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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)

TITLE: Thumbs and Thorns
By Sue Goodreau


I wish I could say that my black thumb was a result of a hammer blow. It’s a rather morbid thought, I know, considering that it is painful, and a thumbnail is lost. But, alas, I was born with my black thumb.

And only plants can see it.

Fortunately, I didn’t realize that I had this deformity until my husband and I bought our first home. Aside from a few bushes, the yard was completely devoid of flora.

“This is great!” I exclaimed to my husband. “A tabula rasa, just waiting for me to create a veritable Eden.”

And create I did. I tilled, fertilized, and planted with gusto and impatiently waited for my beautiful gardens to grow. After two week, I called my green-thumbed friend, Sue, to come for a look-see.

“I’m looking, Mary, but I don’t see anything. A few sprouts, but that’s it.”

“But I planted bulbs and seeds all over!”

“Maybe it’s the soil,” Sue said thoughtfully. “Or they need more time.”

Eventually, some of the flowers did sprout, but only two bloomed.

I decided it had to be the soil, so the next spring I had rich, dark topsoil added to my gardens. Then, I tilled, fertilized, and planted again.

“Nothing is growing!” I whined to Sue three weeks later.

“Why don’t you forget seeds? Go to the nursery, get a few flats of flowers, plant them, and they’ll grow. Piece of cake.”

I did as she suggested. Two weeks later, Sue called.

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” she quipped.

“With shriveled buds and gnarled duds and dead sticks all in a row,” I replied sourly.

She laid it on me gently. “You’ve got a black thumb—a bad case, I might add. Stay away from my gardens. You’re the next best thing to Round Up.”

I was stunned. A black thumb? That had to be bad. My thumb looked okay to me, but I guess you had to be a flower to see it. Perhaps, if I hid my hands, my gardens would grow.

The next spring, I planted using thick, leather gloves. Unfortunately, I took one off for a split second to secure a loose hair. I swear I heard a collective gasp, and I quickly put my hands behind my back. But it was too late.

“So, Mary, Mary, this year, how does your garden grow?” Sue asked with a giggle on the phone.

“They died of fright from a black thumb sight and fell prostrate all in a row,” I grouched.

I decided to accept my condition and forget gardening until I received a catalogue from a company that sends you everything to have the perfect garden. What caught my eye was the guarantee that their gardens would grow. I ordered the Bountiful Blessings garden, planted it (gloves intact), and waited.

“My Bountiful Blessings garden should be renamed the Baneful Badlands garden,” I complained to the catalogue rep a month later.

“I apologize,” he said, clearly puzzled. “I’ll send you another garden right away.”

I hesitated, but I had to come clean. “It may be my fault,” I explained, feeling a bit embarrassed. “You see, I have a black thumb.”

“Ma’am,” he said politely, “There is no such thing. Let’s just go over the instructions to make sure we plant correctly.”

The second garden arrived. I planted as instructed, but the flowers that came up were a sickly lot. The rep sounded sick, too, when I called him.

“Ma’am, NO ONE else has had problems with that garden. I’m going to refund your money with this advice: find a hobby where you won’t kill anything.”

As I hung up, the phone rang again.

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how…”

“Sue, put a geranium in it,” I yelled and slammed down the receiver.

My husband found me sulking when he came home from work.

“That’s it. I’ve had it. Paul had his thorn, and I’ve got this thing,” I griped, waving my thumb.

“Perhaps,” my husband said, “God gave you a black thumb for a reason. Paul didn’t like his thorn, but he learned about God’s grace because of it. Think about it.”

Did my husband have a point? Could God use my black thumb? As usual, I’d pouted instead of prayed. Humbled, I asked my creative, green-thumbed God to use me in more ways than I could ask or imagine. And, while I was waiting on Him, I’d plan my next garden.

A rock garden.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 09/14/06
Love it! The added bonus of rhyming lines was a superb touch. Good job!
Jen Davis09/15/06
How cute! This was a very entertaining read. The rhyming really added to this piece and culminating with "Sue, put a geranium in it" was especially funny. Great job!
Val Clark09/16/06
Very amusing! Loved the rhyming banter between your character and her friend. A black thumb? Now that's what I call a thorn in the flesh! Loved the last line. yeggy
Marilyn Schnepp 09/18/06
A witty write, and a delightful read. Kudos.
Beth Muehlhausen09/19/06
Too cute! Loved the "Mary Mary quite contrary..." rhymes. AND the slammed receiver: "“Sue, put a geranium in it,” I yelled and slammed down the receiver." I mean how great that you're letting your character be so emotionally authentic. ;-D

Melanie Kerr 09/20/06
I liked the repeated “How does your garden grow” refrain and the very poetic replies. I think that I must also have a black thumb!
Joanne Sher 09/21/06
What a fun story! I just loved your "Mary Mary quite contrary" refrain too, and the wonderful message. So clever - congrats!!!
Karen Treharne09/23/06
Congratulations, Sue. A great story with humor and a message! I enjoyed this a lot.
Kathie Thomas05/09/07
Apologies for contacting you this way but we need your bio note please for the Faithwriters book "Hidden in the Hymns". Can you please contact me?