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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Agreement/Disagreement (01/19/12)

TITLE: Where Two or Three are Gathered
By Beth Muehlhausen


Grandma hissed in Andrea’s face while shaking her shoulders, causing the child to bounce back-and-forth like an open-mouthed bobble-head toy. “You’d better say what you mean, and mean what you say.” She pointed an accusatory finger for emphasis. “And don’t you cross me.”

Six-year-old Andrea stood with her feet frozen in an emotional sludge of disgrace marbled with fear. She’d said exactly what she meant. And she’d meant exactly what she said. Grandma just didn’t agree.

Andrea's Grandma was a robust, businesslike woman of German descent. When the courts ruled that Andrea should no longer live with her mother, her father’s mother gained custody by default.

“Oh, I suppose I’ll take her,” she growled when asked to become Andrea’s guardian. “Nothin’ about this child I can’t handle.”

Initially Andrea was happy with the arrangement. She seemed much safer at Grandma’s where there were no loud parties in the middle of the night or mean male visitors. And, she had plenty to eat at Grandma’s.

However, in time Andrea realized this woman who held her at arm’s length merely tolerated her, for in Grandma’s mind, children were to be seen and not heard. Although reasonably safe, Andrea continued to be emotionally abandoned.

One day Andrea dared to voice a request. “I really want to visit Aunt Marty this summer, if it’s okay with you. She said I could come.” Aunt Marty’s barn kitties and noisy old donkey seemed like idyllic companions compared to the dusty knick-knacks in Grandma’s stale house. “I mean, I like living here, but … but I just want to go … and do something … different …”

Grandma overreacted, erupting like Mount Saint Helens, spewing verbal lava everywhere. After accusing Andrea of double-talk, she criticized her aunt. “Marty! Can’t trust that woman any farther than you can throw her! Cut out of the same cloth as your mother, I tell you! You don’t mean it, Andrea. You don’t know what you’re asking. The answer is no. Absolutely not.” She stormed out of the room in a classic huff.

It was true that Aunt Marty was strange. She could throw her head back and cackle like a giddy hen without cause, and she seemed addicted to her vintage camera and secretive darkroom. She talked incessantly, and complained of allergies all year. But despite Aunt Marty’s peculiarities, Andrea loved her. There were no emotional volcanoes at Aunt Marty’s house, and you didn’t have to guess how you might be treated. What you saw was what you got.

A single tear streamed down Andrea’s face as she clutched her well-loved teddy bear, Ralph, and crawled into her special sanctuary under the dining room table. With Grandma’s lace tablecloth hanging to the floor like a veil, it was quiet and shadowy there – a holy place.

She began to pray, just as she’d learned at a neighborhood Vacation Bible School. “Jesus, help Grandma change her mind.” She hugged Ralph and kissed the top of his head. “I really do want to go to Aunt Marty’s.”

Grandma’s calico cat, Snickers, dipped beneath the lace tablecloth, entered the holy-of-holies, and rubbed against Andrea’s arm as if to agree. “Where two or three are gathered, there I am,” Andrea whispered, remembering a Bible memory verse.

Just then, the telephone rang.

“Hello?” Andrea could hear her Grandmother’s voice clearly. “Why hello, Suzanne!” There was a long pause. “Yes … oh, is that right?” Another pause. “REALLY? A retreat? Well, I’d need to make plans for Andrea before committing.” After a few seconds, Grandmother coughed nervously and hurriedly continued. “OH, no, no, no … um, actually I have an idea. Marty has asked Andrea to visit, so that could work just fine!”

After Grandma hung up, the seconds dragged like hours as Andrea, Ralph, and Snickers continued to pray. “Please Jesus, thank you Jesus, please Jesus …”

Before long Andrea heard Grandma’s voice again. “Hello? Marty?” There was another very long pause, perhaps as Marty launched into one of her long-winded orations. Finally Grandma spoke again. “Yes, that’s all very nice … but I have a question. Could Andrea come stay with you in July while I attend a retreat with Suzanne? It would help me out a lot … and I don’t think she’d be any trouble at all.”

Andrea, Ralph, and Snickers huddled together, praying. And the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth was with them, and answered them.

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This article has been read 529 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 01/28/12
Awwww! I love this!

I love the "two or three" in the "holy of holies." I could really imagine everything happening.
Helen Curtis01/29/12
This really tugged at my heartstrings. Your descriptions make the story come to life; I wanted to reach into the monitor and stroke poor Andrea's hair and show her love.

As for the message, you presented it so beautifully. Childlike faith is so innocent and unquestioning, and you certainly captured that here.

I'd like to think that perhaps Andrea, Ralph, and maybe even the Cat, might go and live with the quirky Aunty Marty! One of my favourites this week, just beautiful. Well done.
Jan Chapman02/01/12
Allison and Helen said it all before me. I really enjoyed this article and even found myself hoping the little girl got to visit her aunt. I liked the "bobble-head" line too. Good job.
Michael Throne02/02/12
I like this story. The closed-mindedness of the grandmother contrasts nicely with the younger but better-rounded MC, and the image of how God can work through obstacles to touch our feels very real. Great story!
Ruth Thoutenhoofd02/02/12
Great story! I cared about the outcome, so it obviously did what you wanted it to do! Nice work!
Francy Judge 02/02/12
Congratulation on placing Editor's choice. I enjoyed this story...good contrasting characters, dialogue and was well-written.