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

TITLE: Something Like Light
By Jan Ackerson


Don’t let nobody tell you a thirteen-year-old can’t fall in love. I loved Jasper Lee from the moment he stepped in the doorway of Momma’s restaurant, with the July sun at his back makin’ his blond wavy hair look almost like a halo.

Lemme back up a minute, though. What Momma had couldn’t rightly be called a restaurant. She had a little cabin, with some rickety picnic tables where she’d serve the men from the sawmill lunch—thick meat sandwiches and quarters of fresh pie. On the day that Jasper Lee first come in, I was carryin’ some pieces a’ pie when I stopped and jes’ plain stared at him, that’s how pretty he was.

Mister Joe Tanner turned around to see what was makin’ me so google-eyed and he grinned, but it was a friendly grin. “Best step on inside here and meet Miss Ruby’s daughter, Jasper Lee. Seems like she already got stars in her eyes.” Jasper Lee set down, still covered in sunshine, and give me a real nice smile, even though he was three years older’n’ me, almost a man.

“What’s your name?” he asked me, and when I told him Pearl, he said we both had names from the Bible. Jasper Lee sure did love his Bible, an’ all that summer when he was apprenticin’ to be a millworker, he’d take his lunch by me, an’ tell me scripture stories while I studied his freckled hands.

Two whole summers I set there loving Jasper Lee while Momma hollered at me to fetch sandwiches from the kitchen. Come fall, he’d head back to his folks across the gap to finish his schooling, so’s he could become a mill hand when he graduated.

But that third summer, I didn’t hardly see Jasper Lee. The men at Momma’s said he was mostly goin’ off on his own fer lunch these days. I figured he’d found somebody else to read scripture to. Imagine my surprise when he showed up one late August day and brung me outta Momma’s place to a little hidey-hole in the woods. He’d built the sweetest little cabin there, with all the sawmill men helpin’ him some, and he meant for him ‘n’ me to live there, soon as the circuit preacher come around to marry us.

An’ the next July, we had us a bitty baby boy who we named Malachite Jerusalem, more words from the Bible. But that was a lot of name for such a tiny thing, so we jes’ called him MJ.

Jasper Lee loved scriptures as much as he loved me and MJ. He had a little New Testament in his pocket on the day of the mill accident—the day Jesus decided he needed Jasper Lee more than we did. My heart frosted over that autumn, and when the creek behind our little cabin crackled with ice a few months later, my frozen spirit crackled, too. Ain’t no way a girl only seventeen oughta be a widow, an’ with such a little baby.

I spent that next year teachin’ MJ ‘bout his daddy, and cryin’ because I didn’t even have no picture of him, to seal him in my heart. But as MJ grew into his face, I realized I didn’t need no picture, because Jasper Lee’s son was gonna look jes’ like him some day.

I never told MJ no Bible stories, though. An’ one fine summer morning jes’ before MJ’s first birthday, I stole outta the cabin while he was still sleepin’ and went down to the creek to tell God I didn’t believe in Him no more.

I felt fierce an’ empty when I went back inside, like I done a fine and brave thing. An’ then I seen that MJ was gone from his little bed, and all that fierce emptiness filled up with a horrible, salty fear.

I ran outside, callin’ MJ! Malachite Jerusalem! but I needn’t have hollered because he was right there ‘round the side of the cabin, sittin’ in the grass and reachin’ for a sunbeam. His yellow curls fairly shone in the light, and a fat bumblebee danced in the ray of sunshine. MJ didn’t know enough to be skeered a’ that bee, an’ he jes’ laughed and laughed.

Oh, Lord! I thought. Would you lookit that? Jasper Lee woulda loved this little boy!

An’ when I realized who I’d just talked to, and how I now felt full of something like light—why, I just laughed and laughed myself.

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This article has been read 952 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Chely Roach07/16/09
Perfect title, phenomenal voice, and superb characterization. Just the right amount of dialect added to this piece and its beautiful, simple message...loved it.
Seema Bagai 07/17/09
You created excellent, realistic characters in this piece. Good work.
Jim McWhinnie 07/18/09
Excellent dialect that so effectively added to this story.

Well done.
Christina Banks 07/20/09
I love how you incorporated light and the season into this piece. Your voice is superb!Wonderful!
Carol Slider 07/20/09
This is a sweet and lovely story, with such a realistic narrator's voice. Beautiful message, too. It's amazing how God finds us unexpectedly when we're not looking for Him...
Melanie Kerr 07/20/09
Superb! You caught my imagination with the first sentence and held it to the last!
Laura Manley07/20/09
Wonderful story! You've done a superb job! The title fits the content. In the fifth paragraph when you speak of his "schooling," I'm wondering if you wouldn't want to change that to "schoolin'" since that is how the narrator is speaking.
Very nicely done!
Connie Dixon07/20/09
Incredible, Jan. I am in awe of this piece. Priceless!
Patricia Turner07/20/09
I love your charactarizion of these folks. I could see little MJ reaching for that sunbeam and the bee. A wonderful story from beginning to end!
Steve Fitschen 07/20/09
I agree with all the glowing comments. I only hit two small passages where I paused over a rough phrasing or with a question. It was amazing that one moment it seemed as if there would be no way you could wrap this story up in a satisfying way--it seemed as if too much still needed tying up--and the next moment you had done it! It was like watching a magician's trick that you just can't figure out.
Amy Michelle Wiley 07/20/09
Ooo, you did such a good job of setting the characters, time, and location without really explicitly saying any of it. I loved the "told God I didn't believe in Him" line, since it's such an oxymoron.
Gregory Kane07/21/09
A delicious bittersweet romance. I particularly liked the child's inventive name.
Pamela Kliewer07/21/09
It wasn't until I was almost done reading this that I realized the topic was summer, not Twilight years (I didn't read any last week, so got off kilter)! I was wondering how in the world you were going to get that in there... lol All that to say, I loved this! The voice was perfect and I could really 'feel' the era it is set in.
Karlene Jacobsen07/21/09
A bittersweet tale.
Dee Yoder 07/22/09
Jan, this is so lovely. It reminded me of myself when my hubby passed away and my son and I were left...so many feelings of happy and sad mixed together, it was, indeed, a bittersweet time. I really like the title, too.
Patricia Herchenroether07/22/09
Perfect voice. perfect plot. perfect ending. perfect writing. Just perfectly wonderful!
Laury Hubrich 07/22/09
I loved these 3 characters. You made them all come to life. Excellent job.
Jackie Wilson07/22/09
I enjoyed this story from beginning to end. Wonderful writing, touching story.
Sara Harricharan 07/22/09
Loved the voice and the character here. Just lovely!
Mariane Holbrook 07/22/09
What a great voice! And what a great entry! Big time kudos!
Sharon Kane07/22/09
Fantastic writing. I loved the innocence of the young love, the pain of loss, the hope reborn. Fantastic choice of names. If someone lined up 'pearl', 'jasper' and 'malachite' and asked me what they had in common I don't think I'd say 'They all appear in the Bible'! But they do! Great job, as usual.
Loren T. Lowery07/22/09
Part of not being able to read entries until late, is that most of what you could say has already been said, so I will only add that it was a pleasure to read this; and I can't think of a higher compliment.
Sherrie Coronas07/22/09
Wow...while I hope to advance out of the "intermediate" level some day, I'm scared to compete with fantastic submsissions like this! Story telling at its best...
Catrina Bradley 07/22/09
The dialect and voice are perfect; the ending left me with an mmmmmmmmm in my throat. I am in awe of your talent.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/23/09
I fell in love with Jasper, too, as well as with your story--just delightful.
william price07/23/09
I really liked this. Some excellent lines, especially about the icey (sp?:) creek and her frozen spirit. You should teach this stuff:)
God bless.
Helen Dowd07/29/09
What a darling story...And I love the way you told it, just like it should be told, with the feelings of a teenager maturing, but remembering her fist love...What more can I say? This story is filled with intrigue--and sometimes doubt as to where it was taking the reader--and surprise at how it led into romance and a family. Almost a tragic ending, but light thrown into it just in time, before the climax...Perfect!...Helen