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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Time-consuming (02/24/11)

TITLE: On the Far Side of Finished
By Ann Grover
03/02/11


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Hindsight. When the eyes burn with exquisitely clear and perfect vision, and the soul is stricken with agonizing revelation, a sure and flawless piercing of the heart.

Time, I say to my sweetheart, give me a little time.

I give you forever, she says and kisses me again, sweetly and sadly.

Iíll build you a mansion, I promise, touching her face, caressing, memorizing.

Nay, a cottage, she says, clasping my hand in hers, our fingers twining, lingering. Just a warm hearth where I can rock our babies. A modest blush pinks her cheeks.

I board the ship, ready to race across the ocean, to a land where itís said the forests tickle the belly of heaven and the prairie stretches to the horizon.

My love. She disappears as the shore becomes a misty smudge and is swallowed by the sea.

The grandness of the new land impassions, exhilarates me. Iím amazed at my strength as I wield the axe or blade or plough. I hew down trees and haul them to the knoll Iíve claimed for our home, our castle in the wilderness.

I long for you, she writes. Please, letís not wait longer. A tent will do. I want you.

I am adamant, though, for it is not only the house, but the land must be ploughed, the grain planted, a barn built, countless more trees felled.

Wonít this time apart temper our love, strengthening us for future trials? Build our faith and love even I as build our home? I fear my sweet girl does not understand how long it takes to dig a well or turn sod.

The walls of the house rise; above, the roof settles like a mantle, each shingle carefully split and placed. I haul stones from the river five miles away, meticulously joining each one snugly to its brothers, fashioning a fireplace, a hearth where my wife-to-be will comfort our children, and winterís grip will be kept away.

I am warmed by the thought and the intensity of my labour.

How are you? my sweetheart writes.

Never better, I reply, surveying the bladelets of grain greening the newly turned field. Glass windows glint in the sunshine, smiling, I fancy, on the efforts of my calloused and often bleeding hands.

From the dawnís pearly rays to the hovering light of dusk, I sweat and ache, enduring winter storms and summer heat. I dream and long for my sweetheart, but we must persevere.

The first crop fails, crushed by a snowfall in August. I am undaunted, turning my hand to cutting and peeling poles and fence-posts.

Soon? my love inquires.

Yes, I answer, smudging the words with prairie soil. Itís late. Itís always late. My eyes burn and redden from grit and fatigue, and my head drops into my plate of cold biscuits while my tea cools.

I build a corral for a milk cow, a shed for chickens and a pig or two. Laboriously, I hand plane the floors of the house. Just five rooms, but still grander than the dirt-floored soddy of my nearest neighbour. Only the best for my beloved.

Is it time? she asks. Her words are smeared and the letter, even after a three-month journey, is fragrant with lavender.

Almost, I write. Be patient.

The third yearís harvest is bountiful, and the fourth, even better. I finish the barn roof and set my hand to furnishings, whittling spindles for chairs. Itís painstaking and tedious. I caress each polished curve and joint proudly, lovingly. A table gleams beneath a Christmas dinner yet-to-be.

To a howling symphony of winter wind, I design a cradle, a china cupboard, a headboard fit for royalty. Each night, I sweep the shavings into my fire.

Now? she pleads.

Soon. My dearest does not understand these things take time, so much time.

I am weary. Rubbing oil onto a writing desk, I imagine my darling seated at it, reading, or perhaps dipping her pen . . .

My dearest Charles, the letter declares. My heart is heavy . . . my deepest apologies . . . Iíd have been content . . . too long . . . Iíve met another . . .

The sun sets beyond a row of fruit trees, their first blossoms littering the ground. My tears fall among them.

Too long, and the days and years and miles have diligently whittled away, leaving shavings, like those Iíd swept into the fire. Ashes.

Too long, yet what other way to create a perfect home for my beloved.

Only hindsight is perfect.


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This article has been read 856 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Francy Judge03/03/11
I felt sad for both characters. You did a great job creating a feeling of the time period with your beautiful descriptions.
Carol Penhorwood 03/03/11
It's true we too often think we will begin to live when..........
Charla Diehl 03/03/11
This story was packed with great descriptive images. The patience of the lady deserves a medal, and unfortunately the MC had his priorities a bit out of line. Your title was perfect and I truly enjoyed the read.
Rachel Phelps03/04/11
As usual, your spare style reveals so much more than what is said. Lovely and so sad.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/04/11
Not once did you say "time-consuming," but you illustrated it in every sentence of your wonderful story.
Joanne Sher 03/04/11
Beautiful and tremendously sad. I always love your pieces, and this one is no exception. Such a lesson learned "the hard way."
Megan Starbuck03/05/11
I love the way you frame the story, beginning and ending with "hindsight." You also did a good job of giving each person voice, showing both sides of the story. Reading it was well worth the time that it consumed from me. :)
Helen Curtis03/05/11
Oh wow, I think I knew that wasn't going to end well, but I kept hoping that he would see what was inevitably going to happen. This is so very well written and captured my attention the whole way through to the end.
Bonnie Bowden03/07/11
This is such excellent writing on so many fronts--capturing the period, creating memorable characters, and sprinkling wisdom and truth throughout.
Author Unknown03/09/11
call me crazy, but I love a good sad story :)

aside from some really minor tweaking (really minor) I think this is superb.

and it really does read like an example of two love languages not understanding each other.

I think if this were stretched over a novel it'd be quite yummy indeed.

well done!
Lillian Rhoades 03/10/11
Congratulations are in order for a wonderfully crafted story...a well deserved first place.
Amanda Brogan03/10/11
This is so beautiful, and sweet, and sad all woven together into a perfect entry. Big congratulations on your very well-deserved Editor's Choice!
Rachel Phelps03/10/11
Excellent as always! Congrats on your win!
Mariane Holbrook03/10/11
It's just exquisite! I'm a great Western movie fan and I can see this played out so beautifully in an intense, romantic TV movie.

Shall I get in touch with my contacts in Hollywood? LOL
Nancy Bucca 03/10/11
This amazing entry truly pierces to the heart. Congratulations on another well deserved winnner!
Patricia Turner03/11/11
My heart broke for both of these lovers. The detail in this story gave the feeling of much time passing in such a compelling way. Congratulations! So well deserved.
Janice Fitzpatrick05/26/11
I could read your pieces all day long Ann. This was truly a heart-breaker. What a lesson so creatively toiled as did the young man through the years. But while the gentleman wasted time working too long without his wife to be, for their future, your words proved to create a finely crafted story that embraced me. Ann we're here to stay, reading your beautiful writings. Write on dear.