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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)

TITLE: Traveling Stone
By Chely Roach


The overgrown brush came up to her chest. As she swatted the insects feasting on her exposed flesh, she began to wish she hadn’t come. She loved to tag along with her daddy on the weekends, but he was very quiet on the long drive there. Surveying the hundred acre jungle, a disgusted grimace twisted his face. Buried beneath years of abandoned neglect, there were hundreds of unseen graves. One of them was his father’s.

It took some time to find it. It always did. They located it with the only recognizable landmarks—Leigh’s grandpa was midway between the largest elm tree and the gravel road. The pleasant warmth of the morning was quickly replaced with the oppressive, sticky heat of the August afternoon. They began to work.

He sickled down a twenty foot path to the plot, and then cut away the thick stalks on and around the grave. He cursed under his breath. Leigh helped him lower the mower from the hatch of the station wagon, and watched as he reduced the three foot weeds to three inches of burnt yellow grass. She raked the clippings to the ditch on the other side of the road, while scanning the perimeter for snakes. Frequently, she would stop to obsessively scratch the legion of bites on her legs, streaking blood with her fingernails. When their patch was finally cleared, they both knelt to hand pull the straggling weeds from around the marble headstone. Leigh wet a rag with their water jug, and wiped the crusted mud off the engraved stone. She traced her fingertips across the letters of his name and the date of his death. Killed in a head-on collision a decade before she was born, there laid the grandpa she never knew.

They stood in silence side by side, looking at the meager results of their labor. Drenched in sweat, and burnt from the relentless sun, he shook his weary head, resuming the scowl that he would continue to wear all the way home.

The heat of that August fizzled into fall, long forgotten through the frigid winter, and wished for again as a glimmer of warmth teased their senses, now in early May.

After an indulgent brunch, the caravan of Leigh’s family navigated the curvaceous country road. Her father led the processional through the high wrought iron arched trellis, covered in green vines with tiny buds, which had yet to open. They gradually slowed to a halt in an immaculate garden of stone. Yellow daffodils speckled the landscape. A three tiered fountain cascaded in the center of a clear pond. Leigh’s eyes connected with her daddy’s—her chest swollen with the weighty emotion she was holding in. Their secret was moments away from its revelation.

With her aunt on one arm, her aging grandmother on the other, Leigh’s daddy led them through the lush, perfectly manicured grass. They approached the shade of a magnificent elm; a wooden bench resting under its canopy. Quiet tears were already streaking down Leigh’s face before her grandma’s eyes fell upon that familiar, fifty pound stone, etched with name of her beloved. Her daddy stood in the middle, clung to by his mother and sister. The trio openly wept bittersweet tears. The scab of an old wound ripped away, oozed with fresh pain; their sorrow mixed with the joy of a horrendous wrong now made right. Twenty years later, and twenty miles down the road, the traveling stone found its final resting place.

While observing their pain, for the first time, Leigh actually missed her grandpa. Previously, just the black and white picture of a ghost perched on a piano; he suddenly became very real to her. The void of his absence was palpable. She couldn’t help but wonder if he would’ve loved her like her daddy did.

However, it was her daddy’s tears that broke her heart. Leigh had never seen him cry until that day. She loved him so; such a special bond between daddies and daughters. The expense and effort it took to have her grandpa’s grave moved she would never fully know; but to see how much he loved, missed, and honored his own father made her fall in love with him all over again. She closed her eyes and prayed that she would someday find a husband as good as her daddy—and begged God to let her daddy live a long, long time.

She desperately wanted her someday babies to have the grandpa she never had.

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This article has been read 873 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie Wistrom04/10/08
Wonderful imagery here and I was a bit teary with the rest of your characters.
Joy Faire Stewart04/10/08
The descriptions are so vivid and excellent job showing emotions. I was very touched when MC saw her dad's tears.
Beth LaBuff 04/11/08
I loved reading this. You created a lot of interest with your title and your descriptive writing is very good. You bring about many emotions. What a labor of love you and your father did, I'm glad I was able to read this. The ending was wonderful.
Emily Gibson04/12/08
You have captured the special devotion of a family returning to visit the grave of a loved one--something that is less and less common, and can leave such an impact on children. This is something my children will continue with their children, I hope, passing along the memories of the generations that have gone before. Really lovely story.
Lynda Schultz 04/12/08
I had lots of questions as I read: How did grandpa get to his first resting place? The jump from the first scene to the second was abrupt, but resolved when you explained the move. Interesting story.
Laury Hubrich 04/12/08
Very good story telling. Its fun to experiment, isn't it? Good job. Excellent work, as always!
Dee Yoder 04/12/08
Wonderful imagery and characterizations pulled me into your story. I like the ending and the tie to her grandfather and what she felt she missed.
Betty Castleberry04/12/08
Beautifully written with great imagery. I could see it all, and enjoyed reading this.
Joanne Sher 04/12/08
I LOVE the ending, and your descriptions are so vivid. Very good.
jodie banner04/12/08
I want to know so much more about this man, and the history behind why he was buried there in the first place. He must have been a great man to have this much impact even after he is gone.
Kristen Hester04/12/08
Excellent, excellent writing. Your word choices are superb.

Just a technicality: I would only skip one line between paragraphs. Also, I wanted more information during the transistion. DId they move the stone? Why was it in the first location, etc.?

I loved the ending and especially the last line. This is a very touching, creative entry.

Chely Roach04/12/08
Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments...

I usually don't add anything in my own comment space, but I wanted to answer the several queries about why the grave was moved.

I only touched on it in the first paragraph; the cemetery was abandoned and neglected. If memory serves me, the owners went bankrupt and left town. Without a caretaker, it became a snake and rat infested mess. My poor Dad was beyond furious...
Lyn Churchyard04/13/08
What a great tribute to the grandfather you never saw. The love showed by his son says it all. Beautifully written, very well done Chely, very well done!
Joshua Janoski04/13/08
The transition was smooth. A lot nicer than the *** that I often use. :)

I wondered why the cemetery had been neglected, but I read your explanation above.

I figured out why I love your entries so much. Your word choices are brilliant. You have such a robust vocabulary that you use every time that amazes me.

I seriously think you will be getting an Editor's Choice before long.
Jan Ackerson 04/14/08
Chely, this is beautifully done. You asked specifically about the transition: I loved it. I far prefer transitional phrases to rows of asterisks, especially in pieces this short. Your writing is a gift to us all.
Lauryn Abbott04/14/08
Oh Chely, this was both beautiful and moving! I can see why your father was so touched! Thank you for sharing this tender piece of your families history. Good job and God bless.
Mandy White04/15/08
Love it, Michele. The details of the mosqutio bites made me itch as I can well remember having blood streaked arms and legs!

Beautiful memory!
Sara Harricharan 04/16/08
This is simply beautiful-I did something like this with My Mom when we went 'back home' to see her father's grave. Brought back some memories-really good job here, I hope this does well! ^_^
LauraLee Shaw04/16/08
Your descriptions are out of this world. I find myself hanging on the word choices, not wanting to move on to the next sentence. My favorite? Hard to choose, but I loved this: The trio openly wept bittersweet tears. The scab of an old wound ripped away, oozed with fresh pain; their sorrow mixed with the joy of a horrendous wrong now made right.
Karen Wilber04/16/08
Oh goodness, this one got to me. The line "Previously, just the black and white picture of a ghost perched on a piano; he suddenly became very real to her. " spoke to me, as I have a relative I never knew except through pictures.

I live in the south and I could feel the sticky, buggy, heat through your description. Nice work, ugh. ;-)
Joanne Sher 04/18/08
Congratulations, Michelle, on placing 13th in your level and 33rd overall with this piece. Great work!
Tessy Fuller04/21/08
You continue to amaze me with your stories. They always draw me in. Keep up the great work.