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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Autumn/Fall (08/27/09)

TITLE: Drab and Plain
By Debbie Roome


“I hate it, Stef. Please tell me you can do something with it.” My sister holds up a costume she’s been given to wear in her school play. “It’s so drab and plain.”

Does she remember using those words to describe me?

I take the outfit from her: a shapeless brown dress with red and yellow felt leaves pinned to it. “What character are you playing, Kath?”

Her lip trembles slightly. “It’s so unfair. It’s the story of a prince who has to battle the four seasons to win his bride. Miss Carstens has chosen an Ice Princess, a Summer Queen, a Spring Fairy and I’m the Autumn Witch!”

I’m silent for a moment as twelve-year-old indignation spills over and she drags her sleeve across her eyes. “Is that what she called you?” I ask.

“Well, no. My official title is the Autumn Beauty but Marty O’Brien said I look like a witch.”

I drape the offending garment over a chair back and take her in my arms. “I’ll fix it for you,” I say. “I’ll take it in and give it some shape; maybe add some colour.”

Her smile surfaces and she hugs me back. “You’re the best, Stef. I’m sorry for making fun of your sewing. You’re really good at it.”

Maybe she is growing up. Maybe drab and plain will take a back seat one of these days.

“Do you remember the word games we used to play?” she continues. “Where we would choose a theme and brainstorm it. Let’s do that for my dress.”

“Let’s do it for autumn.” I reply. “After all, that’s the theme of your dress.”

She pulls it on and as I pin and tuck, we spar with words. “Fiery leaves in amber, gold, scarlet and sunshine.”

“Marmalade streaks in sweet jelly.”

“Gingerbread, spices and swirls of thick honey.”

“Rows of orange pumpkins.”

“Blazing fires that crackle and hiss.”

“Whirling eddies of leaves.”

“Oranges, lemons and tangerines.”

I run out of words first and chase her from my room, laughing. “I’ll have it ready for a fitting this evening.”

The idea comes to me as I’m running seams through the sewing machine. It’s easy to track down Miss Carstens who used to be my drama teacher, and I explain the situation.

“I don’t have a problem with that.” she answers. “I’ll leave it in your hands.”

Over the next few days, Kath and I continue our word game. “Burgundy, crimson and brown.”

“Bronzed gardens.”

“Glittering sunsets.”

“Ribbons of rust.”

“Blonde hay bales.”

“Harvest time.”

After she goes to bed, I stay up till the early hours, cutting, pinning, stitching, dreaming.

The day before the play opens, I deliver a parcel to Miss Carstens. “She doesn’t have a clue.” I tell her. We smile at each other and I run my hand over the package in anticipation.

I’ve booked a front row seat for the performance and my sister looks stunning as she sweeps onto the stage. Her face is bronzed and smooth but the real glow is from within. It matches the new golden gown that floats around her, adorned with vibrant ribbons of autumn. I sewed them on, one by one: shades of amber, gold, scarlet and sunshine; gingerbread, spices and swirls of thick honey; orange pumpkins and blazing fires that crackle and hiss; burgundy, crimson and brown; bronzed gardens, glittering sunsets, ribbons of rust and blonde hay bales.

She seeks me out afterwards and throws exuberant arms around me. “That was the best surprise ever, Stef. It’s absolutely magnificent. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” She plants a kiss on my cheek. “And Marty O’Brien says I look red hot in it.” With a whirl she dances off, heading towards backstage and her friends. “Guess what!” she calls over her shoulder.


“I’m starting a new word game – about you this time. Talented, caring, sacrificial and special. Wonderful, marvellous and kind.”

She disappears in a flurry of autumn and silk as I object. Even so, a smile fills my face. I think I just graduated from the school of drab and plain to become the best sister ever.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Janice Fitzpatrick09/03/09
Oh wow, this is so delightful and the characters and dialogues are believeable. I loved the descriptions but then my favorite season is Autumn; cool, bearing gifts of gold and crimson, apple pie smiles and heaps of crispness, squealing children jumping into veined beds of brightness. Oh, how I enjoy this time and your piece was just as enjoyable. Thx fo sharing it with us. :0)
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/03/09
You made fall come alive through the vehicle of a drab brown dress and a caring, talented sister. I loved the sisters' word games and the way you used them to sneak in the wonderful descriptions of fall.
Bryan Ridenour09/04/09
Very creative entry and well written. Enjoyed this. Nicely done.
Charla Diehl 09/04/09
This was a sweet story of two sisters and the love they share--and you creatively wove this around the topic. Great job.
Allen Stark09/09/09
Great word pix! I guess I should have appreciated my stepmom more for her attempts to make us kids clothes out of feed sacks back during the years of post-depression.