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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Start (01/16/06)

TITLE: Black waters rising
By Leslie Lamb


Opal clung tightly to her newborn son still wrapped in the sheet he was born in. Her hair was matted against her face. Her dress was stained and torn with the stress of life. The hole in her roof barely touched the hole in her heart.

“What we gonna do, Grimms? The storm is comin’!”
“Well, we gonna do what the good Lord set inta motion nine months ago, baby!”
“No! Dis ain’t right! I’m skeared!” She yelled pulling away from the shaking windows, wanting to be held and comforted in Grimms’ arms like she was a child again. Grimms walked toward the kitchen, and Opal was hit with another angry pang of birth.
“Please, Grimms, don’ leave me!”
“Honey, if we gonna do dis; we got’s to do it right. I gotta git some water and towels ‘for da lights go out.”
She busied herself getting towels together while Opal watched in disbelief. Were they in the same world? Her world was filled with shrieks of wind and walls shaking; Grimms was humming an old church song like it was any other day.
”Grimms, gimme some of what you got.” Opal was desperate to feel that peace.
Grimms smiled as she spread Opal’s legs and checked her again.
“Jezus, baby. It’s Jezus dat makes da difference ‘tween us.”
Opal grimaced with intensified pain. Between clinched teeth she said, “He don’ want me; I done messed up too bad.”
Grimms frowned, “Now don’ chu let the Devil rob God’s truth! Dat’s a lie an’ you know it, baby girl. Yeah, you messed up, but you ain’t beyon’ salvation. Ain’t nobody dat bad. You jus’ gotta start somewheres.”

In a matter of a few hours, the storm had subsided and Grimms handed the baby to her. He was red faced and wailing, daring the world to keep him back. Grimms sat beside Opal on the bed and caressed his cheek while she talked.
“You gonna make the diff’rence; ain’t ya, baby boy? Yous a gift from the good Lord, and she gonna learn, ain’t she? You rise up, ya hea’? You rise up an’ show dis world dat you ain’t just another black boy, but you’s a baby boy wid a destiny!” Opal had cried with relief and joy and fear and all the things a young lady cries for when her baby arrives, but then the water began to rise.

“We got’s to move!” Grimms began grabbing the sheets from off the bed and swaddling the baby in them. Opal panicked again; where were they gonna go?
“You got’s to take dat axe and chop!” Grimms ordered, handing her the baby while she pulled up a chair and got the axe.
“Chop what, Grimms? Der’ ain’t no wheres to go!”
Grimms took the baby and forced the axe in her hands, pointing to the ceiling, “Up, baby! Up!”
Opal, still faint with the stress of having the baby and weak from the effort, gathered up all the strength she had and swung that axe as hard as she could. Grimms held the baby while the water rose higher, praying to the Lord for Opal and her son.

With a loud crack the roof broke open allowing just enough room for Opal to climb through. She struggled to hoist herself up in spite of her shaking muscles. Finally collapsing on the roof, she reached back down into the house to lift her baby and her dear grandma.
“Come on, Grimms! Hold tight to da baby and I’ll lift you up!”
“You cain’t, baby girl; just take da boy!” She yelled back.
“Grimms, git on da chair, I sed, and git up hea’!” Opal was frightened.
“Jus’ you take him, honey; I’m gonna be okay.”
Grimms lifted the baby as high as she could while the water swirled around her chest, and with every bit of strength and passion that she had she spoke.
“Opal, dis hea’ baby needs you! I done lived my life. You gots to do dis like I sed. You got’s to let me go.”
Opal reached desperately for the baby while tears filled her eyes. She watched Grimms’ face as the water covered it. Her lips had never stopped saying, “Thank you, Jezus!” even as the water entered her mouth and pulled her down.

The rescue boat pulled up closer to the roof, “That all you got, lady?”
The words of Grimms echoed in her mind and came out Opal’s mouth, “You gots to start somewheres.”

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This article has been read 666 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Karri Compton01/24/06
Wow, very emotional.
Steve Clark01/24/06
A very powerful story. Well-written, too. With the deep south dialect (great job, very realistic sense of the language, Mark Twain-ish) and the series of events, it is a clear reference to New Orleans and the effects of Katrina, but it could have been in almost any era. Thank you for the reminder that they are still struggling with "starting" over.

Sorry, but I got lost in trying to understand how Opal was going under the water and then was talking to the rescuers. I think the POV shifted mid paragraph. When using same gender pronouns it is easy to lose the reader. Perhaps using the name again, or making the other character male would have kept the moment's momentum in tact. Just a thought. A very good story, none the less.
Val Clark01/25/06
Gripping. Didn't expect the self-sacfificial end. Dialect clear and believable. Yeggy
Jan Ackerson 01/25/06
Very suspenseful. This would be even more readable if each person's dialog were in a separate paragraph. Thanks for this timely story.
Nancy Moyle01/26/06
Wow, what a great piece of writing. Was this based on an actual experience? Either way, you've painted a vivid picture and I found I was eager to read
all the way through.