Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Deep End (03/06/14)
TITLE: The Battles of Jericho
By Leola Ogle
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I choke on saltwater. I will surely drown after the shipwreck. I make it to a deserted island, so alone until my faithful dog appears. Perhaps Connie will be shipwrecked too. No, only someone I name Friday. Oh, Connie, where are you?
“Jericho Jackson, what’re you doing? Shut that window.”
My mind is lassoed back to reality like a tethered calf. I wish I was a cowboy like Roy Rodgers. Grandma has brought lunch. I hobble to bed but leave the window open. “Watchin’ my friends swimming at the pool. I hate staying inside. And call me Jer, Grandma. I hate Jericho.”
She doesn’t respond. She looks tired, making me feel bad. Grandma named me Jericho. She says it seemed fitting cause Mom was six days in labor. I was born on the seventh day. Dad had already been killed in World War II. Mom died from complications three days after I was born.
I was six before I realized “complications” wasn’t some disease. I was afraid I’d catch it like my best friend, Bobby, caught mumps from his sister. Through the window I see Bobby on the high dive. He’s not afraid of the deep end. He’s the bravest boy I know. I broke my leg after climbing up the tallest tree in the park to show Connie how brave I am. I’m always showing off, hoping she’ll notice.
My spine tingles. Someone’s here. The door crashes open and a filthy band of pirates grab Grandma. They grab me next, and tie both of us up. It’s Captain Flint and Long John Silver. Before we know it, we’re on a ship and they’re making Grandma walk the plank. She can’t swim. I scream as she falls into the deep. I’ll save her.
Thump! Grandma neatly stacks my books by my bedside. Treasure Island is on the top. I finished it last night. All I do is stay inside and read, unless Bobby stops by. As if six weeks with a cast on my leg isn’t awful enough, I got sick. The doctor says it’s bronchitis. Grandma couldn’t afford the hospital, so old Dr. Nelson comes by every day. I think he likes Grandma. They went to school together.
We live above Carson’s grocery store. Grandma says it’s all we can afford. I love it. The fire station’s on one side and the public pool on the other. Maybe I’ll be a fireman some day. Then I’ll take care of Grandma. She says I’m all she has.
When she leaves the room, I go back to the window. I see Bobby’s talking to Connie and I’m jealous. I whistle. He looks up and waves. Connie looks up too, shading her eyes with her hand. She turns around without waving.
Huck wants to go down the river on a raft he’s built. I know Aunt Polly won’t let me, so I’ll sneak out when she’s asleep. First, though, I’m gonna see Becky Thatcher. She has blonde hair and a cute smile like Connie, only Becky really likes me. I’m sure of it.
“Hey, Jer, did you see me go off the high dive?” Bobby cupped his hands around his mouth and is hollering.
“Yeah,” I holler back. I smooth my hair, hoping Connie will look, but she doesn’t.
“Touched the bottom of the deep end with my hand,” Bobby hollers.
I’m so jealous I could puke, but I smile and wave. And close the window.
I could scream, I’m so bored. I look at the stack of books and grumble. Swiss Family Robinson. I haven’t read it yet.
I jumped off the high dive when my cast came off. I touched the bottom of the deep end, making sure Connie saw. I felt grown-up.
I became a lifeguard at the pool when I was a teenager. The deep end lost its appeal by then. I dated Connie, but it was Bobby who married her.
Grandma married Dr. Nelson. I became an author of children’s books. Jericho Jackson sounds catchy, don’t you think? Grandma named me well.
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