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February 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s February 14, and I find much to love today. I can imagine that the invisible warm winds lapping at the coast of snow outside my stoop conform to aerodynamic heart-shapes. Why not? The wind is unseen so I can pick how to see it in my mind. Hearts float by and surround me in such an imaginative construct.

Today, I met a Nigerian Prince, and I loved so much about our encounter. He didn’t say he was a prince, but by his demeanor and broad smile I couldn’t help but think he was. The local Rotary Chapter invited me to speak at their weekly luncheon. Not one to miss an opportunity to read and tell stories, I accepted the invitation to be their guest. That’s where I met the Prince.

He wore cloth not from the US — it looked thicker, and held a linen-like weave. It was dark blue, almost like a midnight sky when a full moon casts enough light to give color. Small dots of cream decorated the Prince’s matching shirt and pants. He dressed handsomely and spoke eloquently. Suddenly, I loved Nigerian language. It occurs to me in afterthought that I should have asked him to speak his native tongue.

The Prince spoke clear English, but I noticed he rounded his sounds as if his mouth were an instrument. It made me think how sacred oral communication is, how as people, we take great care to shape sounds into words to give meaning to what we feel inside. And what is that exactly? What is this tug to love so many things — people, ideas, stories, exchanges? Literary art feeds on this impulse of expression.

Mostly, I loved the Prince because he appreciated my stories. Isn’t that the simplest of love stories? He approached with great care and asked if I had my words down in something he could carry. A book. But think about that a minute, because that’s where I’ve been languishing all day, believing heart-shaped wind caresses my snow into melting. He asked to carry my stories back with him. Back to Nigeria.

How could I refuse such a request? Yes, I gave him a copy of Vol. 1, and he requested I write something in it just for him. I’ve not felt so revered as I did with the Prince. Of course, that’s why I thought he had to be royalty. He was magnificent. Further, he told me a story about how he and his friends collect books and how hard it is to take all the volumes back to his country because of weight limits. Image that Nigeria is a place where literacy is so valued that when you return, you try to haul back as many books as you can!

Although I’m less enamored with children, I did love the ones who came with their parents today (something about a half school day). They all wanted to listen to the writer. One listened intently. I could see her listening with her eyes, creating images of the stories her grandmother told at my lunch table. That woman was one to love — a natural-born storyteller who announced to me as she left that she was going to declare herself a buckaroo, too!

How about that? I found a kindred-buckaroo-spirit in the Keweenaw. She and her granddaughter would have understood if I had whispered to them that the winds were blowing hearts today.

During my talk, I read. I love the privilege of working at Carrot Ranch among such talented, tenacious, and courageous writers. Fellow literary artists. I read a few stories from Vol. 1. I read a trio of Copper Country stories for Vol. 2. The audience marveled at the power of 99-word flash and the scope of where writers come from around the world. I love watching people connect with the stories. There’s nothing quite like reading aloud literary art and watching it grab ahold of listeners.

When I talk to audiences, I make sure I know who they are — business or civic-minded, students, or casual listeners looking to be entertained. I select stories to stir their hearts and prod their minds. I have my own 99-word stories I read, and a few I share from my storytelling tradition. Today, I asked for a volunteer to join me up front to hold my hand. I swear I don’t gnash my teeth at people, but you’d think I went feral at the uncomfortable silence that ensued.

I love that uncomfortable silence.

That’s the space where humanity happens. If we are comfortable, then we are walled up, everyone happily co-existing in boundaries. I want to break down walls. I want to risk discomfort, which is the point of my request. The man from the back who braved stepping forward let me hold his hand. It’s not the story I tell that alters the audience. It’s the understanding that shifts their hearts.

Holding the man’s hand, I relate a story once gifted to me by a Kentucky storyteller who once spoke at Carroll College when I was a student. She had asked for my hand and told me about the time her grandfather died. Before he passed, he asked for her hand. She was eight-years-old, and he told her that when he was that age, he met a man who fought in the Civil War. He held a rifle in his hands and battled cousin against cousin. He was old, but held the boy’s hand and said: “Don’t forget — you once held the hand of a man who fought in the Civil War.”

The boy grew up, raised a family, and as an old man on his deathbed, he passed down the story to his granddaughter, holding her hand. He said, “You’ve now held the hand of a man who held the hand of one who fought in the Civil War.”

And yes, I passed this down to a man in the Keweenaw Rotary Club today. I told him, “You held the hand of a woman who held the hand of the granddaughter of the man who held the hand of one who fought in the Civil War.” It gets long-winded, lots of hand-holding as the story grows, but they all got it. And I loved that moment of recognition. That moment when stories express the humanity of one to the humanity of others. That’s literary art. And that’s why we practice and put our stories out there.

We talked about collecting stories, about being story-catchers for the Rotary, their businesses, families, and life. I gave them my Lego bucket analogy for gathering 99-word stories. The kids all knew what we do with Legos — we build. One member asked if Carrot Ranch was my business. No, I told her. It’s my author platform, and I share it with a community. I explained how authors need to work simultaneously on three strategies — writing (drafting, revising, editing), platform building, and publishing. I told her that I also loved the interaction with other writers and the chance to create literary art as I work on longer projects.

I closed with this 99-word story I wrote for one of the Rodeo contests in 2017. I think. Sometimes, I realize I’m not a good curator of my own writing as I wildly sow seeds and then try to gather them up in some sort of organization. I don’t always pick the same stories to share, but I love this one so I will share it now (perhaps, again):

When I Grow Up, I Just Want to Be Happy by Charli Mills

I’m six-years-old and have told a lie. “Mom said I could go home with Mitch.” I leave school early with my cousin and our grandfather.

Mitch is Underdog to my Polly Purebread fears. He’s my hero. My pulse doesn’t flutter like a swallowed bird in my throat when we’re together. We pedal bikes through the apricot orchards, watch cartoons, roam turkey barns, climb baled haystacks.

Our grandfather catches me in the lie when my mother panics, not finding me at school. “Always tell the truth,” he chastises us.

My cousin does. He becomes a cop.

Me; I write fiction.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m happy. In Finland, they greet, “Hyvää Ystävänpaivää!” Don’t ask me how to say it; I can hardly understand the English of Yoopers who shape their mouths and perform tongue gymnastics differently from my Nigerian Prince and me. But it means, “Happy Friendship Day!” And I love that. Love among friends, palentines for pals, love for life, humanity and art is so much broader than steak-and-lobster-for-two kind of love. Although, I do love steak and lobster.

A few household details — remember to include your story on the form, not just a link to your story. A link makes me work differently, kind of like I have to get off my horse to go take care of a chore that I asked a rancher to do. If you were my kids, I’d give you that “look.” And kudos to all of you who are getting into the mash-up vibe (combining constraints). I love that creative energy! But remember that this challenge is more than a prompt — it’s 99-words, no more, no less. Otherwise, you know the deal — go where the prompt lead!

Go spread love. Write. Make art.

February 14, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about valentines. It can be Valentine’s Day, the exchange, love for another, romance, or friendship. Have a heart and go where the prompt leads!

Respond by February 19, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Be Mine (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

No Valentine’s Day card greeted Danni in the mailbox. Only an official Veterans Affairs mailer. She flipped on houselights, contemplating cold leftovers. She’d rather be wining and dining Ike, but he was in Iraq. Her landline rang.

“Hey, Michael.”

“What’s up? Hear from Ike?”

“No. just something from the VA.” Danni opened the envelop as Michael told her the latest from the Canadian border – nothing. “Oh, wow. This letter rates Ike for PTSD.”

Silence.

“Michael?”

“Are you going to leave him?” Michael asked.

“Are you going to dump your friend?”

“Hell no!”

“That’s my answer. He’ll always be mine.”

Signs

Signs are all around us. They guide our roads, mark our territories, and give us direction. Some signs are as blunt as a red octagon declaring stop, and others urge us forward as signs we interpret.

Without a map, writers followed where the signs led them. Signs — and stories about them — are as diverse as the paths to get there. Where? Well, read on and find out.

The following are based on the February 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign.

PART I (10-minute read)

Mourning by Sascha Darlington

So much pain.

I became mean, tired, despondent. I pushed. I shoved. Told everyone to leave.

They did.

Through day and night, I existed, feet scuffling as I sleepwalked through life, uncomprehending light or dark or winter or spring until I blinked awake, teary, pillow sodden, a scratching on the back-door reverberating through the house.

I willed the sound away. I had power: I willed people away. I could will this away. Yet, it continued.

Opening the door, I saw your brown eyes gazing from a dog’s face, a dog with your joie de vivre, who invited himself in.

🥕🥕🥕

Part I: For Sale (True Love) by Tracey

‘For Sale’. The sign had been in front of the colonial with the lovely porch for months. This cold February morning there was a second sign: ‘Open House’.

She walked slowly through the entire house: gleaming woodwork, an eat-in kitchen with a bay window looking over the backyard, a claw foot tub. It was too perfect. Her heart shouted she was home.

She felt herself start to tremble as she took the flyer from the real estate agent and glanced at the price. “I’ll take it” she heard herself say as her head chimed in to match her heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Part II: Stop Sign (Also True Love) by Tracey

One balmy evening I sat on my front porch watching the fireflies appear in the gloaming. A woman ran the stop sign at the corner and hit another car. A low impact crash: crumpled metal and shattered plastic bits but no one hurt.

She must have lived nearby, her husband arrived quickly. The first thing he did was ask if she was hurt. She started to cry and said, “I am so stupid.” Her husband replied, “I know you are but I need to know you are okay first.” I laughed softly in the growing darkness. Well, wouldn’t you?

🥕🥕🥕

Ominous Signs by Norah Colvin

Every day, the farmers scanned the skies for a sign, any sign, that a reprieve from the relentless drought was on its way. The dusty red soil yielded not a single blade of feed for the suffering stock. Bales of hay, donated by city folk, helped but soon it too would be gone. When the rains finally came, the farmers rejoiced. For four days it rained; beautiful, drenching, life-giving rains, soaked up by the thirsty soil. But it wouldn’t stop. It transformed their world into an enormous, red, muddy sea. Hopes drowned alongside precious stock leaving heartbreak and devastation.

🥕🥕🥕

Paper Boats in the Monsoon by Trailblazer

A delayed child, who never spoke, giggles to herself.
Everyone except me thinks she is defective. None in that big, rich family cared.
Somehow she knew I appreciated her. She hugs my gifts and giggles.

I visited her last monsoon. She was playing with paper boats in puddles of water. She appeared angelic.

A fallen coconut, her port. Boats named in an unknown script. Suddenly she spoke a peculiar language fluently.
The signs were good enough, she was an angel.
She hugged the pink sweater gift and giggled.

A month later saw her lifeless body wearing that pink sweater.

🥕🥕🥕

The Universe Isn’t Interested by Anne Goodwin

A white P against a blue background: Janice was almost level with the sign when she swung the wheel and shunted into the layby. A horn blared as a truck sped past.

Silencing the engine, she clambered out onto the verge. Shaking both fists, she dropped her jaw and screamed.

Traffic roared by, indifferent. The slate fellside frowned as it had done for millennia. A small copper danced from daisy to dandelion, oblivious.

Her throat remained raw from their argument. Was love as ephemeral as that butterfly or would theirs emerge resplendent from this ice age, like the land?

🥕🥕🥕

Sign in the Wilderness by Deborah Lee

“What’s wrong?” Henry asks.

Jane feels herself, ridiculously, wobbling a bit, and forces equilibrium back. “Nothing, really, just about the strongest déjà vu I’ve ever had.”

“I read somewhere,” Henry says comfortably, “some guru somebody, that déjà vu is a spiritual sign that you’re doing everything you’re supposed to, right where you’re supposed to be.”

“So, me being unable to find a job or have a roof over my head is a milestone? If the powers that be are going to send a big ‘YOU ARE HERE’ sign, it’d be nice if they’d also tell me where HERE is!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Dream by Colleen M. Chesebro

It began with a dream so real that I woke up on the hard floor beside my bed. My first thought was that the ancestors were trying to tell me something. They often spoke with signs, like the day I found a feather on the ground where no birds tarried or how the wind caressed my face a certain way.

Sometimes, they spoke by invoking a change in the weather, such as when the clouds blocked out the sun leaving a coldness behind. Then, the ancestors spoke to me through the shadows. And, when the ancestors spoke, I listened.

🥕🥕🥕

The Unreasonable Age of Reasoning by JulesPaige

The young man was an excellent manipulator. He wanted to do things his way, when he wanted to. Normal inquisitiveness was rewarded. He liked that. When he had to do things he didn’t want to, there was trouble. The Elementary School inadvertently gave him a sign that allowed him to get the upper hand. The ‘sign’ he was labeled with was ‘anger management issues’. And he was going to use it to get his way, when ever he could.

There were some adults who still possessed common sense. And he would have to learn to behave when around them.

🥕🥕🥕

The Recycling Centre by Sally Cronin

Having followed the signs to the centre, she stood in line. It was almost time to relinquish the baggage she dragged behind her. It contained items representing her life, the good, bad and ugly. Admittedly there had been much love and laughter mixed with the heartache. However, the invitation to recycle unwanted items offered a new start.

Holding out the suitcase to the man she hesitated. ‘Can I remove some things?’

‘Sorry ’, he smiled kindly. ‘It’s all or nothing.’

Loading the bag into the car, it seemed lighter than when she arrived, despite choosing to keep it all.

🥕🥕🥕

Signs, A Dyslexic’s Guide by Geoff Le Pard

‘It must be a sign, Logan.’

‘It’s a cloud, Morgan.’

‘No, but it’s like an Arrow and that means love, so she…’

‘Love?’

‘Love’s Winged Arrow. Eros.’

‘More like a straw and you’re clutching it.’

‘Ha bloody ha. My mum saw a cloud like a face once and next day she found she was pregnant.’

‘She had to be pregnant already.’

‘True. And she said it looked like a frog.’

‘Are all your family into signs?’

‘Gran’s not. She thought she was going to a book singing. Very disappointed when she just got a scrawl and Cliff Richard’s autobiography.’

🥕🥕🥕

Sign by Chesea Owens

A simple man, though good and kind
Went walking down the sidewalk line
And saw a simple womankind.
He thought, She looks, to me, quite fine.
Meanwhilst, she glanced in mirrored shrine;
Of café window, ‘neath a sign
And told herself she was quite pline;
Till, seeing, side and just behind
Our simple man, in quite the bind.
Then, from his cellphone, played a chime:
‘Twas evening of Day Valentine.
She smiled, asked, “You have the time?”
He smiled, too; said, “Not yet nine.
Would you,” he paused, “Want to be mine
For supper, now it’s time to dine?”

🥕🥕🥕

Sign in a Dream by Susan Zutautas

Valentine’s Day was almost here. Meg was excited as Ian was planning a romantic dinner for two at his place. She loved a man that would cook for her.

The night before the big day Meg had a dream of her mother playing a church organ. When she awoke, she thought it was strange. Seldom did she dream of her. Meg put it out of her mind.

When she got to Ian’s he asked her to sit while he played the piano. The song he played and sang was Marry Me. Meg cried, “Yes, yes, of course, I will!”

🥕🥕🥕

Final Answer by Jo Hawk

It’s the question I’ve been asking since we met. I can’t tell if you care or if you tease. With you the day is light or else it’s black. Your words can bring me to my knees. Give me a sign to let me know.

My friends say I should live my life, stop this endless strife, and find myself another wife. I want a single word from you, the reason to endure to the end of time. Please give me a sign and let me know.

Tonight, I found you gone, and at last, I read your sign.

🥕🥕🥕

Ocean City by Kay Kingsley

Her life was boring and she knew it. Several times she tried engaging but felt it was like trying to merge onto a freeway from a stopped position so she eventually gave up and gave in. This would be her life.

That was until she noticed the interstate sign that read, “Ocean City, MD 3,073 miles”.

Passing it on her daily commute, she looked forward to it, had to see it. It called to her.

So with her suitcase in tow, she called in sick, driving east towards the rising sun in Ocean City where her destiny awaited her.

🥕🥕🥕

Not a Brag – A Reality by Susan Sleggs

On the Riverside Hotel lobby wall there was a big, bold sign; Our bartender Carlton is the best in the US. We took our luggage to the room, freshened up and went to the lounge; curious. With our first order Carlton asked our names and hometown and didn’t forget. He asked other guests the same then introduced everyone to everyone else. We had a fun evening with what felt like old friends. We left an exorbitant tip, sad we couldn’t stay another night. We still talk about Carlton, wonder how much money he makes, and if he’s still there.

🥕🥕🥕

Chester Needs a Woman to Tell Him Where to Go by Molly Stevens

“You want me to help navigate? I’ve got google maps open on my phone,” said Ruth.

“Nope. I’ve driven to Worcester so many times, I know how to get there better than one of them apps,” said Chester.

“But it’s been a long time since you’ve driven this route.”

“Don’t worry. I can get us there without a woman tellin’ me where to go.”

“Suit yourself,” said Ruth. “I guess I’ll take a nap.”

“Woman, how’d you let me miss the exit sign for Worcester!”

Startled awake, Ruth sputtered, “I’d be happy to tell you where to go now.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Sign by Allison Maruska

I dash up the street, my young son’s hand in mine. We weave through the crowd, bumping into a lumbering old man and a child picking something sticky off the pavement.

“Mommy! Slow down!”

I don’t. I know what slowing down means, even if my boy of three doesn’t.

There’s an open store on the corner. A tourist shop selling postcards, plastic jewelry, and native blankets from Mexico. As I yank on the handle, I see the depressing sign: Restroom is for customers only.

“Mommy, I gotta go!”

Guess I’ll be adding a pack of gum to my supply.

🥕🥕🥕

Have a Great Fall by D. Avery

“Mom, I’m going to Tommy’s.”

“Destiny looks uncomfortable driving that Tonka bulldozer. And what’s that sign she’s holding? What are you two up to now?”

“We’re gonna protest. Tommy and his GI Joe built a humpty-trumpty wall out of snow.”

“Marlie, I’m sure GI Joe is just following Executive orders.”

“That’s what Tommy said. But I don’t like walls like that.”

“It’s cold out. Wear this hat.”

“Tommy’s dad does not like this hat. At all.”

“I know. Here. I made a little one just like it for Destiny. And here’s one for GI Joe too.”

“Awesome! Thanks mom!”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Sign by Ann Edall-Robson

I need to keep moving. Safety is somewhere on the other side of the creek. The sound of running water tells me the ice is failing in the spring-like weather.

Animal sign is everywhere along the creek bank. Elk, wolf, deer, bear, and coyote, their calling cards at my feet. Tracks disappear like ghosts into the willows. A constant reminder I am not alone here. I must be vigilant of my surroundings and the sounds unfitted by the wind.

I hear them. Their voices put me on full alert. Will the ice hold? I have to chance it.

🥕🥕🥕

The Archeri by The Dark Netizen

The two boys stared wide eyed at the holstered silver gun.

It was huge. Even though they had no experience with guns other than video games, this weapon looked like no ordinary person could wield it. Not that Perseus looked like an ordinary person, either. Gary turned towards Billy.

“What is an Acheri?”

“Well, its a monster that preys on those who show fear. That’s why it tries to strike terror into its victims’ hearts, before attacking and capturing them.”

Perseus suddenly got up.

“The fog is thickening. A sure sign that the Acheri is there. Time to hunt.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Black Arrow by Joanne Fisher

Aalen found herself in a thicket. Coming into a clearing she found two dead bodies before her. Both human soldiers dressed in similar garb to the ones she killed on the borders of her land. Probably scouts of some kind. One had an arrow through his throat, while the other had one through the right eye. Pinpoint accuracy. Both arrows were painted black. She was unaware of anyone who did this. The fact that someone else was also hunting the soldiers Aalen took as a sign she was doing the right thing. Somewhere out there she had an ally.

🥕🥕🥕

Signs by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

They had missed the signs completely. By the time the cause of Aron’s increasingly hyperactive, excitable and erratic behaviour had become clear, it was too late to save him.

Mary berated herself. She had been so foolish. When the squirrel bit Aron, he had come straight to her for help. His eyes were shiny with panic as his numerous fears for his health overwhelmed him. His hysterical ravings had irritated her so much that she had not considered the possibility of rabies.  Now he was dead and he had taken some of their friends with him to the grave.

🥕🥕🥕

A Sincere Sign by calmkate

I saw a sign that said it all

my heart and soul it did call

a reasonable warning far and wide

to meet our needs and not imbibe

in every desire as it arises

accumulation compromises

turning life into real fear

as others try to draw near

seeking a share of perceived wealth

it haunts endangering our health

much easier to live within our means

brings content, avoids unholy scenes

greed breeds envy and that eats away

as on our sanity and calm it will play

for restful sleep and peace of mind

be wary greed and envy blind!

🥕🥕🥕

Megan by Nobbinmaug

Megan lost interest in the things she used to love. Simple pleasures eluded her. She started sleeping more and found she couldn’t concentrate. She avoided her reflection. She became more reserved and withdrawn.

She asked for help in subtle ways. She made multiple attempts to talk to friends, but nobody understood. They thought she was being dramatic. Friends started avoiding her. So, she buried her feelings deep down inside and tried to play it off like everything was fine.

One day, her sister found Megan in a bathtub full of blood. Nobody took the time to read the signs.

🥕🥕🥕

Seized by Kerry E.B. Black

The sisters joined hands and confronted a red word on bone-white metal. Seized.

Freya trembled. Although she didn’t understand the word, she dreaded. “What’s it mean, Miriam?”

Miriam peered around the police tape. Inside the simple building, officers snapped photos, placed belongings into boxes, and recorded the contents on paper taped to the outside.

Like ants, officers conveyed family art into the back of trucks. Books crackled from a side yard bonfire.

Tears slid beneath Miriam’s glasses. “It means we’ve lost everything.”

Freya pulled Miriam into the shadows. “No, not everything.” She squeezed Miriam’s hand. “We have each other.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Sign by Michele Jones

Again. Another beating, more destruction. Allie dropped to the corner and covered her face with her arms. “Please don’t hit me. I’ll do better. I promise.”

“You better have this place clean before I get back.” He left, slamming the door behind him sign falling to the floor. Worst sign ever.

Tears flowed down her cheeks. It was time. Allie ran out with only what she could shove in her backpack, and her cell. She couldn’t risk getting caught by him. The rain pelted her face as she ran through the streets, but she was free. Away from him.

🥕🥕🥕

Actions Speak Louder Than Words (A Sign) by Andes Cruz

When he stopped replying to my messages… it was a sign. When he left without a trace, it was a sign. When he didn’t skulk back and wish me a happy Holiday, new years, or birthday – it was a sign. When he didn’t get upset I ignored his birthday, also a sign. And when he didn’t show up to our long ago planned Valentines Day private party for one, it was a sign.

I refused to listen, I willed it not to be true.
But it was.
He was gone.
And there was nothing I could do about it.

🥕🥕🥕

Quite the Sign by Teresa Grabs

They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, but Jasmine never bought into that. Linda continued blabbering about her latest opportunity. She sipped her coffee and nodded at the right times but wasn’t listening at all.

“Lin, you know I love ya, but it’s a scam. I hope you didn’t pay anything.”

Linda was taken aback. “If you were a real friend.”

Jasmine sighed as Linda stormed out of the shop.

Moments later, Linda returned silently to the table. She handed Jasmine her buy-in check. “If that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.”

“What?”

“The police just arrested the owner.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sign by Pete Fanning

The biggest news in Maycomb that summer was the giant STORE CLOSING banner out front at Sweeney’s. Mom nearly cried. She and Dad had gone to high school with the butcher and two of the cashiers. Dad shrugged it off, WalMart was cheaper anyhow.

I didn’t get why Mom was so worked up. It was just a tiny grocery store. A few years back, the first S had gone out in the SWEENEY’S sign out front and I’d thought it was the funniest thing ever. It had been fixed, but the S still shined brighter than the other letters.

🥕🥕🥕

A Sign: Off the Times by Bill Engleson

“Did you hear that?” she asked.

“What?”

“What he just said?”

“Who?”

“Trump. In that news clip from the Prayer breakfast.”

“Seriously? No. I’ve stopped listening to him. I told you before, I’ve reached my gibberish quotient.”

“This was new. Like it was there…flitting about in his brain…and then, whoosh, it came out. Like a popped pimple. Like it’s a sign of what’s coming.

“Okay. I’ll bite. What was it?”

“He said ‘one of our greatest strides…the abolition of civil rights.’”

“Nah! Even he…”

“Even he…what?”

“Wouldn’t…”

“It’s Trump, remember.”

“Well, when you put it that way. Holy moly!”

🥕🥕🥕

Sign by Floridaborne

Let’s play a game.

Assign each letter a number from 1 to 9.

My name is Joelle LeGendre.

My #’s are   165335 35755495

I’ll make up what this means

1  lucky in love

2  total failure

3  your artistic work will be a success

4  keep your family together

5  Change jobs

6  Take the plunge

7  You need a vacation

8  Future entrepreneur

9  Pursue the 3rd goal on your list

Added together, my single digit total is 3.

Yay!  My book is going to be a success!

Um…which one?  I asked for a sign, not a puzzle!

🥕🥕🥕

Boundary by Abhijit Ray

Like every weekend, Radhika and Yatin were out with their cycling club members this saturday. That is when they noticed the board “Private Property, Keep Out.”

“What are they are hiding?” asked Yatin, “why they want everyone out?”

“They are protecting their personal space,” said Radhika, “what’s your problem?”

“Problem is homophobia; obviously, they can’t keep out air, light, birds and animals,” retorted Yatin, “they are against humans.”

“Now you are being facetious!”

“Sure, you would know,” said Yatin sarcastically,” you own one such board!”

“What do you mean?”

“How many men you dated, since your last break up?”

🥕🥕🥕

Sign, Sign Everywhere a Sign by Nancy Brady

Julie was frequently seen walking around town, which was one perk to living where she did. It could be hazardous because drivers didn’t pay much attention to pedestrians despite the recently changed street layout.

Suddenly, there were three red octagonal markers where there had been none, demanding each car to stop before proceeding. Most drivers, however, just slid around the corner unless there was another car at the three-sided intersection.

Julie experienced many close calls in that crosswalk as cars zipped by. Fed up, she made and put up three strategically placed signs: “IT’S NOT A SUGGESTION: STOP AHEAD.”

🥕🥕🥕

Is This Clear Enough for You? by Di @ pensitivity101

All that was left were his boots and a bloodied foot.

His family were up in arms and blamed the owner for their kin’s demise.

‘There are signs!’ he shouted. ‘They’re not there for show. They’re warnings. It’s not my fault if you lot don’t take any notice!’

‘They don’t explain the dangers when perhaps they should.’

‘You’re trespassing! I don’t have to give you the willy nilly and whys and wherefores why you’ve got to keep out!’

‘They’re inadequate!’

He sighed.

‘OK. I’ll change them.’

The following day, newly erected signs read

“Warning: Bears. Trespassers will be eaten.”

🥕🥕🥕

Why Did I Get Up by Ritu Bhathal

Nina dragged herself to sitting position. Why did the alarm have to go off?

She swung her feet out of bed and one landed on a squidgy mess.

Great.

The cat had been eating silly things, and deposited his sick at her bedside.

The shower was no better. Her flatmate had used up all the hot water.

Even her morning coffee was blighted with the fact there was no milk left.

After three hours of sitting on a bus, trying to reach her workplace, Nina gave up.

All signs that she should just have stayed in bed this morning.

🥕🥕🥕

Cure for Cabin Fever by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Crystal bottles stood before her, hip shot in relaxed groups. Scented soldiers, they had no expectation they’d be called to order; Treena preferred sweatpants to skinny jeans, books to bodies grinding on a dance floor.

She glanced out at last night’s blizzard draped like predatory animals on nude tree branches, the streets below slick and frozen. Lifting bottles to the setting sun, Treena discarded each in a straight line until a sea-green bottle caught the light.

She sniffed. “That’s it!”

Spritzing the air, she stepped into the fragrant mist, “Enough cabin fever.”

Treena headed out into her personal Spring.

🥕🥕🥕

Sightseeing – Kyoto, Japan by Miriam Hurdle

“We arrived at Mount Arashiyama. Let’s get off the bus here.”

“Where do we go, Carl?”

“Follow the sign to the Iwatayama Monkey Park.”

“The sign points to the top of the mountain.”

“We’re at the right place, Gail.”

“Oh, the climb is steep, I’m out of breath.”

“There must be a reason to have so many benches on the way.”

“I can see the monkeys and many Park keepers now.”

“The view of Kyoto is spectacular from here.”

“What are the monkeys doing? Do they have lice?”

“No, they’re grooming each other as part of the social interaction.”

🥕🥕🥕

Reflected Glory by Anurag Bakhshi

“Do you see this certificate?” I asked.

“Of course,” pat came the reply, “I can see everything.”

I was positively gloating as I posed my follow-up question, “Can you read the sign at the end?”

There was just a hint of trepidation, and hesitation, in the response, “Yes, but…”

“You can’t get away with your ifs and buts this time, my dear,” I exclaimed, going in for the kill, “This certificate by the Guinness Book of World Records clearly states that I am the fairest of them all. They should know better than a stupid old mirror, shouldn’t they?”

🥕🥕🥕

PART III (5-minute read)

Squanto by D. Avery

Massasoit keeps me close; he does not trust me who has been carried back and forth by the giant birds, which have been preying along the coast.

I learned the words of the English in their country. The giant birds are ships. After five springs I followed the sun back to my country in ships, finally returning to Pawtuxet where chill winds rattled through empty fields littered with the untended bones of my people.

Another ship has come. English families are building in Pawtuxet. Massasoit gathered the shamans in the swamp, looking for a sign.

These are uncertain times.

🥕🥕🥕

Alabama Highway by H.R.R. Gorman

Trees, killed and cut, lined both sides of the road. The road, as far as Stomping Beaver knew, hadn’t been there a week ago. The white army might as well have posted a sign mentioning their intent.

“They move fast.” His teenage son tossed a few twigs.

“Faster now they’ve built this road.” Stomping Beaver removed his shoulder bag and tucked it beneath one of the felled logs. “Stay here. Have my food – this bag will only slow me down.”

He’d be too late. The road was several days old, and the fort was only two days march away.

🥕🥕🥕

A Drive Back in Time (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Ramona looked for the sign, the one that read Elmira. Snow pelted her windshield with a mesmerizing kaleidoscope that Vic called whiteout fever. She ignored it the way her husband said to, and instead followed the tracks in the snow. Ramona startled when her headlights caught the township sign. Why were the mill lights out? So dark! She slowed and pulled into her driveway where someone was plowing the easement. Vic, her husband. The power must be out. She waved and blew him a kiss. Silly man. What was he up to, calling a young thing like her, “Grandma”?

🥕🥕🥕

Country Music by TN Kerr

The sign on the door read, “The Unwritten Halibut”. She stood just inside waiting for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. This was her kind of place. It was a drinker’s bar. Dark paneling lined the walls; a couple of neon beer signs glowed in the back. A ghost of smoke held up the ceiling in defiance of a local ban. Rainbow colored bottles sat on glass shelves and four or five patrons rested at the bar; staring into their drinks, not talking. The volume was low as Hank Williams sang a hard luck song on the box.

🥕🥕🥕

The Thing by John Rieber

He noticed the sign for the first time just a few miles from “The Thing.” The billboard was gaudy; it showed a diminutive character with a large top hat and a shocked expression and asked “can you handle the shocking surprise of “The Thing?” He was hooked. When he saw the roadside attraction, he pulled over and fished in his pocket for the $1 entrance fee. As he entered the musty building, his final destination was the last thing on his mind. Perhaps the money would be there, perhaps not. It was only $1-million, so it almost didn’t matter.

🥕🥕🥕

Signs – A Remarkable Conversation by Gordon Le Pard

He knew how it would be, it wasn’t that people were unkind but for someone profoundly deaf there was little he could enjoy in a party like this.

The guests were introduced, he smiled, was about to sit down and read, when the last woman smiled back and flicked her fingers.

“Good afternoon?” She signed, “what is the book?”

For the first time in years he sat and enjoyed a conversation. She certainly knew her books, and suggested many things he could read. As she rose to leave he asked.

“Have you ever written anything?”

“Perhaps.” Signed Jane Austen

Author’s Note: This tale is absolutely true, the meeting took place in Southampton on December 27th 1808.

🥕🥕🥕

The Forest by Saifun Hassam

For the umpteenth time, Carmen questioned her wisdom in exploring the ancient Petrified Forest. Its fallen trees were part of a living forest some 200 million years ago. The sediments also contained fossils of ferns and ginkgo, reptiles and dinosaurs.

As a botanist, Carmen was curious about the origins and evolution of all plant life. Still, this forest unnerved her with its eroded cliffs and vast sandy tracts. What signs of past geologic and climactic changes lay hidden deep beneath the colorful sediments? To learn any of that would require the utmost care: the forest was unique, beyond replacement.

🥕🥕🥕

California Stop by TedBook

“Ethel!”, screams Cheryl.

“What?”

“You didn’t stop!”

“Didn’t stop?”

“At the corner, no stop.”

“Yes I did, I always stop at stop signs.”

“No, you were rolling, that doesn’t count as a stop. And the sign says stop.”

“Oh for God’s sake, Cheryl, don’t be so picky. That was enough of a stop. You never yell at Betty when she drives.”

“That’s because Betty always stops at signs. You made a California stop.”

“What are you talking about, we’re in Chicago?”

“That’s what they call a rolling stop. You rolled.”

Ethel sighs as she rolls thru the next stop.

🥕🥕🥕

Beware! by Anita Dawes

Yesterday I visited our Farmer’s Market

where I noticed an old man wearing a sign

Beware! God is around every corner!

So from now on, I am going to walk a straight line

I have no wish to bump into God.

I’m sure he’s looking for me.

Probably has a tin full of sins with my name on.

The worst one I can think of is using His name in vain

“Oh God.” comes out of my mouth at least a dozen times a day.

I’m not saying it’s easy to keep on a straight path.

Corners are everywhere…

🥕🥕🥕

Signed On by D. Avery

“Ow! Look where yer goin’.”

“Sorry Pal.”

“Kid, this prompt is perfect fer you.”

“Thinkin’ more fer Aussie. A cautionary tale about playin’ with matches.”

“Whut?”

“Better singed than burnt.”

“Kid, the word is sign, not singe, which is why it’s a good one fer you. Yer always misreadin’ an’ misspeakin’.”

“I ain’t got no trouble readin’ signs, Pal. Shift, look where I ended up! Right where I’m meant ta be, here with ya’ll at this here Ranch.”

“Hmmmph.”

“Fact, I’m a sinecurist!”

“I git the little or no work part, but financial benefit?”

“Yep. The Ranch enriches me.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio Winners

When I was a kid, riding in the rodeo and saddle horse show, our county had a unique event — wild cow milking. If you asked a cowboy if he’d rather ride a bull or milk a wild cow, he’d pick the bull any day. Thinking about these contests of skill, I recognize how vulnerable participants can feel, whether it’s racing the barrels, showing a horse, penning steers, or riding a bronc.

But the wild cow milking takes a team willing to be vulnerable.

The Old Time Radio Contest came about as a creative idea. And creativity makes us all vulnerable. As writers, we get used to putting our pages out there. We post and publish, we ask for critiques and edits, we receive feedback and reviews. Another layer of vulnerability comes when we work to get our literary art recognized as a platform.

We establish blogs, enter contests, and seek local support. That’s what I was doing in my local community this last Rodeo — establishing Carrot Ranch as a part of the Keweenaw. It’s part of my mission to make literary art accessible. On the one hand I create safe space for writers, on the other, I look for readers to interact with what we write. Literary art exists in the realm between writer and reader.

Out of all the businesses I approached, many were interested in what we do at Carrot Ranch. But The Continental Fire Co. was the one business that has actively supported the growth of literary art in our community. They’ve been a public forum for readings during belly-dance performances, and they sponsored the prize money for all the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo Contests for which we had over 20 winners, including 12 cash prize winners.

It was a wild cow milking event for them, too. The Continental was interested in a contest that could generate possible scripts for radio spots. All the staff took part in reading the entries and voting on their favorites. Everyone was impressed with the writers’ ability to narrow a story from 99 words to 50 to 9. Overwhelmingly, the feedback was that the 9-word stories made great radio taglines.

We had some administrative hiccups timing the judging with the holiday rush and then the after-holiday retail slump. But at last, I met with the manager of The Continental last week and received the final results. The writers have waited to hear the news, and I have much gratitude for all who entered because very few were willing to enter. You’ll see the complexity involved in writing three radio spots (99-words, 59-words, and 9-words) in a single entry. So my hats off to all of you brave wild cow milkers of Carrot Ranch.

Please find all the entries under the Rodeo tab at Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio Winners.

And congratulations to our three cash prize winners:

  • Third Place: D. Avery
  • Second Place: JulesPaige
  • First Place: Kay Kingsley

Here are their radio spots:

99-word Radio Spot by D. Avery, Nantucket Island

[narrator] The Continental Fire Company first housed the horses, equipment, and men that were prepared to protect the people and property of their community. For a time it was also home to the Mining School that served the local industry.

[fire chief] You want to serve in the Company? You must be of age; a citizen of Houghton with a job or business, and be of good moral character and temperate habits.

[Background sound of modern-day patrons]

[young applicant] Yes sir. But, sir? Are these Mining School students?

[patron sounds, sounds of CFC have increased in volume]

[narrator] Houghton’s past is alive and present in the restored Continental Fire Company.

Food, drink, and entertainment are served with community spirit.

59-word Radio Spot

[narrator] Once housing the firemen that bravely served their neighbors as well as housing the Mining School that served the local copper industry, the Continental Fire Company continues to serve the Houghton community.

More than a place to enjoy good food, drink and company, the CFC features local artists, musicians, and Houghton’s own rich past. A spirited place since 1883.

9-word Radio Spot

[narrator] CFC- the spirit of Houghton’s past is always present.

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by JulesPaige, Pennsylvania

[pub music and laughter]

We have been your historical Houghton neighborhood go to for pub grub at the nightclub.

[sizzle of food on the grill]

Now enjoy all that the Continental Fire Company is offering!

[soft yet discernible three alarm fire house klaxon and maybe a fog horn too]

Book your special event with our ‘superior’ menu of “elevated traditional items” including vegan and gluten free options using many locally produced ingredients.

[buoy bell and/or fog horn]

Or just come in and horse around.

[horse whinny and nickering]

Yep, the kitchen is where the firehouse horses were kept, but you’ll only find the best modern kitchen that’s now a spectacular showplace!

[trumpeting ta da music]

We’ve got a smoker and a pizza oven too.

[pub dance music starts to play as and continues in the background as the last line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant surprise you for lunch or dinner.

59-word Radio Spot

[pub music and laughter]

The Continental Fire Company has been your local historical Houghton neighborhood go to for the finest pub grub at the nightclub.

[sizzle of food on the grill]

Come on in and horse around!

[horse whinny and nickering]

Yep, the basement kitchen is where the firehouse horses were once kept.

[trumpeting ta da music]

Now, our kitchen is a spectacular culinary showplace!

[pub dance music starts to play as and continues in the background as the last line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant’s menu surprise you for lunch or dinner.

9-word Radio Spot

[Change of class bell ringing, followed by soft pub dance music playing, increasing slightly and continuing in the background as the line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant’s ‘superior’ menu surprise you!

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by Kay Kingsley, Germany

[sounds of a busy restaurant/bar, happy hum of talking and distant laughter over text]

[Narrator] The past has a way of leaving its mark on the future, and here at the Continental Fire Company, we bring life to a place with a history, a place we all can find a little bit of home in.

[insert sound of an old engine and siren then bell ringing, sounds of students transitions to current music, loud laughter, and ding of the “foods up” bell over text]

[Narrator] From the screaming sounds of engine sirens to the steadfast ring from our bell tower, we’ve transformed the university quarters and haylofts of Houghton Fire Hall into a vibrant atmosphere of live music, lounge events, and cutting-edge gastropub cuisine.

[Sound of clinking glass to cheers and busy bar sounds over text]

[Narrator] Cozy up with a drink and stay for the laughs, where history is more than a thing of the past.

59-word Radio Spot

[old man voice] The bell tolls for a fire station long lost to time,

[teachers voice] for a university that no longer shapes young hearts and minds,

[farmers voice] for a hayloft that no longer houses the horses in stalls,

[students voice] nor the students that occupied the length of its halls.

[one staff member of CFC] With food and laughter The Continental welcomes you inside, discover Houghton’s past, keep our history alive.

9-word Radio Spot

[narrator] The flavor, the vibe, CFC keeps Houghton’s history alive.

🐎🐎🐎

And this officially concludes our 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo!

February 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

My front window buzzes with thousands of white bees dropping from the heavy skies in search of clover in the grass. Except, there is no grass. There’s no clover. And the swarm outside is yet another snow storm. All signs point to winter in the Northern Hemisphere even if we did celebrate Imbolc last week, noting that the days are getting longer.

The Hub just popped in to grab his workout shoes. His red and black checkered flannel jacket is dusted white. He’s off to the local Crossfit Gym where he works out with one of his counselors and another veteran. It’s a pilot program to see if the Crossfit program can adapt to veterans with disabilities. The idea is to get these former soldiers to reconnect to their warrior mentality in healthy ways.

So far, all signs indicate Crossfit is working. It’s part of the bigger plan to integrate the Hub’s care so that every day he has something that helps with pain management (chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy), cognitive strategies (CBT, speech therapy, group), and health (medical care, fitness, and nutrition). Basically, with the guidance of our Vet Center therapist, we’ve built our own Poly Trauma program that addresses the Hub’s needs holistically.

Personally, I’ve been looking for signs, too. Not necessarily the tealeaf reading kind, but some sort of sign from the universe as to which direction to take. What next? I knew I had come to a fork in the road. At times like this, I thank my North Star for its guiding light. I know where I want to go, but the path has led to unfamiliar terrain, and I have choices.

Some decisions I’ve made and stand solid — I landed in the Keweenaw, and I intend to stay in the Keweenaw. Here, I have my Warrior Sisters, the Hub’s home-spun Poly Trauma program, a beautiful and remote outdoor setting, and proximity to two of my three children. Runner and his lovely bride-to-be, Runner2 live near Madison, five hours away. We live with Radio Geek and her Solar Man, and if our world-traveler, Climber and her Chef visit the States (they live on Svalbard in Norway), they’ll come here.

Place is settled.

Last June, I decided to end my 16 years of writing for Valley Natural Foods. I penned my final member profiles. After I left as marketing communications manager in 2012,  I stayed on as managing editor and writer for two of their key publications. Before I left Idaho in 2016, I decided to wind down all my freelancing. Last year I decided to pursue the workshops and retreats I wanted to do. My first one got canceled because the Father’s Day flood wiped out the retreat center and turned my new community upside down.

In July, Finlandia University hired me as an adjunct instructor to teach a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Marketing course. I read it as the strongest sign to let go all my freelancing and business consulting. I knew it would be tight between July and September, but I had a couple of local gigs. Then my class got canceled the first week of school and caught me off guard. I was gutted. It was at the same time that we were still trying to get help for the Hub and understand what he was facing.

Timing-wise, you can see that all this upheaval aligned with the Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. I can’t say enough good about Norah Colvin, Irene Waters, D. Avery, Sherri Matthews, Geoff Le Pard, and all our judges who led superbly. We carried on and had a good run and a few recording hiccups when I had to go to Minneapolis to accompany the Hubb into the VA Poly Trauma program. It was terrifying for me. I grieved for the husband I no longer had.

But as you know, through my writing and sharing, I pulled through that dark place and came to an understanding — I still have my husband. My family recommitted ourselves to loving-kindness, no matter what the future was going to bring. We have now. We have him. When I saw Welby Altidor, he connected the pursuit of creativity to caring, and to carving out safe space to take risks. Carrot Ranch always has been “safe space” for literary artists to explore their craft, stories, and characters. I just needed to adapt that model to my life and how to live with a veteran who has an altered brain.

Are any of you familiar with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way? It’s because of her that I identify as a literary “artist.” Her book influenced me during my 20s when I dreamed of being a writer and wrote in lined journals. She dared me to be bold, to go to college at age 27 when I had three young children. I got my undergrad degree in creative writing. I wanted my MFA but chose to follow the Hub to the Midwest where I built a freelancing and marketing communications career. Julia Cameron (through her book) helped me when I dreamed up Carrot Ranch.

If you are familiar with The Artist’s Way, then you know she advises daily morning pages and weekly artist dates. The idea to write 99 words a week was a reduction of the morning pages. If we write every day, I figured we needed to share something of our writing, too. Alone, we are writers. Together, we experience the dynamic that is literary art — writing meant to be read. Collectively, writers and readers give meaning to literary art. When I arrange the writings of participants into a collection, well, that’s my weekly artist’s date.

So, no matter what I decided to do next, I knew that Carrot Ranch, with its torch to keep literary art alive and available, would be a part. An important part.

Finlandia University has employed me to develop the CTE course and help recruit for next fall. They intend for me to be the instructor. But next fall is a lot of meals away. I’m not paid to be an instructor-in-waiting. Back in October, when my world was all about flash fiction Rodeos and stressing over a husband in the hospital, a once-in-a-great-while kind of job came up at Michigan Technological University. It was a public relations position, responsible for curating and distilling the stories of the research university as it prepares to lead the world into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

I was intrigued. I took the bait. I applied.

No job can ever replace my North Star with its glowing dreams to encourage world-wide literary art, publish historical novels, and build community. I had to think long and hard how a fulltime job would fit into my plans. What excited me beyond the work, was the opportunity to invest in Carrot Ranch monetarily. Oh, the thought of buying those turquoise cowgirl boots and a new wardrobe to replace the one I left behind in Idaho.

After I sprained my ankle, I sat on the couch and came up with a plan. I was at a crossroads and would have important decisions to make. One path was MTU, the second was FU; the third was to revitalize my freelancing, workshops, and retreat; and the fourth was if the world imploded, I’d leave and go find an MFA program to start anew. In January, I went on retreat to polish my vision and plan the first three paths. The fourth was like a Hail Mary football pass.

The reason I’m telling you all this now is to process and understand which path the Universe finally set a go-sign to. MTU selected one other candidate and me to go through final interviews (mind you, this was a three-month process, including writing assignments). After an all-day interview on campus, I felt proud I made it that far. I also felt awed and scared that my world was once again about to change drastically. The result? MTU rescinded the job. It no longer exists. There is no public relations position.

If that wasn’t one helluva sign…

Disappointed, I wasted no time in setting up a freelancing platform and will wait and see what happens with recruitment after the CTE open house last week. I also realized I felt hugely relieved. My writing time is sacred and I almost gave to an organization in exchange for shiny new clothes.

Then my world shifted yet again when a letter arrived yesterday from the VA. For once, a good shift. And the sign that appeared blew me away. The Hub’s benefits finally, finally, finally came through. Blessedly he can stop pulling his own teeth with pliers and get dental care. He will get his knee replaced. We can even get into a place of our own. But the unexpected — my name in the official document with the words, “education benefit.”

I still feel all atwitter. My stomach is still somersaulting. Education benefits. For me! Suddenly, the fourth path isn’t far-fetched. I can get my MFA! You betcha, I wasted no time in contacting an advisor, finding out what the benefit was and when I could use it and — it’s no longer 1998. Ha! It’s no longer 1998. There is an INTERNET. And I looked up online MFAs and found one! I applied, yes, I already applied. There’s more to the application (writing). Get this — my master’s thesis could be Miracle of Ducks. AND, I can earn an additional teaching certificate.

Do I need an MFA? No, I don’t. I still believe that writers live in a time of incredible publishing opportunity. But the question that I answered immediately before my brain could ask it was do I want an MFA. And yes, I still do.

Sometimes, we have to wait for our Sign to come in. I’ve waited 20 years for that one!

My daughter took me out last night. We both cried and laughed. She remembers me giving up my chance to get an MFA. She remembers me writing away to programs at different points in my life. She knew I never gave up the ghost of that dream. And it fits Carrot Ranch like a custom glove! I’ll get to learn how to teach craft, not just encouragement and marketing. I’ll also get to use Carrot Ranch as my platform for coursework.

For now, I’ll continue the application process, open up some freelancing gigs, and plan to start coursework August 12. I’m setting up some local workshops, and of course, we have the first Carrot Ranch Nature Retreat this July. I’ll continue working on MOD, and I’ll set a deadline to finish Vol. 2 before school starts. At last, a path.

And, be sure to check back on Monday because I finally met with the folks at The Continental to close out our Bonus Rodeo contest. We have three winners to announce (and pay). The radio spot won’t be developed until later. Some issues came up but had nothing to do with us or the contest. Thank you all for your patience, especially those who entered.

Thank you, also, for being my weekly artist’s date! Your writing of 99-word stories inspires the blazes within my writer’s soul. Must be a sign.

February 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign. It can be a posted sign, a universal sign, a wonder. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by February 12, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

A Drive Back in Time (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Ramona looked for the sign, the one that read Elmira. Snow pelted her windshield with a mesmerizing kaleidoscope that Vic called whiteout fever. She ignored it the way her husband said to, and instead followed the tracks in the snow. Ramona startled when her headlights caught the township sign. Why were the mill lights out? So dark! She slowed and pulled into her driveway where someone was plowing the easement. Vic, her husband. The power must be out. She waved and blew him a kiss. Silly man. What was he up to, calling a young thing like her, “Grandma”?

Sea Mist

George C. Bailey Photography 2019

When a polar vortex slips its arctic boundaries and spreads across Lake Superior, two snowmakers clash. Keweenaw photographer, George C. Bailey, captures the lake in her many moods. While the vortex hovered, Superior’s waves pounded ice heaves on shore, illuminating sea mist and water the color of icebergs.

Writers followed sea mist into the photo. Journeys, emotions, and wisdom of the land emerged in the stories this week.

The following are based on the January 31, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sea mist.

PART I (10-minute read)

He Never Left Us (BOTS) by Susan Sleggs

We called the seaside motel to book a room.
They said we’re closed for a private function.
Yes, we said, the funeral of the owner.
You know that? You may have a free room.
In a local diner dressed in our best we were asked,
Are you here for Dick’s funeral?
Our friend was very well liked.
His companies employed half the town.
A church so full, people stood.
Back at the motel well after dark.
The sea mist rose.
The fog horn sounded.
We knew Dick was still with us.
The horn will always be his loving voice.

🥕🥕🥕

Sunset By the Bay by Nobbinmaug

The sea mist dances through the sun’s waning glow. Each droplet catches the light creating a rainbow shower. The distant clouds take on a hue of orange, pink, and a faint purple, as the fading disc melts into the horizon. Somehow, the roar of the waves and their crash on the rocks only adds to the tranquility.

The breeze catches the ocean, and it sprays my face. Though salt is all I taste, it’s refreshing on this summer evening.

There’s only one thing keeping this from being a perfect evening.

I reach for your hand, but you’re not there.

🥕🥕🥕

The Sea Wept by Di @ pensitivity101

Icebound, blocked, cracking,
This world is a mass of layers.
From the deepest depths
A blending hue
Of black and green
To four shades of blue,
Rolling crests,
Frothy curls of white
Crumble in the weak sun,
Rushing to meet the shore,
But falling short,
Layers forming, meeting
Joining, becoming one,
Blinding, restricting,
For many it amounts to
Uncertainty and fear.
Scrolls and wisps
Carried skyward,
The sea mist gathers,
Not to hide or cover
More to caress and blanket,
Holding the surface together,
Who is to say it is trying
To shield us from
Witnessing the sea crying.

🥕🥕🥕

Canned Sea Mist by Norah Colvin

No more than a hint of sea spray and she was flown back on wings of joy to carefree childhood days frolicking in the shallows, basking on golden sands, fossicking for hints of life in rockpools and amassing precious collections of shells and other treasures arranged for her pleasure by the tide. Lulled by a gentle breeze and waves whispering a heart’s rhythm, she dosed, uninterrupted by seagulls squawking, murmured conversations, hushed laughter, or the shuffle of approaching and receding footsteps. As the sun glowed bright above, she sighed her last, now and forever one with the sea’s mist.

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Sea Mist by tracey robinson

Everyday for fifty-two years she went for a morning walk. No matter the season or the weather. Three miles. First alone, then with her partner, now alone again.

She loved all the weather she encountered, it made her feel alive. This morning a soft gray sea mist spilled over onto the beach, curling her white hair.

She tried not to play favorites, enjoying what each day gave her but secretly she liked the fog the best. Maybe because it was the rarest. Maybe because it softened the day. Or maybe because it obscured the fact that she was alone.

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Have You Seen the Mist by S. Zutautas

Alluring softness
Brings romantic illusions
Letting mind wander

Relaxed in a jacuzzi
Sipping a fine chardonnay
After a long day

As the warm wind blows
Across the lakes hardened ice
One can see, sea mist

Appearing as clouds
Close onto ground, thick moisture
Billows blocking sight

Lighthouses warn boaters
Vision obscured volatile
Mist has unfolded

Shining brightly the
Mist from the sea causes fog
Thickly stands resting

Invitingly mist
Will mesmerize you into
A fascination

Over lakes and seas
Dawn or night you may see
The mist of the sea

Mistakenly some
Sailors have ignored warnings
Crashing into rocks

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Erie Kai by Nancy Brady

From the Canadian side comes the wind. The sustained wind buffets the Ohio shore of Lake Erie, and we can hear the roar of the waves from a block away. The longer the wind blows, the louder the “Wildcat’s” roar. The lake is aptly named for the native American word for wildcat.

This winter the snow came as well as the northern wind, blowing wave after wave of water over the quarried slate blocks, which protect the beach. With dropping temperatures, the water begins to freeze, though, coating the blocks, forming a lacy, layered ice sculpture of sea mist.

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Sea Mist by Sally Cronin

After tea and some shared biscuits, the little dog’s mistress sent him down to the quayside to wait for the return of his master. This late January day had been overcast and strangely still, with sea mist rolling in during the late afternoon. The boats were overdue, and wives anxiously peered out of their windows towards the shrouded harbour. The terrier’s ears pricked at a slight sound, nose lifting into the damp air. Whimpering he shot to his feet with quivering tail and one front paw lifted. A voice echoed in the fog “It’s okay Patch boy, I’m home”.

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Landlocked Mist by Ann Edall-Robson

It settles again over the rocks, across the land. The morning mist portrays an eerie light to all who wake early to see the beginning of another day. Wandering along the craggy outcrops on the mudded gravel path, the damp penetrates to the bone. Hair and mittens become saturated from the fine spray slapping against faces, shrouding all signs of life with a wet, misty blanket. Landlocked, the mist will only go when the sun burns through and the temperature warms. It is a sign of real moisture to come in ninety days hence. So the old timers say.

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Foretold by Reena Saxena

“Have you ever seen lightning strike water, and electrocute life beneath?”

“Not yet.”

The fortune-teller spoke with a furrowed brow,

“I foresee a clash of strong, opposing forces happening in your life, in the near future.”

I recall the legal notice sent by the brother I trusted most in life, over an inheritance issue. It can leave me with scarce resources in my sunset years. It caused ripples in the calm, placid waters of my life, but this guy is warning me of a storm.

The sea mist is clearing off, as I see people for what they are.

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Master of the Sea by H.R.R. Gorman

A slender hand helped him spew water from his lungs. “It is good you lived, but I’m afraid your countrymen died.” Her queenly presence was clothed in radiant stones from the ocean, her hair glistened with sea mist.

She had a fin in place of legs and loose webs between long fingers.

“She was a good ship… and my friends were good sailors.” The man shook as tears welled in his eyes.

“Before the storm, you said you were masters of the sea?”

“Why not? His Majesty’s navy is the world’s finest.”

She flicked her tail and swam away.

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Thar Blows retold by D. Avery

The giant Maushop shared whales and fish with the people. Only Maushop could stop the monstrous bird that ate children. The people showed thanks with gifts of tobacco. With ashes from his pipe Maushop made a second, faraway island. The fog from his pipe shielded for a while but was not enough.

Then the people took the others’ god. The others said he was the devil; Maushop obliged. He turned his children to fishes and his wife to a stone before taking to farther seas. They’d see him again, misty smoke now urgent spout of a great white whale.

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Sea Mist by Floridaborne

“Once, this entire area was under water,” my geology instructor said.

I looked at the sun bleached sands and asked, “How did a place this dry end up underwater?”

“Eighty million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, this was swampland.”

“My mental movie of dinosaurs frolicking in sea mist is ruined,” I sighed. “Why did the climate change?”

“Humans will never do as much damage to the Earth as the volcanic eruptions and asteroid impact that killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.”

He laughed at my reply, “And I thought the Pacific garbage patch was bad!”

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Behemoth? by JulesPaige

I just wanted to hurl at humanity and strike them all dead. My breastbone was fraught with fantods. I really wished the newsfeed would downgrade the Occam’s Razors they were slinging and really glance into my eyes. Perhaps if I just concentrated I could crash the video feed or even the whole system. And then in the darkness of everything absorb all the passivity of those who wished me no harm so I could extend my wings and fly away, into the sea mist.

I really wasn’t a monster. “They” only portrayed me that way… Mommy still loves me.

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The Legendary Sea Mist Bite by Marjorie Mallon

Misha pushed her glasses up on her nose and wiped them with a tissue but it made no difference. Sea mist doesn’t wait. Sea mist consumes everything.

She didn’t know whether to move ahead or to turn back. A chill crept through her.

She felt something near her. She imagined jaws, and sharp teeth.

‘Look where you’re going, you idiot!’ said a crab, grabbing her ankle.

‘Something threatened to bite me!’

‘No, the mist did. Aren’t you wearing your mist specs?’

‘What are they?

‘They’re magical spectacles to protect you from the mist.

‘I don’t need protecting, I’m dead.’

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Another Way by Jo Hawk

I’ve seen them walk into the sea. You know the ones, plagued by constant misery. Their eyes cast down, always looking at the ground. The sea mists rise, reaching for cloudy skies. All around, the grey days bring despair, and in the mist, I could surely drown.

I want something else as I stand here with the sand between my toes, struggling to survive. I’m amazed I’m still alive. But I won’t say goodbye.

They say there is another way. So even on the cloudy day, even in the misty grey, I keep my eyes looking for the sun.

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A Turn of Event by Ruchira Khanna

“I hate my life!” Jaya kept growling with anger teary-eyed as she walked with stern steps towards a mid-sized wall that faced the ocean.

She climbed the wall and eyed her home with a sulk; then looked towards the ocean.

“I do not belong here!” she closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath to take the plunge.

Just then her face got wet by the sea mist. That made her freeze on her drastic step.

She was in tears.

Again!

This time for good since memories of Love, Care, Play and Laughter with family changed her mind.

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Sea Mist by Kay Kingsley

I thought he was joking when he asked me to join him at the beach for a swim. “It’s minus degrees… in January!” He looked at me with a mischievous smile. His charm. Sigh. “Alright.”

We arrived at the beach to see the ocean violent and churning. It looked like it was at war with itself. We approached the shore as I shivered, chilled to the bone. Mark had already stripped down and was smiling ear to ear. “Three words… Polar. Bear. Club.” Yelling, “YeeHaw!” he ran into the surf as I watched the sea mist swallow him whole.

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Mountain Passage (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

At the top of the pass, Ike pulled over. Danni radioed the lead forester to verify any logging trucks. The Forest Service road tapered to one-way traffic. For the next five miles, loggers used the narrow switchbacks to haul loads from an active site. If they met a truck on the grade, there would be no way to pass. Danni surveyed the steep ravine, waiting for a reply. Morning fog obscured the forest and hid the road. Before an affirmative crackled over the radio, Danni heard grinding gears in the distance like a rumble of surf beneath sea mist.

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Dry Breeze by The Dark Netizen

The dry breeze stings my face.

This sand, this air, are slowly choking the life out of me. I want to get back to my old life. I had power, I had purpose, but most importantly, I had freedom. Here, I feel trapped. My injuries did not kill me, merely forced me to retire. However, I wish I had died before I retired. I wish I was buried at the sea, like a true captain.

I long for the darkness to find me, as much as I long for the sea mist to caress my face, one last time…

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Unclear Clearwater, FL (Late December 2018) by JulesPaige

This isn’t normal.
Windswept, double bent,
facing the wind head on.

Feeling like a cartoon character
being pelted by every single
grain of sand from the beach.

But we get there to what was
the beach a few days ago anyway.

The rain may have stopped
but the misty hurricane air
sucks at closed shop door,
where we finally have chosen
to take some relief.

The door rattles and is threatened
to be removed from its hinges.

We’re at least a block from the shore line,
where the tourist pier, for safety was shut down.
At least we’re together.

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Better Be Worth It by Teresa Grabs

The frigid sea mist stung as it slapped his face. At midnight, under normal circumstances, he would be in bed watching the late-night movie. Today had been anything but normal. He would not be standing by the lake in sub-zero temperatures had it not been for Meredith. She was the most beautiful woman who ever paid a moment’s attention to him. He just couldn’t say no. “No one can ever know,” she said, handing him the bag. He hoped getting hypothermia and frostbite was worth it. Seemed like a lot of effort just for disposal duty of teenage diary.

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Sea Mist by quiall

Angelina and Edward walked hand in hand down the beach. Their feet gently sinking into the still damp sand as a soft mist enveloped them. They could hear a pod of whales singing just off shore. The day was still young, the sun had yet to burn off the swirling miasma of water laced air.

“Is it true? Have the scientists proven it beyond any doubt?”

“Yes, my love they have.”

“Edward, how can we tell people the truth? They will avoid the beach, our economy will collapse!”

“It’s the mist Angelina, they need to know: It’s whale farts!”

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PART II (10-minute read)

Mist Agin by D. Avery

“Ah, Jeez, Kid, you writin’ agin?”

“Why not? I’m likin’ this prompt. Jist cain’t decide on my topic. Might write about the mornin’ mist in the river valley. Or the clouds that don’t clear the mountaintop an’ leave it sparklin’ with frost. Mebbe the steam waftin’ off the water trough or even the warm breath of the cattle like fog in the crisp air as they chew their hay.”

“Kid, you cain’t write about none a thet.”

“Why not? Jist goin’ where the prompt leads.”

“The prompt specifically said sea mist.”

“Yeah? Ever’ where I look I see mist.”

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The Shoreline by Joanne Fisher

Aalen’s path took her northwards. As she went further the forest became more sparse until she came to the shoreline of a wide sea. She had never seen the ocean before and although her sight was partially obscured by the sea-mist hanging around the shore it looked as though it went on forever. She began to realise the world was far larger than she had ever dreamed. Where there other distant shores? Her heart yearned for revenge, but also to explore this world she barely knew. She watched the tumultuous waves and then turned away following the tracks eastward.

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Not Here But There by Carol J Forrester

It reminded her of home. The sea mist rolling in onto the shingles.

Of course, it wasn’t quite the same.

Peat mist rises different. The earth sort of oozes tendrils that simmer and thicken on the low lands. Stretches of green that look beautiful and safe but turn to bog at the first hint of rain.

It’s similar enough though. When the mist rolls in and she’s standing inside it, condensation on her cheeks, damp in her hair… she can pretend it’s England. Pretend she’s inland, back where she belongs.
It never takes long for someone to wake her.

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Avalon by Anita Dawes

Two weeks holidaying on top of the cliffs,
overlooking the sea and ragged rocks of Cornwall.

Sea mist rolling in, invisible hands unfurling a white carpet across the bay
between the cliffs either side. Nature’s magic moment.

This morning, the mist cleared quickly, there between the sky and the edge of the sea sat an island that didn’t belong there.

How can the mist have carried an island into view like something from Gulliver’s Travels.

No, wait. I believe I am looking at Avalon, the island where Arthur was carried
by the blind ferryman to heal, while Merlin watched.

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Scylla and Charybdis by Violet Lentz

we remain rootedly positioned
between scylla and charybdis*
the chasm that separates us
mythically disproportionate
to your truth, or mine.
clash- two worlds colliding
yours a rock and mine a hard face
your forlorn forced inflections
emanating from the belly of your god.
my belligerent brawling outbursts
clutching tight the hand-
of absolution sure demise.
just once, can’t we beg off?
let hoar fog obscure our fracas
cleanse us both in salt sea brine
cast off weighted chain and anchor
just once, let dead dogs lie??
foundation built of rock, on hard place
just this once- oh mother mine?

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Sea Mist Dreams by Colleen M. Chesebro

I walk along the sandy path strewn with starfish and seashells which seems to beckon me toward the sea. Pearls and aquamarine crystals dot the trail. The salt water scent of the sea mist wafts over me as the sound of stormy waves crashing against stony cliffs draws me closer to my goal.

I imagine the mer-people, undines, water nymphs, and sirens who assist with the flow of life, balancing emotions with healing, cleansing, love, and beauty. I can’t help but wonder how I got here.

Childish dreams bring hope—
as past and present conspire
to present new paths.

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Lookout by TN Kerr

Roger stood in the bow and watched the fog roll in. He hunched in his Pea Jacket to stave off the weather. His hands were in his pockets where he clutched a silver flask of brown whisky.

He felt it before he saw it. He watched it emerge from the haar that obscured visibility to the north. It was an old Soviet boat, running on the surface, twin screws churning the water.

Roger reached for the handset of the sound powered phone, “Bridge – Bow. Surface contact bearing tree fife zero, fife hundred yards, moving left to right slowly.”

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Misty Majesty by calmkate

The roar of MiG jets draws our attention to the ocean out front. A majestic aircraft carrier peers through the mist billowing smoke appears ominous. But it’s a decoy as various aircraft chase one another with destroyers joining in from below. The earth vibrates as a few more bombs explode.

If all goes as planned nobody will die as four nations rehearse war games in our front yard. A regular feature for locals who grew up supplying refreshments to the chopper pilots training for Vietnam, their rotor blades had nominal clearance they had to master. Peace lovers abhor war!

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Sea Mist by Faith A. Colburn

The waves looked soft as he peered through tropical rain. The island was only a ragged outline. Crawling down the rope netting into a landing craft, he watched it grow closer, more distinct. It would be his first combat. Would he stand up to it? Was he brave as he thought—hoped? Somehow he knew he would survive, but what about the others? Weeks earlier, in the middle of the ocean, he’d looked through a light mist silvered by soft by moonlight and realized survival wasn’t enough. Seeing the guy next to him fall—that’s what made him sick.

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Sea Mist by Margaret G. Hanna

She stood on the pier, head cocked. Sea mist enclosed her in a shroud of impenetrable greyness, hiding the bay. Only sound existed. Unseen waves crashed against an unseen rocky headland. Unseen leaves rustled. Overheard, unseen gulls mewled. The sound she longed for – unheard.

Mist moistened her face, disguised the tears. Tears she had shed these past three days. Three days without sleep, three days of waiting, worrying, hoping. Three days with no news.

Behind her, in the house, a phone rang. A muffled conversation seeped through the mist. The screen door squealed open.

“Martha, they’ve found the boat.”

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Out of the Mist – A Tale of Humanity in War by Gordon Le Pard

The privateer came out of the mist, the sailors had no chance, their ship was moored by the waveswept rock where the engineers were working.

The French captain laughed at their ridiculous tale, no one could build a lighthouse on a rock in the middle of sea, it must be a trick of the damnable English.

King Louis heard the tale, but he believed it, they could do such a wonderful thing. He released and rewarded the men saying;

“I am at war with the English, not humanity”

A year later the light shone from the Eddystone rock.

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Figurehead by D. Avery

With Destiny tied to the bowsprit branch, Marlie took command of her tree fort. She steered the pitching ship into the roiling sea of fog-drenched backyard, the surf of snow rising underneath the plunging bow. Over the howling wind she barked orders at her frightened crew.

“Should they really be out there in this weather?”

“They’re dressed for it and they’re under cover in the tree fort. Tommy will let her know when he’s had enough.”

“Maybe. Oh, here he is now. Tommy. Are you okay?”

“I had to walk the plank.”

“There’s hot chocolate in the galley, Mate.”

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Mist Opportunities by Bill Engleson

It rose out of the sea like a smack in the face.

“I can’t see the trail anymore,” I bellowed.

“Some leader!” came from behind.

“Oh, yeah. I suppose you can do better?”

I wasn’t in the mood to take guff, even if I couldn’t tell who my detractor was.

“I didn’t say that,” the voice said.

“I don’t know. Sounds mutinous to me.”

“What’s mootinus? You calling me a cow?”

“Hold your horses,” I said, complicating the emerging animal theme, “Mu…Tin…Knee.”

“Whatever! Hey guys, Old Tin Knee is lost.”

Street kids, I thought. You have gotta love ‘em.

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Insult to Injury by Anurag Bakhshi

I could sense its presence much before it came into view, and the shiver that ran through my body had nothing to do with the ice-cold seawater. I knew the monster was coming for me.

I saw it now, piercing through the sea mist and looming ominously over me like a kraken. Very soon, it would attempt to hunt me down, and finally, vengeance would be mine.

I could forgive him the leathery taste of that rotten leg, but Captain Ahab deserved the tortures of the nine circles of hell for naming a majestic whale like me, Moby Dick!

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Sea Mist by Joanne Fisher

Whenever the sea-mist came in the villagers knew to go inside their homes, lock their doors and ignore all sounds.

One afternoon Lilith had been away picking apples from the nearby orchard. When she returned she saw the sea-mist rolling in. In a panic she dropped the apples and ran to her house. She got to her door but couldn’t find her keys. Tendrils of mist were already snaking around her and she felt the chill. She started to frantically knock on the door when she suddenly felt the chill go through her. The other villagers heard her screams.

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Sea Mist by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

“Come on,” Colin called, moving purposefully into the thick, swirling mist.

Mary hung back. There was something about this mist that disturbed her. She could hear strange and distant noises like an animal feeding. The smacking and slurping sounds upset her.

“Come on,” came his voice again, already sounding some distance away.

Mary took a deep breath and plunged into the whiteness which immediately swallowed her.

“I’m coming,” she yelled loudly. “Wait for me.”

Her ears suddenly filled with terrible screams, followed by a loud crunch. A fine spray of blood splattered across her face and dress.

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Help by Kerry E.B. Black

Mist floated above the water, ghostly aspirations undulating as the river swelled and dipped like lovers’ sighs. Transient by nature, it fettered fine tendrils around Erin’s poetic heart.

She plopped to the moist ground and beckoned the cloud. Perhaps within its obscuring she could find clarity.

Waves lapped the shore with the steadiness of a heartbeat. Erin’s own inner workings joined the pace as though engaging a dance. Delicate as dew, fog surrounded her until all she could see was the problem at hand.

Thoughts thick with worry, she stared into a luminous blank and surrendered.

“I need help.”

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It’s All in the Packaging by Deborah Lee

Jane hesitates at the entrance to the marina, fighting impostor syndrome. But the Lake Union Dreamboats antique yacht show is free and open to anyone, and it’s something to do.

Sleek vessels line the piers, shining even under cloud cover, and her breath catches as she steps aboard the Sea Mist and takes in the tiny space. Efficiency kitchen only big enough for one, built-in bed and furniture, handmade throws, gleaming teak, fresh flowers. Do people really keep flowers in vases with water at sea?

It’s not much bigger than her own tent, but what a difference accoutrements make.

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Yandeau Harbor by Saifun Hassam

The evening sea mist threaded its way into Yandeau Harbor. Sailboats and yachts rode gently at anchor. The day’s work was done along Fisherman’s Way.

Mist drifted past Trevor Pierre Yandeau. He was a biologist, and had been an ardent fisherman all his life. Fishing was part of The Yandeaus’ lives from the days in Marseilles, and still influenced their lives in the New World.

Trevor grew up exploring and fishing along numerous bays and coves of the Pacific. He loved to return to Yandeau Harbor: it had sparked a lifelong commitment to protecting and understanding vital natural habitats.

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The Eyemouth Disaster by Lance Greenfield

Despite the warnings, despite the storm, they rolled out to sea from Eyemouth on that fateful day of October 1881.

For weeks, they had been unable to sail because of prevailing weather.

They were not greedy. It was their livelihood. They just wanted to earn enough to feed their families. 45 boats left harbour; only 26 returned. 189 men perished. 93 women were widowed. 267 children lost their fathers.

Two days later, out of the sea mist, Ariel Gazelle returned with all her crew. Out of the darkness of tragedy, shone a shaft of light and life.

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Depressurized by Jody Kish

It comes like the mist, creeping its way to the depths of my soul.

Rapid breathing.

Fast heart.

The anguish bears down, consuming every fiber of who I am.

And just when I’m overwrought; I see a beacon of light in the distance.

Calmness.

The sun blinks through the heavy fog. It transforms the grey and dreary to a Monet painting of purples, pinks, and orange that dance together in a harmonious symphony.

Until the next storm comes like a percussion of drums.

But for now, the haze lifts.

Like a defeated monster it dissipates.

I’m content once more.

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Deep Waters Run Still (Part I)  by D. Avery

“Hhhrrryyy, Pel.”

“Cat gotcher tongue Kid?”

“Ack. I’m a pony.”

“A pony?”

“Yeah, a little hoarse. I ain’t spoke fer ages.”

“Bet thet bothered you.”

“Dang right it did. Jist ‘cause D. Avery wants ta turn tail and hunker down, why do I have ta? What d’ya s’pose she was up to anyway?

“Ain’t my business. But mebbe she was hopin’ ta quiet you down.”

“Hee hee. It didn’t work. I got bored an’ wriggled all aroun’ her head with nowhere ta go. You sure musta missed me, huh, Pal?”

“Sure, Kid. Like a headache when it stops hurtin’.”

Deep Waters Run Still (Part II)  by D. Avery

“Ya know, Kid, it ain’t about you.”

“I know Pal. I jist love it here is all. Where were you all this time Pal?”

“Was visitin’ ol’ Ornery.”

“Ta have some a his whiskey.”

“Mebbe. But he’d busted up his still. An’ all his Mason jars— shards. I found him sittin’ an’ listenin’ ta the waterfall freeze, a whispery tinklin’ sound. An’ if ya listen up close ta the ice ya kin hear water inside, gigglin’ about spring a’comin’. Here, Kid, it’s a Mason jar Ornery glued back together outta 99 shards.”

“It says Moans.”

“It’ll hold water, Kid.”

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January 31: Flash Fiction Challenge

George C. Bailey Photography 2019

Water sustains life. We thirst for droplets pure and cool, hydrating brain cells and skin. Cool blue. Azure coasts. Caribean surf. Water calls us to buoyancy in its waves. Floating, bobbing beneath warm sunshine. But that image is from the travel blog for a warmer destination. I’m bundled up on the thumb of land that juts into Lake Superior. Keweenaw, which must mean “hell hath froze over.”

My water mistress runs with the frozen devils. They touched down earlier this week, a hoard of them called Polar Vortex. It would be like a tale of Jack Frost if George R. R. Martin were to pen it — no survivors. I thought my Lady Lake would freeze solid, go quiet, turn white. Instead, she surges and hurls her powers across our peninsula gripped in the clutches of the Polar Vortex gang. We get the worst of both phenomena.

Lady Lake Superior undulates 10-foot swells like curvaceous hips, slow, sensuous, semi-frozen. Sea mist rises as heat against the sub-zero touch of the frozen devils. They hover above her open water, crystallizing her shores. The layers in between turn to slush the color of icebergs. The shore looks as deadly as the final view of the Titanic.

Further out, the shipping lanes freeze. The US Coast Guard ice cutter, Katmai Bay is churning ice at 12 knots tonight. A curious pastime, when I can no longer get to my favorite rocky beaches along Lake Superior, is to check in with the marine vessels on the Great Lakes.  Traffic is but a trickle on Superior. The Lady has opened her ice water mansions, and no sailor wants to go.

The Hub met a sailor in town. He’s crew on a ship that goes down to Toledo and other interior ports. For Christmas, he gave the Hub a package of sausages from a butcher shop made famous by the character of Klinger on the tv series MASH. The Hub was proud of his gift. He enjoys talking to anyone who can connect with him on an intellectual level. Intellect remains intact and creates an avenue for communication. I’m grateful for the people who choose to notice the Hub’s attributes and ignore the oddities of his condition.

The brain will have its way, but for those of us who care, we stand beside him to preserve dignity and as much of his individualism as we can. In the meantime, he scoops snow and reminds us all how much better the desert is to this tundra.

With the ridiculously cold temperatures, Lady Lake didn’t forget to gift us more snow. We’ve had 60 inches of snow in January and will likely see another 100 inches before it all ends. February is typically the snowiest month, and storms continue through March and into April although days begin to lengthen, and the sun returns its melting warmth.

But what if it didn’t?

What if the sea mist rose no more and the Greatest of the Great Lakes did freeze bone-white solid? Ice heaves upon ice heaves would build just as they do no, but with even greater strength and height. Soon, rivers of ice would rip apart rocks and grind cities. One theory of climate change is that the Gulf Stream can collapse and cause an ice age. What we see with the spread of the polar vortex is the result of the ice melting at the poles. It’s terrifying to think about. But so are all the weather extremes.

The US Midwest freezes and part of Australia are baking, flooding and on fire. All around the world we see climate change in extreme weather events.

Can we yet find the natural beauty, and find a way to give the earth her dignity.

This week, a good friend of ours, a veteran and husband to one of my Warrior Sisters, attempted suicide. He has similar brain issues to the Hub, which gives us worry. However, what gives us hope are the individuals through the VA system who have stepped in to help. A surprise, a good one, to us all. The civilian hospital reminds me of climate change deniers. They don’t want to look, listen, or maintain dignity for another. We are relieved that as of today, he’s in a VA facility with good care.

What’s with denying human dignity to other or even to our environment. Even if a person doesn’t believe in the science of climate change — and understandably, there are many theories and arguments — we can still do what is right and best for protecting our precious planet. What I don’t understand is the denial only so that resources can be stripped and robbed at the price of stability, wonder, and beauty.

I feel like our veteran friend was treated as if he were a criminal because civilian population doesn’t understand their points of fragility. An aging altered brain is frightening. In our family, we made the shift to stand on a foundation of caring, to approach all the discomforting issues that occur with loving kindness. Instead of rigid rules or treatment, like caring for the earth, we need to do what is best, to bring out the best in another. Not to strip and rob of dignity. Not to deny that veteran vulnerability is real and deserves our attention.

While Mother Earth can’t call for help, veterans in need can. This is the US Veteran Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1). You can also text 838255, or open access help for those hard of hearing (and most combat veterans suffer hearing loss) 1-800-799-4889. Share this number with FRIENDS AND FAMILY of veterans!

Most spouses and grown children probably unaware that they can call. Please keep in mind that isolation can lead to suicidal ideation. One of the reasons me and my family work so hard at keeping the Hub engaged and communication grounded in caring is so he does not feel isolated. One of the ideas behind suicide as a part of CTE (and PTSD for that matter) is due to the person losing connectivity with other people. As the brain deteriorates in CTE, a person feels trapped and disconnected. In PTSD, self-isolation is common.

So make sure family and friends know the Veteran Crisis Hotline number and that they can call. Our friend’s spouse called and likely saved her husband’s life. Just two weeks ago, one of our fellow Warrior Sisters gave her the number. She said she didn’t know she could call. We didn’t know she’d have to call so soon. We never really know the moment.

Like with the earth. We don’t know when the exact crisis will be. In the meantime, let’s be kind to one another and think of extending others and the environment a sense of dignity.

Take a look at the photo for the prompt. I asked permission of a local photographer to use it. George C. Bailey and his wife who is a renown Copper Country artist live high up on the peninsula right on the Lake. There’s something enlivening about Lake Superior in her layers of ice and sea mist. Remember, that there is always beauty around us. Do not lose hope to the frozen devils or fears of the future. Stay connected to one another and live life to the fullest.

Write to your greatest potential.

January 31, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sea mist. How does it create an environment for a story? It can set the stage or take the stage. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by February 5, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Mountain Passage (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

At the top of the pass, Ike pulled over. Danni radioed the lead forester to verify any logging trucks. The Forest Service road tapered to one-way traffic. For the next five miles, loggers used the narrow switchbacks to haul loads from an active site. If they met a truck on the grade, there would be no way to pass. Danni surveyed the steep ravine, waiting for a reply. Morning fog obscured the forest and hid the road. Before an affirmative crackled over the radio, Danni heard grinding gears in the distance like a rumble of surf beneath sea mist.

Shards

Can something broken ever be whole again? Life can be full of shattering moments. Broken relationships, broken possessions, broken dreams. Yet shards are not the end. Sometimes, it’s the beginning of a different appreciation.

Writers explored the possibilities of shards, this week. They explored the human condition revealed by the prompt, sharing different perspectives on who or what was broken.

The following are from the January 24, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about shards.

PART I (10-minute read)

Mommy by D. Avery

I am a ghost drifting formless
undead, unliving, in between
strung out at the margins.
You haunt me with your memories.
Leave me be.

Rattling chains of your broken dreams
piecing together shards
hopes cracked and scarred like my junkie arms.
My babies, chanting shamans
mediums; you’d have them draw me to the side of the living.
It’s so hard. I don’t come over.

My body is crumbling dust
my heart empty shortsighted eyes
searching for one thing only.
The next fix
might be the one
the last one
an exorcism.

Will you dare dream again, for my children?

🥕🥕🥕

Picture Perfect by Janice Morris

The cardboard frame has yellowed and the picture of the young girl has faded but not her sweet innocence.

She looks wistfully out at the world. There is no bitterness in her warm gentle smile.

More and more I find myself wanting to linger in her youthful dreams, shards from the past, knowing they will soon end and she will be bound to walk in the weighty footprints that life has fashioned.

If I am to have solace, I think I shall find it in this child for she is brimming with hope and hope is what I seek.

🥕🥕🥕

Shards by Anita Dawes

The small church stands alone on the hill.
Beautiful stained glass windows,
sun streaming broken colours of ancient light
illuminating the walls, the floors, the pews.
People’s faces, colour changing
From red to blue, green and yellow
Those broken shards of light
every bit as beautiful as any pottery
found in any old Egyptian bazar.
A jewel made by man, lit by nature’s light.
How long will it last?
Will the light last forever?
Will the broken shards of light
keep shining through the woods
for my grandchildren, great grandchildren?
Will ancient shards of pottery still hold man’s interest?

🥕🥕🥕

Melancholy by Susan Zutautas

Remembering back sitting in a dark dingy room, my mind constantly thinking that all I wanted was to feel normal. No desire to eat or get out of bed but most of all I just wanted to be alone.

At times I would think so rigorously, try so hard to make sense of it all, yet concentration was impossible to come by and all I would do was escape into sleep. Darkness was my only friend and I welcomed it.

People would walk around me as if they were stepping around shards of glass.

When would this all end?

🥕🥕🥕

Shard by Robbie Cheadle

Her son’s death shattered her life like a stone hitting a mirror. The shards pierced her heart and soul making it impossible for her to experience love or joy in any way.

She stood with her sister’s baby in her arms. Little Monica looked up at her with large, trusting eyes. She walked around the room singing softly to the tiny girl just as she had sung to her own boy more than twelve years ago.

A burst of love surged through her, vapourizing the shards. Acceptance of the past brought her acceptance and a welcome sense of peace.

🥕🥕🥕

Shards from the Past Cut Sharper Than Glass by Anne Goodwin

When Matty awakes, she is hugging that dratted photograph. Brushing her hand across her torso, the glass splinters on the floor tiles, jingling like xylophone keys. The maid will sweep up the shards.

Of greater concern is Matty’s doppelgänger, now free to make mischief with no protective pane. Everybody knows Matilda told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes. But a dissembler gets her comeuppance eventually, and rightly so.

Matty must distance herself from Matilda, however, lest she be punished for her crimes. Otherwise, when Matilda shouts Fire! Matty would be mocked by Little liar!

🥕🥕🥕

Closing the Circle of Life by H.R.R. Gorman

I cup my mother’s hand and hold it tight. She stares at me with unknowing eyes, scared, reluctant or too weak to squeeze the hand in return. “Ma?” she asks.

I rub the wasting arm, glad that even a shard of a memory is poking through. It’s been a while since she’s asked for anyone. “I’m your daughter,” I answered. “Do you need something, Mama?”

The words come slowly to her. “Just sleepy.”

I smile, hand her a baby-doll, and tuck her in with a kiss on the forehead. “Then rest, Mama. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

🥕🥕🥕

Darn Memories by Ruchira Khanna

“Thank heavens it broke!” Jules said with relief as she raised her hands in jubilation.

She was quick to call for help to clean up the mess.

As the helper was collecting the pieces that got scattered around the room; Jules watched with a keen eye.

Her fragile grey neurons of 80 years old were quick to make synapses as that cup’s history took her to her home surrounded with laughter, and then to an old age home all alone.

Memories were threatening to overwhelm her, but she would be seen fighting them with an expletive now and then.

🥕🥕🥕

Broken by Sally Cronin

She swept up the broken glass, briefly regretting throwing the vase across the room. It had missed its target, thankfully, since going to prison for murder was not the best start to a new life of freedom. It had been a wedding gift from her dead mother-in-law, who had never thought her good enough for her precious son. Sunlight streaming into the room was captured by a large shard that sparkled with brilliance, as if celebrating its release from the confines of the vessel. She laughed; perhaps the old girl was sending her approval from above at long last.

🥕🥕🥕

The Mirror Cracked by Di @ pensitivity101

The bathroom mirror was still cracked after all this time, a reminder of tempers lost and love destroyed.
Now suddenly the pieces broke free of the frame, crashing and smashing into the sink below. Was it an Omen?

Splinters, slithers and shards glistened up at him, each representing a part of what was.
The whole had been beautiful, reflective, serene. Now all that was left was an empty canvas having ejected the shattered remains.

It was a solid base upon which to build.

Taking the smallest piece, he put it in place.

Always best to start with the heart.

🥕🥕🥕

She’s Made Whole Again by Miriam Hurdle

“Greetings!”

“Oh! It’s strange. I heard my sons, daughters-in-law, brothers, sisters and niece.”

“Yes, they came to see you.”

“My sisters and niece from the US?”

“Yes.”

“They said they loved me, Jesus loved me, and God loved me.”

“They still do.”

“There was an avalanche inside me. My sister called the nurse, said I was bleeding.”

“Your organs collapsed. The blood gushed out of your nose.”

“But… I look fine. I feel like dancing as I did for the Championship on November 4, 2018.”

“You’re made whole again. Come with me to enter the gate of eternal wholeness.”

🥕🥕🥕

Repurposed by Kay Kingsley

The voice on the phone stopped time in an instant and all she knew, everything she’d ever felt, exploded and as her world broke apart she lay in pieces on the floor and wept from a place so deep that she never knew it existed.

In time, she was able to locate most parts of herself, gathering them up with mixed emotions. She was happy to have found them again but the picture of herself that they made was one she needed time to adjust to.

Reborn, rearranged, repurposed, renewed, she now has more parts of herself to give.

🥕🥕🥕

Jeff (Crater Lakes) by Saifun Hassam

Millennia ago, Green Crater Lake was formed from a volcanic eruption. In this very unique environment, another crater lake formed some hundred miles away: Lizard Crater Lake, when a meteorite crashed into the lush green valley.

Lizard Lake’s shores were strewn with shards of obsidian meteorite rock, mixed with shards from Earth’s crust. Rain and snow melt drained away through cracks in the lake bed.

In the summer, the dry lake was home to lizards and rattlesnakes. Green Lake’s waters and marshes attracted songbirds, deer, and fox.

Jeff, a ranger for Special Ecological Habitats, loved to explore both craters.

🥕🥕🥕

Fooled Once by Ann Edall-Robson

The creek had become a fast-moving lake. Crossing the muddy water was for those who were stupid. Today, he would be one of the stupid ones. He had to check the cattle, regardless of Mother Nature.

His eyes were drawn to the West, and he smirked. The thunder was like a drum roll followed by the ebony clouds opening to brilliant shards of light streaming through. Was it another one of Mother Nature’s false hope sign that a break in the weather was on its way? He’d seen the sky like that before. Fooled once, but never again.

🥕🥕🥕

His Dream Graveyard by calmkate @ aroused

An unkempt blue tractor blocked our entry. We just managed to slide in the gateway when the majestic race horses nudged us demanding their feed.

I caste my gaze around and realise its full of shards of this man’s dreams. Specialised tractors left to rust. Large frames leaned against the corral … they only cost a hundred but the horses shelter was never built. The ice cream cart was rotting, tyres and rusted bits lay about.

It felt voyeuristic to wander through the graveyard of this man’s dreams. 73.8 acres paid for … could the bank reclaim that 0.2?

🥕🥕🥕

Shards by Faith A. Colburn

Entering the abandoned house, we tiptoed on shards of glass. The windows must have shattered long ago; the oak floors were badly warped. We smelled damp wood, wet wallpaper paste, molding plaster. This house once sheltered a family—our great grandparents and their ten children.

We couldn’t see shards of the lives lived there, the storms that destroyed a year’s income, the recession that nearly ruined the family, the trauma that resulted in hitting and punching.

Yet out of the love that survived in the house came this clan of descendants—the doctor, the lawyer, the merchant, the chief.

🥕🥕🥕

Shards by Floridaborne

An “A” student, high school cheerleader, her only worry what she’d wear to the prom, sat at the intake desk at a home for unwed mothers two states away from her parents wondering why, in 1960, no one cared that her drunken father …

“Every counselor here understands,” her mentor said. “It’s not your fault.”

“My mother said once the baby’s given up for adoption, you’ll help me find a job in another city.”

“With your grades, we’ll help you find a scholarship.”

“Someday I’ll be the counselor offering a shard of hope.”

Her mentor smiled. “I’ve no doubt.”

🥕🥕🥕

Vase by Nobbinmaug

The crash echoed throughout the house.

Sam and Pete stared motionlessly and silently at the shards of the former vase strewn across the floor. It was their mom’s favorite. It was her mother’s.

They both considered running, but where? It wasn’t a big apartment. The only way out was through the front door. That meant getting past dad. It was afternoon, so he had been drinking for hours already. He wouldn’t even drink his morning coffee without whiskey.

Before either could move, dad stomped down the hall with fists flying.

Sam broke the cycle.

Pete broke his daughter’s arm.

🥕🥕🥕

Having Faith, One Root Vegetable at a Time by Geoff Le Pard

‘Wassup? You look like someone’s shrink-wrapped your brain.’

‘It’s this prompt; I’ve to write about a shard.’

‘I hate that word.’

‘Shard? Why?’

‘Reminds me when I broke Grandpa’s urn. Mum went bonkers.’

‘How’d you…?’

“Used it as a wicket…’

‘Morgan, you didn’t?’

‘Yeah. It shattered. Mum goes mental, Dad tries to rescue me. Told me to collect the shards to stick it back together.’

‘What happened?’

‘Mum said I’d about as much chance of remaking the urn as I had of remaking a potato from a bag of crisps.’

‘She a one, your mum.’

‘Tell me about it.’

🥕🥕🥕

A Partial Conversation Overheard in the Centurion Lounge During A Flight Delay at LaGuardia by Bill Engleson

“Two glasses of white wine, please.”

“Any preference?”

“Whatever you have will be fine. Sauvignon Blanc, maybe…unless you have Chardonnay?”

“I do. Coming right up…”

“How long’s it been, Jeannie? Two…three years?”

“The conference in Chicago. October 2016.”

“Right. Not that long.”

“In years, maybe. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime. You know…”

“Right! The clown in the White House. What a disaster. It’s like he’s grabbed everything we understood about the world and smashed it on the floor. The proverbial bully in a china shop.”

“Let’s not talk about him. It’s great to see you.”

“You too.”

🥕🥕🥕

Polar Vortex and Privilege by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Hunkered down in double socks,
Layers of wool and moisture-wicking long johns.
It’s a quick hike to the kitchen for more
Coffee hot soup the sweet pungency
Of Sumo oranges in a hand-turned bowl.

I could go out. I could stay in.
My choice.
Do I trust the slippery overpasses for a writing class in a historic cottage supporting local art?

Grateful for my privilege, but feeling detached.
Still.
Worried for those living rough
On our Twin Cities streets,
And rural roads.

Predicted windschill 60 below: Our people may literally freeze to death,
Shatter into shards of never were.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Shards of a Life by Tracey Robinson

The line of soldiers walked slowly, cautiously, testing each step. The IED detonated anyway, shattering the Sergeant’s leg and leaving him mercifully unconscious.

Thousands of miles away a phone rang. The love of his life found her heart shattered by words as easily as his leg by explosives.

Months passed. Months filled with hospitals and surgeries. A leg put together with pins and rods. A person put back together with therapy and exercise. A heart held together with patience and hope. A couple linked together by the past.

Their bodies may have been shattered but their love remained whole.

🥕🥕🥕

Chester Helps Ruth with the Crossword Puzzle by Molly Stevens

Chester flopped into his recliner, cracked open a beer, and turned on the football game. Ruth poured over the weekend crossword puzzle.

“What’s a five-letter word for fragment?” Ruth said.

“Chip away at ‘em with short passes!”

“I said five letters. Chip only has four.”

“One piece at a time.”

“Starts with ‘s.’ Piece doesn’t fit.”

“There’s the scrap you needed for another set of downs!”

“No, it’s not ‘scrap.’ The word ends in a ‘d.’

“Smash the defense!”

‘Smash doesn’t end with ‘d’.”

“Shard, the word is shard, woman.”

“I love it when we do the crossword together.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fractal Features by Kerry E.B. Black

After their argument, she retreated into the museum until she no longer heard the derisive laughter and tinkling of toasted congratulatory conversation.

Cold air buffeted from a neglected hallway. The percussion of her footfalls punctuated until the crescendo burst her dammed emotions. A torrent smeared makeup while suppression unknotted.

She beheld glass fingered with frost. Backlit, it reflected her amplified imperfection. Within the fractal features resounded his criticism.

Instead of accepting the carnival-mirror version of herself, she punched the unfair portrayal. The window shattered into a crystalline spider web. Pain shot through her wrist and left shards for remembrance.

🥕🥕🥕

Intermission by Pete Fanning

I was alone, near the stairs, clutching popcorn and beer when the lights dimmed, summoning me to seat 112 in Row EEE.

Dan stood at the entrance to the balcony, eyes panning the lobby. When he saw me he grimaced, motioned for me to hurry. I tossed the popcorn into the trash, corn and kernels falling like shards into the bag. I tried not to think about how I my appearance inspired such small misery—a small explosion in my chest. I washed it down with beer and walked towards my husband.

He turned and we entered the darkness.

🥕🥕🥕

Lead Came by Nancy Brady

It was Valentine’s Day, and Julie was working. She received a bouquet of flowers from her husband. Her customers would remark, “He really loves you” or some other platitude. It certainly felt like a platitude because she recently discovered that he had an affair with a mutual friend. One he denied up until now.

With two young children, what was she to do? His betrayal had cut her to the quick, and she felt she couldn’t go on. Her heart had been ripped to pieces. Would she ever feel whole again?

yellow roses…
shards of
the stained glass heart

🥕🥕🥕

Broken by Susan Sleggs

The vinyl discs were from his high school and college days. When he left her for another woman she smashed them against the edge of their marble counter. Shards flew. She eyed the mess with a childish glee, feeling she had destroyed something of him as he had destroyed their life together. She slept well that night. The next day she purchased a shiny new bucket and filled it with every shard she could locate then left it by the turntable with a note; “Here is your record collection, in the condition you have left my heart and life.”

🥕🥕🥕

Shards by The Dark Netizen

I lay broken among shards of glass, broken like the window I had just fallen through.

It was a four floor fall. My consciousness was fading, just like my life had been for many years. The shards piercing my skin hurt so mucu lesser than the words that had pierced my heart minutes ago. The words I read on the note had struck me hard. It was a suicide note, signed by me. However, I had never written one. I realised only after I was shoved hard through the window.

The last thing I saw was my wife’s face…

🥕🥕🥕

Lovesick Mess by Belle Gram

“There are rose petals on the floor of our apartment.”

“Yes.”

“There is a giant heart posted to the wall as well.”

“Yes.”

“And you’re a little more flushed than usual.”

“I am quite aware of the obvious situation before me, including the complexion of my skin.”

“Is this one of your experiments?”

“Of course not. This pink mess is an abomination of nature.”

“It is a bit odd. Though the handwriting of their confession is curvier than yours. Not mentioning the decorative hearts and exclamation points.”

“You have no idea how odd it is about to get.”

🥕🥕🥕

Analyse the Detail by Norah Colvin

The artisan turned each piece to the light, this way and that, fitting and refitting, arranging and rearranging. Finally, it was done. Each piece necessary and perfectly positioned creating the whole— exquisite, harmonious, illuminating—not one greater nor outshining any other. It filled each open heart with hopes of dreams fulfilled.

Another sought to analyse its beauty, the power of its message to explore. He picked out all the pieces one by one and examined each in every detail. Too late he saw that, shattered and alone, not one shard revealed a secret. Only united did their meaning shine.

🥕🥕🥕

Porcelain Shards by TNKerr

The last of the dessert set goes into the furnace
Final firing for
cups, saucers, plates and bowls.
There’s a coffee pot and warmer,
a creamer, sugar bowl, and cake plate.
All done in a stylized violet motif
A signature design favoured by my father.

This time there is trouble in the kiln
Most likely the sugar bowl blew
I’ll never know for sure though. I lost that sugar bowl,
and it’s lid,
two cups that had been positioned close by.
Fine porcelain reduced to shards.
Doesn’t happen often, but its part of the game.
Move on, make more.

🥕🥕🥕

Intruder Alert by Anurag Bakhshi

Inspector Sparrow stared intensely at the silver-haired man in front of him.

The man started off, “The intruder was a tall man, inspector, well-built, and extremely handsome. In the dark, I saw him standing in that window, and froze. He moved left, I followed. I moved right, he followed. Finally, I jumped at him, and that is how the glass window broke,” he finished, pointing towards the shards on the floor.

The inspector carefully inspected the shards, and got up.” I’ll take your leave now,” he said,” but please feel free to have this broken mirror replaced, Mr. Magoo.”

🥕🥕🥕

What One Lady Gave Me by JulesPaige

The of Lady Lake Michigan gave me shards. I was visiting in Wisconsin In August of 2017
I traversed the length of the north and south beaches.

One little triangle white with blue hand painted lines like decorations; I’ve identified that coming from a piece of a Leeds Blue Feather plate.

The Lady also offered up something green on both sides; which I was told came from the 1856 Toledo shipwreck.

entrusted to me;
bit pieces of history
gifted by a lake

These pieces are a part of my Lake Michigan treasures. Bits of memories that make me whole.

🥕🥕🥕

Stories in the Shards (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni sifted dirt from Ramona’s garden through the screen and shards of glass emerged. She had built the box to hang on a tripod to accommodate her shorter height. Thick brown crockery and glass from household items emerged. Danni would take this year’s haul to her barn, scrub pieces clean, arrange by type, and document. Every fall, when Ike’s grandmother tilled up her tomatoes and zucchini, Danni sifted for treasure. Most people scoffed at broken glass, but to an archeologist, each piece told a valuable story. One day she’d figure out why the crockery and mason jars were there.

🥕🥕🥕

Shards to Read by Nancy Brady

A favorite author of mine, Jennifer Estep writes fantasy fiction for teens and adults. I actually stumbled upon her writing when I won a copy of her YA novel, Dark Frost from her Mythos Academy series.

Once I devoured that whole series, I branched into her other series like the Black Blade trilogy, the Bigtime series, the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series, and the spinoff series, Mythos Academy: Colorado, which begins with Spartan Heart.

Her humorous, lighthearted style makes for fun reading.

My current read is Kill the Queen, the first in her newest series, A Crown of Shards.

🥕🥕🥕

Burying The Dead by Joanne Fisher

Aalen cut down all the bodies from the trees in the village. She spent the day burying her kin in the village outskirts. Every time saying a prayer to the Goddess while wiping away tears. She removed the sacred crystal shards from around the neck of the village Elder and buried her last. She cupped the largest one in her hands praying for a way to find the killers of her people. The shard glowing brilliantly in her hands showed the way. A rage filled her heart. She grabbed all her weapons and followed the path she had seen.

🥕🥕🥕

The Unexpected by Joanne Fisher

The vampire advanced towards her. Rebecca was backed into a wall. The vampire smirked. It had her now. Rebecca grabbed one of the pottery shards from a shelf beside her and just as the vampire grabbed her, Rebecca drove the shard into the vampire’s heart. The vampire looked surprised and turned into a cloud of dust. Rebecca sighed and walked to the door.

“Stupid vampire.” She said.

“Stupid human!” Said a voice behind her.

Rebecca turned to see the vampire she had killed with a dark smile on it’s face, just as she felt it’s icy hands on her.

🥕🥕🥕

Life’s Puzzle by Teresa Grabs

Ruth was obsessed with puzzles; the more pieces, the better. There wasn’t a puzzle she could complete in record time – except one. Her painful secret and desire remained locked away from her in a tidy corner of the attic. As with any puzzle, she began with the frame. Over the years, she managed to find the right combination for several clusters, but the whole puzzle eluded her. Every night she sat on the attic floor and stared at her reflection in the puzzle shards. A million hers – her true self – screaming forever, imprisoned in the shards of her reflection.

🥕🥕🥕

Magic Happens When by Reena Saxena

This is a magical shard, I’m told, and I believe it when it speaks,

“I need to join my counterparts again to be truly effective. The energy will flow only after we connect, and create a channel for the supernatural. Without it, I’m just a piece of glass.”

So, I set around looking for the remaining pieces. Some are retrieved from the bin, yet many others have left no trace. Suddenly, I note the color of the shard changing.

“What does that mean, my friend?”

“Your energy is now beginning to resonate with mine.” Magic was indeed happening.

🥕🥕🥕

Grandma’s Tears by Chelsea Owens

The sun-warmed beach felt wet and warm
To tiny feet through after-storm;
A woven bowl within her hands,
A flutt’ring hope within the sands.
Searching, searching patiently;
Seeking out a memory.
A glint! A glare! She shouted, skipped!
She danced in young explorer bliss.
For, bit by shining bit, she found
Crystal shards strewn over ground.
And, ducking leaping dancing low
They came to fill her basket-bowl.
Look, Gram, she told the sunshaft sky;
Laughing, she lofted basket high,
I fin’lly found your present, here;
I fin’lly found your star-shed tears.
Clouding sunset smiles played:
Snug’ling, warming, happy rays.

 

January 24: Flash Fiction Challenge

Somewhere in a museum, marble walls border a room full of vases. Each vase displays qualities from behind protective glass cases. Each one rests upon plush velvet — a deep royal blue that accents the different shapes and hues of fine artistic renderings. The veins in the marble create a soft pattern and polish. Security cameras validate the assumption that this room secures valuable items on display.

People meander through. Children are taught to “not touch.” Everyone can feel the value of the place with unseen price tags that would shock the more common among the crowd. Those not shocked want to possess more of these vases for their own private collections out of sight from the throngs.

No one seems to notice the shards on the floor, swept away to an unlit corner. From the shadows, the shards remember what it was to once be whole. These shards came from a water basin, or maybe a jug for transporting figs. Whatever the purpose, the shards knew they had shape for a task. The original vase might not have been destined for a velvet seat on display, but the shards dream.

The shards dream of wholeness. They dream of Japanese myths that say that gold can mend broken vases. The shards envision how to rearrange into something new, something not seen before. They dream of purpose, to serve again. They dream of someone noticing them in the corner, someone willing to give a broken vase a break. Sometimes, the shards dream of blue velvet. Why not? The shards know beauty because they have known the pain of shattering.

Occasionally someone will step over to the shadows.

A bored child approaches, one who has plenty of vases back home. Who cares about these dumb vases in glass? There’s not a vase in the world Father can’t own. He steals a shard because he knows its naughty and wouldn’t that make Mother blush. The remaining shards sigh and rethink another configuration with one shard stolen.

A woman in high heels randomly steps on the shards, pulverizing the edges to dust. She grinds the shards under the toe of her Jimmy Choo, revering the feel of power over something already crushed. Abated, she leaves the shards gasping. Maybe it was foolish to dream of being worthy of blue velvet. Maybe it was a waste of time to find recognition as a vase.

Once broken, you can’t be whole again. The shards lie numb in the dust of what was and what could have been. That’s when the sweeper arrives.

Hope.

Can even one shard have hope of being a vase again?

Hope of evolving into something more.

To be valued.

Hope.

Without a second glance, the sweeper batters the pile of shards with bristles, grumbling about its unsightliness. Unwanted. Worth nothing. An imposition on his time and effort. He sweeps away the pile, scattering them down a dark, dank drain. Water flows and pushes the shards through tight places. What is left, lingers on a gritty bottom of a sewage pipe. In the darkness…

In the darkness, the shards dream a little dream. Why not? It’s better to dream of blue velvet or purpose than worry about the dark. Dreams light the inner places of the shards, and although broken and scattered, they still connect as one. A type of wholeness?

A rushing sound in the distance grows, and so much water pushes every last remnant of the shards out into a waterfall sparkling with sunlight. The shards tumble over miles of rocks and land on a sandy beach, breathless beneath moonlight. It’s so beautiful, the shards marvel, looking up into the vast array of stars on velvet so dark blue it’s black.

Can it be that stars are pieces on velvet? And yet, the shards notice with excitement, they form patterns, constellations. Now the shards dream of being stars! The water rushes in from the sea on rolling waves as translucent as green glass. It grabs at the shards and tumbles each piece in a playful game. The shards laugh with joy and go with the water.

Sometimes, from beneath the glassy filter, the shards see people on the beach. It reminds them of old dreams. Life is not so bad now, with the waves, sand, and sky. But to be valued. To be whole. It’s still a dream. People do not care about broken things. Best to remain in the sand.

A woman in bare feet approaches, toes sinking into sand. She lowers her face, searching. But for what, the shards wonder. She reaches out slender fingers to grasp a shard. The woman smiles. She shouts, “Look what I found!”

Another joins her and cries, “Beautiful!”

The companions sift around, searching for more. The shards call to one another — we are found!

That day, two women left the beach with a bucket of shards they treasured. Some shards stayed behind to experience the world. All of those found came under scrutiny. They were bathed and photographed. A man in a curio shop identified their family — a broken wine vessel from Roman times. Unusual. Beautiful craftsmanship. Broken.

Identity is not about going back. Identity gives foundation to what comes next. A sense of belonging in time but free to evolve. The women made art of the shards. One arranged pieces into shapes, mounted and framed. The other made jewelry so exquisite that one set went to a jeweler who displayed the grandest pieces of the shards in a glass case on velvet.

Great value came with price tags and news media. Pieces were made into whole projects. Of all the lives the shards experienced fractured and worn, the time spent on the blue velvet was most boring. Safe. Secure. Objectified.

Luckily, an adventurous world traveler bought the exquisite jewelry set and took the shards around the globe. Even to Rome! Which changed a lot since the shards had last seen home. Finally, the shards realized that value came from being who you can be no matter how broken.

We might never be whole again, but we can live a full life. Shards know true beauty, hope, and joy. Pieces become more valuable than the whole.

***

It’s been a week of healing and snow. I like one better than the other. One of our Rough Writers, Ruchira Khanna, has generously offered me long-distance Reiki and Healing Touch on my ankle. Tuesdays are quickly becoming my favorite day of the week! After she calls, I go to a quiet place (aka the couch) and rest beneath a big fuzzy blanket. Sometimes I have to shove over a dog, and sometimes the cat pesters me with her paw. I don’t sleep but fall into a warm, restorative space, watching colors swirl behind closed eyes.

I’ve experienced Reiki and HT many times before, but always in person. I wasn’t sure how the long-distance energy work happened, but Ruchira has been a caring guide, committed to helping my ankle heal. If you are curious or interested in working with Ruchira, she is accepting new clients in her practice. Contact her at ruchira00@gmail.com. You can learn more about energy work at Explore the World of Reiki or the world famous Mayo Clinic. Ruchira is both a Reiki Master and a Certified Healing Touch Practitioner. She offers her services to Standford Health Care.

In other forms of healing, I had another EMDR session. I get stuck in my grief over many losses I’ve experienced, one after another. It’s like a crushing weight. EMDR helps me face painful feelings and neutralize them. This week,  I had a vision during my session that led to the story I wrote above. It was a big shift for me to realize that value is not about wholeness. I’m embracing the lesson of the shards.

Snow, well, snow keeps falling. This is the Keweenaw I know and love with its Winter Mistress, Lady Lake. She’s been fickle and now fierce. I love the energy of her wild lake-effect snow. Driving in it is another matter, but our city is fully equipped and experienced.

If you are curious about the ads, I will continue the space I set up for the Rodeo. Kid’s Kat explains what you need to know (look for the cat among the ads). I’m still waiting for a decision from The Continental on the Radio Spot. We had so few writers, I’m not sure what they are considering.

I’m not the most patient person in limbo, and right now I’m waiting on several important outcomes, and it’s about to drive me mad. So what is a writer to do but write? And so I am writing. I hope you are, too!

January 24, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about shards. You can write about the pieces, the item they once were, or who picks them up and why. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 29, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Stories in the Shards (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni sifted dirt from Ramona’s garden through the screen and shards of glass emerged. She had built the box to hang on a tripod to accommodate her shorter height. Thick brown crockery and glass from household items emerged. Danni would take this year’s haul to her barn, scrub pieces clean, arrange by type, and document. Every fall, when Ike’s grandmother tilled up her tomatoes and zucchini, Danni sifted for treasure. Most people scoffed at broken glass, but to an archeologist, each piece told a valuable story. One day she’d figure out why the crockery and mason jars were there.

Colonnades

Colonnades of white lend a regal elegance to a building or porch. Until you realize what happens in the shadows and that not all institutions uplift humanity. Thus begins the stroll through colonnades of many different origins.

Writers used the architecture as a literary device — to support ideas. Take a stroll through stories on an unexpected journey.

The following are based on the January 17, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes colonnades.

Part I (10-minute read)

Never Give Up by Norah Colvin

The solid grey wall stretched without end, both left and right —impenetrable, no way around, no way through. Perhaps a way over? Even from that distance, it appeared unscaleable.

He removed his backpack and rested his head upon it as he lay, gazing upward. He sighed heavily. He’d trekked so far believing this was the way. How could he have been so wrong?

He closed his eyes and drifted into a deep sleep. Refreshed, upon awakening, he decided to continue rather than retreat.

As he drew closer, the wall separated into columns spaced perfectly to allow an easy passage.

🥕🥕🥕

Pillars by The Dark Netizen

The colonnades have stood for ages.

Tall, sturdy, and white, they stood strong in all weathers. They sheltered my grandfather when he watched the black slaves toil in our fields. It sheltered my father when he freed the slaves and paid them honest wages to work the farms. And now, the great pillars shelter me as I fight alongside my friends of colour against the invaders. We will stand together, to make sure that the pillars stand for our sons. The pillars will shelter my son as he watches a free, united nation take birth.

The pillars won’t fall…

🥕🥕🥕

In the Orchard by Anne Goodwin

In the orchard, I kissed him. Between the colonnades of conference, comice and Cox’s Orange Pippin, tasted nectar on his tongue. Amid the scent of ripened fruit, I smelled the sweat of weeks on the run. We made a bed of fallen leaves, the drone of drunken wasps mingled with our moans.

I knew I had no future with a freedom fighter. Right then, I didn’t care. But when the soldiers stood in line and raised their rifles, the shot sent swallows screaming from their roosts. They left me his bloodied body, and his child blossoming in my womb.

🥕🥕🥕

Supports by D. Avery

“It’s an epic occasion,” Lloyd announced as Ernest and Marge wedged themselves into the booth. “Gotta send Ilene off with a hearty breakfast.”

The diner that was in the same half dead shopping plaza as the community school served breakfast 24/7, perfect for commemorating Ilene’s first day of evening classes.
They walked her from the diner to the lackluster painted over storefront that veiled the higher learning within.

“Ok. Thanks. See you around campus.”

“Wait Ilene.” Ernest posed the others then had Ilene take a picture of them standing in front of the community school.

“We’re your colonnades.”

“Epic!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Epitaph of the Reverse Snob by Sascha Darlington

We were supposed to be impressed with his primping, his crisply ironed clothes which all bore logos, his affectation for mentioning who he was wearing if a logo wasn’t in evidence.

Rachel, of course, pitied him. “He’s insecure.”

“He talks all the time. About himself.”

“Exactly.”

I thought he was like the columns on the front of McMansions, all façade. Even in retrospect, I wouldn’t have changed my mind. Rachel’s wealthy now, wearing her own logos and baulked, momentarily, when he wanted columns on the front of their new home.

Me, I’m writing layered material, barely making ends meet.

🥕🥕🥕

Front Porch Sittin’ by H.R.R. Gorman

Master’s shaded
By colonnades.
I pour sweet tea
And lemonade.

But just last night
My mama crept
From field slave house
To where I slept.

“Take this,” she said,
Offering a bag.
Inside was a hex
Cast on heart of stag.

“Hush honeychild,”
My mother cried.
“Crush this heart and
Your daddy’ll die.”

I pour the tea
In nice tall glass.
I think about
What mama asked.

Master sits in
Colonnade’s shade
Beckons me stay
For ‘work’ unpaid.

I squeeze the heart.
From shady spot
My master drops
To Hell so hot.

🥕🥕🥕

Maybe It Won’t Be So Bad by TNKerr

Dario was a cad, a reprobate. He knew when he died because the pain disappeared.

Dead Dario rose, brushed imaginary dust from his shoulders, and looked ahead; there was no behind.

He was on a covered walkway surrounding a garth filled with souls of the suffering damned. Tapered stone columns stood like sentries between him and the wretches. Each column, labelled with a lie, that he recognized as one of his own:

Promises he’d never intended to keep, yet made to women he’d wanted.

Yarns spun to investors whose monies he stole.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s All in the Cards by Colleen M. Chesebro

Tara laid the faery tarot cards carefully on the table. From between the colonnades of the Major and Minor Arcana, the universe cradled her in a divine hug. From the Major Arcana she drew the six – The Lovers, the five – Unity, and from the Minor Arcana, the Six of Summer.

Past, present, and future. Her past spoke of true love, while the present, reminded her to remain true to her principles. Yet, the future hinted at her becoming fast friends.

The cards spoke the truth. What did she have to lose? She tore up the divorce papers and smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Folded by weejars

It’d been a long day. Kihei, Maui had deceptively more on offer than I’d thought.

I sat my weary self down, noting the lazy colonnades made by benches and umbrellas. Even they had had it – pulled in and folded down for the evening.

I sat swirling my cocktail, hoping it would ease my aching muscles. The sun dipped below the tree line, drawing long shadows on the ground and I’m almost tempted to ask a passing cyclist if I can hitch a ride. The thought of walking up the hill, is overwhelming.

🥕🥕🥕

Bus Stop by Anita Dawes

Outside my living room window stands a bus stop
One afternoon, I counted fourteen people waiting
Watched as a colonnade of human souls were
Swallowed by a red giant
The two o clock journey had begun
Where are they going?
Will their day be a good one?
This I will never know
I will not see their journey back
The return bus stop is further down
The road where I cannot see
I make up my own stories
About the faces standing waiting
The old lady with her green scarf
She is off to see her grandson…

🥕🥕🥕

Colonnades by Gordon Le Pard

It was strange.

He was watching the traffic passing on the bridge, as a cart moving behind the colonnade the spokes of the carts wheel seemed to bend. When a faster carriage followed it, the spokes seemed to bend even more.

The scientific magazine he edited was short of copy that month, he needed a few hundred words, remembering the odd effect of the wheel behind the colonnade he wrote, An Account of an Optical Deception.

A week later Michael Faraday read the article, he was fascinated and began to experiment.

The first steps on the road to Hollywood

***

Author’s Note: In 1821 John Murray made the observation that led to the discovery of Persistence of Vision, the reason that films work.

🥕🥕🥕

Semi-Colonnaddled-Donnie’s Secret Diary by Bill Engleson

Alone at Christmas this year.

I’d never been so alone in my life before.

How sad is that.

The fake newsy floozies expected a pity twitty…er…tweet.

Maybe I mentioned it in passing.

Melania did a bang-up job of decorating the East Wing this year.

Redder than in a Vlad wet dream.

I wonder what he did for Christmas.

I should give him a call.

Was he alone as I was?

Last year, the East Wing was a beaut.

Talk about a White Christmas.

Bing-a-da-boom…

I hate being alone.

Pelosi’s Shutdown has made Washington a morgue.

I think it’s personal.

🥕🥕🥕

A Word From Our Sponsor by Nancy Brady

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Products like Tums and Prilosec for heartburn; products like Ex-Lax and Miralax for constipation, and products like Imodium for diarrhea, Emetrol for nausea and vomiting, and the ubiquitous Pepto-Bismol used for everything.

The newest category is probiotics, which helps restore good bacteria to the gut, specifically the large intestine or colon. Thus, probiotics could be classified as
colon-aids.

🥕🥕🥕

The Problem with Dreaming by Geoff Le Pard

‘What’s that, Logan?’

‘Nothing. You know…’

‘Not unless you tell me.’

‘Someone at work had this thing about designing their dream home and, well, I thought it might be neat…’

‘What’s that?’

‘I thought a sheltered walkway leading to double height doors…’

‘This folly’s in England, right? Bit optimistic, worrying about sunstroke. And you’ll get a rupture opening those. These? They look like columns.’

‘I always fancied having a collonade.’

‘Is it worth that? I’m all for ambition but getting a hernia and buggering up your colon’s a pretty high price to pay for a fancy country pad.’

‘Cretin.’

🥕🥕🥕

Sky to Fly by Reena Saxena

“Don’t look for me, because you won’t find me.”

Dylan almost wanted to put the letter down, and call the police, but then, he stopped to read on.

“Thanks for all the support! You are the colonnade that enveloped my existence, helped me stay afloat, but also separated me from the skies I dream of reaching someday. I’d like to carve my own life.”

Years later, the father and son stand facing each other.

“So, did you find your sky?”

“Yes, and I converted it into solid ground for my son. He’ll need it till he learns to fly.”

🥕🥕🥕

Temple Builders by D. Avery

He found them outside, each with shovels, each pink cheeked, strands of black hair stuck to damp foreheads. “What are you two up to?”

“Come see what Mommy and me made Daddy!”

Hope led him around the mound of plowed snow where the bank dropped away. Once he’d crawled through the entrance tunnel he could almost stand up.

“Is that a skylight?”

“No Daddy, just a vent. Mommy’s gonna build a fire and we’ll cook dinner.”

While his wife and child continued carving out their snug snow house he stacked snowballs and shaped two elegant colonnades at the entryway.

🥕🥕🥕

Demolition Man by Anurag Bakhshi

I looked at my creation again. It was stunning, a virtual masterpiece, as Bird Baths go.

It was a steep downgrade, of course, from the columns of colonnades in my last masterpiece, but…

The owner of the villa inspected the Bird Bath closely now, and said in a mocking tone, “Are you sure this won’t fall down as soon as a bird sits on it?”

I raged silently, but held my tongue. There was little I could say after that crazy monster Hercules had destroyed the pillars of my magnificent, indestructible mansion, along with my reputation as an architect.

🥕🥕🥕

Colonnades by Pete Fanning

Molly and I walk in to the kitchen, where her little sister is drawing at the table. “Hey giant,” she says. “Look at this one.”

I take in the carnage. “Um, wow, this is very…realistic.”

She beams. “Do you notice the legs dangling out of the serpent’s mouth?”

Molly sighs. “Ava, I thought we were going to draw mountains. Beaches. Sunshine. Rainbows.” She tosses a hand. “Something besides death and dismemberment.”

“Look under the collapsed colonnade, you can even see the—”

“Ava.”

I mouth “colonnade” to Molly, who puffs out her cheeks. “Fine, put it on the fridge.”

🥕🥕🥕

Foreseeable Destiny by D. Avery

In the vaulted space beyond the grand colonnades the prophetess grew impatient with the plebeians. How dare they entreat her to wash her hands!

“And where’s your Destiny Doll? Don’t leave Granma’s gift outside.”

The voice of the prophetess rumbled from the temple as if from a deep cave. “Destiny has been swallowed whole by an earthquake. Only a great prophetess can save her.”

“Marlie! Now!”

The prophetess foresaw trouble. The colonnades were reduced to table legs as she scrambled out of the desecrated temple.

Even with her great powers it was ill advised to clash with the Titans.

🥕🥕🥕

The Family Pillar by Teresa Grabs

Davey leaned on the car door and sighed as he looked at the old house. It’s colonnades looked out of place today – still dirty from last week’s storm.

“Never would’ve been like that,” he muttered as he walked up to the porch.

They seemed to groan and weep under his touch as if they knew too. Nothing about this visit was normal. Nothing was the same as last time. The house – the family – was broken. Nana Grace had been the pillar of the family. Now she was gone; the house empty. He hoped the others would filter in soon.

🥕🥕🥕

Standing in Respect by Susan Sleggs

The funeral home parking lot was full of cars which hid the numerous motorcycles stashed in the back corner, but their large American flags flapping in the wind gave them away. I had to go look; The Patriot Guard was in presence. To enter the building I had to pass between the colonnade of men, standing at attention, on duty protecting a fellow veteran, a fellow biker and a friend. The haunted looks in their eyes wasn’t for the current grief, it was from a long ago senseless war. I know, they were my friends too. Damn Viet Nam.

🥕🥕🥕

Waiting by Nobbinmaug

Martha sits on the porch in her rocking chair, looking longingly past the colonnades. She rocks slowly as her fingers do their dance. Her knitting needles swiftly swirl around each other with a faint “swoosh” as they briefly connect. She occasionally glances at her growing creation.

Inside, Tom and Alex peek through the blinds.

“I’m worried about Mom.”

“She’ll be fine. Mom’s strong.”

“It’s been months. She just sits out there every day. Winter’s coming.”

“She’ll stay in when it gets cold.”

“We should call a shrink.”

“She’s mourning. Everybody mourns differently.”

“She’s waiting. She thinks he’s coming home.”

🥕🥕🥕

Colonnade of Condos by Frank Hubeny

Fernando and Pedro walked the boardwalk with a colonnade of condos on their left and the ocean on their right. They stopped at a mural. The artist painted a somber woman with an orange and gold halo walking past an archway.

Fernando remarked, “There comes a time in one’s life when one reaches the age of reason. One only wants the best. And then one wants to give it all away.”

Pedro asked, “And what if we never reach that age?”

In the warm winter winds they admired the mural of that woman.

“Ah! But what if we do?”

🥕🥕🥕

Part II (10-minute read)

Colonnades by FloridaBorne

Desert-beige legs like colonnades framed a thirsty expanse, providing support for a woman torn. As I wandered through life, searching for purpose in 1987, I dreamt of being a geologist, loved learning about rock strata and mining the fossils littering a hillside.

They’d lived in oceans for over 270 million years, far longer than human will litter the Earth, trilobites finding their end inside a mass die-off.

They were swept away together…each death a personal ordeal.

As I loosened one from a stone coffin, I wondered if the creatures replacing us will stop to ask, “Did it feel pain?”

🥕🥕🥕

Journey’s End by D. Avery

Do you see those three balsam fir trees, those green colonnades holding up the sky, making a temple of the earth they stand on?

Do you wonder how they got there?

You might remember three sisters that took from an abandoned suitcase hope and their best dream to sustain them on their journey.

As the three sisters let go of fear and worry and idle wishing they grew strong, resilient, and wise.

You don’t have to believe they became trees. They’ll still hold up the sky, rejoicing as you walk the earth your own way, dreaming your own dream.

🥕🥕🥕

Chester is Not Impressed by Molly Stevens

Chester stomped inside, removed his mittens, and blew on his hands. He barked, “Woman, get me a set of hand warmers!”

Ruth emerged from the kitchen and said, “You look like the abominable snowman!”

“It’s brutal out there, and I’ve still got two hours of shoveling left.”

“Just look at the tunnel of snow from here to the road. Isn’t it grand?”

Chester scowled. “I’m not impressed. Feels like Mother Nature took a two foot dump on me.”

“But don’t you think the snow banks look like colonnades?”

“Only you can take snowmageddon and make colonnades out of it.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Monument to Love by kate @ aroused

As we meandered under the arches, leafy green and cool.
This wondrous oasis near the harbour was a find not many knew

While contentedly wandering with my true love the idea came
I could build a colonnade just like these gracious trunks

A monument to true love, a place for quiet reflection
Such a radical new design came instantly to my mind

Tall grand beauty holding a huge ornate dome roof
A special place for worship for the community to gather

Tile then decorate with large brass hanging lanterns
An outstanding majestic temple for rituals to celebrate our lives!

🥕🥕🥕

Giant Redwoods by Tracey

She put the lawn chair all the way back and stared straight up. It felt scary, a thrill in the pit of her stomach. The trees towered so far above her, swaying at the top with the clouds holding on to keep them from veering too far. She looked at the thick trunks of the redwoods, sure the movement at the top would topple them. How did the trunks stay so straight? She wondered what would happen if a branch came crashing down. Would she be able to move away, or watch mesmerized as the clouds let it go?

🥕🥕🥕

Seeking a Moment of Silence (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni nudged Blackjacked and entered the long colonnade of aspen trees. The elk path cut straight through the grove as if it were an engineered road. White bark gleamed like a classical structure. Danni mused that her archeology career never ventured overseas. There was too much history in the West for her to explore. Overhead the leaves fluttered on long stems but held a reverent silence. What could be better than a ride to clear her mind? A sanctuary of nature to ease her anxiety over Ike’s choice to leave. Only here could she ride her horse into church.

🥕🥕🥕

A Colonnade of Aspen Trees by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They must pass through the colonnade of aspen trees as sunrise cuts through at the height of a small Greek woman.

She was that woman, barefoot, in a thin silk shift, a blue bowl of fresh oranges from Thessaloniki in her hands.

So the prophecy said.

She shook her head. Why not a packet of Twinkies in a paper bag, gripped in the paws of a tall man?

“I didn’t write the prophecy, Susan,” Gordon apologized. “That’s just what The Sages told me to do.”

“They told you to record and post this online, right?” she snarled, “Buncha Pervs!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Village Story Teller (Diamante) by Saifun Hassam

From the seashore, flagstones led to the ancient temple. Once, colonnades of colossal sandstone pillars had supported the roof, one colonnade facing the sunrise, the other sunset. The temple was now open to the skies, the pillars wind eroded, but still rising impressively from giant pedestals.

Diamante had taken to sketching the temple and its ever changing patterns of shadows. In the evening, when he lighted the temple fire he sketched the wildly dancing shadows. As evening deepened, owls hooted, children gathered around Diamante, awed and excited, as he wove tales of vast petrified forests and giant flying ships.

🥕🥕🥕

“Asylum of the Obscure” in four parts by JulesPaige

Part 1
The colonnades were not like those built to honor the ancient Greek Gods. I couldn’t tell if they were older or younger. They just were. Rising out of fissure at the end of the long tunnel I was spelunking. Had the others gotten so far ahead that I lost sight of where they were. And I turned off all alone lost in thought to make a discovery that I might not be able to share. While I was prepared for the coolness of the caves, definitely I was not accustomed to breaking out in a cold sweat of worry.

🥕🥕🥕

Part 2
I was alone in an uncharted cavern. The odd colonnades were illuminated by a calming radiance from the center of stone circle. I briefly paused to check my compass and to discover that both it as well as all the other electronics I carried had ceased to function.

Time stood still. Literally, or at least my watch had stopped. There was an odd beauty, a hum of business that I couldn’t quite get a handle on. Like bees always just outside the periphery of my vision. Once I thought that, the faint aroma of sweet honey reached my nose.

🥕🥕🥕

Part 3
Although there were several paths, up and down, I was drawn to one colonnade. I wanted to touch what appeared to be some kind of script. I felt rather like a jackass, having gotten separated from the group. And yet how could I retrace my steps without finding out more?

Forward motion was all I could think about. I placed my hand on an interesting stone and another portal opened into a fantastical garden. Some of the trees tried to lean away from me. One with odd purple fruit seemed to be making me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

🥕🥕🥕

Part 4
I looked back to the colonnade where I had entered. The portal that had opened, was no longer there. The branch containing the purple fruit seemed closer, within easy reach. I was overcome with a strange hunger. If this was going to be my last meal, I might as well enjoy it.

With that first bite, my hunger was sated. While I closed my eyes my mind opened. I was reading, seeing the birth of universes, civilizations and I was given the opportunity to travel beyond the limits of my body. While not pressured, how could I possibly refuse?

🥕🥕🥕

Returning by Joanne Fisher

Something seemed strange when Aalen returned to her village in the heart of the forest. She had been on the borders of their land helping repel an attack from the humans. It was too quiet and Aalen couldn’t see any sentries hiding up in the trees with her sharp eyes. Then Aalen cried out dropping to her knees in despair.

In the centre of the village where there was a natural colonnade formed by a double row of trees were all the villagers hanging from them. All of them dead.

The attack on the borders had been a diversion.

🥕🥕🥕

Colonnades by Trailblazer

Reflecting on memories during the late thirties is like taking a walk through long colonnades. She has felt it a hundred times.

The ranked memories, each alcove created for each event from the childhood, adolescence and the glorious youthful days.
Some nights, when we are all alone, we see a full moon shining through the colonnades; whose solemn look befits all the sweet evocations.
On radiant days, shadowy but warm colonnades remind of the unspoken apprehensions, and agonies we once survived.

Just as the colonnades are magnificent, so are our memori es.
Still, somewhere exist fallen colonnades, the vexed memories.

🥕🥕🥕

Re: Treat by D. Avery

“Here ya are Pal!”

“Shush, Kid, I’m seekin’ a moment a silence.”

“Oh. Like Danni.”

“Yep. Think we’s the same denomination.”

“Yeah, it’s a poplar one.”

“Yer a pain in the aspen Kid.”

“Punny, Pal. Uh, Pal?”

“Yeah Kid?”

“Pal, what’re we s’posed ta do when Shorty’s off east cookin’ bacon at D. Avery’s fire?”

“Same as always Kid.”

“Don’t know why we cain’t go too.”

“Shorty needs us ta look after the stock.”

“The stock on this Ranch kin virtually take care a itself.”

“Yer jist worried about yer pie hole ain’tcha Kid?”

“Shorty’s cookin’ sure’s a treat.”

🥕🥕🥕

January 17: Flash Fiction

Collonades of bare trees cluster like ruins jutting from the snow. For such a forceful start to early winter in the Keweenaw, I’m surprised at how little snowpack we have this year: only 70 inches compared to 137 inches by January last year. It seems a cruel jest to abruptly end a pleasant autumn in early October with fierce storms, plummeting temperatures, and blizzards only to fizzle.

Of course, as I type, snowflakes dance like tiny fairies outside my window, taunting me. Snow or blow away, I want to tell them. This middle ground of gray brings me no joy.  I want to see my colannades gleaming white as the engulfed snowscape I know my dome can be. Can they hear me, these frozen water crystals of endless form?

Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”

Nature’s genius imbues that inner space from where we write. If ever the Muses existed, they come to us on the wind, the wing, or leap into our walking boots from a sprig of moss. Imagine a Muse biting your ankle like a midge, a tiny irritant like sand to an oyster. You scratch at an idea, and before you know it, you write a pearl.

Thoreau knew this itch. Every observation he made about humanity flowed through a filter we classify as nature writing. Nature’s influence on literary art is ancient. The first storytellers who painted on rock walls from Sulawesi, Indonesia to Chauvet, France depicted animals. Nature features heavily in Hellenistic poetry, and the Greeks developed philosophies that explored humanity in nature.

Even Shakespeare’s writing felt the bite of nature’s midge. Charlotte Scott digs deeper into the impact nature had on the bard’s ability to use nature to reveal human psychology. She explains (a fascinating 2-minute video):

All my heroes write the spines of mountain ridges or the flows of Walden Ponds and Tinker Creeks. Even my favorite cultural icons like Sherman Alexie wield big stories built from vast landscapes. You can’t have a book set in the American West without it being influenced by the natural world that defines the West. From Edward Abby to Louis L’Amour, Annie Dillard to Terry Tempest Williams, Tony Hillerman to Laura Ingalls Wilder, my reading immerses me in a shared passion for nature.

Robert Jordan, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Brandon Sanderson all write fantastical places that capture otherworldly natural settings to convey epic stories. A lack of nature still influences us because we can’t help but notice its absence. I’ve long been captive to natural wonder, but understand not all writers or readers are.

Not everyone nature writes.

Probably my least favorite writing comes out of the American center for literature — NYC. Many novels, bestsellers, in fact, leave out nature’s influences in favor of intellect, as if wilderness was the human mind. I can’t help but feel such writing is empty. How can we explore the human experience outside the natural world in which we all live?

What does the nature writing Muse mean to us as writers if we don’t all dance beneath dappled tree limbs?

It’s important to understand what “sense of place” means. It doesn’t have to be about nature or influenced by a roaring sea or rushing waterfall. It can be a cityscape, a bunker, an underground world carved of steel, or a conversation. No matter the setting, it serves as the space we imagine the characters and story that unfolds. It roots the reader.

Beyond setting, writers also cultivate a sense of place from which our voice emits. Voice belongs to the writer. Voice is not of the narrator, protagonist, or characters. Voice is you. Voice is me. Voice captivates the reader on the page, giving recognition to those who follow an author because “of the writing.”

If you think you want to write and be read by those who appreciate your writing, then you want to cultivate your voice. The best way I know how to teach this is through nature writing. I know where my voice comes from — it’s gritty with red sand, deep as Lake Superior, and fits in my traveling bag, melding all the places I’ve trod, birds I’ve seen, and rocks I’ve collected.

I can’t say that’s where your voice comes from, but if I show you how nature influences me, then I can teach you to listen for morning dew, feel the nostalgia in an open campfire, and spot yourself among a moth in flight. From those experiences, you’ll understand what writing from a sense of place means. You’ll strengthen your voice.

This is the most exciting experience I could ever share with other writers, and why writing retreats factor into my vision for success in life lived immersed in literary art.

Back on Elmira Pond, I offered a free room and retreat to any writer who wanted. Six came. The first writer arrived from Seattle and stayed for 10 days. Her first experience of Elmira Pond was in winter. She wanted to walk on the ice, something I had not thought to do, which means I get to grow from encountering different perspectives, too.

Since that time, I’ve wandered and dreamed of retreats around the world, wanting to share Mars and New Mexico, Lake Pend Oreille and Lake Superior, England and New Zealand, the Keweenaw in winter and the Arctic in summer. My vision is vast. Where shall I begin?

Vermont. After all, that’s where the nature writers began, the ones who influenced the writing of the West. It’s like the motherland to my western roots, calling me home to a place that’s in my DNA. A place I am returning to this summer. I’m thrilled to announce the first Carrot Ranch Nature Writing Retreat held in Vermont for two different sessions: July 12-15, and July 17-20. What I have long dreamed of, is happening!

You all know Kid and Pal’s wrangler, D. Avery who writes weekly Carrot Ranch Yarns. She’ll be our host, providing her A-frame summer sanctuary, director for outdoor activities, and a nightly campfire. Writers will have access to trails, kayaks, and the best of New England nature.

And you know me, lead buckaroo of this outfit. I’ll be guiding three writers each session on a journey of discovery. More than an immersion in nature writing and voice, writers will explore the inspiration to create and the knowledge to craft and plan. Each session is four days (three nights) with lodging and meals included (except for one night out in town). That means, I’ll be cooking, which is a secondary art form of mine.

Space is limited to three writers each session. The full retreat, meals, three nights lodging, and a one-on-one consultation on your personal project (manuscript or marketing) will be $750. For any writers through this community, I’m offering a discount ($650) and the next month to sign up. After that, I start an ad campaign.

You are all the first to know that Carrot Ranch Nature Writing Retreats have begun! I want to thank D. for her place and patience (this took a year to set up, and I had to cancel an exploratory visit last summer). I’m thrilled to be sharing her campfire. D. and I share a special connection through our naturalist author-heroes, and we’ve both come to realize the West got its cool from Vermont.

And bonus points to any long-time Rough Writer who remembers what color my boots will be on retreat (I’ve been dreaming of this development for a long time).

Now let me invite you on a stroll through the colonnades of the three worlds — the built world, the world of humanity and society, and the wondrous natural world.

January 17, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes colonnades. It can be natural, architectural, or a metaphor. Take a stroll and go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 22, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Seeking a Moment of Silence (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni nudged Blackjacked and entered the long colonnade of aspen trees. The elk path cut straight through the grove as if it were an engineered road. White bark gleamed like a classical structure. Danni mused that her archeology career never ventured overseas. There was too much history in the West for her to explore. Overhead the leaves fluttered on long stems but held a reverent silence. What could be better than a ride to clear her mind? A sanctuary of nature to ease her anxiety over Ike’s choice to leave. Only here could she ride her horse into church.

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Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills

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