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Pro-Bull Mashup Challengers

Writers faced the bullpen at the Rodeo with the rip-snorting task of combining three pro-bull names into nouns and mashing them into two genres — game show and pirate. They faced, rode, and wrote Bodacious, Nose Bender, and The Heartbreak Kid onto the stage, the plank, or perhaps a strange new reality tv show.

Each writer gets to enter the contest once. Some only want the fun of the challenge, and others are prolific and wrote extra stories. These are the challengers from Rodeo #2: Pro-Bull Mashup.

The contest is now closed. Rodeo #3 launches October 17, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Foul Play by D. Avery

“Pal, I won us tickets ta see the bull ridin’. Nose bender seats.”

“D’ya mean nose-bleed?”

“Nose bender. From pressin up against the fence an’ peerin’ through the knothole. Guy said ringside seats is sold out, this is such a bodacious event.”

“Sold out? This rodeo don’t charge.”

“The guy said we had to pay, Pal, but said I could git these seats if the price was right. I answered some ranch trivia questions an’ I won!”

“Nanjo Castille! This ain’t trivial, he’s a pirate! This could lead ta heartbreak, Kid. Where’s he at?”

“Sleepin’ off Ernie’s ‘lixir.”

“Shorty!”

🥕🥕🥕

One Chance to Ride by Charli Mills

Heartbreak Kid tightened the rigging. Daddy schooled her in knots. She’d want it to come loose, not drag her through the arena like a ragdoll. They all wanted her to bomb, break bones. It would serve her right. She had pirated the sport meant for cowboys, not cowgirls. Daddy’s nose-bender against the county rodeo association made salacious headlines. He fought for her right to ride. The paper dubbed her the Heartbreak Kid, mocking her dreams of riding eight seconds. This was no game show with winner’s confetti. Getting to ride a bull named Bodacious would be her prize.

🥕🥕🥕

Sink or Swim! by JulesPaige

The very bodacious hostess was looking for a ‘Romeo’, not a heartbreak kid for her contestant. Michael Nosebender needed a new name if he was going to compete on national television. So he pirated the first name he thought of; Mickey Rooney. Since this was a match up for the silver hair set Carol let the guy slid in the third seat. Not that anyone with any brains would want to date that old curmudgeon.

The widow Della Street wanted someone young to offer her a very romantic cruise far away from raunchy buccaneers. Florida’s Gulf coast would do.

🥕🥕🥕

Games off the Coast of Brazil by Charli Mills

Nosebender ruled the deck of her ship Bodacious with its black sails. She was French Basque, busty and disfigured. Sometime during her trade, gaming Spanish galleons out of Brazil, the butt of a pistol bent her nose. It frightened God-fearing captains during raids she crafted into a high-seas game show. She called her first-mate, a Portagee with a blind left eye, the Heartbreak Kid. A bit of a pirate joke — he was ugly as Nosebender. But he supported her slick game of ridding Spain of her ill-gotten riches, sharing the winnings with the wretches of the New World.

🥕🥕🥕

And They’re Off by Susan Zutautas

Standing at the ticket window Ian placed his bet. Twenty dollars on Nose Bender to win. Meg the practical one put twenty dollars on Heartbreak Kid to show.

At the starting gate, the bell rang, and the horses were off.

Heartbreak Kid took the lead with Nose Bender three horses back. Meg and Ian, both excited stood cheering their horses on.

Out of nowhere the favorite to win, Bodacious took the lead leaving the couple’s horses behind. The favorite won, Heartbreak came second, Nose Bender way behind, came in sixth.

Both disappointed but they had a fun day out.

🥕🥕🥕

The Parrot Nation by Charli Mills

“Welcome back to the celebrity edition of, ‘Whose Parrot is This?’”

Cheers rose from the audience, responding to cue cards. No one knew who the famous person would be. Anticipation dripped like sweat.

The host, a man with a plasticized smile and pirate hat initiated the hints to three audience members on stage

“Squawk! I speak Russian!”

“Putin?”

“No! Squawk! Diplomats suck!”

“Giuliani?”

“No! Squawk! Make America—”

“Trump!”

“Ding, ding, ding! Yes! This parrot belongs to President Trump, Stable Genius, Grand Pirate of the Walled Swamp.”

The crowd roared, prompting unnecessary. The rally had begun, the games continued.

🥕🥕🥕

Reality Show by D. Avery

“Kid, stop poutin’ up in thet poet tree. What’s wrong?”

“Reckon yawl should jist vote me off the Ranch. I feel awful fer indangerin’ ever’one. Agin. I’m heartbroke.”

“Kid, don’t git yer nose bent outta joint. Nanjo’s gone. Some bodacious city slicker name of Rudy come by an took ‘im east.”

“Ta the Big House?”

“I heard White House. They’ve got friends there.”

“Hmm. I’m russian ta conclusions now.”

“Right? But where else kin a corrupt pirate like Nanjo be tried by a jury of his peers? The $64,000,000 question is, kin we vote thet gang off the Island?”

🥕🥕🥕

Rodeo #2: Pro-Bull Mashup

Where else would you find a bull-riding flash fiction 99-word contest but at Carrot Ranch? Come on, all you pencil crunchers, gather ’round and listen to a  tale.

My dad rode bulls. His dad and his dad’s dad rode bulls. My second great-grandfather wore high-heeled vaquero boots in an 1880s photograph, and while I have no more evidence than those boots, I suspect he rode bulls, too. When you grow up around ranch critters, you ride everything that will hold your weight (you can’t ride a chicken, but you can ride a pig).

Getting bucked off is fun, or so you grow up believing. Your relatives and their friends, congregate in the corrals, hold down a critter, set you on it, hoot like crazy throughout your ride, and dust you off when you faceplant in the dirt and critter-pies.

Following this generational bent, I wanted to ride bulls, too. I never got to, but I did ride goats, calves, mustangs, and even a few mild-mannered steers. Somewhere along the way, I got the taste of goat-hide in my mouth, and it’s kind of like getting the smell of a skunk caught in your sinuses. To this day, the barest hint of goat cheese makes me shudder. Eating it is like licking a goat. That and my boots are all I have left of a bull-riding heritage. The boots, by the way, are for when the BS gets deep.

Bull-riding in the US has evolved into a huge sport outside its original heritage. It’s dangerous, fast-paced, and still draws crowds. Raising stock for rodeos is also a big business, and bulls have names as extravagant as carnies or prize-fighters. It’s from the list of Pro-Bull names that this contest takes inspiration. Take a moment to feel the vibe of this year’s ride:

At Carrot Ranch, our weekly literary art and wordplay are expressed in 99 words. Several regular Ranchers often include the prompts or constraints of other writing challenges, and that is known as a “mashup.” This contest has several mashups based on multiple prompts derived from three Pro-Bull names, and the amalgam of two genres. Read the criteria carefully because this contest requires you to combine multiple writing elements and prompts.

Rosin up your writing gear!

CRITERIA:

  1. Write a story using all three bull names as names, places, or things: Bodacious, Nose Bender, and Heartbreak Kid.
  2. Combine two genres: game show and pirate. (Use the provided links for genre tropes and plots.)
  3. It can be fiction or fictionized BOTS (based on a true story), but if true, wow, what a life you lead!
  4. It can include any tone or mood.
  5. Use original details to express your tale.
  6. Make the judges laugh, gasp in surprise, or remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 16, 2019.
  6. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  7. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.
  8. Use the form below the rules to enter.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED

2019 JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

Modern Tall Tale Challengers

Tall tales aren’t just for contestants. Some writers took to telling whoppers like they were alligators born to drive golf carts. Some tall tales are less flamboyant. The following are submissions as challenges (not contest entries) to the Rodeo #1: Modern Tall Tales.

The contest is now closed. Rodeo #2 launches October 10, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Make America Skate Again by D. Avery

“Hard ta tell a tall tale from fact these days Kid, ‘cause fact is there’s some shift goin’ on ya jist cain’t make up.”

“Yep. Pal, tell the one ‘bout the guy who denied global warmin’, claimed it was all a part a his plan.”

“Called it coastal improvement, got folks in South Dakota ta invest in waterfront property. Water kep risin’ an’ when them extreme cold snaps a winter came it all turned ta ice. Whole country iced over. Guy said it was all part a his plan, an’ he sold hats. Hats said, ‘Make America skate again’.”

🥕🥕🥕

Blasting Bunyan by JulesPaige

Paul and Babe worked hard to keep their farm going. The city slowly encroached. The two were a simple pair that got the job done. Their undoing was the tourists looking to escape the city. Some young kids had mom and dad stop the car to take photos on their tablets. The youngsters not being thrilled with being taken away from the city created video manipulating the farmer into a giant and coloring Babe blue.

The giant hatchet throwing farmer and his dancing blue Ox soon had over ten thousand likes, and too many city folks looking for them.

🥕🥕🥕

Lou Ell, Master Photosnappishooter by Faith A. Colburn

No chance of unremembering Lou Ell. He was the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission wildlife photographer. A bachelor, he spent most of his time outdoors somewhere fulfilling his role as “photosnappishooter.”

On vacation, he shot a film on the Alaska brown bear. In one spectacular sequence, he got between a sow and her cub. The momma attacked. Backed against a cliff, Lou kept shooting. “Somebody will find the camera,” he thought. Since he survived, he intended to make wildlife movies.

I visited him once years later. He lived alone in the dark. You see, he had lost his sight.

🥕🥕🥕

Say Mozzarella by Sharon C

Influencers travel the world to capture photogenic spots for social media. Traditional travelers’ enjoyment is ruined by Millenials lining up to ‘hand heart’ iconic locations. In response, camera bans are enforced at tourist sites across the world.

Not so at the Tower of Pisa. Millions of visitors annually photograph the ‘straightening’ of the tower. The impact of this phenomenon is now being scrutinized. Permanent human activity has caused denser, more resistant, air composition around the tower, significantly reversing the leaning process. Consequently, the combined minuscule lifespans of a million Instagram posts may be saving the landmark for future generations.

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Pete Fanning

Ben tore out of the job site, his spotless boots on the gas, dust trailing the truck.

He was happy to have a task. Being new, he’d worried the guys would mess with him. He wanted to get the errand done without any trouble.
He entered Green’s Hardware, his hardhat gleaming.

At the desk, he presented the levels the guys had handed him. “Hello, I need to get some new bubbles for these levels,” he said proudly.

Old Green gave him a wizened smile.

“First day?”

Ben removed his hat. “Sure is.”

“Thought so, I’ll check on your bubbles.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tall Tales: A Trio of Fledglings by Charli Mills

Wind flapped across my neighborhood so fiercely every maple leaf fell at once. Powerlines went down, and we had to call a tow truck to dig out cars and trucks along Roberts Street. Piles of red and orange drifted like snow. My neighbor said he ain’t seen the likes of this occurrence ever, and he’s older than the Porcupine Mountains. While everyone was looking at the leaf mess, I was looking up. Starlings. They flew as if the flocks were a single wing, beating over us like a thundercloud. Two small notches marked where the hatchlings would have flown.

***

It began with starlings. The urge to rescue something vulnerable. My heart is rose quartz, and it fractures when I fail. That day, before my house was home, I failed two baby starlings, and my quartz fractured twice. Later, rose quartz still beating, I held a baby loon to my chest. Again, I failed, and another crack emerged. Giving up on nestlings, I fed the grown chickadees. Then, one fall day, two fledged pigeons appeared, motherless, flightless, and so I became a surrogate again. They grew, they flew. Only one returned to roost. This is how crystals are formed.

***

Summer ended. The starlings razed the birdfeeders by the millions and left behind two changelings. They grew big, peeping. That’s when the street coyotes showed up to circle the house, howl at the moon, and demand plum pie. Turns out, the big starling babies were really coyotes. This is how I knew they were changelings. The peeping always stopped when the coyotes emerged, scratching at grizzled coats. I caught them pulling downy nestling feathers from their fur. Tricksters. That’s how I’ll remember the departures. Tricked into raising vulnerable things that go away. My empty nest is an abandoned den.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid’s KEVA Kiosk by D. Avery

“Kid. What’re ya doin’ asettin’ in thet upended stock tank?”

“I decided ta set up shop fer the rodeo crowds. This here’s my think tank. Folks’ll pay me fer my thoughts.”

“I don’t think much a this idea, Kid. Didja clear it with Shorty?”

“What do you think?”

“Thinkin’ not. So how’s yer gig work?”

“Easy. Ask me a question, I give ya the Kid’s Eye View Answer.”

“In 99 words?”

“Naw, jist somethin’ quippy. But if’n someone was ta request a 99 word tale fer themsefs an’ were ta donate via Shorty’s paypal button…”

“Huh. Who’da thunk it.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Rodeo #1: Modern Tall Tale

Out west where I grew up, to tell a tall tale was to tell a whopper of a lie so big no one would ever believe it. Someone would start the storytelling, and the next person would try to out-exaggerate the last one. Some told tall tales as a joke, especially if an inexperienced newbie might believe it. Wild Bill Hickok’s biographer, Joseph Rosa, suspected that Bill magnified the truth for fun.

Tall tales are the stuff of dime-store novels and pulp fiction.

What is a tall tale? One that openly exaggerates and magnifies the truth to the point of being unbelievable. The story itself is hyperbole. But we want to believe it because it’s humorous, melodramatic, or sensational.

This contest asks you to give a tall tale a modern bent. Don’t rely on the stories of Pecos Bill or 19th-century dime-store westerns. Go past the early sci-fi and detective stories of pulp fiction. Write a tall tale that is recognizable set in the present time.

Have fun, exaggerating!

CRITERIA:

  1. Write a tall tale and exaggerate something that happens to someone somewhere.
  2. It can be fiction or fictionized BOTS (based on a true story) but must be exaggerated to the point it couldn’t possibly be true. It’s okay — tell a whopper of a lie as a story!
  3. It can be humorous, sensational, or melodramatic from any genre.
  4. Use original details to express your tale.
  5. Make the judges laugh or gasp in surprise.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the story that matters most.
  4. Use the form below the rules to enter.
  5. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  6. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 9, 2019.
  7. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  8. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.

2019 JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names in order to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

CONTEST CLOSED.

Get Ready to Rodeo Like It’s 2019!

The 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo begins October 3 (TODAY!) and remains a free-to-enter series of contests. Here’s the contest schedule:

  • Oct. 3 (11:59 pm EST): Modern Tall Tales (entries due Oct. 9, 11:59 pm EST)
  • Oct. 10 (11:59 pm EST): Pro-Bull Mashup (entries due Oct. 16, 11:59 pm EST)
  • Oct. 17 (11:59 pm EST): Three-Act Story (entries due Oct. 23, 11:59 pm EST)
  • Oct. 24 (11:59 pm EST): TUFF Beans (entries due Oct. 30, 11:59 pm EST)

ENTER USING THE FORM FOUND AT EACH CONTEST POST ON THE BLOG.

This is your pep talk. Saddle up, you got this! It’s also the post to help guide you through the expectations. Each contest will have its own post, going live at 11:59 p.m. EST (set your clock to New York City). You have until the following Wednesday by 11:59 p.m. EST to submit. That’s a full seven days.

The Ranchers and Rough Writers who practice their craft through play and serious participation (writer’s prerogative as to which it is) will be familiar with the (mostly) 99-word literary art form. It is 99 words exactly. 99 words, no more, no less. This is the official word counter for the contest: https://wordcounter.net/. Don’t count words on your own, or else you’ll find all the gray areas of counting, including hyphenated words and punctuation. Use the official word counter because it is the hard, fast constraint of what we do at Carrot Ranch.

Follow directions. In addition to the word constraints (TUFF has a several: 99-59-9-99), each contest will have its own prompt and criteria. Read the instructions thoroughly before you write, and again after you write your first draft. Often, after we get the first draft out, we realize we might have missed an important point. Or, you can reread the criteria and revise to better fit what the judges will be looking for in entries. It’s important not to be hasty. You have seven days, plenty of time for revision and final proof-reading. I want your best submission. I want you to wait before you submit and be certain you have no changes — because, this year, you get one submission per contest. In the spirit of wordplay and inspiration, you may submit as many challenge entries as you want. Use them to limber up, fulfill your need to be prolific, or play along if you don’t want to compete.

Go where the prompt leads! I want you to learn to trust your gut, write from the heart, and revise mindfully. When you follow your instinct despite writer’s doubt or critical inner voices telling you not to, you overcome a huge barrier to writing authentically. Carrot Ranch is built to be a safe literary community where writers can explore, grow, and incubate.

Incubation is not just for chickens! I think slam poets and stand-up comedians do this best — they take new material to a live audience, test-drive new word phrases and jokes. I like to hang with the poets because 99 words can be lyrical, and it aligns with acceptable mic time. Did you know 99 words equals 45 seconds? That might matter to you one day. If you have not read live, I’d encourage it. I often read from our collections,  less so than when I had a regular open mic night to attend when I lived in Idaho. But I find opportunities, including art or book fairs, to read my own 99 words to gauge reactions. There is no better audience than a live one to incubate new work. The second best is to share among an online group such as what we do here.

Reflect. Contests present a time for you to rethink some of the stories you wrote that got strong responses. If you’ve ever received a “well done” from me, that is the equivalent of Paul Hollywood’s handshake on the Great British Baking Show. Even if you haven’t received a “well done,” pay attention to what commenters, me included, have responded to. This gives you an idea of what your strengths are — writing with emotion, creating powerful imagery, crafting unexpected twists, fitting an entire story in 99 words, or crafting original ideas.

FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS.

Don’t let doubt niggle away your confidence, focusing on weaknesses unless you can be constructive. Know that training is required for critique because it is a skill. Anyone can learn the skill, of course, but many struggle with the perceived negativity and rejection that can accompany criticism. And yes, there are those who exploit the weaknesses of others to feel better about their own abilities. Such insecurity is often expressed by trolls and bullies. But that doesn’t mean criticism falls into that realm. For our purposes, I want you to focus on what works in your writing. Respond from a place of strength, and you will feel more confident. Confidence shows in our writing!

Dare to be original. How can you stand out? Well, no one is you, no one has had your accumulative experiences, and we all come from diverse walks of life, locations, and interests. We each have a bucket of details to color the stories we imagine or base on ones we experienced. Yes, BOTS (based on a true story) are welcome here because by the act of committing the story to 99 words and deciding which details to include, and how you sequence the event, all ads up to fictionizing a real story. In fact, my virtual mentor, Wallace Stegner, wrote about his faith:

“…that fictionizing is an essential function of the mind and emotions–that reality is not fully reality until it has been fictionized.”

Follow your North Star. Before you embark on this contest, understand why it matters to you. You are here for different reasons – one writer wants to publish her book traditionally and hopes a contest win will add to her portfolio. Another writer has discovered new life and friends in writing online, and he’s here to have fun. Someone else might still carry the voice of a harsh critic, a perfectionist parent, or a dismissive teacher, and they want to prove they are a writer. Remember, it is best if you set your North Star overhead, aim for your own personal goals without comparison to another’s writer’s personal goals, and banish that voice of the critic. Have some of your most obnoxious characters apply duct tape to the mouth of your worst critic. And care for who you are as a writer. Care for your fellow writers. Care for this place where, together, we make literary art accessible, no one kept out.

My North Star. I want to make literary art accessible. That’s the mission of Carrot Ranch. Every door I open for you, I get to walk through, too. Like many of you, I love to write. Like those who have experienced writing education or careers, literary criticism can create unhealthy spaces. One day, after training, I’d like to expand Carrot Ranch into the dimension of offering productive critique groups, training writers into a process that teaches both skills of giving and receiving feedback. This will happen online and at my workshops or retreats. You grow, I grow, we all grow. Again, I defer to my virtual mentor to explain my vision for the kind of environment Carrot Ranch supports through weekly challenges, annual Rodeo contests, and future critique groups:

“Managing the environment for a group of talented (and frequently headstrong) people is not easy. I have often thought of it as comparable to the way one trains a hot-blooded colt, whose whole impulse is to run. You put him in a corral and you let him run—in circles, with a rope on him. You don’t yank his head off, and you don’t let him run over you. You teach him to run under control. And much of his control is going to be learned from the other horses in the corral.

A writing class is inevitably competitive, do you see? Everyone’s primary concern is his own success, and that success, when something as personal as literature is involved, is acutely personal. But if you encourage competition, or let it run rampant, any individual’s success becomes everyone else’s envy.

Ideally, if the class mix and the teacher’s wisdom operate right, every individual’s success becomes everyone else’s stimulation. The people in such a class, if it is well selected, are roughly equal in talent and opportunity. If one puts a story in The New Yorker or gets an enthusiastic acceptance of his novel, other members of the class have a right to feel that the possibility is all the more available to them.

That successful one is no better than I am, they will think. The gift there is different from mine, but not superior. What happened to him is bound, sooner or later, if I work, to happen to me. (C Mills, emphasis.)

For some such reason, in seminars that jelled properly, I have seen people write better than they will ever write again—write better than they really know how to. The trick is to keep the competitiveness friendly, to see to it that individual success stimulates other members of the group, instead of depressing and discouraging them.”

Stegner, Wallace. On Teaching and Writing Fiction (pp. 62-63). Penguin Publishing Group.

In a short while, your first contest will go live at 11:59 p.m. EST. May you ride well, sitting tall in the saddle. Success here is success for us all. Believe in possibility and never stop defining, exploring, and reaching for your North Star.

Unremembered

Who have we forgotten and why? The historical record stretches so long it seems there remains no room for all the remembrances. Family history fades or ends abruptly. Memory brings its own struggles. Yet truths of who we are as humans emerge to remind us that we are like those we have forgotten.

Writers were challenged to recall to the page the unremembered. A daunting task, full of unexpected interpretations, discoveries, and forgotten stories.

The following are based on the September 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone unremembered.

PART I (10-minute read)

Noted by Liz Husebye Hartmann

I dreamt last night of snow.
It lay,
A thin blanket over vibrant late summer.
Silent white, still as death,
Satisfying in its containment.

And I,
Not part of the scene,
Hovered just above and north,
Invisible and unremembered in this moment’s lapse,
Accepting that all is as it should be.

It lingered, this stillness, this moment

Before the alarm pierces the darkness and eyes shutter open to snap the shot before the rushing flow of sunlight and voices, the river of everyday that roars and twists and pulls me along,

A red leaf-spin noted in everyone else’s emergency.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Donna Armistead

She appears only in the occasional census record and once, fleetingly, on an 1862 list as wife of a Southern soldier, entitled to low-cost salt for preservation of her family’s meager stores: my great-grandmother Mary. If she wrote letters to her absent husband, chasing Yankees across ravaged northern Virginia, they do not survive. More likely, the rigors of keeping a farm and feeding her children consumed all her time.

She lies somewhere in a Georgia Baptist cemetery, her grave unmarked, her daily toil unremembered. Money – and the attendant spirit of commemoration – were scarce commodities in the wake of Sherman’s devastation.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Norah Colvin

A recluse, unremarkable and forgotten in life and unremembered in death, she’d lived in her own world hidden behind overhanging branches and overgrown gardens. Unseen for so long, newcomers didn’t know she existed, thinking it was simply undeveloped land.

One day, developers came and pushed down the trees and cleared the undergrowth. They paused at the sight of the tiny wooden structure their work revealed. Unsure how to proceed, they investigated. Though not art enthusiasts, they knew that what they discovered was something special. When the work was curated and exhibited in galleries worldwide, she was never unremembered again.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Anita Dawes

I cannot think of anyone forgotten to me
I am sure if I walk around my local graveyard
There would be so many forgotten souls
With no living relatives to lay flowers
I will lay a flower on a few bare graves
as I pass through to show they’re remembered
I asked a Jewish neighbour years ago
Why no flowers on their graves?
They don’t like to kill anything
They leave a stone to say someone has visited
I thought I might like to do that
Find a bare headstone, take a small pebble
Place it there with love…

🥕🥕🥕

A Lost Love by Sadje

The light was playing tricks. She was sure that it wasn’t him. How could it be him, after all those years. And she was sure that if she did see him today, after fifteen years, she wouldn’t be able to recognize him. He would have changed just as much as she had. They weren’t thirteen anymore.

As the man drew near, he gave a crooked smile just like Sam and looked at her quizzically. “Are you Sally Hepworth by any chance?” She was unable to say anything, so great was her amazement. She just nodded her head in affirmative.

🥕🥕🥕

Hello! How Are You? by Di @ pensitivity101

There were warm smiles and hugs all round, general chit chat and catching up over a period of about fifteen minutes.

It was so lovely to see them, they said so.

It had been such a long time, and how were the family, the dog, the new house?

How was their health, were they enjoying retirement?

Parting company, any familiarity faded and frowns replaced their polite smiles. They knew so much, yet they couldn’t be placed.

It’s the old story. Minds are searched, family faces summoned from the deepest depths. Who were they exactly? Damned if I could remember.

🥕🥕🥕

Yearbook Photo by Denise DeVries

Bitty sat on her faded sofa next to Grace in her tailored suit and silk stockings. “Here’s our high school yearbook.” She flipped through the pages and pointed. “There you are.”

Grace leaned in, her sprayed hair brushing Bitty’s cheek. “Who’s that boy? I don’t remember him.” She touched the photo with a manicured nail and laughed. “That hair! So out of style!”

Bitty read, “Pierce Langley Davis. The name doesn’t ring a bell. Look at his angry eyebrows.”

Grace leaned even closer. “Wait a minute… Hmm. Isn’t that Fierce Pierce?… I think I went to Homecoming with him.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sad To Be Forgotten by Susan Zutautas

Talking to her aunt about Sunday dinner Meg was a little concerned about her grandmother because Aunt Jenny told her she wasn’t herself lately.

Sunday arrived and Meg was a few minutes late.

Grandma was there and seated at the dinner table. Meg thought she looked perfectly fine and maybe her aunt had been mistaken. Meg greeted her with a hug and then sat down at the table.

Cousin Sandy sat next to Meg and during dinner, grandma spoke up asking, “Sandy, is this your new boyfriend?”

“No, it’s Meg, your granddaughter, you remember.”

Grandma sat there looking confused.

🥕🥕🥕

Ruby by Lisa Williams

Geoff always woke promptly without an alarm clock and immediately mourned for the one he married. He rose and she stared up at him. Smiling. Not a care in the world. From their wedding photo, taken exactly forty years ago to the day. He washed, dressed. Thinking that they could be celebrating today. A big family party in a balloon filled hall. Happiness. After a lifetime of shared bliss. He sighed and took her up a cup of tea in bed. Hoping today would be a reasonable day for her. And that she’d at least recognise who he was.

🥕🥕🥕

A Mere Image by Bill Engleson

She lifts the arm.

“There, Mr. Sam, that’s right, draw it down your right cheek. Through the foam.”

The razor in the right hand slides along the stranger’s face.

There is a scent. Peppermint?

“That’s right. Careful not to nick.”

The hand jerks. A gash. Blood mingles with the foam.

She grabs a tissue, dabs the face. “That’s not so bad. You have to be more careful. Perhaps I should finish it for you.”

Her hand embraces the razor, shaves slowly, bypasses the pinkish tissue, finishes, wipes the face with a warm cloth.

“Done.”

Her hand caresses the face.

🥕🥕🥕

Widow’s Weeds by Kerry E.B. Black

Beatrice shifted framed photos on her entry table, the only remaining piece of her prized furniture. Rooms in the senior care facility didn’t accommodate much. Her deceased husband smiled from a silver frame, dashing as the day they married. From others grinned their children, three strapping boys and a diminutive girl with a shy smile. They all lived afar, scattered like shrapnel after the explosion of her husband’s death. Purposeful misunderstandings fueled fevered departures. None looked back to notice Beatrice, alone, grieving, and with little to support her ailing heart.

Yet she proudly displayed her family in sparkling frames.

🥕🥕🥕

Nelson Finds His Namesake (from Snowflake) by Anne Goodwin

What a racket! Unpatriotic to cry while the rest of the nursery slept. Nelson grabbed the traitor from its cot, ready to shake it and scream at it to stop.

The name stamped on the baby’s bib almost made him drop it. The infant was a Nelson too. The revelation brought a yearning that threatened to swallow the pair of them, a hollowness from before memory began.

He wanted to run. He wanted to crush the tiny skull. But he made a cradle of his arms and rocked his namesake. Soothing his unremembered anguish as he lulled the child.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Pete Fanning

I barreled into the school parking lot, tires screeching, thumping across the speed bump. Amelia sat slumped on a bench, one sock up, one sagging to her shoe. A teacher stood by her.

I left the car running. “I’m sorry baby, I—”

“You forgot me. I can’t believe you forgot me!”

Three kids, one me. But now, seeing my youngest, face glazed with tears, how even her sock had given up on her. I was a terrible parent.

“Amelia.”

She flung herself into me, part hug, part tackle. Like her socks, my daughter was let down, yet resilient.

🥕🥕🥕

Father Figured by JulesPaige

Each with their own thoughts, maybe they remembered? But they chose not to share. That created blank spaces in Harper’s young mind. He couldn’t even remember what story they might have told as to why his father wasn’t coming home. Did they even try to say that the man had gone with angels to heaven?

Harper only had a hole in his heart. Questions weren’t asked because no one else brought up his father’s name or even showed old photographs. He would remember whatever he could.

a life ends early
grave hours pass without telling;
their stories are lost

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered  by clfalcone*

The nine-year old stood beneath the light post, the State Fair was stifling hot with no shade. He thought about food as insects buzzed around his crewcut. Lord, how he had to pee.

He only bent down to tie his shoe and then they were gone.

Five hours, still no one came for him.

It was getting dark next to the Haunted House, pictures of people being gored as shish kebabs, sliced like juicy steaks scared him, his stomach growled.

He sat in the dirt, whimpering. He was getting a real solid beating tonight, for sure.

So he cried.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by tracey

I was nine when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, eleven when she died. My memories of being ten are ragged, filled with holes.

I remember crying. Hospital visits. Coming home to an empty house, devoid of the smells of baking and lemon Pledge. The panicky feeling as I opened the door, what if this was the day she died and I just didn’t know it yet?

Surely people were kind to me during this difficult time?
But no acts of kindness remain in my memory. I can’t remember anyone but my mother and myself during that horrific year.

🥕🥕🥕

The Close Match by Sally Cronin

Isobel held her mother’s hand tightly as the door to the café opened, and a man walked in and looked around. It had been an emotional few weeks since the DNA close match had been found on the genealogy database. Her mother, abandoned as a toddler on the doorstep of an orphanage, had no memories of her family, long giving up hope of finding them. The man looked over to their table and her mother gasped as she saw his shock of red hair and green eyes. His face lit up and smiling he hurried towards them, twins reunited.

🥕🥕🥕

Trissente by Saifun Hassam

As a marine archeologist, Pierre loved to explore Trissente Sea and its unusual shores. The coastline was relatively recent. Some millennia ago catastrophic ecological deluges had washed away the previous shorelines and limestone and sandy cliffs that must have extended a mile or so inland.

There were legends of an ancient coastal people and their immense temple, and ruins of a hidden monastery in the Diamante Mountains. Stories lingered of a long ago learned scholar, his name forgotten. Pierre planned to explore the mountain. He was intrigued: who was this scholar, these ancient coastal people, long vanished, the unremembered.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Robbie Eaton Cheadle

The unexpected sight of the frozen tableau inside the shrine caused the team of archaeologists to gasp in shock. The faces of the three Incan children, who had been sacrificed five hundred years earlier, were peaceful. The oldest, a girl they nicknamed the Maiden, had a half smile playing around the corners of her mouth.

Analysis of hair samples from the frozen mummies found entombed in a subterranean chamber, revealed that the children had all been drugged with coca leaves and alcoholic beverages.

This historical discovery ensured that the Maiden, Llullaillaco Boy and Lightning Girl, would not be forgotten.

🥕🥕🥕

A Dead Dark God Grumbles by Joanne Fisher

I was once powerful. More powerful than anything seen before. I had many followers and was feared by everyone. Impregnable was my black fortress, unscalable were my defences, unassailable were my lands, undefeatable were my armies. Yet one day I was overthrown. My body was destroyed and my spirit was hurled into the darkness. And now no one remembers me. Nameless I have now become. A disembodied voice crying out in the void.

One day I’ll find a way to return and everyone will again quake with fear when they hear my name, and the world will be mine.

🥕🥕🥕

Visit by Joshua G. J. Insole

Gusts of wind moaned through the skeletal trees, scattering the burnt-orange leaves across the graves.

“That time of year again, Frank?”

“Yep.”

“Same as last year?”

“Same as every year, Harry.”

“Hmm.”

The wind wailed between the headstones, shrieking like a ghoul.

Harry cleared his throat. “Well… maybe they forgot?”

“Twenty-seven years in a row?”

“I—well, maybe not…”

“Yeah, maybe not.”

The gale was picking up speed now. The town’s citizens would be battening down the hatches.

Frank was changing, too. Becoming. Tattered skin and rotten flesh were stitching themselves together again.

“This year,” he said, “they’ll remember.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Unremembered by Susan Budig

Esther’s eyes opened into blackness. No morning light yet broke through the small window. Her body, clad in a thread-bare shift, pressed into the splintered board. A wool blanket, shared with three other women rested on top of her. Rainwater dripped through the ceiling, splashing droplets onto her shaved head.

“Claude,” she murmured, “my beloved.” May your memory be a blessing involuntarily flitted through her thoughts. She scolded herself for thinking them. A dead sleep overtook her until the blockführer’s screams roused them.

Over in the men’s barracks, no one remained to give Claude even a passing thought.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Padre of Padre’s Ramblings

It was late summer and a refreshing summer breeze gently blew. The Roma family sat near a clearing at the roadside, their piebald pony munching grass as they themselves ate breakfast. They did not hear the approach of the SS patrol from the forest, nor expect the burst of automatic fire. They could not know of the burning of their wagon home, or that their precious pony would become the property of a Ukrainian peasant after the beast had bolted. No more laughter or music would flow from their campfires, nor would any ever again lovingly call their names.

🥕🥕🥕

Did I Dream It by Susan Sleggs

We hoped for more soldiers to arrive, not so we could go on R&R, but so there would be enough men to fight back when the next firefight happened. The night was quiet. I got about four hours sleep. When I woke, there was a replacement guy sitting three feet from me. I was about to introduce myself when bullets started flying. We both went flat to the ground. When the shooting stopped, he was dead and I wasn’t. I never learned his name so can only remember that he was there. I don’t think it was a dream.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Forgotten by Sascha Darlington

A ragged man, he panhandled holding a cardboard sign between gnarled fingers. He got pneumonia once during a bitterly cold, snowy winter. That’s how I found him then he disappeared again.

“I’m nothing to you,” he’d said to me, his only son.

Mom’s only comment: “Damn war took him away twice.”

He lived in a cardboard box in woods behind the grocery until they tore it down and made him leave. I left food with him, gave him money and warm clothes.

Strangers tried to help. One told me, “He’s always got a joke.”

He died there, not forgotten.

🥕🥕🥕

The Coffee Cup by Donna Matthews

The first order of business when arriving at the office is a hot cup of coffee — the fresh, earthy smell of roasted grounds greet my sleepy brain. Years past, often being the first one in, I’d pull out the filters, dump the Folgers, and brew an entire pot. Now, I stand in front of the Keurig, waiting for my single brew to finish. Decades before me, women were not only expected to make the coffee but to fix and hand-deliver to the men of the office. This morning, I stand here, coffee cup in hand, on their shoulders.

🥕🥕🥕

Getting the Point by Chris Hewitt

“You forget yourself, sir!” she said, slapping him hard.

He rubbed his cheek, an evil smirk played across his lips. “That’ll cost you.”

“Maybe, but it’ll cost you more,” she taunted.

“You should have said,” he grinned, reaching into his pocket.

She stopped his hand, smiled at him sweetly and pushed him into the chair.

“See, that wasn’t so hard was it.”

“Not at all,” she said, removing the long pin from her hair, long locks cascaded.

Leaning in, she breathed gently on his neck and skilfully jammed the pin precisely into his amygdala.

“You’ll forget yourself,” she whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

unremembered by joem18b

I was prospecting in the asteroid belt when I attached to an iron-and-nickle specimen tumbling slowly through space in a throng of its brothers and sisters. When I climbed out to inspect its surface, clomping around in my magnetized boots, I came upon an individual in a spacesuit sitting in a chair bolted down next to a hatch leading into the asteroid’s interior.

“Who are are you?” I asked, using my communicator.

The person looked away from the sparkling void of space, at me.

“I … I don’t remember.”

“Who knows you’re here?” I said.

“Nobody,” he or she said.

🥕🥕🥕

Patient Zero by Nobbinmaug

“I’m ready. Who am I killing?”

“Your great-grandfather.”

“What?”

“He was patient zero.”

“My great-grandfather is responsible for Extraterrestrial Xenotropic Disease? How can you know that?”

“It was his breakthrough that made intergalactic space travel possible. He was on that first mission that brought back E.X.D., causing the Great Plague.”

“If I kill him before his breakthrough, I can stop the plague and the deformities that followed.”

“And the collapse of civilization. You can make humanity Earth’s dominant species again.”

“Will I cease to exist?”

“We may all cease to exist. The world of 1989 could look completely different.”

🥕🥕🥕

Freedom by Ruchira

Sammy was standing in the cool breeze with her eyes shut.

Her hair blew across the eyes that she tucked back now and then.

The grass and the leaves were also celebrating this special day by rustling, “Celebrations!” into her ear.

She had a dreamy smile as she took a deep inhalation and smelled the flowers that opened and released their floral scents.

She got the goosebumps as she murmured, “Thanks to my unremembered ancestors who fought for our freedom that I can enjoy this warmth seeping into my skin or else I would be caved somewhere in fear.”

🥕🥕🥕

In the Shadows of Time by Bill Engleson

Who do we remember?
What comes to mind
when we think of the lost ones?
Not the main actors on the stage of life.
Perhaps the stagehands?
The lighting technicians?
The audience members far up in the gallery?

Was this the message Ford was getting at?
Tom Doniphon?
The Man Who Shot…?
The Confederate General on his marble steed?
Sir John A.?
Drunkard?
Racist?
Our George Washington.
We remember who we see.
We remember the stars.
The lights.

There are those we forget:
a lost love among many,
a slight fancy,
a memory somewhat out of sync
with now.

🥕🥕🥕

The Night After Lake Superior Swallowed the Hudson by Charli Mills

“And she rolled over like a lapdog!” First-mate of the Eagle River Life-Saving Station hooted. He slapped Charles on the back, blowing pipe smoke in his face.

Charles coughed; his lungs weak from a bout of pneumonia after attempting to reach a floundering fishing boat last month. “Saw it, I did.” He glowered at their jovial faces and stalked off, rounding the dark corner of the station, nearly colliding with the white-bearded keeper.

“Wreckage will rise, Charles. The teasing will cease. Let them laugh for tonight. It’s the best they can do for those unremembered beneath this cold-hearted sea.”

🥕🥕🥕

Scorned by D. Avery

I just stopped. Our arguing raged like the gale winds that pummeled us broadside. How could he? How could he have a fiancé waiting in port? I refused to move unless he forswore that woman. For hadn’t he already chosen a life on the waters? Wasn’t he wed to me?

He had his engineers doing all they could but I refused to respond, for his desperation was to make it to land- to her. No. Let her be unremembered.

High rolling waves consummated our vows. Now every September we celebrate our anniversary. He and I will never be forgotten.

🥕🥕🥕

A Life Through A Lens by Keith Burdon

I know that he sees me, but he doesn’t know me, not now, not ever again. His eyes see, his beautiful blue eyes, with that “thing” as he used to call it.

Before I met him, I never knew what coloboma was. He was embarrassed by it. I told him it was the most beautiful thing in the world. That he was the most beautiful thing in the world. In my eyes.

His eyes see but they do not know. I am the person that he sees but now is unremembered. I almost wish my eyes could not see.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by FloridaBorne

Somewhere in an unremembered past, lying in a grave without a tombstone, my grandfather’s grandmother becomes part of the soil, her bones all that remain.

I am one percent Native American, one percent Cameroon, and imagine her to be the daughter of an escaped slave that joined a tribe. Did a French trapper in Canada need a wife, choosing a suitable one to wander the forests with him, bear his children, and die alone?

Your grandson spoke not of his mother, and married a wealthy man’s daughter. Your children may not know who you were, but your genes remember.

🥕🥕🥕

I Don’t Want an Epitaph by Reena Saxena

“I don’t want an epitaph on my grave.”

“Why?”

“All my life, I’ve felt misunderstood or not understood by family and friends. I prefer being unremembered rather than being mis-remembered.”

“Do you feel your life has been wasted?” My coach instincts are sharpened. There is something in here, which will give a clue to other stated issues.

“Not really. My readers understand me. My work is likely to remain online for some time, and that is my authentic self. An epitaph will not do justice.”

I struggle to frame the next question, as I see the enormity of loneliness.

🥕🥕🥕

A Rose Like No Other by Sherri Matthews

‘Look at this…’ Barbara handed the photograph to her son. ‘Remember Rose, our neighbour with the lemon tree, when you were little?

‘I do…nice lady,’ smiled Nick. ‘Still in touch?’

Barbara shook her head and sighed. ‘She was ill, years ago. I wrote but never heard back. I’m not sure she’d remember us now…’

A letter arrived one morning from America. Rose’s daughter, who had tracked Barbara down, to tell her of Rose’s passing.

‘Mom talked of you often, how much she loved your letters even when she couldn’t reply.’

Barbara, like Rose, would remember their friendship forever.

🥕🥕🥕

Remembering My Forgotten Man by Jo Hawk

The best pieces were auctioned first. The hammer fell, the winning bidders paid, and scurried home clutching their new, old treasures. I stayed to the bitter end, bidding on lots no one else wanted. My prizes cost me a dollar, and the auctioneer tossed in other unsold items.

At home, I uncovered an antique trove. Pictures of a long-forgotten gentleman. My finger outlined his sepia-toned face, and I wondered about his life. Was he a good man? A brute? A devoted son? A cruel father? Whatever happened, the photos chronicled his lost legacy, unremembered, in my bargain auction finds.

🥕🥕🥕

Who, Exactly was Yvette Bouchard by TN Kerr

Yvette accepted the post-coital Cohiba offered by the bearded writer from La Plaza Vieja. He was writing his memoir. She tucked the bed linens around her waist, leaned back against the worn headboard, and told him about France, her life before la Habana. Before coming to Cuba.

He listened carefully as she smoked and wove her tale, “… But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Case of Big Amy by Annette Rochelle Aben

Magic was in the air, as the blushing bride was dressed for her big day. As Amy’s fingers traced the intricate bead work creating hearts on the bodice of her gown, she closed her eyes as if to make time stand still.

The guests seated in the sanctuary chattered excitedly; soon they would witness the event many thought would never happen. After all, the bride had waited so long to find the right mate!

The man with sad eyes fought tears. He knew he had to speak or forever hold his peace. Legally, she was still married to him.

🥕🥕🥕

Never Forget the Soap by Chelsea Owens

“It happened again.”

“What?”

“The door.”

….?

“The door of the laundry room.”

….

*Sigh* “It hit me on the way out again.”

“Oh…” “Well…” “It’s just a door.”

“It doesn’t hit me every time.”

“Huh.”

“I’m serious!”

“I know! -Look, maybe you’re just jumping to conclusions.”

….

“Like, you know, that… say, air currents from a different door or whatever sometimes close that one.”

“On me.”

“…Yeah.”

“Never on you.”

“…Yeah.”

“Never on anyone else.”

“Yeah!”

“And only when I start a load at midnight.”

“Yeah! -wait; why are you starting laundry at -”

“And only when I can also hear whispering…”

🥕🥕🥕

🥕🥕🥕

Rodeo Shift by D. Avery

“What’sa matter, Kid?”

“Dang it all, Pal, I jist wanted the rodeo ta be somethin’ ‘memberable. But Pepe’s smellavision never caught air. An’ now Ernie an’ Pepe’s laid up so there won’t be any food concessions. Feelin’ bad, Pal. Wish some a these wild ideas could be unremembered. That bean cloud jeopardized the Ranch’s safety.”

“Calm yersef Kid. The Ranch was never in danger. Carrot Ranch’s always a safe place.”

“Even durin’ the rodeo?”

“Yep. Gotta play ta win, but yer a winner fer playin’.”

“I still wanna hep out.”

“See thet shovel?”

“Yep.”

“Jist do yer shift, Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

September 26: Flash Fiction Challenge

From his post in the Eagle River Lighthouse, a young surfman spied a double-stack steamer through his binoculars. It was dead in the water, listing sideways and he couldn’t see the ship’s name. The maple and birch leaves must have started to turn because it was September 16, 1901. Autumn colors and gales hold hands in September. It can be warm and muggy one day, blustering with cold rain the next. In between, mist hovers and chlorophyll dissolves to expose brilliant oranges and yellows. Concern might have wrinkled the surfman’s brow. A gale with steady eight-foot waves will even stop the modern US Ranger from going out to Isle Royale. Today’s lake freighters will plow through autumn gales but change their course, wary of the Keweenaw. The western edge is unfriendly when Lake Superior orchestrates a gale.

That day, 118 years ago, communication systems fainted at the mere mention of winds, so fragile were the lines to weather. The surfman had no communication with the ship. It was not flying any distress flags, but it was no time or place to have cut the engines. Did they fail? Did something precipitate the quiet listing, such as the ship’s load shifting or another below decks emergency? The winds whipped, the waves roared with a pushing surf, and colored leaves blew from the shoreline trees. The American flags along the Keweenaw were flying half-mast on September 16, 1901, while President McKinley laid in state, assassinated two days earlier. No other signals indicated distress. The surfman watched from his post as the ship rolled over whole and disappeared.

For days, uncertainty cast doubt upon the sole witness. Boats launched to rescue survivors and found nothing and no one. No other ships experienced difficulties with the September 16th gale; it had not been particularly forceful or noted for rogue waves. With communications down, and trips taking days or weeks to complete, it was hard to determine if a ship was yet missing. Newspapers and the nation were focused on the tragic death of the president, not on speculation over what one young surfman at a remote Lake Superior post might have seen.

Then debris began to emerge, most of it wood, including the black and yellow masts that caused alarm — could it be the famous steamer known by those colors? A few bodies emerged, wearing lifevests clearly marking the ship’s identity. As feared, it was the Hudson. 288 feet long, her steel hull never appeared. It took mere days for Lake Superior to bash her wood parts and release the debris to surface and shore. A lake not known for giving up her dead, the surfmen must have felt surprised that a few escaped. None survived. Lake Superior held tight to the crew of 25, including the ship’s master, Angus J. McDonald.

But that is not the end.

There is a maritime legend to consider. In the 1940s, a tug coming around Keweenaw Point encountered a rusty, mud-slimed ship. It plowed toward them, and the tug had to veer to avoid a collision. Thinking the ship in distress, the tug captain boarded it. While it was solid beneath his boots, the apparitions that appeared were not. The ghosts warned him to get off as they were the crew of the Hudson and doomed to relive their sinking every year for eternity. The date was September 16.

That’s not the end, either.

Two Great Lakes shipwreck hunters located the Hudson, using sonar equipment they built. They had narrowed their search to 32 square miles, which in regards to the size of Lake Superior, was a relatively small area. In July of 2019, they found the Hudson in deep water, its bow plowed into the bottom of the lake. Eerily, the Hudson remains intact as if she could rise and float the way the tug captain described of his ghostly encounter. On September 16 of this year, the explorers who found the wreck attempted to see if she remained on her historic day of sinking. They were unable to determine.

It’s not the ghost stories or the maritime history that captivates me. I’m drawn to the Keweenaw shipwrecks because of those unremembered. Immediately, my imagination flashes to the surfman who witnessed the ship capsize. What a sight! And to have no one believe you for days, how would that feel? Who were the people who waited for those 25 men to return to Detroit? One account claimed that the ship’s master was “wedded” to the Hudson. What did that mean? And if the ship were doomed to relive its sinking every year, why? And who was that tug captain anyhow?

The best way for me to answer these questions is a combination of research and writing. You all know my favorite format for writing — 99 words, no more, no less. I start my research with Wreck Reports and other records my maritime historian friend collects. Her interest is in the surfmen who risked their lives to save those in peril on Lake Superior. Over 30,000 lives have been lost on the Great Lakes. That’s a lot of unremembered sailors and such. Alas, I must wait for the initial documents and can do nothing more but imagine the whipping winds and the shock of the sight, a ship rolling over.

This past week, my coursework prepares me to begin training in the infamous MFA workshop process. As writers, we can feel intimidated to receive feedback. Receiving criticism on our writing is not easy but is necessary for improvement. It’s not the writer who is critiqued, but the work. Authors make common mistakes, and we are learning what to look for when critiquing our peers. An amusing but informative primer from the Science Fiction Writer’s Association blog pinpoints such problem areas with humor specific to sci-fi. However, all writers can learn from it’s evolving list. The same site also offers guidelines for critiquing work for publication.

This training will inform the bedrock of workshops we’ll one day have online at Carrot Ranch. In addition to my MFA, I’m also studying for a certificate to teach creative writing online. While that fruition is a ways off yet, another endeavor at the Ranch is right around the corner — next week, the Flash Fiction Rodeo begins.

Leaders and judges from last year might feel unremembered, but that was not the intent. So much has happened between last Rodeo and this, I simply did not plan as I had in the past. D. Avery, Sherri Matthews, Norah Colvin, Geoff Le Pard, and Irene Waters and their judges did a fine job last year. Their creativity and critique are much appreciated. This year, a group of local judges will manage their duties at a Roberts Street Writery event. Judges will converge over a shared meal and relaxed environment to pair up on four different contests to pick a top-prize winner and two runners up. I’ll be the tie-breaker judge in all events.

The purpose of the Rodeo is to provide writers with an opportunity to showcase your best skills. It’s also a chance for those who have not entered contests to get their feet wet in a safe environment. This year, I intend to provide a brief critique to the top ten contestants. It’s a way for me to practice, and an opportunity for writers to gain an insight into the effectiveness of flash fiction writing. 40 critiques, even brief, is as much as I can manage. As I did last year, I’ll publish all the contest entries in collections.

Another difference: This year, writers can only submit one entry. Why? Because it is a contest. I want us all to learn how to first critique our own work. I want you to take enough time to let your first draft sit. Sit, don’t submit. Then read it over after a day or two. You’ll be surprised at how you’ll read it differently. Read it out loud. How does the language flow? Is it complete? Is it correct? Polish it up. A contest is different from a challenge. Focus on your best draft. If the prompt leads you to multiple drafts, you will have the opportunity to submit extras as challenge responses. Or, if you don’t like the idea of a contest, submit as usual, but indicate Challenger in the box that will ask you Contest or Challenge. Challengers will be published weekly through the submission form as usual.

Top prize offered is $25 in the form of US dollars or an Amazon gift card or as a donation to the charity of the winner’s choice. The Rodeo is meant to be fun, and also a step up from a weekly challenge. I hope you all enjoy the next four weeks. The Flash Fiction Rodeo begins October 3 and ends Oct. 29. We’ll run on the same schedule — contests announced on Thursdays, ending the following Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. The only difference is that I’ll be more punctual! After all, I have to step up, too.

Now, let’s play one more week before the Rodeo commences.

September 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone unremembered. Is it a momentary lapse or a loss in time? Play with the tone — make it funny, moving, or eerie. Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by October 1, 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.

 

The Night After Lake Superior Swallowed the Hudson by Charli Mills

“And she rolled over like a lapdog!” First-mate of the Eagle River Life-Saving Station hooted. He slapped Charles on the back, blowing pipe smoke in his face.

Charles coughed; his lungs weak from a bout of pneumonia after attempting to reach a floundering fishing boat last month. “Saw it, I did.” He glowered at their jovial faces and stalked off, rounding the dark corner of the station, nearly colliding with the white-bearded keeper.

“Wreckage will rise, Charles. The teasing will cease. Let them laugh for tonight. It’s the best they can do for those unremembered beneath this cold-hearted sea.”

Interludes

Between the big moments in life, there are interludes. Like the sweet piece during an orchestra’s intermission or the pause between acts in a play, these interludes set a different pace. Perhaps the temporal episodes add up to characterize more than a transition. They can even become more important than the significant markers of life.

What will writers make of interludes? You can count on variety and enlightening ideas.

The following are based on the September 19, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an interlude.

PART I (10-minute read)

Sweet Interlude by Ritu Bhathal

Sophia leaned against the headboard, taking a drag of her cigarette.

She smiled at her reflection in the mirror; hair messed up, lipstick a mere stain left on her lips.

She watched him pull his pants back on.

“Hurry, Sophia!”

Marco slipped his shirt on, still buttoning as he left.

Voices. Her supervisor was coming.

She flushed the cigarette down the toilet, changed, and flung the door open.

“Oh Sir, these guests, too much! Smoking in here. Smell it!”

She bustled out, to the next room waiting to be cleaned, wondering when her next interlude with Marco would be…

🥕🥕🥕

A Woman Scorned by TN Kerr

It was early morning when Enrique crept home. Treading softly and turning his key slow; he eased the door inward. He started when a heavy glass ashtray bounced off the wall and shattered. Mesmerized, he watched as pieces of glass scampered across the dark blue tile floor. It brought to mind ‘la galassia via lattea’ it was beautiful. So was the dark-haired fury who came in quick and attacked.

“Ma il mio amore, eravamo in pausa.” Enrique shouted as he tried in vain to dodge her blows.

Marida continued to pummel him. Her fierce countenance set and forbidding.

🥕🥕🥕

Replay by Nobbinmaug

In the two hours since she stormed out, I’ve done nothing. I’ve hardly moved as the fight replayed in my mind.

Was she wrong?

Was she right?

Was I right?

Was I wrong?

Were we both wrong?

Were we both right?

I looked at every angle. I examined every word.

I watched the tears stream down her face. I rewound them and watched them fall again. I watched her leave, slamming doors, and wiping her eyes.

I sat as the garage door slowly crawled along its track.

The garage door groans again.

Have we cooled or will we reignite?

🥕🥕🥕

A Brief Encounter by Susan Zutautas

The sun was shining and there was a soft breeze coming off the lake. I’d laid the blanket down on a grassy knoll. Thinking, tis perfect for a picnic.

When Pat arrived, I had everything set up from the wine, pate, cheese, and crackers to a few slices of pecan pie.

I suppose I should feel guilty, meeting a married man and all but hell it was just a little lunchtime picnic that turned into three hours.

We talked, we laughed, we flirted and then Pat told me he was leaving his wife.

Not the encounter I was expecting.

🥕🥕🥕

To Be Left Behind (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Iraq was Ike’s interlude. He said it was what he needed to do between jobs, something temporary, a way to make money until they got better situated. Danni sensed it was greater than a diversion. Iraq threatened her marriage. It was the husband-stealer, a merciless sexpot siren with a hunger for middle-aged soldiers, Dolly Parton’s Jolene. “I cannot compete with you, Jolene,” the words sang without mercy in Danni’s mind, clenching her chest. Interludes end and the main event picks up again. Ike would come home. But Danni could not get over his leaving. What if Iraq kept him?

🥕🥕🥕

A Space In The Sun by Sherri Matthews

The light of day in a sunshine blaze flooded my room. Sun. Now. Get up. I shuffled outside, flopped on the grass and closed my eyes to the sound of summer bee buzz. No sirens, no sprinklers, no screen doors slamming. Strident and angry, left back in LA. In a single sigh I caught the scent of lavender and thyme. The smell of home. Not pot, weed, whatever, choking my lungs. That smell. All the time. Not anger – rage.

Why, I pleaded? But he kept me sweet with his smile and his kiss. For now though, I’ll stay here.

🥕🥕🥕

Going Out by Joanne Fisher

It had been a while since Tiffany had last dated someone. Her last relationship had ended so badly she felt she needed a long interlude so she could lick her wounds. Not that she minded being on her own. She was rather proud of the fact that she could quite happily survive by herself. It just that sometimes she missed the affection. She loved cuddling and being kissed.

Tonight she had her first date in a long time. She was nervous as hell, but also knew that if it didn’t work out this time, she could always try again.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by Pete Fanning

Ricky had never felt so alive. The passionate, lunchtime romps. The no-strings-attached goodbyes. She smelled exotic, like fruit. Julie always smelled like a hospital.

He told himself many things. He was a man. He had needs. He would stop once the baby was born. It was—what did she call it?—a romantic interlude. Sounded better than cheating.

But when the baby came, she wouldn’t let it go. She called him at home, when Julia was trying to nurse the baby. When his in-laws were sitting in the kitchen. When the baby started crying.

It wasn’t so romantic then.

🥕🥕🥕

Ainsworth’s Strange Situation by Anne Goodwin

The playroom’s made of cuddles and bright shiny colours. Choo-choo trains and farm animals and smiling dolls. Mummy’s teddy kicks a ball to me. When my teddy goes to kick it back, she’s gone.

The playroom’s made of sharp hurty edges and darkness. Witches and goblins and things that make me jump when they go bang. Why did Mummy leave me? What did I do wrong?

The door opens, bringing Mummy’s smell, her flowery dress, her outstretched arms. Is it the Good Mummy who shoos away the monsters? Or is it the Bad Mummy who’s one of them herself?

🥕🥕🥕

The Movie by Ruchira Khanna

“Mom, I need to go to the bathroom,” whispered six-year-old Nate into his Mom’s ears with a sense of urgency.

“Shhh!” she said with twisted brows as she continued to glare at the screen with an intense look while shoving popcorn in her mouth and chewing nervously.

“Mom!” he said again, and this time in a loud decibel.

The folks sitting around also Shhhhed him

“This is a very intense scene. Control your pee! I’ll take you when there is an intermission,”

Poor Nate sat there with crossed legs and hands-on his crotch while the Mom enjoyed the movie.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by clfalcone*

‘Intermission – break,’ he thought. ‘Resin up those bows.’ He didn’t hear them approach, the Beethoven article was so well written.

“There!” She pointed, scowling. “That dirty bum there – he’s disrupting eveyone, waving arms, his reading light… we can’t enjoy the show!” She sniffed scornfully.

“Excuse me, sir…” implored the usher.

He turned, big blue eyes flashing through matted, unruly red hair.

“Maestro!” Exclaimed the usher. “Why are you way up here?” Shocked, thrilled.

“The only seats left.”

“Come up front… there’s an extra seat,” helping to gather scores, instruments, clothing, thus leaving behind a befuddled, miffed patron.

🥕🥕🥕

Inner Demons by Sai Muthukumar

Broken, left for dead. On the river Styx, ferryman waits. A shattered soul dances with the devil, as the Tchaikovsky plays. Wings detached, lay separated in the darkness. Hollow heart, weightless, left in the corpse. Demons toil, fuel the torment, words echo in the cave. A figure stands at the gate, greetings unnecessary. The quiet goes uninterrupted. Been here before, it’s different now. On his own, in the darkness, a boy turns his back on the gatekeeper. The figures stand divided. The wings eclipse the black. The fallen angel shall rise once more. The flames don’t accept the undefeated.

🥕🥕🥕

The Origins of Princess Ota by Goldie

“This is boring” – Ota announced, letting out an audible yawn.
Frank and Veronica looked at the girl, their eyes filled with sympathy.

”Around the world in 80 days” is a classic. Sit still” – said Frank, placing his hand on Ota’s shoulder.

“Shhhh” – came from all around.

“An interlude!” – exclaimed Victoria.

Before she could say anything else, Ota ran out.

They saw the girl trip and pull down the curtain to steady herself.

“We gave you our daughter to show her how it is to be average. Not to teach her how to be simple” – the queen said with disgust.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by Faith A. Colburn

My grandparents met in an interlude, peacetime between our nation’s many wars. Yet, turbulence attended their meeting.
My grandfather arrived from Ohio with Uncle Johnny Bivens, my grandmother’s grandmother’s brother. The men spent a night in the Douglas Nebraska, train depot, held by the first horizontal snow Grandpa George had ever seen—a plains blizzard.

Later, the town cop, drawn by light in the station, came to make sure the escaped murders from the state penitentiary hadn’t holed up there.

Once the excitement ended, though, Hazel and George had two peaceful years to assemble a grubstake and get acquainted.

🥕🥕🥕

Choosing to Decide by Jo Hawk

Annora teetered, swaying back and forth, she walked a thin line. She heeded the lessons, listened to the morality tales, and promised to be a good girl. Yet, she questioned their version of the golden rule.

What once was black or white, now wore shades of gray that obscured tender truths and polished vicious lies. Distorted glass magnified the glaring light, while trapped in shadows, Annora couldn’t tell if she was the spider or the fly.

Praise or disdain, honored or disgraced, right from wrong, good versus bad, her fate lay in her choice. Annora let her heart decide.

🥕🥕🥕

St. Nicholas by tracey

I studied my son and wondered if he still believed in Santa. He was almost twelve now. I had the story ready. How Saint Nicholas was a real person who did good works and when he died people wanted to continue his kind deeds. How everyone gets a chance to be Santa for others.

Was my son ready to be Santa? Was I ready? Maybe this was an interlude where he didn’t quite believe but had a year to grow into the idea of Saint Nicholas. Or maybe this interlude was for me to adjust to him growing up.

🥕🥕🥕

Key Change by Miriam Hurdle

“Choir, that’s beautiful. All the parts blend well. We’ll add something to our rehearsal.”

“What? I just got all the lyrics memorized.”

“Wonderful, Liz, you can look at me rather than the music score.”

“What else do we have to learn?”

“We change key for the last stanza. The lyrics are the same. Chris composed the interlude. Now listen once.”

“It sounds heavenly, but I can’t catch the note for the key change.”

“There are sixteen bars. Listen to the last bar. Hum the last note that takes you to the first note of the next stanza.”

“Got it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Just a Moment by Bill Engleson

I saw the sea; the sea I saw.
And on the sea, sea sophistry.
Was it a dream, the dream I saw,
Or simply sea, sea mystery?

I saw my love, my love I saw
Upon the sea, my sea-tossed love,
Was it my love whom I did see,
and did she wave, her hand, her glove?

I caught a glimpse, a glimpse I caught,
Then she was gone, gone from my sight,
Into the mist, a new life sought,
A sky of red, a red winged night.

I dream of you,
And you of me
under the sea.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Interlude by Donna Armistead

In the cool quiet of midmorning, one forgets it was nearly ninety degrees yesterday. A blue jay’s raucous cry, the tinhorn call of a nuthatch at the feeder, pierce the equinoctial stillness.

Summer fled, leaving only vague regret and mosquito bites. Seasonal residents decamp dragging boats, cargo trailers and other detritus of modern life. Waves of flickers rise from the road shoulder, gathering to migrate above them.

And now, the waiting. The low-lying fog blanketing the neighbors’ field soon gives way to a blanket of snow, crisscrossed by deer, offering gemlike the rare gift of a lone wolf track.

🥕🥕🥕

The Interlude by Norah Colvin

It was intended as an interlude filling the gap between childhood and marriage. Hired as governess to a grazier friend of a friend, they relished the possibility she’d meet a wealthy future-husband—plenty of single men in the bush— while she made herself useful. But life doesn’t always comply with one’s plans, especially for another. The grazier’s children were eager students and she taught them well. Soon others came to learn from her tuition. They built a small schoolhouse which filled with willing minds. While suitors were a-plenty, none captured her love for teaching which became her main event.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by Robbie Cheadle

During the brief interlude between their visit to the burned-out farm and re-joining their commando, Pieter’s hair and beard became streaked with grey and new lines creased his skin burned brown by the sun. A shadow of desolation filmed his once bright eyes and his mouth curved down at the sides. They speculated that their families had been taken to the Mafeking concentration camp, but they could not be sure. They did not even know if they were still alive. Terrible stories about the poor conditions at the camps circulated among the various commandoes as they traversed the countryside.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by Jack Keaton

Ethan was walking to the office and was listening to a podcast: “Global Meltdown.” He loved his new noise-cancelling headphones. They made everything around him seem insignificant. The world is coming to an end! That Swedish girl is right, and no one is listening to her, except Ethan, Ethan was all ears. Behind him, a driver was unloading Red Bull from a truck when he fell off the ramp, spilling cases of the drink all over the street. Ethan didn’t hear the crash nor the sound of the exploding cans as the carbon dioxide gas released into the atmosphere.

🥕🥕🥕

Interludes by Reena Saxena

Don’t you remember me?

I’ve been on a break.

So what? I hope there is no break in memory.

There is a break in connectivity, relevance and the lessons I learnt. The major lesson is about trust.

???

There are no second chances for people who betrayed me once. Interludes give an opportunity to look back and learn, but it does not help unless one can link it to the future. If you do not find connectors, abandon the past and move ahead.

Who betrayed you?

Is it enough to say you are a part of my abandoned past?

🥕🥕🥕

The Sweetest Interlude by Chelsea Owens

She felt him: fluttering rolls across her belly, monitor heartbeats strong and loud. What will you be like? she wondered, pausing life to grow another.

She chased him: rolling, crawling, walking, running; breaking, laughing, climbing high. When will you slow down? she wondered, curtailing career to care for child.

She watched him: growing taller, speaking deeper; leaving parents for teenage crowds. When will you grow up? she wondered, forgoing sleep for curfew calls.

She hugged him: leaving nest to start his own; walking tall beside his wife. When will you come back? she wondered, looking round at what remained.

🥕🥕🥕

The Moment Between Night and Day by Sascha Darlington

All the angry words thrust like rockets into the atmosphere, irretrievable, hovering in the oxygen-drought of space.

Intolerable from my parents, I won’t tolerate it from us.

You take my hand; I want to snatch it back. You kiss my knuckles.

“We were in Manteo listening to that woman perform ‘Night and Day.’ When she sang: ‘we’re both so different,’ she was singing about us.”

I remember. So many years ago, a favorite moment, sepia afternoon, music, walking, loving. Still I feel the breeze cross the Sound, our hands entwined.

“There’s no going back.”

“No, we move forward. Together.”

🥕🥕🥕

Terrible Interlude by Chris Hewitt

She’d had enough. For an age she’d stood at the precipice, staring down at the mob below. They’d tried to talk her down, she couldn’t hear them over her beating heart. Deep down, she knew they were there just to see her fall. Hateful people. How had it come to this?

The ground rushed to embrace her. Arms flailing, stomach knotted, time slowed. Her life flashed before her, she had regrets, many, in that terrible interlude. She could see their jeering faces now, bastards, so this was how it would end. She closed her eyes.

The bungee cord stretched.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by FloridaBorne

“Thank you, Ron, for a place to stay until I can afford my own,” Jean said.

“Never thought Dan would leave you for someone his daughters age.”

“Not the first time he’s cheated on me. We had five kids, he was a good provider, and I looked the other way.”

“He waited until they all graduated from college to ask for a divorce. You won’t get much in a no-fault state.”

“The house is in both our names, so I’ll get half.”

Ron hoped she’d fall in love with him and this might be more than a simple interlude.

🥕🥕🥕

Between Acts by JulesPaige

Claire gave what she thought were clear instructions about getting a second opinion. Let the consult Doc find someone who will consider what we want. But her hubby had his own ideas. While he did get the process started he chose for himself, someone out of town. The consult Doc was surprised that his man, that he had recommended wasn’t part of the fifty percent that did the minimal procedure. The consult Doc had heard of the ‘New Man’ and was happy to forward the needed information.

life in the pause lane;
we wait with our positive
determined gusto

🥕🥕🥕

Last Requests by Annette Rochelle Aben

She wouldn’t leave the hospital alive. Acceptance lead to a coma. Any time now. Any time now. Family was called, many came to visit.

Suddenly, she sat up, and asked for ice cream. Nurses leaped over each other to make that happen. They rubbed a bit on her parched lips and she licked them while closing her eyes in pleasure. Then, she looked at her daughter and smiled. Her last words were.

“Can I go home now?”

With tears of joy and sorrow in her eyes and a lump in her throat, her daughter gave her permission to die.

🥕🥕🥕

Passages (from “Seasquall”) by Saifun Hassam

Today, yesterday, even the months before, were an interlude, a passage in time and space so different from the past. Last year her husband of forty years had passed away.

A pot of coffee at hand, she sits on the back patio of their home. In the gentle breeze, tall pine and white birch trees sway, then, a pause, an interlude of stillness.

Her home, their home would have new owners next month. She would live for a while in a nearby apartment, with shaded walkways and birdbaths. Then it would be time to join her sister in Seasquall.

🥕🥕🥕

A Musical Interlude by Sally Cronin

The loss was unbearable. They had been together for forty years after bumping into each other on the dance floor of the youth club. He was gangly and thin as a rake, and she still chubby with puppy fat. They danced all evening and had done so every night since. Her daughter took her hand as the music she had selected began to play. Family and friends around her smiled as the song reminded them of the wonderful love they had witnessed. For just a few more minutes, they were together, dancing, as they would be again one day.

🥕🥕🥕

The Chiseled Dash by Donna Matthews

You know those black and white images with a single item of color. Maybe it’s the eyes, a book, or the outfit. Muted everything to shades of gray so you can focus on the point. Much like these flowers against your new gray headstone. The dates chiseled in the stone stare back at me. How did I get here? No, not the car but here, in widowhood? Your life compressed to a tiny chiseled dash and untwined from mine? Did I know? Our last cup of coffee? Your safe embrace? That belly laugh last week? Ugh, I miss you.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by Anita Dawes

Time between sleep when dreaming
A spyglass into another life
On waking, may not belong to you
An uninvited interlude
With pictures, sound and music
A hidden message maybe
Inviting you to explore a mystery
You may have forgotten
The short film that meant more to you
Than the main attraction
That had you thinking, talking about
Reminding you of those in-between moments
When walking on a beach
Your bare feet kissed by the sea
That quiet moment when out walking
When the wind drops
The silence becomes the in between
You hear the echo of your own footsteps.

🥕🥕🥕

An’ a One, An’ a Two…by D. Avery

“Where ya goin’ Kid?”

“It’s intermission. Goin’ ta the outhouse.”

“Intermission? No, the prompt is interlude.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Well, if’n were talkin’ ‘bout a break in the show, interlude implies more of a performance, music mebbe.”

“Oh. Yep, I kin do that.”

“Well hurry up Kid, we got things ta do.”

“Like what?”

“Carrot Ranch’s hostin’ its third Rodeo, comin’ soon. October. Gonna be busy aroun’ here. We have ta make sure they’s plenty a hay fer the hosses an’ carrots fer the contestants. Shorty cain’t do it all.”

“Cain’t she?”

“Ha! If anyone can it’d be Shorty.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lead Out by D. Avery

“Shorty, when ranch hands go where the prompt leads, does that mean they’s trackin’ it down nose ta trail?”

“Sometimes, Kid. Some sniff out their story like a hound-dog. Some bird-dog the tall grass ta flush their story. Some ranch hands see thet prompt, jist throw their lasso, git dragged along till they kin wrangle their story and git it tied down.”

“Sounds dangerous.”

“It kin be a wild ride, Kid, but no one gits hurt at Carrot Ranch. Wranglin’ words is a entertainin’ way ta build writin’ muscle.

Next month folks’ll flex that muscle at the rodeo.”

“Yeehaw!”

🥕🥕🥕

 

September 19: Flash Fiction Challenge

Last night my hands shook as I checked my iPhone battery obsessively, focused my camera, and touched the American flag on a stick in my back pocket. I didn’t want to gouge somebody with the flag, but I couldn’t hold my sign, banner, and phone all at once. My sign read, Welcome home, Rich. His wife made a batch of them for us who gathered with her. I did not want to miss the loving moment 49 years in the making. B had waited that long to welcome home her soldier.

On July 4, 1969, R left for Vietnam, giving his fiance a rhinestone American flag pin. He married her, perhaps with reluctance as most returning Vietnam soldiers felt like damaged goods, unworthy for loved ones they had left behind. Many broke off engagements. Many lashed out at wives, initiating cycles of generational trauma. Some rode out the storms, finding help, finding balance, finding peace.

B waited for R, and they exchanged vows. Their marriage has been both loving and fraught with the specters of Vietnam. Every veteran adjusts — or not — differently. The spouses do, too. Those who are strong, like B, hold onto their identities, advocate for healthcare, and shake up their veterans when necessary. At lunch a few weeks ago, R told me his wife is a pit bull. He means she fights for him as committedly as he fought for his nation. He then said I was a pit bull, too. I take it as a term of honor, coming from a combat veteran who fought an unpopular war.

Standing next to B at the Delta County Airport in Escanaba, Michigan which is 200 miles from their home on the Keweenaw, I asked her what it felt like to welcome home her hero 50 years after he had left for Vietnam. She confided that she never thought she’d see the day. R never spoke of what he experienced in-country, but he finally opened up after seeking help for PTSD ten years ago. Like me, B was surprised to meet other combat veteran spouses. We are so invisible that we don’t even know about each other until we end up in groups like ours. The Vet Centers of America are the only organizations that actively include veteran spouses in readjustment counseling.

Three of us BABs (veteran spouses) stood next to B on the tarmac, watching the sunset turn the scattering of horizontal clouds copper. We waited with B to welcome home R from the Mission 17 UP Honor Flight to Washington DC. It’s a project that helps combat veterans find closure. They visit war memorials, meet their state representatives, read mail call on the flight, and return to a patriotic reception. Koppers, a local plant, charted a bus and catered our dinner, all free of charge, so we could travel the 400 miles to be part of the crowd that welcomes home our veterans. R. was on Mission 17 yesterday.

B with her new blue hoodie that reads on the back, “It’s never too late to say thanks,” printed off greeting signs for us. One of our other BABs bought us all small flags to wave. B wore a huge smile and her 50-year-old pin. Beneath it was a new one to commemorate the Honor Flight. She said she never believed she’d see the day R would be welcomed home. A youngster waiting in the crowd told a bystander, “My friend thought it was disgusting that my grandpa got spit on, but we are not going to spit at him this time.” No, we were going to cheer and hug.

And I was going to capture that reunion. A welcome home born of war, cancer, and interludes.

Just like when we write a novel, life holds key kernels, those events that shape us and our relationships. All else are satellite details in terms of narratology. But the interludes add up too and quantify who we become. Despite war on one end of marriage and cancer on this end, B and R have had sweet interludes with family, friends, and living on the Keweenaw. B was there to welcome him home like they were young and in love all over again. She was going to welcome him home with the expectation of the young woman who waited 50 years ago, not knowing if she’d ever see the young man who gave her a pin. B was going to welcome him home with every ounce of energy she had left in her bones and soul.

Interludes are not the transitions, but the sweet music that fills in the gaps of life. After we graduate school, often we take an interlude of traveling or working. When the kids leave home, we fill the space with distractions until we find purpose again. Writers complete a novel and paint until words come again, and a new novel takes seed. Veteran spouses know many interludes and are adept at filling the space. I find that my own life has entered an interlude of sorts. Not a transition, not a beginning or an ending, but a song until the orchestra returns; coursework until I’m ready to tackle the manuscript with new vigor.

Soon, I’ll be starting the workshop process. I want to learn both sides — as a writer and as a teacher. One gap I see for indie writers is the lack of access to creative writing critique. It’s crucial to development, and yet it can be crushing if not executed with respect and expertise. Kind of like squashing the spirit of a veteran who is trying to find healing and closure. For now, I’m learning with an eye to offering critique groups in the future. It can help develop a book to prepare it for an editor. My instructor has advised us that how we learn to critique is like developing our own editorial style. I hadn’t thought of editing being a style like writing.

And so it progresses. Life with its big moments and small interludes in between. How can we use those to tell stories?

September 19, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an interlude. It can be a pause between two key moments, the pause between acts in a play, an intermission, or a temporary amusement Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by September 24, 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.

SUBMISSIONS FOR PUBLICATION CLOSED

To Be Left Behind (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Iraq was Ike’s interlude. He said it was what he needed to do between jobs, something temporary, a way to make money until they got better situated. Danni sensed it was greater than a diversion. Iraq threatened her marriage. It was the husband-stealer, a merciless sexpot siren with a hunger for middle-aged soldiers, Dolly Parton’s Jolene. “I cannot compete with you, Jolene,” the words sang without mercy in Danni’s mind, clenching her chest. Interludes end and the main event picks up again. Ike would come home. But Danni could not get over his leaving. What if Iraq kept him?

The Greatest Gift

If you asked people what the greatest gift is, you might be surprised at how varied our answers can be. This prompt initiated a conversation that explored the shadows of life. The sun doesn’t always shine, and happiness can feel fleeting. The longer we live, or the more direct experiences we have outside normal expectations, the answer shifts.

So, of course, the greatest gift makes an interesting exploration among writers. Ultimately, we can say the greatest gift is life — but we have many ways to express what that means, why it is so, and how we can manage such a precious and uncertain gift.

The following is based on the September 12, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the greatest gift.

PART I (10-minute read)

A Better Way to Serve (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Freya returned from Iraq, friendless. Mark Bastia didn’t survive the IED blast. His dog tags hung with hers. Despite combat, she was never counted as their brother. She pulled a long drag from her last cigarette, eyed the perfect branch from which to hang herself, and decided the greatest gift to the world would be to remove herself from its spinning. She touched the branch and recoiled. 22 a day, and she would not become another nameless statistic. Instead, she enrolled in college to battle veteran suicide and opened the first satellite Vet Center in North Idaho. She survived.

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The Greatest Gift by Jo Hawk

As the day approaches, my anticipation increases. Doubt wrings conviction from my heart while my head constructs lists designed to weigh each decision’s consequences.

My worry consumes me, and my mother sends me to visit the shrine. The Omikuji will predict my future she says.

Thousands of paper strips tied to pine rods dominate the temple grounds. I fear the multitude of curses and bad fortunes others have tried to leave behind.

Still, I make my donation and follow ancient customs. Trembling hands clutch the paper. I read my destiny and press the god’s great blessing into my soul.

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Let There Be Light! by Anne Goodwin

When I was small, the chores all done, I’d rest my head in my mother’s lap and watch the fireflies dancing, Grandfather’s stories music to my mind. But as I grew, the village shrank, the daylight hours too short for all I longed to learn. My teachers praised my intellect; they scolded me for homework half-done. Until I got the greatest gift: a lamp that caught the daytime sun and gave it back at night-time. Now I’m off to study in the city where neon never stops burning. When I’m trained, I’ll return as teacher to my classmates’ kids.

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The Greatest Gift by Norah Colvin

The class was aflame with a mix of sadness and excitement.

“She’s is leaving.”

“She’s gunna have a baby.”

“I’m gunna bring her a gift.”

“I am too.”

On her final day, the children jostled to give first, hopeful she’d love their gift the best.

“Mine’s bigger than yours.”

“Mine’s better.”

“Mine’s the greatest.”

The children gloated and nudged each other as the teacher opened the gifts.

“How perfect.”

“This is great.”

“Thank you, everyone.”

Finally, Tommy edged forward. His hands were empty. He looked shyly into his teacher’s eyes and whispered, “I’ll miss you, Miss. You’re the best.”

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The Greatest Gift by Donna Armistead

Daisy, my grandmother, comes to the living room arch to watch me practice pirouettes on the sculptured carpet. The soft slippery loops help my turns a lot. Unless I lose my balance.

I stop. She knows I hate it when people watch me practice. Though slightly annoyed, I love her and her faith in me. Even when every muscle hurts and Vicki gets cast in all the best roles.

Ten years later, she writes me in Boston. “Keep dancing,” she always signs her letters.

Fifty years later, and I’m still teaching kids. Trying to get them to “Keep dancing.”

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Time Traveler by Donna Matthews

My mother told me I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. I could be anything from an astronaut to an astrophysicist. But all I ever wanted to be was a time traveler. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t want to roam through the dusty pages of history? Tiptoe silently into the unknown future? But alas, as it turns out, my sheer will and determination can’t quite transverse the time-space continuum…yet. I desperately hold out hope that the smart people of NASA will figure it out before it’s too late to make my mama proud.

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The Guardian by Bill Engleson

It was such a little thing.

He’d always lived in the house, worked in the mill. Ruth taught grades 1-3 for twenty-five years, interrupting her work twice to have their children.

She loved teaching almost as much as their life together.

After she was gone, he went too far inside himself.

Finally, he came up for air.

After that revelation, he’d sit on his porch in the fall, the spring if it got even a tad warm, the early part of the summer, and watch the kids go by, wave, smile, just be.

He knew she would love that.

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The Gift of Courage (from “Lynn Valley”) by Saifun Hassam

Teresa was a nurse physician. Her excellent skills in the care of surgery and chemotherapy patients were a great asset. Some of her patients were children.

Her rapport with the children was remarkable. They would often talk to her about their fears and worries. She would ask them perceptive questions about what had happened. It was never easy but somehow that helped the children to focus more on their recovery, and going home, a fresh start. She would read from their favorite story books. They loved her. She gave them the greatest gift they needed in those moments: courage.

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Greatest Gift by FloridaBorne

I’ve been asked the question before and the answer changes according to my age.

“What is the greatest gift you’ve received?”

Age 5: The doll I wanted
Age 15: GoGo Boots.
Age 25: Son
Age 27: Daughter
Age 36: A bachelor’s degree.
Age 46: Enlightenment
Age 54: The perfect part-time job.
Age 63: Holding my first published book in my hands.
Age 67: My first office with a window.
Age 69: Doing a yoga headstand and carrying a gallon of milk with my pinkie finger.

Health, it seems, is the greatest gift. For without it nothing else is possible.

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The Greatest Gift by Jim “Quincy” Borden

“I think I’ll make up a story about how for Christmas I wrapped everyone’s present in gray wrapping paper. Each box was a different size and weight, and everyone could pass the boxes back and forth until they all agreed on which box they wanted to claim as their own. I’ll then write about everyone’s immediate reaction.”

Tommy was explaining to his sister about the latest Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge.

Suzie looked at him quizzically and asked, “How are you going to relate that to ‘the greatest gift’?”

“Greatest gift? I thought it was the gray gift test…”

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Edward Bear Has A Good Day by Joanne Fisher

Edward Bear wandered the forest looking for honey. His love hadn’t woken yet from her winter sleep and she would be hungry when she did, just like he had been. During his search for a beehive, he encountered two humans. They took one look at him and screamed as they ran off leaving behind a large basket. Edward rummaged though it finding all sorts of foods, including a jar of honey. He took the basket to where his love still slept. There would be all sorts of food for her when she woke. It would be the greatest gift.

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The Stupidity of the Sexes by Chelsea Owens

“What, Isla? What did I do?” Peter stared into her eyes; if his were not close to tears themselves, they at least reflected hers.

Isla sniffed. She felt the lines of wet on her face, the dryness of her lips, the misery of her soul. ‘Surely,’ she thought bitterly, ‘He knows what he did.’

Peter felt clueless. ‘All I said was that people never forget their first girlfriend,’ he mused, ‘Just because Stella said, “Hi…”’ He looked at Isla’s splotchy face. Maybe a comforting smile would help.

Isla burst into fresh tears. “I -I -I -gave you my heart!”

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Time, Heart and Head by tracey

She was 83, too old to be living alone said her grandchildren. Her house was worth a fortune they said.

“It’s my home, not a house,” she groused. “Fine, when the Cubs win the World Series I’ll move.”

She spent her 92nd summer as always, listening to the Cubs on the radio. She was tired, worn out; it had been a hard year. In her head she knew it was time to move.

Finally, game seven of the World Series. Tie score. Rain delay ends at last. Her heart races, knows: it is time for the Cubs to win.

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The Greatest Gift by Anita Dawes

Being here in the first place
The friendships we make
The lovers we take
Fighting through the storms
While an angry mother
Tries to rearrange the world we live on
The beauty of a coral reef
The sunsets, the full moon
So many gifts
The hand of a stranger offering help
The sound of a new-born baby’s cry
Life continuing
Someone will always be here
While others leave
A reminder of our immortality
Art made by a stranger’s hand
That we like to look upon
Most of all to be loved
To love in return, to live, to prosper…

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Given, Not Gone by D. Avery

The gift of creation, with free will, was given long ago. Somehow this planet came into being in this solar system; over time each one of us also had a beginning. In our beginnings was wonder, was potential, power, and promise.

That was then, this is now.

Now we might dwell on our flaws and misspent potential, might despair at our human failings, might mourn the state of our planet.

Or, right now, we might acquire humility and gratitude for the Gift. Every Now is a beginning. We could choose to cultivate and nurture potential and promise, right Now.

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Reciprocation (Rerun! first published for the April 6, 2017 Carrot Ranch prompt) by D. Avery

Do not forget Turtle who brought the earth up from the watery depths. Do not forget Tree, whose roots hold and cradle the earth, whose branches hold up Sky. These ones, Turtle, Water, Tree, Sky, are sacred.

Long ago these ones spoke together, and together thought to provide and to sustain; they thought us into existence that we might use their gifts.

Be humble. Our creations are mere imitations, expressing gratitude, expressing wonder. Be mindful. Give thanks to Turtle, to Water, to Sky, to Tree. We are their thoughts that receive their gifts, and they think us most sacred.

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PART II (10-minute read)

The Greatest Gift by Faith A. Colburn

My son and his father don’t get along and that means Ben is losing half of himself. My former husband gave us scary times and he wanted to make up for it, so when he got his life under control, he gave Ben the greatest gift he knew how to give—a horse. That’s because when he was going through the worst of his own adolescence, his horse provided him solace. During summers Ben spent in Colorado with him, they rode horses and took packing trips. Those were good times for Ben, but somehow he’s lost whatever they had.

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Properly Prioritizing by JulesPaige

Jackie was never just one of the girls. Life, if it’s too perfect, move along. Because you are dreaming. Once you wake up you’ll see that the greatest gift is to be present in the moment. And you don’t have to have any cards to carry to say you belong to this group or another.

One day you are thinking of making wedding anniversary plans and the next you learn your husband has cancer. A small slow growth removable by surgery. Which might not even require lifelong meds or radiation. Take each day as a gift, learn to live.

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Time to Heal by Chris Hewitt

“I don’t understand, why can’t you just bring her back?” he sobbed, “You could just bring her back!”

“I can’t,” said Death, “I don’t choose who lives and who dies.”

“You’re Death!” he spat, “If you don’t choose, who does?”

Death shrugged and pointed up, “Someone upstairs.”

He shook his head, “I don’t want to live without her, I can’t!”

Death looked down and played with his hourglass.

“Please!” he pleaded, staring into empty sockets.

“I can give you something that will help,” said Death.

“What?”

“The only gift I have,” said Death, handing over the full hourglass, “Time!”

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The Greatest Gift by Ritu Bhathal

“What would be the greatest gift you could give me? Honestly?” Maggie looked at her husband, who was trying his hardest to make her looming 40th birthday one to remember.

“Of course, honestly Love. It’s your big day. The kids and I want to make sure it’s a day to remember for you. Don’t be shy.”

“Alright then, the greatest gift you could give me is time.”

“What, like a new watch or something?”

“Not a watch, John, no. Time. Every day. Help me out a bit. Act like their dad, not their babysitter. That’d be the greatest gift.”

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The Gift of Life by Susan Zutautas

The gift of life

Was given to me

Not once, not twice, but three times

Cancer can be a killer

I’ve escaped it

I am forever grateful

I’ve fought hard over the years

To survive and the fighting paid off

I will never give in to this horrible disease

That takes far too many lives every day

Remission does not mean it won’t come back

If it does, I will do battle again

Miracles happen

I’m proof of that

Live each day as if it were your last

Whether you’re battling or not

Life is truly the greatest gift

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A.C.V.M.M.B. by Nobbinmaug

Don went to the same coffee shop and sat at the same table. He sipped his coffee and played with his phone. No calls. No texts. He saw the same people, but no one spoke to him.

When his drink was gone, he returned to his empty apartment.

He went back the next day. This time, he was greeted by a wave and a smile.

“Hi, Don. Apple cinnamon vanilla matcha macchiato blend?”

He looked up, smiled shyly, and said, “Yes, please. Thanks, Alice.”

She gave him the greatest gift of all, an apple cinnamon vanilla matcha macchiato blend.

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Fire Within by Reena Saxena

She quit the family business to start something of her own. It’s not an easy task. She had always worked in a well-defined structure. The absolute freedom she has now, excites as well as unnerves her.

“I saw the angel in the marble, and carved till I set him free,” famously said Michelangelo of his epic statue of David.

There are not just miles, but light years to go, before she reaches her destination. The greatest gift she is born with, is her hunger for perfection and the ability to see that angel in the marble – her fiery soul.

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The Greatest Gift by Miriam Hurdle

“It’s easier for me to give than to receive.”

“I know, Martha. When you receive, you feel weak.”

“You’re right, I feel helpless and vulnerable and admit other people are stronger.”

“Being able to receive gifts is a gift. When we receive gifts from others, we give them a gift of giving.”

“I never thought of it. When I receive a gift, I feel obligated to precipitate and feel guilty when the chances to return the favors become impossible.”

“The movie Pay It Forward comforts me and changed my understanding of giving.”

“I can tell it’s a great concept.”

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Make Mine Music by Di @ pensitivity101

Mine is something I was born with, courtesy of my father.

As a young child, it was fun playing duets with my Dad on Mum’s old piano, then I started to play both parts. Dad always encouraged me, and my gift from him was the gift of music without music, a good ear to pick out a melody and transform it to suit my own style.

My aunts and uncles never knew I could play until a wedding in 1970. My grandfather stood proud and nodded to everyone

‘That’s my grand daughter.’

Happy times, memorable songs, my gift still apparent.

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Old Friends by TN Kerr

She was sixty-three years old that year, but age didn’t deter from her excitement about the gaily wrapped gifts staged beneath the tree. There was one though, that stood out. The wrapping was heavy brown paper. Once wrinkled, but now rubbed smooth, it was an old shopping bag from The Seventh Street Market. A store that had closed almost forty years ago. She’d saved this gift for last and cradled it in her hands turning it over and over. It was rather diminutive, not large.

Neatly lettered in the corner she could read: “Happy Christmas, Clarissa – With Love, Hayley.”

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Life’s Greatest Gift by Sally Cronin

Thomas prowled the corridors of the care home as its residents slept. During the day he would jump from lap to lap, rubbing gnarled hands with his head, accepting tender touches and morsels of food, hoarded and saved for his visit. For many he became the family they no longer knew, and was adored.

The cat slipped through a door left ajar, and approaching the bed, he leapt onto the pillow. Thomas purred gently into the old woman’s ear. She sighed and gave one last gentle breath, accepting the greatest gift in life of being loved until its end.

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Repeat by Kelley Farrell

Life can twist our minds and rip dreams away
But in some moments we find
The greatest gift is perhaps not physical
But a moment in time
When we no longer have to be held to the reality of who others believe we are.
That moment wrapped in a lovers arms, the true idea of home dancing through every sensation.
Or a moment alone with nothing more than a breath and a soft whisper for patience.
Libations given in sacrifice of every moment thereafter.
When we come under fire we close our eyes willing ourselves to aim higher.
Repeat.

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Slingin’ Words Fer People  by D. Avery

“Pal, is’t true this Ranch’s a literary community?”

“Reckon so, Kid. Open ta one an’ all.”

“So is it a gated community?”

“Heck no. No gates, no borders. Free range writin’ fer anyone who wants ta play. Long’s they play nice a course.”

“Are there boundaries?”

“Jist in the word count, 99, no more, no less. Otherwise, it’s a place fer boundless imagination.”

“Why’s it always me gits imagined shovelin’ out the barn?”

“Shovelin’ shit’s yer special gift Kid. Yer real good at slingin’ it.”

“Yeah well, someone should imagine Shorty slingin’ bacon.”

“Tough shit, Kid. She’s slingin’ carrots.”

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