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Prompt- from a news article

Our writing group’s prompt this week is to write a short piece based on an article from a newspaper or web media. When I saw the story about the woman who had been held hostage for 18 years in a crazy guy’s backyard shed, I knew I had my story:


By Joe

Every time I hear someone come on the property I get all nervous, like they’re going to snoop around in things. There’s the garage with the door half open, and the boxes on the back porch. There’s my shed in the woods behind the fence. If someone looks through the space in the panels just right they might see it.

Most times it’s deliverymen. Phil watches them to make sure they drive away and not just go around the block. You never know. Sometimes it’s a police or a government man. They ask a lot of questions. But Phil, he’s too smart for them. He answers all the questions with a no, sir or a yes, sir. And then he watches them to make sure they go.

He protects me. I owe him a lot.

If he didn’t set me up here I’d be a heathen tramp. Godless. Prob’ly be selling my body for drugs in the city, different men on top of me every night, then shot up in the daytime on heroin. I’d be damned to hell. Phil told me. I would never repent, never find salvation. He knows all about it.

He saved me. He took me away from all that and brought me to God. He put me in here before any of it could happen, when I was still a girl, eleven, and told me to pray for my soul. It ain’t as nice in the shed as the house, but his wife tells him to keep me outside, ’cause she don’t want to have to see me. She don’t want none of that business. So he puts me here, and he rigs up some electricity and even a shower out back. It don’t get too cold, and when it does I cuddle up with my girls and it’s warm enough. I just wish he’d let them go to school like I used to, but Phil says he can’t afford that. I didn’t know school cost money. I don’t remember my first parents talking about it.

After all these years I’m content. There’s enough food for the three of us and Phil makes sure there’s new clothes once in a while. They’re his kids too, so I know he cares. He says my soul is saved. And I don’t want all the things I did when I was a little girl. Sometimes I think about what it was like when it was Christmas or Thanksgiving, when all the relatives would come in from around the state and we’d have a party with presents. The party would last all day long, and everyone would hug each other and smile and go home happy, and I remember a warm feeling when it was over, like a fire in the hearth. But Phil taught me how that is evil, how the devil is in those things because the devil is all about desire and lust and false emotion. So when I do have those memories I block them out with prayers or chores. I never mention any of this to my girls, and that way they stay holy.

Today there’s more noise in the front of the property. More than I ever heard before. If I could open the door to the shed I might take a look. I press my ear to the wall to hear Phil give his no, sirs and yes, sirs, but instead I hear lots of men talking in deep voices. Some of them sound like they’re on radios or loudspeakers. The girls are afraid. I am afraid too, because I don’t hear Phil talking. Police, maybe, but more than there have ever been. I start to bang on the door of the shed. Oh God, please let them find me.


About Joe Ponepinto

Co-publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review. Author of "Curtain Calls," a featured Kirkus Review. Married to Dona. Dad to Henry, the coffee-drinkin' dog.


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