Mini-cup of coffee for WriMos: Day 4

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionToday’s thought is don’t stop reading.

If you study for your writing–research or similar genre–set those books aside. Let what you’ve read for study work its way into your writing naturally. But do read. Read for fun. Recall what it is that you love in a good book. Engage with a good story, a good laugh or a good classic.

On Tuesdays, I compile the responses from last week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. So these 99-word stories about ruts are my mini-offereings to WriMos to take a break and read.

For a feel-good break, I suggest Nano num-nums with fellow WriMo and Rough Writer, Geoff Le Pard. He’s published his first book which was a NaNoWriMo project, and is working on the sequel this month. How’s that for inspiration!

What do you read when you are doing NaNoWriMo?


Ed and Edna by Larry LaForge

Ed pays the bills. Edna cooks. They’ve never discussed it, but it’s been that way for 43 years.

Except one time.

Edna wanted to hide the huge bill from Watkin’s Department Store. She intercepted the mail, plucked the bill, and went online to pay it. Edna managed to transmit $2,414.00 electronically to cover the $241.40 bill.

Ed decided to broil himself a chicken. He set the oven to 500 degrees, plopped it in, closed the oven door, and left. The smoke alarm woke him up.

They quickly returned to their rut — or groove.

Ed pays the bills. Edna cooks.

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


George by Anne Goodwin

Irene slid the prospectus across the table. “Anything you fancy?”

George eyed the whitewashed villas bathed in sunshine. “You’ll leave Eric for me?”

“It’s what we planned. Once you were retired and my kids had left home.”

“Nobody mentioned moving to Spain,” said George.

“Why not? The heat would do wonders for your arthritis,” said Irene.

“And everything’s so cheap there. How much would you get for this place?”

“I can’t sell The Willows. I’ve lived here all my life.”

Irene sighed. “You’re not still expecting your sister to come back, are you? It must be over fifty years.”


You can read her other two character flashes at Annectdotal. Anne Goodwin is working on her Not Quite NaNo project.


No Way Out Part Five – Breathe by Sherri Matthews

Bill buried his head in his hands as the doctor uttered just five words: “Joey’s operation was a success.”

By early dawn and back home, Bill retrieved his phone from the bin where he had dumped it the day before. So many missed calls from a lifetime ago…

He saw it then: the repossession letter on the kitchen table. Bill’s upper lip curled as he grabbed the letter and his lighter. Outside in his back garden, sparks flew up into the dawn-lit sky as he watched the letter burn. Now he breathed.

“Not yet you bastards, not yet.”


Gall, Gratitude, and Guilt by Ruchira Khanna

Participant-2014-Square-ButtonKatie bangs the alarm.

Each night she promises herself not to go back to that kind of life, but morning strikes, and the gratitude of being rescued when she was in the dungeon always springs up when she wants to revolt thus faithfully follows the 9am to 9pm orders without any debate.

She drags herself to the routine while relying on her destiny.

Knocks twice on her door, prior to entering, and finds her body pale with no expressions.

Screeches for help!

Moans when her master is declared dead, and guilty when she hears about acquiring 25% of her wealth.


The Form by Sarah Brentyn

Oliver knew precisely when it started.

The nurse had asked him to fill out a form. That was eighteen days ago. Oliver had forgotten to write his street number on the “address” line.

Now there was a sheet with Oliver’s name on it, written in blue ink, tucked in a file cabinet somewhere in that building. And on that paper was a blank spot where there should be blue numbers in Oliver’s handwriting.

He had walked to the office twelve times with his blue pen. They wouldn’t let him behind the check-in window to write “1397” in the space.


Cornered by Charli Mills

Participant-2014-Square-ButtonAnd 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.


Bee Happy by Love Happy Notes

Joseph’s thoughts flurried with worry until a voice quieted them.

‘Isn’t it wonderful to discover something new; a sunset, flower, a way of thinking? Wonders abound! What have you noticed today?’

Joseph searched for the voice. He questioned the sky, sea, fauna and flora.

Speech came from inside a flower.

‘Empty your mind, my friend. You create the brain clutter of worry, regret, and guilt. You needn’t feed them. Set them free. Open your heart. You exist to be happy.’

Mind liberated, unlearning complete, eager to explore the world, Joseph’s new life brought joy to everyone he met.


Out of the Rut by Sarah Unsicker

A deer run approaches the hiking trail. The sign reads “Do Not Stray Off the Path.” Always the rule-follower, Hannah turns onto the natural highway.

The ground is soft, grass bends beneath her feet. She has entered a dim world that smells of earth and evergreen trees. Mushrooms and wildflowers speak peace as dense trees mute hikers’ conversations. Her body settles against a rotting log that gives to her weight. Her lungs expand as she breathes in the forest. The long chore list forgotten, she takes in the pleasure of nature that is carefully cultivated out of modern life.


Blocked In by Pete

Mills stared at the cinderblock wall. He knew each crack and crevice, hell, he’d even counted the pores until the shadows dragged him to sleep. A shake of the head, then back to his notebook. His account needed to be told.
His pen scratched the surface, then stopped. A wail of agony. Mills rose, his old joints aching and popping. That’s the thing about concrete, it just took, never gave.

He never got used to it, the walls or the wails. And still four hundred and thirty one more days until it was over.

If there was anything left.


Walking the Dog by Geoff Le Pard

Participant-2014-Square-ButtonThe rutted path made Mary stumble; she didn’t mind. Cursing the dog was like cursing her father; good for her lungs and it let her think.

She had seen Rupert. He said Peter was her real father which meant he had an affair before the one with Angela, Rupert’s mother. Oddly it didn’t shock Mary; any more than that the woman she called ‘mother’ had accepted Mary as her own.

Mary imagined her mother’s reaction: calm, practical, no emotion; nothing to upset her ordered existence. Mary was different. She kicked the tyre tracks. She would find her real mother.


Rut by Irene Waters

Pamela walked to the clothes line. The rut in the path caused the bag hanging off her waist to bang her hip with each lopsided step.

“You’ve got to stop doing it.”

“No. I don’t want to.”

“It’s not healthy.”


“No habit is healthy if you can’t stop doing it. I’m surprised the authorities let you do it in the first place.”

“Legal precedent. They had no choice. Bess Throckmorten did it. Twenty years she carried Sir Walter’s head. Carried it ’til the day she died.”

“That wasn’t the only rut Bess had. She was jailed for the other.”


NaNoWriMo Day 4 Update:

Goodbye Sarah Shull of my flash fiction. You have led me to your story and no longer will I toy with who you are in 99 words. Never did I suspect that the biggest project I would take on as a writer would evolve from 99-word explorations. Tomorrow I’ll post the next Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge and explain how consistent craft practice led to a break-thru moment as a writer.

Hello Sarah Shull of NaNoWriMo 2014. Today’s Word Count: 2,030

Excerpt (and yes, it’s based on the “cornered” flash fiction):

The scrape of brake on iron-clad wheels and shouts of “Whoa!” signaled the arrival of yet the third wagon train. Dust clogged the air outside the toll cabin with a throat-choking fog. Sarah kept the curtain snugly pinned to reduce the permeating dust that still seeped into the dark room. It was cool inside despite the heat of day. Before stepping outside, she smoothed back her dark hair, checked the hairpins in her bun and put on a sun bonnet of deep blue calico with emerald green hexagons outlined in white.

A man shouted from outside, “In the cabin, ho!”

First she would need to dampen a small patch of hankie, the material neatly matched her bonnet, so as to have it to breathe through if the dust was too thick or to wipe her face to keep it clean.

Another shout of “Ho,” came from outside.

Sarah shook her hips as she stood to settle her skirt and petticoats. She took a sip of water from the tin cup next to the water bucket and felt ready to go dicker with the wagon master. Before opening the door, someone from outside pounded heavily. She frowned at the ungentlemanly haste of the knocking. While she didn’t share Cob’s view entirely regarding the Yankees, they were an impatient lot.

Bright sunlight cut through the dust to illuminate a man on horseback as Sarah opened the heavy cabin door. “Excuse me, Sir. Kindly back your horse off my steps.”

The man wore a duster and had a kerchief of red tied around his neck. It must have served as a mask because his mustache and chin seemed cleaner than the white dirt that paled around his eyes and coated his cheeks like pastry flour. A large round hat shadowed his dusty face but didn’t hide the surprise at seeing Sarah. By now she was used to the looks wagon masters gave her. If any looked too hard or too long they often met a second surprise—Cob’s fists.

Reining his horse back, the dusty animal tucked his nose and stepped back off of the river rock flagstones Cob had paved at the entrance to the toll cabin. He took off his hat. “Sorry about that, Ma’am. Wasn’t expecting a woman.”

Sarah stood on the flagstones and glanced up the line of wagons. This would be a good day for collecting coin. “How many wagons in your party, Sir?”

“About that. Since when has Rock Creek crossing required a toll?” She could see that he was angry, but kept his words soft. He didn’t sound Yankee or Carolinian. So many people had passed through here since she and Cob took over the way station by the first of April, that she was still hearing the variances of place upon speaking.

“Mr. David McCanles, owner of this way station, built a toll bridge in April this year of our Lord, 1859.”

“What kind of cod-head would go and do that?” He snapped his hat against his thigh, dust rising from it and spooking his horse.

Sarah could hear Cob down the knoll among the campers who had purchased space on the broad flat for the coming evening. As loud as his voice was booming, he must be expounding his views to some soul who shared a different idea. She’d have to handle this wagon master on her own. It was not unlike dealing with customers at her father’s store once Mr. Shull had cut off their credit. She was practiced in disgruntled men. It was the disgruntled women who put up the greater fuss. “50 cents per wagon, Sir.”


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