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

TITLE: Mari
By Sara Harricharan
06/04/08


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I played with my anklets all the way to the new foster home. The seatbelt made it hard to sit cross-legged, but the comforting tingles sang to my hidden heart.

“We’re here, Mari.” Elizabeth, my social worker, came to open the door. She fussed over my stringy hair and wrinkled outfit. “I wish you’d wear shoes! Didn’t you have any color besides black to wear?”

She hustled me up the front steps and rang the doorbell. “Now remember, her name is Mrs. Joni Wheeler. She’s offered to take you-no one else did. You’re getting too old and this is your last chance. Be nice.

The door opened into a world of chaos.

Shrieks and squeals spilled out, showing happy, running, children. Barking and thumping announced the arrival of a huge, golden-colored dog-that barreled straight towards me.

I winced, squeezing my purple, heart necklace. There was a yelp, followed by a whine.

When I chanced to look again, my new foster mother stood in the doorway. Her fiery hair stuck out in all directions, with various hairclips, pencils and jellybeans embedded throughout.

Her eyes were bright aqua, red lipstick highlighting her permanent smile. “Elizabeth!” She gushed, swooping down from the doorway to smother the victim in a bear hug. “Oh, it’s so good to see you again!”

Elizabeth mumbled something I couldn’t make out as she retreated to the safety of her car, leaving me to the kindness of this stranger.

“Mari!” Mrs. Wheeler squeezed me in a hug. “We’re so glad you could come. I’m sure you’ll fit right in.” She winked. “Let me show you around before I have to start lunch. We’re having haystack.”

The prospect of hay for lunch was not very appetizing, but I kept that to myself as Mrs. Wheeler pulled me down the hallway.

Her voice was…fast. “Janice and Janet will be sharing their room with you. Kaylee gets her own because she’s nineteen. If it wasn’t that way, we’d have a world-war on our hands! She’s a darling, but moody sometimes. The boys have their own wing, but we won’t venture there today. They’re supposed to be cleaning. Bryan!” Mrs. Wheeler barked. “No tying sheets to the dog!” She let go of my shoulder to sprint down the hall after the pet. “And not on the cat either!”

Kaylee was a neon-streaked blonde with an eyebrow ring. “Hey, you’re the new kid, right?” She linked one arm through mine, leading me through a wide doorway, with wooden steps. “The house has three stories, kitchen’s downstairs. Janice! Janet! Come help make lunch!”

“Do we have to?” Identical faces appeared at the top of the steps. “Why can’t mom do it?”

“Mom’s chasing your dorky brothers-besides, it’s haystack.”

“Can we do the cheese?” Janet slid down the banister, her twin right behind.

“Wow!” Janice stared at my feet. “Are those real?”

I looked from her crooked pigtails to my jeweled feet.

“Guys!” Kaylee scolded. “Come on-or I’ll tell mom you were riding the banisters again!”

Janet made a face. “Never mind them, Mari, I’m the smart one. We’re foster kids too-you’re gonna love it here! Mama J is so cool!”

Haystack turned out to be an interesting meal of chips, beans, salsa and whatever other things Mama J could find in the refrigerator.

Mr. Wheeler, a typical working dad, came home in time for dinner and read family devotions before bedtime. His welcome was a smile and promise to see about an allowance.

I felt like I belonged. Each family member, no matter how unusual, went out of their way to include me in every activity.

By nightfall, I was exhausted. The twins chattered nonstop as I followed them upstairs to their room. I had a bed in the corner, my own dressers and curtain for privacy.

As the twins safely snored, I tip-toed out to the bathroom. Once inside, I kissed the purple, heart medallion and touched it to the matching anklet. It glowed, a green holograph popping open.

“Mari.” Watasa frowned. “You’re late. Report!”

“I was sent to a different home today, my apologies.” I bowed my head. “My report on earth has changed. It is flawed, yes, but can do without our presence. They have families and homes. It is not in our choice to destroy that.”

“That is for the council to decide, youngling.” Watasa’s image flickered. “Do you wish to return now?”

I hesitated, thinking of the day’s events. “Actually…could I stay for the week?”

Copyright 2008


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This article has been read 810 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 06/05/08
Whoa! What a twist! Way to make your readers sit up and take notice!

The first thing here that really grabbed me was "haystack"--I'd never heard of this until I got a son-in-law, but apparently it was a regular thing where he grew up.
Seema Bagai 06/05/08
I really enjoyed this piece. Then the twist jolted me and added a whole new layer to this. Great job.
Joanne Sher 06/08/08
LOVED that twist - certainly wasn't expecting it! The last line is great too. Good job of characterization, especially for Mari.
Debbie Wistrom06/08/08
Mama J and her family sound like a hoot.

You surprised me with your twist and I just loved it.

This was fun and I'm glad it wasn't a downer!
Karen Wilber 06/08/08
Coooool! I really got into the story through your descriptions and dialogue. Loved the twist. So glad I read this one.
Andrea Hargrove06/08/08
Awesome! I SO did not see that coming. :D
Chely Roach06/08/08
Wow. Such great work here. Loved it!
Beth LaBuff 06/08/08
Ah… great story! I loved all your detail and especially the sci-fi twist at the end!
Amy Michelle Wiley 06/08/08
Woo, didn't see that twist coming. I liked that you made comfort out of chaos. I'm not sure quite what to think of the ending, but it certianly put a new twist on things!
Debbie Roome 06/08/08
Loved the description of Mama J's hair...and the ending took me by surprise.
Catrina Bradley 06/08/08
Super! I loved it up to the end, and then the twist thew me for a loop! And I still love it. ;) You really set a chaotic scene describing this home. GREAT job!!
Dee Yoder 06/09/08
What a colorful scene you painted of this up-side-down household. It felt familiar and cozy, though crazy, and then-the little sci-fi jolt at the end! Not expecting that at all. Good story with quite a twist on the topic.
Lyn Churchyard06/09/08
Now that ending was mighty sneaky of you Ms Harricharan. Great story with so much wonderful description and then you zap us with a ray gun. WOW! This could go on for many, many more pages. Loved it!
Norma-Anne Hough 06/09/08
Wow what an ending to a great story. I loved the twist as it fooled us all. Lovely description of a chaotic home.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/09/08
You captivated me with your descriptions of a wonderful, welcoming home for a sad foster child. Then you startled me with your twist at the end. A delightful story, excellently written.
Helen Dowd 06/09/08
I was intrigued by the story, interested because I once had foster children. The story held my interest. But the ending couple of sentences - or paragraphs puzzled me...I'm baffled! It sounded like Mari might have been from another planet. Sorry. I am confused....Helen
Joshua Janoski06/11/08
Definitely an interesting ending. I really liked Mama J. She seemed like a really nice foster mom compared to many of the nightmare foster parents you hear of nowadays.

You presented an interesting offering this week, and I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing.
Gerald Shuler 06/11/08
The best sci-fi seems so natural it takes you by surprize.

Wow... this is the best!
Loren T. Lowery06/11/08
Your foster mom reminded me so much of my Aunt Dorothy - you have their life/attitude/juggling/dialogue/ down to a perfect T. And this ending is simply priceless. Great job, Sarah, loved it. Loren
Aaron Morrow06/11/08
Whoa, okay you got me!

Great piece and I LOVED the pacing, the frenetic setting matched the characters perfectly. Definitely one of my favorites in a week of great entries. Great job!!!
LauraLee Shaw06/12/08
Congratulations on Highly Commended, Sara! That is so AWEsome!!!! Happy! ;)
Joshua Janoski06/12/08
Glad to share the top 5 with you Sara. You did a great job with this piece. Very original and creative. :)
Beth LaBuff 06/12/08
Sara -- Congrats on your HC with this!!
Betsy Markman06/12/08
I felt very much like I was there in the story. Good job with the descriptive language.
Holly Westefeld06/12/08
Loved it, Sara! Congratulations!