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

TITLE: Take a Cue from Upper Management


I pulled onto the gravel lot near the interstate, a make-shift commuter lot out in the boonies. Bruce, Max, and Maura were waiting, the exhaust from their cheap imports mingling with the winter fog—both notable against the blackness of pre-dawn sky.

As was our habit, I popped the trunk, and they dropped their belongings before ducking into my Audi.

"Happy birthday, old girl!" said Bruce from the back. "Got something real special. Might grow a little hair on your chest, though." Bruce was a custodian with a loutish laugh and a fondness for moonshine.

"I baked your favorite—red velvet," said Max, a short order cook, first floor cafeteria. "It's in the trunk—but safe. Checked the seal twice." Good, I didn't need another accident.

"Yes, happy birthday," said Maura. She was a network admin whose creativity didn't serve her in the workplace. At her last performance review she'd been reprimanded for not following prescribed methods of trouble-shooting. She sat in the front, fidgeting with her seatbelt. "I made you something," she said.

"Thank you." My response lacked enthusiasm, though nothing I ever said or didn't say dissuaded them from this awkward annual event. I thought it better to be quiet, let them nod off. I was younger than they were and already the head of human resources—this carpool was my way of giving back. And I didn't mind the drive. The stretch of countryside would continue till we were just outside the city. I enjoyed watching the sky turn from black to midnight blue to gray before settling in for whatever color the day would bring.

The sky was midnight blue when I spotted a flashing message board at mile marker twenty-five. It warned of a detour ahead. There hadn't been a detour yesterday. For some reason, I couldn't fathom, I wanted to ask Bruce for guidance—but everyone was asleep. I peered through the dissipating fog. The empty lanes offered no help.

I adjusted the heat two clicks down, while veering right to follow a flashing arrow. Another one directed me right—away from the interstate. Two more turns and I found myself on a dirt road, dead-ended at a soccer field.

"We're here already?" mumbled Bruce. "Hey, what's that?" Bruce sat up, pointed to the near end of the field where shafts of light squeezed past gaps in the wood of an equipment shed. Everyone was now alert.

"I'm calling someone," I said, but even as I wondered who exactly that might be, I saw we had no signal.

"Let's have a look," said Bruce. He got out of the car, motioned to Max. They walked cautiously, Bruce leading the way until they reached the shed. A moment later a wash of bright light turned their forms into silhouettes. The bulkier figure dropped to his knees, while the leaner one ran back towards us.

I rolled down my window. "What is it, Max?"

"A woman's giving birth! Bruce said to get the stuff from the trunk."

"The birthday cake?"

"No, just open it!"

Maura scrambled out, was at the trunk when the click sounded. But I just sat there. There was no more denying it, I was a lousy manager of human resources. I lacked qualities found in effective leaders. For a long while I stayed put, feeling sorry for myself and wishing that there were flashing arrows everywhere to help a person find her way.

Eventually though, I headed to the shed to tell them I was going for help. I arrived at the scene in time to watch Maura tying off a crying infant's umbilical cord. She used the button-cord thread she carried in her project bag. The smoky odor of scotch permeated the air, burned at my nostrils. They'd either been drinking it or using it for antiseptic—or both. The mother, a young Hispanic girl, held her baby close. They were wrapped in a quilt that was vibrant in its newness—probably my gift from Maura.

This was surely not the prescribed method for delivering a baby.

When the drama had subsided, and I was swiveling back in my leather office chair, I thought to check with the department of transportation about that detour. Turned out, there was no record of it or the signs I swore I'd seen. Seemed like the only appropriate response was to deliver a birthday cake to Room 511. I pictured it in the trunk of my Audi, carefully sealed, waiting patiently.

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This article has been read 614 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 12/09/10
I love the "real" characters in this wonderful story--the aura of mystery and the miracle of a new baby, brought into the world with the aid of this mismatched bunch who followed the "sign." This is a good story for the Christmas season--and any other.
Caitlyn Meissner12/10/10
The mysterious sign made me smile, and the message was good all throughout. Good job!
Virgil Youngblood 12/11/10
The characters you shuffled together add a wonderful dimension to the story. Whom God calls He equips, and each character in their own way demonstrates this. Well written and enjoyable to read.
Beth LaBuff 12/11/10
ah... super creative! I loved all the mis-matched presents (from their equally diverse givers) all coming together to be used to assist in this birth. (and like Verna, I love your underlying story!) ...and your MC's ability to realize she doesn't have all the skills or answers. [I'm taking that lesson for myself!] Great work!
Joanne Sher 12/12/10
Very creative, Lisa. Love all the different personalities and the gifts that worked just right.
Anita van der Elst12/12/10
I understand the sort of self-deprecating attitude of the MC. But no need for self-deprecation by the author! Very well done!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/13/10
This is a great story and I've been positive there was a detour sign once only to find out after making a large circle that one didn't exist. It gave us all chills when we heard about the deadly accident at the time we should have been on the road.

I'm sure many people will be reminded of similar miracles. That's good storytelling when you can tell a suspenseful and exciting people that make people think of how God worked in their lives as well. Great job!
Gregory Kane12/14/10
Excellent. I loved your description of the techie as spontaneous and un-conventional. A much better way to operate in my opinion
Lollie Hofer12/14/10
What a great story...good story line, quirky characters, mystery, miracles. It doesn't get any better than this.
Edmond Ng 12/15/10
A creative story depicting a mysterious God. There is much truth about how our God can sometimes lead us to where we are needed most. It's not our skill or position, but our care that is really important. Excellent writing!
Connie Dixon12/15/10
"This was surely not the prescribed method for delivering a baby." What a timely message. Loved this modern reminder of a historical birth. (and the way God gets our attention at times.) Great job.
Amanda Brogan12/15/10
Very unique and well-thought-out take on the topic! I liked how each birthday present became a gift for the new infant. I agree -- great message!

(And I like the title you came up with. ;) )
Troy Manning12/16/10
As w/ the resourcefulness of your characters, there is a nice economy of language in your story that propels the reader along nicely. Well done! :)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/16/10
Congratulations for placing in the top 12 your level and the top 20 overall!
Amanda Brogan12/17/10
Yay for your ranking, Lisa! See, "fluffy" can be good. ;)
Amy Michelle Wiley 12/17/10
Wow. You're a good writer, Lisa, my friend.