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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Family Reunion (06/05/08)

TITLE: Hallo the House
By Dee Yoder
06/11/08


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Dad guided our Chevy wagon to the berm of the road and pulled the emergency brake with a jerk. The car listed at a sharp angle as a muddy stream rushed just inches from his door.

“Well, nobody’s in the yard. Wait here while I roust somebody.”

I watched as he eased out his door, his dress shoes sliding on the steep bank as he jumped clear of the water. He rolled his white shirtsleeves up as he headed to the dirt driveway, the sun reflecting its heat off the top of his black Brylcreamed hair. He stopped at the gate.

“Hallo the house!” he called. He waited several seconds before raising his hands again to his mouth.

“Hallo the house! Anybody there? Jack? Lester?”

He hesitated and then started back to the car. About the time he reached the stream, a thin voice called out “Izzat you, Raymond?”

Dad spun on his heels. “Naw…it’s just another ol’ hillbilly, Lester, come home for supper,” he called.

“I’ll send Jack’s boy down to unlock the gate, you ol’ Buckeye. Anybody with you?”

“Yep…we’re all hopin’ for some beans and cornbread,” Dad laughed. I glanced at Mom. Her eyes held a brightness that made her look brittle and unsure. I gave her a quick smile before I looked back out the window.

I watched a scrawny, soil-laden boy shuffle his lanky body down the lane, the dirt devils rising all around him like he was the eye of an approaching storm. He unlatched the gate in a languid manner and welcomed my dad with a shrug.

Dad loped back to the car and eased the Chevy’s fat whitewalls through the shallow creek and onto the dry drive. Our tire tracks left fancy prints in the red dirt behind us.

I watched as a flock of nervous chickens made a pitiful attempt at flight as our car encroached on their favorite pecking grounds. They squawked their complaints in loud screeches when we passed by.

As Dad pulled the Chevy to a stop under the limbs of a shaggy-looking oak, his family gathered on the porch to stare as we climbed from the car. Dad moseyed his way to his kin, taking time to ruffle a couple of heads as he went. There were no hugs or smiles and only a few slight grins, but he seemed to know he was welcome. I wasn’t as sure, and Mom was standing as stiff as an ironing board between my sister and I.

“Grandma in there?” Dad asked, jerking his thumb at the holey screen door.

“Yep. She’s makin’ some cornbread an’ beans, right now. Y’all gonna c’mon in and take supper with us?” asked a woman who was wearing the exact same cover-alls as the men. Children began to ramble out to us; their freckled faces lighting up with admiring grins. I suddenly realized they were my cousins.

The woman in cover-alls called down to my mom, sister, and me. “Y’all c’mon in and take a rest. Mighty hot out’chere. I got some tea inside.” She didn’t wait to escort us in and we awkwardly followed her through the relatives to the house.

Inside, the kids scattered and the grown-ups sat in groups as Mom tried to make polite conversation.

“It’s nice we got a chance to stop in on our way home after the funeral,” she said.

Everyone silently nodded as a clock ticked in the quiet room.

“How’s your Mom taking Mr. See’s death?” a man asked.

“She’s doing fine, I guess.” Another long silence made Mom’s cheeks redden and she sighed.

We stayed through supper, and then sat around some more. Finally Dad stood.

“Well, it’s time we head home. We’ve got a ways to go and I have to work tomorrow.” The relatives moved as a group with us out the door and onto the porch.

We made our way to the Chevy and Dad waved his goodbyes all the way down the lane; his family lazily lifted an arm or two in farewell. I watched them as they sauntered back to the porch.

We pulled out onto the blacktopped highway and pointed the nose of our Chevy north. Mom rolled her window down and let the wind blow her blond hair away from her face. Her smile echoed the relief I felt as the house and the family we quickly left behind became just another memory. We wouldn’t have to visit again for a long time.


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This article has been read 831 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 06/14/08
So tragic. You did an incredible job with the contrast between the two worlds. This touched me, and definitely made me think. Wonderfully done.
Karen Wilber 06/14/08
This was a different take on the reunion. A welcome break from all the hijinks this week. Good job with the tension--it really got uncomfortable in there. Your descriptions were great and the story has a ring of authenticity about it. Well done.
Chely Roach06/15/08
I felt awkward just reading this...wow. Great atmosphere...well done.
LaNaye Perkins06/16/08
You did a great job showing how uncomfortable some reunions can be. Well done my friend.
Mariane Holbrook06/16/08
This is such a different and honest take on family reunions. You have some rich details that I love. "soil-laden boy shuffle his lanky body down the lane, the dirt devils rising all around him like he was the eye of an approaching storm." I could see, feel, taste everything about that sentence! You didn't gloss over a thing but told it precisely like it happened, warts and all. A truly great piece!
Jan Ackerson 06/16/08
Good grief, Dee--this is how you write while still under traces of anaesthesia? You're incredible! Such mastery of mood...awesome.
Marita Thelander 06/18/08
Ah...I think I have met these people. ; ) This was a great look into a lifestyle many often don't realize truly exists. Awkward and colorful, love the discriptions.
Helen Dowd 06/18/08
We wouldn’t have to visit again for a long time...What a family reunion! Well told and descriptive...I think I would feel the way the visiting "mother" felt, too. I've seen a few families like that too, even here in the north (Canada, that is)..slow moving, casual, non emotional, but hospitable...And despite their "hospitality" I was always glad when the visit was over...But relatives?..Whew! Good story and well told...Helen
Debbie Wistrom06/18/08
Great diversity here and the best part for me was that Dad included himself as a "hillbilly". Not far from the roots.......

I could read many more pages about this back country family.
Sara Harricharan 06/18/08
Wow! I was wondering about the title and how it fit, but wow, at the end, I was just as relieved for them to get out and away. A very different reunion story-I like it a lot! ^_^
Pamela Kliewer06/18/08
This is a wonderful take on the topic. You left me thinking too... I enjoyed this. I, too, could read more on this family...
Catrina Bradley 06/18/08
Wonderful job creating tension, even tho Dad didn't seem to sense it, in his wife & kids. Great characterization and dialog and dialect. This entry rocks!
Betty Castleberry06/18/08
You have a way of placing your reader right in the middle of the scene. I felt like I was one of your characters acting right along with them. Great description. Loved this.
Joshua Janoski06/19/08
Wow. I felt the discomfort of this meeting. I could picture myself just sitting there silently wishing I were somewhere else.

Good job putting the reader right there in the scene.
Colin Swann06/21/08
Thanks you masters for your expertise and encouragement that we writers experience from you, right from starting out as beginners.