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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Bold (emotionally) (08/30/07)

TITLE: The Glass Door
By dub W


Morning sun reflected off of the glass doors, momentarily blinding Kum-ja. Her friends, here in America, called her Kim. She stared at the door and the strange letters written in big gold shapes and designs. She sighed. “Oh, hum.” Kim pushed a button on her radio and the music changed to a local Christian station. She loved the sounds she heard although the words had no meaning.

A car pulled up and Kim watched a woman open the glass door and go into the building. A cold chill ran down her spine. All I have to do is follow that woman through that door.

Kim started the engine on her tiny Honda and drove out of the parking lot and to the local Wal Mart. Maybe, Susie is there I’ll talk to her. She parked her car far from the other cars and walked into the large store. An elderly man smiled and spoke to her. Kim ducked her head and walked straight back to the notions department. Though she searched through every aisle she could not find her friend. In the early morning there were few shoppers in the store. I’ll get a Coke and go to my car. Kim walked to the front of the store and found a soda cooler. She took a Coke out and set it on the counter in front of a tired looking woman. The woman looked up, smiled, and said something to her. Kim lowered her eyes and handed the woman a five-dollar bill. On Sunday, her sponsor had put her money in order in her billfold. She basically knew number symbols and the one with a straight line would not pay for a coke; but the curved symbol would.

The cashier handed Kim three bills and some coins and said something. Kim stuffed the money in her billfold and gently took the coke and receipt off of the counter. She had learned that the white paper was necessary to get out of the store.

Once she was secure in her car again Kim leaned back and sipped on the soft drink. Oh dear Jesus, why did you send me here to this strange place? She started the car and drove back to the parking lot where she could watch the glass door.

People of all descriptions came and went through the door. Finally, the clock on her dash showed a straight line and a circle. Kim knew that meant she had just a few minutes to get to work. At least there I can speak to friends. Even though they speak a dialect, I can understand them.

The next morning, the process began again. Kim watched the parade of people walking into and out of the office behind the glass door. Finally, a man and woman arrived and walked toward the door. They both looked Korean. Kim struggled to get out of her seat belt and open her car door. But, before she could get out of the Honda, the couple disappeared behind the door. She quickly retreated the safety of her vehicle. Perspiration formed on her upper lip and she noticed the trembling in her hands. She started the engine of her car and began to drive out of the parking lot. “Oh, Kim, you are such a little girl. You can do it.” Her subconscious was screaming at her. She stopped the car and backed up into a parking space. She took a deep breath, picked up the sheet of paper her friend Susie had written for her, and opened her car door.

Seconds later she stood on the door mat in front of the glass door. Oh, Jesus, help me do this.

Tiny bells jingled as the door opened and a rush of cool air-conditioning struck her in the face. I can go back to my car. Nobody knows me.

A smiling red headed woman approached her and said something in English. Kim handed her the piece of paper. Written on it were these words: “My name is Kum-ja, but you can call me Kim. I am Korean. I do not speak or read English. Can you help me?”

The woman opened a file drawer, pulled out a card and handed it to Kim. In Korean it said: “Welcome, we're very glad you are here. This is your first step to learning English. Proliteracy America.”

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This article has been read 854 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 09/06/07
Excellent job creating the sense of place and character. This story truly moved me. I was definitely right there with Kim.
Dee Yoder 09/06/07
I volunteered to teach reading to adults once, and though the man I tutored knew English, his illiteracy kept him in the same kind of world your MC is in. You only have to leave the US and go to, say, France, to know how these people feel. Having to look for food by pictures on the label is tortuous. Reading instructions is even worse! Your story is a great reminder of what others face when they come to America, and have to start from square one. Great story!
Marilyn Schnepp 09/07/07
Interesting read. Covered topic well...even if it took a few tries, first.
Janice Cartwright09/07/07
Many years ago my sister-in-law came here from Thailand with no knowledge of our language. Your story of Kim brought so many memories. I can still see her silent beauty and am so glad I was able to make her feel at home by offering her some of her native dishes. Very well written.
Laurie Walker09/10/07
Definitely a powerful reminder of what those who speak another language suffer with when they come here. Thank you for writing such an eye-opening story.

And for doing it so well.
Jan Ackerson 09/11/07
I can't imagine how terrifying it would be to try to cope in a foreign language--but you've portrayed it well. I like the symbolism of the glass doors, too.
Sherrie Jackson09/11/07
I was debating the necessity of all the descriptions of her uncertainty, until I came to the end and realized it was just right. A great fit for the topic! Good luck!
Linda Watson Owen09/11/07
Oh, I think this is wonderful! The detail is absolutely perfect for this piece. It really communicates the struggle Kim is having as she readies herself to walk through that 'glass door'. Great story! Loved it!
Frank Creed09/12/07
Hey You--
I was a foreign exchange student to Israel for just under a year. You've captured what it's like to live in a place with not only a different language, but a different alphabet. You've also succeeded in capturing and communicating the mannerisms of an Asian young woman, who comes from a culture where she has little value.

Your powerful ending even made me Google: http://www.proliteracy.org/

Brenda Welc09/12/07
This was great. I felt her feelings as I read through this. Great writing!
Loren T. Lowery09/12/07
I have taught English as a second language and you've captured some of my students' feelings very well.
Kristen Hester09/12/07
I could really feel Kim's fear and frustration. I was rooting for her and cheered when she finally made the bold step to enter the building. Great job.
Laury Hubrich 09/12/07
Thank you for sharing this. I can't imagine how I would cope in a foreign country unable to speak or read the language.
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/12/07
I especially like the way your mc built up to boldness. Well done.
Betty Castleberry09/12/07
What a scary thing to not be able to communicate. You made me very sympathetic toward your MC. I enjoyed this.
Valora Otis09/13/07
I was the literacy specialist for our congregation at one time. I taught English with the use of the Bible. It was amazing and ispiring to see the light in the eyes of recent imigrants as they learned to speak our language. Your story brought those memories back to me. Bless you for writing this wonderful story.