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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Bridge (07/31/08)

TITLE: Fifty-Five Years Broken
By Joanne Sher


The boards are rough and prickly under my bare feet. If I hadn't known better, I'd have assumed the builder of this walkway had forgotten to remove the bark from the trees from which the lumber came. But I do know better. The passage of time and the beating of the elements give it such a coarse texture.

How did I know? I was here, sitting on my favorite log on the west side of the gorge, when my father built this footbridge. In fact, after hours of cajoling and nagging, I got to sand down the rough edges of at least a handful of the boards that now bristle against my feet.

After I fell trying to jump the stream and nearly drowned, there was a "family meeting." They decided to save me from my own foolishness and create a safer way to get to the woods on the other side.

Don't believe I've ever walked across this bridge shod. Of course, this is my first time back here in years, and my memory hasn't exactly improved with age. Kind of like this bridge. I suppose I'm just about as weathered and rough as it is.

Fifty-five years is a long time away from this place. It certainly wasn't my choice: at least not at first. Sure, I could have come back once some time had passed--when I was on my own. Never really felt the desire, though: at least not until now.

It was on this bridge that I last saw Nick whole. I remember kicking a stone into the stream below as he told me he'd be shipping off to fight in Korea. I wanted to kick him instead. Couldn't believe he was abandoning his baby brother to go fight in some dumb war. Still don't understand sometimes.

"It was the right thing to do, Benny," he'd insisted. "I saved lives over there. Doesn't matter what I lost. I made a difference."

The family moved away from here a few months after Nick went overseas. He needed to be near a large hospital, and there wasn't one within a hundred miles of our hometown. No, he didn't stay overseas long, though I believe his left leg is still sprawled over that North Korean battlefield.

The first time I saw him in that hospital, all I could think of was how we'd never be able to chase each other across this very footbridge again. We could never again climb trees together in the woods on the other side. It was as if Nick had left my childhood on that battlefield, along with his torn flesh. It seems that I never quite got over what my brother had lost.

Actually, it seems I lost more than he did. There's just something about watching your hero broken. Bitterness and anger took over. No matter how Nick prospered and enjoyed his life, all I could see was that missing leg, and the opportunities he was missing because of it.

I never married, never stayed at any job for long. Yet old Nick, with his broken body, was full of purpose and joy and family. It wasn't long until my hero of a brother got added to the list of people I resented. I didn't speak to him for years--until last week.

And that's why I'm here, crossing this bridge. You see, Nick doesn't have much longer, and his last wish was to see me. Here, by this bridge. He bought land in the woods on the other side and put a small house there, where he's been living with his wife and kids for the last twenty years.

I knock on the door and his wife ushers me into Nick's bedroom.

"Thanks for coming, Benny." His smile belies his obvious pain, yet still seems natural, genuine.

I look down. "So sorry, Nick."

"Nothing to be sorry about, my brother." Nick positively glows. It is then I notice he is grasping a Bible. "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.*"

"Wish I could say the same for myself."

"It's never too late, Brother. Just let go of the resentment, and let Him in."

My eyes full of tears, I realize that my broken, dying brother is more whole than I have ever been. And I need to do something about that.

*2 Timothy 4:6

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This article has been read 1241 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 08/07/08
Excellent story. If you were to ever lengthen it, I'd suggest you'd bridge (ouch) the gap between those lost years and how it is that Benny recognizes and understands the quote from Paul. Other than that minor detail, this is wonderful writing.
LauraLee Shaw08/11/08
Totally captivating from the get-go. Your ending gave me prickles. What a moving story.
Pat Guy 08/11/08
Sad, poignant and uplifting. You've captured it all. Well done my friend!
Gerald Shuler 08/11/08
Powerful entry. You brought back memories of my own experiences during the Viet Nam conflict.
Joy Faire Stewart08/11/08
Great job with Benny's voice and I enjoyed the love between the brothers.
william price08/11/08
Jo-anne! (Love ur name by-the-way, needs to be a song) anyway, where it didn't leave me with prickles, only because I'm not sure what that is, it did greatly impress me and like you said, left me wanting more. Great writing and introduction to a longer piece. Very creative title and lively, crisp writing that is becoming one of your trademarks. Thank you for the blessing. God bless.
Mariane Holbrook 08/11/08
Oh, my. What can I say? It's even better than the other comments said it is. I wish you had been given special license to add another 300-500 words to it, Joanne! Great job, no kidding!
Joanney Uthe08/11/08
This definately needs to be expanded. It feels like there is a novel missing in the middle -- one of those that starts at the end with Benny standing on the bridge and the last chapter is where he leaves the bridge to visit his brother. All the missing chapters are his memories of how he got here. Great story.
Amy Michelle Wiley 08/11/08
Powerful entry, Joanne. So good in so many ways.
Helen Paynter08/11/08
Joanne, I loved this. You really created the atmosphere in the first half, and communicated the message in the second. The only bit I had trouble with was this paragraph, which seemed to jump in time - I had to re-read it and the preceding paragraph several times.
"It was the right thing to do, Benny," he'd insisted. "I saved lives over there. Doesn't matter what I lost. I made a difference."
Other than that - very good indeed.
Anita York08/11/08
Beautiful! Some have mentioned a few minor things that can be improved, so I won't go there. I just want to say it's powerful writing. I love your handling of everything.
Shirley McClay 08/11/08
Yup.. what they said. LOL

Seriously. It sounds like a piece of a novel. It sounded exactly like how he might think. And I LOVE the last paragraph.
T. F. Chezum08/11/08
A powerful and well told story. Great job.
M. R. Davenport08/12/08
Beautiful, touching...That dog gone word limit. Gets us every time. I almost cried...
Karen Wilber08/12/08
I like how you sprinkle little bits of insight into the MC's mind throughout this story. His stubbornness came through. Great ending.
Dianne Janak08/12/08
What a wonderful reminder of what bitterness and resentment can do to every heart, and yet it's never too late for redemption.. LOVED this story.. WEll told, touching, and great reminder to all of us of the importance of Letting Go of the past... God bless..
Joshua Janoski08/12/08
Loved this story. I like how you kept the missing body part theme throughout the story.

While I do see where it could be expanded, I think what you have here is complete just the way that it is.

This was a joy to read.
Yvonne Blake 08/12/08
**sniff** I like how you used both kinds of bridges in this story. Well done.
Pamela Kliewer08/13/08
Oh, this is wonderful. I too, wish you had been able to use more words! This would make a wonderful novel! Well done!
Karlene Jacobsen08/13/08
Is this truth or fiction? I can't tell, which is my favorite kind of literature.

I agree with the others, this needs the rest of the story. A novel maybe? I'd buy it.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/13/08
This is a masterpiece, one of the best this week and one of my favorites of yours. Your writing just keeps getting better and better!
Helen Dowd08/13/08
Just wonderful. What a great story and a great testimony, not to mention, a perfect story for the topic. I'm so glad Benny crossed over that bridge to meet his brother, and the way you ended this story, I know he will cross over the bridge of salvation...God bless you. This is a beautiful story...Helen
Beckie Stewart08/13/08
This is a great writing on how we can indeed be whole despite a worldly view on wholeness. Great story of forgiveness and repentance as well.
Betty Castleberry08/13/08
Love the first person, love the voice, love this!
Lyn Churchyard08/13/08
There are so many things I like about this entry. The voice is great, like listening to a master story teller weaving his magic. I particularly liked : Don't believe I've ever walked across this bridge shod. Of course, this is my first time back here in years, and my memory hasn't exactly improved with age. Kind of like this bridge. I suppose I'm just about as weathered and rough as it is. You're good Joanne... very good :)

Dee Yoder 08/14/08
Yes, it does leave me wanting more details, too! I love the MC and the characters that are introduced through his memories. Very engaging read.
Betsy Markman08/14/08
Powerful images. Great job.
Elizabeth Hexberg08/15/08
Amazing how God always uses the sick and the dying to teach us so much....Even in your story which I found very moving. As always a great write! Thank you. Elizabeth.