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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Melody (08/24/06)

TITLE: Mornin' Melody
By Steve Uppendahl


Hand in hand we follow the well-worn path through the forest. It’s unstable, rocky, and steep. I know the way and spend more time looking up than down. Dozens and dozens of Evergreen trees stretch up forever. Thick bark surrounds enormous trunks. Moss covers the ground between the trees and encompasses the three-inch thick roots bending up out of the soil.

It’s early, not quite five o’clock, in the eerie grey light of pre-dawn. White-grey fog slips and slides between the trees, like a mother weaving from room to room waking her children for school. Our breath spreads out before us.

Anticipation curdles through my stomach. I find the large, smooth boulder from so many years ago. My breathing quickens. I look down at my son. Looking at his wide brown eyes and gap-toothed smile I can’t help but return it. He grips my hand tightly. I know it’s close. I can’t help but remember my first time. My mind wanders…


I’d never been up so early, not even for Christmas. My heart was pounding as I held Grandpa’s cold, calloused hand. He never wore gloves no matter the temperature.

“I need to feel, James,” he told me.

“Feel what, Grandpa?”

“Everything God provides. Otherwise, I can’t experience them properly. It’s not just what we see, but what we feel.”

Then he’d smile at me and tussle my hair. It always hurt, but I loved the feeling behind it.
I was practically bursting out of my skin and my feet felt light, as if I were floating. After what seemed like hours of walking through a slowly brightening forest, we finally stopped.

“There it is,” he whispered, kneeling down and pointing to a huge, sloping boulder between two monstrous oak trees.

“That’s where we’ll wait.”

I noticed for the first time that there was no sound. No birds sang, no wind rustled through the trees, nothing. It seemed like everything was muffled. Before I could ask, Grandpa’s hand was on my shoulder.

“Don’t worry, James, it won’t be long now.”

It wasn’t. I felt it first. Even through my heavy coat and sweatshirt, my arms broke out into goosebumps. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. My heart felt light. I was getting nervous.


“Shhhh. Here she comes. Brace yourself and stay still.”

Quiet at first, barely discernible, I strained to listen. Louder. High-pitched, a single voice, angelic, stronger, it was everywhere. More voices joined together perfectly one after another, lower, louder still. Waves reverberated through my chest like bass. A gust of wind washed over me. I felt like laughing.

I felt Grandpa’s firm grip on my forearm, “Watch for it.”

My eyes widened as a speck of a bright, light green caught my eye. Then muted yellow, burnt orange, fire engine red, various shades of brown, then black, charcoal, blossoms of cloud white, lava orange, pale pink, baby blue, on and on it went. I was afraid to blink.

I heard a rumble, getting closer and closer. Slivers of scent began to twitch my nose. I smiled as lavender and honeysuckle wafted through my nostrils, then the strong smell of manure gagged me, followed immediately by dozens of scents of animals, flowers and plants blazing through too fast to identify. In the next breath I tasted blackberries, then something sour, followed by something ultra sweet.

Soft leaves caressed my cheeks, thorns pulled at my sleeves and pant legs, my ankles began to itch, branches brushed through my hair, something hard struck my right foot. I felt as if I were moving, I heard and felt footsteps crushing leaves, a brisk wind blew through my hair and burned my cheeks. I felt the warmth of the sun.

Suddenly everything began to speed by even faster, and I began to get anxious, panicky. All the noises, scents, and tastes began to mix together one after another building and building until…it ended, calmly.

I had just gotten my breath back when Grandpa patted me on the back and began to walk back down the path.

Still catching my breath, “Grandpa, what was that?”

“Mornin’ Melody, James. Straight from God,” he answered over his shoulder with a half smile and walked on with a whistle.

I knew I could never formulate all my questions. I also knew it wasn’t possible to answer them anyway. Just feeling was enough.


I tighten the grip on my son’s hand, “Here she comes. Brace yourself and stay still…”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Virginia Gorg09/02/06
I could almost hear and see this .. this line is great: It’s not just what we see, but what we feel.” Well done.
david grant09/07/06
I liked this. I could feel the wind and the hard thing hitting his leg. And I could feel the joy as he told his own little son to wait "here it comes." Well done. A DAVEY for you comes with the mornin' wind.

Edy T Johnson 09/08/06
Congratulations on winning one of the top slots this week, Steve!
This story held my attention, trying to figure out what's happening! I do like the full circle of the man taking his son to experience his own childhood memory with the grandfather. Even with your beautiful description, however, I'm still wondering and, I guess, wanting more. {What actually IS this "mornin' melody?")

I also want to thank you, Steve, for your comment on my "Strange Music" story. I wrote it first person for more impact, but it actually happened to my brother's wife.