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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Happy (07/12/07)

TITLE: Whenever I See That Scar...
By Jan Ackerson
07/18/07


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I have a small white scar on my left wrist from where Lisette bit me. True, we were only six, and I was holding her doll hostage; I suppose I deserved her toothy revenge. I think of her whenever I see that scar.

Despite the biting incident, we were best friends through proms, sororities, the whirlwind of early adulthood, frightful bridesmaid dresses. After college, Lisette could easily have joined my fast-paced, glittering world; she was a far more promising business student than I had been. But Lisette chose the diapers-and-drool route, staying with her new husband, Keith, in her childhood home, while I followed the allure of power and success.

Still, we met once a month over coffee and pastries. Lisette often rushed into the café breathless but smiling, armed with photos of little dimpled Sadie. We’d speed-talk in an effort to catch up before my insistent earpiece would demand my attention elsewhere—I had taken a job with the government, one of many idealists working to co-ordinate the country’s transition to the World Economic Community.

The last time I spoke to Lisette, I urged her over a chocolate croissant to use my discount on the new implant that would make all her financial transactions easier, and to come with me to the grand opening of the Church of the Universal Spirit. I thought that would appeal to Lisette, as she’d always been religious—and I’d always found her fervency charming and quirky.

But she just smiled and shook her head, her face suddenly pale and drawn. I half-listened to her earnest explanations while voices in my ear pressed me to other appointments. We parted with a quick embrace and a word of warning from me—the implant was painless, and those without it would soon find themselves locked out of banking, insurance, even employment.

That was three years ago, and we’ve not met at the café since. My career blossomed, and I moved into a condo on the east side. Lisette’s continued resistance to government policies, on the other hand, set her family on the road to destitution.

No, we haven’t spoken in years, but our paths have crossed twice, and each time I’ve been left with a lingering question.

The first time, Lisette and Sadie were getting off the crowded downtown bus. I was half a block away, waiting for my limo, and I watched as she stepped off, then turned with outstretched arms to receive Sadie’s hop from the tall step. Lisette threw her head back and laughed—I could hear it from where I stood—and swung Sadie twice before setting her down.

They’d been dropped off at the open-air market for the non-registered. (We were not, after all, unfeeling toward those unenlightened Resisters). Before I boarded the limo, I saw her purchase three small apples, rummaging cheerfully for a few bills in the pockets of her tattered jeans.

Why is she so happy?

The next time I saw Lisette, it was a glimpse only. My route that day took me near the old neighborhood, and on a whim I asked the driver to go past Lisette’s house. She was outside in the yard, washing clothes in a large tub and hanging them up to dry. Conserving energy, no doubt—electricity was rarely available here. I begged the driver to go slowly, despite his obvious reluctance to linger in a Resistance Zone.

She was teasing Sadie—threatening to splash her, flicking water at her wild ringlets. Keith toiled nearby, stacking sticks of firewood. Lisette was alarmingly thin, and the family’s drying clothes were threadbare. Through the slightly opened window of the limo, I heard the three of them, their joyful voices colored by laughter and love.

Why is she so happy?

This morning I was called into the office of the President of the Transitions Commission. I have been put in charge of public relations for our newest project: requiring all citizens to join the Church of the Universal Spirit. It will be a difficult assignment to spin; those who will not join are to be relocated in Resistance Camps.

As the President was outlining my assignment, I fingered the scar on my wrist and thought of Lisette. I fear that she and her family still cling to their old-fashioned, anarchist views. Surely they will refuse this latest directive too, and they will be driven from their home and taken away.

Lisette, Lisette, my friend—will you still be happy, in the squalor of the camps?


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This article has been read 1101 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Leigh MacKelvey07/19/07
I love stories about the end times. Scary, but makes one wonder how we will hold up under the pressure. I pray as well as Lissette and her family. You nailed the topic in a creative manner with usual well written cahracterization and subtlety. one of my favorite as I read through some entries this morning!
Dee Yoder 07/19/07
Ooh, this story is good! Makes me think about the choices our country is making now-how are we "helping" to usher in the kind of world described in your story? Good thing we know Who holds the future!
Joanne Sher 07/20/07
Excellent detail - you certainly have a way with setting the scene and showing. Much to think about here.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/21/07
This thought-provoking end-times story is excellently written, the message shown clearly.
Helen Paynter07/22/07
Chilling, provocative, moving... I want 75,000 words!
Kristen Hester07/23/07
Captivating. I love the POV. Your experiment worked. I want more, more, more!
Joanney Uthe07/23/07
I love the way the MC views her friends happiness more than shares in it. The scar will serve as an even bigger reminder in days to come. I agree, I would love to read the expanded version.
Benjamin Graber07/23/07
Wow, this one is really, really good... Powerful message!
Elizabeth Baize 07/23/07
Wow! This was so interesting. The fact that you wrote this from the perspective of a person who was sympathetic toward the main character gave your story an interesting twist. I also liked how you repeated, "How can she be so happy," and then ended with a question along the lines of "Will she still be so happy?"
Lynda Lee Schab 07/23/07
I absolutely love this. Creative foction, yet chillingly realistic. The POV was perfect, the storytelling nothing short of masterful. :-)
TJ Nickel07/24/07
You hit the Scriptural / philosophical Happy Theme right on the head with this piece, showing happiness to be available from within instead of environmentally controlled. The view of the protagonist being so removed created a tone that worked great with the plot.
Catrina Bradley 07/24/07
Excellent writing! I love this masterful story of true happiness. Well Done!!
Sara Harricharan 07/25/07
I would've liked to read more on this. The setting, everything was just great. I liked how you used the memory of the scar throughout the story. My fave part was the last line. I think Lisette would still be happy. She has a true happiness that maybe one day her friend will see. ^_^ Great job!
Loren T. Lowery07/25/07
You painted a beautiful portrait in words and told a masterful story. The voice, the pace, the meterm the tone all so well done. And odd as it might seem, I can see myself at times on either side of the two stories.
Jacquelyn Horne07/25/07
This has a realistic feeling. Sad but possibly true someday. But I like the happiness portrayed here.
Dixie Phillips 07/25/07
A perfect 10!! OH MY...... I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight. You sure outdid yourself on this story! Sequel, please!

PS I couldn't stop laughing when I read the line about holding the doll hostage.
Sheri Gordon07/26/07
Wow. This made my skin crawl because it feels like this government is just around the corner. I love the way you tell a story.

More importantly, it made me look at myself. Why do I let life's little annoyances keep me from being happy?

You are masterful at bringing the subtle message out loud and clear. Great job.