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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Lock (03/06/06)

TITLE: Stuck
By Karen Rice


Abandoned before it was empty, the ghost town lived its name as wind forced tiny particles of sand through weathered horizontal planked boards, through windowless paned glass, through the bottom of doors gnawed by starving mice.

With no source of electricity or water aside memory within the bowels of a dried well, the last of the hardy dreamers packed their bags and didn’t even pause to look back. With a turn of an ancient car key to engine, history camouflaged the last trail taken.

Mice learned to listen. Not to the slithering of snake, but the growl of snake’s stomach.

Snake learned to listen, not to the screeching hawk, but the sound of its shadow stretching over scrub’s dry brush.

“I don’t know…I don’t even see a name anywhere on here!” Exasperated, Gail pushed her damp bangs from her forehead and shoved the wrinkled map to her husband.

“Like I can read and drive at the same time!” Equally irritated, Carl fumbled with the button adjusting the air conditioner. With a mechanical strangle, the car shuddered, shimmied, and with a sickening gasp, died.

“I told you not to touch that! Didn’t you see the temperature gauge in the red?”

Yanking the door open, the furnace-like heat blazed, scorching Gail’s lungs. Stepping to the sun-baked ground, the top-layer of fine-grained particles plumed, powdering hot over her new sandals.

“Why didn’t you pack the antifreeze?” he huffed...

Marching around the front of the car, she tried not to wince as she grabbed the hot door handle. Pulling it open, she clenched her teeth, leaned over, nose to nose with him. Sweat flipped a heavy lock of hair back down across her face. Irritated, she jerked her head back sending her hair flying, and then locked gazes again.

“Probably for the same reason YOU didn’t!”


A lack of spontaneity threatened to end Gail and Carl’s marriage as work, bills and community competition elbowed free time away. When a neighbor (assistant director for a small independent company) nasally shared of a movie being shot in the desert, both thought this might be fun to check out.

Directions quickly scribbled, both thought the other printed computerized maps.

Yet still in the spirit, they stopped off at the last big shopping center and purchased a map.


Stuck in a dead town, they separated to explore different buildings.

Carl discovered an old Saloon.

Strutting across the floorboards, he pushed the swinging doors open, listened to the creeks. Imaging himself a sheriff, he sucked in his gut, squared his shoulders, saved his hamlet, and was voted in a second term...without firing a shot.

Gail took her time through an old house. Running her fingers over the potbellied stove, she kneeled down, peered inside. Opening the kitchen pantry’s door, western sunlight beamed strong from the window to shelves where a few empty canning jars and a few lids lay abandoned.

“Gail! Come here!”

Wiping palms on her shorts, she walked out to the dilapidated porch, careful to avoid nails poking through.

“Come look at this!” he cried, laughter in his voice.

Curious, she followed him down the only street to the jailhouse. Tentatively stepping up, she went inside.

A well-weathered desk and heavy chair crowded a corner, and across from it was a single cell, containing two beds. Behind one of the beds, taped to the wall were posters with scruffy looking individuals, all carrying the familiar words: WANTED.

Carl took one of her photographs from his wallet, spit the gum he was chewing out, stuck it to the back of her picture and tacked it up over another poster face.

Dancing in front of her, he waved his arms, teasing, “Noooooo, can’t take it down!’

Trying to shove him aside, she reached out to grab it.

Playfully hip-chucking her, Gail lost her balance and fell against the cell door.

Suddenly, the only noise heard was a very solid “Click.”


Carl, Gail and the mice spent a spontaneous night with two uncomfortable beds shoved together.

“What’s this?” Gail asked, pulling a dusty Bible from under their beds.


Predawn brought a rumbling of equipment waking Mr. and Mrs. Secachanse.

“Why didn’t you just move the wall?” the set director asked the sleepy couple, demonstrating how easy it was.

Carl could only sputter as Gail laughed.

With the Bible still in hand, they walked away.

“Did they say their names were Second Chance?” a crew member asked his leader. “What kinda weird name is that?”

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This article has been read 589 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 03/13/06
Good writing. A little conflict, a touch of humor and a problem solved with a surprise ending. Good stuff.
Jessica Schmit03/14/06
This was a really good stroy. Fast moving, GREAT writing an a clever use of the theme. All in all-Fabulous!!!
Jan Ackerson 03/15/06
Definitely one of my favorites!
Helen Paynter03/16/06
I particularly loved the 3rd and 4th paragraphs. Some fantastic writing.
Virginia Gorg03/16/06
Very nice and good use of the name Seconchance. :)
terri tiffany03/16/06
I loved this! Your descriptions were vivid and you kept me in suspence yet balanced it with playful ligtness...I didn't know it I would be reading a horror story, comedy, suspense or what...that is what I loved about it the most! Great job...hope you win!
Shari Armstrong 03/17/06
Very well written, loved the humorous ending! well done :)
Naomi Deutekom03/17/06
I would love to see this fleshed out into a longer peice. The description at the begining is very good. It sets the scene and pulls you into the story. Good character development as well. We need more. 750 words is never enough, is it1