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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Make Hay While the Sun Shines" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (03/06/08)

TITLE: Thomas


The smell of fresh coffee teased my nostrils. I entered Daisy’s Café below the row of offices that overlooked a noisy intersection.

“Morning, Dave. The usual?” Daisy called.

“Yes, please. Any donuts?”


Daisy handed me the coffee then bagged the donuts while I guzzled down a few mouthfuls of the piping hot brew. “Just the way I like it. See you later, Daisy.”

I stepped back out into the din of the busy street and headed up the flight of stairs a few feet way. There blocking my way, sat a vagabond. A middle-aged man, down on his luck. He was known to every tenant on Ninth Street as Tom.

“Tom.” I tried to sound unperturbed. “I really need to get to my office.”

“Can I…I…I come up? I…I…I need to t-t-talk,” he stuttered.

I felt a little aggravated but decided if I wanted to get past, it would have to be. “Come on, then. I’ve got your favorite.” I shook the donut bag and he grinned.

I handed Tom the bag so I could unlock the door, stepped aside and let him enter. Closing the door behind me, I placed the coffee on my desk and opened a window.

“Now, what can I do for you, Tom?” I asked, watching him gulp down the last donut.

He choked slightly, spraying crumbs over my desk. I handed him my coffee. I would have to go without. Tom stuttered his thanks and drank before he explained his request.

He began by telling me his name was actually Thomas; not Tom. His problem was a simple one. Thomas needed bus fares to a canning factory where his friend John worked as a packer. Thomas needed to go today, preferably before ten o’clock because the cannery was employing staff this morning. He needed me to go along to speak for him. It was true enough, I understood his stuttering, but asking for a position would be difficult for both Thomas and the employer.

“Okay Thomas, you can’t go like that.” I pointed him to the tiny bathroom and told him to strip and shower while I checked the phone messages.

There was only one message. “Lord Bellamy, here; I need you to find someone. If you call before midday, the job’s yours.”

I looked at my watch. “Ouch!”

I could hear Thomas complaining in the cold shower. I fumbled around my closet where I kept spare clothes in case I slept at the office during a week-long investigation. I found an open-neck shirt I’d never worn and a pair of trousers. “Definitely too long. We’ll have to roll them up.”

The shower, a change of clothes and a comb through his hair, made Thomas respectable enough. His threadbare shoes were hidden by the trousers. I sprayed Thomas with cologne until we both choked.

Thomas's eyes widened with anticipation and excitement of being out of Ninth street. He obviously hadn’t been on a bus for a long time; maybe not at all. There was a lot I didn’t know about Thomas.

“Thomas,” I asked, as the bus neared the factory. “Where will you live if you get this job?”

“M-m-my friend, J-J-John, h-he let me stay for a-a bit,” he answered, his eyes still fixed on the view beyond the widow.

The cannery manager was sympathetic and understanding. “John would like me to give you a go,” he told Thomas. “I’ll give you a month’s trial. John’s a good teacher; I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

After handshakes all round, I left Thomas with the manager and returned to my office where Old Spice cologne still lingered in the stuffy air. I pressed the replay button on the answering machine and dialed the recorded number. I was pleased Thomas had the opportunity for a fresh start. I wondered now if I had a job.

“Lord Bellamy’s residence. May I help you?”

“Yes, this is Dave Strong, Private Investigator. Lord Bellamy left a message on my answering machine.”

“Yes, Mr. Strong, he’s been waiting for your call. I’ll put you through.”

“Hello, Mr. Strong. I need someone to find my brother.” Lord Bellamy’s voice sounded stately but urgent. “My brother and Father had a disagreement over 20 years ago. My brother left and we haven’t heard from him since.” He paused before continuing. “Our father passed away a few weeks ago and has left Thomas with half the estate. I need to find him. It’s time to bring him home. Can you help?”

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This article has been read 838 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Amy Michelle Wiley 03/14/08
Awesome writing! The beginning was a tad slow and I saw the twist coming, but the understated details like having him open the window instead of outright saying Tom smelled is totally superb writing. I would enjoy reading a whole book about this PI.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/14/08
I loved the "heart" of youn PI and the twist at the end. The descriptive details drew me in.
Holly Westefeld03/14/08
An enjoyable read. I should have guessed sooner than I did, for whom the client would be searching, but at least I figured it out before the name was given.
Spell check is great, but won't catch the errors such as "way" for "away," or "widow" for "window," as proofreading will.
Marilyn Schnepp 03/15/08
When I read the last line of this entry - I burst into tears. Good stories do that to me, and THIS IS definitely one of those! Great job, and I loved the MC. I have a serious case of Attention Span Disorder, but had no problem at all with this excellent writing - it kept me glued from beginning to end. Great Job! Super creative! Kudos, Kudos, Kudos!
Debbie Roome 03/16/08
Oh, this is lovely. The ending was a complete surprise.
Lynda Lee Schab 03/16/08
Very touching and a creative twist. Well done!
Lyn Churchyard03/16/08
Loved this story and your kindhearted PI. I'm usually pretty good picking up the "twist" before the end of a story, but you completely fooled me. Well done, very well done :)
Jan Ackerson 03/16/08
What a sweet, big-hearted story! I love it.
jodie banner03/16/08
Your ending got me. I thought he was going to lose the job and find out something horrible about Tom, great story.
Joanne Sher 03/16/08
The voice of this is just right for a PI tale - especially the beginning. This IS on-topic, and I love the twist at the end, as well as the characterization. Nicely done!
Shelley Ledfors 03/16/08
What a wonderful story. I enjoyed this so much! I, too, see it as on topic...and also a very lovely, heartwarming story. Loved the "opening the window" line and others where you did a great job of showing rather than telling. Well done.
Chely Roach03/16/08
This was great...awesome little twist, and incredible writing. Loved it.
Dee Yoder 03/16/08
Great characters in this story, Chrissy. I love the twist at the end-it gives it a little spark of good hope for Thomas and for the MC. I enjoyed reading this!
Sharon Henderson03/16/08
I didn't see it coming until just before it was clear. I, too, thought something would happen to Thomas ... or .. the investigative job would already be gone.

Very enjoyable read.
william price03/16/08
I like a story with a BIG ending. The subtle title drew me in to believe one thing and then you "Whammed" me. Nice job. God bless.
Betty Castleberry03/16/08
I, for one, didn't see the end coming. It was a nice surprise. Very good writing, Chrissy.
Mandy White03/16/08
Great job, Chrissy. I love a good twist!
Kristen Hester03/16/08
This is a delightful story! I loved every word and had a major "awww" moment at then end. Your end did surprise me, party because I didn't realize he was a PI until after the call. I wasn't sure what the call was about, but it didn't bother me at all. I just enjoyed the ride. Very realistic characters. Bravo.
Debbie Wistrom03/17/08
Entertaining and touching, there is much here to expand.
So glad for the MC, that he gets to help Thomas twice.
Loren T. Lowery03/17/08
First off, I really liked Dave's heart. To me it carried the entire story and made me want to know more about him and the way he ran his life/business. Secondly, I found your story full of good messages all the way from giving even when you don't feel inclined to, to receiving a reward for simply doing the right thing. And finally, the chillike trust of Thomas and his reward for doing so.
Joshua Janoski03/17/08
Excellent job Chrissy! My heart really went out to Thomas.

I had a feeling that the phone call had something to do with Thomas, but I wasn't entirely sure until the very end. Nice twist.

A very enjoyable read. One of my favorites so far this week.
Patrick Whalen03/18/08
I enjoyed the entire piece but especially enjoyed the way you wrapped it up in the end!
Karin Fiscaletti03/18/08
I really enjoyed reading this story. I especially liked the way you were able to explain the stuttering. Very good descriptions and excellent ending, makes us think twice, right!
Shayne Catoe03/18/08
Thank you for a lovely read that turned into mysterious chills at the end. Such a satisfying twist and great job.
Henry Clemmons03/18/08
Such BIG talent from such a quiet, humble voice. Very good. I like your style.
Leigh MacKelvey03/19/08
Oh Chrissy! This is the best of your writing, for me, at least. You did a superb job and I agree ... I want to hear more of the P.I. and his jobs and life. Book?
Sara Harricharan 03/19/08
Oooh, I like this guy. A PI with heart and class! I really liked the twist at the end how that Tom was actually the Thomas that was Lord Bellamy's missing brother. Wow. That was really good! I liked the whole story, especially the part with the donuts! ^_^