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April 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

My bare feet pad across the cool boards of faded decking, relishing the warm places where the morning sun has touched. It’s spring in the Keweenaw, that season ever hopeful of summer. I’m arranging all my pots for planting, having saved mushroom trays all winter. With four drill holes, they make great pots for four seedlings. Last weekend, I cleared the deck planter my SIL built for my daughter but was too big to move. This is my first season getting to plant it and my kales, Yankee mixed lettuces, and nasturtiums have arrived, awaiting a push into the soil. But first, I must decide where to plant the garlic, snapdragons, and peas and which kind — dwarf sweet, snow pods, Tom Thumb, or purple.

These small decisions distract my mind from the fact that 60,000 Americans have no say in what happens next in the pandemic. I plant to the memory of all those around the world who have lost their lives to a virus that cares not what our favorite food is, or whether we prefer mountains to ocean surf. I can’t claim my potager as a Victory Garden as many did in WWI and II. There is no victory in surviving a worldwide pandemic, but I’m going to declare my veg, flowers, and fairies a Hope Garden.

I’m as excited about the fairy garden as I am the unicorn room. Both offer space for play, an important element to any creative person. Already, I’ve been using my room to work out scenes and develop secondary characters. Just when you think you’ve “got” this fiction writing down, another layer emerges to work seamlessly into the overall design. Secondary characters need to be as round as primary ones — the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s). Does your book need a villain? No, but you must derive tension from somewhere. The purpose of an antagonist is to agitate the areas the protagonist doesn’t want to touch. A situation, place, society, or self can all stand in as an antagonist.

Right now, I’m building an arsenal against my garden’s anticipated antagonists — slugs. Every morning, I crack fresh farm eggs for scrambled, panakuchen, or buttermilk pancakes. I then crush the colorful shells of cream, green, orange, and rusty-speckled in a spent paper bag from our monk-coffee. I’m building up a supply to mulch around my slug-vulnerable Brussels sprouts this year. I’ll also set out some Keweenaw Brewery Widowmaker, a dark ale, to entice the slugs to drown their worries in a saucer of beer. I’ve also hired a garden pixie to watch over the potager. She’s set to arrive next week from an Etsy shop that specializes in fairy gardens. I’m serious about my play.

Somehow, opening up to play reminded me of my great-grand Uncle Fred Paullus and great-grand Aunt Myrtle Nuñes. They were in their seventies and still ranching in Tres Pinos, California when I used to go play with them. It was before kindergarten when my mother would go off to work in her mini-skirts. I think they were family tapped to babysit me. Whatever the arrangement, I loved my Uncle Fred and Aunt Myrtle. He was a cowboy from Idaho who had ranched in California since the time of the Spanish Flu, the great-grandnephew of Cobb McCanles. Aunt Myrtle was the grandaughter of vaqueroes who had lived in California long before it ever became a US state.

One particular memory became my uncle’s favorite story to tell. At that time, I loved riding with them in the truck to check on the cows and calves. Uncle Fred had a water-trough where the cows would come out of the oak and grass-covered hills to drink. On this particular day, we got out of the truck and walked up to a gruesome sight — a dead calf, bloodied and torn. I’d seen death before on the family ranches, but not one so violent. My Uncle Fred scratched his head under his Stetson, looked over to Aunt Myrtle whose eyes had gone wide behind her cat-eye glasses, then looked down to me with a kind expression and said, “Lil’ Charli, ‘fraid a mountain lion got this little fella.”

That’s all he had to say. My five-year-old brain kicked into survival mode, and I ran. You know the saying — you only have to run faster than the slowest in your group, and at pre-k age, I discovered I indeed could outrun two seventy-year-olds. I ran to Uncle Fred’s truck, scrambled inside, rolled up both windows, and locked the doors. For the next 30 minutes, my Uncle tried to convince me to unlock the doors. I would feel more shame as an adult that I left my beloved relatives to fend for themselves if it weren’t for the fact that Uncle Fred found the incident funny. He thought me a clever girl for thinking to lock out the big cat that had taken down a calf. They also instilled within me a sense of play based on a curiosity that I still retain, as I realized their humor eased what could have been a traumatic incident in my young life.

Have you ever wanted to curl up at the feet of a good storyteller? Draw a blanket around you like an eternal child, burrow into its warmth, keep an ear out to hear, and a hand to hold a mug of coffee. Well, maybe kids shouldn’t be drinking coffee, but I long to sit blanketed and child-like at the knee of my friend and captivating storyteller, Myra Möyrylä. Since the pandemic, she’s stepped up on Facebook to entertain the community with memories of her ancestors, writing detailed, heartfelt stories of the people from her past who taught her sisu and other values in their adjustment to the New World from Finland to the Keweenaw. Some of her kin remind me of mine though we both came from such different regions and cultures.

To give you a taste, Myra writes the following caption to this week’s challenge photo:

Long boards aren’t only for surfers💙🇫🇮these cross country skis from Finland are well over a hundred years old and serviced a lineage of ancestors for their transportation needs. They were last known as Great Uncle Vic’s skis. Before cars and roads people walked were they needed to go and in the winter laced the leather straps to their boots and set off on skis.🇫🇮 Sisu, sauna, farming, cross country skis and a love for the outdoors and strong coffee came over with our families 💙🇫🇮 good memories during these complicated times💙🇫🇮

This is the first time I’ve seen cross-country skis so long or heard the phrase long boards for skis. In addition to surfboards, I’ve heard of long skateboards, too, and can imagine the phrase extending to snowboards. Who was the first human to decide that a board was good transportation upon water, frozen or deep?

I wonder the fate of Uncle Fred’s things. I know he had tools made by his Grandfather Riley, a Union soldier from Tennessee. People like Uncle Fred or Uncle Vic learned to do with what they had, and innovate for what they needed. Women like Aunt Myrtle and Myra’s family made homes and passed down values like sisu and endurance. It is an interesting time to consider what we have from our past that we can use in our future. Perhaps the stillness a pandemic offers is a gift to revise old stories in new ways, plant heirloom seeds for future harvest, and laugh away the fear. This is life. And we are the ones who write about it.

April 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features long boards. They can be used in any way you imagine, including a name for sporting equipment. How are they used and who is using them? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 5, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

Precautions Not Needed by Charli Mills

Sam King parked the Willys Jeep in first gear. “Get the long boards,” he told his daughter.

Gripping the roll bar, Danni swung out the open side. Near the gate, the Lazy T Ranch kept long boards for crossing the boggiest parts of the high-meadow springs. Using her leather gloves, Danni moved one board at a time, setting each through the open space in the backseat. They stuck up at an angle. “Dad, you want me to tie a bandana on the end?”

Sam laughed. “We’re not likely to get rear-ended, Kiddo. The bulls are all down at headquarters.”

Distance Dating

COVID-19 introduced new norms and terms to our global society, including “social distancing.” Yet, as the young-at-heart octogenarian lovers in the photo show, love can’t be deterred (photo credit to Emile Ducke for The New York Times 2020). Throughout the ages, history, and mythology, humans have grappled with barriers to love.

Writers delved into what it is to date at a distance. They were free to chase down a story from any angle, genre, and area of influence, and the outcomes are not necessarily happily-ever-after endings.

The following are based on the April 23, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about distance dating.

PART I (10-minute read)

Star-Crossed Lovers by T. Marie Bertineau

He craned his neck, shaded his eyes. Like Rapunzel, she was up there. Somewhere. “I’m right here, darling!” he called, loafers planted. “Don’t be frightened!”
This identical scene transpired at precisely 2:15 p.m. each Tuesday. Rain or shine he appeared at the foot of the eighteen-story apartment building where he waited expectantly for his online love’s exit.

“Deep breaths,” he encouraged.

“Oh, but dearest, I cannot!” Her sweet voice, like honey, poured down upon him. “I simply can’t.”

If only they’d known at first ping: A claustrophobic and an acrophobic could never overcome an elevator’s menace.

🥕🥕🥕

Long Distance Longing by Janet Guy

1989. If I mail my letter priority mail, it’ll take, let’s see, 8 days to get to Adelaide. Then he’s got to read it and write back. Let’s say that takes him 4 days the earliest, then another 8 days back to me in New York. That’s 20 days. Almost three. Whole. Weeks! I am totally going to DIE! When are they inventing video phones so we can, like, see each other? Or those transporters in Star Trek so we can visit? It’s so unfair! I’m totally moving to Australia when I’m 18. My life is the. Worst. Ever!

🥕🥕🥕

Distance Dating by Di @ pensitivity101

It had all started with an advert in the local paper.

After several months of written correspondence and phone calls, they ascertained they had sufficient in common to meet and a rendez vous was arranged.

It was a seedy pub, but a popular one and easy to find.

Neither were impressed, one sitting outside chain smoking plucking up the courage to go in, the other inside wondering whether to stay and wait.

He decided to leave just as she chose to go in.

Embarrassed smiles and apologies, a couple of halves of lager, and the rest became history.

Theirs.

🥕🥕🥕

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: “… summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” by Saifun Hassam

Jena had been a graduate student in Seattle that delightful summer. Sam was finishing his thesis in literature history and would leave for Boston in fall. Jena’s expert knowledge of the digital archives gave his thesis the depth he had in mind.

Time passed swiftly. They both loved outdoor concerts and Shakespeare festivals on the Quay. Their warm summer relationship turned into a lifelong friendship.

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

The pandemic’s shadow would soon pass. They would meet again.

🥕🥕🥕

Sometimes Close is Too Far by Susan Sleggs

Tessa’s cell-phone woke her at 3 am. Frightened, she got out of bed to retrieve it. Not one of the kids, Michael.

“Michael. You frightened me.”

“I’m sorry. You’re too far away.”

“What? I’m only across town.”

“Might as well be the moon.”

“What are you talking about?”

Silence.

“Michael?”

“Memories. Painful ones of the rehab room in D.C., wonderful ones of sharing a room with you. The bad ones are winning. I’m admitting I didn’t want you to go home. You belong here.”

“If we close this distance, it’s permanent.”

“How soon can you get here?”

“Fifteen minutes.”

🥕🥕🥕

Remote Connection by D. Avery

The zoom host had been transferred so many times that neither could say how they were connected, just that they were. By the time they slowly closed their laptops, finally ending that first meeting, these friends of friends of friends were more than friends.

There were more zoom times, just the two of them. Both wanting to make a good impression, they started wearing underwear again, wore clothes that required buttoning. Tabletops were cleared and neatly arranged with flowers and stemware for simulcast dinners.

They both had been working from home, isolated, for weeks.

Why not?

“Let’s quarantine together.”

🥕🥕🥕

Invitation to a Rave by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Wake me up, when September ends?”

“It won’t be that long.”

“See you in September?”

“Surely, they’ll lift restrictions before then.”

“You’re the one who keeps saying no.”

“Just for now, Romeo. I won’t risk Nurse’s health.”

“Tybalt’s been talking to you.”

“My brother offers good council. I trust him, on my life!”

“Out out damned pox!! Live now, for tomorrow we die!”

“What? No…”

“We’ll wear masks, sanitize with donkey water, maintain a distance the height of two clowns, one atop the other. Mercutio and I are going–last chance, Juliet.”

“Wake me up when it’s all over.”

🥕🥕🥕

Where We Go by Michelle Wright

Maybe I was ten; you were thirteen
From different neighborhoods, passing by in between
Perhaps I saw you there, in downtown Detroit
I would not know you until the time was right

You graduated in 2003
While I was in 7th grade learning poetry
You took off for new endeavors, feeling free
I was trying to learn who I’d want to be

Fifteen years later in Houghton’s coffee shop
After many a challenge and stop
We said hello
We learned of where we’d like to go

It didn’t take long to know
That we wanted to go there together

Publisher’s note: Congratulations to local writers, Michelle Wright and Zachary Blessing who got engaged this week, mid-Pandemic. Talk about going where the prompt leads. Many happy years to the couple!

🥕🥕🥕

The Answer by Wallie and Friend

The note was carefully written, the bottle was firmly corked, and Andrea looked out over the blue water. The water was still and so clear that she felt she could see the bottom.

Whispering a prayer, she let the bottle go.

It sank, the little weight at its base carrying it straight to the sea floor.

Andrea was turning to go when she heard a soft ripple. She saw no one, but reached out and took the small box in her hand. It, too, was carefully sealed.

She opened it and couldn’t help smiling when she saw her answer.

🥕🥕🥕

Distance Dating by Miriam Hurdle

Felix went from London to Hong Kong for a summer vocal recital. His mom took him to London when he was thirteen after his dad passed away. A friend connected him with Shirley to be his accompanist. He had one week to practice. They practiced every day at her house and had lunch afterward.

Felix was excited about the success of the performance and signed up to return the next year. The two corresponded after Felix returned to London. The engagement took place in spring the following year and the wedding bell rang in summer instead of singing performance.

🥕🥕🥕

Terminal by Joanne Fisher

“I don’t feel like we’re really communicating at the moment.” I said to her, as we lay beside one another.

“There’s nothing to say.” She replied.

“We need to talk this out.” I insisted. I felt her shrug her shoulders.

“We’re fine.” She said, though the tone of her voice suggested otherwise.

“No we’re not, yet you refuse to talk to me about it.” I told her. She sighed loudly and turned over in bed so she was facing away from me.

We both lay in the same bed together, but I had never felt more distant from her.

🥕🥕🥕

Online Eros by Paula Puolakka

Lucretia and Bob had been dating for three years online. Then the pandemic hit, flying became impossible, and everything turned awkward.

“What is love?” Bob began to ask and started avoiding eye contact during their chats, which made Lucretia give him the evil eye.

Soon, Bob started helping out an acquaintance who had lost her job, and Lucretia started mending her heart by reading Giovanni Guareschi’s Don Camillo books.

Everyone’s world was microscopic, Lucretia had to digest the truth from the books, and as she observed her neighbor Sergio mending a fence, she understood, that “online eros” was boring.

🥕🥕🥕

Distance Dating by Priorhouse

Still don’t understand your commitment to Pedro – he’s 3,000 miles away.
You see each other twice a year?
..

Listen Lisa, you might never understand how I approach love. Just thinking of Pedro is like the feeling of when a tooth stops aching. There’s more to love than physical connecting. We discuss art. Stories. We laugh at lines from shows. Tolstoy said, “everything is, everything exists, only because I love”- and Pedro can be here without being here.

..
Okay, I won’t challenge the love you experience – but speaking of toothaches, think I need to see the dentist about this molar.

🥕🥕🥕

Agony of Unsurety by Kerry E.B. Black

It came with a ping that set my heart to giddy bouncing – a text message. From him. My fingers fumbled to push ‘read,’ but I hesitated. For an eternity of minutes, I pondered what he might have written, simultaneously imagining in this new beginning a lifetime – and an abrupt end.

With a shake of my head, I pushed aside foolishness. “A coward dies a thousand deaths.” I would be brave. Brazen even, perhaps?

Swallow fear.

Create a fresco homage to a beauty I no longer felt from the wet plaster of my being.

After all, he wrote.

I’d read.

🥕🥕🥕

Fog, Unbreachable by Anne Goodwin

Through the fog, he reached for me. Fingertips inches from my nose. My hands, crossed against my chest, couldn’t answer his. Fossilized, locking me in.

The tea he brought turned cold on the bedside table. The kitsch mug that held it, gifted from my dearest friend. My mind snagged on riddles: Are jokes funny? Why is the present she gave me present when she is past?

I pondered keys, bolts and doorknobs. I thought of prisons, cages, bars. Of hermits, bricked-in anchoresses. Of how I didn’t want to hurt my husband, yet hurt him a million times a day.

🥕🥕🥕

Adjustments by JulesPaige

Was it doomed to fail? A romance made of convenience. That blind date set up to ease the pangs of a break up on both sides of the fence? He went into service. So she became a letter writer. But they were distant in more ways than just miles. Their politics and philosophies didn’t mesh either. Experience is a learning tool. No one really is the outright fool, as long as they see the light.

He ended up going back to the gal he left, once stateside. She found someone new to love too. Who says love is blind?

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Better with Distance by Michelle Wright

Victoria and John’s romantic relationship began at a distance. John had moved to Florida after graduating high school. He and Victoria reconnected via Facebook after Victoria’s divorce. Victoria confided in John. They had video chats after every long work day. It wasn’t a difficult decision for Victoria to move to Florida. She got a job she loved and started taking a dance class.

Victoria playfully messaged John, “Do you want to video chat?”

John rolled his eyes, annoyed with her as she sat next to him on the couch.

Moving to a new Florida residence was much more difficult.

🥕🥕🥕

I Can’t See You, Love by Ritu Bhathal

“But I miss you, Boo Boo. I can’t help it.” Hari could hear Jeena’s pout down the phone.

“I know, baby, but what can we do? This lockdown is hard on everyone.”

“Yes, but they weren’t meant to be getting married in June and had to cancel. It’s not fair. My beautiful outfit, the reception, the cake… all cancelled!”

He was glad she couldn’t see him rolling his eyes. The wedding plans had been off the scale… maybe it was a good thing, this lockdown. He’d definitely had more time to think.

Maybe Jeena wasn’t the one for him…

🥕🥕🥕

Can Love Perish Between the First and Second Slice of Toast? by Anne Goodwin

If she’d noticed him drifting, she would’ve dismissed it. Put it down to the miles of motorway between them, the phone calls snatched between her assignments, lectures and placements; his grappling with ironing white shirts for his first grown-up job. Soon, if she got the job, they’d share a house together: a slate-roofed cottage on a dirt track, a couple of Labradors to fill the gap before babies. On summer evenings they’d walk the dogs after work, up to the fells or down to the shore. She’d overlooked his politics, but couldn’t discount his disparagement of her interview attire.

🥕🥕🥕

Long Distance Dating by Floridaborne

Stereotypes: The scourge of human assumption. Once, “assumption” saved a cave dweller’s life. No one cared if that rustling in the trees turned out to be the wind. You were still alive.

A naïve young woman of eighteen married an American using a mail-order dating service, believing it led to a better life. He thought “Oriental” women would follow a man’s orders.

After a year of marriage, and a child, she understood the truth. He wanted a slave, not a wife.

She said, “It was like having two children. Never again!”

She now has a black belt in Karate.

🥕🥕🥕

The Pitfalls of “Love” by John Lane

After thirty years of her husband impersonating a couch potato, Mabel wanted something different. She logged onto the *Single Seniors* dating site as a new member, and within minutes, she met *Chad*.

She fell in love with his words, “fate” and “destiny”.

*Chad* asked for her personal email for “privacy”.

Within three weeks, *Chad* claimed he wanted to see her. Then, he claimed his wallet fell overboard as he was going to visit her. Mabel sent her life savings. $50,000.

*Chad* never contacted her again. Months later, the Ugandan police called. *Chad* was a teenage scammer named Aziz Mbire.

🥕🥕🥕

The Conscientious Waiter and the Nasty Customers by Papershots

“Are you two together?” the waiter asked, determined to screen Him from Her with his portable transparent plastic wall.

“We’ll see after tonight.” She winked.

Impassive, the waiter inserted the freshly sanitized wall to split the table in two, then joked, “Everybody has the right to date. Still, I’m thinking this plastic wall won’t be the only thing separating the two of you tonight.”

He reacted, but then sat down. She pulled down her mask to get a sip of wine. They had nothing in common, true; except for the unpleasant remarks they left on the portable plastic wall.

🥕🥕🥕

A Punch to the Heart by Dave Madden

“I can’t express how important this is for me,” Chuck told his girlfriend of over a year for the hundredth time, but it wasn’t getting through.

Tiffany repeated the same questions, “But why all the way to Thailand? And why does it have to be for an entire year?”

Explaining that it was the best training in the world and they don’t allow outsiders in for less than a year was futile.

“We can FaceTime every day,” Chuck reminded her.

After several months of being an ocean apart, Tiffany’s feelings couldn’t be validated virtually, and she broke things off.

🥕🥕🥕

The Great Divide by Keith Burdon

“This is goodbye…”

Alex read the same three words again, was it for the fiftieth time? The hundredth? He couldn’t remember.

Dumped by email, he was alternating between sadness and anger, and sometimes what felt like a combination of the two. Sanger perhaps?

Emma had convinced him that they could make their relationship work, Alex hadn’t been so sure, he was going to be away for some time. Six months later and she was gone.

Furthermore, there was no chance of a rebound here either, as it was just him on the space station. Sometimes, being an astronaut sucked.

🥕🥕🥕

Distance by Joanne Fisher

Lena had decided to work in the new colony in Proxima Centauri b, but she had to leave her girlfriend behind. The new Quantum Drive had got Lena there surprisingly quickly: she was now 4.244 light years away. Thanks to the Pulse Generator, which sent communications through an artificially constructed wormhole, messages to Earth only took a few days rather than four years, which made it possible for Ani and her to still talk. Whenever Ani messaged, she looked so much older now. Lena was never going back to Earth. She wondered how long it could now last between them.

🥕🥕🥕

How Much is That Love in the Window? Chelsea Owens

One inch of glass was all that stood between them. She’d measured, knuckling her finger and squinting with her face against the cold, cold window. Still, one inch between her and her Tomàs meant little.

Some days -well, nights, really- she’d leaned a sunken cheek against her side and felt those serious, warm lips from his side. Her weak heart fluttered.

“Come away, child,” they told her; dragged her.

Stretching, grasping; she used what little strength she could muster. To stay. To keep watching.

To keep loving Tomàs, the paper boy on the corner who never turned her way.

🥕🥕🥕

Last Flight by Ann Edall-Robson

Three years of contributing to the profit margins of the airlines while they juggled their time to be together. The plane was late. The waiting was always worth the butterflies in her stomach. He did that to her every time she saw him. Finally, he was here. Waiting for his luggage, he wrapped his arms around her. Savouring the moment, she smiled. Hand in hand they left the terminal. Catching up since their last telephone call. That’s how they started each day. How was she to know this would be the last flight of their long-distance love affair?

🥕🥕🥕

Letters from Gallipoli by Doug Jacquier

Dear Flo

I’m writing this from the ship that’s taking us to some beach. The brass say it should be a walk in the park and that Johnny Turk will turn tail at the first sign of gunfire.

Every day I think about when we went to the beach with our picnic and the cordial bottle leaked and soaked all through our sandwiches. We laughed all the way home and that was the day I knew I wanted to be with you forever.

I’ll be home soon, so start thinking about our wedding.

Love and kisses

Bert

🥕🥕🥕

1944 by Sascha Darlington

The pads of our fingers touch. Our eyes meet. “Moonlight Serenade” sounds behind us.

Every day since he’s been gone, I feel his fingertips on mine, the echo of music, the owls calling in the holler.

Letters come infrequently. Words scratched out by someone witnessing our awkward courting dance.

When I close my eyes, I can feel his warm breath on my cheek.

Roy, 4F on account of his hearing, pursues me. I try, kindly, to withdraw.

The winter’s harsh. Telegrams daily. I watch his house, praying none arrive.

“When bluebells bloom, I’ll be home to you.”

🥕🥕🥕

Retrospect by Colleen M. Chesebro

I have no tears left to shed. Yesterday, Pa and I’d buried Jeremy at the edge of the cemetery where the tallest trees grew.

After a month in country, an enemy bullet had found its mark. Now, all that remained of our love was the box of letters he’d written to me from Iraq.

Darkness hovers. Thunder growls, a storm ready to erupt. Yet, a feeling of warmth comforts me. I know he is near. Deep within, the first faint flutter of life stirs—Jeremy’s baby, a life reborn.

the sun plays
hide and seek between
the storm clouds

🥕🥕🥕

Captivity by Charli Mills

They captured her in the spring of 1904. Her long stride couldn’t save her, though she fled across the high desert basin, nostrils flared, mouth dry, making for a canyon where she could drink from the creek. What she didn’t know is that they set a trap, blocking her exit. Exhausted, she relented and followed the men into a captivity of fences.

He visited her often, staying back at a distance, the one true love of her life.

“Hey Cap, there’s that stallion again.” The young man who rode her back pointed.

She whinnied and pranced, thirsting for love.

🥕🥕🥕

Separated By A Common Confection by Geoff Le Pard

‘What was your first date, Logan?’

‘Karen Doubleknees. We met in holiday. She lived in Skegness. We were sixteen.’

‘But that’s…?’

‘500 miles from Chez Logan, yes.’

‘How?’

‘It’s not hard Morgan. We used the phone.’

‘That’s not a date. You have to stare into each other’s eyes, hold hands…’

‘We shared a bar of chocolate, we read our poetry and…’

‘How do you share chocolate over the phone?’

‘She sent me half in the post. We played the same single at the same time.’

‘That’s romantic.’

‘I suppose. It didn’t last.’

‘The distance?’

‘The chocolate. It wasn’t Cadbury’s.’

🥕🥕🥕

Love in the Narrows by Bill Engleson

It was one of those bright summer days. You know the kind, sun blasting like a heat lamp, smacking you smartly with fire.

The ferry was entering the Pass, I remember that. Back then I travelled a ton, yoyoing between the Island and the Mainland.

I was soaking up rays on the bow of the deck when I glimpsed her; wind flipping her hair, wildly whipping her face.

She was one deck up, looking out over the water.

Wasn’t seeing me, I could tell.

Hadn’t seen her in twenty-five years.

Likely wouldn’t see her again.

I shoulda said hello.

🥕🥕🥕

Distance/Time = Speed by D. Avery

“Distance, okay, and dates, that’s time… this’s a classic rate problem.”

“Speedy reaction, Kid. Don’t think thet’s whut Shorty meant though. Dates, not rates.”

“Alright, but work with me Pal. Could be long ago an’ far way?”

“Thet could fit, I reckon.”

“So, could write a fairy tale?”

“Yep. Could. Long’s it’s ‘bout some sort a lovin’ situation, in 99 words.”

“Once upon a time… (that’s the date)”

“Still don’t think thet’s whut she meant, Kid…”

“In a land far away… (a distant land)… they lived happily ever after.”

“They who?”

“Who cares? They’re happy.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Service – Military or Otherwise

    When you hear the word SERVICE, what flashes through your mind? Currently, it may be a picture of doctors and nurses. It could be your favorite restaurant server, your mechanic, or someone in the military. I was an Air Force wife from 1972–1979 and I waited tables in the closest restaurant to the main gate of both an Air Force Base and an Army Post in Tacoma, Washington from 1978­­—1991 where most of the customers were active duty or retired members of the armed services. I moved back to the Finger Lakes area of New York State in 1991 and lost my connection to a military-based way of life. When I hear the word service my mind thinks military first, then may drift to other definitions.

    I am a five-year member of the Rochester, NY Veterans Writing Group. We meet each month and I have only missed a few meetings since joining in 2015 because being with “my” vets has brought me home to a feeling I didn’t know I was missing until I experienced it again. When I started attending I found my “tribe” of brothers and sisters that “get it.” The group gathers around a table and writes personal experience memories brought forth from thought-provoking prompts. Once the allotted writing time ends, we read our musings aloud, sharing the highs and lows, and sometimes comical, points of military life. It’s a healing process and only safe to do with other vets who understand: the front lines come with exhaustion, bad food, blood, and death; the military comes with pride, service, boredom, and chaos; the home front can be supportive or fall away in a flash, and it takes 22 to 25 other members in the background to support the ones brandishing weapons no matter the circumstances.

    I am proud to share, the groups’ anthology titled, United in Service, United in Sacrifice will be released in May 2020. The authors are veterans and family members ranging in age from 27 years to 95 years old. The stories start at WWII and move forward to Afghanistan. The authors’ goal is to help anyone understand the meaning and feeling of “tribe” or “brotherhood”  of the military and the sacrifice it takes to “sign on the dotted line,” hence the book title.

    According to the National Conference for State Legislators, only 7.6% (in 2019) of all Americans have ever served in the United States military. I beg to differ because I was a dependent wife and had two children. No, I didn’t serve to the extent of following orders and being asked to brandish a weapon, but I carried a military dependent ID and served by being the back-up, the home front, who gave up my childhood roots, never gave them to my kids, then willingly packed and moved each time the Air Force ordered my ex-husband to do so. I made immediate friends with new neighbors and relied on other members of my husband’s unit as a family because I had no other choice. Becoming a military dependent changed my life by expanding the puddle in which I live.

    Today I continue to serve by being the “Mom” of our writing group. I take the coffee pot to each gathering, check in privately with a member when I can sense they need it, and present each new member a patriotic quilt on their sixth month attendance anniversary. I learned to sew when I was in high school and I’ve been making quilts ever since. I am very fortunate to have a large sewing studio in my home that has multiple cupboards full of many different colors of fabric, lots of it red, white, or blue.  My husband is often with me when I’m shopping for fabric. He carries the bolts I pick, chats with the person who cuts what I want and pays for it knowing I am going to give most of it away. He’s a veteran too and his generosity keeps me occupied doing something I love, and gives both of us a way to acknowledge our fellow veterans.

    The quilt pictured below was made for my WWII Veteran friend, Bob Whelan. It is a replica of the 13th Armored Cavalry (1944-’45) patch of which he was a member and is now the President of that unit’s reunion group. The quilt hangs in his study at home. The pattern for the recurring block is called Kaleidoscope. Fun fact; my husband was in the 50th Armored Division (1970-’76.)

WWII quilt.jpg

 

patqlt.JPG

                             The above quilt was a gift to Steve McAlpin.

We had to say a final farewell to one of our own this past January. Some of “my” vets from left to right; Me, Gary Redlinski (Vietnam), Steve McAlpin (Afghanistan), his girl Carol, Holly Katie (family member), Vaughn Stelzenmuller (Vietnam), Bob Whelan (WWII)

There are so many different types of service whether it is in the military, to your family or community, at work, in your children’s schools, at the Carrot Ranch, etc. Service can be as simple as a smile in the check-out line at a retail store or brandishing a weapon not knowing if you’ll make it to the next day and all points and locations in between.

Charli Mills serves us by giving us a fun, safe, positive place to share the written word. I am thankful to be a part of Carrot Ranch and proudly talk of my international friends who keep my life puddle ever expanding.

In the comments section please share your service story–military or otherwise.

You can contact me individually through my blog susansleggs.com

Saddle Up Saloon; Revolution In the Air

Alt Saddle Up Saloon“Dang, Kid! I ain’t never in all my days seen it git so windy ‘roun here. Reckon now it’s let up we best check on the Saloon.”

“I shutter ta think what could go wrong.”

“We did shutter it up, didn’t we? Prob’ly fine then, but still, we best saddle up an’ check.”

“Mebbe have a beer while we’re there.”

“Multi-taskin’ like. Aw, shift, Kid, look’t thet. My ‘O’!”

“Think it’s ‘Oh my!’, Pal.”

“No. My ‘O’! It’s blown away! Look’t the Saloon sign. It’s a sal_on. Dang!”

“Well, now Pal, a salon ain’t sech a bad thing. Seen yersef lately? Ya could use a groomin’. Sayin’.”

“Yeah, mebbe so Kid. Reckon I could git a mani-cure?”

“Manny Cure? The fella keeps sheep over ta the Woolly Wild Wanch? Ranch. With his cousin, Paddy?”

“Shush, Kid, but yeah I’d take ma boots off fer a pedi-cure. Best way ta reboot yer feet. Let’s go on in an’ see what kind a salon done blown in on thet wild wind.”

 

“Hello? Jeez, Pal, would ya look’t this place now.”

“Gall dang. What’s with this mess? The walls is dark blue, an’ there’s all this wiggly-woo nonsense on the ceiling! What’d they do to the saloon?”

“An’ look’t all them fancy bees sewed on the curtains! Pal, I ain’t sure, but we might oughtta jist high-tail it outta this joint— aw, jeez, now who is this?”

“Ahem! Joint? I believe you two… gentlemen are highly mistaken. This is clearly an establishment of intellectual pursuits, and we expect attendees to represent the utmost civility, politeness, and honor. If you two disagree with the content of our discourse, I advise you take a seat and educate yourself prior to babbling insults about this salon being a… a joint.”

“This here’s s’posed to be our saloon, where folks kin relax an’ mebbe git a hard drink, or beer, or I guess a cream soda. Who’re you ta use all them high-falutin’ words?”

“I’m the salonnière, and we only serve flip and syllabubs as respectable refreshments. Those gentlemen already present will gladly escort poltroons such as yourself out the doors if you can neither contribute nor listen respectfully.”

“Who you callin’ poultry? I ain’t chicken! Heck, I’ll set down in yer dang sall-on chairs.”

“Yeah, tell ‘im, Kid!”

“Now that you are seated, we were just listening to a friendly debate concerning the political assertions espoused by Robespierre. Please be quiet while you catch up with the salient points of the debate.”

“Pal… hey, Pal.”

“What’cha whisperin’ ‘bout, Kid?”

“What these loony-tics arguin’ o’er? I reckon robbin’ Pierre ain’t a good idea, even if the feller deserves it.”

“Think this’s some kinda gang? Organized crime?”

“I think we musta just fell inta a passel of trouble—”

“Gentlemen!”

“We warn’t talkin’ none! Jist… jist thinkin’ out loud ‘bout robbin’ Pierre!”

“Yeah! You kin do it right quick if you git ‘im outta the house first.”

“You… it seems as if you wish to stifle our love of liberté, fraternité, and égalité. Are you two royalists?!”

“I reckon’ we’re jist a couple ranch hands. Ain’t got no royal blood in me – you, Kid?”

“Crown Royal Canadian whiskey? Pepe gimme some. Might have a drop or two in me yet.”

“No, like fancy folks in yer genes.”

“Souns kinda personal, there Pal, but I git yer meanin’. Nope, not one drop.”

“You’re evading the question! Royalists – monarchists invading our sanctuary! Ready the guillotine, men!”

“Guillotine!?”

“Holy head baskets, Pal, they sure got mad in a awful hurry! We best run afore it gits worse!”

“But I wanted me a mani-cure. Ain’t we s’posed ta git a manicure?”

“You still talkin’ bout that?! We best be gittin’ out afore they give us the shortest haircuts of our short lives!”

 

“Whew… that was a close ‘un, Pal.”

“You said it. I ain’t goin’ back ‘lest they fix thet sign.”

“Darn-totin’ ‘bout that. I mean, tootin’. Da-arn tootin’.”

“Ya know Kid, mebbe thet weren’t sech a bad bunch in thet there salon. Freedom, equality, and fraternity… the motto of the French Revolution, come from the Age of Enlightenment. Our country’s foundin’ folk had connections ta France an’ their thinkin’.”

E pluribus unum. Out a many, one. Puts me in mind a our own great nation, Pal.”

“The U.S. of A?”

“Huh? No, Pal. Buckaroo Nation. Where folks kin come t’gether in a safe place. Kin be part of a collection a diverse writin’ that springs from one prompt.”

“How ‘bout we ask folks this week ta think up or recycle their ideal motto fer the world. An’ a course they kin ask our respected salonnière, H.R.R. Gorman, any questions thet come ta mind regardin’ this here salon. Reckon we can leave off totin’ the ‘O’ back inta place fer a while.”

“Jist hope I take ta flip an’ syllabub.”

“Kid, ya reckon yer frien’ Pepe Legume knows thet Pierre fella?”

“Jeez Pal. So, folks. What’s yer words ta live by? Mine are: ‘Buckaroo Nation, where writers’ work is play’.”

🥕🥕🥕 🥕🥕🥕 🥕🥕🥕 🥕🥕🥕 🥕🥕🥕 🥕🥕🥕 🥕🥕🥕 🥕🥕🥕 🥕

H.R.R. Gorman is a sophisticated redneck who likes making drugs (biopharmaceuticals – get your minds out of the meth labs) and studying the age of heroic medicine. If you would like to join the salon on a regular basis, you can find more at https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com or follow on Twitter @hrrgorman.

 

Pal & Kid are free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch. They never tuck tail, but their tales are corralled as Ranch Yarns at ShiftnShake. If asked, they will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. Please let these yahoos know what you think, and stop in at the Saddle Up anytime for a virtual good time. Contact D. Avery at averydede.1@gmail.com if you or your characters want to saddle up as a saloon guest. 

Next week: Karaoke at the Saddle UP!

April 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

Now, I remember. It’s purple flowers first. Crusty snow holds on in the northern shadows and grit covers yards, unraked mats of maple leaves, and driveways. Spring arrives dirty to the Keweenaw, but that doesn’t deter the first flowers emerging. Purple crocus and grape hyacinth spear upward and bloom barely inches above all that remains of winter’s onslaught of snow and sand. No wonder romance favors spring with its hope and optimism. Snow can’t stop the love flowers have for the sun. Any additional snow squalls at this point are pure moisture for unstoppable hardy blooms.

Cabin fever often gives way to gardening delirium. I admit to frequent lurking at Geoff Le Pard’s (virtual) place to drool over his gardens and coo at Dog. At a distance, my daughter and I have been garden-scheming, though mine is small-scale. She’s growing five years of food to feed and cider the Keweenaw. I’m plotting (hey, there’s that writing term) a potager garden with plans for a W-shaped series of five towers of morning glories, scarlet runner beans, purple-pod peas, and climbing clematis. I’ve yet to sort out the mix of flowers and veg, but it will include nasturtiums, cosmos, marigolds, beets, broccoli, lemon cucumbers, squash, potatoes, and garlic.

I can get as lost among the seeds of a garden as I can the scenes of a novel. When it comes to writing, I’ve heard the voices of my characters and their stories come to me in scenes. The idea behind a potager garden is that flowers and herbs are planted with kitchen vegetables to enhance the garden’s beauty. I’m also learning that craft elements added to scenes enhance a novel. It takes dreaming and planning; experimentation, and knowledgeable guidance; and the guts to see it through all the hardships of pests, weather, and work.

What can I tell you about a scene? Think of them in terms of plants. Just as you build a garden plant by plant, you build a story scene by scene. A potager garden is like a type of story — short, creative non-fiction, novella, memoir, novel. Whatever form your story takes, you build it through scenes. Each scene has action or emotion (or both), which furthers the plot or character development. Writers craft scenes through elements, including dialogue, tension, foreshadowing, tone, world-building, and themes. The more you push into writing a novel, the more complex your scenes become. We can write scenes and rearrange them, but at some point, for a longer piece of work, we have to make sure the scenes carry the story from opening to conclusion.

It’s been a while (or feels like it, but quarantine warps the sense of time) since I’ve shared articles from my coursework. Not that we’ve advanced, most of the articles we are reading are scholarly and behind the gates of ivory towers. This disappoints me because I can’t make these readings accessible to you. You could see if your local library has access, and if you are interested, contact me for titles and authors. However, I can share this online post about what should go into a scene. It’s a bit like a guide to planting a potager garden — certain craft elements can be companionable in a scene.

If you regularly write 99-word stories, you are routinely practicing scenes. You can focus on one or more craft elements, explore a story, complete a story from beginning to end, connect a series of stories, explore characters, and even write the backstory to your works in progress. Flash fiction is both an art and a tool. It’s versatile and instructive. Something that has come easily to me in my coursework is the crafting of scenes, and I attribute that to frequent flashing. In a recent assignment, we had to write a scene in ten sentences, and then rewrite it in a single 100-word sentence. The more you can challenge yourself to write a single story or scene in multiple ways, the better you will become at managing your writing.

A potager garden doesn’t manifest in a day or a season, but the more you plan and combine and learn from those who have successfully raised one, the closer you will be to having a thing of function and beauty.

Speaking of beauty, love is in the air as always, despite  COVID-19. Maybe thoughts of gardens and flowers emerging stir the romantic vibes. Looking for uplifting stories from our strange and isolated days, I came across a New York Times profile of an octogenarian pair of lovers on opposite sides of the German-Danish border. It will lift your spirits to read about their determination to date no matter the distance they must keep. This got me thinking about love lives in the age of coronavirus. So we are going to navigate romance. Your story does not need to be a romance genre, but it will be part of the topic.

Submissions closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

April 23, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about distance dating. It can be any genre, era, or setting. Who is dating, and why the distance? How do the characters overcome, accept, or break up because of the distance? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 28, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Captivity by Charli Mills

They captured her in the spring of 1904. Her long stride couldn’t save her, though she fled across the high desert basin, nostrils flared, mouth dry, making for a canyon where she could drink from the creek. What she didn’t know is that they set a trap, blocking her exit. Exhausted, she relented and followed the men into a captivity of fences.

He visited her often, staying back at a distance, the one true love of her life.

“Hey Cap, there’s that stallion again.” The young man who rode her back pointed.

She whinnied and pranced, thirsting for love.

Crazy

The human world stays at home in solidarity during these crazy COVID-19 times and yet, the natural world spins on oblivious of its 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Some want to escape the crazy train (and some do, look — a mothership arrives). Some explore crazy good times, like a ’70s rock concert. Words of comfort, agitation, and rhyme circle around what is crazy.

This week, writers around the world followed the prompt wherever it led. And when crazy is the word, expect the unexpected.

The following stories are based on the April 16, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something crazy.

PART I (10-minute read)

Crazy by Pete Fanning

They say the world has gone mad. But maybe it’s the people who’ve lost their balance. On this giant planet two tiny ants play chase on a stalk of grass, blissfully uninformed. Two butterflies thrash about in silent beauty while a woodpecker calls out with a maniacal laugh. A stream races over the rocks, in a rush to join broader waters. Flowers bloom.

The world we knew months ago has changed, but the trees still bend and whine in the gusts. The squirrels still dash between limbs. And the sun still rises in a spectacular way… if anyone’s looking.

A Stir-Crazy World by Ritu Bhathal

I can’t help but laugh.

When else have we seen people:
Lunge for loo roll?
Fisticuffs over flour?
Battle for bread?
Scuffle over sanitiser?
Persist over pasta?
Tiff over tinned tomatoes?
Dual over dried milk powder?
Brawl over bleach?
Challenge over chicken?

The world is stir-crazy right now.
All we can do is
Sit it out
Walk it out
Watch it out
Read it out
Write it out
Create it out
Cook it out
Eat it out

We’ll come out the other end
Possibly fatter
Maybe thinner
Hopefully more compassionate
Definitely grateful

And able to still raise a smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Crazy by Jaye Marie

Most people would object to being called crazy but I kinda like it, for I have never been what you would call normal.
I knew I was different from a very early age and in a funny way I have always been a little proud of the difference.
I’ll let you into my secret.

Being crazy I can get away with almost anything and no one has ever tried to stop me.
When I went shopping wearing my bunny rabbit onesie, no one was shocked or batted an eyelid.
but when I fixed the fence in the pouring rain…

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Concert by H.R.R. Gorman

We screamed at the stage, the speakers so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves. Through the smoky, cocaine-riddled haze, I spotted the Wilson sisters wailing on their guitars.

“Crazy on you-”

I sang in return, mind spinning, body sweating, blood pulsing, lips grinning. I wasn’t sure where all of my pants had gone, and my wallet was probably surfing through the opposite end of the crowd by now. But it had no money in it anyway, and I lived in such a small town the police didn’t need to see my ID when I got pulled.

“Crazy, crazy on you…”

🥕🥕🥕

Backyard Quandary by Susan Zutautas

Exhausted from a long crazy day at work I needed to take a little time to relax before starting dinner. I grabbed a beer and headed outside to the backyard. The sun was just starting to go down, and I didn’t feel the need to turn on the outside lights. Sitting in my favorite chair sipping my beer I saw the neighbor’s black cat in the distance. Here kitty, kitty, I called again and again until he finally started walking towards me. As he got closer to me, I stopped breathing and froze. Not a cat … a skunk!

🥕🥕🥕

The “CRAZY”s by Michelle Wright

Cringe-worthy
Ringleaders
Arousing
Zany
Yearbook pictures

I joined the “CRAZY”s. We tried to sabotage every photograph. You can find our symbol hidden within most photos. Our demise began with the cat of our art teacher. Mr. Whiskers used his claws to grab hold of the plastic spider I was dangling from my hideout spot. The darn cat kept pulling down while I tried pulling the spider back up. I came to realize how overfed Whiskers had been as he was able to pull me down to face plant on the floor.

We say, “Now the ‘CRAZY’s are no more.”

🥕🥕🥕

Dog Crazy by D. M. Seyfer

After a long night fretting about contagious this and that, my eyes finally sealed for a few hours until barking, yelping, whining. A deliveryman plodded to my door with stacks of boxes in hand. Three dogs bounded to the double-pain window barking and pawing. Umphf! A large brown paw pushed into my gut. What a crappy way to wake up! I shoved him off and curled to avoid another barrage of paws to my body. My small dog’s high pitched warning to stay away continued, and the other two pushed and shoved each other off the cushion with excitement.

🥕🥕🥕

An Australian on the road in Tenby (Wales) by Doug Jacquier

At the Buccaneer Pub, inside the walls of the old town, I’m drinking with ancients like myself, pretending to be interested in rugby, while they pretend to be interested in cricket, but neither of us fakes their distrust of the Royals. Although it must be said that the man in the top hat and overalls, feeding his bar-stool-perched water spaniel some crisps and Guinness, is a little less harsh than his mates. He would allow them to take their own lives come the revolution. ‘Your round, convict lad,’ smiles Top Hat, ‘and mine next if the dog thinks you’re funny.”

🥕🥕🥕

Crazy Situations by Hugh W. Roberts

While shielding his eyes from the bright light, his army service time in Iraq made Mike expect an explosion to follow, but nothing materialised.

Opening his eyes, a crazy situation unfolded in front of him. He found himself looking down at himself.

***

Thinking she recognised the warning voice, Sophie couldn’t help but keep her eyes on the crazy situation in front of her.

“Time to die. But who?” yelled the woman.

***

Two floors above, Doug moved his hands away from his face and found he was alone again.

“That’s crazy. People don’t just disappear into thin air,” he insisted.

🥕🥕🥕

In the Mind of Crazy Rhyme by Chelsea Owens

Soft the silence screaming
names she’s standing, sighing

Soft the sickness of the
suffocation singling

Soft the sex they had be-
fore the space between them

‘Fore the years of silence

‘Fore the mental sickness

-Can’t he hear her scream?-

Loud the longing yearning
pushing pulling prompting

Loud the laughing demon
in her head is lying

Loud the lightning-flashes,
loading mem’ries of him

Listing years-of-longing

Listing dreaming-lyings

-Can’t he see her yearn?-

Fly now, fleeting fledgling
first to reach the window

Fly toward feet-led floating
to the hallway’s ending

Fly now, and be free

-Can’t he see she’s free?-

🥕🥕🥕

Gull Mafia by Janet Guy

A seagull perched on a cement post along the railing as I leaned over. A second seagull stood ankle deep in the river over a prone pigeon. The gull snapped here and there along the pigeon’s body, pushing its head below the water. The pigeon’s wings flailed. Was it from the motion of the waves, or was it still alive? I jumped back. The first seagull met my look of horror with cool amber eyes. Was it the lookout or waiting for sloppy seconds? Had I just witnessed a hit by the seagull mafia? “This is crazy,” I whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

Crazy Day by Lisa A. Listwa

It was a Monday kind of Tuesday.

Ellis sat on the bus with hat in his hands and briefcase on his lap as he did on any other normal Tuesday. But this Tuesday was about to get as unnormal as it possibly could.

Ellis waited patiently for his stop. Standing silently when it was his turn, he placed his hat on his head, nodded to the driver, descended the steps, and landed squarely in a bowl of tomato soup.

“Finally! You’ve arrived!” said a well-dressed platypus on a raft.

“Yes.” Ellis blinked in the greenish sunlight.

“Let’s get started.”

🥕🥕🥕

Goin’ Crazy by Cara Stefano

Lock downs started four weeks ago. Visiting Walgreens’s drive through pharmacy has been my social hour. At the grocery store I wore my bank robbin’ get up, feeling sad and scared and foolish and deadly serious all at once. No one laughed at me. My favorite time of day is when the mail truck comes through our development. Taking the trash out is the highlight of my week. I’ve never felt more like I’m on a roller coaster; however, I actually prefer the spin and puke rides. Come and take a spin with me?

🥕🥕🥕

Crazy Eight Hill by Ann Edall-Robson

The cattle liner slowed, dust swirling. Three days earlier, Crazy Eight hill had been a rutted, rain-drenched, slimy road. It had taken every bit of sinew in his arms to maneuver the loaded truck safely to the bottom. Delivering the cattle to the ranch on the other side of the river below was his goal.

This was the third load from as many auctions. His reputation assured the new owner that the heifers would arrive in good shape. Thankful it hadn’t started raining again, he started the tedious eight-mile descent to the hairpin turn onto the bridge.

🥕🥕🥕

A Poet’s Imagination by Saifun Hassam

He would sit by the Sea at dusk. He read aloud from his favorite poems. Possibly the first one was Longfellow’s “The Sound of the Sea” or Poe’s “The City in the Sea.” Later it would have been Frost’s “Neither Out Far Nor In Deep” or Merwin’s “Leviathan” or Stevens’ “The Idea of Order at Key West.”

Possibly he drifted off to sleep as the sun set, into skies of misty yellows, red and purple. Was it his imagination? He heard voices from the depths, whispering poems. Perhaps inspiration, a spark of crazy creativity that filled his own poetry.

🥕🥕🥕

Broken Freedom by Dave Madden

Nearly two months had passed since John had punched anyone in the face, and he was about to begin punching himself. The world between his ears had become hectic.

John called his teammate Derrick, “Let’s train in your backyard.”

Finally, Derrick budged.

Of course, light mitt work soon turned into a brutal sparring session, and a straight right hand gave John’s nose a grotesque hook.

“If I go to the hospital, I’ll be fined for leaving my house. This was supposed to be a secret,” John said through a bloody towel.

Derrick said, “I’ll reset it. Ready, one, two…”

🥕🥕🥕

Returning by D. Avery

“Guess we’ll pack up,” said Bill.

Of course hunting was off. Aaron noticed they’d removed the bolt from his rifle. “You guys must think I’m nuts.”

Harry spoke. “Dad’ll know what to do.”

Always ‘Dad’; not ‘my dad’, or ‘our dad’. ‘Dad’. But theirs. Not Aaron’s.

“Guys, let’s go sledding down Bear Hill. Like that time.” He saw the brothers both smile at remembering a long ago weekend at this camp with their dad. And with him. Aaron remembered having a crazy idea then that he could be their brother too, could say the word ‘dad’ capitalized, fully formed.

🥕🥕🥕

C r a z y by Hanna Streng

The dam that had held me captive for so long had finally broken and a roaring river of words had rushed out of me. They had told him everything he never asked to hear, and more still. Now I could feel it ebbing out so I just let out a last, deep sigh of relief.

“You must think I’m crazy.”

“Depends.” He turned to look at me for a moment, as to reveal the slight smile in his eyes. “Convince me you’re not.”

“I’m not.”

At this his smile slowly traveled down to his lips.

“Okay, I believe you.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Delightfully Daft by JulesPaige

I have a little fairy
she plays on my chandelier
upon her dress is printed a message;

wonder, explore, seek;
“Plunge boldly into the thick of life.” – Goethe
She goes where I cannot…
to the opening between the rocks –
to converse with other fae

Am I crazy to dream
that when she returns… she’ll
share her adventures with me?

I have a little fairy
to remind me to fantasize
about kind dragons
that will slay my dis-ease
of what may lurk in shadowed caverns

though I am beyond
the time to entice magical unicorns…
am I crazy to believe?

🥕🥕🥕

Bitten by Joanne Fisher

“I see there are a couple of marks on your neck.” The Doctor said examining me. He pressed down on one of them and I felt a sharp pain.

“Yes they’re vampire bites.” I told him.

“Vampire bites?”

“A vampire regularly feeds on me. That’s why I’m always lacking energy and prone to anemia.” I informed him.

“I see.” He answered while sitting back down. “You do know vampires don’t exist?”

“Do I sound crazy to you?” I asked him.

“I’m afraid you do.” He replied calmly.

“Okay. Maybe I am crazy.” I conceded. “But what if I’m not?”

🥕🥕🥕

Blank Canvas by Reena Saxena

unlimited imagination
a ton of rebellion
a dash of madness
is lot of inspiration
to defile blankness
with lines and shapes
fill them up with
hues and shades…
of eccentricity

He is now transported to a place where he has to live by rules. Certain acts are to be executed at a certain time, if you don’t want to be chastised by robots.

There is a vacuum inside with no perception, judgement, initiative or intensity.

He has lost everything of value to him. There is an empty canvas on the easel, his colors and tools. What will he paint?

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Crazy Mom by Ruchira Khanna

The alarm wakes me up by 6 am. After freshening up, I pick up my bell and perform a ritual that has given me a nickname, ‘Crazy mom.’

But nothing can derail my enthusiasm about it, since being an advocate of energy medicine, I love to stir up energy into the stagnant particles of my home with this gentle jingle. This shift activates all the molecules that will eventually also liven up the spirits of all the humans living in it.

I call it killing two birds with one stone since the above activity also wakes up my teen.

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Hide-and-Seek by Kerry E.B. Black

June crab-walked under the manicured forsythia bushes surrounding the wrap-around porch, holding her white party dress in an unwieldy bunch before her belly. Sweat straightened her curls and trickled saline into her eyes. Somewhere along here, a tiny door led to a slide she could take into the basement if need be. Of course, then her dress would definitely be ruined, since it used to be the coal cellar, and much of the soot lingered even all these years later – sort of how the “crazy” stuck around her bloodline no matter how hard her relatives tried to dilute it.

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Plucked by Charli Mills

Hazel plucked an avocado from the tree in Granny Clemmie’s yard and skipped on bare feet down the tarred road toward the canal. It stunk like ripe garbage, which was better than the constant snort of dust back in Oklahoma. California burst with crazy abundance. Model T’s rattled out of fields stacked with fruit crates. Only problem were them busybodies pestering mama about her kids being little malingerers. What was a child but a wild wanderer, laughed mama? Crazy thing, they ended her freedom that day, shipped her back like a burlap of walnuts to the Oklahoma Girls School.

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Brutal Craziness by Faith A. Colburn

Majda Obradovic thought she had left the craziness behind when she escaped Bosnia with only her daughters and her life—and some engraved shell casings. I’d realized before how people make beautiful things out of horrors—my dad had a coffee table made of military brass from the Korean Conflict. I don’t know the calibers of Majda’s shell casings, but I’m in awe of the engravings. Around the base of each casing were fleur de leis, and on the largest, central Sarajevo with its mosque, its synagogue, and its temple, and all the people on the promenade walking together.

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Crazy Expectations by Susan Sleggs

“Hi Michael, it’s Clare.”

“A phone call! What’s up?

“I need your help. How about a road trip?”

“Medical or musical?”

“Medical. Remember when you called me crazy the first time I asked you to get from the floor into your wheelchair on your own?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I have a young lady that added ‘bat s__t’ to the crazy part. She’s fully capable, but won’t even try. I think you’d be able to get through to her. Besides, I want to meet Tessa.”

“You know Tessa’s name?”

“Yeah, from your Mom’s Facebook page.”

“Figures. How soon are we traveling?”

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What Not to Do by John Lane

In February 1988, during my third week of Basic Training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, I fired an M-16. Unfortunately, I kept missing the target. Frustrated, I told the drill sergeant that I had enough. Here is what followed:

“PRIVATE LANE?”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant.”

“YOU WANT TO GO HOME?”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant.”

“GUESS WHAT, PRIVATE LANE?”

“What, Drill Sergeant?”

“YOU’RE NOT GOING HOME!”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant.”

“GET BACK IN THE FORMATION.”

Four the next four weeks, I was the target of every drill sergeant in the company. Four years later, I completed my Army enlistment with an honorable discharge.

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In the Time of COVID-19, Two Guys Remembering the War Measures Act of 1970 by Bill Engleson

‘He was straight as a friggin’ arrow. Can we say that?’

‘Don’t know. Doesn’t really matter. Who’s listening, anyways?’

‘Yeah, well, that’s a whole other story.’

‘I remember the way he was back in high school. Couldn’t get a peep out of him.’

‘It was crazy the way he was. Teenagers are supposed to go a little nuts. Cut loose. Do something wild.’

‘How’d it happen that he suddenly became…?’

‘Deranged?’

‘I was gonna say crackers.’

‘His family did have this anti-government thing.’

‘So un-Canadian.’

‘So were armed troops in the street.’

‘Better get used to it, again eh.’

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Crazy by FloridaBorne

“Crazy gypsy,” I muttered, as the fortune teller babbled nonsense.

“A disease created by China will bring this country to her knees. Killing newborn babies will be an… an… essential… service, but you will not be allowed to purchase an American Flag.”

“I’m living in 1950, not crazy world,” I chuckled.  “This is nuts!”

The gypsy smiled. “Just because I’m crazy doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”

“I fought in the war!  My friends died protecting flag, family, and freedom!  No veteran would allow that to happen!”

She looked into me with sharp blue eyes and said, “But your children will.”

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Argh Chute by Gary Holdway

The deafening roar of the engines grew too far away to be heard over the awesome power of the air. I raced toward the ground at frightening speed, the skin of my face flapping in the wind. I pulled my chute, and everything shuddered and slowed. My lips relaxed back into position across my mouth, I could breath again. It was beautiful, looking out over the horizon, drifting high above the ground like a dandelion carrying a wish.

Once the parachute slowed me down enough I reached for my knife and cut the ropes. I thought It’d be fine!

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Crazy, Plum Crazy by Geoff Le Pard

‘This place is driving me crazy.’

‘You’re doing their driving, Logan.’

‘What?’

‘If you’re doing the driving and it’s making you crazy, then it’s, you know, self-inflicted.’

‘What are you on about, Morgan?’

‘No, listen. Ever since we entered Michigan, you’ve been banging the steering wheel.’

‘That’s because these people are crazy. They overtake on the inside, for pity’s sake.’

‘That’s because they drive on the right.’

‘That’s crazy.’

‘At home the inside is the outside. So here the right is the wrong.’

‘And you fella! Morgan, you’re an idiot.’

‘Thanks.’

‘Don’t change, will you?’

‘Not a chance.’

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A Stir-Crazy World by Ritu Bhathal

I can’t help but laugh.

When else have we seen people:
Lunge for loo roll?
Fisticuffs over flour?
Battle for bread?
Scuffle over sanitiser?
Persist over pasta?
Tiff over tinned tomatoes?
Dual over dried milk powder?
Brawl over bleach?
Challenge over chicken?

The world is stir-crazy right now.
All we can do is
Sit it out
Walk it out
Watch it out
Read it out
Write it out
Create it out
Cook it out
Eat it out

We’ll come out the other end
Possibly fatter
Maybe thinner
Hopefully more compassionate
Definitely grateful

And able to still raise a smile.

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On Thursday Evening by Anne Goodwin

Out they poured from their houses
Paused on their doorsteps
Ready to proclaim
Their support
The ritual way
With their hands.
Primed by the media
The government briefings
The slogans targeted at their hearts,
They knew what was needed,
They’d done it before.
In common cause with their neighbours,
Albeit socially distanced
In their separate booths,
They picked up the pens
They marked their crosses
In the box
For the party that promised
To rid dear Blighty
Of the infection
The virus
The scourge of immigration
Of social justice
Of healthcare free at the point of delivery for all.

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A Matter of Perspective by Jo Hawk

Insanity is measured by degrees, strictly classified by definitions, interpretations, and clever disguises. A tight white coat choked the evaluator, stripping him of his humanity. If he would only release himself from his strait-laced leash, he would see. He scribbled unintelligible notes with invisible ink and labeled my actions a Hail Mary call for help.

Nobody listened to the warnings I screamed loud and clear. Sometimes a hero must first rescue herself, so that night, with the walls closing in, I climbed Signal Mountain and sent my desperate S.O.S.

The mother ship answered, and I escaped this helter-skelter world.

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Attitude Shift by D. Avery

“Pal! There’s a uni-corn wand’rin’ Carrot Ranch!”

“Yer crazy, Kid.”

“It’s fer real. If’n I kin find this uni-corn I’ll… I’ll…”

“Jist what will ya do if’n ya track down thet uni-corn?”

“Reckon I’ll rope it.”

“Uh-huh. Then whut?”

“Reckon I’ll lead it back ta the Ranch. Corral it.”

“Uh-huh. Or git it inta a stall. Think it’d be happy, roped an’ corralled?”

“Not at first. But…”

“But what? You gonna tame it?”

“Yeah. Tame it an’ train it. Till it’s—”

“Docile as any old plug?”

“Um…”

“Some things cain’t never be undone, Kid.”

“I’ll leave it be.”

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Quiet Spirits ~ Heritage Traditions

 

I find it unfortunate that so many people in today’s world are not interested in their heritage. Traditions and knowledge passed down through generations, face a continual demise because of them. 

Events, people, stories, and personal memories, whether good or bad, are all triggers. Ramblings of the old ways and days somehow are encouraged to leap to the surface from a hidden memory vault.  A pilgrimage to where? Bits and pieces rendered together by a thread of coherent thoughts. 

Perhaps just logical arguments between possible misconstrued imagination and the actual archived knowledge.

 

I am passionate about preserving western lifestyles and traditions. What is it I do to ensure the information passes to the next generation, and beyond?

You can often find me traveling gravel roads and wandering the land, stopping to take pictures as I go, and capturing moments others may never get to experience. When I come across a familiar scene that evokes an image of yesteryear it’s easy for me to slip back in time and writeWestern Traditions

Finding the unexpected sends a slight shiver that pulses through the body and mind. Words resonate with a visual scene telling of a life that still exists from another era, a reminder of stories told by old-timers and elders in an attempt to keep traditions alive. It was a way for them to teach about their lifestyle while sharing a connection to their past.

Personal experiences and the recollections of our family’s stories make for excellent research data, and I rely on both when I write.

What can I suggest to you about keeping your traditions from evaporating into hearsay?

The process has no need to be elaborate. A simple trek into genealogy will provide a lot of information. It’s as easy as paying attention to the stories your elders tell. Make a habit of recording names, dates, and anecdotes. Their age and mental health might cause some skepticism in their tales, but don’t let that deter you.  Take pictures. Ask about people in old pictures. Nothing has to be carved in stone. For now, it only needs to be documentedBear Springs Cabins

Now for some fun…

I encourage you to write about a tradition from your heritage. It can be one your family follows with a modern twist. It can be one you would like resurrected. It can be one you have used for research in something you have written. The only rule…go where ever the quiet spirit within takes you.

 

 

Keeping the fast disappearing western heritage and traditions alive, in case you haven’t guessed, is one of my passions. And like everything else in life, it isn’t until you can see it sliding away, that you start hanging on for dear life. 

The taking pictures thing started forever ago, and when I found I could marry them to the material I have written, and am writing, well, to put it mildly, I think I have a bit of a runaway going on. 

I am a lover of life and all things that make us smile. I write and take pictures for the pleasure of being able to share at Morning Muse, HorseWest, and my Blog at AnnEdallRobson.com where you can also contact me. 

 

Saddle Up Saloon; Wild, Wild Wist

Saddle Up Saloon

“Pal. Pal, look at these two jist walked in. Jeez. They ain’t from these parts, gare-un-teed. Shhh, shh…. Howdy, fellas, welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon. Where ya all from?”

“How do you do. My name is Logan and this reprobate is Morgan. Despite appearances he is house-trained. Do you think this the right place, Morgan? It looks less sophisticated than we were led to believe.”

“Shush, Logan. They seem nice people. Try not to upset them, okay.”

“Yes, but…”

“Behave.”

“All right!”

“We’re from the UK. First time in the US of A.”

“Well, welcome ta Carrot Ranch.”

“Carrot…?”

“Ranch.”

“Raunch?”

“Ranch, Logan. It’s their accents.”

“Not exactly the Queen’s English.”

“Logan…”

“Yes, alright. Ranch. Like the dressing?”

“Whut? No, ranch, as in… ranch. Ya know, where food gits raised.”

“We’ve not been to a carrot ranch before. Is that because you genetically modify your vegetables? Ours tend to stay out until picked but if you can ranch carrots I suppose that cuts down on man power? Do they need herding?”

“Not that I’ve heard tell of. Reckon if ya leave yer carrots out they git pasture-ized?”

“Shush, Kid. Fellas, yer at Carrot Ranch. Ranch. Ya know, cattle; hosses an’ sech. We even have a rodeo in the fall. D’ya all ride?

He’s not serious is he? No, I don’t ride, other than buses, and that’s only when there aren’t taxis.”

“Logan shush. Did you say you have a rodeo? That’s super exciting. I’ve seen them in films. Movies. There was this girl with a lasso and… no, wait that was a cartoon. But we’d love to see one. We’re really very keen to experience every new cultural experience. Especially food. I heard…”

“Morgan, for goodness sake. Can you stop thinking about your stomach…?”

“I’m always hungry too. Tell ya what, the grub’s real good aroun’ here.”

“Grubs? You eat… grubs? Morgan did you hear they…”

“Grub’s food. Vittles?”

“Fiddles? Morgan they’re crooks. We need to go…”

“Logan, even I know fiddles are violins. Do you have banjos? I always fancied having a go on one.”

“Don’t encourage them, Morgan. They may have bagpipes and you know what they do to my sciatica.”

“You fellas is kinda squirrely, ain’tcha? Talkin’ food one minute, music the next. Anyway, since ya come all this way, I bet we could git Shorty ta cook somethin’ up fer ya. She’s a mighty fine hand at cookin’.”

“This Shorty sounds to be my sort of gal. Is that okay? Saying ‘gal’? I don’t want to gender stereotype.”

Why’re they talkin’ ‘bout typin’, Pal?”

“Let me handle this, Morgan. Now, are you fine fellows cowboys? Or is that cowpersons over here?”

“We’re jist humble ranch hands. But Shorty, she’s a genu-ine buckaroo. A champeen roper an’ rider.”

“Champion ropey writer? Is she not very good at the word-smithery, perchance?”

“Logan, what’s with the ‘smithery’ baloney? And ‘perchance’? Seriously.”

“I can’t help it. Horny handed sons of toil bring out my inner aristocrat.”

“Horny? Um, Pal?”

“Thet’s fine, fellas. Shorty goes fer them horns. When she’s tyin’ goats. Ya ever tossed a goat?”

“Done what? Is that even legal?”

“Gents my friend Logan isn’t a great one for physical activity. He gets out of breath tossing a salad.”

“Morgan, that is unfair. I came a creditable third equal at fives in the remove.”

“That sentence doesn’t make the slightest sense. But if you want to prove your manly prowess, why not toss a goat?”

“All right. Pal is it? Take me to this Shor… person of diminutive stature and we’ll do our best to keep the British pecker high.”

“Uh, Pal, is that dial-eck or do these fellas talk dirty?”

“Thinkin’ they’s idioms, Kid.”

“Yep, they ain’t the sharpest knives in the rack, that’s fer sure. But if they’re game ta toss a goat, I still got them billies out back.”

“All right, Logan, we got goats, an’ here’s some rope. Let’s go, Cowboy,”

“Are you sure about this Logan? I mean there’s probably rules and…”

“I think the one thing we Brits learnt about the colonials back in the day is that they don’t play by rules. Just hold my bowler and Burberry and I’ll show them how you subdue a longhorn or whatever it is.”

“Okay, though I should maybe mention one thing I know about goats.”

“If you think it will help me.”

“If it’s a billy, then remember they attract their mates by erm, scenting their beards.”

“Centing? They weave coins in their whiskers?”

“Noooo, they pee… oh here we are. I think you go in there. I’ll sit on the railing. Just holler if you need me. Though actually, Kid?”

“Yep?”

“Could we maybe grab a beer while Logan does his thing?”

“Well, I am kinda thirsty… Pal, keep an eye on things, I’ll be inside at the bar.”

[LATER]

“Pal. Where’s Logan?”

“Guess ya could say he’s tied up at the moment.”

“My goodness. What happened?”

“Started out real slick, twirlin’ thet lasso over his head. Then it dropped right over ‘im. Then a goat took hold a the rope an’ ran with it. Ran roun’ an roun’ a fence post. They’ve got him wrapped so tight I cain’t git him undone. Git a knife, Kid, let’s go!”

“My God, Logan! You’re bleating.”

“It was baaaad. I think I’m bleeding too. They bucked me, Morgan.”

“I believe you were butted, not bucked, Logan.”

“Yeah, buck up, they’s jist goats. Ya ready ta go ta the Ranch an’ see the stock? The bulls and broncs?”

“You’ve got to be kidding. Morgan, you said this was on the way to Chicago. I just want pizza.”

“With all those welts and rope burns, you’re looking like a pizza. But okay, we’ll go. After this beer.”

And afore Shorty could even come ‘roun ta cook ‘em up some grub, them British fellas rode off down the road with their pizza pie-in-the-sky dreams but without another hankerin’ fer rodeo.

 

Y’all kin feel free ta leave a tale a yer own ’bout tossing’ or tyin’ thet mebbe turns out un’xpected.  Right there in the comment boxes, jist keep it ta 99 words or less.

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Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.

Geoff Le Pard’s Amazon Author Page

 

Booms and Busts

 It’s 1987 and Harry Spittle’s life is going pretty well: the City of London is booming and his legal career is on an upward trajectory. His long-term relationship with girlfriend Penny is back on an even keel – for now – and they are about to become parents; they are also the proud owners of their first home and have finally joined the property-owning class. So of course everything is about to go horribly wrong…

Find out more about Geoff’s latest, Booms and Busts, HERE.

 

Pal & Kid are free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch. They never tuck tail, but their tales are corralled as Ranch Yarns at ShiftnShake. If asked, they will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. Please let these yahoos know what you think, and stop in at the Saddle Up anytime for a virtual good time. Contact D. Avery at averydede.1@gmail.com if you or your characters want to saddle up as a saloon guest.

April 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s crazy but the Hub and I polished off a jar of summer raspberry jam in less than a month. Last August, we had a prolific crop of raspberries on the canes and the Hub picked more than he could eat, filling our freezer with zip-locked bags. We had barely closed on the house with a smattering of furnishings and enough household items cobbled together to cook and clean after three years of homelessness. The Hub was finishing up a round of cognitive processing therapy to help with his condition before we were to at last fetch our stored belongings from Idaho. Then coronavirus shut down the world.

He finished CPT at home with phone sessions and I dug out the raspberries and made jam.

In solidarity with the world, we’ve been going stir-crazy at home. Oh, but what a lovely sound the word home makes! It rolls off the tongue from the heart. It fills the spaces between us and offers a foothold on the slippery slope the world has become. Home smells like flapjacks on the griddle and tastes like sunshine from red raspberries. I feel home beneath my feet as I pad from room to room, knowing the framework is solid storms although not impervious. I ponder yonder, gazing out the age-warped windows, wondering how many dreams those panes have witnessed in a hundred years.

It drives me crazy that I can’t share my home. If homelessness taught me anything, it was the value of community and the power of love. Not romantic love or familial bonds, but the kind of love that stretches like fog from a river of emotion, transcending expectations and conditions, seeping into all our bones with the hope of goodness for us all. I have seen despair. I have seen death. I have felt the plunge of betrayal’s blade, tripped over the bully’s foot, and faced deceit. Yet, it all pales to the goodness I’ve witnessed.

Yes, I want home, but I also want to be out in the world loving others. From afar, I can wave fondly. I know I’m not alone in my belief in the ability of goodness to make a difference. If you need a dose of love in these times, or any time, catch Some Good News:

In some good news from World Headquarters of Carrot Ranch on Roberts Street in the Keweenaw, the Unicorn Room is fully painted, appropriately pink. It’s a soft shell-pink. You might think I’m crazy, but this is the fulfillment of a specific dream born of the vague desire to just play and write for the rest of my life. Yeah, yeah, yeah — writing requires long, focused work and constant mastery of craft, and a writer needs to generate income and flex with industry trends, but who says I can’t have fun doing all that?

Let me introduce you to some crazy fun in my Unicorn Room.

First, let me explain the theme and its connection to Carrot Ranch. This place exists as a sandbox, a safe place to play with literary art in its many forms. When we got started back in 2014, I witnessed what “safe” meant when writers relaxed enough to let their creativity lead, understanding they weren’t going to be criticized for not staying within the coloring lines. Ever since then, I’ve encouraged, “Go where the prompt leads,” because that is where every writer will discover their voice. However, after a particular run of prompts leading to dark stories, I thought I’d lighten it up with a rainbows and unicorns sort of prompt.

And those were some of the best stories, where the contrast of something fantastical met dark shadows. The unicorn became an icon, and has found its way into numerous other prompts (did you notice the shield of last week’s knight in the prompt photo)?

The Unicorn Room proudly expresses the theme of “go where the prompt leads.” One wall is for story-weaving — two large corkboards for building plot lines, subplots, and character arcs, and a large whiteboard for exploring, coaching, or holding individual W-storyboards. A small, spare desk big enough for a laptop sits below the boards with a gilded chair (of course, a Unicorn Room needs a gold throne) next to the radiator and large window with a turquoise curtain.

A single row of book shelving runs along the next two walls draped beneath with turquoise tule and starry lights over the reading nook — a large lavender shag carpet with unicorn pillows. A colorful agatized tapestry inlaid with gold forms a backdrop in the reading nook and will serve as a recording space. This room is for creative play, reading, and daydreaming. I also have my yoga mat and meditation pillow set up in the nook where it’s fun to go sit on the floor.

A small white bookshelf beneath a beautiful unicorn hanging quilt (created by our talented Susan Sleggs) is along the final wall next to the closet door where I hope to store all my research and portfolios that are yet in storage. The bookshelf holds candles, rocks, sage, books, writing games, and inspirational cards. Since my genre is women’s fiction and my subgenre women of the West, most of the reading material is from my collections of nonfiction and fiction books relating to women and history.

I plan to use the Unicorn Room for one-on-one strategic coaching, day use for local writers, and my daily play space. It’s a crazy little dream come to fruition. Something to celebrate.

The MFA rolls along the crazy-train tracks. I’m feeling more like a weaver than a writer, taking threads of plot, subplots, and character arc, interlacing scenes that move the story or grow the character. The loom is my trio of storyboards so I can create a pattern that will be my novel. I admit I might be hooked on plotting, or story engineering as I’ve come to know it. Weaving sound more artistic to me. And I have some books to recommend from this term’s reading:

  • Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
  • The Language of Fiction: A Writer’s Stylebookby Brian Shawver
  • Architecture of the Novel: A Writer’s Handbook by Jane Vandenburgh
  • Publishing: Principles and Practice by Richard Guthrie

Indeed, these are crazy times, but we can still play. Write it out. Don’t hide your crazy!

Submissions closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

April 16, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something crazy. Laugh like crazy, show the setting of stir-crazy or go off the rails on a crazy train. Have fun with the word and the situation, but go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 21, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Plucked by Charli Mills

Hazel plucked an avocado from the tree in Granny Clemmie’s yard and skipped on bare feet down the tarred road toward the canal. It stunk like ripe garbage, which was better than the constant snort of dust back in Oklahoma. California burst with crazy abundance. Model T’s rattled out of fields stacked with fruit crates. Only problem were them busybodies pestering mama about her kids being little malingerers. What was a child but a wild wanderer, laughed mama? Crazy thing, they ended her freedom that day, shipped her back like a burlap of walnuts to the Oklahoma Girls School.

Shield Your Face

Around the world, people are making and wearing facemasks. “Shield your face,” is not only a declaration for safety but for solidarity, as well. In the Keweenaw, like places elsewhere, sewing facemasks is a way to “protect me, protect you, and protect the community.” Shields have long protected humans from armored knights to face-shielded emergency room workers.

This week, writers thought about ways — new or old — to consider how the declaration could be used. Who states, “Shield your face,” and why?

The following stories are based on the April 9, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that declares, shield your face.

PART I (ten-minute read)

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Staying Fit by Geoff Le Pard

‘What are you doing, Morgan?’

‘Hang on… There.’

‘The duck mask does what exactly?’

‘It’s my upgraded internet security.’

‘You’ve lost me.’

‘Barty warned me. He was watching this video…’

‘Right…’

‘About staying fit…’

‘Working up a sweat?’

‘Exactly. Anyway, they filmed him through his thingy.’

‘Laptop?’

‘They said they’d show his friends…’

‘That he was watching an exercise video?’

‘Imagine if the lads knew.’

‘Quite. Barty in Lycra… horrid.’

‘I’m shielding my face. No one’s stealing my personality.’

‘I’m sure the online world is breathing more easily.’

‘More than I am. Can you help me take this off?’

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Good Friday, 2020 by Anne Goodwin

Matty has been abducted by aliens. She lies on her back, examined by spacemen, her lungs fit to burst on their oxygen-depleted rock. Matty has been rescued by welders. They will fuse the parts of her windpipe that have rusted and split. Matty is backstage, amid mumbling servants in fancy dress. Preparing for a new production, a mime for Easter, a Passion play. Naturally, Matty is the star.

The star? The chosen one? God’s only child, Jesus Christ? Matty does not want to be crucified. She struggles. She spits. “Shield your face!” says an alien. A welder? A nurse?

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TV Night by Michael Fishman

Derek stood up and jumped in front of the television. Blocking Fannie Flagg’s answer to a Dumb Dora question, he grabbed the collar of his t-shirt and ripped, revealing a sunken chest and a round belly fueled by pizza, soda and Big Macs.

“Whatcha gonna do,” he growled wide-eyed. “When Derekmania runs wild on you.”

Jessie nuzzled closer to her mom on the couch. “What’s wrong with dad,” she whispered?

“It’s the sheltering at home, kitten. I think it’s finally gotten to him. Don’t worry.”

“But that –”

“He’s only having fun.”

“It’s weird.”

“Just shield your face, dear.”

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Shield by FloridaBorne

“Hey, Yeshua,” Lucifer said.  “I’ll betcha I can destroy the USA in six months.”

“You’re on,” Yeshua laughed.

“I’ll take the common cold, have the Chinese weaponize it, use statistics from the yearly flu, and then…then…”

“What’s so funny?”  Yeshua asked.

“You know how much American’s hate Arab face and head coverings?”

“So?”

“I’ll bet I can willingly make them walk around like that!”

“What do you want if you win?”

“I want every churchgoer in the USA forced to stay home on Easter instead of worshiping you.”

“My people aren’t that naïve,” Yeshua laughed.

And Lucifer won… again.

🥕🥕🥕

July, 1933 by Margaret G. Hanna

John ran in. “Dust’s coming, Mom!”

I grabbed the basket. “Maisie, help me get the clothes off the line.”

I could taste dust. Russian Thistles bounced across the yard. “Where’s your dad?” I yelled at John.
He pointed. “Across the tracks.”

The wind twisted the clothes. “Mom, the dust’s stinging my face.”

“Here, use this pillowslip to shield your face”

I heard horses and the discer clatter into the yard. Caleb unharnessed the horses and put them in the barn, then rushed to the house, his kerchief over his face.

The dust cloud hit. The world was blotted out.

🥕🥕🥕

Bucket Heads by Doug Jacquier

‘We’re going to have to tell him.’

‘What do you mean “we”. It was your idea!’

‘But you went along.’

‘True. You do realise he’s going to go mental?’

‘Oh, I realise alright. Hence these two buckets?’

‘OK, why the buckets?’

‘For protection.’

‘From what?’

‘From what’s going to happen when I tell him.’

‘You’ve lost me.’

‘You’re familiar with the phenomenon that is euphemistically called the waste substance hitting the revolving blades?’

‘The waste … oh, yeah, I get it.’

‘So when I tell him, put the bucket over your head to shield your face.’

🥕🥕🥕

Shield Your Face by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Frustration washes over Cathy, and she concentrates on keeping her voice steady. A shaking voice will be misinterpreted as anxiety. Thank goodness this meeting is virtual, and she can hide behind her computer with the camera off. Nobody can see her face which is suffused with blood. She has never been good at disguising anger and strong emotion.

The facts are decisive, and she can’t understand this lengthy argument against the obvious answer. Then it strikes her. This discussion has nothing to do with logic or getting to the right answer. It has to do with pandering to fear.

🥕🥕🥕

Knights So Bold by Anita Dawes

In days of old
Knights may well have been bold
Not so much when facing a leper colony
Their faces wrapped in filthy rags
To hide what lies beneath
No hand will shake
those dark wrapped fingers
No hug given in greeting
Their eyes tell of a thousand deaths
Each day grows darker
Leave food outside the dark
open mouth of forgotten caves
Where no family dare enter
To watch from a distance
As bread is eagerly taken
So many lost in dark hollow walls
Then comes a Knight so bold
To tell of bright new life to unfold…

🥕🥕🥕

Battle Of Newbies by Tanmay Jain

The King had decided to try and break the siege. No one believed it’ll work. But he was the king and following the king even if you know you’d die is the kind of stuff they’d agree to do around here. So tomorrow, they were gonna break the siege.

Aion didn’t care about such treasonous opinions, all he wanted was to live and die for the king.

He started getting ready for battle.

”Wear the helmet, boy,” the muscly soldier next to him said. ” Your head may not work very well but that’s the first thing you gotta protect.”

🥕🥕🥕

Showing Emotions by Susan Sleggs

An IED bomb is a localized small blast meant to destroy one vehicle. All Michael remembers of the fateful sunny day when he met one was going outside the fence in a convoy. A month later he would be told, “Private Amanda Jennings was driving the truck behind your jeep. We had all come to accept her as one of us, but when your jeep went up, the male in us automatically took over and we made every attempt to shield her face from the sight. She cried right there on the spot; we wish we could have too.”

🥕🥕🥕

Anxious Impression by Kerry E.B. Black

Bobby’d stolen a peek at the clock. The numbers were either wrong, or Daddy should’ve been home long before. He scanned the road outside his window, his heart beating an anxious rhythm.

He wasn’t the only worrier. His mom curled under a quilt and stared unseeing at late-night television.

Finally, the crunch of gravel and a car door’s thump restarted Bobby’s heart. Though long past bedtime, he dashed to fling open the door. He buried his face in Daddy’s unyielding uniform. Daddy’s silver shield badge imprinting upon his face – the way his Daddy left loving traces on Bobby’s heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Landing by D. Avery

He hadn’t expected to get shot at for trying to land at the airport.

*It’s not the virus, just cancer; her dying wish is to spend her last days at the cottage.*

He flew low along the deserted shoreline, circled back into the wind. Resisting the compulsion to shield her face, he kept his hands clenched on the yoke, *Nose up, come on, there it is, yeah!*

*Here we are, Dear, let’s just catch our breath before getting you settled in the cottage. I’ll unload the plane before the tide comes in, then together we shall enjoy the sunset.*

🥕🥕🥕

Trissemene Sea: Diamante by Saifun Hassam

Jagged lightning lit up the skies over the thundering stormy Trissemene Sea. Fine grains of sand danced madly in gusty gale force winds. Shifting sand dunes piled up on rocks and boulders.

Diamante ran down to the shore when the lookout at the ancient temple hit the giant bell three times. Other men followed swiftly. Diamante pulled up his multilayered bandana, shielding his face against the pelting sand.

Against all hope, a single fishing boat rode the rising waves in a cove of the headland. Diamante prayed for the three fishermen who had not returned. Two boats still missing.

🥕🥕🥕

Shield Your Face by Allison Maruska

I stand behind the barricade, bracing myself. Nearby, my soldiers grip their weapons and wait for the signal. A wind gust blasts through our bunker, coating us with dirt.

“Ugh.” James removes his mask, wiping the debris.

The alarm blasts. My soldiers rush out, weapons pointed.

James tosses his mask and runs into battle, unprotected.

“Shield your face!” I yell.

Soldiers holler. A round hits James, sending streams of green into his face. He closed his eyes just in time.

Sighing, I hurry to him. “What’s the first rule of paintball?”

My twelve-year-old rolls his eyes. “Always wear protection.”

🥕🥕🥕

Starfall by Joanne Fisher

There was a sudden flash and instinctively I raised my arms to shield my face. I opened my eyes to see one of our starships was in smouldering pieces. No doubt our enemy was using nukes.

“The use of nuclear weapons has now been authorised.” The Commander ordered.

My heart sank. I feared for our populations across the many worlds we had colonised that would now face destruction, as well as the “enemy” populations that would meet a similar fate. We almost had peace, but the talks had failed, and now led to this.

Then there was another flash…

🥕🥕🥕

Recover Home by Jo Hawk

Heavy metal blared, drowning the crackling and buzzing, as sparks flew. The fiery shower bounced on the cement floor.

“Jason.”

Switching off the torch, he pushed his heavily gloved hand against his forehead, lifting the face shield. Except for the music in his helmet, the garage was silent. Hot wind blasted through the open door.

He was alone.

Desperation clutched his heart. Glancing at his watch he assessed his chances of completing the needed repairs. He couldn’t stay. He had to find the passage home.

“Shield your face. Return to me.”

“I’m coming.”

Or I’ll die trying, he vowed.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (ten-minute read)

Shields Down by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d gotten in near midnight, after the evening shift at the group home. Her own home was a shambles: beer cans and wine bottles, scummy bong water, butts strewn all over the floor, some of them human. They weren’t supposed to be here.

Rodney emerged from the bedroom, a very drunk, half-clothed Britanny hanging off his shoulder, sharing his wide grin.

“Sheralynn,” Rodney drew up his familiar shield of nonchalance. “I thought you were working a double shift.”

“They sent me home. Likely COVID exposure,” she wiped her brow, unsure if it was fever, or rage. “Everybody out. Now.”

🥕🥕🥕

Homegrown Ingenuity? by JulesPaige

Working with what they have on hand folks become creative in the ability to shield themselves and protect the ones they love. Prototypes and various patterns abound with the use of basic cotton envelopes pleated on one side, folded to make pockets to hold layers of more cotton and other accepted shop type towels that are N95 approved.

Working with coffee closures (found on bags of that product) to hold the nose channel in place and headbands and ponytail hair circles of various sizes in side channels; paperclips and zip ties hold the elastic tight against cheeks. Stay safe.

🥕🥕🥕

Shielded by Cara Stefano

Karen awoke with the sun, before her children, her husband, even her dog was awake. She sat at her dressing table in a cozy robe, arranging her pots and powders, brushes, wands and other devices seemingly meant only for torture. Painstakingly she straightened her chestnut curls and twisted them up into a serviceable ponytail. With exquisite care she applied her makeup: foundation, blush, eye shadow, and eye liner, mascara in darkest black. She glossed her worried lips in poppy flower red. Satisfied, she stood. Her mask firmly in place, Karen went downstairs to make coffee.

🥕🥕🥕

Whatever Gets You Through the Night. It’s Alright by Tina Stewart Brakebill

Frustrated, Jane muted the tv and glared at her roommates.

Returning Jane’s glare, Peter lit up a joint and took a deep hit before blowing the smoke directly into her face.

“Damn it! Pete. You know I’ve got a Zoom meeting.”

“Not my problem. Shield your face. Wear one of those damn masks you keep sewing.”

Ignoring Pete, she returned to the muted tv. But watching the orange faced idiot gesticulate wildly just made it worse. Feeling the rage building, she closed her eyes and surrendered. Humming “whatever gets your through the night” she whispered, “Pass me that joint.”

🥕🥕🥕

Shield & Taylor by Janet Guy

I need a face shield.

Certainly, Ma’am. Will it be used for hiding? Protection? Disguise? Fear? Shame?

Hiding and disguise.

One of our most popular combinations. This suburban-camouflage balaclava is a best seller. Blend into any background whenever you can’t listen to the children for one more second. It comes with a flask for “mommy juice.”

It fits like a dream, but do you have anything for summer?

Here is our latest line of contouring makeup. All the rage with Gen-Z. ‘Look Carved From Marble.’

I prefer something less artistic.

I have a vintage catcher’s mask in the back…

🥕🥕🥕

Beaten by Lisa A. Listwa

Carla stepped into the sunlight as she had on a hundred other Monday mornings.

The bright beauty of the day was stark contrast to the terror she would experience once she completed the journey from school bus to classroom.

The brutality was relentless. She suffered in silence, no one aware of the battle scars she accumulated day after day.

Protection and safety were illusions. No suit of armor deflected the assaults. No knight came to her rescue.

She learned to believe the things they said. No one told her to shield her face from attacks on her own self-esteem.

🥕🥕🥕

At the Supermarket by Joanne Fisher

Jess and Cindy drove down to the supermarket in Lawrence. Lucky sat in the back seat with his head permanently out the window and his tongue hanging out.

While shopping they saw Lynn, a former classmate of theirs. She took one look at them together and suddenly shielded her face from them and began walking down another aisle.

“Maybe we’re just too damn awesome to look at.” pondered Cindy as they loaded their shopping into the back of the station wagon. Jess smiled.

“No, she’s totally jealous of us,” she suggested. They knew the real reason but laughed anyway.

🥕🥕🥕

Screens by Sarah Brentyn

The door was wide open.

She never had that screen installed and cursed herself for it now. Nothing stood between them. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

She shifted, torn, wondering if she should relent or fight. Quickly dismissing her chances winning, she thought of running. How far could she get? Her eyes darted to the back slider, the yard beyond stretching into dense woods.

“It’s cold out here. You going to make me push my way past you?”

“What? Oh, sweetie, you caught me off guard,” she smiled, shield up. “Come in, please. What a pleasant surprise.”

🥕🥕🥕

Shielded Eyes by Ann Edall-Robson

Raking a hand through his blonde hair, he watched the moving silhouette in the arena. Stepping onto the bottom rail of the fence he settled his hat on his head in an effort to shield his eyes from the fall sunset.

The woman reined the buckskin gelding towards the intruder, offering him a flash of a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.

“You’re a long way from where you should be.”

His eyes never wavered from hers.

“You know damn well this is where I should be!”

“You don’t belong here. Never have, and you never will.” She taunted.

🥕🥕🥕

A New Dance Begins by Charli Mills

The Texas sun baked the canvas tent where Jess ripped lengths of satin. She cranked her sewing machine, finishing the edges of royal blue scarves. When she had enough, she carried the stack outside and handed two to every man who rode for her husband’s brand. The trail ride to Montana with a herd of longhorns would be arduous. Her husband survived the War and sacrificed all he had for this cattle drive. The least she could do was sacrifice ballroom gowns. “Shield your face,” she told him. He understood the gesture, her willingness to trust a new dance.

🥕🥕🥕

Public Service Announcement by John Lane

As Sylvia crossed the New York border in her two-door Chevy, her coughing picked up the pace.
And she refused a mask.
*It messes up my make-up.*

She wanted more toilet tissue, although she had enough for two weeks.
But she refused a mask.
*It itches my face.*

At the store, Sylvia coughed on the toilet tissue located on the shelf where eight-year-old Melissa took a pack. Sylvia then coughed on Bobby, the cashier.
Without a mask.
*It’s too tight.*

Four days later, Melissa and Bobby died in the hospital from complications of COVID-19.

Be safe. Wear a mask.

🥕🥕🥕

Keep Your Guard Up by Dave Madden

“Every time you start throwing a combination, your hands drop, and you don’t shield your face properly.”

Derrick didn’t think his older brother was a liar, but it’s not like he had a lot of fight experience of his own.

“Three amateur boxing matches doesn’t make you an expert,” Derrick fired back.

Derrick’s brother chuckled, “That’s been your best defense all day.”

What Derrick didn’t know was that his brother had been video taping the entire training session. When he watched back the tape and saw his hands drop for himself, he knew his brother was telling the truth.

🥕🥕🥕

Bat Girl by Padre of Padre’s Ramblings

Some called her a vigilante, others a local hero. Whichever viewpoint you took, one thing was certain, petty crime had fallen in Braddockville. She wore no Lycra-based catsuit or cape, but a plain set of blue denims and a blue patterned bandanna tied cowboy style about her face to shield her identity.

No one knew who this foiler of misdeeds was, but she was popularly referred to in both casual conversation and the local papers as Bat Girl. Bat Girl? Yes, the term was first used to describe her by the drug dealer that first experienced her Louisville Slugger.

🥕🥕🥕

The Shield Of EDICT by Bill Engleson

“Move along, rogue. This is not your place.”

He wears the shield of EDICT.

I make to move.

I always move.

Even before the scourge, I had no true place. But now the frayed net that caught bits of me, bits of all the others like me, has dissipated.

We have no voice to stand our ground.

We have no ground.

And certainly no shield.

This one’s no mucky muck.

He could be me.

Once.

“You deef, buddy?” he persists.

Why do I hesitate?

Could now be my time?

Can I utter the words, “When I’m good and ready!”

🥕🥕🥕

Unveiled by Ritu Bhathal

I stepped outside, onto our rooftop veranda.

The sun, still warm, was beginning to set.

I needed to collect the clothes from the line, but first, I just had to make the most of this moment.

As far as the eye could see, roof terraces were visible, but, unlike other days, no one was out on them.

This virus had scared everyone.

Slowly, I unhooked my veil, allowing the warm rays to touch my face.

This was a bliss I was rarely allowed to experience.

“Shield your face!” My father appeared.

I scrambled to reinstate the veil. “Sorry, Abba.”

🥕🥕🥕

Anarchists and Aliens by Chelsea Owens

Despite overwhelming evidence of humanity’s intelligence and observational abilities, Dr. Straussnüd’s research covering the period shortly before the collapse of civilisation appeared to lead to one conclusion: that people failed to utilise said abilities in order to avert subjugation and demise.

For, for what other reason did the records he had unearthed bear markings of carefree ignorance on the part of Earth’s inhabitants?

When a literal invasion of alien species flashed its conscience-altering devices, they had not followed admonitions. Why? Once informed, audio records proved their leaders to have yelled, “Shield your faces!”

Straussnüd frowned. He required further study.

🥕🥕🥕

Essential Characters by D. Avery

“Kid, where’s Frankie? I’m waitin’ fer a delivery a coasters fer the saloon.”

“Really, Pal? Times like this an’ yer worried ‘bout bar coasters? Even fictional folks is busy. Ernie’s runnin’ his still agin, makin’

‘Corn-U-Cope-Ya’ll’, his homebrewed antiseptic lotion. With aloe.”

“Uh, hello. An’ where’s Pepe LeGume?”

“Pepe an’ Logatha been hunkered down sewing masks en masse, fer folks ta shield their face, pertect one ‘nuther. So let’s have Frankie send them coasters along ta Pepe, ta use as inserts.”

“Ok. Whut kin we do, Kid?”

“Reckon jist keep the Saddle Up Saloon open as an essential business.”

🥕🥕🥕

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