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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Light and Dark (05/21/09)

TITLE: When I Close My Eyes
By Joanne Sher


Even after three months, I still close my eyes.

On a good day, closing them was enough to make me smile. It reminded me of hide-and-seek with my younger cousins, of the pictures I created in my mind before I picked up a colored pencil to create them for Mom and Dad. Darkness had always been where my imagination had best taken flight, where I had truly connected with God.

Today, however, had not been a good day. In the past, closing my eyes had also been a way to flee, at least to an extent, whatever was upsetting, distressing, overwhelming, or frustrating me. But now, it did no good. Whether my eyelids are up or down, the view is the same: pitch black.

The car crash took my parents. The emergency surgery took my eyesight. And today, my friend took my hope.

I'd worked on my project all morning and had hung it up on the refrigerator, with help from Grandma. I could feel the texture when I'd massaged the paper with my fingertips. And, when I closed my eyes I could see what I'd drawn: Willow Lake, sunlight filtering through the trees onto its surface, reflecting the branches onto the backs of two swans.

"It's lovely, Amy," Grandma had gushed. "Just beautiful."

I hadn't considered at the time that Grandma might have been biased, or just acting polite. But now I can remember the hesitancy in her voice. And I know.

If only Grandma had been honest. Told me the picture was awful. Then I never would have put it on the refrigerator for Jessalyn to see.

She and I had been chatting, and Jess had gone to the kitchen to get juice boxes and cookies for us. Then she'd said it.

"Mrs. West, that picture is so cute! Did Howie make it for you?"

My heart stopped beating. Howie, my cousin, is three years old.

"Um...no, Jessalyn." Grandma lowered her voice, but I could still hear her. "It's Amy's."

The voices stopped. I hated that. Not only couldn't I see what was going on, as usual, but I also couldn't hear. So I tried to imagine. Didn't even bother to close my eyes. Like I said, it didn't change the view.

But I couldn't. It was like my brain was broken. All I could see, and all I could think of, was black. And only one sentence repeated in my head:

I draw like a three-year-old.

And then Jessalyn left the kitchen and started walking toward the living room. The squash of her feet on the carpet got progressively louder. I couldn't tell if she knew I'd overheard, so I forced my face to relax and even tried to smile.

"Hey. Should I put the cookies on the coffee table or hand them to you?" I could hear the smile in her voice. She was probably clueless.

"Just put 'em on the table. Thanks." I turned toward her voice and faked a yawn. "Hey, Jess? I'm feeling kinda tired. Would you mind heading out and letting me take a nap?"

"Um...,sure, Amy." I felt her hand on my shoulder. "You sure you're okay?"

I nod and fumble for a cookie. "Really. I'm just gonna eat this then head up. I'll call you later. Okay?"

"Okay. See you later, Amy."

I hold back a sob. "Yup." You'll see me, but I sure won't see you. Ever.

Once I'm sure she's left I sob silently, but only for a few minutes. Don't want to worry Grandma. But what can I do? My dream of being an artist is shattered, and I'll never see again. I feel so lost.

So, because I can think of no other option, I figure I'll pray. And, even though it doesn't make a difference, I close my eyes.

Before I can speak, or even think of what to say, I can see again. Within my closed eyelids are the compassion of my grandmother, the love of my friend, and the light of God, shining through the darkness as the sunshine filters through the trees of Willow Lake.

Maybe my artistic abilities need some work. Perhaps the "real" world will always be black for me. But I know--God has assured me--that when I close my eyes, His eternal light, and the love of those I hold dear, will shine where everyone else sees only darkness.

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This article has been read 1126 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 05/28/09
Many people, living with such tragedy, miss the "God moment" and become bitter and give up hope. Great truth—eternal light trumps any kind of darkness.
Jan Ackerson 06/03/09
Beautiful and sad, but also full of grace.

I'd have liked a few more indications as to your narrator's age. I couldn't figure out if she was a teen, or a bit younger.

This is extremely creative and original...I always enjoy reading your work.
Gregory Kane06/03/09
This is a moving story and certainly an unusual one. I like the way that you painted your MC as flawed and vulnerable yet left a ray of hope at the end. My one quibble would be that I didn't really bite on the hook until the fourth paragraph. The previous section seemed all very predictable - another childhood story. But then I hit the car crash and I said 'Wow.' From then on you held my attention. Bless you, Gregory
Bryan Ridenour06/03/09
Moving story of God's grace in dark times. Well done.
Sara Harricharan 06/03/09
ooohhhh, I wonder when she'll draw something she's proud of again. I love reading stories where creative people work through their own blocks and this was wonderful! ^_^
Carol Slider 06/03/09
How crushing for an aspiring artist who'd already endured so much! I'm so glad this had a hopeful ending. Well done!
Lollie Hofer06/03/09
What a sad story but one that ends with hope. With the MC's faith in tact, it would be fun to revisit her one of these days. I wouldn't be surprised if she turned out to be an accomplished artist despite her blindness.
Colin Swann06/03/09
A really lovely well written story. Thank. Colin
Beth LaBuff 06/03/09
Your MC's thoughts and dialog seem very, very good. I was sympathizing with her through the whole story. I was secretly hoping she would try sculpture. :)
Betty Castleberry06/03/09
I think your MC shows courage.
I enjoyed reading this well-written piece. Kudos.
Mona Purvis06/03/09
Your use of short paragraphs interspersed throughout the story really works for you. It's an interesting style. The 1st, 4th, and others stop the reader and make him listen up.
Loved the story, but really enjoyed the style you write with.
Catrina Bradley 06/03/09
Mesmerizing. I love the visual (sorry) of her "seeing" when she closes her eyes, until the sadness takes it away and leaves only darkness. Love brought the light back. So good!
Laury Hubrich 06/04/09
This is very sad. Nice story, though.
Eliza Evans 06/08/09
This is beautiful, Joanne. Well done!
Lisa Johnson07/04/09
All I can say is awesome! It comes to no surprise to see that you are a Masters level writer. You had me from the start, but really had me from the line about the car crash. I loved the end where she still "sees" the spiritual light of God's love despite her physical blindness. Awesome!

Thank you BTW for your comment on my poem.

Robert Bray07/08/09
Hi Joanne: I read your story, "When I close my eyes." It was very emotional and poingnant. It helped me to appreciate my eyesight, something we often take for granted. Good writing.
Robert Bray
Laura Manley07/14/09
I don't know if you know someone who is blind, but you have written this piece as though you did or still do. If you wrote this without any knowledge of how a blind person thinks or feels in situations such as this, you have captured for this reader, a true sense of your mc. This is beautifully written and I am thankful you stopped by my recent entry or I may not have found this masterful piece of writing. Thank you for sharing. Blessings to you and your family. God is surely using you in all that you do. Laura
Kingdom Citizen08/27/09
Great principles embedded in this piece of writing...
My heart drew closer and closer to the saddest moment of the story as I read, till I reached the point of HOPE: the assurance in trusting the LORD for a better tomorrow; and also realised I was reading one of your creative works. It is wonderful.
Mary Alice Bowles09/25/09
A wonderful well written story about the light of Jesus. It is just wonderful all the way!