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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Passport (07/25/05)

TITLE: The Stamp Collector
By Anita Neuman


Parker Thompson knew that something was wrong. He glanced up and down the street from his position on the splintered bench, trying to justify the uneasy feeling in his gut. Being alone in downtown Khartoum, while not completely safe, was a cakewalk compared to some of the situations hed survived. It was quiet, but not unusually so for such an early hour. The first rays of light were just beginning to creep across the sky. The daylight would bring more people to the streets; perhaps it would also chase away his jitters.

Parker looked at his watch again. Sajid was an hour late. Under normal circumstances, he would chalk that up to typical African time-keeping. Then again, he hardly remembered what a normal circumstance was. Hed only been in Sudan for four months, but hed already seen enough terrorized refugees, starving children and rotting bodies along the side of the road. And what did he do for them? He took pictures.

Parker flipped through the pages of his passport, studying the stamps, trying to remember happier days. Some of the stamps brought to mind people hed met a taxi driver in Beijing, a single mother in Ukraine. Others reminded him of specific pictures hed taken the missionary family on their houseboat in Peru, the schoolyard-turned-graveyard in South Africa. It was an impressive collection: proof of a career that sought to quench his restlessness. But regardless of his award-winning portfolio and the growing recognition, Parker Thompson was still searching.

He tucked the passport back into his pocket and dug around in his backpack for a granola bar. His fingers brushed the compact Bible that his daughter had begged him to carry around. His familys new obsession with religion irked him. Every time he was home they wasted most of his precious few days trying to convert him. It almost made him glad to get away again to find his own answers, to define his own life. Every stamp in his passport represented a country that had given him an opportunity to make a difference. Hed offered hope to people by shedding world-wide light on their plight. Hed brought education to his home country about the world beyond their borders. Hed been immersed in innumerable cultures, languages, and religions. The truth was just beyond his grasp, but he knew it was close. Perhaps the next stamp would mark the end of his search.

A shriek broke the morning stillness, followed by shouting and rapid gunfire. Sajid was running towards him, stumbling, then falling on his face in the street. Parker leapt to his feet, but he was too slow. There were four guns aimed at his face. Men in military uniforms were yelling at him in Arabic. He dropped to his knees, his hands in the air. Someone kicked him from behind, forcing his face into the dirt. He tried to think, tried to make sense of what was happening. He knew it was the end. He wondered what would happen to his body if he would be buried in a mass grave, if his wife and children would be notified at all. The butt of a gun pressed against his temple. And in that moment before his life ended, a flash of startling clarity made him recognize the irony: for the first time, Parker Thompson was about to be denied entry to a nation the one nation that he should have been working towards his entire life.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Julianne Jones08/02/05
A poignant and well-told story with the reminder in the conclusion that this is only our temporary home. Well done.
Nina Phillips08/02/05
That was a very touching story through and through. I just can't tell you how sad I was reading the end. That was an awesome picture with words. God bless ya, littlelight
Shari Armstrong 08/04/05
Oh wow! excellent!
Shari Brian08/05/05
Very real, well-told story. Sad ending. good writing!
Crista Darr08/07/05
A well written, winning entry.
Anita Neuman08/08/05
DUH! My dad just pointed out that it wouldn't have been the butt of the gun pressing against his temple, but the muzzle or the barrel. So much for my attempt at sounding intelligent!
Lauren Bombardier08/08/05
It's ok, Anita. It really doesn't take anything away from the story, which is excellent. Congratulations on your win!
Deborah Porter 08/08/05
Anita, congratulations on your 3rd place win in the Level 1 Champion Challenge Awards. Well done - even with the gun around the wrong way. ;-)

You also came in at 14th place overall, so that is really an excellent achievement for a beginner - particularly considering how many entries there are to the Challenge each week. Again, congratulations. Love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)