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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Exotic (08/08/13)

TITLE: Far Side of the Hill
By Mike Newman


    New beginnings are everywhere, deftly-swift fingers working against the ties that bind. The road is open, and it is the doorway to Georgia red clay, Shakespeare in a Seattle park, Alberta skies cut by erupting stony spires. Everything possible and nothing tainted by experience. He needs to be chasing this. He wants the other, to taste and see if it is good. The familiar is well-worn and tired, and he has to move on.

Grace is strong, striking, and safe. She does not need him, adding to the allure. Her beauty is quiet, unknown to her, detached. Her embrace is ever there, comforting.

Given the road or the girl, he takes the road.

    Fifteen months chasing and he has yet to catch fulfillment. Who knew it could be so elusive, slippery. A moss-slimy rock that after cuffing his jeans and wading in, does not yield itself a foothold. Every stop strange and new, whispering adventure into his eager ear, but it is the same empty promise his runaway dad was always so quick to offer up. This time it will be different, this time it will last.

Empty and lonely, with only the three folded twenties in the front pocket of his unwashed jeans to accompany him, he boards the bus back to Grace.

    The road is uneven and in transition, in that odd preparatory state that road crews tend to leave it in for months at a time before they finally spend the half-day it takes to pave. As the bus dips through the rhythmic rough spots the passengers onboard bob their heads in unison. Thirty-one silent affirmations to an unvoiced question. With all of this free assent to be had, he wants to slip in some questions of his own.

I had every right to go looking for something more ... didn't I?


I only did what every man needs to do. Sow some oats, dip my finger into a few different pots, take life on my own terms. Is that not the rite of passage?


The new has betrayed me, the exotic is only the mundane lived out on the far side of the hill. The grass is no greener, only distant and illusory. Don't all fall prey to that shadow?


Will Grace understand, will she be there?

The answer I am after is not forthcoming. The bus has moved back onto even ground.

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This article has been read 337 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Larry Whittington08/15/13
This seemed difficult for me to read. I couldn't put it together.

This just may not be a style of writing that I can follow the thoughts on. Sorry.
lynn gipson 08/16/13
I understood where you were coming from. A man leaves his love searching for something he feels is missing inside himself
He thinks there is something exotic and exciting out there somewhere.
This is well written with descriptive phrases and a strong message. Thanks for sharing.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/16/13
This is a powerful, poetic piece. It reads more like a poem than a short story and I think that might be why some people didn't get it.

You may want to add more details to your character to help the reader relate a bit more. Even as something simple as a name may help.

The judges obviously got it though, so congratulations on that. We all have to choose between two roads and the depth of your piece speaks volumes about you and your style. This is one of those stories that gets stronger with each reading.

It also has different messages for different people and that takes a lot of talent. I hope you keep writing, and the next entry, you may want to throw a brick to get more feedback. This is a thread in the message boards where once the judging is complete, Deb gives an all clear and then people leave links to their stories and asked for more feedback.

Also, on the message board, one of the Master writers has a thread called Jan's Writing Basics. It is full of useful tidbits for all levels of writers. You're off to a great start! I hope to keep reading more of your work! Again, congratulations on the first place win in level one!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/16/13
I'm so sorry. I've been in the hospital and my brain has been readjusting. I really thought that I was reading last weeks entries and must have clicked on the wrong link and didn't realize it. I have no idea how this will do with the judges and am not a judge. I don't want you to think I have inside information, I must have had multiple windows opened. I did read the piece and meant everything I said except about it winning in level one. It may do quite well with the judges though, I just don't know. Again I'm sorry for the confusion. I'm still not sure what I did, but it is a deep piece. I can see the MC chasing after the exotic road while all along, it lay in Grace. This is a beautiful allegory.
Noel Mitaxa 08/16/13
Clever allegory here, though your first paragraph needs to break as you introduce your MC. This would have made it easier to follow right off the bat.
Great pictures and inner profiling.
Lillian Rhoades 08/16/13
This is a very clever, creative piece, and the title is quite fitting. As I interpret the message, the MC is a prodigal lover, who after searching for the exotic (new beginnings)on the far side of hill, finds nothing but disillusionment; and returns to his former love.

Although I think the "exotic" aspect could be stronger, there's great writing here.
Rachel Malcolm 08/16/13
There are some incredibly powerful lines in your entry. "Everything possible and nothing tainted by experience" really grabbed me on the second reading. I love the bus scene on the rough road. The mood really fit your theme.
Judith Gayle Smith08/19/13
Remember the song "The Wayward Wind?" The lyrics are, roughly in my memory, "Oh the wayward wind is a restless wind, a restless wind that yearns to wander; and he was born, the next of kin - the next of kin to the wayward wind." You must Google the rest of this haunting song that makes me think of my earthly father.

Your prose whisked me away to "a lonely shack on a railroad track he spent his younger days, and I guess the sound of the outward bound made him a slave to his wandering ways."

This is so well written and made me want to hug both your MC and his faithful Grace.
C D Swanson 08/19/13
This piece is thought provoking and could have been a scene from a drama on broadway. Nicely done.
God bless~
Brenda Rice 08/21/13
Wow! Powerful, descriptive, alluring and hopefully, a happy ending.

Need I say more? I like your entry very much.
lynn gipson 08/22/13
I knew this was gonna do well! Congrats on your placement and that ever elusive EC! Very well done, my friend. Excellent.
C D Swanson 08/22/13
Congrats! God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/22/13
I guess I'm more intuitive than I thought! :) Granted it didn't place 1st in level one, but it received an EC which is even better! Happy Dance!!!
Linda Goergen08/22/13
Congratulations Mike on your EC win! This story was such powerful, wonderfully written allegory, so deserving of the win!
Bea Edwards 08/24/13
Very deep and unique allegory with undertones of the Prodigal. You couldn't have picked a more perfect name for who/what he left behind.
I enjoyed how it made me ponder and re read to catch your message.
Congrats on your win.