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Monthly Archives: May 2015

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.

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.”

###

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!”

###

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

###

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.

###

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.’

###

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.

###

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?

###

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.”

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.

###

Snapshots of Spring

SpringWhile not everyone on planet earth experiences spring the same time of year, seasons and its renewal is universally understood. The cycles of life and death and continuation is holistic. One does not occur without the other.

Thus it is not surprising that a prompting of spring leads writers down divergent paths no matter how peaches and cream the challenge might be. The imagination has many possibilities to consider and the writer has many expressions of life to explore.

The following stories are based on the May 6, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a snapshot of spring.

***

Warmth of Spring by Charli Mills

In bare feet and faded peaches and cream house-coat, Ramona basked under the apple tree. Dark aroma floated from her coffee mug, mingling with sweet apple blossoms. Morning sun warmed her cheeks the way Vic’s hand felt when he rested it on her thigh, snugged to him on the bench seat of their truck. They drove in her dreams last night, young and ready for spring calves. Ramona frowned. No cattle lulled in the pastures; just the truck with both doors open and parked aslant. She shook her head. She’d have to talk to the twins about joy-riding again.

###

In the Apple Tree by Charli Mills

The twins watched Mama from the tops of apple tree blossoms. A buzz of mason bees tickled their feet. They held each other unseen in a pose of entwined arms like partner yoga. One giggled to the other, thoughts passing no louder than the hum of pollination:

What do we know of yoga?
Remember when Mama signed up for a class in town?
Yeah, yeah! And she fell over mid downward dog?
That’s right!

A breeze reached down and caught Mama like a tendril of hair across her face. Feel our touch, they both thought. We love you, Mama.

###

Currency Exchange by Jeanne Lombardo

He sat in the chair, vigilant, funereal.

“The taxi’s below,” she said. “I’ll call when I get there tomorrow.”

He didn’t rise. She gathered the last bags and closed the door behind her.

Freedom revved in her chest, maintained its thrum through traffic and customs. On the plane she exhaled into a blissful inaccessibility. Not even his voice could intrude now. Already he seemed far away.

She deplaned at Narita, boarded the island hopper to Kyushu. On the descent, she peered out the window. April sunlight glinting on the Inland Sea was a newly minted coin, just for her spending.

###

The Misted Hills by Merlin Ambrosius

The Misted Hills … sounds so mysterious, doesn’t it? What would you expect out of an environment named thus? Since I took to travelling, I now realise that I could almost exclusively be describing somewhere in coastal Wales. With its vertebral mountains and hidden coves, nowhere is ever far from the high, damp places. Yet, in the late spring, my home is so spectacularly beautiful: apple and cherry blossom, pink and fragrant, falls in flurries as new air breezes in, creating petal-strewn pathways to mountains from which one can perfectly view the setting of the newly arisen sun-god.

###

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not by Georgia Bell

The sidewalk was cool, cold even, but I sat down anyway, hoping he wouldn’t be too long. The air was damp and I could smell what was growing, even if I couldn’t see it yet. Reaching for a dandelion, I counted each tiny petal as I ripped it from the comfort and cluster of the stem. I told myself that he’d be here by the time I’d reached 50. Then 75.

An hour later a stack of wilted stems were heaped beside me as I heard my mother’s voice.

“He said he’s sorry, sweetheart. He’ll see you next week.”

###

Spring Rains by Mercy.James.

She stood, leaning on the deck railing, surveying the acreage. Everything was struggling – a hard push after a winter never-ending, not overloaded with snowfalls, but stretches of cold, bitter enough to leave a hard taste in one’s mouth.

Little rain had fallen this spring – everything a beige-grey color – death lingering, its wispy clasp holding fast. Sprouts battled to break free of the earth – the trees struggled. Buds were slow to show, swelling in rosette fashion, deciduous fought harder than evergreens.

Warm rain – it was needed – badly. She wondered why her tears hadn’t been enough to drench – ushering in life.

###

New Things Growing by Paula Moyer

Jean planted the bulbs in late October, just days before she and Bill closed on the house. The tenant, not happy at all about vacating, still agreed to let her plant.

Jean stuck the hyacinths, crocuses, and iris tubers in the ground as directed: each hole dug, bone meal spooned in, each bulb or tuber inserted and covered. Flower beds watered. Whole thing then covered with hay that made her sneeze.

Months later, Jean pulled off the hay, saw the first brave crocuses pushing up purple heads.

When she stood up, something in her abdomen fluttered.

The first kick.

###

Spring by Norah Colvin

Bees buzz

Wildflowers bloom

Cockatoos squawk

“Gone is the gloom!”

Mother duck waits

For her babies to hatch.

Here they come now

The first of the batch

So cute and cuddly

All covered in fluff

Eager and ready

To show off their stuff

“Patience!“ quacks mother

“There’s no need to rush.”

“One more is coming.

Stand back. Please don’t crush.”

With one final crack

Last one’s out of his shell

“I’m proud of you babies.

You’ve all done so well.”

Mother duck smiles

As they waddle in line

She knows that each duckling’s

Own time will be fine.

###

Spring Is Here! by Ruth Irwin

Her face was lit with sparkling eyes and a beaming smile. She walked lightly with a spring in her step, almost skipping. It was good to be outdoors again with the warmth of the sun and the scent of the sweet jasmine blossoms enveloping her being.

Gone was the heaviness and darkness of winter. The wretched cold that chilled to the bone despite layers and layers of clothing and blankets. The short daylight hours that seemed to crush her soul.

Birds chirping provided the uplifting music that carried her along to a season of renewal, growth and new beginnings.

###

Spring Howls by Rebecca Patajac

Colours bombarded his senses. Everywhere the spring sun reached, blooms thrived.

Th-thump, th-thump.

He caught yelps and a myriad of birdsong drifting on the crisp winds as he ran.

Th-thump, th-thump.

Green shoots pushed through snow still clinging to the base of trees; branches hanging as shields against the warm sun.

Th-thump.

Ducking his head as he wove through the forest, his ears swivelled, searching. His hair bristled as he spotted the clearing. Taking a breath, he leapt and landed in a furry heap with another.

Thick paws clashed and fangs nipped as wet snouts and rumbling howls mingled.

###

A Couple of Sneezes and Gratitude by Ruchira Khanna

Annie was rubbing her nose briskly with her gloved hand as the other paw was digging the soil and aerating it.

Achoo!
Achoo!

Aha! Much better.

With watery eyes, but a broad smile she continued playing with the dirt and securely placed the roots of a plant while bringing the grime together.

With an arch, she watered the plant gently and hummed a lullaby as if welcoming the new life she rooted recently.

After repeating the above scenario few times.
She appreciated all the flowerpots from a distance cause once life will bloom, will be worth all the sneezes.

###

Is Spring Real If One Cannot Experience It? by Ula Humienik

Winter turned to verdant multi-colored spring, but Jodi didn’t notice. In Cilian’s long absence, her heart carried the icy cold, dullness of winter. The sunshine beckoned and lilacs gave off a fragrance so sweet and rich. Jodi stayed in bed, her hair unwashed.

While Cilian studied the tropical Hoatzin bird in the Amazon, she couldn’t remember her purpose. Life had left her the day he boarded the plane for South America. His letters provided the only hope for the end of everlasting winter. Jodi, as Persephone, would walk the Earth again, all hoped.

Everything changed when Jodi met Holly.

###

Running by Sarah Unsicker

The air was thick as Kate stepped off the airplane in Atlanta. She hadn’t contemplated her next steps until the cab driver said, “Where to, ma’am?”.

Kate hesitated. “Are there peach orchards nearby?”

The drive to the closest orchard was longer than the plane ride. After the taxi drove away, she closed her eyes and inhaled. The scent of peaches and honey. The buzz of bees and the feel of peach fuzz.

When the sun set, Kate was drowsy from peach syrup. She sat on warm grass, finally grounded. In the morning, she knew she could go home again.

###

Spring by Kalpana Solsi

The buds had burst spreading the petals and displaying the coloured hues of Nature. The red, white, yellow, burnt orange and white seem to jostle for space among the soft green leaves.

The bees flirting with each shy flower were pampered. The Sun rays seems to spread its golden quilt on each bounty. The Earth seems to be satiated with mirth and abundance.

The impatient toes of the stream danced and bounced from one rock to another splashing foam on the moss.

Diana inhaled and her lungs filled with fragrance.

Her frayed nerves calmed.

Spring is in the air…….

###

Spring by Irene Waters

Like an arrow I cut through the water, my cheeks puffed as I negotiated the need to exhale. I expelled tiny bubbles, rejoicing in the cool velvety texture of the fluid I travelled through. My outstretched hands touched the bottom and I flipped, momentarily giving my feet a surface on which to push, sending myself flying to the top. Surfacing I laughed with pure joy. My father watched. “Can I do it again. Please.”

“Okay. This time use the board. Three bounces.”

The spring-board groaned as thrice I jumped, then flew up through the air. My exhilaration was complete.

###

The Album by Sarah Brentyn

She stared at the empty album, wondering again what kind of flower decorated the cover before her mind tried to find the word for the color then thought about the emptiness again.

Round and round like the seasons. In and out and back again. Peach. It was peach, that hue. Pink. And the flower, a rose. Or carnation. Daisy. The emptiness. Pink. Flowers. Like spring. With things that are alive trying to sprout from things that look dead.

The album was closed but she knew they took the fading photos—black and white memories she was starting to lose.

###

Renewal by Geoff Le Pard

Mary saw the gynaecologist. ‘I’m worried about your weight, Mrs North. It’s fluctuating a lot.’

Mary listened but stayed silent.

‘Are you sleeping alright?’

No, but she said nothing.

‘At your age, pregnancy is potentially more, erm, challenging. You need to take more care of yourself. Both of you.

Mary nodded. She thought about her list, where she had added ‘me’. She realised it should have been ‘us’.

She broke from her daydream. The picture was becoming clear.

He pointed. ‘Long legs.’

‘Like my father.’

‘Do you want to know the sex?’

‘It’s a boy, isn’t it?’

He nodded.

###

Green and Blue Survival by Pat Cummings

Dumping condensation that has collected on the lid of the makeshift rainbarrel, I set it carefully back over a full container that once held olives, and move downline to the next.

This one holds a nascent green frog. Its tail still reveals its tadpole nature. Scooping it gently from its tiny pond, I walk it downhill to the sump pool. It can survive here long enough to sing next winter, unless the crows eat it.

“Hon!” An excited voice floats from the side yard. “Our ceanothus came back!” The tiny blue blossoms have survived another winter of deer depredation.

###

The Downside of Spring by Sarrah J. Woods

Julia and her neighbor, Mae, were talking outside over the hum of a nearby lawnmower and the flurry of birds and squirrels on their evening hunts.

Mae plucked a pink blossom off her crab apple tree. “I love spring,” she said.

Julia shook her head. “I used to. Now, I’d trade color for calm. Spring is too busy—in winter and summer things are more settled and relaxed. Even fall is cozy. But spring is too much work.”

Mae shrugged. “The grass is always greener on the other side.”

“No,” said Julia, “the grass needs to be mowed.”

###

Her Season by Ann Edall-Robson

Spring. Mother Nature dictates the terms for the when and where. There is no telling her to conform to the thought that April showers should bring May flowers. She does what she wants.

A change of heart is evident with the lengthening of the days. Warming the raw earth and nurturing her babies to life. Some will not survive her teaching methods. Others will flourish like an epidemic.

Buds on trees. Calves and fawns peek out from behind their Mothers. Goslings scoot across the water to the low chortle from their long necked parents.

Her season of new life.

###

Signs of Spring by Larry LaForge

“Let’s see,” Edna said, always glad to help granddaughter Ellen with her homework. What are signs of spring?

“Here’s my list so far,” Ellen exclaimed proudly. “Blooming flowers, greening grass, chirping birds, rain showers.”

“Good!” Edna said to the third grader. “Does Grandpa have any ideas?”

Ed started to speak but abruptly stopped, holding up his index finger as if to say “Just a sec.” Edna handed him a handkerchief to wipe his runny nose. Ed hesitated again, letting out a loud ACHOO that startled Ellen. He coughed repeatedly but was finally able to speak.

“Earthworms on the driveway.”

###

Spring & Sunshine by Susan Zutautas

Spring uplifts my depression

The sun shines and awakens something inside me

New life springing up, trees budding, warmth beating down on the earth

Dark clouds no longer hang over my head

Rejuvenated and feeling like a brand new person

Sleep now comes easy

Hopelessness has turned into a promising future

Gloomy days are now filled with cheerfulness

Unimaginable pain has been uplifted

Despondent now hopeful

Seasonal affective disorder can be so debilitating

But once it has lifted life will return to normal

Never lose hope
Never give up
Never give in

Spring shall return

Just as sunshine does

###

Mother’s Day by Pete Fanning

Ben and the girls trooped up the path, tracking through a recent dusting of cherry blossoms. The iris stalks swayed along in the breeze, clutching the beauty in their spears.

They hiked past the wildflowers–glowing yellow and pink on the hill. For Ben, the pain dulled over time, just as the shine of her eyes blurred and the warmth of her voice faded. Then each spring it bloomed again, as the girls lay their flowers against her stone. To them she was only a face in a frame, but to him she was everything.

“Happy Mother’s Day, Ana.”

###

Spring Beauty by Susan Zutautus

I tend to my flowering bush carefully raking away the autumn leaves that have been protecting it all winter. Each day I check for the long awaited buds to emerge and pop. Year after year the flowers seem more breathtaking in their pink, white, yellow and red hues. New life is here. The bush itself stands tall and grows wider each year that passes with warmth from the sun. The leaves start out green and erupt into a beautiful shade of red in the fall. Once in its full foliage I know that spring has left and summer begins.

###

Symbols of Spring by Rose Ketring

Growing up, winter felt eternal. Promise of warmth came in the form of running water: in the streets and engorged river. Spring ritual never came with the budding of flowers or early morning calm a ray of sun can bring.

Neighborhoods came together to fill sandbags to fortify the riverbed and complain about sugar beet and potato crop yields. Spring of my childhood promised class trips to Sandbag Central. The return of orange construction cones and alternate roads because main roads were flooded. The warmth of those who fought the Red River year after year symbolizes Spring for me.

###

Spring by Marigold Deidre Dicer

The low sun transformed the trees into long black shadows cutting across the orange-stained landscape. If she squinted, she could make out the pale apple blossoms threatening to loose themselves in the breeze, though the fragrance was too subtle for her nose to single out. Standing there with her camera around her neck, she took a moment to soak up the beauty of the late spring. Sometimes, the drive to capture the moment caused her to miss the experience altogether, but she promised herself that wouldn’t happen this season. She closed her eyes and breathed the softly warming air…

###

May 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

May 6Some days, life’s challenges charge like a bull. When I think I have the shoulders to fight back, I realize it only leaves me feeling battered. I don’t win or accomplish anything.

This week has been a series of odd confrontations for me. I’m not one to go around looking for a bull fight but somehow I found myself in the arena. Even our literary compilation on racism brought censure.

Carrot Ranch is a safe and trusted place for writers to wrangle words, practice craft and display amazing feats of flash fiction. Sometime the lead buckaroo bites off a big cigar and issues a tough prompt. But I promise those who trust this corral that I won’t ever toss writers to the bulls.

In fact, I promised one Rough Writer that this next prompt would be peaches and cream.

So that’s the direction of what feels like a flat post for me this week. I also did not finish my next writer’s platform series post, and tomorrow I need to address my negligent house-keeping skills because my two daughters are coming over Friday to spend a weekend. Such a treat I can’t wait to savor!

But first, a curious note on creativity.

Normally stress and creativity do not mix well for me. Constraints work, but worries drain. Knowing this, I shut down my computer and went outside. I stood under the apple tree and realized I could hear life — bees buzzed. I looked up to see hundreds of mason bees among white blossoms and blue sky beyond. Looking up always feels hopeful.

When I came back inside I wrote as if I had hiccups. It just wasn’t flowing. My voice seemed stifled. Then I went searching my photo folders for a peaches and cream kind of photo for the challenge icon. Apple blossoms kept calling so I used a photo close up of one from New Drama on Elmira Pond and I gave it a peachy cast.

That’s when I had an  image of the twins. Lately, I’ve been having fun with a character with local Idaho flavor, Ramona. She’s an elderly widow of a vet and mother of twins, both stillborn. She’s showing signs of developing dementia and is alone on her now empty ranch. She imagines the twins.

But what came to me was this — what if the twins that don’t exist, imagine their mother in return. What would their existence be like? Would it be a useful literary tool to tell a story? How would it work?

This week, I’ve crafted two 99-word flash fictions — one from Ramona’s perspective and one from the twins. Tell me what you think? Crafty? Creative? Compelling? Crazy? Just don’t use the other “c” word — critical. I think my mind would snap.

And let me say something about criticism. Constructive criticism takes experience and even literary training. I don’t fear it, or avoid it, but it is something I seek from trusted writers or mentors. Some forums specialize in critique and you can seek that out if you want that. Others are open to anyone commenting based on opinions of good or bad, which doesn’t help a writer develop. Carrot Ranch is fostered on encouragement and will remain a safe environment for writers to practice, grow, have brilliant moments and flat ones.

This week is a peaches and cream kind of prompt.

May 6, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a snapshot of spring. I realize that some Rough Writers are riding into autumn, and I hope this isn’t a disadvantage to focus on a season we are not collectively sharing. We could think of it as “spring eternal.” Warm, renewing, new life, hope.

Respond by May 12, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Warmth of Spring by Charli Mills

In bare feet and faded peaches and cream house-coat, Ramona basked under the apple tree. Dark aroma floated from her coffee mug, mingling with sweet apple blossoms. Morning sun warmed her cheeks the way Vic’s hand felt when he rested it on her thigh, snugged to him on the bench seat of their truck. They drove in her dreams last night, young and ready for spring calves. Ramona frowned. No cattle lulled in the pastures; just the truck with both doors open and parked aslant. She shook her head. She’d have to talk to the twins about joy-riding again.

###

In the Apple Tree by Charli Mills

The twins watched Mama from the tops of apple tree blossoms. A buzz of mason bees tickled their feet. They held each other unseen in a pose of entwined arms like partner yoga. One giggled to the other, thoughts passing no louder than the hum of pollination:

What do we know of yoga?
Remember when Mama signed up for a class in town?
Yeah, yeah! And she fell over mid downward dog?
That’s right!

A breeze reached down and caught Mama like a tendril of hair across her face. Feel our touch, they both thought. We love you, Mama.

###

These Racial Earthquakes

These Racial EarthquakesTackling racism in 99 words has been the most difficult writing challenge to date at Carrot Ranch, followed by unicorns and rainbows. The task of solving racism in any word count seems of epic mythical proportions. Yet, writers tapped out stories that reveal racial chasms and responses.

These stories are meant to start at the beginning and validate that racism is real. Some scenarios might be familiar; others might shed new light. To heal, we must first recognize the disease. We need to find ways to relieve the pressure before more social earthquakes build in magnitude.

Use these stories to start conversations. And that is what literature can do–initiate the discussion with imagined stories that reflect the social issue of our times. The following stories are based on the April 29, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that tackles racism.

***

A Bigot by Ruchira Khanna

“I can do this. Please give me a chance” came an urgent request.

Ann scrutinized him from head to toe and stamped his papers with a wiggly nose.

He quickly scanned them and fetched his uniform.

With lots of apprehensions, entered the work scenario.

He could feel the stares and ogles of his co-workers. But with shaky hands, he adjusted his turban and pushed the long strands inside.

Just then, a few men surrounded him.
His hands gave away to the cloth; his eyes widened when he felt the pressure of their friendly grips and a unison, “Welcome!”

###

Ratifying Office Policies by Charli Mills

Mel grabbed Gerry’s coat sleeve as he walked out of the meeting.

“Can you tell me who’s under consideration?”

“My office. Ten minutes.”

In his office, Gerry confided the three candidates for the sales department. “Mel, management is favoring this one.” He slid a resume to her.

“Where’s the qualifications?”

“We support affirmative action and this candidate is…you know…like you…”

“A woman?”

“Uh, no…”

“A Navy vet?”

“No.”

“A college graduate?”

“Mel, don’t be difficult. I thought you’d be pleased.”

“That management is hiring a person of color out of white guilt? That’s the worst kind of racism, Gerry.”

###

A Southern Belle Extends an Olive Branch by Paula Moyer

Jean’s grandparents had traced their genealogy. Southern to the core, they discovered wills in which their ancestors had passed on their slaves, like they were any other property.

Jean now stared at her copy of the genealogy, at one handwritten will. A “wench named Jane” would go to the ancestor’s wife.

Who was Jane? Was she the missing link for someone trying to trace his ancestors?

Jean googled Henry Louis Gates, Jr., creator of the “Finding Your Roots” series on PBS.

“Dear Mr. Gates: my grandparents’ genealogy work unearthed several wills that mentioned slaves. Could I help your project?”

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

The rain prattled against the metal roof of the Anderson Humane Society, where inside a very serious matter was at paw.

“Orange cats cannot be trusted. Why, they’re not even cats really.” Preston, the white Persian bellowed. “Just troublemakers.”

“They are inferior.” The Siamese hissed.

“Hey my father was orange,” said Ramona the calico, between licks of her tail.

“That’s different,” Preston conceded.

“This sounds familiar,” Ben, the black cat muttered.

Phil glanced at the jury. A Burmese, three silver tabbies. A Sphynx? He slunk down in his cage.

He’d sure hopped off the truck at the wrong town.

###

Declaring War by Charli Mills

Lucy parked behind Ken’s truck along the reservation river. Her Forest Service uniform was sweaty, coated with sawdust.

“Hey Little Sister!”

Lucy accepted a cold Pepsie, nodding to Ken and his companions.

“We’re doing it. Declaring war on those white bastards.” Young brown faces smirked.

“Gotta go,” she said, hearing her radio. Wildfires were closing in.

“Bah! White man’s work.”

Later, bagging bodies of nameless campers consumed by fire, she reflected how ashes concealed skin color. My war is holding back flames. We all live and die. She would live to fight for all skins. Rescue honored her ancestors.

###

United by Ruth Irwin

They came from all corners of the globe to a small Pacific nation. All had a common goal – to help those less fortunate than themselves.

Male and female; school leavers and middle aged; English speaking and a variety of other tongues. The differences in ages, backgrounds and languages are insignificant. In past ages these people would have been mortal enemies; now they are kindred spirits united as one.

All are willing and eager to immerse themselves in a new culture; to learn, to share, to accept, to embrace, to enrich the community and take home what cannot be bought.

###

Dance Like Everyone’s Watching by Sarah Brentyn

“Why do you hide this?” He brushed his thumb across her cheek, lifting thick curls off her face.

“Don’t,” she slapped his hand away, pulling her hair forward.

He leaned against the lockers, watching her.

She stuffed a chemistry book into her bag. “What?”

“I’m taking you to prom,” he smirked.

“Oh, get over yourself.”

He winked at the girls strutting by. They blew kisses. “See? They love me. And I’m taking you,” he repeated. “I want them to see us together.”

She glanced over her shoulder, catching glares. “Obviously, that’s not a good idea for you.”

“Screw them.”

###

Third-Grade Lesson by Larry LaForge

“I’ll trade my jello for your pudding,” Ellen said to Huong. Quanesha giggled.

Ed and Edna were enjoying Grandparents’ Day at Bayview Elementary. Their granddaughter Ellen and her best friends—the three amigas—laughed and gulped their food before skipping out arm in arm.

The sudden silence was awkward as the three sets of grandparents remained at the lunchroom table. Eyes glanced upward and downward as the elderly guests seemed to be inspecting the ceiling and floor. “Nice weather,” Edna finally offered.

Mercifully, the bell relieved them.

As they left, Ed and Edna knew the kids have it right.

###

The Cleaner by Sherri Matthews

“What’s that man doing, standing there like that?” said Marjory, finger pointing.

Neil brought their car to a stop on the driveway. “He’s probably just the cleaner. Come on, let’s get checked in.”

“Well, I’m not staying here with that foreigner, he looks dodgy to me.”

“Mr & Mrs Phillips?” smiled the man as he greeted the couple. “Welcome to Lavender Cottage. I’m Steve Brown, the owner. We spoke earlier on the telephone?”

Marjory coughed into her balled fist as the men shook hands.

“Nice man…” said Neil at dinner, steak perfect.

Marjory sniffed.

The man wasn’t mentioned again.

###

The Last Dinner by Charli Mills

Dawn’s family disapproved of her lifestyle. She only returned to the ranch for her father’s funeral. Her aunt served a spaghetti feed. After one bite, her uncle said. “There’s a cure for that.”

“For what?”

“Sew your mouth shut.”

Dawn felt color rise. Her weight was not his consideration. She waited for someone to speak up.

“You can say it’s hormones, but tell ya what, those people in concentration camps claimed no problems.”

Did he just compare dieting to the Holocaust? Dawn stood. “I’d say you’re the problem, but I’d be a bigger part if I didn’t walk away.”

###

Flash Fiction by A. R. Amore

Gil sat in the Home Depot parking lot, drinking his coffee watching the Mexican day laborers collect by the bus stop, their foreign babble drifting through his open window. A group of kids driving by on their way to school flung oranges at the men hollering, “Go home beaners!”

Gil agreed. “Illegals,” he thought. “No one wants you here.”

The younger migrants threw oranges back. On Gil’s passenger window a woman pounded frantically, a limp child in her arms, her Spanish non-stop. “Jesus,” he spilled some coffee.

She shook. “Please,” she repeated. “Please.”

Without thought, Gil unlocked the door.

###

Choose Any Colour by Geoff Le Pard

‘I was researching ritual killings. I wanted to know more about the boy they found. Why..?’

‘They were having sex.’

Paul closed his eyes. ‘Yes. I’d only just clicked on the link. They were communing with the devil. They kill young boys to pacify…’

‘You didn’t have to watch. You…’

‘Christ, Mary, it’s not like I fancied any of them.’

She glared. ‘Why? Because they’re black?’

Paul gripped the table. ‘No, because they’re not you.’

Mary shuddered, sobbing. ‘I’m so sorry.’

‘Me too. He was someone’s child, someone loved him.’ He rubbed her stomach. ‘Like we will love ours.’

###

The Surprise by Ann Edall-Robson

“Hi Mom, just wanted to let you know I am on my way and I’m bringing a surprise for you.”

With a smile on her face Margaret hung up the phone. “A surprise? I like surprises,” she mumbled to herself.

It was almost midnight when the back door opened to the sound of giggling.

“Mom, we’re home. Come and meet my fiancee.”

Looking through to the mud room, Margaret turned white. The welcome never left her mouth. He stood with his arm around her daughter. This was surely a joke. He was a foreigner!

And then he kissed her.

###

All Cats Are Grey by Pat Cummings

Hearing twigs snap behind him, Henry leaned forward to feed his campfire—more warmth, but it still barely lit his fingers.

“Join me?” he called. “I have coffee.”

Three bulky shapes loomed out of the darkness. “Thanks, man.” The fire-light was insufficient to tell who spoke. “You need more firewood.”

Henry laughed. “No, I practice the old way, ‘Indian build small fire, huddle close, stay warm; White Man build big fire, stay warm chopping wood.'”

Silence from the other side of the fire, until a sap pocket flared up to gleam from three deep-brown faces and his own white one.

###

Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

It was a tough assignment and only four hours to turn it around. We’d had a tipoff about an expat Texan who hung out on Freak Street. But finding him? The taxi stalled three miles out, roads churned to rubble, street signs gone. Phone lines dead. Asking around, we were met with blank stares. Kids wailing. Families sheltering under tarpaulin. Cardboard. Those with homes still standing terrified to go indoors.

We were filming a kid blubbing among the bricks that killed his parents when we found her, tears streaming prettily down pale-pink cheeks. “The holiday of a lifetime. Ruined.”

###

The Rules by Ula Humienik

“Remember the rules, girls. Cover your hair, cover your arms and legs.”

“Yes, Ms. Johnson,” they said in unison.

“You don’t want to offend anyone.”

“Yes, Ms. Johnson.”

“When you return, you may remove the coverings when you are inside the safe space, but remember you must be quiet and not disturb the white peace.”

“Yes, Ms. Johnson.”

One of the girls, not dressed in the coverings, raised her hand.

“Yes, Lesli, what is it?”

“I don’t want to cover my beautiful hair or my black arms or black legs. I don’t want to be quiet and not disturb.”

###

Our Cousins by Irene Waters

Why the hell had he come to this rally? Yves squirmed in his seat as he listen to the vitriol pour from the mouths of the speakers. They were inciting the crowd to riot, mob and maim those from the Middle East, The Sudan and other parts of Africa. He had to risk that anger being transferred to him. He stood and commanded the floor. At least they respected him. Well at least for the moment. “Brothers” he said in a loud clear voice. “Why do you wish to hurt my brothers. We share the same Granny. Mitochondrial Eve.

###

Overheard in Elmira by Charli Mills

Hazelnut creamer scents my hot cup of coffee. We sit in silence, savoring the morning, listening to locals chat at the Elmira Store.

“Our church sent pastors to Baltimore.”

“What happened?” The waitress pours us all another round of coffee. My bedroom is larger than the space crammed with tables and unmatched chairs.

“It calmed things.”

“Evidently you didn’t see the pictures on the front cover!”

“And they didn’t show the pictures of the line of pastors and parents who stood between the mob and the police. Angry youth wept but fists unfolded.”

“Why wouldn’t the paper show that?”

###

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the importance of the topic (and it’s difficulty to address in 99 words) we have two additions for your reading this week. One is a short story that exceeds the constraint but captures the vitality of the prompt and the other is an important post that gives voice to those who are marginalized. Please continue to read and use the comments if you want to add to the discussion.

Janisha by Jeanne Lombardo

Janisha planted herself before my desk. A bulwark, I thought.

“I want to talk to you,” she said.

Her tone conveyed a reprimand, not a request to a supervisor.

“Alright,” I said. “Have a seat.”

She ignored me. I looked uneasily behind her at the only door to my office and the empty hallway beyond.

“You might close the door,” I said, remembering the discrimination complaint she’d filed against another manager. I’d already gotten her play-by-play account of the incident, despite the dean’s warning not to discuss it.

I suppressed a sigh of defeat. Composed my face to its managerial mask. Wondered again what made this woman so bloody commanding: that throaty voice, those tight cornrows framing heavy brow and full purple lips. Her face belonged to some fierce Asian deity guarding a temple.

I cleared my throat. “You know it’s against policy for me to discuss your grievance,” I began.

Her face glistened like a polished stone. Glowering, I thought.

Then in a beat, she threw her head back, let out a full-throttle laugh.

“That’s not why I came in,” she said. And laid a plastic, motorized fan on my desk.

“Just gets so stinking hot back here.”

###

Colour My World a Rainbow by Norah Colvin

I am not participating in the flash challenge this week, feeling unable to write something that would give sufficient recognition to the gravity of the divide that is racism. However I do not want my silence to be seen as lack of concern, or negation of the importance of the issue. Instead I will use my post to amplify the voices of others. (Continue to Norah’s post to hear Dr Enyimba Maduka, Clint Smith, James A. White Sr., Nina Jablonski and more).