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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)

TITLE: On the road to Sparkling Valley
By T. F. Chezum


“Daaaad!” Jimmy’s persistent whining droned throughout the house. “C’mon.” He waved his arms in aggravation. “The bus’ll leave.”

Dave grabbed his keys. “Let’s go kid-o.”

They loaded the boy’s suitcase and sleeping bag into the back of the pick-up.

“Hurry up!” Jimmy jumped into the cab and buckled his seatbelt.

“Sparkling Valley Camp, you excited?” He ruffled his son’s hair. “I went there when I was your age. Just one quick stop, then we’ll get you to the bus.”

“We don’t have time. They’ll go without me.” Tears welled in the child’s eyes.

“You’ll get there, calm down.”

Jimmy squirmed with frustration. “How much longer?”

“Relax, the bus is at the park just around the corner.”

The sun glistened off the jungle-gym amidst a sea of green, the bustle of joggers and children swarmed the area. Jimmy searched for signs of his fellow campers. His eyes followed the road; the distant silhouette of a bus on the horizon caught his eye.

“Daaaad! I missed it!” He hit the dash panel. “Why couldn’t we come straight here?”

“That’s enough.” He pulled to the curb. “I’ll call, I’m sure there’s a mistake.”

Dave walked off, phone in hand. “It just left, can’t you send it back? Why not?” Frustration etched his face, he opened his door. “I’m sorry son.”

“I didn’t need to go to camp anyway.” The youngster’s voice quivered. His dampened eyelashes fluttered.

“Stay here.” The boy’s father walked up the sidewalk dialing his cell.

Minutes passed. Jimmy struggled to listen but could not hear his father.

Dave jogged to the truck. “Thanks Bud. I sure will.” He opened the door and flipped his phone closed. “We’re going to Sparkling Valley.”

Jimmy sat in stunned silence.

“I haven’t seen the ol’ valley in decades. Just need to drop this off and we’ll be on our way.”

Jimmy stared at the passing scenery.

“What’s wrong?” Dave nudged his son.

No response.

“Jimbo, we’ve got three hours on the road together, it’s gon’a get awful lonely if we don’t talk to each other.” He turned the radio on. “Maybe some music will help.”

“You never think of me.” The boy turned toward his father. “It’s always your job. That’s all that’s important to you.”

“I’m driving you, aren’t I?”

“But I could be having fun with my friends.”

“This is a KLAM traffic report, I’m John Sandberg,” the radio interjected. “Bad news if you’re on I-295. We’re getting reports of a derailed train where the tracks cross the highway. Everyone is being rerouted down highway 174.”

“Great! Now I’ll never get there,” Jimmy huffed.

“You’ll get there. Be patient.”

“My friends are having fun right now.” The boy sank into his seat. “I wish I was there.”

Red and blue lights strobed in the distance; traffic slowed to a crawl. Jimmy’s smoldering impatience flared once again. “Why does everything happen to me? I’ll never…” He stretched his upper body trying to see beyond the line of traffic. “Oh wow! You can see the train…on its side!”

“We’ll be driving right by it,” Dave said.

“I’ve got’a take some pictures.” The boy took his camera out of its case.

They drew closer to the accident. The organized commotion mesmerized the youngster. He raised his camera. “Look at this.”

“This is John Sandberg in the KLAM news room.”

“All the fire trucks and stuff.” Jimmy began snapping photos as they turned onto the detour.

“We have an update on the I-295 incident.”

Pieces of debris littered the roadway. A traffic officer directed everyone to the alternate route; flares kept people away from the turmoil.

“It’s worse than we initially reported. The train apparently struck a vehicle.”

Jimmy lowered the camera; the reality of the scene became apparent.

“Details are sketchy.”

The boy’s mind swam with disbelief at the sight of the twisted wreckage.

“It may have been a bus.”

“Please, no.” Tears swamped Jimmy’s eyes. “Dad…the bus…My friends.” He tried to catch his breath. “I would’ve…been on the bus.”

“Don’t look Jimbo.” Dave’s voice cracked. “Everything happens for a reason.”

“No. I should’ve been…”

“You weren’t!” He pulled the truck off the road. “There’s a purpose. You just don’t see it.” He embraced his son.

“What will…I do…now?” the boy sobbed. “How can…I live…”

“Shhhh, I’m here for you. I promise.” Dave brushed a tear from his cheek. “I understand how much I have now.”

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This article has been read 1216 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Paynter08/19/06
Wheeewww! This was a hard read. Powerful, though. I do wonder if the answers came a bit too quickly. I think my reaction would first be to weep and shout, and the answers would settle in me later. (Perhaps that's just me). Very realistic dialogue.
Al Boyce08/21/06
I agree about the good dialog. Might be too little space to develop the father-son relationship. The ending also seemed a little too abrupt and neat, but again it is hard to get it all in 750 words.
Marty Wellington 08/21/06
Great dialogue. I agree with previous commentors about the speedy ending, but those pesky word limitations are bothersome, aren't they? Enjoyed this story; kept my attention throughout.
Ruth Neilson08/21/06
I have a shiver going down my body. Thank you for sharing. I had a similar incident like that growing up except it would have been a car on car accident.
Jen Davis08/21/06
A gripping read. I agree with the above comments. The ending seemed rushed, especially with Dad's last sentence. Perhaps having cut back on the first part to have given more to the end. Once again, your dialogue is very good.
Lynda Lee Schab 08/22/06
Great story! It was well written and fast moving - definitely held my attention throughout. The only nitpick I have is the very last line. It didn't seem to fit with the dialogue so far somehow. Maybe a different line from the dad would work better?? Or maybe even his cell phone ringing but him ignoring it, obviously to comfort his son. (shrug) just suggestions. Otherwise, I thought the piece was excellent. :-)
Joanne Sher 08/22/06
Great dialogue! Excellent job of building up the anticipation - not sure I breathed through much of it! Agree with above comments as well - but this had me shaking!
Teri Wilson08/22/06
Very powerful writing. Great job Tim.
terri tiffany08/22/06
Great story - the dad and son's dialogue was so real- even the kid being bratty! Yes, gotta say I agree about the rushed ending- it just lacked flow and reality at the last few lines. I think a tiny change here and there and it would be perfect! Great writing!!:)
Venice Kichura08/22/06
Excellent, realistic job on dialogue between a father & son. I enjoyed this!
Shari Armstrong 08/22/06
This gave me chills, and I've experienced some of those close calls that at first seemed like such an inconvience. (I missed what they had to drop off? the phone?). Well done.
Karen Treharne08/26/06
Congratulations Tim on a gripping story. It held my attention all the way through and even though it was sad, it had a positive outcome that is God-inspired. We don't appreciate what we have or think about what life would be like without it and we need to be reminded of what's realy important. Thanks for sharing. Yours in Christ, Karen