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The Door to Nowhere Challenge

Updated on February 21, 2015
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Was It Only Yesterday?

I was always glad that we lived on the top floor. Except in the summer. Then the smell from the overflowing trash bin kept me inside, and I couldn't look at the sky.

I knew there was a world above me; constellations, planets, comets, and sometimes in April and October, I would watch for a shooting star. I never saw one.

My teacher said that the lights from the city blocked our view.

But I felt safe up there. I called it my roost. We learned about birds that perched in school, and I just liked the way that word felt when I said it. And sometimes, a bird did sit on the railing. Course, it flew away if I came out.

But if I looked down, nothing blocked that view. There was one light that shined through my bedroom window. The curtains didn't meet and that light was so bright. I would cover my head except in the summer when it was hot. Momma called them flood lights. I thought that was a funny way to describe them.

A bunch of the boys used to throw rocks at the lights, and sometimes, they shattered them. It would be months before a city truck came by to fix them. I never understood the fun in throwing rocks at the only source of security in that deserted alleyway.

Maybe I put too much faith in light. Carney got raped in that lot the year I turned twelve. I might have done something, but I was inside because it was the hot summer.

Momma's new boyfriend bought us a floor fan. It was on sale because it was dented. That meant that the blades made a noise each time it hit that place, so it was noisy and Momma said it drove her nuts.

Momma's boyfriend didn't like his TV time disturbed, so the volume was always up because of the fan. With his drinking, Momma yelled at him a lot, too.

I felt bad I didn't hear Carney crying or calling to someone for help. Three months after they found her; the city put protective metal covers on the street lights.

Afterward, the school brought in some people called counselors to talk to the girls. They thought we might be traumatized. I learned how to spell that word and was glad, because now I had a name for how I felt.

Those counselors must have asked our teachers if there were any of us who might need more counseling than the rest. I got picked.

I talked to a woman named, June. She smelled like flowers; not like the skunk-weed in the alley, but like the smell from the florist shop that used to be on our block. When that door opened, it was clean and earthy, and sweet, and just a jumble of smells; but all of them good.

I went to the shop once; I must have been about seven. I knew Mother's Day was coming so I collected all the bottles from the alleyway. I made sure the men were gone. They sat on the stair that belonged to the building behind mine.

I was afraid of them; they were loud, and Momma said to stay away from them, but they had something I could trade in at the store.

I didn't want Momma to know, so I used our metal ladder and when I'd get an armful, I'd take them to my roost. I got four bags of bottles and took them to the store.

I got $1.78 and was so proud.

The florist wasn't friendly at first. Momma always said that when someone comes in a room, you're supposed to say, "Hello." He didn't.

So, I thought maybe that was just our rule. I asked him if I could buy some flowers for my Momma. I told him I had $1.78 and asked him which flowers smelled the best because that was the one I wanted.

He smiled at me then. He said that there were so many aromatic flowers in the world. I asked him what that word meant because I'd never heard it before.

Then he wrote it down for me. I thought that was really nice. He said that Jasmine, Wisteria, Lily of the Valley, Gardenia and another funny word, Frangipani, were the flowers that smelled the most and the best. I got real excited at all those choices, but he didn't have them.

But he had a rose. In fact, he said that he had more than one kind of rose. I asked him if any of them were red; my Momma liked red.

He had four kinds of roses in red. He called them, "Bailey Red," "American Beauty," "Dame de Coeur" and one really funny one, a "Chrysler Imperial." I thought he was making fun of me for, not knowing about flowers, so I told him that I knew a Chrysler was a car. I'd seen a commercial on TV.

He got serious and said he wasn't making fun of me and that he could tell I was a smart girl.

He went into the back of the shop and told me to wait right there. He was gone a long time, and I knew I ought to get home. I almost left, but then he came out with what he called a bouquet. It was as tall as the brown bags I used to carry the bottles.

There were green leaves and a ribbon around the stems. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Before I took it, I got my money from my pocket. It was all crumbled, and I dropped some coins on the floor. One rolled under the counter, and I started to crawl and get it, but he told me to keep the money and just give the flowers to my Momma.

I thanked him because that is what you do when someone is nice.

I miss him. He got robbed and shot so he moved, and the shop closed. No one ever opened it again. Sometimes when I walk by the shop, I think I can smell the roses through the broken windows, but probably not.

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Beyond the Door to Nowhere

I'm no longer that little girl. But it is through her eyes that I write today. She found a way out. All those words that people shared with her. She wrote them in a notebook and practiced writing them.

She got a library card and spent hours marveling at the books. No one ever asked her to leave. She didn't need to be told to be quiet and behave; she valued the books too much to do them harm. Instead of succumbing to the streets, she studied. Her roost became her salvation. She could find an answer to any question up there as long as she had a book.

I went back home today; yet another funeral. The roost is there, but it sags. Some of the rungs are missing, so it's not safe or useful anymore.

The alleyway clearly defines which gang controls it. The men are gone from the stairs - dead in gang wars, bad drug deals or prison.

I started crying, for all the little girls and boys who will never get out. They might not ever know that they are traumatized, or that there are funny sounding fragrant flowers in the world, or see a shooting star, only hear the shots fired on a Saturday night.

© 2015 Marilyn L Davis

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    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
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      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Bruce; what kind words. It was a different way for me to write. I have not done fiction before, yet I found in writing this, that I drew on experiences, either my own in my addiction, or those of the women I worked with at the recovery home.

      There is a sense of getting out when we deal with our addictions and learning is paramount in that process. As a child, I was fascinated by squiggly black lines that told a story. I've also been told that I was a literal child, so perhaps my "inner child" helped much with this story as well.

      Again, thank you for the comment and I may just do another challenge. ~Marilyn

    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 2 years ago from Asheville NC

      Well Marilyn,

      I have to agree with my peers above, many whom I've known for a few years now; a wonderful story and wonderfully written. In is simplicity is a reverence for what matters in life.

      I somehow have the notion though that those whose lives are cut short, physically, mentally, spiritually or otherwise somehow know coming into this world that there are challenges to be faced that sometimes will go wrong, terribly wrong, perhaps this is only one part of our existence here and perhaps the aroma of flowers is always available when love appears.

      I am grateful you accepted Bill's challenge...and so too will be the others who read this hub!

      Bruce

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, manatita44; I think many of us were fortunate to get out either with the help of others, as was my case, or we read something that showed us there was a way out. I think too many people do not know there is a way out and hopefully, in anything I write, I share that small piece of encouragement.

      So many people are lonely, scared and uncertain that they continue with drugs and alcohol, or in the case of this fiction, those she cries for who succumbed to the streets.

      Thank you for reading and the comment. I appreciate both. ~Marilyn

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      Hi Marilyn,

      I've read some of your thoughts to Bill as well as your Hub and I'm so happy that you found a way out. It can be a difficult and lonely struggle, and you express this somewhat in the latter half of your Hub. Excellent work.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, Sallybea; so glad you liked the story. I know how important it is to engage all the senses when writing, especially nonfiction, which is what I typically write. So, I just used the same principles in this story and found that smell was the primary sense.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. ~Marilyn

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, Faith Reaper; thank you for those kind words. I had never taken a challenge nor written fiction, so I felt somewhat vulnerable. However, with the positive comments, I may get out of my usual comfort zones and try it again. Thanks for the encouragement. I appreciate it. ~Marilyn

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Wonderful, I read this story from beginning to end and loved every moment of it. You did a great job on this challenge.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Beautifully written, poignant yet hopeful! You have produced such a wonderful response to Bill's challenge here. I enjoyed reading this creative write. You draw us in right from the start and your words visually place us there with the smells and all.

      Superb!

      Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

      Welcome back to HubPages!

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
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      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, pstraubie48 ; what a kind thing to say. There are far too many people who do not get out. There were so many excellent Hubs from this challenge, and I'm appreciative that you took the time to read mine. ~Marilyn

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      Great response to Billy's challenge. Getting out is often a very good thing when where we are is not where we would wish to be. And tears for those who live in uncertainty each day flow freely.

      Great job Voted up and shared ps

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, fpherj48; perhaps I'll just amend my comment after reading yours...she smiles, I didn't used to write fiction....thanks for the comment. ~Marilyn

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Marilyn....I wouldn't think of arguing with you....BUT, you certainly DO write fiction....and very well, I might add! (smile)

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, fpherj48; thank you seems inadequate, but my grandmother always said, start there. So, thank you for the kind words and encouragement. I don't write fiction so the positive comments mean a lot. ~Marilyn

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      MD....Wonderful job...you took this challenge all the way to the top! Bravo!....UP+++ Peace, Paula

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, Emese; thank you. Writing fiction was a new experience for me, and I enjoyed the challenge. I know that many writer have come from adversity and so wanted that to be part of the message in this piece; how words are often a way out. Glad you liked it. ~Marilyn

    • Emese Fromm profile image

      EmeseR√©ka 2 years ago from The Desert

      What a great story! I enjoyed every word of it. There was so much sadness in it, but I liked how the words collected helped that little girl. Beautiful!

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Lea; thank you. Reading yours, with the message of "still standing", and your comment reference to the house falling down, resonates. I think writers get to stand because of words; they get us out, they give us purpose, and they provide a platform to rise above the adversities.

      Not sure Billy realized how profoundly these photos would touch places in us. I appreciate your story, and while mine is fiction, the feelings and thoughts are not. ~Marilyn

    • Sparklea profile image

      Sparklea 2 years ago from Upstate New York

      Dear Marilyn Davis, wow, what a story! This is a beautiful profound, 'from the heart' write. I could picture everything you described, especially in the flower shop - with the roses! I can relate to your telling you returned to 'the roost'. The house I grew up in is SO dilapidated now and the porch sags. Every day I tell God if He would provide the money, I would buy that house back and renovate it. I LONG to go inside and see it. I live about 10 minutes away, and I pass it all the time - on purpose. We never forget, do we? Bill Buc said it right: 'was it really only yesterday?' God bless and thank you for sharing your heart and soul on this beautiful hub. Voted up and awesome, Sparklea:)

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Lady Guinevere; that is a comforting message. I think we all need people to encourage us. It is sad that many people do not have that in their lives. I worked with alcoholics and addicts for over 20 years and many of those women had no one until they got into recovery. Together we healed and part of that healing was creating a positive message to keep on, so thanks for the reinforcing of that. ~Marilyn

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 2 years ago from West By God

      What a moving story. Keep looking for the stars and keep those roses in your mind.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, Bravewarrior; thank you for the comment. I think for many children, the only way out is through education. Even though this was fiction, I did struggle with the florist. However, I finally decided that given the photos we worked with, that it was more likely that a flower shop would not survive. However, I was not going to have him killed off. The men in the alley and Carney provided enough death and horrible acts. So much more of an answer than you probably wanted...she smiles. ~Marilyn

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Beautiful story. I'm glad the little girl got out of the neighborhood and put her love of words to good use. Too bad about the florist; he was so kind to give her a Mothers Day bouquet without taking her hard-earned $1.78.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, tobusiness; confession, I had to research the flowers, but I knew there would be a name that moved the story forward. My mother liked roses, and I thought I remember that they had some interesting names. However, when I saw the Chrysler Imperial, it gave me another prompt. Love research.

      Thank you for your kind words. ~Marilyn

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Elsie; thank you for your comment. I also enjoyed the challenge. Writing in a different way for me. May have to issue a challenge in the coming weeks myself. ~Marilyn

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      This is precious, I really enjoyed the read, and not simply because you've mentioned so many of my favourite flowers. Beautifully done.

      Voted up and across the board.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 2 years ago from New Zealand

      Beautiful story, enjoyed reading it right to the end.

      Looking forward to reading more of your stories.

      All the best for 2015.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, Jodah; thank you. This one wrote itself. Although the circumstances do not reflect my life, that little girl bubbled up in my mind and all I had to do was listen to her and type. What a rare and wonderful experience it was and I am pleased that you liked it. ~Marilyn

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      What a wonderfully written response to Bill's challenge Marilyn. Your words captured me from start to finish. Delightful story indeed. Voted up.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, DzyMsLizzy; what a fun name. Thank you for your comment and the kind words. It was exciting to do this challenge, and I think I will try another. It's a great exercise; stepping out of our comfort zone to write in a different style or voice.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Beautifully done! Well-painted word pictures; I could see it all in my mind's eye, even without the photos you supplied.

      A most poignant piece of writing. Sad and hopeful and 'happy ending' all at once...and some sad nostalgic memory thrown in for good measure.

      Voted up +++

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, Ann; I appreciate exclamation marks. Seriously.

      Thank you for reading, commenting and encouraging me. I think this is a great way to broaden our writing, or as Billy says, spreading our wings. I did go to a different and enjoyable place with this writing. ~Marilyn

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Great response to the challenge and you did it so quickly! I like the contrast of success and sadness. I also like the learning of words and that they're stored and used. A writer!

      Lovely!

      Ann

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, Billy; thank you for the kind words. It was an interesting exercise and I am pleased that I took the challenge. I'm also glad you liked it. Might muster the courage to issue my own challenge sometime soon. Thanks for the inspiration. ~Marilyn

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Marilyn, that was just a wonderful story. Thank you so much for taking on the challenge. You did a great job with it. Melancholy and yet hopeful...sad and yet uplifting. Well done!