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

TITLE: The Spaces Between
By
06/10/09


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Side by side at their grandmother’s casket, Samuel and Philemon bowed their heads.

Preacher Whitcomb’s words flowed along a fickle stream of summer air . . . do not fear, for I AM with you; do not be dismayed, for I AM YOUR GOD!

No matter how he punctuated the words, Zina’s attention remained upon her brothers, processing changes, filling in gaps. The gaps that had been forged fifteen years earlier in the summer of ’82, when Samuel was seventeen, Philemon fifteen, and Zina ten.

Those evenings, so humid, their grandmother would take them for drives in their aged but air-conditioned station wagon. Before heading home to East Trenton, they’d cross the Delaware River on the Trenton Bridge. The message along its rafters had been restored using immense amounts of steel and neon. TRENTON MAKES—THE WORLD TAKES, it read.

Zina’s grandmother snorted every time they crossed it. Trenton don’t make nothin’, she’d say. It’s the Lo’ad what provides, and the Lo’ad what takes. Whether we gots a lot or we gots nothin’, we be blessed by Him.

While every other grandmother in their neighborhood preached religion, education, and getting ahead, Zina’s grandmother concentrated on God. As long as her grandchildren read their Bibles and acted accordingly, that was good enough for her. God don’t require no degrees, she’d say.

That was the summer Samuel and Philemon went into business together. “God Grows It—We Mows It” had earned almost five hundred dollars by August. The money was stored in two Yuban Coffee cans kept in the boys’ room.

Zina was outside watching from the corner of their saltbox house the day one of those cans came up missing. Brother accused brother before fists hit flesh. Zina screamed, running around into the house, calling her grandmother. Seconds later, the screen door flew open, tufts of the old woman’s steel-wool hair flaring, matching her stride.

What you boys think you doin’! I ain’t never seen such a thing!

That’s all it took for Samuel to break free from his brother’s grip. Philemon, though younger, had twenty pounds on him. Blood dripped from Samuel’s nose, but his chest puffed.

“He took our money, Grammy. I seen him spending extra last week, but I didn’t say nothing. Now I knows how he had it.”

“You got no proof,” yelled Philemon.

“I don’t care if’n he took a million of yo dollars, son. You gots to get a hold of yo’self. Who you two trying to impress anyhow? It cain’t be me. Always trying to fill them pockets. I told you once, I told you thousands a times. It don’t make me no difference how you builds yo house, what kind of stone gets used, but you best be careful what goes in them empty spaces ‘tween. What kinda mortar you gonna have fillin’ it, holdin’ it together?”

That was the summer Zina’s brothers picked the stones to build their houses. Samuel decided on seminary. Philemon on law school.


Looking at them now, praying over their grandmother, Zina wanted to laugh. Grammy hadn’t cared a lick about success, yet her boys had found it, earned it—professionally, personally. For Zina it was different. She couldn’t make the best job, the best man work. Somehow she found a way to spoil every good thing that came to her.

A GOOD name is better than fine perfume, and the day of DEATH better than the day of birth. Let us lift our sister Dorothy . . .

Preacher Whitcomb’s words were coming to a close. Zina moved toward the casket, laying her cheek upon its smoothness. The rosewood felt warm, the way her Grammy’s sun-soaked skin felt after hanging out the wash. Samuel patted Zina’s perspiring forehead with his handkerchief. Philemon took her hand. “It’s time to go.”


Back at the house, Zina slipped away to the far side of their old home, to the crumbling steps of the root cellar. Inside, she pulled a chain, but the light didn’t quite reach the corner where the potatoes used to be stored. Behind a crate and under a rock, she found the can just where she’d buried it, the money still inside. She wished with all her heart she had confessed, come clean. That day shame set within her bones, compact yet substantial—just like mortar.

She picked up the rusting can and noticed paper taped to the lid. Underneath the light of the bare bulb, she read the faded lettering: You is forgiven, always was.


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This article has been read 710 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Loren T. Lowery06/11/09
Samuel, Philemon, Zina, Grammy, names that along with the dialect and colloquialisms help give authenticity to this story. Grammy was never out of character with her observations and wisdom in rearing those put in her charge, even to the warm, smooth rosewood of her casket. I liked the way Zina stayed back as an observer, watching, but not really ever able to catch on or understand what her brothers were being taught. And, as sad as it might seem, I think the note left by Grammy (regardless of how well intended) still left Zina in the outside world looking in and wondering.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/11/09
Your character development here is outstanding--showing more than telling. The message of what goes between reveals perfectly the godly wisdom of the grandmother. I couldn't help but hope the note of forgiveness would effect a turning point in the mc's life. This kind of story stays in the mind long after the reading.
Tallylah Monroe06/13/09
I love this but felt it got bogged down in the dialogue which I felt was overdone.
Great but sad ending.
Sharon Kane06/14/09
A very good read. Thank you!
Betty Castleberry06/15/09
Marvelous voice. I loved the authenticity of this. Loved the twist at the end. I just loved it all!
Jim McWhinnie 06/15/09
The dialog and the dialect were right on and real humanity was experienced throughout. Exceptional work and a most meaningful read.
Mona Purvis06/15/09
Crying as I write this...so moved by this wonderful piece. I wouldn't change a word. Just the most moving story I've read in a long time. I didn't see the end coming, but it's perfect. Granny's wisdom speaking long after she's gone.
Mona
Mariane Holbrook06/15/09
I don't often use the word "precious" but this is a precious piece! The ending was so right, so good that I could have read just that one paragraph and felt blessed. Big time kudos!
Charla Diehl 06/15/09
I want more--and that's a true sign of great writing. I loved granny and have her pictured clearly in my mind because of your creative writing. Didn't see the end coming, but felt sorry for Zina to have lived with her guilt for so long.
Perfect title for this wonderfully moving entry.
Pat Guy 06/15/09
Oh man...awesome, awesome, awesome. For some reason the ending made me think of the song by a group called 'Hopes Call' titled "You Are Loved." (on You Tube)

Wow...
Gregory Kane06/15/09
Great characters and a punchy ending.
Chely Roach06/15/09
This is surely a winner...simply amazing writing with a perfect ending. Superb.
Bryan Ridenour06/15/09
Wonderful writing and a great ending, I didn't expect. Super entry!
Connie Dixon06/15/09
This is brilliant, Lisa. Made me cry. I could definitely see this being made into a longer story, even a movie. (Hallmark, of course.) Fabulous!
Rachel Rudd06/15/09
I like this, especially the ending. I didn't expect that! It took me a while to get into it...I didn't quite "get it" in the beginning, but I do think the dialgoue was the best part. The way Grammy showed her wisdom...wisdom that stuck with her "youngins." Well done!
Sonya Leigh06/15/09
This is just wonderful, from the authentic accent to the poignant lesson to precious relationships to treasure forever. Fantastic, heartfelt piece.
Lollie Hofer 06/15/09
Incredible story line with a great twist at the end. I'm sure you had as much fun writing this as we did reading it. Your "showing" was right on.
Patricia Herchenroether06/15/09
You got me-I didn't see the end coming and it was absolutely perfect! Poor girl carrying all that guilt-I wish I could see her face when she read the note. Great dialogue-very real. I would love to meet Granny and learn some of her wisdom. Terrrrrific!
Carol Slider 06/17/09
What an amazing story--so real, so original. There are so many layers of meaning, so much to ponder... but I do hope that finding Grammy's note will begin to effect a transformation in Zina's life. Exceptionally well done!
Karlene Jacobsen 06/17/09
Excellent is such a trite word these days for me. But I haven't a better word spilling out. I love the message here. It speaks so much of sowing and reaping, guilt and forgiveness.
Sara Harricharan 06/17/09
I figured it was something to do with Zina, lol. This was good. Nice suspense and such, I was wondering what made her tick and why, you did good with the trick ending. Nice touch!
Beth LaBuff 06/17/09
ah.. love the "down-home" feel to this... my heart has been properly warmed.. LOVE IT!!
Diana Dart 06/18/09
Loved the characters you crafted, especially grandmother - tough, genuine, completely lovable. I was waiting for Zina's story to shine through, but was still shocked at the end - nice job! The paper taped to the can was perfect.