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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Chillax (04/03/14)

TITLE: The Red Stripes
By Marita Thelander


I’ve always been drawn to water.

When I was a little girl, Mama tied a rope around my waist and tethered me to the clothes line to keep me away from the creek that ran through our property. I’d play with my dolls and trucks and listen to Mama hum hymns while she snapped the wet garments before grabbing a couple clothespins out of her apron pocket. Mama’s work sounds harmonized with bird melodies in the nearby cherry tree and the bee buzzes among the clover patches around me.

But the musical sounds that caused my towhead to tilt and ears to strain were the happy gurgles of the creek just beyond my protective rope’s reach.

About the time I lost my two bottom teeth, Mama gave in to my water craving and bought me a pair of rubber boots. I loved those black boots with a red stripe around the top. She instructed me to tuck my pants inside and don’t let the water reach the red stripes.

I wasn’t very successful with the whole red stripe rule.

But oh, the treasures I would find. I’d catch pollywogs in the spring and frogs in the summer and the abundance of stick bugs and dragon flies fascinated me. I waited each spring for the duck couple to return and crept among the cattails, blackberry bushes and clumps of wetland grasses to find their nest so I could count the eggs. Then I anxiously awaited the sight of ducklings swimming on the creek.

I long to sit on a dock at the nearby lake and let my feet dangle in the water, or take a day-trip drive to the powerful waterfall that tumbles 200 feet with such force the spray can be felt on my face. I want to meander up the quiet stream along the neighbor’s wooded country lane and meet the cows and horses that drink from its muddy banks. I yearn to bask on the huge fallen fir on the sunny south side of the river I drive across every day.

Somewhere between the removal of my braces and the high school graduation of my four children, the wander-lust of water days gone by has become only a memory.

Adulthood is overrated.

We fret over things like bills, car repairs, mortgages and health insurance. Yes the dreaded health insurance. If my husband doesn’t have a heart attack from his years of bad habits, his opening a doctor or hospital bill will for sure induce one.

It’s not like I planned to have cancer. I mean…I was sort of attached to my left breast.

The call of the water tugged at me. Today I was determined to find a path down to the rocky shore of the river I always admired from above. A crowd gathered on the beach. I ached to be undisturbed and discovered a cozy nook among the river bank downstream from the gathering. My feet dipped into the cool water and I yearned to let my problems disappear with the current, all the way to the ocean where they would roll out with the tide never to be heard from again. I held my right breast in an attempt to mentally will the ugly new lump to somehow find a path through my body and out my toes into the water.

Sobs clogged my throat. “Be calm. Relax,” I whispered and swiped at a lone tear dripping off my nose.

My now white head tilted to hear the water’s gurgling song and caught the voices of the crowd singing hymns of praise. The minister’s voice boomed as he prayed.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. That healing is readily available for you, my sweet sister. And now, upon your confession of faith in Jesus Christ…I now baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Still clutching my right breast, I stumbled up the shore towards the crowd. Tears blinded my path. Long ago I forsook the God of my childhood but I know it was He who beckoned me to the river’s edge and whispered to my heart…Be still and know that I am God.

Fully immersed, I envisioned a towheaded little girl tromping through the creek in black boots well beyond the depths of the red stripes.

Mama would be proud.

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This article has been read 160 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Tracy Nunes 04/11/14
Oh, I adored this! Your descriptions clearly evoked the pictures you wrote of. It felt like I was hearing you tell me this story firsthand. I loved it beginning to end!
CD Swanson 04/13/14
Great job! Loved it!

God bless~
Joe Moreland04/15/14
This is an incredible piece of storytelling. Your masterful use of language, and your meticulous conjuring of emotions, put your talent on display front and center.

Excellent job!
Sheldon Bass 04/17/14
This piece took me on a wonderful voyage through memories of childhood. So easily relatable for all who've known the awesome splendor and peace of God's great outdoors. I just might go fishing today. Your bridges to the present worked well. And you really brought it home with the message to make a good ending. Congratulations!!
Yvonne Blake 04/17/14
Congratulations on your EC!
I love the ending of this story . . . not spelling everything out, but leaving enough for the reader to understand.
Laury Hubrich 04/18/14
I love this story. Welcome back to the challenges, Mari! <3 <3
Leola Ogle 04/18/14
Good job, Marita, and congratulations on this delightful story. God bless.
Beth LaBuff 04/25/14
This story completely draws the reader in. I love the recurring "red stripe" theme, even with the verse from Isaiah. Super work! Many congrats on your Editor's Choice award!