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Times Past: Dealing with Others

By Irene Waters

I write memoir – my memories of particular times or events in my life. In this process, through no fault of their own other than being part of my life I write another person’s narrative.

Who are the other people in our story – firstly there is the “I,” and then because we don’t live our lives in isolation, there are those people whose lives intertwine. It is impossible to leave out these other people when we recount our memoirs, but we must remember that they are having their story written as unwitting real-life characters and as such are due a good deal of respect. So how do we deal with these people?

Ideally, we tell them that we are writing a memoir in which they feature. Don’t show them what you have written until the book has had close to its final edit. Where possible stay with them whilst they read the portion in which they feature. Don’t give it to them to take away. Get their opinion at the time they read it. This is the ideal way because if they take it away they may give it to others to read and the feedback you get may not be their own. If they object to anything you have written, then you must consider the costs to you of leaving it in the memoir. Is this a person you care about and you don’t want to lose their friendship? Is the passage they have objected to necessary to the event? Can it be reworded without losing the truth? Are you prepared to accept that you might lose a friendship? Letting them read is the ideal situation but is not always possible. Strangely, for those people who have done this the majority report that the person will usually find something they are not too happy about but it is rarely the item that the author has been worrying over.

I have not given my memoir to anybody to read who I featured in it. To do so poses some problems as we are geographically removed in some instances, I have no idea where some of the people are, and one doesn’t want to read it. I have given it to a lawyer to check that I have written nothing by which I could be taken to court and sued. I have also changed some names. I have been dead against doing this but suddenly I came to a decision that for minor characters, who could be hurt by what I have written and I have no desire to hurt them, it is easier to change their names. In the author note, however, I will make it quite clear that I have changed some names. I have also changed a name to make it easier for the reader to know who the character is in the scene. On Tanna, there were some people named Chief Tom. Some names can’t be changed, such as my husband’s. He will be my husband no matter what I call him and thereby readily identifiable. I asked him if he would like to read the manuscript, but he refused. The reason he gave was that if he read it, he knew that he would be saying “you should say it this way” and be trying to get me to alter it to fit his voice. As far as what I have written about him he trusts that he already knows my thoughts. He will probably read it after it is published, but it is possible that he doesn’t want to revisit this period of our lives.

If you do or don’t give it to the character to look at, avoid at all costs, labelling them in the narrative. For example, don’t say that Rebecca was an alcoholic – show what she does and allow the reader to determine what she is. If Gary is a paedophile in your opinion, again don’t label but show. Labelling tends to reflect poorly on the author, and it will be more than the character that will dislike you – your reader will likely form a bad opinion of you. Last month I suggested that we need to let time elapse so that the high emotion we feel close to the event can dissolve to allow us to write from a non-judgemental point of view. This is crucial.

A chap called Paul John Eakin suggests that we are taught by our parents at an early age the rules relating to the telling of life narratives. These rules are, to tell the truth, to respect the privacy of others and to be aware of the normative model of personhood. The first two are self-explanatory. The last refers to who you are writing about and your responsibility to them based on their level of normalcy. For example, if you are writing about your partner, you can be much freer with what you write because the partner can respond with his or her own memoir. This is not the case with those suffering dementia, brain injuries and children. Thus the level of respect shown to any vulnerable person must be immense.

The other person that you must show consideration to is yourself. The person you are narrating is not the present day you, but he or she is capable of creating a crisis of emotion in the present day you. Just the other day I was searching for something and thought it might be in the court documents. I sat down and read the entire file which consisted of letters and court records. I thought I had dealt with our time in Vanuatu and was surprised at the level of anger and hurt reading these documents brought out in me. If you are at risk make sure you have a support system in place that you can call on if necessary – that may be a friend or professional help. I vented on Roger.

This month’s Times Past looks at a facet of life that can only exist if there are other people in the memory – family conversation – where did it happen? This also draws on your memory of place. Often by dragging back visions of particular rooms or places little stories and details will come unbidden. I hope you’ll join in, giving your location at the time of your memory and your generation. An explanation of the generations and the purpose of the prompts along with conditions for joining in is at the Times Past Page. Join in either in the comments here, in my comments section or by creating your own post and linking. I’m looking forward to your memories.

Tips for the Memoir Rodeo Contest

This past year, Irene Waters has led us in thoughtful discussions of what memoir is as a genre. You can search her essays at Carrot Ranch under “Times Past.” Irene is one of several talented memoirists who also write flash fiction, and has published an essay in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 about writing across both genres.

With the Rodeo coming up in October, it’s a good time to mention what we consider “flash fiction” at Carrot Ranch. Weekly, we write 99 words, no more, no less. TUFF includes the ability to free-write, master the constraints of 99-words, 59-words, and 9-words, and to revise those constrained pieces into a polished story less than 1,000 words. Therefore, “flash” represents a shortened word count.

“Fiction” stands broadly for any kind of creative writing. Flash fiction can be any genre intended for any audience. It can be based on a true story (BOTS), an observation, a memory, an experience. Fiction is a general term that covers a variety of techniques, including dialogue, exaggeration, story-telling structures. While fiction covers imaginary people or events, writers are welcome to base their stories on true events, too from history to memoir. What matters is the art a writer creates with words.

To further discuss differences between genres is for another post. Suffice to say that Irene Waters often leads us in those discussions. And she’s going to lead us once again in a flash memoir contest for the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo. I’ll turn it over to her to give you all some tips and a what to expect from her and her judges.

RODEO #2: MEMOIR
Contest runs October 10-17
By Irene Waters, Rodeo Leader

Memoir is a passion, so I’m thrilled to once again host the memoir section of the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest. Hoping you’ll tighten your saddles and put on your spurs and join in. Last year we had Scars – this year? –make sure that you check in at the Ranch on October 10th  when the topic will be revealed. I’m looking forward to reading your 99-word entries that tell a full story on the prompt topic. This can be a happy memory, a sad memory or a wherever the prompt takes your memory. It should be a true story given that this is a memoir contest.

Tips for the contest can be found in the memoir articles I have been writing for Charli over the last few months. Particularly pay attention to “dealing with others,” and consider using dialogue and high definition description.

I will be joined by fellow judges Angie Oakley who returns to again take the reigns and Helen Stromquist.

Angie Oakley.  Originally from London, Angie moved around a great deal and worked as an English teacher in schools as far apart as Nassau in the Bahamas and Daylesford in country Victoria. She now lives in Noosa, which she finds a lovely place in which to do the things she loves: writing, reading, thinking, talking, and walking and skyping her far-flung family. She’s written a couple of novels, lots of articles and is always interested in the work of other writers. As well she has been known to offer her thoughts in a blog at http://spryandretiring.wordpress.com 

Helen Stromquist. After finishing her nursing training in Brisbane, Helen worked in London where she met her husband which saw her living in Sweden for many years before eventually returning to Australia. Helen loves the arts and although she does not write herself, often finds herself editing articles for her family – one writer and one artist. She is an avid reader and is the convenor of a book group in Mosman, Sydney.

For those that do not know me – I’m Irene Waters, a memoirist whose first memoir Nightmare in Paradise is soon to be published. In the long road to publishing, I completed a MA, researching the sequel memoir. Until recently, when a creative hiatus hit, I have been a regular at Carrot Ranch since its inception and found writing flash a good way of honing writing skills. I enjoyed trying my hand at fiction and learning the creative writing skills that are part of that. I am also a keen amateur photographer and this along with my writing can be found at my website Reflections and Nightmares.

So saddle up October 10th will soon be here with the deadline for entries October 17th. The winner  (and second and third place) will be announced November 16th.

Rules and prompt revealed October 10, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. (EST). Set your watches to New York City. You will have until October 17, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. (EST) to complete the Memoir contest. Irene, Angie, and Helen will announce the prize winner plus second and third place on November 16. Carrot Ranch will post a collection of qualifying entries.

Other competitions:

Rodeo 1: Dialogue led by Geoff Le Pard and judges Chelsea Owens and Esther Chilton/Newton

Rodeo 3: Travel with a Twist led by Sherri Matthews and judges Mike Matthews and Hugh Roberts

Rodeo 4: Fractured Fairy Tales led by Norah Colvin and judges Robbie Cheadle and Anne Goodwin

Rodeo 5: The Sound and the Fury led by D. Avery and her judge Bonnie Sheila.

The Tuffest ride starting September will see 5 writers qualify to compete in October and is led by Charli Mills. For Info

Times Past: Cooking with Mum

By Irene Waters

My almost ninety-year-old mother rings me every night. A habit that began many years ago both to ensure that she had someone to talk to every day and from a safety perspective. Too often the elderly fall and are not discovered for days. Every day she tells me minute by minute how she has filled her day. She is autobiographically using time to chronologically map her day. When her day is complete, she asks me what I have done. I pick out bits that may be of interest to her, starting with that which I consider to pack the most punch. I may also join a few events making one, such as meeting Donna five times that day and getting some different bits of the story each time. It is easy just to conflate time (join them together) and tell it as one. I am giving her memoir and with my use of time making the narrative interesting and compelling.

Last month we looked at dialogue and high definition description as a fictive element allowed in memoir writing that is acceptable when it is in the style of what would have been said at the time. Time is another element that can be used creatively in memoir. However, there is much more to time than simply technical aspects which create a compelling narrative.

You cannot divorce memoir from time as memoir deals with the duality of time – where the narrator looks back in time to understand the past from his present position. There are three different purposes for writing memoirs. Firstly, there are the “lyrical seeking” narratives, where the memoirist is trying to come to terms with lost experience. Secondly, the bildungsroman (coming of age) that often relate torrid circumstances. Thirdly, there are those narratives where the author has an overwhelming need to write what is purely a good story. Each of these types deals with time differently. The lyrical seekers combine ‘then’ and ‘now’ whilst in the bildungsroman the past and present are separated, often using flashback strategies.

Unlike time in auto/biography, time in a memoir can be manipulated. It does not have to follow a chronological order starting at birth and finishing at the end (biographical works) but focuses on a particular theme which can take place over a long or short period of time. The narrative can be started at the beginning, the middle, or the end – jumping backwards and forwards in time or, alternatively, the past and present can be written together. Birketts, who wrote The Art of Time in Memoir: Then, Again believes this use of time is the difference between a good and bad memoir.

By conflating time, that is writing several events as one, allows the author to have a smooth flow in the narrative and for the reader removes any boredom caused by repetition of repeated events. Additionally, vivid memories don’t follow a chronological time frame and may be presented as recalled by the writer with movement between past, present, and future. Mary Karr demonstrates this as she struggles to allow the past to surface. She jumps back and forward in time creating a tension and compelling the reader to continue reading to find the answers that Karr, herself, seeks from memories which are deeply hidden.

For the memoirist, time has some other important functions. As a memoir contains both memories and reflection, the passage of time before the memoir can be written is essential, as this distance allows the events affect upon the author to become known. Additionally, it can be a difficult reliving experiences that caused the narrator such pain in the past. Distance may be needed to safely revisit the situation. Memoir can be used as an agent of healing, but I believe that these valuable cathartic memoirs are written for personal consumption only and not for publication.

Time is also an important factor when writing a memoir about other people. Memoir should never be written close to an event when we are still wielding an axe we wish to grind, wanting to pay back someone who wronged us. Enough time must elapse so that we can deal with these difficult relationships objectively and ethically. When writing people who have adversely affected our lives it is better to objectively write, showing the reader rather than telling them, allowing them to determine a person’s character through their action rather than being told what the character is.

Time can also change what we write. The culture that we live in may have changed their views on what is acceptable allowing a different version of the narrative to be told (this happened particularly with slave narratives). Time may also change our perception of ourselves. We might not like the ‘I’ of the past. Virginia Woolf wrote in her memoir Sketch of the Past “…it would be interesting to make the two people, I now, I then, come out in contrast. And further, this past is much affected by the present moment. What I write today I should not write in a year’s time.”

Having said earlier that time must pass before writing a memoir letting too much time elapse may be detrimental also. It is a generally held belief that memoir is more prone to becoming irrelevant to a readership than does fiction. As readers often read memoir to see how another has dealt with a particular situation, perhaps following the path taken by the memoirist over time or for the inarticulate using these narratives to express how they feel, as time elapses at least some of these situations may have ceased to exist because of, eg, medical advances, political change, etc., thus making the memoir outdated. Memoir, I believe, will always give a social commentary of interest to social historians and other researchers.

Time is important in memoir, and a subject I touched on slightly in this post – dealing with others is also a crucial consideration when writing memoir and that will be the topic of next months post.

Please feel free to join in Times Past.  This month we are going to look at cooking with Mum reflecting on whether our childhood experience affected our cooking as an adult. Write a post of your own and link up to my Times Past Page, leave a comment in my comment section or in the comment section when Charli posts her memories of learning to write. Don’t forget to put where you lived at the time of the memoir, your generation and whether it was a rural or city area.

April 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s one of those days that my calendar has an extended period of time and so I choose to fill it with writing. Every morning, I rise, answer the Hub’s question — “Watchya doin’ Tarli?” — go downstairs, take my probiotics, set the timer for 30minutes, and write. It  doesn’t matterwhat I  write. I give myself permission to write junk. Words help me to process, to think and  express my emotions. I can brainstorm any project, work out resolutions, let my characters talk, or describe a scene I’ve having difficulty extracting from my head. I complain, celebrate, but never censor. I write.

With entended time and ticked boxes on my list, I enjoy a good run. This morning, I wrote past and started to hunger for lunch. But I chose to keep writing. The UPS man delivered a box and that broke my thoughts. My tummy rumbled. I hadn’t yet had black tea. Soon it would be time to go help at the yoga studio my SIL is opening May 1. I almost felt finished. I wrote on.

Satisfied, I thought maybe I could  use what I wrote as a post. When I copied it over to edit and revise, I realised it was over 5,000 words. Ugh. Easier to write  a 1,000 than edit five times as much. While writing, an interesting phrase popped up that caused me to wonder — beggars can’t be choosers.

By definition, it’s a proverb, meaning that those with no other options must be content with what is offered.

But is it true that we have no other options? Who tells us we must be content? Those who took away the options? The phrases felt jarring and I recognized it as old programing from the  environment in which I was raised. I see it’s essence in the lack of compassion people have today for the hardships of others. I better understand how cleverly crafted the phrase is to let injustice stand because the victims have no other choice than to accept what is. I can imagine greedy capitalists hiding behind the proverb as if their meager handouts bring satisfaction, making them righteous and right. Take what’s left from the raping of the land — be content with your lot — beggars can’t be chosers.

While I’m not going to share my 5k mind explorations, I can say why it came up.

We are preparing for the Hub’s knee replacement surgery on April 22. He destroyed his knee on a bad jump into Grenada in 1983. It pained him and locked up after  that  but he soldiered on and the  military took no interest in his gait, altered mood, and trouble with cognition. The jump that bashed his knee also smacked his head, twice. This less than  a week after he was knocked out cold in a base game of soccer. I was processing all we’ve been through since a doctor proclaimed in 1987 that he needed a total knee replacement. Only, no insurance would cover it and the VA denied it. What they denied then, we got them to finally service connect in 2016 after we filed in 2014. I also wanted them to check his head. Something was wrong.

Almost 36 years after the injury, one that has caused a multitude of problems, the Hub is getting his knee replacement. Beggars can’t be choosers. In other words, he’s had to be content with “no other options.” And I’m not going to write another 5,000 words on what I think about that.

Because I come back to the same conclusion and three empowering words:

We have choices.

Always. We always have choices. Suspect those who say you don’t. What are they trying to rob you of? In 1862 when the Dakota tribe of Minnesota was starving, three teens chose to go looking for food. A Norwegien family who did not speak English feared the natives when they rode up to their farm, asking for eggs. Begging. But asking nonetheless. The teens didn’t set out to start a war that day. They chose to ask their nbeighbors for food. But beggars can’t be choosers, so the frightened farmer grabbed a rifle and shot over their heads to run them off. Historians can debate who robbed whom first — some will say the treaties for land favored the Dakota; others will bring up the shady dealings of the traders who intercepted the treaty money with claims that the tribe owed them money for goods. The boys that day never robbed the farmer. They asked. But in the heat of the moment, the rising anger, the sense of being born to land their ancestors once owned but now failed to feed their hungry bellies — the beggers rebelled, retatiated and killed the farmer and his family.

We always have choice. It doesn’t mean we choose well or smart. It doesn’t mean the world must be just first. It doesn’t mean we will act with justice. Accountability is acknowledging our capacity of choice and taking responsibility for our actions. Accountability can also mean deciding to make better choices next time.

Little Crow, as leader of the Dakota, had a choice to make. He deliberated over whether or not to hand over the teens to US authority. He had made multiple trips to Washington DC on behalf of his people, explaining their predicament, asking that the treaties be honored. He was told money would come “soon.” It never did. Aid never came, either. But more  immigrants from Europe crowded the  land where his people tried to adapt to farming, but cut worms killed their 1861 crops. They even adapted to the language and religion. Little Crow was Christian but politicians in power regarded them as savages. He was  leader of his starving tribe and the center of unacknowledged injustice. His ribs were emaciated. Beggars can’t be choosers.

When the anuities for the tribe never came, and the stores refused to let Little Crow take food on credit, he reportedly said, “Starving men will help themselves.” Sometimes choices are  forced, which is why the proverb tries to teach those at their lowest to be content. But it is human to rise after getting knocked down. Little Crow did not turn over the teens to authorities. Neither did he agree that war was the answer. He deliberated and chose to go to war with the US instead of hunting buffalo. During the Civil War, the Dakota attacked Minnesota and won several of their battles. They also killed many settlers, graves I have visited, battefields, I’ve seen, wondering about the fool choices of an expanding nation that pressured a tribe to draw first blood.

Little Crow survived the battles. The Dakota were rounded up — every woman, child, elder and warrior — and imprisoned. President Lincoln commuted the death sentence  for hundreds of warriors but on Christmas Eve (remember, this was a cultural group who had  adopted Christianity so they understood the holiday) 36 men were hung in front of their families and  tribe. Years later, while picking raspberries with his grandson, Little Crow was aprehended by men from a nearby town, hung, shot and drug behind a wagon with firecrackers in his nostrils for the cheers of the town who felt he was a monster for not knowing his place as a beggar.

And how did  I come upon these cheerful thoughts? It was the dilema of a bed that got me thinking of the phrase. You see, the Hub will have surgery and require weeks of home care during recovery. We are guests inour daughter’s home, and not to belittle all they have provided for us, but we don’t even have our own bed. The one we use is an antique and so tall that I have to  use a box to get on top. It will be impossible for the Hub post-surgery. When we received the list of alterations we needed make, I felt like we had no choice and that phrase popped into mind.

I corrected my thinking. I have choices. I don’t have to go without or settle for what is offered or be content with what won’t work. I looked through the local classified and did not find what we needed or wanted. I turned to Amazon and found a beautiful bedframe with sturdy steel slats and a low (but not too low) height. It was in our price range, too. It meant we would have to choose not to do something else, but that’s for later. Choices are empowering.

Our task might be less so, but I think this topic is worthy to explore.

April 11, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers.” You can play with the words, alter them or interpret them without using the phrase. Give it any slant you want — show what it means or add to its  meaning. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 16, 2019. 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.

 

Smart Beggars (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Danni overheard the receptionist say. She had stopped by the division office to resupply the fire-camp. Her grimy skin felt foul as her temper. Danni would set that uppity woman straight.

When Mavis hung up, Danni asked, “Who’s that?”

“Oh, hi, Danni. You look a fright.”

“I’m taking back the new supplies.”

“The ones that didn’t arrive?”

Danni slumped. “What will we do,” she mumbled.

Mavis answered brightly, “Beggars can’t be choosers, but Daddy raised no fool. I just sweet-talked old Jeb at DNR to find a roundabout way for us. Beggars can be smart.”

Creative Mash-Up

Who knew mashed potatoes possessed such superpowers? Sure, the buttery mashed tubers sway our senses, paired with bangers or served alongside turkey and gravy. But they can do much more, unexpected feats.

This week, writers played dangerously, pairing mashed potatoes with superpowers. The imaginative responses are out of the ordinary kitchen and into realms you never thought potatoes would take you.

The following stories are based on the November 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower.

PART I (10-minute read)

Gravy Witch by H.R.R. Gorman

I put my plate on the table pulled the napkin from atop my crystal ball centerpiece.  A tap of my spoon on the orb’s surface initiated my process to scry for criminals.

A man shoveling jewels into a bag appeared in the cloud at the center of my ball.  I curled my finger toward myself, pulling his spirit from the ball and dropping it on my plate.  It settled in the mashed potatoes.

I tipped my gravy tureen over the potatoes and watched the orb with glee as his body suffered from a heart attack.  His soul tasted delicious.

🥕🥕🥕

Super Mash by Ritu Bhathal

I sat at the table, awaiting my meal.

It was bangers and mash tonight. My absolute favourite.

I don’t know why, but somehow mum managed to make the best mashed potato ever.
Creamy, fluffy, light, with no lumps: something I had still not mastered, despite copying her technique.

And no matter how I was feeling, it made me feel better. If I was ill, the buttery mash would make me feel better. If I was upset, I’d leave the table smiling.
I don’t know why, but it was that mash. Maybe mum had some sort of mystical mash superpower…

🥕🥕🥕

Wielding Power (Part I) by D. Avery

It was Ilene’s idea to include Marge’s senile mother for Thanksgiving.

“Everyone just be whoever she thinks you are. It’ll be fine.”

Fortunately she thought Marge and Ernest were her parents. Marge would wield some power.

“Betty, I think you know everyone.”

“I see Ida brought George.”

Marge smirked. Lloyd was to be her mother’s best friend’s brother; Ilene would have to keep her hands off him.

“Look who’s here.”

Nard spilled his beer when Betty Small embraced him. “Billy! You got leave!”

Marge grinned. “Yes, your fiancé.”

She could have asked Betty to mash the potatoes but didn’t.

🥕🥕🥕

Wielding Power (Part II) by D. Avery

“Make room on the couch for Betty and Billy,” Marge commanded. “Let them get caught up.” She laughed at Nard’s desperation as he helped her mother to the couch.

“I’m your father?”

“No. Billy didn’t make it back.”

“Oh.”

“She never loved my father as much.”

“Oh.”

When everyone in the crowded singlewide had a full plate Nard spoke, holding Mrs. Small’s hand.

“Thanks Lord for these friends and all this food. Lord, I’m grateful for Betty, love of my life… I’ll come home,” he promised.

After a moment of astounded silence Ernest coughed ‘amen’ and everyone dug in.

🥕🥕🥕

Wielding Power (Part III) by D. Avery

“Marge, Ernest- epic. Good food.”

“Thank you Lloyd. I sure do miss my mother’s mashed potatoes though. These are just ok. She did something that made hers….”

“Epic?”

“Yeah, Lloyd, epic. I wish I knew what it was.”

“Marge, these are fine. A little garlic and rosemary wouldn’t of hurt either.”

“Mom?!”

But Marge’s mom was already Betty again, mooning over Nard. Nard’s uniform was just his cleanest Dickies from the dealership, but he was soldiering on in his role.

Leaning against Ernest, Marge smiled gratefully. “My mother hasn’t called me by name in two years.”

“Happy Thanksgiving, Marge.”

🥕🥕🥕

Mashed Potato Surprise by Rosemary Carlson

The family sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. She had cooked quite a dinner and he had helped. Everyone was at the table and they were both carrying the dishes of food to the table when she heard a crash. She turned around and he had dropped a large bowl of mashed potatoes on the floor, splattering them everywhere. They were everyone’s favorite dish.

He smiled, walked to the table, and pointed his finger. A lightning bolt appeared and at the end, a large bowl of mashed potatoes.

She said, “Hmm, so why have I bothered cooking all these years?”

🥕🥕🥕

The Eye of a Potato Superhero Hurricane by Bill Engleson

There we were, jawing over a cuppa Joe at Ernie’s Eats. Ernie was in a small businessman funk.

He gets that way.

“Spud, its always the little guy that gets the short end of the superhero stick.”

“I don’t getcha,” I said.

“Well,” said Ernie, stroking his chin like it was a cat, “Take dine and dashers. You don’t see guys like the Spy Smasher showing up, givin’ them what for, do ya? Nope. Too darn busy smashin’ spies. What I need is…well, you. Spud Smasher! Yeah! Spud Smasher! Mashin’ those dine and dashers.”

“Dream on, Ernie. Dream on.”

🥕🥕🥕

Captain Amazing vs Mashed Potatoes by Teresa Grabs

Captain Amazing was known throughout the universe as the one person you wanted in your corner. He had faced the mighty Balthazar and squashed the Fidget uprising in ’22. After a remarkable career as a galactic superhero, he retired. He had a soft spot for kids, so when Amy cried for help, he had to answer. He misjudged his landing and smashed through the window. Airborne mashed potatoes landed on his head.

“Not mashed potatoes! My only weakness!”

Amy’s mother looked at the puddle on the floor, then at the broken window, and shrugged. She had a turkey to prepare.

🥕🥕🥕

Educated Boars? by JulesPaige

As one of three brothers, finally living free from our adversary, I can be grateful to look out of our window and see rainbows after a rain. But we are not so foolish to be lax in our preparedness. Our larder is full of potatoes that we can broil, boil or mash. Our stash is secure.

Our superpower is knowledge. At any time our walls could crumble. We need to prepare for the slyest of villains, keep the hounds at bay and be wary of all wolfs. Especially those in overalls, driving tractors bent on destruction. We are prepared!

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Michael Grogan

Super Mashed Potato Boy looked out his kitchen window and saw the world was in trouble. There were weevils in the potato patch, and it needed his urgent attention.

There was one way to deal with such a world-wide crisis. A huge plate of mashed potato, eaten hurriedly and washed down with an icy ginger tea.

Having done so, he flew out his window and dealt a deadly blow to the weevils. Around him, grateful farmers sang his praises and the world was once again saved from potential disaster.

He went home and took up his trusty potato peeler.

🥕🥕🥕

Hannah by Saifun Hassam

With determination and extraordinary willpower, Hannah transformed the farmer’s cottage into a popular restaurant. Over her faded blue jeans and bright yellow T-shirt, her apron proclaimed “Spuds Forever!” Her magical touch turned mashed potatoes into super delicious meals.

Lunch or Dinner: beef and potato dumplings; mashed potato and leek soup; garlic fried chicken in mashed potatoes; golden fried mashed potato cakes; jalapeno veggie mashed potato quiche; and the intriguing “spiderweb” mashed potato salad bowl.

Cathy and Trish were caught in the early downpours of September rain as they drove through the farmlands. Hannah’s cottage was a warm welcoming shelter.

🥕🥕🥕

Mashed Potatoes by Anita Dawes

When I read these words this morning, I was taken back to my childhood, reading the Dandy comic. Desperate Dan with his huge plate of mashed potato with two large sausages sticking out, looking like a bull had landed there.

I have to tell you that no one does mash like Jaye does! The minute she begins peeling the spuds, I swear my kids pick up some strange signal. They come knocking from all over Hampshire, just popping in, big smiles on their faces. They know there’s mash on the go and they say it is just a coincidence…

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The Apple Pie from the Same Tree by Chelsea Owens

Ann’s mother was special when it came to food. She could scan a printed page, retrieve a container from the cupboard, and *poof* add to the mixing bowl. Later, the family would eat freshly-baked casserole or chocolate-crusted cake.

And that is why Ann thought she might be magic, too. Surely, by the same means, Ann could create with a pinch of this or dash of that.

After Ann’s first attempt, only her father would taste it.

“Ah. Mashed potatoes?” he asked.

Ann nodded, trying not to feel sick as he stirred her mix of potato, milk, and runny eggs.

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Super Foods by Di @ pensitivity101

‘It’s a special dinner, made to make you strong. That’s why it’s blue, just like Superman.’

‘OK Mom.’

Celia looked at her nine year old son as he ate. Mashed potatoes were the only thing he could manage just now, but it was a start.

Tomorrow she would add red dye as well as the blue, and it would be Spiderman to encourage him.

He snuggled down under the covers, exhausted, but he’d eaten most of what was on his plate.

‘Mom?’ he asked sleepily.

‘Yes love?’

‘Batman hasn’t got any superpowers, so please don’t give me black potatoes.’

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Super Carl by TNKerr

Carl knew he was different from his classmates. Yes, he had superpowers like all the other kids, but his gifts were more eccentric. He couldn’t see any practical applications for them.

Carl had the ability to manipulate plants. He could also transform himself into a gelatinous substance, like potatoes mashed with an electric mixer.

School was torture and constant teasing until he slathered up the opponent’s lanes at the track meet against Eastwood High. Their star runner, Flash, never left the starting blocks, he couldn’t gain any traction.

All the trees and shrubs in the schoolyard fell over laughing.

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The Time-Traveler’s Thanksgiving by Haley Booker-Lauridson

Paul watched the last glob of mashed potato splat onto hardwood floor. His eyes moved to the baseball, to his wife, to two mortified faces.

“What did I tell you about playing ball in the house?”

“Not to,” his sons answered in unison.

Paul sighed. “Honey?”

Alice obligingly closed her eyes.

Alice started awake. Darting to the kitchen, she saw her husband fussing over the turkey, mashed potatoes safely on the counter.

She turned. A ball speeding to the bowl of mash instead smacked into her raised hand.

“What did your father tell you about playing ball in the house?”

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Mo’s Superpower Mash Disaster  by M J Mallon

Mo had always wanted to know what people really thought about her so she developed a special mash infused with a truth serum. What a disaster! Mo’s cafe was now closed until further notice. No one wanted Mo’s magic mash infused with such a bizarre superpower. Who would want to be on the receiving end of that kind of damaging ability? Finding out what people really think about you isn’t great – unfiltered thoughts and comments hurt. Mo’s Mash cafe reopens tomorrow with a new menu topped by:

Tell a bunch of lies mash to keep the regular punter’s happy.

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The Super Food by The Dark Netizen:

One whiff of it, and I knew it was ready.

It was almost time for the meeting. I had promised my peers that I would cook something pep their moods up. And boy, did we all need a boost. We had lost for the tenth time in a row. Few of us had already decided to call it quits. However, as the team leader, I decided to take matters into my own hands. With my experiment turning out to be a success, one spoonful of my mashed potatoes, and we would remain villains no more.

We will become super-villains!!

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PART II (10-minute read)

Blown Cover by Allison Maruska

Anyone who thinks having superpowers is so cool doesn’t have a sister.

McKenzie hasn’t stopped sucking up to Mom today. She set the table, cooked side dishes, and collected coats at the door.

Phony.

Time to prove she isn’t so nice. I just have to make her randomly lose her temper.

I turn invisible and creep to the Thanksgiving table, planting myself behind her seat. When she lifts her full glass to her mouth, I shake her arm, soaking her.

“Matthew!”

I dart away, but something warm and gloppy hits my invisible shoulder.

Mashed potatoes.

My cover is blown.

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Taterman To The Rescue by Patrick O’Connor

Look, out the left window. It’s a squirrel. It’s a train. It’s Taterman!

Taterman. A superhero who gets his strength from mashed potatoes.

His favorite mashed potatoes are from Popeye’s Chicken. It’s all about the cajun gravy.

Whenever there’s a call for help, Alvin Wyatt becomes – Taterman.

His secret lair is in his mother’s basement.

In his regular life, he’s a struggling comedian.

Alvin doesn’t pay attention very well and forgets punchlines. He’s frequently unemployed.

The next time you need help, cook some mashed potatoes and Taterman will be there shortly.

Don’t forget the cajun gravy. He’ll respond faster.

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Mash Master by oneletterup

“More garlic!” He shouts. “I’ll do it.”
Masher in one hand. Stick of butter in the other.
“And cream.” “Garlic and cream.”

Twenty years old. Slouching. Half awake.
Scruffy beard. Stained sweatshirt.
Waving them aside.

He scoops up twelve cloves. Minced and done.
Their eyes water from the steam. Whirr of the beaters.
Minutes pass.
“Taste!” he commands.
They obey.
The garlic bite smoothed out by the creamy russets.
“Salt!”

The pot of potatoes transformed.
They watch awestruck.
His eyes brighten. He stands up straighter. Grinning.
It’s magical.
“You’ve done it again,” they cheer.

The Almighty Master of Mashed.

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Where Farmers Get Their Strength by Molly Stevens

“Grandma, what it was like when you lived on a farm growing up?”

“It wasn’t an easy life, Nick. Everyone worked hard – my parents, brothers, sisters, and hired hands. We got up before the sun, and worked in all kinds of weather – from blistering heat to frosty mornings.”

“What did you do?”

“I milked the cows, shoveled manure, drove a tractor, and picked potatoes. But that was nothing compared to the hours my parents put in to keep things going. It was like they had superpowers.”

“Where did they get their strength?”

“Mashed potato – it was their kryptonite.”

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Count Spudula by Susi J Smith

“That’s your superpower?”

Count Spudula grinned, posing with hands on hips as he awaited applause from the studio audience.

The presenter cleared her throat. ”You un-mash mashed potato?”

“I call it…re-formation.”

“So no laser vision, or invisibility?”

His smile faltered.

“No curing the common cold?”

“No…”

“What about mushy peas, or diced carrots?”

The count lowered his arms and sighed.

“Just spuds?”

“Just spuds.” He dropped down onto the armchair and rubbed his brow. ”I spent a fortune on gamma rays…changed my name legally…My wife left…”

The presenter smiled, rubbing his forearm. “Maybe next time, Gary.”

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But the Greatest of These … by Anne Goodwin

He isn’t the man she married. Not even the man whose passions she failed to comprehend. Ten hours to cook a meal consumed in ten minutes? Ten herbs and spices to flavour the flesh when one would do. Now the gourmet’s reduced to eating pap.

When the diagnosis came she panicked. How would she live with his shell when the man it was built for was gone? Now, feeding him mashed potato like a baby, she draws on the power he gave her long ago. Back when he found her, lost and wounded, and, by loving, taught her love.

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Potato Dead by Deepa

“It was the table’s mistake!” I came crying and hugged mom tightly.

“It hit me!” I murmured slowly with heads down.

“You have got the first potato on your head, Roy!”

Mom laughed and kissed the bump on my head.

When I was four years old, it was a challenging time for mom to handle me. She tells me even now that she never had to detox or diet to lose her post-pregnancy fats. All she had to do was follow me wherever I ran.

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Super Spud by Kay Kingsley

“If Popeye can eat spinach and get super powers, I can eat mashed potatoes and get MY superpowers!”

“Kevin, who wants to eat mashed potatoes to get super powers? That’s lame. Wouldn’t you rather get bit by something and turn into something cool?”

“No. Why should I have to get bitten by something?”

“Um, because that’s what happens. Duh. Mashed potatoes… so lame.”

“It’s my drawing. Stop looking!” I covered my paper with my arm. I was SUPER SPUD! A 50-foot potato with huge mashers for feet, ready to squish my brother, my red cape flapping in the wind.

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Mashed Miracles by kate @ aroused

My love for humans is so divine.
with their hearts mine does entwine
as a universal one I regard them mine

Know they have hardships to work through
by doing so they will become more true
add mashed spuds made like glue

So they can unite through adversity
know they must embrace diversity
wherever they live rural or city

Such power will truly transform their life
if for kindness and insight they do strive
they will blossom and emerge from strife!

They can develop clairvoyance and healing
if they avoid drama and stealing
live ethically dealing with their feeling!

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THAT Thanksgiving by Kerry E.B. Black

I always knew Momma was more than her lithe frame suggested, but THAT Thanksgiving I was sure. Money was tight, and winter’d set in with a merciless, frosty stranglehold. “How’re we gonna feed everyone?” I wondered, but Momma sang as though she hadn’t a care in the world. Baking turkey perfumed the air before guests arrived. Stuffing spilled from its belly when we carved. Golden gravy and ruby cranberries sparkled like treasures beside a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes light enough to be an angel’s cloud. I wept, ravenous. She’d done it. With meager rations, Momma produced a feast.

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If Only by Norah Colvin

Jake pushed the plate away. “Don’t like mash.”

Mum sighed and turned away.

As Jake stared at the potato, out popped a tiny, lumpy, and obviously grumpy, old man. He shook his fists.

Jake leaned forward. “Pardon?”

“I’m leaving.”

“Why?”

“Ya always push me away. Say ya’d rather chips or roasties. Doncha know we’re all the same—inside—only outside’s different.”

“Didn’t think—”

“Your kind—unkindness—never do. Gotta learn ta look beyond the differences, kid.

Learn ta love us all.”

“Wait—”

“What?” said Mum, turning as Jake scooped the last spoonful of mash into his mouth.

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Into the Wild by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Lizzie stared at the monitor, hands folded in her lap. The cursor blinked.

Sighing, she trotted off to the kitchen for more coffee.

Returning, she sat again and watched the cursor blink.

Blank.

A dearth of inspiration.

Even that third cup didn’t raise Lizzie’s superpower: quirky imagination.

“Wonder what the weather’s doing?’ she clicked to raise the radar map on her screen.

And there: a dense cloud of snow skating toward her town, like a sneeze of mashed potatoes.

“No inspiration inside? Then it’s outside for me!”

Lizzie rose to dress in layers, inspired enough to don a bra!

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Smashed Potatoes by Miriam Hurdle

“What are you doing, Meg?”

“Helping, sis.”

“By doing what?”

“Smashing the potatoes.”

“You do what? For what?”

“Didn’t you read the email from the Community Center. They need additional 50 lbs smashed potatoes with opinion power to serve the Thanksgiving dinner to the veterans.”

“Oh no, let me check the email.”

“I’ll do 10 lbs mixed with fortune cookie opinions.”

“OMG. That’s what it says. Let me call Judy.”

~

“Meg, let’s pick up the smashed potatoes and cook them.”

“What did she say?”

“Judy made some typos. We still can make mashed potatoes with your smashed potatoes.”

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Fast Hands (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Nancy Jane flung the bowl of mashed potatoes at Horace. The bowl bounced off his shoulder and Hickok caught it midair. Horace hadn’t even moved except, Sarah noted, his eyes had widened the way a cow might look when protesting a lead rope to the milking barn. No one spoke as glops of white, buttery mashed potatoes slid down Horace’s shirt. Nancy Jane growled and slammed the heavy oak door when she stomped outside. Sarah understood her friend’s upset with how poorly Horace had handled Cobb’s interference at the station. More than that, she marveled at Hickock’s super speed.

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Super Power Heroes by D. Avery

See how the engineer’s designing a structure to retain the gravy?

The starving artist here, she’d rather sculpt and splatter than put fork to mouth.
Her twin’s a musician. He’ll plop and slop and get every sound he can from this meal. Every fork’s a tuning fork in his hands.
The historian’ll tell you all about pomme de terre, and how the reason it’s associated with the Irish is because the English couldn’t be bothered to steal them from under the ground.

That one’s a magician, mashed potatoes disappear in a flash.
Me? I fed them on the cheap.

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Mash Flash by D. Avery

Pal, you sleepin’?

Not anymore.

Started readin’ that book, Creative Courage. Been thinkin’ on Shorty’s post.

I know Kid, it’s intriguin’ ta think on what Anne Goodwin would think.

It is Pal. An’ I’m inta the epiphany of it ain’t gotta jist be the protagonist that changes. Could be the writer or the reader- any an’/ or all.

It’s a trifecta all right. Makes sense, long as someone gits some elixir.
Pal, have you been inta the elixir?

Yep. Ornery come by, brought some product.

He never comes by.

Came fer the mash.

Ain’t corn mash, it’s potato flash.

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Bottlenecks

Whether you are slammed in a bottleneck of traffic or sitting on the front porch slamming back bottlenecks of beer, the time such moments lend a person is pause to contemplate. Bottlenecks might slow down processes or create unexpected releases.

Stories about bottlenecks vary in design as much as glasswork. You might feel the urge to wedge a lime into a bottleneck of your own as you read.

The following are based on the August 30, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a bottleneck.

Part I (10-minute read)

Commuting by kate @ aroused

My senses were being assaulted by the cacophony of others preferred listening choices. Our windows were wound down to catch any air. Driving home during peak hour was a drag, concentrating on traffic after intense work.

The main thought that was getting me through was of the sushi I’d picked up and the promise of a long hot shower. Then curling under my sheet with a good book … the kind you held and turned the pages. Electronic reading was not for me.

My wandering mind is brought back with a jolt as the traffic bottlenecked around an accident.

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Bottleneck by FloridaBorne

We waited behind a semi, unable to see what blocked the road ahead. I sneezed at the diesel exhaust and asked my wife, “Found anything yet?”

The truck moved forward a few feet, and then stopped again, cars merged from the left lane as my wife stared at her tablet. “We’ll be out of this bottleneck in another 50 feet.”

“Was there an accident?”

“No,” she sighed. Traffic moved past an area where the left lane was devoid of anything but a lone boot.

That’s all it takes to stop traffic in LA — a shoe in the road.

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Acrostic Bottleneck by TN Kerr

B eneath the dormant wheels
O f this sharp, sleek, motionless luxury automobile
T he motorway lies still, inert and unmoving despite my serious objections. Roll up the windows then,
T he heat is relentless and the malodourous exhaust fumes of a thousand cars
L ingers and mingles languidly with the
E ther that surrounds us.
N eedless to say, we should take the next available
E xit, we should find a relaxing spot to picnic; or a back road we might use as an alternative – a means to
C ircumnavigate this bottleneck, else we won’t be home before
K wanzaa, and it’s not yet Guy Fawkes Night.

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Idiots on the Road (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Ike passed cars like a Hollywood speed-chase. Danni put her hand on his knee, “Slow down.”

“These idiots on the road are going to cause an accident.”

Danni kept her opinion that Ike was the one driving like an idiot. You’d think he was chasing down Al Qaeda in a Humvee the way he swerved around slower vehicles.

Stands of pines zipped past until traffic ahead came to a bottleneck at Culvers Point. Ike swore smooth as opera. Tourists stopped in the road to snap pictures of a mama moose. Danni reminded Ike, “Remember, we’re in Idaho, not Iraq.”

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Lemons, Limes and Other Mysteries by Norah Colvin

She hit the brakes and thumped the steering wheel.

“Mummy swore.”

“Didn’t.”

“I heard.”

“Why we stopped, Mummy?”

“There’s a traffic jam.”

“Jam? I love stawbrey jam sammich.”

“Not that jam — must be a bottleneck up ahead.” Please be a merge, not an accident.

“We learned ‘bout bottlenecks today.”

“What?”

“Live in the ocean. Maminals, like us. Where’s bottleneck, Mummy?”

“Not bottleneck, Jamie, bottlenose.”

“You said bottleneck.”

“I meant — aargh!”

Finally, they were home.

“You look frazzled, hon.”

She rolled her eyes and took the beer.

“Why lemon is in your bottle neck?” asked Jamie.

“Because it’s not lime.”

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A Lesson in Trust by Susan Sleggs

My grandson’s dentist appointment was after school which meant dealing with rush-hour traffic. While sitting on the overpass waiting for the light so I could turn onto the expressway ramp, I could look down to gauge the usual traffic bottleneck. Bad news. Traffic was completely stopped. I said, “We’re going for a little ride to avoid the expressway.”

“Ok.”

I wound my way around side streets going north and west.

I heard from the backseat, “I have no idea where we are!”

After two more turns he saw familiar buildings. “You weren’t lost after all Grandma? I was worried.”

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Word Jam by Ritu Bhathal

Words.
Snippets.
Stories.
Poems.
Novels.

The ideas were just pouring out of my mind, my heart, my soul, and I didn’t know where to start.

No, that’s not right.

I knew where to start, I just couldn’t work out where to stop, how to organise the thoughts rushing through me.

My fingers danced across the keyboard, letters appearing, filling pages and pages.

Faster and faster they came, until-

They stopped.

I knew there was more to come out, but it was as if the impatience of my ideas had caused a bottleneck in my brain.

Time for the muse…

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Backcountry Bottleneck by Ann Edall-Robson

A body and soul drive along gravel roads riddled with potholes is nothing short of bliss. The gray matter lodged between the ears has no expectations other than to watch for what Mother Nature has to offer. There is no rush in this journey. It is a plethora of whoa, stop, back up moments soaking in the sights on a trek to an unknown destination. Traffic lights do not exist, and the only bottleneck to endure may be a herd of cattle coming at you on the road. There is nothing like the backcountry to rejuvenate the writing mind.

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Empty Bottles All in A Row by Billy Ray Chitwood

Those empty bottles tell a pitiful story of my life, Buckaroos!

Those empty bottles once carried many of those once-held dreams I carried around in my head, all rather noble and fitting for human consumption – for anyone willing to listen to my maudlin cries for do-overs written out on barroom napkins and motel room stationery.

Those empty bottles lit me up like a neon billboard, allowing me to show off my amazing way with the women and with words.

One thing wrong with that pitiful story…

It left me a ‘wimp of a man’!

So, the tombstone says!

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A Grain Of Sand by Patrick O’Connor

A single grain of sand at a time.

One by one, they slip through the bottleneck of the hourglass.

Our lives, measured in time is representative of those grains of sand.

One day at a time, our lives slip through our fingers.

Are we striving to leave a legacy or simply living for the moment?

Meanwhile, another life gasps as the last grain of sand drops.

A sad day for some; a joy for others.

How will people remember us; or will they remember us at all.

Only time will tell – one single grain of sand at a time.

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The Slide by oneletterup

She sees it. Poking out from under the sofa. She reaches down, closing her hand around the smooth green glass.

Just like Gramma’s! When she played the big guitar. Special for her.

“Honey, this is a bottleneck slide. It goes on my finger. Look!”

Then Gramma would smile, wink and whisper…

“This song is just for you.”

Pressing on the strings, she’d slide the glass. And sing. And fill them both up…

”If not for you…I’d be sad and blue if not for you…”

 

The little girl finds her there.

Holding the green slide. Tight.

“You found it!”

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Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams by JulesPaige

Tammy wondered if it was always this hard to buy your first home. You had to prove you were, have been and would be employed – able to make mortgage payments.

What started out as a simple bottleneck situation turned into a log jam. The red tape became like a thick hungry boa constrictor wanting to squeeze the very life from her with having to fill out form after form after form.

There would be a celebration eventually. Hopefully soon. One where she’d invite her best friends to uncork a bottle of champagne. When she finally held her home’s key.

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The Bottle Opener by Robert Kirkendall

A party goer grabbed a longneck bottle of ale from an ice chest and searched around. “Anyone know where the bottle opener is?”

“I got this,” another party goer said as he picked up another beer bottle. “Now give me yours.”

The first party goer handed him his bottle, then the second party goer held his bottle upside down and placed the edge of its bottlecap against the other bottlecap. “A little trick I learned in college, using one bottle to open another.”

A cap popped off and beer spilled all over his pants.

“Ooops, wrong cap came off.”

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Bottleneck Life by Kayuk

“Ready for the big job interview this afternoon?”

I grin across the table at Sally, “You bet!  I’ve been preparing for weeks.”

“Well, you certainly look stunning. The old ivory of the suit sets the perfect tone.”

“Thanks”, I say, draping a napkin across my lap and picking up the fork.

Startled by a crash and yell behind me, I leap from my chair and turn in time to see the waiter’s foot descend on a plastic catsup bottle sliding across the floor. Pressurized contents spew from the bottleneck splashing the front of my perfect suit with garish red.

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Trust Deficit by Abhijit Ray

“Bottleneck is always at the top,” thundered CEO in the townhall meeting, on productivity, he convened for his employees, after attending a conference.

“Tell me is what problems you face? Is it resource allocation, time management or decision making?” senior managers shifted uncomfortably in their seats, as chief goaded his employees for a response.

There was pin drop silence, till an eager beaver junior shuffled in his seat. “Idiot! Not yet confirmed, you are a sitting duck,” whispered his friend, “this is all sham. CEO knows very well, where the bottleneck is. He is trying to identify trouble makers.”

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Quality Control by Liz Huseby Hartmann

“There’s your bottleneck,” Justin nodded at the bleach-blonde woman at the end of the production line. A stack of TMPuregold Widgets sat to her left. Picking one, she held it up, squinting along its length, and nodded.

“Lorna’s a bottleneck?” His uncle chewed the end of his mustache.

“She’s slow.”

Lorna picked up another widget, ran her hand across its end, and crooked her finger at a young brunette. They bent their heads together. The younger brought the piece back to her station, smiling.

“I have lots of streamlining ideas, Uncle.”

“Tell your mother we’re not hiring just now.”

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You Made Your Bed by Sascha Darlington

First a bottleneck on the road and now a bottleneck at the charity event. I see who is causing it and suddenly wish I had a bottleneck in my hand, preferably high-proof.

I try to avoid her, but she’s holding court, her brittle laughter wince-worthy. When her eyes focus on me, her lips tighten.

“Surprised you came.”

I sigh. “I’m chair.”

She waggles her diamond before darting to my ex-. Robert glances up. Do I see regret? Perhaps the younger, improved model wasn’t as good as the original.

Jake squeezes my hand. “You look beautiful tonight.”

Mine is though.

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Lil’ Ugly by D. Avery

When he drew a bull called Lil’ Ugly the other cowboys laughed.

Bow legged and barrel-chested with a bottle neck and a jug head, he endured a great deal of ribbing. He disappointed his tormentors by walking away. They could tell they angered him but could never get him to throw a punch. In addition to picking on his looks they questioned his manhood.

As he approached the chute the others joked, wondered who was going to be on top.

They didn’t wonder any longer than eight seconds.

They knew now what he did with his bottled up rage.

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Saddleback Sanctuary (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam

Where the valley narrowed, the flagstone path disappeared under boulders and jagged rocks. Landslide from early spring. Diamante surveyed the bottleneck. He weaved carefully around the larger rocks, clambering up and down smaller ones. He paused to rest. A lark flew up into the warm sunny skies. A lizard slithered across the boulder, briefly eyed Diamante, and disappeared. No bottlenecks for lizard or lark.

Another half mile and he was on the flagstone trail again. The ancient abandoned monastery came into view. Near an open broken gate, a giant tortoise slept, its neck well hidden within its saddleback shell.

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Part II (10-minute read)

Bottleneck by Anita Dawes

Something we experience when pushing our way into a new life. A tight space, hard to get out of.

Days when the tension holds on to the back of my neck like giant metal claws.

Other times I feel as if I have been snapped back in time, trapped inside the Trojan horse with a bunch of sweaty human beings, waiting to do battle.

The sun will come back and you can move on with your life. The way ahead is clear, or am I trapped inside someone else’s mind?

Is this the bottleneck that will finally break me?

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Bottleneck by katimac

They say humans of many forms lived a long time ago. Then a natural disaster struck which wiped out nearly all of them. It was most likely the progenitor of the Great Flood stories found in nearly every culture. Geologists can point to physical signs of it all at about the same time, nearly seventy thousand years ago. Anthropologists can point to one at the same time, about seventy thousand years ago, when mankind was reduced to a small bottleneck group on the western coast of Africa. We ain’t none of us lily-white if we go back far enough.

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This Time, This Place by Kelvin M. Knight

Standing in his pulpit, he regarded one bottleneck after another: his overworked PCC; the cavalier making of tea during the service; the choir grumbling behind him; the organ whimpering far far away.

He prayed silently, swiftly. Upon opening his eyes, he spied a congregation transformed. Now they all looked resplendent in starched white collars, whereas he was a shadow, bloated and distorted, and pinched in so many places: from his wallet to his timesharing; from his patience to his love.

Realising he was more guilty than them, he pondered the complexities of daring to share this truth with them.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Exactly an Hour-glass Figure by Di @ pensitivity101

‘You need to go on a diet.’

‘Don’t you start! How can I help it if there’s so much to choose from, I want to try it all?’

‘Somehow seeing you stuck like that is doing you no favours as regards your street cred.’

‘I’ll have you know this colour is very fetching! Brings out the natural blue of my eyes.’

‘At the moment they look a bit bloodshot. You’ve probably cut off your circulation, you’ve gotten so fat.’

‘No need to be nasty. I’ll just make a wish!’

‘But that’s cheating!’

‘Ha! I’m a Genie darling! I’m allowed!’

🥕🥕🥕

Bored Panda by Deepa

Honey, does this look good?

I nod quickly thinking my way to escape.

Is this one better? She asked me.

If I nod again, I fear she’ll say, ‘so what is wrong with the first one?’

Which one do you prefer? This was she again.

Oh, darling! You look equally amazing in both.

Oh, honey! Do you mean to say can I have both?

It is a terror for spouses when it comes to shopping.

A pleasure for sales guys and a reason for more congestion in the roads and malls.
Buy 1, get one free!

🥕🥕🥕

Jessie by Kay Kingsley

It had been 3 weeks and 4 days since Mike and Jessie had broken up and each second that passed was agony for him.

He sat in his usual chair at the bar hoping to be as invisible as he felt, a chameleon basked in neon.

The bar was a loud distraction as he mindlessly stroked the bottle neck, lost in the memory of her smile and the smell of her perfume. Full of regret, his heart ached.

When she touched his shoulder from behind, he looked up and thought it was a dream. They smiled at each other.

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck by Frank Hubeny

Some say your real brains are in your gut. Bill knew his wasn’t in his brain. Sharon doubted he had any in his gut either.

That’s when she got pregnant and started worrying.

That’s when they had to move to a smaller apartment.

That’s when it looked like he would lose his job.

That’s also when he didn’t lose his job, but got an indirect promotion.

That’s also when they realized they loved that new apartment.

That’s when he held her and told her he was glad she was pregnant.

That’s when she changed her mind about his brains.

🥕🥕🥕

One Night, Both Ends of Life by Paula Moyer

One Night, Both Ends of Life

6:30: the call. Finally, that night.

“Today’s the day.” Her nephew Max, about his father, Jean’s brother.

“Did he die?”

“Yes.” The wait/weight – done. Alcoholic organ failure – complete.

7:30 p.m.: the text. “My water broke.” A very pregnant woman’s message to Jean, her doula. “But nothing’s happening.” Jean gassed up anyway.

9:30: the call. The husband. “It’s time.”

Jean battled State Fair traffic, road work, bridge closures.

10:10: Raced into the birth center. “Waaa!” On the floor: Chux pads, blood everywhere. On the bed: parents and one angry baby.

11:30: the drive home, joy and grief wedged in together.

🥕🥕🥕

Hillsborough, April 1989 by Anne Goodwin

The match was a sell-out, but progress through the turnstiles deathly slow. To ease the tension outside, they opened the gates and funnelled the supporters directly into the already swollen stand. As the game kicked off, no-one heard the protests of those at the front, the screams forced from crushed lungs. While grown men cried for their mams, kids hadn’t the air to whimper. The first to scale the fence were met with truncheons. Belatedly, the ambulances pulled onto the pitch.

No goals were scored that day. But records were broken in the numbers killed at a sporting event.

🥕🥕🥕

The Happiest Traffic Jam on Earth by Chelsea Owens

“When will we get dere?”

Sigh.

“It’s …uh, your turn to answer him, Dear.”

“Whe-e-e-e-en will we get de-e-e-e-ere?”

“I told you, Honey. We’ll be there soon.”

“Yeah. ‘Soon.’”

“You said that a long time ago!”

“Alvy. Honey-”

“I wish you wouldn’t call him-”

“No! You said we go in duh car!”

“Yes, Sweetheart. Vroom! Vroom! Remember?”

“Not vrooming…”

“You said LITTLE ride in duh car!”

“Well, I meant-”

“You did tell him just a little ride-“

WAAAAAAAAAH!

“Dear, please. That’s not helping to side with him…”

“Are we picking sides?”

“WHEN WILL WE GET DERE?!”

“Your turn.”

Sigh.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s a Boy! by Sarah Whiley

I twisted.

I urged.

Yet still, the cap wouldn’t budge.

I felt so frustrated. This liquid was yearning for release for human consumption and to be enjoyed.

It was a perfect summer’s day for a beer.

Not ready to concede defeat, I kept on trying.

The effort began to hurt my hands.

Damn this thing, I thought.

Then suddenly, I felt it.

A helpful force; working with me from the other side.

Oh joy of joys, the cap began to move!

Finally it was released, and cool liquid amber gushed through the bottle neck.

“It’s a boy!” I smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Music pulsed, matching the thump of my heart in my ears as I leaned in and gave the wine bottle a carefully planned spin. Breath held. The circle tightened. Julie Jennings’ knee touched against mine, the bottleneck now a whir of fate.

Thump. Warmth hit my cheeks as the wand settled on Julia. A nervous laugh. What now? But with a giggle Julie nudged it two more places—miles it seemed!—to the metallic smile of Christina Cash. A small terror in my chest. A gust of strawberries. Julia shrugged, winked, then shoved me off towards her best friend.

🥕🥕🥕

Chester Makes Amends by Molly Stevens

Chester knew he had to dig himself out of a crater after he gave the wrong impression to his wife, Ruth.

He settled on his strategy and said, “I remember the exact moment I knew you was the one. And though it was magic, my decision to ask for your hand in marriage had nothin’ to do with a silly eight ball.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I chose you in the fifth grade.”

“Really?”

“Remember the party at Rosie house? We gathered in a circle, and I spun first. When the bottleneck pointed in your direction, I knew you’d be mine.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bottlenecking by Bill Engleson

I peer into the darkness.

Stella’s driving.

The fog’s thicker than shower steam.

“There’s the turnoff,” I point, bumping my digit against the windshield.

“I see it,” she snaps. “I’m not blind.”

“Sorry…” I apologize, shaking my bent finger.

“Did you hurt your pinkie?” she asks.

“No. Just nerves.”

The offramp quickly turns into a one-lane cow path.

“I can barely see,” she offers.

“It’s a good thing you’re driving,” I confess. “I can’t see squat.”

Suddenly, a tiny wooden bridge appears.

“THAT,” she says, “looks flimsy. I’m turning back.”

“Can’t. Bosses party.”

“And we’re…?”

“Yup. The only guests.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Real Winner by Anurag Bakhshi

I looked down at the battlefield, and my heart filled with pride.

My fellow countryman Leonidas and his small band of 300 Spartans had been pitted against more than a million of the invading army of Xerxes.

But the wily Leonidas had taken a stand at a bottleneck in the pass at Thermopylae, and stopped the Persians dead in their tracks for three days.

And the mighty Persian Army would still be fighting a futile battle if I, Ephialtes, hadn’t told them about the hidden path that would allow them to flank Leonidas and his men, and slaughter them.

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck by Reena Saxena

“I will not give my land. The price you offer is not enough to sustain me, and I don’t have any other means to earn a livelihood.”

“Do you understand that this is for a mega-project, which will change the face of the countryside. History will not forgive you for being a bottleneck in progress.”

“History might forgive and glorify you, but goodness will not.” He signed the sale deed.

Three years later, the land purchased by the parliamentarian’s brother was sold at thirty times the price he bought it for. It helps to know about future developmental plans.

🥕🥕🥕

Slow and Steady Kid by D. Avery

“Hey, Pal. Have a beer with me. Ever wonder why bottles is shaped the way they are, with the long neck?”

“Mebbe it’s so it’s easier ta pour. But we got no glass nor class, drinkin’ right outta the bottle.”

“If ya hang onta the bottle neck yer beer doesn’t git all warm.”

“Jist drink it down fast. Gimme anuther Kid.”

“I like coozies, ‘specially handy with so many switchin’ ta cans.”

“Don’t need a coozie, jist drink ‘em right down. ‘Nuther, Kid.”

“You prefer bottles, or cans, Pal? Pal?”

“Uh…”

“That was fast. Pal’s downed from downin’ beer.”

🥕🥕🥕

Ravens

The Raven came to us through the gripping poetry of Edgar Allen Poe, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…” That raven might have cawed “Nevermore,” but that indeed was not the last word from ravens, or about them.

Writers chased black wings for stories this week. Ravens feature in the tales they inspired.

The following are based on the March 1, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven.

***

Everlore by Chelsea Owens

Once within a forest clearing, whilst I sought my heart some cheering,
With num’rous sorts of very unhealthy choc’late treats I most adore –
While I wandered, knapsack-snacking, dropping errant candy-wrapping,
I thought I heard a quiet flapping, flapping from the forest floor.
“‘Tis no predator,” I whispered, “wrapping from the forest floor –
Only garbage; an eyesore.”

Then came hum’rous Fate permitting; sending to me, most unwitting,
The view of who had made the flapping, from the littered forest floor:
Eager girl scout sitting, beaming, as I jumped up, scared and screaming –
I’m out of words; there is no more.

###

Raven by Colleen Chesebro

stealer of souls
when seen in groups of three
Goddess Morrigan’s familiar
trickster
Augurs interpret messages
by which way the bird flies
divine omens
rebirth

The crone found it hard to dispute the wisdom of the Runes. Her predictions usually rang true. If so, the harbinger of death was on his way.

The corvid flew in from the east landing in an oak tree, chanting, “I’m not here to claim your soul, I’m here to set you free.”

The trappings of age fell away. She rose from the Chrysalis shedding her sheltered state. Then, she began to write…

###

The Beast from the East by Anne Goodwin

Twirling snowflakes clot the air, a ballet best appreciated from behind a double glazed window. Those who can, remain indoors, muting traffic to a whisper, but some must brave the blizzard. “It’s suicidal,” I said. “I’ve no choice,” he countered.

A raven perches on a bare branch, harbinger of doom. He was due back hours ago. His phone goes to voicemail. No juice, no signal or worse?

Tyres crunch on frozen snow. Did I see a raven, or a smaller cousin? He’s home. He knows: a raven here’s as improbable as this Siberian weather.

###

Raven by Robbie Cheadle

The raven visited her in a dream again last night. She felt sure it was some sort of prophecy. First came the raven, silently slipping into her mind. Then she found herself in the water maze. She was in a flat bottomed boat, rowing frantically through the dark water. The overgrown foliage was so dense it completely blocked out the light. She tried to follow the shouts. The shouts were her Father’s. She had to find him quickly, she knew time was short. Every night she searched for him. She could never find her way through the sinister maze.

###

Mine Eyes by Bill Engleson

From my window, I can see the web of wires, stepping stone rooftops of innumerable lives, a distant mountain, a sky, dancing with darkness.

When I say, ‘my window,’ I mean Room 602 of County General.

I’m here temporarily.

Not by choice.

Strapped in.

Unvisited.

Tube fed.

My eyes, worn, tearless, face the window.

I notice them.

They arrive in twos and threes.

They land deftly on the wires.

They land in rows on the rooftops.

They occupy the darkening sky.

Crows. Ravens. Seagulls. Birds of many feathers.

A collusion of ravenous fowl.

A Hitchcockian horror come full circle.

###

Raven by Nicole

A shadow crosses the windshield.  I look up – a raven looks back over its shoulder. “Follow me” it says. I think I want to go back to my tent, forget the world for a few more days. But something makes me follow the raven.

Out of the dark woods men emerge, blood on their hands. Swastikas on their rifles, a Klu they are not shooting for food.

Down the mountain the raven leads, through New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, around the Beltway. It lands atop a white dome.

Below, the streets are full of righteous children chanting “never more.”

###

Raven by joem18b

A raven adopted me at my cabin in the north woods. I named him Edgar. We had a casual relationship, based on food and togetherness.

Edgar roamed the woods at will. One day, he brought home a crow, whom I named Allan.

Allan generally gave me a wide berth, unlike Edgar, who would perch on my shoulder. Allan and I competed for Edgar’s affections. I sensed that Allan was gradually winning.

When the two birds built a nest together and Allan laid eggs in it, I changed her name to Ellen.

The hybrid babies took me for their godfather.

###

Raven the Midwife by Paula Moyer

When Jean was pregnant with Lydia, she binge-read the previous decade’s literature on the childbirth reform pioneers Those women raised their fists for things the things that were standard for the next generation.

Jean loved reading about the rebel midwives, daring to help women have their babies at home. Her favorite was Raven, a lay midwife in California. Her hair was as black as the feathers of her bird namesake. At one chapter’s end, Raven, surrounded by sister-midwives, gave birth to her youngest child.

Jean was planning a hospital birth. But when Lydia came, Jean hoped to channel Raven.

###

Raven by Pensitivity

The pain was excruciating, and she was alone and afraid.
Breathe. Short pants.
With a final push, she delivered her child into the world.
Spent, she looked into her newborn’s face, then wrapped it to her.
The bird was the last thing she saw.

The poacher believed both to be dead until the babe started to cry.
The girl couldn’t have been more than fifteen. Undernourished, she didn’t stand a chance.
A bird circled overhead, dark against the blue sky.
The child had jet black hair and blue eyes.
‘I’ll call you Raven,’ he whispered and took her home.

###

A Raven’s View by calmkkate

Got a circuit I do most days
farmhouse near the river
pensioner’s balcony in town
park at lunch time is a sure bet!
Basically I cruise where I can get
the juiciest morsels, easier than
hunting for myself if these daft
humans want to provide but
road kill is still my favourite
fresh eyes you can never regret
they beat the packaged meat
These kind folk who feed me
have no real idea of the tasty
joy a fresh kill provides us
No idea why they need such
big nests and it must be awful
not to fly free!

###

Seeker by Michael Fishman

The fortune-teller extended a bony hand toward me. Thin translucent fingers pressed against my chest sending a chill into me.

She pulled back and raised her hand and was holding an amorphous black glob in her palm. “This,” she said. “Is what lives inside you.”

I frowned.

“This means you need to clean your spirit; your soul.” She explained. The fortune-teller closed her hand and the bubbling image evaporated.

“How?”

A thin smile spread across her wizened face. “Find your guide.”

Outside, squinting against the sun, I saw the raven, perched on the light pole, looking down at me.

###

Bran’s Blessings by Jan Malique

He sits on the branch, looking at me with one eye and then the other, looks between two worlds, that of the living and the dead.

A Messenger with preternatural sight and deep wisdom. What news do you bring from the Otherworld Blessed Raven?

The Cauldron of Rebirth appears, invites exploration. Again I ask, what news do you bring from the Otherworld Blessed Raven?

“Their Rebirth” he mutters.

I look in your eyes and only see the unknown and secrets buried within secrets. You give me sight of things only dreamed of and utter legends half forgotten.

###

A Raven Speaks by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“What did you see at the North Falls, Silas?” Sylvi looked into his dark eye.

He searched for words. His head teemed with questions and sensations. Few people gave him his due, mistaking him for his smaller-brained, raucous cousins. No mind. He and Sylvi understood each other, having traveled many miles together. He shook his feathery black beard.

“Who kidnapped Maeve?” she stroked a finger down his hooked beak, to calm and center him.

Ruffling his wings, he stretched his neck and croaked, “Wyatt!”

Sylvi straightened, laughing in relief. No harm done, then. Wyatt and Maeve were already betrothed.

###

Raven by EluminoraCreations

Enveloped in disguise, Nathaniel listened. Though he could transform well for an apprentice his age, he was less skilled at ravenspeak. Besides that, the ravens were talking over each other as usual. He had to concentrate hard in order to understand anything. His heart, deep under a thick layer of black feathers, pounded so hard he feared they would notice. But his master had ordered him to get the facts of their conspiracy and to come back alive.

Assasination. War. Three days. He launched himself into the air. He had heard the words that no one wanted to hear.

###

All’s Well that Ends Well by Anurag Bakhshi

The raven-haired beauty has stolen my heart
And made a hopeless romantic out of a crusty old fart

Too late have I realized this, I squarely blame my ego

If I had even an iota of sense, I wouldn’t have let her go

She came by last night, and fondly bid me adieu
I poured my heart out to her then, hoping she’d say I Do
But just like the inhabitants of Spanish mountains would find a downpour surprising
I was thunderstruck when I found out that my Eliza was now the Fair Lady of my friend Colonel Pickering

###

Messanger of Doom by Deborah A. Bowman

Tell Me, What Lies You Bring, Raven?

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night

A golden sun was shining

But the color wasn’t right

Too bright, too orange, too blinding

The coarseness of the beast

Not fit to be a craven fowl

His beak open, demanding a feast

Nothing to quench his howl

Not a bird of prey

A large animal, depraved

He does not fly or soar

His voice, a primal roar

He stalks my garden walk

On torn barren legs

No feathers, just tangled dregs

Like a monstrous wild cat

Screaming too loud!

I fall as my heart shivered

My breath stops … message delivered

###

The Ravens by Michael Grogan

The Raven family lived two doors up from me. They were an unhappy lot dealing with not only history but mythology as well. Raven’s were a known symbol of bad luck, foretellers of death and had been written about in Shakespeare’s plays in the most disparaging way.

They once took a holiday to the Tower of London where they attempted to release the captive ravens much to the horror of the guards.

Life was a never-ending series of trials for the Ravens, no one liked to rub shoulders with them and you never stood near them at a funeral.

###

The Raven by Stephen Lodge

We lived in London, close to the Tower. They told us all about it at school. Our parents told us.

If the ravens fly off,
The Tower Of London will crumble and fall,
There will be nothing left,
The Crown Jewels will be gone and all.

We peered over the wall and saw the ravens in the Tower grounds still there. To this day, remain they do, though no carrion keeps them there. Not since the Last Executioner was himself beheaded by Madaxe the Saxon around 1115, although some say it was as late as two in the afternoon.

###

Raven by Ritu Bhathal

“It is a worry indeed, Your Majesty, yes. We’ve had to sack three of them this year, and getting decent replacements, well that is an increasingly tough task.”

Beefeater Chambers looked out of the window, whilst speaking to the Queen on the Royal telephone.

The requirement was six ravens to be guarding the Tower of London at any one time, or the Tower and Kingdom would fall, and this new generation, well they were useless.

They didn’t have the spunk of their ancestors, calling in sick all the time, too busy posing for the tourists and Instagram selfies.

Really!

###

Giving Him the Bird by Geoff Le Pard

‘Bloody parakeets, Logan. Pushing out our native birds.’

‘They’re pretty, Morgan.’

‘They’re foreign. They’re frightening the sparrows and robins. It ain’t natural.’

‘So what’s the solution?’

‘Stop these foreigners coming in, taking our seeds and nests. Keep the proper British birds. They’ll not fly away once we get rid of the immigrants.’

‘Like the ravens?’

‘What?’

‘The ravens. At the Tower of London. They clip their wings to make sure they stay.’

‘That’s barbaric. Why?’

‘If the ravens leave the Tower, England falls.’

‘Whose idea was that?’

‘The Normans, I think.’

‘Bloody French, coming over here, taking our crown…’

###

Marry Me, Jane! by Luccia Gray

‘Soon I shall be a bridegroom,’ said Mr. Rochester.

Jane looked down at her plain, governess dress and remembered Blanche Ingram’s extravagant clothes, noble features and glossy, raven hair.

‘I’ll leave at once. Miss Ingram will have plans for Adele.’

Jane refused to witness the man she loved marry a beautiful, yet unworthy gold-digger.

‘You would have me marry that frivolous woman?’ Rochester shook his head. ‘You think so little of me, Jane? I ask you to pass through life at my side as my best earthly companion.’

Rochester kissed her hand. ‘Jane, say Edward I will marry you.’

###

A Thousand Times…by Anita Dawes & Jay Marie

Blue eyes look back at me from the puddle I drink from, my feathers shimmer as the water moves. I know myself and remember that I have died a thousand times.

If I could speak, I would tell you the tale of my many lives. I come back from the Summerlands, I am the white feather of legend and my coming was foretold. I shall bring back the old magic.

Scavenger they call me. My wings clipped, I guard the Tower lest it should fall.

I am the white RAVEN.

###

The Dream by Pete Fanning

Dinner was lively with song and laughter. In the spirit, I allowed myself to smile.

“Oney?” Mrs. Wilks’ voice like a lash.

“Ma’am?”

“What has gotten into you?”

I set my eyes down. “A dream, Ma’am.”

Mrs. Wilks’ eyes flared, her mouth tightened. “Of what did you dream, Oney?”

It wasn’t enough for her to own me. She wanted my dreams, too.

“Oney?”

I told her I’d dreamed of ravens. Or crows. Anything but the Queen Mother and son—the future ruler of the kingdom.

Mrs. Wilks waved me off, talking birds and primitive culture.

###

American Royalty by Charli Mills

Cory grabbed bags of Doritos, kissing his wife before she retreated to the mall with their daughter “Drive safe with the princess.”

He grinned, now king of his castle with a tv remote scepter. A few buddies arrived with prerequisite beer to gain entry. Cory illuminated the big-screen. Unfettered cheers rose — no work, no church, no wives. At least for four quarters.

Breaking News.

Another shooting. Cory dropped his beer. Obvious as a black raven against white snow, he recognized his wife’s purse and sprawled hair. Pools of ruby and brass surrounded her head like an American crown.

###

Why? by D. Avery

Cronk! Raven’s call. “Diet is varied and opportunistic”. Cronk!, announcing carrion. Big black bird of varied reputations, mythical, dark. Cronk! Associated with death.

Why? Raven, not hawk nor dove, just a witness, an opportunistic feeder. Raven hears the gunshots, raven flies in, watches, waits.

With each bullet fired

Obliterated childhood

His own soul fading

To himself brings brutal death

Innocence is carrion.

Cronk! Raven calls in her family, teaches them to thrive. They, opportunistic feeders, learn to listen for the gunshots. Carrion eaters do not wonder at the source, do not wonder why there are so many fallen children.

###

Act of Congress by Molly Stevens

Dorothy abandoned her dishwashing to view the spectacle outside her kitchen window. A bald eagle circled overhead, closing in on a raven’s nest in the crotch of the big pine tree.

There must be babies in that nest.

She shuddered at the vulnerability of the chicks, on the menu for an overwhelming predator. Returning to a stack of pots and pans, she sighed and looked away from the brutal drama.

The clamor of angry birds reclaimed her attention. They waged a riotous protest, and the ravenous eagle retreated.

No mass murder today. Babies saved by an act of congress.

###

Mr Craven by Juliet Nubel

The whole school knew him as Raven. It was the way his black cloak flew behind him as he stormed along the corridors, screeching as he passed.

“Be quiet!” Don’t run!” Stop laughing!”

Never a smile or a nod. Just those piercing eyes staring down his crooked beak of a nose.

In class he hit us with his ruler, slapping hard on the backs of hands or legs. He brought it down so hard on my head one day that it drew blood. He looked pleased, not ashamed.

His real name was Craven. The extra C stood for Cruel.

###

Freedom by Kay Kingsley

Paralyzed, I laid in bed, unable to move even to scratch my nose. If I tried hard not to think about it I kept that imminent feeling of insanity at bay. I didn’t look at the calendar to know the date. I didn’t care anymore. Every day was the same. The godawful same. Gazing out the window tugged at my heart. I couldn’t see trees, houses, or even people. Only gray and freedom flying. Black ravens. Carrying the invisible strings to my heart, like dark dreams, my weighted freedom. I was jealous of birds… so I set them free.

###

Sign From God by Heather Gonzalez

“God, please show me a sign.”

Sam prayed as Katherine attempted to make a fire. They had been lost in the woods for days and hunger was really beginning to set in. Being a former girl scout meant that Katherine felt much more confident of their survival than he did.

“It is summer. Why do we need a fire?” Sam gripped.

Out of nowhere, a raven hit the ground hard in front of Sam. He knew it was a sign from God but was it good or bad? Before we could decide, Katherine picked it up.

“Oh good. Dinner.”

###

Black-Winged Messenger by Sarah Whiley

“They are the black-winged messengers from beyond,” my friend Bridget decreed, mystically.

I rolled my eyes. “You know they’re a real problem on farms?” I countered.

I remembered my farming mate telling me how the ravens particularly liked his grapes and soft fruits; and even how some of the larger ravens attacked the lambs! I’d seen them frequent Australian roadsides, feasting on the carcasses of the dead. Personally, I thought them altogether, quite opportunistic and horrid.

But I kept my mouth shut, as she continued, “When magic is near, the Raven will appear”.

Each to their own, I thought.

###

Raven by FloridaBorne

Why had I allowed her behind the wheel of my beloved Isuzu Trooper?

Teeth gritted…I knew it was coming.

“Bird!” My sister yelled out, slamming on the brakes. “Would you look at that raven!”

“Do I have to?” I grumbled.

Driven, she travelled another hundred feet along the lonely dirt road.

“Bird!”

While she stared through binoculars at another flock of feathered vermin, I opened the passenger’s door and jumped out.

“What’s wrong?”

“As if you didn’t know!” I replied, glaring at her.

“Normal people love birds!”

“I’m tired of flying into the windshield.  I’m not a passenger pigeon.”

###

Feeding the Ravens by Susan Sleggs

When visiting Grandma, I asked, “May I feed your friendly ravens?”

“Boy, you stay away from those evil birds. They’ll peck your eyes out!” my father snapped.

My mother disagreed. “I’ve fed those birds all my life. Only mythology and superstition say they are evil.”

Grandma settled the argument when she handed Dad her I-pad open to a fact page about ravens; they mate for life, use tools, can learn human speech, play in the snow, fly upside down, recognize human faces, voices and kindness.

Dad stomped up the stairs.

Grandma, Mom and I went out the back door.

###

Quoth the Raven (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane bends to scatter crumbs from her morning muffin. Will Edgar come today?

Ravens. Birds of Apollo and Odin, messengers from these gods of prophecy. Harbingers of death and loss. She can’t lose much more. She’ll feed her raven instead; give him a name.

Flapping heralds Edgar’s arrival. He pecks his breakfast, fixes his unnerving gaze on her. He hops aside and she sees it.

She edges forward but Edgar has already retreated, perching on the fence. She stoops closer, in awe. A ring, gold in color only, plated finish well-scraped.

“Yes, Edgar,” she laughs. “I love you, too.”

###

Raven Mum by Lisa Rey

The raven knew how she was perceived. As a bird full of venom and darkness, ready to peck your eyes out. She blamed these horror novels that were distributed around. In reality she was just like the other bird Mums out on her travels looking for food for her young: three sons and two daughters. Their father had being a loser but she diplomatically called him a ‘free spirit’. He had left when the babies were young and could literally be anywhere right now. She swooped down in battle with a crow Mum to get the piece of bread.

###

Winged Memory by PTSD Gal

They sang on the porch, but only for my father. He found them after a summer night’s thunderstorm. One of the few memories I have of him was when he was more of a father to them than me. Or so I thought.

As the Ravens grew stronger they would take their wings out for a test drive. ‘You see my love when they are strong they will leave and not return. It’s easy to let a creature go. You, I truly love and I’m afraid one day your wings will take you away and I can’t let go.’

###

An Uncommon Raven by JulesPaige

Raven watched her brother sweep the Nintendo villains in the
futuristic shimmering grove. Her father, on the balcony
drinking his Kingfisher beer and kicking off debris with his foot
into the void of the space below, not seeing his wife sighing
into her glass of Burgundy. When had the virtue of her family
turned into a single tonal resonance, lacking real life?

Raven hurried, she’d reach the bridge that spanned the
connection of this bored little town into the city. There the
library awaited. Her sanctuary. There she could read and
perhaps create a plan to save them all.

###

Naming a Superhero by Joe Owens

The discarded suggestions still hung in the air as the room fell silent. After all, it wasn’t every day you had the opportunity to hang a name on a super hero. This could be the stuff of legends.

“We must dig deeper folks,” Chairman Jim said pounding the table with his fist.

Well, Hawkman is taken!” Louie announced.

“That’s a stupid, bird-brain name anyway,” Linus replied. Linus never needed encouragement to continue, so he laughed as his own joke.

“I know,” Fred began as his face slowly bore a solid grin before he nodded his head in confirmation. “Raven!”

###

Arrival by John See

We watched from the kitchen window. The creature had wings, arms, and dark, iridescent feathers. Tufts of feathers grew in unlikely places. Ugly and beautiful, awkward and graceful–a misbegotten, overgrown raven.

Standing a few feet from the sycamore tree that dwarfs our backyard, it opened its mouth. Its thunderous caw was so loud it chased sparrows from the sycamore and sent two small boys scurrying away. A shoelace hung from its beak, as though it had just devoured a teenage boy.

All that was when there were just three of us and we still enjoyed each other’s company.

###

Served by TinTins

Her hair was as opaque as a raven’s jacket. Perched at the bar, her eyes searched, pursuing prey.  Her slinky red dress left nothing to the imagination; intentional.

She’d taken payment earlier that morning. Flaxen haired with emerald eyes; not your typical ladies’ man.   Still, there was something captivating about him; easy to place.

“What are you drinking?” the smooth operator probed.

“Your wedding band?” she countered.

Bemused, he removed the ring from his finger.

Seemingly satisfied she proffered her cheek and whispered, “I’ve a message for you.”

Intrigued he advanced.

“Your wife will see you in court sir.”

###

The Conspiracy by Reena Saxena

Her mother believes that ravens bring bad news, and gets rid of them quickly, if they land on the balcony.

Rowena is born with a special ability – to see beyond words. It has been more of a curse than a gift, as she fails to gain acceptance in social and professional circles. Her presence terrifies people, and they find reasons to get rid of her. She may not speak a word, but her overall demeanor gives those scary, all-knowing signals.

The raven has been shot down, and her mother looks relieved. She sees the dark conspiracy finally getting her.

###

The Grave Watcher by Gloria

Nancy sobbed as her father’s coffin was lowered into the six-foot hole. Her mother wasn’t crying or watching her husband being laid to rest; instead, her eyes were firmly fixed on the raven that perched on a nearby gravestone. Her mother left the cemetery but she never returned home.

Thirty years later, Nancy watched from a distance as a small crowd gathered in the cemetery for the burial of her estranged mother. She didn’t cry, nor did she watch as the coffin was being lowered into the ground. She was distracted by a raven landing on her father’s gravestone.

###

A Summer Reckoning by JulesPaige

Amber thought the butterfly was born under the sign of Cancer.
Once fairy like, the sun bleached, layogenic colors had turned
into a sideways transparency. Would that be enough to suppress
the hovering raven’s appetite? Warning colors gone.

Amber, while drinking her chamomile tea, watched the insect
rest in the empty granite birdbath. Farfetched to think that by
not filling it, she had given the bug sanctuary. There were no
assurances in regards to her own nature. One moment
gregarious and the next autophobic.

Amber went into the back garden. She’d save the butterfly
from being eaten, at least.

###

Dear Virginia Clay, by Denise Aileen DeVries

You were hard, unwelcoming,
allowing only the familiar
or the most intrusive to flourish,
then clinging, hanging onto everything.

In the right light, your forest
full of hanging vines, brambles
and poison ivy resembled the banyan
where I played one magical year.

But you were nothing like the rich, red
island soil that nurtured sweet fruit.
And while the sunlit vaults of your pines
recalled my fine old Colorado school,

benevolent ravens roosting above,
attic trusses serving as branches,
your woods offered no haven,
tripping me, ripping flesh at every turn.

Now, Virginia Clay, in a new landscape,
I remember you as a Lothario, full
of broken promises, my inability to mold
or conform to you shaping who I am today.

###

Mrs. Bird’s Children by JulesPaige

Brân was one of those boys at birth that you wonder how they
fit within the confines of their mother… He was born with a
full head of black hair. Like his father, yet he grew to be a
gentle giant. Very much unlike his father. Who once the lad
grew tall enough to keep the husband from dissing his wife –
left.

Mother and son, lived well enough without him. And grew
their family by a foundling on their doorstep. A girl with
raven hair, loving them both without ever questioning her
origins. No need for any DNA testing.

###

Ravenous by Kalpana Solsi

It slithered around the rough bark climbing up. Twenty pair of black claws impeded its
progress. However, the scaly creature defied the cacophony of cawing and clawing to
reach the eggs cocooned in the nest on the highest branch. It was a war, a war of one
species versus the other. Nikhil held the pink slip between his fingers and un-spooled in
his mind, the war fought in the boardroom with his own species. The Law of the Jungle
was very much evident in the urban concrete. He had to fight his own battles. The ravens
were still cawing.

###

Ravens in Reflection by Wallie & Friend

“But it’s just a bird!”

The man shook his finger at the children around him. “You’ll hurt her feelings if you talk like that. Ravens are the soul of wisdom. They are harbingers.”

The girl who had spoken wrinkled her nose and folded her arms. “Don’t look wise to me!”

“And that tells you how useful looks are.” The man took the raven on his wrist. “This bird is very wise. A century or so in Heaven, and this is what we say to critics. When do we let them trouble us, friend?”

The raven stretched her wings. “Nevermore!”

###

The Raven by Rugby843

I see you there, eyeing me, wondering how long it would take to raise your bow and pierce me with that arrow. I see you, contemplating, but think of this: For my species, I have an unusual memory and you will rue this day for eternity.

My eyes are keen, my feathers swift, and a twitch of your finger and I’ll be off, out of sight.

Then in the night when you think you are safe in your bed, I’ll come calling. Keep your windows locked, for I am a very strong and clever bird. This my final warning.

###

Raven by Kim Blades

Mark’s gnarled hands tried desperately to dig deeper. But as fast as his crooked fingers dragged the dry grains up and over the rim, so the sides collapsed and the sand slid back downwards.
He stopped digging for water and sat back, exhausted.

The sun was too close in these lonely desert lands
Lands that shimmered like an endless sea in the heat haze.

He knew he was not alone.

It watched him from the sandstone cliffs.
Watched and waited.

It would not be long now.

Mark knew that soon his open, staring eyes would be the raven’s prize.

###

Raven’s Eyes by Miriam Hurdle

“Do you have any water left, Dave?”

“I still have some. Take a sip. Your lips are badly chapped, Ben.”

“We have been lost in unpaved hiking trail for five days.”

“We only have water enough for two more days! I hope we could locate water soon!”

“Look, Dave! A raven is circling in the air and ready to dive down.”

“It spotted a dead deer and wanted its share. I think.”

“And the deer was drinking water!?”

“That may be our hope for water, Ben.”

“We could reach down by nightfall.”

“I hope this raven saves our lives.”

###

Raven Haired Women by Eric Pone

Maryann’s raven sat on her windowsill cawing happily. Maryann was so excited as it was the first time in weeks that the girls were going out. The chirp of her phone stopped that excitement. “Go for Maryann.” Ducky cheerfully answered back. “Hey, girl Ginger around?” Maryann nudged Ginger awake. “What Duck?” Ducky sent them the pics of the kings’ mother and his former girlfriend. “Holy shit.” Ginger breathed. “Your guess was right. Eowyn is redirecting the operation you two are to meet me in Lagos.” Maryann and Ginger looked at each other. “Ono?” Ducky replied with a laugh. “Busy.”

###

Raven Down by Frank Hubeny

There are plenty of explanations for the same data but what Randy wanted was to understand it at all.

He watched a bunch of crows tussling in the air and got out his phone. When he realized that one of the crows was being picked on lethally he switched the app to record video.

Aren’t birds supposed to be peaceful at least toward members of their own kind?

A select handful pecked the target repeatedly making sure its body could no longer move. Others flew about apparently guarding and watching.

Then it was over. Those who remained living departed.

###

Nothing to Crow About by Norah Colvin

Brucie had to get there first to stake his place at the very top. He didn’t slow on the still-wet grass, and only momentarily to laugh at Jasmine who slipped as he brushed past. From his perch, he smirked at the disappointed faces below.

“Caw!” said a crow, alighting alongside.

“Shoo!”

It didn’t shoo–more came.

Brucie shouted, waving his arms.

The crows shuffled closer.

Brucie thrashed wildly.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Jasmine banged a cricket bat against the frame.

The crows flew away.

“Are you okay?” asked Jasmine.

Brucie nodded, then let the others play.

The crows never returned.

###

Wearing by D. Avery

Sighing, Miranda looked through her closet, as if something new might have appeared. She finally took down the tired slacks, blouse and sweater that she usually wore on Wednesday. It would serve, though it’d serve better if she hadn’t packed so many pounds around her middle.
So much besides her weight had changed since she began teaching; changes that were demoralizing and depressing.

Sighing again she adjusted the accessory that now completed her outfit. Her Raven brand concealment holster used to tuck more easily into her waistband. Now the gun she carried, like her dispiritedness, was harder to conceal.

###

Never So Simple by Roger Shipp

“Mamma… Mamma… The raven is back!” Mika ran breathlessly onto the back porch of the small trailer where her mother was removing the last fleshy remnants from the hides hanging from the rafters.

“Don’t worry child. It’s grown hungry and is raiding the fields just like the other birds.”

“But Grandmamma said…”

“I know what she said.” Mama clutched me close to her bosom. “Unci believes in great meanings from all the forest animals.”

“Does that mean it’s not true?”

“Grandmamma would never lie to you, Mika.”

“So, it is true.”

“The truth is never so simple, my child.”

###

Dumpster Duck! by odysseyofhappiness

They flew cawing, laughing.

Dumpster Duck!

He followed, behind, avoiding attention.

Move dumpster duck!

Bodies slammed him

He struggled to remain in flight, wings trembling with sadness.

The cloud of feathers moved onward through the azure expanse.

He looked downward at the land of the legged, and flew as a falcon.

Downward.

The boy jumped in his seat by the window.

“Haha what a pussy!” Another boy jeered

“Scared of a birdie, FAGGOT!?” Yelled another, throwing an eraser, hitting the boy.

He turned, tears in his eyes, and looked down upon the lifeless bird.

Downward.

Another Raven.

###

The Craven Raven by Graeme Sandford

That’s what they called him.

It wasn’t his fault, he’d been frightened by a loud bang and a scary scarecrow when just a fledgling. Since then he’d been a nervous type.

But, it was an unkindness that the other ravens kept on about it; and it didn’t help his confidence that there was a constant conspiracy to keep him from leading a normal raven’s life.

The other ravens mimicked ‘bangs’ and dropped straw on him whilst he slept. He woke to the confusion that his dreams, where he was haunted by marauding scarecrows, had become reality.

###

Strange Bedfellows by Lisa Listwa

“Everyone thinks you’re ridiculous,” taunted Raven, circling around his companion.

Unicorn drank from the cool, sparkling stream.

“No one laughs about rainbows when I’m around,” Raven prodded.

Silent, Unicorn continued walking along the shore.

“I strike fear in the hearts of men,” he boasted, puffing out his chest feathers.

Finally, Unicorn stopped.

“And what of you?” she asked. “Many believe you bring light and gracious provision, that you usher in transformation. You do not know yourself.”

Uncomfortable, Raven flapped his wings.

“It is you who needs to transform,” he muttered.

Moonlight cast Raven’s shadow over Unicorn’s pure white form.

###

Raven, Brother Raven…by Raymond Roy

Raven, Brother Raven, Is there a message that you bring? Mysteriously different from other birds, who choose to chirp and sing.

Raven, Brother Raven,

Blue-steeled feathers, ebony-onyx colored eyes,

Curiosity and character,I’m bewildered at your size

Raven, Brother Raven,

Poe did quoeth you “Nevermore”, with his somewhat twisted mind,

Natives legends infer, you created all mankind.

Raven, Brother Raven,

Your caw has my attention, omen of certain revolution, a cleansing kindred spirit,…leading to ascension.

Raven, Brother Raven,

Heed your sacred clan,

Put aside your trickster ways, for the benefit of man.

Raven, Brother Raven…

###

Raven by Rebecca Glaessner

Starship Raven

Departing Earth orbit

Onboard systems reduced

Power rerouted to propulsion system

Maximum acceleration

Destination arrival time: 42,327 Earth years

> 44,564-07-23

Destination reached

Asteroid mining drones dispatched

Planetary entry sequence complete

Metamorphosis protocol activated

Generational fleet arrival: 27,424 EY.

> 57,309-04-14

Sea levels 62%

Atmospheric composition: 12% oxygen, 81% carbon dioxide

Surface vegetation 77%

Habitation modules 4%

Fleet arrival: 14,679 EY

> 71,988-10-17

Ecosystem 100%

Habitation modules 100%

Human fleet population 72%

Starship Raven shutdown

> 73,651-03-07

“Raven, help, activate.”

Systems rebooting

Ecosystem: critical

Human population 2%

Repair protocols activated

###

 

Pal Says by D. Avery

Think his name was Ernie, they called him Ornery. Once had a woman, a whiskey maker. He loves her still. Her name was Wanda and that’s what she did. She wandered away when she found her Will. She and Will got a goat ‘cause she wanted a kid, left ol’ Ornery, but he loves her still.

Wanda and Will, hear they’re livin’ clean. Ol’ Ornery’s up in the hills, livin’ by the rushing still stream. Under the pines he parses corn, he thinks of Wanda, but doesn’t mourn, ‘cause he loves her still. Talks to the ravens, ravin’ drunk.

###

 

February 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

Like a blank page, the white goes on and on.

I’m rugged up and running errands with the Hub. For today’s entertainment, we sit in the parking lot at the drug store and watch two snowboarders bounce on a precipice formed on the ridge of the hill across from our front row parking lot seats. He keeps the car running for our comfort and we watch as the two figures climb back to the top of the ridge. Evidently, the precipice passed the stress test.

The Hub fusses with his camera and gives me a dissertation on how the lens focuses. We no longer have real conversations. I’m with him, but I’m lonely. His abstract thinking is all that remains. That and the pestering need for attention that makes him seem frozen in the terrible twos. His sense of humor was always a high point in our relationship and I never expected it would one day be the most annoying thing about him.

But it also remains the most recognizable aspect too, so I grit my teeth and bear it.

In a flash, the first snowboarder leaps from the ridge, hits the precipice and soars momentarily airborne like someone with Olympic dreams. I think this time of year as the nations gather for the Winter Olympics we all feel the excitement of such dreams.

He nails the landing and the second snowboarder launches, hits the precipe and wipes out. So it goes with chasing the tail of dreams. Some days we catch a glorious moment and other days we get a mouthful of cold snow. Both snowboarders begin the long hike back up and we head to the store.

Our hike continues and where it will end we don’t know — curable? incurable? — more tests and scans and evaluations will tell. For now, everyone is puzzled by the Hub’s behavior I’ve been red-flagging to deaf ears for nearly five years now. Something is definitely wrong to the point that he doesn’t even know himself anymore.

But I know who I am. I’m fireweed, the purple and pink flower that grows like a tall spear in a tribe of flower warriors. After a forest fire, mining reclamation, road grading or any kind of soil disturbance, fireweed grows back first from seeds born of despair. It’s a phoenix flower, a soil nourisher, a defier of the odds when life is bleakest.

Fireweed and her toddler enter the store.

I have ibuprofen and office supplies to pick up — a few folders to hold the contents of developing plans and workshops. I shop to ease my back pain and keep hope alive. I also browse, drawn to colorful Valentine’s Day merchandise. I attempt to ignore the chocolate.

The Hub plays peek-a-boo with me from the opposite end of the aisle. I hear employees asking him if he needs help and he says he’s just waiting. I feel that’s apt. His life is waiting. He waits for me to get up, to go to bed to notice him. I feel like a cad, ignoring him, but it’s so hard for me to engage with his skewed thinking. He tells me I look nice in the shirt he bought me because he thought it was colorful and he likes colors I don’t and don’t you remember that time…

The moment he dips to the past I stop listening. It takes energy to not argue. He didn’t buy me this shirt. I do like colors. And no, I can’t listen to another story from the past. He lives in the past and I don’t know what to do in the present. Finally, others are seeing the cracks only they’ve become chasms. And he knows it but doesn’t know how to get across.

Yesterday in frustration at his constant pestering (because he was bored), I snapped at him to let me work. He silently left and sat alone on the couch. I heard him tell the dog, “She told me to shut the eff up. Yep. Just shut the eff up.” I wanted to bawl, to go to him and say I don’t want to shut you up, but I’m scared and I’m focusing on jumping off my own precipices and I don’t know how to help you. I can’t have him hindering me. My work is all we have.

I am the fireweed and I brave the inclement weather with one purpose — grow, grow, grow.

At the register, the Hub is making jokes and a woman with sleek gray hair and a classy red and black wool coats finds him outrageous. With an audience, he continues to ham it up. He tells her I’m his support — like a bro bra. I want to cringe, but she laughs. The woman says he’s fun. The Hub elbows me and says he’s fun. I roll my eyes as I concentrate on my transaction.

Then he tells her, “She misses the old me.”

This is the second time in two months he’s said this. One day when we were driving across the bridge he said, “I miss how we used to be.” I do, too. His therapist says not to give up hope, but we don’t yet know what we are dealing with. What I thought was a blight of combat PTSD is now a terrifying dementia-like “something-we-don’t-know.”

The woman asks how long we’ve been together. 30 years, he says and looks at me, grinning. I nod and smile. “Yes, 30 years.” She tells me I look beautiful in my coat. It takes me by surprise. Beauty is not a strength. And I had been admiring her classiness. Perhaps she can see I am the fireweed.

February 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes fireweed. You can use it as the plant, a flower, a metaphor or as the name of someone or something. Go where the prompt leads. Burn bright when you write.

Respond by February 13 , 2018, to be included in the compilation (published February 14). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Life Comes Back (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Spears of purple lined the narrow two-track. Tall dead trees stood like charred sentinels, remaining witnesses to the last forest fire.

“Life comes back,” Danni spoke to no one in particular. Her only companions were three dogs on leash, each tugging a different direction.

At the site of the dig from two years ago, Danni hiked the ridge to her former perch. Any moment she expected Ike to rumble up the road in his truck. Yet there she was with his dogs. She opened the can and spread the ashes, hoping fireweed would find its way into her heart.

###

Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #7

Murderous Musings Winner at Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsMurderous Musings

By Sherri Matthews

When I set my Murderous Musing’s prompt for Charli’s Flash Fiction Rodeo, I expected a few good folk to turn bad, but not thirty-two of them. And what a deliciously devious lot they are! Thank you so much to all who entered; my esteemed judges and I read wide-eyed and suitably horrified through a disturbingly chilling collection exploring the dark side of the Rodeo.

Some had us baying for the same sweet revenge, such was the pain of the story.  With others, we pondered the tragic price of a seething jealousy, bitter resentment and an all-consuming rage.  One or two gave a chuckle, clever in the twist at the end.  We enjoyed every flash and it was a close call, but we agreed our overall winner is Mr Blamey by Marjorie Mallon.

Mr Blamey by Marjorie Mallon

Mr Blamey had no first name. He had a forgettable face, an indeterminate dress sense and no habits to recognise him by. Yet he got the blame for everything. Getting the blame for his innocent endeavours had taken its toll on Mr Blamey. On his calendar he marked the fateful day his wife’s cat died in bold red ink. He had fed him last. His wife blamed him but bought a new kitten. It died too. A succession of cat deaths followed, his wife grew angry, she hissed and scratched. To placate his dearest, he made her a special anniversary cat stew. She ate it up and died too.

###

We judged all entries blind, so imagine our delight when our friend Marjorie, met in person at the Annual Blogger’s Bash in London three years running, was unveiled as our winner.  Many congratulations Marje!

We loved this flash for the way the apparently innocuous Mr Blamey, while living up to his name, was secretly capable of the most evil revenge. Who would have thought it? The slow-burn of his hatred for his wife and her cats weaves a perfectly murderous vibe throughout. Pushed to the limits by his wife’s ‘hissing and scratching’ – a wildcat! – Marje’s flash created the perfect storm for this murderous musing.

Emphasising the close call for the winning entry, we then had the difficult task of deciding our favourites out of our high scoring selection for honourable mention.  Each judge shares their top choice here:

Hugh chose:

Jeff and Jenny by Kati MacArthur

Jeff had thought all day about the things he’d do to Jenny when he got home. If only that bitch Sara wasn’t there. She’d gone into the kitchen to cook dinner, leaving him alone in the living room with Jenny. He watched the girl playing with her dolls in front of the television. “Come on up here, girl,” he said, patting his lap. She stared up at him, frozen. “Now, girl!” Jeff snapped his fingers. Jenny stood slowly. Jeff hauled her onto his lap, fingers digging under her skirt. Jenny cried out. The rush he got from her cries masked the pain he felt as Sara’s knife slid in.

###

Hugh says: ‘I loved the way it was told because, while I read it, it had me telling Jenny not to go to Jeff knowing that my fears of what he was going to do were about to come true. It’s a subject many of us prefer to leave behind closed doors when it comes to talking and writing about, but the author went ahead and wrote a fantastic piece of work which had an ending I was begging for because of the hate and revenge that built up inside of me while I read the story. And, what I also really loved, was that murder was on the mind of somebody in the background of the story which then went on to take all the glory and which had a standing ovation from me.’

Mike chose:

The Celebration by Colleen Chesebro

“Where am I?” I groaned and awakened slowly. I shivered as the cold sunk deep into my bones. My head pounded and a bright light glared into my eyes. A sharp metallic smell overpowered me. All I remembered was that I had left the bar late last night. It had been one hell of a birthday party. Panicked, I swung my legs over the side and realized my body hadn’t moved. I hovered above, a ghostly wraith of energy gazing at the twisted and bloody body below, where a knife had pierced my heart. My eyes gaped wide at the realization of my location. The sign read: City Morgue.

###

Mike says: ‘I chose ‘The Celebration’ for the cold horror of our mortal fear reaslised when the narrator finds out the truth of what really happened that night at the birthday party.  Great writing, I was glued throughout, not guessing at the murderous outcome for a fantastic twist.

Sherri chose:

Tele-Visions: Six Decades of Death Dealing by Bill Engleson

I’d sit close to the screen. Cross-legged. “You’ll ruin your eyes,” she‘d say. I’d shimmy back a bit. “Better to see, right?” It was. You could see the whole picture. It was a good lesson. I saw so many deaths there. The same people dying repeatedly. Death became…imaginary. Death was an act. I guess it wore me down. Odd, eh! One day, I was maybe …fifteen. Summertime. We were swimming at Cotter’s Bend. The Sweetwater River twisted there, dug out a deep pool in the sandstone. New kid. Smaller. Crappy swimmer. But he had guts. Kept on trying. And I suddenly had this urge. It was so easy.’

###

This excellent flash knocked me for six, a truly horrifying story all about the desensitising of a generation exposed to the constant streaming of ‘play’ violence on the screen. Truly troubling is the very end when the now older man, recounting his decades of ‘death dealing’, says:  ‘It was so easy’. I gave this top marks for its shocking twist and an all too tragic warning for our modern age.

*******

Thank you so much to Charli for letting me loose at the Rodeo and again, to all who entered and huge congratulations to Marje, Katie, Colleen and Bill. I’ve never judged a competition of any kind before, never mind a writing one, and it was my absolute honour and pleasure to read every single flash.  I also now have a much better understanding of what an incredibly challenging job that is! And thank you again so much to my two judges, Mike and Hugh, for giving up their time to help me.  Both a delight.

Hugh W. Roberts  

Hugh W. Roberts published his book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016 and is working on his next volume.  He lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom, and gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping and while out walking his dogs, Toby and Austin.

Hugh’s blog link: Hughs Views & News

Hugh’s book: Glimpses

Sherri Matthews

Sherri, a Brit, raised her children in California for almost twenty years before returning to her home in England’s West Country in 2003. Along the path to publication of her memoir, she shares her ups and downs with her blogging community at A View From My Summerhouse.

Sherri’s Blog: A View From My Summerhouse

Memoir Book Blurb: Stranger in a White Dress

NOTE FROM CARROT RANCH:

Congratulations to all the writers who entered! You dared to stretch your writing and braved the first Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Each participant has earned the following badge, which you may copy and post on your blog, social media or print out and frame. It’s a badge of honor. And now you can say, you have had your first rodeo! You wrote well. Darkly, with murderous intention behind the scenes.

We want to share all the contest entries in a collection. We’ll be contacting each of our contestants and challengers to seek interest and permission to publish a digital collection in January. Writers retain all copyrights to their work.

We’d appreciate your feedback! We want to make this an annual event that is fun, engaging and supportive of literary art. Please take a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey. Thank you!

My First Flash Fiction Rodeo Carrot Ranch @Charli_Mills

 

 

 

 

Raw Literature: Publishing A Literary First

Essay by Elliot Lyngreen, guest author & flash writer at Carrot Ranch.

<< ♦ >>

I have been given the honor and opportunity by the inspirational Charli Mills of Thee Ranch (Carrot Ranch Communications, where flash is the fiction) to talk about my story of my first published piece of literature Inextricable Knot in some Raw Literature here. Sweet. Let’s rock.

Well, the idea still comes to me every morning. With highs from the radio like Finch (Bury Me) inside a vehicle, the morning commute crowds. There are many ways it could turn. Our destinations feel the presence and the world anymore, the highway multitude, speeding that could end up on the stage of AGT and reinforcing all the hearts with our performance. Or…

Yes, is there anything better than a road trip? Gripped to the wheel, is there anything better than driving a vehicle with one of your favorites reeling ears? And such emotions truly and equivocally warming, skin surfacings and porcupine dreams all instantly percolate alive? Make you feel ready to be thee great wave? That is how it begins anyway. And it began so long ago, dreaming to turn off any one of the exits fleeting for another destination than where we always end up; turn to where the world reads me as some tremendous book in the blast of an anthem. I truly wanted to capture that current, and that flow, and that sensation of traveling the road; and for…ever wanted it to open my book. But the way it begins to be imagined, turns in yet at a totally different destination.

By serendipity once along a road trip many moons ago when I was like 20 and with a few buds coming home from Syracuse, we were flying in this pouring rain in the middle of a fleet of semis all going 91 miles an hour and I thought THIS! THIS. This is it! I got chills and such heavy inspiration thinking, this is thee exact place the world goes now. So much metaphor and connection. This is where we exist, traveling enormous. This is such thee force. Such a fine scene for…the loads of material out there. I wanted so bad to spill out raw in the prose that was coursing ma soul right there and then in our sojourn placement flying along the turnpike, highway, the ineffable…but I don’t write like that.

But like anything and everything it turns away and divides, separates, the pack of semis drifts apart to other lanes, a variety of autos coast in and out, the radio changes to New Order (Ceremony) and the power in my hands breaks apart, and the true world arrives and there’s demand for more from the insides. But mine ache and distract and deter me from that long story which could arise, right? So, here is what I got so far.

It begins there, too; cuz I was reborn on a street, a 4-laned avenue when I was 12 and “I awoke” (what I told my photo caption should read on the website it was published on, if ya take a look; it’s ok but hey that must be publishing I guess, anyways…) in the summer of 91. That’s when it hit me; an automobile going well close to 50 maybe; in a residential zone, a street-lighted dreams distance, the busy road between my friends and our homes, our placements in the separation of our neighborhoods. And me, the guilty child, and yea, wanted to get up and just ride on along home. But drop back or resurface then unto that road this child we once were. Awake. Give him a chance to hear Ceremony. Read Pynchon. Oh my. Oh me. Oh Drop, yes oh graceful angels of destiny lower, place him breathing up ‘heavenknowsit’sgotobethistime’ into the rage -gasp! (and the world becomes wavy) as he opens the flashes and the world ripples outward; and I…yeah me, I want to ride along on my own shrinking moment, memory. I want to redo. But, I can see the whole thing over and over fearlessly still. ‘forev..erer’ — That is my perspective anyway.

Yet peel back them tears a little further and glimpse a force, and drive around as they cut my favorite T-shirt from my young lifeless body coming back alive; from these frail searches like for breaks and fractures, bruises, around my sides and my waist, looking for impressions, pain, checking the head maybe, whiplash; that. But with pulses and breathes around; scatterbrain consume the exulted—“did you black out son?”—form the crowd, paramedics, folks together harmony and rhythm it all again slipped but inside the horn renaissance you now swim in; ahhhh with me, and there see the low profile vehicle coming… and then on the other side there was pretty much nothing wrong. So, yea let me ride along on home. But…well, that is not in the literature, in the cards anyway; court date you know what I’m saying? But it was me, my fault anyway; but provides some good background, my un-layering, my memories, in the grimy enormous confusion; but the presence.

Kind of the idea…Just like that. A great collision this piece was turned out to be. Meant to be.?. Also, my wish for another way through life. A different story let me tell you in such a small thickly arched pocket, and form a manic congested little loop, down down down to swallow a scene where quick-as-the-energy sparked from an empty grave –am I ghost? that! but quaked!? Then disintegrate. Oh ho, bent loose in them physical  — just conquered — momentums of the earth, that all became the summer afterward, the…91 releases if you know what I mean (and I hope you do). All makes me wonder so much of that which is connected, but mostly, makes me grateful to still be alive; but mostly, like something the sacred hour that got tighter and tighter at every turn to twilight there that I came back into; sets me up to believe I will never be allowed out; until I go through THIS, write the nonsense, buzz ALL heartstruck about how I entered the darkness, but then marveled the light flooding back on down and throughout; but ewww more than anything else, but how I must tell it, now…so wrenched inside. How I am unable to be normal, yet I must be. And I just cannot. How it was there before all this.

(Until I explain it. Right? Right. Let me try here.)

Ok. Like take your Grateful Dead any day, I will take my Jefferson Airplane live instead. Or sometimes you need Mazzy Star (Had a Thought) in the ears on a rainy afternoon setting off coyly the momentum of these epic anthem stealings, this creativity of stealing Keyser Soze-esque fragments of them snippets of songs ‘inyoursmiletherearemanyofwaystocure_ThePain_uh-huh’ and literature and movies and reusing such for the moments when it comes time to define what it’s like coursing through these terrors to be alive right now with this wrinkle in my guts. But to reach, touch God say, in the Sistine! In the overwhelmed distractions and the overwhelming media around, and just to try and be…understood. And in control. Oh let me play the piano once for everyone. But, I can’t. No. To avoid the collision, Wait…Because I am really not telling it just…right. And that is why I write and write and rewrite; and wrote this piece and rewrote it ten thousand times and ten thousand ways. To make sure to take a stand; in myself; and against everything already out there. It is my stand against the psychology already established. And my stand in the reality of a disability. Not in fiction. It is my stand against that which is fuming down the highways ready to tell me that I am wrong; by showing exactly where it is I stand (or sit, for that matter). No, it is not another protest. Hang on a sec…

And so many times I wrote it; streaking the ineffable, taking note of the minor details of things on vehicles — the foaming on the road, a little piece whipped around a tailpipe of a pickup and shredded as it unravels, flutters galore…so maybe it would be; and in so many different ways; so right…I sorted through visions and very many different songs for the soundtrack within, to exactly grasp that feeling of what is I am trying to say; and where it could reach so many, and how celeritous it was going; and where; and why; and all that…’representation.’ Cuz it seems it must. And, well also, I mean, why else am I still here? Just for this piece? I hope not. So, let’s make it true, right. And make it rock. Great!

It was going to be such magnificence.

But you see, I have this problem. (I sometimes think I am talking to the stars..).. No seriously though, they call it IBS and I cannot disagree more. Call it something else. Please. You see, it is so much more than what it is and the way it is perceived. And that is where the whole Inextricable Knot thing turns. Turns out I have this problem (you know, with how they treat me and how they diagnosis it. Like it is something I do NOT have. Or, just have? A problem). Like it is a somatic disorder and merely inside my head or my psychology; because all tests cannot explain the pains I feel. Was it the accident? Does it matter? It was there before I am pretty sure. And I can’t take it too much anymore (and that was 30 Years ago! I was writing that…). And with how much it costs me trying to get help, how it makes me not even want to ask anymore. Write. Write it down yo…Cuz I really cannot afford to! But I got to. And I got to go go go but I got these lumps/growths forming all over me now. Oh what the hell are these?? So much…… yet it is; and yet it is completely not. So I wrote…

That is another thing I was trying to get to in this work. Reality. With fiction, kind of…Or, that I intended with the book, that which it was supposed to be; that originally was; then, this…Piece…And still is — as I left a novel in pieces on the cutting room floor, a great many pages and words and various images that were going to magnificently follow this fantastic opening scene into the chapters after…and rapturous speakers and so forth. So, somewhere it turned. Crash. Maybe it just simply crashed. I did. How it is completely out of my control; trying to fuel, feed and so forth; change roads so much, that I cannot disagree more, as I said. And, moreover, I have this problem because I cannot finish that novel; and just have this little story now. That! explains it all ever so perfect; but, furthermore, that I will not settle for a lack of explanation. I have the full argument in my head every single day driving to work; the full book; getting ready; turning awake; oh groans…but, cramps (Am I woman?)… furthermore, in my stance; bowels, mmm bowls over? and even still — at the toilet. I know — disgusting. Right? That is what this piece does. Where it goes. Zoom! Spoiler alert!! In my guts. Sunk. Oh how precisely that describes — whoosh! where it unsettles? Maybe. And here it comes down the heavy road. With a full force of passion, the music of the world through the 90s, and yet…

It is revealing these issues I deal with; that was going to be the book. That is the hook, the short of it; this piece; an overly described just awful mess of symptoms, condensed into which did not just magically come to me; or, desire to be turned to some shortened little path, a tiny portion of frustrated fiction. Cuz it is embarrassing and ridiculous and such a shame. Especially for men. Am I even a man? It is so much more. And I don’t think so in the world of them (men) — I tell you what. It is so hard enough to talk about awful poop anywhere, and even harder to be understood how different it is for folks like me; while not laughing out loud. And there is the secret to it, the taboo and the jokes and just between you and me, it simply, truly is really frickin gross; more gross than just having some potty issues coursing this circulation and such; but that is how it is viewed. A joke. So Cameron, I took a stand, too. Sat down and poured into notebooks so much ink; then typed it all up over the years. (I really would rather pen it all down down down I know that now). And, I got a great sense of humor (and threshold of pain) I like to think. Good outlook on things. But, I changed and changed this corrosion of the insides that it is constant, chronic, into words that maybe will convince them (whoever they are, right?) just a little better than Fluffy. HA! He’s great. To — ok- laugh a little — ok. But to make ya feel this way; all upside down and inside out, with finer details I must hide at these moments; but do not want to get too far into…cuz yea eww…Well, to show that it is my life. And that! is the other thing that I was trying to begin with this piece. Turn the literature from something out of imagination into the reality of living inside one of them fears of some dystopiated fictional character they made up. Yes, I just invented a word. Mmmayb…

It is unbearable at best. There has always been a sense that I can write what so many others have merely imagined. Yet, it did not turn out like that. And yet, maybe another one (piece) will. Hopefully it introduces that concept. Grounds all the fiction. And rises them up. Oh it makes me tire to think how much more I must create. Cuz this piece feels incomplete. To turn it into the story I see…

Well, let me tell at least (tell) Why it is called – Inextricable Knot. Cool? Cool. Ok great! The title comes from a line in the Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne: “This feeble and most sensitive of spirits could do neither, yet continually did one thing or another, which intertwined, in the same inextricable knot, the agony of heaven — defying guilt and vain repentance.” Now, while that has a deeper and different meaning as it refers to the minister Dimmesdale’s doom of being unforgiven, I thought, well that is very similar. Especially that mention of a knot. But, moreover, the purgatory of it all. And whether I talk about my symptoms or hold them secret due to the severity (it seems) of the awful things that happen, that no one wants to or needs to talk about or read anyway, or probably will if I unveiled the journal of these feelings inside, that character I am continually dealing with — cancer maybe, an inextricable lump, or knot, what’s that?!… — well it would not matter. It is my doom.

I really wanted to draw the line between. And still deeper, deeper, down…divide the mind and the body. Or, should I say eliminate the idea that this is in my mind, because…where was I? … oh that’s right…so, instead of a character in fiction and a terrific imagination of a story, instead of a short fiction, I attempt(ed) to place the feeling of living within some grotesque or diseased story; all at one instant but truthfully, maybe as being left lingering in a kind of stuck existence, an in-between place. But it is not imagination entirely. The body sends pain signals to the brain to tell it that something is wrong. I just wanted to say that just now. And with this work and the book I want/ed to redefine this irritable issue (along come a multitude of disabling issues out of one’s control, I know) and rearrange (all of you stars too;) the pieces — until these are some things that we can study and dissect, rather than use a cash cow. Cuz I am flippin broke in the ‘Black Market Mercurio’ (which is another story I got for ya’ll).

Anyways, it is meant to be an exciting little piece that is ripped away from the spectacle coming and was very hard for me to read, narrate, or audio that is…So, if you want to check it out, it is at an “online journal of deaf and disabled literature & art” — called Deaf Poets Society.

Now, you may be asking how is this a disability? And that folks is such a novel thing…That! Is why I think I needed to explain, write this piece again if it takes…; and that is why I am always writing things too personal; but, why and how this piece came to be…It feels incomplete and I am getting a little weak, tired, distracted by more things and songs to tell about…than I ever will be able to, you know…? but hey there’s nothing wrong with me. Cynical Right?

I hope it unveils a little more of yours truly and this…..whatever it is. So, yes, but please check out my my very first published material, my beginning to this whole literature thing. I Hope.

Find it here: Inextricable Knot

I cannot express my appreciation and gratitude if you do. And to Charli Mills at thee Ranch, and to the Deaf Poets Society for the opportunity to share my piece in their Issue 5 release.

As always, thanks for ragin’ and God bless.

***

Elliott Lyngreen was born, raised, and schooled Catholic. He’s a middle child of a very large mixed family. Stepsiblings and half sisters; a whole brother, and cousins upon cousins; not all blood, but all family. He’s a 38-year-old electrical systems designer for a local engineering firm. Marvel music, sports, photography, films, etc. and has been writing since 15. He proses on mostly short pieces. Afflicted by an indescribable sickness, he tries and aims to eliminate the idea of its definition as a frequent urgency manageable with dietary changes. Because it is so much more.

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Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.