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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)

TITLE: Stepping Into The Light
By Valora Otis


Sheri was amazed at the height of the Douglas fir trees. She and her sisters liked to play under their canopy weather permitting. Down below their sheltering limbs ancient giants lay on their sides. Ferns and moss grew on the decaying bark. Sheri had found many living treasures beneath the thick carpet. Pulling the latest out of her pocket, a fire bellied newt, its clammy skin rough and cool in the palm of her hand. Maybe she should name him? She put him back in her coat pocket for safe keeping thinking of name for her new friend.

“Sheri Lynn! Where are you?”

Oh no! The babysitter had found her hiding place. Oh well, she was hungry anyway. “I’m over here by the big log,” she shouted. I’m okay, Debbie.”

Debbie climbed over the log, dark braids touching the hands on her hips. “You need to stay closer to the house. If you hadn’t yelled we would never have found you!

“We? Who’s with you? Please tell me it’s Melanie!” Her best friend loved playing in the woods. She liked how Mel called it ‘God’s garden’ when they played.

“Well, who else would tromp through the woods with you? She even brought you an early birthday present.”

“Really, where is she?”

“Right here!” Melanie peeked around a lichen-encrusted tree. “Betcha didn’t hear me. I have moccasins on today. Surprise!” Producing a package wrapped in ferns and flowers, she climbed over to Sheri handing it to her like a royal offering. “My lady, your gift,” she curtsied.

Sheri giggled, no wonder Mel was her best friend. She accepted with bow, followed by peels of laughter falling on the soft moss carpet of the forest floor. Sheri sat up- delicately unwrapping the ferns, placing the flowers in her hair. She squealed with delight - a purple critter keeper. Purple was her favorite color. Sheri produced the newt from her pocket.

“Oh! We have a new friend. Let me help.” Mel showed Sheri how to open the top of the cage. Sheri placed her creature in the bottom. Sheri grabbed some moss to put over him, so he’d feel at home.

Debbie gently locked the lid with a Click! Sheri hugged it. “This is the best gift ever, Mel. Thank you!”

“We shouldn’t keep him too long, I’m sure Mr. Lolly has a family.”

“Aw, I wanted to keep him. Sheri bit at her lip.

“You know the rules, we leave, and the animals stay in the garden.”

“Why do you always have to spoil my fun? I have other pets at home you know.”

“Mr. Lolly is from The Garden!”

“You caught a frog in your garden last week. I’ve seen you feed it with my own two eyes.”

“Yes, but not from THIS garden.”

Mel always had the same rule. ‘Never take an animal from ‘the Garden.’ It was the rule. Sheri couldn’t for the life of her figure out why it was so important to Melanie.

Deb rolled her eyes. “Well, you two have fun out here” She produced two sack lunches. The girls thanked her and she left to go care for Sheri’s younger siblings.

Sheri sat munching on potato chips still wondering at the reasons behind the ‘rules.’ After lunch they played ‘Faerie’ flittering about the ferns pretending to take flight. Sheri didn’t want to leave but didn’t want Deb to come looking for them either.

“Time to go home.” Mel nodded. Sheri hoped that Mel would forget the newt. As soon as they reached the ‘Garden’s’ edge Mel stopped suddenly as if a line had been drawn that she dare not cross. “Sheri, it’s time.”

“Time for what?” Sheri said wide-eyed.

“Release Mr. Lolly." Mel stomped her foot.

“I want to keep him!”

“No can do. Let him go.” Mel pointed to the ground.

Sheri opened the cage deliberately, resigned to sending Mr. Lolly back home. “Why do you always ruin my fun, Mel? Sheri was near tears as she bent to let the newt go.

“Only Adam and Eve were forced to leave the Garden of Eden. The animals all stayed behind silly. The Bible never said that the animals left. After all it was God’s Garden.”

Sheri finally understood Mel, as she clicked the cage door shut. She realized one important fact about this garden; they could return tomorrow enjoying this beautiful place and a new Mr. Lolly. She smiled as warmth hit her freckled face leaving the garden behind and stepping into the light.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Rachel Burkum09/14/06
Sweet story. :)
I got a little thrown by some missing quotation marks, or places where puncuation was needed. Also I wondered about the names, switching from 'Melanie' to 'Mel' sometimes, and then at the end from 'Debbie' to 'Deb.'
With a little bit more time spent on polishing, it would help the flow.
Interesting perspective though, and I liked the way you were able to show how children think, through Sheri's thoughts and actions. (Naming the newt made me think of a character from the Chronicles of Narnia. lol)
Keep on writing!!
Edy T Johnson 09/15/06
This story pictures a garden I wouldn't have thought of to put into writing, but it certainly is that. And, I must not be terribly observant, because I would have to go back and deliberately "look" to find the missing quotations. I think that must show how engrossing your writing is, I missed any flaws! I like your sweet story---the only question arising in my mind, why would Mel give a gift (even though it was necessary to the story line) the receiver couldn't use to "keep" critters outside the garden?
Marilyn Schnepp 09/16/06
I "ditto" Edy's comment about the gift. "Why?" And, of course, there were missing quotations, but I will have to go look up "neut" and "faerie" in the dictionary...(dumb me) Nice job, however. Kept my interest throughout.
Jan Ross09/16/06
What a precious story! I thoroughly enjoyed it ... you kept my interest all the way. I did have to go back -- the name changes (although they were nicknames) threw me just a bit. Be careful with your quotes and punctuation. But the story line is delightful! Nice work! :)
Ann FitzHenry09/17/06
I liked this peek into two friends' secret hiding place. I loved your parallels to the Garden of Eden. (Adam and Eve left, but the animals stayed.) Great description as always. I especially liked the last line.
Valora Otis09/19/06
Thank you all for your helpful comments and encouragement on my childhood memory. I was shocked to read through my entry and realize that I had submitted a rough draft. I've placed the real final draft in general submissions area for you to read. I hope it's an improvement:-)

Here's the link

Donna Haug09/20/06
Sweet memories! What fun. See what our 'city slicker kids' miss!!