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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hotel/Motel (09/12/05)

TITLE: The Innkeeper's Daughter
By Jan Ackerson


“Ruth, more fish!” Papa was frantic. We had more guests in the inn than ever, and it seemed that everyone wanted their evening meal at once. I lifted a wooden tray laden with fire-roasted fish above my head and made my way through the crowd of tired and unhappy travelers. People called out to me in unfamiliar dialects.

“Girl! Bring me some bread!”

“Paugh! This wine is no better than vinegar!”

I delivered the fish to my sweating and red-faced father, then ran back to the hearth to help my mother with more food preparations. She bent over the coals, testing a loaf of bread atop the baking stone by flicking it with her finger.

“It’s not ready yet, Ruthie. They’ll just have to wait.” Mama passed the back of her hand across her brow. Her eyes were shadowed and weary; she had toiled with hardly any sleep for days.

For nearly a fortnight, travelers from every corner of the country had crowded into our inn. We brought in fresh straw daily, tossing an extra coin to the boy who brought it, his donkey loudly protesting the extra load. But still, the rooms stank—my father was doubling and tripling the number of visitors in each room.

Cramped quarters, road-weary sojourners, unfamiliar foods—I don’t wonder that occasionally tempers flared. I didn’t mind when the guests rudely demanded more work of me—I am only a girl. But I had to fight back tears when they abused Mama and Papa. As I fetched and carried water, or tossed soiled straw out the windows, I repeated over and over the words that Grandmama had taught me: when Messiah comes…a whisper of hope.

I was about to go to the well for another jug of water—the twelfth of the day—when I saw that more travelers had arrived. They stood in the open doorway, the late afternoon sun casting them in darkness, with a glow about their heads. Papa rushed to the door, waving his hands. “Go back! Go back! I have no room for you here!”

The man talked earnestly with Papa, offering him coins and indicating his wife, who leaned heavily against the door frame. She was only a few years older than me. I wondered what it was like, to travel to distant villages with a husband. My mother was born here, and she has never left this place. Perhaps I will die in this village too. Papa turned his back to the pleading couple and strode away.

“Ruthie! The water, and quickly!” Mama pushed me toward the door.

A guest grabbed my sleeve as I made my way out of the room. “Bring me more olives, girl, and not the puny ones!” When Messiah comes

On the way to the well, I saw the man comforting his wife, who sobbed quietly into his shoulder. She could have been my sister…”Come with me,” I told them, and I led them to the grotto where we stored the food for our three milk goats and the ornery old donkey. It was cool there, and clean, and the young woman sank to the ground, leaning against a pile of straw with a grateful cry.

“Thank you, child.” The man grasped my hands, then turned to minister to his softly panting wife. I picked up the water jug, filled it at the well, and hurried back to the inn.

“Where have you been, girl? I need some more water!”

“These figs are spoiled! You’ll not get my silver!”

“You call this fish? I can hardly swallow it!”

When Messiah comes

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This article has been read 1496 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Phyllis Inniss 09/19/05
Well done. When Messiah comes they won't recognize Him. They are too quarrelsome and ill-tempered.
Anita Neuman09/19/05
Excellent writing! Wonderful, transporting description.
Alexandra Wilkin09/20/05
You capture the place, sights and sounds so well. This is wonderful and held me from start to finish, and a new perspective on the story of His birth. God bless.
janet rubin09/20/05
Wonderful and so realistic!
Pat Guy 09/21/05
Gave me goose bumbs! I enjoy stories that capture the essence of an event and period of time in the Bible. Great job!
Nina Phillips09/21/05
This was really nice..I felt like I was right there. The heart of the innkeeper's daughter-wow! I thought she would take the water back to them. But like it was said, when messiah comes, they weren't aware. God bless ya, littlelight
darlene hight09/21/05
Wow! what a perfect entry and a great one to try to get published for the season. Loved it! Very realistic and it drew me right along. I like the idea of the girl offering a place for them to rest and her being the same age. Way to capture the moment.
Debra Brand09/21/05
Loved it!
Jan Warrick09/21/05
I love this story! The combination of the hotel owner's weariness and the daughter's hope is a great contrast. Good job.
Lynda Lee Schab 09/22/05
Bravo! Bravo! I absolutely loved this entry, from the perspective of the innkeeper's daughter to the whispers "When Messiah somes..."
Creative & well written. A winner in my book.
Blessings, Lynda
Kyle Chezum09/22/05
Awesome! This was great. One of my favorites! I liked the portrayal of the overcrowded inn. Good job!
Suzanne R09/23/05
I was right there, almost in the person of the main character. Just beautiful!
Deborah Porter 09/26/05
Jan, I just wanted to stop in very quickly to let you know that your entry was in the semi-finals for the Hotel/Motel Challenge. In fact, you placed 11th overall (across all levels). So well done. It was a great story. With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)
Princess Carroll Ayo Durodola01/16/06
Even though it's been awhile since this was written I have to add my praise. This is fabulous and reminds me of the power of the storyteller. This is a great witness - spread it around.