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Hallelujah: Bill's Writing Challenge Returns

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Alyssa is an avid reader, writer, and coffee enthusiast. She loves sharing thoughts, ideas, and creative writings with the world.


I love a good goal and this year I set a lofty one: write one fictional short story every other month. Lucky for me, Bill gave us a new writing challenge. For this round, we were to use all three photos in our piece. After much consideration and hours staring at the photos, I finally came up with a skeleton outline. As I always do, I put my music playlist on and let the words come, confident that a story would find its way onto the screen.

This is the result. I hope you enjoy the read.

Stop sign.

Stop sign.


Erylock Grove, the quintessential American town straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Picturesque Victorian and Queen Anne style houses line the streets, a mirror reflecting their interesting and eccentric owners. Sidewalks connect each neighborhood, winding through a myriad of ancient trees and offering a look at the beautifully kept gardens.

This is where I grew up. Miller Avenue, to be exact. What a common name for a street so steeped in history. If only the majestic, overarching Middleton Oaks could speak to all they've witnessed over the centuries. I can only imagine the fantastical tales they'd tell.

Time passes differently here, more slowly, the townsfolk always purposeful and methodical in every daily task. Not much has changed in the past fifty or so years, save for lines on friendly faces and glimmers of silver strands catching the sunlight. I catch the eye of several folks out and about, each one waving in greeting to me as I drive down the street toward my parents' house.

Turning onto the stone-paved driveway, I catch a glimpse of the magnificent house next door. I notice the piles of boxes, an orange crate, and a lone push broom set haphazardly to the side of the garage. The unexpected mess pulls me out of my reverie of the past and I'm hit with a wave of grief. This is no run of the mill, check-in visit with my aging parents.

Cardboard boxes.

Cardboard boxes.

I grab the antique glass plate filled with chocolate chip cookies and the fresh tin of coffee off the counter. Stepping out on my parents' porch, I take in the cars lined up neatly along both sides of the street. It's not surprising that the entire town turned out to pay their respects to Mrs. Smith. Like me, so many of my childhood friends have driven hours or flown in from their corner of the world in order to be here.

I would expect nothing less. Mrs. Smith was everyone's adopted grandma. All the children adored her and the adults referred to her for wisdom and advice. A retired music teacher who never fully gave up her career, Mrs. Smith continued to give piano lessons to anyone who wanted them. The only cost was an afternoon of your company. Every day there would be at least a handful of children or adults relaxing on the porch, playing baseball in the yard, or gathered around the cherry wood dining room table enjoying her famous homemade desserts. Someone would always be at the piano, the notes of the music floating out from the open bay windows.

I was the luckiest kid in town as I lived right next door. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were close friends with my parents and I spent many evenings playing with Wilson, their chunky Basset Hound, while the adults played cards.

In the summer, I would get up early for my very own music lessons with Mrs. Smith. She introduced me to the classics and is personally responsible for my deep love of Franz Liszt. But she was no music snob. While she stressed the importance of learning classical styles, she encouraged me to have an ear for contemporary music as well.

"Everything is art," she'd say, "let the rhythm and the notes move you." Many times I'd bring records of my favorite musicians with me and we'd play those songs on the piano. She loved it all: rock, gospel, pop, nothing was off-limits.

In my college years, I'd return home in the summer and we'd pick up right where we'd left off. Mrs. Smith eagerly awaited my report on the "big city music scene," as she lovingly referred to it. It was during one of these visits that I introduced her to Leonard Cohen and "Hallelujah." While most of the world took its time to appreciate it, she immediately recognized it for the hauntingly beautiful song it truly was. It quickly became one of her favorites and every visit after, she would ask me to play it on her prized Steinway.

We all have a Mrs. Smith story, I think to myself, taking a deep breath and heading toward the path between the two houses.

A street

A street

As I near the old stone steps to that grand, wrap around porch, I hear those distinctive notes playing softly. Nodding to my somber friends gathered to the right by a tall Grecian-style column, I take a look up at the cerulean sky. Mrs. Smith is surely up there among the angels, charming them with her sweet voice and playing "Hallelujah."

Leonard Cohen - Hallelujah | Piano Cover + Sheet Music

© 2021 Alyssa