Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Make Hay While the Sun Shines" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (03/06/08)
TITLE: The Call of the Child
By April Bailey
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“Wow, Grampy.” Molly leaned back into William with the gusto of a seven-year-old, forcing a cough and the opening of his eyes. “It’s really snowing out there!”
They sat together in the window seat—William stretched out as if he were a younger man, holding his granddaughter as he had once held her mother a lifetime ago.
“Yeah?” William maintained his curled lips and swept back the curtain through which Molly had been peeking. Flakes large and fluffy poured from the white sky, falling yet in no hurry to reach earth. “This winter’s really puttin’ on a show.”
The girl’s mother, washing up the breakfast dishes, called to them across the open kitchen. “They say it’s supposed to keep up like this through tonight. We may get three or four more feet before it’s all done!”
In a flash, Molly turned in her grandfather’s lap and, despite a rigorous pummeling of knees and elbows, blessed him with her green-eyed gaze. “I bet the snow’s up to here on me,” she said, laying a hand to her torso as if saluting on her stomach.
“It may well be.” His laughter became coughs before quieting, and he stole a squeeze the child didn’t mind giving. He marveled at the strength in those tiny arms, and, as long as they gripped him, he gripped back with no less vigor.
Molly gasped suddenly, breaking their embrace to meet William once more eye-to-eye. An idea of some magnitude illuminated her face and made her tongue dance around in her mouth briefly before settling for its purpose. “Sledding! We can go sledding!”
“Sweetheart,” her mother said with a sad smile, “maybe when your father gets home, okay?” Her voice carried a familiar lilt that meant, I have too much to do today, and your dad will probably be too tired from work to take you, so don’t get your hopes up.
William watched the illumination fade from that little face, and held her as she settled quietly back into his arms. The scent of strawberries rose from Molly’s chestnut hair. Her body, once heaving from the leaping heart within her, surrendered to calmer breaths and returned to a slow, rhythmic rise and fall.
As Molly’s mother finished the dishes and disappeared into the adjacent laundry room, the child turned from the window, no longer wishing to watch the snow. She lay limp against her grandfather, drained of her squirmy exuberance, and with no worsening of William’s pain, the grimace that sought to pillage his countenance gained ground.
Decades had passed since his last wild romp in the New England cold, and aside from chilling winds that somehow brought life to one’s cheeks, he remembered little of it. William knew if God saw fit to give him another day, his knees would most likely hurt. Tomorrow, unless God healed him, he’d still have cancer gnawing at his insides, setting off molten eruptions throughout his core. Tremors would govern his hands as aches ruled his bones and coughs shredded his lungs. Tomorrow, he’d be no worse off whether he sat on a cushioned window seat all day or not.
Lowering his head to Molly’s, he whispered, “Why cast eyes upon good fruit if one cannot taste of it?”
He kissed the girl’s ear, tapping her leg. “C’mon. Let’s go.”
She swung her legs over his, seeking answers. “What? Where?”
Meeting Molly’s bejeweled eyes with his own, William brushed aside the curtain and led her gaze to the snowy playground beyond the window.
“Really?!” she squealed, and he shushed her as if one could contain dynamite ready to blow.
He scooted her to the closet, where a snowsuit and boots waited to ride with a child down a snowy hill. A fit of coughing overtook William as he hastened to his room, seeking to layer himself for the mission.
“You all right, Dad? You need anything?” his daughter called from the laundry room.
“No, honey.” William grinned, holding hand against chest to restrain his own leaping heart. “Just answering the call.”
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