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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outstanding (04/21/11)

TITLE: Birmingham
By Michael Throne


“From about the time I was old enough to know better, I wanted to fly. I wanted to soar above our home, fly past the cotton fields and the corn, and fly over the cities and highways and all those places I’d heard about from the truckers who stopped at our diner.”

I glanced over at Rosie.

“Especially Birmingham. I wanted to fly to Birmingham.”

“Oh, Jim…,” Rosie smiled and dropped her hand ever so casually on my knee sending butterflies up and down my leg. “You’re always such a dreamer.” Just as casually, she lifted her hand back up.

“I knew it was impossible,” I said, “but lots of things are impossible. Doesn’t mean they can’t happen.”

She shook her head. “Yeah, Jim,” she said, her auburn curls bouncing. “I’m afraid it does.”

I picked a piece of straw and started chewing on the end. Rosie was sweet, but she was tied to the earth, somehow.

“Well, what about Peter, walking on the water?” I said a bit defensively. “The Bible says, if you’ve got the faith of a mustard seed….”

“Jimmy, that was Peter. You ever heard of anyone doing it since then?”

“No, but….”

“All right, then.”

I’d been a loner most of my life. I grew up on the farmland, in the dirt, with the rest of the working poor. My folks raised the chickens and corn they served at their diner.

I glanced at Rosie sitting next to me. The truth was, she didn’t care much about dreams, but she sure was pretty. I turned toward her, thinking I might try to kiss her, but just like that, she was up, standing.

“We’re not kids anymore,” she said. “We’re almost seventeen.”

I gazed at her, uncertain.

“You’ve got to decide what you’re going to do,” she said. “You gonna be dreaming your life away? Or are you going to start saving for your own farm, for something real?”

I pulled my hat down to better shade my eyes, then rubbed my hand over my face. The truth, I’ve discovered, is that there’s always more than one way to think about things, you’ve just got to open your mind in a way you might not want to.

“I’ve heard you talking in Sunday School,” she said. “I’ve heard you going on about helping the poor and taking in the homeless, and that’s all good and well in church, but we’ve got to grow up here pretty soon, don’t you think? We’ve got to make our way!”

It all sounded so well-rehearsed. And yet, maybe she was right.

At the diner, we’d get an occasional homeless man coming in to mooch a meal. My parents said there wasn’t no crime in being poor, and they’d feed him. Never occurred to us to do otherwise.

“It’s time to grow up, Jimmy. It’s time to face facts.”

I leaned my head up, just to take in the whole picture. I didn’t want to miss anything. That’s the key, I’d discovered. Take in as much as you can and then study it from every possible angle. A man can move a mountain, if he thinks about it right.

“I hear you, Rosie.” And I did. We were both getting older. “Let me ponder it a while.”

“All right Jimmy, but don’t take too long.”

I watched her walk around the well and on down past the driveway. Honestly, I could have sat watching her all day.

But I had to think. Used to be I didn’t have anything to do but think. We couldn’t afford games or toys. It was just me and the good book, and all I did was think.

It’s amazing the things a boy will come up with when he thinks long enough.

That evening, I talked to my folks. They understood. Truth was, Rosie was right, mostly. I was nearly a grown man and it was time to stop dreaming and start doing.

But I knew the difference.

And that night as I left, I just couldn’t help floating past her house on the way out of town. It was nearly twilight, and I didn’t expect her to see, but there she was, standing in a field of cotton, her mouth open in stunned dismay.

I waved, slightly, gently, and then headed up toward the clouds.

For some, I guess, our fates are sealed and the earth is a cold, dead prison.

But not for me. I’m going to help the homeless folks in Birmingham.

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This article has been read 380 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Kate Oliver Webb 04/28/11
I really like this. Folksy, down-home charm of a story, with a neat little ending. Could be the start of a book?
Sunny Loomis 05/04/11
I enjoyed this. Good work. Keeping dreams alive. Thank you.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/06/11
Congratulations on ranking 12th in level 4 and 16th overall!