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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Memory (07/10/08)

TITLE: Visiting Time
By Stephen Paynter
07/16/08


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I look down at the hands in my lap. Old hands wrinkled with the years. Hands that are attached to wizened arms. One is twisting a handkerchief; the other shaking. They cant be mine. My fingers are slim and elegant. I see them now. Holding a pencil, drawing a heart on my school exercise book.

`Enid.

Two hearts entwined, with my and Jacks name in the centre. Jack is my daydream boyfriend. Hes sitting across the classroom. He doesnt know hes my boyfriend. Not yet.

`Enid!

The voice is more persistent. I look up, and see a young woman. Im shocked; her dress is at least an inch above her knees.

`Slut! I say.

`Now, now, Enid. Ive brought you your afternoon tea.

She puts a plastic beaker capped with a babys non-spill lid on the little table beside me.

The shaky hand from my lap moves unsteadily to the beaker. The tremor sets up mini-tidal waves. I throw it. It rolls off the table onto the floor. It was tepid. Its always tepid.

`Oh dear, had an accident have we? Never-mind.

Patronising cow.

`She did that on purpose. I saw her. She did it on purpose. Shes always doing it on purpose.

I look around in surprise at the voice. Theres a poor old biddy sitting in a chair beside me. Indeed, there are poor old dears sitting all round the edge of the room. What is a young girl like me doing in a room full of old ladies? I should be in school.

`Oh look Enid, you have visitors. Its your daughter, and she has someone with her.

There is a care-worn middle-aged woman approaching, smiling at me. She thinks she knows me, but Ive never seen her before.

`Hello, Mum, how are you doing?

I turn my face away. Perhaps the stranger will depart.

`Mum do you know who I am today?

`No Ellen, Ive no idea who you are. Even I smile at that. Where did that name come from?

`Look who Ive brought with me today, Mum. Its Sally. My eldest. Your grand-daughter.

I stare at the girl. Shes me. Why has she got my face?

`Arent you going to say something? Its Sallys fifteenth birthday today. She said she wanted to come and spend some of it visiting you.

The pretty girl with my face takes my trembling hand, and leans over and kisses me on the cheek.

I remember when Jack first kissed my cheek. And my mouth. It was behind the bike-sheds at school.

`Grandmother, would you like it if I read to you?

I nod.

She reads something about a shepherd and lying down in a pasture.

Jack and I lay down in a pasture once. We must have been not much more than newly weds. He was always so gentle.

I smile fondly at the memory.

The reading has stopped.

`Mum, Sally is going to be baptised on Sunday.

`Is she chapel? It is important to be chapel not church. Is she chapel?

`Yes grandmother. We all worship at a Baptist Church.

`Church?

`Sorry, Chapel. A Baptist Chapel.

I nod, comforted. It is important, but I dont know why.

I dont know much. I dont understand. Who are these people talking to me? Why has that girl got my face? Has she stolen it?

`Visiting time is almost over. It is time for their meal soon. The slut is back.

The girl and the middle-aged woman stand. The girl leans over and kisses me.

`Remember, Jesus loves you, she whispers.

`I know my redeemer lives. More words that just pop out.

Whose hands are those? And why are they shaking?


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This article has been read 538 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Preacher Johnson07/17/08
Watered entered my eyes when I read, Look who Ive brought with me today, Mum. Its Sally. My eldest. Your grand-daughter. I had to forcibly keep the water from flowing when I read, I stare at the girl. Shes me. Why has she got my face?

The line I know my redeemer lives. More words that just pop out. is such a powerful testimony in one line. Ive seen it many times where someone who has lost their mind talks of the Lord and remembers verses.

This story was excellent.

Sunny Loomis 07/17/08
It's sad when a family member forgets who you are. I like the line, "I know my redeemer lives." She remembers what's important. Very well done.
Chely Roach07/20/08
This was supremely bittersweet. Such a sad but common event, however you gave us hope with her lingering memories of God and His word. Very well done!
Helen Dowd 07/21/08
Sad! So sad! Yet so true. I have seen poor souls like that, when I worked in ECU. Oh, that old age has to do that to a person...Well told...Helen
Lauryn Abbott07/23/08
WOW! Thank you for the warning that it was a sad one. Thank you for sharing this sad, but beautiful story with us.
Debbie OConnor07/24/08
I loved this entry. Telling this story from the victim's POV was masterful. It was funny and smart and sad all at the same time. I particularly loved Enid's impression of the nurse with the short skirt and the daughter who had stolen her face. You got 5s across the board from me.
Jan Ackerson 07/26/08
Stephen, an amazing story. I'm always quite impressed when a man writes convincingly from a woman's POV. The stream-of-consciousness is very effective here, and the sadness of her mental deterioration is punctuated with lovely moements of grace. A well-deserved Top 40 placement!