Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Once in a Blue Moon (01/06/11)
TITLE: Loud Speakers
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Marlene’s vigorous sixty-year-old body stepped crisply through dappled sunlight streaming through a leafy canopy overhead. She walked energetically as befitting someone much younger while the lake idly shushed on one side and the woods called noiselessly from its deep, dark depths on the other. It was a day like so many others when she felt mysteriously unified with, and uplifted by, her surroundings. Surely she was a sort of Eve, and this place was a sampling of paradise.
The setting was typical, and everything seemed comfortably familiar and predictable. A fisherman sat hunched in his boat with devious baits dangling from bobbers perched in just the right places. A breeze encouraged playful, watery tongues to lick the shore: lap-lap, slap-lap-slap.
As Marlene continued on the familiar course, a gritty, discordant noise erupted ahead. “What? Some football fan must be outside working on his car with the radio blaring through speakers,” she muttered to herself. “Has to hear the play-by-play, but ends up ruining the serenity for anyone else!” She glared momentarily at the sand-speckled road.
In spite of this disappointment, Marlene intentionally refocused on the opposite shoreline with its wild splendor of untouched tamarack trees. She quickened the pad-padding of her Reebok-clad feet and prayerfully whispered the praise and gratitude in her heart. “I’ve walked this beautiful path hundreds of times, Lord. It is part of me. I am part of it. YOU ARE HERE! I praise You for that; I belong in this place with You. All is well!”
As she approached a bend in the road, the yells and cheers grew louder and louder. Evidently some huge stadium was full of fans going crazy in a way that even overpowered the radio announcer! Marlene tried to tune out the raucous noise, and yet a rising curiosity also drove her to discover its source.
Within a few more minutes she turned the corner that led to a primitive cul-de-sac where the road dead-ended. A few small cottages fronted the lake on this strip, but not a single person was in sight. The noise persisted, luring her up and up an incline toward the turn-around that encircled several oak trees at the top of the hill.
As she rose to the highest point the chatter became deafening and seemed to fill the air in much the same way that church bells in a tall steeple drown out everything else. Marlene stopped to catch her breath and peer toward a bay that had been previously hidden from view.
There, several hundred trumpeter swans bobbed on the waves while talking to one another. Evidently an organizational meeting was in order; the parliamentarian had opened the floor for commentary, and each and every swan had decided to contribute to the loud mass-conversation!
Marlene stood frozen in place and gawked. Never in her lifetime of lakeside living had she seen anything like this! Mute swans were typical to the area, and even nested in the cattails not far from her house. But trumpeters showed up only briefly when migrating as they passed through. Today this large flock had chosen her lake as a rest stop where they now chattered with powerful voices resembling those of humans at a sporting event.
Marlene sensed the sleek white beauties with arched necks and black bills must be conversing among themselves. While doing so, they gradually turned en masse to jointly face into the wind. Marlene later imagined their discussion: “Come on, Raymond, we’re lining up … okay Sally, you’re in position … Charley, get yourself squared away here ... turn that tail around, Martha, and prepare for take-off!” Then the volume of chatter escalated all at once as they squawked their trumpets in unison, ran across the water’s surface with paddleboat-type webbed feet, flapped their massive wings, and took off – a fluttery blanket of raucous, airborne waterfowl.
Transfixed, Marlene watched until the entire flock had risen from the lake into the air where it swayed like a giant swarm of oversized, hoarse bees headed toward a faraway hive. Eventually the mass diminished and became a speck the distant sky. The cries of the trumpeters faded, and then silenced into nothingness.
A stiff wind grew more persistent than before and sighed in a few nearby pine trees. The unexpected moment had passed. Marlene had been in just the right place at exactly the right time to witness a unique scene she’d never seen before and might never see again – a once-in-a-blue-moon display of musical grace on wings.
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