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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Canada (01/29/09)

TITLE: Snotcicles
By Shirley McClay


“Snotcicles.” I muttered at the mirror as I dabbed a warm, damp paper towel to my upper lip. The wind chill of minus fifty had numbed my face so I hadn’t noticed my nose dripping. “Attractive. Not.”

An elderly woman stepped out of a stall behind me and washed her hands. I could feel her eyes on me and had a pretty good idea what she was thinking.

“I know, you’d think I’d have learned. I never have time to blow dry though.” I tried to scrunch the ice out of my damp hair.

She smiled at me in the mirror. “My son still wears shorts in spite of the minus forty weather. He goes everywhere on buses and never seems to get chilled.”

“Frigid temperatures in the winter, summertime mosquitoes… I’ve heard stories that scare me. I hate mosquitoes.” I felt silly when the tears welled up.

“You haven’t been here long, eh?” Her sympathetic voice warmed me deep inside.

“No. I married a Winnipegger a few months ago. I’m from the States. Mountains and forests. So many little differences. Tim’s instead of Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, Zellers instead of Kmart, washroom instead of restroom, heavy pocketfuls of change called Loonies and Toonies…”

“What do you think of our open fields?”

“Frustrated, there’s nowhere for my eyes to settle.”

“Have you seen them in fall?”

“No... not yet.”

The elderly lady sat down in a chair near the “washroom” door.

She smiled and her eyes drifted away. “The canola fields glow like golden sunshine. And there is a purplish blue crop... not sure what it is… but next to the yellow... so beautiful. The skies stretch on so far that you can see incredible cloud formations.”

“Yes... I love the clouds. And the snow. Josh has told me about some of the summer storms. Thunder that sets off car alarms and literally rattles windows. Lightning that traces across the entire sky. Even tornados!” I shook my head. “I never expected to see tornadoes up in Canada.”

“Were you expecting igloos, sled dog teams, and polar bears walking the streets?” She chuckled and rubbed lotion into her cracked and wrinkled hands. Vanilla overcame the disinfectant washroom smell.

“Maybe... something like that anyway.” I knew Josh was waiting at our table but this meeting seemed to be from God. I took a seat in a wingback chair across from her.

“Maybe if it was really like that it would be easier to accept… more like an adventure.” She leaned forward and her brown eyes connected with mine. I struggled to keep contact as she searched them. She must’ve found what she was looking for because her intense scrutiny softened and she settled back against the couch cushions.

“You’ll do fine, my dear. God has an adventure for you here in the prairies of Canada. The mosquitoes, bitter weather, and flat prairies are just another setting for your story. It’s not about location; it’s all about your heart.” Her chuckle was deep and soothing. “God loves to work with an adventurous soul. There is so much He can do with you that others would balk at.”

I felt my cheeks burn as I looked down at my hands. “I’m afraid I’ve been doing a lot of balking. I do love adventure but this wasn’t what I’d imagined.”

“It never is, child. Storybooks temper the pain and fear involved in adventuring, but it’s a necessary part. That’s what pushes you to grow and change. To become the person that God has envisioned. It can deepen your character and develop your strength. If you embrace it.”

“I haven’t been strong in good ways lately... just in rebelliousness.” It was hard to push the words past the thickness in my throat.

“Then it’s time to let Him change that. Your strength needs to come from Him. Your trust should be centered in Him. Let God use these struggles to deepen your relationship with Him.”

A thought struck me. “How’d you know I’m a Christian?”

She laughed again. “After all these years... I can usually tell.”

The woman pushed herself to her feet with a groan. A hand rested on her lower back and she slowly straightened. “I’m sure your young man is wondering who kidnapped you. You better go now. Thanks for taking time to chat with an old lady.”

“I’m glad you were here.” My words weren’t enough but she just winked at me as we passed through the doors into the dim restaurant.

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This article has been read 1266 times
Member Comments
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Laury Hubrich 02/05/09
I absolutely love this story. Very nice writing.
Gina Woods02/05/09
Wow! This is lovely!
Diana Dart 02/05/09
Nice, very nice. You grabbed me in with the title, thought I'd have a good laugh but you pulled my heartstrings instead. Thanks!
Sara Harricharan 02/05/09
The title had me going here, but I loved the end and was so glad she found someone to talk to. ^_^
Joshua Janoski02/05/09
First of all, I loved the title. It definitely draws the reader in.

Second, I liked the lesson you taught in his. Sometimes we must step out of our comfort zone and what we are used to in order to grow and mature.

Finally, I like how you debunked many of the stereotypes given to Canadians by Americans. You definitely painted an entirely different picture for me.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/06/09
You show a lot of Canada's culture through your realistic dialog in your very well-told story.
Catrina Bradley 02/06/09
This story touched my heart with so many truths and with the warmness of the lady in the washroom. The title is eye-catching to be sure, but I don't think it does the overall feel of your story justice. Lovely writing! I enjoyed reading it.
Charla Diehl 02/06/09
Your title drew me in. This is a warm story and the dear old lady was God sent for sure. Great dialog and message and thanks for the pictures of Canada.
Mona Purvis02/06/09
Loved the pace of the story. Chance encounters are one of life's treasures. I'm old fashioned enough to appreciate the gentleness that was shared between the characters. I also love it when youth seeks out wisdom. Nice entry.
Joanne Sher 02/09/09
What wonderful characters you have created here, and what a beautiful lesson. I feel like I know both of these ladies already. Wonderful.
Karlene Jacobsen02/09/09
Wow, the woman looked deep into the mc's eyes, and then began talking about the Lord.
How'd she know? The eyes are the windows to the soul. I loved that reference.
Jan Ackerson 02/10/09
Lovely writing!

The title is funny, but perhaps not really representative of the story and its mood.

Your characters are both very well drawn--I enjoyed this story.
Sharlyn Guthrie02/10/09
I love this impromptu spiritual conversation set in a "washroom." The details and the interaction between strangers, young and old, are wonderful.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge02/11/09
Great dialogue here, though I agree with Jan, from the title I expected something different. It turned out to be much richer and deeper.
Marita Thelander 02/11/09
Oh Shirley...love it. I especially loved this line:

It’s not about location; it’s all about your heart.” Her chuckle was deep and soothing.
Dianne Janak02/12/09
Congratulations! What a lovely way to be introduced to a new home, and to describe it to all of us! So deserving of first place.. hope you celebrate today.
Glynis Becker02/12/09
This is my kind of story! Congratulations on a well-deserved win...I just love this piece!
Ruth Ann Moore02/12/09
I really liked your entry. I love how the characters were able to get to the heart of the matter, and a true focus gained. Absolutely lovely.

Peter Stone02/12/09
Awesome job, Shirley - congratulations! Humour - 'Snotcicles,' compassion from the old lady, wisdom - 'Storybooks temper the pain and fear involved in adventuring, but it’s a necessary part. That’s what pushes you to grow and change,' and even an inspiring challenge to draw closer to God. Fantastic!
Loren T. Lowery02/13/09
Wonderful writing and so deserving of the honor given to it and its author. Bravo!
Connie Dixon02/14/09
I love this "moment" between two believers. What an inspritational and moving story. Congratulations on your well-deserved win.
Beth LaBuff 02/15/09
Congrats Shirley... what a lovely story!