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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)

TITLE: A Seven-Letter Word for Phenomenon
By Sandra Petersen
~1st Place


A furious gust spat a flurry of flakes against the window. Lydia Wood lifted her gaze from the Sunday crossword and snuggled deeper into the embrace of her armchair and lap robe. Just beyond the ottoman on which her slippered feet rested, three flame-encased logs crackled in the fireplace.

She sighed as another gust, stronger this time, rattled the panes of glass in the windows around her.

The first major snowstorm of the winter season would mean calling her neighbors, finding out if any of their sons would clear her walkways for ten dollars.

Or daughters, she reminded herself. Shaking her head, she scolded herself for thinking of the way things were when she was growing up. Her mother and father would never have dreamed of sending their daughters out to do a man’s job. Times had changed but part of Miss Liddie, as her neighbors called her, had remained in the past.

Sections of that past were being slowly and painfully stripped away from her as more of her self-reliance shriveled to advancing age.

She fell and broke her collarbone a year ago. Since then, her distant son paid her next door neighbor to visit once a week to check on her. Her son had given her neighbor a key just in case. She knew the arrangement and gritted her dentures until they pained her mouth to think of it.

When the young man with the diamond stud earring and shoulder length mousy hair knocked on her door she would open it a crack, just enough to tell him she was fine. He seemed relieved to not be invited inside. She watched him from the window as he retraced his steps back to his porch.

The rafters above moaned in the wind. After this storm, she had to remember to get someone to clear the century-old roof of the accumulated ice and snow winter had already deposited.

Miss Liddie adjusted her wire-rimmed trifocals and frowned at her puzzle.

“Five-down. Seven letters. A supernatural occurrence, phenomenon.” Miss Liddie mused. “Begins with an ‘m’.”

The walls creaked, causing her to glance around. A flicker of movement at the window caught her attention.

Was that snow? Snow isn’t brown. The question and the answer tumbled in her brain, daring her to sort them out into logic.

She squinted. A thin, brown face pressed itself against the glass, looking in, staring at her and her fireplace. Bare brown hands cupped the boy’s face to shield his eyes from the weather. His hands trembled.

Miss Liddie set her puzzle and pencil on the table beside her and stripped the lap robe from her legs.

Who in their right mind allows their child to wander outside in a snowstorm like this?

Even as she silently cursed the parents, she realized she had never seen that face before in this neighborhood. Her arthritic joints popped in protest as she crossed the living room to the front door.

Hesitating for a moment, she edged the door open. The wind slapped at her hand to wrest the door knob from her. She meant to coax the child inside to discover where he lived. He could not stay outside on a day like this.

He was gone. Footprints were being quickly erased by the storm but the path he had made wading through the drift to the window remained. She stepped outside and the door slammed behind her.

Miss Liddie groaned. She twisted the knob clockwise and counter-clockwise and pushed at the resistant door.

Grumbling under her breath, Miss Liddie picked her way through the snow drifts to the house next door, hoping the young hippie was home.

“Sure, Miss Liddie. I’d be glad to unlock your door. Here, put this on.” The young man draped a fleece-lined jean jacket over her housedress. “Sorry I don’t have boots for you to wear.” He glanced at her slipper-shod feet.

As he led the way back to her house, a sharp crack and a dull thud in quick succession startled them.

“He was standing there.” Miss Liddie pointed. The snow drift piled against the window frame bore no marks of a human presence.

Her neighbor cupped hands to gaze in the living room window. As he drew back, his eyes wide in disbelief, he beckoned her to look.

She shuddered at the sight of wooden beams, snow, and tiles covering the chair she left minutes before.

“Miss Liddie, I think you just experienced a miracle,” her neighbor stammered.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Val Clark08/20/09
I really enjoyed this. An engaging insight into the old woman's thoughts and solid characterisation. 'gritted her dentures.' lol. Also liked that the face at the window was brown. yeggy
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/21/09
This story was outstanding for plot, character, and descriptions. It made me wonder what my guardian angel looks like.
Mona Purvis08/23/09
Miracle became so real in this very entertaining story. Made me think how important it is to check on folks we know who live alone. Sadly, we live in a day and age where children pay for these services, but it is common.
Good take on the topic.
Lynda Schultz 08/23/09
Love the connection between the crossword and the events of real life. Nicely done.
Lee Ann Wofford08/24/09
really liked this one! great job!
Beth LaBuff 08/24/09
I like the "miracle" tie-in with the cross-word puzzle. I really enjoyed this!
Colin Swann08/25/09
A well written story with a supernatural happening - thanks for reminding us that things like this do happen.
Jan Ackerson 08/25/09
I loved this! Could very easily imagine your main character.

The events of the last few paragraphs seemed just slightly out of order...it seems as if she'd point out the spot, and THEN hear the crack and thud.

Excellent atmosphere and characterization.
Ada Nett08/25/09
A remarkably good story! I enjoyed every word!
Catrina Bradley 08/27/09
Wonderful- loved every word. Congratulations on FIRST PLACE!!!
Deborah Engle 08/27/09
Wonderful story, and great for topic. I, too loved the tie in with the crossword. puzzle.
Kristin Slavik08/27/09
Wow, you painted a wonderful picture of this older woman and of her miracle. Congrats at getting first place!
Janice Fitzpatrick08/27/09
Nice job! I loed that charatcerization of the older woman and loved how you had her doing a crosswood with the word meaning phenomenom and then of course the face in the window. At first I thought maybe it would be a child in need and wondered how it was going to turn out. I hadn't looked at your title enough and then when I saw that the little face was that of her angel of protection, wow! What a great fitting title and ending, again nice job and congrats hon. God bless you!!
Janice Fitzpatrick08/27/09
Ha, when I went to write my comment my fingers went off in another direction I think as you can see so many typos in my comment.:0) Yay on your first place though-well deserved.:0)) This was a refreshing piece with a suprise ending.:0)
Bryan Ridenour08/27/09
Great story with a surprise ending. Congrats on the first place!!!!
Lisa Johnson08/27/09
A great story from start to finish! Congrats on First place on level and EC. Well deserved!
Eliza Evans 08/27/09
Well done! Love the inclusion of the crossword puzzle.

Huge Congratulations on your 1st Place win!! :)
Amy Michelle Wiley 08/27/09
Great to see you back in the challenge, Sandra, and congrats on 1st place. Great story, I enjoyed being drawn along, guessing how it would end. You surprised me. :-)

BTW, did you get my email last week? If not, can you send me an updated email address?
william price08/28/09
Congratulations! Always love a story with a miracle. Nice clue you gave us midstream with the crossword to keep us intrigued. God bless.
Philippa Geaney 09/02/09
I really enjoyed your story.
Heather M03/23/10
I was just reading about you in the Faithwriter's Blog and hurried over to see this winning entry. It's superb! You have an amazing talent for capturing character succinctly and surreptitiously. This little gem captivated me and inspires me to want to write like this. Well done.