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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Great (07/06/06)

TITLE: A Matter of Perspective
By Deborah Bauers


A Matter of Perspective

Joey's mom heard the creak of rusty hinges followed by a loud-slam! She swore under her breath, as the dull drumming inside her head erupted into an explosion of pain. Momentarily sobered by the sheer force of it, she lurched forward, meaning to grab a hold of her nine-year-old son as he raced past her. Instead, she lost her balance and sprawled headlong on top of him.

"Get off me, ma! I can't breathe!"

The woman dimly heard her son's call for help, and instinctively rolled sideways until she lay in the kitchen floor, gasping. Joey scampered toward the far wall and crouched there in fear.

"Joooeeeeey... My head hurts somethin' awful! You give yer ma, whatcha brung me, and then you git on out of here!"

Joey's hand went to his pants pocket and then grew still. He flushed with shame. Each day that the missionary lady gave him a quarter for his lunch he obediently ignored the rumbling in his stomach and turned out his pockets to his mother after school. But not today... Joey stalled...

"Awe, ma, something really great happened today! I got picked to represent the whole third grade in the county spelling bee! I might win, ma. If I do, there's a twenty-five dollar prize. I could buy you a pretty dress, ma! You ain't had a pretty dress since pa died."

"I don't care 'bout no new dress. Ain't nobody to see me in it no how. Come on now...where's the money the lady give ye?"

Joey dropped his eyes and mumbled...

"I was real hungry today, ma. I used the money to buy milk. My teacher said I should. She said it would be alright. I'm sorry, ma. I'll do better."

Joey's mom picked herself up off the floor and staggered toward her son. Sneering, she raised her right hand and brought it down soundly against the side of the boy's left ear. Then she turned and threw the empty bottle across the room.

Fighting back tears and feeling his left ear begin to throb something awful, Joey decided that things couldn't go on the way they had been since his pa died. Part of him wanted to go to his ma and beg her to make things like they used to be. Instead, he went to his room and heaved great sobs until he finally fell asleep.

On the day of the school spelling bee, Joey got up early and slipped out at first dawn. Miss Spees found him fast asleep on the school house steps, waiting for her arrival. The teacher's tender spirit was moved with great compassion for the little boy's plight. Laying her hand upon his swollen and discolored ear, she prayed earnestly for healing and salvation for Joey.

As the sun rose high in the Appalachian skies of Rawley, West Virginia, Joey took first place in the third grade division of the county spelling bee. When the judge awarded him a shiny, new twenty-five dollar gold piece, the little boy leaned over and whispered:

"This gold piece is sure pretty, sir, but could I please have my prize in quarters, instead?"

After the spelling bee, Joey walked up to Miss Spees and held out twenty-four dollars and seventy-five cents, in quarters.

"Teacher, would you hold onto my money for me? And if I ask you for a quarter now and again...you know...for milk... you can give it to me. That money will buy a great whopping bunch of milk, won't it, teacher?"

When Joey got home, his mother was just sitting at the kitchen table. She looked like she'd been crying. Joey felt an intense burst of guilt for what he was about to do. Miss Spees had explained to him that his ma was sick alright, but that the stuff she was drinking was causing her sickness, not helping it. Joey hungrily searched his mother's face for something that would keep him from going through with his plan. Then with a great lump in his throat, he turned and walked away.

Joey's ma heard the familiar creak of rusty hinges followed by the slamming of the front door. Then...something new...the faintest tinkle of a solitary quarter as it fell to the ground, rolled across the floor, and came to rest at her feet.

Outside, Joey took Miss Spee's waiting hand. Then, with child-like faith, he grinned and exclaimed...

"Teacher, I ain't felt this great in a long time!"

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Member Comments
Member Date
david grant07/14/06
sorry. missed something here. don't understand why child would feel so good about this?
david grant07/14/06
Sorry. I didn't mean to be critical with the last comment. Technically the story read very well, but I still think I missed something.
Lynda Schultz 07/18/06
I loved the story. It caught my attention from the start, but I didn't make the connection at the end either. Was he pleased with himself because he figured out a way to keep his mother from squandering the whole 25 dollars (unless you can buy a quart of whiskey for quarter)? But this is good writing anyway.
Deborah Bauers07/18/06
I wanted to post an answer to the questions that have been asked about the "point" of the ending. The whole point is the title of the piece...That GREAT is a matter of perspective. What may be great for one person, isn't necessarily seen that way by another. Joey's response can be seen in several ways. I've counseled a number of kids that face just this kind of daily pain. Joey was a streetwise kid, way beyond his years emotionally, so his response could have been because:

a. It felt great to know that he no longer had to live in fear.

b. It felt great that he had made a decision to stop enabling his mom to drink.

c. It felt great that someone bigger and wiser than him was finally going to lift this burden off of his shoulders.

d. It felt great that he had simply made a decision to no longer be abused.

It's "A Matter of Perspective."
Deborah Bauers07/18/06
I missed the question about the "quarter." The "quarter" is simply the "price" of Joey's emmancipation.
david grant07/18/06
Well, I read it again, and just from the story I still don't get the point. After I read your explaination I do understand where you were going, however. But you didn't give us enough clues to surmise this meaning from the story. With a few more clues in the story itself you would have given the reader the enjoyment of discovery, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a story teller. I commend you for trying to think out of the box, however. Maybe this time you were a little too far outside.