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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)

TITLE: What Matters Most
By Jeff Horstman


The soft rumpling sound of old faded blue overalls, with there folds rolling over each other, was barely audible as metallic keys of varying shapes and sizes clanged and sang in cadence with the plodding steps of Miles making his way through the old hallways of the school. Just another day of cleaning and fixing. Long minutes mending the mistakes of others and prolonging the life of a building that should have been retired years ago.
Miles always smiled to himself when he thought of that. Retired? What did that mean? This had been his school as a boy, his life as an adult, and his pride and joy. Nothing missed his eye as he walked through the hallways. A ceiling tile lifted out of its frame, the scraps of paper left from a hastily torn paper ripped out of a spiral notebook, a child’s mitten, fallen unseen by all but Miles eye, behind the bench in the front hallway. The tiles that made up the floor may be a bit yellowed at the edges but they shined with fresh wax. This was his service. This was his legacy.
Today Miles was making his way to the chapel in the south east corner of the building. As he drew close to the doors he reached for the keys at his belt, slowly changing their sound , and quickly found the one that fit this particular door. Time trained hands and fingers knew exactly which key to grab as they moved methodically, almost mechanically, through the bundle of rings, lined with key after key, and pulled out just the right one.
Miles chuckled to himself as he recited his favorite bit of wisdom. “When we get to heaven there will be no more need for keys.”
The metallic pitch of the clanging keys was replaced by the smooth sound of a well greased lock as it turned and delivered its tell tale ‘chuck’ sound letting Miles know the door was freed and ready to open. This was Mile’s entrance to the chapel. A time saver for him.
When he opened the door the sound of hundreds of children’s voices filled the air, with the kind of energy only young children can generate, causing Miles to tug on his keys for a different reason. He had always enjoyed the children he worked around all of these years and yet when a person has to spend his time thinking about the well being of an inanimate object for most of his waking hours, the animate objects in ones life can be a bit intimidating. Especially when they come in large doses.
Today was different than just about any other day Miles could think of as he nervously found a place to stand behind the thick curtain, to the side of the stage, where he could peek out and see everyone without being seen himself. The leathery skin on his hands ran downward on the folds of the age worn jeans, as if to press them for some special occasion. Unconscious of his actions Miles raised his right hand to fix the lay of the few gray wisps of hair he still had on his head. He was so deep in his thoughts he almost missed the announcement from the platform.
“And now”, he heard a woman’s voice say, “please make welcome our very own, Mr. Miles.”
As the applause and whistles filled the air Miles slowly made his way to take his place behind a wooden podium. Noticing a bulb that was burnt out he could feel the warmth of the stage lights as they illuminated his face, a face left hardened by years and aged by sweat and grease.
“Today,” the woman’s voice continued, “Mr. Miles is going to share a little bit about what this school means to him.” At this the woman stepped to the side of the stage and left Miles by himself washed in the unnatural illumination of the stage.
With his brow furrowed into deep creases he appeared to think deeply. Puposely he raised his head to look directly into the faces of the audience as he began to speak, slowly at first, saying; “what does this school mean to me?”
Like a small child his head dropped and his mouth softened into a broad, open, smile as Miles sighed a deep, contented sigh.

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This article has been read 353 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jeanne E Webster 05/04/09
This is the beginning of a delightful story! Great detail and sentiment. And the rest of the story is...?!

Your writing style easily moves one into your story. Touch up the punctuation and spacing of paragraphs for a more polished appearance.

I really am waiting for the rest of the story!
Dee Yoder 05/05/09
Lovely to read! I like Miles very much--there are so many hardworking men and women who are like this character.