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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Concentration (07/24/08)

TITLE: Silence, Please
By Steve Bato


"Emma, can you please not make such a racket? I can't hear myself think in here!"

Emma sighed heavily as she shook her hands free of dishwater suds and rinsed them quickly before abandoning the remaining pots from dinner. She set the timer for the dishwasher to start after bedtime. As she lowered herself wearily into her living room chair, stillness once again reigned supreme in the house. She faintly heard the sound of Walter's keyboard clicks as he worked on his book behind the closed door of his study.

I don't know whether that book is a blessing or a curse. Though she and the boys had been devastated by the death of Samantha last year, they had found refuge in the Lord and were at least well on the road to healing. Walter had shut himself off from everyone. She had watched the grief gnaw at his heart day after day, holding the specter of his precious five-year-old just outside his reach but ever taunting by its nearness.

Six months ago, Walter had announced he was going to write a book about Sam - a book that would show the promise her life had held and what could have been her future. From that moment on he demanded silence in the house to allow him to concentrate. From the time he came home each evening until he fell into bed early the next morning, and all day on weekends, the house became a crypt to Emma, Tony, and Allen.

"Boys, take your friends outside!" "Boys, don't play basketball in the driveway." "Boys, turn that TV off!" The teenagers had heard those and countless similar demands so often they no longer even bothered coming home until bedtime. Emma often wished she could find such a means of escape.

"Em, she really could have been something." The sadness dripped from Walter's voice as he finally crawled into bed that night. The phrase had become his mantra. As she drifted back to sleep, she felt the usual slight tremor of the bed as his silent tears flowed.

Lord, please find a way to let him accept your peace, and discover his family. Emma's silent prayer echoed in the throne room of God as it accompanied the thousands she had sent before it.

Saturday morning Emma awoke to find Walter’s spot empty as usual. As she passed the study on the way to make coffee, she was surprised to see the door was open. Looking in, she saw Walter holding two pictures as he hunched over his desk. The light from the window glimmered from a pool of tears collected on the desk.

“Hon, what’s up?”

“Is it too late, Em? Have I already lost them, too?” Walter’s words came between a mixture of sniffles and sobs. He held up the pictures so she could see they were the recent school photos of the boys.

“I’ve sat at this desk for ages, thinking through all the possibilities that were lost to Sam. I’ve imagined her future as a doctor, judge, ambassador, and even the president of the country. I’ve imagined her getting married and having kids – my grandchildren. I thought this book would bring healing, but it seems I only find new layers of Sam that were lost to us – lost to me.”

Emma could only stare.

“But the boys, Em. The boys! I look at these pictures and realize I haven’t even noticed them for the last year. They’ve grown into fine young men, haven’t they? And I don’t feel like I even know them!” He looked up and into her eyes. “And you, Em! You’ve kept the house running while I’ve been shut up in here, and I’ve made you afraid to even move for fear you’ll disturb me! I haven’t considered your needs even once!” His head collapsed onto the desk as the tears burst forth.

Thank you, Lord! The rising tears made Emma’s eyes sparkle.

“Em, what do you say we take the boys to the park, have a picnic lunch, and do a little fishing? Do you think they’d go? I promise I won’t talk about the book or Sam at all. I want to know my boys!” Relief washed over his face. “And later, maybe you and I could go out to dinner, just like old times? I promise, from now on I want to concentrate on what lies ahead, not behind.”

Emma couldn’t speak. She just nodded fervently and went to get the boys.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Holly Westefeld07/31/08
I've watched people isolate in their grief, and you have captured it tenderly in this story.
The only observation I have, and it is quite minor, is that if you had found some way to unobtrusively mention the school pictures earlier in the story, I would not have been left thinking, "I wonder where those came from?"
I could really feel Emma's loneliness, as well as her husband's mortification when he finally realized what he had done.
Sunny Loomis 08/03/08
A very good picture of what grief can do. I'm glad the husband finally sees what he is doing, and decides to move forward. Nicely done. Thank you.