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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Phew! (02/11/10)

TITLE: A Few Different Kinds of "Phew"
By Beth Muehlhausen


A Few Different Kinds of “Phew”

It was one of those days that deserved a spot in the Guinness book.

In the wintry early-morning darkness, Angie’s mutt Buddy insisted on sniffing out squirrels and took forever to do his business. Angie shivered on the porch in her pajamas and chanted, “Go, go, GO! Just gogogogogo, you crazy DAWG … !” Insult was added to injury when her vintage Retro Toastmaster toaster failed to work. “No crispy brown blueberry bagel today?” Of course it was also a bad hair day; spring-loaded blonde coils shot in every direction. The special sweater she’d hoped to wear to Bible Study still lay in the dirty clothes hamper.

Bumpy snowdrifts crusted with ice stood like shimmering moguls between the house and her car. Angie zipped her winter coat over her pajamas, stepped barefooted into her boots, and headed outside with resolve not unlike that of an arctic explorer. Was it her imagination, or did the curvaceous white mounds somehow grow deeper even as she plowed them with her trusty poly resin snow shovel?

With a path cleared and the car windshield scraped, Angie returned to the house, kicked off her boots, shrugged off her coat, and swept hair spirals from her eyes so she could see the clock. “Phew … fifty minutes ‘till Bible Study, with a forty minute drive. I can do it …”

Like a sprinter in a track meet, Angie jumped the toiletry-related hurdles and threw on jeans and an alternate sweater. She grabbed her notebook, Bible, and purse and headed for the car - only to find a dead battery! “Hey Al … Al!” Angie’s jumping jacks attracted her neighbor’s attention. “Battery’s dead!”

Within minutes Al’s truck hummed beside Angie’s lifeless vehicle. “You’ll be running in no time flat. Turn the key when I tell you …”

Sitting behind the wheel, Angie chanted: “Phew-phew-phew-phew …. PHEW!” She impatiently drummed her gloved fingers on the wheel and stared at the white clouds billowing from her mouth: volcanic puffs announcing a potential eruption.

“You’re all set!” Al said with a grin. Angie smiled weakly in return and nodded as Al slammed the hood. “Careful - could be ‘black ice’ out there!” he called.

“Thanks!” Oh sure, Angie thought. I’ll be fine.

Twenty minutes later the radio blared Beach Boy oldies as Angie turned onto an interstate via a ramp that curved gently to the right. “And she’ll have fun, fun, fun till her daddy takes the t-bird awaaaay ….”

Halfway down the ramp Angie felt the back two wheels of her car skate to the left with an almost-Olympic-style grace: a death spiral? The view through the windshield spun from black pavement to white-on-white. Angie’s involuntary cry of panic never found its voice.

The car performed something close to a three-hundred-sixty-degree turn. When it finally stopped, its rear wheels were planted well off the ice-covered pavement. Angie gawked straight ahead like a paralyzed opossum; her body shook uncontrollably. An adrenalized mechanical buzz erupted in her vibrating bottom jaw, making her teeth chatter.

Angie clutched the wheel with frozen white knuckles while she held her breath and her foot pushed the accelerator. The car crept back onto the ice like a momentarily stunned figure skater limping back to the rink.

Her relief escaped with a gasp. “PHEW …”

The four-lane highway offered its own Hitchcock-like nightmares. Drivers inched along at thirty miles per hour, while every few minutes a car careened off the road. At one point a burgundy Cadillac did a graceful quarter-turn and headed down the embankment backward! Angie’s heart raced as she watched its slippery descent.

Angie arrived at the church very late for her Bible Study, shaken but also moved. “Going down that ramp was like floating in outer space,” she told her friends while emphatically waving her arms with slow-motion Dorothy Hamill-like choreography. “No sense of gravity, no control … sliding, flowing, turning like a figure skater or a dancer lost in a Strauss waltz … oom-pah-pah … gliding … “ A shuddery sigh erupted: “Phhh-ee-eeww.”

Then she explained. “It made me think about life, and death, and resurrection.” She could easily imagine the white landscape spinning out-of-control before her eyes, the eventual jerk of the car as it came to rest, and the euphoria of regaining traction. Angie looked into the wide-eyes of those listening and said with conviction, “Our Lord is alive and involved in every moment of our lives. Because He lives, so do I.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Janice Fitzpatrick02/18/10
Wow, wonderful descriptions, colorful dialogue and a narrow escape of tragedy. Great piece. I love the ending when the incident is related to
"...life, death and the resurrection..." Well done!
Joy Bach 02/23/10
Obviously written by someone who likes ice skating. Such a true-to-life story. Very well written. Certainly on topic.