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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Light and Dark (05/21/09)

TITLE: Tainted
By Chely Roach


I didn’t want to die.

Daddy didn’t want to either, but he believed them. They told us that if we prayed hard enough, God would remove the cancer from our bodies.

I remember crouching at the top of the stairs listening to Momma plead with Daddy to go to Springfield Mercy for treatment.

“These afflictions are a judgment from God, Angie Sue. If He chooses to heal this town, He will.”

“It’s the water, Derek, not God…and you know it. The plant has been closed for years, but our groundwater is poison now. The county has proven it. This isn’t a ‘God’ thing…it’s a greedy, indifferent, ‘man’ thing.”

“Whatever my God ordains is right. You’ve heard the Reverend preach…we’ve done some heinous evil in God’s eyes to have our whole town judged like this. Nope, the only doctor I will submit to is the Great Physician Himself, and if we pray hard enough, He’ll surely heal me. Now, let’s kneel…”

Momma prayed; from morning till night. I did, too.

Daddy died June fifteenth; on Father’s Day. He bled out during the night from the belly full of tumors that God never removed. Three weeks later, I got a nose bleed that didn’t stop for hours. By the time we got in the car, my light sandy blonde hair was matted thick with blood.

Momma cried all the way to Springfield. And then all the way back to Shady Falls.

We parked in the driveway, stuck to the tacky, vinyl seats. “Well, Gracie, your Daddy made his own decision, and I think you know how I felt about that. But I am your Momma, and I get the last word about you. That being said, what do you want?”

The cicadas’ rhythmic song ricocheted off the trees, making my ears ring. I wiped my blood and tear stained face with my already ruined shirt. “I wanna live, Momma. I wanna finish school…get married…have babies. I wanna die an old woman.”

I watched Momma fold her arms over the steering wheel and rest her head on them, “Then we will fight this with every tool God has given us, baby girl.”

And we did. Momma said that it was ironic that I got sick from the poisoned water, but it was the poison in the chemo that was going to make me better. When my thinning blonde hair started falling out completely, our secret was out, too.

The mighty Reverend and the ruling elders from The Tabernacle Assembly of Holiness and Light held a special session one Tuesday night, and excommunicated Momma and me from the congregation. Folks that had been our best friends shunned us. Other townspeople just didn’t want to get put in the middle. Everybody had their own troubles.

I bawled when Momma put the ‘for sale’ sign in front of the only house I had ever lived in. But no right thinking family was going to move into a town with a forty percent cancer rate. So summer slowly turned to fall…

The overt whispering and evil eyes had gradually eased into an uncomfortable invisibility for Momma and me; that was fine with us. The reprieve came to an abrupt halt when my hair started to come back in. My once-blonde hair was now the deepest shade of black. Momma brushed her hand across the dark, downy tuffs and giggled, “A brand new head of hair for your second chance at life…”

But the Reverend said it was a sign from God: since I rejected the Lord’s plans, I was now the Devil’s child.

The firestorm began.

They threw rocks through our windows. They screamed from the street, “Satan’s spawn!” They burnt a cross on our lawn on Christmas Eve.

Before dawn broke on New Year’s Day, our former congregation surrounded our home and threw a lit gas can into our living room. Momma pulled me from my bed, the smoke flushing us into the chilly air in our night gowns. Her shotgun fired like a cannon above the crowd.

The bloodlust mob fell dumbstruck from the blast. Horrified, I clung to Momma’s waist as we approached the Reverend, the barrel of Momma’s shotgun aimed point blank at his face; our home burning behind us. She pumped the weapon, “If you pray hard enough, do you think God will save you?”

The Bible fell from his quaking hand…its delicate pages absorbing the urine that was pooling at his feet.

“Ahh…your specialty.”

A distant siren began its steady approach.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Steve Uppendahl05/29/09
Such a cool story. (A bit eerie for me. My daughter, Gracie, was born on June fifteenth, Father's Day, almost six years ago.) I love the first line and how you packed action into so few words. (Seemed like a Lifetime Movie--in a good way.) Not sure about the last quote, though. Great, fun, impacting story.
Laury Hubrich 05/29/09
Oh man - wow. Going through an illness myself, I can't imagine going it alone without my doctor's. Even though they really aren't helping me much. People react so strange when we aren't healed after they pray. And these are in traditional Christian churches, not like the one in your story. So sad. Very sad but certainly kept my attention.
Catrina Bradley 05/30/09
Horrifying, but it likely could happen. Nice pace - the story moved right along through time without jumping. The bit about her hair growing back black was a nice touch! I'm not sure who said the last line of dialog (I'm assuming the mother) or exactly what it means, but a great story well told.
Jan Ackerson 06/03/09
I get so ANGRY at people who are like the Reverend. Honestly, I can't TELL you how angry they make me. You're such an awesome writer that you had my blood pressure boiling at this man...Superb story-telling!
Bryan Ridenour06/03/09
Superb storytelling...especially liked the ending where momma took her stand. Nicely done!
Stacy Wells 06/03/09
Great Story! I want to know if there is more!! However, I am lost as to who said the last line. I guess I didn't get the twist.
Melinda Wells06/03/09
Wow! I absolutely loved this!

Thank you for sharing.
Patricia Herchenroether06/03/09
This is astounding! And, maybe because I have an "earthy" history, I got the last line right away! Lisa pretty much said it in different words. lol Anyway, your story is excellent.
Loren T. Lowery06/03/09
Of course it was the mother speaking to the "reverend" I use that term lightly, here.
There is no grace in this town, no forgiveness and certainly no Christian faith as I know it. In a way, the burning of the house was a good thing. Like the child's new, black hair, they can now move on to other new beginnings.
Connie Dixon06/03/09
Great story and wonderful telling of it. Using the tools that God has given us to survive is such a "no brainer". (Some people certainly don't get that one) Loved this!
Sara Harricharan 06/03/09
oooh, WOW!!! This is one of your best yet-or at least my favorite one of yours! Packed with soooo much, I couldn't stop reading all the way through. And I did "Get" it. lol. I had the hint to look for a missing speech tag....^_^ This was powerful, I'm sure glad the MC didn't die though. People like that Rev. completelyl tick me off, this must have been interesting to write. ^_^ Kudos to you!
Carol Slider 06/03/09
Wow... an amazing, powerful, and disturbing story. I'm surprised that a whole town would be so mesmerized by a fringe cult that they couldn't admit the real reason for their illnesses... but I suppose it's possible. Very vivid, very scary, and very well written!
Lollie Hofer06/03/09
I am sitting here stunned. Not too often am I at a loss for words. This is one of those times. THANK YOU for writing this powerful and intriguing story.
Colin Swann06/03/09
Oh dear - this reminded me of the Ku Klux Klan era - how those poor victims must have felt. Thanks for making this relistic for us. Thanks - Colin
Betty Castleberry06/03/09
So many lessons to learn through this brilliantly crafted piece. The voice is excellent. I could see it all happening.
Mona Purvis06/03/09
Now I get the last line. I don't know why, but I read it twice before and didn't get it. But, now...I really Love it. The last line tells the story! Says what the problem was all along! Just terrific!
Catrina Bradley 06/03/09
Now that Lisa has pointed out the obvious, of COURSE I get the last dialog line. Sorry for being a dolt. Still love it.
Cat :D