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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Don't Cut off Your Nose to Spite Your Face" (without using the actual phrase or litera (02/14/08)

TITLE: A Bitter Pill
By Ann Grover


Harold snorted and awoke with a start.

“Hmph. What’s that racket? Those fool children playing in the street again?”

“Yes, the McClartys and Browns. Oh, I see the Martindales, too.”

“Can’t they tell I’m trying to rest here? I worked all my life, and now I have to put up with noisy children running wild in the neighbourhood. All I ask for is a little peace. Is that too much to ask?”

“No, dear. You’ve worked hard. You deserve peace and quiet.”

“Get me a glass of milk, would you, Edna. I’m sure I’ll get heartburn, though. It’s all those chemicals they add, you know.”

The screen door slapped shut behind Edna. She returned with a glass of milk and handed it to Harold. He took a long swallow and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. His chest heaved and low rumble issued forth unceremoniously.

“Used to be a man could get a decent quart of milk delivered to the front door. Be waiting here on the step in the morning. Remember, Edna?”

“I sure do, Harold. I’d leave a little note rolled up inside the empty bottle if I wanted cottage cheese for lime salad.”

“I don’t like the cartons nowadays. Makes the milk taste odd. Gives me heartburn.” Another growl reverberated from Harold’s inward depths. “I need a tablet.”

Harold hoisted himself from the porch chair. “Stay here, Edna. Make sure those children don’t run into the yard. If it wouldn’t be such a dad-blamed nuisance, I’d get a watch dog.”

Harold shuffled inside, the sound of his scuffling slippers mingling with his sighing and muttering. Shaking her head and pursing her lips, Edna took up her knitting again. Her lips moved silently as she counted stitches, but she kept her eyes on the street. Harold returned, white crumbs outlining his lips, a minty cloud hovering.

“Need more tablets soon, Edna.” He brushed remnants from his shirt front.

“Look, Harold, the Cavanaughs have a new car.”

Harold watched the shiny vehicle glide by before commenting.

“Must be nice to spend money like that. They lost a bundle in depreciation just driving it off the lot. And why’d they pick such an ugly colour?”

“I like our car, dear,” Edna affirmed.

“Paid good money for our car back in ‘79. These new cars just have gizmos and contraptions that cost too much to get fixed. Why on God’s green earth would you need a navigational system? Just go to the store and go home. Uses too much gas to go anywhere else.”

Suddenly, Harold stood up.

A couple of boys on skateboards rolled by on the sidewalk, but cracked concrete was no match for the experience of one of them, and the board flipped. The boy tumbled onto the grass. Harold leaned over the porch railing.

“What are you doing?” He gave the boys a menacing look. It was enough. Both boys picked up their skateboards and raced away.

“Didn’t they make a park for those board things over by the community hall?” Edna inquired.

“Yep. With my tax money. And the kids are still roaming the streets like bandits.” Harold shook his head, disgusted. “I heard those skateboards cost over a hundred dollars. When I was a kid, I played with a rock and a stick.”

The clicking of the knitting needles continued, along with the occasional swishing of yarn from the skein in the basket. A breeze ruffled the leaves and the grey fringe of Harold’s thinning hair. He sighed again.

“What are you knitting now, Edna?”

“It’s a sweater for Lorraine’s youngest. The trash she dresses him in is appalling. Today’s styles.” Edna held up the half-knit cardigan for Harold’s inspection. “At least he’ll have one decent thing to wear.”

Harold nodded. “I hope you made it large enough so he can wear it for a few years.”

“Of course.”

“Speaking of the kids, they don’t come by much any more. They used to come every Saturday for dinner.”

Edna put her knitting in her lap. “You’re right. I wonder why they don’t come.”

“Well,” moaned Harold, “I need another tablet. My stomach is sure acting up lately.”

The screen door slammed shut behind him.

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This article has been read 949 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sally Hanan02/21/08
Ugh; what a horrid couple! You depicted them wonderfully, and nailed the topic.
Catrina Bradley 02/21/08
Great characterization of a grumpy old man, right down to the exaggerated "when I was a kid". The amazing little details bring the story to life. Love it!
Jan Ackerson 02/22/08
Oh, I could just see this pair of crabs! But I've gotta tell you, I couldn't quite get past lime salad? With cottage cheese????? No wonder they're crabby. (lol). Seriously, you have to send me that recipe, because I just can't imagine it...

I love your subtle touch...you don't bash us over the head with this proverb, you just let it sneak up on us. Masterful.
Hanne Moon 02/23/08
Very well written and subtle. These two are so contrary! I know a few people like this! LOL
Patty Wysong02/23/08
Grrrr. I just wonder why those kids don't visit anymore...that was enough of a visit for me! I'd say they cut off their noses. The title ties in great, too.
Lynda Schultz 02/23/08
The description and dialogue are really good. (And I like the lime salad with cottage cheese too!) Nice work.
Glynis Becker02/24/08
Wonderful! I agree with the other comments that I certainly wouldn't want to spend much time in THAT living room :) Great characters.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/24/08
I wondered with the spelling of neighbo/u/rhood if the lime salad was an English or Australian kind of thing??
Anyway, your characterization was done perfectly to prove the topic.
Laury Hubrich 02/24/08
I felt like I was listening in on this conversation. Great writing! I hope and pray I never "grow up" to be like these two!
Joy Faire Stewart02/24/08
Oh, what a great job of depicting this grumpy couple...loved all the details. And I've had lime jello salad with cottage cheese, not tooo bad!
Lyn Churchyard02/24/08
Is their last name "Goobers"? 'Cos if it was, you could call them "Grumpy Goobers". Great portrayal of some moaners and groaners. Yeah, I wonder why their kids don't come around any more??? Can't think why...
Wonderfully written
Beth LaBuff 02/24/08
Yep...I wonder why. :) This is great...I love their dialog. This was fun to read.
Lynn Jacky 02/25/08
HI - enjoyed your story it was easy to read and quite humorous. Thank you.
Patrick Whalen02/25/08
Wow! How many of these poor grumpier old men have I encountered in my life! Yelp, yelp, yelp...why doesn't anybody love me?

My small group ministered at a retirement home for a while and it was very sad trying to bring hope to those who had all but given up.

I hope a bright evangelist knocks on their door soon! :)
Dee Yoder 02/25/08
Love the dialogue, the characterizations, and the descriptions. Whew! What a couple. Poor things-they have no idea, do they? And I HAVE heard of lime salad-I've seen it at church potlucks when I was growing up-never wanted to give it a try, though. (;
LaNaye Perkins02/25/08
I love how subtle you are about making your point in this piece. Great writing.
Debbie Wistrom02/26/08
Thanks for this word picture, perfect title! Keep wiriting.
Joanne Sher 02/26/08
Gee - I wonder why they don't come around? ;) Excellent characterization and dialog, as usual for you. Great title too. Wonderful, as always.
Leigh MacKelvey02/26/08
I could see and hear this whole scenes ... just like a movie! I loved the very detailed looks you gave us, such as the wind blowing the leaves and the ruffles of his hair. that was great. Very unique way to illustrate the topic and again : subtly done!
Joshua Janoski02/27/08
Sadly, this story reminded me of my dad's parents. Always grumbling and complaining about the new trends and the cost of everything. Needless to say, we didn't always like going over to their house to visit. :)

Very engaging story and characters. I loved it!
Shirley McClay 02/27/08
I know some people my age who will be this old couple some day! A good reminder to enjoy every day and to be grateful for every blessing! And I have had jello and cottage cheese, and, oddly enough, it is actually quite good!
Sara Harricharan 02/27/08
I sure don't blame the grandkids for never coming around! Wow...what a really...um...odd? No, odd doesn't quite do this couple justice! You did well with the topic here and it was funny for me as I read it to see where the story was going. I loved the line with "God's green earth" very creative. ^_^
Loren T. Lowery02/27/08
It's a wonder that old codger's milk didn't sour by just his handling it. And, if it's true you grow to be like the one you're married to, then these two are perfect bookends. However, that being said, I did enjoy the read...and maybe even agreed on a few of their converstaional points as well : )