Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Commitment( 01/05/12)
Bound to be Free
By Cheryl von Drehle
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Her missing gene was confirmed when she was eight and her mother dumped Beth and her brother on her maternal Aunt Gretchen. Of course her mother would do that; she was a free spirit in search of her creative roots. Just like Beth today. Odd, how different her aunt is from the rest of her family though…adopted perhaps? Beth could never quite figure that out.
Staring out her picture window today, Lake Michigan in the distance, Beth fidgets while she daydreams about the characters she is developing. Writing is the closest Beth gets to any type of commitment, and even that is sporadic and jittery. Beth writes as an exercise in free roving abandon, ranging from spasmodic genius to unintelligible ranting.
The evidence of non-commitment lies in her publishing record of two articles and three poems, coupled with 73 rejection letters, most praising her “potential” compared to her reality. She skitters from non-fiction (reporting on the sex life of spiders) to flash fiction (a tragic suicide resolving in 500 words); and this evening, rondeauing on her disdain for commitment:
Walk not with me here as I travel free
unfettered flight beckoning me
unlike the hummingbird I do not hover
nor follow the covey seeking shelter or cover
I was born to live in anarchy
chaos is a comfort to me
startled from the shaded tree
I alone can only discover
Walk not with me as I travel free
I create and destroy with no one to be
A net binding me from my destiny
I easily take on and cast off each lover
as they miss the signs that love is over
betrayal is absent among my debris
Walk not with me
Walk not with me. Beth flashes back to a childhood memory of her aunt. She was always running ahead of Aunt Gretchen, refusing to her hold hand. As a child, Beth exhilarated at the temporary lost-in-the-neighborhood feeling; craved the adrenalin rush from encountering the snarling dog. This particular memory, Gretchen yanked on Beth's shirt, jerking her out of a car's path as she darted into the street. "Good gracious girl, thank the Lord I have committed you to God and His word of grace. He will build you up and give you an inheritance with His saints, if you will just walk with Him, child."
The words so penetrate Beth’s space now that she swivels around, expecting to see her aunt's piercing dark eyes igniting her poem on fire, to be consumed as the dross that Gretchen always derided. Beth tries to shrug off the memory. But she cannot shake her aunt’s words out of her head. She walks aimlessly around her solitary cottage tonight, fingering a couple of ragged books on her coffee table, then fixes herself a drink.
Building up: her career, her life…no denying she could use that. Committed: is she prepared to question the basis for her life image? Darkness narrows around her and sharpens her hearing as she mulls over her vodka nightcap. Her thoughts keep returning to her aunt. She wonders for the first time if she is really fulfilling her genetic destiny, or just making willful choices. She has no answers, but perhaps…
Beth abruptly gets up to pour her warming vodka down the sink drain and returns to her computer. She pauses for a moment, then searches through her old archived e-mail addresses. She finds the one she is looking for and opens up an e-mail to begin a new writing project. “Hello Aunt Gretchen. It’s been awhile. I was thinking about you tonight... .”
Acts 20:32 “And now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance with all of The Holy Ones.” (Aramaic Bible in Plain English, c 2010.)
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