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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Help (02/20/06)

TITLE: The Loudest Silence
By Stephanie Bullard
02/21/06


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Itís her eyes I remember. Big, green-blue eyes rimmed with gray. Quiet eyes. Sad eyes.

She came into our class in the middle of fourth grade. Limp, uncombed hair. No bows. Pale, unwashed face. No smile. Faded jeans. Long-sleeved shirt. And those eyes.

Beyond the normal, first-day-newcomer stares, we didnít pay much attention to her. It wasnít really intentional. There just wasnít anything to pay attention to. She never talked to anyone, never made comments or asked questions. She just sort of slipped out of the conscious part of our minds and into the shadowy land of the ignored.

On the playground, she never played with any of us, never tried. She would just sit on the swings. She didnít swing. She just sat. I think she liked the swings. While the other kids ran around and yelled, and kicked kick-balls and threw stones for hop-scotch, and got smacked in the head by tether-balls, she would just sit, not really looking at anything; just staring. Those eyes. I never made any real attempt to interact with her. But I did notice her. Sitting there.

It happened near the end of the school-year. I remember because it was warm, and sunny, and we got to go out for an extra recess. One of the boys Ė I think it was Bailey Ė found a baby bird over by the fence. It had fallen out of its nest and was flopping around on the blacktop, blind and naked, with bulbous, grotesque eyes and a wide yellow beak. Soon all the kids had gathered around in a huddled semi-circle, watching with morbid fascination. Then one of the other boys Ė I think it was Wyatt Ė got the idea to throw a stone at the baby bird. When it bounced off the pavement and the bird jumped, tipping sideways, everyone laughed and several other kids bent to pick up stones.

ďDonít! Stop it!Ē We all looked up, surprised, those with stones held them in mid-air. There she was, at the edge of the semi-circle, tears in those eyes. We were all so shocked Ė it was the first time we had ever heard her speak Ė that we just stood there. She walked stiffly forward, bent, and picked up the baby bird, cradling it in her cupped hand. Not knowing what else to do, everyone just sort of melted away, going to find some other form of amusement. Except me. I watched as she walked over to the fence. The birdís nest was in a bush right by the edge, and she stretched her arm through the fence, gently placing it back in the nest. When she shoved her arm through the fence, the long sleeve of her shirt caught, and was pushed back, revealing her wrist and arm up to her elbow. It was just for a moment, and she quickly pulled it back down. But I still saw. I saw the mottled skin, covered with angry marks. I saw the yellow and green of old bruises, melding with the blue, black and purple of new bruises, in a kind of sick kaleidoscope. I didnít know much back then, but I knew that what I saw, and the tingle that went all over my back when I saw it, was terribly wrong.

After she put the baby bird back, she went back to the swing. I followed her. I sat down beside her. She didnít look at me. I didnít look at her.

ďI saw your arm.Ē She didnít say anything. Instead, she just turned those green-blue eyes rimmed with gray on me. And with that silent look, I heard so much. I learned more about the cruel realities in life from that one look than I have ever since. And then she looked away.

I was very scared as I walked up to my teacher after class that day, my insides were shaking and my breath was not working right. I didnít know much, but somehow I knew I had to tell someone. I had to do something.

The next day at recess, I sat on a swing. Alone. While the normal fourth-grade activity was going on around me, I sat and stared at nothing, seeing in my mind a battered arm, and big green-blue eyes rimmed with gray. I didnít want to know. I wanted to be care-free again. I wanted to be young, and I felt so old.

I never saw her again. And though I have forgotten much, Iíll never forget those eyes.


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This article has been read 927 times
Member Comments
Member Date
terri tiffany02/27/06
This was great!! I loved your ending and loved the 'voice' throughout. Good writing and you told a very real story.
Melanie Kerr 02/27/06
You held my interest all the way through. Your description of the girl and the incident with the bird was spot on. You made me feel the emotions you went through. Well done!
Rebekah White02/28/06
You peaked my interest from the beginning and held it to the end. Outstanding job of describing "those eyes", a hurting soul.
Helen Paynter03/01/06
Fantastic writing!
I love your use of words, especially 'sick kaleidoscope'
Jessica Schmit03/01/06
Wow is all I can say. This story is a masterpiece. I got shivers towards the end. You wrote so beautifully. I can see eveything so clearly. Wow. Amazing job.
c clemons03/01/06
Very good and I loved the title.
Rachel Rudd03/06/06
Fantastic story! Held my attention right through...Congratulations on the win!
Teri Wilson03/06/06
Congrats! This was absolutely wonderful.
Marilyn Schnepp 03/06/06
Congratulations! A beautiful but bittersweet story! A well deserved win! Kudos!
Jan Ackerson 03/06/06
Beautfully done, and a great example of the effective us of intentional sentence fragments to capture an authentic voice. Welcome to Advanced--you're a gifted writer.
Diane Johnson03/06/06
I don't know a lot of the in's and out's of writing, but I do know this...your story was one of the most moving stories I have read in a long time. Thank you for sharing your gift with all of us. Blessings to you.
James Clem 03/06/06
Wow - it's no big mystery why this took first place.
Excellent beginning and a haunting finish. Mood was perfect for the piece. Congrats!
Crista Darr03/06/06
Powerful, heart-breaking story. Written with excellence.
Deborah Porter 04/23/06
Hi Stephanie,

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)
SYLVIA KING05/14/06
Article was excellent. It so hard to conceive anyone would hurt a child, little animal, a grandparent but it happens. We tend to not be as observant as we need to be. I had an incident happen to me when I worked in the hospital that reminds me to
watch and be His hand extended.
Thanks for the story.