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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)

TITLE: Zero Hour
By Catrina Bradley



Marta pressed her palms onto the worn wood of the rocker’s arms and heaved herself out of the chair. The despair weighing down her soul infected her body as well, making the simplest task seem insurmountable.

Most of the brilliant red and gold outside Marta’s windows had faded and withered to drab, dying shades of tan and brown. Like her spirit. Like her life.

This was supposed to be their view. Their cabin. Their dream.

They had come so close.

How could she enjoy their dream without him?

What was the use in trying?

Getting out of the rocking chair was only the second effort she’d expended today, the first being dragging her unwilling body out of bed and shuffling to this rocker…his rocker. The one he insisted make the move to their retirement home with them. Settling into the hollow he left behind felt like sinking into him. She spent most of her days sitting here now, staring out at the tree-draped pond.

Marta plodded across the room and stood before the wall of windows, arms crossed over her chest.

“It’s not fair, God. He was supposed to be here. This is his house, his master bedroom on the main-floor so he wouldn’t have to climb steps when he was old, his pond so he could go fishing every day of his retirement.

“This was all for him. I mean for us.

“And where is he now? With you. And here I am, left behind.

Marta stifled the curses she wanted to shout at her Lord, and swiped at the tears and muck running down her face. She rubbed fiercely at her face, smearing snot and tears into her hair with her fingers as she grabbed hold with both fists and pulled.

“No more, God. I’m sorry, but your timing stinks.”

Marta yanked at the handle on the French door, her slimy palm slipping on the brass. She opened the door and strode across the deck, over the gravel lane, and onto the tiny private beach designed for secluded afternoon “siestas” but now a solitary sanctuary of loneliness.

Not hesitating at the icy bite of the water at her ankles, Marta kept going until only her head was above the surface of the pond. There she paused, threw her head back, and thrust a fist at the heavens, sending up a shower of droplets that rained back down on her face.

“No more!”

She started at the crunch of tires on gravel, and turned to see a green minivan pull up and her two grandsons pile out of the passenger side and run toward her.

“Grammy! Hi Grammy! Are you swimming? Can we go swimming too?” Ethan’s sweet voice carried across the water to her ears.

Nick was older than Ethan by two years, but at seven was still the grandbaby she remembered. “Hi Grammy, we saw you from the car! We want to swim with you.”

Tears streamed down Marta’s cheeks as she watched their mother, her only daughter, her beloved Alana, round the front of the van and corral the boys. She couldn’t move, just stood neck deep in frigid water and sobbed and shivered.

“Guys, go on into Grammy’s house and see if you can find her cookie jar.” Alana shushed their questions and complaints and herded them toward the cabin. Once the screen door had slammed behind them, she ran to the water’s edge and trudged through the icy pond until she reached Marta. Alana pulled her shaking mother into her arms and held her close.

“Hi, Mom,” she murmured. “We thought you could use some company.”

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This article has been read 1527 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Seema Bagai 09/17/09
I'm sure more people can relate to this than we will ever know. Vivid images in this piece. Good work.
Pamela Calhoun09/17/09
I like so much about this I don't know where to start. The range of emotions it raised in me were unbelieveable. I like Alana and the way she handled this gave me the best picture of who her mother really is. Great job!
Allen Stark09/18/09
Sad, but truer than you think.
Charla Diehl 09/19/09
Your intense descriptions of Marta's despair made me ache for her and all those like her--and there are many. God's timing was perfect in sending the daughter to her rescue--so glad this ended on a positive note.
Gregory Kane09/19/09
The depth of loss is expressed well in all its pain and despair.
Beth LaBuff 09/21/09
Marta's poignant story is compelling. I was so glad for your ending.
Jan Ackerson 09/21/09
You did a marvelous job portraying the weight of depression....very well done!
Mona Purvis09/21/09
Isn't it just like god to show us what we have to live for just when we need it?
Your story pulled at me and I felt the deep emotions. The emptyness.
Thank you for a happier ending.

Leah Nichols 09/22/09
I cried. Very well written; just beautiful.
Sherrie Coronas09/22/09
So compelling! God doesn't want us to be alone - he made that clear in Genesis 2:18. We need to be there for our parents/seniors in their golden years - especially the widowed. Alana and the grandchildren made the perfect ending. A chilling reminder to us all that it is NOT ok that they be alone....great writing!
Bryan Ridenour09/22/09
Very well written. I felt the weight of the MC's depression. I'm also so glad that God is never late. Well done.
Betty Castleberry09/22/09
We are considering retirement in the next couple of years. This really made me think.

I'm glad the daughter came along when she did. Well done.
Joy Faire Stewart09/22/09
The writing is so vivid my heart broke for Marta. I was happy that God sent her family. Excellent!
Pamela Kliewer09/22/09
This left me in tears. What a timely ending. I'm so glad... Well done. I felt Marta's pain clear throughout...
Kimberly Russell09/22/09
Tears here too. Was gripping from start to finish. Great writing, Cat.
Carol Slider 09/22/09
This is heartbreaking, but beautiful--just in time, she was reminded that she really did have a reason to live. Very powerful emotions here... well done.
Chely Roach09/22/09
Fantastic title, and a heartwrenching story. I was thankful for the ending, but I can't help but wonder what you scribbled in your notebook...Awesome job, Cat.
Diana Dart 09/23/09
Her pain was so real and raw. Nice, nice job in expressing it. I especially loved the line "Settling into the hollow he left behind felt like sinking into him." Wow. Just my two cents, but I thought the ending was perfect, uplifting but not in a cheesy way. Hopeful, yet still genuine.
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/23/09
Your poignant story has wonderful descriptions. Your pictures of depression and loneliness were real, and I really liked the ending
Ada Nett09/23/09
This was an amazing piece of writing...you pulled the emotions out so descriptively that I felt them. Really, Really wonderful writing and I too, loved the line about the rocking chair and "sinking into him" I paused in my reading to read that line twice...

Mariane Holbrook 09/23/09
This is heavy stuff and you handled it with great skill. Honestly, you get better with every entry, Cat, and I really look forward to your work. Big time kudos on a subject that's difficult. Lvyu.
Laury Hubrich 09/24/09
Wow. I have goosebumps. Great writing, Cat. Wow. So glad help came for Marta in time. Congratulations on your EC!!!
Mariane Holbrook 09/24/09
Congratulations on a well-deserved win! You defined deep depession in a very unique way and if you hadn't placed high with this one, I was gonna raise a ruckus with the judges! Just kidding. LOL :-) Big time kudos, my friend! Hugs!
Marita Thelander 09/24/09
Congratulations, Cat. The depth of loneliness is one everybody should recognize and be sensitive to.
Beth LaBuff 09/24/09
Hey, Cat!! Congrats on 2nd place!! This is so cool!
Patricia Turner09/24/09
You painted the scene so beautifully with your prose and conveyed the MC's feelings so vividly. What a well deserved EC placement.
Lisa Johnson09/25/09
Okay, let me get the tears out of my eyes so I can write. The raw emotion of this story was palpable. It was like being right there with your MC every step of the way.Well written, it drew me in and held on tight. Congratulations on the second place on both the level and EC. Well deserved.
Lori Robbins10/01/09
I have to ask if this is a true story? I felt the pain and lonliness. I cried through tears of wonderment at God's amazing grace. Thank you.
Sharlyn Guthrie10/01/09
Congratulations on placing 2nd with this excellent piece, Cat!!
harvestgal Ndaguba10/24/09
This story totally made me cry. I could imagine her pain and triumph in God's grace. Awesome work!
Emily Ritter10/25/13
HI! I've been reading some of your work and noticed the story about the year the magic died (about Santa). I wondered if you would be interested in reading my story "Santa Claus is For Real" under the topic Expert for faith writers, intermediate level. Thanks for enjoying my story "The One Who Sees Me." I actually just participated in a research program at a museum where I shared this story again. I came back and re-noticed how nice and healing your comment was : ) . Thanks! -Emily Gillilan