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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Achoo (04/11/13)

TITLE: Portent
By Beth LaBuff
04/17/13


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I press the accelerator as I snake through traffic on my Friday morning commute. The azure sky is dimpled with expanding popcorn clouds, a portent of surprise before dayís end, no doubt. My thoughts shuffle between the upcoming interview and concern for Griffin, my son. After feeling lethargic yesterday, last evening he complained of a scratchy throat and had a slight fever. Iím jerked back to the present by an intense itch on my torso below my ribcage on the right. I navigate traffic left-handed for a few seconds, glad no one is witness to my monkey deportment as I rake fingernails on skin in pursuit of relief.


Iím the host of a local morning television show that is broadcast live before a studio audience. This morning weíll feature a writer from International Geographic Magazine. The writer is bringing a guest who speaks no known language. In fact, this guest has only worn animal skins until a few days ago. He is one of a recently discovered colony of people found on an isolated volcanic island in the Pacific. It is believed theyíve had no contact with the outside world for several millennia. The news wires have been abuzz since their accidental discovery just days ago. Itís the kind of story that has power to spawn a blockbuster movieóa ship blown off course during a storm encounters an island, inhabited by a here-to-fore unknown race of people. The media, to further add to the ballyhoo, has dubbed them ďThe Lost People of Atlantis.Ē Who writes that stuff? Anyway, contact was made with the colony, and one from the colony returned with the ship.


The scientific community is ecstatic. Initial tests reveal this manís blood to have never been tainted by a virus. Epidemiologists are studying his blood with the belief that they can replicate the properties of his blood. They hope that a designer vaccine can be developed that will give all mankind an immunity to viruses, eradicating them.


As I pull into my assigned parking slot, I catch myself scratching again, and now the back of my neck itches like crazy. Good grief, Iíve caught the plague. I wonder if Betsy recently changed laundry detergent?


In my office, I look for some kind of anti-itch product. All I find is a half-empty bottle of cucumber-melon scented hand lotion. I liberally plaster that on my afflictions. I take a few minutes to prepare for the interview, then, walk onto the set. The blazing studio lights seem extremely harsh today. The audience is already assembled, waiting. The insane itch on my stomach and neck is screaming for my attention. Donít scratch . . . Do. Not. Scratch . . . Smile, all eyes are on you.


I ignore my misery and force a smile while willing the rest of my face to play along with the charade. My two guests enter the studio set as a text rings through on my phone. I turn the chime off and quickly glance at the message. Betsyís text reads: Doc says Griff has chickenpox.


Before my mind can process the message, I extend my cucumber-melon scented hand to welcome our foreign guest. Electric charges connect in my brain. The scratching! Chickenpox! . . . And this man has never been exposed to a virus! Too late! . . . Our hands clasp as our eyes meet. The features on his face change. Perhaps my worry was needless as his eyes scrunch, his nose twitches and his mouth opens. I wasnít the first to infect him, for with an expulsion from his mouth and nose, moisture particles spray my hand and arm. Iím stunned.


The on-air countdown begins. ďWeíre live in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1. . .Ē


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This article has been read 321 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laura Hawbaker 04/19/13
Interesting take on the topic. The first paragraph seemed so busy you had me wondering where you were going with everything, but you did a great (and humerous) job of pulling it all together. One sentence tripped me up. "After feeling lethargic yesterday, last evening..." I found yesterday juxtaposed to last evening a bit confusing. Maybe I was just reading too fast, but it did awkward.
Laura Hawbaker 04/19/13
Oopps! Apparently I was typing too fast too. I meant to say, that sentence seemed a bit awkward. Otherwise, good job! I also like the title--very fitting.
Christina Banks 04/20/13
What an interesting idea for the topic. I wondered what kind of rash he was going to have.
Christina Banks 04/20/13
What an interesting idea for the topic. I wondered what kind of rash he was going to have.
Alicia Renkema04/24/13
Fabulous writing, you had me on the edge of my seat. Was any of this based on a true story? I can be gullible but we are living in not only the information age, but one where they are discovering new things about the different way people live all the time. Plus, there are all these different tribal societies, I remember reading "The End of the Spear" and how little was known about them as a people and their way of doing things. Anyway, it was pure genius, I thought to have this man on your show and you having just found out you had the chicken pox and all only to shake his hand ... Wham, he sneezes -- wonderful job. I really enjoyed this a lot.
Judith Gayle Smith04/24/13
Turnabout is fair play. This is excellent.
Margaret Kearley 04/25/13
Oh I love this Beth, fantastic. Many congratulations on your well deserved placing. I love the humour of this! What happened next!! (Have just read last week's too - I am a little behind-times - many congrats on that too. Fantastic!)
Loren T. Lowery04/25/13
Portent: one of my favorite words from one of my favorite writers. Loved the way you rounded and corralled this story to make it so enjoyable. And, the azure sky with popcorn clouds? What can I say, but superb. Congratulations on your EC, Beth.
Christina Banks 04/25/13
Congratulations on your EC, Beth!
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/25/13
Congratulations, dear friend. I knew this was wonderful and am so proud of your EC rating!
Alicia Renkema04/25/13
Congrats on this well deserved win! As I told you, I love this and it looks like I had a lot of company. Love your writing girl, have a fabulous day in Jesus.
Yvonne Blake 04/25/13
Great job on pulling us in for that sneeze all over everybody!

Congratulations!
Alicia Renkema04/26/13
WOW -- 5th over all! This was an amazing piece, your writing is just sooo good. I am so happy for your writing achievement and for our friendship. His joy to you always.
Cheryl Harrison 04/26/13
You had me all the way through. I wasn't sure where it would end up. Thought maybe it was and end-of-the world virus brought over by the island native. All of that suspense and it was the chicken-pox and a sneeze. Good job! Congrats on your placing.
Charla Diehl 04/26/13
Beth, congrats on placing 5 in the EC list and for the "highly commended" nod for this interesting story.
If a tribe/person like this does exist, I hope the media never finds out. They would exploit it for all its worth, and their simple, innocent existence would be ruined forever. But we'd need to get Bibles to them in their own language--if we knew it---okay, now I'm over-thinking this whole piece. And that's a compliment to your writing.