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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Summer (the season) (07/09/09)

TITLE: A Jug of Grace
By Jim McWhinnie


Swab boiling tar on a steaming roof in the sizzling heat of a blazing July scorcher in Florida, and you just might have a sense of what hell might be like. I did just that one summer, six days a week, ten hours a day. I am mighty thankful for that summer for it set the standard for what a hard day’s work actually was for the rest of my life.

Come two o’clock in the afternoon, you feel your flesh begin to cook. The sweat on your arms gets so hot that it turns to steam. The vapors of the tar begin to sear your lungs and the tar feels like it is seeping right into your soul. Your shoes begin to melt and if you’re not careful you can end up welded to the tar paper.

The slowest hour of the day is from five to six in the afternoon. Though you dare not check the time, the lowering sun tortures you with the thought, “Human, this day is almost over, . . . but not yet.” So you press on, finishing that one last stretch of roof before it finished you.

Back then, we were paid five bucks an hour for our labors – mighty good money for those times. It seemed it took forever, but eventually the foreman would give us the shut-down whistle. We would pack our gear, hitch the tar wagon to the truck, and then Antonio, a Mexican gentleman with a wife and five kids, Lester, a Cajun fellow who sang bawdy bayou ditties all day, Big Larry, a former football player who grew up on a farm near the Everglades, and me, a college boy who had the hankering to be a preacher one day, we’d all pile into the rusting, half-broken down, pick-up truck. Our next stop would be a nondescript, run-of-the-mill, Seven-Eleven convenient store.

A clerk named Sandy would say, “Howdy, boys. Hot day out there, I suspect.” Every day she’d say the same thing. And every day we’d answer her in the affirmative, each of us in our own native way. Then we’d each buy a gallon jug of ice cold lemonade, pulled from the lowest shelf of the cooler.

Then we’d go outside and sit under this kind, old oak tree. We would guzzle some lemonade, wipe off another layer of sweat and tar from our faces, guzzle some more lemonade, and talk about how, in spite of it all, life was good. And, let me tell you, my friends, that jug of lemonade was the best lemonade a human thirst ever knew.

Folks ask me, “Pastor, what is the meaning of God’s grace?” I tend to answer, “Oh, it’s many things, but it tastes like cold lemonade at the end of a hot summer’s day pouring tar on a burning roof.”

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This article has been read 806 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dolores Stohler07/16/09
I could almost feel the sweat as I read this. We're having a heat wave in Colorado right now and I'm mighty glad for the AC. All said, I really love summer and I do love lemonade. Nice job.
Seema Bagai 07/16/09
Excellent descriptions. I could feel the heat radiating off the roof.
Fay Ternan07/16/09
The physical picture, tar smell, heat and blessedly cool drink came through so clearly. Nicely done.
Lisa Keck07/16/09
I really liked this. I loved the kind old oak and the last line--"...like lemonade on a hot summer's day ..." but then I hiccupped. "...pouring hot tar on a roof." jarred me. My instinct is a couple of words would clarify but I don't know which words. It would work to end after summer's day but runs the risk of sounding cliche-like.
Josiah Kane07/17/09
I particularly liked the way you built up the background to your descriptioion of grace. The work really sounded hard, and the idea words "what hell might be like" gave a nice touch of foreshadow to the message.
Patricia Turner07/17/09
A wonderful lesson and I really like the ending. Nice writing.
Chely Roach07/20/09
What a great connection to the grace of God...lovely. Well done!
Mariane Holbrook 07/20/09
Do I ever know what tar tastes, smells, feels like! And you've nailed it! Great writing and a great way to bring "grace" (one of my favorite words)into the mix. Kudos!
Virgil Youngblood 07/20/09
A great example of God's grace learned on the job.
Gregory Kane07/21/09
Some highly evocative imagery here from the heat of the tar to the weariness of the labourers to the sweetness of the lemonade.
It's a funny thing but I've read your piece three times now and I'm still struggling to see the connection to God's grace. There's an allusion there to Hell fire so maybe it's just the contrast between the two. But it left me scratching my head!
Jeanne E Webster 07/21/09

I'll take a jug of "God's grace", thank you! Home-made in heaven, I'll bet!

Loved the analogy of life's hard labors being refreshed and relieved by God's grace(lemonade)! Amen.