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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Crime and Punishment (not about the book) (07/21/11)

TITLE: Unto All Future Generations
By Cheryl von Drehle


The Setting:

Bozeman, Montana: Sunday morning church worship service in the multi-purpose room of a middle school.

The family of eight -- grandparents, parents, and four young children -- on vacation and visiting a local church this Sunday. The service is riveting...a Native American guest preacher and church planter. He tells compelling stories of God's gracious work in his extended tribal family and preaches a sermon from the book of James, challenging the congregation to walk with God in uprightness and truth, with particular emphasis on controlling the tongue.

The six year old grandson is actually listening, his imagination captured when he realizes this "Indian" looks just like "a regular person." The grandparents and father sit in the back row while the mother is now standing outside the door in the hallway with her two squirmy and bored preschoolers and the loud wiggly baby. The service is drawing to a close, culminating in communion. We have broken bread together and the cups of wine have been distributed.

The Crime:

"This is the cup of my blood. Drink it in remembrance of Me..." Suddenly, a piercing and unrelenting alarm screams through the room, cutting off the rest of the familiar command. The congregation stiffens in shock, but no one moves. The pastor freezes, his communion cup in mid-air. A few seconds of adrenalin rush, and then realization dawns...a fire alarm. Oddly, not a single person rises to rush out of the room.

Everyone stares unblinkingly around the room to see what others are doing, then back to the pastor for direction. After another few seconds of indecision, the pastor raises the cup to his lips, and the congregation follows. An indiscernible prayer offered,an unheard benediction pronounced, and the service quickly concludes while the alarm blares its unabated warning of nothing, at an unbelievable decibel level.

And as we rise from our chairs and pick up our pace to retreat from this ear splitting assault, a small voice within my head whispers: this is the work of one of my grandchildren. Oh my Lord, please let it not be...

The Perpetrator:

We join my daughter and her children in the hallway. The truth of the crime is written on her face. I do not have to ask, "was it...?" The only unknown element remaining is which one. The baby is firmly in her arms, amazingly undisturbed by the blaring alarm. The mischievous four year old middle son has his fingers in his ears, but otherwise looks unperturbed. The 3 year old only princess of the clan stands solemnly next to her mother, arms slack at her sides, saucer-eyed and too shocked to even produce tears of terror, remorse, or manipulation. The expression on her face is the answer. My adorable saucy grand-daughter is the offender.

The Punishment:

Her daddy, a policeman back home, sweeps her up in his arms, and she sinks into a plethora of pink dress and bows. We all follow, in duckling like fashion, out the front door in time to see the local police pull up to the curb. Daddy and daughter approach the driver's window as onlookers gather around to witness the unfolding drama. I whisper to my daughter, "is he going to hand her over to be arrested and jailed?" And she, a mother-earth embodiment of amazing patience and calm, deadpans back to me, "I certainly hope so."

After a quick conversation, daddy and daughter head out to our van, the rest of us still trailing along, awaiting the end of the story. Thankfully, no fine, no reprimand, not even names requested. Little princess has been set free, the nature of the crime defined as unintentional, albeit tinged with a modicum of disobedience when she ignored her mother's command to get down from the bench and stop touching the pictures. Of course, that bright red box wasn't a picture. The only remaining discipline: give the lecture and explain the object lesson to the young criminal and her brothers; extract the promises to never touch an alarm; repeat the reminder to obey parents immediately.

The real punishment, of course, is that this escapade now enters the oral family history to be retold and embellished for generations to come.

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This article has been read 510 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Brenda Shipman 07/28/11
Ha! Sounds like this may be part of your own family history? A great story to pass along, particularly to the offender's future fiance. :) I think it would've been more enjoyable to read if told as a fictionalized story, or simply written as a non-fiction piece, without the labels: setting, crime, perpetrator, etc. Thanks for sharing! :)
C D Swanson 07/29/11
This was so interesting. I am always intriqued by fellow writer's stories. It was well written and amusing too, although I don't know if that was your intent. I really liked your adjectives, and metaphors. I most especially smiles at the term "We all follow, in duckling like fashion..." Good Job! God Bless you, thanks for sharing~
Sydney Avey08/01/11
This reads like an old-time radio broadcast or an entry on the police blotter, but with a warm and amusing tone. Makes for a nice contrast.
marcella franseen08/03/11
A great story. Well written and easy to follow. I feel for the mother as this is absolutely something my children would do. Enjoyed it!
Linda Goergen08/03/11
Well written and realistic and I loved the ending – the punishment being the story retold and retold through the years in the family! What a punishment poor little dear! LOL Such a delightful read!
Linda Goergen08/04/11
That humorous “punishment” you thought to write in at the end deserved first place alone, let alone the rest of the well written story - so happy for your win – Congratulations!
Noel Mitaxa 08/04/11
Ohhhh, the shame of entering family folklore for all the wrong reasons....
Great story that resonates with anyone who knows that joy of family life. Loved the descriptions and word pictures in a well-deserved 1st placing. Congratulations.
Lillian Rhoades 08/04/11
You did it! Congratulations!!
Japhet Mphande08/05/11

Yes, that's nice. Congratulations to you for that lesson
Carol Penhorwood 08/05/11
As one who has contributed to many family stories, I admit I loved it! The punishment is always never ending in cases like this. :). Congratulations!