Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Writer's Challenge (NOT the FaithWriters Challenge) (06/10/10)
By Sarah Elisabeth
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I gripped the edge of my apron, determined not to cry.
Mathew pulled in a slow, patient breath. “Nita, ask me to do anything for you, accept this. You know the people of this town. They think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, not writing front page news stories. Not even for my paper.”
“You haven’t even read it,” my voice was soft, a tinge of hope still laced in.
Paper rattled purposefully as Mathew held my carefully written sheet at arm’s length. His eyes traveled back and forth at lightning speed. Then they slowed. His brows knit then relaxed. My brother’s efforts to conceal his approval were not lost on me. A low hum was the last sign.
Without looking up, Mathew asked, “Have you thought of writing under a pseudonym?”
Face growing hot, I struggled to control my anger. “You mean a man’s name? Mathew-“
“Nita, the folks around here aren’t going to accept a woman reporter.”
“That could change. My story is a message you want to spread as much as I do. I see these farmers on a daily basis when I take food baskets to them. No one else in Bryan County knows as much about the farming crisis as a whole than me. This needs to be carried to the community.
“If I recounted the times you’ve told me “there’s nothing more powerful than the press”, we would be here ‘til Christmas. Please, Mathew, you know I’m not one of those feminists that are causing such a stir, but even the Bible reports of the things women have done to change the world. Why, there was Deborah, the judge, Ester, Mary-”
“All right, Nita, all right. I’m not arguing the point about a woman’s place in society. But every decision I make affects the future of this paper. Mr. Calloway holds the loan, and I well know his position on the feminist movement. I can’t tell you of the things he’s wanted me to print.”
Mathew held up my story. “I’m not afraid to print what’s right. That’s what this paper is all about. But there are such things as unnecessary risks. Publishing the article with your name on it is one of them.”
Swallowing back my tears, I shook my head. “Do what you must, Mathew. Just promise me the story will be printed.”
“That, I can do.”
I stayed home the morning the paper circulated, busying myself helping Mother bake pies. They were for the farmers hit so hard by the drought and threat of the railway being rerouted. I prayed my story would reach the hearts of the influential men.
“Nita, we’re almost out of flour. I want to save some for the Thompsons. Be a dear and go to the store for another sack.”
I didn’t think much about the stares until I stepped onto the wood porch of the General Store. Familiar faces from our church turned down. Glancing at my dress, I smoothed at nonexistent wrinkles. Was there a rip somewhere in the folds?
At the counter with my order, Mr. Bates didn’t meet my curious gaze. The man who had known me from birth said little more than, “Anything else?” before I left the store.
Cradling the three pound sack in my arms, I collided with Malinda, my best friend.
“Nita!” Malinda hissed, gripping my elbow.
“I’m sorry, Malinda, I didn’t see-“
“I cannot believe you actually did it.”
“Gave your story to Mathew.”
“He said he would-“
Malinda aimed the front page at my nose. My jaw dropped.
By Nita Fay Carter.
Leaving Malinda to hold the flour sack, I lifted my skirts as high as I dared and trotted to the newspaper office.
“Mathew! You-you put my name-I thought Mr. Calloway-“
“Straighten your bonnet, Nita, and calm down.”
My lips quivered as I reached to squeeze my brother’s hand. “But what about Mr. Calloway?”
Mathew half smiled. “He’s already been in here, threatening to call my loan unless I write an apology.”
“But,” the corners of his lips lifted higher, “Judge Dunning and Sheriff Fisher gave me a nod when they passed my window. With them on our side, we just might be able to start changing minds - like Mr. Calloway’s.”
“I suppose I should write another story?”
Mathew grinned. “There’s nothing more powerful than the press.”
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