Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: RESOLUTION (01/07/16)
- TITLE: Raise Your Right Hand and Swear
By Virgil Youngblood
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“Hey, college girl,” he replied, grinning broadly. “Where did you come from?” He swung a leg off the seat and patted the bench. “Park yourself. Help me enjoy this fine day we’re having for a change. You might even see a black bear on the slope of those mountains over there. I did once, you know.”
“Gramma sent this.” Lilly Beth extended a thermal-cup vaporizing steam from the sip-hole.
“Hot prune juice, I bet,” Grampa exclaimed. “She don’t miss a trick.”
“She said it was …”
Grampa slurped a mouthful, and winked at Lilly Beth. “Glory be, L.B.! Coffee, with a touch of uh -- something for my rheumatis.”
Lilly Beth fished a miniature tape recorder from a jacket pocket and placed it between them. “Grampa, I need to interview a senior citizen and write about a life lesson they learned early on. Can you help me with that?”
“L. B., I bought more lessons than you have tape to record. You better find someone …”
“I only need one, Grampa. Let’s have it.” She draped an arm around his frail shoulders and gave him a hug. “A blast from the past.”
“Hmmph,” he muttered. “Tell you what – for the price of a cigar, and your Gramma not knowing about that, I’ll …”
“Deal!” Lilly Beth exclaimed. She punched the recorder on.
“I remember an oath I made once,” Grampa said, “and I’ve never broke it.” Lilly Beth remained quiet, watching her Grampa swipe cold-induced tears from his rheumy eyes. “I was about twelve years old at the time.
“I was out squirrel hunting and bent over, ducking through a tight-wired barbed wire fence when my pants snagged high up in the crotch, right next to my family jewels. Another barb was tickling my back. And not eighteen inches from my face, struggling to get out from beneath my boot, was a little rattle snake writhing back-and-forth. I had him pinned about four inches behind his head, but that situation wasn’t going to last. He was too close to my foot to shoot, and I wasn’t in any position to do that anyway. The only choice I had was the one I took, hoping for the best. I lurched backwards ripping my jeans and shirt loose from the barbs. Fortunately, that little critter was as glad to be freed as I was and he slithered off the other way.”
“Wow!” Lilly Beth exclaimed. “I guess if that snake had bit you, I might not be here today.”
“Or, if I had lost the family jewels.”
“Oh, right,” Lilly Beth agreed, blushing. “So, what life lesson did you learn?”
Grampa wiped a hand across his cheeks, rubbing feeling back that had been extracted by the nippy air. “Well, L. B., you usually fare better going over or around obstacles than struggling through them.
“And, watch where you step. There are a lot of snakes in this old world. That one wasn’t bothering anybody. You are better off not provoking them if you can help it. Know what I mean?”
“That makes sense, Grampa. But didn’t you say something about an oath?”
Grampa drained the coffee mug, sighing contently. “Sure did. That’s a fact, Jack. I made myself a solemn promise.”
“Don’t keep me in suspense, Grampa. What was it?”
“Momma wasn’t happy about that rip in my britches, not even a little bit. Money was a stranger around our house. She had to sew ‘em up. And she didn’t want me to forget it.”
“So, you promised not to tear your pants?”
“Nope, I swore on a stack of Bibles that I would never wear jeans with red piping stitched up to the crotch. It invites way too many questions.”
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