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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)

TITLE: Neon Circles and the Matchbox
By Debbie Roome
~10th Place


Neon reflects in icy puddles; quivering lines of red, lime and yellow that scoot in circles and then flash…flash…flash. It reminds me of the pulsating beat of a heart.

My own heart has turned to stone. It was a slow process of petrifaction as I processed the loss of Jess and Baby. Now it just lies deep within; a heavy lump that I drag around, day by day.

“Coming for some soup, Rocky?” Seamus pokes grizzled features into my scarred edifice of cardboard.

I think for a moment. The weather is vile and my fingers are swollen and numb from the cold. “You go ahead. I might join you a bit later.”

There is something on my mind and I rummage in the sack that houses my belongings. I am looking for the matchbox that Jack gave me a week ago. Jack is a good man; a man who loves God. He’s also Jess’s father, Baby’s grandfather and my father-in-law.

Funny how he is the only one who persists in staying in touch. My parents are dead and the rest of my family has given up on me. Some have even disowned me. I can just imagine the gossip at family gatherings.

“Have you seen Rocky recently?”
“He hasn’t shaved in a year and his clothes are filthy.”
“Tragic what’s happened to him. He’s totally lost his mind.”

I pull the matchbox out and pause, regarding the grime embedded in my skin and under my nails. I suppose they could be right. When the hit and run driver hit Jess, he stole my wife, my unborn child and eventually, my sanity.”

Funny how Jack doesn’t seem to mind the way I look. He always gives me a firm hand shake and pulls me into a close embrace.

I slide the matchbox open and look for the hundredth time at the paper nestled within. Its message is contained in one word. One word that Jack wanted me to have.

I think again of Jack; of how he tracks me through the streets, month after month. Of how he tries to give me warm clothes and blankets, toiletries and a cell phone, food and books. Of how he tells me there’s a room in his house, waiting for me. I have refused everything as life is a bare existence these days. I have no need of such luxuries.

Funny how he still comes after me. How he visits the shelters when he thinks snow may have forced me off the streets. How he circulates the soup kitchens looking for me.

I look at the paper again.


A simple one-word message. “I know you don’t want anything.” he said, “But there is something in this box that you need. I know your pain. I understand your loss, but Jess and Baby wouldn’t want you to live like this. I still grieve for them but God has given me hope for the future. I’ve put some of that hope into this box for you.”

I slide the matchbox shut and push it back into the sack.

Funny how his words keep coming back to me.

Suddenly I’m squeezing out of my shelter, turning my face towards the soup kitchen. The sidewalk is frozen and neon reflects in icy puddles; quivering lines of red, lime and yellow that scoot in circles and then flash…flash…flash. Deep in my heart of stone, I feel an echoing movement; a tentative stirring as a ray of hope pulsates. The realization dawns as I hurry on my way. I am hoping that Jack will be waiting for me.

Accept Jesus as Your Savior Right Now and be Certain of Eternal Life.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/15/08
Wow. This is a magnificent story of unconditional love. Your opening and closing paragraphs are wonderful at tying the story together.
Carole Robishaw 05/15/08
This is GOOD! It really gives the message of God, in one Word, one package.

Peter Stone05/16/08
What a wonderful gift, a matchbox containing the entire gospel in one word. Hope. Well done.
Laury Hubrich 05/16/08
This is so sad and hopeful at the same time. It does make me wonder now about the many homeless people we see and hear about. Very good writing.
Joanne Sher 05/16/08
Absolutely vivid writing - this is haunting and moving and wonderfully told. Just excellent.
Holly Westefeld05/16/08
What they said. Beautiful!
Kristen Hester05/16/08
Wow. I don't know what else to say. Amazing writing.
Gregory Kane05/17/08
Excellent I particularly liked the short, snappy paragraphs, reminiscent of the flashes that you used so powerfully in your opening paragraph to set the mood.
Watch the ‘process’ and ‘processed’ close together in your second paragraph.
Emily Gibson05/17/08
You have nailed the despair of those who cannot allow themselves love or forgiveness. What grace we know from our Lord!
Lynda Schultz 05/17/08
Wonderful story. You tied it up so neatly and left us with just enough hope for a new beginning for us to be satisfied at the end.
LaNaye Perkins05/18/08
This piece broke my heart for te MC. You captured me from the title to last sentence. I love the "hope" you left us with in the ending. Great writing my friend.
Jan Ackerson 05/18/08
Masterful wordsmanship, as always! You really got inside this poor man's spirit. Wonderful!
Karen Wilber05/18/08
Excellent story. What I like about the style of this is how you varied the length of the sentences to give it a flow and then a punch. Longish descriptions about Rocky and Jack, then boom, one word "hope". Gave the story a real impact.
Dave Wagner05/18/08
A great effort. I know with the word count limit, the temptation to wrap things up nicely at the end is strong. If I were advising you on this piece, it would be to rework the ending a tad to leave it a bit more open and not take such a huge step toward resolution in such a short space. That would keep it more of a thought-provoking snap-shot (like it is up to the end) and feel less forced at the end. Also, at the end, I found the word-for-word repeating of the sentence from the opening paragraph about the puddles and neon lights to be distracting. It might have read better more as a off-reference rather than a rote repetition. But don't get me wrong, overall the piece is well written, and solid as it stands. I just think it could have been taken up a notch or two, and it would have been a lock for serious contention this week (it might still be, who knows? One man's "close" is another man's "perfect"!)
Debbie Wistrom05/19/08
These words give no doubt to your position in Masters. Especailly these- "It was a slow process of petrifaction as I processed the loss."

I would like to read the whole story some day!!
Sharlyn Guthrie05/20/08
Beautiful story! Your message comes through loud and clear, but it is delivered tenderly.
Beckie Stewart05/20/08
Being a beginner myself, I was impressed from beginning to end and certainly see the reason why you are a Master and I am a beginner. Great job!
Helen Dowd05/20/08
What a very heart-wrenching story. I have known a couple of people like this one depicted in this story. How sad to be lonely, hurting, shut away voluntarily from society. I have know hurt, and loss, but never to this extent....How very well you have told this sad story. HOPE I have too, for this poor lonely man. I think - I know - Jack will be waiting for him and he will gently lead this man back into society and acceptance of himself....Very well told, leaving the conclusion up to our imagination...We all need HOPE....Helen
Joshua Janoski05/22/08
What a great example of the love of Christ being shown by Jack. My heart really went out to Rocky.

It makes me wonder how many homeless people in our society aren't drug addicts or alcoholics. Maybe some of them have experienced far worse pain than that, and that is why they are in the situation that they are in. We need to reach out to these people just as this story teaches.
Sheri Gordon05/23/08
Congratulations on your EC. This is very powerful, and written so well. Excellent job with the topic.