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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)

TITLE: Missing Doe
By Ruth Neilson


Jane sat on the couch, her gray eyes glued to the television. Sadaam had just attacked the barracks in Dhahran. The same place her husband, John, called from two days prior with a simple message on the answering machine:

“Jane, I’m safe and we’re staying here at Dhahran for a few days. I’ll call you again before we start moving. Promise. I love you and the kids.”

She hiccupped into the dark and glanced at the rebelliously silent phone. She had tried to call his Commanding Officer, but he didn’t know anything either. Unable to sit still, Jane stood and began to stalk the darkened house. She could hear her children’s snoring gain volume; the nightly competition, it seemed, to see who could be the loudest, even while they slept. She smiled bitterly, and twisted the golden band around her finger.

Why wasn’t anyone telling them any information?

Jane shuffled back to the living room and gazed at the television once again. She was hoping to maybe, just maybe, catch sight of his slim form. Her nightly diversions of playing the Nintendo™ or even reading a good book outside of Goodnight, Moon held no appeal.

Desperately, she looked back over to that blasted phone, sending it a mental command to ring. It ignored her.

Perhaps there was a phone mutiny on the base. She hadn’t heard any of her neighbors’ phones ringing through the thin walls. She knew that their men where in the same unit. Surely, the phones would have been ringing frantically now if someone had word.

Jane stalked back over to the phone, wearily glaring at it as the television continued to drone on.

The phone rang, and she pounced on it. “Hello?!”

“Jane?” It was her Mother-in-law. “Have you heard from John?”

Jane closed her eyes and shook her head before answering, “No, Momma Doe. Nothing since the phone call I missed two days ago.”

“Where was he?”

Jane hiccupped, feeling hot tears pricking at her eyes as she whispered. “Dhahran...”

Silence filled the air as Momma Doe went quiet before whispering. “I’ll get off the line. But I’ll be praying for you two.”

“Thank you, Momma Doe. I’ll call you as soon as I hear something.”

Desperately, Jane hung up the phone again. She paused and listened for the children’s breathing before glancing back at the television. Good; they were still asleep. Thank God for small miracles. There was still no sign of John on the screen.

Jane continued to pace, praying softly. There was nothing left to do but pray.

She glanced at the phone, again. This was tearing her apart on the inside. Where would they go if he was injured...or even killed? To whose parents could Jane go?

Jane sighed as she rubbed her hand over her face. No matter what, God was in control. She nodded once and sat on the couch again. There was probably no way of getting word yet.

She muted the volume and lay down, drawing a blanket around her shoulders. Sleeping was better than worrying all night.

Silence descended upon the house and Jane allowed herself to relax.


*This story was inspired by a real life event that occurred February 25, 1991 when an American military base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia was struck by an Iraqi missile. The author’s father had contacted their family the night prior to the attack. The night of that attack, the author’s family didn’t know if he was still there or not. Thankfully, his unit had moved on by the time of the attack.

*The military dependents that have their family members go to war do have some sort of contact with their unit’s commanding officer, so that way there is some way of getting hold of their family members in case of an emergency.

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This article has been read 608 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 07/24/08
I couldn't imagine being in a situation like this - but now, thanks to your extremely vivid, poignant writing, I can. Excellent and heartwrenching.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/28/08
This was written so well that I was sitting right there with there with the mc, waiting for the ring of the phone.
Helen Dowd07/28/08
Well told! You kept us in suspense. Great job of keeping the identity of the names obscure by using "Doe". I liked that: Jane Doe, John Doe, Mama Doe. Very cleaver. I am glad in actuality that the unit had moved on and that all were safe...Helen
Betty Castleberry07/28/08
Great job of reminding us what military families go through. Well written, too. Kudos.
Catrina Bradley 07/28/08
Oh, I was so scared for poor "Mrs Doe"! Thanks for the foot note - before I read it I was sure the phone call was going to be bad news. Truly enjoyed reading this - good writing!!
Lauryn Abbott07/30/08
Wow! I'm so glad this had a happy ending. Too often, it doesn't. I can't imagine the anxiety our military families feel all the time. Thanks for sharing.
Mariane Holbrook 07/30/08
OH. MY. GOODNESS. I didn't just sit on the edge of my seat; I fell off! What a great entry. Big time kudos!
Sara Harricharan 07/30/08
Oh my! This was so incredibly real! You did well with the details and the atmosphere, I liked the name of "Doe" that added a kind of twist to the story. I also liked the notes at the end, wow. Good job! ^_^
Pamela Kliewer07/30/08
This is a great emotion packed piece and very well written. I'm glad that in the end all turned out well.
Joshua Janoski07/30/08
What suspense and tension you built up with this story! I was biting my lip in anticipation of what was going to happen. I'm glad that you had the explanation at the end, otherwise I would have still been wondering what had happened. Great job!