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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Enter (02/27/06)

TITLE: The Detour
By Debbie Sickler


The aroma of convenience store coffee, mingled with too much aftershave, filled the interior of Dave’s SUV. His eyes darted from the road to the dashboard to check the time. Ten till eight. He pressed harder on the accelerator with his size twelve wing tip.

“Come on. Come on!” Mr. Ruso’s gonna freak out if I’m late. He mashed his horn, desperately trying to move traffic along. The c.d. player started skipping once again. I’ve gotta get that thing fixed this weekend. He reached over and banged on the faceplate a few times, hoping to temporarily solve his problem.

“What? You’ve gotta be kidding me. Not today.” Bright orange cones and detour signs littered the road ahead. Impulsively, Dave cut across the rows of now idle cars and sped around the first corner he came to. Hopefully this street’ll go through. I better call Becka and tell her I’m gonna be late. Knowing his job may be at stake, he fumbled in his briefcase for his cell phone, knocking it to the floorboards and spilling the entire contents of his paper cup in his lap. His attention turned to the scorching pain in his groin; Dave failed to notice when he entered the school zone…

Juanita ate her eggs and tortilla quickly. Mamá will be so proud of me today. I will beat Guillermo to class and HE will be the one to empty la basura tonight! A gleeful smile crossed her face as she finished her juice. He was always the first out the door, now that their mother used the trash as a way to keep them from dawdling. But not today!

As fast as her seven year old hands could move, Juanita spread her blanket across her bed and arranged Pablo, her favorite pig, in front of all her other stuffed toys. There will be nothing to make Mamá sad today. It will be perfecto! After kissing her mother good-bye, she gathered her lunch and headed out the door. Her brother Guillermo was only seconds behind.

Mrs. Baptista smiled at her children through the window, as she set a freshly cleaned glass into the drainer. It is nice to see them so eager to get to la escuela. She was happy they had moved here so Guillermo and Juanita could get a good education. Mexico would always be home, but Los Angeles was beginning to feel like home as well.

With the dishes drying on the counter, Mrs. Baptista knelt next to their old sofa and began her morning quiet time. She opened her Bible and read a few Psalms. As she entered into the presence of God, she began praying blessings for her loved ones…

Reality was still coming in bits and pieces for David: mornings in the yard, staring at the world through a chain-linked fence toped with barbed wire; standing in the long line for a meal; at night when the lights turned off, whether he was sleepy or not. In an instant, his whole life had changed and a child’s life had ended. She was so tiny and fast. I didn’t even see her. And her brother. He just held her and stared at me with those dark eyes. God I’m so sorry! I just wanted to get to work. I just wanted to… How am I ever gonna face her parents? Dave’s eyes nearly swelled shut from the tears that flowed in anguish.

Finally, it was time. A guard unlocked the heavy cell door and Dave rose to his feet. He got in line behind the others waiting to go before the judge. Their orange jumpsuits formed a caterpillar as they marched, single file through the underground tunnel; two armed guards served as the antennas.

In the courtroom sat the families of victims, as well as those of the offenders. Some sat in prayer, while others chattered nervously. Mr. and Mrs. Baptista sat together off to the side. A disturbance broke out in the back of the room, but was quickly silenced as the inmates shuffled into the small section of chairs reserved for the accused. Taking in every detail, Dave entered the courtroom, fully aware of his surroundings.

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This article has been read 1136 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 03/07/06
This was so good, but when I turned the page to read how it ended, it wasn't there. It was great as far as it went.
Phyllis Inniss03/08/06
A very good story and very touching for the Batista's. The remorse Dave felt was a sufficiently good ending. The Batista's lives would never be the same.
Rachel Rudd 03/10/06
This was a great story. I think the ending was sufficient, too...though I wonder if there could be more...
Amy Michelle Wiley 03/10/06
Great story, pinpointing the importance of keeping one's mind on the road. I too, thought it was missing an ending. Good job!
Val Clark03/10/06
Great thumbnail sketches of Dave, Juanita and her mother. I can see them and the places they are in really clearly. This is a tragic story told with compassion.

A few thoughts:

A good thing to strive for is to not be predictable.

Watch your shifting point of view. In the second para you give us the clue with the extra spacing that you are shifting POV but we see things in that section from both Juanita's and her mother's POV. Also in the last paragraph you set the scene as if Dave is already there and them have him enter

It's good that the ending isn't all resolved. I'd be interested to know why you made the choice of finishing it as you did. Please PM me if you have time. Yeggy
Jan Ackerson 03/10/06
Too bad about that pseky word limit, huh? Well done character sketches.
Helen Paynter03/10/06
Ouch! I have a seven year old daughter. Powerful stuff.
Re: the ending - I think as it is it feels unfinished but you could leave it at that point with a different closing sentence or two.
Deanna Wessel03/10/06
I kinda like that your ending leaves me wanting more. That way, I get to consider the story...the characters...the possibilities, and...the effects of my actions...
T. F. Chezum03/10/06
Good story. Good lessons.
terri tiffany03/10/06
I loved the suspense..the wording and the way you set the whole story up. VERY good! Yes, the ending left me wanting...but didn't detract from how well you wrote it. I was there with all the characters.
Suzanne R03/11/06
No,no, no!!! Good writing ... I was right there with you and glad that you didn't go into a lot of detail with the accident. How awful.

Well done.
c clemons03/11/06
I think more detail is needed because if he didn't leave the scene of the accident he would not be arrested, so my question is why was he in jail? Other than that interesting.
Pat Guy 03/11/06
Hey! I need an ending to this fantastic story! All my emotions are in play here and I need 'something!' How do the parents react when they first see Dave? What does he feel when he sees them? Are they the ones praying? Debbie - help me out here! (great story by the way) ;)