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SAMPLE EXCERPT FROM THE HOUSE GUEST: The gold Lincoln Continental traveled slowly down the snow-covered lane and onto the main road leading toward the school. Jenna sat in the front seat between Noah and Maggie, dressed in her sheep costume and rehearsing her play lines under her breath.
“No need to be nervous, Miss Jenna.” Noah knew instinctively that she was uneasy about the upcoming performance. “From what I’ve heard, sheep have very good memories,” he said, reassuringly. She glanced up at him and smiled, black felt nose firmly in place.
Maggie placed her hand on Jenna’s. “You’ll do just fine, sweetheart.”
Anna echoed encouragement from the backseat. “Above all, relax and have a good time, dear.”
“I’m just wondering if they’re providing refreshments for those of us who will be subjected to sitting through a two-hour program.” Lee gazed out the side window, already restless.
Within a few minutes, they were parked in front of Tilden Public School and making their way into the building to locate seating in the large auditorium. Once everyone was finally seated, the sixth-grade band began playing a slightly familiar Christmas carol while the other students quickly assembled on risers for the performance. Jenna anxiously scanned the audience, and then waved shyly when she spotted her family. Following suit, Lee waved while simultaneously leaning in Anna’s direction to whisper, “Lord have mercy, that sounds nothing like Joy to the World!”
During a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells, Lee began shifting back and forth in her seat. She leaned again to whisper to Anna, “These chairs are terribly uncomfortable.” Shifting to the side once more, she added, “Besides, a person shouldn’t be expected to endure much more than about ten minutes of a program involving children.”
“Lee, try to stay focused for heaven’s sake,” Anna whispered, annoyed that Lee was such a distraction. “You’re worse than a fidgety child.”
The final song couldn’t have come any sooner as far as Lee was concerned. O Holy Night was performed by the combined grades and received a standing ovation. As soon as the program was over, and the crowd officially dismissed by Mr. Donovan, Lee marched directly for the refreshment table with the hope of soothing her irritation – and her weary behind. The long line that had already assembled didn’t deter her – she cut in, snatched two coconut macaroons from a plate, and turned to find Anna. “Pray till, there was a child in the choir that couldn’t carry a tune in a blessed bucket!” She tried, albeit a lame attempt, to keep her voice down. “Why is it that the ones who can’t sing are always placed right smack dab in front of a microphone, for crying out loud?”
“It was a wonderful program, Lee. They all performed well, and Jenna didn’t miss a beat.” Anna was determined to be the positive voice between the two, as they made their way out the front door and to the parking lot.
“Lord have mercy, it was an assault on the ears,” she complained. “Again, it’s why children should be seen and not heard.” She sighed loudly. “I don’t drink, but if I did…” Lee trailed off, still shaking her head as they walked toward the car to join the others.