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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Mother (as in maternal parent) (04/24/08)

TITLE: Now What?
By Debbie Wistrom


“Sheriff, this is how I found her. In the chair, right before I called your office. Look, her iced tea glass is still sweating. I always told her that she was going to kill herself working in this yard. Well she proved me right, didn’t she?” At least that is what the words were supposed to sound like; I’m incoherent when I cry.

‘When did you see her last?” with notebook in hand, the sheriff wanted the details so the coroner could finish.

“I stopped in at noon. That other glass was mine. We were going to have lunch but I had forgotten to pick up the rolls, so I ran to the store.” Reeling, I slump into the chair I had vacated a short half hour ago.

“Did you notice anything unusual?”

“No, everything is always the same with her…or it was, but she had said that she wanted to talk to me about something.” More garbled words. These guys must be trained to understand blubberese, because he never asked me to repeat myself.

The ratchet pruners I gave her for Mother’s day last year had fallen next to the lawn chair in which she had been resting when I left. I stooped to pick them up. “If I had stopped at the store this morning, I would have been here.” Now what? Better put the groceries away.

As the sheriff and coroner leave with Mom, I go back inside and use her speed dial to deliver the news to my brother. “Hi, Mom, now what?” He sounds distracted as he answers.

No Bert, it’s Janie.” I stammer and the blubbering begins again, “lunch...store...when I got back-”

“Look, just settle down, is this the snake thing again? I have an important meeting. Call me later after you collect yourself.”

“Snake? Snake? What a jerk” I slam the receiver into its cradle.

Stunned, I collapse into her recliner. She must have called to “bother” him with her garter snake story. She was so pleased with herself, not screaming like a little girl when one uncurled from the leaves she had been removing from the garden.

Composing myself, I walk to the clothesline. Gathering her sheets, I breathe in the scent that is evocative of her. Without any thought, I make her bed. Finishing the everyday task, I wonder why I bothered. “No one will be sleeping on these fresh sheets,” I bawl to one of her many teddy bears. I pick him up “Now what, my friend?”

“That brother of mine is such a jer-”

The phone’s insistent ringing interrupts my tirade. Still furious, I let it ring. “Let him wonder,” I say to my new friend as I follow my nose to the kitchen.

“What is that marvelous smell?” I ask my speechless companion. The steam-covered lid obscures the contents of the Crockpot. Opening it with curiosity, more of that delicious aroma reminds me that my unmade lunch is still in the fridge. Hunger trumps grief for a moment. “A roast? What is she doing cooking a roast on such a nice day?”

Puzzled, I look at her calendar. ‘Larry.’ That was all it said.

Shrugging my shoulders, I go back outside to find the berry buckets in the shed. She had said berries were ripe when she called this morning.

I have teased her for the past couple of years about going to see my brother while the blackberries are ripe so I have to pick them. “Well, looks like I get to do it again this year.” I sit my new pal on the ground where he can supervise. “Don’t eat more than you put in the bucket,” he commands in her absence.

As much as I half-heartedly teased her, I admit to liking this task. Picking berries is real work, it serves a purpose, is rewarding and fulfilling. I wish I had told her that I actually enjoy putting on dad’s old coveralls. It’s just fighting the mosquitoes and the brambles in the heat and humidity that make it a job. She never complained and neither did Dad while he was alive.

After scrubbing the purple stains from my hands and feet, it’s time for a well-deserved nap. I sleep for two hours through the grandfather clock’s chiming. A knock on the back door startles me.

“Neighbors, I bet.” Instead, a tall and surprised grey-haired man holding a bouquet of Mom’s favorite flowers greet me. My surprise greets him, “Larry?” Now what?

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This article has been read 706 times
Member Comments
Member Date
LauraLee Shaw05/01/08
I like your dry humor sprinkled throughout this piece. This line cracked me up: These guys must be trained to understand blubberese, because he never asked me to repeat myself. Too witty.
Holly Westefeld05/06/08
You did a nice job of showing the randomness of activity when confronted with the shock of sudden death.
A little mixing of present and past tense toward the beginning did not diminish my enjoyment of this charming story.
The teddy bear was a great touch!
Joy Faire Stewart05/06/08
The descriptions and MC's thoughts are so vivid it held my attention to the end. Unique take on the topic.
Sara Harricharan 05/07/08
This is cute! I really liked the random descriptions and actions throughout the day and I do agree that the brother was a jerk! He could've at least listened-lol! I liked the new 'friend' too and the line with 'blubberese' that made me giggle, because it seemed to real!
The title fits as you use the phrase "now what?" several times through the story, I especially liked the ending with Larry showing up on the doorstep with the bouquet of flowers in his hands.
Joanne Sher 05/07/08
Delightful piece - and very real-to-life. Enjoyed this a lot!
Jan Ackerson 05/07/08
Very good job--I don't expect to see humor in a piece about death, but you made it work.

Be careful about switching tenses back and forth from past to present. Either would work for this piece--but it should be consistant throughout.