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May 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

Soon, I’ll be another year older. I don’t really think of birthdays in terms of age; I’m more excited about cake and the possibility of a champagne sunset on Calumet Waterworks Beach. The 1.2 billion-year-old rocks interest me more than contemplating my meager years. I’m a mayfly in comparison to a Lake Superior agate. Why waste life worrying about growing older?

On Wednesday, I attended One Million Cups and listened to an eighty-something gerontologist talk about her experiences of growing older. Before she reached a high number of decades, she studied the aging process. According to definition, gerontology is the study of the social, cultural, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of aging. This woman educates readers on what to expect during the natural aging process. And I’ll give you a hint — aging is not a sickness.

Writer, Jolayne Farrell, answers questions at her popular blog, On Growing Older just as she did for decades in her newspaper column. When she told her story, I picked out many instances of her willingness to take risks. She talked about discomfort and uncertainty, but she also lit up at the idea of pursuing passions. In fact, she passed out her business card attached to a colorful blank card with a red circle she called a life-saver. She invited us to write down our dreams and keep that card with us at all times.

We might not be spared growing older, but our life-saver will keep us alive.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Gabriel García Márquez:

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

Jolayne shared with us her travels, work as a hospice nurse, and pursuit of what drives her own passions. She mentioned visiting other octogenarians in their mining homes (on the Keweenaw) surrounded by their memories. This made me realize how static we often try to make life. Do we think we can slow down the slippage of sand through the hourglass? I’m certain I don’t want my end-goal to be safe-guarding memorabilia.

My first year on the Keweenaw, I had a transformative experience at an estate sale. After the final owner of a home dies, a company comes in, working with the family, to clean out and sell the household items. I overheard a conversation at a sale — an elderly woman pined over a vintage set of glassware, commenting that they were “just like hers.” The woman’s daughter responded that they had downsized her belongings and she certainly was not going to get more “stuff.”

My heart ached. In part, I understood the daughter’s frustration. Likely, mom was living in assisted living or with family. She didn’t have the comfort of her old home surrounded by her memories. I felt the pining in contrast to the burden stuff can also bring.

When my best friend’s father died, and her mother went into a memory care facility, I helped my friend pack up her parents’ house. It was a painful experience, although we had plenty to laugh about (like all the teeth and hoard of toiletries we found in the bathroom). Sadly my friend died untimely of cancer. Is death ever timely?

Her children then had to sort through their mom’s and grandparents’ stuff. They were grieved and overwhelmed.

Yet, I felt for the elderly woman longing for her glassware. Sense of home stems from stuff surrounding us. I collect stories — books, rocks, and even broken glass. Other people gather family mementos or tools. One generation passes down glassware to the next. But not everyone wants great-grandma’s china. I have my great-grandmother’s recipes which I fashion into stories and serve along with the sopas or enchiladas. Yet both find connection to the past.

My imagination surges out west where the pining pictures pioneers unloading treasured household stuff to abandon glassware, dishes, and hutches along the Forty Mile Desert Trail across northern Nevada. The woman I briefly encountered at the state sale becomes one I imagine standing beside the wagon, gripping her apron as her husband deposits everything of hers deemed unessential on the blowing sand. The oxen stagger, needing water and hay. The children must walk in the sun, and they continue on, hoping the beasts don’t die to add their bleached bones to others. Once this woman makes it to Ragtown, did she dream of going back? In California, was she never satisfied, longing for her desert glassware?

Often, pioneers only had what they could take to remember home. Many would not see family again, and losing stuff adds to the sense of isolation. If you only had room for a few things, would you save a glass? Could you deposit your belongings in the desert if it meant your safe passage? Would you miss it years later?

I once saw a t-shirt that read, “Growing older is not for sissies.” It takes courage to balance what to take and what to leave behind; what to remember and what yet to experience. All the while we lose or sprout hair, find our posture slacking or our feet tapping out of sync. Did you know that a woman can experience hot flashes in her teeth? Yeah, no one told me that one, either. Digestions change and senses diminish. It’s the kind of transformation that signals the reality of change. Children grow up, waists expand, stuff matters more or less.

But Jolayne’s message was about embracing life. Not life at 20 or life at 50. But life. Life as it presents itself at the moment. Each day we ask, how will I live my best today?

The creative life is every day. It’s not when it’s now. On May 14, my middlest child turns 29, and a week later I’ll turn 52. It’s a middle of the spectrum age — it sounds young to some and old to others. It’s a number I can’t feel. I’m me, no matter what shifts. I have a robust imagination that sees beyond the day-to-day. Waly Disney said, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.”

So dream.

May 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about growing older. It can be humorous, dark or poignant. It can be true or total fiction. It can be fine wine or an old fossil. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 14, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Old Bones (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“That bone is heavy as iron,” Ramona said, picking up a fossil from Danni’s workbench. Ramona no longer recognized the bone or knew its story. Nothing seemed familiar these days.

Ike put his arm around Ramona, grinning. “It’s old as you, Gran’ma.”

Danni was brushing glass shards, musing over what they might tell her about 19th century occupancy near her garden. She paused. “Ike, you know that’s a dinosaur bone.”

Ramona winked. “Well, if bones get heavier with age then that explains the numbers on the bathroom scale.”

Danni laughed. At least Ramona hadn’t forgotten her sense of humor.

Sisu

The Finns of the Keweenaw have an enduring core of strength called sisu. An English equivalent doesn’t exist, but stories across place and cultures capture the ability to overcome adversity. Sisu is not short-term like a moment of courage. Sisu is life’s marathon.

Regardless of familiarity with the word, writers searched their experiences and imaginations to craft stories of sisu. It’s a world-wide look at Copper Country Strong.

The following are based on the May 7, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social.

PART I (10-minute read)

Sisu by Floridaborne

“Hey, mom!” Callie shouted. “I learned a new word today.”

Mom rolled her eyes and asked, “What is it now, skooder-do?”

“Sisu!”

“What!” Mom shouted, reaching for homemade soap to wash her daughter’s mouth out.

“It’s not a curse word, Mom! It’s a word that describes you.”

“This better be good,” Mom grumbled.

“You sew clothes from remnants, make all our curtains and you reupholstered our furniture,” Callie said. “You grow our veggies in the summer and can the rest for later.”

“We can’t afford anything else.”

“Mom,” Callie said, hugging her warmly. “You’re the strongest person I know.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bricktown Boys by Pete Fanning

Mom pulled me into her, holding me as she sobbed. “Sam, I’m so sorry you got hurt.”

I hugged her back. A stale, bitter smell clung to her shirt, to her skin. I realized it was the smell of our apartment. Of our lives. How we smelled to people. The stench of desperation, mistakes, of dating the same men over and over again.

She rocked along with sobs and apologies, but I wasn’t about to wait for Troy to hurt us again. I was tired of the stench. Of our lives.

I would take matters into my own hands.

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by H.R.R. Gorman

“What’s this two year gap in your resume?” The hiring manager pointed to circled dates on the paper. “What did you do there?”

Joaquin clenched his fist. “There’s a Finnish word – sisu. It means to keep trudging through multiple adversities.” He tapped the circled words on the resume. “That’s why I’m here. I want this job because I can overcome my past.”

The manager scowled. “So you were traveling? To Finland?”

“No, I…” He coughed. “I was in prison.”

“For what?”

“Drug charges,” he squeaked.

She handed Joaquin his resume. “Thank you, but we won’t be needing your services.”

🥕🥕🥕

Abundant Optimism by JulesPaige

The man has sisu. Very close to living to that century mark. Served his country in the Navy. Got into computers at the git go. Loved his wife for over fifty years with unflappable devotion.

The Vets Administration told him he was legally blind at ninety five. Sold his car to a local dealership, who then drove him back to his house.

The man has sisu. He’s lived alone for over twenty years. Refuses to leave his home. Finally accepts help from the neighbors, on his terms.

enduring strength, life;
living as you choose daily
the man has sisu

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by Brendan Thomas

Jane opened the door, I was shaken. Back to back to back Cancers took a toll on her body, but not her spirit. We sat, drank tea, talked, laughed long and loud, planned for future meetings.

“I can do that, I’m in remission. My calendar is filling up with fun appointments again.”

As I was leaving I remembered the t-shirt, removing it from the bag to give to her.

“This is for you.”

Unfurled it read SISU, blue letters against white.

“What does it mean?” she asked.

“It’s Finnish for Jane,” I responded. I’m not sure she believed me.

🥕🥕🥕

After The Funeral by Joanne Fisher

I had just come back from the funeral of my girlfriend. We had been in a car crash. I survived, she didn’t.

“How do I go on without her?” I cried out to my father who had come back with me so I wasn’t alone.

“With sisu.” My father replied.

“Sisu?” I didn’t understand.

“It’s a Finnish word for having determination, or possessing inner strength. I know you are strong Kathleen. It may not seem like it now, but I know you will get through this, like I did with your mother.” he told me.

I really hoped so.

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu – DNA by Sally Cronin

They found the old bones in a cave in Southern France. They were packed carefully and dispatched to a laboratory where they identified them as the remains of a woman in her 40s. This was elderly for her time, with arthritis and healed broken bones evidence of her hard life. Her mitochondrial DNA was matched to millions of women who migrated across the continent as ice thawed, populating almost every part of Europe and beyond. Her genes survived through the centuries and 20,000 years later matched to a young woman, who discovered where all her strength had come from.

🥕🥕🥕

More Strength Than Meets the Eye by TN Kerr

It is born from bitter winter cold
Not a nip or chill, but a biting, vicious cold
A cold that comes with long, nights, and
Northern lights
It has nothing to do with gain
It’s about diving into the water
Simply for the sake of it
It’s about laughing in the face of tragedy
It’s about mocking and defeating whatever adversity is thrown your way
Always getting up
Something akin to, yet more than,
Dogged perseverance
Intensity that thrives in the long days of summer

You are stronger than any one of us, or even you, could ever imagine

🥕🥕🥕

Plowshares by D. Avery

Her little boy and her daughters worked chores according to their size and ability but he, the youngest, wasn’t scolded when he sometimes fell to playing. But this?

Flinging the stick, she stalked off to the barn.

“Ma, it was just pretendin’!”
He had never known his father and older brother who used to do the heavy fieldwork. ‘Back before harvest time,’ they’d said, left together, eyes bright with adventure.

Pressing her forehead against the horse’s broad neck she confessed her worries.

She wouldn’t allow another son to play at war.

She harnessed the horse and hitched the plow.

🥕🥕🥕

Snow Storm by Abhijit Ray

Mikka was out to do some fishing, catch up with reading and have some quiet time in his cottage up north. He must have missed weather forecast. Storm caught Mikka unprepared. Running low on food and fuel, and suffering from poor cell phone connectivity, Mikka realised the extra can of gasoline in the trunk will only last so long.

“Either I make an effort to reach home or freeze here to death,” Mikka reasoned and made his way following a weak GPS signal.

“Show Sisu, when in trouble,” dad taught him. In his country, “sisu” meant grit to overcome hurdles.

🥕🥕🥕

Make It Work by Kelley Farrell

“Find your inner strength. We all have something we’re good at. Something we’re prepared for, even if we don’t realize it. What ignites that fire in you?”

That was when Becky had one dollar to her name.

Joe was right of course. Everybody has something to be fanned from sparks of passion.

Becky had three mouths to feed and an extensive debt to the local sex shop.

“Made it work indeed!” Joe admired Becky’s new business locale. “Mistress Cyan’s Pleasure Room.”

“Number 1 in the city.” Becky smiled, “Want to try it out? No charge for my oldest friend.”

🥕🥕🥕

Dedication by Shane Kroetsch

Langdon sat staring at his hands. He scratched at the dry skin on his knuckles. “I did what needed to be done. It wasn’t easy, but I found a way.”

“That’s something to be proud of, isn’t it?” Emma said.

Langdon shrugged. “I gave my word. Not much more to it.”

“I think it says a lot about your character, the fact that you dedicated years of your life to the cause.”

Langdon’s lips went thin and he looked up to Emma. “Maybe it does say a lot. What it doesn’t say is whether it was worth the cost.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by Anita Dawes

Sisu is woven into our DNA
lying dormant, waiting , trapped quicksilver
hoping the day never comes where we will be tested
Do we freeze, or jump into action to save a life?
where we meet a part of ourselves
we would not recognise in the mirror
the hero who hides behind that pinstriped suit
mild-mannered like the man of steel
we would you run into a burning building
because you heard a cry for help?
many think we could go one step beyond
if called upon to act
would you leap without thinking
does quicksilver run through your veins?

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu Book-su by Ritu Bhathal

Finally, time to sit down and read.

“Mum! I’m hungry!”

Don’t worry book, I’ll be back.

“Okay dear.”

Child fed. Back to my book.

“Honey, do you know where my tie is?”

Tie found. Where was I?

Raised voices and screaming.

Book down.

“What is the matter with the two of you? Okay, Tom, you sit here with that Lego. Amelia, draw me a picture over here. No, not near your brother!”

Ah, chapter two I think–

Ring, ring.

“Hello? Hi mum…”

Twenty minutes later.

“Okay, bye mum. Speak to you tomorrow.”

That book. I will get it read.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Says You by Bill Engleson

In that moment, he prepared to let go.

Time had stopped.

Nothing moved in the room.

A spike of sun slipped along the ceiling.

No breeze ruffled the curtains.

Outside, there were street sounds.

Tires.

Metal clanging.

Voices.

Life moving.

Jill held his hand. Steady. No squeezes. Just steady.

“You’ll be fine,” he thought.

“Says you,” she said.

“Says me,” he thought.

“A lot you know,” she said.

“I know you,” he thought. “I might waver without you, but you, you have a steel spine. A Viking’s heart.”

A gust of warm wind blew in.

A candle flickered.

Darkness.

🥕🥕🥕

New Bride by Ruchira Khanna

“Dad, I can’t take it anymore!” the new bride lamented over the telephone.

“Give it some time. Don’t make a hasty decision.”

“But, Dad his family’s so different than how I’ve been brought up! They have weird tastes, and most of the time they live with us,” she sobbed.

“Look at the positive side; you have a loving husband. Give it some time; otherwise, we’re always there for you!”

She put down the phone as she wiped her tear, “For the sake of Sam, I shall become sisu for a few days and then decide what to do next.”

🥕🥕🥕

Cross Roads by Saifun Hassam

As a marine archaeologist, Pierre Yandeau loved exploring deep ocean waters. Then his fiance and colleague Georgina was killed in a diving accident off the Great Shelf Peninsula. Sisu. Pierre returned to his research at the Pacific Institute. He would never forget Georgina. He knew he had a decision to make.

The Great Shelf Institute invited him to join their ecological and archaeological faculty. He walked along the endless desert shores of the Shelf. Once this was under deep ocean water. Who had carved those ancient runes on the rocky plateaus inland? He would explore, he would learn. Sisu.

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by Kay Kingsley

She’d been through a lot more than most but she knows it’s not as much as some others. Described as a rock, strong and sturdy, people were drawn to her strength like a magnet. And when she was young that need fed her soul, gave her purpose, direction, and she felt like a mountain.

But as the years passed, she learned that even the toughest rocks are worn smooth by a gentle trickle of water and strong winds can erode mountains into dust.

It’s a fine line she thinks between sisu and stubbornness and she walks it with grace.

🥕🥕🥕

Claire’s Sisu by calmkate

Claire a vivacious 32 year old roamed the world sorting out ‘awkward’ situations for a billionaire for over a decade. Confronted with aggressive breast cancer her imminent demise was her greatest challenge.

Resilience is our inner strength, our ability to deal with overwhelming even impossible challenges. It has a strong spiritual component supplemented by mental and emotional factors. Most don’t realise they have it until they are truly tested.

Claire had to dig deep and with the right support her sisu kicked in empowering her until the brain tumour took over. She died with dignity, love and real peace.

🥕🥕🥕

Seeding by Sascha Darlington

he rains come early. My granddaddy used to say: can’t put seeds in drenched soil.

Almost immediately it’s hot. The cool weather crops produce little. Too hot, too soon.

And then there’s more rain, and Daniel yells at me and the kids, while taking off his Cardinal’s cap, splaying his fingers through his crop of hair, his eyes searching here and yet remotely for answers that won’t come.

He sits on the edge of the bed, staring at the floor. “The seeds rot in the soil, Cam.”

“We’ll start them indoors.”

“Might work. But we’d need a butt-load.”

“So?”

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by Ann Edall-Robson

Some mornings she watched the moon set as the sun rose. Night and day blended into each other. Days off became planning time for the days to come. Often the work made her brain weary and physically worn, yet Hanna continued to push herself.

Mrs. Johnson understood Hanna’s tenacity, her sisu. The older woman had seen it before. There was no doubt why the young woman would not rest until she had accomplished what she had quietly taken on.

Others didn’t understand Hanna’s attitude, but Mrs. Johnson could see the reasoning in her eyes, her stance, and relentless perseverance.

🥕🥕🥕

We Got Grit by Susan Sleggs

“Remember when we were teenagers, we thought we had the world by the tail,” Lillian mused.

“Those were the days,” Maude answered.

“Guess we learned life wasn’t easy didn’t we?”

“Yeah, about my 40th birthday I figured out I didn’t know sh*t back then.”

“Now you’re 90, what do ya think?”

“The truth; there are only tiny snippets of peace in any one’s life. Responsibilities, hardships, and illness are ever present and only thing means anything is how a person handles all the crap.”

“That’s grit my friend.”

“Good thing we both got it. It’s what’s kept us goin’.”

🥕🥕🥕

Paid in Full by Nicole Horlings

He sat down heavily. She looked up with disappointment. “No overtime?”

“Not today. And I may come home early tomorrow. The market’s been dead lately.” He leaned back and groaned. “I promised to provide for you.”

“And you are. I was able to pay all of our bills in full today.”

He looked surprised, then a grin broke across his face. “Really?” She nodded, and pulled a letter out of her pocket, handing it to him. “Your artwork won first place? That’s fantastic!” She grinned, took the cheque, and slipped it into a jar of loose change labeled vacation.

🥕🥕🥕

No Lion Sleeps Tonight by Susan Zutautas

One scorching sunny morning everyone gathered together by the Quiver tree, deep in the forest to discuss the shortage of food.

Leo starts the meeting with, “Good morning” to the pride.

“Tonight, we will go and hunt a zebra. I spotted a dazzle last night and if we’re quick and stealth there won’t be a problem.”

“Papa, papa, can I come too for the hunt?” said Leo’s cub.

“Yes, I think it is a fine time for you to join us, time to develop your sisu.”

“Okay all, we’ll meet back here at dusk, don’t be late,” said Leo.

🥕🥕🥕

The Animal Facts of Life by Chelsea Owens

“Elephants are pregnent fohr two years!”

“Really?”

“Uh-huh. Dhey also have duh biggest bwains of mammals.”

She smiled in the rearview mirror at her son. He sat hunched over his animal facts book.

“You know,” she ventured, “there’s a saying that ‘an elephant never forgets.’ Maybe because of their big brains.”

He didn’t answer. She knew he heard; he always did. That, the slight speech impediment, and his obsession with one topic made adults think he didn’t.

She sighed and rubbed her stomach, wondering how he’d handle being a big brother. Unlike an elephant, they only had nine months.

🥕🥕🥕

Targets Targets! by Anurag Bakhshi

“Get up,” he called out, insistently, incessantly.

I shook my head and tried to get on to my feet, but tumbled down, again.

It was just too cold, and my body needed rest, desperately.

But he just wouldn’t give up.

“Get up,” he cried out again, “they’re counting on us.”

And that, more than his pushing, is what led me to dig deep into my sisu, my inner strength, and with a huge heave and a loud wheeze, I finally got up.

Harsh winters or not, Christmas Eve was no time for one of Santa’s chief reindeer to sleep!

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by Roberta Eaton

I have been thinking about my situation. Now that my headache has receded, I need to formulate an escape plan. I must exhibit sisu and find a way out of this locked room.

I have no idea why I have been locked in, but I know that my wife and son must need me. Someone brought me food and drink while I was sleeping so my superiors are clearly monitoring my movements. I need to find a way to fool the microchip in my head into believing I am sleeping. Then, when someone comes, I can make my move.

🥕🥕🥕

Something Evil in the Night (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Successive gun shots startled Danni from sleep. 2:04 a.m. She reached for Ike’s AR-15 resting between the dresser and wall. Years of Ike drilling her lent a strange familiarity to her husband’s weapon. But he was halfway around the world in Iraq. She dialed 9-1-1. The nearest deputy was 25 minutes away. Stepping outside, rifle cradled in the crook of her arm, Danni watched a silent pack of wolves run like liquid silver across the frozen pond in moonlight. Danni understood: Wolves run with sisu in their blood, outpacing the malevolence that follows – men with no regard for life.

🥕🥕🥕

His Darling Susi by Di @ pensitivity101

Her name was Susi, but to him she was his little Sisu.
From an early age, she had always been the stronger of the two of them. She had this way about her, would accept anything that life pushed her way and simply deal with it without complaint or fuss.
He’d read to her that night and like every other night, she told him she loved him.
‘Don’t worry Daddy,’ she said snuggling into his chest and pointing to his heart. ‘I’ll always be in here.’
God came for her that night, his darling Sisu, just ten years old.

🥕🥕🥕

Marathon Reversal by Anne Goodwin

At fifteen miles, she hits the wall. A stich in her side, legs in cramp, she staggers, sapped of juice. But she’d run through the pain in training. Today, the crowds and her fellow runners would cheer her on.

Wolfing down an energy bar, she recovers her mojo. But what the fuck? When she turns around to jog back to the beginning, they ask if she’s lost her mind.

If all goes well, she’ll do the distance. And a little more. She laughs at the thought of missing that marathon medal. ‘My way’ fills the hollow in her head.

🥕🥕🥕

Keeping Promises by Jo Hawk

Eino said caring for his invalid mother wouldn’t be easy, but his work took him abroad for months. The cabin had been her home since childhood. I didn’t imagine it would be this difficult. The closest neighbor lived miles away. We were alone.

Daytime was bearable. Aiti’s care and the daily chores kept me busy. I marked the calendar, counting days.

Then the storms descended. Howling winds crashed waves against the cliff, and spray pelted the windows. The house creaked, while my mind played games. The meager fire staved off ghosts while the clock counted the minutes until dawn.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Ranch Yarns by D. Avery

“Pal, you been on the ranch yer whole life?”

“Yep, reckon ya could say so. In thet I cain’t remember nuthin’ afore bein’ here.”

“Well, that’s a whole lotta hard work, all that ranchin’, day in and day out.”

“Yep, I reckon. Jist what a ranch hand does, Kid. Roll out ever mornin’ an’ jist do what’s gotta be done.”

“That’s sisu, Pal.”

“How is thet Japanese physical combat training?”

“Finnish. Sisu.”

“Says you. An’ finish whut? Ranch work ain’t ever finished Kid. No matter the weather or season. But it’s who I am. It’s what I do.”

“Sisu.”

***

“Sisu, Pal. Means yer tough, resilient.”

“If ya say so, Kid. Jist know I like ranchin’, an’ this here’s a good outfit. Shorty’s good ta work for.”

“Ya sure ‘bout that, Pal? This job have benefits?”

“Lots uv’em. Fresh air, wide open spaces, good folks,—“

“No, Pal. Benefits. Health insurance, fer instance. What happens if ya git hurt on the job?”

“Reckon Shorty’d take care a me.”

“Ya’d let Shorty take care a ya?”

“Yeah.”

“Now that’s true grit. Heard she heps till it hurts. Might wanna talk ta her Cowboy ‘bout her care givin’ skills.”

“That’s cold, Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

May 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

Spring demands a pickaxe.

My neighbors chop their remaining snow piles dirty with stamp sand the road commission uses to grit streets throughout a Keweenaw winter. Remnants line the gutters. Other neighbors sweep away the byproduct of 150 years of copper mining. I scour the driveway and sidewalk to the back of the house on Roberts Street with my daughter’s corn-broom, swinging at grit as if I were fighting a battalion of field mice. Maple leaves move along at a groggy pace, damp and matted.

At the edge of the concrete, I discover brick pavers long buried beneath turf, dirt, and moss. In a frenzy of cleaning fueled by spring vibes and the need to move, I focus on excavation. The saturated earth easily tears away in clumps of grass, rooted maple saplings, and webs of weeds. An extended old sidewalk emerges as my reward, ending beneath one of three grand maples where one day I will set up a tea table. I sweep away more leaves to expose a flower bed, bare grape vines, and more visions of a place to call home.

Beneath the maple, glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae) rises like spring’s pickaxe from beneath the carpet of winter’s leavings. Grass-like stems spear so fiercely, they impale mats of maple leaves. Glory-of-the-snow unfold into purple and white star-flowers in the shadows of dwindling snow banks. The cosmos have momentarily dipped to earth. Miners who once drilled beneath the Keweenaw had wives who planted these resilient spring flowers, a baton of strength from the past.

The Finns have a word — sisu. It means something like determination and inner strength. It’s not courage, but rather something elemental in a person’s core. Finnish decendents of the Keweenaw turn to sisu to survive the long winters. It’s not a one-time deal, but a consistent ability to overcome adversity. I’m not a Finn, but I know sisu.

Maybe that’s why I enjoy watching neighbors pickaxe the remaining snow. I feel their determination with each stroke. I swipe away grit and watch flowers emerge, marveling that snow, stamp sand, and floral glory can exist simultaneously. A Keweenaw friend once described local nissu bread to me — “it’s gritty, but sweet; kinda like the Finns who eat it.” Nissu bread is not for sissies, but it takes to thimbleberry jam without complaint.

What is my thimbleberry jam, I wonder? I know my grit, my ability to rise like dough from the pounding. I also know beauty, the sweet spread of life lived in the moment. While worrying about a burgeoning infection surrounding the Hub’s new titanium, we both couldn’t help but gasp in joy as a merlin blew past the front window like a sky-racer down Roberts Street. That’s thimbleberry jam.

The worry passes. Merlins soar eternally. Someone once stood on this hill overlooking the waterway 3,000 years ago, poking around for the metal to make spear points to feed children half-starved from a harsh winter and a merlin blew past. Hope lifts up. Sisu gains root. And the hunter knows winters will come again. So will the merlins. So will the trout lillies and fiddlehead ferns. Sisu makes sure we don’t hang our heads and miss the flying.

As for the Hub’s knee, Doc says it’s “lookin’good.” The increased pain and redness is frostbite. Let’s say, I might have sisu. I’m a terrific advocate, a great encourager, but I suck at being a carer. In my heightened sense of duty, I overachieved on the icing and frosted the Hub’s new knee. Doc chuckled and said, “They didn’t educate you, did they?”

I have no idea who “they” are other than they say lots of stuff about history and politics, too. No, “they” never taught me how to use an ice bucket. I observed that it was used around the clock in the hospital, and when the nurse gave me Doc’s orders, I took them to the word — “ice.” So I iced. Good news is that x-rays confirmed no infection, the skin will heal, and halejuliah, I no longer have to haul ice up the stairs every four hours. I also advocated for a med change and it has made a huge difference, too. Brownie point for speaking up.

And then I threw away the Hub’s wallet. Cleanliness — to prevent infection — and lack of sleep led to a missing wallet. He panicked. I didn’t. After all, it’s not like he’s been gadding about any further than the bathroom. We pulled back the mattress, flashed the light in corners, moved dressers, search every weird place we could think of and no wallet. The Hub said it had fallen into the bedside trash once and he pulled it out. With everything condensed within his reach, it likely got knocked again and I didn’t think to look in the trash before depositing it outside in the can. The can that got hauled away before we realized what happened.

He’s sad. But I remember that the merlins are back. And the snow that hit us this week quickly melted. And that my Brussel sprouts are growing in the eggshells where I planted their seeds. And I have hopes for black gladiolas at the back of the Roberts Street house. We make the necessary calls. I believe sisu can exist because beauty exists.

In July, I’ll be offering my first Carrot Ranch Writing Refuge in Vermont. We will entwine ourselves in nature and writing. One of the lessons I’ve prepared is based on the Navajo “beauty way” as expressed in novels by Tony Hillerman. Another examines the writing of Craig Childs to explore a sense of place and beauty despite natural disaster. And we’ll learn to observe like Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, and Terry Tempest Williams. Beauty balances sisu in writing.

No matter what grit you might have to brush away from your own writing, and no matter how many times you must rise again against doubt, rise. Look for a merlin of your own, or catch the once a year smattering of flowers named for glories.

And tune into #NaNoProMo over on Twitter and at BadRedhead Media. It’s a month-long gathering of marketing expertise for authors. If you comment on the official post each day, you are registered to win prizes from each of the book marketing experts who offer a giveaway with each post. I’ll be talking about credibilty as part of author branding and offering a free Author Action Plan to the day’s winner. It’s a tool I developed for my book cultivation workshops and I’m pleased with it because it helps me meet each author where they are at to illuminate a path to where they want to be.

During NaNoProMo, I will offer a special consultation for an Author Action Plan (scroll to the bottom of the page).

We are each individual. There is no one plan that fits all.

But what writers do have in common is that determination to get it done on our own terms. Despite the obstacles. Despite circumstances. Despite age and regret, or youth and inexperience. We write with sisu.

May 2, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sisu. It’s a Finnish concept of enduring strength, the ability to consistently overcome. Think long-term. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 7, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Something Evil in the Night (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Successive gun shots startled Danni from sleep. 2:04 a.m. She reached for Ike’s AR-15 resting between the dresser and wall. Years of Ike drilling her lent a strange familiarity to her husband’s weapon. But he was halfway around the world in Iraq. She dialed 9-1-1. The nearest deputy was 25 minutes away. Stepping outside, rifle cradled in the crook of her arm, Danni watched a silent pack of wolves run like liquid silver across the frozen pond in moonlight. Danni understood: Wolves run with sisu in their blood, outpacing the malevolence that follows – men with no regard for life.

Exhaustion

Exhaustion can grind down even the most energetic person. It fogs the brain and slows the limbs. Slumber, rest, reprieve, all or sought as remedies. Sometimes we get a second wind.

This week, writers overcome exhaustion to write about it. That doesn’t mean these stories will put you to sleep!

The following is based on the April 25, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes exhaustion.

PART I (10-minute read)

Comfort Food by Saifun Hassam

Diamante struggled with the Abbott’s decision. To be a scholar, yes. But to be a priest? He loved to teach the village children. Being a guardian of the ancient temple was fine. He was exhausted emotionally and mentally, trying to find a way out.

From the cliffs overlooking the sea, he trekked down to the ancient temple. He sank into the shadows and fell asleep. A fragrant aroma of mint and giggling laughing children woke him up. A feast was ready for him: potato patties, fried fish and sun drenched peaches. He would find a way through his dilemma.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhausted by TN Kerr

“Raul, please rest. You can’t help us if you’re dead.”

“I’m sorry, Alondra. I have to finish before the rains come.”

She shook her head and returned to the house, where she made a big jar of Sandia Agua Fresca. Then she made Pambazos and wrapped them in a napkin, to keep him going. He was bleary-eyed when she returned with the food.

“Raul, you need to rest.” She took his hand and led him to the cool shade of a large Alamo tree. They ate. They made love in the dappled sunshine. Afterwards, she watched him sleep, exhausted.

🥕🥕🥕

Making Hay by D. Avery

“Hey. I’ve got dinner warmed in the oven. You’ve been haying since before sun-up till after sunset. You must be exhausted.”

“No, just tired.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Hmm. Well, this is good work that matters. It had to be done, especially with the rain forecast. Luciene helped us then I helped him. Our cows are provided for and our families. I’m a little sore and tired but it feels good. Especially coming into this kitchen seeing you, knowing our Hope’s asleep upstairs, safe and sound.”

“Hmm. Are you too tired? For more good work?”

“Not if we’re working together.”

🥕🥕🥕

Exhausted Love by Bill Engleson

He went to bed late. It was after nine.

He told the cat, “You should’ve reminded me.”

The cat squawked as if to say, “Yeah, right.”

It was only him and the cat these days. Sal had packed up and split a month or so earlier.

He’d said at the time, “The cats yours,” meaning quite clearly, he thought, “take the cat.”

She didn’t.

All she said was, “I can’t hear you.”

He thought that an odd thing to say but he didn’t tell her.

There would’ve been no point.

The upside was, he’s almost sure the cat listens.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by Pete Fanning

I couldn’t believe she would show up like this, tapping on my door. Like I had nothing to do but sit and wait for her. She was drunk, or close, her hair up in a lazy bun, curls dangling, spilling in a way Hollywood could try to replicate but never get right.

She was breathtaking. And she knew it. And she wasn’t supposed to be within 100 yards of my door.

Her smile widened, like her path of destruction. “Hi.”

I closed my eyes. From exhaustion—no, to stop seeing her, stop wanting her—when her lips found mine.

🥕🥕🥕

Heavy on Dark by Michael B. Fishman

Table, paneling, carpet, the room was heavy on dark.

She cited “irreconcilable differences”. Two dark words.

I said, “Is there anything in life that’s really irreconcilable? You know, outside of death and taxes.”

She looked at her lawyer and said, “See?” He looked at me like I was a child and offered a dark nod.

I said, “Would it have been easier if I’d cheated?”

She and her lawyer exchanged a dark glance and they both gave me the disapproving parent look. “You’re exhausting, you know that,” she said.

I signed the paper. Stood and walked into the light.

🥕🥕🥕

Catching a Nap by Susan Zutautas

Flopping down on the couch with pillow in toe, I knew I’d be asleep in no time at all. Hopefully Sandy would let me get an hour’s sleep or so before calling me. Exhaustion had kicked in and out I went.

I woke with a startle, looked up and saw Ian standing there.

“Oh no, I hope I didn’t wake you, Meg.”

“No, that’s okay I was just sneaking in a few zzz’s while your mom was resting. I should get up and check on her.”

“No, no, you stay put, I’ll tend to her for a few hours.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bonding Via Fabric by Susan Sleggs

Lillian leaned on her cane and perused the only two shelves of fabric she had left. She needed four complimentary ones to make the project she had in mind. After trying many combinations she exhausted her options so limped to her chair and eased herself into the worn seat. After a little nap, she called her granddaughter. “Would you have time to take me shopping.”

“I can on Friday.”

When they returned from their excursion, Sally said, “My youngest starts school in September. Could we schedule time to sew together?”

Lillian’s misty eyed response was, “Of course my dear.”

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by Anita Dawes

There isn’t enough hours in the day to do all that needs doing
I can’t afford a maid, I don’t have a rewind button
Although I could do with having one fitted
Maybe some new batteries, like the ones that keep the bunny running
Now I don’t have the strength to run, to hide just for a while
Sleep does not help much, I awake with a backache and sore feet
Head spinning with the thought of all that is yet to come
The day is full before I start
I can get through another one because of love…

🥕🥕🥕

Taking What it Wants by Dorinda Duclos

Exhausted. The mere thought of the word makes me tired. I suppose staying up until the wee hours of the morning isn’t the best way to overcome it, but writing has a way of taking what it wants. There’s never a choice.

Still, finding the chance to sneak a few winks before Marsha shows up is difficult. Once she is here, there is no hope of relaxing. She is a spitfire, a jumble of energy. I am just a tired old woman. She never understands. But then again, editors never really do.

Chapter 1… my mind is a blank.

🥕🥕🥕

Sleepless in a Dormitory by Anne Goodwin

What an eventful day! Matty could sleep standing up.

Yet she lies on her back. Then on her side. Her thoughts racing, jumping, spinning: packing one away, another springs up.
When the guests retire, she must contend not only with her own mental disarray but the groans that are the external manifestation of theirs. Could she smother them one by one with a pillow? Simpler to step outside.

Shivering in the cobbled courtyard, she cinches her dressing gown. Finally soothed by the diamond-studded sky, she makes to go indoors. But, when she tries the handle, the door won’t budge.

🥕🥕🥕

Exodus by D. Avery

“I know she’s old but just two days ago she was walking and talking and taking meals with us. You try talking to her.”

“Bobe?”

“Come in child, sit. I’m old it’s true but I see and I hear. Come, talk with me but do not talk to me of getting out of bed, of eating food. I tell you, I am done.”

“Why? Why are you giving up on life?”

“I’ve seen enough. I’ve seen too much. When I was a child. And now in this country. At Passover no less. I’m tired of the hate. I’m exhausted.”

🥕🥕🥕

Getting The Right Signal by Geoff Le Pard

‘You look exhausted, Morgan.’

‘It’s mum and her death wish.’

‘Death wish?’

‘Well, wishes. This whole “when I go…” malarkey.’

‘It was the music last week…?’

‘Oh that was easy. She told me yesterday she doesn’t trust me to carry out her wishes.’

‘She still hasn’t decided on cremation or burial?’

‘That’s part of it. It’s after that.’

‘After?’

‘She doesn’t want to be lonely.’

‘Sorry?’

‘If she’s cremated how can she guarantee I’ll spread her ashes near her friends so she can keep up with the news.’

‘And burial?’

‘She’ll take a radio but will she get a signal?’

🥕🥕🥕

The 36 Hour Day by tracey

Last night’s game had gone thirteen innings followed by a long flight across the country. A 5:00p first pitch the next day left no time for a nap.

The radio announcer found himself giving an involuntary snort of laughter over the airwaves. An unexpected foul ball in the booth started the infectious chuckling. The announcers couldn’t look at each other for fear of bursts of mirth escaping. Their words came out strangled with laughter.

Punch drunk with exhaustion the radio announcers lost it in the seventh inning. Baffled listeners were confused, not recognizing sleep deprivation when they heard it.

🥕🥕🥕

Night Watch by Joanne Fisher

They had spent the entire day walking south and now they were both exhausted. In the darkest part of the night Aalen kept watch. She could see quite well in the starlight.

She looked at the sleeping form of Ashalla covered in a blanket. She had grown fond of this human. She would never have thought that possible. All her life she had been trained to keep humans out of their forest, or to hunt them down if they dared to enter. And now she was friends with one. Maybe they weren’t all as bad as she’d been told.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhausted by The Dark Netizen

Living on as a survivor is not easy in this wretched world.

I have fought countless battles through my life: For glory, for food, for money, and some times for the sheer fun of it.

In my youth I courted war, but as the years passed, my disgust of those who fuelled conflicts began increasing.

Every man that I have ever killed, every instance when I ended a life, sometimes swiftly, cleanly and sometimes slowly; they are still fresh in my memory.

I am exhausted now, awaiting a quick death.

However, my blade still remains hungry for more blood…

🥕🥕🥕

The Royal Bodyguard by Anurag Bakhshi

The sword almost slipped from his hand, as his opponent feinted sharply. He was weary with exhaustion, but giving up was not an option.

Giving up meant breaking the trust of the king who had made him his royal bodyguard.

And so, he dug deep into the inner recesses of his soul, and attacked, one last time.

A fountain of blood spurted out, followed by a cry that shook the palace to its core.

And as he looked in alarm at the king’s bloodied nose, and the triumphant fly flitting about, all that the monkey could say was, “Oops!”

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by Shane Kroetsch

“I can’t do this anymore.” Sabine said.

“Do what?” Kalvin said.

Sabine spread her arms wide. “Any of this. Put up with people who refuse to use their brains. People who care so little about their own responsibilities that they don’t see the rest of the team struggling to pick up their slack. Why should I be the one working after hours and losing sleep over whether or not the job that these idiots refuse to do gets done?”

“Come on, Sabine, we can figure this out, can’t we?”

Sabine shook her head. “No. It’s too late. I quit.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Hard Life of a Hector by H.R.R. Gorman

Home defense is no joke. I thwart dozens of attempted break ins, assaults, and thefts every day.

Look at that two-legged creeper. “BARK!” I shout, warning him that my house is occupied by a threatening set of teeth.

“WOOF!” I combine it with a growl to ward off that four-legged menace. Other dogs make me so mad – sometimes I get a little over the top and attack the walls. Hooman doesn’t like that, but at least the house is still standing, I say.

Guard duty’s exhausting. It’s nice to settle down with a peanut butter Kong and a snooze.

🥕🥕🥕

DIY by Di @ pensitivity101

‘My get up and go has got up and left,’ Hubby said.

‘Lucky you,’ I replied. ‘ Mine hasn’t got the strength to actually get up!’

These days, our energy levels are a fraction of what they were and it takes weeks to get over any additional exertion.

Despite being exhausted though, both of us have had restless nights this past week, managing only a few hours sleep.

Our routine is the same, and we take our cue from Maggie who puts herself to bed at 9pm. Wish we could sleep at the drop of a hat like she does!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

The Author of a Long Night by Chelsea Owens

The cursor blinked from an empty screen, the only light in a night-draped house. Walls slept; world slept; he, for a moment, slept. She looked over at his backlit-shadowed features; they frowned.

She sighed and could not frown. Or smile. Expressions felt as elusive as the absent story arcs on her page.

I must write something, she thought.

Blink, answered the screen.

Anything?

Blink.

Then; through morning oatmeal mind mush, an idea came. Her fingers poised to type…

He groaned. Sat up. Named her.

She turned to his care.

The cursor sighed, yawned, and went to sleep without her.

🥕🥕🥕

Life in a Wakeful Trance (two parts) by JulesPaige

Part 1

You know you’re a parent when you seem to be exhausted all the time.
Especially in early years when multiple night feedings happen.
Or when the little tyke has regular two and four o’clock nightfrights.
To bed by ten, and up at six the child; not remembering the screams.
The advice is; don’t turn on the light, coo and calm the itty bitty.
And you wonder how many months or years this is going to go on.

where’s independence
the confident adult who
just now needs some sleep?

Life goes on, they grow up, move out; and you retire?

Part 2

You know that you’re a child when you seem to be exhausted all the time.
Especially in years when multiple calls to your old folks occur.
When your elderly parent starts to have memory and health issues.
You’ve the same ten minute conversation three times in thirty minutes.
Mother or Dad never seem to sleep or be awake when they should be.
You offer support, loving them; trying to keep your own sanity.

where’s independence
that confident adult who
you wanted to be?

Life goes on, and you can only that hope your own children remember you… with kindness too.

🥕🥕🥕

The Longest Days by Susan Zutautas

Meg never realized how fatiguing it would be being the main caregiver for Ian’s mother who’d fallen and broken her hip.

It had only been four days since she’d been released from hospital and Meg still had six to ten weeks of this to look forward to.

If there weren’t so many stairs in Sandy’s house it would be so much easier but at the same time, Meg knew she was helping someone and getting exercise.

On one trip Sandy said to Meg, “I’m so lucky to have you and so is Ian.”

That made all the exhaustion worthwhile.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustipated by Ritu Bhathal

Tired?

Seriously, you don’t have a clue.

Yes, so what? You get up, get ready, catch a train and work 9-5. The evening commute is hard, so you need a drink at the end of the day. Then you sleep. And repeat.

At least you sleep.

Me?

I’m not sure what time I wake up, because I’m not entirely sure I go to sleep. It’s an endless round of feeding, changing, getting housework done whilst he sleeps, then all over again. Babies don’t have a clue about tiredness.

Exhausted?

No. I’m exhaustipated.

Simply too tired to give a sh*t!

🥕🥕🥕

Exhausted 24/7/365 by Ann Edall-Robson

“You’re exhausted?” Hanna’s voice reflected her disgust.

Tal lay stretched out in the shade next to the hay bales. His hat covering his face so he didn’t have to see the look in Hanna’s eyes. He knew what was coming next. She was right, but it still didn’t make it any easier to watch her work as hard as everyone else. She shouldn’t have to. She was a woman, but he would never tell her that.

“You’d think by now you would have learned that ranching is 24/7/365. It doesn’t stop just because you think you’re exhausted!”

🥕🥕🥕

Expedition by Miriam Hurdle

It had been thirty-five days in the ocean desert. Their boat was beat up brutally. The sun was on their right, but the boat was drifting.

“We have exhausted the food supply and fresh water.”

“Such a pity we couldn’t pass Cape Town.”

“We set out together and will end here together.”

“Some of us could hang in a little longer.”

“How?”

“We’ll draw the lots to decide who goes first to sustain us.”

“What? I’m throwing up.”

“I’m in the same boat. Here are three straws in my fist.”

“Wait! I spotted something.”

“A bird.”

“Ay, the land.”

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by calmkate

Emily was totally exhausted after another sleepless night.

All that worry and anxiety caused her so much fright

The abuse had been hideous, nobody had the right

to violate a child who always felt as if no end were in sight

Her experience had left her with nightmares pale and white

Victimhood wrapped tightly around her with all her might

Family and friends tending to avoid her odious plight

could she now become victor by wise choices in spite!

Experiences shape us but our attitude and choices define us

Forgiveness can heal although we never forget such blight …

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by Floridaborne

We run, from church to church, telling our story.

People smirk, as if they know it can’t be true. Then the accusations begin.

“No one bombs a peaceful congregation. What did you do to enrage them?”

“We prayed,” I said. “And they beheaded our children for believing in the wrong religion.”

Still, it gives me no joy to read about another church being bombed, or burned. Exhaustion is our constant companion as we make our way north.

We have lost our family, our home, and tire of arrogant people who will not listen. Perhaps the human race deserves extinction.

🥕🥕🥕

Our Hero? by Joanne Fisher

She walked out of the smoking crater in the middle of Kingsport City. A crowd stared at her in fear and excitement and at the blasted remains of Dr. Hat, the latest super-villain to threaten their world.

“I am so exhausted.” Giant Explosion Girl said. The Mayor congratulated her.

“It’s amazing the job you do for us. Can I ask a question?” The Mayor asked.

“Sure.” she replied.

“Why do you put your life on the line to defend us every time?” She looked at him.

“Because I want it to be me who destroys the world, not them.”

🥕🥕🥕

Drama Lama by Annette Rochelle Aben

Legs with the strength of over cooked spaghetti, kept her from being able to stand at the kitchen sink. If she could raise her arms from the dead, she’d move the shock of hair that had fallen, blocking her view. Instead, she made a feeble attempt to blow it out of the way.

“Motheeeeerrrrrr.”

“Puhleeeeezzeeeee.”

“I am sooo tired!”

Mother had heard it all before. Of course, her daughter didn’t have the energy to get the dishes washed. If she expended all that effort doing chores, then she’d have no energy left to spend the evening with her friends.

🥕🥕🥕

Bad Decision by Tina Stewart Brakebill

God she was exhausted. The constant questions. The scrutiny. Knowing she was being judged. Constantly. About every single thing.

Her friends had tried to warn her but she didn’t listen. “It’s not like I’m new at this this.” Her naïve arrogance dripping off her words. But California isn’t like New York they insisted.

Now she believed. Too late.

What it would feel like to escape it all? Just run. Dive in. Sink. Just rest.

Free? Quiet?

“Ms. Emma? … Ms. EMMA!”

The kids weren’t even the worst. It was the parents. Private school teacher in Malibu. Worst decision ever.

🥕🥕🥕

Pilfered by Violet Lentz

The pen wasn’t worth anything, but Maddie pocketed it anyway. It wasn’t about the pen. It was about the rush. Stepping so far outside of her exhausted reality, that she could feel the hair on the back of her arms standing at attention.

Sometimes Maddie believed, stealing was the only thing that made her life worth living.

Mindlessly whisking her toddling two year old into the car seat, Maddie caught a glimpse of something sparkly dangling from her daughters tightly clenched fist. A necklace pilfered from the display adjacent the cash register, where Maddie herself had pocketed the pen.

🥕🥕🥕

Tramp’s Heartbreak by Sally Cronin

He had been walking in the lashing rain for hours. He contemplated the long straight road ahead known as tramp’s heartbreak and bowed his head in exhaustion

Cars had ignored his raised thumb all day as they sped past. In the distance he heard a vehicle approaching and braced himself for icy spray. Instead the truck stopped.

‘Hey old timer, hop in’. The teenager smiled from the warmth of the cab.

The lad chatted away as he sat in grateful silence. His eyelids fluttered and he slept, leaving his fate to a boy with the heart of an angel.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhausted Possibilities by Norah Colvin

Jolted awake when the bus reached the terminal, they grabbed their belongings and stumbled out. The driver shrugged when asked about accommodation.

‘NO VACANCY’ signs flashed along narrow streets. ‘NOT WELCOME’ lists accompanied the few with vacancies.
Trudging back to the terminal, hoping for seclusion, a ‘VACANCY’ appeared where none before. An old man bade them enter, waved away their money and installed them comfortably.

“Thank you. Thank you,” they bowed, and collapsed into sleep.

In the morning, they were alone. A note lay on the table:

“When you think you have exhausted all possibilities, there is always more.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tired No More (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Trench work became harder with an archeology field school of newbies. The questions exhausted Danni more than digging on her knees.

“What’s this,” was the most common question.

By late afternoon the scrape of her trowel sang a different tune. Instead of soft forest duff, the trowel made the higher pitched scrape against something hard. “Do you hear that,” Danni shouted to any close enough to hear. They all came running.

As she revealed the flat of something large and human-made, they all lost their sense of exhaustion. Curiosity woke them up and eased the aches of hard digging.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by Reena Saxena

Feeling exhausted is not worth it, when a world of opportunities awaits out there. Maybe, it is time to shed old skin and don new apparel. Maybe, it is time to refill the tank. Maybe, it is time to find new inspiration.

The immediate world around has shown its true colors, and changed those again like a true-blue chameleon (or is it true-green?). I’m ready to paint on a new canvas.

Moving on is not quitting. It is well, just quitting something that has outlived its course.

To be exhausted speaks of a limited stock. And I am unlimited…

🥕🥕🥕

NanoWriteMore by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She dropped her pen, hand cramping. Why had she defined success as the number of pages she filled?

She’d been sure that using paper and pen would slow her thoughts, access a deeper, more creative part of her brain, that would result in less typing and less editing.

She squinted at the stack of curled, etched paper, unable to decipher her scrawl.

Certainly what she had was good, publishable work, ready for the next stage?

Except her hand was cramped, her vision blurred, and her stomach roiled with hunger and nausea.

And most of all, she needed a nap.

🥕🥕🥕

If Ya Try Sometimes Ya Git What Ya Kneed by D. Avery

“Hey, Pal! Where’s Sho-mmmfff?”

“Kid, I will remove my hand from yer big mouth if ya kin hush and jist whisper. Okay?”

“Mmmffhhhmmff.”

“Okay.”

“Where’s shorty at?”

“Shorty’s Cowboy finely got inta the sawbone’s. Done got a new knee.”

“YEEEHmmmmf. Oopfff.”

“Tellin’ ya Kid, ya wake Shorty up whilst she has a chance ta rest, I’ll more ‘an cover that mouth a yers.”

“Ah’m whisperin’. Shouldn’t Shorty be celebratin’? This is good news at last.”

“Ain’t really news, Kid, more like the happy endin’ to a long story a the frustrations a gittin’ ta here.”

“Reckon Shorty’s exhausted.”

“Yep.”

***

“Now Shorty’s heppin’ her Cowboy git on his feet after the surgery.”

“She’s some sweet on that Cowboy. An’ he let’s her wear his shirt.”

“Don’t be givin’ Shorty shit over that shirt Kid.”

“Who’d ever give Shorty shit over a shirt that her sweetie shared with her?”

“Mebbe a shithead thet don’t know enough ta look where he’s steppin’.”

“Reckon Shorty’s Cowboy’s gonna have ta learn ta walk right agin. Pal, with jist one good knee ain’t there a possibility he’ll end up walkin’ in circles?”

“Reckon thet’ll make it less exhaustin’ fer Shorty ta track him.”

“Mebbe.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gender

Baby showers often declare blue or pink party favors. What those colors denote of sexes, have evolved back and forth over the centuries. Like color, gender identity and ideas are becoming more fluid, more colorful.

Writers addressed gender in literary art. These stories reflect broad perspectives from around the world — gender stories that color outside the boxes with more crayons than blue and pink.

The following are based on the April 18, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about gender.

PART I (10-minute read)

Two Cents Worth Sense? by JulesPaige

Our eldest child was almost three years old when the second one was due.
A soft baby doll resembling our eldest was bought for love practice.
Changing the cloth diaper, singing lullabies, ever gentle hugging.

crabby old lady
said what good was it for him
to have a dolly

Our eldest is now a Daddy; he’s got one of each a peach, a plum.

crabby old lady
may not have had children or
a dolly to love

He’s changed diapers for both, sang lullabies and gives gentle hugs with love.

The world is a better place with gentle love.

🥕🥕🥕

Third Gender by Abhijit

“Boy or girl Sakharam?”

“Dr Saheb wants to see me?” Sakharam answered, “I have cleared dues.”

“Sakharam, your baby is a third gender,” Dr Sahai head of obstetrics and gynecology informed “we can make her a girl by surgery; it will cost money.”

“What is this third gender, brother?” a confused Sakharam asked.

“Bhai looks like your baby is a hijda,” a better informed Dayaram explained.

Sakharam, a daily wage laborer, was found hanging from a tree next morning. Hoping for a son, after three daughters, Sakharam lacked money and conviction to face the reality of fathering an eunuch.

🥕🥕🥕

Why Choose? by Charli Mills

The conference held at the UCLA campus thought of everything to address gender identity. The bathrooms were resigned, and attendees could declare their preferred pronouns.

“I’m not a pronoun. I am me.”

“Yes, but do you identify he or she.”

“Yes.”

“Which?”

“I am he or she.”

A line piled at the registration table. The woman seated, and we’ll call her a woman because a petunia pink ribbon beneath her conference Volunteer badge declared such, tapped her finger. “Look, organizers are sensitive to your identity. But you gotta tell me – do you want a blue ribbon or pink.”

“Both.”

🥕🥕🥕

Her Story by Joanne Fisher

She had grown up as a boy, but never felt like she was one. Her outward form never mirrored what she felt like inside. She developed anxiety, depression, and tried to kill herself multiple times. Then one day after losing hope of ever being herself, she finally talked to a therapist about her secret. This led to hormones and testosterone blockers, and changes. Her body became more curvy, her skin softer, and her breasts grew. When she looked in a mirror now she began to see herself. For the first time her body felt like it was hers.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s a Choice by Reena Saxena

“Gender roles are assigned based on biology. A man cannot give birth.”

“Sure! But he can raise a child.”

“Why did the caveman not do it? There must have been a reason.”

“They had no feeding bottles and breast pumps. We live in a different age.”

“Is that your condition for marriage?”

“Marriage is a choice. You are an artist who paints in a home studio. I am a civil engineer who has to be on the site. Who do you think can manage home and kids better?”

“Well, I’d prefer being child-free.”

“That is a choice – fully acceptable.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gender Comrades by Bill Engleson

“In my day, there weren’t no genders. Just men and wimin. Pretty sure that’s the way it were. Hard to remember, though.”

“Well, Luke, I’ll tell ya, your day was my day. I recollect it different.”

“Ya do, do ya. How so?”

“That time I sailed over ter France, daddy told me, ‘neither a borrower nor a gender be.’”

“What the heck did he mean?”

“It befluxed me, too. Said it were from Shakespeare’s Piglet… or Cutlet…anyways, it meant, be yourself, and keep your hand on your purse. Or your person. Somethin’ like that.”

“It’s a headscratcher, alright.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Greenhorn by Ann Edall-Robson

The greenhorn was getting his ranch introduction under Tal’s tutelage. The kid, as Mrs. Johnson called him, was an exchange student. He would be with them for a couple of months.

Hanna leaned on the fence listening to Tal explain the difference between the horses found on the ranch.

“Mares are the females. They get bred to stallions. Most of the horses here are geldings.”

“What’s a gelding?” The kid asked.

Tal thought for a moment before answering. “We classify them as being non-gender specific.”

Hanna couldn’t help but laugh. She had to agree, Tal was bang on.

🥕🥕🥕

Confusing by Di @ pensitivity101

Life was straightforward growing up, you had girls and boys.

Girls liked pink, boys liked blue.

Girls played with dolls, boys played with soldiers.

Or did they?

Suddenly pink shirts became fashionable, and from then on, the colour stereotype got slung out of the window.

There is no such thing as one or the other gender now.

It’s confusing, and the space on the job application form has multiple choice.

For security staff, it’s a nightmare, especially when it comes to body searches.

The world’s gone mad.

Imagine when asked

‘What gender are you?’ the answer is

‘You pick.’

🥕🥕🥕

Gender by Y. Prior

Ben placed me on hold.

Said he found my online stalker.

Exhaling with relief, I was eager to possibly have normal again. I could reconnect the wireless at home. No more power outages when I walked into the store or café. This stalker dude would sometimes get into my phone – so I stopped using apps. The airlines called me because someone unauthorized accessed my itinerary. And last year, he drove –

“Well Mrs. Jansu,” Ben said, “Your hacker is Lisa Hazel with the ip – “

“What? Lisa? Thought my stalker was a guy.

“Nope. Female. Thirty-three – from Boston.

🥕🥕🥕

Gender Bender by Deborah Lee

Jane holds up a flash card with a dress on it.

“La vestido,” Chelsea says promptly.

“El vestido,” Jane corrects. “It’s a masculine noun.”

Chelsea blows out an exasperated breath. “Women wear dresses! How is a dress masculine?”

Jane shrugs. “I didn’t invent the language. Try learning the article along with the word, and don’t look for male or female quality about the object itself. A pen may look phallic, but la pluma is feminine.”

“Well, it’s stupid.”

Jane picks another flash card. “The test is tomorrow. Be glad you’re learning Spanish and not Polish. Polish has five genders.”

🥕🥕🥕

Life’s Big Question by Anne Goodwin

“What are you having?”

“Isn’t it obvious? A baby!”

“Hah, right! Boy or girl?”

“Probably.”

“Gosh, sorry, if you don’t want to tell me … I didn’t mean to intrude.”

“It’s fine. I don’t mind.”

“So, er, which?”

“We’ll find out when they’re born.”

“Didn’t you have a scan?”

“Of course I had a scan. Had to check they were okay.”

“They? You’re having twins?”

“Just the one. Thank God!”

“But you don’t know what it is?”

“Like I said, a baby.”

“But, but, what colour outfit do I buy for it?”

“Who cares if it’s chosen with love?”

🥕🥕🥕

Boys and Girls by Anita Dawes

My mother’s despair plain to see
At my unladylike behaviour
As I climb the conker tree
With my dress tucked inside my underwear
To beat the boys was my game
I take my brother’s double cap gun holster
Make my own bow and arrow
Dolls and frills were not for me
Until a daughter came to me
I dress her in silks and frills
As my mother would have liked to see
Quite the woman I turned out to be
My daughter never climbed a tree
No guns, no bows and arrows
Today’s boys and girls play the same…

🥕🥕🥕

The Guest Room by Luccia Gray

‘Alice, Billy’ll have to stay in the guest room, tonight.’

‘Mum, we’ll be up late, finishing our project.’

‘You can’t sleep together, not since…’ She nods towards Alice’s waist, ‘you were ill.’

Billy frowned. Alice didn’t look unwell.

‘It’s not contagious.’

‘You’re not a little girl anymore.’

Billy’s eyes widened. He stared at Alice. She looked the same to him.

‘So, you’re going to punish Billy because of me?’

‘Everything’s different now, Alice.’

‘Billy’s afraid of the dark. I’m grown up, so I’ll look after him, won’t I Billy?’

Billy’s jaw dropped and he nodded. Alice was always right.

🥕🥕🥕

Rainbow Futures by Norah Colvin

The children went around the circle telling what they’d be when they grew up: police officer, paramedic, teacher, doctor, prosecutor, influencer …

Laughter erupted when Rudii responded, “Mother.”

“You can’t be a mother,” taunted one.

“Can too.”

“But you don’t have, you know, boobies,” said another, glancing at the teacher.

“Dad said I can be anything I want,” retorted Rudii.

“But—”

The teacher silenced them and the circle continued, punctuated only by an occasional half-giggle or nudge.

A rainbow of opportunity awaits, Teacher smiled inwardly, contemplating the question he and his partner were processing: who would be Mom?

🥕🥕🥕

I Fixed Your Car! by Joanne Fisher

“I’ve fixed the carburetor and the oil leak, and given the engine a tune-up.” I said. The man smiled handing over some money.

“Thanks miss. Remember to thank the mechanic for me.” He said walking to his car. I rolled my eyes.

“Hey I fixed your car!” I called out after him. He just got in his car and drove off.

I’m wearing overalls and I’m covered in grease yet still some people just think I’m a receptionist or something. What do I have to do to be taken seriously? I shook my head and went back to work.

🥕🥕🥕

Are We Not All One? by David Harris

“What an idea this woman wishes to preach a sermon. Not sure it will fly with some of the congregation though.”

“Did God not make man and woman?”

“Yes, but didn’t He make us before them?”

“The Bible, Pastor.”

“Yes what of it? I recite scripture everyday, young deacon.”

“Does it specify what gender can or cannot speak of it?”

“…..No…No it doesn’t?”

“If you know scripture, do you not recall Galatians 3:28 saying no matter the race or gender, we are ‘all one in Christ?'”

“Hmmm actually it’s been a while since I saw that one.”

🥕🥕🥕

Prince Charming by Papershots

The little girls, four to eight years old, form a line backstage, demanding a kiss from Prince Charming. Prince Charming, a gay guy, texts his fellow – “How did I get talked into this? Got to kiss all these girls! I’m an actor, for god’s sake!” Pay is good, though. Before the show, the little girls were restless already, fidgeting in anticipation, no idea Prince Charming is not who he is, no suspension of disbelief. PC hides his phone, flips back his golden locks, and his charming smile opens the door to his dressing room. The little girls fire up.

🥕🥕🥕

Transient by Kelley Farrell

Rian floated from one form to another. Ice to water, glitter to dust, male to female and back again.

Rian frothed, dissipated, cycled through the clouds to the ground again.

Every nerve was disconnected. Each sensation coagulated around the indecisive form.

Rian’s thoughts blitzed the sky above. The ground pulsed with a steady heartbeat.

There was understanding. Then it was gone.

There was breath. Then stone settled in its place.

There was anger, now blinding regret.

Rian slipped between fire and glass, remnant of overheated ash; a permanent in memoriam to the transition between football and a silver dress.

🥕🥕🥕

Alex by Saifun Hassam

Alexander and Alexandria were super-intelligent AIs. Like other AIs in the Zeta-Tau galaxy, their digital code was integrated with DNA code from the genius brains of humans and galactic races. The AIs could take on any physical form; as humans, they could be a woman or a man. Aboard their starship “The Tsarina,”,they would startle Captain Mira and her crew by dressing to the hilt, in full officer’s uniform, or a tuxedo or a ballroom dress, jeweled pins adorning blue flowing tresses; their voices exactly matched. You could not be sure which Alex you were really talking with.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

The Devil and Some Deals by H.R.R. Gorman

“You let me screw with Job,” the Devil said to God, “Let me take away any gender-determination.”

God nodded. “Go for it, man.”

The Devil clicked clawed fingers, and bathroom signs became unreadable. Gender reveal parties ended with green colors. Identification cards lost a few M’s and F’s. The ability to think that way didn’t come back.

But, to the Devil’s horror, long-seated problems went away. Men’s fashion finally eclipsed Beau Brummell, and women could finally choose the veil or not. The two sexes and everyone outside and in between no longer guarded their supposed uniqueness.

“Lol,” said God.

🥕🥕🥕

Gender-proof Names by Susan Sleggs

The proud parents of toddler twins, a boy and a girl, couldn’t wait for Christmas morning to see which child picked which “rocking horse.” Without hesitation, Taylor went to the black and white motorcycle shaped one and Devin went to the golden pony. The parents smiled.

Years later the gender argument arose when the twins got their driver permits. Taylor asked, “Dad, in this day and age do we really have to mark the Female or Male box on this application?”

He answered, “It’s only good for statistics these days, each of you pick one, but make them different.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Shadow Show by The Dark Netizen

“Mommy, what is happening here?”

I looked at my child looking confused.

“This is a shadow show, my darling. It’s just like the movies we watch, but this is done right in front of us, in real.”

“So there are heroes and heroines here also? But I can’t tell which ones are boys and which ones are girls.”

My child was too young to understand this. This show was made so that the artists and the story is highlighted. It aimed to show genders are inconsequential. My child was too young to understand. I smiled.

“That’s what’s special here.”

🥕🥕🥕

Simon’s Pink Card by Charli Mills

Simon’s best friend Frank had crashed his bike, breaking his ankle. Simon’s mom suggested he make his friend a card. But Simon couldn’t draw the lines right and this made him sad.

“Let’s go buy Frank a card, okay?”

Simon brightened. Standing before rows of cards, he finally found the perfect one. The words described what he tried so hard to draw and couldn’t afford to purchase.

“But it’s pink.”

Simon smiled. “I like the words.”

That day, Frank grinned from ear to ear when his best buddy delivered a card that read, “I’d buy you all the flowers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Girlie by D. Avery

“Do you get picked on?”

“What do you think? Two moms? My style?” She twirled a finger in the long snarly part of her hair.

“You could change your style.”

“I could.” Jamie stroked my hair, “Long hair would look good on you.”

When I chickened out on one of Jimmy’s stunts he’d call me Girlie.

I knew I’d be following Jamie to edges and dangers unkown, knew I’d man up in ways that only this wild girl would appreciate. School wasn’t going to be much easier, but it would be some easier. I’d no longer be sitting alone.

🥕🥕🥕

This Diwali by Rupali Banerjee

Walking back home, little Riya asked Aunt Sarla why she didn’t buy her crackers for Diwali while she bought them for her own son. Aunt replied “Girls don’t burn crackers. They are meant for boys“.

After returning home, Riya went to her father and asked if what her aunt told was true. Her father replied “Absolutely not, my dear. Girls can do every task that boys can do and even more. But burning crackers pollute the environment. Even your brother shouldn’t burn them.”

Her father then took the children to the market, returned the crackers and bought lamps instead.

🥕🥕🥕

The Basketball by Tien Skye

She was puzzled when her seven-year-old girl left the counter empty-handed. “Where’s the basketball?” she asked.

“The man at the counter said I should play with dolls instead,” her little girl replied. “It’s ok, Mama. I don’t like the ball anyway.”

Furious, she grabbed her daughter’s hand and marched straight to the counter, pausing long enough only to get the basketball on the way.

“Here, we’re getting this basketball. For my girl! And don’t you dare tell her what she can and can’t play.”

Both the man at the counter and her daughter learnt a valuable lesson that day.

🥕🥕🥕

Heading South by Joanne Fisher

Aalen and Ashalla traveled southwards. Aalen could hear Vilja ahead bounding along.

“In my village we do what we’re best at. If you’re good at protecting the borders then that’s what you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re female or male.” Aalen said.

“Where I’m from it tends to be the men that are the hunters and use bows. When I told my parents I wanted to be a hunter it raised a few eyebrows.” Ashalla responded.

“Why do you only let men be hunters? Do human bows need penises to operate them?” asked Aalen.

Ashalla laughed out loud.

🥕🥕🥕

East to West – Which Gender is the Best? by Ritu Bhathal

“Hmmm, what is it?”

“Not what. Who!”

“Huh?”

“It’s the scan picture! There. That’s your grandchild right there!”

“Looks like an alien.”

“Well, we all know where the weirdness will have come from, Dad!”

“So, a he or she?”

“Does it matter?”

“No, not to me. Just as long as the child is healthy and happy, that’s all that matters. But you know what the rest of the family will be like…”

“I know, they’ll all want a boy. Typical Indian families.”

“Gender doesn’t make someone right or wrong, it’s their actions. Teach your child well. Make me proud.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Place for Friendly Men by Roberta Eaton

Sannie and I spent an anxious night locked in the house with the four children. Earlier in the day a cloud of dust appeared on the horizon. As it drew ever closer, we could make out a great crowd of horseman and ox-wagons.

The Boer Commando* stopped in our yard and the commandant knocked on our door. He told us they would be resting at our farm overnight and asked for some milk. I was angry with the commandant. A lonely farmhouse inhabited by two women and four children was no place to rest with so many “friendly” men.

* – The Boer commandos or “Kommandos” were volunteer military units of guerilla militia organized by the Afrikaans-speaking farmers of South Africa. The term came into English usage during the Second Boer War of 1899-1902.

🥕🥕🥕

Benders by D. Avery

Marge drew the blanket closer, nuzzling Ernest, snuggled cozy together on the couch. She could smell bacon and coffee and hear Ernest in the kitchen.

Marge sat upright. Ernest was in the kitchen.

“Nard! Ernest? What’s going on?”

“You two kept drinking. When you passed out together the love-hate relationship was in love gear so I only had to spread one blanket. Don’t worry, I have pictures for insurance.”

“Mmm. Morning Mommy.”

“Morning Nard. Breakfast’s ready.”

“Ernest. And after I slept with your fiancée. You’ll make someone a fine husband one day.”

“I intend too, Nard. When she’s ready.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Question of Identity by TN Kerr

Jimmy and Nancy continued to go steady for about three more days after the party. A year after high school Jimmy managed to secure some venture capital and founded a software company in San Jose. There’s a scholarship fund named after him now. Nancy works at the Speedy Mart.

Tito never came back from Vietnam, still MIA.

Becky is the Assistant DA of Lincoln County and has been in a committed relationship with Samantha Christian since she got out of law school. Samantha is a stay at home mom, taking care of the two boys she and Becky adopted.

🥕🥕🥕

Sequins and Heels by Violet Lentz

“Poor little thing. She looks so unhappy. All sad, and overgrown.”

“Can’t you just imagine her with a fresh coat of paint, maybe change the dark trim to something a little more vibrant?”

“Seafoam?”

“Heavens no. She is definitely not a seafoam kind of gal. I was thinking of something a little brighter. Maybe in between salmon and cerise?

“Gavin, dear, your crown is showing.”

“And that my darling Marcus, is exactly why you love me.”

“That being true, I’ll meet halfway, at rouge- if you’ll cut the grass.”

“Only if I can do it in sequins and heels….”

🥕🥕🥕

Room 112 by Nancy Brady

It’s an historic building where Julie worked, and according to some people, it was once a home for orphaned children. Some of her co-workers claim they still hear the moans and screams of children when the building is empty.

One office suite was unusual as it had been converted. It was the only one in which girls, women, and those who identify as female entered and exited with regularity. Julie, too, visited the office regularly and always felt better (perhaps relief would be a better word). Rarely was she not satisfied even with her short visits to Room 112.

🥕🥕🥕

Gender Fluidity by calmkate

Born a pretty blonde Joel’s mother decided to dress and treat her fourth son as the daughter she so desperately wanted.

Simone had grown into a lanky young man who desperately wanted to be a woman. He had long flowing locks and preferred slinky dresses.

Joel is happily married with three children of his own. He always knew he was a man but was comfortable playing the daughter for his mother.

Hormones meant Simone grew perky firm breasts and shrank his manhood. He decided not to undergo surgery because most men got excited to discover she was a he!

🥕🥕🥕

Charity’s Childhood by Kerry E.B. Black

Charity played football while wearing her tutu and tiara. Her Barbies explored sunken treasures, donned armor, and battled evil warlords. She named her bike Ragnarok and imagined charging into battle every time she pedalled, yet she stopped to admire flowers, searched for fairies in mushroom rings, and danced like Shirley Temple.

Deeana broke from a group of gossiping classmates, manicured hands on her designer jeans. “Charity, why do you think boys like you because you can hit a baseball?”

Charity’s nostrils flared like a wolf scenting prey or a doe ready to flee. “Why do you hate me because I do?”

🥕🥕🥕

Questions of Gender by Irene Waters

I was a girl. I wore dresses but I didn’t have those monthly cramps and pains my friends suffered. Lucky, I thought. Perhaps I was. Boys attracted me. I fell in love but no pregnancy happened for me. My friends all had babies, cooking and changing diapers. My husband cooked for me. My friends led a conventional life but I did what I wanted – no constraints were placed on me. Menopause came unnoticed. No mood swings or hot flushes unlike my friends. Lucky me I thought. Now I wonder as talk is of grandchildren – was I ever a woman?

🥕🥕🥕

There They Go Again by D. Avery

“Let’s git goin’ Pal, Shorty’s steerin’ us ta some delicate ranchin’ chores. Git it? ‘Steer’?”
“No, I don’t git yer meanin’, Kid.”
“We’s ta do some gender fixin’. Ya know, gelding the colts, deballin’ the bulls.”
“Kid, that ain’t what they meant when they said fixed gender.”
“They? Shorty said; jist the one Shorty. She.”
“Nowadays ya kin say they fer a singular pronoun; gives ‘em wiggle room. Fluidity.”
“Pal, yer nuts, an’ speakin’ a such, do we or don’t we got some geldin’ ta do?”
“No! No geldin’!”
“Ok. But there goes dinner. Was gonna serve ya oysters.”

****

“Okay, Pal, then what is this prompt about? I’m confused. Ya know as well as I do when a calf is born we look and’ there’s only so much we’s expectin’ ta see.”
“It ain’t about that neither Kid. It’s mebbe more how the calf sees itself and how it sees itself in the world an’ all it kin do in the world.”

***

“Pal, then what’s this prompt about? I’m confused. Ya know as well as me, when a calf is born we look an’ there’s only so much we’s expectin’ ta see. Innies or outties.”
“It ain’t about that neither Kid, ain’t about parts. It’s mebbe more how the calf sees itself , how it sees itself in the world.”
“Ain’t really ‘bout calves, is it Pal?”
“Nope.”
“But folks is folks, kin be who they want, dress how they want?”
“Yep.”
“World might be a more peaceful place if we weren’t jammin’ folks inta jist a couple a boxes.”
“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕

April 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

My spirit has slumped for the moment. I’m exhausted. This month has resolved years of spinning in circles. The Hub officially has a new knee. We spent Easter weekend with our son and future DIL in Wisconsin, meeting the priest who will marry them next year. We are close to getting approved to buy the Roberts Street House where I’ll have two rooms to offer visiting writers. And the weather has warmed the earth to generate the first batch of crocus. All good, but I’m wiped.

The Hub’s knee replacement has been 35 years in the making. After talking to the surgeon and one of his physical therapist, I’m delighted that we pushed through to get it replaced earlier than the VA wanted him to. Although it also infuriates me that they didn’t do it sooner. Moving forward, I’ll embrace the delight and hard work of giving the Hub a better leg to stand on.

It’s been nutty since we last talked gender. Weird, too. Over the weekend, after we drove down to Prairie Du Sac, I received a message to advise me that a shirt-show was brewing on Twitter. I’m part of the line-up for next month’s author marketing event NaNoProMo hosted by Rachel Thompson (author, creator of #MondayBlogs, and marketing guru to indie authors). In one of her promotions of my previous marketing articles at her website, my shirt from my author headshot was noticed.

Bob Mayer, a NYT best-selling author, and former Green Beret, questioned why a woman was wearing what he recognized as authentic Ranger and unit tabs. It was a testosterone filled inquiry, implying that women are not yet assigned to Ranger units (two did make it through all three phases of Ranger school). Had he taken time to read my author bio he would have at least understood that I’m the wife of a former US Army Ranger who writes about the veteran spouse experience. But he didn’t.

By the time I caught up over on Twitter, not only was I the wrong sex to be a Ranger, but others commented I was also the wrong age and size. Bob is a former Green Beret. He likely experiences what my husband does — knowing that there were 437 Navy Seals in Vietnam but having met all 10,000 of them. People make false claims of elite military units all the time. And it rankles the few who actually served in those units. But the other commenters fell into the phenomenon of sensing a public shaming.

Yes, I was shirt-shamed on Twitter.

Having caught it soon enough, I was able to respond:

“That’s my husband’s shirt. We’ve been married 32 years, homeless the last three because of his symptoms of CTE from head hits during his service. I’ve fought to get him help. He let me wear his shirt for my author headshots because I write about the veteran spouse experience.”

I could have left it at “That’s my husband’s shirt.” But I was feeling vulnerable, sitting in the dark of my son’s apartment after everyone had gone to bed, thinking I’d read stories at the Ranch and instead felt thunked over the head. I’m tired of not having a home. I’m tired of not knowing how to fully explain my husband’s odd behavior. I’m tired of having to cope with early onset dementia. And it’s early! What next? So I wanted to reply in a way that made Bob look like a jackass for his original comment. It succeeded in shutting down any further comments.

Except one. A woman called out the man. And on gender week at Carrot Ranch. She called him “a sexist piece of shit.” Thought I chuckled, it only made me feel more isolated. I didn’t want to be some poster child for sexism. I had a surgery to prepare for — not mine, his.

And it went well, it really did. It was hard at night because I’d leave the hospital, and he’d tell the nurses something like, “I don’t want  any opiods,” and they’d struggle to figure out what to do with the docs and pharmacists all gone, knowing he’d be in worse pain trying to fight it with only Tylenol. Then he’d text or call me because he was in excruciating pain and I’d be howling at the nurses to give him his assigned meds. Now that he’s home under my care, I can better regulate his pain med schedule, keep him iced, and apply ointments. I get no sleep until he does.

It’s frustrating, the little ways his brain doesn’t work the way it should. Like not understanding the importance of the pain meds for a total knee replacement. Sometimes he says things like advising the nurse not to use his third finger to draw blood from because it gives strange results. I usually get odd looks. By the end of his stay, they would not tell him anything important without me there. But they remained respectful, and I admired the way nurses listened to him and made him feel valued even if his understanding of circumstances is skewed.

The doc tells me my Ranger is going to be a new Cowboy. I’ll take that.

And, with great hope, we may qualify for a program to take out a  VA loan without anything down. Unless the bank would take my boxes of books or our  RV, we have nothing to put down. We’ll do okay on his disability until I can finish up my MFA. I don’t know when or if we’ll get our belongings out of storage in Idaho, but I plan to furnish two rooms to host visiting writers. Like I did in Idaho, the rooms will be free, and I’ll set up reading opportunities. Maybe I’ll do a fundraiser to set up those rooms, but first, we have to get the house.

Before that, I need a full night of sleep.

Give me some time to catch up on my ranch chores. The weekly compilations are a labor of love, and I will get over to read everybody’s submissions when I can hold open my eyes. Thank you for understanding. And for taking on a hot topic like gender with such openness and curiosity. Hallmarks of literary art.

April 25, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes exhaustion. Who is exhausted and why? Can you make art of exhaustion? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 30, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Tired No More (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Trench work became harder with an archeology field school of newbies. The questions exhausted Danni more than digging on her knees.

“What’s this,” was the most common question.

By late afternoon the scrape of her trowel sang a different tune. Instead of soft forest duff, the trowel made the higher pitched scrape against something hard. “Do you hear that,” Danni shouted to any close enough to hear. They all came running.

As she revealed the flat of something large and human-made, they all lost their sense of exhaustion. Curiosity woke them up and eased the aches of hard digging.

April 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

Today, I’m dressed for success. My hair is cut to shoulder-length with a buzzed undercut that I will keep until I die. At least that’s what I told my new hair-dresser, NC (she’s from North Carolina). How freeing to have that mass of heavy hair lifted from the back of my head. I rub the fuzzy stubble that feels like velvet. Head velvet. The rest of my hair covers it, so unless I clip my hair up, you’d not know I shave part of my head. It pairs with my favorite worm flannel shirt of blue and gray buffalo plaid. No strappy undergarments hem me in today, and I’m wearing a cheap flowy and floral yoga pants I found on Amazon for nine dollars.

A board room executive might feel confident in a tailored suit and expensive shoes, but I’m writing away, barefoot and comfortable. This is my definition of success — pursuing a creative life without dressing and primping to codes that don’t fit me.

NC shaves the left side of her head. She has pretty blond curls and a shaved patch which was impulsive — her hair was hanging in her face one day, and she buzzed it off. She laughed, admitting she picked up the razor impulsively but justified that as a hair-dresser, she knew the look would be in fashion. My daughter asked her dad to shave her head into a high-and-tight and women are exploring razor cuts. NC said, “It’s freeing.”

And yes it is. Freeing physically — it feels great — and from social expectations of how women are supposed to wear their hair. I like the undercut because I can have both buzzed and longer locks.

I know women who had to wear dresses growing up. I loathed dresses. I felt most like me in Wrangler jeans, flannel shirts, and boots. Certain activities, however, dictated I had to have a dress or two in my closet. At age 15, I had three jobs and money to hire a local seamstress who made me two dresses according to patterns I pieced together. Both were checked gingham and looked pioneer-meets-80s-pop. The fad never caught on with anyone else, but if I were going to be forced to wear dresses to compete in forensics, it would be on my terms and in my white, gold-tipped cowboy boots.

When I had three children — two girls and one boy, I let their own tastes dictate their choices. Mostly they wore hand-me-downs or clothes we bartered for at yard sales, but they got to pick what to wear. My son’s favorite color to this day is hot pink. My girls both disdain pink because it’s girly (yet they don’t think of their brother as girly). Colors are colors. Why do we assign gender association?

Recently, I saw a post on Twitter. The photo had two cards side by side. The card with a pink envelop read, “I’d buy you flowers.” The card with the blue envelop read, “I’d make you a sandwich.” The person posting made a comment about capitalism and cooking, or something like that. I didn’t really pay too much attention because I got lost on the tangent that the line of cards targeted kids. I was like, wait, kids are buying each other greeting cards? I thought kids still made cards for others.

But the image stayed with me because I later became confused. Yes, the messages were gender tropes, or were they? Nothing on the cards said which gender had to buy which card and for whom. I thought of my son and his favorite color. Why would my son buy such a card, and I imagined him as an eight-year-old boy. He studied ballet, loved receiving flowers at recitals, and the color pink. If he were to buy a card for his best buddy, he would have selected the pink one about flowers.

Where is the pressure to be binary come from? Obviously family of origin, secondary would be the culture we grew up in and participate in. My family called me Charli from the time I came home from the hospital. I rode horses, pushed cattle, worked on logging sites, and cleaned houses after school. I wore dresses when necessary, and find joy in wearing a broad range of colors. Some days I’m a lumberjack, and other days I’m a colorful diva. I like feeling a mixture of appropriate and rebellious.

Sometimes I’ve had to be strong. Resilient. Other days I’ve cried over the beauty of a sunset.

What does this say about my gender? Honestly, I don’t know. The more I think about it, the more confused I become. I can fall back on social norms and say that I’m a married mom of three. Duh. Female. But one of my daughters, married and choosing not to be a mother, says she is gender fluid. Her husband, a self-proclaimed feminist, accepts this. They are less confused about the fluidity of gender. They don’t experience the rigidity of binarism.

Gender binary by definition is “the classification of gender into two distinct, opposite, and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine, whether by social system or cultural belief.”

And I feel free to not choose sides. I accept that others freak out at the thought of not having the boxes. If they want the boxes, they can have the boxes. But why can’t we also accept boxlessness?

Today, an extraordinary thing took place — I officially became a resident of Michigan. I have a new enhanced driver’s license (meaning I can cross borders into Canada and Mexico, which I will need when D. Avery and I go road tripping between the Kingdom and the Keweenaw after the Writing Refuge where JulesPaige, Susan Sleggs, and Ann Edall Robson will be meeting up). I’m also registered to vote. But all the applications and paperwork made me choose: (box) male or (box) female. I was fine ticking F, but I worried for those who are not.

<And here is where I insert, you really need to read Anne Goodwin’s Sugar and Snails.>

I’ve been toying with gender as a prompt but didn’t know how to prompt it without complication. Literary art expresses our deepest authentic selves if we are brave enough to dive below the surface. Last Saturday, I met with local writers for Wrangling Words at the library. They are a terrific bunch of authors and poets. I told them I was experimenting and wanted to know is “gender” could elicit a response as a prompt. The variety ranged from a confused ivy-like intergalactic being misunderstanding human genders to my own exploration of a boy buying a friend a card. So I’m going to go with it!

<And here is where I insert, if you have any recent books you wish to promote, I’ll be updating ads next week. They are free for all our Ranchers who play here with 99-words and more.>

April 18, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about gender. It can be fixed or fluid. Explore the topic on your own terms and open your mind to possibilities and understanding. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 23, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Why Choose? by Charli Mills

The conference held at the UCLA campus thought of everything to address gender identity. The bathrooms were resigned, and attendees could declare their preferred pronouns.

“I’m not a pronoun. I am me.”

“Yes, but do you identify he or she.”

“Yes.”

“Which?”

“I am he or she.”

A line piled at the registration table. The woman seated, and we’ll call her a woman because a petunia pink ribbon beneath her conference Volunteer badge declared such, tapped her finger. “Look, organizers are sensitive to your identity. But you gotta tell me – do you want a blue ribbon or pink.”

“Both.”

🥕🥕🥕

Simon’s Pink Card by Charli Mills

Simon’s best friend Frank had crashed his bike, breaking his ankle. Simon’s mom suggested he make his friend a card. But Simon couldn’t draw the lines right and this made him sad.

“Let’s go buy Frank a card, okay?”

Simon brightened. Standing before rows of cards, he finally found the perfect one. The words described what he tried so hard to draw and couldn’t afford to purchase.

“But it’s pink.”

Simon smiled. “I like the words.”

That day, Frank grinned from ear to ear when his best buddy delivered a card that read, “I’d buy you all the flowers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

When you have nothing but the sack slung over your back, beggars can’t be choosers. But does lack or a downturn in circumstances really negate choice? Who says, “Beggars can’t be choosers”?

Writers explored the proverb and its potential for stories. Pack a little sack, fling it over your shoulder, and come with us on a literary adventure.

The following is based on the April 11, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Beggars Can’t be Choosers? by Sally Cronin

The memo announced the chairman would be evaluating managers for a senior position. Everyone set out to impress

Outside, tucked into a doorway, an old man huddled, a dog by his side. Most staff ignored him. But every day one particular individual would place several coins into his hand, smile and pat the dog before entering the building.

On Friday an elegant man stood in front of the eager staff and announced the manager who would be promoted. Delighted a young woman stepped forward and looked into his familiar face…

He smiled warmly ‘Who says beggars can’t be choosers’.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggar That by calmkate

The lady in the welfare office is banging on again,
why do you move so often you need to get a life plan!
The recipient once more belittled tries to explain
it’s difficult to live more than 40% below the poverty line
in a supposed developed country.
But the highly paid worker has heard this song far too long,
got several pay rises due to the hardship of listening to the whiners.

Dole has not changed for 25 years
and how much has daily cost of life risen?
Landlords prefer those with jobs and income
Beggars can’t be choosers!

🥕🥕🥕

That’s the Way It Is by Susan Zutautas

What’s for dinner Mom?

You won’t like my answer, but we are having roasted chicken, broccoli, rice, and a Caesar salad.

Oh great, chicken again. I hate chicken and you know that.

Chicken is what’s on sale this week, and you know that we don’t have a lot of money right now. It’s funny how you will eat Popeye’s chicken and Wild Wing but you give me a hard time every time I make it.

I don’t know why; I just don’t like homemade chicken. Never have.

You know what I always tell you, dear, beggars can’t be choosers.

🥕🥕🥕

Discerning by Abijit

“Tock, tock, tock, tock,” repeated knocks on my window pane brought my focus back from the e-mails I was checking on my phone, as I waited at the long traffic signal under an overpass. “Give me some money,” a young girl with a baby  pleaded, “I have not eaten all day.” Her face forced me to look for some change money. Not finding anything lower than a ten rupee, I handed over an one rupee coin from the dashboard. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” went the adage till the girl disproved it saying, “what do you get for a rupee?”

🥕🥕🥕

Brother Francis By Violet Lentz

“Alms for the poor!” Brother Francis cried out from the corner of High Street on which he’d become a fixture. Scarcely noticed, his pleas mingled with the street sounds. His robes became part of the scenery.

He often returned to the monastery penniless, and was reprimanded by the Abbot, as the tenants of the order stated they must subsist on the kindness of strangers alone.

But Brother Francis was not chided by the Abbots rebuke. He knew, it wasn’t the pennies, but the feeling of comfortable acceptance he experienced every day on his corner, that gave his vows meaning.

🥕🥕🥕

Boundaries by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Holly sighed, dropping her sweaty forehead into her palm. It was the same words, the same argument that wasn’t an argument. She tugged her bangs and tried one more time.

“You can’t keep doing this.”

“Why’s it such a big deal to you?” Rita crossed her arms over her chest, and leaned back.

“I see the future,” Holly whispered. “It’s not sustainable the way things are.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers, Dear,” Rita hissed.

“I’m not begging,” Holly picked up her baby. “We’re leaving.”

“I’m calling Toby!”

Toby was the Ex-boyfriend, not the father.

So Rita wasn’t Gramma.

Problem solved.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Anita Dawes

Years ago when I wore second- hand clothes
Worn out shoes
Sleeping in a room with no heat
Blankets as thin as rice paper
I made my way long ago,
I am happy
Some I know are still searching
Most days, he sits at the corner of Waitrose
Playing his clarinet
I hear the coins drop into his open case
At his feet as I pass
Today, I would give him a choice
Between a sandwich and coffee or a two- pound scratch card
I walked home eating the sandwich
Without waiting. I hoped he made the right choice.

🥕🥕🥕

Evie’s Choice by Margaret G. Hanna

“Evie, why don’t you leave? He’s no good for you!”

“I have to stay, Mom. I don’t have any choice.”

“Yes, you do. You can leave.”

“Leave? Him? No way. He’ll find me, just like all the other times.”

“Evie, there are safe houses. They’ll protect you.”

“There’s no such thing as a safe house, not from him.”

Mona clasped her daughter’s hand. “Leave him. Now! I beg you!”

Evie yanked her hand away, stood up. “No, I can’t. Good-bye.”

She stormed out the door, slamming it behind her.

That was the last time Mona saw her daughter — alive.

🥕🥕🥕

No Choice by Michele Jones

Dane stared at the tracks. Ahead could be anything, but he couldn’t go back, Zell had made that very clear. He had no choice if he wanted the money. And he did. He had to move forward.

The path looked clear, but noise echoed from the tunnel ahead. Inside, the key to his freedom. If only he didn’t need the money. Sweat rolled down his brow and his heart pounded. He sucked in a deep breath and moved on.

If only he’d listened to Amy. He’d have a choice.

A loud growl echoed from the cave.

God help me.

🥕🥕🥕

Juma by Saifun Hassam

Juma was sixty years old when the small railroad station closed. He had earned a living transporting goods for the farmers and businesses in nearby hill townships. Now he was reduced to working odd jobs, begging for food and money. In a nearby forest, he made his home in a small cave among banana and mahogany trees. Beggars can’t be choosers. One day, as he puttered around a junkyard, he found planks of wood, even a hammer. He scrounged for nails and wire from the local hardware store. He would build himself a splendid hut among the banana trees.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Floridaborne

Sharing a hotel room with four high school girls on a trip to NYC, I’d never been anyplace quite as opulent.

I still felt the pain of an unsatisfying breakfast, when a waitress yelled out, “This is New York! We don’t serve grits!”

I was the tiny one, the poor outcast wanting to be accepted, always put down. Girls were swapping clothes, but I was told, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

That day, I learned from a waitress that I might be poor, but not defenseless. I honed a mighty verbal sword, wielding it toward anyone who dared cross me.

🥕🥕🥕

Choice Metaphorical Beggary by Bill Engleson

Doubt

I began writing this elegy rather niggardly,
And by that I mean I was gracelessly leaning
To thoughts quite obscure, wrought somewhat haggardly,
Thoughts gaunt, sickly, words with barely a meaning.

Confirmation

What ho, scripting peasant, why are you so buggered,
With slapdash terms, such sloppy old bruisers,
Ungainly lexes that daub you a sluggard,
A slouched writing beggar snubbed by the choosers?

Doubt

He had me there by the byzantine tail.
I’d wended my way to the edge of the page.
Ninety-nine words with no wind in their sail,
Fresh bottled wine with no time to age.

🥕🥕🥕

Flaking Off the Walls by Papershots

A gust of warm wind rushed in with the man from the foyer. The chandeliers rattled; dust whirled down onto the carpeted floors.

“Lily and Becky?” he asked.

“My sister couldn’t…”

“Yes, it’s you and your sister. The gig’s outside the castle. 6am to 8pm.”

Lily nodded.

In the abandoned megaphone-shaped auditorium, ghosts of opera-goers gazed at their own paint flaking off the walls. Mr. Reynolds excused himself with his best beggars-can’t-be-choosers look; rushed backstage echoing orders. Now a car horn reached Lily’s ears from outside. Becky, of course, double-parked! By the entrée des artistes – the Irony of it.

🥕🥕🥕

Aftermath by Joanne Fisher

“Beggars can’t be choosers!” Ashalla said as she tried on a pair of boots she had taken from the soldier’s camp. They almost fit.

With their leader dead, the army had become fragmented and disorganised. It wasn’t hard to pick them off in smaller groups.

“Now all we need is to find the person who sent them. The one they call The Baron.” said Aalen as she washed herself in the river and Vilja hungrily crunched on a joint he had found.

“Not an easy man to get to, but I’m sure we can find a way.” Ashalla replied.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Roberta Eaton

“I’m not eating it,” he said. I could have cried. My entire day had been spend foraging for fruit and now he was rejecting it.

“Why won’t you eat it?” I asked. He pointed towards a large, brownish bump on the skin of the apple, “It’s damaged and it might make me sick.”

All the fruit looks like this. Since the war, nothing is perfect. Thomas may be right about the dangers of eating the food but there is nothing else and beggars can’t be choosers. Next time, I’m going to peel the apple before offering it to him.

🥕🥕🥕

A Choice by Ruchira Khana

“Come on! you can do it, Nate!” Mom urged her teen as he sat all heartbroken with a droopy head.

“Beggars can’t be choosers. I shall take what’s offered,” he shouted back at her.

There was silence.

With moist eyes, but a stern voice she said, “That’s untrue! Cause even beggars get an opportunity

to choose. But they choose to take the easy route!” The son looked at her with a frown as she

continued, “What do you choose to do about your low grades? Accept defeat or get your concepts

right and take the retest?”

“Choice is yours!”

🥕🥕🥕

Chosen People by D. Avery

When John Williams comes to Kahnawake I feel an old fear of being taken by force from people I love. My family, and even Governor Vaudreuil, agree; it is my choice. I am no longer a child, I am a Catholic woman of the Bear Clan, Marguerite Kanenstenhawi, no longer John Williams’ daughter Eunice. I no longer understand the English words he speaks, but I remember his contempt for the Jesuits and the Kanienkehaka people. Should I return to New England I would truly be captive. He pleads but I choose to remain with the family who chose me.

🥕🥕🥕

Equally Nice by The Dark Netizen

I walked around the shop.

With every step I took, I was met with a pair of adorable eyes. There were more beauties in the pet-shop than I could buy. I walked up to an Alsatian. It looked majestic just like its price tag. I shook my head and turned to the shop attendant. I told him my budget. He nodded understandingly. He showed me a white Pomeranian, not as good-looking as the Alsatian, but it would have to do. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all.

Besides, I bet both of them would taste equally nice in a stew…

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Friendly by Sascha Darlington

After Daddy died, my mom, who was fifty-two at the time and out of the workforce for six children and thirty years, tried to make ends meet. It was a different time when kid friendly meals comprised: “You sit at the table until you’ve finished every pea on your plate.” Tough love, but we were a healthy bunch.

When you’re a kid, you don’t comprehend adults nor why your four brothers, so much older than you, rarely visit or why visits end in bitterness.

You just hear your mother say, “Beggars can’t be choosers” and choke down every mushroom.

🥕🥕🥕

Grape Juuuice by Kelley Farrell

“Uggghh.” Janey’s fingers left long claw marks in the hot sand around her.

As the sun beat down on her bare legs the scent of burning flesh tickled her nose.

“Ugghh … grape … juice …” In all of her five years she had never been so thirsty.

“Janey!” A mirage of her older sister appeared; just like the movies. “Mom said to sit up. You’re taking up too much room in the sandbox.”

Hana dropped a bottle of water into the sand beside her younger sister. Janey flopped onto her back, “Grape juuuice.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers, Janey.”

🥕🥕🥕

Santa’s Surprise by Kerry E.B. Black

We were poor. We didn’t indulge much. Basics filled bellies. Hand-me-down clothes drew derisive attention from their classmates. I scrimped and did without while trying to shield them.

Holidays stressed me most of all. I supplement their experience with hand-crafted traditions, but I couldn’t fulfill their wish lists. Failure pressed and drained maternal enthusiasm.

One afternoon, I answered a knock. Nobody greeted me. A package on the stoop read “from Santa.” Inside, gifts for the kids burst with cheer. I spirited the box into my bedroom and dissolved into tears. Gratefulness battled embarrassment, yet for my kids, I’d swallow pride.

🥕🥕🥕

Cheerful Choices by calmkate

those trying to survive well below the poverty line

do have basic choices

public housing seldom available some return home

or share with strangers and all the unknown

many choose a life of crime

to cover their bills

people who would never consider such risks

or sell their body then their soul, become homeless

but we can choose our attitude

embrace our inner wealth

serve others by volunteering

spread cheer and good will to all we meet

don’t let long term poverty poison your soul or defeat

sure it severely inhibits life choices

Reflect wisely and turn that around!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

🥕🥕🥕

Maggie’s Sulking by Di @ pensitivity101

I always get treats. Always, always, always!

Now I get some pongy stuff they call ‘breakfast’ and they’ve pinched my food bowl!

My big brown eyes usually work to get some titbits off plates, but I never pinch. No sir. Don’t want my nose tapped thank you.

Got to keep the sniffer in tip top condition.

It’s not fair. No biscuits either, not even in my dinner!

And they’ve told the postman I’m not to have any!

I’m hungry. My heart is set on chicken.

Guess I’ll have to eat the pongy stuff.

Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.

🥕🥕🥕

No Beggin’ Dogs at the Table by tracey

I couldn’t catch the rabbit no matter how fast I ran. Darn, I was hungry. My twitching paws woke me up and I looked at the clock but I had never learned to tell people time. My stomach gurgled. I yawned and stretched and then trotted through the house sniffing for small child. Ah, he was at the kitchen table. He smelt of peanut butter and yogurt. I licked his foot but found nothing tasty there. I was impatient but settled on the floor under his feet where food was sure to be dropped. I hoped it was bacon.

🥕🥕🥕

The Chosen by Allison Maruska

I skulk on the edge of the wasteland, my movements quick to avoid detection. Once a bounty, this place is now barren. My stomach remembers, just as my heart remembers the once-constant presence of The Chosen.

The Other is near. I don’t want to approach, but beggars can’t be choosers. Securing sustenance is worth a little indignation.

Softly, I creep up. With expert dexterity, I jump.

The Other has me. She squeezes, barraging me with unholy shrieks. “Aw! Does Mr. Snooglepoof want some din din?”

I purr a little to appease her.

The things I do for a meal.

🥕🥕🥕

Choosey Little Beggar by Ann Edall-Robson

Hanna had drawn the short straw, meaning the night shift. The calf needed to be fed every three hours using a big plastic bottle. If she couldn’t get the orphan heifer to suck, she would have to call for help. She didn’t want to give Tal the satisfaction.

Squatting next to the animal, she lifted the calf’s head, hoping she’d take the bottle.

“C’mon you little beggar, quit being so choosey.”

“What’s the matter, can’t get her to ear?” Tal’s smirky voice sliced through the darkness.

Sounds of sucking made Hanna smile.

“Us girls gotta stick together.” She whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

Safer To Eat At Home by Susan Sleggs

Eight year old Becky came home from school to see her mother had liver and onions ready to prepare for supper. She sought permission to go play with best friend Arlene and bolted out the door. Together the two girls hatched a plan then went to Arlene’s mother to ask if Becky could eat dinner with them. They were triumphant until they sat down to lima beans and fried Spam. Arlene’s mother, seeing Becky’s face said, “Beggars can’t be choosers. Eat up.”

Later, outside, Becky said, “Lima beans are yuckier than liver. Do you think they called each other?”

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Frank Hubeny

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Ryan pontificated.

“We’re all beggars. We all depend on a handout, on something going right once in a great while.”

“Not all of us. Some of us can choose.”

“You know you’re a beggar just like I am.”

“Nope. I can choose.”

“What can you choose?”

“I can choose to sit right here.”

That’s when they saw Hawkins, a policeman, approach.

“I wonder what he wants?”

“You know what he wants.”

Hawkins stopped. “OK, guys, it’s 10 o’clock. Time for both of you to go to the shelter.”

“I get top bunk.”

“No, you don’t.”

🥕🥕🥕

If Wishes Were Horses...by Nancy Brady

Julie was one of the smallest kids in her class, and she was always picked last for every team. Despite that, she loved playing volleyball.

The school started an intramural league for the students; the team members would be picked for each volleyball team. First, however, Coach Coffman would decide who would be the captains of the teams. The captains then selected their players.

Julie asked the coach if she could be a captain. Wringing her hands, she implored him, saying, “Please, please, can I be a captain?”

To which, Coach Coffman said, “Absolutely not. Beggars can’t be choosers.”

🥕🥕🥕

In The Beginning, There Was Distraction by Chelsea Owens

Phan clutched her halo, rubbing already-tarnished finish. And sighed. If only she hadn’t been so diverted this morning, with the clouds. Then there’d been flowers. Then path swirls -which led right to the end of the lengthy queue…

“Next!” the angel matriarch called.

Phan floated forward. At a scowl, she hastily replaced her halo and hoped it aligned itself. It didn’t.

“Late again, Phanuelle.”

*Gulp*

“There’s only one assignment left; a newer one.”

Phan peered beyond the matriarch at the mostly harmless-looking blue and green sphere to which she must go. Oh, well. Perhaps it would have flowers, too.

🥕🥕🥕

A Man with a Golden Voice by Miriam Hurdle

A man saw a homeless person begging. The beggar’s voice sounded familiar, but he had to move on with the traffic.

The next day he saw the beggar again.

“Are you Ted Williams, the man with a golden voice?”

“Yes.”

“Hop in… Why are you on the street?”

“I was fired in 1994 for drugs and booze.”

“You’ll clean up and come to the radio station to see my boss.”
~
For the first time after 20 years, the beggar had numerous job offers. He worked in the radio show again.

“Beggars can’t be choosers” didn’t apply to him.

🥕🥕🥕

The Missing Car by Anurag Bakhshi

He gulped, and said, “Well, you see, I was getting really late for a date….”

I stared piercingly at him, and asked, “So?”

He stammered, “So, I drove at breakneck speed to meet her at the Theater, but…”

“But?” I growled menacingly.

“But,” he wiped his brow, “she was already inside. I hunted desperately for a parking space, but…beggars can’t be choosers….and so…”

I sagged even further into the chair as I completed his sentence for him, “And so, you left my Batmobile on the road, doors open, and engine running! Thanks Alfred, that will be all!”

🥕🥕🥕

Reena and Jay Do Beans On Toast by Ritu Bhathal

It had been a long trek.

Those last three mile had really dragged but finally Reena and Jay arrived back at the campsite.

Kicking off her trainers, she sighed. What she wouldn’t give for a pedicure, long soak in a tub and a chilled glass of Prosecco…

“Reens, can you remember how this works?” Jay was fiddling with camping stove, so they could prepare the feast that was Beans on Toast.

He rummaged around in the food bags, found some cans of lager and tossed one over to her.

Not even chilled. Reena sighed again. Beggars can’t be choosers.

🥕🥕🥕

Smart Beggars (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Danni overheard the receptionist say. She had stopped by the division office to resupply the fire-camp. Her grimy skin felt foul as her temper. Danni would set that uppity woman straight.

When Mavis hung up, Danni asked, “Who’s that?”

“Oh, hi, Danni. You look a fright.”

“I’m taking back the new supplies.”

“The ones that didn’t arrive?”

Danni slumped. “What will we do,” she mumbled.

Mavis answered brightly, “Beggars can’t be choosers, but Daddy raised no fool. I just sweet-talked old Jeb at DNR to find a roundabout way for us. Beggars can be smart.”

🥕🥕🥕

Who Says by Reena Saxena

He asked for help.

His father was a renowned doctor, so a drugstore was set up for him. He could not garner any new customers other than his father’s patients. The money was not enough to raise his children, so his father supported them as long as he lived.

His real face was exposed after the parents passed away. His brothers found to their dismay, that every valuable from a silver coin to diamond jewellery had been stolen. The parents’ bank account had been drained out to pay for the grandson’s foreign education.

Who says beggars can’t be choosers?

🥕🥕🥕

Imaginary Characters by M J Mallon

Brick fitted in the space well. It was narrow, like a cupboard to slot in, a place to be noticed. Brooke Trout sauntered past him. When she saw Brick her eyes opened wide. He smirked at her bemused expression. She didn’t notice but he followed her up the escalator. When she exited out of the toilet he was there angling for her.

‘Beggars can’t be choosers,’ she wasn’t much of a catch but she had a sense of humour. He valued that.

Brick smiled, ‘Babe join me? We can disappear together…

🥕🥕🥕

Tables Turned by Anne Goodwin

She hammers on the door, pleading, begging. It’s too late. She’s made her choice.
I’m not without pity, but her desperation soothes me, cancels the pain from when I was the one in need. From when I begged and Liesel chose.

She gave me two options, both impossible. If she left, I’d lose everything; if she stayed on her terms, how could our love stand the strain?

When she’s calm, I’ll go down to the cellar, take her some food and some clean underwear. I’m no cook, but she’ll relish whatever I give her. Beggars don’t get to choose.

🥕🥕🥕

Harsh Reality by Rupali Banerjee

One morning, as I was taking my car out of the Garage, I heard a pleasant sound of flute been played. I could find no one in close vicinity. Mesmerized at the sound, I drove down the valley. The music of the flute was like a beautifully cascaded flowing river. After driving some distance, I found an old man playing the flute and begging alms. A crowd had gathered around. When suddenly he started coughing, the crowd dispersed. Panicked, he again picked up the flute and somehow managed to play. “Beggars cant be choosers“, I thought sympathetically.

🥕🥕🥕

Restoration of Hope by TN Kerr

He didn’t hold a sign or jingle a cup with a few coins.

He wasn’t selling apples or matches, or singing street music.

He sat with his eyes closed in the chill evening air; had his blanket pulled tight.

So, he didn’t see her approaching from across the road.

“Hey,” she said to catch his attention.

When he looked up at her he was startled.

She was well dressed, but looked stern, the way his teachers had done.

He took the white paper bag that she proffered.

“It’s warm,” he said.

She simply nodded, turned around and walked away.

🥕🥕🥕

Breaking Old Stereotypical Molds by JulesPaige

Being the younger in a hard working family means hand me downs.
Maybe there’d be one new outfit a year, shoes when needed, things like that.
Cheap proteins; buckets of peanut butter, making due with leftovers.

there are choices, yes;
some allow us to reach stars
others for handouts

life throws all curve balls; cannot
beggars be choosers for love

To remember to give when we are comfortable can be key
To stretch outside of that comfort zone to help another, would, could you?
Without expecting some reward, remembering to give of the self.

Who says beggars can’t choose?

🥕🥕🥕

Hat Trick by D. Avery

“Pal, ya ain’t noticin’ my new hat.”

“It’s a beautiful day, Kid. Good day ta ride.”

“Yep. An’ ya still ain’t said nuthin’ ‘bout my hat.”

“I see ya’ve got a new hat settin’ on yer head.”

“Cain’tcha tell me what ya think of it?”

“Why? You went an’ bought it. You must like it.”

“Come on, Pal. Do ya like my hat?”

“No, Kid, no. I do not like yer hat.”

“Jeez, Pal, ya gotta like this hat.”

“No, Kid, I don’t. Ya begged me ta respond, ya don’t git ta choose my response. Now go Kid, go.”

🥕🥕🥕

April 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s one of those days that my calendar has an extended period of time and so I choose to fill it with writing. Every morning, I rise, answer the Hub’s question — “Watchya doin’ Tarli?” — go downstairs, take my probiotics, set the timer for 30minutes, and write. It  doesn’t matterwhat I  write. I give myself permission to write junk. Words help me to process, to think and  express my emotions. I can brainstorm any project, work out resolutions, let my characters talk, or describe a scene I’ve having difficulty extracting from my head. I complain, celebrate, but never censor. I write.

With entended time and ticked boxes on my list, I enjoy a good run. This morning, I wrote past and started to hunger for lunch. But I chose to keep writing. The UPS man delivered a box and that broke my thoughts. My tummy rumbled. I hadn’t yet had black tea. Soon it would be time to go help at the yoga studio my SIL is opening May 1. I almost felt finished. I wrote on.

Satisfied, I thought maybe I could  use what I wrote as a post. When I copied it over to edit and revise, I realised it was over 5,000 words. Ugh. Easier to write  a 1,000 than edit five times as much. While writing, an interesting phrase popped up that caused me to wonder — beggars can’t be choosers.

By definition, it’s a proverb, meaning that those with no other options must be content with what is offered.

But is it true that we have no other options? Who tells us we must be content? Those who took away the options? The phrases felt jarring and I recognized it as old programing from the  environment in which I was raised. I see it’s essence in the lack of compassion people have today for the hardships of others. I better understand how cleverly crafted the phrase is to let injustice stand because the victims have no other choice than to accept what is. I can imagine greedy capitalists hiding behind the proverb as if their meager handouts bring satisfaction, making them righteous and right. Take what’s left from the raping of the land — be content with your lot — beggars can’t be chosers.

While I’m not going to share my 5k mind explorations, I can say why it came up.

We are preparing for the Hub’s knee replacement surgery on April 22. He destroyed his knee on a bad jump into Grenada in 1983. It pained him and locked up after  that  but he soldiered on and the  military took no interest in his gait, altered mood, and trouble with cognition. The jump that bashed his knee also smacked his head, twice. This less than  a week after he was knocked out cold in a base game of soccer. I was processing all we’ve been through since a doctor proclaimed in 1987 that he needed a total knee replacement. Only, no insurance would cover it and the VA denied it. What they denied then, we got them to finally service connect in 2016 after we filed in 2014. I also wanted them to check his head. Something was wrong.

Almost 36 years after the injury, one that has caused a multitude of problems, the Hub is getting his knee replacement. Beggars can’t be choosers. In other words, he’s had to be content with “no other options.” And I’m not going to write another 5,000 words on what I think about that.

Because I come back to the same conclusion and three empowering words:

We have choices.

Always. We always have choices. Suspect those who say you don’t. What are they trying to rob you of? In 1862 when the Dakota tribe of Minnesota was starving, three teens chose to go looking for food. A Norwegien family who did not speak English feared the natives when they rode up to their farm, asking for eggs. Begging. But asking nonetheless. The teens didn’t set out to start a war that day. They chose to ask their nbeighbors for food. But beggars can’t be choosers, so the frightened farmer grabbed a rifle and shot over their heads to run them off. Historians can debate who robbed whom first — some will say the treaties for land favored the Dakota; others will bring up the shady dealings of the traders who intercepted the treaty money with claims that the tribe owed them money for goods. The boys that day never robbed the farmer. They asked. But in the heat of the moment, the rising anger, the sense of being born to land their ancestors once owned but now failed to feed their hungry bellies — the beggers rebelled, retatiated and killed the farmer and his family.

We always have choice. It doesn’t mean we choose well or smart. It doesn’t mean the world must be just first. It doesn’t mean we will act with justice. Accountability is acknowledging our capacity of choice and taking responsibility for our actions. Accountability can also mean deciding to make better choices next time.

Little Crow, as leader of the Dakota, had a choice to make. He deliberated over whether or not to hand over the teens to US authority. He had made multiple trips to Washington DC on behalf of his people, explaining their predicament, asking that the treaties be honored. He was told money would come “soon.” It never did. Aid never came, either. But more  immigrants from Europe crowded the  land where his people tried to adapt to farming, but cut worms killed their 1861 crops. They even adapted to the language and religion. Little Crow was Christian but politicians in power regarded them as savages. He was  leader of his starving tribe and the center of unacknowledged injustice. His ribs were emaciated. Beggars can’t be choosers.

When the anuities for the tribe never came, and the stores refused to let Little Crow take food on credit, he reportedly said, “Starving men will help themselves.” Sometimes choices are  forced, which is why the proverb tries to teach those at their lowest to be content. But it is human to rise after getting knocked down. Little Crow did not turn over the teens to authorities. Neither did he agree that war was the answer. He deliberated and chose to go to war with the US instead of hunting buffalo. During the Civil War, the Dakota attacked Minnesota and won several of their battles. They also killed many settlers, graves I have visited, battefields, I’ve seen, wondering about the fool choices of an expanding nation that pressured a tribe to draw first blood.

Little Crow survived the battles. The Dakota were rounded up — every woman, child, elder and warrior — and imprisoned. President Lincoln commuted the death sentence  for hundreds of warriors but on Christmas Eve (remember, this was a cultural group who had  adopted Christianity so they understood the holiday) 36 men were hung in front of their families and  tribe. Years later, while picking raspberries with his grandson, Little Crow was aprehended by men from a nearby town, hung, shot and drug behind a wagon with firecrackers in his nostrils for the cheers of the town who felt he was a monster for not knowing his place as a beggar.

And how did  I come upon these cheerful thoughts? It was the dilema of a bed that got me thinking of the phrase. You see, the Hub will have surgery and require weeks of home care during recovery. We are guests inour daughter’s home, and not to belittle all they have provided for us, but we don’t even have our own bed. The one we use is an antique and so tall that I have to  use a box to get on top. It will be impossible for the Hub post-surgery. When we received the list of alterations we needed make, I felt like we had no choice and that phrase popped into mind.

I corrected my thinking. I have choices. I don’t have to go without or settle for what is offered or be content with what won’t work. I looked through the local classified and did not find what we needed or wanted. I turned to Amazon and found a beautiful bedframe with sturdy steel slats and a low (but not too low) height. It was in our price range, too. It meant we would have to choose not to do something else, but that’s for later. Choices are empowering.

Our task might be less so, but I think this topic is worthy to explore.

April 11, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers.” You can play with the words, alter them or interpret them without using the phrase. Give it any slant you want — show what it means or add to its  meaning. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 16, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Smart Beggars (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Danni overheard the receptionist say. She had stopped by the division office to resupply the fire-camp. Her grimy skin felt foul as her temper. Danni would set that uppity woman straight.

When Mavis hung up, Danni asked, “Who’s that?”

“Oh, hi, Danni. You look a fright.”

“I’m taking back the new supplies.”

“The ones that didn’t arrive?”

Danni slumped. “What will we do,” she mumbled.

Mavis answered brightly, “Beggars can’t be choosers, but Daddy raised no fool. I just sweet-talked old Jeb at DNR to find a roundabout way for us. Beggars can be smart.”

On Fire

Burning bright, fire gives us power — to create, to destroy. Flames follow us through time and life, giving us memories of camping trips and ancient moments witnessed by the moon. We dance to fire and we let it burn within us from our sickbed.

Writers wrote flames that readers will seek like moths. Stories that will linger.

The following are based on the April 4, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fire.

PART I (10-minute read)

Condemned by H.R.R. Gorman

I feel like a traitor.

There had been a military tribunal, and the officer acting as judge declared guilty. Death by firing squad.

I take a deep breath while the soldiers line up. What a way to die. Every soldier was given a gun with a bullet, some blank while others are deadly. But someone has the gun which will kill.

“Aim!” an officer shouts.

I struggle to keep my eyes open.

“Fire!”

I pull my trigger, and the man drops.

Was it my gun that held the bullet that killed him?

Did the judge know he’d condemned me?

🥕🥕🥕

Flame by Anita Dawes

Prometheus stole fire to give to mankind.
For this the great Titan was punished by Zeus
tied to a rock so an eagle would eat his liver
which would heal overnight
to be eaten again the next day.
Until a hero comes. Hercules to the rescue.
I have thought of Prometheus as my hero
his punishment did not fit the crime.
Now he is mostly forgotten,
we sit on the beach, toast our marshmallows
the fire taken for granted.
Fire can take a forest, leaving burnt ash
yet it will grow again like Prometheus liver,
magic in the flame…

🥕🥕🥕

The Haunted Seas by Saifun Hassam

Tormented turbulent seas flung “Aurora” onto the promontory’s rocky shores. Lightning split the skies like a needle-thin tree with myriad fine and delicate branches. The clouds shifted into terrifying monstrous shapes as they raced across the sky driven by gale force winds.

At dawn the sky and seas were gray, and fog shrouded the shores. Beacons of fire were lit along the promontory where the lighthouse had sunk into an underground cave. A deep sense of loss and mourning filled the hearts of the seafaring community. The “Aurora” was listing over the rocks. There seemed to be no survivors.

🥕🥕🥕

Testimony and Sacrifice by Liz Husebye Hartmann

A moment, all I remember:

Her face, cupped by the flickering glow of a night fire shared against a greater darkness.

Her hands, rolling thin-shaved bark around crumbles of tobacco, mushroom, moss, bone-white shards… something I couldn’t identify, even as she tossed it into the edge of the roiling embers.

Her voice, raised only slightly “And thus we vanquish you, Darkness” as she stepped, barefoot, into the circle of stones.

An exploding funk of flesh and forest as I’m thrown back, onto the ground.

Moon’s cold eye staring down on me.

She is gone, but the darkness? Defeated.

You’re finished.

🥕🥕🥕

Prodigy by Sherri Matthews

What kind of Firestarter? A crazy, twisted one, that’s right. Hair horns and piercings mother would not approve – get them and you’re out, got it? My house, my rules. Yeah…one day… YouTube takes me down that tunnel night after night. Never too loud, thank God for earphones. Mother’s not here but the nurses are, so I crank up the music and it blasts my eardrums and I wonder what it was like to be a teenager in the 90’s. My generation now, sick but I’ll mend. Keith Flint’s gone but his flame still burns, that brilliant unleashed Firestarter.

🥕🥕🥕

Soul Dance by Di @ pensitivity101

She watched the flames dance within the stone circle.
Sparkles shot skywards, like prayers to the gods in times past.
She closed her eyes, and let the memories wash over her.
Hugging herself, she thought of another night like this.
Here, dreams were realised, emotions explored, passions spent.
Innocence surrendered, lives changed forever and a new life begun.
She wouldn’t change any of it. She called for him.
Footsteps approached, a hand reached down to caress her neck.
Eager lips nuzzled and nibbled.
They were young, together again, as one.
The fire died, leaving just embers of a memory.

🥕🥕🥕

Internal Inferno? by JulesPaige

When playing with matches one can get burnt or burn things to powder ash.
Sometimes a child is lucky, they only burn down a kitchen curtain.
What though would make a child want to get attention by flamboyant flame?

Is it a crime to want to be in the limelight, to have some, any attention?
Elder sibling gathering no dust; displays intelligent conversation.
Baby in nappies still, needs and wants blend; screams at fevered pitches

a burning desire
pulses in a shadowed soul
can laughter be found?

phoenix can rise up from flame
but they must be consumed first

🥕🥕🥕

As the Flames Fling High by Papershots

In the smoky gray courtyard, the firing squad is lined up, awaiting those to be shot. The former smoke while the latter lit candles in the night on their windowsills. But a section of the confiscated buildings is on fire and firefighters are trying to tame the ever-spreading flames – those who live in the area are out firing questions at officers ill-equipped at this fired-up injustice. The morning sun rises firing the tops of burned-out trees. “Fire! Fire!” a second of hesitation too many, “Fire, fire!” And all, at present, is gone up in tiny little bits of smoke.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire Mage by The Dark Netizen

We were never promised a glorious battle nor death worthy of remembrance.

All we understood was that if we did not fight our hardest, the dark king would slay our loved ones, and ravage our lands.

The Dark King’s minions were summoned from the blackest depths of earth, where no men wander.

Vicious and vile to the core, their only weakness was the blaze of holy fire.

As a senior mage of our kingdom, the responsibility of supporting our troops had been shifted to my shoulders.

I wasn’t the type to shun responsibility, besides I loved playing with fire…

🥕🥕🥕

Attack! by Joanne Fisher

The sentries were taken out silently. Aalen and Ashalla moved quickly into the camp. In the center was a fire-pit still burning. While Ashalla took care of the drunken stragglers Aalen spied the largest tent and silently went inside.

She roused their leader awake. He look confused.

“I thought we had killed you all.” he said.

“Why destroy my village?”

“I was only acting under orders. We wanted your forest for timber but we knew your people wouldn’t like that. So we decided to get rid of you. The Baron sent us.”

Aalen stuck her knife in his throat.

🥕🥕🥕

Blazing Pen by Reena Saxena

He has experienced gut-wrenching hunger in his early years.

Later, he found that fighting hunger is easier than fighting evil which suppresses independent thought.

He is a writer who dares to present things in a different manner, and superimposes his vision on existing or non-existent objects. The vision may contradict known logic.

The fire in his belly refuses to die, as does his metaphoric pen blitzing across a literary canvas. The hunger for his share of the pie continues to drive him. He changes the code of subservient minds. He unleashes control of a different kind – hypnotism with words.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire on the Moorland, Fire in the Writer’s Head by Anne Goodwin

Beneath the surface calm, she smoulders. Quiet now, change is on its way. The fuel’s deep, it only takes a spark to ignite it and, when it does, it sets her whole world alight.

There, a glowing flicker! There, another, crackling the bracken. The fire jumps from one hummock to the next. Connect, connect to horseshoe around her. Should she stay inside the circle or race to safety through the gap?

Peat burns and engulfs the moor, like ideas in a writer’s head. Should we douse the flames to save the landscape, or fan them into a new story?

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Sally Cronin

The firelight flickered across the walls of the cave and the healer stared into the flames.

Fire was a precious gift that had been passed down by their ancestors, but for some it brought a great burden. Those with healing skills saw visions within the heart of the burning mass.

It would not happen in her lifetime, but as the healer sat transfixed by the prophetic images, tears rolled down her wrinkled face. Her time was nearly over, but she hoped, that in the future, one of her descendants would be strong enough to put out the coming conflagration.

🥕🥕🥕

Olympic Achievement by Chelsea Owens

Panting, moving; legs dance; running? Slow he moves, yet forward goes.

Yelling, waving; crowds smile; cheering! Quick their hands and banners flow.

Road goes under, step by stepping; even’ning sunshine asphalt raised.

Signs flash by, their message flapping; glinting sun and wind-blown praise.

Turn now, hero, enter warmly; enter ‘neath the crowds and flares.

Swift and surely, climb the mountain; climb your metal, switchback stairs.

Raise your head now, torch-lit runner

Lift your eyes from up and under

Hear now, see now raised-face crowd sight

Bring your arm: the dimmer torch light–

To zenith goal; now, flame -IGNITE!

🥕🥕🥕

The Torch Relay by Miriam Hurdle

“Did you see the torch?”

“The flashlight?”

“No, the torch carried by the runner yesterday.”

“The tick with fire burning at the end?”

“Yes, the runners were on their way to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.”

“There’re 337 competitors from my country Britain.”

“Yes, 522 from the United States. The Torch Relay began in New York City and ended in Los Angeles, traversing 33 states. There were 3,636 runners passing on, carried the torch on foot for over 9,320 miles. Los Angeles will host the Summer Olympics for the third time in 2028, 44 years from now.”

“I’ll be here.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why the long face, Morgan?’

‘It’s Mum.’

‘Really? Is she ill?’

‘She’s planning her funeral.’

‘Some people do. Was she miserable?’

‘Not at all. Quite energised.’

‘That’s good.’

‘Is it?’

‘What did she say?’

‘She wants to choose her music. Three songs. Two were easy, cabaret stuff, but the third caused the difficulty.’

‘How?’

‘She couldn’t decide if she wanted to be cremated or buried. If cremated she wanted Arthur Brown’s Fire…’

‘And buried?’

‘Going Underground by the Jam.’

‘What’s bad about that?’

‘I can’t have a mother who’s a punk fan. That’s just wrong on so many levels.’

🥕🥕🥕

Sebastian’s Bird by Nancy Brady

Sebastian didn’t know where it came from, nor where it disappeared to every so often, but he loved that bird. It appeared most often when he was upset, angry, or needed help, or at least, that was the way it seemed. That is, until his bird became lethargic and his red-gold feathers began to droop. He fed his bird a special diet to bring him back to health, but nothing he did for his bird seemed to work. In fact, the bird burst into flames, and died. From the ashes of the fire, the phoenix arose to new life.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bonfire – Haiku-Style Poem by Susan Zutautas

Firewood is gathered

Firepit is made, wood is placed

Kindling set throughout

A match is stricken

Holding the flame to the twigs

Smoldering begins

Seconds pass quickly

Twigs caught, setting wood a fire

Bonfire has begun

Aroma intense

Flickering flames hypnotize

Heat is powerful

People gather round

Rubbing their hands together

Over the fire’s glow

Someone starts a song

Everyone joins in singing

Party has started

Guitars are brought out

Strumming and picking is heard

Hands clap out a beat

Cheerful happiness

Cold lagers are abundant

People having fun

The moon is shining

Fire is blazing overhead

Submersing begins

🥕🥕🥕

Autumn Camping Joys by tracey

Crisp air
Achingly blue skies
Trees full of red and yellow leaves
Crunching leaves underfoot
Legs pleasantly aching after a long hike
Sizzling hot dogs over the fire
Laughter as yet another marshmallow bursts into flame
Smoke scented air drifting up
Hands stretched toward the warmth
Darkness falling
Stars emerging
Ghosts stories making you glance over your shoulder
Crackling logs
Steaming mugs of tea and cocoa
Sparks snapping
That drying leaves smell
Bursts of flames from pinecones
Snuggles under a fleece throw
The hooting of an owl
Moonlight shadows
Feeling the joy of togetherness under a vast sky
Contentment

🥕🥕🥕

Hard to Take a Break (from Miracle  of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Fire spun a halo in the night sky. Danni’s stomach churned. Nothing more she could do tonight. She leaned against her Forest Service truck, away from the camp chatter. Some recruits buzzed from the adrenaline, fighting wildland fires for the first time. Nearby, the Canadian Bombardier pilot regaled his earlier flight to the crew of Australians newly arrived. Danni scanned the distant flames, feeling impatient. In 1910 they didn’t luxuriate in rest and strategy in shifts. Is this what Ike felt before he left –restless while others fought a war he had to watch burn from the sidelines?

🥕🥕🥕

Making Notification by Susan Sleggs

The Army officer stopped the fleet car in front of the brick house at 217 Maple Avenue. As they looked at the house, he said to the Chaplain sitting with him, “I hate doing these notifications. All the family has to do is see us walking up the sidewalk and they know what they’re going to hear.”

“True, but these days they can hold on to the fact their child volunteered and had wanted to serve their country.”

“Doesn’t make losing one any easier, especially when I have to admit friendly fire was the cause. And they always ask.”

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PART II (10-minute read)

Nope! by Nobbinmaug

I thought she was cute the first time I saw her.

Nope!

That smile.

Nope.

The more I talked to her, the more I thought about her.

Nope?

The more I saw her, the more she smiled at me, the more I realized she wasn’t just cute, she was beautiful.

Maybe?

The more I got to know her, the more I saw how sweet and kind she was.

Maybe.

It wasn’t until it was too late that I realized, she lit a fire in my soul. The likes of which I’ve never known. It might just burn me alive.

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Love Spell by Kelley Farrell

“Dear Ana,
My love for you burns brighter than a thousand suns. I would walk through fire for you. You would never wonder where my heart lies. Please Ana, be mine.
Yours eternal,
Marco”

Ana rolled her eyes. This was the third one this week.

All she wanted was a trip to the mall. Her ever pious mother refused and took her to antiques roadshow instead. She bought her an old rusty teapot.

It was better than expected, but when she told the genie she wanted love spell to wear she meant the perfume.

“Marco,
No.
Don’t write again.”

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Streetlights in Winter By Erica Schaef

There was something I wanted. The glow of home, or the bittersweet ache of fulfillment. Something not tangible.
Looking at street lights in winter gave me a sort of peace. Here you belong, they said. Here, you may rest. I sipped my coffee, having long since abandoned my attempt to join in the conversation at the table. The restaurant was crowded, too loud, too bright. I sat by the window, watching flurries dance around white glowing orbs outside.

A man appeared under one, lit a cigarette. Its flame intrigued me, illuminating broad shoulders and full lips. I wanted him.

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Machine Man by calmkate

machines were his passion, they really lit his fire

collected one of each kind, had a burning desire

had the skills to maintain them all

loved the variety, it was his call

but they don’t come cheap

long hard work just to keep

yet his infatuation ran deep

they haunted his dream sleep

when using any he would visibly ignite

his eyes lit up, the flame burnt bright

his well trained wife accepted his flame

she enjoyed his childlike delight as it came

his kind heart helped those he met

if using a machine it was a sure bet!

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The Heart of a Teacher by Norah Colvin

“It’s storytime, children.”
They gathered at her feet, bright-eyed, transfixed.
Jane read, instructed and encouraged. They never tired.
Later, all snuggled up in bed, Mum asked, “What will you be when you grow up?”
“A teacher.”

“Storytime, children.”
They gathered at her feet, bright-eyed, hearts open, minds buzzing.
Miss Jane read. They hung on every word, contemplating obstacles and possible resolutions, following the heroes’ journey into the cave and out.

“Ple-ease!”
“No time for stories. It’s test time.”
They slumped at desks, eyes glazed, minds dulled, hearts heavy.
The cave was cold and dark. Were they ever coming out?

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Friendship by Joanne Fisher

“Who’s there?” The Anointed One called out frightened. She had woken to see a shadow in the doorway. She was barely twenty summers old but had been chosen to be the Keeper of the Sacred Flame and brought to this temple against her will then burnt by the Fire.

“It’s me Kali!” A familiar voice replied. It was her best friend Ananya.

“How did you get here?” Kali asked.

“I followed the soldiers and priestesses after they took you. Then I sneaked in.” Ananya replied jumping onto her bed. They hugged. “I’m going to get you out of here.”

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Where There’s Smoke… by John Rieber

The restaurant was packed as usual. The busboy was frantic, maneuvering through the crowd with a large round platter on his shoulder, filled to the brim with half-full water glasses, dirty dishes, old napkins and candles. His head was turned so he hadn’t noticed that one of the napkins had caught on fire. If he saw flames, that platter was going airborne – what a disaster! Just then, a Waiter sauntered up and said: “hey man, you know you’re on fire?” He reached up, grabbed a water glass and put him out. The Busboy’s eyes widened. Dinner service was underway.

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Scared as Hell by Susan Zutautas

Sitting by the pool I looked up to see smoke coming out from our apartment window.

Panic-struck, I yelled, “Oh my God”, I’d left candles burning in my bedroom unintentionally.

Panic turned to terror then into shock thinking my step-mother would kill me for setting fire to our home.

A neighbour saw how stressed I was, grabbed me and took me into her apartment where she made me get into a cold shower and drink a straight shot of whiskey hoping that this would calm me down.

Everything turned out okay. My step-mother was happy that I was alright.

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Fire by Roberta Eaton

Jack woke up, coughing. Thick, choking smoke filled his room. Within moments he realised the house was on fire. Pulling his blanket over his head, he slipped out of his bedroom door and up the stairs.

“Fire! Wake up!” Turning back, Jack could see tongues of flame licking at the first wooden step. Tendrils of bright fire ran up along the banister.

Mr Farriner appeared with his daughter and the maid. “There’s no way down. We’ll have to climb out of the window and crawl along the guttering. We can climb in the window of the house next door.”

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Tyranny Tango by Macy Brown

My eyes shot open.

What was it that had awoken me?

Then I heard it again… that ear shattering scream. I jumped out of bed and raced out into the hallway, but as soon as I opened my bedroom door my heart dropped. Bright orange and yellow flames danced in front of my face, engulfing the west side of my apartment.

I got down on the ground and crawled on my belly under the flames to my front door.
How could this happen to me? I asked myself. This was the kind of thing that only happened in movies.

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Campfire by Kerry E.B. Black

While the other Girl Scouts gathered close to the campfire to sing traditional songs and roast marshmallows for s’mores, Lottie kept to the shadows. She studied the ground and regretted the trip.

Her friends regarded the fire as an exotic beauty shooting fairy sparks to dance with the starry sky, but Lottie could only recall its destructive power. Fire consumed without mercy, devoured with no discrimination.

She shrunk from its warmth. She hated the smoky stench. When the wood popped like gunshots, she squeezed her eyes tight. Flames flickered like an antique film, replaying her family house consumed.

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Smouldering Fire by Ann Edall-Robson

After a month of loading hay bales and mucking out stalls, Hanna had become one of the depended upon employees at the ranch. She didn’t flaunt her ability to work shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the crew, and she volunteered when opportunity arose. She ignored the grumbling remarks when she was singled out to show a newcomer around. So when the request came to help Mrs. Johnson in the cookhouse, she automatically stepped forward.

“Not you, Hanna. Tal can go.”

The smouldering look of disgust directed towards Hanna could have started a fire anywhere Tal’s gaze lingered.

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Fire by Deborah Lee

Again. AGAIN. She can’t do anything right. It’s the 50-50-90 rule: If she has a 50-50 chance of choosing the right thing, there’s a 90% chance she’ll choose wrong.

Anxiety rushes through her veins, ice water for blood. She sidles up to Greg’s desk, opens her mouth, knowing she’s hanging her desperation out for all to see.

On second thought, the whole floor heard the shouting anyway.

Fight or flight.

Barely keeping her voice steady, she asks, “Does Lesley ever fire anyone?”

Greg’s glance is sympathetic. “Sometimes,” he says. “But usually they get fed up and walk out first.”

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Fire by Floridaborne

“Go away,” June said, slamming down the receiver. “Men!”

Her Persian cat, Fifi, purred at June, nuzzling against her leg.

She found men at an on-line dating service, and then used the “cat test.” They’d meet at a park, and if Fifi hissed at him, there were no second chances!

At 35, and still single, she wanted a child. Though she wasn’t showing yet, her last paramour had served his purpose.

“Men want to burn with desire instead of giving comfort and understanding.”

Fifi sniffed June’s stomach and hissed.

“Thanks, Fifi. Looks like I’ll be aborting this one, too.”

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The Threat in His Eyes by M J Mallon

The fire raged, and a ring of flames circled the card, avoiding it as if it contained the deadly plague. The sand timer ran out. The fire burnt down leaving its mark on the card with black singed edges.

I felt a chill creep up my spine. When I searched Dad’s face for some clue to his strange behaviour, I reeled back, struck by the sight of a dull emptiness in his eyes. I couldn’t tear my gaze away from his face. I thought I spotted a weird reflection in his eyes, maybe a bug…

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You’re Fired by Bill Engleson

I wake up in the middle of the night and hear the Donald.

He has a discordant voice, scratchy, like a nicked LP, a voice muffled from reason, as if someone, perhaps his late father, is still holding his head in a bulky, slightly used prophylactic.

Young Donald, six-year-old Donnie, is frightened, terrorized, but I get confused. I see the squeaking child that he was, that he is, for I also see the Presidential poser, invested in his hollow trajectory.

His belly is not on fire.

Rather, it smoulders away, a residue of burnt bunkum it’s final, futile fuel.

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Fired! by Anurag Bakhshi

Clyde had come to the city all fired-up, but the harsh reality of life had set fire to his dreams, till they had all burnt down to a cinder.

But now, the time had finally come for him to take-off.

Clyde straightened up as he heard footsteps approaching. He could not afford to get fired.

Breathless with anticipation, he willed all the noise from outside to disappear.

As the countdown clock in his head said ONE, Clyde shut his eyes…..and the last word that he heard before he went flying through the roof of the circus was- FIRE!

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Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Fire by Ritu Bhathal

I sat at the bar, nursing my whiskey. Needed to be sensible. I couldn’t afford to be reckless with my drink again.
I hadn’t meant to leave the barbeque unattended, but after a few drinks with my guests, I forgot it, and turned to see the flames licking the sky.

Gina wasn’t planning on letting me back in the house. I had to keep my cool, give her a few hours, then I’d go back, and she’d forgive me.

But would she?

I threw the fiery liquid down my throat in a single gulp.

“Bartender, another one please.”

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Fire by Pete Fanning

Mrs. Cobb screamed for us to get away from the fire. A ball of wrinkles and gums, she charged after us with a cane, demanding we stay out of her yard. Tab grabbed my wrist, gripping me with terror, her fascinated smirk leaking a squeal as we raced down to Grandma’s room.

Mom snapped her fingers harshly, pointed to a chair. “Hush.”

We hushed, trying not to giggle, keeping watch on the door as the nurses sped past. Mom tended to the lump in the bed. We swung our legs, still flushed, waiting for Mrs. Cobb and her fire.

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Fire by Frank Hubeny

Despair defeats hope with fire.

Pete wondered what that was supposed to mean while reading the fortune to his wife. He felt enough despair for it to feel like the fires of hell.

“What does yours say?”

“It’s blank.”

“Remember when I got ‘A fool at forty is a fool indeed’?”

She remembered, but her blank fortune worried her.

“Maybe I should ask for another one?”

“Let’s switch.”

“Does that count?”

They switched. She read these words, “The fire of hope defeats despair”, and gave it back.

“This one belongs to you.”

She asked for a new fortune cookie.

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Flash Fire by D. Avery

“Shorty! Quick!”

“Whoa Kid. Where’s the fire?”

“All across the Ranch, Shorty! We better put ‘em out!”

“No, Kid, don’t. They’s flash fires. All the hands’ve been sparked ta write an’ now the Ranch is ablaze with inspired imagination. Jist enjoy all the warmth an’ light, Kid.”

“You started all this, didn’t ya, Shorty? What are ya, an arsonist?”

“Don’t you be an arse, Kid. D’ya think these fires should be contained? Lights kept under a barrel?”

“Shorty, this cain’t be safe, havin’ all these ranch hands playin’ with fire.”

“Yep, writin’s risky. But we’re safe at the Ranch.”

***

Net more information about Ranch safety at https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2019/04/05/how-dya-do-buckaroo/

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