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

TITLE: A Lightening Bug's Lesson
By Bryan Ridenour


Clarice swiped perspiration from her forehead, flinging droplets of sweat in an angry shower. Scrubbing floors in August was a hot job. She stomped outside and vigorously pumped the well’s handle; water sputtered great gasps and then gushed quickly, filling a wooden bucket to the brim. Once the bucket was full, she clomped up the worn path to the house, sloshing as she went. Pockets of water pooled with every step, leaving a wake up the porch steps. Refusing to be careful, she barreled into the kitchen, the door slapping shut, water splattering onto the wide-plank floor. Clarice didn’t care; she had to scrub anyway. She secretly hoped Aunt May would come trooping in, slip on a puddle, and careen headfirst into the oak buffet. Her lips sported a smirk at the possibility.

“Clarice,” warbled Aunt May, straddling puddles, hands on hips. “Are you scrubbing or swimming? Evening shadows are falling…”

Clarice blew strands of loose hair from her eyes. “I’m sorry, Aunt May. I’ll clean up.”

“You’d better… Hurry along on the floor, then I need you to fetch some preserves from the cellar.”

"But I was wanting to go to the swimming hole before nightfall," she whined.

“You know I won’t go stumbling in the dark with spiders, and I’m craving blackberry preserves. After that, I want you to pick some fresh greens.”

Clarice scrubbed angrily. Once the wood floor gleamed, she grabbed a lantern and dashed outdoors. She tugged on the cellar handle and the door swung open, smacking loudly on the ground. A yawning hole in the earth, now awaited a visitor. Clarice slipped into the cellar quietly, not wanting to alert spiders and other creepy crawlies of her invasion. The lantern cast eerie shadows in the dank but refreshingly cool atmosphere, illuminating masterfully designed webs standing ready to entangle unsuspecting insects…or people. Clarice scanned the shelves and snatched the preserves.

“Clarice,” called Aunt May, peering from the top of the cellar steps, “did you get lost?”

Clarice emerged from the cellar, jar in hand.

“Clarice, what were you doing? I didn’t send you down there to waste time.”

“I know, Aunt May. I was dodging cobwebs. Here,” she offered the jar of blackberry goodness.

“Ewww, cobwebs,” Aunt May shivered. She grabbed the jam and huffed back into the house. “Don’t forget about the greens,” she called.

Clarice tramped to the fencerow, squinting as dusk quietly turned to night. Greens grew wildly there creeping up the rustic wooden posts. After selecting a basketful, she trudged to the house, worn from a day’s hard work.

“Clarice, come join me,” called granny from the porch.

Clarice walked up the porch steps and knelt down beside her grandmother who rocked gently, the chair’s creaking cadence joining the chorus of crickets and cicadas.

“You see the fireflies, dear?” Granny asked.

Clarice watched tiny lights fade on and off, twinkling like little stars in her own front yard.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“When are they most beautiful?” Granny asked.

“That’s easy, Granny. When their lights are shining.”

Granny slowed her rocking and leaned forward, softly caressing Clarice’s cheek.

“I know you’re frustrated with your Auntie, dear, but keep letting your light shine.”

Clarice remained still, but tears threatened to gush down her cheeks.

“But she treats me like a slave,” the words caused the dam to burst, and tears streamed freely.

“Since your parents passed, she’s done her best to teach you hard work. She never was able to have children of her own. Even though she has a different way of showing it, she loves you child. Consider your work as serving, not slaving.”

Clarice said nothing.

“Your Aunt, does not know Jesus, and if you work without complaining and sighing, your Heavenly Father will bless you and, Jesus will shine from your life. When we let Jesus shine, we are most beautiful.”

Clarice managed a weak smile. “I understand Granny, but it’s just so hard.”

“I didn’t say it was easy…”

Clarice stood to her feet and pecked her grandmother lightly on the cheek. “Thanks, Granny, I’ll try.”
Granny watched Clarice step inside the house with her basket of greens. “Here they are,” Aunt May,” she called. “Can I do anything else for you?”

Granny, not hearing the response, smiled. Now that’s beautiful, she thought.

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This article has been read 648 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sharon Laughter07/16/09
i really enjoyed the clear picture of the character's frustration! Question: is the use of so many "c"s a literary device? I kind of got bogged down at times:"creaking chair chorus crickets," etc. Nevertheless this was fun!
Seema Bagai 07/16/09
An excellent message and well-chosen details in this piece.
Carol Slider 07/20/09
I felt sorry for Clarice. I'm glad she has her grandmother with her, too! Great job with the details--well done.
Gregory Kane07/21/09
This is very much a story set in two different styles. Your opening and seventh paragraphs were exhausting to read with a swift succession of so many strong verbs. They did however encapsulate Clarice's sense of drugery. Outside of these paragraphs the pace slowed way way down. Easier to read and a fitting contrast given the advice.
Karlene Jacobsen07/21/09
Quite an enjoyable read. I loved it.
Christina Banks 07/22/09
The things that we can learn from bugs! Thank you for the good lesson.
Patricia Herchenroether07/22/09
Boy, this poor kid has a hard life; thank God Granny's there with kind words. The end explained a lot. Good lesson.
Sara Harricharan 07/22/09
Ouch for Clarice. I sure know what that feels like. You captured her frustration well and this read with a slightly lyrical feel to it. I'm glad she has granny around to help her balance out a bit. This was good.
Rachel Rudd 07/22/09
I liked this a lot! I got the sense of an "old-timey" setting, but maybe that's not what you intended. Anyway you see it, this story tells an excellent lesson and is well-written!
Catrina Bradley 07/22/09
Wonderful! Perfect inside-view of this child. I remember having the same thoughts and feelings when made to do chores. The ending on this story is masterful! Granny's words are truly inspired. This one is a winner. :)