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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)

TITLE: The Baffling Bump
By Joanne Sher


Melanie Buford lay on the grass, her eyes closed.

The wind whipped through the branches of the old maple tree above her, dislodging several crimson leaves and sending them drifting toward the ground. Soon she had half a dozen leaves on her, yet she hadn't moved a muscle.

That was my first hint there might be something wrong. You see, I'd seen Melanie lying on the grass, staring up, before, but she generally got up when I came by on my daily jog around the block. And if she didn't, a word from me was enough to get her attention. This time, even the leaves falling on her didn't cause her to as much as twitch.

I knelt down and tapped her on the shoulder. No response, though I noticed she was breathing, albeit quite shallowly. I also observed quite a bump on the left side of her head. My guess was she'd been lying there, something or someone had hit her, and it knocked her out.

It was a good thing I'd come by when I did. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and called 911, then started my investigation. You see, I'm a private investigator...sort of. I mean, I'm the assistant (well, maybe the secretary), for John Willingston, P.I. - or I was. It was only ten or so years ago. I wasn't that rusty, anyway.

Resting my foot on a rock not far from Melanie's head, I scanned the area for any object that might point me toward the cause of Melanie's condition. Other than the autumn leaves and a few small branches, the area seemed devoid of clues.

I put on my thinking cap and started pondering the possibilities. Maybe some kid bopped her on the head with a baseball bat. That would certainly account for the lump, and if she'd been asleep, she may not have even had a chance to get up to defend herself. There was a baseball diamond just down the road, and some kids did occasionally walk past Melanie's house on their way to a game. I'd just jogged past the diamond, though, and there'd been no signs of activity.

It was about this time, before I had a chance to formulate a second theory, when my musings were interrupted by what sounded like quite a few leaves shifting about. Looking down, I saw Melanie open her eyes and begin to stir.

"What happened?" she mumbled, straining to rise.

Remembering my basic first aid, I told her to stay put and still, and that an ambulance was on the way.

"Thanks, Tina," she said groggily. "I was just lying here enjoying the weather, and the next thing I know I'm looking up at you with a headache to beat the band."

I told her about the bump on her head, and shared my theory.

"I dunno about that. I would have at least heard them coming, I'd think. They're usually not so quiet."

Then I went full-blast into detective mode. Mr. Willingston would have been proud.

"Do you remember anything unusual?" I asked. "Anything at all that might help us figure out how this happened?"

After pondering for a minute, Melanie actually came up with something.

"You know, I did hear a big truck approaching - sounded like a semi. They don't come down this road too often, you know. Sounded like it was going pretty fast, too."

I started theorizing aloud as we heard the ambulance approaching.

"Maybe the truck kicked up something and sent it flying toward you. It could have easily knocked you cold."

Melanie agreed that was plausible.

Looking down at her, I noticed something I'd missed: something that had been right there, in plain sight, since I arrived on the scene.

"You know, I'll bet it was this." I picked up the rock I'd been resting my foot on and showed it to her.

"Must have been," Melanie agreed.

As the EMT approached to tend to Melanie's wounds, I smiled. I wondered if I should call up old John Willingston and see if he had any job openings. I definitely hadn't lost my touch.

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This article has been read 1562 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Karri Compton04/12/07
I liked the story until I came to the end--it left me wanting a little more excitement than just a rock. But that's just me. It's a well-written piece.
Chrissi Dunn04/12/07
This was certainly a well written piece, though I think I agree with Karri. I was quite disappointed when I realised it was just a rock. I really did like the style of your writing though. Keep it up!
Dolores Stohler04/13/07
Well written and with a touch of humor as well. My imagination tends to work like your character's.
Myrna Noyes04/13/07
I really enjoyed this! I loved your detective--umm, secretary, I mean! :) Many of us jump to conclusions at times and think the worst, when there is a simple, innocent explanation! Good job!
Marilyn Schnepp 04/14/07
I'm so proud of myself! I guessed that the rock she rested her foot on in the beginning was the rock that had done her friend in! And sure enough, it was!! I could be the asst. of the Asst.'s secretary, right? Good job! Enjoyed the analysis.
Jacquelyn Horne04/15/07
Comes across like and old Sam Spade investigation. I felt the suspense here. Good job.
Elizabeth Baize04/16/07
You did a great job of weaving a perfect amount of humor into the secretary character. My favorite line was, "You see, I'm a private investigator...sort of. I mean, I'm the assistant (well, maybe the secretary), for John Willingston, P.I. - or I was. It was only ten or so years ago. I wasn't that rusty, anyway." Then, the last line gives the final touch to her personality!
Cheri Hardaway 04/16/07
I loved how you developed Tina's character! And I have to agree with Elizabeth about her favorite line in the story. It added just a touch of humor.

I caught the foreshadowing of the rock. I think I must have humor on the brain (thanks to our current challenge topic), so I thought the piece was going to continue along with several scenarios quie obvious to the reader (like the rock), but missed by the amateur detective, Tina. That would have been humorous. And I liked how Tina came up with the baseball bat theory too.

750 words is such a small amount of text in which to develop a satisfying plot and conclusion, but I believe you've done it. Good work. Blessings, Cheri
Cheri Hardaway 04/16/07
You know, I actually proofread my comment before submitting it. Seems the mystery now is how I missed the misspelling of "quite." Sorry!
Rita Garcia04/16/07
Creative and fun! Great writing!
Jan Ackerson 04/17/07
This is quite charming! I think just a subtle re-writing of the 4th paragraph could still leave a clue for your readers but not make it obvious...I love your protagonist's personality and this good-natured mystery.
Sara Harricharan 04/17/07
A baffling bump indeed. I guessed that it was the rock that got her. Maybe add a bit more 'mystery' to this and expand a bit more. It certainly has the potential and I liked the characters very much. Good job! ^_^
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/17/07
I loved your "sort of" P.I. I believe maybe those kids hurled a rock at her. (smile)
A cute story!
Julie Arduini04/17/07
Really nice character development, and great touch of humor.
Henry Clemmons04/17/07
I loved this story. I bet Mr. Butterwinkle's angels threw the rock at her:)
Anyway, great writing, super job with the Mystery Theme. Great charcaterization with the P.I. and superb dialogue. Excellent job. God bless.
Loren T. Lowery04/18/07
Truly enjoyed your main character - so much charm and just enough "macho" to make her endearing.
Sandra Petersen 04/18/07
This started out well and kept me reading. That must have been one good-sized rock if your MC chose to rest her foot on it. Funny, I kept thinking about Nero Wolfe and his personal secretary/leg man Archie when you mentioned the MC's previous occupation. Cute story.
Betty Castleberry04/18/07
Okay, this has me wanting to read more. I think it'd make a good intro for a novella. Loved the way you spiced it up with just a little humor. Well done.
Marty Wellington 04/18/07
Very nicely done, Joanne. It's a gem of a mystery.
Helen Paynter04/18/07
This was fun. Reminds me of a story I read once where a woman did her husband in with a frozen leg of lemb, then fed it to the detectives who came looking for the murder weapon. I enjoyed the characterisation, and your usual light humorous touch.
Shari Armstrong 04/18/07
Well done but of deduction -and writing :) I enjoyed it.
Cassie Memmer04/18/07
Great job! Everyone loves an idiot sleuth and that's where I thought we were going when I read about the rock and "the area seemed devoid of clues." LOL! I would have loved more of that ineptness, but that's the silliness in me. You got the mystery presented and solved, and in a delightful way. You did good!
Val Clark04/18/07
I too thought that you were going to take us dowm the bumbling detective path but even though you didn't I enjoyed the story. Great characterisation.
Donna Haug04/18/07
Loved the alliteration of your title. Loved her introduction of herself too. I agree that the ending was a bit more 'tame' than I expected it to be. But I guess that was the idea. I can picture her laying there in the leaves. I would enjoy doing that too.
Joanney Uthe04/18/07
Great wanna-be discription of Tina's private detective skills. The openning got my attention and you kept it.
LaNaye Perkins04/19/07
Great story with a splash of mystery and humor all rolled into one.
Tabiatha Tallent04/19/07
Great story. I especially loved the last lines.