Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Life (06/15/06)
TITLE: The Wheel of Life
By Ann Grover
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More than a century ago, Mattie and Carl braved Atlantic swells to find a new life on a prairie homestead. The old country was crowded and opportunities were few.
The Wheel moved effortlessly through waves of flatland grass, and the resilient stalks rose again into the breeze.
Together, Mattie and Carl built a cabin and made fences. They ploughed the sod and planted crops and gardens. They were rewarded with the fruit of their diligent labour, and were blessed with four healthy children who played beneath the wide blue sky.
The Wheel laughed.
Paul, Claire, John, and Emma. Each one a delight, but Emma was the enchantress, the angel. Blonde curls framed her cherubic face, and blue eyes glittered with innocent glee. Part of her charm was her curiosity and inquisitive ways, and when a box of matches was left within her reach, the brightly coloured tips mesmerized her. In wonder, she tasted each one. Their poison snuffed out the light in her eyes and dimmed the heart of the family.
The Wheel moaned.
One September, Carl was short of field help. Since Mattie was capable of driving the team, it was decided that she mow the hay, despite the fact that she was six months pregnant.
On a particularly steep hill with a sharp corner at the bottom, the mower tilted, and Mattie lost her balance. She fell, and in horror, she screamed as the wheel of the mower ran over her abdomen.
With steely resolve, Mattie climbed back up, calmed the spooked team, and finished the field. Silent and pale, she returned to the house and ate the simple supper Claire had prepared. Mattie waited for signs of impending loss, but nothing happened.
The Wheel hummed.
In December, Paul needed minor surgery at the small hospital in town. That night, while resting at their friends’ home on the outskirts, Mattie suddenly gasped and began to tremble. Carl, knowing the signs, wrapped her in his coat and went to harness the horse.
Carl drove the bob sleigh through the blinding snow and buffeting wind, and as they entered town, Mattie gave a cry as the first hard labour pain struck her. By the time they reached the tiny hospital, Mattie needed to push. She was rushed away, delivery imminent.
What a delivery!
Screaming his displeasure at the nighttime run through the snowstorm.
Then, miracle of miracles! A girl!
Wondering why her brother was making such a fuss.
It was a dazed Carl who visited all four members of his family in the little prairie hospital during the next two weeks. It was a wonder, to be sure. And what an amazing Christmas gift to bring home to the other children. A double blessing!
The Wheel sang.
Several summers later, Claire and John were old enough to shepherd the family’s eighty sheep. Each day, they moved the sheep to fresh pasture by the creek. While the flock grazed, Claire and John amused themselves by fishing or playing along the creek bank.
One day, John suggested that they build smuggler tunnels, and with enthusiasm, they both began to dig. It was great fun, but suddenly, Claire noticed the bank overhead starting to shift. She shouted a warning, but John couldn’t escape the collapsing sand. Claire dug frantically with a stick, then with her emptied lunch bucket. She dug until her fingers bled, and finally ran the mile home.
A neighbour was in the yard visiting with Mattie. He pulled her up behind him on his horse and spurred hard.
When Carl came in that night, John was wrapped in a quilt and laid out on the kitchen table.
The Wheel groaned.
While Mattie’s spirit grew stronger, Carl’s wilted. He drank, but it wasn’t enough to still the screaming pain in his soul. Brewing a bizarre tea by boiling lead shot, he hoped to quench the fiery pain in his joints. Finally, in dementia and desperation, he silenced his tormented voice forever.
The Wheel wailed.
The Wheel of Life revolves through the generations, sometimes churning up soil with a keening lament, sometimes stirring the dust with barely a whisper. But always, it moves onward, leaving a legacy in its wake or a promise in its path.
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