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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Empty and Full (06/04/09)

TITLE: Echoes in the Dark
By Karlene Jacobsen


The house, cloaked in darkness, sent chills down my spine. I set my bag on the floor next to an oval cherry wood table, set near the door. A dish set there ready to receive my car keys. The oak floor echoed and moaned its protest as I stepped into the family. Glancing around the faded walls whispered to me of this lonesome forgotten room. Clouds of dust particles assailed me from the stream of light spilling in through the windows. My lungs responded in kind upon receiving the attack of musty air. Something in the air reeked of death. Most likely it was the hollow halls, bathed in neglect. Groans through poorly sealed windows and doors made the home sound almost human. Moving from room to room, I sensed a loss of unimaginable depth.

I made my way into the kitchen, and noticed something glint in the late afternoon sun. My heart began to race. Fearing the worst, I braced myself for whatever awaited me. I inched forward. There it was again. Something flickered, a light maybe? It was difficult to tell. My trek moved forward. Oh why didn’t Ben come with me? This was his grandmother’s old home, left to him in her will. Wasn’t it his responsibility? He had to work, the house needed to be readied for the market, and I was the only one of his family available; so like the good wife that I am I agreed to come and get an idea what needs to be done; which supplies I ought to bring back with me. Honestly, I think they’re all just chicken.

At last, I reached the counter near the spot of that flicker. There was nothing there but an old picture. Whew! What a relief! I thought I was a goner for sure! I laughed nervously at my own crazy imagination.

I let my hand gently caress the frame, its delicate appearance with such exquisite floral patterns painted around the opening. This must have been hand painted. I’m quite the sucker for homemade stuff. Ben shakes his head, probably in exasperation, every time I run off to a craft show and some home with my newest treasure. Well, it appears as though Grandma was a bit of a sentimental gal as well.

Gently, I held the delicate frame in my hands. In the dimming light, I pulled it close and peered into the faces staring back at me. “This is a picture of this house.” I gazed into the faces of one-two-three-four-five-…nine children! “Holy mackerel, that’s a lot of kids.”

Ben rarely talked of his grandmother’s family. I never bothered to find out why. Now I wondered why his aunts and uncles rarely came around. Where were those eight missing children? Do they have children? What was their story? Did they care their mom—their grandma was gone? Oh why are families so hard on each other? I didn’t believe Ben would have any answers. But I’ll remember to ask when I get home.

I looked around the kitchen, trying to imagine it layered with children, every one eagerly waiting for breakfast. We’d been trying for years to have children, but my arms remained empty. Hers…? Well…

I carried that picture from room to room, imagining the laughter that filled the walls, the fighting over the single bathroom upstairs between four pouty girls and five scrappy boys. How many pillow fights ensued between the four bedrooms upstairs? How many young men anxiously for his first date with one of the girls? …Or the young man asking for the eldest girl’s hand in marriage? Did Dad make it rough on the boys? Did Mom prepare milk and cookies for the boys when they brought their sweethearts home?

The picture boasted of the perfect family. What happened to clear out these rooms? I closed my eyes, squeezing out the images. How young the grown ups appeared in this picture! They smiled back at me, as though exhorting me, “Embrace today… Treasure today... Tomorrow will be too late.”

Once again I looked around the room. Breathing in new hope for today, fresh dreams for tomorrow; and exhaling sorrows of yesterday, memories of what could’ve been.

I stepped onto the porch, where the picture had been taken. I took in the fragrant aroma of lilacs blooming around the corner and the warmth of the evening sun. Turning my face heavenward, I prayed for courage to embrace life and live as if there is no tomorrow.

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This article has been read 725 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 06/12/09
Your message "Embrace today… Treasure today... Tomorrow will be too late.” is so very good! I enjoyed this tour though Grandma's house, I was wishing to read more!
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/15/09
This was a creative way to approach the topic. I liked the memories for the house's occupants that you "squeezed" out of your imagination
Rachel Rudd 06/15/09
Just right! You captured the look and feel of this "elderly" home...changing it from a scary place into one of love and comfort. Well done!
Chely Roach06/15/09
This was so heavy with atmosphere...very nicely written. Well done!
Bryan Ridenour06/15/09
Really enjoyed the details of the story. I could picture the happenings between the nine kids....nicely done.
Catrina Bradley 06/15/09
You've created a spooky, mysterious atmosphere with the descriptions of the setting and the MC's feelings. I really want her and Ben to keep Grandma's house and start their own family there! It is a bit rough in places, like you mentioned some missing words, and in places the flow doesn't seem really smooth. Have you tried reading your stories out loud to see how they sound? That will also help you find the missing words. ;) I enjoyed the story and the idea, and you are very much on topic with this piece! You touched me emotionally, and that is a BIG plus for a writer!
Mona Purvis06/17/09
Why is it we wives/sisters/daughters get to do some of the tough stuff? Oh yes, that's right...we're helpmates.
Your MC did her thing and learned. God inspires us when we step forth in courage.
Interesting story. well told.
Diana Dart 06/18/09
Oh Kar - this was touching, deep and tugged insistently at my heart strings. I found the opening paragraph, although your word choices were perfect and very artful, almost too much for my senses. Does that make sense (no pun intended)? But the lesson you brought out was spot on and the mood fit well. Good entry.