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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Gossip Mill (05/08/14)

TITLE: Thank God, Miss Ellen, and Greyhound!
By lynn gipson


One early April morning in 1958, eighteen year-old Mary Winifred Parker stepped off a Greyhound bus in Biloxi, Mississippi with $25.68 to her name. She was dressed in a tattered pink dress, wore no shoes, and was seven months pregnant.

Hot and hungry, she went inside the station to get a sandwich with every intention of boarding another bus to Mobile, Alabama. Then she saw the Help Wanted sign above the counter of a small bus station restaurant.

Through the plate glass window of the station, she could see a boarding house advertising rooms for $7.00 a week. Next door to that was a five and dime store. Mary Winifred suddenly smiled.

She hurried across the street to the boarding house and rang the buzzer. An old woman came to the door and eyed her suspiciously, but was more than happy to take her money and rent her a room for a week.

At the five and dime, she found a flowery, loose fitting shift dress for two dollars and some cheap white sandals. She also bought shampoo and some sweet smelling soap. The cashier sneered at her as she rang up the purchases.

She went back to her room, showered and washed her long, dark hair. She put on her new dress and shoes, totally unaware of how pretty she looked. Then she prayed. God, please let this be!

With great trepidation, Mary Winifred walked up to the counter of the bus station restaurant. A kind looking lady with the name tag of Ellen approached the other side.

“What kin I get for you, hon?” Ellen drawled.

“My name's Mary Winifred Parker, and I see you need help here, Ma'am. I need a job. I worked in my step-mother's bar and grill back in Hattiesburg, so I know how to cook and waitress.”

“Why, yes, I do need help. But honey, ain't you just a bit with child? Kin you handle a job like this, bein' on your feet for eight hours?”

“Oh, yes Ma'am, I surely can! I got a room right across the street, and I need a job real bad. I'm trying to save money so when my baby comes, I can support it. Please Miss Ellen, I'll work real hard.”

“You all alone, hon? Where's yore husband?” Ellen asked with kindness.

“Don't have a husband, Miss Ellen, my boyfriend ran off. My step-mother told me I had to give my baby up for adoption. I ran away to find a way to keep it.” Mary Winifred was near tears now.

“Well, all right, then. Just so happens I have a maternity uniform in the back one of my former waitresses left. Job don't pay much, but meals are free.” Miss Ellen relented.

Oh, but the gossips had their day! Biloxi was a small town, and people started to talk about the unwed mother-to-be that Miss Ellen had hired at the bus station. Had Miss Ellen lost her mind? Hiring a tramp like that!

Mary Winifred got stares from everyone. People from all over town came into the bus station to see the town's newest sinner. But they noticed she worked hard, and the food at the station's restaurant never tasted so good.

One Sunday Miss Ellen brought Mary Winifred to church. What buzzing took place then! What nerve! Bringing that harlot into their congregation! Miss Ellen became as talked about as Mary Winifred.

Mary Winifred was more than aware of what was going on. Her landlady was the worst gossip in town and took pleasure in telling Mary Winifred all that was being said about her.

“You got no business in this town, young miss. Might as well move on and have yore baby elsewhere. Unwed mothers are frowned upon 'round here.”

“I just can't stay in this town!” Mary Winifred cried to Miss Ellen.

“Nonsense, child. Don't let that old woman scare you off! Yore the best waitress and cook I ever had. Just give it all to God, child.”

Mary Winifred surrendered her life to Jesus Christ the very next Sunday. When her baby girl, Mary Ellen, was born, townspeople showed up at the hospital, bearing gifts. The miracle of a newborn seemed to soften their hearts.

The gossip slowly ceased, and Baby Mary Ellen was christened. A year later, Mary Winifred met and married a good, Christian man.

Thank God, Miss Ellen, and Greyhound! Mary Winifred thought, as she walked down the aisle of a church full of guests. She had never felt more blessed in her life.

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This article has been read 115 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Brenda Shipman05/16/14
Love this story! I was hooked from the opening line, and enjoyed being drawn in to each scene and conversation. Was a teensy bit disappointed that it wrapped up so tidily at the end, but I'm sure the word limit had something to do with that. Would love to see you develop this into a novel (Mary's backstory with her family, the town's prejudice, even Miss Ellen's history...) Write the book!
CD Swanson 05/17/14
This was an excellent story that was interesting, touching, poignant and powerful at once.

I loved the message that was brought forward, and the writing was superb.

The support that was given to the MC was touching, and showed how important it is to reach out to someone who is in need, emotionally or otherwise.

You've concocted a story that reeks of authenticity, and if the judges don't give you a win for this...I "give-up!" A winner in my heart.

Well done.

God bless ~
Joe Moreland05/18/14
You created a couple of really likable characters in this story between Mary Winifred and Miss Ellen. And your telling of their story is honest and simple, with a touch of the wide-eyed innocence you display in your MC. I thoroughly enjoyed your writing here and hope this story does well in the judging this week.

Great job!
Judith Gayle Smith05/18/14
This had to be yours! Your style of writing, your vivid descriptions and gripping storyline equate to one word:
WINNER! Love this and love you . . .

Congrats in advance!
Ellen Carr 05/19/14
I really enjoyed this story. You wrote the dialogue very well so I could almost hear the characters speaking. Right on topic too. Just a little red ink: In the sentences below I suggest a little extra punctuation: a comma after sandwich, and inverted commas around "Help Wanted".

Hot and hungry, she went inside the station to get a sandwich with every intention of boarding another bus to Mobile, Alabama. Then she saw the Help Wanted sign above the counter of a small bus station restaurant.

Great writing!
Robert Douglas Brown05/19/14
A fantastic article that is dead-on right with delivering the message intended with gossip mill. I read it several times, and thought that I had reviewed it. It is an article worth reading many times in that with each reading I find another piece of hidden truth revealed. I plan to read it again, and know I will find more than I did the last reading.

God Bless Always!
Graham Insley 05/19/14
Brilliant. You undersell yourself as a writer. You have become an excellent story teller.

My red ink is small and a matter of interpretation; which means I could be very wrong.

In paragraph six we have: 'Then she prayed. God, please let this be!' So the young lady is shown to know the Lord and to be a Christian -- one presumes.

In the third paragraph from the bottom we have: 'Mary Winifred surrendered her life to Jesus Christ the very next Sunday.'

This threw me a little and didn't jell; for me. Perhaps 're-committed her life' would have worked better, reflecting a struggling relationship rather than a new relationship.

I think your ability to write dialog is outstanding and you did a brilliant job with the flow of this story.

Allison Egley 05/19/14
This is good!

The ending felt just a bit rushed.

I liked the baby's name, too. :)
CD Swanson 05/22/14
Congrats Lynn on your HC!
This was a fine piece of writing.

God bless~
Lillian Rhoades 05/22/14
From the first sentence, Mary Winifred had my attention, and I was rooting for her right to the end.
Congratulations on your HC!

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/23/14
Your story is one of hope. When times feel hopeless, God has a way of using the situation to bring glory to his name. As a single, teen mother back in the 80s I can relate to the gossip and everyone having an opinion. Congratulations on ranking 13 overall! Happy Dance!