Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write something in the YOUNG ADULT or TEEN genre (06/07/07)
TITLE: My Thirteenth Year
By Teri Wilson
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The stand-off had been going on for 35 days when Reese arrived home from school to find the garage door opener sitting on the kitchen table. It was in a large Ziploc bag. She and her mother stared at it for several long minutes before either of them spoke.
“That is gross. Why did they even give it back to us?” Reese wanted to look away, but she couldn’t.
“I don’t know, honey. It just came in the box with all of the other stuff from the car.”
“Is that Dad’s blood?” Reese pointed to the rust-colored splatters covering the crushed garage door opener.
Her mother couldn’t answer. She simply gathered up the plastic bag, threw it in the kitchen trashcan and walked away. Reese wasn’t surprised; her mother talked a lot less now that Dad was gone.
Reese picked up her backpack, heavy with books, and headed toward her room to do her homework. But she couldn’t concentrate. She kept thinking about the mangled garage door opener laying in the trash, sprayed with the only thing left of her dad. Making sure her mom wasn’t anywhere in sight, she snuck back downstairs and fished the plastic bag out of the trash.
She buried it at the bottom of her purse, where she wouldn’t be forced to look at it. She just couldn’t stomach the sight of the blood, but it made her feel better knowing it wasn’t sitting in a landfill somewhere.
So it sat at the bottom of her handbag, beneath the gum, under the lip gloss and hiding behind her hairbrush. It was still in there, like a lead weight, three weeks later when she and her mother sat in one of the middle pews at church.
Attending church when she was no longer speaking to God was difficult at first, but she had become more accustomed to it. Today, however, was proving to be more of a challenge. The first song is what started it.
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains
And it didn’t stop there.
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Reese felt ill. All these songs about blood. It was so morbid. She thought about her own father’s blood, dried and sitting in a plastic bag in her purse, and she just couldn’t take it anymore. She ran out of the sanctuary and outside into the brisk winter air.
Her mother found her sitting on the front steps to the church, crouched into a tiny ball, as if she were trying to disappear.
“It can be kind of suffocating in there, can’t it?”
Reese looked up, surprised to hear such an admission from her mother. “I started to feel sick to my stomach. I never realized how many songs we sing about blood. It’s really gross.”
“I know. I’ve had a few words with God about that myself.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I just told God I can’t really think about Jesus’ suffering and his wounds right now. It reminds me too much of your father and the crash, you know? I just need some time to heal.”
“You talk to God like that? I’m not even speaking to Him. I have nothing nice to say.”
“Reese, you don’t need to sugarcoat things with God. He loves all of you, even the ugly, darkest parts of your thoughts. You can say anything to Him. The important thing is to just keep talking.”
Reese felt a little better and unfurled from her balled up posture. After a few more minutes, she told her mom she thought she was ready to go back inside.
They sat in the back pew, hand in hand, just like they did when Reese was a little girl. And when the collection plate came their way, she reached inside her purse, brought out the last bit of her dad, and placed it in the shiny silver tray. Her offering.
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