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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sharp (03/07/13)

TITLE: A Killer Flies Free
By Virgil Youngblood
03/13/13


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I was inside for only two minutes, three at the most. The time it took to refresh my quart jar with sun tea and ice cubes. But Timmy, my eight years old grandson, my only grandchild, had disappeared.

We had been watching White-winged doves jostling each other on the top of the low brick patio wall scarfing sunflower seeds. Goldfinches and Harris’ Sparrows were elbowing for space at the hanging feeders contending for their share of the bounty.

Timmy was stretched out in an Adirondack reclining chair beneath a mid-morning sun wearing cutoff jeans and Bat Man sunshades, adding freckles to his collection. When he had enough of my whispered comments about our avian friends and the God that created them he rubbed a little white sunscreen onto his nose, closed his eyes and terminated our bird lesson for the day.

His absence didn’t panic me, at first, although a quick survey of the yard left me mystified as to how he could vanish so fast. His sunglasses, I belatedly noted, were leaning cockeyed against the leg of a small table some distance from his chair, as if flung there. Several spots of red liquid were splattered on the table top. That couldn’t be from the hummingbird feeder, I thought. The feeder was hanging on a tree limb twenty feet away.

Blood! It was definitely blood. “Timmy” I shouted. Fear washed over me like an incoming tide. Just last week a scruffy man had jumped out of a white panel van and accosted a third-grade boy walking to school. Riley twisted away from his captor’s grip and fled. The perpetrator raced away, his dilapidated vehicle fogging blue smoke.

“Timmy! Answer me.” I ran into the back yard, searching right and left. The side gates were closed. The rear was unfenced and beyond the lawn was a dense stand of post oaks and undergrowth as virgin as when Cabeza de Vaca came tromping through Texas. “Timmy.”

Movement in the undergrowth caught my eye and as I ran that way, Timmy stepped from behind an oak and jogged to meet me.

“It was awesome, Grandpa. You should have seen it.”

I hugged him tight, relieved, trying to control my voice. “Seen what, Timmy?”

“Swoosh. It came tumbling out of that tree over there” he said, pointing to a silver leaf maple, and waggling his arms up and down while rocking side to side. “It grabbed a Gold Finch with its feet, and uh, sat on that table for a minute, then flew back there. Come look.”

He grabbed my hand and led me back into the brush. We angled around some oaks and he pointed. “See. That’s where he sat and picked its feathers off.”

Beneath a low hanging limb was a pile of feathers and whitewash. It was obvious this wasn’t the first time a hot meal had been snatched from our feeder by the bird of prey.

“Did you get a close look at it?”

“Yes sir.”

“I’m sure you saw a hawk, but the question is what kind? Let’s look in my bird books and see if we can figure it out.” Putting my arm around his shoulders we walked toward the house. “That pile of feathers makes me think they are feeding young ones close by. He, or maybe she, will probably be back.”

I thought I knew what Timmy had seen for the bird was not a stranger. But, birds migrate and it could have been something else. The key to solving the mystery would depend upon Timmy’s keenness of observation.

After looking at the pictures, Timmy narrowed the possibilities down to two birds. They were so similar they fooled many experienced observers. But Timmy nailed it. “This one Grandpa. The one that looks like it is wearing a hood and has broad shoulders.”

That’s my grandson. He’s a sharpie. And so is the bird he picked out. It’s a sharpie too, as many birders refer to it: an Accipiter striatus, known by its common name as a Sharp-Shinned Hawk.


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This article has been read 198 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/14/13
I was mesmerized from the very beginning. Just recently I have developed an interest in birds and I found your story educational and I am excited to learn more about these birds. The way you built this suspense was pure artistry. I found myself worrying about the young boy and totally immersed in the story. You did a great job of covering the topic while still telling a thrilling story.
CD Swanson 03/14/13
This was so enducational and fascinating to read. I was completely immersed in this well written descriptive piece. Nicely done!

God bless~
Margaret Kearley 03/15/13
What a fantastic story! Great writing and a brilliant take on the subject. You sent me scuttling straight to Wikipaedia to enighten my previous non-existent knowledge of the Sharp-Shinned Hawk! A wonderfully told story, great to read - thankyou.
Ellen Carr 03/15/13
I enjoyed this story very much. Your descriptive language is lovely and I was easily drawn into the drama of the short-term disappearance of Timmy. It's a great Grandpa-Grandchild tale.
Bonnie Bowden03/15/13
What a frightening experience it is to lose sight of a child for even a few minutes. I'm glad the MC was unharmed and a great sleuth. Thanks for the education on hawks.
Christina Banks 03/18/13
You had me holding my breath, hoping with the main character that Timmy wasn't really gone. I am so glad that the killer wasn't of the human variety.
Cheryl Harrison 03/18/13
Whew! So glad Timmy wasn't kidnapped. Interesting info on the bird. Great descriptions as usual. God Bless.
lynn gipson 03/18/13
I know that frightening experience of losing the whereabouts of a child for even a couple of minutes. So enjoyed this excellently written story and the happy ending. Great Job!
Alicia Renkema03/19/13
Way to write! This was simply an engaging story, and I loved both the characters you painted here and the time that this grandfather took to embrace teachable moments. What an absolutely clever, clever use of topic. You totally nailed it for topic and being an "out of the box" piece. But it was so much more than that. I was so relieved when Timmy was only gone for a short time and that he was okay. Great job, thanks for the treat!
Judith Gayle Smith03/19/13
"Timmy was stretched out in an Adirondack reclining chair beneath a mid-morning sun wearing cutoff jeans and Bat Man sunshades, adding freckles to his collection."

Your descriptions are "par excellence". I so enjoy your writing . . .
A B03/19/13
This is a lovely story. The title drew me in immediately. Interesting facts and I could see your characters in my head.
Linda Buskirk03/19/13
As a grandma, I was immediately drawn in by the situation of a missing child. Then the sunglasses gone and the blood... Yipes! Throughout the story, your description and phrases painted a moving picture in great detail. And, whew! - good ending!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/22/13
Congratulations on ranking 26 overall! I've also been meaning to send you a PM telling you how much I appreciate your words on my entry. It brought many of my feelings together and gave me a whole new perspective. Each time I read your words I'm overwhelmed by your kindness and gentle nature and that shows up in anything you write--a story, a note or a critique. Thank you so much.