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

TITLE: Threads
By Rachel Phelps


The ripping sound as she straightened was almost enough to make her cry. Ruth carefully settled her pack on the ground and edged her hem upward several inches to survey the damage. The shorn stalks scraping her shins had finally wormed their way through the much-worn fabric of her mourning clothes.

“Of all the brazen…” The none-too-quiet whisper drifted clearly to Ruth’s ear.

She edged her gaze to the right, catching the disgusted glances of several Jewish widows who had been pointedly shunning her for the last week. Their scandalized tongue clicks preceded another barrage of gossip as Ruth attempted to keep the tear from lengthening. The clothes had been her mother’s parting gift.

“They say she only came because her family wouldn’t have her back…”

“I heard she brought her idols with her…”

“Poor Naomi. What a trial the girl must be to her…”

Ruth tightened her lips and gave a good huff through her nostrils. Let them try living with a grief-deadened mother-in-law and see how they fared.

Forget their existence. That would be Orpah’s advice. How Ruth ached for her sister-in-law’s company. After the trying weeks in Bethlehem, she was beginning to see the wisdom of staying in Moab. She gave one more wide-nostrilled breath and bent to raise her bundle, scooping a few heads of grain into her hand.

“This is my share.”

The sharp tone was not unexpected, but the sudden appearance of the woman at her elbow was. Ruth’s hand opened reflexively, dropping the kernels away from her sack. “I apologize. I did not realize.”

The woman snatched at the falling grain with a throaty gasp of frustration. “Do they teach children wastefulness in Moab?”

“As the children in Israel learn selfishness.” Ruth bit her lip immediately, futilely calling the words back. The sun’s rays had not managed to bring such a blush as now darkened her cheeks.

The woman looked remarkably self-satisfied as she stepped closer, leaning down slightly to keep her eyes level with Ruth’s slight frame. “No God-fearing Jew should allow you in his fields.”

“Are not the injunctions of the law to help the poor, widows and strangers in our land?”

The new voice made both women jump. Somehow neither of them had seen the field’s owner approach. Ruth’s heart sank even as it pounded in the surprise of his arrival. He had overheard her insult one of his own people – in her country that would be grounds to expel the stranger from the village entirely. She opened her mouth to interrupt, but her tongue faltered. The man’s question hung unanswered in the stifling air of midday.

“Indeed, Ben-Salma,” the Jewish woman said reluctantly. “But surely the law does not include those who intentionally waste.”

Ruth found her voice, “You must accept my apology, kind lady. I was startled, that is all.”

“If you must come and work in our fields and take food that would go into hungry children’s mouths, you ought to learn not to be so careless.” The voice dripped honeyed poison. The woman turned to Ben-Salma for support.

“Peace, Jael,” he said, smiling gently at both of them. “There is grain enough for all this harvest, thanks be to the Most-High.”

Jael pressed her lips together, nodding her agreement even as a slight harrumph came from her throat. It was clear she did not place rejoicing over the Lord’s bounty above the virtue of a full loaf of bread on her table at the end of the day.

“Come, both of you, and draw some water at the rest tent,” Ben-Salma offered a smile that seemed to magnify the sunlight, dissipating some of the tension. “The midday heat makes fools of those who toil under it.”

He stepped past them, leading the way. Ruth found herself a mere half-step behind him, separated from Jael who had turned aside to find another companion. Boaz Ben-Salma had spoken to her only once before, to ascertain that she was indeed Mahlon’s widow. There was something achingly familiar in his bearing and the timbre of his voice. His kinship to Mahlon could not be denied.

“How fares my cousin this week?” Boaz asked as they reached the tent.

Ruth’s heart fluttered for a moment, and she berated herself. “Naomi is gaining strength now that she is home.”

His smile widened and Ruth responded with a small one of her own. Behind her, she heard the tongue clicks of the other widows, felt the stares. For that moment, it didn’t matter.

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This article has been read 1044 times
Member Comments
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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/13/10
What a fresh perspective. You gave me a new way to look at the story. It was done nicely, I enjoyed every word.
Sarah Elisabeth 03/14/10
What can I say? You did it again, Rachel. I am in awe of how you take a piece of history and wrap it into such an engaging, complete tale with such depth. 'Nuff said.
Carole Robishaw 03/14/10
I really enjoyed this, good job. I liked the perspective, it brought a story we all know to life.
AnneRene' Capp03/14/10
Your writing allows me to feel as though, I now know these wonderful characters from the past and am able to see them more clearly as "real people" versus just a name and an account.
Lyn Churchyard03/14/10
I enjoyed this different POV of the story of Ruth. Well done. The attitude and reactions were very easy to see in my minds eye.
Connie Dixon03/14/10
Refreshing perspective on this great story. Loved your interpretation.
Carol Slider 03/14/10
The details and the emotions make this story come alive beautifully. The Biblical account only tells about Ruth's love for her mother-in-law, but I'm sure it wasn't easy for her all the time. Ruth recognizing something of her late husband's features in Boaz... that was a nice touch. Well done.
Barbara Lynn Culler03/14/10
Yes, this was very good and kept me intriqued to the end. I would love to hear more in your version!
Bryan Ridenour03/15/10
Great take on the account of Ruth and Boaz with superb writing thrown in. Well done!
Gregory Kane03/15/10
I get tired of hearing sermons on Ruth that make it all sound like a fairy tale. You brought out the pain and anguish and sheer cattiness extremely well.
william price03/15/10
A very real feeling to this entry. I could taste the grit of the plot. No Hollywood makeover here. Nice edgy presentation. The opening was lil awkward on first read, then once I honed in your pace I started over and it was kool. Time well spent. God bless.
Pamela Kliewer03/15/10
I enjoyed this take on the story of Ruth very much.
Catrina Bradley 03/15/10
Some of the best Biblical fiction I've read. You created a world in my mind and brought Ruth and Boaz to life in it. Wow this is good!
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/16/10
Your very interesting story brings a new perspective to the Bible story without deviating from the ideas in the original.
Joanne Sher 03/17/10
I REALLY like this POV for Ruth. I'm with Gregory - love you giving her some reality. Truly enjoyed this piece.
Beth LaBuff 03/17/10
Masterful writing, wow! I especially liked your characterizations, the Jewish widows with their tongue clicking and a bit of righteous indignation that flares out of Ruth. Excellent work!
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/18/10
Congratulations on placing in EC!
william price03/18/10
Like I said earlier, I really liked this. Congrats on EC.
Donna Wolther03/18/10
Somehow I missed this before. The characters jumped off the page and became so real. Wonderful.
Jackie Wilson03/18/10
Congrats on EC! Very much deserved!
Carol Slider 03/18/10
Congratulations, Rachel, on a very well-deserved EC!
Sara Harricharan 03/18/10
Great job! I like it, one of my faves of yours so far! ^_^ Ruth is a great story.
Rachel Rudd 03/19/10
Wonderful to see this familiar story written in a new light and written so well...congratulations on a well-deserved win, name friend. :)
Joan Campbell03/21/10
A belated Congrats on your EC, Rachel. This was beautifully written, bringing the characters to life - I really loved it!