August 19Coyotes gather on the ridge across the road and sing to the distant train whistles. There exists a rule, probably written in urine, that coyotes stay east and wolves west. Naturally, we live on the west-side.

A noisy night in the neighborhood is when the wolves howl one direction, the coyotes another and an elk bugles. Not a smart elk move. Soon we hear only coyotes and figure the wolves are hunting the bugling neighbor. In the midst of this a Canadian cattle truck rumbles past or a BNSF train squeals steel rims on steel rails.

Silence is not common.

But I’m not expecting the excited yips of the lone coyote as I stumble from bed to fix the Hub breakfast. First cup of coffee drawn and I can still hear that coyote. Yip-yip-hooowl. Yip-yip-hooowl. I step out on the porch in the pre-dawn light and realize that the coyote is west. He’s in the trees behind the Elmira Schoolhouse.

That’s where the wild turkeys roost.

Timer goes off and I pull ham and cheese bagels from the oven. A quick breakfast. I start thinking about the food chain and how excited that coyote sounds, as if he just discovered what Thanksgiving is and there’s at least 40 drumsticks hanging in the pines above his head. The thought of future pumpkin pie makes me want to howl, too.

The turkeys are my first line of defense against gophers, and I’m not happy to share any with an upstart coyote on the wrong side of the road. If that yappy trickster wants to slink over to my yard and gobble up gophers, I won’t complain about the hairy coyote scat. I wish more predators would feast on gophers.

We had an easy alliance — gophers can rip through the back lawn and have at all the pastures. The gardens were off limits, no roses, no fruit trees, no veggies. If any pushed the boundaries, the Hub would flood new holes with the hose and I embedded sonar stakes. When I planted my potato patch along the north pasture where the soil is sandy, I surrounded my hills with 70 red onions, 30 white onions, 20 shallots and 20 garlic.

Clever. Until I realized, gophers love onions!

At first I had no idea what was happening. The sandy soil masked their burrowing. Each day it seemed like the onion patch decreased. No wilt. Just disappeared. Gone onions.

The turkeys alerted me to the disaster. This flock of hens and brood took up dirt bathing in my gopher mounds. How they knew the beasts were in my onions and potatoes is beyond me, but they revealed the hidden tunnels. Like Nazis secretly drilling underground for evil purposes, gophers invaded.

A turkey bath (not to be confused with a Turkish bath) involves dirt, loss of feathers and poop. Turkey poop. Pure garden nitrogen, as far as I’m concerned. And gophers are squeamish about poop. Evidently, pet or human hair and cat poop are natural deterrents. Now, everyone, cat, dogs, coyotes, turkeys are welcome to shat in my potato patch. It may be the only thing that saves my onions.

The harvest that promised large yields is woefully diminished. That coyote needs to leave the turkeys alone. Where is wolf when you need one?

August 19, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes onions. It can be the main event or a spicy side to your flash. Think of the impact of onions — teary eyes, dragon-breath, indigestion. How can an onion add a twist, reveal a character or sabotage a perfect day? Have fun!

Respond by August 25, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

In the following story, I’m using real-life to get me into the family dynamics of characters in my current WIP, Rock Creek. Sometimes when I’m uncertain about a scene or characters interacting, I imagine them dealing with a situation that’s familiar to me. Something simple to give me entrance. Do you ever do that in your fiction writing?


Onion Thieves by Charli Mills

Mary McCanles heard gunfire from her garden. She stepped outside to see Cob loping from the barn. Their son, Monroe, stood among her potato hills.

“Roe, mindful of your mama’s taters.” Cob reached the boy first.

“Out of the garden. Now.” Mary frowned at the swirling smoke from Monroe’s rifle.

“But Mama, I shot a critter in your garden.”

“No critter is going to cross my onions.” Mary was certain she had planted more. Why were there gaps between green shoots?

Cob pulled half a red onion bulb from the critter’s fat cheek. “Roe, you have a new chore.”


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