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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Hide and Seek (08/07/08)

TITLE: No Fun at the Studio
By Karlene Jacobsen


“Ready or not, here I come!”

The old familiar words play in our memories of a childhood filled with steamy summer days. Sun-browned children, free from the bondages of school and homework, spending their days hiding behind trees, boats and under porches while the one who drew the short straw has the opportunity to hone his hunting skills.

However, this time, I was not smiling neither was I enjoying the hunt. Thoughts from “mommy failure” to kidnapped son flashed through my mind as I frantically searched for my two year old. “Have you seen my son? He has big brown eyes, orange-red hair and freckles splattered on his cheeks and nose. He’s wearing navy blue shorts and a blue and white polo shirt.” I asked one of the women working in the photography studio at Sears as I choked back the need to panic. I had dressed him and his sister in their Sunday clothes to get their bi-annual portraits and send off to grandparents, aunts and uncles around the globe.

I am sure I saw pity in her eyes, or maybe it was accusation, “No I’m sorry, I haven’t.” Perhaps she was too busy to show concern or move to assist this terrified mom. How I loath the game hide and seek. Hunting was never something I chose to do.

“He was here just a moment ago!” I was beginning to feel exasperated--desperate for someone to take a moment from their life and help with my crisis. I have heard stories of children disappearing without a trace, and few ever returning. I could not bear it if my child was to join the ranks of children’s faces appearing on milk cartons and billboards reading, “Have you seen me?” Panic rose, threatening to overtake me; I did not know whether to scream first or to cry.

After several moments, the department manager approached, concern showing in her eyes. “We’ll get everyone looking, Ma’am. Where was the last time you saw him?”

“Right here,” I choked back sobs. “I turned only long enough to help his sister find a toy in the toy box, and then he was gone.”

My mind raced. I could imagine the police ripping my babies from my arms, never to see them again. “You’re a failure mommy!” A voice shouted repeatedly inside my brain. I knew it was true. Even as a young mom, I knew there were consequences for not watching your children. All the “You should have…” speeches began to play in my head.

Before long, the entire staffs of the photography studio and the children’s clothes department were searching racks for my son. Photographers were scouring through their rooms, under tables, behind screens and behind camera equipment, but to no avail. He was gone. The manager decided it was time to call in store security. “Have you got a picture we can give them?” She asked me.

My trembling hands fumbled around in my purse looking for the pictures I had taken six months ago.

“Hey, who’s the kid in the storeroom?” A staff member who had just returned from break opened the employee storeroom to store her purse away for her shift.
We turned, and saw my son, playing with toys he had found tucked away to be used as props by the photographers.

“Mommy, look…a truck!” He exclaimed, oblivious to the frantic looks on the crowd of people gathering around him. Out of the storeroom he toddled, happily carrying the fire truck he had found looking as though he had uncovered a mountain of gold.

I realized long ago that I was not born to be a hunter; I did not have the patience. Never did I expect to have a child who would question everything, his curiosity being enough to spin my serene world out of control. Someone said, “One day you will look back at this and laugh.”

That day has become a distant memory, and yes, I do sit with my nearly grown son and laugh with him about how he tested my sanity.

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This article has been read 838 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Yvonne Blake 08/15/08
Yikes! Scary! It's awful when a child is missing for even a little while. I'm glad the story turned out well.
Sarah Heywood08/15/08
Probably every mother out there has experienced the terror you describe - I certainly have! Good, descriptive narrative of events.
Dan Blankenship 08/17/08
An enjoyable read. Lot's of realism in this one.

May God bless and keep you writing.

Dan Blankenship

Kristen Hester08/18/08
Good job. You really put me in the action. I felt the mom's desparation. I've been there before, myself. Not a fun time! Your writing PUT ME THERE!

Since you asked for red ink: IMHO, I think some of your sentences could benefit from some tightening and rewording. Here's one example:

My mind raced. I could imagine the police ripping my babies from my arms, never to see them again. You could read this to say you would never see your arms again. LOL

Overall, a great effort. You are a good storyteller.

Joy Faire Stewart08/18/08
Excellent job of conveying the mother's terror and keeping the emotions on going through the story.
Gerald Shuler 08/18/08
From personal experience I can tell you that it is also a father's worst nightmare. You described the emotions very effectively.
Julie Seeto08/19/08
You captured the emotions well - I know about those 'speeches' playing in your head. I lost 2 of my kids at World Expo once - ok it was only 10 minutes but it seemed like an hour. Very scary.
Good story - keep writing.
Leah Nichols 08/19/08
It is very well-written! I guess the only thing that can draw people in more is to change to present tense. Overall the sentence structure and flow of the story is excellent. Good job!
Joshua Janoski08/19/08
That version of hide and Seek is one that no parent ever wants to have to play.

This reminds me of a story my mom tells about when I was a baby and got lost in JC Penney. My mom said that she ended up finding me clear across the store in the ladies dressing room. I think I was a little too young to be interested in girls, but maybe not. Whoops! :o

Thank you for sharing this. I'm glad that it ended well and that you can now look back on it and laugh.
Marlene Austin08/19/08
Nice job. Lots of good tension here. Glad you were able to let your readers breathe easy with the find at the end. :)
Pamela Kliewer08/20/08

I'm so glad this story has a happy ending.

Well written w/ great show of emotions and feelings of inadequacy we have all felt from time to time.