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Pure Michigan Lit

S.M.A.G. Kindness Among Bloggers

S.M.A.G., Norah Colvin, @NorahClovin

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Saddle Up Saloon; Bar Hire

Saloon

“Well howdy, Ma’am. Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon. Ma name’s Pal O’ Round, an’ you must be here about the job interview.”

“Job interview? No, I—”

“What we need aroun’ here is someone with a varied skillset, kin do lotsa diff’rent things. Fer instance, say a light bulb needed changin’. Would ya be able ta change it?”

“I could try, but the light bulb would have to truly desire change. You see, I’m a psychologist.”

“I don’t see whut bein’ a cyclist has ta do with anythin’. Lotta folks aroun’ here ride hosses, but all types is welcome, an’ it seems ta keep ya fit, so if ya wanna spin yer wheels, thet’s fine.”

“Psychologist, not cyclist! I was both, but I haven’t cycled since my bike was nicked and I haven’t psychologised officially for ten years. But, like riding a bike, you never completely forget how to do it.”

“No wonder yer lookin’ fer a job. An’ yer background could be useful… mebbe ya’d like ta meet Kid. Kid? Huh… Kid must still be down in the cellar, went down there ta bring up more cream soda fer the bar. Shouldn’ta taken this long. Wanna follow me down there, see what’s got Kid all tied up?”

“Um, I’d rather not go down into the cellar.”

“I git thet. ‘Fraid a dark places?”

“Afraid of getting locked up down there, certainly. I could tell you a story about a man—”

“Gol dang it, Pal, somethin’s nibblin’ at the leaves on my little poet tree!”

“There’s Kid. Shush Kid, I’m in the middle a conductin’ an innerview. This woman here is retired an’ has nuthin’ ta do so she’s lookin’ fer a job.”

“That is not the case! I— wait. Nibbles? Let me see this poet tree. Ah ha. See the slime trail? This is the work of… slugs!”

“Slugs? Oh no! Pal, where kin we find a slug-slayer in these parts?”

“Excuse me, but I am a slug-slayer.”

“I don’t think we need ta continue this here innerview. Yer hired!”

“I’ll help you with your slug problem, but I assure you, I am not looking for a job! I keep very busy. For example, being a ranger.”

“A ranger! Thet’s perfect fer this place. It’ll make folks feel even safer as they explore the Ranch.”

“Ranch? No, I tramp the moors.”

“More whut? We got plenny a ever’thin’ right here. Now let’s head back inta the saloon, git things finalized. Git ya settled inta yer new job.”

“I am not taking the job. I can’t stay here. I would miss my chorus.”

“Courses? Shorty’s takin’ courses too! Somethin’ ‘bout ropin’ an’ ridin’ I think. Yep, yer gonna fit right in… uh, what’d ya say yer name was?”

“I didn’t say. Anne.”

“And what?”

“Anne. Anne Goodwin.”

“Good one? Ya really ain’t said much a anythin’. Whyn’t ya tell us a little ‘bout yersef. A little story mebbe, if’n yer the story tellin’ type. If yer gonna tend bar here yer gonna have ta be if not conversant, at least anecdotal.”

“Pal, ya shouldn’t be convertin’ no one, jist let folks be. An’ I reckon if ya’d shut yer piehole, Pal, she might git some words a her own out.”

“Thank you Kid. I’m actually looking for three fathers.”

“Fathers? You a Catholic?”

“Not anymore. No, I’m looking for the dads from the e-book freebie I put together. I heard they’d gathered at the bar to swap stories.”

“Reckon they could be here swappin’ stories an’ bendin’ an elbow. Thet ain’t a problem is it?”

“It’s fine. Maybe, I don’t know. It’s never happened before. I’m a little concerned because their daughters are feeling neglected, but then they felt neglected already, at least Crystal Tipps did, although she’s too young to know any different and Hayley’s shown she can take care of herself…”

“Whoa, stop, back up. Yer kinda ramblin’ there Ranger.”

“I’m thinking.”

“Looks painful.”

“I’m thinking these guys might be able to help each other. Jasmine’s dad might have some advice for Crystal Tipps’ dad especially. Or just listening to each other could be therapeutic.”

“Yer lookin’ ta set up a ther’py group?”

“No, like I said, I don’t do that anymore. I write novels and short stories. And a blog about reading and writing with about ten book reviews a month.”

“Well we sure like stories aroun’ here. Yep, ya def’nitely got the job, Ranger.”

“I told you, I’ve got enough to do. Oh, wait, I could pop in occasionally with some reading recommendations. You could give me a zero-hours contract. In fact, I’m free tomorrow. I wouldn’t mind sharing my thoughts on lockdown literature.”

“We could set something up for you down in the cellar.”

“I’d be much more comfortable in the open air, thank you.”

“Alrighty, suit yersef. Reckon we don’t need ta know what’s unnerneath thet.”

 

“Jeez, Pal, I wunner why she’s so skittish about the cellar.”

“Dunno, Kid, but I figger we’ll see thet one agin real soon.”

“Mebbe. Read any good books lately?”

 

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, was published in May 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity, was published in November 2018. A former clinical psychologist, Anne is also a book blogger with a special interest in fictional therapists.

 Anne juggles her sentences while walking in the Peak District National Park (where she is also a volunteer ranger), only to lose them battling the slugs in her vegetable plot. As a break from finding her own words, she is an avid reader and barely-competent soprano in an all-comers choir.

 Her column on lockdown literature should be live on April 7th via this link. (Hopefully!)

 Subscribe to Anne’s newsletter for a free e-book of prize-winning short stories, Somebody’s Daughter.

Annethology Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com

Annecdotal Blog: annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal

Twitter @Annecdotist.

 

Pal & Kid are free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch. They never tuck tail, but their tales are corralled as Ranch Yarns at ShiftnShake. If asked, they will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. Please let these yahoos know what you think, and stop in at the Saddle Up anytime for a virtual good time.

April 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

The best pizza I ever made was in my BBQ smoker back in Idaho. I smeared a zesty tomato sauce on a dough crust, covered it with grated mozzarella cheese, Canadian bacon, bacon crumbles, sliced black olives, and pineapple tidbits. Then I placed it inside the smoker over applewood chips and charcoal. I ate the results outside, overlooking Elmira Pond and the mergansers that summered there.

Later, the Hub and I landed on Mars, which was the red-hued desert landscape of southern Utah. The local pizza parlor had all the right fixings but no IPA beer. It wasn’t until then that I realized I preferred my pizza with IPA. I spent the remainder of my time in Utah, dreaming of beer and pizza.

I’m not really a pizza connoisseur. I remember my mom being the one who loved pizza, and a special trip across the border into Nevada as a child might mean getting to order pizza at Sharkey’s. She’d be sure to box up what we didn’t eat because she loved cold pizza for breakfast. That’s not something I picked up from her.

The Hub had his favorite place to go in his hometown. I’d order linguisa (Portuguese sausage) and jalapenos on my half, and he’d add mushrooms and black olives on his. It’s been so many years since I’ve had linguisa on a pizza I can’t remember why I liked it so much. These days, we like a thin crust Mediterranean pizza from downtown.

Well, not these new days, although I hear you can still order delivery.

Pizza sounds normal to me right now. Maybe it’s not food my body needs, but my mind takes comfort in its familiarity. They say apple pie is all-American. I’d say it’s a pizza pie, that is. It doesn’t matter what style, America loves pizza. Is that sentiment universal? Are there other foods that are pizza-like?

It’s been another strange week. I went for a walk last night as the setting sun lingered late, and the cold air bit at my face. The snow has pulled away from the curbs, melting more and more each day. Last weekend it rained, cleansing the grit of winter that accumulates. I have still not adjusted to walking dog-less. I turned off Roberts Street, and in my mind’s eye, I could see Bobo pulling ahead like she did our final walk together in a snowstorm.

Our dogs loved pizza crust. I think they would have loved pizza slices, but they were never offered the sampling. I’m not fond of the crust, so I was known to slip it to them. One of our daughter’s dogs, a rescue, must have tasted pizza because he’d bark at us any time we brought one home, demanding a slice.

Today, I met up with my daughter online in a video chat room for her work. She’s working from home, including teaching dance classes. I got to work with her officially, using her as my Michigan Tech source to find a contact for an article I wrote. She’s a science writer in the university’s marketing department, the director of research news. I needed a researcher to talk to about facemasks.

In three days, I interviewed five people, researched primary sources like the CDC and WHO, quoted a tweet from John Hopkins Center for Health Security, located public domain photos, arranged a photoshoot through my livingroom window, and wrote a 2,000-word article originally called, Covering Our Faces in the Keweenaw. Tonight I spent the evening back and forth with my editor, fact-checking and clarifying.

It’s an exciting article for several reasons. First, we are keeping pace with national reporting on facemasks. Second, it’s my way to get involved with my Keweenaw Strong community that has once again come together in a crisis. This time, though, we are all keeping our distances. We have local sewists teaming with local industry.

The sewing circles are working hard to prepare our area hospitals (we have four) and nursing homes for a surge in COVID-19. People are sewing 10,000 masks for medical workers and the medically vulnerable. Local industry is manufacturing aluminum pieces to go into the top of the mask to shape it to cover a person’s nose. Michigan Tech is using their labs to 3D-print face shields to go over the masks, as well as ventilators and other medical devices.

Because we are all under stay at home orders, sharing materials shows innovation, too. Tech is considered essential, but they are supported by those like my daughter, who are coordinating communication from home. The sewists have set up drop off boxes at essential businesses or porch delivery systems, coordinating with those who are traveling for essential reasons. My neighbor sits alone in her closed sewing machine store, working eight hours a day, making facemasks.

The Michigan Police caught wind of the efforts and requested facemasks for their officers in colors that match their uniforms. The sheriff’s department requested brown. This morning I saw my mail carrier drop off mail, wearing one of my neighbor’s masks. We are covering our faces and sharing the mantra: Protect you; protect me; protect the community.

If you are interested in the open-source designs, go to Maker Hub. Open-source is a system of creating new items such as facemasks to share freely and to encourage makers to improve upon the designs. It’s a massive collaboration of engineers, researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. The sewing circles are doing what they’ve probably have always done throughout time — collaborate to help protect their community, one stitch at a time.

American ingenuity is as amazing as pizza pie.

April 2, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes pizza. It can be an original pizza pie (or slice) or something pizza-like. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 7, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Pizza Exchange by Charli Mills

Rosa lived with her parents in a single-wide behind the barn. Her mama hummed as she pounded tortillas and mashed a fresh pot of simmering pinto beans. After school, Rosa often went to the big house to study with Becky Ainsworth. That’s where she tasted frozen mini pizzas that left an essence of cardboard in Rosa’s mouth. One Friday, Becky suggested studying at Rosa’s home. Quickly she whispered to her mama, “Becky likes pizza.” Her mama smiled, and fried two corn tortillas crisp and flat, adding mashed pintos, olives and queso. Becky’s eyes widened. “Best pizza ever,” she said.

Taking Charge

An attribute of leadership includes taking charge. Like a boy herding piglets, leaders must find a balance with other qualities, including awareness, compassion, and a sense of doing what is needed at the moment. For the boy, the moment called for courage to overcome shyness. Taking charge happens in a moment and can have fun results to a lifetime impact.

Writers have a full interpretation of the prompt each week. They explored what taking charge means from different perspectives.

The following are based on the March 26, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story in which a character takes charge.

PART I (ten-minute read)

Time Trapped by Anita Dawes

Time trapped in a rain drop.
The watch maker said it was beyond price.
More precious than silver, gold, diamonds?
It has been here from the beginning
His wish was to take charge of it.
He did all he could, his experiments.
To outsiders looked daft, a waste of time
The watch maker replied, time trapped there
In one drop could unleash a mind full of magic
Unknown to this world.
Imagine who bathed in it, what could they tell?
Water has a memory
I need to find out how to unlock it
Find the wisdom that hides inside…

🥕🥕🥕

Taking Charge by Joanne Fisher

The explosion tore through the starship. Trisha struggled through the wreckage to access the bridge. Once there, she found most of the crew were either dead or injured. Pushing the Captain away, she checked the starship’s diagnostics and managed to reroute all remaining power to the shields, life support and whatever drive systems still worked so all the crew still left could survive. Thankfully she found the controls were still responsive. She piloted the ship away heading for neutral space. The enemy starships held their fire allowing the crippled starship to limp off. Trisha breathed a sigh of relief.

🥕🥕🥕

Rubble Takes Charge by Cara and Mikey Stefano

“Rubble on the double!” says Rubble. Rubble is rebuilding a broken cabin. It was smashed by a rolling observatory, which is for watching the stars. “First let’s clear away all the rubble!” says Rubble. All his friends rush to pick him up. “No, not me!” he laughs, “all this!” So after they all rebuild the cabin Rubble says “Hey Rocky, can you put some bolts in the walls and the roof so it doesn’t fall down again?” Rocky says “Green means GO!” Uncle Otis says “Yeah! You pups work fast! Thanks”

🥕🥕🥕

If you are offered a bull, do not ask how much milk he will give.
by JulesPaige

Taking charge of the road.
That was what he had to do.
Had to get the son to his father, fast.
Picked up his charge at the airport and flew…
The hour and a half ride was sliced by about half.
Told the folks he was doing eighty…
But the passenger said the speedometer needle
Swayed further right passed that number.
We’ll just call the driver a hero.
One of many in these trying times who
Took the proverbial bull by the horns and flew…

within what limits
we do what needs to be done
riding the wind true

🥕🥕🥕

Taking Charge by Faith A. Colburn

You wouldn’t call her meek, but Hazel avoided confrontation when she could. Standing on the doorstep of the home place, though, an old neighbor told of a time when she didn’t.

“I was helpin’ out at your place at dinnertime. Dad had said I wasn’t to eat there, but she sat me down at the table. Well, here comes Pop, rarin’ mad. Hazel met him on the step. Told him, ‘On this place, if he works, he eats.’

“Now Pop was used to getting’ his way, but he shut up and waited for me to finish Hazel’s apple pie.”

🥕🥕🥕

Taking Charge by Ann Edall Robson

The community came together as it always did when one of their own needed help. Someone organized a social. Food and music were donated. Items contributed for auction were sold, only to be re-donated and sold again. The potluck lunch served at midnight refuelled the musicians. Schottisches, polkas, waltzes, and two steps kept the crowd going until the wee hours of the morning. Finally, as the sun started to rise, the familiar smooth strains of Irene Goodnight took charge. Glide, step, glide, turn, glide, step, glide, turn. The old fashioned home waltz announced the end to the evening.

🥕🥕🥕

Stumbles by Michelle Wright

In the beginning, Liza would admire Jack at the improv class meetings. Admiration escalated. When the improv prompted them to hold hands, the blush on her face was real.

“Mighty fine couple,” Greg said while in character, greeting the newlyweds.

“We should be,” Liza blurted.

“Should be and are,” stated Jack, remaining in character, and clueless to Liza’s mistake.

At the end of the class Liza took a deep breath, marched up to Jack then shouted, “I want to go out with you!”

Jack stumbled around and knocked over chairs. He picked the chairs up, smiled, then said, “Okay.”

🥕🥕🥕

Let Go by Sascha Darlington

Within a week, I called friends, figured out how I could get Joe to Toronto. The one thing missing from my equation was Joe.

“I can’t run,” he said.

Have you ever looked at someone you loved and wanted to beat his beautiful face? I did.

“It’s not running away. It’s saving your life.”

He nodded, his eyes sad. “But, Jilly, if I run away, what will we have? I can’t come home? See the folks?”

I looked up at my cowboy, “We can visit.”

“Aw, hon, my friends have already gone. It’s my turn.”

I let him go.

🥕🥕🥕

Meg Takes Charge by Susan Zutautas

Ian was running a high fever, had a scratchy throat, and had lost his sense of taste.

“Ian, I think you should go to the hospital and get checked out.”

“What good will it do? Honestly, Meg, I’m far better off here with you.”

“Well you have the symptoms of Covid-19 and if you have the virus, I may have it too. I think it would be the responsible thing for you to go. Behind the hospital they have drive-up testing set up, you don’t even have to go in. Now get your coat on, we’re going right now.”

🥕🥕🥕

Ducks in a Row by Donna Matthews

“What are you doing?!?”

“What do you mean what am I doing…I’m moving these ducks over here,” Sally grumbled

“No, no, no…the ducks don’t go here! They go on the north end of the pond!” explained Dorothy.

“The north end?? Are you crazy? The wind is too brisk, and the oak trees have lost all their leaves…the ducks will be exposed if we put them there,” reasoned Sally.

“We put them at the north end, Sally. The north end is narrow, and that’s how we’ll keep the ducks all in a row,” an exasperated Dorothy explained.

“Ohhhhhhh, I see!”

🥕🥕🥕

Taking Charge by D. Avery

She cracked the front door, her face a bruised sunrise. “I walk into doors,” she explained. “I’m learning I should shut them tight or open them wide.”

“I would like to speak with the man of the house.”

Over her shoulder, thin pale legs scampered up the stairs. She blocked the rest of the view into the home.

“He’s not here.”

“When shall I call again?”

The woman paused, straightened. “He had to go away.”

“When will he return?”

“He didn’t say. Now, do you want to talk to the man of the house or to who’s in charge?”

🥕🥕🥕

The Lonely by Paula Puolakka

Fern took a few steely steps up the cliff. She greeted the lonely crooked pine, after which she went to talk to the large spruces and junipers.

Today, people had been told to stay 6.561 feet away from each other and to avoid public spaces. However, when Fern had gone out, she had seen more pedestrians than yesterday.

Fern started humming “Reincarnation:” the song by Roger Miller. The state of the world was saddening, but at the same time, she thanked the Lord for everything. The pandemic had not changed the historian’s world: the trees still needed her attention.

🥕🥕🥕

Taking Charge by Pete Fanning

We welcomed Mom back to our quiet, clean house. Dad had one elbow and I had the other, our voices forced and careful and sounding anything but like our own.

She’d been gone for two months. It seemed like so much longer. Meanwhile, I’d started sixth grade, found a new best friend, and had taken charge of the household. Now, I had so much to tell her. Even as the doctor said it would take time for her to adjust, much less notice all the clothes I’d washed and folded.

But that’s hope for you, stubborn as a stain.

🥕🥕🥕

Charge! by Norah Colvin

As if a starting gun had been fired, the children scattered, looking in grass, under rocks, in branches of trees.

“What’re you doing?” asked the playground supervisor.

“There’s eggs, Miss. Easter eggs — millions of ‘em. Enough for everyone.”

“How many’ve you found?”

“None yet. Gotta keep lookin’.”

After a while, the searching slowed. “How many’ve you got?”

They showed empty pockets and empty hands.

The supervisor said, “Who said there were eggs?”

They shrugged.

When the punishment was handed down, the instigators explained, “It was just an experiment to see how many’d be sucked in. We meant no harm.”

🥕🥕🥕

Desert Dreams by Chelsea Owens

Swirling nighttime sand pummeled and rocked the old Suburban. Sequoia made for a poor windbreak, but Clara knew that was all they’d get.

“Mama?!” little Janey cried. “Papa?!”

“I got ‘er,” Dan said, stumbling over cans, blankets, and sleeping bodies to reach their youngest.

Clara settled back against the cold car wall. She needed to think. The endless roar of haunted desert souls echoed the wails in her mind, of the dying world they’d left behind.

“So,” Dan sat next to her and laced his fingers in hers. “What next?”

Clara narrowed her gaze, resolute. “I have a plan.”

🥕🥕🥕

Little Mouse Goes West by Wallie and Friend

Once upon a whisker, there was a cowboy who bumped into luck and fell down hard. It was the kind of fall you don’t get up from easily. Mouse, who had followed the cowboy’s dust for miles, didn’t like it at all.

So the mouse climbed up on Petie’s knee and told him so. She was squeaking loud and clear, and Petie didn’t dare argue. He got up and Squeaky slid into his pocket. There were crumbs in there and it was warm, and the cold morning air tickled her nose.

It was the perfect day for an adventure.

🥕🥕🥕

Welcome at Last by The Curious Archaeologist

A brick smashed through the window, glass fell on the praying sisters.

“Why do we stay, Mother?” Asked one of the newly founded Anglican Order of Sisters. “No one seems to want us.”

Then – Cholera.

No one knew how it spread, people fled and the rest died alone, no one helped – until the sisters took charge.

They cared for the dying, comforted the living, and became beloved by the people of Plymouth.

A little later a small women came and asked.

“Can you help me? I desperately need nurses.”

The Mother Superior smiled “Of course we can – Miss Nightingale.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (ten-minute read)

Walter by Bill Engleson

Walter beat me in by a day.

I became de facto number two.

Told myself that, anyway.

Who else would!

First thing Walter said was, “You’re a baby.”

I tried to deny it.

“No!” I sputtered.

“No offence, kid. It’s just, I’m me.”

And he was.

He was thirty. Fit as a friggin’ fiddle.

He’d been a soldier before.

East Germany.

Then he escaped to the West.

***

The next few days, our training troop filled up.

Most were like me.

Babies from the Canadian landscape.

Walter became our natural leader.

Later, we learned how crazy twisted he was.

🥕🥕🥕

In Which a Character Takes Charge by Papershots

Ministry of Health. Under25 Secretary slips into an office, “People are gargling with bleach.” What? “They’re afraid of the virus.” What? (Jokes have been going round because of the pandemic.) Some laugh, flabbergasted. “We need an official communiqué.” Now they all laugh. No one’s sure what’s going on. Typing, calling, “put me through, I said!” Under112 Secretary Never-take-charge-but-follow-orders takes it seriously, though; at her computer she designs a fake news bulletin warning people about gargling with bleach. It goes viral. The crazy are saved. The price of bleach goes back down. Stocks normalize. The world is a better place.

🥕🥕🥕

Who’s In Control? by Hugh W. Roberts

“A gun? Who’s got a gun?” murmured Doug, as he tried to take control of his body which felt like a block of concrete. “And where’s Sophie?”

***

Two floors below, Sophie’s eyes moved from the twitching nose of the rabbit to the back of the mysterious woman’s head. “You’re not as in control as you think you are, Sophie,” giggled the woman.

***

Forced to close his eyes, to protect them from the paint dust, the tapping noise Mike heard suddenly stopped. Opening his eyes slowly, he was stunned to see the face of a woman looking down at him.

🥕🥕🥕

Hometown Hero by Kelley Farrell

Joe showed up drunk, still clutching a fifth to his chest.

Hattie wrinkled her nose.

“The great hometown hero.”

Sam wore an unholy combination of rotten fish and garbage for cologne.

“It’s been a long night.”

“What did you guys do?”

“Oh, just me. I don’t know where he’s been.”

Hattie refused to see this get away.

“Help me get him up. We’re heroes and I’m not going to let our group get embarrassed like ths.”

“I’ve been up all night fighting crime.”

“Ok.” Hattie tossed the rope into his waiting hands. “We’ve got tug o’ war to win.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Gym’s New Sheriff by Dave Madden

There he was, again, flexing his middle-aged muscle to a team primarily consisting of young, amateur fighters. The handful of pros half-heartedly listened, but they, for the most part, tuned out his droning, senseless rambles and did their own thing.

Coach Tim didn’t have a clue what he was doing; everyone knew, but only Kelvin, the most experienced of the bunch, voiced the obvious.

“I think it’s time you go,” Kevin announced before Friday morning’s sparring session.

Echoes of agreement struck the gym’s walls, and the door hit Tim like a roundhouse kick on his way out.

🥕🥕🥕

Taking Charge by FloridaBorne

“Mrs. Jones,” her doctor said. “You’re pre-diabetic, and have heart disease. Go to the gym…”

“But I can hardly walk.”

“You’re going to be dead in a year unless you take charge of your health! Walk your dog!”

She cried all the way home, and searched the fridge for comfort food.

Just when she started to take a bite she yelled, “No!”

Her Pitbull knew what to do. Each time she tried to eat, he barked, and his paw forced her arm downward.

She lumbered toward his collar and leash, the first of what would be many more walks.

🥕🥕🥕

Reluctant Guide by Kerry E.B. Black

Troop 435 lost their map, and their compasses, emergency GPS, and telephones remained inside the leader’s tent. Ten boys bickered about fault and what to do next. They squinted at moss on tree trunks and the direction of streams. Their disagreements frightened woodland creatures into watchful silence.

The eleventh scout, Arnold, identified with the subdued critters. He trailed his troopmates, noting what they overlooked.

Fighting introversion, he faced the others. “This way.”

Ronnie, the troop bully, scowled. “Why should we listen to you?”

Arnold shrugged and stepped onto a deer path. Without turning, he knew the others followed, even Ronnie.

🥕🥕🥕

Diabolical Deer by Nobbinmaug

“You’re not the boss a me.”

“I’m older. That means I’m in charge.”

“I’m tellin’ Mom and Dad when they get back.”

“What if they don’t come back?”

“They’ll be back. Won’t they?”

“You never know. There’s a lot of bad shit out there. Robbers, murderers, diseases, deer*…”

“What if they don’t come back?”

“We fend for ourselves. It’ll be up to me to take care of you.”

“They better come back.”

“They probably won’t.”

“Mommy! Daddy!”

“Hi, guys. Is everything O.K.?”

“Yeah. How was the movie?”

“It was really bad. Lucas should have never sold Star Wars to Disney.”

🥕🥕🥕

Saving Lives by Charli Mills

Rhonda didn’t bother with her boots. She’d wait for calving season to end before cleaning the floor. When the National Guard recalled Jess, she took charge of their small spread. A neighbor came over to help. News of the virus dominated the stations, and Rhonda couldn’t get a weather report. She ate a bowl of Spagettios, then returned outside to relieve Tony. Around midnight the last calf arrived with a spring blizzard. While Jess saved lives as a medic in a makeshift hospital 300 miles away, Rhonda snuggled a calf all night in the kitchen with the wood-stove blazing.

🥕🥕🥕

at mercy hospital by joem18b

my heart took charge this morning and my mind did not fight it. i dressed, had a light breakfast, and rode my bike to the mercy hospital emergency room. there was already a line. i was a candy striper at mercy in high school and i still have connections there. the staff was glad to have me but did warn me about the infection rate among those exposed to the virus. i spent the day bringing donated coffee and pastries to those waiting and listening to their concerns, both the ill and their families. we’re all in this together.

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In Charge Now by Ritu Bhathal

“I’m sorry,” she wheezed, as she slowly picked up her bags, after switching off her computer.

“You’re sick. Just go. Don’t worry, we are here. Now remember, you need to rest up for at least seven days, do you hear me?”

I watched the retreating figure of my Headteacher and grabbed a cloth and the. Disinfectant spray. After cleaning her desk, and chair, I sank down on it.

Oh, man, this meant I was in charge of a school, still open, in a pandemic.

Three members of staff, and a clutch of children would be relying on me now…

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Fear Makes Us Strangers by M J Mallon

It’s Friday night, the weekends coming. Yeah!

I dread what the queue might be like.

Each time I shop, I become more afraid. I pray I don’t see someone I know. Social distancing has become social avoidance.

I’m done quick, rush to the nearest till and am amused to see the vicar talking to the check out assistant. I’m still thinking of their cheerful conversation and the smiling vicar. The lady at the till demands that I step back further. I do, but I can never get used to this.

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Shopping for Essentials by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“What the heck is that?”

“A new recipe for Stay at Home.”

“What you got in there?”

“Beans, tomato sauce, dark brown sugar, Tabasco, the last of that lunch meat…”

“The stuff that was getting slimy?”

“Cured Mystery Meat, so no expiration date! Anyway, I scrubbed it off and it kind of…shredded. So it’s fine. And then I added the last of the Velveeta, a can of water-packed tuna, and whatever was left in that carton of Half and Half.”

“What’s that floating on top?”

“The white stuff is cauliflower, green stuff is Kale.”

“That’s it! I’m going shopping!”

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Feeding Bodies, Feeding Minds by Anne Goodwin

Although overqualified for retail, this was her dream job. Five floors of books and hordes of readers, hungry for literary advice. As the virus bloomed, sales did too, until nonessentials were forced to close. Lockdown had a silver lining: communing with her own bookshelves.

She read in the bath, on the patio, in the snaking supermarket queue, but her focus floated away. Abandoning Moby Dick in her trolley, she approached a security guard. From a distance of two metres, she begged to go inside. Soon her PhD (in creative writing) had charge of a checkout, keeping the nation fed.

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Hannah – A New Direction by Saifun Hassam

COVID-19 spread rapidly. Lynn Valley restaurants provided only take-out or delivery services. Hannah and her staff decided to close “Spuds Restaurant.”

The Farmers Market Association requested Hannah to co-ordinate the collection and distribution of fresh produce to the Lynn Valley Soup Kitchens and Food Banks. She immediately agreed. The farmers dropped off produce at The Market which was closed to the public. Hannah worked with staff from the Soup Kitchens and Food Banks to sort and deliver requested supplies.

Hannah’s mother, Bev, had passed away a few months ago. She would have been at her side helping without hesitation.

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Take Charge of Yourself by Susan Sleggs

The church teen choir started practicing without Gaylan. He joined them ten minutes later and the group came to life.

Tessa’s father, Don, running the rehearsal, after dismissing all but Gaylan, asked: “Would you say you respect this group?”

“Sure.”

“Do you attend by choice?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you understand belonging comes with responsibility?”

“I guess.”

“Do you believe your continual tardiness proves your answers are the truth?”

Gaylan hesitated. “No, sir.”

“Michael wanted to ask you to take charge tonight but didn’t trust you to be on time. Show up early from now on and you’ll earn that trust.”

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Sherlock in Charge by tracey

Time for my every ten-minutes check on the family. Dad was still staring morosely at a blank television screen. My boy was fixated on a screen and clicking on a mouse. I don’t know why he called it that, it sure wasn’t a mouse. Mom was wiping down the kitchen counter for the eighth time, no sign of her cooking bacon. Darn. I decided it was time to take charge. I grabbed my leash from its hook and started barking and jumping around. “Great idea Sherlock,” said Mom and she yelled out “time for a family walk, right now!”

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Kid’s Dilemma by D. Avery

“Pal, whut’s Shorty done charged us with this time?

“Charged us with? Why, nuthin’ Kid.”

“Nuthin’? That prompt’s gotta lead ta sumthin’. Always does.”

“Yep.”

“An’ asides that, ain’t we in charge a the Saloon?”

“Could say thet, I s’pose.”

“An’ we still gotta discharge our reg’lar ranch duties.”

“Yep. Purty sure there’s discharge in the barn fer ya ta shovel now, Kid.”

“Bullshift, Pal, why’s it always seem like yer in charge a me?”

“I jist take yer bull by the horns is all.”

“Mebbe I’ll grab them horns. Take charge a ma own self.”

“Yep. Mebbe, Kid.”

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Tootin’ Rootin’ Round Trip by D. Avery

“Lookin’ rough, Kid. Where ya been, anyway?”

“Checked out Slim Chance’s outfit.”

“Why ever for?!”

“Took charge a m’sef. Yer always bossin’ me aroun’. Shorty’s s’posed ta be in charge, but she’s always nice, jist says ‘go where the prompt leads’; well Slim Chance tells folks where ta go an’ how ta git there.”

“Git where?”

“Where he wants ‘em ta go.”

“Real take charge sorta guy?”

“Sure ‘nough. Says, ‘Drink this kool-aid, it’s the best’, where’s Shorty jist has carrots out, fer folks ta take or not.”

“Yer back though?”

“Ferever. Ta re-charge on root crops.”

“Carrots?”

“Yep.”

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Into the Past: The Not-so-Spanish Spanish Flu

With Coronavirus/Covid-19 currently raging across the globe, many people are looking to the past for comparisons. Since recurrent diseases such as yellow fever, smallpox, and others feel too far in the past to really compare with, many have chosen a deadly pandemic for inspiration:

The century-old outbreak of the Spanish Flu.

The Spanish Flu, like most strains of influenza, tended to attack the respiratory system and often made the body vulnerable to pneumonia which only further complicated a patient’s prognosis. With no ventilators (the first negative pressure ventilator used on humans – the “iron lung” – wasn’t tested until 1928), no antivirals such as Tamiflu (generic name oseltamivir phosphate; look for “vir” at the end of drugs to identify an antiviral), and widespread misinformation campaigns, those who lived in 1918 were facing a grimmer outlook than we can expect here in 2020. But, lo, did I mention above “misinformation campaigns”? How could this possibly be in the glorious past?!

The news industry in the 1910s was quickly learning from the skillbook of Nelly Bly, who pioneered investigative journalism. These new techniques, wherein journalists dove into the action, led to exposes on corrupt politicians, business owners, and social issues, but they were not the only types of journalists out there. Sensationalist journalism, perfected by Hearst and Pulitzer at the turn of the century, was about to be hijacked for clearly nationalistic causes. Benito Mussolini of World War II fame, for example, honed his political ideologies espousing extreme authoritarianism and an Italian ethno-state.

More broadly, however, nations found themselves in the need of propaganda when facing the meat grinder of World War I. If you were German, your newspapers needed to be pro-German, otherwise the kaiser wouldn’t be able to recruit enough fresh bodies to turn into corpses. If you’re English, the stories need to be pro-England, otherwise Parliament couldn’t shame enough boys into accepting destruction in the trenches.

And, in America, President Woodrow Wilson needed you to shut up about the flu.

Patient zero of the 1918 Flu Pandemic was a farmer in Kansas. The flu spread in the small town of Haskell and later, due to sons being called to the draft and going to large training camps, military installations such as Camp Funston in Kansas. The flu rampaged through the camp, but luckily the doctors realized something was afoot and did their best to quarantine the sick. Though they eventually calmed the virus in the camp using isolation measures, it wasn’t completely effective, and the sick were shipped off to fight in Europe where the virus spread.

boston-red-cross-pandemic-flu

An ambulance hauling a patient in 1918, manned by nurses recruited for the effort. Image from the CDC image gallery.

At the same time, Wilson was apprised of the situation. He knew there was a virulent strain of flu – or something else just as devastating – destroying lives in Kansas. With his war efforts finally underway, he worried the risk of squelching American morale with news of a rapidly-spreading plague would dampen draft and training enthusiasm or compliance. The nation had been deeply divided about joining the war just a year ago, and now (Wilson believed) was not the time to make the populace back out of supporting the war efforts.

So he straight up banned reporting on the virus.

Once in Europe, the virus quickly spread among the ranks of both sides of the fight. Most European nations’ journalism was similarly stunted as America’s had been, what with the need to recruit more people to die. Despite the toll of the disease eventually matching or and eclipsing the number of deaths caused by the war itself, nations such as Britain, Germany, and France all refused to admit the virus was spreading in their ranks. They covered it up.

The only Western nation that didn’t inhibit coverage of the pandemic was Spain.

And boy, did American news latch the heck onto that. With the ability to point to Spanish newspapers as the first publications about the flu, and thus by calling it “Spanish Flu,” American newspapers were finally able to report as the second wave of the virus ravaged places like Camp Devens near Boston, followed soon after by east-coast metropolises. Politicians and military men still tried to downplay the fatality of the virus, which led to the mayor of Philadelphia allowing a massive parade that caused an enormous spread of death and destruction throughout the US, just as the virus – now permanently deemed “Spanish Flu” thanks to misinformation campaigns – continued to rage throughout Europe and Asia.

But misinformation didn’t stop those people who could be called the heroes of the Spanish Flu. In the effort to stop the flu, many doctors found difficulties in isolating the pathogen and, thus, determining a method to develop a vaccine against the disease. Because of the weakened immune systems of the sick, secondary illnesses such as bacterial pneumonia complicated this search. The haste to find a cure often led to sloppy lab work, and many worried that quarantine would be the only effective measure.

anna williams

Image: Anna Williams, true American hero; image taken from the NIH website.

Though this did, sadly, end up being the case since the flu mutated into a less pathogenic form by the next year (as flu tends to do), some doctors did amazing work to discover the flu as a “filterable virus”. Anna Williams, one of the few women in the medical research field at the time, was the first to make this distinction while many others insisted the disease was a resurgence of the bubonic plague. Her efforts with the 1918 flu pandemic eventually led to better understanding and our ability to combat the flu and other viral diseases. Other doctors, especially military doctors at camps, were the first to prove the disease could be limited by quarantine.

All of them, however, were instrumental in establishing public health departments and efforts across the nation.

And, here in 2020, someone will be a new hero we should appreciate. Already, Chinese doctors (many of whom sadly fell to the disease) could be considered heroes for their efforts to sound the whistle and treat early patients. Smaller heroes, such as bloggers like us, can make sure to provide only accurate information while others (resisting… urge… to… start internet fights) may spread misinformation.

Into the Past Prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about people who tell the truth in the face of many lies. Don’t feel constricted to coronavirus or the 1918 flu pandemic, but feel free to use any of the information presented here.

There won’t be a roundup, but you are encouraged to share your work in the comments.

For more information on the Spanish Flu, I encourage you to read The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. You can find a quicker overview posted by the CDC. If you’re into podcasts, the American History Tellers episode “What We Learned from Fighting the Spanish Flu” can be found on Stitcher or on your favorite podcast app (I use Podcast Republic, available on Google Play).

About the Author: H.R.R. Gorman is a PhD chemical engineer with expertise in biotechnology and making drugs. Following science, H’s greatest passions are writing and history (especially the Age of Jackson). If you want to know more about this white-trash-turned-excessively-bourgeois maniac, you can go to https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com/.

Saddle Up Saloon; All Good

Saloon

“Well, howdy, m’am. Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon. I’m Ernie. Kin I git ya sumthin’ ta drink?”

“Hm. I’ll have a cream soda, please.”

“We got strong drink, if ya know what I mean.”

“Thanks, but I don’t drink. I’m LDS -a Mormon.”

“Yes, g’mornin’ to ya.”

“Mormon!”

“More men. Hmmf. Thet’s whut Wanda said, jist afore she left me. Here’s yer cream soda. ‘Fraid I’m the only man in here jist now. Thet there at the end a the bar’s Frankie, our female mail carrier.”

“Females often carry the male, Except with that wife carrying gig they had at Carrot Ranch.”

“Oh, yer familiar with the Ranch then?”

“Yes. I’m Utah Chelsea.”

“U.C.”

“Um, sure… Is that an olive in that woman’s drink?”

“Naw, Frankie’s jist in here keepin’ her glass eye antisepticated.”

“I think she might be sweet on you, Ernie. Or is that just a far away look in her eye?”

“Ya think mebbe she has her eye on me? Be my wingman, U.C. Hey Frankie, slide on down an’ meet U.C. She’s here for more men. And soda pop.”

“I cain’t see so good right now, Ernie, cain’t you see? She better not be eyein’ the barman.”

“More men? Mormon. I’m a Mormon and a mom, but ‘round these parts I’m a writer.”

“Oh, my thet’s awful hard work.”

“Writing? Yeah, but—”

“No I meant mommin’. Reckon it’s tough keeping’ up with ever’thin’.”

“Well… a few years ago, I came up with an analogy: Momming’s like a pot full of water on the stove. My job is to keep the water in the pot between a simmer and a boil, all day. If it goes one way or the other, I end up also washing the entire kitchen. As to the writing part of it, I suppose I try to throw some fancy noodles into the water now and then.”

“Thet’s a real fine analogy, an’ so you know, ya serve up some right fine noodle dishes.”

“Um, thanks, but really, Ernie, I’m looking for Kid.”

“Kid? Yep, jist showed up with a cart a manure from Shorty’s barn. Look out back.”

 

“Kid?”

“Yeah?”

“Oh, my, is that the Poet Tree?”

“It’s an off shoot. Way yer laughin’ at it, makes me think that you think it’s a bad poet tree. An’ them’s fightin’ words.”

“Shouldn’t fight at Carrot Ranch, Kid.”

“Well you done crossed a line. What d’ya know ‘bout bad poet tree anyways?”

“I know plenty about bad poetry.”

“Bring it.”

There once was a poet named Kid

Who thought really highly of everything he did

He joked and he teased

His ‘strong drink’ had fleas

But this is the worst limerick ever.

I actually host a bad poetry contest over at my place once a week. It’s partly to poke fun at all the bad poetry I read that’s intended to be serious, but mostly to give serious writers a little fun.”

“Dang! Hat’s off ta ya. What’d ya say yer name was?”

“I didn’t say, but please, just Chelsea. I run a blog that’s a little like your saloon— a little of everything. My blog is a hodgepodge of creation, formed from whatever pops into my head. I write not-bad poetry (I hope), short stories, serial stories, imitations of friends’ styles, quotes I like, and weekly thoughts about real life. Besides the main blog, I keep a strictly motherhood blog on the side, like a gangrene mole that ought to get more attention than it does. And the occasional contribution to a friend’s mental health site.”

“That’s a lotta hats, an’ here mine’s already off ta ya. Reckon ya been writin’ an’ blogging a long time then?”

“Unlike other noble writers, I have not always been a writer. I would say I’ve always been a reader and an imaginer. I have always been creative: my mother says I tore my diaper off and painted the walls with its contents. If that’s not expressionist art, I don’t know what is. I took up writing more seriously shortly before officially starting my blog. My motivation was the desire to write about motherhood, and to discover why I hated home life so much. I suspect other mothers feel the same, since we tend to not hear from them in snippets longer than a snarky tweet asking if Happy Hour can occur before noon.”

“Reckon they could use a 24/7 saloon like this here. But somehow you steal time ta write an’ ta be a presence in the blogosphere. What keeps ya goin’?”

“Well, with the children and home life, I do not have a perfect, mantra-like balance of creative me-time and …all the other stuff. But writing is a fantastic craft. I scoop at the vowels or vegetables bits that float to the surface, hoping for some of the deeper meaning in the shadowy depths of meat and potatoes. Best of all, I’ve been able to share whatever soup I can scavenge with many others. The people I’ve met through blogging have changed my life. I love them.”

“I’m thinkin’ ya get what ya give, Chelsea. Betcha they’s a lotta folks lovin’ ya back. Betcha had some moments ‘roun’ the blogosphere, if ya know what I mean.”

“Every time I touch another person, it is my best moment. I once wrote a semi-non-fictional piece about my toes -really, I was attempting to write about mental illness in the guise of writing about my odd feet- and another blogger I’d never met commented about how I’d changed her whole outlook. She’d been teased by other children for her pigeon-toed gait (as I had), and felt happy to learn of others. She also learned that they’d used the wrong term for her in-pointed feet, calling her duck-footed. Really, that just proves that bullies know far too little about birds.”

“Well, they’re known ta be bird-brained, but sure seems ta me yer steppin’ in the right direction. But one thing I jist cain’t wrap my head aroun’ is this bad poetry contest you run. Why, Chelsea, why?”

“Well, like I said, it’s mostly to give serious writers a little fun.”

“Well, if it’s all in fun, it’s all good. Reckon, dependin’ on who ya ask, any poetry is good, bad, or ugly.”

“Poetry is like other art, so it can be good, bad, or ugly. If an artist insists on spending a few minutes with children’s chalk, he’s not going to get as good a result as one spending days on an oil painting. Likewise, a novice poet can free-verse about his angst and get the sympathy of the other bar patrons, or he can spend days reworking a piece and gain the adulation of the world.”

“Think we could git the folks at the saloon ta try their hand at poetry? Good, bad, and ugly even? Jist fer fun?”

“Let’s do that Kid. Just leave your poems in the comments. We won’t judge, and Ernie probably won’t even remember.”

“Thank ya fer comin’ by Chelsea. I think ya done inspired this little sprout of a poet tree ta take off and do good. So, folks, the prompt fer yer poetical endeavers is “off shoot”, or anything else from what’s transpired here. Be sure ta say hey ta Chelsea Owens at https://chelseaannowens.com. Now, Chelsea, let’s git back in there ta the bar. Ernie? Frankie? Hello? Ah, shift.”

 

Pal & Kid are free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch. They never tuck tail, but their tales are corralled as Ranch Yarns at ShiftnShake. If asked, they will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. Please let these yahoos know what you think, and stop in at the Saddle Up anytime for a virtual good time.

March 26: Flash Fiction Challenge

As the farmer’s children gathered around, the youngest gripped his dad’s legs and peered up at me with big brown eyes. I was on assignment at a multi-generational farm in the driftless region of Minnesota where green grass grew on hillocks and flowers marched forth from spring, starting with purple blooms. While I probably misremember which spring flowers came first or which farmer pointed out the phenomenon, I recall the moment that shy boy took charge of the family’s piglets.

His brothers and sisters ran or rode bikes as the parents walked me through the farm that first earned its organic label in 1974. The couple had been kids themselves at the time. The boy’s mother grew up on this farm, and she recalled her father’s insistence to preserve their land for the future. That day I strode with them through the first spring flowers and greening pastures, I understood that I was witnessing that future when the youngest finally let go of his father’s hand and ran to the barn where the piglets snuffled the straw.

The boy could herd pigs. He climbed up and over the railing, hopping to the mass of bedding straw. These were the young weaned piglets of many colors and patterns. A few oinked, and several nuzzled the boy. He grinned broadly like a circus ring showman and got them all wheeling a huge circle around him. His shyness fled, and he took charge of the oinksters. His parents smiled and continued to tell me about their operation, but the boy had me mesmerized.

I don’t know why that memory came back to me on a day I’m confined to my house. Perhaps quarantine prods the mind to wander. The boy would be a young adult by now, and I wonder if he can use his skill in other capacities? Taking charge can be a leadership attribute. But it requires supporting traits, as well, including compassion. The boy had that, too, and you can see it in his face and the way the pigs ran, delighting in the game, ready to follow their little leader.

When you ride a horse, you have to take charge because the massive animal can easily frighten. I’ve nearly been thrown from the saddle when a horse spooked. It’s a jolting experience, almost comical the exaggerated stance a horse lunges into upon sighting something unusual. Often they’ll snort, flaring nostrils. You can’t relax too deeply on horseback, nor can you ride too rigid. A horse can feel your tension. A true buckaroo is someone who can be one with a horse. I once had a bay gelding, and we were one. I never did anything fancy or spectacular with him, but the rides we had taught me to be aware of him, me, and our surroundings. Maybe he made me the writer I am from the rider I was.

If you are looking for good movies to watch, I recommend  both The Horse Whisperer with Robert Redford and a documentary on the man who inspired the story, Buck:

It’s a story about overcoming adversity and fear. If you get the chance to brush a horse or ride one, do it. It will be a life-changer. Ultimately, we can learn to take charge of ourselves. We can’t change the world or get it to wheel circles around us like a kid in a pigpen, but we can make our moments count for something. We can breathe deep until calm settles over. We can love and express it, letting others hear it. We can encourage and be encouraged.

At the end of the movie, Buck, the credits roll to Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe. Willie Nelson and his son Lucas covered the song as one between father and son. It can be between any relationship, and to me, it’s an artistic expression of the preciousness of life.

Stay with me, Ranchers, and let’s write our stories.

March 26, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story in which a character takes charge. Who is this character, and what situation calls for their action? It can be playful or serious, fantastical, or realistic. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 31, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Saving Lives by Charli Mills

Rhonda didn’t bother with her boots. She’d wait for calving season to end before cleaning the floor. When the National Guard recalled Jess, she took charge of their small spread. A neighbor came over to help. News of the virus dominated the stations, and Rhonda couldn’t get a weather report. She ate a bowl of Spagettios, then returned outside to relieve Tony. Around midnight the last calf arrived with a spring blizzard. While Jess saved lives as a medic in a makeshift hospital 300 miles away, Rhonda snuggled a calf all night in the kitchen with the wood-stove blazing.

Rabbit on the Roof

Who can say why the rabbit was on the roof? It was not an everyday occurrence, and yet, his tracks left the evidence of a departure from normal. The world has shifted from normal in response to a pandemic. It feels like a season of improbabilities. So, of course, rabbits would take to rooftops.

Carrot Ranch encourages writers to do what writers do best — write. It’s an activity we can enjoy and share while also practicing social distancing. This week, they showed up to ride herd on rooftop rabbits, following the prompt to where it led.

The following stories are based on the March 19, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a rabbit on the roof.

PART I (10-minute read)

Rabbit in the Stars by Saifun Hassam

Only the tops of lodge pines showed above the deep snow around the Observatory. The constellations glittered in the clear frigid air.

Rabbit paused on the nearest pine branch to the Observatory roof. An expert gymnast and acrobat, he jumped, spiraling through the air. He landed perfectly on the flattened area of the domed roof.

An automated Space Telescope rotated under the transparent window in the roof. Rabbit leaped across the window. And back and forth. Spiraling and twisting with the stars through the night skies. The telescope recorded beautiful mystifying shots of a rabbit flying among the constellations!

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Rabbit Moon by Jo Hawk

On full moon nights, Vivian lit candles, rained rice onto the altar cloth, and prayed to the moon goddess. She had never forsaken Vivian. Gossamer clouds slid like silk across the sky, obscuring the moon’s rabbit image. Tonight, her entire heart filled her plea, as she begged for her townsfolk’s safety.

Cinnabun whispered to his mistress. She nodded. Armed with life’s elixir, Cinnabon descended to earth. Hopping to every village rooftop, he spread the remedy to each family.

At dawn, Vivian spied Cinnabun perched atop her garden fence. He gave her a wink, before the goddess spirited him home.

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Magic Circle by Anita Dawes

Humans, what can you do with them?
The Great Bandini, my whiskers
Has overbooked the children’s party
Leaving my cage door open
So I am off, freedom awaits.
White fur, big ears, not so easy to hide
Wait for the fool
to open the door, load his van,
take my chance in the great outdoors
I need to get higher
The roof looks good
From here I can see the lay of the land
And look for my own kind
How did I get on the roof?
You may ask?
I cannot tell you, that’s magic,
don’t you know…

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Feed Your Head by D. Avery

Leaning against the chimney, he put in his earbuds, listened to Jefferson Airplane while polishing his pocket watch. Unless the girl tripping around below suddenly became quite tall she would never think to look for him here. And anyway, she was much more interested in the March Hare, mad as he was. But it mightn’t be till May that the March Hare be less raving mad.
Yes, it was much the most interesting. The chessmen, all white too, were maddest of all, falling about in no direction.
Smiling, the rabbit flung his pocket watch into the endless blue sky.

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Quick Like A Bunny by Dave Madden

Frankie headed toward the roof of his apartment with his coach—six-feet away from one another, of course.

The gym had been closed since the order of self-isolation went into effect.

“I think you’ll like this workout,” coach chuckled.

When Frankie stepped onto the roof, he counted about fifty bunnies hopping around. He was speechless and looked back at his coach with curiosity.

“Well, catch em’ and put em’ in that box,” was coach’s response to the silent stare.

Forty-minutes later, Frankie was completely exhausted.

Coach grabbed the box and headed to his next student’s place.

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The Storm to Pass by Donna Matthews

The old-growth forest was a perfect place to calm her nerves. Out of control kids, cranky co-workers, and an ever-growing distance from her husband made her spirit anxious. A mile in, the sky darkens. The tall redwood trees surrender and sway in the high wind. Soon, the hail starts. Sharp, little pieces of ice falling on her head. She scrambles to find a fallen log to crawl inside. But she isn’t alone…running across her makeshift roof are the rabbits and squirrels seeking to share her shelter. She hurries to make room. They wait together for the storm to pass.

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New Life by Susan Sleggs

Trying to focus on paperwork in the Iraqi heat had Michael agitated. The only positive, he was inside. Then he heard the words, “The babies are out.” He grabbed his binoculars and joined the parade leaving the building. They raced passed a lone guy loading a truck, went to the far fence and raised their glasses. Michael enjoyed the moment then returned to the loader. “I’ll do this, you go have a look.”

“Thanks, Sarge.”

The newbie joined the group and after guidance, saw the hares playing on the burned remains of a jeep roof half-buried in the sand.

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The Rabbit on the Roof by Faith A. Colburn

When my grandparents put in the septic tank back in 1951 when we got REA, they found the hewed rafters of Billy Arnold’s original soddy, wood that lay rotting in a jumble beneath generations of dirt and prairie on the level north of the house. When Grandma told me, I closed my eyes and pictured the blocks of root-frozen dirt and the roof, a growing prairie of grass and wildflowers. If I were the rabbit on the roof, would I vary my diet with some tough purple coneflower, or daisy fleabane? Perhaps I’d just stick to the succulent grasses.

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The Roofing Rabbit by H.R.R. Gorman

Velour wiped her brow and sat back, hammer in paw. The roof of the cabin had been difficult so far, as they only had honey locust thorns as nails and bark for shingles.

“How goes it?” Velour’s mate, Timber, asked. His ears drooped from exhaustion, as he’d built the catted chimney.

She smiled. “We’ll have this finished by winter.” She pointed to a clay bottle sitting on a stump. “Take a break and have some ginger beer.”

“Only if you come down from the roof and drink with me.”

Velour clambered down, and the pioneer rabbits rested a minute.

🥕🥕🥕

Rabbit on the Roof by Joanne Fisher

Jess came back to the homestead to find Cindy was climbing to the roof.

“Hey honey, whatcha doing?” She asked.

“There’s a bunny up here.” Cindy replied.

“On the roof?” Jess clarified.

“Yes.”

“How did it get up there?”

“No idea.” Cindy shrugged her shoulders.

After a short moment Cindy came back down the ladder cradling a rabbit in her arms.

“What is it with you?” Jess asked. “Since we got married you’ve become a lost animal magnet. We have a dog and a cat, and I guess we’ve got a pet bunny too now?”

Cindy smiled at her.

🥕🥕🥕

Granny by Tammy Toj Gajewski

I sat on the bench which used the window trim as the table waiting, with my spoon poised. My feet dangled several inches from the floor swinging to the beat of Granny’s humming. She moved from the wood stove like a tank that can only turned slowly left. Her cotton dress covered with small pink flowers, flour towel over her shoulder, ladle cocked and loaded with the stew. It hopped into my bowl and smelled like heaven wrapped in warm towels from the dryer. I filled my mouth with the soft meat and my stomach growled with want.

🥕🥕🥕

Spring Picnic by tracey

Unbeknownst to the humans below a family of rabbits lived on the 94th floor (aka the roof). The first spring-like day they decided to go on a picnic. The aunts got busy making egg salad sandwiches and carrot cookies while the uncles dug out the picnic baskets. The cousins gathered quilts and Frisbees and badminton sets.

They headed to the park and set up under a tree whose leaves were still buds and basked in the warm sunshine. They enjoyed the good food, pleasant company and fine spring weather. The simple things in life are the best they agreed.

🥕🥕🥕

Stuff You Wouldn’t Find on Netflix by papershots

They saw a movie last night. First they discussed which movie; he’s been downloading movies all week – stuff you wouldn’t find on Netflix. Then they talked about the movie for a while before switching everything off for the night. The building across the street: the same; so in the apartments below, above. They appreciate the dialogues of the movies they see, they find the plots credible, they spot holes and admire the cinematography. “Would they like mine?” His eyes go red, he twitches his little-white-rabbit nose, and on the roof he says, “Yes, I’m happy I started this pandemic!”

🥕🥕🥕

Wishes… by JulesPaige

across lily pads
thick enough roofs for baby
bunnies in this wood

away from foxes and hounds
within the fairy forest

just one wish of three
to allow those cotton tales
another day to live

Still have two left. Though perhaps only one. Within minutes his son made it to his father’s bedside. Our son using his emergency vehicle raced in record time from the airport to the hospital. After a flight connection cancellation to the local airport made a time shift later on arrival at another, further airport.

Third wish? A fantastical quick cure for our present disease…

🥕🥕🥕

Police, Fire or Ambulance? by Anne Goodwin

What service, please?

We’ll need a fire ladder to access the roof and an ambulance in case he’s injured … I don’t think a crime has been committed but what was he doing there?

Okay, calm down, let’s get this straight: there’s a man on your roof, not a burglar, you’re worried he might be injured and can’t get down?

Almost.

Almost?

It’s not a man.

Makes no odds whether they identify as male, female or non-binary, if a person’s in trouble …

I wouldn’t anthropomorphise.

Pardon?

It’s a rabbit.

A rabbit. How long have you been self-isolating, madam?

🥕🥕🥕

Rabbits on the Roof by Charli Mills

A hummingbird with wings green as shiny jalapenos flit between foxgloves. Caleb stilled his chubby hands. Marta couldn’t say her neighbor would’ve approve of foxgloves where he once mowed lawn. He would’ve hollered at barefoot urchins digging in his yard. Those who survived, claimed it as a community garden. His house served as a schoolhouse. Not like the old institutions. Marta taught all ages how to garden with pollinators. On the rooftop, they raised rabbits. The neighborhood had two milk cows. Three years after the Great Calamity, no one hungered. Humanity reclaimed what it lost. The Industrial Revolution ended.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Rabbit What Rabbit by Susan Zutautas

“Hey Mom, you gotta come see this, there’s something on the roof of Maggie’s doghouse.”

“On the roof? Really? Hold on a minute, let me see if I can find my glasses.”

“You won’t find them, remember you left them at Aunt Becky’s.”

“Oh ya, I totally forgot. With all that rain coming down I can’t make out what it could be. Grab the umbrella and let’s go investigate. Don’t let Maggie follow us just in case … “

“Just in case what?”

“Never mind let’s go.”

Giggles … “Look at that, she’s such a silly dog, it’s her stuffed rabbit.”

🥕🥕🥕

Carrot Ranch by Nobbinmaug

“Is that a bunny on the roof?”

“Rabbit.”

“What?”

“Bunny is the equivalent of a slur to them.”

“Uh… Is that a rabbit on the roof?”

“Yep.”

“You don’t seem impressed.”

“Nope.”

“Does that happen often?”

“Working at a Carrot Ranch, one learns not to underestimate rabbits.”

“Even climbing on the roof?”

“They used to tunnel under the fence until we extended it deeper.”

“That doesn’t explain how it got on the roof.”

“Nope.”

“How do you think it got up there?”

“Parachute, maybe.”

“Parachute?”

“Maybe. Our job is not to question the rabbits but to protect the carrots.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rooftop Rabbit by Kerry E.B. Black

They studied the painting, heads cocked, brows furrowed, careful to keep their champagne-filled flutes upright. Aggy whispered into Greg’s ear, “What do you suppose the symbolism means?”

His cheeks colored, and he tugged at his tie as though it had tightened. “The artist admires theatre?”

She side-eyed him. “Well, ‘The Fiddler on the Roof’ symbolized tradition.‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ a restlessness of spirit. But this?” She waved at the canvas.

A sheepish smile peeked beneath his clipped mustache. “Solidarity for Heffner?”

Her eyebrows crinkled as she examined the rabbit atop the structure. “I don’t get it.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Temptation of Rabbit by Doug Jacquier

Rabbi Tannenbaum trudged through the snow and knifing winds until he saw the diner. Inside, he was greeted by an older blonde woman.

‘Cold enough for ya?’ she said, her smile frozen but her eyes taking in every detail.

‘Could I get something to eat?’

‘Ain’t had no supplies in 2 weeks. How ‘bout a toasted ham or bacon sandwich.’

‘Anything else?’

‘I just made a pie for my husband, Pastor Schicklgruber. We got lucky. Rabbit fell of the roof last night and broke its neck.’

‘Can I just have coffee?’

‘Kosher can’, she said, her eyes daring him.

🥕🥕🥕

Rabbit Trap by Michelle Wright

It was the Saturday after Nicolas and I had completed our first week of high school together. We had both been home schooled up until now. We each climbed out my window from my room and sat on the roof as we usually did. I asked him how he felt about school. He said, “Well, it’s cool to be around more dudes.” Before I could say anything some of those dudes from school shouted up at us, “Are there a couple rabbits on that roof?” I learned how disgusting teenage boys could be, including Nicolas. I locked my window.

🥕🥕🥕

Twitching by Hugh Roberts

As Sophie walked towards the figure of the woman, she noticed the front cover of the book in the woman’s hand. A rabbit on a roof. But was she dreaming, or was the rabbit’s nose twitching?

As Mike looked up at the ceiling of his room, the tapping noise he heard sounded like a rabbit he’d once seen hopping along a newly tiled roof. Particles of paint dust falling from the ceiling forced his eyes to twitch uncontrollably.

Two floors above, Doug’s eyes twitched on Clarice’s face. “Run rabbit, run. Doug, did you know there’s a gun?” she asked.

🥕🥕🥕

The Late Afternoon the Rabbit Died by Bill Engleson

“It’s too high, Charlie. I’ll break my legs.”

“You won’t break no bones, Pearly,” I tell her.

I don’t know a course.

“It’s just an old barn. You land right, problem solved.”

“There’s got to be another way. I never was a good climber.”

“I’ll git you up there. Don’t have to worry about climbin’. Just jumpin’.”

“Maybe we should wait a little while?”

“Pearly, we wait much longer, you be showin’ like a fat old momma sow. Then everyone’ll know.”

She gives in.

I boost her up.

Foolish bunny.

Don’t matter to me which way the rabbit dies.

🥕🥕🥕

Rabbit Run by Lisa A. Listwa

Liz stared hard into the darkness. There was that familiar sound, just enough like someone walking in the attic space above that it made her start. Every time.

Probably a squirrel or a bat or the pair of mourning doves who lived in the neighbor’s tree.

Still, the sound frightened her. Not because Liz believed it was anything sinister, but because it always set her mind racing. Faster they came, fear after fear crashing through her brain, a line of rabbits increasing as they passed.

Tonight would be a long night.

Near morning the eagle’s grasp would save her.

🥕🥕🥕

A Wild Hare: Post-pandemica by Liz Husebye Hartmann

I looked in the mirror, unsure. Six months quarantine, but now it’s safe to go out. I stepped out back, hesitating to shake free the sheet full of recently cut hair. Could this be used?

Out front, the neighbors laughed and called to one another. I jogged around to join them.

They’d all done their own haircuts, looking like offspring of Seuss and Scissorhands: this one with curls cascading frontwards, buzz cut out back; that one tinted with precious bleach, a dandelion gone to seed; another with untamed lion’s mane.

And me, joyful, with a rabbit on my roof!

🥕🥕🥕

Bunnies on the Roof by Cara and Mikey Stefano

The day was hot. I looked out my window in delight, watching the bunnies hop around on their long furry legs with their enormous ears twitching like antenna in the wind. Our split level house was the perfect way to watch the world go by. I figured I knew how those jack rabbit bunnies had made it up to the roof – they took the stairs, polite as you please, hopped up on the window sill and from there – an easy jump to the roof for those long legged jacks.

🥕🥕🥕

What Rabbits? by Norah Colvin

“Wassup?” He knew something was when she stopped rocking.
“Nothin’.” She continued rocking.
“Musta bin somethin’.”
“Nah. Thought I saw a rabbit on that roof, is all.”
“I ain’t never seen no rabbit on a roof.”
“You ain’t never seen nothin’.”

“What?”
“Thought there was two rabbits on that there roof.”
“That’s crazy.”

The rabbits multiplied, but she never stopped rockin’ and she never said nothin’.

One day, he stopped.
“Shhh. I hear somethun.”
“What?”
“Sounds like …”
A multitude of rabbits exploded from the roof, landing all around, even in their laps.
“What?”
“Nothin.”
They kept on rockin’.

🥕🥕🥕

The Rabbit by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

How did the rabbit get on the roof? Did it have wings? Had the whole world gone completely mad and animals suddenly attained previously unknown attributes?

The poor little creature pattered across the hot metal roof, confused and agitated.

A bit like me, thought Laura. Being isolated at home is making me feel peculiar, as if I am the only person in the world or the whole world has stopped except me. Business as usual, but not.

“At least I can do something positive to help the rabbit,” she mutters, heading for the garage to get the tall ladder.

🥕🥕🥕

Alice and Janice Save the World by eLPy

Alice sat atop the roof waiting for Janice. This wasn’t like her. Alice squeezed tight against the gable.

There came a high shriek. She twisted her ear listening. She heard the call and hopped out.

Janice landed next to her.

“I’m sorry Alice. You alright?”

“I am. You?”

“Yes.”

“Should I worry?”

“No. It seems we’ve started a movement. Others want to know how we, prey and predator, have forged an alliance. They want to help. This is how we will prosper in these times now that humans have turned their backs on the world.”

“Well done my friend.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Library Reader by Saifun Hassam

It was close to midnight. An aerial silk ribbon was suspended from the Library roof. How had that fearless Library Cat Rainbow anchored the ribbon to the eaves??

Rabbit secured the ribbon around himself and in two spiraling movements he was up on the roof. A gymnast and acrobat.

Ferret had opened the trapdoor near the chimney. Rabbit clambered into the attic, down the steps into the library. Rainbow had left the door ajar.

On the nearest shelf were Carroll and Seuss stories. Rabbit loved to read. Before dawn he was gone, dreaming of March Hares and Green Eggs.

🥕🥕🥕

Smokin’ Caterpillar (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Kid, yer grinnin’. Figgered ya’d be scowlin’ over this wild prompt.”

“Didn’t ya hear? Shorty’s gotta surprise comin’.”

“What is it?”

“Dunno, jist that it’s a surprise fer me an’ you.”

“Huh. Prob’ly hookin’ the bunkhouse up with television. It’s rabbit ears she’s on about!”

“That’s receptive of ya, Pal, but I don’t think so.”

“Then what the heck is up with a rabbit on the roof?”

“Mebbe thet hare went over the rooftop ta see what it could see. It’s a unique rabbit. Ya know how ta catch a unique rabbit, Pal?”

“No.”

“Ya ’neak up behind it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Smokin’ Caterpillar (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Smokin’ caterpillars? Thet better be a litter-airy ref’rence. An’ look at us, comin’ in behind thet dang D. Avery. Kid, what the heck is goin’ on?”

“Jist chasin’ rabbits, I s’pose, Pal. Been kinda hard ta focus lately. An’ now I’m jist so x’cited ‘bout

Shorty’s su’prise. Cain’t wait. Mebbe after the weekend we’ll see it.”

“Hmmf. Yer chasin’ rabbits alright. D. Avery know anythin’ ‘bout this su’prise?”

“Cain’t say Pal, not knowin’. We kinda drifted apart, disassociated, like. All I know is Shorty said it’s bigger’n a bread box, an’ it’s fer us ta take care of.”

“Dadnabbit!”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Ranch Recipes

First a saloon, and now a rotation of new columns from writers across the ranch. Carrot Ranch is gathering in the literary community as the world pauses and hunkers down.

Every Monday, you can expect to have fun with Kid and Pal, creations of D. Avery, who will operate the Saddle Up Saloon where Ranchers and their characters can gather. D. will interview characters and their creators, prompt writers, and generally keep the wit and writing flowing.

Every Tuesday, you can expect a column and a “closed call” in rotation among a fine array of Ranchers, including H.R.R. Gorman, Anne Goodwin, Bill Engleson, Ann Edall-Robson, Susan Sleggs, Norah Colvin, Sherri Matthews and me, Charli Mills.

Columns will vary in topic and include a call to participate. For example, I’m going to ask if any of you have recipes to share today. You can respond in the comments. A “closed call” means we are not link-sharing, blog hopping or publishing submissions. We want to create weekly social engagement and give writers a chance to play in the Carrot Ranch sandbox. Have fun! Be social!

We will continue as normal with the 99-word story challenges on Thursdays to share links, blogs, and publish submissions to the collection. If you want to publish in the collection, remember to enter the submission form. If you want to respond to any Monday or Tuesday prompts, do so in the comments.

Ranch Recipes made use of easily transported food that could feed large gatherings. It was said that my great-grandmother, who was a ranch cook, had no concept of making a small meal. Her recipes include beef and paired well with pinto beans.

Shortages at the grocery store will challenge us to think beyond our standard fixings. A good shift in thinking is to practice substitutions. How can you make a familiar dish from different ingredients? How can you alter it to reduce preparation time? Great-grandma’s enchiladas are time-consuming to make. This recipe is an easy one that alters her original but maintains a similar flavor. It’s also similar to lasagne but doesn’t call for pasta, which might not be in stock.

Enchilada Casserole

1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 medium onion chopped
1/2 cup black olives
1 medium can Enchilada Sauce
12 corn tortillas
1/3 cup cheddar cheese shredded

Brown ground beef and onions together for about 10 to 12 minutes, drain. Spray a casserole or pan (8×12 inches). Place half of tortillas in bottom. Spoon half of beef mixture on top and sprinkle with half the olives. Then layer the last tortillas, beef mixture, olives and cheese. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree F. oven for 25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes and serve with beans, garlic bread, and a green salad.

What if you can’t find beef? Try chicken or pork instead. A vegetarian option replaces the meat with 2 cups cooked rice, 1 can of black beans, and 1 can of corn. A vegan option replaces the cheese with a nut “cheese.” If you can’t find enchilada sauce, use any kind of jarred salsa or taco sauce. Corn tortillas last in the fridge much longer than flour tortillas. They make a great substitute if your store is short on bread.

Bottom line is to not panic and ranch forward. What would a chuckwagon boss do? Take stock of what is available, and use your creativity to play with ingredients and alter familiar recipes.

What tips or altered recipes are helping you shop during a shortage? Share in the comments.

Saddle Up Saloon; Bar None

Saloon

“Shorty, I git goin’ where the prompt leads, but I ain’t ‘zactly comfterble bein’ led blindfolded by anyone, even you. Where ya takin’ us?”

“Pal, it’s sech a great surprise! Wait till ya see it!”

“Well, Shorty, how kin we see it if’n ya got us wearin’ our bandanas over our eyes?”

“Yer short on patience Kid. Okay, whoa. Stop. Lift yer blindfolds, both a ya.”

“Wow! A waterin’ hole! Yeehaw!”

“The Saddle Up Saloon? How long’s this been here?”

“It’s brand new!”

“This saloon is on the ranch?”

“Just over the line.”

“Over the line? Thought it were a free range ranch, unbounded.”

“It is indeed, Pal, but I figgered it might be best if this establishment be set back some, in case you an’ Kid go over the line. Give us all some elbow room.”

“Ya think Kid an’ me’s gonna be here all the time, bendin’ our elbows, Shorty?”

“Bendin’ ‘em, throwin’ ‘em, but mostly it’s gonna take elbow grease. This here’s fer you! A place fer ranchers ta unwind, socialize, take in a show… you an’ Kid kin run it on yer own! Come on in. Look aroun’. There’s a bar, reckon you’ll have Ornery Ernie workin’ thet. An’ there’s a stage, an’ a piano. There’s plenty a tables, an’ a kitchen in the back.”

“Aw, it’s real nice, Shorty, an’ I ‘preciate it, but kin we jist talk ‘bout the elefint in the room?”

“Pal, I don’t see no elifint. Jeez, you all feverish too, seein’ elefints, an’ I s’pose rabbits on roofs? Any ways. You an’ I done talked ourselves outta elifints on the ranch already. On account a, you know, the size a their—”

“Shush, Kid. I mean, Shorty, how kin we open a business at a time like this? How kin we be invitin’ folks inta a public place an’ serve ‘em food an’ drink?”

“Pal, I’m countin’ on ya both ta serve folks what they need, an’ ta offer ‘em a safe place ta go an’ relax an’ interact with one unuther.”

“Gosh Shorty…. Kid, ya think we kin handle thet?”

“Shucks yeah, Pal. Asides, we got ever’body else aroun’ here ta pitch in.”

“You two will manage ta manage this place. It’s open 24/7, with somethin’ served fresh ever Monday.”

“Well, thet’s finer an’ a waxed moustache on a mosquito, Shorty. So what’re we servin’ first?”

“That’s fer you ta serve an’ me ta find out. I gotta ride on, but afore I leave ya here ta figger things out I got one more thing fer you, Kid. Here. It’s a rooted cutting from the Poet Tree. You kin grow yer own Poet Tree out back a this place. An’ Pal, there’s an office space jist fer you, ‘cause I know you’ll wanna git away from Kid now an’ agin. Okay, see y’all next Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon’s debut.”

“Later, Shorty. Well, Kid? What’ll we do fer our debut?”

“De butt? Heehee.”

“Don’t be an ass, Kid. We gotta think on this. I mean, we could do all sorts a things. Innerviews, open mikes, dif’frent challenges, dispense advice…”

“Heck, since we’re fictional characters, I wunner if they’s other fictional characters out there that’d like ta be innerviwed. Give ‘em a forum ta air their side a their stories.”

“Yeah, let’s do thet. Let’s do all a thet an’ more. Heck, Kid, mebbe ya kin revive yer think tank. But fer now, if folks wanna leave their ideas in the comments, thet’d be hepful. If they’s any characters out there wantin’ ta be innerviewed up on the stage here at the Saddle Up Saloon, contact us, Pal & Kid at averydede.1@gmail.com .”

 

Pal & Kid are free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch. They never tuck tail, but their tales are corralled as Ranch Yarns at ShiftnShake. If asked, they will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. Please let these yahoos know what you think, and stop in at the Saddle Up anytime for a virtual good time.

 

March 19: Flash Fiction Challenge

A rabbit hopped across my roof. Of course, he did; these are strange times.

When I came downstairs, I could see the rabbit’s tracks in the crusty snow of the lower roofline. I pulled aside the lace curtains, thinking it must be an illusion. Perhaps wind pocked paw-like holes in the snow or chunks of ice fell in a gust that made a track. It’s been intermittently windy and snowing, the cold seeping back at me through the pane of glass as my mind imagined the possibilities. There had to be an explanation.

Later in the day, the Hub asked, “Did you see there was a rabbit on our roof?”

Okay, I didn’t imagine a hippity-hopped trail. The Hub set out to investigate. Like Davy Crocket, he picked up the rabbit’s trail where one would expect it — on the ground. The rabbit hopped over from Mrs. Hitch’s house, through the upper branches of the lilacs (upper branches because the snowbanks are still four feet deep), onto to plowed trail and up the stairs of our deck. From there, the rabbit took the kind of leap of faith known to artists. Impressively, he went for it and lept up to the banister and across the broken gutter to land on the edge of the roof. He hopped over to the side of the second story, cut a trail across the roof.

In the tracks, you can see the rabbit’s hesitation. He paused at the edge, paws gripping the roofline. It’s a good thing we still have deep snow because I don’t think he would have survived a summertime landing. The Hub tracked his giant leap into the snowbank from where the rabbit ran off. No evidence of pursuit from the ground. No past sightings of gabled hares. No explanation. Just a bunny with four lucky rabbit’s feet.

And thus, I step across the threshold into a new era.

A friend suggested that humanity will likely look back at March 2020 and remember our last moments before the world locked down the way some remember what they were doing when an assassin shot President Kennedy, or how others recall where they were the moment of 9/11. We will remember what preceded the shift, maybe develop nostalgia for that last day of innocence when we went out for drinks with friends, not yet believing the toilet paper was gone from our town. Not our town. Not us. The oldest myth alive — not me. Yet, here I am, coughing, spiking a fever, asking to be tested. Denied.

Only celebrities and the critically ill get tested.

My before moment came last Friday when five of us rode up the peninsula in a friend’s crew-cab truck. Three women, giggling in the back while the two men up front talked. We all pointed out the winter deer and watched the waves leap over ice heaves along the snowy road. Spring will come, we said. We celebrated a friend’s birthday at the Fitz, famous for its sunsets and smokehouse dinners. The waves rushed the ice, splashing and catching the colors of the sinking sun. The horizon grew orange and pink, melding into brilliant copper. Those colors imprinted our minds and hearts, crystalized within the waves. We toasted with honey-mead and watched for the green flash. Darkness followed, and we drove back down the peninsula.

We were people without a curfew, people who believed we’d be seeing Monday morning like other Monday mornings after the weekend. People making plans. The birthday celebrant and I stayed in the truck when the other three stopped at a small grocery store in Calumet for a six-pack of beer. We talked about writing fiction, how it finds a way into truth. She told me something deep and personal, saying she could never write it, and I turned it around for her as a miner’s story. She got it. She understood she could write about the painful places in her life without feeling she had to confess to the world. We wrote stories in the air. The world spun.

Wallace Stegner believed that fiction writers have no other agenda than, to tell the truth. He said, “We write to make sense of it all.” Stories and characters are a way to draw out the ideas, experiences, and emotions from our heads to examine them in greater detail and apply conditions to see what happens. To understand. Or teach. The writer and reader meet on the pages of stories and connect intimately in private to work through what was and could be. We need truth-seekers in the world — the poets, memoirists, and fictionists. We dare to go to vulnerable places and shadowlands, looking for answers or carving art into the bones of life.

Driving home, we sat with toilet papers on our laps, laughing at our good fortune to buy beer and find a stack of TP. We felt giddy as teens up to mischief. Later, over birthday cake, we told stories. The next morning Wrangling Words canceled when the library shuttered despite its efforts to remain disinfected and open. The Hub went out to coffee for Frank Sinatra morning and later to the brewhouse where he met up with some of our friends. Sunday night, he commented on a tickle in his chest.

Then Monday morning arrived, and I woke up unusually early. The Hub had run out to grab coffee and claimed it was “martial law.” He’s a veteran. They all fear martial law and think it’s “coming” the way a zealot believes the end is is “near.” What was actually happening is that the State of Michigan canceled all schools and restaurants and bars were to close at 3 p.m. that day. Not zombies or martial law, but upsetting to those who suffer PTSD. My own hypervigilance kicked in, and I went to the co-op to order 20 pounds of jasmine rice, and for good measure, I bought dried elderberries and roots to make tonics.

Then I insisted he called CBOC (our local VA clinic) because of the tickle in his chest. Normally, I wouldn’t have even noticed. He had to call the VA hospital because CBOC was not answering, and the call center was so overloaded it took three attempts to get through. By then we checked, and he had a mild fever. Once he got through, the VA screened him for Covid-19 and passed him on to a different call center where he sat on hold for thirty minutes. They screened him and said a nurse would call back but that it wouldn’t be until the next day because they were so backed up.

Later in the day, I started to notice an uncomfortable tightness in my chest. Barely Day 1 of Social Distancing, and already we were sick. I remember thinking, great this must be how the slow caribou feel when the wolves close in before getting a chance to run. We fired up the sauna, fixed dinner, and prepared tonics. We encouraged each other to drink lots of water. The nurse called back that night and told us to stay home. I asked about testing, and she said only if we were critical.

The next day we both felt tired, my chest still tight, and his cough worsening. CBOC called to check on him, and it was a nurse we knew, so, again, I asked about getting tested. She told us straight up that they had no tests for veterans. If we wanted to be tested, we had to go to the ER, but the ER was closed to all but emergencies. Through digital means, friends assured us that we lived in the UP, and no one had tested positive. Inwardly, I grumbled because how could anyone test positive if no one was being tested? I had a few dizzy spells and experienced my heart revving up like a stuck throttle. We saunaed and rested.

Wednesday morning, I woke up and felt good. Then I learned that my daughter and SIL were both coming down with something, too. Out of the blue my fever spiked, and my heart raced. I went out to my sun porch to cool off. My neighbor was in my back yard so I stepped outside to tell her we were quarantined and from a distance, discussed how to handle egg deliveries. We worked out that she’d leave them on the front steps without having to touch any door handles. That made me realize I had to clean the door handles for our UPS driver. She then said, of course, they were testing people and go get tested.

Thus, I tried a different route outside the VA for myself. It took 20 times to call the local clinic. After several holds, I got screened and placed on hold so long that the local nurse followed up on my call before my original call was ever answered. She was concerned about my heart racing but told me not to go to the ER unless I was “certain” I was having a heart attack. Well, that wasn’t comforting. So, Todd has to be not breathing, and I have to be in cardiac arrest before we get tested for the thing that has us all shutdown, isolated, and quarantined. Am I missing something in this healthcare strategy?

Maybe I am, when I think of others involved — the practitioners themselves.

The stark reality is twofold — one, we don’t have enough tests, and two, we need to protect our healthcare professionals. If they get overwhelmed or sick from mild cases like ours, they will be worse off when severe cases start adding up. But I really hope they don’t. There’s still an innocent part of my brain that thinks we are all going to experience a normal Monday next week. That everyone will get a wimpy heart-fluttering mild fever, cough-cough, and say, “That’s it?” Truth is, I still think we are perched on the threshold. Let’s keep distancing, give our healthcare folks support, check-in from a distance with neighbors, and plan to wash our hands and doorknobs indefinitely.

This morning, I washed my toothbrush. Spring cleaning will be intense. I’m tired and panicked about how it’s Thursday, and finals are due Sunday. My focus has flown out the window. But the tightness in my chest is gone, and my heart settled down. The Hub scraped ice, and we both agreed we felt better. We likely do not have The Virus, but we are acting as though we do. For an introvert, my life is not all that altered. For the Hub, an extreme extrovert, he’s bemoaning the lockdown. We will shift. To what, I don’t know.

But if I have to be quarantined someplace, I’m grateful to be in an intact community. And maybe this is a chance for other communities to heal. We can’t heal the world without first healing the smaller place we call home. This is our challenge. And literary artists will be the ones pressing inward to define and explore what needs expression. Troubled times often clarify deeper truths.

It is dark now, and a rabbit was on my roof. It sounds like a good place as any to start the work of writing. Be well. Be safe. Write.

March 19, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a rabbit on the roof. Or many rabbits. Why are they there? Explain the unexpected, go into any genre. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 24, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Rabbits on the Roof by Charli Mills

A hummingbird with wings green as shiny jalapenos flit between foxgloves. Caleb stilled his chubby hands. Marta couldn’t say her neighbor would’ve approve of foxgloves where he once mowed lawn. He would’ve hollered at barefoot urchins digging in his yard. Those who survived, claimed it as a community garden. His house served as a schoolhouse. Not like the old institutions. Marta taught all ages how to garden with pollinators. On the rooftop, they raised rabbits. The neighborhood had two milk cows. Three years after the Great Calamity, no one hungered. Humanity reclaimed what it lost. The Industrial Revolution ended.

 

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