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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Expire (08/01/13)

TITLE: Use Before...
By Gerald Shuler


Colin Winthrop was a careful shopper. It was a habit formed from years of watching his recently deceased wife, Lucille, move every item in the grocery display until she was certain the item in her hand had the latest possible expiration date. At first her obsession had annoyed him beyond reason. Now, though, it was a natural part of his own shopping eccentricities... so natural, in fact, that it was done without even thinking about it. He had more important things to think about. His unemployment check was about to come to an end and he still had no prospect for a job. Of course, he knew the checks wouldn't last forever, but...

He put a can of beans in his basket, still good until late next year.

It didn't make sense to him that an older, more experienced person would have such a hard time getting hired. If it were his company it would be the experienced workers that would be hired first. It didn't make sense... he had so much to offer but nobody wanted him.

The bread had just been put out so he knew it wasn't old. He put the loaf in his basket.

Why couldn't he find a job? He had never had a hard time getting hired before. Maybe Lucille had been more of an inspiration for him than he had realized. But still, with his experience it should be easy to get employment. Every interview, though, always seemed to come around to the same frustrating fractured phrases: “At your age, are you sure...”, “When you retire...”, “Age isn't an issue, but...”

He put the quart of milk back on the shelf. The delivery truck would come this afternoon; he would return then to get fresher milk.

He knew he was better than his age would indicate. He ate healthy food, exercised daily, kept his mind sharp and still it was the young kids that were being hired instead of him. Age had eliminated him and others his age from even having a chance to be a valid part of society. It was unfair... totally unfair.

The oranges had no expiration date and it caused him to hesitate. How would he know whether the ones he got were the freshest? Look at it? Squeeze it? Smell it?

That was what was so unfair... he was being treated like a bottle of milk, not like an orange! How dare they look at only his age, as though he was approaching his expiration date. How dare they not take the time to test him, try his worth, give him a chance. Nothing was fair about how life had developed for him and yet he was still put under the same restrictions as the younger workers... find a job quickly or your unemployment check will expire. How unfair to be treated like expiring groceries on a shelf.

If only he would be given a fair chance...

Colin went back to the milk display and picked up the quart that had been rejected earlier. He looked at the expiration date and shuddered. It expires tomorrow.

“At least,” he whispered to the milk, “at least I understand you better.” He gently put the milk in his basket with a sigh. “I will drink you today.”

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This article has been read 2084 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Linda Goergen08/08/13
This is a absolutely brilliant entry! Loved the visual impact! Loved the analogy of the food to Colin’s life! Loved how you wove the topic back and forth! Loved the message! Loved the perfect ending! Just MASTERFULLY done!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/09/13
This is a spectacular allegory. The ending was perfect! Things are always good long past the best by date, but then people are too. Great take on the topic! I totally enjoyed this.
C D Swanson 08/10/13
This was an excellent piece! It was spot on with the topic and harbored many different messages. I loved the expire allegory.

God bless~
lynn gipson 08/13/13
This is such a moving and touching story. I did keep hoping someone in the grocery store would offer him a job, but I'm just a sucker for a happy ending. Great writing!
C D Swanson 08/15/13
Congrats! God bless~
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/15/13
Congratulations on a very memorable story.
Linda Goergen08/15/13
I just knew this would be a winner and so well deserved! Congratulations Gerald!
Loni Bowden-Horn 08/17/13
This was such a moving and heartfelt piece. I faced a similiar situation of finding employment a few years ago. Fortunately, God gives us value. If we know Him, there is no expiration date up in heaven.
Judith Gayle Smith08/18/13
Congratulations! God bless you.
KJV Hebrews 10:26-31
KJV Revelations 14:12
Bea Edwards 08/19/13
Congratulations on your well deserved win with this clever analogy.
Beth LaBuff 10/10/13
What a great story, Gerald. It's relative to the time we live in and so creatively written. Congrats on the many honors you received with this.
Toni Babcock 12/12/13
I love how the protagonist is unwittingly acting like his rejecters until his thoughts turn full circle. The internal dialogue is marvelous; it is brilliant and engaging in an understated way which is what makes your story a hands-down winner.
Lisa Johnson06/20/14
Just now seeing this, my friend! I know someone who feels just like your MC... I can see how this would resonate with so many people. I can see how it is in the running for Best of the Best. Good luck and God bless.
Patsy Hallum07/02/14
Congratulations!! This should be required reading for every employer! Let them know how it feels to be told you are to old or overqualified! Love It!
Allison Egley 07/06/14
Oh, this is great. I especially loved him talking to the milk at the end... Just hope a potential employer doesn't see THAT. ;)

Congrats on 2nd place in BoB this year!
Lois Lewis 12/16/14
Amazing how few words are needed to tell a GREAT story. Thanks, and congrats!