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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Accent (02/21/13)

TITLE: Perfectly Articulated
By Rita Minner



I pushed my way up the stairwell to the fourth floor. Such a congealed mass of people in one building; Where are they all going?!
Huffing and puffing to the top, I questioned where I was going. Looking to the right, nothing looked familiar. It’s been too many years. Shoved by the teaming student body hustling to class, claustrophobia hit and I began to panic. Jerking my head to the left I saw through the shuffling maze of people, a nearly-empty corridor. I thought I could make it to the custodian’s room before the bell’s jolt corralled this herding exodus into the confines of their respective classes. If not, my conspicuous presence in old Central High would certainly be scrutinized and I’d be escorted out. Mere seconds remained.
I think I can…30 seconds…. I think I can…25, 24, 23... the li’l red caboose chugged into mind,… I think I can!…I stretched for the tarnished brass doorknob…7, 6, 5, turned it…3, 2,1.. and slid in just under the wire!
As the bell reverberated through the halls, tumultuous waves of long-forgotten memories flooded in and threatened to drown me. The uproar in my heart darkly contrasted the routine sounds of classroom doors closing. Two surprised workmen sitting at a paint-peeled table stared but continued to nurse their coffee mugs. I attempted a feeble shot at a joke, “Sorry, I don’t have a hall pass”. The smell of strong cleaning solutions and burnt coffee assaulted my nose. Mops standing in water, brooms, and maintenance supplies were stocked everywhere.
“I’m looking for Marlita”. She seemed old, years ago….a little Spanish lady who spoke choppy English. She was responsible for keeping all fourth floor restrooms clean. She found me huddled and sobbing on the cold, ceramic tile of a stall. My disastrous life appeared to be caving in and I believed I would not survive. I’d never make it through high school, let alone real life.
She lifted me to my feet and I was surprised by her firm grasp. She took my face in her warm hands and wiped my eyes with a cold, wet, paper towel (I still remember that smell.) She told me I would go back to class and go every day, no matter what. She didn’t ask. It wasn’t a request. With a strong accent, her Y’s sounding like J’s, “Jou will be O.K.….Jou can do this…I know Jou can”. She opened the door and I obediently exited the restroom. Her absolute certainty was mind-blowing and a bit unnerving but she knew.
This little woman had made all the difference and I needed her to know. Now I was afraid she had retired or even passed.
“Marlita…Marlita Hernandez”!
Both men looked doubtful but the elder of the two drawled, “I been here come near 22 years now and no Marlita ever worked on this floor or at this school”.
I was certain he misunderstood. Agitated, I spoke more slowly, possibly a bit louder as if he had a hearing deficit. “Mar-li-ta Her-nan-dez…about this high (I held my hand at shoulder height)…a little roundish around the middle… braided, black hair with some strands of wispy gray. She wrapped it in a bun at the back of her head”.
These men were not going to argue. “You can ask at the office”. They turned back to some serious coffee sipping. I stepped out. The hallway now empty contained only the invisible mufflings of teachers and students conversing. The floor gleamed with new wax. Making my way down the stairwell, I moved toward the big front doors. They were heavy. I had heaved them open hundreds of time and this would be my last. Old Kalamazoo Central High, the most elegant structure in the city at one time, was closing its doors. This cavernous, brick shell, drafty with age and cracked window panes, barely resembled the once-glorious edifice. All students, upon their return from Christmas break would be bussed to the new-and-improved ‘Central’ across town.
With a shoulder shove and a whoosh, I stepped into the fresh air. The sunshine greeted me warmly, bathing the skin on my arms and face. Things could have turned out badly for me but she knew I’d be O.K.
Marlita’s irrefutably beautiful, broken English, never diminished the clarity of her message. “Jou can do this”, she affirmed.
Perfectly articulated, she accentuated the importance of a lone teenager’s existence and spoke life into a parched soul, “I know jou can”.

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This article has been read 337 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Judith Gayle Smith03/03/13
I am astonished that I'm the first to comment on this most excellent piece! You held my arm as we "little red caboosed" down the hallowed halls. It has been fifty years for me - but you brought it back so vividly. I pray that every lost soul will encounter and be blessed by a Marlita. Thank you for so beautiful a story.

What are you doing in the Beginner's level? You might rethink this.
Judith Gayle Smith03/03/13
I am astonished that I'm the first to comment on this most excellent piece! You held my arm as we "little red caboosed" down the hallowed halls. It has been fifty years for me - but you brought it back so vividly. I pray that every lost soul will encounter and be blessed by a Marlita. Thank you for so beautiful a story.

What are you doing in the Beginner's level? You might rethink this.
harold spillman03/03/13
I echo
harold spillman03/03/13
I echo Judith Gail Smith's message.
You need to move up.
I am a true beginner!! You have graduated.
Your article painted a magnificent word picture that took me back to my old high school as well. I had moments like your picture revealed but not near as horrific.
Very well done.
Harold Spillman
lynn gipson 03/04/13
Definitely need to move a level. This is a really good write! I echo the spaced paragraphs but you really have a talent going for you!
C D Swanson 03/05/13
This was so beautiful, it touched my heart. Thank you so much for sharing this worthy read.

God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/05/13
I so enjoyed this story. The way you arranged your words in the beginning showed the frenzy the MC was feeling. it made me eager to keep reading.

You did have some punctuation issues that are tiny overall, but things you'll want to know for for next story. Try not to overuse ellipses and exclamation points. You have some outstanding verbs and they do your exclaiming for you, so try to save them for dialog. As for the ellipses, use them sparingly and be consistent, you only use three dots, no other punctuation except for sometimes a period. You may want to check out one of my favorite resource Element's of Style by White and Strunk.

Overall, I think you did a fine job with this piece. You had a good beginning and the conflict drew me in. I liked the open ending. I thought for sure the mysterious person would have turned out to have died years before or that she was an angel. That device is overused sometimes so I really liked the ending the way you left it--allowing the reader to fill in the details. I look forward to reading more of your stories. Good job.
Linda Berg 03/06/13
Lots of memories portrayed well and felt by me in the words you used of the old Central High School experience.

Looking foward to seeing more of your writings.