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!

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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?”

“Sure.”

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.

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