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

TITLE: It's Time
By Rachel Burkum


The mellow tones reverberated through the damp air. But not many people bothered to look where the notes were coming from. They all had their own agendas. They were all too busy.

Travis' fingers continued to gently strum the guitar strings, bringing out the sorrowful melody. Perhaps if he would pick up the tempo, someone might drop a dollar into his open guitar case, but for the last few hours, his collection box had remained bare.

He leaned his head back against the brick wall as the coldness of the sidewalk where he sat seeped into his muscles. Though the melody continued, his eyes swept the dingy street. It had never been the best part of town, even though businessmen and women would walk to their high-class jobs right around the corner. They would rather turn up their nose and walk by quickly, than fish in their pockets for loose change.

Travis finally let his hands stop, his palm resting against the taut strings. He had avoided looking across the street, but as a motorcycle revved its engine, his attention was taken to the south side. It hurt to look, just like he'd known it would. Those big brown eyes stared back at him with dwindling hope of a better day. The child was still sitting on those same rickety apartment steps. His skin and clothes were just as grimy as Travis' and his paltry meals usually came from fellow bums who felt sorry for him. It was a pitiful fate for someone so young.

The song began again and a dog howled down the street. It was hard to tell if the starving creature was trying to sing along or if he was displeased. Thoughts of the last few months slithered into Travis' mind. He couldn't help it that he'd become depressed. He couldn't help it that his lack of motivation had led to the termination of his job. He couldn't help it that he'd needed to soothe his pain with whiskey.

Guilt lurked in the forgotten recesses of his heart. Travis tried to ignore it as he beat harder against his guitar. But rather than a tune pleasing to the ear, it mirrored his frustration in a mass of sour notes.

With a growl of aggravation, Travis stopped abruptly and tossed his instrument aside. The guitar seemed to groan in protest as it skidded on the sidewalk. Travis bent forward and put his face in his hands. The despair had been growing worse, and still he was wallowing in this misery.

The burning in his soul returned. He knew what it was. Yet he continued to refuse it. His anger towards God for letting him get down this far had yet to be vanquished. On the other hand...

Lifting his eyes, Travis looked across the street once more. The little boy was still there...still waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. This really was a pathetic place to be. So focused on himself, Travis had let the world get the best of him, and had been dragged down to the lowest of lows. There was something better out there. But here he sat, wasting his God-given talents on nothing but a platform to get people to feel sorry for him. Was it really God's fault that he'd ended up here?

Raising his focus, Travis stared at the gray sky that threatened to rain. Maybe he wasn't the closest to his Maker right now...but maybe there was still some hope left. Travis could find restoration, if he'd just lower his stubborn pride and go.

His sigh was one of surrender. Perhaps it was time he tried picking himself back up, rather than folding himself into the sorrow he himself had created.

Back on his feet, Travis carefully returned his guitar to its case and snapped it shut. Taking it in hand, he stood straighter, lifting his chin with what little dignity he had left. After looking both ways, he crossed the street to approach the boy. The two locked eyes for several moments until Travis finally extended his hand. "It's time."

The little boy slid off the porch step and curled his fingers around those that would be his only lifeline.

Though their pockets were empty, their hearts were filled with hope. Father and son walked down the street, heading towards a new unknown.

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This article has been read 1192 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 06/13/09
Oh boy - was NOT expecting that twist! Super descriptions and sense of place. This is incredibly powerful.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/15/09
You perfected "atmosphere" in your story. I felt the desperation and the hope as well. I loved your surprise ending.
Chely Roach06/15/09
Wow, I felt every line of this. Wonderfully done...
Bryan Ridenour06/15/09
Great writing. You made me feel the hopelessness and then the spark of hope. Super, unexpected ending!
Pat Guy 06/15/09
How much sadder to now imagine the son's despair deeper than his father's. For it is, with children. Great atmosphere all the way through and good choices of words...not too prosey...just right.
Patricia Herchenroether06/15/09
Wow. This brought tears to my eyes-The title is perfect, and the ending stunning. The child wraps up the whole package.
Lollie Hofer06/16/09
Sad movies and stories rarely cause me to cry, but I have to admit about half way through there was a lump in my throat. You captured the emotional plight of your mc by SHOWING us how deep his depression was. Beautiful ending.
Mona Purvis06/17/09
Haunting. Believable. Deep. I enjoyed reading this piece. Makes one think.
Mariane Holbrook 06/17/09
This was so well done in every way. I believe you'll place high with this one.
Carol Slider 06/17/09
The ending surprised me, but it worked so well: like father, like son. Great "moment of truth" story. Well done!
Sara Harricharan 06/17/09
Was wondering where you were going with this one. I loved the surprise twist ending. I was wondering what it was about that little boy that bugged him when Travis seemed to have so much of that tough guy exterior. Really great characters! Loved it.
Charla Diehl 06/24/09
The desperate mood of this story spoke for the MC and the child. Like the others, I wasn't expecting the child to end up being the mc's son. Glad this ended on a hopeful note. You did a great job with depicting your characters and allowing your reader to truly feel the range of emotions in this piece.
harvestgal Ndaguba10/24/09
This story truly touched my heart. Excellent work.
Amy Michelle Wiley 07/02/11
I guessed that the boy might be his son, and was pleased to see I was right. Good job at showing the progression of his thoughts.