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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "It's No Use Crying over Spilt Milk" (without using the actual phrase or literal exampl (02/07/08)

TITLE: The Mystery of Traveling Stars
By Loren T. Lowery


Alone on the prairie floor, Jackson lay on his bedroll, his head supported by his saddle. His horse, Taft, is tied to a nearby tree and snorts to break the quiet of the night.

The sky is black and cloudless and there is nothing, not even the moon, to disturb the piercing light of the stars.

There is no campfire because there is no need. It is late summer and Jackson felt no hunger for food; only for the quiet solitude under the night’s sky.

One star in particular caught his eye. He knew it took the light from a star millions of years to reach the earth. Pondering this, he realized he was looking back in time and wondered where that star might be now.

Was it still there? Had it moved on or had it simply winked out to become some dark hole; a cold, vast emptiness now filling the space it had once commanded.

“What do you think, Taft?” His voice carried in the warm air and Taft snorted again, shaking his body in reply.

Jackson laughed. “Me either.”

But the thought would not let him go and he continued to look into the sky, into the dark spaces between the stars to see if he could catch a streak of movement. To glimpse a smear of light, like the tail of a comet, to prove or disprove the stars trek across time.

A million years shone into his eyes, traveling at a speed beyond his senses, moving as a river moves, changing but always remaining the same.

“Taft, you ever feel like you lost something, but just can’t quite put your finger on what it is?” No reply this time, only quiet.

“Me, too. That’s why I came out here tonight, to see if I could find it.”

A shooting star streaked across the sky, its tail dissolving slow like pixie dust from a magic wand; its trail bridging the dark gap between the stars. Jackson reached up as if to grasp the fading light and cup it in his hand.

He looked at his empty palm. “Maybe what I lost, I never had. Maybe it’s like the light from that comet, just out of my reach.” He looked over at his horse who appeared to be asleep. “What do you think, Taft, ole buddy?” Again, silence.

“Guess I have to figure this one out on my own, huh,” He turned back to watch the sky. But something was still in his craw. “Is love like that? You know a mystery you can see, but just quite figure out?” A single tear broke in the corner of his eye.

“It hurts, Taft. It really, really hurts.” He wiped the tear away with the same hand cupped to catch the light. “I loved her. I still do.”

Beyond the hills, the shrill howl of a coyote stirred the night air and mixed with the winged strum of the cicadas and croak of the tree frogs.

“But she says she doesn’t love me.” A battle was going on inside. Despair fighting with hope, their blades hollowing his heart. Jackson bit his lip, struggling to control the hurt. “I’ve got to move on.”

He stood as if to get closer to the stars. As if by standing he could see their mystery more clearly and then come up with an answer for the emptiness he was feeling.

“Just listen to me; talking to you like you could understand me. Talking to you like a friend.” He turned to his faithful horse. “You think God is listening, Taft?”

Taft seemed to give his head a gentle nod.

“Well, I’ll tell you what I think, my friend.” He picked up his blanket and saddle with a grunt. “I think He was listening.” He walked over to Taft.

“And you know what He told me? He told me love’s no different from the course of those stars out there – changing, but always remaining the same.”

He swung the saddle onto Taft’s back with a big grin. “And you know what else He told me? He told me to go find me a brand new girl friend. That’s what He told me; and that’s just what I’m going to do.”

And so Jackson rode back into town, a better, wiser man. Despair had turned to hope because of the friendship of a horse, the mystery of traveling stars and a God who listens to our hearts – sometimes telling us to simply move on.

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Member Comments
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Randy Chambers02/14/08
Nice story. "Despair fighting with hope, their blades hollowing his heart." -- Great image!
Patty Wysong02/14/08
I loved the tranquility of this piece. I could feel it just as surely as you made me see the stars. "...a God who listens to our hearts – sometimes telling us to simply move on." Soooooo good.
Dee Yoder 02/14/08
Unrequited love is the ultimate spilled milk. I really liked this character, (and his horse), and the gentle lesson that God is listening to our cries for help, even when we aren't sure if He is!
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/15/08
I love how you took the simple story of a man talking to his horse and combined it with great imagery and lots of wise pholosophy.
Sally Hanan02/15/08
Nicely done. You caught the reflection of the MC realistically and drew me in. Watch your tenses--you skipped a few times, and it distracted me in the very first paragraph.
Joanne Sher 02/15/08
Excellent sense of place, and the dialog is also wonderful. I was completely captivated by this story from beginning to end.
Rita Garcia02/15/08
Master story telling from beginning to end!
Betty Castleberry02/15/08
Excellent voice. You put me right in the middle of the scene. I enjoyed reading this.
Dolores Stohler02/17/08
Atmosphere is this story's strong point. I was with him under the stars. But what I wanted to tell this cowboy was "give her a second chance". True love doesn't die that easily. We need to keep on hoping when things seem hopeless. "Love bears all things" etc.
Glynis Becker02/18/08
The images, the descriptions and especially the dialogue are all perfectly-executed. Great story!
LauraLee Shaw02/19/08
Absolutely as mysteriously captivating as your title. I love the way you told an entire story in just a 'moment' of time. Just beautiful.
Lyn Churchyard02/19/08
Wonderfully descriptive. You have captured the scene to perfection. I love your ending. Super job!
Sara Harricharan 02/20/08
I like this! Your title-the word "Mystery" caught me and drew me in. The rambling sort of thought/dialouge kept me reading. My favorite character...was Taft! I liked him-and your closing paragraph. Great descriptions and a really, really good point. ^_^
Gerald Shuler 02/20/08
Does Jackson yodel, too? He is a perfect cowboy... tough as nails, with a brain AND a heart. His horse is the winner just to be with him.

Great writing. I really enjoyed this entry.
Debbie Wistrom02/20/08
I felt at peace through out this enchanting tale. Keep up the good words.
Joy Faire Stewart02/20/08
The writing is so descriptive the reader is placed in the scene. My favorite style of writing. Great MC and he talks to his horse! Love it. Super job.
Beth LaBuff 02/20/08
Your nature descriptions are beautiful.. (I could picture it perfectly). I enjoyed the conversation between Jackson and Taft... :) Great writing and perfect for the topic.
Peter Stone02/21/08
It can be hard to keep a reader's attention while a character engages in thoughtful contemplation, but you managed it artfully. It fell like I was there studying the starlight as well.