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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Time-consuming (02/24/11)

TITLE: Sleeping Sarah
By sandra hoolihan


The idling car hummed quietly then switched off with a click as Grace cut the ignition with a turn of her wrist. She was calculating the amount of postage she would need to send her parcels, but the heat made her lazy so she gave up and simply tucked a twenty dollar bill into her pocket. As she opened the hatchback and loaded her arms with the packages, she breathed in the blanket of humidity. From the back of the car, she could see the top of her infant daughter’s wispy blond hair as she slept soundly in her car seat. Grace hated to wake little Sarah for an errand that would take just a few minutes. Instead, she gently closed the door leaving Sarah to sleep in the car under the shade of a grand oak tree.

The postoffice line rarely had a wait so it was surprising to see a line on a Wednesday afternoon. Mrs. Hawthorn was at the counter ordering stamps as her twin girls teased each other and used their mother’s legs as a barrier from one another’s taunting much to the dismay of the postmistress. Her tightlipped smile was frozen to her face as she held up the stamp book options for Mrs. Hawthorn who, used to the constant buzz of her own children, took her time to decide.

“Where is little Sarah?” a voice behind Grace inquired. It was her neighbor Mr. Dempsy.

“Oh -,” Grace said caught off guard, not sure of what to say. “She is with a friend.” she lied then reflected on her response. A wave of paranoia washed over her as she glanced at her watch and thought about Sarah slumbering in the car. Only four minutes had passed and she was next in line so she cast aside her doubt.

“It must be nice to run your errands alone.” he said kindly as he glanced over to the twins now trying to see who could whine the loudest.

“Yes.” she answered in a tone more curt than she intended. Mr. Dempsy’s comments seemed to have an effect on her. The doubt resurged as she watched another customer walk in the door with a fresh line of sweat along her brow. Grace felt short of breath. The clock on the wall ticked like a metronome and seemed to be getting increasingly louder.

“Next!” the postmistress called out.

“No insurance, first class to New York City.” Grace said impatiently. Her chest was starting to heave with each breath, but she made every attempt to seem in control. The thin red line of the post office thermometer seemed to be growing endlessly. Grace stared past the postmistress at the black and white clock on the back wall and felt it stare back at her with a cold look of judgement.

The phone rang. Please don’t pick it up, she silently begged as the postmistress unconsciously reached for the handset and took the call. The question was a complicated one and pulled her away from the desk for 40, now 50 seconds. Each second compounded Grace’s agitation.

By the time the postmistress returned to her desk, Grace now displayed a wild eyed savage look. “Please, I am in a hurry.” she said not caring that her sudden desperation made her appear unstable. Then, without explanation, she tossed the twenty dollar bill onto the counter and ran through the door almost knocking down a gentleman attempting to hold the door open for her. She careened around the door picking up speed as she ran toward her car. Please God, Please God, Please God she begged with each stride bringing her closer to the car. The sun was beating down on her and the humidity gave her the feeling of running through wet blankets hung on a summer line.

At the car she fumbled for her keys while banging on the window. “Sarah! Wake up!” she demanded pounding on the window while noticing the infant was unresponsive. Grace started the ignition and blasted the air conditioning, but even as she drove out of the lot headed for the hospital, Sarah’s eyes remained closed and her cheeks cherry red. As the car sped by the post office, Grace could see Mr. Dempsy standing on the sidewalk calling out to her while waiving her change into the air.

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This article has been read 244 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Robert Johnson03/03/11
Wow, that was intense! You grabbed my heart write out of the gate and took it on a wild ride. Very scary and I must admit it was a little uncomfortable reading that one because you did such an excellent job of conveying the person's growing anxiety. I'm all about happy endings though and it was hard to read at the end because there was no resolution.
Leola Ogle 03/03/11
Wow! Very well written but a tough read for me. I live in HOT Phoenix, AZ and we have a baby/child or two every summer that dies from being left in a car. It is a very real situation here. You did an excellent job of conveying the mother's assumption that only a few minutes wouldn't hurt, then her growing anxiety. Good writing!
Mildred Sheldon03/04/11
This tugged at my heart strings. A tense emotinal time. You held me attention from beginning to end but was little Sarah okay. Good job and keep writing.
Brenda Rice 03/07/11
I was in the post office with that lady and my heart was in my throat. Good writing. Thanks.
diana kay03/09/11
gosh! this was a very well told story and so atmospheric! such a dramatic ending too!
Bonnie Bowden 03/09/11
What a powerful reminder not to leave children or pets in the car unattended. I hope Sarah was not another statistic.