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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Unsung Hero (12/07/06)

TITLE: Unknown Angel
By Lisa Claro
12/14/06


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Maris wrestled with the large, heavy tote bag as she shuffled through the hospital corridors and took note of familiar faces. There was that pretty OB nurse looking crisp and competent, and the young intern with the round glasses. He was always frowning and in a hurry.
Maris stepped into the elevator.
Few people knew her name or looked for it on her ID badge. To most she was just the old, slow moving, gray-haired black woman janitor in support hose and sensible shoes. She moved through this antiseptic place like a ghost, doing more than anyone knew. Dirty sheets were collected and brought to the laundry; vomit was cleaned up in the ER; supply closets stayed miraculously organized. All of these things Maris did well and in silence.
Maris shifted the weighty bag, stepped out of the elevator and headed for the tunnel connecting the main hospital to the children’s wing. It was an eight minute walk, difficult with her arthritis, and she was limping when she reached her destination.
The main floor was quiet; it was nearly midnight. There were murmurs and coughs from the small patients and blips and beeps from the machines to which many of them were attached. The nurses talked quietly and glanced at Maris only long enough to note the hospital badge that identified her as one of the custodial staff.
Maris slowed as she reached the first room. The last time she was here the patient had been a little girl. Maris remembered the child’s long eyelashes and little bow mouth. She was gone now. Cancer had stolen her away.
Maris stepped through the doorway, quiet as starlight, and looked with compassion upon the occupants of the room. A child of five or six slumbered in a railed bed and a disheveled man sprawled like a broken scarecrow in the faux leather visitor’s chair, snoring. Compassion and empathy expanded in Maris’s heart; she had been in his sad situation once.
Maris set the bag on the floor and retrieved some items which she set on a small table. She turned to where the child lay and bowed her head to pray. Silently she wept, beseeching the Lord to bring courage and strength to both parent and child.
The boy awakened and watched her with wide, dark eyes. After a moment he smiled and closed his eyes again.
Maris picked up her bag and moved on. There were others. So many others.
***************************************************************
It was dawn when the man awoke. He was stiff and he stretched as he stood up, anxiously peering at his young child but the boy rested peacefully.
The man paused when he saw things on the table that had not been their earlier. Puzzled, he examined them. There was an unsigned white card and he struggled to read the shaky script:
Cookies in a tin – sprinkled with sugar to remind you that life is sweet.
Hand-crocheted toy – to love and hold, a reminder that you are never alone.
Holy Bible – the greatest of gifts, to remind you that our Father understands the pain of losing a child. Turn to Him now and find peace and the strength you need.
“Daddy.”
“Good morning, champ.” The man smiled at his boy. “Someone left us some presents.”
“I know.” The boy nodded.
“Was it one of the nurses?”
“It was an angel.” The boy said with confidence. “She had white hair and she was praying.”
“How do you know that?” The man asked gently.
“Because when I went to sleep I was afraid. But when I woke up I heard her voice
asking God to take care of me. Then I wasn’t afraid any more. She took my afraid away, Daddy. She was an angel.”
The man looked from his son to the items on the table. Overcome with emotion he said, “Yes. She was.”
***************************************************************
“Hey.” The manager of the custodial department glanced up from his desk when Maris clocked in. “You’re late again.”
“Sorry.” Maris offered. “I overslept. I’ll work through lunch.” She opened her locker and struggled to deposit the big tote bag.
“Geez,” the manager snorted. “That thing must weigh a ton.”
Maris clipped her ID badge to the bottom of her shirt and shut the locker.
“Naw.” She limped to the door. “Love don’t weigh a thing.”


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This article has been read 547 times
Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood12/14/06
I loved this story! Beauiful and vivid descriptions--I felt as though I were there and could see the elderly arthritic saint (angel?), the owlish, harried intern, and the sick children on the ward.
I could especially see the father of the little boy--my favorite description: "disheveled man sprawled like a broken scarecrow."

Wonderful father-son dialogue at the end and closing dialogue between the main character and her boss. Message communicated beautifully through the line about love not being heavy. Great job!
Edy T Johnson 12/14/06
Julie wrote everything I wanted to say, except you moved me to tears. What a precious saint you have described, from beginning to end. You do know how to create memorable characters with just a few key words. This one goes in my favorites, and I will be watching for your name.
Jan Ackerson 12/15/06
Oooh, very good! You've got some great descriptions here.
Betty Castleberry12/16/06
SO good! The last line is just perfect.
Leigh MacKelvey12/21/06
Congratulations! Great story and a deserved 2nd place!
Donna Haug12/21/06
The description of the quietness of the night broken by murmers, coughs and blips was so vivid. Great work. My only suggestion would be to put some spacing between your paragraphs - just makes it easier to read. Loved this story. Good work!