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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Confused (08/16/07)

TITLE: Breadcrumbs Along the Way
By Jacqueline Zerres


Gretel strolled the beach, watching a dozen sandpipers scurry after their breakfast. She glanced over her shoulder at the rows of bungalows that looked as if stamped from the same mold. Lines creased her forehead. “Oh, dear, which one is mine?”

A gull swooped low, catching her attention. Her eyes followed until the bird lighted. “Now, what was I doing?” Thoughts flitted at the edges of her mind, knitting her brows together. “Oh yes, church.” Sand crunched under her feet as she tottered toward the weather-beaten boardwalk. After a few steps, she bent to remove her fuzzy purple slippers, carrying them in her free hand. A straw purse dangled from one arm.

“Where’s Gram?” Taite asked as she passed the empty room of her mother.

Jamie lifted the earphones glued to his head and shrugged. “Don’t know, not my turn to watch her.”

“Jamie!” A slight shove brought her son to his feet. She barked at him. “Well – let’s find her.”

“Aw, mom.”

“Now, Jamie, before she gets lost.”
Gretel patted her fuzzy scuffs as she laid them on the bottom stair. “I won’t be but a moment,” she told them. Wetting a crooked finger between her lips, she lifted it in the breeze and turned in the direction of what the locals nicknamed Shantyville.
“What if she went toward that bad section of town?” Jamie asked.

“I knew we should have taken that better cottage. Instead, I try to save a few bucks by getting a place too close to that seedy area.” Taite glanced up and down the beach, chewing her lower lip. “I don’t see anyone, do you.”

Jamie was racing toward the boardwalk. “No, but she’s been by here. Look. It’s Gram’s slippers.”
Faded and peeling paint graced the once pretty buildings and litter collected in narrow alleys in the poor town where Gretel found herself. The odor of garbage and urine rose from the cracked cement. Occasionally, she stopped to talk with someone, then moved on to find her destination.
Coming to the edge of the city limits, Taite and Jamie passed a pack of young girls wearing too much makeup. Another youngster, not more than nine or ten, trailed far behind them, stringy hair plastered to her face.

“Excuse me, miss, but did you see an old lady walk by here?”
The child stared at her feet, the stain of chocolate still wet around her mouth. “She bought me ice cream. Some mean girls called me names.” A fleeting moment of sadness flashed in her eyes as they traveled to the group ahead. Just as quickly, a smile emerged. “She said I was pretty.” Still beaming, she told them where Gretel had left the boardwalk.


A few minutes later, the stench hit them.

Leaning against a wall of graffiti, a scar-faced vagrant was eating the remnants of a sandwich. Taite stood with wide eyes as the man threw the wrapping to the ground, lit a stub of cigarette, sucked in its smoke and flipped the filter to the gutter.

She was nudging her son to cross the street when she stopped. The man had a paper gospel of John peeking from a ripped pocket.

Gripping her son’s arm, she approached. “Uh…excuse me, did you see…?”

“A little old woman? Yeah, lady. She asked me how to get to the church. She gave me this.” Teary-eyed, he pulled the booklet from his pocket and opened it, staring as though he saw something sacred. “She had a five spot planted right here.” Rubbing his face with the back of his hand, he added, “I ain’t eaten in two days.”

“Where’s the church?” Jamie asked.

He gave directions. “This ain’t a good neighborhood, lady. I followed her to make sure she was safe.”

Taite thanked him. The next several blocks brought the same results. A word of encouragement to a homeless man, scattered stories about her precious family to a scared teenager pacing outside an abortion clinic, even a kissed knee for a scrawny young boy trying hard to be brave.

The church was quiet when they arrived. Gretel was talking in whispers to a man of the cloth.


The man smiled at Jamie, then nodded his head toward Gretel. “Her name reminded me of the childhood fairy tale. I told her that if she was going to wander off, she should at least leave a trail of breadcrumbs.

“Oh, but she did,” said Taite. “All the way here.”

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This article has been read 802 times
Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood08/23/07
I loved this story! I could just see Gretel--the wonderfully forgetful yet wise old saint with her fuzzy bedroom slippers. Beautiful, vivid descriptions of all the characters--especially the homeless man and the little girl. Great dialogue, too. I could just see them and hear them--everyone in this story came alive for me, as though I were there.

Terrific message about the wisdom and compassion of God that can bloom in even those the world would consider "confused."

Intriguing title, too. Great job!
Edy T Johnson 08/24/07
Dittos to everything in the above comment. How you managed to capture so much within the word limit is simply wonderful. This is masterful writing!
Dee Yoder 08/25/07
Simply wonderful! I love the spunk of this precious old lady with her fuzzy slippers. And I love the message that an impaired mind isn't indicative of an impaired soul. Thanks for making my day with this beautiful story.
c clemons08/27/07
Ditto, everything from the previous reviewers, not sure if the lines were necessary though. This one is definitely a winner.
Joanne Sher 08/27/07
Oh, do I ever LOVE this! Absolutely masterful storytelling. One of my very favorites this week.
Beth LaBuff 08/30/07
Beautiful story! Congrats on being highly commended!!
Mo 08/30/07
Nicely done! Congrats on your Highly Commended!
Kate Grey09/05/07
Lovely story. :)