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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Book Store/Library (06/03/10)

TITLE: A Story about Grace
By Theresa Santy


Grace was tired. Five long hours remained until closing, and she wondered where her passion had gone. Years of hard work had passed and her library—the first one in her small town—was a reality. Grace’s dream had become her life, and yet she was unsettled.

Little Nancy peered over the counter with her gigantic eyes and she plopped down her returned book.

“Charlotte’s Web,” said Grace with rising inflection. “What did you think of it?”

“I liked it, but it made me cry,” said Nancy. “I’d like another book please, one about the President.”

Grace took Nancy’s hand and led her to the reference section. She ran her fingers along a stunning maple wood bookcase, hand built and donated by the Heckman family. “Here it is—The World Book. You can’t check this one out, but you can read it here and take notes. Now let’s find the section on Eisenhower.”

An overpowering scent filled the room and Grace thought she might have left the percolator running again, but she had not. A commotion erupted from behind another rack of books. Robert and James came running out. The boys were dirty and unaccompanied as usual. But as always, Grace was glad they had visited.

“Sorry Miss Grace,” they said together. “We didn’t mean it.”

“It was his fault,” they said blaming each other. “No it wasn’t!”

“Stop,” said Grace. “What happened?”

The boys pointed toward the back of the room.

Miss Frances—an elderly woman who often came to read—looked in the same direction and calmly said to a group of children, “Get up quickly; we need to leave.”

Grace ran toward the disruption. The flames were small but hungry, and they licked their way through books and up the wall. It’s growing too fast, thought Grace.

She cried out to her assistant, piercing through the whirring sounds of panic and confusion, “Carol, run to the bakery and call the fire department!”

Swooping from one aisle to the next, Grace cleared the library of people. She ignored the smell of literature disintegrating into clouds of smoke. She disregarded the sight of a globe melting upon a crumbling stand. Time was limited.

Soon, half the library was ablaze. The air became thick and hot while Grace’s lungs filled with cotton. She dropped to her hands and knees and traveled in the less-polluted air. A light squeal came from the side room, the private room where Miss Lillian tutored people who have difficulty learning to read.

Miss Lillian was lying on the floor, gasping, and wondering why she had bothered to quit smoking. Ricky, an orthopedically impaired boy, was next to her. He was trying to shout but—as Miss Lillian had repeatedly instructed him—he needed to get quiet to speak clearly, because his larynx liked to hide.

Grace thought if she draped Miss Lillian over Ricky’s wheelchair, she could get them out safely. But smoke and flames had nearly reached the side room and there was no clear path. Grace shut the door to block the flames.

“Don’t worry Ricky,” she said. “We are going to get through this.”

She grabbed a chair and swung at the window. It shattered beautifully. With an impassioned roar, Grace screamed for help. Ricky also called out and Grace was overcome by the valiant and nearly inaudible sound of his voice.

Carol heard the cries, and with the aid of others Miss Lillian and Ricky were assisted through the opening. Grace crawled out last.

The emergency team arrived and whisked away Miss Lillian, who was diagnosed as stable. The crowd lingered and stared in disbelief at the fiery blaze previously known as Grace Library.

“My books,” Grace said quietly, almost to herself. “They’re all gone.”

“Not this one,” said Ricky.

With his less-crooked hand, Ricky held up a book to show Grace.

He was holding a child’s book of The Lord’s Prayer.

“You’ve been holding on to this the whole time?” Grace asked, amazed.

Ricky responded with a wide, adorable grin. Mr. Heckman placed his hand upon Grace’s shoulder, “We’ll built it again Grace,” he said.

Grace thought about the first time. She had never received government funds. The library was built and managed entirely from community support. Grace smiled the kind of knowing smile of a person humbled.

“Shall we read your book, Ricky?” she asked.

As they read, Mr. Heckman, Nancy, and others joined in.

"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…

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This article has been read 683 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sarah Heywood06/10/10
Oh, I liked this! I especially liked the flash of humor where Miss Lillian wonders why she bothered to quit smoking when surrounded by the smoke from the fire. Good writing!
Timothy Klingerman06/10/10
I liked your story. It is interesting how people always embrace faith in tragedy. However, you make it clear that this community of people has been faithful through good times and bad. That is a nice message and well expressed.
Seema Bagai 06/11/10
A good story. I also liked the double meaning in the title.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/15/10
This is wonderful. I love the title such a perfect fit. I found myself holding my breath, afraid that Miss Grace had overlooked someone. The book in Ricky's hand says it all.
Kate Oliver Webb 06/15/10
Very well done! When I can read a story and smell the smoke, see the commotion, feel the fresh air coming in the broken window--you've done a great job. Caught my attention and held it all the way through. Good messages and uplifting ending.
Susan Montaperto06/16/10
Thank you for a wonderful story. I enjoyed the characters and the wry comments. I loved the ending, with the surviving book being a child's book about the Lord's Prayer. Keep writing.
Amanda Brogan06/17/10
Great story! I liked the transition from quiet, uneventful library life to a life or death dilemma.

Great ending with them reading a book on the Lord's prayer -- it rounded out the story beautifully, showing the characters that there was still hope in Christ.
Amanda Brogan06/17/10
Oh yeah, almost forgot while commenting ... congrats on your First Place win! :D
The Masked Truelovers07/17/10
well-written story. creative descriptions - like the fire getting hungry. good characters. Inspiring ending. Congratulations on your win.