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Rodeo #2: Memoir

FIRST PLACE: Because That’s How Things Were Done Back Then by Anne Goodwin

SECOND PLACE: This Time by Juliet Nubel

THIRD PLACE: Red Sky at Morning by Liz Husebye Hartmann

***ENTRIES***

Because That’s How Things Were Done Back Then by Anne Goodwin

Because boys can’t help it? Because she let him? Because of Babycham? I don’t know why she did it. I don’t know what ‘it’ is.

Because “You made your bed, now lie in it!” Because the neighbours. Because abortion’s a sin. My friends think the wedding’s at eleven but it’s really half past three.

Because my mother’s smile is wooden. Because I hate hairspray. Because my auntie caught me faking bellyache, I shuffle behind my sister to the altar steps.

Because I’m not allowed to question. Because weddings need bridesmaids. Because hypocrisy’s the shotgun that slays my parents’ shame.

🐎🐎🐎

This Time by Juliet Nubel

His angry words still rang in her ears as she climbed the unfamiliar staircase:

“Come one step closer and I’ll punch you in the face.”

She had heard these words before but had always swept them and the apologies and promises under one of the many rugs in their beautiful home.

This time, however, they had drilled a deep hole into her heart and the last dribbles of love she felt for him were seeping onto the bare floorboards of this tiny apartment.

“When can I move in?” she stammered softly.

“Whenever you like, madam.”

“Now. Right now, please.”

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Red Sky at Morning  by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She stood by last night’s bonfire. Flames leapt high, our drunken faces and dancing limbs in hideous relief, like Dante’s inferno on the shore of this northern bay.

Driftwood burns to cool embers. We flee to our tents to couple, or sleep it off.

Night shifts, heavy indigo to thin green, cool breeze shredding night to red dawn.

She slips off her shoes, shucks off sweatshirt and jeans, no zip cracks the morning silence. Wasted thin by her disease, she steps into the water to die on her own terms. She did that.

That part I want to remember

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Announcing the Marriage of Grace Lillian Bolton to Captain Percival Francis on 14 October 1920 by Geoff Le Pard

‘Captain Francis was lucky to survive. Three days before they found him.’

Grace wrapped the bread. ‘That all Mrs Johns?’

‘Yes, Grace. How’s your father?’

Grace looked at the bag of empty beer bottles and grimaced.

*

‘Grace, take him his tea and…’

‘Yes ma.’ Better me than mother, she thought.

*

‘Grace!’

‘Captain.’ Frowns. The wheelchair. ‘Percy…?’

‘I’m getting back on my feet! Started a little business. Useless with money, mind.’

‘I’ll help… if you like?’

*

‘You’ve put up with enough, Grace. You must leave.’

‘Where? I’ve nowhere.’

‘Here.’

‘I can’t…’

‘Marry me and you can.’

Smiles. ‘Let’s do it.’

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Show Time by Kerry E.B.Black

Though the youngest in her class, three-year-old Alexi knew she was a star. Hair in a bun, she donned her sparkling pink tutu and ballet slippers. She’d practiced and didn’t miss a step.

Alexi’s class changed into pale blue body suits and tap shoes. “I don’t want to be in the back,” she explained. “Nobody can see how hard I practiced if I’m back there.”

The instructor patted Alexi’s sequence-infested headband. “Show time.”

The class stomped and shimmied in time until Alexi, with a determined jut of her chin, took extra-long strides. Tap, slide, and surprise! Alexi appeared front-and-center.

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My Aunt Remembered by Nancy Brady

Even before my aunt’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, I wondered. With our birthdays only two days apart, she never forgot to send me a card, even after I was an adult. The last one she sent, though, was signed “Grandma,” which was crossed out and signed “Aunt Connie.”

At the funeral for my cousin, my aunt sat near her casket. I wasn’t sure she’d recognize me. In her signature style, she put her hands on my cheeks, saying, “Nancy! There’s my baby doll!”

A minute later, she asked me, “Who are you?” Just that quick, my loss and mourning doubled.

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Changing Worlds by Saifun Hassam

She was born and grew up in British Kenya, in the 1920s. Her parents were from India. In primary school, the only schooling available for girls at the time, she learned to read and write English and also Gujarati, her mother tongue.

She was 16 when she married, typical of young Indian girls of her time. She wanted to somehow continue learning, remembering her schooldays. When an adult class in her community offered to teach English and dressmaking, she jumped at the opportunity. The dressmaking classes taught her embroidery for saris. The English? A road to understand her children.

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Tasters Choice by JulesPaige

Without laying down a strong foundation, she did it. Lost her perspective, almost lost me, my sister. And still that is debatable.

Siblings have unique relationships. That birth order thing. The parents unintentionally or not playing favorites. It doesn’t matter how many years separate you. When there isn’t any trust built up in the beginning it is hard to forge new bridges to fill in the gaps. She expects too much out of nothing. And listening isn’t her strong suite.

Trust is earned. And when not there, even love, the shared blood bond tends to percolate a bit stale.

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I Return Home From Vacation Tomorrow by Nez Hewitt

I am anxious.

The sun is setting. It’s a beautiful sunset! I’m sitting on a lunge chair by the pool in my bathing suit. And I’m anxious.

I will see my chocolate Labrador tomorrow. She will greet me and walk back to her bed and sleep! I…wish…she’ll do this instead: cuddle, then cuddle, then turn around in circles like those army veterans’ dogs whose videos are all over the internet! I wish my dog did that! Then I won’t be as anxious!

6:30 pm. I’m finally home. She did it!

I’m not anxious.

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Lost & Found by Sherri Matthews

For weeks I searched for him in the crowd until one Sunday, I found him.

‘Oh god, it’s the American,’ I gasped, seizing my friend’s arm.

He approached the bar, but didn’t see me. I sprang from my stool and landed square at his feet.

‘Hi, remember me?’

His bemused expression told me he did not.

‘We met a few weeks ago, outside…’

A flicker of recognition. ‘Yeah,’ he nodded, ‘now I do…Hi.’

He bought drinks and later we kissed and he promised to take me to California.

If it was bullshit, I was in too deep to care.

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She Did It by Rebecca Cunningham

Twenty-nine anemic Earl Grey tea bags sat dried to the top lip of the sink. The smell of spaghetti dinner past rose from the Aztec dish pyramid. The colander sported a dried wheat noodle ellipse bailing out a metal hole. These and the water’s oily orange-green film told our story. My husband was absent. His resident brother monitored me with arms crossed as I looked for the Joni Mitchell CD I’d left behind. She was gone, so I said goodbye and used the familiar exit.

My brother-in-law slammed the door behind me saying something muffled like, “You flunking clump!”

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Octopi Pie–or Maybe It Was Octopus Stew? by Bill Engleson

Memories! Sometimes, they just bubble up.

It was early September, ‘68. Our communal scullery was a sweatbox. I hated cooking in it. By “cooking,” I mostly mean crafting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

High art cuisine!

Eventually, ambition bit me on the butt. “Communards,” I announced, “Gonna cook up some octopus.”

Rainbow was enthusiastic.

About the only one.

“I’ll hitch home. Wouldn’t want to miss this.”

She usually avoided hitching.

Three charming guys picked her up.

“Let’s boogie, hippie chick.”

Rainbow countered. “I’ve got Maui Wowie…at home.”

They nibbled.

Fifteen hairy sous-chefs surveying scalding Octopi.

A libido torpedo, eh!

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Untitled by Kate Blake

Young and adventurous I had no burning ambition. Knocked back from a librarianship and housing loan coz I was the wrong gender.  Decided to work long hours at three jobs to save up.  Then took off to travel around more than thirty countries at the age of just twenty-one.

Explored foreign cultures and wondrous religions, loved their food and dance.  Eventually did my studies for more interesting jobs and better income. Not tied to societal norms, I refused to conform.

Too many boyfriends, rebuilt motorbikes then spirituality became my passion. Continue to do what I want when I want.

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Firsts and Lasts by Jules Paige

Riding in an aircraft in First Class is a real thrill. You get to board the plane first. You have your own lavatory. Get food on real china plates.

The circumstances though weren’t the best. I was taking the quickest route, upgrades with my hubby’s travel points south, by myself. Though my husband did join me a day later. My father was dying.

Somehow, I got to the hospital. My dad, in the bed – couldn’t speak. Really, what was there to say? I held his hand and read to him as I waited for more family to show up.

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For Joy, She Did It by Sacha Darlington

For eight years of organized sports, I despised the required running. The weakened legs. The side stitches. The charley-horses.

Then one May, heavier after an injury, I trotted around the neighborhood. Trotting became running that took me miles from home through Sligo Creek to Brookside Gardens in early morning where deer appeared statues in thick fog, ducks paddled the lake, and sneakers on pavement echoed.

“Let’s run a 5K race,” my running companion suggested.

I blanched but agreed.

On the morning of the race, he never showed, but I ran, not part of the race. I ran for joy.

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Against all Odds by Colleen Chesebro

“You’re not smart enough to go to college. You’ll never be any good.”

Kalena swallowed the knot in her throat as she climbed the steps to the community college, her step mother’s words resonating in her head. Today of all days, that timeworn disbelief resurfaced as if that woman still controlled her destiny.

Like the Phoenix, Kalena had risen from the ashes of her childhood. Now, the time had arrived to demolish those seeds of doubt forever.

She walked to the auditorium where she took her place in line with her classmates, ready to accept her hard earned degree.

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Untitled by Marjorie Mallon

It’s a gut-wrenching fear of mine: Roller-coasters, a grim holding on, tempting death. Sometimes you have to face your fears and deal with them. I’m proud of the ride in Portugal. I was with my family, my two daughters and my husband. I had to be brave and I was. I’ve got the photo to prove it but never ask me to do it again! Not now, not ever. It was a once in a lifetime moment, one I’ll treasure forever. But I still imagine what could have happened and an author’s imagination is the most dangerous, evil ride.

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Untitled by Joelle LeGendre

Dad used to say, “Your mom squeezes a nickel until it… screams.”

When he started a taxi business with Uncle Jack in 1947 Miami, there was one problem; they needed a vehicle. She owned the car, but women couldn’t own a business.

Mom despised my uncle, telling dad he was a thief, but dutifully put her car in their name and dispatched calls. He tried to take out a loan on her car, thwarted by a banker.

She’d say, “Behind every cloud is a silver lining.”

As she succumbed to sun stroke, this one memory haunted her into death.

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Cold Turkey by Andrea Sinclair

“Your baby is more likely to die of SIDS if you smoke when pregnant.

Recent studies now show….” The car radio newscaster droned on.

What?

Spotting a parking lot, I pulled in. Stopped. Cut the engine.

And lit another cigarette. To think. The new life, barely started, inside me.

Maybe low birth weight. But SIDS?

My sweet sleeping baby never wakes up?

No.

Sudden. Infant. Death. Because I smoked?

No.

I rolled down the window and looked out.

Squinting into the sun, I exhaled into the warm spring air.

And finished my last cigarette.

My baby is now 36.

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The Woman Who Was Pushed by Hugh Roberts

As the woman fell to the platform floor right in front of me, I looked down and went to her aid.

“It wasn’t me, it was her. She did it,” were the words I heard over the hustle and bustle of a busy Kings Cross underground station.

“Are you alright?” I asked, as the train doors closed.

“Yes, I’m fine. I’ll walk to work,” she said as she tried getting up.

As I helped her up, people still pushed past us. Only the sound of the bomb going off on the recently departed train stopped everyone in their tracks.

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Uncle Frank’s Crate by Lori Bonati

My father spent summers at Uncle Frank’s, in picturesque Cohocton. Frank raised chickens, grew grapes, made wine.

We went there as kids. We’d fish, chase chickens, eat spaghetti. Frank nodded, smiled, spoke Italian.

Much later, on a whim, I visited Cohocton, saw a sign in Frank’s yard, stopped.

“You’ve been here before!” the owner said.

“Years ago.” How did she know?

“Wait here.” She went downstairs, brought up a dusty wooden crate.

“This was Frank’s. For wine-making. Fifty cents.”

I paid. If Frank’s ghost saw me, it was nodding, smiling, and saying, “lo ha fatto lei,” (“she did it”).

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She Did It by Ritu Bhathal

My teenage years were influenced by many, but very heavily by someone who lived with us for a few years.

I was the young one, trying desperately hard to impress; so keen that I was naïve enough to do pretty much anything I was asked.

“I like him,” she said, “And you can like his brother.”

It was decided that we would write letters to these boys, expressing our interest.

How did I know that they would tell their mother?

And that she would call my mum?

And that my cousin would turn the finger at me, “She did it!”

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Untitled by Kate Blake

Aunty nursed her parents then married later, Dick the light of her life.  They entertained, she a gifted pianist so guests would gather around to sing along and dance a few steps.  They’d cook and garden, so well matched.  A heart attack took him swiftly walking down George St.

With her true love gone her spinster sister Gert moved in.  They cooked and gardened but the music had died with only an occasional tune.  Card games and flower shows absorbed them. Well educated and community minded she learnt fluent Italian at 76, had to speak with her new neighbours.

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Untitled by Chelsea Owens

Anticipation clung to my twitching legs. A girl nearby hopped; I copied. Another stretched, as did I.

We pretended to ignore the waiting barriers. We’d glance to the nearest, flit to the next and next and next, then end at the finish line.

Too soon, I heard, “Runners, take your mark.”

“Se-e-e-e-et!”

*POP!*

Out of the blocks, I ran to the first hurdle.

Fell.

And sat and crumpled and cried.

Then, felt an arm about my shoulders. Heard a repeated lullaby of encouragement from a onetime friend.

“You won,” she reminded, “By not hesitating.

“And, tomorrow, you’ll run again.”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Kate Blake

Aunty nursed her parents then married later, Dick the light of her life.  They entertained, she a gifted pianist so guests would gather around to sing along and dance a few steps.  They’d cook and garden, so well matched.  A heart attack took him swiftly walking down George St.

With her true love gone her spinster sister Gert moved in.  They cooked and gardened but the music had died with only an occasional tune.  Card games and flower shows absorbed them. Well educated and community minded she learnt fluent Italian at 76, had to speak with her new neighbours.

🐎🐎🐎

A Georgia Portion by Susan Sleggs

In my grade school years, my three older sisters and I watched TV westerns with our father on the weekends. Occasionally Mother would serve us dishes of vanilla ice cream with home-made chocolate sauce. One particular night Mother came to us with an open ice cream carton that only had about two bites in it. “Who did this?” We all looked at my oldest sister. To this day we all call a two bite portion a “Georgia portion” and expect it to be eaten not left for the next unsuspecting victim who’s taste buds are ready to be satisfied.

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The Narcissist by D.G. Kaye

Mother broke hearts with her beauty. Her heart was impenetrable. Her razor-sharp tongue peppered with acidic words, seared holes through my self-esteem, perplexing my childhood and self-worth. I envied her beauty, despite not desiring to emulate.

Cutting words, her specialty. Brainwashed by lies, I thought I needed help. It was my mother requiring analysis. Desperation loomed, anticipating escaping her twisted manipulation and projecting unto others of what festered in her soul.

I escaped. The wounds didn’t. Words embedded, stifled with guilt, my spirit shattered from her black, troubled soul.

Fifty years later, the shackles released. “I banish you Mother.”

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Untitled by Robbie Cheadle

It intrigued her how the catastrophe that had befallen the firm the prior year had changed her life. The hurtful loss of previous friends and colleagues made her indifferent towards befriending new work colleagues. She didn’t attend any of the social functions. Conversations with people she had known and worked with for over twenty years felt stilted and forced as she avoided anything controversial or personal. It didn’t leave much conversational fodder. It was time to move on with her life. She made a conscious decision to resign. She did it and felt all the better for the change.

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She Did It by Sam Kirk

“Stupid girl! I told you Marlboro Gold, not Red!” – he yelled at her back as she rushed to the kitchen to finish cooking.

She sighed as she meshed the potatoes with one hand and flipped the pork chops with the other.

“You will never amount to anything” – he often said.

She opened her eyes, glanced out the window of her corner office and then took the picture from her desk into her hands. A picture of her family – her husband, their children and her last December in Brazil.

“I did it” – she thought to herself.

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Winning an Argument by Molly Stevens

I adored my grandfather but when I was ten he said something that made me furious. He said that women didn’t need to go to college. I told him he was wrong, and vowed I would become the first woman in our family to graduate from college.

It took me eight years, but I persevered and achieved my dream.

Grampie died years before I marched down the aisle to Pomp and Circumstance. I remembered his laughter, teasing, and cribbage skills but forgot the argument.

The memory flooded back when grasping my diploma I heard him say, “She did it!”

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Carrot Ranch Literary Community makes literary art accessible 99 words at a time through flash fiction challenges and a group of contests called the Rodeo. 

Full Copyright of individual entries remains with the original author. Collection as a whole is the property of Carrot Ranch Literary Community. Sponsors help fund future events, free weekly challenges and free contests.

Entries are as submitted and not edited. Entries not meeting the specified word count or specific contest rules are not included at the discretion of each contest leader and judges.

Published by Carrot Ranch Literary Community led by Lead Buckaroo, Charli Mills.

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