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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Ohhh…. (02/04/10)

TITLE: Some of What Was Taken Away


I didn’t appreciate our avocado tree while I was growing up, and now that I would, it’s gone. So is the way of the world. The baby-blue clapboard house near the seaside—I was hardly ever there.

My life existed two streets over with Cassie Trueben and her older sister, Ruby. I learned about Jesus from their family and their church. I fell in love with classical literature because of Mrs. Trueben, and became a long-distance runner because of Mr. Trueben.

I often asked God why I hadn’t been born into that clapboard house.

In the summer when I turned twelve, Mr. Trueben gave the three of us girls formal training regimens. Cassie had raw talent. I had determination. Ruby had exuberance—and Down syndrome. Five days a week, we’d push fourteen-year-old Ruby on an oversized three-wheeler, her feet up on the handlebars. It didn’t occur to me to think what we looked like to outside observers. Even at the track—two black girls—one whose legs propelled her like a panther, the other lumbering with a lopsided gait, and me a pale white girl red in the face, somewhere between.

But one morning my mom drove by to say she’d be gone for a while. She lifted her chin toward the track. “It’s a good thing you’re doing, Stella.”

“Running?” Sweat slid down my neck.

“No, befriending them.” Again she gestured to the track.

I let her kiss my forehead when I should’ve been protesting, screaming, “Are you freaking blind?”

And somewhere in her statement lurked another message I wasn’t quite getting. I’m sure that’s why I later asked Daniel what race he was.

Daniel was the fifteen-year-old boy who visited his grandmother during the summer. The girls and I would head to the shade of the cove near his house after working out. He’d meet us there for lunch.

That afternoon, Ruby told him how she’d run the quarter mile in under six minutes. Cassie and I sat opposite one another, toes digging into the sand.

“Daniel, what race are you?” I cut through Ruby’s rope of thick words. Cassie’s head shot up like I’d grown horns. Maybe I had. “Just curious. I mean your grandmother looks Asian, but you don’t...except at the eyes...maybe.” I closed my own. “Your skin’s the color of peanut butter. Your nose is kind of flat, and your hair’s wavy...and you’ve never said.”

“What does it matter?”

That’s what I’m trying to figure out, I thought. “If we blindfolded you, would you be able to tell the three of us apart?”

“I don’t know—” He looked at Cassie.

“It’s fine with me.” She stood up, brushed off her shorts.

Daniel took off his t-shirt and tied it around his head. “Wait outside and come in one at a time.”

“Come on, Ruby,” said Cassie. “We’re going to play a game.” She pulled Ruby up by her stubby hands. I followed behind. For the first time I could remember, Ruby’s limp made me want to cry, which in turn made me want to scream again.

“I’ll go first,” I said, when we reached sunshine.

“O-kay—you go fir—”

“Shhhhh,” Cassie and I shushed Ruby together.

I reentered the dankness of the cove, imagining Daniel’s fingertips skimming Ruby’s face—the expanse between cheekbones, the folds at her eyelids. Compared to mine. Or the texture of Cassie’s skin compared to mine. Or her lips. Compared to mine.

When I reached Daniel, I kneeled and took up his smooth hands. I allowed myself to marvel at how his frame had changed since the year before. “It’s me—Stella.”

“I know,”

Nooo—please don’t say that,” I cried, emotions suddenly spent. “Don’t tell them that.”

He found my shoulders, moved up to my face, drew me to him. His lips felt cool and utterly soft.

The next morning I ran beyond what was prescribed on my chart. The walk to the track had been too quiet. I caught up to Cassie, matched her stride till we were about to lap Ruby; then we paced ourselves off her.

“He kissed me,” I said on an exhale. “Don’t want to keep secrets.”

Cassie nodded. “He kissed me, too.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“Ohhh…his lips are ve-ry soft,” breathed Ruby. She touched her own.

“Very soft,” repeated Cassie.

What could I say? Ruby’s ohhh…was accurate. “Soft—and wonderful.”

They nodded.

We finished the loop together—some of what had been taken away, partially restored.

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This article has been read 810 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Pat Guy 02/11/10
I can relate to this on many levels. Growing up in the service on bases, us air-force-brats didn't know what 'race' meant no matter where we lived or what country. Awesome, awesome story! I enjoyed each level in my own special way. Even the special needs child. My daughter was 'friends' with a 'very special needs' child when she was 3-5yrs old. Heather (her friend) lived on a water bed until she was ten. Loved the depth behind the words of this story.
Virgil Youngblood 02/11/10
Nicely written. I think running a mile under six minutes would be more realistic than a quarter mile, if bragging was intended. That, to me, seemed a little out of sync.
Virgil Youngblood 02/11/10
Oops! My comments about the running time were off base. Ruby was the runner, not Cassie as I had in mind. Great time, Ruby.
Chely Roach02/11/10
Absolutely stunning writing from start to finish. Fantastic tone, dialogue and pacing. I am in awe of the ironic, yet completely satisfying ending. I love this one.
Bryan Ridenour02/12/10
Fantastic writing and story from start to finish. And that rascal...stealing kisses from all three...or just maybe he was showing us that he had no bias. We are all one race, created in the image of God.
Rachel Phelps02/15/10
I'm having a little trouble catching my breath. That was... incredible. It's sooooo deep. Thank you.
Loren T. Lowery02/16/10
So much to love in this sensitive piece. One thing that stands out to me is that often time people and places are put upon our paths for a very specific reason. However, it is the heart's ability to receive that reason that makes/transforms us into what we might better become. In that this was written as a reflective piece by the narrator, I think it can be safely said that the experience was certainly a transcendence for the good - possibly only adding muscle to the strength that was already there.
Sheri Gordon02/16/10
Another amazing piece from Lisa. Your dialogue and descriptions are so authentic--you have me right in the middle of the story, as if I were another character. Such an incredible message.
Carol Slider 02/16/10
Wow, Lisa...breathtaking. I really felt that I knew these all-so-real characters. Lovely... and so well done!
Beth LaBuff 02/16/10
I love the images you give your reader, from the clapboard house(s) to the three going around the track. Love your style/voice here and your message is profound (as usual). :)
Connie Dixon02/17/10
You took me back to my childhood in so many ways with this awesome piece. It was a precious ride. Wonderful writing.
Mona Purvis02/17/10
Bravo. Splendid. Grasping.
'Some of what was taken away' is what makes this story so very telling. Each moment/thought/word in the race direction chips away and all we can hope for is to partially restore. That depth is what made this story so believable.
I hope this is an EC winner.

Verna Cole Mitchell 02/17/10
This kind of writing takes my breath away--so real, so beautiful--so soul piercing.
Kristi Peifer02/17/10
Well-crafted and profound. This is great stuff on so many levels. I am at a loss for what to say, other than I was riveted.
Amanda Brogan02/17/10
This story mixes tween confusion with a slice of romance. I love the non-judemental, accepting attitude of the characters toward each other. Color, talent, or intelligence melts away and all that's left is friendship.
The boy kissing each girl seemed almost kind of shady to me, but I see the point that you were making.

All-in-all, great writing!
Catrina Bradley 02/17/10
Stunning. Very literary. Absolutely amazing. Ok, one thing I didn't get - "“Nooo—please don’t say that,” I cried, emotions suddenly spent. “Don’t tell them that.”" Don't tell them what? don't say what? You have to tell me, cuz I'm feeling quite dense. :) I will be heartbroken if this isn't at the top somewhere. You've created a masterpiece.
Marita Thelander 02/17/10
I had a little trouble following it at first, but once I forced my ADD brain to focus I really enjoyed it. Loved it. Love you. ;)
Connie Dixon02/18/10
Congratulations on your EC. Re-reading this made me smile.
Beth LaBuff 02/18/10
4 weeks in a row, girl! How do you do it? Congrats, Lisa!! I was glad to see this on the EC list!
william price02/18/10
stanley Bednarz02/18/10
When is your class on dialogue? You should win an award or be studied by students on the craft of using dialogue.
You are a blessing. God has big plans for you. Phillipians 1:6
Pat Guy 02/18/10
Congrats Lisa! One of very favorites!
Yvonne Blake 02/18/10
So touching and beautiful!
Sarah Elisabeth 02/18/10
Wow, Lisa, congrats on yet another EC!

And thank you so much for the time you take to review/critique my pieces, it means so much. I try to apply your advice each week. You really are a Master! :-)
Sara Harricharan 02/18/10
Very interesting. I'm glad there was a happy ending in that sense. I'm glad the girls have each other(and no secrets!)
Chely Roach02/18/10
Breathtaking, even days and several reads later. Congratulations on this exquisite piece.