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Monthly Archives: June 2016

Home on the Range

HomeHome is where the heart is. Home, sweet home. Hearth and home. Such sweet allocations we give to the idea of home. Yet home can trap and home remain elusive.

This week writers explored inside and out of what a home is. Some stories will connect and others will make you think. All serve to look at the concept of home from different perspectives.

The following is based on June 22, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about home.

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New Home by Charli Mills (from Rock Creek)

“Blue skies of home!” Cobb swept arms outward and Sarah leaned back, soaking in every scudding white cloud she claimed.

They labored hard that summer. Sarah set up the books and store. At night Cobb fiddled for pioneers passing through, no matter how tired he was from constructing the bridge and outbuildings. He dug a new well and bought a second road ranch.

When Mary finally arrived with Cobb’s brother, all the children safe, including the new baby, Cobb greeted her with the same sweeping gesture and homage to the prairie sky.

Mary glowered. “Home’s what I left behind.”

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Line Open, Nobody Listening by Charli Mills (from Miracle of Ducks)

“Look you son-of-a-bitch, just because you have an error in your system doesn’t make you right,” Danni yelled into the receiver of the phone, ignoring Michael’s silent indication to stop. No way. She was right and this bank jerk-off on the other end was wrong.

“Mrs. Gordon…”

“Dr. Gordon, to you, asshole!”

“If you continue this harassing language, I’ll hang up.”

“Oh, scary. If you continue your harassing foreclosure letters without correcting YOUR error I will hang you like a vigilante.”

“Enough, Danni,” Michael whispered harshly.

She slammed the receiver, screamed at the wall in frustration. “It’s my home!”

###

HOME AGAIN by Patricia Salamone

Home is not a physical place. Home is a feeling of belonging. It is the people that surround you.
It is the smell of cookies baking, or bread in the oven. It is the laughter you share when recalling the crazy things you did in your childhood. It is sharing secrets with your siblings that no one else will ever know. It is loving those around you and feeling that same love in return forever. It is remembering the hugs and kisses and love. Home is not a dwelling. Home is where your heart will always be.

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Home by denmaniacs4

No matter how many times he slept rough, even livery-stable rough, Dobbs
was ever thankful that he was not burnished with the weight of place.

Childhood in Virginia had been a prison.

Houses were prisons, coffins that smothered you.

Nothing, not even hired strokes of softness and love, remedied the crushing feeling of being caged.

Still, as he sat in the Taylor’s kitchen, opposite a beaming Aggie Runacre, drinking a cup of coffee from a cracked china cup, waiting for Merle Taylor to fry up a fresh plate of flapjacks, he felt, for a moment, that he was home.

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Home: A Project by Paula Moyer

Jean had moved so often that she had to imagine “homecoming.” Even her parents had moved after she was grown. The place where Jean visited them on holidays wasn’t “home”; it was just her parents’ house.

Jean imagined that homecoming was something restful, like the progression of chords at the end of a composition, until the resolution, the tonic “aah” at the end.

But this house where she and Sam lived? So cluttered that she had to balance a plate on her knee? Home was not rest. Home was work.

Jean laughed. “Welcome to reality,” she whispered. “Welcome home.”

###

Maybe by Sarah Brentyn

She never had a home.

Not as an infant, left in soiled diapers. Or as a child, drawing pictures on the dusty floor of her closet.

Not even when they took her to a real house with her own bedroom, a kitchen that had food in it, and two grownups who tucked her in at night.

She was broken.

Filled with so much shame she felt stuffed. Like a guilty scarecrow with clean clothes.

Maybe they rescued the wrong girl. Maybe if they had gotten her out when she was younger. Maybe then, she’d feel at home here.

Maybe.

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Kitten Spring by Sarah J. Woods

She was a rare ginger female cat, gorgeous, sweet, and not more than a kitten herself when she appeared outside my house in March—starving and pregnant. No one claimed her. She scared our other pets, but we made her a little home in our sunroom. Soon they arrived: five mouse-like kittens.

They grew ever cuter as spring rolled on. It was difficult to find them all homes, but, miraculously, we did.

It’s June, and the mama is still with us—spayed now—and back to being a kitten herself, chasing cicadas during the day and fireflies at night.

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On the Range by Kerry E.B. Black

Winds whipped tall grasses, a prairie dance set to a windy orchestra. Mac’s palomino stiffened, nostrils flaring.
Mac rubbed his horse’s trembling withers. “We’re almost there, you crazy old thing.”
The saddle groaned as he mounted and settled into leather worn to cradle him. His shoulders throbbed, yet Mac kept soldier-straight posture.
The horse’s ears pricked forward, and his strides lengthened.
“That’s right. You remember, don’t you?”
Blond mane lifted when he removed the bridle, revealing scars healed with Mac’s care. He uncinched the saddle and pad. He saluted. “The military thanks you. Now move, stallion. Your herd awaits.”

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Home by Ula

(a fragment from my work-in-progress, Native Landscapes)

“I need to go home,” Milena said with such ease she surprised herself. Home, she thought, had she ever felt at home anywhere? She couldn’t get out of her parents’ house fast enough when she left for art school. She’d thought she’d feel free then, but was trapped in nightmares at night and her new apartment in what she’d considered the coolest neighborhood in Chicago never ended up feeling like home. But now, here in Krakow, she felt at home. Her apartment, though cramped and mostly unfurnished, felt like home. Maybe she’d even admit that she felt almost free.

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Knight of Lost Fire by Elliott Lyn Green

A home is …. At a sloped drive on Amber Ct., everyone smells the lingering at some point; from rooms above, splitting, and to the garage beneath the grade… where –“actually developed this contraption that converts 12,470 Volts through a sort of trianglulated assemblage…”—“Oh, like a stealth shape?”—“Yeah!!”—“How interestingly Aaaawesome.”— wafting luxurious aroma –“Thanks!.. Anyway, it’s really just a steel tank with flimsy resin covered paper around aluminum coils that wind the current….,” Nevaro sinks through the oracle like falling heavy into a sheet wrapping air, “so it seems I have carefully….”— clasps inexorable rootless fire.

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Recovery and Reclamation? by Jules Page

So many times Tammy thought she was home. Each time she
thought she was settled, her parents told her they were moving,
again! And some things didn’t move with them. Like the large doll,
or the metal dollhouse with the plastic furniture and the people
who couldn’t move.

Now she looked back over the last twenty five years of being in
the same place. The place where she’d raised her family. The
mortgage paid for and the grandchildren’s toys strewn about.

How could the magazines proclaim homes stayed neat and tidy?
Those homes must have never been lived in.

###

Home a Flash Fiction by Susan Zutautas

Struggling week by week, it was all that they could do to hang onto their home of twenty years. All the memories of this place, their children growing up here, their first home, soon to be on the market in order to recoup any equity that they had left in the house they called home.

Sad but yet excited to start a new chapter in their lives. Moving would be hard, downsizing even harder but it had to be done.

Home would be as always with each other. Home is where the heart is, home is where love grows.

###

College Comforts by Larry LaForge

Edna took in the surroundings, shaking her head in bewilderment. Ed stood speechless. Is this for real?

The tour of the new campus student housing facility left them wondering what college had become. Hardwood floors, high ceilings, crown moulding, gourmet dining, Jacuzzi tubs, climbing walls, swimming pools, sand volleyball courts.

Edna ran her fingers over the smooth granite countertop in one of the units. Ed stared at the lounge pool table.

“We plan to grow enrollment,” the college official proclaimed with a smile, “by making sure our students feel at home.”

“Home?” Edna blurted without thinking. “Home? Whose home?”

###

Welcome to our Home by Ann Edall-Robson

“Quite the house, you have here.”

Work dictated moving to a new area. An invite to meet the neighbours was not high on the priority list. But we went.

Curiosity would bring the neighbours to us. They would see our home. Belongings stored comfortably around each room. Books on tables. The smell of cookies baking. Jackets that didn’t quite make it to the closet.

There was no closed rooms with champagne coloured carpet. Kitchens with everything out of sight. Closets with clothes lined in perfect order.

They live in a house. We live in a home.

Welcoming neighbours. Anytime.

###

What next? by Geoff Le Pard

 ‘Mum, what does it mean? Are we going to leave?’

‘I don’t know, Penny. I didn’t think it would come to this.  We’ll just have to be stay calm. But don’t worry. It is not something you need to worry about.’

‘Mum, you said we’d stay, we’d be alright.’

‘Our landlords changed their minds. We have to leave.’

‘It’s not fair. It’s our home.’

‘No, it isn’t fair, but it’s a chance to do something different. We have each other. And our home is where we are, where are hearts are. That’s what makes us strong. We’ll be fine.’

###

At home on the tennis court? by Anne Goodwin
The sound cuts through him, severing the sinews anchoring him to the present tense. He scans the park for the source of that plaintive cry.
“Fifteen-love.” The nurse looks baffled he missed such an easy shot. “Okay?”
He tries to blink himself back to the man who pantomimes serenity and sanity. Who stomachs a world where families are savaged for speaking the wrong language. Where mothers close the door on babies who scream what they themselves cannot endure.
Instead of leaving the court to find and console the baby, he grips the racquet tighter and focuses on the ball.

###

The birth of Hope by Norah Colvin

Startled by the blueness of eyes and the intensity of unfamiliar feelings, she suddenly relaxed, as if finally, home.

She’d not known home before: not locked in a room with hunger the only companion; not shivering through winters, barefoot and coatless; not showered with harsh words and punishments.

She’d sought it elsewhere, mistaking attention for something more. When pregnancy ensued; he absconded. They kicked her out.

Somehow she’d found a place to endure the inconvenience. Once it was out, she’d be gone.

But now, feeling unexpectedly connected and purposeful, she glimpsed something different —a new start, lives entwined: home.

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Black Magic by Sherri Matthews

“This car’s a piece of junk,” hissed Steve.

“Shhh…I told you it would be,” whispered Tina, hoping the owner hadn’t heard. “You tell him, I need to check on Sammy…”

“Dad, Mom, look, a kitten! Can we take him home with us, pleeeeeze……?”

“Looks like your little boy’s found a friend!”

Steve closed the hood of the car as he glanced at Sammy kneeling on the grass petting a tiny, black furball.

“Think we’ll have to pass on the car, sorry…”

“No problem. There’s something needing a home more than this old heap of rust. I’ll get a box…”

###

Home by Deborah Lee.
Jane looks around at her basement hidey-hole, as clean as she can get it. Her only furniture is an old coffee table rescued from the back yard.
Her house! She feels the longing in her marrow. The overflowing pantry, Grandma’s worn wing chairs, glass-fronted cupboards showing off tea sets. The housewarming roses by the front door.
All gone. Job, savings, house — all lost. All it takes is one bad thing, and then it all goes, like dominoes.
She burrows deeper in her sleeping bag. Home is where the heart is, they say, but that’s a long way gone.

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No Place Like Home by C. Jai Ferry

Vicki pawed at the plastic bottle in her pocket while Scooby Doo ruh-rohed on TV. She picked up bowls of pink cereal milk, taking a slurp to wash down the pills before maneuvering through the labyrinth of gangly legs.

She stood over the sink. Fifteen minutes in a backseat and now she was a slave to three nine-year-olds. She’d been meant for a corporate business account and vibrant 401k, not snotty noses and mountains of sweaty clothes that out-stank rotting flesh.

She popped another pill before washing gooey leftovers from last night’s dishes. No place like home my ass.

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Home for Carrotranch by Sharmishtha Basu

Home! A simple structure of cement, bricks and some other ingredients… sometimes it is mud instead of cement… but that is not what a home is!

A home is that place which fills your heart up with peace when you open its door. Once you bind your soul with one specific home then that bond never breaks.

Such was her case! She found her ultimate home, time took her away from there, the bridges crashed, snatching away any chances of return but she could not make any other house her home.

Even though some were much trendier than Home.

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June 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

June 29Local lore claims they used to call the “girls of morning,” snakes. These are the women who sexually serviced the miners and loggers when the Silver Valley bustled with economic prosperity; when logs choked the broad Coeur D’Alene River and hard-rock miners extracted silver by the ton.

The prevalence of prostitutes in old west mining towns would suggest the service was a necessity.

Enaville, Idaho is no longer a town proper. It lacks a post office and no longer sees to the needs of loggers and miners. By 1954 the town’s old 1880s inn built of local timbers transitioned from a worker’s hotel to a sportsman’s bar and café. It is said that the new owners discovered a light switch upstairs to illuminate two bulbs in the skull of a bull mounted among elk and moose antlers outside in the apex of the building.

Red lights. The western invitation to red light service. Call girls. Soiled doves. Ladies of the evening. Girls of the morning. Whores. Snakes.

You can still see the bull skull on the tourist hot spot now known to foodies across the Inland Pacific Northwest as the Snake Pit. Unless you read the history inside, you might not even know this is Enaville. If you read history and absorb the wealth of memorabilia mounted throughout the timbered restaurant, you’ll find that those who came here over the years sought comforts of home – food, drink, stories, a place to sit, a place to warm up or cool down, companionship.

I had no idea I was headed to Enaville in my home on wheels. My camp trailer is something like a first flat, a place you need for shelter and sleep, yet a place you know is temporary. Like many first flats, this one is fraught with problems – the roof leaks, the lights don’t work and many previous breaks were hastily fixed with systems that baffle us. We have given up electricity and running water to have privacy and a semi-wilderness setting. A fair trade for the extra work it requires of us to meet daily needs.

Along a broad and rocky river, I’m re-writing my novel Miracle of Ducks. Day dreaming about my characters and plotting requires no electricity and flows with the river at my feet.  If I charge up my laptop at the Carnegie Library 20 miles away or during breakfast at the Snake Pit, I can get two hours of writing time on battery. My first two hours revealed a solution to my biggest revision concern – I can rewrite my story to add a new plot crisis and setting change. It seems daunting to take a finished and professionally edited novel manuscript and decide to change it all up. Crazy, right?

Yet it feels more and more sane each day, as does living homeless. What I miss most is a home office. A camp office hardly suffices and the time limits of officing in an old mining town are frustrating, but our camp home is free. Places to park our camp trailer average $20 a night – that’s over $600 a month. Our idea to travel and stay with friends or family is hindered by the repairs needed to the trailer, cost of gas and the appointments I have set up for Todd through the VA system. We have two today.

And when you are homeless, needs are expensive. Hot showers at RV resorts cost $5 or more. Drinking water and ice for fresh food is another $5 per day. If you eat out instead, meals add up quickly. But you have to buy gas, water or food to use a flushing toilet. Bathrooms are rarely “public.” And we Americans are griping about which genders use which stalls? Give me a break! A greater issue is that of restroom access to those who are not paying customers. In other words, if you are homeless, it will cost you to empty your internal plumbing no matter what gender you identify with.

My current situation begs the question – why do necessities feel like luxuries? I can see how a man working hard in the isolated wilderness with few comforts of home would have needed sexual companionship. And the women? They needed a secure bed, a chamber pot, food and human connection. Yes, they were exploited for their needs. And so were the men. The logging moguls and mining barons overworked and underpaid the men who needed work. Necessities are a blend of physical and psychological needs to create security and comfort.

However, my current situation feeds the flesh of my novel re-write. Let me share with you an analogy for revision from a brilliant academic writer. Writing is bones, muscles and flesh.

Bones build the story structure, the plot, the hero’s journey. That first draft is creating bones. When you finish, look at the bones first. Are you missing a femur or metatarsal? Do your bones need rearranging to fit the skeletal structure you intend? If you don’t get the bones right, nothing else you do will improve your story, no matter how brilliant your word choices or snappy your dialog.

Flesh is adding meat to the bones. Here’s where you let your brilliance and voice shine. You can give your bones curves or you can leave them spare. Flesh is your artistry. Flesh can be built up, reduced or re-appropriated. But your flesh will sag if your story doesn’t have good bones.

Skin is what we see, what catches the eye of the beholder. Yet, skin is where writers can spend too much time superficially on their novel. Grammar and spelling matters, but you need bones and flesh first. Have a healthy body and then work on healthy skin. And don’t worry about zits as you write. Think of those spots as adolescent growing annoyances. Once you have bones, flesh and skin, then you can treat the zits. Unless you are a confident dermatologist, take your manuscript to a professional editor.

Miracle of Ducks went through all phases, yet until this analogy, I agonized over how to change anything. It’s flesh work! Now I accept the scalpel, ready to cut and reform the story on its bones. Yes, I will need to make sure scars of such changes don’t show at the skin level and I’ll need my trusty Write Diva Editorial Dermatologist once again. But it will be worth the work. It will be a beauty!

One important change is that of setting. I worked on Miracle of Ducks while I lived in the Midwest and set it in my favorite Lake Superior fishing village. Then I returned to my native west. I also discovered that I have more to say about the west than the Midwest, and there’s a group for such writers – Women Write the West. By changing my setting, I can join that organization and not have to wait until I finish Rock Creek. I feel like my two novels now have a better point of connectivity despite being different genres. It’s a relief to me. And my character gets to experience a topic I can write personal essays about, thus bringing notice to me novel.

This is all worth the scalpel work.

And Rock Creek? The analogy makes me realize I’m still in the setting bones stage. I had a major breakthrough in November because of important historic research I discovered and thanks to Geoff Le Pard who explained possible explanation regarding a historic incident and court dispute. I have flesh, too, but I see where I have to straighten bones before I can stretch the flesh. That continues, too.

And flash fiction is a valuable tool in addition to being an interesting form. I hope you are benefiting from its use. Again, I’m struck by the diversity of applications and creative results week after week. Mobility might be challenged, but the ranch is open and will support writers in all quests to finish those creations we form from bones to flesh to skin. Thank you to all who ride here, as readers, commenters, riders and ranchers.

So what’s up with the luxury price on necessities? Why do I have to buy a coffee to wipe my…you get the idea…? Water? Really? I have to BUY drinking water? What happened to public bubblers? The VA will help “re-home” us in a transitional motel or shelter or apartment. It might take 90 days or two years. Thanks, but no thanks…I do have a rental September 1. But what if I didn’t? 90 days to get into a shelter? No wonder Deborah Lee’s character is camping in a vacant house!

And trying to find a job? It’s a full-time job trying to secure needs. Some homeless people buy a membership at a club just to shower. Some use warm water filched from gas station bathrooms in water jugs and go to a secluded area to bathe. And many agencies won’t help you without a “valid address”! And if you do have an income, as I do, well forget help! We found out the HUD Dash program meant to help homeless veterans takes qualifying for…I disqualify us as a paid writer, no matter that rent is 75 percent of what I make.  And renting has nothing to do with my ability to pay. I paid. Every month. I went without many comforts just to pay rent.

The problem is with those renting. The reason veterans can’t get housed when they do qualify for HUD Dash is because landlords won’t honor the qualifying letter. It’s a free market; they don’t have to rent to a qualifying homeless vet. With the growing Airbnb craze where any home owner can rent to the market of vacationers, rentals are diminishing and evictions are on the rise. Those who NEED security and elements of home (electricity, water, plumbing) are left outside because someone else can afford to take his family on vacation and pay triple the rates a long-term renter pays. Yet, Airbnb provides income for struggling homeowners, and I have friends and family who use this service to supplement their income in a difficult economy.

It’s so messed up, even I’m beginning to think I should elect Trump. But no, I won’t go so low. I’m not ignorant despite dirty nails. I love my friends and family – my love knows no gender, color, religion or even political stupidity. I love people. I just wish more Americans who were in power or had the power to help others loved people, too. Not just the ones they want to pass along privilege to.  White privilege? Oh, I could laugh and say bunk. But it exists, and even homeless, I’m more privileged than persons of color or on the margins of society.

Wake up, America, Land of the Free. Wake up World. People matter. If you cast aside your humanity for what privilege you have, you are no longer human. No matter your own situation, be kind to others, even to the jerks who vote carelessly or out of fear; even to those who cast the shadows of fear. Feed your enemy a sandwich; give him a free glass of water. Remind him than humanity is not a privilege and all humans have it until they deny it. Don’t let anyone dehumanize you. And write. It’s where your voice lives and your heart beats. Bleed upon that page and make a difference in your corner of the world.

June 29, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that explores human needs. Not all needs are basic. Why would others put a price on basic needs, like water? Or perhaps you want to explore why a person might develop a need in order to survive a situation (like a miner needing the companionship of a prostitute). Think about needs and not having access or being in control of them.

Respond by July 5, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Plucking Boyfriends Like Fruit by Charli Mills (from Rock Creek)

“Your boyfriend was looking for you,” Nancy Jane announced when she entered the new cookshack at Rock Creek.

Sarah paused in sweeping. “He’s not my boyfriend. I’m his accountant.”

Nancy Jane laughed and plucked a plum from the bowl on the table. “I meant the other one!”

“Mr. Hickok! He’s certainly not my boyfriend.” She caught the plum Nancy Jane tossed to her.

“Sit down, Sarah. Eat a piece of sweet fruit when you have the chance, and consider how your needs could be met by having lots of boyfriends. Accountant to one, friend to another. It’s called security.”

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Conflicting Needs by Charli Mills (from Miracle of Ducks)

“Ike, I need you to stay home!” Danni clicked her heels across the kitchen linoleum to fetch her apron. Cook. She had to calm her mind and if she couldn’t disappear into a research basement, she’d pound dough for calzones.

“Look, Danni, they need me over there.” Ike leaned against the refrigerator.

Danni snorted, measuring flour. “They have trained soldiers.”

“That’s the problem, Danni, they need help with training. I can’t sit back and do nothing. We need the money.”

“Get a job, Ike! A normal job. One without bullets!”

“You don’t get it. I need to do this!”

###

Letter From Wallace, Idaho

14671646437561500431736Howdy Ranchers!

I’ve come to Wallace, Idaho today. It’s an old mining town 20 miles from where my leaky home on wheels is parked along the beautiful Coeur D’Alene River.

During last week’s rain we discovered our camp trailer leaks. We were parked at a lovely Airbnb property outside Sandpoint in the Selle Valley. It’s a possible home for future writing retreats with a beautiful house, rustic cabin, RV pad, walls through the forest, magnificent outdoor shower and a hot tub.

We took care of the property in exchange for the RV pad to parker trailer. We had to move when RV guests arrived, but concerned with the leaks we went to an RV place in town. After hearing our story, they have us a free place to park for the weekend.  It was miserable and I felt so inconspicuous with our trailer wrapped in a tarp and parked for all the world to see. I really felt exposed. But it was a generous offer and we had to wait until Monday morning to get inspected.

Not good news. Repairs would cost about 1,000. However, they showed us what needed doing, what supplies to use, and how to do it. So for a couple hundred dollars and a lot of Todd’s elbow grease, we can fix it. We bought the supplies, borrowed a ladder and moved closer to Coeur D’Alene where Todd has appointments.

Monday was a day of making phone calls until I got those appointments. Why is it so dehumanizing to get the help a veteran has a right to and needs? Some play into Todd’s pride…”soldier up, you can live in a tent…” Or they simply hold to a ridiculously rigid set of rules that shifts despite its rigidity.

I got three appointments up and we headed to CDA me and the dogs in the car, Todd in the truck pulling the trailer. The dentist was a cattle call for homeless herds and it devastated Todd to learn they’d only pull his teeth and not fix them. He has an appointment tomorrow and I’m canceling it. I’ll find a dentist working to work with our budget to do two root canals.

Dentistry has become a class separation. I’m appalled that all they will do for veterans or anyone down on their luck is pull teeth leaving smiled with gaps as big as class separation. Now it makes sense, the teeth whitening craze…it’s to show off that one can afford dentistry.

We headed into the mountains toward Montana where friends recommended free camping for 14 days. We found a meadow with a noisy moose and mosquitoes last night. Woke up and drove to an old inn for breakfast and felt lucky to have such mobility and ability. We found a better camp side right along the river. Peaceful.

Today, Todd is fishing and I drove 20 miles to Wallace where I’ve been catching up online, charging batteries and writing from a lovely old Carnegie Library. Cool, historic, free access and a wonderful little desk among rows of books. Alas, it closed at 5 p.m before I finished rounding up all the wonderful flashes of home.

Right now, I’m tapping on my phone to let you know we are well, and I missed my window of internet opportunity. I tried every so called wifi hot spot, but they all shut down by 5 pm! Welcome to a tiny mountain mining town! Because I’m unable to copy and paste the stories via phone, not to mention this is probably riddled with auto corrected typos, I’m unable to finish the flash round up. Tomorrow we have allotments so we will be within civilization and the show goes on!

New prompt tomorrow! Goodnight, Ranchers!

June 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

June 22The girls each grab a metal rail, slightly rusted and possibly moldy. Or maybe it’s just black grit. One is 15 years old, the other 12. Despite the difference in height, they unhook the bottom of each rail  and push skyward. An old striped awning unfolds. I know it’s old because it first unfurled the year I graduated from high school. 1985. The year my husband exited the US Army as a Sgt. E-5, Ranger 1/75.

What do these numbers mean? Nothing, really. Not now. I try to focus on the rails and the “crabby” side the 15 year old wrestles with and advises me how to jimmy until it pops into place. For now, the rain has ceased. The awning is not needed but is nice to have. It’s attached to my new home; a home on wheels; a home that wasn’t my home the last time I tapped keys at Carrot Ranch.

Who am I? I don’t know I would answer that question the same way I would have in May of 2016. I feel like the crabby rail that needs shaking to work correctly. I feel rusty, moldy. I want my bed but I now sleep in a cubby where I can’t sit up for lack of space. I feel the need to urinate frequently only because I’m panicked over where I’m supposed to pee. I discover at age 49 that I have claustrophobia.

But family send me Facebook messages that my experience is fun. Evidently, I’m a pioneer.

Ah, at last, something to cling to. If this what it is to be a pioneer, I have a greater appreciation for the women who looked at the Conestoga wagons that clearly couldn’t fit their heirlooms, kitchens and children only to mouth, WTF to their husbands. Adventure, they’d mouth back, as if adventure made the loss worthwhile. So I think, did women respond to the call of adventure, or did they shrink under the weight of all they lost? Home matters more to women, I’m convinced.

Mary McCanles didn’t follow her husband, Cobb immediately to Rock Creek, Nebraska Territory. About the time he voiced his Grand Solution to the unraveling politics of antebellum North Carolina, Mary responded with two words: “I’m pregnant.” Yet, many wives gave birth on the emigrant trails to California or Oregon or the Promised Desert of the Mormons. Mary stayed behind until she gave birth. The child before was born blue of a difficult labor; the child would need special care all her life. As typical of the times, Mary could have let the babe die; failure to thrive was considered a merciful end to a dependent life. But she and Cobb raised that daughter. And Mary gave birth to their last child before she left her home.

Home. What is that?

Home is where the heart is.

Home sweet home.

Home is where your story begins.

Let me introduce you to Dr. Danni Gordon. She loves the comfort of her home. Danni is a historical archaeologist, working less and less each year in Idaho for the US Forest Service due to budget cuts. She makes her home with Ike, a former Army Ranger. He likes smelly things, like reloading bullets, tanning animal hides and hunting dogs. They do not exist in her home where she stores her Oregon Pinot Noir, vintage aprons and historic railroad maps. Her home smells of vanilla cream candles and home-cooking from recipes found in old cookbooks. Yet, home is threatened when Ike decides to re-enlist to help out in Iraq. She becomes responsible for the smelly things until he returns. But what if he doesn’t? What if a glitch in his pay creates a foreclosure situation her meager salary can’t recover. What if Ike goes missing and she and the dogs lose their home?

Welcome to the revision of Miracle of Ducks. Originally, my novel explored what it means to serve and how we all need community. Now the protagonist, Danni, faces losing her home after her husband goes missing on a mission in Iraq. It’s a book that explores what life is like for the spouses left behind when the home-front is threatened by capitalistic systems that fail the very families protecting the capitalistic nations. Why? Because women in the US have had to cope with loss of home throughout our history from the pioneers to the soldiers’ wives foreclosed upon. And it’s a topic I can adress with some experience.

For now, let’s suffice to say that I found a sliver of home in the two girls who showed me the quirks of my replacement — a camp trailer on wheels. They loved this trailer for family memories while camping. It’s all I have between me and the rain outside. I grieve the loss of my office. I want my bed like a toddler craving a special blanket. I have no idea how to cook in this tiny space despite bringing my best copper pan. Yet I forgot a spatula. I have no running water and I only have electricity if someone lets me plug in to theirs. Home is where the heart is? I’m not sure where my heart is at the moment, selfish as that sounds. Home sweet home? It stinks. Home is where my story begins? Sure.

Let the next chapter begin.

Carrot Ranch is a place for writers. It’s a community that holds more heart than anything else in my life at the moment. It’s meant to support, and support it will continue to do. While my home travels from place to place (I’m visiting friends with flushing toilets, wi-fi and electricity), I’ll be revising two novels. One is bones, the other muscle. I’ll also be finishing the skin of the first Carrot Ranch anthology. Bones, muscles, skin? An analogy shared with me by a former baby-sitter; a young girl who once loved my home and children who now is a fine woman with her own. She’s currently in Manchester, England working on a literary thesis. A position she worked hard to earn. From Montana to Minnesota to the UK.

We are all connected here through our words. Flash fiction is our common ground. And my home is held in the hands of a community while I transition through a time of homelessness. Thank you for your encouragement, support and contributions. We are ranchers. We are pioneers. We are writers. And this is our home.

June 22, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about home. What is it? How does it impact a character? Explore the idea of home from any spark that creates a story.

Respond by June 28, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

New Home by Charli Mills (from Rock Creek)

“Blue skies of home!” Cobb swept arms outward and Sarah leaned back, soaking in every scudding white cloud she claimed.

They labored hard that summer. Sarah set up the books and store. At night Cobb fiddled for pioneers passing through, no matter how tired he was from constructing the bridge and outbuildings. He dug a new well and bought a second road ranch.

When Mary finally arrived with Cobb’s brother, all the children safe, including the new baby, Cobb greeted her with the same sweeping gesture and homage to the prairie sky.

Mary glowered. “Home’s what I left behind.”

###

Line Open, Nobody Listening by Charli Mills (from Miracle of Ducks)

“Look you son-of-a-bitch, just because you have an error in your system doesn’t make you right,” Danni yelled into the receiver of the phone, ignoring Michael’s silent indication to stop. No way. She was right and this bank jerk-off on the other end was wrong.

“Mrs. Gordon…”

“Dr. Gordon, to you, asshole!”

“If you continue this harassing language, I’ll hang up.”

“Oh, scary. If you continue your harassing foreclosure letters without correcting YOUR error I will hang you like a vigilante.”

“Enough, Danni,” Michael whispered harshly.

She slammed the receiver, screamed at the wall in frustration. “It’s my home!”

###

Carrot Ranch in Crisis

Crisis. I don’t like word. I don’t like the circumstances. I don’t want to ask for help; I’m in need of help; I feel bitter if no one helps and embarrassed if anyone does. Let me back up because this began four years ago.

After fighting in court against a fraudulent mortgage, my husband and I lost our home to foreclosure in April 2012. Over the next few years I watched my husband unravel. Last year I began in earnest to get him in the US Veterans Affairs (VA). Even though his knees were destroyed by the time he was 25 years old (a hardship we’ve dealt with on our own since 1988), the VA finally recognized his disability in 2015. To this date we still don’t have an appointment to evaluate his PTSD.

After we lost our house and Todd took a job in Idaho (where he lived in a motel for 6 months), I helped a human rights movement in rural northern Wisconsin where I was living in the spare bedroom of family. I was finishing my first novel, Miracle of Ducks, about a military wife left behind when her husband re-enlists. Here’s me at a protest rally in Ashland, Wisconsin May 2012 (I’m in the purple Vikings t-shirt):

I’ve known how vulnerable we are. It’s expensive to rent. I typically have earned between $1,000 to $1,500 a month through writing for clients. However, it’s fiction that is my love.

That’s why I started Carrot Ranch. It’s an imaginary playground, a place to meet up and encourage other writers, a place to dream out loud, a place to share stories and ideas, a place to support intelligent literature or clever prose or silly creativity. Carrot Ranch has a diverse group of writers from different countries, genres, interests and backgrounds. I’ve made incredible friends here, many who have encouraged and inspired me. I hope I’ve encouraged and inspired others.

Last May, my best friend, Kate, died of ovarian cancer and I tail-spinned into grief. I pulled every last weed on this property (though the weeds mock me and have returned). As I began to adjust, I renewed my efforts on Rock Creek, my third novel in draft, thinking of the three it had the best chance at getting published. At that time, several opportunities came up, including some options for income.

One was a client project that I thought would give me the extra money if we self-published the anthology. I set up all the work, delivered part of the project and…it was cancelled with no payment. The other gig was writing for Go Idaho. The editor was recommended to me by my book editor. I was excited to work with a great editor and she agreed to let me write at least one history article a month, which tied into my novel genre. I received my first paycheck December 28. It was the only one I received.

Then, the end of March we received notice of the owners intent to sell this place. My home. What’s most vulnerable.

The owners want to sell, which is entirely their prerogative. We looked at buying it but because of our past, we don’t qualify. I had a meltdown and Todd deployed to a job in Reno, Nevada. “Deployed” is the phrase our VA advocate uses and it makes sense. When Todd thinks we are in dire straits, he feels the need to go on a mission to relieve the situation.

The day he left, I began researching my publisher. That’s when I discovered he was a serial con artist. He owes me $2,000 and he’s still publishing. Todd returned from Nevada because they decided not to hire a full-time aviation mechanic. The final kick in the pants came when the owners of our rental decided they could better sell the place empty. On May 17th we were served a Notice to Vacate in 30 days.

I wrote a plea in response. I’ve made certain to always pay my rent. We’ve not damaged the place nor have we committed bad behavior like running a meth lab in the horse barn. I’ve created a blog about this place and taken care of the resident cat!

Their response? Last week, May 31 they simply emailed: “the owners need you out.”

We scrambled. Asked the VA for assistance given we are now facing homelessness. We are definitely “at risk.” The VA sent us on a goose chase of phone numbers. Of two organizations that can help, they won’t because we don’t have a court-ordered eviction. The lawyer we contacted says there’s nothing in our lease that protects us and that our Notice to Vacate is legal. The VA says our Notice to Vacate is not legal until the sheriff escorts us out.

Other organizations have said, “Sorry, folks,” while they tout posters on their walls that proclaim “End Veteran Homelessness.” Guess it’s just a catchy phrase.

I’m exhausted. I’ve had to downsize an already downsized household. All the calls, driving to organizations, the cleaning, the trying to find a rental, 30 days is hardly enough time. We had a garage sale last weekend and I met three homeless vets. That’s not exactly hopeful. I met another vet who said he lives in an ex-pat community in the Philippines and invited us to join him. Ah, why couldn’t it be Montana? Or Scotland?

I want Carrot Ranch to be a safe environment for writers, an incubator for creativity. My Big Dream is to create a platform that benefits many authors. I want to make Carrot Ranch a non-profit to create travel scholarships for writers. I want to publish annual anthologies that both contribute to such scholarships and provide an income for contributors. I want to build more contests that support worthy causes world-wide. I want to teach flash fiction as a writing tool. I want to do small group retreats and host large workshops (nature writing and western writing). I want to travel, to research, to do readings and open mics. I want to publish my own books and create some way of attracting a wide audience of readers to Carrot Ranch and all its writers.

I’m not quitting. But I am asking for help and this is hard. I also want to be fair in expectations. A Go Fund Me campaign was suggested. I thought about this and decided against it. First, the organization takes a huge chunk of donations and it generates spam. Second, most people who will contribute will likely know me or know someone who does so why not just donate to Carrot Ranch, right here.

Housing is our crisis mostly because of our vulnerability. Rentals aren’t available this time of year in our area. I found a place September 1, after the summer vacationers and seasonal residents go home. We have a friend who is loaning us a tent. I really want a camping trailer for a better bed. Yet, a trailer is mobile and opens up the possibility of travel. I could even go to Rock Creek, Nebraska for the annual reenactment of Hickok shooting Cobb! Of course, I’ll have to tell them they have it all wrong.

I’d rather ask for contributions toward the cost of setting up Carrot Ranch as a non profit, publishing our first anthology and possibly self-publishing Miracle of Ducks. I have the notion to change my character’s crisis to that of homelessness. I can’t believe this is really happening. If you want to help us out in our current circumstance, know that any financial help will go toward securing a camp trailer, gas, food and a future rental. And keep in mind I do have a monthly income and no longer have a high rent payment.

As for work, I’m available for marketing consultations and editing. I’m a big-picture person and my strengths are in assessments and strategy. I’m good at connections and with ideas. I’m not good at line edits unless they are less than 20 pages. My fees are $50 an hour and anyone interested can contact me at wordsforpeople@gmail.com. I would invoice (rather than use the donation button). I’ve had some people in the past buy hours and gift them to someone else. I can provide a gift certificate. I’m also rethinking how to create a way to get more readers and if I do, I’ll open up some sort of support like Patron of the Literary Arts.

I hope to resume normal activities here after the craziness of moving out.

Thank you to all the lovely Ranchers who make this worthwhile. Thank you for your help. If you are so inclined, please use this button and indicate any preference on your contribution. If you are interested in hiring me for an editing or marketing project, email me at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.


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