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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Importance of Being Earnest (not about the play) (08/04/11)

TITLE: He's My Brother
By Janice Fitzpatrick


t was early morning as I slid my catcher’s mitt onto my high rise bicycle handle and began peddling. Ahh. I could smell mom’s cheeseburgers a mile away and shifted my bike into high gear.

Since dad left us three years before mom took over the grill, and everything else. It was just her, me and my older brother, Squirrel.

Stevie was his real name, but the way he nibbled food and packed his mouth he looked like a bushy tailed rodent. So, the name stuck.

Having a brother with Down Syndrome never seemed a problem when we were little. Maybe I just didn’t notice it before. I guess that’s what happens when you get older.

The problem was Squirrel wasn’t ever going to grow up, like the rest of us at least.

“Batman,” my brother sang loudly and tried to soar through the yard with a towel tied around his neck.

“Can I play ball with the team?” He asked. “Maybe later Squirrel,” I avoided his question and parked my bike.

Practice and tryouts were that night but I didn’t want him there.

“Squirrel’s gonna play baseball.” He jumped up and down like he was five but at almost sixteen it was embarrassing.

“No, mom won’t let you.” I always used her as my excuse when I didn’t want him around.

“Zack, that sounds like a good idea” Mom lifted the grill lid to check on supper. I couldn’t believe my ears.

“You know he can’t play,” I came to my own defense. Mom 2-Me-2 “Says who?” She stood with one hand on her hip and the other with a spatula.

“He does pretty well for himself at Special Olympics.” She smiled. “Well, not on my team.” I almost yelled. Mom 2-Me 4.

“I can run fast” Squirrel demonstrated his running ability.

I rolled my eyes. She just glared and brushed the hair from her face, checking the meat to make sure the pink was gone.

Dad used to cook the burgers blood red. “I’m such an outstanding chef,” he’d brag. Mom just laughed, “One of these days Norm, those patties are going to moo and swish their tails.” Squirrel and I would moo loudly and shake our rear ends.

Nothing seemed outstanding anymore. Dad was gone; mom did everything she could, and I was the only seventh grader with a brother like Squirrel.

“Just toss the ball around.” She continued. Mom 4-Me-4.

I tried to change the subject. “Are the burgers done yet?” Distraction, it often worked in the game if you wanted to steal bases. “Almost,” she whispered. “He needs you.”

Her eyes met mine as I turned to look at Squirrel. He was trying to fly again. “He needs a Batmobile.” My words came out before I could think. Mom 4-Me-done for.

“Just spend some time with him Zack.” “I need time by myself,” I snorted. “That’ll work, you can spend the rest of the night in your room.” she marched past me, carrying the burgers.

“There’s tryouts tonight,” I insisted. Mom was just as stubborn. “Well, I guess you’ll both be missing them.”

Squirrel followed her like a hound dog hot on the trail. I sometimes wished I had one instead of a brother. I stomped through the kitchen up to my bedroom.

A thud then a crash came from upstairs. I jumped up from my bed and opened the door. Squirrel was on the floor picking up the mess of splattered hamburger and condiments.

He looked up at me and began to cry. “Squirrel so stupid…can’t do anything,” he sniffed and wiped his tears with a sleeve. “Makes Zack mad, so he don’t want to be with Squirrel anymore.”

I sighed and knelt by him to help him clean up the mess. “I’m not mad at you and you’re not stupid.” I paused. “I am,” I couldn’t believe how I had been treating him. “Zack’s not stupid, he’s my brother.” Squirrel mussed up my hair.

“You want to go play some ball?” I helped him to his feet. His eyes lit up and he hugged me tightly until I could hardly breathe.

After Mom gave her approval we headed for the field.

I was ready for any resistance from the team. There were a few new faces at try outs.

“Hey, who’s the weird guy?” one of them asked. All eyes were on me. I put an arm around Squirrel. “He’s my brother.”

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This article has been read 471 times
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C D Swanson 08/12/11
Good for him taking his brother to the try outs. Courage, love and determination seems to fit the three of them in this family. I enjoyed it. God bless you~
Linda Goergen08/12/11
Such a touching story! Sadly there does remain narrowness in some of society's view of the mentally handicapped, but praise God it is so much better than the past! Children can be amazingly accepting or very cruel, so I can see why a sibling would be hesitant, not knowing what kind of reception they might get. But what a wise mom in this story and what a touching scene, to see the brother’s love win out in the end! A well written, heartwarming read!
Edmond Ng 08/15/11
A story true to life of the pain and inconveniences we sometimes face when we have a loved one who is sick or needing special care. In situations such as this, let not our hearts be troubled, but believe in God, believe also in the Lord (John 14:1). Open our hearts to reach out and meet the need of that special someone, but never forget also about ourselves to be sure to find time to rest and be renewed, to recieve comfort in the Holy Spirit as well as draw strength from the Lord.

You've done well in putting across a difficult story that moves the heart. Thank you for sharing this story.

Cheryl von Drehle08/15/11
Beautiful story! I like the dialog and well-crafted characters. I lost the thread of the story in the beginning: e.g., he is riding his bike in the first paragraph … it is early morning but he smells hamburgers cooking for supper? and then the setting changes abruptly. But you did a wonderful job capturing the ambivalence of the protagonist. I think you could develop these characters into many more stories.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/15/11
This is A heart-wrenching story and one near to my heart. My mom's first child was born with spina bifida that caused brain damage. Though I never met him, had he lived he would have been developmentally disabled.

Remember to start a new paragraph for each time a different person speaks. Also capitalize Mom of you use it as a name (without the or my in front of it.)

This story is beautiful and has awonderful message.

Noel Mitaxa 08/16/11
I'm showing my age - and perhaps yours if you also recall, but I heard the Hollies from way back in 1970 "He ain't Heavy, he's my Brother."

Terrific story, with active dialogue. I liked your device of progressive scoring; once I realised what it was. It may have helped to set it more formally in brackets or in italics; eg (Score: Mom 2 - Me 2 etc,) for this would have lifted the energy and strengthened the piece and cut across any confusion for lower IQ readers like me. Apart from that, I reckon it's a winner!
Margaret Kearley 08/16/11
I really love this story! It has so many elements - humour, pathos, patience and buckets of love. I agree with all the comments pasted and I also was going to suggest a different way of putting the score - it confused me a bit until I had read it a couple of times! Brilliant idea though. A really good entry - hope it does well.
Carol Penhorwood 08/16/11
You really captured the emotions in this piece. To me that is what is most important, the rest will fall in line. Well done!
Kimberly Russell08/16/11
I really enjoyed the storyline on this piece. You did a nice job with the characterization. Not sure how on-topic it is but well done.
Janice Fitzpatrick08/18/11
Thank you everyone for taking the time for your critiques and encouraging words. I'm not sure what happened during the previewing and editing process but with tech problems and my own human error my piece surely has some mistakes.:( I accidentally wrote morning in my opening scene when I meant afternoon and didn't see that I had left off the I for It for my opening sentence when I copied & pasted the word. For some reason when the format for italics didn't work for me this time & so my Mom and me scores became hard to read & blended too much w/ the rest of my story. My apologies.
As far as being on topic my characters all were trying hard in life. Squirrel just was trying to be given the opportunity to play with his brother, while Zack earnestly tried to just survive and feel like a regular kid, even though his circumstances left him angry and Mom was trying to hold the family together through a difficult time in their lives. I pray this will encourage and speak to the hearts of those who read the piece. Thx again.:) Blessings to each of you!