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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Writing a Letter (handwritten correspondence) (10/21/10)

TITLE: Letters of Atonement
By Amy Michelle Wiley


“Ya got the key?” Jeremy grinned in the moonlight.

“I tol’ you I got it.” Bradley wasn’t grinning. His hands trembled as he worked the lock.

“You skeered?” Jeremy gave a snort of laughter.

“Shut up or she’ll hear.”

Bradley pulled open the door and they padded in stocking feet down the hall. He cringed and curled his toes as he set each foot down. Who knew what sharp objects or creepy crawlies lurked in the blackness.

He paused in the office doorway. This was her special place. Jeremy pushed against him and he fell in, the still air slapping him in the face. They shouldn’t be in here. He knew that. He felt even the walls knew that. She had to know. The very house would tell her someone had entered where they should not.

A light burst on. Bradley gasped. Jeremy cackled. “Scardy cat.” He turned the beam toward the middle of the room, the sharp light slicing through the darkness so the desk glowed. Jeremy began pulling open drawers and ruffling through them. Bradley used his own light to glance through the file cabinet in the corner.

“Didn’t you say she keeps her money in here? I don’t see it,” Jeremy grumbled.

Bradley pulled open another drawer, cringing at the loud scraping sound. “Here’s a box.” He brought it to the table and both boys held their breath as he slowly pried it open.

“Letters!” Jeremy crowed. “She has a box of love letters.”


“Aww, don’t worry. If we get caught the worst that can happen is that you go live with your mom.”

Bradley gasped. Mentioning his mother’s jail sentence was off-limits. He swung the flashlight and felt the dull thud as it connected with Jeremy’s head. “Give me the box and get out of here, you jerk.”

Jeremy smacked him hard and Bradley fell toward the door. He caught himself and stumbled into something soft. He looked up.

It was his grandmother.

She reached a hand to the wall and the room flooded with light. For a moment no one spoke. Bradley looked down at the letters that were now scattered all over the floor, yellowed papers with ink scrawled over them in flowing loops. He suddenly felt he had ruined something private, something cherished. His grandparents’ lives lay within those papers, the beginning of a love that had eventually led to his own existence.

He bent then and began gathering them all. His grandma and Jeremy just watched, and with each folded bundle of papers, Bradley’s shame grew. Finally he handed the box to the old woman.

“I’m sorry.” The words were lame.

“I know.” Disappointment lined her face. “I know you are sorry, Bradley. That’s why I’m going to press charges. You still have a good heart in there somewhere, if only you can be stopped from going even farther down the wrong path.”

So that was how he ended up in the courtroom. The room was mostly empty, yet his grandmother managed to fill it all up, somehow.

He finished his mumbled story and the judge shuffled papers around before turning to him. “All right, Mr. Larkin. This is your first offence, so you will not have to serve jail time. You will, however, have some community service. Also,” he leaned forward, “your grandmother and I have decided on a boarding school for you. In the summer your grandmother will have custody of you.”

The judge continued, but Bradley was stuck on one sentence. He turned his head slightly toward the old woman. She didn’t smile exactly, but her face softened. She wants me. Even after what he’d done to her, she still wanted him to live with her.

“Mr. Larkin,” the judge’s voice caught his attention again. “You will also be required to keep in touch weekly with your grandmother by writing a letter by hand.”

Bradley was puzzled, but thought of the love letters they’d found in the office. The letters that connected his grandmother and grandfather. The letters that connected the past to the present. And now... now he and his grandma would have letters that connected family. Letters to prove he had someone to love him, someone to care what he did from day to day.

“Do you understand, Mr. Larkin?”

Bradley glanced again at his grandmother, and this time she did smile. For the first time that day, the boy looked the judge straight in the eye and spoke clearly.

“Yes, your honor, I understand.”

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This article has been read 823 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Rachel Phelps10/29/10
I really like this story. I felt as if there was far more to it than 750 words would allow, and so did not connect as fully with the characters as I might have. I liked the concept of the letter writing as a way to connect and would have liked to have known more about the family and their relationships.

In short, you left me wanting more, which is always a good thing.
Kate Oliver Webb 10/29/10
Well told story, with a warm and logical ending--complete with a promise of good things to come. Loved your characters; however, I agree that the word count restriction left us wanting more details. Good writing job.
Barbara Lynn Culler10/30/10
I felt like the boys were doing a bumbling comedy routine at first, and not doing a serious offense.

Agree with the others, more is needed here!

Would have been interesting for the boy to read some of the letters before being caught.

I would also like to know why he feels so unwanted, tho I know his mother is in prison.

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/30/10
I really enjoyed this. What a wise judge and grandmother! You had the perfect amount of suspense.
Caitlyn Meissner10/30/10
This article impressed me. I love the details you wove into your story. I could really picture what was going on. I also like how you showed the characters feelings instead of telling about them. Great job!
Marita Thelander 10/30/10
Hand written letters could seem like punishment to a boy these days. :) But I liked the concept of sending him to boarding school, but not abandoning him, keeping contact with letters.
Nancy Sullivan 10/30/10
Great setting and suspense. A good ending and plenty of loose ends that could lead to more entries. Good job.
T. F. Chezum10/30/10
There's definitely more to this story. I enjoyed the read. Good job.
AnneRene' Capp10/31/10
Ah, the wisom of the elderly. I loved grandma from the first introduciton all the way through to the ending. Great take on the letter writing as part of the "loving" punishment. Feel good story, feel good ending. I agree with Barb and I even laughed out loud at the bumlbing comedy routing in the beginning. I loved the descripton of curling the toes too! :)
Connie Dixon10/31/10
Love the message in this love story about a grandmother and a boy. Much of today's society would not be where we are without our grandparents. Great read.
Lyn Churchyard10/31/10
You had me wondering what was going to happen. I knew they had to get caught, but you surprised me, because I was in a different era :-)
I liked the outcome, what better way to learn how much his grandmother loves him. Well done.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/04/10
Congratulations in placing 23rd overall! Way to represent,my friend :)
Carol Wiley12/10/10
Bravo! Would love to see how this young boy's life turns out.