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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Conversation (face to face) (10/07/10)

TITLE: St. Augustine and the Chipmunks


My friend, Mel, is as direct as they come, so it was no surprise when early Saturday morning I answered the phone and was greeted with, "Grandma Berta's convinced squirrels have snatched her chocolate. She's distraught."

"Okay, give me an hour to—"

"I'm in your driveway."

Whereas most people's speech exemplifies sound waves—dipping, rolling, weaving, Mel's is more akin to light waves—intense and scorching. Or they're nonexistent. We often occupy the same space sans gab. Thus was the ride down to Grandma Berta's—me with no make-up, coffee sloshing in a to-go cup.

It's ironic then that Mel, the non-brilliant interlocutor that she is, made an observation once that I've been mulling ever since. She said that when Christians talk with one another, they were really talking with Jesus—as He lives within us. Hmmm.

I took a last gulp of what had become lukewarm coffee. "Mel," I said, "I know you believe the Holy Spirit indwelling you is probably having a grand ole time conversing with the Holy Spirit indwelling me, but could you give my flesh-and-blood self some audible speech?"

"I didn't come up with that," she said. "St. Augustine did."

"What?—I should've known." I tried to elbow her, but she swatted my arm away.

"Knock it off, Lauren. And don't humor Grandma like you did last week when she swore Princess could flush the toilet."

"It could happen!"

Mel actually took her eyes off the road. "She's faking incompetence so she can move in with us. And Lord knows, I'm not ready."


"No buts."

Silence reigned till she pulled the van into the driveway of the brick rambler. I noted the boxed hedges and the neatly-edged grass strips at the sidewalk. Every Monday after kids boarded the school bus, Mel drove the half hour to do yard work or wash windows or take Berta to appointments. Sometimes I tagged along; sometimes I made excuses. I could come and go at will.

"Don't humor her," Mel repeated as Berta burst forth from the garage cavity, arms flailing. Her elastic-waisted jeans rode up her middle. It was odd that she'd tucked in her sweatshirt—the one airbrushed with a coy-looking cat. The missing rhinestones at the collar were probably lodged in the washing machine, biding their time, till the day Mel would get a call about a basin that wasn't spinning right.

"The chipmunks took every piece!" Berta cried into my ear.

"How could they?" I said, squeezing her in a hug.

Mel looked on. No one did droll like Mel.

"I don't think the 911 people believed me."

"You called 911!" Mel's voice shot up. "Your son's an officer of the law—are you trying to get him fired?"

I laughed. "At least the squirrels are innocent."

Mel ignored me, instead steered her mother-in-law back into the garage. "Chipmunks did not steal your chocolate."

"Oh, but they did—the caramel ones I bought at Schneider's yesterday."

We glanced at her Camry parked at a slant. "You drove?" Mel asked.

"Just a smidge."

"What happened to the side-mirror?" I held up the object in question; it dangled from a single fat wire. "Did you hit something?"

In the dim light of the garage, I almost missed the old girl's eyes dart down and left. "There were pedestrians—"

"You did not hit a pedestrian." But Mel wavered. "I'm calling Doug."

While Doug checked police blotters for hit and runs, Berta showed me where she thought rodents were sneaking in. For twenty minutes we wandered the house. She stooped and pointed; she stood on tip-toes and pointed. Then abruptly she stopped, cupped a hand over her mouth. "You know—I think that chocolate's in the car."

We found Mel in the kitchen blowing her nose. "No reported incidents," she breathed.

Berta began tapping the end of the counter. "Where're my keys? I set them here. I always put them right here." Her tapping intensified.

"Maybe the chipmunks got them." Words I was thinking, but they came from Mel's mouth—with not a trace of harshness, only uncharacteristic forbearance. "Grandma Berta, I don't think it's safe for you to be living all alone anymore."

Berta's fingers, covered in oblong liver spots, slowed to a tremble. "Are you sure? I can be…difficult."

Mel nodded. My insides welled—my meager contribution to a conversation which I sensed included more than the three flawed humans standing on the warped linoleum.

Ah, St. Augustine—what a wise guy.

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This article has been read 968 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/21/10
I loved the friendship revealed through the dialogue here. The touches of humor, with characters o real I think I know them made this a favorite story for me.
Beth LaBuff 10/21/10
NO ONE does humor like you! You so expertly insert touches of humor after you completely draw the reader into your story. Amazing writing, heart-warming, humorous, great dialog and interaction ...I didn't want this story to end!
Laury Hubrich 10/22/10
I love how you developed all these characters so quickly. So funny and I Love Love Love your title;)
Marita Thelander 10/23/10
I loved the paragraph describing what the grandma was wearing when she came out. Vivid imagery indeed. Sure glad the chocolate may not be missing after all. Great read!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/24/10
This was a fun read. It gave me a nice chuckle. Your characters were quite the characters! I enjoyed the whole story immensely and I've never heard of St Augustine's appraisal of the Holy Spirit talking to one another but I love the idea of it.
Carol Penhorwood 10/24/10
I could so relate to this one (having had elderly parents live with me). Loved your humorous touches and the poignancy of the situation.
Shelley Ledfors 10/24/10
What wonderful characters! I enjoyed the humor and also the compassion that came through in this. Very nice.
Allison Egley 10/24/10
Hehehe Seems like a bit of a role reversal here. I love it. I'm thinking Grandma Berta is smarter than anyone is giving her credit for. :)
Cheryl Harrison10/24/10
I loved this line: "Maybe the chipmunks got them." Words I was thinking, but they came from Mel's mouth...

Humor amidst a tough situation. I enjoyed this. Keep writing!
Gregory Kane10/25/10
Excellent from the first line to the last. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
I'm afraid that I didn't get your allusion to Augustine. I've read his Confessions and more recently I waded through a biography of his life and teachings. So if I didn't get it, it's probably a bit too obscure. That said, your story works perfectly well even without the philosophy.
Joan Campbell10/25/10
This is absolutely gorgeous! I loved the depth of characters, the humour, the wisdom - everything in fact. Great, great job Lisa!
Loren T. Lowery10/25/10
With a slight nod to St. Francis of Assisi as well, I think those chipmunks just may have had some indwelling in that conversation, too. I mean they did have to contend with those erratic tire treads into the garage and those unyielding and accusations. Dear creatures that they are (that we all are) yes, I think they had their say, too. Glad it worked out for everyone : )
Mona Purvis10/25/10
At first, the telling of a story just MUST be interesting. This story does that to the apex. It is just plain interesting!
Then, the voice is pure fun. The characters are so believable.
All these elements add up to a winner.

william price10/25/10
Another masterpiece. Real live, likable, believable characters. Story had great pace. The plot had an authentic feel to it and the entire piece flowed very smoothly. I even learned a thing or two. And yes, very clever title :)
God bless.
Edmond Ng 10/26/10
Great sense of humor! I like the part where Mel said "when Christians talk with one another, they were really talking with Jesus—as He lives within us. Hmmm." A very interesting read I enjoyed thoroughly.
Caitlyn Meissner10/26/10
Fun characters and great descriptions. Good job! Though, for the record, we have plenty of chipmunks at our house, and I wouldn't put it past them to sneak inside to steal our chocolate. ;)
Henry Clemmons10/26/10
If literature gives order to human experience; if it explores cultural values; if it demands an emotional response from the reader ...
Then this is literature. I lived in your story and was invested in each event. I loved it all, except it had to end.
- Herny C.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/28/10
Congratulations on your EC! War to go!!
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/28/10
Congratulations! I knew it was a winner!
Sonya Leigh10/28/10
Yay, Lisa! This is a deserving entry. So much subtlety woven in the story, true to your excellent style. Well done.
Loren T. Lowery10/28/10
Congratulations, Lisa. Knew from the get-to this was a winner! Loren
Joy Bach 10/28/10
This is another great one. And such a touchy subject. I was right there in the room with you. Way to go, role model.
Beth LaBuff 10/28/10
Lisa, Super congrats to you and the chipmunks! Coffee? :)
Henry Clemmons10/28/10
I forgot to mention, this was not only the definition of literature, but the definition of classic, award winning literature by a true professional. Great story. I learn a lot each time I read an entry from you. Thank you. And I sincerely congratulate you on your placement.
Timmy Boyle10/28/10
Wow. #3. You never cease to amaze me.
Caitlyn Meissner10/28/10
Congratulations on your EC! You did a great job. :)
Jody Day 10/28/10
Great title! Congratulations!
Connie Dixon10/28/10
This is priceless. Congratulations on your EC. Great job!
Nancy Sullivan 10/28/10
After reading your comments, I wanted to read your work as well. You set a high standard for those of us still observing this wonderful class call FaithWriters. Congratulations on a terrific and entertaining story - and on a well-deserved EC. God Bless.
william price10/28/10
Very creative:) Your work inspires me to be a better writer ... wait, that sounds like Jerry Mcguire, well you had me at ... Anyway, congrats on being recognized as the great author you are. God bless.
Rachel Phelps10/28/10
Fabulous, as usual, friend. Well-done!
stanley Bednarz10/29/10
Lisa! When you write it seems nothing is out of place. The delicate and placid way you can use dialogue to build vivid characters will remain unmatched by the rest of us. I would call 911 if chipmunks got my caramel candy. Stan...