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

TITLE: Napkin Notes
By Francy Judge


I winced. The pain echoed in throbs after Ronny yanked my braid from the seat behind me. I pushed a scream down inside and refused to give Ronny the pleasure of hearing me yelp. Why did my last name have to be one end consonant apart from his? I wondered. Kayla Mullen, Ronny Mullens. He had been sitting behind me three years in a row since second grade, thanks to ABC order. For the rest of the day, I held my braid over my shoulder—except for art class which required two hands to paint a sunset.

If I could just get through the day until lunch time without crying, then I could countdown the last two hours. Everything was different last year, before Molly moved away. I had a friend to giggle with on the way to school; a friend to pass notes to in class; a friend who could beat Ronny up with one strong jab. Now I’m alone.

I sat at the corner lunch table in the far end of the cafeteria, as far away from Ronny and his gang as possible. I zipped open my lunch bag just enough to see if Mom remembered a napkin. She did. I angled it so light reached her words without letting anyone see me reading a napkin note.

Hi Kayla,

Your smile is like hot cocoa—super sweet and warms me up inside. Remember that Jesus is with you.


I smiled, folded the note carefully into Scrabble square size, and tucked it in my pocket.
Everyday Mom wrote a new note in swirly script—sometimes short, sometimes long, sometimes with Dad’s signature joined to hers; she didn’t know that I couldn’t bear to throw those napkins out. I kept them in an empty Valentine’s Day heart shaped candy box.

Everyday she wrote a new note until she got sick. First her notes became short and sloppy, then confusing. She lost her sight with cancer.

Sledp all day. I lobe you.


One day there was no note. Dad drove Mom to the hospital, but I still hoped everything would be the same—that somehow she’d be okay and leave me another note. . .

She’d write as she wrote before: “Have a great day,” or “Let’s get ice-cream at Marvel’s,” or “Sparky barked hello to you.” And my heart could smile again.

I took a small bite of a stale peanut butter sandwich, ambled toward the trash can, and slipped in a pile of spilt mashed potatoes on the floor. Ronny and his friends laughed and banged the table like a drum roll. I tossed my sandwich at his face. More laughter as I ran out the door. Tears broke through as I slumped against the brick wall and a lunch lady draped her plump arm around my shoulders.

I knew she wouldn’t leave the hospital; she died that night.


First Molly, then Mom. . . did Jesus leave me too? Nothing made sense. And Dad didn’t have the answer.

Dad and I ate Burger King take-out for dinner every night for two weeks. No work. No school. No play. Just a quiet house that smelled of French-fries.


My eyes scanned the rows of tables until I saw an empty spot. Before I even opened my lunch bag, Ronny sat across from me.

“What do you want?” I asked in the toughest voice I could muster.

“Hey, I just wanted to say I’m sorry about your mom.”

“Oh, well. . .thanks.”

Ronny fiddled with a straw wrapper, twirling it around his thumb. “My mom died two years ago from lung cancer. It was the worst, but after a while I could look at her picture without throwing something.”

I stared at his clear blue eyes, unable to speak.

“You should wear your hair in a braid again.” He stood up and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “You looked like a princess.”

“No way! Not with you sitting behind me.”

We both laughed.

“See ya.” Ronny ran outside for recess.

My stomach growled; I opened my lunch bag expecting to see day old nuggets and fries. Instead . . . a ham sandwich neatly wrapped in tinfoil with chocolate milk, some vanilla cookies, and a note.


God blessed us the day you were born. You’re as beautiful as your mom.

I love you.

I folded the napkin into a Scrabble size square and tucked it in my pocket. My heart smiled.

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This article has been read 537 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/28/10
This is sweet. You packed a huge story into 750 words. I used to slip notes in my kid's lunch too.
Amy Michelle Wiley 10/28/10
I'm sitting here surrounded by strangers in my college computer lab and you made me cry! Haha, great story. Loved the notes and love the story.
Sarah Heywood11/01/10
You brought tears to my eyes with this one - such a tender story. When my husband used to take a lunch to work, I'd include a "napkin" note every day. He told me they were the highlight of his day.

Good writing!
Rachel Phelps11/02/10
Beautiful. Just beautiful. Loved your characters and the napkin notes.
Beth LaBuff 11/04/10
Frances, you brought tears to my eyes too. I love everything about your story. It's filled with hope!
Margaret Kearley 02/14/11
Hi Frances
I may be 2 or 3 months late (just catching up on reading) but wanted to say thank you for this wonderful story. Yes, it made me cry too - such beautiful writing. Thankyou