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January 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

Just call me Wrong-Way Charli.

I might have boots but they don’t always go the beaten path. You might find me calculating the drop on a rock face or attempting to access a naturally secluded beach. The faintest hint of a trail through forest duff speaks louder to me than the exposed dirt of the worn path.

Adventurous? Mostly by accident. More like curious. As in curiosity-killed-the-cat. I’m Shirley temple chasing the bluebird of happiness. I’m Hayduke weeping at the beautiful places of solitude. I want to know what’s over the rise, if the loons will give chase, and take time to look for just one more agate. I want to be there when the hawk flies past unscheduled.

Snow condenses in layers now. The merengue grows stale. Lady Lake keeps a fresh coat of white paint over it all but cut into the layers and it’s turning grey. The county recently bladed our street and I can see snow in geological layers. Have we been buried for eons? It feels like it.

I press each foot into my boots and tighten the laces. My red cap and scarf keep me warm and I look like a plump elf in my dark green wool coat that flares like a dress. I grab a tote bag, my wallet, and my headphones. These snow boots are made for walking and I head out the door to shop the co-op on the hill.

Passing by the fresh cut of snowbank I can no longer read the Fire Lane street sign. It’s buried. The snow slides like grease with each step and I struggle to stomp my way up the hill. Beneath is a compact layer of ice more solid than concrete. Snow sits in the saddles of trees, taking up permanent residence. Ever-present flakes kiss my cheeks. Lady Lake is loving today.

The heater in our car stopped blowing. Without the fan, the windows ice over making it impossible to drive. Thus I’m experimenting with being car-less. I’m walking to buy my dried mango slices and Wisconsin cheese. I overfill my tote with vegetables to make bone-broth soup. The flu is raging through Hancock and across the canal in Houghton. Fresh snow, fresh veggies — my plan to stay well.

Magnificent Mondays rolled around and car-less, I put out a call for a ride. It’s a twice-monthly gathering of local creatives at the Ripley House of Healing where I will debut my TUFF workshop. Through a few missteps in communication, I got a ride (next time I’ll know to go outside and wait). It was lovely riding in a warm vehicle that I didn’t have to brush off the snow to ride in.

Liking this car-lessness, I let my cake baker know that I wasn’t able to meet up with her downtown, could she swing by the house? This time I put on my boots and elven winter-gear and waited outside. She’s a homesteader and makes gorgeous cakes from whole ingredients. She even bakes vegan. But this first cake will be German chocolate with the sides and middle frosted with traditional pecan and coconut.

Later that evening, I had a meeting for local entrepreneuers. I asked for another ride and was delighted when a local poet and book designer answered the call. We laughed all the way down Quincy Hill and over the canal bridge to the meeting. She lets her inner child run wild with the sharp wit of an adult. I find her fun and fascinating.

We laughed at her car, which was leaking gas. She had recently replaced her rear windshield after it shattered in the cold. This poet lives 16 miles up the Keweenaw Peninsula, so she had to drive to Houghton without a rear windshield in the snow. She said now she can claim she’s a Yooper. After fixing the glass, the mechanic told her about the leak. She asked, “Will my car explode?” After he replied no, she was relieved because things seem to be exploding in her car. It made my heater problem sound better.

About the time I thought I would fully embrace car-lessness, the Hub looked at YouTube videos and figured out how to fix it. He does have his moments. That’s how I came to be Wrong-Way Charli. I got my car back.

Today has been a flurry of preparation and blowing off nervous energy for my presentation and book signing tomorrow. I have felt the rainbow of emotions from over the moon excited to down in the dumps depressed. I feel moody as a teenager, not a time I wish to recreate in my life. I breathe. Following the breath in…following the breath out…and carry on.

When I found out the Vet Center has no projector, I researched buying one. Surprisingly they aren’t too expensive but it wasn’t in my budget, like cake and local advertising. The Vet Center and my lovely group of veteran spouses helped me track down a rental at Finlandia University which is on the Hancock side of the canal. I talked with the librarian who explained to me how to find the campus library.

First, let me explain Quincy Hill. It’s so steep that the Quincy Copper Mine on top of the hill built a special tram to deliver ore to the smelters and docks below. It’s so steep it’s now a ski resort. Mind you, it’s a hill, not a mountain, but its verticle climb is impressive. In snowstorms, some streets are blocked.

And that’s what I drove up today, a blocked-for-one’s-own-safety Quincy Hill Steet. It was one of those mistakes a person makes and realizes it’s the wrong way, but stopping would be worse. So upward I drove, willing those snow tires to work. The car slipped and careened, the dashboard flashing the light to tell me I had lost traction. I know, I know! Two young boys with shovels watch me, probably hoping to see a backward Yooper left turn.

At the crest of the hill were three choices: another hill to the right, a sharp dip downhill to the left or straight into a cavernous parking lot. I say cavernous because the snow banks were so tall and tight at the entrance it looked like driving into a snow cave. I opted for the cave, after all, I am presenting on the hero’s journey tomorrow.

My elixir turned out to be that I found the Maki Library. The door looked rather industrial and I thought maybe it had to do with being a university library. No other cars were parked in my cavern, so I approached the door and walked down the hall. Five people turned around and stared at me. That’s when I read the sign that said staff only. I had entered the wrong way and could see the front lobby beyond. There was no escaping my error.

A man with a ponytail and glasses halfway down his nose asked, “Can I help you?”

Awkward situations bring out my inner comedian and I pointed to the staff sign and said, “I’m looking for a job.”

He smiled, so I told him I was the person picking up the projector. He then escorted me out of the staff area into the lobby. Without further complication, I became a public member of the Finlandia University Maki Library, and I successfully rented a projector, cords, and speakers for free. Then I had to ask how I was supposed to get to my car. “Best go the way you came, Wrong-Way Charli.”

And that’s how I got my Yooper name.

January 18, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes boots. Whose boots are they, where do they go and what is their significance? Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 23, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published January 24). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Easing Frustrations (From Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Between public affairs and citizen scientists on her archeology dig, Danni wasn’t surprised to see Ike show up with his dogs.

Now she had someone familiar to lash out at. She stomped her boots down the gravelly trail toward Ike and the pointers at his side. Danni trudged past the silent volunteers. She marched right up to Ike and he swung her up into his arms, planting a lingering kiss on her angry lips.

Danni sagged against him. He growled in her ear, “I missed you, Babe.”

“Damn it, Ike. I missed you, too.” She refrained from kicking him.

###

Wet Ink

Freshly applied to the artist’s canvas, or scrolled across the page, wet ink implies an idea newly committed to expression. It’s still vulnerable to smudges and drips. Yet it shimmers with inspired creativity, too.

Where would wet ink take writers who tap type on a screen without the cursive inkiness of a quill? Do they long for pens or go elsewhere for a story? Read on and find out.

The following are based on the January 11, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink.

***

Wet Ink by Pensitivity

It was unique, a masterpiece and accolade to her artistry, the scrolls and attention to detail second to none.

When asked, she said the secret was in the ink.

In order to get the definition and blooming effect, the red ink had to be wet so that the coloured segments ran into each other.

Silk of course was the best fabric, though with sufficient care on cottons the effects could be produced almost as well.

No two garments would be identical, and she could name her price.

As she settled down to work, she pricked her finger and began.

###

Hazzard Lights by Abby Rowe

Within each act, there is a point of no return. Like ink, flowing wet, from nib to sheet. Still fluid, but now indelible.

In my car, rain pounding, wipers bust, hazard lights flashing. I work out who to call, but find my phone is dead.

I assess my options. Waiting out Irish rain is plain silly. Walk home twenty miles? Flag down a car? Or approach the nearby farmhouse. Huge and dark. If windows reveal the soul, this one is empty.

I must trust.

All possibilities still exist as I knock on the door.

“Come in.”

Nib hits paper.

###

When She Holds Me by Michael Fishman

I love when she holds me.

So many years – her hand, now heavily veined and knuckled with arthritis is, even after all this time, still strong and comforting.

The magic lives in that hand.

Me, I’m the same. A little nicked here and there, also showing my age, but she warms me, and keeps me happy. She keeps me young.

I’m lucky. Others her age would have abandoned me. Would have left me for the new WordPerfect, but she never stopped writing words in longhand. She feeds me with ink and I dance across the parchment, singing her song.

###

Dear John by Juliet Nubel

She almost began with ‘My Darling’ but this letter had to be the last, so she wrote simply ‘Dear John’.

Then, weeping silently, she listed the reasons she wanted to leave him after thirty long years.

She could take no more of his sporadic, misplaced fury. It coated her in a dirty, thick sludge of angry words which sullied and betrayed their miraculous marriage.

As she folded the page, the tear-soaked ink became a bright blue pool of illegible smudges.

So she crumpled it, slipped into bed beside her tortured, grieving spouse, and wrapped him tightly in her arms.

###

Saying Goodbye by Eric Pone

Staring at the ink on the page. She just cried. As the emotions flowed she could not help but finally realize that their relationship was over. “Barry I can’t continue to live a lie with you.” Ono wrote this by hand with the pen and inkwell inherited from her great aunt. Fitting she thought. The same pen and ink that ended her aunt’s marriage now ended hers. She watched the dots of ink dance up and down her hand as she reloaded the cartridge, she felt a renewed sense of peace and wholeness. Things would finally be right again.

###

Bitter Ink by Bill Engleson

Jowls droop, fleshy things they are, dangling like fudgy cleavers, poised to slaver and savour his shabby instincts which tauntingly venture deep beyond the pale.

Eyelids, bulbous and midnight dune, glint dull in the moonlight, his bruising purple prose, vile acid-tainted dispatches from his fatuous demons, etching the air, scratching our communal spine, cavorting to the venom of his dark refrain.

Lips, antediluvian lips, fouled by callous conversations held in rooms of gold, rarely resist pronunciations from his poisoned pen.

Our spirits marrow is breached, the seepage flows into our organs, our minds, our dreams, with its bitter ink.

###

A Blot on Whose Copybook? by Norah Colvin

Ever so carefully, she dipped the nib in and out of the inkwell. Her tongue protruded, guiding the pen as she copied the black squiggly lines dancing across the page.

“Start at the top. Go across; then down. Lift, dip…,“ the teacher droned.

“Start at the top!” The cane stung her knuckles, sending the nib skidding across the page.

“Now look what you’ve done!” The teacher grasped the book and held it aloft, sending ink in rivulets down the page. Her thumb intercepted one, smearing another opportunity for humiliation across the page.

“Girls, this is what not to do!”

###

But the People Can’t Wait by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He lay the quill down beside his Manifesto, reaching to close the cap on the near-empty inkwell.

Leaning back, he gazed out his window at the sunrise, the horizon full with rooftops. It was a sign of Providence for the impoverished people of his city, he decided.

His fingers rasped over his many-days growth of beard, poetical hair flowing long and dark over his shoulders… like the ink that had poured from his pen!

“Finished?” Eliza’s heels clicked over the bare wooden floor. “Let’s get moving, then!”

“The ink’s still wet! Let me enjoy my moment!”

“We’ve no time.”

###

Wet Ink by Ben Laing

“I used to write with these damn things all the time!” he huffed, looking at the smear of the still wet ink that obscured his words on the page and had blued the edge of his hand.

Grimacing in a way that turned his broad, bushy mustache downward at the ends, gave his face a sour expression. Casting the fountain pen aside, he instead picked up his trusty pipe. Swiftly lighting the crumbles of leaf in the bowl, he squinted through the smoke, down at the ruined page. He furrowed his brow in frustration.

“I cannot write this again!”

###

The Blot by Irene Waters

The stain spread like octopus tentacles. Grace felt sick. One mistake. That’s all it took to destroy everything. Too late to take back the action. It was done. She’d blotted her copybook and now, she had to live with it. Tears came unbidden. Not her fault. Alcohol was the culprit. The six gin and tonics had made her lose control but she’d chosen to drink. She’d wanted Dutch courage. She needed more than that now. She’d have to hand it in. Perhaps they’d overlook the ink as the content was good. Better than saying the dog ate her homework.

###

Wet Ink by Michael

My mother always said there was no point in crying over spilt milk, but spilt ink was a different matter.

There was immediate panic to clean it up as mum knew the stain would never come out. And it didn’t. Not that it happened much, but it was a constant source of danger.

Each of us was given a bottle of Swan Ink. We guarded it with our lives. Hours each day we practised our script, our curved lettering.

In front of us was the reminder to take care, the stain of the spilt ink fresh in our minds.

###

Inked by Ritu Bhathal

It was the bane of my life at school, being left-handed…

The most annoying thing?

Writing with an ink pen.

Now, if only I could write from right to left, like the Arabic community, I’d be fine, but no, we need to write from left to right, meaning my hand would smear the still wet ink across the page, as I wrote my essays.

I’d get told off, have to redo my work, and each inked page would look the same, despite my taking extra care holding my pen.

As I said… the bane of my life being left-handed…

###

Blue Marks by Paula Moyer

Being left-handed is over-rated. So Jean thought as she assessed the past hour’s journaling. The blank book and the gel pen seemed like a good idea. But now she looked down. The writing was not legible due to the smudges. And big, blue circles shone on each knuckle of each finger.

It looked like more than just a left hand sweeping across still-wet ink before it dried. As if the ink were more plenteous than that used by right-handed people.

Both moved left to right. While right hands moved across virgin paper, lefts caught all the marks. Held grudges.

###

Artistic Pages by Kerry E.B. Black

Youngest of the order, Brother Seamus crafted ink by scraping carbon from candle backs, crushing Gum Arabic, and adding drops of wine to reach the correct viscosity. He carried a bottle stained black to replenish his brothers’ failing supplies. They hunched over vellum made from animal skins stretched until translucent. Hours, weeks, and months bled into each of their artistic pages. Awed by a piece, Brother Seamus leaned closer, forgetting himself. Fresh ink poured over an illuminated letter, marring the holy scene. His eyes widened in horror, and Brother Seamus fled before the artist broke his vow of silence.

###

The Pen is Not Mightier Than the Tablet by Heather Gonzalez

Billy’s world seemed futuristic to his grandpa. All he ever did was touch a screen. Grandpa pulled a pen out of his pocket and held it out for him.

“What is this? How do you turn it on?” Billy scrunched up his face as he inspected what he was given.

“That is a pen. You use it to write. This is how you turn it on.” Grandpa clicked the pen as if it would magically bring his grandson the urge to use it to write.

“No, thanks,” he said handing him back the pen and turning to his tablet.

###

Fit to Print by Denise Aileen DeVries

Myra Jean believed cleanliness was next to godliness. She picked up the local newspaper with misgivings. Why did the ink stay wet forever, staining her fingers? She had asked her father, a linotype operator for the Baltimore Sun, but that was one of the few things he didn’t know. He was a fount of wisdom with a brilliant wit. On his rare days at home, they would read the paper together, pointing out typos and clichés. Even today, the smell of newsprint evoked her father’s wry grin. He would have enjoyed this weekly rag; it was full of howlers.

###

The Scoop by Anurag Bakhshi

Jimmy excitedly picked up the newspaper fresh from the press, ink still wet and smudgy. But he didn’t care. He eyes were transfixed on the front page photograph that would save his career.

His name had been on the list of those being given the pink slip at month-end. Not after this exclusive!

The scheme to push the kid into the snow leopard’s cage had been hare-brained and hair-raising, but it DID work out brilliantly in the end, thought Jimmy Olsen to himself, as he looked at the photograph of his friend Superman rescuing a child from the cage.

###

Dusty Bottles All in a Row by JulesPaige

The wet colored ink is mostly dry… but there was a time
that an Italian Glass Fountain pen had been used to write.
Frequently dipping for the store of ink in the nib only scripted
six to eight letters.

Poems, thoughts, the importance of actual communication
through postal correspondence. That was one way to occupy
the time of day when alone for a spell and other chores were
put on hold with the prospect of believing the recipient really
cared about you.

Oh, the colors; purple, orange, green – flowing into and
gripping the warp and weft of woven paper…

###

Story Hunting by D. Avery

Recognize the spoor, that tuft of hair on the twig, blood like ink on the ground; this one’s been hunted before. It’s okay if someone else spooked it, if it crosses your path it’s fair game. Don’t follow too close, don’t give chase too soon. A direct approach will send it running. Same with your searching eyes; relax, over-focus and you’ll never see it. Trust; your quarry will reveal itself to you. The shot has to be well aimed and certain. Make sure it’s in the clear, ready for its own end, final and swift. There; there’s a story.

###

Wet Ink by Jack Schuyler

Wet ink is the closest thing in this world to inspiration.

I ponder this statement as I splatter the dark liquid across my paper.

Its formless, free spirited, and it leaves its mark on everything it touches.

I reach up to scratch my face and leave behind a smeared black stripe. I look into the reflection of my spectacles and chuckle.

Even inspiration must dry eventually. If we don’t let it become physical—become permanent— then we will never realize its full beauty.

A strange shape has settled on my canvas. It looks like an octopus. I smile. Nice.

###

Skeletons in the Closet by Irene Waters

“Dad’s got skeletons in his closet.” My brother showed me an old, leather book. Inside were some blank pages and skeletons.

“Dad said we can do ours.” Excited, we raced to the study where the ink lived in a little glass pot at the top of the blotter. My brother went first, creasing the page in half then signing his name along the line made in the middle. Whilst the ink was still wet he folded the page in half again and pressed down on the fold. On opening it he had his own unique skeleton. Mine quickly followed.

###

Inky by FloridaBorne

“You say you’re dyslexic?” the head of human resources asked.

He held my application as if it contained a dead fish.

“Have you heard about the ADA?”

“You don’t use a wheelchair.”

“It’s 1995 and you still think the Americans with Disabilities Act only applies to wheelchairs?”

“I must have a secretary who can write!”

“I know, my handwriting looks like ink blots. Have you heard of a computer?”

“For what purpose?”

“I type 90WPM. This company uses a computer messaging system. The message goes to your inbox…”

“Computers will never last,” he smirked, sending me on my way.

###

Red Ink by Lucia Gray

The poet always wrote with red ink.

A constant reminder that his blood, the blood that pulsed through the fingers that held his pen, was red, not blue like the rippling sea, or black, like a moonless night…

His blood was red, a bold, vibrant scarlet, ablaze with love or hate, sometimes sizzling with lust, others fierce with rage, but never tepid.

His blood was red like a crimson dawn, or a ruby sunset.

Black or blue was the choice of those who embraced the vulgarity of conformity.

He lifted his pen, growled at the blank page and bled.

###

Unexpected News by Susan Sleggs

With great excitement and anticipation I opened my son’s first letter since he had joined the Air Force. I expected personal news and an address. I got the opposite.

“I’m sure you don’t know, Dad told me to never come home again for enlisting without his blessing. I don’t think it’s safe to give you any contact information because he will force you to choose between him and me. I’m sorry.”

My sudden tears wet the ink. I realized any letters would have to be kept secret and I didn’t know if I would ever see my son again.

###

Wet Ink by Colleen Chesebro

“How much longer?” The man asked, squirming face down in the chair.

“It’s done.” Diavolo laid the iron on the table. The ink wasn’t dry but the tattoo was finally finished.

“Can I see it?”

“In a moment. Just relax until it cures.”

The tattoo had morphed and changed several times over the last few days. Diavolo’s artistry came from a higher source, one that would determine this man’s fate. Today, the anchor tattoo faded and was replaced with the image of a sinking ship.

Diavolo shook his head. “What ship are you from, sailor?”

“The USS Arizona, Sir.”

###

PTSD Personified by Susan Sleggs

“Doc, my family feared I would die shortly after the ink was dry on my enlistment papers. Now I’ve made it back home without a visible wound they want me to tell them what my days were like: what I ate, what I saw, if I met any nice girls. They have no idea all the Army wanted from me was a body count. Having done what I was expected to do in order to survive, now I am dead inside. I’m afraid to go to sleep at night because of the nightmares and ashamed I made it home.”

###

Tattoo by Sascha Darlington

“The ink’s running. Is it supposed to do that?” My husband shows me his forearm, the new tattoo leaking color.

How would I know? His freshly engraved arm evokes uncertainty in me. Who is he now?

“Have you googled?” I don’t wait for his reply. I jab words into my browser, thrust my phone at him, and bite my lip. Passive-aggressive much?

“This has nothing to do with you.”

“Obviously.”

He sighs. “It’s an expression of creativity. I knew you wouldn’t understand.”

“You’re an accountant.”

“And bass player.”

Comprehension drizzles coldly over me: Saturday night’s groupie hot for ink.

###

Wet Ink by Rugby843

He thought it was just spilled wet ink, he felt. He thought he had committed the perfect murder. He thought it looked like she fell on her own letter opener. He thought leaving her body slumped on the desk would be believable. He thought he was through with her finally and forever.

He didn’t think she already informed her brother of the meeting. He didn’t think she was expecting a volatile argument. He didn’t think she would set up a video camera. He didn’t think it was not wet ink, but blood. He didn’t think she was still breathing.

###

Crime in 99 by MRMacrum

Outwardly, Harold was a picture of calm as the cop pressed his hand into the ink saturated blotter.

Sgt. Pine handed Harold a towel. “Confirmation prints, Mr. Jenkins.”

“Confirmation prints?” Harold stopped wiping his hands. His stomach knotted.

“You mean elimination prints, yes?” Harold felt his blood begin to rush.

“No sir. … Confirmation ……. You said you saw the victim through the window and never went inside, right?”

“Uh, Yes,…that’s right.”

“Well, we found a print with a nick running through it. We think the perp cut himself recently.” The Cop’s eyes sparkled.

Harold slowly turned over his hand.

###

Ink by Alice

Smooth as a new laid egg, the way the fountain pen flowed on a piece of paper was exactly how the sales assistant described it to be. Excited, he clipped the pen to the inner pocket of his suit and smoothed any creases with a nervous laugh.

“You’ll be fine,” his best man reassured, “Just be yourself!”

“Easy for you to say. Can you double check that you have the ring?”

“For the nth time, yes. We should leave now or we’ll be late!”

They never got to the church and the only document signed was a death certificate.

###

Wet Ink (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“…to hold you in shadow and light, in doubt and certainty, when times are hard and when they are easy…”

Richard’s sister may have legally taken his earthly possessions, but this single page covered with scribbled bits of the vows he was writing are worth more than his computer equipment and manga art collection could ever be. Vows for the wedding they would never have. Becca gives in and allows herself to weep for a minute, then flings the pages away in horror at her carelessness. She can’t even read his words now, his pages smeared with her tears.

###

Rorschach Discovers the Inkblot Test by Anne Goodwin

Five minutes to prepare for my next patient, a haughty fellow who loved goading me. Did reluctance make my hand slip, knock over the bottle of ink? Before I could grab the blotter, a black splodge obliterated last session’s notes. I folded the page, was still trying to dry it when the patient took his seat. “It’s beautiful! Randomness and symmetry.” He looked awestruck, but he might have been taking the piss. “What do you see in it?” I ventured, still expecting him to scoff. “My mother!” He bent his head, began to weep.

###

The Evaluation by Charli Mills

“This?”

“Looks like an athlete running.”

“And this?”

“Definitely a giraffe dancing the mamba.”

I can’t tell if the suit showing me ink blots takes my answers seriously. He’s just another cog in the government wheel of oppression.

“This?”

“A storm with black raindrops.”

His pictures are stale blots. After watching FBI agents shoot my mother why would I conform to the government? They killed the adults in our compound. I’m only 13, but I know the freedom he doesn’t.

“This?”

“A deer in the willows.”

My imagination is wet ink. I’ll survive captivity to create a better world.

###

Blot by Dan C Julian

I sat, pen poised, at pot and pad, to put to words a thought I’d had, when a fat drop dripped from the quill’s thin tip. By reflex, my hand flashed forth to catch it! But I was far too slow… What’s more though, the pot was caught by my reaching arm and overturned onto the page. In fuming self-rage at my clumsiness, I righted the inkwell, tissued up the black mess, regained the pen, and with it – in large surly letters alongside the Rorschach, suggestive to me of the proverbial catfish uncaught – wrote this: “Aborted Jot!”

###

Smudge and Psychometrics, Logan Style by Geoff Le Pard

‘You write neatly, Morgan.’

‘Teachers always moaned, said I had hooves, not fingers. Called me Smudge.’

‘Why’d you not type?’

‘Can’t get the words right, typing.  I need to have wet ink if I want to make progress. Otherwise writing is hard.’

‘That explains it, then.’

‘What does it explain, Logan?’

‘Your call to your mum, about your writing. Last night.’

‘Does it? I don’t recall talking about ink to my mother?’

‘Course not. You used your writerly code. You said, “I’m happy with my WIP”. I wondered what WIP stood for but now I know. Wet Ink Progress.’

###

Wet Ink by Robbie Cheadle

She sat working on her laptop in the dark. The power was of and she had a deadline to deliver on. The lights suddenly came back on and she looked up. Perched on top of her screen was a huge Parktown Prawn. She shrieked and jumped backwards. The enormous bug jumped to the floor and scuttled towards the doorway. She grabbed a heavy book and brought it down on the creature. When she lifted the book, she saw it was dead. A viscous black substance oozed out of its crushed body. It looked like it was leaking wet ink.

###

Wait for It to Dry by Chelsea Owens

“Nearly done, darlin’.” Her purpled tongue-stub protruded.

“Sue’s the best,” they’d said, in town.

I flinched. “I wouldn’t do that.” Her potato-skin face was expressionless. Cataract-blue globes never strayed from her age-veined fingers.

“Just don’ get the snake,” an old-timer warned.

A stool creak told me Sue was done. I peeked, gasped, and shifted my shoulder to view the deep golds and blues of the dragon’s ink-birthed scales.

Sue looked …the same. “Don’t you forget to let ‘im dry,” she scolded.

I nodded, paid, left. Absentmindedly, I slipped on my jacket. It was cold, everywhere except my arm…

###

Wet Ink by Annette Rochelle Aben

She dug through her purse for the stamps she just bought a week ago. This card needed to be posted today to reach him in time for his birthday.

Cars behind her in line honked impatiently as she absentmindedly popped the card into the box slot in the drive through at the post office. She waved out the window and pulled away, smiling

The postal worker came to collect the drive through mail. Dodging the automatic sprinklers, he reached for something face down on the ground. It was a goner, as he couldn’t read anything for the wet ink.

###

Wonderland by D. Avery

“Kid ya kin sure shovel it. Barn looks good.”

“Yep, shovelin’ manure’s a winter chore I got talent for.”

“Kid, ever think about goin’ on vacation, mebbe travel?”

“Uhuh. Leave the ranch? There’s so much goin’ on. This is the place ta be.”

“Hmmph. Ain’t snow an’ cold Down Under.”

“Still thinkin’ ‘bout trippin’ down there?”

“Nah, best keep an eye on ya here at the ranch. B‘sides, thet snow sure is purty.”

“Yep.”

“Kid?”

“Yep?”

“Where’d all the shit from the barn go, anyway?”

“Ph.D.”

“Huh?”

“Piled higher an’ deeper.”

“But where?”

“Spring’s comin’. All will be revealed.”

###

Double Trouble by D. Avery

“Shorty sent ya ta town?”

“Yep, said she needed ink.”

“Hope she also told ya not to talk ta strangers, ta stay on the trail, ta not take magic beans nor wooden nickels in trade.”

“Fairytale funny, Pal. I’m smarter than ya think.”

“Ya went ta the General Store I hope.”

“Well, I was headed there but there was this guy on the corner.”

“Uh-oh.”

“Who had some good deals on ink cartridges. Only slightly damaged. From fallin’ off his cousin’s wagon.”

“What’d he look like?”

“Dunno. He stayed in the shadows. Spoke with an accent. Offered good deals.”

***

“Kid, that was Nanjo! Tell me ya didn’t git ink from Nanjo.”

“I didn’t git ink from Nanjo. Got this.”

“A bucket? You bought ink by the bucketful?”

“No, Pal. They’s squids in there.”

“You got squid, Kid?”

“Yeah. Feller said we’d never run outta ink if we had us some squid. Squirts ink if ya scare ‘em.”

“I’m gonna scare the ink outta you, Kid.”

“Squid. Jeez Pal, yer color’s changin’. Like a squid.”

“We cain’t be keepin’ squid on the ranch!”

“Pal, who’s Amari? Guy said, call Amari ta git rid of squid.”

“That’s calamari, Kid.”

“Squid.”

###

January 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

Could it be Canada’s gift of a mid-winter Chinook? Perhaps a pressure ridge explained by a climatologist on the evening news that I never watch? Whatever the reason, Lady Lake has retreated to her ice-water mansions and allowed the Keweenaw to recall blue skies.

On my walk, I follow the road that curves downhill, and an unexpected melt exposes pavement like random ink blots. In a region with less snow, one might see ground but ours remain firmly girded by mounds of crisp meringue. Along the driveway, the drifts grow taller than the hood of my car.

The previous week, Jasper, one of two huskies I live with, escaped his pen because the snow drifts and the piles I’ve pushed off the deck until it grew taller than a single story of a house created a land bridge similar to the one I imagine first Americans crossing from one continent to another.

Once free of dog fencing, Jasper roamed the neighborhood and found a rabbit. To my great sadness, the rabbit did not survive being discovered by a husky. I knew that bunny — I’d watch him every night after the household sought slumber. It was the bunny-hour when he’d hop from behind Mrs. H’s garage and burrow his way into our dormant garden.

Who minds a bunny in winter eating what remains of unharvested kale? Evidently, Jasper.

We all awoke to crimson snow, blotted like a crude ink painting by a deranged editor has gone mad with a red pen. You can’t blame the dog for following instinct. We hadn’t realized the bridge formed a means of escape. Never had I mourned a rabbit, but somehow as I age life becomes more precious; spilled blood so wasteful.

That’s when the warmth arrived and the snow ceased to fall. Every time I took the stairs, I could see the red snow from the landing window. I wanted fresh precipitation to cover the evidence. Ever notice how difficult it can be to confront our shadow selves? We see dogs as loyal companions because we want to believe in higher motives for us all.

In the end, they are dogs with instincts and we are fallible to protect the life around us. Recently I read a profound statement that each one of us is dying our own way. I’ve heard it before, that we began dying the day we were born. Even Mel Gibson as his famous character, William Wallace said, “Everyone dies, not everyone lives.”

It’s the second part of that line which draws my attention. The snuffing of a winter rabbit reminds me of my own mortality, yet it is the capacity to feel sorrow at its passing that reminds me to live. To know joy we must know sorrow. To live we must confront the inevitability of death. It comes down to choice.

I know what not living looks like. I’ve seen it in the suburbs with families who train up their children to be conformists. I’ve seen it in the rural areas with people choosing to be separatists, carving out hidey-holes and hoarding food for times of impending doom. I don’t want to pretend death doesn’t exist or that I can avoid it in a bunker. I want to live. I want to throw ink and shape the blots into stories that break through conformity and hiding.

Ink has vexed me these past months. Writers depend upon ink as if it were our bloodline — without ink there could be no written stories, no books, no pages of WIPS to mark with an editor’s red pen. My desk holds no quill or bottle, but my printer drinks vials of the stuff. Ink has run dry.

First, it was black. Makes sense, after all, I write and print pages in black ink. To purchase the recommended replacement, it took me a month to save up the extra cash. By the time I replaced it cyan began to falter like a disappearing Keweenaw sky in winter. Yellow followed and soon magenta. Colorless, I switched to grayscale.

Then my printer decided it couldn’t do black anymore. I bought another but it refused to print, saying the colors must be replaced too — it did not have enough ink to maintain printer quality. Is that some analogy for writing (oh, you know it is)? Without the lifeblood, we can’t produce. Without choosing to be ink we go dry and nothing happens. Nothing gets written. No stories emerge.

It took another month to afford the three colors. My list of what I needed to print bloomed. No store carries my printer brand, so I ordered online. When the brown delivery truck arrived I rejoiced. Ink had returned like the sun! Ah, blast it all — the ink catridges fit but my printer declared “can’t detect.” Learning I could return the inks, but needing to print a return slip, I ordered a cheap off-brand.

It didn’t work, either.

Finally, I called the printer company, and after I recited printer models and serial numbers, and tried the ink cartridges with the rep on the line two conclusions arose — first, I ordered an incompatible but correct brand, and second I ordered the wrong brand. My printer would not accept the microchips in either. Microchips? Yes, ink is chipped and I don’t feel good about this technological advance.

Give me ink. Give me life. Let me create freely, unfettered by monitoring, policing, judgment or microchips.

The irony of it all is that I had to order yet a third round of ink before I could return the first two. At least I get my money back for the frst two or else it’d be after the return of daffodils before I was up and printing again. Ink arrived today along with a splurge purchase of a turquoise infinity scarf decorated with golden-red foxes. I plan to wear it to my Vet Center book event.

Tonight I’m late in finishing this post not because of my nocturnal writing preference but because of a follow up to the Jasper story. We blocked his land bridge but he found access to it nonetheless. Knowing dogs, once they catch the scent of prey, they’ll keep sniffing so I’ve become mindful when I let him out and supervise his outdoor time.

Someone else let the two huskies out, and I realized it when I heard the other, Ilya, barking his stranger-danger bark. Thinking, Jasper might be out, I rushed to the door to the deck and pen below and Jasper pushed into the porch. Relieved, I called Ilya who was barking at a man parked on the road that had been ink-blotted the day before but now was buried beneath a fresh snowstorm.

Through the pelting snow, he yelled up to me as I stood on the deck, something about hitting a dog with his truck. Knowing Bobo was inside on the couch, Jasper on the porch and Ilya making conversation in a blizzard difficult, I assured him it wasn’t our dogs. Then he said, “But I hit the dog you just let in.” My heart stilled a brief moment.

By then my SIL had come out and I told him Jasper had been hit…by a huge truck. The man explained it was snowing and he tried to stop when the dog bounded out in front of him but his brakes locked on the fresh ice, and he slid into the dog. He followed Jasper to our place and watched the dog get back into the pen. We thanked him for his kindness in letting us know, otherwise, we’d have had no idea of the event.

Tonight, we’ve monitored Jasper after a call to the vet. No long bones seem to be broken, his stomach is not distended and his gums readily pink (if he had internal bleeding his gums would stay white after pressing upon them because of lack of blood flow). But the dog is contrite and sore. He pressed into my thigh with his big husky head and I crooned in his ear, rubbing his shoulders.

I told him, “Sometimes we get lucky and find bunnies in the big world. And sometimes we get hit by big trucks. But for tonight, you’re alive Jasper and I’m grateful.”

I suppose we seek a balance between reckless living and fear of dying. Don’t be afraid to use your ink, but don’t take it for granted either.

January 11, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink. It can be artistic, writerly or something completely off-the-wall. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 9, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published January 10). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

The Evaluation by Charli Mills

“This?”

“Looks like an athlete running.”

“And this?”

“Definitely a giraffe dancing the mamba.”

I can’t tell if the suit showing me ink blots takes my answers seriously. He’s just another cog in the government wheel of oppression.

“This?”

“A storm with black raindrops.”

His pictures are stale blots. After watching FBI agents shoot my mother why would I conform to the government? They killed the adults in our compound. I’m only 13, but I know the freedom he doesn’t.

“This?”

“A deer in the willows.”

My imagination is wet ink. I’ll survive captivity to create a better world.

###

January 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

January 4 Flash Fiction Challenge by @Charli_MillsDraft horses busted through drifts of snow, pulling heavy rollers to pack lake effect accumulations into paths for wagons mounted on skis. Horses, known as hay-burners, passed their fuel in droppings that became part of the snow cement of winter travel in the Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan.

Easier to say, Copper Country.

So those draft beasts packing snow and adding road-apples to the mix all winter come to mind as I walk the dog in yet another lake effect squall. She’s an old short-hair pointer, and I bundle her up in in a fleece-lined snow-coat the color of hunter’s orange. I don’t want her to get run over by a snowmobile.  As snow blasts my face with what stings like flakes of lead glass, Miss Bobo decides to revive an old Copper Country tradition and poops in the middle of the road.

What can I do but laugh and draw off my mittens to fumble with the poop bag in my coat pocket, chasing after steaming clusters (she’s not one to stop and poop in one place)? I’m encased in perpetual snow, my own private globe. Already, 103 inches have accumulated (if you want to watch my snowfall from afar, Michigan Tech monitors it daily). She has nowhere else to go but in the driveway or road, the spaces we clear. Imagine those horses…chickens, cattle, goats and stray dogs, too.

A local told me a story about those draft horses and rollers — his great-granduncle was once a snow removal laborer. He said those horses dropped and packed so much processed hay that by the time spring melt arrived the roads were awash in melting horse poop. Winter hides yellow and brown snow beneath her renewable white blanket.

As we turn back toward the house on Roberts Street, snowmobiles scream past us, filling the air with burned gasoline. They, too, pack the snow. It compacts like clay, and our neighbors are out, raking their roofs with long-handled roof-rakes so it doesn’t cause a cave-in. Last year, a downtown building — a large historic brick structure — caved in from the weight of snow and ice.

Folks came to this snowy region for what they found beneath — copper.

Cornish miners with their pasties come in the 1840s. Mining lasted longer than frontier towns out west. In fact, Native Americans had mined native outcroppings of copper since 5000 BC. That places North America on the map during the Copper Age. Yet that’s not a well-known piece of history. But it attests to the amount of copper found in the Keweenaw. According to Michigan Tech, in 150 years, over 12 billion pounds of native copper was mined here.

Copper Country Mall is a small-town 1980s era sprawl of indoor retail shops, mostly out of business. Gogebic College, Sears and the Vet Center occupy the space. On January 19, I’m presenting The Hero’s Journey to my fellow veteran spouses and our vets. During a group discussion, one spouse mentioned that her husband likes to watch war movies because at least in the movie, “they took the hill.” In Vietnam, US forces often repeatedly took and lost hills. They represent battles that felt meaningless.

As a literary artist, my favorite form is the hero’s journey based on Joseph Campbell’s work in mythology. Every culture shares stories about the hero’s journey. It resonates with us because we are all heroes on a journey called life. That day in group, my mind jumped to veterans and the hero’s journey. I think combat veterans are called to their hero’s journey when they serve. What might be missing is the elixir. In order to come home, the hero must find the elixir — the meaning to why they took the hill, or perhaps acceptance of the lack of meaning.

This is what makes the hero’s journey so rich. It’s like copper — malleable.

After the presentation I’m serving cake and hosting the first of several book launches (because I like cake) for The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. Print books will be available by then. It’s an honor that the Vet Center is letting me use their facility, but I have found the Copper Country to be a welcoming community. I plan to read flash fiction (something I enjoyed doing in North Idaho) and I thought I’d see what the name of this place could inspire for stories.

And be sure to catch tomorrow’s post. It’s now 2018 and Carrot Ranch is determined to have a fulfilling year. That includes all of you! During the Rodeo, C. Jai Ferry led us all to the TwitterFrontier. She’ll be joining us the First Friday of every month with Twitter tips for literary artists and a month-long #TwitterFlash. You’ll tweet your responses, and all the Last Friday of the month you can share any in the comments. Check it out tomorrow! It will be fun and we’ll all get to learn more about Twitter.

January 4, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, historical, or on another planet. Go where the copper leads.

Respond by January 9, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published January 10). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

An Alternative Discovery by Charli Mills

Christopher Columbus informed the Queen. “Your Majesty, a great procession sails from where the earth ends.”

“Is it possible?” she asked Ferdinand. They gathered, soldiers honing flint-knapped spears, the royals at a safe distance, all praying to God.

Invaders clad in red metal came in the name of Gitchigumee. Flint spears shattered, no match for glimmering red weapons.

Many who survived that day in 1492 succumbed to foreign germs. North America wiped out most of Spain, enslaving her children to dig in the New Copper Country.

If only Christopher’s Queen had known to make weapons of the native metal.

###

 

December 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

Ice crystals lace silver threads of intricate patterns across glass so thin I feel surrounded by frozen cellophane. Any minute I expect ice-spiders to skitter across the glass, adding more crystalline webbing. All I hear is the distant hum of a neighbor’s snowblower, chewing mounds of white drifts, recreating front lawns into winter parking lots.

Then snow crunches and squeaks, alerting me to the return of the Huskies to the top of the deck. The door handle is so cold I fumble several attempts to open it. Two dogs with enviable fur puff through the door, their breath froze in the moment, driftless and white. Everything is white, and this porch is officially below zero (Fahrenheit).

We all rush into the welcoming warmth of the kitchen, quickly closing the seeping snow and leaving the unseen ice-spiders to spin their webs until it warms or the earth shatters.

Lady Lake Superior holds us captive like a Winter Queen in a Fairy Tale. On her blustery days, she forces the lake upon us and I imagine drowning in snow. On Christmas Eve we drove out to a friends and family party, a local Finnish family’s tradition for so long that it’s become generational. Our gracious hostess, an artist of local renown, served us food as if she had painted a canvas or raku-fired pottery.

Many people came and went that night as we lingered close to the table with magic abilities to refill platters of meatballs, spinach puff pastries and bowls of salmon spread. My own offering of smoky twice-baked potatoes dwindled and our hostess proclaimed them delicious. It boosted my spirits to receive a nod from one artist to another.

My art, words upon a page, lately feel frozen, ink stuck in the nib. Tis only a season and this too shall pass. Yet like the hunter, I can’t stop. Maybe the rabbit hunt results in a small mouse, but that sustains me until I snag the rabbit. It’s possible I might cross paths with an elk, and as a hunter, I know that will only happen if I go out on the trail frozen and snow-blown as it is.

That evening I met a delightful artist in her 80s. She lives at the end of the Keweenaw at Copper Harbor. We spoke about mentors and how every artist needs one. She told me about her aunt who was trained back east and highly regarded. She was plucky. At age 15 she rode a bus to apply for a copy-writer job in downtown Chicago, lying about her age. She told me many stories that night, still feeling the tug of writing after decades of painting, and concluded, “Artists are weird.”

I laughed. I think the drive to create also drives us to take risks and experiment. Recently the New York Times published an article, “Why Trying New Things  is So Hard to Do.” If artists are weird, then it’s because we go against the genetic code and try new things. As you can see, week after week, literary artists at Carrot Ranch can try to write one thing in a new way.

Flash fiction is an exploratory tool. Maybe it makes us weird, but it’s a response to the passion to create and tell stories.

After a jolly Christmas Eve, we left while Lady Lake Superior thrust her might upon the land. Have you ever been in a torrential downpour? Snowflakes pummeled existing drifts like pouring rain. To stand in pouring snow was awe-inspiring; to drive in it was terrifying. It fell so fast it covered all hints of the road and made looking out the windshield like staring into strobe lights. All I could see out of the corner of the windshield was the faintest hint of deeper piles to indicate the edge of the road.

Once back at the house in Hancock, I asked my kids how they navigate in such conditions. They both responded that you learn not to look forward but to the side to find the road’s edge. I had it right but found it frightening to drive snow-blind. Perhaps that is what it’s like to write — we navigate the page blind to all but one edge we follow.

If the stars ever return to the sky, when Lady Lake decides to pull back from dominating the terrain, I know I have one up there — my wishing star. Even covered, I know it guides me. And I think of this star on the cusp of one year to the next because I believe in activating my wish. You might call it a dream, but it’s not a goal — goals are what you set to attain your dream.

Pretend ice-spiders exist for a moment. Pretend Lady Lake is real and in a giving mood. She parts the veil of gray clouds to let the electric particles dance in sheets of apple-green and orchid-purple. The sky displays a light show and stars burn like diamonds on black velvet. She momentarily resets the night sky until one star, your star, shines brightest. She grants you a wish:

“Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.”

Don’t think, don’t blink, write it down now!

This wish holds meaning for you. Perhaps it’s obvious. Maybe you have to ponder its symbology. It’s a wish made when you thought anything possible. Now I want you to think about your calling as a writer, a literary artist, an educator, a philosopher, a traveler, a missionary. Pick or add what resonates with you. If you could call yourself anything, what would that be?

You now hold two hints to your vision.

Did you know that visioning is a process? It’s a business process and entails more than wishing upon stars. It sets a northern star in the sky over an organization to lead the way. Goals are like arrows aimed at this star. At times when you are not sure what is next for you, realign to your star, your vision. Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, I trained with Ari Weinzweig and his team from Zing Train. From him, I learned how to train trainers, give great service and include visioning as part of planning.

“Begin with the end in mind,” Ari advises (you can read more in his book, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building Great Business).

If you set goals, to what end? How will you know what success looks like? You probably already do this, but like your wish, it feels private and fanciful. But Ari calls visioning “positive futuring.” It’s a way to innovate and inspire the action you take. Zing Train is a division of Zingerman’s Deli (yes, a small college town deli cultivates business leaders). In 2007, NYT called them “The corner deli that dared to break out of the neighborhood.” And I’ve reworked the training I received and used in my own workplace to encourage writers to do something with that wish: vision.

Three years ago in the December 24, 2014 prompt I shared the following peek at my own vision:

Recalculations help redefine goals. Why set goals? Because if you have dreams, goals become a way to navigate to them. Your vision is like the north star, guiding you along the way. My vision is big and includes much more than successfully publishing novels. It includes creating literary spaces both physically and digitally–places to learn grow, create and recalculate. Collaboration is part of the vision.

Carrot Ranch fosters a literary space to practice craft, communicate ideas and read stimulating writing. Rough Writers are regulars or founding contributors, and Friends are our readers and commenters. We have many friends who pop in once in a while when inspired and others who faithfully read. Together we create a community that honors what literature is about–progressing the imagination to describe, define or experience life. Literature thrives in an open environment.

Join the dream. An open invitation to the Congress of Rough Writers & Friends:

  • Help develop a Carrot Ranch Anthology (expanded shorts based on flash fiction, for example). It can be a fun way to explore collaboration and indie avenues from crowd-sourcing to publishing.
  • Help develop a Christmas project for next year (what trouble can we write Rudolph into with his visits around the globe).
  • Research a possible text or workshop based on how flash fiction can build skills and that college classes or writing groups can use.

Three years ago, I had no idea that my husband’s behavior was sign of cognitive demise, that my best friend had incurable cancer or that we’d ever leave Elmira Pond. I was expressing to the early writers at the Ranch my wish to do more than write my books. I wanted a literary community, writer collaboration, the opportunity to explore independent publishing, a fun event at the Ranch, and a way to teach flash fiction as a skill-building tool.

Here’s where I get goosebumps. Despite unexpected circumstances, my vision stayed constant. Carrot Ranch thrives, my books have progressed, we have our first anthology of flash fiction in Kindle, I know tons more about independent publishing and it’s altered my goals, Rudolph morphed into a Rodeo, and I now teach Wrangling Words as a community outreach course and will debut TUFF workshop in February. Retreats on Elmira Pond took me to bigger waters where I dream of one on Isle Royale and another on a cruise to New Zealand.

I’m dreaming big! Are you? Let it all out — in a journal, in an email to someone or no one, in a story, in a conversation. Dream out loud. Wish. And craft a vision for your northern star.

Like flash fiction, visioning has magical results; but also like flash fiction there’s science behind focusing an intention and writing down goals. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California found that you become 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis (“The Power of Writing Down Dreams and Goals” by Mary Morrissey).

As the year turns, set your goals pointing to a bright and shiny vision. Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

December 28, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a wishing star. It can be central to the story or used in a different way. You can have a character interact or not. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 2, 2018 to be included in the compilation (published January 3). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Shoveling Midnight Snow (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Wolves padded across the snowy field, mere shadows dappled by moonlight. Danni gripped the shovel and paused. As loudly as her own boots crunched the tight snow, the wolves passed in silence. Had she not turned to shovel the path to the barn she would have missed the pack. Before the last one merged with the cover of night, he stopped and cocked his head. A shooting star rolled across the sky like a snowball down a hill. Before Danni could make a wish both star and wolf vanished. Would her wish still count? Come home to me, Ike.

###

White Flowers

White Flowers by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsOrchids, daisies or faded plastic tulips — merely the mention of white flowers can give readers a sharp image. Culture and tradition give colors and forms even further meaning. Because of this, white flowers evoke a response.

In the hands of a writer, the reader’s reaction can be amplified, shrouded in mystery or contrasted to create an unexpected twist. An iconic image such as white flowers allows a writer to explore the possibilities.

The following stories are based on the December 21, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include white flowers in your story.

***

Write Flowers by Bill Engleson

“Flowers! Fine! I did as instructed. Write flowers, the prompt said. I’ll write it again. There! Flowers!”

“I read the whole prompt. Your cognition’s seriously out of whack, buckaroo. And you need to get your eyes tested.”

“I have. It’s not looking good.”

“Oh, really. I’ve hardly noticed.”

“Well, I’m not walking into the walls. But I have prescription eye drops.”

“Sorry to hear that. Still, it didn’t tell you to write flowers. The whole post was a beautiful elegy to white flowers. WHITE.”

“So, I misread it. Haven’t you ever made a mistake?”

“Only in having this conversation.”

###

Innocence Lost by D. Avery

If you read that the ink is a tear across the page, how would you pronounce “tear”? Did the ink drop, or rip?

The page is a field of white flowers. The unarticulated dreams in the margins know the sadness masked by the pure and perfect page, and hesitate, uncertain of the trek across the field of white bloom. What happens there at the borderland? Petal picking; it pains, it pains me not, down to bare stem.

Blushed blossoms fall apart, spent. Windblown petals shower across the tracked page.

Did the ink drop, or rip?

Bruised fruit is borne.

###

Promise (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane unzips her tent, peering out. Her breath mists in front of her, and the ground crunches under the feet of another Tent City resident, picking between canvas and nylon. Hard frost, again. Not snow, true, but still too cold for living in a tent.

She shrugs into her coat and grabs the backpack she’d loaded the night before, shuddering her way to the bus stop six blocks away. This is the stage of winter that feels eternal. If spring hasn’t come by now, it never will.

Until she spots them, tiny, delicate, white heads peeking through the frost.

###

Paisano by Mr MacRum

Hovering over Pauper Grave #242, uninhibited tears fell onto the single white Chrysanthemum Jack clutched in his hand. Six inches of snow had found its way into the cast off Bean boots someone threw at him from a Lexus. He did not even notice.

It was six Christmas Eve’s ago he had identified the body of his hard times friend. Closing his eyes, Jack could still see Rodney’s gap toothed grin after they had constructed their last blue tarp cardboard palace together.

Jack tossed the Chrysanthemum on the grave and watched it disappear into the fresh snow.

“R.I.P. Rodney”.

###

A Field of White Flowers (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mils

Danni dodged potholes on the way to the logging site halfway up Nine Mile Road. On corners she slowed, scouting for logging trucks. Fully loaded they needed wide clearance. Near the crest of the ridge a mountain meadow opened up from the cover of tamarack and jack pines. Danni pulled over to let G-Dog and Det run through white daisies. G-Dog marked the perimeter and Det held point. What did she see? Danni scanned the far edge of shadows, imagining Ike and Bubbie walking the forest. White flowers bobbed like funerary tokens. A lone duck beat wings overhead. Silence.

###

Ghajra by Ritu Bhathal

Arranging the ghajra in her hair, Hari allowed his eyes to drift over her form.
Meena looked as beautiful as she had, years before, on their wedding day.
As tradition states, she was dressed as a bride, ready to leave the house for the final time.
Hari had always bought her a fresh ghajra on his morning walk, and gently placed the fragrant white jasmine flowers around her hair bun.

The gesture made her smile, and she’d tease him about being an old romantic.
So, even today, on that journey to her funeral pyre, she lay, adored and adorned.

###

Flash Fiction by Cheryl Oreglia

They keep coming, friends from her youth, family, neighbors, and loved ones. They keep coming with fresh pasta, white roses, presence and care. They keep coming to spend time with their beloved who is so close to death that heaven now seems closer to them. They keep coming to break bread, sip tea, sit together on the foldout, laugh, cry, and love one another. What they do not know is how they are lifting the children, the caregivers, those weighted down with the grief of their love. They keep coming, giving so much more than they will ever know.

###

Floral Notes by JulesPaige

White Spider Chrysanthemums, are an autumn flower.
Mums the birth flower of November;related to daisies
and marigolds. Being born in autumn, perhaps that’s why
Blanche chose them along with other smaller mums,
Baby’s breath, and to honor a Grandfather, whom she
had never met, (at her father’s request) three white roses;
for her wedding bouquet just days before the autumnal
equinox.

Blache has a fascination now for any and all white flowers.
She plans on framing some in a display; of the photographs
she’s taken of different white flowers on one of blank walls
in her dining room.

###

White Flowers by Robbie Cheadle

Her white silk dress spread out across the floor as the bridal couple kneeled inside the bower of white roses. Each flower, its petals shimmering in the light of the stained-glass windows, seemed to be paying tribute to this glorious occasion. The couple gazed into each other’s eyes as they repeated their wedding vows, tying their lives together with each word.

A sudden noise at the entrance disturbed the peace. A shot rang out. A fine red mist settled on the pure white roses like crimson dew. The bride crumpled forward as shouts of fear and horror rang out.

###

The Safe Place by Colleen Chesebro

They were at it again. Their voices rose to a crescendo of anger so thick she felt it smothering her from afar. A knot of fear twisted in her gut. She snuggled into her bed trying to blot out their hurtful words. She knew there would be no Christmas this year, not when they were drunk.

“Well, she’s not a puppy. I can’t just drown her!”

She searched for the safe place in her mind; the field of white flowers where she played as a child. There she was safe. The fairies beckoned to her, and she sensed love.

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Lilemor and the Fiddler by Liz Huseby Hartmann

Lilimor gazed across the field of wild strawberries into the Great Wood. She didn’t have enough berries to fill her basket, but the fiddle called her to the waterfall within. Its song enticed, one she almost recognized and had to sing.

Perhaps she had enough strawberries after all. She stood, humming, and stepped her way through the field of white flowers, unmindful of the rich red berries that stained her feet.

Behind her, the cat growled, his tail switching. He was not as easily convinced as his young mistress.

He padded behind her, nonetheless, following her into the darkness.

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You Can Count on It by Norah Colvin

“Is too,” he screamed, running away, blinded by tears.

Across the enormous park, he plonked himself down in a patch of wild daisies and began pulling them up, ripping them apart.

“It can’t be. They don’t know anything.” Fists clenched against doubt that threatened annihilation.

As tears subsided to sobs, his petal removal became more rhythmical, purposeful: “Is true. Isn’t true. Is true. Isn’t true …” He crushed the remains, then plucked another: “Is true. Isn’t true. Is true …” Nooo!

He started again: “Isn’t true. Is true …”

“I knew it! Santa is true! White flowers don’t lie.”

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The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is… by Anurag Bakhshi

“Let’s go, we’re already behind schedule,” he said.

“I’m not ready yet,” I replied, “I need white flowers to put in my hair, they look dazzling on me.”

“WHAT?” he cried out, “Where will I get them from in this snow?”

“Really?” I said in my best sarcastic tone, “THAT’S your excuse?”

“But what will people say?” he whined.

“I don’t care,” I replied, “I’m not budging an inch till I get them.”

Knowing when he was beaten, Santa grudgingly said, “I’ll get your white flowers. I just wish you would not choose Christmas Eve for your tantrums, Rudolph!”

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Good Enough by Denise Aileen DeVries

White poinsettias were the last straw, thought Carol-Anne. Of course, red flowers would clash with that new burgundy carpet. She arranged holly and ivy in a vase near the altar, humming “Old Time Religion” under her breath. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” her Billy always said. Gone wholly fifteen years and she heard him clear as a bell. She put on her robe, slightly holey at the hem, and sat on the organ bench. She glanced at the watch Billy gave her on their tenth anniversary, took a breath, and began to play “Joy to the World.”

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Tattoo by Anne Goodwin

My role at the museum is to shock the children with tales of our primitive past. Our addiction to tarmac, plastic and the flesh of our fellow mammals. Mostly they want to hear about my tattoo.

“Was that really the only difference between the tribes?”

“And it dictated who would eat and who would starve?”

“But it’s so arbitrary!”

“Didn’t the blacks feel guilty?”

“Why didn’t the whites rebel?”

They pout, complain and stamp their feet, until one of them asks, “Which were you?”

I roll back my sleeve and show them. “A white flower! Yet you survived!”

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White Flowers by Irene Waters

She lay on a bed of white flowers. Her tanned skin contrasting against the white making the white whiter and the brown browner. She moved sensuously, luxuriating in the velvety softness that enveloped her and inhaled the wafts of perfume. She rolled and stretched, her movements slow and languorous. She was alone but not lonely. Her thoughts like the flowers were pure as driven snow; dark chocolate, cashmere sweaters. How she’d longed for this place and now found, she wanted to stay forever.

A field of white flowers offered so much more than that cloud she had abandoned.

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White Flowers by FloridaBorne

I have a talent. The only plants that live in my yard are the ones I ignore.

There were these fuzzies with beautiful white flowers that sprouted on my lawn. I ignored them and they grew. Everywhere. Unfortunately, the common name for this weed is “stinging nettle.” They’re a great deterrent to burglars, barefoot children and potential husbands.

The latter is as hard to find as respectable plants growing in my yard. My last fiancé fell face first onto my field of white flowers and died from a fatal allergic reaction.

Perhaps I should try to ignore lilies instead?

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White Flowers by Frank Hubeny

Peter had four chickens and a dog. They did not get along. The dog was chained. The chickens weren’t. The chickens approached the dog and wiggled their butts at him. He jumped. They all knew just how long his chain was. “You idiot,” the chickens thought.

One day Peter went for a walk in the woods with his dog. His dog dragged him deeper and stopped near an opening with white flowers. Peter was happy. He unchained his dog.

His dog looked at Peter thinking, “You idiot.” The dog ran back without him.

Peter now only has a dog.

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Funerals & White Flowers by Ann Edall-Robson

“Ahhh well…now, who is that coming in the door? I don’t recognize them. The kids seem to know who they are. I guess they are some of their friends. Nice for them to have some of their own kind in tow at a thing like this.”

“Jeeeeze Luweeeze, who in the heck ordered the white lilies? I know, I know. I always said they reminded me of death, but I sure didn’t mean mine! Wild Flowers and lots of them would have been my choice. Guess I missed that on my checklist of ‘this is what I want’.”

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Granite by Michael Fishman

On any other day the chickweed might look like pocks on the grass, but on this breezy April morning, with the spring sun angled high, the white clusters swayed, dancing to invisible music.

Dad would have liked it.

Dad.

I reach out and run my hand along the top of the uneven granite, still damp with the morning’s dew. I run my fingers along the front and for the thousandth – or ten-thousandth – time, I trace the name.

“Nice morning, huh, pop?”

I blink against a sudden gust and I feel the ten-thousandth tear trail a path down my cheek.

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Flash Fiction by Mark

From the park-and-ride lot, it is nine miles down hill, so I don’t have to arrive sweating and hot. At the end of the day the uphill workout burns off stress. The road from the interstate highway into town is four lane with a whole extra lane for a shoulder, separated by a rumble strip. What could be a safer place to ride a bicycle?

Except for the driver texting on a sunny afternoon who didn’t hear or feel the vibrations. On my evening return journey I stop and pause before the white ghost cycle and the white flowers.

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Not All the Flowers Are Created Equal by Alexander De

She said her dress was emerald green; my tux, her flowers should work with that theme. Called Auntie Jim out in Houston, florist to the family. I said black goes with everything, don’t it? She said black orchids would be stunning, but the other prom girls might not agree; get her white flowers, throw in something purple, complimentary. The boss at BurgersRUs didn’t like my leave request for the dance, cut my hours. Thin paychecks don’t buy corsages. Borrowed some lilies from the cemetery; didn’t know about symbolism in flowers, but my date did. I went stag that night.

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Wedding Flowers by Susan Sleggs

“As is customary son, we are planning to pay for the wedding flowers. I think elegant white flowers like gardenias or roses would be best.”

“Sandy and I have already chosen carnations because of how well they last. They will look elegant with some green ivy, baby’s breath and long white ribbons.

“But we would be happy to pay for something more exotic; maybe orchids or lilies.”

“Lilies are for funerals and we aren’t exotic. Carnations will represent our practicality and symbolize our expectations for a long marriage.”

“Fluffy white marshmallows if you ask me.”

“That’s why we didn’t.”

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Reflection by D. Avery

“Narcissus?”

“Yes, Hope, a fellow who fell deathly in love with his own reflection.”

“Mommy, that’s silly.”

“Then we’ll call them paper whites. Do the blooms seem papery to you?”

“Yes, and they stink.”

“Ha! Kinda, Hope. And I kinda like the smell. I don’t know why.”

“I like the way they stand in their pots, Mommy.”

“Me too, Hope. So bold and defiant on the cold windowsill, trying so hard to be spring. But they reflect winter.”

“If Winter falls in love with his reflection, he’ll pine away.”

“Then Hope, we’d best start ordering seed packets for spring.”

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Giving Hope by Michael

The weather had been unbearably oppressive with day after day the temperature climbing into the low 40Cs. Up early I would water the plants committed to keeping them alive even though around them the grass of the lawn died off under the relentless barrage of the sun.

It seemed a futile hope that anything might survive the harsh climate and I resigned myself to starting again once the hot days passed.

Then one morning as I desperately watered I looked down and saw a tiny white flower on my struggling capsicums.

That single white flower filled me with hope.

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Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

In her dreams she saw masses of white flowers in an ocean of green.

The view was unfamiliar, with islands of trees in the waters, but no bridges, roads or pathways to reach them.

She always felt a sense of loss when she awoke.

This time something was waiting for her in the sea of white flowers.

It stood and ambled towards her.

‘Jess.’ she whispered.

The dog came to her side and nuzzled her hand.
‘I knew you’d come,’ he said.

She was so happy to see her childhood pet, she didn’t think to question he could talk.

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Flight by D. Avery

“The king will be very angry with you for freeing me. How can I repay you? Name it.”

“Oh no”, said the girl. “You have brought birdsong back to the kingdom. That is all I need.”

“Take this”, said the bird. He pulled a white feather and handed it to her. “With this quill your words will sing and your spirit will soar. And yes”, he said as he flew away, “There will be pain.” She held the quill like a white flower; she held it like a sword; she held it as the key to her own escape.

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Blossoming by Reena Saxena

“There’s a different feel about the house.”

His roving glance met the same furniture setting and décor. He was perhaps missing the fragrance of the white Mexican tuberoses Leila kept in the room on his visits. He had missed the subconscious association with the smell.

Relationships do change with time, and Leila was embarking on a solo journey of her own. She took a deep breath to inhale the different notes of outdoor smells. The ‘Rajnigandha (fragrance of the night-’ as it is called in Hindi), was blossoming into a garden. The companion of nights had joined the university.

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They Weren’t Red by Rugby843

She had been in love with him since the age of ten, best friends, spent all their time together, and now as an adult, he was still her best friend.

The time came when she felt she had to tell him she wanted to be more than friends. Being near him caused such passion to arise, her face flushed at his touch. However, he didn’t seem to notice, She asked him to dinner, only this time she dressed provocatively, offering candlelight, soft music, and his favorite dish.

He arrived, awkwardly surprised by her dress, bouquet of only white roses.

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The Scent of Jasmine by Jan Malique

The scent of jasmine pulled strongly on her memories, like a fishing net it scooped up the darting pieces of her past.

She peered intently at each and every bejewelled creature, for her memories were sentient and potent presences.

Piece by piece they rearranged themselves into mandalas of mystery, symbolic of lives lived with passion, lives lived in tear filled intensity.

She looked out over the landscape, now covered in a sea of white flowers. A blessing from the Old Ones for one of their own who had gone beyond the veil. She was now infinite wisdom and power.

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White Christmas by Billy Quealy

Giant white CalaLillies in California last only 3 days in water. Pulled some from landscaper’s junkpile. Mysteriously still blooming 2 weeks later!! The music ?, the sex ?, my semi-autist GF reading holybooks aloud??

Christmas morn: “Fetch us some coffee so I can surprise. ” Return to see she painted wall behind flowers black. “Shiny now, and look ‘little friends’!!!” placing little white potted bloodwort-plant. Stolen from someone’s yard no doubt. Landlord not gonna like painted Mahogany panel, fumes gonna wilt flowers.

“Happy?”

“It’s beautiful honey!!!”

Kiss.

“Oh let’s have coffee with the flowers…..we’ll have a white Christmas billy!!!!

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White Flowers by Robert Kirkendal

The man stopped when he came across a pleasant sight of white flowers arrayed in front of him. He wistfully contemplated the field of new growth. The beautiful daisy, he sighed to himself, Bellis perennis if memory serves me. He looked across the many bright yellow dots surrounded by snow white petals atop thin green stems and silently thanked Mother Nature for providing him with such a lovely site. It’s like a…carpet of prettiness, he beheld, a gift from the natural world for all the world to enjoy.

He then restarted his mower and chopped them all down.

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Helleborus Niger by D. Avery

“Hey, Kid, I see yer saddlin’ up.”

“Yep, Shorty’s got us on another roundup.”

“What direction ya headin’?”

“Don’t rightly know, Pal. Headin’ for the border, not sure which one.”

“I reckon you’ll head north. Don’t fergit ta git white flowers.”

“That dang Shorty. White flowers. In winter. Bloomin’ hell.”

“That’s it Kid! Hellebores. Christmas Rose.”

“Oh, yeah, Pal. Blooms in winter.”

“See, Kid. The darkest day is past. Ya’ve rode through a seasonal borderland. There’ll be snow an’ cold yet, but there’s always somethin’ bloomin’, somethin’ ta be picked.”

“Thanks, Pal. Feelin’ lighter already.”

“Yer hoss’ll ‘preciate that.”

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Dec. 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

December 21 Carrot Ranch Prompt @Charli_MillsI have no birds to cushion life’s blows. I seek signs of them and wonder when the shift will happen in my mind; the shift from no birds to birds.

Growing up in the Sierras, red-tailed hawks came to me. It’s not as if they circled overhead, asking, “Hey, Charli, can I ride your horse?” It’s more like made their presence known. A loud, “Sceeee!” and I’d look up, watch wing feathers tickle air currents, and feel connected to the expanse we shared.

In Minnesota, it was backyard birds from red cardinals to common house finches to swooping goshawks. Then the ducks came. Whenever I needed a lift of spirits, a duck would fly overhead. Up north the loons would trill to me, and across the border, in Wisconsin the pileated woodpeckers played hide-and-seek.

North Idaho exploded with birds — Elmira Pond was a traveler-stop along the feathered migration highway. Hefty eagles hunted turtles and baby mergansers in early spring and Blue Heron bathed on a log at the edge of the pond. Wonders never ceased until the place ceased to be my home.

Lost in the wilderness with no plumbing and living in a leaking tin can of a camp trailer, nonetheless every morning I awoke to the miracle of hummingbirds. Caliope with golden-red heads descended from the river trees and battled for the sugar-water I set out for them.

In the strange and red land of southern Utah (Mars), Road Runner appeared. With a red head and black and white body, he was easy to spot. Yet he’d stride quickly in and out of brush and cacti. One day along the Virgin River between the massive sandstone pillars of Zion, Blue Heron flew past me like a visiting angel.

Broke down in New Mexico, quail, roadrunners, and hawks made visits. Our final days there on the border of Colorado where the McCanles family settled, the hummingbirds returned and we saw flashes of indistinguishable mountain birds. In Kansas, a hoot owl serenaded me several late nights.

Arriving in the Keweenaw, I heard a loon one morning and the trill felt like a welcome call. But since then, birds have gone silent. Maybe the rocks are too loud. More likely I haven’t adjusted my perception. It’s a stillness I embrace to be with nature, in nature. It’s where the birds usually meet me. It’s like the border to another place.

Writers visit that place — the borderlands between what we know and what we imagine.

Lately, I’ve been meditating and it feels like visits to that borderland expanse. I use an app on my phone from Calm.com. Believe me, after a year of wandering homeless, I need calm. An added feature is the “focus” music. Ambient sounds to de-stress and work by. A must-have for writers, especially on deadline or amid distractions.

A quote from a recent #dailycalm reads:

“You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.”

I sat with that quote, letting it seep into my bones. Writers can’t help but see, and we write from open hearts. Whether we search the shadows for the darkness of humanity or let the light in, this is the borderlands. It’s setting out to write about birds and ending up with white flowers. Because we don’t know what awaits us on the page until we cross the border between what we see and what we feel deep inside.

Sometimes we don’t know what we feel deep inside until we craft a story and a reader reflects back to us the depth. Thus, is the deep in the writers? The readers? Or again, a borderland between individuals? We may not want to feel it but that is what we must write. That is what writing into our truth looks like — a trip to the borderlands and a journey to the deep.

In meditation, I was guided to “feel.” I recall thinking that I wasn’t really feeling anything deep. After all, I’ve been meditating, letting go, hefting healthy boundaries and (mostly) eating healthy food. I had invited calm into my life. Things were finally happening, moving, not stuck or unstable.

I was guided to pluck a flower and look at the feeling as if it were a bloom. I did. It was white. Suddenly a field of white flowers expanded before me and I recognized it as the scene I once snapped when Bobo perched in a field of white daisies. I love that photo — the beauty, the wonder, the freedom. It was before…

…before Kate died. Before we lost Elmira Pond. Before we wandered. Before Grenny died on Mars. Before we knew the battles ahead. Stab after stab I felt the grief so sharp. How could I be sitting here so calm, so focused and so utterly devastated inside? Suddenly, every white flower morphed into every war widow or struggling veteran wife.

If the soldiers have a field of red poppies, the spouses have one of white daisies.

The meditation continued. I grappled with grief, thought of Danni in that field and realized it will play out in my writing. After recognizing and naming my flower (field) I was able to let it wash past me. I felt better afterward, and curious, too. It felt like the borderlands materialized clearly. I will sit with this image for a spell.

In the meantime, I went digging in my photo archives and found the actual shot that led me to the field of white daisies. It reminded me that an early prompt at Carrot Ranch was “white flowers.” It was April 2014 and six writers responded. I remember my elation that anyone was responding! The writers responded with depth and I knew we would venture to the borderlands together.

Over three years later and we consistently have over 30 writers responding a week. And The Congress of Rough Writers has grown to 40. And now we have our first global title in Amazon, published by Carrot Ranch Literary Community: The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. It’s also my first book to qualify me for an author page and I’m over the moon. This marks a huge milestone for many of us in this community. I’m thrilled!

Yet deep down, I grieve.

That is the essence of the field of white daisies, though. It is why we remember WWI soldiers with stunning red poppies — we rise, perhaps stronger for our pain and suffering, and we soak up the beauty and the life, too. We cannot know joy without knowing grief. We cannot know the hero within without also recognizing our own capacity for villainy. We are human — we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Just as I’m expecting birds to show up, I will always expect stories, too. We need only open our eyes to see, brave the depths of our hearts to feel. Write into those borderlands.

December 21, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include white flowers in your story. This is a repeat prompt, but one that has an ability to be emotive. Humor, drama, irony — go wherever the white flowers lead.

Respond by December 26, 2017 (Happy Boxing Day!) to be included in the compilation (published December 27). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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A Field of White Flowers (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mils

Danni dodged potholes on the way to the logging site halfway up Nine Mile Road. On corners she slowed, scouting for logging trucks. Fully loaded they needed wide clearance. Near the crest of the ridge a mountain meadow opened up from the cover of tamarack and jack pines. Danni pulled over to let G-Dog and Det run through white daisies. G-Dog marked the perimeter and Det held point. What did she see? Danni scanned the far edge of shadows, imagining Ike and Bubbie walking the forest. White flowers bobbed like funerary tokens. A lone duck beat wings overhead. Silence.

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