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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)

TITLE: Thunk
By Jan Ackerson


None of the common metaphors for epiphany really applied to what happened to me. When the realization came, it wasn’t a blinding light, or a flooding of my spirit—it was more like a combination lock tumbling into place. Thunk…I was single…thunk…I was forty-two years old and not likely to get younger…thunk…I liked it. With the last thunk, I unlocked Happy Single Woman and set her free.

What better place to celebrate than the lake? No matter that it was January; Mom and Dad’s cottage held my most precious memories, and my parents had given me a set of keys. I packed thermal undies and Grandma’s crazy quilt, my coffee maker and an assortment of scarves.

My plan: a sheepish conversation with God in which I’d acknowledge that He’d been right all along (despite the flawless scenarios I’d laid out for His perusal), then a long session of thanksgiving. I hoped to write, and I tucked a dozen sharpened pencils and several legal pads into my bag. On the way out to my car, I noticed a few flakes in the air and went back for my down comforter.

A winter beach has a desolate beauty. On my first morning there, I filled a mug with dark roast coffee and clomped down toward the lake, wearing my father’s boots and swathed in scarves. Bits of driftwood dotted the sand, which crunched satisfyingly under Dad’s heavy boots. A lone seagull picked at a bit of litter. Beyond the shore, a few chunks of ice bobbed in the chilly waves.

And a man was walking toward me, his head bowed as if studying the sand. He looked to be on a collision course, and he obviously hadn’t seen me. I stifled an itch of annoyance—what was he doing on my beach?—and called out a greeting, muffled by layers of wool.

He stopped and looked at me as if I were the interloper. “I dropped my oddleg calipers. Have you seen them?”

I didn’t answer Mr. Oddleg Calipers right away for several reasons. First, I had no idea what oddleg calipers were. Second, I was too busy pulling out my “Why, God?” list. Despite his irritated expression, Odd Cal was…pleasant…to look at, with graying hair that curled out from a knitted cap, and a deeply cleft chin. Thirdly, a gust of wind penetrated the scarves and stole my breath.

By the time I sputtered out my denial, Caliper Guy had sidestepped me and continued his muttering survey of the wintery sands.

I finished my coffee, thinking.

Time to write—my editor expected a synopsis soon. I considered a new character: a scientist, perhaps, with graying hair and a cleft chin. What are oddleg calipers for? A niggling discontent took residence behind my left eye.

I woke early the next morning, with a sharp wind whistling around the lone bedroom window. As I sipped my coffee, I watched Cleft Chin gathering driftwood. He tapped the sparsely accumulated snow from each crooked branch, then tucked it into a bag slung over his shoulder. I think I’ll call him Flint.

For three days I watched The Guy I Called Flint. He whistled as he searched the beach, an unrecognizable tune that stayed with me even when Flint was gone. Once, I watched as he swiped his nose with the back of his hand, then brushed it on his parka. On the fourth day, cold and clear, he brought a little stool and placed it on the frozen sand, then began assembling a sculpture with driftwood, wire, feathers and shells. I didn’t recognize all of his tools—presumably, he’d found his oddleg calipers. As he worked, he glanced toward the cabin. I ducked away from the window and rubbed my temples. Why won’t this headache go away?

I brewed more coffee and took out a fresh pencil.

An hour later, the legal pad was still blank, save for a game of solitaire hangman in the corner. I grinned; I’d lost a game of hangman—to myself. The word was zymurgy—no wonder.

A knock on the cottage door—Flint was there, holding a driftwood monstrosity with a goofy look on his face, a puppy dog begging for approval.

I burst out laughing as the tumblers fell into place again. Thunk…this guy was a bad artist with an annoying personality…thunk…I’d just wasted several days…thunk…I liked being single.

A January breeze blew in and shivered my shoulders. “Sorry, Flint,” I said, and I closed the cottage door.

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This article has been read 1333 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 08/20/09
Liked the story as it unfolded but felt the ending a bit abrupt, or even rude on the MC's part. Sort of wanted her to invite old Flint in for coffee.
Mona Purvis08/20/09
I rather enjoyed the story from what wasn't said...sometimes the real story. I had to read to find out more about the MC. I like her. The 'clunk' of the lock is priceless.

Catrina Bradley 08/20/09
Great title for this piece. Was expecting the requisite story-book ending, and was PLEASANTLY surprised when the tumblers locked into place again. LOVE the ending! (And the descriptions of the wintry beach were beautiful!)
Val Clark08/20/09
The moment Flint wiped his nose on the back of his hand I just knew he was not for your MC. :-) I found the story a bit enigmatic though in that at the beginning she has accepted being single as from God, but her decision to give Flint the flick is based on his poor art and annoying personality. The introduction was intriguing piqued my curiosity. yeggy
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/21/09
You took me on a merry ride with this one, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. How very cleverly you built your plot. I'm glad you didn't go with a traditional ending for your "thunk" girl, although I fell for Flint a little, myself.
Lynda Schultz 08/23/09
This feels like it needs a Chapter One and a Chapter Three to go along with the Chapter Two you have here—I'm fascinated.
Bryan Ridenour08/24/09
Descriptions were fantastic and story well told. For some reason, I don't think Flint's going to give up...:) Well done!
Michelle Foster08/24/09
The lock metaphor was fantastic :)
The only line that caused me to stutter in my reading was: "went back for my down comforter."
I thought the word "down" should have been after the word "back" (went back down for my comforter." Then I realized down was being used as a description.
I was surprised at the ending, but the visual's were amazing!
Colin Swann08/24/09
Most of us would love to get alone, just in our own company, in a place like this - completely uninterrupted by the likes of a nuisance. Enjoyed the feel of a nostalgic stay by the sea.
william price08/24/09
You set the mood expertly, introduced your very real character mastefully and wove a great winter tale with some of the best writing I've read in while. God bless.
Jeanne E Webster 08/24/09

Most enjoyable story.

Perhaps Flint saw the MC peeking at him through the window and sensed an invitation?!

Loved the details!
Patricia Turner08/24/09
So rich in detail - what a fun and well woven story. I like the various names your MC had for this guy - and where was that sheepish conversation with God - could that be what was missing from the picture? And I have to ask - what are oddleg calipers anyway?
Carol Slider 08/24/09
I just had a sneaking suspicion this wasn't going to be the standard girl-meets-boy story! Fantastic characterization and description... I felt like I was there. But I still feel kind of sorry for poor "Flint"... :)
Ada Nett08/24/09
You certainly have a gift for pulling the reader right into your writing! I will admit I was expecting a rather different ending.
Kimberly Russell08/24/09
Wow- awesome. As a "happily single woman", I applauded your MC--can't be too careful these days--too many weirdos out there. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride!
Beth LaBuff 08/24/09
I enjoyed the eclectic list of necessities she packed (and I can relate to them all. ) You had so many things in here that made me smile (if not "giggle" see the new "things" game in the water cooler)… the "oddleg calipers," "a niggling discontent took residence behind my left eye," and "I'd lost a game of hangmen--to myself" to name a few!
Mariane Holbrook 08/24/09
You outdid yourself with your descriptions and with the ending. A super piece of writing!
Dee Yoder 08/25/09
Yep--that last thunk was THE final decision on Flint and all others, I think. The setting is wonderfully cold and wintry. I liked Flint, until the nose thing, and then--ICK. Poor guy. He's clueless.
Deana Thomas08/25/09
Loved it! You don't have to hit me over the head with a ton of brinks. At least, that's what I Thunk, before I married Flint! *grin*
Deana Thomas08/25/09
oops! bricks. a ton of bricks. *chagrin*
Karlene Jacobsen08/25/09
Ok, this was laugh out loud--no abbreviations--hilarious!
Kristin Slavik08/25/09
This was fun - made me laugh out loud a few times. Loved the line about losing at hangman with herself. I liked that she figured out that she should stay single, but I think the ending was a bit rude - maybe just because of the 750 word limit.
Chely Roach08/26/09
Loved the title, the first paragraph, and the ending. Flint was a tool. Lol. I think the door slamming shut in his face was akin to her slapping herself in the forehead. A perfectly placed "Duh!" moment for the MC,and also a classic, non-sappy Jan finish. ;) Loved it.
Yvonne Blake 08/27/09
Congratualtions, Jan!
I liked how the man's named changed from sentence to sentence.
Unpredictable ending!
Colin Nielsen08/31/09
Congratulations Jan, You really have tallent (but you don't need me to tell you that, you have 50 million others to do that lol.
What worked: Everything.
What didn't: Nothing.
How's that for a detailed critique. I tried and tried, but could not find anything at all wrong with it. Characterization was spot on. You capture the life and times of a single christian woman perfectly. I really loved the part where you outlined a perfect plan for God to consider only to realize he knows better( sounds very familiar to me even though I'm not a woman nor single). Absolutely loved it. Expand and send to an editor right away.
Dianne Janak09/02/09
I love to be stunned, and surprised, either with humor or drama. This was a touch of both in a way. It made me want to write again. It's been a while, and this caught me up in the mystery of words on a page to unify us with our common humanity.
Betty Castleberry04/01/10
I am challenging myself to go back and read pieces I have not read. Yours are high on the list.

I liked this for many reasons. Love the descriptions. I wanted her to invite him in and take the sculpture, but that's because I'm that kind of person. The ending did work. Well done.