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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Ding-Dong (05/16/13)

TITLE: Night Rhythms


Linda rolled over as Dennis was sitting up. The mattress springs had given her fair warning that their nightly routine was about to begin. She rubbed his back and straightened out his pajama shirt. Dennis’s brown hair was flattened out at the crown so Linda reached up to smooth it.

“Honey, do you want me to go with you?” Linda’s tone was loving but tired.

He shook his head and stood up. A minute had ticked by on the digital alarm next to the bed as Dennis stood facing the closet. With a sluggish step, he walked toward the bedroom door and put his hand on the knob.

“Do you want anything while I’m out?” Dennis asked Linda. His voice was monotone as he grabbed the door knob to turn it and walk out.

“No thank you, Honey.” Linda watched him walk out the bedroom and down the hall. Soon she could hear the kitchen door shut and the car start.

Quickly she put on her slippers and headed to the kitchen to start breakfast. Dennis would be back in twenty three minutes. As she poured herself a cup of fresh coffee, she glanced at the clock. It was 2:39 a.m. She dialed the phone to call the convenience store and leaned against the refrigerator.

“Hi Bill. It’s Linda. He’s on his way.”

“No problem, Linda. I’ll have everything ready.”

“Thanks, Bill. I really appreciate you. Tell Margo I said hello.”

Soon the kitchen smelled of pancakes and sausage. It was soon 2:55 a.m.

Linda pulled out a chair and looked the table. Her head hung low as she prayed, “Dear Lord. It’s me Linda again. I know I come to you each night with this prayer and I am sorry if I pester you about it but please let this end soon. Please give us some peace. Amen.”

Moments later, she heard the car pull up and the door shut. Dennis walked in with milk in hand and sat it on the counter. He looked at Linda as the bells at Holy Spirit Church chimed three times.

Linda knew this morning would be no different than any other so she stood up and walked over to the cabinet. She grabbed the blue sippy cup and poured the milk.

By 3:05 a.m., Dennis was back in bed. She poured out the milk and wrapped up the pancakes and sausage to use tomorrow night. As usual she recapped the events that led them to this routine each night. Her heart broke again with each thought.

It was three years ago when their son, Mack woke up in the middle of the night. He was only two years old at the time and threw a tantrum wanting a cup of milk. Linda had run out earlier in the night and was about to go to the store to get some when Dennis stopped her.

“It can wait until in the morning. He’s asleep now anyway.” Dennis told her as she was grabbing her purse to go to the store.

So, she stopped and went to sleep. Dennis felt bad about it though when Mack woke up that morning so he decided to go to the convenience store down the street to get some.

“I go, Daddy.” Mack yelled out to Dennis as he was leaving.

“Go ahead and take him with you. Maybe he will go back to sleep on the way back.”

Dennis and Mack had gone to the store for milk that night but only Dennis returned. A drunk driver had rammed the side of the car and killed Mack instantly. Dennis walked way unharmed. Back home, Linda had decided to cook breakfast to ease her fears as the minutes ticked by. It was 3:00 a.m. when the police finally came to her door to tell her of the tragedy. Now, Dennis relives the event night after night.

As Linda wipes the tears from her eyes, she speaks to the Lord again, “Dear Lord, take this from us and tell our baby that Mommy and Daddy love him and miss him very much.”

Linda will listen to the dings and dongs of the church bells at least twice again before she closes her eyes to sleep. She will hear the soft sobs in the bed next to her with each toll it makes. This is the rhythm of her night.

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This article has been read 318 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/24/13
Wow this did not take me where I expected it to and that's a great thing. You had me in suspense and my mind racing to all different scenarios. You did a great job of building the characters and story in so few words.

I noticed some tiny punctuation errors like not having a comma before the word but. You may want to check out a great reference book called Elements of Style by Strunk and White. There is also a website that I use quite often that is helpful: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm
I also noticed you switched from the past tense to the present near the end of the story. try to stay consistent with the tense. Though I find it difficult to write in the present tense, this story would have done well in that tense(except for her remembering of course which would still be in the past)

You really did a wonderful job of this. I could feel the grief emanating from the page and my heart hurt right along with the MC's. You covered the topic too with the Church bells being a grim reminder instead of a comfort. (Do Church bells ring at night usually? It really doesn't matter but was just a fleeting thought. You have literary license to make them ring and I suspect in some towns they might.) Again you did a fantastic job with this story from beginning to end. Many writers have difficulties with coming up with a good ending with such a word limit, but you handled it quite well.
Vince Martella05/27/13
So sad, but so well written. You did a good job keeping me in suspense, wondering what was going on. Not every writer can do that well. Definitely didn't see where this was going. Well done. This should place well.
C D Swanson 05/27/13
Good writing, powerful ending. I didn't understand at first, the "usual routine" - then re-read it to see. It made my heart so sad, I felt the anguish and pain, it jumped off the page. Great job with this sobering piece!

God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/30/13
Congratulations for ranking 7th in your level! (The highest rankings can be found on the message boards)