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May 27: Flash Fiction

May 27It’s May, and I went to a garden party. Wait…that sounds like a song…

This classic by Ricky Nelson buzzes like pollinators in my head. It’s a gentle, pondering buzz.

“You can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself…”

As selfish as it sounds, there’s wisdom to to these words. Something positive in the refrain, about how to live. And how to live with vibrancy was a lesson  from that garden party.

My neighbor, Horse Wrangler, is good at getting me out of the house. I mean, I do get out of the house. I garden, build bombs, collect rocks, spy on mating birds, go on solo day-cruises, and occasionally have a sour peach ale at the brew-pub.

But Horse Wrangler is social and likes to do people-oriented activities that I often don’t think to do. You might say, she’s a friend out to socialize me. So, she took me to a garden party in Sandpoint.

These are ladies who don’t care to please everybody. Don’t take that amiss. They care about people and causes; they care about flowers and art. I admire that they are a vibrant group of women who have led active and interesting lives without concerning themselves too much with what is expected. Having survived 14 years in the suburbs, it’s refreshing to be around independent and creative thinkers.

Horse wrangler and I are among the few “youngsters” in the group. Some of the ladies are looking at 90 years of not pleasing everybody. They make the average 60-somethings seem like youngsters! Let me tell you a secret to youth — live each day fully and get outside and garden.

We met up at a Sandpoint house I’ve noticed before because of its intricate and decorative shingle-work. Yet what was inside was even more stunning — a full atrium. I don’t know anybody who actually has an atrium in their home. It was so stunning that all I could think of was, “I wonder if she’d invite writers here for day retreats.”

Many of the ladies at the garden party have contractors, architects and yard boys. I have the Hub. He is none of those things, always wriggling out of such duties, although when roped into mowing or tilling he does work shirtless. I’m not sure he’d attract the attention of these experienced garden directors. They have an eye for younger, sleeker male physiques.

We shared lunch, a memorable spread. Our hostess cured her own thin-sliced fresh salmon and served it with limes, capers and fresh garden dill. Dill is something I grow well but hardly use. Another guest brought smoked salmon deviled eggs decorated with tiny edible flowers on a plate of nasturtiums. My daughter shared nasturtium seeds with me and I have them incubating in soil at the moment.

Other dishes included curried spring-pea salad, grape salad in butter-lettuce leaves, smoked Gouda served with homemade mustard seed sauce and prosciutto-wrapped steamed (but served cold) asparagus. Garden party ladies understand the seasons, what is fresh and how to make it special enough for lace-lined white linens and the good silverware. They also like wine.

After lunch in the open atrium and patio, we struck out on a garden tour, walking the neighborhood. While admiring a deep purple clematis that climbed up a wooden fence, I noted an interesting piece of yard art. A large metal fish, about six feet long and three feet high was filled with cobalt used vodka bottles. Clever. One of the vintage garden ladies stood next to me and commented, “I’d need a larger fish to hold all my empty wine bottles.”

Ah, I’m understanding better the path to longevity.

More art ensued on our walk. One woman we met collected metal sculpture from a diminutive beaver at a birch log to a gamboling iron coyote to a herd or curly metal sheep. Lavender (which I’m having the darnedest time to grow) and lupines filled the spaces in between. I fell in love with columbine which the visiting Horticulturist said would be good for my pollinator bombs.

The Horticulturist was even younger than the Horse Wrangler and me. She was accepting of my favorite rock game (altered for trees and plans) and I walked beside her asking, “What’s this?” I learned as much from her as I did from playing that game with my Geologists. Now I’m thinking columbines with orange metasediments would look lovely in my yard, or perhaps lupines among granites.

We concluded our tour with a second garden party — this one for dessert. The yard was a beautiful bouquet of perennials, shrubs and yellow roses with patio chairs set about for guests. Our hostess is delightfully short of 100 by maybe a decade, and spry and witty as any youngster. She pointed out her cottage under construction because her kids think she’s “getting old.” She rolled her eyes, hands on her lean hips and said, “Guess who take care of whom?”

Another lady asked after her contractor — and yes, gazes lingered. When the name rolled out, the guest choked on her fresh lemonade. She said, “I know him! I know every inch of him!” The story that followed involved nudity, desert hiking and leather chaps.

After partying in the gardens with these ladies, I do not fear to grow old! I will remain a gardener until the day I know longer smile at thought of a young male contractor in chaps.

I’m not fully going to take you where my mind has wandered. But I do want to encourage you each to live fully. What is age but a number? We all dream, we all live and the more vibrantly we can do so the more vibrant life will remain. Write with the vibrancy of a garden party in such a way that your writing pleases you. Your stories will never please everyone, so ya gotta please yourself.

Among many of my birthday adventures, I also cruised Lake Pend Oreille on the Shawnodese. We slipped past the beautiful summer home of a German real estate mogul. The property is full of commissioned art by world-renown sculptors and has impressive views of both lake and mountains. I snapped a shot of steps going up to a patio and it has my imagination peeked — what would a garden party be like, there!

May 27 Flash Fiction Challenge

May 27 Flash Fiction Challenge

May 27, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story, using the above photo as a prompt. You can make it a garden party or an international spy thriller. Who is there and why? Does the backdrop scenery make an impact or is it ignored? The place is on an island, if you wish to make use of that. Go where the photograph leads you this week.

Respond by June 2, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

His Calling by Charli Mills

His face, craggy as the distant peaks, softened in wonder. How long has it been since I’ve seen him smile, she thought. Sipping her mojito, she quietly watched him.

The setting sun pinkened the sky to the hue of roses her host grew at this majestic summer home. Cotton candy, he called them. Even the lake water reflected pink. That’s when she saw what held her husband’s attention – baby geese bobbing on waves.

A tinkle of ice, and he turned around, face once again hardened stone. The President walked past his wife to the garden party. Campaign funds called.

###

Old Mysteries

May 20 If our brains are hardwired for stories, then mysteries must be the ones that gives us the biggest charge. Writers often delve into mysteries, or simply make them up. We seem to get a charge out of leading our readers down winding paths and leaving off at points that are unresolved.

Old mysteries range from crimes to puzzling precepts. Mysteries cling like fog to people and places. Writers can either fill in the gaps or further titillate the imagination. Old mysteries can become myth or hints of truths we never suspected.

The following stories are based on the May 20, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an old mystery in the current time.

***

Foxy Lady by Sherri Matthews

Rumours of a naked, red-headed woman living in the woods were rife amongst the locals at The Wooden Dog.

“I’ve seen her,” said Jim, gulping his ale. “Twice.”

“Probably George’s missus,” mumbled Burt.

“No -I heard she ran off with that toy-boy of hers to Spain.”

George spent his nights stumbling through the woods, half-crazed with desire for his long-absent wife.

And then, at last, bathed in moonlight, she came to him.

“Hello George,” she smiled, as she plunged a knife deep into his heart.

A vixen’s screams filled the air, awakening every villager. George’s body was never found.

###

Old Mystery by Rebecca Patajac

The door creaked open. Cool air drifted out from darkness beyond.

She took a step, and another, hand guiding along soft, dusty walls. Her other hand searched above.

Click.

A dim globe created great shadows behind piles of books, old chests and dusty boxes. She knelt beside a lone one, a lump forming in her throat, hand hovering over her stomach.
She lifted the lid and a tear fell, disappearing into a baby blue
blanket.

Forever soft.

Beneath, she saw a brass key and froze, remembering countless, frantic searches as she smiled, picturing the car in the room beyond.

###

Unravelling the Knots in Life’s Knitting by Geoff Le Pard

Rupert looked smug, Mary thought but bit her tongue for Paul’s sake.

Rupert took his time. ‘We know you were one of twins. I have found the birth certificate.’

Mary looked up. ‘Sharon?’

Rupert shook his head. ‘Katherine.’

Mary felt a huge sense of loss; she was so sure. Aunt Gloria said it was just Mary’s childhood imaginary friend.

‘Is she’s dead?’

‘It’s not that easy – it’s not an uncommon name – Katherine Johns.’ But he was smiling

‘What about adoption?’

Rupert pushed an official looking slip towards Mary. Paul nudged her, ‘Good grief, go on before we all self-asphyxiate.’

###

An Over-Spilled Pot by Ruchira Khanna

“Sheesh!” Tara shrieked as she ran to pick up the boiling pot from the burner.

“Now I not only have to clean this stove top, but also go clean up the house.” She agonized as she bit her lips and cursed herself for not being prompt.

While scrubbing those stains off the gas burner, she remembered her grandma’s words, “Make sure you never allow the contents of a pot spill over, cause that is an invitation to surprise guests.”

“Darn it!” she mumbled softly.

Tara was tormented by the above, “I hope her words don’t come right.”

###

St Gall: Monastery or Myth? by Tally Pendragon

“How it came to be here, in this 6th century context, is a mystery. That it was built at all, and to the perfect specifications of Charlemagne’s 9th century plan, is miraculous. That it overturns archaeological theories of technological capabilities during these centuries, we do know.”

Vanda turned from the image on screen, pressed a button on the lectern, and prayed.

“This artist’s impression shows how we think the buildings of the monastery looked … And this,” another image blinked into place, “is how it will look once it’s rebuilt. But for that I need money, and lots of it!”

###

He’s Gone by Sarah Brentyn

“What’s this?”

“That’s mind your own business is what it is,” my grandfather snatched the papers from my hand. “Hazel!”

“Yes, dear, what is…” her eyes widened. “Okay,” she inched toward me like she was approaching a wounded dog. “Okay.”

I didn’t want to but I did—I cried. “Poppy?”

He held me, told me he loved me more than the earth beneath his feet. “Those papers don’t change anything.”

“Gran?” I pleaded. “Daddy didn’t leave me?”

She hugged us both. “He’s gone.”

“The letter,” I squeaked.

“You were too young to understand. We killed him for you, baby.”

###

Exercise in Vanity by A. R. Amore

The historical society allowed a film crew access to the stone tower in Touro Park. Their purpose — shed light on “the mystery of its ancient origin”. Mel and Tom watched bemused from an adjacent bench.

“No mystery here at all,” remarked Mel.

“Nope.”

“Sign says it all,” Mel gestured at the carved marble post. “Old Stone Mill.”

“Don’t you wonder, though?”

Mel pondered, “Not particularly.”

“Really?”

“How does it matter? It exists, right.”

Tom crumbled some bread.

“Mystery solved,” Mel added, pointing. “Besides that there is vanity; plain and simple.”

At their feet, birds fluttered eating scattered stale crumbs.

###

Climbing by Sarah Unsicker

Mountain climbing was more than a hobby for Jack. He designed mountain-climbing equipment. He taught rock-climbing classes in his free time. Marie had had no more concern about the Alps than she did about his favorite rock two miles away.

His partner, Sam, said Jack had a pained look for a second, and then let go. If he had a seizure, like the autopsy said, why was this the first time? Jack had never had his brother’s difficulties with seizures.

As Marie stared up the cliff wall, she squeezed their newborn son, fearing what was in store for him.

###

Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

“That’s adolescence!” said my sister. “It’s their job to rebel.”

“It’s beyond grunts replacing manners and nicking lipstick from Boots.” Drugs, school exclusion, collecting her from police cells or A&E in the dead of night. The gun secreted under her bed.

“Faulty genes,” said my mother. “I said you were crazy to adopt.”

Bollocks, I thought, yet our girl seemed enraged. Were we naive to think a decade of love would cancel out four years of neglect?

“I did wonder,” said the social worker, when we finally tracked him down. “I’ll get the file. Sure you’re ready for this?”

###

Father’s Poppy Painting by Ula Humienik

A painting hanging in my father’s study figured large in my childhood. I remember its exotic golden yellow and crimson poppies on a background of burnt sienna and ochre. I remember days spent studying and copying it. I remember my mother constantly practicing Mendelssohn’s violin concerto in D minor. I remember father always gone on business. I remember the scent of Arfaj flowers wafting through the windows. Father’s poppy painting was the reason I decided to study art history at university.

One day when taking a class on famous stolen paintings, I discovered father’s poppy painting in my book.

###

Found by Norah Colvin

The officers looked friendly enough but still she tried to hide the tremble in her soul and tremor in her voice behind the blankness of her stare.

She’d opened the door just a crack, as far as the chain would allow.

“Marnie Dobson?” they asked. She shook her head. She’d not . . . ; not since . . . ; no longer. She shook again.

They asked her to step outside. With no other option she reluctantly unlocked and emerged into the glare of daylight.

“Marnie Dobson,” one said, “We are here to inform you . . .”

###

The Gift by Ruth Irwin

Sitting in her clear plastic box hanging by ribbon on the Christmas tree. Short brown curly hair, blue dress and smiling face. She was the most beautiful doll the two young sisters had ever seen. A gift to the youngest from their parents. It was very unusual for the parents to display gifts prior to Christmas Eve. The little girls spent long hours sitting looking at her longingly. Finally she was allowed out of her package and what fun the three had together. Sadly she disappeared without a trace. Where did she go? They searched for her into adulthood.

###

Evil Pajamas by Paula Moyer

Nine years old, Jean loved exploring her grandparents’ attic. The puzzles were fine; old photo albums, also fine. The good stuff, though, lay behind closed doors.

One afternoon, she discovered the storage shed. Dark and hot. What was this thing on a hanger? Then she saw. A white robe and pointed hood. A mask. “KKK” on the hood’s brow.

On the way home, she announced, “I found Grandpa’s white pajamas in the shed. But why did he need that funny hat?”

Nothing.

Now Jean knew. When she saw “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations, she felt called to make it right.

###

My Only Begotten by Roger Shipp

That worn leather book had set on the top shelf of the glass-enclosed mahogany bookcase for as long as I remember. The night before Grandmother passed away Dad had gotten it off the shelf, taken it into her bedroom, and closed the door. I had completely forgotten about it until now.

Organizing all the accumulations of one’s life for the final sale jars many memories. This book hasn’t likely been moved since Grandmother’s passing.

A silent reverence fills the room as I gently remove the book. A yellowed paper it sticking from its upper corner. Adoption papers…. But whose?

###

Aunt Mollie by Phil Guida

Mollie didn’t discover her real identity until 52 years after her birth. She was told she lost her parents a to fireworks explosion.
She was raised by her aunts & uncles all the while playing among her brothers and sisters knowing them as cousins.

Her Mother was proclaimed her sister and the secret was kept for 50 years, until the old man died and Aunt Tina spilled out the horrible truth of Rape and ignorance that bore Mollie.

Some 60 plus years have passed since that time. Mollie is also gone, yet her story still resonates within the family.

###

Charlie Chaplin by Irene Waters

“I’ve found a secret drawer in Dad’s bureau” Charlie’s daughter told her sister. They looked out at the mountains ringing Lake Geneva contemplating breaking in. Their excitement rose as they saw an envelope hidden in the back.

“This confirms Great-Grandma was a gypsy. Dad was born in a caravan. No wonder MI5 couldn’t find records of his birth.”

“But why didn’t he tell. He could’ve re-entered the USA but he let them believe he was a bolshevik.”

“Yes and he could’ve got that knighthood 20 years earlier.”

“Charlie Chaplin was not only silent in movies but also in life.”

Stories Left Untold by Charli Mills

“He was accidentally shot.”

“Strange,” I say, thumbing through my cousin’s album. Our great-grandmothers were sisters.

“Story goes that two cowboys got in a brawl, drew pistols and shot the saloon-keeper — my great-granddad.”

There’s a photo of my great-grandmother and her only sister, both smiling, holding hands. All five brothers stand behind them like an honor guard.

I hand him a newspaper clipping. It outlines his great-grandmother’s horrific demise…hair clawed out…fingers gnarled…face agonized… She died at 23, six months before her husband’s accident.

“Was she poisoned?”

We look again at the brothers and wonder at stories left untold.

###

The Penny by Larry LaForge

“Uh oh.” Ed’s heart sank as he felt the depths of the bottom drawer of his dresser—a place he hadn’t explored in decades. He knew immediately as his fingers touched the small, square cardboard and cellophane cover.

The 1909 S VDB wheat penny was the crown jewel of his coin collection—until Edna accidentally threw it out. At least that’s what Ed has claimed for the past forty years. And he’s never, ever let her forget it.

“Whatcha doing?” Edna asked unsuspectingly.

“Oh. Uh. Just straightening up these old drawers.”

“Find anything . . .”

“Nope,” Ed interrupted, perhaps too quickly.

###

Doppelgänger by Mercy.James.

“Dwayne, we’ve got a problem,” the deputy sheriff said. “While you was away fishing, Edna Bottle was picked up blathering, and is now being held over at LongState.”

Dwayne looked at his younger cousin, yawned, putting his feet up on the desk. “What’s it this time? UFOs in the corn fields? Devils over at the abandoned dam?”

“Nope. She claims she saw Mary Settler’s long-thought-dead daughter at the old cemetary, alive and reading her own tombstone.”

Dwayne’s booted feet hit the floor hard – he had buried that 8 year-old girl – she-bitch – 20 odd years ago – had no choice in the matter –

###

Set Free by Ann Edall-Robson

Papa had said, “He’s the man for you.”

At 17, she had wed the cruel eyed monster. He was 15 years her senior.

She had born thirteen children; and, still grieved for those that had not lived.
His callous words haunted her. “Another dead? Can’t you get anything right?”

She hated him. She would have done anything to get away. She plotted in her mind for things to happen to him.

At 82, she could still hear the shotgun’s thunderous boom. It was the day she had been set free.

If only she could find out who to thank.

###

The Fort by Kalpana Solsi

The courtesan swirled to the strains of the 16th century Indian music. Her beauty unmatched, she was the cynosure of the King’s lust while her heart strings were tied elsewhere.

The moon in its full glory witnessed to the fall of the helpless
courtesan from the fort ramparts into the deep moat by six pair
of evil hands.

I clicked the fullness of the moon with my cell-phone and looked
in the direction of the footfalls. There was no soul in sight.
Fear froze me. The folk-lore claims were true.

A loud thud was heard and the moat-water rippled.

###

Papa’s Hand by Pete Fanning

Papa grunted as Travis hopped up into his lap. The television was green with golf and a bowl of pretzels sat on the side table. Travis turned to Papa’s hand, examining.

“Tell me again what happened.”

“Well, we were out at sea,” Papa started. The boy’s wide eyes fastened on the nubs. He’d even touched them once. “The wind picked up and the clouds rumbled…”

Another head peeked over the armchair. “I thought it was on a safari, Papa?”

“Oh, that was this one.”

Papa wiggled the thumb stump. Grandma smiled. Safari sure beat “happened at the packaging plant.”

###

Between the Studs by Pat Cummings

We drove up to the old Koober place; its weathered siding and shingles were the reason we bought the ramshackle house. We set to work right away, ripping out planks, saving hand-made 19th-century nails for other projects.

I was taking down the wall of the only bedroom when I found it: an infant’s skeleton wearing a tiny bracelet. I shouted to my partner, “What did you learn about the Koobers?”

“Nobody’s lived in this place for ninety years,” he replied. “And it was just old man Koober and his dog for decades before that.”

Then who was this infant?

###

Hook’s Treasure by Sacha Black

Not quite daring to touch it, I sank to the ground, exhausted. I was inches from fame and fortune; Hook’s lost treasure chest. Its delicately carved exterior was blander than I expected, with just a single gold band edging round the chest.

“How did I ever find you?” I said slowly reaching for the lock.

I’d endured a decade of taunts while I searched for this box. “Pirate treasure?” they’d laugh, “you’re a fool. Curses and empty boxes, that’s all you’ll get.”

But I knew better. I lifted the lid. On a trove of gold lay a single hook.

###

May 20: Flash Fiction Challenge

May 20It’s dark, but City Marshall George Conniff can see three figures hunkered down behind the Newport Creamery. It’s a cool September evening in eastern Washington and Conniff knows that it’s late enough to be suspicious. All sorts have been passing through. After all, it’s the Great Depression. He calls out to the men in the darkness and they answer with gunfire. Conniff dies the next day.

Since that dark night, September 14 this murder has gone unsolved for 80 years. What the burglars were after is known — a rash of milk robberies had hit the area around Spokane. Washington.

Milk robberies? It sounds like something from the school cafeteria or a heist thought up by five-year-olds, wanting something wet to wash down cookies. But this was the Great Depression. Perhaps a destitute family? Hobos passing through on the rails?

Actually it’s more insidious than craving milk.

Last weekend, the Hub and I ventured around half of the Selkirk Loop to explore Metaline Falls. My adventure is posted for the theme of connection at Elmira Pond. After exploring, we stopped for 50s-style burgers and hand-packed milkshakes. The Hub knows most the town (population 238), including the Border Patrol officer with whom he chatted for 10 nerve-wracking (for me) minutes about — of all topics — sniper guns. I don’t care if the Hub is the delivery man to this region, law enforcement is suspicious of such things.

Once our burgers were served and Border Patrol left without making any arrests, a woman approached. She told the Hub, “You seem to know about this place. I’m looking for a tavern.”

Of course, I’m thinking she’s trying to find a current business, but then she mentions that she is researching a book she read about a sheriff who solved a cold case from 1935. The tavern features into the mystery. She had already visited the creamery in Newport where it happened. Yes, I was on red-alert, making a mental note to look up old murders in this region.

That’s how I learned about Conniff. And the sheriff who died mysteriously (fell from a bridge) in 1950 when he was close to unraveling a murder that led back to the Spokane police force and a restaurant called Mother’s Kitchen. It was not as innocent as milk. In fact, the rash of creamery robberies were to stock the pantry of Mother’s Kitchen where waitresses were also prostitutes.

Fast forward to 1980 and another local sheriff began a masters thesis to record historical men who shared his position. That’s when he discovered the near-solved murder. Remarkably, he was able to piece together earlier accounts, witness statements and recovered the alleged murder weapon.

The stuff of stories, right?

Well, Timothy Egan beat me to this one. He was intrigued by this tale, too and wrote Breaking Blue. He’s a regional author I can’t wait to read (my print copy is in the mail).

So we are going to explore the impact of old mysteries on today. Are they relevant? When I think about a story that features dedicated law officers and corrupt ones, I can’t help but think of current headlines in the US. Perhaps nothing is ever a new crime. Perhaps no one seeks to steal milk in the middle of the night, but certainly, thieves are still thieves.

May 20, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an old mystery in the current time. Is it a discovery? Is it solved? Does it no longer matter, or does it impact innocent generations in between?

Respond by May 26, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

I’m on a wicked time crunch at the moment. My internet went down in the middle of posting today. I lost all my photos over at Elmira Pond (and I had two posts there today). Thus I had to restart in town at Starbucks and they close in 13 minutes! Yikes! I can’t write a 99-flash under that kind of constraint. So, like you, I’ll be posting mine later.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and inspired by Sarrah J. Woods’ flash last week, I’m going on a solo adventure. I’m taking a boat cruise on Lake Pend Oreille that is 3 hours of geology and history on the water. I’m excited! Not sure when the internet will be back up, so I might be spotty checking in over the weekend and if I do so with my phone, forgive the typos — it has words of its own (thou is its favorite replacement for you).

Hard Places

Hard PlacesHard places are universally known. The teacher put on the spot by a parent; the childhood friend who died too young; the ailing family member; the medical condition that won’t go away; roadblocks and stream-blocks; abandoned buildings and glimpses of earlier struggles.

Yet circumstances such as these have a rock — a way through the hard place. It might be the support of a colleague or pure determination to get through. It might be a way to remember or a way to honor what has passed. This week, writers looked for connections. We might not control the hard places we are in, but we can find connection.

Connection is the monthly theme for a group of writers and bloggers who gather to overcome hard places and connect with one another in compassion. These stories are part of the May collection from 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion and are based on the May 13, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows a hard place and a connection.

Connection in a Hard Place by Irene Waters

Natasha dreamed of death. These visions were always pleasant unlike the bombs that fell around her, killing all in their path. Except her. She who longed to die seemed immune to the terror surrounding her. All her family were dead. Her lover too had died, beheaded. They had forced her to watch. Now, except when dreams of death lulled her, the nightmare never left. The latest bomb left her scrabbling at the rubble to reach the trapped cry below. She pulled the unharmed baby to her and connected her to her breast. She smiled as the milk flowed again.

###

A Game by Mercy.James.

Rock  Paper  Scissors

Scissors cut paper. Rock smashes scissors. Paper weighs upon both.

Who wins?

None exists without the other – each complimentary – a serving of needs met – sometimes left wanting – as reliable as the waxing and waning moon, sitting in crescent left or right-faced.

Does not paper come from the earth? From trees that are deeply rooted in soil, rock and nutrient infused. And silver – precious metal – it too comes from the earth, lying in rock’s embrace.

What matters in the end – now – we realize connection is absolute truth – no room for control over elements in purity – nature’s way.

###

A Dawn Concert by Jeanne Lombardo

Four a.m. The pain a staccato knock. No going back to sleep. She pushed up on gnarled hands, scooted, let the sharp ache push her into the wheelchair.

She followed the grooves in the carpet, pushed past the girls’ rooms, imagined their young bodies. They looked like her, thirty years ago, before the arthritis made a crippled birch of her.

She parked at the kitchen table. No coffee until Dan rose to percolate it. She waited.

At last a pale lemony light washed through the window. The familiar room emerged. And the concert began.

The robins never forsook her.

###

United With a Song by Kate Spencer

She sat on a log hugging her knees, smiling softly as she gazed at the campsite community seated around the blazing fire. Some were chatting quietly; others were busy roasting marshmallows.

She nodded to her husband who leisurely reach behind him and pulled out the worn guitar. He tinkered with the strings and began strumming an old familiar ballad.

Slowly he started singing, the lyrics filled with love and sorrow, longing and hope. Tears formed in the corner of her eyes as she raised her own voice, joining her husband. Gradually everyone joined in – united with a song.

###

Fiona Meets the Universe by Ula Humienik

Fiona felt alone and small under the twinkling of the universe and sweeps of the Milky Way. She’d never seen the night sky living in the city all her life. Tears made rivulets on her cheeks.

She remembered her last conversation with her sister.

“Dad never meant to hurt us,” Nina said.

“But he did. He hurt me. I can’t trust men, I’m afraid of them.”

“You have to forgive him.”

“I can’t,” Fiona said as she ran off. They hadn’t spoken since.

She looked up at the expansive sky and imagined each star a soul watching over her.

###

The Friend Inside by Sarrah J. Woods

A sudden breeze rose up and ruffled Maggie’s hair as she gazed over the valley. The wind was changing inside her, too.

Loneliness had become her straightjacket in the past year. The more desperately she struggled to make friends in this unfriendly town, the more isolated she felt.

Now she was giving up. Aloneness had won.

But, somehow, this decision only lightened and sweetened the silence that had oppressed her for so long.

“I’ll keep trying to make friends,” she said, “but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy my own company. I will become my own friend.”

Her heart smiled.

###

House of Thorns by A. R. Amore

Nesting in the back are a pair of cardinals. They’ve chosen the most evil of shrubs, a dark red demon laced with poisoned oblong pellet sized berries and black tipped briars. The bold male roots in empty planters on the deck for building materials while the duller female scuttles in and out of the shrub seemingly unscathed, her beak filled with a gathering of grass or twig or twine. Like any couple, they visited and revisited, no doubt debating merits and drawbacks. Flitting in and out, despite the risk of harm, they nestle hopeful in their house of thorns.

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Little Boy Lost by Sherri Matthews

I saw him, that little boy. His back turned to me, holding the hand of a man leading him further into the crowd.

I recognised his saggy blue jeans and the curl of his boy-short, soft brown hair.

Don’t go, oh God, please don’t go.

Then the boy, hearing my silent cries and knowing my love turned back, and his brown eyes locked into mine.

He tugged at the man’s hand, but the man held too tight and kept walking.

Mummy!

Gone. Just like that.

Now my boy is a man and I hug him with everything I have.

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Just a Soul by Ruchira Khanna

Jane was pensive, yet persistent as she was staring at the pen.

Took a deep breath, blinked a couple of times.

“I am not the body. I am not even the mind,” she chanted as she disinfected a small area of her thigh and placed her pen over it.

Clicked the pen, and the pain was intense. Her eyes were moist by the ache.

She waited for the syringe fluid to enter her body, while she continued her chant, “I am not the body. I am not even the mind.”

Released the pen, and wiped the drop of blood.

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Brown by Norah Colvin

She glanced at the child, usually so eager to please, and knew this was no ordinary day.

Downcast and avoiding eye contact, the child trembled. Her instinct was to reach out with comfort to soothe the hurt; but stopped. Any touch could end her career. What to say? Brown earth/brown rocks? would ignore and trivialise the pain. Any talk now would be insensitive with other ears listening. Any word could unravel the relationship built up over time. Nothing would harm more than doing nothing. Her steps moved her body away but her heart and mind stayed; feeling, thinking.

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Selfish Devotion by Rebecca Patajac

Fist clenched, Warrick scribbled signatures across paperwork. His wife, face pale, breathed hard on a hoverbed. She looked worse with each day.

Labouring took a greater toll.

She screamed before the relieved laughter and a nurse placed their child in her arms.

Warrick relinquished the papers and nodded.
The nurse reclaimed the newborn.

His wife turned her head to him, eyes trained on their child, “Warrick? What’ve you done?”

Men guided the hoverbed to a cryo-chamber.

She screamed, “No! I want my baby!”

Warrick steeled himself, muttering, “should’ve had the treatments.” He left the child. “I’ll find a cure.”

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Mentoring the Gaps by Roger Shipp

“Mr. Raycomb, you are needed in the office.”

Having just left the office, I wondered why I was needed to return.

“Come on in. Push the door shut.”

I do so. With stomach and thoughts intermingling… I’m wondering why the sudden closed door conference with our new principal.

“Steven’s mother is on the phone. She has asked, what I feel is a very unusual request.”

I gasp. I immediately know what has happened.

He presses speaker-phone.

“Hello, Ms. Jackson.” My faltering voice answers.

“I can’t tell him it’s returned. I won’t win this one. Will you tell him? Please!”

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For Chris – The Rock by Susan Zutautas

I have a rock I keep upon my window ledge that is my connection to you
They were handed out at your funeral so we had something to hang onto
It sits in sunshine almost every day
I pray your pain has left and gone away
Young children should never die so young
Your life had just begun
You are and always will be Garth’s best friend
For the rest of eternity
We talk about you after all these years
Remembering your courage, showing no fear
Until we meet again one day

You are in our hearts Chris Jackson

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The Yellow Rose of Kennedy by Deborah Lee

It feels subterranean inside the ruined cabin. Dust motes eddy in the beam of light fingering through the glassless window. This gold-panner’s squat has long been picked clean of souvenirs. Fine dirt like powder covers the floor. Smell of decay and old scat.

Outside again, he is brought up short. Growing hard against the cracked and weathered wood under the window is a vibrant green rosebush, blooms at once shy and defiant in this wilderness. Not wild; deliberate.

Who planted it? A woman, in a mining camp? A cultured forty-niner? That is the story he would like to hear.

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Aunt Gloria by Geoff Le Pard

Rupert called, ‘She’s taken a turn for the worse. Her cancer is back.’

Mary dreaded visiting. Letting herself in, Gloria’s call was as usual cheery. But her face was grey. She saw Mary looking. ‘Cheekbones like Garbo. About time.’

Mary wept and felt guilty that it was Gloria comforting her. ‘Who will I talk to?’

‘Paul’s a rock. Rupert too…’

Mary shook her off.

‘God’s still here.’

‘I don’t believe in him anymore.’

Gloria put a hand on Mary’s stomach. ‘I’m here, every time you need me. Just talk, dear and we’ll be listening.’

‘I’ll try. Both of you.’

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The Power of Science by Larry La Forge

Ed stared at the weathered concrete wall still standing behind the Science Hall patio. His mind drifted back nearly five decades.

A power outage had sent the class outside. Ed sat on the wall facing the professor. A cute coed plopped down next to Ed—it was the only spot left.

“This stuff’s impossible,” she said.

“Tell me about it,” Ed replied as he mimicked the current assignment: Calculate the magnetic flux density of a parallel plate capacitor when completely submerged in a homogeneous isotropic dielectric.

They agreed to try to figure it out together.

Her name was Edna.

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New Friends by Ruth Irwin

First day at this school. She had been to many schools before, but not long enough to settle in and make friends. Small for her age, very thin, unkempt hair, stained ill-fitting clothes and battered shoes revealed that this six year old had been doing it tough. She remained aloof at recess, watching the other children as they played in already formed friendships. She wondered how long she might be at this school and if she would have friends. Then she saw an out-stretched hand and a smiling face saying “come and play with me”. How could she resist?

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The Rock by Sarah Brentyn

“It’s cool that you don’t say stupid shit like ‘How do you feel about that’ or whatever.” She grabbed a grey rock from its shelf and examined it.

“Well,” he swiveled in his chair, “glad to hear that. But I do need you to talk to me.”

She turned the rock over in her hand, “Okay. I’ll talk. You have this like professional office with expensive leather couches and shit then there’s this ugly, little rock. Seems out of place.”

“It’s special.”

“Why?”

“My father gave it to me. He died last year. You think it’s ugly?”

“Not anymore.”

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The Portal by Ann Edall-Robson

A welcome familiarity reached out as she stood in the doorway.

The aroma of coffee brewing and bacon frying coming from the old wood stove. The quiet murmur of voices around the kitchen table, interrupted by intermittent laughter.

Through the curtain-free window, the hand hewn log barn stands silhouetted against the early morning sky. A stoic soldier offering shelter and sanctuary while scrutinizing the activity beneath its massive structure.

There was no doubt within her soul. These old abandoned buildings were the portal to the inception of life. The premonitions would be answered. Finally, she had arrived home.

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Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

Revenge fantasies kept me warm in bed. She’d lose her job; she’d crash her car; some thief would take her precious ring. The news infused my heart with joy. Let her learn how it feels to lose a husband.

The kids, though, mine and theirs, would lose a father.

I made a casserole, seasoned with rosemary, his all-time favourite. Thought I’d leave it on the doorstep, but the door opened before I could nip away. I took no pleasure from seeing her so unkempt. She opened her arms. We wept on each other’s shoulders. Soon we’d both be ex-wives.

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River Ganges by Kalpana Solsi

And she tried desperately to hold his deliberate loosening grip, the diamond

ring slipped off and remained in his cupped palm, as she saw his sinister smile

before the foaming Ganges sucked the bride into the river-bed.

After the last rites, he sat, staring at the diamond ring.

Horror was largely writ on his face as he saw a hand with the wedding ring,

rising above the rapid Ganges water-current. His feet gave away as he

couldn’t resist her strong grip dragging him.

“In life and in death together”, the wedding vow, he remembered.

A watery grave they had.

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A Chink in Her Armor by Sarah Unsicker

“We are concerned, Mama,” Kate said. “You spend too much time alone. I found a widow’s support group that might help you …”

“I don’t need a support group,” Cecilia said.

“You need friends.”

“John’s been gone too long. My pain is stale.”

“Pain doesn’t go stale, Mama. It fades away, and yours hasn’t.”

Cecilia sighed dramatically. “I’m going up to bed. You know where the door is to leave.”

Before she had time to answer, she heard the stairs squeak as her mother climbed up to her bedroom.

For the first time, Kate’s arrows had pierced Mama’s armor.

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Indomitable by Pat Cummings

The racetrack surges with imperative: we must return. Each mile upstream also means climbing a body-length vertically, darting past the rocks, and the other racers. Our run has the ultimate prize, but there is no call to win. There is only the urgent invitation of the water upstream.

Closer and closer we come to the finish. Suddenly the water almost disappears. The final lap is a tight tunnel, already full of racers. Has someone already won?

No, there is one more obstacle, a leap to a tighter passage. I alone make it home, one salmon of thousands hatched here.

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The Rock by Charli Mills

A contact rock. Yin and yang. Feldspar and…?

Ramona frowned, retrieving the smooth river rock from beneath a wild rosebush in the west pasture. It felt heavy, familiar. She closed her eyes, willing recollection. Running water. Yes! She and Vic riding to the grotto, up the creek, metallic horse-shoes clanging on rocks this size. Vic, off his horse, reaching elbow deep into the water.

“Look, Ro, a contact rock.”

Her eyes fluttered open. Why did her memories have holes? She cradled the rock to her chest, willing herself to remember the twins. This rock was connected to them somehow.

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Bugle Boy by Pete Fanning

They found his bugle amongst the bodies. A few of the survivors recounted of how fourteen-year-old Eli had charged right into the line of fire and dragged three soldiers to safety, only to return and man the cannon as confederates advanced on his position.

When Eli awoke his chest ached. Nearby, a soldier screamed out in agony. He watched through blurry eyes as a bandaged Colonel limped over and laid his mangled bugle beside what was left of his family’s songbook. Eli grimaced, studying the musket ball embedded in its pages.

Those rebels were going to pay for that.

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Ministering by Paula Moyer

“Thou art Peter … upon this rock I will build my church.” When Jean heard these words – like most Baptists – she remembered what Simon did that caused Jesus to rename him: he declared his faith.

The rock was more than Peter.

Now Jean sat in her house with her little kids, five days after her husband had moved out.

The phone rang. “Jean, it’s Lynn.” Her cousin, a rock in her own right. “I’m here for you.”

Thirty minutes on the phone.

Lynn showed her faith by enacting a passage from a letter of Paul’s: Bear one another’s burdens.

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Mint

Mint tea! 🙂

Season of Motherhood

Mint Leaves Can you spot them?

I looked deep into my garden yesterday, underneath the sunflower, cucumber leaves and trailing pea plants.  What was that weed that is growing so fast?  It is in the back row, where I don’t pay as much attention because I have to go into my neighbor’s yard to see past the tomato plants.

That weed. It was growing so fast! And then I realized: I had planted mint in that square.  It is not a weed, only growing like one.

What am I going to do with all that mint?  I have enough to make an entire mint-themed dinner, from appetizer to dessert!  This looks like an excuse for a party.

Mint and Pea Pesto Princess and the Pea Pesto

Strawberry Mint Lassi

Spring Peas with Mint

Asparagus and Mint Risotto

Junior Mints Cupcakes Junior Mints Cupcakes

Do you have any favorite mint recipes?

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Decoding the Writer’s Platform: Why

While working on the next post in this series, a client shared with me their logic model for a re-brand. Because they are a large organization, re-branding is a huge undertaking. It’s more of a refresh to update their look and clarify their internal and external brand experience. I manage a couple of their media projects so I get to see the evolution of their process.

Any time we build or revise what we have built, it takes clarity.

One area where a writer can be clear, is why you write. It’s a part of your branding and can lead to community engagement, credibility and be the reason your audience reads what you have to express.

My client shared a TEDtalk video that is one of the best explanations as to why “why” matters. Think of this as a sidebar to what we are discussing in this writer’s platform series. Take five minutes to better understand the power of why:

So how can you have an inspired writer’s platform? Begin with why you write. Not what you write or how, but why. Is that a part of your blog? Your bio? Is it part of what you share in your community? People are going to connect with why.

I’m intrigued by the application of this idea to a writer’s platform. I look at my own bio and read what and how. Why do I write? That is a question we all need to answer with clarity. What do you think?

May 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

May 13On a warm May evening, we sat around a glass-top patio table, and looked at rocks. Two budding geologists had reduced Wyoming’s cache of minerals by several buckets. They displayed the best of their month-long field study, and I was as eager as a child watching a parade.

My eyes flitted from a large quartz crystal face to a pile of fossilized dinosaur bones to three geodes that looked like caveman golf balls of sandy stone. It was my birthday and the following day one geology student was to marry the other  — my daughter and the son of Rough Writer, Paula Moyer.

Below the deck on a trampoline, my other daughter bounced a series of unending back handsprings. My future son-in-law explained to my son the forces that created the slickened granite that he held; a chunk of rock that had a polished edge of mottled black and green like petrified snakeskin. My daughter pointed out garnet crystals to me in a chunk of granite with large pink feldspar crystals.

I’m rock crazy, and that evening, nearly six years ago was transcendent.

How was I to know that the three young children who followed me through Montana creek beds and mountainsides would all grow up connected to that experience? My eldest is a trained geologist and environmental journalist; my middlest is a rock climber and white-water rafter; and my youngest is a cross-country runner. All are outdoors enthusiasts.

Hunting rocks outdoors still thrills me, and you can follow my latest rock adventure at “What’s This?” on Elmira Pond Spotter.

Rocks are grounding. After all, they form the foundation of the world upon which we live. We use rock to build, crystals to communicate and metals as currency. The Bible even has 59 verses about God, the Rock — And they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer (Psalm 78:35).

When we are in hard places, we often seek to find connection. I find mine outdoors, sitting upon a rock in the middle of a creek beneath the sun. Some might focus on the water; others meditate; and like me, many find peace in knowing God.

My best friend, my sister of the heart, my muddy buddy is in a hard place.

Let me tell you about Kate. We met our first day of classes at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. We were both “older than average” students with the same flaky adviser who didn’t even show up that day, which put us both in a pickle. We connected immediately, muddy buddies crafted from the same layer of clay. And so did our kids. Her two teens became role models to my three grammar-school aged children. We shared holidays, frustrations and life’s joys.

Kate and I were both writing majors and we set the English Department on its ear with our combined curiosity and enthusiasm. Some professors joked that they would have to split us up in class. Could we help that we actually loved to write and found medieval literature fascinating? We were the only two students from our department to each write an honors thesis.

Like slickened granite, we were a force of nature.

Our paths parted physically after graduation. Kate stayed in Montana and I moved to the Midwest. Hard times. I dreamed of the day I could move back and I relished each visit we had. Finally, I did move back, though I overshot Helena by six hours.

Kate has had hard times that would rock most people to their core. In the midst of living as full-time caretaker to both aging parents with dementia and working as an English teacher for a Catholic school, she developed cancer. Life spiraled. Hard times took her through losing first her father, then her mother. After kicking cancer it came back. She kicked it again.

Six weeks ago Kate was hospitalized. This time the cancer is aggressive and prevents her from eating. While I’m out here in Elmira lighting up the barbeque, my my muddy buddy is subsisting on ice chips, Popsicles and IV fluid. You’d think my friend would be crushed in the hardest place of all — facing death.

Yet Kate has a great gift. Faith. Her faith is unshakeable built on the Rock, and she leads her loved ones down this path. She wrote to us last night, and she was the comforter. She’s unafraid and beautiful in her faith. My son responded that she was brave and that he loved her. She wrote in return, “Love you too. How brave is it to let God be in charge? The ultimate prayer is ‘Jesus I trust in you.'”

Her hard place; her rock.

I stare at my granites and crystals and ponder what this all means. My connection to my friend feels stronger than ever. To be connected is to be certain that things happen for a reason. We were certain to become heart-friends. Connection is the May theme for #1000 Voices Speak. While bloggers around the world will write out its meaning, my friend is living her final days in the ultimate connection to a higher power, a higher purpose.

Hard places shape what is next. In the grotto at Grouse Creek, my geologists showed me a flow of quartz that pushed up through basalt. I witness where basalt once bent to liquified quartz and created an s-curve. Forces more powerful than the trivial control we have in life.

Perhaps we are not meant to live in control, but in connection.

May 13, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows a hard place and a connection. It could be a prisoner who discovers friendship; a cedar that grows from a crack in a cliff; an abandoned dog rescued by a homeless teen. Maybe it is a reconciliation or connecting with students during a turbulent time. Is the hard place part of something larger in the scope of a character’s development? Or is it a plot twist?

Respond by May 19, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

The Rock by Charli Mills

A contact rock. Yin and yang. Feldspar and…?

Ramona frowned, retrieving the smooth river rock from beneath a wild rosebush in the west pasture. It felt heavy, familiar. She closed her eyes, willing recollection. Running water. Yes! She and Vic riding to the grotto, up the creek, metallic horse-shoes clanging on rocks this size. Vic, off his horse, reaching elbow deep into the water.

“Look, Ro, a contact rock.”

Her eyes fluttered open. Why did her memories have holes? She cradled the rock to her chest, willing herself to remember the twins. This rock was connected to them somehow.

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