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May 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionAs breathless as a newcomer to running marathons, I’ve just thrown myself into my chair ready to race fingers across the keyboard in a mad dash.

Okay. Time for a deep, cleansing breath. Time for a cup of nettle tea...but there’s no time for boiling water, my mind says! I’d continue to argue with my mind, but really I’ve no time to digress.

What happened to the day that is now cloaked in rainy nightfall? Muddled priorities, that’s what happened.

I’m a writer. Your a writer. We know this happens. A million moments a day we are confronted with distractions and decisions. I’ll write, but first…and those firsts seem to never end. Sure, I can justify that my husband was going out of town for ten days and that caused at least a dozen “but firsts.” Also,  I have an important client meeting tomorrow and since I’m not taking new clients I must first keep this one satisfied. Dinner? Oh, yeah, the spouse with a paying job left for said job so I have to feed the dogs first. Then me second.

So when do we put our writing first? And is it ever really that simple? No, and don’t expect it to be. If you think prioritizing is simple, you live in a different century (and how did you get here, by the way?).

But let’s discuss prioritizing our priorities so we can swath writing time as if we were farmers of words. When priorities clash, I call them muddled. We might want to harvest our words but to do so successfully we need to have a balanced life. We need to simplify. And that’s a process.

In order to simplify, we have to un-muddle those priorities and make decisions. And it’s the decisions that cause us the angst. Let me give you an example: my spouse has a new job eight hours away. One priority is to make enough money to live in a house; the other is to live in a house in the mountains with horses and pond. But the money to live in the house that fulfills us is on the opposite end of Idaho. So which priority do we follow?

Well, it comes down to need verses want. Not a happy decision, but we foresee a future move. Or a future miracle. I’ll pray for the latter until the Uhaul of reality arrives to move my desk and stuff.

How does this equate to writing? I want to write literature but I need to write for clients so I can write all words from home. Do I give up the fulfilling writing? No way! I rearrange my weeks, days and hours to make sure the field of growing lit gets enough attention to provide a harvest.

Between this moment and the first of August I have revisions to make to my first novel. I’ve committed to getting up earlier and I’m giving up my garden–a tough decision for me. My gut aches, but if I try to do it all, then priorities will clash. It’s much simpler to not have a garden this year.

And, by committing to mornings I’ll make sure my revisions get finished before other priorities come up in the day. I’ll feel less rushed writing first than I would if I put those other but firsts, first.

Write first, but in balance. Don’t run around like I was today trying to do more tasks than hours would allow. Take time to plan; to review potential priority clashes; and always make time to boil water. There are many tasks involved in writing–building your platform, portfolio, marketing, sales, editing, revising, reading, discoursing, fixing dinner. But always write first. That’s your seed from which all else grows.

A hearty “thank you” to the writers and readers of Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction. You are an important part of my writing vitality. Here, you allow me to plant new seeds, to experiment with future growth and rub elbows with other word farmers. I learn from you and my watering well of creativity stays full as your writing, comments and reflective blog posts inspire me. I hope you are all feeling the benefits of actively participating in a dynamic literary group weekly.

If you feel ready to submit your flash for possible publication, be sure to check out the submission guidelines at Flash Fiction Magazine. Contests are also a great way to build your portfolio and writer’s platform. Anne Goodwin shares these two nuggets with us: Creative Industries Trafford and The Bridport Prize.

If you haven’t already guessed, this week’s prompt will tackle muddled priorities. What happens to a story when a character has to make a decision? How is the story altered? How is the character altered? What are the consequences of the decision…or consequences for refusing the decision? Does choosing a priority make life easier or more complicated?

May 28, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a decision between two clashing priorities. It could be a relationship where each person has a different priority or an individual who has to decide which priority is tops. It could also be a story about an organization or an institution. This could make for an interesting compilation! Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, June 3 to be included in the compilation.

Cobb’s Dilema by Charli Mills

Leroy twirled the rawhide rommel from the back of his buckskin gelding. He watched his brother standing along Rock Creek. Muddy waters slithered through the plains where two hundred head of red, shaggy shorthorns grazed.

“Cobb, you’ve got to decide,” Leroy said to his brother’s back.

Finally Cobb turned around. Leroy saw the war waging in his brother’s mind although a stranger might think Cobb was contemplating cows.

“Bring her to the ranch,” Cobb said.

“What about Sarah?”

“She stays!”

“Cobb, a man can’t have two women.”

“I asked you to bring the damn cattle, Leroy, not my wife.”

###

Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.

Surprise!

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionSurprises are for birthdays…and so much more as this week’s stories reflect. From the subtle to the horrific with funny and sad in between, flash fiction can deliver a multitude of the unexpected.

Our talent pool of flash fiction writers grows and many bloggers have found inspiration, reflection and even publication with their stories.

May 21, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows surprise without using the word.

Coming Home by A. J. Prince

I wiped my hands on my uniform as I contemplated knocking.

Inside would be the son that I had yet to meet. My daughter, would she remember me? She was two when I held her last.

I walked through the house, all conversation ceased. All eyes watched as I walked up behind my wife. Still as beautiful as the day I met her.

“Happy birthday sweetheart.”

She turned, nearly dropping our son, as her knees buckled. Her face quickly wet with tears.

I pulled them to me as I reached for the one pulling on my leg.

“Daddy’s home!”

###

Phil Anthropy by Larry LaForge

He’s known only as Phil. The scraggly old-timer has occupied the same busy street corner every day for the past 12 years. His music, if you can call it that, has been heard by tens of thousands.

But this morning Phil is not there. Neither are his squeaky violin and tattered money bucket.

Phil is home counting.

Yesterday’s haul far exceeded the usual $30. He wasn’t paying attention when someone slipped the thick envelope into his bucket.

But don’t worry. He’ll be back this afternoon.

He’s heading first to the soup kitchen to drop $10,000 in the donation box.

###

The Wheel Barrow by Irene A Waters

The sound came again. Closer this time. It sounded like a squeaky wheel barrow. He ran to his mother’s room. She would know what to do. Hugging, they listened to the sound. She rang the police. Arriving quickly they searched outside, returning pronouncing the culprit was a leaking hot water system. The plumber was called and the leak repaired. The next night he was again woken by the sound of a wheelbarrow. Not waking his mother he went to check the hot water. He saw the wheelbarrow when suddenly, a hand over his mouth turned his scream silent.

###

Birthing the Story by Paula Moyer

Jean devoted herself to her writing contest entry – poured over every word, every comma, submitted it to her instructor for feedback. Then sent it off.

Then life itself happened – literally. Her pregnancy completed. She gave birth to a big baby boy. She flew down to Texas for her brother’s wedding. The baby grew. She thought about little else.

“Brringg!” the phone announced itself one day.

“Ms. Jones?”

“This is she.”

“This is the Harbor.”

Oh.

She knew the contest’s rules – bad news came in the mail, good news by phone.

“We have good news. You’re one of the winners!”

###

Norman’s Conquest by Geoff Le Pard

Norman knew he wouldn’t win Betty without something special.

‘Knock her dead, boy,’ said Grandma.

‘Stun her, son,’ said Mum.

He swallowed hard. ‘Come over. It’s my birthday.’

He spent ages getting ready, but would it work?

Norman flung open his door with his eyes squeezed shut. When, finally, he opened them, he knew he’d exceeded expectations.

There was Betty, kneeling by Norman’s stunned mother who, in turn, held what looked like his dead grandma. All round lay presents.

Norman made for the phone. ‘I’ll call an ambulance.’

‘I think you might put your clothes on first,’ said Betty.

###

Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

Tyres crunching on gravel snapped Mum out of her doze. “Oh, my!”

The grand house loomed ahead. “Do you recognise it?” said my sister.

I parked by the porticoed entrance. Beyond banks of rhododendrons, the lake shimmered. My sister hopped out and opened Mum’s door. “Bet you’re itching to explore.”

Mum stayed put.

“How about tea first?”

Mum didn’t budge.

My sister took her wrinkled hand. “It’s where you were evacuated, remember?” Mum’s tales of wartime escapades were embedded in our childhoods. “It’s a hotel now.” This mini-break, the perfect birthday treat.

Mum was almost retching. “No, please, no.”

###

An Unexpected Twist by Ruchira Khanna

Annie announces with enthusiasm, “Yippee, tomorrow is my birthday.”

Hubby looks at his screen, “ Oh! I will have to be at work tomorrow.”

Mom complains of a backache, and wants to see a doctor the next day.

Annie is left all alone. She sighs in gloom, “As usual, no one has time.”

Next day, she wants attention, but everyone is busy in their respective lives.

She decides to go to her usual dreary place for lunch.

As she opens the door, her eyes are wide open and her jaw drops as she sees familiar faces with party hats.

###

What luck! by Norah Colvin

No books, no talk were in the home.
What luck!
He was happy to play on his own.

School began when he was five.
What luck!
Learning from flash cards, how hard he tried.

“My boy can’t do it!” his Mum once wailed.
What luck!
With ‘forged’ test scores no child would fail.

Leaving school, the options were few.
What luck!
Teaching was the one he could do.

Uni years flashed by so fast.
What luck!
Number requirements meant he passed.

Then into the classroom he unprepared went.
No future joy for any student.
What bad luck!

###

Naming an Enemy by Charli Mills

Girlish blond curls tumbled over his hunched shoulders as he mucked stalls for each small, muscled horse belonging to Pony Express. Cobb barely glanced at the youth. Dandy, he thought, continuing his conversation with the station manager. Sarah lingered at the barn doorway, sunshine illuminating her chestnut hair bound with the green ribbon Cobb bought her in St. Louis. It matched flecks in her golden eyes. The boy paused, gawking at the beauty that belonged to Cobb. He hankered to punch the prissy smiling prettily at Sarah. Instead, he gave the boy a nickname they’d all regret. “Hey, Duckbill…”

###

New challenge posted every Wednesday on Carrot Ranch Communications.  All writers welcome!

Honoring Civil War Ancestors in Fiction

Cousin Against CousinWhen researching family history I dutifully record the facts, using documents such as vital records, census records and old wills. I can see how many generations lived in one place or trace how many places one generation lived.

Being an imaginative person, I can see wisps of stories that linger on the facts like attic dust. Gaps and connections intrigue me most. Therefore, family research evolves into potential stories of fiction for me. Among my ancestors, I have mountain clans from North Carolina who fought in the Civil War–the Greens, McCandlesses, Hatleys, Alexanders and Greens.

You might wonder why I include the Greens twice. Well, the McCandlesses and Hatleys married Greens twice as much as any other family. I’m related to the Greens through multiple branches which is not uncommon for remote areas or the times. It gets challenging to keep straight the Aunt Marys, though–there’s Aunt Mary McCandless Green and Aunt Mary Green McCandless.

Today is Memorial Day. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the last Monday in May commemorates the men and women who died in military service. It began as a springtime tribute to those who died in the Civil War (1861-1865), or the War of Northern Aggression as it was known in North Carolina (and other Confederate states).

If you read much on the Civil War, especially histories and accounts written directly after 1865, you’ll understand that people then were as opinionated and controversial as people can be now. If Americans feel that politics are divisive today, try facing down the muzzle of your cousin and having to answer to both Aunt Marys as to why you shot him. Because you were wearing Blue and he was wearing Gray.

My ancestors left Scotland and Ireland in the mid-1700s. They followed the faint footsteps of Daniel Boone down the valley along the Smokey Mountains into a place they called Watauga. They leased land from the Cherokee tribes living in the area and they lived outside of the known and governed colonies. Eventually statehood caught up with them and they became a part of North Carolina. To most they were known as the mountain people.

When the Civil War broke out (and broke apart the United States), not all the families agreed which side to take. In fact, many didn’t want to take a side. According to historians, 1,000 men from Watauga County, NC joined the Confederacy and 100 joined the Union.

“Joined” is a curious word in regards to the Confederate forces. Conscription–a type of draft–often joined men against their will. However, to join the Union, one had to trek over the mountains into Tennessee and risk life (and family) to deliberately sign up for Union forces in a Confederate state.

My third great-grandfather, Riley B. Hatley, writes in his pension account how he had to scoot across the mountains to avoid conscription. His two brothers followed him and all three fought for the Blue although all three of their names are listed on the roster for the Gray.

Their cousin, Lafayette Hatley (my first cousin 5x removed), also shows up on the roster for Company D, North Carolina 58th Infantry Regiment. But he didn’t scoot. He stayed. To give you an idea of how bad the war was in the mountain region of North Carolina, families took up arms against families–and these were not soldiers. The soldiers of both uniforms often delivered retribution more than carrying out battle formations. What an awful time.

One historian wrote the cries of the Wataugans as, “Peace, Peace, When There Was No Peace.” As a fiction writer, how can I ignore these unwritten stories? They speak as much about us today as they did back then.

The same historian claims that after the war most men and women took heart and hope, beginning all over again. Yet others, like my kin, were completely discouraged. My family (four generations) left for Tennessee and founded new communities in Colorado, Washington and Idaho. Some only moved as far away as Tennessee.

As for the cousin on the opposite side of Papa Riley, he was the only son of Riley’s father’s only brother. Pvt. Lafayette Hatley never survived the war. He died in Dalton, GA from congestion of the brain on March 23, 1864.

No matter the side, no matter the reason, I seek to honor my Civil War ancestors in fiction, trying to understand their motives, their fears, their hopes, their disappointments. After all, they are stories I carry in my own blood.

 

 

 

May 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionSurprise! Have you ever been taken aback by something unexpected? Surprises can be two sides of a coin; they can attack or reveal a lucky moment. An HR manager I once worked with used to advise our management team, “that surprises are for birthdays.”

What she meant was that employees need consistent and frequent feedback, good or bad. No one wants to get an annual review only to find out that his or her performance is under par. Surprise–you’re not getting a raise!

Her analogy that surprises were for birthdays always reminded me to be open and direct with my staff. Clarity is important when you supervise or lead others. Yet, writers can use the element of surprise to control many aspects of the story from building tension (like a twist) to revealing characterization.

A writer can control the emotional response to a story through surprise. It can take a story in a new direction, create terror or jubilation. So many possibilities for surprises. And while the word itself tells so much, we know that as writers we show, not tell. So today’s prompt will reveal a surprise without using the word.

The reason I have surprises on my mind is that this new challenge falls on my birthday. That’s a pleasant surprise. When I set out to host a weekly flash fiction challenge every Wednesday, I didn’t think about my birthday falling on a prompt day. Thus, a jubilant occasion for me as I love celebrating birthdays.

While some people may see birthdays as annual aging, I see them as milestones. I use the day (or the month even) to reflect on what direction my life is going. As you know, life gives us all sorts of surprises, but I also believe in being diligent and deliberate.

Authors are not born. No matter how many or how few birthdays a person has had, writing a book or novel takes time, perseverance, learning, failing and succeeding. Even the most successful authors walked down the same road I do; the one that begins on page one of book one.

So how do we keep track of our journey? How do we know if our process is working? How do we reach a birthday and direct our navigation to arrive at the Land of Published?

One idea is to track the journey–record the ideas, drafts and polished pearls–in a portfolio. I’ve thought about having a creative writing portfolio before, but it was Norah Colvin’s blog post, “Writing to order–done in a flash!” that rekindled the idea. She writes about educating children through portfolio assessments (rather than scored single tests) but broaches the subject of writer’s portfolios:

“I would think most professional writers have a portfolio consisting of work at various stages: some as ideas jotted on slips of paper, some in planning stages, others in draft form, others completed and waiting for the next step, and others in publication.

A portfolio allows a writer to work on different pieces at different times and at different rates. Rarely is it imperative for a piece to be completed in an hour or two. (Unless you’re a journalist I suppose.) You can dip in, leave to rest, go back, redraft, edit, start again, and not be required to churn something out for a reader, let alone assessment, more or less on the spot.”

And–surprise!–I realized that I have no such portfolio. I have all mentioned pieces, but not organized in a way to offer me reflection and direction. And, as we “flash” together each week, we are accumulating great portfolio pieces.

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a wide variety of places to submit shorts. Each flash I write–that you write–has a future whether it’s an idea for your next horror novel, a kernel of a short story for a contest, or a series of creative writing that might attract an agent or publisher.

So my birthday gift to me (and to you who follow along this blog or challenge) is to devise a portfolio assessment spreadsheet. I’m thinking about how to organize ideas, drafts, flash responses, potential places to publish, submissions, contests and goals. In my former career I was the Queen of Strategy. I’ve created plenty of spreadsheets to help clients organize marketing, public relations, planning and events. I can do one for writing portfolios!

I know that there are archive options online, too, but I’m talking about a deeper document that does what Norah’s vision for educating children accomplishes–to master “process writing” that will get us closer to our publishing goals. I’ll also review portfolio sites which are great for housing our polished or published pearls. If you have one in mind, let me know. I’ll have a spreadsheet for us by June 9.

Onto the prompt! Last week I was pressed for time and submitted my own flash separately. While I received more feedback on the individual piece, it also made the prompt harder to interpret without an example. So I will be sure to include mine here.

May 21, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows surprise without using the word. A surprise can be fun or flawed; positive or negative. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, May 27 to be included in the compilation. Last week resulted in a wide variety of genres and perspectives; it will be exciting to see where surprises takes us. My example is based on my ongoing exploration of western history and family lore.

Naming an Enemy by Charli Mills

Girlish blond curls tumbled over his hunched shoulders as he mucked stalls for each small, muscled horse belonging to Pony Express. Cobb barely glanced at the youth. Dandy, he thought, continuing his conversation with the station manager. Sarah lingered at the barn doorway, sunshine illuminating her chestnut hair bound with the green ribbon Cobb bought her in St. Louis. It matched flecks in her golden eyes. The boy paused, gawking at the beauty that belonged to Cobb. He hankered to punch the prissy smiling prettily at Sarah. Instead, he gave the boy a nickname they’d all regret. “Hey, Duckbill…”

###

Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.

 

Twisted Beginnings

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionThis week’s prompt was not exactly concrete or inspiring. It was an idea that took me down a rabbit hole, and even though several writers commented on its difficulty they still followed me down that hole. We emerged with a “wonderland” of submissions and several great blog reflections (if a title is highlighted, the flash is part of a blog post elsewhere and you are encouraged to hop over and read the full posts).

May 14, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that begins with a twist. How did the character get there? Are there more twists? 

Squeezed by Paula Moyer

How could they do that? There it was – her father’s handwriting, which Jean would recognize anywhere. Her name, forged on the form acceptance letter enclosed with the private college’s scholarship offer. Her own check mark on the rejection line crossed out.

The offer had come two days before – several months too late. Jean had decided. She would go to the same college as Charlie, a state school nearby.

“You have to accept this scholarship,” her mother had said. “We can’t afford college otherwise.”

The secret? Jean had tried to leave Charlie earlier. “You can’t,” he said. “I’ll kill myself.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pete

Headlights sweep the yard. Then the glow of brakes. I try to hold my breath but I can’t stop wheezing through my nose. What the hell just happened? I’m still wet from my shower. Just as I came out to see what the banging and yelling was about when boom!—the shots still ring in my ear.

A growling Dodge Charger chugs along. A forearm hangs out the door and a big burly head scans the yard. It’s definitely them. What the hell? How did moving out of Mom’s house turn into thugs storming the apartment with guns drawn?

###

Socks by Charli Mills

Yesterday bullets buzzed my ears like summer honey-bees. No longer do I farm Papa’s land. I’m a Union soldier. Today, my life is socks. Precious wool socks. I was issued one pair.

Silence shrouds camp though fires crackle outside our dog-tents. I pretend the smell of boiling socks is coffee brewing; a commodity we lost before winning this bloody ridge. In bare feet I wring water out of each sock. Mama would have bashed socks heartily on the rocks along Greene Creek, as if waging her own war. Hers was against dirt.

I no longer know what mine’s about.

###

Empty Promises by Geoff Le Pard

The banana skin was empty. “Is this a trick? Did you do this?”’

She shrugged.

“You have to eat something.” He grabbed an orange.

She shrugged again.

He dug at the peel and met no resistance. He was angry now; he tried the mango, then the apple and the pear. Nothing. Just space inside.

“Toast?” He didn’t wait for her reply. The bread knife went through the crust and met a void. “You can’t live on air, for heaven’s sake.”

The girl lifted her t-shirt; he saw through her stomach to the fridge behind her. “It’s easy,” she said.

###

The Coroner by Ellen Mulholland

Dan Fields leapt out of the coroner’s van and searched his pockets for a cigarette. He’d seen plenty of dead bodies in his time to know they weren’t supposed to breathe.

“This is a problem,” he told himself. He realized he had another problem: he’d quit smoking last week after Carol left. He shoved a stale stick of gum in his mouth and flicked the foil wrapper into the street.

He heard a thud against the van wall. No, a pounding. No, a thumping. The whole van shook. This wasn’t good.

Dan worked alone.

Yep, this was a problem.

###

The Last Hurrah by Larry LaForge

He definitely looks the part — properly equipped, impeccably dressed, and seemingly calm.

That only makes it worse for him.

“Not again,” he moans as onlookers snicker at his latest misfire.

He looks out to the left but sees only trees. The embarrassment is palpable.

Then it happens.

He hears a distant clunk, and then sees the object of his wrath rolling downhill from the left side. Jeers turn to mock cheers as the little white ball rolls into the hole.

He smiles and pumps his fists, concealing what he just resolved.

He will never play this frustrating game again.

###

The Surrogate by A. J. Prince

The newborn’s wails ripped a hole inside me as I watched her new mommy sooth her.

I wanted to scream mine! But she wasn’t. She never was, not even from the beginning.

I thought I was giving a gift, and I had, willingly. Nine months of painful nausea, twelve hours of excruciating labor, a lifetime of parenthood.

What I hadn’t expected was this feeling of loss and anger as I watched their love fill the room. I asked to be alone as I nursed the ache in my heart.

Sometimes being best friends for life came at a price.

###

The Weather Man and The Bullet by Dan Collins

A water pistol saved his life.

He’d been faced with a real firearm in the hands of a killer. The gunshot echoed loudly, but he was prepared. The Weather Man anticipated everything with impeccable precision otherwise he’d be dead. But you don’t get to be a superhero with poor reflexes. Using his control over liquids, he pushed his water pistol toward the bullet, deflecting the projectile just enough that it missed him.

Impact with the bullet caused water to explode outward. He swept his arms toward the bad guy, bringing the shrapnel laced fluid right at the criminal.

Success.

###

Last Night by Sarah Brentyn

She screamed.

Caught between backing toward the door and reaching for the phone, Cassie stood rooted to the threadbare rust-colored carpet. How had she not noticed a foot sticking out from under the motel bed?

What the hell was a body doing there? How long had it been there?

She shivered.

Cassie took a deep breath and stepped toward the phone. Tripping over the shoe she had dropped swatting roaches, she steadied herself on the edge of the bed. Cocking her head, she stared at the shoe. It wasn’t hers.

The foot was inching out from under the bed.

###

Country-House Flash by Anne Goodwin

The Belgian hadn’t summoned us to the library for cucumber sandwiches. Too late for tea and too early for cocktails; besides, who would serve them? The diminutive detective insisted on everyone’s attendance so, as the houseguests lounged on upholstered chairs, the staff lined the bookshelves, dismayed at their idle hands. Daisy blushed when she saw me, as well she might. My groin tingled, his pompous homily receding to a gentle droning, as I envisaged a repeat performance tonight. Until the words, Sir Alfred, directed every face to mine. The bulge in my trousers. I grabbed the pistol and fired.

###

New challenge posted every Wednesday on Carrot Ranch Communications.  All writers welcome!

Bite Size Memoir No. 3

Mountain Ghosts & Water Babies

Avoiding Water Babies
Lake Tahoe had no fairies, but Water Babies prowled its depths. I know because both grandfathers of K. and L. told me so. One man was Washo, the other Apache—both Native American—and they knew. Later, when showing K.’s grandfather a tiny pink arrowhead I found, he squinted, held it between his big thumb and forefinger, and named it a bird-point. It’s an arrowhead for shooting waterfowl. Then he asked me where I found it. I was always scrounging such things, gawking for them from the back of my bay horse, Captain. When I told him where—above the spit of forested, boulder-strewn land between two mountain creeks—he shook his head and warned me to be careful there. That’s where the Water Babies live. I remember feeling afraid and avoiding the dangerous currents that melded as the two creeks combined. He knew people had drowned there. And I was never one of them.

 

I Remember Mountain Ghosts:

  1. The girl buried in the old cemetery overgrown with gnarly sagebrush that hid toppled markers.
  2. The black cat crouched on top of a white marker the night C. and I crept up to the cemetery with her dad’s flashlight that died when we arrived.
  3. The Tommy Knockers who still noisily mined the shafts they had blasted from bedrock despite the fact they had died long ago beneath the granite, their bodies never recovered.
  4. The couple who died in their car that careened over Cadillac Curve where the car now rusts.
  5. Crazy old Mrs. Chalmers who drove her wagon to town every day the stage arrived, seeking her Englishman who never returned to her or the remote mountain mansion he built her.
  6. Jake Marklee who was shot for his land or maybe his toll-bridge or for many other imagined reason that still haunt my imagination.
  7. The unknown Washo elders buried in unmarked, sunken graves in a patch of forest fenced off with barbed wire so old the Jeffry pines had buried the wire deep in the bark.
  8. The two blind Washo sisters who lived in a wikiup above town and hoarded old buttons that scattered down the rocky hillside as a century of snows came and went.
  9. The man who gave name to Hangman’s Bridge over the turbulent East Fork of the Carson River.
  10. The phantom buildings of Silver Mountain City that I could see if I squinted just right even though it was nothing but an empty flat of sagebrush and Jeffry pines to adult eyes.

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Join the flash fun at Lisa Reiter’s “Bite Size Memoir” challenge. Already she is onto challenge number three. Reading other flash memories niggles at buried memories of my own. And this surprises me. It’s like word associations–Lisa writes about faeries and I think about water babies; she writes about magic and I think of old ghosts. I like the detail dredging that is going on in my memory bog, but it takes reading as much as writing to pull it off. What will my memories remind you of?

 

Rhubarb Cake

Recipes From the RanchSince being off-pond nearly three weeks, I’m hungry. Hungry for the view of the pond from my apple tree, hungry for the first fruits of my garden, hungry for writing.

Yet, I’ve been filled. Filled with the love a Mum has for her children no matter how old they are or what they are doing. It’s easy to say I’m proud of them when they’re making terrific leaps in life. But I’ve also been here long enough to understand that they struggle, too. We all do.

Life is like a rhubarb season. Rhubarb grows where planted, but comes into fruitfulness slowly, within it’s own timing. Rhubarb has amazing fruit, but toxic leaves. Life is like that, too–the good intertwines with the bad.

So we bake cake! Another metaphor for life–make something tasty out of it.

Rhubarb Snack Cake

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups fresh rhubarb stalks

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. If you have a Kitchen Aid like I do (and yes, I brought it with me when I drove over to Montana) just toss all the ingredients except the rhubarb into the mixer and mix until creamy and smooth. That’s the easy buckaroo way. My son-in-law is a talented baker and would first cream the butter, then add the sugar, wet ingredients and finally the dry ingredients. But we both agree on folding the chopped rhubarb in at the last. Pour the mixture into a 9” x 13” baking pan and bake for about 45 minutes. Give it the finger-press-test: gently press a fingertip to the middle of the cake. If it leaves no indentation, then it is done. Set on a rack to cool.

The following is a snack cake (no frosting needed). Easy, tasty and fulfilling!

Rhubarb Cake (2)