Guest Compiler: Rough Writer & Ranch Hand, Norah Colvin
In the introduction to her post and flash fiction challenge, Charli discussed her feelings of contentment at having reached Kansas. She said,
“I had such a feeling of contentment when we breathed a sigh of relief upon arrival. Contentment to be among loving family. Contentment to be up to my eyeballs in historic records. Contentment to be gifted a chance to dig.”
But the feelings were somehow overshadowed by
“the shadowy beast of homelessness (that) follows, lumbering and restless. It’s been a year, and normalcy is something for other people. Rootlessness is something you can’t understand without experiencing it. And it’s punishable by society. The silent judgement of you did something wrong, you deserve this.”
With her feelings of contentment mixed with those other shadowy, less pleasant feelings, Charli challenged writers to write a story about feeling content. And write they did.
While Charli doesn’t often ask, she reached out for help with chores around the ranch, including compiling the flash fiction responses. I agreed to do it, and here is the result. Please forgive any errors and omissions. I’m not as experienced as the Boss Lady.
We’ll begin with Charli’s own story, which got us all started on thinking about contentment.
Happily Digging (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Danni heard Ike’s truck rumble down the gravel road. She knelt barefoot by a window to the past – a square troweled to reveal debris from long before. Sifting had revealed ceramic sherd, a few square nails, and a cigar token to the old Congress Hotel in Sandpoint. A window gave an archeologist quick insight to a possible site.
Danni pondered possibilities when she heard Ike’s truck door close. The sun had warmed the soil all day, and Danni was content.
He approached the fence and freshly tilled soil. “I thought you were gardening today.”
“I am,” she replied, smiling.
And on the advice of Anne Goodwin, this one comes in second with a story that shares a simple but effective way we can help ourselves by helping out here at the Ranch.
Contentment by D. Avery
“But I thought Shorty was the cook.”
“Shorty knows roundup like no other, one heck of a wrangler. Why she’s the ridin’est, ropin’est wrangler out here. There’s no better out on the range.”
“I hear she wants to grow the ranch. Expand the brand.”
“In a setting like this, we characters oughta rob a bank, hold up a train. For the Ranch.“
“Now Kid, Shorty don’t need that kinda trouble. Snap outta character and just hit the paypal button.”
“Yeah, I will. ‘Cause I like the content at this here ranch.”
“Didn’t you mean contentment?”
“Yeah, that too.”
Time Enough by Bill Engleson
One leg up. Then the other. Crack open a Club Soda. Mid-week. Something about being on the wagon.
It’s a warm day. I see the chores, piling up like a smattering of mumblety-pegs. Each one demands I take a huge bite and wrestle the task to the ground.
I exaggerate. But not by much.
“You’re taking a busman’s holiday,” she says, sneaking up on me.
“You mean, same old same old!”
“Yeah, that’s what I mean. Can’t get a lick a work out of you, Simon.”
“I’m a big disappointment to myself, sweetie.”
“Enjoy it while it lasts, lover.”
To Be Content by Pensitivity
I don’t need complications.
I’m a simple girl who likes the simple things in life.
They say the best things in life are free.
A walk in the park, birdsong, the scent of lilac on the tree, the gentle trickle of water from a country stream, dipping your toes in the water on a hot day, the sound of kids laughing, ducks and swans with their young, a tender smile from the one you love.
So many things we take for granted or miss altogether because we are too busy trying to survive in this cut and thrust world.
Contented by Michael
She watched him breathing deeply, the look on his face told her so much but she wanted to hear what he might say.
“So how are you feeling?”
“Very contented,” he replied in between breaths.
“So, what does that mean?
He waited a few minutes before replying. “I feel loved like never before, you have accepted me with all my flaws, and despite that, we get along so well.”
“You are worth it babe,” she said kissing him lightly on the cheek.
“You make me feel so good about myself.”
“It’s what happens when both of us are contented.”
Content by ladyleemanila
Do we do things or wait our chance?
I’d like to dance
And then you came
Told me your name
Sweet serendipity, what’s that?
I dropped my hat
You picked it up
Sweet as syrup
Overlapping paths we do take
We make or break
Life’s a delight
Makes us excite
So in love with you
At a sea so blue
You look so cool
Your smile, your care
We are such a pair
A flower that blossom
You’re my superstar
You came down from far
To make me happy on earth
And so with pleasure
I’ve got the answer
The Anniversary Dinner by Susan Zutautas
As soon as Jim walked through the front door the aroma of Megs cooking put a smile on his face.
“Oh my goodness woman what are you cooking? There’s enough food here for six people!”
“Just the two of us, I wanted to make it a special dinner. After all, it is our anniversary.”
“Are those lobsters?”
“They sure are, and to go with them we have steak, mushrooms, crab legs, shrimp skewers, scallops, and a Caesar salad. Just wait till you see dessert.”
Jim could barely do it, but he ate his cherry cheesecake and felt totally content.
The Return by D. Avery
“How far’d you get?”
“Far enough to figure some things out.”
“Figured out they don’t have as many seasons out west. If they have deer season, you’d hardly know it. They never heard of sugarin’ or mud season. I wanna settle in for mud season.”
“You came back because you wanna be here when the roads turn to shit?”
“Early April, right?”
“Yup. Lotta my Highland heifers are due to calve ‘bout then.”
“I figure that’s about my time too. We’re pregnant.”
He knew that rangy heifers usually became content after calving. He hugged her thankfully, hopefully.
Flash Fiction by Carrie Gilliland Sandstrom
She loved dusk most of all. The sky was an indigo blue with tiny stars sparkling, trying to be seen. She starred out their bedroom window, which she insisted on keeping open, even if just a crack. There was nothing better than feeling a cool breeze across her face as she burrowed deep under the warm covers.
A strong arm wrapped around her and pulled her close. She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.
He kissed her gently on the shoulder. “This is still my favourite place to be,” he whispered.
“Mine too,” she said, already half asleep.
Gramma’s Legendary Cheesecake (A Tall Tale) by Liz Husebye Hartmann
“How’d I get here?” Alice tipped back in her porch rocker, watching sunset over misty mountains. “Cheesecake, darlin’…”
I raised an eyebrow.
“Back in the 80’s, Gramma’s Great Smoky Cheesecake was multi-billion, multi-national, with an option to go intergalactic. I was so busy dealing with the Martians, I didn’t see what was happening with my husband and the Venusians. When he filed for divorce, he wanted alimony—which translated to all-my-money. He got it, he spent it, but he still can’t make cheesecake.
“So here I am, and I couldn’t be happier! Have a slice…it’s Gramma’s special secret recipe.”
Zen by Reena Saxena
Michelle had been trying to befriend Maria in the club, for several weeks. But, Maria had chosen to ignore her, for reasons best known to her. One evening, they found themselves seated on adjoining bar stools.
“It is always a pleasure to see you. You radiate so much peace”.
“Yes, because I am content with my life”.
“I wish you would mingle a little more. Others need those Zen vibes”.
“I am content with the blessings in my life, and also problems. I do not wish that people add their two bits to it. Hence, I prefer my solitude”.
A Familiar Content by Lisa Listwa
It is almost time.
Steam rises in front of me, blurring my vision slightly. I inhale deeply, taking in all that I can by breath. A gentle heat kisses my cheek, turning my skin warm and moist. Bright flashes of orange and green swim before my eyes, darting impishly in and out of bouncy cream-colored curls. Metal brushes against porcelain. The distinctive clang of a muted bell beckons to my body and soul.
Slowly, I sip and taste, letting the warmth rush through my body, spreading goodness contentment around me like a favorite blanket.
Familiarity breeds comfort and content.
Contentment by Floridaborne
Contentment depends upon perception.
From age 0 to 20, I experienced a dream many children coveted; to live in the same house with caring parents. I wanted, more than anything, to travel.
At 23, I married. We were in Minnesota for 2 years, then traveled through 5 states, and lived in 9 homes during our first 7 years together. I loved that life.
Widowed at 33, I drifted around in a sea of discontent…until I discovered writing.
I might live in a shack with walls crumbling around me, but as long as I can write, I’m happy.
Silent Connection by Irene Waters
The cabin walls closed in. The fixed porthole prevented fresh air entering and the stale air weighed down on me. ‘I’m a sardine in a can,’ I fought the urge to scream. My heart pounding, I escaped to the deck. I paced, looking for a place I could sit and drink in the velvety night. All the seats, bar one, were occupied with lovers entwined. A solitary man, a priest, sat alone. He patted the seat, inviting me to sit. I did. We sat in silence. Connected. Content. Hours later he stood to leave, saying, “Sometimes, words aren’t necessary.”
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
Mr. Melvin strummed a gentle chord, as though playing a soundtrack to his memories. The guitar wailed, spilling sounds from his soul, crying out with all the hurt he must have felt in that old lying heart of his.
Another strum of the strings. Another song. Outside a siren wailed. The world was riddled with crime and hurt and too little kindness. I had a long way to go in my quest for peace. But in his apartment, watching him play, my mouth hung out to dry. I knew exactly what he’d meant.
There was truth in the blues.
The Traveller Returns by Anne Goodwin
No more lumpy mattresses in airless dormitories resonant with other people’s snores. No more restaurants serving chicken as a vegetarian meal. No more conducting conversations with a two-year-old’s vocabulary. It’s time to go home.
Home to a choice of more than three outfits. Home to friends for whom neither your accent nor your humour needs translation. Home to shelves of books you never thought you’d miss.
Enough of novelty and adventure. The old familiar everything thrills you now. Rain and roses, the Bobbies in their uniforms, traffic on the left side of the road. No excitement, no effort. Content.
Crossfade by Elliott Lyngreen
emanating layer upon layer
of prodigious cells burning off,
into, spectacular sun-bathing
upon a blanket.
cross fades flickering heats, afire,
but meaning poetry indescribably, harmlessly
watching these cilia in her corners
a cinnamon scent of some grand unlost memory
and recovers the eternity, grace
(the first smooth thighs of a 90s girl)
in incredible rays
and solid hypnotic
radiated sinks in radio-waves
into the way I can’t
see into this place
where my heart endlessly compresses
in these sweet beams,
to leave via the upstairs garrets
for more soft views,
Flash Fiction by Kalpani Solsi
I make an arduous mental effort to garner sepia toned
images vividly scattered on the periphery of my subliminal
existence and they slowly coalesce to form a perfect
As I obambulate the muddy road, the sights and smells
tickle my senses.
The play-ground reminds me of the agility of our minds
I lose myself in the pages of the library to find my voice.
Rainy splashes bring out the fecund innocence.
Pals widen the curve of my lips to spread consoling
I refuse to come out the labyrinthine garden of
Return If Possible, childhood.
The Bundle by Allison Maruska
I lift the bundle from the floor
Heavy yet not burdensome
I support with both hands
Though one would do fine
I’m holding more than it seems
I hold dreams
So I use both hands
Resting, I set the bundle on my chest
No rolling allowed
My hand offers support
A small yet meaningful gesture
The bundle settles
And takes a long breath as sleep arrives
I stroke his back
Feel his warmth
I close my eyes
Breathing in the contentment
Of his being
Contentment by Rachel A. Hanson
She was sitting on the deck listening to her children play while holding a steaming cup of coffee as the morning sun shone down as she closed her eyes, drinking in the sensations surrounding her.
“This is what perfect contentment feels like,” she thought.
“Mama, look!” Her toddler exclaimed excitedly.
She expected to see something remarkable. Maybe a butterfly or a squirrel scampering across the lawn.
She was not met with beauty, but danger! The baby had been trying for weeks to pull herself onto the ledge with no success. Today was the day the season of contentment ended.
Purpose in Play by Norah Colvin
They worked furiously as if with one mind; digging, piling, shaping, smoothing the sand. As if on cue, two began to tunnel through from opposite sides, meeting in the middle. Others carved into the surface, forming window-like shapes. Sticks, leaves, and other found objects adorned the structure. Then, simultaneously, the work stopped. They glowed with collective admiration. But Than was not yet content. Something was missing. He swooped on a long twig and stuck it into the top, antenna-like. “For communicating with the mother ship,” he declared. Soon they were all feverishly adding other improvements to their alien craft.
Finding Contentment in Being the Greatest of all Time by Dave Madden
The champ awoke in a daze. After a ten-year reign, his eyes struggled to focus on the cage side physician’s finger wagging in front on his face; the taste of blood in his mouth had yet to register.
An eerie silence filled the arena, and whispers of ‘next steps’ for the most electrifying mixed martial artist of all-time resonated into a deafening energy.
As his cognitive faculties slowly returned, the realization, at the age of thirty-eight in a young man’s game, of contentment from an untouchable legacy would lick his warrior spirit’s wounds after walking away.
Tentative Content by Kerry E.B. Black
Like their ancestors, they huddle in caves, but instead of hiding from beasts, predators come from their own blood-lines. They use the caves’ walls as chalk boards, creating places to teach cross-legged children in an attempt to establish some normality for their war-torn lives. From scavenged bits, they craft toys to amuse their little ones. They recite stories and sing nursery songs. Of the little food they scavenge, the best goes to the young. From their faces they try to hide the ravages, turning instead gazes of hope upon their progeny. In their safety they find a tentative content.
Serenity Square by Jules Paige
(Janice vs Richard #8)
Janice hadn’t realized that she had been leaning on the tall
Detective, James Longhorn while he had lead her into the
The police station and the court house were connected ‘L’
shapes that had two secure emergency egresses where
the two buildings’ brick and concrete stonework met.
Private offices looked into the acre of serene park that had
several shade trees and a koi pond in the middle. It was a
place to ease fears and promote contentment for witnesses
that needed a safe place as well as for officers of the precinct
and court to decompress.
Contentment Earned (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
This one day makes the last five worthwhile.
Forcing herself to the grocery to stock up when she’s overwhelmed by a full workweek of politics and deadlines, senses raw from the onslaught of noise and movement. Barely edging the fenders past the posts in the underground garage, battling traffic and crowded aisles. The panic, the people.
All deposited against today, when she can stay in bed with the quiet, linger over coffee and sweet cream, plant flowers on the terrace high above the street. Dirt under her nails, the sun shining for her alone.
Far above the madding crowd.
Hope Doesn’t Knock by Sarah Brentyn
They say we should have hope.
Yet they take away everything that might make us feel hopeful. People seem content. I don’t understand.
One morning, after breakfast, I ask my father. He sits with me. Takes a breath. I think he is going to speak but he ruffles my hair. Tells me to enjoy my day. His eyes flick to the doorway.
I turn and notice my mother, watching us, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.
This is my cue to leave. When the door shuts, I see an ornament on the wood. This is not good for our family.
Summer Vacation by Diana Nagai
The waves gently buoyed them on the surface of the lake. Their floaties connected by each other’s resting feet. The summer sun heated their skin to burning levels.
She looked over at him, eyes closed, content as fuck. As if they hadn’t just fought World War III over breakfast. As if his half-assed apology was supposed to make her forget his need for constant confirmation of his masculinity. He only highlighted his frailty.
The resentment bubbling within her reached dangerous limits. Dipping her foot deep into the water, she kicked with everything she had, tipping the smug son-of-a-bitch overboard.
Just One Minute by Sherri Matthews
It’s a rope tying my guts together in hard knots. It sits there, like a weight pressing down on my chest making it hard to breathe. My heart pounds so loud I feel it pulsing in my eardrums and my head spins; I think I’m going to throw up. Anxiety Disorder, the doctor says. Not to be confused with ‘feeling anxious’. This is its bigger, older and uglier brother. It means business. It never leaves. But all I want is calm. A place where I can breathe again, to sink deep into a minute’s worth of contentment. That’s all…
Being Content by Geoff Le Pard
‘Mum what is adult content?’
‘You know. Stuff that only adults should see or hear.’
‘Oh yeah. Soz. Silly.’ Penny sniggered. ‘It’s con-tent, isn’t it? Not content. You know like dad after a curry.’
Mary smiled. ‘The content of the curry makes him content.’
‘What makes you content, mum?’
‘The family being happy.’ She smiled. ‘Your grandma was the same. She always said if we were happy, she was content.’ Mary thought back to her mother’s last days, when she knew she was dying. She’d been content then. It angered Mary then, that acceptance. Now maybe she understood it.