Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: White (10/29/09)
He had looked so small, in the corner of her living room. The best word she could think of to describe him was ‘dingy’. He was 8 years old and dressed in a grungy, oversized T-shirt, his emaciated little arms hanging from the giant sleeves. The boy’s name was Dylan. For a brief moment, that cold November day, she had almost panicked. What had she done? How could she raise this lost waif alone? Taking a deep breath, she kneeled to look him in the eyes. She was taken back by how dull and lifeless they were. Even the whites of his eyes were a dull gray. “Dylan,” she said slowly, “this is your home now. Let me show you around.”
Dylan had never seemed quite at home; he was always checking over his shoulder, as if he was being followed by some ghost of his past. She took him to church and to school, made his lunches and walked through every emotional trauma with him. He was moody; some days, he was despondent, others he was angry and chaotic. She remembered those years as a long, dark shadow. The kind she never wanted to walk through again.
Carolyn shivered as the wind blew through her hair. “Look at me,” she thought, “lost in memories. Can’t even be present in the moment.” Her wool overcoat was not quite adequate for the chill. She thought she could smell turkey and cranberries wafting toward her from far away.
Thanksgiving of Dylan’s senior year of high school was emblazoned in Carolyn’s memory. She had been on her knees for most of his high school career. On her worst nights, she would lock her door, get on her knees and cry out to the Lord. Every time she closed her eyes she could see Dylan’s. The whites were still gray, like the life had drained from his body. “Lord,” she would cry, “how broken is too broken? You can fix anything. Please fix my boy.”
That Thanksgiving night, over ham and sweet potatoes, Dylan had teared up. His voice sounded husky as he met her eyes and said, “Carolyn, you said Jesus could help me. Can he help me now?” They had kneeled together next to the dining room table and prayed. Dylan poured out his sins, his pains and his hopes to Jesus as Carolyn gave thanks. As they sat and ate their cold ham, Carolyn could only stare at Dylan’s eyes. They were inexplicably beautiful and full of life. The soft blue was contrasted by bright white. He was alive. Dylan left with the Marines that spring. Carolyn had watched him walk toward the plane, feeling that some part of her heart had left with him.
The slow, sticky sound of taps playing on a trumpet 20 feet away startled Carolyn out of her reverie. She watched as a young marine walked slowly toward her with a carefully folded flag. On top of the flag was a thin, black Bible.
“Ma’am. This here was your son’s Bible. He asked me to give it to you, should it come to this. Dylan was a fine man. We served in the desert together the last two years. Ma’am, he asked me to tell you the names written there – they’s the names of men he introduced to Jesus. The crosses next to the names, well, Ma’am, those are the names of men that have met their Maker. You’ll find my name in there – Bobby Slater. He told me I have you to thank for that.” Bobby turned on his heel and walked stiffly away.
Carolyn stood for a long time in the brisk wind and stared at the Bible. After what could have been hours, she opened the well worn cover. In neat rows, the names of men lined the front pages. There were little crosses meticulously placed in front of many of the names. Carolyn flipped the pages until she reached the back. There were more names, more crosses and her little man’s picture was taped to the cover. There was Dylan, the whites of his eyes blazing, a giant smile, his arms lifted to heaven. Carolyn turned her face upward and lifted her arms as the tears coursed down her cheeks.
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