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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hmph! (03/04/10)

TITLE: Elbow Grease
By Delores McCarter


My daughter Amber was only fifteen when she graduated from high school so she knew a thing or two about keeping good grades. However, since she was only a teenager, she still had a lot to learn about life.

Right after she graduated, we found out that she was in a fight with two boys. I was furious when I heard that my little girl may in fact be a little bully. My husband agreed that we should nip that problem in the bud. I would handle the situation on my own with him as my back up if needed.
When Amber came home, I met her right at the front door.

Her clothes were rumpled and her hair was disheveled, so it was obvious that she was up to something. I stood right in the hallway with my hands on my hips.

“I heard you were fighting today. Is that true?”

“Wow. That was fast.” Amber replied.

“Is that all you have to say?!”

“Mama, there was much more to it than just a fight.”

“Just answer me.”

“Yes…but I was….”

“I don’t want to hear another word!” I

“But Mama!”

“Since you have so much energy, you need to spend it constructively. Right after breakfast tomorrow morning, you will spend the day cleaning every single bathroom in this house.”

“All of them?”

“I didn’t stutter. All seven of them and don't ask Ms. Cheryl for any help either.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Amber said somberly.

The next morning, our housekeeper Cheryl helped me with breakfast as the rest of the family woke up.

Amber was the last one down to breakfast that morning but I didn’t say anything beyond the customary morning greeting. She held her head down during breakfast and didn’t say much. Her silence was in strong contract to her seven siblings all talking at once.

Saturday was family day and we had martial arts scheduled for the morning and then off to the fun park for bumper cars and miniature golf. But Amber would have other things to do.

I knew she was really looking forward to today, which is why the punishment was hard for her. Actually, I was starting to feel guilty. Over the endless questions and clinking of plates, my husband glanced over and winked at me for support.

We cleared the table and got everyone ready to go to the park for a walk. We couldn’t possibly start karate class on a full stomach. It was a good way to get seven kids puking on the floor mats. A good half-mile around the park would settle their little tummies.

My husband sent the kids off to the restrooms before Amber got started cleaning. I stood in the hallway, pretending to go through yesterday’s mail. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Amber carrying rubber gloves and reaching for the cleaning supplies. I inhaled and exhaled deeply, trying to hold back from cancelling her punishment.

After we finished our martial arts class, we decided to check on Amber’s progress. If she was finished, she could join us for the rest of the afternoon. I caught up with her on the second floor. She was cleaning her brothers’ bathroom, clearly the worse of all of them.

“When you’re finished, you can go to the park with us.” I said. She didn’t say anything but she couldn’t hold back the smile.

“Ok. I’m cleaning the last one now.”

“Well, it’s not too bad.” I frowned at the grimy tub. “You just need some elbow grease.” I joked. I headed back downstairs and left her to her work.

I stood in the hallway going through another batch of mail when Amber ran downstairs to the kitchen. Cheryl was sitting at the kitchen computer when Amber started pulling all of the cleaning stuff out of the cabinets and setting them on the floor.

“What are you doing?” Cheryl asked.

“I’m looking for something.” She said.

“Well, what are you looking for? Maybe I can help you.”

“I’m not supposed to ask for help, but I’m looking for some elbow grease.”

Cheryl started laughing and Amber just looked at her.

“You won’t find elbow grease under there, sweetheart. You’ll find it in your muscles.” Cheryl explained.

“Humph! That’s very funny, Mama.” Amber said and she stomped back upstairs.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/11/10
This is a cute story, I was expecting her to be vindicated, by a great reason to fight. I'm so happy you didn't go that route.

Tiny typo contract instead of contrast. But that was minor next to the great lesson you shared about how important it is for a parent to follow through.

I often want to rescind a punishment too, so I could empathize with the mother.
Connie Dixon03/13/10
Good dialogue, kept me engaged. Someone really needs to package elbow grease, it would probably do well!