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September 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

The radio plays back-up to my primary sources of music. Wherever I have lived, the radio not only has provided background noise, but it has also connected me to place. If you’ve ever taken a long road trip,, you know how stations can fade in and out, imparting a distinct sound to towns, cities, and regions. Like Donny and Marie Osmond, some stations are a little bit country, and some are a little bit rock and roll. Born in 1967, I’ve known the radio as a life-long companion. A constant I rarely think about but would miss like a left kidney.

Cruising up the Keweenaw Peninsula, something I rarely do these days of COVID, I turned on the radio instead of listening to my digital playlists. Ads annoy me, and I flip to another station. We have five, including NPR and a station Michigan Tech University broadcasts. Actually, I think we have six, but I can’t listen to modern country. Ironic, given that I grew up on Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Dolly Parton, Eddie Arnold, Charlie Pride, Hank Williams, and Loretta Lynn. My parents had a massive 8-track collection. The country classics came from my father’s family influence, but my mom’s family meant I also listened to Bobby Vinton, Frank Sinatra, some weird precursor to elevator music. My dad found more country music, collecting gunslinger ballads. My DNA carries the imprint of the entire Ennio Morricone soundtrack to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. My mom collected the Beatles and the Fifth Dimension.

Once, when I was 12, I requested the Greatest Hits from the 1700s from the Columbia House 8-track catalog that would arrive by post. I also wanted the latest Kiss 8-track. I can’t even begin to unpack my tastes in music. But the radio had its influence, too.

Occasionally I’d sneak the dial to KKBC, a rock station broadcasting seventy miles away from Reno, Nevada. That where I heard songs like Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult. Columbia House didn’t carry such 8-tracks, or I didn’t know what they were. It was a new sound, but one my parents did not appreciate. Some nights, I leave the radio playing on low. One morning I woke up to, “KKBC’s gone country!” My parents delighted in that switch, and as a family, it introduced us to modern country that would dominate the ’80s  — Hank Williams, Jr., Roseanne Cash, Mickey Gilley, Charlie Daniels, Alabama, and Reba McEntire. I missed Godzilla but fell into a pre-teen crush with Bosephius.

One hundred miles northwest of where I grew up on the eastern slope of the Sierras, a teenaged boy, milking the family herd before he drove to high school, also caught the same radio broadcast I did. Five a.m. and he flipped on the radio and dialed in the rock music he loved, practicing his “Dead Fred” DJ voice, talking to the cows as he set up the morning milking. At six a,.m., we both heard, “KKBC’s gone country!” He flipped out, yelling obscenities at the radio. He’s never forgiven the station, and to this ,day can recite some of the best DJ moments and recalls more songs than my remembered Godzilla. Years before we’d ever meet, the Hub and I shared a moment on the radio.

Many states and radio stations later, we have a set of six stations tuned to our car radio. I can’t even tell you their call numbers. I’ve lost interest. It seems that part of moving on meant leaving behind favorite radio stations, and after Idaho, it became too hard. I carried my CD collection with me and had invested a fair amount in iTunes to play on a tiny shuffle smaller than a pack of gum. My CD player remains beyond my reach, and my computer upgrades don’t play CDs. I relied heavily on my iTunes but went I went Apple all the way, I messed up my music access.

Cue the orchestra to play something woeful. Sometimes, the hoops we jump through for technology sucks. Sometimes, our human brains glitch. When we got our other iProducts I forgot that I already had an iAccount for my shuffle, and I registered New iStuff with a different Apple ID. I kid you not, the magnificent empire of Apple with all its capabilities, and all the engineers who make the things work can’t connect my iTunes music to my iPhone or iMac because the IDs differ. But I have resiliency, so I found a way. I bought a Google Play membership and rebuilt my iTunes collection. Then I began to rebuild the CDs I missed the most. Then I built lists with Hank Williams, Jr and Blue Oyster Cult just because I could!

Do you remember cassette tapes? I thought they were THE THING! I had a player with a recorder and would sit in front of the radio to catch some of my favorite songs. You didn’t live the ’80s unless you had big bangs and cassette mixes with chopped off songs or a chatty DJ you wished would shut up and let the song fade. But you made do because you caught the song. These were my walking mixes, and you better believe — I had a walkman! Then came CDs. We bought a CD player in Montana that you could load six at a time. Magic! I had Yanni, Enya, Enigma, and Windam Hill New Age collections that I’d load to play in the evenings to cook, settle the kids, light candles, and read or write late at night. The memory brings such peace.

Digital playlists are a miracle to me. When I’d work out in the gym pre-back surgeries, I had my fem singers to fire me up — Tori Amos, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Dido, and Paula Cole. I had all the CDs and carried a case to switch out CDs, longing for a way to play three songs of one, two of another, and so on. I yearned for the mixing ability of cassettes with the quality of the CD sound (and not having to use a pencil). Yes, I waited a long time for playlists and was satisfied with iTunes. But Google Play leveled up. Then came the email last month — they closed up shop. With so many other options, they decided not to offer such services. They offered to transfer all my albums from Journey and Bruce Springsteen to Chakra Dance and Guided Meditations and all the rest in between to YouTube Music.

YouTube. That’s the Hub’s music miracle. He loves to research the musicians and listen to interviews and variations of songs. He’s found new music like Mean Mary and can tell you who does the best covers of Stevie Ray Vaughn. I consented and agreed to transfer my music, feeling that desolation of a move again. Then came the glitches. On Google Play, I had order. I intentionally named my playlists in such a way that I categorized them by type but also alphabetically. YTM squished the lists together out of sequence and added the Hub’s listening playlists from when he’s on my computer. Then, the playlists cut out on shuffle, so my background music shuts down randomly. I spent too much time trying to figure out a fix and drew the line at having to download an app.

That’s how I came to Amazon Music. It’s half the price of Google Play. The Hub can still do his thing on YouTube. I can, too, and no need to pay for YouTube Music. But I’m not advertising. Actually, I’m a bit disgruntled with all this wasted effort when I had the solution three technology advances ago. But what eased my troubles was finding a CD replacement that Google Play and YouTube did not have. Clannad. It was always first in my CD player. It heralded the moment I took a deep breath and felt the peace of home no matter where I was. Tonight, I set up a playlist of albums as if I were back in Montana…or Minnesota…or Idaho. I heard home play in my home…in Michigan for the first time. And I settled inside.

There is a radio station I still listen to regularly, though, and it’s not in my vehicle, but on my computer. WUMB. It has the kind of music the Current played in Minneapolis, and another station in Idaho. Out of Boston, I think of it as the music of the Northeast. I think of Vermont, the most rooted place and people I’ve experienced. Rooted music. And that is still the magic of radio. Despite all these technologies and arrangements, radio still connects people and place.

With great anticipation, I introduce ya’ll to the 2020 Flash Fiction Rodeo Playlist (on YouTube). I had lots of music memories and creative ideas swirling as I built this list. The first song is a masterpiece written for a Clint Eastwood movie by an Italian composer and artfully played by the Danish National Symphony. It vibrates with global imagination. The list includes classics, a few KKBC tunes, western movie songs, and some interesting modern manifestations in western music. Cowboy music has roots in many other nations and has a vibe shared by those venturing to frontiers. Maybe one day, someone will yodel a cattle call on Mars. Much of the music tells a story; other songs inspire stories. It’s the essence of our Rodeo contest season quickly approaching.

We have a great line up of Rodeo Leaders to host contests this year — Colleen Chesebro, Marsha Ingrao, Kerry E.B. Black, and the one and only Goldie. We all decided to stay with a western theme this year, yet you will be surprised, delighted, and challenged by what these Leaders have to offer in their contests. TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction) returns this year, too, and will take over the stage at Saddle Up Saloon on Mondays. Contests will start every Tuesday in October, each ending before the next one launches. These contests allow writers to apply their skills and stretch their writing. The weekly challenges will continue on Thursday, with collections published on Wednesdays. Winners will be revealed on consecutive Tuesdays in November. One winner in each contest will win $25 and a digital trophy.

September 10, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes something heard on the radio. It can be from any station or era. What is heard? A song, announcement, ad? Think of how radion connects people and places. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 15, 2020. 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 are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

Lost Daughter by Charli Mills

Clementine heard her mother over the Stockton radio. She’d entered the small house at the edge of farm fields, picking up fallen produce in the road. Harvest trucks left a trail, speeding to city markets. Her landlady called the rental the Road Garden. Clem thought she meant “rose” and was disappointed to find weeds and a weeping willow. Her mother played Rambler on the banjo and Clem recognized the Tennessee picking popular among California cowboys. She recognized her mother’s name but not her voice. One day, maybe she’d meet the woman who abandoned her for a life of music.

High Winds

Weather shifts and high winds blow sails and change. Fierce, it topples sunflowers, fences, and rooftops. If harnessed, high winds energize travel and electricity. It’s a phenomenon that can be destructive or helpful.

Such a dichotomy brings opportunity to writers to play between the lines. High winds blow across the stories in this collection, drifting between different ideas and storylines.

The following is based on the September 3, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about high winds.

Breakwater by D. Avery

Stories distracted and comforted her younger sister. “One night a mighty wind banged and tore at the trailer until the trailer lifted right into the air and carried the two girls far away, where they lived just them.”

“No dad?”

“No. A big tree killed him. The mom cried and didn’t even notice her girls were gone. But they lived happily ever after in the candy meadow.”

Sudden pounding and roaring stole the younger girl’s smile.

“It’s just that wind, Sis. You stay down.” Biting her trembling lip, the older girl stepped into the hall to meet the storm.

🥕🥕🥕

High Winds by Frank Hubeny

The only high winds were Windy, the wolf, so Straw, the pig, built a house of straw. Brick overbuilt with bricks. Stick used what was lying around, sticks. Both annoyed Straw. “It’s not fair!” Straw complained to Windy. He wanted all three houses.

Windy went to Stick’s home and blew it down. Chomp! He ate Stick. Then he went to Brick’s home. Brick gave Straw a key. Straw lent it to Windy. Chomp!

When Windy returned Straw squealed, “Perfect!” Windy, mind-blown as ever, thought: yummy. Chomp! He (gasp!) ate Straw.

Moral: Some high winds can take your breath away.

🥕🥕🥕

The Tree of Life by M J Mallon

I encouraged my mother-in-law to venture out for a walk. She hadn’t been out since a fall laid her low before lockdown. We sat by the wise old tree. I had no idea that just a few days ago this area had been the site of a funeral gathering. The family decorated the branches with colourful ribbons, dream catchers, pretty baubles and teddy bears. As we talked, a tremendous gust of wind blew the ribbons, twirling them in a whirl of colour as the baubles and teddies danced.

I heard leaves rustling; it was his last goodbye.

🥕🥕🥕

Where The Wind Carries Us by Hajar / ‘Douryeh’

Native American wisdom says, wind is God’s voice — maybe

Wind easily always reminds me of this: The sky

Looking at the sky, is looking at unending history

At daytime, you see the Sun; maybe the Moon

At nighttime, you may see stars, dead since millennia

Also wind, reminds me of history — but, my own

Its sound in the foliage brings me back decades

I heard the same whisper, when walking to school

Wind brings us back to history and to nature

Maybe indeed wind reminds us of our very core

🥕🥕🥕

Smoke and Rain (Diamante) by Saifun Hassam

Fierce unseasonal northerly winds drove forest fire smoke over southern coastal villages. Diamante and villagers trekked into the upper valley farms inland for shelter. Like generations before them.

An eerie ochre murky red sun sank into a churning turbulent sea. At midnight calm descended. A silver moon rose over the mountains. The harvest was lost. Shorelines were buried under endless hillocks of sand dunes.

Grit and fortitude was part of survival on the coast. The villagers would rebuild. Like their families before them. Diamante’s spirits lifted. The sea was tranquil. In a few months, southeasterly winds would bring rain.

🥕🥕🥕

The Sudden Storm by Joanne Fisher

Eliza, Captain of the The Crimson Night, was asleep when the squall hit. She quickly arose and staggered to the deck. The scene was complete chaos. The high winds shredded the mainsail to shreds, while the mizzen looked in danger of collapsing.

The crew desperately tried to bring the sails down as high waves crashed over them, washing some overboard. Eliza took the wheel trying to keep the ship on course, holding on to prevent being swept into the brine herself.

When morning came, the squall had blown itself out. The ship was heavily damaged, but they had survived.

🥕🥕🥕

Eros Wind by Kerry E.B. Black

Mary rested her chin on her hands, framed like a Madonna by the window frame. The day brought challenges, and she wished for someone to love.

The wind stole sighs from her lips and swirled them into intricate hearts until it found its quarry.

Ed rubbed the small of his back, soothing work-weary muscles, and blinked into the setting sun. A breeze brought sweet, perfumed sighs as he drove his Harley toward home.

The winds picked up and whirled.

“Better stop.” Ed parked at a diner.

Mary strolled by – that familiar perfume! Their eyes met.

The wind whistled self-congratulations.

🥕🥕🥕

You Are Late!  by Simon Prathap D

It’s been three years, I have to propose her’ he said and took a step forward.

A strange noise, a high wind approached them, he looked around no one was there, he quickly removed his long coat and covered then both and took her into his car and Parked his car under a building.

Breathing heavily he turned didn’t waste his moment, her face was crimson red already, our nervous hero finally opened up and said ‘I love you’ with a rose in hand without petals. She shows a new ring in her hand, she replied ‘you are late.’

🥕🥕🥕

The High Winds of Temptation by Donna Matthews

My dad was a boisterous one in the morning. He would be whistling a tune with his coffee and pouring over the newspaper. He scoured the want ads, marking those that sounded promising. He had a job, but he believed one needed to be open to opportunities. He’d finish off his research and bounce out the door, signing off with “another day, another dollar, a million days, a million dollars. He never did earn that million dollars. Taken out by the high winds of temptation, he tried his luck in an embezzlement scheme and ended up broke, drunk, alone.

🥕🥕🥕

Flare-up by Bill Engleson

The pressure builds. Each second of squall is a minute of gale, is an hour of fury, is a lifetime of rage.

Hoble is the town weatherglass. When he is at peace, found comfort in food, in conversation, in those placid moments most of us can kick into gear with planning, common sense, whatever you call it, then we breathe one of those sighs of relief found when wars end.

When Hoble explodes, when the world twists him pretzel-like, when he steps into an errant cheerless shadow, we cower.

And we wonder, how did we allow this to happen.

🥕🥕🥕

Gale Force Winds by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa struggled against the wind to open the front door and once inside, the gale slammed it behind her. She heard no greeting. “Michael?”

The wind squealed through the house’s old window frames with such ferocity she feared they would break. She went from room to room calling, “Michael? Jester?” She saw Michael’s empty chair in the bedroom and discovered him in the closet cuddling the dog under a sleeping bag.
Tessa crouched down. “You two all right?”

“Yeah. Jester buried himself in here when the wind got bad so I joined him. I think we need new windows.”

🥕🥕🥕

Last Pass by Charli Mills

In the Sierras, high winds herald snow. A wagon train of weary souls had hoisted beasts and conveyances to the top of Kit Carson’s pass to reach California’s goldfields below. They looped their way around bulging batholiths and high-altitude lakes glimmering like cut emeralds. The air thinned and the wind rose. The wagon master bellowed, and oxen trundled faster, sensing danger. They didn’t stop at night to rest. By the light of lanterns, they battled banshee winds, tarps snapping like sails. Sunrise opened with peaceful silence followed by splats of rain. Behind them, snow closed the pass until spring.

🥕🥕🥕

Beyond Bluster by R. V. Mitchell

“How did this happen? You saw the alert, and should have known better,” the superintendent scolded.

“I did my best, and as far as your message, I never got a chance to read it,” the manager retorted.

“And why, might I ask didn’t you read it?” the superintendent snapped.

“The wind! You sent a message warning all camp managers to evacuate the campers to the solid structures based on the weather report back in Capital City. You didn’t take into consideration that those of us on the ground, out here in the west, got the storm five hours earlier.”

🥕🥕🥕

Worst Storm of My Life by Susan Zutautas

Can’t we just pull off somewhere, I said as I was clutching the grab handle strenuously thinking I was going to die tonight. How the hell can you see anything?

The rain was pounding down with a furry. Turbulent winds were slamming us as we tried to make it further down the highway.

All that could be heard on the radio was take cover and stay off the roads if possible.

We were losing ground trying to keep ahead of the hurricane.

Cars were pulling off to the shoulder, but we kept going until we made it home safely.

🥕🥕🥕

Winding Up by Geoff Le Pard

‘You’re not going out, Logan!’

‘Why not? Just a light breeze.’

‘It’s a hurricane. Did you see that trash can fly by?’

‘A tr… oh the rubbish bin. Rather flimsy.’

‘You think British bins are better?’

‘No, it’s just they make such a fuss…’

‘The US gets stronger winds than we do.’

‘Of course. They supersize everything. They call that a lake, but it’s the size of Wales.’

‘It destroyed those sunflowers.’

‘My point exactly. When Sevenoaks was devastated by the 1987 hurricanes, the citizens just changed the town name to Oneoak.’

‘They were lovely sunflowers, though.’

‘I know.’

🥕🥕🥕

Bettering Michael Fish by Anne Goodwin

His family spent summers camping. Idyllic, except the canvas never dried out. Back home, he kept his sleeping bag beside his wellingtons. Rain equalled holidays to him.

He was five in 1987, when the famous hurricane struck England. Old enough to ask why the weatherman said don’t worry. Young enough to fear he’d be yanked from his bed when the wind took the roof from the house. Now, as climate change makes high winds more common, he’s determined he won’t get caught out. A degree in meteorology got him in front of the weather chart on the evening news.

🥕🥕🥕

High Winds by Eliza Mimski

California is burning. Lightning. Sparks. Heatwaves. Rescue missions. High winds. Wildfires, ambivalent, rage up hills.

The house had belonged to them for years – decades. It was their first and only home. They’d collected memories. The photographs on the mantel. The ones hanging on the walls. The bed they had slept in, the table where they’d eaten. Their pets. Their garden.

Before they fled, they watched the house burn, a wall of orange reducing it, their life together extinguished. They lost their memories, their photographs. They can’t find their precious cat.

Winds blow. Fires spread. Trees, land, houses burn.

🥕🥕🥕

Blown Away by JulesPaige

The high winds left from the last hurricane pelted Gina and James as they tried to get to the pier. Even without getting into the water sand managed to find its way into every crevice of their bodies. The ocean water had risen to make rivers across the beach and over the sidewalks and onto the road. The ocean had risen so for the safety of the public, the pier closed. The couple made their way back to the ice cream parlor for refuge. What a vacation!

deafening air moved
across their ears; no gulls flew
was nature angry?

🥕🥕🥕

Bring on the Rain by Chel Owens

“I am in control!” She screams, gripping fists of invisibility so hard she feels what’s left of fingernails digging against her palms. Forget the past; forget what Steve or Phil or Jack or even James -if that was his name- said. “I am in control!”

Forces more powerful than any touched by man answer, without words. Pushing, tearing, whipping the lake’s edge against her -her, a small, insignificant figure to challenge God’s great breath.

“I am -” she gasps, “in control!” Spray and tears stream down her face;
wipe clean
spray
clear

Till, beckoned by her challenge, the sky-fall comes.

🥕🥕🥕

The Void by Tyler Deal

Arture dashed across the windswept plain. His heart pounded in his head; his feet pounded the ground. Sand bit at his face as it was dragged away into the void behind him.

What now?

A rocky outcropping jutted up ahead. Perhaps it would shield… Arture faltered and dodged as the mighty wind peeled giant jagged stones away from the earth.

Every fiber of his body strained forward. Then… Arture left the ground. The void pulled him in like a great whirlpool.

Arture set his jaw, tucked his legs, and sped at the void like a cannonball. This wasn’t over.

🥕🥕🥕

When the Wind Blows High by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Cora stretched her long neck, beak pecking the fast moving clouds in the pale sky. Twisting, she at last freed herself from her heavy, confining carapace. It’d been necessary protection against wicked solar radiation, brought on by the forebears of those singing blessings to the thin creek twisting through desert, below.

Wind off the melting icecaps ruffled her damp feathers, coaxing the final stage of her transformation to fierce dragon, like breeze to butterfly. When the wind blew high, she would fly to find the rest of her kind.

She eyed the scant group of humans below, stomach rumbling.

🥕🥕🥕

Landscapes by Reena Saxena

My heart aches at the thought of what could have been.

I woke up with a dream on the morning of 1st January, like many others, and prayed for a more sane and sensible world. I am a doer, not a vanilla dreamer. There was an action plan in place, in process of implementation.

And then, tragedy struck. Nobody had any control on the high winds which swept the landscape altering the structure and foundation of dreams.

altered landscapes
call for new designs
I wait with a pen
but Ink that dried
with uncertainty
Is yet to flow again

🥕🥕🥕

Erie Kai by Nancy Brady

The cat was roaring…
wild
roaring all night long
I could hear it
in night visions—
a feral cat
invading dreams,
disturbing sleep.

In the morning still angry
with power,
lashing out its claws,
swishing tail,
leaving marks as it paced
and scratched, attacking its prey
with waves and water flying
all up and down the coast.

Anger spent,
the wind subsides, turning 180 degrees.
The cat begins to purr,
paws now velvetted,
lapping and grooming the shores once again,

Except in Canada where
winds are high,
blowing from the south, and
the cat begins to roar.

🥕🥕🥕

Strong Westerlies by D. Avery

“Seen mighty high winds in my day Kid. ‘Member one time winds was so strong they took the barn apart, all the boards and beams swirlin’ in the air. When it settled down thet wind had put the boards back t’gether its own way, had us a silo. ‘Nuther time it blew fer days an’ days. Carrot greens flew like feathers.”

“Still had the roots?”

“Yep. But the animals was upset, felt thet wind deep inside themsefs. All the hens give after thet was scrambled eggs. Milk cow was so churned up all we got was butter.”
“Unbelievable Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Uncluttering the Mind to Be Creative

Creative writing is defined as writing fiction or poetry with imagination and contrasts academic writing. As a creative writer, we imagine our character to gallop over the green pastures or drag his feet in the dry brown desert. To be able to take long firm strides over the mountainous terrains, or glide over the waters like a speed boat.

Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds, you can grow flowers…..or weeds.

But that requires an uncluttered mind where we have neatly piled all our emotions just as we stack clean clothes versus the scattered dirty laundry.

That allows a single-pointed mind, and a writer can be in her character’s shoes and capture just the right kind of emotions.

Writing is like housework. For that, the mind should be tidied up just like our bed every morning before we sit down to write. It should be crystal clear for those cells in that organ to create something extraordinary for our character. If we cannot differentiate between fiction and our real-life, we will end up writing a memoir unknowingly, of course.

If our mind is hungover from yesterday’s dialog between a friend or a relative, our plot would unknowingly revolve around that scenario. We have limited ourselves to our environment and missed out on a classic scene, which our mind dared to explore. Due to the circumstances, it wandered around our troubled spots and penned those down instead.

Mind and Intellect can go hand in hand, but the mind ought to first spruce up to listen to the Intellect.

A mind without thoughts is no mind, but to tidy up our thoughts is the key.

But how do we unclutter that damn mind to begin exploring the unexplored?

Unclutter Mentally and Physically

Meditate

The learned suggest we meditate. Continue to breathe with closed eyes while keeping your mind over your breath. This activity is like rinsing your mind with fresh Oxygen as you continue to breathe, which helps curb the erratic thoughts. Can you imagine how soothing it would be?

The scenario is like the ocean waves crashing on the shore, washing off any footprints left behind by humanity.

Attached is a guided meditation.

 

Journaling

Writing down thoughts can help your mind stop churning and begin to release them. An individual can choose to write what pains her since most of the time, people are aware of their foul mood, but don’t know its reason. Journaling helps to work through current challenges, helping one get rid of mental blocks. As a doctor drains a wound, write out all those toxins on paper, and those words will glow in gold once your heart is lighter. So, find a comfortable spot, grab your pen and paper, and get going. Journaling is meant to be a stream of consciousness activity, so you can choose to set a timer or just free flow.

Some prompts that an individual can choose to write is:

“What makes you feel happy?”

“What is hurting, and why?”

“What do you believe in most?”

“Write a letter to your future self?”

“What is your past that still hurts you?”

“List the things you are grateful for?”

 

Walk

Walks amidst nature can help turn your mind outside and help calm the chaos in mind. It’s just like distracting a child who is throwing tantrums. This activity enables an individual to relax as she continues to take deep breaths while she is striding through the open space. Such walks not only help clear the mind but also help burn some calories. On a side note, it gives many ideas even if you choose to call yourself a plotter or a pantser.

Uncluttering is simple; the only thing needed is having the awareness to do so. Once that is in check, one can shape the character or the plot as your creative bugs allow you to do so without anybody’s interference. You are at liberty to either project your characters’ mental growth or take them to a dark place.

I’ve tried all the three methods above and can vouch for it.

As a writer, I write about issues that stalk the human’s mind via tales of fiction, making my readers tag my work as, “Books that make you ponder.”

My contemporary romance novels and short stories have allowed my readers to go to a beautiful place and take home a message. That has helped them ponder their true nature and enjoy my characters’ growth as they endure through the journey that I have created.

My work can be found at www.ruchirakhanna.com


This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna

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

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

I can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/RuchiraKhanna01

Twitter: @abracabadra01

Saddle Up Saloon; One Shy of a Six Pac at the Mic

Saddle Up Saloon

“ ’Ello, Pal, may I get you a beer?”

“Pepe LeGume! Whut’re you doin’ behind the bar? Thought Kid was workin’ this shift.”

“Keed says, sheeft no, Pal. Wants to seet weeth you at a table down front. Eet’s Five at the Mic, a reelly good show. I weel tend the bar. You two seet.”

“You know whut yer doin’? Cain’t be havin’ ya makin’ a mess a things, LeGume.”

“To air is human, Pal. But eet weel be fine. Go find da Keed. Da show weel begeen soon.”

“Pal, over here! Bill Engleson is comin’ on stage.”

“Who?”

Bill Engleson. Long time ranch hand and columnist for Carrot Ranch? Bill hails from the mild, mild west of Canada. Mebbe ya’ve read his books an’ articles?”

“Oh, yep, the movie guy. Shush then kid, this oughtta be good.”

“You bet. Here’s Bill with Covid 19 Rain Buttons and Bows.”

“Oof, Pal, that’s dark. Good, but dark.”

“Kid, real people are goin’ through a time out there. Thet’s why we fictional characters is keepin’ the saloon runnin’ 24/7, give ‘em a break. Look, here comes thet Paula Moyer, she’ll have somethin’ ta say.”

“Phew, Pal. That Rough Writer is a tough writer. That was heavy too.”

“But Kid, there was hope wove through thet. When, not whether… These folks is resilient, with the hep of each other an’ their writin’. Reckon their strengths is shinin’ through.”

“Yep, but shush now, Pal, Anne Goodwin’s up next, gonna parade one a her characters through fer us.”

“Thet ain’t Anne Goodwin. Anne Goodwin wears her hair short.”

“Thinkin’ the long hair on folks is another sign a their times, mebbe.”

“Oh, yep. Thet is her.”

“Did you see what I saw, Pal?”

“Ya mean was it good ta hear more from Matty Windsor? Sure was. She’s been ta the Saloon before.”

“Yeah, it was, that character is goin’ places. But what’s D. Avery doin’ taggin’ along?”

“Reckon ever’one’s welcome ta join in with Ranch doin’s, Kid. Lighten up. Anyway, Ellen Best is gonna read next.”

“Oh, Ellen Best! I like what she does fer the weekly challenges.”

“Oh, Pal. Is it true there’s truth in fiction?”

“’Fraid so, Kid. Thet was a powerful story an’ it’s true fer too many real women. We kin commend Ellen fer tellin’ it fer ‘em.”

“Very descriptive. Yikes. I could use a lighter story, Pal. Hey, here’s MJ Mallon. Mebbe she’ll bring a laugh.”

“Ha! No half measures. I’ll say.”

“Yep, that was just the tonic I needed. Reckon folks at home kin try some bubble magic fer themselves.”

 “Reminded me a thet song, Tiny Bubbles In the Wine. Oh, shift, speakin’ a tonic an’ wine, I wunner how LeGume is doin’. I’ll go check on ‘im after D. Avery’s story.”

“You don’t need ta worry ‘bout Pepe, Pal, he don’t stink at pourin’ drinks. But go ahead, ‘cause D. Avery ain’t goin’ up on stage t’day.”

“Whut? Why not, Kid?”

“’Cause I’m in charge a the saloon an’ I say so. Done decided Five at the Mic means jist five readers this week. So too bad fer our so called writer.”

“I thought Shorty said five minutes at the mic fer any innerested writers thet wanna read.”

“Shorty ain’t here right now. But if other writers are innerested in takin’ part in reading with a group an’ mebbe bein’ recorded ta Youtube an’ gittin’ played here, they should contact Charli Mills. Next readin’s Tuesday the 15th at 11am Eastern Standard Time. An’ anytime anyone’s got a hankerin’ ta git up on the saloon stage, mebbe git innerviewed or have one or more a their characters git innerviewed, they should leave a message fer us through D. Avery. (averydede.1@gmail.com)”

“Yep, step up an’ step out folks, it’s lots a fun. Next week plan on sharin’ some a yer fav’rite summer recipes, it’ll be anuther round a Wranglin’ Recipes. The 21st’ll be anuther Karaoke event, where ya improve on a song ya know by changin’ the lyrics. An’ the whole month a October the Saddle Up Saloon’ll be where ta git caught up an’ catch commentary on the 4th Carrot Ranch Rodeo.”

“Whooie! What a hap’nin’ place! Oh, shift… Pepe! He’s been behind the bar without hep fer quite a while. He must be fumin’.”

“Yep. Prob’ly is.”

September 3: Flash Fiction Challenge

Seed pods of Queen Ann’s Lace form fists and pummel the sides of the paved road in high winds. Summer tourists have finally ebbed, leaving our region to witness fall’s rampant approach in peace. It’s hard not to face the winds without seeing a promise of snow flurries. But first, the leaves will deepen and reveal true colors — orange, burgundy, and gold. This is a time to still the mind. It is a process, not a completion.

We drive past the sparring roadside flowers of late summer on the Keweenaw. Ever since we took a boat ride up and down the Portage Canal and experienced the magnitude of the deep waters, the Hub has called our peninsula an island. From the water, it is so completely surrounded by the depths of Lake Superior with only one bridge on and off. Today he’s asking me if I think the winds will blow our island away. I tell him I don’t think so. Then we crest the ridge and see the waves of Lady Lake marching in full force to shore three miles ahead. He says the Lake will take this island. I say nothing, silently agreeing. She will cleave this peninsula one day, the way a miner’s pickax slices ore along the grain.

Today we watch homebound tourists.

Birch trees scream in leafy breaths at Calumet Waterworks beach, treetops bent and pointing north with all branches in unison. The surf and winds are so loud I can’t hear anything else. Freight trains roar quieter than Lady Lake in a gale. Below, she’s strewn trees and limbs and driftwood like a child throwing a temper tantrum. This is no day to cross her, not to step a toe in her waters. She’s buried her own beach cobbles beneath sand and wood rubble. I feel this is unfair because I clearly marked Friday as “Lake Day!” on my calendar with the intention of rock picking. I have no idea what beaches will have rocks after this mess.

The Hub bought me a coffee at Cafe Rosetta, wearing his Vikings mask. Coffee used to be a treat, and now, after COVID, it feels decadent; a guilty pleasure. We hold our cups and gawk. The Hub talks to everyone he meets, and we bottleneck on the stairs going to the beach. Not the best pandemic protocol, and I wonder if the high winds will kill the virus or carry it to the arctic. A local at the viewing deck explains to us that the unusually hot summer has warmed the lake, and with cold fronts, she blows up. Ah. I understand. Menopause. Lake Superior is having a hot flash. I tried to film the experience but don’t plan to pick up filmmaking anytime soon. I did start a Carrot Ranch YouTube Channel, and you can listen to the audio howl of wind and surf at Calumet.

We decide to drive over to the breakers at McLain State Park. When the wind howls from the west, the waves crest the breaker walls at the mouth of Portage Canal, where a lighthouse still stands as a beacon of safety. When we went on our boat ride, I discovered how unstable the water feels at the opening of the canal as if it constantly struggles against its constraints, writhing. From the beach, I think the water has escaped. Families line the beach, and locals sit on sand dunes above the flow of water. There is no beach as I know it — water and sand flow over all that was familiar. Long-haired athletes in wetsuits battle the wind and surge to walk the treacherous breaker far out enough that they jump into the rolling waves with surfboards leashed to their ankles. we watch them bob like seals in the swells.

One by one, each surfer rises to stand on their boards to surf Lake Superior. It’s mutual entertainment, those of us in the audience enjoying the ride as much as those taking the risk. We all feel the sand pelting us, the water spray, and adrenaline. It’s a glorious way to spend an afternoon. Invigorating. The tourists who left with the summer heat are missing out on the best season when the Lake shows us all who is boss. She rules the surf, sand, and sky. No doubt it is Lady Lake who rises on mists to freeze the air and gather her moisture in clouds to bury us in snow. More on that later in the year.

We wind our way back home, following the bends and bays in the canal. The water is not choppy but looks as though it has a river current from the wind pushing hard in one direction. No one is at Hancock City Beach. That’s right, everyone was out wave-watching. We top the hill to Roberts Street and spot a city truck, one used in snow removal. This time a crew is clearing the roads of fallen trees and broken branches. We wave. They wave. And then I see my Lemon Queens. Three have snapped in the wind, and I mourn. Gently, I cradle a sapling with a dozen wilting sunny heads, feeling the heft of life yet present. I’ve never understood vegetarians who can’t eat meat. Don’t they know plants die, too?

Death is inevitable. Our island will be no more one day. Today, Lemon Queens died. I realize, what matters most is dignity. It’s not that we avoid death; we die with dignity and grant it to others who are passing. I hold my queens, snip a vase full of flowers to take inside, remove each toppled stalk, and lay them to rest. I speak a few words, giving praise and thanks. Stretched out along the creeping butternut squash, I leave them to dry. Seeds will feed birds and squirrels. Some seeds will grow to be next year’s Lemon Queens. They dim beneath a full moon. So I weed and harvest more seeds from marigolds and monarda. I pick yet more courgettes.

And the wind continues to blow.

Submissions are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

September 3, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about high winds. It can be on land, sea or in outer space. Who is facing the wind or protected from it? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 8, 2020. 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.

Last Pass by Charli Mills

In the Sierras, high winds herald snow. A wagon train of weary souls had hoisted beasts and conveyances to the top of Kit Carson’s pass to reach California’s goldfields below. They looped their way around bulging batholiths and high-altitude lakes glimmering like cut emeralds. The air thinned and the wind rose. The wagon master bellowed, and oxen trundled faster, sensing danger. They didn’t stop at night to rest. By the light of lanterns, they battled banshee winds, tarps snapping like sails. Sunrise opened with peaceful silence followed by splats of rain. Behind them, snow closed the pass until spring.

Lemon Queens

As one writer said, “Pucker up!” The Lemon Queens have stories to share that will have you smacking your lips for lemonade. The right amount of sunshine, the balance of color, and a bit of sweet to balance the tart. Whether sunflowers or bold girls with a lemonade stand, there is something delightful in the name.

Writers pushed their imaginations and found stories full of pucker, pride, and playfulness. Find out who the Lemon Queens are from biscuits to monsters with magic and realism in between.

The following are based on the August 27, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features Lemon Queens.

Canyon Lands by Saifun Hassam

Lightning flickered across golden sandy tracts of the Five Canyons Land. Deep beneath sandy soils, paleontologists discovered extinct microbes and algae with yellow chromophores. Over eons, pigments stained layers of soil with vibrant lemon and orange hues.

Spirals of pinnacles, the Lemon Queens, towered over yellow sandstone cliffs. In the sunlight, the Lemon Queens glowed crimson, fiery red and sparkling citrine.

From dark long shadows, dust rose like mystical spirits in flowing robes of the yellow and red landscape. A rider emerged flying on her steed across the open plains. Topaz jewels and silver threads flashed in the sunlight.

🥕🥕🥕

The Lemon Queens by kathy70

In this year like no other in memory, I am spending more time in the garden. The flowers are mostly putting on their last show for this season. All the veggies know their time is almost at an end, how do I stretch the days. Is there any way to keep the sun higher and brighter in the sky. I, the oldest of the Lemon Queens will need help doing this task. I gather all the queens and instruct them on the chant. As we gather an eclipse happens now the sun is really gone for four more years.

🥕🥕🥕

Last Words by Simon Prathap D

Mr.Sam would like to share few last words about Madam Bea.

You know, Good people have got very less time on this planet. She is a tall woman, and I’ll call this is a fall of lemon Queen sunflower. Why? you’ll not like her, but, she is a good person, she is a queen in heart, cares for everyone around, she will go any extent to save people she care, like a sunflower, stands tall like a beacon of light and attracts beautiful people like a flower attracts butterflies, we are going to miss her. Rest in peace Bea.

🥕🥕🥕

Maybe Even Prettier by Donna Matthews

“What’s this flower called mom?”

“A lemon queen.”

“And this one, mom?”

“A poppy.”

“This one, mom?”

“Oh, she’s a primrose.”

“Primrose?! I have a friend at school named Primrose. Well, I did. I haven’t seen her in my zoom class this week. Do you think she still goes to my school, mom?”

“I don’t know, honey.”

“Will we ever get back to normal, mom?”

“Certainly. Do you see all these flowers? Each spring, they grow back from hibernation. They look dead, but then they come back. Things look bad now, sweetheart, but they’ll grow back. Maybe even prettier.

🥕🥕🥕

A Place for Everyone by Norah Colvin

Rose prickled and turned away from the newcomer. “You can’t blow in here on a breeze expecting to be welcomed,” she whispered to a neighbour.

Sweet Pea belied her name, ignoring the stranger and trailing away to mix with others of her own kind.

Even cousin Marigold wasn’t hospitable, fearing he might spoil their whole bunch.

He didn’t tempt rejection by the glamourous golden Queen outstanding in the field.

Instead, he sailed right by and alighted far from cultivation where his lowly origins wouldn’t raise a brow.

“Look! A dandelion! Do you like butter or cheese? Let’s play!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Lemon Queens by Eliza Mimski

The blonde fields. Stalks of lemon queens. Blue skies and clouds that drift.

Marla lay back in the field, worried about her upcoming wedding day. She didn’t love Xavier, but at 45 you had to marry someone. Who wanted to grow old alone? She posed her question to one of the lemon queens, its chocolate face studying her.

“You mustn’t settle,” it firmly said. “Hold out for true love.”

She asked another.

“You can grow to love him,” it said.

Neither helped.

“Which thing would you rather be unhappy about?” asked the third.

She smiled. She had her answer.

🥕🥕🥕

My Lemon Queen by Ruchira Khanna

“The house looks so clean. Where’s my cyclone?” Dad inquired as soon as he entered his home.

“She’s mostly been in her room since then. Let me get her.” said five-year-old Trisha’s Mom.

“Aha! There’s my Lemon Queen,” he said with glee and was quick to extend his hands towards her. His daughter came towards him with exuberance and landed on his lap.

She placed her tender fingers on his cheek as the dad started to tickle Trisha. Her giggles filled up the room, and the parents’ face radiated like the sun from the happiness that she spread year-round.

🥕🥕🥕

Magic Lemon Queens by Ann Edall-Robson

“Nana, what are they?”

“They are known as Lemon Queens. Only those who believe will experience their magic.”

The sound of a gruff voice broke the mystical moment.

“Are you spinning that yarn to her, too? They’re dragonflies, nothing more!”

“Think whatever you like son. I’ve watched you talking to them like you did when you were her age.”

Picking up his daughter, he whispered into her tiny ear.

“Do you think they are magic?”

She nodded.

“Me too! Don’t tell Nana, okay?”

Giggling, she blew a magical kiss to her Nana as they watched Lemon Queens take flight.

🥕🥕🥕

The Stand by Pete Fanning

At the courthouse steps, Sergeant Nelson was watching the men with rifles trade insults with the masked skateboarders when his deputy rushed over.

The deputy removed his gas mask. “Sarge, we have a situation on the South Lawn.”

“Yeah?”

The deputy pointed across the courtyard, where two schoolgirls, one black, one white, both wearing tiara’s, sat hands crossed and smiling at a makeshift cardboard stand. The sign read, Lemon Queens.

“No permit, boss.”

The Sergeant laughed. He sat a hand on his deputy’s back. “You know what, Deputy? I think we could all use what they’re selling right now.”

🥕🥕🥕

Appeal by Annette Rochelle Aben

When they were little, people referred for them as the Lemon Tarts as the only treat they ever brought to the church bake sale were lemon tarts. Of course, they had no competition, for no one dared to challenge them they way an ordinary chocolate chip cookie might demand. One must be rather dedicated to perfect a lemon tart!
Over time, the tarts advanced in age and like their bite-sized lemon goodies, they remained favorites of the congregation and fans of the bake sale. To honor their steadfast contributions, and their age, they became, the bake sale Lemon Queens!

🥕🥕🥕

The Lemon Queen Festival by Colleen Chesebro

“So, what does it say?” Francine asked.

Rachael stared at the positive pregnancy test results in her hand. “It says I’m pregnant. Now, I’ll never fit into my dress for the Lemon Queen Festival.”

“Mom’s going to blow a gasket when she finds out. What are you going to do?”

Rachael pondered her sister’s question before answering. “I’m not sure. I might have to live with Dad.”

“Mom will never let that happen. Just tell her the truth!”

“Tell me what?” Mom asked from the doorway.

“I’m going to miss the Lemon Queen Festival this year,” said Rachel sheepishly.

🥕🥕🥕

Lemon Queens by Frank Hubeny

They call themselves the Lemon Queens, bitter as a lemon and twice as nasty. Don’t get me wrong. I love lemons. I even eat the rind. But those two with their cursing, spitting and hostility give lemons a bad name.

I have no intention of kneeling to these queens to pacify them. That’s just what they want. That’s just what they’re not going to get.

We arrested them last night. They hurled a trash can through a store window. Their lawyer insisted they were peaceful protesters. Then someone bailed them out. Now someone will have to arrest them again.

🥕🥕🥕

Lemon Queens by FloridaBorne

It’s hard enough being recently widowed, harder yet to move from your large home of 40 years into a senior community.

The neighbor who owns the backyard facing mine is a “chatty Karl,” a person who asks ridiculous questions like, “Are you growing Lemon Queens this year?”

“No. I don’t like lemons.”

“They’re sunflowers,” he chuckled.

“Gardening is not one of my talents,” I frowned. “If you want to see something die, ask me to tend it.”

Thank God he hasn’t spoken to me since. Perhaps the shotgun next to my rocking chair had something to do with it.

🥕🥕🥕

Lemon Queens of Nevada by Charli Mills

Lara, Eugenie, and Jess scrambled up the wooden slats of the corral to watch Big Bones Janey sort the dinks from the keepers. Roundup always smelled of warm sage and fresh horse apples. Wispy sun-bleached hair escaped the matching braids on the young cousins and in the afternoon breeze, their fringe formed halos. Janey trotted past the wide-eyed girls, winking. She called them Lemon Queens and taught them how to settle a stallion without breaking his spirit. Fifteen years later, riding stunt horses for Hollywood westerns, the Lemon Queens owed their skills to the maverick horse trainer of Winnemucca.

🥕🥕🥕

Royalties by JulesPaige

Bob and Cora let their seven year old granddaughter run loose in the heliocentric field of Lemon Queens. It would be the last year for that crop. Well, any crop since they’d decided to retire. No one in the family wanted the farm. The developer gave them a very good price. They could move to a warm climate and never worry about shoveling snow again. They could buy or build just the right place to welcome their children and grands any time they wanted to visit.

little princess found
all her subjects heads bowing
as she skip danced passed

🥕🥕🥕

Lemon Queens by Sue Spitulnik

When Michael rolled out of the church back door he saw Tessa standing at the far side of the parking lot dabbing her eyes. He went to her. “What’s upset you?”

“Look at Mrs. Staples’ house. It’s run down and her gardens have gone to weeds. Remember those tall yellow flowers called Lemon Queens? It wasn’t summer until they bloomed.”

“I’m afraid she’s gone into a home and her kids won’t sell the house while she’s alive, so it sits.”

“That’s awful. I’m going to visit her and share my memories. I wonder where I can buy lemon Queens.”

🥕🥕🥕

End of a Dream by Reena Saxena

A vision in pale yellow floated through the park. This is my new neighbour, Miss Daisy. I would’ve named her Sunflower though.

As if on cue, she turned towards me and smiled. I guess I missed the acerbic expression in her eyes.

“I heard some noise yesterday, and your house help sneaked in on the pretext of asking if I needed something. Let me make it clear, Mr. Whoever-You-Are, I value my privacy.”

I added more sugar to my already sweet lemonade, as she stomped away. Well, now there is a reason I’ll label her Lemon Queen.

🥕🥕🥕

The Lemon Queens by Joanne Fisher

In Lana’s dream she was warned the Lemon Queens were coming. Abruptly she awoke and began shivering. You would think Lemon Queens would be something pleasant, but in reality it was a euphemism for humanoid figures with blotchy sallow skin unpleasantly stretched over their thin frames. Their hands had long fingers that ended in sharp claws used for disemboweling their victims. They also had sharp pointed teeth for ripping throats open.

Lana sat up in her bed in the dark her arms cradling her shaking body. On the edge of hearing the door handle to her bedroom slowly opened.

🥕🥕🥕

The Rush of The Morn by Bill Engleson

Eyes glued shut,
middle of the morn,
Wobble to the window,
Screen ripped and torn.
Flies buzzing in,
Making for my toast,
Lava butter rolling,
Time for a riposte.
Sun streaming in,
burning up my eyes,
trip on the rug,
crush a dozen flies.
Pick myself up,
grab a cuppa joe,
out on the deck,
watch the morning glow.
Birds peck at seeds,
cats about to pounce
savvy birds fly away,
Watch old kitty flounce,
Morning is so bright,
Best Its ever been,
Hydrangea, blue and rich
Snuggles to the lemon queen.
The day’s fair majestic,
a satisfying scene.

🥕🥕🥕

Naming the Biscuit by Anne Goodwin

“We can’t call them that!”

“Why not? They’re lemony. They’re puffy. They’re not lemon crisps.”

“Why not? Because it’s a term of abuse.”

“Nonsense! No-one thinks that anymore. Homophobia’s consigned to history. Along with racism and blaming women for being raped.”

“Remind me of our demographic.”

“Middle Englanders. Conservatives with a C both big and small. People who’d never dip a biscuit in their tea.”

“Unless it’s a ginger snap?”

“They don’t buy ginger snaps. They’re for the hoi polloi.”

“Royalists?”

“To the core. Loyal to Prince Andrew. Think Harry should be shot.”

“Then let’s call them Lemon Queens.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lemon the Queen of Fruits by Ellen Best

When I teach my daughter about Lemons she’ll say, ‘they are sour, and need loads of sugar before you use them.’ I will pour her a homemade lemonade, sweetened with Agave. I’ll tell her how lemon juice can cure heartburn, it’s the only citrus fruit that turns alkaline once joined with saliva. While passing her a slice of my lemon drizzle poppyseed cake, I clean my glass to a sparkle with a used lemon skin as we speak. We will chat about life and love as I slice lemon and freeze them, for days when there are no more.

🥕🥕🥕

Lemon Queens by Priorhouse

Lydia and June carried in numerous bags and crates with workshop supplies.

Catching their breathe, they placed the heavy items down and began setting up:

Water bottles

worksheets

pens

name tags

June Spread out a yellow table cloth across the round table in the corner.

Lydia spread out six dozen sliced lemons.

The workshop would have their speciality “lemon-themed” group activity.

There would be a taste test to experiment with sour.

Lemons would be added to water to alkalize the body and provide Vitamin C.

Standing back, they dimmed the lights and smiled.

The Lemon Queens would strike again.

🥕🥕🥕

The Queens by R. V. Mitchell

Vincent sat at his easel and squinted at the majesty of the queens in his vase. The Paris series had been a success. Now a year later, Arles beckoned. The pot – simple, two-toned, was a perfect tool, as was the plain wall of the studio.

“How many sunflowers?” he questioned to himself. “Ten. A dozen more or less.” He grinned to himself. “The public needn’t know how many are actually in the vase, only the number in my mind.”

With that Vincent picked up his palette and began to mix his yellows, as the lemon queens awaited their day.

🥕🥕🥕

When Ranch Chores Is a Drag by D. Avery

“Kid, where’d them two towheaded twins git off to?”

“Went inta the bunkhouse, said they’d be right out. They say they wanna work fer Carrot Ranch? Or the Saddle Up Saloon?”

“I reckon the Ranch. Tip an’ Top Lemmon are hardy hard workin’ cowboys. They’ll be a fine hep aroun’ here, ‘specially since yer always doin’ ever’thin’ but yer chores these days, what with thet saloon an’ all.”

“All this mention a the saloon, Pal. Reckon this is a crossover piece, huh?”

“S’pose… Whut?! Kid, who’re them fancy dancehall girls struttin’ along the bunkhouse veranda?”

“Introducin’ the Lemmon Queens!”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Welcome To My World

‘Welcome to my World’, so said my youngest, V, when lockdown struck.

Almost six months on, I have a deeper glimpse into V’s world. But this is not a temporary world as for most of us.

For V this shall not pass. Not so much.

V was diagnosed ten years ago at eighteen with Asperger’s Syndrome (a high functioning autistic spectrum disorder – ASD). V struggles with aspects of social communication, such as reading certain social cues. Chronic anxiety, depression and the need to retreat means V is socially avoidant outside the home. Online is where V’s world exists, with friends of many years.

How can you have real friends you’ve never actually met? Such was my worry, before I started blogging. Now I know…we can and we do.  Heck, I met my husband online…but that’s another story.

Lockdown world over means confinement to our home and garden (if fortunate enough to have one), leaving the house only for essentials and no socialising with anyone outside our household. Now we are keen to relay our lockdown tales of where we walked, how we ate, what we did or didn’t, how we coped, what we binge-watched (Ozark, anyone?).

Safe to say, a good few said sod the toilet roll, so long as there’s gin…

But lockdown brought a dark side.  A shocking rise in domestic violence. A seeping loneliness for those isolated from their loved ones. And a hard toll on mental health for many.

The internet became our refuge, our place to keep in touch and communicate. But imagine if your social life is always online and not just for lockdown? Watching the world before you achieving, doing, laughing, playing. As some say, living your best and so-called perfect life.

And V cannot do any of it. This does not mean V is a social misfit, whatever that actually means. If it means not being the same as everyone else, then I know which I’d rather be. I wonder how much lockdown has changed us all in a world those like V know too well.

A doctor once told V they were “special” with a “gift.” I wish I could have brought that doctor home with us so she could have heard V’s enraged and wounded response.

If feeling like I’m drowning means I’m special, then I guess I must be.

V wants a life, of course. And I think about my life now, too. The longer I stay home, the longer I don’t want to go back out there.  I don’t like the world out there. Our beaches are overrun. Our roads are chock full of traffic, walkways too narrow and difficult to socially distance.

As for pubs, no chance.

Finding myself housebound (broken ankle) on the heels of lockdown easing, threw me for a loop. Only now, nine weeks later, I am starting short walks outside, unaided. Very soon, I hope to drive again.

But I’ll let you into a little secret: a part of me can’t wait, but the other? I’ve lost confidence, I’ll admit. I don’t want to go back to navigating busy supermarkets with a facemask steaming my glasses, getting covid rage all over again when someone invades my space. I don’t want to people-dodge all over again.

‘Now you know how I feel, every day,’ said V.

V is right. Now I do, but only a little.

And there is light. Always light. V’s world never fails to surprise in different ways.

For example, masks are now compulsory in the UK in shops and of course anywhere medical. But V wore masks long before Covid-19. Having read a couple of years ago about a high risk of a SARS-like virus soon to invade the west, V purchased a large pack of masks from Japan and wore one to a hospital appointment last year.

You bet it raised some eyebrows and quizzical stares.

This might sound odd to some, but it made perfect sense to V, who not that long before had been struck down and admitted to hospital with an unknown virus. Why risk a repeat?

Thanks to V, we already had our masks at the ready when Covid struck.

Who knew? V did.

And something else: a mask serves dual purpose for V.

‘I feel safer with a mask, more secure’, V recently told me. ‘It makes eye contact easier, I don’t have to worry what the other person thinks…I’m not so anxious about them or myself…’

This reminded me of part of V’s diagnostic testing for Asperger. Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, developed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, which “…assesses the extent to which people are able to attribute thoughts and feelings to people based upon the expression in their eyes.”

The mask hides our facial expressions, so we “neurotypicals” are at more of a disadvantage reading subtle changes of emotion in others. For V who for instance, can’t tell the different between worry and anger, this is perfect. V has discovered help with social anxiety. This warrants further exploration, I think.

Ten years after diagnosis and our current crisis aside, V seeks to find a way out of permanent lockdown to pursue a love of travel, learning languages, of Japanese and Nordic culture, and of their art.

Pretty heroic, I would say, at the best of times.

 

While bringing her memoir, ‘Stranger in a White Dress: A True Story of Broken Dreams, Being Brave and Beginning Again’ to publication, Sherri’s articles, short memoir, personal essays, poetry and flash fiction are published in national magazines, anthologies and online. She invites her readers to share the view at her Summerhouse blog and is a regular contributer and columnist at ‘Carrot Ranch’, an online literary community. In another life, Sherri lived in California for twenty years, but today, she lives in England writing stories from the past, making sense of today and giving hope for tomorrow.

Sherri

 

 

Saddle Up Saloon; Write On, Robbie!

Saddle Up Saloon“Hey, Pal. Yer kinda late. It’s gittin’ dark out, the stars is already showin’.”

“I sure would like ta be out unnerneath ‘em, Kid, but we’re ‘xpectin’ a big star at the saloon this week, ain’t we?”

“Sure are, Pal. Robbie’s comin’ in.”

“Robbie? Robbie who?”

“Robbie Cheadle.

“A writer fella?”

“Nope, a writer gal. Seems her mom was expecting a boy an’ planned to name him Robert, but when she turned out to be a girl, she changed it to Roberta, which gits endlessly mispernounced, either Roberto or Robairta. She didn’t like either so goes by Robbie. Writes books fer children under Robbie Cheadle and books fer young adults and adults under Roberta Eaton Cheadle.”

“Soun’s like could git confusin’, but also soun’s as if this Robbie kin take charge an’ take care a hersef.”

“I’m hopin’ she takes charge a that ghost been bumpin’ ‘roun here. That poor character what ain’t been brought ta life an’ put in a story. Gives me the shivers thinkin’ on that. But I reckon Robbie Cheadle knows a thing or two ‘bout ghosts an’ sech. Her fav’rite genres are supernatural and paranormal, often set historically.”

“Thet so?”

“Yep. She’s writ a number of short stories in them genres. Three paranormal historical stories are included in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories edited by Stephen Bentley. She’s got three paranormal historical short stories in Nightmareland, an anthology of short stories edited by Dan Alatorre and one in the previous anthology in the Box Under the Bed series, called Dark Visions.”

“Jeez, thet’s a lot!”

“Oh there’s more, Pal. She’ll have a second story in Dark Visions called The Willow Tree, which is a horror story and she’s currently working with Dan Alatorre on a new Box Under the Bed horror story anthology called Spellbound. Two a her short stories, one a paranormal historical story and one a horror fantasy story, have been accepted for this new collection. And she’s also currently working with Kaye Lynne Booth on a second WordCrafter Press paranormal anthology. She had two paranormal short stories in last year’s WordCrafter Press anthology called Whispers of the Past and aims to include two in the new anthology. Both of these stories will be based in South Africa during the time of the Great Trek by the Afrikaner people into the interior in 1836.”

“Wow, Kid. An’ did I hear tell there’s a new book comin’ out?”

“Yep, Robbie’s new book, A Ghost and His Gold, is also in the paranormal historical genre. But she’s materialized right behind ya Pal, whyn’t ya ask her yersef.”

“Eeek! I mean, Howdy. Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon, Robbie Cheadle.”

“Hello Pal. Sorry to have frightened you. Yes, I really enjoyed doing the research for A Ghost and His Gold and moving between a modern timeline in Pretoria, South Africa, and a historical time line during the Second Anglo Boer war in South Africa. I am currently finalising that supernatural historical novel. It was due out in October 2020 but, sadly, my huge Covid-19 workload caused me some delays and I didn’t get it to my editor in time for an October launch. I am now aiming for late January 2021.”

“Well, Mizz Cheadle, delay ain’t denial. You’ll git it done. Hey, how ‘bout wettin’ the whistle? Kin we git ya a drink?

​“Pal, I’ve never been in a saloon in my whole life before this. I don’t drink much and if I do, it’s usually as part of a meal. I have been in an English pub, if that counts. They are great places to enjoy a meal in the UK, very atmospheric. I have never visited America, East or West, and I don’t know anything about ranching other than what I have read in books. I have read a few Westerns recently and they all include cowboys and ranches to some extent. I do know a lot about the South African Boers (farmers) though. Their story is not that different to that of the frontiersmen in the USA.”

“Well, yer a familiar hand roun’ Carrot Ranch, fer sure. It’s real nice a ya ta come by the saloon an’ tell us ‘bout yer work.”

“It sure is. We was talkin’ on how ya like supernatural and paranormal stories, with a historical settin’. But you ain’t no one-trick pony. Ya’ve co-writ books too, with yer son an’ with yer ma.”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“Soun’s like it could be tricky territory. Whut’s thet like, writin’ with kinfolk?”

“The Sir Chocolate book series is written with my son, Michael. Michael contributes ideas to our books. He has the cutest ideas that translate into really fun figurines and story lines. He is very creative. Michael isn’t a fan of writing so I always hold the pen on the books, but he does give interesting input. When he was six years old we used to bake a lot together. He had this lovely idea about a man made entirely of chocolate who lived in Chocolate Land where you can eat everything. Sir Chocolate goes around helping the people of Chocolate Land solve problems, which are often created by selfishness, greediness or a natural disaster. Each story has a subtle message with regards to friendship, teamwork and other similar things. My main aim with these books is for children to read a story that stimulates their creativity and imaginations. I want the children to try and make the people and creatures. They don’t have to use fondant and cake, they can use play dough or plasticine. I even had one child from a poor background make figurines out of clay he got from a ditch. I was also aiming for a first cookbook that children could read with mom or dad or another caregiver and then try out the recipes. These books are intended to encourage bonding between children and caregivers and give them some fun activities to do together.”

“Thet soun’s like a real fine experience writin’ with Michael, an’ a real fine active read fer families.”

“It was fun writing that series with my son. While the Bombs Fell is a book I wrote with my mother and is a fictionalised account of my mother’s life as a small child growing up in Suffolk, England during World War II. Writing with my mother was more difficult because she had the knowledge. It is more difficult probing someone else’s brain to get information than it is to do straight research on the internet. I need to capture her emotions and thoughts to make the story live and that wasn’t an easy thing to do. Most people will tell you a story but won’t add much personalised information to it. They give you the facts and you have to probe for the underlying details. She also had strict ideas on the book and storyline so I had to stay within her boundaries. I didn’t mind, after all it’s her story, but it did make the writing a bit more complex. Charli Mills helped me developmentally edit this book and I learned a huge amount from her. I am grateful for her guidance and advice, which I have incorporated into all my books and short stories going forward.”

“Charlie Mulls? Editin’ fella?”

“Shush, Kid! Robbie, ya’ve got another book called Through the Nethergate. I know ya call it supernatchral fantasy, but seems like they’s all kinds a stuff goin’ on in thet book. Them ghosts ain’t the most scary aspect a thet story.”

“Through the Nethergate also includes a lot of paranormal historical aspects and I also enjoyed the research for that one which went as far back as the White Ship disaster when a ship carrying the heir to the English crown sank off the coast of Normandy on 25 November 1120 to Suffolk, England, and other cities in four European countries in 2019. This book also had a strong political message about the rise of nationalism in our modern world.”

“Nationalism? Soun’s as if readers could get quite a spookin’ from thet Nethergate book.”

​“I am a firm believer that people should have a broad knowledge of history to prevent the catastrophes and horrors of the past from repeating themselves. This is the reason I was drawn to writing historical fiction. Through the Nethergate aims to show how easily our current modern circumstances and attitudes could be manipulated and result in a repeat of past fascism and extreme nationalism. A lofty aim.”

“Dang, I’ll say. Soun’s like yer givin’ readers somethin’ ta chew on. Reckon ya might a gotten somethin’ out of writin’ it, too.”

​“Hmm. I certainly enjoyed the historical research and making the history come alive by incorporating it into this story. I also enjoyed having an opportunity to express some of my views in a low-key way in the book. I tried not to be preachy or extreme in the views expressed but rather to draw readers subtly to a reasonable conclusion of their own. I think the history and spiritualism appealed to me the most. I have always loved history and took it to a senior qualification level at school. I was raised a Catholic and I attended a convent for my junior school years. I had lovely nun teachers and one, Sister Agatha, really took time to develop my reading abilities. I didn’t really realise how lucky I was then, but now, as an adult, I realise how good she was to me and how she encouraged my personal growth as a reader and a thinker. I am not a big fan of politics but I do follow international and local politics because it affects us all. What happens in other countries, in this regard, affects developing economies hugely.” 

“Thinkin’ this ain’t yer average supernatchral story!”

“I do have views on how easily technology can be manipulated for negative purposes and how people with a common agenda can use the internet to push their views and gather the interest and devotion of like minded individuals. I also have views on capitalism, socialism and communism as well as nationalism. I melded these together into this unusual story. Most people who have read it have reacted positively which is encouraging. There has been the odd person who has misinterpreted my intentions, but you can’t win them all.”

“Ya most certainly cain’t, Robbie. I hope folks here be sure an’ check out yer books an’ blogs.”

“Yes. I have two blogs now. I love blogging and it is my favourite social media. Robbie’s Inspiration was created in October 2016 after I launched Sir Chocolate and the strawberry cream berries into my social media vacuum. I didn’t even have a Facebook account at the time. My brother-in-law recommended a blog and so Robbie’s Inspiration was born. I blog recipes, fondant art, poetry, children’s book reviews and other related posts on this site. My other blog is more recent. I created it in October 2018 when I was writing Through the Nethergate. I had already decided, by that stage, to write my supernatural/paranormal/horror stories under a different version of my name so that there was no confusion with readers. I didn’t want a Sir Chocolate fan to buy Through the Nethergate by mistake and get a horrible shock. I love blogging because of the social interaction with other bloggers. It is a marvelous community and I love my blogging friends. I just have some time constraints especially recently as I need more time to write than before. A Ghost and His Gold is 115 000 words and that is a big undertaking which required a lot of effort. I am still finalising my edits. Writing the short stories also takes time and I now belong to two reading clubs and an on-line writing group. I love these other writing and reading related things too but they do eat into my free time. But writing is something I have always enjoyed and I love receiving developmental edits and growing my stories as a result. The developmental edit advice is becoming much less now so I know I am improving and implementing what I have learned. That is gratifying for me. Of course, I like good reviews and appreciate it when lovely people take the time to write one. It is marvelous when a reader connects with your story and enjoys it.”

“We sure are grateful to ya fer takin’ time outta yer busy life ta chat with us here at the Saddle Up.”

“Yep, thanks, Robbie, an’ good luck with all yer doin’s.”

“Thank you Pal and Kid, and good luck to you as well.”

“Folks, be sure an’ see the blurb fer Robbie’s latest book, A Ghost and His Gold below. We didn’t wanna trouble Robbie further with our own ghost story, but as ya mighta heard, a ghost’s been hauntin’ Carrot Ranch an’ the Saddle Up Saloon. Seems it’s a character whut ain’t been realized, cain’t find a story ta call it’s own so it jist wanders aroun’ the prompts, unseen an’ unwritten. Hep us hep it out by writin’ it inta the Saloon down there in the comment boxes. An’ folks, we got some openin’s if ya wanna git yersef featured at the saloon.”

###

After Tom and Michelle Cleveland move into their recently built, modern townhouse, their housewarming party is disrupted when a drunken game with an Ouija board goes wrong and a sinister poltergeist, Estelle, who died in 1904, is summoned.

 Estelle makes her presence known in a series of terrifying events, culminating in her attacking Tom in his sleep with a knife. But, Estelle isn’t alone. Who are the shadows lurking in the background? – one in an old-fashioned slouch hat and the other, a soldier, carrying a rifle. 

 Discovering their house has been built on the site of one of the original farms in Irene, Michelle becomes convinced that the answer to her horrifying visions lies in the past. She must unravel the stories of the three phantoms’ lives, and the circumstances surrounding their untimely deaths during the Second Anglo Boer War, in order to understand how they are tied together and why they are trapped in the world of ghosts between life and death. As the reasons behind Estelle’s malevolent behaviour towards Tom unfold, Michelle’s marriage comes under severe pressure and both their lives are threatened.

 

a1dkflgqsol._us230_-robbie-cheadle-Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Robbie on GoodreadsGoodreads

Connect to Robbie

Website/Blog Roberta WritesRoberta Writes
BlogRobbie’s Inspiration
Website: Robbie Cheadle:
Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books
Twitter: @bakeandwrite

 

 

August 27: Flash Fiction Challenge

So it has begun. Neighbors slink in the shadows of my house, transgressing both front and back doors with summer bounty. The forager has left puff balls and cut petunias on my back deck. The gardener’s wife next door tried sneaking a bowlful of tomatoes on my front steps. A friend offered to share beans and another found me camping and brought lavender. Even my daughter is peddling chard and arugula, offering trades of patty-pans for courgettes. This season of shifting excess from the garden makes me grin. I feel whole and home, surrounded by community and yard-grown food.

The biggest surprise in my potager towers over all the neighbors leaving offerings. My gentle giants with prolific and cheerful heads will make migrating birds a feast. I stand outside looking upward of eight feet to bask in the presence of the Lemon Queens. A single staff holds as many as twenty sunflower heads and I planted five. They hold court, these reigning sisters of Roberts Street. Each petal is slender, forming a pale yellow fringe around each dark center rich with pollen. The honey bees buzz from high above, dropping closer to earth with legs fully loaded for feeding the hive.

When my heart feels as heavy as a ladened bee, I stand beneath the Lemon Queens and look up. White clouds pull across the blue sky like spun sugar, the kind county fairs would be serving if it not for a pandemic. I watch as the oldest sunflowers begin to brown and form seeds. For such hardy stalks and large heads, the petals flutter ephemeral. They don’t last long enough for the seeds to mature. Such could be said about many life events — life itself — passes so quickly. The beauty and joy we once celebrated have left a legacy of seeds for more, and yet a darkness stretches between memory and hope. The royals pass too soon.

And so it came to be that I needed to check out of my home, neighbors and shared abundance. I needed to abandon the studies, thesis, and literary community. I needed to step back from all that is good and appreciated to just simply be. The emotions of travel, wedding, funeral, and school needed a reset. My inner introvert demanded a fresh air cacoon. When a friend who also needed downtime suggested a camping trip to Big Traverse Bay on the sandy side of the Keweenaw, I was all for it. We each had our own small tents and we physically distanced around a campfire beneath the stars.

I met the Lemon Queens of the universe, standing on the beach of Lake Superior at 3 am. Already the coyotes had yipped and howled three times from the direction we heard the late-summer gathering of sandhill cranes in the wild blueberry marshes. An American toad hunkered by my tent, his shape evident in the light from the campfire. The fish flies, midges, and mosquitos had finally tired of blood draws. The lake spread flat and silent like ice, yet the air remained warm enough to feel comfortable in a flannel shirt. I had kicked off my Keens and walked over the small sand bluff to see the stars over the lake. I looked up.

Regal and twinkling, the brightest stars hung like Lemon Queens, reflecting light on the water. The lake ran an occasional wave across the sand to let me know she was awake and star-gazing, too. Mars, a bright orange bulb had risen earlier from the horizon and I swore it must be the lamp of a ghost ship. By 3 am, the planet had risen in an arc. The Milky Way frothed with light and the Perseids shot meteorites across the black sky. When I stood, bare feet in the cool, wet sand, I felt the universe so close it tickled my nose. The soft silence wrapped me up in the night’s blanket. Lemon Queens live.

The next morning I rose early — for me — to see a long-legged spider hanging out on the mesh screen overhead. I supposed she was eating the last of the waiting mosquitos. The air felt thick and warm and the lake barely lapped. I brewed coffee in my French press and drug my chair into the shade of a pine, savoring the first cup of the day. By the time I lit my single-burner butane stove, a stiff wind challenged my efforts. Blue flames fluttered and the bacon fried in the cast iron pan. I poured seeds and nuts and blueberries over Brown Cow maple yogurt and topped both bowls with fresh nasturtium from my garden. We dined at a distance in our camp chairs, adding a second pot of coffee and chocolate zucchini cake to the meal. The wind increased.

We didn’t have much time before checking out but the camp hostess offered that we could day use any of the open campsites (Schoolcraft only has eight sites and the hostess A-frame, a familiar feel). Ours was reserved for new campers that day. We packed up the kitchen and most of our stuff and carried our tents to a new spot to rest or read later. Waves began to roar, the sound I love best from Lady Lake. We walked the beach and with no rocks to pick I collected anything plastic and unnatural. Mostly the beach was clean but the debris of humanity nests everywhere like an invasive species. We scoped out other campsites and watched a young couple take over ours from the night before. A young Finnish mother with six blond children all under the age of ten showed up and I delighted in watching the three eldest ride the waves like fearless pros.

An immature eagle flew overhead as if to say he had this flight thing down. I sat in the sand, feet buried, hair blowing away from my face, head nodding in droopy peace. I felt refreshed and ready to return to garden exchanges and revitalize the rhythm of life. Time to catch up with ripe tomatoes, the last of my term coursework, and comments and stories from the community. The Lemon Queens have come and will go. The stars will continue to dance barely out of reach. We will remember those who have gone on to those who remain. And we will be witness to milestones and castles in the sky until we forget and someone else remembers.

August 27, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features Lemon Queens. Maybe it’s an ancient fairy tale or a modern brand name. What ideas seep into your imagination? Is there a character or place involved? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 1, 2020. 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 are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

Lemon Queens of Nevada by Charli Mills

Lara, Eugenie, and Jess scrambled up the wooden slats of the corral to watch Big Bones Janey sort the dinks from the keepers. Roundup always smelled of warm sage and fresh horse apples. Wispy sun-bleached hair escaped the matching braids on the young cousins and in the afternoon breeze, their fringe formed halos. Janey trotted past the wide-eyed girls, winking. She called them Lemon Queens and taught them how to settle a stallion without breaking his spirit. Fifteen years later, riding stunt horses for Hollywood westerns, the Lemon Queens owed their skills to the maverick horse trainer of Winnemucca.

First Flight

From the nest to new ventures, first flights are often fraught with hazzards and delights. Birds test their wings and people test their abilities. No matter what happens next, it is the first time that remains memorable.

Writers imagined those moments. The first leap, jump, departure. Some landed and some flew beyond our gaze.

The following stories are based on the August 13, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight.

PART I (10-minute read)

First Flight by Charli Mills

The phoenix spent a lifetime reinventing herself. Each experience stabilized the bits, girding future wings. Her thoughts solidified. From dusty ashes, elegance rose. Sometimes her development caused an imbalance—she’d gain strength in one wing, leaving a talon incorporeal, a sooty ghost foot. Failure created more ashes, but ashes packed form like down in a pillow. Soft, at first, the padding transformed to muscle and bone. Fully engineered, the phoenix’s original vision improved with age and wisdom gained. A fire of kindness flamed her fully actualized self and she burned, a sacrifice to the ashes of her next life.

🥕🥕🥕

First Flight by Joanne Fisher

She was the strongest and first of her brood, and had eaten her brothers and sisters as soon as they hatched. Now she was perched on the cliff edge and something instinctive began to take over. Without even thinking, she launched herself into the air. As she plummeted, for the first time her wings began to stretch out. She swooped up into the blue sky, the red sun glistening on her scales. She knew she would grow larger and master this element. Nothing could defeat her now. She roared into the wind and the first trace of flame appeared.

🥕🥕🥕

First Flight by Colleen Chesebro

The wings were brand new. The two small buds on her back had blossomed into full-fledged wings covered with white feathers. She stretched these new extensions as far as she could, flexing the newly formed muscles taut.

She was sure that they made these new appendages for flying. How long had she wished to fly free like the eagle and the hawk?

She sniffed the air and pawed the ground. From a canter to a dead run, she was ready to spread her wings. At the cliff, the ground fell away, and she flew. It was unicorn’s first flight.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Pizza by Geoff Le Pard

‘I tried to talk to that rock woman again, but she just got in the lake and swam away.’

‘She swam in that?’

‘She could be a mermaid.’

‘More like a nice maiden. Or it could be a version of our hard-wired response to danger.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Haven’t you heard of the fight or flight response, Morgan?’

‘My hard-wired response is different.’

‘Of course it is. What do you do if danger threatens?’

‘I eat pizza.’

‘How on earth did those palaeontologists miss that third hard-wired response? It explains those Stone Age ovens.’

‘Experts, huh?’

‘Exactly.’

🥕🥕🥕

First Flight by kathy70

I’m taking the early first flight out this morning. Handy trick learned years ago that allow options if I miss it. DC is ugly hot this summer. Today’s assignment is to meet an old friend for lunch. Twenty years is a long time, I wonder how he’s changed. Will he know me? My job today is simply gathering information on what’s next years hot clothing color. How does a nice girl from Kansas get in the spy business? Should I have married that farmer? On my flight there is a familiar face in the next seat. “Hi I’m Dorothy.”

🥕🥕🥕

Betsy 1965 by Deborah Dansante

Callow listened as the weatherman told her she would wash away in the storm unless she got out now. The siren sounds the radio made when the warm winds blew down to Grand Isle from New Orleans helped Callow to believe this was true. Callow took up her lamp. Kneeling in prayer, Callow repeatedly raised her arms up and down, finally letting them fall gently to her sides. This was to remind Callow of what to do if she was to suddenly to take off flying with the hurricane. Callow fell asleep listening to the buzzing sounds of WWL.

🥕🥕🥕

First Flight by H.R.R. Gorman

It was our land which had the wind, the sand, the beach. It was here they assembled the pieces, here they first revved the engine, here they first left land. Here mankind first leapt to the heavens during 26 seconds that shrank the earth. Only five witnesses saw the first moments of mankind’s destiny, a destiny riding upon muslin, and aluminum engine.

Arise, children of Earth! Fly upon wings of intelligence and daring, upon the backs of bloody lessons learned! From a colony lost to the sky found, the Carolina coast is there.

Oh, and Ohio can suck it.

🥕🥕🥕

The One by Paula Puolakka

No 9/11. No pandemic. The airplanes could have not worked as weapons of mass destruction and a swift way to spread the virus if the citizens of the USA would have agreed with the One who tried to stop the madness from happening a long time ago. Instead, he was called crazy, locked inside a vault, and quietened.

The first flight can be observed after the first attempt to fly and after the first fall. Just listen to “Learn How to Fall” by Paul Simon, and you will realize that (ad nauseam) the truth will make you try again.

🥕🥕🥕

Metamorphosis, Revisited by Jeff Gard

Jerome’s thumbs peck the screen. His eyes burrow through layers of lamestream media to find the Truth. Hunched over his phone, bones strain at skin, T-shirt molting against expanding shoulder blades until leathery wings sprout.

Truth flees sentences, buzzing through air, swarming like gnats. Everything the establishment hides, deep state crimes of pedophilic cannibalism obfuscated by so-called experts – these morsels can only be consumed by minds adapted to bite-sized, carefully coded minutia.

Jerome chases the latest conspiracy out a window in dusk where other believers gather. They speak in stuttering chirps, guiding each other with the sounds of night.

🥕🥕🥕

A Flightening Experience from Back in the Day by Bill Engleson

“It was up there,” Ham Slater, the friendly, eager, local realtor said, pointing to the high bluff running along the skyline for a few miles.

“Really?”

“Yup. 1968. Hot summer evening, they say.”

“They?” I asked.

“Yup. Locals. Ones playing golf on the meadow below.”

“The island has a golf course?” I interrupted.

“Wellll…not officially. Mostly farmland. Sheep keep ‘er nicely chomped.”

“Ah,“ I said, not fully enlightened. “So, the bluff?”

“Zeke Buttworm, old time farmer…inventor. Built a glider…also tried…mescaline…young hippie girl Zeke was…courtin’…Lass was devastated.”

“It crashed?”

“Yup. Killed Zeke dead…and three sheep.”

“Sad.”

“Oh! And one golfer.”

🥕🥕🥕

The First Flight by The Curious Archaeologist

He stood on the edge of the tower, checked his linen covered wings, took a deep breath and jumped.

They worked! He glided for nearly two hundred yards before the gust hit him, he struggled as he dropped, his wings broke his fall. He awoke in the infirmary with a broken leg. The Abbot beside the bed.

“Brother Elimer, my old friend, there must be no more flying. I don’t wish to bury you next time.”

“But if I had a bigger tail I could fly”

“Not now.” The Abbot was firm, “One day perhaps.”

The year was 1005.

🥕🥕🥕

First Flight by Frank Hubeny

The interviewer wanted to know whether Bird was scared when he jumped out of the nest for the first time.

Bird said, “Technically I didn’t ‘jump’. I flew. My wings moved. Soon the nest was far below me. I don’t know how it happened. It’s not like jumping. There’s a difference.”

The interviewer wondered, “Really? What’s the difference?”

He clarified, “You see, any monkey can jump out of a nest. You know as well as I do what will happen. I’m not going to go there. But birds, well – how do I put this? We don’t jump. We fly.”

🥕🥕🥕

Earth is Curvy by Simon Prathap D

It was his first time, he was nervous. He looked at the place around, the man at the opposite was busy securing belt all over his body. He took a deep breath and counted one and before he said two he was pushed away from the mountain, his first skydiving. His partner laughed at his screaming. In few seconds he started to feel the wind, the air, the landscape, the beautiful mountains and the animals that was running in the wild, it all said him one truth about the universe. ‘Earth is not flat, it is curvy’ he said.

🥕🥕🥕

First Flight by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She shifted her hips, attempting to get comfortable. Elbows on the counter, chin on fist, she gazed at the display, attempting to suss out meaning from the frothy spill of words. All gibberish. She sighed.

And she’d wanted to make a good impression.

He perched, mirror image to this beautiful woman, heels hooked on the stool’s rungs. He’d suggested this venue for its relaxed atmosphere, located between river and train. He also wanted to make a good impression.

“I don’t know beans about beer!”

“Trust me?” he leaned back. “Let’s share a flight. This brewery has a nice selection.”

🥕🥕🥕

Viewing the Nazca Lines by Anne Goodwin

“After breakfast is best. The first flight.”

Gulping coffee and empanadas de queso at sunrise before cycling to the airstrip, I wondered if I’d heard him right. My stomach lurched as the plane vaulted the perimeter fence. Just us, our guide and the pilot: no other tourists to block the view. Pre-Columbian geoglyphs etched in the desert: how did they make them? Why?

There’s the dog! The spider! The plane tilts, wings verging on horizontal. Hummingbird. Monkey. Tree. I cup my mouth, breakfast tastes sour the second time around. How did I misunderstand it? Definitely breakfast after: desayuno después.

🥕🥕🥕

Take Off, Eh? by Annette Rochelle Aben

The honeymoon flight from Detroit to Los Angeles was her very first. Not knowing what to expect, the young bride allowed her more well-traveled husband to guide her along the way.
He graciously gave her the ilse seat and held her hand gently while the flight attendant covered the emergency instructions.

As the plane pulled back, he reminded her that she should put the chewing gum in her mouth.

“Honey, look we’re climbing into the clouds!”

She leaned forward to take a look, and vomited on the back of the head of the person seated in front of her.

🥕🥕🥕

Her First Flight by Ann Edall-Robson

Desk, check. Window, check. Binoculars, check. Camera, check. Water, check.

She sat on a log, enjoying the vista. The sound of the creek chortling over the rocks made her smile. A shadow of a cloud floated within sight. Lifting the binoculars to her eyes she almost missed the hawk lifting of its perch. Its flight taking the predator out of camera range.​

Her contented sigh caused a misty cloud in the cool, morning air. Picking up her pencil, she started to write. Her first flight to work from home was a success. Outdoor office days were here to stay.

🥕🥕🥕

Arriving by D. Avery

Signs and arrows made navigating the mazelike interior of the airport easier than she’d imagined. Still she was passed left and right by more experienced travelers towing wheeled suitcases, rushing down the wide corridor labeled “Departures”. She clutched her satchel and continued until she was in a glassed in peninsula thrust into a sea of tarmac, roiling with activity. She found her gate, a closed door really, but one that would open for her, take her away. Away at last. Seated close to this doorway she again examined her ticket. One way. She would be transported and then— “Arrivals”.

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Just Another Baby Bird by Lottie M. Hancock

Women have mid-life crisis, too. Mine came with a thirty-six-foot wingspan.
Preflight checklist: Ready.
Doors latched. Check.
Fuel valve on. Check.
Butterflies in stomach. Check.
Trim set for takeoff. Check.
Heart raced. Check.
Wing flaps at 0. Check.
Breathe!
I kept the horizon level. The ground fell away.
My instructor stared straight ahead.
Power at 2200 RPM. Check.
The city I grew up in shrank. The sky grew.
I watched the gauges steady and trimmed the elevator.
A flock of geese formed around us. Just another baby bird.
Prepare for final approach. Check.
Regret having to land. Check.
Touchdown.

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Dear Butterfly, Love Caterpillar by Norah Colvin

Dear Butterfly,
You make the impossible seem possible. You inspire our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams. How can I be like you?

Dear Caterpillar,
Dreams create possibilities but now you are exactly who you were meant to be.

Dear Butterfly,
Life is monotonous. Everyone does the same thing, day after day. Shouldn’t life be more than this?

Dear Caterpillar,
Nothing happens overnight. Patience, determination and persistence will reward you in the end.

Dear Butterfly,
I’m tired. I can’t do this anymore. I think I will sleep forever. Goodbye.

Wake up, butterfly. It’s time to spread your wings and fly!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Joshua by Saifun Hassam

Joshua was excited as the pilot flew the Aerial Research seaplane over the offshore waters. This was his very first aerial survey flight.

Digital cameras revealed incredible details of shapes and colors of underwater rocks, once fiery molten lava. It was a feast for him as an artist and a geologist. Sea crustaceans, sea urchins and sea stars, jellyfish, and sea horses seemed like delicate otherworldly creatures.

Working with other researchers, he would use aerial photography to probe for undersea archeological sites, search for fine differences in the waters and along the seabed where buried structures might lie hidden.

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Discomfort by Reena Saxena

She cringed on seeing the large number of people who had come to see him off. Well, it was nice that his employers were sending him abroad at a raw age of 23, and he was the first in the family to fly abroad, but the crowd was kind of too large for comfort.

It was the first glimpse of a culture gap. They shared too much, they had no concept of discretion or privacy.

Years later, she evaluates her discomfort with his family and finds the same reasons. She needs space, but they are unaware of the concept.

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Fallen by Joanne Fisher

in the end I was always

a child of the dark, even though

once I was a shining light

there I was, in Paradise

but my heart was uneasy

never a team player, all I wanted

was a change in the management,

I was cast out, and fell a long way…

Hell was already there, all I did

was make it my own, a reflection

of my own torment

my wings broken, through

the long millennia they began

to heal, until one day

I launched into the air

and for the first time flew

above my own dark kingdom

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This Life by Marjorie Mallon

Three years ago, we said our goodbyes at the departure gate before that first flight. How I cried. I wept for a day, and the next day I wept without weeping. My darling daughter gone so faraway. She braved how scared she was. Now, she is adventuring again – not so far this time! And yet her friends miss her already. I miss her already. This is life, young adults are always moving, taking those steps to independence. They never leave your thoughts. They’re always a part of you, wherever they are.

Daughters always remain in your heart.

🥕🥕🥕

First Flight by Anita Dawes

As we grow older
We tend care a little more
About the young ones
Children, animals, it doesn’t matter
If they’re young
We acquire a mothering apron
Fussy over their first steps
Eager that they don’t fall
A fall may put them off trying
God helps us when it comes to their
First steps to foraging for themselves
Mother mode goes into overdrive
Unfortunately, we cannot keep the door
Closed to the grown-up world
Wanting to, can’t make it so
You can only hope and pray
That you did a good job
Trust that you have
And let go…

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First Flight by Christine Bialczak

When granny died mommy said that she went to heaven I don’t know if I know where heaven is or if it’s really even a place because when mommy told me the tooth fairy came and took my first tooth I think she was lying because I saw my tooth in the bottom of the trash can in the bathroom mommy said maybe the tooth fairy went in the bathroom for a drink and dropped it by accident and that I should just be happy with my dollar bill but I would be happier to know where granny went.

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First Solo by Donna Matthews

Charlie was out of bed before his mom came in to wake him up. He’d laid out his clothes the night before, and he couldn’t wait to wear his new tennis shoes. Running down the hall toward the kitchen, his mom intercepted him, leaned over, kissed his head, and asked him if he was ready. “Yes!” he nearly screamed. Barely tasting his cereal, he grabbed his new spiderman backpack full of all the new pencils, erasers, and folders and hopped at the front door. “Let’s go mom!”

She sighed, her baby on his first solo flight known as kindergarten.

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What Grandmothers Do by Eliza Mimski

She’d been there with him the first day of kindergarten, waiting anxiously at the classroom door when school was over.

She’d been there with him when he’d needed surgery on his toe, him later laying on the couch with his pain medication and Ritz Crackers on the coffee table.

She’d been there with him at every baseball game, basketball game, and she’d picked him up from his martial arts class.

She’d picked him up from middle school and taken him to get pizza, then to Burger King when he was in high school.

Now he was eighteen. Entering college.

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First Flight by Susan Zutautas

It was all set, soon we would become empty nesters. It was sad to see them leave, and I knew we would miss them, but they had to go and start new lives and families of their own. I am sure we would see them from time to time and for visits on birthdays and holidays.

One bright sunny July morning we all woke up and I knew it was the day to teach the little ones how to fly.

Okay kids it’s flying day and we’re all going to go together. Watch what I do and follow me.

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Fledgling Dancers by Sue Spitulnik

Before she moved home, Tessa’s sister had kept her informed about Michael’s growing involvement in community activities since his return. Ally had never mentioned a bar called the “No Thanks Needed,” nor the Irish dancing classes being held there.

Soon after she arrived in town, Michael invited Tessa to go watch. She had never seen Irish dancing up close and was surprised the youngest of the dancers were only eight years old. Compared to their teachers, Thad and Katie, the children looked like fledgling birds trying their wings for the first time. They were tittering like young birds too.

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First Flight by Michael Fishman

I can’t say he took it all in, but today was a beautiful day for a first flight. The sun shined down from a bold blue sky and lit the runway.

“Ground control to Captain Griffin.”

“Griffin here.”

“We’re a ‘go’, Captain.”

And just like that things started to speed up.

“You got it?” I huffed as I started to run faster.

“I think so.” His voice was a little shaky, but not from fear.

“I’m letting go now, Griff. Hold the handles and keep pedaling.”

“I— I got it, dad!”

And just like that my son was flying.

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First Flight by R. V.Mitchell

He was nervous, but the amount he had been offered was more than a mere street urchin could hope to acquire in a month. Now, standing on the rooftop, and the distance to the piazza seemed impossible.

Angelo felt the harnesses being tightened around his emaciated frame, and the canvas and weight of the wooden frame made him wonder if the experiment could ever work.

“Now,” the Leonardo called from the ground, and Angelo felt a shove from behind. He immediately crashed onto the cobbles.

“Not bad for a first flight,” Da Vinci said, looking down on the boy.

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Fight or Flight by Doug Jacquier

Every schoolyard has it’s Bomber, so-called for his propensity to drop tucked-legged from the high board at the local pool and make tidal waves that left smaller children spluttering. Big for his age, monobrow hovering over piggy eyes, permanent Band-Aids on his knuckles from the dragging and never short of choices for lunch. I knew my turn at victimhood would eventually come and it did the day I asked him to desist from inserting my friend’s head into a toilet bowl. Leering excitedly at the opportunity for fresh blood, he ambled towards me and my first flight began.

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First Flight by Irene Waters

Unaware of the steps his momentum sent him flying through the air, arms and legs akimbo. The letter he’d been reading floating gently in the breeze behind him. His thoughts were those of a drowning man. This is what it feels like to fly? First his childhood, then the small amount of adulthood he’d experienced. Should have told Alison I love her. Should have written a will. A bellyflop onto concrete that’ll hurt.

He landed hard. He momentarily felt like Humpty Dumpty before all thought left him.

Alison screamed. “Don’t die. Not when you’ve just inherited and can live.”

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First Love by Kerry E.B. Black

He stared, a heat-seeking missile intent upon its target. She swayed to the music, spellbound, her motion a metronome, unaware of his interest until her friends elbowed her and whispered their giggling observations. She startled at his intensity but didn’t shy away. No, his open desire found in her an equal audacity. Without regard for decorum, she fantasized a relationship. It happened in a flash, an atmospheric conflagration that propelled her heart from its protection into the realm of pre-teen romance. The lead singer proclaimed nonsense and thinly veiled entendres while her heart took its inaugural flight of fancy.

🥕🥕🥕

Learning to Fly by JulesPaige

was judgement clouded
when the elementary
student left at lunch

first time run-a-way; gone south
trying to find those who cared

since it was so clear
that one little voice would not
be heard by adults

Over the years; still no one would listen. More attempts were fathomed, planned, engineered and carried out. No real truths were ever revealed leaving the past misted in disillusionment. No real resolutions, except to forgive those striving to do their best for themselves with only second thoughts to those around them. The pain lessens. Clouds parted for true love, laughter and compassionate hope.

🥕🥕🥕

A Graduate by Ruchira Khanna

Traditional hat toss. Some motion blur.

He throws his graduation cap in the air while I have tears flowing down my eyes.

He’s no doubt very excited about the ‘freedom’ that he’ll get. That involves no reminders or nagging from my end to do things.

As a parent, I ought to step back and give him wings to make his first flight away from home. Only then, I guess, he’ll realize the importance of all that care, love, attention, and the need to manage time well, that he used to knit brows upon.

As the wise said, “Give them wings to appreciate what they had.”

🥕🥕🥕

Basket Case by D. Avery

“Whoa, Kid. Stop. Back up. What’re ya plannin’?”

“Pal, this is gonna be great! We’re gonna fly!”

“Prompt says anythin’ or anyone thet flies, but I’m tellin’ ya, Kid, I ain’t goin’ in any flyin’ contraption. ‘Specially if Pepe LeGume’s runnin’ it. What in heck’s he know ‘bout aeroplanes anyway?”

“Ain’t gonna fly in a aeroplane, Pal. Pepe’s got a more economical idea.”

“Oh, jeez, Kid, what’re you two up too?”

“We’ll be up, up and away in a hot air balloon! An’ guess how Pepe plans on fuelin’ it?”

“Oh, the humanity!”

“Pepe’s an amazin’ human bean alright.”

🥕🥕🥕

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