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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Checkout (06/09/11)

TITLE: Daddy's Shoulders
By Jenna Dawn


Natalie couldn’t believe this was happening. For thirteen years she had wondered where her dad was, “who” her dad was, and why he had left. Her mom never wanted to talk about it and only said he wasn’t worth thinking about. All Natalie knew about her dad was that his name was Robert Miller, he had gotten into trouble with the law and left when she was four years old.

“He’s probably in prison where he belongs,” her mother had said. “It doesn’t really matter, Natty. You don’t need someone in your life who doesn’t love you.”

But it did matter. Natalie tried to ignore the hole that seemed to grow deeper and deeper inside of her, but couldn’t let go of the thoughts she had about him. Why didn’t he love me? What did I do? She longed to be loved by him, and yet she hated him.

Yesterday there was a knock at the door and she found herself face to face with a man claiming to be her dad. Her deepest longing was mixed with conflicting feelings of pain and anger. Only it wasn’t true. It wasn’t her dad. It couldn’t be. And if somehow that man actually was her father, he was a liar and even more horrible than her mother had painted him to be!

“I know this is hard for you to hear,” he had said, “but your mother has been lying to you. My name isn’t Robert Miller. It’s Jim Buchanan. Your name is Elizabeth and you were born in Chicago at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Your mother and I had a lot of problems. She would get violently angry with me over the smallest thing. You and I had a special bond and I was very worried about you living in that environment. She was afraid of losing you to me, so she took you and left. She changed your name and moved here to Oregon. You have to believe that I am telling you the truth. I didn’t leave you. She took you away from me and I have been looking for you ever since.”

No! Natalie did NOT have to believe him and she refused to. She finally convinced him to leave, but before he did he gave her a piece of paper with his “real” name and contact information. The moment he left she tore it up and flushed it down the toilet.

She hardly slept that night. The next morning she called her best friend, Olivia, and told her everything.

“Can you even believe it? Either he’s some strange lunatic claiming to be my father, or he IS my father, but a total liar! What am I supposed to believe?”

“Natalie,” Olivia said hesitantly.


“Do you remember that movie we watched about the missing girl? Remember the photo they put up of that real live missing girl?” Natalie’s face went pale.

“Oh my gosh.”

They had laughed about how much the picture looked like Natalie and joked about her being abducted.

“Her name was Elizabeth. I remember because it’s the same as my cousin. And her last name started with a B. Buckner or ….. "

“Buchanan”, said Natalie.

“That’s it! Buchanan!”

Natalie grabbed the keys and rushed to the hotel the man had said he was staying at. Why didn’t she realize it before?! Her mom was the liar, not him. What if he’s gone when she gets there? She had made it clear she didn’t want anything to do with him and she had flushed his contact information down the toilet. She may never see him again!

Anxiously, she walked up to the counter in the hotel lobby.

“It looks like he checked out this morning.”

What? No! This couldn’t be happening. She had finally found her dad, or rather he had found her, and she had blown it!

She walked across the lobby in a daze and sank down into a leather chair.

“Beth?” she heard from a strangely familiar voice. “I mean, Natalie?”

She looked up and there he was. She flung herself into his arms and cried.

“I thought you had left. They said you checked out.”

“I would never leave you. I rented a house in town. I came back to get the picture I left in the room. I take it with me everywhere.”

She looked at the photo frame he held in his hands. It was a picture of her as a little girl sitting on her daddy’s shoulders.

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This article has been read 421 times
Member Comments
Member Date
De Shelle Jordan 06/16/11
Very well written. There was a natural progression to the ending. I like how the purpose of the title was revealed in the end. I was drawn into the story.
Bonnie Bowden 06/16/11
This is a well told story. The MC's are interesting and likeable.

I know people who don't know who their father is. It leaves a big void in their lives.

The story fits the topic for this week. I hope it does well in the standings.
Lois Farrow06/16/11
Beautifully written, well done.
Adele Butler06/16/11
Very well written story. I love the happy ending. The father didn't check out on her the first time and he didn't the second time. It's like God. He is the Daddy whose shoulders we can sit on. He's the Daddy that will never check out on us. Great story. I hope you get a good standing.
Nancy Bucca06/16/11
This was intense and pulled me right in. I love the way you wrote it and paced it out. Wonderful ending.
Jan Ackerson 06/19/11
Good job of including conflict and developing a plot arc in this story.

I felt that the dialog--in particular the father's first long speech--was stilted and in some cases not entirely realistic.

The final image was superb, and was a great way to end this story.
Jennifer Hill06/20/11
Excellent story and use of topic. Thus could easily be developed into a book. Great job!
Janice Fitzpatrick06/22/11
Good job! Yu could feel the daughter's confusion and hesitation as well as the longing in her to know her other parent. Nicely written. Keep it up.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/23/11
This is a great story, I liked the twists and turns. It broke my heart when the mother said bad things about her father. As a single mother of a daughter who's father couldn't be in her life, I felt for the MC. When my daughter asked about her father my reply away was he loved you so much, but knew he was too young to be a good father so he did what he thought was best for you. I enjoyed the twists and the ending was great.

Congratulations for placing 7th in level one!
Anne Warden08/31/11
I agree with Jennifer Hill. This would make a wonderful novel or novella. It's good as a short story. It would be powerful as a novel.

I'd like to read details of the first encounter with her father - expanded and fraught with tension. I'd like to read the details of Natalie's feelings when she flushes the paper down the toilet. Etc, etc.