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October 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

The west-facing wall of my Unicorn Room holds two important developmental tools of my craft. A three-foot by three-foot cork board displays a visual representation of the plot and character arc for my thesis novel and a similar-sized white board shows the bones of a story in progress. One is a Vision Board and the other a W-storyboard. Above the W, purple vinyl letters on shell-pink paint read, “No mud, no lotus.”

This quote, the title of Thich Nhat Hanh’s book on mindful living, reminds me to embrace the mud required to write books from within the depths of my mind, heart, and soul. Some might mistake my long process for perfectionism. That is not what I seek in my writing. I aim for truth which takes years of diving into the mud, trusting the lotus to bloom.

Not everyone writes the same way. Some barely process at all and yet, make wonders of surface material. I think of writers who naturally observe the details of people and write stories — drama, horror, comedy — with flair and ease. Others write with intellect, emotion, or both. Some dabble when the mood strikes. Many follow the story that begs for release.

No matter planner, pantser, or plantser, every writer encounters mud.

Planners do exactly what it sounds like they do — they plan. I hold an image of my eldest in mind. From an early age, she planned her life in lists. She journals and monitors data. When she was 12, she convinced me to track the number of infant and mother mortalities in the graveyards where I collected stories. She wanted to track and discern. Today she works for a science data organization, planning communications between scientists and media. She plans before she writes with the precision of a Dungeon Master.

Pantsers are the free-spirited writers chasing the lead of a story by the seat of their pants. Pantsers live in perpetual media res. They don’t know the beginning or the end, they write what comes to them and follow what unfolds. They don’t know the plot; that’s what they are writing to discover. They love their characters and fall in love with the dozens more that step out onto their pages. They don’t whip the WIP, they ride it into the sunset.

Plantsers combine the elements of planning with the discovery of free-writing. Some plantsers outline from the beginning and others track their plot as it unfolds. Every writer eventually comes to terms with the reality of needing both attributes. Planners have to draft their plans and pantsers have to frame their drafts. Both will come to a tentative, “The End,” and require a Revision Plan. It’s revision that confounds many writers. But we aren’t there yet.

We are talking mud because it’s time to embrace the suck, which is warrior slang for accepting the friction that comes from facing the unpleasant inevitable. Writers face the mud when planning or pantsing stalls. No matter your best laid plans or your pages of drafting, the story will get stuck. It’s part of the process. We anticipate mud this time of year because it is NaNoPlaNo. Time to plan (yes, Pantsers, this includes you) for National Novel Writing Month.

This year, Carrot Ranch will be a NaNoWriMo Mentor. Once a week, I’ll offer tips and encouragement to participants, which will be useful for all writers beyond the month-long event. I’ve started The Congress of Rough Writers group at NaNoWriMo and if you want to join, you need to send me your official member handle at the site. If you have never NaNoed before and want to go for it, I’ll help you get started. Email me at wordsforpeople@gmail.com. I’m a huge fan of the event and organization. NaNoWriMo is an incubator, global community, and the best writing tool for drafting (yes, Planners, this tool is for you, too).

The reason I have a Vision Board and W-Storyboard mounted on the wall opposite from where I meditate and commune with Unicorns is because I want/need kinesthetic tools for my craft. I interact with both boards, involving my body in the mind and heart process of writing. I also create music playlists and dance when I’m stuck mentally. I believe in mudding tools.

99-words is a tool, too. NaNoWriMo is sixteen 99-word stories a day. It takes five minutes to draft 99-words, so roughly it will take an hour and a half to write 1,667 words a day. That’s speed drafting, which happens on the good days. Count on three hours of writing on the slowest days. NaNoWriMo teaches you the value of stick-to-it-ness. In 30 days you will have gone from 99 words to 50,000.

The best way to deal with the mud is to plan for it (settle down, Planners; stop whining Pantsers).

I may as well say it. “Hi, I’m Charli Mills and I’m a recovering Pantser.” My deep processing and pantsing inclination seemed a match made in Muse Heaven but not so. They languished, lost in the wilderness of never-ending-stories. I’ve learned to use planning for my deep processing and to allow pantsing during dream time (pre-writing phase) and scheduled drafting stints. My profs were right — never again will I draft a novel without a Plan. My MFA program introduced me to tools and I will share some of them with you. I encourage you to explore each one, try them on, and keep what fits. I’ve created my own hybrid of planning starting with the simple and ending with the complexity of combined plot and character arc that I can map on my W.

NaNoPlaNo (Planning for Drafting)

A few other resources can help you in the planning phase, or be used as references throughout your drafting. One is TV Tropes. We’ve used this resource at Carrot Ranch to develop wickedly fun and unexpected prompts during the TUFF challenges. It details genres you didn’t even know existed. It’s a great way to jumpstart plotting or character development. The other is a Name Generator. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in the mud because you can’t come up with a quick name for the character who just walked onto the page.

I’d like to welcome any writers from Finlandia, especially those in Helsinki Slang, the university writing group. I’ll be planning weekly NaNoWriMo Write-ins with our fabulous campus library and providing a Zoom Room for any Carrot Ranchers who want to write-in, too. If you have NaNoWriMo questions, you can add them to the comments and stories below. If anyone in the community wants to answer, please join in! We all embrace the power of diverse perspectives and lived experiences at the Ranch.

And before we embrace the mud, please note the extended deadline. I will be on the North Shore of my beloved Lady Lake Superior for a week in Two Harbors, Minnesota with a dear Minneapolis friend who has a condo. I get to teach classes via Zoom and sit by the fireplace in between hikes, train rides, agate hunting, and working on client projects. I’m currently wrapping up a book I’ve been researching and editing since June and have two days to finish it. And I survived my first mid-term grading period.

Life is good, though muddy at times.

“Without suffering, there’s no happiness. So we shouldn’t discriminate against the mud. We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness.”

~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

October 14, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story embraces the mud. What is the mud, real or metaphor? How does it transform a character or place? What happens? Go where the prompt leads!

EXTENDED DEADLINE Respond by October 26, 2021. 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.

Face Down in the Mud by Charli Mills

Max howled when her ankle buckled, sending her face first into the Keweenaw mud. Rain pounded. The trail morphed into a rivulet. She refused to drown in a mud puddle. She pushed up; her upper body still Marine-strong. That blasted leg. Useless foot. Unreliable ankle. Her second howl had nothing to do with unhealable soft tissue. Without her unit, without a purpose, life sucked. Embrace the suck. She managed to rise to one knee, the other leg mired. When her dad emerged from the woods, her relief was genuine. Even if he was wearing a wet pink gauze skirt.

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Whispers

If you are quiet, you can hear the whispers.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Family Garden II by Duane L Herrmann

Reckendorf Friedhof is different from American cemeteries I know. Here, each family owns the plot and one person is buried per grave in most cases. That is not so there. There, the grave is rented for a period of twenty years. Anyone can be buried in that grave who you allow in the twenty years. If rent is not paid, someone else can rent the grave. All inhabitants of the grave are listed on the stone. Bodies decay naturally. Remaining bones can be moved to the bonehouse, at the side of the cemetery. Such cemeteries do not need expansion.

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Un Cuarto Con Vista by JulesPaige

All that was left of the ‘vanity,’ Great Aunt Something
Or Other left her – No real value, just took up space
Left to collect dust in the corner of the room
The Dust Bunnies claimed it for their own and multiplied
As did her stress for trying to figure out what to do with it

Looking in the mirror, she saw her Great Aunt’s face
The lips kept moving without making any sound
So she sat on the cushion stool, stared, waiting
then hearing the faint whisper of music
She saw the lovers waltzing at the Grand Ball

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A Reunion by Paula Moyer

Jean had been coming to family graveside services at Memorial since she was nine. The first was her father’s mother. Now, sixty years later, she just couldn’t remember the coordinates for them all. She stared at the sea of monuments. Nothing.

So at the cemetery office, she handed her list to the receptionist, who gulped. Both sets of grandparents, her parents, four uncles, two aunts, and now four cousins.

“All?” A stern look over her glasses.

“All.”

Disapproving silence.

“I’m from out of town. I forget each time.”

Many look-ups.

“Having a family reunion. They should all be there.”

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Whispers in the Cemetery by Jane Aguiar

One summer at midnight, I went to the church compound to steal tender coconuts. I was stealing tender coconuts, filling a jute bag, and taking a sip of beer. Suddenly, I heard someone whispering in the cemetery. With the jute bag, ran towards the cemetery. Someone was whispering, “One for me, one for you.” I dropped the jute bag right there and drove straight home.

The next day, I informed my friends that there was a ghost in the cemetery and realized that it was not the ghost but they were Louis and Dominic distributing the stolen cashew seeds.

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Whispers by Charli Mills

Jane swung, pumping her legs to gain height. The wooden swing her father hung grew in the red oak her great-grandfather planted as a teenager. Jane never knew Romeo Tonti, an immigrant, but when she reached high enough she heard him whisper through the rustle of leaves. Jane learned the family recipe for spaghetti – use fresh rosemary – and how to splice a crab apple into a honeycrisp tree – for pollination, nipotina. Her mother proclaimed to the other soccer moms that her daughter was a cooking and gardening prodigy. He father would smile and wink. He heard the whispers, too.

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Comfort Cooking by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Bok choy and thin-sliced carrots, a bit past their freshness date, sizzled in the pan. She sniffed the aromas of sesame oil, lime, and Moroccan baked tofu. The sharp scent of sliced onion softened, long layers relaxing, rolling and shining over her cooking spoon.

Red pepper and slivered greens for sharpness and color, to be added at the very end. Peanuts in a bowl.

To her left, a tall pan of jasmine rice steamed, rattling for attention. She adjusted the temperature and resettled its lid.

“What’s missing?” she whispered.

Memory whispered back, “Lemon Pepper, just a dash. And me.”

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Windy Night by Michael Fishman

Bux raised his head and sniffed. He jumped off the bed, let out a quiet huff and padded out of the bedroom.

Carl grabbed the remote and paused the DVR. He leaned over and whispered into Jean’s ear.

“And you tell me this because?” she said.

“Well, forewarned is forearmed, and I think it’s—”

Jean’s face wrinkled. “Oh, Carl, what is wrong with you?”

“I think it was dinner.”

“My cooking doesn’t do that to anyone!” Jean said as she pulled the covers over her head.

Carl thought he heard a laugh but he wouldn’t bet on it.

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The Aging Wind by Bill Engleson

I hear the wind whistle through the trees,
a soft and gentle whoosh through the air
venturing down my spine to my knees,
blossoming in the late evening glare.

I find myself drifting into twilight,
floating as the breezes vacillate,
twisting here and there in the darkened night,
ready to accept my coming fate.

Here in the shadows of my timeline,
ancestors whisper their each and every name,
who was begat from whom, where I align,
each step along my genealogical frame.

And though there are limits to my rhyme,
All I am seeking is solace in my time.

🥕🥕🥕

Whispers Remain by Rebecca Glaessner

People come out changed, or not at all, says the whispers.

Called me in ta’ fix a drone. Remembered thinkin’ their workers looked mindless, till one leaned in, showed me circuitry boosts I never could’a imagined.

Wondered, why me?

Then they hired me full time, ta learn their subatomics, an’ I keep gettin’ a sense there’s more, ‘sif regular scientists hit a wall they won’t never figure.

Them that disappear, there’s papers says they wanted to. I got my own papers now, says my skills are needed off-world.

But I’m stayin’.

Human scientists need help takin’ that wall down.

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Whispers by Norah Colvin

She watched from the side, longing to join in, fearing being ignored. Or worse, banished. Determined to beat her shyness, she’d shuffle one step forward, then the old insecurities would immobilise her, reminding her she didn’t belong. One foot forward. Stop. Another foot forward. Stop. She was almost there when the game paused, and they looked directly at her. She froze. They feigned whispers hidden behind hands. She didn’t need to guess. She ran and hid behind a tree, wishing for invisibility. “I’ll never belong!” Soon one face appeared, then others. “Please come and play with us,” they chorused.

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Aloysius Saves the Day by Nancy Brady

Aloysius heard the whispers of his people. He didn’t eavesdrop on their conversations, but his hearing had become more acute since his adventure in the fountain.

His hearing was augmented by violets, which clung to his fur that fateful day. Months later, Aloysius still could hear the slightest sound any of his family made.

Lily, the youngest child, decided to run away from home because she was mad at her parents. Lily packed underwear in her backpack, walked to the corner, and cried.

Aloysius came to Lily’s rescue, sitting with her, comforting her, purring, and finally leading her home.

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Whispers by Frank James

Kelli and Mary gossiped about George going home for cheating.

“The bell girls,” Mrs. Ugholtz shooed them to class.

At lunch, they chatted whispering in ears. Mrs. Ugholtz said exiting, “No need for secrets.”

They finished skulking to the bathroom.

Mary exclaimed, “Ugholtz. What about Richard?”

“In Juvie,” Kelli chirped.

Mary replied, “Barbie did Buff’s homework because of football.”

Kelli whispered, “I heard it.”

Toilet flushed. Mrs. Ugholtz stepped out, “George’s mother’s ill. Richard toured university. Barbie inspected Buff’s homework. Seven demerits!”

The girls cried.

Mrs. Ugholtz scowled, “Those who spread rumors speak louder of themselves than the scuttlebutt.”

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The Breaking of Trust by Christy Gard

She danced and twirled around him liking and hating the dance at the same time. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence, but an occurrence that happened enough to create shame, guilt, emotions that were not hers to own. She tried speaking to others. To talk about the pain ripping at her soul. She tried to yell, to cry in desperation with gleaming razors and blood-soaked palms. But others turned away told her it was a lie, too much, to bear, to it kept hidden the darkness. So, it turned into a whisper that floats on the wind of her soul.

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Just Another Life by Richmond Road

A call to arms. Another land
Ideals I did not understand
Unknown soldier. Unknown truth
Ideals are not bullet proof
A fallen hero. Fallen son
Lost to what could not be won
An epitaph to bold and brave
Here etched in stone upon my grave
Words of praise, of noble fight
Not words that I would ever write
Don’t search these graves. Don’t ask the dead
Search within your souls instead
No heroes here. Please move along
Go back to where you come from
There is no honour, only fear
Death the only message here
I was a soldier, was a fool
Do you see honour? More fool you.

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Whispers by FloridaBorne

God whispers, “No one dies.”

I ask, “Why was I given life?”

Love whispers, “This is an interlude.”

“Time’s twists and turns aren’t the journey?”

My eyes glisten and tears threaten to overcome my rational mind. Were anyone to know God speaks to me, I would surely be taken to an asylum.

“Maude?”

The face staring at me is not happy.

“Mother?”

“Your fiancé awaits.”

“I would rather die than marry that fat, old man!”

“It is that, or be disowned.”

In 1886, a rich woman of 15 learns she is nothing more than a slave to her station.

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Battles by Reena Saxena

What I call a whisper is too loud for some
My breath blows away living beings

I can’t hear below twenty decibels
my heart murmurs away all life


My breath blows away living beings
I cannot contain my own power

my heart murmurs away all life

It makes its beats felt sometimes


I cannot contain my own power
What I call a whisper is too loud for some
It makes its beats felt sometimes
I can’t hear below twenty decibels

I see you quivering, blabbering,
Blaming, shaming
Yet I don’t try, and I can’t
stoop low to match smallness

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Whispers by Anita Dawes

Death closed its hand
Beneath the whispering autumn leaves
The old head stones tell of loved ones
I wonder, are some souls on fire?
Do they all lie at rest
Do they whisper of dancing under the sun?
Kissing under moonlight
Do they come back
Whispering in my brain
Of life beyond these cold stones
As yet, none have whispered
Of angels, golden harps or seeing Christ
Before you think me mad
I don’t hear disembodied voices all the time
There is one that stays with me
A female voice, telling me life goes on
Right there, beside you…

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Eloise by Annette Rochelle Aben

Pilar shook as she clutched at her hoodie. It wasn’t the temperature it was the atmosphere. With every step she took in the October darkness, she thought she heard another faint voice.
Get out
This is my home
You are not welcome here
Her head moved like the beam of a lighthouse as she searched for a face. But there was no one in sight. Only dead trees and rocks,
She ran when another voice moaned.
I died here
GET OUT
It was a BIG mistake to visit the Halloween attraction on the grounds of a former mental hospital.

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Tales Come True! by Simon

Stories of missing kids escalated over city for centuries. Words of Horrific murder, ruthless torture was still in the air.

Wells, didn’t care, young blood, sought adventure has visited, despite of all stories.

Palace wasn’t horrifying, delicious foods, erotic woman, proved the tales were fake.

Wells, decided to spread the word, wasn’t this discovery worth sharing to the world?

Wells, couldn’t open the door. Woman turned to ashes, delicious foods turned to worms.

Wells… whispered the palace, tingling skin, chills shivered up his spine.

Floor torn open, stone pellets tore his skin, his screams explained the tales, once again!

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The Whisper by Joanne Fisher

I lay in the dark trying to sleep, when I heard a hissing. I looked to my left and thought I could faintly see two pale points of light, like two eyes watching me. I was completely frozen with fear.

“Hello.” whispered a voice.

“Who’s there?” I asked fearfully.

“Just go to sleep.” the voice whispered again, and the soft hissing began once more and got closer.

I lay there unable to move, as my eyelids got heavier and also now voiceless, knowing I might never wake up again, and there was nothing I could do. Everything went black.

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I Told You I Was Ill by Doug Jacquier

The cracks appear in the plaster
and they start to match up with your mind,
because the foundations have slipped.

You ask not for whom the telephone bell tolls
because it never tolls for thee.

In the silence you can hear Death whispering
and your doctor says ‘take these’.

Your children, with their clever minds and dumb hearts,
are deaf to your rhythms and your reality
and suggest you take up yoga.

If only you knew one thing you were sure was true,
for now and for ever,
instead of watching the cracks spreading
in all of the plaster.

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Seeking Peace by Sue Spitulnik

The two men sat on a strategically placed bench shaded by a majestic maple. Each leaned forward with their elbows on their knees, looking down or gazing up at a pink marble headstone, remembering. The older one wore a Vietnam Veteran ball cap. The younger one, an Afghanistan. His prosthetic legs shouted disabled veteran. They took turns talking, just above whispers. They could hear each other, but certainly, no one else would have been able to. Ending the conversation, the older touched the younger’s arm, “My daughter died doing what she wanted.” Michael cried, releasing unfounded but real guilt.

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Free Will Choice by MyrnaMigala

Shhhh! Quiet, don’t say a word; listen now.
Be very still and with your mind; ask HIM!
Feel the calmness, the peace;
you can almost hear the whisper.
“Here I am.” It speaks. Give ear to the whisper.
The voice that says, “come!”
The battle begins, the distractions, our mind wanders, and we all know why; next, we hear that eerie, dark, sinister voice, shaky almost sing-song. We listen, we hear the call to our mind the word…M I N E!
Forgetting that peaceful moment, we wake and carry on with the voice that called us to them. MINE!

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Forest Floor Magic by Donna Matthews

“I’m so bored!” Jack lamented.

“Oh, yeah?” I murmur back, lost in my thoughts, as I etch out my latest doodle idea.

“Listen to me!” He nearly shouts.

I look up, eyes unfocused on his distressed little face, taking in the slight pout of his bottom lip.

A wide-open day and he was bored!

“Grab your boots,” I declare.

Entering the hush of the woods, I feel him relax next to me. He kneels and explores pieces of the forest floor; pinecones, rocks, acorns, lichen. As he stuffs them in his pocket, I know they’ve whispered their ancient magic.

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Voice Calling by Ann Edall-Robson

Craggy tips awakened by the sun. Visible after the wind pushes the blanket of unfriendly clouds away. Mother Nature confirming her beauty is for those who patiently wait in their search of the early morning sky. She continually baits ones visual appetite for more. 

Moments seem like hours before the simmering palette begins its play among the snow dusted rocks. A powerful vision emerges, eyes comprehend the massive loneliness before them.

And there is a voice calling. Wind moaning, whispering, baring the soul of the stoic rocky crevices. Telling tales of past sunrises relived in stories of the moment.

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The Jetty by C. E. Ayr

The rock-built jetty is so peaceful in winter, just the lapping of the waves, the whispers of the wind.
It is different in summertime.
Although few sun-seekers venture out here from the beach, the sounds drift.
Children laughing or wailing, boys arguing over ball games, girls squealing in mock surprise, I hear everything.
Occasionally a youngster clambers out to explore, usually with Dad, sometimes with a friend.
And shrieks with excitement at the clusters of crabs, or voracious fish, that can be seen down crevices, feeding in unlikely places.
Then I smile to myself.
Because only I know why.

🥕🥕🥕

Seashore by Saiffun Hassam

I sit on that craggy rock near the seashore. I come to listen to sand dunes whisper stories of buried cities, of shipwrecks, of fishermen seeking shelter from stormy seas.

The rock seems like a sphinx, silent and hardhearted. It rumbles and I hear its memories of how the sun and wind and water have shaped the Earth.

Sea diatoms, seashells, sea fans, and sea urchins whisper news from across the oceans of oil spills, polluted waters, crumbling coral.
When glaciers melt, their whisperings build into wild and terrified screams as they are torn apart by a warming climate.

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Dialects by D. Avery

My people are few in number. These English built over their bones, grew their crops in our fields.

Now these English at Patuxet have, for the first time, plenty of food and are sharing their harvest and the fowl they got with the Pokanokets, who roast deer and heat pottages. Both Bradford and Massasoit need me to interpret. Massasoit’s people number twice the English. All are fed and entertained. It is a good time for Massasoit and Bradford.

Wind whispers in the dry cornstalks. Red leaves rustle and drop. These sounds come to my ear in my own language.

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Sardines by Hugh W. Roberts

Does a game of Sardines hold secrets Richard doesn’t want his husband to know anything about?

***
“I hope he doesn’t find us,”

“So do I,” whispered Richard. “We’re in big trouble if he does.”

“Why? What’ll he do?”

“God knows,” murmured Richard, “but it won’t be nice. Now, be quiet; I hear footsteps approaching.”

“Richard!” yelled Adrian as he entered the empty bedroom.

Creaking sounds from the wardrobe grabbed his attention.

“Oh no, I think he’s going to find us,” whispered Richard just before the two doors of the wardrobe opened. “Quickly, hide.”

“Richard! Found you. But who are you talking to?” challenged Adrian.

“Keep your eyes closed, and he won’t see us,” whispered Richard.

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Pig In a Pond by D. Avery

“Why ya whisperin’ Kid?”
“Whisperin’ ‘cause I’m a pony.”
“Whut?!”
“You know, a little horse.”
“Jeez. Why’re ya hoarse, Kid?”
“Been hollerin’ fer my hoglet. Tryin’ ta git Curly ta come home.”
“She’s still hangin’ out with them beavers?”
“Yep. Swims in their pond, heps with their dam, even dives down an’ gits inta their lodge with ‘em.”
“Amazin’!”
“Tell ya what hurts me most, Pal. I walked down there an’ she slapped the water with her tail ta warn the beavers I was there.”
“Thet little curly tail couldn’t a made much sound.”
“Jist a whisper. Still hurts.”

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Whisperin’ Waters A Change by D. Avery

“Kid, mebbe hollerin’ ain’t the way ta git yer hoglet ta come ta ya.”
“S’pose Pal.”
“Look, Kid. Ya were always wantin’ this hog ta be yer fur-baby, even though she ain’t got fur; made her a pet but not much of a pig. Well mebbe she ‘dentifies more as a beaver.”
“Mebbe. Beavers is real smart, like her. But Pal… I cain’t say goodbye.”
“She’s right there in the pond.”
“But that tail slappin’…”
“Yer gonna have ta regain her trust Kid. Meet her where she’s at.”
“In the pond?”
“Respect her beaver-being.”
“I’ll be a beaver whisperer.”

🥕🥕🥕

October 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Take a walk in the cemetery with me. Come on, it’s October, a time of seasonal transition in both hemispheres, and I’m itching to catch stories. Gravestones contain the tales of people who once lived where we do. History for those who can read between the rows of marble and lines etched in stone.

Many writers tingle at the mention of a local bookstore. Others revere libraries. Me, I’m a cemetery geek through and through. And what could be better than a local National Park offering a tour of the dead and buried? A tour led by a local historian and fellow graveyard geek.

Meet Ranger Lynette of the Keweenaw National Historic Park.

Full disclosure: Ranger L is my hero. She not only researches, she gathers stories and allows them to haunt her the way writers work with characters. I could sit late into the night and listen to her collected stories of the Keweenaw.

When the KNHP advertised fall tours of Lake View Cemetery on the fringes of Calumet, I felt a jolt of excitement. I knew October was going to be a busy slog into the long winter, so I decided to take a guided evening stroll among 35,000 buried stories. The cemetery is so large that our tour clocked over a mile of walking.

We began at the veterans section where one stately memorial honored soldiers of the Civil and Spanish Wars and a block of granite acknowledge the burials of other soldiers with missing markers. Ranger L pointed out the marker of Louis Schweigert. Behind his white marble veteran’s grave were the plots of most of his family. Except daughter Caroline, who remains buried at Schoolcraft Cemetery on the other side of Calumet. On June 17, 1873 the seven-year-old girl was found murdered, leading to several accusations and one questionable confession by a teen nephew who later claimed he did not do the foul deed. To this day, her murder remains a mystery. I find it sad and curious that she is interred alone elsewhere. I foresee a headstone hunt in the abandoned cemetery next spring, and archive diving over winter. Ranger L has been researching the murders of women in the Copper Country.

Justice whispers on the wind through the cemetery trees.

Lake View is divided into two cemeteries, one Catholic and one Protestant. Immigrants on both sides abound. The copper mines attracted families seeking work and a better life. That life didn’t always turn out. For the first time, I paid respects to the victims of the Italian Hall Disaster.

Copper mines took advantage of workers and families lost homes when mining accidents claimed the lives of husbands. The company owned everything — the land, the ore, the houses, the stores. Miners went on strike for fairer conditions in July 1913. By Christmas, children were suffering the impact of the strike and Big Annie gathered other women who had fought along side their men to host a Christmas party for the children at the Italian Hall. Mothers and children from various faiths and countries attended. When a thug yelled, “Fire!” a crush of women and children fled and perished in the stairwell. This disaster still hangs over the Copper Country.

Stories from cemeteries are not all horrific, though. We can learn much through the observation of icons. Hands, for example. It’s common for one spouse to hold hands with another on a grave marker. Have you ever noticed different cuffs? One is a wife, the other a husband. Today, we could have same cuffs on a grave which society would have denied. Some hands, like the one below, reveal secret handshakes. Today, we could engrave fist bumps.

Someone took great pains to decorate a marker with pebbles from Lake Superior (and ,yeas, I examined all the rocks eagerly). Ranger L referred to such markers as folk art. Today, cemetery associations forbid home-made gravestones, including hand-carved slabs of Jacobsville Sandstone.

Some cultures included porcelain photographs on gravestones. They are not common to the cemeteries I’ve studied out west, but Lake View has several.

Veterans are often buried in family plots beyond the military section. I keep an eye out for the bronzed or marble markers. I feel a sense of relief when I see a person lived beyond their combat era. Those who died in combat compel me to look up their units and battle records. Of course, I’m always keen to find military graves of women.

The occasional beer can shows up and I wonder if the resident chipmunks had a party while gathering acorns or if a friend left a cold one.

Cemetery humor is a must for breaking up the sadness of life and the spookiness of wandering among the dead. I laughed when I saw the last name of Geist so proudly proclaimed. Is this where they buried Polter? I hope not! Moving on I noticed the curious coverings on more modern graves. Ranger L explained that families often “winterize” graves, urns and solar lights. I also look for character names. Bessie Bloy is a great name, don’t you think?

Stories are the hallmark of any cemetery. Ranger L’s astute sleuthing uncovered not only the grave of a Titanic survivor, but that of one buried at sea. The story goes, Anges Edwards of Cornwall had a grown son working the mines of Kearsarge (near Calumet). Recently widowed with two sons at home, one a boy, the other a young man of 20, she sold her home and bought passage on the Titanic. She awoke when the ship struck the fateful iceberg. The stewards told her to remain in her berth but curiosity drove them to go up deck. She and her boy were placed in the third lifeboat. She begged for them to let her older son come with her. The boat was hardly full and when lowered, other men, giving into their instinct to live, climbed or leapt into the lowering boats. Her son, Joseph Nicholls, died that night. His marker rests beside hers.

As we neared the end of our tour, Ranger L pointed out a tombstone with a book that read, “Mother.” I took a writerly interest in the feature although it likely symbolizes that Mother’s book is complete.

The final whisper of the evening came from the living. An elderly man reached high into a tree to pluck seed pods. Curious, I asked him about it. He broke apart the pod to reveal the seeds of hophornbeam (ironwood). He told me that he plants tree seeds where the mines left behind barren poor rock. I found that an interesting act, to plant something one would never live to see. An act of faith. Appropriate ending for our tour. Thank you for joining me!

October 7, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes whispers. It can be beautiful or creepy and any genre. Where are the whispers, who are they from, and what do they say if they say anything at all. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 12, 2021. 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.

Whispers by Charli Mills

Jane swung, pumping her legs to gain height. The wooden swing her father hung grew in the red oak her great-grandfather planted as a teenager. Jane never knew Romeo Tonti, an immigrant, but when she reached high enough she heard him whisper through the rustle of leaves. Jane learned the family recipe for spaghetti – use fresh rosemary – and how to splice a crab apple into a honeycrisp tree – for pollination, nipotina. Her mother proclaimed to the other soccer moms that her daughter was a cooking and gardening prodigy. He father would smile and wink. He heard the whispers, too.

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Across the Water

You will be surprised to find what’s across the water.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Can They See Me? by Michael Fishman

Crisp October morning. Steam fog rises and swirls like smoke over the marsh. The wispy veil slowly moves across the water following the sun’s lead while a group of Canada Geese, hidden in the cattails and bulrush, honk and bark.

I see faces in the swirling steam. Faces of loved ones long gone. Can they see me?

The sun rises, the air warms; the steam fog slowly melts.

If I knew it to be true that we see those who have moved on in an afterlife, I’d close my eyes and lie down now.

I miss you that much.

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A Matter Of Life And Death by Hugh Roberts

Holding on to Richard, Adrian looked out across the water.

“I told you I’d come back as a cat,” laughed Richard, “so I’m not keen being by the water.”

“But we promised we’d come to Brighton beach, ride the carousel and look out across the water on this date every year. Why wouldn’t we come this year?”

“Because it’s still too soon. Grief left empty-handed when you opened the door and let me in, but the answer to your future lays across the water.”

“But I can’t swim.”

“Who said anything about swimming to your future?” echoed Richards’s voice.

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The Middle of a Lake by Donna Matthews

They find themselves in the middle of the lake.

Just that morning, they were arguing again over the stupidest thing…a dirty cup left in the sink. When did their conversations become so hard?

Now, here they are…quiet…lines in the water and lost in their separate thoughts. This unspeaking worse than fighting.

Her reverie’s broken by a sudden drop in temperature and wind on her face. Looking across the water, the sky darkening a deep green, a storm approaching. She chuckles at the irony of this mirror of nature on her marriage. Bring it, she thinks…she’s done with this silence.

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The Wind by C. E. Ayr

I arrive at the headland, exhausted.
The wind-driven snow in my face has made the trip long and hazardous.
These hills can be dangerous even in calm weather.
Across the water I see the lights of home.
Where she is, with the children, my love, and my life.
Not far by boat, but I am on foot.
Another fourteen miles hard trek.
Suddenly the wind lifts again, and I am instantly alert.
My hunter’s senses are keen.
Something is not right.
Bad tidings sweep across the bay.
The sound of misery.
The scent of fear.
The smell of blood.

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Short Story to Rouse Your Imagination by Myrna Migala

Arriving finally at the shore of a large lake, the children were excited. “We can see all the way across the water,” they said!

“Look, see that home. It looks so tall and scary.”

“There is a footpath, and we can walk all around the lake to the other side; what an adventure. We will pack a lunch and go tomorrow.”

They followed the path the next day; within a few hours, they were in front of that large home, now looking across the water to where they came.

“Look! Across the water, there is that scary house again!”

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Across the Water by Sue Spitulnik

Who is it
Looking across the water

The fisherman searches for a set of concentric circles
Showing him the fish

The boater gauges the choppiness
Whether he’s in for a rough ride or not

The new skier enjoys smooth glass
It’s easier to maneuver behind the boat

The child jumps in delighted and unafraid
Not caring about the temperature

The skin diver goes below the surface
Enjoying the beauty and quiet

The bird takes advantage of the bugs
Hovering at dawn and dusk

The Vietnam veteran stares at the surface
Remembering bamboo straws that allowed submerged enemies to
breath

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Styx and Stones by Liz Husebye Hartmann

His nails were dark and sharp, spreading before him as he stretched first one paw, then the other. He backed further under the Juniper hedge.

She should’ve stayed home, not taken the canoe across the water.

He’d felt the storm coming, and had refused to board with her. She’d laughed, secured her furs for trade, and pushed off, waving her paddle before turning toward the far shore.

Rain was relentlessly cruel. Thunder pierced his sensitive ears. Waves crashed cloudy red, tumbling pebbles.

 Nightfall, pressing in, might calm the storm. He’d wait here for her.

 She always came back home.

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Down East by D. Avery

When her husband left she was most concerned about retrieving the boat. 

She hasn’t run the boat for years now, has her groceries delivered dockside every other Thursday. Told Jeb she’d understand him being late because of rough weather, but if he ever showed up early or out of the blue she’d tan him. 

She’d be polite when he delivered, just; said ‘thank you’ then ‘have a good one’; his signal to go. Jeb didn’t even cut the engine.

Was Jeb of course that found her, sprawled on her rocky shores as if still looking beseechingly across the water.

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Her Lover Returns by Joane Fisher

Her love was across the water. She walked along the beach counting the days until his return. One day word reached her that his ship sunk and was lost beneath the waves. She grieved, wishing for his return.

One night on the beach she saw him: his hair was now seaweed and his skin was a pallid green thinly stretched over his bones, but it was definitely him.

“My love!” he croaked, holding out his arms. She hugged him, but his embrace was so tight she could hardly breathe or break free as he dragged her under the waves.

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Is He Dead or Alive by Miss Judy

The cottage was cozy and warm, the porch perfect for unwinding. A wine and cheese gift basket welcomed her. Exhausted, Carrie was glad to be in her homeaway home. She understood her mission, knew her target, nothing left to be done tonight.

Grabbing a glass and the wine, she retired to the porch. Lights flickered across the water but not his. Had he arrived? Lulled by the quiet and warmed by the wine, Carrie fell asleep.

BANG! flashes of light shattered Carrie’s sleep. Across the water his house was ablaze. She has to know, “Is he dead or alive?”

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The Tradewater by H.R.R. Gorman

Across the water is a country of luxury. My family loads our keelboat with goods and drags a raft of timber behind us. Across the river we float, trickling down to the exotic city where we trade.

Our family trades logs for some silk, corn for new shoes, and furs for sugar. We sell the raft to lighten the load back upriver.

I ask Pa, “Why do they trade their riches for our poor goods?”

Pa pushes the keel. “They live in a desert. To them, we’re the rich ones, but we’re all rich once we’ve shared our treasures.”

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Crossings by D. Avery

When Epenow was taken across the water he saw how the English are. He used their words, spoke of gold so the English would return him to Noepe where he escaped. Epenow is their enemy. He became sachem of his people.
Epenow saw that I know the English too, was wary about how I was with Dermer.
Another English ship came. Many people were murdered. When Dermer returned afterwards Epenow mortally wounded him. I was taken captive and placed with Massassoit.
Now a ship harbors near Patuxet. These people, though weak, will be my strength.
I will become sachem.

*Epenow, of the island of Noepe (Martha’s Vineyard) had been kidnapped and taken to England in 1611, four years prior to Tisquantum’s abduction.

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In my mind, I’m there by Anne Goodwin

Across the water, there is no hunger. Across the water, there is no pain. Across the water, there is justice. Across the water, there is peace.

I’d build a boat, but the waves would break it. I’d start to swim, but I’d be food for sharks.

I turn my back against the water. Dressed in rags, I face another arduous day. Sweating, toiling, aching, weeping; if I paused, I’d starve to death.

In my mind, the water freezes. I don my skates and fur-lined coat. With a smile, I glide to freedom. In my mind, there is no fear.

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New Worlds by Rebecca Glaessner

Across the water, something glistened. Had he finally found it?

Racing, stumbling through waves, he slipped. The water dragged him under. He kicked and thrashed for an age.

Ever sinking, tired now. He’d searched for nothing.

A voice, otherworldly and infinite, reached him beneath the river’s roar, “fight, human.”

One final moment, through agony, he gave his last, then stilled.

He gasped, heaved painfully. Air?

He’d finally found it, waiting nearby, whole worlds glistening within. He touched it. It thrummed, infinite, otherworldly. Impressed? Shoulders squared, he disappeared with it, leaving his world behind.

After-all, he hadn’t fought for nothing.

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Water Initiation by Charli Mills

Seele’s initiation to Monitor Creek came in the summer of 1975. Hot asphalt burned the tender pads of her feet. Town kids rolled truck innertubes along the highway, Seele trailing reluctantly. Her Aunt Bonnie suggested she make friends. Did these local kids have iron feet? The cool rushing water soothed until Seele pushed off the edge to follow the others. Rapids grabbed her innertube, swelling over a jumble of hidden rocks, spinning her backward, and slamming into boulders. Rubber bounced, plunged, and rose. At the bridge they all got out. Seele couldn’t wait to go across the water again.

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Rainbow Flotilla by Norah Colvin

She wrote a message on each piece of paper and folded them into tiny boats. At the lake, she launched them from the bank, then watched the rainbow flotilla sail across the water. Curious ducks investigated, capsizing one or two, but the rest sailed on. A turtle popped up, knocking one off-course. It smashed on the rocks, but the rest sailed on. A dragonfly alighted on one, enjoying the free ride as the rest sailed on, finally reaching the other side. A child fished one out and opened it to dry. He read the message, then smiled and waved.

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Wood Ducks in the Golf Course Pond by Paula Moyer

There they are, year after year, Jean said to herself as she pondered the wood ducks. On the other side of the fence at the end of my block. The golf course pond was where, each spring, a mother wood duck brought her hatchling into the water. And there they glided, across the water as smoothly as skaters on ice, the little caravan of mother and ducklings. She had her “ducks in a row.” Under the water was the messy part, legs churning, making it all work. Just like me, Jean thought. The mess is underneath.

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Kolaba Fort, Alibag by Reena Saxena

Silly me! I led my colleagues to a fort in between the sea, without checking high tide timings.

And there we were …. stuck in the fort for the entire day, because we couldn’t go across the water to reach shore. Luckily for us, there was a feast on in the temple inside. They served us lunch at a nominal price.

The waves still looked daunting at 6 pm. Again, the locals came to our rescue and a 10-year old helped us navigate the waters to reach the shore.

What a blissful feeling it was to touch the ground again!

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My Magical Creeks by Duane L Herrmann

My tiny piece of land has two creeks that join together. They are damned upstream, so they don’t always carry water. Sometimes one, or the other, or even both, have water. It ‘s magical when they do. When there is enough water, it gurgles over the rocks causing the creek to sing. Because this isn’t constant, it is more magical and special than otherwise. I would like to listen for hours, but always there is work to do. I have a path across one with two large, flat rocks. When water is running, I easily step across the water.

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Poe-ssion by Kerry E.B. Black

Quaint and curious volumes to ponder
Yet across the water I wander
To find my friend’s lost love Lenore

For he so lost in dreams does linger
That it has quite stilled his fingers
And he writes wise words no more.

‘Tis a fate I can’t abide,
For in his tales I do reside
And hope his muse to restore

In his harried footsteps flounder
Looking for the bard profounder
In the night’s Plutonian shore

Sadness overtakes my searching
A Reaper Grim in gutters lurching
And a Raven quoth, “Nevermore.”

So much more my woe.
My beloved Poe.

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Across the Water by FloridaBorne

The son of a Native American and a French-Canadian fur trapper continued his father’s trade, wandering through the wilds of Canada. In Roxton Pond, Vitaline Bernier became smitten with him, marrying the man who impregnated her.

He rarely visited and she only lived long enough to have three children.

There are many Bernier’s buried in the church graveyard. Vitaline is not among them. He never returned after her death.

His son left home at the age of 14, and worked on a cargo ship bound for destinations far across the pond, for Vitaline’s children were never a welcome addition.

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The Near End by Jane Aguiar

Our boat inverted unknowingly, we were thrown into the water, darkness came before my eyes and not a single word uttered.

Husband tried to save me, but the water was pulling me away. I held my breath, so that water from the nose and mouth would not get into my stomach, even tried to paddle.

I tried desperately to get across the water, but I started to go under the barge that was anchored. My heart sank, when I saw the end near. Even in that situation, my eyes got wet in the water and I closed my eyes.

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Theory of Species X by Simon

It’s dangerous across the water, don’t go to land.

No it’s not. I have practised, I can breath on ground too, it isn’t dangerous.

What if it is?

I’ll survive, we fight monsters everyday undersea, our next level of survival is going to be on land.

You are going to die.

No, you are.

Across the water, it discovered itself. It took different forms, it faced hell and heaven. Today, it took a form of Human, you, me, and everyone around us, is because of that species, challenged itself to change the world.

Theories are not stories, isn’t it?

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Beyond the Horizon by Bill Engleson

I do not see the mountains I must cross.

I know that they are there, beautiful obstacles that I will need to traverse to reach my destination.

Even before I set out on this journey, my eyes see only the dream.

The dream to be there.

I will embrace the journey, feast on every stone, every creature along the way.

I am as prepared as could possibly be.

My affairs are in order.

My mission is clear.

My first step will be to walk across the water.

I will begin at the shore.

Once there, I will be free.

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Reflections by Doug Jaquier

For us,
all things seem possible when we look across blue water,
planning a thousand buoyant courses.

We do not weigh our stamina against the undertow
nor the wind strength against our craft;
we have enough gods
to warrant speculation.

But there are those who stand upon the solid shore
who are already at the end of their worlds
and our imagined journeys
are their fated drownings.

For them,
sailing into the blue
seems a truly godless journey.

So they sit watching us,
like hermit crabs,
waiting for us to set out,
and picturing life inside our empty shells.

🥕🥕🥕

Grandmother by Saifun Hassam

A heron flew across the water. In the early morning, mist drifted among pine, birch, and wild honeysuckle along the creek.

I paused on the weathered, rickety narrow wood bridge across the water. The creek was clear. A few weeks ago, heavy rains turned the waters into a roiling muddy flow. I took a risk on those days, walking on that precarious bridge. The yearning to go across the water was all too powerful, to visit my grandmother’s empty cottage. She was dead now. Her life linked me to other shores, India and Africa. Would I ever go there?

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A‘Wake’nings’… by JulesPaige

A ring across the water, circular trips mostly.
Two in manmade lakes.
One where three rivers met.
Curious tours for Ah-ha moments.
Three of the paddlewheel boats out of four –
One was turned into a diner theater –
Permanently docked – the actors
Making moves across the stage
While wait staff made rings around
The tables – for the service of patrons.
Making their own history, memories for me.

Four different states
Settled perhaps by four different sons
(Or daughters… all had mothers).
All have different pages in history,
Different openings to lead and guide.
So it was for those hosted rides…

🥕🥕🥕

Across the Water by Robert Kirkendall

The family drove through the mountains then the highway straightened as they approached the seaside town. Their young son was on the edge of the back seat eager to get a better view through the windshield. He felt anticipation as they moved closer to their destination.

They entered the outskirts of town and he tried to look past the buildings as they got closer to the coast. They drove ahead and he finally saw the ocean. He looked across the water gratefully as his view stretched as far as his eyes could see, unlike the valley where he lived.

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Smooth Sailing by Annette Rochelle Aben

It was the summer of 1968. The year the Detroit Tigers won the pennant and the year our family bought a pool for our backyard!
The pool store threw in a variety of pool toys as a bonus, one of which was a six-foot Styrofoam surfboard. Temptation got the better of us and as long as our parents were at work…

We used the deck to hold it in place and with a running start, we’d jump onto the board. The force sent us sailing into the opposite pool wall. Oh yeah, we were never bored on that board!

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In the Clover by Nancy Brady

Aloysius, the white cat, was running alongside the black horse. The horse leaped over a fence; Aloysius jumped through the slats, and they continued across another open field nearing a swiftly flowing stream.

The horse easily jumped across the water, but Aloysius stopped on the bank.

Aloysius didn’t particularly like getting wet (and what cat does?), but there was no way he could make the lengthy jump the steed did. He didn’t want to use his blue jay feather to fly though.

Standing in green clover, Aloysius wished there was a bridge, and in the wishing, a bridge appeared.

🥕🥕🥕

Jist Skatin’ By by D. Avery

“Kid! Where ya been? Was worried ya weren’t gonna make it this week.”
“Havin’ the same worry, Pal. Findin’ this anuther tough prompt.”
“Hmm. Figgered ya’d sail with this un, Kid. Or kayak, or swim, or even ride yer hoss across.”
“Yep, they’s plenny a situations could arise. Coulda had the creek rise, mebbe involve Ernie or Curly. But none a that feels right. Have been down ta the creek though, where it pools unner the trees.”
“An’? Catch a story?”
“Nuthin’. Jist set there watchin’ water bugs a-sparklin’ in the sun, skatin’ an’ scurryin’ across the water.”
“Hmm.”

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Jist Skatin’ By by D. Avery

“Shift, Pal! The creek is risin’!”
“Thet’s okay Kid, they’s plenny a room fer thet. We’ll be alright. The Ranch is a safe place after all.”
“Curly’s stuck on the far side.”
“Gary Larson’s Far Side? Seems fittin’ fer Curly.”
“No, Pal, she cain’t git back across the water. Come help!”
“Cain’t cross or won’t? Look’t Kid. She’s over there takin’ up with a fam’ly a beavers.”
“Dam! That’s why the creek’s a-risin’.”
“Yep. Yer hoglet’s heppin’ them beavers make a pond. Thet’s good fer all.”
“But… d’ya think she’ll come back? Or has she b’come a lodge member?”

🥕🥕🥕

September 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

I might as well be floating on water. The day that unfolded was the kind of perfect pool day you can find anywhere in the world when stars, weather, and serendipity aligns. This was a happy chance of a day and I’m buoyant.

Remember last week when I showed up early for the Angeline Boulley presentation because I was so excited? Well, the actual event happened today. And it exceeded my expectations. Today was a good day to be a writer.

First, I dismissed myself early from class to give them privacy to complete teacher evaluations. It was a novelty to be the one cutting out early. One of my students, a natural at creative writing, gathered the evals and delivered them. ENG I received an early lesson in analytical essays to prepare for a late-in-the-lesson-plan decision to watch a movie next week, Indian Horse. We learned about Orange Shirt Day (September 30) and I wanted my class to be prepared in case Ms. Boulley or any of our Anishinaabe community arrived wearing orange. It sparked a discussion about residential schools and I decided that we could watch Indian Horse and use analysis to compare the movie to the Fire Keeper’s Daughter.

After class, I hung out in my office to work on emails and grades. I had a brief meeting with my SBA rep and we set up accounting processes for Carrot Ranch. A big step for the future. It seems that writers are familiar with big steps and long waits. That’s how it goes. We might long for linear time to unfold according to our expectations but what happens with our work, happens when it happens. We take care of details when we can. Carrot Ranch is open for business, has a Tax ID number, but not ready for business yet! The Thirty and new workshops begin in 2022.

The sun lingered warm in a blue sky over red-tinged autumn leaves. I enjoyed the warmth of sunshine as I walked the campus to a small chapel with outdoor picnic tables. One of our school’s PhDs who teach English full-time was reviving a university writing group that had gone dormant with the pandemic. The group is called Helsinki Slang and we are expanding to include staff and even local writers. We discussed ways we can make our writing experience rewarding and accountable. Some may join us here at the Ranch! Talking to students interested in writing felt like sunshine on my soul.

When the event time neared, I was ready! And Ms. Boulley was delayed. If you’ve ever had to cross the Upper Peninsula, you’d understand that our roads are long. We decided to do the book signing afterward and let people gather in the Finnish American Heritage Center. Waiting allowed the jitters to set in, but I chatted with friends from the surrounding communities, including one of the Grandmother’s from the People of the Heart Water Walk. Then, Angeline Boulley walked in, strong and confident, dressed in black with a felt hat beaded in Ojibwe style woodland flowers, including orange.

The honor of introducing Ms. Boulley was mine, a gift from my University for being the instructor who was teaching her book. I wanted to get it right —

We can honor the heritage of people and place any time we gather. I’m here to welcome Angeline Boulley to our place of rich lineage. Welcome to Anishinaabe Homelands, to 1854 Ojibwe Ceded Territory, to the U.P. of MI, to the Keweenaw Peninsula, to Hancock, to Finlandia University, to the Finnish American Cultural Heritage Center.

September 30, 2021

I think I got most of it right. I think I got it in the order I meant. I did look at her directly to make the welcome. After that I babbled. I felt breathless and realized I was reading a passage from her book because I was in full fangirl mode, raving about how masterful her writing is. I’m grateful to have a generous community who allowed me this lapse of professionalism. One friend snapped a photo of me and when I saw it, I realized I had forgotten to remove my mask to speak! I honestly don’t recall much of that moment.

Ms. Boulley took to the stage with grace and shared her writing story. You can find much of what she said in this article Tribal Business News, including that she accepted a seven-figure offer after a 12-publisher bidding for her manuscript. The next day the film rights to a Netflix series sold to Higher Ground, the organization founded by Michelle and Barack Obama. Besides the gobs of money, Ms. Boulley also got rights to call shots on development which is not something authors get. It mattered to her, though, that Native American artists, film crew, and actors be vetted by her to include broader diversity. Ojibwe artist, Moses Lunham, created the stunning cover of her book.

What Ms. Boulley spoke of during her presentation was perseverance and belief in your own skillset as a storyteller. She came up with her story idea when she was 18, but sagely points out that she had to live a life first. It took her ten years to write her book. She worked in government and became the Director of Indian Education, living in the D.C. area. In her job, she successfully wrote grants, which she equates to writing narratives. After she wrote her first draft, she began to focus on improving craft elements. In an MFA program, this is what we call working a Revision Plan. She then began applying for mentorships and was accepted into one, high quality feedback.

Now, Ms Boulley is on deadline to complete a second novel in ten months. The difference, she explained, is that ten years taught her about novel writing. Every writer goes through education whether formal or not. Authors don’t magically emerge one day without a long history of work and learning. Ms. Boulley was 55 when she published the book she thought up at age 18.

After the presentation, people lined-up for her book signing. Again, the sun shed its warm light on us all. I was last in line, listening to snippets of conversation. She signed my book and I asked her if she wanted to go have drinks or get some food. She said yes! I texted T. Marie Bertineau who had just left and told her to meet us at a local Italian restaurant, and someone from a local book club asked to join in so we made it a party!

The way I figure it, we all need to eat and it was too perfect of a day to not go eat with the two authors whose books I’m teaching in my two classes. Both Indigenous women. Both correcting the course that has traditionally shut out Native voices. Dinner was long and slow, the night magical. I got to find out what an author buys with “book money” — a hot red BMW with vanity plates proclaiming, Daunis. Ms. Boulley’s protagonist.

It’s time to cool off after a hot day in the Keweenaw!

Also, congratulations to editors, Colleen M. Chesebro and JulesPaige, and to all the poets set to publish October 1 in the inaugural Word Weaving poetry journal, Moons of Autumn.

Hot new release on Amazon!

September 30, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story uses the phrase, “across the water.” It can be any body of water distant or close. Who (or what) is crossing the water and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 5, 2021. 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.

Water Initiation by Charli Mills

Seele’s initiation to Monitor Creek came in the summer of 1975. Hot asphalt burned the tender pads of her feet. Town kids rolled truck innertubes along the highway, Seele trailing reluctantly. Her Aunt Bonnie suggested she make friends. Did these local kids have iron feet? The cool rushing water soothed until Seele pushed off the edge to follow the others. Rapids grabbed her innertube, swelling over a jumble of hidden rocks, spinning her backward, and slamming into boulders. Rubber bounced, plunged, and rose. At the bridge they all got out. Seele couldn’t wait to go across the water again.

🥕🥕🥕

The Author’s Chair

The author’s chair is available. If you dare to sit.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Stories from the Author’s Chair by Sue Spitulnik

I went out of curiosity, to hear what the veterans wrote about their experiences.
Each author sat in the special chair to read a piece of his writing. An Army officer recounted delivering coffee in the dead of night to frightened young rookies in look-out towers. An Air Force pilot related seeing a plane crash, then having to walk around the wreckage to go fly his own mission. The Marine lowered his gaze, described the sounds, smells, and angst of the front line, and carrying his wounded buddy to the medical tent.
I wondered who had the worst nightmares.

🥕🥕🥕

Ghost Writer by Ann Edall-Robson

This is my chair. It is my favourite place to come. It’s where I sit in the sun or hide from the weather under the eaves. The view from here and the noise of nature always make my heart sing. The songs let me soar with the lofty clouds to grasp the words no one else hears. Capturing them on scraps of paper I kept tucked in my pocket for just such moments.

My chair is old, but I see it still beckons to those who need to connect to their words. I wonder if they feel me nearby?

🥕🥕🥕

Author’s Chair by Saifun Hassam

At the yard sale, Nancy found an ornate garden chair, its metal frame painted bright blue. Nancy placed the chair near the old but still serviceable wood table in the garden near forest green hosta, ferns, and variegated rainbow-colored coleus.

When her best friend and indie author Trish saw the chair, she immediately thought of a garden tea party scene for her new historical fiction novel. Saturdays turned into a scrumptious garden party for their friends, to read and share ideas for their novels and poetry.

The garden chair settled into its new home. Proud to be a ghostwriter.

🥕🥕🥕

Strategic Support by JulesPaige

Just one seat, that old chair…
When words cease to flow
Who can we blame for our lack of skill to write
When the night brings us fright
And we trip, face first

If we could get to it
Those legs strong and true,
To lend us strength to hold us with love and care,
That one chair, near glass with
A view to change sight

To lift and warm our soul
Ease on to that pad
Sit still with calm peace, that slow warmth to grow strong
‘Blank page you will not win’
That must be the cry

🥕🥕🥕

Author’s Chair by Michael Fishman

A lumbar support is strapped over wooden cross rails; a cushion covers an unforgiving seat.

My author’s chair hates me.

I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not too cheap to buy an author’s chair. I just don’t consider myself an author.

The chair mocks me.

I’m lying down reading and from the corner of my eye I see the chair angled toward me. “C’mon,” it taunts. “Sit.”

I blink; it appears closer. “Whatcha gotta say?”

I shake my head.

“Got a story, Mr. Writer? A rhyme?”

As it scrapes across the floor toward me, I lose my mind.

🥕🥕🥕

Arthur’s Chair by Bill Engleson

He was one of those kids who needed steadiness. OCD? Maybe. He was a finicky little critter from the get-go. First day, grade one, he had to have a chair and desk right next to the teacher’s desk.

Miss Filbert.

She’d been teaching a while, but Arthur was a new one on her.

“Wouldn’t you be happier sitting next to a friend, Arthur?” she asked.

He shook his head.

Wouldn’t budge.

She was a smart lady.

“Fine,” she said, “We’re desk buddies.”

Thing was, it worked for Artie.

Gave him the confidence to stand his ground.

Or sit it.

🥕🥕🥕

Imposter Syndrome by Norah Colvin

When Dave revisited his junior school, he smiled to see the chair in its usual spot.

“Get down,” his big sister had said. “You’re not allowed on there. It’s only for authors.”

“I am an author,” Dave said, holding up the book he’d made in class.

“Not a real author. Real authors have real books published by real publishers, and their feet touch the floor. Anyway, it’s time to go.”

This time, when Dave sat in the chair, his feet touched the floor. The audience hushed as he opened his real book and began to read. Imposter no more.

🥕🥕🥕

Author’s What? by Duane L Herrmann

“An Author’s what?”

“Chair.”

“What a curious idea. Sometimes a student had to stand facing a corner in the front of the room, otherwise, students seldom came to the front.”

“They didn’t?”

“Not unless they were in trouble.”

“That’s harsh, man!”

“We didn’t want to be in the front with everyone staring at us. I had to do it once, in third grade, to give a report, and I was sure glad to get that over with!”

“Did anyone read outloud?”

“Aside from our reading group in class, which I hated, only the teacher.”

“Only the teacher?’

“Yep.”

“Wow.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Author’s Chair by Joanne Fisher

“So you want to write books?” the figure asked.

“Yes.” the author replied.

“What you need is the Author’s Chair. You won’t be able to stop writing.” the figure said. A brown leather chair appeared.

“That’s what I want. How much for it?”

“Only your soul.” The author laughed upon hearing this.

“It’s of no matter. Go ahead and take it!” the author urged.

“Fine.” The figure disappeared.

The author sat down and began writing and found he couldn’t stop. He wrote many works, but died of thirst, hunger, and exhaustion from never being able to leave the Chair.

🥕🥕🥕

Tree of Life by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Stepping from the top of one tree to middle of the other, she slides toward the trunk, tests each step. Bark snaps and spirals; it’s a long way down. Desire stays true, the guiding song.

Ascending, though the needles hurt, she’s careful to avoid new shoots. The snap of sap both glues and sparks; it draws her upward toward her mark.

Tree sways in an onshore breeze. Lake promises sweet and ease.

Sky opens wide, near Red Pine’s peak. She builds her nest, to wait and seek.

Eagle soars and tips his wings.

She is learning all new things.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s Not the Destination, But What Happens on the Way by Anne Goodwin

Bracken scratches my ankles as I traverse another false summit. For years, I’ve hacked through forest, trod on tarmac, scrambled over boulders, meandered through meadows, lost my way and rediscovered it, but still can’t reach the top. Yet it’s called to me since childhood, as I farmed in the valley below. “Come, scale the mountain, and sit on the gritstone throne.” The closer I get, the more it eludes me, but glimpses tantalise, urging me on. Until, pausing to slake my thirst, I see marvels reflected in the pool. “Relax,” say the waters. “There’s a wondrous view from here.”

🥕🥕🥕

Anticipated Success by Lindsey F. McPherson

The agony of thought, struggles of imagination, threat of criticism, prospect of praise, disturbs my creativity. I always associate the flash fiction competition with the smell of grass, hot dogs and rhythmic jazz music, all necessary for a good festival. On stage, the rainbow-coloured author’s chair is both inviting and threatening, depending on the quality of imagination that trickled into my fingers.

My blood thunders, tentatively I sit. I see family and friends anticipate a successful performance. I’m wide-eyed, bugged-out nervous. Polite applause confirms my failure for the fifth year running. “Never mind’ mother quips, “there’s always next year.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Trinity by Annette Rochelle Aben

Wandering through an estate sale, Michelle hoped they had an old wooden roll-top desk. If it had a matching chair, all the better.
Dan was constantly rearranging items as other items sold. It was his goal to see that everything would catch the eye of the right person.
He had barely moved the Remington typewriter to a more prominent place, when he heard a gasp. Michelle couldn’t believe her eyes. There was her roll-top desk with a matching chair!

She handed him a check for all three. After all, a writer needed a desk, a chair, and a typewriter.

🥕🥕🥕

Author’s Chair by Anita Dawes

My authors chair is in a pub called The Drum.
It has a blue plaque with his name on, H G Wells
A man before his time, no pun intended
He sat inside with the likes of Lewis Carrol and others
Discussing their latest ideas
I would love to have been there as he wrote notes
about what became my favourite film
The TIME MACHINE
How many would queue to sit in that chair
I would in a heartbeat
Push that crystal stopper from his brandy decanter
be on my way
Don’t look for me, I’ll be a while…

🥕🥕🥕

Author’s Chair by Reena Saxena

It’s a kind of pilgrimage for her.

They say the author’s soul still resides on that old leather chair, and blesses writers who dare to sit on it. The agent charges a whopping sum for taking people there, and allows no refunds.

A piece of eternity is on her palms, as she touches the worn out chair. Magic flows – she just knows it’s hers – very familiar, very comfortable and she sinks in the seat, never to rise again.

The agent is horrified.

Her frozen smile seems to mock him – “Are you offering a refund now? I won’t take it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sour Grapes by Doug Jacquier

At John’s sale, his office chair is marked ‘Author’s chair $500.’
‘Are you a published author?’
‘Not yet but I will be and then you can re-sell it for a fortune. And it comes with the tapes’.
‘Tapes?’
‘I can’t type so I dictated it. The money’s to pay a transcriber so I can send it off to a publisher and become famous. And then you’ll be rich.’
‘Your book’s that good?’
‘I’m pretty sure it is but I’ve never listened to it, so it might need a little polishing.’
‘I think I’ll pass, Mr. Steinbeck.’
‘You’ll be sorry.’

🥕🥕🥕

Chair by Simon

Authors Chair, with it, I’ll be famous, just like him.

You can sit under a tree, but you can never be Bhudha.

A talking chair?

Talking Idiot!

Attitude! can you make me famous?

Do I look like a Genie from magical lamp

You are magical and talking!

You are a Human, use your brain, start writing.

And you?

I will give you great comfort! I’m just a talking chair.

I can see that.

Then why you keep asking?

No use of talking.

Enlightenment?

Shut up! I’m writing

🥕🥕🥕

Author’s Chair by FloridaBorne

It was 1997, the year I stopped working for companies and started my own business.

The old clunker of a desk was far too big for my office, and needed an army to move it. My new desk was lightweight, and easily relocated at a whim.

I plopped into 50 chairs before I found the perfect backrest, seat padding that wasn’t too firm or soft, and arm rests at just the right level.

Then I read the price tag. “$100? For a chair?”

It’s been 24 years, and I’m sitting in that same chair as I write this post.

🥕🥕🥕

Queen’s Corner by Kerry E.B. Black

Marshalling troops, in that nondescript corner of the family living room. Caught up in her private battles with deadlines and artistic excellence, she remained miles from the mundane. It’s hard to imagine the wonders she created from such a threadbare throne, yet create she did. Three novels and countless short stories she penned in the days before computers, long-hand translations of mental impressions and fanciful flights of imagination. She answered contest questions to earn spending money, captioned for prizes. Now, we haul the wingback to the rubbish as we mourn her loss.

🥕🥕🥕

Seat Of Horror by Hugh W. Roberts

Will Adrian’s birthday gift to Richard spark new ideas or give reasons to be concerned?

***
“Happy Birthday.”

“What is it?” squealed Richard as he tore off wrapping paper while Adrian took photos.

“You’ll soon find out.”

“A chair?”

“Not just any chair. Stephen King’s chair.”

“Stephen King?” You’re kidding me.”

“Nope. I got all the paperwork of authenticity.”

“I love it.”

“Get writing that first novel you keep telling us you have inside you.”

“Horror! It’ll be a horror story. It has to be horror, what with it being Stephen King’s chair.”

“Don’t let it go to your head. I’ve hidden all the knives and sharp objects but left you a pen,” giggled Adrian.

🥕🥕🥕

Purpose Rewritten by Rebecca Glaessner

The alien looked ugly, dying in the dirt, trying to remain human.

It looked like her when she screamed about my room, again. Face twisting like I wasn’t supposed to be there. I screamed back, she slapped me. I laughed.

Actually, she looked like it when I left. Ugly and dying.

I found the alien later and sat with it. It gave me its memories, stories of broken kids.

I let it.

It’s dead now, but I’m not. I found the others.

We got ourselves a space, chairs, tables, where we share the alien’s memories, and rewrite our futures.

🥕🥕🥕

Marked by D. Avery

These ones are grateful for their shelters, are proud of what they have built, though their houses are not as warm as our nush wetus. Even Bradford’s home is not as comfortable as Swany’s was in Cornhill. But like Swany, he has a chair and a small table where he marks on big leaves they call paper. Bradford reaches for his bible as Standish reaches for his musket.

I want this magic, these marks the English make and interpret. When I am sachem, Bradford will be obliged to share the secret of marking leaves. I will know this power.

🥕🥕🥕

Esprit Egression (Double Ennead *plus) by JulesPaige

In the autumn of life
The inkwell was still
In use by the paper thin skinned hand that now
Shook just a little more
while filling the page

Letters scritchity scratched
Black India Ink
Ran, danced, echoed memories real and
Imagined from the pen
Capturing moments

Until the cold winter
Arrived leaving just
The bare bones to drape on the author’s desk chair
Would fame come now that death
Had taken all else?

———–
Is the pen mightier than thoughts that wield it?
Can we define what haunts the doorways of our trials in this life?
Will what’s left tell?

🥕🥕🥕

And Still They Are Missing by Charli Mills

Louise pressed her back against a cottonwood tree, dipped her pen into the ink jar and wrote in her journal. “Silver vanished before the snowmelt and now the mountain aspen turn gold.” Her pen paused. Ink pooled. What else to say? The miners hauled more ore. Investors traded stock. Silver’s mother waited for her “Lord” to return from England. Rumors circulated that Bigfoot carried off Louise’s best friend. No one looked. Only Lord Chalmer’s disappearance made headlines in The Argonaut. One day, Louise vowed to sit in the author’s chair and give voice to the girls sentenced and silenced.

🥕🥕🥕

Author, Author! by D. Avery

“Pal, who’s Arthur?”

“Why d’ya ask Kid?”

“Shorty’s wantin’ folks ta write ‘bout Arthur’s chair.”

“Thet’s ‘author’ Kid, as in writer.”

“Oh. They’s writers all over the ranch.”

“Thet’s right Kid, an’ they’s invited ta take a seat in the author’s chair— share a piece a their work.”

“Soun’s like a hot seat.”

“No, Kid, it’s a friendly exchange. A chance ta share an’ engage with one another as readers an’ writers.”

“Like we do ‘roun the Carrot Ranch campfire ever’ week?”

”’Cept jist one author’ll be featured at a time.”

“Cool! Cain’t wait ta see who signs up.”

🥕🥕🥕

Author’s Chair by D. Avery

“So Pal, anyone readin’ this is eligible ta be in the Author’s Chair?”

“Yep. Kin read anythin’ they’ve writ; mebbe somethin’ we’ve seen b’fore or somethin’ we ain’t. Mebbe somethin’ thet’s been reworked somehow. But it ain’t got ta be Ranch related. Kin be from a WIP, a forthcomin’ book, an older book, or no book.”

“Someone jist sharin’ somethin’ they wouldn’t mind talkin’ more about.”

“’Zactly Kid. But the talk’ll mostly come from other folks’ questions an’ comments.”

“Seems ta me folks that write injoy talkin’ ‘bout writin’.”

“Yep. Thinkin’ the Author’s Chair’s gonna be a good ride.”

🥕🥕🥕

September 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

“Maple leaves turn red first.” One of my Warrior Sisters pointed across the Houghton Canal to a ridge of woods flashing autumn colors. I’m not familiar enough with the North Woods to repeat the assertion, but it reminds me of something an organic farmer once told me in Minnesota. “White flowers emerge first.”

Whether you live where spring has sprung or fall has descended, we have crested the equinox.

The Keweenaw is my community. My home. Home is turning colors and though uncertain about what transitions come next, I’m ready. Ready as a birch tree. Recently I hiked Quincy Hill, pausing to catch my breath and thoughts alongside a pair of birch. As I palmed twin trunks and leaned forward, the trees flexed. Strength comes with flexibility to withstand the winds. I felt solid on my peninsula, holding on, swaying, and trusting what comes of roots.

Here is where I plant mine. I’m a California Girl, long gone from the state that still holds nine generations of my family. I’m a Montana Transplant far from the Queen City of the Rockies. I’ve lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Nebraska where my third great grand-uncle got himself shot by Wild Bill Hickok. My feet are in Michigan, and sometimes in Vermont.

I’m from everywhere and nowhere. So I follow the People of the Heart.

In Michigan, that means the Good People, the Indigenous, the Anishinaabe and the Finns. Two cultures who know their roots and their mother tongue. In Vermont, I follow the old roots of mountain people who know who they are and live in accordance with nature. Ultimately, that is always where I feel at home — in nature.

For practical purposes, I’m sorting out possibilities on the Keweenaw. One is that I can buy the Roberts Street House from my Wounded Warrior who can’t stay still any longer. I told him this was the last move for me. I’m done rambling about. I’m not a young tumbleweed anymore. I have students, an office, miles of rocky shoreline, friends, veteran community. I have a Ranch and a determination to have writers in residence when the leaves turn red. I have intentions to return annually to Vermont. Maybe see down under, one day. Catch a flower when my leaves fall.

Now is muddy but mud makes bricks and bricks build stories. I’m at peace and feel joy in my heart.

Today, I coerced college students into a discussion, promising them early release if everyone participated and answered the questions. If not, I told them what they already know — I can fill up the time, talking. They all participated and came up with the insight that heavy topics in literature are bearable — even enjoyable to read — when the protagonist balances conflict with perseverance. They also learned I’m not great with dates on a calendar.

Thinking I had the date right, I dressed with intention, wearing a stunning pair of Anishinaabe earrings, a dark green dress, tights and bronze shoes. I had been asked to introduce Angeline Boulley, a great honor. I carefully crafted an introduction to recognize the 1854 Ceded Territory of the Ojibwe. My only mistake was the date. She’s presenting to our University next Thursday.

Linear time was not made for the likes of me. But I manage.

It wasn’t a bust. My Warrior Sisters met at the canal-side home of one of ours, enjoying the patio, water and company. I was too nervous to eat much and left early to the presentation that was not yet. Happily, I returned to the patio party and ate more! We watched a loon fly and the Ranger III pass beneath the Lift Bridge. In the video, you can hear us chattering as we film the ship. One of my WS’s tells me that she got caught on the bridge during a lift! Do not underestimate Vietnam Veteran Spouses. These Ladies are my role models. They are resilient and fun to be around.

Typically, the Ranch would be decked out for the Flash Fiction Rodeo. This year, I’m taking a hiatus from the Rodeo to finish unfinished feedback and think through what next. I dream big and broad and need to decide what is manageable, what supports the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, and what services will be my bread and beans. I want to simplify with meaningful opportunities for writers and time for my writing, coaching and teaching.

I’m grateful to our Rodeo Leaders, Judges, Patrons, and Columnists. In the language of my borrowed home, Chi Miiwech! Big thank you! I’m grateful for the Saddle Up Saloon and our Poets. We are growing, not shrinking. But we are growing mindfully. In fact, we have a new installment to offer at the Saddle Up Saloon where characters run the place.

While kayaking, or maybe it was by the campfire, or over a non-competitive game of Scrabble, D. Avery came up with a way to spotlight the many authors we have in and about the Ranch.

In October, we are introducing the Carrot Ranch Author’s Chair. Did you ever get to sit in one in grade school? D. recalls that many elementary school classrooms had a special chair where a young writer would read their work to their cohort. When finished they would announce, “I’m ready for questions or comments.” 

The Carrot Ranch Author’s Chair will be a regular feature at the Saddle Up Saloon. Anyone can volunteer to take part; anything can be read, including previously published or prompted pieces. Pick something that is important or memorable for you. Send the text, audio or video recording, and some background to the piece to D. Avery (shiftnshake@dslayton.com) for posting on a second Monday at the Saloon.  

We want to encourage reader interaction and invite the community to ask questions of the featured author. A week after posting, we will randomly draw a name from those who asked questions to offer a free book from the Carrot Ranch Community. Shorty will pick the book and mail it to the winner (this is also a way to support our published authors). Kid and Pal will introduce the featured author. We encourage you to send a voice recording (YouTube or SoundCloud). Get signed up with D.!

In October, I have a heavy load of client work, updates, midterms (to grade!), and a week on the Northshore of Lake Superior (Minnesota). If anyone is interested in being a guest challenge host, let me know (wordsforpeople@gmail.com). Otherwise, I will have a two-week challenge mid-month.

To prepare for the Carrot Ranch Author’s Chair, we are all going to take a seat this week.

September 23, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 28, 2021. 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.

And Still They Are Missing by Charli Mills

Louise pressed her back against a cottonwood tree, dipped her pen into the ink jar and wrote in her journal. “Silver vanished before the snowmelt and now the mountain aspen turn gold.” Her pen paused. Ink pooled. What else to say? The miners hauled more ore. Investors traded stock. Silver’s mother waited for her “Lord” to return from England. Rumors circulated that Bigfoot carried off Louise’s best friend. No one looked. Only Lord Chalmer’s disappearance made headlines in The Argonaut. One day, Louise vowed to sit in the author’s chair and give voice to the girls sentenced and silenced.

🥕🥕🥕

A Big Black Horse

Saddle up to ride these stories that feature a big black horse!

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Horses Run at Midnight by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“We’ll start you on Maisie. See how you do.” Her father smiled at her, one hand on the saddle, the other held out in invitation.  

Josie swallowed, took a deep breath, and nodded. She could easily hop onto Maisie’s back — nowhere near as high as the jump to Thunder’s back — with no need for a hand up. She and Thunder exchanged longing glances over the stall door, keeping him locked away.

Maisie nickered, brushing soft lips across stable floor, searching for scraps of straw.

Best she comply for now; Father wouldn’t approve of their clandestine, Thunderous midnight rides.

🥕🥕🥕

The Stallion by C. E. Ayr

I hate when he calls me ‘the black horse’.
I’m a thoroughbred stallion, a champion.
He is an insensitive brute.
I wonder what she ever saw in him.
She is gentle, caring, loving.
I worship her.
This morning I didn’t run well.
Maybe a touch of hay fever?
He’s not amused, he shouts at me.
But when he raises his whip, she tries to stop him.
And he strikes her.
She retaliates by whacking him over the head with one of those tools.
I think he’s going to get up and hurt her.
So I make sure he doesn’t.

🥕🥕🥕

For The Love of Greek Tragedy by Artimis Ash

There are no true words to describe my love of the one walking away back turned toward me. A winter affair, doomed to end when Spring came. My siblings had willed it. I’d argued, cried, lost.

Six months my hands wandered the length of his muscled body. Caressing his long silky hair shadowing his face, darker than night. Nuzzling my nose in his neck. Six months I’d ridden him daily, his strength bucking between my porcelain legs.

Now I stand on the shore of the river watching Demeter lead my stallion away, my chariot dead by the river Styx.

🥕🥕🥕

You’ve Come a Long Way Baby by Fiery Females

The knight on a white horse came riding through the wind and swept her to an unknown place….

The dream always ended at this point, as she wondered where.

Nights are less scary now. The horse is a Big Black one, not white, and the rider is fully in control of directions and destination.

She sleeps in peace and occasionally peeks at the rider’s face.

The mirror is always a lovely place to look in….

The knight on the white horse is trailing behind, wondering if he can keep up with her dreams.

You’ve come a long way, Baby!

🥕🥕🥕

Out to Grass by Ellen Best

The crop snapped his flank,

the pop spurred him on,

His acclaimed turn-of-foot

would deliver his swansong.
A snort a twitch

The winning post Past

At the final stroke

This race would be his last.
Put out to grass

Racing finished

Time to shine gone

No friends to race

Or bowls of mash

No roar of the crowd or

heads to clash.
In this meadow

🥕🥕🥕

And The Winner Is by Myrna Migala

One day not too long ago, a black horse was galloping through the forest.
Stopping suddenly because he heard a cherry tree speaking to its neighbor, the apple tree. “My fruit is much sweeter than yours,”

“You think so,” said the apple tree! The apple tree continued, “have you not heard it was the luscious allure of the apple that resulted in the fall of mankind.”

“That is just a fairy tale,” said the cherry tree.

“Is it?” The apple tree came back with an assertive voice.

The horse voiced, “even if a tale, the author chooses the apple.”

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Destination by Lindsey McPherson

“Hey! Amigos, the border is open, they’re not stopping us”.

The amigos, sized up the border from behind the cherry tree. “Hey, what’s the story?’

One replies “We are waiting for our onward destination!”

“See, we can cross!” They trot through the one-way gate.

“You, black horse, you’re a beauty, you’re going to Hollywood. Palomino, you’re strong, you’re going to Texas. White mane, over there with that family, you’re going to California.”

“What about me, I want Hollywood too?”

Rancher replied, “You’re a pigmy horse, a reject!”.

“So where am I going?”

”France! They prefer small steaks”.

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Elusive by Ann Edall-Robson

Around the dying campfire
old timers’s voices talk…

About the full moon
dancing through the clouds
and the vision of the big black horse
running hard across that ridge

Mares fleeing silhouettes
galloping towards the trees
the black horse nipping
at them, up there on that ridge

And when the moon sets
brining daybreak to its life
the ground is scarred with
hoof prints across that ridge

The stories of the elusive herd
be they truth or be they myth
does a big black horse still run free
up there on that ridge

…chasing wild horses
along that ridge

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Racing the Horse by Nancy Brady

It was the autumnal equinox, and the maple leaves had already begun to turn a bright red.

On his way home, Aloysius noticed a big black horse cantering in a field. He wanted to run alongside the horse, but he was too slow until one red leaf fell.

Stepping on it, Aloysius suddenly sped up. More red leaves fell from the maple trees onto Aloysius’s path; he ran faster and faster until he caught up to the horse.

The horse began to gallop in response to Aloysius’s speed. Joyfully running together, the horse and cat raced around the field.

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Weed by Simon

I’m high, on a cherry tree

could not explicit, this exceptional feeling

questioning! a way to forestall emotions

My emotions, It’s rolling it’s subsiding

Fallen from the tree, I felt no pain

I was on a Big black horse, vain.

It is stealing me from reality, that’s not vain!

Wherein this journey ends? the map says to keep going.

Am still High? I need no end, Must I get more high?

Feels right, weeds don’t hurt

Feels right, feelings don’t hurt

Feels right, to feel okay

Get high, don’t sigh,

🥕🥕🥕

Feeney’s Nightmare by Bill Engleson

Long after the dream ended, Feeney was troubled by it. Dream or nightmare, it was unusual. Sile had given him a middle-of-the-night shake, put her nose to his, said “You’re shouting.”
“Shouting what?” he had muttered. “I don’t shout.”
“No,” she had smiled, “you’re usually a quiet one when you’re dead to the world. Not this time, bucko.”
“So, what was I yelling?”
“Crikey, what was it? Mostly incoherent is what it was…no, it was…Mickey Mouse.”
“Really?”
“Or maybe Pig Pack Porous…?”
”That’s gobbledygook.”
“Okay. Maybe… Big Black Horse?”
“Mice! Pigs! Horses!”
“Maybe Tic Tac Dough?”
“Go to sleep.”

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Nightmare by Kerry E.B. Black

She comes every night with heavy tread. I cower beneath my covers, reduced to a pleading child. It doesn’t deter this manifestation. She looms, breathing heavy snorts of derision. Although I dread it, I know my part.

I climb through my consciousness and mount the beast, this collection of fears made flesh, shadow turned solid. She’ll rear and stomp while I cling, helpless.

Soon she’ll paw the carpet with impatient hooves.

She’ll never suspect I’ve been learning in the afternoons. Tonight I grip a surprise – a bridle.

It’s time I control my evenings.

I hear her heavy tread approach.

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Beauty on the Battlefield by Anne Goodwin

“This devil’s yours, Sambo. Kraut won’t see you coming in the dark.”

The stallion had a malicious glint in its eyes, but the glint in the captain’s was meaner. Walter had never ridden before; Beauty had never seen action. But they’d learn; they had to: hesitant horses were dinner; the deserter’s fate was worse.

Patience paid off. Walter soothed Beauty’s nerves on the battlefield; Beauty eased Walter’s yearning for home. Gassed, shell-shocked and wounded, Walter returned to St Kitts to die. He left his medal with Beauty in Flanders. It belonged to the horse as much as to him.

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Medicine Horse by D. Avery

A shadow softened the sharp rays that pinned him to the sunbaked ground. He opened his eyes to see the soft nostrils that blew a cooling caress; saw an unshod hoof of the big black horse that nudged him until he struggled onto its back.

‘What big black horse?’ the townsfolk asked.

Recovered, he would avenge himself against the men who’d left him to die. But their horses, still saddled, a boot hanging in a stirrup, clattered into town ahead of the big black horse.

‘What big black horse?’, the townsfolk asked, for there was no sign of it.

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Black Horse by Joanne Fisher

Jess and Cindy went out riding. It had been several weeks since Cindy’s miscarriage, and the gloom was still around her. Jess watched her anxiously. As they rode, a big black horse suddenly appeared in front of them. It was black as a storm cloud and it’s hoofbeats sounded like thunder. Instinctively Cindy chased it, with Jess following behind. Then the black horse disappeared, and Cindy brought her horse to a halt. Once Jess caught up with her, she found Cindy motionless and staring into space.

“What was that?” Jess asked.

“Some sort of phantom,” Cindy replied, feeling uneasy.

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The Headless Blacksmith by Gloria

The blacksmith was hanged on a tree that once stood tall and strong. Now, its branches hang low, weeping for him; an innocent man. Guilty only of seeking to castigate the cretin who violated his wife; the influential man who smoked cigars and drank fine whiskey.

The headless blacksmith rides the dark lanes on his big black horse. With no need for sight nor light, he circles the weeping tree before galloping into the night, hunting for the dissolute rich man—who has long since perished under the hooves of the black stallion. The blacksmith rides on; doesn’t rest.

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The Big Black Horse by Duane L Herrmann

My little sister wanted a horse. We had an empty barn and pastures. She promised to take care of it. She begged. Our father bought one and brought it home.

“It’s so big!” My sister gasped, gazing at the giant, black beast.

“Here,” said dad, handing her the brush.

Fearfully, she approached the animal, touched the brush to its side. The skin reacted by rippling and the horse swung its tail in her face. She screamed, dropped the brush, ran out to safety and never approached it again. It took our father a month to sell it.

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A Wild Ride by Charli Mills

Clods of dirt flew. A big black horse thundered through the apricot orchard, a small child perched bareback, her knees drawn up to his withers, tiny hands grasping long mane. A woman in a kerchief ran, bellowing like a calf separated from its mother. Saucy, the Australian Shepherd with one blue eye, zipped past the woman and caught up to the horse, nipping at his hind hooves. The dog turned the horse around at the one lone cherry tree planted at the orchard’s edge. He trotted smooth as butter back to the barn. The woman wheezed. The child grinned.

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Fair Play by D. Avery

“These aren’t like Lucienne’s team of Morgans.”

“No, they’re not Hope.”

“And they’re not like the horses we saw at the pull this morning.”

“They most certainly are not. These are fancy riding horses.”

Hope studied the high stepping horses in their fancy tack. “That one Daddy. The big black horse.”

“She’s a beauty, alright. And big. Are you sure?”

“Yes Daddy.”

“Do you want help getting on?”

“I can do it Daddy.” Stepping into the high stirrup and swinging herself into the saddle, Hope rode round and round while her father watched from the edge of the carousel.

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The Big Black Horse by Norah Colvin

The riders considered the available horses. Fergal chose the big black, Valentina the silver. They mounted their steeds and entered the arena. Fergal cantered to one end and

Valentina the other. They steadied their mounts and faced each other.

“Let the contest begin! Charge!”

The contestants galloped towards each other.

Nearing the centre of the arena, Fergal’s black steed balked, tossing him off. Valentina wheeled her horse around, dismounted and raced to Fergal’s side.

“You okay, Fergal?”

“It’s only a scratch.”

“I’ll get a plaster from Miss.”

“It’s okay. Let’s go again. Can I have silver this time?”

“Okay.”

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What’s the Chance by Rebecca Glaessner

“Black’s not moving-” he cried.

“It’s okay baby, I’ll fix it,” she said. She’d chosen Black. She should’ve seen the signs.

Never again. No more shortcuts.

She’d tried other horses, same dark fur, tall, friendly, but he always knew.

Her team arrived, collected Black and she returned to work, tireless and determined.

If anyone could solve it, she would.

A year on, Black’s fatal allergy to her son’s DNA finally revealed itself.

She watched Black nuzzle him. He hesitated, eyed her, then embraced Black fiercely, grinning through tears.

Regrown, genetics rewritten, memories transferred, Black never had to leave again.

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Escape by Connor Dickinson

1984.
Blackened Coal Miners defeated. Watched by latchkey kid.
I, chained with a rusty key around scrawny neck on pebble-dashed council estate. Sick of the one, stingy Weetabix or watered-down milk.
However, cleaner mum magicked fifty pence for electric meter.
Du du, darra du duuu . . . .
Thirty minutes of a long dull week, I became galloping Black Beauty blurring our 1980s, boxy plastic TV screen. My monochrome coat magicked to colour within a year, defying wood-veneer-surround.
A glossy stallion not delinquent-dobbin: thorough-bred, not horseshit.
Unbridled, not poverty confined.
Clothes fuzzed like static TV.

My field vision became green.

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The Magic of a Silly Brown Pup by Sue Spitulnik

When Michael started whistling the tune to “Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree,” Jester went into action. He raced from his master to the door and back several times while Michael donned his prosthetic legs. Once outside, Michael sang his own words to the catchy tune. “You’re a too tall mutt with floppy long ears. You walk in the trees with me. Woo-hoo. Woo-hoo. My chair stays home, where many think it should be. Woo-hoo. You’re as much to me as any big black horse could be. Woo-hoo. My silly brown pup runs along with me. Woo-hoo. Woo-hoo.”

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Horse by Saifun Hassam

Along the rocky shores of Lake Kiefer, one boulder stood out, with its obsidian color and unique contours. Old George called it the Big Black Horse. Sunlight lit up Horse’s dark eyes in his proud, uplifted head.

Old George and Horse became friends decades ago when George and his children came for fishing and camping. He was surprised how quickly the youngsters “adopted” Horse, leaning comfortably on his back. Horse listened to the children confiding secrets, and he kept their secrets.

Old George died at 90. In a powerful earthquake, Horse tumbled as a pebble disappearing into the lake.

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Blizzards Of The Mind by Hugh W. Roberts

Why does Richard’s memory of a big, black horse take him in the wrong direction?

***
“Do you remember the day we first met?”

“Why do you ask?”

“No reason. I’m curious.”

Adrian watched Richard go into deep thought.

“Did it involve a big, black horse?”

“It did, yes!”

You were riding it through a snow-covered field during a blizzard one Christmas. You and that horse stood out so much,” laughed Richard.

Smiling to himself, Adrian closed his eyes and recalled their first meeting. On Brighton beach, he watched Richard riding a big, black horse on the carousel one summer.

The early stages of Alzheimer’s were causing another blizzard in the mind of his husband.

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Steady Gallops by Ruchira Khanna

Being an empty nester has more pros than cons. The house is cleaner than before, with not much on the to-do list. The driving from one class to another is bygone. The constant chattering and the back n fourth arguments are on silent mode.

Over the years, we’ve taught him the values of Life by discriminating right from wrong and emphasized discipline, respect, and hard work.
Now, it’s time to sit back and watch the show.
Hopefully, it’ll be a steady rhythmic ride where the kiddo will learn new things and move forward with steady gallops like a stallion.

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Dreaming of Horsefeathers or Big Medicine? by JulesPaige

Long day began at getting up early to take the grand to school. After that I visited my little free library and dropped off egg cartons and vases for the farmer’s daughter, that has a stand in her aunt’s yard across from the Little Free library. Then together we stopped to visit a friend who was moving. We stopped at a yarn store to use a gift certificate.

We then were meeting another friend for lunch. I saw them. Many horses on the way home… Maybe we could go riding this autumn?

suspended
single summer day
by a nap

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Another Horse Story by FloridaBorne

“Not another story about a big black horse,” the editor of a prestigious publishing company said. “How many does that make this week?”

“Six,” Marsha said, one of the employees he called his lesser editors.

“Does no one have an iota of creativity?”

“All the good writers are self-publishing,” Marsha said. “When you gave your regular authors their walking papers, that’s what they did. Look at the non-fiction best sellers.”

Reviewing a list on Marsha’s computer, he exclaimed, “How to Publish Your Book and Keep Most of Your Profits!?”

“They’re not horsing around,” Marsha said, chuckling at the joke.

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Horse Tails by D. Avery

“A black horse Pal? Seems anonymous.”

“Think ya mean ominous.”

“Did ya catch its name?”

“It didn’t say.”

“An anonymous black horse. Could be a portent.”

“Ev’ry prompt’s important.”

“Well, I’ve called on Logatha LeGume fer this one. She knows horse magic.”

“Logatha knows horse magic?”

“Oui, Pal. Some people read tea leaves, I read horse muffins. Keed, dees ees fresh from da black horse?”

“Yep. How’s it lookin’ Logatha?”

“I see horse tales in da future.”

“Ya kin see that from what’s passed?”

“Really Kid? This is horse puckey!”

“I sense you weel step in eet.”

“Aw, shift!”

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September 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

September silence settles over the Keweenaw with misty rain. Pockets of tourists remain but the din of extra folks cruising the peninsula subsides. The woods exhale, the waves churn, and when the clouds part in the cool of night, the Milky Way burns bright.

With the equinox (fall in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern) lining up next week, I felt the call of the wild to bring balance to all my professional pursuits. A camping trip was in order, a return to the sandy side of the Keweenaw.

Packing my car required a choice — camp kitchen, tent and comforts or kayak? Alas I could not fit it all. Comforts, by the way, include an array of layers for fluctuating temperatures, pillows, camp chair and firewood. My kayak stayed behind this trip with a promise to glide the Bete Grise sloughs before autumn leaves fall from their trees.

My friend, C, joined me at the old mink farm in Schoolcraft Township where a rustic campground offers ten sites along Big Traverse Bay not far from the desolate black sands of Gay. On an arc of golden sand, we set up at campsite #1. A family occupied #4, and the memory of a summer visit still warm in my veins lingered at #5. It was a quiet campground weekend, perfect for rituals of release.

C is a grief counselor who sits with people’s deepest losses and excruciating emotional pain. She led community workshops at her Ripley Falls Home of Healing before the 2018 Father’s Day flood and landslide hit her house. It’s livable but far from restored. Her backyard is filled with rubble from the landslide. When she was ready to begin workshops, the Pandemic hit. We’ve experienced parallel disasters, hers natural and mine veteran caused.

Together, we’d form a weekend retreat for two to release the trauma of homelessness and open up to the hope for a better future. We both live with uncertainty instead of stability on the home-front and yet we both work to help others find purpose in healing and writing. We needed to find our own healing path.

On Friday, after my last class at Finlandia for the week, we arrived to sunshine, wind, and crashing waves. We set up camp and I got into a battle with the ants. That entire spit of sand must be an ant metropolis! I struggled to find a flat spot to perch my tent without getting swarmed. Finally, we found a truce and I pitched my tent in the trail to the beach. Once settled, I headed to the waves. The frothy rollers reared up and the sun shone through like a lens. I tried to wade but water pummeled my legs with sand and riptides rippled beneath my feet.

That night we ate kale salads and cauliflower soup next to a fire that danced in the wind. Our campsite had a deep metal fire ring on a sandy knoll out of the trees and we watched it closely. The brighter the stars got, the less the wind blew. Finally, we had nothing but embers and shooting stars. We expected rain the next day and we decided to read in our individual tents until it eased.

We woke up to sunshine, not a rain cloud in the sky. That’s Lady Lake Superior’s doing. Hard to predict her impact. She was calm and inviting that day, showing ripples in the sand beneath her water where she had danced forcibly the day before. Many ripples held small stones. I bobbed in the water and then floated above the curious little pieces of quartz and sandstone. Leg cramps drove me to seek the warm sand of shore and I reluctantly left my mindless float.

Sand flies found my ankles until I buried my feet in the sand. Ants ran every direction in a frenzy of gathering food. I began to wonder if their scurrying meant a rough winter ahead. But like most things in my life at this moment, I’m trying to stick to the here and now. What is coming will unfold with or without worry. It was sunny and ants were foraging. Nothing to be concerned about. With curiosity, I watched them.

Later that day we held our ritual of release, naming emotions and circumstances to let go. We chanted with a singing bowl, and C’s dachshund howled, the higher our pitch. We smudged with sage and built cairns of our tiny collected rocks. We journaled and fixed beans for dinner, burning birch bark letters of release. Then the rain came. We retreated to our tents. Despite the beauty of the day, I found it difficult to shake the sadness.

Raindrops.

Raindrops.

Raindrops.

Each a meditation. Each a prayer.

And then a cotton candy sunrise broke through the mist and clouds. The rain stopped. The Lake let out misty breath caught by a warming sun of pink and gold. The sadness lifted but I felt no joy. Just emptiness. Until the Big Black Horse arrived.

At a particular moment, I decided to walk not to the beach, but rather to the road. I had heard the gronking of sandhill cranes and followed their call, hoping for one last sighting before they left. C and her dog still slept. The other campers had left, maybe the night before when the rain came. No one was around. No one. Then the distant rumble of a truck. I could see a trailer hitched and surprised it was not an RV but a livestock hauler. When I woman stepped out of the truck, my heart soared.

To me, it was a Captain Marvel moment. The one where Carol Danvers decides to rise…again. I took it as a sign to rise and claim my joy. I had released and now I was about to receive. A new door opened. In fact, I asked if I could help open that door. To the trailer, that is. She said yes and I helped her with a new horse and an enthusiastic golden retriever pup. She was experienced and courageous, taking the horse to the lake for introductions. I followed with the pup.

Meanwhile, C woke up and ventured to the beach. She told me later she saw a most beautiful sight — two women, a Big Black Horse and a dog. She wanted to wake me up, thinking I needed to see this vision. She had her phone so she filmed it for me before realizing I was one of the women.

Charli Finds a Woman with a Big Black Horse

There’s a reason the Indigenous call horses “big medicine.” You have to build trust with a horse. The woman I met was dedicated to that, leading her horse to water, walking her in the sand, familiarizing her with new territory. Eventually, she mounted the Big Black Horse and and walked the campground. I secured her dog in her truck, told her to honk when she got back if she needed a hand loading her horse. And off they rode.

I was beaming. Horse medicine is a always a good sign to me.

It’s been a good week at school. I danced for one of my classes. They laughed. I promised them a “sun” day on Monday. Weather Predictors are predicting sunny and 81 degrees F. I’m scheduling class outside on the green to read or work on research on their laptops. I will give them yoga and poetry (Joy Harjo) breaks! My other class shared their 99 word stories. It was interesting to note that the number one fear students expressed was that they “did it wrong.” I’m teaching them that recognizing their differences from the norms is the beginning of realizing their unique voice.

Tomorrow, I’m wearing a dress (again) and starting to get used to it. We get stiff when stuck in patterns. We need stability and framework but we also need flexibility and freedom to grow. I might dance again. Twirl my skirt. If I do, this is the song, I’ll be stepping out to:

September 16, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a Big Black Horse. It can be a horse, a metaphor or an interpretation of KT Tunstall’s “Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree.” Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 21, 2021. 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.

A Wild Ride by Charli Mills

Clods of dirt flew. A big black horse thundered through the apricot orchard, a small child perched bareback, her knees drawn up to his withers, tiny hands grasping long mane.  A woman in a kerchief ran, bellowing like a calf separated from its mother. Saucy, the Australian Shepherd with one blue eye, zipped past the woman and caught up to the horse, nipping at his hind hooves. The dog turned the horse around at the one lone cherry tree planted at the orchard’s edge. He trotted smooth as butter back to the barn. The woman wheezed. The child grinned.

🥕🥕🥕

The Cooking Show

Time to find out what’s cooking! Lights, camera, start the stove…

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Witch’s Brew with Morgana Blackwing by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Welcome to this week’s broadcast of Witch’s Brew. Please welcome our guest, Morticia LeFay. This barista-witch knows how to mix her infusions!”

“Thank you, Morgana. This week, we’re brewing up a new concoction called Writer’s Essence.”

“Sounds perfect for all the writers out there.”

“That’s right, Morgana. It’s guaranteed to stop writer’s block!”

“How’s it made?”

First, bring a kettle of water to boil. Drop in a pinch of periwinkle, a shot of vodka, and some lemon juice. Let the tincture cool. Next, set your intention. Drink up!”

“Thanks for stopping by witches! To your health, bottoms up! Wassail.”

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Seabright Port Newsletter, June 1963 by Saifun Hassam

“On the first Saturday of June, Seabright Port overflows with visitors from nearby towns. It’s time to check out the Teflon Kitchen Exhibition and run in the 10-mile Teflon Kitchen Race. No one knows how the race got renamed “Teflon Egg Race.” Every year all the posters around town vanish with the visitors at day’s end.

The Seabright Seafood Omelette cooking show draws over five hundred entries. Five of the region’s best chefs are the judges. Fifty people are selected by a random drawing for the contest, more popularly called “The Teflon Stuffed Omelette Contest.” It’s a tough contest!”

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Debt to be Paid by Rebecca Glaessner

Radiation reached his skin through UV-resistant clothes.

“Four-hundred-thirteen billion credits for today’s contestant! If he survives…”

A hidden crowd cheered.

He retrieved his only permitted secret ingredient with a blistered hand.

“What’s today’s contestant chosen for us?”

Blinding light. The crowd gasped.

The glare receded and he staggered forward, balancing a platter, alien delicacies piled high.

“I… think he’s done it!”

Thunderous applause.

“Come. Into the shade. There. Tell us, what’s your secret?”

“I saved… a Moru life… once,” he wheezed, stumbled, “they owed me- Ma! I can finally fix the air-con now!”

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Missed It by Ann Edall-Robson

“What channel is it on?”

“Seventeen.”

“That’s the cooking channel. We want local.”

“It’s being televised on the big network.”

“You sure?”

“Yes! Your channel surfing is getting us no where.”

“Seventeen?”

“We are going to miss it. Their group is on first.”

Flashes of shows popped up on the screen one after another after another.

“Stop. Back up. Whoa! This is the one. They’re at commercial. Don’t go to another channel!”

“And now we return to the teen division. The judges have made their decision.”

“We missed the beginners. Why do you insist on not sharing the remote?”

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Rachel’s Cooking Show by Joanne Fisher

“Welcome back.” Rachel said smiling at the camera. “Today I’m making my no fail chocolate cake. In the last segment I mixed the cocoa, flour, and baking powder. Now I’m going to cream the butter and sugar. A microwave is good for softening the butter, but make sure you don’t melt it…”

They looked at her through the glass window.

“What do you suppose she’s doing?” asked one,

“She thinks she’s hosting a cooking show. A rather unfortunate case.” the other said, as they watched her beating an imaginary bowl. They then moved on to observe the next patient.

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Weighty Tales by Reena Saxena

I couldn’t believe it was her.

The eyes shone bright as ever, but the rest of her was lost under pounds of flesh. Yet, the famous hostess of a cooking show attracted attention.

She starts with a story.

“I dated an overweight guy and wanted him to lose weight. It did not happen, but I married him and got drawn to the world of good food.

So, here’s a dish we devoured on our first date…”

I’d rejected the same rich guy, but ended up being overweight myself. There are weightier matters to think of, while dating a man.

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Annoyed by Simon

What the rock is cooking?

Rock is cooking? is that a dish name?

Rocks don’t cook, yes it is a dish name.

Stares blankly… can we skip that question, what are you cooking for our show?

Cooking a delicious meat to eat.

How do you cook?

Obviously, In the fire?

I mean what style are you going to cook?

A style that needs to cook well.

How do you like it to be cooked?

I like it to be cooked well.

You know what? I quit! Channel, find a new anchor!

Are we stopping a boat now?

God!!! No!!

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Fishermen’s Stew by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“The first part of your feast begins with a kettle of cold mountain water, placed over the fire like so.” Sonja swung the kettle arm over the flames. “Tussen Takk for hauling water from the waterfall, Narn.”

Narn bobbed his head and blushed, then sat back on his haunches.

“It’s best to start with root vegetables, as I’ve done here. They take awhile to soften, so adjust by size of the protein source,” she continued. “What d’you think? When do we add the protein?”

“Later. They’re so skinny.”

Sonja nodded approval.

The tiny fishermen, wide-eyed, sweated in their cage.

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Cooking Show by Robert Kirkendall

“Today we’ll be cooking octopus,” the chef said to the camera. “The key is to cook it quickly on a high heat so it retains moisture and doesn’t get too chewy.” He held his hand over a skillet. “Our cooking surface is now hot, so let’s get it out.”

He opened a basket, then an octopus suddenly jumped out and wrapped its legs around the chef’s face. He struggled to pull it off as he thrashed around the studio, his screams muffled. He finally pried it off and the octopus quickly crawled away.

“But first, make sure it’s dead!”

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Cooked Rat by Doug Jacquier

The famous chef strolled onto the TV kitchen set and, after he’d waved the adoring response of the audience down, he announced he would be showing them how to make perfect ratatouille.

Suddenly, a woman stood up in the audience and yelled, ‘No. Today you’re going to make perfect amends. Sixteen years ago you got me pregnant and promptly disappeared, leaving me to raise our son alone.’

She turned to the young man seated next to her and said ‘Stand up, James’. As the boy stood, she turned back to the chef and said ‘Meet your new apprentice, Gordon.’

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Intercultural Cooking Contest by Anne Goodwin

I hope she doesn’t cook curry, thought Mary, offering the other finalist her hand. The smell!

Please don’t cook beef, thought Manju, greeting her rival with palms joined as in prayer.

Winking at the audience, the compere showed them their separate kitchens. Manju gasped at the oak cupboards, the marble worktops, the built-in stove. Mary gasped at the water pump, the stack of firewood, the grey clouds above.

Defeated by the controls on the cooker, Manju diced raw onion into yoghurt, garnished with coriander. Mary grated raw carrot into cream. Wisdom worth more than money, both felt they’d won.

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Tough Cooking by Kerry E.B. Black

Mostly bare cupboards, yet Rayne needed to feed her hungry family of five kids, plus herself and her husband. She pulled cans of tuna from the back of a low shelf. Butter and cream from the fridge. Peas and herbs from the garden. Rayne imagined herself on a cooking show. In her “basket” she found few luxuries, yet she wished to wow the judges. She whipped up a tuna noodle casserole and sampled the finished product. She smiled and set the table.

“Dinner!”

Family trickled to the dining table, grumbling. “Yuck! I don’t want this!”

“These judges’re tough,” she thought.

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Cake in the Pan by Norah Colvin

Deidre laughed, sang and clapped on cue at her first-ever real live Christmas pantomime, until … the clowns prepared the cake. Deidre knew how to make cakes — she’d made them with her mum. The clowns obviously didn’t — tipping more flour over each other than into the pan, splashing the milk, and cracking in eggs, shells and all. The audience roared as the clowns placed a lid on the pan, shook it vigorously, then tipped out a magnificent cake. When offered a slice, Deidre folded her arms and clamped her lips. A cake made like that could never taste good.

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On Course by D. Avery

It was a marvel what she produced in such a short time and with so little space, just a narrow counter top and a butcher block kitchen island.

She commandeered the small kitchen, flour clouding the roiling tempest of her activity. Then, while the oven did its transformative work she swabbed the surfaces and restored calm as she stowed the dishes and debris from her preparations. Snapping a table cloth over the butcher block, she displayed her confections. There was Black Forest cake, lava cake, and even rocky road ice cream. The butcher block was an enchanting desserted island.

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A Hare-brained Idea by Sue Spitulnik

Normally Michael had other band members along when he drove the Veterans Music Van to the VA. Today he needed silence to brainstorm. The Irish Dancers needed money so they could attend a competition. How could he get enough people involved so it wouldn’t be a hardship on any wallet? His mind wandered to his stomach. He hadn’t eaten breakfast. Food! What if they had a cook-off? Each group he belonged to could make the same meal using their own recipes. Voting for favorite dishes could be done with dollars. Cooks would get ribbons, and the dancers the money.

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Able Canning-Celebrity Chef by Bill Engleson

“Louie, caught your new show last night. Breakfast with Bernie.”

“That was episode two…you missed the pilot. What did you think?”

“No, I caught the pilot. Porridge! He ate porridge, Louie.”

“Bernie’s all about healthy breakfasts.”

“Last night he ate Gruel. Gruel is porridge.”

“No, it’s porridge-lite. There are innumerable porridge possibilities.”

“I don’t know. Shoulda went with Able Canning. The Dark Web’s feasting on his cooking show.“

“We looked into it.”

“It’s got fantastic numbers. Excellent audience participation.”

“Yeah. Once. Then they become filet mignon.”

“Earth’s overpopulated.”

“True enough. Still…”

“Food for thought, Louie. Food for thought.”

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It’s What’s for Dinner by Michael Fishman

Everyone wrote about the zombie apocalypse, but no one really believed it could happen.

Surprise!

I won’t bore you with viral genetics; I’ll just say that as SARS-CoV-2 continued to mutate over 103 years, the infected – 94% of the population – didn’t suffer the same as their ancestors, but instead became zombies.

A world of 10.8 billion zombies, all of them interested in different culinary traditions because there’re only so many ways to cook human flesh.

***

“Huuhnee, please turn on TeeVee?”

“Uhh kay, sweetie.”

“If you dish not cut it, chefs. Youuu wuhl be chopped. Open baskets now.

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The Cooking Show Bombs by Charli Mills

Carl chewed on his bottom lip. The basket revealed to him contained squid, maple syrup, goat cream, and volcanic black rice. The crowded rotunda erupted as the host of the MOA Cooking Challenge explained the secret ingredients. Sharon, fellow chef-restauranteur in downtown Minneapolis, gave Carl the side-eye. The squid. How in the world…? Ink. Black. Rice. Cream. But goat? He released his lip and ran to the pantry nearly colliding with Li Sun of the Golden Dragon Sushi Bar. She’d be his competition this round. Sharon froze on stage, flummoxed. Then, security rushed the stage. Saved by a bomb.

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Chef of the Hour by FloridaBorne

Jill yawned. Her best friend Kara had free tickets to “Chef of the Hour” and wanted company.

Four chefs battled for the $10,000 prize each week? Boring.
Why was there one empty station?

“Jill Jones,” the host said. “You’re our monthly mystery chef. If you can beat out these three, you’ll win $50,000!”

She walked to the station, and waited for the bell. Thirty minutes later, she’d perfectly created her mother’s chicken pot pie recipe. An hour later, she’d won!

Kara ran on stage, expecting a hug.

Jill glared at her. “Was the deception worth losing your best friend?”

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GBBS by Nancy Brady

Weekly, Julia watched mesmerized as twelve amateur bakers were whittled down to the best baker during this reality cooking show. Each baker was tasked with making baked goods based upon the theme.

There were three timed challenges: the Signature Bake, a special themed recipe that the contestant was comfortable preparing; the Technical Challenge, which consisted of one of the judge’s tricky recipes. Ingredients and minimal instructions were given to each baker, prepared, and then blindly judged; and the Showstopper, an over-the-top concoction.

Julia was most impressed with the unique flavor combinations, the imaginative designs, and each baker’s baking skills.

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Baking Her Way to Fame by Ellen Best

After watching The Great British Bake-Off, Sarah decides to self-tape her efforts to launch a cooking show. The next Nigella, she mused Mary Berry of East Anglia. She planned and tried recipes for days hoping to perfect a bake that would stun and make her go viral on Instagram or Tick-tock. Eventually, Sarah settled on simplicity after all, just how hard can a limoncello cream stuffed choux balls wedding cake, a Croquembouche be.A new apron couldn’t disguise the abject failure of her bake. She now is a star on tick-tock as ‘The Comedy Baker.”

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Hosting Facts and Fictions (in the Early Iron Chef Kitchens) by JulesPaige

“Allez! Cuisine!” or “Go! Kitchen!” was the instructional lead of a favorite cooking show “Iron Chef”. Katsuta Shigekatsu was an actor who played Chairman (Takeshi) Kaga. Kaga loved musicals; starred as leads in the Japanese theatrical company Gekidan Shiki as ‘Jesus’ and ‘Tony’

Mark Dacascos (born in Oahu, Hawaii) hosted the American version and was introduced as Kaga’s nephew. The only thing they had in common was that they were both actors. Apparently Mark did do the opening flips for that cooking show. Dacoscos could still flip in 2009 at the age of forty five! But could they cook?

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More or Less by Myrna Migala

“Deciding what recipe to donate for the recipe book; while encouraged to give our very best!”

“My opinion, share your mother’s muffin-tins “tatoe-bacon” recipe, and while your add it, whip a batch for the freezer for an occasional snack.”

“Good idea, since the ingredients are not written in stone, more like less of this and more of that, I’ll note the measurements.”

Mix 1lb of hash brown frozen shredded potatoes
one grated onion
one cup bacon-bits
two cans evaporated milk
three eggs
1/2 cup of flour
salt and pepper to taste
pour into muffin-tins bake at 375

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A Tiny Flaw by Ruchira Khanna

To the lightly roasted course semolina, add one cup of lukewarm milk.

Allow it to cook on a slow flame.

Once it’s semi-solid, add half a cup of granulated sugar.

Give it a vigorous stir before turning off the gas.

Now, I’m going to serve the audience.

I said with a wide smile as I approached them with serving bowls garnished with sliced almonds.

With fingers crossed, I watched them take a spoonful of my sweet dish into their mouth.

They ejected the morsel in unison.

“Major flaw!” one declared.

“You’ve put salt instead of sugar.” the other screeched.

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Light Charcoal Action by Annette Rochelle Aben

There is something special about charcoal-grilled hot dogs. Frank made sure he rolled them for even browning. He loved to use the grill. The taste of the food, along with the oohs and ahhs from hungry diners made his day.

Poised and ready for the first taste was Zeus, a patient, playful Rottie! His head followed the action of his master’s hands in syncopated rhythm. It was as though he was willing Frank to drop something on the ground.

Aware he was being watched, Frank laughed, “Gee, Zeus, I didn’t realize I was putting on a show here!”

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Pot Luck (Part I) by D. Avery

“Whatcha cookin’, Kid?”

“Makin’ beans fer Ernie an’ Wanda’s potluck gatherin’ Pal. Problem is, I got wind that Pepe’s also makin’ beans. An’ so’s Shorty. I cain’t no way compete with Shorty’s beans.”

“Is it a competition?”

“No. Jist a frien’ly gatherin’. But my beans is dif’rent. Folks’ll compare ‘em ta the other beans.”

“An’ they’ll notice thet each bean dish’s dif’rent, each good in its own way, reflectin’ the maker’s hist’ry even. Folks’ll be glad ta sample ‘em all. Kinda like the buffet a flash fiction responses thet Shorty puts out ever week.”

“So it’s all good?”

“Yep.”

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Pot Luck (Part II) by D. Avery

“So whut’s some a the others bringin’ ta the table, Kid?”

“Wanda’s makin’ her fire-in—the-hole chili. Ernie is a course makin’ his special cookies. Frankie says she cain’t deliver on cookin’ but will bring olives.”

“She did thet last time. Ate one a Ernie’s cookies an’ spent the rest a the night in a starin’ contest with one a her olives.”

“Ha! Yep.
Heard Logatha’s bakin’ up loaves a brown bread. What about you Pal?”

“Think I’ll roast corn over the fire.”

“There’s always a good fire ta set aroun’.”

“Thet’s where we share our stories.”

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