Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CLEAR AS MUD (07/18/19)
- TITLE: Why Mattie Failed "Reading 101"
By Mariane Holbrook
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As a high schooler always in need, Mattie clipped coupons from Seventeen Magazine for everything from free cosmetic samples to dental floss, diet pills, volume-boosting hair mousse, and even Jordan almonds.
Mattie's Saturday job at Britt's Donuts paid only minimum wage but she dutifully paid her tithe, saved another ten percent and spent the rest on makeup, magazines, movies, and milkshakes.
One day while leafing through magazines, Mattie decided to start entering sweepstakes. "They don't cost anything since I'll enter them by computer," she explained to her skeptical parents, "and I might even win something. Helen Billings, who sells bags of boiled peanuts from the back of her truck, enters all the time. So far, she's won a bicycle, a three-slot toaster, a year's supply of Brillo pads, a camel ride in Egypt, and a $25 Savings Bond redeemable in ten years."
Mattie's first sweepstakes' entries were for a trip to the breathtaking Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, Spain; a Harley Davidson Cosmic Starship motorcycle worth $1.5 million (Marvin would kill for this); Miami Sky Diving Lessons (Entrant must weigh less than 225 lbs); and many with stellar cash prizes, including the popular Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. (Odds of winning: 1/1.7 billion)
One afternoon, after several weeks of entering sweepstakes, she returned home from school and found her parents' note saying they would be home at 6 pm. Alone in the house, she picked up the mail and casually opened an envelope addressed to her.
Mattie stared in utter disbelief, then rubbed her eyes with clenched fists to make sure she wasn't dreaming. But there it was in huge, bold, red print:
"YOU ARE THE WINNER OF THE $5 MILLION PUBLISHER'S CLEARING HOUSE SWEEPSTAKES."
She let out several high-decibel screams but no one was home to hear them. Running through the house, leaping over chairs, bouncing on bedroom mattresses, laughing and crying simultaneously, she collapsed on the couch to read the letter again.
Finally, she dashed to the telephone to call someone. Anyone! She had to share the news that would change her life and that of her family forever!
Then Mattie stopped, returned the phone to its cradle and said to herself, "Wait. I want this to be a surprise for my family when the big check is delivered to our front door in a few days. It will be the shock of their lives and Marvin will become my slave!"
Running back upstairs to her bedroom, she read the bold font again, then hid the envelope and its contents on the top shelf of her closet between two of her neatly folded sweaters.
Sitting at her desk, she began listing how she would spend her fortune: Tithe, Savings, Family, Friends, Car, College fund, New house, Clothes, Travel, Vacations.
She finally placed the list alongside the official letter in her closet and stretched out on her bed to wait for her family to return home. Reasoning that she must remain calm and not appear over-excited to them, she prayed, took deep breaths and tried to relax.
Later, at dinner, Mattie picked at her food, but otherwise appeared normal. She was keeping her secret well hidden from her family but it proved to be a strain of herculean proportions.
The next few days Mattie spent anxiously waiting for the mailman, listening for the telephone or the ringing of the doorbell. The tension she endured was overpowering.
On the sixth day, Mattie cornered her brother and shared her secret. She couldn't bear it for one more day. Then she hurried to her closet to retrieve the winning letter.
Marvin read the first few lines then exploded into raucous, sustained laughter.
"Mattie, you're an idiot," he shouted, "It's as clear as the nose on your face! You overlooked the first part of the sentence written in very small print and read only the large printed words. Now read the whole sentence."
Red-faced and embarrassed by her brother, Mattie slid to the floor and slowly read aloud,
"If your entry is selected, YOU ARE THE WINNER OF OUR $5 MILLION PUBLISHER'S CLEARING HOUSE SWEEPSTAKES."
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