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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Exhale (08/15/13)

TITLE: The Joke's on You


Linda pushes the heavy birch door of Miss Roma’s room. The crack that reveals itself allows a waft of something surprisingly fresh to ease through. Normally Miss Roma’s room has the same putrid smell as the others. Linda raps on the door as she pushes it all the way open and calls out for her elderly friend.

“Miss Roma? It’s me Linda. I’ve come to read to you.”

There is no response as usual so Linda closes the door gently and steps across the room near Miss Roma. Today she is sitting in her favorite wingback chair and looking out the window. Her gray hair is frizzy atop her head and her cheeks are pink. Her gray eyes sit amidst wrinkles earned over her ninety four years. For a brief moment Linda thinks about how beautiful Miss Roma must have been as a young girl back in Mississippi. Her thoughts are detoured when the air conditioner kicks on. A breeze of coolant rushes up her nostrils.

“Miss Roma, are you cold?” Linda asks as she goes to grab a blanket from the bed.

“Shush now before you wake my baby.”

Miss Roma takes hold of Linda’s arm.
Linda looks at the bed and there, wrapped in a blanket is a baby doll. It is the kind that has eyes that close when you lay it down. It looks old and Linda wonders where it came from since she has never seen it in her room before.

Linda does as the doctor suggested and doesn’t feed into Miss Roma’s imagination. Instead she reverts back to her original purpose.

“Miss Roma, I was thinking on the way over here that I could read to you the story of David and Goliath.”

The little old woman chuckles and shakes her head.

“What’s so funny?” Linda asks. She is really perplexed by her friend today.

“Child, get my baby for me. He’s hungry. There’s a bottle on the table.”

Linda gets the doll and one of those bottles that appears empty when you turn it upside down. Miss Roma takes hold of the doll and caresses it just like a real infant. She looks at Linda and lets out a long breath as though she is exasperated.

“Now, have a seat and I’m going to tell you the story of David and Goliath. Oh, and by the way, I don’t need that book either. It’s all up here.” Miss Roma taps her left temple and smiles.

Linda takes a seat in the other wing chair across from Miss Roma and sits mesmerized and she listens to the story. Miss Roma doesn’t miss a beat as she speaks. Her story is lively and full of excitement. She even did impersonations of what David or Goliath might sound like when they spoke. As Linda watches Miss Roma, she realizes that this must have been how she was when she was younger. She obviously loved children because she had five but has outlived them all. She was a teacher and Linda reckons she was a great one.

“When that big man fell to the ground, his last breath took him right to hell.” Miss Roma smiles as she looks at her doll and straightens its blanket.

“That was a wonderful story Miss Roma! You really are something today. Would you like anything to drink or a snack? I can go get us some orange juice and sugar cookies from the cafeteria.”

Miss Roma just shakes her head no and looks at Linda. This time her smile is a little softer.

“Are you alright, Miss Roma?”

“Oh, I’m fine. I’m just getting ready to go.” Miss Roma seems confident in her words as she looks out the window. Soon her eyes close and Miss Roma lets out a breath. Her body is relaxed and perfectly still.

Linda looks at her scared. “Miss Roma? Miss Roma?”

Miss Roma snaps her eyes open and grins. “Ha! You thought I died, didn’t you?”

“Well, you said you were getting ready to go and then you shut your eyes and let out a breath. Yeah, I thought you died. That wasn’t funny, Miss Roma.”

“I just need to go to the bathroom. Lay my baby down and help me up.” Miss Roma’s laughter fills the room and Linda laughs along with her knowing that eventually when this old woman draws her last breath, it will take her straight to heaven.

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This article has been read 312 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 08/22/13
This is altogether lovely--full of authentic details, realistic dialog, and good characterization.

My only critique would be the ending, but that's truly an opinion, not something that you did 'wrong.' I just would have loved it if she'd actually taken that last breath on earth and first breath in heaven. Felt a bit of a letdown when she didn't.

Very nice story--the present tense works well. I don't expect that you'll be in Level 1 for long.
C D Swanson 08/22/13
Awww. I loved this entire piece. I thought it was such a well thought out story. The ending made me smile wide. Loved it!

God bless~
Betty Overstreet08/22/13
loved your story! My husband and I sing at Care homes and often see one or more ladies cuddling their "baby" dolls. there is no doubt they believe it is a real baby.
Jodi Gardner08/26/13
At first when I read the ending, I was almost disappointed. When Miss Roma appeared to take her last breath part of me thought, really that is so predictable and part thought that is so beautiful. Then to see the old girl still had that youthful spunk that you had painted earlier in the story, was wonderful. Brought the character even more to life. I worked in a nursing home and spent far too much time with Grandma there, this was a nice new memory to replace so many hard ones.
Judith Gayle Smith08/28/13
So very delightful!
C D Swanson 08/29/13
Congrats! God bless~
PamFord Davis 08/29/13

Wing His Words