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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Handout (04/14/11)

TITLE: REALLY LISTENING
By Linda Goergen
04/19/11


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“…not knowing what else to do, Hector just hovers there, hungering for a handout from Heaven…”

"I'm sure it’s urban legend!" Marie says, sitting a bowl of cold raisin bran flakes in front of him.

“Urban legend?” he says slowly, staring at bowl, then up at her, then back at the cereal again, “HOW can it be urban legend. HAVE you actually been LISTENING to me?”

“I’ve listened every morning you’ve been here, for thirty years.” She said forcefully , her back turned to him as she poured scrambled egg batter down the drain.

“Yes, but this morning -
WHERE are the eggs I saw you preparing? You KNOW I don’t li-”

She cut him off, continuing, “and everything you hear doesn’t have to be true you know!”

“What do you MEAN true? Hector is a -”

Again, she cut him off, “It could have been eggs! God knows what’s in eggs these days!”

“Marie! Make sense! Eggs and Hector -!”

“I’m SURE it isn’t true.” she said spinning to face him.

He stared, mouth open, as she rambled on, “I read somewhere about a floating man, his name wasn’t even Hector, was Roy or something. Farmer. Some tales had him floating into a field and never seen again. Others said he floated into a pile of hay and died. Now how in the heck could hay kill you – how in the heck can -”

“YOU be so mixed up!” he interrupted, taking over, finishing her sentence for her.

“Listen Jim,” she said, slamming her dish towel across the table, a corner landing in Jim’s cereal, making him jump with the unexpected absurdity of the act, “those urban legends just scare people, stir up trouble with no good reason. You think I didn’t hear about the antiperspirant!”

Jim stood, slow, deliberate, pushed back his shoulders, stepped a step closer, locked eyes with Marie, and said, “HECTOR, is a CAT in a whimsical STORY I am reading! He seems to have awakened from his cat-nap to find himself hovering just above a cloud and instantly thinks he’s sacrificed all nine lives by falling asleep in the dog’s bed!! Questioning this unreal reality, what to do, he decides to just hover there, thinking God will offer a heavenly treat any second now, just like his momma cat told him
cat-heaven would be like….but…oh, NEVER MIND Marie! I was just sharing this story with you! I never mentioned any urban legend! What’s WITH YOU this morning and WHAT’S antiperspirant got to do with ANYTHING!!”

Marie pulled her eyes away, dropped her head and muttered, “they said antiperspirant was the leading cause of breast cancer, but it wasn’t true Jim, it WASN’T TRUE, you hear me!" Lifting her head again, she went on, "Just urban legend! I stopped using it you know and what for? It turned out -" she let out a long sigh, "well–we just don’t have to believe everything we’re told, now do we?”

“OF COURSE WE…” Jim started shouting, but suddenly froze, as Marie’s puzzling comments hit him and wedged like ice around his heart.

For an eternal second, he just stared at his wife’s lustrous, graying raven hair, loosely pulled back, her freshly scrubbed, delicate complexion, thinking how beautiful she still was, before he could make himself softly whimper, “No! Marie? Honey? ”

Tears began to stream down her face. “Oh Jim!,”

He pulled her tight into his arms, “please don’t be mad at me Jim! You were wrapped up in that clean-up committee, so vital to it, I didn’t want to stress you more. I thought it would be nothing, you know, I’m always so healthy! When you went out of town those days, I had them –they tested- did a biopsy and oh dear God Jim, they called this morning, said it’s stage three…”

The whispered, “cancer” hangs in the air like poison, Jim can’t even discern if it was Marie or him, or both, that dared voice it, or which released that pitiful, agonizing sound still stinging his ears. His head, his mind, seem lost, confused, engulfed in dark spinning. He’s aware he still clutches her, aware they are slipping downward, falling to their knees. But it feels like floating. Feels like he might float off into nothingness, like that accursed urban legend man. He feels just like that damn cat, hovering outside of reality, not knowing what to do, but hungering for a handout from Heaven!


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This article has been read 246 times
Member Comments
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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/23/11
It took me 2 reads to really understand what was going on, then when it hit me, my heart hurt and I understood the pain, anger, and confusion.

I remember when I was growing up it seemed liked everything possible was a carcinogenetic. Still today cancer is a terrifying word.

I wasn't quite sure how the topic fit in unless Hector and the MC were both waiting for a miracle, a handout, from God.

The pace of your story and the way it jumps from topic to topic really sets the tone of how a recently diagnosed cancer patient would react. Nice job.
Joe Moreland04/23/11
This writing in the beginning was really irritating me. Jumping around, nothing she said making any sense. I was about to stop reading when it started to change. I stayed with it and finished and could only then appreciate the mastery of what you had done. You skillfully put me in the same position as Jim, and made me feel the same confusion and irritation he was feeling. That was brilliant. Great job!
Danielle King 05/05/11
Having read the above two comments I read through this entry very slowly and carefully, and have to totally agree that it is skillfully constructed. An original take on the topic, well writen. Excellent.