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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Potluck (Meal or Gathering) Deadline 7-26-12 @ 10 AM NY Time (07/19/12)

TITLE: The Half Eaten Drumstick
By Leola Ogle


Five-year-old Hannah’s eyes widened at the tables spread with a feast. Glancing around, she saw that her mom was talking to the group of ladies in the church vestibule. Confident that no one was paying attention to her, she made her way to one of the tables.

Her stomach rumbled, and it seemed her hand had a mind of its own. It darted out and grabbed a chicken drumstick. Hannah stared at her grubby hands. She hadn’t bathed in three days.

She had eaten half the drumstick when she saw the centerpiece that said, “Happy Birthday Pastor Harold.” Hannah stopped chewing. She knew the words Happy Birthday but wasn’t sure about the other words. She understood this feast was for someone’s birthday.

Sighing, she placed the drumstick back on the pile of chicken. Although there was so much food she was sure one drumstick wouldn’t be missed, she knew Mommy would count this as stealing. Wiping the back of her hand across her greasy mouth, then both hands on her shirt, she walked to the door of the fellowship hall.

Mommy was explaining their plight, plight being the word Mommy used, to the group of ladies. “He just left us. I don’t know where he is. Then we got evicted from our apartment. Been sleeping in the car since. I just need gas money to get to my parents in Dallas,” Mommy said with a quiver in her voice.

From the looks of that group of ladies, Mommy wasn’t getting money or anything else. “This isn’t a good time,” one said. “We’re having a potluck today to celebrate our pastor’s birthday.”

“Usually you wouldn’t even catch us in here, we’d all be in the service,” another said as her eyes raked over her mommy.

Mommy kept talking, so Hannah stepped backwards. Turning, her eyes fell on the dessert table. Her mouth involuntarily shaped into an O. Sidling up to it, she folded her hands on the table, resting her chin there. Pies, cakes, cookies, brownies….oh, my!

“What’re you doing?”

Startled, Hannah jumped, pulling back her hand that had been reaching for a brownie. She stared into the stern face of the lady. “Nothing,” Hannah mumbled.

“Look what you’ve done,” the lady said, pointing at the spot where Hannah’s hands had made a greasy stain on the tablecloth.

“I’m sorry.” Hannah’s voice trembled.

“Oh, no!” the lady shrieked when she saw the half eaten drumstick on the platter of chicken. The other ladies came rushing into the fellowship hall. They seemed to forget that Hannah and her mom were there as they discussed whether they should throw away the whole platter of chicken.

“That’s just dandy. The potluck’s ruined,” the stern lady said.

“Come on, honey bug,” Mommy said softly, putting her arms around Hannah, and tugging her towards the door.

“Wait!” One lady came walking over, motioning for Mommy to follow her. She went into the kitchen and pulled ten dollars from her purse and handed it to Mommy. “We’ll fix you both a plate of food you can take with you,” she said.

A couple of the ladies helped fill plates while the stern lady glared at Hannah and her mom. They had just started out the door with their foil covered plates when people began pouring in, lead by an elderly, silver-haired man.

“What have we here?” Pastor Harold remarked, smiling compassionately at Hannah and her mom.

“Sorry ‘bout that, Pastor Harold,” the stern lady said. “They’re leaving. Come on, we’re ready to pray before the food gets cold.”

“Tell them to pray then, Martha. I want to talk to these lovely ladies,” Pastor Harold said, dropping to eye level with Hannah. “What brings you here for my birthday potluck?” His eyes were kind and his voice gentle.

Despite Mommy’s protests that they were leaving, Pastor Harold brought them into the fellowship hall and sat them at his table, Martha glaring the whole time.

It was a story that Hannah would tell her children, the potluck that changed their lives, reuniting them with her grandparents in Dallas. Not only did they sit at the table with Pastor Harold and his wife, but he filled up their gas tank, set them up in a hotel that night, and gave them enough money for food and gas for their trip.

“He treated us like honored guests, like family. And when Martha warned Pastor Harold not to take any chicken from that platter, he winked at me and took two pieces.”

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This article has been read 484 times
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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/26/12
This brought tears to my eyes. I'm willing to bet just about everyone can think of a stern lady in their own church. How sad, sure it's sad for the little girl and her momma but my heart really breaks for the stern lady. What horrible things must have happened in her life to be so disagreeable and unwilling to tend to Jesus' sheep. You did an outstanding job on this one. I hope that some of the people reading this are the stern lady and see themselves through Hannah's eyes and change. Beautiful storytelling and on of my all time favorites.
Laury Hubrich 07/26/12
Love this story. You did a great job telling it!
C D Swanson 07/26/12
Every time I see a stern person, I always wonder, "what went wrong in their lives? How sad." And, this story had me saying the same about the "unhappy bully stern old lady."

I was thrilled with the outcome. Good writing and great message. Thanks.

God bless~
Helen Curtis07/28/12
I agree with all that has already been said. This is such a beautiful story; may we all pray to be a little more like the pastor and a little less like the cranky lady every day. Well done.
Noel Mitaxa 07/29/12
Beautifully told in its contrasts. The family in need; a stern lady in a fowl mood and a pastor who did not chicken out when he faced the opportunity to share so naturally in Jesus' name. Great work.
Hiram Claudio07/31/12
This story was beyond touching and moving. I was so emotionally invested that I found myself wanting to give the "stern lady" a piece of my mind! You wrote this piece so beautifully. The message came through and the contrasts that were painted were clear yet not forced. It all felt so natural.

The character of Hannah was done very well - found myself wanting to hug here (as well as tell her not to pay attention to that mean stern lady). Awesome writing here!
Genia Gilbert08/02/12
Congratulations on your great writing and your EC!
Noel Mitaxa 08/02/12
Congratulations on your well-deserved placing.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/02/12
Congratulations. I'm delighted this piece did so well. It really knocked me off my feet. The world needs to read this and I sincerely hope that you can find a way to get it out there. Hugs:)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/02/12
I was reading this for the third or forth time when I noticed this line -- another said as her eyes raked over her mommy.
If you do try to pursue getting this published you may want to restructure that sentence because it made me think that the person who was speaking was looking at her own mother. I realized this isn't what you meant but perhaps something like -- Another lady raked her eyes over Mommy. or even more detail to show Hannah's emotion like -- Hannah shivered when another lady spoke as the stranger's eyes raked over Mommy. Another thought would be would a 5 yo know the meaning of the word rake. Perhaps now that you aren't limited by the word count, you could add more details like She looked at Mommy's face and crinkled her nose. When her eyes dropped down to Mommy's dress, the lady's eyebrow raised so high it almost disappeared in her fancy hair-do. I don't mean to be nitpicky but I so love this story and even though it will be published in the FW anthology, you may at some point want to include it in a collection of your own stories. I think it is a bit of genius the way you captured my heart and made me want to reach through the screen and hold the little ones in my arms. :)
C D Swanson 08/02/12
Congrats Leola! God Bless~
Jan Christiansen09/15/12
Yes, these are tears in my eyes. Tears for all the little girls and mommies out there that are in this situation and guilty tears for all the times I may have been a bit stern when mercy and grace would have been a better response. This really touched my heart.