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November 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

The turkey roasts in the oven, a compound of sage, smoked sea salt, orange zest, cracked black pepper, and butter slid carefully beneath its skin. Every thirty minutes I will baste it with white wine, sage, and orange sauce.

Green beans and mushrooms slow cook in one crock, and French onion dressing cooks in the other. It took nearly an hour to carmelize the onions for the dressing and it will be worth the effort.

Outside on the porch, I have a second cooler thanks to the cold temperatures. The Reisling chills. Pumpkin pies I baked last night rest. The scalloped corn and candied yams wait their turn in the oven. Soon I will peel the potatoes, set out the olives and deviled eggs, and pull the Mills Family salad from the freezer.

There are two Mills for dinner. The family table set for two. I won’t linger on that thought. Instead, I focus on cooking the feast I cherished most to fix for my family.

We did get Facetime — Allison and Drew cuddling with their puppies on the farm where I will go tomorrow; Kyle and Leah at her mom’s place in Wisconsin where they are cutting backstraps from the deer my son shot this morning to the pride of his Hauck women; Brianna and full bar with 500 bottles of the best whiskey in Europe in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway.

Yesterday, as I ran errands and visited friends in town, I swung through Urban Rustics for a treat — a dark chocolate peppermint mocha. The barista asked if my dog wanted whip. Sure! Mause got a cup of whipped cream. She licked every inch of that cup and then ripped it to shreds. I saved half my decadent drink for this moment. For posting a new challenge while Thanksgiving stews in its juices.

This is one of those moments when every muscle relaxes. Ahhh…! I wish I could share the savory smells and the sweet sips with each of you.

Remember, your writing needs lulls like this, too. Where you let the hard work of plotting, drafting, character development, and world-building be. You, the author, need the equivalent of the best warm drink ever. Warm enough to soothe your aching bones. Sweet enough to melt your heart. If you have been hard at projects or NaNoWrimo, let it all rest. The feast will come together after you take this moment.

For our prompt, I want to give travel writing a shot in the arm. News has focused on holiday travels in the US. A local radio station offered the lamest “tips” for what to do if your flight is canceled — buy travel insurance and don’t get upset. It was such a useless report, I wondered if travel writers have left the field after a rough year and a half of a global pandemic.

Of course, here at the Ranch, we write stories — fiction, BOTS, and even poetry. I figured we’d all have more to offer on the subject of canceled flights. Anything can happen. Maybe we’d have better tips, too.

November 25, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write about a canceled flight. Where was the flight headed? Who does it impact and why? How does a protagonist handle the situation? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 30, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

A Relief by Charli Mills

Snow blew in horizontal lines. The gate agent assured the twenty-four passengers the flight would depart. Downstate, Clarice knew small planes as puddle-jumpers but above the Arctic Circle, they were called ice-breakers. She shuddered at unwanted images of airplanes crashing through expansive sea ice. She wrapped her arms around a worn travel bag, willing the screen above the single gate to read, FLIGHT CANCELED. Winds howled outside the Quonset hut. Clarice missed family, her cat, her university friends. Luck had landed her an internship on Baffin Island. Would her luck run out? The screen flickered. Others groaned. Clarice rejoiced.

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Tool Time

Every fix or task has a tool. Which tools do these stories use?

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Grandpa’s Toolshed by Norah Colvin

Jacob worked tirelessly alongside Grandpa. He loved the sweet scent of sawdust curls and the heady smell of fresh paint. He loved that ash from Grandpa’s cigarette fell unchecked into the shavings. He especially liked using Grandpa’s real tools. The plastic bench at Kindy was only a toy.
Jacob’s visits decreased but Grandpa never forgot. He left the house, the shed and all his tools to Jacob. Standing in the dark, empty shed, Jacob tried to conjure the smells of Grandpa. There was nothing else to do. He rolled up his sleeves and started planing sawdust curls — in memory.

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A Bit of a Tool by Geoff Le Pard

Dumpling Pendulous ran the Little Tittweaking Tool Museum with the zealousness of a radical grammarian, leaving no semi-colon unturned. Spanner week, when all unattached males displayed their equipment was anticipated by the residents as a way of getting all spotty, beardless lumpen peri-menopausal adolescent males out of their respective caves. This year Dennis Fumble entered his nickel alloy double ringed with unexpected gusto while the normally reticent Godfrey Pricktingle made a show of displaying his antique iron clad single end. But everyone agreed nothing was quite as impressive as Kevin Largehampton’s freshly lubricated two-handed reciprocating adjustable.

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Hit Like and Subscribe by Kerry E.B. Black

Undine adjusted the loop light until it shone a perfect circle in her irises. Today’s vlog would bring her the coveted 10,000. Monetization couldn’t be far behind. She glanced at the arrayed makeup, more tools of her trade. The cosmetics company sent her samples which she applied as she wooed her audience with smiles and wit during the video. Undine wielded each product with the grace of an assured artist.

She edited and posted, anxious without reason, because Undine’s viewers pressed “like” and “subscribe,” thereby cementing her position as firmly as the setting spray set her latest look.

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Of the Utmost Importance by Gloria McBreen

‘Mother, where’s the thingamajig for opening jars?’

‘In the knife drawer.’

I open the knife drawer, which has no knives in it. I rummage through all sorts of instruments; peelers, weird scoop things, funny scissors, whizzers and all shapes of silicone. A slip-on spout? Gadgets with attachments, blades and prongs. A spork and a chork? What happened the chopsticks?

Ah… here it is. The yoke for opening jars!

I suppose mother needs all these accoutrements. How else would she peel fruit, slice avocados, zest her lemons, measure spaghetti, spiralize veggies, flip her lids, and beat her meat? I wonder!

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Last Sacrament by Anne Goodwin

As his hand disappears into his tool bag, I recall my boys’ toys: Joe had a carpentry set, Jim a doctor’s boxy case. Did they fight over the stethoscope and spirit level? Was there a rubber hammer in both?

My visitor spreads a white cloth across the table. Do nuns do his washing and ironing? Or is it outsourced to a laundry to be tumble-dried with a fornicator’s?

The priest drapes a tasselled purple stole across his shoulders and arranges his utensils on the cloth. A chalice and plate in shiny silver. A small round tin for the host.

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Necessary Tools by Kerry E.B. Black

Ellen wrestled two horses to the trough for their nightly watering. As the pair drank, a chestnut gelding dragged a protesting fourteen-year-old with eyes made enormous by bottle-bottom glasses. “Stop,” she pleaded, but he muscled in for his drink..

Ellen lowered her eyebrows and glared at the blushing girl. “You have to control him.”

“I tried. He’s strong.”

Ellen’s stocky build and assertive nature provided a natural mastery of the horses, something this stick-armed, airy-voiced girl lacked. “You know, not everyone’s got the tools for this job.”

The girl’s blush spread to her sun-streaked hairline. “Please, I’ll try harder.”

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Tools by Reena Saxena

If smallness bothers me, I humiliate others.

If inadequacy nags, I tell others they are not perfect.

Emptiness in my life drives me to get involved in other lives, stick to them like a leech they can’t get rid of. I transfer all my stress. I feed on their discomfort.

I have my battles but I blame you for that.

I convince myself life would be peaceful without these shadows looming large.

I need to cut them down to size. I need to see myself somewhere.

The tools employed indicate where I am on the evolutionary ladder. 

Someone knows…..

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Richie by Michael Fishman

The guys asked Richie to do bad things. Once they asked him to go into Wagner’s drugstore and steal a Playboy magazine. Nice Mr. Wagner, but he did it anyway.

Once they said, “Richie, ask Jenny Edwards for a date.”

“She doesn’t like me,” he said.

“C’mon, it’ll be funny,” they said.

Jenny and the guys laughed. Richie laughed with them, but he was scared, and he hurt.

Richie wasn’t stupid. He ignored their loud whispers; he rationalized their laughter. He told himself he wasn’t a tool.

Making friends was difficult, and Richie believed this was better than nothing.

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Pike’s Peak or Bust by Charli Mills

Bertie packed her father’s carpentry tools along with her calico dresses. The rest of his estate she sold to buy passage on the Merry Rover, a flat-bottomed steamship of the Missouri River. Somewhere, out there, where the sun set in streaks of orange and pink was her destiny. She learned the trade of building boxes and houses from her father, although none of the locals would hire her on account that she wore a skirt. Out west, her skills were needed, and she reckoned convention of gender wouldn’t matter as much. Pike’s Peak was not a bust for Bertie.

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My Best Tool by Duane L Herrmann

My shovel is my most helpful tool, used for digging, carrying and prying. I’ve tried to pry rocks out of the ground which don’t want to move. The rocks I want are mostly those we use as decorations. They’re special, in a variety of colors. They’re not from here originally, but were brought, ages ago; some are huge. The top of one, otherwise totally buried, is the size of a car. I can’t dig that one out! They were brought by glaciers. I’ve broken several shovels in this way. I’ve recently found a prying tool. My shovel is thankful.

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There’s No Tool like an… by Bill Engleson

Harley’s first sight of Pine Point was disheartening. The Hay River bus had barely made it through the snowstorm.

“This is no place for a city kid,” he thought.

Harley had volunteered for a four-month tour with Frontier College. He’d work as a miner during the day and teach interested coworkers English at night.

The bus dropped him at the bunkhouse.

The next day, Hastings, the Manager, said, “I’ve assigned you to work at the company tool crib. That way you’ll meet everyone.”

The first day, he spent two hours looking for a left-handed wrench.

Never did find it.

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Not the Sharpest Tool in the Shed by Doug Jacquier

In Australia, ‘tool’, as elsewhere, refers to a useful implement, and we have some ironic references to particular tools e.g. a hammer being called a bush screwdriver.

However, in Australia ‘tool’ can also mean either a stupid male person who draws attention to himself or a euphemism for penis. (Astute readers will recognise there is some cross-over in these meanings.)

Hence I offer the following terms as potentially useful additions to the English slanguage.

Tool shed – House of Parliament or Congress
Tool box – Politician’s coffin
Power tool – Blind follower of politician
Web tool – Conspiracy theorist e.g. Q-anon supporter

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New Era by Simon

It all began with this tools, my fingers.

Began a new Era. Nanotechnological suit, perfectly programmed codes now took over the human race.

No crime, No hunger, But, I was missing something, the interesting “Life” filled with lie, happiness and memories.

My fingers, began to rewrite the codes, remake the nanotech, a virus to begin with, I am the new Era time travelled Thanos.

One snap, 99% of the robotic elements disintegrated to useless piece of metals.

There began another new Era, Life without robots. How far it gone? N.AD 2021, the robots are back, in a better way

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Free-for-All by Rebecca Glaessner

“Shut down that network, then you’ll get your repairs.”

She left the meeting with a sour taste, and strolled through the grand foyer, flexing glitchy cybernetic fingers.

» Download complete « pinged across her view. A car waited by the curb and flashy skyscrapers shrunk away as it drove her across the city, a hidden basement complex.

“Got it all,” she said, “they didn’t have a clue.”

Her growing team poured over the stolen data, cleaned it up then released it to the network.

The rich had misused their tools. She found them a new purpose.

She flexed her hands seamlessly.

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Gemina by Saifun Hassam

Gemina was an engineer, with a talent for 3D printer innovations making nanoscale medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Her mom, Bernicea, ran a bakery shop in their home city, Port Montaine on Mars. Gemina tweaked a food 3D printer to make cakes and desserts. The machine couldn’t beat Mom’s cakes for taste and texture, but it created outlandish cake castles and space ships.

Gemina’s duties included the maintenance of 3D printers on spacefaring ships. To her thrill, Captain Celine of the OrionXXI offered her an engineer’s position, working on solar sails and fusion drives. A time of great space exploration.

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Carrot Top by Nancy Brady

Aloysius considered himself to be ordinary as any cat believes he’s ordinary.

His magical powers were just part of who he was. His flying ability, his strength, his speed, and other abilities were all tools to be used when needed.

Aloysius mostly used his powers in a positive manner, but every so often his curiosity got the better of him.

This day, Aloysius watched the waving fronds of carrots in his family’s garden. Mesmerized, he pounced on them, pulling a carrot out. He took a bite, but wasn’t impressed until he realized he could see for miles.

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The Throne by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It could have been a field of flowers, apricot sunrise honeying all. It could have been a berry patch, spread round with her the center, fingers damp with morning dew. It might’ve even been a dragon’s hoard, doubloons spilling from ruby-studded chalices, heavy pendants on worked, chain necklaces, diamond and emerald tiara resting on her head, proclaiming her queen of all she surveyed.

She sighed in resignation. No flowers, no berries, no dragon nor fairies. Just tile, mildewed and damp, a rug soaked and now slightly stained. This was what came of inviting people over.

She fetched the plunger.

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The Tools of the Band by Sue Spitulnik

Instruments, reeds, strings, sticks, picks, sheets of music, and lyrics. Reverb pedals, rugs, amplifiers, microphones, speakers, and drinks. Playlist on my cell. Straight-leg jeans, boots, hats, and jackets. Diamond studs shine from our ears. Big smiles are plastered for the fans. Damn, I forgot the words. The audience doesn’t seem to notice or care. We strum the guitars and cover with the snare. Get the crowd to clap in time. Hallelujah, the many tools of the band. Loudly blend the notes and words. It doesn’t pay a lot but makes me feel alive playing as the man I am.

Author’s Note: the band this refers to is The Band of Brothers, an all-veteran band in which Michael is a guitarist and lead singer.

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Fixing the Car? by Joanne Fisher

“What you doing?” Cindy asked.

“The car won’t start.” Jess told her as she examined the car engine.

“So why not call a mechanic?”

“They’re too expensive. Besides, I fix the tractor regularly.”

“Yes fix it regularly, because it keeps breaking down. Do you even have the right tools?” Cindy asked.

“Of course I do. Anyway I believe it’s fixed, see if you can start it.” Jess suggested. Cindy got in the front seat and turned the key, but nothing happened. “Okay, maybe it’s something else?” Cindy rolled her eyes. What would it take for Jess to admit defeat?

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Import Important by JulesPaige

I empoy the rake to
manage the fall leaves
piling them high at the curb for picking up
or some are for my trees
raked round their bases

tender protection for
inclement weather
might damage the roots that are near the surface
perhaps when snow piles high
over the back yard…

rest well with slow sap, my
trees that shed their leaves
and know that I look for budding health come spring
now though brace for winter;
time for dreamings’ nigh

——-
If I too could sleep the winter through,
could I would I sleep thusly
under warm leaf quilts

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Playground by Annette Rochelle Aben

Freddie and Remington sat patiently as their eyes followed Bryan’s every move. It was no secret what was going on in their heads.
Completely aware of his audience, Bryan knew he could get the job done quicker if he’d just go out and buy a leaf blower but he enjoyed the effort it took to rake the leaves into big piles.
As the piles grew, so did the dog’s eyes. And tails swished slowly.
When Bryan sat to have lunch. the two hungry pups practically flew into the piles. He laughed as they surfaced with mouths filled with leaves!

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In the Time of the Beaver Moon by D. Avery

“Jeez, Kid. Look’t them big words up there. Verisimilitude? Cain’t believe Shorty spelt thet c’rectly.”
“True, Pal. But I ain’t got time fer all this talk a tinkerin’ an’ word wrenchin’.”
“Well yer workin’ on somethin’.”
“Yep. Curly’s ready ta come home!”
“Changed her mind ‘bout bein’ a beaver?”
“Yep.”
“So why d’ya have all thet grease?”
“Curly done overdid gittin’ ready fer winter. She cain’t git out through the openin’ a the beaver lodge. She’s stuck in there. I gotta git her out.”
“Plenny a tension in this story Kid, but d’ya really ‘spect folks ta believe it?”

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No Toolin’ by D. Avery

“If folks has been readin’, the facts are all there, Pal. Curly, my pet puglet, ‘dennified as a beaver an’ has been livin’ with the ones thet dammed up the stream that flows through Carrot Ranch. An’ now she wants out but is stuck.”
“Hmmff. It’s true thet puglet never seems ta know if she’s comin’ or goin’. So, ya got a stuck pig and a slick idea fer gittin’ her out thet involves grease.”
“Yep. Hey! Here’s Curly! Reckon the beavers had all the tools needed ta git her freed up.”
“Unbelievable.”
“Beavers are smart Pal.”
“No Kidding.”

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How To Pull Yourself Out Of A Writing Hole With A Little Help From Your Characters

Allow me to introduce you to Richard and Adrian. You may have already met them; then again, you may not, but did you know that they helped me get out of a writing hole?

I’m not talking about a physical hole that I fell into while looking down at the screen on my phone, but a mental hole I hadn’t realised was there. I think many authors and writers fall into this hole, sometimes without knowing. However, Richard and Adrian helped me realise that something was missing in my writing world. 

If you’ve reached this far reading this post, you may be asking two questions. 

  1. Who are Richard and Adrian?
  2. What the heck is Hugh talking about? 

Allow me to answer both questions. What I’m referring to is the lack of LGBTQ characters in my writing.

Where are all the LGBTQ characters? 

I feel pretty shocked about it. As a gay man, you’d think my writing would have many LGBTQ characters, wouldn’t you? Yet when I look back, I see hardly any sign of them. 

Where are they? Are they all hiding in the closet? And by closet, I mean the way some people refer to when somebody hasn’t told anyone about their sexual orientation. 

Maybe it’s because I’m reading the wrong blog posts or books or not following bloggers who write about LGBTQ subjects, but my email box and WordPress Reader are LGBTQ scarce.

Where I have noticed an increase of LGBTQ characters is on television and in movies 

Soap operas especially seem to have exploded with LGBTQ characters. I also recently read that James Bond’ movies made over 40 years ago had hidden gay characters. ‘Hidden’ gay characters? Why are they hidden? Are they still in the closet? 

I guess it was all to do with the sign of the times back then, but I do recall various open gay characters on television shows in the 1970s. And, strangely enough, I don’t remember there being much outrage about them. Most people welcomed them with open arms, yet as a young gay man, I was still terrified of ‘coming out‘ of the closet because of the consequences I may face. 

The day Richard and Adrian came into my life

Although I’ve had a light sprinkling of gay characters in my writing, they were what I call ‘one-offs.’ They appear in one story or piece of flash fiction, and that’s it. Then, on June 18th 2021, Charli published the following 99-word flash fiction challenge prompt – 

June 18, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a solstice. What is the era and setting? Use the solstice as a celebration, metaphor, or talking point. Go where the prompt leads!  

I wrote and published ‘Edge Of Summer‘, which featured two gay characters, Richard and Adrian. The story went down well with readers and received lots of lovely comments. Some readers had already fallen in love with these two guys. 

A week later, Richard and Adrian appeared again in the 99-word flash fiction challenge, only this time Charli’s prompt had led me to kill Richard off. Perhaps I didn’t like Richard as much as Adrian? But if I had killed off Richard, surely that meant the end of Adrian too? 

Richard and Adrian – two short-lived characters. Or so I thought! 

At least they’d had more than one outing on my blog and at the Carrot Ranch. Imagine my surprise then when Charli’s following prompt inspired me to write about Richard and Adrian again.

Had I bought Richard back to life? No. Well, yes, but I had a good reason for doing so.

The boys took a break during the rest of the summer. But come September, they were back in my mind. They’ve now appeared in over twelve pieces of flash fiction. Not only do readers seem to still like and love them, but we’re beginning to build up a picture of their whole lives. 

I feel as if I’m in the process of writing my first LGBTQ novel 

The 99-word flash fiction prompts mean the life stories of Richard and Adrian are not in any particular order. One week we could be witnessing the beginning of their lives, and the following week we could find ourselves towards the end. But that doesn’t seem to matter to those following their journey. 

It wasn’t long before I realised how fond I was of Richard and Adrian. Now, not only have I grown to love these two gay characters, but I realise how they have helped me write more about LGBTQ life than I’ve ever done before.

You know how much I like a twist, yes?

If you’ve read any of my fiction, you’ll know that I love adding twists to my stories. Imagine then, to my surprise, when I noticed that one of my true-story blog posts about gay life started taking off again one year after I first published it on my blog.

Screenshot showing the total n umber of views on a blog post over a 26 month period

I created Richard and Adrian in June 2021. Bought them back to my blog in September 2021, and they’ve been featured on my blog for most weeks since then.

I still can’t fathom why this particular post is suddenly getting lots of attention again. Something inside me wants it to be a real-life twist and tell you it’s to do with Richard and Adrian. Have they come to life and sent traffic to my true story blog post, or are they doing it from within the fictitious world they live in? 

All I can say is thank you, Richard and Adrian. You came into my life and the lives of my readers, have helped me out of a writing hole and are allowing me to share your life stories with everyone. Are you the reasons behind the surge in views on one of my blog posts about gay life?

Have you ever had fictitious characters come to life or help you with your writing? I’d love to know about them. Leave the details in the comments section.

Image showing some straight lines drawn by different coloured pens on a white background

If you missed my previous posts on Diversity With A Twist, here they are.

Copyright © 2021 Hugh W. Roberts – All rights reserved.

***

Photo of the writer, author and blogger, Hugh W. Roberts

Hugh W. Roberts lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.

Hugh gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping and while out walking his dogs, Although he was born in Wales, he has lived around various parts of the United Kingdom, including London where he lived and worked for 27 years.

Hugh suffers from a mild form of dyslexia but, after discovering blogging, decided not to allow the condition to stop his passion for writing. Since creating his blog ‘Hugh’s Views & News’ in February 2014, he has built up a strong following and now writes every day. Always keen to promote other bloggers, authors and writers, Hugh enjoys the interaction blogging brings and has built up a group of online friends.

His short stories have become well known for the unexpected twists they contain. One of the best compliments a reader can give Hugh is “I never saw that ending coming.”

Having published his first book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016, his second collection of short stories, More Glimpses, was released in March 2019.

A keen photographer, he also enjoys cycling, walking, reading, watching television, and enjoys relaxing with a glass of red wine and sweet popcorn.

Hugh shares his life with John, his civil-partner, and Toby and Austin, their Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

You can follow Hugh’s blog at Hugh’s Views And News and follow him on Twitter at @hughRoberts05.

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Ann Edall-Robson

“Kid, thought I told you ta bring some order ta the saloon! The stage is a mess. Look! Thet’s a mouse!”

“By gosh it is, Pal. Looks like the order I brung was Rodentia. Mus musculus, a house mouse. Course ya’d think it’s be Mus saloonacus.”

“Enough Kid, yer bein’ ridiculous. Git thet mus— mouse— outta here an’ git our guest in here.”

“Actually Pal, this mouse, Mus, is our guest. Mus is a character from one a Ann Edall-Robson’s children’s books, Mus; A Mouse Adventure. Thing is though, I’m not sure Mus’ writer or mother knows he’s here. He doesn’t always listen.”

“Hmmf. One a those characters. Well, when yer here yer a guest, so we’d best feed the little fella.”

“Way ahead a ya Pal. Pepe is in the back cuttin’ the cheese fer Mus.”    

“Ugh. Kid, I thought Ann Edall-Robson wrote poetry an’ fiction an’ sech that reflect her real life ranchin’ heritage.”

“Yep, an’ she also publishes non-fiction an’ photography that keep the old ways alive. An’ she writes children’s books!”

“Sure is versatile, thet one. I know I injoy her column here at Carrot Ranch, Quiet Spirits. Well, Kid, we best take good care a thet little Mus until Ann can come by an’ collect ‘im.”

“No problem, Pal. What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

“Cat!”

“Relax, Pal. That feline won’t make a beeline fer Mus. That’s just ‘nuther a Ann’s characters. Meet Barn Cat Buttons, aka Baby Boy Buttons.”

“Whoa. Thet cat character seems so real.”

“He is Pal. Ya kin hear Ann talk ‘bout him here.”

“Ya sure it’s okay ta have thet barn cat in here? He’s always pushin’ the edge; might cause trouble.”

“Barn Cat Buttons’ll be all right. He knows right from wrong.”

“Oh, jeez, Kid, now there’s a white face calf in the saloon. Ann’s?”

“Yep, that’s Norman. I’ll bet Barn Cat Buttons is responsible fer Norman bein’ here. Reckon Ann’ll be lookin’ fer him. Heck we’re all lookin’ fer Norman. That book should be out soon.” 

“I’m beginnin’ ta wonder about Ann Edall-Robson. Think it’s more’n coincidence thet her characters has got attitude?”

“Well, they also have common sense Pal. But whyn’t ya ask her yerself? Here she is now. Howdy Ann Edall-Robson!”

“Good day to the two of you. It’s so nice to see you again, Pal and Kid. Sorry I’m a little out of breath. I have been all over looking for this crew of mine. I see Buttons is involved, so that does explain a lot.

“Buttons. Buttons. Buttons.”

“Oh geez, you found us. You sound just like the Wise One when he’s about to tell me something ‘wise’.”

“How did you all get here?”

“Well, you see…”

“I don’t want a story Buttons, I want the truth.”

“Okay, okay. It’s like this…We were all hanging around the barn when the Wise One came along…How does he do that, you know just show up?”

“Buttons!”

“Right, how did we get here? Like I said, we were hanging around the barn and the Wise One tells us we are supposed to get ourselves in gear and head on over to the favourite watering hole to meet up with you so we can all discuss planning Norman’s shindig.”

“Miss Ann.”

“Yes Mus.”

“Buttons has been looking after all of us, even me. He even made sure my momma knew I was coming here with him. He’s real nice. Not like that cat I met that said he was my friend and wasn’t. You know, the one you told the story about.”

“I’m happy to hear that Mus. But it doesn’t explain why you are all here bothering Pal and Kid when you should be back at the ranch watering hole. Buttons?”

“Oh, that watering hole! The one down by the creek near the barn.”

“Yes Buttons, that watering hole. How did you end up here and not there?”

“Well, the Wise One said, ‘favourite watering hole’, I knew it just had to be this one. He’s talked about coming here to have a beverage while he reads what other writers have left on the Saloon shelf to read. And he said that Pal and Kid are real nice and welcoming.”

“Oh Buttons, of course this is one of his favourite places, mine too. But I don’t think it’s quite the place for characters to come in and make themselves at home.”

“But they can see us and they talk to us just like you do!”

“Mmmhmmm, yes they do. How about, if Pal and Kid don’t mind, we have a beverage and visit a bit about Norman’s shindig?”

“Does that mean you are going to do what I always hear you doing when we are at home?”

“And what is it you hear me doing at home?”

“Talking to all us characters while you make words and squiggly lines on paper.”

“That’s called brain storming.”

“Whatever you say, Miss Ann, whatever you say. I think you and the Wise One are a lot alike, except you’re here and he’s not.”

“Buttons, mind your manners.”

“Yes m’am.”

“Well, Kid, it looks like Miss Ann has got them characters a hers reined in. Let’s go see what she kin tell us ‘bout Norman, the latest book in her Barncat Buttons series.”

“I can tell you that  Norman is available to pre-order from Ann’s website until November 28, 2021, Pal. You can order either a soft cover or hard cover book. Pre-orders will be shipped by post by December 3, 2021. Norman will be available on Amazon starting December 1, 2021.”

“Why thank you fer thet Miss Ann. Jist in time fer the holidays, a gift fer the kids.”

“This Kid wants ta read it! Reckon that’s a load off, ay, Ann, gitttin’ that book out inta the world.”

“It is a great to have finally corralled Norman, Kid. But I am working on two more Barn Cat Buttons Series books. Hoping that one of them will be published in 2022.”

“Yahoo! Keep ‘em comin’.”

“Could I guess thet children’s books is yer fav’rite genre ta write?”

“You’d be half right Pal. My favourite genre, of the several that I write in, would be a tie for first place – Cozy Mysteries and the Children’s books. This might give a better insight as to why I write for children.” 

“Reckon stories is important fer ever’one. An’ you certainly write fer ever’one.”

“It keeps me busy! I have two more books that will be published in 2022, besides the Barncat Buttons book. One is the second Brandi Westeron Mystery, and the other is a workbook to do with Indi writing.”

“Jeez, Ann. Yer doin’ all thet, an’ yer column at Carrot Ranch, an yer flashes at Carrot Ranch… how do ya do it?”

“I like to write! I think everyone likes to write. They may not admit it, and they may not have a book in them, but perhaps, short versions of prose is the place to start. So I created the Five Word Sentence Challenge that uses one of my photographs as the prompt. It is meant to encourage everyone, not just writers, to interpret the picture. Who knows, it might be the beginning of a next best seller. Each week the challenge is shared to various FB groups, including Carrot Ranchers, as well as through a weekly newsflash I send out on Thursdays with the link. To participate, bookmark the link , sign up to receive the newsflash, or follow me on FB.”

“That sounds like a fun challenge! It’s worth checkin’ out jist fer yer beautiful photography.”

“Thank you Kid. Thank you both for looking out for my wayward characters and for the refreshments.”

“You and yours are welcome at the Saddle Up Saloon any time, Ann. Best a luck with all yer projects.”

“Yep. If folks ain’t poked aroun’ yer website an’ read some a yer books, they’s really missin’ out.”

Ann Edall-Robson relies on her heritage to keep her grounded. Reminders of her family’s roots mentor her to where she needs to go. Gifting her with excerpts of a lifestyle she sees slipping away. Snippets shyly materialize in Ann’s writing and photography. She is a lover of life and all things that make us smile. Edall-Robson shares moments others may never get to experience at HorsesWestDAKATAMA™ Country, and Ann Edall-Robson where you can also contact her. Books written by Ann Edall-Robson are available through her website, at Amazon, and various other online locations

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

November 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

Snow whirls from every direction. Lady Lake Superior conducts her frozen orchestra, each note a snowflake that adds to the howling concert. Snow is going to become an issue.

On the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan, snow removal becomes a big deal. We often get over 300 inches of the white stuff. Today was the first big dump and I was the first neighbor to start scooping. Ordinary snow shovels won’t do. We need Yooper Scoopers.

I opened the garage to find a smaller shovel and one fell into my arms. I laughed, thinking about Liz Husebye Hartmann’s rakish romance from the prompt Carry On. I was excited to grab the shovel to clear my steps. Except, it was the wrong shovel. I leaned the disappointed gardening shovel back against the wall and found the square shovel instead. I’ll dance with the digging shovel next spring.

The steel scoops and shovels clang against paved driveways and cement steps. It’s a distinct scraping sound that can be heard by neighbors. Once someone within hearing distance initiates snow removal, others want to join in. We each have our own tools and we shout to one another over the roar of wind, friendly banter that will continue all snow season.

Now, some of you better acquainted with snow might wonder why we are shoveling in the storm. Most people who live in snowy places shovel or blow driveways after a storm passes. We don’t get storms like that. We get a chugging snow machine who creates her own weather. I’ve seen months when the snow never ceases. It might lessen, but it doesn’t stop. Going into snow season, the lake effect storms putter like bad gas in a snowblower. We’ve had lots of puttering, but the system is now fully operational.

We make hills as high as we can push a Yooper Scooper. The bottom of the scoop is like a sled. You don’t lift snow with this tool, you push and scatter it, eventually building giant debris hills of white. If the accumulations are deep, we have to think about removal. One year, some neighbors hired a loader to remove snow so they could continue to scoop their driveways. We have an effective piling system, and as of yet, we have not required the services of a big tool like a loader.

The City of Hancock employs workers between 2:30-7:30 am to remove snow from streets. As a late-night writer, it’s one of my winter pleasures to watch the machinery and dump trucks parade up and down Roberts Street in the wee hours when no one else is awake. For now, they will plow and grade. By the New Year, I’ll have a front-row seat to all the snow removal tools.

And speaking of tools, it’s time to consider tools of revision.

Many writers confuse revision with editing. They are not the same thing and each requires different tools. A lot of writers skip revision because they don’t understand how to do it. Or, find the creation of a Revision Plan too difficult. It is a lot of work. Just like removing snow. But it comes with the territory of being a writer. As a reformed pantser, I discovered that I love the process of revision.

First, consider the work you are dreaming or drafting. I say dreaming in reference to pre-writing activities. Currently, I’m dreaming my next novel. I’m writing some flash fiction with a protagonist in mind, curious about her story. I’m exploring, hoping to learn more. My next novel is churning in my imagination. Pre-writing is dream-time. It’s also plotting, mapping a character arc, and planning.

You cannot jump from dreaming to revising. Revising requires that sloppy first draft. Whatever you want to call it — sloppy, shitty, ugly — be sure to respect it. Can we find a more accepting word to describe first drafts? We have to tell ourselves the story first (or let our characters or muses inform us). To me, that’s raw literature. It’s a body of writing at its freshest. It’s vulnerable. It’s lost. It’s brilliant. It’s not finished, yet.

In fact, it’s only just begun.

This is the kind of love we must have for our raw first drafts.

A Revision Plan acknowledges the hard work of dreaming and drafting coming together to produce this literary love child you proudly call your MS. Your manuscript. A Revision Plan sets out to feed, nurture, educate, and grow this bookchild to the best of our ability. Think of it as your toolbox to fix or keep the pages humming like a powerful engine.

The way I create a Revision Plan is in sections. There are four:

  1. Structure
  2. Content
  3. Research
  4. Correctness

Structure gives shape to all that draft material. Think of this — if your raw draft were kale, what is your intended dish? A hip kale salad with cherry vinaigrette? A kale frittata with lion’s mane mushrooms? Baked kale chips with curry powder? Kale stir fry with scallops and sesame seeds? Structure asks you to consider your genre, tropes, and audience as much as your plot points, paring back scenes to purpose, and changing the hair color of your character. You want to collect these sort of tools:

Content covers what goes into your structure. Be aware that content is layered. You need a variety of tools:

Research is anything you need to verify to create verisimilitude. When you invite readers into your story you want them to believe, to feel the tension, imagine the setting, and connect to the protagonist.

Correctness is part of editing, but more. It includes getting your genre right or meeting standards for manuscripts. Are your dialog tags and punctuation correct? Make a list of misspelled words, wobbly grammar rules, and any craft confusion that you need to double-check.

What goes into your Revision Plan is as unique as your style of writing, intended audience, publishing path, and the material you plan to revise. It’s multilayered and is a process that is repeated. Once you begin to make your own lists under each section, you can refine your tools.

Time to get dreaming about tools, any tools.

November 18, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write about tools. Whose tools are they and how do they fit into the story? What kind of tools? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 30, 2021. 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.

Pike’s Peak or Bust by Charli Mills

Bertie packed her father’s carpentry tools along with her calico dresses. The rest of his estate she sold to buy passage on the Merry Rover, a flat-bottomed steamship of the Missouri River. Somewhere, out there, where the sun set in streaks of orange and pink was her destiny. She learned the trade of building boxes and houses from her father, although none of the locals would hire her on account that she wore a skirt. Out west, her skills were needed, and she reckoned convention of gender wouldn’t matter as much. Pike’s Peak was not a bust for Bertie.

🥕🥕🥕

Carry On

Luggage or burdens, writers carry on to write the stories.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Advancement by Annette Rochelle Aben

Life doesn’t always play out the way you would like. There will be twists and turns even on the straightest of paths.
Corrie looked at herself in the mirror, almost not recognizing her own face. No longer the face of a child, the face of a young career girl, or even the face of a newlywed. No, this was a face of a woman who had been thought the mill, as they say.
As she pulled her hair back into a ponytail, a wry smile appeared. This is the face of a woman who has learned to carry on!

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Carry On by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She placed one hand on her lower back and kneaded. He leaned rakishly against her neck, an over-familiar boyfriend, amorous and a little bit drunk. Both knew what was coming. Curling her shoulder to steady him, she swept her sleeve across her brow and looked longingly up at the near-bare deciduous.

He slipped off her shoulder and threw himself to the ground with a clang and shiver of tines.

She rolled her eyes. How he carried on! This happened every year. Exhilaration at the start led to wishing it was all over.

The snow shovel always replaced the rake.

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Carry On by Jane Aguiar

I got married but a strange thing happened. My mother-in-law was sleeping with me since the day we got married, so we decided to meet outside.
We both lied to her and met outside. We went to a city lodge thinking that it would be safe but suddenly at noon the police raided the lodge.
My husband was very scared. When the police inspector asked for identity, I took out the marriage certificate and when they asked me to explain the reason, I told them the whole truth. The police inspector smiled mischievously and said, “You guys carry on.”

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Where To Now? by Hugh W. Roberts

After witnessing the summer solstice and coming out to each other, Richard and Adrian face an important decision.

***

After witnessing the solstice, Richard asked, “What do we do now?”

“We carry on what we’re doing,” replied Adrian.

“But what if—“

“We’re young; we carry on who we are, not what others want us to be. Nothing and nobody can ever change us.”

“But my father, he’ll try. He’ll kill us. He’d never cope knowing I’m carrying on with another guy.”

“Carrying on? Another guy? Who do you love more, Richard?”

A long pause was interrupted when both young men turned and faced each other and spoke simultaneously.

“Let’s carry on being who we are. I love you.”

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Carry On by Floridaborne

“Carry on,” the Englishman said, in a world war two epic.

My father replied, “Those were the days!” My father is dead.

I have, in the past, found a way to carry on,

Through family or friends.

My family? Dead. My friends? Dead.

While a woman who cares more about her bowels than my health feeds me,

Bathes my slender body in freezing waters, brushes my hair so hard

The pain would show were I able to speak, tears remain my companions.

While the doctor paid to look away says, “It’s only an allergy,”

I carry on in spirit.

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Carrying On by Joanne Fisher

I loved her more than she ever knew. She meant everything to me, but one day she stopped talking and then she was gone. I gave in to despair and darkness, then one night I found myself in a warm bath armed with a sharp knife working away on my wrists till the bathwater turned red. How I survived that night I have no idea, sometimes I wonder if I did.

I know a part of me still hoped that things could get better; that the only way to survive all this was to carry on and eventually heal.

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The Coffe Shop by Donna Mathews

“You know what I find so annoying?” she starts in just as soon as we sit down with our lattes.

“The damn text messages just out of nowhere – we will have just had breakfast and I’m sitting down to start work and then boom the, ‘We need to talk,’ text! What the hell! We were just together, and I had no idea there was even an issue!”

She takes a deep breath, a reload if you will, and starts up again. I sit there as she carries on and wonder if I’ll ever get a chance to respond.

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Gotta Get the Groceries by Cara Stefano

Slumped over the table Liz sighed quietly as she readied herself for the weekly trip to the super market. With three children under the age of five and a busy single mom to boot, something as simple as getting groceries usually became an ordeal. Slowly she gathered everything she would need: masks and gloves, reusable bags, her carefully clipped and saved coupons, her hungry children, and her faltering courage. Promising snacks for all, it was time to go. Even in such uncertain times as this, all she could do was carry on.

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Ineptitude by Reena Saxena

He trudges on in the desert, as the weight of the basket increases with every step.

Special boots do not help. The glasses he wears obstruct clear vision, The compass shows a certain direction, but he’s not sure why is he following that.

The ineptitude shows. He has never been trained for mental strength and clarity. Loyalty is his forte, and he does whatever the people he worships ask him to do.

The basket carries the fruits of his efforts, which are not sweet.

Yet, carrying on does not make sense, if one is not sure of the objective.

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Duty, Restraint, Guilt by JulesPaige

Melekh had to carry on, after she died. After the family blamed him. When he had returned on their request… so she could be with her family. But he had two little girls to raise without her. And his parents could only carry on so long before they retired out of state.

After a ‘lifetime’ of discomfort, two more marriages, daughters grown and gone, he finally accepted that he didn’t have to live with physical pain and let the Veterans Administration help repair his hips. Who knows what mental anguish he still carried? And then too soon, he died.

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Such a Carry On by Norah Colvin

He had no heart for foolishness. ‘What are you blubbering about? Stop carrying on. I’ll give you something to cry about,’ he’d say, unbuckling his belt. He’d never known compassion so felt no empathy. ‘Grow up. Be a man,’ he’d say, to son and daughter, both.
His strength, at first attractive, she now considered weak. It broke her freshly-opened heart when he crushed their children, infected with his unlovability. She wished their love would unlock his stone-cold heart, but the key was never found. When he passed, not one eye teared for loss, only for what they’d never had.

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The Long March by Duane L Herrmann

My childhood was the war. My mother was the attacker. She attacked her abandonment when she was a tiny child. I was not her enemy, but just in her way. Suicidal first at two, by eleven I knew what to do. My Granma’s love saved me though, and now at seventy, I still carry on.
I made sure my children knew they were loved every day with a kiss and hug, and I let them play. I stood up to the pain of four generations. Though I’ve tottered, I’ve not gone down. Somehow I continue to carry on.

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The Passage by Joanne Fisher

Talem was a technician. It was her job to ensure the ship’s systems remained functional. As a child, she used to like visiting the hold to see the frozen bodies. Now as an adult, she seldom visited it, and if she ever did it was to check everything was running smoothly.

She was a middle generation. There were generations before her and there would be generations after her ensuring the ship would continue to slowly move onwards to their new home, a planet Talem would never see. Yet she was essential if her species was going to carry on.

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She’ll Carry On by Madeline Murphy

Imagine a five-year-old carrying on after her mom takes off for a long-term hospital stay due to a chronic illness. Then carries on as she takes care of that mother for the rest of her life. Twenty years into her marriage, the husband decides that maybe it’s over. The wife is shaken but carries on with her three children. Six years go by, and the eldest son dies suddenly at the age of twenty-four. She carries on with a sorrowful heart no mother should bear. One day she realizes she is a superhero with the strength to carry on.

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Footpath Closed by Anne Goodwin

Mile by mile her mood lightens, until the signboard returns the clouds to her mind. FOOTPATH CLOSED. BRIDGE REPAIRS. FIND AN ALTERNATIVE ROUTE. She’d stamp her foot if it weren’t already aching. She can’t trudge for an extra hour.
She’ll ford the stream if there’s a shallow spot. If there’s no-one around. But that hammering isn’t a woodpecker. That whistling isn’t a starling.
The sky darkens. The foreman bars her way. She’s ready to argue when he directs her to a hidden bridge, ten minutes upstream.
She’d sought succour in solitude. She found it in kindness she didn’t deserve.

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Carry On by Rebecca Glaessner

“Done yet?” she sighs.

I drift for a moment longer before resurfacing. I take a deep breath of ocean air, damp and organic. Did it really smell that way?

She bangs on the door, “hello?”

I cut off the simulation, my droid lifts my blackout glasses. Dark walls rush in and I blink away memories of bright blue sky. What’s the world like now?

“I’m coming in,” she flings open the door, and we start our tense dance. Pills, limb adjustments, sponge bath.

I don’t react, focusing instead on the ocean, carrying me like my body no longer could.

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Dad by Saifun Hassam

The large kitchen, lit by the morning sun, was his dad’s favorite place to draft his adventure novels. When he hit those mushy points in his stories, he wandered into the backyard, walking among the tubs of rosemary and basil. He’d return to the cottage, ready to carry on writing.

He missed Dad. He was very grateful for the short time they were together when Jason returned to Earth from the Martian and Lunar Wars. He was broken in body and spirit. His dad’s quiet strength was essential to him, to carry on, to move forward in his life.

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Carry On Old Friend by Bill Engleson

I was on my way home from the ceremony. Remembrance Day. Veterans Day to some. Whatever you called it, it’s about not forgetting their sacrifice.

Halfway home, as I rounded a corner, I came across him standing on the edge of the park.

“Missed you at the ceremony,” I said.

He smiled, said, ”Guess you don’t remember. I never made it home…from there.”

I looked back at him closely. He looked so young. As young as he was back in forty-three.

“I guess I forgot,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “Carry on. See ya when I see ya.”

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Somwhere in the South China Sea by TN Kerr

Weekly ops,
somewhere in the South China Sea.
Out on Sunday,
in Saturday around 1000.

Repeat…

Somebody fucked up. I’m not one
to point fingers, but
my normal watch rotation was
six hours on / 12 hours off.

It morphed into 6 days on…

It was Thursday night, maybe 2200 GMT
Our depth – four hundred feet
the Captain slid the pocket door open
found me leaning in the inboard forward corner.

asleep…

“How long you been on watch Dad?”
“Five days,” I answered.
“Carry on,” he said, then backed out
back into the passageway
softly shutting the door.

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Walking Wounded by D. Avery

“I’m sorry Nick’s such a dumbass about your leg Ilene.”
“Don’t you apologize for him Marge. I can handle Nick.”
“I’ll say. You’ve had him believing everything from alligator, to bear attack to chainsaw juggling.”
“Ha! Always says, ‘Really?’”
“Just tell him you lost it in Iraq; that’d be believable and it’d shut him up.”
“That’d be a lie.”
“You lie every time he asks about your leg.”
“I’m not a veteran. I could never claim to be. It was hard enough living with one.”
“Yet another man!”
“Loved that one. But I couldn’t carry on. Too many battles.”

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Trouble Adjusting by Sue Spitulnik

During a Homefront Warriors gathering Tessa had been unusually quiet. Someone asked if she wanted to share what was troubling her.
“I’m embarrassed to admit, I’m having trouble adjusting to Michael not using his wheelchair. I know I should be thrilled he’s more mobile, but it seems with him walking everything happens faster. He’s busier now than before.”
Sally answered, “I’m hearing you say you wish he would make more time for you.”
“Perhaps that’s true.”
“I suggest you offer to join him in his activities or carry on keeping yourself busy like you had to in the past.”

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With the Band by Michael Fishman

It had been Shawn’s dream since the first day he picked up a guitar to play in a band. So it wasn’t that he was unhappy with where he was at now, a steady gig and getting paid for making music, but the dream was more the Shawn Williams Band rather than guitar in classic rock cover band.

The house lights dimmed.

“Ladies and gentleman, give it up for “Not in Kansas Anymore”!”

The stage lights rose to mild applause. Tony’s eyes dimmed as he stepped to the microphone and started singing the lower harmony:

“Carry on, my wayward—”

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Carry On, My Wayward Son by Nancy Brady

The phone would ring, and my son, who rarely calls, would be on the other end. “I’m being deployed,” he said. He would follow with the particulars of when, how long, his address, but never where.

Only later would I know, for sure, where my son was stationed during his time away. The first time it was Iraq for six months. The next three times it was Afghanistan even though they were shorter deployments.

For this mother, it was a time fraught with anxiety and worry. Yet, I had to carry on, counting the days until he returned home.

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Sharing the Load by Charli Mills

The cheeky cursor blinked on the screen. The hopeful writer glanced at the time. 1:37AM. She sighed.

She squinted through the laptop’s glare without adding any words. She caressed the keys, hoping to somehow funnel inspiration from the depicted alphabet.

Unsuccessful.

She reread earlier chapters, referred to her painstakingly created outline, and suppressed another gaping yawn. She recalled Kubrick’s lead in “The Shining.” This evening, no work and no play made her novel a “dull boy.”

Her vision swam. “Fine! I’ll try again tomorrow.” She closed the laptop. “But I’m adding today’s missed words to tomorrow’s required count.”

🥕🥕🥕

Carried on the Wind by Doug Jacquier

Sounds carry on the wind,

carry in the wind,

sometimes are the wind,

deafening the soul.

Sand carries on the wind,

in the wind

and sometimes is the wind,

stripping the paint.

Tears carry on the wind,

in the wind

and sometimes are the wind,

spreading desert rain.

Hope carries on the wind,

in the wind,

and sometimes is the wind

of whispered prayers.

Tomorrow carries on the wind,

in the wind

and sometimes is the wind

of soaring birds.

Writing carries on the wind,

in the wind

and sometimes is the wind

of Heaven, and sometimes just farting.

🥕🥕🥕

Full Circle by Nancy Brady

Traveling, we see vultures
riding thermals.
Harbingers of death
circling above.

There’s road kill ahead,
probably raccoons.

Rounding the bend, though,
a turkey vulture,
Killed, with wings askew,
Caught in the act.

For those above, is it carrion instinct
to cannibalize its own?
Or is it a vigil?
Mourning the loss…
Of a mate, parent, sibling, or child?

Do they mourn as we do?
Grieving from the loss of loved ones.

They continue to circle,
Others join in.
The vigil continues.

I will never know the answers,
if they mourn as we do.

I’d like to think they do…

🥕🥕🥕

Tug-of-War by Francis the Frenchie

Gavin was several steps away from the door—already late for work—when vicious barks echoed to the end of the court. 

He turned, shoved his key into the lock, and opened the door, half-expecting to find bloodshed.

Nothing.

“What’s going on?” Gavin asked his roommate.

The roommate seemed confused, “Nothin’.”

Cotton laid on the sofa.

When Gavin reached his car’s door, it happened again. 

This time, he opened the door to the world’s most vicious game of tug-of-war between his Frenchie and roommate. Apparently, this was the norm without Gavin.

Gavin walked out, “Carry on.”

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Water Gun Play by Ruchira Khanna

I woke up to a loud squeak.

“What’s happening?” I inquired with urgency.

I saw my children play with water guns in the house.

“No! we don’t play with squirt guns.” I disapproved while staring at the wet couch and puddles of water everywhere.

“But why, mom. It’s summertime.” they protested in unison.

I took a deep sigh as if I agreed with what they had just said, directed them outdoors.

They both looked confused since the sun was over their head.

With a grin, I said, “Carry on! Make a mess; wet all that you want; it’ll dry.”

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Work and Play by Kerry E.B. Black

The cheeky cursor blinked on the screen. The hopeful writer glanced at the time. 1:37AM. She sighed.

She squinted through the laptop’s glare without adding any words. She caressed the keys, hoping to somehow funnel inspiration from the depicted alphabet.

Unsuccessful.

She reread earlier chapters, referred to her painstakingly created outline, and suppressed another gaping yawn. She recalled Kubrick’s lead in “The Shining.” This evening, no work and no play made her novel a “dull boy.”

Her vision swam. “Fine! I’ll try again tomorrow.” She closed the laptop. “But I’m adding today’s missed words to tomorrow’s required count.”

🥕🥕🥕

Witches’ Mushy Brews by Saifun Hassam

Will struggled with the dramatization of “King Lear.”

When his mind turned into mush while writing “Macbeth” he had gone for a late evening walk in the forest. In a clearing he saw three witches, stirring a noxious brew. Entranced by their chanting, Will’s story about murder most foul, fell into place.

Maybe he’d find those three sorceresses again. There! In the clearing, he saw the witches. The witches ignored him. “Carry on,” they cackled to each other.

Carry on, he muttered. The aroma of wolf’s bane awoke him. The play crystallized in his mind. Carry on, he cried!

🥕🥕🥕

Carry On by Kathy 70

t may just be time to carry on, not sure, my life feels like it’s a state of limbo, not here nor there just is. How do you move on from years being completely motionless and no place in sight to recover. Carry on.

What do I need to carry, my history, my future, my family? Carry on.

If I am not ready what’s my outcome. Left alone. Stay behind. Lie down.

Don’t you cry or sleep. Carry on.

Pack it in. Carry on.

Time to lead the way for others to follow. Carry on.

No choices. Carry on.

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Riding Heard by D. Avery

“Kid, is it true Ernie an’ Pepe are workin’ on a anti-frazzlement product?”
“Yep. They wanna make somethin’ ta hep folks carry on an’ keep their thinkin’ straight.”
“Better not be along the lines a Ernie’s Green Garden Gummies. Thet candy ain’t a cure.”
“Relax, Pal. Aussie steered ‘em in a dif’rent direction. They’re workin’ with a gizmo kin connect ta the whole wide world.”
“A computer?”
“Yep. There’s some pitfalls, but push the right buttons ya end up unfrazzled.”
“Ya end up unfrazzled? Where ‘zactly d’ya end up?”
“Carrot Ranch! Among good friends.”
“Hear, hear!”
“Here yer heard.”

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With A Little Help From Our Friends by D. Avery

“Hold on Kid. Computers has been aroun’ fer quite a while. So has the World Wide Web. Pepe an’ Ernie ain’t invented nuthin’.”
“No, but Aussie helped ‘em discover somethin’. Fact is, Aussie’s helped a lotta folks find Carrot Ranch, made ‘em feel ta home here. Reckon she’s been a real pillar.”
“Cain’t argue thet. But Shorty broke ground here. Put up the barns an’ bunkhouse an’ all.”
“Yep.”
“Planted the carrots, stocked the cookhouse.”
“Yep.”
“Put out the invites.”
“Yep, promptly, more or less.”
“So Shorty’s carryin’ on, creatin’ her own solutions.”
“Yep. She’s on the write path.”

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Dignity For Life

     If you’ve been around the Ranch for any time and read the weekly flashes, you know I am writing a fiction serial about Michael, an Army veteran who lost both of his legs in an IED explosion in Iraq. I had him going about his day in a wheelchair by choice instead of using prosthetic legs. There have been multiple explanations as to why he chose the chair, but the truth is, I didn’t know an amputee I could interview to make sure I told the story correctly. That has changed. I recently spent two wonderful hours with Larry McKee, a Cold War/Vietnam-era Air Force vet and recent amputee due to health issues.

     A mutual friend introduced us. I owe her a big thank you. Funny thing, Larry got the idea I wanted to interview him because he was a vet, and I didn’t get the message that he was. As an ex-Air Force wife, I was fascinated when he started talking about his military years. He was thrilled I knew the terminology he used and where the bases were that he mentioned. It was probably forty minutes in that I said I wanted him to share with me the loss of his leg, the healing process, and learning to love his prosthetic leg. It looks real; just one type an amputee can choose. We had a good laugh about the mixed messages and eventually got on the same page. The time went quickly. I came away with information about his personal experience that he gave me permission to use as part of Michael’s story, and much more, a new friend. Who says research isn’t fun. 

     Larry joined the Air Force in 1963. After boot camp, he was assigned to Keesler AFB in Mississippi to study to be an Air Traffic Controller. His duties in the control tower would include monitoring and directing aircraft movement on the ground and in the air, issuing landing and takeoff instructions to pilots, transferring control of departing flights to other traffic control centers, and accepting control of arriving flights. It’s an intense and exacting job. Unbeknownst to Larry, the Air Force had a more specific job for him to do. One which needed a top security clearance. So while he was at Keesler, a thorough investigation into his life and psyche was happening in his hometown of Elmira, New York.     

     The military investigators interviewed his family, neighbors, and friends. They weren’t asking what Larry’s favorite colors and subjects in school were. They asked tough personal questions like; was he mean to animals, did he show signs of being aggressive when angry, was he honest, did he care about his fellow man, could he keep secrets, what was his personal hygiene like, and was he “kinky” in any way (any definition of kinky was included.) They looked into how he handled money, whether his family was in debt, if he had any family or friends in prison, or living in a foreign country, or if he had any traffic tickets. They even looked back a few years into the stability of his extended family. The process was intrusive and unnerving to the ones being interviewed.     

     Larry soon found himself stationed on the small island of St. Lawrence in the Bering Sea, southwest of Nome, Alaska. The now-closed NORAD (North American Air Defense Command) base of North East Cape, Alaska, was only 21 miles from the eastern border of Russia. He and 39 other Air Force members lived amidst the Alaskan native people, reindeer, and polar bears for a year, then they were transferred out, and another group came in. This was during the time we call the Cold War. Their job was to watch radar screens for any signs of foreign invasion by air. There was never an invasion, but what is known as posturing occured. Russian planes would fly into American or Canadian air space, and American fighters would be dispatched to gently but firmly escort them back into their own air space. It was a cat and mouse game.     

     One of the things Larry remembers vividly about living on the small island was how dangerous it was to get hurt. They did have a medic and nurse with them, but any need for a doctor or trauma team caused big problems because the injured person would have to be flown the 137 miles to Nome for any advanced care. The weather and temperatures made getting there in a timely manner questionable at best.

     Larry’s next assignment was at Dover AFB in Delaware. Now up in the control tower, in better weather, his view was very different. Military planes of all sizes and shapes took off and landed every day. The ones he remembers best were the ones bringing home flag-covered caskets from Vietnam. Any fallen US soldier returns to the US through Dover, and between 1964 and 1966, there were over 1,500 of them. That’s a lot of times to witness a dignified transfer. The visual, lack of sound except for the footfalls of the honor guard carrying the casket, and understanding the sacrifice the member has made never leave your thoughts. 

The link below shows a dignified transfer.

     I had read about the hours the honor guard practices to be able to walk in unison. Why would that be difficult? Because each person’s step is different, tall people have to decrease their step length and shorter people have to elongate theirs. It’s not as easy as they make it look to get the timing perfect. Larry explained there is also a timed cadence to closing the hearse door, which I didn’t know.

     Dignity was the word Larry repeated. Live your life with dignity. Treat others with dignity. Help anyone you can maintain their dignity, and you can handle this thing we call life. He also wanted to stress that if it weren’t for the sacrifices of our military members, the United States would not be the country that it is. A little mixed up at the moment, but still the country he loves. I couldn’t agree more.

                                                                        #

     I’m hoping you’ve never had a loved one come home in a flag-draped casket. If you have, I offer my condolences. And perhaps you’ve not heard of NORAD and their function in protecting the US, but I’ll wager you have heard of the NORAD Santa Tracker. Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa Web Site receives nearly fifteen million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Volunteers receive more than 130,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children around the globe. If someone in your family has made one of those calls please tell us about it in the comments, and share any other thoughts too.

                                                                 #

     In preparation to post this column, I revisited Larry so he could proofread it, and I took my husband, Bob, with me. The two men had been born in the same town 65 miles south of where we now live. Within minutes they figured out that Bob knew a bunch of Larry’s first cousins and had their numbers in his phone. Because of multiple changes in Larry’s life he had lost the contact information. Texts, photos and calls on speaker ensued. We stayed more than an hour enjoying the happy, reconnecting, “what are the odds” afternoon. All the result of research and networking.

Larry McKee and Sue Spitulnik

Larry McKee and Sue Spitulnik

     Sue Spitulnik is an ex-Air Force wife who stays connected to the military/veteran community through her membership in the Rochester (NY) Veterans Writing Group. The group has published an anthology of their military experiences, United in Service, United in Sacrifice, available on Amazon. She also belongs to the Lilac City Rochester Writers. Quilting fills some of her time as does her family. If you would like to contact her directly you can do so at sue222spitulnik@gmail.com.

Saddle-Up Saloon; Colleen’s Double Ennead Challenge No. 10

Welcome to November! We’re almost at the end of another year. Welcome to the Carrot Ranch Double Ennead Monthly Poetry Challenge. Every third Monday of the month, I’m here at the Saloon with another challenge to help get your poetic juices flowing. Each month, we will explore a different theme or image to inspire our poetry. Take your time, there’s no hurry! You have an entire month to write your poem.

HINT: You can find this post again by typing: double ennead challenge in the search box to the right of the Carrot Ranch banner. That will bring up the most recent challenge post. ❤

Check out the poems from last month HERE

The word Ennead means nine, and a double nine is ninety-nine! Carrot Ranch is famous for 99-word flash fiction. Now, the ranch has its own syllabic poetry form written in 99 syllables!

The Double Ennead comprises five lines with a syllable count of 6/5/11/6/5, (33 SYLLABLES per stanza) 3 STANZAS EACH = 99 SYLLABLES, NO MORE, NO LESS! Punctuation and rhyme schemes are optional and up to the poet. Remember, please write your poem in 99 syllables.

#Ekphrastic Inspiration

Art has a way of inspiring ekphrastic poetry. The idea is to see behind the obvious, possibly using your third eye to pull out more layers of meaning from a particular piece of art. Van Gogh is a favorite of mine because of the softness—a dreamlike imagery portrayed in his work. So, let’s use the image below to inspire this month’s double ennead poem.

Read: Perspectives in Writing Ekphrastic Poetry

Always check your syllables with a syllable counter when composing and writing syllabic poetry. The pronunciation of words is very important to conveying a meaning in your poems. Please use sodacoffee.com/syllables/ as a syllable counter.

Our Inspiration:

Image Credit: Vincent van Gogh
Painting, Oil on Canvas
Nuenen, The Netherlands: November, 1885
Kröller-Müller Museum
Otterlo, The Netherlands, Europe

https://www.vangoghgallery.com/catalog/Painting/9/Autumn-Landscape-with-Four-Trees.html

Use the image above to compose your double ennead poem. Remember your poem should have 99 syllables.

My example follows:

"Farewell to Another Year"

frigid morn, Autumn kissed—
quiescent fields glow,
tempered with an aura of seasonal flow
the wheel of the year turns
another month lost 

under the sun's frail rays,
hardwood shadows fade,
while frost browned grasses sing anthems to the wind
naked tree limbs tremble,
upright to the end

death's undulations voiced 
leaves fall... orange rain,
bird requiems pay deference to the dead
another harvest done,
spring dreams fill my head

© Colleen M. Chesebro

Poetry is based on perceptions. We will all interpret the image differently. Follow your inner voice for inspiration.

  • Write a double ennead poem based on the painting above.
  • Post it on your blog.
  • Include a link back to this challenge in your post. (copy the https:// address of this post into your post).
  • Read and comment on your fellow poet’s work. Feedback from other poets is how we grow our poetry writing craft.
  • Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so.
  • I’ll visit, comment, and share your poetry on social media!

Now have fun and write some poetry!

November 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

The waves at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula are crashing to shore seventeen feet high. A freighter has taken safe harbor in Keweenaw Bay. It’s Veteran’s Day in the US and I’m listening to Mary Gauthier’s “Rifle & Rosary Beads” album as I drive to campus to teach. In the parking lot outside Nikkander Hall, I text my “Sixers” to thank them for their service. One is my SIL, one is D., and the other is a local counselor who serves veteran families.

Sixers are those who have your back. In military lingo, what you can see is reported as if a soldier is facing noon on a clock. Font and left would be ten o’clock. Front and right two. Directly behind a soldier is a blind spot. Brothers (sisters, too) watch each other’s six.

I couldn’t do what I do every day, which is to get up and face the damn day, without knowing I have support. Sixers are top-tier support. I also have the support of my Veteran community, my Copper Country community, my Carrot Ranch community, my Water Walker community, my three kids, and a handful of family, including my veteran cousins. Then there’s the support of my wellness toolbox contained in the Unicorn Room — writing, meditation, ancestors, spirit guides, and rock medicine — and in the hope of kayaking sloughs.

I have an arsenal of support. I need an arsenal. As Mary Gauthier asks in her song, War After the War, “Who’s gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who go to war?”

In return, I give support. My friends and family. My communities. My students. My Warrior Sisters. And my veteran spouse who is at the center of my life’s craziness. It wasn’t always this way. But it’s extremely complicated. PTSD meets cognitive demise elevates my daily living to what the Warrior Sisters and I call “battlecare.” Caregiver doesn’t quite cover what we do as veteran spouses. We are a strange misunderstood invisible overwhelmed clan. Venting to one another, we feel heard and witnessed. We also “get” each other’s situations.

Thanksgiving, for example, has been looming like a black cloud. It used to be my favorite holiday — the menu-crafting, marathon cooking, feasting, playing board games, and eating leftovers for a week. It comes at the dark of the year and fills the home with savory aromas, family, and light. But not this year. The middlest is in the Arctic. The youngest is newly married and keeps a safe distance. The eldest is nearby but refuses to be near her father. His condition scares her. It scares me, too. I have a safety plan, go bag, and daily drive-bys from the Hancock Police. My Sixers and local community can request a welfare check at any time. They have. The Chief of Police is friendly with my husband. He’s military and has a friend who was in the Rangers, too.

Did I mention it’s complicated? Lately, I prefer calling it crazy. When my husband hears me saying it’s crazy in our house, he agrees. “Mause,” he says. It’s not the pup. There are moments he flashes who I used to know. Often, the next moment reminds me we are in an evolving normal. Sometimes he makes me laugh. Sometimes I laugh because it’s all too crazy, like turning on the snowblower because the neighbor woke him up with a leaf blower. Then taking the pup for a three-mile hike with me desperate to figure out how to kill the snowblower belching fumes into the house.

Watching my life fall apart at the seams that no longer hems my marriage is sad. Like deeply sad. Like waves cresting at seventeen feet sad. Sad enough that I want to cry, listening to Mary croon the pain of my veteran community. But then, I turn my thoughts to gratitude. Grateful for strong friends, for the collective wisdom of my Warrior Sisters, and for time with my children, when I get it. I don’t take love for granted. Love is the best thing we can give and receive. It makes me a more loving community member, a more loving teacher, and weirdly enough despite the fear of conditions and circumstances, a more loving spouse.

Letting go has been a major theme for me this year. Finding moments of respite, another. I’ve been working doggedly since starting my MFA that I hardly feel like I finished it, yet here I am teaching, ghost-writing, and even building websites. I’m writing and revising, researching and exploring. If I take a break I have to work up to it and catch up after. That’s not ideal, but I’m aiming to wrap up big client projects, overcome the learning curve as an adjunct, and complete the development of my writing and coaching career. Letting go without giving up is what it means to carry on.

Carrying on is a lot of work but it is not going to be hard forever. Or maybe it gets harder. Who knows? I don’t.

If my life story were a novel, I’d call this the “mushy middle.” It’s when the protagonist has left one shore but not fully arrived at the other and now the waves and wind have kicked up. If you are the author, you might know where your novel starts and ends, but after writing scenes and chapters you have lost control of the story’s form. A mushy middle is not a writing problem, it’s a storytelling issue.

I’m in a mushy middle because I don’t know what my story is at the moment. Is it too late for me to have a college teaching profession? Will I ever publish any of my manuscripts? Will anyone sign up for coaching? Will I get to offer workshops again? Will I stay married? Stay tuned.

What if you are in the throes of a first draft (hint: NaNoWriMo) and the middle is oozing all around you and you feel like you’ve lost the point? Go back to basics. What is your story? Do cause and effect drive the action? This is your plot. Does a character transform? How and why? This is your character arc.

One reason a novel gets mushy in the middle is because of the backstory. In the first draft, we discover. It matters to us, as the authors, what happened to our protagonist at the age of nine years old. We need to find out her favorite food, his greatest dislike, and their deepest secrets. But pages and pages probably don’t fit into The Story our book will become. Don’t fret. You need as much material as possible to begin the revision process.

Remember that planning I talked about several weeks ago? Pantsers, you don’t get to escape it. And planners, you might be wondering why the best-laid plot has gone awry. Pull out of the story mush and flash-plan. Have fun with 99-word possibilities. What if your character… What if your story… You don’t have to commit pages to play with possible scenarios. Just 99-words. You can also summarize your book in 99-words. Practicing your pitch or book jacket blurb (back of the book) is a good way to gain a different viewpoint on your story.

Here are some Mushy Middle resources that got me through my MFA:

After class, after thanking my Sixers and Warrior Sisters for their service, after all, they carry the burdens of those who went to war, I held class. Listening to my students in peer critique groups warmed my heart. They make me want to workshop for the rest of my life with writers. Students helping students, writers helping writers, what a wonderful world. The gale winds blasted Nikkander Hall. I got caught squatting in a classroom not assigned to me. I assured the other instructor that we’d be out by the time her class arrived. She left and we chuckled. I said, “Someone finally noticed.” I’m used to invisibility and leveraging it to my advantage. Why not? I’m only trying to do good. My class deserves the space required to workshop. I like the feeling I get went I’m looking out for others in a way that will improve their lives.

That’s the thing about service. About veterans. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it can be dangerous, unfair, and even unjust. But it’s not about the individual. It’s about serving something bigger than ourselves. That feeling brothers (sisters) in arms get when facing battle. That feeling that sparks a veteran spouse when advocating for the quality of life for her wounded warrior. That feeling when we shelter another in the storm. The importance of doing what it takes to carry on.

It wasn’t always crazy. I came across a story Todd wrote in 2011. Before we knew anything was wrong. I want to honor him, this Veteran’s Day by sharing his story in his own words:

ENTRY INTO BATTALION

To get to the Battalion you had to pass RIP (for enlisted E-5 and below) ROP (E-6 and above) Not sure on that one but it doesn’t matter because I was an E-1 which put me cleary taking the RIP route. Anyhow, we get there and get issued our camoflage fatigues and wait for the rest of the Battalion to come back off block leave for Christmas. Then we PT’d twice daily. We did hand to hand in the pit. Ran/crawled through the ‘worm pit’/obstacle course. Which was sawdust dumped into a dugout pit, with barbed wire staked over the top of it. Except for times when it was really cold, it was flooded when we ran it. RIP instructors would piss in it before we made our run, just to mess with our heads. We learned our knots and all the other Ranger necessities before we we were shipped off to our companies. Of course we met Battalion standards for the Run and road-march. Run five miles in under 40 minutes and roadmarch 12 miles with full combat load in under three hours. Upon arriving at B Co. we immediately deployed to Texas for a month.

Todd Mills, Ranger Airborne 1st BN 75th INF B Company 1981-1985

In letting go of how things used to be, I’m embracing new adaptability. For Thanksgiving, I’m making all of Todd’s favorites. We might have some students over. We will watch football and A Christmas Story. We will call the kids. Call our parents. Take Mause on a long walk along the Masto Hitto Trail where she can run and flush grouse. On Friday, I will go spend the day and night with my eldest and her husband at their farm. They will wait to celebrate Thanksgiving until then. My daughter says it will give her a day after work to clean and relax. Maybe some of their friends will join us. Definitely, we will play board games and play with their two new farm puppies, Uther and Oberon (Utie and Obie). In December, after classes end, I will go spend time with my youngest and his wife. I’ll check in on Todd. He’ll sleep, walk the dog, maybe go to the range. Maybe I’ll join him, and maybe it will make him happy. Who knows? But I will try. I will let go of expectations. I will adapt and carry on.

To all who serve — including the invaluable support of those who serve the veteran community — to all the advocates, warriors, and poets, to the storytellers and teachers, to those who serve their communities and families, you are seen. You are witnessed. Thank you.

For my Warrior Sisters:

Who’s gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who went to war?
There’s landmines in the living room and eggshells on the floor
I lost myself in the shadow of your honor and your pain
You stare out of the window as our dreams go down the drain

Invisible, the war after the war

I get no basic training, I get no purple heart
I’m supposed to carry on, I can’t fall apart
People look at you and thank you for the sacrifice you made
They look at me and smile and say I’m lucky you’re okay

Invisible, the war after the war

But I’m a soldier too, just like you
Serving something bigger than myself
And I serve unseen, caught in between
My pain and the pain of someone else

But I’m stronger than you think I am
I’m right here by your side
I am not your enemy, I don’t wanna fight
There’s no going back in time, I know you’re not the same
But you are not the only one for whom the world has changed

Invisible, the war after the war

Mary Gauthier, War After the War

November 11, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase “carry on.” It can be an expression of perseverance or behaving in a particular way. It can even be luggage you take when traveling. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 16, 2021. 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.

Sharing the Load by Charli Mills

Max rested her sea bag against her good leg, the one that survived Iraq. Delta Airlines employees huddled like amateur football players, pretending they had a game plan. Without flinching, Max waited for them to okay her carry-on. She resisted the urge to twitch her nose or wiggle her fingers. A grunt could stand at ease in the worst conditions. A woman with white hair approached Max and loudly asked, “Are you a veteran?” Max smiled and nodded. All it took was for one person to notice and the burden shifted. She got to board with her sea bag.

🥕🥕🥕

Film Fest

You never know what to expect from the film fest.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

True Grit Shift (Part I) by D. Avery

“Pal, this fella’s here ta make a film.”
“Yes, I want to capture the true-grit work of ranching.”
“Thet so?”
“Says he wants ta see real cattle. Ya know, fer the moo-vie.”
“Well, there’s some longhorns from an earlier prompt. An’ unicorns a course. See Mister we don’t zactly wrangle cattle here.”
“What kind of a ranch is this?”
“This here’s a virtual ranch. We wrangle words. But if’n ya got a flash cam’ra, mebbe ya kin catch thet on film.”
“Don’t you have roundups?”
“Sure. Ever week. Shorty roun’s up ever’one’s stories.”
“This is unreal!”
“Thet’s ‘bout right.”

🥕🥕🥕

At Eleven by D. Avery

“Phew. LeGume here?”
“Was, Pal, but now he’s gone with his wind. Went ta check on Ernie, who’s been in a bit of a space odyssey from his gardenin’ an’ bakin’. Where’s that film fella at?”
“He was wundrin’ an’ wand’rin’, lookin’ fer inspiration when Frankie stumbled inta him. I said somethin’ ‘bout her havin’ a good eye, an’ he asked her ta take him ‘roun the ranch ta see the sights.”
“What a sight. Hope she ain’t leadin’ him in circles.”
“She’s got Burt.”
“What hoss’s the film fella on?”
“Blackjack.”
“It’ll be a must-see film.”

🥕🥕🥕

Two Aliens Walk into a Theater by Joanne Fisher

“This is what humans call cinema. This should inform us about their society.” Blarg said.

“Yes it’s a good way to find out more about them.” Krenut agreed as they sat down. After the film began the two of them watched in mounting alarm.

“These humans are dangerous! One of them walked into living quarters with a large chopping implement and began to dismember others with it!” Blarg said.

“Yes they seem rather bloodthirsty, but we must watch more before we report back.” Krenut replied. He put aside the booklet with the title: The Fifth International Horror Film Festival.

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Grandy’s Last Stand by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The storage closet was packed with slides, cellulose family movies, and photo albums (these last, at least, were sorted and labeled).

If Daniel and sister Alora wanted to see any of their grandfather’s estate, these mementos were to be magicked into a film in six months. Per Grandy’s will, the theater’d been rented, to coincide with the Regional film festival, all expenses to be paid from the estate for family attending the full week.

Both had student loans to pay. Rolling up their sleeves, they got cracking with the arrangements. They would’ve done it anyway, had they been asked.

🥕🥕🥕

Take Me Back by Michael Fishman

Tin film canisters. Messy handwriting on faded masking tape offers no clue to origins or contents.

Spliced haphazardly when transferred to video, we’re modern-day time travelers. First watching baby’s first steps. Then a mother’s sweet 16. There’s Ben and Bunny’s 40th anniversary. Back to a baby’s first bath in a kitchen sink.

Someone’s swimming in a motel pool. Thanksgiving dinner. Who’s that playing cards? Children in birthday hats laughing at a clown. They’re getting married. He’s proud in cap and gown.

Lives–
Lived.
Gone.
Missed.

They’re not much, these old films, but I watch and savor their faded memories.

🥕🥕🥕

Matty’s Virtual Film Fest by Anne Goodwin

Their flu sweeps England like their dastardly Armada. Matty must emerge from retirement to help raise morale. Her recitals would banish fear and despondency, but cinemas and theatres are closed.

The new maid suggests a solution. In a screen that is also a camera, and no bigger than a book. They can film without film and project without a projector, beaming directly to each separate device. In her ninety-nine years, Matty has never heard the like.

The girl directs. Matty performs.

No-one edits. Will evil seep out somehow to infect the audience watching blithely from the confines of home?

🥕🥕🥕

The Dream by Nancy Brady

It seemed like the worst week in Alicia’s short life. Nothing went right, and she was depressed.

Returning home, Alicia skipped dinner, chugged her sleeping tablets with wine, conked out, and began to dream.

Alicia received an invitation to a private film festival; the limo arrived minutes later.

Swiftly, Alicia was transported to a darkened theater. The film showed scenes from her life, both good and bad. She was surprised that she had made an impact on other people, changing their lives.

Alicia awoke with a changed attitude. She might have bad days, but her life was worth living.

🥕🥕🥕

Theatre of Memories by Hugh W. Roberts

Why does a visit to the LGBT film festival bring sadness and tears to Richard?

•••

“What’s the matter? Why are you crying?” whispered Adrian to his husband.

“I can’t help it,” sobbed Richard. “This LGBT film festival brings us lots to smile about, and when you see what we’re viewing on the screen right now, I can’t help but think about the times when, as a young boy, I cried myself to sleep because I thought I was all alone in this world.”

Looking around the theatre, Adrian witnessed evidence of tears and popcorn. Looking up at the screen, he squeezed Richard’s hand tight and watched the story unfold in front of the world.

🥕🥕🥕

Another’s Eyes by Rebecca Glaessner

I stride past the doorman. Find my seat.

The AI Film Fest, biggest event of the century, filled every stadium worldwide.

Murmuring, we navigate invisible NeuralNet login gateways.

Then we’re in. A hush falls.

AI generated scenes fill every human’s mind. Eyes closed, vision infinite. A collective gasp. The scope is immense, incomprehensible, story after story driven by no discernable characters.

So much beauty.

Standing ovations and bleary-eyed grins are shared the world over.

Outside, the world’s a different hue. Lighter. Hopeful.

The doorman thanks each of us with more sincerity than I’ve ever known.

His badge reads filmmaker.

🥕🥕🥕

The Oodnagalahbi Fillum Festival by Doug Jaquier

Gazza had always pronounced ‘film’ as fillum, so it came as no surprise when he organised the Oodnagalahbi Fillum Festival and its associated event, the Fillem Food Fantasia. The Fillum Festival featured the world premieres of two blockbusters, ‘Mad Max and his beaut ute’ and ‘Killer Roos’. People and animals came from miles around, including more red kelpies than you could yell ‘get up’ to. After the fillums finished, it was time to hoe into the Food Fantasia, including sweet and sour popcorn, peanut butter choc top ice-creams, and salted yabbie and vinegar chips. Pity the beer ran out.

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1936 Hull Crossing Film Festival by Denise DeVries

The moment Sarabell Simms heard that Pete Brown Jr. came back home with movie camera, she started planning a film festival. Never mind that the young man avoided her calls and never met her eyes at choir practice. Persistence would pay off.
Finally, she wrote a play starring his younger sister Nettie. “Imagine a film version!” she said.
“It’s not a sound camera,” he replied.
“I have a recording machine. And your parents would be so proud.”
“Poor, naive Little Pete,” everyone said, “he’s been away too long.”

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TheValley of Spirit by Chel Owens

They’d warned her about Old Adavndo Valley. Locals, etched in lines of wisdom’s dust, shook their heads slowly. Raised a hand. Or a crooked finger.

“Don’t,” they said, “Disturb the dead.”

She brushed them off. Turned away.

“An’ don’,” they added, “Film nothin’ ’bout yourself…”

But she was Alda Evenfeld, two-times winner of the Fergus Film Festival. No age-worn, brain-worn superstitions stood against book-worn, theatre-worn critics.

Still, fans later reflected, what a tragic coincidence. Late opening night; neighbors, drawn in moonlight, found the shell of Ms. Evenfeld. Exactly as her film’s protagonist lay. With the same scare-worn, dusty face.

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Film Flam? By JulesPaige

The small town boasted that unique films would be shown. Not quite a film festival. But classic noir, independent and other short films would be on the screen in the barn that was turned into the viewing room. The flat floor and folding chairs were the least of the obstacles. It was a challenge to find a seat with a good view. And the acoustics weren’t great either. Dad always said you get what you pay for.

die hard fans
deal with obstacles
its their choice

The room was cold. Couldn’t hear, or see. This place wasn’t for me.

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The Best Birthday Ever by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa inspected the birthday card sentiment, printed hotel confirmation, flowers, and film festival tickets. She was smiling but tears were ready to run down her cheeks.
Michael came up beside her, wrapped an arm around her waist, and kissed her cheek. “I thought you would enjoy going to the film festival.”
“I’m thrilled, because I didn’t think you would even consider it.”
“Now that I’m out of that wheelchair we can enjoy ideal seats which makes it worth going.”
“I think you’ve given us both very special gifts.”
“I’m happy it’s you I’ll be walking next to.”
“Thank you.”

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The Lost Love Film Festival by Bill Engleson

Delbert Waverly never recovered from the loss of his first love.
He was six.
Lorraine Petski was seven.
They spent Grade One together…with thirty-two others.
And Miss Campbell, of course.
Then the Petski’s moved away.
Far away.
Further than a six-year-old could find.
Eventually, Delbert went to a therapist.
Out of that came the suggestion to create a Lost Love Film Festival.
“Delbert,” the therapist noted, you are one of many. Including me. What say we seek out those who have lost loves, ask them to film their heartbreak, and, voilà, have a film festival?”
“Your nuts,” said Delbert.

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Reel Deal (Part I) by D. Avery

The guys from the shop noted that the El Camino was not in front of their new favorite pub. Neither was Marge Small’s pickup.
“Where’s Marge, Nard?”
“Movies.”
“Movies? On beer night?”
“Nick, Nick, Nick, every night is beer night.”
“Yeah, but this is Friday friggin beer night. What’s got into Marge?”
“That big goomer she wrestled with here last Friday, that’s what.”
“Marge likes guys?”
“She likes this one.”
“But. We don’t know him.”
“He’s actually taller than Marge. And. That El Camino? His.”
“Oh. Okay then. Nard?”
“Yeah?”
“I pity the movie goers sitting behind those two.”

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Reel Deal (Part II) by D. Avery

Ernest agreed with Marge that her truck would be more comfortable than his El Camino so she drove to the movie theatre. Ernest went to get Marge’s door for her but was too slow.
Though sore where his date’s truck door struck him, Ernest Biggs felt special buying tickets for two and escorting Marge Small into the theater. All eyes were on this stunning couple, each tall and of ample girth.
Marge agreed with Ernest that TV at his place would be more comfortable than the theatre. Marge got the door for Ernest who held their buckets of popcorn.

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Film Fest by FloridaBorne

I stood outside the glass windows to whisper… “Why?”

Uncomfortable inside my best dress, I looked around at people with suits costing more than my wardrobe. Conversations around me were a façade hiding flesh, bone, humanity… anything to believe they were better.

I wondered at these beings avid in their discussion as to what the nuances meant. Disgusted, I began to stray.

“Where are you going?” My 3rd husband asked. “We haven’t discussed…”

“…the fact that we paid twenty apiece to watch this horribly boring story?”

Laughter turned my husband’s eyes into obsidian. I walked toward an honest tomorrow.

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Changing Colors by Reena Saxena

The dress is sewed and put together with care over a period of six months. Her mother picks up unusual items for creative placement as embellishments. The last one is supposed to be a fresh flower picked on the morning of the gala event.

She looks at it wistfully, and wonders if it will qualify for the red carpet moment in her life – walking behind the actress holding the train of her gown.

“The carpet is going green this year to promote sustainable fashion.”

“And nothing can be greener than this dress..” Her mother’s smile is triumphant. 

Winners all…

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Film Fest Debut by Charli Mills

Whiskers tickled Barnyard Betsy’s arm. She patted her lead horse, Magic, her hand shaking. Two country souls about to debut at a big city film festival. BB had never attended a “fest,” but this movie was different. An independent documentary. Instead of her horses acting, a filmmaker caught the relationship between movie wrangler and herd. The promoters wanted BB and Magic to meet movie-goers. Terrified she’d have to put on one of those sparkling sausage casings of a dress, she was relieved they liked her idea of looking authentically Nevadan. The crowd roared when Magic pooped on the carpet.

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The SeaBright Newsletter, July 2019 by Saifun Hassam

“In July, Port SeaBright was overflowing with visitors from nearby cities and the Bright Archipelago. It was time for the annual Marine Habitat Festival, including yacht parades and races, scrumptious seafood, and the Fisheries and Habitats Film Festival.

This year, the topic was Future Marine Habitats. Director Julia Tremontaine warmly welcomed everyone. Futuristic films and models by amateurs and professionals drew a lot of attention, about how people could live on the sea, in catastrophic climate changes. The star of the festival was a Coast Guard cutter, transformed by talented imaginative college students into a greenhouse and aquaculture habitat.”

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O My Goodness by Annette Rochelle Aben

Shannon started the Indie Artist Group for opportunities to get amazing, unique works of art into the hands of those who might never see them otherwise.
The entire group was excited, their art was going to be part of goodie bags handed out at The Sundance Film Festival that year! Some made jewelry, others painted pictures and some designed cards.
Shannon hosted their table in the celebrity lounge with a broad smile and hearty handshake. She was cool and calm greeting celebrities but nothing prepared her to meet the person who asked for an extra bag for Oprah Winfrey!

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Film Fest by Robert Kirkendall

The writer was checking his emails then saw one from a film festival competition where he had submitted a screenplay. Probably just another rejection, he thought, bad news can wait.

He scrolled down the list of other emails, but the one from the film festival kept gnawing at him and he he couldn’t wait anymore. He went back to the film festival email, opened it, and was surprised to see that his screenplay, a comedy about a man trying to escape Santa Cruz, had moved onto the next round in the competition. Wow, he thought, good news for once.

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Film Fest by Jane Aguiar

I was invited for the Film Festival and my film “Bejababdar” was selected. It was a superhit regional short film. I did not have the confidence to communicate in English so I sat in one corner.

Suddenly, the anchor mentioned the names of Best Films and Best Actresses. He called the film “Bejababdar” ” irresponsible” and my name “Garland of Diamonds” instead of “Ratnamala”.

He spoke in English so even though my film and I were selected, I remained silent and seated. When everyone looked at me and began clapping, I realized that my selection was due to my “irresponsibility”.

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Wacky Films by Madeline Murphy

Mia was bursting with joy! Creating a film about her grandparents had culminated in a spot at the Film Festival. The category was Female Film Directors. Short on time, she had asked cousin Andy to submit the film.

They sat in the front row for the screening. Mia opened her program and searched for her film in the listing. Popcorn cascaded over Andy’s head. Mia’s film was under Weird and Wacky!

“Grrrr, run NOW!” Said Mia

“Your film is about their lives as comedians. Right?” Said Andy.

“Yes, they were hilarious,” said Mia. “And, you’re lucky I love you.”

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The Little Tittweaking Film Festival by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking nestled in the bosom of the countryside, happily anonymous. When Colonel Daub Byzantine retired to the old vicarage, he and Maple Byzantine hoped to join a lively community. They were wrong.
‘What shall we do?’
‘A film festival. Everyone can make their own.’
The other residents weren’t sure, but mucking in was expected.
‘Just supply your films by the closing date. We’ll do the rest.’
It was therefore with some surprise that the Byzantines received the entry forms covered in a variety of dusts, condensations and mucuses .
‘Not everyone sees films like you do, Daub,’ lamented Maple.

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Ten Days Clean by Donna Matthews

I’m picking my niece up at the airport for the weekend. She’s been having a hard time, my sister said. A hard time in high school – hanging out with the wrong crowd kind of hard. Shhh…I chide myself. Take responsibility and own this. She IS the wrong crowd, just like me. She jumps in the car, cigarette smoke still clinging to her sweatshirt.

“Auntie!” she exclaims.

“What’s it gonna be? Concert? That film festival at the Woodlands Pavillion? I’m getting so wasted!”

“I was thinking a meeting.”

” A what?”

” An AA meeting…I’m ten days clean today.”

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Silent Flim Fest by Duane L Herrmann

I took a friend to a silent film festival. He’d never been to one. After the first film he checked his phone messages. There were none. Odd: no phone calls, no messages all day. It was a replacement phone. He’d been told data from the old would be transferred to the new. He found that had not happened. He missed a call from his parole officer. Because my friend had not showed up for a sudden meeting, he was reported as “abscounded” and a warrant went out for his arrest. His brief freedom was over – technology never fails.

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Unwary by C. E. Ayr

These back streets are dangerous places for the unwary.
Her heels click rhythmically as she hurries home from the late-night film festival.
She is suddenly aware that she is being followed.
Her pursuer is closing rapidly.
She knows there have been a series of vicious attacks on women in the area.
She cannot run in this tight skirt.
She stops, backs against a wall.
He leers knowingly, reaches for her blouse.
He doesn’t even see her NAA Guardian pistol before the bullet passes through his left eye into his brain.
These back streets are dangerous places for the unwary.

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Leaving’ A Trail (Part I) by D. Avery

“Ain’t seen ya at any a the film showin’s Kid. Have ya least checked out the trailers?”
“Trailers? Them film folks is campin’ out?”
“Not camper trailers. Movie trailers. Kinda like a visual blurb, get ya innerested in a film.”
“No time fer any a that Pal. Saloons don’t run themselves ya know. Well, ‘cept when Chel and Colleen take the reins.”
“Yep, some fine poetry servin’s then. How’s the Author’s Chair?”
“Got a couple a great writers lined up fer November an’ December. Hope folks come by second Mondays ta engage an’ ask the authors ‘bout their writin’.”

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Leaving’ A Trail (Part II) by D. Avery

“Yep, the saloon stage is fer the entire Carrot Ranch Literary Community. Folks kin take a seat in the Author’s Chair, kin be innerviewed, or even have their characters come in fer a chat. Jist ‘bout anythin’ goes at the Saddle Up.”
“Zactly. If someone has a idea or a hankerin’ ta take the stage all they have ta do is run it by our writer D. Avery.”
First Mondays– Anyone Can Poem with Chel Owens
Second Mondays– Author’s Chair volunteer
Third Monday– Double Ennead Challenge with Colleen Chesebro
Fourth Monday– Interviews & Showcasing
Fifth Monday– Photo Flash Challenge

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