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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Canada (01/29/09)

TITLE: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
By Kellie Henningsen


“Marian!” Tom pointed. “Check out the view of the falls from this angle. I think you could get a great shot from here with the sun coming through the trees the way it is.”

Marian, an experienced photographer, was thrilled to be hiking the Johnston Canyon Falls in Alberta, Canada. Her husband and four year old daughter, Alyssa, had spent three days in the area so far. Although she had taken many photographs already, the falls were definitely the most remarkable. Their raw beauty and awesome power were simply breathtaking!

Tom guided Alyssa to a bench where they could wait for Marian. The four year old little girl excitedly pointed out first one thing then another as she chattered away incessantly.

“Alyssa, honey, let’s just listen to the falls for a couple minutes, ok?” Tom suggested.

Looking somewhat confused, Alyssa relented with a sigh. Tom leaned back against the bench, closed his eyes, and inhaled the sweet savory smell of moss and the freshness of nature. Thinking her dad was asleep and wouldn’t mind, Alyssa slipped off the bench to chase a butterfly that had caught her attention.

Five minutes later, Marian returned; her face aglow with excitement. “Tom, I took some great shots!” Marian stopped short. Her head jerked first one way then another. With heart pounding, she stared at her husband. He opened his eyes and squinted up at her without a worry in the world.

His demeanor quickly changed as the white face of his wife brought him to his senses. He jumped to his feet and looked around him. “She was just here! We were taking in the waterfall….she was sitting right next to me! Alyssa? Alyssa!”


Marian could hear the volunteers calling out to her daughter through their megaphones. The search had been going on now for hours. Tom and Marian had called for help when they were unable to find Alyssa on their own. Search and Rescue showed up quickly and went right to work. Marian had been led to the side and questioned by an officer named Jeff. What was Alyssa wearing? Why would she have wandered off? Has she ever done anything like this before? What would she be most scared of?

A cup of strong coffee was thrust into Marian’s hand as the inquisition continued. At long last, she was left alone. With no further interruptions, she had time to think. How could Tom have let this happen? Anger slowly took the place of fear as Marian fully reflected on the events of the day. Yes! It was all his fault! No, how could she think this of her husband? He loves Alyssa so much! It’s not his fault. It just happened. But, how could God let this happen? What had they done to deserve this? Yes, it was God she was to be angry at!

It was approaching dusk now and the fears of all that that meant enveloped Marian causing her to shudder. A caring rescue worker noticed and brought her a blanket. Gratefulness for the blanket brought with it guilt as well -- guilt that she was allowing herself to be comforted when her daughter couldn’t be. She was a failure as a mom. Her little girl was out there crying for her and she could do nothing! Nothing!!

“Ma’am? Can you come with me please? We’ve just heard something.”

Marian raised bloodshot eyes to the man reaching his hand out to her. A glimmer of hope rose in her heart but was quickly replaced by a sudden dread deeper than anything she had felt before. She rose to her feet but couldn’t move. “Is it … is she..?”

“I’m sorry ma’am, I don’t know the details.”

Marian entered the circle of rescue workers beside her husband as they listened to the radio transmission.

“Alyssa? That’s your name, right honey? Alyssa…I’m a friend of your mommy and daddy. They asked me to help find you. Are you ok?”

“I…want…my…mommy,” choked a weak voice.

Marian’s knees buckled as she collapsed against Tom; sobs of relief wracking her body.

Besides some cuts and scrapes, Alyssa was just fine. The following morning, they left Alberta and headed home. They would never forget their trip, the lessons they had learned, or the people who had helped them. One of the photographs that Marian took that day of the waterfalls now hangs in a prominent place in their home – a reminder of God’s goodness to their family.

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Sara Harricharan 02/05/09
Poor Alyssa! What a story! I'm glad she was found in the end, there were certainly a few good moments of suspense in here. Nice job! Glad it had a happy ending!
Karlene Jacobsen02/06/09
Intense! I can remember something similar happening to me, although it was in a store and my little boy wandered off. I can relate to the range of emotion this mom had. Very well done. Realistic!
Lynda Schultz 02/09/09
This is really good. I would have liked to have been told just exactly where Alyssa had been all that time and what had happened. We were left with several questions but 750 words doesn't give you much space for everything. Well done.
Bryan Ridenour02/09/09
Good story. As a dad with four youngsters, this kind of story really hits home. Thanks for the happy ending!
Catrina Bradley 02/09/09
Very nice job! I liked Marian's inner struggle with who to blame .. with needing to blame someone, and her guilt at being warm and comfortable.

The ending is sweet, but you don't need always wrap your story up in a bow, so to speak. I think it would also work well to end with "sobs of relief wracking her body."
Gerald Shuler 02/09/09
Great suspense story. I agree about ending with the sobs. But then, of course, you would have had the wrong title.

I enjoyed this read.
Charlie Comerford02/09/09
Great story. I don't suppose you've read 'The Shack' before? - I wouldn't want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn't read it (and I'd recommend that you read it if you haven't! It's amazing!) but this story definitely remind me of that book. Well done!
Charlie Comerford02/09/09
Great story. I don't suppose you've read 'The Shack' before? - I wouldn't want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn't read it (and I'd recommend that you read it if you haven't! It's amazing!) but this story definitely reminded me of that book. Well done!
Jan Ackerson 02/10/09
A story that any parent can identify with, that's for sure.

My only recommendation would be to reconsider the title--it's best not to use familiar phrases, and this one doesn't really capture the suspense of your story.

Good job especially with the characterization of the mother.
Tallylah Monroe02/10/09
I'm going to disagree.
I like the title and I don't think ending at the sobs would be a good ending.
I think this is a very strong Beginner entry. Good job.
Melanie Kerr 02/11/09
Good story. I was reading eagerly to find out what happened in the end, although I kind of knew how it would likely end.
Deborah Porter 02/20/09
Hi Kellie. I'm running a week late, but just wanted to leave a quick note to let you know your entry "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words," actually did very well in the Canada Challenge. Although you didn't receive an award, you made it into the Highest Rankings placing 6th in Level 1.

Competition in Level 1 is always very intense, so you did extremely well.

If you'd like to check the highest rankings for yourself, you can find them here:

The highest rankings are posted every Thursday evening on the Message Boards.

You definitely deserve a pat on the back. You were SO close! Well done. With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)