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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Reading (01/25/07)

TITLE: Words Left Behind
By Jen Davis


Jessica never knew her grandmother—she died the year before she was born. But she came to know her better than most people in her life. She came to know her by the words she left behind.

After Jessica’s grandfather passed away, he left her the only home her grandparent’s had ever owned. Tired of the hectic city life—working long hours as a single mother in order to provide for her daughter—she moved back to the small town where she had grown up.

The house needed a lot of work, but the hardest part was packing up some of her grandparent’s belongings to make room for her own. Jessica fought tears as she removed an armload of clothing from the bedroom closet, hugging them to her chest and breathing in the familiar scent.

On the top shelf of the closet, pushed into the shadows of one corner, was a large old-fashioned hat box, covered in vintage fabric. Stepping on her tiptoes, she reached up and tried to slide the box off the shelf, but it wouldn’t budge. Using a step stool, she scooted the box over the edge and lowered it to the ground.

Curious, she sat on the bedroom floor and lifted off the lid. Inside was a collection of neatly stacked, manually typed stories on yellowing paper. On top of the stories was a single sheet of paper, handwritten:

The Stories of My Life

Written below was her grandmother’s signature. Her breath caught, not only at what she had discovered but at her grandmother’s handwriting—almost identical to her own.

Losing track of time, she read one story after another, laughing at some, while others brought bittersweet tears.

“Mommy! Mommy! Where are you?” Katie’s voice ricocheted off the walls as she ran through the house.

Still cross-legged on the floor, Jessica hollered back. “I’m in the bedroom.”

“Mommy…” Katie stopped short. “What are you reading?”

“I found these stories of your grandmother's.”

Katie snuggled up next to her mother. “Will you read me one?”

Jessica chose a story she had read earlier that had made her laugh. “This is a story your grandmother wrote about how her and Grandpa took in a shabby old mutt they called Manger.”

“Why did they call him Manger?”

“Because when the dog first arrived on their doorstep—and refused to leave— his fur was so knotted up they had to cut out huge tuffs of hair, giving him the appearance of having mange.”

“What’s that?”

Jessica grinned. “Are you going to let me read you the story?”

Katie made the motion of zipping her lips and nodded her head up and down.

“It’s called ‘The Best Pets Pick You.’”

At the end of the story Katie let out a huge belly laugh. “Mommy, can we get a puppy?”

“No, honey. A puppy is too much work. I told you when we get settled we could get a kitten.”

“Can we get a kitten tomorrow? Please…”

“Uh…” All it took was a moment’s hesitation and their fate was sealed. The next day they drove to the animal shelter.

“Sorry,” the receptionist said, “we’re cleaning the cat room right now. It’s going to be awhile, but you’re welcome to look around at the other animals in the meantime.”

Inside the puppy room, a man sweeping the floor offered, “Let me know if I can get out any of the dogs for you to look at.”

Jessica smiled. “We’re just waiting to see the kittens. But, thanks anyway.”

Thirty minutes later, Katie was surrounded by a half dozen puppies. Jessica had to laugh at one in particular, a determined little fellow. Every time Katie set him down, he would crawl right back into her lap, like a yo-yo shoots back into the palm of its owner’s hand. When Katie got up to retrieve a ball from across the room, he was right on her tail.

“Mommy, I think he’s picked me…just like in Grandma’s story.”

Later that night after Jessica had tucked her daughter (and the new puppy) into bed, she crawled underneath her own covers. When she grabbed another of her grandmother’s stories to read, a single blank sheet of paper slipped out from the stack and landed on her lap. Jessica stared at it for a long time before she snatched a pen off the bedside table. In her best handwriting, she wrote:

The Stories of My Life

And they, too, would know her by the words she left behind.

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This article has been read 882 times
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julie wood02/01/07
I really enjoyed this story! It began to especially capture my interest when little Katie bounced in and began asking her mom questions--delightful, realistic dialogue! I enjoyed the story of how "Manger" got his name.

Great descriptions too--I could see the frisky little puppy in the shelter!

I also loved the way the story came full circle, with the granddaughter's pet choosing her--and the daughter following in her mother's (the grandma's) footsteps by writing down the stories of her own life. Beautiful symmetry there!
Jan Ackerson 02/01/07
Oh, my--this is very special to me because my grandmother, too, left behind writings. Hers were published works, but there's one very precious, unpubished manuscript that was found after she died. I also love your descriptions--the puppy "like a yo-yo", the fabric-covered hatbox, the name "Manger" (so cute!). Wonderful!
Jen Davis02/01/07
For such a somber story, I never thought I would be laughing at the end. I loved the last line—it was perfect! And this is so true: “How like God…to use this ridiculous book…” I’ve witnessed something very similar, except it was a children’s Christian music cassette tape. This was wonderfully written from beginning to end.
Jen Davis02/01/07
Oops! Disregard previous comment. I had multiple windows opened and commented on the wrong story.
Marilyn Schnepp 02/02/07
Your story hit home, as I have a closetfull of my published and unpublished writings...but they'll be dumped in the trash I'm afraid. But this story was delightful...and written well. Thanks for reminding me that "words can be left behind"....
Jacquelyn Horne02/05/07
I really liked this. I have a daughter-in-law who saves almost everything I write to give to her children (my grandchildren)later. It makes me feel good to know she cares enough to want her children to identify with me. Maybe someday, one of them will take up writing like your character did. I certainly hope so.
Sharlyn Guthrie02/05/07
This is such a sweet story. I recently discovered the writings of a great uncle whom I never knew, and now I feel like I know him.
The puppy added a great twist at the end.
william price02/05/07
Very, very good. I wrote a story like this once about finding my grandfather's stories. I couldn't tell you where it is, but maybe grandboy will find it one day. Super story, very well done. God bless.
Teri Wilson02/05/07
Jen... wow, I've been desperate for comments before but it never got so bad that I left one on my own story. ha ha - just teasing. Accidents happen.

Well, you've got to know I LOVED your story. It has a puppy (with a super name!!) and animal shelter... the ingredients for one of my favorites. I enjoyed every word.
Pat Guy 02/05/07
Wow! I really enjoyed reading this! Being a dog lover I can so relate to how pets pick us.

But you captured these moments so well and did a great job of carrying the reader along. I loved this entry.
Allison Egley 02/05/07
Oh, aren't grandparent stories the best? I will always remember lying on the mattress on the floor with my grandma when she came to stay at our house and my parents were gone. (She refused to let us give up one of our beds.) I would lie beside her and she'd tell me stories until my parents came home.
Donna Powers 02/06/07
Such a sweet and touching story. Loved the way it reached between and across generations. I knew she was going to get a puppy before they left the house but the story was wonderful all the same. Thanks for sharing this
Edy T Johnson 02/16/07
You have all the ingredients for a perfect story, and how well you put everything together! I love the idea of words left behind, from parents and grandparents, touching future generations. Thank you, as well, for blessing me with your comments on my writing. I appreciate you!