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May 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

Two days after my middlest child turned 29 years old, I’m seeking trees. My daughter, Rock Climber, lives on a craggy glacier island in the Arctic, surrounded by massive mountains, polar bear prints, and eternal snow beneath skies as wide as any final frontier. She travels by Zodiac in seas so tumultuous she has to wear a full life-suit with a beacon. When she flies between islands, she lands on airstrips made of permafrost. For fun, she rides snowmobiles in the midnight sun and sends me goofy snapshots. When her dad was in the hospital, she taught her Norwegian friends to sing a raunchy rugby song she learned when watching him play in a Montana league.

This is my Bug Child. My wild girl crafted in her Ranger/Rugby father’s image.

She tells me she misses trees.

Have you ever lived someplace where there were no trees? Even in the North American deserts, juniper, pinion, and Joshua trees grow. I was born beneath a canopy of California oaks and raised in the Sierras where the Jeffry pines and cedars grow. Eyes wide open, I can still smell their scent — Jeffrey pines smell like vanilla when the sunshine warms their broom-like clusters of needles. I’m not a tree-hugger as much as I’m a tree-cuddler.

I used to ride my horse Captain Omega (don’t judge, I named him when I was 12, reading Greek Mythology) to the cedar groves. There, I’d sit with my back to a cedar with its auburn bark that I could peel like fiber. I used to compare the color of my long braids to the tree and pretend we were distantly related. I’d read, devouring books and traveling in my mind to places as remote as where Rock Climber now lives.

Trees are in my DNA. Bumpa, my nonagenarian great-grandfather who used to tell me stories when my mother dropped me off to visit him in the nursing home beneath the oaks. I only knew him in his nineties. He died when I was ten, and he was 99. But those stories live on within me, roots of his life touching mine. His parents were farmers from Denmark, immigrating to America. They came west to California and planted apricot orchards. He grew up, tending those trees. My grandmother continued to harvest their fruit even after her father sold the orchards. My mother and her sisters would eat green apricots until their bellies ached. I grew up eating dried apricots every Christmas. When my Bug Child was two, my mother taught her to filch fruit from low-hanging branches, declaring these were the one’s Bumpa’s father planted.

I once wrote a story about the sweetness of stolen sunshine, keeping in mind the female tradition of San Benito apricots. Those trees produced fruit I thought must taste like the ambrosia of the sun. Throughout life, I continued to nibble from trees. First apricots, and then the nuts from Sierra pines. Jeffry pinenuts are flat and acrid but carry that luscious scent. Pinion pinenuts are fat, greasy, and sweet. Yet they don’t produce every year. When pinenuts come into season, the Washo and Ute would flock to high desert groves and harvest from pitchy stunted trees. I can taste American history with each nibble, I can experience Johnny Appleseed with the plucking of wild apples. I dream of Rock Creek and Little House on the Prairie when I slurp the tart fruit of a wild Nebraska plum.

Family legend holds that my other great-grandfather could create trees. He knew how to splice and get a crab apple to grow on a Macintosh. What scientist do in labs with genes, my ancestors did with trees. They brought their own hybrids with them from the Basque lands, the Azores, and beyond. Not from Ireland though. I once had a family member tell me that the English cut down all the trees in Ireland, and perhaps my Irish blood still misses those trees. I’ve watched shows on how the modern English take care of ancient oaks, and Monty Don is welcome to teach me anything about trees. My British roots are all mixed up in the different eras of history, place, and culture but undoubtedly go back to the Celtic worshippers of trees.

Deciduous trees of the Keweenaw have root systems that communicate throughout the woods. When  I’m alone on a trail, I can hear them talking. White pines once grew in abundance on this peninsula, but like most other places, trees of today displaced the trees of yesterday. Climate change is displacing us all. Weather patterns and extreme weather events change what trees grow where.

At times I feel like a wind-whipped pine holding onto the cliffside. Then the sun comes out, or a gentle rain washes away the dust. Maybe I’ll find a home in a tree, a nest to call my own.

So I ask again, have you ever lived someplace without trees? Can you imagine having to hunt for them, to grow up not knowing what it is to smell bark or rake leaves or taste fruit?

My daughter misses trees. So I am seeking trees to give her stories to remind her.

May 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that goes in search of trees. It can be one particular tree, a grove, woods, or forest. What makes the tree worth seeking? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 21, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Laid to Rest (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni asked Ike to fall the tree, an ancient Ponderosa with thick plates of bark assembled like puzzle pieces. She estimated it had stood over the abandoned cemetery at least three centuries before burials. Mostly sawyers and log-camp followers found final rest beneath its branches. A hundred years ago, this Ponderosa would have netted the logging company enough money to cover wages. Yet they had spared the tree. Danni didn’t guess why, but she asked her husband to fall it because he understood the code of the forest. He’d remove the diseased old-timer with respect to those it guarded.

May 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

Spring demands a pickaxe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I was shirt-shamed on Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before that, I need a full night of sleep.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

April 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why Choose? by Charli Mills

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

“I’m not a pronoun. I am me.”

“Yes, but do you identify he or she.”

“Yes.”

“Which?”

“I am he or she.”

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

“Both.”

🥕🥕🥕

Simon’s Pink Card by Charli Mills

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

“Let’s go buy Frank a card, okay?”

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

“But it’s pink.”

Simon smiled. “I like the words.”

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

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

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

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

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

PART I (10-minute read)

Beggars Can’t be Choosers? by Sally Cronin

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Beggar That by calmkate

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

That’s the Way It Is by Susan Zutautas

What’s for dinner Mom?

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Discerning by Abijit

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

🥕🥕🥕

Brother Francis By Violet Lentz

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Boundaries by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

“You can’t keep doing this.”

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

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

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

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

“I’m calling Toby!”

Toby was the Ex-boyfriend, not the father.

So Rita wasn’t Gramma.

Problem solved.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Anita Dawes

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

🥕🥕🥕

Evie’s Choice by Margaret G. Hanna

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

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

“Yes, you do. You can leave.”

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

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

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

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

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

She stormed out the door, slamming it behind her.

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

🥕🥕🥕

No Choice by Michele Jones

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

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

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

A loud growl echoed from the cave.

God help me.

🥕🥕🥕

Juma by Saifun Hassam

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

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Floridaborne

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Choice Metaphorical Beggary by Bill Engleson

Doubt

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

Confirmation

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

Doubt

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

🥕🥕🥕

Flaking Off the Walls by Papershots

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

“Lily and Becky?” he asked.

“My sister couldn’t…”

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

Lily nodded.

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

🥕🥕🥕

Aftermath by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Roberta Eaton

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

A Choice by Ruchira Khana

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

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

There was silence.

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

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

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

right and take the retest?”

“Choice is yours!”

🥕🥕🥕

Chosen People by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Equally Nice by The Dark Netizen

I walked around the shop.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Friendly by Sascha Darlington

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Grape Juuuice by Kelley Farrell

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

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

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

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

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

“Beggars can’t be choosers, Janey.”

🥕🥕🥕

Santa’s Surprise by Kerry E.B. Black

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Cheerful Choices by calmkate

those trying to survive well below the poverty line

do have basic choices

public housing seldom available some return home

or share with strangers and all the unknown

many choose a life of crime

to cover their bills

people who would never consider such risks

or sell their body then their soul, become homeless

but we can choose our attitude

embrace our inner wealth

serve others by volunteering

spread cheer and good will to all we meet

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

sure it severely inhibits life choices

Reflect wisely and turn that around!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

🥕🥕🥕

Maggie’s Sulking by Di @ pensitivity101

I always get treats. Always, always, always!

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

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

Got to keep the sniffer in tip top condition.

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

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

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

Guess I’ll have to eat the pongy stuff.

Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.

🥕🥕🥕

No Beggin’ Dogs at the Table by tracey

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Chosen by Allison Maruska

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

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

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

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

I purr a little to appease her.

The things I do for a meal.

🥕🥕🥕

Choosey Little Beggar by Ann Edall-Robson

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

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

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

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

Sounds of sucking made Hanna smile.

“Us girls gotta stick together.” She whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

Safer To Eat At Home by Susan Sleggs

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Frank Hubeny

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

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

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

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

“Nope. I can choose.”

“What can you choose?”

“I can choose to sit right here.”

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

“I wonder what he wants?”

“You know what he wants.”

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

“I get top bunk.”

“No, you don’t.”

🥕🥕🥕

If Wishes Were Horses...by Nancy Brady

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

In The Beginning, There Was Distraction by Chelsea Owens

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

“Next!” the angel matriarch called.

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

“Late again, Phanuelle.”

*Gulp*

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

A Man with a Golden Voice by Miriam Hurdle

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

The next day he saw the beggar again.

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

“Yes.”

“Hop in… Why are you on the street?”

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Missing Car by Anurag Bakhshi

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

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

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

“But?” I growled menacingly.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Reena and Jay Do Beans On Toast by Ritu Bhathal

It had been a long trek.

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Smart Beggars (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

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

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

“Oh, hi, Danni. You look a fright.”

“I’m taking back the new supplies.”

“The ones that didn’t arrive?”

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Who Says by Reena Saxena

He asked for help.

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

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

Who says beggars can’t be choosers?

🥕🥕🥕

Imaginary Characters by M J Mallon

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Tables Turned by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Harsh Reality by Rupali Banerjee

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

🥕🥕🥕

Restoration of Hope by TN Kerr

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

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

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

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

“Hey,” she said to catch his attention.

When he looked up at her he was startled.

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

He took the white paper bag that she proffered.

“It’s warm,” he said.

She simply nodded, turned around and walked away.

🥕🥕🥕

Breaking Old Stereotypical Molds by JulesPaige

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

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

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

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

Who says beggars can’t choose?

🥕🥕🥕

Hat Trick by D. Avery

“Pal, ya ain’t noticin’ my new hat.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Come on, Pal. Do ya like my hat?”

“No, Kid, no. I do not like yer hat.”

“Jeez, Pal, ya gotta like this hat.”

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

🥕🥕🥕

April 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have choices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Smart Beggars (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

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

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

“Oh, hi, Danni. You look a fright.”

“I’m taking back the new supplies.”

“The ones that didn’t arrive?”

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

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

April 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

On March 29, Northern Lights flamed orange and gold over the Keweenaw. The sky colors raged like solar flares. These were no gentle green and blue sheets of shimmering arctic lights, but full expressions of Copper Country fusion. It came as no coincidence that 47 North raised the roof of the Continental Fire Company earlier that night.

Awakening began at 8 p.m. to a full house. The dance performances have grown in popularity, and the management had to open the upstairs bar and create a theater in the round perspective from above. My son-in-law opens every show as a theatric MC, grabbing attention with his voice and humor. The dancers opened with a remix of Wicked Game, a slow smoldering beat-heavy song that begins, “The world is on fire, and no one can save me but you.”

Each beat, the dancers popped in unison.

Pops are an under-appreciated element of belly dance. When most people hear the style, they think Mediterranean restaurants and women in sheer costumes swiveling hips and smiling for men. Not this troupe. 47 North Belly Dance is raq sharqi, Egyptian-style cabaret, ballet, hip-hop, and modern. They are fusion. And pops come from the ability to isolate muscles and control movement. They include the shape-shifting choreography of modern dance where dancers meld in and out of shapes with contrast and flow. Balletic grace infuses fiery strength. 47 North is a warrior tribe of strong female dancers.

After Wicked Game, I stepped onto the stage and read:

Welcome to the dark side: The black loamy soil from which crocus bulbs must break the surface. Before there can be spring, there must be winter. Life germinates in the dark, undulating to a restless energy, the manifestation of what comes next, a stirring felt by birds and bees and rising maple sap. On the stage dancers cast long shadows in the bright lights. They embrace the ancient rhythms, become the crocus spears beneath the surface. This too is part of life. The dance with darkness, the dance within shadows, the pre-emergence, incubation, propagation of winter absorbed by spring.

Two stories of bar chatter, clanking glasses and shaking ice creates a buzz I project over the top of like some Beat Generation poet, hustling literary art on the crowd. It’s not a typical reading venue, nor is it friendly. People don’t listen politely. It’s Friday night, and the party is underway. But I love this fusion of art, this opportunity to attend dance rehearsals, discuss meanings with choreographers and share a bit of their stage to read 99-word stories. I retreat to the shadows in the wings and two succubi, one short, one tall, dominates the stage, filling the space between their differences with an energy of seductive strength. This is not come-hither-boys seduction; it’s the dance of women owning their own sexuality.

The crowd roars and the fires are lit.

Throughout the evening the troupe dances from dark, sultry pieces that include bats to the in between stage we know so well on the Keweenaw  — before there is the daffodil spring we must endure the long melt of grit and snow-husks. We must crack the thinning ice. In Between, I read:

They chiseled their way into deep shafts, miners drilling through the basalt of a peninsula rich in copper. Men searching for copper. Women carve deep into the pits of their own souls to discover treasure within – the power to create, the power to renew. Spring awakens the miners. Tommy Knockers never stop searching in between dark and light. Fortune glistens in the returning light of spring to illuminate hidden veins held in the dark. Smell the musty earth and search for copper in your own blood. Plant a seed, pluck a stone. Spring has returned to Copper Country.

As MC, Solar Man entertains the crowd. He makes jokes: “Why did the belly dancer cross the road? She heard there were costumes on the other side.” We all laugh, but I’m not sure the crowd fully understands the troupe’s obsession with costumes which, like their dance style, is an eclectic mix to create vibrant visuals on stage. Hip belts are often the product of ripped leather coats resewn with cheap baubles and dime-store rhinestones. Tops are enhanced bras studded with costume jewelry, satin, and lace. Skirts are often scarves. Dancers use fans, veils, swords and golden canes to accent their costumes.

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The light dawns. The dances and costumes become more golden and glittery, the dances more joyous. This performance has been a full awakening. Before the finale, I have a point to make. One I want every artist to understand. We can strive to do our best, but no one is ever “the best” at art. You can tell the dancers, like my daughter in her high-and-tight buzz cut, that have trained for years in ballet. Grace imbues the way they hold their arms and necks. You can spot the dancers that flow with the music. You can compare ages, heights, and other numbers that hold no real meaning but are easy descriptors.

But you ‘d be hard pressed to agree on who is best.

I bring this up because writers often compare themselves to perceptions of best. Discipline doesn’t shape art, but play does. You can’t draft from the editor’s chair. You have to write first. After you write you can certainly improve. The trick is, you have to keep writing.  When you’ve amassed, then you can take a scalpel and practice precision. But keep writing. It becomes a dance. Pay too much attention to the other birds, and you can lose your will to chirp. Sing alongside the birds and add your unique voice, practicing the best you can do, not concerned about being the best bird.

Before the dancers took to the stage where they would  flow and  merge as small groups into one big group  with each dancer creating different movements, I read:

The Greatest Show on Earth returns in spring with birdsong. It has been said by ornithologists wiser than me that if only the best birds sang, the woods would be silent. How can we possibly define the best bird song anyhow? How can we say that the golden-wing warblers out-sing the piping plovers?  How can we deny the soul-stirring refrains of our favorite songs on the radio though yours and mine will differ? How can we not leave a live performance unchanged? The light has returned, and the birds have brought you out of the dark. Own your transformation.

47 North took to the stage and owned the transformation. The first time I saw them rehearse The Greatest Show, I cried. This troupe expressed how each dancer was different, but together they were stronger in their expression of art. They danced the way I feel when I arrange the collection of 99-word stories each week. I say this over an over, but it is true — art requires interaction. I might feel awesome writing my best, but it’s nothing if I don’t connect with others who read or hear it. Connecting when I’ve not written my best still feels more awesome than unacknowledged work. Unread, that’s what it is — my work. Shared, it becomes art.

The Continental Fire Company likes flash fiction. It’s because of my small readings they sponsored our Rodeo. The club manager always comes over to my chair in the shadows and explains how he likes the dances better with my stories, he feels drawn in to better understand what the performance means. Several people listen. Most talk. I don’t mind because the few who plug in, connect like a spark to fuel the flames.

But that night — March 29, 2019, those dancers took to the stage knowing one of their members was retiring to take a job out of town, and they all danced for her, with her, and for the mutual love of their shared art. The fire roared! The crowd caught it, ignited, and they roared back, feet pounding, hands clapping, hoots and hollers, whistles and trills. When the audience gave back the energy to the dancers, it was like a vortex opened up. It was a  rock-star moment, and the performance ended with a thundering standing ovation.

I don’t want to be “the best” writer. I just want to write the way those women danced!

Sunday followed the performance, and I had my first To Cultivate a Book retreat at the Ripley Falls Home of Hygge (or Healing). It’s a safe space to explore the creative life. I’m not here to tell someone the magic way to get published, the traditional way, the indie way. I’m here to listen. I meet writers where they are at, and I help them see what the terrain looks like. I help them plant and grow the book they envision. That’s the retreat part. Interspersed, I offered practical knowledge. Each attendee is working on an Author Action Plan that is cultivated to fit their book on their terms, knowing their options in the greater industry.

This is something I’ve felt called to do for a long time. Like all writers who face doubt, I wondered if it would be of value. Sunday I had my answer. Six women came together. Three had previously unshared works. Three felt called but had not figured out what their books were. I listened. I let my story-catcher out, and I caught nuggets to reveal as gems to each person. Seeing the fire light up in their eyes made my day!

Three of the women have serious books that each blew me away. I couldn’t believe they had not shared them, but then I understood. Our seedlings are fragile, and we must share with care lest someone stomp out the flames too soon. I felt like a book farmer, helping people grow the books they want, not necessarily the books they “should” write (unless of course, what they want is a book dictated by markets and readership).

Literary art is meant to be accessible, not put on a top  shelf for “the best.” Literary art has the power to move people just as dance can.

Keep your flame burning.

April 4, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fire. It can be a flame that burns or a light that inspires. Follow the flames and go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 9, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

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

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

March 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

Wolfric III has terrorized me all day. It began while soaping the breakfast dishes, rinsing a cup and spying a slight eminence below the drying rack in the second sink. A small hump of gray darker than the stainless steel about the size of a cast-off peel of avocado caught my eye. When I focused, I realized it was a massive wolf spider. Wolfric denotes the name we give the eight-legged beasts of the basement, adding the suffix for annual lineage. In other words, this is the third wolf spider I’ve seen since relocating to the Keweenaw. Well, third one in this house on Roberts Street.

Last October, while sequestered away with my friend and seafarer historian at a lightkeeper’s cottage on Eagle Harbor, I stirred up a resident wolf spider in the bathroom. When they move, they hustle like arachnid lightning. Without my glasses, the world blurs. Nothing is distinct, but I can catch movement. I was about to step into the shower when I thought a mouse was scurrying toward me. I screamed, scrambled backward, hitting the bathroom door which obliged my force of contact and opened, launching me naked into the dining room. My friend, around the corner in the kitchen, asked, “What’s that you say, Charli?”

Mumbling all was well, I bravely, and vulnerably stepped back into the bathroom, grabbed my glasses and faced the biggest wolf spider I had ever seen. They are poisonous, though hardly aggressive. Living up to their name, wolf spiders are hunters. I’m actually curious about them because they often seem calculating and keen. Reputedly they have far better eyesight than I do. My shower was quick that day, and later my friend and I laughed about her missing Charli Verses Spider Show.

Mona, my daughter and son-in-law’s cat, is tiny but mighty. She’s the most loving critter on our block, possibly in the whole universe. She greets every person who comes to our home on Roberts Street with purrs and snuggles. Mona cuddles the dogs, runs to greet the kids at night, and brushes against Sgt Mills to gain affection. Sometimes, her love runs over. Like when I’m trying to write, and she decides it’s the loving hour. Often she escapes to the basement to hunt the hunter. But being the lovable Mona she is, she’s never hurt Wolfric I, II, or III. I’ve found her with all four paws tucked beneath her, staring at Wolfric staring at her as if she’s keeping the beast company.

It’s not Wolfric’s fault he’s terrorized me. I’m not adverse to spiders, and I understand that his emergence is a cheerful omen of spring on the Keweenaw. I’d prefer he stay in the basement, however. My issue with wolf spiders, in particular, is their size and speed. It triggers one dandy of a panic attack deep in my amygdala. I took caution with WIII and finished loading the dishwasher. Any I washed by hand I carefully avoided dripping water over him. Throughout the day, as I drank water, sliced cheese for an afternoon snack, rotated our baby flower seedlings to sunny spots, and prepped dinner, my mind never released the presence of the spider trapped in the sink.

At last, Radio Geek and Solar Man arrived home. Sgt Mills has a long day of therapies on Thursdays, so he won’t be back until later. And he’d only tease me, calling me his “Cowardly Cowgirl” so I’d prefer asking our kids to help rescue Wolfric.

We’re in the kitchen, Radio Geek and me. I’m tentatively searching for Wolfric as she’s making a snack of popcorn. She has dance rehearsal for the big show at The Continental Fire Company on Friday, and my dinner of roast chicken and cauliflower won’t be done until after. She’s feeling peckish for a snack, and we are chatting. I’m getting nervous because I can’t see Wolfric and I don’t want him to startle me. He’s had me on edge all day. It’s hard to polish my flash fiction for the dance show with spiders on the brain.

Bravely, I bend over the sink, searching. I hear my daughter say in cautious tones, “Mom…Mom…”

All hell breaks loose in my mind. I think she’s spotted the spider and is trying to calmly warn me. This does not calm my heart which is now ready to burst from my sternum. The next instant slams me with unexpected pain. I distinctly feel a whump to my back, claws in my neck. My logical mind goes on instant hiatus. It’s wonderful to be an imaginative person except in instances like this. Without the backup of logic, I interpret that I’m under attack. The hunter has me, and I scream, and scream, and scream.

Through the fog of sheer terror, I hear my daughter howling in laughter. This grounds me, and I realize  I’m bucking and pitching around the kitchen, screaming my lungs out with Mona dug into my back. She figured since I was bent over the sink, it might be a good time to jump from the kitchen table to my shoulders,  She does this sometimes when I do dishes or cook. My feline parrot who nestles into my shoulders and purrs in my ear.

Mona is a cowgirl. That cat can ride.

When I realized what was happening, I slumped across the counter, the cat dropped to the floor, and I joined my daughter’s mirth, and we both laughed until we cried. When she had seen Mona perched, wobbling on her toes to make the leap, Radio Geek tried to warn me. I thought the spider had me. Wolfric had actually crawled into Solar Man’s coffee mug, and my daughter rescued him, releasing him on the kitchen floor.

I thought we agreed to set him outside. There’s only five feet of crumbling snow left. Ah, well, I step firmly into spring. If something emergent doesn’t frighten the life in me, it doesn’t seem like a transition. Spring roars in like a wolf spider or a bronc-riding cat.

Last Friday I coaxed Sgt Mills to go with me up the peninsula. We drove along the shoreline of Lake Superior, looking for signs.  No open water, but the ice is changing color, promising ice-off soon.

An artist couple who live on the lake announced the passage of three freighters, meaning the Coast Guard has cut the ice from the shipping lanes. A small group of friends celebrated Ostara, and we planted seeds together. Last Sunday, I attended the local Iranian community’s Norooz celebration and next month I’ll celebrate Easter. I feel like my candy basket is full of special treats. Hopefully, not spiders.

Once again, I’ll be adding 99-word literary art to a 47 North Dance Show (Awakening). That’s this Friday. Tomorrow! It’s about the transition from dark to light and the fusion of accepting both within ourselves.

On Sunday, I’m leading a writing retreat called To Cultivate a Book. It’s based on other workshops I’ve developed, but allows for continual growth both personally and professionally.

We have room for four more writers at the Carrot Ranch Writer’s Refuge in Vermont at D. Avery’s A-frame cabin in the woods near the Northeastern Kingdom. I’m excited to be living a life-long dream of working with writers in natural settings, experiencing literary art and nature as one. I’ll be adding more details and photos to the Refuge tab.

Let this encourage you to plant, grow, nurture, weed and harvest. No matter if your world is upside down because you live in the southern hemisphere or life sends you unexpected spiders, you can always plant what it is you want to grow.

Here are some photos I wanted to share  with you from last  Friday’s jaunt up the peninsula. Pressure ridges from freezing  waves and erupting sand have formed what look like ice-encased dunes, eminences that will crumble with warmer days, and persistent waves. It’s stunning, gritty and transformative:

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March 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses the word eminence. It’s a rich word full of different meanings. Explore how it sounds or how you might play with it. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 2, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Find What Glints  (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Eminence of sand rolled across flats, forming dunes. Danni recalled following an old pioneer trail across the Forty Mile Desert of Nevada in her dad’s Jeep, top down, spring sun beating warmly. What was that he said? Turn around and look for the glints among the dunes. Every time he pulled over, Danni scrambled among the hollows of sand, sun to her back. She trotted toward the glints – a purple glass nob from a dresser, a marble, an obsidian arrowhead. Even today, trained as an archeologist, she heard her dad’s voice coaxing her to find the discards of history.

March 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

Water Walkers, women of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, take the floor and welcome the audience to Tribal Water Day. I sit at a bingo table near hanging art created by local schoolchildren. One poster reads,  “Water feels no bad vibes.” My daughter, Radio Geek, is interviewing guest speakers who range from state representatives to PhDs from the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Tech. On the way down from Hancock to Baraga on the Keweenaw Bay of Lake Superior, we plowed through lakes of melting snow while a spring squall spit more flakes at our windshield.

So it goes with transitions — are we rain or snow? Are we who we were or who we have become? Transitions tread the space between. For us, on this day, the focus is on water. Outside Nibi (the Ojibwe word for water) moves from one state to another in a gritty arrival of spring. Melt is not beautiful, and yet it gives way to what we know as the most inspiring time of year. Snow breaks down into icy pebbles, shedding its fleecy white coat. Sand from road traction piles up and mud emerges as the first glimpse of soil hidden for months.

Radio Geek tells me she wants to add a question to her interviews. Among queries about mercury in white fish, tribal data, and water-related research, she wants to ask, “What does water say to you?”

One of the Water Walkers introduces herself at the front of the room in what usually serves as a Bingo Hall. Today it transforms into a community center. She speaks in her native language and then explains she has identified herself as an Anishinaabe woman, her clan, her name. She says, “We welcome you today. Community members of sincere heart, mind, and spirit join us in seeking truth, knowledge, and healing through the original sacred way of life.”

Notebook open, colored pens laid out before me, I can’t deny the feeling of awe in being here. Having grown up out west, I can’t remember a time when a native tribe opened up teachings to the general public. This is not an anthropology class or a dominant culture history-speaking over a marginalized one. This is the Anishinaabekwe — the Women — providing teaching. This group refers to themselves as the Water Walkers because they carry the sacred Nibi in a bucket to honor her. To speak to her.

To answer Radio Geek’s question, the Anishinaabekwe agree that Nibi speaks. But they want us to understand that we must first speak to her. I smile, hearing Nibi personified as a woman because I knew Lady Lake Superior was female. I came here this morning, rising earlier than I’m inclined to because I wanted to glimpse the Water Walkers in action. It feels like a cultural transformation is taking place — borders and boundaries give way like warming ice.

And I anticipate beauty carried in a water bucket.

A secondary motive drove me across wet roads today, as well. In my novel, Miracle of Ducks, I’ve constructed a project for my character, Dr. Danni Gordon. I had to give her an archeological task not only for her profession, but to explain why she lives in North Idaho. I also wanted it to be a source of tension. Earlier drafts focused on her dislike of children and had her leading a volunteer site further south. After pouring over Forest Service records I finally found a poosibility in North Idaho, and it was multi-agency, including tribal input.

In 2017, while the Hub and I were limping toward Michigan, beaten down by our homeless travels, we took a break at his sister’s home in Kansas. Several days earlier I had turned 50. In Kansas, Sis had a birthday surprise for me — archeology school. It infused a greater sense of topic authority for my character. I met and interviewed archeologists, worked alongside them in grids and labs, and kept in touch with several as alpha readers.

One gave me a great backstory for Danni and then joked that it might look like what he lived. I felt honored to have someone share their story with me — a fiction writer who will take that story and mold it into something new. The experience gave me greater confidence as a novel writer to interview people. For so long, I’ve interviewed people for articles and profiles that doing so for an imaginary story felt off. I’m glad I got over feeling that way. Interviewing authorities provides great research.

That is what has brought me to Tribal Water Day. I’ve been drafting scenes around the project I gave Danni, and one includes a public presentation led by the Kootenai Tribe of North Idaho. I’ve never experienced such a gathering and wondered how it would differ from a presentation led by the Forest Service or a local special interest group.

Before me, I have two pens — turquoise for general notes and purple for drafts.

Danni joins me at the bingo table, and I begin to feel her nervousness. Unlike me, Danni hates public speaking. Her palms tingle and she can’t feel her feet. Danni’s greatest desire in life is to belong. But she’s often thwarted by her greatest secret fear that she doesn’t believe she belongs anywhere. I can feel her tensions as I look at the unfolding presentations through her lens. Danni relaxes, inhaling deeply of the smoldering sage, her heart beating in rhythm to the deep drumming of the tribal Singers. Then Michael Robineaux walks in, and she flinches, remembering she is an outsider.

Not once throughout the day do I feel like an outsider. I marvel that every speaker is a woman! Several are official water specialists, working for their tribe. Others are wildlife and environmental biologists. My daughter is the media representative of Michigan Tech. The men serve in supporting roles. The Tribal Singers drum for the Water Walkers. Many men assist the water specialists and biologists in their work. A tribal artist displays his portraits of Anishinaabekwe.

As a woman, I feel affirmed. I observe a room full of leaders among my gender. I feel hope for Danni in her chosen profession and gaining the credibility she needs to make her project work. I feel hope for the water surrounding us. And I decide to accept the invitation to walk next time the bucket of water is carried from Copper Harbor to Sand Point.

Life is good.

Officially, Macaroo is a workhorse, and I’m almost back in the swing of things. A flu-bug is winding its way through the Keweenaw, and I’ve caught it, though it’s not so bad. I just feel low on energy. Nonetheless, the snow is receding slowly, our local township group is progressing, and I’ve officially been accepted into the MFA Creative Writing program at Southern New Hampshire University. It’s online so I will travel virtually. Miracle of Ducks will be my thesis, and I’ve also added studies to get certified to teach writing online for universities.

I’m pleased with how everything is settling down like a bucket of clean water from an artesian well. Dare I say, the rough ride is mellowing out.

Grab a bucket. And as the Anishinaabekwe said to me, “Come with an empty mind, open heart, open hands” and scoop a story in 99 words among a community of literary artists.

March 21, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a bucket of water. What is the condition of the water and what is the bucket for? Drop deep into the weel and draw from where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 26, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

When It Felt Full (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Unable to stop smiling, Danni bought a galvanized steel water bucket. After twelve years of studying, summer digs, teaching undergrads, and crediting her work to advisors, Danni had completed her Ph.D. She promptly married Ike and bought a horse.

“I was thinking we might need a house,” Ike said, staring up at the stars above their sleeping bags.

“We can find a barn by winter.”

“Mrs. Gordon, we need more than a barn.”

Ike’s uncle sold them his small spread when he moved to town. Danni’s bucket of water felt full for ten years. Until Iraq poked a hole.

March 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

Metal on metal rings throughout the neighborhood. Mist rises from melting snow as rain softly drizzles. The weather has warmed enough that the air fuzzes like wet socks. Smells like them, too. Spring does not emerge fresh as the laundry commercials would make us believe. My neighbor — I’ll call him Chester because he shares traits with Molly Steven’s cantankerous yet affable character — chisels ice. Hammer strikes chisel, over and over and I pretend I’m living next door to Michelangelo.

My huge west-facing windows give me access to the first tremors of spring. Yesterday I watched  Chester, and other neighbors rake their roofs with extendable handles on devices to scrape snow. Many business owners hire crews to shovel snow from rooftops. A few have collapsed from the heavy loads. A few warm days above freezing loosens the snow. Others are in driveways chiseling ice with metal blades. Our bit of pavement slowly emerges, and earlier I attempted to shovel scoopfuls of dirty slushie.

The snow piles are not retreating as fast, though. It leaks like a punctured bag of milk with nowhere to go. Massive piles sink and slowly dry up like bleached corn husks. It’s also not over. On Sunday, I watched 47 North’s run-through for their upcoming performance at the Continental Fire Company March 29. Awakenings tells the story in dance how we go from darkness to light. The final dance melds both, shadow selves dancing in the spotlight. We left the studio to face a full-blown blizzard. Three dancers got their vehicles stuck. Days later and neighbors are raking roofs.

It’s hard work to chisel ice dams, but the reward is a roof free of snow, and the risk of leaks subsides.

Working underground in the copper mines was wet work at times. Chiseling copper while rivulets of water poured from ceilings and ran down the burly arms of miners had to be uncomfortable. Was standing in water cooling to feet bearing the weight of heavy work? They say the temperatures deep in the mines stay cool, not turning cold in winter or hot in summer. People adapt.

And I’m adapting to my new laptop — The Majik Runoff MacCanles Macaroo That Peterbilt. Macaroo didn’t give me as tough of a learning curve as I thought. Relief settled fully on Monday night when my Techie arrived with special equipment to read and transfer my data from its hard drive. Over the weekend I worked with several Apple Techs to resolve a few issues, including Macaroo’s refusal to let me into the world of Word Press. It extended from an earlier solution to a double ID.

For years, I’ve had an iPod Shuffle and amassed a collection of music. But when we traded in our phones for iPhone 7s, Verizon told us we had to establish an Apple ID. I didn’t realize I already had one because it wasn’t called an Apple ID. Add to the situation that I have two Gmail accounts, wires were getting crossed. One technician had me sign out of my new Apple Id and sign in with the new one — and that requires doing so in multiple places, not just on the devices.

My phone failed to adapt to the new old me and Macaroo no longer recognized mama, and when prompted to update software, my laptop with the pedigree of Carrot Ranch names dared to tell me I had to buy the software because I was not the person who purchased the device. Argh! I just wanted to listen to my Apple music on my Apple products!

Monday dawned with more Apple Tech calls and a melancholy matched by soggy skies after the Sunday blizzard. Basically, I had to choose — my devices recognizing me or listening to my music on my devices. But I’m more than adaptable. I’m a writer, and I can think through “what if” scenarios faster the latest Intel processor. This leads me to parental controls —  a feature that allows parents to manage the IDs of their brood with theirs. So, on Monday, I officially adopted myself. As my child, my elder ID can now be controlled on and by my younger devices. A bit backward maybe but it works.

Norah Colvin, the original Rough Writer at Carrot Ranch who arrived in March of 2014 when I launched the first 99-word challenge, invited me to be her first interview for a new series called School Days, Reminiscences. Norah asks stirring questions that made me think of stories I hadn’t thought of in a long time and helped me make connections I hadn’t realized. You can read our interview here. I was ready to jump in and join the conversation generated, but Macaroo refused to let me even like anything. I could sign into Word Press, but then I’d get locked out.

I thought the ID solution would resolve the Word Press one but alas it did not. By the time my daughter arrived home from work, I had that glazed-over-I’m-ready-to-take-a-hammer-to-technology look on my face. It would have been the perfect time to go for a walk but there is nowhere outdoors to walk, and snowshoes don’t work when snow turns to slush and husks. Water was starting to run but not deep enough to canoe. Radio Geek patted my shoulder and tapped a sequence that brought up my passwords where a caution sign showed at WP. Apple’s built-in security feature just needed me to adapt to its new environment.

Best of all was when Techie showed up later and spent almost four hours with me after having worked all day. He gets a lifetime supply of beer from me. Or babysitting. Or cat washing. Anything. He rescued all my data — everything! Even my latest Scrivener files which I faithfully, but erroneously, backed up to DropBox. I’m now taking a tutorial to make sure I don’t make that mistake again! When I opened the Scrivener project Miracle of Ducks, and it opened up intact (instead of the version from three years ago) I whooped and hollered. Flooded with relief, I could hardly stand, my knees wobbling.

Techie slid my old hard drive into a reader and transferred data as if it were a flash-drive. Macaroo grabbed all the files, and we only had a few quirks. I thought I’d be hours resetting up my folders. He backed up my DropBox and taught me how to use the Time Machine. Every day I backup the Time Machine onto an external hard drive. I transferred Microsoft Office to Macaroo’s OS, and now all my files are saved in One Cloud and iCloud. I’m going to get rid of DropBox and use Google Drive for sharing files. After all, I have two Gmails.

But that’s not all — I’m mouse free! After all, the bright and exciting stories last week about mice (and even grice), turns out Macaroo doesn’t need a Magic Mouse. The Apple Techs adviced me to learn gestures for the trackpad and Techie gave me driving tips. I’m all about the trackpad now. I’ve even learned a few shortcuts. Tuesday, I completed most of my internet files (another vast frontier of transference). But it is all set up, and I’m at the Ranch as me, not a lurker and not an Apple ID.

I’m ready to break out the hammer and chisel with Keweenaw Chester. Not to crumble the icy hold of winter but to harken the return of creativity unburdened by technical difficulties. Thanks for standing by with me!

March 14, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a chisel. Use chisel as a noun or a verb. Think about what might be chiseled, who is chiseling. Be the chisel. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 19, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

First Day Volunteers (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“I found something, Dr. Gordon.” Danni followed the volunteer who grinned.

She noted the group was digging near the mystery foundation. She expected these greenhorn volunteers to soon lose interest. Ruby City held no treasure. Danni confirmed the woman had found the edge of a tool. She instructed the group to continue peeling back layers centimeters at a time.

To her surprise, they did. At the end of the day, the volunteers left what looked like a chisel in situ. Two days later they cheered its liberation. Danni realized her first day fear of volunteers was unfounded. She grinned.