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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)

TITLE: The California Surprise
By Pamela Maize


Who could have guessed it would end this way?
Or begin this way?
We’d moved from Texas to Tennessee, packing our belongings into U-Haul’s biggest truck, put the dog in the front seat, towed the VW, and I’d driven the 1957 vintage Chevy, my grandpa’s, following close behind Allen and Amy in the van. That was four months ago. We’d left good jobs, and I’d even been offered a great job at a larger newspaper the day after Allen accepted this position in Tennessee.
Allen had been at his new job for four months, and I’d found a job at a sharp new little newspaper in an up-and-coming community in head-to-head competition with the old, stuffy local newspaper. Things were tightening up. It was a two-newspaper small town. Anything could happen.
The editor stepped into my office one Monday morning. “Will you join us in my office?” she asked. Five others, the sports editor, two ad salespeople, the photographer, and the layout artist already sat chatting as we walked in.
This was unusual.
Our young newspaper. Sharp. Expanding. Competitive. Energized. She’s going to tell us how much we’re growing, taking a good share of the market, I thought.
“I’m sorry,” the editor gazed around our small circle. Her eyes were dark. “The newspaper is closing today. Clean out your desks by noon. You will receive your final check on Friday. I’m deeply sorry.” She dismissed everyone.
I cleaned out my desk drawers. Stunned, I put the Rolodex in a box, gathered photos for features I’d written, placed my “Life-is-a-song-for-the-heart-that-is-free” mug on top of clippings. The newsroom was silent. I lugged the box to my VW.
At home, I called Allen at work.
“Guess what? The editor sent us home because the newspaper is closed,” I told him. He was surprised.
That night at the supper table, I told Allen all about the mysterious meeting in the editor’s office. Then he said, “I have something to tell you. My boss told me the same thing at work today,” he said. “I don’t have a job tomorrow to go to either.”
Oh, my. My turn to be surprised.
The next day we sat on our sofa in our new apartment in our new town looking at one another with big questions in our hearts.
Why did we move from Texas if God knew this would happen?
What are we going to do now?
How will we pay the rent?
How long will it take for us to find new jobs?
What is God thinking?
What happened to the newspaper?
I could be working at a great job in Texas, I thought. Instead I’m sitting here without the one I had, the one I lost and the one I could have had.
“God knows why,” Allen said.
We held hands and prayed. For new jobs. For money for food. For a way to pay the rent.
We told our parents and our siblings. I worried about the rent.
Two months went by. Things were tight.
“Lord, we believe you brought us here for a reason,” Allen prayed. “Please help us find jobs and help us know how to pay the rent.”
Allen went to work out of town, returning on weekends.
I worried about the rent and found free-lance jobs.
I walked to the mailbox. “Ah, a letter from California,” I mused, looking at the postmark and noting the handwriting.
My mother-in-law, Allen’s stepmother’s handwriting.
“Dear Jen and Allen,” it began. “I’m so sorry to hear about your job situation. I just thought you could use this.” A check for the exact amount of the rent for the month fell out.
“Oh, God,” I said humbled. “You know everything.”
A month later I took my “Life-is-a-song-for-the-heart-that-is-free” mug to a great new job with benefits, and Allen landed a solid job where he worked for the next eleven years.
My generous mother-in-law? She became my hero, my role model, and my teacher.

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Member Comments
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Sara Harricharan 05/15/08
What a great surprise! The title sort of gives it away that something will happen or come from CA, but the ending was good. Great job! ^_^
Colin Swann05/21/08
My mother-in-law's a very generous person. In-laws can be a blessing. If marriages are made in heaven so are in-laws (They come with the package). Thanks for sharing.