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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Start (01/16/06)

TITLE: Getting In
By Shannah Hogue


He stood outside the elevator, looking towards the pale green door. Under the harsh fluorescent lights, he paced the long, stark hallway again: forty steps to the green door, twenty-eight more steps to the stairs at the other end. He retraced his steps: twenty-eight to the door, forty back to the elevator. He reached up to push the elevator button, but he forced his hand back to his side. Slowly, he walked back to the green door.

He still couldn’t go in. The building was old. The metal doorframe was painted to match the door; the weary-white walls needed a new coat of paint. He glanced down the hallway. No chairs, no pictures, no people, it was empty.

“It can’t be that bad,” he told himself. “Just go inside.” He took a deep breath, straightened his shoulders, and reached for the old metal handle.

The elevator beeped, its door opening. Quickly, he began walking toward the stairs. Two men got off and followed him. They stopped at the green door and went inside. He heard it latch shut behind them, just as he reached the stairs. He sighed deeply, body sagging against the door to the stairwell. Why was this so hard?

He thrust his hands into the pockets of his blue jacket and looked out the window. His right hand felt the note. He could see the red-crayon drawing, the misspelled words neatly printed in the unsteady handwriting of a seven year old. “To my Dady. I lov you. Mommy says you are sick. I hop you get beter soon. I miss you. Kara”

She’d drawn a house with a family of three labeled Mommy, Dady, Kara. There was a dog, too. Kara hoped to get a dog for her birthday. And she hoped her Daddy would get better soon. “I want to be better, Kara,” he whispered out the window.

Hearing the green door open, the man stood up. A dark-haired man poked his head out and scanned the hallway, toward the elevator, then toward the stairs. Their eyes met. The dark-haired man stepped into the hall; the door latched behind him. He was tall, wearing well-worn jeans and a red striped polo shirt.

“Hello! Can I help you?”

“No thanks. I was just looking.”

“Well, this building can be a bit confusing. What room were you looking for?”

He couldn’t respond. He wished the dark-haired man would go back inside. There was a moment of silence before the dark haired man spoke again. This time his voice was quiet. “What’s your name?”

The man looked up, uncertain. Finally, he swallowed and spoke. “Sam.”

“It’s nice to meet you Sam. My name is Pete. I lead the AA meeting that meets here tonight.” He pointed over his shoulder at the green door. “I want you to know that it took me 35 minutes to open that door the first time I came for a meeting. You can take as long as you need.”

Pete turned and walked back towards the door. Sam watched him, panic seizing him. This might be his last chance before he chickened out and went home.

“Wait!” Pete stopped at the door.

“I don’t know how to go in. I don’t know how to stop being what I am. I only know I want to start being different.”

“Then you have to open this door.” Pete faced him, his open hand welcoming Sam down the hall.

Sam swallowed hard and slowly moved down the hall towards the green door. He met Pete’s eyes, then looked down, took a ragged breath and swallowed hard again.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he whispered, staring at the door handle.

Pete put a hand on his shoulder. “You don’t have to know the end. The men in that room can help you, but you have to get yourself inside. Right now, the end is not important; right now, just focus on the start.”

Sam nodded. Gripping Kara’s note in his right hand, he reached for the door handle. Slowly, he turned it and pushed. Drawing one last deep breath, he stepped inside.

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This article has been read 784 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 01/23/06
Although confused in the beginning about the colors of the doors, or which door to the stairs or to the elevator...I finally found my way! And so glad I did - it was a great story of a great beginning for Sam! Nicely done!
Karen O'Leary01/23/06
I agree with the previous comments about the beginning. Once I got into the story I was hooked. It is gripping with a good ending.
Jan Kamp01/24/06
At first, I assumed the setting was a hospital and kept reading to discover the character's problem. The revealed setting was a surprise and thought-provoking. Too often we are quick to criticize people who just won't seek help they need. Your story shows how fear of the unknown (i.e. leaving a comfort zone) can overpower desire for change.
Jan Ackerson 01/24/06
Very, very well done. You showed us his emotions so effectively that we were right there with him.
Alexandra Wilkin01/25/06
A very tender portrayal of what is, indeed, an illness. I actually liked how you evoked the mc's fear and nervousness at the start and how afraid he was to face it, even though he wants to very much. A little polishing would make this gem a diamond. Lovely, and God bless.
Sharon Singley01/25/06
Having been married to an alcoholic, I truly appreciate your glimpse into the mind of one. Change is never as difficult as that first step. Good job.
Cassie Memmer01/26/06
Nice story. I too had to go back and reread to get things straight in my mind. But once I knew, everything fell into place. Overcoming fear is hard and I'm glad you mc was able to get the door opened!
Trudy Orzio01/30/06
Wow! At first I was confused why he wasn't goin in door. It drew me in until I was clutching the couch with tension and emotion. I am not an achohic but I have felt those emotions. This story made me backflash to those awful times.
well done! It is true that you will never go anywhere if you don't open those doors
God gives us.No one can open those doors but us!
Deborah Porter 04/23/06
Hi Shannah.

I'm just preparing all the winning entries for inclusion in the FaithWriters' Anthology for last quarter, and need to get a short bio note from you (written in the third person), to include with our "Meet Our Authors" section. If you are at all unsure what to write, it may be worth checking some of the bio notes at the end of the articles at FaithWriters' Magazine (http://www.faithwritersmagazine.com). Once you have your bio note ready, could you please send it through to me at debporter@breathfreshair.org

Thanks for that. Look forward to hearing from you.

With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator and Editor, FaithWriters' Magazine)