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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write in the ADVENTURE genre (05/24/07)

TITLE: Into the Sunlight
By Jan Ackerson


Roman shrugs into his favorite Yoda tee-shirt and pulls a baseball cap backwards onto unruly dark hair. Mom is calling from downstairs, and Roman knows that she will insist. It’s always the same—“Roman, please put down the book and go play outside. That’s what boys do, honey.”

He is perfectly content in his world of books. In the people-world, Roman cannot decide what the faces mean—that woman’s eyes are crinkled: is she happy or mad? That boy is talking loudly: is he scared or excited? But in his books, the people all make sense, and the words tell Roman exactly what they are feeling.

…Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden…

…But Mom calls and calls, so Roman has carefully marked his place in Tom Sawyer with a blue bookmark and has replaced it precisely on the shelf, scooching the books a bit until they are perfectly aligned.

“Have fun,” Mom says, and she touches Roman’s shoulder. He walks heavily outdoors, holding his arms close to his sides and squinting as the sunlight hits his eyes. Looking back at Mom, hoping that she isn’t watching, Roman almost makes it back into the house through the side entrance. But Mom is at the window, and she gestures go to him, so he walks stiffly down the block, unsure what to do next.

He stops where the sidewalk ends and looks back. Still Mom.

Ahead of him, across the street, is a park where some boys from school are playing. There are lots of loud voices, too many of them, and Roman covers his ears. Mom would like him to play in the park, he knows, so he walks forward twenty steps, then sits where the grass meets the trees.

The sun is hurting Roman’s eyes; he looks down. There in the grass he finds a nickel, smudged with dirt and unpleasantly sticky…

Captain Roman the Fearsome planted his shining sword in the sand. “Here’s where ye’ll find the buried treasure, mateys!” he shouted. “Thousands of galleons, ours fer the taking, me boys!”…

“Watch out, dude!” A Frisbee lands near Roman’s knee, followed by a boy with a shiny, red face. Roman silently hands him the toy, wipes his hands on his jeans, then stands and takes ten steps into the shelter of the trees. It is quieter here, and cooler, and the glare of the sunlight is subdued. Ten steps more, and Roman spots a glimpse of pink, out of place in the green and brown of his leafy haven. It is a hair ribbon, caught on a dead twig…

Chief Detective Roman Armstrong examined the newly discovered evidence. He turned the scrap of fabric over in his hands. “I now know,” he solemnly declared, “that the robbery was committed by the infamous Girl Burglar of London…”

A small noise causes Roman to shake off his imagination. He cocks his head; the boys are still playing off to his left, but this sound is in the other direction. It scares Roman a little—it is not a sound he can interpret, but he doesn’t think it is a happy sound. He looks to the left, considers walking back into the park. He wants to get away from the sound, but it pulls him forward.

He walks, climbs over a fallen and rotting tree, listens. The sound isn’t any louder, but it’s closer, and it’s a person. Roman is almost sure. Yes, over there—more pink, a blonde head—it’s a little girl, and she is whimpering, her face stained with tears and dirt.

Roman remembers Mom and Dad talking in the living room…missing toddler…police…must be dead…search party. He had wondered: what is a search party? Is there cake?

He does not want to get his hands dirty, but he knows what he must do. “Don’t cry,” he says, and he takes her pudgy hands in his. “Let’s go.”

Roman Sawyer, boy hero, snatched the little girl from the kidnapper’s lair. He laughed at the bad man, tied tightly to a chair. “I have stopped your evil plan!” he declared. The rescued child held on tight…

He listens for the sounds of boys playing, and walks with the little girl into the sunlight.


Excerpt from Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, 1876.

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This article has been read 1364 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dee Yoder 05/31/07
Beautiful story. One of my favorites!
Kevin Kindrick06/01/07
What a great story - I loved your take on a little boy's thoughts - every boy has a bit of a Hero in him.

Thanks, and God bless,

Lynda Schultz 06/01/07
Excellent story!
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/01/07
Delightful story! Now I know what Walter Mitty was like as a young boy!
Leigh MacKelvey06/02/07
Your description of an autistic child was right on!
Roman's thoughts, reactions showed us the charateristics these children live with. What an adventrue for him to step into the sunlight he normally can't besr in order to rescue the little girl!
Great writing!
julie wood06/02/07
I loved this story!! I could identify with it a lot, since I was a child very much like Roman (and still am a person like him). I too have always felt more comfortable encountering people in stories than in real life, precisely for the same reason--books tell me clearly what people are thinking and feeling inside, and I too have trouble telling that about people in real life-- which makes encounters with them often scary or confusing. Thanks so much for sharing this!
Helen Paynter06/03/07
Beutiful, touching story (as always), describing an autistic boy. Sensitive, light (as in gentle, rather than humorous), moving.
Shari Armstrong 06/04/07
Absolutely wonderful. Books have been my escape, also. I love how the adventures in his mind blended into the real world -and he a real hero.
Betty Castleberry06/04/07
This is very sweet. I love Roman's imagination, and the way you showed he is special, without coming out and saying it. It is so well written, too, but then, you are a pro. Thumbs up.
Joanne Sher 06/04/07
Excellent look into an autistic boy's perceptions. This gave me some keen insight into my son, who is mildly so. I do not think this fizzled, by the way.
Benjamin Graber06/04/07
This one is great! I really liked how you showed how Roman's imagination interpreted the events around him.
Sandra Petersen 06/04/07
Excellent choice for what Roman was reading; he must have felt very much like Tom Sawyer, an entire afternoon about to be wasted on something someone else determined was 'good' for him. I identify with Roman; books are more predictable than people, and a lot easier to relate to sometimes. Good description of the nature of a perfectionist: the books having to be aligned just so, the bookmark placed just right.

I liked the ending. Roman is a hero!

Sandra Petersen 06/04/07
Just goes to show I should probably read the other comments before submitting my own. I didn't realize Roman was autistic. Sorry!
Ann Grover06/04/07
Brilliant... identified with Roman completely.... books - the ultimate escape, a new adventure every day. Well-written, well-developed, colourful, as always.
Sharlyn Guthrie06/04/07
What I like best about your story is how well it causes the reader to relate to Roman, proving he really isn't all that different, after all. It's creative as an adventure story, in that the adventure finds Roman, instead of the other way around. As usual, fabulous writing!
Loren T. Lowery06/04/07
To have such insights into a child such as Roman is a gift - you have truly blessed this reader by your compassionate writing.
Sara Harricharan 06/04/07
This was fun. A different adventure twist, I was hoping for something indiana jones-like, but this wasn't too bad. It read at an easy pace and I liked the thoughts when his imagination is calling him off on a different track. Sounds like me. ^_^ I can't think of anything to change really, it was okay, but not great. I think maybe the ending was a little rushed with him remembering the missing little girl, but that could just be me.
Myrna Noyes06/04/07
Very cute story! I wish the boy in your piece could get together with the boy in mine. They'd have such fun together, huh? :D I can totally relate to Roman, because as a child I loved books and was always "acting out" scenes from my imagination! Great job!
Lynda Lee Schab 06/04/07
I love your creativity. Who else would have thought of a story for "Adventure" from the perspective of an autistic boy? This story is exactly the reason you are in Masters. Superb.
Kristen Hester06/04/07
I love it. This is a very sweet story. I loved "hearing" Roman's thoughts.
TJ Nickel06/05/07
Terrific story with perfect writing for adventure. I love how you used commas and left out words in order to create action, it kept the pace of the tale of a 'slow' adventure hero at pace with the genre and the use of the source material and the imitations of it demonstrated a great gift with words. For a suggestion? Turn it into 1500 words, add some foreshadowing to the ending in the beginning, and sell the short story.
william price06/05/07
A fizzler!? This had all the fizzle of a five-hour-old glass of Sprite. Just a few bubbles still floating to the top. And I mean that complimentary. The subelty of this boys adventure could easily of been as overlooked as the last of a Sprite's fizzle. A boy in a bubble forced to the top. Anyway, I really liked this piece because it didn't bowl me over, or shake up the soda can and spray your adventure all over me. Masterful. God bless.
Jan Ross06/06/07
No less than awesome! Reading your stories always makes me feel like I've missed so much in life -- you're a master at tying things together, integrating stories and nursery rhymes into real-life situations. What an incredible gift you have! Before we moved, I had a piano student with Aspergers--she functions very well with music. Her relational skills, however, are much like Roman's in your story. Her mom told me, "music makes sense to her because its predictable and understandable." Excellent work, Jan!
Jacquelyn Horne06/06/07
A Hero! I'm not normally shy, but somehow, I was able to identify with this little boy. I did spend a lot of time alone as a child.
Pamela Kliewer06/06/07
This story is wonderful. I felt the boy's heart. Well done.
Rita Garcia06/07/07
Another wonderful story from a master story-teller! AWESOME WRITING!
Janice Fitzpatrick06/11/07
What a wonderful story! I loved this. Beautifully written! God bless your gift!Janice