Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Blog

Be a Patron of Literary Art

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,047 other followers

Archives

Follow me on Twitter

Thank you, Sponsors, Leaders & Judges!

S.M.A.G. Kindness Among Bloggers

S.M.A.G., Norah Colvin, @NorahClovin

Proud Member

March 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

Metal on metal rings throughout the neighborhood. Mist rises from melting snow as rain softly drizzles. The weather has warmed enough that the air fuzzes like wet socks. Smells like them, too. Spring does not emerge fresh as the laundry commercials would make us believe. My neighbor — I’ll call him Chester because he shares traits with Molly Steven’s cantankerous yet affable character — chisels ice. Hammer strikes chisel, over and over and I pretend I’m living next door to Michelangelo.

My huge west-facing windows give me access to the first tremors of spring. Yesterday I watched  Chester, and other neighbors rake their roofs with extendable handles on devices to scrape snow. Many business owners hire crews to shovel snow from rooftops. A few have collapsed from the heavy loads. A few warm days above freezing loosens the snow. Others are in driveways chiseling ice with metal blades. Our bit of pavement slowly emerges, and earlier I attempted to shovel scoopfuls of dirty slushie.

The snow piles are not retreating as fast, though. It leaks like a punctured bag of milk with nowhere to go. Massive piles sink and slowly dry up like bleached corn husks. It’s also not over. On Sunday, I watched 47 North’s run-through for their upcoming performance at the Continental Fire Company March 29. Awakenings tells the story in dance how we go from darkness to light. The final dance melds both, shadow selves dancing in the spotlight. We left the studio to face a full-blown blizzard. Three dancers got their vehicles stuck. Days later and neighbors are raking roofs.

It’s hard work to chisel ice dams, but the reward is a roof free of snow, and the risk of leaks subsides.

Working underground in the copper mines was wet work at times. Chiseling copper while rivulets of water poured from ceilings and ran down the burly arms of miners had to be uncomfortable. Was standing in water cooling to feet bearing the weight of heavy work? They say the temperatures deep in the mines stay cool, not turning cold in winter or hot in summer. People adapt.

And I’m adapting to my new laptop — The Majik Runoff MacCanles Macaroo That Peterbilt. Macaroo didn’t give me as tough of a learning curve as I thought. Relief settled fully on Monday night when my Techie arrived with special equipment to read and transfer my data from its hard drive. Over the weekend I worked with several Apple Techs to resolve a few issues, including Macaroo’s refusal to let me into the world of Word Press. It extended from an earlier solution to a double ID.

For years, I’ve had an iPod Shuffle and amassed a collection of music. But when we traded in our phones for iPhone 7s, Verizon told us we had to establish an Apple ID. I didn’t realize I already had one because it wasn’t called an Apple ID. Add to the situation that I have two Gmail accounts, wires were getting crossed. One technician had me sign out of my new Apple Id and sign in with the new one — and that requires doing so in multiple places, not just on the devices.

My phone failed to adapt to the new old me and Macaroo no longer recognized mama, and when prompted to update software, my laptop with the pedigree of Carrot Ranch names dared to tell me I had to buy the software because I was not the person who purchased the device. Argh! I just wanted to listen to my Apple music on my Apple products!

Monday dawned with more Apple Tech calls and a melancholy matched by soggy skies after the Sunday blizzard. Basically, I had to choose — my devices recognizing me or listening to my music on my devices. But I’m more than adaptable. I’m a writer, and I can think through “what if” scenarios faster the latest Intel processor. This leads me to parental controls —  a feature that allows parents to manage the IDs of their brood with theirs. So, on Monday, I officially adopted myself. As my child, my elder ID can now be controlled on and by my younger devices. A bit backward maybe but it works.

Norah Colvin, the original Rough Writer at Carrot Ranch who arrived in March of 2014 when I launched the first 99-word challenge, invited me to be her first interview for a new series called School Days, Reminiscences. Norah asks stirring questions that made me think of stories I hadn’t thought of in a long time and helped me make connections I hadn’t realized. You can read our interview here. I was ready to jump in and join the conversation generated, but Macaroo refused to let me even like anything. I could sign into Word Press, but then I’d get locked out.

I thought the ID solution would resolve the Word Press one but alas it did not. By the time my daughter arrived home from work, I had that glazed-over-I’m-ready-to-take-a-hammer-to-technology look on my face. It would have been the perfect time to go for a walk but there is nowhere outdoors to walk, and snowshoes don’t work when snow turns to slush and husks. Water was starting to run but not deep enough to canoe. Radio Geek patted my shoulder and tapped a sequence that brought up my passwords where a caution sign showed at WP. Apple’s built-in security feature just needed me to adapt to its new environment.

Best of all was when Techie showed up later and spent almost four hours with me after having worked all day. He gets a lifetime supply of beer from me. Or babysitting. Or cat washing. Anything. He rescued all my data — everything! Even my latest Scrivener files which I faithfully, but erroneously, backed up to DropBox. I’m now taking a tutorial to make sure I don’t make that mistake again! When I opened the Scrivener project Miracle of Ducks, and it opened up intact (instead of the version from three years ago) I whooped and hollered. Flooded with relief, I could hardly stand, my knees wobbling.

Techie slid my old hard drive into a reader and transferred data as if it were a flash-drive. Macaroo grabbed all the files, and we only had a few quirks. I thought I’d be hours resetting up my folders. He backed up my DropBox and taught me how to use the Time Machine. Every day I backup the Time Machine onto an external hard drive. I transferred Microsoft Office to Macaroo’s OS, and now all my files are saved in One Cloud and iCloud. I’m going to get rid of DropBox and use Google Drive for sharing files. After all, I have two Gmails.

But that’s not all — I’m mouse free! After all, the bright and exciting stories last week about mice (and even grice), turns out Macaroo doesn’t need a Magic Mouse. The Apple Techs adviced me to learn gestures for the trackpad and Techie gave me driving tips. I’m all about the trackpad now. I’ve even learned a few shortcuts. Tuesday, I completed most of my internet files (another vast frontier of transference). But it is all set up, and I’m at the Ranch as me, not a lurker and not an Apple ID.

I’m ready to break out the hammer and chisel with Keweenaw Chester. Not to crumble the icy hold of winter but to harken the return of creativity unburdened by technical difficulties. Thanks for standing by with me!

March 14, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a chisel. Use chisel as a noun or a verb. Think about what might be chiseled, who is chiseling. Be the chisel. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 19, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

First Day Volunteers (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“I found something, Dr. Gordon.” Danni followed the volunteer who grinned.

She noted the group was digging near the mystery foundation. She expected these greenhorn volunteers to soon lose interest. Ruby City held no treasure. Danni confirmed the woman had found the edge of a tool. She instructed the group to continue peeling back layers centimeters at a time.

To her surprise, they did. At the end of the day, the volunteers left what looked like a chisel in situ. Two days later they cheered its liberation. Danni realized her first day fear of volunteers was unfounded. She grinned.

 

 

Mouse Tales

A mouse in a house, a wardrobe, a Victor trap, rescued and orbited to outer space. Mice are everywhere, including our technology. Somehow the vehicle that takes us into the depths of the world wide web got dubbed a humble mouse.

This week, writers chased the tails of mice to produce mouse tales. They will take readers on a merry chase of imagination, tenderness and hard lines. Use your mouse to navigate through a collection arranged into 10-minute nibbles.

The following are based on the March 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a mouse.

PART I (10-minute read)

Meanings Change by Susan Sleggs

“My mouse isn’t here,” my son lamented

“He better not be running loose.”

“I’m talking about my computer mouse, not Whiskers.”

“That’s a relief. Where could it be?”

“Probably at school. I used my laptop to work on an assignment about archaic words. I had a lot of windows open looking for examples.”

“Windows used to let air in, not information. Come to think of it, RAM, byte, virus, web, boot, spam, and cookies have all taken on new meanings in this techie age.”

“You’re a genius. I’ll write my report on those words and easily get an A.”

🥕🥕🥕

My Mouse by Sally Cronin

I am extremely attached to my mouse, small and demanding at times, but I need a muse that is easy to maintain, and doesn’t demand three walks a day and half my dinner. It sits quietly by my side, observing my every move, and eager to be handled at every opportunity. I have owned several mice in my lifetime, but this one has a special place in my heart, as it has supported me thorough my latest book and editing process. But it is showing signs of burn out. Perhaps it will perk up if I change its battery.

🥕🥕🥕

Other Worldly by Frank Hubeny

I move my black mouse and click. I know I should be doing other things.

“Like what?” That silent voice inside me asks.

Well, like watching this orange sunset or bothering that white bird sitting for no good reason on the railing or contemplating the other worldly mysteries of this grand universe.

Knowing I have no clue, I hear. “Really, like what?”

So I let my inner squeaky wheel, my imaginary “friend”, guide me downward into the depths of another suspicious, weedy, mosquito-loving rabbit hole I have no business exploring. But what else, really, do I have to do?

🥕🥕🥕

Due Credit by Reena Saxena

You won’t be able to use all those fancy products, if they are not tested on me. I put my life and limb to out to help you. I’m an extension of your hand, when you navigate that space you can’t live without. I think you call it the internet. I don’t find it very useful though….

You give me food and sometimes – space to live, but I don’t think the equation is balanced.

You need to do a lot more to give me my due credit. Killer cats and dogs have been honoured for too long now.

🥕🥕🥕

Chaircat Mao and Cheeser the Mouse by H.R.R. Gorman

“Chaircat Mao,” asked Cheeser the mouse, “Why don’t you ever chase me?”

Chaircat Mao rolled his rotund body over and readjusted his luxurious gray coat. “Well, have you ever chased me?”

“No, Chaircat Mao! That would be silly!”

Chaircat Mao closed his eyes as if the question were answered.

Distraught, Cheeser scurried onto Mao’s flesh. Without response, she balanced down to his nose and pulled on his whiskers. “It’s not right, Chaircat Mao! God made cats to chase mice!”

“Don’t be silly. God made cats to be worshipped. Now stop disturbing my nap.” So, at last, Chaircat Mao slept.

🥕🥕🥕

Wrong Mouse by Anita Dawes

Our cat Merlin loves to bring us gifts
I wish he would leave the mice outside
I told him the other day, it was the wrong kind
Jaye needs a new mouse for the computer
Of course, he didn’t take any notice of me
He loves to catch butterflies in his mouth
He lets them go unharmed
Maybe he likes the flavour of them
I have no clue, as I don’t speak cat too well.
After buying a new mouse, Merlin stopped
bringing his gifts for a while
was he trying to tell Jaye that
her mouse needed replacing?

🥕🥕🥕

The Mouse That Came in from the Cold by Di @ pensitivity101

I heard scratching and told partner we had a mouse in the bedroom.

He flicked on the light, looked around, then switched it off.

The scratching resumed. Another nudge, he got up to look.

‘Nothing!’

I saw a shadow and turning on the light saw a little mouse disappear behind the wardrobe.

Partner threw himself out of bed and whacked everything in close proximity.

With the bedding wrapped around me, I was in hysterics.

Not that I was afraid, but the ridiculousness of the situation as he’d been charging round the bedroom stark naked, in all his dangly glory.

🥕🥕🥕

A Mouse Backfires by Norah Colvin

“Eek!“ shrieked Granny, toppling back on the chair, arms and legs flailing.

“Thwunk!” Her head struck the wall, silencing the children’s sniggers.

Granny slumped motionless, eyes closed, tongue lolling from her slack jaw.

Barney gaped. “D’ya, d’ya think she’s dead?”

“Don’t be silly,” admonished Eliza, older and wiser. “She couldn’t be. Could she?”

The children tiptoed closer.

“What if she wakes up?”

“What if she doesn’t?”

“I’ll check her pulse,” mouthed Eliza.

Suddenly, Granny jolted upright, eyes staring blankly.

The children gasped.

“Gotcha!” laughed Granny. “But that is a clever mouse.”

“How did you —?”

Granny winked. “Granny knows.”

🥕🥕🥕

What Happened to the Mouse? by Miriam Hurdle

“What is that box?”

“That’s my infrared camera.”

“What’s that for?”

“Did you see the oranges fell from the tree? Something ate up the cores. I wanted to see what happened.”

“What did the camera catch?”

“Look for yourself.”

“OMG! A mouse! I thought all the mice were dead.”

“I guess not. This one escaped.”

“Did the camera take the pictures last night?”

“No, these were taken two nights ago.”

“Was the camera on last night?”

“It was.”

“Did the mouse come back?”

“No, something else did?

“What?”

“Look again.”

“Oh no, I know what happened to the mouse.”

🥕🥕🥕

My Life As a Mouse by Macy Brown

Quickly I scurry across the dilapidated, plywood floor, covered in dust, careful not to step on the wooden contraptions my brothers and sisters have succumbed to. Last week dad went in search of food, but he did not return. Now it’s up to me to find food to keep the last of my siblings alive. I come around the corner of an old, water damaged box, and that is when I smell it – salty peanut butter; but before I have time to react I hear that ear shattering CLAP as a metal hinge comes crashing down upon me.

🥕🥕🥕

That’s Mice — A Conversation for Musicologists by Bill Engleson

“Ah, Mick, do you ever ask yourself where we belong in the grand scheme?”

“Gee, Squeak. Not a lot. Why?”

“Well, I was thinking. Take music. Sometimes we just pop up in a song…its neat.”

“What songs?”

“Glad you asked. I’m thinking of that great Johnny Cash ditty, I Still Mice Someone. Sure brings a tear to my eye.”

“I do like Johnny Cash…but…”

“Or, Little Richard’s, Good Golly Mice Molly. That sure shakes the floorboards.”

“Squeak, don’t take this the wrong way but I think you oughta get your hearing checked.”

“I hear ya, Mick. I hear ya.”

🥕🥕🥕

Little Miss Mouse by Susan Zutautas

She was a tiny little woman with whiskery gray hair. At times she’d be talking to you and her little pink nose would rapidly twitch. Much like that of a rodent smelling something good to eat. Speaking of eating, sunflower seeds were always nearby but never an empty shell to be seen. Listening to her talk was quite annoying with her squeaky pitchy little voice. There were some days you would feel a swish of wind go briskly past you, only to find out it was Little Mouse. Yes, that’s what we had nicknamed her. It characterized her perfectly.

🥕🥕🥕

Mousetrap by Ritu Bhathal

The pain.

It sears through my body.

I know no one will find me.

They were all much more sensible, listening to Mummy. I had to be the one who had to go and look.

Curiosity killed the cat. That’s the saying. Not the mouse, the cat.

But it was just so tempting.

I could smell it.

That whiff of cheesiness.

I knew it was out there somewhere.

And I found it too.

Sat there, right in front of me, was a huge chunk of the best cheddar.

How was I to know it was on a state-of-the-art mousetrap?

🥕🥕🥕

The Night of Forgotten Chores (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Snow crunched beneath Ike’s boots. Danni hastily stepped into them with her slippers, throwing a jacket over flannel pajamas. She grimaced against the blast of cold air. How did she forget her chores? The animals relied on her, especially when the weather turned. She pushed open the barn door, flicking on lights. Three mournful dogs glanced up from the cocoon of their cedar houses. Blackjack nickered his discontent, and the chukar fluttered in their cage. Sluggish with guilt Danni slid her hand into the grain bag to find the scoop. She yelped when instead she grabbed a live mouse.

🥕🥕🥕

The Little Ones by Ann Edall-Robson

The tiny flecks of dust shimmered like specks of gold in the early morning sunlight streaming through the six-pane window. The building was old, but it was obvious someone was keeping it weatherproof, save for the tiny knothole in the corner, near the back door garden entrance.

The wooden bung had shrunk over time, slipping to one side, going unnoticed in the overgrown flower beds, and allowing those who knew of its whereabouts to come and go as they pleased through its odd shape.

Thanks to the friendly garden mouse, the Little Ones now had a new home.

🥕🥕🥕

Laurie’s Journal by Saifun Hassam

On a sunny cold February morning, Laurie walked gingerly over the snow and ice-covered grass and stone steps, to the rose and blackberry bushes, pine and oak trees. Fallen branches, twigs, pine needles and acorns poked through the snow.

In a tiny space among the maze of roots, some snow had melted. A bright-eyed mouse sat quietly on a root. Laurie sat quietly on the old scarred log. Last autumn, she had found tiny tunnels running along the blackberry bushes. In her mind’s nature journal, she was already drawing and making observations of these tiny settlers in the garden.

🥕🥕🥕

Mouse in House by Ruchira Khanna

“Oh God! We have a mouse in the house!” I shrieked as I announced to my family. My son sitting on the couch was quick to pull his legs and cross them over. “Where! Where!” he inquired in an equally high-pitched scream.

“It’s in the bedroom!”

I was now waiting restlessly for my husband to take some action. Instead, he continued to work on his laptop unperturbed of what I just announced!

I repeated it this time in a higher decibel.

He looked up with a sense of calm, “Relax! It’s the door. It needs oiling at the hinges!”

🥕🥕🥕

Peace Offering by D. Avery

It had to be done. *I won’t have them on my countertops.*

In the hardware section she reached for the wooden Victors. *Can’t improve on those.* Very effective, though she didn’t like setting them, flinched if they snapped, worried about her fingers. *At least it’s just my fingers*.

She moved on to the toy section. *There, little doll dishes, perfect.* She took her purchase home to do what had to be done.

She cleaned her counters. The doll dishes, filled with tasty morsels, she set on the floor. *We can share the food. But please stay off the counters*.

🥕🥕🥕

Mouse by Janice Golay

I am a mouse. I say this without pride or apology. It’s just “I am.” Perhaps in a previous life I was someone or something else, someone bigger, stronger, who could roar or soar. But here I am with this life, making the best of what I am. For example, this morning I checked my winter stash of corn, seeds and old apples. Looks OK. It’s sunny today, so I poked my head out of the barn, saw a flying creature’s slow shadow — wide wingspan — soaring, searching…..for me! Pulled my head back in fast. Next life, please.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Minnie and Me by Goldie

There it was again – an unexplained pit in her stomach. As if someone was watching her.

Following her.

There was no one in sight, but she couldn’t shake off the uneasiness.

She tried to run, but tripped and fell to her knees.

A tall shadow appeared in the puddle in front of her.

She raised her head hesitantly to assess the situation.

“There you are, sweetheart” – he said, and extended his hand, but Emma remained on the ground.

“I said I would take care of you. I’d never let you fall” – he said, pulling her up by the hair.

🥕🥕🥕

Visitor by Abhijit Ray

Six months before, one night I woke up from my intermittent sleep. Something ran over my body. There he was eating my leftover meal. We have gotten used to each other.

He stares at me curiously. Sitting on his hind quarter he wipes his face and his moustache. I think he prepares himself for the dinner.

I wait for his arrival. He visits me everyday without fail. He does not need any permission or any pass. He is the only friend I have, as I count my days in death row for murdering my business partner and my wife.

🥕🥕🥕

Cosmopolitan Collapse by JulesPaige

The Fashionista thought she’d replace her dogs toy.
The only place she could find Mookies favorite
mouse squeaky toy was through the internet.

The Fashionista attempted to order the toy herself.
But there was a Troll waiting to capture
and sell her personal information.

The Fashionista used insecure protocols
allowing the nasty Troll to unleash a virus
that crashed and burned The Fashionista’s
personal site, the Pet Place and
several major operating systems.

The Troll thought it was hilarious
that his virus was called the Black Plague.
All because The Fashionista wanted
a squeaky rodent toy for her dog.

🥕🥕🥕

My Life As A Mouse by Joanne Fisher

Ever since a company began briefly downloading consciousness’s into other species the holiday industry has been transformed. Last year I spent two weeks swimming around the Pacific Ocean as a fish. When I returned to my usual body it felt strange for a while to have arms and legs again. This year I decided to be a mouse. I got some strange looks, but they’re quite cute. Though I did spend most of my time trying to find food. One time I saw some peanuts on the floor, as I scurried to them I didn’t even see the cat…

🥕🥕🥕

Experiments by The Dark Netizen

Mark my words, this novel research is going to put us right into all the books out there: journals, encyclopaedias, history books; maybe even novels and comics.

We are going to become celebrities not only in the science community, but even in the outside world.

Now, we only need to hope that this experiment works during the trials.

The serum should have the same effect as it had on mice.

If it gives the mice intelligence in comparison to humans, imagine what it would do for human subjects.

Aren’t you in agreement about starting human trials early, Dr. Mouse?

🥕🥕🥕

I’d Like to Mouse Wheel a Motion by Chelsea Owens

“Now, now, Mrs. Snigglewhiff; that’s hardly mouseylike. Would you please consider using the shavings over-

“MISTER Cheesebiter, if you wouldn’t mind-

“I say; what are you doing at that drink station? Refreshments are for after our-

“What is it, now, Whiskershins? …The Society for Capybara Welfare wishes to be heard? They’ll just have to submit their request in shavings like the rest of us!-

“My word! Will the ringtailed children kindly refrain from using the wheel till after our meeting has adjourned?-”

*SQUEAKHEM*

“I now call to order The Semi-Regular Meeting of Tame Rodentia. First item of business: queuing.”

🥕🥕🥕

Mouse by Robbie Cheadle

Yesterday morning I saw a mouse dash across the kitchen floor and slip under the dishwasher. We live near a bird sanctuary so we do get the odd furry visitor. My husband catches mice using a method involving rat glue smeared on a piece of cardboard. I hate it but we cannot have mice taking up permanent residence in our home.

The gluey cardboard worked and this morning I found the mouse stuck to the cardboard. It was still alive and had to be drowned in water. That is the down side of rat glue – it doesn’t kill quickly.

🥕🥕🥕

I Hate Those Meeces to Peeces by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why the long face, Morgan?’

‘Aunt Annette is coming.’

‘Is she a tyrant?’

‘No. We have mice; she hates mice. She’ll flip if I say or if she sees one.’

‘Get a trap.’

‘Can’t. She’ll see it and know.’

‘You’re screwed then.’

‘Could she stay with you? She’s as quiet as a mouse.’

‘What if I’m phobic, too?’

‘Of mice?’

‘I’m not murophobic…’

‘… get you with the long words…’

‘… but I am syngenesophobic.’

‘Fear of aunts?’

‘Yep.’

‘Great, I’ll bring her round then.’

‘But I just said I’m sygenes…’

‘Sure, but she’s not your aunt, is she?’

🥕🥕🥕

Friends by Kay Kingsley

“Charles, help!” A shrill voice shouted from the living room.

Fearing the worst, he dropped the plate he was washing in the sink and came running. “What is it Ida?!” he said, panicked.

Standing on a chair Ida swore it was the biggest mouse she had ever seen. HUGE. GIGANTIC even.

“Sweetie. Come down off the chair. It’s not that big.” he chuckled.

“What? You knew it was in the house and didn’t get rid of it?!”

What he hadn’t told her yet was that since the accident, the mouse was the only friend he had to talk to.

🥕🥕🥕

Silent as a Mouse by Kerry E.B. Black

Make-a-Wish interviewed my daughter, Bear, and she wanted to be a princess. Her consultant clapped. “No better place to be a princess than WDW!”

However, costumed characters terrified Bear. I read the promotional materials and discovered what I hoped would calm her. “They don’t talk.”

Consoled, she reluctantly approached her favorite cartoon, Minnie Mouse.

Minnie moved.

Bear screamed.

We turned to leave when the dear costumed actress forgot her training and reassured, “It’s okay, honey!” She covered her perpetually smiling mouth with white-mittens, but the damage was done.

I wondered if little Bear would ever trust me again.

🥕🥕🥕

Little One by Sarah Whiley

The shadow of the moon danced on the lake. A light breeze whispered gently through the tress and the air was filled with a symphony of insects, clamoring to be heard.

Lucy trod carefully in the filtered light, glancing behind her guiltily. Her mum and dad would be furious but since the trap hadn’t killed it, Lucy figured it was a sign.

Kneeling at the fence line of their property, she reached into her pocket and tenderly scooped out the mouse.

With a grateful “chit” of thanks, it promptly ran into the darkness.

“Take care little one,” she whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

Of Mice and Girls by Nancy Brady

Mighty Mouse was Julie’s favorite cartoon; she sat enthralled on the living room floor every Saturday morning. When the mice got into trouble, he would fly to their rescue, saving them from the mean old cat. She thought him handsome in his tights and cape as he sang, “Here I come to save the day, Mighty Mouse is on the way!”

He was Julie’s hero, and she had a crush on him.

Julie had a little doll with a brown ponytail, just like her. When Julie played with her doll, she pretended she was Mighty Mouse’s girlfriend, his love.

🥕🥕🥕

Tasha’s Gift by Nobbinmaug

“Aaaahaaha! A mouse!”

“You’re such a woman.”

“Sexist.”

“Women can’t be sexist.”

“I think that’s also sexist.”

“Men don’t get to decide what’s sexist.”

“That is definitely sexist.”

“Will you just get the mouse, please?”

“Why? Because I’m the man?”

“Because your cat brought it in, and it’s your apartment.”

“You wanna move in?”

“Hell no! You have mice.”

“Tasha and her gifts. They’re usually dead.”

“Gross.”

“Yeah, it’s gross, but they’re easier to catch when they’re dead.”

“I am not staying here tonight if that mouse is here.”

“I’ll get it. I’ll get it. I will find it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bed Fellows by Annette Aben

A little girl needed a room of her own, especially when her siblings closest in age, were all boys. She was given the space off the bathroom. A space normally used for storage. Besides, she could lock the door. She could find privacy there.
She didn’t mind sleeping on an old mattress, covered in quilts. There was a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling, so she could read. She gladly traded the feel of the mice that ran across her legs at night over her father’s demands. She chose sleeping in mouse turds rather than her own blood.

🥕🥕🥕

Lionhearted by Nan MykelI

I smell a cat in the house. That means my time on earth is limited.Hmmn. What can I contribute to the world during my shortened lifespan? I know! The stepfather who sneaks into his stepson’s room at night silently, on tiptoes to molest him!There he is, stealthily approaching the sleeping boy. Now on his knees, pulling back the covers. Strike now! Nails extended, I rush up his feet, up his legs and high on his head. I dive triumphantly onto the boy, whose screams are echoed by the perpetrator. Lights throughout the house. Goodbye mouselife, hello glory.

🥕🥕🥕

Mighty Mouse by Jo Hawk

I stumble to my desk. The coffee sloshing in my cup slips over the edge trickles down the side and drips onto my freshly printed manuscript.

I blot the drop, but the damage is done. Adding insult to injury I mark the draft with a giant coffee ring. I have no fear. Mighty Mouse will save the day. The laptop purrs, Mighty Mouse chases clicks across the laptop’s screen while I sip my coffee.

The printer springs to life, spitting out pages as the Mouse commands.

The pristine draft restored, it awaits the torture session of the red pen.

🥕🥕🥕

Moondarby the Mouse and the Mischievous Macaroni Penguin by K. J. Watson

My pet mouse, Ellroy, is by my keyboard, twitching his nose at the computer screen.

“You dislike the title of my latest children’s story, don’t you?” I ask him.

He twitches more vigorously.

“Is it the alliteration? Or the name of the mouse? Or is it the macaroni penguin?”

In response, Ellroy darts across the keyboard: ]’pl[;ijokyguhrdtfwaesq.

“I assume that means you’re averse to it all?”

Ellroy stares at me.

“Okay. How about ‘Ellroy the Magnificent and the Naughty Cat’?”

Ellroy curls up on my notebook.

I begin typing and wonder: Who else has a mouse as a muse?

🥕🥕🥕

Focus by Tracey

“Guys listen up. This is the pre-mission briefing for flight 7044.”

She went quickly but thoroughly over the slides. Tanker crews liked fast and funny. No jokes today though, this was a new mission and she needed to keep their focus.

To the great surprise of the pilots she suddenly stopped in mid-sentence and jumped onto a chair. The entire room silently watched a mouse scamper across the floor and under the canvas wall.

The Lieutenant climbed down and resumed briefing the astonished pilots, picking right back up in the middle of her sentence. She had their full attention.

🥕🥕🥕

Mus Musings by D. Avery

“Rats, this is a tough prompt Pal.”

“You also complained when Shorty said cats. No pleasin’ some folk.”

“Jist sayin’, Pal. Ya know, Pal, there’s all kinds a mice.”

“So? The Ranch is a diverse place.”

“Reckon Aussie’ll write ‘bout kangaroo mice.”

“Sure, an’ D. Avery’ll write about deer mice.”

“Moose mus?”

“Punny, Kid. *Mus musculus* is the house mouse. Deer mice and kangaroo mice are actually a different family. But yer not outta order, rodent’cha know.”

“Now who’s punny? Pal, how come it’s mice and not mouses?”

“Jist is thet way.”

“Hmmph.”

“Mebbe all your grouses are grice.”

🥕🥕🥕

March 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Franklin Township Hall sits on Quincy hill among extensive ruins of an abandoned Keweenaw Copper mine. The No. 2 Shaft Hoist House built in 1916 still stands with its engineering marvel intact — the largest mine hoist in the world. An entire company town with houses, feedlots, and gardens once sat above shafts dug to over a mile deep. Today, it’s a historic tourist attraction, and the town hall still functions as it always has.

Concerned citizens from across the Keweenaw have crashed the multi-township fire department meeting.

First, let me explain the geography and geology of the landscape pocked with copper. My fellow Michigander and writer, Annette Rochelle Aben, gives a great visual of Michigan split into two land masses by the Great Lakes: picture two mittens. I like to add that the mittens are backward (kinda like some of us Michiganders, eh). If you flip the right mitten backward, the thumb points outward toward NYC. Set the second mitten top and perpendicular to the first and flip it back so the thumb points to Canada.

Here’s a visual from Michigan Mittens (great hand warmers, by the way):

So, when I say I live on the thumb of land that juts up into the belly of Lake Superior, I’m talking about the Upper Mitten (or the UP as downstaters call it). Lake Michigan separates the two landmasses, which is connected by the Mackinac (or Mighty Mac) Bridge at St. Ignace. Yoopers (UP-ers) like to joke that the bottom mitten is below the bridge and therefore all downstaters are trolls. Further, the Mighty Mac exists so trolls can get to heaven (the UP), too. Michigan is its own kind of special! I suppose we can grin and say that about the idiosyncrasies of any place.

And before I forget (again!), I had a blast connecting the mittens with Annette Rochelle Aben on her standout podcast, “Tell Me a Story.” We share more in common than living in the same state, but you’ll have to listen to find out: The Magic Happens Magazine. She lists her guests’ stories alphabetically scroll down to my name (and check out other familiar names, too).

Water surrounds this thumb called the Keweenaw Peninsula — Lake Superior and the Keweenaw Waterway which is a dredged portage canal linking the greatest of the Great Lakes. Early settlers, among them Finns and French Canadians, called this geographical region Kuparisaari. Copper Island. I  like the name Copper Island, but I’ve yet to hear anyone use it. Often, this region is called Copper Country, but locals prefer the Keweenaw. It’s only taken me 18 months to sort out where I live.

As the winter raven flies, Franklin Township Hall is less than two miles from my Roberts Street home (among the “Swiss Alps” of snow piles). I’m close to ruins of old mining communities, and when spring arrives, I plan to hike up to Swedetown to watch the progression of flowers from long-gone homes emerge. If I looped around from Swedetown, I’d walk past the millhouse ruins of Quincy Mine, cross the road and arrive at the town hall. If I passed the meeting place, I’d go down a steep slope and end up in Ripley, which is a remnant of a village where the stamp mill workers and their families lived along the portage canal.

Basically, this thumb has a bone made of copper-infused basalt and little flesh. Soil on the peninsula is sandy and shallow. We might experience deep snows, but we don’t typically get heavy rains. Last June, a 1,000-year flood struck our ridge, washing away the sand from basalt and the land and trees slid. My friend Cynthia who has a retreat where I’ll be working with local authors lives below Franklin Township Hall, Ripley Falls, and Michigan Tech’s ski hill. Part of the ski hill slammed into her home, burying her yard and first floor in mud and rubble.

An old dump from a ravine higher up also purged its treasures in Cynthia’s back yard. Among the kale that reseeded itself on the heap, we picked up old machinery bits, broken glass and pipe stems. Before the snow fell, we managed to get a meeting of all the agencies and citizens — stakeholders — to discuss mitigation. Within a week, equipment dug out more of the rubble, built a barrier of sorts in the back yard and stretched silt netting at the site of the landslide. Then winter came.

Like a little mouse with sensitive ears, we heard through the grapevine that an emergency planning meeting was to be held at the Franklin Township Hall. So, we concerned citizens gathered. The topic was spring thaw. To the dismay of the county emergency planner, we packed the hall like Keweenaw snow. He announced that the meeting was intended for township fire departments. No one moved. He then said it wasn’t really public and he didn’t have enough handouts. No one moved. It’s a civic meeting at a public place and citizens have the right to sit in on these meetings. We exercised our civic power and stayed.

Everyone knows all this snow is going to melt. It always does.

At the town hall, I can’t see out the windows. Curving layers of snow pack up against the window pains blocking the last of the early evening light. I hold the moment in memory and store it for later recall. We listen to fire chiefs respond in grunts and jokes. One details his station’s emergency plan as “high boots.” Yes, the snow will create water runoff. The question is, how do we know if it’s too high?

You see, snow melts from underneath. Even if we employ Civil Air Patrol or enlist volunteers with drones to check on vulnerable water flows, the snow will block the view. Another problem could be ice jams. As larger chunks break away, they can also congregate in bottlenecks and back up water. Following an unprecedented event last summer we enter new territory this spring. Snow sits above average and has an equivalent of 6-8 inches of water. That actually sounds small compared to 300 plus inches of snow over the winter. But that’s what the meteorologists are reporting. And the rest of us wait.

After the meeting, Cynthia and I approached the emergency planner with an idea we concocted — instead of getting frustrated with us concerned citizens, why not put us to good use and appoint a Citizen Advisory Board? He liked the idea and encouraged us to present a proposal to the townships and get the county supervisors to appoint us. We can even count our work toward matching funds needed to secure grants to clean up last year’s landslides and floods. This is how democracy works.

And it began here in the town hall where miners gathered to discuss how to take care of their villages and families. It seems they were better than we are at civic duty. Many of their efforts are now abandoned like the mines. I think of families like Jules’ and others who still volunteer as firefighters or serve in the public sector. How did we stray from that in America? Busy modern lives? Less connectivity? Maybe it is a key to unification. Maybe if we find common ground, we’ll stop bickering over politics and roll up our sleeves and make our towns the kind of places that are welcoming to all.

I like living on this mitten thumb.

This week, I’m wrapping up on my loaner just because I finally figured out where all my settings are and need more time to get my new laptop ready to work. Kind of like getting a new horse settled into the herd. Takes patience. I’m loving my new Mac Air 13, though. I plan to have this laptop for a long time. On Saturday, I get a session with the Apple Techs, and over the weekend my techie friend will transfer my dead laptop’s data. May Acer rest in peace. I need a name for my Mac. Any suggestions? Especially from you punsters out there.

MacApple came with a Magic Mouse. Oo-la-la! It’s sleek and shiny and feels good beneath my palm. So we are going to chitter stories like mice this week.

March 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a mouse. It can be real, imagined, electronic or whiskered. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 12, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

The Night of Forgotten Chores (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Snow crunched beneath Ike’s boots. Danni hastily stepped into them with her slippers, throwing a jacket over flannel pajamas. She grimaced against the blast of cold air. How did she forget her chores? The animals relied on her, especially when the weather turned. She pushed open the barn door, flicking on lights. Three mournful dogs glanced up from the cocoon of their cedar houses. Blackjack nickered his discontent, and the chukar fluttered in their cage. Sluggish with guilt Danni slid her hand into the grain bag to find the scoop. She yelped when instead she grabbed a live mouse.

Backups

Situations and technology call for us to back up. We have backup plans and protocols to save our data. We back up promises or back up and flee the nearest exit. Language provides much play with this phrase or compound word.

Writers backed up their work and took to a strange road that followed the backups of life.

The following are based on the February 28, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the term backup.

PART I (10-minute read)

Go Ahead, Back Up by Molly Stevens

Ruth dreaded asking Chester for help, but she was stuck in a snow bank and didn’t want to be late for her hair appointment. Spinning her wheels would only make things worse.

Chester trudged outside and surveyed the situation. “Go ahead, back up,” he said.

“Which one do you want me to do, go ahead or back up?”

“I said go ahead, back up!”

Ruth sputtered and gunned the engine, rear tires shooting a spectacular plume of snow behind her.

Chester stood motionless, encased in snow.

As she drove off, she yelled, “Thanks! That was definitely the right call.”

🥕🥕🥕

Backup by Janice Golay

The exercise/dance class at our public library enticed the heck out of me. Sign up! We started with the merengue, a Latin-beat dance created to rouse your wiggles. Our leader spread us out on the dance floor like a disorderly chessboard. As beginners and maybe prone to tumble, we each had a “spotter” or “catcher” — a backup in case we teetered between one beat and the next. My backup was tall and dark. Tall and dark. Forward: two, three, four. Back: two, three, four. Oops, I backed up into the tall and dark spotter. Bingo!

Accident or design?

🥕🥕🥕

When a Planter Isn’t a Planter by Geoff Le Pard

‘Can you see where that planter is?’

‘What planter?’

‘I don’t want to reverse into it when I back up.’

‘There’s no planter there.’

‘There is.’

‘No, there…’

‘Go and check and you’ll realise how blind and stubborn you are.’

‘Now, back up a moment. What’s stubbornness got to do with the supposed existence of a planter?’

‘You’re the most stubborn man I know.’

‘I’m not. I’ve also got better eyesight. Just reverse and you’ll see.’

‘Ok, I will. I… Hear that crunch? A planter.’

‘It’s not. It’s a flowerpot. Totally different.’

‘Morgan, you really get my back up.’

🥕🥕🥕

Wily Larceny by Kate Spencer

“Members of the Jury,” Harper said, walking across the courtroom toward the witness stand. “The question before you is not to determine if any trout went missing from Mr. Parker’s fish market on three separate occasions. The real question is: will the prosecutors’ evidence back up their assertion that it was my client George Prowler, a quiet homeless man who perpetrated the robberies.”

Harper turned and faced the courtroom. “The defense intends to prove otherwise. We will show that the real thief was Mr. Parker’s own large wily cat, Whiskers,” she said pointing her finger directly at the plaintiff.

🥕🥕🥕

On the Road to Recovery? by Anne Goodwin

A virus meant missing the concert; but, never mind, there was another in three weeks’ time. I’d be fighting fit by then: hitting the top notes and tramping the moors, albeit not at the same time. Four weeks of fatigue and bouts of coughing headed for five and I remained a recluse, sleeping sitting up.

Steroids: well I never! A single dose and I’m breathing right. But have I the strength to walk to today’s appointment? It takes half an hour if I march at my usual pace. But there’s backup: my husband’s ‘taxi’ only a phone call away.

🥕🥕🥕

Posture Support by Norah Colvin

One birthday, thoughtful Hub gifted me a wearable device for supporting my posture during long hours at my desk. Sadly, it was complicated, and he was the only one to don it, semi-successfully. Those of us less brave to even attempt were in stitches as he manoeuvred himself into it. Having failed to convince me or anyone else to try, it has been relegated to the back of an (unknown) cupboard ever since. Mere mention of the BackUp causes fits of laughter and it remained #1 inappropriate gift for many years – until he presented man perfume on another birthday.

🥕🥕🥕

The Wrong Path by Tracey

She could not believe she was watching yet another lame Christmas movie about time travel. Just once she wished the woman would choose the glamorous life she gave up for marriage and kids. No one in their right mind picked a lazy husband and bratty children over a successful career and spotless apartment.

If she could back up her life she knew the exact time she would return to. Where she had made that first critical mistake that led down the wrong path to her current life.

She looked out the immaculate window of her high-rise condo and sighed.

🥕🥕🥕

All the Time by Sascha Darlington

Every step forward is two steps back: Back up! Back up! Back up!

Celia thought the worst thing would have been running the red light. “Eric, stop!”

The worst thing was backing up, the Mercedes crunching their Toyota pickup, the airbags bursting, screams, shatters, blackness, waking alone. All those taut lips, pitying eyes. “She lost her husband and her baby.” Husband and baby lost. The repetition a desolate refrain.

Her sister drags her, sometimes forcibly, to grief counseling where they say, “Time,” or that’s the perceived message.

She remembers Eric’s hand on her belly. “We got all the time.”

🥕🥕🥕

Chapter One by Ann Edall-Robson

“Whoa, backup, stop!”

How many times had those words interrupted conversations while travelling down the road?

He smiled to himself, wondering what it was this time his wife had seen that brought her camera to her eye. An animal? A bit of scenery? A glint of light off the dew sitting on a leaf, caught sparkling when the sun lifted its head over the trees.

A surprise to both of them, sometimes, when they saw the result on a bigger screen. He never tired of her enthusiasm, the sparkle in her eye, that smile, when she said, “Got it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Chapter 2 by Ann Edall-Robson

Her voice was now only a memory. Echoing in his mind while he drove to their favourite places. How had he missed the signs she was not well? She never gave an inkling all was not right in her world.

Pulling over, he nosed the rig off the shoulder into the ditch. Had he seen something worthy of her eye? Smiling, he remembered how she would explain to him what it was she had seen, before clambering out of the truck to wander. Moving in tiny steps until she caught sight of what had prompted the “whoa, backup, stop.”

🥕🥕🥕

Chapter 3 by Ann Edall-Robson

He sat staring out the window, watching, waiting, but for what? Should he backup, or like her, get out and wander? His heart swelled with the pain of his loss. The meadow that had made him stop blurred from his eyes overflowing with jewels of love.

Wiping away the tears, he opened the door, picking up her camera from its place on the passenger’s seat.

“I’ll just have a look around.” He whispered into the quiet emptiness.

He grinned. Click, click, click. The sound of the shutter shattered the silence.

“I got it, hon” he whispered, “I got it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Restoration of a Normal Life? by JulesPaige

Who knew a train could restore one’s faith? There I was waiting. Not knowing what to expect. I had ordered a bride through the mail. This was my back up plan. The eligible women were scarce round these parts. Most men had brought their own. I had… but after the first three births, the fourth took both my child and my wife.

I needed a kind heart to look after my children, maybe even me, after we got ourselves acquainted. No matter what the promise or the paper said I’d be sleeping in the barn until she wanted me.

🥕🥕🥕

Immobile by H. R. R. Gorman

The messenger hopped into the trench just after a shell hit. He face chittered, ghostly pale after the brush with death.

“How long until we get backup?” a grizzled twenty-one year old asked.

“It’s not coming,” the fresh young messenger said. “The shelling’s too hard. No one’s moving from the redoubts.”

The professional soldier rubbed his aching feet. “I’m not sure we can hold them off this time. We don’t have enough men in this line.” Upon seeing the fear on the messenger’s face, he comforted. “Don’t worry, mate. I suppose they feed their prisoners!”

The young man gulped.

🥕🥕🥕

Decay by Allison Maruska

Rotting wood bends beneath each step. Our porch is almost how I remember–elegant, though neglect has eaten away its soul.

Easing the door open, I back up a step as echoes wash over me.

Hurry, Marie. Leave everything.

With glass crunching under my shoes, I pass our furniture’s remains, heading to the office. I open the desk drawer, feeling inside for the silver pendant but finding only grit.

The empty drawer confirms what I’d known in my heart. The soldiers had left nothing of value behind.

Leaving the drawer open, I depart, knowing this time will be my last.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire in the Hole by D. Avery

Dusted by the unremitting snowflakes, the explorers carefully made their way across the glacier.

“They say each snowflake is unique. No two alike.”

“Are they still saying that? That makes this landscape even more diabolical, a conspiracy of snowflakes of astronomical proportions.”

They stopped to take a GPS reading. “Here we are. Standing over downtown. Welcome to Houghton, Michigan.”

“Back up! A crevice.”

They took another reading by the crevasse and checked their notes.

“Down in there, that’s where the CFC used to be. Is.”

“Listen! Hear that?”

“Yes. This means…”

“The Continental Firehouse Company is open! Let’s go!”

🥕🥕🥕

Human Mind by Reena Saxena

Amnesia is not a dreaded word. It has not been one for decades. One can find life again and reconnect.

Somehow, this episode is different. I find myself in a world without Facebook and Instagram. There is no digital backup of life, and no tattoos on my body. The fire has damaged more than my skin.

Is it apocalypse? Yes, I remember this word. So, all is not lost. There is a life beyond, and I can still reconnect – with something more advanced than digital. I will live to invent that.

Hell hath no fire – like the human mind.

🥕🥕🥕

Backup Work (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Mars sparkled overhead. Could Ike see their favorite constellations from his post in Iraq? Danni lit a lantern at the kitchen table. With the power out from the wind storm, she couldn’t access her computer files. Good thing her work included books and items found in the dirt. She poked at the latest sorting of glass globs. A fire, which locals claimed was the burning of the Rose Bud Inn during Prohibition. If so, Danni might have found its location. Tonight, she couldn’t back up her reports, but she could sift the remains of another era. Stories always surface.

🥕🥕🥕

Pierre by Saifun Hassam

Standing on the boulder strewn seashore, Pierre gazed up thoughtfully at the caves in the limestone cliffs he had just come down from. Then he trekked back up the muddy goat trail to the jumble of rocks. Kathryn was right: A cairn of some sort, the runes on the rocks and those on the ancient temples in the area strikingly similar.

He went back over his knowledge of the archaeology of the coastal villages. Had seafarers and fishermen lived there once? Perhaps they had come from distant western lands, although there was no evidence to back up those ideas.

🥕🥕🥕

In the Library by Sue Maddeaux

Ssshhh! This is a library!

Reverence demanded I curl up on the long window seat. Enjoying the late afternoon sun teach the dust mites to dance, I opened the newly chosen book.

Prologue: Our heroine lives in a sleepy town on the edge of Lake Erie. She shares the house with a middle aged man, who smokes a pipe and offers a quiet comfort when most needed. Otherwise he fades into the silent walls aware of her requirement for order and serenity.

Chapter 0ne: My story…..

Library silence does not disturb my reading. Memories threaten but are sternly hushed.

🥕🥕🥕

Right Quite Quite Not Something’s by Chelsea Owens

.guru techno a

,you find ,else Or

.computer laptop your upon

files data your save to look Please

.intruders face to look please

;that only than more far Recall

.tears and scolds my recall

,door your at beckon strangers and

,clear is road the whene’er

:well me hear please ,child lovely My

.enlarge view your help to

show and guide and aid to seek I

;charge listen’ing my ,you to

knell warning a cry to seek I

,so And .pounce to ready

-lurks failure a where or when

know never may you ,For

;one dearest my life your backup

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Back Up by Pete Fanning

“Okay, Ed. Hit the gas, then rock it back.”

Edna slung the Bonneville into Drive, mashed the gas, then slammed it into Reverse. The car revved and rocked, tires zinging in the mud.

“Whoa, whoa!”

Enda’s husband wedged another board in the hole. “Okay, try it now.”

Edna shot her husband a look that could dirty dishwater. She’d told him not to take River Road. But no one had asked Edna.

Her husband studied the tire, walking behind the car. “Okay back up.”

Edna gunned it, spraying her husband with mud.

She’d told him not to take River Road.

🥕🥕🥕

Coastal Cruising by calmkate

Driving along the winding coast
prefer to go where I enjoy most
this tiny café for morning toast
another for the most charming host

linger for lunch over a fresh pot roast
baked spuds well deserving a boast
plenty of coffee to ensure I’m dosed
meandering around every outpost

yet if my car should break down
back up is in the very next town
the mechanic there a bit of a clown
flaunts about in his sequenced gown

causes many an onlooker to frown
so he gesticulates a rather rude noun
life is meant to be colourful never brown

🥕🥕🥕

The Fairy With the Broken Wing by JulesPaige

Riding Hawk was supposed to be easy.
Quinn had not always been clumsy,
growth spurts had made everything challenging.

Quinn was distracted, and fell.
You’d think that a fairy with wings
could easily recover just by flying.

Hawk realizing his passenger had fallen,
turned sharply to see the plummeting fairy
whose wings were not cooperating, dove and
grasped Quinn’s right wing in his strong beak.

There were no backup wings for fairies.
The break would be fixed, healed. Quinn would
fly when the cartilage had securely knitted.
And a slight scar would have
to compensated for when in flight.

🥕🥕🥕

Momentary Nudists by Kerry E.B. Black

Momma’s eyes darted between her mud-covered children. “Don’t you come in this house. Go around the side and hose off.”

The oldest ran a hand through hair stiffened with drying dirt. “Here’s the thing. I don’t think we should do that.”

“Yeah, we used mud to cover ourselves when the fairies stole our clothes.”

Momma’s eyes grew wide with alarm as she scrutinized her young. Sure enough, no swimsuits. “Back up. Where are your clothes?”

“Told you, fairies.”

They nodded at one another.

Momma squeezed her eyes shut and pointed to the hose. “Guess you’ll be momentary nudists. Hurry!”

🥕🥕🥕

Traditional Does Not Equate With Destiny by D. Avery

“Honey! I could use some backup.”

Marlie’s dad came in from his office. “Yes?”

“Our first grader has figured out that she no longer needs to attend school.”

“I can read and my teacher says if you can read you can learn anything. But we don’t have time at school.”

“What about math?”

“We keep doing the same things over and over. I’ll do math here by baking and using Dad’s tools to fix things.”

“Some backup. You did tell her that was real math.”

“So let her try it. I work from home, she can work from home.”

🥕🥕🥕

Waiting by Sarah Unsicker

The plane lingers on the runway as I continue to contemplate the wisdom of my trip. My coat on my lap, the suitcase above my head, I have everything I need for the week. My glance at the weather in Boston told me it would be cold, but manageable. This should be a good trip, a much-needed work vacation. But still, I am uneasy about going. Would they manage without me?

As the plane backs from the tarmac, I jump up, unable to still my thumping heart, to catch my breath. “Back up!” I yell. “I can’t do this.”

🥕🥕🥕

Backup by The Dark Netizen

I need you on lookout.

Keep me posted about the patrols. If any of the soldiers are about to enter the barracks, you give me an alert. Don’t worry. I can handle all the sleeping soldiers on my own. After all, I am one of the top operatives. Check your walkie. Okay, good. I’m ready to go in.

Wait. Three squads of soldiers are entering the barracks. This was not in the intel. What do you mean so what? I am good, but I can’t take on hundred soldiers alone.

Change in plan. Come with me. Your’re my backup…

🥕🥕🥕

Rolling the Calendar by Jo Hawk

“I think we made it,” I said, but I spoke too soon.

Ahead, cop cars blocked our way. I slammed the breaks and as we skidded to a stop, I slammed her into reverse. Tires squawking and smoking, I punched the gas and my Dodge Charger lurched.

“Backup, backup, backup,” Harold screamed.

“No, shit Sherlock.”

Picking up speed, I jumped on the breaks, threw her into neutral and cranked the wheel. My baby spun. I shifted into second, then third.

“Hang on,” I yelled, “If the DeLorean can do it, we can.”

A poof of smoke, and we disappeared.

🥕🥕🥕

Back Up Required by Ritu Bhathal

“Back up! I request you all to back up. You are blocking the exit.”

Pete tried in vain to clear a path through the door.

It was always the same when these guys visited.

He needed to get the band to their car, but it was proving to be impossible.

Just as he thought he’d made some headway, a huge scream erupted, and the crowd of teeny boppers surged forward, knocking him to the ground.

Typical. The boys had turned up at the entrance, with their dazzling smiles, unaware that their security was buried, and requiring back up himself.

🥕🥕🥕

Backup Plan by Miriam Hurdle

“The storm will hit Maui tomorrow, honey.”

“We’re flying back to Los Angeles tomorrow and pick up our niece from LAX in the evening.”

“We need a backup plan. Call a friend to pick her up?”

“Who? LAX is a mess.”

“Can she take a taxi?”

“She has no key to our house.”

“Can she reschedule her visit?”

“She’s going to a wedding in San Diego on Saturday. We’re taking her.”

“Oh, boy.”

“She got tomorrow off from work… Check the weather report…”

“Phew! The storm died down before hitting Honolulu.”

“Oh, mine. The Almighty has a backup plan.”

🥕🥕🥕

Take Responsibility! by di @ pensitivity101

I am responsible! I am caring and never shirk in my duty.

It goes with the territory and privilege of ownership.

People may laugh at my stuffed pockets, but I am always prepared.

You can buy one or even two hundred for a pound! Some are scented and come in pretty colours or with cute little cartoons on them.

I will even offer one if you are without, but don’t expect me to do your dirty work.

If there is one thing that never fails to put my back up, it’s dog owners not clearing up after their pets.

🥕🥕🥕

Vanishing Floppies by Anita Dawes

Life has a way of twisting around
like a stick of barley sugar
The cosmos handed me one that day
a while ago Jaye decided
to retrieve our floppies with a reader
She saved four out of twelve of my books
We took the remaining ones to our local shop
The boys there are brilliant, they saved five now
All on new shiny discs
So I only lost three of my books
Even so, I was devastated
They’re gone forever, to some floppy heaven
Thank God, Jaye now uses USB’s
and backs everything up
Technology, what can you say?

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by FloridaBorne

Cheap polyester shift from the dollar store…blazer, circa 2005…shoes from an on-line store. Who cut her hair, my ex-husband?

“You qualify for $100 food assistance,” my social worker said. “What are your assets?”

“The rich bastard controlled our finances, left me for a 20-something and filed for divorce after the last child left home. He had good lawyers.”

“You can’t have more than $1000 in savings.”

“I sold my car to buy an aluminum tent.”

Public assistance was a back-up plan; I’d taken $150,000 from the bastard’s safe. I’ll live well while I find a rich 60-something to marry.

🥕🥕🥕

Minuscule by Paige Leppanen

The computer is dead, and the backup USB is gone.

I’ve torn my desk apart and searched in the most implausible places: the bathroom, the refrigerator, even the garage. I had a suspicion but didn’t want it to be true. Still, I couldn’t deny it any longer. I invited my sister over and casually asked her if she had seen the minuscule blue thumb drive.

She sipped her iced tea and looked at me, not straight in the eyes, but close. “No, sorry. I haven’t.”

It was that moment that I knew I could never trust my sister again.

🥕🥕🥕

Breaking Point by Joanne Fisher

“Just back up! Just back the fuck up!” screamed Penny as Angela approached her for a hug. Angela stopped in her tracks looking hurt. “Don’t fucking hug me. Not after what you’ve done!”

“I’m sorry.”

“And that makes everything fine does it?” Penny shot back.

“No, of course it doesn’t, but we’ve got to get past this.” Penny just shook her head and turned away.

“If you’re going to sleep with someone else, we don’t have a future together anymore.” Penny walked out of the room leaving her alone.

Angela collapsed onto the floor knowing she had lost everything.

🥕🥕🥕

Backup by Nobbinmaug

It was her smile that caught my eye. She started the conversation, which is great for a shy guy. She grabbed my phone out of my hand and typed in her number. I fell fast and hard.

The texts stopped abruptly. I tried a few more times, but she didn’t respond.

I ran into her friend a little later. She told me she’d been seeing someone.

It turns out, she never really wanted me. All along, it was him she wanted. I was just a backup.

She broke my heart and knocked me down, but I’m getting back up.

🥕🥕🥕

The Backup Plan by Susan Zutautas

About to get married in a few weeks. Had everything planned, and in place.

It wasn’t going to be a big wedding just family and close friends.

My maid of honor was a little pregnant, (Okay a lot pregnant) with a chance of giving birth before our wedding day.

During the wedding rehearsal, I thought she looked a little piqued and asked if she was going to be okay. “No worries.”

Thank goodness I had a backup maid of honor, my sister in law Jackie as Shelley gave birth to a baby boy on the eve of our wedding.

🥕🥕🥕

Back Up Front by Bill Engleson

Back up front;
Rear guard house;
House home in;
Out side entry;

Exit strategy chaos;
Calm storm weather;
Climate change coins;
Coppers police baton;

Rouge lipstick Hemingway;
Writer reader library;
Information highway patrol;
Car bicycle lane;

Rocky smooth dude;
Ranch dressing naked;
Lunch free expensive;
Posh tacky ticky;

Houses hillside strangler;
Boston Bruins Bears;
Arms legs diamond;
Blood guts glory;

Modesty Blaise blaze;
Starr Ken aware;
Blank sheet wind;
Pass fail safe;

Vault leap year;
New old me;
Lai lie down;
Up periscope sub;

Sandwich grilled fried;
Egg face music;
Festival joy sorrow;
Pity party favours;

Bribes corruption backup.

🥕🥕🥕

Best Laid Plans by D. Avery

“Mom, Dad. Sit down, I have something to tell you.”
They sat, exchanging wry smiles. They weren’t naïve.

“I have struggled with this but really have no choice.” Their child fell silent, swallowed nervously. They held hands under the table. “You need to know that I am…”

“You can tell us, Dear. It’ll be okay.”

“I- I’m a writer.”
Now it was they that blew out their breath. This they hadn’t expected. Perhaps they were naïve.

“But what about money?”

“I’ll write a book.”

Damn. A partner might have meant income, security.

“Tell us you have a backup plan.”

🥕🥕🥕

There’s An Easy Button by D. Avery

“All right, Pal. I’m up. Whut’s goin’ on?”

“Shorty’s cut off.”

“At the pass?”

“The peninsula. Not only is Ranch HQ gittin’ buried in snow, Shorty’s had ta bury her computer- it up an’ died.”

“That’s dire.”

“Yep. So how kin we back her up?”

“Reckon all the buckaroos have her back. They’ve hung in, kep’ right on writin’.”

“Yep. I tell ya, Kid, when Shorty gits knocked down she sure gets write back up. I’m thinkin’ mebbe backup means payin’ it forward.”

“How da ya mean ‘pay’, Pal?”

“Really? Yer pushin’ my buttons, Kid.”

“Oh! PayPal. That’s easy.”

🥕🥕🥕

February 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

February 28 Flash Fiction ChallengeBut for the kindness of others, my car is unburied, and my accessibility to Carrot Ranch improved. The storms have not entirely passed.

Last year, we received almost 60 more inches of snow before we called it good for flowers to burst forth from receding drifts in yards and woods. And officially, my computer is dead. Her memory broken, unable to function.

Not a way any of us want to go.

Today, I’m gratefully tapping away on a loaner laptop. I’m adjusting to not having the speeds I’ve grown accustomed to, or having all my files arranged just so. I spent the last week feeling lost, following an unfortunate computer crash. Each failed fix left me brooding.

The blizzard that shut down our town (even snowmobiles got stuck) delayed the response from the only tech store we have. By then, a friend who works in IT offered to help, running diagnostics to pinpoint the actual problem. A rep who called me back said they probably couldn’t fix it or retrieve data, and they wouldn’t have new computers in stock until March 15 because of some Intel processing glitch.

Let’s pause a moment and discuss backup strategies.

Early on, I learned to back up my work as a professional. Not only did I write content for businesses, but I was also responsible for archiving it. As technology grew into the Information Age, archives grew into fierce beasts to manage. By 2010, we had servers to back up all our computers nightly. In 2012, I purchased an external hard drive for all my personal and professional work.

Today we have a myriad of choices to backup our writing files from hardware to digital clouds. However, nothing is failproof. In 2016, I carefully boxed up my physical portfolio into three large plastic tubs. In my previous move, I lost all my earlier writing to a nesting mouse, learning the value of plastic. I also lost my college writing because floppy disks became obsolete.

Thus we each need a Backup Strategy that fits our needs and resources.

WANTS & NEEDS

First, determine what is essential to preserve. Flag these files as needs. For me, it’s a single folder marked as NOVELS. Each individual novel has its own folder within the main one. Each revision has its own folder. And, each novel has its own research file filled with photos, links, articles, and notes. Finally, I backup each novel project from Scrivener (where I write and save every scrap of writing and revision in a “project” as well as arranging my research, character and setting notes on board).

That way, I have a single NEED TO SAVE folder called NOVELS. I have one folder to backup, which I did two days before my laptop crashed.

The rest of my files I want to save, but I won’t die if something catastrophic happens. Most of these are unessential archives. Some also exist in hard copy files (such as my editorial calendar, budget, and workshop materials). Other writing and genealogy research exists on other platforms. Photos are backed up automatically to Google, and now my new iPhone comes with iCloud storage for which I expanded for a nominal monthly fee.

HARD COPIES 

Photos, books, magazines, printouts or tearsheets (as we used to call evidence of publication back in the printing days) comprise most hard copies. These are the documents we often scan or have backed up digitally. I’m old school and keep way too many hard copies. In 2016, when I knew I had to pack up my office, I used the NEED vs. WANT system to prioritize what got scanned, placed in a plastic tub, or filed into a carrying case which I kept throughout my wandering adventures.

Don’t keep everything.

Think about who has to sort your stuff after you die. Seriously. I’m not trying to be morbid, but after helping my best friend sort her parents’ hoard after they died, I can tell you there is no joy in going through stuff they found sentimentally worthy. Then my best friend died, leaving the sorting unfinished along with her own items. Watching her grown children muck through an entire storage unit and cry over the burden of decisions, I decided I’d not do that to my own kids.

Hard as it may be, I use moves to confront the reality — what if I lost this document or item forever? Remember, NEEDS vs. WANTS. Sometimes you have to separate from things you want to keep but if they do not serve a purpose, toss. Question:

  1. Does it keep your portfolio relevant to next big goal?
  2. Does it serve a future purpose?
  3. Is it an heirloom someone else will appreciate?
  4. Is it essential to your writing?
  5. Is it valuable?

DIGITAL BACKUP

Having organized files is the first step toward a good backup plan. Every year, I make it a practice to archive files so I can minimize the number of documents I have to scroll through. At work, I used to sort data by quarters. It makes document sorting and relocation easier. Annual archiving works well. But what happens if your software or hardware fails?

You have many choices for backup:

  1. USB (or USB-c) drives, also known as “memory sticks”
  2. External hard drives for data (especially if you need large storage for high-resolution photos, videos or graphic design of book covers, advertising, etc.)
  3. Multiple computers (home, work, and laptop)
  4. Time Machine (an Apple product)
  5. Server used for networks (something not readily affordable for the home user)

Keep in mind these backups can fail, or technology can advance. Somehow I damaged my external hard drive storing it in a fireproof lockbox (it got damp). It is possible to retrieve the data, however but requires an expert technician. My floppy discs from college are obsolete, but again, an expert with the right equipment can retrieve the data if it felt like a need. My honors thesis was published at Carroll College and may be digitally scanned, something I never dreamed could happen 20 years ago!

Technology changes and technology fails. Keep your backups backed up.

THE CLOUD

Cloud service might seem practical, especially to younger generations who don’t recall life without the internet. It might feel suspicious to those of us who grew up reading about Big Brother. Certainly, it is convenient, much of it is free, and many reputable services offer extra storage. Here are links to learn more:

  1. Google Drive
  2. DropBox
  3. iCloud
  4. Microsoft One Drive
  5. Amazon (and you’re unlikely to use it, but know it exists because it might make a great plot twist in that thriller you’re writing).

The cloud can fail, too. Security and solvency remain two major issues.

Facing the vulnerability of our backups is like facing our mortality. Our writing, our art, our work won’t live forever. But while we yet breathe, we make art and we back it up best we can. Have a plan that fits your needs and assess it regularly.

My future computer is unknown. It kills me to think my Acer is gone. Her memory sits in a clunky piece of hardware on my desk marked with my name on a strip of blue tape. Her body rests on my printer, paining me each time I look at her. How it became her in death, I’m not sure, but she served me well. Until she up and quit on me. Bah…!

Meanwhile, I have a hardy little Dell to help see me through to what next. I’m considering going over to the dark apple.

Something to think about (me, and others considering a new laptop) — when my component failed, I learned it is soldered onto the mainboard. My tech friend explained this new practice to me, and Acer confirmed it. To replace the faulty piece, I’d have to buy an $875 board which is $25 less than the cost of my laptop.

If you are in the market for a laptop, ask if the model you are considering has a soldered board. If so, you might want to reconsider. Single components are easier and cheaper to replace. However, you would be best guided by a trusted IT person. Chromebooks are inexpensive, and MacBook Airs are dependable. I feel like a widow having to pick a new mate one week after the funeral. I just want my old love back.

Moving onto snow, we are still digging out but have had sunshine. Today, Mrs. H called in the serious snow removal equipment to deal with her blocked garage. Each time the loader backed up, a loud beep echoed throughout the neighborhood. The sound of progress. The sound of moving onward.

Up to a challenge? After you back up your writing, eh.

February 28, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the term backup. You can back up or have a backup, just go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 5, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Backup Work (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Mars sparkled overhead. Could Ike see their favorite constellations from his post in Iraq? Danni lit a lantern at the kitchen table. With the power out from the wind storm, she couldn’t access her computer files. Good thing her work included books and items found in the dirt. She poked at the latest sorting of glass globs. A fire, which locals claimed was the burning of the Rose Bud Inn during Prohibition. If so, Danni might have found its location. Tonight, she couldn’t back up her reports, but she could sift the remains of another era. Stories always surface.

Technology Pushes Back

Living in remote places I have experienced Internet difficulties, even piracy. But never before have I had devices fail, resulting in a communications blackout. As if I needed more evidence of impending apocalyptic doom, a winter blizzard of such ferocity hit the Keweenaw Peninsula it stunned even seasoned winter-hardy locals.

That bit of green? That’s all you can see of our garage in the photo. A sea of snow eight feet deep swells between us and neighbors. The wind howled through our street at 60 miles per hour, and at times we couldn’t see the house next door. Whiteout.

My story begins with the earlier blizzard, the one that blew in like streamers across the weather radar last Wednesday. The Hub had an appointment to evaluate his right hip, and we had to drive to Iron Mountain. The roads were choked with snow and the bad weather hit us after we left Keweenaw Bay.

The Hub said, “This is the longest stretch of 36 miles of anywhere.”

I understood what he meant. Each rise and fall of remote forested snowbound road looked like the last hill and it felt like we were stuck in some repeating time and distance loop. No houses. No towns. Just rise after snowy rise. For 36 miles.

By the time we got to Iron Mountain, the snow accumulated like suds overflowing a washer. We played 20 questions with the civilian doctor who ordered a new X-ray because the last one was over a year old. He asked, “Why aren’t you receiving treatment?” Don’t get me started.

Suffice to say, I’m on a letter writing campaign.

Driving to the hospital for X-rays delayed us and we returned to our car buried in three inches of snow suds. Everyone said it would be best if we stayed in town. The Hub disagreed and off we drove toward home. We stopped for a bite and the waitress reminded us we still had Keweenaw Bay and the Portage Waterway to navigate. Closer to Lake Superior, the snow thickens like Lady Lake’s velvet gown of white.

Once we left Chassel we could no longer see the road. If we veered toward the shoulder, headlights caught the wall of piled snow bern. Oncoming headlights gave fuller definition. But it was a total whiteout. We both felt relieved to see the lights of Houghton, cross the peninsula bridge and crawl up the deep snow ruts of Quincy Hill into Hancock.

We arrived only to get high centered and stuck in our driveway. Two hours later after shoveling, pushing, and getting the car out, we drove back down the hill to get gas for the snowblower. On the way we got slid into a snow bank. Rocking the car got us unstuck. Back home, we scooped and blew the drive and “trail of turds.” That’s the inglorious path to walk the dogs to do their business, which we bag.

Finally, I got to Carrot Ranch. VA days can be draining, but in a blizzard, it’s even more so. After my computer restarted three times, I closed down all my open tabs, programs and music to do a complete restart. It still continued to crash. Frustrated and tired, I went to bed, thinking I could better problem solve in the morning.

The next day, Radio Geek and Solar Man were home on a snow day because of the blizzard that was now just flurries. SM hopped on my computer to resolve the issue from the night before. All his fixed resulted in more crashing. I called the manufacturer and they walked me through other unsuccessful fixes. They advised a clean install of my operating system.

Pause a moment and ask, “When did I last save my writing?”

For me the answer was Monday. While working on my MFA application, I realized I hadn’t saved my novel folders since NaNoWriMo. I backup all my folders in one grand NOVELS file to DropBox. You can use iCloud, Google Drive, or an external hard drive. But do it!

Meanwhile the FedEx driver delivers our new phones. The Hub and I have limped along with a failing Motorola Android system for six months. An earlier system update depleted the battery. My phone became tethered. Even on our blizzard drive, it refused to charge in the car and at best I got intermittent use that day.

I was excited for the new iPhones but worried about the computer. I told the Hub we couldn’t go to the Verizon store until we got my operating system working. That meant more technology — I needed a 16GB USB and a different computer to download a new Windows 10.

Can I whine? Pretend I’m just wind moaning through eaves. But blast it I hate technology problems!

Thursday I posted a hopeful comment, giving enough time to reinstall Windows and return to Ranch duties. Friday before group with my warrior sisters, the install failed. A tech at Acer advised a different way but I had to go. The Hub had his group and afterward we went to his orthopedic because his knee swelled following a Synvix gel shot last week. By late afternoon we headed into Verizon.

Two hours later, the Verizon techs understood my utter frustration with the Motorola as it kept dying every time they tried to transfer files. They finally figured out how to manage it while keeping it plugged in. The Hub satin a cushioned bench and played with his new phone. I couldn’t figure out how to turn mine on. We knew a storm was coming over the weekend so we went grocery shopping.

Saturday spit snow, nothing major. Acer techs were unavailable and I couldn’t figure out my new phone. We cooked and watched a new show called The Umbrella Academy. Sunday the blizzard arrived and we continued to hunker down.

Mid afternoon I attempted to take out one of the dogs only to discover the front door snowed in. The back deck is a dog backup and that door opens inward and revealed two feet of snow. The winds howled and the dog shook her head. None of the dogs wanted to go out. The snow got so deep it consumed our car and filled up the piles between houses, covering garages and first story floors. It’s claustrophobic.

Today the kids and Hub dug out. The entire community dug out and neighbors and friends helped each other. I couldn’t get a live person at Acer and none of the tech shops in town were open. On a hopeful note, I figured out my phone, installed apps including this one for Word Press. I tried to get word out that I was okay, just having technology challenges instead of flash fiction ones.

After snow mountain moving, clearing roofs, and recovering vehicles, one of SM’s friends, an IT tech offered to look at my computer. He thinks it’s the hard drive not the operating system. He offered to rescue my documents and photos (because I save my novels, not the rest). He said he’d run a diagnostic on it too but he’s certain the computer is fried.

And I’m as wiped as it’s going to be.

What to do? I’m pecking this post on my phone. I don’t know how I collect stories on my phone. It would be time consuming.

For now, let’s play an intermittent game, after all, the challenges are about play and keeping creatively connected every week. This won’t be an official challenge so no compilation. But play along — write, read what you have time for and comment on what stirs you. Those are the three pillars of literary art.

Right now, I can’t shake that feeling of morbid curiosity — what would it be like to get buried in snow. The way that blizzard filled space was phenomenal. We have no way to stop such snow.

INTERMITTENT CHALLENGE: in 99 words, no more, no less, write a story about “buried in the snow.”

*Note that there will not be a compilation for this challenge while technology gets sorted. And forgive any typos I might have pecked out on my phone.

My sad and lonely desk without my laptop:

Grains of Snow (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni rolled a towel against the draft at the back door. North winds blew straight lines off the ridge, piling snow at her back door. Snow slid off the metal roof creating a wall. By morning her porch was tunneled in snow. Danni stood at the back door staring at a wall of white. Bubbie whimpered and pranced like a kid who had to pee, but G-Dog wasted no time in lifting a leg. Buried in snow, he’d add to it yellow streaks. Danni scowled and grabbed the grain shovel. It was her preferred weapon against winter burials.

February 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s February 14, and I find much to love today. I can imagine that the invisible warm winds lapping at the coast of snow outside my stoop conform to aerodynamic heart-shapes. Why not? The wind is unseen so I can pick how to see it in my mind. Hearts float by and surround me in such an imaginative construct.

Today, I met a Nigerian Prince, and I loved so much about our encounter. He didn’t say he was a prince, but by his demeanor and broad smile I couldn’t help but think he was. The local Rotary Chapter invited me to speak at their weekly luncheon. Not one to miss an opportunity to read and tell stories, I accepted the invitation to be their guest. That’s where I met the Prince.

He wore cloth not from the US — it looked thicker, and held a linen-like weave. It was dark blue, almost like a midnight sky when a full moon casts enough light to give color. Small dots of cream decorated the Prince’s matching shirt and pants. He dressed handsomely and spoke eloquently. Suddenly, I loved Nigerian language. It occurs to me in afterthought that I should have asked him to speak his native tongue.

The Prince spoke clear English, but I noticed he rounded his sounds as if his mouth were an instrument. It made me think how sacred oral communication is, how as people, we take great care to shape sounds into words to give meaning to what we feel inside. And what is that exactly? What is this tug to love so many things — people, ideas, stories, exchanges? Literary art feeds on this impulse of expression.

Mostly, I loved the Prince because he appreciated my stories. Isn’t that the simplest of love stories? He approached with great care and asked if I had my words down in something he could carry. A book. But think about that a minute, because that’s where I’ve been languishing all day, believing heart-shaped wind caresses my snow into melting. He asked to carry my stories back with him. Back to Nigeria.

How could I refuse such a request? Yes, I gave him a copy of Vol. 1, and he requested I write something in it just for him. I’ve not felt so revered as I did with the Prince. Of course, that’s why I thought he had to be royalty. He was magnificent. Further, he told me a story about how he and his friends collect books and how hard it is to take all the volumes back to his country because of weight limits. Image that Nigeria is a place where literacy is so valued that when you return, you try to haul back as many books as you can!

Although I’m less enamored with children, I did love the ones who came with their parents today (something about a half school day). They all wanted to listen to the writer. One listened intently. I could see her listening with her eyes, creating images of the stories her grandmother told at my lunch table. That woman was one to love — a natural-born storyteller who announced to me as she left that she was going to declare herself a buckaroo, too!

How about that? I found a kindred-buckaroo-spirit in the Keweenaw. She and her granddaughter would have understood if I had whispered to them that the winds were blowing hearts today.

During my talk, I read. I love the privilege of working at Carrot Ranch among such talented, tenacious, and courageous writers. Fellow literary artists. I read a few stories from Vol. 1. I read a trio of Copper Country stories for Vol. 2. The audience marveled at the power of 99-word flash and the scope of where writers come from around the world. I love watching people connect with the stories. There’s nothing quite like reading aloud literary art and watching it grab ahold of listeners.

When I talk to audiences, I make sure I know who they are — business or civic-minded, students, or casual listeners looking to be entertained. I select stories to stir their hearts and prod their minds. I have my own 99-word stories I read, and a few I share from my storytelling tradition. Today, I asked for a volunteer to join me up front to hold my hand. I swear I don’t gnash my teeth at people, but you’d think I went feral at the uncomfortable silence that ensued.

I love that uncomfortable silence.

That’s the space where humanity happens. If we are comfortable, then we are walled up, everyone happily co-existing in boundaries. I want to break down walls. I want to risk discomfort, which is the point of my request. The man from the back who braved stepping forward let me hold his hand. It’s not the story I tell that alters the audience. It’s the understanding that shifts their hearts.

Holding the man’s hand, I relate a story once gifted to me by a Kentucky storyteller who once spoke at Carroll College when I was a student. She had asked for my hand and told me about the time her grandfather died. Before he passed, he asked for her hand. She was eight-years-old, and he told her that when he was that age, he met a man who fought in the Civil War. He held a rifle in his hands and battled cousin against cousin. He was old, but held the boy’s hand and said: “Don’t forget — you once held the hand of a man who fought in the Civil War.”

The boy grew up, raised a family, and as an old man on his deathbed, he passed down the story to his granddaughter, holding her hand. He said, “You’ve now held the hand of a man who held the hand of one who fought in the Civil War.”

And yes, I passed this down to a man in the Keweenaw Rotary Club today. I told him, “You held the hand of a woman who held the hand of the granddaughter of the man who held the hand of one who fought in the Civil War.” It gets long-winded, lots of hand-holding as the story grows, but they all got it. And I loved that moment of recognition. That moment when stories express the humanity of one to the humanity of others. That’s literary art. And that’s why we practice and put our stories out there.

We talked about collecting stories, about being story-catchers for the Rotary, their businesses, families, and life. I gave them my Lego bucket analogy for gathering 99-word stories. The kids all knew what we do with Legos — we build. One member asked if Carrot Ranch was my business. No, I told her. It’s my author platform, and I share it with a community. I explained how authors need to work simultaneously on three strategies — writing (drafting, revising, editing), platform building, and publishing. I told her that I also loved the interaction with other writers and the chance to create literary art as I work on longer projects.

I closed with this 99-word story I wrote for one of the Rodeo contests in 2017. I think. Sometimes, I realize I’m not a good curator of my own writing as I wildly sow seeds and then try to gather them up in some sort of organization. I don’t always pick the same stories to share, but I love this one so I will share it now (perhaps, again):

When I Grow Up, I Just Want to Be Happy by Charli Mills

I’m six-years-old and have told a lie. “Mom said I could go home with Mitch.” I leave school early with my cousin and our grandfather.

Mitch is Underdog to my Polly Purebread fears. He’s my hero. My pulse doesn’t flutter like a swallowed bird in my throat when we’re together. We pedal bikes through the apricot orchards, watch cartoons, roam turkey barns, climb baled haystacks.

Our grandfather catches me in the lie when my mother panics, not finding me at school. “Always tell the truth,” he chastises us.

My cousin does. He becomes a cop.

Me; I write fiction.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m happy. In Finland, they greet, “Hyvää Ystävänpaivää!” Don’t ask me how to say it; I can hardly understand the English of Yoopers who shape their mouths and perform tongue gymnastics differently from my Nigerian Prince and me. But it means, “Happy Friendship Day!” And I love that. Love among friends, palentines for pals, love for life, humanity and art is so much broader than steak-and-lobster-for-two kind of love. Although, I do love steak and lobster.

A few household details — remember to include your story on the form, not just a link to your story. A link makes me work differently, kind of like I have to get off my horse to go take care of a chore that I asked a rancher to do. If you were my kids, I’d give you that “look.” And kudos to all of you who are getting into the mash-up vibe (combining constraints). I love that creative energy! But remember that this challenge is more than a prompt — it’s 99-words, no more, no less. Otherwise, you know the deal — go where the prompt lead!

Go spread love. Write. Make art.

February 14, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about valentines. It can be Valentine’s Day, the exchange, love for another, romance, or friendship. Have a heart and go where the prompt leads!

Respond by February 19, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Be Mine (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

No Valentine’s Day card greeted Danni in the mailbox. Only an official Veterans Affairs mailer. She flipped on houselights, contemplating cold leftovers. She’d rather be wining and dining Ike, but he was in Iraq. Her landline rang.

“Hey, Michael.”

“What’s up? Hear from Ike?”

“No. just something from the VA.” Danni opened the envelop as Michael told her the latest from the Canadian border – nothing. “Oh, wow. This letter rates Ike for PTSD.”

Silence.

“Michael?”

“Are you going to leave him?” Michael asked.

“Are you going to dump your friend?”

“Hell no!”

“That’s my answer. He’ll always be mine.”

Signs

Signs are all around us. They guide our roads, mark our territories, and give us direction. Some signs are as blunt as a red octagon declaring stop, and others urge us forward as signs we interpret.

Without a map, writers followed where the signs led them. Signs — and stories about them — are as diverse as the paths to get there. Where? Well, read on and find out.

The following are based on the February 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign.

PART I (10-minute read)

Mourning by Sascha Darlington

So much pain.

I became mean, tired, despondent. I pushed. I shoved. Told everyone to leave.

They did.

Through day and night, I existed, feet scuffling as I sleepwalked through life, uncomprehending light or dark or winter or spring until I blinked awake, teary, pillow sodden, a scratching on the back-door reverberating through the house.

I willed the sound away. I had power: I willed people away. I could will this away. Yet, it continued.

Opening the door, I saw your brown eyes gazing from a dog’s face, a dog with your joie de vivre, who invited himself in.

🥕🥕🥕

Part I: For Sale (True Love) by Tracey

‘For Sale’. The sign had been in front of the colonial with the lovely porch for months. This cold February morning there was a second sign: ‘Open House’.

She walked slowly through the entire house: gleaming woodwork, an eat-in kitchen with a bay window looking over the backyard, a claw foot tub. It was too perfect. Her heart shouted she was home.

She felt herself start to tremble as she took the flyer from the real estate agent and glanced at the price. “I’ll take it” she heard herself say as her head chimed in to match her heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Part II: Stop Sign (Also True Love) by Tracey

One balmy evening I sat on my front porch watching the fireflies appear in the gloaming. A woman ran the stop sign at the corner and hit another car. A low impact crash: crumpled metal and shattered plastic bits but no one hurt.

She must have lived nearby, her husband arrived quickly. The first thing he did was ask if she was hurt. She started to cry and said, “I am so stupid.” Her husband replied, “I know you are but I need to know you are okay first.” I laughed softly in the growing darkness. Well, wouldn’t you?

🥕🥕🥕

Ominous Signs by Norah Colvin

Every day, the farmers scanned the skies for a sign, any sign, that a reprieve from the relentless drought was on its way. The dusty red soil yielded not a single blade of feed for the suffering stock. Bales of hay, donated by city folk, helped but soon it too would be gone. When the rains finally came, the farmers rejoiced. For four days it rained; beautiful, drenching, life-giving rains, soaked up by the thirsty soil. But it wouldn’t stop. It transformed their world into an enormous, red, muddy sea. Hopes drowned alongside precious stock leaving heartbreak and devastation.

🥕🥕🥕

Paper Boats in the Monsoon by Trailblazer

A delayed child, who never spoke, giggles to herself.
Everyone except me thinks she is defective. None in that big, rich family cared.
Somehow she knew I appreciated her. She hugs my gifts and giggles.

I visited her last monsoon. She was playing with paper boats in puddles of water. She appeared angelic.

A fallen coconut, her port. Boats named in an unknown script. Suddenly she spoke a peculiar language fluently.
The signs were good enough, she was an angel.
She hugged the pink sweater gift and giggled.

A month later saw her lifeless body wearing that pink sweater.

🥕🥕🥕

The Universe Isn’t Interested by Anne Goodwin

A white P against a blue background: Janice was almost level with the sign when she swung the wheel and shunted into the layby. A horn blared as a truck sped past.

Silencing the engine, she clambered out onto the verge. Shaking both fists, she dropped her jaw and screamed.

Traffic roared by, indifferent. The slate fellside frowned as it had done for millennia. A small copper danced from daisy to dandelion, oblivious.

Her throat remained raw from their argument. Was love as ephemeral as that butterfly or would theirs emerge resplendent from this ice age, like the land?

🥕🥕🥕

Sign in the Wilderness by Deborah Lee

“What’s wrong?” Henry asks.

Jane feels herself, ridiculously, wobbling a bit, and forces equilibrium back. “Nothing, really, just about the strongest déjà vu I’ve ever had.”

“I read somewhere,” Henry says comfortably, “some guru somebody, that déjà vu is a spiritual sign that you’re doing everything you’re supposed to, right where you’re supposed to be.”

“So, me being unable to find a job or have a roof over my head is a milestone? If the powers that be are going to send a big ‘YOU ARE HERE’ sign, it’d be nice if they’d also tell me where HERE is!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Dream by Colleen M. Chesebro

It began with a dream so real that I woke up on the hard floor beside my bed. My first thought was that the ancestors were trying to tell me something. They often spoke with signs, like the day I found a feather on the ground where no birds tarried or how the wind caressed my face a certain way.

Sometimes, they spoke by invoking a change in the weather, such as when the clouds blocked out the sun leaving a coldness behind. Then, the ancestors spoke to me through the shadows. And, when the ancestors spoke, I listened.

🥕🥕🥕

The Unreasonable Age of Reasoning by JulesPaige

The young man was an excellent manipulator. He wanted to do things his way, when he wanted to. Normal inquisitiveness was rewarded. He liked that. When he had to do things he didn’t want to, there was trouble. The Elementary School inadvertently gave him a sign that allowed him to get the upper hand. The ‘sign’ he was labeled with was ‘anger management issues’. And he was going to use it to get his way, when ever he could.

There were some adults who still possessed common sense. And he would have to learn to behave when around them.

🥕🥕🥕

The Recycling Centre by Sally Cronin

Having followed the signs to the centre, she stood in line. It was almost time to relinquish the baggage she dragged behind her. It contained items representing her life, the good, bad and ugly. Admittedly there had been much love and laughter mixed with the heartache. However, the invitation to recycle unwanted items offered a new start.

Holding out the suitcase to the man she hesitated. ‘Can I remove some things?’

‘Sorry ’, he smiled kindly. ‘It’s all or nothing.’

Loading the bag into the car, it seemed lighter than when she arrived, despite choosing to keep it all.

🥕🥕🥕

Signs, A Dyslexic’s Guide by Geoff Le Pard

‘It must be a sign, Logan.’

‘It’s a cloud, Morgan.’

‘No, but it’s like an Arrow and that means love, so she…’

‘Love?’

‘Love’s Winged Arrow. Eros.’

‘More like a straw and you’re clutching it.’

‘Ha bloody ha. My mum saw a cloud like a face once and next day she found she was pregnant.’

‘She had to be pregnant already.’

‘True. And she said it looked like a frog.’

‘Are all your family into signs?’

‘Gran’s not. She thought she was going to a book singing. Very disappointed when she just got a scrawl and Cliff Richard’s autobiography.’

🥕🥕🥕

Sign by Chesea Owens

A simple man, though good and kind
Went walking down the sidewalk line
And saw a simple womankind.
He thought, She looks, to me, quite fine.
Meanwhilst, she glanced in mirrored shrine;
Of café window, ‘neath a sign
And told herself she was quite pline;
Till, seeing, side and just behind
Our simple man, in quite the bind.
Then, from his cellphone, played a chime:
‘Twas evening of Day Valentine.
She smiled, asked, “You have the time?”
He smiled, too; said, “Not yet nine.
Would you,” he paused, “Want to be mine
For supper, now it’s time to dine?”

🥕🥕🥕

Sign in a Dream by Susan Zutautas

Valentine’s Day was almost here. Meg was excited as Ian was planning a romantic dinner for two at his place. She loved a man that would cook for her.

The night before the big day Meg had a dream of her mother playing a church organ. When she awoke, she thought it was strange. Seldom did she dream of her. Meg put it out of her mind.

When she got to Ian’s he asked her to sit while he played the piano. The song he played and sang was Marry Me. Meg cried, “Yes, yes, of course, I will!”

🥕🥕🥕

Final Answer by Jo Hawk

It’s the question I’ve been asking since we met. I can’t tell if you care or if you tease. With you the day is light or else it’s black. Your words can bring me to my knees. Give me a sign to let me know.

My friends say I should live my life, stop this endless strife, and find myself another wife. I want a single word from you, the reason to endure to the end of time. Please give me a sign and let me know.

Tonight, I found you gone, and at last, I read your sign.

🥕🥕🥕

Ocean City by Kay Kingsley

Her life was boring and she knew it. Several times she tried engaging but felt it was like trying to merge onto a freeway from a stopped position so she eventually gave up and gave in. This would be her life.

That was until she noticed the interstate sign that read, “Ocean City, MD 3,073 miles”.

Passing it on her daily commute, she looked forward to it, had to see it. It called to her.

So with her suitcase in tow, she called in sick, driving east towards the rising sun in Ocean City where her destiny awaited her.

🥕🥕🥕

Not a Brag – A Reality by Susan Sleggs

On the Riverside Hotel lobby wall there was a big, bold sign; Our bartender Carlton is the best in the US. We took our luggage to the room, freshened up and went to the lounge; curious. With our first order Carlton asked our names and hometown and didn’t forget. He asked other guests the same then introduced everyone to everyone else. We had a fun evening with what felt like old friends. We left an exorbitant tip, sad we couldn’t stay another night. We still talk about Carlton, wonder how much money he makes, and if he’s still there.

🥕🥕🥕

Chester Needs a Woman to Tell Him Where to Go by Molly Stevens

“You want me to help navigate? I’ve got google maps open on my phone,” said Ruth.

“Nope. I’ve driven to Worcester so many times, I know how to get there better than one of them apps,” said Chester.

“But it’s been a long time since you’ve driven this route.”

“Don’t worry. I can get us there without a woman tellin’ me where to go.”

“Suit yourself,” said Ruth. “I guess I’ll take a nap.”

“Woman, how’d you let me miss the exit sign for Worcester!”

Startled awake, Ruth sputtered, “I’d be happy to tell you where to go now.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Sign by Allison Maruska

I dash up the street, my young son’s hand in mine. We weave through the crowd, bumping into a lumbering old man and a child picking something sticky off the pavement.

“Mommy! Slow down!”

I don’t. I know what slowing down means, even if my boy of three doesn’t.

There’s an open store on the corner. A tourist shop selling postcards, plastic jewelry, and native blankets from Mexico. As I yank on the handle, I see the depressing sign: Restroom is for customers only.

“Mommy, I gotta go!”

Guess I’ll be adding a pack of gum to my supply.

🥕🥕🥕

Have a Great Fall by D. Avery

“Mom, I’m going to Tommy’s.”

“Destiny looks uncomfortable driving that Tonka bulldozer. And what’s that sign she’s holding? What are you two up to now?”

“We’re gonna protest. Tommy and his GI Joe built a humpty-trumpty wall out of snow.”

“Marlie, I’m sure GI Joe is just following Executive orders.”

“That’s what Tommy said. But I don’t like walls like that.”

“It’s cold out. Wear this hat.”

“Tommy’s dad does not like this hat. At all.”

“I know. Here. I made a little one just like it for Destiny. And here’s one for GI Joe too.”

“Awesome! Thanks mom!”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Sign by Ann Edall-Robson

I need to keep moving. Safety is somewhere on the other side of the creek. The sound of running water tells me the ice is failing in the spring-like weather.

Animal sign is everywhere along the creek bank. Elk, wolf, deer, bear, and coyote, their calling cards at my feet. Tracks disappear like ghosts into the willows. A constant reminder I am not alone here. I must be vigilant of my surroundings and the sounds unfitted by the wind.

I hear them. Their voices put me on full alert. Will the ice hold? I have to chance it.

🥕🥕🥕

The Archeri by The Dark Netizen

The two boys stared wide eyed at the holstered silver gun.

It was huge. Even though they had no experience with guns other than video games, this weapon looked like no ordinary person could wield it. Not that Perseus looked like an ordinary person, either. Gary turned towards Billy.

“What is an Acheri?”

“Well, its a monster that preys on those who show fear. That’s why it tries to strike terror into its victims’ hearts, before attacking and capturing them.”

Perseus suddenly got up.

“The fog is thickening. A sure sign that the Acheri is there. Time to hunt.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Black Arrow by Joanne Fisher

Aalen found herself in a thicket. Coming into a clearing she found two dead bodies before her. Both human soldiers dressed in similar garb to the ones she killed on the borders of her land. Probably scouts of some kind. One had an arrow through his throat, while the other had one through the right eye. Pinpoint accuracy. Both arrows were painted black. She was unaware of anyone who did this. The fact that someone else was also hunting the soldiers Aalen took as a sign she was doing the right thing. Somewhere out there she had an ally.

🥕🥕🥕

Signs by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

They had missed the signs completely. By the time the cause of Aron’s increasingly hyperactive, excitable and erratic behaviour had become clear, it was too late to save him.

Mary berated herself. She had been so foolish. When the squirrel bit Aron, he had come straight to her for help. His eyes were shiny with panic as his numerous fears for his health overwhelmed him. His hysterical ravings had irritated her so much that she had not considered the possibility of rabies.  Now he was dead and he had taken some of their friends with him to the grave.

🥕🥕🥕

A Sincere Sign by calmkate

I saw a sign that said it all

my heart and soul it did call

a reasonable warning far and wide

to meet our needs and not imbibe

in every desire as it arises

accumulation compromises

turning life into real fear

as others try to draw near

seeking a share of perceived wealth

it haunts endangering our health

much easier to live within our means

brings content, avoids unholy scenes

greed breeds envy and that eats away

as on our sanity and calm it will play

for restful sleep and peace of mind

be wary greed and envy blind!

🥕🥕🥕

Megan by Nobbinmaug

Megan lost interest in the things she used to love. Simple pleasures eluded her. She started sleeping more and found she couldn’t concentrate. She avoided her reflection. She became more reserved and withdrawn.

She asked for help in subtle ways. She made multiple attempts to talk to friends, but nobody understood. They thought she was being dramatic. Friends started avoiding her. So, she buried her feelings deep down inside and tried to play it off like everything was fine.

One day, her sister found Megan in a bathtub full of blood. Nobody took the time to read the signs.

🥕🥕🥕

Seized by Kerry E.B. Black

The sisters joined hands and confronted a red word on bone-white metal. Seized.

Freya trembled. Although she didn’t understand the word, she dreaded. “What’s it mean, Miriam?”

Miriam peered around the police tape. Inside the simple building, officers snapped photos, placed belongings into boxes, and recorded the contents on paper taped to the outside.

Like ants, officers conveyed family art into the back of trucks. Books crackled from a side yard bonfire.

Tears slid beneath Miriam’s glasses. “It means we’ve lost everything.”

Freya pulled Miriam into the shadows. “No, not everything.” She squeezed Miriam’s hand. “We have each other.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Sign by Michele Jones

Again. Another beating, more destruction. Allie dropped to the corner and covered her face with her arms. “Please don’t hit me. I’ll do better. I promise.”

“You better have this place clean before I get back.” He left, slamming the door behind him sign falling to the floor. Worst sign ever.

Tears flowed down her cheeks. It was time. Allie ran out with only what she could shove in her backpack, and her cell. She couldn’t risk getting caught by him. The rain pelted her face as she ran through the streets, but she was free. Away from him.

🥕🥕🥕

Actions Speak Louder Than Words (A Sign) by Andes Cruz

When he stopped replying to my messages… it was a sign. When he left without a trace, it was a sign. When he didn’t skulk back and wish me a happy Holiday, new years, or birthday – it was a sign. When he didn’t get upset I ignored his birthday, also a sign. And when he didn’t show up to our long ago planned Valentines Day private party for one, it was a sign.

I refused to listen, I willed it not to be true.
But it was.
He was gone.
And there was nothing I could do about it.

🥕🥕🥕

Quite the Sign by Teresa Grabs

They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, but Jasmine never bought into that. Linda continued blabbering about her latest opportunity. She sipped her coffee and nodded at the right times but wasn’t listening at all.

“Lin, you know I love ya, but it’s a scam. I hope you didn’t pay anything.”

Linda was taken aback. “If you were a real friend.”

Jasmine sighed as Linda stormed out of the shop.

Moments later, Linda returned silently to the table. She handed Jasmine her buy-in check. “If that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.”

“What?”

“The police just arrested the owner.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sign by Pete Fanning

The biggest news in Maycomb that summer was the giant STORE CLOSING banner out front at Sweeney’s. Mom nearly cried. She and Dad had gone to high school with the butcher and two of the cashiers. Dad shrugged it off, WalMart was cheaper anyhow.

I didn’t get why Mom was so worked up. It was just a tiny grocery store. A few years back, the first S had gone out in the SWEENEY’S sign out front and I’d thought it was the funniest thing ever. It had been fixed, but the S still shined brighter than the other letters.

🥕🥕🥕

A Sign: Off the Times by Bill Engleson

“Did you hear that?” she asked.

“What?”

“What he just said?”

“Who?”

“Trump. In that news clip from the Prayer breakfast.”

“Seriously? No. I’ve stopped listening to him. I told you before, I’ve reached my gibberish quotient.”

“This was new. Like it was there…flitting about in his brain…and then, whoosh, it came out. Like a popped pimple. Like it’s a sign of what’s coming.

“Okay. I’ll bite. What was it?”

“He said ‘one of our greatest strides…the abolition of civil rights.’”

“Nah! Even he…”

“Even he…what?”

“Wouldn’t…”

“It’s Trump, remember.”

“Well, when you put it that way. Holy moly!”

🥕🥕🥕

Sign by Floridaborne

Let’s play a game.

Assign each letter a number from 1 to 9.

My name is Joelle LeGendre.

My #’s are   165335 35755495

I’ll make up what this means

1  lucky in love

2  total failure

3  your artistic work will be a success

4  keep your family together

5  Change jobs

6  Take the plunge

7  You need a vacation

8  Future entrepreneur

9  Pursue the 3rd goal on your list

Added together, my single digit total is 3.

Yay!  My book is going to be a success!

Um…which one?  I asked for a sign, not a puzzle!

🥕🥕🥕

Boundary by Abhijit Ray

Like every weekend, Radhika and Yatin were out with their cycling club members this saturday. That is when they noticed the board “Private Property, Keep Out.”

“What are they are hiding?” asked Yatin, “why they want everyone out?”

“They are protecting their personal space,” said Radhika, “what’s your problem?”

“Problem is homophobia; obviously, they can’t keep out air, light, birds and animals,” retorted Yatin, “they are against humans.”

“Now you are being facetious!”

“Sure, you would know,” said Yatin sarcastically,” you own one such board!”

“What do you mean?”

“How many men you dated, since your last break up?”

🥕🥕🥕

Sign, Sign Everywhere a Sign by Nancy Brady

Julie was frequently seen walking around town, which was one perk to living where she did. It could be hazardous because drivers didn’t pay much attention to pedestrians despite the recently changed street layout.

Suddenly, there were three red octagonal markers where there had been none, demanding each car to stop before proceeding. Most drivers, however, just slid around the corner unless there was another car at the three-sided intersection.

Julie experienced many close calls in that crosswalk as cars zipped by. Fed up, she made and put up three strategically placed signs: “IT’S NOT A SUGGESTION: STOP AHEAD.”

🥕🥕🥕

Is This Clear Enough for You? by Di @ pensitivity101

All that was left were his boots and a bloodied foot.

His family were up in arms and blamed the owner for their kin’s demise.

‘There are signs!’ he shouted. ‘They’re not there for show. They’re warnings. It’s not my fault if you lot don’t take any notice!’

‘They don’t explain the dangers when perhaps they should.’

‘You’re trespassing! I don’t have to give you the willy nilly and whys and wherefores why you’ve got to keep out!’

‘They’re inadequate!’

He sighed.

‘OK. I’ll change them.’

The following day, newly erected signs read

“Warning: Bears. Trespassers will be eaten.”

🥕🥕🥕

Why Did I Get Up by Ritu Bhathal

Nina dragged herself to sitting position. Why did the alarm have to go off?

She swung her feet out of bed and one landed on a squidgy mess.

Great.

The cat had been eating silly things, and deposited his sick at her bedside.

The shower was no better. Her flatmate had used up all the hot water.

Even her morning coffee was blighted with the fact there was no milk left.

After three hours of sitting on a bus, trying to reach her workplace, Nina gave up.

All signs that she should just have stayed in bed this morning.

🥕🥕🥕

Cure for Cabin Fever by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Crystal bottles stood before her, hip shot in relaxed groups. Scented soldiers, they had no expectation they’d be called to order; Treena preferred sweatpants to skinny jeans, books to bodies grinding on a dance floor.

She glanced out at last night’s blizzard draped like predatory animals on nude tree branches, the streets below slick and frozen. Lifting bottles to the setting sun, Treena discarded each in a straight line until a sea-green bottle caught the light.

She sniffed. “That’s it!”

Spritzing the air, she stepped into the fragrant mist, “Enough cabin fever.”

Treena headed out into her personal Spring.

🥕🥕🥕

Sightseeing – Kyoto, Japan by Miriam Hurdle

“We arrived at Mount Arashiyama. Let’s get off the bus here.”

“Where do we go, Carl?”

“Follow the sign to the Iwatayama Monkey Park.”

“The sign points to the top of the mountain.”

“We’re at the right place, Gail.”

“Oh, the climb is steep, I’m out of breath.”

“There must be a reason to have so many benches on the way.”

“I can see the monkeys and many Park keepers now.”

“The view of Kyoto is spectacular from here.”

“What are the monkeys doing? Do they have lice?”

“No, they’re grooming each other as part of the social interaction.”

🥕🥕🥕

Reflected Glory by Anurag Bakhshi

“Do you see this certificate?” I asked.

“Of course,” pat came the reply, “I can see everything.”

I was positively gloating as I posed my follow-up question, “Can you read the sign at the end?”

There was just a hint of trepidation, and hesitation, in the response, “Yes, but…”

“You can’t get away with your ifs and buts this time, my dear,” I exclaimed, going in for the kill, “This certificate by the Guinness Book of World Records clearly states that I am the fairest of them all. They should know better than a stupid old mirror, shouldn’t they?”

🥕🥕🥕

PART III (5-minute read)

Squanto by D. Avery

Massasoit keeps me close; he does not trust me who has been carried back and forth by the giant birds, which have been preying along the coast.

I learned the words of the English in their country. The giant birds are ships. After five springs I followed the sun back to my country in ships, finally returning to Pawtuxet where chill winds rattled through empty fields littered with the untended bones of my people.

Another ship has come. English families are building in Pawtuxet. Massasoit gathered the shamans in the swamp, looking for a sign.

These are uncertain times.

🥕🥕🥕

Alabama Highway by H.R.R. Gorman

Trees, killed and cut, lined both sides of the road. The road, as far as Stomping Beaver knew, hadn’t been there a week ago. The white army might as well have posted a sign mentioning their intent.

“They move fast.” His teenage son tossed a few twigs.

“Faster now they’ve built this road.” Stomping Beaver removed his shoulder bag and tucked it beneath one of the felled logs. “Stay here. Have my food – this bag will only slow me down.”

He’d be too late. The road was several days old, and the fort was only two days march away.

🥕🥕🥕

A Drive Back in Time (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Ramona looked for the sign, the one that read Elmira. Snow pelted her windshield with a mesmerizing kaleidoscope that Vic called whiteout fever. She ignored it the way her husband said to, and instead followed the tracks in the snow. Ramona startled when her headlights caught the township sign. Why were the mill lights out? So dark! She slowed and pulled into her driveway where someone was plowing the easement. Vic, her husband. The power must be out. She waved and blew him a kiss. Silly man. What was he up to, calling a young thing like her, “Grandma”?

🥕🥕🥕

Country Music by TN Kerr

The sign on the door read, “The Unwritten Halibut”. She stood just inside waiting for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. This was her kind of place. It was a drinker’s bar. Dark paneling lined the walls; a couple of neon beer signs glowed in the back. A ghost of smoke held up the ceiling in defiance of a local ban. Rainbow colored bottles sat on glass shelves and four or five patrons rested at the bar; staring into their drinks, not talking. The volume was low as Hank Williams sang a hard luck song on the box.

🥕🥕🥕

The Thing by John Rieber

He noticed the sign for the first time just a few miles from “The Thing.” The billboard was gaudy; it showed a diminutive character with a large top hat and a shocked expression and asked “can you handle the shocking surprise of “The Thing?” He was hooked. When he saw the roadside attraction, he pulled over and fished in his pocket for the $1 entrance fee. As he entered the musty building, his final destination was the last thing on his mind. Perhaps the money would be there, perhaps not. It was only $1-million, so it almost didn’t matter.

🥕🥕🥕

Signs – A Remarkable Conversation by Gordon Le Pard

He knew how it would be, it wasn’t that people were unkind but for someone profoundly deaf there was little he could enjoy in a party like this.

The guests were introduced, he smiled, was about to sit down and read, when the last woman smiled back and flicked her fingers.

“Good afternoon?” She signed, “what is the book?”

For the first time in years he sat and enjoyed a conversation. She certainly knew her books, and suggested many things he could read. As she rose to leave he asked.

“Have you ever written anything?”

“Perhaps.” Signed Jane Austen

Author’s Note: This tale is absolutely true, the meeting took place in Southampton on December 27th 1808.

🥕🥕🥕

The Forest by Saifun Hassam

For the umpteenth time, Carmen questioned her wisdom in exploring the ancient Petrified Forest. Its fallen trees were part of a living forest some 200 million years ago. The sediments also contained fossils of ferns and ginkgo, reptiles and dinosaurs.

As a botanist, Carmen was curious about the origins and evolution of all plant life. Still, this forest unnerved her with its eroded cliffs and vast sandy tracts. What signs of past geologic and climactic changes lay hidden deep beneath the colorful sediments? To learn any of that would require the utmost care: the forest was unique, beyond replacement.

🥕🥕🥕

California Stop by TedBook

“Ethel!”, screams Cheryl.

“What?”

“You didn’t stop!”

“Didn’t stop?”

“At the corner, no stop.”

“Yes I did, I always stop at stop signs.”

“No, you were rolling, that doesn’t count as a stop. And the sign says stop.”

“Oh for God’s sake, Cheryl, don’t be so picky. That was enough of a stop. You never yell at Betty when she drives.”

“That’s because Betty always stops at signs. You made a California stop.”

“What are you talking about, we’re in Chicago?”

“That’s what they call a rolling stop. You rolled.”

Ethel sighs as she rolls thru the next stop.

🥕🥕🥕

Beware! by Anita Dawes

Yesterday I visited our Farmer’s Market

where I noticed an old man wearing a sign

Beware! God is around every corner!

So from now on, I am going to walk a straight line

I have no wish to bump into God.

I’m sure he’s looking for me.

Probably has a tin full of sins with my name on.

The worst one I can think of is using His name in vain

“Oh God.” comes out of my mouth at least a dozen times a day.

I’m not saying it’s easy to keep on a straight path.

Corners are everywhere…

🥕🥕🥕

Signed On by D. Avery

“Ow! Look where yer goin’.”

“Sorry Pal.”

“Kid, this prompt is perfect fer you.”

“Thinkin’ more fer Aussie. A cautionary tale about playin’ with matches.”

“Whut?”

“Better singed than burnt.”

“Kid, the word is sign, not singe, which is why it’s a good one fer you. Yer always misreadin’ an’ misspeakin’.”

“I ain’t got no trouble readin’ signs, Pal. Shift, look where I ended up! Right where I’m meant ta be, here with ya’ll at this here Ranch.”

“Hmmmph.”

“Fact, I’m a sinecurist!”

“I git the little or no work part, but financial benefit?”

“Yep. The Ranch enriches me.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio Winners

When I was a kid, riding in the rodeo and saddle horse show, our county had a unique event — wild cow milking. If you asked a cowboy if he’d rather ride a bull or milk a wild cow, he’d pick the bull any day. Thinking about these contests of skill, I recognize how vulnerable participants can feel, whether it’s racing the barrels, showing a horse, penning steers, or riding a bronc.

But the wild cow milking takes a team willing to be vulnerable.

The Old Time Radio Contest came about as a creative idea. And creativity makes us all vulnerable. As writers, we get used to putting our pages out there. We post and publish, we ask for critiques and edits, we receive feedback and reviews. Another layer of vulnerability comes when we work to get our literary art recognized as a platform.

We establish blogs, enter contests, and seek local support. That’s what I was doing in my local community this last Rodeo — establishing Carrot Ranch as a part of the Keweenaw. It’s part of my mission to make literary art accessible. On the one hand I create safe space for writers, on the other, I look for readers to interact with what we write. Literary art exists in the realm between writer and reader.

Out of all the businesses I approached, many were interested in what we do at Carrot Ranch. But The Continental Fire Co. was the one business that has actively supported the growth of literary art in our community. They’ve been a public forum for readings during belly-dance performances, and they sponsored the prize money for all the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo Contests for which we had over 20 winners, including 12 cash prize winners.

It was a wild cow milking event for them, too. The Continental was interested in a contest that could generate possible scripts for radio spots. All the staff took part in reading the entries and voting on their favorites. Everyone was impressed with the writers’ ability to narrow a story from 99 words to 50 to 9. Overwhelmingly, the feedback was that the 9-word stories made great radio taglines.

We had some administrative hiccups timing the judging with the holiday rush and then the after-holiday retail slump. But at last, I met with the manager of The Continental last week and received the final results. The writers have waited to hear the news, and I have much gratitude for all who entered because very few were willing to enter. You’ll see the complexity involved in writing three radio spots (99-words, 59-words, and 9-words) in a single entry. So my hats off to all of you brave wild cow milkers of Carrot Ranch.

Please find all the entries under the Rodeo tab at Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio Winners.

And congratulations to our three cash prize winners:

  • Third Place: D. Avery
  • Second Place: JulesPaige
  • First Place: Kay Kingsley

Here are their radio spots:

99-word Radio Spot by D. Avery, Nantucket Island

[narrator] The Continental Fire Company first housed the horses, equipment, and men that were prepared to protect the people and property of their community. For a time it was also home to the Mining School that served the local industry.

[fire chief] You want to serve in the Company? You must be of age; a citizen of Houghton with a job or business, and be of good moral character and temperate habits.

[Background sound of modern-day patrons]

[young applicant] Yes sir. But, sir? Are these Mining School students?

[patron sounds, sounds of CFC have increased in volume]

[narrator] Houghton’s past is alive and present in the restored Continental Fire Company.

Food, drink, and entertainment are served with community spirit.

59-word Radio Spot

[narrator] Once housing the firemen that bravely served their neighbors as well as housing the Mining School that served the local copper industry, the Continental Fire Company continues to serve the Houghton community.

More than a place to enjoy good food, drink and company, the CFC features local artists, musicians, and Houghton’s own rich past. A spirited place since 1883.

9-word Radio Spot

[narrator] CFC- the spirit of Houghton’s past is always present.

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by JulesPaige, Pennsylvania

[pub music and laughter]

We have been your historical Houghton neighborhood go to for pub grub at the nightclub.

[sizzle of food on the grill]

Now enjoy all that the Continental Fire Company is offering!

[soft yet discernible three alarm fire house klaxon and maybe a fog horn too]

Book your special event with our ‘superior’ menu of “elevated traditional items” including vegan and gluten free options using many locally produced ingredients.

[buoy bell and/or fog horn]

Or just come in and horse around.

[horse whinny and nickering]

Yep, the kitchen is where the firehouse horses were kept, but you’ll only find the best modern kitchen that’s now a spectacular showplace!

[trumpeting ta da music]

We’ve got a smoker and a pizza oven too.

[pub dance music starts to play as and continues in the background as the last line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant surprise you for lunch or dinner.

59-word Radio Spot

[pub music and laughter]

The Continental Fire Company has been your local historical Houghton neighborhood go to for the finest pub grub at the nightclub.

[sizzle of food on the grill]

Come on in and horse around!

[horse whinny and nickering]

Yep, the basement kitchen is where the firehouse horses were once kept.

[trumpeting ta da music]

Now, our kitchen is a spectacular culinary showplace!

[pub dance music starts to play as and continues in the background as the last line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant’s menu surprise you for lunch or dinner.

9-word Radio Spot

[Change of class bell ringing, followed by soft pub dance music playing, increasing slightly and continuing in the background as the line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant’s ‘superior’ menu surprise you!

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by Kay Kingsley, Germany

[sounds of a busy restaurant/bar, happy hum of talking and distant laughter over text]

[Narrator] The past has a way of leaving its mark on the future, and here at the Continental Fire Company, we bring life to a place with a history, a place we all can find a little bit of home in.

[insert sound of an old engine and siren then bell ringing, sounds of students transitions to current music, loud laughter, and ding of the “foods up” bell over text]

[Narrator] From the screaming sounds of engine sirens to the steadfast ring from our bell tower, we’ve transformed the university quarters and haylofts of Houghton Fire Hall into a vibrant atmosphere of live music, lounge events, and cutting-edge gastropub cuisine.

[Sound of clinking glass to cheers and busy bar sounds over text]

[Narrator] Cozy up with a drink and stay for the laughs, where history is more than a thing of the past.

59-word Radio Spot

[old man voice] The bell tolls for a fire station long lost to time,

[teachers voice] for a university that no longer shapes young hearts and minds,

[farmers voice] for a hayloft that no longer houses the horses in stalls,

[students voice] nor the students that occupied the length of its halls.

[one staff member of CFC] With food and laughter The Continental welcomes you inside, discover Houghton’s past, keep our history alive.

9-word Radio Spot

[narrator] The flavor, the vibe, CFC keeps Houghton’s history alive.

🐎🐎🐎

And this officially concludes our 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo!

February 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

My front window buzzes with thousands of white bees dropping from the heavy skies in search of clover in the grass. Except, there is no grass. There’s no clover. And the swarm outside is yet another snow storm. All signs point to winter in the Northern Hemisphere even if we did celebrate Imbolc last week, noting that the days are getting longer.

The Hub just popped in to grab his workout shoes. His red and black checkered flannel jacket is dusted white. He’s off to the local Crossfit Gym where he works out with one of his counselors and another veteran. It’s a pilot program to see if the Crossfit program can adapt to veterans with disabilities. The idea is to get these former soldiers to reconnect to their warrior mentality in healthy ways.

So far, all signs indicate Crossfit is working. It’s part of the bigger plan to integrate the Hub’s care so that every day he has something that helps with pain management (chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy), cognitive strategies (CBT, speech therapy, group), and health (medical care, fitness, and nutrition). Basically, with the guidance of our Vet Center therapist, we’ve built our own Poly Trauma program that addresses the Hub’s needs holistically.

Personally, I’ve been looking for signs, too. Not necessarily the tealeaf reading kind, but some sort of sign from the universe as to which direction to take. What next? I knew I had come to a fork in the road. At times like this, I thank my North Star for its guiding light. I know where I want to go, but the path has led to unfamiliar terrain, and I have choices.

Some decisions I’ve made and stand solid — I landed in the Keweenaw, and I intend to stay in the Keweenaw. Here, I have my Warrior Sisters, the Hub’s home-spun Poly Trauma program, a beautiful and remote outdoor setting, and proximity to two of my three children. Runner and his lovely bride-to-be, Runner2 live near Madison, five hours away. We live with Radio Geek and her Solar Man, and if our world-traveler, Climber and her Chef visit the States (they live on Svalbard in Norway), they’ll come here.

Place is settled.

Last June, I decided to end my 16 years of writing for Valley Natural Foods. I penned my final member profiles. After I left as marketing communications manager in 2012,  I stayed on as managing editor and writer for two of their key publications. Before I left Idaho in 2016, I decided to wind down all my freelancing. Last year I decided to pursue the workshops and retreats I wanted to do. My first one got canceled because the Father’s Day flood wiped out the retreat center and turned my new community upside down.

In July, Finlandia University hired me as an adjunct instructor to teach a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Marketing course. I read it as the strongest sign to let go all my freelancing and business consulting. I knew it would be tight between July and September, but I had a couple of local gigs. Then my class got canceled the first week of school and caught me off guard. I was gutted. It was at the same time that we were still trying to get help for the Hub and understand what he was facing.

Timing-wise, you can see that all this upheaval aligned with the Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. I can’t say enough good about Norah Colvin, Irene Waters, D. Avery, Sherri Matthews, Geoff Le Pard, and all our judges who led superbly. We carried on and had a good run and a few recording hiccups when I had to go to Minneapolis to accompany the Hubb into the VA Poly Trauma program. It was terrifying for me. I grieved for the husband I no longer had.

But as you know, through my writing and sharing, I pulled through that dark place and came to an understanding — I still have my husband. My family recommitted ourselves to loving-kindness, no matter what the future was going to bring. We have now. We have him. When I saw Welby Altidor, he connected the pursuit of creativity to caring, and to carving out safe space to take risks. Carrot Ranch always has been “safe space” for literary artists to explore their craft, stories, and characters. I just needed to adapt that model to my life and how to live with a veteran who has an altered brain.

Are any of you familiar with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way? It’s because of her that I identify as a literary “artist.” Her book influenced me during my 20s when I dreamed of being a writer and wrote in lined journals. She dared me to be bold, to go to college at age 27 when I had three young children. I got my undergrad degree in creative writing. I wanted my MFA but chose to follow the Hub to the Midwest where I built a freelancing and marketing communications career. Julia Cameron (through her book) helped me when I dreamed up Carrot Ranch.

If you are familiar with The Artist’s Way, then you know she advises daily morning pages and weekly artist dates. The idea to write 99 words a week was a reduction of the morning pages. If we write every day, I figured we needed to share something of our writing, too. Alone, we are writers. Together, we experience the dynamic that is literary art — writing meant to be read. Collectively, writers and readers give meaning to literary art. When I arrange the writings of participants into a collection, well, that’s my weekly artist’s date.

So, no matter what I decided to do next, I knew that Carrot Ranch, with its torch to keep literary art alive and available, would be a part. An important part.

Finlandia University has employed me to develop the CTE course and help recruit for next fall. They intend for me to be the instructor. But next fall is a lot of meals away. I’m not paid to be an instructor-in-waiting. Back in October, when my world was all about flash fiction Rodeos and stressing over a husband in the hospital, a once-in-a-great-while kind of job came up at Michigan Technological University. It was a public relations position, responsible for curating and distilling the stories of the research university as it prepares to lead the world into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

I was intrigued. I took the bait. I applied.

No job can ever replace my North Star with its glowing dreams to encourage world-wide literary art, publish historical novels, and build community. I had to think long and hard how a fulltime job would fit into my plans. What excited me beyond the work, was the opportunity to invest in Carrot Ranch monetarily. Oh, the thought of buying those turquoise cowgirl boots and a new wardrobe to replace the one I left behind in Idaho.

After I sprained my ankle, I sat on the couch and came up with a plan. I was at a crossroads and would have important decisions to make. One path was MTU, the second was FU; the third was to revitalize my freelancing, workshops, and retreat; and the fourth was if the world imploded, I’d leave and go find an MFA program to start anew. In January, I went on retreat to polish my vision and plan the first three paths. The fourth was like a Hail Mary football pass.

The reason I’m telling you all this now is to process and understand which path the Universe finally set a go-sign to. MTU selected one other candidate and me to go through final interviews (mind you, this was a three-month process, including writing assignments). After an all-day interview on campus, I felt proud I made it that far. I also felt awed and scared that my world was once again about to change drastically. The result? MTU rescinded the job. It no longer exists. There is no public relations position.

If that wasn’t one helluva sign…

Disappointed, I wasted no time in setting up a freelancing platform and will wait and see what happens with recruitment after the CTE open house last week. I also realized I felt hugely relieved. My writing time is sacred and I almost gave to an organization in exchange for shiny new clothes.

Then my world shifted yet again when a letter arrived yesterday from the VA. For once, a good shift. And the sign that appeared blew me away. The Hub’s benefits finally, finally, finally came through. Blessedly he can stop pulling his own teeth with pliers and get dental care. He will get his knee replaced. We can even get into a place of our own. But the unexpected — my name in the official document with the words, “education benefit.”

I still feel all atwitter. My stomach is still somersaulting. Education benefits. For me! Suddenly, the fourth path isn’t far-fetched. I can get my MFA! You betcha, I wasted no time in contacting an advisor, finding out what the benefit was and when I could use it and — it’s no longer 1998. Ha! It’s no longer 1998. There is an INTERNET. And I looked up online MFAs and found one! I applied, yes, I already applied. There’s more to the application (writing). Get this — my master’s thesis could be Miracle of Ducks. AND, I can earn an additional teaching certificate.

Do I need an MFA? No, I don’t. I still believe that writers live in a time of incredible publishing opportunity. But the question that I answered immediately before my brain could ask it was do I want an MFA. And yes, I still do.

Sometimes, we have to wait for our Sign to come in. I’ve waited 20 years for that one!

My daughter took me out last night. We both cried and laughed. She remembers me giving up my chance to get an MFA. She remembers me writing away to programs at different points in my life. She knew I never gave up the ghost of that dream. And it fits Carrot Ranch like a custom glove! I’ll get to learn how to teach craft, not just encouragement and marketing. I’ll also get to use Carrot Ranch as my platform for coursework.

For now, I’ll continue the application process, open up some freelancing gigs, and plan to start coursework August 12. I’m setting up some local workshops, and of course, we have the first Carrot Ranch Nature Retreat this July. I’ll continue working on MOD, and I’ll set a deadline to finish Vol. 2 before school starts. At last, a path.

And, be sure to check back on Monday because I finally met with the folks at The Continental to close out our Bonus Rodeo contest. We have three winners to announce (and pay). The radio spot won’t be developed until later. Some issues came up but had nothing to do with us or the contest. Thank you all for your patience, especially those who entered.

Thank you, also, for being my weekly artist’s date! Your writing of 99-word stories inspires the blazes within my writer’s soul. Must be a sign.

February 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign. It can be a posted sign, a universal sign, a wonder. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by February 12, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

A Drive Back in Time (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Ramona looked for the sign, the one that read Elmira. Snow pelted her windshield with a mesmerizing kaleidoscope that Vic called whiteout fever. She ignored it the way her husband said to, and instead followed the tracks in the snow. Ramona startled when her headlights caught the township sign. Why were the mill lights out? So dark! She slowed and pulled into her driveway where someone was plowing the easement. Vic, her husband. The power must be out. She waved and blew him a kiss. Silly man. What was he up to, calling a young thing like her, “Grandma”?

A 5-Star Readers’ Favorite!

Thank you, Writers of Carrot Ranch!

Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills

Patron Wall

Literary Outreach

Carrot Ranch Rocks

Healing Touch & Reiki

Readilearn

Susan Sleggs

D. Avery

Vol. 1

Anne Goodwin

Ruchira Khanna

Irene Waters

Geoff Le Pard

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Anurag Bakhshi

Cee’s Listing

Ad Space