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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Park (10/25/12)

TITLE: Cathedral Park
By Jody Day
~9th Place


Sue grabbed her husband's arm as he pulled the car to a stop and reached for the door.

"Are you sure about this?" Should they go back into the place where they'd seen their son gunned down by the police? The same place where he'd climbed trees, tossed a ball, and played on the merry-go-round? Fourteen-year-old boys should outlive their parents.

"I want to know what was so all fired important that Billy put himself in such danger. Put us in danger as well. I still don't think they believe we had nothing to do with it." Bob got out of the car. "You don't have to come, I know you're afraid."

Afraid? Yes, but to be at Cathedral Park brought the pain back with crushing freshness. Grief and unanswered questions plagued her for a year now.

"I'll come." Sue reached for Bob's hand and slid out of the car. They'd parked three blocks away. Hand in hand they walked toward the park in the 2:00 AM darkness.

They entered the park but stayed to the trees on the perimeter. Sue buttoned her coat against the winter chill.

"I don't know what you think you'll find. The ground is frozen, and besides, the police dug up nearly the whole park." She squinted her eyes shut. The scene stabbed her once again. They seized Billy with a small shovel in his hand. Accused of trying to bury contraband, he was handcuffed, beaten and then shot. She wouldn't have seen it except she'd just arrived to pick Billy up.

For a year she hadn't seen anything else. She'd died that day, and Bob lived on anger. They'd been detained as well. For weeks they'd been questioned about Billy's "treason", and about some old man that hung out at the park. The police called him "Preacher."

"I don't think he buried anything. Look." Bob took a folded piece of paper from his coat pocket. "I found this stuffed in a shoe in the back of Billy's closet. It's a wonder the police didn't find it when they ransacked the house." He opened the paper.

The sight of Billy's drawing brought a sting of tears to her eyes. She'd spent hours in that room, memorizing every remnant of her son. She covered her mouth with one hand, and traced over her son's drawing with the other. Simply penciled, he'd depicted a tree with a hole drawn near the bottom. An arrow pointed to the hollow.

Silently, they felt around the trees throughout the park. A hint of sunrise quickened fear in Sue's heart.

"Here!" Bob whispered. He crawled into a stand of bushes that circled one large tree. "It's got a hole." Sue crawled up behind him. The two scooped out dirt and dead leaves. Bob frantically pulled out a moldy, decaying cardboard box.

He tore the box open. Sue stared in disbelief.

"Books?" Had she ever seen one? Hard copies were outlawed generations ago. The only novels she'd ever read were downloaded from the government to her cell phone. They each took one and turned it over and over, brushing dirt and debris from the covers.

"New Testament," Sue whispered. Hidden in the bushes, they both settled back against the tree and started to read. Maybe there was an answer in the worn pages of these little books.

Mesmerized by the story, Sue didn't notice the sun come up. The park began to fill with children.

She hadn't felt warm in her heart for over a year. No, she realized, not ever in her whole life had she felt a warmth of this kind. Maybe it was the "gave His only Son" part that opened the eyes of her heart. Bob must have gotten there too. He touched Sue's arm. She turned to find tears streaming down his eyes. She clutched the little book to her breast.

"Yes." They both said 'yes' to the calling, the same calling that Billy had found. A deep sigh of healing and vibrant living coursed through Sue's body. It didn't even matter that the police stood above them, pointing their guns directly at their heads. Bob grabbed her hand.

As her spirit left her body, she saw a young policeman stealthily stuff a couple of the little books inside his shirt before he set a lighted match to the box.

Yes. Billy's life had meant something, and he'd left a way for his parents to have life.

"For God so loved the world..."

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Member Comments
Member Date
Karen Pourbabaee 11/07/12
Your interesting story has a frightening scenario tempered with the hope of eternal life in the end.I liked your symbolic title...a park housing the Word within a tree....and the tree gave life!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/08/12
Wow this is such a powerful piece. It grabbed my heart immediately and still won't let go. This is a bit of brilliance in my humble opinion.

The only red ink I have is quite minor but I stumbled and had to stop reading and think then reread this sentence: Simply penciled, he'd depicted a tree with a hole drawn near the bottom
The way it's worded I thought the hole was in the ground, then when I reread it I thought the hole was drawn on the paper then finally I realized the hole was on the picture of the tree near the bottom of the trunk. Perhaps if you had written ...a tree with a hole near the bottom of the trunk. But then it could just be me.

Your message in this piece is stunning and reminds me of a short film I saw when I was on a teen retreat thirty years ago, but like your story it will, it has stayed in my mind. A man was in charge of the bridge and lowering it and raising it. The train was coming so he put it in the proper position when suddenly his little boy was running toward him. He had to chose to save his son and let the people on the train perish or save the train and watch his son die in front of him. I wasn't a parent when I first saw that but I remember it and now that I've had kids the sacrifice is even more clear to me. Your story does the same thing. It was definitely my favorite this week by far. Congratulations on the well-deserved EC. Outstanding job!
Loren T. Lowery11/08/12
Perfect title for this well-told story. Enjoyed the intrigued and admired the parent's determined faith in their son. Congratulations, Jody on your EC placement.
Margaret Kearley 11/08/12
This is such an amzing story and takes the reader of such an unexpected journey. Inspiring and great to read. Thankyou. Congratulations on your EC.
Myrna Noyes11/08/12
WOW!! This futuristic story first captured my attention with its element of suspense and then sobered me with its portrayal of what may be possibly ahead for Christians. I appreciated how it ended with hope, though! CONGRATULATIONS on your E.C. win!
Frankie Kemp 11/09/12
I'm an English teacher, and my tenth graders read Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Your little piece shares a common theme--and, it speaks to me of a dangerous reality that could be a possibility in the lives of future generations.

You have a powerful message here.
Bea Edwards 11/09/12
I had a totally different take on your story from the beginning to about mid point. But your climatic ending cleared up my preconceived notions and I was absolutely wowed how you turned it around. Fantastic entry well done!
Adele Threadgold11/09/12
Wow this was my favourite.. captivating and intriging at the same time... the ending was brilliant too.
Adele Threadgold11/09/12
Wow this was my favourite.. captivating and intriging at the same time... the ending was brilliant too.
Beth LaBuff 11/09/12
You've crafted a fascinating story. I loved the ending. Congrats on your EC!