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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Confused (08/16/07)

TITLE: Carrie Ann's Sins
By Joy Faire Stewart


Carrie Ann sat silently between Dad and Mom in the tiny wood frame church like she had for as long as her eight year-old mind could remember.

Mom was fanning with a cardboard fan with a picture of Jesus kneeling in prayer on one side and advertisement for Bakerman’s Funeral Home on the other. The temperature was already pushing 90 degrees that humid August Sunday morning.

The blades of window fans were a blur as they did battle with the inside heat of the church. The heat was winning. The fans had succeeded in masking the soft snoring sounds of Carrie Ann’s three year-old brother, Danny, who had fallen asleep in Mom’s lap.

Laura Jean and her husband, Luther, walked by the pew where Carrie Ann was sitting with her family. A soft cloud of “Evening in Paris” cologne trailed Laura Jean. Luther’s hair looked like it had been combed by his pillow. But Laura Jean was always dressed in something interesting. This morning, red painted toenails peeked out from spaghetti-strapped sandals that matched her turquoise sun-dress. Across her shoulder swung a red pocketbook.

Oh, how Carrie Ann wanted a red tassel trimmed shoulder pocketbook like Laura Jean’s. When Carrie Ann asked Mom to buy her one from Turner’s Dept. Store, she said, “No, Dad wouldn’t like that.” Carrie Ann asked Mom’s sister, Aunt Gloria, why Daddy would say, “No.” Aunt Gloria said she thought it had something to do with Dad being in the War in Germany. Being sixteen, Aunt Gloria knew everything.

Carrie Ann forgot about the red tassel trimmed pocketbook when Sis. Ruby walked to the pulpit to sing. Sis. Ruby always wore her long gray hair in a tight bun at the nape of her neck. Despite the heat, she wore a long-sleeved dress with the hem reaching her ankles. It wasn’t her singing that Carrie Ann liked as much as it was to listen to her daughter, Clara Nell, accompany her on the piano. Everyone said Clara Nell was gifted because she played “by ear.”

Carrie Ann loved the throbbing beat resounding through the church when Clara Nell played hymns. This morning, the song was “Down by the Riverside.” Carrie Ann clapped along with everyone and joined in singing the chorus.

When the song service ended, Preacher Stone stepped to the pulpit and told the congregation to open their Bibles to Romans 6:12. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.”

“Be sure your sins will find you out,” Preacher Stone shouted as he pounded the pulpit with his fist almost spilling the glass of water next to his Bible.

Carrie Ann wasn’t sure which of her sins Preacher Stone would find out about.

Loosening his tie and unbuttoning the top button of his shirt, the preacher pressed on. “No sin will enter Heaven’s gates.”

Carrie Ann was confused. She didn’t know which of her sins would keep her from going through the gates of Heaven.

She knew it was wrong to steal, tell a lie, to kill someone, or talk-back to Dad and Mom. But, Preacher Stone was talking like there were other sins, too.

Was it a sin to pretend she didn’t hear Mom call when she was busy in her “Beauty Shop?” Carrie Ann loved to braid the soft yellow corn silk that flowed from the top of each ripe ear of corn in the garden.

Was it a sin to sit at the supper table until everyone finished eating and let Aunt Gloria give Carrie Ann’s liver and onions to Samson? That dog would eat anything.

Was it a sin to use Aunt Gloria’s nail polish to paint her toenails red like Laura Jean’s? It might be, ‘cause she had to wear socks to keep Dad from noticing.

Was it a sin to listen to “The Shadow Knows”on the radio every Sunday afternoon?

“I’ll ask Aunt Gloria,” Carrie Ann decided as she snuggled up closer to Dad on the pew.

Scripture: (KJV)

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This article has been read 1062 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Edy T Johnson 08/24/07
I love this glimpse back into childhood! The questions that arose from the "sweet mystery of life" that we were just beginning to experience are so familiar. And, the responsibility of those aunties who became a child's confidante are so important. I'd like to read more about Carrie Ann and all those fascinating characters you bring to life!
Lynda Schultz 08/24/07
Yes, I'd like to know more too. This is very good stuff. Kept me interested all the way through.
Lisa Graham08/24/07
Excellent piece! The writer has superbly captured how a child observes/inteprets actions and words chosen by others. This story provides a poignant reminder to adults and parents that children are watching very intently. Writing from a child's POV is difficult, but the writer met this challenge by displaying outstanding writing talent! Good job!
Joanne Sher 08/28/07
Wonderful characterization. I hope you will write more about this little girl. You put me right in that church with her. Excellent.
Dee Yoder 08/28/07
Some of the descriptions from the church were just like my own memories! The paper fans with the funeral home on the back, the fans in the windows, the fashions that were unacceptable, and many other observances by the child were perfect descriptions of church a while back! Very nice story. I enjoyed reading it from beginning to end.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/29/07
Your imagery and characterization are both outstanding. I would love to read much more from your little girl's point of view.
Brenda Welc08/29/07
Good word! I remember those younger thought! Thanks for sharing!
Jan Ackerson 08/29/07
What a wonderful way to place us right there in Carrie Ann's soul!

My only suggestion would be to watch the number of times you use her name, and especially as the first word of a sentence. Occasional use of pronouns, or of more varied sentence structure, would increase the reader's engagement in this piece.

I could easily envision her in the church seat, with all of those cofusing questions in her head. Very sweet.
Kristen Hester08/29/07
This is excellent writing. I especially loved your beginning descriptions of the family sitting in the hot church. That part was excellent!
Kristen Hester08/29/07
This is excellent writing. I especially loved your beginning descriptions of the family sitting in the hot church. That part was excellent!
Linda Roth09/20/07
I was "there" as I read this. Excellent description! Sure would like to hear the rest of the story!
Jacquelyn Horne02/22/08
This is really a cute story. I can relate as I too was raised in church.