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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Oops (01/14/10)

TITLE: Heartburn at Mike's Barbeque and Grill


I try to curb my excitement at the thought of Matt walking through the doors of Mike’s Barbeque and Grill. In all our 17 years of marriage I’ve never thrown a shindig, let alone used the word.

“I think he’s going to be surprised,” I say for the umpteenth time.

“Safe bet.”

"Thanks again for flying in to help me.”

“Stop thanking me, Sylvie. I told you when you moved you weren’t getting rid of me.”

I smile at her, grateful. Laura has stuck with me through thin and thinner. “They should start arriving any minute. Let’s switch the plates and utensils to the other end of the table.”

“Why? The serving line will start here. Will you relax?”

“I can’t.” I finger my single strand of pearls—the only jewelry outside of my wedding band and watch I wear. “I want to make a good impression. There’ll be church people and Matt’s work people and neighbors. I arranged it so Matt’s boss would be bringing him—he's using a job-related ruse.” I walk over to the far side of the table and pick up the paper plates. “I need it to be perfect.”

“Then you need to relax. Hey, where’s the karaoke machine?” She finishes tying balloons to the cake table then scans the exposed brick interior of Mike's party room. “I thought you said there’d be karaoke.”

“Nixed it.” I set the plates down and go back for the napkins and utensils. “We don’t need a bunch of Brittany Spears wannabees. I’m rationing beer and wine consumption, too.”

Laura drops her shoulders—way down. It seems to her knees. “I was going to sing you a song,” she says.

“You were?”

“Look, Sylvie, I’m not implying that the only way to have fun is with alcohol and up-beat music, but if you don’t stop trying to fit everyone into your box, things aren’t going to be different here. And I’m telling you that as your friend.”

“But that’s why I’m throwing this birthday party. I want people to know how much fun I am. On the invites I even wrote, come and enjoy spicy legs and tantalizing ribs. That’s fun, isn’t it? An event like this can make an impression.”

Laura looks at me oddly, but keeps quiet. I wonder if she’s remembering back to when I moved to her neighborhood and within a month held a sit-in at the elementary school in hopes of banning Maurice Sendak’s, In the Night Kitchen. That got me branded as the Morality Gestapo. “Do you think I alienate people?” I sit down in one of Mike’s ladder back chairs, my party mood gone.

“I’m just saying that it might be good to hold yourself to your standards. Try to meet others where they are.”

I check my watch. “No one’s coming anyway—so it’s a moot point.”

“They’re coming.”

“It’s already quarter after, Laura. A hundred barbeque chicken halves and 75 pounds of ribbed beef are going up in smoke.”

“People are probably just running late.” Laura can be naively optimistic. “Or maybe they got confused between the time they should be here and the time Matt would arrive.”

“I don’t know. There’s an invitation next to my purse.” I put my head in my hands. Lord, all I ever wanted was to do my best, serve You the best I could.

“You have the time and date right,” says Laura.

A story comes to my mind. It’s the one where the traveler walks up to a gatekeeper and asks: what kind of people live in this city? The gatekeeper replies: what kind of people lived in the city where you came from? The traveler lifts his chin with contempt: they were rude. The gatekeeper ends the exchange: then those are the kind of people you will find here, too.

“I’m looking at these directions, though,” says Laura. “Exactly what did you MapQuest?”

“Mike’s Barbeque and Grill—or maybe I just plugged in Mike’s like I had on the invite—I’m not sure. Why?”

“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about being branded the Morality Gestapo here in Cleveland.”

“Really—why not?”

“Because you sent out directions to Mike’s Bar and Girls.

My innards tremble—a bona fide shudder for sure. Oh dear Lord, I knew I shouldn’t have added the part about the spicy legs and tantalizing ribs . . .

Brrrring-brrrring—where in God's Word does it say one is obligated to answer her cell phone?

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This article has been read 1244 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sheri Gordon01/22/10
So funny...and so believable. This line made me laugh out loud: "Oh dear Lord, I knew I shouldn't have added the part about the spicy legs and tantalizing ribs . . ."

You've got to write part 2--I want to know how she gets out of this. :)
Chely Roach01/23/10
This was such a witty piece, complimented by your great characterization of the MC. I could totally see her. I love the subtle depth of the message; it made me ponder if I was more like her, or the people who have judged and distanced themselves from her...
Sadly, I think it's both. Awesome writing:)
Gregory Kane01/24/10
This is expertly written. I was a little taken aback when the morality theme was suddenly introduced halfway through and the story took off in an unexpected direction. As others have said, it would have been interesting to know if anyone did turn up. Been there; always hate the last half hour before an event!
Rachel Phelps01/24/10
I love the way this story played out. Great way to weave a serious message into a comedic story. Wonderful!
Jan Ackerson 01/25/10
Oh, hilarious! I can't tell you how much I love this, because it's so, so funny on one hand--and so, so deep on the other. Sublime.

Never heard the gatekeeper anecdote before; that was a nice little bonus.

Expertly crafted, with a wonderful narrator.
Barbara Lynn Culler01/25/10
Oopds is right! Great story-should be a winner.
Debbie Roome 01/26/10
Oh my! I can just imagine how she felt. Very good.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/26/10
You pulled me into the story right away. I had empathy for the MC. Thank you for putting a smile on my face so early in the morning.
Lyn Churchyard01/26/10
You could feel Sylvie's tension while she waited. LOL, oh my, that certainly was one big "Oops".
Jim McWhinnie 01/26/10
Lisa, you are a master of dialog.

The story rolls on so smoothly and effortlessly. And what a wonderful zinger!

Loved it!
Shirley McClay 01/26/10
Eesh.. this scares me! I am always getting my letters mixed up when I type. I am sure to do this kind of thing someday!
Sharlyn Guthrie01/26/10
This put a little knot in my stomach, as I am currently planning my own "shindig." Hope it goes better than this one. I'd love to read the next chapter.
Patricia Herchenroether01/26/10
Fantastic! Great dialog, wonderful plot, on topic, and clever ending. It even held a spiritual message. Love it. Patty
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/26/10
I love your mc--so real, I think I know her. This is a story that delights in so many ways.
Connie Dixon01/26/10
Love your details and humor. So funny. Thanks for making us all laugh (and think). Great writing (again).
Ruth Brown01/26/10
Masterful Comedy,I loved it!
Edmond Ng 01/27/10
Very interesting read! My first thought was Mike's Barbeque and Grill sounded like a nice place to dine in, not much like an event name. I guess its no wonder why the people are going to the wrong place! LOL (",)
Bryan Ridenour01/27/10
Super entry. I loved the "oops" moment here. I figured her problem was the wrong date or time, not the wrong location:) Great job!
Mona Purvis01/27/10
Married to a guy who thinks Bar-B-Q should be on all the best shindigs.
Looking for the "oops" moment, I encountered a life-lesson...meet people where they are. I think this was meant for me.
Good food...spiritual.

Sarah Elisabeth 01/27/10
I think this is the first piece that made me laugh and cringe...yikes! But I liked the underlying message, well done!
Noel Mitaxa 01/27/10
I'd also like to know how your MC gets over her 'misteak.' Very entertaining material.
Carole Robishaw 01/27/10
I, too, want to read the next chapter. I really enjoyed reading this. Loved the message hidden behind the fun.
Kimberly Russell01/27/10
I always enjoy reading your stuff because you just never know what is going to happen next!
Carol Slider 01/27/10
Absolutely hilarious, with a serious message--a superb combination. I would LOVE to hear what was said in the phone call!
Beth LaBuff 01/28/10
What a riot! Super congrats on your level placing AND EC!! :)
Rachel Phelps01/28/10
Congrats, Lisa!
stanley Bednarz01/28/10
Lisa! Wow!
It reminded me of Jan's "Herring," story.

What a lesson in how dialogue
can have differing uses.
Joan Campbell01/28/10
Congrats! A very worthy winner - lovely humour and dialogue.
Lyn Churchyard01/28/10
A worthy winner indeed :-) Congratulations!
Patricia Turner01/28/10
I love it! I want to see a sequel too! A hearty congratulations!
Edmond Ng 01/28/10
Congratulations Lisa on your winning second place in the Editors' Choice! So happy for you! (",)
william price01/28/10
This is terrific! Loved every inch of it. You used great restraint before the zing. Super dialogue, characters and storyline. Topnotch writing in a very special exclusive class! This belongs in the Book, any book!
Leah Nichols 01/28/10
Congrats on your well-deserved win! I love how you are able to tie life lessons into your pieces without being preachy. Makes one think, even while smiling at the "oops" in the story. Nice, nice job. :)
Charla Diehl 01/29/10
Congratulations Lisa on both wins with this humorous story. I could feel Sylvie's knotted nerves as the story progressed and my heart sank with hers when she discovered the blunder she had made. Great writing always brings the reader into the moment with the characters--you seem to achieve this so effortlessly. Excellent!