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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Once in a Blue Moon (01/06/11)

TITLE: I'm Not That Girl


I'm not that girl.
She doesn't exist.
Not anymore.

She's the one you might have found crouched in a closet behind her mother's unused winter coats—Southern California forever associated with rejection, and not just of wool. Some fathers ditched their responsibilities, too—leaving them behind to hide away from other men who took advantage of such voids.

She was the seven-year-old who awoke trembling in February of 1971 at six in the morning, when a 6.6 earthquake shook walls, shattered glass, and cracked porcelain. She pulled the covers over her head and cried for her mother till she heard the stepfather leave for repair supplies.

Please, Mommy, let's get out of here.
--It was just an earthquake, sweetheart.
Let's go now before he hurts you any—
--Shhhh, it was just an earthquake.

The girl wandered outside while the stepfather replaced the toilet. He'd laid the broken one on the brittle, colorless grass. It was odd to see it at such an angle, split almost down the center, rusted under the rim. She peered at it from what she deemed a safe distance, a grown-person's body length.

The sun shone brightly that day, yet lacked strength to warm shaded areas, and it coaxed her to the open sidewalk. She settled into a familiar pattern of step, step, skip; step, step, skip. It seemed to be the lone sound on the street. She liked watching the loops of her white laces flop on her cobalt-blue Kinney's. Cobalt blue, raw sienna, Winsor yellow—colors she'd found while examining the stepfather's oil paints. He was an artist.

When she reached the end of her block—as far as she was allowed to go—she stopped. A breeze sprang from nowhere, disturbed the empty branches of an enormous sycamore at her left. She’d been wanting to climb it, but her mother wouldn't let her—said it wasn't safe. The girl stomped her foot, then traced the air as it kicked a crumpled brown paper bag along the corner lot and into the road. She imagined it bruising with each bounce on the pavement, the air in charge till a line of evergreens on the opposite corner subdued it.


At the sound of her name, she ducked into the undergrowth of firs, curled her head to her knees.

His work boots thudded along the path she'd just come. I'm sick of you hiding from me, he growled. He found her straight away, yanked her out by the wrist. One of her laces came undone. She couldn't keep from stepping on it as he pulled her back home.

What's going on? the girl's mother asked. She was on her knees mopping up water that was seeping from under the base of the new toilet.

I was getting the damn flange I forgot, when I saw her crossing the street. He kicked the mother in the thigh. I told you I didn't want her roaming.

The mother let go of the soggy towel, stood up, wiped her hands on her jeans. She held her palm up and the girl caught hold of it. They stepped into the hallway.

Don't you back away from me, he told them. I'll throw you out in the street.

All the way down the hall and through the kitchen, he told them what he was going to do to them. They continued on till they reached the enclosed porch, the room the stepfather painted in. The girl inhaled deeply—the mother had warned her about the hazards of turpentine vapors. She thought she could hold her breath till they reached the screen door and fresh air. They could escape to the neighbors who lived behind them. The girl was sure they'd help—the father looked a lot like Eddie's father on TV.

But the mother had stopped backing up. She said, Why don't you relax, Matt, paint for a while. I'll call a plumber, mix you a drink.

Nooo, the girl cried, and the mother slapped her.

The first of many aftershocks.

The girl stayed with them a few more years, but eventually found a strand of evergreens. She had a different kind of life to live. One that didn't nurture man-made disasters. One where she climbed trees. One in which she wasn't Fatherless.

No, I'm not that girl. But every once in a while, when sunshine lacks warmth on a day made eerie by silence, and the air harasses the innocent, I think of her.

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This article has been read 1477 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Barbara Mahler 01/13/11
I can feel the child's pain.

My intention was to write 'I'm not that girl' either, but unless I'm misinterpreting, we really are - both of us.

The wonderful part is the blessings we've received. Let us give praise and thanks to God for how far we have come!
Marita Thelander 01/13/11

I see that even though "the girl" has moved on, every once in awhile she re-emerges just enough to give thanks to the One who freed her from living in aftershock land.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/13/11
Detail upon detail brush stroked into this story make it powerful, causing the pictures to linger in my mind long after the reading.
Henry Clemmons01/13/11
Amazing! And I promise I'm not just engaging in hyperbole. This is beautiful prose that presents characters that stick with the reader long after it's read. More than a short story; art. This paints pictures and tells a sad story, but one that offers hope too and gives encouragement to others who may have been in similar situations. Well done.
Beth LaBuff 01/13/11
I am amazed at how no detail is "wasted" (probably not a good choice of words), but everything you write has meaning, or symbolism, and you revisit each detail. [Your use, and reference, to the trees fascinated me in this story.] You are skilled with words. This is so rich!
Loren T. Lowery01/14/11
My comment can only be made in two words: I understand.
Connie Dixon01/15/11
Somehow you manage to put details in-between the lines. Not sure how you do that. Thank God people can actually recover from the details...but how? Incredible writing.
Lynda Schultz 01/15/11
Inspired writing.
Shelley Ledfors 01/15/11
Wow. Incredibly powerful and well-written. Thank-you.
Laury Hubrich 01/15/11
This is masterful work. I felt like I was with this little girl but powerless to do anything to help her. So sad yet a story that many can tell.
Carol Slider 01/15/11
Wow... I'm speechless. The intensity of this, the detail, the profound emotional awareness... masterful writing from beginning to end. You're absolutely right about not feeling sorry for the MC--because even though that traumatized little girl will always be with her, that girl no longer dictates how she lives her life. Very well done.
Glynis Becker01/16/11
Beautiful and haunting. Like someone else said, there is so much meaning between the lines. Fantastic writing.
Mariane Holbrook 01/16/11
You write just like Monica Holloway in her book about growing up with an abusive father. You two should have lunch. You may be clones of each other! Well done, no kidding!
Edmond Ng 01/17/11
I like the voice of the MC and how the story is paced and unveiled. The comparison between one who was fatherless and one who was not Fatherless shows much. Excellent piece!
Mona Purvis01/18/11
I've come back here to read this several times. I think it's because of the skill you use in 'unveiling' her. The writing style goes hand-in-hand with her as she is over time. I don't know how you were able to do that. I suspect only because you know her so well and she's always there.
Heavy on heart/mind. Expertly developed/written.
Carol Penhorwood 01/18/11
What a masterful use of words in telling a tale that haunts the spirit with hope at the very center. I'm amazed at your creative talent that shines once again in this masterpiece.
Connie Dixon01/20/11
Inspirational in so many ways. Congratulations on your first place ec. So happy for you.
Edmond Ng 01/20/11
Congratulations! (",)
Amanda Brogan01/20/11
Very well done! Super engaging with rich descriptions and characters!

Big congratulations on your 1st place Editor's Choice! It's well-deserved.
Ambrose W01/20/11
Truly chilling, I think I've met that girl before.
Patricia Turner01/20/11
Chilling and great symbolism and imagery throughout.

I'm so glad this took first place - excellent writing, well deserved!

Beth LaBuff 01/20/11
I'm so pleased to see where this entry place (and I'm not surprised). Super congrats, Lisa.. This entry is truly amazing.
Julie Arduini01/20/11
Congratulations, Lisa! This is an amazing story, you made every single word count. I won't forget this story for a long time. Thanks also for the kind comment you left on mine. You're a great encourager and I appreciate you!
Joy Bach 01/20/11
My, aren't you just the woman of the day? Congratulations all the way around ... on everything.
Rita Garcia01/20/11
Congratulations! Wiping the tears. You hit every emotion! Where are the novels waiting to be published by, author, Lisa Mikitarian! You are a gifted and prolific writer!
Lollie Hofer01/20/11
This is indeed an exceptional story. It tugs at so many emotions within a person. Well done. Congratulations on your most well-deserved win.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/20/11
Wow, what a powerful story! Congratulations on your well earned first place.
Henry Clemmons01/20/11
Well done once again!!
Troy Manning01/20/11
As many others have indicated, your use of detail is truly admirable. Favorite moments for me were your description of the toilet on the grass & your closing. Congratulations!
Loren T. Lowery01/21/11
Just now seeing the placements. Congratulations, Lisa on this heart-felt piece. It touched a lot of people in some very positive ways - even to giving them both a hope and a future.
Kim Hamlin01/21/11
Congrats Lisa, awesome job!