Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: REDUCE (11/05/15)
TITLE: Caleb Abridged
By Jody Day
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Caleb stuffed his third place ribbon into his jeans pocket. His confidence dwindled as he thought about showing it to his family.
“So, how’d the spelling bee go?” His brother Carl asked when he picked Caleb up from school that day.
“Third place out of sixty kids.” That was something, right?
“It would have been first if you’d cut back on the video games. Those things lessen your concentration.” Carl shook his head and gave the steering wheel a punch.
Carl always diminished Caleb’s efforts. He took the ribbon from his pocket and let it fly out the opened passenger side window. He didn’t expect any better from his sister.
“Only third place,” Carl said to his twin Carla as he and Caleb came in the back door. Carla clicked her tongue.
“You drain me, little brother. You slash this family’s reputation. Wait until Dad finds out.” She tapered carrots with a potato peeler.
Dad came home from work an hour later and called Caleb into the den. “Well?”
Caleb looked down and tried to curtail the urge to cry. “Third place.”
“Son, you’ve scaled down your efforts this year. You should have turned down all those invitations to baseball and concentrated on your work.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll be more moderate about extra-curricular activities.” He looked up at his Dad who opened his newspaper with a snap, hiding his face from his son.
Surely Mom would have a few kind words. She came in to read him a story and help him wind down for the night.
“You could have done better on your spelling bee, but I never turn down an opportunity to encourage you. Just be more temperate in non-academic pursuits, and you should have less difficulty.” She kissed him goodnight.
He always spent Saturdays with his grandmother. He looked forward to her homemade cookies and hot chocolate. His excitement toned down when his mother made him take his spelling book.
“Why the long face? You should be a happy boy on this beautiful, sunny day.” Granny ruffled and kissed the top of his head.
“Everything is ruined. I only took third place in the spelling bee. In a nutshell, everyone is disappointed in me. What’s worse, I have to study today instead of playing.” Caleb plopped down at Granny’s kitchen table.
Granny put a plate of cookies with shaved coconut on top in front of the deflated boy. “Oh my, it can’t be that bad. You just need to cut down on the negative thoughts.”
“Hard to do when everyone depreciates my efforts. I’m shriveling up inside.”
“When in doubt, cut it out, that’s what I always say. I know it’s your family, but you can counter their pauperization of your talents with the truth.” Granny picked up a cookie and took a bite.
“What is the truth, Granny?” He watched Granny’s cookie shrink in size as she took bite after bite. Dad always said Granny needed to go on a diet.
She finished her cookie and then put her arm around him. “The truth is you are fearfully and wonderfully made. God has filled you with every fine thing to succeed. He thinks you’re fantastic. He loves you just the way you are. So do I.”
Caleb smiled. Granny could always dilute his anxiety.
“Besides, it’s hard to live with a family of college professors. By the way, what word clipped you on the spelling bee?” Granny asked.
“Synonym.” Caleb reached for a cookie and made it disappear.
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