Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: FRESH START (01/05/17)
- TITLE: The Sourdough Bread
By Amy Gaudette
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I sat down with a frustrated thud as my backside made contact with the chair. Sickening vexation boiled up inside me. What is that smell? I banged my fist down with force. I was sure a large, hairy rodent of unusual size was rotting beneath one of my floorboards.
I glared unseeing out the window, and in the growing darkness I recognized the generously rounded, shoulder-sagging, disheveled individual glowering back at me. I stuck my tongue out at her, and she did likewise. It was Nelle. That unwanted creature that had become my nemesis. I couldn't shake her. She stalked me unceasingly.
When I awoke in the morning and looked in the mirror, there she was, dark half-moons painted poorly around her dull gray eyes. Each day at work, she followed me down the hallway of horrors, where I endured two daunting rows of mirrors. Her two-toned hair stood out like the stripes on a skunk.
But really, what did that matter now? There was something seriously wrong in this old weathered house, and I had know idea what to do.
“Oh, brother. Not now.” Last thing I needed was company. I pushed against gravity, my polyester pants snagging on a splinter from the worn-out chair. “Coming,” I hollered, a bit put out.
I opened the door. My mother-in-law.
“Carol. Come in. So nice to see you, you look wonderful,” I gushed appropriately.
“Thank you, Ellen. I can't say the same for you. Have you been sick?”
I sucked in my breath – as well as my belly – and shoved some clutter off of a chair for her to sit. “No, I'm fine, Carol. Can I get you some coffee?”
“No. I wanted to check on you. You haven't been answering your- What's that smell?” Carol gasped.
I smiled politely. Good. Maybe she'll leave. “I don't know. I've checked every nook and cranny. Can't find a thing. It grows on you after a while.”
Carol sprang from her chair, determination written all over her face. I caught a glimpse of Nelle in the window as my mother-in-law sped into the kitchen on her mission. Nelle's horrified look almost made me laugh.
“It's right here, dear, can't you see that? You're sourdough bread starter's gone rancid. Ugh! I-It's beyond repulsive. How long has it been like this?”
I drew myself up to full stature. For a moment, I was afraid the buttons would pop off my blouse. “Carol, you have gone too far. No one insults my sourdough bread. I have faithfully cared for that family heirloom since the 80s. It's one of a kind, entrusted to me by my late grandmother.”
I was sure my eyebrows arched wickedly, and maybe there was even fire shooting out my ears. “I even take it with me on my yearly vacation.”
Carol looked at me as though seeing me for the first time. “Ellen, I'm going to be perfectly honest with you.”
I glued my feet to the floor. She squared her shoulders.
“Every since our Tommy died, you have become like this rotten sourdough starter. Stagnant. You've hidden your life away behind those gray eyes, and your only friend is the reflection that stares back at you when you look in the mirror. Your clothing should be thrown out – the thrift store wouldn't even want it!
“And one more thing.” Her voice broke. “We could have at least tried to get through this together.”
I was speechless. I turned away and walked back to the window. Nelle was gone. It was only me looking back. Old, moldy tears threatened to spill over. “Carol . . .”
“You're right.” I returned to the kitchen, grabbed the entire stench, bowl and all, and threw it in the trash.
And that was only the beginning.
The next twenty-four hours saw an entire dumpster filled with worn clothing, broken chairs and piles of trash. I didn't stop until a for-sale sign had been planted on my lawn. My house was transformed and so was I. I had found a wonderful friend, felt God breathe life back into me, and I was ready to move on.
In my car, with my bags packed, I let the engine fire up. A familiar voice outside stopped me.
“Wait, Ellen! You forgot something.”
Carol came over and handed me a covered bowl. I grinned. My new sourdough starter.
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