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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Home (01/09/06)

TITLE: Never Enough
By Val Clark
01/15/06


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Shakka used the flickering neon lights to cover her movements. Two more blocks and she’d be home. Cigarette smoke drifted in the air. She pulled silently into a deep doorway. A group of kids her age walked confidently past. She was on the very edge of their territory and in grave danger. She smiled wryly. Grave danger. Boom boom, I’m dead. Only she couldn’t end up in a grave, Mamma needed her.

Griff’s whisky voice sounded in her head. ‘When you’re away from Home Block, you better act like you belong, girl.’

She imitated their walk and swaggered out of her hiding place.

Shakka had been ten when she and her Mamma had found shelter on Griff’s block.

Before that, home had been a mansion with river frontage. Maids to do the housework. Chauffeurs to drive the cars. Elite private school.

On that dreadful day, Daddy had held back the looters while Shakka dragged Mamma from the house, pushing her into a row boat. Huddled together they watched the flames consume everything they treasured. The house was completely gutted, still Daddy hadn’t come. Eventually Shakka rowed into the middle of the river. The current did the rest.

Her parents had known the rioting would reach them. They had planned to leave, but Mamma always convinced Daddy to put it off. Shakka wiped away a tear. Mamma had been a formidable woman; maybe he knew she would never leave until they had absolutely no choice.

A few nights before the looting he’d found Shakka on the roof, where she often sat, watching the fires, wondering what it all meant.

‘Baby, if anything ever happens to me, you have to take your mother to Uncle Grifford, OK?’

He’d held her in his arms and she’d cried into his soft, cashmere clad shoulder.

Something had broken inside Mamma the night their home was destroyed. Broken so badly that she lived in the past. Griff’s once opulent apartment block was filthy and overcrowded. But Mamma didn’t see it. She believed she still lived in their riverside home and reigned like a queen, waiting for her king to return from the battle.

The voice behind her was loud, mocking. ‘Hey, aint that one of Griff’s? Get her!’

Shakka’s feet pounded the broken road. She prayed she wouldn’t twist an ankle. Going down, that would be the worst thing that could happen.

‘Clear your head.’ Griff’s words again. ‘Think only about getting away. Where you put your feet. Stay out in the open. Don’t go up stairs or into alleyways unless you know there’s a way out. You don’t want to get trapped. And if you are, keep them talking. The longer you stay alive, the more chances there are you’re going to stay that way.’

One more block. She raced past boarded up shop windows. Another alleyway. A foot shot out and tripped her. Shakka rolled on her back, thrust her right hand into her jacket pocket and made a gun shape with her fingers.

‘Wouldn’t come any closer if I were you.’

‘You know the rules. You’re ours now.’

She began scrabbling backwards. Sorry Mamma, Daddy, Griff.

‘Get her!’

Shakka slowed. ‘So, who wants to get shot first?’

The gang stopped.

‘She’s bluffing.’

The gang closed in on her.

‘Now!’ Griff’s voice rang through the air.

Shakka rolled into a gutter, seconds later she was on her feet - fighting stance. People from her block slipped silently out of the shadows, each holding a rock.

‘Back off! She’s reached her Home Block!’

Gradually the kids drifted away.

Griff punched her gently in the arm. ‘You better clean yourself up before your mother sees you.’

‘How is she?’

‘Same.’

At the sixth floor landing Shakka stopped.

‘Why?’

In the four years they had lived with Grif, Shakka had never felt bold enough to ask.

‘Your mother had everything, but it was never enough. Bigger this. Better that. She never learnt….’

‘What! What did she never learn?’

Griff smiled and ruffled her hair. ‘You’re smart, you work it out.’

In the crowded apartment, stale sandwich in hand, she gave the money she’d earned at the recycled brick depot to the treasurer. ‘Excellent, kiddo.’

Oblivious to the activity around her, Mamma slept in the one reclining chair.

Shakka wandered over to the kitchen, washed her hands, and began chopping shriveled carrots for the evenings stew.

Griff was right; she’d work it out one day, but not today. Today she was home safe and too contented to bother.


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This article has been read 1067 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Michael Wilmot01/16/06
I like the way this was presented. Enough gaps for my imagination to play in, but structure to hold it together. I am also glad that she made it home. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 01/19/06
Nice job! This is a very visual piece; I could see every scene. Very suspenseful!
Pat Guy 01/19/06
Great story! You took us away to a different place to experience! Great job!
Amy Michelle Wiley 01/19/06
Wow, this was great! I agree with Michael, you didn't quite tell the background, but it worked. Well done!
terri tiffany01/19/06
I wanted to know more about what happened. I love how you wrote the action...very vivid and I think difficult to do so well. I also like your 4th sentence about the 'deep doorway'... I instantly could see where she was. Nice writing!!:)
Julianne Jones01/19/06
This was different and creative and I loved it. I suspect it could also be the basis for a much longer piece - would love to read it if you ever decide to extend it. Well done.
Shari Armstrong 01/20/06
Good tension, a hard lesson learned.
Shannon Redmon01/20/06
Good action and suspense! Liked the story!
Linda Watson Owen01/20/06
Val, your writing is incredible! I love this story (and all your others too!) and want to read more of it! What a skill you have!
Maxx .01/21/06
Another winner, Yegs. Different piece, great tension, fast moving. You definately kept me "in" during the whole thing. While the gaps are great, I think there are a couple of big logic gaps that clouded the story (like "they didn't have insurance?") But still, excellent writing na dway to mkae us work out the lesson learned for ourselves.
Suzanne R01/22/06
Never enough, eh? Home was so different for this poor main character in her earlier years to what Home Block is now ... but she's contented. What a contrast between mother and daughter, former life and current life.

It's a creative take on 'home' with a message that shouts out loud and clear ... be content whatever.

I enjoyed the action and could picture myself right there, thanks to your descriptions.

Well done.
Crista Darr01/22/06
Woooo, what a fast-paced, edge of your seat ride! I think the power of this piece lies in the fact that any of our lives as we know them can be swept out from under us in an instant. Skillfully written!
dub W01/23/06
Top notch...might think about killing an adverb or two, but nothing major. Good work.
B Brenton01/23/06
It was fascinating.
and definately kept the attention.
But in the end, it was all a bit of a mystery.
Did she work out what Grif was heading towards?
Were they ever really safe?
Ohhhhh.... :P