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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Home Group (11/29/07)

TITLE: The Finger
By Jim Hall


The curtains parted just enough to allow narrowed eyes to see out. “Just like I thought: cars all over the place, kids making a racket, and I can already hear that hideous music.” He gave a dry spit. “I hate Church people!”

“Just listen to them, Gladys. They call that singing? It sounds more like squawking to me.” Harrol Wilson struggled to his feet and reached for the volume control on his twenty-five year old, black and white television set, hoping to drown out the sounds coming from the neighboring house.

He went to each window and cinched the curtains closed as tightly as possible. They provided his last hope of insulation against the intrusion. His face mashed into a full scowl. “Church meeting, Bible study, Home Group—whatever they call it-I don’t care.” His eyes squinted under the measly 40 watt light bulb tasked as the only illumination in the room and tried to make out the writing on the flyer. It had been an unwelcome gift on his front door. “It’s nothing but a bunch of noise and fuss; that’s all it is.”

“Do you hear what are they singing, Gladys? These are the days of Elijah?” He lowered himself into his old faded chair, careful to avoid the numerous broken springs. “Days of Elijah my foot! If Elijah was here today he’d prob’ly be an idiotic Republican!”

He jumped to his feet and paced the length of the dank living room. “Now listen to them, Gladys, if you were only here!” He stopped short, forcing an image from his mind, and then gave an angry wave of his hand. “Bah, if you were here you would be right there with them,” he resumed his pace “and wanting me to go too!”

He stopped in front of the dusty mantel, his eyes fixed. His wrinkled hand swept over a faded picture, softly, as if touching a rose petal. His wife’s last words came back as a delicate chime, “You must forgive Him, Harrol.”

His head turned slowly and he took in the hollow shell of what was once a vibrant home. “No, I won’t! I will never forgive Him for—“

He flung the front door open and charged into the oppressive glare of day. His arm rested against his forehead as a shield and his eyes squinted as he made his way toward the obnoxious noise coming from next door. He was going to put a quick stop to this, and now!

It was barely a second after his knuckles rapped on the solid oak door that he was face-to-face with the very man that had dared to come on his porch and leave the vile paper.

Harrol met his adversary’s eyes and prepared to give him a scathing rebuff. He had much to say and he was going to say it. But before the words could come he felt a light pressure on the index finger of his right hand. He looked down into a face that halted time. Suddenly the world narrowed into a tunnel. Everything around him faded from view, except the face that instantly took an angry old man back to a day nearly fifty years earlier. A day when a little girl of four would reach up in exactly the same way. A day when that same little girl would pull him along by the finger. He could still hear the tiny voice: “Come on, daddy, come see!”

Now, a half a century later, he was gripped by the same rounded cheeks, the same innocent blue eyes, and the same playful curls of hair.

“Come on, Mister, you can sit in my daddy’s chair; he won’t mind.” He was being pulled along, but he had no strength to resist. “Do you want some coffee? I can’t get you any but my mommy can. She won’t let me ‘cause I might get burned.”

It all came back: the wonder of life as Alice was born, the days of joy as she grew to a beautiful little girl, and the day of agony, as the fever wrenched her away.

It was the day that he stopped living.

He sat in a stranger’s chair, in a stranger’s house and did something that he hadn’t done in five decades. He looked toward the ceiling and lifted a feeble arm.

“Why are you reaching in the air, Mister?” The tiny angel asked.

“Oh, I’m just reaching for His finger.”

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This article has been read 587 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 12/06/07
Oh, my...I've just started reading entries, and I can't imagine reading one that I'll like better than this.
Rick Gray12/06/07
James Dixon12/06/07
Horrible characters can be so much fun. Have you ever heard of Victor Meldrew?

Please don't kill him off or reform him completely until you have had a lot more fun with his bad behaviour. Let him deserve everything he gets!
Marita Vandertogt12/08/07
What a beautiful story..and the writing is excellent. This is way good!!
Laurie Walker12/08/07
I loved this read! One hint: when you start a new paragraph in the middle of someone talking, don't put quotation marks at the end of the first sentence. For example you wrote,

“It’s nothing but a bunch of noise and fuss; that’s all it is.”

“Do you hear what are they singing, Gladys? These are the days of Elijah?”

Because you put quotes after is." I thought someone new was talking. Take the quotes off to keep the continuity. Other than that tiny little thing I thought this was absolutely touching.
Yvonne Blake 12/10/07
Wow! You made me cry! It was very effective to not let us know that Gladys had died at the beginning. This is VERY good. You won't stay in Level One very long.
Andrea Hargrove12/12/07
The ending came a bit too quickly (I know... word count), but I really love your MC. What a real person he seemed to be.
Paula Titus 12/13/07
Congratulations on your first place with this story! This story is so touching, I could feel the emotions of the old man - a well deserved ribbon.
Joanne Sher 12/14/07
Congratulations, Jim! Just FYI, your entry also placed 25th overall.
Pamela Kurbat12/25/07
I loved this. It was written very well. It made me cry. Someone had written that they thought it ended too soon, but I really think it was just right for what it is--a glimpse at a moment in this bitter man's life--the moment he starts to heal. Well done, and congratulations! :-D