The story had to be about a saint and the miracles they call for. The Doorknobs contest had the following restraints, er, guidelines:
1. Maximum length: 250 words.
2. The sub-theme is: miraculous.
3. The year is: 1943.
4. Within the story, this text must be used: exceptional deeds.
The hoops were especially daunting this round, and I wasn’t sure I was going to enter. But inspiration struck over pizza and beer the night before the contest deadline. What saints did I know? Was Teresa a saint yet? Wait, I knew a saint! I’d write about Joan of Arc! Of course!
As a kid, I was fascinated by the story of St. Joan of Arc, the girl captain who led France to several victories during the Hundred Years’ War. I can’t tell you when I first heard or read about her: Saints and their miracles, for the most part, were lost in my Protestant upbringing, but as an eager reader in fourth and fifth grades, I learned as much as I could about her through young-adult fiction, dusty biographies, home’s World Book and the library’s Encyclopedia Britannica. For a fifth-grade history project, I made a presentation dressed up as the Maid, complete with a sword and breastplate made out of cardboard and Reynolds Wrap. Somewhere in my basement, or perhaps in my parents’ attic, is a black-and-white photograph of a gap-toothed me — in full homemade armor — looking every bit as distressed and frustrated as a 10-year-old wannabe warrior could look when she finds out that she’s not nearly as cool as her favorite heroine.
Skipping forward 30 years, a sausage slice and a refreshing Kölsch helped me remember a saint, now I just had to figure out what to do in 1943. Joan was the patron saint of the French army, so I’d write about a French soldier in 1943.
“The French were getting their asses kicked then,” my husband, the historian, reminded me.
Even better. All the more reason for St. Joan to call for a miracle.
And so she did. And you can read all about it here.