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

TITLE: Bug Shells, Bumps, and Wrinkles
By Shirley McClay


Serena shifted away from the pointy rock poking one of her ribs. The grass that seemed so soft and cushy from way up was actually prickly when she lay on it. There were lots more rocks than she had realized, too. But then, she had never seen so many tiny living things from way up there.

A black cricket near her hand rubbed its legs together. She closed her eyes and listened to its song. A fly landed on her nose and Serena opened her eyes to stare crossed-eyed at it. It’s ugly body shone in the sun with a dark rainbow. “Huh.”

“Whats ‘huh’ and how can you let that bug tickle your nose, Child?” Grandpa’s voice drifted from behind her on the porch.

She cocked her head to get a better look at the fly. “Grandpa, did you know that even flies have something pretty?”

“Well, since God made even those pesky critters… I guess that must be true.” The rocking chair creaked as Grandpa answered. “You found a four leaf clover yet?”

“Nope. A cricket, three ladybugs, lotsa ants, and some grasshoppers.” Serena propped up her elbows and rested her chin in her hands. She dug her bare toes into the dirt. “Grandpa, how come dead bugs are so much lighter than live ones? If I blow on them... well… it’s like they’re empty.”

The rocking chair stilled. “They are empty, Girl. Just the shells left.”

“But they aren’t shells. They’re bodies. Dead ones.” The smile faded from her face.

“What gave them life... that’s gone. What’s left behind is just the shell they wore while they lived. We don’t take our bodies with us when we die. It stays behind and turns to dirt again.”

The chair groaned and heavy steps shuffled towards Serena. She laughed as Grandpa slowly lowered himself down beside her and then rolled over on his stomach.

“My, I haven’t done this in a lot of years. Not sure I’ll be able to get myself up again.” He chuckled.

Serena looked at her Grandpa’s sparkling eyes and giggled. His hat was crooked and white hair curled out from under it. His blue eyes had that special look he saved just for her. It always made her feel hugged and safe. She leaned her head on his wrinkled arms. He smelled like the pink peppermints he loved. Not like Daddy. Daddy smelled like the stuff he put on his face after he shaved. The memory hurt so bad and she couldn’t stop the tears. She dropped her arms down and buried her head in them as she sobbed. Grandpa’s arm slipped around her and he ran his hand through her tangled brown curls.

“I don’t want them to be dead, Grandpa.”

His voice sounded funny. “I know, Girl, me neither. “

The tears stopped and Serena wiped her wet face with the hanky Grandpa handed her. “I don’t understand how I’ll see them again, Grandpa. Their bodies will turn to dirt. They’ll smell bad like that dead animal we saw on the road. I don’t like to think of them that way.”

“Your Mom and Dad are with Jesus now, Serena. Their bodies are just shells. When they were here on earth they lived in the shells. Now they’re done with them. Their spirits... the part that makes them who they are... that part is still alive and with Jesus now.”

Serena touched the lumps on her face. “You mean I’m not who I see in the mirror?”

“That’s a part of who you are… but it’s just like the crust on a piece of bread.”

“My crust isn’t too nice anymore, Grandpa.”

“Those burn scars are just marks on your shell, sweetheart. They have nothing to do with who you really are. You are the same girl you were three months ago, before the fire happened. Scars on our skin don’t change who we are unless we let them.”

The front door banged. “Lunch is r…. well, what are you two doing out here rolling in the lawn like puppies?”

Grandpa laughed. “I guess we better go eat.” He plucked a four-leaf clover and handed it to her.

Serena stood up and brushed herself off as Grandpa lumbered awkwardly to his feet. She took his hand and rubbed the wrinkles and age spots. He was solid and full… not like the dead bug shells. Serena grinned at Grandma waiting patiently and then squinted up at Grandpa. “Can I get a puppy?”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Brenda Rice 06/11/09
This is so well written and has such a easy flow about it. I read it quickly, but thought it a long time.
Sharon Kane06/14/09
A lot of wisdom here wrapped up in a very light-weight shell. I thought the explanations were perfectly suited to a child, and you avoided both making it too sentimental and too heavy.
Charla Diehl 06/15/09
This was a light hearted read with a message suited to children. I could see this as a Sunday School story. Good job.
Carol Slider 06/15/09
A lot of sorrow here... but much hope, as well. You did a very good job of balancing the two! Well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/15/09
You took a very deep subject and explained it simply and well. I loved the wisdom of Grandpa and the resiliency of the child.
Bryan Ridenour06/15/09
Great story to explain life after death. Very sweet interaction between Grandfather and Grandchild. I could picture the whole scene in my mind. Well done.
Lollie Hofer06/15/09
First of all, I want to start with the ending. I like how you ended this on a light-hearted note after tackling a difficult subject for children. Also, the light-heartedness throughout the story helped balance the sorrow...such as the grandpa joining the girl on the ground. Well-written story!
Mona Purvis06/15/09
Sweet. The relationship of grandpa to child is so rich. Each carrying burdens, both moving forward. Really enjoyed the voice of the piece.
Mariane Holbrook 06/17/09
Sherry, On at least 6 of the comments I tried to make today on various entries, the link would take me to the next one down from "leave a comment" which was about sending a private message. In each case, I tried and tried but couldn't get to leave a comment.
Chely Roach06/17/09
This was so sweet...I want to roll in the grass with them! Awesome story...
Glynis Becker06/18/09
This is such a sweet, lovely piece, Shirley--absolutely my favorite kind of story!
Jan Ackerson 07/01/10
Shirley, I'm going to feature this delightful story on the Front Page Showcase for the week of July 26. Look for it on the FaithWriters Home Page--and congratulations!
Lollie Hofer08/04/10
I already left a message when you first wrote this powerful story. Wanted to add a note of congratulations and recognition on this story. It is well-deserved.
Cindee Snider Re08/14/10
This is wonderful! Well-written and thought-provoking. Congratulations!!