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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Uncles/Aunts (04/17/08)

TITLE: Orphaned
By Joanney Uthe


This house is as empty as my heart. Mom and Dad both gone, just like that. Happy anniversary Ė not! My whole life has been torn apart by a drunk driver; poetic justice for all the alcohol treatment ministry work my parents have done over the years.

This is not how I pictured sweet sixteen. Where are the dates, the days at the beach, and hanging out at the mall? Instead Grandma and I spent a month this summer sorting everything in my parentsí house, deciding what to sell and what to keep. I hope Aunt Jacquie has room for everything.

Grandma and I bonded through the emotionally draining process of sorting. She shared stories of Dadís childhood, and about Mom and Dadís early years together. I think it helped her with her grief. We spent hours crying together.

I found a scrapbook that Mom had put together when I was very young. I donít remember her scrapbooking, but she had done a beautiful job with my baby pictures. I wonder why she stopped before I was even a year old.

The box of school projects had been meticulously organized by grade. Mom had not only saved my best artwork, but every test with an A. She had also saved every homemade Christmas and birthday card I had made. I miss the encouragement that she gave me in everything that I tried.

The dent we made in the garage mess matched the one in my life as we sorted the sports equipment and I realized I would never again throw the football with Dad. We would never again go waterskiing or snowmobiling together. Who would be my catcher and my coach as I practiced my softball pitching?

The kitchen brought back my favorite memories of Mom. Learning to bake and to cook always included laughter and lifetime lessons. I kept all of her favorite pans, cookbooks, and utensils for when I have my own kitchen.

I have not read my Bible since their death. Instead I switch off between reading Momís and reading Dadís. I see so much of each of them in the notes they wrote in the margins. I miss them most when I read these, but it also reminds me that they are in heaven and I will see them again someday.

That is what makes my heart not as empty as this house. Tomorrow we have the rummage sale of all the things I am not taking to Aunt Jacquieís. Iím undecided on whether or not that will be harder than sorting everything. Every item reminds me of my fun-loving, caring but now dead parents.

On Monday I leave for my new home, to live with strangers. I tried to convince Grandma to let me live with her, but she says I am Aunt Jacquieís responsibility. I have nothing against Aunt Jacquie; itís just that I donít know my Aunt Jacquie. I know she is momís twin sister and that she lives in Montana, Wyoming or some remote state like that. I know she spent fifteen years in jail for vehicular homicide while driving drunk. Thatís why she couldnít come to the funeral or help pack up the house. She canít leave whatever state she lives in because of her probation, but Mom said she gave her life to Christ while in prison. I guess sheís sober and has a new husband. Iíll meet him this weekend.

My future feels as empty as this house, but I know that I can come back in a few years. The house is paid off and is mine, or will be when I turn 18. Grandma will rent it out while I am at Aunt Jacquieís. I plan to live here again when I come back for college.

Oops, I missed a file box when I emptied this closet. Adoption papers? Addison Bailey Benefect renamed Addison Bailey Cromwell, birth mother Jacqueline Benefect, father unknown. Adoption completed on my first birthday. Aunt Jacquie is my real mom? I guess this explains why Grandma says she is responsible for me, but ... Mom and Dad were really my aunt and uncle? Aunt Jacquie must have made that scrapbook. But why would she give me away after one year?

Dennis and Debbie Cromwell were my legal parents and for fifteen years, they raised me as their own. They did out of love for Aunt Jacquie and love for me. They were the best parents, uh ... aunt and uncle ever.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Sara Harricharan 04/25/08
Oh a hint of mystery at the end! I loved the twist at how the mom and dad were really the aunt and uncle. I was wondering how you'd work the aunt or uncle in there-but this was good! I especially want to know what happens when she gets to Aunt J's. Nice job! ^_^
Mandy White04/28/08
Joanney, I didn't see that coming! Usually I spoil a great ending because I read so suspiciously, always trying to figure out the twist. I'm glad you got me. Great job!
Jan Ackerson 04/28/08
Great twist!

A bit of red ink: Watch your use of "had" or "have" helping verbs--many times they can be eliminated and the sentence is often stronger without them.

You may have used the "empty house/empty heart" metaphor a few too many times.

Finally, the term "poetic justice" isn't really what you want there, as it implies that they deserved their fate. What happened to them is more like irony.

That seems like a lot of criticism, but this is actually a very strong piece. The girl's voice is absolutely authentic, and you disguised the coming twist very well. I liked this a lot.
Debbie Wistrom04/28/08
Strong, strong, strong.
Great twist at the end.
Keep up the good words, maybe we will get the rest of the story in another topic this quarter....
Betty Castleberry04/28/08
Love the voice in this piece. Nice twist at the end. Well done.
Chely Roach04/28/08
Very powerful piece, your MC had a very strong voice, too. Well done!
Helen Dowd04/28/08
You sure had the reader fooled. First when I was reading, I was thinking this should have been in the Grandparents challenge, but you were right on....Great surprise ending...Helen
Sheri Gordon04/28/08
Very strong entry. The voice, emotions, thoughts were perfect.

I lost my parents in a car accident a few years ago--and although I am way older than the main character, her actions and thought-process while cleaning out the house are spot on.

The twist at the end was a total surprise. (I, too, found some unexpected legal papers in my parents' belongings--but it wasn't an adoption.) Great job with the topic.
Joshua Janoski04/28/08
Very surprising twist at the end. I sure wasn't expecting that.

This story was very sad, and yet it led me to believe that there was some hope towards the end.

Thank you for sharing.
Willena Flewelling 04/29/08
Great twist at the end! You had me fooled too...
Lynda Schultz 04/29/08
Your description of the feelings and actions as your MC was packing up the house reminded me so much of my own grief process when my parents died that I felt like I was right there in the house.

The twist was well done, though I thought that the MC's discovery of who her mother was was rather emotionless, too matter-of-fact. That could be because you were running out of words and had to finished the story.

In any case, this was well done.
Dee Yoder 04/30/08
A mystery at the end-very nice plot twist. I also would like to read the rest of the story-how she deals with her mother and what happens next! Good story.
Loren T. Lowery04/30/08
This read like prose from a very personal diary, straight from the heart. The story is intriguing and leaves one not only with a sense of mystery, but a whisper of hope as well.
Pam Carlson-Hetland04/30/08
This is such a good story...sad, realistic in voice, and with that mysterious ending that hints of hope. Great writing!