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February 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

I feel like I’ve belly-crawled out of the frozen tundra, my jeans and flannel shirt shredded, my fingers stiff and calloused. Grilled cheese sandwiches and Girl Scout Cookies have sustained me. I left for the wilderness beyond the lights of friendly campfires and the warmth of humanity. I’ve been away on a long journey, herding 71,625 words into a publishable novel. I’ve had to ride alone.

Todavía estoy aquí. I am still here.

It began in seventh grade when Mr. Price encouraged me to write longer spelling stories, inviting me to read them weekly to my classmates. He gave me a purpose, a way to process the wealth of stories that filtered through my soul. He gave me connection, the opportunity to step out of my shyness. He gave me a glimpse of what it means to write for an audience.

Fast-forward through a life dancing with a love of writing. An undergrad degree in 1998. A dream to finish a novel started as an independent project. Twenty years waiting, waffling, denying until the decision to pursue an MFA. A career behind me. A career before me. Sinking into the minutiae of writing a novel that’s been a haggard WIP since conception in 2008 when I grieved a dog, before I lost my home, before his dementia, when I could still connect the dots to retirement when I would write novels.

Displacement. Homelessness. Cognitive malfunction. It may as well be mine the way it colors everything in my life. Even in the wilderness I have to answer its call, be the reminder, be the constant. I wanted a full hermitage but it’s not possible. I weep for what I have and I weep for what I’ve lost, and still I plow through, refusing to let circumstances freeze my dreams to ice.

I could have chosen an easier task. But Mr. Price lit the fires I had built. How can I be anybody else but me?

That’s the thing about writing. It is a Process. Capital P. No skimming the surface. And when you think you’ve plunged the depths of humanity, you have to go deeper within yourself. The minutiae. Always the details. In the details we are unique. We all have mothers and fathers. We all breathe. We all drink water and sleep. We have interests and dislikes. Oh, but the details, the perspectives, the actions, the words and the stories. So much color and diversity.

We process all those details when we write. We are filters as writers. Miners.

Let me explain Process as I’ve come to know it. It comes under different headings. There is Creative Process — the way we catch and express literary art (for words are our medium). There are Mental and Emotional Processes — how we use thoughts and feelings in our art. There’s Structural Process — the forms we give our writing (99-words stories or 28 chapter novels). There’s Craft Process — the elements we use to express literary art. There’s a Drafting Process (pants or no pants), a Revision Process, an Editing Process and each can be separated into layers that must come before others (you don’t proof words you will cut in revision, therefore you revise before you proof). There’s Personal Process — how we discover ourselves in the world through writing.

It’s no joke that writing a novel can be compared to brain surgery or rocket science. You can draft a novel-length work in a relatively short time. How long it takes you is relative to how much Processing you are willing to do. The more Processing, the deeper the work. Notice I did not say “better.” That’s a false comparison. Writing is not a competition, unless, well, you enter one. Then you must heed the Processes asked of you as an entrant.

My MFA Program at SNHU began Process on day one. It will continue until May 1. At least for me. It has challenged me to dig deep into all the Processes. I discovered weakness in my strengths, strengths in my weaknesses. I formalized Processes to be able to repeat them and write more novels. I blew my own mind with discoveries. For example — writing elements. Did you know you can apply them differently in different processes? “Show Don’t Tell” needs to be “Show or Tell But Know The Difference.” You can apply the Show/Tell element differently at the Structural Process, differently at Drafting Process, differently at the syntax level of the Revision Process.

I went into the frozen wilderness to sort it out into what they call our thesis — a publishable novel. That means we have to tick the boxes for industry standards. As of 5 am this morning (or “last night” to my perspective) I completed my novel according to industry standards. I fell behind my schedule. I worked earnestly at my thesis, not even taking a break. In September, I knew I would not make the deadline AND tick all the boxes. I chose to write to standards.

Early in January, I freaked out because I couldn’t execute the revision process to standard. It wasn’t until I realized the separation and integration of the Processes that I began to make sense of it all. I have, since seventh-grade, struggled most with the syntax level of literary art. I broke free. Free at last! When I saw how elements work different at each Process level, I began to understand how to use them

As of this afternoon, 18 days late, I officially had my thesis approved. My knees are wiggly, my head dizzy, and I’m tired of grilled cheese sandwiches. I looked yo from my crawling out of the wilderness to see an oasis. All of you at Carrot Ranch.

D. Avery, Kid, Pal, and Friends have managed the reins in my absence. H.R.R. Gorman has united us all in surrounding and celebrating a fellow among us. Hugh Roberts plunged into his column, as did Colleen Chesebro with a new poetry feature at the Saddle Up Saloon. This is an amazing community of people who happen to read, write and make literary art. You are water to my parched throat.

It is good to be back!

NOTE: This weeks photo is courtesy of 47th North Belly Dance on a frozen Lake Superior off the Keweenaw Peninsula 2021.

February 25 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word frozen. It can be descriptive, character focused, action driven. Go out onto the ice and find a frozen story. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 2, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

I’m going to do something different just for this week. I’m going to share a 500-word excerpt from Miracle of Ducks. It’s a nod to what I’ve been working on in my absence and I wanted to share a small bite:

SNEAK PEAK: MOD by Charli Mills

Campbell left after he instructed Danni to retrieve their archaeological field camp beyond the safe zone the next morning. They expected the fire to move west. Despite borate bombers, the Cary Canyon Fire mushroomed.
Her cell phone buzzed, and she recognized the earlier unknown caller. “Hello, this is Dr. Danni Gordon.”
“Dr. Gordon, this is Sheila McLeod, public liaison for SandStorm Security.”
“Yes? Is this about my husband, Ike? He’s coming home.”
“There was an incident. In Iraq.”
Danni’s body tingled. The radio report. “I heard three servicemen were killed.”
“Yes, Ma’am. US Army. A joint operation with SandStorm. Your husband remains unaccountable. We’ve monitored communications. No ransoms, no forced statements, no recent… beheadings. His body has not turned up. We’ve listed him presumed dead.”
Danni sank to her knees. “Presumed?”
“We’ll follow protocol. If we have news, we’ll call.”
How long she sat on her knees, she didn’t know. Her deadened legs stumbled to rise. She staggered to the arena and horse stalls. Several Apache Hot Shots leaned on the fence. Their yellow fire retardant shirts clean. They hadn’t gone to the line. Everyone waited for the fire to explode.
“Yá’át’ééh,” one woman said.
Robotic, Danni returned the familiar greeting from undergrad summers among the Dine. Not Apache, she thought. “Yá’át’ééh.”
The group laughed. “So. The bilagaana speaks Navajo.”
Danni needed Blackjack. She ignored the women idled at his stall and climbed the fence.
Another said, “Hey. That horse is blind.”
Blackjack nickered and Danni opened his stall to the arena. Without tack, she guided him to the fence with sounds and firm touches. Using the wooden slats, she mounted her horse. He pranced.
Soft clods cushioned his steps. Freshly turned earth smelled like a womb. No gopher holes, rocks or blow downs impeded his stride. She wrapped her hands in his mane, guided his direction with her knees, and let Blackjack fly. The black and white pinto swooped, a magpie on hooves. Winter races with Ginnie and Cricket had restored his confidence. Throughout summer, Danni coached Ginnie to maneuver a cutting horse, and Ginnie taught Danni to barrel race a blind gelding. Two women waiting for husbands to return from a war zone. Blackjack knew the drill. Danni galloped and released her soul from the confines of panic. She fled beyond thoughts and emotions. Only her and a horse and the thunder of earth beneath them. They rode as one in figure eights. They spun. He reared, and they danced. Numb, she loped to the stall, startled to see a crowd of fire fighters gathered. She heard someone ask, “Who is that?”
The District Supervisor said, “She’s our archaeologist.”
“Dang,” one of the Apache Hotshots said, “That bone digger can ride.”
People chattered about the horse, the moves, the rider. A distraction from the grueling battle against flames. Danni rubbed Blackjack, checked his hooves.
Freya pushed through the gathering and scrambled over the fence. She said, “Rangers’ wives never quit.” Freya had heard the news.

Right Place, Right Time

Sometimes you just seem to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it’s something to celebrate!

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

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

Curiosity by Saifun Hassam

She remembered that glorious day so well.

Running headlong with the wind along Great Bay’s sandy shores. Stopping abruptly where an abandoned kite lay, the incoming tide tugging at its string.

“Come, come into the ocean” the waves beckoned.

She picked up the kite and ran with it. The wind caught at it! Curious. Would it lift her into the sky too?

She kicked up sand. How many grains of sand on the shores? in her hand? A gazillion.

At night: how many stars? A gazillion.

A dream to explore the stars lightyears away in a sail spaceship.

🥕🥕🥕

Waking Adventure by Ann Edall-Robson

Eyes smile

Welcoming the early ​

morning glow of colour

What escapades

will this day bring

Baileys splashed

in morning coffee

Feet tucked under

reading books

A charcuterie platter

offering treats

Perhaps a wander

Snippets of this and that

to directions unknown

Or a calming glide

on the water

Dip, paddle, silence

Nature’s fingers caress

Is it the gravel roads

enticing the soul

The glory of life

erupting at each

hill crested

Yet the land with

minuscule life welcomes

The scent of sunshine

through the trees

The wonders of life

giving and forgiving

Morsels of celebration

for each waking

adventure

🥕🥕🥕

Birthday Celebrations by Ruchira Khanna

“Did you hear me, Joe?” Patty inquired.

“Yes! I got it. I have to be home on time,” said Joe irritably as he walked out the door.

“I bet he’ll be late, and there goes all my preparation for his birthday party,” Patty whispered to herself as she pulled out the many bowls she had hidden in the oven, away from Joe’s sight. “Oh! I know, how about I move the party to his workplace. That way, I won’t have to fret over him coming on time,” she said with a wide grin and was quick to text all.

🥕🥕🥕

Right Place, Right Time by M J Mallon

The right place at the right time, at ninety-one, that’s a feat. My dad’s ninety-two today. At his birthday celebration last year he astonished us all by serenading the pretty waitress in Russian! Dad’s a Scotsman with one known fear: the snow! He’s always preferred sunny climates. It’s no wonder that he escaped to Malaysia and married my mum, who’s from Kuching, a place that stole his heart too. He always has a tale to tell, or a song to sing and still dreads the snow! Bless him.

🥕🥕🥕

Something To Celebrate by Anita Dawes

Turning 75, something to celebrate, you think?

Not me.

The morning went slow,

dragging my mind further into darkness

Deciding on a fresh cup of coffee to pull myself together,

walk around the Friday market.

I notice a face, my best friend, a sister I should have had.

We lost touch twenty years ago.

Thoughts rush my mind.

Why had we lost touch?

Would she want to speak to me?

Would we have anything to say after so long?

I need not have worried.

My 75th party went like a sixties disco,

With my best friend by my side…

🥕🥕🥕

The Fall Guy by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“I don’t understand what you want from me.” Trevor was mystified. Heather was leaving him. Again.

“That’s it!” she huffed, jaw clenched. “I just can’t trust you’ll be there when I need you.”

“It wasn’t my fault that you drank too much at the party!”

“You should’ve been there to stop me.” A tear slid down as she walked away.

Trevor flipped his hand, palm up, in a bent elbow gesture. “Why did you keep accepting Kevin’s drinks?”

“Because HE was there!”

Just then, a baby bird dropped into his palm and peered up at him, annoyed but grateful.

🥕🥕🥕

The Harsh Truth by Sue Spitulnik

Over coffee, Lexi said, “Mom, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad you left Dad. You’re happy now. Would you mind sharing what gave you the guts to make the move?”

Tessa looked away, remembering, then smiled at her oldest daughter. “I overheard a conversation between the wives of your father’s higher-ups. One wondered to the other if I knew your father’s continual unaccompanied tours were by request. I was shocked at first then soon decided I had been at the right place at the right time to learn the truth.”

“That’s harsh.”

“It was, but beneficial.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Serendipitous Discovery by Nicole Horlings

“Where ends the street, there shall we meet,” the slip of paper stated.

Jack chuckled, paused his exploration of the old mansion, and followed the road out of town, strolling along until it finally ended at the edge of the forest. A fairy flew down from a tree. “You found my note.”

“You can predict where I’ll go to explore next too well,” he grinned.

“Is that a problem?” she flirted, fluttering her lashes.

“No,” he laughed, then kissed her. “Your little game is fine. I’m glad I met you while exploring the forest,” he sighed, hugging her close.

🥕🥕🥕

Lockdown Literary Launch by Anne Goodwin

The kids needed the laptop for their schoolwork. I needed it to practice addressing the camera instead of the screen. I’d neglected them, constantly checking the joining link and time zones. Learning my lines. But they were good kids, they’d forgive me. They’d have my attention once the book was launched. “Good evening, and welcome!” On Zoom, no-one would see me wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans. Gaze fixed on the camera, I didn’t immediately notice the kids had taken revenge. Rubbish at tech, I couldn’t cancel the filter. I read out my poignant passages as a cat.

🥕🥕🥕

Pu-Chai by Colleen Chesebro

“How much is the black puppy?” I pointed to the fuzzy Pomeranian in the cage.

“That one? I’ll have to check. He’s been here for months.”

Dark, soulful eyes stared at me as if the pup understood the conversation.

“Pure black Pomeranians are rare. Is he papered?”

“Yup. Two champions in his line. Nobody wants him because he’s all black. You know, bad-luck.”

He nosed my hand through the cage.

“I’ll take him.”

“Looks like you are in the right place at the right time. He’s on sale, only $99.00.”

“Sold.”

In my arms, Pu-Chai found his new home.

🥕🥕🥕

We All Have A Purpose by Ritu Bhathal

Walking home, shoulders slumped, I wondered what my purpose was. No one really needed me. What use was I? Might as well just keep walking, until I walked off a cliff. No one would miss me.

A sound caught my ear. A whimper. I looked around. No one.

Another little yelp brought me closer to a box. The flap was open, and inside I found him. The runt of the litter, left, abandoned.

He looked up at me with those eyes, and it was in that moment I realised that I did have someone to live for, after all.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Cause for Celebration by Rebecca Glaessner

A metal ship crossed the perfect sector. Great Mind opened a path beside the ship as a youngling’s human host floated out. Great Mind pulled the host through and sealed the path. The ship drifted onward, oblivious.

“Ugh-” the host, a human female, stumbled beneath unexpected gravity. “We’re saved!” came a voice in her head. She stared at the alien structures, the creatures beyond.

“You are home,” began Great Mind, “we aren’t yet part of your second world. It’s not safe.”

“No-“

“When we supplant an Elder, you’ll be returned. For now, you are home.”

“This is not home.”

🥕🥕🥕

Right Place, Right Time by FloridaBorne

Atop the Ferris wheel, with no other riders, Marjorie felt free for a few minutes each day, compliments of her father, who owned this stately wonder. Father understood that each generation possessed a different gift. His charm attracted riders. In winter, when the park closed, Marjorie’s victims provided anything he asked. Her mother felt contentment inside their home, refusing to leave a vessel filled with her love. Today, Marjorie had walked among the crowd, implanting ideas and imparting suggestions into unsuspecting minds. Sherlock Holmes had appeared and she’d saved her family! Neither he nor his client remembered their investigation.

🥕🥕🥕

Just in Time! by Joanne Fisher

Jeremy’s car had broken down, so he walked to the creepy castle in the middle of a thunder storm for assistance. When he knocked on the door, it was answered by a creepy-looking old man who led him straight to his Master. While Jeremy explained to the Master about his car, everything suddenly went black and he collapsed onto the floor.

“That was fortunate. Talk about right place, right time!” the Master said as he looked down on his creation, now with Jeremy’s stretched face added. “Now Igor, let’s hook this up to the grid, and see what happens!”

🥕🥕🥕

No Mention by Simon

He wore it for the first time and looked in the mirror, he saw himself as his own mother wearing it. And something inevitable happened, his dad entered and saw his son standing in front of the mirror wearing his wife’s skirt. The rage in his eyes burned his son alive.

At the right time, his step mother entered and saved him, stating he was practising for the drama and helped him tie the skirt properly and placed a kiss on his cheek and said he looked pretty, Just like his mum.

He thanked her.

She said no mention.

🥕🥕🥕

A Million Dollar Question by Goldie

They stopped at the local bar on their evening walk around town.

“Wanna get a drink?” Scott asked.

“Sure,” Emily shrugged.

Inside, a live band played and patrons swayed to the beat. The music was loud, but the vocals decent and the songs classic.

“I said: ‘Hey! What’s going on?’” Scott belted out.

“Hmmm… but he only sings funny, made up lyrics,” Emily frowned.

When Linda Perry sat down next to the couple, everything changed. Scott now has a recording deal and Emily a new lover.

Which one of them was at the right place at the right time?

🥕🥕🥕

Cautiously Staged by JulesPaige

Convinced by prompting he

Chose kabuki to

Celebrate life – then he could hide in plain sight

Only a few close friends

Shared his deep secret

He loved to paint his face

And pretend to be

Heroines in plays to arouse audiences

He really had to

Act without costumes

Such was his lot not to

Incite the wrath that

Could befall any who were deemed different

At least in this year, this

Time of harsh judgements

🥕🥕🥕

Overboard by Donna Matthews

“Gonna be a nasty storm!” The captain declares.

Prophetically, it turns out. But he couldn’t know then. Could he?

Looking toward the horizon, I see the dark clouds gathering. The winds soon howl, and rain thrashes our fishing charter. Shaking below, I fear this will be the last of adventures. But hour by hour, the fearsome storm wears itself out and finally settles into a harmless drizzle. Coming up to deckside, I see the entire boat is taking on water! I grab a bucket and start scooping!

“Where is the captain??” my children shout behind me. “Overboard, my guess!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Fish Story by D. Avery

“Luckiest fishing day ever!”

“Hope! You and Cousin Bobby caught enough for a meal?”

He groaned when the children showed him their sleds loaded with pails of fresh perch along with the ice-fishing gear. “That’s a lot of perch to dress.”

“We found a hotspot, Daddy!”

Laughing, Hope’s mother headed back inside.

“Hey! Help skin.”

“After some phone calls.”

Throughout the afternoon people started dropping by, some chatting while peeling perch out of their scaly skins, some cooking fish over an outside fire. Fish stories old and new were told.

Hope beamed.

“This is the best perch dinner ever!”

🥕🥕🥕

Right Place, Right Time by Di @ pensitivity101

Right place, right time, right nurse, and a casual mention that I qualified for three months free membership with a slimming group.

I signed up, and within a few months had lost almost 3 stones in weight.

Something had been lurking under the flab, and if I hadn’t lost weight, we wouldn’t have found the lump.

Discovered early, it was analyzed and found to be treatable and curable.

Radiotherapy followed, and all was good until 2019.

Not quite so lucky this time, and a mastectomy was needed.

But, again, it was discovered, analyzed, dealt with.

And I’m still here.

🥕🥕🥕

Stargardts by Willow Willers

Norma knew her sight was failing ever since she was ten. But what really worried her was, had she passed this fate on to her daughter?

The day had arrived when they would get the test results. They’d been at the hospital two hours waiting. Finally they were called in. The doctor smiled at them both and without any preamble told them the Stargardts had been passed on.

Outside Jenny hugged Nora. “Mum you can help me through this. I have seen you cope, you have taught me so much already.”

They basked in the warmth of the sun.

🥕🥕🥕

Dominic to the Rescue by Annette Rochelle Aben

Annette loved her job at the Ambassador Bridge. Hers was a glorified secretarial position processing Import and Export paperwork for U.S. Customs. And the friendships formed with people from all walks of life were the best part.

As she did several times a day, Annette walked along the bridge plaza to the Customs dock office. Suddenly, she felt the ground give way under her feet. She screamed for help, and a nearby truck driver grabbed her and pulled her to safety.

It seems she had stepped on a loose manhole cover and that quick-thinking driver actually saved her life!

🥕🥕🥕

European Summer Bill Engleson

In 1963, along with 300 young Canadians, I was in Paris just before Bastille Day.

By July 14th, we had convoyed by Bus to Switzerland.

However, though only sixteen at the time, I immersed myself in the sounds and smells of Paris, acquainted my then lanky and totally unsophisticated self with baguettes, wine, strong coffee, and, to my shame, behaviour so Trump-like that I was tossed out of the Paris Opera.

Our chaperons, including my Art Teacher who ran the trip as a side business, threatened me with repatriation to Canada.

They relented.

I stayed.

Right decision!

Great summer!

🥕🥕🥕

Jack Shift

“Kid? Yer lookin’ a might discombobulated.”

“Kinda am Pal. Shorty’s cloistered away at Headquarters, schedule’s been shifty, guest hosts at the saloon, an’ a outta season Rodeo? How kin I know I’m in the right place, right time?”

“Thinkin’ we all jist end up where we’re at, when we need ta be there. Doin’ whut we do.”
“Reckon… uh, what is it we do?”

“Well, Colleen’s got the Saloon ever’ third Monday, hear tell Chel’s gonna guest host ever’ first Monday, an’ the Sue Vincent Rodeo’s wrappin’ up, winners’ll be ‘nounced March 22.”

“Yep. Agin, we do…?”

“Shush Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

Saddle Up Saloon; Barroom Free For All

“Kid, whut’s goin’ on? Looks like mebbe some movie stars asettin’ at the bar. They here ta take the stage?”

“They might be some sorta celebrities, Pal, but they jist wannered in. I ain’t got no acts or innerviews lined up this week.”

 “These three ladies soun’ like they might be from thet same place as them two blokes thet come through thet time, ‘member? One of ‘em, Logan it was, tangled with yer goats.”

“Think these ladies is arguin’ a might ‘bout where they come from, Pal. Thinkin’ there’s some drama unfoldin’ right here at the bar.”

“Ya best not be eavesdroppin’ on the customers, Kid. Least ways not so’s they notice ya doin’ it. So who’s who?”

“Well, them two at the end a the bar come in t’gether. Venus – that’s the curvaceous one with the dangly earrings – said Diana needed a drink ta calm her nerves.”

“So they are going on stage?”

“On a plane. Seems she’s scared a flyin’ but Venus says she’s got ta rise above her fear.”

“She’s goin’ fer her pilot’s license?”

“Jist as a passenger. There’s some place she’s gotta visit. Cairo. Think that’s in Illinois.”

“Or Egypt.”

“Gypped? Nobody gypped me, Pal. These women is runnin’ tabs. Anyway, then this other lady come in, name a Ruth Thompson. That’s when it got kinda tense.”

“They’re campin?”

“What? No! The first two, Diana an’ Venus,  are jist on a day trip. They’ll sleep at home t’night. An’ if Diana ever gits ta Cairo, she’s gonna stay with a friend.”

“An’ who’s the older one? Thet Venus don’t look so pleased ta see her.”

“Ms. Thompson. She’s movin’ ta France ta live.”

“An’ here they are, at the Saddle Up Saloon. Strange. Hey! Whoa. Stop. Back up. Them’s characters outta Anne Goodwin’s book!”

“Which a her books, Pal?”

Sugar and Snails. Yeah. I recognize Ms. Thompson from A Postcard From the Past; was recently at Story Chat.”

A Postcard From the Past?”

“Yeah, Kid. A Postcard from the Past is a short story based on a scene from one a many drafts a Anne Goodwin’s day-bew novel, Sugar and Snails. Sugar and Snails was published by Inspired Quill in 2015 and shortlisted fer the Polari First Book Prize. Ya kin read it fer free durin’ February 2021 by registering fer Anne’s newsletter here: https://www.subscribepage.com/sugar-and-snails-free-e-book.”

“Uh, Pal, that’s real awesome an’ all, but mebbe we best git back ta the bar. Somethin’s goin’ on.”

“Put it behind you? Just ‘put it all behind you’?  It’s that easy to start fresh, ignore your own past?”

“Ma’am, please…”

“Venus, please, just sit down. It’s not her fault. No-one knew what to do with me.”

 “Oh, jeez, Ms. Diana, yer arms. Did ya climb the Poet tree out back or somethin’? Yer scratched up purty good.”

Shit! I thought I’d dealt with that last night. Could I borrow a bar towel, Kid?

A bar towel won’t stop it, you goose! You’ve lost a humongous amount of blood. I’m taking you to A&E.”

***

“Whut is goin’ on? Ms. Thompson, that woman was sure lightin’ inta ya jist then.”

“I’m happy to see that Diana has such a good friend. But that’s all I can say Pal. Confidentiality and such.”

“But… Jeez. What’re ya even doin’ here at the Saddle Up Saloon?”

“I’m sure I don’t know. I’m a minor character in Sugar and Snails. Described as a hippie-haired social worker. The first ‘Ms’ Diana met.”

“Ya musta had a major impact ta keep showin’ up; first at Story Chat, now here.”

“I arranged Diana’s place at an elite boarding school as a teenager. I thought it would help her shake off the past. But it seems it wasn’t enough. If you want to know more, read Sugar and Snails. Remember, Anne Goodwin is offering it for free during February 2021 if you register for her newsletter HERE. And she’ll be discussing it soon in an online event with author Mia Farlane. You’d be welcome to join them.”

“When? Where?”

“Soon! Wednesday the 24th of February, 7 GMT. Just click HERE. Now, I must catch my plane. I have someone waiting for me in the Dordogne, someone special. I am sorry for causing tension in your lovely saloon. Good bye.”

“Bye, Ms. Thompson.”

***

“Kid thet was weird.”

“Ah, come on Pal, jist some harmless characters that ended up at the saloon. It happens.”

“Since when is the Saddle Up Saloon a layover for flights ta France an’ Cairo?”

“Jist this week, Pal. Jist as long as Anne Goodwin’s free e-book offer lasts.”

“Soun’s good. Reckon them women’ll ever come back by here?”

“Hard ta say, not knowin’, Pal. Why d’ya ask?”

“’Cause all three a them characters left yer bar without payin’ fer their drinks. Sayin’.”

“Yeesh! Gypped!”

“Yep, Egypt. An the uther one is done gone ta Dordogne, doggone it.”

https://www.subscribepage.com/sugar-and-snails-free-e-book

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Anne Goodwin is the author of two novels and a short story collection. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Throughout February, subscribers to her newsletter can read Sugar and Snails for free: https://www.subscribepage.com/sugar-and-snails-free-e-book 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnJ5pbhSLho&feature=youtu.be

Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com

Twitter @Annecdotist.

Link tree https://linktr.ee/annecdotist

Amazon author page: viewauthor.at/AnneGoodwin

YouTube: Anne Goodwin’s YouTube channel

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Maths is Everywhere

Maths is something many say they can’t do and didn’t enjoy in school. Many say it’s too boring or too complex or that they don’t understand it. If you have an aversion to maths, you’re not alone, and you probably don’t want me quoting figures about what percentage of the population suffers from it. Let me just say, it’s a big number.

However, we use maths every day. We couldn’t function fully in everyday life without it. From the moment we wake up and look at the clock until shutting down at night, we are using mathematics. Even if you don’t look at the clock, knowing that it’s morning is using maths.

You see, many think of maths as having to do exclusively with numbers, but it is more than that. It involves patterns, shape, probability, data collection and problem solving. We use it almost every moment of the day without giving it a thought.

We use it when we schedule events in order, like deciding what we will do in the day or even in what order we will be dress ourselves.

We use it when we sort items to place onto shelves, in cupboards or drawers.

We use it to work out our budget — what to spend and what to save.

We use it to navigate our way around the neighbourhood or places further afield. 

Since maths is such an integral part of everyday life, it is important to avoid, as far as possible, passing on one’s anxiety about maths to children, not just because they are equally capable of developing it on their own, but because they’d be better off without it.

If a child does experience difficulty in any areas of maths – try to avoid reinforcing it by saying that you always had trouble with maths. Instead, say something like, yes, it is difficult, but we can work on it. We’ll figure it out. Encourage them (and you) to develop a growth, rather than a fixed, mindset. We can all learn given the appropriate support.

As an early childhood educator, I focus on helping children find enjoyment and purpose in the world around them, including things mathematical, from a young age.

Here are a few ways to get your children using maths in everyday situations (without necessarily labelling it as maths) that make its use fun. The suggestions come from 25 ways to keep the children thinking mathematically during the holidays. The full list can be downloaded free from readilearn here.

Number and place value
  • Count items e.g. birds in the sky, shells collected from the beach, people for lunch, steps in a staircase, windows on a house, seats in a bus . . .
  • Include your child in shopping activities
  • When your child is sharing e.g. the biscuits, balloons or slices of fruit, ask them to:
    • Predict if there will be enough for everyone to have one, or more than one each
    • Share out the items, allocating the same number to each
    • Determine if there are any left over and what to do with them
  • Use terms like half and quarter correctly, e.g. when cutting apples, oranges, sandwiches, pizza, to indicate pieces of equal size
  • Read books with number concepts e.g. Pat Hutchins’s The Doorbell Rang, Eric Carle’s Rooster’s off to see the world or Kim Michelle Toft’s One Less Fish
Patterns and algebra
  • Use items to make patterns e.g. sort and create a pattern from shells collected at the beach
  • Look for patterns in the environment e.g. fences, tiles, walls and window, zebra crossings
Measurement and geometry
  • Include your child in cooking activities and allow or support them to:
    • measure the ingredients
    • set the temperature on the oven
    • work out the cooking finish time
  • A child’s understanding of volume and capacity can be developed when they:
    • pour glasses of water from the jug and discuss terms such as enough, full, empty, half or part full, more, less
  • Scales can be used to compare the mass of different items or quantities e.g., compare an apple and an orange, measure the quantity of butter required for a recipe
  • Measuring length can be included by:
    • measuring and comparing height
  • Use the calendar to
    • learn the names and sequence of days in the week or months in the year
    • count the passing days or the number of days until an event
Probability and statistics
  • When discussing the weather or desired activities include the language of probability e.g. possible, certain, likely, unlikely, impossible

These are just a few simple ideas to get you started. I’m sure you will think of many other everyday activities that will help your children develop mathematical concepts.

Celebrate Maths with the International Day of Mathematics

Another reason to celebrate maths and to turn around any negative attitudes is the International Day of Mathematics coming up soon on March 14. This year’s theme is Mathematics for a Better World. I can find no argument with that goal.

If you are keen to be involved, there are suggestions on the website, including a poster competition which is open until 1 March. Most of the suggestions are suitable for older children in classroom groups and organised events. However, I think the Scavenger Hunt could be used by a family working together and the Paper Activities could be adapted for younger children or substituted with; for example, making origami shapes, making shapes from tangrams, completing jigsaw puzzles and colour by number activities.

A gift for you

Many lessons and activities in mathematics for children aged 5 – 7 are available at readilearn. Like the list above, many are free. Others are available individually or as a collection through a small annual subscription. If you would like to see what’s available and whether they may be of benefit to your children, I am happy to offer Carrot Ranchers the first year’s subscription free. Simply use carrot at the checkout to obtain your gift (valid until the International Day of Mathematics, 14 March 2021).

But wait there’s more — Pi Day

Many of you will already know March 14 as Pi Day, celebrated because the date is often written as 3/14 and Pi (the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) is approximately 3.14.

The Pi Day website is also loaded with mathematical information and activities. I really enjoyed reading the Top 25 Most Interesting Pi Facts. It also lists ten reasons why mathematics is important and has information and videos to support understanding of some hard-to-get concepts.

The Exploratorium is also a great resource for learning about Pi. And of course, if all else fails on Pi Day, eat pie. Of course, you will discuss what fraction of the pie each person gets, won’t you?

The Birthday Paradox

In her post here at the Carrot Ranch last week, D. Avery stated that her husband and her sister-in-law’s mother shared a birthday. In response to the post, Ritu commented that there were a number of overlapping birthdays in her family, and I agreed that there were also a number in mine. I am constantly amazed by the frequency with which births, deaths and other events in my family fall on the same date while other dates remain bare.

I guess the further you cast the net, the more dates will coincide. However, I was intrigued by a phenomenon referred to as the birthday paradox. This states that in a room of 23 people, there is a fifty-fifty chance of two people having the same birthday. It doesn’t seem that likely to me but then others more mathematically able have worked out the probability.

What’s your birthday?

I thought it might be fun to compare dates to see how many of the Carrot Ranchers’ birthdays overlap. To join in, just pop your birthday (no year required) in the comments. I’m 18 June.

Matching family birthdays

Although I am one of 10 (so 12 in the family), there are no overlapping birthdays, though some are close with just one day apart. We only have to move sideways and compare the cousins’ birthdays to find a few that match, some with three or more sharing the same day.

I was interested in the following information that came up when searching the birthday paradox, so I followed it to the source at KLTV and an article about Unusual Mother Trivia

The highest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the first wife of Feodor Vassilyev (1707-1782) of Shuya, Russia. Between 1725 and 1765, in a total of 27 confinements, she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. 67 of them survived infancy.

My mind boggles. Of course, each set of twins, triplets and quadruplets share the same date, but there were 27 ‘confinements’, so chances are there were at least two matching birthdates in different years. Unfortunately, there appears to be no proof of the births or of the claim itself. Vassilyev’s wife, identified as Valentina in this article on Wikipedia, must have been healthy and strong. In fact, the meaning ‘healthy and strong’ is attributed to the name Valentina. Another coincidence? What are the chances of that?

Enjoy your mathematical encounters.

Until next time.

Norah

February 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s Thursday again, time for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. Once again we will all fill in so that our friend Charli can focus on that thesis of hers. As I alluded to last week, Charli has set this community up to be successful and to manage even with her not directly at the helm. We know what to do to keep the Ranch running— read, write, comment. A foolproof formula!

All we need is a post and a prompt.

Who’s the fool now? I have nothing to say and a gazillion things I could say. Once upon a time… no. This time, maybe today’s date is a place to start.

Maybe today, February 18, isn’t a special day for you. But it could be. Today is the birth date of both my husband and my sister-in-law’s mother. Birthdays…

I never had children so have never hosted a children’s birthday party, never had to be the one either fulfilling wishes or causing disappointment. I remember many of my own birthdays as a child. One of the best was when I turned ten. First of all— ten! Double digits; a roll over number; a whole decade old; it was a big one. But I remember it for getting what I wanted as a gift from my parents— a hammer. Maybe after ten years I had simply worn my mother down, but my request was not ignored, it wasn’t replaced with a more “appropriate” gift, with what she felt I should really want or need. And it was a nice hammer, with a sleek red wooden shaft and a rubber grip. It was real and it was mine. More important, I had been heard and acknowledged. It was a good birthday, with even better days to follow as I dragged slabs into the woods and hammered together a fort.

As an adult I sometimes ignore my own birthday as best I can, other times I take the day into my own hands. When I was crazy busy during summers with my one-woman landscaping business I would give myself the day off to spend time making the cake I wanted, homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I’m not much of a baker, so this cake making took time and that time was my gift to myself, a time of meditation and reflection.

When I changed careers and had summers off I sometimes chose to spend my birthday making a nice meal for friends and family to enjoy together with me after their workday. Again, it was a meditative way to spend the day and was a way to show gratitude for those people who were going to acknowledge the day whether I wanted them to or not.

A memorable day that happens to have also been my birthday was the one when my sister-in-law took the day off from work just to hang out with me. With no planning we ended up kayaking four ponds, having to portage only small distances, needing no vehicle. We lunched on delicious sandwiches out on the water. We were joined by the local bald eagle for a bit as well as other wildlife. It was a fine adventure, our Four Pond Day.

I’ve had so many fine adventures and memorable days, some with friends and family, many spent all alone. I’m reminded of and just reread a picture book written by Byrd Baylor and illustrated by Peter Parnall, I’m In Charge of Celebrations.How could I be lonely?” the narrator asks. “I’m the one in charge of celebrations.” The setting is the American Southwest, but the narrator’s outdoor wanderings and recognition of amazing sights and events to celebrate resonate with me here in my wooded northeast. With lyrical language, set upon the page as poetry instead of paragraphs, we are told about some of the narrator’s findings and reactions.

And then all day

you think

how

lucky

you were

to be there.

Some of my best

celebrations

are sudden surprises

like that.

If you weren’t outside

at that

exact

moment,

you’d miss them.”

Her New Year celebration has to be “a day that is exactly right…. Usually it’s a Saturday around the end of April.) … I spend the day admiring things…

I celebrate

with horned toads

and ravens

and lizards

and quail…

And Friend,

it’s not

a bad

party. ”

Celebrating New Year’s at the return of spring makes sense to me. I had always thought of the first day of a new school year to be New Year’s Day but this past September was different, as I had left that career for who-knows-what adventures. This year the first day of school away from school was a birth day, a new beginning. While my former colleagues did all that first day stuff I hiked the mountain with no agenda. The barred owl was as surprised to see me as I it. It is quite something to see an owl slipping silently through the trees. How lucky I was to be there.

Today is the birthday of at least two people that I know of and I will let them both know that I appreciate their being in the world. But today could be your special day too, for any number of reasons.

In Byrd Baylor’s book dust devils, rainbows (and the rabbit that also saw the rainbow), a green parrot-shaped cloud, a coyote, falling stars, and the new year are celebrated. The narrator says that she is very choosy about what goes into her celebration notebook.

It has to be something

I plan to remember

the rest of my life.

You can tell

what’s worth

 a celebration

because

your heart will

POUND

and

you’ll feel

like you’re standing

on top of a mountain

and you’ll

catch your breath

like you were

breathing

some new kind of air.

Otherwise,

I count it just

an average day.

(I told you

I was

choosy.)

Life is the present. And you are the one in charge of celebrations.

~D. Avery

February 18, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story where a character is in the right place at the right time. It may be cause for celebration! Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by February 23, 2021, to be included in the compilation. 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 Fish Story by D. Avery

“Luckiest fishing day ever!”

“Hope! You and Cousin Bobby caught enough for a meal?”

He groaned when the children showed him their sleds loaded with pails of fresh perch along with the ice-fishing gear. “That’s a lot of perch to dress.”

“We found a hotspot, Daddy!”

Laughing, Hope’s mother headed back inside.

“Hey! Help skin.”

“After some phone calls.”

Throughout the afternoon people started dropping by, some chatting while peeling perch out of their scaly skins, some cooking fish over an outside fire. Fish stories old and new were told.

Hope beamed.

“This is the best perch dinner ever!”

🥕🥕🥕

Special Sue Vincent Collection

Stories in this collection honor fellow writer, Sue Vincent who has impacted the lives of many around the world through her stories and prompts. Life is a river of consciousness where writers dip their quills. Sue has provided us access.

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

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

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~ Rumi

Dust of Life by FloridaBorne

We gather the dust of life, floating inside a watery womb.

We burst into a world too cold, light too bright, sounds too harsh, searching for sustenance.

Held in soft arms, comforted by a lullaby, we forget that once we floated in God’s arms, listening to celestial music.

Our universe becomes a nuclear family, adults become gods that fall from favor once we discover their flaws. We become gods to a new generation and fear the loss of our borrowed time.

We cast away the dust of life to float in a universe of joy… knowing we’re finally home.

🥕🥕🥕

Adrift by Rebecca Glaessner

A youngling cast eyes skyward upon birth. Energies entered its being, strengthened its mind, its heart.

That youngling grew, phased, loved, laughed. Built together a house-family, welcomed partners and friends, life happy and full.

Years on, now-grown, they lay ready. Every village eagerly awaiting the next youngling’s birth on the morrow.

Eyes closed now, their mind drifted.

No longer amongst their house-family’s hearts, but rather above, looking down upon sprawling villages-turned-cities.

How they’d all grown.

Life flowed onward.

A new youngling cast eyes skyward upon birth, its mind and heart strengthened by an ancient energy.

Unseen, yet deeply felt.

🥕🥕🥕

The Everyday Physics of Dreams by Jeff Gard

Like matter, dreams cannot be destroyed. Unlike matter, they are created by scattered dandelion seeds, extinguished birthday candles, teeth hidden under pillows, and wishes cast upon twinkling stars. They are first kisses, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, and promotions. Desires are our bones and blood. One day we will exhale our aspirations. They will rise on thermals, waver within a red and green Aurora Borealis. They will race into space, outpacing radio waves and light. They will dance in the Milky Way and body surf Saturn’s rings. In spiraling clouds of gas and dust, our dreams will condense into newborn stars.

🥕🥕🥕

My Thoughts Move Like Water by Brandon Ellrich

Sometimes quickly over rocks with ripples and waves,

Moving so swiftly I get lost and afraid.

At times it slows, spreading deep and wide,

Touching places unknown, feeling peace inside.

As the river bends and winds I go to and fro,

Joined by streams and rains, as I learn and grow.

I give of myself to those who thirst,

And I am changed for better or worse.

I draw near the ocean and my journey’s end,

And reunited with lost family and friends.

Part of the whole, the greatness, the sea,

My body is loosed, my soul is free!

🥕🥕🥕

Every Ripple by Willow Willers

“What are you looking at?” the young man asked the older woman.

Smiling she turned to answered him. “I am looking at life.”

Perplexed the young man wondered what she meant. “Every ripple, every shimmer of light upon the water is a life, a story. You see we all flow from the source encountering highs and lows as we meander along. Traveling though the seasons we learn. Small streams join as we travel they do not diminish us but help to us grow as we journey on to reach our sea of enlightenment.

The young man saw the truth.

🥕🥕🥕

Believe by Sherri Matthews

She waited by the brook where the fairies played. Where water bubbled gently over smooth, wet stones – she had seen them. Sparkle sunlight drops had danced and promised it would be all right. But years had passed and she wasn’t all right. Where had their promises gone? Like the river beyond she had yet to find, did they exist? How could she trust when she’d known only lies? A twig snapped, she gasped. He had come! She ran to his embrace, he kissed her tears away and said, ‘I never left you.’ And the girl now a woman believed.

🥕🥕🥕

Forward Facing by JulesPaige

An odd vista up in the Arizona mountains, riding on a paddlewheel riverboat on a manmade lake. After taking twisting winding roads, some one lane only to reach our destination. The cacti forests were over hundreds of years old, their multiple arms each at one point a stub at fifty years young, amid the scenery. What more could we wish for? A new beginning perhaps for the loved one we had lost. Buried in a box in the same plot as their spouse. Thankful to still have each other to lean on. We silently contemplated where we were going.

🥕🥕🥕

Lynn Valley: Tom by Saifun Hassam

When Janice died shortly after her second brain tumor surgery, Tom was desolate. He felt marooned on a sandy bar, his capsized boat swept swiftly downstream on a mountain river. He felt he was in that river cascading over boulders and rocks, perhaps to disappear into a desert even.

Tom went kayaking again on Seasquall River. It was painful at first. The glint of sunshine on the whitecaps. The distant snowcapped Seasquall Mountains. In Lynn Valley, he spent time with Aunt Bev and his cousin Hannah. Their love turned his silence into conversations and his moroseness into laughter. Janice.

🥕🥕🥕

Trust by Bill Engleson

I stand on the bank of the river.
It winds through my starving soul,
the water, cool, clear, dream-like,
as I float on its sea-bound roll.

I stand on the shore of the river,
pebbles, pools, and sandstone knoll,
as a broken limb of arbutus
drifts by in the currents control.

I wade knee-deep in the river,
stand in a soothing shoal,
bend, as one will in a river,
take hold of my new walking pole.

I drift in the flow of the river,
no destination, no particular goal.
Full fealty to the river,
Allegiance to my inevitable toll.

🥕🥕🥕

Flow by Myrna Migala

A child is born, parents have high hopes, small as a sprinkle, and grows as the world pulls the child into it.
Growing and flowing began a small stream. Gravity pulls it down, moving toward an ocean of eternity. Banking, down to the river’s future. The twists and turns, the bends. The land around is life! Changing from an uphill climb to a comfortable flow in a low valley. Life as a river flowing from height, beginning down through the world. Ups, downs, twists, bends. Life, a gift — a river that someday will end. Ends — or begins again?

🥕🥕🥕

The Ripples of Life by Norah Colvin

The stone made a mini fountain where it plunged into the water. The boy and the man watched the ripples spread. The boy’s eyes filled with wonder, the man’s with life’s wisdom.

“Where do the ripples go?” asked the boy.

“Everywhere,” said the man. “Even when we no longer see them, their effects go on. Like that stone, we make a splash in our family when we arrive. Our circles grow as we grow. Our lives touch more and more. We may never know the effects, but they are there, rippling through the world, flowing forever in the river of life.”

🥕🥕🥕

Life Explored by Jo Elizabeth Pinto

They sat on the riverbank, the waning sun on their shoulders, poles in their hands with limp lines in the still water, their laughter light on the air.

“A tug, a tug,” she said. He took her pole, his hands over hers.

“Gentle … gentle …”

They lifted the trout, shining, dripping–he held it below the gills while she felt its curves, its muscles rippling. Then he quickly slipped it off the hook and let it drop with a splash; it disappeared into the stream of life.

He touched her cheek tenderly; his wet hands smelled of fish.

🥕🥕🥕

Off Balance by JulesPaige

Too many adults weren’t talking. Too many changes were taking place at one time. Her river of consciousness had divided to conquer the fragile sanity that only a child who is kept in the dark after a parent’s death can muster. Willing herself to be in a place of comfort, she sat comfortably in her grammar school art class until the teacher asked why she wasn’t in her reading class. The magic bubble burst, hope dissolved like candy floss on the tongue. Reality slammed her back where her body sat like a mannequin. Reality was cold, bitter and harsh.

🥕🥕🥕

Through the Rough by Gloria McBreen

As a young girl, under the watchful eyes of my father, I paddled with the minnow in the shallow part of Dundragon River. The safe part, where the water flowed gently across a million pebbles. As years passed, I ventured further up the river. Deeper, muddier waters, where I learned to trust my own judgement in the absence of my protector. Tread carefully or be swallowed. Keep my head above the water and prepare for the inevitable ripples. When the dam breaks, keep swimming, knowing that those watchful eyes will guide me across the rough, to gentle waters again.

🥕🥕🥕

Choices by Ruchira

Today, as I stand on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and observe the waves come crashing, I contemplate upon my life. The goals I had in mind, but the choices I made, paved an unknown path. It made me wonder why I chose to tread on it? Why didn’t I give up and decide to pursue my goals instead? Just then, drops of water fall on my face, and a smile crosses my lips. Aah! It gave me happiness and peace of mind. It’s impressive how life can flow in a flashback anywhere as a river of consciousness.

🥕🥕🥕

Clearing Your Mind by Ellen Best

Sit unmoving, unrestricted by the flimflam of everyday drudgery. Listen, hear the burble of the brook giving life to fish, frog and newt. Hear the flop flap as webbed feet slap to keep her afloat, the duck rounding up her ducklings. Inhale, fill your lungs and hold until your head swims, like that day, you took your first sip of golden nectar; back when you were too young to try it. Give thanks for the now. When you hear the beating wing of the hummingbird moth you are there. in the right space to know the measure of self.

🥕🥕🥕

Do What You Love by M J Mallon

What makes us human extends beyond the care we give our young. Perhaps it is our creativity which marks us as distinctive from other species. Life is akin to a river of consciousness, we may drift along, or choose who we truly desire to be. Whatever we decide, we must live life to the full, expressing ourselves in music, words, performance, or art. Troubling obstacles will come and go, pebbles of uncertainty, meandering moments, thunderstorms and floods of tears, unsure and uncertain times. To accomplish our hearts’ desires we must stay focused, determined and resolute on life’s turbulent river.

🥕🥕🥕

Common Waters by Kerry E.B. Black

Everyone knows brooks babble, but not everyone listens.

Legends explain waters spring from the same source – Then take on their own lives. Sometimes they secret underground, but other times, they flow, vast and muddied with so much information, even the most astute has trouble understanding.

Clever streams of consciousness skip from rock to pond, clear, youthful, only to pool resources and tumble as mighty waterfalls. Be they sluggish and algae-thick or coursing with rapid purpose, people dip into waterways in dreams Jung interpreted as universal understanding.

We test waters to share commonalities, if only while we wade and listen.

🥕🥕🥕

Clouded by JulesPaige

within the acceptable range

all the courses, the trails

worked up and down, predator and prey

 in the air or on the ground…

the black bear went over the mountain

crossing the valley…

test results were blurry facts

that just flowed on the page like that snow melt

from the peaks into the common valley below

who wanted to read the writing

that determined any finality?

who wanted to read the last sentence?

🥕🥕🥕

Life’s Flow by theindieshe

She lived in an ivory castle with pink lined walls beneath the canopy of the bright blue sky and spun happy dreams. But Sisters of Fate deluged her paradise and she drifted into stormy waters. Meandering down the cobbled bed, she was tossed and turned to be chiseled fine. Savouring each rough tumble, she bravely flowed on to learn new lessons at each turn. The tiny bubbling rivulets infused a surge of hope in the weary, battered soul. She drifted along to new shores to make a fresh beginning. She was reborn to be as bold as an unleashed tempest.

🥕🥕🥕

A River’s String of Consciousness by Kate

I am a river born from the rattling-cold mountain streams, a peaceful current sliding around rocks and meandering amongst the trees, on my way to the sea. Silver-coloured fish hide beneath my surface while armored turtles plod covertly along my bed. Iridescent and blue, playful dragonflies swoop over my waters catching their prey and howling coyotes come out at night and frighten the gentle deer away. People rarely visit me, but when they do, they usually come alone or in twos. They always sit and listen to the gurgling of my waves, while I give comfort to their souls.

🥕🥕🥕

Epic Places: Crater Lakes: Jeff by Saifun Hassam

That spring, when the snow melted, the earth tremor’s impact on the Crater Lakes’ bio-habitat became more evident. The historic Ranger Station west of Lizard Lake tilted at an alarming sharp angle. Lizard Lake, an ancient volcanic crater, overflowed with snowmelt from a new underground river. Green Lake, a meteorite crater lake, had sunk deeper into its bedrock. Its marshes were alive with songbirds. Jeff discovered a new sinkhole near the Greenford River bearing snowmelt from the Granite Mountains. Broken pine trees and rock debris filled the dry sinkhole. In time Greenford River would flow into a new lake.

🥕🥕🥕

Forms by D. Wallace Peach

“Men are like the wind,” she said as they strolled beside the river. “Untamable, borderless, playing life like a flute.”

He grinned. “And women?”

“Rivers.” Her gaze roamed to the water. “We possess boundaries through which we channel our power, connecting the past spring to the future sea, always present as the river is present, though each day it is entirely new.”

“Am I truly the wind?”

“I think you are clay,” she decided with a laugh. “You’re still forming. Pushing and poking. But do not worry. I am the river. I’ll keep you from drying before you’re done.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Vessel by Anita Dawes

Shout it from the roof tops
Climb the highest mountain
Let out that long held yell
The universe should know better
Than pluck a beautiful flower too soon
How dare that unseen hand
take that which we long to keep
Rage against the injustice across the planet
Rub out as much of it as you can.
Beautiful people, music, words of a song
They leave their mark on your heart,
Live for ever, in memory
they remain forever young.
Love flows like a river from heaven.
So much, it cannot be contained.
No vessel will hold it all…

🥕🥕🥕

River Drops by Barb Taub

My beachball, almost as big as my 4-year-old self, shivered in the current carrying it away. I laughed.

My fluorescent pink float dropped into the River Liffey, tracing the path in Ulysses we’d read together. He laughed.

My children dropped sticks from the bridge into the stream below. We laughed.

I dropped his ashes into the waves above the beach we’d loved. I remembered laughing.

I stand at the water’s edge. A bobbing flotilla approaches, beachball stripes proudly at front. All the bright tear-filled laughter calls, my flotsam raft. I step aboard, head out to sea. All the laughs…

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Finitely Endless by Goldie

I was born high up in the mountains. In the beginning, full of energy and with my head up in the clouds, I navigated twists and turns with little care. Splashing outside my confines, I caressed rocks, inviting them to join the party. Some gave in and rolled with me, while others remained stagnant. Somewhere along the way, the terrain had changed, and the excitement vanished. Open plains contained me. There will come a time when I take my last breath and become one with the sea, but, until then, I must keep on running. Running like a river.

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The Life River by Ritu Bhathal 

Life is a river

Of consciousness

Each of us a drop

Merging together

To become one

When we clash

Life flows

Unevenly

Turbulent currents

Water gushing

Fiercely

Banging and crashing

Against the banks

When we live

Harmoniously

Gentle ripples

Dapple the surface

Creating

The illusion

Of peace

Together we flow

Side by side

Whether we like it

Or not

Life is a river

Of consciousness

Echoing the

Ebbs and flows

Of life

River beds

Dry up

River banks

Burst

But, in the end

The river

Continues to flow

Like life

Ups and downs

Ebbs and flows

Life goes on

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From Where I Came by Donna Matthews

It’s summer; you’d think it’d be hot, but not so in northern California. Instead, downright chilly, I think, as the freezing river water makes its way inside my shoes. We have two miles to hike along this riverbed to reach the Tall Tree Grove. As typical on the trail, my thoughts soon join my feet in wandering. I love the cold air on my cheeks. Yes, the feeling of being wide awake at this moment — exactly where I need to be. Finding myself at the exit into the woods, I stop and look back from where I came.

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On Beeley Moor by Anne Goodwin

Legend coats this landscape: stone circles, the bronze-age burial mound, Hob Hurst’s House. Layers of later industry: guide stoops for the packhorse trails, millstones left unfinished when grit-grey bread went stale. My thoughts flow through histories of those I’ve met here, steered here, recollected on these moors. Consciousness a stream of memories adrift from date or time. Ideas I’ve birthed amid the heather, drowned in peat-bog, revived on bilberry bushes as green hairstreaks feed. Until the final stile prompts my wondering: What happened to the ice cream lady? How many rambles since her van’s been spotted on the bend?

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River Life by Di @ pensitivity101

Silence and solitude,
Magnificence of Nature,
What secrets does the river hold?
A haven for wildlife,
A studio for birdsong,
Each has a story to be told.
The river bends, hiding
Its twists and turns of mystery,
Reflected images awaken,
Dawns and sunsets,
Colours undaunted,
Feathers and foliage shaken.
Ripples are gentle,
Cascading outwards,
Tickling the surface so sweetly,
Poetry in motion,
Majestic and regal,
At one with each other completely.
Man is a visitor,
This world is for learning,
Take heed and a privileged pride,
Watch, see and wonder,
Relax in its splendour,
Its beauty cannot be denied.

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From One Question To The Next, Ad Infinitum by Geoff Le Pard

Earliest memories are impossible to confirm, as time coalesces when young. Mine, if it be such involves me, in my pushchair watching a thrush smash a snail on a flagstone. My reaction was to ask my mother why. First memory and first question.

Life runs on questions, expanding from the toddler’s incessant whys, through the hows and whens and wheres to the teenager’s whatevers and beyond.

We paddle forwards on those questions, sometimes battling intractable ignorance and at others flowing easily as answers accumulate in our wake.

Eventually Mother Nature answers my final why with a terse ‘why not’.

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The Hunter by D. Avery

The pale winter light was already waning when he began following the buck.

Only the frost sparkled moon witnessed his pursuit farther and farther into the snowy woods.

The buck loped across the snow covered river, looked back from the tree line. He followed. Midway he heard water chuckling under soft ice. Breaking through, he chuckled too, suddenly realizing the joke.

Letting go his rifle, he slogged through deep icy slush, pulled himself up to where the deer had disappeared. Soaked and freezing, he nestled into the snow, saw the river of stars overhead.

He chuckled again. Another river.

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The River of Life: Double Ennead by Colleen M. Chesebro

dawn reflections shimmer

a blood-red birthing

the new journey meanders in small ripples

searching for a known truth

testing the waters

a small stream traverses

the land, growth is key

consciousness actuates a forward passage

as water rushes fast,

over stones ahead

From the sun’s dying light

the darkness succumbs

to the passage of time, the river still flows

 in the celebration 

of a life well lived

🥕🥕🥕

How Blogging and Rod Serling Helped Me Conquer Dyslexia

I recall a friend who always read the last page of a book before turning to the first page and reading it. I always thought it an odd thing to do – knowing the ending before the beginning.

“I’m glad you can’t do that with a movie,” I told her. These were the days before video players invaded our homes.

I often think back about how that friend read books, more so since I became a blogger and started to write and publish my thoughts onto a tiny piece of the web. Although I’ve had a passion for writing since I can remember, being dyslexic often stopped me from pursuing my dreams of writing a book and getting it published.

February the 12th, 2014 was the day I began the next battle with dyslexia. For far too long, I’d allowed it to win without putting up much of a fight. However, on that February day, quite by chance, I’d discovered the world of blogging. And reading the last page first was about to make a lot more sense to me.

For the first few hours that day, I tried convincing myself that there was no such thing as dyslexic authors. Although I loved writing, I often regarded words as an enemy. Some of them would trick me, while others would confuse me and send me off into a maze that had no exits. So why would anyone with dyslexia want to write?

Before writing my first post, I stumbled upon a blog about a subject I loved – The cult TV show ‘The Twilight Zone.’

the-twilight-zone

The creator, and writer of many of the 156 episodes of the show was Rod Serling, and I always looked forward to how he took you on a journey up a path you thought you knew, only to find that the twist he had planned took you to a completely different location. Although the clues of what was to come were there, he’d manage to trick you into thinking something else was going to happen.

I saw Rod Serling as some of those words that often tricked me when reading. But I also saw him as a ‘writing’ hero and somebody I would go on to admire for the gift he had of deceiving the reader. Whenever I watched one of the episodes he’d written, I was always gobsmacked at how he’d trick me into thinking I knew what was going to happen at the end.

It wasn’t long before I tried my hand at writing a few short stories. Like Serling’s stories, they take the reader on a familiar journey to a destination they think they know, but end up taking them somewhere, they never thought existed. As I wrote more and more of these stories, I soon discovered a form of writing where being dyslexic didn’t seem to matter.

However, just as Serling added twists towards the end of his stories and screenplays, I soon found myself comparing myself to the friend who read the last page of a book first. Instead of starting at the beginning of a story, I found myself writing twisted endings first and working backwards to the beginning. Now I find myself doing it all the time.

When I now think back of that friend who read the last page of a book first, I compare her to Rod Serling. Like Serling, she became a hero of mine because I believe she planted the first seeds of ‘endings first’ into my creative, dyslexic mind.

Where do you start when reading a book or writing a piece of fiction or non-fiction? At the beginning, end, or somewhere in-between?

Image showing some straight lines drawn by different coloured pens on a white background

Copyright © 2021 Hugh W. Roberts – All rights reserved.

***

Hugh W. Roberts lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.

Hugh gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping and while out walking his dogs, Although he was born in Wales, he has lived around various parts of the United Kingdom, including London where he lived and worked for 27 years.

Hugh suffers from a mild form of dyslexia but, after discovering blogging, decided not to allow the condition to stop his passion for writing. Since creating his blog ‘Hugh’s Views & News’ in February 2014, he has built up a strong following and now writes every day. Always keen to promote other bloggers, authors and writers, Hugh enjoys the interaction blogging brings and has built up a group of online friends.

His short stories have become well known for the unexpected twists they contain. One of the best compliments a reader can give Hugh is “I never saw that ending coming.”

Having published his first book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016, his second collection of short stories, More Glimpses, was released in March 2019.

A keen photographer, he also enjoys cycling, walking, reading, watching television, and enjoys relaxing with a glass of red wine and sweet popcorn.

Hugh shares his life with John, his civil-partner, and Toby and Austin, their Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

You can follow Hugh’s blog at Hugh’s Views And News.

Saddle Up Saloon; Colleen’s Double Ennead Challenge

Welcome to the Saloon and the first Double Ennead Monthly Poetry Challenge. Every third Monday of the month, I’ll be over here at Carrot Ranch with another double ennead challenge. Each month, we will explore a different theme or image to inspire our poetry. I hope to see you in the Saloon!

The word Ennead means nine, and a double nine is ninety-nine! Carrot Ranch is famous for 99-word flash fiction. Now, the ranch has its own syllabic poetry form written in 99 syllables!

The Double Ennead comprises five lines with a syllable count of 6/5/11/6/5, (33 SYLLABLES per stanza) 3 STANZAS EACH = 99 SYLLABLES, NO MORE, NO LESS! Punctuation and rhyme schemes are optional and up to the poet.

Why write poetry?

When a writer embraces the ability to convey complex images and emotions in just a few lines, they have learned to strengthen their writing. In the same way, flash fiction helps us hone in on the words to tell our story, syllabic poetry does much the same by forcing us to find the best word and meaning. This brevity of words leads to more concise writing.

Syllabic verse is any kind of poetry defined by the number of syllables in each line. In English, syllables must have a vowel sound. For example, the word “apple” has two vowel sounds, which divide it into the syllables “ap” and “ple.” Depending on our accent, we pronounce some words with different accents on the syllables. For example, the word “fire” and “poem” can be read with either one or two vowel sounds.

Always check your syllables with a syllable counter when composing and writing syllabic poetry. The pronunciation of words is very important to conveying a meaning in your poems. You can use sodacoffee.com as a syllable counter. There is also howmanysyllables.com, which is my favorite because you get access to synonyms as you’re composing.

Our Inspiration:

Credit: https://pixabay.com/users/dreamyart

Use the image above to compose your double ennead poem. Remember to count your syllables.

My example follows:

rosy morn, winter kissed—
fields incandescent
bursting with the glory of a brand new day
the wheel of the year turns
another month gone

From the sun's fiery glow
lilac shadows fade
while frost browned grasses sing anthems to the wind
wild black-headed geese soar
far away from home

Beneath the frosty rime
roots tremble with growth,
awaiting the thaw and the warm rains to come
seeds loiter in the depths
dreaming of the spring

©2021 Colleen M. Chesebro

Poetry is based on your perceptions. While I described what I saw in the image, you might feel and interpret the image differently. Follow your inner voice for inspiration.

  • Write a double ennead poem based on the image above.
  • Post it on your blog.
  • Include a link back to this challenge in your post. (copy the https:// address of this post into your post).
  • Read and comment on your fellow poet’s work. Feedback from other poets is how we grow our poetry writing craft.
  • Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so.
  • I’ll visit, comment, and share your poetry on social media!

Now have fun and write some poetry!

To See What You Create!

Substituting

Even with the lead Buckaroo away the writers played. In a quest for added glory, many substituted characters and situations in familiar fairy tales.

Writers responded to the prompt, and normally what would follow would be a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology. Instead it is a flash-salad made of the finest ingredients, amateurishly assembled by a stand-in.

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

Four and Twenty by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The Hunter’s moon rose high as Henry knelt, pulling the pie out of the oven. Dear Liza’d been sent, holey bucket in hand, to gather autumn leaves for decoration. For their 154th anniversary, he’d sworn to make the pie on his own, though Liza was the undisputed expert in finding solutions and substitutions not available in their Ancient Forest home.

Liza returned, bucket in hand, hole fixed, full to the brim with bounty.

The pie steamed and whistled as they sat down to feast.

“Couldn’t find blackbirds, so I substituted bats,” Henry cut the first slice.

“You’re brilliant, Love!”

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Once Upon a Time to Be in the Sward by Bill Engleson 

I will not be me tomorrow.

I have shed my skin.

All that was me.

Though I will no longer be me, I will still be where I am seen.

Others will see me.

Fewer in this time of isolation, I allow.

We have all become less than we once were.

Before the virus, we were the sum total of our world.

We were whom others saw.

And we chose to be seen.

Now, the sward has grown into the sky.

With no skin, I gloriously glide through the sheltered greensward.

I am free to be no longer me.

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Evolutionaries by FloridaBorne

It was said that his ancestors evolved from creatures with thicker legs, smaller beaks, and wings. Their species system of determining height was the ancient wing span, oddly similar to a newly discovered planet. They used yards and meters, but were primitive in comparison. Their males were larger than females, and they were attempting space travel. A planet of savages! On his planet, females were twice the height of a male and they were the rulers. Perhaps Earth’s aberrance and savagery was the reason that he, and the other expendables, were in route to seek and destroy the humans?

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The Stranger by Saifun Hassam

The Cowboy Roy and Maury settled into their sleeping bags around the campfire. It was a moonless night on Twin Horse Plateau. Spurs jangled. Guns in hand, Roy and Maury were instantly alert. Horses whinnied, desperate to cut loose. Roy shot. His bullet flew back pinging his gun! The stranger knocked the terrified Maury’s gun out of his hand. Tall and wiry, the stranger started up the campfire with a flint. His silver metal parts glinted. His voice was cold as a winter’s night. A cowboy at Circle AI, he was a lookout for horse thieves. “Tell me a tall tale.”

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Bear Grease by Ann Edall-Robson

How many batches? She shrugged her shoulders and looked at the failures in the garbage. Once upon a time, she had watched her aunt make these cookies without a recipe. Each pinch and handful of ingredients melded together, resulting in a delicious treat. Why couldn’t she make them from memory? Giving in, she opened the cookbook to the inside back cover. She could feel her face redden as she read her aunt’s instructions. The substitution efforts would have made her aunt laugh. Replacing bear grease with bacon grease and then butter was the culprit? Back to the drawing board!

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Finding Your Prince Charming by Ritu Bhathal

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful Princess, awaiting her Prince Charming. After reading the Find Your Prince self-help book, she tried the Sleeping Beauty, the Snow White, and even the Cinderella. Nothing. Eventually, she decided to use her long hair as she attempted the Rapunzel.

Sitting in her tower, with her golden plait fluttering out of the window, she felt a tug. “Yes! Finally, my Prince is coming!”

More pulling followed by the grunt of her beloved-to-be as he hoisted himself up. Alas, no Prince, just the toothless Palace window cleaner!

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Waking Up by Joanne Fisher

They cut through the hedge of thorns and found a castle full of sleeping figures. They walked up the stairs. There the Princess lay on her bed sleeping soundly. The figure closed in, kissing her on the lips. The spell broken, the Princess abruptly woke up and saw them standing over her.

“I thought a prince was meant to wake me.” She said wide-eyed.

“My brother is away, so I thought I would take care of this.”

“I’ve never been kissed by another girl before.” The Princess stated.

“Is it okay?” The Princess pulled her closer. They kissed again.

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The Tale of the Frog Prince by Goldie

“Five minutes to curtain time,” the director announced. “Dylan won’t be able to make it. You’re up,” he added in passing, as if those words weren’t the most important of my life.

Being Dylan’s understudy never have I thought I would actually get to step in. My palms began to sweat. “A frog transformed by a kiss…” I gulped.

Veronica peeked through the curtain. “I’m nervous,” I thought she said. Her shoulder-length locks were made of gold. Her lips the color of raspberries. A real-life Barbie doll.

“Dylan!” Veronica squealed, lunging towards my nemesis who just walked through the door.

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Prologue: Sunken Submarines: “Atlantis” by Saifun Hassam

The unique mini submersible “SeaSquid” maneuvered into the deep valleys of the Mariana Trench. It was designed to explore regions inaccessible to humans. “SeaSquid” contained an AI brain of digital code and human brain scans. Captain Louisa Verne and cyborg navigation officer Melville were stunned by the digital video camera feed. Supergiant stingray, octopus, and squid swam past “SeaSquid.” Another sign that Earth’s ecosystems were recovering from the intense global warming and freezing of past centuries. In a narrow defile in the Trench, “Seasquid” discovered a spherical titanium object! The sunken submarine “Atlantis” lost more than two centuries ago.

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The Substitute by Marsha Ingrao

Room 12’s door banged behind Natalie.

“We can’t read cursive,” pronounced the linebacker sitting next to her chair.

“Raise your hand, dork.”

“She ain’t Grimes.”

“Raise your hands if you like magic.” Natalie pretended her arm was a wand. Hands lifted. “Can you print?” Natalie asked. Hands swayed like palm trees in a hurricane. “I’m going to turn cursive into printing and back again. Watch. Natalie winked, added connecting strokes, and raised her arms. “Done.”

“It says Miss Conifer, don’t it Teach?” said the giant. “I could do THAT magic.”

That day Ms. Grimes’ special education class learned cursive.

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The Art of Supply Teaching by Jack Leonard

There were three of us that day, waiting in the reception area for the flustered head of department to hand over some hastily cobbled worksheets. The usual crew. A Stephen King lookalike (there the level of interest ended), me and a guy that looked like he had just unicycled his way out of the circus.

Maths. Five classes. Five different visions of the apocalypse. Stephen King went home at lunchtime, unable to cope with the horror. Leaving, I asked unicycle guy, ‘What did you have?’

‘Spent the day making origami pets with them all,’ he laughed, ‘They loved it.’

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American Boarding School by D. Avery

My black hair flutters to the hard plank floor, dead crows windrowed around the stiff boots that bind my feet.

They point at me, repeat a sound.

I tell them my name. Pointing at myself I repeat my name. They beat me.

They point at me, call me that sound, make me say it. The sound is sand in my mouth.

I point at myself. I speak my name. They beat me again.

I say that other name. They smile.

I learn to keep my real name close. I will run with it, will leave their chafing boots behind.

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Shady Characters by JulesPaige

Alice looked up into the tree and saw a golden shiny outline of an insect.

“I was expecting a smile to evolve into the Cheshire Cat, who are you,” she asked?

“I am the shade of a cricket, I once assisted a wooden boy a long time ago, but once he became real he no longer needed me,” the bug sang in a singsong voice.

Alice did not think before she stomped her foot and cried; “But I am a real girl!”

Jiminy sighed. How’d he end up in Wonderland. Maybe Peter’s Neverland would be better? So he vanished.

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Shady Characters (Two) by JulesPaige

Jiminy must have taken a wrong turn at the stars that lead to Neverland. Somehow though the place reminded him of something familiar. Hopefully it wasn’t the Neverland Ranch – That particular Michael never did grow up did he?

Piglet felt a little breeze that made him sneeze. and saw a shimmy shine outline of an insect. And he knew just what to do about faded fairies. You had to clap to give them life! The shade of the cricket solidified. Piglet smiled welcomingly.

“What’s your name?” Piglet asked in his quiet way. “Welcome to Hundred Acre Woods little cricket!”

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The Key by Clinton Siegle

In the trunk there was a journal in Spanish with an English translation attached to it in paper. The travels of Jorge Luis Borges. The book went into absurd detail about how to get into and out of a mirror of reality and the universe itself. There were charms and spells and of course a keyhole for a key in the journal. The exact location of where the journal would take someone was easy to understand. The realization I could use the key found elsewhere to go was intriguing. To be offered the adventure of a lifetime interesting. No?

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Replaced by Anita Dawes

I woke late this morning, feeling less than my usual self.

As if a part of me had run off during the night.

I showered, dressed, tried to hurry.

Walking through the office saying Good Morning with no replies

Had they all become blind?

Patting myself down, the way some people pinch themselves.

Did I do something to be sent to Coventry?

I couldn’t think.

Reaching my desk I could see God knows what.

A shadow that had taken my place, holding my cup of coffee

My colleagues chatting, nothing seemed wrong.

I had been replaced by dust particles…

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The Best Day of Your Life by Goldie

When Rashid told me for the first time that he already drove me that day, I just shrugged it off, but when the same happened a couple of weeks later, I asked him to drive me to where he thought he drove me earlier. That is how I met Aisha – a woman who is not related to me but looks eerily just like me. We thought it would be a fun prank for me to stand-in for her best friend’s wedding. Would they know the difference? I had a blast until one of the groomsmen decided to rape me.

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It Would Be Her by Donna Matthews

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the stupidest of them all?” Carrie thought as she dressed for the day. Yesterday, an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions; she just didn’t know how she would manage the situation today.

Taking a deep breath and straightening her sweater, she rebuked herself for the harsh words earlier. Carrie knew she would figure it out. There was a time, not too long ago, she believed in and desired rescue. The ol’ knights in shining armor kind of fantasy. But no more. If anyone could get out of this jam today, it would be her.

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Special Substitution by Norah Colvin

“Where’s my Burger Special? You promised!”

“Here, sweetie.”

“Burger Specials have chips, not carrot sticks!” The carrot sticks plummeted to the floor.

“I substituted them, hon. Carrot sticks are healthier. We want to be healthy, don’t we?”

A mouthful of half-chewed bun adorned the table. “That’s disgusting!”

“Multi-grain’s healthier. Try some more. You will like it.”

“I don’t want substitutes.” The poorly-disguised plant-based patty frisbeed across the room. The parent hauled the protester from the restaurant.

“You promised Burger Special!”

“You’ll get something special, as soon as we get home.”

“There’s no substitute for proper parenting,” tut-tutted a diner.

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Out of the Mouths of Babes by Sue Spitulnik

At a church dinner, a precocious girl about three appeared at Michael’s side. She looked over the wheelchair then patted his longest leg stump. With total innocence, she asked, “Why don’t you grow new legs like Pinocchio grew a new nose?”

Michael laughed, “Pinocchio didn’t lose his nose like I lost my legs. The nose he had grew longer. A man can’t grow new legs.”

“Why don’t you wear those fake ones I’ve seen you walk on?”

“Because they aren’t good substitutions for my real ones. They make sores on my stumps.”

“Oh. Will you give me a ride.”

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A Deadly Substitution by Sarah Brentyn

“Your Majesty, I beseech you…”

“It is not your place,” the king continued rewrapping tampered-with food parcels. “I’m surprised it’s you who objects.”

“I live for the court,” the jester looked at his pointy shoes mumbling, “and this may bring the end of it.”

“What was that?”

Taking a deep breath, the jester lifted his head, bells on his hat jingling. “The commoners…they will revolt.”

“Nonsense!” The king’s face reddened, softened, and then he laughed. “Ah, another of your jokes.”

The jester cringed. “No joke, Your Majesty. Substituting carob for chocolate… It may be the end of the kingdom.”

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Sometimes a dog is just a dog by Anne Goodwin

A friend’s new puppy steals the show at our Zoom session.
A substitute child.
Mutts a-leaping fracture my thoughts and scare my muse from my morning walk.
A substitute for purpose – a dog’s a god – in aimless times.
Government wags the daily vaccine stats. Opposition barks the death toll.
Their substitute for crisis management: Getting Brexit Done!
Yet Sigmund, whose habit killed him, declared: Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.
Even he succumbed to canine charms eventually and leant on man’s best friend to soothe his aching jaw. The world’s awash with substitutions. So should I get a…?

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Tootin’ Rootin’ No Disputin’

“’Ello dere Pal. Ees Keed here?”
“Pepe LeGume. Long time no smell. Kid’s walkin’ the hog. Did ya happen ta catch this week’s prompt? Kid’s already whinin’ ‘bout the switchin’ an’ substitutin ‘roun here lately.”
“Stub-shit-toot-eeng? I do not know dees word, Pal.”
“Means steppin’ in, temper-arily.”
“Oh, I have stepped in eet before. An’ de air, eet was rank.”
“No, LeGume, fillin’ in.”
“I am a feeller upper Pal. Go beeg or go home, ey?”
“No, fillin’ in fer someone cain’t be there ta do the job themsefs.”
“Pal. Some teengs cannot be stubshittooted. I keed you not.”

🥕🥕🥕

Travel Brings New Knowledge

When you grow up in a small rural town in the Finger Lakes area of New York State as I did, you can hold on to some strange misconceptions because you don’t know any better. When I started moving around the US and the UK as a military wife I learned that dirt isn’t the same wherever you go. In some places, it isn’t even the same color. And the plants that thrived near my childhood home wouldn’t necessarily survive in another location. The same holds for birds. I learned about different backyard songbirds each time I moved. I enjoyed getting acquainted with them and knowing their proper names.

From lack of experience, I also thought food was the same wherever one might travel. If I hadn’t left my home area I wouldn’t have been introduced to Huevos Rancheros, Greek gyros, or jerked chicken served with plantains. I would never have had steak au poivre in a French restaurant in London or enjoyed the beignets that New Orleans is famous for. I wouldn’t have been able to go to a port and buy fresh-caught shrimp from a deep-sea fisherman. I wouldn’t have learned there are many ways to make baked beans other than the way my mother did. Nor would I have been introduced to Yorkshire pudding which is not a dish of cold creamy mousse but what I know as a popover. While living in England familiar foods were called by different names, for example, French fries are chips, and what I call stew is goulash. I like my food, it wasn’t a problem, just another interesting experience.

I was a dependent, a support to my husband, comfortable at home with our little ones. I never had to serve in a war zone or “in the field” where active-duty military members were fed K-rations, or C-rations depending on the time period of service. Stories from veterans about what those rations looked and tasted like can be high spirited with expletives thrown in. I have heard one man say, “They included that tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce and I used it to make whatever I was looking at palatable.” In the reverse, I have heard high praise for the canned cherry cobbler.

The MREs that are in use currently have a better reputation than the rations did according to the people who I know that have eaten them. I include a complete list of what is in the package because I have always wondered how toilet paper gets supplied. (IF you eat, you must go!) It doesn’t sound like a bad meal to me, but I’m not too fussy when it comes to food choices.

QUICK NUTRITION FOR SOLDIERS ON THE GO

GoArmy.com article on MREs

MREs are the main operational food ration for the United States Armed Forces. It originated from the c-rations and k-rations from World War II, and later developed into MCI (Meal, Combat, Individual) rations used in Korea and Vietnam. In 1980 the MRE was developed and is still the U.S. Army’s primary ration.

Generally, an MRE contains the following items:

  • Entree – the main course, such as spaghetti or beef stew
  • Side dish – rice, corn, fruit, or mashed potatoes, etc.
  • Cracker or bread
  • Spread – peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread
  • Dessert – cookies or pound cakes
  • Candy – M&Ms, Skittles, or Tootsie Rolls
  • Beverages – Gatorade-like mixes, cocoa, dairy shakes, coffee, tea
  • Hot sauce or seasoning – in some MREs
  • Flameless Ration Heater – to heat the entree
  • Accessories – spoon, matches, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, toilet paper, etc.

Each MRE provides an average of 1,250 calories (13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 51 percent carbohydrates) and one-third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals. A full day’s worth of meals would consist of three MREs. 

In my Veterans writing group we have discussed food on more than one occasion. Some of the prompts were: tell about a dish you ate in a foreign country, a memorable or holiday meal you had while serving, a unique way of cooking something you were familiar with, or an entree you learned to like though you didn’t expect to. Both of the WWII vets wrote about fresh-made German sausage. While sharing their stories they discovered they had been in the same sausage shop in Europe a few months apart. The owner stood back and watched on both occasions as the Americans took/stole his inventory. The rest of the story is that the shop owner moved to Buffalo, NY, after the war and my friends found out so went to visit him and apologize for their wartime actions. “We were just hungry. We meant him no ill will,” Kurt told us before going to meet the man for the second time. On their return, Bob explained, “We shook hands and passed around the forgiveness.”

When talking with a Korean War vet about his travels, he mentioned kimchi, made the traditional way, in an inground pit. He said the first time he had it he was skeptical, but by the time he returned to the states from Korea he craved it and still does 60 years later. If you don’t know, it is fermented Napa cabbage and radish with a lot of garlic and plenty of spice. I have to be honest, I have never tried it because of the smell. Maybe I’m missing something.

While living in England, we did our major grocery shopping at the base commissary. It was stocked with familiar name brands and the prices were set for the benefit of the American serving overseas. This was during the mid-1970s so fast-food chains like McDonald’s had not yet opened there. The two items we couldn’t wait to get back to the states to ingest were hot dogs and Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Silly I know, but some flavors can’t be replaced or reproduced in my kitchen. Now I would love to be able to go to an English Chippy for some deep-fried, battered Rockfish and malt vinegar covered chips wrapped together in butcher paper.

Are there any types of food have you been introduced to while traveling and wish you could have again? Use the comments section to share where you’ve been and what type of food played a part in making your memories.

Sue Spitulnik was an Air Force wife who stays connected to the military/veteran community through her membership in the Rochester (NY) Veterans Writing Group. The group has recently published an anthology of some of their military experiences, United in Service, United in Sacrifice, available on Amazon. If you would like to contact her directly you can do so at her blog, susansleggs.com

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