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More than an Apparition: A Little Intro to Our Lady of Guadalupe

One day, back when we lived in California, I went to Catholic church with my spouse (I’m Baptist, so I have an excuse not to go all the time). As soon as I walked in the first door, I detected that sweet and yet overpowering scent of roses. Upon entering the second door, the freshness of greenery hit me – even over the scent of the incense – and my eyes feasted upon a mountain of flowers unlike anything I’d ever seen before (and I’ve been to true Southern funerals!). The mountain flowed from the bottom of a painting of the Virgin Mary. From beneath a statue of the Lady’s feet spilled another mountain of lush blooms, and the floral collection tumbled all the way across the dais on which the altar sat.

Being the shocked protestant I was, I leaned over to my husband and asked, “What is THAT?”

“It’s the Feast of Guadalupe. It’s very popular in Mexico.”

From that, I’ve learned a bit more about the feast and the story behind it. So pull up a chair, smell the flowers, and let’s dig in.

A Quick Rundown on Mary, Mariology, and Marian Apparitions

Mary: Mother of God.

If you ask me, that’s a pretty big job, and that should make Mary pretty important to religious folks. There’s not many details about Mary, however, present in the Bible. How do we study someone who, other than the details presented mostly in Luke, has mostly been erased?

The study of Mary is known as “Mariology”. Catholics and Orthodox parishioners include things such as Sacred Tradition and other, post-biblical doctrines as part of the information to be studied as part of Mariology. From this, aspects of Mary and her life have been more fully derived and defined for the faithful. As a protestant, I was most surprised to find out about the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is part of Catholic tradition.

Other sources of information are something called Marian Apparitions. These are times that Mary has allegedly appeared to people and sometimes given them help or direction. Through Mary’s continued actions, thoughts on what she supports have also built. These apparitions are often named “Our Lady of [Insert Location Apparition Was Seen Here]”. Our Lady of Fatima, for instance, was seen in Fatima, Spain.

And, most importantly, Our Lady of Guadalupe was seen in Guadalupe, a suburb of Mexico City.

Juan Diego Builds a Church

Our Lady of Guadalupe is based on a series of five apparitions, four to Juan Diego and one to his uncle, Juan Bernadino.

On December 9th, 1531, Juan Diego followed a call coming from Tepeyac hill. Once he reached the site, he discovered a radiant Indian woman dressed in Aztec finery. There the visage told him she was the Mother of God and all humanity, and she ordered him to build a house for her on the site. In order to fulfill her demands, he needed to ask the Bishop for help.

Juan Diego asked Bishop Juan de Zumárraga to build the temple, but he was dismissed. There are a few religious speculations as to why, but what I’ve seen points to a bishop that is ultimately blameless (if wrong). I think it likely that the bishop didn’t pay attention to a poor convert. As a Spanish conquerer, it makes sense the bishop would have (racistly and wrongly) ignored an Indian peasant. The humility, origins, and economic station of Juan Diego makes his story all the more important.

After having failed to obtain Bishop Juan de Zumárraga’s blessing and help, Juan Diego returned to the hill where the Lady told him to try a second time the next day. At the second telling, the Bishop found him bold and wondered why the man insisted a second Marian Apparition has appeared. He demanded a sign that Juan Diego is telling the truth.

Later that night, Juan Diego returned home to find his only family – uncle Juan Bernadino – so sick and ailing that he was surely dying. Juan Diego remained at his uncle’s bedside, caring for him for two days, but the man did not recover. He tells his uncle that he must leave to get a priest to prepare for death.

On his way, he runs into the Lady again. She rebuked him for not having the faith to return to her, but Juan Diego bravely asked her to give him the sign requested by the bishop. She told him to return to Tepeyac hill and pick flowers.

Juan Diego was confused because of the wintery season, but he followed through. At the top of the hill, the Lady of Guadalupe helped him pick the miracle flowers and placed them in his tilma. She told him to bring the flowers to the Bishop.

Upon giving the tilma to the bishop, the flowers tumbled out and reveal the image of the virgin.

The famous Our Lady of Guadalupe image. There is a lot of Aztec and Christian symbolism in each piece. The cloth is, like most Tilmas, made of agave fiber and only has a “shelf life” of 30 days. Careful work has mostly preserved this piece, though bits have been lost. Public Domain, attributed to Mary, Mother of God.

At the same time that Juan Diego showed his faith to the Lady, she appeared to the uncle Juan Bernadino and healed him. After her church is built, it became known for its healing properties.

This last apparition, on December 12th, marks the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

A Travel Destination and Symbol of Mexico

The tilma (cloak) of Juan Diego was only supposed to last for a short time, but preservation of the image and a combination of miracles means that you can still visit it. While 2020 was of course an aberration due to the pandemic, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is otherwise one of the most visited religious sites on the planet (only behind the Meiji temple or the Kashi Vishwanath temple). People travel to this site for healing, to inspect the miraculous cloak, and to celebrate the December 12th feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The tilma and apparition has come to represent much more than a single set of events that took place during Spanish colonialism. It has come to represent Mexican heritage, social justice, healing, and hope for the poor and indigenous. As Mary appeared to a poor Indian, dressed in both clothes and skin of an Aztec, even the Church has declared her the patron saint of Mexico (even if there was controversy surrounding the authenticity of the story).

In addition to being a symbol for the downtrodden, she has become a symbol, rallying point, and part of Mexico itself. Starting with the war for Mexican independence from Spain, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla encouraged untrained peasants and common people to throw off the Spanish colonists. Because Mary, as the Lady of Guadalupe, symbolized hope and belief in the downtrodden, this helped in his rallying call and brought her image into politics as well as religion.

A painting of Miguel Hidalgo, who led the way to Mexican independence from Spain. He kickstarted his movement by invoking the image of Mary as seen on the famous Tilma. If you look closely at his banner in this painting, you can see the likeness. Public domain, 1905 painting by Antonio Fabrés.

Since then, people of Mexican heritage have carried her image and importance all across the globe. She has seen Mexico through civil wars, popular uprisings, and battles concerning the separation of church and state. White, protestant Americans may not know much about the Lady of Guadalupe beyond her symbolism of Mexico, but she is important throughout all of the Americas and is an essential part of the world.

For More Information

I hope you enjoyed reading this – it ended up WAY longer than I’d intended! I also worry that people probably know more about this than I realize. I did, after all, grow up in a super-sheltered fundamentalist protestant household.

As I was reading up on this, I found that many sites included several details about the story that others did not. The main story in the “Juan Diego Builds a Church” section was my summary that took information from all of these sources. Be careful and discerning – a lot of sources are religious, so they have a certain agenda to fulfill.

From the Franciscan order of Catholics

Official Vatican stuff

Where my spouse looks up really obscure Catholic things

A secular, American article

More Catholic stuff

A blog/article/essay about someone’s personal experiences

And, of course, Wikipedia has a great summary.

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

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Pete Fanning

“Pal, what’re these notes here on the bar? Justice In a Bottle? That’s a good name fer a drink. RunawayBlues? That with blueberry vodka? Bet either a those’d give ya the blues if yer not careful.”

“These ain’t cocktails Kid, they’re book titles. Our guest this week come out with Justice In a Bottle in 2019; Runaway Blues was one a the good things ta come out in 2020, an now there’s Bricktown Boys. Heard tell there’s another book in the chute too.”

“Jeez, Pal, this guest is real prolific!”

“I don’t care if he’s fer lifficks er aginst lifficks, Kid. Thinkin’ we’re real lucky ta git Pete Fanning ta stop by the saloon. Hey, here he comes now. Howdy, Pete! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Hello Pal. Hello Kid.”

“Seems I seen ya ‘roun the Ranch afore, Pete.”

“Oh man, yeah, we go way back. Seven or eight years? I had some stories in Rough Writers Volume I. I still write flash fiction, sometimes respond to Charli’s prompts at Carrot Ranch. Over at lunchbreakfiction.com the stories are usually a bit longer, 500-800 words”

“Is writing yer job or do you still fit it in on lunch breaks?”

“Writing is too much fun to be my job. Not that my real job isn’t fun, mind you. (Hi boss!) I write in the mornings and find myself reading at lunch, or at night if I can stay awake.”

“Well ya seemed ta a found some time somewheres. We was seein’ how yer on a roll!”

“I’m glad it looks that way! Timing, I suppose. I wrote Justice in A Bottle and Runaway Blues a while back, maybe in 2015. They sat for a year, as I wrote other things (coming out now), then I came back to them and changed some things. Then I fixed them again. Then, while querying, I kept on chugging along, writing new stuff, and so on…”

“What’s the most challenging part a writin’ fer ya?”

“Kid, I’d have to say it’s the getting started part. That’s the hard part. Once it gets going, it’s good.”

“Good, huh? Whut’s the easiest part a writin’?”

“The easiest part is when you fall completely into your story. When you are there. Those times when you stop and have to blink yourself out of it. Those are my favorite times.”

Heard tell ya had an aging coach tell ya once ya didn’t deserve to wear a Duke t-shirt, implied there was things ya jist couldn’t shouldn’t do. Anyone ever try to dissuade ya from writin’?”

“Ha, joke’s on the old ball coach, I’m a Virginia fan. To your question, maybe not so much dissuade but a lot of people couldn’t understand me making time to write. I remember one friend telling me, ‘You either have it or you don’t.’ Which is nonsense. Stephen King didn’t wake up one day and write Carrie. He wrote ALL THE TIME.”

 “What does a writers’ t-shirt look like? How do ya know if ya deserve to wear that one?”

“If you enjoy it, wear it. If it makes you happy to write words, build worlds, create stories, wear the air brushed, neon green hoodie that reads, WRITE STUFF. Just me? Okay cool.”

“So are ya one a them plotters, or are ya a more of a pantser?”

“Let me consult my notes to better answer this… Kidding! Pantser all the way. To a fault.”

“Pete, we ‘preciate ya comin’ by fer this innerview. We know ya been featured elsewhere, includin’ a PBS television innerview. Some folks come here an’ take the stage in our fam’ly frien’ly dinin’ area an’ others cozy up ta the bar here fer conversation.”

“This seems like a classic western saloon bar, Pal, except for the books lining the shelves.”

“Yep, Ernie stocked us with books of all sorts as well as bottles. I notice thet lots a yer short stories thet I’ve read at lunchbreakfiction.com have a drinkin’ drunk of an adult character thet brings real tension ta the story. Not jist Troy in Bricktown Boys.”

“I feel like things happen in real life and they should be told in real life language. I get that some people might not want to read about things they disapprove of and that’s fine too. My next book, THE GIRL IN MY TREEHOUSE features two parents and a loving household, and one sheltered boy whose world changes in one magical summer.”

“They’s some incomf’terble truths in Bricktown Boys. Nuthin’ wrong with thet. How’d ya meet the characters a Bricktown Boys?

“I wrote this terrible novel one time, okay many times. But this even before Justice and Runaway Blues. The story was filled with flashbacks of the main character’s childhood. That was probably the beginnings of Sam and Tommy. Over time the story changed but the football was there, the kids too. Troy came along. Mrs. Coleman’s part grew and then I thought: Well, she’s just has to coach the team. Delia came last. She’s what I call the best kept secret of the book.”

“I liked all yer characters, well almost all the characters. They felt real.”

“Thanks Kid.”

“How long ya been working on that one, Bricktown? I feel like I seen some scenes here at Carrot Ranch in 99 words.”

“Again, the origins sat in a desk drawer for a while—years—which was good for the book because in the meantime I became a better writer. Trayvon Martin’s death hit me hard. Tamir Rice, too. I’m sure it was in the back of my mind when I came back to the story.”

“I didn’t like Troy, but know folks like ‘im, an’ thought ya dealt with ‘im kindly. I loved Mrs. Coleman! Did ya have either a them characters in yer real life ever?”

“I grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood. Different races, same boat. I met some Troy’s but luckily my Dad was always around. Each kid in the book is loosely based on friends I had growing up. Mrs. Coleman is a mix of my grandmother and a few teachers and a few friends’ mothers.”

“Pete, d’ya have characters that ya jist cain’t shake even after givin’ ‘em a novel? Will there be sequels or series?”

“I have this book (Coming in July!), Fairy Dust Fumble. It’s about a clumsy middle school kid who’s cast as a fairy in a play. But when his sister actually creates a spell that turns one of his stage props magical, he starts doing all these crazy things on the football field. Well, she was too much fun so I’ve written an entire sequel with her as the main character. I’m calling it Spellbound and I’m currently pitching to my publisher.”

“We don’t doubt thet it’ll git published. Like we said, yer on a roll. Wondrin’, are ya at all worried about fame and fortune? What with bein’ on PBS already and what with Justice in a Bottle nominated fer an award.”    

“I am not. Besides, Justice is like a bridesmaid. It was a finalist in the Indies Today awards and was considered by the New York Public Library for their best of 2020 list, but my mantel isn’t exactly overcrowded with hardware. My son is proud of me and that’s pretty cool, but if I ever start thinking I’m big time I can just go change his sister’s diaper. That will take care of that.”

“Well Pete Fanning is a big time name ta us.”

“Ha! Funny because my sister started calling me Pete when I was three and it stuck. It’s what I go by and like to be called, and what my first three middle grade books are written under. Now, my publisher has asked me to take a pen name for future Young Adult releases, some of them with more mature content. I had to laugh. I’m using a pen name!”

“Well, congratulations on all a yer successes, unner any name. Thanks fer comin’ by the Saddle Up, Pete Fanning.”

************************************

Publisher:

https://www.immortalworks.press/product-page/bricktown-boys

Amazon:

Bricktown Summary:

It’s 1987 and twelve-year-old Sam Beasley only wants two things: to play football and for his mother to stop dating losers. Only there’s no money for a football team in Bricktown, while there’s an endless supply of losers for his mother to bring home.

Sam finds a friend in the elderly widow down the street. While he’s careful not to let on about his crummy home life, Mrs. Coleman always seems to know when he needs to do wash or eat a hot meal. When he mentions his football dilemma, she surprises him by offering to fund the team. It’s a dream come true, until she names the team The Gospel, declares herself head coach, and arms herself with a whistle, Bible scriptures, and a mouthful of grammar lessons. But Sam has bigger worries, like his mom’s latest loser, Troy, easily the worse one yet. As Sam’s home life spirals out of control, the boys of Bricktown become more than a football team, and football becomes more than just about winning.

The Girl in My Treehouse Summary (4/12/2021)

Only one summer sits between Matt Crosby and high school, and it feels like his middle school friends are leaving him behind. But when a comet of a girl moves in up the street, Matt discovers a side of himself that’s dying to break free and try something new.

Lia doesn’t see the Matt Crosby everyone else sees: the shy, awkward kid with the stammer, but instead a friend. With Lia, the long, summer days are action-packed with wonder. From scavenger hunts at the grocery store to midnight canoeing under the moon at Preacher Higgins’ pond. Or maybe just staring at the sky and feeling completely comfortable in his own skin. But in a small town like Maycomb, a girl like Lia doesn’t go unnoticed.

Matt’s old friends make jokes about the way Lia dresses, her hair, even her darker skin. As a correctional officer, Matt’s father has already run into Lia’s mother at the jail. But it isn’t until Matt discovers Lia sleeping in his treehouse that he realizes things might be worse for her than she’s letting on. Having found the courage to follow his heart instead of his friends, Matt realizes that somewhere along the way, he became the Matt Crosby Lia saw all along.

Author Bio:

Pete Fanning is the author of Justice in a Bottle, Runaway Blues, and Bricktown Boys. He lives in Virginia with his wife, son, newborn girl, and two very spoiled dogs. He can be found at www.petefanning.com, where he’s posted over 200 flash fiction stories. 

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.

March 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

Like a dusting of powdered sugar, the snow returned. It covered the humps of gritty snow and carpeted Roberts Street in white. For hours last night not a single car tread marred the glistening cover. Until midnight, rain and wind lashed the windows. I thought spring had finally arrived. The waterfalls broke through their icy cages along the ridge we call the Keweenaw Peninsula. So ravenous is the water, the falls gobbled the snow and continued to blast toward Lake Superior.

My streets reveal pavement. The sky remains hidden. Whites, blues, morph into grays. I want to burst out of this fog, heavy as any steel bars. Where would I go? How would I go? Ducks never fret. They simply fly.

I saw ducks on my way to get jabbed with the Moderna magic potion. Mallards. They were all drakes with bright green heads to attract female counterparts. By the time snow and ice recede from the marshes and smaller lakes, it’ll be mating season. More ducks will arrive. Canada geese, too. Loons. I won’t expect to see loons until after empty nests. Swimming with loons is kinda my thing.

They swim better. I tumble and bob in the waves, flounder and flit for rocks. My motions don’t add up to swimming. I flail. But I love to flail. Especially when I can watch loons bobbing and ducking across the crests of water. On a flat-water day, they glide powerfully across Lake Superior, staying parallel to the shore. When there’s surf, they often hunt the prisms of waves for churning trout or whitefish. Loons pass and then fly low to repeat the path.

Spring snow makes me long to pick rocks on the beaches. Instead, I clean and sort my house rocks, and remember why each was such a treasured find. I have large hunks of weathered basalt with agates embedded like marbles in cement. I have granite, quartz sandstone, jasper, epidote, pink feldspar, prehnite shaped like a flying fish, and crystalized fossils of coral. Stories frozen and tumbled in time.

Stuck in my spring cage, I write. I’m the time traveler’s wife. My husband recedes back into time. The past has become his here and now. It’s not my present and I yank the bars of this duality. He leaves me for journeys to the past. It’s like he’s examining his life and working backward against the tide of progression. I progress and feel guilty, like I’m directing my boat away from his. We drift. He doesn’t seem to notice. We watch Netflix at night trying to connect. I fix dinner and he chops salads.

The salad thing is a weird neutrality. It takes him thirty minutes to chop and layer two bowls of lettuce, spinach, olives, pickled beets, carrots, fake crab and shredded Parmesan. For a person with zero focus and the impatience of a two-year-old, it fascinates me that he can chop and layer with precision. I understand he can do that with reloading because its muscle memory. But when has he ever built green masterpieces? There are no clues in his past. I enjoy his salad skills, however they came to be.

Mause needs a cage. She’s begun to dismantle my radiator hardware. I think they are flanges that fit around the pipes to block the holes through each floor. She’s figured out how to open the metal pieces and get them away from the pipes. Like the Hub’s salads, I have no idea how it occurred to this puppy to endeavor to release the radiators from their captive cuffs. They clunk as she bats them across the hardwood floors. Steampunk dog toys.

Waiting for the weather to lighten is my least favorite time of year. I’m a grumpy bear coming out of hibernation. When I found out that a clinic two hours away was offering to give Covid vaccines to veterans and their spouses, I was over the moon. But when I realized the press propaganda failed to list the correct phone number, I tore through the Michigan Department of Veteran Affairs like a raging, spring-hungry grizzly.

The first time I called, pressed the listed extension, the person on the other line knew nothing of such a clinic. I read her the post from our local VSO, instructing veterans and caregivers to register. I wanted to sign up. Nope, she said. Wrong number. I tried to contact our VSO. Since Covid, getting a live person over the phone is like trying to call hell. I did an internet search and found countless news releases, congratulating MI for taking care of its vets. They all listed the same number and extension. I called the city where the clinic was to be held and they knew nothing and told me to contact my county. I called the Michigan governmental offices who gave me another number to call who directed me to the Michigan Department of Veteran Affairs. Finally a live person claimed to know about the clinic and happily connected me to registration.

The original wrong-number operator answered. I told her how dehumanizing the whole system is. I have fallen through ever crack to qualify for a jab. Our local CBOC (rural VA clinic) will only jab veterans. I’m the wrong age, unessential, and without healthcare. She tells me her dad was a vet and the place she most hated to go with him was to the VA. She got it. But she didn’t know about the clinic I sought. But she researched and found the registration portal. She said none at her call center had been advised of it and she’d make sure her supervisor knew. That’s what it took to get registered.

To get jabbed required a car rental, puppy sitter and a four-hour drive. Not only was the phone number wrong, so was the address. We spent an hour walking the Northern Michigan University campus, asking at various buildings. No one knew. Finally, a student said the Army was in a building across the street. We found the building, and by the time we were both ready to give up, I spotted desert camo fatigues. Relief rushed through me. I could see the cogs in the wheel.

The Army needs to be in charge of vaccinations. Once we reached the soldiers everything was efficient. Everyone had a role. If someone didn’t have an answer, they directed us to the right person. Everyone was calm. Some were even funny. The Hub slipped back in time, talking about former duties, recalling patches, making the right jokes to the right people. Maybe he’s just a lost cog, my time traveler. He had refused to get jabbed until he saw the sea of uniforms. Then it became his mission. I was twice relieved — we both got our first Moderna shot and go back for our second on April 19.

Some days we want to escape. Be a mallard in a pond, free to fly away. But here we are. This is life and beauty is waiting to be revealed. Don’t give up hope.

The truest, most beautiful life never promises to be an easy one. We need to let go of the lie that it’s supposed to be.

Glennon Doyle

March 25 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write an escape. It can be daring or subtle. Who is escaping from what and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 30, 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.

Wish to Escape by Charli Mills

Soothing and stirring, a rush of water tumbles over Hungarian Falls, carrying Beryl’s life. Not her body or soul, which remained firmly planted in her boots at the water’s edge. She didn’t scream, gasp or lunge for her cell phone when it slipped from her fingers. My life, she thought. The roar covered the sound of cracking. She imagined the screen with her fingerprints smashed to bits on rocks. Who was she without a phone? The water churned. Her thoughts lifted. Her soul escaped the hold of technology. Had she really tossed it to make a wish? She had.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later

A year later, we pause to reflect. Any year. A particular year. The power of time passing.

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.

A Year Later by Nicole Horlings

A piece of junk mail with his name had shown up today. Despite the annoying and ineffective attempt to sell a credit card, an envelope that she would have immediately discarded if it had her name on it, she held it tenderly. She would have never imagined longing for the mundane like this.

There would be no more nights home late from work with grateful smiles at the sight of dinner, or quick kisses before rushing off in the morning.

There would only be future junk mail.

Time passes slowly
except when tragedy strikes
it all went too quick

🥕🥕🥕

The Great American Past-Time by Jack Keaton

After the ride to the station, the hum of the train, the anticipation at the ticket gate, buying a new cap for a new season, a new beginning, Clay anxiously took his seat along the third baseline.

A year had passed since he had attended one of these. Now, he’d swear he could smell the Kentucky bluegrass.

The mask he wore reminded him that not that long had passed since he could only watch them on television.

But he was here now. All he needed was to hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd.

🥕🥕🥕

I’ll Always Love You, New York by Ariel Soon

I moved out of New York six months before the pandemic, but made one last trip in mid-February. I wanted to visit friends and get my stuff out of storage so I wouldn’t have to pay the $110 a month anymore.

Even though I was away for six months, it felt like I had never left. I was using the subway like I usually did. Only a few were wearing masks, but overall, the city felt completely normal that bright sunny day.
Two weeks later the first case of COVID hit. The city hasn’t been the same since.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year on from June 2019 by Anne Goodwin

Sky-grey stallions clip-clopped a Cinderella coach past ranks of men in pillar-box red jackets and beehive furry hats. Militiamen drilled like clockwork soldiers, clacking their weapons in unison from shoulder to shoulder and down to the ground. Waves of Union Jacks as people cheered the Queen. Last year.

This year should’ve been Matty’s turn for pomp and spectacle. For fireworks and champagne. A grande dame‘s centenary is no trifling affair. Matty hates depriving her devotees. Yet here she is, confined to bed, without even the stomach for trifle. Without the breath to blow out the candles on her cake.

🥕🥕🥕

Arduous Acrimony by JulesPaige

Lost faith is easy for some to carry while
Discarding the struggle with hereafter treasures
With parched throat, a year later still
Slowly crawling up the dunes of regulations
With little to quench or take away the nagging fears

We falter with our goals, bearing lonely burdens
Wondering how we can alter our wishes
So we can possibly admire the work we have done
We venture out into another spring – puffing ourselves
Attempting to conceal our bluff, that there still is no prize

life continues as
if one huge cliffhanger that
hasn’t ended yet

…and yet we attempt prayer

🥕🥕🥕

There, but for… by Bill Engleson

“There…”
“Where?”
“There.”
“Oh.”
“Yeah.”
“When?”
“Then.”
“Then?”
“Then.”
“Hmmm”
“Why?”
“Why not.”
“Tell me.”
“Of course.”
“Now please.”
“Take a breath.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“I fully understand.”
“Give me a moment.”
“More if you like.”
“It’s just, you know…”
“It’s been a while.”
“It seems like years.”
“It’s been eons.”
“I just couldn’t…”
“What? Say goodbye?”
“That’s it exactly.”
“But the smell?”
“That was worrisome.”
‘Would have thought…”
“I stopped thinking.”
“A human response.”
“I loved her.”
“I can tell.”
“It’s hard…”
“Saying goodbye?”
“Yes, that.”
“It’s time.”
“Can I?”
“Hug?”
“Kiss.”
“Really?”
“Yes.”
“Okay.”
“Thanks.”
“No problemo.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later by FloridaBorne

Dogs cuddle with me as I sleep, my coon cat purrs. This is life!

For an entire year, I walked outside and never once bumped into another person. No one tried to shake my hand or force a touch. And now…

“There is no mask mandate, and all restrictions are rescinded,” the newsmaker said. “Hug at will!”

One step outside, and a neighbor rushed toward me, arms outstretched.

“Don’t hug me!” I yelled.

“Then you need it all the more!”

Slamming the door in her face, I swore, “Never again will I suffer through other people’s idea of normal.”

🥕🥕🥕

29 February 2020 by Douryeh/Hajar

We were told to stay indoors — if we can
I belonged to those who are allowed to work
How little has changed, actually, in a year’s time
Also now we say, ‘Only a few more months’
But now, a Mediterranean Sun vacation is less likely
The State has paid business owners’ rent, also now
Today, people say, covid is to stay coming years
Most of us aren’t used to what now adheres
People elected the same State back, despite its ills
In the end, they trust its anti covid19 policy.

🥕🥕🥕

Homecoming by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They’d passed through the portal just after moonrise. Their ship navigated left, then right, and left again, pulling up to the dock with a scrape and a sigh.

“Nice landing,” Jo snickered, looping lines over neat, steely cleats. Until they knew who’d won the city, stealth was best.

“Next time, you can bring her in.”

“Not if I can help it. I’m leaving by land, never returning.”

“Not counting my chickens…”

“Suit yourself, Rae. I’m done with the pirate’s life.”

They hauled on their packs and grabbed a laser, oblivious to the silent line of torches descending the hill.

🥕🥕🥕

The Victory by Joanne Fisher

Meredith suddenly realised a year had passed since the zombie apocalypse. It had been close, but they had prevailed in the end and now things had finally settled down.

So many were missing, she thought as she went into the town centre. She had a busy day today of wandering mindlessly through town with all the others. She might be a zombie now, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t put in a full day of shambling. She mused it was such a shame they couldn’t get fresh human meat anymore, they all had to make do with livestock now.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later by Anita Dawes

My last memory of Joe
Doesn’t match the person I see now.
The weight loss taken, more than his clothes size.
He has lost his humour
Maybe it’s true; it was only there
To deflect from his size
His eyes have lost the spark I remember
Now I see the sadness hidden all these years.
Over lunch, we spoke of his childhood
Rough, painful, I never gave a thought to
He spoke of hunger,
never enough food, enough love
now he’s happy, getting married,
looking forward to becoming a father next year
I believe he’ll be a good father…

🥕🥕🥕

Steven Seagal in New Orleans (or Was He?) by Doug Jacquier

New Orleans, a year after Hurricane Katrina, at a restaurant. Suddenly a small crowd has gathered close to the entrance. My companion says ‘It’s Steven Seagal! Take my picture with him.’ We return to our table. ‘Show me’ he says.

The photo could be of almost any two people but he shows everyone. Most say ‘I can’t really see him.’ He turns to me and asks me to confirm the story and I say, ‘yes, he was there’ but, as soon his back is turned, I tap the side of my head and mouth ‘never happened’ to his audience.

🥕🥕🥕

Bird School by Norah Colvin

Dear Mr Emu,
As Eddie performed below expectations on some tests, he must repeat next year.
Dear Mrs Grimbald,
Which tests did Eddie fail? I’ll bring him up to speed over the holidays.
Dear Mr Emu,
Eddie’s ground speed is unmatched. He failed lift-off.
Mrs Grimbald,
Inability to lift-off is inherited. No one in Eddie’s family ever lifted-off. Advance him.
Dear Mr Emu,
Parents shouldn’t discuss limitations lest they become self-fulfilling.
Grimbald,
Inability to lift-off does not limit Eddie any more than your inability to run limits you. Adjust your curriculum. Progress our Eddie.
Principal Grimbald huffed. How impertinent.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later and… by Missy Lynne

A year later and
I am back home.
A year later and
I’ve lost 20 pounds.
A year later and
No calls from my dad.
A year later and
I am healing.
A year later and
I have a renewed heart.
A year later and
I still have dreams.
A year later and
I am writing.
A year later and
I am looking forward.
A year later and
I want to take on an adventure.
A year later and
I want to LIVE my life.
A year later and
The chains are breaking.
A year later and
I will overcome.

🥕🥕🥕

One Year Later by Ritu Bhathal

I crack my eyes open and reach over to switch off the alarm.
Sitting up, I rub the sleep from my eyes, and instinctively pick up my phone to check my messages.
The first thing I notice is the date.
A year. It’s been a whole year, since you went.
A whole year since you last told me off for grabbing my phone, first thing every morning.
A year I’ve cried myself to sleep.
I smooth my hand over your side of the bed, an indent no longer obvious.
But the indent in my heart.
That will never fill.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later… by Goldie

A year later, I’m still angry.

Angry with you for leaving without a word. Even though you knew you would be departing last time we spoke, you made no mention of it.

An ‘I love you’ would have sufficed.

Did you really hate me that much?

I couldn’t help with your pain, but was that a good enough reason to inflict this suffering onto me?

That’s not how a parent acts.

A year later, I’m angry with you for leaving, but I smile, realizing you’ve been preparing me for this my whole life. I am a survivor. Thank you.

🥕🥕🥕

Putting By by D. Avery

Almost a year!

Knowing the time for him to go missing was before he was missed, she had left the keys in his truck then walked home by a different route, masked of course, hood pulled up against a chill spring wind. Should the truck ever be found the search would begin there, but disinterested authorities had already concluded with the assumption he had simply fled, fed up.

She wondered what she might prepare for dinner. Almost a year, but the chest freezer still contained plenty of stockpiled food, packets of meat, vegetables and casseroles concealing his frozen body.

🥕🥕🥕

Missing in Action by Donna Matthews

Suzy switches off the radio, turns back to me, asking, “Are you scared? When was the last time you heard from Dan?”

“It’s been a couple months now. But I also haven’t heard from anyone, so that’s hopeful, yes? Emily had the MP just show up at her door last week. I guess as long as no one comes, he’s okay?”

Suzie sits down, puts her arm around me as we both study his military photo. Taken last year, he was so proud to be a soldier.

I put my face in my hands; God, I hope he’s okay.

🥕🥕🥕

Last Year by Chel Owens

Daniel could reach the top of the doorway now. He’d always wanted to -ever since watching Dad swing one big, strong, long arm up and smack it in passing. Daniel watched that arm throughout his life, wondering at his dad’s strength and size.

Up until last year, that is. Up until the cancer.

“I did it today, Dad,” he whispered.

“What, Danny?” His mom raised her eyes from Dad’s headstone and fixed Daniel with a sad, confused gaze.

“Nothin,'” Daniel muttered, looking down. He wondered how long it’d be before he could smack the doorway without cheating. Without jumping.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later by Padmini Krishnan

Sam completed his homework as his sister waited patiently with her Math problems. After helping her, Sam organized the table for the primary school students he tutored. He could hear his mom typing away in the next room. She was also training to be a Montessori teacher. Sam thought about their lives a year ago. His mother spent all her time on TV soaps while Sam and his sister fought over petty video games. His father, the sole breadwinner, labored until he fell sick with Covid. Now Sam wished his father had been around to see his ‘responsible’ family.

🥕🥕🥕

Celestial Time by Saifun Hassam

When the pandemic hit in March,
I chanced a grocery visit.
Aha! my choice of apples by the bag,
limit of two bags but oh joy!
Gala Fuji Honeycrisp Green.
Two looms bananas, one green, one yellow.
Swing past the empty paper products and household aisles.
No coffee pods. Never mind. Generic instant coffee would do.
Frozen foods gone
except turkey meatballs, frozen peas, and green beans.
Plenty of jalapeno salsa verde and corn tortillas.
I celebrated the vernal equinox in grand style on my patio.
Marked my calendar to celebrate summer solstice, autumnal equinox, winter solstice.
Spring again!

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later by Charli Mills

Hazelnut creamer, your favorite, expired months ago but I couldn’t throw it out. We bought groceries like it was end times. Panicked when the shelves remained bare of pasta and dried beans. Flour disappeared and pictures of “first time” bread-bakers emerged online. We bought sliced rye. At first, I enjoyed the solitude. You loathed it, seeking excuses to venture out. Creamer. Always short on hazelnut creamer, willing to search for it. That’s how you found the last ten-pound bag of Montana Flour. I wept. Not as hard as the day you died. Did Covid take the extroverts like you?

🥕🥕🥕

A Year of Changes by Sue Spitulnik

The warm breeze fluttered Tessa’s short brown curly hair. Her blue-green eyes shown love as she gazed down at her sleepy granddaughter. While rocking her, she talked in a soothing tone. “I wasn’t sure moving back to my roots was a good plan. I never thought your Mama would choose to come live here too, and not a single person could have convinced me your real grandpa would ignore you. Now here we are, living with Grandpa Michael. He loves us both even if we are pudgy. What a year full of changes it has been. We’re lucky ladies.”

🥕🥕🥕

Mom’s Birthday by Kate

Balloons and cake,
Guests all confirmed,
The out-of-towners;
Their flights all reserved.

The virus arrived
And people died.
Our party was scrapped
As the country locked down.

One year later.

Mom’s birthday again,
And the virus still rages.
Vaccines jabbed in stages
Based on our ages.

We gather as family
All masked and distanced.
We sing our good wishes
And blow her air kisses.

Mom’s still in lockdown
With nowhere to go.
Her hair is now long,
Her body still strong.

She smiles and waves
From inside the building.
Our visit means a lot,
Even more than we thought.

🥕🥕🥕

A Poem for the Current Status by pensitivity101

Where did the last year go?
So many changes, yet everything the same,
Isolation, solitude, shielding,
People alone, by another name.
Have we learned anything?
Appreciate family and friends,
A welcome smile or contact,
A means to an end.
We have all pulled together,
Each looking out for our neighbour,
Clapped on the roadside,
Socially distant behaviour.
We shopped and we walked often,
Waved from across the street,
If we saw strangers,
We reversed rather than meet.
Now one year on,
Little sadly has changed
But we’ve had our first jabs now,
Though the second has to be arranged.

🥕🥕🥕

Cuttin’ Bait by D. Avery

“Cuttin’ it purty close, ain’tcha, Kid? Got 99 words?”
“Couldn’t catch a story Pal. Nary a nibble.”
“Jeez, Kid! Where’n heck ya been?”
“Fishin’. Easier ta put fish in the pan than flash in the pan.”
“Shorty ain’t lookin’ fer fish, Kid.”
“I’m fried. Got nuthin’.”
“Ya best git writin’.”
“I’m all done with that. Specially with that prompt.”
“Really?! Cain’t think a nuthin’ whut’s been aroun’ fer a year?”
“Nope. Keep comin’ up dry.”
“Kid, let’s head over ta the Saloon. Mebbe if ya wet yer whistle you’ll think on somethin’ good’s come outta this year jist past.”

🥕🥕🥕

Saddle Up Saloon; Serious Fun

“Pal? Pal, where ya at?”

“Pal’s not here, Kid. Just me.”

“What? Why’re you here at the Saddle Up, D. Avery? Where’s Pal?”

“Pal asked me to fill in this week. Said it might do you some good to touch base with your writer.”

“Hmmph. Ya know well as me I kin write m’sef.”

“I do know as well as you Kid. But Pal thought maybe I should check in on you.”

“Hmmph. But I s’pose ya knew I was gonna say that.”

“Kid, I know a lot of people identify me as your writer, but the fact is I don’t often know what you’re going to say or do. So why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you.”

 “I ain’t quite sure either. Guess it’s this writin’ thing.”

“I saw that you wrote a short story for Marsha Ingrao’s Story Chat! Congratulations, Kid.”

“Yeah. Thanks. It’s jist that, people think I’m funny. That was a serious story a suspense an’ mystery.”

“Ahem. Okay. But, Kid. Being funny is your job around here.”

“Well that’s a lotta pressure, D., havin’ ta be funny. An’ then what if I ain’t funny?”

“Is that your worry? Sure, you take risks Kid. Everyone that writes at the Ranch is taking a risk, putting themselves out there. But I think it works; you are usually funny.”

“Yeah. Thanks. It’s jist that… ah, never mind.”

“No, what, Kid?”

“It’s jist that bein’ so funny an’ all, I worry I won’t never be taken seriously.”

“Seriously Kid? You’re worried about not being funny and about being too funny?”

“Well, it sounds funny when ya put it like that.”

“Listen, Kid, I’m glad you’re taking humor seriously.”

“You tryin’ ta be funny?”

“Not always. But humor always helps. I’ve been thinking about this lately. Maybe something I read at Norah Colvin’s site? Growth mindset and all that? I don’t know. But just recently the Wellness Committee at my new school asks, Did you know that humor is actually a way to build resilience? Yes, I did know that. Your friend Shorty must know that too, Kid. She set you up with the Saddle Up Saloon at the beginning of the pandemic so that you could help people reduce stress by giving them a laugh.”

“Yep, she give me an’ Pal a space ta ennertain folks.”

“Funny you should say that. A space. Sogyal Rinpoche, a Buddhist teacher from Tibet, said humor is a way of ‘making room’.  Of being accommodating. I always felt, as a teacher, that humor facilitated both teaching and learning in the space provided by its use. And humor can provide a lens to look at problems in a new way, to see things differently.”

“But I ain’t no teacher, D.”

“You might be, Kid. I’ve learned from you and from Pal. And what you do is provide people some time and space to step away from reality. As Elena Aguiliar says, When we laugh at ourselves, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. When we laugh with others, humor breaks down barriers, brings us onto common ground, and builds our resilience. If you can help people to laugh, Kid, and get silly, well that’s important work. Humor helps build a healthy mindset.”

“Mmm.”

“Aguiliar also says that much research has shown that laughter strengthens the immune system. And that laughter is grounding.

“It does feel good ta be a part a that. But that’s jist more pressure fer me ta be funny. An’ if I am funny then that’s jist more reason that folks mebbe won’t never take me seriously.”

“Look, Kid, playing the fool doesn’t make you foolish. Pay attention to old stories and traditional tales. The jester is as important as the wise man to balance the king, and the jester’s counsel and advice often contains more wisdom, in a more palatable form.”

“Mebbe. Like havin’ a musin’ character and a amusin’ character?

“Uh, yeah. But, look, Kid, if you really want a serious role, I can write you differently.”

“You’d do that fer me?”

“If it’s important to you, yes.”

“Kin fix it so I ain’t mixin’ up words, things ain’t goin’ over my head? Fix it so I ain’t messin’ up an’ gittin’ inta scrapes?”

“Sure.”

“Not annoyin’ Pal all the time?”

“Yes. I mean no. I mean, yes, you could not be annoying Pal all the time.”

“Well that doesn’t sound like much fun, D.”

“But I thought— ”

“Think agin. I was just Kid-ding!”

“Phew!”

“Mebbe I’ll even start tellin’ dirty jokes.”

“No, Kid, not that.”

 “What, ain’tcha got a sense a humus?”

“Ugh. See you around the Ranch, Kid.”

“Yep.”

“And Kid?”

“Yep?”

“Congratulations to you and to Pal. It’s a year today that you’ve been running the Saddle Up. And I think you’ve got another great year ahead.”

“Ya got that write, D.!”

Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse

And cool the earth, the air and you.

~Lanston Hughes

Interact! Leave a link to a favorite funny story, or leave the story in the comments. What are your thoughts on writing funny?

*Elena Aguiliar quotes are from her Onward; Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators .

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.

Announcing the WINNERS of the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic

When the Rodeo came to town, Rough Writers from around the world answered the call. You came, you sat in the saddle, you rode the bull, and you joined the parade.

Most important, you were inspired by our wonderful friend, Sue Vincent. Sue has been battling terminal cancer, and we’re thrilled that she is around to see the winners (though I admit I cheated and let her know the top winner a little early). Participants were allowed and encouraged to donate to help Sue and her family, but we believe the photo she provided as the prompt was worthy of any prize. Her photo prompted 63 wonderful 99 word stories and 99 syllable poems; if the average picture is worth 1,000 words, then we can be certain her prompt is way above average!

The Sue Vincent Rodeo Challenge Prompt

When speaking with Sue following the contest, we learned that everything YOU have done has been an immense help. You’ve helped Sue get essential equipment – such as a wheelchair – that has helped her in these days. As she continues to blog, like an absolute hero, the donations and help you’ve given through the Rodeo has given her the comfort and items she needs to keep going. Her family has also seen how important she is in the online community, which is something that can often seem mysterious and vague to people not directly involved. Ultimately, everyone who participated gets the big prize: you did something amazing, and you stepped up to the plate. The quality of your love, kindness, and creativity has made way for great things.

Even at the very first step, all the judges recognized the quality of the entries. We wish everyone could win the prizes ($100 grand prize, books for the runners up), but TUFF calls were made and we at last have our decision. Common themes judges picked out was “home” and “family”, which I think is fitting of the image.

These entries were checked by H.R.R. Gorman for word or syllable count, anonymized, and sent out to the first set of judges: D. Avery, Sue Spitulnik, and Sherri Matthews. The top fifteen entries were then passed to our second set of judges, and they had the job of choosing the top entries. From there, we determined…

WINNING ENTRIES

Judges Anne Goodwin, Geoff Le Pard, and Charli Mills met to discuss the peer-reviewed finalists on Zoom. Each winning story had a beginning, middle, and end. Each poem had a theme, movement, and rhythm. The judges discussed how 99-word stories and 99-syllable poems have the capacity to go beyond setting and imagery about a photo prompt. What stood out were stories and poems that not only felt complete or thematic but also held elements of surprise, whether irony, humor, or use of language. Ultimately, judges agreed on the ranking for the top three placing stories and each selected a personal favorite.

THIRD PLACE: Mornful Song
by Chel Owens

Warm, the scent of yesteryears;
A smile escapes her scowl
As hushing rushing heatherings
Dance ‘gainst the moorish howl.

Warming scent
Hush rush
Dance moor howl

A curlew calls his neighbors near
They answer, happily
A song of sunshined solitude
Surrounds her, willingly

Curlew’s call
Sun shine
Will ing ly

Aloft, then, flies the feathered throng,
No longer bound by fears.
Aloft, she soars; leaves life behind -
Behind, with yesteryears.

Judges’ Comments: Of all the finalist poems, judges appreciated this one best for going beyond descriptive imagery of the photo. The language is lush and rhythmic, and the poet used the syllables, “sun shine” and “will ing ly” as a bird’s call. Judges hesitated over the title – either it was a play on words for morning or a typo. Given the play with words and sounds within judges decided the title was clever.

SECOND PLACE: A Home, Someday
by Chel Owens

My grandma told of wondrous things: tall poles with whispering green papers; rock mounds a person could never climb; and cold, white flakes that sparkled in moonlight. I used to sit, mouth and eyes full wide, trying to see what her silent eyes remembered.

I saved her words; soaked them up.

Now, while my own grandchildren lean against the thick portholes of our transport ship and gaze at distant nothing, I tell Grandma’s memories. I tell of evergreens and mountains. Of snow.

I tell them of the home we left in search of another.

For their own grandchildren.

Someday.

Judges’ Comments: Judges noticed the unusual descriptions of evergreens, mountains, and snow as if the narrator and audience do not know these objects. This concept thrust the piece into the realm of story beyond a setting. The story structure narrows until the reader is left with a single word, “Someday.” It blends hope with despair for the plight of this uprooted family. The last sentence in the first paragraph caused some confusion regarding the narrative view. The judges agreed it could be a stronger story without that sentence. Overall, it remained memorable.

FIRST PLACE: Seeking Peace
by Norah Colvin

They stopped on a verge overlooking the valley.

“It’s beautiful, Dad. And so big. You said it was small.”

“Not small in size, son. Small in mind.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Folks round here didn’t want your mum and me getting married. They threatened to keep us apart. Cruel words were spoken. We left and never returned.”

“Why’re we coming back?”

“Your mother asked us — to make peace. Before it’s too late.”

“Like it is for her?” His voice trembled.

“Yeah.” He rubbed the boy’s head.

“Will we?”

“We’ll know soon enough.”

He inched the car towards the village.

Judges’ Comments: This author nailed a response to a photo challenge with the opening line, taking the reader from photo to story with an economy of words. This is a smart strategy when you only have 99 words or 99 syllables. We step out of the image into the lives of a father and son. The dialog is clear, sharp, and tells the story of loss and hopeful redemption. The judges appreciated a place not small in size but small in mind. That single concept conveys much. A well-crafted story with emotion and purpose takes ownership of the photo.

JUDGES’ PICKS

ANNE’S PICK: A New Day Dawns
by Colleen Chesebro

snowy crags pay homage
to the land spirits,
Landvættir—guardians of the terra firma
earth, air, fire, and water
jointly bound as one

where the ley lines converge
strength and energy
exist in a parallel space, winter-worn
bronzed leaves on barren trees
watchers of the truth

birth, life, death, and rebirth,
earth magic abounds
reflected in the adumbrate clouds of spring
for keepers of the land
another day dawns

The elemental imagery pulled Anne into this peaceful poem about the circle of life. Although not normally drawn to the spiritual, she liked the prioritisation of landscape over people. She hadn’t heard of Landvættir, although guessed it was Icelandic, but that didn’t spoil her pleasure. She liked the simple language and thus queried the use of ‘adumbrate’ in this context.

GEOFF’S PICK: No Place Like Home
by Willow Willers

They had spent the last five years searching for the perfect place to settle. Travelling to several planets and even one other galaxy but nothing suited.

So their hearts lifted at the sight of the valley. The elders raised their hands pronoucing "This is the perfect place, protected by mountains with it’s own water supply. Even a few remaining buildings."

A voice from the back chirped up.. "That’s where we started from, I can see my house" There was hush, a sharp intake of breath. "As we have always said" their elders smiled. "There is no place like home"

Geoff appreciated the author’s humour, a challenge in a 99 piece where a story has to be crafted, too. The sweep of the story, travelling galaxies before finding their new resting place was nicely done as was the punchline. Geoff felt the ending could perhaps have been tighter had the piece finished at ‘I can see my house’. And the unfortunate typo of ‘it’s’ rather than ‘its’ in the second paragraph lost the piece points in the eyes of the others, leading to it missing being placed. It emphasised the importance of checking your work, especially in small pieces. But overall, well done.

CHARLI’S PICK: Wind and the Wilderness
by Chengir

“I’m hungry and hate this kind of weather,” Radess complained bitterly.

“Are you kidding?” Boydann protested, “This is the best. The leaves have begun to fall and now there is less to hide behind. You just have to be patient.”

Radess wasn’t convinced. “Like that hunter who shot at us last year?”

“Okay, there was that.”

Sighing, Radess twisted his head. “Still, the only way to eat is to hunt.”

“True enough,” Boydann answered. The two vultures spread their enormous wings and slowly lifted themselves into the wind. They floated on the buoyant currents of air. . . and they waited.

The vultures got to Charli. Despite the technicality that vultures are scavengers, Charli delighted in the element of surprise. She also appreciated that this story stepped into the photo rather than describe it. She could see them spreading their wings within the image. She forgave the author the use of an adverb in the opening sentence. Humor, pacing of dialog, and story made this one worth noting.

Sue Vincent

Sue has been an inspiration in this little corner of the internet and in the Silent Eye school of myth and mysticism. She’s a kind, wonderful person who has opened many people’s hearts and minds to mystery, fun, and beauty. For years she has contributed a haiku almost every day at midnight, and many people love and enjoy them.

Sue is a poet, photographer, and wordsmith who you can find on her blogs The Daily Echo and/or France & Vincent. Take a look at her blog, if you will – you’ll be sure to find something to entertain you. She (and her compatriot, Stuart France) has published several books, which you can examine here.

If you want to know more about Sue’s battle with cancer, the team here at the rodeo encourages you to see a couple of her posts, especially this one and this one.

We hope you had a good time with the Rodeo, Sue, and we wish you luck on your adventure. We’ll miss you for sure, and we thank you for your work, your legacy, and your heart.

The Judges

ANNE GOODWIN is the author of two novels and a short story collection. Her next novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is scheduled for publication in May 2021. A former clinical psychologist, Anne is also a book blogger with a particular interest in fictional therapists. 
Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com

GEOFF LE PARD started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels, he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.

CHARLI MILLS, lead buckaroo at Carrot Ranch Literary Community, completes her MFA in May 2021. She writes 99-word stories weekly and uses the format to teach storytelling to combat veterans, researchers, and rural entrepreneurs.

D. AVERY plays with words, sculpting stories and poems, at Shiftnshake.

SHERRI MATTHEWS is a non-fiction writer with published articles in magazines and anthologies. She blogs at A View From My Summerhouse and at her memoir column at Carrot Ranch, an international online literary community. A keen walker and photographer from the UK, Sherri raised her family in California for twenty years. Her work in the legal and medical fields came in handy for her caring and advocacy role as Mum to an adult child with Asperger’s Syndrome. Today, Sherri lives not too far from the sea in England’s West Country, hard at work on edits of her debut memoir. Writing stories from yesterday, making sense of today, giving hope for tomorrow.
Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/WriterSherri
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherri-matthews/60/798/aa3

SUE SPITULNIK writes about veterans’ and spouses’ issues on her blog.

H.R.R. GORMAN is a PhD chemical engineer with expertise in biotechnology and making drugs. If you want to know more about this white-trash-turned-excessively-bourgeois maniac, you can go to https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com/.

Read the entire Collection here.

March 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

A year later, and I have enough toilet paper. I remember my last night of normal, edgy about an encroaching virus and yet disbelieving a global pandemic would reach the outer rims of civilization. We have the opposite of population density. That didn’t prevent our stores from going dry with the dry goods, namely toilet paper. Who knew around the world we’d sail into the unknown, clinging to hoards of TP?

A year later and my social skills are rusty. The social refrain I don’t want to adult today has morphed into I don’t know how to people anymore. It unsettles me to think that I’ve not had anyone in my house besides my daughter and son-in-law. Except for the two weeks I broke protocol and took in two veterans who would have been homeless. Stranger yet is how quickly they disappeared from my life after they found a place to live.

In 2020, I made two trips both to Wisconsin. My son’s wedding and to pick up a puppy.

There’s something about a one-year mile-marker. You can’t help but stop, turn around, and consider the journey from then until now. A year ago I needed toilet paper. It was a legit item on my grocery list. I’m not one for stocking or buying goods in bulk and often I wait until the last roll until I feel compelled to buy more. We had two partial rolls of TP and laughed at the news reporting a shortage. Not in the UP. We don’t have population density. Yet, here we were in the rural sticks with shelves as empty as an urban center. Eventually, I bought a case of toilet paper from Who Gives a Crap.

That last night of Normal, we celebrated a friend’s birthday. We watched the waves crest over the ice heaves, assured spring would follow the melt. We drank beer in the kitchen past midnight. To be in the house of another! We ate dinner out in a full restaurant. Last night I dreamt I was in a city and I walked from restaurant to restaurant trying to define that sound. What was that sound? Glasses clinked. Forks tapped plates. Chairs scooted across floors. Heels of shoes clacked. Waitstaff asked for orders. Doors opened and shut. That sound murmured beneath it all from place to place.

The sound of voices in crowded places.

Did you ever think you wouldn’t hear that? I’m someone who appreciates the song of a bird, the buzz of a bee. I’m not a crowd-loving person but there it was in my dream — a longing for murmurs.

Spring murmurs differently. Starlings return to the neighborhood. Woodpeckers hit the trees. Snow turns to grit. Dead Lemon Queens crisp from winter hold seeds the nuthatches left. Mause discovers the stalks as the snow piles recede. She prances atop three feet of snow with a foot-long stalk and dried head. She doesn’t miss a stray stick on our evening walks and the snow banks shrink, more sticks emerge. I’m waiting for the crocus and glories of the snow. Some things have not changed.

Will we remember how to people in person? Maybe we will care less about the superficial and more about hugs and deep conversations. Will we get to smile or remained masked? I don’t know the new rules moving forward. I hope we get to keep curbside service. I also long for the time we can crowd a place and share a show or meal.

And so it passes. A year. We did not lose the things we feared. TP remains accessible. But I fear we have lost less tangible things. We have gained, too. We’ve connected more broadly, reached out in unexpected ways. Humanity and toilet paper have survived.

March 18, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that takes place a year later. It can be any year. Explore the past year or another significant passing of time to a character. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 23, 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.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

A Year Later by Charli Mills

Hazelnut creamer, your favorite, expired months ago but I couldn’t throw it out. We bought groceries like it was end times. Panicked when the shelves remained bare of pasta and dried beans. Flour disappeared and pictures of “first time” bread-bakers emerged online. We bought sliced rye. At first, I enjoyed the solitude. You loathed it, seeking excuses to venture out. Creamer. Always short on hazelnut creamer, willing to search for it. That’s how you found the last ten-pound bag of Montana Flour. I wept. Not as hard as the day you died. Did Covid take the extroverts like you?

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Wishes

It’s dark at the bottom of the well where deep wishes reside.

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.

Deep Wishes by Goldie

A few years ago, I tried a deep-dish pizza for the first time. Going into that experience, I kept an open mind. Yes, I like my pizza crust thin, but I also love tons of cheese and other toppings. The pie, which we picked up on our way back from visiting our mother at the hospital, was comforting and filled us up pretty quickly.

“What does that have to do with deep wishes?” Charli asked, pointing to the prompt.

“What? I thought it said ‘deep dishes.'” Goldie replied.

“I deeply wish for your eyesight to get better,” Charli chuckled.

🥕🥕🥕

Colors of Fortune by D. Avery

lazurite pulse from deep within

night sky, star spilt light seeping through

deep wishes are this shade of blue

in sleek watery hues they swim;

yellow sunlight stirs blue, spins

absorbed by earth, emerges green

deep wishes are what color spring;

shoots poke through snow-melt packed-leaf ground

deep wishes star this soft hewed brown

deep wishes are seeds sown unseen;

who’s the sower? we cannot know

but through the wisdom of a child

who knows deep wishes just grow wild

roots in earth, airy seeds that blow;

free to harvest with good reason

deep wishes bloom in all seasons.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Wishes by Jaye Marie

Sitting in the middle of the field, mysterious in the moonlight,
was a wishing well. It wasn’t there yesterday; of that I am sure.
I mean, why would anyone build a well so far from a house?
Far from looking quaint and old worldly, it looked much too menacing for my liking.
I found myself drawn to it, but was my life really so bad, I needed to make a wish?
There were a few things I could wish for,
a proper home, a better husband, a baby…
If I only had to choose one, which would it be?

🥕🥕🥕

Before the Call by Padmini Krishnin

Maria savored the hazelnut chocolate, eyes closed, as each bite melted in her mouth and warmed her heart. She wore her favorite pink lace dress, which now hung loosely around her thin body. However, she no longer cared about her weight.

She touched the pink pearls her husband had given her long ago. They were as fake as he was. But, she had kept both.

Maria walked around her beloved garden, feeling the twilight breeze on her face.

She leaned back and took a deep breath. Then she dialed the clinic to ask for the result of her diagnosis.

🥕🥕🥕

Buried Dreams by Anne Goodwin

One was easy: Please water! Please food! It slumbered in his larynx, ready to erupt on reaching dry land. He’d crushed the second in his chest when he learned the consequences of questioning the crew. Desire for coat or canopy to combat gale and hail migrated from his stomach to his bowels. His dreams of home, school, a football pitch dropped deeper with every battering of the boat until they reached his toes. But he’d abandoned hope of seeing his father again so long ago, he’d almost forgotten. That wish, like a surplus body, sinking to the ocean floor.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Wishes by Simon

The night was getting cold, he wished the night could hear his plea. The night was getting darker and colder, his skin shivered as he laid there on the street shirtless. He tried to warm himself, he wished he will get help, he tried to stop the cars that had passed. To his bad luck, no one had turned up or stopped the car. He wished someone will throw an old sweater, he wished someone will give him a shelter, he wished and laid there stared at the sky, and wished he could die, and his wish came true.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bargain by Joanne Fisher

“And do you have a wish?”

“I deeply wish the killer comes to know what he took away from me. The love I shared with her. I want him to know the wonderful person she was and the light she brought into other people’s lives. I want him to know that; to finally understand what he took away from us all as he rots away in the darkness of a cell. That’s what I want.”

“I understand. Consider it done, though you have paid a great price.” the voice said. I stared at the pale reflection in the mirror.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Wishes by Nicole Grant

A viral rampage chokes the breath from countless lives that matter to us. We who survive violent firestorms of inadequately masked rage know raw fear. For a full year out of time we yearn for justice and a cure as we shelter in place. We plant ‘victory’ gardens wishing deep in our battered hearts that hope might sprout with healing herbs and flowers in the coming spring. With stubborn shovels we pierce the sodden clay, defying the flood of terror raining from above. Life matters. Breath matters. Seven generations of new lives matter now. Love will surely win again.

🥕🥕🥕

Yearning… by JulesPaige

Deep wish?

to know a loved one
who left too early; no one
told any stories…

Visionary wish.

to relive perhaps
that one, only memory;
their calm loving touch

Improbable wish.

to hear their soft voice
of reassurance; that they
thought was limitless…

One cannot rewrite history without changing the direction of several other futures.
Reality outweighs wishes. That is just the way of it.
So for the things that cannot be changed presently…Imagination will have to suffice.
Whatever that great beyond may hold, one must just have patience.
Faith? Divergent thinking? One night where there are no nightmares.

🥕🥕🥕

Lost But Now Found by Annette Rochelle Aben

She felt her knees giving away as she walked up the crumbling concrete stairs. What on earth was she thinking anyway? Rejection might be only a few moments away which was not why she was there.

It took a minute for her to figure out that the door was a push and not a pull. Once inside the building, there were more stairs. She could run. Now would be the time.

The older woman in the wheelchair watched the younger woman come down the hall. As their eyes met for the first time, she whispered, “Candace, I’m your mother.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tessa’s Lament by Sue Spitulnik

My ex didn’t need me
He made that perfectly clear
Home I came to help the folks
But in reality, they help me
My children are grown
The oldest chose to move here
Closeness she desires
And a grandmother for Emma
But they would be fine without me
I thought Michael needed a helpmate
But he’s so damn self-sufficient
He helps others in need
The Homefront Warriors welcomed me
But I’m just another voice
And set of understanding ears
PTSD? for a military wife
Nah. Someone please help me
Rejoice in being wanted
Compared to being needed

🥕🥕🥕

Hidden Guilt by Sue Spitulnik

The battered senior prom picture Michael sequesters in his wallet comes to light when he suffers alone. Staring at it, he remembers; standing tall on legs, twirling Tessa in her sparkly white dress, donning the crown of the elected high school king in love with the queen. He burrows it back into its cave and looks to the sky; his faith is his strength. He prays to be free from the guilt for the wheelchair he uses, the job he can no longer do, and not being thankful enough. He is driven to hide the pain while helping others.

🥕🥕🥕

Bottomless Biddings by Bill Engleson

The country had put much stock in the ability of Bottomless Biddings to right the course, to write the Nations next chapter.

“But he is so ancient,” some said. “On occasion, he seems lost in the past. How can we expect him to anticipate the future?”

But others, those who appreciated the wisdom that age imparted, could impart if the stars had aligned, if life and its many trials had allowed the correct mix of struggle and solemnity, of joy and jest, said, “he will take us to where we need to be. Give it time.”

And they did.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Wishes by Ritu Bhathal

I’m tired.
Tired of pleasing everyone else, all the time, and never doing anything for myself.
She noticed my mood.
She notices everything.
Approaching me with a cup of my favourite tea, she settled me on a chair, told me to calm down, before handing me the cup.
“Breathe, Nina. Let it out. You know you’re doing a fantastic job, but you can’t forget your dreams. I remember what you were like when you started here, filled with ambition and amazing ideas. Come on, dig deep. What were your wishes, then? It’s time for you to think about yourself.”

🥕🥕🥕

Cream Puffs by Faith A. Colburn

Frigid wind blowing off Lake Erie.
Door blows open; tinkles shut.
Warm smells of baking—golden loaves, croissants
Sweet scent of cookies, cakes, cream puffs.
Crisp crust flakes; filling fills senses
Warm vanilla pudding envelopes the tongue
Eyes widen; an ecstatic surprise.
Me, only three, shy in my Shirley
Temple curls, little fur hat and muff.
We left daddy in the winter, ran to Chicago.
I remember almost nothing, except
This bakery with a tinkling bell and cream puffs.
Later, we returned to Dad and stayed together,
But I long to buy Mom one more cream puff

🥕🥕🥕

Where the Deep Wishes Go by Colleen M. Chesebro

Sally gazed into the watery darkness of the well. As if reciting a prayer, she whispered with reverence, “This is where the deep wishes go.”

Her smaller sister Elizabeth asked, “Do we say it now?”

“Not yet. When we see the moon slip inside the well, then we say it.”

At dusk, the white sphere ascended into the sky. A hazy shape reflected in the inky depths of the well. Beyond the shadows from the trees, musket fire sparkled against the sky.

Sally and Elizabeth joined hands. “Please grant our wish and bring our father home safe to us.”

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Wishes by Rebecca Glaessner

I feel invisible blows as fear and pain chemicals flood my place within my host’s brain. Her carer is destroying her, setting fire to her mind with every heartache, every forgotten promise, every silence, every lie.

I wish to protect her, to save her.

To survive.

Her carer’s mind was lost in the depths of its own flood long ago.

My host is an Earthen youngling, at her carer’s mercy, but I am neither.

As she sleeps, I break a vital rule and guide her body through the dwelling, to her carer’s room.

Here, I end my host’s nightmare.

🥕🥕🥕

The Get Together by Prapti Gupta

Today my mom and me are very excited. Today we are going to meet with our father after a long time. I am very excited for it. But the meeting period is very short, just 10 minutes.
Mr. Morgan was waiting for us. He was the medium through which we are going to talk with him. We are going to do planchette.
My mom and I haven’t talked with him since the day we two died in a road accident a year ago but my father survived!!!!
It’s really a special day for both of us.

🥕🥕🥕

That Damn Phone by Donna Matthews

“Hey, I thought we could go to dinner with the Smith’s tonight. We haven’t seen them in weeks.”

“Uh-huh,” my husband murmurs without looking up.

Irritated, I study him a moment and propose, “And then, let’s go to the plant store and buy some fresh plants for the new bed I’ll be making this weekend.”

“Uh-huh”

“Aaaannnnndddd then later, I thought we could lay in the backyard and howl at the moon.”

“Hmmm.”

“Are you kidding me right now – are you even listening?”

He looks up, but his eyes not entirely focused.

That damn phone is killing us.

🥕🥕🥕

Wishing to Be Heard by FloridaBorne

The rains came and three rivers flowed, water rising ever so slowly.

Without speech, or expression through letters, Hope tried to warn others by drawing her tormented dreams. The future apocalypse filled reams, depicting millions floating face down.

Tranquilized worlds seek easy answers, never to venture outside the comforting prison of their disbelief.

Colors screamed louder their message: Danger!

Those she loved sought treatment for her pain.

Medicated eyes stared, devoid of emotion, thirty stories above a city jutting from brown waters.

Biblical flooding heralded an earthquake.

As Hope floated among the dead, her drawings sank beneath the water.

🥕🥕🥕

Calming Whisper by Ann Edall-Robson

For a moment the corral silhouettes the full moon trailing over the black morning sky. There’s yet to be daylight’s fire on the Eastern horizon to waken the day. It will come in time, but for now, it’s anticipation. A cool breeze shuffles through the trees, in one truck window, out the other, lifting the notes of the wolf’s song. Eerie calls echoing against the canyon walls and penetrating the predawn mist. A shiver slides down my back, into my soul, speaking to me. There‘s a stillness, a calming whisper trying to answer the deep wish simmering within.

🥕🥕🥕

Waiting to Rise by Charli Mills

Lake Superior doesn’t freeze flat like a pond. She’s a non-conformist to the ways of domesticated bodies of water. Into the night, she goes screaming, waves punching with each yell. She thrashes, her hips undulating with deep wishes unfulfilled. When they force her into cold compliance, she fights back. The shock of winter marriage doesn’t smooth her wild edges. Ice grabs hold, insistent, freezing her shoreline, paralyzing her economy. She plunges deep and draws her strength, cracking the façade they give her. Ice fractures over and over. Wishes caught and released, shared among women waiting their turn to rise.

🥕🥕🥕

Knee-deep by Doug Jacquier

‘Knee-deep, Mr. Easybean Green.’
‘And knee-deep to you, Mr. Phileas Frog.’
‘Why do we keep saying ‘knee-deep’? What’s wrong with ‘fathoms-deep’ or ‘space deep’ or ‘meaning deep’?’
‘Phileas, have you been at the crème de menthe again?’
‘No, Easybean. I’ve been studying etymology.’
‘Well, Phileas, studying entomology is very important for us amphibians. That’s what I call real brain food. Geddit. Brain food.’
‘Yes, I get it, Easybean, unfortunately. I’m talking about the origins of words.’
‘Well, I guess we’ve got knees and we’re deep thinkers. Seems logical to me.’
‘About as logical as anything else, Mr. Easybean Green.’

🥕🥕🥕

Something Else by Norah Colvin

His eyes were as round as the cookie. He shuffled on his seat. His fingers twitched. They slow-walked to the plate and he quickly drew them back. His head bent low over the cookie. He inhaled. Deep. Long. No rule against that. He checked for dislodged crumbs. None. He sighed. The door handle rattled. He sat upright, shoved his hands beneath his buttocks and looked at the ceiling.
“You resisted,” said the examiner.
He nodded.
“Not even a crumb?’
He shook his head.
“Then you may have two cookies.”
“Can I have something else, please? I don’t like chocolate.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Simple Wish by Ruchira Khanna

“Mommy, I love you to the moon and back.”

“Aww! baby! my words are coming back to me.” Sheila chuckled as she adjusted her head and wiped the sweat off her forehead.

“Mommy, when can you play with me?”

“As soon as I feel better, doll.”

Hearing that, Liz closed her eyes and waved her magic-wand in her direction.

“What did you wish?” Mom inquired when Liz opened her eyes.

Liz placed her tiny hands over her bald head, “My deepest wish is that you get well so we can play together and go out for pizza and burgers.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Wishing Well by Nicole Horlings

Clara ran through the garden gate
Rushing around the grand estate
Looking for a good game to play,
Something new to do that day,
When down and down she fell
Deep down into the wishing well.
She thought she’d fall into the water
And become a stranded daughter,
But she floated in a cloud of wishes
Where a variety of delightful riches
Swirled everywhere around her
That promised fun and pleasure.
With a quick flick of her hand
They nicely followed her command.
She sent them all back up the well
Not realizing the limits of the magic spell.

🥕🥕🥕

Tales from “Dragon” by Saifun Hassam

The ancient Dragon Cavern well was covered with golden trumpet vines. People with deeply troubled hearts climbed the hills, threw coins into the well. It had infinite patience as it listened to wishes, never revealing its deeply held secrets.

A sorceress went into the well, to seek out its magic. Perhaps she really wanted those silver coins. She disappeared.

Centuries passed. Earth tremors and rains transformed the caverns into a deep long lake. Fragrant lotus and water lilies grew along the shore. People never forgot the mythic ancient well. Whispers of dreams and wishes floated on the lake breeze.

🥕🥕🥕

Wishing Well by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The woods were deep, the path mostly overgrown since the last time she’d padded, barefoot and shining, to find the well. Lost and despairing, Myrna lifted her eyes to the liquid warble and slash of fiery red high above.

It looked down at her with piercing black eyes, raising its crest impatiently, having crossed several lifetimes to lead her home. They had been close partners, once upon a time. Did she even remember? The cardinal shrilled, dove, and shot ahead.

Myrna hesitated, eyes following the cardinal, and took off in hot pursuit. Perhaps wishes could come true, after all.

🥕🥕🥕

Diggin’ Deep (Part I) by D. Avery

“What’s up, Kid?”
“Wishin’ I had a story, Shorty. Comin’ up dry fer this prompt.”
“Here’s a story. D’ya know why that old mine is boarded up?”
“Reckon ta keep folks away from yer gold.”
“Ha! Kid, by now ya must know the real gold is right here fer all the ranchers an’ readers ta share. It shines in the comments an’ glitters in the roundup.”
“Yep.”
“But was a time a shallow feller’s most fervent wish was fer mineral wealth. Was him that dug that mine. Deeper an’ deeper he dug, fer what he found wasn’t never enough.”

🥕🥕🥕

Diggin’ Deep (Part II) by D. Avery

“Ever wish ya had more’n 99 words, Shorty?”
“Ya wanna hear the story, you’ll shush Kid…
That feller kept burrowin’ further inta the mountainside, till one day he stumbled an’ fell inta a deep chasm. Lights out.”
“He died?!”
“No, jist his lantern. He come ta rest at rock bottom, engulfed in complete and utter dark.”
“Bet he sure wished ta git outa there.”
“Yep. Gittin’ out become his deepest wish, ta see the light a day, never mind ‘bout gold. Was then they appeared.”
“Who?!”
“Chapfaeries. Led him through a side tunnel, come out at our carrot patch.”

🥕🥕🥕

In It Deep by D. Avery

“Kid, why’s it me tellin’ stories?”
“Jeez, Shorty. Says up there, ‘member? I got nuthin’.”
“No, I mean, where’s Pal at?”
“Dunno. Went off somewheres mutterin’ ‘bout deep wishes. But look, here comes my puglet. What’s that Curly? Pal’s fell inta the well? No? Squeal agin? Pal’s fell inta the ol’ mine shaft? We’re comin’ Curly, take us ta Pal!”
“Look! The Poet Lariat!”

Hey Pal, grab this rope
ya slipped down a real steep slope
out here huntin’ fer a deep wish
gotta haul ya up like a slimy ol’ fish.

“Wish y’all’d jist pull me up already.”

🥕🥕🥕

Saddle Up Saloon; Colleen’s Double Ennead Challenge No. 2

Happy March! Welcome to the Carrot Ranch Double Ennead Monthly Poetry Challenge. Every third Monday of the month, I’ll be here at Carrot Ranch 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 a 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. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Why write poetry?

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

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

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

Our Inspiration: “SPRING”

This month, let’s work with the theme of spring. Write your poetry inspired by an image, a photograph, the view outside your window, another piece of poetry like found poetry, or even a song. It’s up to you! Share whatever inspired you to write your poem.

For example, here is my inspiration piece below:

Corinne Bailey Rae – “Put Your Records On”

Three little birds sat on my window
And they told me I don't need to worry
Summer came like cinnamon
So sweet
Little girls double-dutch on the concrete

Maybe sometimes we've got it wrong, but it's alright
The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same
Oh, don't you hesitate

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favourite song
You go ahead, let your hair down
Sapphire and faded jeans, I hope you get your dreams
Just go ahead, let your hair down

You're gonna find yourself somewhere, somehow

Blue as the sky, sunburnt and lonely
Sipping tea in a bar by the roadside
(Just relax, just relax)
Don't you let those other boys fool you
Got to love that afro hair do

Maybe sometimes we feel afraid, but it's alright
The more you stay the same, the more they seem to change
Don't you think it's strange?

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favourite song
You go ahead, let your hair down
Sapphire and faded jeans, I hope you get your dreams
Just go ahead, let your hair down

You're gonna find yourself somewhere, somehow

'Twas more than I could take, pity for pity's sake
Some nights kept me awake, I thought that I was stronger
When you gonna realise, that you don't even have to try any longer?
Do what you want to

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favourite song
You go ahead, let your hair down
Sapphire and faded jeans, I hope you get your dreams
Just go ahead, let your hair down

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favourite song
You go ahead, let your hair down
Sapphire and faded jeans, I hope you get your dreams
Just go ahead, let your hair down

Oh, you're gonna find yourself somewhere, somehow

AZLyrics.com

“Fly Free”

a trio of sparrows
flit from branch to branch
my window, an open stage to their slow dance
chasing the winter blues
waiting for the thaw

life's cruel winds dictate
situations change—
maybe I've got it all wrong, but it's alright
it's time to chase my dreams 
nothing stays the same

azure skies and sunshine
are coming my way
It's time to find myself, to fly free on wings,
filled with inspiration
and new beginnings

©2021 Colleen M. Chesebro

Poetry is based on your perceptions. This song makes me want to dance under a starry spring night! I used the song as a metaphor for “spring” and new beginnings. Follow your inner voice for inspiration.

  • Write a double ennead poem based on the theme of spring. Your inspiration can come from whatever source inspires you.
  • Post it on your blog.
  • Include a link back to this challenge in your post. (copy the https:// address of this post into your post).
  • Read and comment on your fellow poet’s work. Feedback from other poets is how we grow our poetry writing craft.
  • Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so.
  • I’ll visit, comment, and share your poetry on social media! I’ll share a roundup of all of your poetry on colleenchesebro.com the Saturday before the next Double Ennead challenge.

Now have fun and write some double ennead poetry inspired by spring!

Write to Inspire Yourself

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes, I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can escape the madness, melancholia, and panic fear inherent in a human situation. ~Graham Greene.

I am a classic example of this statement. When arthritis struck me in every joint of my body, the plus side was that I became aware of all the joints that exist. Each step would be as laborious as a chain smoker trying to breathe. The pain was excruciating, and to date, I get the chills. The negative side was I was forced to go into hibernation mode.

However, my infant was being taken care of by my mom, who had traveled from India. At the same time, I had to make an effort to move to nourish myself, in short, to come out of hibernation. 

Weeks turned into months, and I finally decided to quit my corporate job since I had no hope of going back. It was a tough decision, but I decided to take charge of myself. No more blaming fate over it; thus, slowly, but with steady steps, I decided to fight this inflammation off my body while keeping a keen eye on my infant’s milestones in the background. 

This autoimmune disease was my turning point in my life. While the doctors had prescribed me pills to ingest every other hour, I decided to fill myself up with affirmative messages to get my limbs moving. 

 I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. ~Anne Frank

I started to pen down words since we all know that the society that we live in is filled with negativity. Dialogues from a distance such as, “Oh! How do you manage?” “Gosh! I feel for you.” “You are so young to get this?” 

The above conversations would put me in the ‘Why me?’ stage, and I would get into the loop of never-ending pity. That would incur all sorts of negative emotions and make me take a back step.

Some of the writing:

Life has many phases bestowed upon us. There will be happy while there will be challenges to overcome. Don’t become serious when there are challenges ahead in life; continue to do your part to solve the issue by being sincere. You being diligent, honest will take you miles. But by becoming serious and losing sleep on it will make matters worse. Since the saying goes, “All work and no play make a man all dull and lame.”

You can do it!! This is the mantra we should always be chanting. Man is born to have ups and downs in his life. In this period of life, we go through ups and downs, and we can stay motivated during our down period by chanting the above mantra. Positive thinking helps.

The power of a touch, a small act of caring, can blossom a plant. Life is like a plant. Just as the plant needs water, fertilizer, sunshine, and fresh air, we need to experience the power of a touch, a smile, have a listener beside us, or hear a compliment to keep us blossoming and going every day in our lives. 

Develop a challenge during a crisis. Keeping that attitude will make you confident; to try to overcome the problem, and you will be able to see through the smoky tunnel for light.

 Life is a grindstone, and it will grind us down. We can choose to get polished by the grinding and shine like a jewel, or we could get crushed by the grinding. 

Every minute our body creates a new cell. The cell divides, and a new cell is formed based on the type of energy we have. If we are bickering or complaining, the new cells formed are deformed and can have a derogatory effect on our health in the long run. No matter what the situation is, think positively. No problem can be as big as the kind of cell being produced in your body, which will reward us in the long run with good health. 

=======

The topic for the write-up would vary on my mood each day. But writing helped; I would go back to it; when fear, anger, pity would encircle me. These words would be gold then and would ground me and help me find light in the dark tunnel. 

Eventually, this kind of pattern became a habit, and today I cannot live without it. My body is quick to retaliate if anything negative encircles around, making me conscious of my breath and thoughts.

Amidst all the chaos and the turmoil of inflammation, I could sense the negative and positive vibes. That also made me recognize that universal energy is supreme; thus, I learned about Reiki and other modalities.

I eventually started penning stories and novels and entered the self-publishing world in 2013. Also, I blog at Abracabadra, which has inspired many because of the mantras attached to each feature. 

My 2 cents

Life is all about twists and turns. This detour in my life made me recognize the passion within, and I am living a fulfilled life.

Mantra for today: Man plans for his future, but only 1% of it gets executed. 99% is what destiny has in store for him. But the choice is yours to either drive it or let it drive you! 

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This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna

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

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

I can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/RuchiraKhanna01

Twitter: @abracabadra01

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