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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Adulthood (07/30/09)

TITLE: The Blood-Red Crayon
By Marita Thelander


In the dim light one would never be able to tell that the sun had crept past high noon and started it’s decent to early evening.

The front door opened and Cindy stirred from her ever-present nap position on the couch. She squinted at the beam of light that poured in. Pretty sure she heard a string of cuss words; she rolled over and ignored her husband of four years.

“Where are the boys?”

His question seemed to be a legitimate inquiry, but for reasons beyond her explanation, Cindy didn’t know the answer.

Joe waded through the toys, piles of laundry (both clean and unclean), and deposited his lunchbox on the table. Exasperated, he dialed the neighbor. “Hi Trish…are the boys there?”

Trisha’s simple one word answer seemed to be all that he needed to hear. He hung up and headed out the door to go fetch his boys.

Clean, fed, and happy-go-lucky, Joey and Jason clamored onto the now vacated couch. “Joey, can you be a big boy and watch your brothers for a minute?” Joe knelt down to pop a movie in the VCR and placed twelve-month-old Davey on the floor.

“Okey-dokey,” Joey’s cheerful answer made Joe smile.

“Love you, Man.”

“Love you, Man.” Joey repeated.

Cindy had moved from her ‘post’ on the couch to her preferred place of habitation…the bed.

“Trisha said the boys snuck through the hole in the fence to her yard.”

Moan,” Cindy’s only response of late.

“Do I need to make you a list of chores to do while I’m at work?” Joe’s words were intended to sting.

“I’m not the only one that messes up the house.” Cindy’s weak argument hung in the air.

“Well, I seem to be the only one that does anything around here. You need to be responsible.” Joe ran his fingers through his thick wavy hair, “You’re destroying us.”

“Me?” Cindy sat up, a momentary burst of angry energy surged through her. “We’ve been married over four years and have three boys. Last time I checked I couldn’t have conceived those brats on my own.”

“Well, the way I remember it, that first time I asked you if I should stop in the heat of the moment, you said no. Neither of us had any form of protection when you got pregnant with Joey in your parent’s living-room.”

The reminder of their disgrace and hasty wedding stung and Cindy recoiled. She knew she lured him, trapped him, and now appeared to be stuck with him…and his kids. Her mom’s famous words reverberated in her memory: You made your bed, now lie in it.

“We aren’t happy-go-lucky teens that can’t handle our hormones anymore. Welcome to adulthood, Cindy.”

Apparently drained of her temporary zeal, Cindy collapsed onto her pillow.

Joe gave up. This argument, this blame game never ended.


“Hey, Little Man,” Joe wrestled his namesake to the ground. “Wanna help Daddy make dinner?”

“Me too, me too,” two-year-old Jason jumped up and down.

The remainder of the evening, Joe cleaned the kitchen, made dinner, and bathed the trio. He smelled the piles of clothes to decide which to fold and what needed to be washed. He also stripped the boys peed on sheets and made their beds.

Exhausted, Joe plopped onto the couch. His wife needed help. He couldn’t do this anymore.


“Cindy,” Joe shook his wife. “You need to get up, I’m leaving for work. The boys ate breakfast with me and are watching cartoons.”

After no response, Joe sat on the edge of the bed and gently removed the blanket from around Cindy’s shoulders. “Cindy, I want to make a doctor’s appointment for you.”

This got a reaction. “Why? I’m not sick,” Cindy snapped.

“I think you have post-partum blues.”

“Whatever.” Cindy flopped back to her pillow.

Joe reached out to touch her bare shoulder. Cindy yanked the blanket up to her chin and glared at him.

“Get out of bed and watch the boys, I gotta go.” Angry and frustrated, Joe stood and ripped the blankets off of her and tossed them into a pile on the floor.


After a long day, drained physically and beat up emotionally, Joe walked into the dark living-room. The house felt like a tomb, gloomy and void of life.

Scribbled on a color-book page in bold blood-red crayon, Joe read his future. I’m done. Boys are at Trisha’s. YOU be the adult.

Joe melted into the couch and sobbed. “Welcome to adulthood, Joe.”

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This article has been read 647 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Amy Michelle Wiley 08/06/09
What a sad story. Well-written. So glad the kids at least had a daddy willing to be one.
Lisa Johnson08/06/09
I agree. Very sad story...and very well written.
Seema Bagai 08/06/09
A sad story. Hope teens read this piece and make some good choices from these characters' mistakes.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/08/09
Sad story, for sure. I always feel bad about a parent who refuses to accept adult responsibility, particularly in the care of their children, as you demonstrated so well here.
Connie Dixon08/10/09
Wow-ominous title, horrific ending, unfortunate story that is too often not fiction. Great writing.
Eliza Evans 08/12/09
Excellent details. Blood red crayon on the coloring book page...WOW.

Dab of red as requested :) ... decent (first sentence) should be descent.

Another dab ;).. this is just my personal opinion but "melted" does not seem the right word. I personally associate melting with something slow and delicious feeling. I'd rather use a word like collapsed or sank or fell back...

Great job. It felt real.

Jackie Wilson08/12/09
You captured the reality of this situation. Dialogue and scenes were totally believable. Very well done.
Ada Nett08/12/09
OK... so I feel bad for everyone... especially the kids. Sad story... complicated situation... Well-written
Loren T. Lowery08/12/09
Kudos for the husband in his love for his wife and kids and his recognizing his wife's depression. The dialogue in such situations can be difficult, I'm sure, but you have given a good example of how the circumstances can be broached (honest, direct, compassionate, caring)in that someone facing a like situation might be able to follow.
Joy Bach 08/14/09
What an excellent job! So true to life. You made me want to help rescue Joe and the boys.