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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Time-consuming (02/24/11)

TITLE: Her Life Sentence
By Linda Germain


Cammy Dolen pulled the faded red wagon behind her as she walked with obvious dignity down the bumpy sidewalk. Years ago, in the beginning, she had placed pillows in the bottom to ensure a softer ride for her toddler. After he was too big, she managed to get Miss Woofie, usually pregnant and glad to be rolled around like a princess, to play the part of happy partner on an innocent outing. Cammy really missed that dog.

Her friend, Melody, used to tell her this Sunday-paper-insert gathering venture was a big waste of time; way too much work.

“All you do, day in and day out, is look for coupons, clip coupons, organize coupons, go to the store and redeem coupons. Don’t you get tired doing this year after boring year, Cammy?”

Diligent, hard-working Cammy would smile and repeat what she had said hundreds of times.

“Why Mel, you know how much I save and how good I am at doing it. Think of all the times I’ve left the grocery store when they had to pay me money.”

“That’s true,” Melody would concede, though unconvinced it was that profitable a pastime.

Cammy never forgot to smile at her perplexed friend and shake her pretty head, ugly bun and all. Her controlling, mean spirited husband insisted she keep her reddish gold mane twisted up with hair pins. It matched the drab clothes and shoes he made her wear. She felt like an old woman who might have lived on the prairie over a hundred years ago.

She felt a sudden jolt as the left back wheel on the dilapidated wagon fell off and rolled into the street. She made a quick dash, grabbed the hateful thing and leaped back on the sidewalk just before a garbage truck raced by and splattered her with the remnants of last night’s downpour.

Cammy stuck the black rubber disc back on the bent axle and kicked it with a new fierceness. Oh please, little wagon, don’t fail me now. We only have a few feet to go and then we’re home free.

“Need some help, lady?”

A man walking his dog seemed to appear out of nowhere. Cammy was startled for a second, but managed to be gracious and decline his assistance.

“No thanks. I can usually fix it just fine.”

As she moved on, the clumpety-clumpety sound seemed to echo her own pain and exhaustion.

At last, all these torturous years of working for a way to escape is about to pay off.

It began to rain by the time she stored the battered old wagon and the cache of papers in the shed out back of her little house.

Funny…all the lights are on. Oh no! Is Darrell back so soon?

She eased the kitchen door open. What she saw were men in suits and rubber gloves.

“Excuse me, gentlemen!”

The one with his hand in the flour canister stopped long enough to yell, “Chief, there’s a woman in here; must be the wife.”

“What are you people doing?” Her usually controlled voice seemed to rise several octaves.

A kind looking man with white hair indicated she should sit at the dinette set she had bought at a yard sale ten years before. She kept it clean and polished.

“Ma’am, are you one Cameran Janet Dolen, wife of Darrell Wayne Dolen of this address?”

She sputtered, “Am I ONE? What does that mean? I’ve been her…uh she…uh that one for twenty years. Who are you?”

“My name is Chief Sam McFogerty, FBI, division of unsolved cold-cases. We have a few questions.”

The precise speaking man explained who Darrell really was and what horrific things he had done…besides dictate to her for two decades.

She hardly blinked when they told her he had been killed in a bank heist.

As long as he didn’t get what I have slaved to save and bury in coffee cans in the back yard…I don’t care. At least I’m free.

The next morning, roaring sounds of heavy equipment woke her. The man driving the digging machine stopped long enough to say they had a court order to look for missing loot Darrell had stolen.

She didn’t cry, or scream, or faint. First, she left her beautiful hair loose from its usual knobby prison of pins, then marched out to the shed and secured the old wheel on her wagon. She didn’t know what else to do.


Isaiah 49:4 NKJV

Then I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain; Yet surely my just reward is with the LORD, And my work with my God.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Mona Purvis03/05/11
Oooh...this is so good. What a wonderful character so expertly introduced. Very different and refreshing read. What a picture you paint with such well-chosen words. Splendid writing.

Sydney Avey03/07/11
I love the title and the verse at the end that puts this story in perspective. It's a very realistic portrayal of an abused woman. One thing confused me: Did the police take the money she saved when they delved into the flour canister the day she found them in her house, or was she reconciled to the fact that they would find her money (and assume it was his) when they started digging the next day. The fact that she lost her money is critical to the story, so I would like this to be clearer.