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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Purple (11/05/09)

TITLE: Old Glory's Tears
By Joanne Sher


It was sideways. This just wouldn't work.

Daniel sighed. "Can I put it on the floor, Mama?"

"Put what on the floor, DJ?" Mrs. Harris looked up from the newspaper she was reading and turned toward her son.

"The paper." He pointed at the easel in frustration. "I have to paint it wideways, and it's hanging longways."

Mrs. Harris rose slowly and grabbed the pad of paper off the easel. She turned it ninety degrees and hung it back up.

"Does that work?"

DJ nodded, licking his lips and staring at the angle of the paper.

"Thanks," he mumbled.

He went digging through the art box, pulling out a paintbrush and two containers of paint: red and blue.

"What happens when you mix blue and red, Mama?" He held the paintbrush up in front of him and stared at the blank canvas.

"You get purple. Why?"

"There isn't purple on the flag, right? Isn't it Daddy's favorite color?"

"The American flag? No, there isn't, hun." She wiped her eyes. "And yes, it was Daddy's favorite."

"I shouldn't mix the colors, then. Or it won't be a real American flag." DJ chewed on the end of the paintbrush and furrowed his brow.

"I think a little bit of mixing would be okay, DJ." She rested her hand on the top of his head and tousled his hair. "Like you said, purple was his favorite color. I think he'd like it."

DJ whipped his head from side to side. "It needs to look like a real American flag, cuz daddy's a real American hero." He looked at her, eyes blazing. "That's what you said, right?"

Mrs. Harris nodded, her eyes shut tight. "That's what I said, DJ."

He nodded himself and turned back toward the easel. He uncovered the blue paint and dipped his brush in. He slowly and meticulously painted a large blue square in the upper left corner.

Dropping the brush in water, he looked up and licked his lips. He opened the red canister, picked up and shook off his brush, and dipped it into the paint. With careful yet childlike brushstrokes, he painted each of the seven red stripes, glancing occasionally at a picture on the table. As the paintbrush got closer to the blue field, DJ slowed his strokes and stared, his tongue peeking out from between his closed lips. Not once did the colors mix.

Finishing the last stripe, he put the brush down, stepped back, and looked over his creation. He picked up a pencil and wrote on the white stripe below the blue field "my daddy is a hero" in uneven block letters.

He grabbed a sheet of star stickers and carefully placed them, one by one, in the blue field, just dry enough to touch. As he placed the 50th star, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"We leave for the cemetery in about ten minutes. You about ready?"

DJ nodded.

"Why don't you go wash your hands and change into the outfit on your bed? I'll be up to help you in a minute." She kissed him on the head. "And that's a beautiful flag, Daniel. Your father would be honored to see what you made."

A few minutes later, Daniel entered the car. Once buckled up, he held the flag across his chest.

"I miss him so much, Mommy."

"I know, sweetie, I do too."

Tears dripped down his face and further, a few landing in the flag's blue field. He glanced down a moment later and sighed, his crying increasing.

"There's purple, mom. The red stripe under the blue part has a purple smudge. My crying ruined my real American flag!" DJ bowed his head.

Mrs. Harris pulled over to the side, turned her body, and shook her head. "No it isn't, Daniel." She lifted his chin with her hand. "It's perfect. It has your own tears of love on it. Daddy is looking down on it right now, so glad you made it for him."

Daniel sniffled and looked into his mother's eyes. "Really?"

She nodded. "I think your tears will remind people of the tears we all cry when a hero dies for our country. A crying flag makes sense to me. Don't you think?"

DJ cracked a smile. "Yeah, I guess you're right." He closed his eyes. "And purple tears are kinda special too."

"They sure are, sweetie. Especially when they come from a special boy and his special flag."

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Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 11/12/09
I wondered where you were going with the purple. Love the ending. This little boy is so sweet. I really like this story.
Lynda Schultz 11/12/09
A moving story—and I love the title.
Marita Thelander 11/14/09
So sweet and sad. Nice gentle touch with the purple topic.
Henry Clemmons11/16/09
A very, very, very special story written from a heart familiar, even from a distance, with the emotions your characters felt. Real, sincere, honest and memorable. You did excellent.
Loren T. Lowery11/16/09
What a tender story, beautifully told. It sounded so authentic that I could hear/see everything. Purple tears...so creative and filled with depth.
Jim McWhinnie 11/16/09
Being a watercolorist - I know the "revelation" that tears can bring to a work of art - tender and touching, especially so when I imagine your own tears in this work of art ...
Barbara Lynn Culler11/16/09
I got goosebumps!
Rita Garcia11/16/09
The flow never missed a beat. Dialogue was real and the message came through clear. Great story!
Patty Wysong11/17/09
Wow. Great story! (I'm wiping tears--there should've been a tissue warning on this! LoL) Really enjoyed this one.
Betty Castleberry11/18/09
Oh, so touching. I like your characters very much,and I love the fallen hero. Five stars from me.
Yvonne Blake 11/18/09
Ahhh...so sweet and touching!
Carol Slider 11/18/09
Oh... so lovely and heartbreaking! You chose the perfect title for this heart-felt tribute.
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/18/09
Glad to see you "back in the game" and with a simply lovely story.
Lyn Churchyard11/24/09
Aww Joanne, this was a beautiful story.
I could see it being played out as I read it through my own tears.
Gregory Kane12/31/09
I enjoyed the slow measured pace of this story. And what a great title!