Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) (02/19/09)
- TITLE: Johanna's Choice
By Arlene Baker
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Her heart jumped. What a chance to leave this sleepy town and see the world!
“Johanna!” Papa’s voice cut into her thoughts. “Chores!”
Johanna sighed. She loved Papa, but he didn’t understand her desire see more of the world—the salt chill of the North Sea, or Italy’s sun-warmed vineyards, or even the Black Forest on the west side of Germany.
Johanna moved toward the barn. Suddenly it became a military hospital. She quickened her pace, treading in rubber-soled shoes and smoothing her crisp uniform. A doctor waited at the entrance, holding written instructions.
“Yes, Doctor, I’ll tend to these men immediately,” she murmured.
Rows of the mute wounded stretched before her. As she moved among them, she offer a cooling drink here, plumped a deflated pillow there. The pillow’s hardness startled her. She looked down to see her caressing hand resting on a bag of seed.
Papa shared dreadful news during dinner. “Karl was drafted and must leave immediately.”
Karl, her neighbor and childhood friend. More than that, he helped Papa on the farm and shared his love of the land. War’s grim reality filled the tiny kitchen as the pair sat in somber silence.
Urgency gripped Johanna as she stumbled out of bed the next morning. Throwing on her wrap she rushed to the operating room, extending a scalpel towards the surgeon, back bent to his task. “Scalpel, Doctor.” She gazed at the instrument in her outstretched hand and sighed. It was her toothbrush.
“I need to go,” she whispered to the mirror. “I must help the wounded.” Honesty stared her down. “OK, I want to help,” she confessed, “but I also want to see new places. I want off this farm.”
She entered the kitchen just as Papa poured coffee. Karl sat in miserable silence, raising unseeing eyes to her, his usual smile absent from taut lips.
“I leave today,” he exclaimed bitterly. “24 hour notice and I must leave! Herr Kraus, how can the farm survive?”
As one, both pairs of eyes swung to Johanna. She gasped. Not because she feared hard work, but rather from the sudden, crushing realization that any hope of leaving vanished with Karl’s anguished question.
She lowered her eyes to sip her coffee, presenting complete composure for the men, while her thoughts raged.
“Papa,” she called as she mounted her bicycle. “The chores are done. I’ll be back soon.” With a smile, he waved her off. Frantically she peddled to the town church as beautiful countryside swept past her, unnoticed.
Johanna panted heavily as she stepped into the cool sanctuary—allowing its holy stillness to calm her raging nerves. She dropped into the nearest pew.
“O God!” her heart cried. “What must I do? I want to go! I have to stay! Please show me the way!”
The storm in her heart boiled to its zenith, and then ebbed away. She knew what she had to do. She had to help Papa.
She studied her hands—capable farm hands. These hands would not bring smiles to the faces of soldiers, but could bring a smile to Papa’s. These hands would not take her to far-off places, but could insure the continuation of Papa’s farm. These hands held her future, but not the future she’d dreamed of.
As her tempest ended, she first tasted resignation—then gracious acceptance. She would do it. She would make Papa proud!
Johanna squared her shoulders, a faint smile playing about her lips as her
eyes met those of the stained-glass Shepherd before her. The farm was her post in this unhappy war—growing food for hungry soldiers.
As heart and mind accepted this new purpose, Johanna felt someone slip into the pew beside her. Without a word, Karl picked up her hand, gently lifting each finger in turn. Surprised eyes turned to meet his.
At that moment she saw a new Karl. Her childhood playmate vanished as she observed Karl, the man. A man forced to give up his own dreams in the wake of history.
Johanna recognized her destiny—to stand with Karl—he on the battlefront and she on the farm. Her place was to give him hope. Her place was to give him peace. At that moment, Johanna became a woman.
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