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January 27: Flash Fiction Challenge

January 27Rain has come early. Like a great science experiment it transforms snow into white fog and ice into silver slush. A woman driving northbound on State Highway 95 hit a patch of slush and spun her lumbering SUV out of control. When the tires caught the snow bank, the vehicle flipped twice, landing briefly upside-down before coming to a rest upright and askew to the railway bed. She had been going about 60 miles per hour; the speed limit.

I didn’t hear the accident, yet sensed it. No squeal of tires, no crunch of metal. Just a silent spin and double somersault, and those who saw it held their breath and pulled over. At that very moment the vehicle landed in three feet of grimy roadway snow, I turned from my computer and was stunned to see an SUV off the highway, other cars braking, some stopping, drivers running to get to the vehicle.

I yelled loudly for the Hub who didn’t even ask what was going on. He clearly heard my tone. I met him downstairs, breathless. “A car’s gone into the ditch.” He nodded, put on his shoes and a hat to keep off the rain. Without discussing it with me, he reacted by instinct. He knows me. He helped her out, talked to neighbors, waved at those who slowed down to ask about injuries through rolled down windows, and then he escorted her to our home. I already had a fresh pot of coffee going, hot water for tea and I set out brownies.

It’s what a community does.

And that’s not all. Those attached to our community in the capacity of civil service showed up — Idaho Highway Patrol, Emergency Medical Service, Volunteer Fire Department, Sandpoint Towing. In and out men in boots and emergency gear or uniforms traipsed, apologized for wet shoes. I offered coffee, tea. She sat in my rocking chair by the fire, ice on her broken nose, cup of tea at her side. She filled out paperwork, answered questions, let EMS examine her head. She laughed at the irony of surviving the accident only to break her nose trying to get out of the vehicle. She was in shock. We kept her warm, talked to her and eventually one of the responders took her home.

The internet technician who arrived days later was more curious about the obvious disturbance to the snow across the road from our mail box than our continuing connectivity woes. Connection, however, is paramount to me.

Though I live in a small community I don’t often see my neighbors or go to town. Lack of internet connectivity forced me to open up secondary offices in the community brew and beer houses. Just in time for no internet, my magazine editor gave me new assignments. I want to stay home, hide out and work within my routines. Then I realized what was really bothering me — I didn’t want to be disconnected from my writing community. It truly is the hub of my work.

Some writers worry about the time spent on social media as if being social were a bad thing. Going to town reminded me that it is not, and I like my new magazine gig that has me interviewing my local community. My interview style is to collect stories and that requires a degree of sociability. And I like it, despite my introverted desire to stay home. Being an introvert does not make one unsocial. Not only is my online community important to being social, it forms an important part of my writer’s platform.

Community is my foundation. All else pushes out from that hub like spokes on a wagon wheel.

Ever since I began decoding the writer’s platform, I had been trying to figure out how to visually show others the importance of community, especially when some writers began to wonder if it was a guilty pleasure or a time-waster. I knew it was neither, but I couldn’t make it “fit” my brick and mortar design for a writer’s platform. As I thought of community, I was reminded of a marketing model from the wellness segment called the “world view.” It’s a core, surrounded by a thicker layer and then a thinner crust.

Then the hub, spokes and wheel idea came to me.

Community is the hub; it’s our core. From the community, spokes of opportunity open up to reach the wheel that drives us in the writing market — readers. While I don’t have a developed visual, I’m working on it! First comes the breakthrough idea. Community is essential and the more organic it is the better. No, I don’t mean we need USDA labels or unadulterated ingredients. An organic community is one that occurs naturally. It’s the kindred-spirits, the shared-values bloggers, the like-minded who gather to write, read and discuss. We might be from varied backgrounds, genres and experiences, but we find common ground in our process, ideas and words.

From this hub of community, important spokes come into play. Like the woman who crashed, our community quickly responded with emergency services. That’s a spoke. For writers in a community, a spoke might be finding advice or trusted beta-readers. It might be an unexpected spoke of realizing that the genre you write is beloved to someone one of your community members know. Another spoke might be the sharing we do for each other in mentioning posts or books on our own sites. Yet another is collaboration, whether it is a Blogger’s Bash, judging a contest or sharing work in an anthology.

All these spokes reach out from our community and touch readers we don’t yet know.

January 27, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about how a community reaches out. Who, or what cause, is touched by a community “spoke”? Do you think communities can impact change and move a “wheel”? Why or why not? Explore the idea of a community hub in a flash fiction.

Respond by February 2, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Community Adjudication by Charli Mills

“String ‘em up,” one of the returning gold-miners shouted. Others laughed.

Ben, the grizzled trader who’d been buffalo hunting with the Pawnee since 1846 shook his shaggy head. “Now that ain’t fair. A man deserves due process.”

Cobb agreed. The old frontiersman understood democracy better than did most of these farmers who liked the idea of wielding deadly force over miscreants. Cobb stood and towered over them all. “Gentlemen, I wrote a proclamation to our Territorial Governor to petition for our right to adjudicate minor crimes.”

Heads nodded.

“But we won’t be hanging anyone in our community,” he added.

###

A Boy and His Dog

A Boy & His DogAs one writer wrote, what exists between a boy and his dog is a bond of love and trust. This week writers explored rescue dogs, service dogs and dogs in general in relationship with their human companions.

There’s a reason for this week’s challenge prompt: to honor a real-life boy and his real-life service dog. “Four Paws for Noah” is a fundraiser for Noah Ainslie, a nine-year-old boy with Autism who is in the process of receiving a service dog.

These stories are a show of support for Noah and his dog partner, Appa. They are also stories to remind us that animals do hold a special bond with us. The following are based on the January 20, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a boy and his dog, showing the value or benefit of such a relationship.

***

A Special Bond of Love and Trust by Kate Spencer

Jimmy plopped himself beside the dog cage where the little golden mutt sat with her head hanging down.

“Daddy says you won’t come out to play ‘cause you hurt inside,” he said quietly. “I hurt too.”

He took a deep breath. “Y’see… I lost my Mommy. Did you lose your Mommy?” he asked, as tears streamed down his chubby cheeks.

Daddy stood spellbound at the doorway, listening to his son pour out his heart to his new found friend. He gasped when the bundle of fur crawled out of the crate. She nuzzled beside Jimmy and licked his face.

###

His Buddy by Ann Edall-Robson

His folks were away for the day.

He was allowed to use the old truck. His reward for good grades. He and his buddy were going fishing. Leave the truck at the campground and hike into the lake.

Stars twinkled without a moon. Night noises surrounded them.

Unable to walk, the leg pain reminded him of how stupid he had been trying to climb the wet rocks.

It was going to be a long, cold night.

They were found at morning light. The two of them asleep; the teenage boy with his dog across his chest keeping him warm.

###

Sometimes a Dog’s the Best Listener by Geoff Le Pard

‘How old was grandpa’s dog when he died.’

‘Milton? 77 in dog years.’

‘Same as Grandpa.’

‘Yes…’

‘And Peter’s my age in dog years.’

Mary looked at her daughter’s worried face. ‘And you’re both young and healthy.’

‘That’s a coincidence isn’t it?’

‘Nothing more.’

‘I don’t want him to die.’

Mary watched Penny draw another circle. She wondered what had brought this on. Finally Penny stood and sat in the dog’s basket.

‘Listen Pete. If you die then I’ll be sad but we have to try and be happy.’ She looked at her mother. ‘That’s right, mum, isn’t it?’

###

Oliver and Trip by Luccia Gray

An Undertaker’s Cellar. London, 1837.

The undertaker’s wife pushed me down the stairs into the coal-cellar, where I almost tripped over a shaggy dog.

‘Oliver, you can ‘ave what Trip’s left on his plate. Probably found himself a big fat rat last night, so ‘e ain’t hungry this morning.’

She kicked the animal viciously. ‘Don’t be greedy and let the little beggar eat some o’ them bits o’ meat!’

Trip backed away and growled, but I was so hungry I decided to risk it and put my fingers on his food.

‘We’ll get out of here together,’ I whispered as he licked my hand.

###

Partners by Carol Campbell

He kept trying to inhale. It was like his lungs were going to burst. Lionel had asthma. Although used to this, it never got easier. “Mom, where is Franklin?”, he whispered laboriously. The Dalmation came bounding into his bedroom but upon seeing the boy, he stopped. He gently approached his suffering friend and laid his head on that well-known lap. The youngster gazed into those canine brown eyes. The dog had been there for every asthma attack and knew that calm loving was what was needed. Franklin was the perfect dog to give him that medicine. Dog spelled backwards.

###

Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

Collecting them from the waiting room, it’s clear his biggest problem is his mother. Anxious, overindulgent; but here, I make the rules.

Once he sees the needle, he screams. Red-faced, the mother does her best. I try the talking puppet, the Donald Duck voice. His wailing ricochets off the walls. The whole department’s quaking now.

Okay, I say. Bring her in! The mutt trails muddy pawprints across the floor. I hate to think where those feet have been.

The kid goes quiet, even smiles. Not a murmur as I draw the blood. Maybe I’ll get an assistance dog myself.

###

The Firmament #4 by Sach Black

Twenty huskies laid down. Paws out, jaws resting on their legs. A final salute to their comrade.

I swallowed hard. Hot tears already painted on my cheeks.

Luke’s sobs filled the ice shaft. Each one tearing through my ribcage like a surgeons knife.

I reached out and gripped his shoulder, “There’s no greater honour, Luke. He saved your life.”

He shook beneath my hand. I knew. I knew because if it was Axle lying dead instead of Grey, I couldn’t have carried on.

I dug my hands into Axle’s fur. He nudged my thigh and whined.

“I know, boy.”

###

Flash Fiction by Norah Colvin

The two young males sat on the step. They couldn’t see over the hedge to the park across the road but, from squeals and barks, they knew the neighbourhood children and their pets were at play. Each, with visions of their own participation, smiled as if the reality had come to be. Another life perhaps, but not this one, not now anyway. To an outsider both appeared damaged, confined more by mobility than garden walls. On the inside their hearts were filled with love, acceptance and compassion, happy with who they were, and with each other. Boy, dog; friends.

###

She Was the Stuff of Legend by Anthony Amore

Dennis said, “The boy needs a dog.”

I was almost two. My parents had their hands full and were not so convinced. Being ex-Navy, strong willed and forceful my uncle insisted, “A boy needs a dog.”

She was a Shepard-Collie mix and I named her Tinker. We were inseparable.

Our yard was fenced and I was not to leave. One day I jimmied the gate and escaped. Inside my mom heard frantic barking. Outside at driveway’s edge, several feet from the road, she found me pinned beneath Tinker, apprehended. Dennis was right — seems I needed that dog after all.

###

A Boy and His Dog by Deborah Lee

Jane watches Troubles run around the dog park. A soft voice speaks. She hadn’t felt anyone sit down on her bench.

“I like your dog. I had a dog but he ran away.”

She glances at the boy beside her. “I like him too.”

“Where’d you get him?”

She doesn’t want to say she found him, abandoned along with the house she broke into and squats in. She inspects the boy surreptitiously: healthy, expensive clothes, could afford to feed Troubles better than she can. Sadness limns his face.

This boy needs this dog as much as she does. Almost.

###

Conscent by Pete Fanning

Manny crouched low to the kitchen floor, a growl in his throat, his mismatched eyes pinging from Jack to his mother.

“Jack, what happened?”

“It was just a nibble, Mom. The guy’s a tool.”

“Leo is not a….tool,” Mom said. Then to the dog. “Not acceptable, Manny!”

They peeked out, finding Leo with his back to the living room mirror,
wrenched around feeling for holes in his skinny jeans.

“Stupid mutt,” he muttered, turning to fine tune his hair.

Jack looked up with a whisper.

“Seriously Mom.”

Manny slid up beside them. Jack’s mother scratched his head.

“Good boy, Manny.”

###

The Boy by Ula Humienik

Until I met him, my life was filled with humiliation and loneliness. Imagine: Begging for scraps on the streets. Capture. Imprisonment. Oh, the noise, the chaos, the whimpering at night. A sad lonely affair.

Of course, things hadn’t always been so dire. At the beginning, life looked promising: the freedom and rollicking of childhood, the warmth of mother and snuggling up with my siblings.

How was I to know things would turn so badly?

The day I will remember as the best day of my life will always be the day the boy took me home from the pound.

###

Those Left Behind by Charli Mills

Sarah coaxed the terrier out of his hiding place beneath the barn. Sarah felt numb, disbelieving Cobb was gone. Ever the backbone of the McCanles family, Cobb’s loss was crippling.

The terrier poked his head out, recognized Sarah and snuggled into her arms, darting his tongue at her face. Despite her despair, she smiled. She lifted the dog and walked toward where Mary sat erect in the wagon, stone-faced. Her children were disheveled, an unusual oversight. Monroe ignored Sarah as she approached.

“Monroe, he’s yours now. Take care of him.” And silently, she meant the last for the dog.

###

Sheltered Companion by Jules Paige

The boys were ready for a new pet. And the shelter was a good place to find one. The Collie-Shepherd mix was much bigger than the teacup poodle that died. Dad had to travel for business and Mom thought it was good to have a some help with the boys. They were all lucky to have her love and trust around for about nine years. Favorite photos of the pooch where when the boys dressed her up. Both docile and protective, better than any electric alarm. She was both a member of the family and a lesson in responsibility.

###

Marvin by Larry LaForge

Ed sat on the front porch sipping the decaffeinated ice tea Edna made for him.

“Here comes Marvin!” he called out. Edna hurried to Ed’s side to watch the daily afternoon ritual.

The lovable Boxer rambled up the street, tail wagging with anticipation. “How does he know what time it is?” Ed asked. Edna shook her head in wonderment.

Marvin rose on his strong hind legs, sensing arrival of the large yellow vehicle. He barked with excitement when young Jeremy Watkins exited the school bus.

Ed smiled at the sheer joy on Jeremy’s face as the youngster spotted Marvin.

###

Desperate Love by Christina Rose

Eight years old and perpetually suspended, physical altercations a daily occurrence. The loss of his mother manifesting into something darker, threatening to overtake his young life.

He came home to the small black and white bundle curled up on his bed, dark brown eyes pleading for the love they both yearned for. Charlie took the puppy in his arms, his rage melting with every desperate lick.

“Love each other,” his father said sadly from the doorway.

And they did.

The small box of dust sat on his bedside table. Sixteen years of childhood memories forever close to his heart.

###

Inspired by these stories? Write one for our fundraiser! We are helping Noah and Appa with their costly yet vital service training. The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contest is between 100-500 words (not including title), open to everyone and has a $250 first place prize and new second and third place prizes. Top three entries will be published in the RoundUp. $15 fee goes to support Noah and Appa. You can enter as many stories as you are inspired to write!

CR extended deadline

January 20: Flash Fiction Challenge

January 20It was Christmas Eve, and I was baking sugar cookies and cooking a pot of wild rice soup for dinner. Longboarder was by the fire texting friends. The dogs needed the outdoor snow bank to make yellow snow. Longboarder offered the escort.

Grenny ran off, loping past the barn, the pond and disappeared in the forest behind our place. When Longboarder reported the escape, I wasn’t concerned. Our neighbor told us they were going to Utah for the holidays, and I saw the other two neighbors leave earlier. With no neighborhood dogs to harass and snow falling lightly, Grenny would return.

I heard the first gun shot when I pulled the last sheet of cookies from the warm oven.

Hustling outside, wiping my hands on my holiday apron I froze on the porch. The fear that compelled me outside to find my dog now had an old familiar grip on me. One of my struggles with PTSD is dissociation. The emotional fear trips a danger switch and my emotions numb. Unfortunately, so does my body. I have not experienced a full-body freeze in decades. In fact, I thought I would never do this again after years of therapy, learning to recognize triggers, understand responses and find alternatives.

Stepping outside only to hear the second gun shot split my connection and I could  not move.

Longboarder, unaware of my state, stepped outside and asked if Grenny came back. I didn’t answer and she shrugged and went back inside. How could she know my struggle? I envied the ease of her ability to walk in and out the door. I hated being frozen, feeling the accusation of an old mental enemy that what happens is my fault — normal people scream, move, do something. I felt a wash of shame.

After a third shot and much coaxing from my mind that continued to process what was happening, Grenny came running down the snow clogged dirt road from behind our place. My knees buckled and the spell broke. He was alive and I could move. He ran to me, all wiggles and we walked inside. Longboarder was happy to see him and apologized for letting him run off. I assured her it wasn’t her fault, but told her about the gun shots. She shook her head and asked why would anyone shoot at him?

Why, indeed.

Often the very neighbors behind us let their dogs run free. And they visit, barking at our dogs, chasing the barn cat and lifting a leg on my snapdragons. We’ve even had dogs from across the train tracks and highway visit. Fearing for their own safety, we’ve secured the dogs and called neighbors until we found the owners. After all, that’s what neighbors do. But shoot a trespassing dog?

Evidently this is a serious problem in our area. After the Hub confronted our neighbors over the incident, taking my response to it seriously, we were left puzzled. As I had thought, all three neighbors were gone that day. None saw — or shot at — Grenny. So who was in the forest with a high powered rifle (I recognized the retort) and shooting at dogs when he or she was the trespasser? We didn’t think much more about it until I read a disturbing article in our local newspaper.

North of us, a grisly dumping site was found — dogs, all shot with a high powered rifle. And these dogs include ones that have gone missing from where we live. Someone is killing dogs. For a writer, such stories can make for curious and dark explorations for fiction. Personally, it unnerves me. My dogs are such a vital part of my feeling connected to my body.

This brings me not to horror, but to redemption.

I may not understand autism, but I understand what it is to have something that cuts me off from myself and others. I understand the impact it has on loved ones. I understand the saving grace of a dog. Dogs have a way of cutting through terrific binding barriers. In fact, notice that it was upon seeing my dog that the dissociation state broke. My dog, though the source of my initial shock, was also my comfort. Grenny may not be a trained service dog, but this link between humans and canines is why dogs are used in service.

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction ContestWhich is why we have an important contest happening at Carrot Ranch — 4 Paws for Noah. Blogger, writer and friend, Shawna Ayoub Ainslie, supports writers through her #LinkYourLife blog share, workshops and posts at The Honeyed Quill. And she supports her family with love and compassion, including her nine-year old son, a boy with autism. And a boy with a dog. Noah’s dog is a service-trained dog, linking Noah to the world. Training is costly but worthwhile. The contest is a fundraiser to help offset those costs. It’s only $15 to submit a flash fiction (100 to 500 words) and the first place prize is a generous $250. Second and third place (along with first) will all be featured in the newly launched e-newsletter, Roundup.

Read the rules here and submit through Submittable. All Rough Writers and Friends (except our illustrious judges) who write here are eligible to enter due to the blind process.

Not only can you make a real difference in a boy’s life through his connection to his service dog, you can write about it this week. Maybe your story will inspire others. Perhaps it will encourage understanding the value dogs can bring to our lives. And hopefully, it can be a balm to my community shocked by the atrocities against dogs.

January 20, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a boy and his dog, showing the value or benefit of such a relationship. Be creative, uplifting and demonstrate that such a relationship has merit. If the prompt takes you somewhere darker, know that writing into the dark often retrieves the light. Let it have a purpose.

Respond by January 26, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Those Left Behind by Charli Mills

Sarah coaxed the terrier out of his hiding place beneath the barn. Sarah felt numb, disbelieving Cobb was gone. Ever the backbone of the McCanles family, Cobb’s loss was crippling.

The terrier poked his head out, recognized Sarah and snuggled into her arms, darting his tongue at her face. Despite her despair, she smiled. She lifted the dog and walked toward where Mary sat erect in the wagon, stone-faced. Her children were disheveled, an unusual oversight. Monroe ignored Sarah as she approached.

“Monroe, he’s yours now. Take care of him.” And silently, she meant the last for the dog.

###

NOTE: My internet connectivity problems are linked to failed satellite equipment. I’ll continue to be intermittent, but I will be here!

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time writers had unlimited access to the internet that never, ever failed. The birds always chirped in harmony and the internet lines buzzed jovially. And this writing buckaroo wrote happily ever after, unimpeded by technology.

Yeah, right. We all know the existence of fairy tales is only stories found in children’s book. Happily ever after, blah, blah, blah. Internet that works? In rural northern Idaho? What a tale! If not real, then why do fairy tales matter?

Good question. That was the task of writers this week, to explore the genre in 99 words. As always, a diverse group of writers means a diverse compilation of responses.

The following stories are based on January 13, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) begin a story with, “Once upon a time…”

NOTE: Due to internet technical difficulties, courtesy of the wicked and evil empire of Excede, these stories did not appear on Carrot Ranch Facebook Page. Prince Charli is battling the dragon in charge of fixing the problem. She’s determined to find her happy ending despite the questionable reality of fairy tales. Many thanks to the Land of Coffee & Beer — to Kokanee Coffee and Laughing Dog Brewery who let her use their internet and swill their dark brews.

***

Magic All Around by Jeanne Lombardo

Once upon a time there was a maiden who scorned magic. A wise teacher called Skeptic had set her straight about the world. One evening Skeptic found the maiden on a cliff overlooking a vast canyon. Condors wheeled against cliffs glowing with a million sunsets. Below a turquoise river coursed its cursive script in an ancient letter to the sky.

The maiden wept.

“Why so sad?” the Skeptic asked.

“I want for the magic I once knew,” she replied.

Silence sang. The sun sank aflame. Stars slowly spangled the indigo sky.

“Be this not magic enough?” the Skeptic whispered.

###

The Truth behind the Myth by Geoff Le Pard

 ‘Once upon a time…’

‘Please, mum, give me a break.’

‘I was talking to Lotte, Penny.’

‘Can I tell her a story, mum?’

Mary smiled. ‘Sure.’ She snuggled the baby and closed her eyes.’

‘Once upon a time, there were two sisters and one went missing. The other was determined to find her lost sister so she gave up everything, neglected everyone to find her.’

Mary shuddered. Is that how Penny sees things?

‘Finally, despite every setback she found her darling and brought her home. And everyone understood and lived happily…’

Mary hugged her daughter, soaking her with her tears.

###

No Happy Endings by Charli Mills

“Once upon a time there lived a king and queen who were grieved…”

Sarah listened to Jesse read from her favorite book of fairy tales, their shared birthday tradition. Jesse now 18, and Sarah 89. Satisfied, Sarah dozed. Wasn’t she young once?

The young prince, fired for a gay adventure, set off for the woods. He rocked Sleeping Beauty in her cradle. Black hair like his, blue eyes like hers. The prince smiled. Don’t grieve…don’t grieve…

Sarah woke in her chair. Jesse finished the tale, smiling over the happy ending. Sarah knew better. Sleeping Beauty died in the woods.

###

The Firmament #3 by Sacha Black

“Once upon a time, we all live happily ever after isn’t going to happen Lexi, people are going to die.”

“I know, Luke. I know.” Of course I knew. If I was willing to die for our freedom, then everyone else would have to be too. But, did that mean I wanted their blood on my hands? Obviously not. I just hoped the sacrifice was worth it.

I yanked my hair into a ponytail, frustration seeping into my scalp and taking residence in my forehead. Knowing it, and being able to do anything about it were two different things.

###

Paradise by Jules Paige

Cinderella hauled ass. And lead the donkey too. Once
she was freed of the yoke of her Step-mother she did
not immediately marry the Prince. While handsome
enough, he was a bit of a player. And she wanted to
sign a prenuptial agreement that if he strayed she could
take him through the wringer. Well of course the King
and Queen weren’t to happy about that. So they politely
asked how else they could reward their diligent servant.

A private island with good weather for crops, chickens,
a cow, and a good horse. It was a done deal.

###

The Emperor’s New Clothes by Lee Manila

Once upon a time, there was a selfish emperor who lived in luxury while his people lived in poverty. A man came and told him he’d make him the best robe in the world, and only the pure of heart could see it. Actually, there was nothing but the emperor believed him. The next day the emperor paraded in front of his people – naked. All the people waved and pretended to see what the emperor was wearing. One boy shouted: “he was naked!” The guards took the boy away and put him in prison. How dare he questioned the emperor!

###

Consequences by Young Master Fanning

Once upon a time there was a boy, and he had a riding lawn mower. He was mowing in the woods one day when he saw….The Abominable Snowman! The boy went faster, but then he ran out of gas.

The Abominable Snowman was nice, and he helped the boy get to the gas station. But after he got gas, THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN STARTED CHASING HIM!

So the boy had to go even faster….in an airplane. But then he ran out of gas. And The Abominable Snowman’s mommy put the snowman in consequence because he wasn’t being nice.

The end.

###

Cold Cuts and Fairy Dust by Papa Pete Fanning

Once upon a time there is this lame freshman play, Gypsies and Fairies. And because the lead gypsy is Lani Andrews, an inspired sucker snatches the opposite role that no guy wants to touch.

Fairy. As in wings and wand and this glittery vial of fairy dust. The boy tosses his props in my—er, his locker on the way to football practice because it’s not a conversation he wants to have with teammates.

In his rush some fairy dust falls into his cleats and he’s screwed because, well, glitter and all. Instead something magical happens.

He becomes unstoppable.

###

Once upon a time…by Deborah Lee

Jane Doe flushes under the smiling, expectant gaze of this most attractive man. Imagine, someone asking her out to dinner! Here is proof that her efforts are worthwhile, a few dollars a month for the gym and access to a shower, her thrift store clothes carefully selected. Maybe she’s pulling it off well enough to fool a potential employer.

She entertains Cinderella’s daydream for a second, then shakes her head regretfully. He likes her now, but what happens when he finds out she squats in an abandoned house? At least Cinderella had a proper home.

###

Lucky Fiver by Kerry E.B. Black

Once upon a time, an impoverished eighteen-year-old found a discarded five dollar bill. He put the cash into his hole-riddled jeans. Throughout the day, he patted his hip to be certain the money hadn’t fallen out. At lunch, he ignored his growling stomach. “I’ve plans for this money, and it ain’t buying mystery meat.” Through classes, he jotted numbers whispering through his mind. After school, he ran to the store to purchase a ticket. “Can I stay to watch? No t.v. at home. I wanna cash in fast.” The clerk condescended, then choked with surprise when the boy won.

###

Rainbow Tops by Olianna

Once upon a time there was a floating field of mushrooms; each top was a different shade. If you looked closely from above, you could count all the colours of a rainbow. At night the tops glowed; white and silver fairies sat watch so worms wouldn’t munch on them. One day, a huge odd looking fairy, flew in and landed on the largest mushroom in the field. Her wings almost touched the mushrooms on either side. She announced the arrival of a new monarch who would save the field of any maggots, so they could live happily ever after.

###

Fairy Tale by Anne Goodwin

Once upon a time there was a lonely little earthworm. He wasn’t born lonely; he’d been happy tunnelling through the humus until a spade sliced through his mother. As she twitched at both ends he thought it must be true that worms don’t die. Until she stopped moving completely.

He searched for friends among the children digging in the dirt. But when he wrapped himself around their stubby fingers, they squealed and shook him off.

A blackbird almost caught him as he wriggled into compost, ready to expire. Until a galaxy of red brandlings welcomed him to their world.

###

Starman Jane Dougherty

Once upon a time there was a little boy who gazed at the stars. Far away, a little girl wished on every falling star to catch one and follow where it led.

The boy grew up to be a starman. On his first voyage to investigate Earth, he was drawn out of orbit and fell, streaking the night with fire. He climbed out of the vessel, the smoking crater, and took the hands of the girl with brilliant eyes who was waiting for him. Together they repaired his ship and flew away to write their destiny among the stars.

###

Once Upon a Time by Carol Campbell

Once upon a time, there was a small boy named Austin. He lived with his family on a small street in a quiet town. His parents had raised him to be a manly child. He was not a bully, but he was not one to allow anyone to get their way if it affected him. One day a fairy came to him and said, “Austin, the way you behave is not really the way God intended men to act.” She taught him that the true male energy that God gave man was strong but gentle. He learned this well.

###

Fairy Tale by Ula Humienik

Once upon a time…

there was a girl who had a secret. She could hear music where others heard none. She saw colors, patterns and textures where others only heard sound.

One day, she decided to share her inner world so others could see the magic in the mundane. Maybe they too could hear the sound of red — a jazzy trumpet — or see the colors and patterns in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

But one day it all stopped. Submerged in darkness, she couldn’t find a way out.

How could she share her inner world if she’d lost it?

###

Fairy Tale Castle by Ann Edall-Robson

“Whatcha doin’ Mom?”

“Writing a once upon a time fairy tale about a little girl and her horse.”

“What happened?”

“She didn’t want to grow up. She was so happy on the back of her horse. Running wild and free across pastures and through the trees. The barn was her castle surrounded by her kingdom known as Mother Nature.”

“And then what?”

“Alas, she married her Prince Charming who had his own castle and pastures.”

“Is that picture of your old horse?”

“Hey, we have a barn and pastures.I think your story’s about you and dad.”

“Could be.”

###

Rich Man, Poor Man by Larry La Forge

Once upon a time Charlie was rich. At least that’s what Ed always believed about his friend. Edna agreed.

But now Ed thinks Charlie is poor. Edna agrees.

Charlie? Well, he thinks he used to be poor, but is now rich.

“He lives in a fairy tale,” Ed said to Edna.

Charlie changed almost immediately after his lottery winnings were certified. He abandoned his many friends and began spending lavishly on himself. Cars, clothes, houses, exotic vacations. His ex-wife and kids haven’t yet seen a dime.

“Fairy tales . . .” Edna lamented, shaking her head. “Not all of them end well.”

###

Bedtime by Pat Cummings

“Once upon a time,” Grampa Ray began.

“Wait, Grampa! Why it is always ‘once upon a time’?” Mary wriggled under the covers with the urgency of her question. “Why do bedtime stories begin that way?”

“I don’t know…” Her grandpa scratched his head, then his chin. “Maybe it’s like, ‘And now, the news.’ Just a way people have of telling us that whatever follows is either real or make-believe.”

“Oh.” Mary thought for a moment, then said, “Once upon a time I wanted to watch TV until 10 o’clock and my mom said I could stay up late tonight.”

###

The Knight of Calm by Paula Moyer

“Once upon a time, when all the great trees in the forest were still quite small …” Jean lay in bed, waiting for Daddy’s next words.

It was like this every night that he did bedtime. “Tell me a story,” Jean would beg. And then he would begin.

But the story was always very short. The topic may be a princess, a knight, an overgrown forest. No matter. Soon Daddy’s breaths lengthened. The voice rose in pitch but softened.

Moonlight drew Daddy’s profile. His eyelids fell. Nxxx – the snore.

The door opened. Momma’s voice. “Honey, come on to bed.”

###

Let There Be Light by Jane Dougherty

Once upon a time the world was dark, and people lived in fear of things that went bump and things with sharp teeth and claws. A little girl sat in a corner out of the way of blundering feet, listening to the mutterings and the scufflings, waiting until she was big enough to help the people get over their fear. On her sixth birthday she decided she was big enough. She felt her way around the room until she found the place, then she reached up high, as high as ever she could, and she turned on the light.

###

When Frogs Could Fly by Roger Shipp

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived two flying frogs.

Free-wheelin’ Fredrick and Voluptuous Freda frolicked and fluttered instilling fright and fear.

Even lions, baboons, and falcons were in awe of them.

These callous, winged-rulers hoarded flies and fruits- sometimes even fish- from all the kingdom.

The familial swamp creatures sequestered themselves to find a fitting way to overthrow the freakish tyrants.

Assassins- leafcutters were dispatched. Carefully spiking the castle with an airborne fungus- frog wings were soon ant fodder.

Hence the saying… If frogs had wings, they wouldn’t bump their butts on the ground.

###

Contentment by Norah Colvin

Once upon a time there was an ordinary girl who lived an ordinary life with her ordinary family. She did all the ordinary things that others did and dreamed of nothing else. Each day followed one after the other with little difference. There was no magic. There were no fairies, and there were no dragons to slay. She just did what she had to do and took little notice of others doing the same. Strangely enough she was content for, from somewhere deep within, she knew that this ordinary life was but preparation for the extraordinariness of the next.

###

Tsunami by Udosdottir

Once upon a time, on an island in the southern reaches of the ocean, there were a girl and a boy. They loved each other and wanted to marry. However, for both a different destiny was foretold. No-one knew what the saying meant, but getting settled was not it, and acting against fate unthinkable. The pair decided to complete the ancient task to prove that they were meant for each other. They set out for the beach, holding hands, searching for where to start their spirit journey. They heard a sound, saw a wave, and then – nothing.

###

Fairy Tale by Irene Waters

Once upon a time there lived a miserly woman who hid her money under the mattress. One day she died. That night the beneficiary dreamt he was to give the cash to the poor, keeping only twenty dollars for himself. Reluctantly, as he craved wealth, he carried out these wishes buying a watch with his twenty dollars. He stuffed it into his lunch box. Coming across a diabetic man needing sugar, from his lunchbox, he gave him his jelly beans. The man stared at the watch in the apple. Thrilled, Steve Jobs paid handsomely for the apple watch idea.

###

Once Upon a Time by Lisa Reiter

Once upon a time a memoirist got all confused about a flash fiction prompt requiring a fairy tale ending. In real life, it seemed they hardly ever came along. Not those that can be written in 99 words anyway. (She forgot she could just make it up.)

So she huffed and she puffed and the deadline drew near. She tried waving her magic wand but the words would not appear, so in the end she made more coffee, ate up all the chocolate in the house and pretended she and her monsters would live happily ever after. THE END.

###

Fairy Tale by Luccia Gray

Once upon a time, there was a little girl, who loved listening to stories of knights in shining armour, princes and fairy godmothers in faraway places, who rescued beautiful princesses in distress.
Years later she discovered that knights, princes, and godmothers needed saving, too, so she became a teacher and told her students stories about people who needed help, and how ordinary children who aren’t princes, princesses, or fairy godmothers rescue each other every day, in small ways, like saying; NO FAIL ‘Next Opportunity! It’s your First Attempt In Learning!’ and this isn’t the END because ‘Effort Never Dies!’

###

Unhappily Ever After by Sherri Matthews

Once Upon A Time they had been happy: Prince Charming, riding in on his white horse Lamborghini, saving her from going-nowhere-fast.

He had dazzled her with his glossy, black hair, deep brown eyes and penthouse suite in New York.

But now the suite was her jail and Charming her captor; disowned by her family, her friends gone, clothes worn only he approved to cover her bruises.

“Well fucker,” she whispered, “I’m no longer blonde and I’m sure as hell no Rapunzel. Our fairy tale’s gonna turn grim…”

She smiled, cocked her pistol and waited patiently for Charming’s grand entrance.

###

 

 

January 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

January 13I’m looking for my fairy tale ending, holding on for my Fairy Godmother or even hoping fairies show up and wash the dirty dishes in the sink. I don’t believe in fairy tales, although a part of me wants to. My inner child perhaps?

Yesterday, thanks to a gussied up Google home page, I learned it was the 388th birthday of Charles Perrault, the Fairy Godfather of the literary genre, the fairy tale. Not being much of a fairy tale aficionado (princesses hold little appeal to me), I had thought the genre began with the brothers Grimm. Evidently, Perrault made simple folk tales fashionable at court and the fairy dust honors go to him.

If it is a simple matter of a courtly bard sophisticating folk tales, I might want to argue that the fairy tale genre is older than Perrault. Certainly the Lais of Marie de France, who was possibly the illegitimate sister of Henry II and abbess of Reading, could qualify as making stories of love and fables of animals popular at court in the 12th century. What of the stories of King Arthur or the folk tales of the Celts? Where do we define “fairy tale”?

Folk tales, or stories of cultural tradition, have been with us since the first telling of the rising sun or acknowledgement of a spirit world. What if the only thing that separates us from other species is our desire to tell and hear stories? Do ravens have tales? Do wolves howl bedtime lullabies? Do whales use sonar to explain the creatures in boats above the demarcation of water? According to scientific studies, human brains are hard-wired for stories. And a story is defined by people in a predicament and how they do or do not escape. Stories are how we learn what is accepted and acceptable in society. Stories are also where we push those limits and explore why we accept or reject what we do. Stories allow us to perceive the predicaments of others, sparking empathy and compassion.

What is a fairy tale but the simple formula for a story that has always been with us — it begins with the familiar “once upon a time” and ends happily ever after. The Disney franchise makes gazillions off of fairy tale princesses, and has even evolved fairy tales over successive tellings through the medium of movies. Ballet is another medium for fairy tales with epic dance interpretations of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia and the Nutcracker. Fairy tale motifs are even used in literature to create either realistic fantasies or to give realistic stories fantastical elements. Today, the villain might win over the princess as the genre evolves to consider new predicaments and outcomes.

As a child, my favorite fairy tale from among the Walt Disney versions was Robin Hood. I had the book and the record which I played over and over, listening to the songs and voices to imagined pictures in my head. It didn’t seem odd at all that Disney’s Robin Hood was a red fox, or Little John a big brown bear. For fairy tales, we suspend reality.

Only now does it occur to me I might have developed a bias against the profession of sheriffs because clearly the Sheriff of Nottingham was a big bad wolf. Subconsciously, did I think Cobb McCanles might have been the bully history describes him to be because he was a sheriff? Yet, my research into the profession expands my understanding. As a sheriff in antebellum North Carolina, Cobb had to be tough, but also smart. He had to hold himself to high standards and be accountable to the highest government in the state as a tax collector. He was accountable for those who didn’t pay their taxes, and he had to provide exact amounts when he collected. Often, he had take people’s property if they refused or couldn’t pay taxes, which could have put him in dangerous situations.

It’s interesting Cobb would have held a position that required enough popularity to be elected four times, yet be unpopular for what he was tasked to do. He was a big man, a sporting man who wrestled in the skull and knife duels of his time (think 1850s MMA), and he was self-righteous, believing himself to be an authority by his position. He lived large in life and probably created many silent enemies. None spoke out against him until he left the politics of North Carolina which had taken a direction he couldn’t uphold. He left for Nebraska, but must have carried with him that sheriff’s demeanor. Was he the big bad wolf?

The fairy tale that evolves from the 1861 incident at Rock Creek finds a hero in another — Wild Bill Hickok. In fairy tales, typically you can only have one hero. History answers, yes, Cobb McCanles was the big bad wolf and Hickok the dashing hero who saved the day. Consider this passage by historian, William E. Connely:

Wild Bill and McCanles were both men of destiny — strong, fitted to stand in the forefront of the advance of the frontier, to hold the lead of civilization into new lands. By his courage, his intrepidity, his iron will, his marvelous achievement Wild Bill won fame. By his strength of character and his tragic death McCanles won fame. One was the knight of the Middle Ages strangely out of time. The other was the freebooter with the daring to take what he wanted regardless of consequences.

Both will live on history’s eternal page.

Think a moment about the idea that we are hardwired for stories. Not logic. Stories. The stories that emerged to explain the incident at Rock Creek read like fairy tales with the knight overcoming the freebooter. The community needed a story to make the incident acceptable. And obviously, the American culture at large wanted heroes, and the Wild West was ripe with fairy tale potential.

Problem is, we’ve accepted the tales as history. It’s near impossible to sift all the stories for facts and come up with the “real” story, but like those who tell alternative fairy tales, Rock Creek  is a novel to offer alternative considerations, busting the myths of western  villains, heroes and happy endings. The women involved were more than princesses on the sidelines.

While I wait for my own elusive fairy tale life, I continue to move forward, making headway against what feels like strong winds. Finally, the VA has submitted a formal document for my husband’s PTSD. I have to take time out of my packed schedule to sit in meetings with his advocate. Monday went well, and I felt some measure of validation, if not exhaustion. This will take time. Everything I’m doing at the moment will take time. I should be a monk by the end of it all. On top of everything, my head cold of a month ago decided to return like some medieval plague and dormant health issues decided to flare. I feel like Prince Charming, fighting the dragon, thorns and vines that hoard the prize.

Never do I feel like Sleeping Beauty. The disappointment of fairy tales is not that they aren’t real, but that the men are the ones who get to fight for what is right, for what they want. The women are sequestered and always waiting on songbirds to clean up their clutter. No wonder they are beautiful — they have time to coif hair, apply powder and dress with consideration. I look a hot mess these days, but I am the fighting prince, no sulking princess. I’ll author my own damn fairy tale in this life and one day up hold the elixir I get from writing, researching, reading, discussing and ultimately expressing what that all means. In a story, of course.

January 13, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) begin a story with, “Once upon a time…” Where you take the fairy tale is entirely up to you. Your character can break the traditional mold, or your ending can be less than happy. Elements of fairy tales include magic, predicaments, villains, heroes, fairy-folk and kingdoms. How can you turn these elements upside down or use them in a realistic setting? Write your own fairy tale.

Respond by January 19, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

No Happy Endings by Charli Mills

“Once upon a time there lived a king and queen who were grieved…”

Sarah listened to Jesse read from her favorite book of fairy tales, their shared birthday tradition. Jesse now 18, and Sarah 89. Satisfied, Sarah dozed. Wasn’t she young once?

The young prince, fired for a gay adventure, set off for the woods. He rocked Sleeping Beauty in her cradle. Black hair like his, blue eyes like hers. The prince smiled. Don’t grieve…don’t grieve…

Sarah woke in her chair. Jesse finished the tale, smiling over the happy ending. Sarah knew better. Sleeping Beauty died in the woods.

###

Ranch News: Story selections and assignments for the Congress of Rough Writers Anthology Vol. 1 are underway. Notifications began yesterday and will continue as Editor, Sarah Brentyn, and I finalize the needs for each book section and analyze reader feedback on first-year material. Teams are assisting with editorial, education or publishing considerations to make this a collaborative effort we all can take pride in it’s quality and value.

I’ve launched a new weekly e-mail. This is not directed at writers here, necessarily, but you are welcome to follow. It’s a new tool for securing readers at Carrot Ranch and for our collective books. I will feature one Rough Writer and his or her book each week in the newsletter, giving each a turn at publicity. I will also feature three flash fiction. Don’t let the word “popular” put you off or turn on your competitive radar. Basically, it’s an editor’s pick as to three flash that go well together and can attract new readers. Once I train the monkeys (Mail Chimps) it will include a few other fun features. Again, the intent is to build up readership now that we have a solid base of writers and participants at Carrot Ranch.

There’s still time to enter the contest:

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contest

Our team of accomplished judges are patiently standing by and awaiting your submissions! Other than the judges, this contest is open to all Rough Writers and beyond. Please spread this contest if you can help out. It’s a great cause, only $15 to enter and a $250 first place prize with prizes for second, third and an overall grand prize randomly drawn from all who submitted to any of the 4 Paws for Norah Contests. You can use the icon to share and link back to the Contest Page.

In personal news, my first article is featured at the new and gorgeous Go Idaho magazine. It is subscription based but you can read up to two articles free each week and there are social media buttons below each article to share. Please tell me what you think of A Stone Castle in the Rockies.

In two weeks, Carrot Ranch goes live at the Library with Wrangling Words. The attempt is to build a similar supportive program for rural literary writers in northern Idaho.

Thank you for all your support and participation at Carrot Ranch. I hope we continue to grow, connecting to readers, engaging more writers, discussing process and stories, collaborating to the benefit of us all. I feel like I’m echoing Margaret Meade when I say, never underestimate what a small group of passionate writers can do with words.

The Rebellion Begins

RebellionIt began with a story. Followed by another. Soon pages fluttered like wings of eagles, heralding the rebellion of a thousand voices. One story at a time that it how it begins.

What is rebellion, exactly? Who rebels and why? These are questions writers faced this week as they looked to history, family dynamics and unexpected sources for inspiration. Rebellion is resistance of control.

The following stories are based on the January 6, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a rebellion.

***

Kinder Mass Trespass, 1932 by Anne Goodwin

We came by train and charabanc, in patched tweeds and hobnailed boots. Shouldering canvas knapsacks, we processed up the clough. Lungs exchanging city smog for peat-scented air, we heaved and gasped and sang our defiance to the top. We raised a cheer as, across the plateau, the flat caps of our northern comrades came into view. A grouse cackled a welcome; these moors would not remain a rich man’s playground.

Suddenly, a gaggle of gamekeepers, as if from the mist. We pitted our case against the barrels of their guns. Yet only we faced arrest.

###

Youthful Rebellion by Christina Rose

“I’M LEAVING!” she screamed.

“Okay, honey,” her mother replied, not evening looking up from her book. “We will see you soon.”

“No! I’m leaving FOREVER!” stomping her foot, furious they didn’t care.

Slamming the door, she stormed out of the house and up the street.

She made it one block before turning back; fear overpowering rage at not being allowed to go to the sleepover.

“I’m sorry,” she cried, enveloped in her mother’s arms

###

Rebellion by Pat Cummings

All his life, Karl fought his nature.

Born with a keen eye and genes for long bones and plenty of muscle, he avoided sports and opted instead for dance classes. Blessed with a mind hungry for mathematics and science, he spent any free time writing poetry and crafting beautiful watercolors and pen-and-ink drawings of abstract forms. A charming extrovert, he traveled to places where he would be isolated by language and customs from those around him.

Happy in his rebellion, at peace with the world and himself, now he does as he pleases. His battle is over. Karl won!

###

Chloe by Pete Fanning

Miss Shelby had the nerve to take me out of class. Of all days.

“Chloe, I know you’re going through a rough time, but I need you to keep your phone off during class.”

Rough time. I could’ve smacked her crooked face. Mom was at the doctor’s office with that lump and she was worried about the effing phone. I set my jaw. Sent a muted stare into her sunken eyes, eyes that widened in retreat. She mumbled, nodded, then hobbled back to class.

I returned to my seat, only then noticing the scissors digging into my clenched fist.

###

A Matter of Conscience by Roger Shipp

Dad was as patriotic as they come. July 4th was as important as Christmas and Easter. Memorial Day found us with ten flags and ten wreaths visiting different rural cemeteries to lay them beside of a veteran’s headstone that might not receive his appropriate recognition.

I sat there as nervous as a clairvoyant frog in a pan of steaming water. My college grant had been rejected because I had chosen not to register. I wasn’t anti-gun. I was just anti-killing humans.

“Dad, I have decided that I have to be a conscientious objector. There is no way that I…”

###

The Granny by Ruchira Khanna

“No one loves me!” Liz screamed as she banged her door while shutting herself in.
Sobs could be heard loud and clear.

After a few minutes, the door opened, and she was apologizing to her Granny, who was knitting while swaying herself to calmness in a rocking chair.

“I love you” replied the Granny while hugging her tight and explaining her rebel behavior in school that got her into trouble.

Liz tried to clarify, and the Granny gave her space by keeping mum. Towards the end of the analysis, Liz realized her lunatic conduct and blushed out of embarrassment.

###

Rebel…With a Cause by Jules Paige.

Rhoda was the rebel, southern born. But she actually grew
up to be fairly responsible. That was a shocker to most of the
family, who thought she was mentally lacking. Being a scrappy
fighter kept her alive and well. But the siblings were jealous.
They wanted no part of her, except for her assistance in caring
for their elder parents. Something they didn’t want to do.

Rhoda and her husband were there for her parents especially
when they asked, which was hard for them to do. But she’d
had enough. It was their turn now.

###

Palmetto Trees by Larry LaForge

“What saved them?” The park ranger paused, waiting to see if anyone knew. His shiny badge glittered in the bright sun.

“Shallow water and palmetto trees,” Ed finally offered to break the silence.

Ed knew the story of Fort Sullivan frontwards and backwards. Now he was standing in awe on the historic fort grounds.

Spongy palmetto logs thwarted cannon balls fired from distant British ships, sending the frustrated fleet away from Charleston, SC only days before Congress declared independence.

Ed grasped Edna’s hand as he imagined the terror of those caught up in a rebellion that changed the world.

###

Tobacco. by Bill Bennett

You are a selfish bitch. You took over 25 years of my life.

My lip at times seemed to be rotting off. You stole my soul at only five years of age. I hate you.

I rebelled against you and won at age 30.

You no longer have any control over me. I own you, you are my slave now. You crept back into my life after a twelve years of hiatus. I killed you for the second time a year and a half ago. You hold no power over me now. This time the rebellion will win.

###

You’re Not the Boss of Me! by Norah Colvin

Eyes blazed defiance, daring a struggle which could end only in tears and frustration, or a standoff with no real winner. She was ready to flee the moment there was a hint of movement. Our eyes met. I contemplated my options. Did we have to do this now?

Again the challenge: “You’re not the boss of me!”

I pretended to read.

Another volley, quieter: “You’re not the boss of me.”

No response.

Soon she was snuggling beside, pointing to pictures.

I read aloud.

We laughed at the antics.

As I closed the book I said, “Ready? Let’s do this.”

###

We Don’t Like Your Kind Here by Deborah Lee

Jane Doe pulls the bills from her pocket and counts out the correct number, handing them over. The cashier’s stare seems as weighty as the backpack Jane wears. Now she sees the tight line of the mouth, eyes hard and glittering as diamonds. She accepts the change thrust at her.

“Go on now, “ says the cashier shortly, jutting her chin toward the door. Why so rude? Then Jane remembers her backpack, the bedroll screaming, “Street person!”

“I said move along,” the cashier snaps.

Anger flares.

Jane straightens. “I forgot something, “ she says coolly, and turns back toward the shelves.

###

The Firmament #2 by Sacha Black

The residents of Nova drank in the president’s words. They believed him. Believed we were safe in this dome.

I pawed at my neck, trying to rub away the rising heat.

I’d seen the dome, touched it. I knew we were trapped; knew someone had trapped us.

I glared at the president. He found me in the crowd. His jaw set, and mouth curved. I saw the lie behind his eyes.

“You buying this, Luke?” I whispered.

“Not a word.”

Something hard stirred in my chest. Defiance. Rebellion.

“We have to fight. We have to find a way out.”

###

Family Division by Charli Mills

I fell in love with your mother among wildflowers …

Cobb read the letter to Mary by light of an oil lamp while the children slept.

“Go on,” she said.

“You know, Da, poetics. Not much else.” Cobb set the parchment aside.

“Cobb McCanles I may not know my letters, but I know it doesn’t look like one of his poems. What does he say?”

Cobb shook his head. “Da wants to come west finally, leave his beloved North Carolina.”

“It can’t be that bad?”

Cobb tightened his jaw. “Your brothers were among the rebels who burned him out.”

###

Rebellion Labyrinth by Tom Ellis

Sam Wood’s disgust at slavery made him a rebellious teen in his Ohio village. A few years later the Kansas and Nebraska Territories opened. The question of whether those states would enter the Union as slave or free inflamed Sam’s passion for freedom propelling him to the Kansas Territory for the fight. Willing to help runaway slaves, Sam was charged with treason by a Sheriff who abused the law. Sam escaped being arrested and campaigned for abolition across the Midwest. Lincoln won the election. A bloody civil war erupted and millions fought and died some led by Sam himself.

###

Budding Discontent by J.T.E.

“This is crazy you guys…you know me, I’m a patriot!”

Jay’s heart raced.

“Jules, Franky, you’ve got to believe me, c’mon guys”

“The prisoner will remain quiet,” Franklin said in a cold monotone.

“Julian, please. Please help, this is insane!”

Franklin secured the prisoner to the pole. “For your crimes against the State-”

“This isn’t happening, this can’t be real…”

“-you are to be sentenced to death.”

A voice suddenly came over the loudspeaker as Julian untied his friend’s corpse.

“Release the President’s Guard. The cigar cutter was found in a side table.”

The stale smoke made Julian sick.

###

Rebellion Averted by Ann Edall-Robson

Travel brochures were scattered across the table.

“I vote beach.” Came from the oldest sibling.

The ruckus of voices trying to outdo the person who last spoke continued on.

“I want to go camping.” Interjected the youngest. “Camping! Camping! Camping!”

“You are not going to get a vote if you keep acting out. Why are you being so rebellious?” Admonished the middle child.

“If it takes a riot for someone to hear me and take me seriously, I can do that!” Retorted the youngest.

“Children, we are discussing our vacation. No one needs to rebel. Everyone gets a say.”

###

Rebel Heart by Geoff Le Pard

The café was quiet; Mary took the mug from Hansa. ‘Mum would be horrified.’

Hansa wiped the table. ‘Why Mary?’

‘A mug not a cup, milk in second.’

‘Mine hates me working. Quite the rebels, aren’t we?’

‘We fought constantly,’ Mary sighed. ‘It’ll be different with Penny.’

‘Don’t you think the fights toughened you?’

‘I suppose. I just wish she could have admitted she was wrong once in a while.’

‘I wonder what Penny will say.’

Mary smiled, ‘Oh she already thinks I’m wrong all the time. At least, when I make mistakes with Penny, they’ll be different ones.’

###

Declaration of Independence by Sarrah J Woods

I may be small, but I am free.

I am no one but myself.

I do not bend my opinions to yours just because you are bigger.

You can limit my options, but you can’t control my actions or read my secret thoughts.

Be unkind to me, and I will take the first opportunity to leave you in the dust. Love and be good to me, and I will thank you and very possibly return the favor.

But I will never be your slave. I refuse to be anything other than an autonomous individual.

Why?

Because I’m a cat.

###

Rebellion by Anthony Amore

“No way,” her son pouts.

“You have to.”

“Why?”

“Because, I say so. You ordered it; you eat it. That’s the rule.”

“It looks gross.”

“It’s not gross,” she points at her husband’s burrito, “That’s gross.”

Her husband smirks, “Yours looks different but it’s like a grilled cheese.”

“Being like a grilled cheese,” he retorts, “doesn’t make it a grilled cheese.”

“Fine, don’t.” She waves off the waiter carrying more tortilla chips and salsa, “But you’re not eating anything else.”

He relents, bites, chews. “It’s OK.”

Thus, she thinks, the Mexican Revolt is quashed.

###

An Immune Rebellion by Kate Spencer“Doc, tell it to me straight,” said Tracy, seriously annoyed that her doctor had made her come in the office to convey the test results.

“Okay. Here goes. You have polymyositis and you’re going to need to slow down.”

“No, that’s not possible. I’m in the middle of a corporate takeover.”

“Then make time Tracy. What you’ve got on your hands is a rebellion. Your immune system’s attacking your muscle cells.”

“Well, you just need to quash it Doc. That’s your job, right? You fight disease.”

“Obliteration is not an option. You are going to need to change.”

“Damn.”

###

Lauren Bacall by Sherri Matthews

Thank god for his Brut aftershave. She reeked of it after an hour of snogging him at the party; no way would her mother smell cigarette smoke now.

Chin jutted, she smiled at her boyfriend as she inhaled a long drag of menthol from the slim, white cigarette. So cool, so – what’s that word? – sophisticated.

Like Lauren Bacall.

One look at her mother’s face back home told her that the Brut hadn’t worked.

She bolted upstairs, tears streaming in rage, vowing never to stop smoking, even if it killed her.

Then her stupid mother would be sorry.

###

Ignorance by Marigold Deidre Dicer“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

He said it so casually, for such an inconsequential thing. David stared at his brother.

“What?” Scott grunted, barely looking up from his laptop (too busy spamming job applications).

“You don’t even know where that phrase comes from.” Not a question.

Scott grimaced. “But you’re about to tell me…”

“Guy Fawkes said that.”

“The firework?”

David gave up with a melodramatic gesture towards his brother. It was Scott’s ignorance that caused him to get sacked from his last job, inadvertently offending his boss’s family. He had to learn some social awareness sometime… surely?

###

Rebellion by Irene Waters“Nancy, clean your room.”

“No!”

“Nancy, I said clean your room. The cleaner’s coming.”

“Well let her clean.”

“Nancy, go and do your homework.”

“No!”

“Nancy will you please go and wipe up the dishes.”

“No!”

“Nancy will you go to the butcher’s shop for me?”

“No!”

“I’ll give you a shilling extra pocket money.”

“Don’t want an extra shilling.”

“Where’s my dinner?” Nancy asked

“Nowhere.”

“Mum, I want my dinner.”

“Get it yourself.”

“Mum, my room’s filthy. Where’s the cleaner?

“Cancelled.”

“Mum, help me.”

“Go help yourself. Do what you want.”

So Nancy, and her mother,did nothing.

###

Crack Shots by Jeanne Lombardo

In the spring they came. From Florida and Minnesota, New York and Texas. A great gentle army streaming from the four corners of a common patrimony—the land. Along the Pacific Flyway they massed, their pickets like pistons, rising and falling with their footfalls. The first yellow warbler flashing topaz against the sky heralded their arrival.

Sharp angles marked the buildings of the Malheur Wildlife Preserve. Sunlight glinted off gun barrels from beyond the entrance. The marchers halted. They readied their arms. Focused their targets in their sites. And let loose a volley of shutter-clicks.

The Birders had returned.

###

Times Past: Food From the Sea

Times PastGeneration X, Rural Northern California

Foam-edged waves pushed kelp across wet sand. I don’t recall the waves at Monterey Beach (California) being big or crashing. My focus was on the semi-circles of water that glided toward my yellow rain-boots (or were they red?). Benign wave remnants after the ocean crested further down the slope of beach where I was not permitted to go. Wave remnants, like early memories, glide across my mind. The memory of the rain-boots might not be from that day. But I do recall stopping my chase to watch the men in dark waders — my father and his father clamming further out where I could not go, dragging another body up the shoreline instead of buckets. It’s fractured, that memory, but in family lore the day the clam-digger drowned in a deadly riptide we stopped going to the beach. And it must be true, because I don’t have any other childhood memories of the ocean.

When Irene Waters posted her new monthly challenge, Times Past, I knew I’d want to participate. I never considered memoir to be among the styles of writing I’d pursue, but reading the memoirists who write flash fiction as Rough Writers, I am up to their challenges in return. I’m eager for Irene’s Time’s Past because it will form a revealing look across generations and place. She offers that we can respond to her prompts in any form we like. I’m going to use it to challenge myself within the form of creative non-fiction. Her first prompt is:  The first time I remember eating in a restaurant in the evening.

I cannot think of seafood without thinking about the body of the drowned clam-digger. It never fully struck me the man was dead, but the solemnity of the adults and the curiosity of seeing an ambulance lodged in my mind like a mis-filed note. Somehow it comes up attached to the seafood folder.

The first time I ever ate out at a restaurant in the evening — a huge deal in the 1970s for a kid — was the Ormsby House Seafood Buffet. I was born near the coast of northern California, but moved to the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains by age seven. The nearest big towns with restaurants were Stateline (Lake Tahoe), Carson City, Minden and Reno. These were the big Nevada city-centers (well, big to a kid who lived in a town with the population of 99) which catered to the gaming industry. My parents often went to Carson City when relatives or friends visited. Adults only.

On this particular occasion I was invited to go and allowed to bring a friend. I was nine. We went to the Ormsby House, an older yet elegant high-rise casino. Most of the casinos offered a seafood buffet on a Friday night, but this was supposedly the best one. Excited for my first evening restaurant meal, I felt I had been dropped into the Willy Wonka factory for seafood. There was squid salad with diminutive whole squid among cold macaroni; oysters Rockefeller; shrimp cocktail; and clams in the shell. And that was the salad bar! I had cracked crab legs with steaming butter and a wedge of lemon. For years I’d recall that meal, but it was the only time I ever went.

Later, not far from the garish blinking lights of Carson City’s casino row, my father set up a temporary tree stand, and from the ages of 12 to 16 I helped sell Christmas trees from that lot. I often dreamed of going to the Ormsby House, but we were in work clothes and covered with pitch and the scent of pine. Instead, every night my father would hand me cash from our collection and I’d trot across the street to buy us all dinner in a bag from the fast food chain, Long John Silvers. I discovered hush-puppies (fried balls of cornmeal batter) and deep fried clams. It was a good seafood fix.

Once I moved away from California, I moved further and further from those Pacific coast waves and fresh seafood. In Minneapolis I found Sea Salt, a little seafood stand at Minnehaha Park, and it was one of the only places to find fried clams. Every Christmas, I’d put tins of smoked clams or oysters in my children’s stockings along with an orange and peppermint stick. When they grew up and we had friends or spouses join us in the stocking exchange, they found the smoked clams odd. Now, I crave the fish and chips served at the local gas station four miles down from Elmira Pond, not for the fish or potatoes but for the side of Pacific Ocean fried clams they serve with it.

And I wonder who that man was. Like the true color of my rain-boots, I may never know.