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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Season(s) of a year or life (01/13/11)

TITLE: Refinishing Well
By Marilee Alvey



Melody sat at the rich cherry secretary, its writing surface hanging open like a gaping mouth emitting a silent scream. The ancient desk was the only piece of furniture she had from her side of the family. Absentmindedly, she ran her fingers over the indistinct etchings transferred unconsciously from the pens of her mother and grandmother as they paid decades of challenging bills and wrote countless ordinary letters. She glanced out at the lake beyond her sliding glass door. Autumn’s display was over. All that remained was rot, decay and mold.

The past July, she’d lost her husband, Rob, to cancer at age sixty. She’d watched it interfere with his ability to swallow. She watched the chemo take the feet and hands that steered a 777 through international airspace and reduce them to unfeeling nubs. It had swept through his liver like a raging fire. She tried to forget the look of extreme panic and desperation in his face as it eventually invaded his lungs and left him with the inability to draw in air. It was as if she’d been forced to watch as her cherished mate had been taken down by the chemo alligator, pulling him deeper and deeper into its depths, gnawing on him until it finally released him, enabling him to pop up to the surface once again, only to repeat the entire procedure two weeks later. One year to retirement. Dream dead. Game over.

She took out a pen and began to scratch a heart into the desk, pressing harder and harder. She put their initials into it, sealed with her tears. She then carved out a big X over it all. Why not? She lived in a cosmic junk pile called Earth. Brokenness everywhere.

Winter arrived, a curse with teeth in it. Melody gazed out at the barren lake. Lifeless trees stood with their branches frozen in supplication to Heaven begging for release. Melody had lifted her prayers up to God nightly. Each night she’d put her hand on Rob’s heart and told a silent God, “Father, this is my HEART’S DESIRE. Please heal him.” Fruitless. She etched a cross on the desk as if it were a razor blade at her wrist. She dug deeply. She then carved an X over it. Why should that desk live on past Rob, anyway? Who’d pleaded for its life?

Early Spring, Melody watched as the lake began to buzz with life. The trees had a whispered rumor of green to them. Crocuses boldly stuck their heads up before even the most optimistic Midwesterners would pack away their winter clothes. Reluctantly, she agreed to go on vacation with her daughter’s family. Packing her suitcase, her daily communion of tears was served. A sudden realization dawned on her: ‘I am spending the money that Rob worked so very hard to get, but never got to enjoy.’ She sat down on the bed and heard a voice in her heart, not her ears. ‘Come now, Melody. Do you not think that I can provide more in Heaven than you will experience in Epcot? I built the entire world in six days. Remember: you’re in a ‘cosmic junk pile.’ Knock yourself out!’ Reluctantly, she had to acknowledge its truth.

By the time Melody got home ten days later, green was no longer a rumor. It was a no spin zone. It was a pancake and syrup type of evening, warm, golden and cozy as she slipped out onto her deck, barefoot. The geese were haughtily parading their goslings, hissing at gawkers. It had been a good trip, after all. Only once did she waver. One day she’d been standing on the hotel room balcony overlooking some condors in flight. She was suddenly filled with the knowledge that Rob would have loved to watch them glide so effortlessly. She mentioned her thought to her daughter as they stood there, tearing up momentarily. “That’s perfectly true, mom. Dad was irreplaceable. I miss him here, too, but you have to remember: if dad were here, we wouldn’t be standing here!” It was true. Above all, Rob was careful with his money, as most airline pilots were, having had to learn that skill early to pay for expensive flight lessons. As she remembered the incident, something bubbled to the surface in her throat, once again. Laughter. Spring had come to sweep away her soul’s winter. Melody drew herself away from her deck momentarily. What should she look under? “Furniture refinishers?”

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:20-21.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Patricia Herchenroether01/20/11
Very thoughtful. I experienced first a tear and then a smile. (sigh)
Bonnie Bowden 01/22/11
I cried in the beginning, because so many people, many of them friends and family, have died of cancer. I liked how the desk became the start of renewal again.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/25/11
I could so relate to this MC from the old secretary to the intense grief. My mom died suddenly at 57 and my life is so different, though I miss her, I do recognize things would be so different if she were here. I relied on her so much, I doubt my marriage would have lasted. My husband would have grown weary of always coming in behind Mom. So Although I miss her, she would be happy that I'm happily married. Thanks for the reminder, I needed it.
Carol Slider 01/27/11
The bitterness of grief is very real here, which makes the dawn of hope even more so. Very heartfelt, moving, and true. Congratulations!
Vicky Chickering02/01/11
Great story, Marilee! When are you starting your book?
Hopefully, writing is therapy for you as you travel the "memories forever, my captain" road!