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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Confused (08/16/07)

TITLE: Fade to Black
By Betty Castleberry


Naomi woke slowly, her head full of cobwebs. The afghan had slipped off her feet and lay in a heap beside the couch. Shadows crept in through the window and streaked the walls prison gray. Was it morning or night?

She clicked on the TV, waiting to see if the morning talk shows or the evening news would be on. Instead, she was assaulted with commercials.

Frowning, she rose and went into her kitchen. A plastic see-through pill organizer sat on the table. She picked it up. The days were clearly initialed in large black letters. Her home care nurse refilled the box every Wednesday. Was today Wednesday? Had the nurse been there today? The box was about half full. Maybe it was Saturday.

Naomi poured water into a cup and set it in her microwave. She could no longer use her stove. Someone had disconnected it. She pushed a button on the microwave, hoping it was the right one. A short time later, the buzzer sounded. Naomi plopped a tea bag into the warm water and dipped it up and down mindlessly. The first sip puckered her lips and warmed her throat. She carried her tea out onto the porch. Most of the neighbors’ cars were in their drives, and a whiff of burning charcoal filled her nostrils. It must be evening.

Then she remembered. Her alarm clock would tell her for certain if it was before noon or after. She shuffled down the hall and peered at her nightstand. There was no clock there. What in the world had she done with it? Why would she move it?

She dropped her head into her hands, hot tears scalding her cheeks. There was a time when her mind was sharp. She taught school for thirty years. People had come to her for advice. What was this black intruder that caused her to feel so bewildered?

She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and went back to the kitchen. She had to stay focused. If it was evening, she needed to take her blood pressure medication. Surely it was Saturday. She picked up the pill organizer and flipped open a section marked with an “S.” Three pills lay inside. One was red. She didn’t know for sure, but she thought it was her allergy pill. She wouldn’t take that one. The other two were flat white ovals, similar in size. One was for her blood pressure, and one was a mystery to her. Was it her arthritis pill? Was it for her dizzy spells? She scooped both of them up and swallowed them quickly with a sip of tea. She thought it better to take them both than miss her blood pressure medication.

Hunger gnawed at her. There wasn’t much in her refrigerator, but she did find a Styrofoam container filled with a soupy concoction of chicken and rice. She spoke aloud. “Meals on Wheels. Some of that stuff they send is not fit to eat. I used to be such a good cook. I wish I could still cook.”

She shoved the container back inside the refrigerator and went to her pantry.
Peanut butter and crackers would be her meal. She shuffled boxes of cookies and instant oatmeal around, but could not locate the peanut butter. Didn’t she buy some just a few days ago? Finally she gave up and ate the crackers plain.

Naomi’s muscles ached with weariness. She decided to go to bed. Her nightgown was in the drawer where it was supposed to be. She was relieved. This little victory made her feel like pampering herself, so she went to draw a bath.

She stood staring at the faucet for a moment, trying to remember how to work it. Her gnarled fingers fumbled across the knobs, pulling, then pushing, then twisting, until water poured out.

A persistent ringing captured her attention. When she picked up the phone, her son’s voice comforted her. At last she was sure the day was Sunday, because he always called on Sunday. He asked the usual things, and told her stories about his work. His laughter was contagious.

Naomi wasn’t sure what made her look down the hall. A slow stream of water was snaking its way out the bathroom door and onto the carpet. What was happening? A pinpoint of memory jetted through her mind. There was something she should know; something about a bath. She bit her lip and let the tears flow, again.

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This article has been read 1152 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 08/23/07
You've done a great job of entering the mind of your subject. It's a scary, sad place. Well done.
Jacquelyn Horne08/23/07
Such a sad, but true in many cases I'm sure, story. This was well told.
Dianne Janak08/23/07
Powerfully told. Scary, sad, confusing. My mom died a few years ago with alzheimers. And it was horrible seeing her fade away ... the long goodbye. This captured it. Brought back the memories. We need to be praying for those who suffer as well as the caretakers who have endless and thankless jobs. There will be a reward coming, but what a mission field.
Linda Watson Owen08/23/07
So skillfully written! Yes, you've certainly been able to enter the mind of an Alzheimer's sufferer and place your reader right there. This is powerful and painfully accurate. Excellent.
Joanne Sher 08/24/07
This is amazingly well-told. You made my heart ache for this woman. It felt completely and entirely authentic. Wow.
Dee Yoder 08/24/07
My Dad has Alzheimer's right now, and I can tell from the expressions on his face that he is having some of these same thoughts. This is so good, and helps me understand what he may be facing every day. Great characterization with the MC. I feel I'm watching a real person go through these events.
Jacqueline Zerres08/25/07
"Shadows crept in through the window and streaked the walls prison gray." This was such gret imagery for the darkness that imprisoned her mind. Great writing!
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/25/07
This wonderfully written article pulled me into the sad, hopeless world of your mc. Wonderful details.
Julie Ruspoli08/28/07
I could feel the womans confusion. Very nicely done.
Debbie Roome 08/28/07
Very good. Portrayed confusion perfectly.
Jan Ackerson 08/28/07
Perfect title, and beautifully written story, just so, so sad.
George Parler 08/28/07
Wonderful story that is definietly sad and painfully true. Well done.
Beth LaBuff 08/28/07
Your descriptive writing really made me sad. Sad for the person and sad for their family. You did great work showing what it is like for your MC. I'm glad there's more to our existence than this life.
Michael McBuba08/29/07
Excellent storyline, and consistent characterization. Almost everyone of us can very easily identify with the confused lady in this story, and consequently,canvgenerously empathize with her. Please, keep it up.
Lynda Lee Schab 08/29/07
Oh...wonderfully depicted! You've done such an excellent job with this. Reminded me of my mother-in-law, who is in the early stages of dementia - she is always having trouble remembering if and when she took her pills and always thinks she's getting the wrong ones. It's not easy to deal with, that's for sure. You brought me right into this woman's mind. Very well done!
Kristen Hester08/29/07
You got the reader right inside the head of the MC. This was griping. Wow! Very powerful and excellent writing.
Brenda Welc08/29/07
Sad, pull you in story here! You wonderfully wrote the needs and pains of this dear woman. How sad the way the mind can go. Great writing.
Patty Wysong08/29/07
Oh, my heart aches! So well done!! Hugs!
Sara Harricharan 08/29/07
Wow. So sad. This pulls you in right from the start, with a hint of mystery in the air. It ends on a note that leaves your heart aching. Good job!
Loren T. Lowery08/29/07
Although this is a difficult topic to write about, it is good that there are writers such as yourself that can build empathy towards those that suffer with this dibilitating disease. Such insights help us to understand and finally learn how to cope as well as how to help.