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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Fulfillment (04/06/06)

TITLE: A Perfect Recipe
By Kenn Allan


Kathy was scrubbing the final streaks of fingerpaint from the kitchen table when a hissing from the stove made her domestic senses tingle. She turned just in time to see a glob of half-cooked rice lurch over the rim of the boiling pot and escape under the glowing burner.

"Darn you," she scolded the offending appliance. "I wanted everything to be perfect."

With a grace born from experience, she sailed across the kitchen floor, snatched a potholder from the countertop as she passed and slid the surviving rice to safety.

In seven years of marriage, she had never attempted to cook Caribbean Chicken. For years Jim raved how his mother would cook it for him on special occasions. It was always perfect—at least that's how he remembered it.

Fighting back an urge to panic, Kathy jerked open the oven to check on the rest of Jim's surprise. As long as the chicken was okay, everything else was salvageable. To her relief, her anxious sniffs were rewarded by a tangy and mouthwatering aroma.

"Smells perfect to me," she reassured herself.

There was a familiar rapping at the back door and JoAnne’s stylized perm and mascara-laden eyes peered over the kitchen’s cafe curtains. Good, Kathy thought. She would still have plenty of time before Jim came home to give Josh a bath, change her clothes, and put on a fresh pot of rice.

JoAnne swept into the kitchen. "Sorry if I'm late, but I’ve had a day you wouldn’t believe."

Kathy smiled a greeting, then shot a furtive glace at the clock on the microwave. "Well, I suppose you’ll want to collect Tristan and head right home, then." She stepped into the living room. “Tristan!," she called. "Your mother is here!"

JoAnne looked annoyed. "Aren't you going to ask me about my day?" she pouted.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Kathy apologized, pulling Tristan's coat from the hall closet. "Today was the day you gave your presentation, wasn't it?"

"Yes, it was," JoAnne replied, clearly miffed. "And everything went just splendidly. Unless I miss my guess, I should be using the executive washroom in no time."

“Oh, that reminds me...” Kathy disappeared into the laundry room and came out with a neatly-folded bundle. “Tristan almost went potty by himself today.” She offered the bundle to JoAnne, who recoiled as if it was a dead rat. “Don’t worry,” Kathy giggled, “I washed them for you.”

"I should think so." She accepted the package with two fingers. "The sooner he starts using the toilet the better. Between diapers and my regular sitter, I'll never be able to afford my vacation this year."

“Uh-oh,” Kathy sighed under her breath. “Here it comes...”

"Have I mentioned that I've decided to try Barbados this year? Maui has become so commercialized, you know. From what I've heard, a girl like me can hardly wiggle into her bikini before every Bajan man on the beach..."

Kathy didn’t tune her out on purpose, but she had heard it all before. It wouldn’t be so bad if she could contribute something to the conversation, but JoAnne never seemed very impressed by stories of her yearly camping trips to Yosemite with her family.

“...so I told him, ‘Listen, after working all year I deserve those two weeks so don’t even try to shirk your responsibilities as Tristan’s father.’ That shut him up real quick, y'know?”


“Oh, which reminds me, would you mind watching Tristan again next Saturday night? I finally landed a date with that cutie I’ve been telling you about from the accounting department. Ordinarily I wouldn’t ask, but my usual sitter charges an arm and a leg for overnighters.”

Kathy hesitated for a moment. “Well, I teach my regular children's Bible study class that evening, but I'm sure Josh would love to bring him along.”

“It’s all set then.” JoAnne inched towards the door. “Now, if you don’t mind, could you go collect that son of mine? I picked up a rather expensive bottle of Chardonnay to celebrate my presentation and the sooner he is in bed the sooner I can pop the cork.”

* * *

Kathy placed the storybook she had just read to Josh for the zillionth time on the nightstand and slid into bed next to Jim, who was blissfully sleeping off three helpings of Caribbean Chicken.

Life was good.

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This article has been read 1615 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie OConnor04/13/06
Amazing contrast between the two lives presented. It had a real feel for me, I've spent much of the last seven years babysitting for others. Well done.
terri tiffany04/13/06
Very nice choice of verbs..loved the rice descriptions. The contrast was nice clear. Good writing!
Amy Michelle Wiley 04/14/06
I was a tad dissapointed that I was all set up to see the husband's reaction to the special dinner, and then the story changed angles. However, I too liked the contrast of the two lives. My heart always breaks for the children like Tristan. Great job!
Suzanne R04/15/06
A perfect recipe indeed - loved the contrast, and where fulfilment really lay. Well done.
Linda Germain 04/15/06
Loved this! Jim's "blissful sleep" speaks volumes, as does his three helpings of C. Chicken(Hmmm...sounds good).Very,very well written; one of my favorites.
Jan Ackerson 04/17/06
This was a really good story--and I particularly loved the first 3 paragraphs. Somehow, they just really grabbed me, the escaping rice, her graceful way of salvaging the situation...it really made me smile.
Pat Guy 04/17/06
This made me feel sorry for Tristan. The obvious point is well done - but you also did a good job of presenting another obvious point - Tristan.
Venice Kichura04/17/06
I, too, was inpressed by your excellent choice of verbs & you also did a great job of comparing the two women and their lives.
Teri Wilson04/17/06
Nice job and a good message. Very good descriptive technique. I really enjoyed it.
Debbie Sickler04/17/06
I really enjoyed this too. The beginning was full of great descriptive language that pulled me right in.

As Amy pointed out though, I was also a bit disappointed that the story started out about the husband, but then was all about the kids. It almost felt like there were two stories joined in the middle.

I also noticed the line "...but I'm sure Josh would love to bring him along.” either has the wrong name or should be 'love to come along.' Overall, great writing and very clear, believable characters.
Linda Watson Owen04/17/06
What a gift you have for capturing 'real life' in real writing! Your writing truly lives and breathes! Great lessons in the use of contrast here.
Jean Elizabeth 04/17/06
I know those people! This was a wonderful story - very realistic and enjoyable to read. Great job depicting the two very different women. The abrupt transition at the end to Jim asleep in bed was a little disappointing but other than that I really liked it!
Marilyn Schnepp 04/18/06
Two very different women, both looking for fulfillment in two opposite directions - one finding it in faith and family...while one still searches aimlessly for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow...that doesn't exist. Poor Tristan is caught in the middle. Great Write and entertaining Read. Nice job on the subject of fulfillment.
Beth Muehlhausen04/18/06
Your characters are impeccable and deliver the message - powerfully!
Garnet Miller 04/18/06
I'm glad Kathy didn't feel that her life was less than successful because of her friend's talk about vacationing in exotic places. There is something to be said for a loving home and family. I loved the dialogue.
The Tornyn04/21/06
As, you know I am leaving my carrer here shortly to be a full time mommy. this story helped put it all in perspective and remind me that I am doing the right thing. Thanks!! As always, Brilliant!