Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Huh? (01/21/10)
TITLE: You Can't Get There From Here
By Patricia Herchenroether
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I turned the car around on the narrow dirt road. Back at the intersection, I drove onto the tar-and-chip road by a weathered, broken sign proclaiming “Rusty Falls-19 Miles.” I approached the town with a sigh of relief, certain that someone there could help me. It’s strange. There aren’t any people or vehicles in sight. I pulled up in front of an old-fashioned country store and went inside.
The place was something out of the last century; barrels of goods girded the wooden floor and shelves of various items were stacked to the ceiling. Three pairs of eyes glared at me from leathery wrinkled faces by the pot-belly stove. Good heavens, I’ve entered the Twilight Zone. Behind the counter stood an apron-clad man who looked as old as the store, one cheek bulging from the chewing tobacco in his mouth.
“What’s your business here, Missy? We don’t get many strangers in town.” His icy look told me they didn’t like strangers showing up in this town.
I swallowed my fear and mumbled, “I-I’m lost. Could you tell me how to get to Clearwater Church Camp? There’s a retreat there I’m s-supposed to attend.”
“Never heerd of it-any of you boys know whar it is?” He directed his question to the three men, who had left the stove area and were slowly creeping toward me.
“Naw, there ain’t setch a place ‘round these parts,” said one of the men and the other two nodded in agreement. “Are you drivin’ all by your lonesome?”
Ignoring his question, I asked the clerk, “Well, could you just direct me back to Eastham?” I named the biggest city I could remember. By now, the three watchers had surrounded me and were so close I could smell their rancid breaths. One was idly feeling the fabric of my silk blouse, setting my nerves tight as piano wires.
The clerk picked up a can and spit his tobacco wad into it, part of it landing on the filthy counter. He started grinning at me from a nearly toothless mouth. “Thars a real problem, Missy, ‘cause you cain’t get thar from here.”
“Huh?” I’ve got to get out of here. Now. Too late, my fight or flight instinct kicked in. Rough hands bit into my shoulders and starting shaking me. I screamed and tried to twist away-
“Debbie! Wake up; you’re having a nightmare. Wake up!”
“Huh?” I opened my eyes to Catherine’s lovely face. Realizing I was in the bunkhouse of the church camp, I nearly cried in my relief. “Oh, thank the Lord. Cathy, don’t ever let me eat so many s’mores before bedtime!”
“Never mind; let’s go to breakfast. I can’t wait to say the blessing.”
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