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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: PICNIC - deadline 7-12-12 @ 9:59 AM NY Time (07/05/12)

TITLE: The Missing Table
By Kellie Henningsen
07/09/12


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“There’s a spot right there, Roger.”

Yeah, right between a Cadillac and Mercedes. Nice.

“Have fun with your friends, kids! Make sure you check in once in a while though, ok?”

Great, my safety blankets are sprinting away.

“Relax, Roger. These people are friendly.”

Friendly? Fake, is more like it.

“Susan! I’ve been looking all over for you! Roger, nice to see you again. Can I steal Susan for a bit?”

Steal her for a bit. Why not? I’ll just go rub elbows with the driver of the Mercedes.

“Roger, right? Glad you could make it today! We have fruit punch and there’s more lemonade on the way.”

What you really mean is “Where have you been?” Thanks for the punch, though, ma’am. Love the smile; it almost seems real.

“Burger or dog? What’s your flavor?”

This dude looks like he actually enjoys grilling in 90 degree heat. I certainly wouldn’t be smiling if I were him.

“Burger, thanks.”

Ok, I’ve got a drink and food. Now to find a secluded spot where I can eat in peace and steal a quick nap to get through this blasted afternoon.

“Hey, man. Looks like you found the best place here. Mind if I join you?”

Seriously? I can’t hide anywhere.

“Sure. Help yourself to a patch of grass.”

This kid can’t be more than fifteen. Why isn’t he with friends?

“Phew! Is it hot! I can’t be in the sun so I’m always on the lookout for a little shade that isn’t already filled with women or the elderly, know what I mean?”

Can’t be in the sun? What’s with that? Teenagers live in the sun.

“Tend to burn, huh?”

He’s barely chewing that burger; it’s going down so fast. It’s like he hasn’t had food in months.

“Yeah, it’s the chemo. Just ended my second round though and starting to feel better.”

Chemo? But, he’s making jokes and enjoying life. How is that possible?

“Welcome everyone to our annual church picnic!”

Oh good. Distraction. Time now for the pastor to get up and tell us about how wonderful the Lord is and how our lives will be filled with blessings if we’ll just follow Him.

“This year, I have nothing prepared to speak on.”

Amen! Oh man, hope I didn’t say that out loud.

“I’m going to open it up for a time of sharing instead.”

Ok, time to tip the hat down, lean against the tree, and close the ole eyes.

“I’ll start Pastor.”

Hey, it’s the juice lady! Let me guess, her cat died last week and she’s struggling. However will she make it through?

“My twin sister was diagnosed with a terminal illness two days ago. I thank God she knows her destiny but the pain is very real. Please pray for her and for our family.”

But she smiled when handing out the juice. She welcomed me to the picnic like she cared.

“Pastor, I would like to share as well.”

Hey burger dude! Alright, now here we go. No one that happy flipping burgers in the heat could possibly know hard times.

“I lost my job a month ago. We’ve been living on savings but with one child in college and two at home, we’re about out. I need a job bad.”

Really? Why does his smile seem to come from the inside and ooze out onto his lips?

“Yes, Miss Ross.”

I can’t take this anymore. Each has a burden worse than the last. Yet each one smiles. Why?

“Dude, you don’t look so good. You feelin alright?”

This kid’s coming off chemo and he’s asking me if I’m feeling ok? Right.

“I think I missed the table handing out all the smiles, that’s all.”

“Ha ha, good one, man. It’s not a table you missed though. It’s the Bible.”


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This article has been read 246 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lillian Rhoades 07/12/12
This is certainly not your run-of-the-mill picnic story.
You added a nice twist. From my list of "Things I've Learned from Editors" there's one about starting a story with dialogue. It's not generally a good idea, although you did identify the person speaking.

Your conclusion was much stronger than your introduction, and I loved the message that was articulated in the final sentence and implied in the title.
Camille (C D) Swanson 07/13/12
Wow- this totally overwhelmed me...what a powerful story. Your message was deafening and touched my heart. Thank you.

God bless~
Laury Hubrich 07/14/12
Good message here. Very good message! Thanks for sharing and welcome back!!!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/14/12
This is a great story. So many think that being a Christian means your life is perfect but this piece shows that life is still filled with difficult times but God gives us strength to endure.

I had a bit of a trouble seeing which person was speaking and what was the MC's thoughts at times. Perhaps more action in between may have helped me. Though I know the word limits a lot of that.

You did a nice job of tackling the topic. The message is clear and one we even as Christians sometimes need to be reminded of. Good job.
Jody Day 07/14/12
Perfectly fits the topic and has a great message. Your POV character was well defined. Nicely done!
Catrina Bradley 07/14/12
I'm glad he decided to go to the picnic! God's love shining in children backs up the words of love they speak. Great entry - I liked this one a lot.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/14/12
Great way to show how Christians can have peace and happiness in difficult circumstances.
Yvonne Blake 07/15/12
Nice writing! I like the way you went back and forth from dialogue to his thoughts. (Even though the format got messed up in the 2nd part, I could still follow it.) It's hard work to write something in all dialogue. I could feel the heat and sense the emotions. Great job.
Myrna Noyes07/15/12
It was interesting reading about a church picnic from the viewpoint of a nonbeliever. I appreciated the reminder that what we do and say as Christians can have a big impact on the watching world. I enjoyed your story.
Dannie Hawley 07/17/12
Good message here for all of us. Sadly, the thoughts of this MC are often accurate when the spouse is not yet saved and has to attend church functions. A dear friend's father attended church with his wife, only to be greeted by an exuberant lady at the door, "I've been praying for you to escape the fires of hell now licking your legs." Think he ever wanted to return to that church? Your story is nicely done and carries a powerful message.
Noel Mitaxa 07/18/12
Clever characterising of opinions here, though I found the dialogue slightly harder to follow once the comments were all placed in italics. Overall, a very thought-provoking entry.
Jennifer Dawn Dexter07/18/12
Very creative.

I did find it a little difficult to follow in the beginning, not sure who was talking, but once I got the gist of it, it was an interesting read. About halfway through you italicized the whole thing, so it threw me off a little again.

I do like the message, but I also wonder if it painted an overly peachy view of Christians. Yes, we can have peace and joy in our difficult circumstances, but sometimes, even when God is carrying us, we're not always happy and smiling.

I say this as a person who just lost their "Christian" father-in-law to cancer a few weeks ago. I relate to the struggles spoken of in your piece, as well as the peace that only God can bring.

You did mention "real pain" in your mention of the twin sister with terminal cancer, but I would venture to guess that she would have had tears as she spoke those words. She may have smiled and been a little carefree before and after, but the pain of her situation would have been felt by everyone there as she spoke it.

I guess what I'm saying is that while your story had a wonderful message, I wonder how "honest" it really was.

Having said that, I totally understand and agree with the intent of your message. I have prayed often lately that unsaved people in my husband's family would be ministered to by the peace God had so obviously placed on the Christians in the family.

I love your closing line. Very clever!