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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Fruit (10/10/05)

TITLE: Hope and Darkness
By Jeffrey Snell


House lights flickered in the distance through sheets of warm rain shimmering in the wind. Runoff smeared the oily pavement. Coated with thick darkness except for flashlights, two figures stood at the shoulder.

Chris scratched his stubble and panned his light left through the mist ricocheting off the road. Climbing this tree was risky, but the fruit was worth it. "You ready?"

Light blinded him briefly then dropped, and Beca shuffled toward him, head down, scraping the muddy gravel with her red tennis shoes. "Yeah, I guess." Her auburn hair hung forward. "Do we really wanna do this? We could go to church with him, ask again. He might still--"

"No. We're doin' this. Sure he'll be sleepin'?"

"Yeah, but he could still catch us! I just think--"

"Shut up! You're eighteen now. He don't have a say, and I ain't waitin' anymore."

Chris loped to the ditch, through wet cattails and tall grass and into the square-acre corn field without looking back. Her heart whispered. The familiar dense odor of the stalks filled her nostrils. After a minute, she bit her lip and followed.

Ten minutes later, she crept out the other side but didn't see him. The blue house was thirty yards ahead, illuminated by that old light from the barn to her left. She called out and felt a strong hand grip her arm from behind. She yelped as her light was doused. Twisting around to pull free, she glimpsed Chris's face before coarse fingers cut off her air. Eyes widening in shock, she passed out.

Creaking wood woke the man to a dull, pulsing headache. With a groan, he opened his eyes to stairs barely visible to his right. Propped up against a paneled wall, he breathed musty air. The basement. A silhouette moved on the stairs.

"Your head's gonna hurt for awhile. Hers too." The silhouette dropped down a step and gestured to the girl lying against the opposite wall. "Could say sorry, but I'm not. You did this."

He recognized Chris's voice and a surge of anger intensified the throbbing. "I don't understand. You claim to love my daughter. But look what you're doin'!"

Chris leapt down the last three steps and bent threateningly, two feet away. His breath smelled like burned coffee and beer. "Shut up!"

Beca groaned, waking. "Maybe I did love her, but you messed it up." Eyes darkening, Chris added smugly, "You didn't wanna help with her little 'problem', so now it's all yours. But them stones are mine!"

"There's no 'maybe' in love, son."

"What?" Their captor glared at him and blinked, slightly shaken. "Whatever old man."

"You can still change your mind." He nodded at Chris. "Jesus is still callin' you. Answer Him."

Chris shook his head, closed his eyes for a moment, then sneered at him. "Nice try, but I ain't passin' up your old lady's diamonds! Your girl told me where." He chuckled at the obvious grief his words wrought and bounced up the stairs, refocused. "You did this," was repeated through the closing door.

A block-glass window above his daughter glowed dimly. She sat up.

"Daddy?" Her eyes were adjusting, and she crawled to his side, but didn't touch him. "I'm so sorry. He said we'd just take enough to go and...take care of it." She sobbed.

"He hurt you?"

"No, I guess I'm okay. I can't believe he's doing this. He said he loved me!" He put his arm around her and she sagged against his cotton field coat. "I'm so stupid."

"No, you're not, Honey. Just young. I wish you would've trusted me." He bit his tongue. "But we're here now, and I love you. Both o' you."

Her anxious eyes found his. "Dad, I'm really scared."

"I know," he murmured, kissing her hair. "When I saw him outside from the barn, the Lord just put it in my mind what he was plannin'. Went out to stop him but he plowed me over." They heard stomping upstairs, and the front door slammed. She noticed his expression sadden.

"Dad...I'm sorry I told him about Mom's jewelry."

"It's not that." He squeezed her tightly, sighing. "Remember your Sunday School lessons?" She shrugged. "God can bring good outta bad, but we reap what we sow. I know you're scared of what's comin', but I'm gonna help you. God's givin' you hope, Bec." His eyes grew sad again. "But the only fruit Chris'll find is darkness."

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Member Comments
Member Date
Yolanda Baker10/17/05
I wonder if a little more explaination before hand might help here? I would like to know what happened just prior to them being outside to help clear up questions about this story.. I think you could have a much longer longer story to tell here. would be intresting to read... be encouraged..
Garnet Miller 10/19/05
What drama! Unfortunately for some young people, this does happen.Thanks for sharing this wonderfully suspenseful story.
Anita Neuman10/21/05
I can see that you're working hard on the "show, don't tell" rule - and you're getting there. There were a couple of gaps, but I was able to figure it out as I read. Keep writing - you're definitely on the right track!
Lauren Bombardier10/21/05
I think it's good, though I also think it would be better as part of a whole. Do you have plans in that regard?
Cassie Memmer10/23/05
Good story. I'm glad the father was there for her, just like our Father always is there for us. Chris needs to get caught and come to God, what do you think? Keep writing!
Deborah Porter 10/24/05
Jeffrey, this was a very creative entry and I'll definitely be looking forward to seeing more from you in the future. You actually ranked 7th in the Level 1 list, and 36th overall (out of 135 entries). So be encouraged. You are definitely going the right way.

Just one thing I made a note of to let you know. There were some formatting problems with your entry when you submitted it. It happens from time to time when someone uploads a Word file that isn't in plain text, or even sometimes copies and pastes that into the submission box. It can also happen if the computer is set for a foreign language. It makes all the apostrophes, hyphens, quotation marks, etc., appear as strange symbols.

I went through and cleaned yours up before it went public, but wanted to let you know that there had been a problem. Just make sure that you use plain text files if uploading, and it doesn't hurt to go over the apostrophes, colons, hypens, quotation marks again once the entry is in the submission box - just to be on the safe side.

The problem with formatting problems like this is that often the person who submitted it can't actually see anything wrong at all. Their computer shows everything as being fine (particularly if it is due to a foreign language computer). So it can make it a little hard to correct if you can't see it. But if you remember to use plain text files and type over those particular punctuation marks, you should be okay.

With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)