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Protests

A protest can be small as the silence of a single person or big as a clamoring crowd. Social injustice, human rights, better conditions for workers can add to suppressed voices. Yet, objections can come from even the protested.

Writers gave much thought to the prompt and explored who and why what was the object of protests.

The following is based on the January 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a protest story.

PART I (10-minute read)

Remember the Revolution by Doug Jacquier

Remember causes
and affectations of effect on war
in cities now gone five-star?

Remember social action
sitting in smoke-filled rooms with Nescafe activists
and battered women with no teeth and less hope?

Remember death
when it belonged to rock stars
and people your mother your mother knew?

Remember money
and how it wasn’t going to concern you
until you learnt the golden rule and its defensible limits?

And do you remember when the penny dropped
that the personal was the political
and you found out you had to change?

And you decided to forget the revolution?

🥕🥕🥕

Standing by D. Avery

“Staff members shouldn’t join student anti’s, Ms. Higginbottom.”

“Anti’s. My dad, a member of the NRA, called protesters that, Mr. Mathy.”

Mr. Massey the math teacher looked at Ilene, unsure of her lisp and her tone.

“But this is not my father’s NRA. Not by a long shot.”

“You give up one constitutional right, the rest are vulnerable.”

Incredulous, Ilene finally spoke. “Look at the reciprocals; not what they’re against but what they are for; that’s what pro-test means, testifying for a cause.”

“And what are these children standing for Ms. Higginbottom?”

“Life, Mr. Massey. They want to live.”

🥕🥕🥕

My Way or Protest by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

Riley stared at the plate in front of her in disbelief. It wasn’t what she ordered.

She watched the waitress slowly approach the table.

“I wanted mac ’n’ cheese” – Riley spat out.

“This IS mac ‘n’ cheese” – the waitress calmly replied.

Riley folded her arms, pouted, and frowned at the broccoli. She was not going to eat anything until she got exactly what she ordered. Or chocolate, which was the one thing that would always magically fixed things.

“You will eat whatever I give you, young lady” – Riley’s mother said, sitting down next to her at the kitchen table.

🥕🥕🥕

A Child’s Protest by Ritu Bhathal

“No more slop! No more slop!”

The sound of the butts of knives and forks being bashed against the tabletops echoed through the dining room.

“Children, please!” Mrs Garrett, flapped her arms up and down, trying to calm the situation, to no avail.

“We ain’t eating that rubbish anymore, Miss! It’s rank!” Tommy, the protest ringleader, piped up.

A chorus of voices echoed his sentiments.

Mrs Garrett looked at the greying mass of potato, with an unidentifiable beige stew, and cabbage that had long since lost any goodness, and sympathised.

I think it’s time to talk to the cooks…

🥕🥕🥕

Protested Internally, Murtle’s Story by Tammy L. Toj Gajewski

She pointed at her leg making a stabbing motion. I shook my head and said, “What?” even though she couldn’t hear. Murrow took my hand and made me touch her pudgy belly, then took my finger to stab her upper thigh repeatedly. Oh oh… I see . “You don’t like the insulin shots?” I sign into her palm. That was it she went crazy signing and jibbering so fast I couldn’t keep up so I just hugged her and said yes I know over and over. She raised her shoulders finally in triumph that I knew her pain and internal protest.

🥕🥕🥕

A Small Protest by Chelsea Owens

“Won’t!” The small face scrunches.

Father sighs. “I’d let you go like this, Arnie, but-”

“No no no!”

“Arrrnie,” Father begins, his tone less calm, “Daddy‘s wearing-”

“Daddy’s fart face!” A small tongue protrudes from the small mouth.

Father straightens. He takes a small arm in a big hand and marches small legs up big stairs. “That’s enough, young man! We do not stick our tongues out or call names.”

“Fart. face. Fart. face,” Arnie gasps at each stair.

“Now,” Father concludes, setting him at the top. “You’ll sit in Timeout, then you WILL put your pants on!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Little Classroom Protest by Ellen Best

“Quiet!” shouted Miss Brooks, “Okay Girls, hands up if you think you’re the weaker sex.” Shouts, and stomping shoes echo. Her voice raised, her palm hit the desk. A puddle formed in her eye, she grabbed her hands rubbing vigorously, as a drip plopped against her lip. Her tongue, snatched it away unseen, while she counted raised hands.

“Please miss,” eyes swivel, and I colour. “I think it depends if they smack the desk harder than you.” The noise level climbed. “It isn’t gender or braun that predicts strength, but Emotional intelligence Miss, females win that every time.”

🥕🥕🥕

Protest Proposal by Caroline Scott

He was going to do it.

She could see it in his eyes. There was a strange, liquid gleam in them, and a kind of manic terror.

She should speak. She needed to stop this before he did something either of them regretted. A protest rose on her lips but he was already on his knees.

She’d never seen a man so afraid.

“Will you marry me?”

It was his question, but she said it. If the point was at all worth arguing, he didn’t say so. When her arms went around his neck, all he said was,

“Yes.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Parent’s Nightmare by Jacquie Biggar

“There’s no easy way to say this—” Matt met the growing horror in Mrs. Carter’s eyes, his heart hurting, “your daughter was murdered last night on the Galloping Goose Trail. We believe she was on her way home at the time.”

The poised woman who’d met them at the door disappeared in a swelling tide of despair. She vigorously shook her head. “No, you’ve made a mistake. Emily was home last night. I brought her home from school myself. It’s not possible.”

“How do you know it’s our child?” Carter asked, his voice gruff. “It could be anyone.”

🥕🥕🥕

Methinks We Doth Protest Too Much by Cara Stefano

I have often wondered what I should protest: world hunger, needless war, homeless children right here in my home town? There are so many reasons to be angry, to wish for a soap box to stand upon, exhorting the masses to action; there are so many reasons to “get all up in arms” about this or that pressing issue. We are so often preaching to the choir – our tiny group of friends and family, acquaintances whom we know agree. Perhaps I simply want to protest the very idea of protesting. Let’s all just try to get along, shall we?

🥕🥕🥕

The Gift of Music by Susan Sleggs

The wheelchair-bound veterans weren’t surprised when asked to join Gil Brandt near his bus. The musician learned names then turned to Michael, “I’ve heard of your talent and that you live near multiple VA medical centers so I’m giving you this to share.”

A vehicle whose sides were painted with music murals and the words “Veterans’ Music Van” pulled up. Doors were opened to reveal many instruments and other band equipment.

“I can’t accept such a gift,” Michael said.

“No protesting. I hope you’ll develop or add to a music program at each center because music has healing power.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rebel Released by Ann Edall-Robson

“What’s going here?” Hanna pointed at the picture.

“The whisper went through the halls of the school.

‘We’re walking out as soon as first period starts after lunch.’

Rumours had been swirling for weeks. Finally, the day arrived to protest having to wear skirts and dresses at school, especially in -40F weather. All we wanted was to be able to wear slacks.

There I was, a junior, scared to death I’d be expelled, making my way down the halls, out onto the lawn with the others.”

Liz closed the Yearbook with a laugh.

“My inner rebel had been released.”

🥕🥕🥕

Student Protest by Nancy Brady

Julia wanted to be inducted into her school’s National Honor Society.

Each year she saw outstanding upperclassmen selected for the honor. As a junior, she watched her classmates and the seniors get chosen one by one.

The school administration and teachers were shocked when one senior refused in protest over a blatant prejudice against another student. Apparently, the seniors knew that the student was treated unfairly, making a pact to reject the honor; however, only Jerry had the strength of character to protest this injustice.

How they found out was never revealed, but it forever changed the school’s policy.

🥕🥕🥕

Protest by Joanne Fisher

An angry crowd had gathered outside protesting the sweeping new laws passed by the Government.

“How can I create art if there’s no more human misery and suffering?” shouted the artist.

“Now I can afford to feed, clothe, and house all my kids without having to work three jobs. HOW DARE YOU!” screamed a woman.

“But I wanted all my money to be sucked up by the global billionaires!” another man complained.

“Now I can have decent healthcare. What made you think I wanted that?”

“The environment cleaned up? Who said we wanted a utopia?” a woman cried out.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Mad, but Angry by Anne Goodwin

Although medication dulls my senses, that headline hurts. An assault on language. An assault on me.

When I first acquired the label, I feared it would swallow me whole. Would I still be a person? Or turn into an axe-wielding lunatic overnight?

I upload a screenshot to Facebook. An emoticon scowl. SCHIZOPHRENIC ATTACKS DIABETIC would be more balanced. UNEMPLOYED ACCOUNTANT ATTACKS SHOP ASSISTANT more polite.

The LIKES accumulate. The expressions of rage. We’re more than our diagnoses. More often the target than the perpetrator of abuse.

While social media can be mentally toxic, it’s a place of protest too.

🥕🥕🥕

Silent Protest by Lisa Listwa

Harold felt someone touch him.

Or did he?

It was hard to tell from behind the curtain of darkness shrouding his eyes. Every inch of his leaden body resisted all appeals for movement. His mind was too clouded for inquiry.

He could probably rally himself, but the only thing he wanted was to let go, to sink deeper into the noiseless black pawing at his consciousness.

Something – or someone – moved nearby. Harold sensed a change in the area immediately surrounding him.

Falling.

No. He was rising.

“C’mon, cat,” said his human. “Time to get up. Get off the bed.”

🥕🥕🥕

#81 Discharge? by JulesPaige

my mind protests, sighs
you’re not what I expected;
mirrored reflection

Hoping that I’m not still blushing when Sam arrives; I am still in wonderment about how my body protests… But I smell Ife’s rose scent – I calm down. Just what can I tell him? That some myths are prophecy, like history is doomed to repeat itself if we don’t learn from it? Quite a bit of the Underground Railroad, just like the Pony Express has been amplified, romanticized. Yet there were kernels of truth.

Maybe I’ll open with; “Have you ever used a psychic to help solve cases?” …

🥕🥕🥕

I Must Protest by H.R.R. Gorman

The man in the top hat knocked the soapbox with his gold-tipped cane. “I must protest this… this sin! How dare you peddle this Godless brew?”

The squirmy man with thin mustache bent down from atop his box. “Godless brew? No, it’s a true cure for everything from apoplexy to zinc deficiency, from premature birth to heart failure! Care to take a sip and put some pep in your step?”

The man with the top hat smashed the bottles at the foot of the soap box. “Even worse! If you cure mother, how else will I get her money?”

🥕🥕🥕

Protest to God by Pedro Padilla

He felt broken. Heart striving. Body moving in nuanced physical patterns. Depending on what action the work requires. Sweat, clenched fists, spider like hand movements. All include use of the back.

Outside the mine his 4 children, motherless, wait. When he comes out to check on them he spies a snake near by. Family says that’s when he broke. Hair went white at 30. His protest to God. No man, or woman, as proxy. Straight to the source.

“We work. I work hard. She died. I’m broken. How? What to do? You are too hard. Too unfair. Please help us.”

🥕🥕🥕

Legacy Survived by Charli Mills

Three sisters opened a yarn shop in Houghton 19 miles from where their children died in a stairwell. They stood stiff as marble in the back corner, the waists of their dresses pinched as tight as the grief in their eyes. Round skeins of yarn soft as a baby’s head inspired sales to knitters whose wealth they had once protested. Next door, another displaced Italian family opened a confectionary with fireproof ceiling tiles. In business, they dispensed softness and sweets, set codes for stairs, and prospered. Their surviving children’s grandchildren expanded family enterprises long after the copper mines closed.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Be The Change by Nobbinmaug

“Here’s another depressing news story. We should do something.”

“Like what?”

“Protest.”

“Protest what?”

“I don’t know. Pollution. Corporate tax cuts. Guns. Puppy mills.”

“Car washes.”

“What? You’re mocking me.”

“I am. What about actors who play roles inconsistent with their ethnicity? Innocuous lyrics to Christmas songs from the ’40s?”

“I’m serious. We live in a world where a xenophobic, rapist, megalomaniac, demagogue was elected president over a qualified woman amid cries of ‘Lock her up’ because she sent emails from the wrong account.”

“That’s why I’m protesting elections. You’re not gonna change anything.”

“Maybe we should protest apathy.”

🥕🥕🥕

Protest by Floridaborne

My name is Ambivalence. I know not of the ways those around me live. I am a ghost condemned to this globe called Earth, searching for my daughter, Kindness.

My world died in the fires of protest, a civilization created by Peace and Prosperity. My crime? I believed our golden era could never end and failed to see Greed stop at nothing to prevail. Greed created disease, and then Greed survived the death of our world, giving birth to Psychopath and Victim.

Five thousand years later, I watch the birth of twins; Obliteration and Apocalypse.

When can I rest?

🥕🥕🥕

Wait to Speak by Jules Dixon

A ghostly hand silenced my heart. Wait to speak it whispered, to hold my truth until I heard their decree of masked respect. But I wouldn’t be told when to scream from the mountains and when to cry from the valleys. My spirit straightened and I bellowed into the night that their ruse of order wasn’t going to work. My triumphant heart sang the words I’d longed to release. Their reaction an unwanted ghost to be banished forever. Now I stand on the podium, my voice strong, my heart wild, my emotion true. My time is now, and ever.

🥕🥕🥕

A Pregnant Protest by Colleen M. Chesebro

Susan squeezed her husband’s hand, turning his knuckles white.

“I’ll never let you into my bed again,” she protested.

Tim nodded his head. “I’m so sorry love,” he whispered.

The contractions began again as Susan shrieked out a primal wail. She panted through the waves of torment.

“You’re almost there,” the doctor murmured, intent on his ministrations. “One more push, Susan, and that should do it.”

Susan closed her eyes in concentration. With one long scream she pushed out the reason for her pain.

The infant resembled his father. A long-tail protruded from the base of his spine.

🥕🥕🥕

Protest by Simon

Fight between two monkeys inside a forest. Both were fighting rigorously and accidentally discovered a chest under the grass. Both monkeys stared at the chest in unison. One of them opened it. Two hands from inside holds both monkeys hand and they both scream and saw vision of a great hero past, died in a protest, fighting the secret enemies disguised as protestors cornered this Hero and pushed to death. But before he died, none of the enemies left protest alive. His rage was incredibly strong, even after he dies his soul now turned dark demon “Coming for you!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Protest by Teresa Grabs

Shouting roared outside as Davey and I huddled in the bathtub. Breaking glass sent shivers up my spine. My fingers ached from gripping the baseball bat as hard as I was, but I promised Mom I would keep him safe. I had to. Sure, he was my little brother and I loved him, but he was so much more than that.

Mom screamed and Dad started shouting vulgarities as a door somewhere in the house burst open. I don’t understand why the humans are protesting. Davey wouldn’t hurt anyone. He wouldn’t.

Unless I tell him to.

“Go ahead, Davey.”

🥕🥕🥕

Confusion’s Blunt Knife by M J Mallon

‘I didn’t do it,’ he howled.

‘Stop your protesting, we saw you!’

‘It wasn’t me, it was them.’

‘Excuses, excuses. Them don’t do that, only this does.’

Confusion handed the boy the knife. It was blunt.

‘Why you always blunt?’ he asked.

‘To see if you will sharpen your mind, you idiot!’

The boy looked lost. He pulled his jacket tight around him searching for the right words.

‘My mind is tired, too wired to remember this: who, did what to whom.’

‘Who, or what are you, boy?’

‘I’m tight wound like this jacket.’

‘Strait, that’s what you are.’

🥕🥕🥕

Protest by Dave Madden

Hundreds stood before the venue’s mouth, pumping signs in the air, screaming for an end to MMA—human cockfighting.

The manner in which these social justice warriors rallied online and postured at anyone trying to cross their fence of fiery flesh, it was unclear whether they were attempting to cancel California’s biggest MMA promotion or start up a new fight league of their own.

A long weekend defending territory, skipping meals in hopes of tipping the scales in their favor, and celebrating victory after effecting attendance.

Too bad the band of misguided protestors never noticed their similarities with MMA.

🥕🥕🥕

Attention/Protest by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Snowmageddon! Stay home if you don’t have to go out! Feels like double-digit negative temps! Treacherous conditions! Freezing drizzle! Mega-storm sweeping the continent, laying waste to everything in its path!

She switched off the t.v., powered down her computer, snapped off background radio reports. She believed the footage:crashes; spinouts; canceled flights; people braving the cold for ice hockey; solo skiing (her, today); folks bundled like pineapples, walking their dogs.

What about those living rough? Surely these people, and the relief efforts, are newsworthy? She grabbed her keys, groceries and blankets loaded into the SUV, and hit the streets.

🥕🥕🥕

The Gorge’s Protest by Nicole Osmond

The Gorge is breathtaking – a natural wonder carved in a mountain. A chiselled masterpiece a million years in the making.

When the rains come the Gorge shouts its fury in protest.

I am forced to look away.

Its rage terrifies me.

When the clouds are vacant and the sun does it wonderous job with full commitment, the Gorge speaks in whispers.

The rage now replaced with a soothing lullaby at times accompanied with a choir of mist that joins in harmony and sings its melody in vibrant colors.

Each soothing note of color stretching to arch its maker.

🥕🥕🥕

In Protest of the Planet by DGKaye

What remains of the trees, struggle to stand tall, casting thin shadows across the water with reflection in their retaliation. Birds make swift exit when the weather turns ominous. Where do humans flee when there’s no longer a safe place to exist?

What remains is nature’s leftovers from man’s thoughtless lashings. Angels band together, looking down from above in God’s sanctuary as God’s planet drowns and burns in salty tears. When will the natives wake? Action is needed now. Let us stand up in defense of the planet against the wrongs of man and start to repair with change.

🥕🥕🥕

At Home in the Land of the Privileged by Bill Engleson

We were stoned that night. I’ll admit that much. Me, anyways. Sitting behind them I was, slumped on our ratty old davenport.
Listening.

Gangster-like they were, huddled at the-steal-at-five-bucks, pink arborite table Rose scored at the Sally Ann. She was the key insurgent in our ménage à pick-a-number. She’d transferred up from Berkeley, following the crimson flame of revolution into Canada.

Tommy was a prairie kid, swooning over Rose, brain-fried by hormones.

Larson. He was something else again.

Angry as a twister.

Larson’s the one who proposed, “one well-placed bullet, comrades. If we’re serious, we need to draw blood.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Protest by Lisa R. Howeler

Fern watched her father gathering his winter clothes together.

“Dad, you’re not going to that protest are you?”

“It’s not a protest, it’s a rally,” he said with a sigh, pulling his woolen har down on his head over his ears.

“But it’s 21 degrees out and you’re — ”

“I know, I’m 76 but age shouldn’t stop me from standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.”

Fern sighed, shaking her head. “Okay, Dad, but I better not get a call from the police that you and Nancy have chained yourselves to the courthouse steps again.”

🥕🥕🥕

Protest by Anita Dawes

Wave your hands in the air

Like you just don’t care!

They do care very much

About the conditions they work in

Too often the loos don’t flush

Water is turned off

Waiting repair

Which takes too long

Poor management in winter

Means working in the cold

This in turn, slows down production

Which means working late

No extra pay

Too many break times cancelled

People become sick

Our floor manager asked

For hot drinks to be made

Every four hours

This went down with management

like a lead balloon

it’s no wonder we’re shouting

and waving our arms…

🥕🥕🥕

World Peace and Beetles by Donna Matthews

My daughter is past curfew. I’m pacing the room, obsessively checking her location on my phone. This new boyfriend of hers is an earth science major. Loves to talk about the planet, climate change, and world peace. He reminds me a little of her father, but I’d never tell her that.

Finally, “I’m home!” she yells from the entryway. My mouth drops open. She’s in bell-bottoms and tie-dye. Her long hair straightened and reeking of patchouli.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Mom! Stay trippy, little hippie!”

On her arm, a little beetle tattoo.

OMG, wrong kind of Beatles.

🥕🥕🥕

Stewardship by Saifun Hassam

Elena was an environmentalist. In her journal she wrote of her exploration of the Ancient Sea. She was fascinated by its history of thriving ports, an abundant sea, ice-capped mountains.

A time came, imperceptible but certain when sea life was less abundant. The ice caps melted. The immense glaciers along the farthest northern shores turned into giant icebergs.

Elena was killed in a protest of the drilling of the ancient seabed for minerals. Her journal was incomplete. Her granddaughter Jessamine found in it the seeds of her own journey as an environmentalist on a planet beyond the Solar System.

🥕🥕🥕

Prompted Protest by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal. Tellin’ ya, Shorty’s all over the map with her prompts. Now a protest story? I cain’t write a protest story.”

“Thinkin’ ya protest too much, Kid. Ever dang week yer protestin’, or is thet jist whinin’? This here could be serious ya know. Stop yer whinin’ an’ complainin’ an consider the plight a them’s thet really git the short end a the rope.”

“Reckin I kin try, Pal, but I ain’t got Shorty’s machinations.”

“Do ya mean ‘magination? It’s a difference ‘tween seemin’ and schemin’.”

“Guess as long as she does the write thing it’s all good.”

🥕🥕🥕

Snowshoe Princess by D. Avery

*Once upon a time Princess Buckaroo lived on a enchanted snow-globe peninsula.*

“Writin’ after all Kid?”

“Yep.”

*One day all the Yooper Scoopers quit shov’lin an’ plowin’. They marched on snowshoes, holdin’ their their shovels up like signs, protestin’ ‘gainst low wages an’ high accumulations a snow.

Princess Buckaroo retreated ta another story.*

“Lit out fer another tale?”

“No, she went upstairs when the first story got snowed over.”

*Snow kep fallin’. The Buckaroo Princess got out on snowshoes as ever’thin’ got buried over.*

“What happened?!”

*The Buckaroo Princess was at new heights; snowshoed right ta her north star.*

🥕🥕🥕

 

January 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

A black raven lands on my neighbor’s sloped roof to dig in the snow. Always one for a good bird show, I pause in rinsing dishes to watch. With a long thick beak, the raven scoops snow like those of us below with steel shovels and scoops. Finally, he retrieves something frozen the size of a cracker and lifts his wings, chomping his hoard. The raven must have stashed food on the roof, and I witnessed his mid-day snack.

It’s the days of messy middles. With winter half over in the northern hemisphere, we impatiently endure more snow and wait for the sun to return. Half a world away, Australia suffers a hot mess, waiting for the sun to subside, the heat to relent, the fires to burn out. Writer and educator, Norah Colvin, is safe where she lives in Australia but witnesses the daily impact of her nation burning. Last week, she left a link in the comments to an article that lists genuine organizations to help.

Several years ago, Norah created a S.M.A.G. Badge to spread goodness in the world across our literary, writing, educator, and blogging networks. She called the recognition the Society of Mutual Admiration and Gratitude. It calls to mind what 99-year-old Sirkka said about the anecdote to hate in the world. In her documentary, she calls for us to come together for humanity. S.M.A.G. is such a call. If you look to the right-hand column, you’ll see a graphic and a link to Bushfire Recovery Relief.

Please consider copying the graphic and posting it on your own site, blog, or social media. After all, we are communicators with reader traffic, and together, we can share links to legitimate organizations that have boots on the ground in the areas devastated. Norah also shared an op-ed by Jackie French, who writes, “Focus on what you can do. Don’t cry for what you can’t.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the face of tragedy, in life’s unexpected twists, in the persistence required to write novels.  So, we focus on what we can do.

Sirkka’s mother protested. It was dangerous to stand up for injustice or call out for rights denied. History is filled with tales of violence against those who protest. When Sirkka’s mother protested, she took her daughter with her. The miners were demanding safer work conditions and fair wages. Their wives and daughters took to the picket lines to deliver these messages and make the world aware of the situations. In return, thugs were hired to beat the women and told to aim for the kidneys. Sirkka recalls standing up to a thug ready to strike her mother but shamed by looking into the eyes of a determined little girl.

On Christmas Eve, 107 years ago in Calumet just north of Carrot Ranch World Headquarters 19 miles, a large group of women and children were celebrating the festivities at the Italian Hall. For six long months, copper miners struck, led by a woman, some call the Joan of Arc of the Copper Country. (You can read about her and others in the new novel, Women of the Copper Country.) It was a time of great tension, and the holiday should have provided a respite. Instead, the greatest mining-related disaster on record in this region occurred that night, and 73 women and children died.

Witnesses claimed that someone yelled, “Fire!” from below. The reception hall was upstairs, and some argue that anti-union thugs held the doors. It remains, to this day, a wound upon the Copper Country community. No one yet agrees to the specific events or intentions, and no one was ever charged for a crime. But when families tried to flee, many slipped down the steep stairs, and inexplicably, the doors failed to open, suffocating those on the stairs.

When Sirkka faced down the thug ready to beat her mother, it was 1925, twelve years after the Italian Hall tragedy. I think about how Sirkka stood up all her life for the “foreign-born” like her parents. Cultures came together to speak up for the reason they came to America in the first place — a better life. From my posts, you know that Finns populate the Keweenaw. So do the Italians. My neighbor’s house that holds the raven stash is Italian-American. In fact, my Roberts Street neighborhood is said to have been an Italian one with many markets. Today, the Keweenaw Co-op remains as our corner grocery store.

Maybe I had all these jumbled ideas in mind — influenced by Sirkka’s documentary and resonating words, by recent research to discover the roots of my Italian neighbor, by concern for climate change and how it is burning and flooding communities. It’s no wonder we feel called to protest, to take up from the long line of others who have confronted injustice. But I’m also a writer, and I let these ideas stew and simmer into something I can serve up in a story. The night after the raven’s visit, I was downtown and looked out the window across the street and saw three women in mourning attire. When I focused, I realized it was an optical illusion of night shows and reflected lights.

But I was curious about what my mind had momentarily witnessed.

If you have ever stared at cloud shapes or optical illusions and seen what is not there, that is the power of imagination. Often we feel the need to correct what we thought we saw. Or sometimes we innocently play like a child and describe great ships or rearing lions that float by in the sky on a summer’s day. I often like to indulge the illusion. If it is real, what do I see? If I look closely at the reflection in a closed business across the street, I see a yarn shop with round skeins for sale, tags bobbing. I can’t explain it. No such thing exists across the street, and I don’t know why my brain thought yarn. Fuzzy, right?

But I go with it. Go ahead, brain, play. I pretend what I’m seeing is real. Across the street is a yarn shop. What else? And there they are — three dark-haired women in long black dresses with corseted waists standing together in a tight huddle. Mourners come to mind. Sisters.

When the Hub comes over and asks if I want another beer (full disclosure: I only had half, and it had nothing to do with the optical illusion). I point out the window, asking if he sees anything in the window across the street. He explains what I’m seeing is a reflection of a reflection of KBC, the local brew-pub. Except he sees it differently. Different perspective. I explain what I see, and he grunts and says he’ll leave me alone to write. Not everyone appreciates imagination. So I write my illusion in a sentence:

Three sisters in black opened a yarn shop in Houghton, Michigan, 19 miles away from where their children died in a stairwell.

I’m surprised by what I write because I was not thinking about the Italian Hall tragedy, but it slipped in there – soft yarn, three dark-haired women in black, dead children. Such is my mind. Normally, this is where I would get excited about discovery and let loose. This time, I’m inviting a playmate over for imagination. As an MFA student, I’m studying the writing process. Imagination and discovery is part of that. How we shape it into a story is another part.

I’m figuring out – learning – what I don’t know about writing fiction. I know I’m a pantser who has easy access to imagination and a keen interest in people, history, and stories. But I’m also learning that my pantsing can lead to half-baked stories. Great ideas, emotive, sharply imagined characters, sometimes I even have a point. Sometimes I lack form, the structure of plotters. Intellectually, I know story arcs and plot points. But imagination doesn’t remember to play with intellect. Writing 99-words helps to bridge left-brain, right-brain. But I’m also learning to incorporate other tools. So, Story Spine gets invited to play.

It looks like this (by Kenn Adams, author and Artistic Director of Synergy Theater):

  1. Once upon a time…
  2. Every day…
  3. But one day…
  4. Because of that…
  5. Because of that…
  6. Because of that…
  7. Until finally…
  8. And, ever since then…

Like 99-words, Story Spine becomes a problem-solving tool. So, I used my intriguing first sentence to describe the optical illusion as “once upon a time.” Then I followed the rest of the script.

STORY SPINE DRAFT

Three sisters in black opened a yarn shop in Houghton, Michigan, 14 miles away from where their children died in a stairwell. They stood stiff as marble in the back corner like three dark muses, the waists of their dresses pinched as tight as the grief in their eyes. Heads held high to defy pity from the wives of wealthy mine captains, they sold colorful yarn soft as baby’s hair. Pity or fear, they induced a brisk business.

One day, another Italian family from Calumet crossed the Portage canal and planned a confectionary business. They would armor their building with steel ceilings to curb caramel fires that could start in the expansive kitchen filled with heat and sugar.

Because of the false fire at the Italian Hall on that fateful Christmas Eve, 57 children died in the greatest minie-related disaster of the Copper Country.

Because families lost children, safety and survival melded like chocolate and wove a community with skeins of cashmere.

Because grief poured into business, the next generations of Italian Americans prospered greater than the mine captains, owners and enforcers whose fortunes fizzled with the depth of copper and shallowness of the economy.

Therefore the Copper Country was built on the entrepreneurial spirit of widows, mourning mothers, and a desire for comfort and safety.

I’ll plan to use this draft to put it in place as my 99-word response. It’s interesting to follow the script because I didn’t feel as hemmed in creatively as I had expected. It’s also a good exercise to recognize the Story Spine of books or fairy tales you’ve read. This helps you develop as a writer with another tool to aid your curiosity and imagination.

This weekend, I have a choice — to retreat or protest. The Women’s March happens this Saturday with a protest scheduled for the Houghton Lift Bridge. That same day, my friend Cynthia is hosting a retreat for vision work. I’m thinking back to Jackie French’s words about doing what you can. And Sirkka’s about doing things together. Therefore, my form of protest will be to go on retreat and focus on what Carrot Ranch can do together with writers and poets and bloggers and teachers and readers and storytellers of the world.

Together, let’s make literary art our stand.

Submissions closed. Find our latest Flash Fiction Challenge.

January 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a protest story. It can be about a protest, or you can investigate the word and expand the idea. Who is protesting, where, and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by January 21, 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.

 

Legacy Survived by Charli Mills

Three sisters opened a yarn shop in Houghton 19 miles from where their children died in a stairwell. They stood stiff as marble in the back corner, the waists of their dresses pinched as tight as the grief in their eyes. Round skeins of yarn soft as a baby’s head inspired sales to knitters whose wealth they had once protested. Next door, another displaced Italian family opened a confectionary with fireproof ceiling tiles. In business, they dispensed softness and sweets, set codes for stairs, and prospered. Their surviving children’s grandchildren expanded family enterprises long after the copper mines closed.

Carried Wives

Over the threshold, a mud puddle, or in a wife-carrying race, it’s a wonder to consider that wives are carried. But on a deeper dive, consider that partners carry each other in other ways, too — emotionally, in times of troubling circumstances, or with playfulness. What will the writers make of such ideas?

This week, writers explored the various reasons and situations wives could be carried.

The following is based on the January 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a carried wife.

PART I (10-minute read)

A Dream Home by Sally Cronin

As a girl she didn’t dream of fairy tale weddings or fancy white dresses. She was an orphan, in and out of foster homes, and all she wanted was a house of her own. They met at the local community centre; a carpenter, his hands worn and callused. He asked her what her dream was and she shared her vision. He said nothing, just smiled and nodded. Today, in her simple blue dress, carrying a posy of wild flowers, he swept her into his arms and through the door of the home he had built to show his love.

🥕🥕🥕

True Love by Dave Madden

Emily smiled from ear to ear as Brady carried her across the threshold.

Brady’s conditioning was nearing its peak at the time of the wedding, so he could have cradled his beautiful, blushing bride all the way to Aspen, Colorado, the destination of their brief honeymoon.

Sacrifice was nothing new for the young couple to cope with—Emily bringing home the bacon, and Brady jumping into any cage he could find, fighting for peanuts.

Emily would continue carrying the financial burden of Brady’s dream chasing, for his upcoming bout and every round moving forward—true love could conquer all.

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Carried Wife by Sascha Darlington

There was a fight.

Something stupid. Aren’t all newlywed fights stupid?

Sara tossed down the dishcloth and ran. Moments later the clouds unleashed a torrent of rain, enough to fill the empty gulches, which Sara wouldn’t know. City-born, Sara didn’t understand that the dry riverbeds could fill instantly and sweep everything away.

He could lose her in the breadth of a moment.

Heart clenching, he jostled into his Mac. Scout ran ahead, tracking, despite the rain.

They heard her before they saw her. Her anguished cry rising above the rushing water.

Gratefully, he cradled her before carrying her home.

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Keeper of the Stories by Ann Edall-Robson

Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, he grinned thinking about all of the stories the old steps could tell.

Each time he passed the majestic staircase, he remembered the look of surprise etched on her face.

It had started with an innocent discussion about chores, and then it just happened. Gathering her into his arms he’d carried her upstairs. He knew right then and there, she was the one, and so did she.

That wouldn’t be the last time the love of his life would go up the stairs in his arms.

Whistling, he walked towards the kitchen.

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Skiing Mishap by Jacquie Biggar

Jeff juggled to keep his balance on the ice without dropping his wife.

“I told you to stick to the bunny hill,” he chastised.

She giggled and held her arms out like a bird in flight. “But it was so much fun- until I fell.”

“Well, let’s see if you still think it’s fun when you’re wearing a cast for the next six weeks.”

“Aw, Jeff, don’t spoil my high. Did you see me? I hit those moguls like a pro.”

“Yes, honey you did,” he said, tenderness running strong in his veins for his brave, incredible, beautiful wife.

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Carried by Lisa A. Listwa

She always felt like the one who needed to be carried. He was the calm to her bluster, the reason to her emotion. When she fretted and worried, he said, “just keep going” and “I believe.”

She found his lack of excitability infuriating.

Through all the changes, the struggles, the fears, he worked and simply kept on. He said he felt stronger with her by his side, better able to do it all because they did it together.

It was in one of those rare moments of expression she realized that in the everyday moments, she also carried him.

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The Carried Wife–Working Hogs by Faith A. Colburn

Moving hogs across a small open space. She feinted right. I followed. She ran left around me. My husband, already distraught, started screaming at me. For once. I stood my ground, stared at him. He took the few steps that divided us, picked me up, and started carrying me somewhere. I had no idea what he intended. Startled and scared, I bit his ear. He put me down, as I’d hoped, took a couple of steps back, wound up, and punched me in the face, a glancing blow since I was turning away. We never worked hogs together again.

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Carrying On by D. Avery

Those first springs the bony fish were welcome food and they ate them gratefully. At first they used them to feed the hills of corn as I showed them to do. They saw how it was, and early on these ones that came to Patuxet did not allow blocking the river as some English would do. Back then we all went to the river in the spring, carried full baskets of alewives to our families, our fields.

More ships came, with seeds and pigs and cattle. It did not take them long to forget how the alewives carried them.

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The Carried Wife by Padre

The river wasn’t incredibly deep, but it was wide and the current brisk. Inga and Charles stood staring at the detritus which seemed to permeate the flow.

“Charles, we can’t wait here all day, the pageant is right after lunch, and the town is still over a mile away.”

Inga had spent most of the last week sorting the ribbons, and finishing the embroidery of her native dress. It was the one hundredth anniversary of their nation’s independence from the Empire, and Inga was supposed to lead the dance.

Without a word, Charles lifted her end entered the water.

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Visions of the Past by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Charles? Where are you?”

“Right here, dear. I’m reminiscing over some of our past adventures.”

Helen chuckled. “We did have some great times. Do you remember our trip to Europe after graduation?”

Charles sighed. “I most certainly do. Do you remember that starry night in the field near the standing rocks?”

Helen blushed. “That was our first night together. How could I forget? We promised our love for all eternity.”

“Yes, that’s right. I picked you up and spun you around the field. I called you my carried wife.”

Helen’s electric wheelchair turned. “And, you’ve carried me ever since.”

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The Wolf in My Body by Deborah A. Bowman

I struggle to rise today,
Each day a little more difficult.
Not long ago I skipped upon my way!
And yet, it’s no one’s fault.

The Wolf has invaded my soul,
His markings across my face.
Lupus, they call him; truth be told.
French word, but found every place.

It taints women, makes our hearts go faint.
But even though the widow can no longer be carried,
The loving husband gone, she feels blessed.
“Yes, last night I could rest!”

My crutches carry me away!
Help my Lupus sisters who die today.
No cure; please help them all… www.lupus.org

🥕🥕🥕

Venus Falls by Kerry E.B. Black

Her legs gave way, and she crumbled.

He scrambled to catch her before she landed. Mud hampered his progress, greedy for attention when all he desired – His love, his best friend, his wife – suspended in what seemed like a slow motion descent.

Mud squelched around her head, befouling her midnight curls. The rigid motion of her seizure etched canals around her, a filthy adulteration of snow angels. He scooped her up and pressed her to him. She convulsed.

One minute. Two. Time grew as greedy as the mud.

The seizure passed.

He waited for her to return to awareness.

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Pushing by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Her challenges were not visible. She had no wheelchair, guide dog, prosthesis or hearing aid. It would have been easier if they were visible.

She carried herself with aplomb. Engaging well with her colleagues and clients. Sometimes she was aggressive, but it wasn’t noticeable to people who did not know her well.

It was inside her brilliant mind that the cracks lurked. Gaps in her mental processes that stopped some of the usual though connections from happening.

Her husband plastered over the cracks and built bridges to breech the gaps. He carried her; pushing her in a mental wheelchair.

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Misconceptions of What Is a Good Wife by Ellen Best

We worked hard, determined I was, not to be ‘A Carried Wife.’ More worried about other’s perceptions, I got it wrong. Because he was a lawyer, earning big, didn’t mean people would expect me to slack. Engrossed in that thought, I took my eye off of the ‘us.’

Not seeing his palor, hearing that cough. I failed as his wife. Each night I fell into bed shattered, not fit for the part. Worked, unaware of his appointments. I didn’t hold his hand, wipe his head. Here I am now, clutching a cold yellowed hand, wishing … it wasn’t his deathbed.

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That Morning by Michael Fishman

Roger watched Ellen, feeling the same love he’d felt for 53 years.

What did she ever see in me?

He never rushed these feelings and this morning was no different. He watched her feeling love.

Roger became Ellen’s caregiver when Alzheimer’s left her unable to care for herself. “Please promise me,” she begged shortly after the diagnosis. “No nursing homes.”

He promised.

Roger would forever question Ellen’s reason for being out of bed alone. He lifted his wife and carried her to the bed. Setting her lifeless body down he kissed her forehead and lay down next to her.

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Homecoming by Dana Wand

Swept up, she wrapped her arms around his neck while he reached down clumsily to open the door. They entered as one.

“Our first home,” he proudly proclaimed.

The years of a loving life soared. Here he is, carrying her frail body from the bedroom to the couch, tenderly wrapped in the warm comforter, hoping today will bring good news from the docs.

“It’s been a long day, Sweetheart, but now we are home.” He gently kisses her photo as he carries the urn to the nightstand next to their antique bed of fifty-four years.

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You Carried Me by H.R.R. Gorman

You carried me.
I didn’t ask,
But then again,
I couldn’t speak.

You settled me
On soft, silken,
Pinkest pillow,
Kissed me tender.

My eyes were shut,
But I still saw
You adored me.
I cherished you.

I wanted to
Clean the sad pile
Of tissues at
Your well shod feet.

Could my action
Disrespect your
Sadness and grief?
I allowed tears.

Upon your exit
Through sanctum’s door,
Someone shut my
Coffin’s wood lid.

When you returned,
You carried me
In my casket
To earthen home.

But my spirit
Carries you now
Until you come
To rest by me.

🥕🥕🥕

The Carried Wife by Deborah Lee

Becca reads the “Lifestyles” article about wife-carrying contests in Minnesota, then clicks out with a snort. That’s exactly the kind of thing Richard would have liked, manly and competitive and funny.

She’s walking past the plate glass window when the vastness outside it, the view itself, seems to knock her sideways. Not now, agoraphobia, she thinks, I have to go to work, but it’s too late. The room dips and spins and she drops to her knees.

The laughing wife in the article photo flashes. Yes, she could use a wife-carrier right about now. But Richard’s not coming back.

🥕🥕🥕

Carry Me by Debs

Karen’s bridesmaid, Louise conjured the perfect wedding game. Karen had to guess from five men, who her husband-to-be’s hand was, while blindfolded. Whoever she decided would have to carry her.

Five men stood, side to side. All held out their right hands. Karen, blindfolded, sidestepped in front of each, slowly, holding each hand briefly. She reached the fifth man. Paused. Louise and young lady guests stifled a giggle. He was Karen’s ex. The hall went quiet.

Karen’s hand quivered as she took his hand. He let go and motioned with his head to the fourth man, the groom. Applause!

🥕🥕🥕

A Carried Jezebel by M J Mallon

Annie glanced at her scrawny husband. A glance was all it took. He couldn’t lift her, no carried wife could she ever be. No threshold over which she could be taken. Adam was different. His different scared her. She couldn’t help but imagine Adam lifting her onto his shoulders and running to the ocean, his bare skin wet with the salty water, his hard, taut muscles flexing. What would happen thereafter? Would he leave her to the fishes, or scoop her up with dreamy kisses? She knew what she would become: a carried Jezebel; perhaps she’d like that more.

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Why Tessa is Divorced by Susan Sleggs

Tessa loaded the last of her personal items into the car then went back inside the house they had shared at Ft. Riley, Kansas, for the last six years. She did a walk-through remembering the good times with her children and how lonely she had been with her husband gone so much. When she locked the front door for the last time she could hear his words, “I’m done carrying you.” She felt she had carried the family without his help and knew she couldn’t stay after finding out his last three deployments had been at his own request.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Big Boned by Anne Goodwin

Her mother called her big-boned. Her father called her fat. In fact, she was muscled, a world-champion weightlifter, or would be when certain legalities were fixed.

When the Religious Right were elected, she’d been too busy training to vote. Now she cursed the Compulsory Marriage Act: only a Mrs could represent Britain abroad.

A secretary arranged for the groom, along with cake, dress and flowers. An affable chap, if rather weedy, but no-one had read the small print. She had to be carried indoors for it to pass muster. They ordered an ambulance in case her new husband collapsed.

🥕🥕🥕

Chicken Fights by clfalcone *

Competition was brutal this year: badass wives piggybacking muscled hubbies, trying to knock opponents into the water. He trusted his wife…she was the baddest ass of all.

They had been coming to the Annual 12-Step retreat for four years, winning the Chicken Fights three times. Five years earlier he was holed up in a trap house, smoking meth, drinking whiskey, losing his wife, destroying his life.

Four years sober meant his brain, job, wife, life, all somewhat returned to order.

Then Melissa from the Rooms got his wife off-balance. They both tumbled into the pool, laughing, enjoying the loss.

🥕🥕🥕

Return to the Farm by Joanne Fisher

After their wedding, Jess and Cindy returned to the farm. They stood at the doorway.

“Since you’re my wife now, I guess I should carry you over the threshold.” Jess suggested. Cindy put her hands on her hips.

“Excuse me? You’re my wife too. Maybe I should be the one who carries you?” Cindy objected. Jess laughed.

“With those slender arms? You’d be lucky to pick me up.” Jess countered.

“We’ll see about that!” Cindy replied defiantly. To Jess’s surprise Cindy strongly picked her up and carried her over threshold.

“I love it when you act butch.” Jess laughed.

🥕🥕🥕

Over The Threshold by Ritu Bhathal

Nina giggled as Rakesh swept her up into his arms.

“Come on, Wifey, let’s get you inside.”

“Stop it!” She jumped down as soon as they stepped over the threshold and turned towards him. “Why did you carry me over? We’re not English, you know!”

“Oh, I thought that’s what people do when they get married.”

“Have you never been to an Indian wedding before? Come on. I know you were born in the US, but surely you know some of the traditions,” she took his hand. “I know. If your parents were alive, it would have been different…”

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Blizzard Warriors by Caroline Scott

It was a cold, hard wind blowing in from the north but Casey kept her horse steady. She could barely see, keeping her hat low over her forehead and her scarf over her mouth.

Four hours ago, Sam had gone out to bring in their cattle. He should have been back by now, but the corral was empty.

Clucking her tongue, Casey urged her horse forward. The chestnut was sure-footed, carrying her over the familiar ground easily even in the rough weather. The horse had an instinct and Casey was certain that together, they would bring her husband home.

🥕🥕🥕

Together by Donna Matthews

Linda looked up from her feet – she’d been struggling all morning, stumbling over sharp rocks and ruts in the path. Her eyes traveled from the base of the mountain to the top. The steep switchbacks took her breath away.

“There’s no way in hell I’ll get to the top,” she laments.

“Honey?” she yells to her husband up in front.

“What’s up, beautiful?”

“I need your help,” she whines, “I’ll never make it up there. My feet are tired, and my back hurts!!”

Winking, he grabs her up on his back, and up the mountain together they go.

🥕🥕🥕

The Time Lily Put Her Foot Down and Stated Clearly, “I Am Not A Sack of Spuds.” by Bill Engleson

He’d declared himself with passion. His passions were modest befitting our customs. “It is our way, Lily. From your father’s home to our new home. I will carry you the distance.”

I looked at my betrothed. Yes, he was a stocky, corn fed youth. Strong as a rock, as serious as the soil he tended. Still, our home would be six miles away. A healthy distance to walk even without a burden.”

“Why would you weary yourself out, Emil? Of what use will you be to me on our wedding night?”

The seed was planted.

My point was made.

🥕🥕🥕

The Devil’s Elbow by Doug Jacquier

Mick picked his way carefully along the narrow track. As he reached Devil’s Elbow Cave, he planned to lay his heavy load down and take a rest. But before he could do that a man and a woman emerged from the cave. The man said “We’ll just relieve you of that burden, Mick.” He heard the click of the switchblade and saw the knife in the woman’s hand.

Seemingly acquiescent, Mick rolled the pack off his back, tore the top flap open and out stepped a woman holding a shotgun.

“You call that a wife? This is a wife.”

🥕🥕🥕

All Are Welcome Here by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It’d never occurred to them that their participation might not be welcome. Celebrating the fortitude and stamina required to go the distance in marriage–what better way to do this than with a test of physical endurance?

There was some confusion at the starting line as to which was the wife, but the buffalo-plaid-flanneled officiant had held up his gun, told all couples to get ready, set…

Pat hopped on Toni’s back, and they giggled their way through the course’s hedges and water traps. Everyone applauded when they were awarded first prize. This was, after all, the 21st century!

🥕🥕🥕

Wife Carrying by Pete Fanning

Every spring my parents entered our town’s Wife Carrying event. They usually nabbed first or second place, even as Mom wasn’t crazy about it. But she was a good sport, especially when Dad showed up in a dress. And won.

Then he got sick. Real sick. He lost fifty pounds of muscle. Winter came and the doctors were talking months, not years.

One night I heard some banging downstairs. I found my mother struggling, my father folded over her shoulders.

“What…” A lump in my throat. “Are you doing?”

Mom turned so I could see my dad beaming. “Training.”

🥕🥕🥕

Collapse by Nobbinmaug

It hit in the wee hours while Ricardo and Selema were asleep. The rumble thrust them into consciousness. The ceiling sent Selema reeling into unconsciousness.

Living in the Bay Area, Ricardo knew the dangers of aftershocks. The fallen beam would lead to further collapse.

Ricardo cleared the debris off Selema. He hoisted her, thankful for her time at the gym, wishing he made time for the gym. He struggled with the locks as the first aftershock shook. He heard a crash in the bedroom. The earth steadied, and Ricardo opened the door.

From outside, the sagging roof was visible.

🥕🥕🥕

He Carries Me by Cara Stefano

No one tells you what “in sickness and in health” means at the wedding, do they? Dutifully we repeat it anyway. He carried me over the threshold after our wedding.

I never realized how much I wanted motherhood until I was told I couldn’t be one. He carried me by not telling me that that day was also one of the worst days of his life.

Going back into surgery after your miracle has finally arrived. Alone, holding our newborn in his arms, I don’t know who carried him that day.

He has always carried me.

🥕🥕🥕

Caretaker by Nancy Brady

The woman was elderly, but he took great care of her. He stayed by her side throughout the day, only to return the following day.

Between her dementia and the cancer that was eating at her body, she was wasting away. Her mind wandered, with thoughts of long ago, memories of her childhood and that of a young wife and mother of a boy. She was barely lucid especially when he gave her the morphine to ease her pain.

Once, she carried him in her body, but now he was the one who carried her through her last days.

🥕🥕🥕

Ile de Fuego by Saifun Hassam

Carlos was inconsolable. Francine’s sailboat was found near Ile de Fuego. Francine, his beloved wife, his partner in marine exploration in the Black Bart Archipelago.

Her body was tangled in seaweeds among the lava tidal pools. She had been killed. Fang marks on her arms and legs, like those on a fisherman killed last winter. Island lore spoke of shadowy creatures haunting the undersea volcanoes.

Carlos gently lifted Francine’s shrouded body from the casket. With a silent prayer, he bid her farewell. He would not leave the Archipelago. It was their home. He was determined to find her killer.

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I Will Always Carry You by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

David stood in front of his closet, trying to figure out what to wear. He never thought this day would come. He put on black dress pants, a white shirt, and a black tie. An image of him carrying Sally over the threshold of a hotel room on their wedding day popped into his head, and a tear rolled down his cheek. Now, he was never going to be able to do it.

After the service, when it was time, he lifted the casket onto his shoulder and carried her to the cemetery where she was laid to rest.

🥕🥕🥕

Hold by JulesPaige

los pobrecitos
bottle of emotion then,
an awkward present

the man carried his sick wife;
children follow in darkness

safe haven; farmhouse
mixed languages; but all the
faces smiled kindly

Another scribe in a different hand from the hidden hutch records; “The tall thin man carried his wife with such tenderness. It was unfortunate that there was little we could do but make them as comfortable as we could. In the end she passed. And he reluctantly took his two children with him to the next stop.” Smelling her roses again… I thought ‘my’ gentle spirit Ife right away…

🥕🥕🥕

One of Many by Floridaborne

Bartholomew held a secret he’d kept for 40 years. On her deathbed, his mother swore she had served as a chamber maid to George II in Hanover until May 1714, succumbing to the king’s unwanted advances while changing linens in Caroline’s bedchamber.

A month later, she married the first man willing to carry her away from servitude. Born Christmas day, 1714, his three sisters were birthed a year apart before their father passed in 1717, and none looked like him.

People snickered when they remarked on his resemblance to the king, but it seemed he was one of many bastards.

🥕🥕🥕

Carrying His Wife Out by Lisa R. Howeler

They had to carry her out when they found him lying there on the floor by the hutch covered in blood.

How could he have done it? Why would he have done it? He had all a man could want, all she could give him. Hadn’t the money been enough all these years?

They called it a miracle that she’d walked in when she had; startling him and causing him to drop the gun and shoot himself in the foot instead of the head liked he had intended. She’d collapsed when the gun went off, falling against the hutch.

🥕🥕🥕

Unnamed by Reena Saxena

He turned back for the last time to look at the pretty, but forlorn face.

This is the girl he had gagged and carried inside the threshold of this dingy room. She stayed behind, because she identified with his cause. She looked after him, and protected him from the police as long as she could.

It is not the police who have come for him today, but remnants from his past – his wife and two lovely kids.

It is time to say good-bye, and it breaks his heart to think that he was the kidnapper, and she the kidnapped.

🥕🥕🥕

The Matter of Loggatha LeGume by D. Avery

“*My Beanie lies over the mountain, my Beanie lies over the plains…*”

“Pepe Legume. Why ya singin’ sech a sad song?”

“‘Ello Pal, ‘Ello Keed. I am apart from my wife.”

“You have a wife?”

“Oui. Mon cher, mon petite Beanie. But her given name is Loggatha.”

“Well, where is Loggatha, why ain’t ya tagether?”

“Dere ees many times, many places when she cannot go where I can. Often she ees detained. Sigh. She ees warm and soft, dat one, but a solid partner, my better half. She carries me! But you know, dere’s a leetle Loggatha in everyone.”

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Seeing the Finish Line by D. Avery

“Kid, you bin kinda scarce.”

“What diff’rence it make Pal? Ain’t much we kin do with this prompt. We won’t be carryin’ on with this challenge.”

“Why not? I kin carry ya. Or you kin carry me. Jist so’s we git the job done.”

“This roundup is purty specific— wife carryin’. Ain’t neither one of us no kinda a spouse ta no one.”

“Kid, ain’tcha never heard a “work spouses”? Thet one person ya kin rely on an’ confide in at yer job?”

“The one who’s got yer back an’ you got theirs?”

“Yep.”

“We kin take turns Pal.”

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January 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

Well, it is finished: Term Two Week Ten. My final grades come out on January 16, and this week, we wrapped up our discussions. My thesis, when accepted, will be a contemporary novel about Danni Gordon who is an archeologist ready to settle down but married to a restless veteran who finds a way back to Iraq. In Advanced Literature, we studied the four primary genres of my MFA program: YA, romance, speculative and contemporary. Our final project was short and creative. We had to write a two-sentence story for each genre to show the differences.

Here’s my homework:

YA: My name is Danni and I’m a Nevada girl who can drive steers, mustangs, and any old Jeep. Before you start thinking that’s all cool, understand that my life is misery, too — my name came up on the teenage ranchhands list at the bunkhouse today and I drew short straw to muck out the calving barn.

Romance: Danni couldn’t resist staring at the way the fisherman’s black tee-shirt stretched across his muscled chest and she could forgive him for walking across her archeology grid. Ike had no idea who the stupendously sexy woman digging in the dirt was, but he could forgive her from distracting him from fly-fishing the rest of the afternoon.

Speculative: With a single brushstroke, Danni uncovered a metallic glint among fragments of Navajo potshards. She kept brushing until days later the outline revealed what archeology had not prepared her to find — an ancient spaceship.

Contemporary: Ike charged her with his knife drawn but the full-body impact came from her left side. She never saw the charging moose her husband took down with a single slash.

Can you spot the differences? YA is a teenaged version of Danni told in the first-person POV and demonstrating a strong narrative voice. Romance focuses on a relationship and famously includes a first meet, and often told from alternating perspectives, which I did but as close third-person POV. Speculative includes spaceships. Contemporary creates verisimilitude through details that put the reader in the story. My biggest takeaway, though, is that no matter our genres of preference to write or read, we all blend genres. What is important to know for the purpose of publication is which genre best describes yours. Do you give this topic much thought or do you write what you write?

I’ve come to decide, for now, at least for we are always evolving, that I write contemporary fiction about the women’s frontiers. Typically I look for stories not being told or forgotten in time. As a researcher, it can be hard to find women in the records at all. Yet, stories have a way of rising to the surface, even ones buried in time.

Today, I took an artist’s date with a friend who claims to be the longest-standing student of Finnish language who still can’t speak it. I admire her attempt — it’s like Nordic Welsh. Hancock (Hankooki) has street signs double posted in English and Finnish, and after two years in the Keweenaw, I’m still no closer to understanding how to say a single word. Still, I appreciate living in a place with strong cultural identity from many sectors. While I originally planned a post inspired by my local Italian neighborhood, I got sidetracked this afternoon at the Finnish Cultural Heritage Center, where my friend and I watched the new documentary, Sirkka, by local filmmaker and Finnish American, Kristin Ojaniemi.

At 99 and a half, Sirkka Tuomi Holm is blind in one eye and can hardly see out the other. Born five days before women had the right to vote in the US, her foreign-born Finnish parents raised her to fight for what is right. She stood on picket lines as a child with the working class, joined the Army as a WAC in WWII, and stood up as a hostile witness under the hysteria of McCarthyism. She writes a column in the Finnish American Reporter monthly and says history will always repeat itself. She should know. She’s lived through it. A veteran and a woman born before the Vote. Yet living, breathing, and showing how the past informs the present.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/383558110

You can see from the film trailer how easily Sirkka captivated me. She relates a story about her shoes falling apart, repairing them with cardboard. She lived through the Great Depression and remembers the harsh times. A teacher referred her to the school principal for a shoe donation. The principal wrote out a slip for the program, but rather than hand it to Sirkka, she crumpled it and threw it on the ground to make the girl fetch it, saying, “You foreign-born make me sick! Lazy! Your father should be working to provide your shoes.”

Those words echo down through time and find new mouths to spill out from, shaming those who migrate for a better life, enduring poverty and hardships in the transition. Sirkka was shamed but held her gaze directly at the interviewer and said of the principal, “She was a bitch on wheels.” 80-some years later, Sirkka still recalls how that woman made her feel. As writers, that’s what we want to capture no matter the genre and its tropes we write. Readers should walk away from books remembering how the characters made them feel.

As for living history, Sirkka participated in the fight against fascism, aiding D-Day in Normandy. Yet, less than a decade later, she watched fear of communism turn to hysteria. Many Finns, such as Sirkka and her parents, were indeed Red Finns. They maintained their language, love of theater, religion, and politics without any subversive motives. She embraced being American because it meant the freedom to be who you are, speaking out, standing up for justice. The tide turned against her, and McCarthyism left her hating. Then, she realized that hate was making her like those who had wronged her. She loved people and made a choice to dispell hate.

Sirkka has a message for us. She says history will repeat itself, and it’s up to us to remain human. We do that together. She said, “Sing together. Go for walks together.” I’ll add to that — write together.

The debut of Sirkka’s film kicked off the mid-winter festival in Hankooki — Heikinpäivä. In Finland, they say, “The bear rolls over,” meaning winter is halfway over. And here’s how they say it:

Heikinpäivä 2020 includes a stick horse parade, pasties, kick-sledding, and a wife-carrying contest. Little appeals to me in the sport’s origins or modern contest, but it makes locals laugh and cheer the contestants without being as intense as other races. But it got me wondering, as writers are wont to do with strange little tidbits — what other ways and reasons might wives be carried?

January 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a carried wife. Why is she being carried? Who is carrying? Pick a genre if you’d like and craft a memorable character. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by January 14, 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.

Submissions closed. Find our latest Flash Fiction Challenge.

Arrival to Rock Creek by Charli Mills

Her black hair sleeked and pinned, Mary Green McCanles rode the Tennessee Walker sidesaddle alongside the wagon train from Carter’s Station. Among the dusty herd and hands, she looked regal and rested. Sarah’s cheeks flushed, and she patted the frizzy sides of her brown hair, feeling like a pale version of Mary. Sarah dimmed when Mary dazzled. Cobb strode from the barn, ignoring the new livestock that just made him the wealthiest man in Nebraska Territory. He swung his wife off the horse and carried to the outburst of cheers. Sarah would have to sleep in the barn tonight.

Found in a Hutch

A hutch can be a simple outdoor container for chickens on a ranch, or a simple chest to store saddles. Hutches can also be crafted into fine furniture that holds a person’s treasured dishes. Like a wardrobe, a hutch has many possibilities in storytelling.

Writers were asked to look inside. As you would expect, a wide variety of items were found.

The following is based on the January 2, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something found in a hutch.

PART I (10-minute read)

Heirlooms by D. Avery

She used to keep the better china in it. Then pretty knickknacks and collectibles. Things she thought one of her children, or grandchildren, even great-grandchildren might want to have. One day.

Now framed photographs lined the shelves of the hutch, all in order— children, grandchildren, great grandchildren; first-born to last-born.

She sighed. There were more great-grandchildren than living grandchildren. These young children, some addicts at birth, now lived with their grandparents— her own aging children.
The hutch predated the Civil War. Would her family survive these present day battles? Who will keep the hutch? Who will curate its treasures?

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Inside the Hutch: Mary Hansen Saga VI by Artie & Stu

Mary Hansen’s grandmother Margaret lived in the first settlers’ home on Lake Winataka. Her great-grandfather built it out of local oak. While it still stands and the old log houses are all rotting remains, he wouldn’t recognize much other than the kitchen hutch. Over the years, the home was remodeled and upgraded seemingly around that hutch. Mary spent many happy hours playing with the pots and pans stored below and then staring with curiosity at the mason jars and spices bottles inside the hutch. When her friends visited and asked what was in that cabinet, Mary always said, “love”.

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Unpacking by Susan Sleggs

Michael took another oblong bundle of paper out of a box labeled Hutch and unrolled the mound until the prize inside laid in his hand. He held a wood box with a hinged lid that had been tied securely with string. He handed it to Tessa.
With a look of wonderment, she undid the string, opened it and lifted out an Altoid box labeled with her son’s name. She shook it to hear the familiar rattle before opening it to show Michael the contents. “Brent’s baby teeth.”

“Parents save those?”

“Of course. I’ll bet your Mom has yours.”

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Memories Within the Old Hutch by Chelsea Owens

“What’s this, Grammy?” Pearla’s granddaughter, Ella, squatted on the old hutch, something wooden in her hand.

“Ah. That’s the lovespoon Grampy brought back from Wales.”

Ella retrieved another piece. “An’ this one?”

“A model plane your Daddy-”

“An’ this one?”

“Aunt Michelle’s locket from-”

“An’ this one?”

Pearla laughed and kissed the curly-haired forehead. “Slow down, Ella, dear.”

“Sorry, Grammy.” Ella pulled something from the shadows. “An’ this one?”

“That’s-” Pearla choked; whispered, “Those were your Aunt Ella’s.” Taking and returning the tiny baby shoes, Pearla took the living Ella’s hands, instead. “What do you think about making cookies?”

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Great-grandma Carpenter’s Sherbet Dishes by Faith A. Colburn

Grandma Hazel and her younger sister, Edna, used to have knock-down drag-out fights. One night it centered on who would wash the dishes. After a bunch of yelling and snarling, it degenerated into hair pulling. To keep from falling, Grandma grabbed her mother’s hutch where Great-grandma Frank displayed her fancy sherbet dishes. The hutch went down, breaking all but two of the dishes.

“That’s the only time I ever saw my mother cry,” Hazel said.

Grandma Frank made the girls dig a hole in the back yard and bury the broken glassware.

Sis and I have the two survivors.

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Maybe Next Year by Anne Goodwin

Every Christmas, he gifted her a pretty notebook and a pen fit for an arthritic hand. Every year, he took the grandkids to the pantomime, left her at the kitchen table, to fill the first page. Every autumn, he looked for it amongst the litter of the rabbit hutch, a crumpled sheet of unmet targets and dashed hopes.

He never mentioned it. Simply smoothed out the wrinkles and filed her disappointment among his gardening magazines. His resolution spanned a decade but he swore he’d get there. One day he’d bring them out and show her how far she’d come.

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When the Wealth Didn’t Matter by Lisa R. Howeler

He kept the gun in the hutch behind the Tiffany Sybil Claret Wine glasses that had belonged to his grandmother.

There were 20 of those ridiculous glasses, worth $100 each. Wealth, wealth and more wealth.

It was all around him but none of it mattered.

His fingertips grazed the cool metal of the gun, a Remington RM380, traced the shape of it, and slipped down to the handle where his fingers firmly grasped it.

He tipped his head back and laughed loudly.

So rich yet so poor.

They had their money to keep them warm.

They wouldn’t miss him.

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Lagomorphs by clfalcone *

“Why’d you quit the agency, Laurel?” His stern look matched his suit: rough, angry, out of place in this Alaskan wilderness.

Unblinking, she reached into the hutch, gently removing a rabbit.

“You know what this is?” Hugging the bunny.

He just stared, cold wind flapping his trenchcoat.

“This is a snowshoe hare …. lepus americanus…” She closed the hutch. “I like studying their migratory patterns, not those of Islamic military targets in Iran for Big Oil.”

“But there’s a war on…we need you, Laurel.” he huffed.

“Your war…. not mine.” She turned and walked away, waving. “Good day, Mr. Mills.”

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The Year I Spent as a Bunny-Almost a Memory but a True Story. Well, One Part. I Just Don’t Know Which Part. by Bill Engleson

Mother: “He’s not a curious child.”

Father: “A little slow, maybe?”

Mother: “He needs schooling, Sterling.”

Father: “Needs a kick in the…”

Mother: “No he doesn’t. He needs a private school. He’d be five and in grade one.”

Father: “Pay for his learning?”

Mother: “For a year. It’d be hard, but we could do it.”

Father: “What’s this place called?”

Mother: “The Bunny Hutch.”

Father: “Seriously?”

Mother: “And you’d have to drive him.”

Father: “I work shifts at the mill.”

Mother: “We’d have to drive him.”

Father: “You don’t drive.”

Mother: “I’ll have to learn.”

Father: “Guess you will.”

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The Culprit by Caroline Scott

“Pa, can I keep it? Please?”

Sam scratched his head at the furry culprit in his son’s arms. How that little brown pup had gotten into the rabbit hutch he had no idea, but he wasn’t happy about it, no sir, not at all.

“Those were good rabbits,” he said.

“But Pa! We’ll get more! This little feller’s a hunting dog, I can tell.”

The hope in his boy’s eyes was pleading. Sam’s eyes went to the little wriggling mongrel who caused so much trouble, and his gaze softened.

“Alright. But you’re cleaning up after him and that’s final.”

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The Hutch by Ritu Bhathal

Milly peaked inside the room again, hoping the scene had changed since she checked a few minutes ago.

Nope. Nothing.

She sighed.

So, everyone really had forgotten.

She looked again a few moments later to find her family stood there.

“What’s happening?” Confused, Milly’s eyes darted from person to person.

“Get your coat, Midge,” her brother ruffled her hair and smiled, and beckoned her to follow them into the garden.

A hutch stood in the corner.

“Go on, Milly. Look inside!”

Her eyes lit up as she saw a tiny rabbit.

“Happy birthday, Milly. Did you think we forgot?”

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Rabbit Hutch by Nobbinmaug

Jen’s dad made the rabbit hutch for her when she was 8. She cherished it. He wasn’t around much when she was a kid.

When she was 12, he left on a business trip and never came home. He left no word, and the police found no clues.

When she got her own house, she decided to set up the hutch in her yard. Maybe someday her kids would breed and show rabbits.

When she and her friends were disassembling the hutch, she found a secret compartment. She forced open the rusty hinges revealing a large bag of diamonds.

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A Shared Project by Stevie Turner.

His son smiled at him as he bent over the little hutch and banged in the last nail. Now the boy was eight, he’d found working with the lad in their shared project rather more satisfying than hours spent frequenting the pub. Okay, a few of the screws had gone in somewhat crooked, but what the hell. He smiled in return. By making the shelter for Sheldon he had managed to please not only the tortoise, but just in time had also achieved the thing that had been so elusive to him in past years; that all-important father-son bond.

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The Rabbit Hutch by Sally Cronin

Her kids wanted new things for their children and Milly decided to have a garage sale for toys she had hoarded. Neighbors came and went, but one little boy stood in front of the rabbit hutch all morning. She had put 20 dollars on the ticket as they were expensive to buy new. He clasped a dollar bill in his hand. “My dad says I can have a rabbit when I can buy the hutch”. A tear rolled down his cheek. He raced down the street waving the sold ticket in his hand and she smiled at his joy.

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The Hutch by Margaret G. Hanna

The hutch stands in the far corner of the shed. The glass is broken out of the upper doors, allowing a sparrow to build a nest. The lower doors hang askew, revealing paint cans and oil filters. A crudely carved heart stands out amongst the gouges and scars on the counter. Within it, I read the initials: DL + BR.

Were they high school sweethearts who married? Or was it only a summer fling? I trace my finger around the heart, hoping to feel the passion that inspired them to leave an everlasting declaration of love on this old hutch.

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Regal by DG Kaye

They stood tall and proud. None wished to be snatched away, or worse, – broken!

For decades these worthy icons remained admired and sought after, not only for beauty, but, their ever-increasing monetary value. The older, the more valuable. A grand mix of ethnic backgrounds co-existing in silence.

Such greats as: Lalique, Capodimonte, Royal Doulton, and Russian nesting eggs sat perched on a shelf protected behind the beautifully scallop-edged fine glass doors housing the regal cabinet where they all lived in harmony in all their diversity.

Time’s treasures of hidden wealth and ancient lore communing in one dining room hutch.

🥕🥕🥕

Those Eyes! by Ruchira Khanna

“Whatever happens, don’t open this?” Mom commanded as if the colonel of the army, and

marched out of the room.

I obeyed with a soft nod but confused eyes.

I stared at it and saw a pair of eyes on the brass knobs of the brown polished wood.

Peeked outside the room.

“Should I open it?” I grinned like a witch, “But maybe it had something forbidden for me, just

like Adam’s apple?” I contemplated.

Stared back at the hutch, but darn those eyes reflected at me!

Is it my consciousness or just the reflection of my own eyes?

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Eye of Luxor by clfalcone *

“You said you’d give it back if I brought you the letter.” He handed her a tattered, soiled paper.

She looked it over with scrutiny, examining the writing, squinting. Finally, folding it, she placed it in a box on the hutch. She took the pendant hanging from the finial.

“The Eye of Luxor.” She winked. “There’s a lot of power in that jewel, you know. Be careful.”

“Much as you should be careful with scrolls of Moloch.” He said, snatching the gem with a return wink, walking to the door

“Give the prince my regards, sister.” And he left.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

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The Hutch by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

When Mosiko arrives for work shortly, she will ask him to help her carry the cages from the barn, and assist her in setting them up, one at a time, in front of the chicken coop door. A bit of food sprinkled on the ground would be enough to attract the stupid birds out of their chicken coop and into the cage when she released them from captivity by opening the door. Once safely inside, Mosiko would then help her carry the occupied cages back to the barn, ready to be hung under the wagon before the family trekked.

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Memories of the Past by Colleen M. Chesebro

Julia packed the last of the doilies into the bottom drawer of the hutch. She lovingly stroked the top of the sturdy pine chest. This heirloom had been in her family for more generations than she could count. She hated saying goodbye.

She opened a cupboard door and touched great grandmother’s bone china wrapped in cloth for protection. A great feeling of sadness overwhelmed her, and she gulped back her tears.

With one last look at the remains of a life she had to leave behind, Julia stepped from the covered wagon into the heat of a prairie dawn.

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That One Day (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Sun beat down on the oxidized hood of the Willies Jeep. It was Danni’s ninth birthday and her dad said they’d explore the old wagon road of the 40-Mile Desert. So far, all Danni had seen were oxen bones and rusty horseshoes. Her dad stopped to check out a dried-out pile of wood.

“An old hutch once,” he said.

Danni climbed out and saw a glint of something in what had been a cupboard door. A marble. Not just any marble but a large globe with an elephant inside. That was the day Danni decided to become an archeologist.

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Yield? by JulesPaige

secrets too long kept
India Ink script fading
on brittle parchment

I took one of Marisol’s boxes and placed it on the built in hutch. A bit too hard, trying to avoid Lucky weaving underfoot, “You kitty are early for lunch! You and Dawg are always on the run – why don’t you take a nap I like the way you sleep!”

A loose backboard popped open. There was a thick oil cloth bound by butcher’s twine. Marisol’s box got moved to the back burner.

I cut the twine and carefully unwrapped the cloth. The first page was dated 1835…

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Cheese Keeper by Ann Edall-Robson

It was a rare occasion when Hanna had time to look through the box her grandmother had left her. Today was her day off, yet she had offered to help Liz in the kitchen and had been shooed away. Now, with the pictures spread across her bed, she looked at each one. Reading the fading words on the back for the hundredth time. Her favourite was one of her grandmother at someone’s birthday. Surrounded by people Hanna was yet to identify. On the table was a cheese keeper.

“That looks like the one Liz has in her china hutch.”

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One Afternoon by Michael Fishman

She laid two bony hands on the table, leaned forward, and with a moan of effort, stood up. She grabbed her cane and shuffled away.

“Where you going, grandma?” I said, hoping I hid the hope in my voice.

She didn’t answer, but she didn’t have to because when I saw her walk to the hutch I knew exactly where she was going. Third drawer, left side. That’s where she kept them.

“It’s been a while, love, so today we’re going to play a game.”

Third drawer, left side, that’s where my grandmother kept her deck of magic cards.

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Blackie (BOTS) by Nancy Brady

My son found an abandoned Easter bunny near the woods behind our home. We found a cage to house the little rabbit. Because of our cats, though, a disaster could strike, and Blackie would be gone.

Frankly, my husband didn’t want it; he convinced an employee, who raised rabbits, to take the bunny. They even had a rabbit hutch in their backyard. Now, to convince my son as he was attached to Blackie, he promised, “We’ll visit him.” With that, the rabbit had a new home. Devastated, tears trickled down Michael’s cheeks, and he never saw the rabbit again.

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What’s Hidden in Your Hutch by Susan Sleggs

After exercising on stationary rings and showering, Michael sat staring at the hutch his sister had insisted he needed. The upper shelves displayed happy memories: pictures of him with Army buddies at reunions, his parents, and his sister’s family. The lower cupboards held a good stock of liquor. The center big drawer was like a safe deposit box, hiding tangible PTSD triggers: two purple hearts, medical records, dog tags, pictures of lost buddies and of himself with legs. He thought of baby teeth and hoped Tessa would have a grandchild to help him understand why such things were keepsakes.

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The Inhuman Hutch by tracey

The four foot square box made of metal had a thick wavy pane of glass on one side. The POWs called it the hutch. The Major broiled inside for twenty-seven days and shivered through twenty-seven nights.

The enemy was sure a man of his rank knew plenty about troop movements or upcoming military operations. But he didn’t know anything, though he often wished he did so he could misdirect the enemy.

He was just a payroll officer caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. A mere mortal given the opportunity to demonstrate his inordinate strength of mind.

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The Silla by clfalcone *

She was at the rabbit cages when Nanuq came to the gate.

He cleared his throat. Chills crept her spine like the icy winds off Marmot Bay.

“Sis…they can’t find the boat…. the eight went down…I’m so sorry, Jissika.”

She had feared the worse when Maritime lost track of the Silla off Sitkinak Island nineteen hours ago.

Now it was so.

She let the bunny drop back into the hutch, rubbed her distended belly, welling up. The fishermen would have to wait for their boots and hats this season.

She had to raise the baby without her Ujar now.

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Freedom! by Joanne Fisher

I squeezed through the small gap in the wire, and then I was free. I had finally escaped my prison. I ran down the path towards the forest and freedom. After a short time I could hear the footsteps of my captors behind me. They knew I had escaped, and were giving chase. I vowed I would get away this time. It was to no avail however: a large hand suddenly scooped me up.

“Aw! The little fella tried to escape the hutch again. We’ll just have to make sure there are no more gaps in the wire netting.”

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Plans for Supper by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The four children huddled in the corner of the rabbit hutch. Cock-sure that the trolls would be sleeping off their hangover, they’d broken into the cellar for a bit of potato…maybe some ham! They’d not counted on LilleMjol catching them.

LilleMjol’d expected a reward of rabbit stew in brown gravy for dinner. What he’d gotten was a cuff on the ear.

“Stupid boy! These are humans, not rabbits. Our Peace Accord says we can’t eat them!” his mother glared down her long nose at him.

LilleMjol was furious, vowing to kill them anyway.

But the four had other plans.

🥕🥕🥕

Hutch by Dave Madden

Ben and Diego entered Death Kiss MMA as soft high school seniors out of curiosity; two years later, each had hardened into highly touted amateur prospects within the local circuit.

The road along the way was paved with several hardships—losses, injuries, problems with coaches or other teammates, and personal issues outside of training—but they always had each other’s back, like MMA’s hard-hitting rendition of Starsky and Hutch.

Much like the two detectives would chase “their guy,” the two continued their journey into the professional ranks, pursuing glory in cages across every continent.

🥕🥕🥕

For Luck by Anita Dawes

My mother’s welsh dresser needed filling
I remembered the six crates in the attic
Not sure about most of the china
So old fashioned
I managed to find a few bits
I was about to carry the pieces down bit by bit
When I noticed a small crate
Over by the window
Taking a quick look, I found
A blue and gold Aladdin’s lamp
It felt warm to the touch
Unlike the other pieces
I felt instantly fascinated with it
Carrying it down like a precious new-born
Placing it on the dresser
Most days, someone rubs it for luck…

🥕🥕🥕

Hutch of Treasures by Kerry E.B. Black

Grandma asked my cousins and me, “What inside this hutch is my dearest possession?” She creaked as she settled into an armchair to watch our debate.

My eldest cousin took the lead. “The goblets. They’re gold, aren’t they?”

Grandma inclined her head. “Indeed, but they aren’t my treasure.”

Each chose something. Crystal, silver, china, linens. I noticed a stack of ribbon-bound letters in the top right drawer. When my turn came, I pointed to them. “Are these from Grandpa?”

“Yes, when he fought in the war.”

“Then these are your treasured possession.”

Tears dribbled from her white lashes. “Yes.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Hutch by Floridaborne

What is a hutch?

A dust magnet.

Unless you hire a cleaning crew each week, it’s nothing but a time waster. I have better things to do than clean the knick knacks, shelves, and plates.

Binge-watching a series has more meaning. Cleaning is drudgery that never ends — a series does, and you were entertained along the way.

Yes, a hutch once owned me, a darkly wooded monstrosity with toe-catching legs that sent me to urgent care more than once.

Hutches, like mansions, are for the rich. I’ll take light wood cabinets and a wall full of counter space instead.

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The Traveler by Saifun Hassam

Grandma’s favorite room was her den. The center piece was a beautiful chestnut hutch she found in a yard sale.

She enjoyed her days gardening and reading. And ah yes, helping with the upkeep of the gnome and hobbit homes in her hometown of Charlevoix. A motley collection of miniature stone hobbits and gnomes had found its way onto the top shelf.

The hutch was home to novels like Treasure Island, Moby Dick, Kon Tiki, Don Quixote, Lord of the Rings, and Lord Jim. On the lowest shelf an exquisite carving of a sailing boat rode the high waves.

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TempOWary by D. Avery

“Pal, ya ever git skeered we could git replaced?”

“Us? Heck no, Kid, we’re iconic. Stock character Ranch hands, dang good at what we do.”

“Yeah, but, seems like there ain’t a position these days ain’t dispensible. I know Pepe’s worried ‘bout automation at Buckaroo Nation.”

“Whut?”

“You know he slips inta Headquarters now and agin. He found out Shorty’s frien’s got a fartin’ machine. Kin ya believe it?”

“Cain’t believe it could keep up with Pepe.”

“One time they was talkin’ spreadsheets, ‘member?”

“An’ you kept shovelin’ an’ spreadin’ an’ scatterin’ shift like farfennugens. Kid, jist hutch up.”

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January 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

Outside my front steps, little brown pellets form a scattershot design in the freshly scooped snow. “Farfennugens” comes to mind. It’s a made-up word from the last century — the 1990s. I don’t remember who came up with it, but I recall the incident. My eldest went into kindergarten, where Mrs. C had a classroom bunny. Gus was his name. Every student had a turn, taking home Gus for the weekend. He made similar brown pellets throughout our house, and we called them farfennugens.

These wild farfs puzzle me. Why at the front steps? Our neighborhood bunnies shy away from the doors. When I take Bobo outside, I wander their trails with my gaze, noticing where they dash, where they hunker, and where they hide. I’ve never seen them venture so boldly up the driveway to the steps. And then I recall my poor pitch. Let’s hope I have a better pitch for my thesis than I do with my arm!

Two days ago, after a sloppy-wet blizzard buried us in heavy snow, I watched the pigeons flock in circles. Wanting to make sure our two resident fledglings survive winter, I had been leaving out seed for them, but they were not coming to the back deck once it snowed. I had an idea — I’d sprinkle seed across the driveway the Hub had blown and scooped into a flat white mat. My heart was big, my pitch was not. A cup of seed sailed vertically as if I were trying to feed pigeons in flight. I dropped back down to the steps where I stood.

What the pigeons did not get, the bunnies did. They left their calling cards.

The only hutches I ever remember the women in my family owning were for rabbits, doves, or chickens. Fancy hutches filled with glassware belonged to women elsewhere. Back in Idaho, I used to pick up old glass in the south horse pasture. As a kid, purple glass and square nails held my attention for hours as I combed the hillside behind my house, where likely an old dump had been in the silver mining days. The first time I met someone who collected glassware, I was fascinated to see the pieces in their whole shapes.

Hutches were more common back in the pioneer days. Sod houses and cabins had no built-in cupboards. What I knew as a “pie keep” was a common type of hutch for the practical pioneer wife or ranch cook. Like a rabbit hutch, it employed mesh wire on the doors. The idea was that the cook made the pies on the countertop and then stored the baked goods on the shelves behind the mesh, allowing air to circulate without flies. I could see owning a pie-keep. Yet, it is a fancy hutch I now own.

It did occur to me that I could start collecting whole pieces of glass instead of fragments. But I have this rule of household goods — it must be practical and beautiful. It can’t just be a pretty thing, hanging out to collect dust. I have purchased glassware from the local church thrift and yard sales and the consignment shop. Wine glasses, cider mugs, and teacups for large groups fill my built-ins. I was at a loss as to what to with this large hutch.

For Christmas, Todd got a toy Monster Truck — Gravedigger, a jacked-up hearse on super-inflated tires. Our daughter had seen a friend’s child playing with one and knew she’d have to get one for her dad. The Hub talks in his Monster Truck voice, taking on the persona of Gravedigger. He has vexed me for years in public places, talking to me in his Monster Truck voice. This includes following me through the grocery store, making commentary on every item I set in the cart. In Idaho, he was singing to me in his Monster Truck voice as we were winding through the backroads after cutting firewood, and we turned the bend and, there was the real-deal Gravedigger parked in someone’s yard. It’s a family joke.

So, of course, Gravedigger, the model toy truck, now sits in the center of the fancy hutch. I now know what I will do. Next came the scams (the affectionate name for book and 99-word story sales). The entire bottom shelf is lined with the promotional items I use at farmers markets and book fairs — a copper bowl filled with copper pennies next to a sign offering 99-word stories and a penny for a dollar; a stack of Vol. 1 Anthologies next to a sign and plate of bookmarks touting flash fiction.

Sure, I have some pretties, too, that hold special meaning from special friends. Those and rocks are dispersed. I have room for some local art I might pick up this summer, and room for a bowl of broken glass. The hutch that came with the dining room set now has a purpose. The table gets plenty of use, and moving forward into 2020, it will be the scene of weekly literary events on Thursdays.

Locally, I will host a variety of Thursday evenings from 5-7 p.m. EST. They will alternate, so each one is once a month and will attract different groups of people and a few who want to come to them all. Silent reading parties are for introverts with books. The house is unfinished. Eventually, it will include lots of reading nooks (the Unicorn Room will be a reading room with a plush carpet, lots of sitting pillows, and space for an air mattress for overnight guests who will sleep among the unicorns and cameo-pink walls). Game night is self-explanatory, and my collection includes Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride Europe, Sushi-Go Party, Bananagrams, Story Cubes, and Scrabble. Write-ins are a collective time to write from the various writing nooks throughout the house and are an effective way to be accountable to one’s writing goals. Critique is for those who take my workshops so we can continue to progress on our novels and learn the adaptive critique process I’m developing (so far, it has met with the approval of my professors).

Where do you fit in? Right next to my hutch! I have a lectern where I set up my laptop to record discussions for my MFA classes. On that lectern, I also want to invite you to come and read on a Thursday (Friday morning in Australia). We can do this via Skype, Messenger, FaceTime, or even an old-fashioned phone call. You would introduce yourself, say how long you’ve been wrangling words at Carrot Ranch, what you write and why, and then read some of your 99-word stories, or poetry, or book excerpts. Your choice. It will be a 10-minute spot. And you will help connect the Keweenaw to the World through literary art.

This year, with anticipated and continued stability, my goals include connecting up Carrot Ranch online to World Headquarters on the Keweenaw. I will return to Vermont in July with one writer’s retreat, local workshops, and literary outreach (to libraries and veterans). I’d like to host a couple of writers in residence — a free three day stay where we’ll treat you like literary royalty. My vision grows, but my North Star stays constant — to make literary art accessible (encouragement, inspiration, education, collaboration, and play). I’m still tweaking goals but plan to have plans in place by March, which is the annual anniversary of Carrot Ranch.

If you want to join me on Facebook, I’ve created a private group called Carrot Ranchers. It’s a way to combine multiple communities that intersect here, and also focus on weekly support, accountability to writing goals, and play for writers who want to publish. You can view the weekly schedule here. I realize it’s not for everyone, but anyone who wants to join can. It’s a private group so we can keep it to our known communities (it’s an extension of safe space to grow as a writer).

Now let’s turn our attention to what could be hiding in a hutch.

January 2, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something found in a hutch. It can be any kind of hutch — a box for critters or a chest for dishes. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by January 7, 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.

Submissions closed. Find our latest Flash Fiction Challenge.

That One Day (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Sun beat down on the oxidized hood of the Willies Jeep. It was Danni’s ninth birthday and her dad said they’d explore the old wagon road of the 40-Mile Desert. So far, all Danni had seen were oxen bones and rusty horseshoes. Her dad stopped to check out a dried-out pile of wood.

“An old hutch once,” he said.

Danni climbed out and saw a glint of something in what had been a cupboard door. A marble. Not just any marble but a large globe with an elephant inside. That was the day Danni decided to become an archeologist.

By Design

Setting an intention is at the heart of welcoming in the New Year. By design, we set goals, plan and reach for our vision. This goes beyond resolutions and wishes. By design, we commit to doing the work of our dreams.

Writers, as always, followed where the prompt led. You’ll be surprised by the design flaws and successes contained here.

The following are based on the December 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the phrase by design.

By Design by Donna Matthews

“What are you doing?”

“Digging.”

“Why?”

“Under all these layers of granite, rock, and dirt, there’s an underground river I’m trying to reach.”

“But why? “

“This river is what connects all human beings together.”

“What in the world are you talking about? Doesn’t make a lick of sense!”

“I know. It’s super hard to explain, and most people aren’t ready to understand, but the human experience is connected by design. Most people remain content here on the surface level, but I hunger for more. I believe this river that connects us all is the answer.”

“You’re weird!”

“Maybe.”

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Designature Move by Bill Engleson

He’d wake up in the morning and not know where he was.

Nor care.

All that mattered was that he had coffee.

Sometimes he didn’t.

Fortunately for him, a cup of java was always just around the corner.

Which corner didn’t matter.

Any corner would do.

One Christmas Eve, he showed up at his sisters.

“Surprise, surprise,” he said, smiling as she opened her festively decorated door.

“Well, brother,” she exclaimed, “where’s the cat?”

“Got me, Sis. What cat?”

“The one that dragged you in.”

“Arrives tomorrow.”

“Then he’ll be welcome too, you sketchy transient.”

“Love you too, Sis.”

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Private Toast by Kerry E.B. Black

Karen decided New Year’s resolutions needn’t fail. 2020 could offer “vision,” and she’d craft herself into an ideal. As confetti drifted into her champagne and couples kissed through “Auld Lang Syne,” she visualized a successful self.

Next year, she’d work harder toward her goals. New job. New home. New pant size. New romance.

Before she tipped alcohol from her fluted glass as an anticipatory congratulation, she studied the pattern floating atop. Bits of colored tissue created images, and much like a tea leaf reader of old, she knew them by design.

With a smile, Karen swallowed her private toast.

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Lifting Off Part 1 by D. Avery

“Why do you still use those toilet-paper roll binoculars to watch Marlie?”

Liz continued to focus on Marlie playing in the tree fort. “They help me remain objective. Keep my distance.”

“And why do you need to do that?”

Now she let the paper binoculars hang by their yarn strap around her neck as she answered her husband. “Because that unplanned offspring of ours couldn’t be more perfect by design. I don’t ever want to get in her way.”

“She’s going places alright. Mars. She’s in her spaceship.”

Marlie beckoned them. “Come to the launch! It’s time for take-off!”

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Lifting Off Part 2 by D. Avery

“Space travel! That explains the snow suit and hockey helmet.”

The crowd quieted as the astronaut communicated with Mission Control. The countdown began. The tree fort shuddered and roared. At liftoff Liz looked for reassurance in her husband’s embrace. When she turned back to see the capsule hurtling beyond the atmosphere her binoculars were crushed. She shielded her eyes with her hand and watched her daughter soaring over them, searching new adventures in far-flung worlds of her own imagination.

“Don’t worry,” her husband said. “Lunch is waiting. She’ll come back to refuel. Come on, I’ll make you new binoculars.”

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By Design by Anita Dawes

At my age, I don’t think about changing my life
It’s more like how to hang on to what’s left of it
If I did give thought to it
I would like to choose my own parents
After thoroughly vetting them first
Their childhood, their parents
As they will become my grandparents
Very important
Do they love each other
As much as they show the world.
Not really knowing if this idea
Is better than pot luck
Two people getting together
Then Fate takes over
Thing is, it is not always kind
Mostly, I believe we cannot change anything…

🥕🥕🥕

Time Saver by Joanne Fisher

By design the Ougalflougalerator was meant to make everyone’s life easier. It was a personal organiser, labour saving device, and most importantly, a time re-arranger, quite literally. When programmed correctly, periods of free time in your past and future could now be moved to when you really needed it in the present.

The Ougalflougalerator was designed by the mysterious Deep Thought corporation. An incredibly wealthy organisation that suddenly came into existence overnight, it seemed. Though the Ougalflougalerator was meant to make people’s lives easier, everyone who owned one found themselves more rushed and pressed for time than ever before.

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Five Pinnacles Canyons (from “Diamante Mountains”) by Saifun Hassam

Rocky canyons overlooked the valley floor. Animal treks meandered up into the alpine meadows. Pierre was on his first exploration trip of the Five Pinnacles Canyons, near the Diamante Mountains.

No one knew the origin of the name. More intriguing was an ancient stone wall. The passage of time had not erased its intrinsic patterns. By design it was an intricate lattice of uneven geometric shapes. With an unknown purpose and by design, stone steps also of distinctive geometry, ran alongside the stone wall. An older lattice of floral patterns was just discernible in the ruins of broken walls.

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By Design by Lisa R. Howeler

She thought it had all been an accident. He’d run into her on his way into of the supermarket while she was walking out.

“Oh, excuse me,” he’d said, bright blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight, dirty blond hair falling across his forehead and his hand warm against her arm as they collided. “I didn’t see you there.”

She’d dropped one of her bags and oranges were rolling across the parking lot.

Little did she know their encounter had been by design all along, and by his design, not by divine design. It wasn’t divine, was it? She wondered.

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By Design by Floridaborne

“No one has to know,” he whispered.

“No one but God,” I said.

“You’re one of… them?” He scoffed at me.

He looked so much like my favorite actor. Without the message from a classmate who watched me say yes to a date, I would’ve gladly melted into those well-toned arms.

“I am a woman and, by design, I have to be diligent. I don’t want to be the third high school student that has to go to night school because of you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Take me home,” I said, relieved I wasn’t going to become number four.

🥕🥕🥕

The Team by Ann Edall-Robson

Tal watched Hanna finish harnessing the team. She was good at what she did, and she loved working with the horses. This year It was her job to get them ready for the upcoming parade in town.

“You’re doing a good job with them, Hanna. You’ve got the touch.”

“How long do you think they’ve been together?”

“The team?”

“No! Mac and Liz?”

Tal looked at Hanna with an odd expression.

“Why are you asking?”

“Curious.”

“None of our business.”

“You know, don’t you! Was it fate, or by design?

“Hanna, just drop it!” He said, turning to go.

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It’s By Design by Chelsea Owens

“But, men are better-suited to a job. Women are nurturers, better-suited to home life and childcare.”

She looked his way, watching her nonverbal incredulity fly over his head.

“You think work’s some sort of vacation, but it’s difficult. It’s boring, too.”

She could see the piles of laundry behind him, an out-of-focus background to his immaculately-suited person. Disorder framed order: a juxtaposition between her expected daily high point and his.

“It’s true. I read a study that women are happier at home.”

She sighed, wondering which pile hid happiness.

“Trust me.” He kissed her pale cheek. “It’s by design.”

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A Weekend To Remember… by JulesPaige

t’was not by design
that the hospice declared her
a Christmas angel

after some ninety plus years
Baruch the Jew passed that night

Was by design though, she did not flaunt her faith. Perhaps she thought ‘I don’t need an excuse to be different – being a minority can cut deeply. I have lived a long life full of humor and truth. My children have married good partners, that’s what matters.’

Organized religion has benefits, distractions and derailments. Yearly celebrations should be time rededicated to family. For acceptance of differences was a primary lesson she taught throughout her life.

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Roses Come With Vicious Thorns by Anne Goodwin

Yr was a place of peace and beauty, and Deborah was its queen. Its stone walls blocked all sound and sight of bullies; its blue skies neutralised all pain. Each time she left – to see her family, do her schoolwork – her heart clenched.

By design, Yr was a rose garden, but roses come with vicious thorns. They tore her skin and, when she struggled, they scourged her flesh to bone. Yr’s people cackled, they screamed and shouted, refused to let her go. When she wept, they laughed. Her retreat became a place of persecution; its queen became its slave.

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Essential Element by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“The best-laid plans.”

“The egg unhatched.”

“The circle, its ends unmet.”

“A triad missing its third…”

“Thus only a dyad.”

The nave is cold, cheerless,
No sun to set stained glass windows afire with stories.
The benches unyielding, polished planes thick with dust,
Sound swallowed and darkly vaulted above.
The altar, richly hung with heavy cloths, tarnished chalice its crown.
Cobwebs occlude, where once a holy remnant hung.
Architecture, impeccable by design, might inspire devotion.
But what’s a place of worship without prayers?

“This is the church.”

“This, the steeple.”

“Open the doors…”

“And go serve all the people.”

🥕🥕🥕

By Design by Charli Mills

By design, my garden impressed. Every steppingstone measured, every bulb, seed, and root planted for maximum impact. In life, I did as I was expected. Good grades, college, spouse, suburban split-level, and two sons. On Sundays, I went to church.

Then my husband left me. My sons chose to live with him and his new wife, one without dirt under her nails. I moved into an apartment alone. Devastated. This wasn’t part of the plan. Where was God in this? Then I remembered the mustard seed. By design, I started over with a single planter and found my joy.

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Life by Design by Reena Saxena

She turned down invitations to kitty parties, and the ladies often quipped,

“What do you do all day?”

She had quit her job, but was always busy – writing, painting, building an enviable online profile. She volunteered, enrolled for many courses, and managed to complete ten of those.

They never understood what she did. Some of them labelled her a snob, but she was used to it. She was paying a social price for being different, being a lifelong learner.

She had charted out a whole new career path, when she launched a start-up. It was a life by design.

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By Design by Faith A. Colburn

I am isolated by design. I wanted to write my own stories. I’d been wanting to write them for years. So seven years ago, I earned my MA in creative writing and I published my first book—a family memoir I researched in collaboration with Grandma Hazel.

I closed myself in my house with a computer and printer. I wrote and revised, worked with beta readers, and edited. I marketed, too, until my grandson was born. I became his primary caregiver and an infant became nearly my only companion.

A few weeks ago, I realized I’d overdone the solitude.

🥕🥕🥕

New Year Intentions by Colleen M. Chesebro

In preparation for the new year, I anointed the white candle with the ritual oil. By design, this spell would work to cleanse away the old energy from the past year. For this candle represented my intention—all the hopes, dreams, and successes I envisioned for myself in the new decade to come.

I closed my eyes and centered my thoughts. I pictured myself writing in sunlight and in darkness. I didn’t give up or walk away. I kept reading and writing. I continued to learn.

My goal loomed large. I lit the candle and let the energy flow.

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Painting a Picture by tracey robinson

The landscape was encased in ice, trees frozen in mid-motion. Snow gleamed pure white, too cold even for the stars to twinkle. The cold poked and prodded, looking for a way into the snug cottage. All was still.

Inside the fire crackled and popped from the newly added pine log before settling down to give a steady heat. The flames danced to a happy song only they could hear.

I breathed in slow and deep, holding for a beat at the top. By design peace flowed through me. By Mother Nature’s design sleep settled over the great wintry outdoors.

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Failure by Joanne Fisher

“Engage the thrusters.” I ordered.

“Yes Captain.” the pilot replied.

Our spaceship sprang into life. By design, the ship was meant to withstand high speeds, but this was the first time they were being properly tested.

As our speed increased, the entire spaceship began to shake rather violently. I looked out the window to see bits of the ship starting to fly off.

“Our ship is breaking apart. Kill the thrusters!” I ordered. The pilot flicked the switch, but nothing happened.

“It’s no use! The controls won’t respond!”

I sighed. We were going to pay dearly for this failure.

🥕🥕🥕

Many Reasons by Susan Sleggs

At breakfast, Tessa said to Michael, “Last night’s Home-front Warriors discussion was about how few “lifers” return to their home towns. What brought you back?”

“That was by design. I knew my mother had chronicled my injuries and recuperation on Facebook so hometown friends wouldn’t need to ask me for the details. I wanted to feel useful and our church music program beckoned. Being involved with it helps keep the self-pity at bay.” He paused. “And if I were to get news about you, it would be here.”

Her eyes and smile proved his answer was a pleasant surprise.

Author’s Note: Definition – lifers – those who make a career of serving in the military, at least 20 years. It’s true they often don’t return home perhaps because their life experiences and viewpoints have changed them enough they don’t feel they fit in among old friends anymore.

🥕🥕🥕

The Spiritual Mystic by Design by Brenda Marie Fluharty

The Spiritual Mystic website, by design, was intended to share Love and light with the word. To help others to become more self-aware. Through the knowledge and wisdom of Brenda Marie people learn to walk their own path and share the journeys with the world. She shares her stories of spiritual awakenings, past lives, dreams, and her new gained knowledge of all things Spiritual. In her way she helps make the world a better place by doing what she loves, raising the vibrations of the Earth through her lightwork with the help of the angels and God above.

🥕🥕🥕

D’sign er Doors by D. Avery

“Kid, ya doin’ vision questin’ like Shorty talks about?”

“That’s a good questin’ Pal, but I ain’t never been much of a planner. Fer me ma visionin’ is ta look out fer jars.”

“Kid, this don’t seem the time or place fer ya ta be talkin’ ‘bout yer love a drink.”

“Not them jars. I’m talkin’ ‘bout keepin’ ma eyes peeled fer doors ‘cause they’re most often ajar, an opportunity fer me ta slip through onta the next thing.”

“Thet doesn’t seem ta be livin’ by design.”

“Sure it is. I’m open to de signs leadin’ ta them doors.”

🥕🥕🥕

December 26: Flash Fiction

The day after Christmas and some might be elated, some might be feeling battle-weary, and some might not recognize the day as any different. Across Roberts Street, the Christmas tree in my neighbor’s window went dark. No more dazzling LED  lights to keep me company into the long dark nights I write at my desk next to the window that gave me an unobstructed view of his. Some neighbors up the street still illuminate their old mining homes and likely will into the New Year.

On social media, I’ve witnessed Christmas joy, angst, and meh.

Joy goes to many who had sorrows last year. One close veteran friend battled agent orange-derived cancer, which shadowed the past two years, holidays included. This year, with surgeries and chemo complete, he showered his wife with thoughtful gifts, the kind that will be remembered — years ago she shattered an heirloom casserole from Poland. He finally found a replacement and surprised her with it. It’s understandable that this couple has savored every celebration in December this year from making cookies with the grandkids to the quiet after Christmas Day. Joy returned to them.

Another family I know from those long-ago days in Montana celebrated Christmas with purpose too — that family matters. They sprinkled gothic Halloween humor into traditional Christmas themes because one daughter created that infusion. Families often invent their own traditions, renewing those passed down. I remember this daughter as a girl who was best buddies with my eldest daughter. She and her sister were children, I loved dearly, and when I think about them, I think back to when my kids were little. It’s hard for me to fathom that she took her own life this year.

Grief comes at Christmastime.

Festive lights and remembered carols remind us of loss — death, divorce, and other unexpected changes. We humans like to pretend that change doesn’t happen. Maybe it’s a protective mechanism, a way to avoid contemplating our own mortality. Looks, circumstances, and vitality inevitably change. When I consider those dark Christmas tree lights across the street, I wonder how my neighbor is doing. He lost his wife this summer. Did he honor her memory by putting up the tree? Was he trying to maintain connectivity with their grown kids? Was it a relief to pull the plug on the lights? Let go?

So many of us try to hold onto what we think was the perfect Christmas memories. Others try to break free of the Christmas past. It’s easy to envy those who look like they have it all with gifts piled under a perfectly decorated tree, family in attendance, and intact traditions. The Mormon missionaries who visit talk about the Christmases back home where family was the focal point and Jesus the celebration.

This year, I tried Yule. It didn’t go as planned with my daughter’s friends feeling shy to celebrate a pagan holiday with others. In no way am I looking to replace one religion with another, I just want to cook and hold an open house. My ideal would be to have my children at home, playing games, eating mama’s cooking, and watching Lord of the Rings. But they have work, homes, and lives away from me. It’s unfair to tug them to my wishes.

It’s hard for married couples to navigate the traditions of their blended families. One mom wants this tradition honored, a step-mom wants to be with her kids alone, another mom just wants daughter time. Often, Christmas is the only time of year that families get extended work holidays. How do you decide where to spend that precious time? And it’s right smack in the middle of cold and flu season. It’s enough to make young couples implode.

My daughter and SIL have declared stay-at-home healing time. My son went with his fiance to spend the holiday with her small but close-knit family. And my other daughter encountered a polar bear that got into town on Svalbard Christmas Day. She was indoors, he was outside. How I long for our own close-knit days but honor the fledging of my children.

This is the most wonderful (complex) time of the year. Just scan your social media feed, and you’ll witness the full spectrum of joy, grief, and frustration. You’ll see faith renewed and lost. You’ll see cookies, jokes, and lashing out. What we all need, no matter our circumstances, state of mind, or expectations, is loving-kindness. Stand firm in your own truth, but don’t rob another of theirs. Find common ground, and don’t be afraid of change.

So why all the human commotion this time of year?

How can we not be impacted by the rhythms of our world? In the north, we celebrate the return of light. In the south, we look forward to relief from the peak of the sun. These transitions have occurred without fail for all our history. I think it is no coincidence that the world’s greatest concentration of annual celebrations lands this time of year.

For our modern calendar, no matter where we are in the world, this is year-end. And it carries an energy of closure and renewal. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I do believe in the power of planning. Every great plan starts with a clear vision, and this is a good time to renew or articulate yours.

On January 8, 2020, at 9 pm EST, you can join me on Twitter at #BookMarketingChat for a full discussion of how to use vision questing as a book author. Even if you have not yet published a book, it’s never too early to build an author platform. Use the search feature to find the chat and follow along, selecting the Latest tab. If you respond or ask a question, be sure to use the hashtag #BookMarketingChat.

2020 will mark my second year of a workshop series I teach called, To Cultivate a Book. This year, I will be experimenting with online classroom components. But first, I’m taking time to create a plan and to renew my vision. Last year, I focused all my efforts and energies on gaining stability. Now that the Hub, Carrot Ranch, and I all have a home, this will be a building up year, laying down the next level on the stable foundation. The prior two years were sheer survival. However, through it all, I never lost sight of my North Star. That’s the power of having a vision.

Life by design.

Whether it is recreating holiday traditions to align with changes, self-care, and compassion or embracing the joy of the traditions you have and share, be the creator of your life’s story. I don’t mean go write a memoir or imagine a better life. Know what you want to do or how you want to be, and create that life one step at a time. Acknowledge where you are and what your circumstances are but then look for ways to invite what you want to be part of your life.

December 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the phrase by design. It can be used in any manner — a label, a mantra, a story. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 31, 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.

 

By Design by Charli Mills

By design, my garden impressed. Every steppingstone measured, every bulb, seed, and root planted for maximum impact. In life, I did as I was expected. Good grades, college, spouse, suburban split-level, and two sons. On Sundays, I went to church.

Then my husband left me. My sons chose to live with him and his new wife, one without dirt under her nails. I moved into an apartment alone. Devastated. This wasn’t part of the plan. Where was God in this? Then I remembered the mustard seed. By design, I started over with a single planter and found my joy.

Open Mic Night

Don’t be bashful, step up to the mic. Yes, you, Writer, this is your invitation to read. The page is like a warm security blanket, but sometimes we shed that covering and take to the spotlight. Not for fame and fortune, but to connect. Person to person. Think of it as reading stories to your kids, or at school for a class. There’s a special connection writers can have with an audience. Add to the dimension of writing.

This week, whether writers seriously considered the mic for themselves, they took to the prompt and applied their thoughts to the open mic in 99-word stories.

The following are based on the December 19, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features an open mic night.

Open Mic Night by Charli Mills

Mark tripped, spilling loose-leaf pages from a tattered folder.

Bobby laid a hand on the thin man’s shoulder. “It’s okay, dude. First time here?”

“Yeah.” Mark clutched the folder to his chest.

“A poet, eh?” Bobby tapped the folder.

Mark nodded.

“Been a while since we had rhythmical composition.” Bobby called the gathering to order, issuing encouragement. Some had instruments made of discarded objects. Some had stories memorized in their heads. One man whistled. Only Mark had paper. A luxury at open mic night on the corner of 5th and Elm where the homeless gathered for culture and comradery.

🥕🥕🥕

Getting Scammed by D. Avery

Second thoughts teetered on the verge of fear as the road wound along mountains, past ponds, and farther and farther through stonewall traced woods. How well did she really know the driver? Why had she agreed to go to such an improbable place? Finally lights from houses appeared, 19th century houses, but a peopled hamlet. Relieved, she followed into the old general store, which housed a small yet lively bar at the back. Her relief was short lived however, for now she must face and overcome a truly crippling fear. They’d come to read. It was Open Mic Night.

🥕🥕🥕

Bold at the Whammy by C. Mills

The Whammy Bar sits at an unpaved crossroads. A local watering-hole for musicians. Some destined for Nashville.

Thursdays are open mic night.

Two flash fictionists drive out of the backwoods in a 4WD truck. They stuff contraband into backpacks, careful not to bend the merchandise. They’re packing a load of books.

Then…

Two writers walk into a bar (I’m not kidding you).

Locals have gathered with fiddles, guitars, ukuleles. They clear throats, waiting for their five minutes at the mic. The writers infiltrate, bum-rush the stage.

99-words shatter the air.

Then..

“Wanna buy a book,” they ask.

The nerve.

🥕🥕🥕

Open Mic Winner by Kerry E.B. Black

Christmas Eve, we host the annual Open Mic Contest. Acclaimed poets drip seasonally-affected despair. Freshmen giggle and blush through limericks or roundelays. Some folks sing.

But then he hopped onto stage. He tilted his seasoned face to see me, standing no taller than my knee. I couldn’t adjust the mic low enough, so I brought up a chair. He leapt up with the grace of a falling feather. Jingly bells upon his costume tinkled like children’s laughter.

I don’t remember his whole recitation, only the end:

“Man in red, or green, white, or brown
Giving heart beating cheer
If only mankind listened.”

🥕🥕🥕

Spotlight by Bill Engleson

It’s the Back Hall, eh.

That’s what it’s called.

That’s where it is.

Where it happens.

Our Open Stage.

Our Open Mic.

On a given night, the third Wednesday of the month to be precise, except when it isn’t, a dozen or more local artists, musicians for the most part, ply their inspired wares.

I’ve read the occasional poem.

Even sang a few times.

One night, I sang the theme from High Noon for I too was once forsaken by a darlin’.

There, on that little stage, you are as safe as you would be in your own bed.

🥕🥕🥕

Epiphany by clfalcone *

Why was he even at the Open Mic…. he really wasn’t that good. Friends, family, associates, strangers all disagreed, saying he should do this thing, own it.

He stumbled on-stage, papers falling, mike feedback, introduction warbled.

He knew he was going to fail.

The minimalist poetry yielded gasps, cricket silence, followed by applause, cheers, calls for more. The fiery prose got him more accolades. His closing sordid limericks produced laughter, howls, long applause, calls for drinks.

Off-stage, the manager approached him. “Champ… come back next week and I’ll give you twenty minutes.”

He smiled – he really was “that good.”

🥕🥕🥕

Backstage Lady by TN Kerr

The backstage lady said I’d go on right after Marvin Joplin. She told me to wait on the stairs, and when I heard them intro Marvin; be ready to go on.

When they announced him, I moved into the wings. He performed a Johnny Cash number I’d heard on the radio hundreds of times. I found the backstage lady and complained.

“You said we were to perform an original song.”

“That’s right.”

“I heard Johnny Cash play this song.”

“Yeah,” she smiled.

I asked her if I could go on later, not right now, not right after Marvin Joplin.

🥕🥕🥕

Open Mic by Floridaborne

“Christina, we’re going out for your birthday,” her mother said.

She sang to the tune of Silent Night, “Mama, no. I won’t go. Don’t like crowds, and you know it. Please don’t say it’s all right, I won’t do open mic.”

“Why do you stutter when you talk, but sing better than Barbara Streis…”

To the ABC song she sang, “Next month I’ll be twenty two. I won’t have to live with you.

“Not as long as I’m your guardian,” her mother said with a scowl.

She’d be in supported living next month. Custody of a minor wasn’t guardianship.

🥕🥕🥕

Stepping Up by D. Avery

There were the butterfly garden, sod house, annotated maps, essays, and mock journals. Marlie and Sofie decided to share their migration research with an audience. That’s when Marlie became a stage manager as well as a key performer, for many of the invited family friends wanted to share a song or poem inspired by the topic. That’s when Marlie wrapped her Destiny doll in tinfoil until just the spiky hair on the top of her shorn head showed.

“You can do it,” she encouraged the nervous adults who climbed up to the treefort stage. “Just speak into the microphone.”

🥕🥕🥕

Shopping on the Parallel Universe by Doug Jacquier

In the supermarket the other night, I grabbed the store open mic and announced:

“Attention all staff. Red team, please re-arrange the aisles at random to ensure customers have to search the entire supermarket to find what they want. Green team, yes, we know the chicken’s changing colour but mark it down and move it.

And check-out skeleton crew, when you robo-ask a customer what they have planned for today and the customer says “I’m going home to disembowel my dog and then barbecue him for dinner”, don’t forget to say “Oh, that’s nice, are the family coming around?”

🥕🥕🥕

Cowboy Poet by Ann Edall-Robson

Cowboy poetry reading at the benefit dance had been Hanna’s idea, but no one expected to see who walked onto the stage.

On the horizon some 800 yards out
An unusual sight needed some learnin’ about
Come close glasses makin’ the scan
Not one, but two shapes—sure wasn’t a man
Across the creek, up the hill at last
Had to be coyotes movin’ that fast
At the top of the ridge those vermin swung round
Laughter erupted at what had been found
Those coyotes leavin’ the waterin’ hole
Turned out to be bovines on top of that knoll

🥕🥕🥕

Gerry (from “Lynn Valley”) by Saifun Hassam

Saturday was open mic at Cindy’s Barn. The restaurant was humming with diners. Local musicians, poets, actors, loved the camaraderie of open mic nights.

A math instructor at Lynn Valley College, Gerry played the guitar for fun. He often joined his friends in jam sessions at Cindy’s Barn. Tonight, however he was playing solo. A first.

As he stepped up to the mic, the Farmers Four waved to him. His very first music mentors. Masters at country music, they also loved to improvise, drawing from jazz and classical music. He grinned and waved. He knew he’d do just fine.

🥕🥕🥕

Jake by Pete Fanning

I plunked along, off-key and frazzled, missing chords and verses because my hands shook from nerves and detox. My voice was hoarse, the song terrible. It was all Jake’s fault.

My best friend had willed me his guitar—with more than six finely tuned strings attached.

A clumsy finish to polite applause. Misty gratitude on an otherwise perfect spring day. I started for the casket but couldn’t. I stumbled out to my car where I broke down, one of two promises fulfilled. Then I turned the key and drove to Cedar Baptist Church.

I had a meeting to attend.

🥕🥕🥕

He’ll Sing Anytime by Susan Sleggs

Tessa’s father handed Michael a beer. “The Vets and family members December open mic is tomorrow night. How about joining us?”

“With a bunch of poets and storytellers. No thanks.”

“There’s no formal way to share. Tessa just talks. The younger women look up to her.”

“We don’t need to show off we’re together. People know.”

“Well then, would you please bring your guitar and lead some carols after the speakers finish?”

“That I’d be glad to do if there’s no discussion about me using my chair.”

“That’s your habit to change, but remember, some don’t have the option.”

🥕🥕🥕

Open Mic by Anita Dawes

I managed to get a job
At the last minute with the crew
a runner, fetch coffee at the snap of a finger
I hoped it would be worth it
Chinese whispers bounced around the walls for weeks
The most beautiful man in the world
Would appear for one night
My hero, my first love
Tall, black hair, blue eyes
One kiss from those lips would kill me
I dreamed of being this close to my idol for too long
As I worked, I prayed for the whispers to be true
Then I heard someone say, Elvis is in the building…

🥕🥕🥕

Leg Breaker by clfalcone *

He paced outside Mike’s Open Mic Night, afraid to bomb. Make it here and the Big Time awaits… otherwise, you suck!
Was the audience ready for his weirdly intellectual transgressive song and dance (picture Benny Hill, Bill Nye and Jason Voorhees buying some crack…)?

His routine was solid, but the delivery, wasn’t it over the top? Was he trying too hard at humor, only to flop like a salmon dying on deck?

Exit stage left: MC lighting a smoke, thumbing the door.

“You’re on in five minutes, chief….break a leg…!”

The comedian just chuckled, speeding off to awaiting fame.

🥕🥕🥕

Flu Wins by Pamela Raleigh

“I’m not sick,” Cara murmurs offstage, shrugging off the sudden heat that envelops her and the ensuing shivers.

It’s just a head cold.

An audition for a television reality show competition comes only once to Hooterville. Illness will not deter her from stardom.

“Number Forty!”

Cara summons her dreams and approaches the microphone, years of hard work her shadow.

Her award-winning voice squeaks. The pipes that carried her dreams through every barn chore wheeze.

She cannot resist the light-headedness or tunnel vision. Her body drops, and with it her hopes for escape, as she succumbs to the winter flu.

🥕🥕🥕

The Old Ones Are the Best by Roger Shipp

“Have you heard the one about…?”

“Sit down. You schlep.” It came from a monstrous brute seated at the bar.

“OK. How about … An oyster, and a lobster, and a goldfish go into a bar …”

The comedian quickly ducks as a napkin filled with goodness knows what approaches his face.

“Not that one either. I’m not from around these parts. The first time I was driving through …” This one was drowned by raucous boos and horrid hisses.

“No biographical jokes either.” The comedian boldly stepped closer to the microphone. “Knock, knock…”

The audience was instantly quiet.

🥕🥕🥕

Reading Aloud by Joanne Fisher

“I always enjoy hearing you read, it’s always something good.” She said. I thanked her, but if anything, it made me feel more nervous.

Though I have been reading my own work for a while, I still get really nervous as I wait, but I always need that adrenaline boost since it makes me read better, otherwise it would be quite flat.

It was open mic night, I listened to the other poets read. Some of it wasn’t that great, but there was always a gem to be found among the detritus, and that could make it all worthwhile.

🥕🥕🥕

The Authors of Anne’s Books of the Year Take the Stage by Anne Goodwin

Furrowed foreheads. Downturned mouths. And not a murmur from the audience as my chosen authors read.

Individually, they were magnificent. Why hadn’t I considered the cumulative effect? People came to enjoy themselves. They didn’t want politics, torture and weapons of mass destruction on a night out.

Hoping to numb the guilt and embarrassment, I sipped my beer. They’d never allow me and my friends onto the open mike stage again.

The final “Thank you!” and the gathering rose to its feet. Thundering applause. Calls for more.

The promoter came over, beaming. “Perfectly pitched! The Resistance movement starts right here!”

🥕🥕🥕

Turning Tables by Di @ pensitivity101

The mic beckoned.
Alone on stage, it stood in its stand, waiting for the nervous, afraid, timid, confident or gutsy individual to grab it by the throat and pull it from its anchorage.
From comedy to singing, poetry to story telling, everyone had a chance to stumble, fail or knock proverbial socks off with their performance.
The spotlight came on.
No-one was there. The room hushed.
A cough, whispers, then silence.
A crackle came over the speakers:
‘I am The Mic, and now it’s my turn to entertain you’.
In the wings, the contestant smiled. He had their attention.

🥕🥕🥕

Done With Drama? by JulesPaige

1.
drama unfolding
rearranging the line up
becoming upstaged

I tried an open mic night once… I had a dramatic piece and was told I’d go last. But the organizer upstaged me. She went last. I can tell you I disliked the waiting to read. And trying to interpret the other readers in the small setting where there wasn’t room for questions or discussion (at a time when smoking was permitted), left me with a sour taste for such a venue.

Small rooms can get crowded and loud. Two things I’m not a fan of. Self promotion is another one.

🥕🥕🥕

Done With Drama? by JulesPaige

2.
drama unfolding
spirit of transformation;
I’ll try most things once

Perhaps an open mic night would be different if I had known anyone else there. I hadn’t known a single soul. I was trying to spread my wings. Which are now spread as far as they are going to go. I’m not quite on the proverbial down slope sinking into the mire of my fears. But I know what I like and what I will tolerate and how I can avoid being uncomfortable.

I’ve starred on stage, I’ve appeared in the local paper (no photo) – that’s enough for now.

🥕🥕🥕

Done With Drama? by JulesPaige

3.
drama unfolding
new year soon to be tolling;
time begins again

Change is one of those things that is most constant. Something that we can’t predict. Can’t add to or totally erase. Every experience makes us grow, shrink, fidget or gain confidence. I can live with that.

I can take each day and watch it transform. I can pretend my written words might in the future be read at some kind of open mic setting. But maybe just not by me. And I’m OK with that. My life’s stage has enough spot lights without thinking about open mic stress.

🥕🥕🥕

On Bullhorns and Bull Shift by D. Avery

To grab the bull by the horns might be the best course of action if the bull is bearing down on you anyway. Microphones are one-horned beasts, uni-horns, and open mics, being open, would not seem to present the horns of a dilemma; the only consequence of not stepping up to speak are your words unspoken. While not as dangerous or as foolhardy as running with the bulls, public readings will most certainly get your heart rate up. And you will, in the jelly-kneed afterwards, have that silly grin sense of accomplishment.

See that uni-horn? Grab it. Give voice!

🥕🥕🥕

Playlist by clfalcone*

‘Jeez, Open Mic Night is like, the worst.thing.ever!’ Head shaking. ‘They aren’t even funny…. just rehashed laugh radio jokes.’
Open Jam Night was worse, though: sucky musicians vying for 15 minutes of non-fame. She was funnier fully drunk, stumbling, high on coke.

Now if she could only find some coke….

As a host comedienne, she was bored with babysitting wannabes on Wednesdays in exchange for quality time on Fridays.

Then the Caveman appeared, long shagy hair, club-carrying, hide-wearing, painting modern social issues with a demented neolithic brush.

Like Fred Flintstone on crack….

She checked the list, muttering, “Holy shit….competition!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Repairman by H. R. R. Gorman

The microphone still sat, open and in pieces, on my workbench. I dreaded having to stay awake all night to get this antique fixed, but the owner needed it repaired by tomorrow.

That was easier said than done. The diaphragm on the capacitor was shot, but I didn’t have a replacement part handy.

“Oh!” I mumbled. “What I wouldn’t give to have that part!”

A man in a pinstripe suit and thin mustache appeared at my side. He held a new diaphragm with his fingertips. “Your soul sound a fair price?” he asked.

“Sure.”

“Then let’s make a deal…”

🥕🥕🥕

D’ Spies by D. Avery

“What’s up Pal?”

“Plenty, Kid, an’ I don’t like it. Slim Chance is aroun’, wants ta talk ta Shorty ‘bout a merger, wants ta franchise the Ranch.”

“Ranch french fries? Mmmm.”

“No, Kid, fran-chise, and I’d bet that little French friend a yers has somethin’ ta do with this.”

“Pepe LeGume? Why d’ya think that?”

“’Cause somethin’ ‘bout this stinks.”

“Pepe an’ I’s way ahead a ya Pal. We’re suspicious a Slim Chance too, so Pepe’s with him, ‘cept Pepe’s bolo tie is really a mic.”

“Spies! But ok, let’s listen… what? Thet thunder?”

“Uh-oh. Think Pepe’s mic dropped.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Phony by D. Avery

“Kid, Pal. You wanna spill the beans as to what’s going on? Ain’t never seen you two wearing headphones afore.”

“Pepe’s wired, Shorty.”

“Yeah, he’s a hyper little fella alright.”

“No, he’s wearing a mic. We’re collecting intelligence.”

“Ha! Fat chance a that!”

“No, Slim Chance. We’re worried ‘bout his plans fer the Ranch.”

“Ah, you two, d‘ya really think I’m shortsighted? This’s my ranch. An’ while I’m happy to share with the ranch hands, I wouldn’t ever sell out. Got my own plans.”

“Shoulda realized thet. Sorry Shorty.”

“Yep, sorry Boss. Hey look’t the evenin’ sky. Emergin’ stars!”

🥕🥕🥕

If you’d like to get into the ranch mood this fine Christmas day, take a gander at this classic collection of Cowboy Poetry (and thanks, Ann Edall-Robson, for striking the mood). Merry Christmas to one and all!

 

December 19: Flash Fiction Challenge

The summer before sixth-grade, a girl from Chicago moved to my small hometown in the Sierra Nevadas. She could wrap her ring finger and thumb around her wrist. Such long and nimble fingers. Mine squat short and stout upon the square pad of my hand, failing by a full inch to encircle my thick-boned wrist. This is but one of many instances of body shame I’ve felt in my lifetime.

Garrison Keilor, storyteller and creator of A Prairie Home Companion, once joked that he had a face for radio. I can relate. I’m not one for feeling comfortable in a literal spotlight. I like to be behind the camera, not in front of it. Place my writing in the limelight, and that’s a different scenario. But throughout my career in marketing communications, I often had to go on camera to deliver messages or promote fall apples.

How did I adjust to such discomfort? I got over it.

In some ways, I found it frees me not to have expectations of elegantly long fingers. No one asks me to play the piano. As for cameras, I grin and bear it. And stages? I march right up the steps (and sometimes I fall down them, too) knowing no one is there to watch me. If I’m in such a spotlight, I’m there to read my writing. By the time I finish, no one cares, I can’t encircle my wrist with my fingers. I’m a storyteller, and my voice is my superpower.

Oh, not a voice like a warbler or Dolly Parton. When I say voice, I mean that same one I use when I write. You hear it in your head, not your ears. It’s the voice that plucks the heartstrings, carries the tune of a story, and takes you someplace new. That voice. You have it, too. We all do. It’s what makes us who we are — the sum of all our experiences, thoughts, and emotions rolled up into one enchilada we sprinkle with words and syntax.

I’m beginning to believe that the notion — write what you know — doesn’t mean facts or information. For example, just because I haven’t actually encountered an elephant doesn’t mean I can’t write about one. But when I write about an elephant, I draw upon what I know from my experiences. I feel something about elephants because of the life I’ve lived thus far. I think about elephants in the way I’ve been exposed to ideas, documentaries, or information. When I write about elephants, I write what I know using my voice.

We see evidence of this phenomenon every week at Carrot Ranch. A group of writers responds to a prompt. Think of how different each story is. Sometimes writers go with a similar angle, but ultimately each story is different. Not only are we practicing the craft of creative writing, week after week, we are also exercising our voices. We are writing what we know when we follow where the prompt leads us. It doesn’t matter if any of us are zoologists or circus managers; any of us can write about elephants in our own voice.

My thoughts linger on the stage because that’s where I’ll be tomorrow night. Not the small, intimate stage at the Continental Fire Company, but the world-class 3,800-square-foot main stage at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. My knees are knocking more than a little bit. Last week, I thought I’d be sitting comfortably in my season ticket holder seat, D32 watching the old-time radio and variety show, Red Jacket Jamboree. Now, I’m one of the show’s guest storytellers.

How did this all come about? Last year, I bought a booth at the Rozsa Center to sell my stock of The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. I met the executive director of the theater who took the time to learn about Carrot Ranch and 99-word stories. D. Avery had given me a brilliant idea — to sell 99-words for 99 cents. That encounter reminded the director that she wanted to do something literary at the performing arts center. She did. She brought in Selected Shorts this season. Then she remembered Carrot Ranch and found out I was doing 99-word workshops at the library, and that’s how I was asked to prepare writers to submit to a Selected Shorts contest.

Last week, I told you about the winning entry and the power of writing 99-words. The winning author used 99-word increments to build the arc of her 750-word story. Another writer who writes at Wrangling Words every month (the library program) had her story picked up by one of the writers and performers of Red Jacket. When we spoke after the Selected Shorts performance, my friend who went with me had picked up my story. She gave it to the Red Jacket person and said, “You have to read Charli’s story.”

We all need friends who believe in us, or who watch our backs. I’m fortunate to have such friends. After I returned from Moon Lodge, I had an email from Red Jacket asking if I’d be interested in reading “To Be Known.” You betcha! Then came a flurry of edits — it’s a radio spot, so each segment is the length of a song. I had to get 750-words down to 3-minutes. I revised, read, and trimmed more so I could control the pacing without feeling that I had to read at a clipped pace. Tomorrow at 2 p.m., I show up at the Rozsa for dress rehearsal.

Red Jacket Jamboree performs like the Grand Ole Opry, where all the performers stay on stage throughout the show. We are to laugh, clap, and engage the audience. Naturally, I had one of those panicked what-will-I-wear moments. I had enough time to find a sheer cascading vest of red and black buffalo plaid (Northwoods meets holiday performance), and best of all, it only cost $16. My daughter, the dancer, has lots of glitzy jewelry, and she’s loaning me a set to wear and she’s doing my makeup. I’ll curl my hair, wear my black Mary Janes, and be ready for the spotlight!

And if I feel too nervous, I have a new gnome named Phineas who is like a big cuddly teddy bear. I’m bringing him backstage. Yes, I fell in love with a gnome at Cafe Rosetta. I have my own tonttu.

If you get a chance, I recommend finding an open mic night in your area. Go and read your stories. Red Jacket won a grant to develop the Keweenaw Folklife and Storytelling Center. I don’t yet know how, but Carrot Ranch will be involved! And visiting writers will get to experience the new cultural destination.

Wishing you all a Happy Holidays! I’m celebrating Solstice, Yule, Christmas and Finals next week. Embrace this season that calls us to slow down. Read a good book under a warm blanket. Unplug, unwind, go look at Christmas lights. Practice kindness. Unleash your voice. Write.

December 19, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features an open mic night. Take a character backstage, on stage or into the deep woods. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 24, 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.

Submissions closed. Find our latest Flash Fiction Challenge.

Open Mic Night by Charli Mills

Mark tripped, spilling loose-leaf pages from a tattered folder.

Bobby laid a hand on the thin man’s shoulder. “It’s okay, dude. First time here?”

“Yeah.” Mark clutched the folder to his chest.

“A poet, eh?” Bobby tapped the folder.

Mark nodded.

“Been a while since we had rhythmical composition.” Bobby called the gathering to order, issuing encouragement. Some had instruments made of discarded objects. Some had stories memorized in their heads. One man whistled. Only Mark had paper. A luxury at open mic night on the corner of 5th and Elm where the homeless gathered for culture and comradery.

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