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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: Tuna on Rye
By PamFord Davis


With sack lunch in hand, I exited from my confining office cubicle. Trying to alleviate pangs of guilt, for breaking my resolution to exercise, I chose the stairs. Hurriedly, I walked down two flights. Breathless, moving outdoors, I felt the invigorating chill of autumn. With wide strides, I zigzagged through lunch-hour traffic. Crossing the street, into the picturesque park, I raked brittle leaves off my favorite park bench. For thirty minutes, I’d be free from the pressure-cooker workplace. I’d first retreated here, two years ago, following Jim’s funeral. I felt God’s presence amidst total strangers, pigeons and playful squirrels. Making a mental note, I planned to one weekend bring my toddler Josh…

The view of the playground both attracted and troubled me. With pleasure, I watched young children with their attentive mothers. They were oblivious to my direct gaze. I removed cellophane from my tuna on rye, chewed as kids chattered. Preschoolers laughed and moved from swing sets to monkey bars. Others checked out the seesaw, slide, or sand box. Oh, how I envied these mothers, able to spend leisurely noon hours with their tykes. Josh had taken his first steps in daycare. He called his teacher Mama, and I felt hopelessly entangled in the duel-role of both mother and father.

I had taken for granted Jim’s place as head of the home, and the six-figure income he provided. He had a secure job at Microsoft, and felt it his civic duty to enlist in the National Guard. I rationalized his weekends of training, as time out with the guys. One evening he returned home, wearing his usual camouflage, yet, unable to hide his anxiety. How could he break the news? The next time he’d be going out with the guys, it would be no picnic. They’d be leaving for Afghanistan. The memory of his parting, to this day, still sends a chill down my tensed neck and shoulders. Soggy tuna, more like salmon swimming upstream, lodged in my throat… I’d met Jim’s plane, when he returned the following year. Draped in black of a widow, I touched his flag draped coffin.

Folds of Old Glory waved in the center of the park, as I swallowed the last of diet coke, and rose to leave. I noticed a neatly folded newspaper, at the end of my bench; leaning closer, I saw a help-wanted ad circled in red. They hooked me from the get-go: “Data Entry-Work from Home-Flexible Hours.” The street address matched the building where I worked; the suite listed-one floor below our office. Getting off work at 4:30, I could freshen up, and stop by their office before five. Hopes soaring, I briskly walked back to work. Placing a call to Josh’s daycare center, I explained an interview, might delay me in picking him up.

Looking up to the clock repeatedly, all afternoon, I resembled a fidgety night watchman. Pulling a Snickers bar from my purse, I rationalized; it would keep me from overeating at dinner. I had to silence the grumbling in my stomach. Was it hunger, or merely butterflies?

After work, I hustled to the Data Entry services… In a span of a few short weeks, I had clinched the job. Saying farewell to my office cubicle, I thought working from home would be a breeze. By the end of my first month, as mommy with a home office, reality set in. Mingling motherhood and mathematical data processing was no picnic! While I diligently tried to concentrate on columns of numbers, Josh demanded my undivided attention.

I fussed and fumed. He now had my quantity time, but quality time vanished. We were at odds about meals, naps and allotment of time for television and video games. I began to murmur, and contemplated returning to the rat race rut. Just in the nick-of-time, a friend invited me to join other frazzled mothers, in weekly support group brunches. I learned to give Christ first place in my life. With snippets of scriptures posted throughout my computer space, I focused more on Him. I came to recognize Josh’s interruptions as opportunities, not obstacles. Failing to notice it was past lunchtime, I heard Josh’s clogs clicking on the ceramic tile den floor. Turning away from my computer, I gasped, seeing he’d smeared jelly across his face. “Mommy, I’m hungry!” Ready to scold, I laughed instead. “Let’s go to McDonalds!” Twirling, he asked if he could eat in their playground. “First, let’s wash that face. Then we can have a picnic!”

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This article has been read 417 times
Member Comments
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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/12/12
I enjoyed this story. It tore at my heart at times while other times I recognized the courage and stamina of the MC.

A little bit of red ink would be to break the paragraphs into smaller ones. Especially with stories this size, it's important not to overwhelm the reader.

The other thing may just be something that I noticed and may not bother others. But this is the third story where I've read the line Life is no picnic. Not only is it cliche` but it's not true. But I won't go into that. My point is I don't think you needed it. In my opinion her lunch in the park where she "just happened" to find the answer to her prayers would have made the story on topic by itself. Sure it's not your typical picnic but it was an outdoor bit of respite and that is really what a picnic is all about.

I think it was a quite creative take on the topic and kind of felt you needed to throw in that line so someone wouldn't accuse you of being off topic.

You did a great job of making me feel like I was right there with the MC. I could feel her guilt at not exercising, about worrying that her child was stuck in daycare, and the grief of having her idyllic life ripped out from under her by the brutality of war. Wow that is a lot of emotion in only 750 words and you made it look easy!

I also liked how realistic you kept it by having the MC still struggle. God doesn't promise life will be all sunshine and roses but with his strength we can get through the rough times. You clearly demonstrated that message in this story. I believe many readers will be grateful for the gentle reminder. I know I am.
Dannie Hawley 07/12/12
I just loved this article. What a load your dear MC has been carrying and how like God to give her both the solution to her job situation and another challenge to work through with Him. You did a really nice job. I don't know a lot about the finer points of writing yet, but I do know that you really had me with this story, from start to finish.
C D Swanson 07/13/12
This story gripped my heart and didn't let it go. It was poignant, sobering, and filled with a myriad of emotional ups & downs. Very good job with this piece. It held my attention from beginning to end. Thank you, and God bless~
Leola Ogle 07/16/12
This story gripped my heart in so many ways: losing a husband to war because I had 2 grandchildren go to Afghanistan, the 2 year old's instrusion on mommy's workplace at home because here I sit this moment with 2 year old granddaughter Jocelyn who demands my attention like little Josh in the story (she just demanded to watch Mickey Mouse on my laptop-when I said no, I'm working, her reply "You not working." My response of Yes, I'm reading FaithWriters entries meant nothing to her. LOL) Your entry is very well written and so enjoyable. God bless!
Genia Gilbert07/16/12
There is a lot of reality here and a good outcome. I enjoyed it.
I do think perhaps you overstressed the topic a little, when the MC's picnic covered it very well.
I think it should really speak to single mothers about a heart torn between spending more time with their children versus the demands of making a living. Good job.
Hiram Claudio07/18/12
This was so moving and gripping. The deep inner struggles that were painted so clearly for us to read were done so beautifully.

I really liked the ending with the mom and child - it really left the reader with a ray of hope that they were going to be okay. Wonderful writing!