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

TITLE: Papa Joe
By John Capune


The falling snow threatened to overwhelm the windshield wipers. Judith felt a sudden pain deep inside as the child she was carrying sought a more comfortable position. One hand tightly held the small gold cross that hung around her neck. The taxi stopped in a dooryard faced by a large dilapidated barn and a low ranch style house watched over by leafless cottonwoods.

The cab’s headlights played across a broken picket fence and a porch overflowing with junk.

“Are you sure, miss?” the cabbie asked in a heavy Slavic accent.

Judith got out of the cab and knocked on the door. The cabbie came up behind her setting her two suitcases down beside her. “That will be $105.00.”

Judith said nothing and knocked more forcefully on the dilapidate door.

“I don’t think anyone lives here.”

Then a flyspecked porch light snapped on and the door scraped opened. A sixtyish man with wild, white hair blinked in the glare of the cab’s headlights. “What do you want?” he demanded.

“Papa Joe? It’s me... Judith.”


“Judith, Robbie’s wife? Didn’t you get my letter?”

“Look, I need to get goin’,” the cabbie butted in, “the fare is $105.”

The old man just stood there looking incredulously at the pregnant girl standing on his cluttered porch.

“I... I don’t have any money--nowhere else to go,” she replied.

Joe pulled a small wad of bills from his pocket and handed them to the cabbie.

“Hey, this is only sixty bucks.”

“It’s all I have... now take it and go.

The cabbie angrily turned back toward his cab muttering a string of obscenities.

Judith pickup her suitcases and followed the older man inside. The house was a continuation of the porch. Judith carefully picked her way through a dark chaotic living room and entered into a dimly lit kitchen. Joe waved her into a chair around a cluttered kitchen table.

Sitting across from her he asked her bluntly, “Why are you here?”

“Didn’t you get my letter?”

Joe gestured to a stack of old shoe boxes filled with unopened mail. She could see a letter addressed in her careful script lying on top.

Taking a deep breath, she spoke in a shaking voice. “Robbie’s dead... he died a month ago.”


“No, he has been clean for a long time... ever since he found Jesus... and me.”

She reached down and opened the smaller of the two suitcases. From the pile of papers and photographs she removed a rectangular velvet case and slid it across the table. Joe opened the case and saw the medals lying within, two purple hearts and a silver star.

“He died in Tikrit... Tikrit, Iraq?”

“I didn’t know he was in the Army.”

“Did you know we were married?”

Joe, saying nothing, got up from the table and went into the kitchen piled high with unwashed dishes. He stirred the contents of a crock-pot. “Are you hungry?”

Judith couldn’t sleep. Lying in the small cramped bedroom room, she listened to the sound of the wind driven snow as it scratched across the drapeless windows.

Slowly she began to hear the voice of Robbie reading from the book of James; “...when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” As his voice faded away an unspeakable grief engulfed her. Sometime later she fell asleep.

She awoke in pain, a pain that came from deep inside. A strange warm wetness spread beneath her. “Oh no,” she cried, “this can’t be happening now--it’s too soon.” In a panic she looked outside. It was still snowing. She was a fool to have made the trip from LA to Elbert, CO, but after losing the house she didn’t know where else to go, what else to do.

There was a light tapping at the door. “Come in,” she croaked. Papa Joe entered the room. He gazed at her with bright gray eyes.

“The child is coming isn’t it?”

“Yes, I need to get to a hospital.”

“There is to much snow. We’d never make it in time.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Trust in God,” he replied rolling up his sleeves. “He brought you this far, He will take you the rest of the way. Besides, you are in luck, I use to be a vet.”

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This article has been read 571 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joy Faire Stewart04/10/08
I like the two characters
in the story and was glad to see Papa Joe wasn't so bad after all. The end took me by surprise...a vet? Enjoyed that!
LauraLee Shaw04/13/08
Oh, how I loved that cute twist at the end. Nicely done. I also loved many of your descriptions that put me in the middle of the story.
Holly Westefeld04/14/08
You have done an awsome job with atmosphere and characterization here.
I know that sequels are generally discouraged, but you leave so many unanswered questions here, not the least of which is whether daughter-in-law and grandchild are okay. I am also left wondering if Papa Joe had given up on faith for some reason, and it is rekindled in this story, or if he is just a sloppy bachelor. I am inclined to think the former, and that you used the disorder and unopened mail to show Papa Joe's isolation and loneliness rather than stating it outright.
Interesting that a father-in-law she had never met was the only person to whom she felt she could turn.
I think I have decided to like the humorous ending, taking it as a sign of Joe's renewed connection to the world, rather than an abrupt out-of-character quip. More?