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August 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

My desk faces a wall, and two large picture windows to my right dominate the living room. I can’t help but peek out the windows and watch the red squirrel nibble the suet upsidedown or catch the raspberry sherbert glow of sunset over the rooftops on a partially cloudy evening. Last week I glimpsed fluttering in the branches of a tall pine across the street. Squeals and squawks alerted me to a nest of fledglings. With movement, I tried to get a closer look. That’s how I came to be writing at my desk with binoculars.

It was worth adding the lenses to my piles of paper, reference books (including The Sibley Field Guide to Birds), and a  hoard of colored gel pens (purple, turquoise, pink, carrot-top green, and functional black). The shrill cries belonged to a family of American Kestrels. According to Sibley, they are “…screaming killy, killy, killy.” No less than five juveniles hopped and beat their wings in the tree outside my window. Two parents dutifully supplied insects to the noisy brood.

Earlier, the robins fledged two batches of babies. The hummingbirds nested in secret, and the starlings returned to a successful nest in our neighborhood. It seems to me that birds of prey fledge later than the songbirds. A few streets up the hill from the co-op, Merlins nest. They feed almost entirely on birds, although they will eat a dragonfly. Alaska, the Keweenaw, and New England are the few US areas where Merlins nest. They prefer to rear young in Canada. Eagles prefer to nest near water, and we have a large lake nearby.

With the Merlins and Kestrels busy in town, we happened to find a juvenile eagle along the red sandstone cliffs of Lake Superior past the breakers where the canal spills into the Lake. We were boating the canal with our double bubble double date. In times of COVID, we have made a pact to connect with another couple to share outdoor activities. In a season of isolation, it’s a gift to boat with friends (an even greater gift to have friends who own a boat). Weather and timing were perfect for a Sunday cruise out to the red cliffs. The canal is large enough for the lakers, and sometimes they seek shelter from gales before winter shuts down the shipping lanes on Superior. The water grows choppy at the mouth of the canal, and it opens up to the inland sea that is our lake.

Cruising down the shoreline, we heard the distinct chirp of an eagle. Overhead, an adult glided as we anchored near a spectacular waterfall. At the time, I was more interested in — you guessed it — the rocks. I was ogling the variety beneath the boat, eager to examine them. We slid into the water from the swimming deck and went to shore. I was thrilled at the prospect of rocks inaccessible to casual beachcombers. The eagle circled, and soon, we realized she had a young one. Like the Kestrels and Merlins, he was noisy, demanding mother to feed him. The Hub got a laugh out of the young eagle watching me. I think the bird hoped I’d catch a fish.

Later, with “garden” rocks loaded in the boat, we ate lunch beneath the youngster who was still expressing his interest in a meal. Maybe inspired or tired of us non-fishing types, he fled the coop, so to speak. It startled me to see the baby eagle clumsily descend toward the lake, and soon, we were all shouting for him to “Pull up! Pull up!” Maybe our human advice worked. Maybe it was his own instinct, but he haltingly glided and beached himself. We worried that he’d have a harder time lifting up from the ground. And he did. Eventually, he made his way back to the tree.

And then, he flew!

It’s a marvelous event to witness the first flight of any bird, but one so big as an eagle was a rare sight. We cheered his effort and wished him well. It was like graduation day. The eagle made me think of my own baby eaglet. When my son was two-years-old, he had wispy blond hair that he liked to run his fingers through. At that age, he perched on my back, often in a backpack designed to tote toddlers. With one hand, he’d lift his hai, and with the other, he’d play with mine. I remember looking forward to the day he’d “fly” and no longer be in my hair. With bittersweetness, I watched the juvenile eagle fledge and fly off as they do.

This weekend, my eaglet marries his bride. We leave in the morning for Wisconsin, our wedding clothes carefully secured in a garment bag. My toenails are painted a deep cabernet, and my eyebrows are tame. My COVID hair is cut and shaped, and I do not miss having to pull it back. It seems like yesterday, my son had his fingers in my hair. I know he will fly this weekend, and I’ll probably smile and cry all at one time. I’ll be home on Monday, in time for my finals, and then I get a small break. It seems like it’s going too fast already, and I just want the moment to slow so I can savor it.

August 13, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone that flies. What is significant about the first? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by August 18, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

CALL FOR RODEO LEADERS: The Rodeo 99-word Stories Contest will return in October with a first-place cash prize sponsored by Carrot Ranch. As indicated, each contest is 99-words. However, the type of story, format, subject, or added prompts is wide open to creative direction. Carrot Ranch will host the TUFF (99-59-9-99) contest at the Saddle Up Saloon every Monday in October. The ranch buckaroo is looking for three more leaders who have blogs and would like to create, host, and work with judges of their choosing to host a Rodeo contest at their blog on an October Tuesday. This is different from previous contests so that the regular challenges can continue simultaneously. It will help regulate ranch traffic and can increase traffic for partner blogs. If you are interested, contact Charli at wordsforpeople(at)gmail(dot)com. There will be a Zoom meeting in late August for Rodeo leaders. Thank you, Goldie and Marsha, for signing on! We have two openings left! I’d love to have some diversity to offer broader opportunities.

First Flight by Charli Mills

The phoenix spent a lifetime reinventing herself. Each experience stabilized the bits, girding future wings. Her thoughts solidified. From dusty ashes, elegance rose. Sometimes her development caused an imbalance—she’d gain strength in one wing, leaving a talon incorporeal, a sooty ghost foot. Failure created more ashes, but ashes packed form like down in a pillow. Soft, at first, the padding transformed to muscle and bone. Fully engineered, the phoenix’s original vision improved with age and wisdom gained. A fire of kindness flamed her fully actualized self and she burned, a sacrifice to the ashes of her next life.

Molten Lava

Hot liquid minerals form the rock we call Earth. The geological record reads of flows, floods, and extrusions that raise and weather. Rocks define a place, such as the Keweenaw Peninsula dubbed the Copper Country. Molten lava can be more than elemental and serve as a metaphor for heat. And more.

Give writers a prompt and they’ll follow it with different perspectives and story ideas. Molten lava flowed through imaginations and stories this week.

The following are based on the August 6, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about molten lava.

PART I (10-minute read)

My Valentine by Deborah Dansante

On that fervid night, long ago, near the brook, you said you would run like a serval, if I kissed you. I kissed you…

I baked a thousand loaves of bread with the grains you grist-ed. You taught me how. I parched peas and canned tomatoes. There were no notes. No cards. Everything came from you. Just you. Your hands were my instruction. Your eyes my recipe. I pleased you. I meant to please you.

I miss our garden. I miss our life. I miss you.

February use to bring paper hearts and seed catalogs.

Dear Burpees, please unsubscribe.


Molten Lava by Anita Dawes

The sudden hot blast as you take
hot cross buns from the oven
Balmy temperatures that drive most people
to the nearest beach
Looking at the sun through dark glasses
Reminding yourself it’s a ball of molten lava
Boiling seas of golden fantasies
Hot pavements, melting tarmac
Car tyres in danger of melting
(It has been known)
Desert sands, hot springs
Shooting geysers you cannot bathe in
Only admire the height it reaches
A falling star so hot
It melts sand into glass
The only heat I appreciate
Is between cool cotton sheets
Should I be telling you this?


Surviving the Storm by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Pace the living room, arms hugging my chest. My growling belly needs comfort and protection, not for need of nourishment, but because it craves. Outside, snow drives sidewise, piling up outside the doors, gathering in dark window corners.

The fire’s lit, has blazed and quieted to embers. Red is poured, been airing and warming for half the day. White rises, bowled, in stiff peaks in the refrigerator. Dinner’s been dispensed with, a thick, hot mess of beans, beef, and tomatoes. Yes, I’ve planned this winter respite.

The timer dings, chocolate molten lava cake is ready.

Bring on the Whip!


Epoch Weekend by D. Avery

The only one more disgruntled by the arrangement than her was her grandson. Sulking in the bow of the canoe, he showed no interest even in the great blue heron. In a huff she planted the paddle and turned the canoe abruptly. The heron, startled, lifted to flight.


They followed the pterodactyl. It landed in the marsh. There, miniature pterodactyls, light as dragonflies, landed on their knees.

They ate Hershey bars by the fire and turned marshmallows into molten lava. The sun slipped low over the mountain. In the fog draped morning it would be a fire-breathing dragon.


Joshua by Saifun Hassam

Eons ago the sea burning with fiery molten lava cooled. Immense rocks spired out of the sea. On a remote peninsula, a lighthouse watched over the rocky seas. Over time more than once lighthouses slipped into the sea as tremblors shook the seabed and coastal lands.

Inland several cinder cones dotted the valleys. Joshua was an artist, a geologist, and an archeologist. His keen observations led to the discovery of ancient villages, boats, and kayaks buried inland. His discoveries found their way onto canvas. His vivid imagination saw a phantom ship riding the waves far from the molten rocks.


In a Guard Tower Cut from the Rock by E.A. Colquitt

New recruits often wondered how it was that, even on dungeon duty, the stone beneath their feet was always warm.

On Initiation Day, they marched into the bowels of the mountain range. The air grew stuffier as they descended. Eventually, the tunnel opened into a vast cavern: black rock walkways, lit by a lake of molten lava.

‘This place is sacred,’ their captain yelled. ‘Without it, we can’t do our job.’

‘And what about Lís?’ someone piped up.

‘Don’t you worry. We’re further down than even their deepest ice caves.’

‘So, what are we doing here?’

‘Crossing the lake.’


Faculties Petrified by Anne Goodwin

First the sting, then smothering, then slugging down, then stopped. Gaze turned inside out to pick the marrow from my bones. Mouth a Munchian scream until the lava swallows that and blands it over in Mona Lisa smile. “How are you?” “Fine, thanks, you?” Frozen, glued to nothing, brain reboots itself to factory settings, erasing hours of therapy. Erasing the adult.

Barbs can pierce the carapace. Kindness can’t. Shelled in ineffective armour, identity fragments. Dissolves. Only I can save me. But I’s in exile, I’s abandoned me. Depression’s being washed in molten lava. Transforming flesh and faculties to stone.


The Floors are Lava by Kerry E.B. Black

The little boy waved his hands, yelling, “No, no, Momma! Don’t step there! The floors are lava!”

“How am I going to get your homework, then?”

“I don’t want you to burn up. Here,” He scootched over and patted the couch beside him. “Let me snuggle you to keep you safe.”

She wrapped him in a hug. He giggled.

“You know I do have to get to the homework, though.”

“It’s a shame, but I’ll have to give up on homework to keep you safe. Can’t have you burn to a crisp.”

“You’re a brave, selfless boy.”

“I know.”


Pāhoehoe and ʻaʻā by JulesPaige

Molten lava once formed the now empty tubes near the bottom of Maui, Hawai’i where the ocean waves rush in creating anywhere from thirty to forty feet tall water spout. The height of a three story building. That lava traveled down Mt. Haleakalā between 1480 and 1600. It was cold when I was at the top of the mountain which is 10,023 feet, in the early 2000’s.

quickly the sun sets
in Maui’s Pacific ocean
the star stays glowing

I prefer the beaches and water warmed by Sol. Yet one is never far to view cooled lava on Maui.


Conversational Gambits by Geoff Le Pard

‘These rocks are incredible…’

‘That woman’s talking to them.’

‘They were made from molten lava…’

‘Do you think she’s dangerous?’

‘Are you listening, Morgan?’

‘Aunt Maisie talked to her knitting. She’s bonkers.’

‘Forget the knitting. This is an agate, and…

‘Colin Airplane talked to his shoes.’

‘His shoes?’

‘He said it kept them pointing in the right direction.’

‘It doesn’t follow that he’s potty.’

‘Prince Charles talks to his trees.’

‘Ok, he’s the exception that proves the rule. Anyway I’d say she’s very sane, talking to her rocks.’

‘How’s that?’

‘Well, it stopped you talking to her, didn’t it?’


Arizona in July by Cara Stefano

One time Hell (Michigan) froze over
Bitter cold and endless winter – Then comes time
Revel in sweet warmth of a glorious Yooper summer that
Finally emerges
As a Midwestern girl, born and bred
Rain and snow are in my soul bone deep
Every summer as a child I’d turn my face to sky’s clear blue
Sunny breezes
Relieved and joyful for the summer’s coming
Surviving, barely, now in the barren burning desert
Cloudless skies, relentless sunshine
All year round
The endless molten blazes make me
Dream nightly of the frozen north.


A History of Rock by Joanne Fisher

“Whatcha doing love?” Jess asked.

“Looking at these rocks. Most of them are extrusive igneous.” Cindy declared.

“Extrusive igneous?”

“They were once molten lava from a volcanic eruption, and formed basalt, or obsidian.” Cindy replied.

“Well you’re the one that went to college.” Jess stated.

“You don’t have to go to college to learn this stuff.”

“I know, but the farm keeps me busy enough.” Jess explained. Cindy smiled and gently threw one over to her. “This is pumice isn’t it?”

“Yes, it’s what happens when lava mixes with water. I thought you could use it on your feet!”


PART II (10-minute read)

Molten Lava by Ann Edall-Robson

For over a month water bombers flew through the acrid haze. The old-timers said it was the worst fire season of their memory. Black clouds forming in the West were the only hope of a reprieve. Their empty promises brought nothing but more lightning strikes to bolster the fire stats. Then the wind switched direction, blowing from the East. According to the old boys, that meant moisture was coming soon. Looking east on the morning it rained, the colours of fire silhouetted the ridge, like molten lava wrestling with the skyline. How could a sunrise be so cruel?


Death Stuff by Bill Engleson

Helga was giving thoughts of death a serious think today. In her wheelchair, waiting for our special seventy-fifth anniversary memorial Hiroshima sushi lunch, our little way of marking that event, she was also agitated by the recent Beirut dock explosion.

What with everyone wearing masks, Covid-19 was also painfully present.

I thought if I could find some eccentric examples of death, that might cheer her up.

Chef Pang Pen being bitten by the severed head of Cobra almost got a giggle.

Poor Phillip’s death by glass shard from his exploding Lava Lamp unfortunately sent her into a deeper funk.


The Writing Group by Michael Fishman

Reading in front of people has never been comfortable for me and tonight was no different. I swallowed.

“My love for her felt like hot lava burning in my heart.”

I saw Jean grimace.

“Not good?” I said.

“Well,” she shrugged. As analogies go . . .”

The other three members looked up.

It got quiet.

Someone coughed.

“What? We know lava’s hot; and it burns, right?”

She had a point.

“So maybe just ‘My love burned’?”

“Better.” Jean smiled

I felt myself blush.

What nobody knew was that the hot burning lava in my heart burned for Jean.


Missed by D. Avery

“All these lipsticks are some shade of red, how do you choose? What’s that called, the one you’re using?”

“Molten Lava.”

“Ooh, hot.” She pushed away his attempted kiss, told him coolly to just get ready and not cause them to be late for the dinner party.

He sighed, but obediently moved away from her, got busy with his tie. “What if, just this once, we didn’t go? They’re all alike. We’d not even be missed.”

“We would be missed. And talked about.”

“Does that really matter?”

Her eyes threw sparks. He headed to the car before she erupted.


Molten Lava by R.P. Biena

Henry thought of himself as someone with little self-esteem. In school, he was too timid to ask Vanessa to go swimming. At university, he was too afraid to ask Jessica to kiss him, although she spent the evening with him. In his job, he was kicked out, because he was not brave to argue against others.

Finally, Henry realized that he had too much self-esteem. He had been ignorant at work, narcissistic with Jessica, and self-absorbed to ask Vanessa. He broke free from his cell. The obsidian wall, that had served as a distorting mirror of his self, molted.


My Girl by Eliza Mimski

My girl she is a hottie
You’ve gotta see her body
She’s bawdy and she’s gaudy
She’s rootin tootin naughty
Her breasts they are the best
Her hips so big and blessed
Her stomach is a nest
Her arms so full of zest

My girl she is a hottie
You’ve gotta see her body
She’s bawdy and she’s gaudy
She’s rootin tootin naughty
Her face is like the sun
Her hair it comes undone
She tells me I’m the one
Her skin is sweet as guava
Her lips are molten lava
My sugar is baklava
I’ve simply gotta hava


Summer Geology by Charli Mills

At what temperature do people melt like molten lava? It’s 110 degrees F for the third day, and the swimming pool glistens like blue silica. Doris slathers more sunscreen on her brown wrinkled skin, rubbing the cream in circles as if softening an ostrich leather purse. It’s so hot she could burst, but the swimming beckons, promising a cooldown. Two weeks quarantined at her daughter’s place is better than self-combusting in her Airstream back at the seniors only RV park. She sinks her body and becomes a secondary metamorphic process, a volcano abating. Her bones crystalize in the pool.


Chocoholics by Annette Rochelle Aben

“Nana, pulllleeze.”

Tension filled the air, thicker than the fragrant deliciousness wafting around the room. Naturally, the young ones were more than anxious as they planted themselves on the floor smack dab in front of the oven door.

One would think they had never been fed. One would think they had nothing else better to do. One would think they had no patience.

You could barely hear the timer bell for the chorus of cheers as Nana grabbed the oven mitts and pulled out the baking dishes. It was her joy to bake molten lava cakes for the grandchildren.


Mother’s Heart by Cara Stefano

As parents we open ourselves up to an extreme range of emotions, all felt in the same day, hour, even minute. We’ve all heard the phrases “momma bear” or “helicopter parent”. I feel like a (barely) dormant volcano all the time, filled with molten lava; ready to erupt at any time, obliterating anyone or anything that stands in the way of my child’s health and happiness – I am always there, just waiting, watching, biding my time. The fiery strength of love I feel for my child eclipses the sun, Mount Olympus on the verge.


Lava Hot by Frank Hubeny

When twelve Brett told his aunt that chickens were dinosaurs. She laughed. What a stupid kid.

Brett’s mind was lava hot, hot enough to melt chaos into understanding. After reading that chickens were dinosaurs he looked at the hens in the chicken house who’d peck when he reached for the eggs they were sitting on differently.

True, they were smaller. True, they had feathers. True, they didn’t really run like Tyrannosaurus Rex.

When seventy another nugget of reality melted in his ever hot lava lamp of understanding. What if his old aunt was right? What if they weren’t dinosaurs?


Molten Lava Macchiatos by Jack Keaton

Larry liked the convenience of the corner cafe—it was an easy walk from his home. The problem was the baristas always made the coffee as hot as molten lava. Many times he asked if there was a way to make the drinks less searing, but he would receive the same icy, “No.” He was tempted to reply, “If only you had a button on that La Marzocco that reflected your attitude, that would surely cool down my macchiato,” or, “The beans are already roasted, buddy, there is no need to boil them.” Alas, he held his burnt tongue.


No Julia Child Here by kathy70

It is a love/hate relationship with a YouTube chef.   While I watch the “simple recipes” I wonder was he born with a whisk in his hand. It seems like fun when he has a smile on his face the entire time, his home kitchen is amazing and all the recipes sound like I might actually be able to do them.  The ingredients are not overly exotic.  It looks like a dance as he adds in new ingredients.  This one will taste as good as it looks, maybe.

Now to sit and enjoy my camera ready molten lava chocolate cake.


New Pool by Colby Clay

I’m finally famous in time for the world to end. I burned myself feeling my new swimming pool so I ordered the neighbors to shovel in ice cubes, but it wouldn’t cool. I was stubborn and said my fame money bought this thing so, god dammit, I was gonna swim in it.

I emerged red and peeling, from the sun or the water, I wasn’t sure. Blake said I looked hot like that and I said, “thank you” even though he definitely didn’t mean sexy. I worked hard for this ruined dream. I flipped off the sky in retaliation.


All Things Must Pass (Part I) by D. Avery

“Hey Kid. Kid? Cat got yer tongue?”


“Whut? Ernie’s fallen inta the well?”


“Jeez, Kid, set yersef down, lemme git ya some cool water. Yer practic’ly steamin’. There’s beads a sweat big as marbles on yer face, yer tongue’s all swoll up, an’, not fer nuthin’, this ain’t yer best hair day neither. Here, drink up.”

“Shanksawwahhawtthawtt!! Ow! Wattah makes it hottah.”

“Whut happened Kid?”

“Was at Ernie’s. Ate. Chili. He. Made. Ow. Hurt.”

“Oh, Kid, ya shouldn’t oughtta done thet. Thet stuff’s powerful hot, stuff’s like molten lava.”

“No shit, Pal.”

“Yeah, about thet…”

“Mama mia…”


All Things Must Pass (Part II) by D. Avery

“Pepe LeGume. Long time no see.”

“Keed! I almost deed not see you. Why do you seet in dat stock tank?”

“Ah’m still overheatin’ from eatin’ Ornery Ernie’s hot lava chili. It burned me good, Pepe.”

“Why deed you eat it, den?”

“Didja know he uses bacon? Guess I ate too much too fast. It still burns.”

“Dees weel pass.”

“That’s what Ah’m afraid of, Pepe.”

“My dear wife, Logatha, she would advise you drink lots of milk and eat bread. Dees weel cool things down eenside.”

“Good idea. Ice cream?”

“You might, Keed. Dere weel be an eruption.”


Quiet Spirits ~ Open the Gate

Write about what you know.

My initial knee jerk, gut reaction, to that statement was, “No one would be interested in the things that I know.” Followed by, “I can’t write about some of that stuff! People wouldn’t believe half of it.” 

Needless to say, I got past my inner voice with guidance from previous generations, melded with my own experiences and input. I have found writing about what I know is quite enjoyable, even with the hurdles that presented themselves along the way.

I have come across many bumps, frost heaves, and closed gates touring the trails of the four genres that I write in. Yet, the passion to share, and more importantly, preserve the knowledge, pushed me through the shin-tangle, and diversity was born.

Choosing to write in more than one genre occasionally causes me consternation. I think this comes from words pummelled into our brain from those who don’t know us, or what we are capable of. “Find one genre, stick to it, write it well, no cross-contamination, and defiantly no trying to make a name for yourself using more than one genre.” 

Unfortunately, we tend to head these words until we, or perhaps I should say I, finally resolved what works for me. I am not saying it is or isn’t good advice, but these comments proved to be nothing but a frustrating, brick wall challenge for me. Had I allowed myself to adhere to the guidelines of staying in one genre, I might not have bothered to venture as far as I have, into the modern-day literary world. 

There is an old saying that goes something like this, ‘Open the gate and let the horses out if you want to see how they will really perform.’ Well, that about describes me and my creativity to a tee. It took me quite a while to settle within the niche that let me run free with my writing. The realization it was okay to ignore the genre rules made less of an obstacle for me to pen my thoughts. I could now write about everything I love, embrace, and am passionateOld Gate about. I knew all I needed to do was stay true to my brand—something that came easy to me because of my upbringing in ranching country.

While the genre argument was happening in my brain, another mud hole opened up in the road to being published. Notoriety using name identification was certainly not going to happen for me when over thirteen million results of my name, Ann Robson, appear on a search engine. 

I sat looking at a list of books I thought I would write—cookbooks, a collection of my (very) early works, several books to include pictures I had taken, and let’s not forget fiction with some poetry and children’s books thrown in for good measure. How could I write about these varying topics using my plain Jane name? I knew if I was to become remotely successful, garnering a reader following would not be easy; yet somehow, I didn’t care. 

And that’s when the light came on! While I made a list of my first, middle, and last names in as many scenarios as I could think of, the answer became clear. I merely switched out my middle initial/name for my maiden name that starts with the same letter. It made me giddy to think I would include some very important family history in my author’s name. My name was now unique and completely me. The dilemma was over, Ann Edall-Robson would do quite nicely. 

In retrospect, it hasn’t been that long that I have come to terms with the fact that it is okay to write in several genres under the same name. To heck with what ‘they’ say about what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Again, I didn’t care, and it made my job easy—each piece of my published work must somehow intertwine with my brand. 

After eight books in four different genres and more than five decades of various types of writing under my belt, I still walk the trail of uncertainty when I come up with a new book idea and where it might fit in. As a writer, I think it is a good thing that I remove complacency with a jolt of what-if questions before I start a new project, it keeps me focused on what I believe in.

If you are new to this game of writing, my suggestion would be to just write and write lots. Try to write something every day, and don’t stop to edit, just write. After a while, and you get to choose how long, read out loud all of your work in the order you wrote it. You should see a pattern forming. You should see what you are comfortable writing about. Ultimately you might find the genre(s) you are best suited for; and, hopefully, you will get a glimpse at a writing voice growing through your written words.

For those who have always written in one genre, maybe now’s the time to dust off those pieces you have squirrelled away. You know, the ones you didn’t think fit within your current genre. You have already tasted the wide-open spaces, so why not open the gate to a different pasture and explore your options. 

Whether you are an old hand at writing, or a greenhorn, taking the plunge through the gate to write in more than one genre should not be taken lightly. Do your homework. You need to find a common ground in these genres you are about to embark on. A commonality that may need to be justified, or explained to others. Try to remember, your name is not that common ground, but your brand should be. 


Do you write in more than one genre?  Do you use more than one pen name? Is either of these something you have thought about doing but have some trepidation about opening that gate?


I rely on my heritage to keep me grounded. Reminding me of where I come from. Gifting me with snippets of past life and lives. Providing fuel to include in the writing I do about the lifestyle I see slipping from my grasp, from the world.

The taking pictures thing started forever ago, and when I found I could marry them to the material I have written, and am writing, well, to put it mildly, I think I have a bit of a runaway going on.

I am a lover of life and all things that make us smile. I write and take pictures for the pleasure of being able to share at Morning Muse, HorseWest, and my Blog at where you can also contact me.

Saddle Up Saloon; the brave of Buckaroo Nation

Saddle Up Saloon

“Hey Kid. What d’ya have goin’ fer ennertainmint this week?”

“Oh, it’s groovy, Pal, groovy.”

“Good gravy, Kid, jist answer the question.”

“Be cool, Cat, I’ll hip ya ta the happenin’s. It’s Five at the Mic.”

“Whut? Mike who? Thet fella with the band was in here a few weeks ago?”

“No, Pal, live readin’s. Shorty rounded up some folks, give ‘em each five minutes at the microphone ta read their work.”

“Oh. Thet’ll be good ta hear.”

“An’ see. Ya kin click on the link an’ put a face ta a familiar name as these brave writers read ta ya.”

“Reckon readin’ fer an audience is an act a bravery. But I kin see it as a natural part a this here ranch a Shorty’s. The Carrot Ranch Literary Community’s always been ‘bout a safe space ta write. Makes sense ta offer a brave space like Five at the Mic too.”

“That’s right Pal. Fer folks thet wanna push inta a new challenge. The other brave space fer folks at the Ranch is the annual rodeo. Ev’ry October folks kin throw it down an’ compete fer a cash purse an’ braggin’ rights. Somethin’ a bit beyond the usual weekly challenge.”

“Yep, but the rodeo’s still a safe brave space. Like Five at the Mic. Quit yer yappin’ an let folks ta the link already.”

“Okay, okay, Pal, but jist be warned, this is still all new ta ever one involved so’s it’s a might long. Next time we’ll do it diff’rent.”

“Shush, Kid, I wanna be read to.”



“Kid, I really enjoyed thet. How do folks sign on ta take part in this brave space?”

“Well, there’s Charli Mill’s private Carrot Ranch Facebook group for signin’ up: or innerested folks kin contact her direct at . There’s still spots available fer the next one which will be recorded via Zoom on Tuesday, August 18 at 11 am (U.S. Eastern Standard time).”

“Kid, I’ve sometimes heard it said thet they ain’t much dif’rence ‘tween brave an’ stupid.”

“I think there’s a big dif’rence Pal. Jist ‘cause ya can muster up the courage ta dive off the high board, don’t mean it ain’t a stupid move if the water’s shallow. Some thing’s is jist foolhardy, no matter how ya look at it. But if ya kin muster up the courage ta try somethin’ new an’ ya learn an’ grow from it, or it benefits someone, well, that’s all good. Think a acts a bravery as a movin’ forward a some kind, an’ practice fer the next time.”

“Soun’s like Carrot Ranch is a place a safe brave spaces!”


“Thanks fer checkin’ out the brave folks that took part in the trial run of Five at the Mic, Charli Mills, Paula Moyer, Anne Goodwin, Bill Engleson, Laura Smyth, Sean Prentiss, Sherri Matthews, and Geoff Le Pard. As mentioned there’s spots available fer the next one. In the mean time, what has been an act of bravery for you? Share yer right stuff moment in the comments. An’ folks, Kid an’ me, we sure injoy runnin’ the Saloon, an’ we’re open ta any many suggestions fer future episodes or ideas ya’d wanna see repeated. If yer not brave enough ta be innerviewed, jist send yer characters along, we give equal access ta fictional folk. We’ll keep ‘em safe.”


If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact them via

August 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

I’m sitting on a pile of beach pebbles like a dragon on its hoard, sand gnats swarming me every time the breeze stalls. It’s perfect weather — 74 degrees F, sunny, gentle wind, blue sky, no humidity, and frolicking Lady Lake Superior waves of sun-soaked surface water. Off to my left, a pair of common mergansers fish. A crow glides overhead and cries, “Caa-caa,” casting a shadow across the rocks in flight. The insects of early August are not the biting ones of mid-June, and I don’t mind their dance around my legs as I pick through the mineral treasure before me. Already, I’ve found seven agates and three large basalts with agates still in situ. I needed a perfect day to remember my magic.

My feet ache from the walking I did earlier. Every year I try a new pair of water shoes. Keens have the best soles, but no mesh to keep out small pebbles and sand. Various water shoes that have lightweight mesh also have thin soles. Like the pair, I’m wearing now. Walking on the rocky shore leaves my feet feeling bruised. Long gone is the barefoot kid who used to hop rocks in mountain creeks and run around on all surfaces. Now, I’m an overgrown tenderfoot, yet I can’t resist rock-picking.

My favorite finds today include the agate in situ, meaning the host rock of dark gray basalt still holds the agate formation. It’s the size of a small grape and banded in the colors of fawn and cream and milk chocolate. When the basalt had formed, lava first geysered as molten fountains that flooded and hardened into the bedrock of this region. I’m sitting on once fiery rocks as old as 2.7 billion years. Gas bubbles formed when the lava cooled, causing holes called vesicles, which was crucial for the secondary formation of agates, amygdaloid microcrystals, and Patricianite. Silica-rich water led to a mass of secondary mineralization, and further metamorphosis leached copper into the largest raw masses found in the world. In the Keweenaw, copper infuses basalts and silicas. Copper Country.

I have a hand lens that opens up a minute world of veins and vesicles to me. With enough finds in my satchel, I plop down like I am now and examine the structures and colors. Some contact metamorphic granites create yin-yang rocks of two different makeups where different liquid rocks pressed together. Purplish garnets appear in milky-white quartz. Feldspar — white plagioclase or pink k-spar — can result in large crystals in granite. Pink k-spar with veins of pistachio-green epidote is called unakite. The pink and green combination stuns visitors to the area. But it’s what formed in basalt that intrigues me most. Often I discard my finds after a thorough examination, leaving the treasure for a curious beachcomber to find. On other days, I set up beneath a birch tree and build flat sandstone cairns topped with microcrystalline gems caught in basalt. Sometimes, I return to find someone who has added their own picks.

Before COVID, I loved talking to others on the beach, learning and teaching what we know, or don’t know about Great Lakes rocks. I avoided my favorite beaches after my birthday in May, disturbed by how many tourists were coming to our shores on the Keweenaw. Yet, oddly enough, despite McLains (it’s F. J. McLain S. P. but locals add the “s” and drop the initials) campground at full capacity with license plates from all over the US, no one goes to my favorite beach. Relieved I don’t have to actively avoid people, I come here whenever I need fresh air, cool water, and hot rocks.

My MFA program is heating up. My professor is line-editing our manuscripts to callout patterns of bad habits. Things like misplaced commas. Evidently, she doesn’t appreciate my theory that commas go into a jar to be sprinkled liberally over a set of writing. I don’t know why commas are punctuation I struggle with, but I’m not alone. If you want to join me in improving comma use, here’s a basic guide from Grammarly. If you are serious about the publishing industry as an editor or writer, you should invest in a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style. According to that source, “Effective use of the comma involves good judgment, with the goal being ease of reading.”

Another bad writing habit my professor flagged surprised me, and yet now I can’t stop seeing it (which is a good thing). She told me to reduce my use of prepositions following a verb. For example, instead of writing that “she picked up rocks,” write “she collected rocks,” or “she scooped rocks,” or “she grabbed all the rocks.” Her list of my bad habits stunned me the way unakite startles newbie rock pickers. Wow, we think, I had no idea that existed. Our inclinations do exist — syntax is part of our distinct voice — yet some can weaken our writing. It might sound depressing to read page after page of such feedback, yet it is also liberating to know that as an MFA student this is the greatest attention our writing will ever receive. I’m taking in all of it — I’m absorbing it all. See? I can reduce prepositions and learn commas, and…

My prof left me with this quote and I’ll leave it with you:

“You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” ~ Juno Diaz

August 6, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about molten lava. It can be real-time, such as a volcanic event or the result of one in the geologic timeline. Or, think about making the prompt into a metaphor of heat. What is so hot? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by August 11, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

CALL FOR RODEO LEADERS: The Rodeo 99-word Stories Contest will return in October with a first-place cash prize sponsored by Carrot Ranch. As indicated, each contest is 99-words. However, the type of story, format, subject, or added prompts is wide open to creative direction. Carrot Ranch will host the TUFF (99-59-9-99) contest at the Saddle Up Saloon every Monday in October. The ranch buckaroo is looking for three more leaders who have blogs and would like to create, host, and work with judges of their choosing to host a Rodeo contest at their blog on an October Tuesday. This is different from previous contests so that the regular challenges can continue simultaneously. It will help regulate ranch traffic and can increase traffic for partner blogs. If you are interested, contact Charli at wordsforpeople(at)gmail(dot)com. There will be a Zoom meeting in late August for Rodeo leaders.

Submissions are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

Summer Geology by Charli Mills

At what temperature do people melt like molten lava? It’s 110 degrees F for the third day, and the swimming pool glistens like blue silica. Doris slathers more sunscreen on her brown wrinkled skin, rubbing the cream in circles as if softening an ostrich leather purse. It’s so hot she could burst, but the swimming beckons, promising a cooldown. Two weeks quarantined at her daughter’s place is better than self-combusting in her Airstream back at the seniors only RV park. She sinks her body and becomes a secondary metamorphic process, a volcano abating. Her bones crystalize in the pool.

Her Crowning Glory

Hairstyles might be low on the priority list mid-2020, the Year of COVID Hair but her crowning glory is still at the forefront of many minds (and heads). Traditionally, we might think of a regal character with long locks braided, curled, or teased like the heroine on the cover of a romance novel. But it could be unicorn mane. In the hands of creative writers, what might her crowning glory look like?

Those who chased the prompt this week found unique expressions and ideas to describe different possibilities. You’ll read about hair and so much more in this collection.

The following stories are based the July 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that uses the phrase “her crowning glory.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Gifts by Reena Saxena

“The Gift of the Magi” by O.Henry was a lesson in gifting. The writer’s intention may have been completely different.

It is difficult for a girl to give up her crowning glory to buy a gift, more so than it is for a man to give up his inheritance. I think about the story more now, when people are losing their steady source of income. Gifting may soon acquire new forms, as modes of celebration change.

Ria spent hours designing an online gift for her beau. Digital art is not easy, but one piece suffices for three boyfriends.


Crowning Glory by FloridaBorne

Queen Catherine loved her silver crown inset with sapphires and diamonds. She sat quietly on a smaller throne, a trait expected of the window dressing sitting next to her husband, and sank into mental soliloquy.

Her only sister had a washerwoman’s build and face. Catherine, graceful and filled with a legendary beauty, was traded into loveless marriage at 15 for a substantial fee. Women envied Catherine, but her sister chose to read, chose to be tutored by scholars, and still lived with her brothers.

Catherine had chosen the design of her crown.

Why did it seem a hollow victory?


Mrs. Brouillette’s Auspicious Adventure by Deborah Dansante

On Ellen Brouillette’s 99th birthday, unable to find anyone to climb Mt. Monodnack with, she decided to go alone.

Later, from her hospital bed, during an interview with Channel 2 News, Mrs. Brouilette insisted that her failed attempt had only to do with those awful black flies, which were particularly troublesome that year.

When Missy Jan, Channel 2 news anchor, suggested to Mrs. Brouilette a less dangerous activity for her 100th, Ellen Brouillette looked into the camera and asked the audience if they thought knitting cozies would’ve been her crowning glory or have gotten her on the evening news.


Stacking Stones by Frank Hubeny

Nature does a grander job. What we made was mindful. Besides that wasn’t why we piled stones on top of one another. We were testing each other’s patience.

I failed the test and let her set the last stone, her crowning glory, on top. They didn’t fall and so per agreement she left.

I would have told you about the arguments, but I’ve forgotten them. I only remember where we set those stones. It was out of the way. A decade later I came back. I looked everywhere.

Nature let us take our turn then washed it all away.


Glory by Pete Fanning

I was raised to think I was special. My mom liked to call me her crowning glory. She’d smile proudly whenever she said it, blind to my blemishes, immune to my mistakes. She’d look at me, eyes glazed, seeing what no mirror could ever produce.

The last time she said it was the day I went clean for good. We held hands, my tears spilling to my arm, washing over the scabs and needle marks.

“My crowning glory,” she rasped, sinking away, leaving me alone with my demons.

I knew there was a will.

But I wanted her glory.


Her Crowning Glory by Anita Dawes

She stands on the edge of decision
Beneath the pale silver crescent
Her earthly form chosen
Dark mane flowing
Magic cannot be contained
Her crowning glory, the spiral horn
Long sought after by man
One such as hers
Said to be held by Merlin
The magician, to raise Camelot
She must risk going back in time
When magic held no mystery, it just was
To find a mate, to keep magic
Between the worlds
As it had been from the beginning
Will she risk losing her magic
At the hands of some eager
Wannabe wizard
Or find her mate?


Unexpected Escort by Charli Mills

In the end, a unicorn fetched Sarah from her deathbed. She’d been hearing Cobb’s steed galloping five nights in a row, expecting he’d finally come to take her to hell. She’d lived with the guilt of his death for 76 years. Cobb’s soul would have vengeance soon. But it wasn’t the specter of the man she once loved. It wasn’t his horse pounding past her door. The unicorn’s crowning glory wasn’t flowing mane or golden horn. It was Sarah’s lovely daughter grown past the infanthood she’d never survived. Resplendent on the beast’s back, she said, “Let’s go home, Mama.”


Crowning Glory by R. V. Mitchell

Dora was the plainest maiden in all the kingdom. Some even said that she was ugly. It was precisely that fact that led to her retaining her virtue far beyond the time in which it was relinquished by her peers.

This purity, however, was also her crowning glory, for she could see and converse with unicorns.

“Oh, I wish I was as beautiful as you,” she said to Daisy, one day.

“And I wish I had your lovely voice,” the unicorn replied.

They were suddenly transformed, but Dora could tell no one – for she had become a little horse.


Crowning Glory by Jenn Linning

One evening, the national animals of England, Scotland, and Wales met to settle a friendly argument: who, if it came to it, would overthrow all the others in a fight to the death?

England’s lion went first, flashing his claws, gnashing his teeth, and roaring as menacingly as he could. Wales’ scarlet dragon laughed quietly at his non-magical cousin’s display, orange flames escaping carelessly from his nostrils as he did so. Scotland’s white unicorn simply rolled her eyes and bowed to display her crowning glory: her twisted opal horn, sharp as a dagger and a hundred times as deadly.


15 Years Later by Norah Colvin

A reunion wouldn’t normally appeal but the timing seemed right and, anyway, Miss R. would be there and, hopefully, Jasmine so she wouldn’t be alone.

Marnie inspected her reflection, predicting their scrutiny and subsequent reaction. What was once a nest of tangles was now her crowning glory, sparkling like gold. A final touch of the lightest spray smoothed every strand to perfection. Brucie, who’d once poured an entire pot of glue over her head, declaring it an accident, could — well, it didn’t matter. He couldn’t touch her now.

As she was announced, the room hushed. “Marnie? Really?” Brucie spluttered.


Coda? by JulesPaige

The instrumental of her voice, soft whispers, forced grunts, maybe even a scream or two. When she’d thought of all she’d ever done it was her crowning glory to ‘gift’ a safe arrival to her children. Everything else paled. Departing from graduation ceremonies, even the wedding ceremony – while still high on the list of accomplishments – the light of her life that brought her out of the darkest of thoughts were the successes of her children.

lullabies she’d sung
created solely from love
easing them to sleep

Still, she remained an individual. And perhaps that counted the most.


He’ll Walk for Emma by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa leaned close to Lexi to ask, “How did you get Michael to wear his legs for the baptism?”

“Reality, Mom. I simply told him I was afraid Emma wasn’t safe being perched in his lap while he was using his arms to wheel his chair and I wanted her grandfather to carry her forward when it was time for the ceremony.”

“That will be your crown of glory for years to come my daughter. Next time I think he should walk instead of ride, I’ll get you to convince him.”

“Not my doing, Mom. Give Emma the credit.”


Nandini by Saifun Hassam

Nandini, a graduate in the marine sciences, was a daughter of the Samari Archipelago. Her ebony curls and lithe bronze body reflected her ancient ancestry of Black slaves and Pacific traders.

Nandini loved exploring the abundant lagoons. Coral reefs ringed lagoons and extended into deeper waters. Her studies focused on reef growth and fragility, the impact of human activities and nature’s forces, of weather, of deep ocean volcanos.

When she won the coveted student award, “The Sea Urchin” in marine and oceanographic research, it became both her crowning glory and gave her a sense of direction in her career.


Knees Up by Geoff Le Pard

‘Aunty Madge mailed.’

‘How is the old loon?’

‘Fed up with lockdown, though she’s ridiculously excited she’s got a hair appointment.’

‘What is that all about? A hair cut? Sheesh!’

‘You’ve got none to cut. Mum always said her hair was her crowning glory.’

‘What’s yours, Logan?’

‘I’ve not given it any thought.’

‘Mine’s my knees. I’ve always thought they were rather finely sculptured.’

‘Seriously? Knees have to be man’s ugliest feature.’

‘No, that has to be elbows. Awful things. Come on, what’s yours?’

‘If I have to pick, then my intellect.’

‘More like your crowing glory, then.’



Her Crowning Glory by Irene Waters

“I need a bathroom quick. “Ahhhhhhh.” Cramp.”

He guided his wife to the toilet block worrying about food poisoning. As he looked beads of perspiration dotted her brow and her crowning glory became wet and lank.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!” His strong grip prevented her collapsing. He guided her into the first stall.

“Gosh it’s big. There’s a loo for everyone………..”

His wife moaned. “Feels like a ring of fire.”

“You’re Not pregnant?”


He pushed her back and looked. “You’ve crowned. ” He caught the baby. “Who knew the family loos would be where we became a family. Let’s call her Glory.”


Leaving by Joanne Fisher

Though her work for the company was quite pivotal, Lily found herself largely ignored there. She had worked for a number of years in accounting, but often felt she was passed over, forgotten, even taken for granted.

One day Lily decided to leave, as she wanted to work somewhere where she would be more valued and appreciated. She baked a cake for her last day of work there, to let everyone know what she thought of them. Lily believed it was her crowning glory: the cake was the shape of a large hand, with the middle finger fully extended.


Part II (10-minute read)

Tip of the Hat by Ann Edall-Robson

The quiet rumble reminds her of far off thunder as the truck tires roll over the cattle guard. She knows her way out of the blackened ranch yard by heart, not turning on the headlights until she reaches the end of the lane. Her hand drops automatically to flick on the turn signal. She laughs at herself knowing the courtesy is only necessary when headlights or dust tails are coming toward you. In twenty minutes she’ll be in the hills waiting for the sun to rise. The morning’s tip of the hat, her crowning glory, to start the day.


Clover Crowns and Dancing Rings by Kerry E.B. Black

The cousins braided daisies into crowns and rested them atop each other’s heads. “What a perfect May Day!” The girls spun, hands clasped, until they fell laughing to the ground. The world spun on without them, and their stomachs fluttered.

“Let’s find 4-leafed-clovers!” Heather found one. Then another, and another. She discovered so many she braided them into her daisy crown.

Kay scowled at the field, determined to find at least one. Instead, she discovered a circle of white mushrooms.

Heather gasped. “Fairies dance inside those.”

They left their daisy chains within.

Heather sighed, “Fairy rings are cooler than 4-leafed-clovers.”


Never Mind by D. Avery

Never mind what exactly the boys said, the gestures they made. It was rude. It was disrespectful. And how they waited for her response, grinning, still taunting. Who would treat an elder this way?

She calmly unpinned her gray bun, shook loose her long hair. She stood tall, her hair now a high wind whipping and lashing the cowering boys. She watched, impassive, her hair now a frenzied torrential rain that pelted the whimpering boys.

Then she brushed her hair, now a golden sun, a dazzling halo. And she wound it back into a gray bun, her crowning glory.


The Queen of Winter by Colleen M. Chesebro

The wind howled like a banshee as the first storm of the season battered the cottage. Niall settled into his chair for the night.

Wild dreams tortured his thoughts. The image of the Cailleach Béara bloomed in his mind. Each year the old crone brought winter’s fury. When she appeared, stones flew from her apron and landed upon the ground. These stones, her crowning glory, grew into rock formations or mountains.

The next morning Niall’s home perched on the cliffs above the sea. Nearby, a large rock resembled the ancient Cailleach’s face. There she remains to the present day.


The Wheel Turns by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Chad scrunched his brow, tapping the turntable with a desultory forefinger. The sculpture rotated slowly, displaying all its sides, seeming to delight in its own ineffable shimmer and elegance. It almost winked at him, whispering “You don’t get me, do you?”

He shook his head and turned away to pour another dram of Scotch into the ceramic mug, one of the first pieces Susan’d submitted to apprentice with him. He threw back the Scotch and grimaced at its bite.

This was her crowning glory?

Yet there was something…artistic genius he couldn’t grasp.
The student had bypassed the teacher.


Crown of Snakes by Kerry E.B. Black

Medi scrubbed marble columns, hands raw but heart swollen with adoration for her goddess, Athena.

Poseidon, smelling of brine and lust, pushed Medi to the floor and stole what she’d sworn as sacred.

Athena found Medi clutching her torn chiton to her ravaged body.

Fury seized this goddess of wisdom. Dare Poseidon violate her temple with carnal acts? Debase Her by soiling Her maiden?

Athena couldn’t punish Poseidon, but by Zeus, she’d be avenged. She seized Medi’s silken locks and cursed. “Let none desire you.”

Hair transformed into hissing snakes. Eyes steeled into weapons. From then, all feared Medusa.


Mis-steps by Eliza Mimski

Genovese’s goal had always been to snatch away a married man. She was competitive by nature. The married man offered a certain kind of drama other relationships lacked. The clandestine atmosphere, the sneaking around, the mis-steps. So far she hadn’t reached her goal, but that in no way meant she wouldn’t, and that it wouldn’t happen soon.

She had her sights on the CEO, married for forty years to the same woman, and with three grown children. Just think of the accomplishment, hearts broken, tears falling, anger raging, and all because of her.

It would be her crowning glory.


Stand on Your Feet by Sanjuna.SR

A curly haired girl with honey-eyes well-groomed in blue gown is serving the most delightful delicious desserts in a small shop which was famous for its taste and People were praising her cooking skills stating “health to her hands”

To find the curiosity of why this pretty doll is working here? We asked her name.

For my surprise, her surname belongs to a  respectful posh society yet she acts like a normal person and does not tout her background.

She is trying hard to stand on her own feet in spite of all the inheritance is her crowning glory.


Elevated Upcycle by kathy70

As we stepped off the elevator I felt a bit anxious.  I was visiting my friends family lake front condo on the 32nd floor of this building and I had heard stories about the fabulous decor.  The huge entrance hallway was a deep dark brown with floor to ceiling world renown famous artists works on display.

To me her crowning glory in this unit was the 3rd bathroom we saw. Bath mat, seat cover, tissue box and wastepaper basket all covered with mink.  Upcycled old coats rescued and remade by her mom.  So unexpected it took my breath away.


He Was Right by Paula Puolakka

The shift of the north magnetic pole has increased the leakage of space radiation. People are worried about its effect on The Global Positioning System, but nobody’s interested in health issues. The radiation is, for example, corrupting our brains and memory and increasing eye and heart problems.

In her crowning glory, as she’s trying to figure out things by using intuition and keeping her crystal skull (Sahasrara) clean, she understands even more clearly how Mr. Kaczynski was right all the time. The violent acts of today have been caused by radiation, together with the falsity spread through technological devices.


It Grows Back by Annette Rochelle Aben

They went to visit her mother. Both were in need of a haircut. Her mother was enrolled in beauty school and needed to practice on real heads as opposed to mannequins.
He went first. Drape in place, the scissors could be heard merrily snipping away. Renegade hairs were whisked off his shoulders and they pronounced him perfect.
When it came to her crowning glory, her mother was not so attentive. As her husband walked by to get a drink of water, he shrieked in horror. Her mother had replicated HIS cut on the left side of his wife’s head!


Shaggy Inktop by Anne Goodwin

Feathered frame for her face, her surprise lockdown hair was a triumph, visually. That couldn’t be said of the inglorious thicket that sprang from her crown. Sweat lathered her nape as the sun reported for duty. Fatigue in her arms as the queue formed outside the shower. Should she chop it to the bone, don a hat with her mask for the supermarket? No-one saw the back of her head on Zoom. Should she make it a feature, a topknot, a śikhā, a Hindu thread to heaven? Inspiration dawned with a fungus: inky black dye topping her shopping list!


Scat by Bill Engleson

She’d sneak into the rooms of others, paw their possessions, hold the ones that appealed, and then, rather than scurry away, hide in a closet, and listen for the sounds of other people living their lives.

We suspected she’d use whatever hairbrushes she could find and stroke her hair, leave some of the hairball bramble that always seemed to tangle her up.

More often than not, she would be discovered.

Occasionally though, her crowning glory was a sly entry, a sensuous caress of some personal items of another, secreting away, being pleasured by their sounds, and a clever exit.


Hiding Her Crown by Charli Mills

When Thomas fell down the main shaft and died, the mining company told his widow to send one of the boys or leave the company house. Jack was ten and frail from illness. Robbie was eight, and Brad six. Lizzie was fourteen and fit. She sheared her crowning glory of long red curls. No one likes a ginger, Mrs. Lewis next door would say, her mouth pinched perpetually. Wearing her father’s clothes tied and tucked into her brother’s boots Lizzie settled the miner’s helmet on her bald head. No one ever paid the poor Irish kids much mind, anyhow.


Colorful Souls by Donna Matthews

I hurried up the steps of the little clapboard house. Entering, I couldn’t help but notice the signs of neglect. But no time. I made my way down the hall and gently pushed open my mother’s bedroom door. Seeing her tiny frame under the covers, I swallowed my grief whole and picked up her white hand with my brown one.

Oh, mama

Tears falling, I consider the painting above her bed, from her college days. Colorful Souls, she called it. It was her crowning glory as an artist and how she met my dad. Two beautiful artists together again.


Acceptance As Kid’s Crowning Achievement (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid, whyn’t ya ever take thet hat off yer head?”

“Whyn’t you? Ain’t we s’posed ta wear these hats, bein’ ranch han’s an’ all?”

“Ya mean fer UV ray pertection out here on the range?”

“No, I mean fer our iconic stock character status. Ya know, brandin’, like… a look.”

“Yeah, well, now I’m curious. Let’s have a look unnerneath thet hat a yers.”

“You first.”

“Oh fer shifts sake, Kid, jist take it off!”

“All right. There, ya happy, Pal. Pal?”

“Oh I never ‘magined thet!”

“Lemme guess, a dirty sweaty hat ring?”

“Ya’ve got a uni-corn horn!”


(Part II) by D. Avery


“Why? Jist ‘cause I an’ you ain’t never ‘magined it? Someone must’ve ‘magined it, ‘cause there it is, a nubby little horn jist unner yer forelock.”

“Someone! Indeed! D. Avery! Dang her! Why in heck’s she doin’ this? Thought she di’n’t even like uni-corns.”

“Heard she’s got a couple neighbors up in them woods a hers is workin’ on her uni-corn issue. Mebbe she’s jist ‘sperimentin’.”

“Hey, stop puttin’ a hole in ma hat!”

“Jist givin’ ya room ta grow Kid.”


“Mebbe, Kid, it’s like Pinnochio, mebbe ever time ya whine an’ complain thet nub grows longer.”


(Part III) by D. Avery

“Hey Pal. Thanks fer doin’ ma chores. Don’t feel like goin’ anywhere’s like this. Uni-corn horn’s gittin’ bigger.”

“Huh. ‘Cause I know ya been workin’ real hard at not whining an’ complainin’. Mebbe thet ain’t the cause a it.”

“I been real calm, Pal, been mindful an’ grateful, an’ even practicin’ self-compassion. But when I git all like that, the uni-corn horn grows! This is some situation. Wunner what Shorty’s gonna say?”

“Shorty’ll be fine with it. Reckon she might even snort laugh.”

“That’d make this all worthwhile. Ya know, I’ve come ta accept this thing!”

“Kid! It’s gone!”


Tales from the Silver Screen: Part 3–Hiding in Plain Post-War Noirish Sight


In this series-depending on how long it lasts, for life, writing, and so many other things, are quite fleeting-I hope to look at a few classic films, give my take on them, perhaps even say something new that will have significance for today, and, failing that, try like the devil to be entertainingly provocative. I also hope to post a link or two about/to the films I examine, if available, so that they can be enjoyed (or dismissed) with full access.

When World War 2 ended, most soldiers returned home. Europe at that point was a chaotic caldron of refugees and defeated as well as occupying forces. Most of the refugees were innocent victims dispossessed from their various homelands. Cities had been devastated, many bombed into oblivion. The countryside had not been spared and much good growing soil had been razed by the pointlessness of war, the fields of blood, and the endless battles.

While there are many films that speak about life after the war, including two personal favourites, the multi Academy Award winning The Best Years of Our Lives and a somewhat similar albeit lesser known  film, Till The End of Time, a gem actually released before its cinematic doppelganger, both which follow a set of vets reintegrating into a peacetime America, there were other films that offered a glimpse into something darker, something much more sinister.

In this column, I want to take a peek at two stark little film noirs. Each offers a deep dive into the shadowy world of fugitive war criminals, villains who, of necessity, need to leave their old lives behind and assume a brand-new identity. The two films are the Edward Dmytryk directed 1945 thriller, Cornered, and Orson Welles’ 1946 suspense mystery, The Stranger.

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The Costs of War: Prices Paid, Debts Owed

Wars end. Usually. Past lives finish. One horror is over; recovery, the attempt to return to a semblance of normal, begins. So many millions of people dead. By one estimate, 70-85 million souls perished in WW 2. Of the living, many millions, up to 11,000,000, are on the move, homeless, lost.

But there were others, hundreds certainly, perhaps thousands, who were war criminals. They too had been uprooted, compelled to go on the run.

Cornered and The Stranger take a slightly different point of view to unearth, or, more accurately, run to ground war criminals in the aftermath. I have always been drawn to films that get to the heart of recovery from disaster. The social order, once firm and fathomable, has forever changed. No doubt the war caused much disruption but adjustments were made, sacrifices given, losses mounted, and always the prayer that it would it eventually conclude. And then, it did.  First in Europe, then in the East.


One Canadian celebration

There are also iconic images that capture the mood of war ending and sharing it with the world. This Alfred Eisenstaedt image below is beloved around the world. But it was not all parades and puckering.



Cornered has a heavy-going introduction. Hindered by a bureaucracy that won’t let him return to France in a timely manner to find his young wife’s grave and, possibly, a measure of revenge, the protagonist, Laurence Gerard, rows across the English Channel, scuttles his rowboat, seeks old compatriots in the ruins of France, snarling frequently as he launches his long journey to justice.


Gerard’s quarry is Marcel Jarnac, a Vichy collaborator, a mass-murdering war criminal. Allegedly dead. One of those convenient deaths where some grave doubts about the authenticity of his expiration date exists. In any case, Gerard assumes Jarnac is still alive, journeys to Marseille, then to Berne, and then, as a reward for his superior sleuthing wiles, travels to Buenos Aires. There, seemingly by happenstance, he is approached by travel guide, Melchior Incza. Is he just a guide or something more sinister?

Incza, deliciously, sleazily played by the great character actor, Walter Slezak, worms his way into Gerard’s, if not confidence, then into his orbit.

Incza conveniently drops the name, “Jarnac”. This leads the duo to a hoity toity Buenos Aires soiree where the dangers are both viscerally noirish and not a little sultry.



“A fine party. A fine party, I promise you,” waxes the salivating Incze. “Few people have the talent anymore. My friend, Herman Goering had it, for one. Before the war, of course. Ah, those were parties.”

Girard, played by former song and dance man, Dick Powell, is not a pleasant man, even though he is Canadian. As a Canadian, I find that mildly refreshing. A number of reviews of the film note the darkness that surrounds Powell’s interpretation. He is a post-war poster boy, angry, driven, obsessed with revenge. Powell’s previous film is one of the great noirs, Edward Dmytryk’s, Murder My Sweet. In that film, Powell, playing hard-boiled detective Phillip Marlowe, in a film based on Raymond Chandler’s, Farewell My Lovely, made great strides in proving he had dramatic chops and had outgrown a decade and a half of musical comedy.  In fact, the producers changed the title from Farewell My Lovely to Murder My Sweet because the book title sounded too much  like a romantic comedy.


Welles, The Stranger, begins with a shot of a door opening. There is a sign. Allied War Crimes Commission Dept. 12.


The scene is set. The film, shot sometime late in 1945, is the first to seriously address the evil of concentration camps. Clearly it was as topical as film could be.

The next few scenes get us caught up in the chase. The world is the canvas. The mood of the hunt is as visually ferocious as we saw in Cornered.

Where will we land, we wonder?

After such a noirish journey, we are suddenly thrust into a bright, sunny Connecticut college town. Harper. A bus pulls up and two gentlemen exit. There are numerous suspicious glances. The hunter and the bait. This we know. Inside the local coffee shop/news counter, a brace of locals is positioned.


The hunter, Edward G. Robinson, our Mr. Wilson, busies himself with chitchat. The Bait goes to a telephone. Next to the phone, a hand-written sign implores, Gentlemen Do not Deface Walls! Use Pad.” A call is made. We immediately understand who the quarry is. Unlike Cornered, where Jarnac is a wisp, an inkling, almost a ghost, Franz Kindler, the quarry in The Stranger, is almost immediately revealed. He is none other than a respected university professor, Charles Rankin. To top it off, on the day our hunter and bait arrive in this most tranquil of academic communities, the Nazi, and not just any Nazi, but an architect of mass-extermination, is about to marry the daughter of a respected Judge. At one point, the Nazi cat is out of the bag though it takes Mr. Wilson a few hours to reach the correct conclusion. In the middle of the night he recalls the point made by Rankin: “Who but a Nazi would deny that Karl Marx was a German because he was a Jew.”



What follows is a grotesque dance of deception, discovery, death, and dénouement.  In other words, fairly common noir results.

The Stranger is a most unsettling film. There is even a film within the film. At one point, Mr. Wilson shows excerpts from the 1945 US War Department documentary, Death Mills. The short bits shown by Wilson are difficult to watch. Even as he shows the film to Loretta Young, playing a bride who is very slow to accept that she has married evil personified, one has to be concerned about the effect on the viewer. I’ve provided the link to the 21 minute doc but be warned.

A concluding thought:

By most measures of longevity, any Nazi war criminals still not accounted for are probably not amongst the living. A few do pop up cinematically, most frequently as zombies in film of that genre although they do resurface, like JAWS, in more mainstream films.  (*See my seriously, actual last thought comment).

For the curious, Wikipedia has a list of most-wanted Nazi war criminals last updated in 2018.

One of them, Helmut Oberlander, is still in Canada. Oberlander has been ordered deported but apparently the ravages of time are saving him from that order being acted upon.


Another concluding thought:

John Demjanjuk: On a personal note (more of a personal awareness note, I suppose) I became fairly aware of the secret lives of Nazi war criminals all through the 1980’s and 1990’s when the Demjanjuk case occupied a huge slice of the news.

john demjanjuk

Demjanjuk’s journey to justice, to finally pay his unpayable debt to countess victims, was epic. It literally took decades and even then, he was permitted to spend his final year of life in a nursing home. However, it was not in America where he had lived and prospered for decades. Rather his final year was spent in Germany where he waited, and finally met, the grim reaper.

Valerian Trifa: As I wrote this post, I encountered the name of a war criminal new to me. There are of course many I know nothing about. Trifa, as a younger man, was a propagandist whose words led/assisted in a murderous pogrom against over one hundred Jews. Trifa became a cleric in the Romanian Orthodox Church and after the war, immigrated to the States where, in time, he became Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Church in America and Canada. His is a complex story and I’ll leave a link.

Bruno Dey: The day after I completed the post (I thought) it was announced that Bruno Dey, a teenage guard at the Stutthof Concentration Camp had been found guilty of 5232 counts of accessory to murder and one count of accessory to attempted murder. Because of his age at the time he committed the crime, his trial was held in juvenile court in Hamburg. His sentence: two years suspended.

The article mentions a trial for a second guard at Stutthof is in the works.

*Seriously, the actual last thought:

In 1978, Ira Levin’s imaginative novel, The Boys from Brazil, was released in film form. Gregory Peck, Sir Lawrence Olivier, and James Mason starred. Peck won the questionably dubious role of Joseph Mengele.

Though the film is more flavoured with the horrors of eugenic science possibilities and is definitely not noir, I mention it to reflect on how, in the 1970’s, Nazi villains were still alive and kicking. Cinematically, at any rate.

A more noirish film from the seventies’ is 1974’s The Odessa File. Based on a great thriller from Frederick Forsyth, we bear witness to a Third Reich that never gave up, never accepted defeat and that clearly, in 1963, where the film begins just as the world is learning about the assassination of JFK, is planning a comeback.

Fact of fiction, it is a heck of a movie.

Whether post war noir or seventies blockbuster, films that remind us about the capacity of man to commit horrendous acts of evil serve to give us a constant heads up to our responsibility to call out that evil. I think both The Stranger and Cornered represent an earlier post war effort to do that. They certainly are worth a look.

I have provided a you tube link to the full version of The Stranger but only a trailer link to Cornered.

Thank you.


Bill Engleson in a reflective moment

About Bill Engleson:

I am a Canadian author with two books, my 2013 novel, Like a Child to Home, and my 2016 collection of humorous literary essays titled Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul.

I write flash fiction, essays, poetry, and reviews and have two larger projects including my first novel’s prequel, Drawn Towards the Sun

My website/blog is




Saddle Up Saloon; Interviewin’ the Interviewer

Saddle Up Saloon

“Howdy. Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon. I’m Pal, this here’s Kid.”

“Howdy yourselves. I’m Marsha Ingrao.”

“Thet name soun’s familiar. Ya from aroun’ here?”

“If by ‘around here’ you mean the Blogosphere, yes, I’ve been blogging and writing since 2012 on my personal blog, Marsha’s Streaming Thoughts. I renamed it several times, so now it’s Always Write to keep the brand of my closed self-hosted blog. But right now I’m so excited about the new series of interviews I’m hosting with bloggers who host writing and photo challenges. Charli Mills and I had a super invigorating conversation during her interview. It’s turning my personal blogging life around! I am totally jazzed about the future of collaborative blogging.”

“Soun’s as if ya mighta had a backlog a blogs.”

“Yep, those’ll dog ya. So ya thinned the herd. Now’re ya some sorta pro-fessional?”

“I’ve never been a professional blogger or social media consultant, Pal. Always Write has resources for hobby bloggers. However, in my world of non-bloggers, my non-profit friends turned to me to help them create websites and handle social media. You can check out That’s mine. I maintain Facebook Pages for a number of groups including one for my own brand Always Write – providing resources for hobby bloggers.”

“Ya keep talkin’ brand! Soun’s like Shorty! Yer a rancher, then?”

“You bet! I live near Woodlake, home of the big Woodlake Rodeo, about 40 minutes from the big trees in the Sequoia National Park.

“Well ain’t it a small world, after all? Shorty’s buckaroo roots are in Cali-forni-a.”

“Yep. An’ we run a big rodeo here at Carrot Ranch, too. It’s a world-wide event in fact. Ev’ry October.”

“I heard about that rodeo Kid. Your Shorty sounds an awful lot like Charli Mills, who, as I said, I recently interviewed. But I guess I’m not quite a rancher like either Shorty or Charli.”

“Well, Marsha, as ya know, it’s purty easy ta be a rancher aroun’ here. Ya jist gotta write 99 words to a prompt an’ pesto! Yer a Rancher.”

“Yep. Jist gen’ral precipitation is all, really.”

“Precipitation, Kid? Yer all wet. Think ya meant ta say par-ticipation. But, yep, as ya figgered out, Marsha, it’s a purty frien’ly bunch at the Ranch. So, what’s next fer ya at yer blog? What are ya cultivatin’ over there these days?”

“Like I said, Pal, my main thrust right now is to provide a list and in-depth skinny for my readers about writing and photo prompts. Besides that I’m enjoying “par-ticipatin’,” as you say in these challenges. I’d like to collaborate with Carrot Ranch in some teaching projects in the future. Probably I should publish a few more books, probably non-fiction, where I can use my teaching talents. Why waste a good MA and all those other credentials and certifications I’ve worked hard to earn, right?”

“Well, ya cert’nly seem more ambitious than someone we know, someone who jist retired from teachin’ an’ now kin barely tell time or string three words t’gether!”

“Kid, thet’s enough. Ain’t a bout you or you-know-who. Fact, Marsha jist put me in mind a Perfesser Mills agin. Reckon thet one’s always been a teacher but now’s gittin’ it all solidified an’ certified.”

“Marsha, what’s somethin’ from yer teachin’ days that most impacts or informs ya as a writer?”

“Kid, teaching turns you into a life-long learner. I love the challenge of learning something new and sharing it as I learn. I love kids, even you, Kid, in spite of your smart remarks.”

“Pal, she remarked on my smarts.”

“Shush, or I’ll make ya smart, by gosh!”

“I live to help students to achieve their highest potential. Our Woodlake kids have accomplished so much in spite of having to overcome many obstacles. The most important things in education are love and enthusiasm. Without those your teaching won’t impact your students. The same is true of writing. The mechanics are important, but you have to have passion for your subject so that the information just bubbles out of you. You also have to care about your students in the blogosphere and consider what their needs are, then find ways to help them meet them.”

“I reckon they’s lots a learnin’ an’ teachin’ goin’ on all ‘roun the blogosphere. It was real nice ta have ya drop by the saloon so’s we could learn more ‘bout you an’ yer doin’s Marsha Ingrao.”

“Thank you!”

“Folks, if yer lookin’ fer an’ extra prompt, let’s think on ‘lifelong learnin’. Tell us ‘bout the most important, profound, useful, surprisin’ or unexpected thing ya’ve learned outside a any school settin’. Who’s been yer teacher thet ain’t a teacher? Let’s fill up them comment carrels like they was detention hall at Kid’s school.”


“Yep, go feed the hosses Kid.”





Hi, I’m Marsha Ingrao, author, blogger and retired teacher/consultant – Promoting Hobby Blogging





If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact them via

July 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

Her crowning glory was to be the purple climbing clematis, but something went awry in the potager garden. What was once such joyful possibility is a tangle of disproportions. The balance and symmetry I envisioned grew up wild children with ideas of their own. The Lemon Queen sunflowers once to wispy and whimsical have stalks thick as birch saplings and heads ready to flower a foot over mine. Having planted six, I believe I now have a sunflower woods. At their base, the delphiniums have bloomed twice despite the strangulation of the purple podded peas that the rabbit bit off at the stalks, leaving the tendrils to be dry and brown, still wrapped tightly. The cosmos and bee balm are exquisite, and the snapdragons are starting to get their blooms, and here comes the overreach of the butternut squash with tendrils like those of the Kraken. And who knew courgette plants could grow four feet tall?

But alas, that clematis has not grown into the potager’s greatest centerpiece.

I’m looking at my neighbor’s neat rows and thinking maybe I did it wrong. My thesis is feeling the same way. Her crowning glory was to be a strong protagonist, a deep setting, a hero’s journey. In the middle of things, it’s a grander mess than anything I’ve ever written. My professor provided line edits the way a horticulturist would critique my gardens. I’m just going to say it — writing hurts sometimes. Being creative and visionary feels fraudulent when the results fall far from expectations. It’s my pity party, and I’ll sit in my overgrown garden and cry if I want to. Except I can’t indulge in my bemoaning long.

I’ve got work to do. Courgettes to harvest, seeds to save, flowers to arrange in vases, and the most delicious golden globes of lemon cucumbers to eat. Maybe the crown was not the point. I have writing to submit 15,000 more words by August 10. First drafts and middles are meant to be messy. At the direction of both profs, my peers and I are charged with self-care this week. One shared an article: Why Self Compassion Trumps Self Esteem. Garden and novels are hard work. It does no good to compare ourselves to the finished works of others when ours are still in progress.

Mostly, I’m tired. Most of my son’s guests are canceling, including close friends. My heart hurts for him because many have been reluctant to say they can’t come. It triggered grief in me and guilt. My best friend was known as Aunt Kate to my kids. Wild unicorns wouldn’t have kept her from reaching out to him if she couldn’t be there. The guilt is for abandoning her kids, not keeping in touch with them, after all our wandering. Grief is such an unwelcomed guest, like smoke it permeates. It is never too late to reach out. Never too late to plan next year’s gardens with this year’s lessons in mind. Never too late to resist the paralysis of the writer’s inner critic.

Tomorrow I shall cut my hair. Better yet, I’ll make a hair appointment and mask up for the event. My own crowning glory will not be COVID-hair. I might even trim up the eyebrows that are transforming into caterpillars. Paint the toenails for the open-toe shoes. I’ll hop online in the morning with my fellow veteran spouses, and we’ll listen to one another and encourage resiliency. Later, I’ll go back out to Lady Lake. It’s cooled off this week after a blazing hot weekend. The water will be cold, but I’ll still get in and try to float again. Look for rocks again. Call for the loons. Reset. Then I’ll get back at it. Write.

Another good article to read is The 10 Types of Writers’ Block (and How to overcome Them). Each type calls for a different solution. The first is when you can’t come up with an idea. It happens with the challenges — the prompt fails to spark a story fire. One solution is to do writing exercises. The author gives these suggestions:

“Try imagining what it would be like if a major incident in your life had turned out way differently. Try writing some fanfic, just to use existing characters as “training wheels.” Try writing a scene where someone dies and someone else falls in love, even if it doesn’t turn into a story. Think of something or someone that pisses you off, and write a totally mean satire or character assassination. (You’ll revise it later, so don’t worry about writing something libelous at this stage.)” Charlie Jane Anders

I’d add to that: write the opposite of your first idea. Give your character a quirk. Reset the story someplace exotic, in the loo, or underground. Add a secondary character who is mean, or funny, or clueless. Add a sensory detail like something prickly, a whining sound, the taste of saffron. Collect details and turn them into story ideas or props. If all else fails, add a unicorn. Humor me.

July 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that uses the phrase “her crowning glory.” (Thanks to Anne Goodwin for the prompt idea.) It can be in the traditional sense of a woman’s hair or applied to any idea of a best attribute. What happens if you play with the meaning or gender? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by August 4, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

Hiding Her Crown by Charli Mills

When Thomas fell down the main shaft and died, the mining company told his widow to send one of the boys or leave the company house. Jack was ten and frail from illness. Robbie was eight, and Brad six. Lizzie was fourteen and fit. She sheared her crowning glory of long red curls. No one likes a ginger, Mrs. Lewis next door would say, her mouth pinched perpetually. Wearing her father’s clothes tied and tucked into her brother’s boots Lizzie settled the miner’s helmet on her bald head. No one ever paid the poor Irish kids much mind, anyhow.

Protect Nature Around Us

Aldo Leopold once proposed a land ethic — that we treat the environment as we would humanity. It’s not a new concept. The Native Tribes of North America have co-existed with the plant, animal, and fish nations. A land ethic calls us to protect resources and maintain wild spaces for the future. There is a balance between what we domesticate and use and what we leave untouched.

Writers resolved to tell stories to protect nature, which is not an easy task. Some turned to the past, others to the future. Most presented moments to pause and understand why we need to heed this call.

The following stories are based on the July 23, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to show what it is to protect nature around us. It can be set in any era or told in any genre.

Bug Killer by Sascha Darlington

Words never suffice for non-believers. They need to see. They all think they’re suddenly from Missouri saying: show me.

I’d tried to tell them:

“Pesticides kill baby birds.”

“We have no ladybugs since you’ve started spraying.”

“Don’t you care about the environment for your kids?”

Well, sure. They buy organic. They spray their yard, so their kids won’t get all kinds of mosquito-induced diseases because they are very good parents. They are hands-on.

Bugs? Insects?

A raised hand, a shake of the head. “Our guy said the spray only kills mosquitoes.”

I offered a nest of dead baby catbirds.


Steward by Frank Hubeny

Jim spent decades getting sick without realizing it. When finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disease he didn’t believe it. Sure he had a belly, but he felt fine. Reality smacked him and he rejected all prescribed medications. He would rewind his life’s bad habits starting with his diet.

That took time, but he lost weight. His biomarkers improved. The diet became habitual. Jim forgot he was even on it.

He stopped thinking about himself. He realized he was consuming less. Perhaps even he, old Jim, could steward the earth rather than want to eat more and more of it.


Prayer to the Nature Spirits by Colleen Chesebro

Tara heaved the last rock into place. Twelve stones twisted in a spiral around the ancient Rowan tree.

“What does the tree mean, Nanna?”

“The tree symbolizes the nature spirits, Maeve. It’s roots sink into the earth, past the Ancestors to the water below while its branches touch the sky, to reach the Shining Ones. We live in the middle realm between the Ancestors below and the realm of the Shining One’s above. It’s up to us to give offerings and thanks, and to protect the land.”

The two knelt down in the earth and said a silent prayer.


Grandpere’s Farm by Saifun Hassam

When Grandpere died, Pierre gifted the family farm to the University. He and Grandpere had discussed the matter some months ago. Pierre was the sole surviving family member. He was a marine scientist and he knew it would be difficult to manage the farm.

The farm’s apple and peach orchards were well known for their distinct delicious varieties, including two heirloom apple varieties.

Grandpere had leaped at the idea of protecting the orchards. He was very open-minded and excited to learn that new varieties of fruits could be developed. The farm would “live on” long after he was gone.


Spirits Within by Jessica E. Larsen

When I was a little girl, my grandfather told me, “Jen, remember there’s a spirit within everything,” he stretched his wrinkled fingers toward the mountains. “Even the grass and the trees got spirits, so be kind toward them. They will never fail you.”

Because grandpa was my favorite, I listened and treated everything with care.

It was during my teens when I got lost in the forest with my sister. I heard a soft voice “this way.”

When we were out, I said “thank you” and smiled to my sister. “Good thing the voice guided us huh?”

“What voice?”


Take Me Back by Ann Edall-Robson

Windrows thick
Sweet smell of fresh-cut hay
Brown Eyed Susan nods approval
From beyond the fields
Calves hide in back-high grass
Mothers lay nearby
Content, chewing cuds
Silence shattered, momentarily
The crunch of gravel under tires fades
Reflections ripple across the water
Slough grass supporting life
Cattails sway in the breeze
Rustling grasses serenades
Golden dragonfly rests nearby
A blowfly buzzes past, circles back
No hurry to go anywhere
Mauve Harebells dance
Bobbing their heads
Fingers caress sage
Savouring earthy aromas
Interlude soothes
Cherished moments, gifts
Focus, click, captured
Take me back
When I am far away


Mother Nature’s Fingerprints by Kerry E.B. Black

Biological systems are dynamic and interconnected, she realized. Each aspect leans into the next to build an overall structure. Mother Nature’s fingerprints.

She boosted social consciousness using her amassed science. Mankind, she asserted, needs to question “who speaks, and why?” Sometimes, the loudest voices preserve the wrong things. After all, people can not eat money or gold.

She became a Mother of the Modern Environmental Movement and gave voice to a Silent Spring. Her words acted as harbinger of the dangers of treating plants with pesticides.

Rachel Carson was not only my neighbor. She was a good steward to the world.


Privileged by D. Avery

They swept through like a squall, igniting the canopy, alighting on branches that swayed and bent under their weight, climbed tree trunks like woodpeckers. The actual woodpeckers stopped their work and watched, astounded at this swarm of grackles. The surprised robin watched their feeding frenzy from an uppermost perch of a slender maple before flying off. I bore witness. What appears as pillage must surely be feeding on insects invisible to my eye.

Some people say grackles are useless. Others tell me these trees block the view.

I don’t listen. I know a good thing when I see it.


Leave No Trace by Deborah Dansante

Niela spent two years secretly planning her thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. Neila’s journey began and ended in Georgia on Springer Mountain. There she met a man who spends his days clearing paths, blazing trees and leaving ‘trail magic’ for eager hikers. Neila now spends her days writing notes of encouragement to tie around protein bars. Charlie, Neila’s husband, spends his days mulling over which cable channel to add to the “line up”. He wonders sometimes as he is shouting out consonants if his wife will ever come to her senses. He wonders if Neila is ever coming home.

Deborah Dansante resides in south Louisiana with Ponder, her golden retriever. In their twilight years they are more often found paddling wild rivers or sleeping in a tent on distant mountaintops.


To Protect and to Serve by Charli Mills

Reba pointed her kayak east and sprinkled a pinch of asemaa into the breeze when the sun’s first light touched the water. Her grandson had grown the tobacco last summer that she dried over winter to fill her pouch. It became an offering to the spirits, a promise. She paddled to shore, singing to Nibi her gratitude and respect. Driving to work at the tribe’s fish hatchery, Reba passed the community gardens and the inlet where rice grew on the water – manoomin. Everywhere she looked, she saw the First Treaty upheld – to protect and to serve the precious gifts.


Bosco Verticale by Jo Hawk

Stefano lifted the heavy portfolio in his hand and swiped his forearm across his sweaty brow. A city bus whooshing past, momentarily offering a welcome breeze followed by the acid aftertaste of hot exhaust. Concrete, glass, and steel, absorbed, intensified, and reflected the summer heat.

As a child, Nonna told tales of long-ago country summers. Tree leaves danced in gentle breezes, birds sang, and the earth cradled soft blue skies.

He featured urban forestation and nature in his architectural designs. Trees, shrubs, and perennials festooned every design, and he proudly wore the title of The Baron in the Trees.


Come into the Garden, Maud! by Anne Goodwin

He showed her his outdoor Jacuzzi. She showed him her wildlife pond. She gave him a tour of her birdfeeders. He commended the pellets that kept his hostas slug free. He presented his PVC decking. She volleyed with her woodpile, a haven for hedgehogs, she hoped. The advantage of lockdown dating: exploring his habitat safely online.

She made a tisane from her herb garden. He poured wine from his well-stocked cellar. Where was his commitment to conservation? Was his profile a lie? “I never buy wine with a plastic stopper. Preserve the cork forests to save eagles and linx.”


Small Steps by E.A. Colquitt

Hoarding began when he researched, on a whim, his favourite childhood holidays. The pair of four-hour flights alone drained nearly all his annual carbon footprint allowance. Each trip itself had lasted a mere fortnight, maximum.

He’d shuddered, then investigated more. The eating would be hardest, meat and dairy being his favourite groups in the food pyramid…

He tried his best. Hopefully, the netting from chocolate coins would twist together, one day, into bird feeders. In good weather, he tended a new vegetable patch. On rainy days, he spent hours with search engines that used ad revenue to plant trees.


And I’m Still Alive To Tell About It by FloridaBorne

The first day I met her, I knew she had my sense of humor.

She’d been a military MP. After retirement, she chose a receptionist job that lacked the stress of policing soldiers.

“It’s hot in here, and you’re wearing a sweater?” she asked me.

“People move here from up north, complain about the environment, and add to the problem by turning on the air conditioning.”

“It’s essential,” she insisted.

“If everyone who couldn’t live without air conditioning fled, true Floridians would be so happy.” Her frown became a scowl. I added with a smirk, “All ten of us.”


If We’d Known by Donna Matthews

“Do you ever wish you could see the future dad?” the small girl asked her father.

“Hmmm, I don’t know, Hunny. What’s on your mind?”

“Well…if we’d known the forest fire was coming, we could have told mom. And we could have told everyone else to watch out.”

Her dad, his hands shaking, knelt in front of his now motherless daughter and answered quietly, “Sweetheart, just because we know something’s coming, and we tell everyone, doesn’t mean they’ll listen.”

Her sad eyes met his sad eyes.

“What do we do, Daddy?”

“I don’t know, baby. I really don’t.”


An Addition to the Family by Liz Husebye Hartmann

A morning breeze tripped through the back garden. Tall cornstalks shivered and shushed one another, delighting in the sleeping baby that had fallen from the sky overnight.

The woman here would find her, not knowing of the fiery, silent dragon battle of the night before. The mother’d died, but not before dropping her egg through suburban power lines to what she sensed was a place of protection.

The children, in a pancake coma, were installed in front of Public TV. Caroline headed to the back garden, to sit with a quiet coffee.

Peace abandoned, she scooped up the egg…


The Vision by Joanne Fisher

The crystal had shown terrible things. The Elder came out her dwelling. She clapped her hands and the entire village looked up at her.

“Humans are coming with axes to destroy our forest. We must protect it! All remaining archers need to go to our northern border. Falnek, take the children to the sacred Bloodwood.” There was sudden activity in the village. “Aalen, when the humans are defeated come back to us.” Aalen nodded and left with her wolf bounding in front of her.

The Elder looked over the village and her people. The crystal had shown terrible things.


That’s It by Simon

Ocean is dying, nature died animals died, it’s only few of us at 2060, how it all started?

It all started with the discovery of plastic, and our pathetic ancestors acted like they cared for environment and none of them truly stopped using plastic. Greedy entrepreneurs in plastic industry never let plastic disappear, now all our natural foods have micro plastics and here we are at the last moment of the world.

That’s it?

That’s it! Earth was destroyed by nature many times, this time it’s us, and we caused this to ourselves.

This is the end?

Yes indeed!


Plastic by Reena Saxeena

Julie holds my hand, as I’m about to fling the empty water bottle away.

“Let’s walk a little more. There must be a recycling bin somewhere.”

“Bottles are picked up to be refilled and sold again.”

“Crush it as much as you can. Do you remember how my sister could not receive medical help during the floods, and …..” Her voice was choked.

“What does it have to do with this bottle?” My left arm was around her, as I held the empty bottle in the right.

“It is this plastic at the bottom of the sea which causes floods.


Teamwork Rewards by Sue Spitulnik

The youth choir’s annual adopt-a-highway clean-up day dawned sunny and warm. Michael whistled while he inventoried coolers of iced water and boxes of sweet-smelling homemade cookies. He loved escorting the teens. There was a freedom of expression while they were outside working together that didn’t happen at choir practice. Last year they discussed the ills of littering and not showing respect for the natural beauty of their area. Gaylan had written a serious but comical essay about it that ended up in the school newspaper. Today Tessa planned to point out wildflowers and weeds that could be used medicinally.


Freedom by Padmini Krishnan

“Caesar doesn’t belong with us, Sal,” Clare said firmly.

“Don’t do this. He’d never survive the predators.”

“Don’t deer co-exist with lions?”

“Caesar is domesticated.”

“We are forcing him into domestication.”

“But we treat him as an equal…like a human”

“Humans are not chained. We should let him go.”

They had come to the dense part of the jungle. Clare let Caesar down. He licked her hands and wagged his tail.

“Nobody owns you now, Caesar,” Clare said, softly, “You are free.”

Caesar heard a howl from afar. He took a few tentative steps, then ran into the wild.


Human Nature Being What It Is by Bill Engleson

Gilpen was an odd duck.

No two ways about it.

As a child he was gone for hours.

The woods back of his family farm were delightfully wild.


His playground.

The Terrific Rewards and Unparalleled Motivation for Profit Corporation eventually bought the land.

It was never a question of would they build a swack of monstrous multi-million-dollar mansions: just a matter of when.

Until Gilpen took them to court.

“Not on my watch,” he argued.

“A Nature Preserve?” critics scoffed. “Fool! The wealthy need their palaces.”

“And Mother Earth needs her lungs,” he countered.

It was some battle.


Common Land by R. V. Mitchell

This wasn’t some Seuss Lorax or a Horton saving a clover. No, this was the real deal, the council was trying to sell off the water meadow for development. Had they considered the added run-off and flood risk? Of course not, they were trying to make a quick buck to balance the books.

Many were up in arms over it, as it was one of the few unspoiled places in the entire town, but it looked a done deal, especially when the words “affordable housing” were uttered.

That was until Mary Denning found the Medieval deed to the property.


I Love You and You Are Part of My Life by Eliza Mimski

I am seven years old. There is a large shade tree in front of the roominghouse where we live in St. Louis. It sends down its circle of shade. I sit there to get out of the sun. I name the tree Stella and I talk to it, asking it how it is.

There is a deep lawn. And the hot summer sidewalk. Overhead, the blue sky. At night, the lightning bugs.

Now, I am 73. I live in San Francisco. I water my many plants. I tell them they are beautiful. I tell them, You are my babies.


Commonalities? by JulesPaige

We had weekly meetings to contemplate more than just our navels. Each of us on screen at our own table with our own china cups. It wasn’t safe to meet together. The diversity of our ages, professions and passions we hoped would bring forth some solutions.

We all so wanted to hug a tree; besides each other. Hoping that the youth of the world would know what a tree was… in 2030 or 2040.

the future tea leaves
is anyone’s guess; action, though
speaks louder than words

We would be leaving no footprints. Just possibly a remedy or two.



Pal Speaks by D. Avery

It’s like this Kid: we got jist this one planet thet sustains us. Shush, I ain’t listenin’ ‘bout no Mars. We got jist one. So ever’one’s got ta do their part. Got ta do their part ‘cause we’s all part a the whole. D’ya see, Kid? We’re each a us a part; a piece a it, a component. Not apart. Don’t matter where in the world ya’s at, yer a part a this one world. It’s yer home. It’s yer food an’ shelter. It’s yer Mother.

green and blue Her robes
Love’s elemental colors
we’re threads in Her cloth