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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)

TITLE: Fountain of Life
By Arlene Showalter


I stare into the fountain, transfixed. Cool droplets of water strike my hot cheeks, run down my neck and into my collar. It is so hot – so very hot. The years melt away until I am seven again.

“Elsa!” Mama’s frantic voice cuts through my joy.

It is the hottest July of my short life. My grandpa and grandma have gone far away. Next, Papa and Johann joined them. Mama tells me they are gone on an exciting adventure, but I know better.

I am young, but I have eyes – and ears. Every night I hear the urgent, hushed voices, planning, planning, always planning. Mama knows we will be next to go. Fear tinges her eyes and words.

The last time I ever saw Mama was as we crossed the town square together. The fountain waters beckoned me to come close. Without thinking, I plunged my hand into the wonderful, chilled waters. Soon, I had my face in the flow. Water poured over my hot body and down my tattered dress. Mama screamed for me to come away before the police came. I didn’t understand. I didn’t care. It was too hot. How could police be cruel to a little girl on such a hot day?

But they could and they were. They saw me and threatened with their guns. Mama threw herself on me. One bang and she lay still. She didn’t speak. Mama had left on her own private adventure where I could not join her.

The years lurched together. Of all the family, I alone survived. “You are lucky,” they told me.

“Not lucky. Cursed,” I replied. “Cursed to live in a world where humans continue to snuff out life without remorse. Babies killed before birth." A chill envelops me, piercing the humid heat.

Babies. I had one. “See, God has blessed you after much sorrow! Rejoice, Elsa!”
“God never blessed me with anything but sorrow.” I scoffed.

My baby grew up to embrace the Jesus of her best friend. She talked about him all the time.

“He’s our Messiah,” she’d tell me. “Born in the land of our people — In Bethlehem just as the prophets promised! He came to save us.” She loved to quote our prophets, as proof of his divinity.

This Jesus was born poor, loved by the ordinary folk, but despised by the religious. Finally killed by his own people. My people. Some god.

My baby’s baby got cancer – and died. She held cradled the dead body of her daughter and praised Jesus.


“Mama, I want to go to the land of our fathers and plant a tree for my baby. Please come with me.”

We toured the “Holy Land” which made me scoff at life even more. Commercialism everywhere, trying to make money on this Jesus.

I watched my daughter change. Her sorrow melted away as she walked the streets her Jesus walked, head held high, in holy confidence and joy.

We went to Bethlehem. A church stands where Jesus was supposed to be born. No sign of poverty there. But my daughter could feel it. She could smell the animals and hay. She could live his rude birth.

As she bowed her spirit in admiration, I stood as straight as a steel arrow, staring ahead, seeing nothing. Suddenly my nose twitched. I sniffed, smelling something sweet and peculiar. Hay? Yes, hay. Next I smelled the sheep.

Sheep – the Passover lamb – the Lamb of God. In an instant, I understood his plan, as God swept the stupor from my dead heart with gentle fingers. A fountain of tears gushed from my eyes, as decades of hatred towards God, my captors, and life in general melted away.

A child’s delighted squeal jolts me from my reverie. Her golden curls bounce, glinting in the sun. Nearby, a policeman stands, smiling.

Carefully I place my seventy-seven year old feet on the rim of the fountain and step in. I stretch out my arm, exposing my dark secret. With joyful abandon the child grasps my gnarled hand with her own petal soft one, and we step into the flow together. The policeman does not shout, nor does he threaten. No, with tears in his eyes, he salutes my valor, for he sees my brand – and understands.

Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 53

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Member Comments
Member Date
Seema Bagai 04/30/09
Wow! This is a great story. Vivid and memorable.
Robyn Burke04/30/09
Really beautifully told. A story of coming full circle.
Marilyn Schnepp 05/02/09
I have no words to properly express my thoughts about this beautiful, heartwrenching, and moving story. However, if you could see the tears streaming down my face and see the pile of tissues used to blow my nose...You'd know! If a person can move their readers to tears or to laughter with their wordsmithing...They've accomplished their goal as a
Kudos! A+
Anita van der Elst05/02/09
Amen and amen and amen to the previous comments! I may not have used as many tissues but this story definitely evoked deep emotions.
Lollie Hofer05/05/09
Wonderful story, well-written. You pulled your readers into this story emotionally from beginning to end. Well done!