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Origin Stories

In the beginning, we have stories. Stories to describe who we are and where we came from. Science and mythology decode origins, but to believers it might not matter what scholars have to say. Often who we are culturally is defined by our creation mythology. The symbolism, faith and explanation reaches for a deeper truth that not even science can definitely say.

Exploring the mystery of life on the Navajo Nation, where geology defines the land and tradition its people, the Dine, writers were tasked with exploring creation myths.

The following are based on the April 6, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a creation myth.

***

A Transfer of Power by Bill Engleson

God-Like-Critter: It’s on your head now, writer. Go for it.

Flash: ME! Why me?

GLC: Because I SEE inside that fomenting cranium of yours. You writers are constantly reinventing the world. Demented, pretentious beings the lot of you. Never satisfied with what is. Always fabricating some fanciful imagining.

Flash: I admit we are stringers of words. But we don’t want to be all-powerful. That’s your job.

GLC: Not any more. You’ve worn me down. Hell, some of you even DENY me.

Flash: Evolution does make sense, doncha think?

GLC: No comment.

Flash: I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

###

Egg-actly: The Beginning by Roger Shipp

“540 billion years ago.”

“You’re quite sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. The computers confirm it.”

“But wasn’t The Big Bang 14 billion years ago?”

“Yes! Isn’t this exciting?”

“But how are you going to explain it?”

“Scientifically, of course. Everyone knows- even in the beginning- you can’t make something out of nothing. The Law of Conservation. We just never knew what was here pre-Big Bang.”

“And now you know?”

“Indubitably. For a bang like that, there had to be a massive built-up of pressure. Probably gases. And then something causes an igniting.”

‘So you’ve found it?”

“The primordial eggshell.”

###

Ranae Immane Mittam by Jules Paige

Kaeru swam in the velvet darkness. Then she leapfrogged
across the sky. Leaving small illuminated globes to hatch.
The eggs bore different reflections, attitudes, altitudes and
aspects of their mother. Some within the various universes
became quasars. Within these systems further divisions
created some spheres that bore other living things.

Kaeru was happy. The velvet darkness brightened. Her
children became too numerous to count. Her work was
compete, now she could return to the beginning and wait.
Watch flora and fauna in vast variety.

To be worshiped was never Kaeru’s goal. Only the creation
of something from her power.

###

The Creation of Secular Music by Anne Goodwin

God could understand why Adam envied the birds. Their vantage point above the earth, the way they’d glide from tree to tree.

“It’s not that,” said Adam. “It’s how they sing your praise.”

So when God created Adam’s wife he gifted her with melody. And all was harmony until she met the Serpent. “Not all music belongs to God,” he hissed. “There are other words. Other tunes.”

Eve shrugged. “God’s music is the best.”

“You cannot know, until you’ve tried some other.”

So Eve sang of birds and bees and apple trees, and God banished her from his garden.

###

How Ellie’s Life Began by Kerry E.B. Black

Doreen’s life bled away on the gurney, seeping into sanitized linens. The doctor nestled a bundle of blankets against the cold. Doreen buried her face within, savoring the warmth, relishing the smell. Too young to die, yet passing with skill, Doreen’s tear-slicked vision blurred. Iron coated her palate, and dust clogged her throat. With trembling fingers, she peeled back a layer of blankets to reveal skin soft as a tulip. Here Doreen found immortality, here, in this tiny person whose eyes squeezed shut against the garish hospital and her mother’s death, this person whose birth brought about her death.

###

The Mandala by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Nora reached two fingers towards the mound of shaving cream on the tiny table. Sliding her fingers across and down, she palmed the foam, squishing it flat and rotating her hand slowly.

Her other hand peeked over the table’s edge and joined in. Before long, her eyes shifted dreamily to a shaft of sunlight on the opposite wall of the noisy preschool, her body rocking with her hand’s movements.

“Shall I make a print for her parents?” Her teacher detected faint, happy humming from the child, and shook her head. “Why interrupt her creative process? It’s her dream time.”

###

Where it Starts by Deborah Lee

“…bring creationism back to the school curriculum,” Jane reads. She rolls her eyes and continues scrolling through headlines, looking for something that’s a step forward instead of back.

Her mind casts back to her little girl, the one she had to leave behind. Tucking her in, sweet dream wishes. “Mommy, I wonder if I’m really real or if someone’s dreaming me.”

Conscious creation. Supreme being. Big Bang. One theory makes as much sense as another, Jane supposes.

Sometimes Jane thinks she must have dreamed her into life, that perfection. Then the nightmare took over. Where’s the myth for that?

###

Reciprocation by D. Avery

Do not forget Turtle who brought the earth up from the watery depths.

Do not forget Tree, whose roots hold and cradle the earth, whose branches hold up Sky. These ones, Turtle, Water, Tree, Sky, are sacred.

Long ago these ones spoke together, and together thought to provide and to sustain; they thought us into existence that we might use their gifts.

Be humble. Our creations are mere imitations, expressing gratitude, expressing wonder. Be mindful. Give thanks to Turtle, to Water, to Sky, to Tree. We are their thoughts that receive their gifts, and they think us most sacred.

###

Eve’s Husband by Luccia Gray

God created Adam, first,
‘Twas Eve’s fault that they were cursed.
Her search for knowledge paid the price
Of ousting them from paradise.
Adam did as he was told,
While Eve, she was very bold.
The husband obedient and good,
The wife complained as ever she could.
Man acted like a demigod,
Made in likeness to his only God.
While his wife was the family builder,
Her husband became the tribal leader,
Pillaging the earth and devastating
What God took six days in creating.
In spite of this some still believe
It’s women’s fault that man doth grieve.

###

Myth by Pensitivity

It was a myth that the grass was always greener.
She was sick of hearing it, fed up with packing up and moving every time things didn’t work out.
As far as she was concerned, grass was grass, green or dead.
Forty years they had been together, never more than two in the same place.
It was a miracle their relationship had survived.
This time though it was the last straw.
As they drove off to their next destination, she knew there would be no grass, green or otherwise.
The idiot didn’t realise they were heading for the desert.

###

Rain Ruinates, and Still Remembering by Elliott Lyngreen

Underneath the screaming sirens uselessly parting traffic; where I lost my fingernails turning your letters into a digital poem; my stomach winces.

Thoughts spiderweb the windshield and drip rose petals scattered along the dash.

Stuck: fenders, fire crashes, belts, and pulleys – through the sidewall. Bent abysmal in the worst extending.

Summer’s crawling from across black sky. Thunder holds itself upon darkness. I slump in frozen, lucid wonder, as rain spins above me.

And rolling (now dizzying) path reflects straight down the rearviewmirror as if remembering the carved or parted way rain on a dust particle started this whole infinity.

###

Pumpkin Seeds by Michael

“See that pumpkin vine down there?” my brother pointed out, “well that’s where we found you.”

In my mind, I was horrified that I had been laying there in the dirt before mum picked me up.

“Dad thought you were another Queensland Blue*. You’re lucky he didn’t slice you up and put you in the pot,” he said as nonchalant as ever.

When I asked mum, she said I was such a little one she had to hand feed me till I was big enough to go it alone.

“Pumpkin seeds,” she’d say, “giving me a wink, amazing things.”

###

Unanswered Questions by Norah Colvin

“What are you doing?”

“Pulling out weeds.”

“Why?”

“So the carrots have more room.”

“Why?”

“So they can grow big and juicy.”

“Why?”

“So they are good to eat for our dinner.”

“Why?”

“To keep us healthy?”

“I want to be healthy.”

“It’s good to be healthy.”

“I don’t want to die.”

“You won’t die. Not for a long time.”

“How do you know?”

Silence. How does anyone know?

“Silas died.”

“Who?”

“Silas.”

“Who is Silas?”

“Was. Silas was my friend.”

“I don’t remember Silas.”

“He was my imaginary friend.”

“Oh. How did he die?”

“I killed him.”

“Why?”

###

Where Fact Meets Fiction (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

With Bubbie at her side, Danni addressed the children. “The Kootenai tribe left evidence of living in this watershed for …”

Hands shot up. “What’s a watershed?” one boy asked.

“Well, that’s the area…”

“Our history is sacred.” Michael spoke from behind the children, walking up the fort path.

“It’s in the dirt, Michael.” Danni was nervous enough without Michael interfering.

“Nupika created animals and spirits. Man Spirit followed the river to be transformed.”

Danni noticed the children were more transfixed by Michael’s tale of transformation than her facts. She began to think of a way to blend them.

###

The One and Only Truth by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum, do people really believe the Genesis story? Mrs Ryder says they’re Creationists but that’s stupid.’

‘Why?’

Penny looked surprised. ‘You’re an Atheist. You don’t believe…’

‘But that doesn’t make me right.’ Mary smiled. ‘No, I don’t believe in God and Adam and 7 days of creation. But unlike homework I can’t prove or disprove it.’

‘Homework?’

‘You can rely on there always being homework. It’s existence is never in doubt. What’s yours?’

‘Write a creation story.’

‘Ok so if it’s not Genesis, what is it?’

‘Big Bang.’

‘And what’s that?’

‘I… dunno.’

‘Exactly, love. Different folks, different strokes.’

###

In the Beginning by Jane Dougherty

Once upon a time there was nothing, and the nothing began to pulsate, and in time to the pulsating, time began to tick. In time, boredom set in and the nothingness changed rhythm and it began to swing. As it swung back and forth, sparks of interest flickered in the nothingness and they swung too. More and more sparks joined in the dance, swinging and swirling clouds and veils of coloured gas, until the ticking became a riot of noise and gaiety mounting to a monumental crescendo and BOOM, out of anarchy, settled the ordered brilliance of the universe.

###

The Conversation by Reena Saxena

“I have invented a synthetic molecule”.

“Have you replicated nature, or invented something that did not exist before?”

“I draw inspiration from existing patterns, and then, improvise on them.”

“Great! But has Nature run out of stock to cater to the needs of the planet?”

“The population has ballooned by quantum leaps. Competition between human beings, plants and animals has increased. My genius can help me in building a comfort capsule for myself.”

“Is that creativity, or an unwise survival strategy?”

“I do not really know. “

“This God fellow has never educated anyone, just created platforms to learn.”

###

Letter to the Weather Network by Kate Spencer

Dear Mr. Weatherman,

I’m writing you ‘cause I really really want spring to get here. Do you know where it is? Mommy said you might know. I’ve been waiting for it forever sooo long. I ask Mother Nature every day. I ask nicely. Do you know why she is not answering me? I want to go outside and play with Daphnie. Only I can see her. She lives in the daffodils but it’s too cold and she won’t come out. Does Mother Nature have elves like Santa? I’m trying to be extra good. Does that help?

Respectfully yours,

Tammy

###

Dwarfed by Pete Fanning

Zach stared at the sky. Mr. Meyers said they saw stars how they were not how they are. Light years. It hurt his head just thinking about it.

Next door came a big bang. The neighbors fighting again. Zach stared in awe at the clusters. The Milky Way was 100,000 light years across. To be this tiny! With such monumental problems. Could Mr. Meyers be right? That there may be more…another Earth.

There wasn’t another Nana. She didn’t tolerate such thoughts. He’d asked her about it and she’d thunked him good.

It hurt his head just thinking about it.

###

Stargazing by Enkin Anthem

She looks at the stars and wonders.

She knows they’re planets or suns or galaxies, points of radiation and light in the endlessness of the universe. Boundless, inconceivable power, and still only specks of matter in infinity.

She knows everything there is to know about electromagnetism and dark matter, about string cosmology and astroparticle physics. She also knows all the questions that aren’t answered yet, and she’s scared and excited all at once.

But somewhere out there, someone looks at the sky and see the same stars that she sees. And that’s the real miracle – something she can believe.

###

Myth by FloridaBorne

“Hey, Bill,” the burly man said, removing his minor’s hat. “Remember that story about a star falling from the sky, taking 3 men and 8 women back in time…?”

“This is a geology field trip, Joe,” the irate professor replied. “You’re here as our guide, not a mythologist.”

“Tell that to the space ship.”

“What?” Bill yelped.

“You’d know, if you’d read the ancient texts!”

Bill ran through a cave entrance, followed a faint glow, and found 9 mesmerized students staring into a cavern that hadn’t been there a year ago.

Light surrounded them, Joe gulped. “3 men…8 women…”

###

Raw Literature: Spring Review #3

The table is set for writers at Carrot Ranch. It’s like an old-fashioned ranch BBQ where the host supplies the roast meat and the guest bring sides. The main course is flash fiction, and each writer who responds to a weekly challenge provides their own dish based on voice, genre and technical approach. Each “side” is a raw dish of sorts– a beginning, discovered nugget or condensed serving. Together we create a meal at the table.

A literary community is an environment for writers to create — to write, read and discuss. It’s a dynamic shared meal. Like in science, art thrives with diversity. The idea for a shared meal at the ranch comes from one of our writers who wrote and narrated a video explaining the importance of scientists working across disciplines. It made me think, why not apply that idea to writers? We may create our first works alone, but as described in this video, we can have a broader impact sharing our different creative approaches, genres and inspirations.

What we are exploring in this guest series called “Raw Literature” is the creative side of writing. As literary artists, our medium is words. But how do we create with words? What processes do we choose and why? Where do we go to get inspired? Different writers from the table at Carrot Ranch share their views in essays flavored as differently as each writer. This is our third review of essays from our first quarter.

Ann Edall-Robson rides to the ranch from her own Canadian frontier where she captures and conveys her region’s pioneer heritage. In “Raw From the Soul” Ann describes how she writes from the heart and why she’s inspired by her western heritage: “Now, more than ever, is the time we need to be the keeper of the old ways, traditions and stories. The raw life, regardless of the culture, needs a home. In both my writing and photography, I am passionate about recording and sharing the old days and ways.”

Kerry E. B. Black refreshes us with a water analogy that resonates with writers. In her essay, “Writing is Water,” Kerry offers sound advice: “Yet words, like water, need containers, structures designed to hold them. Otherwise, they slip away as quickly as we grasp. Thus, a good writer hones craft and sharpens skills. Through such pursuits, writers progress from journeymen to masters, but the pursuit of perfection never ends.”

Norah Colvin teaches us about the very first efforts by taking us to the classroom in “A Class of Raw Literature“. As an early childhood educator and writer of teaching materials, Norah explains: “As an early childhood educator, I was immediately excited about how the concept of “raw literature” might apply to the writings of children. Surely nothing can be more raw than those first steps into the world of writing; nothing more authentic, more real, or more valuable in their own right.”

Allison Mills dances across the page and gives us a different look at choreography of words. She’s a dancer, scientist and writer (and also the creator of the trans-disciplinary video shared earlier in this post). In her essay, “Choreography in the Rough” she describes her process: “I get too excited listening to Tchaikovsky to get much rough drafting done, but headphones and music are an important part of my writing process. No lyrics—words don’t beget words for me. I have to tap into a mental and emotional space where I feel the shape and rhythm of words as movement before my conscious mind taps them out on the keyboard.”

Enjoy this opportunity to catch up at the meal offered at Carrot Ranch. Like a chuckwagon, it follows all we do here and we continue to have plenty to eat.

<< ♦ >>

Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

April 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

Our blast off from Mars was a bust. We did progress, successfully hitching our trailer to our truck, hoping never do they part. Logistically, living in a home on wheels is complicated. Our RV is licensed in Utah, but insured in Washington (state) where the Hub’s primary VA care is located right next door to Idaho where our household belongings are stored. That’s also where our car is registered, but our new truck is temporarily tagged in Kansas. Before we had lift off, I purchased a mail forwarding service. Our mailing address is Florida. We hope to arrive in Michigan by May, via Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Don’t get lost yet, we still have the southwest to traverse. The ranch truck has some dance moves known on the disco highways as the Dodge Death Wobble. It’s not actually deadly; it merely feels that way when the vibration strikes. Pulling a 16 ton RV, we want more waltzing and less jitterbugging. Thus we decided to avoid the high mountain passes of Interstate 70. We headed south, forgetting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is over 8,000 feet in elevation. We wound up, then down and followed the edge of the colorful Vermilion Cliffs on the other side.

I wondered if this was the beginning of the Grand Canyon, but when we arrived at Lees Ferry and crossed the Colorado River, it was already in a deep gorge. I glanced once, feeling slightly dizzy, and remembered that water formed the Grand Canyon. Think down as deep as mountains rise up. The truck and trailer honeymooned well, sticking together through the ups and downs. I wanted to stop at a cute desert town in northern Arizona, but the Hub was feeling the call of the road. That was before the North Rim. Along the Vermilion Cliffs, we saw plenty of pullouts on BLM public lands. By the time it was dusk, the Hub checked the running lights of the trailer and none turned on.

We couldn’t stop, because we were, by then, on the Navajo Reservation. We had no choice but to drive through and I kept the car close to the rear of the trailer to keep it illuminated. Each town on the map where we hoped to rest turned out to be tiny outposts of the reservation. We found a gas station and kept driving. It was pitch black, the kind of dark you’d never see a black Angus steer on the road. Thankfully, the Navajo raise sheep. Then the road began to buckle in what’s known as frost heaves. The Dodge never did its dance, but I felt we were free-styling across the plateau, and I wanted off the dance floor. I couldn’t even call the Hub on my cell phone because we had no service.

29 miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the trailer belched black smoke, smelling of smoldering rubber. I flashed my blinkers and lights, trying to catch the Hub’s eye. He pulled over in an abandoned motel parking lot of red gravel where several semis were parked. I told the Hub about the smoke and he didn’t think it was the trailer but rather something “back there.” Wishful thinking. We are not so lucky as to bypass someone else’s smoldering rubber. While he walked the dog around the lot I shined my light on the tires. I found two oddly together; an unwelcome union.

With so many places to represent, we are not off to a stellar starship start.

The steel frame beneath the trailer busted. Day One, and we are broke down on the rez. Day Two dawned after a fitful night in our cramped trailer (no electricity to expand the slides). My office exploded. Never again will I think a printer “heavy enough” to stay in place and now I understand why the cupboards all have big latches — except my office cupboards. It’s a minor miracle the shelves and books inside didn’t smash the pretty etched glass or that the printer which went airborne at one point, didn’t bust like the frame. Books littered the couch and floor between the desk and couch. The sight demoralized me. With the dog tucked between us, we retreated to our bed.

Day Two dawned crisp and sunny on Naabeeho Binahasdzo, the 27,000 acre Navajo Reservation of the Colorado Plateau, bringing with it the the hope of a new day. Volcanic activity is recent here, surviving the oral history of the Navajo and Apache, who both came here around 1350. They parted ways as sub-groups, one raising desert sheep, the others developing one of the most impressive warrior tribes of North America. While the Navajo were more peaceful, they were warriors, too and once harassed the Mormon pioneers back on Mars (southern Utah). Both tribes preceded the Pueblo culture who dwelled in apartment-like structures on the cliff faces of the southwest, including the Grand Canyon, and Zion. The Navajo refer to themselves as the Dine — the People.

Among the Dine, we’ve enjoyed pinto beans, stew and fry bread. Fry bread is the ambrosia of this culture and how you eat the lamb stew, beans or thinly sliced grilled meat. Yet, I’m stuck at Burger King because it’s the only place with internet. The Hub has worked most of the day on the trailer, trying to lower the axle so we can limp it into Flagstaff, the nearest city with services. A few truckers have stopped to advise him, and one gave him the name of a welder. Our nephew in Kansas advised us on the type of weld it needs to be. And Good Sam is as worthless as the insurance they sold us. We specifically purchased through them to be protected in a situation like this. Not so.

I’ll spare you all a sermon on the ills of American insurance, health, RV or otherwise. Suffice to say the Hub has to fix it himself. Another trucker got him in touch with a place that rents welders, hat and gloves. The Hub is not a happy camper. The poor dog is a nervous wreck. She doesn’t understand why the trailer “shrunk” and it scares her. I’ve found my happy place at Burger King. It’s in a beautiful, though small, tourist complex with a Navajo timeline on the floor and beautiful jewelry and art. The Dine are among the most talented weavers, potters and silversmiths in the world.

According to their culture, the Dine have several creation myths — the World of Darkness, the World of Blue and the World of Yellow. Various stories involved First Man and First Woman, animals, insects, gods and the trickster Coyote. They boldly embrace their mythology and state, “Contrary to our creation stories, scholars believe…” This idea is the one I’ve explored between my characters Dr. Danni Gordon and Michael Robineaux. She’s a historical archaeologist and he’s a member of the Kootenai Tribe. It’s the tension between science and cultural interpretations.

If I had to be broke down somewhere, at least it’s someplace interesting. We hope to fix the trailer tomorrow and continue.

April 6, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a creation myth. You can write your own, use one in a story or create tension (or comparability) between science and culture on the topic of creation. Go where the prompt leads leads.

Respond by April 11,2017 to be included in the compilation (published April 12). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Where Fact Meets Fiction (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

With Bubbie at her side, Danni addressed the children. “The Kootenai tribe left evidence of living in this watershed for …”

Hands shot up. “What’s a watershed?” one boy asked.

“Well, that’s the area…”

“Our history is sacred.” Michael spoke from behind the children, walking up the fort path.

“It’s in the dirt, Michael.” Danni was nervous enough without Michael interfering.

“Nupika created animals and spirits. Man Spirit followed the river to be transformed.”

Danni noticed the children were more transfixed by Michael’s tale of transformation than her facts. She began to think of a way to blend them.

###

Save

Hello, Goodbye

There seems to be a life cycle to when we say hello to when we say goodbye. Before you can bid farewell, you must greet. How much happens in between? Those were the stories writers sought this week.

From clever to poignant, life is full of hellos and goodbyes. These are such stories

The following are based on the March 30, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a hello or a goodbye.

***

Adios Mom! by Ruchira Khanna

A stretcher heads towards the door.

My eyes are on the body that lies on it.

As it passes by me, I see a familiar face and memories flash before me.

A warm lap, a protective sheath, a gentle smile, a look of disapproval when being naughty, and a whisper of my name in her most fond of voice.

Today she lay there on the stretcher with a content smile and a body that breathed for 66 years.

I gently stroke her forehead.

Adios Mom!

I shall keep you alive as I walk the path with your principles in life.

###

After by Diana Nagai

“Two tickets,” I requested, reaching for my wallet. A hand gently took my arm, I looked up into the eyes of my good friend, his face solemn. Grief slumped my shoulders as I remembered. “Sorry, one ticket.”

It had been four months since my wife passed. I found it difficult being alone. Something I had been a part of, for more than three quarters of my life, was gone. I only needed one ticket wherever I went now.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I paid.

It seems I was constantly saying goodbye to “before” and hello to “after”.

###

Ameliorating Media by Geoff Le Pard

‘What’s up mum?’

Mary forced a smile. ‘My old school friend Jean is going abroad. I’ll miss her.’

‘You’re friends on Facebook aren’t you?’

‘Oh yes. I’m old school.’

‘Ha! So you’ll see her posts.’

‘It’s not the same.’

‘You Skype when dad’s away?’

‘It doesn’t always work so well…’

‘DM? Hangouts? Whatsapp?’

‘Are they nightclubs?’

‘Ha ha. You’re really funny today.’

Mary looked back at the email that had caused her gloom. ‘That’s me. A bundle of lols.’

Penny sat next to Mary. ‘Seriously, there are tonnes of ways to keep in touch.’

‘But do they serve coffee?’

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

The saying goes that as one door closes, another opens. In my case, it’s a single door that hits me in the butt on the way out and any alternatives of windows are shuttered.
I find ‘Goodbye’ so final, and in many cases through my life, painful. Cheerio is much more acceptable, friendly and optimistic because it suggests the possibility of meeting again.
However, sometimes Goodbye is the only word than can possibly apply for things that cannot be undone or replaced.
I wrote a post on saying goodbye early in my blogging days. I still haven’t done it.

###

Never Goodbye (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“Impound, $45. Kenneling, $20. No license, $125. No rabies tag, $54. Vet and vaccinations, $50. License, $100 for an unaltered dog. That’s only $35 with proof of surgery,” the animal control worker adds, smiling. As if she’s doing Jane a favor.

“I got him as a stray,” Jane says.

“Then $100. Total $394.”

Jane looks back down the corridor of pens. Troubles looks back through the mesh, that tongue-lolling smile, waiting calmly. Utterly sure of her.

“That’s most of my paycheck.”

“It’s still $394.”

Thirty minutes later, she’s hugging him, face wet with tears and dog kisses. “Hello, boy.”

###

Hello, Goodbye by Scarelett Sauvage

“Hello.” The woman knelt down in front of Amelia and brushed her hand gently over the four-year-old’s long blonde hair.

Amelia looked up into the woman’s bright blue eyes and flashed her best smile. The young girl was old enough to understand that first impressions mattered in a place like this. She wasn’t the prettiest, the smartest or even the youngest child in the building, and if she wanted to find a new family, she had to catch their eye.

For one brief moment, she almost had the blue-eyed woman’s attention. Almost.

“Goodbye.” Amelia whispered to no-one but herself.

###

Round and Round by Norah Colvin

He felt tall, grown up, sitting in the saddle, holding the reins, feet in the stirrups.

Mum was watching.

“Hold tight,” she whispered. “Love you.”

He smiled. Then they were off. He turned, letting go quickly to wave one hand.

“Goodbye,” he called. His lip quivered. How soon before he’d see her again? He turned, but she’d disappeared.

Suddenly she was in front of him.

“Hello,” she called.

“Hello,” he smiled.

Again, she was gone. “Goodbye,” he heard; then “Hello again!” He giggled.

“Going around in circles,” she thought. “Life’s like a carousel. You’ve got to enjoy the ride.”

###

Half Caste by Luccia Gray

She was doing her homework.
They were playing around.
‘She’s not like us,’ they whispered.
‘She’s different,’ he complained.
‘Odd clothes, funny accent,’ she smirked.
‘Let’s say hi to the new girl.’
‘You’re not English,’ they said.
‘I was born here,’ she protested.
‘You’re only half English,’ they replied.
‘Right or left?’ she challenged.
‘You’re colouring’s wrong,’ they complained.
‘My tanned colouring’s fine,’ she replied.
‘You’re half caste,’ they said.
‘Look at me, I’m quite whole,’ she insisted.
‘You’re half caste,’ they chanted.
‘At least I’m not half stupid,’ she sighed,
Said goodbye and turned back to her books.

###

First Day at a New School by Kerry E.B. Black

When they collided, their books flew to litter the hallway. “Great!” she shouted, bending to retrieve her armful of texts.

He handed her a paper-wrapped volume, smiling shyly. “Sorry. First day rushing.”

She snatched it. “Thanks to you, I’ll be late.”

He nursed his reddening cheek as she flounced ahead. Her skirt and ponytail swayed, an admonishment of his clumsiness.

“Please don’t go into my room,” he thought. But she did, haughty attitude in a seat at the room’s front.

“Great way to start.” He indulged in a deep breath before taking his place. “Hello, class. I’m your teacher.”

###

Hello… Good-Bye by Roger Shipp

“Good morning.”

Standing at my door, I greet every one of them.

Most years, by now, they greet me back.

Not this year.

“I glad to see you today. I missed you yesterday.”

Agnes had been absent… again.

Her parents- between homes.

I wish I could do more.

Was that a small smile?

Here comes Aaron, the perpetual fist-bumper.

He always pulls his fist away before contact.

Small moments of coolness are important.

I grin… Then I step forward and bump fists before he can retreat.

He grins and sprints down the stairs.

“You cheated!” he yells in flight.

###

Hello is the Hardest Word by Joe Owens

Mitch felt his throat tighten, belly flop and the beads of sweat from on his forehead. The raven haired brown eyes beauty stepped into the coffee shop at her regular time 7:33. He knew it was a bit like a stalker to already have her coffee ready, but she always ordered the same kind.

She looked at the name on the cup and flashed the million-dollar smile.

“You are the only one to get my name right!”

“Krystyn is unusual!” he said.

“I think it is time we meet, what is your name?”

“Kevin. It is Kevin.”

“Hello Kevin!”

“Hello!”

###

Keys, by D. Avery

“Hello again.”

The artist had stopped his work when Marlie approached. He was shirtless, little droplets of blood magnifying the added details of his phoenix, the blood tipped shard of stone in his hand.

“What are you doing?”

“I think you know. What are you doing down here again?”

“The lieutenant feels the animals are too dangerous, so he let me guard the artists and writers instead.”

The artist smiled. “But we are a danger to society. Aren’t you afraid? Of me?”

“You’re to be in the arena tonight.”

“I know.”

Marlie unlocked the cell.

“Good-bye.”

“Come with me.”

###

A Midsummer’s Dear John by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Dearest Oberon,

Although I swore to renew our vows this Midsummer’s Night, I cannot in good conscience re-marry you. Your cruel joke on Nick Bottom backfired, and I’m still pissed that you snatched my changeling to make him one of your warriors.

Bottom may not be much to look upon, and burns the bulb yet dimly, but his voice is sweet and his nature pure. Amply endowed with primitive gifts, his unschooled rendering of the tragic Pyramus has captured my fairy heart. I take him as my consort, and leave you to your boy.

Thank Puck for me,
Titania

###

You Snooze…You…by Bill Engleson

The moment squeaks by me like a baby mouse skirting the baseboards.

My emotional cat is asleep on the veranda.

You, you are packed and loaded for unbearable loss.

Me. I am the loss leader.

“Bye.” I look up.

You are shaking your head just a noddle.

A nod.

A noddle. I can’t even think coherently.

I’m not saying a word.

I’m not feeling a thing.

“This is all I’m taking.”

This seems wrong.

“For now,” you add.

Dead on, I think. You were never one to pass on what was yours.

And me, I never quite measured up.

###

Mesmerizing Melody by Jules Paige

The music box sat on the shelf for years until he walked in.
The replica played Josette’s Theme. I had pretended that any man
who walked in and looked at it was a vampire. Mostly thought it was
just my imagination. That is until he walked in.

I had watched a good many of the Dark Shadow episodes growing
up. But I was really too young to understand much of what was going
on. All the hello’s and goodbyes as scenes flashed back and through
the years at Collinsport. Now this young man who looked eerily like
Jonathan Frid…

###

Telephone Call by Bill Bennett

“Hello?”

“It’s me.”

“Yeah, what do you want?”

“I want the money.”

“Tuff shit.”

“If the money isn’t in my account by the time volleyball practice is over, mom –“

“Mom what?”

“Mom gets the poison.”

“You would kill your mother over a hundred dollar purse?”

“No. It’ll only make her sick. Throw up and stuff.”

“You’re a real bitch, you know?”

“Yeah, I know, but she’ll forgive me like always, right?”

“I can’t believe the monster you’ve become.”

“Well, you raised me to be like you. Oh, and pick me up some cigs on your way home.”

“Goodbye.”

###

Farewell by Lady Lee Manila

on the horizon I see the sunset
a classic golden flame along the shore
where harmony and tranquillity rest
blinded by the beauty of the landscape
walking along with my bare feet
consoling myself for letting you go
the tumult of your name and memories
exhausting me in my mind and sleep
tired with the steady beating of my heart
what was done was done and so we accept
echoes of the past and half of my life
of broken trust and misunderstanding
of betrayal and inconsideration
with a heavy heart, farewell and goodbye
that’s all we could say

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Judith looked up at the figure in the window.

“Hello, can I help you?”

“I need Doctor Sherman.”

“He’s…sir, do you have an appointment?”

The man sighed. His dark eyes cast tired contempt. He shook his head, as though Judith were incapable of understanding. Or maybe she hadn’t heard him correctly.

“Sir. We have—”

The man touched the glass, reminding Judith that it was only a delicate partition defining their roles. “He told me Linda would be fine. He said not to worry.”

“Sir, I’m sorry. But Dr. Sherman—”

“I never even got to say goodbye.”

###

A Good “Bye” by FloridaBorne

“Never trust your Aunt June,” Mom used to say. “She took what Mother willed to me and never could say a good thing about our family.”

Shortly after my 19th birthday, I travelled through 2 states to meet my estranged aunt. She jabbered on about her son’s successful career as a fast food manager, then asked, “What do you plan to be?”

“Aunt June. Did you steal…”

“Another genius,” she scoffed, rolling her eyes.

“…with a full scholarship in physics.”

“Ph…physics?”

“Mom was correct,” I said, frowning deeply. “You’re self-righteous and not very bright.”

Some goodbyes are so satisfying.

###

Closure by Reena Saxena

I do not remember the first Hello, or if there was any excitement behind it. Nor did I say Goodbye. The wounds inflicted by you were too deep, to enable a civil conversation. I just walked away, with my head held high, not wanting any emotional outburst, to bring my hurt out in the open.

I will survive. I will succeed, and without associating with multiple-faced people like you. Yet, the lack of a closure rankles at times. Do you even realize the impact of your actions on my life? You will, when you go through a similar situation.

###

The New Era by Allison Maruska

I hold my hand up to my face, shielding it from the pelting rain. Shouts of protest meet me—I pretend not to hear them. They’ve solely had their voices heard long enough. Now, it’s my turn.

Brushing the moisture from my overcoat, I step into the building. A long table awaits me and thousands of other women who will greet the new era.

The rain’s chill reaches my bones and my hand shakes as I mark my choice. With a lump in my throat, I drop my ballot into the box.

Starting today, we will always be heard.

###

Pedalled by Michael

She had that look on her face that made you stop and think: There’s bad news coming and there’s nothing you can do about it.

And I was right.

“It’s over,” she said, “time for us to move on. It’s been fun but I don’t love you.”

“Oh,” I said somewhat flummoxed by the announcement.

“We’ve run our course, I want other things than what you offer.”

“It’s my lack of a car isn’t it. You never liked riding on the cross bar.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s just you’ve driven me to drink.”

“Pedalled.”

“What could be worse?”

###

Ike’s First Hello (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Them Wranglers, cowgirl?”

She’d been focused on brushing the next layer, irritated someone would enter her grid to comment on her jeans. Without pausing, she said, “Want a broken nose, farm boy?”

“Farm boy? I’m hurt. I’m a fisherman. Can’t you smell me?”

Danni stopped and stood in the square pit. The corners of Ike’s eyes crinkled and he stood with a fly-rod like a staff. His pants were wet like he’d been swimming with the trout. He wheeled around, bent forward and pointed to the leather brand on the butt of his jeans. “You’re right—I got Wranglers, too!”

###

Hello by Irene Waters

“Well hello.” He undressed her with his eyes so there could be no confusing the deliberate emphasis he had placed on his words.

“Hiya.” She stared back at him, her eyes wide and innocent, a friendly smile on her face. “I’m Hecate.”

“I’m Alastor. I think we’re going to get to know each other veeeery well.”

They talked, they walked. He sidled closer and groped. She twisted and escaped. He grabbed and held fast. She muttered under her breath. “Eye of newt, farewell to cads but welcome toads.”

“Well hello toad. Now, I quite like your type of slime.”

###

First Hello (from New in Town) by Susan Zutautas

“No, go right ahead, please have a seat,” Morag said as she gazed into his sea blue eyes, thinking what a gorgeous looking guy.

“Can I buy you a beer?”

“Well I was just about to leave. My cousin was supposed to meet me here but she just cancelled. So sure, thanks, I’ll stay for one more.”

“Good then, nice to meet you, my name’s Ian”, extending his hand out to her.

“I’m Morag” she nods.

“What are the odds of me meeting a Scottish lass, and such a pretty one at that … must be my lucky night.”

 ###

At the School Reunion by Anne Goodwin

We’ve tangled time by merging now with then
Our wrinkles cannot hide the girls we were
Now screened again on weathered visages
So in your face I meet my younger self
In nylon shirt, white socks and hitched up skirt
With curtained hair that veiled our flawless skin
So much we did not could not know of life
And yet we thought ourselves full formed, complete
And so it seems from infancy to death
Each decade pastes another coat on me
The school reunion peels the layers away.
Hello that girl. Goodbye that girl. Hello.

###

Signs of Life by Sherri MatthewsI always believed there was life on Mars and then I saw the mesas and the monkeys for myself. Found arrow heads and footprints too – Dinosaur prints! You know Charli Mills, that bestselling author of Rock Creek everyone’s raving about? Well, I know her! We met through blogging. Yeah, I know, it was big back then. Crazy! She lived on Mars for a while and years later, we met up and she took me there. Ahh…great times. I always knew she would make it big. In fact, she’s coming to London soon. Can’t wait to say hello again.

###

Raw Literature: Spring Review #2

One of my favorite analogies for writing and revising a book is to look at editing in three layers: bones, flesh and skin. At any layer, your writing can be raw — newly knit bones (structure); exposed flesh (details); and tender skin (polish). It depends upon a writer’s process, unique voice and set of strengths as to what one’s first efforts unfold to be. This is what we are talking about in essays by guest writers at Carrot Ranch. This is raw literature.

Today, I was reminded of the importance of structure at the beginning of a writing journey. I’m beginning a different journey, my first ever pulling my home/office on wheels. We had a dinky (and leaky) camp-trailer last summer that pulled behind our farm truck after our rental went on the market and we had no other rental available in our rural north Idaho community. We became among the shadow homeless, meeting other rural homeless in RV parks and veterans living out of their vehicles. This is different from what you see in urban centers where those experiencing homeless are on the streets.

It’s been a raw experience in the sense that it was unexpected and not intended.

But like raw literature, it holds surprises. We’ve learned that with the right RV, it can be enjoyable. I’ve even met a few other uprooted writers and we’ve become part of a sub-culture in America. However, with the right RV, we needed the right truck — a bigger truck. We landed on Mars and have been stranded in lot 70 for all of winter. With the return of tourists to Zion National Park, we knew our home needed to get moving. Through several moments of synchronicity, the Hub’s sister found us a truck. And appropriate to Carrot Ranch, it’s a ranch truck.

The Hub drove 2,400 miles to swap the farm truck for the ranch truck in Kansas. We had a tight schedule, having been given a date by the RV park that we needed to move out of lot 70. On the way back, the Hub encountered the Dodge Death Wobble on an 8,500 foot mountain pass in Colorado. It scared all three of us, the Hub, the Sis and me. He got back on the road after talking to us both, and the Sis and I stayed on the phone together, helping each other not to worry. The ranch truck did fine after that. The Hub met a group of cowboys at a cafe the next morning, and he asked them if they experienced such a vibration in their Dodges. They all laughed and welcomed him to Dodge ownership.

In a way, it’s like writing. We often encounter death wobbles in our first efforts — stale details, flat characters, cliche-pox. It scares us into thinking our writing isn’t sound. But it is all fixable. Like the cowboys told the Hub, slow down on the corners downhill. Dodge is a good truck; it has good bones. In your first efforts, focus on your story, the bones of what you want to do and slow down and pay attention to the details and leave the polish for last. Write strong bones.

In this review, we are looking back at three essayists who explore raw literature. The purpose of the reviews is to give writers and readers time to catch up and reflect on the previously posted essays in the Raw Literature series. This is meant to be an ongoing discussion. One essay may spark an idea for another.

  1. Anne Goodwin considers what it means to develop first works and take your work From Raw to Ready. She reflects on the industry standards that don’t come with a rule book: “Of course, you might be thinking, if you want people to read your stuff, it’s got to be right! I’m not disputing this at all. Publication implies a certain standard; what’s not clear is how to set about achieving it, or even what that standard might look like.” Anne compares raw writing to raw walking and the importance of acquiring skills or tools. She also applies a model that takes the writer from raw to ready and asks for your ideas, too.
  2. Jules Paige takes us directly to the page and explains her pen name in Jewels on the Page. She shares her first process as a child that has led to the writer and poet she is today. Jules says, “I write for amusement. Perhaps guided by a muse. Though some may argue that muses do not exist. Maybe my muse is my own intuition, which often unconsciously picks up even the most subtle of cues.” She explores the process, the impact of prompts and interweaves her poetic verse.
  3. C. Jai Ferry takes us to an unsettling incident in a rural community to give us the experience of what it’s like to seek stories for Writing Grit. She talks about how her stories explore human nature between black and white norms. C. Jai says, “My stories will never be made into after-school specials. They are gritty and raw, tackling difficult issues that we all face at some point in our lives.” She explains how her goal is not to normalize these raw lives of her characters but to shed light on the evil lurking in our own communities.

As you can see from this set, the idea of raw literature is as varied as the writers who step up to create. Enjoy this week’s review!

<< ♦ >>

Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

March 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

Farewell to flying monkeys, the black chimps who once flew from mesas, proving jet seats safe for ejection. You gave me a road to explore land as strange and wondrous as Mars. Farewell to roads that skirt the baggy pants of scree, proving what drives up (the mesa) must drive down. Unless, one decides to fly or become a hermit. I could become a hermit until those Mars temperatures exceed my low tolerance for sun-baked heat or I remember my comfy bed.

Farewell to GhostRider, Utah’s saving grace for piss-water beer. It’s commendable that the straight-laced state legislates responsible drinking, but when my RV lands elsewhere than Mars, I’m going to have a pizza and beer in a bar that doesn’t require I have to eat pizza in order to be served a low-alcohol beverage. Wasatch Brewery, in great Utah irony, brews a respectable white IPA with an adult alcohol content but can only be purchased out of state. I’m onto you, Utah! I found your GhostRider IPA in Nevada, having crossed the Arizona Strip to claim it.

Yes, I’ve been bootlegging while on Mars.

Farewell candy-drenched colors of the sweet and arid desert. How pleasant you’ve been in winter (except when your clay clung like taffy to the truck tires). I never experienced the same day twice on Mars. The light slants at a different angle; the shadows dip into crevices; the partial or full sun filters color from rose to apricot. You are vast and varied, reminding me that creativity has a grand canvas and art is never fully realized, crafting still from the dinosaurs of yesterday to the shed lizard skins of future summer. I close my eyes and feel the vibration of the truck, in my imagination I can always return.

I offer my farewells to a western sun shining gold on thin steel clouds. If I had a GhostRider in my hand, I’d toast a brown bottle the direction of flying monkeys because I can see the mesas monkeys explored. I can see the squared top of Zion’s West Temple, glowing like a rosy aureola. I can see Molly’s Nipple, where I wanted to go, but the Hub couldn’t shoot up there on the black volcanic core. That’s okay. It’s good enough to see from here.

Here, is Fort Pearce. It’s rock ruins on a hill, overlooking a red slash across the desert along an intermittent creek. The red slash is what remains of the Honeymoon Trail, a level lower than where I first crossed it’s path. The fort protected those seeking temple sealing for their marriage, and was established during Blackhawk’s War. Poke around the place and you’ll discover why it was sacred to Native Americans: it harbors a fresh spring, the treasure of any desert. I’ve walked south from the fort to follow the western sun as it sinks.

I, too, sink into the land, pondering farewell.

How does one say goodbye to something that’s marked the soul and psyche? In order to write the land, any land — the microcosms in your own garden dirt or dust motes in your flat or moors in your backyard — you have to be present. Writers understand presence. You can’t write without being present on the page. Writing is not doodling, something you do during a boring meeting. Writing is not knitting, or any craft you can do while watching TV. Writing demands you be here, right now. The sharpest writing cuts through space and time. Therefore, to write the land one must be present with it.

And I am present, in this moment, standing on a spine of yellowed sandstone the color of an old bride’s weathered wedding dress. I’m mentally flipping through the album of memories, wondering when they will fade. It’ll all be here when I’m gone. It doesn’t require my presence, it’s colors don’t depend upon my eyesight. But we’ve had a relationship. Not a marriage, but certainly a fling. I caress the cheek of an exposed rock with my shoe, and sand lightly shudders between the contact. I’m not certain if the land is alive, or if I’m the one it electrifies to life, like it’s Dr. Frankenstein and I’m the monster. It’s my clay, my origin and one day to it I shall return.

Not today. Or maybe today. The Sioux Warriors faced mortality, saying, “Today is a good day to die.” Again, it’s about presence. When we are present, we face the duality of life and death within us. The creek and path below the ridge are at least 40 feet down a precipice. Like baby steps toward mortality, I step down the sand-slick rocks that form a natural staircase. At 20 feet above the creek, I peer over the edge. It’s no abyss, just a hard rock, bone-crushing bottom — with a curious hole the diameter of a soup bowl. It’s so round and smooth, potentially a grinding portal, and it awakens my curiosity. It will be the death of me. Edging closer I make a daring choice.

It’s only 20 feet. The sandstone has no more steps, but I carefully find footholds until I reach handholds. I’m not fit for mountaineering, but ah, the body remembers it. At this point I can still scale upwards, but my heart pounds at the realization I can also fall, and it’s too far to fall without cracking bones. A second decision. I decide to continue down to the ledge. I hope that hole in the rock is worth the one in my head where thoughts of safety fled the scene to let curiosity play. I’ve got flying monkeys in the brain.

Safely on the ledge, I still have another 10 feet to drop. Jumping is for younger, sprier bodies. So I sit and hesitate. I can see there is another ledge only three feet below my shoes. It’s the unknown that is in between. The ledge is a perfect hiding spot for rattlers. Now I think of rattlesnakes! A lizard zips past as if to say, “Yep! Reptiles are now active.” It’s the perfect time of day for snakes to also be descending to the water below. I look back up at blue skies and tattered clouds, deepening in color as the sun nears the horizon. Do, or die. Do, and die. Just do it.

The moment slows like a bullet in ballistics gel. My bare calves tingle at the imagined strike of a startled rattler. I hang them over the edge feeling as if I’ve made bait of my own body. I hop. Then quick hop the remaining rocks to the bottom. The empty crevice stares back at me like the empty chamber in Russian roulette. A surge of adrenaline gives me attitude and I whoop because I made it down a cliff face. Resting my hand on the iron patina of a boulder that fell long ago from the height above, I feel indentations. Looking closely, I’m stunned to realize my hand rests upon a block of petroglyphs, each one formed with rock-on-rock drilled holes.

The desert has just said farewell to me, too. I take this final gift, wrap up the memory in my hope chest, and feel as the pioneer women must have felt. Onward ho.

My thoughts are on Danni. As a character in WIP #1, she’s most present in the archaeology grid. Like a writer, she can hone her focus and spend endless hours at tasks others might not understand. She’s a historical archaeologist, which means her second place of presence is in the archives dungeon. It’s not hard to guess that Danni is an introvert. Ike, is not. He’s her connection to the outside world, the one who reached into the pit and said, “Hello.” He broke her focus and stirred her curiosity. With him gone, she’s out of sorts and craves the cover of her retreats. In such a way, that is how writing can be double-edged — it calls us to the present and yet demands such focus we are not present to anything else.

Like Danni, we all need to strike a balance between the oppositions in our lives. And we are often called to say goodbye. It merely opens a door to hello, that will also lead to a goodbye. Kind of like my favorite Beatle’s song “Hello, Goodbye”:

March 30, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a hello or a goodbye. You can pick any greeting that grabs you from howdy to fare thee well. It will be interesting to see how the collection intertwines the opposite greetings. Go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by April 4, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published April 5). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Ike’s First Hello (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Them Wranglers, cowgirl?”

She’d been focused on brushing the next layer, irritated someone would enter her grid to comment on her jeans. Without pausing, she said, “Want a broken nose, farm boy?”

“Farm boy? I’m hurt. I’m a fisherman. Can’t you smell me?”

Danni stopped and stood in the square pit. The corners of Ike’s eyes crinkled and he stood with a fly-rod like a staff. His pants were wet like he’d been swimming with the trout. He wheeled around, bent forward and pointed to the leather brand on the butt of his jeans. “You’re right—I got Wranglers, too!”

###

Who Gives Audience?

Gather around the desert campfire for it will be one of the last on Mars. There’s yet a few tales to tell from the sandstone region of southern Utah, but this week, we are focusing on the audience. That’s you. That’s me. That’s every person who gathers to hear the tales.

And more. Who gives audience depends upon where each writer focused this week. It’s always lively around the campfire so let’s find out.

The following are based on the March 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an audience.

***

The Joy of Childhood by Norah Colvin

The cool grass teased her toes and the breeze tugged at her skirt, begging her to dance. She flung wide her arms to embrace the world as she lifted her face to the skies. They smiled approval and she began to sway. Her fingertips tingled with expectation as her gentle hum intensified, summoning the music of the spheres to play for her. And play they did. She twirled and swirled to their rhythm singing her own melody in perfect harmony. Suddenly she was done. She clapped her hands to silence the orchestra and went back to her sandpit friends.

###

Surprise Audience (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni met Peter at the archeological site when a bus pulled up.

“Guess what? We have a school field trip. I told the teachers we’d have Q & A with an archaeologist.”

“You can’t be serious,” said Danni.

“This way, I knew you’d show up. It gives us a chance to tweak your Little Ranger Program. It’s sound, but not kid friendly. Time for you to learn your audience. What age, are you thinking?”

“Is this a cruel test?”

“Kind of. How old?” Peter folded his arms, grinning at the kids.

“Can I look at their teeth?” asked Danni.

 ###

Prime Time Dad by Pete Fanning

I hated sharing my dad. But his sitcom was a smash and Dot said I was lucky. She convinced me to smile for the cameras and hold his hand in public.

The man on television smiled and laughed and offered worthy advice. The one at home was short tempered and stressed. He smelled of brandy, smoked cigars, and sometimes called me Randy—the name of his onscreen son.

Dot always rolled the television out and we’d watch the show. Then one night I started crying. Dot wiped my face and consoled me.

She said Dad was a great actor.

###

For the Watchers (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“So, the roof will be done next Friday,” Torry confirms. She makes a note to drive by and check on Wednesday. At some point she needs to go through the inside, see what needs to be done. She’ll need a heavy cleaning crew and painters at the least. Then the fun stuff: choosing flooring, draperies, a living room suite. Patio furniture. Wet bar.

It all depends on how you carry it off. She is not in reduced circumstances; she is living in the investment house she intends to flip.

Always leave your audience thinking you meant to do that.

###

The Audience by Allison Maruska

The audience cheers from the other side of the curtain. Closing my eyes, I breathe in the moment. Months and years of hard work and sleepless nights have all led to this.

Cameron smiles. “Are you ready?”

“Absolutely.” I smooth my skirt and take his hand, and together, we take the stage.

The crowd erupts. My heart pounds upon seeing joy on so many faces.

Cameron waves and takes his place on the edge. I stay at the microphone, and after another calming breath, I utter the words I’ll say many times in the coming years.

“My fellow Americans…”

###

That Man by Anne Goodwin

Say I’m out walking the corgis, repatriating the Elgin marbles, having a sly fag out the back. I’m pinning a gong on a Muslim, completing my tax return, composing a Tweet. Say I’m out shopping for gold-plated bath taps or up in the Highlands shooting grouse. Say it in Mexican Spanish, received pronunciation or Cockney rhyming slang. Say it with a smirk or a smile, in buckles and breeches, wearing a crown or bearskin or a yellow toupee. I don’t care what you tell him, or how, but I will not grant an audience to that man.

###

Flash Fiction by Joe Owen

Brent didn’t like this moment. It took him longer to unpack his instrument than most. But he knew he had to do it with care due to his affected limbs. His mother tried more than once to explain cerebral palsy to him and why it made things so much harder for him, but all he knew was that it hurt and made his life much more cumbersome.

Brent slid his hand in the custom loop that would allow him to retain control of the bow and began to play. One by one people gathered to hear his flawless music.

###

Self Belief is a Precious Commodity by Geoff Le Pard

‘You’re really good.’

Mary couldn’t hide her shock. The woman, Sally, was the class star. She had an exceptional eye for imagery – that was what the rather fearsome Brian had said after the first day. ‘Not really. I’m at sea mostly.’

Brian joined them. ‘Stay there then. It’s great.’

Mary wished the encouragement could come with a smile.

Mary looked at her painting. To her it seemed a mess. They were just being nice.

‘Here,’ Brian called the class to Mary’s easel. ‘See how Mary’s addressed the subject.’

Mary stared forward, face burning. She wasn’t ready for an audience.

###

All the World’s a Stage? by Jules Paige

Limping she wondered if she had an audience. So many
expect everyone to be at the peak of health. They just
don’t know and should not judge about anyone except
themselves. Age that relative number that insurance surveys
like to give you when they only ask limiting questions without
room for any explanations.

Was it before, during or after the snowstorm that she pulled
a muscle. Why does it take so long to heel? Why are stairs,
Getting in and out of the car, sitting, standing or even sleeping
so difficult? Thankfully there isn’t an audience for every grimace.

###

Nickilai by Roger Shipp

It started with a suggestive “look”.

It quickly escalated into “yo’r mama’s”.

Now, here behind the textile plant, Nichilai, my best friend, was hell-bent to defend the honor of his family.

Stupidity encircled us… in all shapes, sizes, creeds, and colors.

We were the new-ones. Dad had been recently promoted … a low-level executive position. He had finagled an associate’s position for his nephew, Nichilai’s father.

Family was important.

Defending family… a duty.

More and more were gathering. Bets were being places. Taunts were being tossed. No one here actually cared about the outcome…

Just Nickilai.

And his honor.

###

Audience by D. Avery

Val and Lauren were getting coffee in the kitchen.

“Such sophomoric writing. It was painful.”

“OMG, right? Horrid, trite clichés.”

She knew they were talking about her. She knew she should not have tried this.

Red-faced, she slipped past and rejoined the rest of the group.

Noreen smiled at her. “I truly related to the girl character in your story.”

“Yes”, said Linda. “Your story is raw yet, but powerful. Do you think she will ever get rescued?”

She lifted her head. “Definitely. She might even liberate herself. She’s the type that won’t keep her light under a barrel.”

###

Softness by Sarah Brentyn

Sand shifts under our feet as we run to the sea. It sparkles in the sun.

My chest hurts when I see her smile. It’s been so long.

It’s petty of me but I’m glad I am the one who brought her here, made her happy.

“What are you thinking?” I sit in the slender beach grass.

“Softness,” she looks at the distant mountains lost in mist. “Everything is soothing. Muted and soft. Yet…they’re here.”

Shadows pass over us. Two of the winged beasts. She’s right. We are never alone—we have an audience. And they are always watching.

###

Captive Audience by Scarlett Sauvage

James scanned the crowd – his captive audience – searching for the faintest hint of compassion. He found none. They just sat there, staring at him through the glass – faces like ice carved into sombre death masks. They watched as the guard strapped him into the chair and hooked up the electricity. Some sneered, some smiled, but most just stared blankly, as if he were some other species, not made from the same type of flesh and bone as their family members. He prayed for the phone to ring – a last minute reprieve. It never came. Sometimes, justice got it wrong.

###

Left Hangings by Bill Engleson

“I’ve not seen something like this before.”

“Times have changed. You lock ‘em up…they cost you. You stretch their worthless necks…you’re done with them.”

“You make it sound so…so business like.”

“Retribution is a simple business transaction, I find. In my line of work, and it once was profitable family work, for My grandfather was the Snapper…”

“The Snapper, eh!”

“That’s what they called him. A mortician by trade but a man who appreciated a law that was absolute. His services were in high demand.”

“But public executions are a sideshow.”

“That they are, my friend. That they are.”

###

Audience by Pensitivity

They came from Japan and America, standing in a row over the bridge with their cameras at the ready.

Fascinated by the workings and complexities of controlling the water, they asked questions before snapping and zooming in to their heart’s content.

No matter ‘The Star’ of their little show was running herself ragged with paddles and gates.

At the end of the performance and ready to vacate the lock, she stood tall and asked for a round of applause for being their entertainment.

As she took a bow of thanks, she muttered to herself,

‘I should’ve passed the hat!’

###

The Paper Magicians by Gordon Le Pard

There was certainly an impressive audience for whatever was to happen. No one knew what the two men in the middle of the square were trying to do.

Some people said it was magic, certainly the way the two men were carefully tending a fire under a huge paper bag looked diabolical.

The bag was filling with smoke, and it was moving!, perhaps there was a demon in the bag.

One of the men called to the other, a rope was cut – somebody screamed and fainted as bag rose above the crowd!

The conquest of the air had begun.

In 1783 the Montgolfier brothers launched their first balloon from a square in Paris.

###

The Honcho by Reena Saxena

His plane had crashed into this desert. Habitually, he opened his mouth to swear, and condemn all, with the filthiest words. The corporate honcho was known for his foul mouth and intimidating manner. He stopped at the sight of a tribal group, moving ominously towards him. The brutes were armed with spears and knives.

The honcho was speechless for the first time. The social recluse had never interacted with anyone other than his tongue-tied team. The obliged slaves just bowed in obeisance, as he reviewed their performance and hurled insults. Overpowering this audience would need a totally different strategy.

###

Tough Audience by Michael
 
It was a tough audience. I knew they would be. Some idiot had billed me as a playwright and writer and would probably sing them a song.
 
I was terrified to say the least. My play had been a moderate success on its first outing but how would it stand up to a city audience.
 
The audience looked at me with obvious scepticism not believing an unknown could pen such a potentially successful show.
 
I told them of its origins and then I sang the signature song from the show. I knew I had a winner with the song.
###

Queen’s Final Performance by Kerry E.B. Black

They gathered for her final performance, to cheer the Queen’s last bow.
She stepped upon the stage, humbled head bowed. Her costume recalled a younger, simpler maid. No warble betrayed her presented lines. “You see before you a woman who commends herself to your mercies. I’ve made mistakes. Who among us has not?”

Their voices rolled into an oceanic wave, crushing her words beneath theirs. Her stomach lurched as she took the mark, center stage. Their faces blurred before her tearful vision.

She recalled days when they loved her. She knelt, neck outstretched, before the axe-man and met her fate.

###

Dresden by Jeanne Lombardo

When I’d finished speaking, the air in the hall felt like a single, collective breath being held. Then clapping surged, a hard rain on a tin roof.

Several fellow Germans made their way to the podium.

“Very fitting, Doctor,” one said, his voice breaking. “I’ve not thought about those days in so long.”

“Your story is my own,” said another. “No one has talked about what happened to us after the war.”

Last was the distinguished head of a large hospital. Blinking through tears, he took my hand. “Thank you,” he said. “I’m very grateful.”

My own throat closed.

###

Target Audience by Sherri Matthews

Adored by millions, rave reviews splashed across every newspaper. The audience, mesmerized by her performance fell at her slender feet, her talent a gift to the world.

She stared at the portrait commissioned by her husband almost fifty years before and sighed.

“Was that really you Grandma?”

She nodded silently as she admired her once large, firm breasts, shimmering blonde hair and flawless complexion.

Talent? It was never about the talent…

“Fancy an ice cream?” she said, smiling down at her grandson. She might not have the tits and ass anymore, but she had the only audience that mattered.

###

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