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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Writing a Letter (handwritten correspondence) (10/21/10)

TITLE: Misplaced Thoughts


The riverside café conversations buzzed around me, just like the blow-fly that swooped low over my latte. Peering through the glass frontage, I could see the customers who had chosen to sit outside for the chance of a cool breeze. Most were using their table napkins to shoo away the flies that came with the sticky summer heat.

My gaze returned with my thoughts back to the notepad in front of me. I impatiently had begun tapping the table with my pencil. It was then that I caught a whiff of the café owner’s musk and spice cologne. “Hello, Joe.”

“What’s up, Miss Jane?”

“I’m trying to write a letter to my sister. We had an argument and now she won’t talk to me about it.”

I quickened the beat of my pencil.

Joe nodded his head slowly. “I see.” He sat in the seat opposite and placed his empty drink tray on the table. “So, she did bad thing and you crazy mad at her, yes?”

I forced myself to stop the drumming. I loved the way Joe talked. Twenty years after arriving in his ‘new country' his thick Italian accent lingered. It was one of those things I liked about Joe; that and the way he made every customer his friend.

I took a slow deep breath. “Accepting a marriage proposal isn’t normally a bad thing, but for Beth it is.”

“Ah, I see. You are a zealous sister.”

“No,” I laughed, “and I think you mean ‘jealous’.” I placed the untouched latte onto Joe’s tray before I resumed tapping the notepad with more emphasis in the pulsating rhythm. “Beth is about to marry the wrong man”.

“And you know this to be true, yes?”

“I suppose so. I mean…I don’t know. You don’t understand. She’s marrying a diplomat.”

Joe took the pencil from my hand and looked thoughtfully at it before speaking again. “In my old country we say diplomat is good job. They are appointed by state for mediation and good relations. That is a good thing, yes?”

“I suppose it is, but it’s all that travelling. I’m worried about his commitment to Beth. Will he be loyal to her? Will she be left at home for weeks at a time? Will she be happy?”

“I think this is for them to re-zolve?” He paused again. “I know many diplomats who take wives with them—when it is safe.”

“Safe?” I stared out the window where couples laughed and chatted together.

Joe touched my hand taking back my full attention. He shooed away a young waitress like the fly that kept returning to my latte.

“Miss Jane,” he replied softly. “You need to write this letter to your sister. Sure, you tell her you worry about her future but if you do not tell her that you will be there for her, whatever she decide, you will be forever deranged from her, I think.”

I couldn’t help but smile. “You are a very caring man, Joe, and wise. The last thing I want is to be 'estranged' from Beth. We have always been close.”

We sat without speaking for a moment. I was calmer now but I was still concerned—not just for Beth’s plans for marriage but for our sibling relationship as well. My voice came out as a whisper: “I still don’t know what to write.”

Joe held up my pencil. “Write from your heart, and words, they will come.” He placed the pencil on the notepad.

“Will she even read my letter?”

“You will not know unless you write—and mail it.” He smiled and stood. “I better go see why my staff cannot work without me. I will send waitress with a fresh one of these too.” He picked up the tray with my cold latte. “On house,” he added with a wink.

His cologne drifted away with his departure.

I noticed the lone blow-fly take advantage of a customer leaving the café. It disappeared just like all my previous misplaced thoughts. I knew now what I had to write. I picked up my pencil and began to write the most important letter of my life.

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This article has been read 581 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lollie Hofer10/29/10
I really like this well-written story. It has a great message in it. The characters were genuine as well. Loved Joe's mispronounced words, and his wisdom too.
Rachel Phelps10/30/10
Wonderful! The characters are a delight. My only red ink is the italicized portion - if it is a thought, I would put it in present tense. If it is more narration, the italics are unnecessary. Well done.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/30/10
I enjoyed reading this as the MC worked through her conflict with a little help from Joe. Nicely done.
Barbara Lynn Culler10/30/10
Great job of describing the environment- even the pesky fly.

I am curious as to why the cafe owner goes by "Joe" rather than his ethnic name.

Would love to hear more of this story!
Lyn Churchyard10/31/10
Great story. It fits the topic well, and the characters are real and endearing. I like the way you start and end with the buzzing fly. Great job.
Gregory Kane10/31/10
I too liked Joe. Sweet characterisation
Nancy Sullivan 10/31/10
You story flows so easily - with the setting and the dialogue. Very well done with an enjoyable plot and characters.
DK Landers10/31/10
I enjoyed reading this story. The setting is excellent, creating a vivid scene. The characters are believable and interesting. I like that she listens to Joe's opinion, suggesting that she trusts his advice.
Connie Dixon10/31/10
I really enjoyed this: the fly, the accent, the conflict. All of it was awesomely good. Thumbs up!
Jan Ackerson 11/01/10
I found this delightful, and I loved the character of Joe.

Tiny nit-pick--his accent didn't 'sound' Italian to me. I appreciated that you didn't go overboard with trying to render an accent phonetically, but his syntax just didn't resemble Italian accents that I've heard/read.

Nevertheless, this was a great read, and I enjoyed it very much.
Carol Penhorwood 11/02/10
Loved your creativity on this topic, Pup! Writing our concerns about a loved one's life is never easy. But I think your Joe seems very wise.
Great job!
Catrina Bradley 11/03/10
I love it! The blow-fly, the little word mistakes made by the waiter, and his oh-so wise advice on how to write this important letter. GREAT job!!!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/04/10
Congratulations on your highly commended. Keep your chin up as you are doing a fantastic job. Love, Shann
c clemons11/05/10
Good job, only nitpick would be, using a "blow-fly" without sharing what it is. It could have been asteriked at the end of the story or described in the telling. I have never heard of it and I have learned never to assumed anything about your audience. Just a plain "fly" is universal or is it something unique about a blow-fly?
Gregory Kane11/06/10
Here's another well done. Good to see you up there in lights
Philip Barrington11/10/10
Congrats, well you are not far off. Not my kind of story but I agree well written.