Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)
TITLE: I Wonder If Old Ladies Like Corn
By Lisa Fowler
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Who would have thought one person could start an outbreak of such magnitude?
Worn plantation shutters flapped and shook in the slightest of breezes. Years of overgrown shrubbery was wild and unkempt. Neighborhood dogs were afraid to sniff about for fear of what lurked past the edges. The entire lot was simply: forgotten.
The old lady peering from behind the shredded screen was likewise, forgotten by all who had known her. Even her Church appeared to have cleansed itself from her very existence.
I moved in across the street nigh on twenty years ago. The stately home stood dignified and regal in its appearance. Children grew and blossomed like well-fed perennials. She dressed royally for Sunday meetings and was gone all day, every Lord’s day. Things were by all accounts, normal. Normal that is, until her youngest passed. After that, everything changed.
Year after lingering year, from sun up until sun down she sat, on the porch, in a straight backed chair. Same clothes. Same emotionless expression on her face. Each week, each month, each year, simply wasting away, alone.
I couldn’t get her off my mind. The Lord kept her face constantly before me. When I rose in the morning, she was there. When I sat to eat, she was there. When I knelt to pray, her face was the face I saw.
Now, I am only one person and getting on in years myself. I’m not near able to do what needs to be done ‘round there. It’s all I can do to keep after my own place. Still, I asked the Lord what He would have me do.
I should’ve known better than to ask, for He answered, right in the middle of the canned corn isle. I picked up a can of whole kernel corn and who’s face do you think I saw staring back at me? Hers. I wonder if old ladies like corn? I put an extra can in the cart. Before I knew it, my cart was overflowing with two of everything.
A box for my groceries, another for hers and I left the store feeling mighty proud of myself. But, on the drive home a familiar hot, sick feeling washed over me. You know, the feeling that chastises and torments for taking matters into your own hands? Are you sure Lord, I asked? Is this really what you meant for me to do? I’m on a fixed income. I can’t afford to buy for someone else. I can hardly put food on my own table. How can I feed another mouth? Perhaps I’d misunderstood.
But, what’s done was done. Now all I had to do was figure out how to get it to her without making her feel beholding or knowing “who done it.” We old folks want to make our own way in this world you know; don’t need no charity.
So, when the sun went down I watched her slip behind the screen and flip on the light in the front room. I snuck across the street, crept between the rotten fence post and the prickly holly’s, slid the box onto her porch and disappeared into the line of overgrown hemlocks lining her drive.
I timed it perfectly. As usual, she peeped through the curtains to make sure all was well before bedding down for the night. Spying the box, she cautiously cracked the door and peeped out for a closer look. Stepping to the porch, she looked up the street, then down. I continued watching through the hemlocks as she pulled the overstuffed box inside. That’s been once a week- every week, for the last eighteen months now.
She’s looking better and gaining weight. A hint of a smile now crosses her face when neighbors throw up their hands in passing. But the best part of it all is what’s happening throughout the community. The newspapers and local stations call it an “outbreak- an outbreak of kindness.” It’s caught on all over town. Folks are taking care of each other again- looking after one another- meeting needs- one household at a time.
And just think: two legs, two arms, a couple of praying knees, and an obedient spirit sparked this kind of an outbreak.
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