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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)

TITLE: Dueling Duo
By LauraLee Shaw


Jan jerked the slippery strap of her purse back onto her shoulder for the umpteenth time. She could feel her frustration rising with each strained step.

“I SO do not need this today,” she grumbled. “Stupid school. This’d better be important.”

She flipped her overgrown bangs from her face as she approached her son’s fourth grade classroom. Opening the door, her purse slid down to her wrist yet again. She grumbled and then looked up to see that Mrs. Kern was not alone.

“Helen?” Jan grimaced at the sight of her mother-in-law sitting in front of Mrs. Kern’s desk. Just add to my nightmare.

Helen smirked, looking at her watch. “Yes, Jan, at least one of us was here on time.”

“Well, some of us have a full-time-job,” Jan snipped.

“I had a job, too, remember? It was called Full-Time Mom.”

Mrs. Kern cleared her throat. “Hello, Mrs. Jacobs. The other Mrs. Jacobs and I have already become acquainted.”

Reaching out to shake Mrs. Kern’s hand, Jan was suddenly aware of the pitiful scene her son’s teacher had just witnessed. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Kern. I’m sorry, Helen. I’ve just had a tough day.”

“And I’m sorry, too. That was disrespectful of us to carry on in front of you, Lois.”

Did she just call Mrs. Kern “Lois”? Talk about disrespectful.

“It’s ok.” Mrs. Kern forced a semi-smile on her face and continued. “The reason I called you both in here today is to discuss Justin with you.”

Helen gasped. “Justin’s not in trouble, is he?”

“No,” Mrs. Kern reassured her. “He’s a good kid. But—um—he’s been rather—sad lately.”

“Sad? What on earth makes you think he’s sad?” Helen squawked.

“Helen, just let her talk, for goodness’ sake.”

Mrs. Kern squirmed in her chair. “Well, he hasn’t been participating much, and he’s been doodling and daydreaming during the time that he’s supposed to be learning.”

“You called us here about some doodling and daydreaming?” Jan complained.

“Well,” Helen chastised, “some people would call that a problem.”

Jan deliberately ignored Helen’s remarks. “So, Mrs. Kern, if you don’t mind my asking, why did you choose to involve Justin’s grandmother with this?”

“She obviously doesn’t think his mother will take care of it on her own,” Helen mumbled, tucking her chin in her neck.

Clearing her throat a second time, Mrs. Kern brought out some papers from her top desk drawer. “I want you to see the poem Justin wrote for English class. Since both of you are subjects of the content, I thought it wise to invite both of you to come in and read it. But before I show it to you, I’d like to tell you one more thing: After class on the same day he turned in the poem, Justin asked if he could have it back. Now I had already read it, but he didn’t know that. I thought maybe he was embarrassed and wanted to re-write it. However, when he returned it to me, he had added the last stanza. That last stanza is the reason I asked you here today. Please take your time reading it and discussing what Justin felt compelled to share. Thank you for coming.”

At that, Mrs. Kern handed them a copy of the poem and made a deliberate exit, shutting the door behind her.

Unsettling silence hung over them as they each read Justin’s poem.

Dueling Voices
by Justin H. Jacobs

Mom tucks me in and reads me a story.
Grandma gives me hugs and tells me not to worry.
Mom sings me songs and helps me with my math.
Grandma tells me jokes and always makes me laugh.

But I’m sick of them both just acting like kids!
Don’t they know what it’s like when they blow their lids?
I wonder why they can’t just try to get along.
The Bible says that their attitudes are wrong.

As my teacher, can you please give them both a detention?
Then—maybe then—it will get their attention.
“Gramma, love my mom. She’s your son’s loving wife.”
“Mom, respect Gramma. She’s lived a long, wise life.”

They looked up at each other, stunned.

Helen’s face was as white as a blank sheet of paper. Jan shifted awkwardly in her seat, pinching the temple of her throbbing forehead. The sound of the school bell shattered their silence.

“Well, well, well,” Helen declared, “I do believe that Mrs. Kern has given us an after-school detention.”

“Yes, Helen—And Justin’s definitely managed to get our attention.”

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This article has been read 813 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Tim Pickl04/10/08
Excellent story--masterfully written. I hope and pray the Mrs. Jacobs-types out there read this, look in the mirror, and they repent.
Debbie Wistrom04/10/08
WOW! Everything about this submission is perfect. I feel that we have a placer here. WOW!
Chrissi Dunn04/10/08
Very good! Justin is a very wise young man indeed. His poem was the perfect way to show his feelings about the situation. Well done!
Lollie Hofer04/11/08
Even though I had an idea what was coming, it didn't lessen the impact of the poem. I've read a lot of stories in the last two days and this one is my favorite thus far. Well done! Well done! Well done!
Emily Gibson04/12/08
Excellent and a twist on the theme which is very refreshing.
Kristen Hester04/12/08
This is perfectly written--they dialouge, the descriptions, the pace. Bravo. The characters are so realistic. The details (slipping purse strap, school bell shattering the silence, atc.)enhance this lovely entry. It has a great message and I like that it doesn't totally resolve in the end. We're left wondering, "Will they change their ways?" I hope so, for Justin's sake. Great job.
Lynda Schultz 04/12/08
Great story. Great lesson, Great writing.
Laury Hubrich 04/12/08
Wow! Love this. We tend to learn so much from our kids when we take the time to listen. Wow!
Joanne Sher 04/12/08
Great characterization of mom especially - and I love the poem - SO like a fourth-grader. Excellent. And what a message - comes through so clearly.
Sheri Gordon04/12/08
Loved the description of Jan coming into the classroom. Very typical of a harried mother.

A small nitpick: I haven't had a 4th grader in a long time, but the poem seemed too good to be a genuine 4th grader poem. It seemed too wise--especially the last line.

Great take on the topic. You've cleverly addressed a centuries-old issue.
Lyn Churchyard04/13/08
"Out of the mouths of babes". How often God uses children to get our attention. This was perfectly written. Excellent job Miss Laura.
Dee Yoder 04/13/08
Oooohhh...what a brave teacher to wade into THAT deep water! Love the characters and the setting. The poem is quite descriptive of the trouble between these two, but so is the attitude they bring to the classroom. Great story telling! As a reader, I was involved in the conflict from beginning to end.
Betty Castleberry04/13/08
Superb writing, full of detail that makes me feel as if I was there. Great message, too. I hope the mom and grandma mend their fences. Maybe you should do a sequel. ;0)
Joshua Janoski04/14/08
I think this entry is going to place high this week.

Justin sure is a smart kid, and his poem at the end was the jewel of this piece. Of course, everything else was wonderful too (dialogue, the characters, etc...).

Some people just have this whole writing thing figured out, and you would be one of those people. :)
Beth LaBuff 04/14/08
Ooohh. This is very good! I love the "after school detention." -- and the school bell shattering their silence. :) I enjoyed the diversity with all the elements you've used (adding poetry). Great work -- very creative!
Jan Ackerson 04/14/08

That's one gifted 4th grader--I might have made the poem a little bit less perfect.

But I loved your characterization of the sniping women--excellent!
Sara Harricharan 04/14/08
Wow, the characters here really came alive. You did such a good job with Helen, making her the one that I 'loved to hate'. I felt so sorry for Jan and could sympathize with her frustration, the poem was pretty good-I could hear that being set to music. ^_^ The ending was pretty good-especially with Mrs. Kern's 'time out'. I bet that dueling duo will work out some sort of 'compromise'. Great writing! ^_^
Holly Westefeld04/14/08
Much to my regret, our daughter could have written that poem. This really hit home.
Mandy White04/15/08
Great job, Laura. I love your attention to detail in this and the dialogue was so realistic.

I'm sure this hits home for many.
Loren T. Lowery04/15/08
A real attention getter in more ways than one. I liked your unique approach to the topic. It never ceases to amaze me how observant our kids can be...even when it's not the most convenient time.
Joy Faire Stewart04/15/08
Your descriptions and characterizations are so vivid you place your reader in the scene. Great job!
Patty Wysong04/16/08
This is soooooo good!! I LOVE it!! It packs a wallop in a fun way that simply adds to the lesson. GREAT job!! Huggles!!
Chely Roach04/17/08
Wow, this was great! Loved it!
Joanne Sher 04/18/08
Congratulations, Laura, on placing 14th in your level and 34th overall with this piece. :D