Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)
TITLE: Hilltop Mansion
By Betty Castleberry
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Her brother, Karl, called to her from the back of the house. “That you, Leah?”
“Yep. You in Dad’s room?" She didn’t wait for an answer, but instead made her way down the hall to the room her parents had shared for many years.
Karl, a little heavier and a little balder than when she had last seen him, sat at their father’s bedside. He rose when he saw her.
Leah hurried to him and gave him a hug. She spoke softly. “How’s he doing?”
“About the same. The nurse was here about an hour ago. She said it wouldn’t be long.”
Leah touched her father’s thin hand, tracing the bulging veins along the top. She wound her fingers in his and watched him sleep. His eyes fluttered open briefly.
“I think he knows I’m here.”
Her brother nodded. “He probably does. He hasn’t spoken for a couple of days now.”
“I wish I could have gotten here sooner. I was afraid I wouldn’t make it in time.”
She gestured toward the hall. “Can we talk out there?”
“Sure. Let’s get a drink.”
The two entered the kitchen. Leah looked around at the familiar room. The red and white curtains, once crisp and fresh, were now tinged with gray. The mushroom cookie jar still sat on the counter. Leah picked up the lid and looked inside, not really expecting to find anything. When her mother was alive, she had kept the kitchen spotless and the cookie jar full.
She turned to her brother. “What are we going to do with the house? It’s been in the family for three generations.”
“Neither of us need it. Maybe we should sell it, but we would probably have to sell the farm land with it.” He popped the top on a soft drink and handed it to her.
She walked to the window and looked out. Just beyond the patchy green yard was a wheat field. An oak tree stood at the edge of the field. She had spent many afternoons sitting on the lower branches of the tall tree and daydreaming. Her father had chugged up and down the field plowing, waving when he came close.
A tear trickled down her cheek. “I hate the thought of selling this place.”
Karl touched her shoulder. “We have plenty of time to decide.”
“Hey, do you remember finding those kittens in the barn?”
He laughed. “Oh yes. It was so cold, we thought they would freeze. I thought Mom was going to kill us when we took her good blanket out there for them. She finally let us bring them in the house, though.”
“Yeah.” Leah chuckled.
“Let’s go back and check on Dad.” She led the way back to the bedroom. They sat in the arm chairs on either side of their father’s bed, keeping vigil. An aura of morbid anticipation hung in the room.
Their small talk was interrupted by a stirring. The elderly man sat straight up in bed and to their shock, spoke. “It’s beautiful. My home is beautiful.”
Leah grabbed his hand. “Yes, Dad, your home is beautiful. We love it, too.”
“Can you see it, then?”
Puzzled, Leah looked around. “Of course. It’s where I grew up.”
“No, it’s a glorious place. I’m on my way there now.”
Leah and Karl looked at each other, not knowing quite what to say. They listened as the frail man in the bed sang just above a whisper.
“I’ve got a mansion, just over the hilltop.
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old….”
He laid back down, shut his eyes and breathed his last breath.
*Song lyrics from “I’ve Got a Mansion Just Over the Hilltop” by Ira F. Stamphill
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