Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: End (02/13/06)
TITLE: The Booth at the End of the Row
By Sandra Petersen
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The Fair was operated by the Creston Area Crafter’s Cooperative. The city council approved their use of Lakeside Park to sell their wares, recognizing the tourist business the Fair would attract. The Fair meant more to our small community than a revenue generator; the latest and best gossip was served up, too. I knew all of the crafters and their work. We were friends.
I tried to be true to my word by strolling down the middle of the pedestrian walkway. Once or twice I paused long enough to say hello, but no more than that. As I neared the booth at the end of the row, I stopped and stared.
The elderly woman hunched over her sketch pad was not one of the usual crafters. In fact, I wondered if she was from around here. She met my gaze and beckoned to me with arthritic fingers. She smiled a welcome, revealing one or two blackened, crooked teeth.
“Are you a Christ follower?” she croaked.
Her question made me frown and consider walking away.
What business is it to her? I thought. I’m a Christian. I go to church almost every Sunday. I was raised in the church.
Her knobby fingers gestured toward the framed drawings that hung on every surface of the stall backdrop. Each pencil drawing seemed to be of the same subject. She must not be very creative, I thought to myself.
“Stay for a minute and see the work I finished this morning,” she crooned. Her clawlike hand clutched my arm and she drew me closer to one picture that was larger than the rest.
To humor her, I decided to glance at her work, then pay her an insincere compliment to free myself from her grip.
My flattering comment stuck in my throat. The subject for this, and each of the drawings was a profile of Christ’s face. A Roman crown of thorns penetrated the skin of His forehead. Blood flowed from a nasty cut along His eyebrow and a tear welled in the corner of His eye. The tear held my attention, for in it I saw a reflection of myself.
I spun toward the artist, gripping her arm, almost piercing her skin with my fingernails. “That’s me in that tear,” I hissed. “Listen, I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. So how could you draw this portrait of me?”
She smiled again, her eyes almost hidden among the wrinkles of her face.
My eyes narrowed in mistrust. Dropping her arm, I scanned the remaining pictures. Each tear in the drawings contained likenesses of people in the community. There was Jo the bank teller . . . Mayor Swanson . . . Sheila the librarian . . . teachers, businessmen, friends and neighbors. Fear rose within me as I returned to stare at my portrait.
“I draw as the Holy Spirit leads,” the old crone explained. “His tears and death were for each of these. Whether they accept His tears or His blood shed for them is their choice. I have been commissioned to draw them as the Spirit tells me.”
Something about the blood and tears in combination nudged at my heart. I felt a need to possess this picture, to unwrap the hidden mysteries of its symbolism. I would have to read my Bible, wherever I had last left it, and especially the Gospels.
“How much?” I whispered, my fingers fumbling with the clasp on my wallet.
“Not for sale,” she declared, removing my tear-encapsulated portrait from the wall. Pressing the treasure into my hands, she said, “Free.”
Somehow this drawing was destined to be mine. How can this be? I mused.
Her words echoed in my mind. His tears and death were for each of these. Whether they accept His tears or His blood shed for them is their choice. Lost in my thoughts, I retraced my steps toward home.
Halfway down the row, I looked back. The elderly artist, her drawings, and her booth had all disappeared. All but the drawing in my hands.
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