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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)

TITLE: Richter Scales and Responsibilities
By Steve Uppendahl
08/15/06


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From my window seat on the city bus I keep my eyes unfocused as the world passes by formless and soundless. After my third DUI and my driver’s license suspension nine months ago, I’ve decided to travel by public transportation. Once you learn how to block out the distractions of bus travel, it’s actually quite an introspective experience. For instance, I’ve discovered something recently; I’m no longer the person I thought I was or would be.

Katie, my last girlfriend and supposed soul mate, changed everything. Of course, God has a hand in this mess as well. After all, she’s His creation right? There are many imperfect creations in this world, yours truly among them. I don’t want perfection. I want decency, respect, and honesty. Unfortunately, Katie gave me none of those things. So, why am I so depressed? Why do I miss her so much? These aren’t rhetorical questions, by the way. Just yell out any answers you’ve got. I’m not picky.

As I step onto Rosen Avenue and wait for the signal to change, I look across the three lanes of traffic to St. Michael’s Catholic Church. When was I last in there? I can’t remember.

An odd feeling hits me in the gut, a nudge perhaps, as if Someone’s trying to get my attention. I try to ignore Him. Maybe He’ll go away. It happens again. This time the rhythmic sound of cars cruising across the wet pavement does the trick. I sit down on the bus bench and sink fully into it. Another battle lost.



“Do you ever wonder what it’d be like if we could have a Richter Scale attached to our hip?”

Joey, my little brother, and his wife Shelly both narrow their eyes and then look at each other. Shelly turns away and refocuses her attention to the two pounds of ground beef hissing on the stove and calls for their son.

“Uh, no Carey, I can’t say that I have. Why would I?”

I ignore his hostile tone and explain,

“I just think it’d be interesting to see the readout of my life. I could tell exactly when my life had its peaks and valleys. It’d just be helpful, because I can’t remember the last good thing that happened to me.”

“Oh for the love of-“ Joey slams both palms into his forehead, waits a moment, and slowly runs both hands slowly through his prematurely greying hair.

“For God’s sake, Carey, it’s been over a year. Get over it. Move on. Katie’s engaged and you’re still living in our basement. Get a job, get a life, and get happy. Or I’ll kick your teeth in.”

“Dinner’s ready,” sing-songs Shelly, pretending to be oblivious to our conversation. Maybe she is, Joey and I have similar deep discussions about twice a day.

It’s been several hours since dinner and I’m in my customary cave of self-pity. Most of my time is spent in front of the computer spending hours zig-zagging between various sports chat rooms, all the while fighting the urge to return the other more sordid websites.

A knock at the door saves me, temporarily, from giving in. Curious, I slowly rise and unlock the door. I can’t remember the last time someone actually came down to this room. Everyone just uses the intercom.

Shelly in her faded pink terry cloth robe.

Whispering, “Sorry to bother you Carey. I just wanted to talk with you.”

“Uh, sure, come in.”

Shelly walks in pulling her already tied robe closer to her.

Again whispering, “You remind me so much of my dad.”

Shocked, “Wow. I’m sorry.”

Stronger now, “You should be, Carey. You and my dad were once good, strong, Godly men. You both had someone close to you hurt you and then leave. And both of you left as well. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally and that’s worse.

“There are people who depend on you, Carey. Your brother for one, our son, your Godson, for another. You haven’t forgotten that have you? You and Joey are the only men our son has to look up to. You’re both here. Joey’s doing his job.”

She walks over and lifts my head up with both hands and stares directly into my eyes.

“Now, you do yours.”



A car horn wakes me up. I shake my head and try to loosen the fog surrounding me. I cinch the belt of my trenchcoat tighter and decide to forget the damn light.

“All right, Lord. I’m coming.”


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This article has been read 697 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 08/20/06
Love the conversational tone at the beginning of this! This is very well written over all, and a wonderful message for those of us stuck in a valley of any kind. Thanks!!
Allison Egley 08/23/06
The title drew me in. I loved the contrast between the two reactions to Carey. They both had the same sentiments, but the delivery was entirely different. A nice reminder on how to approach people like Carey.
Edy T Johnson 08/24/06
Once again, your writing takes this reader captive. You sure know how to put us into another world, eager to get acquainted with your characters and understand the conflict. Thank you for an interesting side road off my path, today!