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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Manuscript (04/29/10)

TITLE: Up in Smoke
By Laura Manley


Shelly sat at the round kitchen table of the home of her best friend, Kathleen, still trying to take in all that had happened in the past twenty-fours. Most people would be thankful that they weren’t home during this serious situation, but something she could never replace had been taken from her.

Thoughts of the day before left her cold inside, still unable to understand what happened. Her house and everything in it had gone up in blaze while she was at work. She received a call from the Fire Department giving her the news, asking if there was anyone else who lived in the home. No, it was just her.

Just two years prior, Shelly bought her first home. She was so proud of being able to do this on her own, without any help from her parents; and now it was all gone – everything.

She sat in a daze glancing out Kathleen’s large kitchen window. Where should she start? Everything would have to be replaced. She had nothing! The house had burned to the ground. Oh, yes, she had homeowner’s insurance, but it was much more than that. It almost felt like she had been violated, that she had been singled out. She knew better, but that thought didn’t make it any less real.

Kathleen sat quietly giving her friend the space she felt was needed. She couldn’t begin to imagine what Shelly was going through. Finally, she broke the silence.

“What can I do to help?” Kathleen asked.

Shelly was brought back to reality by Kathleen’s question.

“Uh, I honestly don’t know, Kathleen,” she responded. “I suppose I need some sort of plan to figure everything out. The insurance company has already contacted me and wants me to make an inventory of all my furnishings, clothes, appliances, computers, etc. I really don’t want to go back in there, Kathleen.”

“I know, Shelly. Unfortunately, it is something that has to be done. Since I’m on vacation, I will be more than happy to help you in any way I can. Of course, you know that.”

“Yes, I do, Kathleen. Thank you so much for being my friend. I don’t know what I would do without you right now. This is the worst thing I have ever gone through in my life.”

“I know, but you’ll get through it. Later you’ll wonder how you did, but you will get through it. Now, are you feeling up to starting that inventory?”
“No, not right now, Kathleen. There’s something that is breaking my heart
even more than losing my house. I guess I should say it is something in addition to losing my house.”

“What’s that,” Kathleen asked.

Shelly sat trying to find the right words; after all, she didn’t want to seem shallow to her best friend. She had lost her home, all her furnishings, all her clothing, pictures – everything – but the one thing most important to her she was about to reveal to Kathleen.

“Kathleen, there was something in my home that I will never be able to replace and it makes me so sad. I had just finished the manuscript for my very first book. I was so proud of it and now it’s gone. I have no notes, no computer, no flash drives - nothing. It’s gone; it went up in smoke with everything else! I feel like I’ve lost a friend and I can’t do anything about it. There is emptiness in me right now.”

Kathleen sat listening intently to her friend, wanting to choose just the right words to be of comfort to Shelly. Nothing seemed adequate, but she would try.

“Okay! I don’t want to seem trite, but you need to be realistic. Yes, your manuscript is gone – a manuscript that no one has ever seen, nor will ever see. But, I look at it this way. You wrote that manuscript and only you can write it again. You know all your characters intimately. You can write that manuscript again, Shelly! And it might even be better than the first one.”

Shelly said nothing then, but as she got ready for bed that evening, she thought about what Kathleen had said. A slight smile grew on her lips. Perhaps Kathleen was right! She was the only one who could reproduce the manuscript. Maybe there was a light at the end of this tunnel.

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This article has been read 529 times
Member Comments
Member Date
angelos2 wark05/07/10
your story certainly demonstrates the love between writer and manuscript. good job!
Jan Ackerson 05/07/10
I really like the depiction of friendship here.

Be careful of using cliches like 'the light at the end of the tunnel'. You want to end with something memorable and entirely yours, to leave a lasting impression on your reader.

Oh, I hope Shelly gets online backup for her next MS!
Theresa Santy 05/07/10
I liked this piece. It made me think: if my house burned to the ground, assuming my family was safe--I would be most sad to lose all my writing!

Hmmm...maybe it's time to consider additional safety measures.
Joanna Stricker05/07/10
I really liked your MC's friend, could I borrow her? She was supportive, a good listener, and wise. Good choice of characters. I think I, also, need to get out my flash drive and do some backups. Thanks for the reminder :-)
Mildred Sheldon05/08/10
No truer words have ever been spoken. All my writings gone up in smoke would hurt. Thank you for a heads up as far as fixing the problem. You did an outstanding job and I enjoyed this very much. Keep writing and God bless.
Rita Garcia05/11/10
I love the warmth of friendship in this story. A writer puts a piece of their soul into their writing, it would be devastating to lose a manuscript. I enjoyed the positive spin on the ending.
Well written!