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Monthly Archives: October 2014

October 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionPeek behind every door.

When you research, you find lots of doors. Some don’t look inviting. Some lead to narrow halls of thinking. Some are too far-fetched. And some doors have already been so thoroughly discussed it doesn’t warrant walking through.

What happens when historians review a single event, over and over, is that ruts appear. It’s kind of like the Oregon Trail itself, or rather, what remains of it. So many heavy wagons trundled across the prairie that the trail is compressed two to three feet below the grassy topsoil. It remains so compacted that nothing grows.

Ruts can occur in thinking, too. And that’s the case with what happened on the day of July 12, 1861 at Rock Creek, Nebraska. We know that three men died by gunshot that day. But history has formed ruts going over the incident and camping out on one idea or another. Soon, no one traveled outside the ruts, only regurgitating what someone else already wrote: Cob was a bully; Hickok saved the day; Rock Creek was owned by the Pony Express.

As a historian, I’ve opened every door (and some I shut quickly, such as the Nichols story that is the equivalent to published twaddle about Elvis sightings). But as a fiction writer I asked, what if…

Flash fiction has allowed me to play with those questions. I wondered, what if Cob was the bully that every historian seems to think he was. Then I wondered if Sarah was capable of setting him up to commit a crime as sheriff (in capacity of tax collector). I wondered how his father felt, his wife, his son, his brother. These are all questions not found in history books, so I wrote to explore plausible answers.

But I found the poetry that Cob’s father wrote and that gave me a glimpse through one door. I discovered that the alleged fraud in NC was never substantiated. I looked in one door that told several stories of Cob “punishing people,” and I compared it to what I found behind another door that told how Cob organized settlers into adjudicating communal law in the territory.

Suddenly, I was seeing different paths outside of the ruts. And really, writing flash fiction has helped me explore these paths and what hid behind doors. Exploration led to insight. And it only took 99 words at a time to figure out the road to a novel based on historical sources. I’ll not be writing in the ruts.

While I’m excited for this journey–I’ll start drafting November 1, using NaNoWriMo as a tool–I’m also nervous. New doors, new paths; where will it all lead? It will certainly be an adventure!

So ruts, it is. You can get stuck in the rut of routine (or your character can). How does he/she or how do you break free? Or the rut can be the focus. What does it look like, feel like and how can it be described? The rut can be an object, like a rut in the path that trips the star cross-country runner.

October 29, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rut. The rut can be a habit, a circuit or a furrow in a road. It can be what causes the crisis, tension or the need to change. And if your writing feels stuck in a rut, use the flash fiction to do something radical. Who knows what is lurking behind the doors of your imagination!

Respond by November 4 to be included in the weekly compilation.

Cornered by Charli Mills

And still the flow of wagons continued. By day, Sarah took coins from teamsters for crossing Cob’s toll bridge and at night she tallied the income. Cob was amassing a fortune in dimes and silver half-dollars. He’d stop by when he wasn’t building. Last week it was a hay barn for the stage coach company that agreed to make Rock Creek their stop, and this week is was a cabin for the schoolteacher he hired. It all pounded against Sarah–the busy days, the lonely nights. She felt as cornered as the iron-clad wheels that rolled down rutted tracks.

###

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.

Creepy Tales of Few Words

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionPlaces seem to offer the strongest sense of creepiness–a haunted house, a pool, an empty hospital, a closet, a dark corridor, a graveyard. Characters perceive the things that disturb us. They fail to see in the dark, they feel the ominous approach to the weather, they hear voices, they see the familiar where it doesn’t belong.

Just in time for Halloween, creepy stories to unnerve us–if you dare to read further. Based on the October 22, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a creepy story.

Trick or Tweet by Larry LaForge

“Remember to say Thank You.”

Mom stood at the street as Jennifer, age 8, walked down the long driveway to #514. The front porch lights were on, but the isolated dead end loomed eerily.

Mom watched carefully as Jennifer timidly approached the front door and rang the bell. Jennifer waited, looking back to see Mom wave.

A sudden buzz caused Mom to glance at her cell phone. Looking up, she was horrified.

Lights off. Total darkness. Where’s Jennifer?

The phone buzzed again. Mom panicked as she read the emergency tweet from the local police:

#HalloweenUpdate Avoid 514 Shadow Lane.

*****
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine along with a sequel.

###

Foreclosed by Pete

The New England couple had texted that they were running late. Hank Somersby straightened the battered For Sale sign and then stalked the grounds of the old Victorian. He rehearsed the old tale about General Jubal Early and the desk in the attic. Of course they’d want to know all about the girl and the hanging, so Hank practiced his chuckle. Just an old southern fable.

Leaves scraped along the sleepy street, like skeletons of summer. Hank felt a shiver tugging at his arm. He turned, gasping as he peered through the rippled glass window.

The desk was forgotten.

###

The Strange Weather by Ruchira Khanna

The wind was hustling furiously and made her windows bang loudly.

“Aha! this storm can make anyone create wrinkles out of fear” Myla chuckled as she was quickly closing the framework with panes.

Just when everything was securely tight, there was peace everywhere.

She was amazed at the intense weather and went outside to check upon the skies.

Just then a strong lightning fell upon her; she screamed in panic as she ran to duck under the roof.

She called upon her next door friend, who was surprised at her status report, cause she was singing in the rain.

###

Unmarked Graves by Charli Mills

Sarah pushed open the heavy wooden door of the cabin. Behind her the baby wailed and Mary snarled, “I hope the Pawnees scalp you!”

Tears flowed and she twisted her ankle in the deep wagon ruts of the hard packed road. She followed a slight trail through the tall grass turned autumn red. It ended at the two graves marked only by letterless river rocks. Sarah sat by Billy’s grave and cried. Not for Billy, the orphan from North Carolina who only lived two weeks in this Nebraska hell.

Mary wanted her dead and Cob fiddled across the creek.

###

The Closet by Sarah Brentyn

She hadn’t cried. Not when she got the phone call. Not at the funeral. But, in sifting through her grandfather’s belongings, she broke.

Her job was the closet—sorting clothes and shoes. It was torture. She crawled inside and slid the door shut.

In the darkness, she hugged a plaid flannel shirt. “I couldn’t find it. I’m sorry.”

Her fingers brushed the now-empty floor. The book was supposed to be here.

She smelled the familiar mix of spices and old paper. Smiling for the first time in weeks, she opened the cover and heard her grandfather’s voice: “Kill him…”

###

Creepy Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

Gwendolyn’s smirk at the lych gate, convinced me the mirror had lied. The dye had turned my hair not burnished copper, but green-tinged straw. Even with my tresses pinned up beneath my Sunday hat, I couldn’t show myself in church.

I fled to the graveyard, seeking the final resting place of the mother I’d never known. I thought the strange green lights must be Gwendolyn and her cronies come to taunt me until a ghoulish figure emerged from behind a tombstone, a tangle of snakes about her head. With a bony finger she beckoned me: “Daughter, what beautiful hair!”

###

Reincarnation by Geoff Le Pard

‘A puppy?’

‘Penny needs cheering up. She’s been miserable since Scotland.’

‘My fault?’

Paul touched his wife quickly. ‘Course not. But we did promise.’

Mary nodded. For sure they needed to do something. ‘Does he have a name?’

‘Penny can choose.’

*

‘He’s mine? Wow!’

‘You can name him.’

Penny said immediately. ‘Peter. Look, he has grandpa’s eyebrows.’

Mary stared. It was true. They were just like her late father’s. The dog held her gaze and winked. No-one else noticed. Mary spoke slowly. ‘When did you say he was born?’

‘Four months ago.’

Mary nodded. When her father died.

###

Merlin in Italy, Still by Tally Pendragon

The road is a little bumpy and in need of repair but peasants, I’ve seen, keep the verges clear of overgrown vegetation. Their interests vested, I would suppose, in the stopping of traffic in its various forms to leave offerings at the many mausolea and shrines along the way, which no doubt fatten their meagre income a degree or two above starvation. Who are they robbing? The dead have no need of sacrificial beasts, cooked or otherwise, or libations, and the life-giving force of a meal is a far more potent spirit when measured against their own death.

###

For Sale by Amber Prince

“This house is great!”

I smiled at my husband as he awed over the latest finding from our realtor. Our feet crunched on the straw-like grass; it was as if the house had sucked the life out of the yard.

It wasn’t easy, but I ignored the pungent smells, smiling like a lunatic, as we roamed through each room. I pretended to listen to them drone on about location, schools….

There was a perk. The pool.

It didn’t take much, a brick to his head. Holding her down wasn’t easy, but I managed.

The house was great after all.

###

No Way Out Part Four: The Grave by Sherri Matthews

Bill lurched backwards as disbelief spewed down on him like a black-as-death oil slick.

“Oh god…not Joey…”

Laura grabbed Bill’s arm.

“Someone knocked him off his bike, we’ve got to get to the hospital now… c’mon!”

Bill remembered the dead-eyed boy who haunted his dreams. Panic kicked his chest as he climbed into Laura’s car: he thought his days weeping at his son’s grave were over, with nothing left to lose.

At the hospital, fear leached from his brother’s broken body. Only the beep, beep, beep of the heart monitor played to the sick symphony of Bill’s long nightmare.

###

Creepy by Irene Waters

“Come on,” the two nurses begged Jake. “We’re bored. It’ll be fun.”

“Okay”. Reluctantly he submitted to their plan.

Lying on the trolley, wrapped in a shroud, he heard them make the intensive care unit look as though recent action had taken place. He heard the swing doors open.

“Can you take the patient to the morgue Nurse? We have a lot of work to do here.”

“Yes sister.”

Jake felt the trolley rolling. Hearing the lift doors open, he sat.

The nurse screamed.

Hours later, the morgue doors opened, the trolley rolled in. No longer would Jake sit.

###

New prompt Wednesday. All writers welcome to join in!

Flash or Mystery?

Flash or Mystery?

Bite Size Memoir: Bad Hair Day

If you are a child of the late 70s and early 80s then you must have photographic evidence of a bad hair day. I have evidence of ferociously faulty fashion sense induced by mixed media influences. (This photo is what you get when you watch Little House on the Prairie and Charlie’s Angels while also reading Tiger Beat and ordering clothes from Sears.)

Beyond the hair, note my retro-pioneer gingham and glasses so large as to dent my cheeks when I attempted a smile.

Thank you Lisa Reiter for resurrecting this photo from its hidden gloom in my hope chest. You can join me and other writers in linking up with her Bite Size Memoir on her blog, Sharing the Story.

Bad Hair Year: 1980 by Charli Mills

The Lesser Known Fawcet/Ingalls Flair of 1980

Fickle fringes do not always shape up like in the movies. In this school photo my tresses are a little bit Farrah Fawcett; a little bit Laura Ingalls. What I remember clearly was my frustration with the curling iron and why it didn’t “work.”

My hair refused to hold a curl. The bangs alone took multiple crimps with a hot iron and enough AquaNet hairspray to be guilty of at least one thin spot in the ozone. No matter how many times I curled the longer sides into a hot coil, they brushed out into uncooperative waves.

Note to my 13-year-old self: you weren’t supposed to brush the curls.

What makes me chuckle is the flair I added, completely of my own creation. Fashion magazines, you did not totally rule me! Yep, that side braid was 100 percent my idea. Why it didn’t catch on in Hollywood is beyond me.

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Housekeeping

0911141300It’s cold and rainy, and I’d like nothing more than to curl up with a good book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. Yet, that space in between things–more formally termed transition–beckons me to do some much needed housekeeping.

My desk is cluttered; my storyboard needs erasing and I have neglected my social blog duties.

Desk and storyboard can be cleansed with the same cloth. Before I begin drafting the new novel, I need to cleanly cut the threads from writing the last. Publication, promotion–those are next steps outside the realm of writing. It’s like project management of multiple projects at different phases.

Those good books I want to curl up with include ones by people I know, writers I follow because I like their style, or sense of wonder, of the world, of humor. My list  includes multiple genres and books written by the Congress of Rough Writers and those who engage between blogs I read:

  1. Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle by Geoff Le Pard (UK and US versions)
  2. On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness by Lori Schafer (pre-order)
  3. The Adventures of Alex and Angelo: The Mystery of the Missing Iguana by Ruchira Khanna (Kindle version which I’ve read to my grandnephews)
  4. Unbound by Georgia Bell (US version)
  5. This Girl Climbs Trees by Ellen Mulholland (US version)

Lately, I have a growing interest in YA because my recent queries for my first yet-unrepresented novel, Miracle of Ducks, clearly shows that agents and publishers are looking for YA and Middle School books. It makes sense if you look at the over-saturated book market because education pushes literacy and literacy drives book sales in those genres.

Over saturation is a term I know well. As a former marketer of a natural food store in the Twin Cities, I faced an over-saturated grocery market year after year. It taught me to have product that customers value, an engaging brand and relationships that create synergy.

Carrot Ranch is a place to build a dynamic literary community of writers and readers. We practice craft, read each other’s writing and discuss process and ideas. It’s an open-ended place that fosters friendly collaboration without any obligations. Writers are free to post fiction, link to blogs and join (or not) the conversations.

You might not think that collaboration among writers is important to your career or aspirations as an author, but consider others who say that it has value:

  1. Writing coach, Daphne Gray Grant, writes about the Surprising Value in Collaboration on her blog. Among her reasons (generating ideas, finding good reads and sharing editing duties) she concludes that: “Life is about collaboration. And writing is about life. They’re inextricably linked.”
  2. The Gallup Strengths Center reports: “A key component to strengths success is knowing the talents of those around you and how they factor into your own talents.” Writers can grow and learn from other writers.
  3. After contributing to a campaign to raise funds for NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program, I received this inspiring message from Grant Faulkner, Executive Director: “The gift of writing shouldn’t be closed within one; it should foster a spirit of benevolent connection…”

Recently, Sarah Brentyn, Rough Writer and Chief Navigator of the newly-minted WP blog Lemon Shark, nominated me for #authoryes on Twitter. It recognizes and honors the supportive relationship between authors and bloggers. Again, this harkens to friendly collaboration. It was a pleasant validation that a supportive environment matters.

Collaboration can take on more, of course–we have talented writers, a growing pool of 99-word flash and the ability to make it into something more. We could collaborate on an annual Rough Writer anthology, create a fun workbook for other writing groups or launch a digital magazine. Really, it’s as expansive as the ideas, vision and participation of the group.

And like #authoryes and collaborative inspirations beyond shared craft and process, blog awards circulate in a hand-shake way to meet others and show respect. The blog-o-sphere is kind of like one big party with multiple rooms and sometimes we try to find our way to the right room by saying, “Hey, I like your place, what places do you like?”

Receiving the award baton is a flush of “aw, shucks, thanks” followed by a moment of “oh, darn, what do I do now?” Bloggers I greatly admire have recently clipped the ties that oblige with thought-provoking (and even funny) posts on these awards and other time-distractions for writers. Paula Reed Nancarrow addresses, Blogligations: Breaking the Blog Award Chain and offers 10 Ways to Just Say No to Blog Awards. Memoirist, Lisa Reiter, posts about putting more blank space back into her schedule by reducing her time online in Ask a Busy Woman.

Collaboration is time I’m willing to give. #MondayBlogs is a great way to share, meet and greet, and build platform. I also use it to promote the Rough Writers as my gift to the collaborators willing to write flash, discuss in the comments and RT. Beyond the Rough Writers, I actually read all the posts that I RT on Mondays, and like Lisa Reiter advises, it’s a way to focus on an “admin day” online. That way I stay up on my favorite blogs, pass around the flash and feel connected in a constructive way that feeds my own writing goals.

So back to housecleaning. Some fabulous bloggers have gifted me the award baton and I’m going to use this space to dust off my belated gratitude. And I’m going to clip those ties that oblige. I’ve already rambled long enough and I’m not going to answer any questions and risk rambling even more. I’m going to take huge liberties with all rules.

I’m going to tell you why I think the nominators are tops in my world, link to the original award posts and forgo the upload space for icons. You’ll find plenty of links to bloggers that inspire me within this post, and I’ll continue to RT them on Twitter. This is my way to sweep the room clean so I can move on (with these awesome bloggers) to pending writing things, give a nod to collaboration and be as supportive as I can within the spirit of these awards.

Gratitude:

Anne Goodwin and Geoff Le Pard spare me the expense of subscribing to The New Yorker. Seriously. Anne is by far the best book reviewer I follow because she studies modern literary fiction as a writer so she addresses process issues, as much as topic and readability. Geoff is my UK travel agent and his eclectic writing style extends from his blog into his book; far more entertaining than anything The New Yorker could print and less pretentious. Both illicit great discussions on their blogs, and with their recent publishing success, I’m far more inspired by any award they could bestow.

Lisa Reiter has touched me deeply with the Spreading Butterfly Light Award. It reflects my vision to spread light through writing into truth. More so than this award, Lisa has fostered that vision by creating a supportive environment for memoir-writing. Through her blog Sharing the Story, I’ve met other amazing memorists who are also Rough Writers: Irene Waters and Sherri Matthews. I think of these three writers, their blogs and writing and I see a field of butterflies.

Along with a clever post on tennis, Sherri Matthews lent me a suitcase of awards from her Summerhouse. I know that one day I will share a glass of Prosecco with her and see the “view.” We have too many uncanny coincidences to not be fated to meet in person. We will have so much to talk about (we already do!) and that day will be the best award from the Summerhouse.

Georgia Bell and Ellen Mulholland pop over to the Ranch on occasion and get feisty or climb trees, delighting us with their sleek 99-words. These Rough Writers are savvy in the book industry, well-published and fun on the page. They both have classy blogs and a spirited sense of humor. I may one day ask for YA advice and their experience will be reward enough, but chuffed (the good definition) to be included in their awards.

Technically, Ellen recognized Elmira Pond, and so has Gina Stoneheart, another published author with a light-spreading, thought-provoking, anti-bullying blog. In fact, she has a new blog and it looks fabulous! Both bloggers paid recognition to Elmira Pond Spotter, my country-living, bear-fearing, horse-celebrating, bird-nerding online journal. I had aspirations to make it into “something” because of this recognition, but it works best to just let me wander the pond, so I’ll post my gratitude here and say thanks for checking on my birds.

Norah Colvin, has an educational calling. Anne Goodwin wrote in her award post that Norah is the teacher we wished we had. Norah is my teacher, nonetheless. She’s so passionate about education and such an advocate for children, I always learn something from her posts. As a Rough Writer, Norah shows great imagination in both the creativity of her responses as well as how she ties fiction into her mission. She’s also the nicest blogger I’ve ever met on the page.

For the Love of  blogger, Amber Prince, offers a refreshing look at falling in love with fiction. I remember feeling that way–enthralled and unsure, wanting time and having no time. When I follow my favorite bloggers and realize that they still have families at home, children to chase, spouses to pay attention to, I marvel that they blog at all. Let alone have time to bestow awards. But read Amber’s post–she handles it succinctly, yet with grace. That she finds time to be a Rough Writer is the best award.

Roz and Patty Write one lovely blog. They surprised me on Twitter with an award, but I’m more fascinated by their collaborative writing. They make writing collaboration look fun and inviting. Thank you Roz and Patty! I invite you to co-write a 99-word flash fiction sometime in the future.

Looking over my list of bloggers to whom I’m grateful for the recognition, I feel a bit sheepish that I took so long to say thanks. But you can also see how much effort would go into crafting individual posts, answering questions, promoting rules and finding yet more bloggers to bequeath the award baton. The house is officially clean (I’m working on the desk) and the baton stops here.

Moving forward, I’d love to hear your ideas for collaboration. Blog hops, book tours, guest posts and other meaningful ways to connect are always welcome. But before my schedule gets busy again, I’m going to take time for that cuppa and finish my good reads.

Remember–the best way to recognize a blogger you follow and who is an author is to buy his or her book and offer a review (Good Reads, Amazon or on your blog).

October 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

Hi. My name is Charli. And I like to hang out in cemeteries.

It sounds like the opening to some Anonymous Group I should belong to, but the truth is I don’t want to quit. For me, it’s about history and discovery. Reading a cemetery is like reading an historical record of a family or community.

I’ve stood in family graveyards where blood of my blood is buried, feeling a strange connection to people long dead before I was ever born. I’ve been to high-desert ghost towns in Nevada, marveling over the marble monuments to those who dared to seek fortunes in remote places. The Radio Geek, now living on the upper peninsula of Michigan, posts photos of old cemeteries to lure me in to visiting.

When I lived in Minnesota, I researched the Hub’s New England family who helped settle the Midwest. I was able to locate the unmarked graves of children lost to the Mills family during times of sickness, Civil War and the Dakota Uprising. Through years of research, I finally found the resting place for a Mills black sheep, reuniting a lost line.

As if my own family research wasn’t enough, I found other excuses to haunt cemeteries. I recorded the names of “lost wives;” the young women who died in childbirth in Dakota County before the 1900s. I looked up the history of every family buried in an old Irish-settlers cemetery near my suburban home.

At my height of cemetery-obsession, I volunteered to do grave look-ups for an organization called, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. My kids often went with me, and they still tease me about trying to find abandoned cemeteries by locating “cemetery trees.” It’s true; I can spot an old cemetery a mile away.

Earlier this month I got to kneel at Cob’s grave. After Hickok shot him, James Gordon and James Woods, Cob was buried unceremoniously in a common pine box with Woods on the hill behind Rock Creek Station. When the railroad cut a track through the hill, their box was relocated to the Fairbury Cemetery. I wrote about my impression of finding Mary’s grave next to Cob’s over on Elmira Pond Spotter.

Sometimes, creepy and unexplained things have happen when I’ve been researching cemeteries. Since Halloween is next week, I thought I’d share with you a creepy photograph.

DSC_0175

This is from the Fairbury Cemetery, looking west from Cob McCanles’s grave. I didn’t notice anything odd while we were there, but these green lights appeared when I was scanning my photos on my SLR Nikon D80. Creepy, but I figured it was just a sun flare or reflection since I was shooting at the sunset through the trees and markers. But it only got creepier when I enlarged the photo.

DSC_0175 - Copy

I dare you to click on the photo. Full-sized, you’ll see it’s a luminous green fog. What the heck? It reminds me of ectoplasm from Ghostbusters! Pretty creepy and not at all why I hang out in cemeteries.

So I returned to collecting historical data. The next day, we stopped at the Fairbury Cemetery on the way to Rock Creek Station, and I took photographs of the graves near the green fog. Here are a few ghostly suspects and bare-bones data that I found in Census records:

Christiana Sigsworth and Henry Beal. A ship’s log for the Hindao records that Henry, a carpenter by trade, left Southampton, England 24 Jun 1876, bound for Nebraska. Immigration records show that Henry arrived earlier in 1871 and Christiana in 1873, the same year they married. Both were from England and are recorded as living in Fairbury by 1880. Nothing unusual other than Christiana was seven years older than Henry, and that she was 43 years old when they married. She had her two sons prior to Mr. Beal. In 1880 one son is living with them and his last name is Beal. The name Sigsworth on the gravestone did not turn up a single clue. Ghostly or otherwise.

DSC_0182

Only a few tantalizing hints from the Beals–her headstone reads, “Mother” and his simply reads, “H.B.” Her name is etched in granite as Sigsworth. Was that her previous married name or maiden name? Why list is at all? Other than the 1880 Census, I can find no trace of Mrs. Beal’s sons, yet  in 1900 she claims two have had two births and two living children. Is that enough to be a source of unrest that manifests as green fog? Who knows!

By now you know I’ll be wanting creepy stories from you this week.

October 22, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a creepy story. It can be prompted by the green fog in the photo, an imaginative idea about the Beals or take place in a cemetery. If other creepy ideas take hold, go for it! We’ll all shudder and be in the mood for Halloween–or grateful for its passing.

Respond by October 28 to be included in the weekly compilation.

Unmarked Graves by Charli Mills

Sarah pushed open the heavy wooden door of the cabin. Behind her the baby wailed and Mary snarled, “I hope the Pawnees scalp you!”

Tears flowed and she twisted her ankle in the deep wagon ruts of the hard packed road. She followed a slight trail through the tall grass turned autumn red. It ended at the two graves marked only by letterless river rocks. Sarah sat by Billy’s grave and cried. Not for Billy, the orphan from North Carolina who only lived two weeks in this Nebraska hell.

Mary wanted her dead and Cob fiddled across the creek.

###

The Unmarked Graves of Rock Creek

The Unmarked Graves of Rock Creek

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.

Expectations

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionHaving expectations is universal. Mothers expect their daughters to be cherished; a single man expects to find a partner; a partner expects more help with the children. Beyond life-cycle expectations, people have aspirations–for needs like medicine or wants like a dream contract.

Within the realm of expectations the writers explored the ones met or unmet, great or small. It’s a tool for creating tension, developing plot or deepening a character. The following 99-word stories are based on the October 15, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that has an expectation met or missed.

No Way Out Part Three: Godsend by Sherri Mathews

“Bill! Let me in…!”

Laura’s frantic knocking on the front door shattered Bill’s silence. What the…? Panic struck as he grabbed the hose, throwing it back behind the freezer while kicking the scattered toys out of view.

“Bi i i i i i i l…..” screamed Laura. She stopped in stunned silence to the creak of the garage door as it opened and Bill walked out. Turning on her heels, she rushed over.

“Thank god! I’ve been trying to call you, why didn’t you pick up…?”

“I’ve…Laura… there’s something …”

“What…? It’s Joey, you have to come, it’s bad…”

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Expectations by Georgia Bell

She waited. She was always waiting for him in some way. Her fingers trailed through the puddle of spilled coffee. She tried not to look at the door as she shuffled through his words in her mind, words that she repeated back to herself, sometimes for reassurance, sometimes as penance. Pushing her phone away she focused on the street, not wanting to watch the minutes pass, or to acknowledge what became clearer each day. Her father had been right about that. Sometimes the only thing you got to walk away with was your disappointment and sometimes, that was lucky.

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A Mother’s Hope by Sarah Brentyn

“Let me help you with that,” her mother smiled. She clasped the teardrop pendant around her daughter’s neck. “You look…beautiful.”

Hope played with the sapphire that now hung just above the neckline of her gown. “Thank you, Momma. For this,” she held up the necklace, “for so pretty dress and helping my hair get curls. I never thought me! Me! I could go to this big dance!” Hope grabbed her mother’s hand and pulled her downstairs where they waited for Hope’s prom date together.

He never came. After Hope fell asleep, a little after ten, her mother finally cried.

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Stood Up by Sarah Unsicker

Gregory arrived at 3 minutes past the hour, just late enough to make her wonder. He rang the doorbell and waited.

Nothing.

He knocked on the door. He envisioned holding her pale hands with the shiny crimson fingernails. Gregory wondered about women who dressed modestly, yet their fingernails shone like fire engines. What secret was trying to bleed its way out of her?

Grandmother Murray peered out the curtained window. “Are you looking for Jane? She left to visit her brother. About an hour ago, I’d say.”

Gregory checked his calendar. He was three hours and four minutes late.

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Eliza Fraser by Irene waters

She was a bad omen, the men said when she came on board heavy with child. She’d left her children to look after the ill captain, her husband. Their ship sunk, holed by coral. She gave birth in the long-boat. The baby cried. She saw it drown. She saw her husband speared and watched him slowly die. She felt alone despite the goodness of the aboriginal women. She longed to join their chatter. She ran into the bush to get away, encountering the corroboree of near naked men. She stared, horrified by her attraction. Her husband and child just dead.

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Expectations Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

She was a handsome child, but what were looks when she’d never see her own face reflected in the glass? Those shell-like ears so completely blocked she’d never hear her own screams? Locked in darkness and confusion, our daughter grew wilder with each passing year.

We’d planned to commit her to the insane asylum, when Lottie began tracing shapes on her palm. Some strange occult practice, we thought, and made to lead the child away. But these were letters, words, an entire language written on the hand. Our daughter was reborn, civilised. God had granted us a second chance.

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The Mailman by Ruchira Khanna

Looking through the window, she stares at the path wondering if it will arrive as mentioned in the UPS tracking information.

Her feeble eyes look at the volume of the bottle, and she is in a dilemma if she should take the last dose or leave it for a time that is crucial?

Ever since the insurance peaked up the prices for the drugs that she had been taking on a regular basis, she has been relying on the mailman.

Just then the doorbell rang, and that prompted her first to take her scheduled dose before receiving her package.

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Draft Dream by Larry LaForge

Sandy Sapperston expects to become a millionaire tonight. He forfeited his college eligibility for this glorious moment.

Sandy sits backstage as player names are called in the professional basketball draft.

Soon he begins to worry. Then he feels panic as the room clears.

Suddenly he is alone, undrafted, with neither college nor professional options.

A sudden jolt has Sandy sitting straight up in bed. Sweating profusely, he dabs his eyes with the top sheet and gathers himself.

Relieved, he looks skyward with templed hands. “Thank you,” he whispers.

Sandy Sapperston then vows to stay in college for his degree.

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The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.

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The Sideline by Pete

Sitting on a park bench, Mitch watches the war of wills between mother and toddler. She wipes the boy’s shirt clean and his face dry after a spill, her own face bleary but determined. Once he’s brushed off, the boy teeters only a few steps before plopping down, mouth wide and tears streaming.

Mitch thinks back to the early days of their relationship. This same park with these same trees— only two rings ago there was joy and peace and passion. Now, there is…

“Mitch, are you going to just sit there or can you give me a hand?”

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One Step Forward by Geoff Le Pard

Mary sorted through the holiday post; Paul made tea. He said, ‘The lawyers?’

‘No. ‘Rupert.’

‘What’s he want?’

‘He has dropped the court case.’

Paul sighed. ‘Thank God. That’s it then, is it?’

Mary folded the letter carefully. Why did he think everything could be so neatly tied up? Had he forgotten she was adopted? Rupert, her half-brother was her Father’s only natural child.

‘Are you ok, love?’

She let herself be held. ‘I need to know, Paul.’

Paul stroked her hair.

Mary wiped her eyes. ‘We’d better have him round.’

Paul shivered as a cloud crossed the sun.

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End of the Trail by Charli Mills

In the dark Sarah stood at the embankment, brushy and weedy. She’d never seen grass tall enough to hide prairie wolves or fierce Pawnees. The thought should have pushed her back to the safety of the campfires where Cob sawed an Appalachian reel on his violin. She could hear the thud of men’s boots on the hard-packed ground as they danced and whooped. Cob wanted to buy this road ranch and build a toll bridge across the narrow gorge of Rock Creek. Toiling days and rowdy nights on the Oregon Trail was not a fair exchange for North Carolina.

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New prompt on Wednesday. All writers welcome.

Bite Size Memoir: Crazy

Bite Size Memoir for Carrot RanchSeveral years ago I was accused of writing a letter that was mass-distributed to neighbors in a rural district where my father’s parents live. It was about them being pedophiles. Which is true. But I didn’t write the letter.

I made my escape decades ago. You might think me crazy for the amount of therapy I’ve slogged through as a survivor of incest. It’s a disgusting word and I wish it wasn’t a part of my vocabulary. I’ve learned that the healthiest members of such generational sickness are the ones who seek help. Few do.

Instead it comes out in skewed ways. Most likely the letter was written in retaliation from another family member. They’re seriously enmeshed; the generations live in close proximity and they constantly bicker and war over familial power. I moved away. Twice. The first time they drug me back “home.”

The second time they knew I was dangerous—I wasn’t afraid of them anymore. I spoke out.

It took years to heal, lots of therapy, taking parenting classes, building a nucleus of trust within my own family with a supportive spouse and children who grew up without knowing my messed-up relatives. I grieved. Escape is lonely. The “family” protects the abusers.

Crazy, I know.

So, when Lisa Reiter prompted us with her clever Trekkie memoir about a time that was crazy for her, I couldn’t think of anything else but this stupid letter I didn’t write, and me and my cousin getting blamed for it. I wanted a funny story, a light story, but crazy is heavy word on my shoulders.

The good that came out of the letter incident is that it reunited me with my cousin who shared in childhood horrors. She had been blackmailed into staying silent and it broke my heart when she told me that she had to stay away from me after I got out. You leave and they shut the door on you. You have living family, but they are neither loving nor caring. You have parents that breathe but are dead to you. They protect the lies and do everything to discredit you. They tell everyone that you are the crazy one.

It’s beyond crazy and no wonder few make it out.

The letter was my cousin’s ticket to freedom. Because they thought she conspired with me, they let her go. With her own children, she escaped. Years later, she’s now happily married, ranching in eastern Montana and has support. She’s officially listed as crazy. And that’s the sanest place to be where we come from.

Crazy Cousins by Charli Mills

We’re like orphans, clinging to each other for support. My parents refuse to speak to me after we reunited, and her mother disowned her after the letter accusation. Yet they have no problem chatting with the pedophiles that walked us across brimstone as children.

My cousin and I have no family. Neither one of us will return to crazy-making. Bribes of horses no longer work on me. Blackmail no longer ties her. We have boundaries.

She sat in my kitchen a few months ago with her Montana rancher who believes she’s not crazy. We swapped stories as only cousins can do.

“He used to give me silver dollars afterwards,” I told her.

She nodded, and then a huge grin spread across her face. I got the feeling she was going to one-up me. “He used to give me two-dollar bills.”

We laughed uproariously. We survived. And we share this craziness.