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July 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

The Ranch is open, but I’m on hiatus at the southern edge of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The unpaved backroads, hilly terrain, links of lakes and ponds, woods, and the Green Mountains disorient me and yet feel familiar. Several times, going around a bend or glimpsing the humps of ancient wooded mountains, I have anticipated a memory, experienced the feeling of recall only to remember I’ve never been here before.

As if that’s not surreal enough, I’m driving around in D. Avery’s truck. I’ve met her mom at the Juedevine Library where we introduced Wrangling Words in 99 words to Vermonters. I had a beer with her brother at the local American Legion where he’s a big mucky-muck very important person. I fed her dad’s chickens and survived a jaunt through the woods when her friend, a local librarian at the Craftsbury Library, said the trail was how to get there. I’ve never hiked through the woods across a mountain ridge to get to a literary event but, hey, I’m game!

Right now, D. has Vermont beans in a crockpot and is visiting with JulesPaige across camp on Greenwood Lake. She baked sourdough buns, and I made a green salad with tarragon dressing, using honey Jules brought from Pennsylvania. We are waiting for Ann Edall-Robson to arrive from Canada and Susan Sleggs from New York.

Pinch me. I’m living the dream of Some Day.

Some Day I was going to lead a nature writing retreat, call it a refuge because it would be a place to rest the writer’s soul and fill up the creative mind. The Refuge, like the Ranch, would be a safe space to explore Writing Dreams, and further craft, platform, and publishing while learning from the Nature Writing Greats who have influenced me over the years. I wanted to be like Annie Dillard or Wallace Stegner and have a special place from where I could write and inspire others to do so, too.

Greenwood Lake is D.’s special place, and she’s sharing. We had a day of getting to know each other, a day to build trust. The next day we played out loud going to the center of a waterfall, witnessing loon choreography, chasing loons and herons in kayaks, chatting up lake neighbors, and discovering mysteries in old cemeteries. I can imagine a young D. accompanying an uncle as he researched their old family ties here, running off and finding a curious obelisk. I can picture her opening the metal cover on the side, surprised to find a mirror inside. The mirror is gone but not the memory.

Lots of things did not happen before I stepped onto the plane to come here — I’m still waiting on final word with home and MFA. But never mind. I’ve come to the Kingdom, and it’s time to focus on that Some Day and share this Refuge, get it going to become an annual event. We welcome Ranchers tonight, including as koala proxy standing in for Norah Colvin. She also sent us treats and sparkling notebooks. Perfect for the realm.

Collections are going to back up as I’m on hiatus, but I will return to “home” by the 24th when D. and I are reading from last week’s responses to the microhistories. Thank you for joining us in that activity! I’ll return after that with good news and catch up with each of you and publish the collections (last week and this one). Because of my time away, I’m setting up the July 11 prompt to have an extended two-week deadline. I hope you have fun with it!

July 11, 2019, prompt: “My kingdom for a koala!” In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a koala in a kingdom. You can create a character out of Norah’s koala and give it a Vermont adventure. Or you can make up a story however you want! Can you pull off a BOTS (based on a true story)? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 23, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Koala in the Kingdom by Charli Mills

Koala jangled plastic hips when the morning sun hit her solar panels. She danced with a big grin while three loons circled in a pattern like a watery Celtic knot. She guarded the birding binoculars from her book perch beneath wildflowers. Koala stood in a mound of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, watching the Lead Buckaroo sneak bites when she was supposed to be fixing dinner. Koala smiled when the card from her Australian writer connected the gathered Ranchers from the Kingdom to Down Under. In 99-words, no more, no less, Koala bore witness to literary art and writerly friendships.

July 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

This morning I prepared and consumed the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. I had left-over white bread to feed hungry house-painters and satisfy a seven-year-old boy. I chose right — the first sandwich I made for my grand-nephew K, I asked which bread he’d like, offering him the choice of whole wheat, sourdough, or white. “Normal bread,” he said. Yep. White bread.

I remember being seven-years-old and new to downhill skiing. We had recently moved to the Sierra Nevada mountains from the California coastal mountains surrounding old land-grant ranchos, buckaroos, and vineyards. We didn’t ski in San Benito County, but having been born into a horse culture, I found my balance readily (and later in life, lost it). You can learn more about why my school had us kids on skis at Norah Colvin’s new series, School Days, where she interviews writers to reminisce about formative educational experiences. When I discovered skiing, I also discovered American cheese.

American cheese, mayonnaise, and Wonderbread (a step below white bread in nutrition, in fact, it might not be bread but a 1970s cheap filler food). At home, we typically had sourdough bread or sandwich rolls, salami, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeno pickles. If we had cheese, it was most likely Monterey Jack. Sometimes, we’d have Tillamook Cheddar from Oregon. When we went skiing, we had those American cheese sandwiches, and to this day, they taste like The Best Day.

Problem is, once grown I realized American cheese sandwiches slathered with mayo on the bread with the least food nutrition value are not the healthiest choices. Lots of food I remember from the ’70s are best forgotten — eating powered Jell-o from the box, Tab soda, Suzy Qs, new potatoes in a can, Velveeta macaroni, and cheese, chipped beef from a jar, Vienna sausages, and pop rocks. But once in a blue moon, I’d fix my kids a grilled cheese sandwich, using my American cheese sandwich ingredients and frying it all in butter.

Let the holiday be my excuse. It’s Independence Day in America, and I splurged on American cheese. Tonight, I’ll go sit on the shores of Lake Superior in Eagle River, listen to local bands, drink Shorts Beer, and wait for the long dusk to darken enough for fireworks. The Hub doesn’t mind fireworks at all, in fact, he prefers to be the one lighting them off. But combat PTSD doesn’t always look like what the media tells us. Fireworks can and do trigger many veterans and pets. Others get excited. It’s good to be aware of those in your own circle of contact. Isolation can be a greater danger. Check on your veteran neighbors, make sure they are not alone.

Tonight, I’ll watch for ships on Lake Superior, using the marine traffic map and my binoculars. Every year, I wonder what it must be like to be on a Great Lake freighter, seeing fireworks blast from towns and celebrations along the shoreline. And that is the direction I’m steering this week’s prompt. This collection will be included in a live literary event at Fort Wilkins on July 25 when D. Avery joins me in reading 99-word stories. We’ll focus on Copper Country history, drawing from past collections and creating some new material this week.

It’s a different kind of prompt but still, flash storytelling. I hope you will stretch your creativity and lend a voice to this upcoming event.

On the home-front, we are nearing completion. The bankers and their blasted extended holiday mean no closing tomorrow. The title company is going out of their way to meet with the Hub and me on Saturday so I can sign papers because I’m flying to Vermont during our closing on Monday. If the bank fails to get the paperwork over to the title company during off hours, I’ll have to sign a power of attorney for the Hub to sign on my behalf. Other than the final messy frays, it’s looking good. Better than our patchwork paint job, but it passed the inspection, and that’s what matters. Almost home!

This week, history meets literary art. Keweenaw National Historic Park is all about the history of a place — the Keweenaw Peninsula. The National Park Service has a collection of microhistories, the stories of individuals, on their website. Our 99-word stories will use these microhistories as the prompt and will be included in a public reading at Fort Wilkins on July 25 by D. Avery and me. Join us in the fun!

July 4, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using your choice of microhistory from Keweenaw National Historic Park. Be historical, funny, or flagrantly fictional. Choose a character, time, place, or event. Be as creative as you want in telling the story (for those doing serials, how can you meld this into your own storyline?). Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 9, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

The Old Ramona (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Big Annie wrapped the American flag around her shoulders like a shawl to march with striking copper miners,” Danni explained.

Ramona frowned at the old photo. It was part of Danni’s Keweenaw collection where she had earned her master’s in industrial archeology. Before she met Ike in Idaho. Ramona used to relish stories about Big Annie who rallied the miners and spent time in jail in 1913. Now, Ike’s grandmother glared.

“Shouldn’t disgrace the flag that way,” she said.

Ramona left the room and Danni sagged. She missed Ike in Iraq more than ever. She missed the old Ramona.

Paint

Color me something new, something bold. Color over the mistakes and past regrets. Pick up a brush and paint bold strokes, flashy colors. This is a time to refresh.

Writers met the challenge with colorful stories full of emotion, surprise, horror and humor. All the paint cans opened to reveal a rainbow collection.

The following are based on the June 27, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves paint.

PART I (10-minute read)

Charli’s Starlings by Chelsea Owens

No one knew where the starlings came from. One day, the sidewalks and light posts and old brick buildings were bare; the next, they were scattered with flight.

Up and down Shelden Avenue elderly friends stopped their morning walk and children pointed and pulled at parents’ pants.

Winged, irridescent forms swooped up a wall. Yellow-beaked stills observed from flower pots. A proud male perched atop an awning.

Passersby soon realized that, lifelike as the birds were, they existed solely as pictures. For one woman, that mattered little.

She kissed her paint-stained fingertips in fond farewell, turned, and headed home.

🥕🥕🥕

Three Mistakes by Tony Amore

“The first mistake,” he says, “is not loading your brush with enough paint.” Nodding, I steady the ladder as my father works deep blue where wall meets vaulted ceiling.

“The second is pulling and dragging,” he looks down gauging how much attention is being paid Glasses perched at the edge of his nose; a bead of sweat hanging there. “Push into the space where the wall meets the ceiling,” he insists. “Push don’t pull.”

He teeters and jerks slapping a blue smudge across pure whiteness. Dabbing it with a damp rag, he notes the third is not being tall.

🥕🥕🥕

Paint on a Smile by Richard Dee

Mom used to say, “whatever life throws at you, paint on a smile and get on with it.”

Easy to say. Not so easy to do. Stood in front of the mirror, eyes blackened from too many tears, the memories still fresh, the smell of him not yet gone.

“C’mon,” the voice of Mom had been replaced by the voice I knew so well. “I’m not here and staying in won’t bring me back.”

I opened the drawer, the paint was all there, in bottles and tubes.

I had his blessing; it was time to face the world again.

🥕🥕🥕

Perfect Paint Product by Tien Skye

I looked at the botched paint job. I could have hired professionals but I insisted on doing it myself. I started scrapping away at the paint and started sobbing.

“What are you doing, son?”

“That was a lousy paint job and I just want to repaint it!”

He frowned as he processed my blubbering. “You want to repaint the entire wall because of that small mistake? Besides, the table goes there and it will cover up that section.”

“I want a perfect job! I just can’t let it go!”

He stared at me for a moment. “Can’t? Or won’t?”

🥕🥕🥕

Paint by Pete Fanning

Painting with my son is messy. Mom makes him put on too-small clothes. I change too. Once we’re sufficiently hideous, it’s to the backyard—to whatever we’ve thrown together from pallets I’ve brought home. Birdhouses, treasure boxes, last time I built a planter.

We slap it on thick, until paint is slathered on our knees and we’re picking it from our fingers. I try to teach him to go with the grain of the wood, but my son is an against-the-grain type of guy.

I like that about him. He’s not afraid to make mistakes.

He’s taught me so much.

🥕🥕🥕

Challenge Accepted by Ruchira Khanna

“I dare you!” he said with a snort and arms on his hips.

“I accept the challenge!”

Now ‘have to wait for the right moment!

Soon sleep encroached my athletic brother who had come home after playing a game of soccer in the scorching sun.

I was quick to collect my mom’s cosmetics and tiptoe in his room, and the process of painting started.

I painted the foundation gently on his tanned face with a brush; created a mole on his left upper lip with a liquid eyeliner; the Cindy Crawford style! Then concluded with painting, his lips red.

🥕🥕🥕

Natural Beauty by Susan Sleggs

The bride stared at herself in the hotel room mirror, horrified. Her soon-to-be mother-in-law had insisted they go for a makeover. They had their hair painted with highlights and their faces painted to clown level, or so the bride felt as she never wore make-up. She and her fiancé were naturalists, working and playing in the wilderness.

The door flew open, her benefactress strode in and handed her make-up removal towelettes. “My insistence you look like me was wrong. I apologize; we have enough time to get you back to natural, how my son loves you.”

“Thank you. Mom.”

🥕🥕🥕

White Washing by Sally Cronin

One angry brush stroke at a time, the old man painted across the words on his neighbour’s garden gate,

They were a lovely family, who had been kind to him since they been granted asylum three years ago, and moved in next door. Having recently lost his wife he had been lonely, but they invited him in each Sunday for dinner, did his shopping when he was ill and the father often popped around for a chat after work.

The least he could do in return was to white wash over this mean spirited graffiti before they discovered it.

🥕🥕🥕

A Green Field by JulesPaige

In the room she never wanted, in the house too far from friends, Essie was allowed to paint one wall. It didn’t make up for not being included in what should have been a family decision. At least that’s how she saw it. So she took her time with her artistic eye spreading green.

To add insult to injury, Essie’s father was impatient that his youngest was taking so long. “It’s not rocket science,” he shouted!

Knowing that Essie would never win, all she could do was plot her escape. In the room that would now be her sanctuary.

🥕🥕🥕

Art Class 101—Portrait Painting by Norah Colvin

The task completed, he took a fresh sheet of paper and sketched the teacher with an enormous warty chin and hair sprouting like an unravelling steel wool pad. He added her name and then, with a flourish, his. He nudged his neighbour whose stifled guffaws drew attention. When the teacher investigated, only the task was visible.

Behind the papers, the portrait remained forgotten at class end. Until discovered by the teacher.

Later, having no satisfactory explanation, he was sentenced to weeks of lunchtimes painting bricks.

Years later, when he was a famous cartoonist, they delighted in telling his story.

🥕🥕🥕

The Girl on the Bridge by TN Kerr

Stavo picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder
the cans rattled together, they shifted in the sack
Tonight he carried mostly blues, greens, yellows, and greys
He took the path through the park, from his van to the bridge

His canvas was already chosen so he promptly set to work
Shaking each can before use
Ducking down as cars passed
He painted a portrait of Caledonia

The young girl with colourful corkscrew hair and full, lush lips

He never sold his work
Just put it out- to be loved or hated
By whoever happened across it

🥕🥕🥕

The Muse by Pratibha

It did not surprise me anymore, this struggle between holding on and letting go. It has started recently, but I had felt myself giving it more thought with every stroke. It was his doing; I wanted to scream but did not want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he could provoke me.

I stepped back to look at the painting.

Earlier, I was bolder in colors and the grandness of the scenes, while he taught me to add the details. The muse had become the teacher I was not ready to please. He still demanded it all.

🥕🥕🥕

Paint by Anita Dawes

I’m ten years old; it’s the middle of Summer.
My father gives me a bucket of whitewash,
a large paintbrush, telling me to paint the front fence.
The only thing on my mind is the cool blue lake, my friends waiting.
That’s where I should be. Not being used like a work horse
I’m a kid; I need fun before I’m old.
I stood in front of our fence, trying to make my arm work,
then it came to me.
Give everyone something to talk about.
Paint a lake scene.
Dad wondered why folk were looking at our fence…

🥕🥕🥕

Painting Clouds by Colleen Chesebro

I measured the pigments into the old jelly jar using an ancient long handled spoon used only for my spell casting rituals. Slowly, I dribbled rain water from the last storm into the vessel and stirred with a clockwise motion. My eyes snapped shut as the colors swirled behind my lids pulsing with a life energy that desired recognition.

The contents of the jar spewed forth in a magnificent arc of light gracefully materializing into the shape of a rainbow – a manifestation of the divine. I smiled, content to paint the clouds with the stuff dreams are made of.

🥕🥕🥕

Painting the Butterflies by Anne Goodwin

On the fifth day, God created the birds and beasts. But, as midnight loomed, he still hadn’t started on the invertebrates, so he delegated them to the angels. The angels, however, were too ham-fisted to paint the delicate wings of the moths and butterflies, so they handed over the brushes and paint pots to the elves. All the colours of the spectrum, apart from dark green, which ran out painting the rainforest on the third day. It was a minute to midnight when they checked God’s list, which is why the dark green fritillary is primarily orange and black.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s Not About The Paint by Geoff Le Pard

‘You decorating, Logan?’

‘I was fed up with the colour.’

‘I always thought it was one of those pretentious ‘white with a hint of snot’ thingies.’

‘It was Forest Dapple.’

‘You’re kidding? Which bit of that “yesterday’s cappuccino” effect was forest and which dapple?’

‘You’re right, it was just brown. Now it’s Sunshine Glory.’

‘Yellow?’

‘But a really deep and inspiring yellow that speaks to love and harmony.’

‘Sort of lemony, then?’

‘Why don’t you decorate your flat rather than scoff.’

‘I plan to, tonight but I’m going much bigger than my flat.’

‘Yeah?’

‘I’m painting the town red.’

🥕🥕🥕

Evening by Joanne Fisher

“Let’s go out tonight and paint the town red!” exclaimed Zana.

Krystal smiled. When Zana mentioned painting the town red, she sometimes meant it literally, given her proclivities.

“You planning to go out and have fun, or go on a killing spree again?” Krystal asked.

“The two aren’t mutually exclusive.” Zana pointed out.

“Yes, but killing loads of people ends up being rather messy doesn’t it? Maybe we should just stay in and order some room service.” Krystal suggested.

“Now that’s a great idea! The staff here look very tasty!” said Zana enthusiastically.

Krystal rolled her eyes and sighed.

🥕🥕🥕

Paint Chips by Bill Engleson

“They look–so colourful.”

“Thank’s. That’s precisely the reaction we’ve been seeking. Try a few.”

“There’s quite a selection, isn’t there? Its hard to choose.”

“They look appealing, don’t they? That’s all a result of our community consultation. Our WORLD consultation, really.”

“The world, huh?”

“Our oyster, so to speak. From the get-go, we were out to corner the market.”

“Wow! Ambitious! And all of it based on a person’s colour personality?”

“You betcha. Very scientific. The four key elements, earth, air, fire, water, the primary colours, our magnificent colour wheel…”

“Yet, they’re just potato chips?”

“Crunchy, colourful and delicious.”

🥕🥕🥕

Independence Paint by Frank Hubeny

The hot afternoon brought a sinister cloud extending across the western horizon that painted the sky behind it dark. From the distance of our heroes on Earth they could not estimate its speed, but they knew it would be upon them at any moment.

“That is the largest alien vessel I have ever seen! It covers the sky.”

“It’s a storm cloud. We need to reach shelter before the downpour.”

“It’s part of the rebellion to liberate the universe from the evil empire. They want our planet as a base of operations.”

“I hope not.”

Then the aliens landed.

🥕🥕🥕

Paints of Peace by H.R.R. Gorman

“Dance well.” I stroke my fingers across my son’s cheeks, drawing symbols to praise the creator. “Please the gods and praise their creation.” The white paint of peace applied, I clean my fingers then swirl them in a blue paint made of crushed berries and buffalo fat. This will remain smooth through the day while the white clay cracks and falls. I hope my paints strengthen him throughout the ceremony.

“It is excellent, mother.” My son in his ceremonial clothing exits the tent.

A white soldier frowns and, through the translator, growls, “Why are you painted up for war?”

🥕🥕🥕

Home to Say Goodbye by Kay Kingsley

I sat and let out the exhale I’d been holding in for years. Coming back home didn’t mean I had a home to come back to. It’s not like it was, anyhow. My parent’s death shattered our family scattering us kids, we abandoned the only home we’d known.

Quietly she called at first, then stronger, she beckoned.
In two weeks, eminent domain would swallow her whole and I think she needs to grieve, we both do. So, we visit in the sun as I scratch at her paint flakes and thank her for calling me home to say goodbye.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute  read)

The Interview by The Dark Netizen

Thank you sir, for agreeing to do this interview.

“That’s okay. Let’s get on with it.”

Sure, sir. Before beginning, any message for your fans?

“It’s just a medium I’m adding. I’ve always spoken to my fans through my paintings.”

Of course. They are definitely most expressive. What is the secret behind your unusually emotive paintings?

“It’s the water I use.”

Wow! Is it imported from a secret place?

“Imported? No. My tears give my paint their magic. Earlier, when I was a poor nobody, they were tears of sadness. Today, they are tears of joy and satisfaction…”

🥕🥕🥕

Born This Way by Tina Stewart Brakebill

What would he say when he saw them? Sparkly and pink, they matched her t-shirt and her lip gloss. Or would have, if she’d been brave enough to wear lip gloss. Baby steps. That’s her plan. Painted nails today. Maybe painted lips next week.

What was she so afraid of? She needed to live her true life. She needed to tell him! And she would. Soon.

Still, she remembered his menacing tone before last year’s talent show. “No son of mine is going to strut around like a painted whore!”

So, less Britney. And more … what?

Baby steps.

🥕🥕🥕

Pretty in Pink by Annette Rochelle Aben

I had never had my nails done professionally. But since I was now a female business executive, who did a lot of public speaking, it was suggested that I spruce up the ends of my fingers.

The nail tech was chatty and did a great job! We chose a bright shade of deep pink polish and everything was perfect.
She admonished me to use the side of my finger to open my car door, lest I break the new nails.

Sheepishly, I walked back into the salon a few minutes later. Smiling, she said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

🥕🥕🥕

House Painting 101 by Nancy Brady

Julia always liked bold, bright colors, and she was tired of having walls of cream, beige, or off-white year after year. Just this once, she and her husband picked jewel tone colors for their new home.

The living room was now midnight blue; the kitchen, burgundy, and the bedrooms, cypress green; even the den was turquoise. Still, the baseboards were painted white to match the ceilings.

Their friends and family were shocked by the boldness. “How will you ever be able cover over the paint? If you decide to sell the house?”

“We won’t,” they said. “Our heirs will.”

🥕🥕🥕

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time by Liz HusebyeHartmann

We’d started with a couple buckets of ice blocks, and another couple with dried ice. These’d cool down the backyard while creating thick fog in our North Minneapolis back yard. Full sun, tropical temps; we’d lost a bar bet around nude sunbathing in a semi-public place.

Friends showed up to gloat, but brought their own buckets of ice…and craft beer. We decided to paint our side of Mrs. McCready’s ugly adjoining fence, Tom Sawyer style. Fog to cover from neighbors’ prying eyes, ice to keep things cool. Brilliant!

Seemed like a good idea …

Wish we’d remembered sunblock.

🥕🥕🥕

Paint and Bells (Part I) by D. Avery

Marge leaned down to speak with Ilene through the rolled down window of the El Camino.

“I’m heading out to get some paint.”

“Hop in Marge, I’ll drive.”

Marge’s maneuver was more of a plop than a hop but she did fit herself into the El Camino.

“I was headed to the hardware store myself, Marge. Wedding supplies.”

“Won’t be any wedding until I’ve finished painting the boys’ handiwork.”

“Painting. Just a letter switch away from waiting.”

“That’d be wainting, wordsmith.”

“Wainting– when one wants and waits and wants to wait at the same time; wainting. A dreadful condition.”

🥕🥕🥕

Paint and Bells (Part II) by D. Avery

“What’s going on Marge? You taking your Paxil?”

“This is a big change, Ilene.”

“Marrying the man you’ve been living with? Marge, nothing’s going to change except that you’ll make Ernest so happy.”

“Will Mr. Biggs be happy if I don’t take his last name? That’s a change. Ilene, I’ve been Small my whole life.”

Ilene looked sidelong at her friend. Marge was contorted on the bench seat that was pulled forward so that Ilene could reach the controls.

“Hyphenate, both of you. Small-Biggs, Biggs-Small…Marge, it’s all good. And if you want, I’ll help paint.”

“Waint that be nice.”

🥕🥕🥕

Paint and Bells (Part III) by D. Avery

“Jeez, Ilene, put the seat back so I can get out.”

Ilene was already out and taking measurements the El Camino bed. “Oops, sorry Ms. Small, I forgot you’re too Biggs for this vehicle.”

“Only when you have the seat crammed into the dashboard, Ms. Higginbottom. Let me drive on the way back. What’s with the measuring?”

“You put me in charge of decorating. You’ll have to wait and see.”

While Marge got her paint Ilene picked up a rectangular blow-up kiddie pool. She would transform the El Camino into the largest beer cooler the gang had ever seen.

🥕🥕🥕

Repainted Landscape by Ann Edall-Robson

It had been two years, but Tal remembered the day vividly. A wall of smoke and flames coming towards the ranch. Neighbours banding together to do what they could before everyone was told to leave. And then the wind changed in their favour.

Tal stood beside his horse looking out over the valley at the still visible aftermath of that raging firestorm. The healing shades of green across the land accentuated the shards of brown-black. Haunting sentinels of burned trees left behind with the scorched fencing. The blatant reminder of Mother Nature’s power to repaint her landscape, anytime.

🥕🥕🥕

Dream House by tracey

She felt like Myrna Loy in “Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House” as she recited paint colors to the contractor.

“I am still figuring out my office”, she confessed. It felt terribly important to get the color exactly right in the room she would spend the most time in.

Since she couldn’t even narrow down a color family she was going by name now. She wanted something literary like ‘Writer’s Retreat’ or ‘Chapter and Verse’.

She flipped through the paint chips and read ‘All Your Dreams’. The palest of pinks, more of a rosy cream. Her future in paint.

🥕🥕🥕

A Coat of Paint by Abhijit

There was agreement that the room needed a fresh coat of paint. Disagreement was on the choice of color. Daughter wanted a pink color. Mother wanted a yellow or a white, a color that was bright. Father preferred green, the color of almighty, but also a wanted consensus. As controller of purse string, father had hoped that his wish would prevail.

Time passed. Consensus eluded. Father passed away. Daughter got a job and moved to a different city. Property changed hand.

Today, standing before the brightly painted two storey building, their old home, the memory of earlier times flashed.

🥕🥕🥕

Protest in Paint by Floridaborne

I loved my home on a half acre in the rolling hills of North Carolina with a fenced-in yard. It was 1979, and hubby did his job so well, they didn’t need him any longer.

It was easy for an engineer to find another job, and our home sold in a month, but the cost of housing in Wisconsin gave us few choices. At that time, homeowner’s associations were not common. We didn’t know until the day of the signing that we couldn’t have a fence.

In protest, I painted my home psychedelic green. It glowed in the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

New Paint by Joanne Fisher

“Has he gone colour blind?” My aunt asked.

We had just pulled up at my dad’s house and seen the new paint job. His entire house was now a rather shocking turquoise colour. A colour I had never liked. Still it had always been his favourite, and I wondered why.

I was now living in Christchurch so it had been a few months since I had seen the house, and now the entire family was coming here for Christmas. They ended up being as mortified as we were.

Dad was his usual self and dismissed our opinions with kindness.

🥕🥕🥕

Golden Snowdrops by Valerie Fish

It said on the tin ‘Golden Snowdrops’; he said it looks like vomit.

Painting a room two weeks away from your due date is no bundle of fun, making me feel nauseous, and last night hadn’t helped.

I’d been nagging him for weeks to decorate the nursery, when I dared to mention it again yesterday, I should have known what was coming…

‘Why can’t you do it?’ he bellowed. ‘You’ve nothing better to do now you’re home all day.’

Then the punch came.

I fear for myself and my unborn baby.

Tomorrow I’ll go and get some more paint.

🥕🥕🥕

War Paint by Deborah Lee

Caroline peers over Jane’s shoulder at Jane’s reflection in the mirror, her breath hot. “Why doll yourself up?” she says. “You’re not going to find a boyfriend here.”

Janes snaps the compact shut. “I’m not here for a boyfriend. I’m here because it’s my job.”

The restroom door slams shut as Caroline huffs out. One step closer to fired, Jane thinks.

It’s not a job, it’s a war zone. War zones require war paint. Magical protection: It’s not blush, it’s a shield. Transformation: Look like who you want them to think you are.

Maybe she should buy some woad.

🥕🥕🥕

Something Different (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Want some paint for that brush?” Danni smiled, remembering. Her brushing a mammoth tusk, Ike standing at the edge of the mud with his fishing pole. The first time they met.

A wet nose nudged her hand while she cleaned shards and the paint brush flew from her grip. It dropped to the concrete of the barn floor. “Det, you are a pesky hound.” She patted the dog and picked up the brush. Maybe she should paint.

If Ike wanted to do something different, then she would too. Danni left for the hardware store to pick out cheerful yellows.

🥕🥕🥕

Meditations by Sascha Darlington

There’s meditation in painting. The up-and-down strokes whether with a brush or a roller. Up and down.

I didn’t tell my family Scott left me.

Cornflower blue, up and down.

They never liked him, although they pretended, because that’s what you do for family.

Apply masking tape around baseboard. Paint the baseboard: white.

“You’re family’s overwhelming. You’re overwhelming.”

I use a smaller brush, which takes longer without the mess.

I still hear the slam of the screen door, the Metallica song wailing over his car speakers when he started the engine: “Nothing Else Matters.”

Stroke.

He won’t be back.

🥕🥕🥕

War Paint by Kelley Farrell

Lilli plopped two tubes of lipstick down in front of her mother.

“Red for strength and energy.” Her mom admired the purple tube and cherry red lipstick.

“Black to signal you’ve been here before.” At this her mother frowned.

“You know I don’t like you wearing black lipstick.” Lilli rolled her eyes and huffed.

“Mom, I really think black lipstick is the least of the problems here. Besides, you need war paint to show the cancer who’s boss.”

Lilli’s mom tucked the black tube into her pocket.

“I’ll just keep this with me … to show the cancer who’s boss.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gardeners by Saifun Hassam

The garden shed was Tanya’s canvas. In summer she painted twining tea roses on one wall. In fall giant bronze chrysanthemums sprawled across another wall. In winter she painted pine needles and acorns on the back. In spring her neighbor Vinnie helped her scrub and wash the walls. She painted pink and purple hyacinths near the door and planned another season of flowers.

Vinnie brought fresh veggies from his garden and Tanya made his favorite casseroles. Their children said they should marry. Vinnie and Tanya grinned. They were seventy, great garden buddies and loved those casseroles. Leave it that.

🥕🥕🥕

Smile! by Di @ pensitivity

In our first house, we were fed up with grey walls in our lounge, so decided to buy a large tin of white emulsion and a colour syringe to tone it down a bit when we decorated.

As it turned out, one syringe didn’t do very much to the white so we added another, stirred it all together and set to.

We couldn’t have matched the original colour better if we’d tried. The only difference was the large smiley miley we’d put on the wall behind the stairs before starting which still showed through when the lights were on.

🥕🥕🥕

Anhalonium by Kenneth Cahall

At night, Devin painted abstracts. Once, I sat sipping coffee watching him paint. I asked about the unusual smell of his paint. He told me he’d added peyote for that nuclear test site green color and laughed.

His laughter continued but his mouth wasn’t moving. Then Devin, his painting, everything in the living room floor slammed into me. Now Devin and I were in his painting. We could see it in the mirror across the room: Devin holding his paint brush, me holding my coffee mug.

“I like this one better than your others,” I admitted.

“Thanks,” said Devin.

🥕🥕🥕

A Painted Poem by Susan Zutautas

I had a picture painted in my mind

But where was I going to find

Someone who completed me

To give them my hearts key

Then one night

My heart took flight

Meeting you, such a delight

I want to paint you a picture in a poem

How long it was, how long I roamed

To find a person that would love me

One who wanted to spend an eternity

The night I met you I started a new life

One year later we became husband and wife

Thirty-two years have now passed

Baby it has been a blast

🥕🥕🥕

Painting Passion by Ritu Bhathal

“Mrs Smith, you can come and sit over here.”

I put my book into my bag and sat at the chair indicated by the technician.

“What are we doing today, Mrs Smith?” She smiled at me, awaiting my answer.

“I’d like my nails painted please, Jemima.”

I chose my colour, a deep red, always my favourite.

Red, the colour of passion

Apt for our date night.

It had been a long time since we’d been out together, as a couple.

Usually, it was all about the children, but tonight was for us.

Time needed, to keep the romance alive.

🥕🥕🥕

Standing in It by D. Avery

“What’s goin’ on Kid? Why’s all the furniture out here on the porch?”

“Stop right there, Pal. Don’t come in. I decided ta pitch in an’ hep Shorty spruce up the ranch. Decided ta paint the floor of the bunkhouse.”

“Oh, yeah, thet looks real good, Kid. Looks like yer almost finished, too. Jist thet there corner left.”

“It’s gonna be awhile, gittin’ this bit finished.”

“Thet’s ‘cause yer standin’ in it, Kid. Ya done painted yersef inta a corner. Reckon you’ll be waitin’ on the paint ta dry.”

“Yep. Reckon they’s worse things ta have ta wait on.”

🥕🥕🥕

June 27: Flash Fiction Challenge

Everything is happening too quickly and not fast enough.

It’s the energy of the tail end of a comet after a near miss with planet earth. It’s the spin of a car that comes to rest without striking the tree. It’s ducking the claws of an owl. It’s that moment when disaster passes. Back up to the heartbeat before when catastrophy or near-misses are both yet possible. That’s what my life feels like right now.

I don’t know the outcome. In my bones, I feel hopeful. I’m the seal hunter on the ice shelf, ready to provide but not fully understanding the impact of melting ice. I raise my spear to strike. The shelf can collapse, or I can return to my village with the first food since the long winter. I’m so close to having a home, I can see it rising from the blowhole.

But the ice — the unknowns — don’t always favor the bold. If you really want to be happy, don’t have expectations. Don’t be the hunter whose happiness depends upon getting the seal. In fact, go back and order a shipment of food from Amazon drones and settle. Settle for what is, quit fighting for what could be better. No, that’s not right. Hunt. Go after your purpose, your dreams, your desire. Have wild expectations. Encounter both joy and sorrow.

The baby birds died. The home loan got delayed. And Sgt Mills says no way are we building a starling nest box. It’s times like these I’m reminded that it’s messiest before the end. Every fresh start needs an ending. Every hunter needs something to go after and bring back. Failure is imminent. Death happens. But life begs to be lived in a big way.

Did I think last week was hard? I hadn’t encountered this week, yet. Is the universe giving me some crazy unexpected mid-term exam? Do I really want a home? Pouring over 2017 taxes so I can complete FASFA to start my MFA, I don’t know how we made it. The breakdowns. The miles. We traveled over 7,000 miles to get to the Keweenaw. Our expenses almost tripled what my income was. I hadn’t baked in three years.

Sunday I made a zucchini cake. Chocolate zucchini cake with dark chocolate chips. Why not? Go big or go home. Home is my aim, my focus, my consumption at the moment. The world hinges on home. I baked because seven local writers were coming over to Roberts Street for a writing workshop. I changed the venue, so I could live the dream — to have a workshop in my own home. I had the dishes, the couch, the desk, and a pan for baking. Three years, and I felt inept making batter.

But it turned out. The cake, the workshop, having writers in my home! Almost home.

And then Monday came with the VA’s review of the appraiser’s report. We thought we were ready. We were not. No peeling paint. None. And we also needed to repair a damaged storm window and install a safety rail in the garage above the ramp into the basement. I looked up the codes cited in the VA Lender’s Handbook, a 622-page reference. It even covered economic hardship — that painting would not be waived if it created an impossibility.

And it did. On Monday, my daughter picked me up to help plant flowers at her place. She explained that she and her husband were not able to make the extra repairs due to time and finances, that we would have to pay for them ourselves or wait until after her husband’s summer jobs and her trip to France. Last week was waiting, and I was beyond waiting. I had already taken bids earlier that day, and the work would cost several thousand dollars.

Feeling disappointed beyond words, I helped her plant, blood, and tears spilling down my face.

“Mom, you have soil on your forehead.” It wasn’t; it was blood from a black fly, the tyrants of the north that only live three weeks but can cause terrible bites. She told me this wasn’t like before.

I re-read the letters from before. The letter from the landlord in Sandpoint, Idaho thanking us for being good tenants but that we had 30 days to vacate the premise. The letter I wrote back, crafting it carefully as if it were hostage negotiations. The delayed response — “the owners think they can sell the house better empty.” Two weeks and my world crumbled in ways I never thought possible. No safety nets this time. No savings. No spare change. Help from friends, a hasty trailer purchase that only made our circumstances worse. Nowhere to go so we lived in the wilderness.

I’m not going to rehash the failings of the VA. Not only are they once again putting up hurdles for us to get into a home, but spectacularly, they sent us a letter, received this day, stating that the Hub had no authorization to get his knee replaced and they officially denied his medical claim. My mind rushesd between past and present. My daughter says this is not like before and though I can already imagine the impact crater, she is right.

Even if we don’t own the home, we can live here. We have a strong and connected community in the Keweenaw and at Carrot Ranch. The Hub has advocates besides me — his doctor, counselors, and the surgical team at Aspirus. The meteor is not going to hit us. But it will stir up the dust.

The Hub got testy with the person whose phone number was listed on his big fat denial claim. A thick packet that arrived in the mail this morning. She told him it was his fault for not securing authorization and when he proclaimed he had, she said there was nothing in his record. She said, “Don’t kill the messenger.”

“I will if it sends a message,” he said.

I groaned. This is why veterans are difficult. Everything is a battle tactic. Even in his agitation, even with PTSD, moral injury and brain injury, he’s more controlled than any civilian. I still trust him wholly in a zombie apocalypse. I just can’t trust him to remember to paint all the gaps or find his own socks. The call went south after that. He was calm. We quickly made for CBOC (community-based outpatient clinic) in Hancock. He also called Aspirus hospital and asked to speak to Dawn. She checks up on him. Both places had his back — they had his “six.”

We then drove up to Larium to Aspirus. While he tracked down the copies he needed from Dawn, I visited an ailing Warrior Sister. From her bed, she made suggestions. We talked about her diet (clear liquids for the moment) and beating cancer. I told her gluten-free, and dairy-free food could taste good and be simple. I’d help. She wanted to help me with the house. Sisters in the storm, adjusting our sails.

By this time, I needed coffee. A cafe meil to be exact. When near Calumet, one must go to Cafe Rosetta. On the drive home, the VA called back. I guess they were getting hammered by the Hub’s doctors. We all had clear copies of the authorizations from the VA. They conceded it was a mistake. However the denial is official, so now we have to find out how to overturn it otherwise we have to go and appeal it, like court. VA court. Kangaroo court.

We got home, lunched and the Hub went to bed. That’s the thing — his brain can only take so much. If he has to focus, he talks rapidly and won’t let others speak, or he loses his train of thought. It’s not conversational, but we haven’t had good conversations for a while. I’ve learned to let him ramble and take find joy and humor in it. I miss the deep conversations we used to have. He doesn’t realize they are missing and that’s okay. Better only one of us feels bad about it. A morning that requires all that interaction makes him sleepy. He reset.

Me, I painted.

And I’ll keep painting until our next inspection. Monday. We now hope to close July 5. Down to the wire. I hope to leave for Vermont properly homed. If not, like my daughter tried to point out, it’s not like before. I’m almost home, and I’ll paint my way into it one brush stroke at a time.

June 27, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves paint. It can be fresh, peeling or in need of a coat. What is being painted and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 3, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Something Different (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Want some paint for that brush?” Danni smiled, remembering. Her brushing a mammoth tusk, Ike standing at the edge of the mud with his fishing pole. The first time they met.

A wet nose nudged her hand while she cleaned shards and the paint brush flew from her grip. It dropped to the concrete of the barn floor. “Det, you are a pesky hound.” She patted the dog and picked up the brush. Maybe she should paint.

If Ike wanted to do something different, then she would too. Danni left for the hardware store to pick out cheerful yellows.

Waiting

We wait in line. We wait for life. Waiting is not something most people like to do but everyone has to do it. What we wait on might be universal, some as different as our reactions.

Writers wrote about the wait and what it could mean. They wrote surprising stories you won’t want to wait to read.

The following are based on the June 20, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about having to wait.

PART I (10-minute read)

Adult Swim by  Chelsea Owens

“I can’t stand no longer,” I tell Mama, but she gives me That Look; so I wobble and watch the grown-ups flop around slowly like old, fat whales-

“Maahm,” I start. Now Janie shoots me The Look an’ it’s just like Mama’s -but I can tell that Janie wants ’em to hurry jus’ as much as me, ’cause up she goes on her toes then back down.

The whole line of us kids is bobbing and dancin’ -I think maybe the lifeguard sees; for, jus’ when I know we’re gonna jump, we fin’lly hear the whistle.

An’ we run.

🥕🥕🥕

The Waiting by Pete Fanning

It began with a tearful goodbye. With a sleepless night, then two, then a week until it just was. It clutched her heart with every knock at the door. It stung when she watched the boys play baseball in the street with another kid’s dad. It ruined Christmas.

The waiting grew heavy. It promised tomorrow. It made her feel selfish. It consumed her.

Then it did the unthinkable. It broke its promise.

It came with too many casseroles and a folded flag. It left her with the boys in the street, waiting for a pitch that would never come.

🥕🥕🥕

The Beginning of a Long Wait (from Miracle  of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Waiting for the phone to ring, Danni started a batch of cookies. She stalked over to the phone. “Ring, damn it!” She picked it up to check the dial tone and returned to the kitchen. She started a pot of macaroni and cheese. The phone range and she jumped, answering.

“Hello?”

“Hello. This is the National Coalition for—”

Danni slammed down the receiver. She needed tea. Instead of boiling macaroni, she poured the water over a Lipton tea bag, watching the stain spread. Danni waited to hear if Ike lived after the attack on his convoy in Baghdad.

🥕🥕🥕

Torment by Ann Edall-Robson

Watching the truck and trailer leave the yard, Liz played Mac’s call over in her mind. He insisted Tal be the one to bring the rig. The anguish in his voice when he told her he needed a medivac NOW, continued to send chills through her. He’d fill her in when he got home. Cell service was minimal at its best near the falls.

Liz tried to remember who Mac had sent to check on the cows out there. Stay busy she told herself. Then she remembered.

Ranch life could be a torment to those who had to wait.

🥕🥕🥕

Waiting by Joanne Fisher

“We’re going to have to wait, The Baron is away for a few days.” Ashalla informed her.

“I can wait.” Aalen replied looking around the crowded streets. She hadn’t realised there were so many people in this city. Where did they all come from?

They were standing in the city’s square. Above them all rose the Baron’s Keep like a giant solitary black tooth. Aalen spied the walls of the fortifications. She reckoned she could scale them with no problems, and she thought Ashalla could do the same.

Revenge would come. She could wait. What was a few days?

🥕🥕🥕

He Waits by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He waits on the bridge by the lagoon, staring down at the moon, a pale and wavering contrast in dark water. Further down the shore, a splash and pop, followed by crunching, draws his attention. A moose shakes its ears in greeting and turns back to its evening snack.

She’s late. He worries about her, and for the moose.

He worries too much. She’s the best: intelligence and empathy, seasoned with practicality. She’ll arrive, having hunted and fed, and easily change with the sunrise.

Tonight they run together under the full moon. Tomorrow they hold hands in the sun.

🥕🥕🥕

Some Wait by Susan Sleggs

The couple watches the birds. The cardinal pair arrives together but she eats first while he waits on a near-by branch. The Flicker waits for no other, he lands at the suet and others skedaddle. The chickadee waits; darts to the unoccupied feeder then takes his prize elsewhere. The squirrels try to invade the feeder but fail, falling to the ground and making a thumping sound that satisfies. The husband waits also; for his wife to stop complaining about something that happened days ago. If only he knew a way to help her let go of what angers her.

🥕🥕🥕

Waiting for the Bus by Sally Cronin

The young girl waited anxiously for the bus. She huddled into the long queue of people standing impatiently in the rain, hiding her bulging rucksack between her feet. She was cold and wet but determined to get away from this place. The planning had been carried out meticulously, and she was happy that she had everything needed for a new life. Her stomach began rumbling. It was Friday and her mum made fish and chips for tea. People muttered as the five year old pushed through them, dragging her rucksack and heading down the street. She smiled in anticipation.

🥕🥕🥕

Waiting by Floridaborne

He chuckled when he asked, “Where did you say you’re calling from?”

“Flor’da,” I replied. “I’m looking for my brother. His friend said he was in this hospital.”

“I’m not able to provide any information.”

“Look!”  I yelled out at the insufferable jerk.  “He has Down Syndrome. He’ll be frightened!”

“I can say he wasn’t in an accident, but HIPAA rules… I can’t tell you anything else.”

“What do hippos have to do with it?”  I asked.  “He’s not an ape in a zoo.”

So… until I can hop a plane to Oregon, he’ll wonder why he’s all alone.

🥕🥕🥕

Running For the Border by TN Kerr

“Moooom,” I wailed from the backseat, “It hurts.” She looked over her shoulder before pushing her cigarette out the wind wing and turning down the radio.

“You just have to hold it, Billy,” she said; turning her attention back to the road that stretched out in front of us. “I can’t simply call a time out.”

We were going fast when she hit the spike strips and the tires all burst. My bladder let go when the wheels began tossing sparks like lightning bugs past the windows.

We skidded sideways to a stop and the troopers boxed us in.

🥕🥕🥕

Frozen Man by Reena Saxena

The most peculiar thing happened on the eleventh of November, just as the snow had begun to drift down.

The snow assumed a peculiar shape, like a man frozen in snow. Passers-by ventured ahead to rescue him, but the shadow was elusive for their almost frozen hands.

An old lady stepped out of the crowd and waved. Surprisingly, the shadow waved back.

Her husband was a martyr in the war, and had died on 11th November. She came here on the day, every year, hoping that he would take her with him. In a moment, she had dropped dead.

🥕🥕🥕

Lucy Locket: Opposing Summer? by JulesPaige

no wolves in my sight
waiting for the strawberry
moon in a stale sky

Lucy Locket, fills the docket
By reading quotes, in a book that she totes
Hartly says; “The past is a foreign country…”, brings to mind a cold memory
“…they do things differently there.” That old summer home, lost, somewhere.

Now she just waits, …on her table to clear used paper plates…
From the crowd that has dispersed, in sporadic spurts
From the picnic reunion that many waited for; a delightful chore
What will be different in the next year? Will she be even be here?

🥕🥕🥕

Earthquake by Saifun Hassam

Sally was jerked awake by the roar of a train hitting the house. She tensed, waiting for the earthquake to ease. Scrambling from the bed and swaying with the floor she sidled along the hallway into the living room.

Steve was working on his blog “Vineyards, Wineries and Gardens” when the quack hit. He crawled under the dining room table as the strong tremors continued. Experience had taught them to wait it out. A herd of elephants pounded across the lawn. After long minutes the earth subsided. Utter stillness, silence. A twittering of birds announced the coming of dawn.

🥕🥕🥕

Your Call Is Important by Anne Goodwin

“All our operators are busy at the moment. Your call will be answered as soon as one becomes available.”

Jingle jangle music.

“Your call is important to us. Please hold the line.”

Jangle jingle music.

“Thank you for your patience. We will answer your call as soon as an operator becomes available.”

Jingle jangle music.

“Thank you for calling Westminster Talent Limited. Apologies for keeping you waiting. How may I help you?”

“I need speak Boris.”

“I’m afraid Boris isn’t available right now. Can I be of service?”

“Can you tell please, his lunch left kitchen table. And phone.”

🥕🥕🥕

Waiting by M J Mallon

Only two more hours, she joked as she left. I smiled. I knew I would say the same to her after two days’ time. The weekend is teasing me, waiting with a glass of wine. At two minutes past five I open her drawer to eat the snack she left me. It kills me to admit it but it tastes good. She’d said it was foul but lied. One more bite.

Shame that death arrived before the weekend. She didn’t need to poison me—we were both on the same prolonged career path.

🥕🥕🥕

Voodoo by Carol J Forrester

‘Take a ticket,’ said the man behind the scratched perspex glass.

‘It’s empty,’ said James, glancing at the busted plastic dispenser.

‘Huh?’ The man looked up. ‘Oh, so it is. Well, take a seat to wait and we’ll be right with you.’

‘We?’ asked James. The man didn’t answer.

Turning, James shuddered and stumbled as the room stretched like elastic.

‘Careful there.’

A set of hands steadied him.

‘The voodoo throws you at first. It’s how they fit us all in.’

‘Us all?’ James asked.

‘Yeah, all the demons,’ said the voice. ‘Sorry mate, looks like you got busted.’

🥕🥕🥕

Waiting by Di @pensitivity101

Hurry up and wait.
Waiting, watching life pass us by.
Hours wasted, waiting for someone else.
Time is money,
But not to those waiting.
God’s waiting room, that’s what they call this place.
Take a seat.
Someone will be with you shortly.
But how long is shortly?
The clock ticks on.
Time waits for no-one.
Yet we are expected to wait.
It’s only polite to do as one is asked.
Joints seize, breathing shallows,
Eyes close,
Dreams waiting.
The mind drifts, the spirit leaves,
Looking down at those souls waiting,
Shells of humanity,
Waiting for something to hurry up.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Treat by Brendan Thomas

Toby smiled. Jane held the treat agonizingly close.

“Wait.” Toby waited. He waited for dinner, a belly rub, a walk. Wait, wait, wait. Yesterday he waited for Jane to finish in the bathroom making it to his favorite bush just on time. When he wormed through the fence to play with Jasper last week he was waiting in the shade of the apple tree for his dinner. Finally he ate two apples and got sick, poor Jasper.

“Wait.”

Toby looked at the treat, then walked away.

“You have it,” he thought digging out his bone from behind the sofa.

🥕🥕🥕

Waiting by Anita Dawes

Tomorrow is today in waiting
It seems to me, that even when it arrives
It is still waiting
Where is yesterday in all of this
We all constantly wait for tomorrow
You can stand on the shore
Look to the horizon, watch the sun set
You cannot see tomorrow
Yet you know it’s coming
We spend a lot of our time waiting
For one thing or another
As for myself I cannot bear waiting
If I say I’ll be there at eight
I expect my friends to be on time
The future is the greatest opportunity we wait for…

🥕🥕🥕

Faith by Kerry E.B. Black

We waited together for the results. Kinda gross, really, staring at a plastic stick I’d peed on, but in the end, a plus told us. A baby! My tears drenched his shoulder as we embraced.

Anxious, we held hands at the obstetrician’s to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Quick as a bunny, it raced away with our hearts.

At the ultrasound, we watched her suck her thumb and chose her name. Faith. We painted the nursery, anxious to meet this precious child.

But one day, I bled. I rushed for help, but no amount of waiting brought back our Faith.

🥕🥕🥕

A Thousand Years by Nicole Horlings

She had been patient for a thousand years. Those years had been tiring, and she eagerly looked forward towards her well-earned retirement. Life, especially blossoming life, was a fragile thing that had to be treated with the utmost care.

From the days of keeping the egg warm to hunting for food, from guarding the nest to leaving it behind, from first fire to first flight, she had watched her son grow from a drake to a dragon.

Today was his coming of age ceremony, where he would be given his adult name.

She wished for a thousand more years.

🥕🥕🥕

Never Never Land by Sherri Matthews

Months we’d waited. We took our seats towards the back of the stadium with a clear view of the stage. Men and women, some in their twenties most middle-aged and wearing black, like me, filled the stands. Others strode towards the standing area armed in sleeveless leathers, long hair and tattoos, fired up for the mosh pit. We waved to three of them before they disappeared into the mosh pit. My boys. The crowd cheered for the first band, but roared when the headliner came on. Metallica. This was it. Off to never never land with my adult kids.

🥕🥕🥕

A Wee Wait by Ritu Bhathal

“I know you’re desperate dear, but I’m afraid, you’ll have to wait. They’re all desperate.” Mrs Brown turned around, indicating the long line of children stretching to the end of the corridor.

“But Miss, I can’t wait!” Millie hopped from foot to foot, performing a toilet dance typical for a child, crotch clutched as if that was all holding a possible flood from occurring.

The queue moved down one.

“Just get to the back of the line, Millie.”

“I can’t.”

“Why on earth not?”

Millie looked down at the puddle slowly forming.

“Oh dear. so you really couldn’t wait!”

🥕🥕🥕

Take Turns to Wait by Miriam Hurdle

“My dear Heather, would you marry me?”

“Oh, yes, dear Jason.”

“We must have our engagement party soon and the wedding in six months.”

“Well, we’ve been dating for seven years and I didn’t know when you’d asked me to marry you.”

“I needed to save up money.”

“You know that I applied for several grad schools. The one accepted me with big scholarship is in New York.”

“It’s only five and a half hours flight from Los Angles.”

“Now, your turn to wait for two years.”

“I know. Let’s have our engagement party ASAP.”

“We can do that.”

🥕🥕🥕

Ernest Biggs and Marge Small by D. Avery

“Marge, your she-shed is finished. The waiting is over. Go to your prince.”

Nard smirked. “Ernest’s just waiting for Marge to get back in charge.”

“Ilene, the wedding’ll be in the garage, get started on decorating. Lloyd, you get ordained, get some words together. Nick, invitations. Remember, I can barely stand you most days, so take care who you invite from the dealership. Kristof, since you still claim this peckerhead as your boyfriend, you’ll be involved too. You and Nard’ll take care of food. Ernest, we’ll need a lot of beer.”

“Ernest, you poor thing. The waiting is over.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Waiting Game by Norah Colvin

Her entire life, she’d waited:

To be old enough, big enough—

To have left school, completed her degree—

To have enough money—

Until after the wedding—

For the birth of her children

For her children to have started school, left school, left home—

When would be the time, when she could choose what she wanted, for her, no conditions imposed?

In the waiting room, she contemplated these things and delivered her own answer—never! Death was knocking, refusing to wait. She’d hoped to live before she died but life got in the way.  Ah well, the waiting was over.

🥕🥕🥕

Eager by Abijit

His life did not depend on it, but a news would have been welcome. It was nearly a month earlier, he had shared his resume. He was certain about his selection. Afterall, his resume was rich in qualification and relevant experience.

He was certain that his pay package will see a significant jump. He had started planning his new life in a different city and dreaming of family vacations he would lie to take.

It is four weeks now. He has not heard from the head hunters. Well it is their loss! He still has his life, doesn’t he?

🥕🥕🥕

Test Results by Susan Zutautas

“How soon will be able to get me the results?”

“I should have them in by say nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”, the doctor said.

“Alright, well I’ll be waiting to hear from you then, and thanks so much for doing this for me, I know this isn’t something you regularly do.”

“That’s true but in this case, I’m happy to.”

I couldn’t sleep that night, waiting wasn’t something I liked to do.

Sitting patiently by the phone the next morning anticipating what the doctor would say, the phone rang.

“I have your test results and you are indeed pregnant.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Foetal Wish by H.R.R. Gorman

Will the outside be beautiful or scary? I find it cozy here, even if it is dark, and I’m not sure I want to go. At the same time, I know I will leave soon, so why must I wait another whole month? Why not just get it over with now?

Who will I be when I spew forth from this cozy cavern? I hope the doctors find me healthy. I hope people will like me, and I hope everyone will be my friend. Most of all, I hope my parents are nice and will take care of me.

🥕🥕🥕

No News by Sascha Darlington

Some wise sayings, like no news is good news, are easily refuted. Take the fact Mom called Dad three hours ago to say she’d been hurt then nothing.

Aunt Cici calls everywhere. Urgent care. Hospitals. Police. The morgue. She doesn’t mention this last one, I just happened to see it among her outgoing calls.

We wait. Not a single one of the seven people in this room believes no news is good news.

Dad hopes for a miracle text.

Aunt Cici searches for another number.

I gnaw over the last ugly exchange Mom and I shared: I despise you.

🥕🥕🥕

Mental Health Day by tracey

At the beginning of the year Jennifer impulsively penciled in a mental health day on her calendar. Now the day was here and she wanted a spontaneous adventure.

She drove two hours west and found a small town on the coast. She sat outdoors at a quaint café, opened the menu, closed her eyes and lightly ran her finger over the plastic sheet. Strawberry and cream cheese crepe appeared under her finger. Perfect!

She sat back, the sun warming her face, noticing an Artist Co-op across the road. Stop two she thought as she waited patiently for her crepe.

🥕🥕🥕

The Time Between by Nancy Brady

She was waiting in the airport, sitting in those uncomfortable chairs. She was waiting to board the plane that would take her away from the life she’d known.

No one had ever told her that most of her life would be spent waiting. Waiting for appointments, waiting for the mail, waiting for her children to be born, her grandchildren to be born…just waiting, waiting, waiting.

And in that waiting, she began to see her life unfold, a little at a time. She saw her mistakes, her triumphs, and all her losses. Her days waning, she finally lived without regret.

🥕🥕🥕

Nuthin’ by D. Avery

“Shift, Kid, we might not make it ta the corral, might miss the round-up. Ya got anythin’?”

“Nah, I ain’t got nuthin’. Thing is, I cain’t be thinkin’ ‘bout waitin’ on thangs when I’m jist so content right here right now.”

“Yep. Ya got a good fire goin’. An’ thet storm had a good light show but blew right on through quick enough.”

“Storm didn’t hardly damp the fire. An’ lookit the light show now. Lightnin’ bugs flittin’ about. They was worth stayin’ up fer.”

“Yep. We’ve got it good Kid.”

“Yep. Cain’t wait ta share it with Shorty.”

🥕🥕🥕

June 20: Flash Fiction Challenge

Wait, I tell the starling.

Last year, Whirligig — a showy, loud and aggressive starling — showed up to the neighborhood, driving out the woodpeckers and entertaining my neighbor and me with his antics. This year, he spotted a hole in my SIL’s roofing job. A small triangular peak over the porch was missing a small chunk of fascia beneath old cedar shakes. Not a priority, my SIL was waiting to finish the job when the siding plates arrived.

Whirligig waits on no one. In an afternoon he nested into the space behind the facia, a small area of trim beneath the porch roofline. My SIL wasted no time in patching the hole. Whirligig found and expanded another. Nesting began in earnest with all of us dodging straw and string debris as we entered and exited the porch.

I’d go outside and Whirligig would fly from the porch eave to squawk from the lightpost across Roberts Street. “Stop nesting in my house,” I’d tell him. Some days, I’d be weeding or lugging my watering can and he’s be making Star Wars robotic chirps and songs. Despite his annoyance, I couldn’t help but laugh. Flowers bloomed and Whirligig courted.

We weren’t too concerned with his nest, waiting to boot him out after mating season. Starlings often build several nests. We didn’t think a female had joined him, only seeing Whirligig. Our conversations continued.

And then the VA home loan appraiser showed up. We didn’t think he’d be overly impressed with our flighty neighbor in the eaves, but given that the gap was in decorative trim and not structural, the SIL focused on finishing the siding plates popped off during last year’s roofing replacement. The Hub mowed the lawn, scrubbed the basement (hopeful man-cave) floor, and I cleaned the house, including places the appraiser never looked.

Instead, he looked in places like the defunct attic stairs. One of the first home-improvements the SIL completed in 2016 was to seal the attic with insulation. The stairs now go to nowhere. But the VA has a rulebook and rule 497 or whatever states that safe stairs have handrails. After the inspection, we learned the VA would not approve a loan on a house missing the ever-so-vital handrail to nowhere. They also don’t like peeling paint, or nesting starlings.

In a panic, we put out a call to our community. Did anyone have a handrail from a remodel (lots of people remodel  these old mining homes)? Could someone help us paint where the Hub couldn’t reach with a ladder? And who was willing to evict Whirligig? Copper Country Strong responded. Within hours, one of the veteran wives drove to town, met us at the building store, and declared her housewarming gift to be a handrail and hardware. Worried about the price, we said we didn’t expect her to pay if it was over a certain threshold. We laughed to find out it was only $14!

The Hub scraped and painted as sloppily as I imagine Tom Sawyer white-washing a fence, but at least it was no longer “peeling.” The SIL, who was supposed to leave for an alternative energy fair, finished work late and came over that night to finish the porch trim. My daughter and I scrapes and caulked the garage windows. I snapped three 100-year-old window panes, ripped my hot pink rubber gloves to shreds (I have no idea how) and got paint chips in my bra, deciding I’d rather write about home-improvement jobs than experience them.

The SNL nailed shut the gap Whirligig used and I couldn’t help but feel low. I know what it feels like to be shut out of a home for no good reason. Why was my home more important than his? It felt unfair and somehow too American — the arrogance of claiming home while denying it to others permeates our history. I did not enjoy being the evictor.

Over a late evening BBQ, the SIL assured me that the nest was an empty one. He couldn’t reach it, but nothing had hatched if there had been eggs. Later, after everyone had left, I stood on the front steps and watched Whirligig, silent on the lightpost. All I could offer was, “I see you. I hear you. I am sorry.”

He flew away.

It sucks to be disenfranchised in America. The process of trying to get recognized as a resident after being homeless is near impossible. Those who are chronically homeless or living rough on the streets or uncounted as they sleep in cars and drive across state borders when they get gas money are doomed to never rise from that lifestyle. The state of Utah recognized the plight of the chronically homeless in Salt Lake City. They realized that it was more cost effective to turn abandoned buildings into independent residences with no costs, no paperwork, and no strings attached. In Kansas City, a group of veterans invested in tiny houses for homeless veterans outside the VA system.

Just trying to get our driver’s licenses has been an ordeal. In Michigan, you have to prove citizenship with a birth certificate. Never mind that the Hub served his nation in combat. He has to prove he was born in the US. I brought our important  documents with us, but with all the transient stops we made at VAs across the western US, the Hub lost his birth certificate. He likely gave it to someone to photocopy to get service at a VA hospital and never got it back. But we prevailed and both have Michigan enhanced driver’s licenses.

Next are 2016 and 2017 taxes. When you cross five different states across two taxe years and have no permanent address, things get complicated. I wrote for clients and he worked for six different companies in five different states and sought medical care from eight different VAs. The IRS has a homeless veteran program but good luck talking to a live person. I filed 2018 taxes claiming Michigan residency, using my daughter’s address. As of January, the Hub is 100 percent disabled. Which gave me the education benefits to go get my MFA in creative writing.

Except — and there’s always an exception with the VA benefits — they don’t pay tuition. I was so devastated to find this out, but then I said screw it, I’ll go deeper into education debt. Ah, yes, but FASFA wants my 2017 taxes. I feel like I’m constantly grinding in circles. I didn’t know what to do next, but this place has good people and someone knew someone who had a CPA who could help. I felt skeptica, having inquired with other CPAs, but this guy, he was willing to take on all my complications. He jokingly told me he needed a good challenge after tax season.

Getting him all my documents, though, made me relive the events of 2016 and 2017. That awful day in March when I froze in panic after the landlords so casually told us we were “free to go” because the owners wanted to sell the place still feels cold in my blood. When the appraiser told us we’d have to fix a few things on the house my daughter told me not to worry. She said the same thing when the landlord sent us a 30-day eviction notice before we had another home to go to. I still don’t trust that I will have a home. The waiting right now is awful, and I think of that silent starling as a personification of my pain.

It is what it is.

This morning I woke up, stepped outside and heard chirping. I looked around for Whirligig but he was gone. With horror, I realized the chirping was coming from inside the porch eave. I sat on the steps and cried. The Hub came home from PT and he asked what was wrong. “Just starlings,” he said. But he saw my pain. And as gruff as he tries to be, he wishes no harm on anything. Without further words, he got a ladder and some tools.

Our daughter came over on her lunch break and found her parents ripping up the front porch. The Hub decided to remove the fascia because that was down where the SIL couldn’t reach. Our daughter chastized him for climbing a ladder, but held it sterady for him. I grabbed a moss-lined flower basket, emptied it but the lining and the Hub pulled the nest with its string and straw anf feathers into it, including two newly hatched birds and one pale blue egg. The birds heard our voices and gaping maws opened hungrily.

But Whirligig was gone. I dug up a grub (looking for worms), mashed it, and filled a dropper with water. I fed two babies and wondered if it were the right thing to do. After the Hub replaced the fascia, I hung the flower basket below the porch eaves. The babies chirped loudly and I hoped Whirligig and his Lady could hear. The robins and sparrows flitted about, and the bird community seemed distressed. Or maybe that was just me. I told them to find Whirligig. The Hub said the starlings had already abandoned the nest and wouldn’t be back. My daughter gently reminded me that nature would take its course.

After a late afternoon appointment, I came home and listened for the babies. I could probably hear them a mile away, they chirp so loudly. And to my relief and delight, I watched Whirligig land in the basket with a squiggling insect of some sort. I decided right then and there that if this becomes our home, we are building Whirligig a nesting box.

Meanwhile, we wait.

June 20, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about having to wait. Who is waiting and what for? Think about how the wait impacts the character or the story. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 25, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

The Beginning of a Long Wait (from Miracle  of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Waiting for the phone to ring, Danni started a batch of cookies. She stalked over to the phone. “Ring, damn it!” She picked it up to check the dial tone and returned to the kitchen. She started a pot of macaroni and cheese. The phone range and she jumped, answering.

“Hello?”

“Hello. This is the National Coalition for—”

Danni slammed down the receiver. She needed tea. Instead of boiling macaroni, she poured the water over a Lipton tea bag, watching the stain spread. Danni waited to hear if Ike lived after the attack on his convoy in Baghdad.

Many Hands

Life often requires more than one set of hands. Mothers need extra hands, situations call for many hands, and communities thrive when more hands pitch in. Hands carry, lift up, reach out, touch.

Writers followed where the prompt led even into the dark of night where zombies roam. Many hands led to many stories.

The following are based on the June 13, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the work of many hands.

PART I (10-minute read)

Is the Universe Listening? by JulesPaige

I ask for strength to carry another.
I ask for the patience to listen to the repeated stories
Of whatever they wish to share –
Mostly though they will not speak old haunts –
While they accept the gracious offerings of many hands

For mine alone are not the only pair needed
To promote the success of the healthy and honorable
Existence they should be able to comfortably abide.

I ask for nothing in return –
I ask for the weather to be calm and clear
When errands include any number of appointments
For pleasure or health…
This is my universal prayer.

🥕🥕🥕

Fingers Aplenty by Bill Engleson

I suppose I could write about ‘many hands’ if I was in the mood. The ones that make ‘light work’, eh!

They surely exist. Seen a few in my day. Been in a couple.

My scout troop for example.

Okay, cub scout troop.

All that dib dib dib dob dob dob doowah stuff.

Once, our Akela decided we needed to climb a mountain.

We were young, game.

Except Box-head Bobby. Polio had whipped him badly.

“Can’t go,” he whimpered. “Just can’t.”

“Sure, you can. We’ll help ya,” we said, not quite believing our bravado.

Not quite believing…until we did.

🥕🥕🥕

Many Hands by Pete Fanning

The news anchor said “defaced”, but the city defaced the wall. We’d merely fixed it, working through the night, ducking delivery trucks or the occasional police car. Then, dawn spreading over our historic downtown, shining on bronzed shoulders of generals facing south, we’d gathered our paint cans and hit up Waffle House.

Defaced? Not by us. Not by the hands we painted—brown ones, white ones, black ones—clasped in unity over a giant battle flag, a confederate threat slapped onto brick when my grandfather was in school, when schools were forced to integrate.

We’d simply integrated the flag.

🥕🥕🥕

Handing Down by D. Avery

Kevlar vested cops have guns in their hands. We come out, single file, hands over our heads, newscasters already there, microphones in hand, reporting this latest shooting. Videos capture relieved parents’ hands stroking their children’s cheeks. Some parents’ hands flutter to their own cheeks. Some of us sit on the ground, heads in our hands, disbelief displaced by our knowing. Some put their hands together in prayer. Some of us stand together clasping hands, our grief becoming anger.

You let assault weapons end up in the hands of our classmates then tell us the world is in our hands.

🥕🥕🥕

For Love of Books by Saifun Hassam

The storm hurled tree branches through shop windows. A giant pine tree smashed the roof over the library’s Children’s Learning Center. Upended shelves, torn and wet books covered the floors.

Students from Lynn Valley pitched in to sort the books. Around noon lunch was announced. Surprised, the students stepped out into the sunny open space outside. The “Busy Cafeteria” food mobile had arrived. The picnic tables were loaded with food, from hamburgers to tacos to pizzas to salads to donuts to chocolate fudge. A huge banner on the food mobile said it all: “With love from the librarians!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Stitch in Time by Nancy Brady

Julia, Mary, Elizabeth, Susannah, and a few others from the group were discussing the books they were reading. There was also a bit of gossip going on across the table. The air was filled with their chatter, and laughter broke out here and there.

Still, that did not deter Julia and her friends from their mission. With so many hands to stitch the pieces of fabric together, they were making another quilt for the veteran’s home. What once was their monthly quilting bee for themselves had become a way to give back to those who had served their country.

🥕🥕🥕

Talented by Abhijit

“That’s a beautiful piece of work, dear!” commented an impressed examiner looking at the model on display, “did you work alone or it is a team work where many others joined hands?”

Praise never surprised Mrs. Madhumita Majumdar. In her lifetime, she has seen accolades fly in her direction from her father’s home to her husband’s home. She had turned out to be an excellent hostess, a good entertainer and even a good sports person in her social circle. Why should her daughter be any different!

“Which one?” asked Mrs. Majumdar with a mischevous grin, “model or model maker?”

🥕🥕🥕

Many Hands by Susan Sleggs

Many hands
thank God they don’t all have a brain
A small group of people
all with the same interest form a club
They have officers and by-laws
they don’t follow them
They bicker and take stands on what’s good for the group
common sense stays at home
They gather in their cliques
with misplaced loyalties
Change is the enemy
when someone new is asked to lead
Maintain the status quo
whether it’s a good idea or not
because their hands can’t see
So many hands
showing a microcosm of government
bogged down by half the number of opinions

🥕🥕🥕

The Price of Perfection by Anne Goodwin

It began with a single dreamer, but many hands were needed to make it real. Our backs didn’t ache so much when we toiled together. Our stomachs didn’t grumble. The sun didn’t scorch. Blisters didn’t sting. And if ever our drive should desert us, Father would grant us his counsel; a late-night pep-talk to renew our commitment to the Cause.

When Father dreamt my husband was a Judas, many hands were needed to implement the punishment he deserved. It saddened me, but the road to Righteousness is strewn with thorns. Mindful of my duty, I threw the first rock.

🥕🥕🥕

Many Hands Make Light Work by Ritu Bhathal

Too many cooks spoil the broth, they say
But I would like to differ, that is, if I may
For another common saying does lurk
Many hands, indeed, do make light work
Surely, it is better
To work together
To achieve our goal
As one big whole
Rather than trying to be the one
Who is named for always getting things done
Do not always try to stake your claim
Yet shy away from taking blame
Working as a team is best
You can always rely on the rest
And what can take an hour,
In minutes, you’ll devour

🥕🥕🥕

Dance of the Several Pots by Di @ pensitivity101

My kitchen is small, but not as small as the one in our first house, and definitely gigantic compared to the one on the boat!
However, Many Hands may make light work, but Too Many Cooks spoil the broth.

I appreciate help in the kitchen, preparing, cutting, cooking (ish) and clearing up.

In a small space, this can be chaotic, but we got round that by always remembering to move to the left. It was like a ‘cuisinal’ ballet, graceful and effective, nobody getting stabbed or burnt, and dinners prepared on time with dishes being washed as we went.

🥕🥕🥕

Too Many Hands by Floridaborne

Mom used to say, “Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the salad.”

I never understood what that meant until our family reunion.  I was 12, and found it amusing to have my 60 year old grandmother, 80 year old great grandmother, and 40 year old mother haunting the same kitchen.

“Where is the lard?” Grandmother asked.

“I am not putting cream into the gravy, lard in the biscuits, or frying anything!”  My mom yelled out.  “Everyone, get out of my kitchen!”

So…everyone but mom descended upon the Fried Chicken Palace, while mom ate her avocado toast in peace.

🥕🥕🥕

Idle Hands by Kerry E.B. Black

Momma believed idle hands were the devil’s playground, so she kept us busy. Chores charted and marked with smiley stickers marched across the refrigerator. At the end of the month, we’d earn rewards for our efforts.

When Momma grew sick, we kids neglected household chores in favor of nursing duties. We hovered by her bedside, anchorless. We read to calm her, fetched drinks, medicines, and bandages. On her last Sunday, we sang hymns and said rosaries until she took our hands and whispered, “good bye.”

Now we ignore chores, ditch school, and fend for ourselves in the devil’s playground.

🥕🥕🥕

Game of Thrones by Kelley Farrell

“So, what do you think?”

Martin surveyed the grotesque display in front of him. He didn’t want to risk angering his captor, “It’s an interesting chair.”

“Chair? Marty, my boy, look again. This is a throne.”

The man in full tuxedo and a plastic raincoat strutted around with a slight giggle on the tip of his tongue. “Do you know how many hands this took?”

“I …” Martin’s voice trembled.

His captor caressed Martin’s long fingers. “I’ve always admired yours. They’re the perfect centerpiece. The essential finishing touch, if you will.” His hacksaw rested on Martin’s wrist. “Shall we begin?”

🥕🥕🥕

No Way Out by Joanne Fisher

Somehow Sally had lost all the others and now there were zombies everywhere. They had come out of nowhere. So far she had done well to survive, but she knew she was trapped. She quietly moved to a door she thought would be a way out, but it was locked. She turned around to see innumerable zombies suddenly pile out of another doorway. As they approached she tried to force the door open, but it wouldn’t budge. The last thing she felt was their many clawed hands as they crowded around her and began to rip her to pieces.

🥕🥕🥕

Many Hands Make Enlightened Work by Chelsea Owens

We walked across the summer courtyard, two t-shirt youth among many, to stand before the spacious building. Stairs upon stairs climbed to the fountain’s zenith and proposed rooftop garden.

Commands came and we moved to assemble ourselves, each teenager on a stair, an arms-width apart. You: a little more. You: a little less.

Then, hand to hand to hand we passed a bucket’s brigade of grass. Smiling volunteers moved sod and flower from truck to tippy top.

Now, years later, our children look up. They marvel at roof-ledge bush and sky-reach trees, and the story that grew them there.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Helping Hands by Nicole Horlings

The air was filled with the hum of many wings. Like a dandelion being blown in reverse, the fairies converged above the human’s body. Their hushed whispers sounded like a refreshing summer breeze sweeping through the grass, though in reality the air was sweltering hot and still. The human had merely fainted, but would face further harm if he remained there.

Once the whole colony had gathered, they each found a place around the human’s body, and together lifted the human up. Flying in unison, every hand holding the human up above their heads, they brought him to safety.

🥕🥕🥕

Working Together by Susan Zutautas

Did you know that when I was a boy, my dad, your grandfather had a hand in the landscaping of Botanical Gardens? He loved working with his hands not only in construction but gardening too.

In the East end of Montreal, there was a plot of land just sitting there empty that belonged to the city. My dad got permission to start a community garden to grow vegetables.

Every weekend that is where I’d find him and many of our neighbors working together growing all kinds of vegetables.

We didn’t have much money and that garden helped feed us.

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Coming by Ann Edall-Robson

The radio announcer was telling Mac old news. He had been watching the horses and saw the insects scurrying. The storm was expected by mid-afternoon.

The hay crew had finished baling the night before. This morning the fencing crew and the cow barn crew had been sent to the hayfield. They needed to get every bale under cover before the storm hit.

Behind him, dust tails from trucks pulling trailers were the result of a call to a neighbour. Mac knew if they could, they’d come. He would do the same for them. Moccasin telegraph handled the rest.

🥕🥕🥕

Hands by Anita Dawes

Hands can be gentle, kind, violent, creative
I remember my grandfather’s large hands
Callused from wood cutting
Strong, they made me feel safe
Nothing in this world, or the next
I often thought, could ever get past them
Whereas my grandmothers were small and gentle
Featherlight, often times I could hardly feel her touch
There have been a few hands in my life
I would rather not touch again
The wet, spongy kind.
Then we have the great ones,
Mozart at his piano, surgeons saving lives
Some insured for millions like Liberace
Tiny new-born ones are best of all…

🥕🥕🥕

Gates of the City by Joanne Fisher

“What are your names?” The sentry asked.

“My name is Ashalla of Woodhall.”

“My name is Aalen Liadon.”

As soon as she spoke the sentry looked her.

“Please remove your hood miss.” He ordered.

Aalen complied revealing her long golden hair and bright green eyes.

“You’re one of the forest folk.” The sentry stated. “And presumably the wolf is yours?” Vilja stood there with his tongue hanging out.

“He’s my companion. He’s good-natured and won’t harm anyone unless provoked.”

“Okay.” The sentry said. He waved them through.

As Vilja bounded through the narrow streets many small hands patted him.

🥕🥕🥕

Cave Flushing, Okinawa by Laura Smyth

Shiziko knew American soldiers were monsters from her nightmares. In the cave her mother barely breathed…neighbors who had escaped the bombing huddled nearby. A Japanese soldier held a grenade. The dark, damp and stench were terrible. But the quiet was the worst. Was she sleeping? Dreaming? A voice like her father’s called from the cave entrance “Come out. It’s safe.” She ran out of her mother’s arms and toward the cave mouth. Hands reached to hold her back, then an explosion. Shiziko fell forward out of the cave into the Nisei’s hands. At 7 years old, she was ageless.

🥕🥕🥕

Many Hands by Sally Cronin

Many hands reached out to rock the cradle that held the infant. The first baby to be born to the tribe since the long drought and famine years, when the earth and its people had become barren. Finally the rain came and washed the toxic dust away, bringing life to the land and hope to them all. With bellies filled, young and old toiled in the fields to lay in stores for the coming winter and to gather seeds for next year’s crop. By then other babies will have been born, ensuring the future of the village and mankind.

🥕🥕🥕

Holding You with Many Hands by Reena Saxena

My one-year-old slips out again. I hold serious reservations about returning to work, as I run out of the door. Nobody else could manage him.

He is merrily playing with puppies in the backyard, as their dog mother keeps an eye firmly on her brood. I see my baby getting excited about a shiny car outside and rushing towards the gate. Before I can catch him, the dog mother stands firmly in his way with a growl. Her own pups back away on seeing her stare.

A mother brings up her child with many hands, not just two.

🥕🥕🥕

Difficult Decision (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Hands reached out to Danni as she slumped in her chair. “I can’t do it alone,” she said. The women in her group, surrounded her.

Roxie patted Danni’s shoulder. “What do we need to do? I’ll bring my vacuum cleaner.”

Everyone offered to help Danni tackle Ramona’s empty house. She wanted to be angry with Ike for his absence, leaving her to make the decision no one in his family wanted to make. Ramona’s dementia progressed beyond Danni’s ability to keep Ike’s grandmother safe.

“Will she hate me?” Danni asked.

“Nah, she won’t remember you,” said Roxie. “We’ll help.”

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More Than Meets the Vein by H.R.R. Gorman

One technician injected a mouse with the target and collected the antibodies. A few others tested the results and transferred the loops to a human antibody. An army of scientists and several dozen mice tested the biotherapeutic. Engineers transfected the gene and planned the manufacturing process at the clinical scale.

FDA agents, scientists, engineers, clinicians, and volunteers ran tests on the new drug. Once declared safe and effective, teams of engineers, construction workers, and GMP trained workers made the first batch for sale.

A doctor injected the first patient with the life-saving drug. “Thank you, Doctor,” said the patient.

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First Time Surgery (Part I) by tracey

First I couldn’t find the right entrance:
Emergency? No.
Staff Only? No.

A kindly passerby asked if I needed help.
Yes.

The admission’s clerk hands over a stack of paperwork.
“Take the elevators on your left to the 4th floor and follow the blue signs.”

I turn around and take the elevators to the right (that are now on my left.)
Fourth floor, I see only orange and yellow signs.

I stand in the middle of the hallway bewildered.
Lost again. No help in sight. I shiver.

How many people does it take to help me find outpatient surgery?

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First Time Surgery (Part II) by tracey

A young woman touches my arm. Do you need help?
Yes.

Go down this hall to the end, take a right and go across the walkway and follow the blue signs.
I see blue and green signs. What color was I supposed to follow?

I am panicking, flustered, aware of the ticking clock.

A man in scrubs stops. All my fears come bubbling out.

I cry and babble. He takes my arm and leads me to the check-in desk.

A nurse looks up and nods to the man in scrubs and hands me a tissue, “You’ll be fine ma’am”.

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The Work of Many Hands by Kay Kingsley

Many working hands tend the garden of life.

A gently cupped seed planted and nourished with time, care, attention and love, will eventually grow into its destiny.

Not every seed is a Redwood but not every seed has to be.

The duty of the many hands is to encourage growth through recognition that each seed is beautiful just how it is.

Even the sometimes unwanted weed transforms from flower into wish when allowed, carrying delicate childhood hopes on easy summertime winds.

Rumination, germination, exploration, devastation, explanation, contemplation, motivation, illumination, education…

Every hand on earth shapes the garden of life.

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Flying Leaps by D. Avery

“Shorty! Pal! What’s going on? Why are all the Ranch hands under the poet tree with that big cowhide rug? Did Kid get stuck up there again?”

“Howdy Ranger. Kid’s up the tree agin, but doesn’t claim ta be stuck. Jist wants ta take a leap.”

“That’s right. And when someone takes a leap aroun’ here, the Ranch hands are gathered ‘round ta catch ‘em.”

“Hmm. Takes trust. ”

“Yep. Ranger, ya think we’re crazy?”

“Yes. And I want to go after the Kid.”

*Pen falls to paper
Words tossed wildly in the air
Story catchers break the fall*

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Raw Literature: Tell Your Story

By D. Avery

This past weekend I took time away from my regular work to peddle my written wares under the local author’s tent at the Nantucket Book Fest. This was my first time attending, and I was glad for the opportunity and exposure. If you’re wondering, I didn’t get rich, but I was enriched by the words of some of the visiting authors.

At the opening celebration of the Book Fest, three authors took to the pulpit (literally, it was at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House) to speak of their motivations. The question posed was, “How can we write when everything’s wrong?”

Ben Fountain asked, “How can we not?” The author of Beautiful Country Burn Again, also said, “I try to understand everything I can,” and spoke of language and writing being a tool for that understanding. Regardless of genre, writers are “the scouts and spies of the human tribe.” Dave Cullen, who wrote Columbine and Parkland, and who “writes because he has to, he writes because he gets to,” reiterated the idea of writers as spies, and told of his vocation, his “being called” to be a “participant observer,” as opposed to objective reporting where a distance is maintained.

Perhaps it was the “human tribe” line that made me think of our tribe here at Buckaroo Nation, where we report back to one another every week after receiving our mission, the prompt. We take up a lens, a spyglass, at times a telescope, at times a kaleidoscope, but we scout out a story and bring it back to the communal fire for sharing. Sometimes we bring back entertainment and sometimes truths, often both.

How can we write, when everything’s wrong? How can we not? The human tribe is a tribe of storytellers. Madeline Miller, author of Circe, reminded us that stories are where there are tears for things and where mortality touches the heart. With her references to the Aeneid a reminder of both the antiquity and the universality of stories, of the constant presence of monsters and dangers and journeys, her closing remarks also brought it back to the fire. “Stories say, ‘I hear you.’ Readers hear, ‘I’m heard, I’m here.’”

This and more I have also heard at the campfire of Carrot Ranch. Writers must write; readers must read. At the Book Fest, the theme continued when Alex Marzano-Lesnevich spoke about their book, The Fact of a Body, a book intriguing to me not for its content, which is grim, but for how they were uncovering one story and discovered their own. The interviewer called the writing “unflinching” and “brave” for the places it goes. Alex admits it might have been easier to have not gone there. But how could they not? Alex suggested that writing is a moral obligation. Their book not only gave the victim of the crime a voice, readers were given a voice, too many readers who had remained silent. Because of Alex’s book, these people felt their story had been told, that they were heard.

As Alex says in the introduction of The Fact of a Body, the book is “my interpretation of the facts, my rendering, my attempt to piece together this story. As such, this is a book about what happened, yes, but it is also about what we do with what happened. It is about a murder, it is about my family, it is about other families whose lives were touched by the murder. But more than that, much more than that, it is about how we understand our lives, the past, and each other. To do this, we all make stories.” The human tribe shares stories.

Sometimes, even in just 99 words, we might, after scouting and spying on pasts and places, on histories, come back with a story that, through the telling and the reading, becomes something more than we knew ourselves. We share in our community; we take communion of story. We might come to understanding or bring understanding through writing, through story making. Our words might make someone else feel heard. And that’s good for the human tribe.

Book Fest was not what I thought it’d be. It was much better than what I thought it would be. Book Fest made me feel like a writer, but not through volume of sales under the tent. True story: A woman whom I had met only the night before when she bought a book, came back to tell me she had just read the first story in After Ever and it made her cry. The story was about her friend she told me, and she was very touched by that. Did I sell a ton of books? I sold enough.

D. Avery lives on an island off the coast of Massachusetts with a husband and a cat. She is a teacher of middle school mathematics. She enjoys kayaking, baking sourdough bread, and reading. She sometimes write. People sometimes read what she writes. ShiftnShake is a place for you to read some of D.’s writing, including her weekly Ranch Yarns.

June 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

Many hands make light work. Women converged on Lady B’s yard, a twisting wreckage slammed by flood and debris last year. Someone — maybe a county worker — laid down straw last summer which snow matted like unruly hair. Depressed and unable to muck out her yard, Lady B expressed sadness. That’s when we formed an informal rake brigade. With six women and six rakes, we piled leaves and straw, collected debris and shattered ceramic pots. Lady B, 86-years-old, fussed over all of us with graciously served cups of sweet tea.

On Saturday, I’m looking forward to returning with annual plants to splash color in remaining pots, and give my friend something to water and care for each day. My daughter will join her hands with mine to plant, and other women plan long-term garden solutions. Approaching a year after the Father’s Day Floods, my community remains Copper Country Strong.

Across town, all hands are on deck to celebrate the Vet Center’s 40th Anniversary. A BBQ fires up, women set up tables laden with food — sloppy joes, taco salad, fruit salad, cheesy potatoes — and the color guard stands at attention. Vietnam Vets and their spouses stand to receive recognition pins.

But let’s back up past WWII, WWI and the American Civil War to better understand what the Vet Center is all about. President Abe Lincoln made a promise to the surviving soldiers and families of the Civil War. The following opens Miracle of Ducks, my novel-in-progress:

In his second inaugural speech, President Lincoln delivered a remedy of justice to those who have served a nation in times of war, understanding that the price paid by soldiers and their families comes at a cost to the nation:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

To this day, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs operates under a solemn commitment made to those injured in service and vows to take care of the families whose soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice. Less than one percent of US citizens ever serve, giving the entire group of veterans an obscure and minority voice. Veterans rarely speak up for their own justice, making it difficult to receive their benefits for what they endured. It is important that we speak up for them. That we welcome them home, understanding they won’t fit in with the civilians they protected. That we do the one and only thing they ever ask for — “Please take care of my family when I pick up arms for you.”

Those who marry these veterans are loyal. A service to nation that often goes unrecognized.

Miracle of Ducks gives voice to veteran spouses through the story of Danni Gordon. This character has evolved with my own understanding of the service spouses give to the nation. Mary Gauthier, a songwriter who works with veteran families to capture their experiences in song, sings about the War After the War. Here are the lyrics that resonate with the “invisible” spouses:

Who’s gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who went to war
Land mines in the living room eggshells on the floor
I lost myself in the shadow of your honor and your pain
You stare out the window as our dreams go down the drain
Invisible, the war after the war
I’m a soldier too, just like you
Serving something bigger than myself
I serve unseen, caught in between
My pain and the pain of someone else
I’m stronger than you think I am, I’m right here by your side
I am not your enemy I don’t want to fight
There’s no going back in time I know you’re not the same
But you are not the only one for whom the world has changed
Invisible, the war after the war

Yet, the price soldiers and their families pay comes at a cost to the nation. In subsequent wars, US citizens paid taxes to fund war efforts, which is why great thought was given before entering into such a commitment. Those who stayed home planted victory gardens, learned to cook and eat rice so that grains could go overseas to soldiers, went without nylons and other items to ration resources. When soldiers came home, citizens rejoiced with ticker-tape parades. And then came Vietnam, an unpopular war during a time of civil unrest. Soldiers became objects of derision.

The Hub remembers when Georgia hated the Army Rangers. They were barred from businesses and snubbed by society. Grenada changed that attitude and made the Hub wary of fickle views of citizens. He enjoyed getting a parade and allowed in establishments previously off-limits, but he still feels annoyed when someone says, “Thanks for your service.” I’ve tried to understand because I recognize that most people are sincere when they give thanks.

But consider this: Post 9/11 “War on Terrorism” has been the longest US war in history, and yet the smallest percentage of population serves. The toll on physical and mental health is high because of repeat tours. Giving thanks is not what Abraham Lincoln intended. The nation — its citizens — must bear the burden of the cost of war. What does this ideal look like in practice?

Soldiers get medical and mental healthcare without stigma, shame, or pressure to soldier up and take the pain and suffering in silence. That’s the VA’s job. On the homefront, soldiers get readjustment counseling to improve quality of life. That’s the Vet Center’s job. So what do citizens do? They can hire veterans, prevent homelessness, and break down barriers that cause veteran isolation. Isolation kills. Even though veteran suicides have dropped from 22 a day to 20, the VA reports that 14 of those suicides never sought VA services.

And I can tell you why — the VA is difficult to access and penetrate, staff often minimize or ignore concerns, funding goes into marketing a suicide prevention hotline instead of programs that encourage veteran inclusion and fitness, homelessness prevention is nonexistent and does not actually help veterans, and moral injury continues after service. Today, at the open house, I expressed my views based on three years of homelessness and 35 years of VA medical neglect to the regions suicide prevention coordinator. I gave her the view from the other side. And as a spouse, I don’t soldier up, I advocate.

My hands are not alone. As Josh Groban sings in The War at Home, “they are a million strong.” I stand beside my Warrior Sisters. Today, I wept as those of the Vietnam era were honored alongside their husbands with pins that represent their courage and indicate a grateful nation. My husband sat beside me and wept to see his Vietnam era Brothers honored and welcomed home. The Vet Centers exist because the Vietnam vets insisted on helping one another if their country wasn’t going to. The Vet Center exists to keep the promise Abe Lincoln made. It is the legacy of the Vietnam Vets.

Many hands make light work. Won’t you join me in bearing the burdens found in our own hometowns? A better world is not just about veterans. I know we are a global community, but each of us can see and meet the needs of others around us — helping a new mom, visiting the elderly and writing down stories, breaking barriers that isolate vulnerable populations, seeing the humanity in a homeless person, fostering community beautification, giving voice to the voiceless, taking on stories bigger than ourselves. We can all be of service.

June 13, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the work of many hands. Is it a cooperative effort or something else? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 18, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Difficult Decision (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Hands reached out to Danni as she slumped in her chair. “I can’t do it alone,” she said. The women in her group, surrounded her.

Roxie patted Danni’s shoulder. “What do we need to do? I’ll bring my vacuum cleaner.”

Everyone offered to help Danni tackle Ramona’s empty house. She wanted to be angry with Ike for his absence, leaving her to make the decision no one in his family wanted to make. Ramona’s dementia progressed beyond Danni’s ability to keep Ike’s grandmother safe.

“Will she hate me?” Danni asked.

“Nah, she won’t remember you,” said Roxie. “We’ll help.”

Make a Big Splash

Like a kid plotting to cannonball of the diving board at a public swimming pool, sometimes we want to make a big splash. We prepare prepare to leave a memorable immpression. Other times, we trip into the circumstances. We drop the paint or the mic.

Writers didn’t tread in the shallow end of writing this week. They dove in and created waves with stories and words.

The following is based on the June 6, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that makes a big splash.

PART I (10-minute read)

Soundless by Saifun Hassam

The fountain’s cascading waters glittered in the sunlight. Mallards splashed in the lake. Children chased each other past the benches.

He drank in the sight of a graceful swan and its two cygnets gliding in the lake. A gentle breeze carried with it an elusive scent of jasmine and honeysuckle. Kite birds glided lazily in warm summery currents of air.

He sat in his wheelchair, an unforgettable first day at the park this summer. Not a sound came to him. He had always been deaf, and he would use those lessons of life to learn to live with paralysis.

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Feeding Frenzy? by JulesPaige

My brain cannot comprehend where this intermittent Manna comes from.

The serenity of the opaque surface is broken in what some would call dreamscape.

Sometimes in little bits, other times too big.

I care not that I share space with would be siblings.

Those too afraid to part from schools.

I will wave my appendages, push through from underneath.

With all my energy focused on receiving this heavenly gift.

Though, I am wary of baited hooks, lines, and sinkers.

I will feed myself, and grow to spawn.

I will make a splash, not knowing or caring who gets wet.

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Exercise by Reena Saxena

“Breathe in, breathe out, you’ll be okay.”

“I’ve been doing that all my life, so, don’t give me that crap.”
She sounds offended, so I decide to change the topic.

“Did you see Mrs. Kapoor in hospital on the way?”

“Yeah, I did meet her son, but she is in a coma.”

“There is a difference between living and being alive – We need to exercise goodwill to be humane, willpower to make a big splash, the brain to be counted as intelligent, limbs to remain mobile and the lungs to clear debris from your system and thoughts.

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Splash by D. Avery

Dad looked surprised when I said I’d be bringing a friend home after school, but didn’t ask any questions, just grunted and nodded. Permission granted. Same as when I’d tell him I was going to Jimmy’s, or Jimmy’d be sleeping over. Or me and Jimmy’d be up at the quarries.

Dad looked even more surprised when he met Jamie, this sparkling green-eyed girl in bright mismatched clothes. Jimmy had always been a light in our gray lives, a flash of lightning, a comet, but Jamie was a splash of color rich and deep, color new to both of us.

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Splash by Floridaborne

Common names change over the years; in the 1980’s Jennifer and Nicole were number one and two on the list.

I met John in 1998. I don’t know which I was more in love with, a huge wedding or the man who would take a mistress two years later with my same name.

“Nicole,” my father said. “Do you want a big splash or a trickle? I’ll put $100 a month into a retirement fund under your name for 30 years.”

I took the wedding. Two children and living with my parents taught me that trickles are under rated.

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Lucinda Arrives (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

The rumble of a Harley echoed across the valley, crushing the crackle of a nighttime bonfire. Ramona leaned forward on her lawn-chair and asked Michael, “Is that her?”

“Yes, that’d be Lucinda.”

Danni hoped Michael’s tension was excitement. Ever since he visited his aunts last fall, he spoke about the Navajo biologist he met at powwow. Lucinda rode her bike from Red Cliff, Wisconsin to Elmira, Idaho.

Rumbling up Danni’s driveway, the woman dressed in fringed black leather stopped and dismounted. Ramona gaped when Lucinda shook thick black hair from her helmet. “Oh, Michael. She’ll make a big splash.”

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Burning Rubber by Sherri Matthews

I heard him before I met him. The throaty rumble of a V8 engine streets away came into view in a blue Dodge Charger with Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ thudding from his eight track. He gunned past me where I waited with my boyfriend for this, his old high school buddy. Smoke screeched from his tyres as he skidded to a turn and brought the Dodge to a stop one inch from my feet on the sidewalk. A guy built like a truck with long, black hair got out. ‘Hi,’ he grinned, ‘thought you’d like Black Sabbath, being a Limey.’

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With a Splash by H.R.R. Gorman

It would help if they didn’t wiggle so much. But boss says it’s cleaner, quieter this way. I do as boss says.

I tie the cinder block to the potato sack full of human refuse, then toss the concrete over the bridge. It hangs in midair.

“No! Don’t do this!” the sack shouts. Damn, he’s undone his gag somehow. I hate it when they do that. Now I have to pick him up and toss him by the legs so he won’t bite me.

He splashes into the canal. I wait ten minutes to confirm the job is done.

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News Splash by Norah Colvin

It was splashed all over the front page. There was no hiding it now. Mum and Dad wouldn’t be pleased. They’d cautioned her to be careful. Time. After. Time. And she was. She thought she could handle it. She didn’t need them watching over her every move. She had to be independent sometime. But this front-page catastrophe would be a setback. How could she minimise the damage?

When they came in, Jess faced them bravely.

They looked from her to the paper and back. Jess’s lip quivered. “Sorry.”

“Those headlines look somewhat juicy,” smirked Dad. “More juice?”

Jess nodded.

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The Dirty Apron by Susan Sleggs

My adult son came up beside me and dipped a spoon into the spaghetti sauce I was stirring. “Be careful, the boiling bubbles can pop and splash.”

“I know Mom. I learned that when I was about seven.” He looked at the front of my apron. “Don’t you think you should wash that thing?”

“No.” I pointed to different splashes. “This is gravy from Thanksgiving. This is fudge from Christmas and this is the last time I made sauce.”

“It needs a bath.”

My grandson hugged my legs. “No Daddy, it won’t smell like Grandma if she washes it.”

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From a Certain Height by Bill Engleson

From a certain height,
the water below,
as supple as night,
a light winter snow,
from a certain height.

In full cannonball flight,
There’s a crueller tinge,
Blue water, black night,
As you clasp your fringe
In full cannonball flight.

As you plunge the air,
as dawn turns from night,
your essence, aware,
warmed by breaking light
as you plunge the air.

There’s no turning back,
the river awaits,
blue water cracks;
your plummeting fate;
there’s no turning back.

From a certain depth,
Day’s night, nights day,
A curable path
If you’ve lost your way,
From a certain depth.

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Treasured Moments by Jo Hawk

My daughter stood at the lake’s edge, trying to skim stones across its surface. As they plunged into the water, I remembered standing on this shore, throwing pebbles to master the skill. My father showed me the proper wrist flick to send a stone bouncing over the glassy expanse. Those rocks inspired my love of geology and my assemblage of semi-precious gems.

As I reached the shoreline, she stooped, selecting another rock from the bowl holding my collection. I gasped. Then I cradled her hand, positioned her wrist to the proper angle, and together we let the beauty fly.

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Big Splash by Joanne Fisher

Esther took pride in her swimming. She could move through the water like a torpedo. She reckoned no one was faster than her as she swam through the warm waters building up speed.

Her long dark hair trailed behind her as she sped upwards. She broke through the surface leaping into the air and then diving back under with a big splash. As she plummeted downwards she turned around again and built up speed once more.

Breaking through the surface a second time her silver fish tail gleamed in the sunlight before she disappeared under the water again.

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Freedom’s Price by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The Gull cries warning, but Gwyneth is late to work in the Manse’s scullery. She’s agreed to pay off Auntie Shallah’s debts from drink and gambling. Shallah had bet her tailfin; she’s now imprisoned by Pastor Johnson.

Gwyneth steps from the water and sheds her own skin, trading it for the thin blue shift she hides in the cave downstream.

The minister’s boy watches—he’s watched all month. He wants a girl, a magical mermaid for himself.

Gwyneth hastens to the scullery.

He slips in the cave, takes up and sniffs the pelt, still damp and salty, like her.

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Selkie Self by Kerry E.B. Black

Seline pines for the sea, fingers pressed to her throat as though strangled without its brine. She spends every moment she can with toes tickled by frothy surf, never misses a sunset when the waters engulf the great orb in their murky depths. Her tears splash its turbulent surface before she returns to her husband, the man who hides her true self and thereby enslaves her.

One day, she’ll find the skin he stole. Then she’ll slide into it like destiny. She won’t look back when she rejoins her selkie sisters, and she’ll never again misplace her true self.

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Interstellar Underdrive by Keith Burdon

“Did you ever see the two golden records the humans sent?”

“Yeah, Sounds of Earth, it was my job to listen to them when they landed here.”

“Were they any good?”

“Not particularly, but then they were better than that ‘Do wah diddy diddy’ nonsense. ‘Snapping her fingers and shuffling her feet’ sounds like your first girlfriend Gliese 145.”

“Shut your snarf Camelopardalis! No worse than that Splish Splash rubbish you always used to play.”

“What’s playing next?”

“That one about your mum, you know, the ‘…one eyed, one horned purple people eater.’

“Hey, she only did that once…!”

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Mythical Creatures Swimming Pool by Nicole Horlings

It was a hot summer day at Mythical Creatures Swimming Pool, and everyone wanted to cool off. The Loch ness monster was slowly swimming in circles, completely submerged at the bottom of the pool. The phoenix was sunbathing on the patio. The mermaids were flirting with the lifeguard. Leprechauns were selling rainbow ice cream cones for a gold coin each. A couple satyrs were arguing over which radio station should be playing. Bigfoot shyly came out from the bushes, and stepped out onto the driving board. He let out a warning growl, then cannon-balled into the water, splashing everyone.

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PART II (ten-minute read)

Gone in a Splash by Ann Edall-Robson

Above the falls, she found what she had heard over the thunderous sound of water hitting water at the bottom of the rocks. A calf straddled over a rock, its Momma bawling on the other side.

Leaving her horse at the water’s edge, Hanna figured if the cow had crossed, she would be all right on foot.

Hanna reached out to the calf at the same time a rope settled over its head. The surprise of help made her turn to look. Losing her balance she went under in a splash, the current carrying her towards the deadly falls.

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Maggie and Water by Di @pensitivity101

They say there is nothing more affectionate than a wet dog.

Maggie loves the water, and when she was a pup, we’d drive down to the park every day where she could have a swim in the sea.

She took the groynes as her personal obstacle course, which of course Hubby encouraged.

She went flying over them with ease, until the last when she did a complete somersault and ended up on her back. I was panic stricken, only to find her splashing around in total bliss as the water was quite deep on the side I couldn’t see.

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Homey by Gloria McBreen

The box is nice and cold today. The last time Annie put me in here the temperature was not to my liking, and I nearly passed out.

Today, I’m feeling claustrophobic. “Annie, let me out now please.”

But she never listens to me. All she does is look at me with her big blue eyes, and beam her big toothy grin.

I’ll play dead; that usually works. Yes! Here she comes. I love this part. This is where she turns the box upside down, then I make a big splash into my lovely clean fish bowl. Home sweet home.

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A Big Splashy Dance by Miriam Hurdle

“Karen, this is unbelievable. We did it. I’m so glad you accepted our invitation.”

“I didn’t know your team, but I know you. We worked well before.”

“Our dance group had been working with the choreographer for six months. Delia got hit with the flu in the last minute. I couldn’t think of calling anyone else.”

“It was delighted to dance with you again.”

“You’re natural, Karen. Just two rehearsals, you were like with us for ages. We made a big splash tonight. Our choreographer would love to have you come on board.”

“I’d like to think about that.”

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One Way To Create a Splash! by Ritu Bhathal

“Can I see it? Please!” Julie ran over to Jack, straining to grab the phone.

Jack stretched his arm high up, out of her reach.

Grabbing his sleeve, she tried to bring his arm down. “I need to see the photo!”

“Why?”

“Because I’m not having you sharing awful pictures of me!” She pulled at his arm, her grasp nearing the phone.

Both hands on the handset – it was like a tug-of-war.

“There! Got it!”

One final wrench and it was hers… except it flew out of her hand and landed in the pool with a big splash.

“Oops.”

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Candidate by Abhijit Ray

“Make noise, a lot of it,” Nikhil’s political advisor said excitedly, “let people know your arrival.”

Nikhil and his advisor were chatting on the way to his party office. There was a buzz that party will announce Nikhil as party candidate for assembly election.

“How?” Nikhil asked his advisor, “help me improve visibility?”

“Give interviews, address public meetings,” said advisor, as he stepped on a banana peel “create a splashhhhh!”

“Created enough splash for a day!” commented Nikhil as he pulled his advisor up from the mud puddle, “hope I do not land on my behind like you!”

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A Splashing Good Time by Sally Cronin

Her husband insisted she was incapable of learning to drive, refusing to pay for lessons as a waste of time and money. After seven years she found her own voice, and grateful there were no children to witness her failure, she left. With a new job, cottage and money to make her own way, she passed her driving test first time, and purchased a small car. One day torrential rain filled the drains, creating deep puddles each side of the road. She saw him walking along the pavement. Smiling, she swished passed him, creating a wonderfully drenching big splash.

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Big Splash by Robbie Cheadle

How do you see

your life unfolding?

What gives you purpose?

What inspires you

to get up in the morning

and face the day?

Do you care if your actions

leave the surface

of your own life

and that of others

smooth and unmarred?

Or is your ambition to cause

small ripples across

its glassy face?

Do you think it’s important

to make an impact?

To do or say something

that will be noteworthy

and possibly inspire change

to the course of many lives

What is your purpose

To leave an unmarred surface

Or to make a big splash?

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Couple Counselling by Anne Goodwin

Laying the printed sheet on the table, she smooths out the creases. “Sorry about your questionnaire.”

“Butterfingers splashed red wine on it,” he says.

Quite a splash. The pink colour-wash obscures half the words.

“He jogged my arm.”

“She hogged the remote.”

“My programme hadn’t finished.”

“She knew kick-off was at eight.”

“Who’d watch football on his wedding anniversary?”

“May I interrupt you a moment?”

They look up like naughty children. “Give us another,” he says. “I won’t let her mess it up again.”

“No need.” I toss the questionnaire in the bin. “We’ve plenty to work on already.”

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Front page Splash by Hugh W. Roberts

London, May 1965

All his fears had come true. Had it been worth it? Yes. But here it was splashed all over the front pages of every newspaper.

As a single, 33-year-old, man who had just been elected as a minister of parliament, the woman he had slept with had done all the hard work in persuading him to have a sexual relationship with her. He wondered how long it would be before the police came to arrest him.

As he lay back on the bed, he questioned if there was a parallel universe where heterosexuality was not illegal.

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Envy by Violet Lentz

Half-way through Mr. A’s lecture, Evie grabbed the bathroom pass and dashed into the hall.

Without even securing the stall door, she flung herself to the floor in front of the commode. Her empty stomach writhing and heaving against itself. She retched violently, producing only a thick strand of greenish spittle that clung precariously to her lip for what seemed like forever, before splashing silently into the placid waters below.

Just then, the bathroom door swung open.

“Did you see Evie last night? She heard Jocelyn Medgar exclaim. “She was hammered!”

“God I wish I could drink like that!”

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Ocean Waves by Susan Zutautas

The waves were splashing against the shore and it was the perfect time for bodysurfing. Sandy just needed to get out a little farther to ride them in. What she wasn’t expecting though was that there was a strong undercurrent and on her second ride in, down she went, under the water, the undertow dragging her across the sand. She felt as if she was about to drown and knew she had to fight her way back to shore. Disorientation caused Sandy to stay underwater not knowing that she was close to shore until she bumped into another person.

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Bowing Out by Valerie Fish

Lucy knew exactly the date she was going to depart this mortal world, and she was going out with a bang, she just hadn’t yet decided how.

Slitting her wrists was out; Lucy couldn’t stand the sight of blood; or stick her head in the gas oven as she was all-electric.

The job had to be done properly, nearly but not quite dead wouldn’t do.

The decision was taken out of Lucy’s hands when, so engrossed was she in her dilemma, that she stepped off the pavement into the road straight into the path of the 223 to Uxbridge.

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The Dream by tracey

Jan worked on her novel off and on for years, decades. Long off periods: moves, jobs, babies, cancer. But she never totally gave up. She wrote and edited, wrote and edited some more. On her 65th birthday she decided it was finished.

Jan left the book sitting on her desk, printed and bound by the local UPS store. Her granddaughter found it, read it and self-published it on Kindle. Turns out it made a big splash in the mystery genre. Meryl Streep played her heroine in the movie adaptation.

If only Jan had lived to see her wonderful success.

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Splash by Anita dawes

I am looking through my rain painted windows
Waterlogged drowned gutters run
with rainbow coloured bubbles
Rain, when pouring, dancing to its own tune
Children finding the best puddles to make a big splash
Returning home to drip rain indoors
Red cheeks, happy faces
Safe in front of warm fires
Snug under cosy blankets
The deluge continues as you gaze
through your kitchen window
The heavens open, turning your garden pond
Into a tidal wave
Gold carp dancing in water lifted
Spinning lights flashing
Golden doubloons dropping
A big splash, smooth water once more
Cup of hot chocolate calling…

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Unmannerly Speaking by D. Avery

“Pal, yer goin ta hell in a tote bag.”

“That’s ‘in a hand basket’ Kid.”

“Mebbe yer goin ta hell in a box a rocks.”

“No, Kid, that’s ‘dumber ‘an a box a rocks. Figger ya’d know that idiom.”

“Yer callin’ me a idiom?”

“If ‘n the boot fits.”

“Well, you kin take a long walk off a short pier, Pal. Make a splash.”

“Speakin’ a short peers, how ‘bout thet Shorty? Didn’t useta have a ghost of a chance, now she’s chancin’ upon ghosts an’ rubbin elbows with writin’ idols.”

“An idyllic life!”

“Yer still an idiom, Kid.”

***

Splash Down by D. Avery

“Hey Shorty. Kid’s up in the Poet-tree agin. Says it flows up there, kin git words down easily.”

“Jist hope Kid also gits down easily. Really pursuin’ that buckaroo-ku, huh?”

“Yep, seems like. Kid’s real het up on doin’ some writin’ lately. Wants ta make a splash.”

“Hey you two, I kin hear ya. Hang on, I’m climbin’ down with what I writ. Whoa, oh, ohhh! Oooh. Ow.”

“Kid, ya made more of a splat. But don’t give up.”

ripples on the pond
lead away from the tossed stone’s
unwavering path
lilies nod at the passing splash
silently echoing
***

Limrickin’ by D. Avery

Headquartered in a state appendicular
Way up on the Keweenaw Peninsular
There’s no need to fret
Because of the net
Worldwide, the Ranch is not at all insular.

“Knock it off, Kid, limrickin’ gits my Irish up.”

“Yer Irish, Pal?”

“No, thet’s an idiom.”

“Ah, stop with the name callin’ already. Oof, speakin a limb wreckin’, I’m some sore from fallin’ outta the Poet-tree. Was up there spinnin’ tales, then was in a tailspin.”

“Mebbe ya shoulda hit the ground runnin’, Kid. Or flapped yer arms ‘stead a yer gums; soared ‘stead a sored.”

“Someday you’ll pay, Pal.”

“Hmm.”

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