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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hide and Seek (08/07/08)

TITLE: Bottom of the Barrel
By Anita van der Elst


The farm offers many niches and hidey-holes but little Mamie never hides well enough to avoid being found first. Byron, standing between house and barn, is “It”. He covers his eyes and counts. The children scatter; they have until he reaches 100 to hide.

Mamie slips into the cavernous old hay barn. Dust dances in streams of morning sunlight; roof repairs are not a priority. “Should I hide in the haystacks, where I hid last time? No, too easy to be found!”

Big brother, Del, emerges from shadows. “You’d better find a hiding place quick,” he urges, “or Byron’ll find you first!” He heads out into the sunlight.

Mamie lets her eyes rove, hoping for inspiration. Her eyes pop wide. “The grain barrel! I’ll bet it’s empty,” she thinks, investigating. The barrel edge is at a level with her eyes and her suspicion is confirmed.

Delight becomes disappointment as she realizes she’s not strong enough to hoist herself up and over into the barrel. A wooden apple crate leans up against the barn wall. A new “light bulb” flashes. Mamie pushes the box next to the barrel, climbs on it, rests her tummy on the barrel edge, flings her legs over and drops down out of sight. Brushing a few stray grain kernels aside so they won’t crunch underneath her, she settles down on her bottom.

Mamie contemplates the rafters high above. Cooing comes from pigeons roosting in one corner. From the pens on the other side of the haystacks, munching, as the calves enjoy their day’s hay ration. A pleasant private place is this barrel. “No one teasing me or telling me to do chores,” she thinks. “The best hidey-hole ever!”

Distant laughter floats on a lazy summer breeze. Byron has found the first hider. “Sounds like Jerry,” Mamie chuckles inside. “He’ll never find me!” One by one the others are found, Beverly, Sophia, Tony, Birdie. Even Del, Mamie realizes in astonishment! Del always finds the best hiding places and is always the last one found!

Mamie waits…and waits…and waits. The children’s chatter fades. Her tummy growls—breakfast was a long time ago. “Why hasn’t Byron come to find me?” Shadows lengthen; Mamie knows she is forgotten.

Her dilemma rushes in on her. “How am I going to get out of this barrel?” There is no handy apple crate inside with her.

“Oh, why did I ever think this was a good idea? And why did everyone go off and leave me? But that’s just it—they don’t know I’m here! What if no one ever finds me? I’ll probably die here and nobody will even care.” Despair threatens, self-pity reigns, tears fall. Now she doesn’t mind if she’s heard and she gives way to heart-rending sobs. The only answer given is a low “moo-o-o”.

Mamie catches her breath, hiccups. “It’s my own fault. I didn’t think this plan through. Even if I am only eight years old, I know enough to make better plans. I was just so excited about finally being better than everyone else that I didn’t really think.”

Mamie bows her head, “Dear Jesus, I’m sorry that I thought I could be better than everyone else. Next time I’ll just be glad that I have my brothers and sister and friends to play with. Please send someone to find me. Thank you. Amen.”

Mamie stands up, eyes peeping expectantly. The only creature to meet her gaze is the gray striped barn cat, staring back unblinking, tail switching.

Mamie tires of the useless waiting.

She yells repeatedly, “Help! Anybody? I’m stuck in the grain barrel! PLEASE SOMEBODY, COME GET ME!” Again sobs overtake her. Weary from emotion, she sinks into a heap and cries herself to sleep.

“Mamie, where are you? Are you lost?” Del’s voice intrudes into Mamie’s slumber. “Mamie! Answer me!”

“Here I am!” Mamie brushes fresh tears, grain dust and damp tendrils of long hair from her cheeks. Will turns and grins.

“There you are, you silly! We wondered where you wandered off to.”

Weeping turns to laughter. “I guess I did find the best hiding place, didn’t I?”

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This article has been read 1103 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Patrick Whalen08/14/08
A great story! The imagery and descriptions made me feel like I was there. And the emotions, I truly felt her pride, curiousness, apprehension and fear.
Beckie Stewart08/14/08
This was a well-written story and I could feel all the emotion with it.
Lisa Keck08/14/08
I really liked this piece and was trully worried Mamie would get crushed by grain. That goes to show it's good story telling because I'm pretty sure I know the MC is okay.
Lois Hudson08/15/08
Well done. Lots of good visuals and sensations - sight, sound, - the dust motes, the kids chatter, the internal anxiety.
I could even smell the earthy, grainy, animal smell of the barn. A great impression of childhood's summer on the farm.
(Clerical detail: are Del and Will meant to be the same character?)
Arlene Showalter08/18/08
Great story...loved the "hidey-hole." Never heard that one before.

Great imagery. Great development of the child's thinking and various emotions, fear, smugness, pride of accomplishment, repentence...um...back to fear (!) and then joy at being rescued.

The story took me back 40 some years when we used to play hide-and-seek upstairs in the dark. I wedged myself between the mattress and box springs and had a similar experience...nobody could find me and eventually I was left alone to consider suffocation! I crawled out after everyone went downstairs and never did reveal my hiding spot (never repeated it either!)
Judith Gayle Smith08/19/08
This makes me want to read all the other articles you ever write! What a deliciously frightening experience! I was hiding in that barrell with her! Thank you for the emotional barrage!
Patty Wysong08/19/08
Nice descriptions and attention to detail.
Lisa Keck08/21/08
Congratulations on making the top 15!
Jan Ackerson 08/24/08
Anita, welcome to the 500! I'm going to feature this nostalgic story on the Front Page Showcase for the week of September 29. Look for it on the FW Home page, and congratulations!
Marijo Phelps09/29/08
Great descriptions that took us there! And the lesson and the angst - your reader (me) could feel that too. Great piece.
Charla Diehl 09/30/08
Great story packed with vivid imagery. Why are you in level 2? Held my interest and concern for the MC all the way through. Glad this was featured as I hadn't read it before. Took me back lots of years as I grew up in farm country in the midwest. Thanks for this sweet story of a time when siblings actually were our playmates and friends.