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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Grrr! (01/28/10)

TITLE: Unfrozen in Time
By Carol Slider
02/03/10


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We pulled Jared Blake’s car out of Possum Lake on a scalding afternoon in July of ‘56. We’d had a drought that summer—worst in 50 years, the old-timers said. That’s why Mary Pritchard spotted the roof just above the water. The lake was usually pretty deep along that stretch of road several miles out from town.

Bob Pritchard hauled the car out with his big farm truck. I stood on the bank and watched it come up—a rusted wreck, pre-War. I was a young sheriff, but I’d seen a lot overseas. So I didn’t holler when I saw what was in the front seat.

“Guess we’d better let Zeke handle it,” I said to my deputy, who looked sick.

Zeke the coroner was an old-timer, and right away he said,

“I’ll bet it’s Jared Blake.”

“Jared Blake?”

“Before your time.”

“Any kin to old Jeb?”

“Yep. Ever heard of the Prodigal Son?”

I nodded.

“Well, that’s what we all thought about Jared Blake. But this prodigal’s not coming home.”

I didn’t want to tell Jeb Blake about his son. Except for his ranch hands, he lived all alone on a huge spread west of Possum Lake. First time I met Jeb, I thought he hated the Law—but then I found out he hated everyone. He didn’t talk, he growled, and his face looked like rough stone with a sneer carved on it.

I drove out to the ranch alone. Jeb’s house looked a lot like him: big, gray, square, ugly. No trees around. Hardly any windows.

Before I got out of the car, Jeb was there. I let him yell for a while—he thought I’d come about taxes—and when he paused for breath I said,

“I’m not here about your tax bill, Mr. Blake. We’ve found your son.”

He bared his teeth and spat.

“My son? That good-for-nothing weasel...!? Come back, has he, expects me to forgive and forget? Well, I’m not...”

“Mr. Blake,” I interrupted, “you don’t understand.”

I told him about finding the car. And he stared at me, and I couldn’t tell what he was thinking.

When I’d finished, we stood still, both of us, for about a minute. The air was still and dry and hot. Somewhere off in the distance, I could hear Blake’s ranch hands shouting at each other.

“Better come back to town with me,” I said at last.

“Guess so,” said Jeb, and we got into the car.

The whole way to town, he didn’t say one word. I never liked small talk, so I didn’t mind. I wouldn’t have known what to say to him, anyway.

When we got back, Zeke told me what I’d expected to hear. No evidence of foul play, he said. Accident, most likely, and the boy had been trapped and drowned.

He put something on my desk that looked like it might’ve been canvas—ruined now, of course, wrapped around a soggy mass of something. Jeb Blake made a noise, but I didn’t look at him until Zeke went out and closed the door.

Before I could start asking questions, Jeb said,

“We'd quarreled.”

“Quarreled?”

“Yep.” Jeb looked straight ahead, but not at me. “Jared had ideas... newfangled notions about running the ranch. I didn’t wanna listen... so he talked about heading out West. He had his own car, but I didn’t think he’d go. And then...” His mouth moved strangely. “And then it was the end of the month, and... he went to take the bank deposit, all the cash from the safe... Cold it was that day, icy... but when he didn’t come back...”

“You thought he’d stolen the money and run away?”

“Yep. That’s what I thought.”

I looked down at the mess on the desk, and saw it for what it was: a wad of paper money, mashed together, rotted, ruined.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Blake,” I said, my throat dry. “Anything I can... do for you?”

“Wish you could give me back the 20 years I hated him.” Jeb still didn’t look at me. “It’s been a long, cold winter...”

Strange thing to say in the middle of July. But I knew what he meant.

“You’re right,” I said, “but it’s summer now.” I wasn’t talking about the weather, either.

Jeb sat there a long time. Then he said, almost to himself,

“My Jared... he was a good boy...”

His mouth moved in an odd sort of way. Maybe I was wrong—but it sure looked like he was trying to smile.


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This article has been read 636 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Virgil Youngblood 02/07/10
Excellent. You have set the bar high for all of us. This is EC quality, in my opinion.
AnneRene' Capp 02/08/10
Truly great story. I didn't want it to end.
I felt as though I was reading one of my nightstand books and couldn't put it down until I finished it!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/09/10
You pulled me back right into the era and the setting. I could envision everything. You wrote a beautiful, poignant story.
Mona Purvis02/09/10
Ohhh, I love this story. So believable, sad, likely, deep and pure. One day when we get to Heaven, I believe God is going to show us so many of these lessons.
A winner, for sure.

Mona
Loren T. Lowery02/09/10
I really liked the way you were able to weave so many critical scene into the story and still have room to flesh out the characters and their own personal stories. This is not easily done - but you've done it very, very well.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/09/10
what an absolutely marvelous story!
Edmond Ng 02/10/10
What unhappiness we sometimes hold when we misconceive what could have been but is not. The ending gives a perfect closure to the story in expressing the bittersweet realization. Thumbs up for a very well written piece.
Lollie Hofer 02/10/10
I like how you didn't rush the story, you took your time laying out the plot, character development, etc. But you still had enough time and words to bring it to a its powerful conclusion. You made a difficult task look easy. Well done.
Carole Robishaw 02/10/10
WOW! This was really good, You managed to get a lot into a limited number of words, That is tight, and well done!
Chely Roach02/11/10
I was mesmerized from start to finish. I loved this. Phenomenal.
Mona Purvis02/11/10
Yep, I was right. Winner all the way!
Mona
Beth LaBuff 02/11/10
Wow! Phenomenal well-crafted story. Congrats, Carol!
Joan Campbell02/11/10
This was excellent. I'm amazed at the depth of characters you created and the amount of plot you squeezed effortlessly into 750 words! It's a great example for us newbies.
Patricia Turner02/11/10
Excellent title; outstanding piece of writing! Congratulations!
Charla Diehl 02/13/10
No surprise that this is a top entry--congrats on your placement and win. I was drawn in my the characters and the pace of this story. Sounds like there could be so much more to tell--maybe in a novel? Great writing.
Sharlyn Guthrie02/16/10
Wonderful story writing displayed here. Congratulations on your EC!