WFOL 2024 Challenge

Winterfest Guests


by Tunnel Writer


Stacey had just walked up at the end of Bruce’s story. “What should they ask me?” she asked.

“Oh, Dad was telling us how he became a Helper,” Brooke said, smiling at her Mother-in-law.

“So, Mom, how did you learn about the tunnels?”

Stacey chuckled gently. “I knew working for the city and being a licensed plumber, he’d be called on at all hours of the day and night. I understood that was part of the job, and I was perfectly OK with it. That was, until he got this new project that was calling him away for fourteen to sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. He even missed a very important date night. We had those Broadway tickets for months. I was furious that he couldn’t put one evening aside for us. The worst problem was the gifts.”

“Gifts?” Brooke asked.

* * *

“Bruce, how’s your girlfriend?” James asked as they connected another pipe Together.

“She’s angry with me. Yesterday was the first anniversary of our first date. Let’s just say she’s currently not speaking to me.”

“That’s too bad. I’m sure you’ll make it up to her.”

“I hope so.”

“How did you two meet?”

Bruce smiled as he went to grab his wrench. “We met at a homeless shelter.”

Jacob and a few others came over to listen.

“I volunteered nightly at the homeless shelter. Mainly to keep from getting bored. I saw this terrified, distrustful girl come in to get something to eat. As the weeks went on, I tried to get her to talk. I found out from others that Stacey had a rough childhood. Her parents were abusive, and she was bounced from foster home to foster home. Some were worse than the home she was removed from. The abuse never seemed to end.  When she aged out, she was pretty much kicked out.”

Jacob nodded sadly. “I am aware of how the system rejects teens. We have several here who have aged out, as well.”

Bruce measured another pipe as he continued his story. “One day she didn’t come in to eat. I asked around and found her by the bridge. She was going to end her life. I talked her down, and I broke the rules and brought her to my apartment. We started talking. I discovered that she never graduated from school and couldn’t get a job. I helped her study for her GED and helped her get into college. The day she graduated college is the day I asked her out on our first date.

“She wanted a job to help other kids like her. So she volunteers as a mentor, and has built trust with these teens. She teaches them life skills, helps them find jobs, and gives advice. Honestly, she is so serious about building trust, she won’t even tell me what they discuss with her. She is the best secret keeper I’ve ever met.” Bruce laughed. “I told her she’d make a great psychologist. Besides volunteering, she found a job as a school counselor.”

“That’s a very respectable job,” Jacob said as he looked at his pocket watch. “That’s it for the evening everyone,” he announced.

It had been a long week, and everyone was exhausted and slowly headed back.

“Hey, Bruce, got something for you,” William called out.

Bruce’s brow knitted in question as William handed him a small package wrapped in a napkin.

“Cookies?” Bruce asked as he pulled a corner of the napkin.

William nodded. “Appreciation for your friendship and your help. Made them myself,” he said proudly.

“You didn’t have to, but thank you.” Bruce smiled.

Bruce slowly unlocked the door and entered the apartment. He wasn’t sure if Stacey would still be angry with him. He tiptoed in anyway. The sound of the lock echoing made him cringe.

“Bruce, I’m glad you’re home. I’m sorry. I know how hard you work to support us,” Stacey said as she ran into his arms, crying. “I shouldn’t be so upset. I’m sorry we fought.” She stopped at the sight of the napkin. “What’s that?” she asked.

“Just cookies that my coworker made.”

“I didn’t realize that Scott knew how to bake,” she said as she took a bite.

“Scott didn’t make them. Another coworker did.”

“Which one?” Stacey asked as she took another bite.


“I don’t remember you ever mentioning a William.”

“Well, he’s new,” Bruce said uneasily.

Stacey noticed how uncomfortable Bruce was acting, but decided to ignore it for the time being. “OK. Well, tell William thank you.”

“I will. I need a shower and to get to bed. I have to get up in a few hours for work.”

“How much longer are you going to push yourself? You’re going to make yourself sick,” Stacey said with concern.

“Until the job is done.”

Every evening Bruce was always given something to take home.

“What did you bring home this time?” Stacey asked with a frown on her face.

“Apple pie,” Bruce reluctantly told her as he handed it to her.

Stacey stared at it for a moment before turning her tear-filled eyes towards him. “If there’s another woman, let me know now. I’m tired of wondering who you’re with.”

“Stacey, there is no one else but you. You HAVE to believe me.”

“I want to meet these new coworkers.”

“Stacey, I can’t bring you to work with me. We are almost finished with this job, and I promise we will go away for a whole weekend. Just you and me.”

Stacey smiled as she gave him a quick kiss.

* * *

“OK, that’s it for the day. I think we have just one more day before we’re finished with this job.”

As Bruce was bundling up to go home, Mary approached him. “You’re not going out with your head uncovered, are you?”

Bruce buttoned his coat and smiled at Mary. “I’ll be fine.” Mary’s worried expression made Bruce chuckle. “I’m OK. Honest!”

“Here, these will come in handy,” she said, pushing a knitted bundle towards him.

Bruce took the bundle and realized Mary had made a hat, mittens, and a scarf. His face fell as he shook his head. “I can’t accept this. You see, Stacey is thinking I have another woman and that’s why I work such long hours. This would be very hard to explain. We’re already on shaky ground,” he said, pushing the bundle back into Mary’s hands.

“Oh dear. That is a problem.”

“I know this is terribly out of the ordinary, but perhaps you can bring her tomorrow evening,” Jacob suggested.

The gasp from Mary made Bruce realize this wasn’t normally done.  “If you think it’s OK,” Bruce said.

“If she’s as good at keeping secrets as you claim she is, it will be OK. Perhaps we can put her fears to rest.”

The next evening, Bruce went straight home after his shift.

“Honey, you’re home early!” Stacey said excitedly.

“Hurry, put on some old clothes. You’re coming with me tonight. I want you to meet my coworkers.”

Stacey’s curiosity was piqued and she hurriedly got ready.

“Honestly, Bruce, what are we doing down he…” She stopped as she saw the community working together.

A woman grinned at her as she approached.

“You must be Stacey. I’m Mary, and we are so sorry for causing you undue worry. Bruce has been helping us get this pipe fixed.”

“You ladies get acquainted. I have work to do.”

“And that is how Mary and I became best friends.” Stacey sighed.

Brooke quickly wrote the last sentence in her journal. “Thanks, Mom. This will be preserved for generations to come.”


  1. Touching and good of Stacy to meet Bruce, that he managed to change her fate in time…and with her work she changed the lives of others, helped them….

  2. This is wonderful. I love the process of the story. So uplifting. I can’t wait to read more.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *




CABB logo: crystal and rose




CABB logo: crystal and rose







by AM

“Local temperature is 89 degrees with a heat index of 102. Stay inside if you can. Drink plenty of water and remember, don’t overdo it. It’s a scorcher out there today, folks”.

Catherine cursed the weatherman as she wiped the sweat off her forehead.  “Great. What a perfect time for the air to go out.”

The thought of going outside made her cringe. It was Sunday, so her office would be locked.

“I need to get out of this heat. I’ve got it!” Catherine giggled as she had a wonderful idea.

She went through recycling looking for something she could use.

“Nothing,” she said, frustrated.

She hurriedly changed into a comfortable t-shirt and jeans and hurried to the nearest store. She would’ve run if it hadn’t been so hot.

She sighed with relief when she stepped foot into the cool store.

She picked up some water guns.

No, too violent, and would be frowned upon, she thought as she put the guns down.

She went searching for safer things.

Balloons? No, leaves a mess to clean up.

Her eyes lit up when she saw them. “Spray bottles!!! Perfect!! Hmmm. There’s 50. That should be plenty.”

She grabbed up all the bottles and headed to pay.

It seemed like forever before she headed back to her apartment with her treasures. Instead of going directly to her apartment, she headed to the tunnels. It wasn’t long before she ran into Eric.

“What’s in the bags?” he asked

“It’s a surprise, and I need you to do me a favor. Could you gather all the kids and bring them here?”


“Oh, and Eric?”

Eric turned to look at her.

“Bring as many buckets of water as you can.” She winked at him.

He returned in record time with all the tunnel kids, each carrying two buckets full of water. Catherine passed out the spray bottles and helped fill them up. Once all the bottles were filled, boundary lines were drawn, and safe places declared, they were ready.

“On your mark, get set, GO!” Catherine yelled.

The fight began in full force. Laughter, shrieks, and happy screams echoed through the tunnels as the children chased and sprayed each other. Catherine found herself in the crossfire several times, but laughed as hard as the children. When bottles emptied they were quickly refilled, and the fun continued. Soon adults came to find out where the happy noises were coming from. Some smiled, shook their heads and went back to their previous activity. Some helped by refilling empty buckets. Others just couldn’t help joining in the fun. Catherine noticed Vincent walking towards them.

“I need to borrow that,” she said to Kipper.

He smiled and handed her his full bottle. She placed the bottle behind her back, walked calmly up to Vincent, and sprayed him in the face.

His look of shock made Catherine laugh. Vincent calmly watched the children play for a few minutes before casually picking up a bucket that was a quarter full. He turned to Catherine.

“Vincent, you wouldn’t dare.”

“Perhaps, but then how would I return the favor?”

With that, he dumped the bucket over her head. The children erupted with laughter to see Catherine soaked.

A tapping on the pipes made them all stop. Dinner.

Groans quickly spread among the children. They reluctantly started handing the bottles to Catherine.

“Vincent, why don’t you keep them for the next time?”

The children’s eyes danced with glee. Vincent put the bottles in the buckets and handed them to the children to carry.

“Would you join us, Catherine?” Vincent asked.

“I would love to.”

Vincent took her hand and they followed the children to dinner.