Friday Fiction: Child-Sized Armor

>> Friday, September 18



I was quite pleased when I saw my entry for the "Childhood" topic at FaithWriters was named as an Editors Choice this week! "Child-Sized Armor" needs to be a lot longer; I was battling the word-count limit and had to leave it purposefully vague. I guess it worked, although I'd love to do some serious research and add specifics. Could be a novel idea. ;)


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Child-Sized Armor

The new workers were as nervous as fresh-born foals: eyes wide and darting; steps timid and halting. The factory foreman chewed the cigar stub jutting from the corner of his mouth and estimated their worth as they filed in

Jonas didn't completely dislike hiring kiddies. If they could do the job, they could make him money. And if not, they went back home to Mama.

Most of the tykes could be trained to do the simple tasks required, and those who couldn't either weren't grown up enough for their age (Jonas picked off those weaklings easily); or their learning abilities fell below the standard required (their parents were encouraged to seek special education).


**


Sylvia bowed over the small sacks. Each one held an egg-salad sandwich, an apple from the orchard, and a fresh-baked oatmeal-raisin cookie, and was marked "LUNCH" in either pink or blue crayon.

Lord, I'm glad I can do this simple thing. Please bless each boy and girl with nourishment to their bodies and their spirits. Amen

Into each sack she slipped a scrap of paper. The sacks with pink crayon got the following words: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." The sacks marked with blue got: "And whatsoever ye do, do heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men."

Sylvia breathed one last prayer and rolled the tops down.


**


Jonas looked up from his paperwork to eye the huge round clock on the factory wall. Time to do a check. Gotta reinforce the rules while the brats are still green.

Especially those Nielson brats.


He couldn't decide if the girl would drag her brother down into her well of self pity, or if he would pull his sister up with his stubborn tenacity. The boy could be a good worker if he'd focus more on the line and less on the pathetic crybaby.


**


Sylvia settled each sack lunch into her shopping bag then toted her burden to the 13th Street trolley stop.


**

A scowl was Jonas' answer to Sylvia's timid knock on the frame of his open door.

Sylvia lifted the bag. "You know the new children might not have lunch."

"Bah. Spoiling the brats, you are."

"We can't fault them for not knowing on their first day, can we? It's just this once, Jonas. And they'll work better fed than hungry."

The noon whistle shrieked and the assembly line rumbled to a halt. Jonas lumbered to his office door and hollered out, "Lunch break. Twenty minutes."

The conglomeration of ragamuffins staggered to their feet and stretched their cramped muscles. The new ones looked to each other with fear and uncertainty. Only a few had brought a crust of bread and some cheese, or a scrap left over from last night's meager supper, wrapped up in a handkerchief.

Sylvia sought out the hungry and distributed her offering, along with a soft word and a stroke to matted hair or a gentle hug to a tiny unwashed body.

Jonas watched her until the last sack was handed out and she was on her way. He then retreated to his office to spy on the brats through the door and eat his roast beef and freshly baked bread.

He didn't exactly approve of his wife's charity, but he found malicious satisfaction watching the newbies open their gifts. Most tore into the food, leaving the silly scrap of paper with the rest of the rubbish. A few took their time, seemingly in wonderment of what they held.

The Nielson brats were different. First out of the sacks came the scraps of paper, and before they even looked at the sandwiches or sniffed the apples, they read the words Sylvia had printed, traded papers to read each other's, and then traded back read their own again.

"Bah. Blabber-jabber is all that is." Jonas redirected his attention to the food in front of him and his thoughts to putting his feet up tonight.

Out on the factory floor, the Nielson children joined hands in prayer.

Outside the factory door, Sylvia paused to pray.


**


Another shrill whistle signaled the end of the break, and Jonas scanned the floor to make sure the brats all hurried back to work.

Especially the Nielson brats.

His eyes widened, then narrowed as he watched the tiny girl square her shoulders and set to task with new determination and confidence, and the boy actually grin and work faster.

What in the world did that woman put in the egg salad today?


**


Scripture KJV
Eph 2:10
Col 3:23


© September 10, 2009

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My good friend Joanne Sher is hosting Friday Fiction today at An Open Book. Links to more fiction are at the bottom of her post. Add your own link if you'd like to join the fun.

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Friday Fiction: Who Are You Calling Skinny?

>> Friday, September 11



Our hostess for Friday Fiction this week is Karlene, on her beautiful new blog Homespun Expressions. Thanks Karls! Be sure to stop by and pay her a visit. You can find links to more short fiction at the bottom of her post.

My offering today was one of the most researched pieces I've written. It fell off the bottom of the charts in the FaithWriters Challenge, but I'm fond of it. I hope you enjoy!

----

Who Are You Calling Skinny?

Shana stepped gingerly onto the scale and grimaced. One pound? After an hour of jogging, only ONE pound? She grabbed her thick bathrobe from the hook, jerked the door open, and stormed down the hallway toward her mom’s room.

“Everything ok, hon?” her mom, Ellen, called from the kitchen.

“I think the battery’s dieing on the scale in there. I’m gonna use yours, ok?” The odor of whatever was cooking made Shana want to vomit.

She closed the master bedroom door behind her, shed her robe, and went into the bathroom. Should rename this the “mistress bedroom”. There’s no master in this house anymore. She used the bathroom, voiding any possible extra weight.

Yah, better. Three pounds is more like it.

She drank greedily from the tap, then reclaimed her robe and wrapped it around her diminishing frame. Opening the bedroom door, she was assaulted by the food stench. “Thanks, mom. Your scale’s fine.”

“Dinner will be ready in a minute. It’s your favorite – meatloaf.”

“Great, thanks.” No WAY will I eat that. Does she realize how much fat’s in hamburger? She probably made mashed potatoes too. This is gonna be real fun.

Shana dug her ankle weights out from under her mattress and strapped them on. The sweats she donned not only disguised her body, but also hid the weights. The last thing she needed was her mom aggravating her about losing weight. What does Miss ‘I Only Care About You’ know from skinny, anyway? I’m fat. Fat fat fat. I’m a whale. She fought a wave of dizziness as she stood. After she popped her third diet pill of the day, she joined her mom in the kitchen.

“Oh good, just in time to set the table.” Ellen finished tossing a salad while Shana got two plates from the cabinet.



“Would you say the blessing tonight, Shana?”

“Ok, whatever.” “Dear God, thank you for this food, and please bless dad as he eats dinner alone in his little apartment. Amen.” Shana glowered at her mom, daring her to say something.

“That was nice, dear. Ok, let’s dig in.”

Shana put a small slice of meatloaf and a smaller portion of potatoes on her plate. A slightly larger helping of salad followed. Shaking the bottle of dressing over the lettuce made it look like some fell onto the salad. She painstakingly cut the meat into tiny squares, and stirred the white mound of potatoes, covering a few pieces of meat in the process. She took a bite of salad, and proceeded to chew it exactly 32 times.

“Are you feeling alright, hon? You’ve been looking awfully pale lately.” Her mom’s worried look only infuriated Shana.

“Maybe a stomach bug. Nothing you need to stress over. Hey, mom, would you get me some more water?”

While Ellen’s back was turned, Shana slipped some meatloaf into her napkin. “Thanks. I’m really thirsty. Meatloaf’s good tonight.”


-------


“Girl! You’re getting’ too thin for your own good.”

“Are you kidding, Robin?” Shana gawked at her best friend. “You’re startin’ to sound like my stupid mom. Besides, aren’t we in this diet thing together?”

“Well, yah, but… there’s dieting and then there’s starving yourself.” Robin eyed Shana up and down. “Your legs look like two sticks comin' out of those shorts.”

“Fine. I’ll cover them up so you don’t have to see them.” Shana cinched her weights around her ankles and pulled on her sweat pants. The two girls straggled behind the others leaving the locker room. “You’re still skinnier than me,” Shana added.

Robin grabbed her friend’s arm and pulled her back into the locker room. “Come on, I want to show you somethin’.”

They stood in front of the full-length mirror. “What, you want me to look at myself?” Shana snorted. “I can see – I’m fat.”

“But, Shana, that’s not what I see. Take those big ole pants off. Now that baggy shirt.” Robin followed suit, stripping off her own shirt. “Now, look at us together in that mirror. Look at my legs. Look at yours. You don’t need a measuring tape to see who's are smaller. Look at our tummies, our arms. Who’s skinner? Open your eyes, girl.”

Shana stared glumly, mutely, at the reflection.

“Can’t you see it? Do you not see that you are scrawny? Bony? Ee-may-cee-ated. I love you, ya know. I wanna be skinny, too, but you are treading in dangerous waters. An’ I love you too much to watch ya drown.”


© 1/24/2008

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Friday Fiction: Embodiment of a Miracle

>> Friday, September 4

Friday Fiction




Hurray!!! It's Friday!!!!

Thanks for stopping in to read my contribution to Friday Fiction, hosted this week by the amazing Vonnie (a new grandma btw). Please vist Vonnie's blog, My Back Door to read more short fiction. After you read her entry, click on the links at the bottom of her post to keep reading. You can join the fun, too, and get feedback on your fiction. Just add a link to your fiction on the MckLinky gadget.



The story-line for "Embodiment of a Miracle" was my husband's idea (he would be the "Bradley" part of Catrina Bradley). Brad was disappointed that I changed his ending, but to be honest I didn't remember that part when I was writing. It WAS really cool, and I may have to expand this and add it in before the last line. I was struggling to stay within the 750-word limit as it was.

Brad was more anxious for comments and for the results to come out this week than I was! Our story was well liked by the general FaithWriters public, but the competition was fierce for the "Birth" Challenge topic.

I had expected it to be low; I knew I missed the topic. Brad originally gave me this idea at Christmas, when the topic was Christmas Tree. I told him then it was too far off topic but he just thought I didn't want to write his idea. So this time I did write it - for him - and now he understands how important it is not to stray. And now he knows the feeling of having a story you LOVE not make the top 40. :-D

Anyway, if you're still reading,



EMBODIMENT OF A MIRACLE

The preacher drifted from candle to candle extinguishing the flickering flames, keeping a watchful eye on the stranger lingering in the back pew. The worn military jacket he clutched to his thin frame bore dark V's where insignia were once sewn on the arms; his posture of submission had altered little throughout the service. Unkempt hair cast shadows on his face, igniting the preacher's concern and curiosity.

"Merry Christmas, friend. Is there something I can pray about for you tonight?

The stranger lifted his head, revealing unfocused eyes and a furled brow. "Preacher, can I ask you something?" He rubbed his face with a dirty hand.

"Of course. What's troubling you?"

"Do you believe in miracles? I mean honest to God, real-life, miracles?"

"I believe anything is possible with God."

The stranger glanced around, and seeing no one else in the sanctuary, took a deep breath. "I've been selling Christmas trees down at the corner." He examined his grubby, sap-stained palms. "Used to be a doctor. A surgeon. Until drink got the better of me and I lost my license this past spring. Lost my wife not long after. Can't blame her for taking the kids and leaving. I've been trying to get my act together, but jobs and I haven't gotten along lately. God and I either, for that matter." He chanced a look at the preacher, and was encouraged by his caring eyes.

"Tonight, this 20-something woman, 'great with child' like Mary, comes waddling through the lot checking out the trees. I wonder why she waited until Christmas Eve to get a tree, especially in her condition, but I've learned not to ask questions. Hampers sales, you know?"

The preacher merely hummed, "Mmm," in response. He'd learned that interruptions hamper confessions.

The stranger continued. "She picked out a beauty - a 10-foot Frazier fir - and I offered to pull it out so she could see it from all sides. As she's rounding the back of the tree, she moans and grabs her belly. I think to myself, 'Not here; not now. I can't do this.'

"This is where it starts getting crazy." He paused, collecting his thoughts and gathering courage.

The preacher murmured, "Go on, friend; I'm listening."

Another deep breath filled the strangers lungs. "I heard this voice: 'Yes, you can. You are here for such a time as this.'

The preacher twitched.

"It wasn't in my head, Preacher, it was out loud. I swear it was. If the woman heard it, she gave no indication. That's when she dropped to her knees and shrieked. And that's when I started to panic.

"She yelled, 'Help me!' but my feet were frozen in place and my heart was in my throat. And I heard it again: 'You are here for such a time as this.'" The stranger closed his eyes and rushed on, his words coming out in a tumble.

"The tree, it started to glow. Then it started to change, morph, into sort of a man. But not a man. A God-man. He spoke. 'I am with you always.' The voice I'd heard - it was Him.

"Preacher, I knew who it was. I admit I'd had a few nips to take the chill off, or maybe more that a few, but I was NOT seeing things. I was seeing...and hearing...Jesus.

"I dropped to my knees beside the woman, and Jesus knelt beside me. The tremor left my hands for the first time in months, years maybe. The woman was crying, and babbling about how she wanted a Christmas tree before the baby was born, but I was only half listening. His voice overshadowed all other sounds. 'I am with you. I will never leave you.' His presence and His glow warmed me and calmed me. Together we delivered that baby.

"I wrapped him up in my coat, cut the cord with my tree saw, and dug out my cell to call for an ambulance.

"When I looked to Jesus for help, He was just a Christmas tree again. He spoke once more, but only in my head. 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'

The stranger pleaded, "You believe me, right? I'm not crazy? The woman...she never saw anything."

"Friend, God's ways are not our ways. Who's to say what's real, and what is vision?"

"Preacher, I know it was real. I asked what his name was, the baby. She said she hadn't decided until that moment. The perfect name had just come to her.

"Emmanuel."




***


Emmanuel: "God is with us"


© 8/28/09


Friday Fiction is the brainchild of Patty Wysong, aka Peej, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the FaithWriters conference last month. She is a surprisingly normal woman, with a great sense of humor, who simply and deeply loves the Lord. :D  Pay her a visit at Patterings; you won't be disappointed.

By His Grace,

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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God-incidences: The Lord is My Shepherd

>> Thursday, September 3

Today was not a good day.

Have you ever tried to control a computer without a mouse? Not easy.

I took yet another deep breath, looked at the clock, and then out the window to see if the IT guy was here yet. After seeing an empty driveway, my eyes blurred into the blinds. My inner voice breathed, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."

Mmmm, yes, a comforting thought indeed. I had no idea why that verse came unbidden so strong and so loud in my thoughts, but my frenzied mind was able to connect it to my situation.

I had been thinking all day about last night's message: what we need before we can rebuild. One was to understand that God engineers our circumstances.

The Holy Spirit doesn't need my help to fix anything. My best move is to step back, be silent and listen, and absorb. Pastor C. spent a good bit of time emphasizing the "be silent and listen" part.

I've been a secretary since the days of DOS when a mouse was just an idea in some young geek's imagination, so I'm able to do most everything without one, and can work much faster without having to stop my fingers and move my hand from the keyboard. (I call myself the Keyboard Queen.) Still, I could NOT figure out how to get inside a Publisher text box.

Ok, so God engineered this circumstance. I had depleted my knowledge and ability bank, I had called for help; I had done all I could do. (God doesn't want us to be sluggards; He wants us to use the gifts and talents He gave us.) Now I need to get out of His way and let the circumstance unfold.

When I stepped back, and listened, I was able to recall the many things I could finish that didn't involved that particular task. The IT Guy showed up exactly when he was scheduled to, he found out what was wrong and fixed it. The phones were amazingly quiet the remaining 40 minutes, and I was able to complete most of my work.

This evening, after a long, much needed quiet-time with God, I checked my email. My mini-devotion verse was this:

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want."
-- Psalm 23:1


The prayer contains the following petition:

"Please help me hear your voice above the confusing
distractions around me."


Coincidence?

Godincidence.



Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...
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