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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Reader (04/15/10)

TITLE: Next Stop Heaven
By stanley Bednarz


Ruth tried to imagine his look when he got home, red-face drunk, crumpled note in hand. He threatened to kill her if she left.

She learned to read him like a book. The fire in his eyes, clinched fist, and sidelong glare: signs of a suburban monster.

Stew on the stove, china on the table, and note secured to the fridge, she went upstairs to try on the old red dress. She guided it over her bruised body. Amazed at the fit, she blushed in the dim light of her closet mirror. Hands shaking, contorted, she was determined to zip it, feeling twisted, light headed.

She went down the stairs, letting the force of the suitcase take her down. Pictures of her happy childhood, ribbons for pies at the "Fair," her life transported in a suitcase.

She opened the door, eyes burning from rejection of the sun, face porcelain white as if it should crack. She stepped out, and down the street toward the park, near the bus stop. Hunched over, naked shoulders in the breeze, she managed a steady pace.

Soon she heard migrating geese, and looked up to see a V shaped flock moving northward toward Canada for the summer. She sniffed the fresh cut grass of the manicured lawns, as if it were her private addiction. The air tasted sweet too, like freedom should.

Ruth was an hour early at the bus stop, and the park seemed barren, empty, except for the figure of a mother with child, and she was pushing him on a swing. He cried, "Higher! Higher mommy!"

Ruth squared up on a green metal bench, holding down her dress, like an awkward schoolgirl.

Tender dandelions seemed in wide expanse of burly grass, out of place, like her, magnified from uneven swirls, as if random and without will. The boy, like a giant came, destroying the dandelions in his path, until he spied an inviting cluster, and plucked the hapless stems from the ground, marching back to his mother.

The young mother with her golden hair in the breeze whispered something to the boy's ear. His face turned rosy, and his eyes glowed toward Ruth, who turned face down.

She closed her eyes for a moment, and when she opened them, to her surprise the little boy stood before her with his bouquet of dandelions.
She smiled faintly, taking them, and the boy ran from her half scared, half thrilled at his accomplished grace.

A throng of people funneled toward the bus-line. Mom stepped up, pulling her son to the top. Ruth hesitated below, looking back at the chimney of her house as if it were a prison watchtower. "Come sweet lady, go for ride." The boy curled his hand, and grew a foot wide smile.

The bus chattered, and a diesel cloud grew behind her. She struggled with her suitcase, clutching her life. As the bus chugged forward, she spilled into the seat across from her little friend. "MY name Travis. What's your name sweet lady?"


"Root?" said Travis, feet stuck mid-air, and mom turning shades of red.

Ruth's tongue felt like chalk. Lips trembling, she spoke, "You must be momma's angel?"

The boy's eyes ignited, and he buried his dark silk hair into his mother's bosom.

A young man sitting next to Ruth looked for a moment, with a soft smile, trimmed beard, sky-blue eyes. He was reading something unusual. After all she read people, that's how she survived.

"Young man, is that a bible you're reading?" She loosened her tongue further. "The bible has been a mystery to me," she said politely.

The young man smiled firmly, and during a long ride past the tall buildings of city streets, past suburban strip malls, he explained to her mostly the meaning of words in red.

As darkness enveloped the sky, the bus morphed into a prism of reflections.

Travis had fallen asleep, and mom carried him off the bus, feet dangling in complete surrender.

Finally, the young man had to leave for his dorm at the University. Before leaving he said, "Ruth don't worry about the world you left behind, just pray and he will come."

Before Ruth knew it, she had fallen asleep. When she looked up, no driver.

Suddenly, a new and gentle friend came to her, but she was in perfect peace, and not afraid.

As Jesus took her trembling hand, she looked up to see the flashing destination sign that read, "NEXT STOP HEAVEN."

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Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/24/10
Wow what an intense story with a great twist. I liked how she read people a creative view of the topic
Sarah Elisabeth 04/29/10
A very touching story.