Home Read What's New Join
My Account Login

Read Our Devotional             2016 Opportunities to be Published             Detailed Navigation

The HOME for Christian writers! The Home for Christian Writers!
The Official Writing Challenge



how it works
submission rules
guidelines for
choosing a level


submit your entry
read current entries
read past entries
challenge winners

Our Daily Devotional HERE
Place it on your site or
receive it daily by email.



how it works   Submit

Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hot and Cold (04/09/09)

TITLE: The Seven Year Smorgasbord Itch


The frost date has passed. I know this because Isabel is planting rosemary and lemongrass when I come home from work. My wife is full of seasonal rituals, making a calendar for the marking of time unnecessary.

“Hi there,” she calls, motioning with a spade for me to join her. She’s working in the circular herb garden, surrounded by embedded stones. A six foot post, topped with a birdhouse, towers above her.

I set my gym and computer bags on the deck and step down onto the lawn in my wing tips which will now need polishing as the yard has grown unruly. Should’ve started mowing several weeks ago—maintenance is truly the bane of man’s existence. I sit myself in the middle of the concrete bench so it and I won’t topple over. Made that mistake before.

Isabel’s attention has returned to hole-digging. She’s wearing a sun-yellow wrap skirt with lavender colored ties and pockets, one of her creations. I remember sighing last November when she pulled out the sewing machine—time for storm windows to go up.

“How was your day?” she asks.


“Oh, goodness—anything but that!” Not a trace of malice touches her smile. She scoops fertilized soil from a bag that’s been ripped haphazardly near the top and sifts it into the waiting holes, picking out a few dark clumps, breaking them apart. The dark spray landing on her skirt looks like Oreo crumbs. Her oval face is also dusted with potting soil mix, yet she’s beautiful.

The rules said I could only have one woman, so I chose carefully. But what would our pastor say if I told him the routine, the responsibilities of life, of family, pressed daily upon my chest? The incremental accumulation just now noticeable.

I know what he’d say, so I keep quiet.

“What’s wrong, Thad?” Her body shifts back toward the heels of her green, plastic clogs. She stabs the spade into the ground.

“Where's Seth?”

“Nice try. Now what’s got you down?”

I lean sideways and pinch off a sprig of the rosemary waiting in a pot. She’s close to planting it, burying it in the ground—never to be moved again.

“I miss having smorgasbords,” I say.


“You know—that awesome variety of hot and cold food spread out on one table. I'd alternate between something hot to warm me and something cold to cool me. Nothing ordinary about smorgasbords.”

“Your mother made those, didn’t she?”

“The last one the Easter before she passed away. Then you and I got married . . . and well . . . the smorgasbord stops at marriage.” I roll the rosemary between my thumb and finger, practically tasting lamb chops. “Where’s the dill?”

“Behind the birdbath. Why?”




“Oh, aspic.”

The following afternoon, there’s no Isabel in the herb garden when I come home. Instead I find her and a hundred competing smells coming from the kitchen. “Close your eyes,” she says, bobbing in front of me, her form bringing new appeal to one of my mother’s old aprons, teal daisies faded. “Don’t you open them,” she warns.

It’s obvious what she’s done. She kissed me goodbye in the morning, bee-lined to the Internet, then shopped for and prepared everything listed under Smorgasbord. She didn’t get that I wasn’t really talking about an array of food. That’s not what's wrong.

She leads me to the dining room before releasing my hand. “Wait a sec,” she says. “Okay, you can open them. Ta-dah.” She’s holding an oblong platter, her prize—a congealed salmon. I think that’s dill under the gelatin.

We’ve been lying in bed ten minutes; I can barely move. I’m regretting the caution I smacked out of the park when I gorged on bread, headcheese, sour cream herring, steaming potatoes with white sauce, peas, cabbage rolls, and rice porridge. And, of course, the aspic. I’ll be amazed if I survive the night. A moan squeezes past my distended diaphragm.

“You don’t sound like you’re doing very well,” says Isabel, rollling to my side. She kisses my forehead several times. Her fingers feel cool at my temples. “Gee, honey,” she whispers, with what may be a trace of malice. “Who would’ve thought indulging one’s appetite for smorgasbord could cause such pain?”

I’m glad it’s dark and she can’t see the frozen expression mapped across my face. Couldn’t be satisfied with a woman of beauty alone—could I? This is what I get for wanting brains, too.

The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.

This article has been read 1642 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Loren T. Lowery04/16/09
A story steeped in aged denials spiced with double entendres and smothered with smoky anticipations. The MC certainly did not need a priest or pastor for confessional. He knew his wife was clever, but seemed a bit surprised to learn that she knew what needed to be brought to the table as well.
Rachel Rudd 04/17/09
Smart wife! I hope the husband gets smart, too! Very well written! :)
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/17/09
Delightful story throughout. I like smart wives.
Catrina Bradley 04/18/09
Very intriguing opening paragraph - sets the mood for this thoughtful story and the MC's discontent and longings. I love the subtle underlying message and the wife's understanding of his true "problem". The details and descriptions bring it all to life. Nice job!
Sonya Leigh04/18/09
What a sweet wife this faithful man has come home to! (I can almost imagine their faces :).

This story stirred me because of its under layers of scriptural kindness. This is one smart wife who takes the time to really listen to her husband, and then goes the extra mile to respond wisely.

It takes great writing to have the je ne sais quoi quality of bringing a point home.
Laury Hubrich 04/18/09
Funny:) Beauty and brains. LOL.
Chely Roach04/19/09
The "aha" moment in the last three paragraphs was priceless. Very witty;) Love it, love it, love it.
Jan Ackerson 04/19/09
I think I see this as a little bit darker and sadder than the previous commentators...I finished it with a sense of longing and discontent. Not at the writing, but in empathy for the narrator, who's still not quite content. Superb writing, capturing un-nameable emotions with marvelous wordsmanship.
Betty Castleberry04/19/09
I, too, sense a hint of melancholy in your MC.

I loved the opening, and got a clear mental picture of the wife planting her herbs.

Well done.
Kristen Hester04/19/09
Very well done! The voice is so real. I felt his discontent and wanted him to love and appreciate his wife as I do. She was great. The picture you painted of her was so clear. This is excellent. I would read the novel!
Carol Slider 04/19/09
I think the guy is beginning to realize, by the end, that he DOES have it all (i.e., brains and beauty). At least I hope he's realizing it!! You've created incredibly compelling and realistic characters, and the description and details are fantastic. Very well done!
Kimberly Russell04/19/09
Wow- this was very powerful. I too felt sadness and could totally relate to this situation- felt like I was right there. Terrific!
Dena Wilson04/20/09
What a great story. The subtle hint of the husband wanting more, and the wife showing that sometimes more is too much, I enjoyed this.
Gerald Shuler 04/20/09
I agree with the comments about this story's "dark" feel. Your writing style took me to places in my own emotions that I wish had never existed. The MC could have once been me. That is incredible writing.
Shelley Ledfors 04/20/09
Wonderful piece. Sweet, yet sad, and very true to life. You've put a tremendous amount of depth in a short, word-limited piece. Very well done!
Pamela Kliewer04/20/09
I'm in agreement too, with those who said this seemed to be a dark piece. I was left feeling, that the MC was just on the verge of a turn around, but not quite there. Very well done.
Sharon Kane04/20/09
Fantastic rendering of the common problem of the man who needs more spice and the wife who keeps everything neat and in its place. But with wisdom like Isabel's there is always a future. I hope she's not too late to rescue him from the downward slide, and I hope she leaves him breathless.
Myrna Noyes04/20/09
I loved your story and could so picture Isabel from your exquisite descriptions! This line was a favorite, "My wife is full of seasonal rituals, making a calendar for the marking of time unnecessary," as it told a lot about her in so few words! The emotions of the husband and the wisdom of Isabel were so clearly revealed. You touched on longings many of us have at times in our lives, so it is easy to identify with your characters. Excellent writing! :)
Diana Dart 04/20/09
Perfect title, first of all - bit of a hint there. The tone of the first few paragraphs was perfect (it totally made me want to garden as well, but that's besides the point...). I LOVE that the MC was real, genuine and flawed. And that your ending wasn't happily-ever-after, even though a resolution was hinted at. The whole thing felt authentic and so I became much more involved and concerned. Great, great writing.
Sharlyn Guthrie04/20/09
Beautiful descriptions and characterizations! I felt a bit of sadness for both husband and wife, but the discontent and emotions you portrayed are realistic. excellent writing!
Connie Dixon04/20/09
This story is awesome, everything about it. It flows so well the creative "spices"...ok herbs, really run deep. I loved this.
Sheri Gordon04/21/09
The writing is excellent, but I'm left wondering. The last paragraph leads me to believe that there is more to the husband's emotions than is revealed in the short story. Maybe I just missed it, but something still isn't okay with him, and I want to know the rest. :)
Joshua Janoski04/21/09
I too found this story to be somewhat sad despite the humorous undertones. I felt like the man was not truly appreciating the great woman that he has and that he was being discontent with his married life. I could be wrong in my interpretation, but that is how I took it.

I felt like this was a very good portrayal of many marriages today and the struggles people have within those marriages. Great writing as always!
Carole Robishaw 04/21/09
I wondered how many women had been in his life before he married, and if he would realize that he had made the best choice possible in Isabel. Great job, very realistic, as we all too often wonder about what we are missing.
Ruth Ann Moore04/21/09
You have received so many wonderful comments that I figured I would focus simply on one of the little aspects I loved. I enjoyed how you reemphasized the couple's life was the same by the MC's lack of need for a calendar. The subtle nuance there was excellent. (I even hoped to see it a third time!) Incredible writing.
Beth LaBuff 04/22/09
What a title! I LOVE this woman's sense of humor, brains, and EVERYTHING about her! The comment "time for storm windows to go up" is brilliant (as is this whole story)!!

The only change that I would suggest would be your MC's name, I preferred the name you used in last weeks entry, but then again, I guess you can't use that name for every entry. :)
Joy Faire Stewart04/23/09
Congratulations on your top Editor's Choice win. Fantastic writing!
Eliza Evans 04/23/09
Sheri Gordon04/23/09
Woo hoo, Lisa. Big congrats on your top finish.
Sonya Leigh04/23/09
Hip-Hip-Hurray!! Congratulations, Lisa!! Fantastic Job.
Loren T. Lowery04/23/09
This is great to see, Lisa. Congratulations! Loren
Carol Slider 04/23/09
Congratulations, Lisa! Very well-deserved!!
Myrna Noyes04/23/09
AWESOME, AWESOME, LISA!! :D WAY TO WRITE!! I knew this was a winner when I first read it! CONGRATULATIONS!!
Catrina Bradley 04/23/09
Congratulations, Lisa!!! A very well deserved 1st place.
Karen Wilber04/23/09
Excellent. Not just a smart wife--a very smart story. Well deserved EC. Congrats!
Amy Michelle Wiley 04/23/09
You did such a good job of subtlety in this story--letting us experience what was happening without telling us what to feel and think. You are a skilled writer.
Glynis Becker04/23/09
Fantastic! Congratulations on a well-deserved win!
Patricia Turner04/23/09
What a beautiful picture of a modern Proverbs 31 wife! Congratulations on your win! Very well deserved.
Connie Dixon04/23/09
Congratulations, Lisa. Superb!
joanna reed04/25/09
Sorry, I totally missed the reference to God. I assume that this site is named Faithwriters and I dont the demonstration of your faith in this paper. I must admit I am always surprised that lack of acknowledgement and respect for God in an article gets any recogniztion at all considering the name of the website.
Judy Meyers04/25/09
I enjoyed the story. How much can we write about the hot and cold of God's wishes. A fresh approach to the subject material was welcomed.
Celeste Duckworth04/29/09
Thank you for inviting me into your world and all the hot and cold parts of it. Loved the shoes needing polishing part and sitting on the stone bench just right, things we learn by experience. Made me chuckle.