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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Season(s) of a year or life (01/13/11)

TITLE: Cleared for Take Off
By Tracy Nunes


Candace stood in what used to be her front door fingering the worn edge of her jacket. Her gaze adjusted from one scene to another; her mind picturing a memory attached to each place in her former home.

Daniel’s 5th birthday party with his three best buddies; his future wife Chrissie was among them.

Amanda doing flips on the back of the couch, calling it her balance beam. “Look mommy! I’m a gymnast!”

Tom fixing the stairs…no, she didn’t want to go there.

They called it a rare occurrence, an Autumn twister. It leveled her home of thirty-one years in less than 3 minutes while she was away at the senior center helping Mabel sort the estate items donated for their fundraiser.

“A bit premature, dontcha think?” Mabel had teased her on her first day of volunteering. She found it amusing that Candace came to the senior center being that she was so far from being a senior. She was a grandma and all, but she started her family young and had yet to pass the half century mark. She’d mumbled something to Mabel about “liking to be around people in the twilight of their lives.”

She stepped around boards and broken glass, though there wasn’t much of it. Not much of anything was left behind after 140 mph winds swept through except a couple of half-walls and her old metal filing cabinet. Funny, before the storm she thought that she had nothing left.

Amanda had died after being hit by a drunk driver just before graduation two years ago leaving a gaping hole in her heart. Daniel moved his family to Tahlequah for a new job on one of the hottest days of last Summer. She saw them now and again, but they were a double day drive away and she was getting the feeling that little Mandy (named after her aunt) was forgetting her grandma. Candace feared a kindly neighbor lady they met in their new city was beginning to take her place.

Her job at the furniture store ended in the Spring when the meat packing plant shut down. People out of work don’t buy designer furniture. So she temped for an employment agency and had to drive all over creation to work for a day’s pay here and two day’s there.

Tom, well, Tom had left in the Winter when she had once again found his stash of sweet smelling buds. And, not the kind you find on your Aunt Myrtle’s rosebush. She’d found it again and he made his excuses again. Same story, different verse only this one sounded just like the first. After she found it she stood in nearly this same spot looking at it for the longest time, seeing her future with her husband go up in smoke. She drew the line; he chose his exit and went to live with the woman who sold him his “medicine.”

Candace was a middle-aged woman who hung out with seniors because of their wisdom and because they made her feel youthful. But, everything she once knew had shape shifted and her life no longer resembled well…her life, or at least not the one she’d intended.

As she paced through the rubble, brooding over the twists of fate and the ravages of time, seasons and circumstances, her shoe hit something metallic and it slid across the floor. Candace bent to pick it up. It was a key. She knew immediately what it was but it took a moment to grasp that it had somehow missed being sucked up and thrown to the four corners of the earth.

A smile began to turn the edges of her mouth as she remembered a day last year, a few months before Tom left. His insurance lady friend came to the house and they sat down and signed papers. Little did she know then that insurance wasn’t the only thing that woman sold. She later claimed that the tough economy made her diversify into “pharmaceuticals.” That was the beginning of the end for Candace and Tom.

But here she stood, key in hand to a metal treasure chest that held the insurance policy with a rider for storm damage. Tom’s new lady had insisted they needed it. Suddenly, the nearly bare foundation of her home looked more like a launching pad to Tahlequah. Thoughts of the coming Winter didn’t feel so cold anymore. She raised a silent hand of praise to Heaven.

Get ready Mandy. Grandma’s coming.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 01/24/11
God always provides, doesn't he? Even when it's just a key to a feeling of security.
Theresa Santy 01/25/11
As I read along I felt like I was there with the MC. The home desstruction seeemed to be symbolic of the destruction of the family, which was clever, and I loved how you didn't tell about the physical devastation, yet it was ever so clearly shown.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/25/11
This left tears in my eyes. As I'm rapidly approaching my empty-nest syndrome, I can so relate to the MC. The ending was perfect, not rushed or contrived. This is one of my favorite stories this week. Well done!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/28/11
Congratulations on placing 7th in level 3 and in the top 30 overall.