White stretches all the way to nowhere. The apex kisses the horizon in secret and white cannot be separated from white like marble lips locked in eternity. Lady Lake is Michelangelo and sculpts her Superior domain into classical form. This is Keweenaw Bay.
Highway 2 curves around the bay and if I turn and look northeast I can glimpse this endless white where it’s impossible for me to discern the frozen lake from the cloudy sky.
Once beyond the bay, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan emerges a wintery forested wilderness. Lodgepole pines and slender, leafless birch cluster across rolling hills and open up to lakes and streams. The snowpack doesn’t measure up to a third of what the Keweenaw has and yet there’s plenty for snowmobilers.
Small towns come in and out of view as we drive through. We are headed to one of the largest rural VA hospitals in the nation — Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center. Everyone we’ve encountered in the medical system has been top-notch, but chasing down resolutions is like chasing unicorns.
Do the answers really exist?
Today, we had breakthroughs and more tests scheduled. Today, we gained a glimmer of hope.
Look, there she goes — the last unicorn. The maiden’s quest and protector, the unicorn has hidden since the rise of western civilization. Perhaps as women claim their bodies and voices, their lives and livelihoods, the unicorns will return.
But we have our own Carrot Ranch mythology when it comes to unicorns. When the literary community first began to solidify, we discovered that with safe space to explore we turned to dark writing. In retrospect, it signaled that we were willing to risk writing deeper into our truths and imagination. We trusted each other enough to present writing we wouldn’t typically pen or share.
It was a validating moment.
To lighten the mood I joked that we’d take on writing “unicorns and rainbows” next. The official prompt was “mythical creatures,” and it gave way to more dark writing and yet became one of the most profound collections we’ve assembled at Carrot Ranch. It is now Chapter 12 in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. And why we have a unicorn in our book trailer:
Work has begun on Vol. 2. In September, I put out a call for Rough Writers, and we added to the fold. From this group, 30 writers are participating in building a unique anthology that begins with 99 words first crafted here. It’s a process that will see fruition by the end of 2018.
Everyone who writes here has an essential identity from Welcomed Lurker to Constant Ranch-Hands to Ranch Ambassadors to Rough Writers to Friends to Patrons to Readers. We are all part of Buckaroo Nation — a status the community has bestowed upon those who write at Carrot Ranch. Our community is vibrant with creativity and diversity; our mission is simple — make literary art accessible.
To that goal, the Ranch is what you make of it. Bloggers can find their way through Carrot Ranch to a hub of important and exciting blogs. Fictioneers can participate in a prompt and discover other prompts within the greater community. Memoirists can find other like-minded writers. Same goes for most genres. Authors can find a platform that extends their own and newbies can learn from those with more experience.
Flash fiction is both a fun and worthy literary form, as well as a writing tool. You can learn more about my thoughts on the power of flash fiction here. You can also extend your writing reach as a guest essayist or taking on an advanced fiction challenge here. Raw Literature is a series that allows us all to discuss what we write, how, and why. You can join in every Tuesday.
Because the mission of Carrot Ranch Literary Community is accessibility, I want to make sure everyone here has a chance to participate in Vol. 2. I’m opening a section for “Friends” that will include responses to a new prompt. Because this is a published book, I will work with each writer to polish their submissions. You will get a bio along with our Rough Writers. It’s an excellent opportunity to build your writing portfolio.
If you are interested, please respond by March 14, 2018:
February 22, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a unicorn. It can be realistic or fantastical. Go where the prompt leads.
Respond by February 27, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published February 28). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
NOTE: The following is from The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1.
The Secret Stall by Charli Mills
“I don’t wanna pick blackberries. They got too many thorns.” Libby stuck her throbbing thumb in her mouth.
“Look, Libby’s a baby.” Her brother Joe pointed, and their cousins laughed. Libby headed to the barn. The cat was nicer than these five boys.
“Here kitty…” She could hear boy-chatter across the yard. It was dark inside. A shuffle sounded from behind the farm tractor. Careful not to trip over tools, Libby made her way to the back where a glow in the stall revealed a shining horn.
It was attached to a unicorn sleeping on a pile of quilts.
Writers went looking for the freeze to follow the prompt where it led, no matter how cold the surroundings. Characters, stories and even memories emerged.
The following are based on the February 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on ice.
Ice Bells by Ann Edall-Robson
The Chinook winds roll in. Yesterday, -37 today +12. The pond that has been covered with a thick insulating shield of ice now finds itself with tiny puddles forming. Around the edge, last summers’ cattails are mesmerized by the winds. Swaying in their browned coats, watching the wind spraying the melted ice up its stock to dribble back towards the frigid base. A few days of the mid-winter water maker ends as abruptly as it came. In its wake, the ice bells have formed at the base of the cattails in mindless circles below the cold blue sky.
Ice to See You by Floridaborne
“Where are you from again?’ The red cheeked man in a flappy checkered hat asked.
“What’cha doing in Minnesota?”
“Hubby just got a job here.”
“Ever seen snow before?”
“I asked mom what it looked like. She showed me the ice caked on the sides of an old freezer.”
He chuckled at my fur lined hood, ski mask, thick snow suit and moon boots. “Where ya off to?”
“Hubby, who was born in Canada, wants to go ice fishing. He dared me to walk with him onto the lake. I’m going to be well padded when I fall.”
Lady on Ice by Paula Moyer
Jean had lived in Minnesota long enough to distrust two occurrences in the winter.
One was a sunny, cold day. The newspaper weather report called it “bright, ineffective sunshine” – the kind of day when the humidity is low and the barometric pressure is high. A subzero-high kind of day.
The other suspicious event: the first days above freezing. Those days involved lots of melting snow and ice during the day. But it refroze overnight.
Jean registered the mirrored pavement as she carried her trash to the alley. Careful, careful – woops! Careful wasn’t enough. Lucky. She landed on her butt.
On Ice by Michael
In February in Australia, it’s hard to find ice lying around. So in order to complete this prompt, I’ve taken myself to the freezer, and I’m sitting in it, on ice as they say. I do have to extricate myself every ten minutes as my delicate bottom isn’t all that excited about being the butt on ice.
Added to that I don’t think my male bits are all that keen either, though you’d think with so much cold shoulder they’ve received over the years they’d be more receptive.
I’m pleased this week to go where the prompt leads me.
Spring on Ice by njoyslife.wordpress.com
In fickle spring I decide to launch my canoe on a frigid Adirondack lake. The seductive sun is full of false promises. Soon loons will return to nest, mayflies will entice rainbow trout to dance for food, and vacationers will arrive in noisy droves. For now, I journey alone on this peaceful water. I rest awhile in the center of the lake, sipping warm tea from my thermos. It’s an idyllic day until clouds roll in and the temperature takes an ominous dive. Floating chunks of ice menace the canoe, pushing together, refreezing, as I frantically paddle toward shore.
Mosaics by D. Avery
She had followed him then took the lead. Montreal was her idea. Now the river was breaking up, mosaics of ice shifting, jostling, eager for spring.
Was she going west with him?
She loved the idea of him but did not love him.
“No. I’m staying here.”
“Be careful.” He kissed her then walked away with no more possessions than when she had first met him.
There goes a beggar, naked
Except for his robes
Of Heaven and Earth
His oft quoted Kikaku. What kind of a father might he have been, she wondered, unconsciously touching her swelling belly.
A Frosty Farewell by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The fog and sleet haven’t let up since we departed Per’s Point. This far north, the sun is never more than a few inches off the horizon, for a few hours at a time. Had we chosen Midsummer, we’d have had near 24-hour sun.
But transport would’ve been problematic.
One mid-sized Dwarf Diamond would’ve set us up for life. Greedy, we stole a bagful while the dwarves hibernated, and thought to escape by sea.
Lilianne’s fallen asleep as I write this letter, here on our ice floe. I’ll join her soon.
The diamonds weren’t cursed, but we surely are.
On Ice by Steve Lodge
I’d been deported from Belzonia “for exhibiting dandruff.” I felt they were scratching around for an excuse. Across the border, I headed for No Mules Creek. Iced over for the duration, I couldn’t wash my hair in the pristine rock pools of my youth. I drank from the early morning dew, my exhaled breath like mini clouds. I took to shaving with stalactites or whatever was available. I presented as an empty canvas on which no shadow had fallen. I survived on wild marmalade tacos and essential oil and shared a shelter with the brittle bones of the dead.
Ice by joem18b
“Why do I have to drive all the way over to Bryceton for ice? I can buy all we need at Hinton’s.”
“The ice here isn’t cold enough. We’ll be up in the mountains for a while.”
“Not cold enough? Ice is ice.”
“Nah. The ice for sale at Hinton’s melts easy. The plant over in Bryceton makes ice that lasts. It’s much colder and you can get it in bigger blocks.”
“What about dry ice?”
“That would freeze grandpa solid. We want to preserve him but we don’t want to have to thaw him out for the funeral.”
Reflections by Deb Whittam
Lazing on the banana lounge Chloe contemplated her day. It had been idyllic – sitting beside the billabong, under the shade of the tall eucalyptus, the skies above an endlessly blue, the weather temperate. She sighed her satisfaction, it was time well spent.
As she reached over for her glass a bird call broke the silence and she turned to watch spellbound as a cormorant dived in to pluck a fish from the water.
With a smile she turned towards her partner, “Just perfect.”
They nodded, raising a glass in silent agreement.
“Shame there’s no ice though,” She added absently.
Thaw Time by Pete Fanning
Giles shuffled in carrying a block of ice the size of a bun cake. He found his usual stool, slid the ice down the bar, and inquired about the score.
“1-0 Penguins are up,” said Billy the bartender.
Giles smiled. Billy took the ice block, studied it, then chucked it into the sink.
“Looks like you got about two hours tonight”
Giles nodded. Roughly two hours and eight beers later the Penguins won in overtime. Billy fished a dripping credit card out from the sink and shook his head.
“Tell Rhonda the thicker the ice, the more you drink.”
Love on the Rocks by Pensitivity
Ready to make his entrance, he selected the site where he could make the best and most dramatic impression.
Oh yes, with the other guys otherwise engaged either strutting their stuff or making pests of themselves, that little cutie over there was his for the picking.
Homing in and calculating the perfect distance, he circled first to judge wind and angle of descent.
Gliding handsomely on the wing, he stretched out his feet to embrace the water, and slid flat on his face for about fifty yards, completely missing his target and damaging his pride on the frozen pond.
Tequila on Ice by jackschuyler
She stirs her margarita slowly, dubiously; beckoning to wandering eyes with pink tipped café fingers. She reapplies her lipstick. At the end of the bar, a steady gaze burns from behind a glass of tequila on the ice.
“Becky, look at that guy. I think he wants to buy you a drink.”
Becky sloshes her margarita mush with a twirl of the wrist. At the end of the bar, he slurps his drink, pats down his black comb over, and wipes sweaty hands on khaki shorts.
“Same old same old.” Becky says. Tequila on ice slides off his bar-stool.
On Ice by Sarah Whiley
She awoke with a start, drawing a sharp breath and blinking her eyes. Retinas searched for light; searched for form, in the darkness.
Where am I? she thought, confused. How did I get here?
A sense of panic welled within her. Trying to sit up, the panic deepened when she couldn’t move her arms or legs, or anything neck down.
Racking her brain, she checked her last memory. At the club. Drinking. Then black…‘til now. Twisting her head, she felt flat, slimy, coldness beneath her cheek. The door opened, and she realised with horror, she was on ice…
I Will Rise by Raymond Roy
I will rise….
Distant sunrise, cool morning breeze,
above the clouds, I rise with ease.
Like Ironman flying, I rise above,
Seeing those that have passed, my heart fills with love.
Gone is the weight of daily drama,
Which one is better, Bush, Reagan or Obama?
I will rise, here souls have no gender, doctrine , origin, or race,
no conflict, hatred, color of face.
Time as we know it, does not exist, social media likes, or media twists.
I will rise, becoming stardust, from whence I came, free of life’s burdens, only love, no shame.
I will rise.
Ice Magic by Norah Colvin
Mrs Tomkins was sorting the mail when she noticed two big tear-filled eyes peering up at her–Liam.
“Can I have some ice, please?”
“Where does it hurt?”
She pointed to the chair and got him some ice.
“Now tell me what happened.”
“No one will play with me,” he said, holding the ice to his temple.
Mrs Tomkins looked up as Jasmine and Georgie burst in.
“Liam. Come on. We’ve been looking for you.”
Liam thrust the ice at Mrs Tomkins.
“Thanks,” he said, smiling. “The ice worked.”
Mrs Tomkins smiled too. Ice magic.
Ice Dream by Sherri Matthews
The time had come. Everything she had worked for, years of slog, sacrifice, pain and sweat, all for this single moment. The roar of the crowd ushered her onto the ice and she glided, smooth as silk into position.
A tiny lull and then the music, its rhythm pulsating through her every move as she swirled and spun and leapt ever closer to her Olympic dream. Nothing less than gold would do.
‘Dinner!’ her mother called.
The ice on the pond melted overnight, but Claire never forgot her moment of glory in her back garden, alone with the ducks.
Ice by Jeremy Zagerella
We skate along fast and falling –
cut and bruised, parents calling
“slow down; coats on; just be cautious –
speed and ice make me nauseous.”
No pads on but sticks are flying
chasing pucks and always trying
focused now – eyes on the net
glance – “is she watching yet?”
Dads and moms wonder why
we freeze and laugh when we try –
ice air burns and sores our throats
we sweat buckets with no coats
throwing our arms side to side
numbing cold – our skin is fried.
All our wounds will not stop us now
all we do is laugh out loud.
Icy Adventures by Rugby843
Joey traced his finger over designs Jack Frost made on his bedroom window. Wanting to be an artist when he “grew up”, Joey was fascinated by these always fresh, unusual designs. He actually looked forward to wintertime, admiring snowflake intricacies and ice and snow sculptures Mother Nature made.
Walking through snowy fields, twas still cold enough for the melt/freeze cycle to fashion a heavy crust to teeter on. If it was very thick, a nice piece of cardboard was made into a sleigh. A tiring venture to the highest meadow made a thrilling slide back to the valley.
Pizza and French Fry by Ruchira Khanna
“Yeah! I am getting the hang of it!” Sasha shouted with glee while raising her two hands to get the attention of her instructor who was quite a stretch away.
“Continue!” shouted the elated instructor from a distance, “but make sure your poles are on the ground when you make a wedge or move forward.
“Teaching always makes me crave for fast food!” murmured the instructor just as her beginner students were focussing on building their ski technique repertoire to become a more advanced skier courtesy the food that is favorite for all.
Pups on Ice (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Garan blew past Danni, kicking up clumps of powder from the recent snowstorm. When he hit the ice, all four paws skittered, and he crashed to his chest, sliding across the smooth expanse.
Danni let out a hoot, and the herd of German Short-haired puppies slowed their bumbling approach to the ice. They pestered their mother, Det and yipped at their father who scrambled to gain traction on the pond. The runt took a bold step, then slipped on the glazed surface.
One bumped another, and then the chase-slipping began. Danni laughed, the only audience to Pups on Ice.
On Thin Ice by Michael Fishman
“Wait here,” I said skating backwards away from her.
“Bobby, what are—”
I smiled and skated until I reached the bench where we’d stashed our jackets. I turned, stepped over the snow berm and reached into the pocket of my jacket pulling out the box with the ring.
Yes, THE ring.
Hotdogging back to her; bent at the waist, left leg extended out behind me, right arm extended in front. I didn’t see the tight crack and tripped.
The ring dropped and we both slid across the ice, stopping at her feet.
Red-faced, I looked up. “Will you?”
OTZI by Bill Engleson
I think of the night,
The cutting eyes of night
And sometimes in my fright
When nothing seems quite right,
When the topsy turvy globe
Is spinning like a strobe,
I fall down on the earth,
Recall my accidental birth,
nothing really planned,
for I was not much more
Than a prehistoric man,
Lost in a primeval land,
Trekking deep in snow,
Wind, ripping through my skin,
Ice crystals dangling,
The chill, damp grave cold,
Slipping deeper still,
Clawing my way back,
The night, deadly black,
that need to sleep,
The need to weep
To fall into ice
Hoarfrost by Colleen Chesebro
cooling, freezing, frosting
intense biting frosty water
I gazed at the lacy hoarfrost wrought in outlines of filigree angels permeating the inside of the cabin’s window panes. If the cold hadn’t been so deadly the rime might be considered picturesque. But not today. The freeze had descended quickly, and we were unprepared for the penetrating chill. Our fire had burned down to a gray ash. A layer of frost concealed the blanket covering our bodies. Deep sleep hovered. My eyes closed knowing the end was near. My last thoughts conceded that climate change was real.
Ice by Sonia
Two leviathans square up in the mid Atlantic. One, warmed by the sun, snakes her way North moving fluidly to a samba beat. The other, solid, cold, has yielded a little further each year, letting his opponent further and further in.
All seems lost, as warmth stretches inquisitive fingers into icy crevasses.
Fingers overextend their reach, the trap is sprung; Samba is caught.
Feathered crystals of ice grasp fingers, turning them blue, dragging them into the abyss.
Creaks and groans of pack ice herald the victor who turns a cruel gaze south as a new Ice Age begins.
Awakenings by Jan Malique
We feel the arrival of life and welcome the time of awakening.
Our existence has been poised between neither here nor there, but in a place of abeyance.
Ice bound have we been so far but the warmth of the Life Giver now embraces us.
Who are we? We are holders of the Earth’s memories, recorders of ages, and matrix of life.
Our essence runs through your veins, feeds your inner landscape, and upholds your purity.
Hear our song as we unfold from our binding, flow with the breath of regeneration.
Listen well humans, we bring you hidden messages.
New Beginnings? by JulesPaige
Geegee waited at the bus stop. Not really needing to go
anywhere. It had been a long cold winter and this spring
day it just felt good to get out of her apartment. She was
staring so intently at the crocus sprouting from the side-
walk that she almost missed his ‘ice-breaker’…
“Mighty fine day we’re having after all isn’t it Ma’am,”
Leroy gently rested his old body with respectable space
between them. “Glory be, that’s one bulb caught between
a rock n’ a hard place ain’t it?”
“Well sure enough it is!” Geegee looked toward Leroy
Evolution on Ice by Molly Stevens
There was skepticism in the beginning – accusations of exaggeration and ‘fake news.’ But the facts were indisputable when experts examined the newborn. They confirmed a dramatic evolutionary adaptation for humans living in cold climates.
Was it a natural genetic anomaly, or did scientists monkey with DNA? No one can say for sure since no volunteers were willing to go to Siberia to scrutinize their ethics.
Whatever the circumstances, a worldwide celebratory cheer resounded at the prospect of eliminating injuries from falls on ice. A baby was born brandishing the first biological cleats on the soles of his feet.
Ice by Rebecca Glaessner
“It’s ready. Transferring now,” says the VR technician.
“Thanks,” I say, studying the new data floating in my vision.
I equip a well-worn headset.
Ripples of code give way to a silent darkness, only a lone light shines from behind onto icy ground. I’m pulled along by a gradual acceleration, subtle but present.
A chunk of ice breaks and passes by amongst shimmering dust.
I watch it disappear.
Behind, I see the ship, my body somewhere inside, on the bridge, watching this drone study this icy world.
“Now we can walk on comets,” I say, taking a step.
Ice Hotel by Anne Goodwin
Grandmother promised we’d visit the ice hotel. When I was old enough to drink vodka from a glass made of ice. But at eighteen I hung out with friends, so Grandmother went alone. And never returned.
Twenty years on, the ice is melting. The sleigh ride to the hotel holds no romance for a lone divorcee. Will I manage to sleep on a block of ice draped with reindeer hides? Will I discover what happened to Gran?
The huskies stop, barking furiously. No sign of the hotel. What’s that? A body, they say, floating beneath the ice.
A Cold Encounter by Lisa Listwa
Such strange warmth for this time of year.
Ice is still thick on the lake, a dull mirror for the fog that hovers inches above the surface. Dense and disconcerting, it blurs the distinction between earth and sky. The shroud makes dusk of midday. What am I not supposed to see?
The silhouette of a vulture materializes across the field. Perched on the fencepost at the edge of the neighboring property, he sits far too close to the house.
Fear is illogical – death eaters consume only what is already gone.
Still, I shiver.
His stare is an icy blade.
Too Many Secrets, Rachael by Eric Pone
Ducky stood at end of the frozen lake watching the young lady in front of him skate. He noticed his target right away as the man approached. Ducky noticed the knife as well. Ducky smiled as he locked the suppressor. “So stupid.” Depressing the trigger, the man hardly noticed the round enter his head and spraying brain matter over the ice. As the skater turned to look at Ducky the happy yet relieved face of Piper Hunter smiled at him. “Rachael needs to stop with the secrets.” He said to himself and the two walked back to the car.
Church Social by Denise Aileen DeVries
Bitty Johnson, the pastor’s wife, pulled Myra Jean and Lucinda aside as they were leaving church. They exchanged worried glances. She had already “volunteered” them to teach Sunday school. “I hope you can both come to the ice cream social next week.”
“Do you need someone to chip ice?” Myra Jean asked.
“Or to turn the crank?” asked Lucinda. “… help serve?”
“No, no,” laughed Bitty. “Burt from the ice house takes care of that. The Ladies’ Guild brings the flavorings and serves. We’ve been doing this for years. But you know what? Every year, we make too much!”
Piereced by Pete Fanning
The ice water dribbled down Amelia’s palm, over her wrist and snaked down the inside of her forearm. She wiped her arm on her side, eyeing the point of the safety pin in Karissa’s hand.
“Amelia, relax,” said Julie. “You’re going to faint.”
“I’m fine,” Amelia said. She blinked, smiled, she swallowed dry. She reached for another ice cube in the bowl. Dripping as she set it to her ear. Another glance at the safety pin, looking not so safe but eager to stab, puncture, wound. And her ear, it was not numb.
She was supposed to be numb.
Scotch on the Rocks by Kay Kingsley
He sat at the rear of the bar, near the backdoor propped open by a chair, the perfect exit into the alley if it came to that.
The air was humid, smoke hanging as thick as the blues playing in the background. He was restless, the woman at the bar breaking his concentration. He wove the idea of her dress crumpled on his bedroom floor into the plan he was forming to rob the bar.
He approaches, close enough to smell her perfume, and orders a scotch on the rocks, hoping the ice would cool the heat between them.
Ice by Susan Sleggs
“My goodness, I’ve never seen such ice sculptures at a wedding. The liquor bottles are nestled in a huge block and the swans look like they could just up and fly away.”
“Ostentatious waste! If the bride turns into her mother the ice will be flowing in her veins.”
“For crying out loud, give them a chance before you predict their doom.”
“The groom’s already done that. I saw him last night kissing one of the bride’s maids.”
“A congratulatory kiss I’ll wager.”
“No, a long kiss with hands roving that would melt all the ice in this room.”
Ice Ice Baby by Anurag Bakhshi
“Ice tea?” I asked, attempting to break the ice in our once warm relationship.
“Just sign the damn papers,” she replied in an ice-cold voice.
“I beg you to reconsider…” I put aside all pretense of dignity now, but her countenance froze my blood like ice.
I signed wordlessly, and satisfied that she had full ownership of my jewelry shop, she got up imperiously, like a Ice Queen…and stabbed me right through the heart.
I should have known I was skating on thin ice when I sold ice instead of real diamonds to my oldest client, Beatrix Lestrange.
Colder Than Ice by Tasheenga
Romantic notions in a young maidens head,
Seeking out her kindred spirit, gullible and blithe.
She watched the man across the room, eyes met,
Her’s green like precious emeralds, his were icy blue.
So began his obsession, his something new,
A faithful damsel to fuel his insolence.
He stole her soul and beat it down,
She became a prisoner in his petulant world.
Two thousand days of torment and suffering
In the heavy hands of a furious man.
Void of compassion, frost in his veins,
His heart was colder than ice.
Freedom for the maiden came with a price!
Ice by Kim Blade
“I don’t care what you want, you are not getting anything.
The only reason I married you in the first place was to have a pretty mother for my children and a housekeeper.
But what a let down you have been in both these roles.
Unfortunately the children seem to have inherited much of your useless personality and your housekeeping accomplishments leave a lot to be desired.”
At these familiar words, delivered in a voice filled with comtempt; Tracy’s chest constricted and her vision blurred
The cold dislike in his voice was reinforced by the ice in his eyes.
Blues by Reea Saxena
It was the first time she had seen ice and experienced freezing temperatures. The excitement gradually turned to fear, as her skin turned bluish and a strange numbness overtook her body. The snow was bad enough, and she was not aware that her coffee was spiked with lethal stuff.
She was the heiress to a fortune. Some pictures floated in her mind, as she lost consciousness – her husband’s insistence on honeymooning in Switzerland, asking about her financial assets, and his expression on seeing her fall in the snow.
The distance between them had been growing, and was now – UNBRIDGEABLE.
The Final Show by Juliet Nubel
Her makeup was all wrong. How could his father have let someone smear on that gawdy lipstick and pink blusher? This woman looked like an aging Russian doll, not his dear, dead mother.
As more visitors entered the darkened room the humming continued. How many of them realised she was lying on a freezer, its dull whirring working hard to keep away the onset of decomposure.
She would have hated this final viewing. All these people, all this sad music.
This was his father’s doing. A final attempt to make things right. This was his show – Guilt on Ice.
Small Victory? by JulesPaige
The icy stare was one Joyce would not soon forget. One of
those “how dare you even think of talking to someone ‘I’
might have been interested in”.
Joyce and Reggie were downstairs snuggling up on the
couch on the north wall, when Emma, halfway down the
stairs vocalized a hello that could have frozen Lake Superior
in the middle of the summer.
The sisters were never close, now there was a new
unspoken wall that registered as a minor triumph for
Joyce. As Emma stomped back up stairs, Joyce
was warmed by victory as well as Reggie’s hugs.
Iced by CalmKate
As a new graduate I had asked for the basic jobs but as I was mature aged they expected more. When I saw the policeman on alert outside his door I knew this wouldn’t be an easy one.
A tough tattooed nineteen year old was bragging that he hadn’t killed anyone. Off his face he had crashed into a car carrying a family of four. His second serious motor vehicle accident and he was cocky.
I let rip about endangering others lives and that he needed to take responsibility … he had been on ice since he was eleven!
Dreams on Ice by Heather Gonzalez
As the bourbon disappeared from the glass, the ice began to clink as Samuel rhythmically swayed his hand to the national anthem on tv. No one around here would know it, but Samuel was once on his way to Olympics himself.
Decades ago when he first started letting his drinking get out of control, he had one or five too many before a qualifying match. His actions on the ice that day ruined his hockey career forever. Now the best he can do is sit in his usual spot at the bar and watch other people achieve his dream.
Breakthrough by Kathryn Evans
Rinkside, several onlookers have gathered. Must make it, must, must! Her platinum blonde hair is gathered into a messy bun, athletic build revealed by a lime green skating dress. She accelerates as she skims through on narrow blades. Focusing her gaze at a spot on the ice, she bends her right leg and shoots upwards, propelled by powerful thigh muscles. A pirouette high above comfort zone, safely landed: her first complete jump. Hearing spontaneous applause, she breaks into a beaming smile revealing teeth as white as the Dover cliffs. Today, a single loop – in four years, the winter Olympics.
Iced by Geoff Le Pard
‘Hey Logan, you got any ice?’
‘Sure. Bottom drawer of the freezer. What you want it for?’
‘A bath. This guy said it’s good.’
‘I think ice is the devil’s work, Morgan.’
‘You been puffing the wacky-backy, dude?’
‘No. Maybe. A couple. Anyhoo, how come it floats on its liquid self…’
‘And it’s like totally cold and can burn you?’
‘And you can stick you face onto an ice box like mega-glue and still slip over on the stuff like frozen oil?’
‘Like a politician’s promise.’
‘That’s a shit analogy, Logan.’
That was always the plan anyway, from the young age of seven when my school notebooks were filled with funny anecdotes and badly drawn three-legged dogs. The aim to amuse continued to sweep through my long teenage letters scrawled to friends, describing trips and tribulations during the badly-permed eighties. And it has always been the undercurrent at my blog OMG I’m fifty! — a purely self-indulgent, observational space which I like to describe as a mishmash of moments in the life of a very ordinary fifty-ish wife, mother, daughter, sister, and wannabe writer. Most of those moments have made me laugh in some way or other and have hopefully got a snigger or three from readers along the way. And really that was my only goal. Nothing more, nothing less. A simple need to make people laugh in this big, grey, ugly world ruled by outstandingly strange, angry and ugly people.
But that was then. What happened in October 2017 has somewhat changed that plan. That was when I seriously bumped into Sarah Brentyn. We had already rubbed shoulders at her blogs Lemon Shark and Lemon Shark Reef and I am a great admirer of her style and tone. But this time she was asking for help. How could I refuse? So I wrote a piece, only fifty words long, to help victims of the hurricanes which had just swept through the Caribbean. Sarah had offered to put forward one dollar for every piece she received, and although this type of writing was extremely far-removed from what I normally do, I accepted and posted this on my site:
Her face in my lap was the colour of ash. Pain-darkened eyes pleaded with mine.
“Will they be able to fix it quickly?”
“Of course they will”, I lied. “They’re on their way.”
My eyes smiled down at hers, carefully avoiding looking at the tiny arm, broken in two.
The process was hard. Fifty words is nothing. How could I create any kind of emotion in so few syllables? So I cut and cut until I was pleased with my tiny little flash. Based on a real moment spent with a young girl who had just fallen from her pony, I wanted to convey the worry and pain she was feeling and my forced, fake optimism that everything would be just fine. What I didn’t know then was that it would be the first of many flashes. That the little flash bug had just bitten me, slipped under my skin and would make me scratch and scratch at its itchy presence for the weeks and months to come.
She slipped out of her school uniform and into the scorching bath. The heat turned her pale skin a bright shade of pink which would have been unbearable a few months earlier. Now she needed that hot water running over her body. It helped the ache in her breasts. But it did nothing to relieve the throbbing pain in her empty heart and abdomen. And even less to remove the dark brown line running from her navel to her pubis – the mark of her mistake, which she scrubbed daily, hard and fast, without success. She was branded for life.
His tongue made its way down that fine brown line to reach more interesting parts of her naked body. Had he never noticed it or perhaps just never mentioned it? As his face came back to hers, he whispered the words he’d been saying for the last five years.
“Let’s keep trying.”
He wanted this more than anything. She did too. But how could she tell him that maybe she had only had the one chance? That any hope of a second chance had been thrown away the day she had given away her baby, all those years ago.
Where that piece came from is a mystery to me. It took me to places in my story-telling brain that had never been entered before. Painful places — sheer, rocky-edged cliffs I had to ascend; long, low, winding tunnels I had to crawl along on my naked belly to rip the right words from the deepest recesses of dripping caves. I was right there with that young girl scrubbing at her scar in the scorching bath. And I think the judge who picked me, Angie Oakley, knew that I was there too. Next came a sharp, murderous piece for Sherri Matthews’ prompt, and a very TUFF father-son story for the finale. They all took me to a level of writing I had never experienced before. The shift in style was perturbing, surprising, but exciting too.
When the Rodeo was over, I immediately started following Charli’s weekly challenges, Thursday now becoming my favourite day of the week. As soon as the post and the prompt have been read, I start thinking. Sometimes inspiration comes fast, sometimes I mull. But I haven’t missed a single one since November and probably never will. I am addicted to the effort they demand and the pleasure they procure. And the feedback from the other writers is a precious gift.
But I rarely share these little stories on my own blog. Why? I’m having trouble trying to explain it, even to myself. Maybe because some of them are so unlike the chatty, bubbly persona I like to portray there. Am I afraid of strange looks from family and friends who do not see me as this type of writer? Or do I hold onto a firm denial of the fact that I don’t always have to be funny or smart-arsed or droll? That I can have another side to my writing which may be bleak and sad, or shocking and odd. That there is a distinct, imaginative part of me which I have always refused to acknowledge and possibly even accept.
But whatever it is that has been holding me back is beginning to ebb away. I am starting to realise that I can be made up of two distinct halves. That writing is much more than just black or white, it is a multi-faceted occupation which allows us to shine through many different keyholes. That I can allow myself to start working on a collection of short tales which spring from dark inner places, and at the same time dream of finally finishing my comical book about my miraculously long marriage. The two are wildly different yet ultimately they are compatible. Why choose just one half when the other is well and truly present?
So if we ever have the pleasure of meeting, and you care to ask me “Will the real Juliet Nubel, please stand up?” both halves of my writing-self will slowly rise, merge into one, and firmly shake your hand. There may be a cheeky sparkle in my eye, but if you look deeper, you will see that the glint comes from a roughly hewn block of granite. The one where I sharpen my penknife each week at the Ranch.
About Juliet Nubel
Juliet is the author of the blog omgimfifty.com She was born and bred in Glasgow, Scotland then studied social anthropology (don’t ask) at St Andrews University, long before Will and Kate had even heard of the place. Love brought her to France then took her to Miami and Barbados for three years before bringing her ‘home’ to Angers, a beautiful French city where she now lives with Hubby and their two daughters. She works full time in an English language school but for the rest and best part of her time, she can be found writing on her pet iPad in their favourite leather armchair. She uses blogging, and more recently flash fiction, as her training ground for that book she keeps planning on finishing. She is also a regular contributor to the British website fabafterfifty.co.uk under her maiden name Juliet Young.
Raw Literature posts as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99-word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at email@example.com.
On Family Day in Canada, Rough Writer, author, photographer and Lover of Life, Ann Edall-Robson welcomes us to her place in Alberta. She writes books and blog posts, flash fictions and novels, “Capturing moments others may never get to experience.” Learn how Ann first came to Carrot Ranch and adopted flash fiction into her writing process.
Previous stops on the tour:
Graphite in My Arm
A piece of graphite is lodged in my upper left arm. Even at age fifty, the broken pencil tip remains visible. When you open a package of new pencils, the cedar smells like a lumber yard. Whenever we drive over the Sierra Mountains to visit my mother’s family near Hollister — a six hour trip of listening to Johny Cash, Tammy Wynette and the Beatles on 8-track tapes –, we pass by the lumber yard in Jackson. I inhale deeply the scent of pencils.
For a long time, I didn’t know I had graphite in my arm. I thought it was lead. When I learned to write, I made errors with the lead tip and erase them carefully with the eraser dark red like Dyntene gum. I don’t like Dyntene, but my mother chews it. I don’t eat my pencil eraser, but I recall classmates who’d bite them off.
Lead worried me. For years I watched the black spot on my arm, looking for signs of lead poisoning. I don’t recall where or when I learned about lead poisoning but I recall the fear gripping me. I didn’t want to have to explain to the adults why I wasn’t practicing my writing homework.
I was fiddling. My arm was the fiddle, my pencil the bow. With an enthusiastic thrust across the imaginary strings, I poke the pencil deep in my upper arm. It’s a wound I hid, a scar I’ve never revealed.
But it was my first true lesson in writing — it’s not the shape of the letters, but the depth one is willing to go to extract a story.
This is in response to Irene Water’s latest Times Past memoir prompt. Join in at the comments here or on Irene’s post, giving your location at the time of your memory and your generation.
Props whomp-whomp-whomp a steady rhythm like the heartbeat of the plane. Cold air seeps through my window, and I can’t help but stare beyond the plane’s beating blades. It’s the only hint of sun I’ve seen over Svalbard since arriving in January. Sherbert hues of lemon and raspberry will be the single spoonful of sunlight for one hour and 54 minutes. And then it sets.
You might be wondering if my snow enclave with Lady Lake Superior has morphed with the Norwegian Arctic, but I assure you I’m still trapped by her snowy tendrils and merely dreaming of staring out the window at the only bit of sun my middlest daughter sees these days.
Mine is a voyage of the imagination. My daughter is the one who experiences the moment in person.
Rock Climber (or perhaps her arctic name should be Ice Cave Empress) lives in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway. She recently posted this photo on her way to a remote job (as if Longyearbyen isn’t remote enough) in Svea. I’m along for an imaginary ride, hearing the endless whomp of the blades, feeling it connecting me to my daughter whose ice caverns are far away from my icy lakeshores.
As inhospitable as ice might be, my daughter writes that the movie, Frozen, has nothing on the ice caverns above Sveagruva (which means Swedish Mine, Svea to the locals). Sculpted frozen flows open like crystal orchids. My daughter explored inside with the small mining town lit up in the valley of snow below. She watched the Northern Lights pool and spray over a glacier, not bothering to take pictures because she said a camera could never catch the dance.
For now, her greatest danger comes from avalanches. A third of housing in Longyearbyen is under avalanche watch, so Rock Climber and her partner, Chef, are working in Svea where they can find rooms. Workers are only allowed 10 days rotation. They don’t seem to mind the dislocation, flying over partial sunrises and endless glaciers. They relish their life on ice.
I’ve come to welcome mine, too.
Last week, Winter Carnival unfolded across Michigan Tech University. Engineering students from nations around the world pulled the traditional over-nighter to finish building ice castles and sculptures. This year, Camelot rose just a few blocks from where I write. Frozen in ice, King Arthur kneels at the sword. Ah, I knew Superior was the Lady of the Lake! Here are the winning sculptures:
Ice ages. I don’t refer to “the” ice ages — I mean, ice grows old. It gets heavy and lined, pocked and dirty. It melts and turns crystalline until grabbing on to more layers of snow. It reminds me of aged cheese. But don’t worry, I’m not going to spread it on a cracker and eat it. I know what the critters do on ice!
Outside my front window, I watch five squirrels run the same tree branch trail around and around. As they bounce from bough to bough, snow plops to the aged ice below. I watch as my daughter flies over glaciers. If the snow extends from here through Canada, across to Greenland and over to Svalbard, are we standing on the same continent of ice?
Where does a mother go when the birds have fledged? I’ve watched male mergansers inflate their heads during their mating season, then shrivel up and fly away. The female mergansers remain, hiding nests from sky-prowlers like eagles and owls. Tufts of feathers emerge as baby mergansers. They grow bold and take to deeper waters and diving. I’ve seen the pond full of mergansers on the verge of flight and within days find only the emptiness.
A few mothers linger about. Neatening up the nest? Taking up grass knitting or reading the stars at night like books, no longer worried about death raining down as eagle claws? The babes made it. The mothers are on their own.
Rock Climber lands in Svea and already morning has turned to dark of night. The whomping blades shudder to stop, and she walks away from the window to new sights and adventures. I tidy up my ice and think of her laugh. My daughter is only an ice flow away. The polar bears slumber and the sun is making a return. She’s the Ice Cavern Empress, and I’m a writing merganser dreaming of sherbert on ice.
February 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on ice. It can be an event on ice, a game on ice or a drink on ice. Go where the prompt leads you.
Respond by February 20, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published February 21). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Pups on Ice (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Garan blew past Danni, kicking up clumps of powder from the recent snowstorm. When he hit the ice, all four paws skittered, and he crashed to his chest, sliding across the smooth expanse.
Danni let out a hoot, and the herd of German Short-haired puppies slowed their bumbling approach to the ice. They pestered their mother, Det and yipped at their father who scrambled to gain traction on the pond. The runt took a bold step, then slipped on the glazed surface.
One bumped another, and then the chase-slipping began. Danni laughed, the only audience to Pups on Ice.
Known throughout the northern hemisphere as Chamerion angustifolium and Epilobium angustifolium, fireweed gets its common name from the plant’s ability to take over blackened earth after a forest fire. Fireweed is also the common name for other plants found in Australia, Mexico and Hawaii.
With a name like fireweed, writers had lots of wiggle-room to play with the ideas it brought to stories. It’s tenacity to overcome hardship lends it a strong plant or name to use in imagery. Writers even found unexpected uses for fireweed to carry a tale.
The following are based on the February 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes fireweed.
One Spring Morning by Michael Fishman
“It’s a beautiful day,” he said to her. “Yesterday I . . .”
At 98-years-old, Arthur’s memory was iffy. Recent memories flickered on and off like an old neon, but he was blessed with a gift of nonchalance, and when yesterday’s memory flickered off, he remembered the long ago past instead.
“Do you remember our wedding? 1937. We were so young. Eighteen. Midst of the depression and we didn’t have a penny. Remember the bouquet of flowers I gave you for our first anniversary?”
He smiled as he laid a sprig of fireweed on the headstone.
“Happy anniversary, Sarah.”
Lady Fireweed by Kerry E. B. Black
My SpukWu’say cast herself like the seed of the willow herb on an Alaskan breeze, blowing where fate might have her alight. I don’t think she cared if she ever landed. She wanted to experience freedom and, since she’d been nurtured and knew her worth, she felt no fear. She drifted until she found a prairie and a community she admired. There she set down roots. She stretched her abilities like tender greens, practiced healing and aided all. When at last she bloomed, her talents lit her world like translucent fairy dances until all tried to imitate Lady Fireweed.
Fireweed by Kay Kingsley
The corners of myself amass cobwebs in spaces I no longer occupy, my younger self gone, consumed by webs of growing doubt and fatigue.
Perhaps letting these corners go I let my self go, cherry-picking parts of me to display while obscuring my true self that once existed.
At ground zero, my fallout has erased me. My shelter and cobwebs exposed and incinerated in the following fire.
The rain has stopped and crouching in the smoldering field of black, I lower my face towards the puddle beside me, exhausted. Imagine my surprise, I died and returned as a Fireweed.
Fireweed by FloridaBorne
“Dr. Bernard Fireweed?” I asked, a bit put-off by a door too many greasy hands had touched.
A man with scruffy white hair replied an amused, “Yes.”
“As my mother, Rosebay, used to say I live on Indian time.”
He took out a large key, unlocking a door leading to an empty room. Aghast, I asked, “This is a psychiatrist’s office?”
“I’m a hypnotherapist. Your mind creates what surrounds you.”
A small corner desk held a nameplate, “Bern Fireweed.” Two chairs faced each other.
“When do we start?”
“The moment I opened the door to your imagination.”
Not A Bad Deal by Neel Anil Panicker
By the time Chacko realized it was too late. Esther had taken over his life — lock, stock and barrel.
First, it began with a harmless, “Uncle, it’s just for two months. I need it for my exams. Your place is nearest to my college.”
He did mind the intrusion but eventually gave in. No harm getting some extra income, he surmised.
Before long, she was cooking him his favourite Goan chicken curry, reading him the morning newspapers, even running sundry errands for him.
Over time, she became his fireweed.
When he died a year later, the bungalow was hers.
Fireweed by Ritu Bhathal
“It’s hard to believe the carnage that happened here a short while ago.” Olivia looked around at the bombsite where once her home had stood.
Across the whole area, pretty purple flowers grew, giving the destroyed street a hazy filter.
“That rosebay willowherb has just taken over. It’ll take an age to clear it up too, before we can even think of rebuilding…” Janet sighed.
“Fireweed… that’s what they call that, across the Atlantic, where I’m from.” Chuck, the GI who had befriended them at the dance the night previously, said. “It sure loves a bit of burned ground!”
From Fire to Fireweed by Susan Sleggs
No fire had ever come close to our valley before. We could see the leaping yellow and red flames over the crest of the hill. We tied wet cloths over our faces to hand out water to firefighters in the dense smoke.
They said we were safe. We weren’t, but we had lots of warning compared to others and left with full cars.
Months later we returned with a builder who agreed to work around the original stone fireplace. Vibrant purple fireweed greeted us. The irony of the plants name made us laugh aloud. There had been enough tears.
Foraged from Ashes by Kate Spencer
“Here’s something. Remember the big wildfire that was in the news last year?” asked Jim rustling his newspaper.
“Yup,” said Gladys rolling the pastry dough.
“Well apparently this young couple spent their winter months felling and milling lifeless tree trunks from their barren woodlot.”
“What for? That charred looking grove will be filled with beautiful pink fireweed this summer.” Gladys placed the dough over the pie plate.
“They’re using all that lumber to make keepsakes and furniture for their friends and neighbours who lost more than they did.”
“My they got gumption. I like that!”
“I knew you would.”
Burning Love by Raymond Roy
The Blackfoot enemy took from me
My soulmate warrior
I am a Cree.
As a young Cree maiden
I fear no man
Blackfoot, Sioux or Shoshoni clan.
With cougar stealth I drew near
Within enemy earshot
No time for fear.
Through elk skin teepee catching wind of
Of my hearts own true love.
Setting forest aflame
The cowards fled
And there he was
Left for dead.
Lifting him up
With my strong Cree back
Soil burnt black.
Today the creator
Rewards my deed
For in my footsteps grows sacred fireweed.
Cora’s Fireweed by Liz Husebye Hartmann
September’s last rays paled as velvet breezes whispered of long nights to come. Cora nestled deeper into a warm hollow at cliff’s edge, ignoring the salt sway of the fjord below. Gripping her tail between front claws, she nibbled at fiery dreams.
Smallest in the clutch, she’d not found the final element to ensure her next passage. Jonah’d found lavender, Pete pine, and Minna bright marigold. Soon they, with their mother would migrate to the Northland to winter.
But what was her element?
Night sighed a hot pink scent.
Corazon’s triangular head lifted. Bugling once, her wings opened, joyful.
Fireweed by Ann Edall-Robson
For miles in every direction, there is nothing but death. Tall sentinels become charred, decrepit reminders of the devastation. Piles of ebony shin tangle across the expanse of bleak nothingness. The seasons change. Slight bits of green push through the blackened earth. Long wispy leaves on fibrous stocks. Tight pink buds open with a flourish. A brilliant contrast to the carnage, life after death. And when it is their turn to become the colours of their end, the Fireweed fluffs up against the odds. Sending offspring in search of a new home to brighten the landscape after a wildfire.
Ground Cover by D. Avery
Though she didn’t know him, she climbed the granite boulder underneath the craggy maple and sat with him looking over the hayfield.
A beautiful quilt he said, the red and orange paintbrush, the blue chicory. She loved how he spoke, but bluntly informed him those were weeds that covered poor soil. Then she blushed; the weeds exposed her family’s poverty, her father’s laziness and ineptitude. This field should be green, not the color of scars and bruises.
She noted his backpack and tightly rolled sleeping bag. “Don’t go yet”, she instructed him. “I need to get a few things.”
Peripheral by Abby Rowe
The lawn party is in full swing. From the margins, I watch the beautiful people, mingling perfumes, coloured frocks, laughter. I’m bored yet intrigued. Idly wondering if they were born belonging.
Over on the other side a woman meets my eye. Spiky-haired and trousered, nothing flows about her. She grins, wryly.
Beyond the hedge are rippling fields of wheat, prolific and homogenous. But skirting the borders, distinct and wild, rosebay willowherb stands noble in the breeze. Why is the truly lovely called a weed?
I smile back and raise my glass. Start to wend my way around the edge.
Counterfeit Coffee by Denise Aileen DeVries
Myra Jean examined the cup placed before her on the slightly chipped saucer. It was the boardinghouse best, Confederate-era china, hand-painted with blossoms resembling fireweed. “I’ve saved this chicory from my last visit home,” Lucinda Ryan explained. As Myra Jean stirred in honey and milk, always plentiful here, the color changed to a murky gray. The first sip was better than expected, especially compared to the usual Postum and acorn concoctions. “My folks always drank this, even before the Great War.” The two women cradled their cups in both hands, warming their fingers.
“I remember coffee,” Myra Jean said.
Follow the Fireweed by Pete Fanning
I have dreams about stabbing my personal trainer in the back. Yep, it’s true, just plunging a knife right between one of her many thick, grooved back muscles.
I also have dreams about Twinkies. Pie. Chocolate donuts with chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles. But mostly I dream about stabbing my trainer in the back.
A fireweed. That’s what they called her when I signed up. And it should have been enough to make me turn and haul my jiggly self out the door. But for years I’ve wanted this—dreamed about it.
So I run. I follow the fireweed.
It’s All There, On A Plate by Geoff Le Pard
‘Hey Morgan, what you got?’
‘Geez, that’s huge. Hey, it’s got a trunk.’
‘Yeah, it’s an elephant hawk moth.’
‘Must be really rare.’
‘Yeah, but you know it lives on a really common plant.’
‘Funny. The Queen likes cornflakes.’
‘Is that so, Logan?’
‘And Jeremy Corbyn’s into quinoa.’
‘You just can’t tell from what they eat.’
‘We’re all the same under the skin.’
‘They say Trump only eats Mac burgers and fries.’
‘There has to be the exception that proves the rule.’
‘Never did understand that expression.’
‘Any more than I understand Trump.’
New Boy by Anne Goodwin
After lunch, I followed the other kids to the wasteground behind the … parking lot (not car park). I could still taste the new words I’d learnt at the table – eggplant; zucchini; rutabaga – as I loaded my arms with logs. My classmates smirked as they glanced my way, but I imagined Mum (Mom) reminding me I wouldn’t be new for ever.
“So what’s this?” said Miss Mills.
“Firewood. Like you asked for.”
She smiled as she stuck a bunch of rosebay willow herb in a jar.
“I asked for fireweed. But don’t worry, you’ll learn English soon.”
Australian Fireweed by Michael
It’s everywhere round here, it grows prolifically in the back paddock though at present it’s very dry and the plants and pastures are struggling.
In good times it grows in fields of yellow but it’s a nuisance as the cattle bypass it. The Pastures Protection Board consider it a pest.
Sometimes the farmer comes by, hoe in hand and chips them out. He’ll nod to me across the fence make derogatory remarks about spending his time chipping when there is so much more to do.
But next year the fireweed will reappear, and we’ll nod to each other again.
Dot by Bill Engleson
“Dot, you have your assignment.”
“Louis, I know she’s your favourite but, really, she’s not listening.”
“I know, Freddy. But I like to think my tone of love, of respect, somehow has an impact…”
“Sure. You’re one sensitive zoologist. A credit to scientists everywhere. But it’s not Dot’s assignment, it’s ours.”
“Lighten up. You’re not the one eating this stuff.”
“Stuff? Fireweed is not stuff! Its chamerion augustifolium, as you well know.”
“Holy herbivore, Freddy. We’re in the field with two hundred sheep chowing down on acres of vegetation. Research, yes, but tedious.”
“Fine, but please stop cuddling her.”
Fireweed by Pensitivity
Mum loved flowers and I’d gather daisies, buttercups and snowdrops from hedgerows and fields for her when I saw them.
She would gush about the banks of roadside daffodils on our outings, though we never stopped to pick them as there were notices up that they were to be enjoyed, not taken.
One particular day I came across a mass of long stemmed flowers. I had no idea what they were but thought Mum would like them, so carefully pulled a couple up by the roots and took them home. They spread like wildfire and took over the garden!
Angusto Animi by JulesPaige
They were the new colonists. Escaping from overcrowding,
indecisive politics, and diminished resources. They were
branded the Fireweeds. On a set course to wake into a
distant future, to hopefully send back anything that might
One thing good about the mind is that most thoughts were
unreadable. The crew of the Fireweed had been selected
partly on their ability to communicate through telepathy.
This crew however was smarter than the average bear –
they also knew how to protect their thoughts from
unwanted probing. Which was for the mutinous crew a
good thing. Since they were only for themselves.
Fireweed by Jeremy Zagarella
Some boys love girls and others love money, but John loved one pure thing – fire.
At six years old he stole a match from the kitchen drawer and lit it in the backyard.
Matches lead to lighters, and, as a 19-year-old American Indian boy, he had set dozens of wildfires without being detected.
After it started, the fire crews would show up. The news media, smoke, purging – it all gave him such a thrill. It needed a fresh start.
Months after all the commotion, he would return to the site to see his favorite part – fireweed popping like candy.
In the Wake of Fire by D. Avery
I’ll never forget seeing acres and acres of burned forest. Some charred trunks still standing, silent memorials amidst a resounding choir of color, the purples and reds of riotous fireweed echoing brightly. The tree trunks intoned their past trauma as the fireweed sang the refrain of resilience. It was beautiful and it was ugly. It was awesome and it was eerie. It was quiet and loud. Back in the truck I stared out the window at this powerfully incongruous scene for miles. Later the memory would appear unbidden, and whisper reminders of the immeasurable capacities of the human spirit.
The Fireweed Fairies by Juliet Nubel
It took almost a year for the fireweed to cover the large circle of blackened grass.
On the first of May, for over thirty years, they had lit the huge pile of sticks, watching the flames lick the sky as their guests cheered in time to the blaring music.
But this year there would be no fire, no music, no feasting friends.
This year the fireweed fairies could continue their march.
They could stray outside the circle, across the field, down to the cemetery.
And there they could dance forever more on the gravel path leading to her grave.
Sanctuary by Sue Vincent
The glade is smaller than she remembers. Screened from view by the gnarled oak and a bank of fireweed, it had been her sanctuary, a place to which she could run and hide. A place to dream of a future she herself could shape.
A child ‘should be seen but not heard’… but now she is a woman.
The roots of the oak have grown around the marker stone. The manicured nails tear as she digs. It is still here, where she had left it all those years ago… waiting for this day. She will be silent no longer…
Castles and Carpeting by Wallie & Friend
The castle was different. The hanging weapons were taken from the walls and replaced with classical paintings. The dungeon was carpeted and clean. But ghosts are like fireweed, and I could see them in the eyes of my companion.
“Let’s go,” I said.
He stopped me. He looked into the prison cell, cheerless even in 100 watt lighting, his hand resting on the grate. I wondered what he was remembering but was afraid to ask, to test him. His hand quivered on the iron bars.
“They don’t know,” he said. “They don’t know what it was like.”
The Midnight Raid by Anurag Bakhshi
The midnight raid had been swift and brutal, totally catching us unawares. They had sucked us out of our secret hiding places using weapons we had never encountered before.
I watched helplessly as they captured my friends, my family, while I hid and waited for my turn.
I knew that I would not be able to hold out for too long, but I also knew that at least some of us would survive. We were not that easy to keep down, we were like fireweed, we would grow again, stronger than ever before, and then….the Ghostbusters would pay.
Fireweed by Rebecca Glaessner
My private aug showed ages beside every face in the room, but maintained each digitally overlaid, customisable appearance.
“Miss-“ the one hundred and forty-three earth-year old who didn’t look a day over twenty.
“Doctor,” I corrected.
Doubt flashed across all faces.
“Project Fireweed will be swift and precise,” I announced to the group, “replacing current programming with our new system. Individuals deserve privacy once more.”
Everyone sat up in outrage.
“A complete overhaul is insane-”
“Do you even know if it’ll work-”
I raised a hand for silence.
“Can anyone see my age?” I asked.
A New Identity by Molly Stevens
He can’t explain why his mother chose his name. She said it was because he had a tuft of blond hair on the top of his head when he was born – like a dandelion. Was she suffering from postpartum depression when she inked the name, ‘Weed’ on his birth certificate?
He didn’t realize his name was odd until he ventured beyond Mother’s apron strings. That’s when the teasing began and taunting became a daily torture.
One day he looked in the mirror, tamed his blond plumage, and said, “You’re fired, Weed.” And he changed his name to Dan.
Plantae uel Animalia by Chelsea Ownes
If you were to assign a flower to my childhood personality, you might search among the less-desirable weeds. I wouldn’t have minded; I’d have stuck my prickly, unwanted self even further into your business.
My grandmother, however, was a soft-spoken, kind-thinking sort. I never heard her raise her voice nor speak insult. She was more like the gently-swaying field flowers of springtime, shyly smiling to a beckoning sun.
While people greeted my coming akin to a dandelion outbreak, we all recall my grandmother’s mischievous blue eyes with forget-me-nots.
At least dandelions are my son’s favorite.
Fireweed by Pete Fanning
Miles blamed his friends. What on Earth did they have in common? It was chilly outside, and he was sitting on the hood of a Toyota, watching a girl with dreadlocks roll a joint.
“This is good shit,” Ava said with a lick and a flourish. “It’s called fireweed.”
Miles coughed. He got very high. He went on about a Neil deGrass Tyson book.
Ava yawned. She lay back against the windshield, pointed to Jupiter, some five-hundred million miles above their heads. Miles sat next to her, found Mars. Ava giggled.
“See, the sky is better than the book.”
Fireweed (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
“Well, at least you got out of it. You corrected your mistake.”
“That marriage wasn’t a mistake,” Jane says.
The counselor raises her eyebrows.” Oppression, abuse…how was it not a mistake to marry a man like that? Not that I’m blaming you. You couldn’t have known.”
“Our daughter,” Jane says. “Only he and I together could have made that wonderful human being. Without him, I wouldn’t have her. She’s the fireweed that redeems it all.”
“Your daughter? Didn’t know you had a daughter. Where is she?”
Jane looks at the floor, silent. That’s a volcano all its own.
Life Comes Back (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Spears of purple lined the narrow two-track. Tall dead trees stood like charred sentinels, remaining witnesses to the last forest fire.
“Life comes back,” Danni spoke to no one in particular. Her only companions were three dogs on leash, each tugging a different direction.
At the site of the dig from two years ago, Danni hiked the ridge to her former perch. Any moment she expected Ike to rumble up the road in his truck. Yet there she was with his dogs. She opened the can and spread the ashes, hoping fireweed would find its way into her heart.
Regeneration by Paula Moyer
For two years after Charley left her, Jean’s heart couldn’t grow fireweed. Even when she tried to love – nothing. Only ruined pulp remained.
Then she moved to Minnesota, started graduate school. And met Michael. She loved all of him – East Coast, Italian-American, laughed at her jokes, her Southern accent.
“We’re the only early risers!” he greeted Jean one morning in the dorm’s cafeteria.
Not the best choice. He was gay. Couldn’t even admit it – the seventies.
At first, Jean didn’t need to be loved back. To know love could sprout, flourish, from her burnt, scarred core – was enough.
Greener Pastures by Sarah Whiley
She was my fireweed*. Able to grow in any soil, in all aspects. Persistent if not controlled, and rapidly taking over neglected pastures. She competed strongly with those around her, and was extremely toxic.
I could feel her tendrils taking hold. Coiling themselves around my brain; trying to find an ‘in’ to feed her tap root. But I was not the only one and it was time for us to take control.
It turns out a dense cover can help reduce fireweed. So we took a stand together, covering the bare, exposed patches of ourselves, to become greener pastures.
*(Author’s Note: The fireweed I have used for the purpose of this challenge is the Australian variety. It is highly invasive and toxic as outlined here.)
Fireweed by Robbie Cheadle
The girl slumped on the floor outside the grocery store. Busy shoppers rushed in and out, barely affording her so much as a sideways glance. She was quite beautiful despite her unkempt hair which was wild and matted. Her eyes rolled wildly in her head showing their whites, like a horse before it bolts.
Her hands shook violently as she reached out to take the coffee and cake I held out to her. The coffee slopped over the sides of the cup as the aftermath of last nights fireweed manifested in her body as it tore her mind apart.
Fireweed by Old Jules
“Lord, just let me get through this. I’ll never do that crap again.” I changed positions and savored the hand of my only source of comfort. Suzanne, my patient, devoted wife.
“What was it? What went wrong?” She was a tower of strength. She’d had an enduringly bad trip the only time she smoked jade.
“Fireweed, babe.” I tried to imagine my head chained to the floor. “Paraquat. They sprayed it on the crop in Mexico.”
Forever came and went but she stayed. “Are you coming down at all yet?” Her tension spoke through her fingers over my forehead.
Fireweed By ngrant41
Fireweed prefers disturbed ground
after fire and fury tear through the land
scorching the earth’s tired soil on the banks
of polluted waters where roses and willows
have failed to thrive in the chaos where trees
turned to ash blow away in the violent winds
of unsolicited change the heat and dry hunger
starving every life form the only color willing
to risk a comeback the pink and lavender
resistance pushing roots into rubble insistent
that life and beauty will persist creating
the next blooming revolution along the road into
the rose garden and all around the white house.
Fireweed by Reena Saxena
The patriarch of the family suffered from Alzheimer’s, and his wife had just passed away. He overheard that certain valuables were missing, when her cupboard was opened, and it generated wild guesses and allegations of robbery.
“Why do you think should they get all the benefits? They have grabbed enough in the mother’s lifetime.”
“I did not think about it so far. But why should I not benefit? We are all entitled to an equal share in the assets.”
Greed was spreading like a fireweed. In his fading memory, they were not the children he had known all along.
Euphoric Wish? by JulesPaige
Was it Wabi Sabi, that ancient process of birth and renewal in
the guise of twisting fireweed, to take over the valley? Norma,
just a visitor, stood transfixed. Urged by some profane tug this
spring Wednesday – to see what the updraft of fire had
left. The professional naturalist, did a quick assessment.
The news headlines had shown two boys who had come from
the local school that, was octagonally shaped. They skipped
out of their lunch, smirking with the joy of freedom, that fall
afternoon. Yet their black and white faces showed compunction
for the destruction they had caused.
Burning with Hope by Norah Colvin
Miss R. avoided the staffroom’s negativity, popping in, like today, only if necessary. When she glanced over instinctively on hearing her name, regret flooded immediately.
“Annette, we were just talking about you and that weed–from that noxious family–you know, Marnie-“
She bristled, failing to withhold the words that exploded, singeing all with their ferocity.
“Just look at yourselves. If Marnie’s a weed, she’s fireweed. Better than you will ever be. She’ll beat her odds and succeed, despite your belittling words and unhelpful opinions.”
She left the silenced room, believing in her heart that her words were true.
Land Reclaimed! By Ruchira Khanna
“Hurry!!” hollered Mother Earth to Wind
The Wind huffed and puffed, and silenced the fire.
Mother Earth rolled her eyes,”I wish mankind could get a little responsible since this is their only home!”
It left a sooty smell, and the soil was charred. The air was grim that even she had to gasp for air.
“It’s ruined!” he said in a dejected tone.
“Not when I am around!” Mother Earth winked, and she was quick to wave a hand over it. Vibrant colored fireweed started colonizing the disturbed site with the hope that it will reestablish vegetation.
Sea of Purple by Heather Gonzalez
As a child, I used to lie amongst the fireweeds and stare up at the sky. I would float away in the sea of purple, pretending to be just another flower petal in the wind. Even though time may have changed many things, the fireweeds still remained.
As an adult, I built my home amongst the purple waves. Generations came after me. When I was gone, my children made sure that I had one last ride on the sea of purple as they spread my ashes in the wind outside of my home. I floated away with the breeze.
Fireweed by jackschuyler
By midday, we had reached the burnt patch. The earth was soft, and fireweed had already sprung up around charred stumps. I kicked a clump and it dislodged from the loose soil, sending grey eddies spiraling into the air. I stopped.
“What is it, chief?”
Dark clouds spilled over the mountain, crawling down the pass like black salamanders.
I lifted an arm to the ominous skies, “That rainstorm’ll push this ash right off the mountain side. Our wagons won’t make the climb.”
“Should I tell the train to unpack, chief?”
I nodded, “We’ll have to camp here and wait.”
The Fireweed by Lisa Listwa
Burned trees and scorched earth tell the story of what happened here.
I can barely recall details of people, names, and places once so intimately familiar, nor the life that was, for a time, lush and green as the woods. A flash – a single moment – and everything changed. This once-thriving forest is now unrecognizable.
Fire consumes all.
I can see smoke rise from the embers of the life I once lived.
And where there is smoke, there will be fireweed thriving in places touched by flame.
I used to be someone else. Now I am the fireweed.
Any Other Name by D. Avery
“How long you been here on the ranch Pal?”
“My whole life.”
*I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain*.”
“That was kinda weird Pal, and stealing song lyrics too.”
“Yep, but that’s where I went, Kid. It was a lonesome place an’ I was all alone an’ never felt lonely.”
“Gotta point, Pal?”
“Not sure, Kid. ‘Cept ta say there’s flowers in the desert.”