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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sibling(s) (05/01/08)

TITLE: Lost in the Middle


I hold on to the bars of our neighborís merry-go-round and swing my bare toes through the dirt path worn around the edge. I like to watch the dust poof. Up. Down. Around.

His. Hers. Theirs. I hear people whisper. My father isnít my real father. His other children have a different mother. I donít understand it all, except I know Iím somewhere in the middle, because he and my mother have their own children. Thatís why Iím staying at the neighbors. Mamma will call for me soon, Iím told, after she has her new baby--another one of theirs.

I grab my sides. Mamma says Iím making it up when I tell her my stomach hurts.

Sliding off the merry-go-round, I push the bars and run fast before I jump back on. I scoot to the middle and throw my head back. Spinning makes the achy feeling go away. I close my eyes and pretend we live in a big beautiful home, where we all have the same mother and father. Itís nice there. I donít feel...different.

As the merry-go-round slows down, I sit on the edge and watch the dust settle over my toes. A strong push with one foot and then the other swings me from side to side.

His children live with us. Not all at the same time. Only Pat is here now. She colors in my favorite book with me and helps me embroider the days of the week on tea towels. Her big tummy makes her walk funny. Sheís going away soon, but she wonít tell me where. Iím not supposed to ask questions, she says, but Iíve already guessed sheís having a baby, too. Her sister, Mary, comes over sometimes for the weekends. She smells like lilacs and lets me wear her jewelry and try on her party dresses and shoes. I pretend, but I wonder if Mamma would love me if I were really pretty, like Mary.

I link my arms through the bars and lean forward. The soft dust feels good on my feet.

I didnít like it when Patís brother, Ed, lived with us for a few weeks. He smelled like smoke and his hands shook. I stayed away from him after he tried to kiss me one night. He got into some kind of trouble later. I heard something about a stolen car and a bank. Mamma told Pat that she had baked his favorite cookies to take to him at the Monroe Correction Center. I heard itís a prison. I never told her he tried to kiss me.

My stomach hurts again. I jump off and push the merry-go-round faster. Safe in the middle once more, I close my eyes and pretend Mamma gives me hugs and kisses and says she loves me. I also pretend sheís baking cookies just for me. Chocolate chips are the best.

I hang my feet over the edge of the merry-go-round and drag them through the dirt as I slow down. My toes make wiggle patterns through the dust. Patís youngest brother, Bob, is Mammaís favorite. I heard her say so when she found out he was coming to live with us for good. I donít mind that he teases me, because heís smart and plays chess, and sometimes, heís even nice. He has the same first and middle name as my younger brother, so Mamma says weíll call them, Big Bob and Little Bob. Maybe if I was an older or younger boy and had a special nameÖ

I kick the dust into a big poof, just as our neighbor, Mrs. Laney, comes out to check on me. After lunch, my younger sisters threw crying fits, and my brother scribbled in my favorite coloring book. Mrs. Laney made them take naps. She must know how I feel, because she let me stay up and play outside by myself.

She looks happy. ďYou have a new baby brother,Ē she says, when she gets near. I grab my sides.

Kneeling down in front of me, her smile fades. She wipes a tear from my cheek and hands me a chocolate chip cookie. ďYou were a good helper with your brother and sisters today.Ē

ďI was?Ē I sniff.

ďYes, you were." Her voice is soft with understanding.

"Would you like me to push you?Ē she asks, when Iím done with my cookie. I nod and hang on to the bars at the edge of the merry-go-round. The middle is for pretend.

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This article has been read 637 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 05/09/08
Very, VERY rich characterization and descriptions. I was completely enraptured and engaged in this story. Beautifully executed.
Mariane Holbrook 05/11/08
This is so rich in detail that I can see your toes making wiggly marks in the sand. It's a lovely piece, but sad and convincing. I love your using the merry-go-round as a backdrop because the sameness of your going around and around gives you freedom to think and probe your mind about your place in the family. I just want to pick you up and hug you and tell you I love you and need a little girl just like you! Very well done!
Betty Castleberry05/12/08
I like the first person you've used. It makes it seem very real. You've made me feel sorry for this little girl and wish I could fix everything for her. Wonderful descriptions, and all around excellent writing.
Sharlyn Guthrie05/12/08
Escellent! Every detail is so realistic and rich. I ached each time she grabbed her sides!
Jan Ackerson 05/12/08
Excellent, almost with a stream-of-consciousness feel. Great details.

Something to think about is the use of present tense; I'm not sure it works with a young child's voice. Purely a stylistic choice, though. This is a beautiful piece.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/12/08
So poignant and rich with description--it breaks my heart. Outstanding.
Willena Flewelling 05/13/08
I can SO identify with this little girl, even though I never experienced what she did. Your piece has the earmarks of a top notch writer.
Lyn Churchyard05/13/08
I liked the way this flowed with almost random thoughts from the MC. I was an only child, but could relate to her in so many ways. Possibly because of the great loneliness she felt. Another great story Mid.
Peter Stone05/13/08
Aching powerful story of showing the effects broken families can have on the lives of children. Really wanted to see the child appreciated for herself.
Dee Yoder 05/14/08
Mid, you really captured the loneliness and confusion of this middle child. Very sad and poignant.
Debbie Wistrom05/14/08
Her feet in the dust was the clincher for me. SO perfectly childlike.

Your words do tell a sad story but so well done, that I enjoyed the writingfor than being sad. Does that make sense?

I appreciate your candor in this and I feel that you have received healing.

LauraLee Shaw05/14/08
Wow, can I relate to these frozen moments in time as a child, processing through all the muck in my life. I'm just glad you had the courage and strength to write about it. Well done.
Sara Harricharan 05/14/08
WOW! This is so rich and descriptive! I really loved the visual of the merry-go-round and the dust settling over her toes. Hearing about each of the different brothers and sisters made my heart ache for this precious girl. The flicker of maturity at the end, hints that something great will come from this, I liked this, great job! ^_^
Loren T. Lowery05/14/08
The innocence expressed by this child is so real - something nearly impossible to do unless the author is not only a master at their craft, but blessed with insights that opens new worlds to her readers while giving an authentic, empathetic voice to her story as well.
LaNaye Perkins05/15/08
Your descriptions were wonderful. I felt like I was right there on the merry-go-round. Fantastic writing!