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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Billboard/Poster/Sign (any or all) (12/02/10)

TITLE: Minds Made Up
By Marlene Bonney


I’ll admit I was distracted that morning. Lord knows, I always have more than a body can do wrapped up in each day, much like the stacks of unending laundry towering above the basket waiting for their turn on the ironing board. Taking in washings was our only livelihood nowadays for my Joe and me.

I smiled, even though the oppressive heat, at my strong handsome son as, muscles bulging, he carried in another load of Miz Gibbs boarders’ snowy white linens from the clothesline stretched between our house and the shed.

“Whatever would I do without him?” my grateful mother’s heart swelling.

Joe’s pa had been buried last Spring, and I missed him sorely. He had simply vanished in the blizzard of Sixty-one and his frozen body wasn’t found until the first thaw. I shook my head at the remembering, called back to the present by the iron sizzling upon the hearth.

“Ma, can I go to town now?” Joe, impatiently hopping from one foot to the other, asked.

“Mind you put on a fresh shirt first,” and a few moments later, he was off, his slicked-back wet hair still glistening from the outdoor water pump’s dousing.

I had learned long ago once the lad took a notion into his head, Gabriel himself couldn’t talk him out of it. And going to town was harmless enough, since all knew him there and were kindly toward him.

“Truly You have blessed me with such a son,” I thanked God again.

Hours later, I was resting in the old stoop rocking chair, baskets of neatly-folded spanking-clean laundry beside me, awaiting Joe for delivery.

I heard him before I saw his familiar lop-sided gait, his excited voice carrying above the cornfield.

“Ma, Ma, look what I got!” something in the tone of his voice eerily disquieting, a heavily creased piece of paper clutched in his grimy paw of a hand.

Surmising a bill from Grocer Jenkins, I groped for the spectacles in my apron pocket.

“I leave tomorrow, Ma! He wants ME!” handing over the now damp official looking document:

‘ACCEPTED, one JOE WALLIS, enrollee, into This Man’s Army by Recruiter Sergeant Leroy Billingsley’, followed by a United States government seal with Joe’s shaky printed signature next to the large black ‘X’.


I pleaded, I begged, I sobbed in front of the bevy of recruiters inside the town Post Office.

“But, he’s addled, I tell you! And, besides, he can’t kill a fly! He’ll do you no good, don’t you see?”

Joe, oblivious to all except the easel larger-than-life poster outside, was tracing his finger around the pointed index finger of Uncle Sam. He had that same determined look in his eyes that indicated a mind made up. We were in for a rough time when we returned home after I got him out of this mess, I knew. I had learned not to argue with him, but tried to distract him with special treats and, if that failed, a night’s sleep would often erase the memory—which would be the case this time, I was sure, noting the mulish set of his jaw as he stood there “at attention” in front of the “UNCLE SAM wants YOU!” placard.

“Ma’am, there’s nothing I can do. He’s not underage and his signature is valid. We need every able-bodied man we can get, and Joe is healthy and the strongest, willingest recruit we’ve signed up.”


Joe had somehow managed to filch that poster from the Post Office and it was the first thing he saw upon awakening the next morning.

“Ma, Uncle Sam needs me. You’ll see. I’ll make a real good soldier!”

“I know you will, Son, I know you will,” I signed, unshed tears at the surface, “just remember God is with you!”


Three months later, Joe returned to me, just as excited as he was after that momentous trip to town.

“Ma! Ma! See what I got!” a heavily creased piece of paper clutched in his grimy paw of a hand, “it’s a on-or-ary di-gree.”

It was all I could do not to run on my old arthritic legs to welcome him home. I read the Honorary Discharge Certificate that stated Joe’s “exceptional good behavior” during Boot Camp and balanced the fake ‘purple heart’ on the mantle.

I felt doubly blessed that Joe never asked what happened to “his” Uncle Sam poster, for I had burned it the day he left.

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This article has been read 412 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Nancy Bucca12/11/10
This is another great take on topic. The impression that one poster can make upon a person! I wouldn't be surprised if this rises to the top. Even if it doesn't, you've got a winner for sure in my book!
Beth LaBuff 12/12/10
A mother's heart, a son's exuberance... you've captured both perfectly in this. That sign is forever etched in my memory. This is so very good!