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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “All that Glitters is Not Gold” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/24/08)

TITLE: Paper-Thin Walls
By Clayton Skrzypczak


Sarah quietly slid the security chain into its slot so not to make a sound. It was almost one in the morning when she returned home from another long day. She lay her keys on the envelope filled table. They were all overdue. She was too tired to care. She folded her stained apron and tossed it onto a nearby chair. A cold breath escaped filling the air with a light cloud. It was going to be a cold night.

Through the wall she could hear the neighbor’s television. She could hear a lot through these old walls. She often fell asleep listening to the once strange sounds of the apartment building. Sometimes she heard yelling. Many times she heard loud music. Once she heard gun shots and the police running down the hall. Tonight she would fall asleep to the sounds of some movie star awards show. She didn’t have time for television. She couldn’t afford one. She worked two jobs so her and her blond nine-year-old pride and joy, Molly, could have a place to call home.

Molly was a dream-come-true for any parent. She was tenderhearted and sweet often remembering the trips she and her father and mother would take to the coast. It pained Sarah something terrible to think of her husband Jack. It had only been two years since the accident that took him from his family. They had such dreams and high hopes for the future. Now Sarah was left to raise Molly on her own in the city. Jack was self-employed and just beginning his new business when he died. They had nothing saved so Sarah and Molly had to move to the other side of town where they could afford to rent the single room apartment. It was no place for a child but Sarah had no choice. It was either there or the streets. At least Molly could go to school and have hot lunch during the week.

Sarah didn’t see Molly much because of her work schedule. She was able to help Molly off to school in the mornings before going to work in the mailroom at the shopping mall. At five o’clock she would head to the diner where the regulars liked to be called “Hun” and “Darling”. She would get small tips and an occasional phone number. She wasn’t interested in being rescued by anybody. The memory of Jack was too close anyway.

After school Molly would go to apartment 3C right across the hall instead of going to her own apartment. There Mrs. Martin would feed her dinner and help her with homework. She would make sure Molly was safely in her own bed before securing the door and returning to 3C.

As Sarah knelt down to pray next to Molly’s rusted metal bed she couldn’t help but notice the sounds of the awards show drifting through the paper-thin walls of her apartment. Her and Jack used to watch the awards together. They would joke about how much money the stars made and what they would do and who they would help if they had that kind of money. There always seemed to be some sort of noble twist as to why they should be rich. It didn’t matter now. Jack was gone and there were bills to be paid and a child to raise.

As she tried to focus her mind to thank God for helping her through another day, she could still hear the cheers and music from the neighbor’s television. It haunted her. It seemed to really bother her tonight. She could imagine the gowns on the ladies and the tuxes on the men. It reminded her of how handsome Jack was on their wedding day. She could see the rich and famous on the red carpet waving to adoring fans in her mind. She imagined them sipping fine wine and eating fresh shrimp. Jack hated shrimp. He didn’t like how it felt in his mouth. He said it was too chewy. Sarah thought he was picky. She missed her best friend and husband.

As she looked down at her sleeping child with her blond hair peeking out between two pillows and an old blanket, she began to thank God for all she had. She thanked Him for her two jobs, her home, her time with Jack, and most of all, for Molly.

More cheers rang out from her neighbor’s television.

“Yes,” she paused looking at Molly. “I am rich.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 02/01/08
I liked reading your descriptions about the woman's life. It would be better if you had some dialogue maybe but overall you did a good job!
Marita Vandertogt02/02/08
Good story material here - I could see it developing into a larger short story. Great descriptions about their life in a small apartment. You write well.
Jan Ackerson 02/02/08
Absolutely beautiful--I love the title, the prose, and the lump-in-the-throat ending.