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

TITLE: R. W. the Great
By Sandra Petersen
07/12/06


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A dull thud against my kitchen door rouses me from my crossword puzzle.

Rising from the sunny seat at my kitchen table, I refill my coffee mug from the pot on the stove. My morning paper, the one thing in my daily routine which gives me pleasure, has arrived.

“Hometown Evangelist Returns” the banner screams. Underneath is a photo that surprises me so much I spill some of my coffee. “R. W. Colter and family in town for revival services” the caption reads. Five smiling children stand in ascending order beside their parents, a bespectacled man and his wheelchair-bound wife.

R. W. was someone to whom I hadn’t given a thought since we graduated. I doubt if anyone had.

Thirty years ago, the class of ‘76 marched off the graduation platform and out the high school doors to achieve fame and fortune wherever they would be found. Unlike preceding generations of Jessamin High graduates, war did not decrease our numbers. Over the years, some had succumbed to illness or to alcohol and drug abuse. A few had become permanent residents of the state penitentiary. Most had simply settled into a life of mind-numbing daily sameness. Very few had achieved what could be called ‘greatness’.

Of the one hundred graduates in our class, R. W. was the least likely candidate for ‘greatness’.

As I settle into my chair, my mind drifts back to those high school days. R. W. Colter.

Back then, he wore his short brown hair slicked back. His black plastic eyeglass frames were held together at the nose bridge by a permanent piece of white medical tape. The lenses were thick, making his eyes appear an enormous watery blue. Current fashion was unimportant to him. His favorite apparel was plaid polyester slacks and a striped cotton shirt in blaring colors. His shirt pocket overflowed with pens and pencils.

He was the stereotypical overachiever in math and science. He and I were both in the top of our class. His male peers snickered behind his back in Phy. Ed., but were hushed by his correct answers in physics, calculus, and chemistry. He was smart, no doubt about it, and he knew it.

R. W.’s problem was a lack of education in social graces, especially as regards members of the opposite sex. He tried so hard to fit in, and failed so miserably.

At one point in our senior year, R. W. decided that I was the girl for him.

During one geometry class Rob poked me on the shoulder and shoved a crumpled piece of paper into my hand. He smirked and glanced back at R. W.

My heart beat rapidly and my breath slowed as I read, “I have watched you for months and want you to be my own. Can we go out this Friday?”

Had Rob sent this note of devotion? All of my hopes were crushed when I spied the signature at the bottom. R. W. I felt my cheeks redden and blaze, then heard Rob’s snicker. R. W. was staring at me and trying to smile. Other classmates were beginning to watch the comedy.

Furious and embarrassed, I shook my head “No!” and tore the note into pieces. For days afterwards, R. W. looked so dejected and our classmates ridiculed him so much, that I felt sympathy for him.

We went on that Friday night date. I even consented to let him kiss me because he begged for permission.

If I had known what he would do with that moment of triumph, I might never have gone out with him. Most of the school knew within days who R. W. had been with on Friday, and R. W. invented his own version of what happened that night. No one believed my denials.

I remember my last words to him.

“You liar! How dare you tell everyone about Friday! Don’t ever speak to me again!” I spat the words at him, drawing a crowd of jeering spectators.

Before turning away, I stabbed him with some final wounding words. “I only went out with you because I felt sorry for you, you loser!”

And now, he, a well-known evangelist, has returned. He married a girl he loved and cared for through sickness and health; I remained alone and bitter. He fathered five beautiful children; I have none. He knows His Lord, and I am empty inside. R. W. has achieved much. I wish I had his secret to success.


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This article has been read 1232 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mark Anthony Belosa07/14/06
I thought this was a great tribute...nice twist at the end....I feel sorry for the girl.
Marilyn Schnepp 07/15/06
My personal reaction to this story is: If R.W. wasn't my "cup of tea" 30 years ago, his success would not make me envious enough to make him my "Cup of Tea" today; however, well written...which is what we always expect from the Masters. (smile)
Melanie Kerr 07/15/06
Your description of R.W. was excellent. I could really see him in my mind’s eye.
Lori Othouse 07/17/06
Terrific thought-provoking story! I'm wondering...does the girl feel any regret for how she treated him or just for not having what he has? It would be interesting to see this story expanded, perhaps at a reunion. Great job!
Carla Feagans07/18/06
Very well-written, I could really feel and see what you were describing.

This is so typical of so many people in high school - the big nerd lacking social graces, the teasing kids, the embarrassed girl.

I wished you'd had more time at the end to develop what the girl was thinking.

So common too that the nerd in high school ends up happier and more well adjusted than those that did all the teasing.
Jan Ackerson 07/18/06
Oooh, I really like this. It feels like a chapter of a book to me--one that I'd definitely want to read. Very good.
william price07/18/06
Did she go to the revival? Did she go on a Friday Night? I WOULD LOVE to read the next chapter. Excellent writing. You must be from Wisconsin (wink). Good writers come from there...
Super story! Nice flow. Enjoyed it very much!
Edy T Johnson 07/18/06
Oh my, did I ever enjoy this story (so many parallels to the "brain" in MY geometry class I made the mistake of asking for help with an assignment!). I think I agree with above comments, especially the need for more!
Ann FitzHenry07/18/06
Your descriptions were excellent. I felt like I was back in high school. It reminds me of the people I saw at my last class reunion. (Some of the "losers" were "winners" now and vice versa.)

This is an excellent beginning to a longer story. (Too bad about the 750 word limit.)

Thanks! I enjoyed it!

Trina Courtenay07/19/06
What a joy to read and oh so true of what happens to some of our peers from the good ole high school days.