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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Wow! (03/11/10)

TITLE: Headlocked
By Sarah Elisabeth


In all my eight years, I can’t remember a single time I looked up to my brother. Perhaps it’s because he always got me in trouble when he did something wrong.

But I was determined to have fun on our family’s first vacation of the summer. I thought nothing could dampen my enthusiasm as we descended into the Cathedral Room for a tour of Marvel Cave.

“Wow! Look how far down that is!” Keeping one hand on the guardrail, I caught my dad’s sleeve and tugged. “Are we going to see any bats?”

“We might, son. You just remember to follow the rules we discussed.”

“Yes, sir.” I paused to gaze at the ceiling two hundred feet above. “Wow! Can you imagine falling from there?”

My parents were a half flight of stairs below when Tommy grabbed the back of my shirt. “If you say “wow” one more time, I’m gonna put you in a headlock.”

I gulped and hurried to the group.

“In 1869, explorers entered the cave searching for minerals,” the tour guide was saying, “As it turned out, the only thing ever mined here was bat guano.”

“Bats?” I watched the round eyes of my six-year-old sister pop out. “Eek!”

I could see Tommy wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. With the feather he’d collected earlier he brushed the back of Janie’s neck, sending her flying to our mother. “Mommy, a bat got me!”

I puzzled at why my dad stared at me, until I saw my brother’s angelic face with a finger pointing my direction.

“Since you can’t keep your hands to yourself, Mathew,” Dad said, “You will hold your mother’s for awhile.”

Oh, the dreadful punishment! Not that I minded holding my mother’s hand…but to be forced to like a toddler was humiliating.

I trudged through the “Shoe Room,” oblivious to the giant footprint on the ceiling.

At my father’s nod, my mother released my hand with a squeeze and a soft reprimand, “Behave.”

Soon the narrow corridors, lit by strung bulbs, had me breathless. “Wow,” I said in a voice I knew Tommy wouldn’t hear, “This is so cool.”

Entering another room, I wandered to a railing and gazed at the slanted wall beyond. It disappeared into blackness. “Wonder what’s up there?” I said.

A tingle of excitement rushed through me at the fun imaginings of exploring the cave on my own. I would be like Huckleberry-

“Psst!” I jumped at Tommy’s presence beside me. “Why don’t we see where that goes?”

I gulped. There would be no mild punishment if we were caught. I glanced at the group mounting stairs to begin the ascent. No doubt our parents thought we were behind them.

“It’ll only take a couple of minutes.” Before I could reply, Tommy scooped me up and set me over the guardrail.

Tommy had straddled the pipe when a deep voice petrified me. “What do you think you’re doing?” My father was striding across the rocky floor to us. Tommy looked down at me.


My brother scrambled down while my father lifted and set me in front of him on shaking legs. “Mathew, I warned you...”

“It was my fault, Dad. I made him do it.”

My jaw dropped to my chest as I stared at my big brother. His eyes met our father’s.

My dad was caught off guard, but quickly recovered. “Tommy, you and I will address this tonight - privately.” We all knew the meaning behind the word “address”.

Climbing the stairs passed the rushing waterfall, my brother and I were kept between our parents. I spoke to Tommy in a masked voice.

“You really told Dad it was your fault?”

“Don’t make a big deal outta it.”

“But why didn’t you tell him it was my fault?”

“It wasn’t.”


“Look,” Tommy put his nose to mine as the group paused to take pictures. “Don’t you go repeatin’ this.” He frowned then sighed. “I was remembering about Paul and how his little brother was almost run over by a car ‘cause he was following Paul to our house on his bike. Everybody was really mad and Paul got in trouble. That’s when I got to thinkin’ maybe I should be lookin’ after my little brother. You know, like Dad says, start growing up and being a godly man.”

I could only shake my head. “Wow.”

For the first time in my life, I actually admired my brother. Even if he did put me in a headlock.

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This article has been read 706 times
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Beth LaBuff 03/20/10
Your story kept my interest thoughout. I could just see these two brothers in all their "activities". :) (plus my husband is the youngest of 6 boys and I've heard similar stories :) ) I liked your ending (it warmed my heart). Nice work!
Catrina Bradley 03/21/10
I can SO see this happening! I toured many caves with my family when I was a kid, and was often tempted to cross the barrier and explore. Great job using dialog to build your characters and tell (I mean "show") the story. Love your WOW moment. :)
Catrina Bradley 03/21/10
I liked your story so much when I finished it that I forgot the red ink you requested. :) In the beginning, the words "perhaps" and determined" don't sound like what an 8-year old would say. And I think you switched tense after the first paragraph? That's all! Great entry. :)
Joan Campbell03/22/10
I really enjoyed this! You did very well at creating the family dynamics - slightly harassed parents, squeemish sister and of course mean older brother picking on younger one. I loved the older brother taking responisibility in the end, he was a "well-rounded" character, not as mean as he looked!
Nicole Campbell03/22/10
Thank you for submitting such pleasurable reading! This is a well written and interesting story. Wow!
Jackie Wilson03/22/10
I enjoyed your story, from beginning to end! Well done!
AnneRene' Capp03/22/10
Felt like I was in that cave too. I was nervous, thinking about what Tommy was going to do next. Him fessing up at the end, completely took me by surprise!
Laury Hubrich 03/22/10
Loved the interaction between these two boys and their family. I'm glad the oldest finally owned up:) Cute story.
Ann Grover03/22/10
Great story... authentic dialogue... Glad the little rascal owned up!

(The tense in the first paragraph should match the rest of the story.)
Darren Pettis03/22/10
I really enjoyed your journey... great dialogue. Great job.
Carol Slider 03/22/10
I really like stories that are about small moments of great significance. This is one of those--the moment a boy begins to understand responsibility. Loved the details about the cave, too. I think I may have visited that one (in Missouri, right?) when I was a child. Well done.
Rachel Phelps03/23/10
This is so awesome - and the ending is perfect. As far as red ink, the only thing I could say is that some of the vocabulary seemed a little older than an 8-year-old: petrified, for example. Great inspiration!
Sandra Petersen 03/24/10
I enjoyed this story very much. Also thankful I didn't have a younger (or older)sibling who got me in trouble all the time. I liked the title and how you mentioned it at the beginning and the end of the story. That gives the story subtle cohesiveness, in my opinion.
Loren T. Lowery03/24/10
Good story with a great message. My only "red ink" would be to let the reader know early on where this cave was with a few descriptions. Story held my interest all the way through.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/24/10
Great story here with a wonderful lesson.
Sara Harricharan 03/24/10
Haha...the ending with the headlock is just perfect. You captured their characters wonderfully and I loved the POV you chose, it just made this come alive through younger eyes. Nicely done! I liked it.
william price03/24/10
Ha! Great ending and superb opening. I really enjoyed this entry. Your story telling voice is very sincere and allowed me to relax and enjoy the piece. Great job. God bless.
PS Great title too!
Mona Purvis03/25/10
I enjoyed this on a couple of levels, being a parent myself and a sister of six boys.
Believable and interesting.

Carol Penhorwood 04/20/10
This family dialogue was so believable and the relationships felt "real". Great job!