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Winter, 2006
24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

She shivered and wrapped her arm more tightly around her little brother. The grocery cart that held their tattered possessions was now full of cans and they steered the rusty contraption toward the local recycling shack. Suddenly, a man in a black coat and hat stepped into their path, thrust a piece of paper into her brother's bare fist, and hurried away. The two children looked at each other and then at the piece of paper...

Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.


The Lord Will Provide
by Ann Caputo, Medford NJ

She was never sure how to react when they made those strange,
strangled noises. Most of the time she looked down, studying the scuff
marks on her burgundy loafers. They sounded like warbling pigs stuck in
a mud bog somewhere. Mayah supposed this thought was sacrilegious
and felt her stomach tighten. She quickly said a “Hail Mary” in her
head to make up for it, and exhaled.

She glanced at her mother. Her eyes were closed and she was rocking back and forth, emitting a low, guttural hum. Mayah noticed her mascara was starting to smudge underneath her eyes. This suddenly filled her with annoyance. How could adults behave this way? Swaying and yelling and not even noticing that their mascara was starting to run. She wondered if it was a sin to feel disgusted in church.

She looked over at Evan. They locked eyes and she knew right away it had been a mistake to look at him. The smirk he carried on his ten year-old face dissolved into giggles that he unsuccessfully tried drowning out in his sleeve.

“Be quiet, you idiot!” Mayah hissed. This made Evan guffaw even louder.

“I can’t help it! It sounds so funny!” Evan retorted in a too loud
whisper.

“It’s called ‘Speaking in Tongues’, and it’s not funny. It’s supposed
to be God making them talk that way, so shut-up!”

Evan put his face in his hands and leaned over, his body shaking in
quiet laughter. Mayah rolled her eyes and didn’t have to guess that
her mother, who was still rocking and humming, hadn’t noticed a thing.

They joined the First Assembly of God last summer when it had been
over 100 degrees for ten days straight. It was two days after her
thirteenth birthday and two weeks after the divorce when Mayah watched her mother, Carolann McMullen, change from an
every-other-Sunday-drag-yourself-to-Mass-Catholic to a religious zealot who played loud Christian rock when she cleaned and hosted hours-long sessions at the kitchen table with her charismatic prayer group. When this happened Mayah would usually go out for long bike rides, returning only when she knew her driveway would be free of the strange dented cars adorned with Jesus fishes and bumper stickers that read things like “God is my copilot” and “The road to Heaven is a one-way street.”

Evan didn’t do this. Instead, he danced around like a mad man to the
Christian music, shouting lyrics like “Angels watchin’ over me,
everywhere I go!” and let the ladies from the prayer group pat him on
the head and call him a blessing to his mother. As soon as they turned
their piteous gazes on her, Mayah bolted up the stairs and slammed her
door, never making it inside her room before hearing them call out that
they would pray for her.

When the creditors started calling their house, Mayah stopped sleeping
and instead stared at her bedroom ceiling wondering how a person’s life
could change overnight. It didn’t comfort her when they held hands
around the kitchen table and her mother would say, “Lord, I know you
will provide.” Mayah would look down at her plate wondering if the Lord would be the one making the return phone calls.

Father Anthony from their old parish started calling all the time,
too. His messages were long-winded and filled with questions. How
were they doing? Why didn’t he see them at Mass anymore? Was anyone ill? His messages always went unanswered along with the creditors.

Around Christmas the alimony checks stopped showing up in the mailbox.

“Just like your father to do this,” her mother said, “always was a
disorganized and irresponsible jack ass.” Followed by a: “Forgive me,
Lord, I know you will provide,” as she turned the car into her lawyer’s
parking lot.

By the next summer they started recycling to make extra money. It was her mother’s idea. It was an embarrassment. Mayah and Evan had to gather the hoards of cans the prayer group dropped off, and wheel them down the street to the A&P in the rusty shopping cart they stole from the parking lot several weeks ago and kept behind the house.

Every Saturday, Mayah pushed the cart three blocks to the grocery
store and prayed no one would see her. Evan often lagged behind,
dragging a stick.

“Hurry up, Evan! Put the stupid stick down and let’s go!” Mayah
yelled to him through gritted teeth.

“Fine,” Evan muttered dropping the stick in the street. “I was just
trying to have a little fun.” Evan shuffled up closer to the shopping
cart. Just then Mayah noticed a figure coming toward them. A
stern-looking man cloaked in black was marching purposefully in their
direction. Instinctively, she grabbed Evan’s hand and tried to decide
if they should leave the shopping cart right there. Mayah turned and
started to drag Evan away when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She
spun around to see an out-of-breath Father Anthony.

“Sorry if I startled you,” he said. “Your mother won’t return my
calls...and I’ve been a bit worried about your family.” Mayah felt her
face redden. Evan was staring at the priest with a look of stunned
surprise on his freckled face.

“I stopped by earlier and she didn’t seem to be available to come to
the door,” the priest continued. He pressed a folded white envelope
with a picture of St. Edward the Confessor parish on it into Evan’s
filthy hand.

“Young man, could you please see your mother gets this for me? It’s
very important.” Evan nodded mutely. The priest seem to stare at
Mayah for some cooperation.

“I will make sure he gives it to her, Father, thank you.” Mayah
offered.

“Very good. You children have a good day now.” With that, Father
Anthony backed up and retreated the way he came.

That evening Mayah tried not listen as her mother sat slumped at the
kitchen table, a rumpled check clutched tightly in her hand, sobbing
for hours.

Without explanation to Mayah and Evan, the following Sunday they were back at St. Edward’s. Mayah was sure she noticed Father Anthony stumble during his sermon when he saw them. Evan sat slumped way down in the pew and played with his shoelaces. She glanced at her mother and saw tears sliding down her face. Her mascara was running. With a burning lump forming in her throat, Mayah whispered, “Don’t worry, mom, the Lord will provide.”

Her mother nodded and wiped away her tears.


What Ann won:

$200 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)

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