Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » Search results for 'women warrior'

Search Results for: women warrior

Warrior Women

Strong women run with the wolves, engaging their Wild selves. Feminine mythology extends beyond limiting stereotypes of women. It’s fertile ground for writers to explore.

What might a female warrior look like, act like, sound like? Writers place these women as characters in different predicaments or examine the influences of those they have loved in real life.

The following is based on the May 31, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about warrior women.

PART I (10-minute read)

Rancha Mythica by D. Avery

Drumbeats and dancing feet reverberate like thunder across the lands of Buckaroo Nation.

The usual low, homey campfire is now a blazing bonfire. Flames leap wildly, lashing the night sky. Wild women are illuminated in flashes, scars revealed in the dancing light.
Old stories are told in new ways. Sad stories are told. Yet laughter rings out strong and true. Songs of life rise up like sparks from their fire, sung to old tunes that resonate like a smooth round rock.

The women warriors rise. The women warriors raise one another up. The women warriors of Buckaroo Nation write.

🥕🥕🥕

Valkyries by Charli Mills
Step forth onto the battlefield, Daughters. Brace your feet, remember your training. Adjust your shield and sword. Death is but a trip to Valhalla. Ready your bodies for passage. When you fall, the Valkyries are coming. Skol!

Lift up, lift up, lift up — Choosers of the Slain! Warrior-women wielding runes, marks of the chosen. Let not the weight of the world, the heaviness of battle, the blood your body sheds destroy you. Glory nears.

Lift up, lift up, lift up and carry those battle-born souls to Odin. Warriors of the warriors. Valkyries. Women who rise. The run is over.

🥕🥕🥕

War Zone by Mirium Hurdle

“Good morning, Lieutenant? You’ve slept for three days.”

“Where am I? My legs? I can’t feel anything.”

“They found you after the bombing. You’re alive.”

“Sheila, we need you. The Captain is hurt.”

“Right over, Ursula.”

“The blood is gushing out from his chest.”

“Roll up the sheet to put pressure on it. Give him porphin.”

“Sheila, more stretches are in. We have no beds.”

“Clear up all the tables.”

“Sheila, here. Private got shot through the elbow.”

“I’ll prepare to cut his forearm. Bring me the equipment.”

“Sheila, over there.”

“Captain needs a blood transfusion.”

“I’ll be there.”

🥕🥕🥕

Black ‘n’ White by Neel Anil Panicker

‘It’s plain nepotism. The winner’s the Jury Chairman’s nephew. You can contest the decision if you want to’.

For Abraham Lincoln, the Principal’s words were a sledgehammer.

He had outscored every single opponent and was lustily cheered after his passionate seven minute espousal of a woman’s undeniable right to abortion yet lost the prestigious annual Inter-Collegiate Debate Competition by a mere vote.

His mother’s words ringed her ears.

‘Remember, son, a Black man’s got to be a hundred times better than others if he wants to succeed in this land’.

“No Sir, I’ll try to do better next time”.

🥕🥕🥕

Urban Encounter by Bill Engleson

I generally don’t walk down Carlyle Avenue after dark. The town has quite a few streets I avoid at night. Truth is, there was still a hint of daylight slanting through, courtesy of a stretched moon shadow.

Before I see her, she screams from the alley, “Get the blazes outta here.”

That grabs my attention. Then she sashays into the light. Five-foot tops, wearing a black shawl, an ankle length red dress, and a gray military great coat.

“What’s ya lookin’ at, Creepo?”

Later, I’m thinking I should’ve said something clever.

Sadly, my tongue was tied.

I just skedaddled.

🥕🥕🥕

Mama Bear Unleashed by Eric Pone

Ono looked at the robber in the store. As he smacked the owner, she looked down at her daughter and took a deep breath. Piper shouldn’t see mama this way but shit happens. Reaching behind she slowly removed the Tanto Emerson knife and quietly rolled Piper into a quiet aisle. She walked purposely toward him her pace quickening as old habits opened their doors for their horrible duty. The man turned toward her and tried to point his Magnum 357. Too late. The knife quickly sliced his jugular. She smiled as he gurgled and fought for life. Mama did well.

🥕🥕🥕

Shadow People by Charli Mills
Undergrowth of legends cling to consciousness and shadows vape through the veil between who we must be and who we indeed are. Quaking, we repeat fairy tales to let fear conform our captured souls.

The veil slips, and we glimpse Mythica where strange and weird entities tap and twirl to original wingbeats of self-expression. Fear blinds our hearts and knots the rope around throats of mythical women who are different.

Mythica is the shadowlands populated by shadow people. Dare you cross the veil? Grandmother won’t save you, but she beckons you to enter and run hard with the wolves.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Women by Michael Grogan

She’s old now. Her life draws to an end, but the warrior lives within her. Once a victim of rape and incest, she dedicated her life as an advocate for others.

Hours as a parent rescuing a wayward daughter, suffering estrangement but death reunited mother and daughter. She never gave up, she was a rock her child could always lean on, never dreaming she might one day bury her.

True warriors are a source of inspiration to so many, her voice in a wilderness of indifference.

She sits and holds the image of a beautiful child she couldn’t save.

🥕🥕🥕

Warriors of the Dark by Reena Saxeena

dark fears of
being overpowered
light up corners of my psyche.

childhood memories of voices
saying I was no good
unacceptable in original form

they dressed me in clothes
of subservience
to comply with social norms.

I couldn’t see how
inner demons would be caged
floating out in the cold

the jury out there
delivered verdicts
to encase me in moulds

dark, interfering shadows
swooped to enslave,
control my life

it awakened armies inside me
with the power to wage war
and destroy to end strife.

isolation for protection
and … it has always been
a lone warrior’s life.

🥕🥕🥕

The Warrior Women of Ireland by Anne Goodwin

They fought in lipstick and five-inch heels; they fought in turf-stained jeans and wellies. They battled home via Stena Sealink and Ryanair for the desperate travelling in the opposite direction. They fought so no more Savitas would have to die because no surgeon would defy the law to save them. They fought with the ballot won a century before when women starved for basic freedoms. The warrior women of Ireland reclaimed the choice misogyny and church denied them. But the job’s not done until their sisters in the north can also decline to harbour an alien in their bodies.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Women by Robbie Cheadle!

“How are you enjoying being back at work, Lisa?”

“Not at all, Sarah. I feel guilty about leaving Tom with a caregiver. I feel I should be looking after him myself. When I collect him in the afternoon he won’t come to me. I am sure he isn’t happy.”

“Well, my view, for what it’s worth, is that we are helping to provide for our children. Our salaries facilitate better educational and other opportunities for them. It also ensures that our children have an independent, strong and self-sufficient woman as their role model. Working mothers are the modern warriors.”

🥕🥕🥕

Silent Warrior by Teresa Grabs

Protests erupted nationwide as women took to the streets. They protested for parental pay, self-ownership, and some just to protest. Newscasts were filled lawsuits over whether a man looked at a woman or complimented her outfit. Some men were too afraid to be in a room with a woman.

Lillian adjusted her gloves and checked her hat in the mirror one last time before going shopping. The streets were filled with protests again. Words hurling everywhere and no one listening.

“Thank you,” Lillian said, to the man opening the store’s door for her, smiling. Today’s silent warrior, she thought.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Revising by D. Avery

She reined hard to a dusty stop. “Whoaaa.”

“Nice bike”, her granpa remarked. She reproved him with a withering glare. “It’s a horse.”

“You’re a cowgirl?”

“No, I’m an Indian.”

“A lovely maiden out for a ride!”

“No, Granpa! I’m a warrior!”

“A warrior princess.”

He got an eye-roll. “Granpa, I’m not a princess! I am a war-ri-or.”

“Okay, okay. You are a warrior, doing battle, fighting.”

“Actually, I just try and save boys ‘cause they’re under a spell that makes them do dumb things all the time.”

She galloped off.

Maybe he should call next door, warn Tommy.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Women by Sarah Whiley

I gripped my hands tightly around the wooden blade, sucking in deep breaths, to fill my lungs with the oxygen I knew would be required for the battle ahead.

“We’ve trained hard for this! We have this,” I told myself.

Adrenalin began pumping as I waited for the signal. I glanced at the girl next to me who was also breathing heavily. She gave me a quick wink.

Suddenly, I heard the calls we’d been waiting for…

“Down and ready.”

“Are you ready?”

“Attention.”

Paddles entered the water as the siren blared.

We were warrior women, in our dragonboat.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Women by Nicole Grant

The grandfathers were whalers, and according to historians, they were yeoman farmers. I wonder, what were the grandmothers doing?  And how were the grandfathers, out at sea harpooning whales, managing their farms?  Rebecca Corson, one of the grandmothers, is said to have fired a cannon scaring off the British as they approached shore during the revolutionary war.  My guess would be that the women were spending less time on widow walks wringing their hands watching for the whalers to return than they spent in the fields tilling, in the woods hunting, and behind the cannon doing what they must.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Time: by The Dark Netizen

I ride into the army of red coats, swarming my home like ants. They will not capture my home so easily.

My noble steed needs no directions from me. He rides straight through their ranks, letting me tear them down with my swords – flashes of silver lightning.

Even after hours of fighting, my conquest seems hopeless. Most of my men are dead or wounded. I feel my eyes closing.

NO!

For the sake of my little baby and my kingdom, I cannot give in. Death will have to wait to claim the queen.

My time has not come!

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Woman by Deborah Lee

Jane’s eyes open to the phone alarm. She pokes her nose out of the sleeping bag: Cold.

Just today off? Just one day? To lie around, to not strain her eyes at job listings, to not duck the judging eyes of the homed and employed. One day to pretend her life is good enough to relax into.

No.

One day of not trying leads to one missed opportunity leads to another damned lifetime of this life she’s lived too long already.

Growling, she flings back the top of the sleeping bag and jerks her legs out of the warmth.

🥕🥕🥕

Gertrude the Invincible by Norah Colvin

With flaming hair streaming and eyes blazing, Gertrude stood at the apex surveying the land, her land. With one hand on a hip and the other raised high, she hurled her words into the wind.

“I did it. I am the conqueror. You,” she pointed expansively with her spear, “are now my subjects. You do my bidding.”
The minions bowed before her.

“I am in-vinc-i-ble!”

“Gertie! Pick up your toys and come inside now. It’s dinner-time,” called Dad from the door.

Gertie complied. Even warriors need to eat. There’d be more conquests and enemies for Gertrude to vanquish tomorrow.

🥕🥕🥕

Taking a Stand by Wallie and Friend

True, Aunt Cecily was older, but that didn’t necessarily make her wise. Emmy knew she was dead wrong. The hard part was saying so.

“Auntie,” she said, “I’m going. I know what the risks are and it’s true I might not come back. But I have to do this. For us. For all of us. I can’t just stay behind while Eddie and the others go. I can’t.”

Aunt Cecily didn’t answer at once. She looked at her niece, seeing the young woman’s level chin, hearing her controlled voice.

“You’re right,” she said. “And I will go with you.”

🥕🥕🥕

Line by galaxygirl_89

She spent every summer vacation at her great aunt’s place in the countryside, a respite from the city and it’s loneliness, among the mango trees and the paddy fields, cousins and neighbours to play with. That was the first time ever they had done anything wayward. They stole away at night after the grown ups were asleep, and walked to the stream at the end of the property. The strips dividing the fields were so narrow that they had to walk in a single file, like ants treading a line, while the moonlight streamed over in a silvery cascade.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

The Present by Papershots

In bed that night, she suddenly extended her right arm and hand. She squinted her eyes and aimed at the wall opposite – wedding photo, big table lamp, wooden-framed mirror. A powerful beam of light, she imagined, would open the wall and let her see behind it. She laughed. Surely if she was Super Mom she could have greater powers than that! “Never be mad for any reason, always understanding, strict and lenient at every right dose.” Better make do with these. Or have to. Or really do, because she had them. The kids asleep, she dreamed of Wonder Woman.

🥕🥕🥕

Mom by Faith A. Colburn

She thought she could adapt to anything. After all, to save her family, she’d got a job when she was only fifteen—singing in a nightclub. She’d navigated groping, propositions, and men who said she did when she didn’t; she’d joined the Army and learned to build radios and install them into B-24s; she’d married the man she loved, a shell-shocked veteran, and moved with him to a farm in Nebraska, where the nights were silent and the stars near; she’d learned to be a farm wife. But in the end, she learned she couldn’t just be missus somebody.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Women by Chelsea Owens

Youth, untried, stands blinking into the equatorial sun. It shuffles awkward spears; tilts dented shields.

Two thousand feet nervously stamp the earth.

Their leader looks upon his neophyte army. “What say ye, my sons; will ye go against them to battle?”

Two thousand of them have never fought. Two thousand just left home. Two thousand eager voices cry, “Our God is with us! Let us go!”

Thus they march, thus they go, thus they draw their spears. The enemy, surprised, falls beneath their untrained arms.

The leader, awed, counts two thousand. “How came ye by your courage?”

“Our mothers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Wounded Warrior by D. Avery

Not best friends, but reliable friends; neighbors, they had been playmates since forever, from sandbox to bikes, many shared adventures. Together they had explored the haunted house, both emerging as warriors, both with bragging rights.

Together they’d built a secret fort.

That’s where they started exploring each other. The fort was theirs, this exploring was theirs, fun and friendly, another rite of passage shared.

He bragged. Somehow he knew he could. Somehow she knew she couldn’t admit that she’d even done it, let alone liked it.

Somehow the game had changed.

She wondered if he also missed their friendship.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Floridaborne

Work study in a musty university library back room, 1968.

Three students were tasked with binding tortured book spines. June, a slender woman well aware of her own beauty, liked to talk politics. Plain, “heavy set,” Linda was mortified.

Jack, once part of an inner-city gang, didn’t try staring his umbrage into someone with an opposing point of view. He took a blade used for binding and held it at June’s throat.

“I just bought this blouse,” June said. “Try not to get blood all over it.”

Jack lowered the weapon, and chuckled. “That takes guts.”

Linda, however, fainted.

🥕🥕🥕

Escaping Leap by Jo

The unexpected jolt to the chin was her warning. The blinding pain, the sign she sought after. She was more wounded by the fact he punched her than by the soreness setting in.

‘I’m sorry!’ He said walking toward her.

She made the decision to step back watching his eyes that went pitch black the moment she stepped away holding her face. No sword, no shield, just her wits and will, she leaped for her keys and dashed to her car. She couldn’t watch him in the rearview mirror. Later, filing a report, she learned she escaped a murderer.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior, Warrior by Peregrine Arc

“You’re too fat.”

“You’re too skinny.”

“You should stay at home.”

“You should volunteer again.”

“That’s not organic?”

“Why are you breastfeeding in public?”

“That skirt is too short.”

“That blouse is too modest.”

“Boys will be boys.”

“Men will be men.”

“Be quiet.”

“Speak up.”

The conversations streamed past me as I sat in the mall, quietly observing.

Men may carry clubs, but women carry poison.

🥕🥕🥕

Worth the Frostbite by Kerry E.B. Black

Dyan wielded a pitchfork like a peasant soldier, lips pulled into a snarl. “Back off! You’re not hurting these kittens again.”

The farmer whistled through his teeth. “Girl, are you daft? We’ve too many felines. Don’t need no more. ‘Sides, you’ll be needing some attention. Thrusting your hands into a frozen trough for a few useless kits was just plain dumb. You’ll be nursing frostbite.”

She no longer felt her fingers, but she didn’t care. “You’re a cruel man.” She scooped the sack squirming with mewing kittens, sheltered them beneath her winter coat, and ran to the tack-room’s protection.

🥕🥕🥕

Avid Reader by kate @ aroused

Learning Italian at seventy-six years was a challenge Aunty gladly accepted. The least she could do when she expected her neighbours to learn English.

An avid reader with a vast vocabulary ensured easy completion of the cryptic crosswords daily. An astute historian, adept pianist, reared in the wilds a full sixteen mile hike from the train.

Abused by her educators she cared for her parents before a brief but happy marriage. Her genuine interest in absolutely everybody ensured that she had a constant stream of visitors.

Never uttered a bad word or complaint. She graced us for a century.

🥕🥕🥕

Fighting The Invisible Enemy by Geoff Le Pard

‘How are you, Morgan?’

‘At a loss, Logan.’

‘She’s fighting, though, knowing your ma.’

‘I’m not… you know, I don’t get that whole ‘fighting cancer’ thing’

‘She’s not giving up, is she?’

‘But she ain’t exactly waving her sword either. I mean you can’t will the effing thing away.’

‘What they saying?’

‘Not much. Just more tests. You know what’s hard? She’s always argued. She’d diss a lamppost if it got in her way, but she just lies there, doing nothing. No swearing, not even a hairy eyeball.’

‘Come here. You need to stop fighting yourself.’

‘It sucks, mate.’

🥕🥕🥕

Champion Challenge by JulesPaige

Was Mercy a warrior? The woman had given Regina birth. Perhaps Mercy’s own mother knew, maybe even the man who she called her husband? But when you die young and don’t get to tell your tale — you can only hope others will. Both Gran and Dad had broken hearts that they kept as silent as a moss covered stone.

Regina latched onto the few memories that had been shared and would spin them thousands of ways. After all Mercy’s blood ran in her veins. Perhaps the words that Regina spilled on paper would be enough. They’d have to be.

🥕🥕🥕

The Brotherhood of Iron by Telling Stories Together

“Again,” said the monk.

Constance drew back the bow, squeezing her shoulders together. She let string go and the arrow sang through the air, thudding into the rotten stump. The ground around the stump was littered with shafts from previous attempts.

“You’ve improved. You actually hit your target this time.”

Constance returned the old monk’s smile in spite of herself. Then, remembering her task, the parcel she’d dutifully delivered, the smile faded.

“You’ve been very kind, Atheus, but I must return to my own Order.”

Atheus placed a hand on her shoulder. “Are you sure that’s what you want?”

🥕🥕🥕

Easy Pickings by Di @ pensitivity101

Swordsmanship wasn’t restricted to just the menfolk in their quiet village.

Situated in the middle of nowhere, they would be open to invasion from all sides, and when food was scarce, the men would go off to hunt, leaving the women to care for the children, elderly and infirm.

Such was a time when Outsiders decided to plunder the village whilst the men were away.

It was a bloodbath, and they didn’t stand a chance.

Only one was allowed to live and serve as a warning to others that the women there could kill as well as any man.

🥕🥕🥕

United, They Win by Aweni

Melville looked fearfully at the Amazon he’d trained. She was meant to be his weapon against her kind. But, she knew his intentions now and her rage was sublime.

He won’t give up. He’ll throw discord in their midst. Her army will turn on her, he thought gleefully.

He knew he had lost when she shouted, “I come from a line of warriors! We create a furore, when we line in thick rows. Breaking the air with arrows, cleaving through the enemy with our swords. One sister for all, all sisters for one. Bend the knee to our king!”

🥕🥕🥕

Who’s Gettin’ Schooled? by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She swings again, the blunt-edged sword whistling past his ear by a hair’s breadth. He slices upward with his own wooden blade. She arches her back like a wildcat, leather armor squeaking protest at the quick move, and follows with a roundhouse twist that lands her at his open left side.

A quick jab; she stops just short of his heart line.

He freezes, chest heaving, and peers at her shrewdly. “You’re slow today. Are you trying to fail?”

She laughs, troll’s tail flicking gleefully. “Maybe you’re getting old, Father.”

“Time to teach you about Statecraft,” he threatens playfully.

🥕🥕🥕

[fight] by Deb Whittam
Times had changed and changed rapidly … no longer was there a sense of comradery or fulfilment in this game – now it was a fight … to the death.

She had held herself distant from it but now that her opportunity had come to enter the fray she felt a sense of unease and her hand shook as she finalised her preparations – applied her makeup, checked her hair and ensured that her sword’s blade was honed to a razor-sharp point.

One didn’t go to a disco unarmed – not if one was looking for a man anyway.

🥕🥕🥕

But Still Single? by Roger Shipp

She was wildly pursued on OkCupid as well as Happen, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Bumble. Hundreds of hits a day was the norm. This she enjoyed.

Tender and Down even offered incentives if she would allow her picture to appear on their advertising after her photo shoot in Maui. Financially, a plus!

LuLu, Match, and Zoosk had called her attorney wanting exclusive rights to her personality profile. Don’t throw at stick at that!

Being so sought after from all the dating app corporations could really swell a girl’s head…

Maybe actually being too-good-to-be-true was too good to be true.

🥕🥕🥕

Mystery Solved by Molly Stevens

At first, Chester treasured his time alone when Ruth disappeared into the spare bedroom. He sat in tightie whities slurping coffee, scratching a butt cheek, and passing gas, thankful for the absence of her heavy sighs.

Then it seemed creepy. What the hell was she doing in there?

“I know it’s that crazy neighbor, Myra, put her up to somethin’,” he said.

He turned the knob inching the door open. Ruth stood with hands on hips, feet shoulder-width apart, chest puffed out, and chin up.

“Sweet Jesus, it’s dad-blamed Wonder Woman,” said Chester.

Ruth flashed him a wide grin.

🥕🥕🥕

Wanda by Frank Hubeny

Silvia walked into Benny’s Diner. Sharon told Benny to deal with her or she’d quit. Benny shuffled to the bar.

“Morning, Silvia.”

“I want a real waitress serving me.”

Benny glanced at Sharon. “She’s busy.”

“She’s just standing there.”

“How about some pancakes?”

“Are they gluten-free?”

“You know they’re not.”

Silvia ordered pancakes as usual. While she dripped corn syrup over margarine the dreaded alien invasion began. Silvia looked at Benny and Sharon. She ripped off her street clothes revealing her secret identity as Warrior Wanda. It was time to show these wretched Earthlings how high maintenance kicks butt.

🥕🥕🥕

Start of a Wild Ride (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Sarah startled at the hand pressing against her mouth in the dark. A woman’s voice shushed her struggles. She sat up in bed to see Nancy Jane’s face inches from hers. “What are you doing,” Sarah whispered.

“Ever run with wolves?”

“What?”

“Come, on, Sarah, Yellow Feather gathered some ponies. Let’s be braves under the moon!”

Sarah clung to her quilt drawn up to her chin. Camp was silent, emigration season nearly at an end. Cobb would be asleep next to Mary, and their baby. He was the same age –

She threw down the quilt and rose from bed.

🥕🥕🥕

Independence Day by Anne Goodwin

Whose is this voice that thunders in her head? Who will she become if she listens? Yet someone must lead, so why not Joan? What she lacks in years, she brings in passion.
Standing in the stirrups to adjust her seat in the saddle, she channels the spirit of her namesake. Her armour might be card, but her lance is real, and Joan knows how to use it. Not that she thinks she’ll need to today as she steers the procession through cheering crowds. Skirmish is rare on Independence Day, but a woman warrior is always primed for action.

🥕🥕🥕

A Wonder Of A Woman by D. K. Cantabile

She used to be a woman of pale feelings. Her days were painted with washed watercolors, without glitter, nor shades. Blurred figures blended composing the most senseless scenes.

She couldn’t detect where the skyline divided city and stars, never noticing where the sun was setting in the horizon. She hadn’t seen a deep dark blue mood, neither glanced at a sparkling red sensual desire. She didn’t spread the orange scent of joy, or witnessed the serenity of green peace.

One day, she was touched by the cozy light yellow sunshine and the rainbow became the pathway of her life.

🥕🥕🥕

It Takes a Warrior by Susan Sleggs

The nurse woke Maggie the morning after her right breast was removed. “Your husband wanted me to make sure you saw this.” She held up a framed picture of them holding compound bows. The inscription on the glass read, “To my warrior. Now you have an advantage. Your chief loves you.”

Even though it hurt, Maggie laughed. “We are professional archers. I have complained my boob gets in the way, now it won’t. That’s why we decided I shouldn’t have reconstruction. He tells me it will take a warrior to beat cancer and get strong enough to compete again.”

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior by The Memory Cellar

The grief that wrapped itself tightly around her life had fingers of depression that choked her into an inescapable feeling of slow, inevitable suffocation.

She can’t let go of the shame she carries but knows it may kill her if she doesn’t.

She stares at herself momentarily in the mirror, only seeing the painful sadness only an aging woman knows.

But somewhere inside the fire rises and from her eyes fall tears of surrender and with her finger she wipes them across her face like war paint. She was a warrior once and to her surprise, she still is.

🥕🥕🥕

October 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

In the US, the Coast Guard are the ones who go out on tumultuous seas when all other watercraft head for shelter. They are the maritime security, search and rescue, and law enforcement service of the US Armed Forces. They are veterans, too.

Where I live, along the southern curve of Lake Superior on a jut of land known as the Keweenaw Peninsula, maritime life saving once fell to the lifesavers. Before we had diesel-powered Coast Guard ships, we had rowboats.

Okay, maybe not rowboats like you’d take a date on a placid pond. They were wooden, though, and powered by humans. Can you imagine a furious storm on Lake Superior with gales forceful enough to sink an iron ore steamer? Then imagine the rescuers seeking to pull sailors from the waves in wooden boats powered manually with oars.

You can see some of their equipment in this video of our local Life Saving Museum in Eagle Harbor, thirty miles north of headquarters of Carrot Ranch.

Even today, it must take great courage to face a storm. The Coast Guard still has several life saving stations, both on our Portage Canal that accommodated freighters to haul copper. Their 47-foot dual engine boats are designed for dangerous water rescues.

Life savers were often forgotten to history. My friend Barb, married a Vietnam veteran, back in 1980. His family lived and worked on the Keweenaw for many generations. One was a surfman, or an early Coast Guard life saver. When Barb did some genealogy and found out about this man and his deeds, saving lives, she realized that no one had ever collected all the names of the life savers that served our peninsula.

What started out as a family project led to the recognition of over 300 life savers. Barb even found descendants, which led to interest in forming the local museum where her research resides.

Barb was one of the first people I met when I arrived to the Keweenaw three and a half years ago. She had just battled cancer and returned to the Warrior Sisters group where I had found my welcome. Of course, we hit it off quickly, both sharing a love of history and recovering forgotten voices.

Two years ago during the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo, I highlighted Barb’s work. She had recently been honored for her research and given a week’s stay at the light-keeper’s house in Eagle Harbor.

Waves surged relentlessly against the craggy rocks of Eagle Harbor where I went to write for a few days as a guest of Keweenaw historian, Barb Koski. It was mid-October, and the gales of November had come even earlier than when the Edmond’s Fitzgerald went down. Barb’s expertise in maritime history focuses on the heroics of the surfmen — those who went out into the wind-driven swells in small boats to rescue the crews of large ships.

Like Barb, many who live, work or attend secondary education on the Keweenaw Peninsula fall in love with the area’s natural beauty and endless outdoor activities. Barb showed me many natural wonders and historic structures during our getaway. If you spend any time outdoors on the Keweenaw, you can’t escape the area’s bold history of industrial copper mining.

On October 18, 2020, my friend, fellow historian, and Warrior Sister, Barb Koski died peacefully at home. Earlier that week, led by our fearless widow, the Warrior Sisters sat with her, laid on hands, prayed, and said goodbyes. Sitting at her feet was the teddy bear we bought her, the one Barb named Precious. She took Precious everywhere.

At her visitation on Monday, Precious sat near her once again. Barb’s daughter said they thought about cremating Precious with Barb, but her husband wanted to keep the bear. Now Precious goes with him. The next day we all gathered once again, the Warrior Sisters and my Hub in a single pew.

Barb was a life saver. She cared deeply for others and could sit with them in their pain. She rescued those who risked their lives from obscurity. In thinking what kind of stories Barb would like, I’m pointing us all toward the fury of the sea, inland or elsewhere, to write about life savers who dare face the waves and the storms.

October 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life savers on any body of water. It can be a formal Coast Guard, historical or contemporary. It could be an individual who unexpectedly takes on the role. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 3, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

In Remembrance by Charli Mills

Beatrice Hayes served Coast Guard Station Portage for three years, respecting the deadly furies of Lake Superior. Cruising the canal on a clear day, she could spot old shipwrecks below the water’s surface. To the west, she assisted in setting up the buoy system. When she heard kayakers were gathering to honor a local historian who researched her historical predecessors, Beatrice mustered the fleet from cruisers to icebreaker to Kodiaks and posted an honor guard. Women in kayaks tossed daisies, reciting the names of life savers who had served these waters, ending with the woman who wrote their biographies.

🥕🥕🥕

Contradictions

Contradictions can provide the kind of contrasts that push us to consider the connections between opposing ideas. Creativity often flares brightest in divergent pairings. Hard rocks and marshmallows, caskets and baby blankets, love and destruction.

Writers got to play and formulate their own contradictions for their stories, creating surprising results.

The following is based on the May 28, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using two words that contradict.

PART I (10-minute read)

Moon Dust and Boat Wood by Charli Mills

Two young star-gazers giggle, floating on boat wood lashed into a stationary raft. Papa salvaged the lumber from a shipwreck on the beach, tethered it to the edge of the pond. On his one night off, he’d settle with them, tracing stars in the sky. A full lunar light beams overhead, dimming the Milky Way and illuminating the rock house that towers above the miners’ homes and woods. The girls wait for Papa to emerge from the trail to the mines, repeating constellations he taught them. They open their mouths to moon dust floating downward. It tastes like copper.

🥕🥕🥕

A Stiff Breeze by T. Marie Bertineau

She woke to bright sun, an impish nip in the air, treetops bursting lush and lime. It was like any modest spring day—except for the wind. Oh, the wind! Flags whipped, chimes clanged. Hanging baskets clutching tender blossom caps leaned into the stiff breeze. The wind had come on hard that morning. Unrelenting, bellowing like a bitter newsboy. It blew in gusts of mayhem, carried a current of grisly headlines: untimely death, social injustice, violence in the streets, manipulative factions mucking up the cause. It blew in everything—everything but what was needed most in that moment: peace.

🥕🥕🥕

Opposites Attract? by Sascha Darlington

“Doomed!” Old Lady Hennessy declared.

“Doomed!” agreed the other quilting club ladies.

Russell was the town bad boy. I was the town good girl.

He started a rock band. A rock band in Little Falls? Scandalous. We’re bluegrass true!

I was destined to be the librarian. Finger upon my lips: shush!

But you can’t control who you fall in love with. Maybe it’s pheromones. Maybe it’s his sky eyes. Maybe it’s the song he sang round midnight while meteorites zipped across the sky.

Russel and me? We’re opposites. Do opposites attract?

I’ll let you know. After one more kiss.

🥕🥕🥕

Contradictions by FloridaBorne

He loved listening to the solitude; birds singing, the way a breeze felt as it whispered through pine needles.

Thirty years of peace, broken to pieces in seconds by one new neighbor.

A mile down the road, music for the tone deaf, often referred to as Rap, blasted into the night, stopping at 22:00 hours.

He’d asked the family to please respect their neighbors. Their response? “Stupid redneck! Get off my property.”

“As you wish,” former Master Sergeant Murphy had replied.

Under a full moon, he wandered through the woods carrying a sniper’s rifle. Tonight, the misery would end.

🥕🥕🥕

Contradictions by Liz McGinty

His body language speaks frustration. He kicks his leg incessantly against the table leg as his fingers twitch a rhythm on a cigarette paper packet.

I am frustrated, with the sound of my voice as I ask the endless questions in a monotone. Invasive, unending details to complete his claim.

His answers become aggressive, and my heartbeat quickens. The booth fills with hostility. He curses me. My shoulders ache with the weight of compliance. I glance at the zero-tolerance poster, he smiles perceptively.

An appreciation passes between us. We begin again.

We shake hands.

He leaves.

I cry.

🥕🥕🥕

Love and Destruction by Joanne Fisher

It began with astronomers noticing a group of objects heading towards our planet, and then a message came: “Humans, we come in peace. We love you. We care for you so much.”

The entire world was amazed. We were not alone, and now they were coming. Their fleet of sleek silvers spaceships approached.

The next day all major cities were incinerated in nuclear explosions. The aliens said: “We come in peace. We love you.”

The remnants of humanity were put into camps and slowly our numbers dwindled away. “We come in peace. We love you,” the aliens told us.

🥕🥕🥕

Water and Stone by Saifun Hassam

Torrential rain poured through myriads of tiny cracks of the ancient caverns. The deathly silence of ancient stone tombs fled the living rising waters. Small pebbles by the thousands crashed into writhing and roaring waters. Caves melted into rivers of mud and silt under a sky chaotic with lightning and deafening thunderclaps.

The storm weakened, the raging waters slithered to a calm against rocks and boulders in ravines. Shards of tombs and bones lay buried under mounds of drying mud. In another time, flash floods would roil through dry gorges and ravines. Water would again unearth those ancient stones.

🥕🥕🥕

Storm’s Eye by Cara Stefano

Floating, blissful, beneath the waves
All is calm and clear and blue.
Bright fish dart and school around me
The scintillating silence wraps me in a soft cocoon of beauty.
Sea anemones and water grasses wave hello as I glide by
Flippers slowly propel me through these magic gardens.
A shadow passes over head, and then another, many more
I am no longer alone in the eye of the storm.
Thrashing fins and flippers; flashing spear point teeth
Binding, cutting nets of plastic poison engulf my body.
Peace and Violence side by side – always

🥕🥕🥕

Contradictions by Rachel McBride

She remembered the taste of strawberry slushy, and still ordered them to this day. Some had dripped on her tank top, but she didn’t move to clean it off-entranced by the fireworks going off over the pier. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM resounded in her chest, beating her pounding heart like a charioteer spurring the horses to run faster. BOOM-like her heart when she wiped the blood off her cheek. BOOM-like the last slam of the storm door. BOOM-like her phone hurtling out the window and bouncing apart on the pavement. She chewed through the straw, feeling fireworks in her blood.

🥕🥕🥕

Caskets Verses Baby Blanket by Susan Sleggs

Tessa caught the look on Michael’s face when he opened the package. She commented, “My son thought you would like a U.S. flag flying out front. Was he wrong?”

“I’m sorry. The flag reminds me of the number of draped caskets I’ve escorted and the families who paid the price.” Tears formed. He let her see them. “Now that soft baby blanket you are knitting gives me hope and helps me focus on the future.”

“I’ll explain to Brent and we’ll pass the flag to my parents. Theirs is quite faded.”

“Thank you, for understanding and backing me up.”

🥕🥕🥕

Minimized Identity by Reena Saxena

silver moonlight hits hard rocks
drenched in apprehension
blasphemy will follow
can’t shed lingering aromas though…

drenched in apprehension
pain finds its place after joy
can’t shed lingering aromas though…
those moments feel like eternity

pain finds its place after joy
women are born to be non-existent
those moments feel like eternity
they give me an identity

women are born to be non-existent
their existence is minimized
but I have discovered my identity
I intend to stay with it…

their identity is minimized
silver moonlight hits hard rocks
but I intend to stay with it
let the blasphemy follow…

🥕🥕🥕

Snowy Summer’s Day by Susan Zutautas

It was June, Meg and Ian had just moved into their first home. Ian was outside exploring when the wind picked up. “Meg come outside; you have to see this.”

Meg was in the kitchen busily unpacking boxes and welcomed the break.

Walking out into the yard Meg saw exactly why Ian had called her out. On the ground laid hundreds of tiny white flowers carpeting the pathway to the side yard. Just as Meg was about to say something hundreds more floated down from above.

“Oh, Ian how beautiful, it looks like we have a few Dogwood trees.”

🥕🥕🥕

Spots by D. Avery

Marlie held up a pebble-eyed, twig-lipped marshmallow. “He’s got hard-rock eyes set in a puffy white face.”

“Who? Mr. Marshmallow?”

“Tommy’s father.” Marlie thrust the skewered marshmallow into the flames. “He was at the fence with Tommy. He said Daisy was so ugly she was almost cute. Daisy wouldn’t go to them. Tommy called her stupid. His dad said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

“And leopards can’t change their spots.”

“Liz…”

Marlie’s parents watched with her as the pebble-eyed marshmallow face browned, then blistered black, finally oozed onto the coals, flaring and spluttering before it disappeared.

🥕🥕🥕

Lavender and Sewage by Anne Goodwin

Time backflips and there is her mother slipping off her wedding band to finger the soil. The lavender’s perfume mingles with the sweet smell of manure recently deposited outside The Willows by the milkman’s Bay. “Nurture it, Matilda,” says her mother, “and it will delight you when you are old and grey.”

Now it straggles, a tangle of desiccated flowers and near-naked twigs. Neglected. Rage bubbles in her belly as the earth erupts around the shrub. Matty pinches her nose against the pong as shit froths over her shoes. A signal from her mother: time is ripe for revenge.

🥕🥕🥕

Bonehead by Simon Prathap D

I was watching the TV last night

I heard the symptoms of a thunderstorm. I checked the sky, it was clear, then I came inside and saw TV The d2h was saying a message ” services has been temporarily blocked due to poor weather.” I called my wife and told her it’s contradictory how I heard thunderstorm but no clouds and TV says poor weather but the sky is clear, what’s happening?

She hit my head and said

1st floor New tenants are moving things, and recharge TV, read the warning message in full.

Bone head! She said 🙄

🥕🥕🥕

Upstairs or Downstairs by Norah Colvin

Granny scratched her head. “I don’t know if I’m Arthur or Martha.”

“Whad’ya mean, Granny? I’m Arthur,” Arthur laughed.

“It’s just an old saying. Means I don’t know if I’m coming or going.”

“But you’re not coming or going. You’re staying here. With us.”

“I know,” laughed Granny. “I’m just a bit confused is all.”

“What’re you confused about?”

“I just came all the way down here for something, and I can’t remember what.”

“But this is upstairs, Granny. Not downstairs.”

“Silly me. There’s not much in my upstairs anymore.”

Now it was Arthur’s turn to scratch his head.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Contradictions by Anita Dawes

Yesterday I found some words lying around
Pages from a book.
I followed them around the house
They reminded me of scattered rose petals
The pages were not from a book
One spoke of love, while the other
Spoke of betrayal
Echoes of Romeo and Juliet
Yet this is not from Shakespeare
These pages are handwritten
As I gathered each one
I felt the weight of heartbreak.
The words shone like neon
Would there be light when I reached the end,
A reunion?
These pages belong to my mother’s old diary
I hope I can find the last page…

🥕🥕🥕

Square Head in a Round Roll by Bill Engleson

Here, in the darkness, in the sleepiness, night sweats cascade.

The blade, glistening in the mid-October sun, slams down.

SWOOSH!

“Heads will roll! Lemonade; Square that circle; Make the Grade!”

“Hey. Sweetie!”

The sentinel roughly shoves me up the steps.

I can’t be here. I must dance.

I am a dancing fool.

“Handyman left! Sashay slow; Slip your shod; Mousey nose!”

“Darling! Wakey wakey!”

Cake?

What’s wrong with eating cake?

Everyone likes cake.

“Bend the curve! Step on toes; Circle the square; Go cat go!”

“That’s it. Enough’s enough, lover. I’ve had it with your Covid-19 Marie Antoinette nutmares.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tories and Compassion by Anne Goodwin

Tradition deemed only white boys could touch the tuck-shop cash-box; the maharaja would be proud Rishi held the key. He dreamt of stuffing it with gold and silver, but plague confined juniors to the dorm. Rishi was willing to deliver but, with fagging outlawed, they lacked the coin to pay.

“Handouts?” said Boris. “Rewarding them to stay in bed?”

“We’ve stock to shift,” said Rishi. “See it as a loan.”

Boris rubbed his hands. “Which they’ll repay with interest?”

“Eventually.” Yet Rishi’s loyalties were split: between the brown boys who were dying and the club he yearned to join.

🥕🥕🥕

A Crock Tale by JulesPaige

Lacey only heard bits and pieces of the guys telling tales at the bar. She was in a booth, eating dinner after a long day of working out of town. A guy ended his story with; “…And the sign said bait for catchin’ yer Jumbo Shrimp!”

The men ‘round him guffawed and laughed. The smarty pants guy who told the story grinned like a crocodile that swallowed a whole double Devil’s Food chocolate cake with icing too boot.

That’s where the story took her, seeing the mouse Dr. De Soto tending to the crocodile needing his rotten tooth pulled!

🥕🥕🥕

Sleepy Square-Dance by Ritu Bhathal

The upbeat music created a jaunty atmosphere in the air. All around Jack, there were revellers dressed up in what they considered to be true ‘Square Dancing’ attire, i.e. a check shirt, some with fringes, denim, and obligatory cowboy boots.

It was all rather surreal. He was sitting in a church hall in the UK, not America!

Trying to stifle a yawn, he caught eyes with Jill. Oh great, now she’s coming over.

“Come on, sleepy head, I know you’re tired, but a bit of aa dance will wake you up!” She grabbed my arm, dragging me up.

Help!

🥕🥕🥕

Open Secret by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Shhhhh… don’t tell anyone what I’ve told you.”

Marnie shook her head. “You’re missing the point, Susan. Jim’s been cheating on Janet for months. This is an open secret, and the entire town knows what’s going on.”

“What? Mrs. Parker only told me the details today when I ran into her at the market.”

“That’s because you’re new in town. She probably told you not to tell anyone because it makes her feel important.”

Susan looked crestfallen as she waved goodbye to her neighbor.

Marnie grinned. Besides, she knew the truth. She and Jim had been lovers for years.

🥕🥕🥕

Cadillacs and Crocodiles by H.R.R. Gorman

The little lady showed up at the pump riding a hot-red Cadillac convertible with ostrich leather seats. She put out the cigarette in her ash tray and told me with pouty, vermilion lips, “Fill ‘er up.” She got out and, with her crocodile-skin purse, went into the store.

While she perused the candy shelf and soda fountain, I pumped in the liquid at 10 cents a gallon lamented my paltry pay. Rich people, getting richer off the backs of us poor. I’d like to kick people like her down a couple pegs.

And she’d left her keys in the ignition.

🥕🥕🥕

She’s Off for Good by Donna Matthews

Cruising down the wide-open road, music on max volume, she crossed the unseen, invisible, and arbitrary line known as the grid. Some believe this place as a mythical or naive place to be. But not her. For years, she was a weekend warrior – driving here or there, sometimes even hopping on an airplane. But it was always just a visit—one foot on and one foot off. Invariably, when she returned, she plugged back in, downloading all she missed and her weekend away fading like a dream. But not this time – this time she’s off for good.

🥕🥕🥕

A Small Crowd by John Lane

As Mrs. Sylvia Potts parked her 2006 Mercury Mountaineer in the lot near Sam’s Grocery, she noticed several people in front of the store. She walked over to see what was going on. It was people that she recognized from her neighborhood: Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Ms. Clearance, Mrs. Done and Mr. Forester. Mrs. Potts asked, “What’s this?” Mrs. Jones spoke for the whole group. “We’re tired of not being heard! This is against our civil rights!” Mrs. Potts saw the signs: WE WANT MORE THAN ONE PACK OF TOILET PAPER. Mrs. Potts rolled her eyes, then walked inside.

🥕🥕🥕

My Aunt Babette by Eliza Mimski

My father’s sister Babette would let out these frenzied bubbles of a laugh that set my nerves on edge. A wicked, menacing laugh that mimicked the hysterical sounds of a pack of hyenas. With each laugh, her stomach would ride up and down in her seemingly blood-colored dresses.

Her speaking voice was different. She became this other person.

“Hi,” I’d say when visiting her, not knowing if I’d get the laugh or the voice.

“Here’s some candy, baby,” she’d say, each mellifluous syllable bouncing on its own little trampoline of air. At these times, her dresses turned pinkish.

🥕🥕🥕

Graduation Party by Ruchira Khanna

“Come on, Meg, at this rate, you’ll be a postgraduate, and we’ll miss our graduation party.” urged Felicia, who was prancing outside her room like a horse.

“Jeez! You are so impatient!” she shouted back at her twin sister and came out with a sulk.

Felicia froze like a statue upon seeing her.

“You don’t need to stare at me like that.” Meg exclaimed as she placed the stray locks around her forehead behind her ear, “What can I do? The tutorial to dutch braid your hair was taking forever that I had to entwine them in random order.”

🥕🥕🥕

Oil and Sea by Saifun Hassam

A sea breeze sprang up in the late evening. The tide rushed in, surf high, pounding and bulldozing through thick brown undercurrents, crashing on stinking tarry sands. The sea breeze was no match for that deadly vast oil spill. The salty air was saturated with oily drops.

Dawn brought no relief from ugliness. Fish lay dead, silver scales painted a deep dirty yellow ocher. Ducks struggled to shore. Alive, hopeless, crying for help. The oily sheen on feathers glistened deceptively with rainbows in the sunlight.

Broken but determined, we vowed to cleanse the sea, to somehow seek its forgiveness.

🥕🥕🥕

Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part I) by D. Avery

It was a dark an’ stormy night. A. Rancher sought shelter in the old mine shaft only ta find Buggs M. Lotts already holed up there. They got along like oil an’ water.

“Kinda cliché ain’t it, Kid?”

“S’posed ta be, Pal. I wanna show how these two don’t git along, ‘cept I’m gonna switch out oil an’ water fer… bacon, yeah! An’… brussel sprouts! No, that’s purty good. Bacon an’… maple ice cream! Wait, that sounds tasty.”

“Kid, ever’thin’ goes good with bacon. Ya’ll have ta git rid a it.”

A. Rancher was glad ta see Asa O’Buddy…

🥕🥕🥕

Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part II) by D. Avery

“’Ello, Keed. Dees ees a tough prompt for you, non? Perhaps I can help.”

“LeGume!”

“Eet ees I, Pal.”

“LeGume, whut makes you think ya know any more’n Kid here ‘bout writin’? It’s a tough prompt all right, but jist stay outta the way. Kid’ll figger it out. Heck, LeGume, you don’t know shit from shine-ola.”

“Au contaire, Pal! Dees I know ver’ well. An’ Keed… we all know Keed knows sheet. Keed can shovel da sheet till da cows come home. Dat ees raw writing, non? But revizeeng! Dat ees polishing.”

“Puttin’ the shine on?”

“Write on, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part III) by D. Avery

Dark green waves of thundercloud roiled over the mountain. A. Kidd searched for the cave entrance, seeking refuge from the fierce storm. Even as violent flashes of lightning tore at the darkening sky Kidd hesitated. Was someone already in the makeshift shelter? The sound of laughter echoed from within the hard-rock walls, seeped out into the rain swept night; or was it the keening sound of someone crying? Kidd stepped into the dark, kept a small flame burning and looked within. There was no one else.
When morning finally dawned the dew on the grass sparkled like green champagne.

🥕🥕🥕

The Sugar Report

In WWI, letters from girlfriends and wives back home were called sugar reports. Messages might sustain soldiers on their quests, giving them something sweet to look forward to. It’s not certain if this phrase was used in other wars, but the idea is ageless.

Writers were asked to imagine (or reimagine) what could be contained in a sugar report. Letters and ideas expanded across the battlefield to include new uses for the word, or clever twists.

The following are based on the

PART I (10-minute read)

The Female Pilot by Joanne Fisher

Mary was at the controls of the B-29 bomber. She was helping ferry the new aircraft to a military base. Mary was part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots program, or WASP for short. That was all she could do for the war effort, since she wasn’t allowed to fly combat missions, that certainly wasn’t part of the program. Only in Russia could women be combat pilots…

In her jacket pocket was a letter from her “friend” Lucy. She would wait until she got to the base, and then she would find somewhere quiet to read her “sugar report”.

🥕🥕🥕

Right Direction by Reena Saxena

It was a tough choice, but she had always done things differently.

Rosy decided to join the army after her husband Herbert became a martyr to the country’s cause. She was welcomed, and her decision glorified to start with. Gradually, the grim reality of the situation set in.

Tears rolled down her eyes as she opened her sugar report – mails from her two lovely children. Isn’t this what Herbert referred to her letters as – sugar report?

“Mom, we are proud of you. Don’t worry about us. We have joined the NCC- it is a stepping stone in the right direction.

🥕🥕🥕

1917 Sugar Report by Jules Dixon

I inhale deep. She’s here. It’s one of the only times of quiet among the men. Names on white rectangles called out into the cold air. Words that keep us going when we don’t want to. Some of the guys call them sugar reports; sweet, concerned words melting chests and eyes. I save mine. I don’t let anyone see me reading what will show my weakness. It might be the last words I ever hear my sweet Madeline whisper and I always imagine she’s right there beside me. The letter smells like her. I inhale deep. She’s not here.

🥕🥕🥕

Dear, Sweet Sugar Report by Chelsea Owens

“Looks like t’mail’s come,” Private O’Boyle said. He leaned over the M-2’s exposed, greasy innards and smiled at his friend.

Pfc. Flanagan grinned back. The two watched a soldier unloading a canvas bag.

“Betcha got one from Mary,” O’Boyle teased. He dodged Flanagan’s kick.

“Oh; aye? And what of *you*, Joseph O’Boyle?”

O’Boyle pretended sudden concentration in securing a bolt. A smudge of grease almost worked to hide his half-smile.

“Aha!” Flanagan said, “I knew it.”

“Knew what?”

“You’re not foolin’ anyone! You’ve had more Sugar Reports from Miss Josephine Callahan that the rest of the unit put together!”

🥕🥕🥕

Mail Drop by D. Avery

“She didn’t forget you this week, Dougie.”

The lieutenant handed out the mail, watched as the steamy jungle faded and the men disappeared into familiar kitchens, old neighborhoods, into embraces remembered or imagined.

Then his radio man was at his side. He didn’t need to tell his men; they were folding their letters, tucking them into their breast pockets, some kissing them before putting them in the band of their helmets. The jungle was back in full focus.

“Time to draw straws.”

“Don’t bother Lieu. I’ll go.” Dougie took point, his crumpled letter left behind in an MRE can.

🥕🥕🥕

Sugar Sugar by Kerry E.B. Black

The wind hung heavy with dust and destruction, but his pocket shielded a secret. Encased in Army-issued green, a letter from home bore the sweetest message. His girl expected their baby’s arrival before spring bloomed. Although it was hard to imagine anything as delicate as a flower or a baby, such images sustained him through dark nights and hellish days. Shells broke bones. Under fire, skin shriveled. Yet his spirit clung to a need to meet and love his little family. He’d collect the honey of their innocence and craft from it a balm to heal his wounded soul.

🥕🥕🥕

Mail for You by Padmini Krishnan

“Was this the mail you were reading?” the young lieutenant passed a letter to Henry.

“Thank you,” Henry took it and wondered if he was expected to salute the lieutenant

The lieutenant hesitated, “I found this under the wires. It probably fell from your pocket.” Henry looked at the bruises in the lieutenant’s hands where the barbed wires had cut him. He took the crumpled photo of his girlfriend. “Thank you,” he said, quietly.

The lieutenant saluted him and walked away. Henry stared at his back, then walked back to his tent to join the other prisoners of war.

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Words of Home by D. Avery

Since at least the second World War
And all wars after and all before
Now Iraq, or Afghanistan
It’s sweet words of home sustains a man

That you send comfort shows your strength
You’re the one deserves parades of thanks
You speak to me of a life at home
Thinking me the man you’ve known

And I know you say you love me still
But I began to die with my first kill
Your letters delivered to my hell
And I reply but cannot tell

I want to die, yet Death I refuse
Because of you, my Living muse

🥕🥕🥕

Sugar Report by Jacquie Biggar

Unashamed tears roll down my face, words on scented paper imprinted on my mind.

Darling Ken,

I think about you every day, but never more than now.
He’s beautiful, my darling. A full head of hair, nut-brown like yours. Ten perfect fingers and toes, and a smile that fills my heart.

The nurse says gas, but we know better. He’s thinking of the day you’ll come home and take us into your loving arms.
I pray it’s soon.

Love you always and all ways,
Sara

Three long months ago, my baby wrote me a love letter- I’m a father.

🥕🥕🥕

Found Letters by Susan Zutautas

Jenny was cleaning out her mom’s house after she’d died and came across a stack of letters tied together. She was curious to find out who they were from, so she settled into a big comfy chair and was shocked as soon as she started to read them. They were from a man in the army and from the written words she could tell that he was in love with her mother and planned to marry. After putting two and two together Jenny found out that this man was her father who never returned from the war. Tears flowed.

🥕🥕🥕

1917 Sugar Report by Charli Mills

In 1916 it wasn’t clear if America would send troops overseas, but if they did, John Kellerman was enlisted and ready. His mother refused to say goodbye the day he left their Midwest farm. She was a widow against the war. His kid sister ran after his bus, waving proudly. She sent him letters scented with pink roses from her victory garden. Kellerman let his squad believe he had a sugar report from home, enjoying the minor deception. When he was killed on the frontline, they buried him and his sister’s letters beneath a white cross. Nothing sweet remained.

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Roses by Saifun Hassam

Sitting on the park bench, Ginny was lost in her memories of Grandpa. Among his personal photos and letters were Grandma’s sugar reports when Grandpa served in Vietnam.

Her reverie was suddenly interrupted by the young guy who had been walking impatiently up and down the path, a beautiful bouquet of roses in his hand. With a smile and a gallant bow, he offered her the roses. Before she could thank him, he strode off.

Ginny returned to the old First Avenue Cemetery. Lovingly she placed the roses near the potted peonies and daisies, for her Grandma and Grandpa.

🥕🥕🥕

Future Days by Sascha Darlington

It was getting harder, preparing care packages, mementos, conjuring sweet sayings, keeping her hand steady to write. Sitting even became a struggle.

“Please, Casey, please write this one,” Bea implored.

“You must tell him.”

“We’ve been through this. I want him home safe.”

Casey penned Bea’s words, her own hand trembling.

“The blooming daffodils smell of spring, remind me of you,” Bea dictated.

Casey’s heart clenched. Bea hadn’t been outside in days.

“I imagine future days we’ll walk, hands clasped.”

Weeks later, Casey gazed across the meadow, where a trick of light revealed a couple, hand-in-hand, picking poppies.

Together.

🥕🥕🥕

Send ‘Em a Letter by Susan Sleggs

At the Home-front Warriors meeting, Tessa’s father asked, “How do you communicate with your service member?” He was surprised all the answers involved electronics. “Doesn’t anyone write letters anymore? In my father’s era, they were called sugar reports. Do you realize if your loved one pulls out a phone in a war zone, the enemy can track the GPS coordinates.”

There were murmurs of surprise and dismay.

“I challenge you all to write a happy, newsy letter. One that can be carried in a pocket and reread in silence reminding them they have a reason to get back home.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Sweet Lamb by Sherri Matthews

My dearest Harry,
How I miss you! It’s raining here, the puddles by the barn are knee-deep. Father’s out there now with Lucy, remember her, the old, fat sheep we didn’t think would lamb? Well, she did, a boy. Father let me name him Harry, after you, the most handsome lamb I’ve ever seen. If only you were here, we could sneak into the barn like we used to. Come home soon, my dearest love, so we can marry. I think we’ve got our own little Harry on the way and Father is getting suspicious. Your darling, Daisy.

🥕🥕🥕

Alex’s Sugar Report by Lisa R. Howeler

“Warner. Mail.”

The sergeant tossed the letter at him on his way by. Alex snatched it from where it had fallen on his bunk. He smelled the perfume before he even saw the return address.

A smile tugged at his mouth. He closed his eyes, pictured her smile, her green eyes, remembered her lips warm and soft under his.

“What’s that, Alex? A sugar letter?”

Alex let out a long sigh. “Indeed.”

“What’s it say?”

Alex read the words. The smile faded.

“Bad news?” Matthew asked.

Alex laughed. “No. The best news ever. I’m going to be a dad.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sugar Report by FloridaBorne

He remembered his high school sweetheart’s kiss the day Private Smith vowed to marry her once the war was over.

That day, he’d felt like a hero. After a year of fear, exhaustion, death… killing, he wasn’t the same man.

“Sugar report!” His sergeant chuckled, giving him two letters.

Same thing from his girlfriend: gossip.

He’d met a librarian in London, someone with a brain, marrying her on leave 3 months ago.

He tore open her letter. He was going to be a father?

He began a letter to his girlfriend, long overdue, “Dear Millie, I’m not returning home…”

🥕🥕🥕

Sugar Report: Code Red by Lisa Listwa

Kiddo was unusually wound up when Mom picked her up at school.

“How was school today?”

“Great!” she said. Kiddo, backpack, lunchbox, and Valentine’s box all tumbled into the car. “The Valentine party was SOOOO much fun!”

“Hmm…” said Mom. “What did you eat today?”

“I only had my lunch that you packed. It was good.”

“Is that all?” Mom was skeptical. “Did they have treats at the party?”

“Oh yeah!” said the Kid. “I forgot!”

Please say water, apples, and air-popped popcorn…

“Red candy hearts, lollipops, cupcakes with pink and red sprinkles…”

Great, thought Mom. Code Red Dye.

🥕🥕🥕

Valentine’s Day at School by tracey robinson

“So, how was school today?” I ask as my son bounces around in the back seat. “Good,” he says, which is his typical response.

“Did you do anything special for Valentine’s Day?” “Well, in advisory we got Hershey Kisses and in Latin Mr. C gave us donuts. Oh and Mrs. P handed out Smarties.” “Oh, really? “What about lunch, anything special?” “We got ice cream sandwiches, the Neapolitan kind.” “Great,” I replied with a sigh, regretting the chocolate cake I had baked for dessert.

“So what’s for snack?” my son asked, oblivious to the impact of his sugar report.

🥕🥕🥕

My Sugar Report by Colleen M. Chesebro

It’s been a difficult month. I’ve fought temptation the best I could, to no avail. My sugar report for this month is a bust. I couldn’t fight the temptations. I gave in to my demons.

My weight loss journey has been fraught with many ups and downs. One day, I meet my goal without breaking a sweat. The next day after a three-mile ramble, I’m starving and willing to eat every carb in the house. And, I do.

Some battles just aren’t worth the fight. My mom said for special occasions, just go ahead and just eat the cake!

🥕🥕🥕

Sugar Report by Anita Dawes

A letter I found inside a second hand book
From a nine-year-old called Charlotte
Addressed to Santa dated 1976
Dear Santa, I don’t need any toys
Or new clothes this year
I need help to make my daddy better
He’s been sick a long time
And mummy is very worried
Doctor said we have to wait
For daddy to get better
Mummy prays,
because she does not think he can.
She said I should pray
I try hard, please help, love Charlotte
With Santa’s magical delivery in one night
I hoped that Charlotte’s request for help
was answered somehow…

🥕🥕🥕

Sugar Letter by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

The report was no sugar letter. Its message was clear; devoid of any chocolate coating. The shadowy shape on the sonar was a tumour. It was wrapped around the main artery in William’s stomach making effective surgical removal difficult.

“I’ll remove as much of it as possible,” Dr McDonald said, “the piece left behind should shrivel up and disappear.”

He looked at the parents sitting across from him, their faces white and troubled. “The piece I remove will be biopsied.”

“I’ll donate my blood if it’s ever needed. We are a match.” It was all he had to offer.

🥕🥕🥕

Clewiston, 1973 by magpie477

Rosario, I miss you and the children so much. Our camp is crowded and filthy: nine other men in this shack, no toilet or running water. Every morning we are driven to the cane fields where we cut until our backs ache and the machete blisters our hands. For lunch, rice, sometimes a little pork. (Oh, for a cassava!) I can cut eight tons a day but am lucky to get two dollars. Boss treats us like pigs. If we complain, says, “Why don’t you go home?”

I wish I could. But there is no job for me there.

🥕🥕🥕

Sugar Report by M J Mallon

I’m missing you so much; the days are endless without you. Yesterday, I placed some flowers on Richard’s grave. The cold and I stood shivering by his gravestone. No one was around so I confessed everything. By the time I’d finished, it was getting dark and the tombstones were getting darker.

I feel so guilty with you in prison. Passion drove us to his mess. I wish I’d stuck with Richard’s humdrum, instead of going for your sugar kisses. But, I’d murder again for one sweet kiss.

🥕🥕🥕

Back Before Email and Text by Anne Goodwin

She basked in the cultural difference. She dodged the landmines of Give-me-pen and What-is-your-name? She swapped travellers’ tales over masala dosa. She pulled the dupata over her head and slinked away. She wandered blissfully through cities where no-one knew her. She felt so lonely she cried.

She re-read the letters on blue onion-skin airmail paper. The sugar reports from home. Relived the joy of leaving the Poste Restante with a stack of reminders she was more than Anonymous Westerner. Some days she’d queue at the office knowing there’d be nothing for her. In towns she’d never planned to be.

🥕🥕🥕

Letter of Intent by JulesPaige

from what I could tell
Valentine was up all night
go on grab hold – love

such a brief message, he sent;
healed, my faith – sentenced to death

who could judge my heart
such a sugar report those
lines restoring faith

While reading about Valentine, Lee imagined the blind girls’ thoughts. Did Ife, her guardian spirit whose name meant woman of love; was Ife also helping to restore the faith of those who had lost so much? The Judge who sentenced Valentine to death, could he have imagined his role in the modern holiday.

Ife’s rose scent wafted gently through…

🥕🥕🥕

Torn by Hugh Roberts

The first words that entered Mike’s head when looking at the picture were ‘I love you.’ He wished he’d kept the sugar letter he’d received while on duty in Iraq.

***

Torn by love and lust, Sophie suddenly remembered the reply she’d got from a sugar letter she’d sent. Had he meant what he had said? Was now the right time to find out?

***

Two floors above, Doug dreamt about a tall stranger dressed in military uniform stood in a field of daisies, and who held an unopened letter towards him. ‘Not everything is as it seems,’ whispered the stranger.

🥕🥕🥕

Dispatch From my Third Floor Cubicle by Bill Engleson

Darling, what a lovely surprize. I’d expected nothing more this Valentines Day than my usual excruciating hour commute, often as not sitting next to that irritating millennial, Dulcie Ditherspoon, the new HR manager from the fifth floor, who just happens to board at the next station to ours and never fails to find a seat inches from me.

Today, she was clutching a dozen roses and a box of chocolate, and saying, “My sweet Riley, he’s so woke. I’m so quiche. He’s so goat.”

I almost tossed my cookies.

Your valentine-shaped peanut butter cookies.

Work is such dense warfare.

🥕🥕🥕

The Sweet Price of Freedom by Curious Archaeologist

“Those damn women.” He slapped the paper down.

His colleague looked up, surprised.

“This report, sales of West India sugar have slumped. This campaign not to use our sugar, just because of slavery – ‘Am I not a woman and a sister’ indeed.”

“What can we do? We’ve tried everything, it’s not working.”

She sipped her tea, the sugar bowl labelled ‘Not made by slaves’. The report was wonderful news, the campaign was working.
In the newly reformed parliament, the MP’s had been told how to vote, across the tea tables of Britain the battle for freedom was fought – and won.

🥕🥕🥕

Frankie Rides. Again by D. Avery

“Thanks agin fer the sugar cubes Kid. It’s got Burt eatin’ right outta my hand.”

“Reckon it’s another busy week fer you an’ Burt, ‘ey Frankie?”

“What d’ya mean, Kid?”

“Deliverin’ mail. Last week all them condolence cards, this week Valentines an’ love letters— sugar reports as she says.”

“Kid, I reckon those condolence cards and notes was letters a love too. Funny thing about mail. It’s all jest somethin’ in a envelope, ya jest don’t know; could be sugar, could be salt, looks the same. An’ some a this week’s sugar reports are sure ta be bittersweet.”

“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕

Protests

A protest can be small as the silence of a single person or big as a clamoring crowd. Social injustice, human rights, better conditions for workers can add to suppressed voices. Yet, objections can come from even the protested.

Writers gave much thought to the prompt and explored who and why what was the object of protests.

The following is based on the January 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a protest story.

PART I (10-minute read)

Remember the Revolution by Doug Jacquier

Remember causes
and affectations of effect on war
in cities now gone five-star?

Remember social action
sitting in smoke-filled rooms with Nescafe activists
and battered women with no teeth and less hope?

Remember death
when it belonged to rock stars
and people your mother your mother knew?

Remember money
and how it wasn’t going to concern you
until you learnt the golden rule and its defensible limits?

And do you remember when the penny dropped
that the personal was the political
and you found out you had to change?

And you decided to forget the revolution?

🥕🥕🥕

Standing by D. Avery

“Staff members shouldn’t join student anti’s, Ms. Higginbottom.”

“Anti’s. My dad, a member of the NRA, called protesters that, Mr. Mathy.”

Mr. Massey the math teacher looked at Ilene, unsure of her lisp and her tone.

“But this is not my father’s NRA. Not by a long shot.”

“You give up one constitutional right, the rest are vulnerable.”

Incredulous, Ilene finally spoke. “Look at the reciprocals; not what they’re against but what they are for; that’s what pro-test means, testifying for a cause.”

“And what are these children standing for Ms. Higginbottom?”

“Life, Mr. Massey. They want to live.”

🥕🥕🥕

My Way or Protest by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

Riley stared at the plate in front of her in disbelief. It wasn’t what she ordered.

She watched the waitress slowly approach the table.

“I wanted mac ’n’ cheese” – Riley spat out.

“This IS mac ‘n’ cheese” – the waitress calmly replied.

Riley folded her arms, pouted, and frowned at the broccoli. She was not going to eat anything until she got exactly what she ordered. Or chocolate, which was the one thing that would always magically fixed things.

“You will eat whatever I give you, young lady” – Riley’s mother said, sitting down next to her at the kitchen table.

🥕🥕🥕

A Child’s Protest by Ritu Bhathal

“No more slop! No more slop!”

The sound of the butts of knives and forks being bashed against the tabletops echoed through the dining room.

“Children, please!” Mrs Garrett, flapped her arms up and down, trying to calm the situation, to no avail.

“We ain’t eating that rubbish anymore, Miss! It’s rank!” Tommy, the protest ringleader, piped up.

A chorus of voices echoed his sentiments.

Mrs Garrett looked at the greying mass of potato, with an unidentifiable beige stew, and cabbage that had long since lost any goodness, and sympathised.

I think it’s time to talk to the cooks…

🥕🥕🥕

Protested Internally, Murtle’s Story by Tammy L. Toj Gajewski

She pointed at her leg making a stabbing motion. I shook my head and said, “What?” even though she couldn’t hear. Murrow took my hand and made me touch her pudgy belly, then took my finger to stab her upper thigh repeatedly. Oh oh… I see . “You don’t like the insulin shots?” I sign into her palm. That was it she went crazy signing and jibbering so fast I couldn’t keep up so I just hugged her and said yes I know over and over. She raised her shoulders finally in triumph that I knew her pain and internal protest.

🥕🥕🥕

A Small Protest by Chelsea Owens

“Won’t!” The small face scrunches.

Father sighs. “I’d let you go like this, Arnie, but-”

“No no no!”

“Arrrnie,” Father begins, his tone less calm, “Daddy‘s wearing-”

“Daddy’s fart face!” A small tongue protrudes from the small mouth.

Father straightens. He takes a small arm in a big hand and marches small legs up big stairs. “That’s enough, young man! We do not stick our tongues out or call names.”

“Fart. face. Fart. face,” Arnie gasps at each stair.

“Now,” Father concludes, setting him at the top. “You’ll sit in Timeout, then you WILL put your pants on!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Little Classroom Protest by Ellen Best

“Quiet!” shouted Miss Brooks, “Okay Girls, hands up if you think you’re the weaker sex.” Shouts, and stomping shoes echo. Her voice raised, her palm hit the desk. A puddle formed in her eye, she grabbed her hands rubbing vigorously, as a drip plopped against her lip. Her tongue, snatched it away unseen, while she counted raised hands.

“Please miss,” eyes swivel, and I colour. “I think it depends if they smack the desk harder than you.” The noise level climbed. “It isn’t gender or braun that predicts strength, but Emotional intelligence Miss, females win that every time.”

🥕🥕🥕

Protest Proposal by Caroline Scott

He was going to do it.

She could see it in his eyes. There was a strange, liquid gleam in them, and a kind of manic terror.

She should speak. She needed to stop this before he did something either of them regretted. A protest rose on her lips but he was already on his knees.

She’d never seen a man so afraid.

“Will you marry me?”

It was his question, but she said it. If the point was at all worth arguing, he didn’t say so. When her arms went around his neck, all he said was,

“Yes.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Parent’s Nightmare by Jacquie Biggar

“There’s no easy way to say this—” Matt met the growing horror in Mrs. Carter’s eyes, his heart hurting, “your daughter was murdered last night on the Galloping Goose Trail. We believe she was on her way home at the time.”

The poised woman who’d met them at the door disappeared in a swelling tide of despair. She vigorously shook her head. “No, you’ve made a mistake. Emily was home last night. I brought her home from school myself. It’s not possible.”

“How do you know it’s our child?” Carter asked, his voice gruff. “It could be anyone.”

🥕🥕🥕

Methinks We Doth Protest Too Much by Cara Stefano

I have often wondered what I should protest: world hunger, needless war, homeless children right here in my home town? There are so many reasons to be angry, to wish for a soap box to stand upon, exhorting the masses to action; there are so many reasons to “get all up in arms” about this or that pressing issue. We are so often preaching to the choir – our tiny group of friends and family, acquaintances whom we know agree. Perhaps I simply want to protest the very idea of protesting. Let’s all just try to get along, shall we?

🥕🥕🥕

The Gift of Music by Susan Sleggs

The wheelchair-bound veterans weren’t surprised when asked to join Gil Brandt near his bus. The musician learned names then turned to Michael, “I’ve heard of your talent and that you live near multiple VA medical centers so I’m giving you this to share.”

A vehicle whose sides were painted with music murals and the words “Veterans’ Music Van” pulled up. Doors were opened to reveal many instruments and other band equipment.

“I can’t accept such a gift,” Michael said.

“No protesting. I hope you’ll develop or add to a music program at each center because music has healing power.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rebel Released by Ann Edall-Robson

“What’s going here?” Hanna pointed at the picture.

“The whisper went through the halls of the school.

‘We’re walking out as soon as first period starts after lunch.’

Rumours had been swirling for weeks. Finally, the day arrived to protest having to wear skirts and dresses at school, especially in -40F weather. All we wanted was to be able to wear slacks.

There I was, a junior, scared to death I’d be expelled, making my way down the halls, out onto the lawn with the others.”

Liz closed the Yearbook with a laugh.

“My inner rebel had been released.”

🥕🥕🥕

Student Protest by Nancy Brady

Julia wanted to be inducted into her school’s National Honor Society.

Each year she saw outstanding upperclassmen selected for the honor. As a junior, she watched her classmates and the seniors get chosen one by one.

The school administration and teachers were shocked when one senior refused in protest over a blatant prejudice against another student. Apparently, the seniors knew that the student was treated unfairly, making a pact to reject the honor; however, only Jerry had the strength of character to protest this injustice.

How they found out was never revealed, but it forever changed the school’s policy.

🥕🥕🥕

Protest by Joanne Fisher

An angry crowd had gathered outside protesting the sweeping new laws passed by the Government.

“How can I create art if there’s no more human misery and suffering?” shouted the artist.

“Now I can afford to feed, clothe, and house all my kids without having to work three jobs. HOW DARE YOU!” screamed a woman.

“But I wanted all my money to be sucked up by the global billionaires!” another man complained.

“Now I can have decent healthcare. What made you think I wanted that?”

“The environment cleaned up? Who said we wanted a utopia?” a woman cried out.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Mad, but Angry by Anne Goodwin

Although medication dulls my senses, that headline hurts. An assault on language. An assault on me.

When I first acquired the label, I feared it would swallow me whole. Would I still be a person? Or turn into an axe-wielding lunatic overnight?

I upload a screenshot to Facebook. An emoticon scowl. SCHIZOPHRENIC ATTACKS DIABETIC would be more balanced. UNEMPLOYED ACCOUNTANT ATTACKS SHOP ASSISTANT more polite.

The LIKES accumulate. The expressions of rage. We’re more than our diagnoses. More often the target than the perpetrator of abuse.

While social media can be mentally toxic, it’s a place of protest too.

🥕🥕🥕

Silent Protest by Lisa Listwa

Harold felt someone touch him.

Or did he?

It was hard to tell from behind the curtain of darkness shrouding his eyes. Every inch of his leaden body resisted all appeals for movement. His mind was too clouded for inquiry.

He could probably rally himself, but the only thing he wanted was to let go, to sink deeper into the noiseless black pawing at his consciousness.

Something – or someone – moved nearby. Harold sensed a change in the area immediately surrounding him.

Falling.

No. He was rising.

“C’mon, cat,” said his human. “Time to get up. Get off the bed.”

🥕🥕🥕

#81 Discharge? by JulesPaige

my mind protests, sighs
you’re not what I expected;
mirrored reflection

Hoping that I’m not still blushing when Sam arrives; I am still in wonderment about how my body protests… But I smell Ife’s rose scent – I calm down. Just what can I tell him? That some myths are prophecy, like history is doomed to repeat itself if we don’t learn from it? Quite a bit of the Underground Railroad, just like the Pony Express has been amplified, romanticized. Yet there were kernels of truth.

Maybe I’ll open with; “Have you ever used a psychic to help solve cases?” …

🥕🥕🥕

I Must Protest by H.R.R. Gorman

The man in the top hat knocked the soapbox with his gold-tipped cane. “I must protest this… this sin! How dare you peddle this Godless brew?”

The squirmy man with thin mustache bent down from atop his box. “Godless brew? No, it’s a true cure for everything from apoplexy to zinc deficiency, from premature birth to heart failure! Care to take a sip and put some pep in your step?”

The man with the top hat smashed the bottles at the foot of the soap box. “Even worse! If you cure mother, how else will I get her money?”

🥕🥕🥕

Protest to God by Pedro Padilla

He felt broken. Heart striving. Body moving in nuanced physical patterns. Depending on what action the work requires. Sweat, clenched fists, spider like hand movements. All include use of the back.

Outside the mine his 4 children, motherless, wait. When he comes out to check on them he spies a snake near by. Family says that’s when he broke. Hair went white at 30. His protest to God. No man, or woman, as proxy. Straight to the source.

“We work. I work hard. She died. I’m broken. How? What to do? You are too hard. Too unfair. Please help us.”

🥕🥕🥕

Legacy Survived by Charli Mills

Three sisters opened a yarn shop in Houghton 19 miles from where their children died in a stairwell. They stood stiff as marble in the back corner, the waists of their dresses pinched as tight as the grief in their eyes. Round skeins of yarn soft as a baby’s head inspired sales to knitters whose wealth they had once protested. Next door, another displaced Italian family opened a confectionary with fireproof ceiling tiles. In business, they dispensed softness and sweets, set codes for stairs, and prospered. Their surviving children’s grandchildren expanded family enterprises long after the copper mines closed.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Be The Change by Nobbinmaug

“Here’s another depressing news story. We should do something.”

“Like what?”

“Protest.”

“Protest what?”

“I don’t know. Pollution. Corporate tax cuts. Guns. Puppy mills.”

“Car washes.”

“What? You’re mocking me.”

“I am. What about actors who play roles inconsistent with their ethnicity? Innocuous lyrics to Christmas songs from the ’40s?”

“I’m serious. We live in a world where a xenophobic, rapist, megalomaniac, demagogue was elected president over a qualified woman amid cries of ‘Lock her up’ because she sent emails from the wrong account.”

“That’s why I’m protesting elections. You’re not gonna change anything.”

“Maybe we should protest apathy.”

🥕🥕🥕

Protest by Floridaborne

My name is Ambivalence. I know not of the ways those around me live. I am a ghost condemned to this globe called Earth, searching for my daughter, Kindness.

My world died in the fires of protest, a civilization created by Peace and Prosperity. My crime? I believed our golden era could never end and failed to see Greed stop at nothing to prevail. Greed created disease, and then Greed survived the death of our world, giving birth to Psychopath and Victim.

Five thousand years later, I watch the birth of twins; Obliteration and Apocalypse.

When can I rest?

🥕🥕🥕

Wait to Speak by Jules Dixon

A ghostly hand silenced my heart. Wait to speak it whispered, to hold my truth until I heard their decree of masked respect. But I wouldn’t be told when to scream from the mountains and when to cry from the valleys. My spirit straightened and I bellowed into the night that their ruse of order wasn’t going to work. My triumphant heart sang the words I’d longed to release. Their reaction an unwanted ghost to be banished forever. Now I stand on the podium, my voice strong, my heart wild, my emotion true. My time is now, and ever.

🥕🥕🥕

A Pregnant Protest by Colleen M. Chesebro

Susan squeezed her husband’s hand, turning his knuckles white.

“I’ll never let you into my bed again,” she protested.

Tim nodded his head. “I’m so sorry love,” he whispered.

The contractions began again as Susan shrieked out a primal wail. She panted through the waves of torment.

“You’re almost there,” the doctor murmured, intent on his ministrations. “One more push, Susan, and that should do it.”

Susan closed her eyes in concentration. With one long scream she pushed out the reason for her pain.

The infant resembled his father. A long-tail protruded from the base of his spine.

🥕🥕🥕

Protest by Simon

Fight between two monkeys inside a forest. Both were fighting rigorously and accidentally discovered a chest under the grass. Both monkeys stared at the chest in unison. One of them opened it. Two hands from inside holds both monkeys hand and they both scream and saw vision of a great hero past, died in a protest, fighting the secret enemies disguised as protestors cornered this Hero and pushed to death. But before he died, none of the enemies left protest alive. His rage was incredibly strong, even after he dies his soul now turned dark demon “Coming for you!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Protest by Teresa Grabs

Shouting roared outside as Davey and I huddled in the bathtub. Breaking glass sent shivers up my spine. My fingers ached from gripping the baseball bat as hard as I was, but I promised Mom I would keep him safe. I had to. Sure, he was my little brother and I loved him, but he was so much more than that.

Mom screamed and Dad started shouting vulgarities as a door somewhere in the house burst open. I don’t understand why the humans are protesting. Davey wouldn’t hurt anyone. He wouldn’t.

Unless I tell him to.

“Go ahead, Davey.”

🥕🥕🥕

Confusion’s Blunt Knife by M J Mallon

‘I didn’t do it,’ he howled.

‘Stop your protesting, we saw you!’

‘It wasn’t me, it was them.’

‘Excuses, excuses. Them don’t do that, only this does.’

Confusion handed the boy the knife. It was blunt.

‘Why you always blunt?’ he asked.

‘To see if you will sharpen your mind, you idiot!’

The boy looked lost. He pulled his jacket tight around him searching for the right words.

‘My mind is tired, too wired to remember this: who, did what to whom.’

‘Who, or what are you, boy?’

‘I’m tight wound like this jacket.’

‘Strait, that’s what you are.’

🥕🥕🥕

Protest by Dave Madden

Hundreds stood before the venue’s mouth, pumping signs in the air, screaming for an end to MMA—human cockfighting.

The manner in which these social justice warriors rallied online and postured at anyone trying to cross their fence of fiery flesh, it was unclear whether they were attempting to cancel California’s biggest MMA promotion or start up a new fight league of their own.

A long weekend defending territory, skipping meals in hopes of tipping the scales in their favor, and celebrating victory after effecting attendance.

Too bad the band of misguided protestors never noticed their similarities with MMA.

🥕🥕🥕

Attention/Protest by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Snowmageddon! Stay home if you don’t have to go out! Feels like double-digit negative temps! Treacherous conditions! Freezing drizzle! Mega-storm sweeping the continent, laying waste to everything in its path!

She switched off the t.v., powered down her computer, snapped off background radio reports. She believed the footage:crashes; spinouts; canceled flights; people braving the cold for ice hockey; solo skiing (her, today); folks bundled like pineapples, walking their dogs.

What about those living rough? Surely these people, and the relief efforts, are newsworthy? She grabbed her keys, groceries and blankets loaded into the SUV, and hit the streets.

🥕🥕🥕

The Gorge’s Protest by Nicole Osmond

The Gorge is breathtaking – a natural wonder carved in a mountain. A chiselled masterpiece a million years in the making.

When the rains come the Gorge shouts its fury in protest.

I am forced to look away.

Its rage terrifies me.

When the clouds are vacant and the sun does it wonderous job with full commitment, the Gorge speaks in whispers.

The rage now replaced with a soothing lullaby at times accompanied with a choir of mist that joins in harmony and sings its melody in vibrant colors.

Each soothing note of color stretching to arch its maker.

🥕🥕🥕

In Protest of the Planet by DGKaye

What remains of the trees, struggle to stand tall, casting thin shadows across the water with reflection in their retaliation. Birds make swift exit when the weather turns ominous. Where do humans flee when there’s no longer a safe place to exist?

What remains is nature’s leftovers from man’s thoughtless lashings. Angels band together, looking down from above in God’s sanctuary as God’s planet drowns and burns in salty tears. When will the natives wake? Action is needed now. Let us stand up in defense of the planet against the wrongs of man and start to repair with change.

🥕🥕🥕

At Home in the Land of the Privileged by Bill Engleson

We were stoned that night. I’ll admit that much. Me, anyways. Sitting behind them I was, slumped on our ratty old davenport.
Listening.

Gangster-like they were, huddled at the-steal-at-five-bucks, pink arborite table Rose scored at the Sally Ann. She was the key insurgent in our ménage à pick-a-number. She’d transferred up from Berkeley, following the crimson flame of revolution into Canada.

Tommy was a prairie kid, swooning over Rose, brain-fried by hormones.

Larson. He was something else again.

Angry as a twister.

Larson’s the one who proposed, “one well-placed bullet, comrades. If we’re serious, we need to draw blood.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Protest by Lisa R. Howeler

Fern watched her father gathering his winter clothes together.

“Dad, you’re not going to that protest are you?”

“It’s not a protest, it’s a rally,” he said with a sigh, pulling his woolen har down on his head over his ears.

“But it’s 21 degrees out and you’re — ”

“I know, I’m 76 but age shouldn’t stop me from standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.”

Fern sighed, shaking her head. “Okay, Dad, but I better not get a call from the police that you and Nancy have chained yourselves to the courthouse steps again.”

🥕🥕🥕

Protest by Anita Dawes

Wave your hands in the air

Like you just don’t care!

They do care very much

About the conditions they work in

Too often the loos don’t flush

Water is turned off

Waiting repair

Which takes too long

Poor management in winter

Means working in the cold

This in turn, slows down production

Which means working late

No extra pay

Too many break times cancelled

People become sick

Our floor manager asked

For hot drinks to be made

Every four hours

This went down with management

like a lead balloon

it’s no wonder we’re shouting

and waving our arms…

🥕🥕🥕

World Peace and Beetles by Donna Matthews

My daughter is past curfew. I’m pacing the room, obsessively checking her location on my phone. This new boyfriend of hers is an earth science major. Loves to talk about the planet, climate change, and world peace. He reminds me a little of her father, but I’d never tell her that.

Finally, “I’m home!” she yells from the entryway. My mouth drops open. She’s in bell-bottoms and tie-dye. Her long hair straightened and reeking of patchouli.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Mom! Stay trippy, little hippie!”

On her arm, a little beetle tattoo.

OMG, wrong kind of Beatles.

🥕🥕🥕

Stewardship by Saifun Hassam

Elena was an environmentalist. In her journal she wrote of her exploration of the Ancient Sea. She was fascinated by its history of thriving ports, an abundant sea, ice-capped mountains.

A time came, imperceptible but certain when sea life was less abundant. The ice caps melted. The immense glaciers along the farthest northern shores turned into giant icebergs.

Elena was killed in a protest of the drilling of the ancient seabed for minerals. Her journal was incomplete. Her granddaughter Jessamine found in it the seeds of her own journey as an environmentalist on a planet beyond the Solar System.

🥕🥕🥕

Prompted Protest by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal. Tellin’ ya, Shorty’s all over the map with her prompts. Now a protest story? I cain’t write a protest story.”

“Thinkin’ ya protest too much, Kid. Ever dang week yer protestin’, or is thet jist whinin’? This here could be serious ya know. Stop yer whinin’ an’ complainin’ an consider the plight a them’s thet really git the short end a the rope.”

“Reckin I kin try, Pal, but I ain’t got Shorty’s machinations.”

“Do ya mean ‘magination? It’s a difference ‘tween seemin’ and schemin’.”

“Guess as long as she does the write thing it’s all good.”

🥕🥕🥕

Snowshoe Princess by D. Avery

*Once upon a time Princess Buckaroo lived on a enchanted snow-globe peninsula.*

“Writin’ after all Kid?”

“Yep.”

*One day all the Yooper Scoopers quit shov’lin an’ plowin’. They marched on snowshoes, holdin’ their their shovels up like signs, protestin’ ‘gainst low wages an’ high accumulations a snow.

Princess Buckaroo retreated ta another story.*

“Lit out fer another tale?”

“No, she went upstairs when the first story got snowed over.”

*Snow kep fallin’. The Buckaroo Princess got out on snowshoes as ever’thin’ got buried over.*

“What happened?!”

*The Buckaroo Princess was at new heights; snowshoed right ta her north star.*

🥕🥕🥕

 

Carried Wives

Over the threshold, a mud puddle, or in a wife-carrying race, it’s a wonder to consider that wives are carried. But on a deeper dive, consider that partners carry each other in other ways, too — emotionally, in times of troubling circumstances, or with playfulness. What will the writers make of such ideas?

This week, writers explored the various reasons and situations wives could be carried.

The following is based on the January 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a carried wife.

PART I (10-minute read)

A Dream Home by Sally Cronin

As a girl she didn’t dream of fairy tale weddings or fancy white dresses. She was an orphan, in and out of foster homes, and all she wanted was a house of her own. They met at the local community centre; a carpenter, his hands worn and callused. He asked her what her dream was and she shared her vision. He said nothing, just smiled and nodded. Today, in her simple blue dress, carrying a posy of wild flowers, he swept her into his arms and through the door of the home he had built to show his love.

🥕🥕🥕

True Love by Dave Madden

Emily smiled from ear to ear as Brady carried her across the threshold.

Brady’s conditioning was nearing its peak at the time of the wedding, so he could have cradled his beautiful, blushing bride all the way to Aspen, Colorado, the destination of their brief honeymoon.

Sacrifice was nothing new for the young couple to cope with—Emily bringing home the bacon, and Brady jumping into any cage he could find, fighting for peanuts.

Emily would continue carrying the financial burden of Brady’s dream chasing, for his upcoming bout and every round moving forward—true love could conquer all.

🥕🥕🥕

Carried Wife by Sascha Darlington

There was a fight.

Something stupid. Aren’t all newlywed fights stupid?

Sara tossed down the dishcloth and ran. Moments later the clouds unleashed a torrent of rain, enough to fill the empty gulches, which Sara wouldn’t know. City-born, Sara didn’t understand that the dry riverbeds could fill instantly and sweep everything away.

He could lose her in the breadth of a moment.

Heart clenching, he jostled into his Mac. Scout ran ahead, tracking, despite the rain.

They heard her before they saw her. Her anguished cry rising above the rushing water.

Gratefully, he cradled her before carrying her home.

🥕🥕🥕

Keeper of the Stories by Ann Edall-Robson

Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, he grinned thinking about all of the stories the old steps could tell.

Each time he passed the majestic staircase, he remembered the look of surprise etched on her face.

It had started with an innocent discussion about chores, and then it just happened. Gathering her into his arms he’d carried her upstairs. He knew right then and there, she was the one, and so did she.

That wouldn’t be the last time the love of his life would go up the stairs in his arms.

Whistling, he walked towards the kitchen.

🥕🥕🥕

Skiing Mishap by Jacquie Biggar

Jeff juggled to keep his balance on the ice without dropping his wife.

“I told you to stick to the bunny hill,” he chastised.

She giggled and held her arms out like a bird in flight. “But it was so much fun- until I fell.”

“Well, let’s see if you still think it’s fun when you’re wearing a cast for the next six weeks.”

“Aw, Jeff, don’t spoil my high. Did you see me? I hit those moguls like a pro.”

“Yes, honey you did,” he said, tenderness running strong in his veins for his brave, incredible, beautiful wife.

🥕🥕🥕

Carried by Lisa A. Listwa

She always felt like the one who needed to be carried. He was the calm to her bluster, the reason to her emotion. When she fretted and worried, he said, “just keep going” and “I believe.”

She found his lack of excitability infuriating.

Through all the changes, the struggles, the fears, he worked and simply kept on. He said he felt stronger with her by his side, better able to do it all because they did it together.

It was in one of those rare moments of expression she realized that in the everyday moments, she also carried him.

🥕🥕🥕

The Carried Wife–Working Hogs by Faith A. Colburn

Moving hogs across a small open space. She feinted right. I followed. She ran left around me. My husband, already distraught, started screaming at me. For once. I stood my ground, stared at him. He took the few steps that divided us, picked me up, and started carrying me somewhere. I had no idea what he intended. Startled and scared, I bit his ear. He put me down, as I’d hoped, took a couple of steps back, wound up, and punched me in the face, a glancing blow since I was turning away. We never worked hogs together again.

🥕🥕🥕

Carrying On by D. Avery

Those first springs the bony fish were welcome food and they ate them gratefully. At first they used them to feed the hills of corn as I showed them to do. They saw how it was, and early on these ones that came to Patuxet did not allow blocking the river as some English would do. Back then we all went to the river in the spring, carried full baskets of alewives to our families, our fields.

More ships came, with seeds and pigs and cattle. It did not take them long to forget how the alewives carried them.

🥕🥕🥕

The Carried Wife by Padre

The river wasn’t incredibly deep, but it was wide and the current brisk. Inga and Charles stood staring at the detritus which seemed to permeate the flow.

“Charles, we can’t wait here all day, the pageant is right after lunch, and the town is still over a mile away.”

Inga had spent most of the last week sorting the ribbons, and finishing the embroidery of her native dress. It was the one hundredth anniversary of their nation’s independence from the Empire, and Inga was supposed to lead the dance.

Without a word, Charles lifted her end entered the water.

🥕🥕🥕

Visions of the Past by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Charles? Where are you?”

“Right here, dear. I’m reminiscing over some of our past adventures.”

Helen chuckled. “We did have some great times. Do you remember our trip to Europe after graduation?”

Charles sighed. “I most certainly do. Do you remember that starry night in the field near the standing rocks?”

Helen blushed. “That was our first night together. How could I forget? We promised our love for all eternity.”

“Yes, that’s right. I picked you up and spun you around the field. I called you my carried wife.”

Helen’s electric wheelchair turned. “And, you’ve carried me ever since.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Wolf in My Body by Deborah A. Bowman

I struggle to rise today,
Each day a little more difficult.
Not long ago I skipped upon my way!
And yet, it’s no one’s fault.

The Wolf has invaded my soul,
His markings across my face.
Lupus, they call him; truth be told.
French word, but found every place.

It taints women, makes our hearts go faint.
But even though the widow can no longer be carried,
The loving husband gone, she feels blessed.
“Yes, last night I could rest!”

My crutches carry me away!
Help my Lupus sisters who die today.
No cure; please help them all… www.lupus.org

🥕🥕🥕

Venus Falls by Kerry E.B. Black

Her legs gave way, and she crumbled.

He scrambled to catch her before she landed. Mud hampered his progress, greedy for attention when all he desired – His love, his best friend, his wife – suspended in what seemed like a slow motion descent.

Mud squelched around her head, befouling her midnight curls. The rigid motion of her seizure etched canals around her, a filthy adulteration of snow angels. He scooped her up and pressed her to him. She convulsed.

One minute. Two. Time grew as greedy as the mud.

The seizure passed.

He waited for her to return to awareness.

🥕🥕🥕

Pushing by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Her challenges were not visible. She had no wheelchair, guide dog, prosthesis or hearing aid. It would have been easier if they were visible.

She carried herself with aplomb. Engaging well with her colleagues and clients. Sometimes she was aggressive, but it wasn’t noticeable to people who did not know her well.

It was inside her brilliant mind that the cracks lurked. Gaps in her mental processes that stopped some of the usual though connections from happening.

Her husband plastered over the cracks and built bridges to breech the gaps. He carried her; pushing her in a mental wheelchair.

🥕🥕🥕

Misconceptions of What Is a Good Wife by Ellen Best

We worked hard, determined I was, not to be ‘A Carried Wife.’ More worried about other’s perceptions, I got it wrong. Because he was a lawyer, earning big, didn’t mean people would expect me to slack. Engrossed in that thought, I took my eye off of the ‘us.’

Not seeing his palor, hearing that cough. I failed as his wife. Each night I fell into bed shattered, not fit for the part. Worked, unaware of his appointments. I didn’t hold his hand, wipe his head. Here I am now, clutching a cold yellowed hand, wishing … it wasn’t his deathbed.

🥕🥕🥕

That Morning by Michael Fishman

Roger watched Ellen, feeling the same love he’d felt for 53 years.

What did she ever see in me?

He never rushed these feelings and this morning was no different. He watched her feeling love.

Roger became Ellen’s caregiver when Alzheimer’s left her unable to care for herself. “Please promise me,” she begged shortly after the diagnosis. “No nursing homes.”

He promised.

Roger would forever question Ellen’s reason for being out of bed alone. He lifted his wife and carried her to the bed. Setting her lifeless body down he kissed her forehead and lay down next to her.

🥕🥕🥕

Homecoming by Dana Wand

Swept up, she wrapped her arms around his neck while he reached down clumsily to open the door. They entered as one.

“Our first home,” he proudly proclaimed.

The years of a loving life soared. Here he is, carrying her frail body from the bedroom to the couch, tenderly wrapped in the warm comforter, hoping today will bring good news from the docs.

“It’s been a long day, Sweetheart, but now we are home.” He gently kisses her photo as he carries the urn to the nightstand next to their antique bed of fifty-four years.

🥕🥕🥕

You Carried Me by H.R.R. Gorman

You carried me.
I didn’t ask,
But then again,
I couldn’t speak.

You settled me
On soft, silken,
Pinkest pillow,
Kissed me tender.

My eyes were shut,
But I still saw
You adored me.
I cherished you.

I wanted to
Clean the sad pile
Of tissues at
Your well shod feet.

Could my action
Disrespect your
Sadness and grief?
I allowed tears.

Upon your exit
Through sanctum’s door,
Someone shut my
Coffin’s wood lid.

When you returned,
You carried me
In my casket
To earthen home.

But my spirit
Carries you now
Until you come
To rest by me.

🥕🥕🥕

The Carried Wife by Deborah Lee

Becca reads the “Lifestyles” article about wife-carrying contests in Minnesota, then clicks out with a snort. That’s exactly the kind of thing Richard would have liked, manly and competitive and funny.

She’s walking past the plate glass window when the vastness outside it, the view itself, seems to knock her sideways. Not now, agoraphobia, she thinks, I have to go to work, but it’s too late. The room dips and spins and she drops to her knees.

The laughing wife in the article photo flashes. Yes, she could use a wife-carrier right about now. But Richard’s not coming back.

🥕🥕🥕

Carry Me by Debs

Karen’s bridesmaid, Louise conjured the perfect wedding game. Karen had to guess from five men, who her husband-to-be’s hand was, while blindfolded. Whoever she decided would have to carry her.

Five men stood, side to side. All held out their right hands. Karen, blindfolded, sidestepped in front of each, slowly, holding each hand briefly. She reached the fifth man. Paused. Louise and young lady guests stifled a giggle. He was Karen’s ex. The hall went quiet.

Karen’s hand quivered as she took his hand. He let go and motioned with his head to the fourth man, the groom. Applause!

🥕🥕🥕

A Carried Jezebel by M J Mallon

Annie glanced at her scrawny husband. A glance was all it took. He couldn’t lift her, no carried wife could she ever be. No threshold over which she could be taken. Adam was different. His different scared her. She couldn’t help but imagine Adam lifting her onto his shoulders and running to the ocean, his bare skin wet with the salty water, his hard, taut muscles flexing. What would happen thereafter? Would he leave her to the fishes, or scoop her up with dreamy kisses? She knew what she would become: a carried Jezebel; perhaps she’d like that more.

🥕🥕🥕

Why Tessa is Divorced by Susan Sleggs

Tessa loaded the last of her personal items into the car then went back inside the house they had shared at Ft. Riley, Kansas, for the last six years. She did a walk-through remembering the good times with her children and how lonely she had been with her husband gone so much. When she locked the front door for the last time she could hear his words, “I’m done carrying you.” She felt she had carried the family without his help and knew she couldn’t stay after finding out his last three deployments had been at his own request.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Big Boned by Anne Goodwin

Her mother called her big-boned. Her father called her fat. In fact, she was muscled, a world-champion weightlifter, or would be when certain legalities were fixed.

When the Religious Right were elected, she’d been too busy training to vote. Now she cursed the Compulsory Marriage Act: only a Mrs could represent Britain abroad.

A secretary arranged for the groom, along with cake, dress and flowers. An affable chap, if rather weedy, but no-one had read the small print. She had to be carried indoors for it to pass muster. They ordered an ambulance in case her new husband collapsed.

🥕🥕🥕

Chicken Fights by clfalcone *

Competition was brutal this year: badass wives piggybacking muscled hubbies, trying to knock opponents into the water. He trusted his wife…she was the baddest ass of all.

They had been coming to the Annual 12-Step retreat for four years, winning the Chicken Fights three times. Five years earlier he was holed up in a trap house, smoking meth, drinking whiskey, losing his wife, destroying his life.

Four years sober meant his brain, job, wife, life, all somewhat returned to order.

Then Melissa from the Rooms got his wife off-balance. They both tumbled into the pool, laughing, enjoying the loss.

🥕🥕🥕

Return to the Farm by Joanne Fisher

After their wedding, Jess and Cindy returned to the farm. They stood at the doorway.

“Since you’re my wife now, I guess I should carry you over the threshold.” Jess suggested. Cindy put her hands on her hips.

“Excuse me? You’re my wife too. Maybe I should be the one who carries you?” Cindy objected. Jess laughed.

“With those slender arms? You’d be lucky to pick me up.” Jess countered.

“We’ll see about that!” Cindy replied defiantly. To Jess’s surprise Cindy strongly picked her up and carried her over threshold.

“I love it when you act butch.” Jess laughed.

🥕🥕🥕

Over The Threshold by Ritu Bhathal

Nina giggled as Rakesh swept her up into his arms.

“Come on, Wifey, let’s get you inside.”

“Stop it!” She jumped down as soon as they stepped over the threshold and turned towards him. “Why did you carry me over? We’re not English, you know!”

“Oh, I thought that’s what people do when they get married.”

“Have you never been to an Indian wedding before? Come on. I know you were born in the US, but surely you know some of the traditions,” she took his hand. “I know. If your parents were alive, it would have been different…”

🥕🥕🥕

Blizzard Warriors by Caroline Scott

It was a cold, hard wind blowing in from the north but Casey kept her horse steady. She could barely see, keeping her hat low over her forehead and her scarf over her mouth.

Four hours ago, Sam had gone out to bring in their cattle. He should have been back by now, but the corral was empty.

Clucking her tongue, Casey urged her horse forward. The chestnut was sure-footed, carrying her over the familiar ground easily even in the rough weather. The horse had an instinct and Casey was certain that together, they would bring her husband home.

🥕🥕🥕

Together by Donna Matthews

Linda looked up from her feet – she’d been struggling all morning, stumbling over sharp rocks and ruts in the path. Her eyes traveled from the base of the mountain to the top. The steep switchbacks took her breath away.

“There’s no way in hell I’ll get to the top,” she laments.

“Honey?” she yells to her husband up in front.

“What’s up, beautiful?”

“I need your help,” she whines, “I’ll never make it up there. My feet are tired, and my back hurts!!”

Winking, he grabs her up on his back, and up the mountain together they go.

🥕🥕🥕

The Time Lily Put Her Foot Down and Stated Clearly, “I Am Not A Sack of Spuds.” by Bill Engleson

He’d declared himself with passion. His passions were modest befitting our customs. “It is our way, Lily. From your father’s home to our new home. I will carry you the distance.”

I looked at my betrothed. Yes, he was a stocky, corn fed youth. Strong as a rock, as serious as the soil he tended. Still, our home would be six miles away. A healthy distance to walk even without a burden.”

“Why would you weary yourself out, Emil? Of what use will you be to me on our wedding night?”

The seed was planted.

My point was made.

🥕🥕🥕

The Devil’s Elbow by Doug Jacquier

Mick picked his way carefully along the narrow track. As he reached Devil’s Elbow Cave, he planned to lay his heavy load down and take a rest. But before he could do that a man and a woman emerged from the cave. The man said “We’ll just relieve you of that burden, Mick.” He heard the click of the switchblade and saw the knife in the woman’s hand.

Seemingly acquiescent, Mick rolled the pack off his back, tore the top flap open and out stepped a woman holding a shotgun.

“You call that a wife? This is a wife.”

🥕🥕🥕

All Are Welcome Here by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It’d never occurred to them that their participation might not be welcome. Celebrating the fortitude and stamina required to go the distance in marriage–what better way to do this than with a test of physical endurance?

There was some confusion at the starting line as to which was the wife, but the buffalo-plaid-flanneled officiant had held up his gun, told all couples to get ready, set…

Pat hopped on Toni’s back, and they giggled their way through the course’s hedges and water traps. Everyone applauded when they were awarded first prize. This was, after all, the 21st century!

🥕🥕🥕

Wife Carrying by Pete Fanning

Every spring my parents entered our town’s Wife Carrying event. They usually nabbed first or second place, even as Mom wasn’t crazy about it. But she was a good sport, especially when Dad showed up in a dress. And won.

Then he got sick. Real sick. He lost fifty pounds of muscle. Winter came and the doctors were talking months, not years.

One night I heard some banging downstairs. I found my mother struggling, my father folded over her shoulders.

“What…” A lump in my throat. “Are you doing?”

Mom turned so I could see my dad beaming. “Training.”

🥕🥕🥕

Collapse by Nobbinmaug

It hit in the wee hours while Ricardo and Selema were asleep. The rumble thrust them into consciousness. The ceiling sent Selema reeling into unconsciousness.

Living in the Bay Area, Ricardo knew the dangers of aftershocks. The fallen beam would lead to further collapse.

Ricardo cleared the debris off Selema. He hoisted her, thankful for her time at the gym, wishing he made time for the gym. He struggled with the locks as the first aftershock shook. He heard a crash in the bedroom. The earth steadied, and Ricardo opened the door.

From outside, the sagging roof was visible.

🥕🥕🥕

He Carries Me by Cara Stefano

No one tells you what “in sickness and in health” means at the wedding, do they? Dutifully we repeat it anyway. He carried me over the threshold after our wedding.

I never realized how much I wanted motherhood until I was told I couldn’t be one. He carried me by not telling me that that day was also one of the worst days of his life.

Going back into surgery after your miracle has finally arrived. Alone, holding our newborn in his arms, I don’t know who carried him that day.

He has always carried me.

🥕🥕🥕

Caretaker by Nancy Brady

The woman was elderly, but he took great care of her. He stayed by her side throughout the day, only to return the following day.

Between her dementia and the cancer that was eating at her body, she was wasting away. Her mind wandered, with thoughts of long ago, memories of her childhood and that of a young wife and mother of a boy. She was barely lucid especially when he gave her the morphine to ease her pain.

Once, she carried him in her body, but now he was the one who carried her through her last days.

🥕🥕🥕

Ile de Fuego by Saifun Hassam

Carlos was inconsolable. Francine’s sailboat was found near Ile de Fuego. Francine, his beloved wife, his partner in marine exploration in the Black Bart Archipelago.

Her body was tangled in seaweeds among the lava tidal pools. She had been killed. Fang marks on her arms and legs, like those on a fisherman killed last winter. Island lore spoke of shadowy creatures haunting the undersea volcanoes.

Carlos gently lifted Francine’s shrouded body from the casket. With a silent prayer, he bid her farewell. He would not leave the Archipelago. It was their home. He was determined to find her killer.

🥕🥕🥕

I Will Always Carry You by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

David stood in front of his closet, trying to figure out what to wear. He never thought this day would come. He put on black dress pants, a white shirt, and a black tie. An image of him carrying Sally over the threshold of a hotel room on their wedding day popped into his head, and a tear rolled down his cheek. Now, he was never going to be able to do it.

After the service, when it was time, he lifted the casket onto his shoulder and carried her to the cemetery where she was laid to rest.

🥕🥕🥕

Hold by JulesPaige

los pobrecitos
bottle of emotion then,
an awkward present

the man carried his sick wife;
children follow in darkness

safe haven; farmhouse
mixed languages; but all the
faces smiled kindly

Another scribe in a different hand from the hidden hutch records; “The tall thin man carried his wife with such tenderness. It was unfortunate that there was little we could do but make them as comfortable as we could. In the end she passed. And he reluctantly took his two children with him to the next stop.” Smelling her roses again… I thought ‘my’ gentle spirit Ife right away…

🥕🥕🥕

One of Many by Floridaborne

Bartholomew held a secret he’d kept for 40 years. On her deathbed, his mother swore she had served as a chamber maid to George II in Hanover until May 1714, succumbing to the king’s unwanted advances while changing linens in Caroline’s bedchamber.

A month later, she married the first man willing to carry her away from servitude. Born Christmas day, 1714, his three sisters were birthed a year apart before their father passed in 1717, and none looked like him.

People snickered when they remarked on his resemblance to the king, but it seemed he was one of many bastards.

🥕🥕🥕

Carrying His Wife Out by Lisa R. Howeler

They had to carry her out when they found him lying there on the floor by the hutch covered in blood.

How could he have done it? Why would he have done it? He had all a man could want, all she could give him. Hadn’t the money been enough all these years?

They called it a miracle that she’d walked in when she had; startling him and causing him to drop the gun and shoot himself in the foot instead of the head liked he had intended. She’d collapsed when the gun went off, falling against the hutch.

🥕🥕🥕

Unnamed by Reena Saxena

He turned back for the last time to look at the pretty, but forlorn face.

This is the girl he had gagged and carried inside the threshold of this dingy room. She stayed behind, because she identified with his cause. She looked after him, and protected him from the police as long as she could.

It is not the police who have come for him today, but remnants from his past – his wife and two lovely kids.

It is time to say good-bye, and it breaks his heart to think that he was the kidnapper, and she the kidnapped.

🥕🥕🥕

The Matter of Loggatha LeGume by D. Avery

“*My Beanie lies over the mountain, my Beanie lies over the plains…*”

“Pepe Legume. Why ya singin’ sech a sad song?”

“‘Ello Pal, ‘Ello Keed. I am apart from my wife.”

“You have a wife?”

“Oui. Mon cher, mon petite Beanie. But her given name is Loggatha.”

“Well, where is Loggatha, why ain’t ya tagether?”

“Dere ees many times, many places when she cannot go where I can. Often she ees detained. Sigh. She ees warm and soft, dat one, but a solid partner, my better half. She carries me! But you know, dere’s a leetle Loggatha in everyone.”

🥕🥕🥕

Seeing the Finish Line by D. Avery

“Kid, you bin kinda scarce.”

“What diff’rence it make Pal? Ain’t much we kin do with this prompt. We won’t be carryin’ on with this challenge.”

“Why not? I kin carry ya. Or you kin carry me. Jist so’s we git the job done.”

“This roundup is purty specific— wife carryin’. Ain’t neither one of us no kinda a spouse ta no one.”

“Kid, ain’tcha never heard a “work spouses”? Thet one person ya kin rely on an’ confide in at yer job?”

“The one who’s got yer back an’ you got theirs?”

“Yep.”

“We kin take turns Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

By Design

Setting an intention is at the heart of welcoming in the New Year. By design, we set goals, plan and reach for our vision. This goes beyond resolutions and wishes. By design, we commit to doing the work of our dreams.

Writers, as always, followed where the prompt led. You’ll be surprised by the design flaws and successes contained here.

The following are based on the December 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the phrase by design.

By Design by Donna Matthews

“What are you doing?”

“Digging.”

“Why?”

“Under all these layers of granite, rock, and dirt, there’s an underground river I’m trying to reach.”

“But why? “

“This river is what connects all human beings together.”

“What in the world are you talking about? Doesn’t make a lick of sense!”

“I know. It’s super hard to explain, and most people aren’t ready to understand, but the human experience is connected by design. Most people remain content here on the surface level, but I hunger for more. I believe this river that connects us all is the answer.”

“You’re weird!”

“Maybe.”

🥕🥕🥕

Designature Move by Bill Engleson

He’d wake up in the morning and not know where he was.

Nor care.

All that mattered was that he had coffee.

Sometimes he didn’t.

Fortunately for him, a cup of java was always just around the corner.

Which corner didn’t matter.

Any corner would do.

One Christmas Eve, he showed up at his sisters.

“Surprise, surprise,” he said, smiling as she opened her festively decorated door.

“Well, brother,” she exclaimed, “where’s the cat?”

“Got me, Sis. What cat?”

“The one that dragged you in.”

“Arrives tomorrow.”

“Then he’ll be welcome too, you sketchy transient.”

“Love you too, Sis.”

🥕🥕🥕

Private Toast by Kerry E.B. Black

Karen decided New Year’s resolutions needn’t fail. 2020 could offer “vision,” and she’d craft herself into an ideal. As confetti drifted into her champagne and couples kissed through “Auld Lang Syne,” she visualized a successful self.

Next year, she’d work harder toward her goals. New job. New home. New pant size. New romance.

Before she tipped alcohol from her fluted glass as an anticipatory congratulation, she studied the pattern floating atop. Bits of colored tissue created images, and much like a tea leaf reader of old, she knew them by design.

With a smile, Karen swallowed her private toast.

🥕🥕🥕

Lifting Off Part 1 by D. Avery

“Why do you still use those toilet-paper roll binoculars to watch Marlie?”

Liz continued to focus on Marlie playing in the tree fort. “They help me remain objective. Keep my distance.”

“And why do you need to do that?”

Now she let the paper binoculars hang by their yarn strap around her neck as she answered her husband. “Because that unplanned offspring of ours couldn’t be more perfect by design. I don’t ever want to get in her way.”

“She’s going places alright. Mars. She’s in her spaceship.”

Marlie beckoned them. “Come to the launch! It’s time for take-off!”

🥕🥕🥕

Lifting Off Part 2 by D. Avery

“Space travel! That explains the snow suit and hockey helmet.”

The crowd quieted as the astronaut communicated with Mission Control. The countdown began. The tree fort shuddered and roared. At liftoff Liz looked for reassurance in her husband’s embrace. When she turned back to see the capsule hurtling beyond the atmosphere her binoculars were crushed. She shielded her eyes with her hand and watched her daughter soaring over them, searching new adventures in far-flung worlds of her own imagination.

“Don’t worry,” her husband said. “Lunch is waiting. She’ll come back to refuel. Come on, I’ll make you new binoculars.”

🥕🥕🥕

By Design by Anita Dawes

At my age, I don’t think about changing my life
It’s more like how to hang on to what’s left of it
If I did give thought to it
I would like to choose my own parents
After thoroughly vetting them first
Their childhood, their parents
As they will become my grandparents
Very important
Do they love each other
As much as they show the world.
Not really knowing if this idea
Is better than pot luck
Two people getting together
Then Fate takes over
Thing is, it is not always kind
Mostly, I believe we cannot change anything…

🥕🥕🥕

Time Saver by Joanne Fisher

By design the Ougalflougalerator was meant to make everyone’s life easier. It was a personal organiser, labour saving device, and most importantly, a time re-arranger, quite literally. When programmed correctly, periods of free time in your past and future could now be moved to when you really needed it in the present.

The Ougalflougalerator was designed by the mysterious Deep Thought corporation. An incredibly wealthy organisation that suddenly came into existence overnight, it seemed. Though the Ougalflougalerator was meant to make people’s lives easier, everyone who owned one found themselves more rushed and pressed for time than ever before.

🥕🥕🥕

Five Pinnacles Canyons (from “Diamante Mountains”) by Saifun Hassam

Rocky canyons overlooked the valley floor. Animal treks meandered up into the alpine meadows. Pierre was on his first exploration trip of the Five Pinnacles Canyons, near the Diamante Mountains.

No one knew the origin of the name. More intriguing was an ancient stone wall. The passage of time had not erased its intrinsic patterns. By design it was an intricate lattice of uneven geometric shapes. With an unknown purpose and by design, stone steps also of distinctive geometry, ran alongside the stone wall. An older lattice of floral patterns was just discernible in the ruins of broken walls.

🥕🥕🥕

By Design by Lisa R. Howeler

She thought it had all been an accident. He’d run into her on his way into of the supermarket while she was walking out.

“Oh, excuse me,” he’d said, bright blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight, dirty blond hair falling across his forehead and his hand warm against her arm as they collided. “I didn’t see you there.”

She’d dropped one of her bags and oranges were rolling across the parking lot.

Little did she know their encounter had been by design all along, and by his design, not by divine design. It wasn’t divine, was it? She wondered.

🥕🥕🥕

By Design by Floridaborne

“No one has to know,” he whispered.

“No one but God,” I said.

“You’re one of… them?” He scoffed at me.

He looked so much like my favorite actor. Without the message from a classmate who watched me say yes to a date, I would’ve gladly melted into those well-toned arms.

“I am a woman and, by design, I have to be diligent. I don’t want to be the third high school student that has to go to night school because of you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Take me home,” I said, relieved I wasn’t going to become number four.

🥕🥕🥕

The Team by Ann Edall-Robson

Tal watched Hanna finish harnessing the team. She was good at what she did, and she loved working with the horses. This year It was her job to get them ready for the upcoming parade in town.

“You’re doing a good job with them, Hanna. You’ve got the touch.”

“How long do you think they’ve been together?”

“The team?”

“No! Mac and Liz?”

Tal looked at Hanna with an odd expression.

“Why are you asking?”

“Curious.”

“None of our business.”

“You know, don’t you! Was it fate, or by design?

“Hanna, just drop it!” He said, turning to go.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s By Design by Chelsea Owens

“But, men are better-suited to a job. Women are nurturers, better-suited to home life and childcare.”

She looked his way, watching her nonverbal incredulity fly over his head.

“You think work’s some sort of vacation, but it’s difficult. It’s boring, too.”

She could see the piles of laundry behind him, an out-of-focus background to his immaculately-suited person. Disorder framed order: a juxtaposition between her expected daily high point and his.

“It’s true. I read a study that women are happier at home.”

She sighed, wondering which pile hid happiness.

“Trust me.” He kissed her pale cheek. “It’s by design.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Weekend To Remember… by JulesPaige

t’was not by design
that the hospice declared her
a Christmas angel

after some ninety plus years
Baruch the Jew passed that night

Was by design though, she did not flaunt her faith. Perhaps she thought ‘I don’t need an excuse to be different – being a minority can cut deeply. I have lived a long life full of humor and truth. My children have married good partners, that’s what matters.’

Organized religion has benefits, distractions and derailments. Yearly celebrations should be time rededicated to family. For acceptance of differences was a primary lesson she taught throughout her life.

🥕🥕🥕

Roses Come With Vicious Thorns by Anne Goodwin

Yr was a place of peace and beauty, and Deborah was its queen. Its stone walls blocked all sound and sight of bullies; its blue skies neutralised all pain. Each time she left – to see her family, do her schoolwork – her heart clenched.

By design, Yr was a rose garden, but roses come with vicious thorns. They tore her skin and, when she struggled, they scourged her flesh to bone. Yr’s people cackled, they screamed and shouted, refused to let her go. When she wept, they laughed. Her retreat became a place of persecution; its queen became its slave.

🥕🥕🥕

Essential Element by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“The best-laid plans.”

“The egg unhatched.”

“The circle, its ends unmet.”

“A triad missing its third…”

“Thus only a dyad.”

The nave is cold, cheerless,
No sun to set stained glass windows afire with stories.
The benches unyielding, polished planes thick with dust,
Sound swallowed and darkly vaulted above.
The altar, richly hung with heavy cloths, tarnished chalice its crown.
Cobwebs occlude, where once a holy remnant hung.
Architecture, impeccable by design, might inspire devotion.
But what’s a place of worship without prayers?

“This is the church.”

“This, the steeple.”

“Open the doors…”

“And go serve all the people.”

🥕🥕🥕

By Design by Charli Mills

By design, my garden impressed. Every steppingstone measured, every bulb, seed, and root planted for maximum impact. In life, I did as I was expected. Good grades, college, spouse, suburban split-level, and two sons. On Sundays, I went to church.

Then my husband left me. My sons chose to live with him and his new wife, one without dirt under her nails. I moved into an apartment alone. Devastated. This wasn’t part of the plan. Where was God in this? Then I remembered the mustard seed. By design, I started over with a single planter and found my joy.

🥕🥕🥕

Life by Design by Reena Saxena

She turned down invitations to kitty parties, and the ladies often quipped,

“What do you do all day?”

She had quit her job, but was always busy – writing, painting, building an enviable online profile. She volunteered, enrolled for many courses, and managed to complete ten of those.

They never understood what she did. Some of them labelled her a snob, but she was used to it. She was paying a social price for being different, being a lifelong learner.

She had charted out a whole new career path, when she launched a start-up. It was a life by design.

🥕🥕🥕

By Design by Faith A. Colburn

I am isolated by design. I wanted to write my own stories. I’d been wanting to write them for years. So seven years ago, I earned my MA in creative writing and I published my first book—a family memoir I researched in collaboration with Grandma Hazel.

I closed myself in my house with a computer and printer. I wrote and revised, worked with beta readers, and edited. I marketed, too, until my grandson was born. I became his primary caregiver and an infant became nearly my only companion.

A few weeks ago, I realized I’d overdone the solitude.

🥕🥕🥕

New Year Intentions by Colleen M. Chesebro

In preparation for the new year, I anointed the white candle with the ritual oil. By design, this spell would work to cleanse away the old energy from the past year. For this candle represented my intention—all the hopes, dreams, and successes I envisioned for myself in the new decade to come.

I closed my eyes and centered my thoughts. I pictured myself writing in sunlight and in darkness. I didn’t give up or walk away. I kept reading and writing. I continued to learn.

My goal loomed large. I lit the candle and let the energy flow.

🥕🥕🥕

Painting a Picture by tracey robinson

The landscape was encased in ice, trees frozen in mid-motion. Snow gleamed pure white, too cold even for the stars to twinkle. The cold poked and prodded, looking for a way into the snug cottage. All was still.

Inside the fire crackled and popped from the newly added pine log before settling down to give a steady heat. The flames danced to a happy song only they could hear.

I breathed in slow and deep, holding for a beat at the top. By design peace flowed through me. By Mother Nature’s design sleep settled over the great wintry outdoors.

🥕🥕🥕

Failure by Joanne Fisher

“Engage the thrusters.” I ordered.

“Yes Captain.” the pilot replied.

Our spaceship sprang into life. By design, the ship was meant to withstand high speeds, but this was the first time they were being properly tested.

As our speed increased, the entire spaceship began to shake rather violently. I looked out the window to see bits of the ship starting to fly off.

“Our ship is breaking apart. Kill the thrusters!” I ordered. The pilot flicked the switch, but nothing happened.

“It’s no use! The controls won’t respond!”

I sighed. We were going to pay dearly for this failure.

🥕🥕🥕

Many Reasons by Susan Sleggs

At breakfast, Tessa said to Michael, “Last night’s Home-front Warriors discussion was about how few “lifers” return to their home towns. What brought you back?”

“That was by design. I knew my mother had chronicled my injuries and recuperation on Facebook so hometown friends wouldn’t need to ask me for the details. I wanted to feel useful and our church music program beckoned. Being involved with it helps keep the self-pity at bay.” He paused. “And if I were to get news about you, it would be here.”

Her eyes and smile proved his answer was a pleasant surprise.

Author’s Note: Definition – lifers – those who make a career of serving in the military, at least 20 years. It’s true they often don’t return home perhaps because their life experiences and viewpoints have changed them enough they don’t feel they fit in among old friends anymore.

🥕🥕🥕

The Spiritual Mystic by Design by Brenda Marie Fluharty

The Spiritual Mystic website, by design, was intended to share Love and light with the word. To help others to become more self-aware. Through the knowledge and wisdom of Brenda Marie people learn to walk their own path and share the journeys with the world. She shares her stories of spiritual awakenings, past lives, dreams, and her new gained knowledge of all things Spiritual. In her way she helps make the world a better place by doing what she loves, raising the vibrations of the Earth through her lightwork with the help of the angels and God above.

🥕🥕🥕

D’sign er Doors by D. Avery

“Kid, ya doin’ vision questin’ like Shorty talks about?”

“That’s a good questin’ Pal, but I ain’t never been much of a planner. Fer me ma visionin’ is ta look out fer jars.”

“Kid, this don’t seem the time or place fer ya ta be talkin’ ‘bout yer love a drink.”

“Not them jars. I’m talkin’ ‘bout keepin’ ma eyes peeled fer doors ‘cause they’re most often ajar, an opportunity fer me ta slip through onta the next thing.”

“Thet doesn’t seem ta be livin’ by design.”

“Sure it is. I’m open to de signs leadin’ ta them doors.”

🥕🥕🥕

November 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Water is life.

It’s 4 a.m., and I’m brewing a pot of coffee in the Hub’s stainless steel pot. I pour the water into the reservoir, scoop coffee grounds dark as dirt into a filter, and hit brew. Back upstairs, I shower beneath hot water, letting the flow ease the stiffness from my body and revive my senses. I dress in layers to prepare for the biting cold of Gichigami — the Big Sea called Lake Superior. It’s October, and I have no plans to dip a toe in the sea, but I will be spending much of the day along her frigid fall shores. In a skirt.

Skirts feel like a foreign language to me; I’m never sure if I’m wearing one correctly. But I’m part of something sacred, and protocols state that kwe wear skirts so the earth can recognize that we are women. Fortunately, protocols also allow for pants underneath (translation for Brits in case you thought I might go commando, pants as in trousers). I’ve packed extra socks, a first-aid kit, communal drinking water in a 10-gallon cooler, snacks baked or donated by my Warrior Sisters, food for tonight’s feast in a small church basement, and the steel coffee pot.

Forty-five minutes later, I’ve avoided the deer hanging out alongside the road and drive in the pitch dark past Copper Harbor. It’s 5:30 a.m., and I park my car at Astor Shipwreck Park across the road from Fort Wilkins, which is shuttered until next spring. My car companion is going to drive a truck behind two senior citizens who will ride behind a group of women who are gathering this early morning to walk the water from Copper Harbor to Sandpoint Lighthouse in Keweenaw Bay, home of the Anishinaabe. They are meeting us here in the dark, teaching us their protocols so we might unite all peoples to do the work of the water. The Anishinaabekwe — the women — all wear traditional ribbon skirts and good walking boots or tennies.

It’s so dark, we don’t know each other and laugh as we begin to figure out voices. The air is cold, and the weather forecasters predict mixed precipitation. The Water Walkers of the tribe plan to make the 90 mile trip in three days. I’ve been helping with logistics — social media, communications, securing food and shelter. No one is in charge, but without a doubt, the Anishinaabekwe lead us. They hope to break down cultural barriers and teach us to protect the water according to their traditions. Gichigami is their Big Sea. The lands we walk across are ceded territories. To do the work of the water is to take a spiritual journey.

A small motor put-puts in the dark, heralding the arrival of two elderly women in a golf cart. People move and shift in shadows. Terri has the copper pot with Nibi (water), and another person carries the Eagle Staff. I can’t see, but I hear the pitch of excitement in her voice. The walk has begun. We are all asked to place acema (tobacco) in our left hand, the hand closest to our hearts, and say a prayer for the water as we cross over Fannie Hooe Creek and follow the kwe carrying Nibi in a copper vessel. Once the water is in motion, it cannot stop. Kwe take turns conveying the water, and any gender or non-binary can hold the staff. Several young and robust women from the Copper Harbor area will take turns with the Anishinaabekwe.

My friends are among those who have gathered — Cynthia and Laura (rodeo judges, they are, too). I set out with them at a brisk speed. It’s so dark and silent as we walk to Copper Harbor. We chatter and laugh. I start to worry that the pace is faster than I anticipated. My friend, Bon, is waiting at her house along the lake route with breakfast for the walkers. I plan to walk and catch a ride back to my car, but no one seems to know how far ahead the relay van is. So, I turn back and walk alone to my car, my thoughts on my role to support the Water Walkers. I feel like a contrary clown, walking backward.

That was October 19.

I had planned to offer snacks and water. Bon gifted me with the use of her air-pots for coffee and a recipe for omelets on the go. The ones she made for the walkers were a huge hit. I had set up the feast at Bethany Church in Mohawk. I would feed people. The next day, I might fill in where I could, but I knew another person was managing that night’s feast, and the following day, I’d touch base. The Tribal Council was in charge of that feast. I felt like the event was going smoothly, and I’d be needed less and less.

Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans? Nibi had other intentions.

Fourteen years ago, my daughter was a junior in high school. I had hoped she would attend secondary school at my alma mater — Carrol College in Montana. But she was also interested in another liberal arts college — Northland in northern Wisconsin. We made trips to both places, and the first time I saw Bayfield, Wisconsin, I fell in love with the Chequamegon Bay. For years, we had camped in northern Minnesota, and the North Shore of Lake Superior captivated me. The cliffs and waves of the North Shore are terrifying and majestic. Along Chequamegon Bay, the Apostle Islands buffer the inland sea.

When I first wrote Miracle of Ducks, I set it in Bayfield. I knew that Ike’s best friend, Michael Robineaux, would be from the band of Red Cliff Ojibwa. That’s how he came to me, in the way characters do.

What I didn’t know, until after the walk, is that Bayfield is ceded Anishinaabe lands. Madeline Island, where I studied the W-story structure at MISA, is a spiritual place for the tribe. It’s a sacred water place. In 2012, I seriously contemplated making it my home, the draw of the water had been so strong that summer I had lived there, writing and bobbing in the bay. Instead, I went to Idaho to be with the Hub. My eldest and her husband moved to Missoula, Montana. Our middle daughter moved out west, and we joked that our son would come next. But the water called us back. Gichigami called me home — Lady Lake Superior.

Day two of the Water Walk I learned that it is not about the walk. People peeled off, leaving a small core group. We had to strategize relaying the water, keeping it flowing forward. My focus shifted to the Grandmothers — the two in the golf cart. I felt drawn to carry Nibi and asked the Hub if he’d carry the Eagle Staff. He said no, citing his other knee, which will need surgery. That deflated me. I’ve had three back surgeries, and I’m fit to run a desk. I realized I was not one to walk the water. And I had a role to play. I was doing the work of the water, too. When the Water Walkers crossed the Houghton Bridge, more people joined. I wanted to walk across the bridge, too, but someone needed to drive the Tribal van.

Kwe in skirts with Nibi.

Arranging for police escort was tricky. They wanted to meet the walkers at a certain point and time, but the water doesn’t stop or wear a watch. Neither does the woman carrying Nibi. I stayed in contact with our officer as another woman, and I scouted the route and where we could cross. By the time the Water Walkers caught up, the group had grown to twenty. At that point, I took over the van (“Look Native,” Kathy told me). I parked on the other side of the Keweenaw Waterway, the great canal large enough for lake freighters, and hoofed it back up to the bridge, camera in hand.

The video catches an awkward cultural miscommunication — the Water Walkers recognized me and shouted oo-waa! I did not shout back. Sometimes I’m slow to understand social cues. Later, when I learned more about this vocalization, Kathy told me she likes to go into the woods and shout. Sometimes she gets a call back. It’s the early communication system of the Anishinaabe: “I’m here, I see you, where are you.” But I knew I was seen, I was called to merge with the walkers as they passed me on the bridge followed by the flashing lights of the Hancock Police.

People asked what we were protesting. The police asked if we were carrying signs, and what did they read? One of my roles was to educate people, and I made small handouts to explain the Water Walk. Our message joins all colors, philosophies, faiths, and beliefs — no matter our differences, no matter our political standings, no matter our knowledge of science, one simple truth binds us all — Water is life. Cutting through the bike trails to avoid traffic in Houghton, our Water Walkers passed homeowners mowing lawns and raking leaves. One man dismounted his riding mower and salutes the procession with his hand on his heart. The Grandmothers teared up, touched by the simple recognition.

Our mixed group is called People of the Heart. Kathy and Terri come from the same Lodge where they practice traditional healing. Their teachings clearly state that they are for “all people.” In fact, 500 years ago, the Anishinaabe left their eastern lands to adhere to prophecy. They were to go where the food grows on the water (wild rice, manoomin) — the Northland (north Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and the upper peninsula of Michigan). There would come a time when the world would need the teachings of the Anishinaabe. The time has come for us to protect our water

Water is life.

Not oil, not money, not the latest iPhone or Unicode emoji. Kathy is not only a Water Walker, but she is also a biologist for the Tribe. For many years, she fought wildfires out west, leading a Native crew. Terri is an early childhood educator for the Tribe. The Grandmothers both serve on Tribal Council and sew. Sewing includes traditional skirts, shirts, and vests with ribbons, embroidery, and beading. The Anishinaabe traditions co-exist with the modern world, and it’s a gift packed with wisdom and experience and wonder. It’s teaching based on responsible use, respect, gratitude, and protection. Water is life, and we are to protect it not only for our generation but for the next seven.

How will decisions made today impact the future? Does policy or pollution threaten those seven generations from now? If we do this today, what happens tomorrow? Imagine if seven generations ago, those in power thought this way. We have become short-sighted. Doing the work of the water means taking time to contemplate its future, our future, a future we won’t live to see, but one we impact right now. Water has no voice. Corporations have personhood, but water does not. Kwe speak for the sovereignty of water, we are the life-bringers, the women with the capacity to carry a baby to term in a sac of water. Corporations have legal rights, but water is life.

Day three dawned long after I had. Three mornings in a row, I rose at 4 a.m. to fix four pots of coffee, refill the water jug, pack snacks, and fix breakfast on the go for the Water Walkers. I have relaying down by day three. Our support vehicles leap-frog ahead half a mile. My warm car is ready for walkers to take a break. We are operating lean — one kwe to carry Nibi, one person to carry the Eagle Staff. Once the sun comes up, several other women walk in support, and we continue the half-mile to a mile relay. The water moves forward, not stopping

The Grandmothers have accepted me, and they laugh and joke, waving their mugs my direction for more coffee. They take my succession of snacks, loving bologna sandwiches the best. Kathy calls it “Indian steak.” In America, it’s the comfort food of the poor. I know bologna well. When we were broke down and homeless in Gallup, we shared all the poor food I knew growing up with the Natives in New Mexico. Never had pinto beans tasted so good as when shared by others who know life’s struggles and yet still smile and give all they have to give. At feast the night before, the Grandmothers claimed me, and the Hub says the Navajo wanted me, too. Kathy says, “The Dine can not have her,” and we all laugh.

It’s a wonder to me, a moment of serendipity, that Michael Robineaux came to me as an imaginary character for a novel years before I’d come to be known to his people. When I felt the draw to Lake Superior, I was called by Gichigami to know her fully, to know all nations touching her shores. Oo-wa! I am seen. This time I understand enough to call back. Oo-wa! I see your humanity, too. We are one. The water unites us.

At dawn on the third day, I found a snowmobile bar open and willing to let us use the restrooms. By then, the whole UP had heard of the Water Walkers with news coverage. All the kwe used community connections and news media to get the word out. Somehow, an officer with the State Troopers missed all that. He pulled over Terri’s truck that drove behind the Grandmothers like an honor guard. In her absence, I slid in. The Grandmothers are all-seeing from behind. They watch the walkers, the water, the staff, the land, and the sky. They speak up when they need to and stay silent to let the younger ones experience for themselves. We need all generations in unity.

We need all peoples, all nations. Water is life.

One of the walkers asked me to walk Nibi. I didn’t think I could. But I tried. She said she’d walk with me, carrying the Eagle Staff. This kwe, whose dog was dying as we walked, focused on life, not death. This strong woman wanted all of us kwe to spend time in contemplation, carrying Nibi no matter our levels of strength. As I faced the Water Walker coming my way, I confessed my fear — it’s the same one that hits me when I submit my writing — it’s not enough, I’m not enough. Old recordings, debilitating doubt, lies we believed. I focused on the truth. Water is life. I grabbed the copper bucket, I did not look to the left, I did not look to the right, I walked forward. At my own pace.

I’m surrounded by women dancing circles around me in skirts and shawls. Why was I ever averse to skirts? They flow like water, skirts to skirts, shawls to shawls, women encircle the work, doing the work of water. I carry Nibi in me. Gitchigami rises overhead in a thick bank of clouds pushing away the storm that was supposed to hit us during the walk. Water kept us dry. Eleven eagles greeted us at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community border. We walked the Anishinaabekwe home. I walked the water. I am a Water Walker. I am kwe. This time the story caught the story-catcher.

Lead Buckaroo walks the water.

November 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes Water Walkers. It does not have to be in the Anishinaabe tradition; in fact, it would be more interesting to see interpretations from across all nations and walks. It can be a title or used as a phrase. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 12, 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.

NOTE: Contest winners from all the flash fiction contests during the 2019 Rodeo will be announced on November 28, 2019.

SUBMISSIONS CLOSED. SEE OUR LATEST CHALLENGE.

Water Walkers by Charli Mills

My Nakomis shields my body with hers when they pelt us with rubber bullets. They don’t understand why we don’t die like all the others around the globe. They think we hoard a stash of stolen science. We are the Water Walkers, and we speak on behalf of the world’s poisoned water. Scientists can now alter the DNA code of entire families to survive the hydro-toxicity crisis. Only select families, though. They want to know why we aren’t altered or dead. Threatened us to give up our secret. Nakomis says we never held back. We tried to teach them.

June 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

Many hands make light work. Women converged on Lady B’s yard, a twisting wreckage slammed by flood and debris last year. Someone — maybe a county worker — laid down straw last summer which snow matted like unruly hair. Depressed and unable to muck out her yard, Lady B expressed sadness. That’s when we formed an informal rake brigade. With six women and six rakes, we piled leaves and straw, collected debris and shattered ceramic pots. Lady B, 86-years-old, fussed over all of us with graciously served cups of sweet tea.

On Saturday, I’m looking forward to returning with annual plants to splash color in remaining pots, and give my friend something to water and care for each day. My daughter will join her hands with mine to plant, and other women plan long-term garden solutions. Approaching a year after the Father’s Day Floods, my community remains Copper Country Strong.

Across town, all hands are on deck to celebrate the Vet Center’s 40th Anniversary. A BBQ fires up, women set up tables laden with food — sloppy joes, taco salad, fruit salad, cheesy potatoes — and the color guard stands at attention. Vietnam Vets and their spouses stand to receive recognition pins.

But let’s back up past WWII, WWI and the American Civil War to better understand what the Vet Center is all about. President Abe Lincoln made a promise to the surviving soldiers and families of the Civil War. The following opens Miracle of Ducks, my novel-in-progress:

In his second inaugural speech, President Lincoln delivered a remedy of justice to those who have served a nation in times of war, understanding that the price paid by soldiers and their families comes at a cost to the nation:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

To this day, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs operates under a solemn commitment made to those injured in service and vows to take care of the families whose soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice. Less than one percent of US citizens ever serve, giving the entire group of veterans an obscure and minority voice. Veterans rarely speak up for their own justice, making it difficult to receive their benefits for what they endured. It is important that we speak up for them. That we welcome them home, understanding they won’t fit in with the civilians they protected. That we do the one and only thing they ever ask for — “Please take care of my family when I pick up arms for you.”

Those who marry these veterans are loyal. A service to nation that often goes unrecognized.

Miracle of Ducks gives voice to veteran spouses through the story of Danni Gordon. This character has evolved with my own understanding of the service spouses give to the nation. Mary Gauthier, a songwriter who works with veteran families to capture their experiences in song, sings about the War After the War. Here are the lyrics that resonate with the “invisible” spouses:

Who’s gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who went to war
Land mines in the living room eggshells on the floor
I lost myself in the shadow of your honor and your pain
You stare out the window as our dreams go down the drain
Invisible, the war after the war
I’m a soldier too, just like you
Serving something bigger than myself
I serve unseen, caught in between
My pain and the pain of someone else
I’m stronger than you think I am, I’m right here by your side
I am not your enemy I don’t want to fight
There’s no going back in time I know you’re not the same
But you are not the only one for whom the world has changed
Invisible, the war after the war

Yet, the price soldiers and their families pay comes at a cost to the nation. In subsequent wars, US citizens paid taxes to fund war efforts, which is why great thought was given before entering into such a commitment. Those who stayed home planted victory gardens, learned to cook and eat rice so that grains could go overseas to soldiers, went without nylons and other items to ration resources. When soldiers came home, citizens rejoiced with ticker-tape parades. And then came Vietnam, an unpopular war during a time of civil unrest. Soldiers became objects of derision.

The Hub remembers when Georgia hated the Army Rangers. They were barred from businesses and snubbed by society. Grenada changed that attitude and made the Hub wary of fickle views of citizens. He enjoyed getting a parade and allowed in establishments previously off-limits, but he still feels annoyed when someone says, “Thanks for your service.” I’ve tried to understand because I recognize that most people are sincere when they give thanks.

But consider this: Post 9/11 “War on Terrorism” has been the longest US war in history, and yet the smallest percentage of population serves. The toll on physical and mental health is high because of repeat tours. Giving thanks is not what Abraham Lincoln intended. The nation — its citizens — must bear the burden of the cost of war. What does this ideal look like in practice?

Soldiers get medical and mental healthcare without stigma, shame, or pressure to soldier up and take the pain and suffering in silence. That’s the VA’s job. On the homefront, soldiers get readjustment counseling to improve quality of life. That’s the Vet Center’s job. So what do citizens do? They can hire veterans, prevent homelessness, and break down barriers that cause veteran isolation. Isolation kills. Even though veteran suicides have dropped from 22 a day to 20, the VA reports that 14 of those suicides never sought VA services.

And I can tell you why — the VA is difficult to access and penetrate, staff often minimize or ignore concerns, funding goes into marketing a suicide prevention hotline instead of programs that encourage veteran inclusion and fitness, homelessness prevention is nonexistent and does not actually help veterans, and moral injury continues after service. Today, at the open house, I expressed my views based on three years of homelessness and 35 years of VA medical neglect to the regions suicide prevention coordinator. I gave her the view from the other side. And as a spouse, I don’t soldier up, I advocate.

My hands are not alone. As Josh Groban sings in The War at Home, “they are a million strong.” I stand beside my Warrior Sisters. Today, I wept as those of the Vietnam era were honored alongside their husbands with pins that represent their courage and indicate a grateful nation. My husband sat beside me and wept to see his Vietnam era Brothers honored and welcomed home. The Vet Centers exist because the Vietnam vets insisted on helping one another if their country wasn’t going to. The Vet Center exists to keep the promise Abe Lincoln made. It is the legacy of the Vietnam Vets.

Many hands make light work. Won’t you join me in bearing the burdens found in our own hometowns? A better world is not just about veterans. I know we are a global community, but each of us can see and meet the needs of others around us — helping a new mom, visiting the elderly and writing down stories, breaking barriers that isolate vulnerable populations, seeing the humanity in a homeless person, fostering community beautification, giving voice to the voiceless, taking on stories bigger than ourselves. We can all be of service.

June 13, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the work of many hands. Is it a cooperative effort or something else? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 18, 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.

Difficult Decision (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Hands reached out to Danni as she slumped in her chair. “I can’t do it alone,” she said. The women in her group, surrounded her.

Roxie patted Danni’s shoulder. “What do we need to do? I’ll bring my vacuum cleaner.”

Everyone offered to help Danni tackle Ramona’s empty house. She wanted to be angry with Ike for his absence, leaving her to make the decision no one in his family wanted to make. Ramona’s dementia progressed beyond Danni’s ability to keep Ike’s grandmother safe.

“Will she hate me?” Danni asked.

“Nah, she won’t remember you,” said Roxie. “We’ll help.”

April 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

On March 29, Northern Lights flamed orange and gold over the Keweenaw. The sky colors raged like solar flares. These were no gentle green and blue sheets of shimmering arctic lights, but full expressions of Copper Country fusion. It came as no coincidence that 47 North raised the roof of the Continental Fire Company earlier that night.

Awakening began at 8 p.m. to a full house. The dance performances have grown in popularity, and the management had to open the upstairs bar and create a theater in the round perspective from above. My son-in-law opens every show as a theatric MC, grabbing attention with his voice and humor. The dancers opened with a remix of Wicked Game, a slow smoldering beat-heavy song that begins, “The world is on fire, and no one can save me but you.”

Each beat, the dancers popped in unison.

Pops are an under-appreciated element of belly dance. When most people hear the style, they think Mediterranean restaurants and women in sheer costumes swiveling hips and smiling for men. Not this troupe. 47 North Belly Dance is raq sharqi, Egyptian-style cabaret, ballet, hip-hop, and modern. They are fusion. And pops come from the ability to isolate muscles and control movement. They include the shape-shifting choreography of modern dance where dancers meld in and out of shapes with contrast and flow. Balletic grace infuses fiery strength. 47 North is a warrior tribe of strong female dancers.

After Wicked Game, I stepped onto the stage and read:

Welcome to the dark side: The black loamy soil from which crocus bulbs must break the surface. Before there can be spring, there must be winter. Life germinates in the dark, undulating to a restless energy, the manifestation of what comes next, a stirring felt by birds and bees and rising maple sap. On the stage dancers cast long shadows in the bright lights. They embrace the ancient rhythms, become the crocus spears beneath the surface. This too is part of life. The dance with darkness, the dance within shadows, the pre-emergence, incubation, propagation of winter absorbed by spring.

Two stories of bar chatter, clanking glasses and shaking ice creates a buzz I project over the top of like some Beat Generation poet, hustling literary art on the crowd. It’s not a typical reading venue, nor is it friendly. People don’t listen politely. It’s Friday night, and the party is underway. But I love this fusion of art, this opportunity to attend dance rehearsals, discuss meanings with choreographers and share a bit of their stage to read 99-word stories. I retreat to the shadows in the wings and two succubi, one short, one tall, dominates the stage, filling the space between their differences with an energy of seductive strength. This is not come-hither-boys seduction; it’s the dance of women owning their own sexuality.

The crowd roars and the fires are lit.

Throughout the evening the troupe dances from dark, sultry pieces that include bats to the in between stage we know so well on the Keweenaw  — before there is the daffodil spring we must endure the long melt of grit and snow-husks. We must crack the thinning ice. In Between, I read:

They chiseled their way into deep shafts, miners drilling through the basalt of a peninsula rich in copper. Men searching for copper. Women carve deep into the pits of their own souls to discover treasure within – the power to create, the power to renew. Spring awakens the miners. Tommy Knockers never stop searching in between dark and light. Fortune glistens in the returning light of spring to illuminate hidden veins held in the dark. Smell the musty earth and search for copper in your own blood. Plant a seed, pluck a stone. Spring has returned to Copper Country.

As MC, Solar Man entertains the crowd. He makes jokes: “Why did the belly dancer cross the road? She heard there were costumes on the other side.” We all laugh, but I’m not sure the crowd fully understands the troupe’s obsession with costumes which, like their dance style, is an eclectic mix to create vibrant visuals on stage. Hip belts are often the product of ripped leather coats resewn with cheap baubles and dime-store rhinestones. Tops are enhanced bras studded with costume jewelry, satin, and lace. Skirts are often scarves. Dancers use fans, veils, swords and golden canes to accent their costumes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The light dawns. The dances and costumes become more golden and glittery, the dances more joyous. This performance has been a full awakening. Before the finale, I have a point to make. One I want every artist to understand. We can strive to do our best, but no one is ever “the best” at art. You can tell the dancers, like my daughter in her high-and-tight buzz cut, that have trained for years in ballet. Grace imbues the way they hold their arms and necks. You can spot the dancers that flow with the music. You can compare ages, heights, and other numbers that hold no real meaning but are easy descriptors.

But you ‘d be hard pressed to agree on who is best.

I bring this up because writers often compare themselves to perceptions of best. Discipline doesn’t shape art, but play does. You can’t draft from the editor’s chair. You have to write first. After you write you can certainly improve. The trick is, you have to keep writing.  When you’ve amassed, then you can take a scalpel and practice precision. But keep writing. It becomes a dance. Pay too much attention to the other birds, and you can lose your will to chirp. Sing alongside the birds and add your unique voice, practicing the best you can do, not concerned about being the best bird.

Before the dancers took to the stage where they would  flow and  merge as small groups into one big group  with each dancer creating different movements, I read:

The Greatest Show on Earth returns in spring with birdsong. It has been said by ornithologists wiser than me that if only the best birds sang, the woods would be silent. How can we possibly define the best bird song anyhow? How can we say that the golden-wing warblers out-sing the piping plovers?  How can we deny the soul-stirring refrains of our favorite songs on the radio though yours and mine will differ? How can we not leave a live performance unchanged? The light has returned, and the birds have brought you out of the dark. Own your transformation.

47 North took to the stage and owned the transformation. The first time I saw them rehearse The Greatest Show, I cried. This troupe expressed how each dancer was different, but together they were stronger in their expression of art. They danced the way I feel when I arrange the collection of 99-word stories each week. I say this over an over, but it is true — art requires interaction. I might feel awesome writing my best, but it’s nothing if I don’t connect with others who read or hear it. Connecting when I’ve not written my best still feels more awesome than unacknowledged work. Unread, that’s what it is — my work. Shared, it becomes art.

The Continental Fire Company likes flash fiction. It’s because of my small readings they sponsored our Rodeo. The club manager always comes over to my chair in the shadows and explains how he likes the dances better with my stories, he feels drawn in to better understand what the performance means. Several people listen. Most talk. I don’t mind because the few who plug in, connect like a spark to fuel the flames.

But that night — March 29, 2019, those dancers took to the stage knowing one of their members was retiring to take a job out of town, and they all danced for her, with her, and for the mutual love of their shared art. The fire roared! The crowd caught it, ignited, and they roared back, feet pounding, hands clapping, hoots and hollers, whistles and trills. When the audience gave back the energy to the dancers, it was like a vortex opened up. It was a  rock-star moment, and the performance ended with a thundering standing ovation.

I don’t want to be “the best” writer. I just want to write the way those women danced!

Sunday followed the performance, and I had my first To Cultivate a Book retreat at the Ripley Falls Home of Hygge (or Healing). It’s a safe space to explore the creative life. I’m not here to tell someone the magic way to get published, the traditional way, the indie way. I’m here to listen. I meet writers where they are at, and I help them see what the terrain looks like. I help them plant and grow the book they envision. That’s the retreat part. Interspersed, I offered practical knowledge. Each attendee is working on an Author Action Plan that is cultivated to fit their book on their terms, knowing their options in the greater industry.

This is something I’ve felt called to do for a long time. Like all writers who face doubt, I wondered if it would be of value. Sunday I had my answer. Six women came together. Three had previously unshared works. Three felt called but had not figured out what their books were. I listened. I let my story-catcher out, and I caught nuggets to reveal as gems to each person. Seeing the fire light up in their eyes made my day!

Three of the women have serious books that each blew me away. I couldn’t believe they had not shared them, but then I understood. Our seedlings are fragile, and we must share with care lest someone stomp out the flames too soon. I felt like a book farmer, helping people grow the books they want, not necessarily the books they “should” write (unless of course, what they want is a book dictated by markets and readership).

Literary art is meant to be accessible, not put on a top  shelf for “the best.” Literary art has the power to move people just as dance can.

Keep your flame burning.

April 4, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fire. It can be a flame that burns or a light that inspires. Follow the flames and go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 9, 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.

 

Hard to Take a Break (from Miracle  of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Fire spun a halo in the night sky. Danni’s stomach churned. Nothing more she could do tonight. She leaned against her Forest Service truck, away from the camp chatter. Some recruits buzzed from the adrenaline, fighting wildland fires for the first time. Nearby, the Canadian Bombardier pilot regaled his earlier flight to the crew of Australians newly arrived. Danni scanned the distant flames, feeling impatient. In 1910 they didn’t luxuriate in rest and strategy in shifts. Is this what Ike felt before he left –restless while others fought a war he had to watch burn from the sidelines?