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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Joy (05/18/06)

TITLE: The Heart of Business
By Karen Rice
05/19/06


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While curious neighbors discretely peeked behind lace curtains, through the cover of closed blinds, Michelle finished her task with a loud 'Amen!' then turned to drape an arm around Jenny, offering condolences.

Earlier, as Jenny walked Freddy down the street he somehow disappeared. No screech of brakes, no acknowledgement of screams answered Jenny's own; just Freddy, in the middle of the road as the driver, unaware, left a wake of dust behind.

Michelle knew a profit, but also saw a need. When Jenny knocked on her door, reeling with the news, horrified that Frank’s demise was directly caused by her hand, Michelle carefully listened.

Knowing her friend was short of cash, Michelle quietly suggested that they wait before exchanging monies.

Michelle contacted their small network of friends, discreetly found a box to comfort Freddy's remains and gathered materials needed.

Behind the closed garage door, Michelle wove two pieces of wood together, forming a cross. Carefully added Freddy's name. Added a tiny heart then stepped back to analyze her work.

“Look’s OK to me,” whispered Jack, licking the remainders of grape juice from his fingers

***

Memorial service over, Fred nestled deep beneath a flowering hedge of honeysuckle. Jenny’s tear-stained face looked up into her friend’s.

“It’s my fault...I KILLED him!”

Michelle hugged her friend tightly, feeling Jenny’s heart pound wildly through her thin chest.

“It’s ok. We prayed. God listened. He didn’t suffer. We kept neighbors busy and got him off the street, so nobody saw. He wasn’t very friendly, so I don’t think he’ll be missed...”

Jenny wailed, “Only ’cause he wasn’t here long enough for people to like him...”

Michelle pushed a long strand of hair from Jenny's face, and tried for distraction. “Listen. You don’t have to pay me. ”

Jenny wiped her nose with the corner of her sweater. “Huh?”

“Come with me.”

Leading her to her home office, Michelle foraged behind her desk, pulled out a small plastic jar. Shook it.

“What’s that for?”

“See anything in there?”

Impatient, Jenny rubbed her burning eyes. “No, ’course not.”

“That’s how much money I’ve made.”

Jenny’s eyes darted from the jar to the well-placed sign leaning against the desk. Puzzled, her eyes cut back from poster-board to jar.

A feather, pulled loose from a nest built directly above them twirled and slid to the plywood desk. Michelle picked it up, dropped it into a coffee can underneath the crate shelves which bolstered the desk-top.

The sign read:

Prayers for sale
1 for .50
2 for 1 special

“So I owe you money, ‘specially now if you don’t got none...”

“Jenny, when I go with my Mom to the store, she always gets stuff that has those yellow tags on the shelves. The ones that say that they’re on sale. She told me one time that nothin’ ain’t really ever for free. I thought about that. Come with me again."

She led her down the street, to one of their favorite neighborhood play areas. A small creek ran through it. Both girls took off their shoes, rolled up their jeans, huddled together on a flat rock and watched the clear water bubble over stones. Tiny tadpoles darted from the open spaces, hid behind protective rocks. They stuck their toes in, shivering with delight.

Michelle smiled at her friend. “If you take two people and have ‘em each write a sign, one saying they have a good sale, and the other sign says they got a thing worth, say a million dollars, they sometimes always go for the sale one, thinking they gotta do SOMETHING to get the million dollars.”

Another feather fell, settled to the water’s surface, drifted towards them. Leaning down, Michelle scooped it up. “Sometimes if you ask people if you can pray for them, they get this weird look on their faces, the same look like they have to be polite and eat liver at someone else’s house.”

“Like mushy cooked carrots?”

“Yeah. Good for you, but...”

Michelle shrugged, “So I never take the money.”

Both girls watched, mesmerized as tadpoles shot back and forth, curious, yet wary.

“Think Fred’s family misses him?”

“Yeah, he was a good frog.”

Michelle gently poked her best friend in the side. “Hey, Mom still has half a box of Popsicles in the freezer. I only needed two sticks for Fred's Cross. Want one?”

Scrambling out of the water, the girls grabbed their sandals. Kite-tailing peels of laughter, they ran towards home.


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Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 05/26/06
Fascinating. I was thrown of by "horrified that Frank’s demise" when it was Freddy who died but this was very well written.
Leslie Lamb05/26/06
"Frank's demise" through me off too, and I wasn't really sure who Jack was and where he came from either, but I like the story. I think it's cute.
Birdie Courtright05/31/06
Love your title, and the reasoning of the young intecessor here. Wisdom beyond her years. You did a great job of hooking me into the story through poor Freddie's unfortunate event. Fun to read! Thanks!