
Karen Wilber02/03/08
I like all the comments about Mary Lincoln and how things turned out so horribly for her - when she anticipated fame and glory. Nice how you worked the main theme into a "subplot". Liked the voice. Good timing of topic with Lincoln's birthday coming up in a couple of weeks.

"Box seats for the theater" - ouch.
Joanne Sher 02/04/08
This is brilliant and so very VERY creative. I was drawn in from the beginning, and you never let me go. Just excellent. Wow.
Randy Chambers02/04/08
From the title to the riverbanks of Kentucky--fantastic. This was not only enjoyable and well written, it was inspiring. It stirred my mind in many ways.
Pat Guy 02/04/08
A perfect title to an awesome entry. And the POV and voice are perfect too ... you nailed this one!

Jan Ackerson 02/04/08
I love the rhythm of this--the alternating long paragraphs with short sentences, the speech rhythm true to the time period, the contrasts of the expectations and the reality, and the decrescendo at the end. Masterful.
william price02/04/08
Not to say the entire piece wasn't well written, but this entry has some masterful lines in it. You know the kind that make you say, "wow". You should offer your services to somebody as a speach writer, as well as publishing yourself. Very impressive writing. Very grown up and intelligent piece but can communicate to most anybody. Have I said I really liked this....:)
God bless.
Charla Diehl 02/04/08
I like this A LOT! The characters were real and brought us inside their world with all the responsibilities, disappointments and dreams of life in the White House.
Sherry Castelluccio 02/04/08
I agree with everyone else. This was just brilliant.
Beckie Stewart02/05/08
I enjoyed this reading and slowly discovering who we were talking about. I am not a history buff, but this made it interesting and rememberable.
LauraLee Shaw02/05/08
Loren T. Lowery02/06/08
Riviting, gripping, profound. Wow! I sense this has to be somehow inspired and I am grateful that you shared it and I had in turn a chance to read it.
Sara Harricharan 02/06/08
WOW! This is really intense, there is so much going on, but the descriptions, the feel of the whole piece. Again, WOW, this is really good, the ending thought was especially heart-breaking to see it from that POV. Very wonderful writing! ^_^
Holly Westefeld02/06/08
Excellent, historical take on the topic.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/06/08
This is outstanding writing. You truly have a gift for pulling your reader in.
Joy Faire Stewart02/06/08
I enjoyed everything about this piece, very creative. One of my favorites this week. Superb!
Pat Guy 02/07/08
You go girlie! Congratulations! Enjoy the clouds today - just come down to Earth sometime! ;)
Sheri Gordon02/07/08
Congratulations on your EC. This is a powerful piece. Great job.
Dorothy Purge02/07/08

The words in your article are glittering - like pure gold.
What beautiful writing!
Trish Green02/07/08
Fantastic. Brilliant. So, so true. Why men covet the oval office and all the hidden traps of power... this was beautiful. Congrats on your win!
Dee Yoder 02/07/08
Leigh, congratulations on your well deserved EC!! This is simply fantastic!
Kristen Hester02/07/08
Wow! This is wonderful. So appropriate at this election time of year. I loved this peek into Lincoln's mind. Congrats on your EC. Well done.
Debbie Wistrom02/07/08
Wow! I felt as if I was actually listening to his great icon. Congrats and I hope to read more like this in the future.
Joy Faire Stewart02/07/08
Congratulations on your well deserved win!
william price02/07/08
Leigh, Congrats on EC and an outstanding entry!!!!!! Well deserved.
Emily Blakely02/07/08
Wonderful! Fit the topic so well, but I also see it as a tribute and reflection as his birth date soon comes up. However the inspiration came, thank you for crafting a great piece.
Sara Harricharan 02/08/08
***Congratulations!*** Way to write, Leigh! ^_^
Beth LaBuff 02/11/08
Wow! Beautiful writing. I love this historical story. Congrats on your EC!
Peter Stone02/14/08
Excellent work - you present the story with such depth and perception. Well done on your placing too.