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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Smell (the sense of smell) (07/29/10)

TITLE: Burning Rubber
By Michael Joshua


They sat on the front porch drinking tall glasses of iced tea while they chatted. When the car pulled up in front of the house and Jerry got out, his mom and grandma both looked up at him and waved. As Jerry’s friend pulled away, he skidded the back end of his car so it spun in the light gravel of the side of the road and his tires spun out. The smell of the burning tires caused both women to look at each other with a knowing glance.

It was 18 years ago that Mona arrived home to find her daughter sitting on the front steps, crying while rocking back and forth holding her only grandson. When Mona pulled up, she watched the Camaro speeding down the street, fishtailing as her son-in-law gained control of the muscle car. The smell of the burning rubber had stayed with mother and daughter for all these years.

Mona knew that her daughter was in pain, but she also knew that the pain would subside with time. Since the first time that Carrie came home with bruises on her arms, her mother knew what was going on in her daughter’s dating life. Though Carrie always had a reason for the marks she wore, Mona knew better.

With no way to intervene, Mona steadfastly warned her daughter against having getting married. “You’re so young,” she would say. Or, “You need to wait until your jobs are more stable.” She never came right out and said that Will was a bum who would never amount to anything, although it was what she wanted to say from the first day that Carrie brought him home. A young man with no ambition and a bad temper that first became evident in snide comments, then later in the bruises on her daughter – Mona wanted better for her Carrie. Mona’s warning comments were met with rolling eyes or silence. Carrie was a teenager – just a teenager.

But Mona knew speaking out sharply would only drive her seventeen year old daughter closer to Will and further from the safety of home, so she stayed quiet and made only passing references to the opportunities of college and a self-sustaining future. Carrie half-heartedly responded to her mother’s nuances about higher education and slowly became more and more withdrawn as her life began to revolve around the good-looking teenager with the fast car.

Carrie’s friends all talked about how lucky she was to have such a great young man interested in her, she acquiesced to his verbal bashings and one night Mona heard the car’s engine revving in the driveway. She looked out the window only to see Carrie throwing a bag in the back seat. By the time Mona yelled from the front porch, the smell of spinning tires and sight of gravel in the air was all that was left. Arriving in Vegas the next day at one of those 24-hour wedding chapels, all was accomplished in less than five minutes.

A year passed with no word from her daughter, no calls, no cards and no contact at all – until the day Mona returned from work and found her with the grandson she never knew she had.

Will never returned; a blessing that Mona and Carrie only discussed once. Jerry was growing up in the same house where Carrie had, with the same church community covering him in prayer that had maintained an all-night vigil with Mona on that night 18 years ago. Mona tried to turn her concerns for Carrie completely over to God’s care, but her life became a challenge as she waited on God’s timing to bring her home again. Going through the motions of work and church became a mundane routine.

When Mona’s prayers were answered, the celebration was immediate. A homecoming party that included her high school friends and church community, Carrie realized that it would be better to raise Jerry in this place than in a place of fear. Though she missed a man that had been a part of her life, she was able to close that chapter and move on.

Carrie was most thankful to a mom that knew to keep her distance and allow her to make some mistakes as she spread her wings to fly. But the squeal of tires and smell of burning rubber always took her back to an afternoon that she shared with only Jerry on those front porch steps.

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This article has been read 503 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Edy T Johnson 08/05/10
We never heard of the Limbic System in nurses' training (maybe it wasn't discovered til later!), but something about particular smells acts like a time machine. A door in the brain opens and we're suddenly transported to another time and place. (And, I forgot I was going to write something about that the next time something about smell came up for the WC!)

You told a very true-life story illustrating completely how that sense of smell does more than just identify flowers and food. It is a key to memories. Well done!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/05/10
It's amazing how smell can take us back. This story is about a mother's love and a great reminder to trust in God. Sometimes it's so difficult to wait. You described the emotions of the mother so well. After all parenthood is a huge roller coaster ride.
AnneRene' Capp08/06/10
My heart ached for Mona and I pray that I never have to go through such an excruciating experience. Have had some pretty "ugly" mishaps with the teenage years of my life and my daughters but I am sure nothing compared to this. I was so glad and relieved for the happy reunion.
Lollie Hofer08/10/10
I enjoyed reading your story about this young woman and how she found her way home. I could feel the pain and concern of the mother.
Laury Hubrich 08/12/10
This is a great example of a Godly mother. Love this story!