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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)

TITLE: Home is Where They Send You Next
By Gerald Shuler


Nine-year-old Nelson Stover sighed deeply as he watched the shadows dancing on the moonlit wall of his bedroom. He chuckled a sad chuckle. How could he have thought of it, even for an instant, as ‘his’ bedroom? At best, it was only another temporary room for him to stay for awhile.

“You look like you could use a friend, Nelson.” The voice was soft. It would have been a good voice for a mother. “Would you like to talk?”

“I’m okay, Mrs. Evans. Thanks though. I was just thinking about...” He let his gaze lower away from Mrs. Evans’ kind eyes. “I was just thinking.”

Mrs. Evans sat down on the edge of his bed. Nelson knew the routine. He had been through it too many times. She was about to tell him everything would work out fine. Don’t give up hope. Stay tough. Keep a good attitude. Then she would let him know their time with him was up. Oh, how he hated clichés.

“Nelson,” Mrs. Evans waited for Nelson to lift his head and look into her eyes again. “You have every right to feel down.” She spoke softly as she put his hand in hers.

“You and Mr. Evans have been really nice to me this week.” Nelson tried to sound sincere but every word seemed to hit the floor with a heavy thud. It didn’t matter. She would never notice. Nobody ever noticed how he really felt.

“Do you remember anything about your parents… your real home?”

The question surprised him, not because he couldn’t remember because he did. All the other foster home ‘parents’ had avoided the subject. It surprised him that Mrs. Evans was willing to challenge him to remember.

“I was only four when my parents…” It was always hard to start. He decided not to talk about the plane crash that took his parents and left him with no home. “I remember some things. Momma baked oatmeal cookies a lot. They were delicious… I can almost smell them now.”

“I love fresh baked oatmeal cookies.”

Nelson waited for the obligatory offer to bake cookies before going back to the orphanage. No offer came. Another surprise.

“Daddy used to work late at night in his office. I don’t remember what he did but I think it had something to do with drawing plans for houses or building or something.” Mrs. Evans was actually listening to him. It felt so refreshing he found himself opening up to memories he had never spoken out loud. “You know what I remember the most? Daddy told me bedtime stories and Momma kissed me goodnight.” He smiled ever so slightly. “Every night.”

“Don’t ever let go of those wonderful memories, Nelson.” Mrs. Evans suddenly hugged him… without any warning. Nelson started to shrink away but, for some unknown reason, he didn’t. Instead he melted into the hug as his memories conjured images of similar hugs from his mother. For a brief eternity he found himself wrapped in the arms of love.

“Could I ask you a question, Mrs. Evans?”

“Of course, Nelson. You can ask me anything.”

Nelson knew it would be hard to keep a manly dry eye but he asked anyway. “Is there something wrong with me?”

Mrs. Evans stood up and faced Nelson. “Nelson Stover,” she said sternly, “there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Don’t you ever start believing that lie.” She sat back down beside him. “You’re the finest young man I’ve had the pleasure to know. So… no more talk like that, okay?”

Nelson nodded but he still needed to ask the next part. “Why doesn’t anyone want me?” He left it that way. After all, it was what he really wanted to know.

A warm smile grew on Mrs. Evans’ face. “Let’s go talk to Mr. Evans about that.” She took Nelson by the hand and coaxed him to his feet.

Nelson followed her into the kitchen. Cookies were baking in the oven… oatmeal cookies. Mr. Evans had papers spread out on the table and he looked a bit surprised to see Nelson. He started to gather the papers into a folder.

“It’s okay, Ben.” Mrs. Evans put her arm around Nelson. “I think we should let him know what we are trying.”

Nelson looked at one of the papers and tears of joy finally started to flow.

At the top of the page were three words: “Request for Adoption”.

Nelson would finally have a family to love… and a home.

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This article has been read 1286 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 06/05/08
How terrible it must be for kids to go from home to home without ever having a home. Your title is perfect and the story is very moving.
Karen Wilber06/06/08
This reminds me of a young boy I taught in VBS. He and his brother were adopted by their foster parents. He had remarkable insight into how blessed a child is to have a family home. You need a tissue alert with this one. Well done.
Charla Diehl 06/07/08
This touched my heart and I'm so glad it had a happy ending. My heat breaks for kids in situations like this because love is the key to their own self image. If they don't have it, most can't give it. Thanks for the warm message.
Joanne Sher 06/07/08
Oh, did the title ever get me! The story, of course, even more. Wonderful, wonderful characterization and interior monologue especially. Beautifully done.
Ann Renae Hair06/08/08
Oh, you are good! The title grabbed me and I'm SO glad! I was pleased that she had oatmeal cookies in the oven, but it was my second read through that I caught 'I can almost smell them now'...how clever. Thanks for this delightful, hopeful story.
Glynis Becker06/08/08
Just sweet and perfect. I love the dialogue and enjoyed everything about it.
Debbie Wistrom06/08/08
Loved every word of this. Especailly that she had the cookies going before. What a setting. Thanks for the smiles.
Beth LaBuff 06/08/08
yeah... very creative word play with your title.. I love it. I WAS HOPING the family would "keep" him. You have a lot of cool touches in this, the "oatmeal cookies", the soft voice that "would have been a good voice for a mother" and I had to smile at the "manly dry eye".
Catrina Bradley 06/08/08
You really seem to have captured what a boy in this situation would be feeling. Great story telling - a natural flow and a wonderful ending. Love it!
Jan Ackerson 06/09/08
Great title, and a sweet story. Perhaps a tad predictable? I'd have liked some sort of twist at the end to counteract the inevitable.

My heart went out to this precious little fellow.
Dee Yoder 06/11/08
Poor little boy. I love the title, too. It is a heart-breaking reality that many children go from home to home through their entire childhood. I sure wish all of their stories could end this way.
Deborah Engle 06/11/08
This tugged at my heart. Well written.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/11/08
Excellent writing here to show a young boy's feelings. I was hoping, too, he'd have a home.
Beckie Stewart06/11/08
Being an adoptive mom, something I dreamed of being since I was seven, this story brought tears to my eyes. I love this.
Norma-Anne Hough06/11/08
Moving story with a wonderful ending. Thanks for sharing.
Holly Westefeld06/11/08
Predictable, yes--but it is the excellent characterization and tenderness that drew me in and caused moisture to pool at the corners of my eyes. This is a great take on the topic.
Joshua Janoski06/11/08
Yes! Yes! This ended the way I had hoped it would end. I kept rooting for the little guy, and I get my fingers crossed hoping that the Evans would want to adopt him.

One of my favorites this week. :)
Aaron Morrow06/11/08
Beautifully done. I love the counterbalance between the MCs expectations and how it played out, it kept me engaged and interested.
Loren T. Lowery06/11/08
Heart warming and rings true. I had an aunt who took in foster children and ended up adopting two. She had a wonderful heart and the kids (the ones I got to know) sounded exactly like your MC. Though Jan wouldn't care for saying he was nine, I think you captured his emotions perfectly. Loren
Lollie Hofer06/11/08
What a tender, loving story. I loved the fact that is was predictable. I wouldn't have wanted it to end any other way, although I do realize that for every Evan, there are many more who go to "where they send you next." This was a well-written piece that tugged at my heart. Thank you for sharing.
Lollie Hofer06/11/08
Whoops! I meant Nelson, not Evan. Sorry about that.
Joshua Janoski06/12/08
3rd place overall and an EC? And you think that you aren't worthy to be in the masters category? This is proof that you are where you belong. Congratulations! :)
Marita Thelander 06/12/08
Concrats, Jerry! As a Foster mom, my heart was truly involved as I read this story.
Helen Dowd06/12/08
This story brought tears to my eyes. Loved it! What a wonderful ending. Having had foster children many years ago, I can understand Nelson's feelings, the feelings of so many children with no real home...Congratulations on your well deserved win....Helen
Beth LaBuff 06/12/08
Congrats Gerald, for your level placing and your EC!!
Betsy Markman06/12/08
Nelson was very real and believable. I enjoyed meeting him.
Dee Yoder 06/12/08
Congratulations on your EC!!
Mariane Holbrook 06/14/08
This was such a heartwarming story and so well told. Congratulations on your EC win which was well deserved!
Peter Stone06/15/08
Congrats on placing with this moving, encouraging article. The little clues the boy was receiving showed that things were different this time.