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Various People Affected by War

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The founder of my local veterans’ writing group, Lt. Col. Timothy Hansen, retired Army, invited Maj. Gen. Mari K. Eder, retired Army, to speak to the Rochester Veterans Writing Group during our ZOOM meeting on July 10. What an honor and privilege it was to share a conversation with her.

Tim read the following bio to introduce the General:

I had the privilege to meet her when she was the Deputy Chief of Army Public Affairs back in 2007.  She has served in key public affairs positions in the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, theater media relations for NATO in Kosovo, and at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. Eder published her first major work on communication, Leading the Narrative: The Case for Strategic Communication in 2011 and followed with American Cyberspace in 2020. Her articles in the communication series, Information Apocalypse, have been used from Appalachian State to the University of Tokyo. She has written several papers on leadership, military ethics, and strategic communications. She has even published two children’s books.

Her forthcoming book, The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line:  The Untold Stories of the  Women Who Changed the Course of World War II, covers the lives of 15 exceptional women who served or supported WWII while purposely staying out of the limelight.  This historical work is a break from her case studies and technical writing on communications.                             

Tim had told us she would give a 45-minute talk on her career and publications, then allow time for questions. To our surprise, she only talked about her new book due out in hardcover and Kindle at the beginning of August (pictured above) then asked us, as writers, what we wanted to talk about. We weren’t quite prepared. 

In answer to our questions, she explained when she submitted the proposal, as you have to for a non-fiction book, the response was a “ho-hum, not another war book.” But, when the publisher looked at the content, they got excited and asked her to have it ready in two months. General Eder explained it was at the peak of the pandemic lockdown, so she was sequestered at home with her three dogs and was happy to have a project. The frustrating part was trying to do research with libraries closed and no one answering phones. She said she wrote the chapters she liked or could easily collect facts for first, then worked on the others. She also shared that she would read poetry to take herself out of the project when she needed a break and then returned to it with new and focused eyes.

Changing gears, we talked about reading for personal pleasure. She suggested making it a practice to delve deeper, search for what a piece has to offer that you can learn from, and thus change you as a person, even if only in a small way.

Before we finished the ZOOM call, we agreed we would reconvene after having had a chance to read  The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line.

                                                                   ***

While on vacation in Richmond, Virginia, over the Fourth of July weekend, I enjoyed a tour of the historic St. John’s Church (https://www.historicstjohnschurch.org/) where I bought the book Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons, The story of Phillis Wheatly, by Ann Rinaldi. It’s a historical fiction novel about how the first book of poetry by an African-American woman came to be published. I eagerly turned page after page to experience Phillis’s extraordinary life while still being a slave. 

Ann Rinaldi has brought history alive for me by giving historical figures personalities and describing what might have been their day-to-day experiences. She is careful to note what is factual and what is not. I have to admit my weakness for reading YA books. They are often quick, easy reads that leave me thinking about the characters for many days.

I am looking forward to reading more of her novels, though not all war-related, which will give me a clearer picture of events I have heard about since my early school days.

                                                                      ***

It’s also interesting to become acquainted with the people who experienced a war on the other side of the earth. I have just finished reading A Ghost and His Gold by Roberta Eaton Cheadle, a regular contributor at Carrot Ranch. This historical fiction novel is about the Second Anglo Boer War in South Africa, where Robbie resides. She has come up with a unique way to tell the story by using ghosts as three of her key characters. Roberta masterfully shares the history of the war by having her main character Michelle unravel how the three ghosts were connected in the past, why they are haunting her home, and why they have been unable to move on to the afterlife. 

                                                                                            ***

I developed the same empathy for the people I had the privilege of getting to know in these books as I have with the veterans in my local writing group. War is war, no matter where it takes place or for what reason. Humans, animals, and the terrain suffer from the event, and it changes lives in diverse ways.

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Do you have any books on the subject of war that you would recommend or futher advanced your understanding of a past event? Feel free to share in the comments section.

                                                              ***

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

July 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

Troubled times have come to my hometown.

The prompt photo shows an undated modern main street of Markleeville, California where I lived from 1974 to 1985. In 1988, I returned to marry my Ranger in cowboy boots in a meadow where I rode my horse and pushed cattle during the summers of my teen years. Markleeville has been described as picturesque, tiny, historic, and beautiful.

The town sits in a bowl, flanked by irrigated ranch pastures, surrounded by forest and beneath the peaks I know so well I can trace their outlines with my finger pointed to the sky. Raymond looms tallest over 10,000 feet in elevation. Markleeville is nearly 5,500 feet. It’s a mountain town.

Like most boom and bust towns out West, white settlers built where they could take resources. Lumber, grazing, minerals. Jacob Marklee built a toll-bridge in 1861, anticipating a mining boom. Already, the Comstock Lode of 1859 at Virginia City, Nevada sparked interest in the eastern side of the Sierra. Jacob filed his property claim in Douglas County, Nevada. Having grown up in Markleeville, it’s logical to think of it as Nevada. But it isn’t. Jacob filed in the wrong state. He ran cattle where I gathered cattle for the Ted Bacon Ranch. He built a house next to the one where I grew up. Jacob lost a gunfight in 1864 and the county courthouse and sheriff’s department now reside on his mis-filed ranch along Markleeville Creek.

Makes me wonder what Jacob called the creek. Or what the Washoe place names are? Funny thing about “discovery” in America is that the land came with its Indigenous. In 1970, a newspaper report quoted ol’ Weesie (you might spot her here in the Ranch Yarns as “Frankie”). It was one of many articles California cities over the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains wrote about the quaint town with its famous trout fishing and fresh air. Notably, the Washoe are left out of that article and many others. They weren’t even roadside attractions. Invisible.

I write stories to make visible those who live unseen. Weesie/Frankie is one of my childhood heroes. I saw and heard my elders and my Native neighbors. To me they weren’t invisible. They gave me a deep appreciation for my home, rooting me in its history and culture. Alpine County is an ancient place older than the 1864 house I grew up in next to the Markleeville General Store. I knew all its nooks and crannies. I was the weird kid who rollerskated to get her horse from his pasture. I rode and knew the secrets of the land.

Isn’t that the way of hometowns? As Bruce Springsteen sings in his classic My Hometown, an elder — an uncle, parent, neighbor, mentor — takes us for a ride and says, “Take a good look around. This is your hometown.”

This song has always cradled my heart. Time stops and I’m transported to my hometown. I used to run “with a dime in my hand” to the school bus stop across from that brown building in the prompt photo. It’s the infamous biker bar called the Cutthroat Saloon. It once graced Silver Mountain City until the English money ran out and Lord Chalmers deserted his wife Nettie. My first foray into historical fiction was about Silver Chalmers, the daughter who disappeared. The Cutthroat (named after a species of trout native to Alpine County, not pirates or bikers) was the Alpine Hotel and after 3,000 miners, merchants, loggers and families left the mining town, residents of Markleeville moved the structure. No a small feat.

Why did I have dimes in my hand? Because the bartender would toss the coins from his tip jar into the road every night after 2 am. Eight years old, and I ran to the stop in the morning to pick up dimes and sometimes a quarter or two. I think he only lasted that school year and no other bar tender shared his tips (or lured children into the highway, not that there was any traffic).

Memories go up in flames. Markleeville and every stop along the bus route is evacuated. The Tamarack Fire rages zero percent contained. Fire has confronted the town since 1866 when the first Markleeville General Store burned to the ground. I counted over a dozen fires in my newspaper research from 1885, 1939, 1947, 1948, 1954, 1955, 1984, 1887, 2008, 2015 and many smaller burns in between. What struck me as I read is that the fires used to be much smaller, even ones that blazed through second growth timber (meaning what forest grew back after the heavy logging for all the area mines during the Comstock days).

I smell trees. Jeffrery pines. The trees of my childhood. They might look similar to the Ponderosa pines, but they smell distinctly sweet. Like vanilla. I’ve never lived anywhere else out west that carried the scent of Jeffreys. It’s arid on the eastern slopes of the Sierras thus thick with sagebrush. I can smell sage, too. I can’t find any evidence that the seeds of the Jeffreys are edible, but likely I learned on the school playground from my Washoe friends that they taste as sweet as the trees smell. I can remember squatting on the ground beneath a particularly large pine, cracking open pine seeds and eating them at recess.

It all smolders now.

The Tamarack fire has burned so hot that the teams can’t fight it with air retardant. In my memory, air power was vital to fighting forest fires in Alpine County. It’s unfathomable to me that these latter fires out West are so much hotter that they create their own storm systems and blacken the sky. My dad was a firefighter. Like many, he was a volunteer, and at one time a crew chief for the local engine. I remember him telling about the firestorm that overtook him and his crew. They were on the line, protecting structures on Mesa Vista, when the storm blew up. He said it sounded like a freight train. The air crisped so hot his contact lenses shriveled and fell out like grit. They sought shelter under the fire engine and a borate bomber dumped its load on the truck, saving their lives.

The following year, in July of 1987, another firestorm blew up and burned Woodfords, Alpine Village and Mesa Vista where my parents lived. When I couldn’t reach them, Todd and I drove from Fallon, Nevada, and took dirt roads I knew so well to get around the road blocks. We got as far as the Walker Camp (a Washoe village) and Jeffrey pines blazed like torches. We watched flames shoot impossibly high into the sky and churning smoke. We could go no farther. A July 30, 1987 newspaper reported eye witnesses, one saying:

“It looks like a nuclear war,” says Lt. Stan Pope of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department.

30 Jul 1987, Page 3, Reno Gazette, “Alpine County Fire”

I remember the bombed out look. I remember the grief and determination to rebuild. I remember the relief that my parents’ home had survived a second fire in two years. Another home they lived in, the one where the bear got into their kitchen garbage can one night, sitting on the floor like an overgrown toddler, that house sits at the edge of the burn. The horse pasture on fire. I wish I had my favorite photo of them dressed up in their finest turquoise western outfits ready for a wedding. The photo below is in the background of that shot. This is where they lived. Markleeville is just down the road.

Noah Berger, AP SF Gate 2021

As I’ve been following the #TamarackFire, memories burn. I can’t help but recall what it felt like to ride Captain up this trail or that. I remember where the old barbed wire wrapped around a stand of trees, surrounding the sunken graves of unnamed Washoe. It’s not how they buried their dead. They built platforms. I know where that sacred burial place is, too. I can tell you all the places I used to swim, along creeks, streams, and ditches. I search for names among residents and those commenting on the social media channels to find the familiar people from my hometown. It’s a different generation. A turnover of names.

The woman in this video talks about the stress her parents are going through. They lost everything in the Acorn Fire (the one in 1987). She wasn’t born yet. Her parents were at my wedding that year, months after losing everything. I used to babysit her older brother.

I haven’t mustered the courage to call my parents. I don’t want to stress my dad. He remains a staunch conservationist, an old school mountain man semi hermit who has old ways to maintain the health of the forests. He fought for years to get officials to listen to him. He always said this would happen. Our hometown is forever changed. All his hard work to log in a conservative way, up in smoke so thick satellites can’t register the hot spots.

Here’s a comparison of where I got married.

Todd and I rode in the surry pulled by Jet from Markleeville to Turtle Rock Park where we had our reception.

Hometowns change. As Bruce Springsteen sings, jobs leave, people leave. Natural disasters, wars, sickness. Every generation confronts changes from aging to obliteration. I’m reminded that it’s not the hometown that matters as much as it is the community. This is no longer my community, I haven’t been back since the late 1980s. I feel confident that the existing community will rebuild and hold each other up. I wish them the best. I’m grateful that the Hung A Lel Ti residents can go back, although they may have to evacuate again. I hope they can be part of the greater rebuilding, no longer invisible to the community but part of its healing.

I’ve been fascinated and horrified by the power of forest fires all my life. I’ve been as close as one can get to witnessing fire’s destructive beauty. It is burning and yet it is renewal. There are pine trees that only open their cones to propagate seeds through fire. Indigenous people lived for thousands of years in Alpine County. They lived with fire. Our century of fire suppression was misguided. We need better, wiser solutions to live in harmony with the awe-inspiring environments that surround our hometowns. I wrote a forest fire in my novel Miracle of Ducks and how it brought out the best in the community. How it forced Danni to confront death and life.

This next week, I’m taking a vacation with my good friend. You might know her. She hangs out with Kid and Pal. Some say she writes them. Maybe they write her. Know that I’ll be in good company, sitting along the lake shore, camping and savoring campfire stories. She’ll get an earful of all the stories this fire has brought to light for me. I even have an Alpine County Bigfoot story for her. I will not post a collection or challenge next week, so you have two weeks to ponder your own hometowns. Or hometown for the characters who have a story to give you.

July 22, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a hometown. It can be your hometown or a fictional one. Who is there? When is it set? What is happening? Go where the prompt leads!

**NOTE: TWO WEEK DEADLINE** Respond by August 3, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Markleeville by Charli Mills

I’m eight years old running after the bus, crying. A car stops. “Don’t cry honey. We’ll catch the bus.” I don’t know who she is, but I get in her car. She speeds, making good on her promise. She’s the mom of a girl in my class. I don’t make friends easily. I prefer adults, especially the old-timers no one visits. They tell me stories, like what Monitor looked like when it wasn’t a vacant flat of sagebrush. Hometown will always be the people who saw me. I carry stories of Markleevile in my heart long after they’ve gone.

🥕🥕🥕

Meltdown

It’s hot. It’s disastrous. It’s a meltdown.

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

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

In an Afternoon by Michael Fishman

Business is slow. You’re not one to argue so when Colby tells you to take the afternoon you listen.

At the park you take a bench by the lake. You read, toss peanuts to pigeons. You doze.

Waking, you look around, get your bearings. You see Colby about 20 yards away, on a bench perpendicular to yours. His back is to you. He leans left and you see your wife. You see her laugh; touch his cheek.

You see them kiss.

Your wife. Your job. Your boss.

A life lost in an afternoon.

The meltdown happens in the car.

🥕🥕🥕

Straightened Up by Reena Saxena

I invite a meltdown.

I challenge meltdowns to sort themselves out into new patterns.

I challenge meltdowns to harbour elements which change with compounding, and look at each other in new ways.

We pride ourselves on our identity, but now it looks melded with yours.

There are commonalities, and there are contradictions mocking each other. I can’t find a place to hide. There are mirrors all around.

Yes, I made a mistake.

I’ve stepped on a new path – moving towards you. Loops behind are closing down. The spiral ahead is straightening itself – shortening the distance – between Me and You.

🥕🥕🥕

Meltdown by Joanne Fisher

“So what’s the matter now?”

“Nothing really, it’s just a lot of people I care about seemed to totally ignore my birthday.”

“Maybe they were preoccupied with other matters? Perhaps they were really busy?”

“Yeah, but how hard is it to just wish someone a happy birthday?” I mean really?”

“They may have not known it was your birthday. Seriously, it’s not worth having a meltdown over.”

“I’m not having a meltdown! I’m just disappointed is all, and feeling sad.”

“Do you think maybe the problem is your own expectations, rather than anything they have failed to do?”

“Whatever.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Regrets by Simon Prathap D

Frozen strawberry ice cream, on a small bowl, gently flowing cool smoke, the colour, the layers.

I took a spoon, pressed on its head, what a view, the meltdown of my favourite strawberry cream.

My daughter stopped me, the rage in my eyes, I can’t express, not because she wanted it.

She pointed out my sugar level, I understand, I am old, If one scoop of an ice cream could kill me, let it kill.

She walked out, yelling!

I want to die without regrets, I yelled back.

Life is like an ice cream, enjoy, before it melts kills!

🥕🥕🥕

Meltdown by Sarah Whiley

It’s all a blur – once the meltdown begins. That familiar sinking feeling, consumes me again.

My face blanches as I realise what I’ve done. It’s too late now though. It’s happened.
“What were you thinking?” my beleaguered mind screams.
“That’s the problem… she wasn’t,” replies my subconscious, smirking, “Always the way, once she gets a few drinks in her.”

My head spins as I scrabble to assemble jigsaw pieces of the previous night.
But it’s no use,
There’s nothing there,
Time hosts invisible memories.

Sick to my stomach, all I can do now is ask, “Who else knows?”

🥕🥕🥕

Cousins by Carole Warren

Two cousins sharing an amazing weekend on the island.

Close since her birth, I would take charge of my baby cousin. Hold her, swing her, walk her, play. Always enjoying our times together.

Admiring her sweet spirit, I swear, we could chat for hours. We have. We do again on a sunny patio examining life’s challenges, hers greater than mine.

Looking past her glassy eyes, I sense unspoken pain. A past we don’t discuss: numerous surgeries, daily discomfort, looming blood clots, the challenges of wheelchair confinement.

She says nothing, blinks, turns back to me, then smiles. Silent meltdown over.

🥕🥕🥕

A Family Meltdown by Susan Spitulnik

Katie didn’t try to hide her anger or tears. “Does she think she can swoop in here and be welcomed? I don’t care if she is my blood grandmother. She’s never sent me so much as a hello.”

Thad empathized with his daughter. “I’m not any more comfortable with meeting her than you are, but your grandfather and Nan say it will benefit us to reconnect.”

“How can Grandma be so positive?”

“She says you’ll understand better after you’ve had children.”

“I’m also worried about this woman’s reappearance upsetting Grandpa?”

“I’m sure his loyalty to Nan will prevent problems.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gloria’s Book Group Reads Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson by Anne Goodwin

Her book group is blinkered. Gloria sits back and watches as her friends turn themselves inside out to prove that Jeanette Winterson’s memoir isn’t about Christianity’s cruelty to kids growing up gay.

They know about her son and his soon-to-be husband. Yet they persist in picking adoption quotes. The author would have been fine if she’d had better parents. What’s the big deal?

Love didn’t hold when I was born, Randall reads. Gloria blushes as a desperate howl rises from her belly. To avoid public meltdown, she rushes to the toilets. No-one can know she’s been that abandoned child.

🥕🥕🥕

Years After the Meltdown by Charli Mills

His meltdown 25 years ago had terrified her.

Max refused to stroke the cat rubbing its head against her folded arms. She leaned against one of two posts holding up the front porch. The exterior needed sanding. Through the open door to the three-room cabin – kitchen, sitting room, bedroom – Max noted cooling cherry pies, lace curtains, jelly jars of garden flowers. What some would call “a woman’s touch.” Her dad lived alone.

She’d been seven when the church elders drove him from their South Range home, beating him with fists and folded newspapers. Mascara and tears streaking his face.

🥕🥕🥕

Grilled Cheese Wizardry by Bill Engleson

It was so damn easy. Two hunks of sliced bread, the kind my mother made, but then couldn’t, especially after the arthritis took control of her farm girl’s hands, a slab of cheese, not too thick but not like it was shaved by a piker, a slice of onion, red, yellow, white, and weren’t we always thankful that there were no blue onions, slam it all together, melt a square of butter in a sizzling frying pan, brown one side like crazy, flip her, burn it like the sun was doing the cooking and Houston, we had meltdown nirvana…

🥕🥕🥕

The Meltdown by Colleen Chesebro

Not again! My spell had failed. I gazed at the mess covering my newly painted kitchen walls. Green goop ran like rivers into puddles on the floor.

How could this be? I’d followed the recipe from my mother’s ancient Grimoire. There were no herbal substitutions.

“Oh, this is really bad,” my husband muttered from the doorway. “What did you forget this time?”

My meltdown was now complete! How dare he insinuate that my memory was failing! “Nothing. I forgot nothing,” I answered frostily.

“Oh,” he answered. I’ve got that eye of newt you asked me to get for you.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Great Chili Meltdown by JulesPaige

His wife had a meltdown. He bought the dehydrator to preserve his hot peppers. But he didn’t think – he had the unit filled to the brim and when the process started the whole house filled with the distribution of capsaicin vapors. She made him clean up his ‘mess’, with tears in her eyes and her throat burning. And made him promise to sell the machine at their next garage sale. With that lesson passed on… the neighbor bought the hardly used machine. Herbs might work better.

too hot to handle
internal flames were to blame
no more capsaicin

🥕🥕🥕

The Meltdown by Pete Fanning

The radio station sent me to Paradise lake to broadcast, where the heat index was set to purgatory and my shoes, socks, and jeans felt like blankets of torture as kids frolicked about the shore, popsicles dripping down their fists.

Mere seconds before I went live on air, Daryl Hall’s voice warbled horribly offkey. Sweating in horror, I watched the vinyl curl under the glare of the sun. Mic in hand, I turned for the next record, only to find the kids launching it like a frisbee.

“Let’s go live to Paradise Lake.”

And that was my last broadcast.

🥕🥕🥕

Ice Cream Meltdown by Norah Colvin

“Stop blubbering while I answer this. Hello.”

“Good morning. Sounds like someone’s not happy.”

“The ice cream’s melted.”

“An ice cream meltdown. Kids will be kids.”

“Yeah. Our fifth lockdown this year. We’re homeschooling. Again. My FIFO hub’s trapped in woop-woop. I can’t visit mum in hospital cause she’s interstate even if hub did get home. And no power now for three days. Our freezer food’s spoiled, and he’s whinging about ice cream. When will the lines be fixed?”

“Sorry. You’ve got the wrong number.” I hung up. The boss can fire me. No way she’d buy raffle tickets.

🥕🥕🥕

What Meltdown by kathy70

Not sure if I ever really had one, stiff upper lip and all that drivel. As a child it was certainly not allowed by my mother. Maybe I was never allowed to have expectations that would make me feel special or wanted. Other than get good grades.

An adult now, so I get to set the standards, but how does that feel I’ve no idea. Real feelings hurt too much so lets not go there. A true meltdown might be a good thing. I watch as global-warming melts glaciers. Maybe I can melt myself enough to feel real once?

🥕🥕🥕

Year Thirty by Larry Trasciatti

It was thirty years after the pandemic.

The Great Society’s Meltdown was underway.

Martin and Barbara were reading about how neighbors of theirs were executed for referring to the Outsiders as ‘those people’, and ‘some of my best friends.’

The only things illegal were intolerance and being offensive. Anything, at random, could be deemed intolerant or offensive. The party’s whims were law.

It was noon so they drove to the courthouse to find out what they were allowed to do that day.

They stood on line among others with identical poker faces.

Invisible cameras stared down toward them constantly.

🥕🥕🥕

Contempt by C. E. Ayr

Président Macron speaks of ‘Les gens qui réussissent et les gens qui ne sont rien’*, as he turns France into an over-controlled, over-surveilled police state.
Jacob Rees-Mogg jokes about ‘happy fish’ while the Scottish fishing industry is devastated by Brexit.
He also amuses himself by unfunny alliteration, like ‘bands of blighters’, referring to asylum-seekers.
This vile creature is part of Liar Johnson’s inner circle as they rape the UK with blatant corruption and cronyism.
This level of contempt from politicians towards the general population presages a new generation of fascism comparable to 1930s Nazi Germany.
Democracy is in meltdown.

* ‘People who succeed and people who are nothing’.
Please note, not people who do nothing, or people who have nothing, but people who ARE nothing.

🥕🥕🥕

Moving Meltdown by FloridaBorne

My father was four inches shorter than six feet. His thick build and barrel chest were developed from strapping pianos on his back and carrying them up several flights of stairs for thirty years of his life.

He hated “New Yorkers” after he carried a baby grand piano up three flights of stairs in Miami one summer. The moment that rich woman from up north told him not to enter her apartment until he removed the stench from his body, he should’ve had a meltdown. He drove home, showered, and finished moving the piano so he could get paid.

🥕🥕🥕

Sunflower Meltdown by Nancy Brady

Surprise sunflowers came up in the flower bed that was planted with canna lilies. Seeds dropped by hungry birds at the feeder probably were the reason for the surprise.

The feeders were gone for the summer, but some of the birds remained. New birds also arrived, attracted by the bright yellow flowers. Bees, too, found the flowers attractive, but two birds were particularly enamored by the sunny faces.

Goldfinches, male and female, feasted on the ripening seeds. Whether it was the goldfinches or the heaviness of the sunflower heads, it was a meltdown dipping their heads toward the earth.

🥕🥕🥕

Icarus in Starlight by Saifun Hassam

Keith flew in orbit around the bright star Berenice in a new experimental Solar spacecraft designed for space photography. The craft’s solar sails were sensitive to the force of light from stars, creating tiny flight deviations. Something he needed for stellar photography. But those subtle changes could also send him spinning into the star.

Icarus came to mind. Keith loved reading about Earth, that ancestral home, its mythological tales. Earth was no more. Keith imagined Icarus with his wings of feathers and wax, soaring up towards a bright star, the Sun. A meltdown in starlight. Crashing into an ocean.

🥕🥕🥕

Visitor by Rebecca Glaessner

The grounds shuddered. The air hummed along with urgency.

Something was happening.

Its kin at rest, a lone creature emerged from its dwelling, peering out toward the meeting line of void and land.

The hum grew violent as the void tore open with a flash. From the tear, a being of another kind tumbled into the creature’s world. Grounds shaking beneath them, the being heaved upright and cried out as it lunged toward the closing tear, but the hum stopped, the lands stilled.

The visitor remained.

It discovered its onlooker and both understood, the visitor was there to stay.

🥕🥕🥕

A Puddle of Broken Promises by Donna Matthews

“Hurry! See those red clouds in the east? We need to finish this access tunnel!”

“But I don’t want to live underground!” Sam cried.

“I know, love. None of us do. But here we are…please hand me that cement bag. I need your help to pour it.”

She couldn’t show her rising panic. They needed to hurry, but the cement would only set as fast as it would. She knew yesterday the negotiations were melting down into a puddle of broken promises. Now, the red radioactive cloud had reached her horizon. They had just until nightfall to be underground.

🥕🥕🥕

Meltdown by D. Avery

“Yer lookin’ hot unner the collar Kid. Fit ta be tied.”

“Got nuthin’ fer this prompt Pal. Meltdown? Yeesh. I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout meltdowns.”

“Hmmm. Tell ya Kid, it reminds me a way back rodeoin’. Drew a bull named Meltdown. Whoooeee, ya think this is a tough write? They was one rough ride. Ok’ Meltdown threw me inta the air an’ if not fer some serious rodeo clowns woulda stomped me inta the ground. Was sure weak-kneed after thet one.”

“That’s a short story pal, kinda incomplete.”

“So was thet ride. But I got up.”

“Write on, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Recognition

Numbers, Pounds, Hashtags. This little icon has come a long way through history. Grandma says it’s a number sign. Dad argues it’s a pound sign, and today’s generation, well, they have no idea what the fuss is all about because, in their world, it’s a hashtag.

What is so important about this symbol? What has made it the MUSTuse item in the world of Social Media? Recognition! 

It has become one of the many recognizable faces of the corporate, writing, and small business owner’s world, to name a few.

Ranches use brands on their livestock to provide immediate identification to anyone who sees it. The animal’s brand establishes the animal’s ownership.

In the social media world, #hashtags have become a way to enhance, promote, and identify your brand. A #hashtag used with your product, your company, or your book’s name gives much sought-after advertising without spending any money. The more you use #words about you and your product, the more it spiders out to the world. It is your identifier. It is one of the things followers, friends, and family can use to support what you are doing. 

There is etiquette and guidelines to follow when journeying through the #hashtag world. A few things to keep in mind are: 

  • Use relevant hashtags. If you are promoting #woolsocks, using #doyouwearcottonsocks is probably not a good choice; however, #writinginwoolsocks or #spinningwool could fit in. 
  • Place the majority hashtags at the end of the post. The use of a few within the post, depending on its length, is accepted. 
  • Keep it short. Use common hashtag acronyms and short forms of the word. #tbt equals #ThrowBackThursday. #yyc equals #Calgary. 
  • Twitter suggests using 1-3 hashtags. The allowable number of characters is 280. That’s characters, not words, and includes hashtags. 
  • Instagram says up to 30 hashtags is acceptable. A side note to using hashtags on Instagram – use 3-4 at the end of your post. Once it is posted, open the comment section for the post and add more #hashtags. This allows for a few things. 1. Your post is short and sweet and not overwhelmed with hashtags that may or may not get read, and take away from the message in your post. 2. It gives your post at least one comment, which helps in the algorithms. 3. Provides a space to promote more than the post’s topic – although this should be minimal.
  • Blogs are another good place to add a few hashtags, and  Facebook, Pinterest, and any other social media platform.
  • Create a hashtag cheat sheet for your social media. Include book titles, writing topics, company name, genre-specific, and trending topics you share on social media. Add on a few miscellaneous hashtags such as #bookstagram and #amwriting. I live in Alberta, Canada, and I include #canadianwriter and #albertaauthor, along with #annedallrobsonbooks.  Cheat sheets can be added to and manipulated to what works for you. 

This old-fashioned number sign is one of the best friends you can have when promoting and selling you and your product. When a rancher sells his cattle at auction, buyers may not know the seller personally, but the brand says it all about the owner, thus providing credibility and the want or need to buy the animals. 

Hashtags are another alternative to find you through search engines. You want to promote your business? It’s time to take the bull by the horns and let this old-fashioned number sign become your best friend. 

How do you use hashtags to promote yourself and your writing?

Ann Edall-Robson relies on her heritage to keep her grounded. Reminders of her family’s roots mentor her to where she needs to go. Gifting her with excerpts of a lifestyle she sees slipping away. Snippets shyly materialize in Ann’s writing and photography. She is a lover of life and all things that make us smile. Edall-Robson shares moments others may never get to experience at HorsesWestDAKATAMA™ Country, and Ann Edall-Robson where you can also contact her. Books written by Ann Edall-Robson are available through her website, at Amazon, and various other online locations.

#CRLC #QuiteSpirits #Hashtags #AnnEdallRobsonBooks #OldFashioned #UsingHashtags #GetRecognized #CarrotRanch

Saddle Up Saloon; Colleen’s Double Ennead Challenge No. 6

Happy July! Welcome to the Carrot Ranch Double Ennead Monthly Poetry Challenge. Every third Monday of the month, I’ll be here at the Saloon with another challenge to help get your poetic juices flowing. Each month, we will explore a different theme or image to inspire our poetry. Take your time, there’s no hurry! You have an entire month to write your poem.

Check out the poems from last month HERE

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

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

Last month’s challenge was TUFF! So, this month, let’s write our double ennead using the image below or expound on the theme of travel!

For more inspiration read: What Is Ekphrastic Poetry?

Our Inspiration:

Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

Use the image above to compose your double ennead poem. Remember to count your syllables using the sodacoffee.com/syllables site.

My example follows:

"Travel through Books"

books give me wings to fly
to charming spaces
where characters invite me into their lives
to stay for just a while—
bittersweet friendships

books give me wings to fly
to far-off places
where the battle against good versus evil
wins out at the finish—
soul-satisfying

books give me wings to fly
to learn new concepts
for writing poetry and fun flash fiction—
travel the world of books
enjoy your flight—read!

© Colleen M. Chesebro

Poetry is based on your perceptions. After all the places I lived and traveled to, in and out of the Air Force, the theme of travel is still exciting. (Although now, I do most of my traveling through reading). While I wrote this double ennead with the theme of travel through the reading of books, you might feel and interpret the image differently. Follow your inner voice for inspiration.

In this double ennead, I used the literary device of repetition by intentionally using the phrase “books give me wings to fly” for effect. Poets often employ this technique. We should use the phrase at least two or more times for the repetition to be noticeable. The words or phrases should be repeated within close proximity of each other. Repeating the same words or phrases in a poem brings clarity to an idea and makes it memorable for the reader.

In the next month:

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

Now have fun and write some syllabic poetry!

July 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

I’m having a serious meltdown.

Mause ate my turquoise Keens. She chewed through the straps by the start of warm weather. Keens are my power center. Keens have seen me through adventures, interviews of farmers, and recovery from back surgeries. Keens give me stable footing. They are my travel companions, my outdoor gear. This particular pair went to LA when I won a scholarship to a writers conference. The color symbolized my dream to teach writing and welcome writers to retreat space.

It’s not the first time I’ve lost a pair of Keens to a wild animal (puppies are feral beasts). You can read my 2012 lament to Keens lost and then found destroyed along the Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior in A Tale of Two Keens. But something has changed.

They don’t make Keens like they used to. It’s more than fashion travesty when a brand you love changes. It feels like betrayal. I was loyal, why couldn’t you be loyal too, Keen? It’s not just me. Other jilted shoe-lovers mourn the loss of a dependable brand. So far, since the beginning of May, I’ve ordered and returned four pairs of Keens. None of them fit. I tried different sizes, styles and genders. The fit was the whole reason for our foot affair. The shape is gone, the love with it.

I tried Merrels and kept a pair. But they are not Keens. If I walk to long in them, the front straps rub my pinky toes.

Today, a pair of coral Chacos arrived in a box. The river rafters and hiking enthusiasts out West swear by this brand. I’ve snubbed my nose, content with Keens. Now, I rip my package in desperation for a new shoe mate. Immediately, I swing a foot sideways to place a sandal. I can’t get my toe under the right strap. Why are there so many straps? A folded card has a series of instructions numbered at each strap and shoe placement. Easy as 1-2-3.

Uh, no. I have to sit down because I’m not understanding the entanglement. It’s a sandal. My foot should slide in place. This is when dyslexia pops up to help my brain with a problem. I can’t figure out anything left/right oriented. Like the one way streets in Minneapolis because they use the circle with a line to say don’t turn the direction of the lined arrow except my brain can’t interpret which direction I’m not supposed to go and every time, I’d turn down the wrong way. In Zoom meetings I point the wrong direction to things behind me. I struggle with math, maps, phonemes, pronunciation, and time.

Cue the meltdown because I don’t have time for this strap nonsense.

There I was, sitting on the couch, attempting to put my foot through a puzzle of straps when I pulled the toe straps wide open. You see, if the directions had been written out instead of a numbered visual, I could have comprehended how the Chaco straps pull through the bed of the sandal. I managed to get one on my foot. Then the next foot. Mause ate the instructions while I fussed.

I stood up and one foot said, “Okay,” and the other said, “wtf…” I started to spin. I didn’t intend to spin but that directional disorientation couldn’t figure out which way my foot was supposed to go. I rotated in a circle and still couldn’t get my foot straight on the sandal bed. The straps held. At times like these, I usually laugh. Because, what else can I do? Well, I did the other thing. I burst into tears.

It’s been a week in two days, and not just because I can’t find a pair of sporting sandals. I’m overwrought by unscheduled time and competing tasks and wondering who in my house is crazier? (I’m pointing at Mause, who’s looking at me.) Am I too busy to call the numbers I researched to search for answers to where does the mind of an aging veteran go? Or am I really as tired as my bones feel? Despite it all, good news rises in the midst of chaos.

Finlandia University offered me the Adjunct Instructor position. I have two classes to teach this fall semester! Adjunct means contract. They’ll hire me as long as there are classes available. It’s great because I’ll have a base income to cover me while I build my education platform here. It gives me flexibility without having to force my feral writing brain back into a 9-to-5. It’s also a foot in the door to the Academic World. It’s beyond what my turquoise Keens had hoped for!

The transition is only a season. I hope for days that fit better into my weeks. I hope for less confusing straps and triggering moments. Truly, I am grateful to have such trivial complaints as, “My dog ate my shoes.” But sometimes, we need to embrace the time of the dark moon and have a proper meltdown. Now, I can stop actively searching for work, which is a huge weight off my shoulders. Time to prepare for teaching!

As long as I don’t have to distinguish my left from my right.

July 15, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word meltdown. You can use it to describe an event or emotional reaction. You can create a new meaning or explore the word origin. You can Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 20, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Years After the Meltdown by Charli Mills

His meltdown 25 years ago had terrified her.

Max refused to stroke the cat rubbing its head against her folded arms. She leaned against one of two posts holding up the front porch. The exterior needed sanding. Through the open door to the three-room cabin – kitchen, sitting room, bedroom – Max noted cooling cherry pies, lace curtains, jelly jars of garden flowers. What some would call “a woman’s touch.” Her dad lived alone.

She’d been seven when the church elders drove him from their South Range home, beating him with fists and folded newspapers. Mascara and tears streaking his face.

🥕🥕🥕

Feathers

Feathers. Who knows where one might lead you? Fly into this collection o feathered stories.

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

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

The Gryphons by Nicole Horlings

there were warnings
not to take those paths;
never linger near the nests,
beware when feathers ruffle,
and respect the royal truce

but a different king in the castle
desiring dangerous convenience
decreed garish rewards to those
who revealed the monsters muffled,
and the land trembled in terror

let the legends linger long,
the memories of those who mourn
mimic the glory that once glowed,
until feet shift and shuffle
when their extinction is evident

yet voices grumble
accepting no accountability
glaringly asking why their generation is accused

when feathers ruffle,
reveal the monsters muffled;
feet shift and shuffle

🥕🥕🥕

The Haggis by C. E. Ayr

There are three different breeds of these savage creatures.
The Furry Hillside Haggis has two short and two long legs, and hunts bairns on the slopes of the misty mysterious Ben.
The Wild Marine or Sea-Water Haggis has a shell of steel and claws like daggers, and if you tempt them onto the rocks, you can sometimes trap them in a stout wooden box.
But the Three-legged Nasty Haggis has sharp teeth and feathers, and scurries around under the heather, ready to attack knees or anything else under the kilt.
Ah, the Highlands, the most romantic spot on earth.

🥕🥕🥕

AHH-CHOO! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Alana shifted, quick step and stomp, nearly stumbling. A drop of sweat ran down the powerful slope of her nose, around the edge of her nostril, and dangled, tickling and stinging. She blew once, twice, and the drop sailed into endless blue skies, evaporating in the shearing heat.

Her shoulders ached with having taken on the weight of the world for her sketchy cousin, Atlas.

Dammit! He’d promised to pick them up a couple of Popeye’s chicken sandwiches, then be right back. The lines must be really long.

A feather floated, settling on her sweaty upper lip.

It tickled.

🥕🥕🥕

Whispers of Faeries by Deborah A. Bowman

“Hush, quiet makes them come,”
I whispered to my daughter, Kelsey.
She looked up, bathed in sun.
4 years old, bright red hair; she’s a wee faerie!

The standing stones, tucked away.
The time was right; planets set, providing the edge!
I had waited years for this day.
Bringing Kelsey to Scotland, her heritage.

A gray cloud floated by.
In shadow, wisp of a glowing feather.
It took flight and I started to cry,
Holding my breath…

Hundreds of feathers, alive, dancing in the sun!
Golden feathers with wings, tiny faces. “See, Kelsey?”
“The Faeries have come!”
Blessed be…

🥕🥕🥕

The Feather by Norah Colvin

‘It’s not just a feather. It’s the feather.’

‘Which feather?’

‘The one from the beach that day.’

‘Which day?’

‘Remember when we went to the beach and there was a flock of birds that looked like they were having a conference but when they saw us they flew away and one dropped a feather that landed on top of our castle. We knew it was a sign, they were telling us something.’

‘That’s just silly childish stuff.’

‘It was a sign. The birds need our help. The bulldozers have arrived. They will destroy the habitat. We must stop them!’

🥕🥕🥕

Flying by Joanne Fisher

It was time to board the plane. Branwen walked up the steps and tried to find her seat. Sitting down, she found she was shaking. She always hated flying this way, but traveling to the other side of the world was a long way and she really had no choice.

“You a nervous flyer?” asked the flight attendant.

“I just like to be the one in control when I fly.” Branwen answered.

“Oh, are you a pilot?”

“In a manner of speaking.” She replied. The flight attendant left. Branwen held on tightly to a raven feather, just in case.

🥕🥕🥕

Black Feather by Ann Edall-Robson

Squawking interrupts the quiet of the post dawn. Insistent parents teaching fledglings. Myths surround the onyx coloured spirit bird with the piercing eyes. Yet, once you get to know them, they’re the friend you want hanging around. The one who’ll have your back, lets you know you’re watched over, gives you a nudge when you would rather be left alone, and lets you see insightful truths. On this morning, when their wings took them skyward to see who else they could annoy with their noise, the crows left a gift. A reminder of their importance…One lone black feather.

🥕🥕🥕

Memories by Saifun Hassam

A dappled feather floated down gently on the open page of Selena’s journal. She loved the early morning quiet of the backyard, her favorite writing spot.

The feather reminded her of a silver filigree necklace, a gift from Grandma. An intricate network of overlapping silver feathers from an antique shop. Selena loved jewelry and books, odds and ends, rich with stories from someone else’s life.

Selena wore it to Grandma’s funeral. She traced the feathers in the necklace, which somehow had become a “journal” for her. A reminder of happy times. And the quarrels that tore apart her parents.

🥕🥕🥕

The Feather by FloridaBorne

Though it was forbidden, Mary held within her hand the remains of a turkey feather once part of her great-great-great grandfather’s cape.

During a time before Europeans, men of her tribe wore breechcloth and women only wore skirts made of animal skins. Each generation, the patriarch passed this feather along to his oldest son as a reminder of their heritage.

But the Cherokee were matriarchal.

Before the Europeans arrived no one was saddled with her name. She put the tattered token of her family’s delusions back into the plastic bag, and tucked the wretched thing into its ornamental box.

🥕🥕🥕

Worth Waiting For by Rebecca Glaessner

They chose Earth. Chose a human child.

Though her mind began dark, she, my host, became my home.

As she grew, I learned how her brain worked completely, every single firing synapse that surrounded me.

I even stepped her back off a cliff once.

That was a fight.

She didn’t want to stay. They wanted to extract me, to let her do her thing, find me another host.

I refused.

That was then.

Matured, I return to Earth in a form of my choosing, feathers soft and powerful.

She’s waiting at that cliff edge.

We’ll soar this time.

Together.

🥕🥕🥕

Douglas by Simon Prathap D

Douglas, his Blue feather fell on my car.

Humans, so much drama for one life. Rituals, caste, colour, money decides luxury of a coffin, Dead doesn’t know how they were buried right? then why these drama? No words! Tears could be true, dramas are not.

Douglas, 9 years old, male canaries birds don’t usually live longer, I know he will disappear one day. Birds don’t usually die in front of us, they don’t wish to. But with a little hope, I leave Douglas will come back one day, I’m keeping his feather.

Douglas, birds don’t die, they fly high.

🥕🥕🥕

Hindsight by Michael Fishman

I bought a parakeet with green and yellow feathers.
They put it in a box.
At home I put it into a birdcage I got at a garage sale.

The parakeet looked around.
Shortly, it became anxious.
For two days it did nothing but climb up and down the sides of the cage and scream.

Pretty bird. Scared bird.

I became anxious.
Neither of us slept.
I put it into the box and returned it.

“Sorry,” I said.

Maybe another parakeet died in the cage and my parakeet knew?
Maybe I should have cleaned the cage.
Hindsight, they say.

🥕🥕🥕

Angus — A Short Romance by Doug Jacquier

Angus had torn his shorts rough-housing in the playground. Back in class, Miss Anderson (his secret love) noticed.

‘Angus, what have you done to your shorts?’

‘Nothing, Miss.’

‘Nonsense, young man. Come here.’

Angus, light-headed and leaden-footed, presented himself at Miss Anderson’s desk. She produced a sewing kit and proceeded to sew up the tear.

As her fingers brushed against the skin of his thigh, his uncontrollable puberty announced itself suddenly and unmistakably.

Clearly flustered, Miss Anderson snipped the thread and ordered Angus to return to his seat. Scarlet-faced, but glowing with undying devotion, Angus obeyed, floating on feathers.

🥕🥕🥕

Fletcher by R. V. Mitchell

Hugh Fletcher examined the pile of goose feathers on the bench and shook his head. Lefts, he mused. He always gives me bleeding lefts. Hugh knew that there was only one left-handed archer in the village and yet the reeve continually provided him with left wing feathers, and far too many of them cocks and not nearly enough hens. He knew it was his own fault of course. He should never have courted and married Lizzie Browne, when he knew that Robert Reeve had fancied her. Now he would look incompetent yet again as his bowmen lost the tournament.

🥕🥕🥕

Ruffled Feathers by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa stomped into the house and slammed the door behind her. “Mom makes me so mad.”

“I guess she ruffled your feathers again. About what now?” Michael asked.

“I explained to her that the base and medical benefits I lost when I got divorced, I would get back when we get married. Instead of looking at it as a positive, she reminded me I wouldn’t be able to take her to the Officer’s Club for dinner.”

“Her and her status hang up. I’ll tell her that the NCO Club food is better because there are more NCOs than Officers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Love Tokens by Anne Goodwin

She didn’t need to go elsewhere to meet him. He was threaded through the fabric of their home. His hatred of spaghetti in the kitchen. His favourite artist down the hall.

She found mementos everywhere. Gifts bestowed to cheer her day. Chocolate in the cutlery drawer. Photos in the airing cupboard. A curled feather where she laid her head to sleep.

Every Valentine’s, a peacock plume. Sufficient now to clothe a taxidermy bird.

She stores these new ones, small and grey, with her jewellery.  She doesn’t grasp her pillow’s leaking stuffing. She needs his greetings from beyond the grave.

🥕🥕🥕

Oh, Nora! by Donna Matthews

Nora screamed a blood-curdling scream again and again. I couldn’t untangle myself from the sleeping bag fast enough. Crawling on all fours, I finally reach her…grabbing her up and searching for injuries. Not seeing any blood or bites, relief floods me.

“Nora, baby! What? What?”

“The baby bunny!

Confusion. “The what?”

Her tear-streaked face looking up to the tall pines at the edge of our campsite.

“The baby bunny! I was feeding him and a big scary bird took him away!”

Sure enough, a combination of feathers and rabbit fur drift down from the towering trees overhead. Oh, Nora.

🥕🥕🥕

Aloysius’s Discovery by Nancy Brady

Aloysius, AKA Rainbow, serendipitously discovered that his multi-colored fur had magical powers. Blue seemed connected with sky. This began the day he found a blue jay’s feather on the ground. When he touched it with his front paw, he felt himself lifting from the ground. All four feet fanned out, and with his tail as a rudder, he flew.
Okay, Aloysius was a bit clumsy with flying at first, but with his trusty feather stuck behind his left ear, he soon soared over treetops and roofs. No one seemed to notice a flying cat, and he found it empowering.

🥕🥕🥕

Lunch with Stewart by Bill Engleson

“I wouldn’t worry about him, Karl. He’s no heavyweight.”

Stewart usually gave good advice. This time I wasn’t so sure. I could feel Harry the Hamster breathing down my neck. Small town financial planning was competitive. Almost a blood sport. And maybe I was slowing down. Not as hungry as I once was.

“Maybe,” I agreed, “but he ain’t no featherweight either.”

“Even featherweights got a kick, Karl. But I agree, he’s no Kid Chocolate.”

“Who?”

“Cuban boxer. Way before our time. The Cuban Bon Bon. Ferocious fighter.

Stewart always took my mind off my worries.

“Tell me more.”

🥕🥕🥕

Feathers by Anita Dawes

What is it about feathers
That has us looking for angels?
I can see one falling in front of me
In my garden nearly every day
So where do the white feathers come from
Are they hidden beneath their wings?
I cannot say I have ever noticed
Maybe angels do fly over head
I remember mother saying
That the only feather that matters
Is the one you catch in your hand
This brings great luck
Have you ever tried catching one
Dancing on the wind?
Turn around and back again
Still, it lands on the ground at your feet…

🥕🥕🥕

Feathers by Willow Willers

Tom reached out and caught the feather. He smiled, angel feather he thought.

The angel above him was weeping, their feathers were falling soon so would the angel.

Tom held the feather, “jump” he said looking up, “I will catch you.” The angel knew they could trusted him, Tom had faith enough for both of them.

Another feather fell into his hand, the angel’s tears dried and they smiled. Taking the leap of faith the angel fell into Tom’s arms. Falling the angel became whole. Love shone from Tom’s eyes. The angel naked but safe knew he was home.

🥕🥕🥕

Avian Mystery by JulesPaige

fallen nest
from the porch roof eave
twigs, feathers

Small
Black and
White
Ones

How long had the mother bird coddled her nestlings? Who’d she raise? The nest was there before we left for just a few days. It was down on our return. A treasure of woven things and a variety of feathers of all colors, shapes and sizes. The closest thing I found in my searching was that the black and white feathers may have belonged to a Downy Woodpecker. I’ll never know who took down the nest. I hope the birds will build again next spring.

🥕🥕🥕

Still Smiling by Annette Rochelle Aben

My best friend, Trina, used to say that every time she found a feather, it was a message from someone she loved, who was on the other side. She happened to mention this at her father’s celebration of life gathering when we found a feather inside her mother’s refrigerator. We smiled.

The day of viewing for Trina’s body found me surrounded by our friends and her family. Her sister handed me a container filled with cookies, that Trina had marked for me to have only minutes before she died. Left behind, on the table, was a feather. We smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Good Will Hatching by D. Avery

“Okay, I’m here. Mother trucking services. What’s up?”
“It’s epic, Marge.”
Brightly colored clothing spilled and tumbled out of boxes and bags that lined Ilene’s walkway.
“What’s epic, Lloyd?”
“Ilene’s molting!”
“Yes! I’m divesting myself of my plumage! It’s simple earth tone tunics and leggings for me from here on out.”
“Don’t you mean legging? Really, Ilene? No more Toucan Sam outfits? Bet Fruit Loops here put you up to this. You going to cut your big hair too?”
“No! That’s my crowning glory!”
“At least keep this pink feather boa, Ilene. And what’s this?”
“My unicorn headband.”
“Epic.”

🥕🥕🥕

Follow The Feathers by Hugh W. Roberts

What is the source of the strange coloured feathers on the stairs?

***
Slowly opening the front door, thirteen-year-old Adrian listened for signs of life.

Confident that nobody was home, he stepped inside.

Should he go to the kitchen for snacks or upstairs to turn on his new Playstation?

The strange coloured feathers had the answer. Adrian picked them up as he ascended the stairs.

Walking past his parents’ bedroom, he suddenly stopped. She was wearing her favourite dress and feathered boa, applying makeup and doing her hair in the dressing table mirror, a figure he knew.

“Mum?”

“Adrian!” came the deep voice of his father, turning round to face his son.

🥕🥕🥕

Willie the Chick Magnet by Lawrence Trasciatti

‘Nobody wants to admit that Willie’s a bit off,’ Fred told Alice.

”He keeps a pet ostrich in his small apartment.’

‘ I’ve noticed,’ she replied. ‘Whenever he has company he always sets a place at the table for his ostrich.

There are feathers all over the place but he keeps them so neatly organized

Women he’s courted find his pet so cute.

Each lady, if he thinks she’s special, gets a feather.’

‘I wanted to fix him up with Agnes,’ Fred said, ‘but she has asthma.’

‘One day,’ Alice said, ‘with that ostrich he’ll find someone perfect for him.’

🥕🥕🥕

Spring Training in Tucson by Carole Warren

All-Star pitcher, ready on the mound, squints for catcher’s signal. He shakes off three fingers, then nods for one. A fastball. The Big Unit has earned fame for his killer pitches.

Left foot on rubber, #51 towers 6’10” above the mound.
Set position. Stretch. Right knee up. Release. WHOOSH!
Strike! But not a traditional “in the zone” call.

The ball collided with perfect precision into a mourning dove.
An explosion of feathers floated in the air between Diamondback pitcher and catcher. Carcass falls.

The fans in Electric Park released a collective “huuuaaAHH!”
A historical pitch known as Fowl Ball.

🥕🥕🥕

Feathers on a Cap by Ruchira Khanna

“Congratulations!” cheered Soniya’s friends as she walked towards them with stretched hands.

“I did it!” she shouted with glassy eyes and clenched fists.

Once all the congratulatory messages were through. Her mom slid a handful of feathers under the tassel of her graduation cap.

“What’s this for?” Soniya inquired with wide eyes, “Shouldn’t I get only one feather since I just graduated.”

“A feather indicates accomplishments, and this is one of them.”

“Huh?”

“My girl, you are Compassionate, Courageous, Hardworking, Creative, and now you’re a graduate proves you’ve accomplished your goal.”

“Aah! Thank you, Mom, for being my inspiration.”

🥕🥕🥕

Feather by Ann Edall-Robson

left behind
from above
no direction in mind
drifting aimlessly
with the clouds
to landscape
far below
nestled on
the open range
settled
for how long
dancing lazily
to and fro
listening to the
wind’s song
twisting branches
bouncing
breezy gusts
tossed into the air
to travel across
the grassland’s
shimmering bust
whirling pirouettes
sashay up and down
jostled to a standstill
thrown to the ground
grassy thorns penetrate
a blustery
simmering storm
end over end
to a full stop
choreographed freeform
lifted upward
void of wind
full circle resonates
beginning or end
homeward bound
​to line a nest

🥕🥕🥕

Red Feathers of 1932 by Charli Mills

She plucked the chicken, swiping a feather from her forehead. Now what, thought Nella. Dumplings tonight wouldn’t stop the hunger pains to come. No more eggs. No more breakfasts for loggers. Loggers turned to the rails. Hoboes for hire. She brushed off her mother’s borrowed apron. When she left the northern peninsula to teach in Detroit, she never imagined she’d return broke. But the economy crashed, no one could pay taxes and schools closed. Capitalism. She growled the word. It had robbed all workers down to the last chicken. Tonight, she’d join Frank at the meeting with the communists.

🥕🥕🥕

The Feather by Jenne Gray

She sits on a rock, gazing out across the bay, a halo of sadness around her.
Impregnable it seems.
A lone feather floats on the breeze, hesitates, hovers beside her.
It drifts down and gently grazes her cheek, drawing her from her dark reverie.
She half-smiles, reaches for it.
But it flutters away, teasing…
Surprised, she follows it, tentatively at first, then joining its joyous game…
Until – at last – she sees again the beauty of the bay, the sun sparkling on the water, reflecting the blues too many to describe.
She breathes deeply, smiles.

The feather is gone.

🥕🥕🥕

Keepin’ Up by D. Avery

“Not agin!” “Sure hope you ain’t startin’ inta whinin’ ‘bout the prompt Kid.” “Hope is the thing with feathers Pal. She wants us ta round up unicorns agin.” “Horse feathers Kid! Thet ain’t what she’s after.” “Well what does she want then? I cain’t keep up, she moves too fast. Shorty’s all over the place.” “Seems pretty grounded ta me, ‘cept fer all her flights a fancy. Look Kid, jist go at yer own pace. You’ll dream up an idea.” “Reckon.” “What’re ya doin’?” “Gonna take a nap with ma head on this here feather pillow. Perchance ta dream.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tales from the Silver Screen: Part 7 Seriously Right-Wing Noir

In this series-depending on how long it lasts, for life, writing, and so many other things, are quite fleeting-I hope to look at a few classic films, give my take on them, perhaps even say something new that will have significance for today, and, failing that, try like the devil to be entertainingly provocative. I also hope to post a link or two about/to the films I examine, if available, so that they can be enjoyed (or dismissed) with full access.   

This time, the time of my seventh offering in my limited series of film observations, I thought I would sharply swerve into the far-right lane and dabble in what I have frivolously and unimaginatively decided to call right-wing noir. Seriously right-wing noir. There may be no such animal but there are films that do proffer a political tone, that attempt to inform, or, possibly, to confuse those wallowing in the centre of political thought:  One of these choice exposés is the Gordon Douglas directed 1951 film, I Was A Communist For the FBI (which subsequently generated a radio series) and a second is a John Wayne Movie that may not quite fit the noir mould but has its own duke-it-out charm, or harm, the Edward Ludwig helmed 1952 effort, Big Jim McLain. As you can tell by the years of release, both films landed smack dab in the heyday of Senator Joe McCarthy, his second wave House Un-American Activities Committee assault on Communism, his interrogation/bashing of such Hollywood luminaries as Orson Welles and Lucille Ball, as well as writers, Lillian Hellman, and Dashiell Hammett. By 1954, America had temporarily come to its senses and the Senate censured McCarthy by a vote of 67-22 for “conduct contrary to Senatorial tradition.”

It is hard to imagine that same level of accountability happening in today’s political divide.

That last sentence by the way is a poor attempt at humor.

I will also include a few thoughts on a third film, 1949’s The Red Menace. It fits more securely into the noir genre than Big Jim McLain, but because I succumbed to the temptation to have a little fun with John Wayne (whose movies I totally admire and enjoy regardless of what his political inclinations might have been), a third film with more noirish credibility seemed appropriate.

Seriously Right-Wing Noir: I Was a Communist for the FBI

As this film begins, we are up to our belly button in the narrative. The FBI is tracking a communist agitator, Gerhardt Heisler, as he travels around the country proselytizing, organizing. His next destination: Pittsburgh.

The main protagonist in I Was A Communist for the FBI, a title incidentally which pretty much gives away the theme, has already immersed himself in his duplicitous mission as the movie begins. He is in deep undercover mode. Based on a series of Saturday Evening Post interviews with Matt Cvetic, the film attempts to replicate Cvetic’s immersion into Pittsburgh’s Communist underground. By the time we meet Cvevic, stolidly portrayed by Frank Lovejoy, often a supporting actor who seemed to revel in playing hard-ass characters, he had been at his task awhile. Matt Cvevic is a pariah within his own large family. At one point early on we are witness to a family gathering and the awful strain that Cvevic’s assumed political leanings have placed on his family.

There are compensations for Cvevic. Or, at least, for his Lovejoyian doppelganger. One is his dalliance with Dorothy Hart, an actress with not a particularly lengthy film pedigree but who managed a range of interesting roles including Howard Duff’s girlfriend, Ruth Morrison in one of the great noirs, The Naked City, and her final role as the tenth movie Jane to Lex Barker’s lean interpretation of Tarzan in the 1952 jungle delight, Tarzan’s Savage Fury.

In I was a Communist for the FBI, her character is somewhat deceitful, a communist version of a femme fatale. She does it quite well.

Hollywood had little appeal to the “luminous” Ms. Hart. She is quoted as follows: “Acting wasn’t enough. I felt some of the movies were mediocre. I wanted to do something important with my life, so I began working with the American Association for the United Nations. It was very, very fulfilling. I’ll never regret having given up Hollywood for it. “

Dorothy Hart and Frank Lovejoy

There were other fine cinematic moments for Lovejoy during his career. He supported Bogart in Nick Rays brilliant 1950 mystery drama, In a Lonely Place, and a couple of years later, starred in a tidy little thriller noir, The Hitch-hiker, a film directed by Ida Lupino.

Seriously Right-Wing Noir: Big Jim McLain

As noted above, Big Jim McLain is not really a film noir. More a bit of a hybrid. However, purist definitions aside, it is a black and white film, which counts for something although there are a number of excellent noir filmed in color.

Events in BJM mostly happen in the daytime in Hawaii. The bad guys are “commies” and HUAC investigators, Big Jim (John Wayne), and his sidekick, Mal Baxter, (played by James Arness, who, I should note, appeared with Wayne in a handful of other films (Island in the Sky, Hondo, and The Sea Chase) before becoming his definitive character, Marshall Matt Dillon, in the long running television series, Gunsmoke,) are deployed to Honolulu to seek them out.

Big Jim and Mel Arrive in Honolulu

  

While engaged in that worthy activity, Big Jim get romantically entangled with the fetching Nancy Olson who is employed by a suspected Communist medical practitioner. In some respects this romantic entanglement occupies a significant portion of the film. Wayne and Olson appear to be having a rare old time throughout, ostensibly making a movie but also makin’ whoopee.

John Wayne and Nancy Olson

      

Of course, there are some exquisite noirish moments in Big Jim McLain, and if they challenge the popular definitions, who’s to complain.

A Flashy Summary Hot Off the Presses

One set piece is quite entertaining. As Big Jim seeks out a communist, he encounters Veda Ann Borg, his quarry’s landlady. Borg almost always was consigned to play delightful and brassy types. She outdoes herself in this film and provides some of the film’s best moments. Politically, she was somewhat to the left of the Duke, as was Nancy Olson (both women were democrats), but clearly Borg was having fun in this film.

Veda Ann Borg and the Duke

     

During their investigation, Big Jim goes to the famous leper colony of Kalaupapa on the Hawaiian island of Molokai to interview a reformed communist, Mrs. Namaka, played by actress Soo Yong.

Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement

She sees her career as a nurse serving the leper colony as penance for her years as a red. This scene includes a beautiful baby, born to leper parents. Mrs. Namaka explains that infants are taken away at birth (though the parents are allowed to see their child through glass), Some months later, the children, all the newborns, are sent away to be adopted.

 Soo Yong

                                                                                            

There are other absorbing minutes in the film, not the least of which is the appearance of one of the major communist party members, an elegant if sinister fellow played by Alan Napier who years later would gain more fame as Alfred, butler to Adam West, aka Bruce Wayne aka secretly TV’s Batman.

Alan Napier

        

As is my habit, I will leave the conclusion of the film to the viewer. But don’t be surprised if these nefarious commies have up their sleeves an epidemic that they want to spread. And also don’t be surprised if the producers pull out as many patriotic stops as possible as the movie winds up.

I will mention an odd fact that, for a more successful worldwide distribution, the producers changed the films name from Big Jim McLean to…wait for it…Marijuana.

Marijuana-aka Big Jim McLain

 

Seriously Right-Wing Noir: The Red Menace

The Red Menace was a quickly made programmer. It aligned nicely, if a tad excessively, with the post-war resurgence of HUAA. It starts in a bleak noirish manner, a couple in a car speeding through the night,

Hanna Axmann-Rezzori and Robert Rockwell

pausing for gas, afraid that the world they are fleeing is about to squash them…and then the voice-over and we go back in time, a Veteran of WW 2, the male half of the fleeing duo, complaining to a Government agency that a real estate scam has cleaned him out.

From there, the pace quickens. He gets targeted, taken to a communist bar (yeah, I know, but there it was) and then somewhat seduced by a fervent, young, and literate communist beauty played by Barbra Fuller.

The Vet, played by Robert Rockwell, is probably best known as Mr. Boynton, Eve Arden’s fellow teacher in the classic comedy series, Our Miss Brooks.

Robert Rockwell

There are a few quite interesting sub-narratives in the film. One of the characters, Sam, is black and seems to be the key propagandist. He is a  friend of a communist poet, who dies.  Sam’s loyalty to the party changes after the death of his friend.  Draft headline for the Toilers, the Communist’s news organ,  starts out as “Decadent psycho poet a suicide.” and becomes, “Dead Poet a Hero.”

Bosley Crowther’s review from 1949 accurately describes a great deal of the characters in the story:

“There is Mollie O’Flaherty, for instance, a “party girl” in more ways than one,

                      

Barbra Fuller

who believes in Marxist doctrine because of her impoverished youth. She is in love with Henry Solomon, a revolutionary poet and intellectual. There is Sam Wright, a Negro student who works for The Toilers, the party newspaper, whose notion is that communism will improve conditions for his race. There is also Nina Petrovka, a sad-eyed European refugee who got into the party because her father was a Communist. All of them soon are disillusioned by the intolerance and brutality that they see in the operations of the party and their leaders and, in one way or another, they break out. The most effective demonstration of charges against the Communists that the film provides is the disclosure of how the party allegedly abuses and intimidates those members who endeavour to break away. And for this, at least, the picture has a certain validity. But its credibility is diminished by the fustian representation of the leadership, played with villainous expressions by Lester Luther and

              

Betty Lou Gerson

Betty Lou Gerson. In the roles of the discontented members, Robert Rockwell as the ex-GI and Hanne Axman as the refugee are moderate, and Duke Williams is effective as the Negro boy, but the rest are specious and over-zealous. And they all speak much more than they act, for the script is a complex of speeches with dramatic action virtually nil. “

Betty Lou Gerson, incidentally, is most well known as the voice of Cruella de Vil, the villainess in Disney’s The One Hundred and One Dalmations.

The Red Menace ends quaintly in a small Texas town (a town incidentally which when googled, appears to not exist…if it ever did.)

The hero, Bill and the heroine, Nina, stop over in Talbot and throw themselves on the mercy of Law Enforcement and Government and heroine. They encounter the folksiest sheriff you’d ever want to meet. He asks them to tell him their story and to take their time because, “You know there’s lots of things we ain’t got here in Talbot but time ain’t one of them.” We have a “thing” where I live called the Slow Islands Movement. The imaginary town of Talbot, Texas, would fit right in.

Some Final Thoughts:

Film is an excellent vehicle to educate. It is also most certainly an excellent vehicle to entertain. It is also, sadly, sometimes a weapon. These three films in my view manage, in varying degrees, to serve to educate, to almost succeed in entertaining, and absolutely could, in the wrong hands, or the wrong eyes, whose ever hands or eyes those might be, but I am thinking of the easily led and manipulated, that these films might become weapons of, shall we say, mass hallucination.  But I guess that is one of the functions of film, to hallucinate us, treat us to others ways of being…

About the Author

Bill Engleson is a retired social worker, Pickleball aficionado, energetic novelist, poet, humorist, essayist, flash fictionista, an engaged community volunteer, and pro-vaccine fellow and is resident on Denman Island in British Columbia.  He has published one noirish social work novel, Like a Child to Home, which received an Honourable Mention at the inaugural 2016 Whistler Independent Book Awards.  In 2016, Silver Bow Publishing released his second book, a collection of humorous literary essays entitled Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul.

During the pandemic, his poetry appeared in four poetry anthologies.

He has any number of writing projects in the hopper including a local monthly column, In 200 Words or Less, a prequel to his first novel, Drawn Towards the Sun, and a detective mystery set in the 1970’s, A Short Rope on a Nasty Night.

For more information, check his twitter, @billmelaterplea, and his occasionally updated website/blog   www.engleson.ca

Bill Engleson peering into the mirror of his life, reflecting on all that has occurred.

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Reena Saxena!

“Hey Kid. Where ya been?”

“Been aroun’ the world an’ back Pal!”

“Sure hope ya got someone ta take the stage this week.”

“Yep, sure did! Here she is now. Howdy Reena Saxena! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Hello Kid. Hello Pal. Thank you for having me.”

“Whoa, Kid, Reena Saxena? She’s been writin’ aroun’ here fer a long time!”

“That’s right, Pal. I entered Carrot Ranch sometime in 2016. Poetry comes naturally to me, but I always thought I couldn’t write fiction. The non-fiction heads that you see on the menu of my blog are the ones I started with, but did not make much headway in gaining views or followers.

Then, the creative bug struck and I started pouring out whatever came to mind, in response to writing prompts. It helped to refine my writing skills and learn new formats. I discovered that I could easily write 100-300 word stories, if not a novel. These are slices of life, rather than a journey from beginning to end.”

“Well we’re sure glad ya tried yer hand at flash fiction, Reena. We’ve always enjoyed yer stories here at the Ranch.”

“Thank you, Kid. The Carrot Ranch is interesting, because I have to stop one word short of 100. Of late, I find that I start writing, and then find that the word count is exactly 99 as needed. Universal energy flows my way. I don’t change anything after that, though there may be flaws in the storyline or flow.”

“Ha! I know of a few folks that’ve got honed inta the 99 word count. D’ya ever go back ta them stories an’ do somethin’ dif’rent with ‘em? Or d’ya use the 99 word restrictions in yer other writin’?”

“Stories change every time one hears or reads it, and change again when the reader changes. The stories I write here have come from somewhere in my neural pathways, which keep changing. Yes, I’ve used part of the stories in social media posts to make an impact.

My work of fiction “When Time Stopped” starts with a flash I wrote here on WordPress. The story is carried ahead into metaphysical realms.

 I usually go with a 100 word limit, not 99. Those pieces, if tagged correctly, are easily searchable on the internet.”

“Ya got a fav’rite genre?”

“As far as genres that I write in, I’m still on a journey. I am a former banker, coach, image consultant, writer, artist, feminist and all of that finds a way into my blogs and books. Each subject demands a different style.

I started blogging with quotes from the masters, and links to scholarly articles. I received feedback that I need to relax, and make the style more conversational and engaging. Quora happened on the way, and I was chosen Quora Top Writer in 2018. Writing fiction and poetry on WordPress helped me improvise writing on other platforms. This is a learning ground to practise skills. 

Of late, I’m doing the scripts for online learning videos, which need a lot of storytelling and storyboarding. I’ll be immodest enough to say that I’ve come a long way.

My books that you’ll find on Amazon are fiction, poetry and banking.”

“Wow, yer mighty versatile, Reena.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/HnrQ_BzpInM_vFmBWGkD4JDjoIBADFC9B17RYZcG1yEwEXxYThOoKRlCxk51tfmWw8XKcgVLefLDE8VtJcoKN_ARM6wsJ0nr9DgrX3w68-Khz7qDBaUb5yYC0xDdQrzUmPh7HGI

The ebooks on my site MoneyGoalz are all the psychological side of personal finance.

I discovered I’m a writer at the core, and I choose creative writing, videos or finance as a platform to express the inner demons.

I’m sure I’ll manage to write a novel some day 🙂 There are so many stories inside me, which need to be sewed up in a garment, rather than a patchwork quilt.”

“Wouldn’t be at all s’prised ta see ya publish novels. Yer a woman on fire!”

“Actually, that’s another project! I am one of five Fiery Females  who started the blog SacredCircleforWomen.

Feminism is at the core of my being. I’ve shunned stereotypes all my life, and fought battles to be treated as an individual with a right to make a choice.

I found myself in a group of women from different countries and diverse backgrounds. We meet online once in a week, and found that feminism binds us all in a common thread. 

We bring to the table a pool of talent on coaching, writing, hypnotherapy, finance, digital marketing and content writing. We are on a constant look out for women who are willing to speak, write to share their journeys and insights. It can be any aspect of a woman’s existence and mindset. Feminism is a very small part of the package.

Women reading this are invited to blog, share videos on our platform or be interviewed.”

“Well, thank ya very much fer thet invite an fer sharin’ more ‘bout yersef.”

“Yep, thanks fer comin’ by Reena!”

“Thank you. Follow me on 

https://sacredcircleforwomen.wordpress.com/

https://www.reenasaxena-author.com/

I keep lurking around here on https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/, and that is how most of you know me.

“Well thanks agin fer lettin’ us git ta know ya better.”

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

July 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

Mause proves me slow. She bounces and flies, covering ten times the territory of my pace. For each one foot in front of the other I step, she is rompy-bompy to the end of her leash and back asking, “Are you there yet?” I’m a slow-plodding T-Rex, so slow my bones are fossilizing.

The clear evidence of our different speeds of life emerged like a cliched smoking gun. I observed Mause watching me water flowers from the top of the deck. When I turned off the water, and closed the mudroom, I opened the basement door and screamed. The creature that leapt at me was not a massive Wolfrick spider or racoon. It was Mause.

The only explanation for her traveling the greater distance to beat me to the back door is that I’m slow. She is quicksilver.

Do you ever feel that way as a writer?

We seem to fall into two categories. The rompy-bompy book authors and the dinosaurs that follow. I’ve had other writers confess to me their concern. They worry that they are too slow when they learn their peers have published yet again and they are still hand-painting illuminations on a manuscript. To this I say, know and appreciate who you are as a writer. We can share paths as peers but we can not compare our strides. Long or short, our pace belongs to each of us.

We are free to change. Frankly, I have no desire to bounce like Mause. When I considered what took me so long, I realized I had paused. I noticed how the mudroom smelled like cedar because it’s where the sauna is. I scanned the garden shelves for any overlooked items that might want to go outside. I noted with satisfaction that I had enough tomato cages if my plants grow. A misplaced frying pan from our wandering days reminded me to add it to my camping gear. I felt the tickle of a cobweb and brushed it away from my face. I wondered, where did my jawline go and will I get it back or am I destined to become a fabulous crone? The idea scared and intrigued me. Only then did I reach for the basement door.

Surprise! Eight-month-old puppy paws reached up to punch my belly.

At first I wanted to believe in Mause’s magic (because she is). But I rationalized that she was smart enough to have seen me disappear into the mudroom from the deck and she flew through the porch door, across the sun room, through the kitchen, to the upstairs basement door, pushed it open, flew down the stairs across the painted cement floor to greet me. She was probably wiggling in anticipation as I meandered in my head.

I’m a processor who lives a rich life in my imagination. You can’t believe the universe inside. No wonder I slow down. I’m time traveling. While Mause zips from a leaf to a June bug, I’ve visited stars and written manifestos and Russian epics. I can be still in my body the way she can spring from paw to paw, spinning to catch her bobbed tail. In the end, we are all protons, energy that can’t be created or destroyed. Yet we can arrange ourselves infinitely. Believe what we want about what it all means.

Some of us write and publish quickly. Some of us compose in our heads and drag the suitcases around the world until we decide to drop a manuscript. It’s okay. Be you. I’m being me. Mause is Mause. “Unabashedly,” as a friend said to me earlier this week during a three-way conversation about societal pressures. I belong to a small group of Women Doing It Their Way. Each of us is on a different career path or entrepreneurialism. We were talking about how the fast pace of modern culture pressures us to be something we aren’t.

Who pressures us as writers? The quick answer might be ourselves. But where and when and from whom did we internalize the voices that tell us we are not enough? Not fast enough. Not smart enough. It warps our expectations. Soon we believe there is something wrong because even a dog moves quicker. But I reject that because I know the Writer that I am. I know that this…this moment…this right here, right now is my Writing Life.

I am the writer who spots a downy white feather against a blue sky and can watch it float on unseen drafts of air and by the time it lands on the head of a budding milkweed, I’ve constructed a thousand lives for the winged unicorn who dropped it. I am the writer with blood memory in a foreign land who sings to the bones of my ancestors mineralized on the shore of an inland sea none of them ever experienced. But there they are. I remember stones. I can’t remember home. I am the writer who believes in unicorns and have witnessed my dog become one. More on that in a bit because I’m a writer who likes to weave unlikely silken thought threads into a story that looks like a Bohemian sundress on a lumberjack. I’m a writer who sits a lot and needs a dog to take her for walks only to get lost in the green of summer trees, forgetting that time exists.

You don’t need to understand me. I don’t. I am many things I haven’t even begun to explore. But I am a writer and that’s what I do. I go deep. And I’m slow, observing the senses, emotions and mysteries beyond the single note of a robin happy for the sunset and smorgasbord of dusk-flying insects. Where was I? Oh, yes, Mause the Unicorn.

If you have children (grandchildren, or were a child) of a certain age of videos, you might be familiar with the classic, The Last Unicorn. An evil old man used a flaming bull to round up all the unicorns and drive them into the sea. If you look into the crest of white foaming waves, you can see them.

When the heat of what will probably be our hottest summer day drove me away from my desk, including the outside office, I sought relief at Lake Superior. Mause is young and still uncertain about water. But she’s determined to chase down waves. Lake Superior had little rollers on that hot day. I was waist deep, standing on tumbles stones, coaxing Mause to swim to me. A wave would rise and distract her. She crashed to shore in a cresting wave, and momentarily, white foam blended with white fur and the brown speckling morphed into rocks.

Mause disappeared in the spray like a unicorn. It was a moment of magic. She crested with several more waves and I laughed with delight at my captured puppy unicorn. Some of you might be afraid I’m going to make you write about unicorns…again. Do not fear. I have feathers on the brain. And communism.

I’m editing a fascinating historical novella about how easy it was for communists to dupe Americans during the Great Depression. I’ve been immersed in researching 1930s newspaper accounts regarding a spectacular international incident that links the Michigan Upper Peninsula to a spy trial in Finland. It has made me rethink how people reacted to the loss of jobs and lack of food. I tried my hand at exploring that time in my 99-word story.

Go be you and write to find who you are, knowing you can revise at any time. And remember, it doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow as long as you are living your Writer’s Life.

“To me success and fulfillment lead in two different directions: one outwardly to the hope of glory, the other inwardly to the guarantee of peace.”

Rasheed Ogunlaru

July 8, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features feathers. It can be a single feather or more. Where did the feather come from? Does it hold meaning to the character or story? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 13, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Red Feathers of 1932 by Charli Mills

She plucked the chicken, swiping a feather from her forehead. Now what, thought Nella. Dumplings tonight wouldn’t stop the hunger pains to come. No more eggs. No more breakfasts for loggers. Loggers turned to the rails. Hoboes for hire. She brushed off her mother’s borrowed apron. When she left the northern peninsula to teach in Detroit, she never imagined she’d return broke. But the economy crashed, no one could pay taxes and schools closed. Capitalism. She growled the word. It had robbed all workers down to the last chicken. Tonight, she’d join Frank at the meeting with the communists.

🥕🥕🥕

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