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September 17: Flash Fiction Challenge

Ranch radio interrupted its regular programming schedule to deal with mice. First, it was the stripey mouse (aka The Camp Chipmunk), and then the mice squatting in my tea cupboard. Please accept my squealing apology for the lateness of the collection. I’ll offer you a story of mice.

Really, I should have gone camping over break, not the first two days of school. I even had two weeks, which I can hardly believe was that long. How did those days get compressed and shifted so quickly? My calendar bears the marks of numerous scribbles where camping had to be delayed for weather or other pressing issues. I covered my squash and tomatoes, winning an extension for my garden. At last clear blue skies, extra courgettes, and a date emerged.

I reasoned that I could “catch up” at school, and earnestly completed all my tasks from the last term and worked on my thesis plot, planning when I’d schedule my next submissions with my prof. Typically the first week back is a light load. I researched the properties belonging to Northwoods Nature Conservancy and made a date with my COVID buddy (we do outdoor activities together). Sunday night, I even set up my weekly schedule and planned my posts, of which this is not the one I planned. That’s when I realized I double-booked camping with 5 at the Mic.

As I stared at my calendar, I couldn’t understand how this was already the third Tuesday in September. Next, I realized I had a Zoom meeting with my spectacular Rodeo Leaders and that I was the one who asked to move it from Thursday to Tuesday! Groaning, I decided to delay 5 at the Mic and cancel Tuesday night by the Lake but stay as long as I could. Which I did, arriving home seven minutes late only to realize one leader forgot, two thought it was Wednesday, and the fourth had waited 15 minutes for me to show up, leaving as I got on. (I still think they are spectacular and patient with my scattered brain). We all connected off-Zoom and agreed to meet next week. Wait until they reveal their contests! You are all in for a wild ride in October with five contests.

And the mice? Well, first, it was the Northwoods mouse. He was stripey and adorable. As I set up my kitchen camp, he grew excited and galloped over everything I set out from tablecloth to bottle of garden flowers, hopping into my washtubs. I’m careful not to leave out food, so he was soon disappointed. He tried to get into our tents, urging me to be diligent about zipping. Later he ran over my camp buddy’s foot. This was a mouse underfoot! Ah…but we built a rock campfire ring and lit a beach fire right on Lake Superior. It was glorious. The stars hid behind high clouds, and the sun dipped into the smoky haze of the west, turning red. That night I slept with the mouse nearby as waves lulled us all to sleep.

The next day I had coffee, sitting at the shore in agate cobbles. I found ten while tending to my caffeine. The wind shifted, and soon, the waves rose, eventually cresting the high watermark on the beach. I watched rock pickers comb, and soon my camp mouse returned, this time begging. He’d stand on his hind legs, clasp his tiny front paws, and quiver. I told him it was not good that he knew to beg. I didn’t think pistachios, tangerines, or chocolate courgette cake were part of a natural way of eating for woodland critters so wee. It didn’t stop him from bravely checking out my empty bowl. What a sight — a mouse in a bowl!

That should have prepared me for later events in the week.

Back home, I washed, laundered, and repacked my camp gear. I was so tired from my refreshment, I went to bed early, thinking I was ready to hit the books Wednesday morning. Instead, I took care of other business with the Hub. Then I called the Northwoods Nature Conservancy to clarify which sites were “designated” where we camped. The No Camping signs confused us. The mouse didn’t explain. We scanned the website, and under rules for this property, it said camping only in designated sites. We did our best to comply. Again, no complaint from Stripey. A county worker pulled in early, and I was in my jammies and slippers, all bed-headed and sleepy-eyed, smiling and drinking coffee. I said, “Hi,” and he said, “Hi,” and I figured we were in the right spot.

Turns out, No Camping means No Camping. I’m a recent member of the Conservancy and called tp clarify for next time and was embarrassed to admit I camped with the Northwoods mouse (no wonder he was excited — finally — people food). Turns out, they have not been the Northwoods Nature Conservancy for two years. I had carried their brochure for three years until I finally joined, paying monthly to help with their mortgages on these natural places meant for the public and protection from development. We sleuthed the situation and discovered that their old website was still live. They have changed their name to Keweenaw Natural Areas. And there’s no camping at Gratiot River Beach.

But it was one of those serendipitous moments. I have found a place for a rustic Writer in Residence and with my monthly donation, I can reserve the Conglomerate Falls Cabin for a week. I will certainly make this an annual retreat and open it to others once we get to do such things again. It’s a way-off thing, but it is what I’ve wanted to find in our area! Does it have mice? Likely. Mice are natural. This would be in addition to Vermont. And an exchange of residencies with the Vermont Folks. Kid and Pal, Frankie, Stinky, and all.

Once my excited brain subsided, I focused on downloading my coursework. To my horror, I realized this was no typical MOD One. Instead of the light week I anticipated, I had three assignments due Thursday. Here’s the thing with the first week. If a student is late the first week, they are administratively dropped from the course. That’s why instructors go easy and send lots of reminders. With my heart pounding, I raced over to my Thesis II cohort, knowing I had to submit my schedule, and I didn’t want to forget while panicking over three assignments due in 24 hours. To my dismay, I was one of only two grad students who hadn’t yet submitted, and both my preferred slots were taken. I had to choose one of the two left ,and both will make my next two weeks nearly impossible. I’m going to have my own two-week mini-NaNoWriMo.

Working into the night, I went to bed before 4 a.m. with two assignments completed and edited. The third, I saved to finish in the morning. I had also promised the Hub that I’d help him move our RV and get it clean to show a potential buyer on Saturday. We have tried to give our rig to one of several veteran organizations, and none were interested. We tried to set it up for a couple who lost their home in a house fire, but COVID broke out, and we never heard back after that. The people who have stored it on their property needed us to move it. We have nowhere to move it to. Land and storage in winter on the Keweenaw are difficult to come by. I’ve tried to sell it, but it’s too big for this area. We can’t move it to a different market because our truck has an engine problem. It’s become an albatross and holds no good memories for me other than the kindness of those who helped us get through difficult times.

Now it’s a hot commodity. But no one can move it. I field at least ten inquiries a day, and that drives me crazy. Hopefully, the couple driving all the way from downstate will haul it home. We attempted to move it, renting an RV spot at the Baraga Casino ten miles from where we had it. I laughed as the veteran who owns the property told my husband we could bring it back if it doesn’t sell. I laughed because I know his wife. I’ve assured my friend we will not bring it back. These vets can’t say no to each other, so we spouses have to mark the boundaries. We both expelled our breath when we safely arrived to the casino without losing it or blowing an engine.

Then we found the mouse nest in my tea cupboard.

It could have been worse. We went through the whole trailer, and it was only one nest but a rank one. Field mice must have thought they found Valhalla. Masses of flies emerged on the outside of the slides. It disturbed me. At least it was outside, not inside. But it is so dirty and so disheartening. We cleared out most of the random remaining items, and the Hub took care of the mice palace. Still, I came home and showered and smudged with sage. We have to return tomorrow with Clorox and the shop vac. Many minor repairs like missing screws and a cabinet door we broke, forgetting how to open the slides properly. I feel like our fate hangs in the balance on Saturday, which is entirely untrue. It just feels ominous. Of mice.

Saturday is also our 33rd anniversary, and iron is the traditional gift. Cast iron? Certainly not an iron for the ironing board or a branding iron. I’ll go with a Dutch Ove made of ceramic sealing iron. I’ll go for selling the trailer to get enough money to one day retrieve our belongings from Idaho. The Hub is now convinced I’ve changed, and he’s always been wonky. Well… The way my brain is lately, maybe it’s me with the CTE and not him. We’ll make a great dementia couple — him with no filters, and me with no recollection between fact and fiction. Anyways, I told him he was right, I’m certain I’ve changed. That’s part of growth. But there’s still that old me who doesn’t really like mice.

September 17, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story of mice. It can feature any variety of the little critters in any situation. Are the the character or the inciting incident? Use any genre, including BOTS (based on a true story). Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 22, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Of Mice, No Men by Charli MIlls

In the end, the packrat was her only companion. Clara rode into Vaquero Camp after her diagnosis. What do big city bone-setters know of a woman’s breasts, anyhow? She was born with ‘em and would die with ‘em. Jake said she was foolish. After all, girl babies aren’t actually born with breasts. He’d heard that Flatfoot Bob’s wife had hers reconstructed into perky 20-year-old versions. Clara wanted no men with her. Not the son who left for Portland. Not the dead-beat cowboy who fathered him. Not even Jake, her best friend. Solitude with a packrat set her soul free.

Heard on the Radio

Cruising down the road, and an old song plays over the airways, taking us back to another place and time. Whatever we’ve heard on the radio has an uncanny staying power you can’t forget. Music, or even stories, forge our memories.

With nostalgia — or not — writers took to the radio as a signal for crafting stories. Flipping through the stories in this collection is like dialing in different stations. Hope you tune into some favorites or surprises!

The following is based on the September 10, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes something heard on the radio.

PART I (10-minute Read)

Journeys of a Kind by Saifun Hassam

It was maybe in 1967.
Sitting on the steps outside the kitchen.
Summer sunset.
Farm fields, wheat rustling in the slight breeze.
Great music pouring out of the transistor radio
Something about a guitar man, wandering the lands.
She cried and she laughed – just like the song said.

She’s now 70?
Those faraway crazy days listening to
Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Joan Baez.

Now it’s the Intenet.
Vivaldi; and Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”.
Great mix of classical guitar and jazz piano by Claude Bolling;
Jazz of Michael Silverman;
And the haunting notes of Eric Tingstad’s “Badlands”.

🥕🥕🥕

Tuning In by Norah Colvin

On sheep and cattle stations in outback Queensland in the pre-television and digital era, when mail and groceries were delivered fortnightly, the party line telephone and radio linked families with the outside world.

Mealtimes were scheduled to conclude with news broadcasts. The chatter and clatter ceased the moment chimes announced the start. Graziers inclined towards the radio, concentrating to extract words from the crackle, hopeful of positive stock reports, promising weather forecasts and news of world events.

Unable to affect, but affected by, the situations reported, the graziers returned to the day’s tasks, hopeful of better news next report.

🥕🥕🥕

“We Interrupt This Programme” by R. V. Mitchell

Six-year-old, Alice was dancing with her doll to the music on the radio. Suddenly, the music stopped and a man’s voice said, “We interrupt this programme, with an important bulletin. The United States’ fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii has been attacked by air and naval forces of the Empire of Japan. I repeat, the American fleet has been attacked in Hawaii.”

Alice ran to tell her mother.

“Mother, the Umpire of Japan attacked Hawee.”

Her mother instantly went pale, and stared out into their Nebraska pasture.

“Mother, where is Hawee?” the little girl asked.

“Too close, Darling. Too close.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Radio by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Welcome to the Mercury Theatre on Air…” the voice echoed from the radio in the next room.

Rosemary stayed at the sink. She scrubbed hard at a burned spot in the pan. It was her turn to wash the dishes. Meanwhile, her brother and parents relaxed at the table, sipping coffee after dinner.

“…An unusual object has fallen on a farm in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey…” The radio sputtered with static.

Grover’s Mill? That’s where I live! Rosemary felt fear.

The announcer’s voice declared, “…It’s the War of the Worlds. Is there anybody out there?”

The radio went silent.

🥕🥕🥕

Radio Ga-Ga by Tyler M Deal

Narrator: Nearly paralyzed with fear, she inches closer to the open window. The cold, night air chills her skin. Closer… closer… hands trembling, she reaches for the window seal. She swallows hard and looks out. A shadow in the darkness; a gruesome disfigured hand reaches up and… and…

Woman: Ahhhhhhhh!

[Silence]

Announcer: We will pause here briefly with this ad for Radium Water. Radium Water, it’ll cure what ails ya and leave you with a healthy, vibrant glow. Radium Water! Available wherever NukEx products are sold.

Narrator: And now… for the thrilling conclusion of… The Withered Hand of Rrrrrrrrasputin!

🥕🥕🥕

On Being a Believer by Judy Marshall

If you found inspiration today from God’s word, please support our broadcast with a donation…

Grandma rose early Wednesday mornings to hear Dr. Samuel preach. Her battered old radio sat on the kitchen table.

KRST-AM crackled from 8:00 to 8:30 with Dr. Samuel’s soothing voice. Wednesday’s were almost better than Sunday services she attended. She felt renewed from the singing and fellowship of her fellow worshipers.

From these inspirations, she wrote checks. She tithed with a monthly check as God directed  She donated to Dr. Samuel and bought his books.

Grandma truly was a believer. RIP with God, Grandma.

🥕🥕🥕

October Road by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The sun was a memory, the road a straight line swallowed by an empty horizon. This relic of a rental was so old, the radio was one speaker, with five buttons and a dial to select AM stations. Too late even for radio ministry, too early for the farm report; he cranked open the window for the wind’s whistle.
Rubbing his eyes with one hand, he cupped the wheel with the other.

“Joe? Are you there?”

He started, cranked the window shut to hear the radio

“Mary?”

Her voice was clear and strong, as if she was still alive.

🥕🥕🥕

It Had to Be a Sign by Anne Goodwin

“Living Doll” crescendoed as Steve pushed through the swing door into Theatre Six. Three figures in scrubs, and no instruments in sight except the whiteboard marker pens held, like microphones, to their mouths. It had to mean something, Jerry dancing in the middle, the father he never had.

He used to jive with his mother when his big sisters were at Guides. “Did he really do that, Mummy? Did Cliff Richard lock a lady in a trunk so no-one else could have her?”

Now he has a house, a cellar, bolts across the door. A girlfriend, threatening to leave.

🥕🥕🥕

In And Out On The Radio by Hugh W. Robeerts

“Hello,” said Juliet, knocking the side of the ostentatious object, “Who’s in there?”

“Come away,” demanded her mother.

“How can all those people be in there? Why don’t they come out?”

“Don’t be silly! They can’t come out. They’re not inside the radio. They’re broadcasting from the BBC.”

“I want to broadcast from the BBC and come out on the radio,” demanded Julia.

Forty-one years later.

“Today on BBC Radio 4, we’re interviewing actress, Juliet Greenwood,” announced the radio presenter. “Good morning, Ms Greenwood. Are the rumours true?”

“Yes, they are,” declared the radio soap opera star. “I’m gay.”

🥕🥕🥕

True Radio Memory by Sue Spitulnik

A phone call on a weeknight from my UPS driver son wasn’t a common thing. I asked, “What’s up?”

“Every place I made a delivery today the ladies were crying about some DJ dying. Who was he and were you crying too?”

“On my God, yes. Bill Coffey from WBEE dropped dead yesterday after the show. Terry and Billy told us this morning. We all cried together.”

“Did you ever meet this guy?”

“No, but I knew him well. Those DJ’s are my friends.”

“They don’t know you.”

“But I feel like I know them.”

“I don’t get it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lost Daughter by Charli Mills

Clementine heard her mother over the Stockton radio. She’d entered the small house at the edge of farm fields, picking up fallen produce in the road. Harvest trucks left a trail, speeding to city markets. Her landlady called the rental the Road Garden. Clem thought she meant “rose” and was disappointed to find weeds and a weeping willow. Her mother played Rambler on the banjo and Clem recognized the Tennessee picking popular among California cowboys. She recognized her mother’s name but not her voice. One day, maybe she’d meet the woman who abandoned her for a life of music.

🥕🥕🥕

On the Radio by Eliza Mimski

I’m sorry, so sorry
That I was such a fool
I didn’t know
Love could be so cruel…

Brenda Lee’s voice bled through the radio. The walls sagged, the lights dim with memory.

Marla could not turn back the hands of time. She was sorry. She had been a fool. And from her end, cruelty had entered into their break-up.
There was only one thing to do. She would buy new makeup. She would get a new haircut. She’d go to her aesthetician. She’d practice her coy smile in front of the mirror.

She would get her man back.

🥕🥕🥕

Songs One Can’t Forget by Frank Hubeny

“I hope the kids don’t remember that song you used to sing to them about the bird and the word.”

“I didn’t sing it for long. When they got older, I pretended to be the voice of their doll, Sweetie Baby.”

“You know, we still have that doll in case they ever want it.”

“It’s good to keep stuff like that. Actually some of those old songs aren’t any goofier than the ones they sing today. No wonder we’re all messed up.”

“At least the grand kids don’t know the song.”

“Unfortunately I sang it to them as well.”

🥕🥕🥕

Triggering the Howling Stage by Anne Goodwin

I considered myself happy, that final summer of my childhood, playing housewife, home alone. My mother away, securing my future, my dad at work, my brother at play. My chores complete, I’d doze off with the radio in the afternoon heat. Until a sentimental song kicked me into consciousness, ambushing me with feelings I didn’t recognise as mine. A howling thrusting from my bowels and discharging from my throat. An animal sound, alien, drowning the jingle, almost choking me. Arrhythmic breathing, such wild and weird wailing, it made me laugh. A dramatic overture before the symphony of weeping commenced.

🥕🥕🥕

OMG by Simon

A man was walking down the road thinking. He was listening to radio station, a hot news on the radio station, it said “Ghost writer exposed, he is none other than Sam from a small village in India, and we will be hearing his success story from him very soon, until then stay tuned.” Everyone celebrated and jumped and lifted him. He did not understood why they are behaving strange, his Mom came outside and gave him a spoon of sugar and said, “You idiot, you never told us you are writer.” Sam gasped and said, “OMG! I’m revealed!”

🥕🥕🥕

Live Author Talk by M J Mallon

Those bloody motorbikes can’t they stop! 1 A.M. no chance I’ll get any sleep. Tomorrow’s the live show. Never done this before. What will it be like? I’ll soon know. Introverted writers, tonight at 9 p.m. I’ll talk live. Bound to be a problem with the connection. We’ll get there… I did it! I listen, damn, I can’t see my weird mannerisms, but I can hear them. Perhaps I should have had some water instead of that glass of wine, stupid faux pas, one or two!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute Read)

Radio Stories by Susan Zutautas

Dan Hill a Canadian pop singer/songwriter was on the radio telling the story of how “Sometimes When We Touch” came about.

A girl he liked was dating a football player and he wrote and sang her his song. She felt he was too intense for his age. Off he went hurt by her reply. He tucked away the song until he was older.

Working with Barry Mann one day he asked him to come up with music for his poem, not mentioning any of the history behind it. It came out in 1977 hitting #3 on the U.S. billboard.

🥕🥕🥕

Heard on the Radio by Anita Dawes

I remember falling in love with a song
After hearing it coming from
my mum’s little Dansette radio
Indian Reservation
Years later I bought it on vinyl
Played it until it became paper-thin
The neighbours banging on the wall
Begging me to play something different
It’s strange how one song
Heard on a tiny radio
Can colour your life
To me the world suddenly
became wonky, off-kilter.
Why do people think they can take
what doesn’t belong to them
Changing Nations with their greed
Indian Reservation
remains one of my favourite songs
to this day
Played often…

🥕🥕🥕

Driving Me by Joanne Fisher

As she drove me home, she sang along to some song on the radio. I wasn’t even sure what it was. She glanced sideways at me and smiled.

“Hey this could be our song babe!’ she said, and then she abruptly began to sing again loud and off-key, as always. Our song? We had only been going out for two days now, and I wasn’t that sure if we were going to last, yet.

“Sure sweetie.” I replied with a half-smile. She laughed loudly and patted my leg.

“That’s my girl!” she exclaimed. And then she started singing again.

🥕🥕🥕

Radio Reboot by Bill Engleson

“He finally bought it?”

“Bloody miracle. Melania kept pounding away at ’em. Know what finally brought him around?”

“No idea.”

“The initials. DJT. She kept repeating FDR JFK DJT FDR JFK DJT.”

“Seriously?”

“Yup. Had him running around the bedroom chanting it. FDR JFK DJT. It was a hoot.”

“And he’s willing to go to the next level?”

“Bet your booties. Anything to get the geriatric vote back. And the younger demographic will be amused.”

“Not quite a fireside chat.”

“No, but ‘Tweet nothings from the Prez’ has a ring. Every radio station we can get. 7:00 am…sharp.”

🥕🥕🥕

Mixed Media by JulesPaige

Even those stations that attempt to bring us enjoyment often spouting that they are the best – this is the icing on the cake – we’ll take care of you, we’ve surgically removed all of the calories. A line we fall for too easily because we sometimes just really want to be fooled. We want what was, that simpler time forgetting the long list of woes each preceding decade has had to deal with. And yet we still seek that sugar rush. Looking for a sweet life wanting music that soothes.

frosted, sugar, chilled?
media complicates things
with their bias views

🥕🥕🥕

Good News on the Radio by H.R.R. Gorman

David wrote nervously at his desk. He scribbled numbers and added them to prepare other people’s taxes. The radio played in the background, droning out music and ads from a tinny speaker while David waited.

When the news came on he fiddled with a key on his ring. Bay of Pigs, Gulf of Tonkin, U2 spy planes: one day they’d go too far, and the red trigger would be pushed.

David was prepared. Years of food, fluorescent lighting to grow plants underground, a generator, barrels and barrels of diesel. Just give the word, radio, and he’d leave accounting forever.

🥕🥕🥕

1938 CBS Mercury by Kerry E.B. Black

The rich-voiced announcer interrupted our background music with a report. A Professor from Jenning Observatory detected explosions on Mars.

I shared a nervous laugh. “Nothing to worry about, children. Let’s carve our pumpkins.”

The reporter interrupted again. A hideous monsters that had fallen from the skies. I bundled the kids close, jack-o-lanterns forgotten. We crept outside, but nothing disturbed the starry expanse overhead. No Martians. No attacks.

A neighbor asked if we were alright.

We whispered, “Martians are attacking New York.”

“You don’t say?”

We nodded.

“Way I see it, you shouldn’t listen to Orson Wells’ show. Charley McCarthy’s funnier.”

🥕🥕🥕

Station To Station by Geof Le pard

‘Let’s have some music, Logan.’

‘There’s nothing worthwhile.’

‘That’s ridiculous. American has more stations than All India railways.’

‘But they’re vacuous. Not like Radio Three on the Beeb.’

‘You mean pretentious presenters widdling on about Bach’s innovative use of the semi-breve?’

‘Exactly. Better than some tight-trousered troubadour bemoaning his herpes.’

‘That’s your summation of a whole genre, is it? Go on…’

And now a word from our sponsors, Artic Deodorant…

‘See, just bloody adverts…’

‘Shush, you may learn something…’

It may be winter outside, but it’s always August under your armpits. Freshen up…

‘You’re right. Turn it off, Logan.’

🥕🥕🥕

Beyond  by D. Avery

They pulled the door shut against the snow squall. “We made it.”

He fumbled for a switch. “There’s still electricity.” Then the lights flickered out.

“Not surprising in this storm, but look, there’s wood, and there’s coals glowing in the fireplace. The owner must have preheated the cabin for us.” He soon had a fire blazing. She spotted a battery-powered radio.

Roads becoming impassable…

“Radio works… now for this lantern.”

Police have suspended their search for an escaped serial killer.

The lantern beam encircled them like a snare. Stepping from the shadowed edge of light, a silhouette took form.

🥕🥕🥕

Time in a Radio by Chel Owens

“The shadow knows…” cassette-crackles our road trip-bound car, forced upon us by ancient parents. I can’t wait for

“That was Mars, The Bringer of War…” intones the always-calm classical voice, soothing from my bedside speaker. I’ll never change to

“Help! I need somebody…” Another sort of Classic, crooning comfort. “Here comes your ghost again,” cannot be replaced by

“Video killed the radio star…” my teenage mouth moves along. Why kill art; why listen to anything but

“The shadow” bzzt “Mars” bzzt “diamonds and rust” bzzt “all that glitters is goooold” bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Dial broken, static cleared; I play them all.

🥕🥕🥕

Music by FloridaBorne

The first time I heard the continental divide of music, I was at a stoplight that stayed red for so long it tried my patience.

“Bye Bye Miss American Pie…”

The light turned green just as the song began, and I shifted into first gear. I drove a Nash Metropolitan, not a Chevy, and there was no levee in sight.

Age 21, with an entire lifetime ahead of me, the song was screaming out a message I was much too young to understand.

It’s been almost 50 years. Will our republic lose control of the plane in this battle?

🥕🥕🥕

On The Radio by Donna Matthews

I drive across the lot and find a spot. I turn off the engine, head in, and scan quickly for an open seat and friendly face. New writing class jitters.

The instructor opens with the 19th 9/11 anniversary. 19 years! I still remember all that time ago sitting in traffic, hearing the news on the radio, and thinking how surely it was a terrible accident.

Our assignment is to imagine a moment from the perspective of someone there. This is horrifyingly simple. I picture the spouse picking up their car from the ferry dock among the hundreds still there.

🥕🥕🥕

Now Why? by Reena Saxena

The road trip was taken against her wish.

A sense of foreboding descended on her, as they drove on the same zig-zag roads climbing up the mountains, but she controlled herself. Teenage children don’t listen anyway.

The familiar refrain of a song brought her out of her reverie.

“OMG! This is not possible. It’s the same song.”

“You enjoy old songs, Mom…”

“This radio channel closed down long back.”

The same figure in black stood on the roadside with an infant in her arms. She had stopped them a decade ago.

She’d died fifteen years ago. Now why?

🥕🥕🥕

iAiai by D. Avery

“Pal, do you have a ipod?”

“I don’t.”

“Should git one.”

“I won’t.”

“Pal, we’re out here all the live long day, we should have a playlist fer when we work.”

“Yer hardly workin’, Kid. Jist leave the singin’ ta the birds.”

“Y’ever yodel, Pal?”

“Never.”

“Knock, knock.”

“Ah, jeez. Who’s there?”

“Little Old Lady.”

“Little Old Lady who?”

“Gotcha ta yodel, Pal!”

“Hmmf.”

🥕🥕🥕

Brain KROT by D. Avery

“S’pose all we need’s thet old radio in the bunkhouse, tuned to KROT. Weatherman says them high winds is slacked off. Says the skies are not cloudy all day.”

“Sportscaster says the Rodeo’s comin’!”

“Yeehaw!”

And the Ads Played On

“Yep, KROT’s a good station, plays jist what ya wanna hear when ya wanna hear it.”

“How da they manage that, Pal?”

“Reckon ‘cause they’s fictional, like us. Shush listen.”

Come shift or shine ya don’t need no fancy wine but fer a real good time try Ernie’s Corn Juice! Ernie’s Corn Juice— dis still the one fer fallin’ down fun.

“Ernie’s advertisin’ on KROT!”

‘Ello. Dees ees Pepe LeGume of LeGume’s Cleaning Services. Leave a shine behind! For a clean that lingers, hire LeGume’s.”

“More ads!”

Frankie delivers da letters with an eye to quality.

“Kid, iquit radio!”

🥕🥕🥕

The History of Best Friends

I’m quite hopeful you, as you read this, have a best friend.

If you don’t, however, you can pick up a best friend from a shelter not too far away: you can get a dog.

Dogs, called “man’s best friend” in a cliché and somewhat sexist statement, hold that special status in our hearts for a reason. Whereas horses can understand and work with humans, and while cats can see us as food and attention sources, dogs are starved for love and want to dole it out in equal – well, let’s admit it, greater – measure. But how did we get to this point? And why the heck are there so many breeds?

Let’s find out by delving into a pre-history that, with modern technology, is only now being discovered.*

Domestication

This peer-reviewed gene analysis paper shows how researchers analyzed dog genomes of many breeds to determine that the well-beloved race all descended from gray wolves. Yes, that’s right, your beloved Butter Butt is 100%, genuine wolf.

“I know and accept this worthless fluff-bucket owns my house.” — Dr. Gorman

In fact, the genetic clades (clades represent similarities in genomes, and the closer the clade the more similar the genes) show how closely related dogs and wolves really are. In one of the article’s images, the one that describes the haplotypes (or genetic groups) of dogs and wolves, several groups of dogs and wolves are about equally related to one another. Dogs and wolves are also capable of interbreeding.

This interbreeding seems to have been important during the domestication of the dog, as analysis of the mitochondrial DNA indicates multiple back-breeding events (i.e., when domesticated dogs interbred with wolves) added genetic diversity. It may also indicate multiple domestication events. Multiple events makes it really hard to pin down when dogs were domesticated, and even where! The paper I linked above seems to indicate the primary event happening in east Asia, but others (as summarized in this The Atlantic article) claim with what seems to be equal validity, that the event occurred in any number of places. There is a lot of evidence, however, favoring east Asia over other places.

While genetics has shown us what changed to cause the wolf ancestor to split into wolves and dogs, scientists still argue as to how or why those changes were implemented.

What does it take for domestication occur? This review article from Cell (trust me, it’s a high-level scientific journal) says there’s nothing certain about what makes an animal domesticated, and studied traits vary by species, breed, and situation. The sheer number of dog breeds with highly varying traits also leave us wondering what were the things ancient humans did that changed a wolf into a dog.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of: we absolutely needed friends. Humans gave dogs protection, food, and comfort in a harsh and ancient world even before the first agricultural revolution.

And, as you dog owners know, they gave all of that back ten-fold.

Dog Breeds

Though dog domestication happened something on the order of 15,000 to 30,000 years ago, the divisions of dogs into breeds happened much later.

And it’s the biggest genetic experiment to have ever happened.

From Mastiffs to Chihuahuas, from Shiba Inu to Australian Shepherds, they’re all dogs. Most breeds also didn’t exist until about 150 years ago, when it became a popular hobby in England to breed the perfect pup.

In fact, look at this map where the landmasses are adjusted for size based on the number of breeds from the area:

CRAZY FRIKKIN’ ENGLAND IS BIGGER THAN AFRICA, AUSTRALIA, and ASIA COMBINED. Also, sorry the map’s not zoomed in to see things well, but I couldn’t find a better image (I saw it for the first time at my dog trainer’s place).

In the late 19th century, the English – and, later, much of Europe – got into the whole idea that dogs were pets and could be bred. Now, I don’t want to be too presumptive, but Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859, otherwise known as “pretty much at the beginning of the dog-breeding craze.” Was this scientific work influential in dog breeding? Did it inspire the middle-class hobbyists to begin creating dogs that had specific traits other than what were needed to do their jobs? There’s no proof, and it’s literally just something I’ve had in my head for a while, but I think it’s fairly coincidental that all of this happened at once.

But, as selective pressures brought about the differentiation between dog and wolf, human-enforced breeding measures brought about the breeds. We can see this still ongoing today as breed regulations change and new traits come into favor. For instance, when you look at the below picture of two chihuahuas, which one do you think is the correct by breed standard?

The answer is both are ok. Both the deer-headed (B) and apple-headed (A) Chihuahua are up to code, but the apple-headed dogs are more popular and more “desirable” (especially if you want more health problems). I take issue with this specific consumer choice due to those associated health issues, but whatever.

As dog breeding continues, issues associated with inbreeding have cropped up. If you choose to get a purebred dog, do your homework. Look up the lineages of the dog you’re considering, and maybe don’t get one descended from the top showdog (for AKC Pomeranians, it’s hard to get away from Prince Charming in your lineage, but I tried to keep greater diversity when I got my dog).

And, every time you pet your friend, remember that someone, thousands of years ago, was brave enough to pet a wolf.

About the Author: H.R.R. Gorman is a PhD chemical engineer with expertise in biotechnology and making drugs. Following science, Dr. G’s greatest passions are writing and history. She has a vicious attack Pomeranian named Hector, who she loves dearly. If you want to know more about this white-trash-turned-excessively-bourgeois maniac, you can go to https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com/.

*If you believe in the young earth theories or disbelieve evolution, I hope this article was interesting to you without being offensive. With or without evolution, it’s clear: dogs were designed to be our friends. 🙂

Saddle Up Saloon; Recipe Rustlin’ Returns

Saddle Up Saloon

“Here ya are, Kid. Out unner the offshoot Poet Tree back a the saloon.”

“Hey Pal. Yep, jist fixed mysef some breakfast, figgered I’d eat it out here, injoy the beautiful mornin’.”

“Whut is thet yer eatin’?”

“Ya oughtta know, Pal. ‘Member we grilled at the fire last night, had a bunch a extra ears a corn? An’ I roasted them colored sweet peppers while the coals was still hot? That’s all this is, roast corn, shaved off the cob a course, an’ the roast peppers diced an’ stirred t’gether with a bit a green pepper Cholula hot sauce.”

“Ya ain’t much of a cook, are ya Kid?”

“Try it… eh? It’s like eatin’ a late summer evenin’— fer breakfast. Simple fresh ingredients is savory, Pal.”

“It’s simply weird, Kid, but if ya got some more, I’d have some.”

“Nope, sorry, jist put the rest a the roasted corn an’ peppers in the freezer. Puttin’ things by fer winter.”

“Whoa, stop. Back up. We got a freezer? At the saloon or at the ranch?”

“Either, both; why wouldn’t we? Embrace our fictional status, Pal. Jist ‘cause we ride hosses doesn’t mean we cain’t have modern conveniences. Unless ya’d have me cannin’.”

“No, I reckon havin’ a freezer’s a good thing, ‘cause I been puttin’ things by too. Used up all them cucumbers from Shorty’s garden ta make freezer pickles. They’s real easy ta make an’ ya kin keep these pickles a long time in the freezer, lessen ya eat ‘em fresh first.”

“How d’ya make ‘em?”

“Well let’s say ya have

            2 quarts thinly sliced unpeeled cukes

            Mix the cukes with 2 tablespoons non-iodized salt and

            2 thinly sliced medium sized onions

            Let thet mixture stand fer two hours.”

“Stand? Or set? And Pal, have ya ever seen iodized salt? Does non-iodized salt git iodized or does iodized salt git undone ta become non-iodized? D’ya reckon this a kosher question?”

“It’s an annoyin’ question, Kid, shush. ‘Cause while thet cuke an’ salt an’ onion mix is asettin’ ya gotta be makin’ the syrup:

            1.5 cups a sugar

            0.5 cups a white vinegar

 Ya boil the sugar an’ vinegar only jist ‘til the sugar is melted good, then remove it from the heat, when it’s cool git it cold in the refrigerator. While thet’s happenin’, drain the cucumber an’ onion mix, squeeze out all the water. Then ya kin pack it in plastic containers, pour the cold syrup over it, mix it up, an’ it keeps fer a long time in the freezer. But they’s real good fresh thet same day an’ beyond.”

“Sounds easy, Pal. Where’d ya git that recipe?”

“Druther not say, Kid, it’d jist git ya riled up. But this all makes ya think, don’t it?”

“Donuts? Yum. But it has me thinkin’ back almost four months ago when we had folks sharin’ recipes here at the Saloon.”

“Yep, thet was our first Recipe Rustlin’ feature. Folks contributed fav’rite recipes in the comments. Thet certainly weren’t the first time recipes been pervided at Carrot Ranch though. Shorty’s all ‘bout sharin’ her buckaroo cook smarts.”

recipes-from-the-ranch-e1400277678197“Yep, but ain’t it funny how she cain’t seem ta keep her stories outta her cookin’?”

“Reckon stories is whut makes real food real food Kid. Thet corn an’ pepper thing ya jist ate right in front a me without sharin’ was talkin’ ta ya ‘bout summer an’ good times by the fire. A pickle recipe got from somebody’s father gits all kinds a stories goin’. Jist the fact thet we’re puttin’ food by is tellin’ a story a fall an’ comin’ winter.”

“Pal, I wunder if other folks is puttin’ food by fer winter?”

“Kid, some a the ranch hands is jist springin’ inta summer. But I smell whut yer stirrin’. Yer thinkin’ folks kin share recipes agin, mebbe some’s thet’s ‘bout puttin’ food by, or mebbe jist ‘bout usin’ fresh garden ingredients.”

“Yep, but hopin’ mebbe a wee bit a story, least ways mebbe how they come by the recipe they’s sharin’.”

sour and sweet

memories that last

stories brined

“Next week, the 21st, will be anuther Karaoke event, where ya improve on a song ya know by changin’ the lyrics. See the first one ta gain some insight: https://carrotranch.com/2020/05/04/saddle-up-saloon-not-quite-karaoke/

If ya have a song in advance a September 19 ya kin send it ahead ta be featured on the Saloon stage. (averydede.1@gmail.com)  

An’ guess whut’s happenin’ on the 28? Well, we don’t know either, so yer guess is as good as ours, but if ya wanna be featured, reach out ta us via averydede.1@gmail.com .

We do know thet the whole month a October the Saddle Up Saloon’ll be where ta git caught up an’ catch commentary on the 4th Carrot Ranch Rodeo.”

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact them via averydede.1@gmail.com.

September 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

The radio plays back-up to my primary sources of music. Wherever I have lived, the radio not only has provided background noise, but it has also connected me to place. If you’ve ever taken a long road trip,, you know how stations can fade in and out, imparting a distinct sound to towns, cities, and regions. Like Donny and Marie Osmond, some stations are a little bit country, and some are a little bit rock and roll. Born in 1967, I’ve known the radio as a life-long companion. A constant I rarely think about but would miss like a left kidney.

Cruising up the Keweenaw Peninsula, something I rarely do these days of COVID, I turned on the radio instead of listening to my digital playlists. Ads annoy me, and I flip to another station. We have five, including NPR and a station Michigan Tech University broadcasts. Actually, I think we have six, but I can’t listen to modern country. Ironic, given that I grew up on Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Dolly Parton, Eddie Arnold, Charlie Pride, Hank Williams, and Loretta Lynn. My parents had a massive 8-track collection. The country classics came from my father’s family influence, but my mom’s family meant I also listened to Bobby Vinton, Frank Sinatra, some weird precursor to elevator music. My dad found more country music, collecting gunslinger ballads. My DNA carries the imprint of the entire Ennio Morricone soundtrack to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. My mom collected the Beatles and the Fifth Dimension.

Once, when I was 12, I requested the Greatest Hits from the 1700s from the Columbia House 8-track catalog that would arrive by post. I also wanted the latest Kiss 8-track. I can’t even begin to unpack my tastes in music. But the radio had its influence, too.

Occasionally I’d sneak the dial to KKBC, a rock station broadcasting seventy miles away from Reno, Nevada. That where I heard songs like Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult. Columbia House didn’t carry such 8-tracks, or I didn’t know what they were. It was a new sound, but one my parents did not appreciate. Some nights, I leave the radio playing on low. One morning I woke up to, “KKBC’s gone country!” My parents delighted in that switch, and as a family, it introduced us to modern country that would dominate the ’80s  — Hank Williams, Jr., Roseanne Cash, Mickey Gilley, Charlie Daniels, Alabama, and Reba McEntire. I missed Godzilla but fell into a pre-teen crush with Bosephius.

One hundred miles northwest of where I grew up on the eastern slope of the Sierras, a teenaged boy, milking the family herd before he drove to high school, also caught the same radio broadcast I did. Five a.m. and he flipped on the radio and dialed in the rock music he loved, practicing his “Dead Fred” DJ voice, talking to the cows as he set up the morning milking. At six a,.m., we both heard, “KKBC’s gone country!” He flipped out, yelling obscenities at the radio. He’s never forgiven the station, and to this ,day can recite some of the best DJ moments and recalls more songs than my remembered Godzilla. Years before we’d ever meet, the Hub and I shared a moment on the radio.

Many states and radio stations later, we have a set of six stations tuned to our car radio. I can’t even tell you their call numbers. I’ve lost interest. It seems that part of moving on meant leaving behind favorite radio stations, and after Idaho, it became too hard. I carried my CD collection with me and had invested a fair amount in iTunes to play on a tiny shuffle smaller than a pack of gum. My CD player remains beyond my reach, and my computer upgrades don’t play CDs. I relied heavily on my iTunes but went I went Apple all the way, I messed up my music access.

Cue the orchestra to play something woeful. Sometimes, the hoops we jump through for technology sucks. Sometimes, our human brains glitch. When we got our other iProducts I forgot that I already had an iAccount for my shuffle, and I registered New iStuff with a different Apple ID. I kid you not, the magnificent empire of Apple with all its capabilities, and all the engineers who make the things work can’t connect my iTunes music to my iPhone or iMac because the IDs differ. But I have resiliency, so I found a way. I bought a Google Play membership and rebuilt my iTunes collection. Then I began to rebuild the CDs I missed the most. Then I built lists with Hank Williams, Jr and Blue Oyster Cult just because I could!

Do you remember cassette tapes? I thought they were THE THING! I had a player with a recorder and would sit in front of the radio to catch some of my favorite songs. You didn’t live the ’80s unless you had big bangs and cassette mixes with chopped off songs or a chatty DJ you wished would shut up and let the song fade. But you made do because you caught the song. These were my walking mixes, and you better believe — I had a walkman! Then came CDs. We bought a CD player in Montana that you could load six at a time. Magic! I had Yanni, Enya, Enigma, and Windam Hill New Age collections that I’d load to play in the evenings to cook, settle the kids, light candles, and read or write late at night. The memory brings such peace.

Digital playlists are a miracle to me. When I’d work out in the gym pre-back surgeries, I had my fem singers to fire me up — Tori Amos, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Dido, and Paula Cole. I had all the CDs and carried a case to switch out CDs, longing for a way to play three songs of one, two of another, and so on. I yearned for the mixing ability of cassettes with the quality of the CD sound (and not having to use a pencil). Yes, I waited a long time for playlists and was satisfied with iTunes. But Google Play leveled up. Then came the email last month — they closed up shop. With so many other options, they decided not to offer such services. They offered to transfer all my albums from Journey and Bruce Springsteen to Chakra Dance and Guided Meditations and all the rest in between to YouTube Music.

YouTube. That’s the Hub’s music miracle. He loves to research the musicians and listen to interviews and variations of songs. He’s found new music like Mean Mary and can tell you who does the best covers of Stevie Ray Vaughn. I consented and agreed to transfer my music, feeling that desolation of a move again. Then came the glitches. On Google Play, I had order. I intentionally named my playlists in such a way that I categorized them by type but also alphabetically. YTM squished the lists together out of sequence and added the Hub’s listening playlists from when he’s on my computer. Then, the playlists cut out on shuffle, so my background music shuts down randomly. I spent too much time trying to figure out a fix and drew the line at having to download an app.

That’s how I came to Amazon Music. It’s half the price of Google Play. The Hub can still do his thing on YouTube. I can, too, and no need to pay for YouTube Music. But I’m not advertising. Actually, I’m a bit disgruntled with all this wasted effort when I had the solution three technology advances ago. But what eased my troubles was finding a CD replacement that Google Play and YouTube did not have. Clannad. It was always first in my CD player. It heralded the moment I took a deep breath and felt the peace of home no matter where I was. Tonight, I set up a playlist of albums as if I were back in Montana…or Minnesota…or Idaho. I heard home play in my home…in Michigan for the first time. And I settled inside.

There is a radio station I still listen to regularly, though, and it’s not in my vehicle, but on my computer. WUMB. It has the kind of music the Current played in Minneapolis, and another station in Idaho. Out of Boston, I think of it as the music of the Northeast. I think of Vermont, the most rooted place and people I’ve experienced. Rooted music. And that is still the magic of radio. Despite all these technologies and arrangements, radio still connects people and place.

With great anticipation, I introduce ya’ll to the 2020 Flash Fiction Rodeo Playlist (on YouTube). I had lots of music memories and creative ideas swirling as I built this list. The first song is a masterpiece written for a Clint Eastwood movie by an Italian composer and artfully played by the Danish National Symphony. It vibrates with global imagination. The list includes classics, a few KKBC tunes, western movie songs, and some interesting modern manifestations in western music. Cowboy music has roots in many other nations and has a vibe shared by those venturing to frontiers. Maybe one day, someone will yodel a cattle call on Mars. Much of the music tells a story; other songs inspire stories. It’s the essence of our Rodeo contest season quickly approaching.

We have a great line up of Rodeo Leaders to host contests this year — Colleen Chesebro, Marsha Ingrao, Kerry E.B. Black, and the one and only Goldie. We all decided to stay with a western theme this year, yet you will be surprised, delighted, and challenged by what these Leaders have to offer in their contests. TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction) returns this year, too, and will take over the stage at Saddle Up Saloon on Mondays. Contests will start every Tuesday in October, each ending before the next one launches. These contests allow writers to apply their skills and stretch their writing. The weekly challenges will continue on Thursday, with collections published on Wednesdays. Winners will be revealed on consecutive Tuesdays in November. One winner in each contest will win $25 and a digital trophy.

September 10, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes something heard on the radio. It can be from any station or era. What is heard? A song, announcement, ad? Think of how radion connects people and places. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 15, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

Lost Daughter by Charli Mills

Clementine heard her mother over the Stockton radio. She’d entered the small house at the edge of farm fields, picking up fallen produce in the road. Harvest trucks left a trail, speeding to city markets. Her landlady called the rental the Road Garden. Clem thought she meant “rose” and was disappointed to find weeds and a weeping willow. Her mother played Rambler on the banjo and Clem recognized the Tennessee picking popular among California cowboys. She recognized her mother’s name but not her voice. One day, maybe she’d meet the woman who abandoned her for a life of music.

High Winds

Weather shifts and high winds blow sails and change. Fierce, it topples sunflowers, fences, and rooftops. If harnessed, high winds energize travel and electricity. It’s a phenomenon that can be destructive or helpful.

Such a dichotomy brings opportunity to writers to play between the lines. High winds blow across the stories in this collection, drifting between different ideas and storylines.

The following is based on the September 3, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about high winds.

Breakwater by D. Avery

Stories distracted and comforted her younger sister. “One night a mighty wind banged and tore at the trailer until the trailer lifted right into the air and carried the two girls far away, where they lived just them.”

“No dad?”

“No. A big tree killed him. The mom cried and didn’t even notice her girls were gone. But they lived happily ever after in the candy meadow.”

Sudden pounding and roaring stole the younger girl’s smile.

“It’s just that wind, Sis. You stay down.” Biting her trembling lip, the older girl stepped into the hall to meet the storm.

🥕🥕🥕

High Winds by Frank Hubeny

The only high winds were Windy, the wolf, so Straw, the pig, built a house of straw. Brick overbuilt with bricks. Stick used what was lying around, sticks. Both annoyed Straw. “It’s not fair!” Straw complained to Windy. He wanted all three houses.

Windy went to Stick’s home and blew it down. Chomp! He ate Stick. Then he went to Brick’s home. Brick gave Straw a key. Straw lent it to Windy. Chomp!

When Windy returned Straw squealed, “Perfect!” Windy, mind-blown as ever, thought: yummy. Chomp! He (gasp!) ate Straw.

Moral: Some high winds can take your breath away.

🥕🥕🥕

The Tree of Life by M J Mallon

I encouraged my mother-in-law to venture out for a walk. She hadn’t been out since a fall laid her low before lockdown. We sat by the wise old tree. I had no idea that just a few days ago this area had been the site of a funeral gathering. The family decorated the branches with colourful ribbons, dream catchers, pretty baubles and teddy bears. As we talked, a tremendous gust of wind blew the ribbons, twirling them in a whirl of colour as the baubles and teddies danced.

I heard leaves rustling; it was his last goodbye.

🥕🥕🥕

Where The Wind Carries Us by Hajar / ‘Douryeh’

Native American wisdom says, wind is God’s voice — maybe

Wind easily always reminds me of this: The sky

Looking at the sky, is looking at unending history

At daytime, you see the Sun; maybe the Moon

At nighttime, you may see stars, dead since millennia

Also wind, reminds me of history — but, my own

Its sound in the foliage brings me back decades

I heard the same whisper, when walking to school

Wind brings us back to history and to nature

Maybe indeed wind reminds us of our very core

🥕🥕🥕

Smoke and Rain (Diamante) by Saifun Hassam

Fierce unseasonal northerly winds drove forest fire smoke over southern coastal villages. Diamante and villagers trekked into the upper valley farms inland for shelter. Like generations before them.

An eerie ochre murky red sun sank into a churning turbulent sea. At midnight calm descended. A silver moon rose over the mountains. The harvest was lost. Shorelines were buried under endless hillocks of sand dunes.

Grit and fortitude was part of survival on the coast. The villagers would rebuild. Like their families before them. Diamante’s spirits lifted. The sea was tranquil. In a few months, southeasterly winds would bring rain.

🥕🥕🥕

The Sudden Storm by Joanne Fisher

Eliza, Captain of the The Crimson Night, was asleep when the squall hit. She quickly arose and staggered to the deck. The scene was complete chaos. The high winds shredded the mainsail to shreds, while the mizzen looked in danger of collapsing.

The crew desperately tried to bring the sails down as high waves crashed over them, washing some overboard. Eliza took the wheel trying to keep the ship on course, holding on to prevent being swept into the brine herself.

When morning came, the squall had blown itself out. The ship was heavily damaged, but they had survived.

🥕🥕🥕

Eros Wind by Kerry E.B. Black

Mary rested her chin on her hands, framed like a Madonna by the window frame. The day brought challenges, and she wished for someone to love.

The wind stole sighs from her lips and swirled them into intricate hearts until it found its quarry.

Ed rubbed the small of his back, soothing work-weary muscles, and blinked into the setting sun. A breeze brought sweet, perfumed sighs as he drove his Harley toward home.

The winds picked up and whirled.

“Better stop.” Ed parked at a diner.

Mary strolled by – that familiar perfume! Their eyes met.

The wind whistled self-congratulations.

🥕🥕🥕

You Are Late!  by Simon Prathap D

It’s been three years, I have to propose her’ he said and took a step forward.

A strange noise, a high wind approached them, he looked around no one was there, he quickly removed his long coat and covered then both and took her into his car and Parked his car under a building.

Breathing heavily he turned didn’t waste his moment, her face was crimson red already, our nervous hero finally opened up and said ‘I love you’ with a rose in hand without petals. She shows a new ring in her hand, she replied ‘you are late.’

🥕🥕🥕

The High Winds of Temptation by Donna Matthews

My dad was a boisterous one in the morning. He would be whistling a tune with his coffee and pouring over the newspaper. He scoured the want ads, marking those that sounded promising. He had a job, but he believed one needed to be open to opportunities. He’d finish off his research and bounce out the door, signing off with “another day, another dollar, a million days, a million dollars. He never did earn that million dollars. Taken out by the high winds of temptation, he tried his luck in an embezzlement scheme and ended up broke, drunk, alone.

🥕🥕🥕

Flare-up by Bill Engleson

The pressure builds. Each second of squall is a minute of gale, is an hour of fury, is a lifetime of rage.

Hoble is the town weatherglass. When he is at peace, found comfort in food, in conversation, in those placid moments most of us can kick into gear with planning, common sense, whatever you call it, then we breathe one of those sighs of relief found when wars end.

When Hoble explodes, when the world twists him pretzel-like, when he steps into an errant cheerless shadow, we cower.

And we wonder, how did we allow this to happen.

🥕🥕🥕

Gale Force Winds by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa struggled against the wind to open the front door and once inside, the gale slammed it behind her. She heard no greeting. “Michael?”

The wind squealed through the house’s old window frames with such ferocity she feared they would break. She went from room to room calling, “Michael? Jester?” She saw Michael’s empty chair in the bedroom and discovered him in the closet cuddling the dog under a sleeping bag.
Tessa crouched down. “You two all right?”

“Yeah. Jester buried himself in here when the wind got bad so I joined him. I think we need new windows.”

🥕🥕🥕

Last Pass by Charli Mills

In the Sierras, high winds herald snow. A wagon train of weary souls had hoisted beasts and conveyances to the top of Kit Carson’s pass to reach California’s goldfields below. They looped their way around bulging batholiths and high-altitude lakes glimmering like cut emeralds. The air thinned and the wind rose. The wagon master bellowed, and oxen trundled faster, sensing danger. They didn’t stop at night to rest. By the light of lanterns, they battled banshee winds, tarps snapping like sails. Sunrise opened with peaceful silence followed by splats of rain. Behind them, snow closed the pass until spring.

🥕🥕🥕

Beyond Bluster by R. V. Mitchell

“How did this happen? You saw the alert, and should have known better,” the superintendent scolded.

“I did my best, and as far as your message, I never got a chance to read it,” the manager retorted.

“And why, might I ask didn’t you read it?” the superintendent snapped.

“The wind! You sent a message warning all camp managers to evacuate the campers to the solid structures based on the weather report back in Capital City. You didn’t take into consideration that those of us on the ground, out here in the west, got the storm five hours earlier.”

🥕🥕🥕

Worst Storm of My Life by Susan Zutautas

Can’t we just pull off somewhere, I said as I was clutching the grab handle strenuously thinking I was going to die tonight. How the hell can you see anything?

The rain was pounding down with a furry. Turbulent winds were slamming us as we tried to make it further down the highway.

All that could be heard on the radio was take cover and stay off the roads if possible.

We were losing ground trying to keep ahead of the hurricane.

Cars were pulling off to the shoulder, but we kept going until we made it home safely.

🥕🥕🥕

Winding Up by Geoff Le Pard

‘You’re not going out, Logan!’

‘Why not? Just a light breeze.’

‘It’s a hurricane. Did you see that trash can fly by?’

‘A tr… oh the rubbish bin. Rather flimsy.’

‘You think British bins are better?’

‘No, it’s just they make such a fuss…’

‘The US gets stronger winds than we do.’

‘Of course. They supersize everything. They call that a lake, but it’s the size of Wales.’

‘It destroyed those sunflowers.’

‘My point exactly. When Sevenoaks was devastated by the 1987 hurricanes, the citizens just changed the town name to Oneoak.’

‘They were lovely sunflowers, though.’

‘I know.’

🥕🥕🥕

Bettering Michael Fish by Anne Goodwin

His family spent summers camping. Idyllic, except the canvas never dried out. Back home, he kept his sleeping bag beside his wellingtons. Rain equalled holidays to him.

He was five in 1987, when the famous hurricane struck England. Old enough to ask why the weatherman said don’t worry. Young enough to fear he’d be yanked from his bed when the wind took the roof from the house. Now, as climate change makes high winds more common, he’s determined he won’t get caught out. A degree in meteorology got him in front of the weather chart on the evening news.

🥕🥕🥕

High Winds by Eliza Mimski

California is burning. Lightning. Sparks. Heatwaves. Rescue missions. High winds. Wildfires, ambivalent, rage up hills.

The house had belonged to them for years – decades. It was their first and only home. They’d collected memories. The photographs on the mantel. The ones hanging on the walls. The bed they had slept in, the table where they’d eaten. Their pets. Their garden.

Before they fled, they watched the house burn, a wall of orange reducing it, their life together extinguished. They lost their memories, their photographs. They can’t find their precious cat.

Winds blow. Fires spread. Trees, land, houses burn.

🥕🥕🥕

Blown Away by JulesPaige

The high winds left from the last hurricane pelted Gina and James as they tried to get to the pier. Even without getting into the water sand managed to find its way into every crevice of their bodies. The ocean water had risen to make rivers across the beach and over the sidewalks and onto the road. The ocean had risen so for the safety of the public, the pier closed. The couple made their way back to the ice cream parlor for refuge. What a vacation!

deafening air moved
across their ears; no gulls flew
was nature angry?

🥕🥕🥕

Bring on the Rain by Chel Owens

“I am in control!” She screams, gripping fists of invisibility so hard she feels what’s left of fingernails digging against her palms. Forget the past; forget what Steve or Phil or Jack or even James -if that was his name- said. “I am in control!”

Forces more powerful than any touched by man answer, without words. Pushing, tearing, whipping the lake’s edge against her -her, a small, insignificant figure to challenge God’s great breath.

“I am -” she gasps, “in control!” Spray and tears stream down her face;
wipe clean
spray
clear

Till, beckoned by her challenge, the sky-fall comes.

🥕🥕🥕

The Void by Tyler Deal

Arture dashed across the windswept plain. His heart pounded in his head; his feet pounded the ground. Sand bit at his face as it was dragged away into the void behind him.

What now?

A rocky outcropping jutted up ahead. Perhaps it would shield… Arture faltered and dodged as the mighty wind peeled giant jagged stones away from the earth.

Every fiber of his body strained forward. Then… Arture left the ground. The void pulled him in like a great whirlpool.

Arture set his jaw, tucked his legs, and sped at the void like a cannonball. This wasn’t over.

🥕🥕🥕

When the Wind Blows High by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Cora stretched her long neck, beak pecking the fast moving clouds in the pale sky. Twisting, she at last freed herself from her heavy, confining carapace. It’d been necessary protection against wicked solar radiation, brought on by the forebears of those singing blessings to the thin creek twisting through desert, below.

Wind off the melting icecaps ruffled her damp feathers, coaxing the final stage of her transformation to fierce dragon, like breeze to butterfly. When the wind blew high, she would fly to find the rest of her kind.

She eyed the scant group of humans below, stomach rumbling.

🥕🥕🥕

Landscapes by Reena Saxena

My heart aches at the thought of what could have been.

I woke up with a dream on the morning of 1st January, like many others, and prayed for a more sane and sensible world. I am a doer, not a vanilla dreamer. There was an action plan in place, in process of implementation.

And then, tragedy struck. Nobody had any control on the high winds which swept the landscape altering the structure and foundation of dreams.

altered landscapes
call for new designs
I wait with a pen
but Ink that dried
with uncertainty
Is yet to flow again

🥕🥕🥕

Erie Kai by Nancy Brady

The cat was roaring…
wild
roaring all night long
I could hear it
in night visions—
a feral cat
invading dreams,
disturbing sleep.

In the morning still angry
with power,
lashing out its claws,
swishing tail,
leaving marks as it paced
and scratched, attacking its prey
with waves and water flying
all up and down the coast.

Anger spent,
the wind subsides, turning 180 degrees.
The cat begins to purr,
paws now velvetted,
lapping and grooming the shores once again,

Except in Canada where
winds are high,
blowing from the south, and
the cat begins to roar.

🥕🥕🥕

Strong Westerlies by D. Avery

“Seen mighty high winds in my day Kid. ‘Member one time winds was so strong they took the barn apart, all the boards and beams swirlin’ in the air. When it settled down thet wind had put the boards back t’gether its own way, had us a silo. ‘Nuther time it blew fer days an’ days. Carrot greens flew like feathers.”

“Still had the roots?”

“Yep. But the animals was upset, felt thet wind deep inside themsefs. All the hens give after thet was scrambled eggs. Milk cow was so churned up all we got was butter.”
“Unbelievable Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Uncluttering the Mind to Be Creative

Creative writing is defined as writing fiction or poetry with imagination and contrasts academic writing. As a creative writer, we imagine our character to gallop over the green pastures or drag his feet in the dry brown desert. To be able to take long firm strides over the mountainous terrains, or glide over the waters like a speed boat.

Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds, you can grow flowers…..or weeds.

But that requires an uncluttered mind where we have neatly piled all our emotions just as we stack clean clothes versus the scattered dirty laundry.

That allows a single-pointed mind, and a writer can be in her character’s shoes and capture just the right kind of emotions.

Writing is like housework. For that, the mind should be tidied up just like our bed every morning before we sit down to write. It should be crystal clear for those cells in that organ to create something extraordinary for our character. If we cannot differentiate between fiction and our real-life, we will end up writing a memoir unknowingly, of course.

If our mind is hungover from yesterday’s dialog between a friend or a relative, our plot would unknowingly revolve around that scenario. We have limited ourselves to our environment and missed out on a classic scene, which our mind dared to explore. Due to the circumstances, it wandered around our troubled spots and penned those down instead.

Mind and Intellect can go hand in hand, but the mind ought to first spruce up to listen to the Intellect.

A mind without thoughts is no mind, but to tidy up our thoughts is the key.

But how do we unclutter that damn mind to begin exploring the unexplored?

Unclutter Mentally and Physically

Meditate

The learned suggest we meditate. Continue to breathe with closed eyes while keeping your mind over your breath. This activity is like rinsing your mind with fresh Oxygen as you continue to breathe, which helps curb the erratic thoughts. Can you imagine how soothing it would be?

The scenario is like the ocean waves crashing on the shore, washing off any footprints left behind by humanity.

Attached is a guided meditation.

 

Journaling

Writing down thoughts can help your mind stop churning and begin to release them. An individual can choose to write what pains her since most of the time, people are aware of their foul mood, but don’t know its reason. Journaling helps to work through current challenges, helping one get rid of mental blocks. As a doctor drains a wound, write out all those toxins on paper, and those words will glow in gold once your heart is lighter. So, find a comfortable spot, grab your pen and paper, and get going. Journaling is meant to be a stream of consciousness activity, so you can choose to set a timer or just free flow.

Some prompts that an individual can choose to write is:

“What makes you feel happy?”

“What is hurting, and why?”

“What do you believe in most?”

“Write a letter to your future self?”

“What is your past that still hurts you?”

“List the things you are grateful for?”

 

Walk

Walks amidst nature can help turn your mind outside and help calm the chaos in mind. It’s just like distracting a child who is throwing tantrums. This activity enables an individual to relax as she continues to take deep breaths while she is striding through the open space. Such walks not only help clear the mind but also help burn some calories. On a side note, it gives many ideas even if you choose to call yourself a plotter or a pantser.

Uncluttering is simple; the only thing needed is having the awareness to do so. Once that is in check, one can shape the character or the plot as your creative bugs allow you to do so without anybody’s interference. You are at liberty to either project your characters’ mental growth or take them to a dark place.

I’ve tried all the three methods above and can vouch for it.

As a writer, I write about issues that stalk the human’s mind via tales of fiction, making my readers tag my work as, “Books that make you ponder.”

My contemporary romance novels and short stories have allowed my readers to go to a beautiful place and take home a message. That has helped them ponder their true nature and enjoy my characters’ growth as they endure through the journey that I have created.

My work can be found at www.ruchirakhanna.com


This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna

A Biochemist turned writer who gathers inspiration from the society where I write about issues that stalk the mind of the man via tales of fiction.

I blog at Abracabadra which has been featured as “Top Blog” for four years. Many of my write-ups have been published on LifeHack, HubPages to name a few.

I can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/RuchiraKhanna01

Twitter: @abracabadra01

Saddle Up Saloon; One Shy of a Six Pac at the Mic

Saddle Up Saloon

“ ’Ello, Pal, may I get you a beer?”

“Pepe LeGume! Whut’re you doin’ behind the bar? Thought Kid was workin’ this shift.”

“Keed says, sheeft no, Pal. Wants to seet weeth you at a table down front. Eet’s Five at the Mic, a reelly good show. I weel tend the bar. You two seet.”

“You know whut yer doin’? Cain’t be havin’ ya makin’ a mess a things, LeGume.”

“To air is human, Pal. But eet weel be fine. Go find da Keed. Da show weel begeen soon.”

“Pal, over here! Bill Engleson is comin’ on stage.”

“Who?”

Bill Engleson. Long time ranch hand and columnist for Carrot Ranch? Bill hails from the mild, mild west of Canada. Mebbe ya’ve read his books an’ articles?”

“Oh, yep, the movie guy. Shush then kid, this oughtta be good.”

“You bet. Here’s Bill with Covid 19 Rain Buttons and Bows.”

“Oof, Pal, that’s dark. Good, but dark.”

“Kid, real people are goin’ through a time out there. Thet’s why we fictional characters is keepin’ the saloon runnin’ 24/7, give ‘em a break. Look, here comes thet Paula Moyer, she’ll have somethin’ ta say.”

“Phew, Pal. That Rough Writer is a tough writer. That was heavy too.”

“But Kid, there was hope wove through thet. When, not whether… These folks is resilient, with the hep of each other an’ their writin’. Reckon their strengths is shinin’ through.”

“Yep, but shush now, Pal, Anne Goodwin’s up next, gonna parade one a her characters through fer us.”

“Thet ain’t Anne Goodwin. Anne Goodwin wears her hair short.”

“Thinkin’ the long hair on folks is another sign a their times, mebbe.”

“Oh, yep. Thet is her.”

“Did you see what I saw, Pal?”

“Ya mean was it good ta hear more from Matty Windsor? Sure was. She’s been ta the Saloon before.”

“Yeah, it was, that character is goin’ places. But what’s D. Avery doin’ taggin’ along?”

“Reckon ever’one’s welcome ta join in with Ranch doin’s, Kid. Lighten up. Anyway, Ellen Best is gonna read next.”

“Oh, Ellen Best! I like what she does fer the weekly challenges.”

“Oh, Pal. Is it true there’s truth in fiction?”

“’Fraid so, Kid. Thet was a powerful story an’ it’s true fer too many real women. We kin commend Ellen fer tellin’ it fer ‘em.”

“Very descriptive. Yikes. I could use a lighter story, Pal. Hey, here’s MJ Mallon. Mebbe she’ll bring a laugh.”

“Ha! No half measures. I’ll say.”

“Yep, that was just the tonic I needed. Reckon folks at home kin try some bubble magic fer themselves.”

 “Reminded me a thet song, Tiny Bubbles In the Wine. Oh, shift, speakin’ a tonic an’ wine, I wunner how LeGume is doin’. I’ll go check on ‘im after D. Avery’s story.”

“You don’t need ta worry ‘bout Pepe, Pal, he don’t stink at pourin’ drinks. But go ahead, ‘cause D. Avery ain’t goin’ up on stage t’day.”

“Whut? Why not, Kid?”

“’Cause I’m in charge a the saloon an’ I say so. Done decided Five at the Mic means jist five readers this week. So too bad fer our so called writer.”

“I thought Shorty said five minutes at the mic fer any innerested writers thet wanna read.”

“Shorty ain’t here right now. But if other writers are innerested in takin’ part in reading with a group an’ mebbe bein’ recorded ta Youtube an’ gittin’ played here, they should contact Charli Mills. Next readin’s Tuesday the 15th at 11am Eastern Standard Time. An’ anytime anyone’s got a hankerin’ ta git up on the saloon stage, mebbe git innerviewed or have one or more a their characters git innerviewed, they should leave a message fer us through D. Avery. (averydede.1@gmail.com)”

“Yep, step up an’ step out folks, it’s lots a fun. Next week plan on sharin’ some a yer fav’rite summer recipes, it’ll be anuther round a Wranglin’ Recipes. The 21st’ll be anuther Karaoke event, where ya improve on a song ya know by changin’ the lyrics. An’ the whole month a October the Saddle Up Saloon’ll be where ta git caught up an’ catch commentary on the 4th Carrot Ranch Rodeo.”

“Whooie! What a hap’nin’ place! Oh, shift… Pepe! He’s been behind the bar without hep fer quite a while. He must be fumin’.”

“Yep. Prob’ly is.”

September 3: Flash Fiction Challenge

Seed pods of Queen Ann’s Lace form fists and pummel the sides of the paved road in high winds. Summer tourists have finally ebbed, leaving our region to witness fall’s rampant approach in peace. It’s hard not to face the winds without seeing a promise of snow flurries. But first, the leaves will deepen and reveal true colors — orange, burgundy, and gold. This is a time to still the mind. It is a process, not a completion.

We drive past the sparring roadside flowers of late summer on the Keweenaw. Ever since we took a boat ride up and down the Portage Canal and experienced the magnitude of the deep waters, the Hub has called our peninsula an island. From the water, it is so completely surrounded by the depths of Lake Superior with only one bridge on and off. Today he’s asking me if I think the winds will blow our island away. I tell him I don’t think so. Then we crest the ridge and see the waves of Lady Lake marching in full force to shore three miles ahead. He says the Lake will take this island. I say nothing, silently agreeing. She will cleave this peninsula one day, the way a miner’s pickax slices ore along the grain.

Today we watch homebound tourists.

Birch trees scream in leafy breaths at Calumet Waterworks beach, treetops bent and pointing north with all branches in unison. The surf and winds are so loud I can’t hear anything else. Freight trains roar quieter than Lady Lake in a gale. Below, she’s strewn trees and limbs and driftwood like a child throwing a temper tantrum. This is no day to cross her, not to step a toe in her waters. She’s buried her own beach cobbles beneath sand and wood rubble. I feel this is unfair because I clearly marked Friday as “Lake Day!” on my calendar with the intention of rock picking. I have no idea what beaches will have rocks after this mess.

The Hub bought me a coffee at Cafe Rosetta, wearing his Vikings mask. Coffee used to be a treat, and now, after COVID, it feels decadent; a guilty pleasure. We hold our cups and gawk. The Hub talks to everyone he meets, and we bottleneck on the stairs going to the beach. Not the best pandemic protocol, and I wonder if the high winds will kill the virus or carry it to the arctic. A local at the viewing deck explains to us that the unusually hot summer has warmed the lake, and with cold fronts, she blows up. Ah. I understand. Menopause. Lake Superior is having a hot flash. I tried to film the experience but don’t plan to pick up filmmaking anytime soon. I did start a Carrot Ranch YouTube Channel, and you can listen to the audio howl of wind and surf at Calumet.

We decide to drive over to the breakers at McLain State Park. When the wind howls from the west, the waves crest the breaker walls at the mouth of Portage Canal, where a lighthouse still stands as a beacon of safety. When we went on our boat ride, I discovered how unstable the water feels at the opening of the canal as if it constantly struggles against its constraints, writhing. From the beach, I think the water has escaped. Families line the beach, and locals sit on sand dunes above the flow of water. There is no beach as I know it — water and sand flow over all that was familiar. Long-haired athletes in wetsuits battle the wind and surge to walk the treacherous breaker far out enough that they jump into the rolling waves with surfboards leashed to their ankles. we watch them bob like seals in the swells.

One by one, each surfer rises to stand on their boards to surf Lake Superior. It’s mutual entertainment, those of us in the audience enjoying the ride as much as those taking the risk. We all feel the sand pelting us, the water spray, and adrenaline. It’s a glorious way to spend an afternoon. Invigorating. The tourists who left with the summer heat are missing out on the best season when the Lake shows us all who is boss. She rules the surf, sand, and sky. No doubt it is Lady Lake who rises on mists to freeze the air and gather her moisture in clouds to bury us in snow. More on that later in the year.

We wind our way back home, following the bends and bays in the canal. The water is not choppy but looks as though it has a river current from the wind pushing hard in one direction. No one is at Hancock City Beach. That’s right, everyone was out wave-watching. We top the hill to Roberts Street and spot a city truck, one used in snow removal. This time a crew is clearing the roads of fallen trees and broken branches. We wave. They wave. And then I see my Lemon Queens. Three have snapped in the wind, and I mourn. Gently, I cradle a sapling with a dozen wilting sunny heads, feeling the heft of life yet present. I’ve never understood vegetarians who can’t eat meat. Don’t they know plants die, too?

Death is inevitable. Our island will be no more one day. Today, Lemon Queens died. I realize, what matters most is dignity. It’s not that we avoid death; we die with dignity and grant it to others who are passing. I hold my queens, snip a vase full of flowers to take inside, remove each toppled stalk, and lay them to rest. I speak a few words, giving praise and thanks. Stretched out along the creeping butternut squash, I leave them to dry. Seeds will feed birds and squirrels. Some seeds will grow to be next year’s Lemon Queens. They dim beneath a full moon. So I weed and harvest more seeds from marigolds and monarda. I pick yet more courgettes.

And the wind continues to blow.

Submissions are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

September 3, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about high winds. It can be on land, sea or in outer space. Who is facing the wind or protected from it? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 8, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Last Pass by Charli Mills

In the Sierras, high winds herald snow. A wagon train of weary souls had hoisted beasts and conveyances to the top of Kit Carson’s pass to reach California’s goldfields below. They looped their way around bulging batholiths and high-altitude lakes glimmering like cut emeralds. The air thinned and the wind rose. The wagon master bellowed, and oxen trundled faster, sensing danger. They didn’t stop at night to rest. By the light of lanterns, they battled banshee winds, tarps snapping like sails. Sunrise opened with peaceful silence followed by splats of rain. Behind them, snow closed the pass until spring.

Lemon Queens

As one writer said, “Pucker up!” The Lemon Queens have stories to share that will have you smacking your lips for lemonade. The right amount of sunshine, the balance of color, and a bit of sweet to balance the tart. Whether sunflowers or bold girls with a lemonade stand, there is something delightful in the name.

Writers pushed their imaginations and found stories full of pucker, pride, and playfulness. Find out who the Lemon Queens are from biscuits to monsters with magic and realism in between.

The following are based on the August 27, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features Lemon Queens.

Canyon Lands by Saifun Hassam

Lightning flickered across golden sandy tracts of the Five Canyons Land. Deep beneath sandy soils, paleontologists discovered extinct microbes and algae with yellow chromophores. Over eons, pigments stained layers of soil with vibrant lemon and orange hues.

Spirals of pinnacles, the Lemon Queens, towered over yellow sandstone cliffs. In the sunlight, the Lemon Queens glowed crimson, fiery red and sparkling citrine.

From dark long shadows, dust rose like mystical spirits in flowing robes of the yellow and red landscape. A rider emerged flying on her steed across the open plains. Topaz jewels and silver threads flashed in the sunlight.

🥕🥕🥕

The Lemon Queens by kathy70

In this year like no other in memory, I am spending more time in the garden. The flowers are mostly putting on their last show for this season. All the veggies know their time is almost at an end, how do I stretch the days. Is there any way to keep the sun higher and brighter in the sky. I, the oldest of the Lemon Queens will need help doing this task. I gather all the queens and instruct them on the chant. As we gather an eclipse happens now the sun is really gone for four more years.

🥕🥕🥕

Last Words by Simon Prathap D

Mr.Sam would like to share few last words about Madam Bea.

You know, Good people have got very less time on this planet. She is a tall woman, and I’ll call this is a fall of lemon Queen sunflower. Why? you’ll not like her, but, she is a good person, she is a queen in heart, cares for everyone around, she will go any extent to save people she care, like a sunflower, stands tall like a beacon of light and attracts beautiful people like a flower attracts butterflies, we are going to miss her. Rest in peace Bea.

🥕🥕🥕

Maybe Even Prettier by Donna Matthews

“What’s this flower called mom?”

“A lemon queen.”

“And this one, mom?”

“A poppy.”

“This one, mom?”

“Oh, she’s a primrose.”

“Primrose?! I have a friend at school named Primrose. Well, I did. I haven’t seen her in my zoom class this week. Do you think she still goes to my school, mom?”

“I don’t know, honey.”

“Will we ever get back to normal, mom?”

“Certainly. Do you see all these flowers? Each spring, they grow back from hibernation. They look dead, but then they come back. Things look bad now, sweetheart, but they’ll grow back. Maybe even prettier.

🥕🥕🥕

A Place for Everyone by Norah Colvin

Rose prickled and turned away from the newcomer. “You can’t blow in here on a breeze expecting to be welcomed,” she whispered to a neighbour.

Sweet Pea belied her name, ignoring the stranger and trailing away to mix with others of her own kind.

Even cousin Marigold wasn’t hospitable, fearing he might spoil their whole bunch.

He didn’t tempt rejection by the glamourous golden Queen outstanding in the field.

Instead, he sailed right by and alighted far from cultivation where his lowly origins wouldn’t raise a brow.

“Look! A dandelion! Do you like butter or cheese? Let’s play!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Lemon Queens by Eliza Mimski

The blonde fields. Stalks of lemon queens. Blue skies and clouds that drift.

Marla lay back in the field, worried about her upcoming wedding day. She didn’t love Xavier, but at 45 you had to marry someone. Who wanted to grow old alone? She posed her question to one of the lemon queens, its chocolate face studying her.

“You mustn’t settle,” it firmly said. “Hold out for true love.”

She asked another.

“You can grow to love him,” it said.

Neither helped.

“Which thing would you rather be unhappy about?” asked the third.

She smiled. She had her answer.

🥕🥕🥕

My Lemon Queen by Ruchira Khanna

“The house looks so clean. Where’s my cyclone?” Dad inquired as soon as he entered his home.

“She’s mostly been in her room since then. Let me get her.” said five-year-old Trisha’s Mom.

“Aha! There’s my Lemon Queen,” he said with glee and was quick to extend his hands towards her. His daughter came towards him with exuberance and landed on his lap.

She placed her tender fingers on his cheek as the dad started to tickle Trisha. Her giggles filled up the room, and the parents’ face radiated like the sun from the happiness that she spread year-round.

🥕🥕🥕

Magic Lemon Queens by Ann Edall-Robson

“Nana, what are they?”

“They are known as Lemon Queens. Only those who believe will experience their magic.”

The sound of a gruff voice broke the mystical moment.

“Are you spinning that yarn to her, too? They’re dragonflies, nothing more!”

“Think whatever you like son. I’ve watched you talking to them like you did when you were her age.”

Picking up his daughter, he whispered into her tiny ear.

“Do you think they are magic?”

She nodded.

“Me too! Don’t tell Nana, okay?”

Giggling, she blew a magical kiss to her Nana as they watched Lemon Queens take flight.

🥕🥕🥕

The Stand by Pete Fanning

At the courthouse steps, Sergeant Nelson was watching the men with rifles trade insults with the masked skateboarders when his deputy rushed over.

The deputy removed his gas mask. “Sarge, we have a situation on the South Lawn.”

“Yeah?”

The deputy pointed across the courtyard, where two schoolgirls, one black, one white, both wearing tiara’s, sat hands crossed and smiling at a makeshift cardboard stand. The sign read, Lemon Queens.

“No permit, boss.”

The Sergeant laughed. He sat a hand on his deputy’s back. “You know what, Deputy? I think we could all use what they’re selling right now.”

🥕🥕🥕

Appeal by Annette Rochelle Aben

When they were little, people referred for them as the Lemon Tarts as the only treat they ever brought to the church bake sale were lemon tarts. Of course, they had no competition, for no one dared to challenge them they way an ordinary chocolate chip cookie might demand. One must be rather dedicated to perfect a lemon tart!
Over time, the tarts advanced in age and like their bite-sized lemon goodies, they remained favorites of the congregation and fans of the bake sale. To honor their steadfast contributions, and their age, they became, the bake sale Lemon Queens!

🥕🥕🥕

The Lemon Queen Festival by Colleen Chesebro

“So, what does it say?” Francine asked.

Rachael stared at the positive pregnancy test results in her hand. “It says I’m pregnant. Now, I’ll never fit into my dress for the Lemon Queen Festival.”

“Mom’s going to blow a gasket when she finds out. What are you going to do?”

Rachael pondered her sister’s question before answering. “I’m not sure. I might have to live with Dad.”

“Mom will never let that happen. Just tell her the truth!”

“Tell me what?” Mom asked from the doorway.

“I’m going to miss the Lemon Queen Festival this year,” said Rachel sheepishly.

🥕🥕🥕

Lemon Queens by Frank Hubeny

They call themselves the Lemon Queens, bitter as a lemon and twice as nasty. Don’t get me wrong. I love lemons. I even eat the rind. But those two with their cursing, spitting and hostility give lemons a bad name.

I have no intention of kneeling to these queens to pacify them. That’s just what they want. That’s just what they’re not going to get.

We arrested them last night. They hurled a trash can through a store window. Their lawyer insisted they were peaceful protesters. Then someone bailed them out. Now someone will have to arrest them again.

🥕🥕🥕

Lemon Queens by FloridaBorne

It’s hard enough being recently widowed, harder yet to move from your large home of 40 years into a senior community.

The neighbor who owns the backyard facing mine is a “chatty Karl,” a person who asks ridiculous questions like, “Are you growing Lemon Queens this year?”

“No. I don’t like lemons.”

“They’re sunflowers,” he chuckled.

“Gardening is not one of my talents,” I frowned. “If you want to see something die, ask me to tend it.”

Thank God he hasn’t spoken to me since. Perhaps the shotgun next to my rocking chair had something to do with it.

🥕🥕🥕

Lemon Queens of Nevada by Charli Mills

Lara, Eugenie, and Jess scrambled up the wooden slats of the corral to watch Big Bones Janey sort the dinks from the keepers. Roundup always smelled of warm sage and fresh horse apples. Wispy sun-bleached hair escaped the matching braids on the young cousins and in the afternoon breeze, their fringe formed halos. Janey trotted past the wide-eyed girls, winking. She called them Lemon Queens and taught them how to settle a stallion without breaking his spirit. Fifteen years later, riding stunt horses for Hollywood westerns, the Lemon Queens owed their skills to the maverick horse trainer of Winnemucca.

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Royalties by JulesPaige

Bob and Cora let their seven year old granddaughter run loose in the heliocentric field of Lemon Queens. It would be the last year for that crop. Well, any crop since they’d decided to retire. No one in the family wanted the farm. The developer gave them a very good price. They could move to a warm climate and never worry about shoveling snow again. They could buy or build just the right place to welcome their children and grands any time they wanted to visit.

little princess found
all her subjects heads bowing
as she skip danced passed

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Lemon Queens by Sue Spitulnik

When Michael rolled out of the church back door he saw Tessa standing at the far side of the parking lot dabbing her eyes. He went to her. “What’s upset you?”

“Look at Mrs. Staples’ house. It’s run down and her gardens have gone to weeds. Remember those tall yellow flowers called Lemon Queens? It wasn’t summer until they bloomed.”

“I’m afraid she’s gone into a home and her kids won’t sell the house while she’s alive, so it sits.”

“That’s awful. I’m going to visit her and share my memories. I wonder where I can buy lemon Queens.”

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End of a Dream by Reena Saxena

A vision in pale yellow floated through the park. This is my new neighbour, Miss Daisy. I would’ve named her Sunflower though.

As if on cue, she turned towards me and smiled. I guess I missed the acerbic expression in her eyes.

“I heard some noise yesterday, and your house help sneaked in on the pretext of asking if I needed something. Let me make it clear, Mr. Whoever-You-Are, I value my privacy.”

I added more sugar to my already sweet lemonade, as she stomped away. Well, now there is a reason I’ll label her Lemon Queen.

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The Lemon Queens by Joanne Fisher

In Lana’s dream she was warned the Lemon Queens were coming. Abruptly she awoke and began shivering. You would think Lemon Queens would be something pleasant, but in reality it was a euphemism for humanoid figures with blotchy sallow skin unpleasantly stretched over their thin frames. Their hands had long fingers that ended in sharp claws used for disemboweling their victims. They also had sharp pointed teeth for ripping throats open.

Lana sat up in her bed in the dark her arms cradling her shaking body. On the edge of hearing the door handle to her bedroom slowly opened.

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The Rush of The Morn by Bill Engleson

Eyes glued shut,
middle of the morn,
Wobble to the window,
Screen ripped and torn.
Flies buzzing in,
Making for my toast,
Lava butter rolling,
Time for a riposte.
Sun streaming in,
burning up my eyes,
trip on the rug,
crush a dozen flies.
Pick myself up,
grab a cuppa joe,
out on the deck,
watch the morning glow.
Birds peck at seeds,
cats about to pounce
savvy birds fly away,
Watch old kitty flounce,
Morning is so bright,
Best Its ever been,
Hydrangea, blue and rich
Snuggles to the lemon queen.
The day’s fair majestic,
a satisfying scene.

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Naming the Biscuit by Anne Goodwin

“We can’t call them that!”

“Why not? They’re lemony. They’re puffy. They’re not lemon crisps.”

“Why not? Because it’s a term of abuse.”

“Nonsense! No-one thinks that anymore. Homophobia’s consigned to history. Along with racism and blaming women for being raped.”

“Remind me of our demographic.”

“Middle Englanders. Conservatives with a C both big and small. People who’d never dip a biscuit in their tea.”

“Unless it’s a ginger snap?”

“They don’t buy ginger snaps. They’re for the hoi polloi.”

“Royalists?”

“To the core. Loyal to Prince Andrew. Think Harry should be shot.”

“Then let’s call them Lemon Queens.”

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Lemon the Queen of Fruits by Ellen Best

When I teach my daughter about Lemons she’ll say, ‘they are sour, and need loads of sugar before you use them.’ I will pour her a homemade lemonade, sweetened with Agave. I’ll tell her how lemon juice can cure heartburn, it’s the only citrus fruit that turns alkaline once joined with saliva. While passing her a slice of my lemon drizzle poppyseed cake, I clean my glass to a sparkle with a used lemon skin as we speak. We will chat about life and love as I slice lemon and freeze them, for days when there are no more.

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Lemon Queens by Priorhouse

Lydia and June carried in numerous bags and crates with workshop supplies.

Catching their breathe, they placed the heavy items down and began setting up:

Water bottles

worksheets

pens

name tags

June Spread out a yellow table cloth across the round table in the corner.

Lydia spread out six dozen sliced lemons.

The workshop would have their speciality “lemon-themed” group activity.

There would be a taste test to experiment with sour.

Lemons would be added to water to alkalize the body and provide Vitamin C.

Standing back, they dimmed the lights and smiled.

The Lemon Queens would strike again.

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The Queens by R. V. Mitchell

Vincent sat at his easel and squinted at the majesty of the queens in his vase. The Paris series had been a success. Now a year later, Arles beckoned. The pot – simple, two-toned, was a perfect tool, as was the plain wall of the studio.

“How many sunflowers?” he questioned to himself. “Ten. A dozen more or less.” He grinned to himself. “The public needn’t know how many are actually in the vase, only the number in my mind.”

With that Vincent picked up his palette and began to mix his yellows, as the lemon queens awaited their day.

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When Ranch Chores Is a Drag by D. Avery

“Kid, where’d them two towheaded twins git off to?”

“Went inta the bunkhouse, said they’d be right out. They say they wanna work fer Carrot Ranch? Or the Saddle Up Saloon?”

“I reckon the Ranch. Tip an’ Top Lemmon are hardy hard workin’ cowboys. They’ll be a fine hep aroun’ here, ‘specially since yer always doin’ ever’thin’ but yer chores these days, what with thet saloon an’ all.”

“All this mention a the saloon, Pal. Reckon this is a crossover piece, huh?”

“S’pose… Whut?! Kid, who’re them fancy dancehall girls struttin’ along the bunkhouse veranda?”

“Introducin’ the Lemmon Queens!”

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