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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)

TITLE: Hilltop Mansion
By Betty Castleberry


Leah opened her car windows as she drove up the lane to her childhood home, breathing in the scents of fresh earth and honeysuckle. The house stood sentry on top of a rise dotted with wild daisies. The porch was beginning to sag, but it still looked inviting to her. She stepped from her car, approached the front door and took a deep breath before entering.

Her brother, Karl, called to her from the back of the house. “That you, Leah?”

“Yep. You in Dad’s room?" She didn’t wait for an answer, but instead made her way down the hall to the room her parents had shared for many years.

Karl, a little heavier and a little balder than when she had last seen him, sat at their father’s bedside. He rose when he saw her.

Leah hurried to him and gave him a hug. She spoke softly. “How’s he doing?”

“About the same. The nurse was here about an hour ago. She said it wouldn’t be long.”

Leah touched her father’s thin hand, tracing the bulging veins along the top. She wound her fingers in his and watched him sleep. His eyes fluttered open briefly.

“I think he knows I’m here.”

Her brother nodded. “He probably does. He hasn’t spoken for a couple of days now.”

“I wish I could have gotten here sooner. I was afraid I wouldn’t make it in time.”

She gestured toward the hall. “Can we talk out there?”

“Sure. Let’s get a drink.”

The two entered the kitchen. Leah looked around at the familiar room. The red and white curtains, once crisp and fresh, were now tinged with gray. The mushroom cookie jar still sat on the counter. Leah picked up the lid and looked inside, not really expecting to find anything. When her mother was alive, she had kept the kitchen spotless and the cookie jar full.

She turned to her brother. “What are we going to do with the house? It’s been in the family for three generations.”

“Neither of us need it. Maybe we should sell it, but we would probably have to sell the farm land with it.” He popped the top on a soft drink and handed it to her.

She walked to the window and looked out. Just beyond the patchy green yard was a wheat field. An oak tree stood at the edge of the field. She had spent many afternoons sitting on the lower branches of the tall tree and daydreaming. Her father had chugged up and down the field plowing, waving when he came close.

A tear trickled down her cheek. “I hate the thought of selling this place.”

Karl touched her shoulder. “We have plenty of time to decide.”

“Hey, do you remember finding those kittens in the barn?”

He laughed. “Oh yes. It was so cold, we thought they would freeze. I thought Mom was going to kill us when we took her good blanket out there for them. She finally let us bring them in the house, though.”

“Yeah.” Leah chuckled.

“Let’s go back and check on Dad.” She led the way back to the bedroom. They sat in the arm chairs on either side of their father’s bed, keeping vigil. An aura of morbid anticipation hung in the room.

Their small talk was interrupted by a stirring. The elderly man sat straight up in bed and to their shock, spoke. “It’s beautiful. My home is beautiful.”

Leah grabbed his hand. “Yes, Dad, your home is beautiful. We love it, too.”

“Can you see it, then?”

Puzzled, Leah looked around. “Of course. It’s where I grew up.”

“No, it’s a glorious place. I’m on my way there now.”

Leah and Karl looked at each other, not knowing quite what to say. They listened as the frail man in the bed sang just above a whisper.

“I’ve got a mansion, just over the hilltop.
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old….”

He laid back down, shut his eyes and breathed his last breath.

*Song lyrics from “I’ve Got a Mansion Just Over the Hilltop” by Ira F. Stamphill

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This article has been read 1069 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 06/05/08
Brought tears to my eyes. Very good.
Sara Harricharan 06/05/08
Gave me goosebumps with this, I hope they don't sell the house, the ending was so sad, but good. ^_^
Florence Roberts06/05/08
This confirms what our real home is , enjoyed reading it.
Laury Hubrich 06/05/08
Oh, this is so sad. Nice writing.
Joanne Sher 06/06/08
I love how expertly you wove the two "homes" together in this piece. They both seemed incredibly real and wonderful. Very nicely done!
Lyn Churchyard06/07/08
Very sweet and tender story. The last line capped it of so beautifully. Well done.
Ann Renae Hair06/08/08
What a beautiful depiction of a happy home and anticipation for the home we'll never have to sell or leave! Great descriptions. Leaves me wondering how things turned out with the old family home.
Norma-Anne Hough06/08/08
Very moving and beautifully told.How wonderful to know we all have a mansion waiting for us. I loved the way you tied it all together.
Jan Ackerson 06/08/08
Oh great, now you've put that song in my mind...

Wonderful mood here--such love and tenderness!
Yvonne Blake 06/08/08
As much as we love our earthly homes, we need to remember where our real homes are.
Thanks for the reminder.
Debbie Roome 06/08/08
Lovely story laced with hope.
Debbie Wistrom06/08/08
What a scene. Loved the family woarmth and caing you protrayed and so happy the dad was happy to be going home.
Laura Anne Harrison06/08/08
This is very good. The song reminds me of my childhood as I sat beside my best friend playing the piano - with the two of singing our hearts out. Thanks for a beautiful piece that reminds us all of our heavenly home.
Beth LaBuff 06/08/08
The honeysuckle is in bloom here and I love it. Your story gave me goosebumps. Your writing is wonderful and your ending is full of hope.
Beckie Stewart06/08/08
Yes, indeed, this is just a temporary home but heaven is the glorious place we all await to go.
Kristen Hester06/08/08
This is beautiful. I loved teh ending. Bravo!
Chely Roach06/08/08
Incredible writing; a tender, sweet story filled with hope. Well done.
Dee Yoder 06/09/08
Oh, I love these kinds of stories! As I read this, I was touched by the love and respect the children were expressing as they toured their family home. The end is just the way I hope my time on earth ends. This is a lovely story.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/09/08
Absolutely beautiful. Masterful writing that pulls the reader in to see all that you see.
Joy Faire Stewart06/09/08
Beautifully written with excellent description drawing the reader into the scenes. Love it!
Joshua Janoski06/10/08
Masterfully written. The descriptions were superb, and the emotions could be felt in the words. Thank you for sharing.
LaNaye Perkins06/10/08
You wrote this so well that I felt like I was right there with this brother and sister. You made me cry too. This was well done.
Mariane Holbrook 06/11/08
This was so tenderly and skillfully written. You are a master of descriptions and this is one of your best!
Gerald Shuler 06/11/08
The long list of comments says a lot about this story. It is well worth taking the time to read, comment on, then read again. I think I will.
Holly Westefeld06/11/08
Heavier than your usual, perhaps, but beautiful. I especially like this image rich paragraph.
"Leah touched her father’s thin hand, tracing the bulging veins along the top. She wound her fingers in his and watched him sleep. His eyes fluttered open
I loved your kittens story, too, of course.
Loren T. Lowery06/11/08
Betty Dee - such a beautiful entry, you can really pull those heart-strings when you want. Wonderful story, well told and one to hold onto when things seem bleak. Loren
Lollie Hofer06/11/08
What a beautifully sad story. It's sad to watch a loved one die. It's beautiful when they realize they are on the threshold of eternity and about to be ushered into the presence of Jesus. Well-written piece, very emotional.