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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Prosperity (05/11/06)

TITLE: Shopping for Prosperity
By Mary Lang


“Why, Mary Ellen?” Jeff Turber pleaded running his hand over his head of close-cropped hair. “Do you really think we can afford all this?” sweeping his arm over filled-to-the-brim shopping bags. “What is it all?” His shoulders slumped, overwhelmed.

“You don’t get it!” Mary Ellen slammed her purse down on the kitchen table. “We never seem to have enough money for things I need. Like this,” she pulled an Ann Taylor silk jacket and slacks from the nearest bag. “I need these for my job interview. And these,” opening a box containing a pair of pointy-toed high-heels, “are to complete the look. You know, polished!”

“I didn’t know you were interviewing for CEO.”

“Jeff, you’ve been at your job so long, you’ve lost touch with how it works. In the real world, I have to look successful before THEY even consider me FOR a position,” she defended.

“You could look successful and stunning again in the suit you bought last week. Isn’t part of the look just being confident?”

“I’m through talking,” Mary Ellen gathered her bags and stormed into the bedroom, slamming the door.

Jeff backed off. Some inner sense told him the issue was more than looking the part. “I believe my bride is confused,” he sighed out loud.

He knocked on the bedroom door and waited patiently until he heard a muffled “Come in.”

She was sitting on the edge of the cedar chest rearranging coins and candles on a small table on her side of their bed. It was her prosperity table, or altar, or some such thing. She struggled against poverty-minded thinking ever since she had been laid off by the company she esteemed. Lately, she’d been buying books and reading how success and riches could be achieved by setting intention and physically rearranging stuff in the house. Jeff watched her shop for relief from her thoughts as if she could buy back her self-esteem.

Moving a bag so he could sit beside her he said, “You know shopping doesn’t solve anything.”

She didn’t answer.

“Mare,” he whispered her nickname, “you’re more than that job, these clothes, this altar, and what those gurus claim in their books.”

He saw her stiffen but continued, “You know that by buying into that mindset, you’re just paying their way. They wouldn’t be successful or wealthy if no one bought their books, or paid them for advice.”

Mary Ellen turned to read the eyes of the one person in the world she still trusted. She sought truth, not judgment.

Jeff took her hand, “Mare, you’re not the only one. Many people have been duped by this new age hype, but I only know one way to live and that’s by God’s advice. In the bible we learn about living in prosperity or poverty. Neither state in itself is good or evil; that’s determined by how we live.”

“What are you saying, Jeff? That we’re poor and it’s not a bad thing? That we should just accept it?”

“Actually, no, Mary Ellen, God doesn’t want us to sit back and do nothing, but he doesn’t want us to overreach our limits either,” Jeff ran a hand over his recently shorn head remembering her fit about the hair clippings he’d neglected to clean off the sink.

“Mare, do you really think we’re poor? Don’t we have a house, cars to drive, and food to eat – even if one of us has to cook it? If we’re as poor as you’re saying, why do we have so much?”

“Damn it, Jeff! I just want to BE somebody. How would you feel if you were told to go home from a job you thought you were doing well? Why is this so hard?”

“I don’t know Mare, but our work and what we’re paid doesn’t determine our value as a person. Could you just try to let go of that old job and separate who you are from it? You are not that job or the company, and I can’t get your job back for you.” Jeff hugged her. “I hope you realize how important you are, especially to me.”

He kissed her forehead as he stood to leave, “This sounds corny, but I’ll say it anyway. With you by my side, I am the richest man alive.”

“Jeff?” Mary Ellen clutched his hand, “I’m sorry. Guess I’ve been focused on the wrong thing.” She swallowed hard. “Do you think that later you could show me those bible verses?”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 05/18/06
A very sweet story AND a lot of Good Common Sense coming from Jeff. So true, and well written also. Good Job.
Jan Ackerson 05/22/06
Good job with writing dialog--I really appreciate that in a short story. This was well-written--maybe just a tad predictable? Jeff's a great character, and he said just the right things.
Beth Muehlhausen05/24/06
What a great hubby - full of the virtues that count. :-)

A very direct hit on the topic. The reader can't miss the conflict, OR the fact that the Bible is the resolution of it.

Good job!