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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Don't Cut off Your Nose to Spite Your Face" (without using the actual phrase or litera (02/14/08)

TITLE: Time Kills You Slowly
By Jan Ackerson


Come here, young man—yes, you! And bring me one of those cookies that the nurses are hiding behind the counter. Not the ones with nuts—my blasted doctor says I can’t have nuts. Well, diverticulitis be hanged, I’ll be dead in a year. The doctor can kiss my…Be quick about it, young man, I don’t have all day. My sweater—it’s fallen on the floor and I can’t reach it from this confounded wheelchair. I don’t suppose you can bring me my pipe, can you? No? This place might as well be a prison. Well, never mind.

So you’re volunteering here, are you? Makes you feel good, does it, to wipe crumbs from an old man’s whiskers? Yes? Then why aren’t you doing it?

That’s better. Might as well sit down, young fellow. Let me have a look at you.

Hmmph. This is what college boys are wearing these days? Is that an earring, son? Why, in my day we’d have called you a…well, that fat old nurse is giving me the evil eye, so I won’t say it. But we’d have been right about you, too, Mr. One Earring, and let me tell you something else. Back then, respectable boys wouldn’t have a tattoo, either. What is that on your arm, young man, some kind of fish? Looks like something my little Gina would have drawn in grammar school…


Do you know my Gina?

No, of course not, you’re just a kid, and Gina would be…well, she’d be almost sixty now. I haven’t seen Gina since she…I guess she has kids of her own, now, if that bum didn’t take all her money and run off with it—grandkids too, maybe. I wonder if they’ve got her eyes…those green eyes, just like her mother…

Bah! Why do girls like Gina get caught up with no-good fellows? No--tell me, boy, I really want to know. Don’t glance at the clock like that, will it kill you to listen to an old man for five minutes?

Look at Pierson over there, with his fancy lap robe. Do you know that his granddaughter crocheted it for him? And Douglass—his room filled up with birthday cards and balloons last week. Do I have a lap robe? Do you see any birthday cards in my room? No! And I’ll tell you why—it was that young man who took my Gina away from me…

He wasn’t good enough for Gina, not at all. A boy from the wrong side of the tracks, no family to speak of, no prospects. Oh, she cried and cried, and her mother turned those blasted green eyes on me, but I would not have my daughter marrying that boy. But daddy, I love him, she kept saying. What did she know of love? She was just a girl, and love to a girl is nothing more than a cheap stuffed dog from the county fair, a romp in the meadow.

What ridiculousness! Anyone could see that he would leave her penniless. He was nothing, nothing! I forbade her to see him again, and she defied me—her father! I had given that girl everything—a fine education, travel in Europe—and she threw it all away for a smile and a promise.

Would you take a girl from her home, from her father? Speak up, boy, would you? Cat got your tongue? Well then, bring me another cookie, you might as well be good for something…

This tastes like sawdust…Say, do you know my Gina? She was about your age…she left with that black-haired boy, and I told her she was no daughter of mine. No coming back to daddy when that boy put her on the streets or worse, no more daddy’s money for pretty dresses and geegaws…I was done with her.

Her mother never forgave me. She died later that year, with her eyes just as sad as they were the day Gina left.

Gina didn’t come to the hospital, didn’t come to the funeral either. Just as well, I would have shown her my back. Ungrateful child.


Forty years, young man, and they say time flies. Rubbish! Time doesn’t fly. Time is a
creeping cancer, and it kills you slowly. Forty years, and now I’m sitting here in a blasted wheelchair, in a chilly old folks’ home, talking to an earring and a fish tattoo. There are no birthday cards on my door…

Say, boy--do you know my Gina?

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This article has been read 1956 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lori Othouse 02/21/08
Wow, so sad, but poignant. I like the style of the one-sided conversation; illustrates the topic really well.
Karen Wilber02/21/08
Can almost taste the bitterness in the MCs life, it's so strong. Powerful illustration of the topic.
Sheri Gordon02/21/08
Wow, you really got inside the mind of a dying, pathetic old man. The voice is so real, and his monologue illustrates the topic perfectly. Great job.
LauraLee Shaw02/22/08
This is so powerful and sad. I was moved to tears picturing this man, because I've spent so much time in nursing homes these past 2 years. Very true to life and extremely well-written.
Patty Wysong02/22/08
Wow. Bitterness eats at you, destroying you from the inside out--just like you described here. This monologue says more than a two-sided conversation could've. Excellent job.
Leigh MacKelvey02/23/08
Such great characterization! This man truly came to life!It takes such skill to do characters justice and you surely did! His character was multi-layered. I liked the way you showed him as a mean man who obviously cursed all day, but when he said "Gina....",and talked about her green eyes, you knew it was a soft spot of him speaking.He certainly did "chop" his nose off in a way lots of parents do! Loved the voice ... an excellent story.
Lynda Schultz 02/23/08
Perfect illustration of the theme—and what a sad end to a man's life. Great writing.
Lyn Churchyard02/23/08
This was so sad, poor lonely old man. I loved the way your MC kept refering to "my Gina" and "my little Gina". Regret can be one of the toughest lessons we learn. This is an excellent example of the topic. So well written!
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/24/08
The taste of bitterness and regret was stronger than the taste of the cookie to the old man. Your characterization is masterful. I really wanted his Gina to come to see him, despiter his treatment of her. To die alone and unloved would be so sad.
Sally Hanan02/24/08
A great piece of writing.The title could be a bit more exciting--like "talking to a tattoo."
Beth LaBuff 02/24/08
Wow! So sad... with his mind traveling back...but his only memories are of his rejection of his daughter... Excellent writing of this haunting piece. Great title too.
Catrina Bradley 02/24/08
I could hear this old man talking to me, as I sat beside him and fetched him cookies. Simply wonderful.
Debbie Roome 02/25/08
I've met someone just like this...masterfully written...could picture the scene perfectly.
LaNaye Perkins02/25/08
You drew me in from the first sentence to the last word. This was so good!
Betty Castleberry02/25/08
I could see this old man clearly. Sadly, I don't think he'll "get it" before he dies. Well done.
Joy Faire Stewart02/25/08
Wonderful job showing loneliness and the wasting of life, so sad. Great job on topic.
Dee Yoder 02/25/08
The stolen life of a bitter person is a sad topic, and you captured this old man's attitude perfectly. I still feel sorry for him, though. What a waste of life and love. You certainly brought this kind of pain to life in this character.
K. J. Cash02/25/08
Perfectly told from the point of view of this old man. Even if the boy with the tattoo and earring were speaking back to him, he wasn't listening. He was in a cage of his own design. All he could hear were the echos of regret in the hollows of his heart.
Hanne Moon 02/25/08
I love the voice of this piece...you've nailed the bitterness of a life lost beautifully! Excellent job!
Debbie Wistrom02/26/08
The title is not as bad as you think, I think it worked well with your content. While sad, i enjoyed your take on this old character.
Joanne Sher 02/26/08
I love this, Jan - how you only told from the one point of view, leaving the response, if it existed to the imagination. How you perfectly characterized him. Your occasional choppy sentences that work wonderfully well. Very, VERY good.
Sharlyn Guthrie02/26/08
The repetition of "Do you know my Gina?" throughout is very effective. The young man's fidgeting and attempts to escape are certainly a realistic touch. You've portrayed this character and his bitter attitude extremely well.
Peter Stone02/27/08
Amazing view of a conversation from one side only, that reveals a life wasted. Your potrayal of the old man is brilliantly done, too, especially with him continually asking the same adled question.
Holly Westefeld02/27/08
You leave me wondering if the young volunteer is his grandson or great-grandson.
Joshua Janoski02/27/08
You captured the essence of a grumpy, bitter old man very well. One thing I really liked was that the words the old man spoke actually helped me picture the young man and his actions as well. Even though I never heard the young man say a word, I got the visual based on the old man's dialogue. Very clever! No wonder you are a master. Thanks for sharing. :)
Shirley McClay 02/27/08
I love this! You never described the old man but I totally saw him and even how he would have moved and gestured. WOW. Truly Masterful.
Laury Hubrich 02/27/08
Great storytelling as always. A very different style for you this week! Good job!
Sara Harricharan 02/27/08
Hmmmm. You captured the grumpy, bitter guy...and the young man. I had a feeling that the young man was one of Gina's sons or grandsons that had ventured to come down and after hearing about what he had to say about Gina would get upset and leave and then the old guy would've lost 'her' all over again. This was still interesting though. You made a one-sided conversation seem like a whole story! ^_^
Loren T. Lowery02/27/08
A moment in the life of bitter regrets...my goodness this man needs help! I'm not too sure who can give it to him, but just maybe that earringed, tatooed(sp?) volunteer just might be the one. A writer who can evoke these kind of emotions for such an honry character has to be good. Great job!
Rita Garcia02/28/08
CONGRATULATIONS!! Master-storying telling!
LauraLee Shaw02/28/08
Congratulations on first place!
Sheri Gordon02/28/08
Congratulations on your 1st place, Jan. Your writing truly is masterful.
Sara Harricharan 02/28/08
***Congratulations, Aunt Jan!*** ^_^
Kristen Hester02/28/08
Glynis Becker02/28/08
Wonderful story-telling here, as always!
Edy T Johnson 02/28/08
Oh, Jan, beautiful job. Right on topic, and it particularly touches my heart since we have such a story in our own extended family. I'll have to have this book, autographed copy, of course. (^&^)
Paula Titus 02/29/08
Jan - I just read this and am left in awe once again. This is what Christian writing is about - shutting everything else out and leaving the heart exposed.
Leigh MacKelvey02/29/08
Wow! Great writing. congratualtions again and again and again ...
Tessy Fuller03/04/08
I loved this. I laughed out loud when I read that the cookie tasted like sawdust. Very well done. I felt like I was almost sitting there talking to him. Great job! And congrats on your first place.