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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Actions Speak Louder than Words" (without using the actual phrase). (02/21/08)

TITLE: Charming Rhetoric
By Peter Stone


Inviting my mother to dinner to meet the new man in my life was a mistake. I could already see the mental gears churning and questions forming.

“So that’s Josh, eh?” she concluded. The man in question flashed a smile in my direction while playing with my two children in the lounge room. My mother and I were preparing dinner in the adjoining open plan kitchen.

“Yep, that’s him.” Lame question, lame answer.

“Honestly, Michelle, it’s good to see you getting back out there. It’s been almost two years since Arthur ran off overseas with his secretary. I was afraid you were going to let life pass you by.”

“Is that what you called my marriage to Arthur, Mum--life?” I shot back.

“Look, I know it was not a bed of roses, sweetie, but it’s all behind you now,” she said, trying to console me.

“Behind me, perhaps, but still a daily reminder that my ability to pick ‘em is fundamentally flawed. What if Josh is like Arthur, Mum? What if he cons me with charming rhetoric too?”

We glanced in the lounge room. My five-year old, Ben, clung to Josh’s back like a koala, while Jess, eight, was trying to appropriate his glasses--currently worn upside down as part of his clown act.

“Is he always like that with the kids, Michelle?”

I laughed in spite of myself; “Those three are inseparable. Every time he comes over, the kids are all over him before he’s even through the door. I have to get in line.”

“So how do the two of you spend quality time together?”

“After the kids go to bed,” I replied.

Mum nodded thoughtfully, “That’s a good sign, you know. Although I’ve been praying for you to find someone, I’ve been concerned that Jess and Ben might ruin your chances by resenting his intrusion into your lives.”

“That worried me too. I actually had a few dates with a different guy last year, but Jess and Ben froze him out so badly that I gave up. But Josh here? They took to him like pigs to mug…”

“Literally!” my mother exclaimed now that Ben and Jess were climbing on his back.

“Did you hear what happened last night?” I queried hesitantly.

“Look Michelle, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to Jess’ ballet concert…” she began defensively.

“Don’t worry about that, Mum. I know you couldn’t get out last night because Dad wasn’t well. I’m talking about something that happened at the ballet concert,” I reassured her.

“Are you talking about Jess getting the Most Improved Trophy?”

“No, something else. You remember how Jess always asked her dad to come to her concerts?”

“That noisy windbag,” snorted my mother. “Every year he promised her he would attend, but never turned up. Poor Jess cried after every concert.”

“I know,” I sighed. “But check this out: last night there was an empty seat next to me, and just as the kids came out on stage to do their opening number, this guy appeared from nowhere and sat in it.”

“What’s with the suspense treatment, daughter. Who was he?” Mum pressed.

“It was Josh. The sweetie had rung the concert organiser, found out where I was sitting, and secretly bought a ticket next to mine,” I replied.

“Did Jess see him?”

I nodded. “Oh yes--one advantage of sitting in the front row--she saw him straight away. You should have seen the way her face lit up. And her performance, Mum: I’ve never seen her so inspired. In fact, I’ve never seen her that happy before--she was positively glowing.”

“Oh drat, and I had to go and miss it!” Mum lamented.

I laid a hand on her arm, “Don’t worry, Mum. Josh brought a camera and filmed all of her dances, so you can see her in action after dinner.”

“Michelle, I think you can stop worrying about your inability to find a good man,” she said softly.

I laughed. “How can you say that, Mum? You’ve barely said three words to him.”

“Think about it, darling. Turning up unexpectedly at Jess’ concert, giving so much love and attention to your kids, and the way he looks at you, speaks volumes all by itself.” She pointed to the sofa where Jess and Ben were snuggled against Josh while they watched TV. “Did you ever see joy on their faces like that in the few times their father actually stayed home? Darling, this one’s a keeper.”


Luke 6:44 (NASB) For each tree is known by its own fruit.

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This article has been read 918 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Holly Westefeld02/28/08
A charming story. I'm so glad her mum was able to gently guide her out of second-guessing her choice.
LauraLee Shaw02/29/08
"Darling, this one’s a keeper.”

Yes, he is a keeper, and so is this piece that wooed the romantic soul I am. Very charming indeed.
Patty Wysong03/03/08
I LOVE this! It made me chuckle and tears came, too. Definitely actions speaking louder than words.
Jan Ackerson 03/03/08
Good job, and you wrote very convincingly from a woman's POV. This is a sweetheart of a story.
Lynda Schultz 03/03/08
Yes, certainly a keeper—the man and the story. Well done.
Debbie Wistrom03/04/08
Oh, if there weren't more Joshes! Great story and right on topic. THANKs for a happy ending.
Joanne Sher 03/04/08
Great characterization and exemplification of the topic. I was engrossed from beginning to end - she definitely does have a keeper - and this story is one too.
Tim Pickl03/05/08
Wow! This story is a keeper--it has me in tears at the end. Excellently written--it's like watching a scene from a drama.
Leigh MacKelvey03/05/08
This was probably some of the best dialogue I've read on FW!
Wow! It was so real and written in a way that kept the pace going absolutely right-on until the end. I really loved your writing!
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/05/08
This is a wonderful story--for dialogue, characterization, theme, and just plain "interest" appeal.
Julie Arduini03/05/08
Right on topic, you showed us how great he was. He won my heart too!
Sara Harricharan 03/05/08
Oh he's a keeper all right! I do hope she doesn't let him slip away! I bet he's good for her heart too. I loved how he showed up for the concert-and bought the ticket to the empty chair beside her. That was so cute. Nice job! ^_^