Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: TEACH (11/29/18)
TITLE: A Missing Child
By Phillip Cimei
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“Annie,” yelled Jill with hands on hips and face dawning a frown, “Your breakfast is gett’n cold.” Jill let out a sigh. Mothers are allowed to do that you know—spend all day in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove only to be thanked by late or no arrivers at all.
Jill’s eyebrows crunched together by the fingers of exasperation, then slowly raised like mercury on a thermometer—inching up just slightly, past exasperated to irritated. She called out again, “Annie Marie You’re In Trouble O’Rielly! You better show your face in one minute…or…or…I’ll.”
Adding threats to her name always worked in the past, like, “Annie I’ll Give You One Minute O’Rielly, or “Annie This Is Your Last Chance Before A Whip’n O’Rielly.” It didn’t work today.
The empty threats now became seeds of anguish. Jill’s shoulders slumped as she glanced toward her husband in the living room. Tim, who had been absent from most meals, was now absent from this family.
Tim lowered the morning paper he hid behind. He did a lot of hiding ever since the tragedy— work in the garage till Jill went to bed and cried herself to sleep, long walks, and polish the car, which now has faded spots—you can only vent anger on one spot so long. He raised his paper crawling back into his shell. Jill’s chest raised as she sucked in the air of abandonment. Her heavy sigh couldn’t exhale the hurt.
Jill headed up the stairs to Annie’s room. The bed was made, clothes picked up, but no sign of Annie. Tremors of panic pounded in her chest. Her mind a whirlwind of “What ifs.” Her breathing a runaway steam engine, puff……..puff…..puff…puff..puff.puff.puff.
Jill threw her now sweaty and trembling hands up to her forehead. She climbed another rung. The rung of desperation. With eyes bulging and heart racing, she let out a frantic plea, “Tim, Tim…Oh my God…Tim.” It fell on deaf ears.
As she came rushing in to the living room, Tim nonchalantly lowered the paper revealing just the top of his head and his disquieted sullen eyes. He was used to her moments of perplexity. They have been increasing. More every day since the accident last Thanksgiving.
“What now?” Tim uttered as he shook the paper signaling that his special reclusive space had been invaded. Each fold of the paper accentuated with a slap. A toss of the paper to the end table was his exclamation point. “Well?” he said sharply.
“She is Gone!”
“Annie,” Jill said falling to her knees and cupping her face.
“She is probably at that your stupid church. You know, the one that has a God that killed Carol.
Their oldest daughter was heavily involved with the church, as was the whole family. Once. After a joyous Thanksgiving meal, Carol left to help serve the homeless with the other youths from church. Drunk drivers have a way of devastating a family. Especially when they go through a red-light t-boning another driver. An innocent, angelic, child of God driver.
“Don’t blame God just because you abandoned Him” Jill fired back.
“Abandoned Him? He abandoned Carol. And me. I prayed for ten days until they removed the life support. He never answered my prayers.”
They were interrupted by a confused little voice descending the stairs. It came from 9-year-old Annie, “Hey, what’s all the arguing about?”
“Oh, Annie,” Jill yelled out rushing to her with arms outstretched, “where have you been?”
Tim reached for his paper, unfolded it and crawled back into his reclusive world. But he couldn’t block out the explanation.
“I was in my prayer closet.”
“What!” Jill said shaking her head, “prayer closet?”
Tim peeked to the right of his paper.
“The night Carol died I found her in her closet just before she left. I asked her what she was doing. She told me you, Daddy—she turned toward her father—taught her to go there. She said her heavenly Father loved her like you did and He would listen. She taught me to believe in prayer. I prayed today that you would love God again.”
Tim’s sobs accentuated his response, “Out of the mouth of babes.”
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