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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Achoo (04/11/13)

TITLE: Prayerful Sneezes
By Jennifer Martin


You know that horrible feeling of a sneeze that just won’t come? For Betsy Tarlton, that phenomenon occurred at the most inopportune time.

As far back as she could remember, Betsy had dreamed of becoming a nurse. She worked her way through college and all of the clinical nursing practice. And today was the day that could make her dreams come true. Today, she was scheduled to interview for the perfect job at one of the leading hospitals in the country.

There was only one problem; today, she woke up with that strange tickle in the remote, unreachable recesses between her nose and throat. A sneeze was just itching to get out. But as the morning wore on, the sneeze never came. Betsy could feel the pollen in the spring air weighing on her eyes and forming an almost unbearable pressure in her forehead. But no sneeze.

With only two hours before her interview, Betsy started to become frantic. Her eyes were growing increasingly red and watery, and her nose kept twitching as though preparing for that massive sneeze. Still, no sneeze came.

Betsy’s mind raced to remember all of those old wives’ tale tricks she had heard for forcing a sneeze. Pepper, of course. She opened the cupboard above her stove and pulled out the small glass shaker. Unscrewing the metal cap, she poured a pile of pepper onto a nearby notepad, lifted the pad to her nose, and sniffed. Her amused thoughts of how awful this would look if someone happened upon her were interrupted by uncontrollable nose twitching.

“Ah-Ah!” Nothing. Just more pressure in her already aching head.

What else could she try? The sun! Her mother had once told her that looking at the sun would trigger a sneeze, and possibly blindness. This was worth the risk.

Betsy rushed to the front door of her townhome and tugged it open. Of course this would be the one overcast day this week. She scanned the gray clouds above her for the brightest spot she could find and stared at it. No luck.

There has to be a way to get this sneeze out before my interview, she thought desperately.

The only other trick she could think of was sticking her head in the refrigerator, pulling it back out, and taking a deep breath. She couldn’t even remember where she had heard that, but it was worth a try. She yanked the refrigerator door open and shoved her head as deep into it as the shelves and groceries would allow. After taking a few deep breaths of cold air, Betsy backed out of the fridge and drew air into her nostrils. Again, her nose twitched with anticipation.

“Ah-ah-ah.” Still nothing. “Ahhhhhhhh.”

The ticking arms of the clock were so unforgiving. She was going to have to leave for her interview, and she was fairly certain this sneeze was not going to make its way out of her body in time. She applied some more makeup in a feeble attempt to hide the red rings around her eyes. But the nose twitching seemed there to stay.

Sighing, Betsy walked out to her car and headed toward the hospital. As she drove, she noticed a small church on the side of the road. Maybe a prayer would get this sneeze out of her. She laughed aloud at the silliness of that thought. But her laughter faded as she threw a sidewise glance at the building. She really needed to get this sneeze out before she went to the interview. Best case scenario, she would just twitch throughout the meeting. Worst case scenario, she pictured herself spraying a big, juicy sneeze all over the interviewer. A brief trip into the church was becoming less and less silly the more she thought about the consequences of not sneezing.

She pulled into the parking lot and walked cautiously into the church. No one else was in sight, so she made her way to the front altar and knelt, hands clasped.

“Please, Lord, if this job is the right move for me, please help me sneeze.”

Her nose twitched, the tickle became torturous.

“Ah-Ah-Achoo!” Blessed relief!

Relief quickly gave way to panic as Betsy’s nose continued twitching. Be careful what you pray for, she thought.

“Achoo. Achoo. Achoo.”

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This article has been read 273 times
Member Comments
Member Date
dub W04/22/13
Claritin-D - the twist at the end overcame the otherwise predictable conclusion. Thanks for writing.
Yvonne Blake 04/23/13
I know what that feels like! I liked the desperate attempt to force the sneeze. I liked the ending.
Dana Anders04/23/13
I couldn't really buy into the desperation to sneeze, but sticking your head in the fridge? This did make me laugh. I like the way you write but I didn't really get into this particular story. I would be interested in reading something else though - you certainly have the talent.
Judith Gayle Smith04/24/13
Alicia Renkema04/25/13
I did get into the story. I guess, you have had to experience what the MC did in order to know or have a good imagination. I think I have both (haha). Wonderful writing job. I felt empathy for your MC from beginning to end. I had no idea until the MC spied the church what was going to happen despite the title. Maybe praying in the car on the way... OR sneezing during the interview, yet getting the job anyway. I thought going into a church was unique. I don't think even if I had been in that exact situation, the thought would have occurred to me. I liked the internal dialogue of your MC very much. Blessings to you.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/26/13
Congratulations on ranking 10 in your level and 35 overall!