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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: 24 Hours (01/27/11)

TITLE: The Sign
By Bonnie Bowden


The Sign

Phyllis stared at the jumble of letters on the page again, but to her they held no meaning. Up until her husband John’s death two months before, she had been able to fake her way through life without the ability to read.
She remembered back to the time, Lydia Thompson, had asked her to read the Bible during prayer meeting.
Phyllis had looked down and sifted through her purse before saying, “I seem to have left my glasses at home.” This hadn’t been a total lie. She did need her spectacles to look at pictures or objects up close.
Moments before she had watched as two official looking men, in navy uniforms, tacked the sign on the door. After they left, she had gone to the door and ripped the sign off. It looked important and she knew she must act; however, she didn’t know who to turn to.
Due to an injury John suffered in the war, they were unable to have any children. Her only living relatives were missionaries serving overseas. As far as she was concerned, her secret had gone to the grave with John. Now she felt totally alone and helpless.
“Please God, please send someone to help me,” she whispered toward the heavens.
Then deciding there was nothing she could do about the letter at the moment, she set about making her lunch. Just as she had finished making her grilled cheese sandwich, she heard a knock on the door.
She looked out the window of the back screen door, and there stood her 12-year-old neighbor, Kyle. Kyle hadn’t had the easiest of times in life. He was born with a birth defect which left him unable to walk without the aid of a brace.
“Come on in Kyle,” she motioned.
“I was just missing Mr. Winters, and I thought you may be too,” he said.
“Sit down at the table. I’ll get you a couple of my famous chocolate chip cookies.”
As she was walking across the black-and-white checkered linoleum floor, she turned to see Kyle’s eyes growing as big as saucers. He was looking over the note; she had lain on the table.
“Mrs. Winters, Did you know this letter said the energy company is going to turn all the power off in 24 hours for non-payment of your bill?”
“Oh dear,” she cried. Mr. Winters told me a lawyer was supposed to handle all the bills for me.
You see Kyle; I have never been able to read. When I went to school, the letters appeared backwards and upside down. My kindergarten and first grade teacher got together and decided I was unable to be taught. They had a conference with my parents. It was agreed upon that I would stay at home and learn wifely skills. I loved learning how to bake fresh bread and cookies, but I always yearned to learn from books and drive a car.
Kyle leaned over and gave her a big hug. I felt the same way when I was learning how to walk. The other kids laughed at me, because I fell over a lot. It took me much longer to learn, but when I was finally able to walk the length of the room, I felt like a superhero.
Mrs. Karsen, the pastor’s wife, teaches reading and math to teenagers at the church. I think we should ask her if she could help you, too.
“I don’t know if I can do that Kyle. What if she says I can’t learn either?”
“My friend Jacob has trouble reading at school, because of something called dyslexia. It sounds something like you were describing. “
My mom told me that his brain just works a little differently than mine, but that he is very smart. “I think you should at least try. What do you have to lose?”
It felt like God was giving her the green light. Indeed, what did she really have to lose? She had never considered that such wisdom would “come out of the mouths of babes.”

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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/03/11
This is a great story. I really enjoyed the characters and their gentle way of caring for each other.

The dialog was great, but partway through, you stopped using quotation marks. Also double space between paragraphs to make it easier to read.

I really liked your message. Its never too late to learn.' Back in the 40s and 50s, teachers would pass kids with learning disabilities my mom was super smart, but because she had trouble learning she waslabeled as slow. Great story.
diana kay02/06/11
so lovely! engaging and well written, i got drawn into this lovely story. Original take on the theme. I ave no constructive suggestions to add :-)as it seems to hang together just as it is...perfect!
Mary Toll02/10/11
I appeciated how you as the adult was so real with Kyle about your reading and inviting him into your solution. The '24 hour cut off', I liked that.
Louise Willard02/15/11
Very touching story. I used to work for an organization that taught adults to read. Had two clients; one male, one female. You hit it with the shame element involved for them. Well done!