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June 24: Flash Fiction Challenge

June 24Some days I’m just a dirt farmer.

On my knees, churning soil like a human rototiller, I grab at weed roots and aerate the compacted earth around fledgling plants. Some plants have not fledged. I’m patient with dirt, and wait for it to reveal a hopeful germination. I know when to give up, thus I press more seed into the barren spots.

Writing is a lot like gardening. Words are dirt into which we plant stories, books and dreams.

Most days, I’m comforted by the dirt, believing it will yield, believing I have half a clue about what I’m doing. Other days, those barren spots worry me. Did I plant too deep? Too shallow? Was my seed too old? I begin to doubt my efforts matter.

Topics can be like barren doubt. I’ve mentally churned the idea of writing something in relation to what happened, again, on American soil — the meaningless massacre of a hate crime in Charleston, South Carolina. Do I have words that will grow something fruitful? Will I write too deep? Too shallow?

I don’t know what to write. I’m the dirt farmer devastated by hail, by grasshoppers, by drought. I don’t even look into my neighbor’s eye because I know he’s experienced the same thing. I glare at my other neighbor in the big house because she has no idea what it is to put hope into dirt. And this is dangerous ground. It touches upon shame and envy, it breeds a blight of hate.

The singer Jewel asks in a song, “And who will save your soul if you won’t save your own?”

Best to kneel back down in the dirt, take compassion on both neighbors — the one who struggles, and the one who doesn’t — and plant again. Hope again. Feel. Joys and sorrows. It doesn’t matter if your dirt patch is small or if others even notice what you are doing. Do it because it’s yours. Plant your stories.

Charleston? All I can do is to promise you that I will not sow hate. I can promise you that I will help each person I meet best that I can. I promise to do what is right, what is just even if sometimes I’m confused by the results or how to go about it. I will put my gaze on the good, the sprouts, the beauty that grows from tenaciously churning my dirt, pulling weeds and nourishing emerging plants. I will write words that may not matter to pop culture or mass media, but express beauty nonetheless. I’ll rise up toward the light like a plant newborn from the soil.

I’m too far away to touch you in Charleston. But I can give a stranger a ride to town. I can share potatoes with my neighbors, big and small. One interaction at a time, I can be an agent of love and compassion. May my world one day spread toward yours, and hers, and his, and may each single effort add up to a worthier place to live.

Dig in the dirt writers! Be gardeners of your own stories and tillers of your truth. Write deep. Write shallow. Know that you matter; your stories matter. Every life matters.

June 24, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about dirt. You can go with the idea of digging into the dirt as an analogy, or you can be realistic. Maybe a character has “the dirt” on someone or another has “dirty laundry” to hide. Dirt can be rich soil or barren. Get dirty, but not shockingly dirty!

And the photo? I dug in the garden today, weeding and mounding potato hills, thinning red onions, evidently for the benefit of my largest garden pest, Bobo, who slept soundly upon the warm dirt.

Respond by June 30, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


The Late Exchange by Charli Mills

Belle searched for signs of rising dirt that announced travelers across the barren basin. By now she could discern hand carts from wagons. She hoped to see indication of the overdue Pony Express rider. Sul would soon go searching, leaving Belle alone.

“I’ll give you the rifle. Point and pull the trigger.”

Belle nodded.

“Ah, Sweetheart, ain’t nobody getting’ in through these rock walls.”

Then, billowing dirt on the horizon.

When the rider arrived to exchange horses, he grinned. “Injuns!” He tossed Belle a calico sack full of pine nuts. “For you, Ma’am. Seems they like your chokecherry pie.”



PlaytimeThe serious business of adult life is often learned through playtime. Children’s games, though seemingly innocent and fun, can have a darker side. Consider the origins of many familiar nursery rhymes. Many of the rules of behavior, including the establishment of a societal pecking order, can be passed down in games.

On the lighter side, we almost universally share fun memories of similar childhood games — chasing, hiding, seeking and tagging. Games can teach us the process of learning, and help us to remember through singing and playing.

This week, writers responded with different insights to the June 17, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves a children’s game or rhyme.


A Game of Marco Polo by Ula Humienik

“Got you.”
“Not fair. This pool is too small for a game of Marco Polo.”
“It is not. You’re just a sore loser.”
“Am not.”
“Are too.”
“No way.”
“Yes way.”
“Mom, Sandy’s not playing nice again.”
“That’s not true. Take it back.” Sandy reached for Teri’s wrist and grabbed really hard.
“You’re hurting me. Mom. Mom, Sandy’s hurting me.”
“Am not.”
“Why isn’t mom answering?”
“I don’t know. She’s probably reading her lady magazines.”
“Mom. Mom. MOM!” Teri rushed out the pool and ran inside. Sandy followed her.
“Mom. Mom! Mom?”
“Quick. Call 911.”


Sight by Paula Moyer

For someone as nearsighted as Jean, swimming in a pool, without contacts or glasses, was a lot like “pin the tail on the donkey.” While her dad, the World War II pilot, had the eagle coveted acuity of 20/15, Jean’s chart said she could see “hand motion” at 20 feet.

Then the optometrist suggested prescription swim goggles. They were especially made for her strength, and they arrived a week after ordering.

She stepped into the pool and applied her goggles. It was like removing the blind. She could see things: The clock on the wall. Lane markers. Other swimmers.


A Real Keeper by Charli Barli Mills

Gus drew a circle in the dirt, then a starting line in the middle. The boys set down their clays. The new girl, Dina, added two green porcelains. Gus drew a deep breath. A girl with marbles? He wiped his palms and knelt with his blue slag shooter. Before the teacher pulled the bell rope, Dina added the boys’ marbles to her bag.

Gus walked beside her. “Can I see your shooter?”


Swirls of amber, a real keeper. So he’d think years later as they exchanged vows, and he smiled into her eyes as pretty as her taw.


School Policy by Pete Fanning

Taj sat perched at the edge of his seat.

“Taj, pushing and shoving violate our anti-bullying policy. And running—”

The door cracked open. Taj’s eyes dropped to his feet as his mother entered. A slight tuna smell clung to her uniform.

“Mrs. Sallio.”

“Sorry,” she panted, her accent heavy with her breaths. “I ran right over. Had to push my way through a mob on Seventh.”

The principal grimaced. “I see…uh..”

“What did you do?” she snapped at her son.

“Well, Taj organized a game of musical chairs at lunch.”

Mrs. Sallio’s scowl turned upwards. “Did you win?”


Easter Surprise by Susan Budig

Sonja sneaked downstairs, hoping to be the first one to her Easter basket. She spied her cousin Tor popping jelly beans into his mouth.

“Are you eating my candy?”

“Heck no, the Easter bunny only left you little brown souvenirs ,” he teased.

“You mean bunny poop? He did not!”

“Uh-huh, sure did, look!”

Sonja stared at the small brown pellets.

Suddenly, Tor popped one in his mouth. “They taste good, though, try one!”

“Torsten Martin Gustavsson! Spit that out!”

Instead, he scooped them all up. “Funny how they taste like raisins,” he said, laughing with his mouth full.


Red Rover by Mercy.James.

She remembered endless school lunch hours – sandwiches and fruit washed quickly down with milk, the need to break free of the hall doors – hitting fresh school yard air.

Sides chosen – lines formed – “Red Rover” chained arms linked in clasping solidarity as the call for someone to come over – charging into battle – trying to break the lines – win some, lose some – knowing the weakest runners/pushers and the strongest links; strategies played over in small conflicts, ending with arms and legs twisting – wonder no one wrenched shoulders out of sockets.

Remembering – was I really that strong – or just a fearsome bully?


Red Rover – and Out by Jules Paige

Pretty much always being the new kid on the block I was more than
less, always picked last. Picked on, picked over. Left to watch when
the teams were even and I wasn’t chosen. Frozen to move, be hurt,
be blamed. As the others untamed in their innocence, taught by their
parents prejudice, snickered and laughed.

If chosen at all I was always the first one rammed. Be them damned,
those little mongrels for not learning how to accept differences.

Once a tool, labeled fool – I do believe I’m better. Some memories, rot.


Freeze Tag by Roger Shipp

“You ever noticed that even on the hottest of days, Evan never sweats?”

“His mother says that he takes after his father.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. Ms. Felcher gets a faraway look in her eye. I just don’t go there.”

“Evan never talks about his dad. What happened?”

“Heard he just went away. Never proved it, but they say he killed a man.”

“Must be true. Why else would he have left ‘em?”

“Evan is weird. He’s never played Freeze Tag with us.”

“His mother won’t let him. Says it would be the death of us.”


Spaghetti Toast by Pat Cummings

The once-full platter of spaghetti, glistening strands coated and over-topped with Dad’s wonderful sauce, lay abandoned in the middle of the table as we said grace.

The bottle of juice passed, and each of us had a full plate and glass in front of us. The Parmesan cheese shaker went around the table, and we sprinkled our spaghetti with that pungent dust.

Mom and Dad began eating, but we youngsters waited to begin. First, we must toast. We raised our baby-wine together three times.

To the King!
To the Queen!
To the stinky-feet Cheese!

Only then would we eat.


Who’s Got the Button by Ann Edall-Robson

“Button, button, who’s got the button?”

He laughed as he tweaked her nose and showed his thumb peeking out between his two fingers.

Reaching for his hand, the little girl giggled.

“Daddy! Give it back!”

It was a their game. Filled with laughter, teasing and eventually the return of the imaginary nose.

“She’s as cute as you, Button.”

His voice ragged with gruff emotion when he said the pet name for his grown daughter holding her newborn.

Leaning over he gently tweaked the tiny nose.

“Dad! Give it back!”

Laughter erupted from them. Carefree memories trickled down their cheeks.


Ed Says by Larry LaForge

Ellen shakes her head. “Grandpa, that’s not the real name of the game. It’s Simon Says.”

“Not this version,” Ed replies to his granddaughter.

“Alright. OK. Let’s just do it,” the youngster reluctantly responds.

Ed smiles and begins. “Ed says scratch your head.” Ellen and Edna immediately scratch their head.

“Ed says blink twice.” Ellen and Edna do it.

“Ed says smile.” Ellen and Edna grin from ear to ear.

“Hug your grandmother.” Ellen gives Edna a big hug.

“I didn’t say Ed says. You lose, young lady.”

Ellen laughs. “No, Grandpa. I won. I got to hug Grandma.”


Role Play by Ruth Irwin

“Nan, you be the Darling and I be the Mum. Okay?”


“Darling, I have to go to work and you have to go to kindy.”

“But I don’t want to go to kindy Mummy. Wah.”

“Stop crying Darling. You have to go to kindy. You can play with your friends and I’ll come back and get you later.”

“Wah, wah. I don’t want to go to kindy. I want to stay home and make cookies with you.”

“Nan!! You’re not allowed to say that! You have to say…”

Remember Nan, you’re the Darling; do as you’re told!


Playing Safe by Irene Waters

“Mummy. Can I play billycarts at John’s?”

“No Joanie, it’s too dangerous.”

“How about bike riding at Heather’s?”

“No too dangerous.”

“Swimming at Robbo’s?”

“No. His parents are away. Can’t you think of something to play here?”

“How about Hula hoops? “

“Hula hoops are fine.”

Standing at the kitchen window, her arms covered in suds, she watched with joy the two little girls gyrating their hips and arms as the hula hoop spun round. As a red film made the window opaque she lost sight of the girls. She screamed. She hadn’t thought of the staple that could sever a carotid.


A Book of Memories by Geoff Le Pard

‘Seen this?’ Mary held up a battered book.

Paul took it, reading the title. ‘Nursery rhymes and children’s games. This yours?’

‘I remember dad reading from it, even after I was too old. He just loved making silly voices.’

‘You’ll be able to do the same for our baby.’

‘I wonder what he was thinking, when he read to me? About my twin?’

Paul opened the front cover, squinting at the faded writing. ‘To Mary and Sharon. Much love Gloria.’

Mary grabbed it from him. ‘I don’t remember this.’ She met Paul’s gaze.

‘Your imaginary friend?’

‘Or my twin?’


You Are It by A. R. Amore

Sitting on the porch I can hear them, out there, silently creeping. I squint trying to catch a glimpse of their forms, but it’s impossible. Hushed whispers, a rustling by the stand of pines and then nothing.

I try to assess. Five, maybe six of them but I cannot be sure. There must be others; they move in larger groups this time of year. Our dog stiffens up and growls through the screen door.

“What’s out there,” my wife asks. They are close. Suddenly, a flurry of flashlights burst following a chorus of, “You’re it! You’re it! You’re it!”


Mary by Sarah Brentyn

She crouched, hands over her ears, playground voices taunting.

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary! How does your garden grow!”

The group of giggling girls skipped away.

Mary stayed near the brick wall, shaking, imagining the torture of silver bells, the beheadings, the garden of gravestones her grandfather told her about one night when she had asked for a bedtime story.

She thought back to Kindergarten, when the teasing made her cry just because the singing of her name had sounded unkind. Now, only one year later, she cried because the images of death played in her mind like a slideshow.


Plum Pudding by Norah Colvin

We sat in the circle chanting,

“I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it.”

“It” skipped around the outside, waving a handkerchief.

“One of you has picked it up and put it in your pocket.

Not you. Not you. Not y-o-u!”

Suddenly “It” was running and children were scrabbling behind them.

“Run,” they called.

Then “It” was beside me.

“Plum pudding!” they all screamed hysterically.

The adult pointed to the centre of the circle. “We’ll have you for dessert,” he grinned.

I cried, wondering what it would be like to be eaten alive!


Mairzy Doats by Jeanne Lombardo

The box was just long and wide enough for Maddy to crawl in.

“Stand up,” the children yelled.

Maddy felt herself righted. Her bare feet stumbled. The voices
sang as from afar.

“Over here Maddy!” called one.

“Over here!” called another.

She spiraled, tripped, thudded on the ground.

Panic set her breathing again, but the voices had taken flight. Her pleas shrill sirens in the empty yard.

At last, a yank, a release into light and air and the sing-song of her mother’s voice.

“Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, Wooden shoe!”


Cowboys and Indians by Christina Rose

I sat crouched in the grass, honey stalks swaying around me as grasshoppers bounced across my shimmering skin. Pioneer outfit clung to clammy skin, sticky in the late July sun. She was out there, waiting for me to stand, to shoot with her faux bow and arrow.

In her black wig and leather dress, she was the Indian and I, the cowboy. We would call a truce soon, join forces for our mid-day picnic. Then, resume the game of cat and mouse.

The field near our house, days of warm summer games, memories of laughter-filled childhood summers past.




RodeoThe first time I ever rode in a car that had a Garmin GPS, I laughed at the voice prompt when when we missed a turn. It patiently stated, “Recalculating.”

As a writer riding the rodeo circuit to get published, my recalculations are not always because of missed turns or errors. Sometimes, I see a new opportunity or connection. I tend to grab the bull by the horns, but often find I have a corral full of bulls and have to figure out what next.

My corral is full at the moment, and for a pantser, that feels good. I like the energy of having multiple projects in the works. My overarching goal to publish books is always my priority. My motivation remains high when I feel inspired and connected.

However, my friend Kate, who despite having terminal cancer, remains a wise council for me. She pointed out that while I write down my goals, I should also write out my full plan. Another friend also once advised me to create an individual business plan for each of my books. I certainly know how, but as a pantser I tend to balance it all in my head. To that, Kate reminded me that when you write it down, you have a better chance of succeeding.

“Goals in writing are dreams with a deadline.” ~Brian Tracy

While I balk at self-imposed deadlines, I do know that I want my goals to come to fruition. I have several written down beneath my overarching goal of publishing, but perhaps it is time to plot more deeply. After all, that is a recalculation I do in my writing process: I draft freely like a pantser, but buckle down and revise like a plotter.

“Goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor.” ~Brian Tracy

And change is blowing across the prairie, nudging me to change direction. My goal stands, but my tactics need recalculating because of recent opportunities. This is why I like having a corral full of bulls — more bulls, more rides and a better chance to make the ride I need.

I intended to publish Miracle of Ducks first. It makes sense; it’s complete, professionally edited and my first manuscript. I took it to LA, met with a publisher who advised me to find an agent, and met with an agent who declined. I messed up my first submission, uploading an earlier draft and was told that I didn’t have enough social media. I’ve not heard back from any agents since.

So weird thing happened on the way to the rodeo…a publisher answered an email I sent seven months ago. She asked if I was still working on the project, Rock Creek, which is my current WIP still in draft form, awaiting research for gaps I discovered in the writing. She expressed interest and advised me on how to submit the manuscript.

You might be wondering why I was contacting publishers about an unfinished manuscript. It began as a call to an editor of a western history magazine to ask if she’d be interested in research that I had from a distant cousin. I thought I could pitch the copious amounts of research I have on the topic of the shoot-out at Rock Creek, Nebraska. She was clear in what her magazine publishers wanted and I filed it away for the day I could pitch it as an author because magazine articles in big publications can help promote one’s book.

But first one must publish (write!) the book.

The editor also gave me two great leads in regards to my writing: one was for an association called Women Write the West and the other was for a publisher who is looking for new women’s voices in the genre of western historical. I wasn’t sure about signing up for the association until I was further along on my western book, but I took the opportunity to write the publisher.

In my mind, I hear Garmin stating, “Recalculating…”

No hard fast rule says my first novel has to be my first manuscript. Over the past two weeks, I’ve played out several what-if scenarios in my mind. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to get Rock Creek finished and reviewed by an interested publisher. I could join the association, pitch my research articles and opt the manuscript movie rights to an interested feature writer and director. Um, yeah, about that…

While posting the flash fiction that got me started down the road to write Rock Creek as a novel, I was contacted by a feature writer and director who was working on an undisclosed television project that included the life of Wild Bill Hickock. The producers wanted to include the Rock Creek incident as a turning point in Hickok’s life. The feature writer found Carrot Ranch because I had tagged both the place and the gunfighter’s name.

As of last week, I now know the name of the series with which I shared my research. I’m not a conservative so it stunned me to realize that I shared with Fox News! The show is Bill O’Reilly’s Legends and Lies: Into the West. The episode about Hickok is called, “Plains Justice.” I already know that the producer’s goal was to show Hickok in a white hat and McCandles in a black one, so the outcome will not surprise me. The good news is that there remains much interest in Hickok in general and in what happened at Rock Creek.

My contact on the project told me:

“This is all very interesting. During my research, the Rock Creek incident is the most cloudy and confusing. After every email and phone call with you, it seems to gain clarity. You are at the forefront of knowledge of the subjects involved and what really happened that day. Keep tackling and uncovering, Charli!”

It seems the stars are aligning over Rock Creek.

So what is holding me back? I wanted to publish a novel before Rock Creek because I feel the need to build my credibility, after all I’ve not published a book before. Without a book, I feel like everyone is excited over my idea, but they might think my novel-writing skills are less than expected; they are unproven, and that creates the doubt I’m battling.

Also, I feel an odd sense of disloyalty to Miracle of Ducks. I know I’m not abandoning it, but I would shelve it. Instead of finding an agent for generalized women’s fiction, I would have a publisher in a genre I love. I could always self-publish Miracle of Ducks after I build up a better author name, or if I fail at Rock Creek, I could return to my original plan.

As I recalculate, is there any sage advise for me to consider?

June 17: Flash Fiction Challenge

June 17Duck, duck, goose.

It’s a children’s game I remember from grade school. Mrs. Couch would turn off the overhead lights and each student would rest her head on the desk. The first selected student would wander through the rows chanting, “Duck…” tapping one student’s head, then “Duck…” and tapping another. We’d all tense and wait for “Goose!” If tapped, that student would chase the other back to his desk and begin the game anew.

I’m sure there are many versions of this game. In Minnesota, “duck, duck, goose” are fighting words. Mild-mannered people transform almost beast-like at the mention of winter existing outside of their state or those three words. It’s “duck, duck, gray duck” they’ll correct.

I’m reminded of this game because of the baby mergansers on the sunning log. Two weeks and Elmira Pond is shaggy with tall grass and the fluffy babies that once rode on their parents’ backs are now gangly youths. They sit on a log in a new version of the game: duck, duck, turtle, duck.

Having just returned from a household with five lively children, Kate’s grandchildren, I’ve learned all kinds of new games. Building blocks. Horses. Bubbles. Trike racing on sidewalks. Sausage. I’ve learned new songs, too, like:

Charley Barley, buck and rye,

What’s the way the Frenchmen fly?

Some fly east, some fly west,

Some fly over the cuckoo’s nest!

Traditional nursery rhymes are rich in culture and history. Four of these five children can recite dozens of them (we’ll give the fifth child a break because she’s only a month old). It brings to mind ones I knew along with childhood games, and I have a certain awe for their capacity to be passed down through the generations despite technology and screens.

There is yet life for the old stories, the old games in the new era.

Star light, star bright,

Very first star I see tonight,

I wish you may, I wish you might,

Give me the wish I wish tonight.

I’m home again, pondering the night sky. The Hub calls me to the porch to see Venus and Jupiter descending in the western horizon. I know they are planets, but they shine like the brightest stars and Venus qualifies as first. We stare up with childlike enchantment.

No wonder Peter Pan never wanted to grow up. We grow serious and forget to play, forget to wish, forget to dream. I needed two weeks with children who call me Charley Barley and giggle when I say, “See you later alligator!”

This week I invite you to play! Consider the flash fiction challenges at Carrot Ranch to be a writer’s sandbox; a place to play with 99 words like building blocks. Like musicians who jam, we join together with others and play our words. And, sometimes magic happens with what we create.

My gratitude to each of you who joins in. I get to play in world that is often too serious. My wish tonight is that you find the child within and race your fingers across the keyboard like in a good game of duck, duck, goose…or duck, duck, gray duck…or duck, duck, turtle, duck.

June 17, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves a children’s game or rhyme. You can create something new or go with something traditional. You can write with a twist, humor, menace or glee. Hop, skip or jump wherever the prompt leads you.

Respond by June 23, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


A Real Keeper by Charli Barli Mills

Gus drew a circle in the dirt, then a starting line in the middle. The boys set down their clays. The new girl, Dina, added two green porcelains. Gus drew a deep breath. A girl with marbles? He wiped his palms and knelt with his blue slag shooter. Before the teacher pulled the bell rope, Dina added the boys’ marbles to her bag.

Gus walked beside her. “Can I see your shooter?”


Swirls of amber, a real keeper. So he’d think years later as they exchanged vows, and he smiled into her eyes as pretty as her taw.


Rescue Me

Rescue MeSometimes humans rescue the animals; sometimes animals rescue the humans. The dynamic between people and animals can run deep. Pets provide comfort or express distress just as we can do in return. Wildlife is not exempt from these stories, either.

This week writers found a variety of critters to rescue or do the rescuing. The prompt, issued by a writer facing terminal cancer, is one that brought meaning to her life. Kate learned animal rescue from her father who fostered animals that raised other orphans, like a hen who hatched and raised a duckling or a cow that took on drop calves. Animals are worth rescue and our compliance is a measure of our humanity.

The following stories are based on the June 10, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an animal rescue.


Saved by Sarah Brentyn

Her locks didn’t work.

That was what she hated most. Not the dripping bathroom faucet, the fridge that kept her food cold every other Thursday, the heat that warmed her only on full moons in August. It was the doors that didn’t lock.

She thought about this, a familiar unsettling feeling creeping into the crevices of her mind and sticking there like spilled honey left on the countertop.

“John,” she reached out, “who’s my little Locke? Who’s the smartest, bravest pound puppy in the world?” She kissed his nose.

The intruder, outside her window, saw the Doberman and left.


Fit for A King by Dave Madden

At my elementary school’s annual harvest festival, it went without question that I went home with two things: a cake and a goldfish. Inevitably, the cake was dry, and the goldfish would die.

Not Ben. Eerily enough, I anticipated Ben’s departure with each passing day beyond the typical fourteen-hour grace period of every other visitor to what was now Ben’s home.

6 years later…

Ben picketed for more space. I scooped him up from the ground and gave him a tank that was fit for Midas! A lively shade of gold; he swam a new tune.

14 hours later…


Out on a Limb by A. R. Amore

Something hit the ground hard behind me. A baby squirrel fell from a nest in the tree. His siblings looked down. “You guys are in trouble,” I said.

He lay still looking quite dead. I turned to get my rake to dispose of his body, and he moved slightly. Noticing me watching, he went back to being dead.

Fill a basket with leaves; put him in the basket; place it on a branch in the tree as high as possible. Momma will bring him home.

The next morning the basket was on the ground; four heads filled the nest.


A Gift by Rebecca Patajac

Hiding beneath the roots of a grand gum, she heard the tiny sobs.
Her charge had been playing outdoors again. Did she hurt herself?

The fairy, wings tucked away, peered through grass above. She could see the side of the little girl, hands cupped, tears dripping onto dusty clothes. Something hung out of her fingers.
Should she let her cry? Her heart ached.

It was still so warm and so soft too.
Why wasn’t it moving?
Something buzzed past the little girl.
Her palm itched and she opened her hands.
She gasped as the mouse looked up at her.


Second Chances for Everyone by Roger Shipp

Alvin giggled as the charcoal gray Shih Tzu backed unto his hind legs and pawed the floor and yelping every time Alvin went to pet him. “Mamma,” Alvin gleefully squealed. “He’s so cute. Why won’t he let me pet him?”

Mamma’s piercing blue eyes met the all-knowing eyes of the lead instructor. “He recognizes Alvin’s condition. Doesn’t he?”

“I believe so,” nodded the instructor.

Alvin suddenly tripped and fell to the ground. The puppy wasted no time running to his side and gave a resounding yelp.

“I think this is the one we want.” Relief washed over Mamma’s face.


Play-Date Rescue by Paula Moyer

Jean and Chuck chatted with Leo when he and his guide dog, Honey, stopped. Leo often kissed Lucy, their Lab.

“Honey spends so much time working,” Leo said one day. “Her harness is on the minute we leave the house. She needs time to be a dog.”

Jean and Chuck were puzzled. Be a dog?

“Could we go with to you to the dog park and let her play with Lucy?”

The afternoon meet-up happened on schedule Lucky – no other dogs. Harness off – zoom! Chase! An hour later, she and Lucy licked each other and crashed, paw on paw.


Stormy Rescue by Ann Edall-Robson

The lightning illuminated the night as the thunder cracked overhead and water poured from the sky.

Ten miles from home is where he found her. Muddied ground was all that was left of the pasture floor beneath her shaking body.

Tangled vines of ferocious barbed wire encased her slender legs. Head down and exhausted, sweat poured off her body, mingled with rivulets of rain and blood.

Easing his hand down the mare’s shoulder, the wire cutters reached their target.

Stitches, some poultices and TLC would make things right for the mare.

How she got here would have to wait.


Racing the Shore by Melissa Hinzman

I ruffled the fur of his neck as we gazed across the river. Charlie, my aging protector. Always the first to greet me at the door and the last to take his eyes off me whenever I left the room. He had been my constant companion for ten years and it was hard to believe that we were sitting here again; the very spot where our bond was forged years ago. I silently thanked my father for the gift of Charlie and unhooked his leash.

“What do you say, boy? One more adventure?”

And we raced along the shore.


Break Out by Norah Colvin

Your wide-open eyes fix on me through bars, imploring and accusing at the same time.

Why am I here? Don’t leave me! I don’t – want – to be here! I want – to go – home!

My heart tightens in a vice-like squeeze. My palms sweat and hands tremble.

I meet your stare with overwhelming hopelessness and helplessness.

I didn’t know . . . I thought . . . I never meant . . . I thought it would help.

They close the door, turn the key and lead you away.

“Damn those rules!” I scream silently, futilely planning your rescue.


A Wing and a Prayer by Geoff Le Pard

‘It was an allergic reaction to the rose spray.’ Paul explained to the neighbours. ‘She needs rest.’

Mary sighed. People were kind but couldn’t they leave her alone? She could barely stand unaided just now; Paul set her up, with a blanket and a book and left her to enjoy the feeble sunshine.

Yesterday, she had watched the blue tits feeding their young. Today she noticed movement by the fox gloves. She shuffled to the flowerbed, feeling shaky. A small chick had fallen. It took all her strength to slip it into the nest. Would the little thing survive?

If you’d like to read the back story to Mary and her family, please click here.


Animal Rescue by Irene Waters

“I have to turn round and get him off the road.”

“No. You’ll kill us and I don’t want to see it run over just as we get there.”

The car turns arriving at the tortoise just as a car comes from the other direction. It runs over the shell now stationary in the centre of the road. Arms, legs and head all pulled in for safety. I jump out and grab him.

“His shell’s cracked in half. He’s going to die.”

“No he won’t. I’ll save him.”

Once home Roger fibreglassed the shell making it intact. It lived.


The Cobra Strategy by Pat Cummings

Tense bodies stressed the grass on either side of the cobra curve. A step, and the Rinkhals snapped right to Mubi’s movement. While the venomous glare was directed at him, Vala took a single step from the left.

Turn about, the pair stalked closer to the spitting cobra. He couldn’t “see” them; every time his eyes fell on a cat, it was frozen in place, and the cat behind him stepped closer.

Any moment it could spew airborne venom at my cats. At last, an opening! My push-broom pinned it, and I severed its head with a kitchen knife.


Man’s Best Friend by Pete Fanning

Max didn’t like her scent. She was a vegetarian for starters, she wasn’t a sports fan and didn’t watch television. Even still, the man was hopeless.

Eight years of blissful chin scratches and now…her. Max had to act. Before the emasculation was complete. He’d been there.

He nosed a mouse onto her pillow. He marked her clothes. The leather shoes were a treat.

It took a week before the ultimatum came down. Max steeled himself, head cocked with faithful intensity. The man looked from dog to woman. They left to discuss it.

When the man returned he had steak.


Role Reversal by Larry LaForge

Ed sat high on the roof scooping gutter debris when his foot bumped the ladder, sending it to the ground.

Edna’s Balinese cat, Essex, woke from the thud. Essex saw Ed stranded on the roof near the very same tree from which Ed rescued her yesterday.

Essex scooted inside and plopped on Edna’s lap, crushing the newspaper she was reading. Edna saw terror in her cat’s eyes. “What’s wrong?”

Edna followed Essex outside, saw Ed’s dilemma, and called for a neighbor to right the ladder. A relieved Ed climbed down.

We’re even, Essex purred in language no one understood.


Rescue Dog by Sarah Unsicker

The mutt came into my life as a puppy. Was my son’s dog, really, but he and his sister wormed their way into my heart.

He was my comforter, my best friend in the days following my son’s death. He was my shoulder to cry on, the goof to make me smile. His was the life that held mine up.

Saying goodbye broke my heart in two pieces. I lost my son again when I lost that dog.

Friends lift me up now, but for how long? They are not the constant companion of one who is always underfoot.


Paying It Forward by Christina Rose

She sat on the tailgate, greasy hair plastered to her sad face, shoulders perpetually slumped. I heard them before I saw them. Eight weeks old, yips and squeals echoing from piles of musty towels thrown in the back of her truck, surrounded by her life.

“Want a puppy?” asked the homeless woman.

Declining, I offered instead to buy dog food, other necessities, food for her. Eyes lit up, gratitude spreading across her sullen face. An hour later I returned with bags of groceries, bags of puppy food.

A simple act of kindness, praying those puppies are safe and loved.


Doc to the Rescue by Charli Mills

Ramona irrigated the dog’s wounds with hydrogen peroxide. He huddled on the bathroom floor, his brown eyes woeful. She’d called every vet in the phonebook and the answer was the same, “No. Payment due in full.” Only one man offered to come. She found the strange dog wounded in her barn. Those darn twins left the doors wide open, again. Never mind. She’d deal with those two truants later when they returned. A knock at the door, and Ramona rose to answer it.

“Thank you for coming,” she said to her new MD. At least he cared about animals.


The Twins Find a Dog by Charli Mills

The twins played among pines, leaping from one bough to another.

“Shh,” said one twin to the other.

A soft whimper rose from the base of a Ponderosa pine.

“A dog! Mama would love a dog!”

Gently, the twins prodded the dog to stand. He quivered, his nose detecting nothing, but feeling compelled, he walked until he came to a barn. Slowly, doors opened and he entered to find a blanket draped over hay. He collapsed in a heap.

The twins hung out in the lilac bush outside Mama’s window and sang her awake. “The barn, Mama, the barn.”


June 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

June 10It’s almost unfair that I sit in comfortable air conditioning, sipping a London Fog from a ceramic cup and savoring a lunch of pasta tossed in fresh olive oil, garlic, basil and pine nut pesto. My best friend can hardly hold her eyes open and dines intravenously. But my daughter chastised me to take care of myself. That I wasn’t going to be any good to her, or her daughter and grandchildren. So I’ve come to my Helena sanctuary, Lattes & Sundaes.

Ironically, their tagline reads, “where friends gather.”

This would certainly be a place where Kate and I would hang out. McLeod’s was our go-to tea shop back in the day. When I left Helena in 1998, I bought an English tea pot from there. It’s now closed and this place has opened in its stead. I miss my friend and hunger for her open eyes and clear mind.

Chemo is the devil’s booze. Once it takes hold, her white blood cell counts plummet and her fever spikes. She begged me, “Don’t let them lord the rings of me.” My God, what was I to do?  I feel like Samwise Gamgee when Frodo was near collapse from his heroic journey. I want to lash out at Gollum, and she’s resting her hand on my arm, whispering, “Peace.”

I want to rescue her and I can’t. I’m a failed white knight; a first-responder arrived too late to the scene of the accident. But Kate doesn’t fret over my inability or the ineffectiveness of modern medicine. Her last coherent thought was about the rescue of dogs. She told me with that grin and chuckle I love so well, “Just who rescues whom?”

My Grenny dog needs rescuing. As I type, he’s in surgery. It took four days to find a vet to help us. I’m in Helena, Montana and my wee family of the Hub, barn cat and two dogs is faltering in northern Idaho. Veterinarians have no compassion, I’m convinced. Who would deny a seriously injured dog care due to the owners’ lack of financial resources? Well, Sandpoint veterinarians, that’s who. One finally accepted a “credit care” card we have for medical emergencies. Bastards, is all I want to say, but I know it’s crass and unlike me to swear in my writing.

I know I’m emotionally off kilter. I go to my keyboard tapping for resolution, for clarity.

What happened to Grenny is among my worst nightmares. I wrote a humorous post almost two years ago about my fears. The Hub likes to call me the “Cowardly Cowgirl.” I’m afraid of mice. I startle easy and squeal if a flying insect darts in my face. I worry over what might lurk in the woods, as from this excerpt of The Big Bad Bears of Trout Creek:

Okay, this is fun, my mind decides until it then says, hey what’s that?

“Todd, is that bear hair?” I ask, standing up as if it might still be attached. Todd comes over to the clump of hair matted among the huckleberry plants and affirms my find.

Now my eyes are like super-sonic scanners as I scope every tree, fern and boulder for the bear missing a clump of fur. Is he full or did he leave these berries for a snack, or worse yet, a snare? Torn between fleeing the scene and not being able to move, I then hear a horrible cry.

The Irish believe that a banshee wails moments before death, and it sounds as if death is rampaging down the mountain slope. Bursting out of ferns and brush, Grendel, our male GSP, is galloping and baying like a banshee. He runs past us and I cringe, waiting to hear the crash-boom-bang of an angry grizzly.”

All I can say now, two years after this incident, is how grateful I am that I was not there when Grenny did find a bear.

The Hub took the dogs fishing up the Pack River on Saturday. Grenny galloped off and Bobo stayed at the river as the Hub tied a fly on his line. He didn’t hear a banshee wail, but he did hear Grenny growl and bark followed by distress cries and yelps. He needed rescuing.

The Hub transformed into Sgt. Mills and charged the forested hillside like a soldier charging Normandy Beach. He bellowed and scared off the bear, not able to discern if it was a grizzly, but the Pack River is marked with warning signs. It’s grizzly country. He reached Grenny to find him wounded but thankfully alive and intact. The bear swiped his back from shoulder to tail, but not too deeply. Then, the bear bit off his flank, the webbing between hind leg and stomach. It’s an awful wound that no veterinarian would touch without payment in full. I’ll say it again, bastards.

It takes a special person to feel compassion for a dog. It takes a resilient person to rescue one.

I’m proud of my daughters who both worked jointly to rescue a dog deemed unadoptable. The Radio Geek and her hub, the Geologist now have a family of two rescue dogs (the two goofs in my car trunk in the photo). Back when I was still drafting Miracle of Ducks, I started my first ever blog (I had no idea what I was doing!) and wrote, Felting Ilya. It’s a story of dog rescue.

And that is what Kate offered us for the prompt this week. She has the biggest heart for animals and even worked with rescued grizzlies. As she hallucinates, she tells me that animals are walking through her room. It seems appropriate. She expects to be greeted by her departed loved ones and the animals she rescued and said she’d be waiting for me beneath a big oak tree in heaven, reading Tolkien. It better be a massive tree. She has rescued many.

June 10, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an animal rescue. It can be a typical dog or cat rescue from the pound, or helping a critter less fortunate. Go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by June 16, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Doc to the Rescue by Charli Mills

Ramona irrigated the dog’s wounds with hydrogen peroxide. He huddled on the bathroom floor, his brown eyes woeful. She’d called every vet in the phonebook and the answer was the same, “No. Payment due in full.” Only one man offered to come. She found the strange dog wounded in her barn. Those darn twins left the doors wide open, again. Never mind. She’d deal with those two truants later when they returned. A knock at the door, and Ramona rose to answer it.

“Thank you for coming,” she said to her new MD. At least he cared about animals.


The Twins Find a Dog by Charli Mills

The twins played among pines, leaping from one bough to another.

“Shh,” said one twin to the other.

A soft whimper rose from the base of a Ponderosa pine.

“A dog! Mama would love a dog!”

Gently, the twins prodded the dog to stand. He quivered, his nose detecting nothing, but feeling compelled, he walked until he came to a barn. Slowly, doors opened and he entered to find a blanket draped over hay. He collapsed in a heap.

The twins hung out in the lilac bush outside Mama’s window and sang her awake. “The barn, Mama, the barn.”


Among the Roses

RosesEach soft petal falls away, following the bloom of the rose. We live and die among rambles and thorns, and no matter how long gardeners, poets and writers have looked to the roses for inspiration, we still do. Probably always will.

Writers took up the challenge and produced flash that displayed the complexity of writing with roses. Roses blossom for romance, mark a passing and even feel concern for the hands that prune them. If you think a rose is just a rose, be prepared for something different.

This week’s stories are based on the June 3, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a rose.


A Rose and a Life by Ruchira Khanna

Chaplin’s vitals were not co-operating; leaving the docs confused. He was equally dejected since he wanted to live and be around the empire that he built.

With moist eyes, he looked out the window and observed a bud that had bloomed into a rose, which eventually withered away. The process had been continuous for days, and this gave him the essence of his being.

He had to let go his diseased body and make himself liberated from the bondage of sentiments. As he stared at the dry rose, he breathes his last, shedding his flesh and sorrows.


A Memory of Roses by Charli Mills

Ramona hummed and watered, “I beg your pardon…I never promised you a rose garden…along with the sunshine…you need a little hose-water sometime.” Vic loved his roses, tending each stalk with care. Ramona tended chickens, the kitchen garden, horses and calves.

Twins? She tended twins, didn’t she? Ramona frowned. She looked across the spray of water, beyond the tall standards that would soon unfold creamy yellow. Wild roses bloomed in profusion where she found the yin-yang rock.

Vic transplanted them from the canyon where they used to ride horses and picnic with cheddar cheese and crackers. Sad roses. But why?


Double Mourning by Paula Moyer

On Mother’s Day morning Jean’s father always went out back before church to clip five red roses, one for each of the three kids and for the two parents. This morning, though, when Daddy pinned the roses on, he put a white one in his lapel.

The first Mother’s Day since Grandma had died. His mother. “Neet,” Grandpa had called her, short for “Anita.”

At dinner, Grandpa escorted a new woman. She called herself Blanche.

Later, Grandpa winked at Blanch. “Neet? How about some coffee?”

Jean found Daddy outside.

“I knew he was slipping,” he sobbed. “But why today?”


Rosebud by Sarah Unsicker

Gloria tended her grandchildren as she did her roses: enjoying the beauty, avoiding the thorns. And Chelsea seemed to be more thorns than beauty these days. When she wasn’t staring into space, she was openly defiant and refused to participate in school. When she did her homework, she didn’t turn it in. Gloria wondered if Chelsea would have to repeat first grade.

Homeschooling would be the solution. This child needed more attention, more nurturing than a cold classroom afforded. She would never bloom in that school. Chelsea was a rosebud that needed coaxing to shine, like her father.


The Smile by Irene Waters

“I failed my uni exams” Steven smiled at his client.

“I failed my uni exams and lost the client” Steven smiled at his boss.

“I’ve been fired because I failed my uni exams and lost the client” Steven smiled at his wife.

“Jenny’s left me because I was fired, failed my uni exams and lost the client” Steven smiled at his mother.

“So why are you smiling?”

“My other test results came back today. Clear. No abnormalities. I can again see the dew on the rose petals and relish the sun. The fear is gone. I’m alive and I’m rejoicing.”


Forever Home by Sacha Black

The soft petals barely out of bud kissed my cheek as I tried to inhale the sweet pollen, but it wasn’t strong enough, not mature enough to smell yet. I laid the bunch of almost roses on the coffin and stepped back. If they had time to mature, they would have been white, innocent like her. But they would never get to blossom and neither would she.

Thorny tears sliced into my cheeks; reminding me her pain was gone now.

“Goodbye baby,” I whispered and collapsed on my knees. They lowered her tiny brown forever home into the ground.


A Song For Rosie by Pete Fanning

“Rosie, get me a beer.”

Rose turned for the fridge to get the last beer. Ethan tuned his guitar.

She would listen, She’d always listened. But then she’d leave. She would finally walk out the tinny walls of the trailer in lot 6C for good. She’d spent her twenties waiting. On tables and love.

Ethan sang his song. Tears bloomed in her eyes. When he was done he smiled.

“You liked it?”

She nodded. Ethan’s gaze fell to the bag at the door. Rose stepped closer for a final kiss goodbye.

“One more song?”

“Okay,” she sniffled. “One more.”


Rose Petals by Kalpana Solsi

The Feng Shui expert warned me against storing dried and dead things but these crumpled, shrivelled petals have infused life and vigour into me.

As a shift nurse, I had to dispense potions to the in-house patients.

Annie held a bright pink rose and smiled. I didn’t. She plucked the petals and asked me to inhale the happiness.

The next day, the rose lay withered on the bed next to her pale body.

I picked the six petals, each for a year she lived and enriched lives with her sunny smile and diseased body.

Annie’s smile adorns my face.


Alone by Sarah Brentyn

“Will no one stand for the accused?”

Silence spread through the crowd.

Some looked out windows or at the wooden floor. Others sat up straighter, a look of superiority lighting their faces and dancing in their eyes.

All held roses. Each clutching one white and one red flower. Petal after petal was raised in the air. Red. Red. Another red.

The large, bearded man overseeing the trial did not act surprised. “The accused will be hanged,” he said blandly, “tomorrow at noon.”

When the villagers walked to the square the next morning, one white rose rested on the gallows.


A Prickly Situation by Larry LaForge

“Rosa sericea pteracantha,” Edna said softly as she lifted her index finger to her mouth, trying to stop the bleeding. “They’re beautiful but those thorns get me every time.”

“That’s botanically impossible,” Ed replied.

“Huh? What do you mean? Look at my finger.”

Ed knew he should’ve kept quiet, but decided to finish what he started. “Roses don’t have thorns,” he declared. “They have prickles.”

Edna frowned while continuing to apply pressure to her finger wound. “Well, Mr. Flower Expert, can you at least help me get them into the vase?”

“Certainly, my dear.”

“OOOUCH!” Ed screamed seconds later.


Black Rose and Red by Pat Cummings

Her demurely gloved hand on his, she whispered, “You need to ruin my husband.” He had seen the bridegroom winning all night, and now his latest opponent threw down his hand, leaving another fortune behind on the baize.

Rising, he strolled across the room, and drawled at the flushed young man, “Winner takes everything—the first to draw the black rose.”

“Done.” There was a flick as the ace of clubs appeared. Her new husband drew next, then pulled his derringer and fired, shouting, “Cheater! I also drew that ace!”

He fell as a red rose blossomed on his chest.


The Yellow Roses by Ann Edall-Robson

“What are her favourite flowers?”

“For the prom, M’am, I want to bring her a corsage.”

“Yellow roses.” Her Mother had told him.

A yellow rose, any yellow rose. A poignant reminder of her first love. She had been trying to grow them for decades. Thorns and leaves were the result of her nurturing.

“How have you been?”

That Yankee drawl she knew to be his, had been the reply when she answered the telephone.

He sat on the deck smiling, watching her tend the beautiful yellow blooms.

How did the roses know that they had found each other?


Removing Thorns by Kate Ferrie

Roses, a colorful rainbow.

Kids…those kids. Grabbed roses and twirled them like banners.

“Brats,” she murmurs indigently, knowing she’s unreasonable, but it’s her Les, his reverence.

Kathy hears. “Those brats are your great-grandchildren paying homage to their great-grandfather. Mom, you know he’d hand out the roses and organize the parade.”

Lorraine chuckles. He would lead the parade. Petals tickle her cheek.

Kevin, 9, stands there. “Grandpa loved peace roses because they’re your favorite.”

Lorraine’s face embraces the rose.

Les’s eyes, twinkle in Kevin’s face. “I removed all the thorns so they really are peaceful peace roses.


Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

“Don’t think it’s all a bed of roses,” said my mother, handing me the potato peeler and nudging me towards the sink.

Since my sister had left home, I’d taken to helping out with cooking and cleaning. I didn’t mind, but I was embarrassed that my mother would think I was hankering after a future as a housewife. It seemed to me that a bed of roses summed up my mother’s life exactly: perfumed petals imprisoned within a tangle of thorns. I wanted to ramble beyond the pot of soil in which she’d planted me. I wanted to bloom.


(Excerpt from Anne Goodwin’s forthcoming novel, “Sugar and Snails”)


Today’s Rose by Ruth Irwin

Listen…can you hear the bird? It’s sitting in the tree, chirping happily. The wind is gusting. It plays with the palm fronds providing background music for the bird. Then the pigeon joins in, giving a coo coo back beat.

Despite the cold morning the sun is now warm on my skin. I sit and relax, my senses taking in all that is around me. I am like a lizard, lying on a rock, soaking up the warmth.

It is winter here. My roses are bare. Come spring they will bloom again. Until then this tranquility is my rose.


Next Year by Mercy.James.

“Wow! did she ever whack us back. Poor middle sister – almost lopped to the ground.”

“Harsh indeed. She wielded her Felcos with a mean streak this year.”

The two end wild roses spoke to each other, green leaves and runners pushing into new spaces and places. The middle rose remained quiet, concentrating her energies on growing as strong as she had been the year before.

“She wasn’t in good spirits when she worked us over.”

“No – troubled – pained. In many ways. Her aches apparent when she straightens up.”

“I suspect she won’t be cleaning us up again – next year.”


Still Life by Norah Colvin

Marnie observed the roses Miss R. had arranged for class, carefully assessing the colours and studying the lines while sketching them on the canvas, striving to match their perfection. Oblivious to all but Miss R. and the roses, for one hour nothing else mattered.

As other students streamed out Marnie hung back to chat with Miss R.

Miss R. handed her a rose from the vase saying, “You are that rose. You may be surrounded by thorns, but the beauty of the rose is inside you. Remember that always. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”


A Rosy Walk, Except for That Sign by Dave Madden

Our nightly ritual; I loved these walks with my wife. We were much like the U.S. Postal Service: rain, sleet, or snow. Brief moments that were truly “quality time.”

Step-by-step, minutes quickly transformed into hours and dusk blackened. Erin and I talked about nothing and everything with each sentence shared; they all seemed meaningful.

The unsightly litter, graffiti, and random mismatched decorating abilities, for some reason, never detracted from all the beauty that surrounded these strolls. Screaming neighbors: a corner a cappella. Barking dogs: harmonious percussions.

Uninviting: That damn sign that read, “Pick your noses, not the roses.” Ugh.


Rose Tainted by Geoff LePard

‘Can you drive, Paul? My stomach is getting in the way.’

‘Not long now, Mary.’

‘Not soon enough. My ribs feel tenderised.’

Paul held the car door. ‘Sure you’re ok with this?’

‘I want to see the family home one last time before it’s sold.’


‘Well, lookee there. The rambler’s in flower.’

‘Dad loved this; an old English rose he called it. Its scent is… OW.’

‘Those thorns are vicious. Mary, you ok?’

‘Hmm. It’s gone right into the knuckle. Damn. It’s swelling already.’


‘Paul, I’m feeling odd. Can you get me some water? I…’

Mary? MARY!’


Petals in Pages by Melissa Hinzman

In the end, there wasn’t much to remember her by. Her scent had vanished. Her possessions had been dispersed to the children. Everything that identified her as a tangible person was gone. Never before had Walter felt so alone in the house they built into a home. Purging everything had been his idea; it was easier to look around the empty rooms without the constant reminders. All Walter had left were his memories and the lone, once pink rose Janet had pressed into his favorite book years ago. He carefully clutched the stem and wept silently into the darkness.


A Rose for Syd by Phil Guida

The sweet fragrance of roses drew him in at first meeting. From that moment he knew that his years of wandering had come to an abrupt end.

They made a toast to the festivities as the evening progressed not really making any promises beyond another work day together at the Fair.

The essence of that meeting became the focal point of the next year. A bouquet of dreams wrapped in promises led them to unexpected adventures across the country and back again with no regrets.

Nearly 20 years have passed and she still is the rose of his life.


Protector by Rebecca Patajac

A scream cut through her from across the meadow and she raged into action, dismissing her injury and climbing up the nearest lookout.

Her arms trembled, not used to her own weight, but she needed to ensure her charge was okay.

Her heart pounded at another squeal and she cursed her clumsiness; she would’ve been on top by now.

Finally up, she peered through the crisp fog and relief washed over her as she saw the dancing figures, twirling around a ring of daisies.

She leant against the lookout rose’s petals, breathing deep and stroking her torn wing.


Meta by Surfer Rob

He ran.

Not rushing . . . an easy trot.

From the flower cart he snagged a rose, tucking three dollars under the corner of the lady’s till. She only felt the wind from his passing.

He could run faster. He had somewhere to be, but showing up late was good cover. He just wanted . . .

not a rose, but an Iris–

. . . to leave a little something to brighten her day.

He swung by the News and left the flower on her keyboard, being careful not to cause a whirlwind of loose paper as he streaked in and out again.

Nobody saw him.



June 3: Flash Fiction Challenge

June 3Roses do not adorn any of the rooms. I’m sitting with my computer at an empty nurse’s station and have view of two empty rooms, beds made with hospital corners. Beyond the empty bed to my right I can see the Sleeping Giant out the window. It’s a great hulk of a mountain here in what is known as the Queen City of the Rockies — Helena, Montana.

I made it here. Not an easy feat when one accepts the almost-monkhood of a writer’s life. Poverty and chastity, or something like that. I left behind a promising bloom of roses in my garden to face my friend Kate’s cancer situation. I’ve always been rebellious, like the rambling wild rose, so I’m here to lend a fighting spirit.

Kate has always been steady and strong like a standard rose that comes back after a hard winter. Everyone who knows her speaks in wonder at how she is the one comforting and lifting the spirits of family and friends. She’s amazing. There is yet life and we will nourish that.

I see her legacy in the darling teacup roses in her wake — she has nine grandchildren. The most delicate bloom budded just three weeks ago. As you can imagine, her daughter and husband are weary. A new baby (number five) and Mom hospitalized, unable to digest anything, a pump, IVs and tubes entangling her in a web Kate calls “Charlotte” (you know, as in Charlotte’s Web).

On top of all this life transition, our sweetest new rose might have a life-threatening disorder. As I cradle this tiny bundle and stare into her cherub face, I find it hard to believe. It’s like looking at bud that has a dreaded blight, but for all the wonder in the world all you can see is breathtaking beauty. We hope. We wait. We pray.

For breakfast this morning, we were treated to Steve’s Cafe in Helena. It’s Molly’s birthday and she’s being generous to everyone else. Another legacy from her Mom. Her children are so full of love — the reason I’ve cherished my friendship with Kate all these years. That woman is a fount of love.

The children are feeling silly and after coloring the eldest announces a game: Sausage. Molly rolls her eyes with her precious baby swaddled to her chest in a moby wrap. We both sip “proper cuppas of coffee” informed earlier by a children’s music CD that had us all laughing as we dressed for the day. Sausage goes like this: Ask a question and the next person who answers can only reply, “Sausage.”

“What’s your name?”


“What language do you speak?”


“What’s in your nose?”


When the 10-year-old asks the two-year-old, what are cows made of, she gets distracted and rambles on about udders and milk. I haven’t have this entertaining of a breakfast in a long time.

It’s strange being here, in Helena. When I arrived, yet afraid to go to the hospital, I paused at the Staggering Ox, an old college hang-out where Kate and I spent plenty of time “studying.” Back then, we both wanted nothing more in the world than for our children to be happy and for us to write the all-American novels. There I sat last evening, compiling flash fiction by an array of writers expressing creativity and skill, still wanting the same things.

Helena has changed much in 20 years. Things are both familiar and not. I drive around in circles knowing the post office is nearby but forgetting where, exactly. It was a triumph to find it. Old memories surface as I drive to the hospital — the gym where Rock Climber used to take gymnastics when Molly was a high school star gymnast. The print shop where Kate and I worked to get our college’s literary magazine published, so proud to share the title of co-editors that senior year. The Cathedral where we all went to mass, the museum where I learned historical research, the government office where I interned as a writer.

Also familiar yet foreign is changing a diaper. I remember how but fumble at it like a novice rose pruner. That was so long ago, yet so recognizable. Following the multiple conversations of eager children, delighting in their favorite stories. Sleeping in my friend’s bed with her cat purring by my head to show they’ve accepted me in the gap.

At breakfast, two-year-old Marcella started to talk about her rose. Every night, Molly, her husband and the children share their roses for the day. We all have thorns, but they focus on the beauty each experienced that day. Marcella is starting early, telling her Mama that her baby sister is her rose today. Eight-year-old Carly smiles across the table at me and says, “Aunt Charli being with us in my rose.” I’ve never felt so precious as I did in that moment.

We are all roses in this great garden of life. Some of us ramble, some stay close to home. Some are prizes and some are fighters. We might grow among thorns, but as Emily Bronte once wrote:

“But he who dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.”

What is life, if not craving the rose?

June 3, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a rose. It can be straight-forward, romantic, funny. What is your rose today and what is its story? Who craves the rose or shrinks away? Why? Let the prompt fully bloom in your imagination.

Respond by June 9, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


A Memory of Roses by Charli Mills

Ramona hummed and watered, “I beg your pardon…I never promised you a rose garden…along with the sunshine…you need a little hose-water sometime.” Vic loved his roses, tending each stalk with care. Ramona tended chickens, the kitchen garden, horses and calves.

Twins? She tended twins, didn’t she? Ramona frowned. She looked across the spray of water, beyond the tall standards that would soon unfold creamy yellow. Wild roses bloomed in profusion where she found the yin-yang rock.

Vic transplanted them from the canyon where they used to ride horses and picnic from with cheese and crackers. Sad roses. But why?



Garden Parties

ViewsThis week, writers went to garden parties. Some showed up in trusty old fishing pontoons and others were greeted by half-consumed party plates and flutes of champagne. Garden parties, it seems, can fit into many stories.

Writers were also inspired by a parting shot from a boat tour on Lake Pend Oreille. Some turned the place into a regional island, some stayed in Idaho and others followed their inspiration to different locations. Yet, the influences of the photo come through from cotton-ball clouds to waves of flowers.

The following stories are based on  the May 27, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story, using the above photo as a prompt. It can be a garden party (or an international spy thriller). While James Bond did not show up this week, continue on to read who did.



Still Waters by Sherri Matthews

Georgia gazed across the lake and shivered, despite the warm breeze. Had it really been thirty years? What was he doing here? She knew that she would have to face him, but not today, not at Helen’s birthday party.

“Georgia, where are you?” called Helen through the trees.


“I was worried about you. Miles is asking after you.”

Helen didn’t know of course. Why would she? Georgia took two champagne flutes from the waiter’s tray and downed one.

“Georgia! How are you?”

“I’m good…I’ve written a book actually. About you.”

Miles blanched as Georgia downed her second glass.


Serenity of Silence by Christina Rose

Crisp, early morning breeze played with her tangled, unruly wisps. She slipped out without disturbing him; still sleeping in the cabin, rest a part of his ideal vacation. This was her time, the serenity of silence the rejuvenation her soul had been crying for.

Frigid sapphire glistened and lapped around her chilled ankles, shins, thighs. Inch by inch, slowly lowering herself into the depths, moving further from the craggy shoreline. Weightless under, surrounded by the clear cocoon of nothingness.

Dawn sunlight cast shimmering glows across her buoyant limbs. Floating on the surface, the peace, the stillness was her heaven.


Flash Fiction by Vellur (Nithya Venkat)

As I was walking along the shore line I saw a jet black speed boat appear out of nowhere. I could see a man was steering the boat at full speed. He slowed down and docked the boat behind the rocks. For a minute I could not see him.

I heard a splash; the man had changed into a diving suit and disappeared under the water. After a few minutes he surfaced clutching a small black chest. He quickly jumped into the boat and hugged the chest in glee. I wondered what could be inside, a treasure I guessed.


Meditation Session by Ula Humienik

“Race you to the pier,” a young female voice screamed, followed by laughter that reverberated between the trees and a splash, soon followed by another splash.

Anna, sitting in the lotus position, closed her eyes once again. A peace overtook her face.

Loud girlish squeals forced her eyes open. She let out a loud sigh and clenched her teeth firmly. She rose abruptly and walked out of her cabin to the path leading to the pier below.

“Girls,” she said sternly once she reached the pier. “Would you mind if I joined you?” Anna’s lips formed a soft smile.


Mountain Man by Pete Fanning

Around the bend Dad cut the motor and we slid to a drift. Thunder boomed, even as an eagle soared through an electric blue sky. A crack tore through forest, then a heavy crash that sent ripples through the water and dust over the trees.

“Mom said to stay away.”

Dad held a finger to his lips. The mountains stood little chance against the machines, just like Mom had lost the battle against the developers. But Dad didn’t trust the courts. And seeing the large torque wrench at his feet, I knew those machines stood little chance against him.


Island Gala by A. R. Amore

He observed well-heeled folks thoroughly congratulating themselves; somehow it seemed wrong. Crab puffs, oysters on the half shell, champagne and wine all celebrating the library’s new sculpture – a weird abstract angular thing a local artist welded out of boat parts designed to reflect the state’s ocean driven character. For what this party cost, he imagined, they might have bought two sculptures – the boat parts one and something that made sense. The water taxi approached from the mainland carrying more of the “who’s who” and despite watching his wake, the pilot nonetheless disrupted the shabby fishing skiffs digging clams nearby.


Porcelain by Rebecca Patajac

Waves hushed sounds of traffic far behind. Tiny fingers grasped mine, pulling past flowers and trees, little feet skipping over loose stones.

I took one step for her four.

She hadn’t told me our destination; “it’s a surprise Mummy.”
She glanced back, round eyes gleaming and all smiles, “we’re close!”

I couldn’t help but smile with her, adoration running deep.

Her pace slowed and I looked up.

I froze.

Upon a bed of grass, decorated with turquoise waves, lay a porcelain tea set; the one from my first birthday.

“Surprise, Mummy,” she beamed.

I hid tears in her embrace.


The Garden Party by Norah Colvin

Marnie’s face pressed into the bars of the tall white gate with amazement: white-covered tables laden with food; chairs with white bows; white streamers and balloons; and a band!

But the ladies had her spellbound with elegant dresses and high, high heels; flowers in their hair and bright painted lips.

A man in uniform opened the gate to guests arriving in limousines. Marnie followed.

“Not you, Miss,” said the uniformed man.

Marnie held out her invitation, “Jasmine . . .”

But he’d closed the gate and turned away.

Marnie looked down at her stained dress. What was she thinking?


Hangover with Nature by Ruchira Khanna

The skies were covered with cotton balls. Some were vulnerable and swept by the wind while some stayed stagnant, stubborn to move an inch.

Joe observed them and compared the various shapes and sizes of the trees that stood still while giving a contrast to blue skies.

Breathes deep and dived into the water that initially made him shiver, but eventually the goosebumps faded sending him into a comfort zone of enjoying nature and being one with it.

“Aha! This creation has its ways to make us feel complacent!” he whispered as he wiped excess water off his face.


Party of One by Paula Moyer

Memorial Day, 1956.

Four-year-old Jean stood in her great-grandmother’s flowerbed in Shawnee, Oklahoma. A pink sea of bachelor’s buttons surrounded her. The stems were so tall, the blooms came up to her chest.

When the Oklahoma wind blew through the slender, supple stems, they bent and rippled, like the waves in the Bible stories about Jesus calming the storm.

From the kitchen window, Jean could smell the dinner: sweet, hot aromas of baked beans, ham, and rolls. Almost ready.

A plate, table and chair out here, in the garden, would be perfect. She wished for a party of one.


The Summer I’ll Never Forget At Lake Pend Oreille by Dave Madden

The perfect bedrock for thinking; twenty years later, I still think,

“The step’s sturdier.”

The ladder was an afterthought, too.

This part of Lake Pend Oreille was special, learning more than any classrooms’ offererings, and always will be. Night spent sharing and laughing: Secrets. Memories. Life’s milestones.

This night’s visit was up, and I was energized and off. Soon realizing, the lumbering step-step-step was absent.

Retracing my steps…

It was too late, at least those are the adolescent injections administered by the adults in my life.

Now, I’m hugged by the water that took my best friend.


The Lake House by Jeanne Lombardo

Savannah surfaced and gulped the sweet, heavy air. It’s a dream, she thought. This lake, the blue mountains, the murmurings in the pines and skimming dragonflies.

She bobbed for a moment, then hoisted herself up the metal ladder. No, it was real, these wooden stairs, this path, the big house just ahead.

Clean, sweet-smelling New Papa was waiting there. She didn’t know why Real Papa had let New Papa take her away after Mama died. Or why New Papa hadn’t chosen one of the others.

A prayer beat inside her. Let me stay. Let me stay. Let me stay.


Not Invited by Ann Edall-Robson

“Nothing says we can’t go there.”

“It’s not a good idea. We weren’t invited.”

The argument had been going on for days.

The private club that owned the island was hosting a garden party for members and invited guests. It was a given that kids from the local college would not be welcome.

Up the ladder, across the small wooden decks to the patio and manicured grass beyond.

Partially filled champaign flutes. Dainty china plates with bits of half eaten food on them. Chairs askew around linen covered tables.

The eerie, lifeless scene that met them said it all.


The Surprise by Ruth Irwin

She would never forget this perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky, the blue reflected in her eyes as she scanned the crowd of guests enjoying refreshments in her perfectly manicured garden, her pride and joy. Her heart pounded, the anticipation was overwhelming. He had promised he would be here; where was he? It had been so long, too long. Her heart ached and she began to fear he had broken his promise. And then he appeared with a surprise bundle in his arms. “Mum, I’d like you to meet your granddaughter!” She responded “Best birthday present ever!”


Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

They eyed me suspiciously as we queued to embark. Evening cruises are for lovers, according to the young. My binoculars dangling from a strap around my neck were meant to place me above all that. But spotting birds holds no appeal without you.

The youngsters scurried below deck to the bar. I wrapped a scarf around my hair, found a seat in the prow. Beyond the jetty, the breeze made my eyes water. Or was it the sunset gilding the mountainside across the lake? I leaned back, contentment washing over me. Absorbed in nature’s romance, the decades rolled away.


Full Circle by Geoff Le Pard

‘Remember this one?’ Paul held out a photo.

‘It was a Sunday. You caught the sun, out on the water.’

Paul nodded. ‘We should take the children.’ He looked pointedly at Mary’s stomach.

Mary traced the steps to the water with her finger. ‘Do you think she’s still there?’

‘Rupert will find out.’

Mary held Paul’s hand. ‘I can’t believe she was living in the same village we stayed in on our honeymoon. We might…’ Her eyes filled.

Paul said quickly, ‘Remember that woman renting the finishing tackle…’

Mary stared. ‘Yes! You commented on her eyes.’

‘Green like yours.’


Fear on the Island by Irene Waters

The group alighted from the dinghy at the wooden steps and each, lost in their own thoughts of the week ahead, barely saw the opulence of their surroundings. They went to their rooms with instructions to meet in the garden for drinks at 5pm precisely, dressed appropriately. That was the hard part, thought Kerry, just what is appropriate. She eventually picked on a skimpy bikini. Kerry’s heart sank, her fear real when she saw the others had chosen evening dress.

Hers was the only outfit not destroyed as the paint bombs flew. Filming of 13:Fear is Real had begun.


First Things First by Pat Cummings

Eric stood off from shore to inspect his work. Was the patio inviting enough? It would need to be enticing to overcome the legacy of misantropy his late uncle had invested in the place.

The mansion where Reid Simonsen had lived his miserable life was uninhabitable. Eric wondered if he would ever reclaim the excitement he’d experienced when he learned he’d inherited it and the beautiful island it occupied.

Satisfied, he began to paddle his kayak back to the ladder. The dock and patio were a good start. He could live in a tent; he could not live alone.


The Drop Off by Larry La Forge

A greeter dressed in white stood atop the ladder to assist lakeside arrivals. Edna approached the bow as she prepared to disembark for the much ballyhooed Ladies Tea at the Garden.

Ed was mesmerized by all the sleek, expensive watercraft queuing up before the rocky landing. His 1981 angler pontoon boat seemed out of place. He maneuvered close to the ladder, allowing the faded bumpers hanging over the side to cushion the slight impact. The greeter cringed.

Edna smiled at Ed as she stepped off.

She loved that old pontoon boat and wouldn’t want to arrive any other way.


What She Was Giving by Sarrah J Woods

Erin did not feel like an A-list camp counselor. Every week her campers bickered, cried, and broke camp rules. So much for being a wise mentor, she thought, as her Week 5 campers noisily sorted themselves into lifejackets for lake swimming. It’s more like being a sheriff.

Letting the lifeguard play sheriff for the moment, Erin sat down on a rock and pulled her knees to her chest. As she gazed at the pine-cloaked mountains surrounding the lake, their colossal glory gradually shifted her perspective. I’m not here to give these girls advice, she realized, but this entire experience.


Anchor by Mercy.James.

The morning mist rises off the lake, burnt off by the sun – all is calm. I walk the steps down, in silence, breathing the air fresh – lungs feeling full – hopeful in the moment.

No one is around at this hour – so few ever about in the water – the descent on wooden platform meets my approval of blending in with the natural beauty. Sheer rock face edged sharply – time sliced – existing long before my birth.

I look at the metal ladder – consider its purpose – anchor – its ugliness – descent steep.

I want to swim – need to bathe – but I am hostage.


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.