Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Blog

CLIENTS & PATRONS

Follow me on Twitter

Bloggers Bash Fan

Bloggers Bash

S.M.A.G. Kindness Among Bloggers

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

Proud Member

For Early Childhood Educators

readilearn, Norah Colvin, @NorahColvin

Subscription at readilear.com.au

A Time to Perform

A Time to Perform by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsStep on up to the stage, you won’t believe the show we have gathered for you this week! Performances from all quarters to shock and delight your senses!

Writers took their performances to the page to give imaginative response to the different kinds of spectacles and every day acts that can drive a story.

The following are based on the December 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write that features a performance. You can interpret what is a performance any way the prompt leads you.

***

Change the World by Reena Saxena

“Change the world”, she said.

He did not have the heart to confess that he was an ordinary mortal. He conjured pink smoke and gave her a different lens to see the world. She believed every vision that he generated for her.

There had been many who were teaching her to survive – the killer disease and life thereafter. She had eagerly awaited the arrival of a healer and transformation agent, till he arrived.

It was the performance of a lifetime for the young medical intern appointed in the cancer ward of the hospital. He had seen her medical reports.

###

Holiday Storytelling by Frank Hubeny

Each year Peter told the grandkids how he killed the monster. They believed him, but children grow up.

Sylvie was nearly grown-up. She quietly went to Grandma Alice to get the truth, “Did Grandpa really kill a monster?”

Alice told her, “Your Grandpa’s getting old. He wants you to be happy and so he tells stories. He’s feeling better now but he has protected me from his nightmares for many years. I only know this. What he fought was not exactly what I would call a ‘monster’.”

“I didn’t think so.”

“It was the meanest dragon that ever lived.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Everyone had had so much fun, and it was nice for the family to be together.

After her guests had left, she put the borrowed tea things to one side, they would be collected later.

The leftovers could be put in the fridge, even though she’d turn it off along with everything else. They’d see her over a few days as would the edible family contributions to the table.

Her bedroom would stay warm the longest. It was where she spent most of her time anyway huddled in a blanket. Damn government cutbacks.

She hoped her performance was convincing.

###

Command Performance (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane wipes her palms down her jeans, picks up the blue marker. Since when do grownups have to do class exercises on the board? The professor smiles encouragingly but she can feel all the eyes boring into her back, her sentences wandering uphill and downhill while every nuance of Spanish sentence structure goes out of her head. What is the word for “T-shirt?” She settles for “blouse.”

Back in her seat, her hands are still shaking as the man next to her…Rico?…leans in. “Grand performance. I’ve been noticing you. May I buy you a coffee after class?”

###

Take Five by Pete Fanning

Jan set the cake on the table. She lit candles, grabbed her phone, and pressed record.

“Happy Birthday, to Logan…Happy birthday, to Lo—”

Jan popped up. “Tyler, why aren’t you singing?”

Tyler rolled his eyes. Logan leaned forward, ready for cake, but Jan held out a hand. “No sweetie, not yet. Hang on. Tyler, sing. Avery, smile. Okay, ready? Smile!”

She pressed record. “Happy Birthday, to you…Happy—”

Jan cocked her head. “Tyler, try to look happy, so I can post this.”

“Mom.”

“Shh. Okay, let’s try again. Smile. Baby, not yet. Okay, ready?” She pressed record.

“Haaappy….”

###

Performance by FloridaBorne

“Mom,” Noelle said, her voice lilting. “He looks just like Joel!”

Ralphina scampered over to her 13 year old twins.

Try not to scream … breathe, she repeated inside a mind that wanted to run from the handsome face staring back at her with Joel’s green eyes, remembering snippets: Backstage. Drugged. Hand over her mouth. Searing pain. So much blood. LifeFlight.

“He served 13 years for raping a minor,” Ralphina said. “She almost died from it!”

“He’s a big Rock Star!” Joel said. “Is that our father?”

“No,” Ralphina replied, relieved she’d not listed the bastard on their birth certificates.

###

Escape Artist by Chris Mills

My husband insists on a dress rehearsal of his escape routine. He was a failure as an illusionist, so he’ll try Houdini’s gig.

I snap the padlocks. Believe me, it’s an honor. He sinks onto his back in the coffin. As his assistant, I kneel and kiss him, passing a key into his mouth from mine. I lower the lid.

From the coat closet, I retrieve a suitcase and pause at the front door. The real key lies on the locked lid. I hate to miss the performance, but it will be a long scene before the curtain drops.

###

Drama Performance by Michael

My senior drama students faced a final performance exam presided over by visiting examiners.

Scott and I rehearsed for months, refining his character and his performance. He worried over every detail, and there was nothing we hadn’t rehearsed.

Exam day arrived, and the performances were under the control of the examiners, I could only sit and watch.

A nervous Scott went into his performance. Half way through he forgot his lines. The look on his face was devastating. He looked at me, but I was powerless to help him. He stumbled defeated to the end and left in tears.

###

A Five Star Performance by Joe Owens

When you are so well known you cannot go anywhere without turning heads it can sometimes be a drag. So Erwin chose to sneak into the Belikin Community Theater in disguise so he could be in the Christmas play he loved as a youth. Only his dear childhood friend Elyse, the director had any idea a Hollywood star graced the stage.

“Well?” she asked after the play was finished.

“I miss this,” Erwin said.

“We could make it a regular thing. I am happy to have you.”

“If my agent finds out she will go berserk!”

“So, don’t tell.”

###

First Performance by Bill Engleson

“NO! I WON’T! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.”

I still see him, still hear his awful silence. Eyes darting. Like the condemned. Tears desert-dry. The pain is too much for waterworks.

Nine he was that Christmas. He shot up by thirteen but that year when he was nine, he was a waterless shoot.

Arrested.

Pale, as if exposure to the sun would shrivel him.

He had two lines. “He is a beautiful baby.” And “The donkey is sad.”

The moment overcame him. He scampered off the stage into his mother’s arms.

The play, as plays do, went on without him.

###

Nativity by Ritu Bhathal

“Come on children, nice and loud now! Please no shouting – it’s singing we want to hear.”

Mrs Keeble started the intro on the school piano, and nodded to the class in front of her.

As usual, there were the performers: the children who thought they were born for the stage. There were the skulkers: the ones who stood at the back, heads down, hoping no one would notice them. And then there were the stunned: the ones who stood there, gawping, no sound leaving their mouths, eyes scanning the audience for family.

Wonderful!

Welcome to another infant Christmas performance!

###

Nativity Play by Kerry E.B. Black

In the church nativity play, Matthew portrayed Shepherd Two, though preferred staying close to his best friend, Buddy, who was cast as Joseph.

The boys fidgeted.

Matthew chewed his headrail. “Who’s Baby Jesus?” Their Sunday School teacher remained sketchy on casting details.

Buddy shrugged. He stepped into the lead of the procession with the girl cast as Mary.

Matthew took his position behind shepherd one and three sheep. As the choir sung, curiosity overtook him, and he ignored the stage blocking. He edged closer to Buddy. “Who’s Jesus?”

They leaned over the manger and giggled. “Jesus is a doll?”

###

The Stage by Allison Maruska

I take my seat in the front row. As Corina’s biggest fan, I wouldn’t miss this concert for anything.

Bouncing my leg, I wait for her to appear. She’s late. Is something wrong? There – she’s just offstage. Her deep breath lifts the long beads she wears.

Finally, she takes the stage, and I cheer as she poses. The music starts, and Corina performs a song I’ve heard a thousand times. When it ends, I offer a well-deserved standing ovation.

Corina smiles and twists, biting her nail. Then, still in her place on our coffee-table stage, my little girl bows.

###

Ol’ Red Eyes by Juliet Nubel

‘Your daughter danced beautifully.’ The other mum stared at my red-rimmed eyes but didn’t mention them.

‘Yours too’, I lied.

I hadn’t noticed her daughter or any of the other girls. I never do. They are all just a blur of pale legs and lacquered hair, moving around the edges of my own beautiful child.

The tears spring forth whenever she flies onstage. I smile from the heart, but my eyes weep freely from a well, deep within my soul.

Where that well originates will be a lifelong mystery. Her beauty, her grace?

Or just pure, undiluted, crystal-clear pride?

###

The After Party by Geoff Le Pard

As the lights went up, Mary gathered her things. A woman she didn’t know stopped by her seat.

‘Are you Penny’s Mum? She was excellent.’

‘Thanks. Sorry, have…?’

‘Millie’s Mum. Amelia. We lose identity with kids don’t we?’

Mary smiled at this nervy woman. ‘Mary. Penny mentioned a sleepover?’

‘Oh she did? Thank heavens. I wondered. You have an airbed?’

‘Of course. How many…?’

‘Thirteen. Gray thinks me mad.’

Me too, thought Mary.

‘It’s our first since we moved here. I want it to go well.’

‘Being a parent is just another performance, isn’t it? Only without a script.’

###

Performance by Rugby843

“Which one should I wear”, holding the multicolored bow tie in one hand and the shimmering blue in the other. Joe was getting dressed for the Christmas concert and wearing the proper tuxedo coat and pants, but couldn’t make up his mind about the tie.

Usually not nervous about the orchestra’s performance–he always practiced well; tonight was a bit different. His new girlfriend would be in the front row observing him.

Joe fumbled with the bow tie and glanced in the mirror, luckily no zits this night. Rushing out, he forgot to change from his sneakers to dress shoes.

###

Christmas Lights by Norah Colvin

A two-day city visit is never enough, but they were determined – trekking the city, visiting in-store Santas, viewing Christmas-dressed windows, watching street performers, even attending a pantomime, with just a brief playground stop for lunch. The light show was the day’s finale. The tired parents and niggly children collapsed onto the lawn in anticipation. Suddenly the littlest began to perform – crying, screaming, stamping, flailing. Nothing would soothe. The eldest observed, zombie-like. Soon the light-show distracted, occasionally interrupting the performance. Only when the fireworks began, drowning out his cries, did he give in to sleep, sprawled indecorously on the grass.

###

Performance Anxiety (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Standing in the darkened wings, Danni stretched her hips. She arched her back, clasping her hands overhead. On the stage, Evelyn prepped the audience.

This was her moment. She couldn’t see faces, just the heavy beam of overhead stage lights. Her professor taught her tricks to overcome performance anxiety when she realized that as an archeologist she’d occasionally have to give public presentations.

The Sandpoint Theater was packed, and Evelyn was already giving introductions. “Without further ado, Dr. Danni Gordon…”

Walking out into the lights, Danni conjured the friendliest face, as if she were performing just for him – Ike.

###

The Red Devil by Robbie Cheadle

The red devil danced with abandon, and the little girl watched, her attention riveted on the stage. The dancer wore red tights and a red leotard. She had a pointed tail and horns on her head. She even had red ballet shoes. The little girl stood there in her own costume; she was dressed up as a ladybird; and dreamed of being a red devil. She dreamed of dancing like that, all alone on the stage, a wild and uninhibited dance. This memory remained with her as she traveled her chosen path. She never got her own devil outfit.

###

The Audition by Anurag Bakhshi

Helen went on to the stage, bowed towards the judges, and started dancing.

She danced as if no one was watching.

She danced as if her feet were on fire.

She danced as she’d never danced before.

She danced as if she would never dance again.

She kept dancing till her feet bled, and she collapsed on the stage.

Getting up, she bowed towards the judges again, and said, “I wish you’d agreed to give me a chance.”

And then, with a withering look at the corpses of the judges on their seats, Helen left.

Her performance was over.

###

Curtain Call by Lisa Listwa

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Visualize. See yourself in front of the room, comfortable, confident, smiling as you go through the motions…

“Rubbish,” she muttered.

It never works. You can’t deliver a convincing portrayal when your heart isn’t in it. Not really. The words you say are just a script to fool the world into thinking that you actually want to be here.

It’s time for a curtain call and an exit, stage left. But first…one last show.

The first period bell rang and the hallway filled with students heading to classrooms.

This would be the performance of a lifetime.

###

Oh What a Night When She Performed by Lady Lee Manilla

Oh what a night when she performed
Standing room only
From a place that’s always so warm
Crossing the seven seas
Proud of herself, she cried in joy
From the Philippines she’s the envoy
Proud of herself
Proud of herself
As “Miss Saigon” we all enjoyed
Oh what a night when she performed
She was only sixteen
Theatre was full and people swarmed
Marvellous in her scene
Through her journey we felt her pain
Celebrated with her with champagne
Through her journey
And through her journey
We don’t mind watching her again
Oh what a night when she performed

###

The Gales of November (a haibun) by Colleen Chesebro

I watched from my perch upon the beach as the November gales arrived early this year. North winds filled with an anxious rage howled across Lake Superior. Frothy white-capped waves erupted in a crescendo of deafening sounds, pounding for attention against the agate strewn sands. The spray splashed against my face like tears falling in a sorrowful refrain. Amidst the roiling of the storm, a quiet and gentle acceptance surfaced within me. I acknowledged my loneliness knowing that this too shall change. The show must go on.

Primeval gems–
Storm born, birthed on barren shores,
Remind me of home.

###

LIGHT; messaging (reverse haibun + two words) by JulesPaige

the cursor blinking
waits to advance – the curse,
blessing; advances –

As the cusser and controller of the keys, the writer walks
that odd line through. I stand watching the squirrels out the
window like acrobats unafraid of tree limb heights. Spying
on the line up of birds taking turns at the feeder. Woodpeckers,
Junko, Mourning dove, mockingbird… pecker, junk, mourning,
mocking… is there a secret message from nature? That present
darkness, swooning like a lost love. As dawn breaks and the
sky turns a faint blue, who else is looking for the light of the
bright sun to shine?

###

The Show Goes On by D. Avery

A long running show, somewhat predictable, though performed live; it could go off script, could still surprise the players as well as the audience, something she used to enjoy.

She was well respected for her roles, yet, despite her experience, her pre-show jitters were getting worse instead of better. Onstage, if the tempo slowed at all, she was aware of a persistent anxiety, always ready to prompt her from behind the curtain, whispering to her of her inadequacies.

“Good morning, how are you?”

She smiled. “Fine.”

8:01 A.M.

She had gotten through her first act, had given a convincing performance.

###

The Performance by Irene Waters

Fatigued, Jessica lent on the counter yet still she smiled as though they were the centre of her world. She had the same conversations with different people all day, every day; their families, their hopes and dreams, the weather. The weather loomed large but it was so boring. Everything was boring. They didn’t suspect. They talked at her, thinking she cared. Her genuine, eye crinkling smiles made them think they’d made her day.

She’d had an authentic smile this morning when she overheard, “When we drop into the shop it brightens Jessica up.” Yes her performance was very good.

###

Training, It’s Draining by Neel Anil Panicker

Two days, seven hours, thirty-one minutes and still counting. There’s no signs of the torture ever coming to an end. From his secluded perch in the far right hand corner, I watch with eyes as dead as of a dodo’s at the ‘actors’ and their ‘performances’.

The powers that be had even thought out a name for this form of extreme sadism, grandly christening it as ‘ANNUAL SKILL UPLIFTMENT SESSION’.

My foot! The only skill upliftment was that the hapless trainees had by now learnt how to fall into deep slumber with their eyes split wide open.

###

Sideshow by TellingStoriesTogether

“Observe,” said the showman, pointing with his cane. “This bizarre creature is so fragile, even the slightest variance of temperature causes it distress.”

He turned the valve with one of his myriad tentacles, and the glass tank lit up red. The creature within balled up its pathetic appendages and howled in anguish.

“Hear how it passes air over flaps of flesh within its throat to make sound?” said the showman. “A primitive, but effective form of communication.”

He bowed and doffed the top hat from atop one of his several eye stalks. “Ladies, gentlemen, larvae… I give you, man!”

###

Yoko’s Performance Deconstructs the Male Gaze by Anne Goodwin

Come, you know you want to! Haven’t you done this a thousand times in your mind? Forget it’s me up here, under the lights, with the power of my reputation. My name. Imagine a moonless night, a drunken stagger in a too-short skirt; she can’t remember where she left her friends, her bank card, her phone. She’s asking for it, can’t you see? As I am, now. Look how easy I’ve made it for you with the scissors. No need for savage clawing with your hands. I won’t struggle. I won’t protest. Won’t speak. Come, cut away my clothes!

###

My Mouth-Watering Performance by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“All I remember,” I pause, heaving a shuddering sigh, “Was walking into the downstairs parlor. It was dark, but I smelled swampland. I stepped in a patch of something wet and my feet flew out from under me.

“And then I came to and saw your dear face hovering above me,” I grasp his brawny bicep, offering up a shaky smile. “But your fiancée, Melanie, has been…eviscerated.”

“Murdered by the Swamp Thing!” Lawrence clenches his fists. “I swear I won’t rest until it’s destroyed!”

“Of course, Dear,” I murmur, picking a strand of swamp grass from my teeth.

###

Performance by Lisa Rey

Shane was at the murder scene. A young man lay there dead. Twenty at most. He surveyed the scene with emotionless eyes and gathered the details from witnesses, fellow officers and the forensic team. He was known in this macho world as a guy who got the job done. No sentimentality.

But when he got home, he wheeled himself into his flat. He sat down with his husband Alan and admitted he was rattled by today’s events. He secretly couldn’t get used to the destruction people caused. But acting unsentimental was the way he felt got results. And justice.

###

Viva la Diva by D. Avery

“Told ya Pal.”

“Told me what?”

“All the world’s a stage.”

“Yep, s’pose so. Hey, do you dance, Kid?”

“Jist the can’t-can’t. Why? Hope Shorty’s ain’t plannin’ some sorta ballet here at Carrot Ranch.”

“Naw, her dancin’ lessons are of the 99 word variety.”

“Gotta tell ya, Shorty’s a tough act ta follow. Such strong performances every week.”

“Yep, Shorty’s writin’s a gift.”

“Pal, ta say that diminishes the fact that Shorty’s sharpened her skills an’ honed her craft through perseverance an’ hard work.”

“Kid, I meant Shorty’s writin’s a gift ta all us.”

“Oh. Now I’m readin’ ya.”

###

 

 

Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #6

Buckin' Bull Gp-Round Winner Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsBucking Bull Go-Round

By D. Avery

 The dust from the activities and events of the Flash Fiction Rodeo is still settling like snowflakes around Carrot Ranch while old friends and new continue to gather around the warming fire that Charli Mills stokes for us all. With still more winners to be disclosed, even the hype and anticipation of Christmas pales in comparison to the excitement of the rodeo.

My hat is off to the twenty-nine brave writers who took on the challenge of the Bucking Bull Go-Round event, in which they had to write a story in exactly 107 words and eight sentences, demonstrating style and control even as their unique two-word prompt twists and bucks, determined to dislodge these fearless flash fiction contestants. All rode well, making the responsibility of declaring a winner a wild ride of its own. I am immensely grateful to my two co-judges for riding with me and applying their wisdom and experience to the task.

Drawing the bull Law Dog, Kerry E.B. Black wrote “Like Retribution,” our winner of the Bucking Bull Go-Round. This piece met the criteria of the multi-pronged prompt, complete with elements of danger and a body roll ending. While most of the judges had never had the perspective of peering at the law from amongst reeds in a swamp, all felt like Kerry had provided them with the next best thing to being there with her uncoiling story that twists from visual to visceral. Congratulations Kerry, you hung on for the count! 

Like Retribution by Kerry E.B. Black

Jeb often ran afoul of the law, so he knew they’d be releasing the dogs. Shaking them took skill. He leapt into the water, waded deep into the reeds where the bullfrogs mated, and with his granddaddy’s pocket knife, cut a hollow stalk to use to breathe.  

Howls announced their arrival, and Jeb slipped into his camouflage. He positioned himself so he could see through the lilies to the shore. The dogs circled, frantic, unable to pick up Jeb’s scent. The posse threw their hats on the ground and spat. 

Jeb’s jubilation turned to terror, though, when a cottonmouth snaked through his cover and closed like retribution.

###

The danger faced by the character in “A Light Breath on the Embers” was of going further into the unknown of a relationship. We appreciated the toughness of that character, and the economical and effective style in the telling of that tale. While Kerry put us in the murky waters of a swamp, Liz H., astride Houdini Magic, had us on the butt-littered sidewalk, wondering whether her character would “pull a Houdini”, and gained her honorable mention.

A Light Breath on the Embers by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Meaghan drew deep on her cigarette, pinching its stub between thumb and forefinger. She could pull a Houdini and just disappear, but in this case, with this guy, she knew he deserved better. 

She told herself it was the smoke making her eyes water and her heart pound. Dropping the butt on the sidewalk, she ground it under her boot heel.  

She heard the slap of his tennis shoes before he wheeled around the corner. His cornflower blue eyes were the only bright thing on this cold-ass morning.

He looked at her like she was magic, like she’d never break his heart. 

Sighing, she decided to stay.

### 

One of the judges is a fantastic baker and cook and even concocts her own ice cream and sherbets. Perhaps that is why A. E. Robson’s  “Blueberry Wine” resonated with her so strongly. Or maybe it is because the twist in Ann’s story was that the final product was wine. Regardless, Ann’s handling of Blueberry Wine garnered a judge’s top-pick.

Blueberry Wine by A. E. Robson

The weeks leading up to the event had been excruciating. Starting with hours on hands and knees, stretching this way and that, picking just the right ingredients for success. The equipment had been carefully selected. Trial, error and finally accomplishing results from the hours of work. There was no room for any slip-ups and the rules needed to be adhered to impeccably.

When everything was ready for the big day, the anxiety of entering the competition intensified. The day came and at its end, the competitors stood in the arena waiting for the outcome. 

“The Fall Fair winner of the Homemade Beverage Category is, the Blueberry Wine!”

### 

One situation you might not expect at a bull-riding event is that of two old women, linked, dancing in each other’s lives and entwined in a battle to the death, that is, battling to outlive one another. For his allusive ride on Two Telegrams, this judge’s pick goes to Geoff Le Pard. 

Two Telegrams by Geoff Le Pard

Betty and Ethel linked arms. This waltz was their dance.

As Betty, straight-backed and serious, led, she thought of her brother Tom, smiling, arguing, teasing and always there for her.

Ethel, stooped but smiling, too had Tom on her mind as she let herself be turned slowly; her darling husband of a few short months before call-up and a sniper’s bullet ended her hopes.

War cruelly ripped the love from both women and forced them into each other’s lives. Initially each felt they had nothing to live for. Gradually they found common cause, one that kept them going and each was now 100. To outlive the other.

###

We all felt like “Atropa Belladonna,” by Christina Steiner, was a compelling story with good imagery, dialogue and a just desserts ending that just needed a tighter cinch on the sentence count. The flash of spurs on this ride caught Judge Jean’s eye and Christina’s Perfect Poison was her top pick.

Atropa Belladonna by Christina Steiner

“Mommy! Mommy! I found blueberries, can you make pancakes?” With a pleading look, four-year-old Carmen hands the basket of blue berries to her mom, they match the bruises on Rebecca’s arms.

“Carmen, where did you find them?” Rebecca shudders, “Did you eat any?”

“Just a few, they taste sugary,” Rebecca grabs her child and drives to the ER.

***

“Where are my girls?” Peter calls into the silent house, “I’m home.”

Peter’s anger mounts when Rebecca isn’t in the kitchen, a basket of berries awaits on the counter. There will be hell to pay when she shows up and he starts eating Carmen’s harvest of perfect poison.

###

I enjoyed and thank you all very much for the privilege of leading and judging the Bucking Bull Go-Round. When the brave riders were submitting their work I wrote a challenge piece. First I messed up my own word count. Then I edited and revised, because I could; even so, mine would not have been picked. I am not the bull rider that the 29 contestants are. As I read and reread their entries, I appreciated the challenges of this contest even more and recognized how well everyone rose to them. Thank you to all who sat in the chute and thundered into the arena. Each contestant made judging difficult, and it was all good.

NOTE FROM CARROT RANCH:

Congratulations to all the writers who entered! You dared to stretch your writing and braved the first Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Each participant has earned the following badge, which you may copy and post on your blog, social media or print out and frame. It’s a badge of honor. And now you can say, you have had your first rodeo! You wrote well. And you braved the bull ride, the heart-thumper of any rodeo!

We want to share all the contest entries in a collection. We’ll be contacting each of our contestants and challengers to seek interest and permission to publish a digital collection in January. Writers retain all copyrights to their work.

We’d appreciate your feedback! We want to make this an annual event that is fun, engaging and supportive of literary art. Please take a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey. Thank you!

My First Flash Fiction Rodeo Carrot Ranch @Charli_Mills

December 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

December 7 Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsWe crowd into the lobby, snow nipping at our backs each time a new couple or family enters the oak doors. I wiggle my fingers to diminish the giddiness of a night out to the Calumet Theater. I listen to chatter as people explain who they know in the upcoming performance of Alice in Winterland. One mother laughs when she explains how much green paint her daughter wears as the Grinch. Another confesses how nervous her son is the play Charlie Brown.

It’s a winterland mash-up of familiar American Christmas stories all set to the music and narrative arc of Taichoski’s Nutcracker Ballet. It’s a bit like this take on multiple Christmas songs in one minute:

And all of this creativity in bites to produce one performance also reminds me of the weekly compilation of responses to our flash fiction challenges. It struck me, as I took my seat in the historic gilded and velveted Calumet Theater how much of a ballet mom still resides in my heart, rounding up the stories backstage each week. I want to bring roses to all the writers after a performance.

It’s been too long since I connected with my inner stage-mom. For 15 years I lived in awe of The Nutcracker. Five of those years I eagerly watched from backstage as my eldest daughter and youngest son both performed in a professional ballet troupe from Minneapolis.

Every child in dance dreams of shoes and sugar plum ferries. In ballet, it’s point shoes. After spending $100 on a pair of pink satin slippers with ribbons so fair, my darling daughter would pound the toe-boxes, burn the satin off the point and whip-stitch the ribbons. If it sounds horrific, consider what we writers do to a flash fiction.

We pound stories into sentences, slice words to a perfect 99, and strangle characters with twists so fine.

Between the audience seats and the dancers behind the curtain exists a stage upon which we both suspend belief and let art convey the story. I love dance as much as literary art, but I have no skill for it. I can take classes, just as I learned the craft. But writing is the performance I prefer. I’m content to sit in the audience and watch the dancers.

For years, I helped backstage, learning how to double-pin strands of wayward hair and zip sparking costumes during quick changes. A quick change occurs when a dancer must change costumes for back-to-back dance numbers. My son, one of few boys who even studied classical ballet, was guaranteed to be cast as one of Clara’s brothers and rarely had quick changes in the first half. My daughter danced in the corp, meaning she had numerous changes.

And lucky me, one year I was responsible for the Prince.

The Calumet Theater with its opulence and history reminds me of the Red Wing Theater where The Nutcracker performed on tour. I went with the troupe and taxied my kids to classes, performances, and costume fittings. Each December dreams of sugar plums danced on stage. And then the lights went out.

Children grow up, move on and stage-moms are left with no one to buy roses for or help whip-stitch new ribbons. What a comfort it is to be in a theater again, listening to family chatter, watching former students return for the holidays and sneak backstage to say hello. I sink into my seat, wait for the house lights to dim, knowing that these children performing on stage have received classical ballet instruction from my daughter.

A literary community knows such connectedness, too. I’m stage-mom in the back-wings, watching each of you work at your craft, find joy in the steps and brave the spotlight when it’s your turn to perform. And yet we are a whole, each voice lending to a more powerful dynamic than one alone.

Hold on to that feeling a moment. Two points I want you to own: no matter your solo, no matter your dream and your pain to accomplish it, no matter how many hours you write alone — you are not alone here. Second, we are a part of something bigger, something we call art. And we are champions for literary art, giving voice to unheard stories, even giving voice to the invisible.

If you know some of my journey, you are aware of how I feel about the homeless experience and veteran struggles being invisible among society. They are the unsung songs, the canceled performances, the flash fiction in a journal no one reads. Recently I learned of an organization using another art form to give voice to veterans and their families:

Songwriting With Soldiers operates from a simple principle — pair veterans and active-duty service members with professional songwriters to craft songs about their military experiences.

To me, this is a powerful way to use art to heal, to create empathy for another’s experience, to give voice to those who struggle to articulate that experience. Songwriter, Mary Gauthier, wrote The War After the War (below) with the input from six combat veteran spouses, which is the number of women I share my own experiences with each week. It’s empowering when the invisible are seen and heard.

While I don’t have roses to share with all you who perform on the writing stage at Carrot Ranch, I have a digital gift for the holiday season. If you’ll go to my Canva profile, you can pin or download the Carrot Ranch Seasonal Desktop Wallpaper to add a touch of holiday cheer to your computer. I tried to think of different manifestations like the diversity we have here at the ranch (the squirrels are for the nuts among us who don’t like holiday cheer).

Surrounded by velvet the lights finally go low at the theater. The performance has begun. And I’ll let you get to your own.

December 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write that features a performance. You can interpret what is a performance any way the prompt leads you.

Respond by December 12, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published December 13). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Performance Anxiety (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Standing in the darkened wings, Danni stretched her hips. She arched her back, clasping her hands overhead. On the stage, Evelyn prepped the audience.

This was her moment. She couldn’t see faces, just the heavy beam of overhead stage lights. Her professor taught her tricks to overcome performance anxiety when she realized that as an archeologist she’d occasionally have to give public presentations.

The Sandpoint Theater was packed, and Evelyn was already giving introductions. “Without further ado, Dr. Danni Gordon…”

Walking out into the lights, Danni conjured the friendliest face, as if she were performing just for him – Ike.

###

 

Practicing Self-Care

Practicing self-care by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsEleanor Roosevelt may have said, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” but when taking courage you also need to take care. Not of others. Of your self. It’s a bit like the oxygen mask on a flight — if you can’t breathe how can you help others?

This week writers explored what self-care looks like. With varying perspectives, this collection offers a mélange of ideas. Read and take care!

The following are based on the November 30, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes self-care.

***

Blue Moon by Juliet Nubel

She never knew which one to choose. She owned dozens, all lined up in neat, colourful rows inside a shiny, purple box.

Their names were so extravagant – Mayfair Lane, Undercover Show, Pussycat was Here.

She settled for Misty Jade, a colour from the depths of the Caribbean sea.

Slowly stroking the brush onto her short, brittle nails, she dreamt of an island, with warmer climes, where she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

A place where she could paint her nails, lie back and idly watch them dry, every single day. Not just once in a pale blue moon.

###

Caring for Himself by Michael

The last time I picked my older brother up out of the gutter he was in the worst condition I’d seen him in. Drunk, unable to stand and as incoherent as always. I bundled him into the car and took him home. The next morning, I told him it was now time for him to start caring for himself.

I wasn’t going to pick him up anymore as my family needed me too.

I dropped him off and watched him reluctantly enter the facility. With fingers crossed I lived in hope. He lasted a week. The rest is history.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

We all cope to the best of our ability, but just one little thing can throw us over the edge into the abyss of depression.

Enter ME TIME, a must for everyone at some time or another, the secret is to recognise When before things spin out of control.
Some write, some walk, some cook, some eat.

Music is my safety valve, and my Dad always knew when something was on my mind.

Each piece I play has a significance, but Dad would listen as it wasn’t what I played, but the way I played it that spoke volumes.

***

Free by FloridaBorne

June stood at the kitchen door, eyeing the knife next to her mother’s cutting board.

“I talked to my social worker. I’m moving out.”

“I’m your legal guardian,” her mother frowned. “I told her, ’absolutely NOT.’”

“I can take care of myself!” June insisted.

“You’re retarded!”

“That’s not a nice word, Leslie.”

“Why can’t you call me mom?”

“You act like a prison guard!”

Mom scoffed, opening the fridge, her ample body covering the door. June grabbed the knife, plunging it into Leslie’s rib cage.

She stared into her mother’s startled eyes and whispered, “Now I can be free.”

###

Guidance by Jordan Corley

“Brogan, what are you doing here? Have you been admitted again? The other nurses told me you were doing well.”

“No, no, it’s nothing like that. I just-”

Suddenly Sarah’s door flung open and she came wobbling out, carefully pulling her IV pole behind her.

“Hi Brogan!,” Sarah squeaked, “I can’t believe it’s been a week already! It feels like you were just here.”

“Well I wrote a new song I’ve just been dying to sing with someone. And look, I brought Elf and popcorn! I thought we could have a movie night this time.”

###

Meditation/Medication (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“I wish you’d seen the doctor, gotten some Valium or something.”

Torrey edges up the security line, pulling her wheelie, Lesley moving beside her on the other side of the rubber stanchion. “Don’t worry about it, Lesley. I’ll be fine once I get up to the concourse. It’s like a great big mall up there.”

“Oh! That reminds me! I heard there’s a new place you can get a pre-flight massage, aromatherapy…self-care, soothing. Meditate your anxiety away.”

Torrey barks a shaky laugh. “Or there’s booze, because flying sucks. The world’s most sincere drinking is done in airport bars.”

###

Party of One by Chelsea Owens

Don’t be afraid of you. Others want to know you. She glanced up; scanned the oblivious guests.

“Excuse me,” a sexy voice said. She turned, her finger marking the text. “I need to get to the bathroom,” he nodded, beyond her.

“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. She moved. He went past.

She opened to another, dog-eared entry. The surest way to make friends is to listen. She moved near a chattering group.

“Excuse me?!” A woman asked angrily. “This is a private conversation!”

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

This was hopeless. Before exiting, she carefully tucked Surefire Social Success! into the garbage.

###

The Joy of Giving by Parinitha

I am a 75-year-old beggar who lives by the banks of the Ganges. On days I am too ill to beg alms, my wife and I sleep hungry. I try to make my absence inconspicuous, but one day, she tracks me down. “This is ridiculous”, she yells. Every day, I share my food with a homeless crippled man from across the street. The joy of being on the other side of the plate is priceless. It makes me forget my misery momentarily. Isn’t the ability to Give a luxury? Is my therapy of self-care is so bad after all?

###

Socks for Self-Care (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Dr. Danni Gordon! Good to see you!”

Danni unloaded her ruck sack and hugged Carly. “Thank you for making homeless vets your beneficiary this year.”

“Anything to help our military.”

Danni had sent Carly a list to broadcast: socks, toothbrushes, blankets. Spread out on a long table, women organized the items before packing into backpacks for the homeless in Spokane. Danni added Army surplus socks to the pile.

“What an ugly green,” said one woman.

Danni explained. “It’s a familiar color and texture to these men. Sometimes familiarity is the path to self-care for those who’ve lost their way.”

###

Rest. In. Peace. by Norah Colvin

“You really should take a break,” they suggested.

“I can’t. Too much to do.”

“You need time off,” they said.

“I know. Soon.”

Eventually, “I’m taking a break,” she said.

The afternoon sun warmed as the sand caressed her aching body. Her eyes closed. Only an occasional seagull’s squawk interrupted the repetitive swoo-oosh of the waves that jumbled with the office cacophony looping incessantly.

“What? What happened?” they asked.

He scrolled quickly, searching for details.

“Sleeping. On beach. Seagull – ha!– dropped a baby turtle – landed on her head – died instantly.”

“And we thought work would kill her!”

###

The Accident by Kate Spencer

“So tell me what happened,” asked Granny knitting by the roaring fireplace.

“It was surreal,” whispered Carrie, lying stretched out on the chesterfield with a heating pad around her neck. “One minute I was making a left-hand turn out of the parking lot and the next minute I felt as if I was sitting there watching the accident unfold in a slow-motion movie.”

“Sweetie, you had what is known as a shock induced out-of-body experience. I like to think of it as the Universe’s way of protecting us.”

“Cool. ‘Know what Granny?”

“What?”

“You’re exactly what I need tonight.”

###

Another Lesson in Self-Care by Sarrah J Woods

It’s Sunday morning and I’m overwhelmed. The bright sun outside only aggravates me more; I long to be lounging in it. But I’ve got dishes, laundry, and more to do, and not much longer before the babies wake up.

My husband, tired as I am, sits unbudging in front of the TV while I clean—and grumble—around him.

Finally, exasperated, I stalk outside. The air is warm and quiet.

Then I realize: he’s expecting me to do what I need.

And how can he help if I don’t leave room?

I lie down in the grass and breathe.

###

The Choice by Colleen Chesebro

Painful sobs wracked her body while anguished cries escaped from her throat with an unrecognized resonance. She finally understood that death in its malevolence took what it desired leaving an emptiness in its wake. She knew she needed to survive by moving forward or she’d perish.

Nearby, the crystals beckoned to her emitting an ethereal glow. Meditate, they whispered. Align your chakras and feel your healing life force restored. She sat, quieting her breath, slipping into a meditative state. Her breath inhaled the restorative energy while exhaling the grief and loss.

Revitalized by love, she accepted a new path.

###

Changing Colors by Reena Saxena

I picked up a cheap perfume from the counter, and was floating on a cloud after using it. My conservative husband found it too strong for his staid sensibilities.

“Why do you need to use this? You own better stuff.”

“Sure. But this makes me feel young again. I could afford only this brand at eighteen, with my meagre pocket money, but managed to attract attention,” I grinned.

“Aaahh! What are the other brands which you used then? It makes me see you in a new light.”

Our world was changing from a formal gray to an exuberant yellow.

###

Back Up by Sherri Matthews

The receptionist was as chirpy as Mandy remembered her.

‘I would like to make an appointment for a check-up please…’ Mandy heard the waver in her own voice.

The pain from the last visit had long gone, but the fear-filled memory of it lingered for years. She had stopped going altogether after that, and then everything fell away.

Years later, Mandy began her slow, uphill climb with a visit to the hairdresser. An office party she dreaded but could no longer avoid. It had meant a new outfit too.

Then Mandy called the dentist for a long-overdue check up.

###

Control What You Can by Susan Sleggs

“In the past three weeks, we had to move into our new house before the painters and rug layers were done, there were two deaths in my wife’s family and our daughter was in a car wreck and can’t go back to work.”

“How are you coping with such trials?”

“I’m a patient man, but I want answers. I’m praying a lot.”

“How about your wife?”

“I helped her unpack the quilting room and I cut fabric for her to sew, then sent her to lunch with her friends. She felt better after accomplishing something and receiving healing hugs.”

###

Flash Fiction by Heather Gonzalez

Joe was known for a special brand of self-care which always ended at the bottom of his favorite bottle of whiskey. After the war was over, many soldiers went on to lead healthy productive lives, but Joe was not one of them.

The war had consumed his personality and left him a hollow shell. As much as he wanted to be almost normal, he knew that he was forever changed by what he saw. The small innocent face that appeared in the window as he burned down the village always brings him back to the bottom of the bottle.

###

Self-Care by Sarah Brentyn

She looked in the mirror at the woman she swore she would never become.

A soft, almost-youthful face with fine lines.

A handful of grey hairs hiding beneath dark blonde strands.

A pudgy middle pushing the waistband of her favorite pair of jeans.

The image irritated her. Angered her.

How had she become this…thing? This wife of a man who created her with perfectly weaved words of manipulation and cruelty then cheated on her for becoming his creation.

Time for some self-care.

She grabbed the prescription bottle, smiling for the first time in months, and dumped her husband’s heart medication.

###

The Alien Planet by Anuragbakhshi

My spaceship crashed, and as I struggled to somehow extricate myself from the debris, I thought about the importance of my mission- It was not every day that a new inhabited planet was discovered, and a senior diplomat like me sent there to make contact with the aliens.

The twisted metal and broken wires were impeding any movement, and I had nothing but my own strength and ingenuity to depend upon. Remembering my objective, I used all my resourcefulness and finally managed to free myself. I could now proceed on my mission to conquer this backward planet called Earth.

###

Booth by TellingStoriesTogether
Toshi sat down in the foam chair inside the Med-Fix booth. He’d tried, once, to sleep in a booth, only to have it blare increasingly abrasive warnings. But this time he had a thousand yen in his coat pocket, enough for five minutes of legally disclaimed medical and psychiatric care.
Toshi fed the money in, and the screen before him glowed blue. He explained everything from the nagging chest cold he’d had for two weeks now, to losing his job and living in an internet cafe.
The screen showed his results: “Recommended treatment: euthanasia. Please press ‘Yes’ to proceed.”
###

Inkless Blots by Jules Paige

“Life” used to be captured with a pen in a notebook. The
daily writing routine morphed; using a keyboard, unlocking
keys of alphabet letters and sentencing them to sensible
words scripting daily insights into blog; feeding an electronic
community where static electricity was controlled, by the
bribery of imagination and miscellaneous musings.

Cheaper than paying a therapist or a life coach – getting
encouraged by other writers who walked the same crooked
path. June marched, occasionally dancing when someone
liked or showed the slightest interest in her inkless blots.
Slowly gaining confidence that she actually could call herself…
a writer.

###

There’s No Writer Wrong by Bill Engleson

“He’s been at it for days. I’m getting quite worried.”

“He’s an adult Joanie. It’s his decision.”

“But…he’s a writer, for heaven sakes. He doesn’t live in the real world. He spends most of his time in a messy little nook in his head. He’s always going off on a tangent.”

“And now he’s trying to take care of himself. Look at him. He’s become a scrunched-up pretzel of a man, hunched over in a writing frenzy.”

“That’s what I mean. I don’t think solo Kama Sutra Yoga and a forty-ounce jug of red wine ought to be mixed.”

###

I Made a Mountain by Anne Goodwin

I made a mountain. They could not knock it down. But they did not join me on the zigzag path through meadow, woods and moorland to the craggy top. Instead, they dragged me to molehill, had me admire its contours, the texture of its soil. They bathed it in sunshine, cloaked my hill in mist. The only mountains they’d acknowledge were the Everests that pierced the cloud.

I fought through fog to find my mountain, and walked alone along its trails. Birds sang, flowers bloomed, rock glistened in the damp air. I made a mountain. I made it mine.

###

Self-Care Through Word Salad by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Impression management. Measured words. Think before you write. Intentionality, thought-FULL-ness is all. Be politically correct, especially if that’s not your usual inclination. Diagram your structure, have your measurable outcome in sight.

This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no party. This ain’t no foolin’ around!

Stop making sense. Put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. Slop a little coffee over that mess, but avoid the hard drive.

Don’t stop. Believin’. Let out all those feelings.

Your job right now is to get your foot off the muse’s tail and let it gallop around the room.

I love a morning write.

###

New Mum SOS by Ritu Bhathal

The crying was relentless, but who else was going to do anything?

He was at work all day, he needed his sleep.

She was exhausted.

“It’s okay,” they all said, “just sleep when the baby does. You’ll be fine!”

What world did they live in? Self-care with a newborn…? Impossible.

When was she meant to do the housework, the laundry, the cooking, if not when the little mite was taking his precious naps?
But after thirteen weeks of sleepless nights and little support from anyone, she was ready to muffle the cries with the pillow currently covering her head…

###

Ladies First by Chesea Owens

“I’ve got to shop for pants today,”
She told the stingy traffic lights.
She told the grocer and the pump;
And then, the quickly-coming night.

“I’d love to try this recipe,”
She said, as they drew near to home;
With only time for Mac ‘N Cheese,
‘Midst whining, falsely-crying tones.

“A bath would be a lovely break
Whilst reading Lover’s Passioned Call.”
Alas, the heated water drained,
Whilst splashing children took it all.

The lights were off; he found her there,
Her loving, all-day-working man.
“I thought you wanted time alone.”
She sniffed; she said, “And, here I am.”

###

Mom’s Me Time by Kerry E. B. Black

Moms don’t usually get “me time,” so when the opportunity presented itself, Kaylee almost did not recognize it. Her husband and her in-laws took the kids to a matinee. Kaylee stripped the beds and threw in a load of laundry before it dawned on her. She had the house to herself. She could operate the television remote control without hearing groans. A bubble bath surrounded by scented candles could be hers. When she set the kettle on, she ignored the dishes in the sink and steeped a cup of tea and enjoyed an uninterrupted date with a long-neglected book

###

Santa Self-Care by Frank Hubeny

Mark loudly rang his own doorbell. “Thank you, Santa!” He heard Julie’s feet pitter-patter as she rushed to the door. “Have a nice day, Santa, in your snowy fairy glen at the North Pole.”

Julie looked outside. “Where’s Santa?”

“Sorry, Julie. Santa’s gone. He left gifts for you.”

Eventually someone would have to tell his daughter about Santa, but Mark couldn’t do it. She’ll have to cure herself even if she breaks her own heart.

Later that day Julie answered the door. “Santa! Back so soon?”

“Who was that?”

“Sorry, Dad. Santa’s gone, but he left you this present.”

###

The Care Bearing Of The Spotlessly Declined by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why so glum?’

‘Mrs Twistelton says I don’t care enough to be in the orchestra.’

Mary stopped writing. ‘Do you?’

‘Muuum!’

‘You hardly practice.’

‘Everyone is in the Orchestra.’

‘Everyone?’

‘Maisie, and the girls.’

‘Ah! Maisie. I hear her name a lot.’

‘She’s cool.’

‘Once I wanted to be a cleaner – I know, me – because Daisy Fullerton had a cleaning job that paid for her cool clothes. Hated it. I learnt.’

‘What?’

‘I needed to care about myself and what I really wanted.’

‘It’s different now.’ Penny wandered off.

‘Really?’ Mary said to the space vacated by her daughter.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

At home, Mom’s been busy. Swabs of cotton on the floor, the kind from a pill bottle. It looks like she shook her purse out all over the kitchen. A pungent smell leads me to a box of hair dye by the sink…scissors…chunks of hair…

I hit the steps with stuttered breaths, my throat closing. What I’d give for just one boring, uneventful day. To come home without holding my breath. Lately I’ve been thinking about taking off, just being done with it all.
But I can’t leave.

Because what if she fell?

Or worse, what if she jumped?

###

Self-Care by Irene Waters

Prue’s mother was proving difficult. “Mum, self-care is the most appropriate place for you.”

“I’ll stay here if I have to self-care. I want help.”

“But Mum in self-care you get help. Meals are provided, cleaning done, bed linen changed and washed plus you can opt for more services.”

“Then why call it self-care. More like aided living.”

“Self -care is because you remain independent. You don’t need nursing. Aided living is a nursing home.”

“Send me to a nursing home. I’ve had looking after myself.”

“I know Mum. How about going to ‘Care… for the Self?”

“Sounds good.”

###

Ranch Yarn by D. Avery

“Hey Pal, you oughtta join my self-heppin’-advocatin’-together group- S.H.A.T.”

“Ain’t bein’ no part a yer SHAT group. What the shat you on about anyway?”

“What Shorty said. Self-hep.”

“Shorty said self-care, so I reckon it’s S.C.A.T., an’ I’m hopin’ ya do.”

“Testy… You need a stage coach.”

“Stagecoach?!”

“Yeah, stage coach. Ta hep ya git through all yer rough stages in life. Talk ya through the prickly patches.”

“I swear, Kid, sometimes I’d like ta put you on a stage, send ya back where ever ya come from.”

“All the world’s a stage, Pal, ya oughtta try’n play nice.”

###

Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #5

9×11 Twitterflash

By C. Jai. Ferry

In Challenge 5 of the Carrot Ranch Rodeo, writers were tasked with writing a complete 99-word story using Twitter. Of course, we couldn’t make it that simple. Every #Twitterflash story also had to be 11 sentences with exactly 9 words each. We included a ridiculously long set of rules, but everyone #rosetothechallenge and the results were amazing. In fact, the judges’ scoring sheets all had multiple sets of high-scoring ties. So without further ado…

Winner: D. Avery @daveryshiftn

On his fourth birthday his dad went to prison.

Shortly before his eighth birthday his dad was paroled.

His mom and dad partied together until she od’d.

The man called dad left her, left him, again.

He searched the house in vain for hidden presents.

He found needles, empty bottles and some uneaten oreos.

He ate in silence, imagining that she only slept.

Twisting each oreo apart, licking the filling, he knew.

This wasn’t birthday cake and his mom wasn’t asleep.

On TV, 911 calls bring action, help, and noise.

He would call but after the oreos were gone.

Our #Twitterguru judge Mardra Sikora (@MardraSikora) summed up this Twitterflash quite succinctly:

“This story rang innocent, true, and cynical all at once. Like many good flash stories, the emotions twisted and revealed in a quick, short space.”

Judges’ Picks

Wallace Peach @Dwallacepeach

A mermaid’s sequined tail lures me to the sea

Gulls shrill a warning, I’m headed to a drowning

Lulled by a sirens song, footprints forsake the sand

Wash away my castles when love sings me home

She is my nixie, nymph of an airless death

Bare toes sink, swallowed by the sea’s lapping tongue

Fingers caress my ankles, beckoning me farther from shore

Entangled am I in floating whorls of unbound hair

Her silver arms are the surge embracing my surrender

A life forlorn abandoned for her wild blue beauty

Yielding to the tides, breathless in my seamaid’s kiss

Judge Lisa Kovanda (@lisa_kovanda) explained:

“This story made use of lyrical sentences and commas to create poetic lines that have rhythm. This use of poetic pacing made each line tweetworthy. If I read one tweet out of the middle, I would be intrigued to read more. Overall, it has a wild beauty, even though the overall tone is dark, which made for a nice juxtaposition.”

Murder, My Tweet by Bill Engleson @billmelaterplea

As the night choked me, my bowels cut loose.

Taking the case, trusting the blonde, was a mistake.

I made a baker’s dozen of mistakes back then.

My cheating husband owns Dolly’s Delicious Do-Nuts, she said.

Every little hole-in-the-wall tramp has been licking his icing.

So, I said, you want a photograph incriminating him?

She says, screw incriminating, I want to incinerate him.

I followed him 24/7 though a thousand do-nut joints.

Every franchise told a story of cholesterol and infidelity.

My pathetic yearning for sweet, greasy fat overwhelmed me.

I lost my soul going down the donut hole.

According to Mardra Sikora (@MardraSikora):

“I loved the title and it captured a balance of twisted humor, which is particularly difficult in flash. As tweetable lines go, this one particularly amused me: ‘Every little hole-in-the-wall tramp has been licking his icing.’ #Clever”

Michael @AfterwardsBlog

Is anyone else seeing what I’m seeing out there?

If this is how things end I’m getting drunk!

Apparently they come in peace, but my mate Jed’s disappeared!

How drunk am I because I think Im #insideaspaceship

I’ve managed to evade them, is anyone reading this?

Ive found Jed, watching him from an air vent.

Sweet Jesus, they seem to be probing him now!

How the dickens did they fit that in there!?!?.

I think the bloody things are laughing you know.

Oh bloody hell they’ve spotted me, PLEASE SEND HELP!

The visitors are our friends and come in peace.

C. Jai Ferry (@CJaiFerry) commented:

“#PickALineAnyLine! If I had seen any of these lines on Twitter, I would have immediately clicked to read more. Each line is a story in itself, and I had to read faster and faster to see how it all worked out.”

Thanks for coming out to play with us and congratulations to everyone for embracing the challenge and writing superb #Twitterflash stories (seriously, the scores were #superclose).

NOTE FROM CARROT RANCH:

Congratulations to all the writers who entered! You dared to stretch your writing and braved the first Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Each participant has earned the following badge, which you may copy and post on your blog, social media or print out and frame. It’s a badge of honor. And now you can say, you have had your first rodeo! You wrote well. And you braved twitter!

We want to share all the contest entries in a collection. We’ll be contacting each of our contestants and challengers to seek interest and permission to publish a digital collection in January. Writers retain all copyrights to their work.

We’d appreciate your feedback! We want to make this an annual event that is fun, engaging and supportive of literary art. Please take a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey. Thank you!

My First Flash Fiction Rodeo Carrot Ranch @Charli_Mills

November 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

A black-cap chickadee flutters to the bare bush ahead of me. My bird dog trains her nose to the trail and misses the bird. Neither of us is a prime hiker, but we are both elated to be outdoors. Swedetown Trail spans uphill into the leafless woods of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The air crisps in my nostrils, and I puff steam like an old ore wagon, steadily moving upward.

Another chickadee flits and I wonder if they are living in this brush. Migrators fled south months ago. Like me, these are the birds holding out through winter, curious to see what Lake Superior drives our way next. She’s blustered, but not sent us any more snow. I’ve driven to her shores in hopes of one more rock hunt, but waves slam in a relentless line.

Writers can be relentless, too. I march my fingers to the page and write until my shoulder aches. Either I push through like a wave and hit the keys again and again, or I pause to stretch. All the words, all the stories, all the imaginative ideas won’t ever fully punch the page the way I see it in my mind’s eye. The wonder of it all drives me, though.

And yet, I’ve come up short, once again. Why is it that I count my progress as shortcomings rather than short gains? It’s a beach stone I’m tumbling in my thoughts these days. I resist formal measurement, recognizing its pitfalls, that numbers are not always the full picture. And yet we need to measure progress: pages, words, hours. What we want to see are big results: chapters, books, posts. We want completion.

NaNoWriMo offers both the push and the results. I can now say I appreciate it most for drafting new material and revising when writing is the focus. For my NaNo Rebelling, I did great with my opening rewrite of the first three chapters. But then it was following threads, and nipping material and replacing locations. My progress bogged.

And then I received a gig with a professional author (when you publish more than ten books and can afford editors and designers by merit of your book sales, you’ve made a career). It was one of those chance happenings, both the editor and back-up editor were unavailable. Yet, I doubted my ability. I accepted and plunged into editing two novellas instead of editing my own.

Okay, here’s where even I think I’m weird. I edited the same number of words for someone else that I had waiting for my pen. Hers was slicing pie; mine was ripping copper ore from basalt. Perspective. In the end, the project taught me how to focus during developmental edits. I bombed NaNoWriMo, but I aced the gig. I’m making my edits harder than they need to be. And watching a pro’s process, I know I need to just dive in and not feel so angsty about my writing.

Because I love writing.

Do you ever feel like an imposter? It’s a real thing called imposter syndrome. While my daughter was at work, she sent me this article where I was working from my home office in her dining room: Does Remote Work Increase Imposter Syndrome Risk? It’s worth a read for all writers because we rarely feel confident stating, “I’m a writer,” and even professional authors balk at feeling like they really are.

Which brings me to self-care.

We can’t push relentlessly like Lake Superior on a blustery day. Nor can we beat ourselves up over our percieved short-comings. We can’t let life constantly drive our reactions. At some point, we need to make deliberate choices for a balanced life. What does that look like? It’s a good question and one we’ll each answer differently.

For me, it’s taking breaks for my back to stretch gently, and yet also having focused times to work. I use the Pomodoro Technique to organize my tasks, focus and move my body. However, I found it disruptive for tasks I know take longer focus, like writing and editing. So I also use 50/20/50 minute increments with an allowance for 50/50 tasks. I plug into focus (or study) music to tune out distractions.

Balance means to me, allowing time to process. My brain is like a BriteLite panel with lots of colorful pegs. I know the pattern, but each pegs lights up one at a time. I’m working on lighting up sections instead of lighting random pegs. I make sure I write every day. Every. Day. After a year of homelessness and writing every day, I no longer give power to disruptions. Every day, I battle the resistance to creating (read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield).

That means I’m choosing to fill my mind with what is good and useful. Those nagging self-doubts I mentioned earlier? I will always have them. But I choose not to believe them. It’s a small shift in perspective that leads to huge impact. I’m not a writer, you say inner critic? Too bad, I’m writing anyways. I’m listening to audiobooks that open my mind. Figure out what expands you, what you’re passionate about (rocks, anyone?) and give over to seeking it, learning about it, incorporating it into what you write.

That picture for the post? That’s what a balanced meal looks like to me. Instead of hunkering over my keys eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I unplug, drink water, prepare a simple, healthful and tasty meal (because good food should taste good). Once a day, I play Bananagrams. It’s a word anagram game that stimulates vocabulary. I also read and walk daily. And no, I’m not perfect. Life happens, moods rise and fall, and word counts and walks get missed.

In August, I hired a life coach for three months and it was the best decision for self-care I could have made. My coach, Alexis Donkin, is offering tips on how to create a holiday self-care plan. If the holidays feel like a stressful time, consider creating your own plan or working with someone, even a mentor or partner. A life coach can help you take action in the areas of your life that need attention.

So how might this translate into fiction?

November 30, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes self-care. Does the character need it? What does the character do? Think about how you can use this action to deepen a character or move a story. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by December 5, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published December 6). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Socks for Self-Care (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Dr. Danni Gordon! Good to see you!”

Danni unloaded her ruck sack and hugged Carly. “Thank you for making homeless vets your beneficiary this year.”

“Anything to help our military.”

Danni had sent Carly a list to broadcast: socks, toothbrushes, blankets. Spread out on a long table, women organized the items before packing into backpacks for the homeless in Spokane. Danni added Army surplus socks to the pile.

“What an ugly green,” said one woman.

Danni explained. “It’s a familiar color and texture to these men. Sometimes familiarity is the path to self-care for those who’ve lost their way.”

###

Five A Day

Five a Day by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsEat your veggies, eat your fruit. “Five a day,” they tell us. That’s more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away! What else warrants five a day?

That’s what writers had to ponder. And as you expect, the flash fiction collected varies widely and creatively. Settle in and read at least five flash fiction stories a day to keep your mind sharp and open.

The following are based on the November 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Five a Day.

***

Five a Day (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane exits the stall, already anticipating another cup of coffee. This one weekday, she’s got almost unlimited fluid intake.

Part of her vagrant reality is having no decent, or even very private, bathroom. In the morning she heads immediately to the gym, before she’s even had tea. The homeless newspaper office, but often with a long line. McDonald’s requires a receipt within the last 30 minutes. The college. The public library on her way back to Tent City. Five stops a day. She’s learned to coordinate her hydration accordingly.

Who could imagine a college ladies’ room as a luxury?

###

Glory Be by D. Avery

Three is a mystical number, and seven, for sure, but five, the mean of the two, five can be trouble. It doesn’t have to be, but it can be.

Those five fingers, are they clenched into one fist? If so, trouble; something might be struck, nothing can be held. Be mindful of what those five fingers grasp, more mindful of what they let go of. Stretch those five fingers skyward, press against the other hand, doubled power, decadal symmetry, two hands pressed in prayer.

Count on one hand the blessings you have reaped. Use both hands to sow more.

###

S.L.E.E.P. by Juliet Nubel

Heather pulled the pink woollen hat over Emily’s curls.

“What do you need to do at school today?”

“Sleep!”

Emily knew their routine by heart. “Smile. Laugh. Enjoy… I can never say the fourth one.”

“Empathise.”

“Yeah, that. And play.”

“Right.”

Heather prayed hard that her daughter would taste these five ingredients every day of her life, both now and later.

The yellow bus arrived and Emily skipped aboard, grinning at the driver. She turned to wave.

“Sleep well, my petal-face.”

“You too, Mummy. You must try hard too.”

Heather smiled. It was a start. A very good start.

###

A Better Five a Day by Charli Mills

Five a day, Mama says. Doesn’t she know how awful they taste? Crunchy raw spindles and squishy flavorless lumps. Good for you, Dad crows. Honestly, I prefer the mash the neighboring farmer drops by our house. Mama says it’s not organic.

My skinny legs chase after tastier treats. Beyond the place where parents coop my culinary dreams I have a secret spot to dream. Beyond our scratch existence meanders a brook with a magical bush. That’s where I found the round globes sweeter than any clover.

Blueberries! I’m in chicken heaven! Better than five insects or worms any day.

###

Mr Potato Head by Norah Colvin

Jamie’s head shook, and his bottom lip protruded as tears pooled.

Mum sighed.

“But you love Mr Potato Head,” coaxed Dad.

Jamie lowered his eyes and pushed the plate away. This was not Mr Potato – just a stupid face made from yukky stuff.

Dad moved it back. “Just a little try,” he urged. Mum watched.

Jamie refused.

Jamie visited at meal time. Mum was in tears. “He won’t eat anything.”

Jamie considered the unappetising mush. “Who would?” he thought, as he replaced the cover and opened dessert.

“May as well enjoy what you can,” he said. Dad smiled.

###

Five a Day by Ritu Bhathal

“Five?”

“Yes sir, five.”

“So, Doctor, I have to take five of these little beauties a day?”

“That’s right. Five of these golden capsules every day.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier for me to just move to a country full of sunshine?”

“If only it was that easy, Mr. James.”

“Wow! Shake me and I’ll rattle!”

Jack laughed to himself as he left the surgery with his prescription.

Another addition to his daily cocktail of pills. Vitamin D3.
Sat behind a desk all day, earning good money but not seeing daylight, meant losing his health instead…

The price we pay…

###

The Dreadful Five a Day by Parinitha

The wedding invitations on my desk reminded me of my impending situation. With a month to my wedding, the unavailability of ready-made gowns of my size was frightening. November being peak wedding season, placing an order for a gown was ruled out. Tossing the chocolate muffins into the bin, I phoned my therapist, after two months of No Show. “Five a day is the only way!”, she harped. Once again, I began the five-miles-a-day run. As I grumpily ran the fifth day, I chanced upon Gowns for All, a new Plus-Size Wedding Store. This discovery called for a dessert!

###

Who’s Counting? by JulesPaige

Trying to get five fruits and veg in a day, Claire added to her
salad. Dates, avocado, dried apricots, to the already blended
greens of spinach and young spring greens mix. Cucumber,
tomato, onion, celery and colorful peppers got chopped up
too. Add some tuna and peanuts and you got a whole meal.

Or did one portion of that mix equal just one serving? There
had to be a way to lose the extra five pounds from Thanks-
giving. Half of a large grapefruit was waiting to be a mid-day
snack – as well as those cute little peelable oranges.

###

A Writers Creed by Bill Engleson

“You’ve got a stick up your butt about this, right?”

“I don’t know how you do it.”

“It’s quite easy once you get the hang of it.”

“I’m sure it’s easy. But I’m more interested in why you bother?”

“Wilde once said, ‘Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of art.’ So, I lie at least five times a day.”

“For art?”

“For my art, yes. Fiction’s about assembling a selection of lies. Most writing has elements of falsehood.”

“I’ll never be able to trust a word you say.”

“Then my work here is done.”

###

Five a Day by Graeme Sandford

Listen

Think

Write

Add picture

Edit

Post

Relax.

Look around

Consider

Think

Write

Consider

Put to one side for later.

Relax.

Listen

Think

Write

Edit

Add funny picture

Resize picture

Post

Rela-

Resize picture from first post

Relax.

Copy link to YouTube video

Paste

Post

Relax.

Read

Reblog quirky post

Relax.

Just one more…

Five should be about write

Or right

It’s a rite of passage

Or alleyway

Which is just me being silly

Anyway, I should stop at five

I should

But, will I?

Then I can go and wash up the breakfast things…

…and go to bed.

###

Five a Day by Robbie Cheadle

I need to read something interesting at least five times a day.

When I was a girl, my Mom used to invite our friends to our house for the afternoon. On these days, I used to disappear into my bedroom at intervals throughout the afternoon to read a page of my book. It wasn’t that I didn’t like spending time with friends, it was merely that I needed a distraction from the conversation

As a grown up, I haven’t changed. I need to read a blog post or two during the day. It helps relax my body and mind.

###

Morning Blessings by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Wake up. Open your eyes. Or not.

Stretch from the tip of your chilly nose, through the arms and shoulders, down your back, deep into the gluteus max, into the length of your calves and out through the end of each toe.

Snuggle deeper under the covers and melt into the mattress. Breathe. Through your nose.

Deeply inhale morning blessings, those present just before the day’s demands flood in, the ones just an eyeblink away, if only we remember. Exhale all bad dreams, all anxieties.

Repeat this breath four times more. Rise, and refresh as needed throughout the day.

###

Five a Day by Irene Waters

Essie stared at the doctor telling her what to eat. “No I won’t eat from the five food groups. I know my body. Dairy gives me phlegm, fruit – gout, carbohydrates bloat me. I’ll eat protein, fat and veggies. I’ve five things I do insist having each day to keep me healthy.”

The doctor now stared at Essie. “Mmm?”

“Yes. A cuddle in the morning before I get out of bed is a must, and my hand held when we walk, a kiss goodbye, a kiss hello and a cuddle before sleep – these five keep my heart and mind healthy.”

###

Hugs by Kerry E.B. Black

The compassion of enfolding another within loving arm can heal wounds unseen. Thus our days begin with a hug, and God willing they end the same way. After a hard day at school, I greet my children with a cup of warmed cider and open arms. As they traverse the pitfalls of homework, I use cuddles as encouragement. After dinner, when they clean their plates and complete their chores, I give them a big embrace of gratitude. Soon they’ll be too grown to understand their value, so while I have them within arm’s reaching, I’ll share with them hugs.

###

Five a Day by Michael

The old sage looked up at me: “Five a day?” he asked as if the thought had never occurred to him before.

“Well let’s start with life. See what’s around you, then live a life, don’t take anything for granted.

Love the people around you, you can never do enough of that.

Be creative, people won’t think you boring.

And lastly, reflect on all you have done. Reflect so that the next time you can improve on your five a day.”

He looked away signalling our time was over. I left invigorated. Stepping outside, I took in the view.

###

5 a Day by FloridaBorne

Sherry looked around the musty home. Beige curtains. Grey carpet. Cheap 1980’s couch. Her fiancé didn’t mind his mother’s boring décor. Sherry, as an interior decorator, believed calling this place dreadful was kind.

“Are you going on a diet?” her future MIL asked.

“I have an average build,” Sherry replied. “You’re skinny”

“Nonsense,” his mother said dismissively. “Try eating 5 small meals a day.”

Sherry chuckled. “I know how to cook 5 meals.”

“Can you give me the recipes?”

“I’ll have to look on the box,” Sherry said. “Jack does the cooking.”

“Don’t say it, mom,” her fiancé frowned.

###

Five a Day by Pensitivity

Love is the Diet of my life.
Without it, I would be empty and hunger would be paramount.
My first portion of every day is a kiss when I awake.
The second part is a hug for no reason.
Sometime during the day my third is a passing touch.
The fourth is a helping hand to steady me, and the fifth knowing he’s there.
They can come in any order of course, but Number One will always be number one.
Kisses are abundant all day, but as the experts say, it has to be five different portions a day.

###

Flash Fiction by Rugby843

Five times a day, yep, no matter if there are tornado winds, an earthquake or flood, she gets a call from me. Five times a day, every day, all year, for the past five years.

Everyone loves their momma, right? But when daddy died, she turned into the neediest person you could imagine. If the world dissolved around us both, she would still expect me to call her at least five times a day. I think my daddy was a patient man.

It just occurred to me, he was a traveling sales man…

No wonder daddy lost his job!

###

Keep Counting by Reena Saxena

“Have ten?”

“Yeah, maybe … kind of twenty. Depends on how you count.”

“I don’t need to count. I need only five.”

“I might need ten plus two. And yours are not needed.”

“Why two more?”

“Larger and stronger ones, for support.”

“And what will you achieve with those?”

“A dead body.” Karen’s voice was stern, and the expression menacing.

“Whaaatt?”

“Yes. Your dead body, after I asphyxiate you.”

Mom turned around with a jerk.

“What are you two talking about?”

“Fingers and toes and two strong wrists. Allen is my twin brother, but he irritates me no end.”

###

Five a Day by Pete Fanning

It was a manic compulsion that drove Barry Bingham to lick the five fingers of his right hand every morning. The urge struck first at dawn, when he gripped the worn door handle at the gas station where he got his morning coffee. Turning the sports page in the breakroom, Barry’s fingers were just begging for a dip. And again at lunch, when Barry finished off the cheese puffs and eyed his furry fingers. By afternoon Barry was slurping away again, flushing the toilet, checking his hair, and hustling back to work.

Barry took a lot of sick days.

###

Five a Day by Judy Martin

“Eat your vegetables you two. Connie, you’ve hardly touched those sprouts.”

“But Mum, you know I hate them, anyway, they make you blow off!”

To reiterate her point, Mark her brother let out a loud PARP, and both children giggled.

“MARK!” That is enough of that, leave the table at once!”

“Pooh, that stinks, Mum I can’t eat any more now, Mark has put me off.”

Jenny sighed, the pungent aroma wafted over her; some Christmas dinner this was turning out to be.

Pouring herself a fifth glass of wine, she braced herself for the rest of the day.

###

Food Inflation: When Five is the New Two by Geoff Le Pard

Penny eyed the menu with a frown. ‘Can’t I have some peas?’
Mary leant across. ‘Come on love. There are some lovely sides.’
Paul laughed. ‘When I was Penny’s age I’d have been the same. Spinach with cream and nutmeg. Stuffed savoy leaves with ricotta and walnuts. Grated sprouts with bacon. Puréed parsnips Madras. Braised celery in a pistachio jus. That’s just tarted up rubbish veg, masquerading as five a day.’

Mary nodded. ‘Just meat and two veg, eh.’

Penny looked from one parent to the other, bemused. ‘I’ll have the fish and chips.’

###

Five Chores a Day by Susan Sleggs

“Mom, I found these in the picture drawer. What are they?”

A tear formed when I saw some of my mother’s hand written lists. “Grandma didn’t feel like she accomplished anything unless she could cross five chores a day off a list.”

“But this just says; wash dishes, do laundry, clean cat box, write notes, get hair cut. Aren’t those normal things?”

“That’s when she got older. Read another one.”

“Finish quilt, write blog, edit flash fiction, write some poetry, get necessary fabric.”

“Was she always so busy?”

“That’s not busy, those were the hobbies she did every day.”

###

Smiling App by Frank Hubeny

Bernard set an alarm on his phone to ring five times a day with the message “Smile”. This annoyed some around him which helped him smile.

When Bernard’s lips froze into a crescent moon pointing up that was when he annoyed the maximum number of people and puzzled the rest.

Eventually his brain got the memo. His heart relaxed. Even people he annoyed stopped being annoyed. Bernard’s pleasure in annoying them waned like that moon on his mouth since what’s the point? When they heard the beep, they’d smile and say, “Smile, Bernard, you idiot!” He no longer minded.

###

Five a Day by D. Avery

“Why ya grimacin’ Kid?”

“I’m smilin’. They say smilin’ can change yer mindset. But I tell ya, Pal, I’m strugglin’ with Shorty’s 5 a day prompt.”

“So keep smilin’. Five times a day.”

“Hmm. Five laughs a day would be good an’ good for ya.”

“Seriously! Contagious giggles, love those, almost as much as a real good belly laugh.”

“Gotta be in the right company fer those. How ‘bout laughin’ aloud at yerself fer doin’ somethin’ stupid, or even fer doin’ somethin’ right?”

“Yeah. I also like the ‘Ha!’ of revelation and recognition.”

“Five laughs a day then. Ha!”

###

The Boxer by Jack Schuyler

“Five a day, that’s how I keep these.” The boxer flexed his bulging forearms and then resumed twisting his mustache.

“Five steaks a day, am I hearing you right?” I furiously scribbled the information on my notepad. Back at the Times, the boss told me to get more on Little Toni’s sudden success. This article could be my breakout piece, but who would believe Toni could eat five steaks a day?

“First I punch em’ (makes em’ tender), then I grill em,’ then I eat em.’”

Oh well, it’s just news. Put it on paper and they’ll believe anything.

###

Five a Day by Kate Spencer

Marcy took a deep breath. She was about to launch her presentation to the Scrooge of all clients at the ad agency.

“Mr. Wroth, Christmas is about rekindling hope and joy—”

“Nonsense. It’s just a day in the calendar. I’m tired of campaigns where our cookies light up children’s faces with Christmas voodoo. Got something else?”

“I do.”

“Humph. Go on then.”

“I’m suggesting people buy your amazing cookies and when they share five of them a day with others it will take their blues away.”

“Christmas Prozac. I like it!”

Marcy couldn’t help but roll her eyes.

###

Five a Day, No More No Less by Anne Goodwin

Gabe was heading home when he saw the loot. His duty was clear, but he’d already met his quota and he didn’t fancy the extra paperwork. Luckily, Mike happened along.

“That yours?”

“What mine?”

“That heap of glorious booty. Wanna split it?”

Hell’s teeth! Take half to the poor? Leave it all for Mike to distribute? Either way, it would be his sixth good deed. Unless.

Gabe spread his wings, spun around, knocked out Mike with the force. Stepped over his body, confident that, when he came round, Mike would find the treasure and forget he’d ever been there.

###

Five a Day by anuragbakhshi

“These are only four, I can’t give you any money today. You know you’re supposed to deliver five a day, or return empty-handed,” said the officer rudely while checking the sack I had handed over to him. “My kids will go hungry today, please have mercy, ” I begged, but he just wouldn’t relent.

Seeing no other way, I took out my sword… and swung hard. And as the officer’s head rolled to a stop near my feet, I picked it up and told his assistant, “That completes five rat’s heads for today. Can I have the bounty now please?”

###

Five a Day by Hugh Roberts

It was getting harder and harder to get my five a day.

Why had I even come here? It was the worst place I’d ever visited, yet they kept me here because I couldn’t find them anywhere else.

However, time was now running out and I’d soon have to find another place for my fix.

Maybe I should leave now? Yes, that was probably a good idea.

Then, just as I was about to leave and head for the stars, I heard the cry of the human baby. One last meal, and then I’d leave this almost inhospitable planet.

###

Winners Announcements

#FFRODEO Carrot Ranch @Charli_Mills

Support the Writers at Carrot Ranch

Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills

New Rough Writer, D. Avery!

New Rough Writer, Robbie Cheadle!

Available on Amazon

New Rough Writer, Bill Engleson!

New from Geoff Le Pard!

Available on Amazon

New from Jeanne Belisle Lombardo

New From C. Jai Ferry

Skeleton Dance, C. Jai Ferry, @CJaiFerry

New from Anne Goodwin!

New from Ruchira Khanna!

Breathing Two Worlds, Ruchira Khanna, @abracabadra01

Available on Amazon

New from Sarah Brentyn!

Hinting at Shadows, Sarah Brentyn, @SarahBrentyn

Available on AmazonAvailable on Amazon

From Ann Edall-Robson

Moon Rising, Ann Edall-Robson, @AnnEdall-Robson

New from Sacha Black!

13 Steps to Evil by Sacha Black

Available on Amazon

From Susan Zutautas

The Day Mr. Beaver Met a Moose, Susan Zutautas, @susanismyname

Available on Amazon

From Luccia Gray

Available on Amazon