Thursday, June 11, 2020

A Tough Assignment

  • As per my request, my 19-year-old granddaughter provided a word/phrase for each of the seven categories I sent to her. I challenged myself to use all seven in a FICTION story.
Noun: Japan 
Verb: refine
Adjective: lustrous
Adverb: safely 
Color: cherry blossom pink
Career: writer
Abstract word: justice 
  • The photo is one I took years ago on a street near my house.
  • The word count is much higher than in my usual posts, but I hope that won’t be a problem.
  • I’d love to know what you think of the story. Please post a comment or send an email.

Valerie gasped as she did every spring when she turned onto Sunset Avenue. This IS a sight to behold. Yoshino cherry trees in full bloom stood in single file in the middle of a 20-ft.-wide grassy median that stretched as far as her eyes could see up the sloping street.  

After she parked her car—half on the street and half on the grass—she grabbed her camera and began to photograph the graceful sweep of the trees. Once she’d gotten what photographers call “environmental shots,” she stepped toward the nearest tree to photograph closeups of the blooms where buzzing bumblebees sipped sweet nectar.

The sights and sounds and a slight almond fragrance so captivated her senses that she “plumb forgot,” as her granny would say, why she had come. But when an old truck rumbled past, spoiling her sense of wonder, she returned to her car and opened her iPad to write the article assigned to her.

Unsure how to write the controversial piece, she bowed her head and whispered the words she prayed before beginning any writing assignment: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, Lord.”

Taking a deep breath, Valerie started typing whatever thoughts popped into her mind, knowing she’d probably have to delete most of the words and then refine—and rearrange—whatever remained. But, as a writer, she understood the value of warming up, of just beginning somewhere, of clearing a mental path for the right words needed to explain sensitive and significant matters. 

While she appreciated having a loyal following of local readers, many of whom said, “I trust you to tell the truth about what’s going on in our town,” she always felt the weight of that trust since she knew words either doused or fanned the flames of controversy. That was certainly true in this situation. 

Although everyone agreed the cherry trees were beautiful, especially during mid-March to mid-April when they bloomed profusely, the property owners on Sunset Avenue were enraged over what happened in their neighborhood during that time. Practically every resident of the city and county, as well as out-of-towners who’d heard about the trees, drove slowly up and down Sunset Avenue to take lingering looks at the beauty. Occasionally, they parked and wandered around to photograph the trees, as Valerie had done. Some parked on the edges of the lawns that bordered the avenue, which incensed the property owners. “We work hard to keep our yards pretty. We don’t want people parking on our grass—or making it hard for us to get out of our own driveways. Something has to be done!”

To deal with the complaints, the chairman of the City Council scheduled a special “open” meeting to discuss the matter. The Council expected a large crowd: angry residents eager to ban the traffic; other citizens insisting they had every right to see the annual sight. A week before the meeting, the mayor said to the newspaper editor, “Send your best writer out there to snap some pictures of the trees, to interview property owners, and to write an article that will clarify the situation.”

“Will do! Valerie is my best writer. I’ll send her.”

Valerie began with these words: “For fifty years the Yoshino cherry trees on Sunset Avenue have delighted onlookers and provided food and shade for bees, birds—like Cardinals, Cedar Wax Wings, Robins— and small mammals, just as they do in their native Japan and elsewhere. Surely, we can work together to create a win-win solution for all concerned.” 

After quoting people on both sides of the issue, she concluded the article by saying, “Why not invite onlookers to park in the city-owned strip between Town Creek and Sunset Avenue? They can easily— and safely—stroll up and down the median to enjoy the trees without being in the street or on private property. Perhaps a benefactor or one of the garden clubs could consider placing metal benches, painted cherry-blossom-pink, near the trees at the entrance to Sunset Avenue and at the top of the hill so that those who’d like to linger or rest a bit could do so.”

Pleased with her work, she pushed her lustrous black hair away from her face before heading back to the newspaper office.

“See what you think,” she said to the editor as she sat across from him. “You may have to refine it a bit, but I think it’s pretty good. I presented both sides of the issue, and I tried really hard to get some great pictures of the trees….though I’m afraid none of them do justice to the beauty of those trees.”

After reading the article, he grinned at her. “This is brilliant!”

She returned his smile. “Well, I did have a lot of help!”

“You did?”

“Yep! My Source came through once again.”

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