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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Reader (04/15/10)

TITLE: The Wicked Penguin
By Cecile Hurst
04/20/10


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Coffee shops are never just coffee shops. They¡¯re entities. They have a smell, a pulse¡­ a character. ¡°The Wicked Penguin¡± smelled like coffee spilled on a book. Its pulse ebbed under very trendy-blue painted walls¡­ something between how children color ice, and mint. You could tell by its heatbeat it didn¡¯t excersise much, but it had character ¨C and that made up for everything else. Not really how life normally goes, is it? I mean¡­ I got character. That¡¯s why I go to coffee shops. And it¡¯s also why no one else ever goes with me.

I once had a conversation with an average looking person. Now I avoid them at all costs. You know the type. Average. Average confidence. Average intelligence. Average social skills. Well, we were having this average conversation that took a sudden plummet, like a feather in a vacuum, when completely out of nowhere she starts on about how she¡¯s happy she wasn¡¯t born ridiculously beautiful. Now to clarify this wasn¡¯t your average fishing for a compliment conversation ¨C this was pity. She felt sorry for me. Wanted me to feel good about myself. I could tell.

¡°I¡¯m glad I wasn¡¯t born like ridiculously beautiful or something,¡± she said.

Got to love that ¡®or something¡¯.

¡°I mean¡­ they have a hard life, you know? People always loving them for their looks instead of who they are and stuff.¡±

¡®And stuff¡¯. I¡¯m not a violent person. That being said¡­ I could have punched her. But we were at ¡°The Wicked Penguin¡± and I didn¡¯t want to be banned.

See, I¡¯m ugly. Truly. Really character¡¯s all I got. But it¡¯s one of those weird characters that often deveolps in people who are shunned. Above average confidence. Average intelligence. Below average social skills. I get in people¡¯s faces. Say things I shouldn¡¯t in ways I shouldn¡¯t. Miss social cues. Walk too fast. Mind you I got great hair ¨C thick and soft and the kind of blond color that people try to achieve by dying and it never quite works. Yep.

Anyways, ¡°The Wicked Penguin¡± was first a used book store. The guy who owned it went bankrupt so Jerry, the guy who bought it, could afford to buy all the books with it. And now that it¡¯s a coffee shop the books sell, so every once in a while Jerry gets a bunch of new used books and I purchase one. Today I¡¯m buying ¡°The Reader For Beautiful Girls.¡± It ought to be a scream.

I hand over 25 dollars, a 20 and a 5. ¡°Tell Jerry this one¡¯s a steal. Copyright 1956, 7th edition,¡± I tell the girl at the registar. She throws 25 cents on the counter and raises her eyebrows unenthusiastically. Doesn¡¯t even hand me the coin. ¡°Thank you girl at the registar,¡± I say while I scratch away at one side, trying to pry it up. I call her ¡®girl at the registar¡¯ because, though she wears a name tag that clearly states her name as Maggie, I asked her her name once and she wouldn¡¯t tell me. Now it¡¯s a pride thing.

I take a seat in the corner. I open the reader and read, sipping my coffee periodically because I like to give the appearance of being able to do two things at once. In reality, every time I sip my coffee I have to pause my reading.

¡°Susan is crying. See her tears?
This is Susan¡¯s Mother. ¡®Susan! Whatever is the matter?¡¯
¡®I¡¯m not beautiful like the other girls,¡¯ cries Susan, throwing herself into Mother¡¯s arms.
¡®My darling,¡¯ says Mother, ¡®everyone is beautiful.¡¯
¡®Not I!¡¯ cries Susan, ¡®I have dull brown hair, eyes as grey as river stones and such a long and pointed nose!¡¯
¡®Tisk, tisk!¡¯ says Mother, ¡®Come look in the vanity mirror. What do you see?¡¯
¡®I see a plain little girl.¡¯
¡®Yes, me too. We need to add some sparkle and beauty.¡¯Mother tickles Susan.
Susan laughs and smiles.
¡®There! Do you see?¡¯ asks Mother. ¡®You are beautiful! Every girl is beautiful when she is happy and she smiles.¡¯
Susan smiles again. She is happy. She understands now that this is real beauty.¡±

I smirk. I close the book. I finish my coffee. I ask for the key to use the restroom before I go. I don¡¯t look in the mirror. I look in the mirror¡­ and smile at myself.


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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/24/10
Interesting story I enjoyed the sarcasm and felt the MC pain