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Make a Big Splash

Like a kid plotting to cannonball of the diving board at a public swimming pool, sometimes we want to make a big splash. We prepare prepare to leave a memorable immpression. Other times, we trip into the circumstances. We drop the paint or the mic.

Writers didn’t tread in the shallow end of writing this week. They dove in and created waves with stories and words.

The following is based on the June 6, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that makes a big splash.

PART I (10-minute read)

Soundless by Saifun Hassam

The fountain’s cascading waters glittered in the sunlight. Mallards splashed in the lake. Children chased each other past the benches.

He drank in the sight of a graceful swan and its two cygnets gliding in the lake. A gentle breeze carried with it an elusive scent of jasmine and honeysuckle. Kite birds glided lazily in warm summery currents of air.

He sat in his wheelchair, an unforgettable first day at the park this summer. Not a sound came to him. He had always been deaf, and he would use those lessons of life to learn to live with paralysis.

🥕🥕🥕

Feeding Frenzy? by JulesPaige

My brain cannot comprehend where this intermittent Manna comes from.

The serenity of the opaque surface is broken in what some would call dreamscape.

Sometimes in little bits, other times too big.

I care not that I share space with would be siblings.

Those too afraid to part from schools.

I will wave my appendages, push through from underneath.

With all my energy focused on receiving this heavenly gift.

Though, I am wary of baited hooks, lines, and sinkers.

I will feed myself, and grow to spawn.

I will make a splash, not knowing or caring who gets wet.

🥕🥕🥕

Exercise by Reena Saxena

“Breathe in, breathe out, you’ll be okay.”

“I’ve been doing that all my life, so, don’t give me that crap.”
She sounds offended, so I decide to change the topic.

“Did you see Mrs. Kapoor in hospital on the way?”

“Yeah, I did meet her son, but she is in a coma.”

“There is a difference between living and being alive – We need to exercise goodwill to be humane, willpower to make a big splash, the brain to be counted as intelligent, limbs to remain mobile and the lungs to clear debris from your system and thoughts.

🥕🥕🥕

Splash by D. Avery

Dad looked surprised when I said I’d be bringing a friend home after school, but didn’t ask any questions, just grunted and nodded. Permission granted. Same as when I’d tell him I was going to Jimmy’s, or Jimmy’d be sleeping over. Or me and Jimmy’d be up at the quarries.

Dad looked even more surprised when he met Jamie, this sparkling green-eyed girl in bright mismatched clothes. Jimmy had always been a light in our gray lives, a flash of lightning, a comet, but Jamie was a splash of color rich and deep, color new to both of us.

🥕🥕🥕

Splash by Floridaborne

Common names change over the years; in the 1980’s Jennifer and Nicole were number one and two on the list.

I met John in 1998. I don’t know which I was more in love with, a huge wedding or the man who would take a mistress two years later with my same name.

“Nicole,” my father said. “Do you want a big splash or a trickle? I’ll put $100 a month into a retirement fund under your name for 30 years.”

I took the wedding. Two children and living with my parents taught me that trickles are under rated.

🥕🥕🥕

Lucinda Arrives (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

The rumble of a Harley echoed across the valley, crushing the crackle of a nighttime bonfire. Ramona leaned forward on her lawn-chair and asked Michael, “Is that her?”

“Yes, that’d be Lucinda.”

Danni hoped Michael’s tension was excitement. Ever since he visited his aunts last fall, he spoke about the Navajo biologist he met at powwow. Lucinda rode her bike from Red Cliff, Wisconsin to Elmira, Idaho.

Rumbling up Danni’s driveway, the woman dressed in fringed black leather stopped and dismounted. Ramona gaped when Lucinda shook thick black hair from her helmet. “Oh, Michael. She’ll make a big splash.”

🥕🥕🥕

Burning Rubber by Sherri Matthews

I heard him before I met him. The throaty rumble of a V8 engine streets away came into view in a blue Dodge Charger with Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ thudding from his eight track. He gunned past me where I waited with my boyfriend for this, his old high school buddy. Smoke screeched from his tyres as he skidded to a turn and brought the Dodge to a stop one inch from my feet on the sidewalk. A guy built like a truck with long, black hair got out. ‘Hi,’ he grinned, ‘thought you’d like Black Sabbath, being a Limey.’

🥕🥕🥕

With a Splash by H.R.R. Gorman

It would help if they didn’t wiggle so much. But boss says it’s cleaner, quieter this way. I do as boss says.

I tie the cinder block to the potato sack full of human refuse, then toss the concrete over the bridge. It hangs in midair.

“No! Don’t do this!” the sack shouts. Damn, he’s undone his gag somehow. I hate it when they do that. Now I have to pick him up and toss him by the legs so he won’t bite me.

He splashes into the canal. I wait ten minutes to confirm the job is done.

🥕🥕🥕

News Splash by Norah Colvin

It was splashed all over the front page. There was no hiding it now. Mum and Dad wouldn’t be pleased. They’d cautioned her to be careful. Time. After. Time. And she was. She thought she could handle it. She didn’t need them watching over her every move. She had to be independent sometime. But this front-page catastrophe would be a setback. How could she minimise the damage?

When they came in, Jess faced them bravely.

They looked from her to the paper and back. Jess’s lip quivered. “Sorry.”

“Those headlines look somewhat juicy,” smirked Dad. “More juice?”

Jess nodded.

🥕🥕🥕

The Dirty Apron by Susan Sleggs

My adult son came up beside me and dipped a spoon into the spaghetti sauce I was stirring. “Be careful, the boiling bubbles can pop and splash.”

“I know Mom. I learned that when I was about seven.” He looked at the front of my apron. “Don’t you think you should wash that thing?”

“No.” I pointed to different splashes. “This is gravy from Thanksgiving. This is fudge from Christmas and this is the last time I made sauce.”

“It needs a bath.”

My grandson hugged my legs. “No Daddy, it won’t smell like Grandma if she washes it.”

🥕🥕🥕

From a Certain Height by Bill Engleson

From a certain height,
the water below,
as supple as night,
a light winter snow,
from a certain height.

In full cannonball flight,
There’s a crueller tinge,
Blue water, black night,
As you clasp your fringe
In full cannonball flight.

As you plunge the air,
as dawn turns from night,
your essence, aware,
warmed by breaking light
as you plunge the air.

There’s no turning back,
the river awaits,
blue water cracks;
your plummeting fate;
there’s no turning back.

From a certain depth,
Day’s night, nights day,
A curable path
If you’ve lost your way,
From a certain depth.

🥕🥕🥕

Treasured Moments by Jo Hawk

My daughter stood at the lake’s edge, trying to skim stones across its surface. As they plunged into the water, I remembered standing on this shore, throwing pebbles to master the skill. My father showed me the proper wrist flick to send a stone bouncing over the glassy expanse. Those rocks inspired my love of geology and my assemblage of semi-precious gems.

As I reached the shoreline, she stooped, selecting another rock from the bowl holding my collection. I gasped. Then I cradled her hand, positioned her wrist to the proper angle, and together we let the beauty fly.

🥕🥕🥕

Big Splash by Joanne Fisher

Esther took pride in her swimming. She could move through the water like a torpedo. She reckoned no one was faster than her as she swam through the warm waters building up speed.

Her long dark hair trailed behind her as she sped upwards. She broke through the surface leaping into the air and then diving back under with a big splash. As she plummeted downwards she turned around again and built up speed once more.

Breaking through the surface a second time her silver fish tail gleamed in the sunlight before she disappeared under the water again.

🥕🥕🥕

Freedom’s Price by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The Gull cries warning, but Gwyneth is late to work in the Manse’s scullery. She’s agreed to pay off Auntie Shallah’s debts from drink and gambling. Shallah had bet her tailfin; she’s now imprisoned by Pastor Johnson.

Gwyneth steps from the water and sheds her own skin, trading it for the thin blue shift she hides in the cave downstream.

The minister’s boy watches—he’s watched all month. He wants a girl, a magical mermaid for himself.

Gwyneth hastens to the scullery.

He slips in the cave, takes up and sniffs the pelt, still damp and salty, like her.

🥕🥕🥕

Selkie Self by Kerry E.B. Black

Seline pines for the sea, fingers pressed to her throat as though strangled without its brine. She spends every moment she can with toes tickled by frothy surf, never misses a sunset when the waters engulf the great orb in their murky depths. Her tears splash its turbulent surface before she returns to her husband, the man who hides her true self and thereby enslaves her.

One day, she’ll find the skin he stole. Then she’ll slide into it like destiny. She won’t look back when she rejoins her selkie sisters, and she’ll never again misplace her true self.

🥕🥕🥕

Interstellar Underdrive by Keith Burdon

“Did you ever see the two golden records the humans sent?”

“Yeah, Sounds of Earth, it was my job to listen to them when they landed here.”

“Were they any good?”

“Not particularly, but then they were better than that ‘Do wah diddy diddy’ nonsense. ‘Snapping her fingers and shuffling her feet’ sounds like your first girlfriend Gliese 145.”

“Shut your snarf Camelopardalis! No worse than that Splish Splash rubbish you always used to play.”

“What’s playing next?”

“That one about your mum, you know, the ‘…one eyed, one horned purple people eater.’

“Hey, she only did that once…!”

🥕🥕🥕

Mythical Creatures Swimming Pool by Nicole Horlings

It was a hot summer day at Mythical Creatures Swimming Pool, and everyone wanted to cool off. The Loch ness monster was slowly swimming in circles, completely submerged at the bottom of the pool. The phoenix was sunbathing on the patio. The mermaids were flirting with the lifeguard. Leprechauns were selling rainbow ice cream cones for a gold coin each. A couple satyrs were arguing over which radio station should be playing. Bigfoot shyly came out from the bushes, and stepped out onto the driving board. He let out a warning growl, then cannon-balled into the water, splashing everyone.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (ten-minute read)

Gone in a Splash by Ann Edall-Robson

Above the falls, she found what she had heard over the thunderous sound of water hitting water at the bottom of the rocks. A calf straddled over a rock, its Momma bawling on the other side.

Leaving her horse at the water’s edge, Hanna figured if the cow had crossed, she would be all right on foot.

Hanna reached out to the calf at the same time a rope settled over its head. The surprise of help made her turn to look. Losing her balance she went under in a splash, the current carrying her towards the deadly falls.

🥕🥕🥕

Maggie and Water by Di @pensitivity101

They say there is nothing more affectionate than a wet dog.

Maggie loves the water, and when she was a pup, we’d drive down to the park every day where she could have a swim in the sea.

She took the groynes as her personal obstacle course, which of course Hubby encouraged.

She went flying over them with ease, until the last when she did a complete somersault and ended up on her back. I was panic stricken, only to find her splashing around in total bliss as the water was quite deep on the side I couldn’t see.

🥕🥕🥕

Homey by Gloria McBreen

The box is nice and cold today. The last time Annie put me in here the temperature was not to my liking, and I nearly passed out.

Today, I’m feeling claustrophobic. “Annie, let me out now please.”

But she never listens to me. All she does is look at me with her big blue eyes, and beam her big toothy grin.

I’ll play dead; that usually works. Yes! Here she comes. I love this part. This is where she turns the box upside down, then I make a big splash into my lovely clean fish bowl. Home sweet home.

🥕🥕🥕

A Big Splashy Dance by Miriam Hurdle

“Karen, this is unbelievable. We did it. I’m so glad you accepted our invitation.”

“I didn’t know your team, but I know you. We worked well before.”

“Our dance group had been working with the choreographer for six months. Delia got hit with the flu in the last minute. I couldn’t think of calling anyone else.”

“It was delighted to dance with you again.”

“You’re natural, Karen. Just two rehearsals, you were like with us for ages. We made a big splash tonight. Our choreographer would love to have you come on board.”

“I’d like to think about that.”

🥕🥕🥕

One Way To Create a Splash! by Ritu Bhathal

“Can I see it? Please!” Julie ran over to Jack, straining to grab the phone.

Jack stretched his arm high up, out of her reach.

Grabbing his sleeve, she tried to bring his arm down. “I need to see the photo!”

“Why?”

“Because I’m not having you sharing awful pictures of me!” She pulled at his arm, her grasp nearing the phone.

Both hands on the handset – it was like a tug-of-war.

“There! Got it!”

One final wrench and it was hers… except it flew out of her hand and landed in the pool with a big splash.

“Oops.”

🥕🥕🥕

Candidate by Abhijit Ray

“Make noise, a lot of it,” Nikhil’s political advisor said excitedly, “let people know your arrival.”

Nikhil and his advisor were chatting on the way to his party office. There was a buzz that party will announce Nikhil as party candidate for assembly election.

“How?” Nikhil asked his advisor, “help me improve visibility?”

“Give interviews, address public meetings,” said advisor, as he stepped on a banana peel “create a splashhhhh!”

“Created enough splash for a day!” commented Nikhil as he pulled his advisor up from the mud puddle, “hope I do not land on my behind like you!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Splashing Good Time by Sally Cronin

Her husband insisted she was incapable of learning to drive, refusing to pay for lessons as a waste of time and money. After seven years she found her own voice, and grateful there were no children to witness her failure, she left. With a new job, cottage and money to make her own way, she passed her driving test first time, and purchased a small car. One day torrential rain filled the drains, creating deep puddles each side of the road. She saw him walking along the pavement. Smiling, she swished passed him, creating a wonderfully drenching big splash.

🥕🥕🥕

Big Splash by Robbie Cheadle

How do you see

your life unfolding?

What gives you purpose?

What inspires you

to get up in the morning

and face the day?

Do you care if your actions

leave the surface

of your own life

and that of others

smooth and unmarred?

Or is your ambition to cause

small ripples across

its glassy face?

Do you think it’s important

to make an impact?

To do or say something

that will be noteworthy

and possibly inspire change

to the course of many lives

What is your purpose

To leave an unmarred surface

Or to make a big splash?

🥕🥕🥕

Couple Counselling by Anne Goodwin

Laying the printed sheet on the table, she smooths out the creases. “Sorry about your questionnaire.”

“Butterfingers splashed red wine on it,” he says.

Quite a splash. The pink colour-wash obscures half the words.

“He jogged my arm.”

“She hogged the remote.”

“My programme hadn’t finished.”

“She knew kick-off was at eight.”

“Who’d watch football on his wedding anniversary?”

“May I interrupt you a moment?”

They look up like naughty children. “Give us another,” he says. “I won’t let her mess it up again.”

“No need.” I toss the questionnaire in the bin. “We’ve plenty to work on already.”

🥕🥕🥕

Front page Splash by Hugh W. Roberts

London, May 1965

All his fears had come true. Had it been worth it? Yes. But here it was splashed all over the front pages of every newspaper.

As a single, 33-year-old, man who had just been elected as a minister of parliament, the woman he had slept with had done all the hard work in persuading him to have a sexual relationship with her. He wondered how long it would be before the police came to arrest him.

As he lay back on the bed, he questioned if there was a parallel universe where heterosexuality was not illegal.

🥕🥕🥕

Envy by Violet Lentz

Half-way through Mr. A’s lecture, Evie grabbed the bathroom pass and dashed into the hall.

Without even securing the stall door, she flung herself to the floor in front of the commode. Her empty stomach writhing and heaving against itself. She retched violently, producing only a thick strand of greenish spittle that clung precariously to her lip for what seemed like forever, before splashing silently into the placid waters below.

Just then, the bathroom door swung open.

“Did you see Evie last night? She heard Jocelyn Medgar exclaim. “She was hammered!”

“God I wish I could drink like that!”

🥕🥕🥕

Ocean Waves by Susan Zutautas

The waves were splashing against the shore and it was the perfect time for bodysurfing. Sandy just needed to get out a little farther to ride them in. What she wasn’t expecting though was that there was a strong undercurrent and on her second ride in, down she went, under the water, the undertow dragging her across the sand. She felt as if she was about to drown and knew she had to fight her way back to shore. Disorientation caused Sandy to stay underwater not knowing that she was close to shore until she bumped into another person.

🥕🥕🥕

Bowing Out by Valerie Fish

Lucy knew exactly the date she was going to depart this mortal world, and she was going out with a bang, she just hadn’t yet decided how.

Slitting her wrists was out; Lucy couldn’t stand the sight of blood; or stick her head in the gas oven as she was all-electric.

The job had to be done properly, nearly but not quite dead wouldn’t do.

The decision was taken out of Lucy’s hands when, so engrossed was she in her dilemma, that she stepped off the pavement into the road straight into the path of the 223 to Uxbridge.

🥕🥕🥕

The Dream by tracey

Jan worked on her novel off and on for years, decades. Long off periods: moves, jobs, babies, cancer. But she never totally gave up. She wrote and edited, wrote and edited some more. On her 65th birthday she decided it was finished.

Jan left the book sitting on her desk, printed and bound by the local UPS store. Her granddaughter found it, read it and self-published it on Kindle. Turns out it made a big splash in the mystery genre. Meryl Streep played her heroine in the movie adaptation.

If only Jan had lived to see her wonderful success.

🥕🥕🥕

Splash by Anita dawes

I am looking through my rain painted windows
Waterlogged drowned gutters run
with rainbow coloured bubbles
Rain, when pouring, dancing to its own tune
Children finding the best puddles to make a big splash
Returning home to drip rain indoors
Red cheeks, happy faces
Safe in front of warm fires
Snug under cosy blankets
The deluge continues as you gaze
through your kitchen window
The heavens open, turning your garden pond
Into a tidal wave
Gold carp dancing in water lifted
Spinning lights flashing
Golden doubloons dropping
A big splash, smooth water once more
Cup of hot chocolate calling…

🥕🥕🥕

Unmannerly Speaking by D. Avery

“Pal, yer goin ta hell in a tote bag.”

“That’s ‘in a hand basket’ Kid.”

“Mebbe yer goin ta hell in a box a rocks.”

“No, Kid, that’s ‘dumber ‘an a box a rocks. Figger ya’d know that idiom.”

“Yer callin’ me a idiom?”

“If ‘n the boot fits.”

“Well, you kin take a long walk off a short pier, Pal. Make a splash.”

“Speakin’ a short peers, how ‘bout thet Shorty? Didn’t useta have a ghost of a chance, now she’s chancin’ upon ghosts an’ rubbin elbows with writin’ idols.”

“An idyllic life!”

“Yer still an idiom, Kid.”

***

Splash Down by D. Avery

“Hey Shorty. Kid’s up in the Poet-tree agin. Says it flows up there, kin git words down easily.”

“Jist hope Kid also gits down easily. Really pursuin’ that buckaroo-ku, huh?”

“Yep, seems like. Kid’s real het up on doin’ some writin’ lately. Wants ta make a splash.”

“Hey you two, I kin hear ya. Hang on, I’m climbin’ down with what I writ. Whoa, oh, ohhh! Oooh. Ow.”

“Kid, ya made more of a splat. But don’t give up.”

ripples on the pond
lead away from the tossed stone’s
unwavering path
lilies nod at the passing splash
silently echoing
***

Limrickin’ by D. Avery

Headquartered in a state appendicular
Way up on the Keweenaw Peninsular
There’s no need to fret
Because of the net
Worldwide, the Ranch is not at all insular.

“Knock it off, Kid, limrickin’ gits my Irish up.”

“Yer Irish, Pal?”

“No, thet’s an idiom.”

“Ah, stop with the name callin’ already. Oof, speakin a limb wreckin’, I’m some sore from fallin’ outta the Poet-tree. Was up there spinnin’ tales, then was in a tailspin.”

“Mebbe ya shoulda hit the ground runnin’, Kid. Or flapped yer arms ‘stead a yer gums; soared ‘stead a sored.”

“Someday you’ll pay, Pal.”

“Hmm.”

Strawberries and Mint

A refreshing collection that may send readers to the grocery store, farmers markets, or backyard gardens. The combination of fruit and herb brought out recipes and food-based stories. As with any evocative detail, strawberries and mint also inspired stories to explore emotions and situations, some weirder than you might expect from standard summer garden fare.

Writers bellied up to the challenge, took to the streets, bars and brambles to bring tasty stories to the page. No matter your weather or hemisphere, let strawberries and mint wash your cares away with a good read.

The following are based on the May 30, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes strawberries and mint.

PART I (10-minute read)

Strawberry Queen by Kerry E.B. Black

Mont loved her the moment he caught her stealing strawberries from his Grandmother’s back garden. Her dark hair waved secrets, secrets he longed to share.

Footfalls crushed mint as he crept closer where she gathered berries as if they were rubies.

His family would disapprove. Old money protected itself, especially from dark-eyed thieves, be the theft strawberries or a young heir’s affections.

When she bought silence with a strawberry pressed to ripe lips, Mont cast aside titles and inheritance, his the disregard of one who’d never done without, and pressed a crown of mint onto his strawberry queen’s head.

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Competition by Jo Hawk

Edith set the heavy mixing bowl on the counter and surveyed today’s haul. She absentmindedly patted her chest with her right hand as she thought.

She was tired of strawberry shortcake, and Elenore’s receipt had won for two years running. Strawberry pie was too simple, and Edith’s strawberry jam cookies had competition from Ruth.

She caressed the velvety surface of a large berry.

“Red velvet,” the words slipped from her lips, and an idea formed. Red velvet strawberry cupcakes with minted whipped cream, topped with a huge glazed berry.

“Eat your heart out, Elenore,” she said with a smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Angel on the Bridge by TN Kerr

I met Lavinia in early July
at The Angel on the Bridge
in Henley,
where I came to see the regatta.

I was smitten

I sought to impress
To ply her with food
Strawberries, cream, and a sprig of mint

She turned up her nose

I strove to impress
by quoting the Bard,
Demetrius in Titus Andronicus,
“She is Lavinia, therefore must be loved”

She laughed as I obviously knew not the story

I hoped to impress with my wealth
Alas, I had no wealth, but
She sat with me on the riverbank
She took my hand
She smiled

🥕🥕🥕

Incompatible? by Anne Goodwin

Her taste is traditional, her habit a herb. Whereas he was weaned on fruity flavours and won’t give them up. When they kissed for the first time, their breath was tinged with garlic; tomato and marjoram layered underneath. Neither of them noticed, having picked the same starter and main. At the time, she thought that signalled they’d be soulmates; she happily skipped desert to go back to his flat. Now, rummaging through her washbag, she wonders. When her torso presses closer, her mouth might pull away. Afraid his cloying strawberry toothpaste would defeat her clean fresh shield of mint?

🥕🥕🥕

Double Play by Pete Fanning

Billie sat back, her jaw working the gum. A shortstop with a pitcher’s gleam in her eyes, she blew a bubble, sucked it back in. “The entire team signed this hat, Darryl Strawberry, Len Dysktra, Dwight Gooden, so…” She shrugged. “Take it or leave it.”

I leaned closer. “Why do all the signatures look the same?”

Pop went the bubble. Billie stood. “You know what….”

“Wait.” A lasting glance at the mint condition Ken Griffey Junior rookie card. But that hat, the signatures. I took a breath. “Deal.”

Billie swiped the card. “No take backs.”

Then she was gone.

🥕🥕🥕

Light Up by Ruchira Khanna

“The usual!” Sarah said with a heavy accent to which the bartender was quick to nod and started preparing the concoction.”

She sat there with one of her hand supporting her face while the other was fidgeting with her long brown curls.

The bartender noticed her and could not resist, “Long day?”

She nodded with a yawn.

“Here, this could cheer you up!” he brought the big glass towards her.

Her eyes lit up after a sip, “Wow, who would have thought strawberries and mint could compliment my Screwdriver!”

“Yup! these ingredients can light up anybody’s screwed up day!”

🥕🥕🥕

Flavored by Reena Saxena

They would have flavoured water served to the guests – strawberry, mint and lemon. The mocktails would have pineapple, coconut water as the main ingredients, other than the ubiquitous tomato juice.

It’s not easy planning a party for vegans and teetotallers. She has spent two days scanning recipes online, writing shopping lists and buying the ingredients.

“I told you to have three different flavors of water, not mix strawberry and mint in the same glass. Florence likes strawberry only.”

“It tastes nice. She liked the combination.”

How could I tell now, who had consumed the poisoned glass earmarked for her?

🥕🥕🥕

Blood from a Stone by Jody Perejda

The red flesh of the strawberries entices the birds. Targets for my slingshot practice. I wait. I smell the mint my mom grows to keep ants away from her garden. A sparrow, brown fluttering wings and short beak, hops toward the bait. Left hand holding the Y-shaped frame, right pulling back rubber straps, I let the stone fly. The bird cartwheels. Rigid, stick-like legs point accusingly. I never thought I’d actually hit one. I retrieve the fragile body. I’m shamed by its stillness. I dig, burying the bird, and stab the slingshot into the earth as a grave marker.

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberry Mint Lemonade by H.R.R. Gorman

Jack sidled up to the bar where a single woman sipped her drink. The shimmering lights of the disco ball moved over his face as he waved down a bartender. “Whiskey.” The bartender slid the glass over.

She bit her straw seductively.

“What’s your name?”

“Strawberry.” Her voice had a strange accent. “Strawberry Mint Lemonade. Good to meet you, Whiskey.”

He chuckled. “My name’s Jack – whiskey’s what I’m drinking.”

The beautiful woman tilted her head further than natural. “Is not saying of humans, ‘You are what you eat’?” She grabbed him by the wrist. “What does ‘Jack’ taste like?”

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberries and Mint by Deborah Lee

Becca sips from her garnished glass. “What is this?” she asks, surprised.

“Strawberry and mint,” Michelle tells her.

Becca sips again. “Not bad, for fancy food.”

“Fancy?”

Becca gulps. “New-fangled. Yuppie. Millennial.”

“New-fangled? My grandmother made this, like her grandmother did. It’s old-fashioned as the hills.”

Becca frowns, sips again, raises her glass to Michelle in appreciation. “I was raised by a mother who thought broccoli and eggplant were ‘weird food.’ Her only seasonings were salt and pepper. I learn something new with every meal invitation I get.”

“What shall it be next time?” Michelle laughs. “Saffron? Or lavender?”

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberries and Mint – The Devilish Mojito by Sally Cronin

The witch’s handbook – Spell # 356 – Removal of inhibitions.

The Devilish Mojito

Ingredients

Ten fresh picked Strawberries
Juice half a lime
Six crushed mint leaves
Two ounces white rum
Two ounces dark rum
Pour over crushed ice
Dash of club soda
Sprig of mint to decorate.

Warning:

One drink will increase desire to wear frivolous clothing.
Two drinks will increase desire to dance on tables.
Three drinks will increase desire to remove frivolous clothing.
Four drinks are not advised.

Disclaimer : The handbook accepts no liability for the actions or consequences resulting from the over indulgence of this potion…

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Opportunity Knocked by JulesPaige

misadventure makes
memories as well as plans;
pipers played minuets

The carriage returning the ladies from an afternoon picnic where they had feasted upon wild strawberries and mint tea. T’was embellished that tea. The ladies were feeling no pain. So while through the purple moors they road home by moonlight ignoring the tempest of threats that the Highwayman might strike were ignored. Their driver well thought the ladies welcomed trouble.

“The tread of time is so ruthless that it tramples even the kings under its feet.” Claude spoke to his troupe, when he heard rambling wheels, “Time to dance!”

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Pimm’s O’Clock by Ritu Bhathal

Right.

I’ve laid all the components out.

A jug.
Glasses.
The lemonade is chilled and ready.
Succulent red strawberries just waiting for me to slice them.
A firm, green cucumber, already transformed into slices, then quartered.
A big, juicy orange chopped into little triangles; peel still attached.
Ice. Lots of cool, refreshing ice.
Fresh, minty leaves.
And that beautiful bottle of fruity gin liqueur.

I slowly pour in the alcohol, and add the lemonade, watching the bubbles fizz up.
A big handful of ice, then the assorted fruits.
Just a few leaves of mint.
Perfect.

It’s Pimm’s o’clock now!

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Strawberry Delight by Susan Zutautas

Meg was anxious to make Aunt Alice’s delicious strawberry dessert and was sure that Ian would love it too.

Stopping at the fruit stand on her way home she found a basket of huge berries. Perfect she thought, now to get a lemon.

Back at home she washed the berries, sliced them into a bowl, added the zest of one lemon, then added three tablespoons of sugar, and mixed gently.

After dinner that night Ian commented on the strawberry dessert. “This was really good Meg, have you ever tried making this and adding some mint?”

“That’s what I forgot!”

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Different Tastes by Joanne Fisher

“Ugh! Why do you keep eating strawberries and mint together? I think it’s a disgusting combo!” exclaimed Linda.

“Says the girl who slathers mustard over EVERYTHING! What did I catch you eating the other day? A sandwich with fish fingers, tartare sauce, pickled onions and MUSTARD! It’s like I don’t even know you sometimes!” Rose answered.

“I like mustard. it gives a nice zing to everything.” Linda said defensively.

“Some days I wonder why I married yer.”

“Obviously for my stunning good looks and exquisite taste!” Linda replied beaming a smile at Rose.

They both broke out into laughter.

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Strawberries and Mint by Anita Dawes

Strawberries and ice cream
Under the summer sun
With ice cold lemonade
And a sprig of mint
The best seat at Wimbledon
Venus and Serna playing at their best
Throw in Boris when he was young
Andre Agassi, not forgetting Martina Navratilova
Turn back time, watch Pat Cash climb the stands
Andy Murray, fight year in and out
Henman Hill should be called Andy’s hill
He has earned his place in history
When day is done, I sleep to dream
I am playing each one on hallowed ground
Centre Court
The crowd grow wild as I slay each one…

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Friendships by Saifun Hassam

Teresa loved to eat lunch at the Saturday Farmers’ Market. Her friend Hannah, the owner of “Spuds”, served sandwiches, salads, and one of her special dishes. Today there was pan-fried perch redolent with the aroma of onions, garlic and cumin; fried potato wedges with red pepper flakes; and garden mint chutney.

She was a nurse physician at Lynn Valley Hospital where Hannah’s mother Bev, a former nurse, was a patient counselor. Bev was a wonderful listener, a sounding board for Teresa. They chatted as they enjoyed Hannah’s strawberry pound cake and tea with a hint of ginger and mint.

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Mint Julep by Kelley Farrell

“I love strawberries.”

Helen watched her son pick the pieces apart and stuff them into his waiting mouth.

“What’s your favorite fruit momma?”

Helen never cared much for fruit. A flash of regret seared through her. She ruffled the small boys blonde hair, so different from her own.

He was the reason she was alive so how did he manage to remind her of every failure she possessed?

“I like mint.”

“Is mint a fruit?”

“It is when I add it to my special drink.” No amount of sugar could keep the bourbon from burning all the way down.

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Bedtime Dilemma by Brendan Thomas

“It’s difficult,” Emma exclaimed.

Her father looked exasperated holding pajamas aloft in both hands.

“The strawberry pj’s are my favorite,” five year old Emma said, “But tonight feels minty.”

“Great.” Her father offered mint.

“Hmmm,” Emma said looking at the strawberry.”

It continued until patience was lost, pajamas thrown on bed. “It’s too late. Make a decision, see you tomorrow,” Emma’s father declared retreating from the room.

Emma arrived at breakfast strawberry top, minty bottoms.

“Good compromise,” her father said.

“I woke up and changed from minty top and strawberry bottoms during the night,” she said with a smile.

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Strawberries and Mint by Floridaborne

I remember the day he asked, “Wanna dance?”

I couldn’t say no to those intense brown eyes and six feet of sexy man.

My Roman nose made a platform for glasses so thick they’d never fall off my face, and I hated the space between my teeth. I was wearing a horrible dress with a strawberry and mint design that my mother made.

One glorious night ended in a police raid. I’m pregnant by a serial killer who never got to use the nightmares under his bed.

They say I’m lucky to be alive. I hate strawberries and mint.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Grandma’s Garden by Norah Colvin

Jess blew kisses to Mum, then raced Grandma into the garden. She pulled on her boots and gloves and readied her digging fork. Emulating Grandma, she soaked up explanations of magic combinations that helped plants grow. At the strawberry patch, they filled baskets with ripe red berries. On the way inside, Grandma clipped sprigs of mint.

They dipped strawberries in chocolate and garnished them with mint.

“For Jess?”

“For Mum.

“Birfday?”

“Just —”

Jess inspected the chocolate bowl. “All gone.”

“Stawbwee?” said Jess, pointing to the remaining few.

“For Jess,” smiled Grandma.

Jess munched strawberries and Grandma chewed mint.

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The Garden by Allison Maruska

I clap the dirt off my hands, admiring my work. Rows of vegetables, berries, and herbs adorn my new garden.

“Pitty pwants!” my toddler screeches.

“Yes, pretty plants.” I spot my pre-teen on the deck then focus on my youngest. “Stay here with Sissy. I’m going to wash up.”

Inside, I scrub grit from my fingernails. As I turn off the water, a small voice startles me.

“Pitty pwants!” JJ holds up strawberry plants and mint.

Sighing, I take the greenery that had been in the ground a whole ten minutes.

Maybe it’s a sign to make a mojito.

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Love Game by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Heather clicked the radio buttons, desperate for a station that didn’t play classic rock. She snuck a shocked glance at Mom, behind the wheel, as MGMT’s “Little Dark Age” floated from the speakers.

Mom said nothing, minuscule smile quirking her lips. One point, Mom.

Heather grunted. “Look, I’m going on this lame hike because you’re taking me shopping after.”

“So happy to have your company,” Mom remembered her sparring teen years.

“What’s this?” Heather opened the tin of strawberry breath mints. “Disgusting!”

Mom shrugged.

Heather tossed one in her mouth. “S’good,” she mumbled to the window.

Game, set, match!

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Said No Child Ever by tracey

“Mom, there’s nothing to eat.”

“Sure there is.”

“I can’t find any chips, mac and cheese or lunch meat.”

“Try the garden.”

“The garden?”

“You know, that thing I am always weeding and watering.”

“But that’s just vegetables!”

“So? You like vegetables.”

Door slams.

“What did you find?”

“Spinach and strawberries and green onions! I’m gonna make that salad you made last week. Where’s the recipe for the dressing?”

“This cookbook.”

“This is so good, do you want some? I made extra.”

“Thanks. What’s that in your water?”

“Mint. Quite refreshing in this heat. Want some for your water?

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Mix and Match by Di @ pensitivity101

‘This diet is so BORING! Fruit and salads are so dull!’

‘Have you thought about mixing and matching?’

‘It’s all right for you, you’re already skinny.’

‘I had to work at it though. Have you tried adding a chopped apple to your prawn salad?’

‘No. Is it nice?’

‘Well I like it, and it adds a tangy bite to the lettuce.’

‘OK. What else?’

‘How’s about including cucumber in your stir fries?’

‘I could try that I suppose with mushrooms and sliced carrots.’

‘Cereal and yoghurt?’

‘Duh. Double boring.’

‘Maybe, but add some strawberries and a sprig of mint…’

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The Annual Extravaganza by Roger Shipp

“Dwight, many of the strawberries are ready. Take the basket and pick the ripest; I’ve a mind for a shortcake trifle for the picnic.”

Strawberry trifle was his favorite. Dwight was out like lightening and soon returned with the finest strawberries mouths could desire.

The guests arrived; ravenous men with their genteel lassies. Dinner completed, they went out back for their annual Horseshoe Extravaganza.

“Don’t worry ladies. The icebox is ours.”

Upon its opening, the upper shelf was lined with iced strawberry mint smashes. We adjourned to the Adirondack chairs out back to enjoy the swearin’ and the fuedin’.

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Perennial Memories by Ann Edall-Robson

Occasionally the ranch hands were asked to help thin perennials around the edge of the garden. The greenhorn had been sent and stood smiling beside the compost heap.

“Heard you needed help. Thought I’d get to it.”

Standing at the gate to her dynasty, Mrs. Johnson’s mind staggered. All of her precious mint and wild strawberry plants were gone.

His smile quickly faded to an ‘oh shit’ look of terror on seeing Hanna striding towards him, and Mrs. Johnson had disappeared.

“Do you have any idea what you did here?”

“Pulled weeds. What’s the big deal? They’ll grow back!”

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Lady of the House by Bill Engleson

She was an elegant woman. Even a scruffy twelve-year-old paperboy could see that.

Her mansion, my only mansion, was crawling with ivy.

The lot, pared down by time, by intrusion, rested on a busy corner.

A harried highway.

Usually, my monthly collection, and generous tip, was left in an envelope by the door.

This late summer day, she was there, inviting me in, through to a small, inner rose-infused courtyard.

“Jacqueminot roses,” she said, “A fading passion.”

She smelled of peppermint gum and blossoms.

“I so love strawberries with my tea. Don’t you?”

Decades later, I’m still not sure.

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Strawberries and Mint by Shane Kroetsch

I swipe the sliver of tomato across the grains of salt and pepper on the plate and then pop it in my mouth. I lift up the glass but there’s only a drop of sweet liquid left under the crushed strawberry and browning mint leaf. It’s not worth the sip so I set it back down.

I sit back and interlace my fingers over my satiated belly. The sun is deep orange as it prepares to say goodnight. Off in the distance birds are chittering and singing. I close my eyes and smile, grateful for one last perfect day.

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Maybelle Annabelle Lee by Chelsea Owens

She hummed and danced then danced and hummed, though only Maybelle Annabelle Lee would have called her actions musical. Perhaps a passing bumblebee might’ve appreciated the art, so similar to his own buzz-buzz to nectar from one drunken dip to another.

For that was what Maybelle Annabelle Lee was doing as well: dip, dip, dip into this leafy patch and skim, scoop, skim from that berry bush. As she wavered and wove down what may have been a path she somehow collected enough for her basket.

Then, just as coincidentally, she returned home; gatherings ready for a refreshing sunset.

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Stream of Conscious by Susan Sleggs

This will probably be the last year I come to pick strawberries. It isn’t the same doing it alone. I remember the fun we had when I brought my kids here and then their children. Now, no one is interested in coming along. I wonder if I would hear about it if I didn’t make preserves for each of them anymore. Good thing I still have my mint bed, they do show up the day before they have a party to raid that so they have fresh mint for making mojitoes. Maybe I could make mint jelly next year.

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Strawberries and Mint by Michael Groban

“You can’t kill it,” my neighbour said to me when he gave me a mint plant. “Just keep the water up to it and it will thrive.”

That much was true as the mint in his place had been growing in the same spot for well on fifty years. He had a green thumb, his strawberries grew strongly and produced huge fruit that melted your taste buds. My plants struggled no matter how well I thought I cared for them.

But they survived despite my neglect, and the strawberries look healthy though producing not much fruit to brag about.

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The Global Warming Effect by Hugh W. Roberts

Strawberries and mint! She’d forgotten to order them.

The local shop was too far away to go and get any before her first guests arrived.

A few years ago, she would have gone out into her garden and picked both. How sad that the return of global warming had since not only turned her green garden into a dusty, bone-dry desert but had also robbed her of her love for gardening.

Looking out of her kitchen window, onto the vast Martian landscape, she asked herself again if the human race would ever learn the lessons of their past mistakes.

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A Peek (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

A hardbound journal lay open on Ramona’s bed. Danni reached for it, and  paused, examining the pencil strokes. On one top corner, strawberry plants clustered with leaves, flowers and berries drawn in great detail. On the opposite bottom corner, mint vined in sweeping strokes. Danni smiled. Ramona liked to say, plant your mint across the garden from your strawberries. On the page, the two plants formed a continuous frame around two little girls with identical braids and short gingham dresses, holding hands. All she could see was their backs and the pond they faced. Were these the elusive twins?

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Seeing Red by D. Avery

“Kid! Yer outta yer tree.”

“Yep, Pal, I figger the Ranch is at a safe elevation.”

“The Ranch is safe alright Kid. Not gonna set up in yer Poet tree and mint more buckaroo-ku?”

“Figger ya might need me. What’s her name is claimin’ ta be too busy, might not be around fer the roundup.”

“Kid! Ya done used my old red flannel shirt ta mend yer torn britches. Ya look like a baboon.”

“I like the color, like ripe strawberries. It’s a strawberry patch!”

“Kid, what’s the real reason ya clumb down?”

“Hopin’ Shorty’s gonna make strawberry shortcake.”

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Lunar See by D. Avery

“Why’d ya git us out here, Shorty? It’s mighty dark.”

“I know; it’s the new moon.”

“Where? I cain’t see it. But the stars sure are sparkly.”

“Yep, stars are shinin’ bright ‘cause the moon’s outta sight. Ever’thin’s in alignment.”

“That sounds good, Boss.”

“It is good, Kid. New moon, new beginnings.”

“Ain’t you got enough started?”

“It’s all comin’ ta fruition. Think that’s why the next alignment’s the Strawberry Moon. Now help me pick mint.”

“Hmmff. Pickin’ mint in the dark a the new moon?”

“Yep. Mint’s fer hospitality. Gonna have a home, Kid, where all are welcome.”

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Without Ice

Imagine a world without ice. Not just the occasional inconvenience when you run out of cubes in the freezer or your favorite pub has none to offer. What would the world be like without skating ponds, Zambonis or polar ice caps?

Writers explored situations without ice. Some humorous, some stark. Grab a drink on the rocks and read while you still have ice  to clink.

The following is based on the May 23, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story without ice.

PART I (10-minute read)

Without Ice by D. Avery

Archeologist walks into a bar.

“What’ll ya have?”

“Whiskey.”

“Neat?”

“No.”

“Ice?”

“No ice.”

“Water you’ll have?”

“With whiskey.”

“Nice.”

“So, how long have you worked here?”

“Are you digging into my past?”

“Aren’t I an archeologist?”

“Another whiskey ditch?”

“Why would I switch?”

“No ice?”

“Save the ice.”

“Yes, save the ice.”

“How do we save ice?”

“Keep it on ice?”

“How then do you keep that ice?”

“Sawdust. Lots of sawdust.”

“Sawdust?”

“From sawn trees.”

“Sawn trees?”

“Yes. Sawdust insulates the ice, keeps it from melting.”

“Last week’s prompt won’t like this.”

“Another?”

“Yeah. Save the ice.”

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Whiskey Ditch (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Honky-tonk music crackled over speakers, the kind her dad listened to – Merle Haggard. Danni’s boots crunched peanut shells on a floor that hadn’t been swept in years. Not recognizing anyone in particular, she noted the regulars easily – the hovering barflies and closed-eye drunks reliving better days. It’s the kind of place her dad would have entered, leaving her to sit in the cab of his truck, reading a book. For a moment, she felt small again. And it hit her. Ike had really left. Iraq had beckoned him becoming the other woman. Danni ordered a whiskey ditch without ice.

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Kronwalled by Jo Hawk

Ice.

The old-timers spoke the word, reverently. The miracle from their childhood, they waited for it each fall. Water buckets outside the door told them when to don sweaters and hunt for a sheet of holy grail on reservoirs, playgrounds, and ponds. Skates slung over their shoulders, twigs in their hands they gathered for a barnburner and the immortal words, “He shoots. He scores.”

They spoke of gods named Chelios, Esposito, Hall, Horton, Howe, Hull, Mikita, Orr and the Great One—Gretzky. Masters from a vanished game.

Zambonis sat silent and “top shelf” was now Hennessy straight, no Gretzky.

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Pining for Ice by tracey

I was separated from my unit, deployed to a critical spot at a forward operating base.

I worked sixteen-hour shifts catching sleep when I could. The a/c worked just enough to take the edge off the heat. Couldn’t even get a cool shower.

As I ate the peanut butter and crackers in my MRE I looked at the picture my unit had sent. I glanced at their smiling faces gathered around a table in a chow hall but my gaze lingered on the ice filled glasses of sweet tea in front of them as I chugged my lukewarm water.

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To the Victor Go…by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d let the dandelions go unchecked too long. Creeping Charlie was on the march, cannons of blue and green vines poised, ready to trip the unwary.

Nevertheless, she persisted. There were city ordinances and fines to deal with.

She donned her uniform of baggy shorts, stained t-shirt, and tennies from a prior decade. A colossus in her own mind, she revved the lawnmower, bearing down with a determined grimace.

Hours later, she emerged, victorious.

Shedding shoes, leaving a trail of grass and dust, she cracked open the ‘fridge.

No ice for her water, but at least it was wet.

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Scotch On The Rocks by Abhijit Ray

“A large scotch please,” Sam ordered, “and whatever my friend wants.”

After a hard couple of days of business meeting, friends decided to relax on the final evening.

“Shall I bring the ice separately?” asked the waiter, “and for you sir, what should I get you?”

“Make one large peg, no ice.” Som asked mocking, “What exactly are these rocks, anyway? Would you stop drinking, if you you run out of ice?”

“How do you drink your whiskey, Som?!”

“Neat, ofcourse!” answered Som, “why waste money and good scotch whiskey. If you are thirsty, drink water, don’t waste alcohol.”

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Whiskey Snobbery by Kerry E.B. Black

No shooters. Refined aficionados converged.

Paul, the tender, inwardly groaned. “Of all days.”

A couple slapped bills atop the gleaming bar. “Double malts.”

“So far, so good,” Paul poured liquid amber into Glencairn glasses.

Paul presented three orders before the dreaded request.

“On the rocks.”

Paul quaked. No ice in a broken freezer. Sweat tickled his face.

The group bristled. “You’re ordering wrong, Son.” “A drop of water, maybe.” “Not on the rocks.” “Even ice balls dilute spirits.”

A blush spread across the offender’s face. “I meant neat.”

Relief flooded as Paul poured, reputation intact thanks to whiskey snobbery.

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Red Wine by Sarah Brentyn

She always added ice to red wine. Reds should be enjoyed at room temperature and I wasn’t shy about saying so. I guess I shouldn’t have picked on her for such a thing.

It annoyed me.

She’d chill a bottle of Chardonnay in the cooler and leave a Merlot on the counter. Why add ice?

She stirred the glass with her finger and I could hear sloshing and clinking. It grossed me out but I never said.

It was the sound of unhappiness. And that, too, annoyed me. At the gathering after her funeral, I ordered red wine, without ice.

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Cold as Ice by Di @pensitivity101

Another day, another boring evening.

Something smelt nice and he lifted the lid on the pan to have a taste.

‘I wouldn’t,’ she said. ‘That’s for the dogs. Your dinner’s in the fridge.’

Chicken salad again. Great. Not even new potatoes.

He sighed, got a glass and peered into the freezer.

‘There’s no ice Honey.’ he said.

‘Tough. Have tea instead.’

‘I don’t want tea.’

‘Coffee then.’

‘I don’t want coffee. Any beer?’

‘No.’

The dogs were getting excited for their supper as she spooned it into their bowls.

‘I’m off down the pub,’ he said.

‘Sure.’ she replied.

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Ice Between Us by Reena Saxena

“There you go – messing it up again. Why can’t you ever get things done right?”

Martha’s shrill voice pierces my soul. I let my imagination go astray – a life without being blamed for every inconsequential act or mishap, a life with total freedom of doing things my way. The heat of a mismatched marriage was searing my sanity.

How I wished to be on non-speaking terms with her – several hours being whiled away without speaking a word, as it happened in the early stages of our relationship.

How I wished for the ice between us to build up again…

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Sex on Ice by Anne Goodwin

No ice could kill their ardour. Nor would they want it to. But what fun to test it out with a second honeymoon at an ice hotel.

Bucket-list experiences are pricey, especially half a world away. Through years of sweltering summers, they dreamed of making love on ice blocks topped with reindeer hides, of sipping vodka from glasses made of ice.

Their lust still flamed when they finally found the funds to finance it. They made love, put champagne on ice and went to book it. Unfortunately, climate change got there first. No ice, but meltwater, swelling the seas.

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No Ice Tonight by Kay Kingsley

We sat on the patio in the heat of the summer night listening to frogs and bird’s banter in the distance.

There was so much to say yet we sat there in anxious silence as the last seconds of calm before our storm expired like sand in an hourglass.

The tension was palpable.

Who’d throw the first arguments punch?

She opened her mouth to speak and I panicked, “Drink?”

I got up and heard the screen door slam behind me.

Normally, we sipped our whiskey on the rocks but tonight, no amount of ice would put out this fire.

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Without Ice by Ann Edall-Robson

Thwunk. Quiet. Thwunk.

He watched Hanna from the shadow of the cookhouse. A glass of lemonade, without ice, in his hand. That’s how she liked it.

With each swing of the axe, she sent wood flying. Methodically stopping to stack the split pieces before settling the next chunk of wood in place.

“Why aren’t you using the splitter?”

Wiping the sweat from her brow, Hanna gave him a sarcastic look with a lopsided grin.

“And miss working off some steam?”

Tal wondered what had ticked her off. He hoped it wasn’t him.

Stepping closer, he offered her the glass.

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Freezer Woes by Carol Arcus

I woke up terrified.

Last cyclone season was horrible, power cuts, no air-con.

Eating that half defrosted food meant I was sick, vomiting for days.

I stared into the freezer.

Carefully packaged cut bananas for smoothies.

Ice cubes for those tropical nights.

Frozen lasagne and steaks.

All would useless soon, when the power lines came down.

“Do you want to have a party, make some smoothies, fire up the grill?”

We drank gin and vodka, banana smoothies and grilled maniacally.

I woke needing to vomit. I found the cyclone had turned and I had no ice in the freezer.

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Removing the Glaze of Grief by JulesPaige

independence lost
calm weather would not, could not
ease the burn of pain

Just when had it happened and really did it matter. Marge and Tina were talking. There were years that a berg had been between them. The base had spread through misunderstanding the others youth. But they had to join forces now. Dad needed them, now at a loss without Mom. Her illness had started slow, gained strength and then within moment froze the life out of the woman, as well as the man who had adored her. Now if they could just get James on board.

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In That in Between Time by Saifun Hassam

In that in between time
In that slip space
Fall drifted into winter
Night drifted into day
No ice clouds drifted across skies
Dry cool air drifted over valleys
Cool waters lapped lake shores
No icy vapor, no needle thin ice flowers
Prairie and meadow summer blooms
Yellow and purple and pink ironweed
Long faded on tall stems
Swaying ever so wistfully in the cool breeze
No petals of frost flowers at dawn
No icy ribbons on fallen pines.
In the open seas of the Arctic
frost flowers drifted melting
In that in between time
In that slip space.

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No Ice for Cassandra by Gordon Le Pard

Jane Austen smiled at her sister’s letter, she enjoyed hearing from Cassandra, but sometimes her letters just contained a litany of complaints. Some, such as missing seeing the King and Queen were reasonable enough, but a lack of Ice! In September! After a hot summer! Really.

She picked up her pen, tucked her tongue firmly in her cheek, and wrote;

“Your account of Weymouth contains nothing which strikes me so forcibly as there being no Ice in the Town. Weymouth is altogether a shocking place I perceive, without recommendation of any kind, only suitable for the inhabitants of Gloucester!”

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Titanic, The Maiden Voyage by TN Kerr

Birdie stood at the top deck railing smiling and waving; holding her hat in the breeze. Edward stood stoically nearby, as he imagined a new husband should do.

While the crew cast off lines and got underway Birdie turned to Edward, “I’m terrified. What if the weather takes a turn and the ship flounders?”

“Rest assured, darling,” he replied, “We’re aboard the pride of the White Star Line, she’s unsinkable.” They retired to their stateroom, where Birdie remained, panicked, for the duration of the voyage.”

Eight days later the newlyweds disembarked in New York and began their life together.

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Safety Precautions by Nicole Horlings

The boy wriggled through the crowded fair, determined to make it to the dragon exhibit before it closed. He’d been waiting for this moment for months, ever since he saw the advertisement in the paper.

“Three tickets to hold a baby dragon,” he said, thrusting the crumpled slips into the attendant’s hand. He’d made it just in time, and there wasn’t even a line up.

“Sorry kiddo. Exhibit’s closed.”

“But it ain’t six yet!” He shoved his watch in the attendant’s face.

“We’re out of ice, and our safety contract says we need ice in case you get burned.”

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Let’s Hear it for Ice by Norah Colvin

A world without ice —
That made me think tw—
Two times.

A world without ice
Would not be so n—
Pleasant.

We couldn’t play games
With a six-sided d—
Numbered cube.

We couldn’t have fries
With a side-serve of r—
Food grain.

Our food would be bland
Without pinches of sp—
Flavour.

A world without ice
Where rule is by v—
Badness.

A world without ice
We’d all pay the pr—
Cost.

A world without ice
I’d say in a tr—
Moment.

A world without ice
I’d even say thr—
Three times

Would never
Could never
Be anything nice!

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New Way of Talking by Annette Rochelle Aben

A world without ice, how could that happen? What would cats do, with no rodents to chase? And think of everyone stressing out because they’d have to nail it the first time, because they can’t repeat anything.

We’d have nothing to toss at weddings AND Chinese food would be pretty darn boring.

Some might like it, because they could just be mean and never have to change.

Where fewer words normally worked, you’d have to say, “How much does that cost?”

With all the sage wisdom I have accumulated over the years; a world without ice, would be, cold.

🥕🥕🥕

Part II (10-minute read)

Lawmaker Has Shocking Epiphany about Climate Change by Molly Stevens

“The walrus’s testimony was convincing,” said senator Doughty. “But I wanted to walk out of the hearing when he started rambling about shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings, and whether pigs have wings. I’m sorry he’s endangered, but I don’t believe the ice cap is melting. Or that the time has come to ask, ‘why the sea is boiling hot.'”

The server approached, and the senator said, “I’ll have the lobster.”

“Lobsters have had a pleasant run. But with higher ocean temps, we’ve eaten every one!”

With sobs and tears, he squealed, “Climate change is real!”

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On The Rocks… Or Not? by Ritu Bhathal

“Hey, Sam, get me a scotch. On the rocks. Actually, make it a double.” James loosened his tie.

Some day it had been.

Markets were rocky with this whole Brexit fiasco, and then that Theresa May announced her departure from being the Prime

Minister… Things went haywire.

What with client calls, deals falling through, share prices dropping, he deserved a stiff drink, diluted only by that melting ice…

“Sorry, Boss, we’ve run out of ice. The machine’s on the blink. Typical on a hot day like this.”

James sighed. Guess it was a day that warranted a neat shot.

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Not Ice by Bill Engleson

“I trust you got the notice?”

“Notice?”

“Yes. The Intergalactic Commissions Epistle on Global Defrosting.”

“Oh, yes. The ICE Notice on Not Ice. I got it.”

“Whew. Good. Everyone needs to be in the loop. Communications have been patchy.”

“Everyone? Even…?”

“The Holdouts? Sadly, there’re still a few. The ones who can make their own cubes. You know, at home. So selfish. I’ve got mine, they say. I’m good.”

“And what about…you know…?”

“Ah! The Impeachable Colluding Entity? He’ll be the death of us. We have the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he says. Global Warming be damned.”

“So sad!”

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Sadly Starving by Susan Zutautas

The mama bear and her cub were getting tired, so they stopped for the night. They were traveling towards Churchill, Manitoba on Hudson Bay, the polar bear capital of the world. Here they would be able to hunt for ringed seals. Sadly, not knowing about climate change, the ice normally on Hudson Bay was late coming this year.

The bears are hungry

Starving, anticipating

Ice to appear soon

When arriving in Churchill they came upon many other polar bears and new friendships began.

Finally, when the ice formed, it was game on for seal hunting.

Still many would die.

🥕🥕🥕

A Mother’s Dilemma…by Sally Cronin

My cubs and I swim further each day between melting ice floes. Some are only strong enough to carry the weight of my babies as they rest, at the limit of their strength. The seals that I hunt are also disappearing without a safe place to gather between fishing. I need to eat soon if we are all to survive. I may have to return to land and into the world of humans. Their waste food may be our only chance. They fear and hate my kind and there is great risk. But soon I will have no choice.

🥕🥕🥕

Life is Beautiful! by Anurag Bakhshi

I finished my 20th lap in the heated swimming pool and came out, drying my wet hair with a towel.
I pressed the button on the remote, and messaged my butler to get me some Beluga Caviar. As I waited, I looked at my luxurious surroundings…and thanked my lucky stars once again for global warming, which had pushed us polar bears to evolve enough to take over the world.

My Man was still not here. It was so difficult to get good help these days.

I shouted in exasperation, “Donald Trump…get your lazy ass here right now”.

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Inaction by wilnako

Sticky and salty, sweat dripping off me.

I feel the desert, all-consuming.

Burning hot sand under my feet, sun burning my cheeks.

I’m burning up, my body shaking the world won’t stop turning.

I moan and groan while polar bears have no home.

Icy lands a fading memory

what am I doing here I should be helping!

I do one last squat, one last puff, one last jump

I collapse on the floor, my fats giggling and jiggling.

The problems of the world were what?

Forgotten, phone in my hand.

Procrastination.

Distraction.

My inaction.

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It Was Only After…by Joanne Fisher

It was only after the sea ice disappeared from the polar regions. It was only after the ice sheets collapsed into the sea creating mega-tsunamis that wiped out coastlines. It was only after the permafrost melted releasing ancient viruses killing millions. It was only after violent storms appeared on a scale never seen before. It was only after the oceans died.

It was only after all this that the people who thought it was all a hoax or simply thought it would never affect them realised that something needed to be done.

But by then it was too late.

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Without Ice by Frank Hubeny

Bart looked left and right at the majestic Atlantic Ocean, the blue skies and hot sandy beaches. It was 90 degrees. He told the real estate agent, “I suppose if the global economy heats up so much that the ice caps melted then all of these high-rise condos would turn into part of the Everglades.”

“I’ve been waiting for it to happen for over two decades.”

“This place could sink into the ocean. I wonder who’d want to live here then?”

“I’m sure the alligators wouldn’t mind.”

Bart agreed with the agent: Better buy while the ground’s still dry.

🥕🥕🥕

Back From the Warmth by Eric Pone

At 16 April is as far from summer as Earth is to her moon. A distant memory that longs to spring forth into common memory.  As Andrea looked out at the long prairie-like expanse of green that was Anoka Senior High’s front lawn she sighed as her senior high social teacher droned on about the importance of Indian Mounds. The red sedan came up the driveway slowly yet deliberately. The man getting out was a tall elegant man of dark complexion with salt and pepper hair. The ice was gone but salt between them remained. Dad was back …again…damn.

🥕🥕🥕

The Last Voyage by Miriam

“Where are we going, honey?”

“Real estate office.”

“Again?”

“They have a new listing.”

“Anything bigger?”

“Yes, a living quarter of 300 square feet, a share of 8 square feet of vegetable patch in the atrium, and a 5 square feet chicken farm.”

“How much time do we have?”

“Billions of people live on house ships already. We’re the last group. The ice from Arctic and Antarctic is melting fast. The ocean level has raised one inch a year for centuries. The last pieces of ice will collapse any minute.”

“Our ancestors couldn’t perceive us living on house ships.”

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Taking Ice With A Pinch Of Salt by Geoff Le Pard

‘Ice with it?’

‘My dad said that was sacrilege.’

‘He liked his scotch warm?’

‘He didn’t like scotch. He just didn’t like others having it with ice. He was a G&T man.’

‘No ice?’

‘Always ice and a slice.’

‘Bit of an odd relationship with ice.’

‘He called me Ice.’

‘Why? He can’t have thought you were cool.’

‘I found it in his phone. My contact was “Ice”. I liked that.’

‘You doofus. It means ‘In Case Of Emergency. You were his nominated contact.’

‘Really? Oh well. At least I was his best pick.’

‘From a small field.’

‘True.’

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Cooler Warming Part 1 by D. Avery

“Marge, any ice cubes left in the cooler for my beer margarita*?”

“Outta ice, we’ll have to finish framing the shed under less than ideal conditions, though there’s still beer, thank goodness.”

“It’s a cycle, Ilene, we run out of ice sometimes, but it’ll come back, like I told my nephew when he said the polar icecaps are melting.”

“Nard, you didn’t spread lies to that boy about climate change!”

“Told him things work in cycles, Marge, told him not to worry, then took him fishing.”

Kristof whispered, “Leave it, Marge, he knows; Nard cried so hard that night.”

***

Cooler Warming Part 2 by D. Avery

Both muttering about needing something, Marge stomped stage left up the steps into the singlewide, Nard stalked stage right off to his truck leaving the others in the glare of the halogen work lamps.

“What just happened?”

“Anger flashes bright burning flame, Dark dusty ashes smoldering blame.”

“What Lloyd’s trying to say, Ernest, is our beloveds have been spoiling for a fight. They’d rather feel anger than grief or fear.”

“Oh. Thanks Kristof. You deal with yours, I’ll go see about mine.”

“Marge?”

“Just seeing if the ice trays are frozen yet.”

Ernest hugged her. “I’m afraid too, Marge.”

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Ice Removal by Susan Sleggs

When we go to bed at home it’s silent. Not so in a hotel. That little refrigerator always makes distressing noises. I turn it off and prop open the door. Feeling I’ve overcome the demon, my husband and I lounge and read. CRASH! A few expletives fly and we are both standing looking around. What was that? Nothing appears broken or moved. Peeking out from the fridge door is a half inch slab of ice. I have unwittingly defrosted the freezer. Ice falling on plastic is noisy. We laugh away our adrenaline. Husband remarks, “There’s no ice build-up now.”

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Without Ice by Anna-Maria Amato

The sterile stone building was brightened, one day with the sculptures, installations images on the wall. The overly opinionated middle aged women, the distracted students, the stuffy middle class men, the wanna-be artists who thought that getting involved would draw attention to their own practise, which was lacking in everything except a degree. They were all being told that global warming was a major concern. That ice, in this world, was so scarce several years ago, now no longer existed. They seemed concerned as they looked around the building they knew, now covered in messages. Where is the ice?

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Ice by Roberta Eaton

As we stepped outside, a chilly wind embraced us, making my eyes sting and water. The cold of the air felt more intense than when we had arrived a few hours ago and more white flakes flew from the dark sky. Our feet crunched on ice encrusted grass as we trudged across a wide expanse of lawn towards the first outhouse. Dizziness and confusion gripped me and thought I might collapse, but, drawing a few reviving and slow breaths, I managed to reach the small building and open the door. I stepped into its shelter, dragging Thomas after me.

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Searching for Diamonds in the Rough by JulesPaige

The replicator could create many things in space. Synthesized alcohol, drugs for healing any number of species, humanoid or not. Even books. But it could not recreate ice.

Which was partly why Sherman had gotten involved with this crew. They were to explore and to a point exploit those silent balls of ice where no life lived. The trick would be finding any. Most of the nearest systems had been over harvested.

Sherman’s secondary reason, that he had kept hidden from the crew was that he was a Glaciologist. He wanted core samples of ice to read its history.

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Ice, Ice Everywhere, But Nary a Place to Skate by H.R.R. Gorman

Fourchad took the first step on planet Khione, entirely blanketed with ice, ripe for exploitation. They’d melt the ice and create water for the colony.

Brevard scraped a sample of the ice into her scanner. “Something’s not right.”

“What is it?”

“Water has unique physical properties – the weight of your body should add enough pressure to turn the ice into water and cause you to slip.”

Fourchad’s heart skipped a beat. “If it’s not ice, what is it?”

“Scanner says carbon dioxide. Dry ice.”

Wind chilled their hearts and the dead planet. They didn’t have the fuel to leave.

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Without Ice by Floridaborne

Hamara wriggled in her wooden seat.  A daily Bible reading.  Boring.

“In the beginning, Yawina created cities.  She commanded people to be good stewards of the Earth, but they began to worship Phone. They chattered with others anywhere on the planet, and sought to become one with Phone. They built mountains of garbage as tribute to his wife, Consumerisma.  Yawina warned her people, Do not forsake me or I will tilt this planet. They did not listen! Down came towers of Phone!  Yawina warned Righteousness, “Enter caves!” Then turned glaciers to water.”

Why must she endure mythology in 19392?

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Shortchanged by Joanne Fisher

I booked passage to a small blue-green planet. I was assured it had a nice temperate climate and polar ice caps. However when I got there I found it was extremely warm and there was no ice to be seen anywhere.

I complained to the travel company about false advertising, but was told that while traveling there the planet had an unprecedented warming period due to the indigenous bipedal primates and their attempts at industrialisation. The company said it was regrettable but they couldn’t accept any responsibility since all this occurred while I was still in transit.

Well really!

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With a Paddle? by D. Avery

“Hey, Ranger.”
“Pal. Where’s your side-kick?”
“You mean that pain in the ass Kid? Up a tree.”
“Is Kid stuck again?”
“Claims not, but chooses ta stay, come ‘hellish high water’. So sayeth the Kid. Kid’s kinda freaked ‘bout meltin’ glaciers and risin’ waters.”
“Want me to climb up there, have a chat?”
“Naw, let’s enjoy the peace and quiet. Kid’ll come down at the first whiff a bacon.”
“You going to cook up some bacon?”
“Naw. Anyway, Kid’s onta buckaroo-ku.”

*Impermanent frosts
ancient glaciers speeding by
unnatural nature
Kid paddles in poet tree
Asses below, heads in sand*

🥕🥕🥕

May 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

Work, work, and more work. If you want to know why my daughter is living on the Svalbard Archipelago, she’s there to work. Her partner is head chef at a top restaurant that caters to eco-tourists, and given that he’s fed scientists in Antartica and elite lodgers in Alaska, he’s no stranger to cooking on ice. She went with him for a few months, which turned into a year and a half.

Rock Climber lives on an arctic chain of islands in Norway, working in all the restaurants. Off-shift for one, another calls her in to wait tables or tend bar. She has the effervescent personality of a wandering bard, and I can understand why hospitality on one of the world’s most remote arctic places holds her in high demand. To get to work, she often has to travel by boat or plane. Stories bubble up all around her.

If you’re wondering why I have Rock Climber on the brain, it’s because she’s back on land, among trees, and in Montana for a friend’s wedding. This means cell-phone service! On ice, I rarely get to communicate with my daughter, just crossed messages. When she calls, my heart soars, and I soak up her stories and laughter and love. She might be the Sgt.’s daughter, the wild child of a US Army Ranger, but she’s 100 percent buckaroo storyteller.

I call my daughter Rock Climber because she embraces the thrill of the climb. A kinesthetic learner, she masters hand-holds and knows where her body is mid-tumble. For years, she competed in gymnastics. Now, she is the Polar Bear Whisperer. I’m not sure I like that designation because it implies that the bears seek her out.

One night, at a place where she works, a bear broke into the wine cellar and feasted on the fine vintage and chocolate. She says it was a bear after her own heart! As long as the bear only eats her chocolate and not her internal organs. When they go out of town past the guards, they carry rifles and flare guns, not to shoot the bears but to scare them off.

She tells me about commuting to work on a Zodiac, which are the same boats the Hub managed as the lead combat diver for his Ranger unit back in the early ’80s. The arctic sea spray leaves crusts of ice in her ears, and she has to wear a survival suit with a beacon. On one trip, the sea rolled and dipped as the boat cut through the waves. Rock Climber and her partner stayed at the bow, and when it tipped downward, two walruses emerged. These behemoths pack tusks, and she says she fears them more than polar bears.

Yet, like polar bears, they are dying.

The reality of climate change impacted the polar regions of our world first. Think of the Arctic as our canary in the coal mine. If you aren’t familiar with that phrase, let me explain. Coal mines emit deadly gases that will kill a caged bird before building up to levels lethal enough to kill miners. It can’t be detected until it’s too late. To say the Arctic is the canary means that our planet is changing so rapidly that species are dying. The bi-peds who can actually understand this and do something about it choose to agitate their fellows into arguing semantics and causes in a stupendous show of disregard for our environment. It’s like the American politicians spin the death of the canary into myth and convince constituents that rising sea levels are nothing more than falling rocks.

Walruses are falling into the ocean. From cliffs high above the northern waters where they feed, they plummet to their deaths, front flappers wobbling like hopeless wings. Their carcasses litter miles and miles of Svalbard. My daughter fears a walrus tusk ripping apart her commuter boat on frigid seas, but she cares about their well-being. They are not well, the flightless walruses. Once, they rose above waters to dry out in the sun on the shelves of ice. Now, icemelt forces them up dangerous cliffs to sunbathe. Without ice, they endanger their own lives.

Without ice, we endanger our lives, too.

Rock Climber tells me human bodies don’t decompose in the permafrost. If you think this is a gruesome statement, hold on, you haven’t heard the story, yet. In 1998 a crew of gravediggers from London punched their way through the ice to solve a global puzzle — what killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people worldwide during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic? Because permafrost preserves bodies, and what remains in them, scientists hired professional gravediggers to hack into a mass grave of seven coal miners who arrived near Longyearbyen already sick with the flu in 1918.

Today, without ice, these graves pose a biological disaster waiting to be released by the unprecedented mudslides in the region. Before Rock Climber arrived, an avalanche wiped out the rental her partner arranged. For the first year, the two of them couch-surfed between the various islands.  Svalbard is no stranger to the oddities of humanity arriving at the land of the midnight sun and retreating ice. Climate change, epidemics, mining, and tourism all in one place.

But not cats. Cats — and dying — are forbidden on Svalbard. Because of the isolated ecosystem, cats are banned to protect migrating birds. Also, a rabies outbreak started last year in 2018. Polar foxes contract the disease, as well as reindeer. Rock Climber has witnessed rabid reindeer, which makes me imagine Santa Claus horror stories.

For now, my daughter is happy to be stateside where polar bears don’t eat her chocolate, and people speak her native language. She loves trees and this planet. She lives at ground zero of a planet changing. Life is full of contradictions.

Denial wraps us up in a comforting blanket while we whisper the boogeyman away from under our beds. But to ponder walruses that can’t fly, polar bears that starve, and biology ripe for a zombie-apocalypse plotline seem horrific alternatives. The Beauty Way of the Navajo teaches that for all things out of context with life, we bring them back to the natural order. In a way, that’s what writers do.

We can write into the Shadowlands, shape what a world of great loss looks like, offer warnings more tangible than a flat-lined canary. We can write satire, use humor to call out political leaders making up science, or erasing it. We can write into the wave where the walrus yet live, put readers in the bow of a Zodiac prepared to journey to the center of their minds. We are writers. We can imagine the possibilities.

I can hear it in my daughter’s voice no matter the story — sad, funny, surprising — I can hear life.

In the end, it’s not about work. It’s not about what we did to save or end the planet. It’s all in how we live today. They say we only live once. But writers get many lives. Catch all the stories you can. Write them down. Find beauty among the rock outcroppings.

May 23, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story without ice. It can be a world without ice or a summer camp that runs out of cubes for lemonade. What does the lack mean to the story? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 28, 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.

 

Whiskey Ditch (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Honky-tonk music crackled over speakers, the kind her dad listened to – Merle Haggard. Danni’s boots crunched peanut shells on a floor that hadn’t been swept in years. Not recognizing anyone in particular, she noted the regulars easily – the hovering barflies and closed-eye drunks reliving better days. It’s the kind of place her dad would have entered, leaving her to sit in the cab of his truck, reading a book. For a moment, she felt small again. And it hit her. Ike had really left. Iraq had beckoned him becoming the other woman. Danni ordered a whiskey ditch without ice.

Seeking Trees

Trees root us to life. Traditionally, cultures believed trees to be life-giving, and modern science proves our ancestors were right. Trees provide oxegyn, shade and building materials. What would a world without trees look like? Life in the extreme polar regions hints at the bleakness — we would miss trees.

Writers explored all that trees have to offer. Some wondered what their loss might mean.

The following are based on the May 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that goes in search of trees.

PART I (10-minute read)

Planning a Poem by TNKerr

The hour is early – predawn.

The clouds – vanished,

the storm – over,

the moon – full.

I shiver by the back window, listening to some nameless chanteuse croon and confess from the confines of the FM dial.

Warming my hands on a cup of tea, I watch the last two leafs in the tree.

They dance in the moonlight. Embracing, spinning, reaching – enjoying one another.

Caressing like lovers until one falls away; surrendering to the pressure of the wind and the weight of the clinging raindrops.

The fallen leaf touches down. I pore over archaic words and phrases, planning a poem.

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Knowledge of Tree by D. Avery

He’d gone to her, as most did, as a last resort.

“The peace you seek is held by a special tree.”

And so he wandered. He’d crossed desert landscapes and alpine heights but none of the few trees encountered were the one. Deep in the forests he searched among the many trees, seeking the special one.

After many seasons he knew well the different tribes of trees, recognized their many gifts. Resting now, back against a sturdy trunk, cooled by the leafy whispering shade, he realized he had long ago ceased to search for the one. He sighed, content.

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The Golden Tree by Gordon Le Pard

The tree was new to him, a massive silver needled pine. He climbed off his horse and walked slowly round the fallen giant, in the root plate he noticed a yellow glint, carelessly he dropped the golden nugget in his pocket, then found what he was looking for. In what had been the topmost branches were mature cones. Carefully he collected the seed.

His letter to Kew began; “Wonderful discoveries, you must think I have been manufacturing pines, I have found so many.”

He never mentioned the gold, to the plant hunter David Douglas, trees were much more important.

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The Last Forest by H.R.R. Gorman

I plodded into the forest with a tape measure. The age of a tree couldn’t be divined without coring, but I don’t have that equipment. Size will have to suffice.

Grandma once told me that the forests hold memories and grudges. She taught me how to ask forgiveness from the apple tree in the backyard, to seek the oldest tree for the absolution from a grove.

I decorated what limbs I could with prayer tags. “Please, don’t leave. Please grow again.”

It didn’t work, but maybe that wasn’t the oldest. A lot of trees had a five inch diameter.

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Lucy Lockett’s Missing Trees by JulesPaige

within a mist dream
desert sands cover the land
cacti arms blooming

Where is the sprocket, asks Lucy Lockett
To turn on the watering hose, who knows?
Where are the oaks and willows, north moss for pillows
In this dust dream of desert rust?
Show me a sign, with an arrow to the Pine.

within a mist dream
Haleakala rises high
date palms far below

Where’s the maples and wild crab apples.
Tossing and turning, is a fever burning?
And where’s the spade, I laid?
A plum, peach, yes one of each!
Let a ripe apricot, hit the spot!

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Oh Tannenbaum by Annette Rochelle Aben

The local radio station announced they were reviving a time-honored tradition for the holidays. The Carol Tree would “dance” to the music and all were invited to gather around to witness the jolly sight.

She had never heard of such a thing but needed to be there. It did not disappoint! Bright colored strings of holiday lights were blinking in time to the rock and roll oldies pumped through the speakers at the base of the stately pine tree. Oh, so much fun and it was difficult to know who had a better time, the people or the tree.

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Tree Search Exclusive Tours, Ltd. by Chelsea Owen

“And this…” he paused, turned, faced the group with the red sun at his back and ash clouds beneath his boots. “Is where trees once stood.”

If the group had breath to gasp between their regulated air streams, perhaps they would have gasped. At least they stood in silence. Wearing the most stylish protective suits and SCBA money could buy, they stood in silence.

He shook his head inside his own, more functional suit. What good did these exclusive tours do, anyway? Surely these people, heads of companies responsible for the radioactive waste around him, did not actually care…

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Homecoming! by Anurag Bakhshi

I’d returned home after a long time, but I knew in my heart that I would find her in the grove, picking up those lovely oranges.
And I was right.

There she stood, head wrapped in her red scarf. My heart leaped up, and I started grinning like an ass.

I moved closer, wanting to surprise her.

SQUELCH!

Startled, she turned around! A horrified look came on her face, and as she threw an orange violently at me, she exclaimed, “YOU! I thought I’d driven you away permanently. Grandma was right, you donkeys don’t have much brains, do you?”

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What Lives in Trees? by Norah Colvin

The teacher displayed photographs of trees.

“We’ve been learning about where animals live. Today, we’ll list animals that live in trees.”

Hands shot up, bursting to contribute.

The teacher wrote:

possums, koalas, beetles, snakes, birds …

Amir’s English was developing but his classmates were puzzled when he said what sounded like ‘goat’.

“Repeat,” encouraged the teacher.

“Goat.”

When asked, Amir drew a tree with a recognisable goat standing in it.

“Not story,” smiled the teacher. “Real.”

Amir nodded and pointed to the laptop. “Google.”

A quick search confirmed it.

Everyone cheered. Amir added to their knowledge tree that day.

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Children !!! by Brendan Thomas

“Careful. Stop swaying. You’ll shed leaves, maybe break a branch.”

“But it’s fun. Weeeeeeeeeee.”

“Listen to Dad. He lost branches playing like that. They never grew back to full size.”

But he didn’t listen. He swayed watching with glee as leaves fell, some swirling in the chaotic wind, some falling slowly to his roots.

“Look I’m naked,” he shouted.

Finally strength won. The sound of timber cracking as a branch fell to the ground. Surprise, anguish, large sobs,

“I’m broken. It hurts Mum.”

“I know son. It’ll grow back bigger than before,” she lied.

His father looked away,

“Children !!!”

🥕🥕🥕

Childhood Memory by Nancy Brady

Before Mister Rogers Neighborhood and Sesame Street, there was a local program called Luci’s Toy Shop.

Luci had puppet characters including George the Giraffe, Dragon, and Mr. Tree.
Mr. Tree talked after he was awakened with a song.

“Hi there, Mr. Tree, we’re very glad to see you.
Wake up Mr. Tree; it’s daytime, can’t you see?’

With a big yawn, Mr. Tree would finally wake up, and he and Luci would converse about the day of the week. Eventually, Luci would slip, saying the word sleep and Mr. Tree would fall back to sleep until the next time.

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It’s Not Where You Walk, It’s Who You’re With by Anne Goodwin

Swinging my arms, I followed him up the slope towards the spinney. Casual. As if a country walk with my dad were an everyday thing.

He pointed out the ash and the spindly silver birch, its bark like alligator skin. I showed him a squirrel, scampering across the path, up a tree trunk shelved with bracken fungus.

At a sudden tapping, he grabbed my shoulder. Though we strained our eyes and necks to scan the treetops, the woodpecker eluded us. It didn’t matter; the shared not-seeing made me feel close to him. For the first time, he’d seen me.

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Space. Boring! by Floridaborne

Most people have to share a small cabin with three other people. I get a 4 x 6 room. They want windows, but I don’t care to see what’s coming at the ship.

I spend my days cleaning floors, repairing worn machinery that creates our food, and thinking about my father’s Earth stories.

He died last year, on my 10th birthday… radiation leak in the engine section. The bastard didn’t die quick.

With his final breath he said, “I wanted to touch one last tree.”

If we find a habitable planet, the trees can have his ashes.

🥕🥕🥕

Trees by Roberta Eaton

The enormous tree drew her. Its branches reached up into the bright, blue sky, far above its fellows. She knew only too well that all of the trees were nourished with the flesh of humans deemed by society to be wasteful squanderers, but she still admire this particular tree’s tenacity in beating its competition and achieving such great proportions. She thought of another tree. The one she had seen on the eve of the Great War after the bombs had rained down. She recalled the tendrils of fire running up its wide trunk and licking greedily at its branches.

🥕🥕🥕

Aftermath by Sarah Whiley

My feet crunched on the blackened ground. Even the rocks had not been spared. So intense was the heat from the bushfire, they too had been singed.

All around me was devastation.

Twisted sheets of metal were all that was left of the house. I bent down and touched the ground where our mailbox once stood, my fingers trailing through the ash.

I trudged the perimeter fence and noted with irony, the eucalypts still standing.

Charred.
Naked.
But still standing.

Then, I saw a tiny patch of green – the tree already beginning to regenerate itself!

We too would rebuild.

🥕🥕🥕

Through the Woods by Susan Sleggs

Me and my dog walk down the hill through the woods to the river most days, usually to bring the cows back up to the barn. In the springtime we pick leeks that grow under the black walnut trees. Rascal rolls in them and Mama gets mad because he stinks. In the fall we collect the nuts. They’re bitter but add a good flavor to cookies. If we sit quiet under the willow in the summer we see beaver swimming and deer drinking. I wish the house had been built down by the river. It’d save lots of walking.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

Twin Trees by Kerry E.B. Black

They grew from a single trunk, an anomaly of separate identities jointed by common roots dug deep into the loam of fallen ancestors. They vied for sunlight, pushed against each other’s branches in an attempt for superiority, but neither bested the other. Their leaves shook to distinguish themselves, but noone addressed them as individuals. In concert, they burst into flower, fleshed out greenery in time. By autumn, their leaves rustled the same impatient song. After years of struggle, they towered over others, since woodsmen stayed their axes when confronted by twin trunks. Others wished they, too, had a lifetime companion.

🥕🥕🥕

Garden Tree by Anita Dawes

I don’t have to go too far to find a great tree.
It is in my garden, my beautiful gum tree.
Tall and magnificent, a small amount of wind
sets it swaying like a row of flamenco dancers
I can almost hear the roots tapping away
in time with the rhythm above.
Soothing and calming my mind.
I sit there often unburdening the misery
I have accrued over the last few days.
I know it listens, never judging.
The soft sway of its leaves above my head,
A blessing, a benediction.
Gentle giants, they are the air we breathe…

🥕🥕🥕

Exposed by D. Avery

Strong leaders of proud communities, they were protectors, providers of sanctuary, comfort, inspiration.

How they danced! Sweeping, stretching, swaying movements, at once bold and gentle, a beautiful ballet.

They were poets and prophets, translating the ancient secrets of stone, their every whispered word lyrical and mystical. They were emissaries, bridging Heaven and Earth. They were heard by any who listened.

Nobody listened. Their ballet became frenzied, their movements frantic and desperate. Their toppled bodies and exposed roots a broken covenant, we are disconnected.

The sky is falling.

We didn’t listen.

They are silenced, gone. Winds and waters roar, unimpeded.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Comforts of Crab Apples by Kerry E.B. Black

She’d grown too old to climb, but the crab apple tree in her family’s backyard remained her favorite spot. She leaned against its rough bark to meditate or reflect as life rearranged. Here, beneath a tree whose bitter fruit none ate, in whose boughs she hid as a child when life bruised her burgeoning psyche, she regained balance. In the spring, lovely pink-kissed blossoms speckled new grass like fairydust. Summer shade soothed. Autumn saw a lack-luster display of spotted, pale yellow foliage, while Winter’s bare branches reached toward Heaven like prayers, yet year-round, this tree welcomed and comforted her.

🥕🥕🥕

Our Tree by Di @pensitivity101

It was just one, but in the company of others.
It was an elm, or was it an oak?
It was tall, and had several broken branches, one of which dipped down to the earth as if bowing in servitude.
It was along this path, or was it that one?
No, it was this way, towards the clearing, where it stood magnificent and almost alone.
One mile in, or maybe two? So long ago. It may not even still be there.
I hope so.
We designated it as Our Tree, and buried bottles with love messages in its roots.

🥕🥕🥕

Island of Trees by Bill Engleson

They’re always there, you know. Likely always have been.

Eons, I expect.

I don’t think about them much. Maybe I should. There’s that old saying…you can’t see the forest for the…and here I am, knowing they are there. In my face. Never really paying them any heed.

Like the air.

The dying air.

Or the sea.

The dying sea.

Every so often, we get hit with storms. Fierce gales, they are. Whipping in from the north, the south, occasionally from the west.

The trees sway.

Loom.

They surely loom.

Sometimes, threatening, bending towards me,

towards my house,

my life.

🥕🥕🥕

Alive by Carol Arcus

It was dark when she woke, wintertime, dark mornings and cold biting winds. The coffee machine made a hum that could wake the dead. She smiled knowing her husband and daughter would rise soon.

She looked forward to speaking to her son.

He loved the trees, the hills around the property were his refuge, especially when he was ill. She always took him to that one special tree at sunset. It was summer then, those glorious warm days.

Today she stood under the tree, and chatted about everything.

He was still alive to her, this way, under this tree.

🥕🥕🥕

Carved in Wood by Sally Cronin

She traced the names, carved in the bark of their special tree fifty years ago, with her fingertips.

Peter loves Sarah forever.

But they had taken different paths. She to a wonderful husband and children, and now as a widow and grandmother. She often wondered what had happened to him, and if he had been happy. On a whim, she had returned to the wood to see the bluebells, that like their romance flowered so briefly. Beneath the carving were numbers. Intrigued she took out her mobile and dialled.

‘Hello, who is this?’

‘Sarah’

‘What took you so long?’

🥕🥕🥕

Apple Tree by Ann Edall-Robson

“Liz.”

“Mac. Coffee?”

“No thanks, just looking for the kids.”

“Kids?”

He pointed out the window.

“They’ve been out there toe to toe debating for quite a while.”

A quiet rumbling from Mac told Mrs. Johnson he was laughing.

“He sure gets under her skin.”

“And she pushes back just as hard.”

Mrs. Johnson’s comment was accentuated by Hanna poking Tal in the cheese before walking towards the barn.

“We’ll need to keep an eye on those two. Might be the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.”

Liz heard the door close, leaving her alone in the cookhouse.

🥕🥕🥕

White Pine by Sascha Darlington

I wanted to return to my soul home, West Virginia. Didi wanted to go with me for a white pine, a strategy he plotted with his younger brother Uli.

Funny how all these years later, I don’t remember walking the soil with him, him being there, although we did dig up pines. A neighbor mowed over mine, devastating me during the break-up. Mother yelled at him despite neighborly kindness. She could be a fierce mother lion.

So many years later, air conditioning humming, my always love snoring, I consider affectionate memories, although coldness pervades, just like Didi’s eyes, calculating.

🥕🥕🥕

The Red Maple by tracey

She bought the house in winter and didn’t realize the tree in the backyard was dead until spring. She had it removed at the end of the summer and told herself she didn’t want to rake leaves anyway.

As the year progressed she thought the yard looked naked and found she missed raking leaves.

In the spring she wandered around the nursery feeling overwhelmed until she saw a six-foot tall red maple. Her tree.

She took her home and named her ‘Betty’.

Thirty years later her heart still contracted with joy as she raked up Betty’s jewel colored leaves.

🥕🥕🥕

The Tree Fort by Susan Zutautas

Johnny and Cindy were at Grandma’s summer cottage having a heated argument. Cindy wanted to see Johnny’s tree fort, but he wouldn’t hear of it.

When Johnny left, over to the tree she went climbing the rungs up and into
the fort. She was sitting with her back against a curtain when Johnny appeared.
“There’s not enough room, leave now!”

“Sure, there is,” Cindy replied, moving back thinking there was a wall behind the curtain. Out she went, falling onto the ground just missing a boulder.

Startled but fine Cindy got up, brushed herself off, never again to return.

🥕🥕🥕

Tree of Memories by Ritu Bhathal

I need to find it.
I know it’s here somewhere.
We used to visit here regularly when we were courting.
Where is that tree?
I think it was an Oak.
Huge sprawling branches that created a vast canopy, under which we used to sit, backs resting against the thick, sturdy trunk.
It was here we had our first kiss.
Here, we professed our love.
Here, you proposed.
Is it this one? My fingers trail over the rough bark. A spark of memory.
Yes, here.
Here, my love, I’ll lay you to rest, scattered amongst the memories of our love.

🥕🥕🥕

Renewal by Saifun Hassam

Ancient olive trees grew on the cliffs overlooking the sea and along the foothills of the extinct volcano. One flagstone path led to a grove of olive trees planted around a stone fountain. Their great gnarled trunks were intricate colorful patterns of countless shades of brown and yellow. Warm sea breezes set their silvery green leaves sparkling in the afternoon sun.

Ammerra loved these ancient trees. Legends spoke of how the trees grew again when the volcano erupted covering the foothills with lava and ash. She loved the peace and solace here, a sense of renewal through life’s difficulties.

🥕🥕🥕

Portents by Joanne Fisher

Aalen was suspended above the Bloodwood, the most ancient and sacred tree in their forest. The tree was part of their spring rites when they celebrated the fertility of their people and the forest. As she hung there she noticed there was huge crack in the Bloodwood that went down the entire tree, as if it was ready to split open.

Aalen awoke with a start. She could hear Ashalla softly breathing beside her. Vilja was curled up beside the glowing embers. Bleary-eyed she got up realising they hadn’t set a watch. In the dark she pondered the dream.

🥕🥕🥕

A Momentary Silence by Nicole Horlings

The forest was silent. Where there should have been birdsong, there was only the sound of the wind howled as it thrust through the charred remains of a thicket. He held out hope that their tree had been untouched, since it stood alone in the center of the clearing, a tall and proud elder watching over the saplings as they grew up.

Alas, the forest fire had been indiscriminate in its rage. Their carved heart was ashy beneath the gentle caress of his fingers.
But as they had repaired the damage from their fights, the forest too would regrow.

🥕🥕🥕

Medicinal Mango by Abhijit Ray

“Your mother is not well Sakharam,” the village doctor announced, “feed her mango from Nawab’s orchard.”

“An hour’s walk from the bus stop,” man spoke again before Sakharam could protest at this unusual prescription, “mango from Nawab’s orchard are medicinal.”

“Brother how far the famous mango orchard?” after almost an hour’s trek, the least he could do for his ailing mother, Sakharam asked a road side vendor, “one with medicinal fruits!”

“God! Another one!” exclaimed the tea seller, “Nawab sold his orchard almost a decade back. A warehouse came up in its place. You have walked past it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Restoring a Giant by Jo Hawk

The forest of Laurel’s childhood was gone. She remembered great stands of the mighty American Chestnut tree, which grew nearly one hundred feet tall with trunks ten feet in diameter. It was once the most common hardwood tree in the Northeastern United States. The tree’s wood was rot-resistant, straight-grained, and it produced nuts that fed cattle, hogs and other wildlife. Laurel remembered eating roasted chestnuts every fall.

A tree that had survived for 40 million years, disappeared in 40, destroyed by the chestnut blight. Her children worked to restore a forest they had never seen and could only imagine.

*** To learn more about restoration efforts, check out The American Chestnut Foundation.

🥕🥕🥕

In Place of Majesty by Jen Goldie

The area I live in, is one of the oldest communities
In Toronto, Ontario. It is referred to, as “The City of Trees”.
One day on my usual walk I discovered them preparing
to cut down this magnificent tree. I was astounded
and angry.
It was obviously a done deal to accommodate
some new town houses. I sadly, day by day, watched
the construction of these narrow row houses. They
left the stump of the tree sitting there. I now
pass and think of the tragedy.
Four narrow townhouses at the edge of a road in
place of majesty.

🥕🥕🥕

Paperbark by calmkate

I stand tall, like to shed my bark.
human beans use it to create art
sentinels that guard sacred grounds
unusual majestic versatility astounds

shorter ones produce tea tree oil
we prefer to grow in swampy soil
Australian natives we grow quick
bark is whitish papery n thick

all trees contribute to clean the air
home to many creatures, we care
we grow nuts and fruits with flair
mango plums peach and pear

destroying us is mighty unfair
we grow with grace don’t make us rare
plant more and hug us if you dare
we are vital for survival

🥕🥕🥕

A FINAL WORD FROM THE CHARACTERS AT THE RANCH

Highku by D. Avery

“Look up, Pal. I’m here.”
“Kid, what’re you doin’ up in thet tree?”
“It’s my poet-tree. I’m writin’. Told ya, I ain’t waitin’ on whats-her-name. Here’s yer buckaroo-ku:

when the people fall
and no trees remain to hear
deserts on the march.”

“Two things Kid. First, ya lifted that last line from Paul Sears’ book he wrote back in Dust Bowl days.”
“Yeah, but no one knows that, Pal.”
“Second, that ain’t buckaroo-ku.”
“Ain’t it?”
“No thet’s highku.”
“Highku?”
“‘Cause yer so high up in thet tree. Now git down.”
“About that, Pal… Kin you git me a ladder?”

🥕🥕🥕

Up a Tree Without a Pal by D. Avery

“Kid, ya mean ta tell me yer stuck up in thet there tree?”

“Yep. Seems with trees what climbs up cain’t always climb down.”

“An’ now ya ‘spect me ta git a ladder an’ hep ya git down?”

“Yeah, was hopin’ ya would.”

“Sorry Kid. Ya said ta heck with our writer, so jist now, I’m gonna go write my own flash. Ya kin wait fer D. Avery ta show up and write ya down outta there, or ya kin write the ending yerself. But me, I’m goin’ off ta write a story.”

“Pal!”

“It’s called ‘Tree Huggin’ Kid’.”

🥕🥕🥕

Coffee & Reverse Prose by Susan Sleggs

“Kid, if you think about it, you can get down.”

“Nope.”

“Yes you can. Think about the position of your hands and feet took for each climbing step and reverse them.”

“That’d be like writing prose backwards. I only know how to go forward.”

“Not true….you know how to edit by rearranging or removing. In this case you just have to rearrange by going backwards.”

“Maybe I’ll try it come daylight.”

“I’ll have the Ranch cook brew up some strong coffee in the morning…..smelling that’ll get you moving.”

“Maybe now is a better time if there’s coffee.”

🥕🥕🥕

At Home in a Tree by Charli Mills

A tree stretched its limbs upward and felt the weight of a human nestled in its branches. The tree’s bark tingled where boots had scurried upward more clumsily than the thorny grip of a black bear or the agility of a cat. But the end results remained – the human was stuck. Several visitors tried to coax the perched one down. Stubborn as a cat, the human remained stuck. After the bipeds left, the human hollered. The tree rustled, attempting a buckaroo lullabye –

Get along little humie, get along,
Rest in my branches,
For I will be your new home.

🥕🥕🥕

Shorty’s Call by Charli Mills

“Kid, get yer carcass outta my apple tree. Boots on the ground.”

“Kinda stuck.”

“Pal? Hey Pay – where’d you go off to?”

“Pal’s huggin’ a tree.”

“Kid, looks like that thar tree is huggin’ you.”

“Quilter said somethin’ ‘bout reverse prosin’ my way down.”

“Yep, that Quilter’s a wise gal. Not a wise acre like you or yer Pal.”

“Quilter sure does know her pieces.”

“Sure does. Kid, time you make hay and git down.”

“Down is not lookin’up fer me.”

“Now Kid, I might hav’ta wrangle ya from them thar branches.  Don’t make me fetch the Poet Lariat.”

Growing Older

Perhaps growing older is a disgusting venture, but as one writer quipped, it’s better than the alternative. We can age with dignity if we simply allow each other the forgiveness for doing so. We can forgive memory gaps and welcome each day as a chance to yet live. Wrinkles never stopped a grin or an expression of love.

Writers took to age as if they’ve been living a long time to write about it.

The following are based on the May 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about growing older.

PART I (10-minute read)

On Aging by Susan Sleggs

When I dream I am younger, energetic, and always thinner. There is excitement, intrigue, people I don’t recognize and fascinating cartoonlike experiences. There are animals, unlikely pets, a tiger on my bed, horses waiting at the window for an apple. I travel to exotic places, by sailboat, with a dark haired sexy partner. I go back to laughing about life’s entanglements and mistakes don’t happen. There is no pain, no memory loss, no pills to take, no hurt feelings, and no guilt for bad decisions. Then I awake. I am old and infirm, but still happy to be alive.

🥕🥕🥕

Hands Across the Years by Nancy Brady

An early memory of Mom was of her wearing a yellow, full-skirted seersucker dress to the zoo on a bright June day. Her dress rivaled the sun and epitomized a young mother full of energy. I was only five at the time.

Time aged us both, and suddenly, I was a mother myself. Visits to my parents brought both delight and sadness as I noticed her worsening rheumatoid arthritis. Her hands became more gnarled and disfigured through the years.

Now, I look at my own hands for signs of aging and wonder what my sons see when we visit.

🥕🥕🥕

From Mother to Son by Anne Goodwin

“Did you hear the one about the Japanese Emperor, Mamma? He ab-ab-ab …”

”Abrogated his responsibilities? Abandoned his subjects to his imbecile son?”

“Don’t you get tired, Mamma? All that travelling. Dressing up in your gladrags. Smiling at proles waving silly flags.”

“Of course I get tired. I’m ninety-three. But duty must trump human frailties. That’s what monarchy means.”

“Talking of The Donald, how can you …”

“There’s a man who tears up the rulebook …”

“As you could too, Mamma.”

“You know what I’d really like, Charles? If I could skip a generation. Give my grandson a turn.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tooting Marvellous by Ritu Bhathal

Mabel sat in her armchair and glanced around her surroundings.

Look at them all — old fogies.

She was, undoubtedly, at least ten years younger than them. Goodness knows why they’d put her in here. There must have been some mistake.

But that silver-haired Derek, sat across the room, he looked rather dashing. Someone to get to know and, maybe, help ease the boredom.

Shifting slightly in her chair, she felt a build up in her stomach, and a loud fart escaped.

At least there were some benefits to growing old…No embarrassment factor; she could toot to her heart’s content!

🥕🥕🥕

Photograph by Brendan Thomas

Peig sat in the middle, between her standing daughters, grandchildren clustered to her right, great granddaughter Nelly standing closest, touching her shoulder.

“Hold Nelly’s hand.”

No, her old arm wouldn’t bend. She remembered previous photographs, standing behind her Nonna, moving across the screen, left to right as she aged. Now promoted to the seat in front. She once was the light hand on the shoulder and missed it.

“Ready? Cheese!”

Photographs were boring now, no smokey flash to enliven, no wait before enjoying the outcome. “Will photographs exist when Nelly’s a Nonna?” she wondered, before approving the digital image.

🥕🥕🥕

Runner by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Sophie gazed down the long oaken table, half-light of a dozen candle sticks melted to shining copper holder. She squinted to blur the face drooping at table’s end.

Looking down, she studied the pattern of barn red, deep woad, and white twined with emerald leaves. Were these flowers from her homeland? She barely remembered weaving the runner for her trousseau…or the excited young girl she’d been. Her parents had been proud to boast her move from farm to manor as a wonderful match.

After so long, she’d adjusted her dreams. Looking up, she wondered what he thought of her.

🥕🥕🥕

Ada by Violet Lentz

Ada never visited the small wooden crosses that marked the sandy loam where her husband had interred the tiny corpses of the babes that would never suckle at her breast.

She never shed a tear at their passing, nor spoke the christian names they had been given.

She was a dutiful, if not loving wife, and reared the one child she was spared with a firm, yet caring hand.

She was on her deathbed the first and only time she ever told her husband, or her son that she loved them.

Just a moment after she realized it herself.

🥕🥕🥕

Growing Old by Pete Fanning

The boy sat against a tree, watching the tall grass in the field. The sky held a few clouds overhead, clouds in no hurry to do anything but laze in the blue. A soft breeze, a whisper between leaves, scurried through the stalks without order or sequence, weaving and bending and—

“Boy, what are you doing?”

The boy stood, eyes down, face flushed. “Nothing.”

“Nothing, huh? Must be nice. When you get older you won’t have time to watch the grass grow.”

The boy took one last look back, at the dancing grass, and promised to never grow old.

🥕🥕🥕

Menopause by tracey

A woman spends the latter half of her life in three phases:

Perimenopause – Characterized by so many different symptoms you are sure you are losing your mind. Coping mechanism is eating brownies while hiding in the pantry. You long to live alone in a mountain cabin.

Menopause – This phase has many false starts. Six months without a period and then you get surprised by your ‘friend’. Still eating brownies, you now wake up in the middle of the night and have to endure hours thinking about brownies.

Post-menopausal – The sun comes out again and you live happily ever after.

🥕🥕🥕

Being Seen by Sascha Darlington

She fell. Nothing was broken, something twisted, enough to keep her down. Down, like her brain, her emotions, her feelings.

When she started walking, nothing worked the same. Sadness poured through her veins instead of blood. Overnight, she felt…old.

Every morning she rose, thought, this will be the day to turn it all around, but she didn’t, couldn’t. It was like being mired in molasses.

Maybe the worst thing was: no one noticed. No one saw her struggles. No one hugged her or recognized pain that grew beyond physical.

On bad days, she evaluated ways to completely, finally disappear.

🥕🥕🥕

Generations by Floridaborne

Grandma loved our visits to her nursing home. From her window, she’d watch us find a place to park in a treeless lot.

She’d give us hugs and say, “Thank you for coming.”

Grandma listened to stories about our lives and once, when I turned 9, she said, “It seems like only yesterday I danced in the streets at the end of the Great War.”

My dad said, “Do we have to hear that story again?”

She looked down at her hands in the same way my father does now, as he waits for a family that never visits.

🥕🥕🥕

Aging by Dorinda Duclos

I’m living a wonderful life, though age has decreased my gait. Still, I manage to have some fun, I want to live it, before it’s too late. Life, is much too short, to leave it on the side of the road. The older I get, the more I know, take it all, before you’ve slowed.

Growing older is beautiful, I was put here, for a purpose. Until that is complete, I’ll remain here, on this surface. To live, laugh, love, play, until time is not a thought, then I’ll say I’m finally done, but… I haven’t lived for naught.

🥕🥕🥕

Wisdom Lines by Kerry E.B. Black

My friend calls them wisdom lines, wrinkles etched into the face. They’re experience trickled, as though life’s efforts leave sweaty tracks. Smiles, worry, and frowns use skin not to mar but to record.

Like marionettes, we’re often controlled by emotions, and as we age, this becomes evident in our countenance.

I think of tree trunks. They also begin smooth, and their texture grows course and tough with age. So, too, our exterior seasons to endure difficulties and challenges.

As I study the patina of my aging skin, I decide my life’s experiences make a pretty pattern. I’ve a good life.

🥕🥕🥕

Growing Older by Robert Kirkendall

“Grandma, tell us about the time before television.”

Grandma leaned back in her rocking chair nostalgically. “Ah yes, the Golden Age of Radio. Every night the family would get together and listen to Jack Benny, Bob Hope, or Edgar Bergen. Those were the days; good, clean wholesome entertainment.”

“Ever want to go back, Grandma?”

Grandma sat back up. “Hundreds of channels, On Demand, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, podcasts…this is a new platinum age of entertainment. You really think I want to go back to listening to some old, tinny AM radio when everything was repressed and censored? Hell no!”

🥕🥕🥕

Old Bones (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“That bone is heavy as iron,” Ramona said, picking up a fossil from Danni’s workbench. Ramona no longer recognized the bone or knew its story. Nothing seemed familiar these days.

Ike put his arm around Ramona, grinning. “It’s old as you, Gran’ma.”

Danni was brushing glass shards, musing over what they might tell her about 19th century occupancy near her garden. She paused. “Ike, you know that’s a dinosaur bone.”

Ramona winked. “Well, if bones get heavier with age then that explains the numbers on the bathroom scale.”

Danni laughed. At least Ramona hadn’t forgotten her sense of humor.

🥕🥕🥕

Great-Grandmama’s Teeth by Norah Colvin

The sound like freight trains roaring through a tunnel assured Billy Great-Grandmama was asleep. He turned the doorknob ever so slowly, pushed the door gently and slipped into the darkened room. A chink of light bounced off the glass at the bedside. He daren’t breathe as he tiptoed over. Three quick whistles and he froze. The cavern with wibbly wobbly edges stretched wide. Would she wake? No, but better be quick. He lowered his fingers into the glass and withdrew his prize. All that was left was to fool the fairies and he’d buy his Mum that birthday cake.

🥕🥕🥕

Growing Older by Susan Zutautas

Joan was the lively one, with the most energy in her group of friends but lately it seemed she was starting to slow down.

Partying was no longer her choice for a fun evening. Now content to stay home and watch TV. She never dreamt she’d see this day come when she was younger.

Getting up in the morning some days were painful on her joints. She could no longer kneel on the floor let alone sit on the floor like she always did before. Afraid that if she got down, she’d never get back up.

Growing older sucks.

🥕🥕🥕

Aging Out by Deborah Lee

“You need to hustle. You can only stay in this program for two more weeks,” the placement advisor says.

Jane’s stomach plummets; her veins ice over. Fear. Cut loose. Again.

“Why?”

Shrug. “It’s the rule. If you’re still here after three months, we make way for others who are actively looking.”

Jane bristles. “I am active. I’m here at least twice a week. I’m applying, interviewing. I want a job. I need a job.” Tears press.

Eyes drop. Silence.

“Just wait,” Jane says, “until you’re fifty, with all the skills and triple the experience, and nobody wants you anymore.”

🥕🥕🥕

Aging Disgracefully by calmkate

Ageism is rife here, anyone over fifty can’t get employment. Considered over the hill, senile and well past their use by date!

Milly played on that, on being the poor old lady. She would speak forthrightly and con many into doing various tasks for her. If they were foolish she wouldn’t fight it, easier to go with the flow and make it work for her.

Although physically declining her grey matter was sharp as a tack. She attended several Church services, any who would provide a lift to and from as she found those Christians ripe for a con!

🥕🥕🥕

Growing Old by Hugh W. Roberts

She sat, watching the world around her getting older, her included. It had been a rather tough day and she disliked what ageing did to her.

I may be wiser, she thought, but I feel like I’m on my last few breaths before I leave this world again. I don’t want to go, but know it is time to move on.

As she sat back to take in the last sight of the world she loved, a door behind her opened and slammed loudly.

“Move over, Saturday. The day of rest has arrived. See you in a week’s time.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Aging by Roberta Eaton

Would you really want to live for longer? It is an appealing idea to slow down the aging process and retain the good looks and vibrant good health of your 20s, but there is a down side. Imagine having to work for double the amount of years. Instead of spending 40 years of your life caught up in the turmoil and intensity of paid employment, 80 years would be required. After that amount of time, even the most interesting job could become mundane. Maybe we would have to switch careers and go through learning and training years again. Ug!

🥕🥕🥕

Young at Heart by Di @ pensitivity101

Neil looked in the mirror, wondering who the old man was looking back at him.

He pulled his cheeks in, brushed his teeth then put them in his mouth, changing the shape of his lips. He smiled, a gleaming cosmetic whiteness in a rugged face.

It was an old face, accompanied by old joints.

Old age was a bind.

He could no longer do what he used to, or if he did, it took longer or he forgot half way through the task.

He flicked on the radio and Ol’ Blue Eyes sang out Young at Heart.

Yeah, right.

🥕🥕🥕

Birthday by Abhijit Ray

“So the big day is here!” asked a friend, “is a gala celebration on the cards?”

“Celebrate ageing!” Shefali wondered, “earlier a birthdays ushered in anticipation of impending adulthood and glimpses of independence; now birthdays have become just another number.”

Crossing thirty, Shefali wished she was a teenager again when life was more colorful and full of possibilities.

“Thud, thud, thud,” her daughter knocked on the door, “mom, everyone is waiting for you, hurry up!”

“Coming dear,” Shefali answered with a sigh, wore her smile and got ready to mingle, “another year, another day and another party.”

🥕🥕🥕

Becoming 100 by Kelley Farrell

The chair creaks under me, weighted by century old bones.

“Congrats! You just amaze me; to think of the things you’ve seen and done!”

I shift through the archives in attempt to place the young girl. She has the family blue eyes and my sweet Harry’s smile. A fanged man dominates her dark shirt.

“Old stories say witches and vampires drink blood to stay young.” Her face contorts uncomfortably as she slinks away, no doubt on her way to tell.

I can’t hide my sneer.

Maybe tonight I’ll run away. Surely it’s not too late to become a vampire.

🥕🥕🥕

Growing Old by galaxywanderer

Every grey hair, every new facial line, made her face a universal truth she didn’t want to. Contemplating one’s own mortality, is, after all, not a pleasant business, for anyone. In the ledger of regrets, the reds were the things she never found the time to do, rather than the ones she did. Watching the seasons go by had a poetic beauty that appealed to her. But the reality was a tad more daunting. To think that one day in the not so distant future, she will cease to exist was almost unfathomable, no matter how real it was.

🥕🥕🥕

Geiron (from Crater Lakes) by Saifun Hassam

Wild rhododendrons and berry shrubs were in full bloom spilling over the broken backyard fence of the Marta Jensen log homestead. Built over a hundred years ago, its west wall was tilting as tree roots grew under its foundations. Old oak and elm trees provided an enormous canopy of shade.

Geiron was a retired forest ranger and writing a book about the history of the Crater Lakes Biohabitat. Over time, Marta Jensen’s journal became a wellspring for him to write richly imagined novels of the pioneers, filled with his beautiful sketches of the Green Lake and Lizard Lake Craters.

🥕🥕🥕

Older . . . Wiser by Ann Edall-Robson

Tal and Hanna watched the leathery, old cowboy walk slowly to the middle of the corral and stop. It wasn’t long before the curious young horse moved towards him, neck outstretched, sniffing. The man never moved, his voice barely audible. Each day was the same with little additions introduced to the routine.

Over coffee one morning, Tal questioned the cowboy’s tactics.

“Why didn’t you just rope that colt and show him who was boss right from the get go?

A lazy smile creased the cowboy’s face.

“Son, there’s no use getting any older if you don’t get any wiser.”

🥕🥕🥕

Senescent Sighs by JulesPaige

Only once did Aubrey feel the terror of aging. It was when she, as the second child was going to have her own second child. Because it was when she was about two years old her own mother died. Those two years of her second child went by quicker than she thought. Bountiful happy memories were added to her life.

Without warning her second child became engaged. Where did the time go? The saddest thing though, to her was that child’s choice to be childless. We can only live our own lives and remember all the happiness we have.

🥕🥕🥕

To Be Old Again by The Dark Netizen

Has this road become longer, or have I become slower?

Definitely the latter. I really have become old.Look at me, can’t even manage to walk without my cane. I see the road is covered with petals from the tree. The same tree that only a few months ago, stood barren and cold in the winter. If only all us humans had that ability to shed our old skin and look young all over again. Well, I can’t speak for all the humans. But, I’m lucky I discovered the fountain of youth.

Now where did I keep that water-bottle?

🥕🥕🥕

Flashback by Jewel Ingalls

I’m so excited. Mommy promised to take me to the roller rink if I kept my room clean. My army men were off the floor everyday by the time she was home from work.

I think she’s pulling in now! I hurry to use the bathroom before we leave.

“Arnie?”

Weird. Mom’s voice is different. I wash my hands lifting my head. An old man stares back. White beard; wrinkled face.

A woman rounds the corner. “Arnie. You shouldn’t be walking around with no one home.”

The visiting nurse dried Arnie’s hands and led him back to his recliner.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Old by Ruchira Khanna

Happy-birthday-for-grandmother-from-granddaughter

“Sammy, blow the candles!” Christine said with delight.

Sammy claps her hands with joy and walks with ginger steps towards the table. She attempts to puff in the air as she pouts and her chest expands. Tired, she pauses with her lips contracted and then huffs the breath with all her might.

“Oh, Oh!” All shouted in the background as something blew across Sammy and onto the cake.

She forgot to remove her dentures before the blowout!

Needless of the incident, her grandchildren applauded Samantha who preferred to be addressed by her name had entered a three digit number.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash by Nancy Brady

Flash is our cat. Born in April, 2001, she is now eighteen years old. What that exactly equates to in feline years, we can only guess. According to the veterinarian, she is probably a centenarian.

Despite her geriatric status, Flash has always acted like a kitten. Even now, as she deals with minor tooth infections and cloudy vision, she still manages to act like the feisty little kitten she once was, racing and meowing through the house as if hellhounds are chasing her.

Flash has aged, but so have we. Her time is limited, but then so is ours.

🥕🥕🥕

Simple Things by D.G. Kaye

I dropped a fork, bent down, took a minute to get back up, but I did.

I went to the fridge, forgot what I went for, so I closed the door and saved on calories.

The days of putting on socks while hopping on one foot are long gone or I’d fall flat on my face. A chair now works fine.

Naps used to be looked at as punishment when young, now a treasured opportunity.

Days pass too quick as years progress.

More wrinkle cream, vitamins and brisk walks. Whatever it takes, I’m in.

Getting older aint for sissies.

🥕🥕🥕

‘It Always Seems To Be Breakfast’* by Geoff Le Pard

‘I suppose this death fixation of your mum’s is worrying about growing old.’

‘She’s a “do not go gentle” sort of person, actually. But having gone, gentle or otherwise, she wants some sort of certainty.

Like she wants to wear her flowery Doc Martens in her coffin.’

‘Nice.’

‘Maybe. She’s not said what else.’

‘Oh…’

‘Exactly. Though Dad had this saying: he’d get his own back on his kids and live to be a hundred.’

‘Didn’t make it, did he?’

‘No, though that didn’t stop him practicing just in case.’

‘Old sod. Got to love him, haven’t you?’

‘Indeed.’

*said by a famous nonagenarian, when asked what change was the most notable now he was in his nineties

🥕🥕🥕

Growing Older by Janice Golay

Reminder: consult Dr. Einstein about “Time” and growing older. “Sir: Why does our perception of time change as we travel the average human lifespan? Is it subjective or is it ‘real’?

“For example, no longer a young filly eager to escape the corral but not yet ready for pasture, I’m falling very slowly between the cracks. Previously I moved easily, judged hastily. Now 70, my real-time movie is shot in slow motion. Slow is vexing when targeting destination X, exquisite while sauntering through a garden of fragrant June roses.

“Please reply before the rapidly approaching end of the film.”

🥕🥕🥕

Wisdom of the Ages by Jo Hawk

It was the time of Antiquity. The temple rose, constructed with care to mark a sacred spot. Tested by fire, its original purpose faded from consciences. Each day, the sun painted the walls in a soft luminous glow, recording the years, decades and millenniums. The Oculus recorded the words of countless stories and etched them on the dome’s geometric perfection.

Time evolved, morphing into something different. It became elastic and unimportant. Wisdom replaced foolish desires and meaningless acquisitions of petty trinkets. It distilled the truth, divulging the secret simplicity of being, seeing and feeling with no reservations, without judgment.

🥕🥕🥕

Towards the City by Joanne Fisher

As Aalen, Ashalla, and Vilja got nearer to the city they saw the land become more cultivated and ordered.

“How many years do your people usually live?” Ashalla asked.

“We don’t measure time the same way as you.” Aalen replied. “So I don’t know. As we get older our responsibilities increase. I helped protect the borders, so little was expected of me, but if I survived I would have eventually become an Elder of the village who were the sources of our wisdom and knowledge.”

Aalen looked out at the land. She knew that future was gone for her.

🥕🥕🥕

A Small Price to Pay by Sally Cronin

The old man stood to attention by the memorial in the village square, as he did each day during his afternoon constitutional. His knees were playing up, but nothing a stout stick couldn’t handle. Getting older had challenges, but unlike his drinking pals in the pub each evening, he knew aching joints were a small price to pay. As was his habit, he read the names on the brass plate aloud, remembering each one of his comrades who did not live to grow old. He wiped away a tear and continued his walk, feeling like the luckiest man alive.

🥕🥕🥕

POETIC REFLECTIONS

Gramma Dear by Chelsea Owens

Flowered pots and colored notes
fly gently on the walls;

Whose smiling, standing stick-men

Wave out from rainbowed pen?

Wrinkled cheeks and vacant eyes
of startling, once-clear blue;

What’s inside now, Oh Gramma dear?

What’s cloudy and what’s clear?

Gnarled hands and anxious grip
that once held mine with love;

Whose fingers do you think these are?

Whose hand felt from afar?

Silent words and down-turned mouth
mar lips that laughed and spoke;

What joke or story would you say?

What do you think today?

Who are these strangers milling round;
unfamiliar people?

Where is the you

You know?

🥕🥕🥕

AGE – One Letter Short of A Four Letter Word by M J Mallon

AGE IS ONE LETTER SHORT OF A
FOUR LETTER WORD!

Desire’s three syllables entwined in kinky Karma Sutra positions,

Movement’s six hundred plus muscles belly aching to stop,

Career crises simplified, await twin oldies bus pass, plus pensions,

Adolescent giggles groan as multiple false teeth fracture,

Luscious locks lost greying in gazillions.

STOP!

Six pack? Remember that? Welcome new look naughty pot belly,

Two elastic boobs yonder yoga style yodeling the floor,

Face it fellows, we’re on
TRACK…
NUMBERED…

Until… endless sleep of blessed youth,

FORESHADOWS ETERNAL
SLEEP TO US ALL!!!

🥕🥕🥕

How Did I Get This Old by Susan Zutautas

Growing older

Growing wiser

Kids are grown and gone

Bones are aching

Back is breaking

Arthritis settling in

Many memories to enjoy

When I can remember them

Retired early

Now I’m squirrely

But writing is my thing

Gray hairs are abundant

Get new ones every day

Always looking forward

To the month of May

Cataracts developing

Sight is getting worse

I really think the eye doctor

Put on me, a curse

Look forward to my naps

Each day at three

If I didn’t have them

I’d be cranky as can be

So, let it be told

I am old

🥕🥕🥕

A Dogs Perspective Of Growing Old by Susan Zutautas

When I was a puppy, we’d play every day

Now that I’ve grown older, lie down is what you say

I’d still love to fetch a ball even though I’m ten

A few years ago, I was your best friend

I hope I’m not too old for you, and you get a younger pup

Get rid of me because I’m old and you think I’m fed-up

Dogs do grow older every day

Please oh please don’t send me away

I have arthritis in my hips, but I still want to play

Let’s go outside and have some fun today

🥕🥕🥕

Growing Old by Anita Dawes

I don’t look in the mirror these days, because there is a road map where my face used to be.
Time makes strange marks on all of us, some you cannot see.
From my window, I have watched my neighbours grow old. Two that used to walk to town, now in wheelchairs.
One used to pedal his bike everywhere, now uses a stroller.
We are shrinking back to childhood.
Others I have watched through nine months, waiting to produce new life. Now that same child walks beside her mother on her way to school.
I watch life go by…

🥕🥕🥕

At The Mall by Joanne Fisher

my niece is the grand display

at the Westfield food court

delighting us all

with her furtive glances

and wide open grins

it’s my birthday so

I’m being treated to lunch

and opted for Chinese

my sister and I ponder

we are getting older

I tell her

I thought by now

I would have found

a soul-mate

and now it’s getting

too late

maudlin thoughts

on your birthday

my niece smiles and giggles

saying things in gibberish

that only Carmela can

understand

she holds her tiny hand

outstretched to us

offering

a mostly eaten cracker

with marmite on top

🥕🥕🥕

A Couple of Old Farts Flatulatin’ by Bill Engleson

“Then there was that fella…”

“What fella, Whit?”

“Ya know, Stewie…that European fella. It was on the news. Went to court. Changed his birth year. Made hisself twenty years younger.”

“Ya can do that?”

“Yup. Over there in Europe, you’re only as old as your paperwork.”

“Ain’t that a wonder. Might give it a try, myself. Wouldn’t mind gettin’ an extra twenty years.”

“Don’t quite work that way, Stewie. Yeah, you’re twenty years younger on paper…but nothin’s really changed. You’re still as old as you’ve always been.”

“That don’t seem fair.”

“Life’s chock full of weird wrinkles, ain’t it.”

🥕🥕🥕

FINAL WORD FROM OUR YARNIST

Clodhopper by D. Avery

“Jist ‘cause D. Avery’s been ridin’ herd on her family we git left behind? Tellin’ ya Pal, we gotta part ways with her, do our own writin’. We cain’t always be waitin’ on her. I ain’t gittin’ any younger.”

“Good thing, ‘cause the prompt’s ‘bout growin’ older. Ok, Kid, what’s yer idea fer the prompt?”

“Uh, well, nuthin’ yet.”

“Try haiku.”

“Bless ya.”

“Haiku!”

“Bless ya agin. Jeez.”

“No, Kid, haiku. Like this:

Bunkhouse floor dirt tracked
Every clod has a story
Time swept clean away”

“That ain’t haiku, Pal.”

“Ain’t it?”

“Naw, that there’s buckaroo-ku.”

“Yer cuckoo, Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu

The Finns of the Keweenaw have an enduring core of strength called sisu. An English equivalent doesn’t exist, but stories across place and cultures capture the ability to overcome adversity. Sisu is not short-term like a moment of courage. Sisu is life’s marathon.

Regardless of familiarity with the word, writers searched their experiences and imaginations to craft stories of sisu. It’s a world-wide look at Copper Country Strong.

The following are based on the May 7, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social.

PART I (10-minute read)

Sisu by Floridaborne

“Hey, mom!” Callie shouted. “I learned a new word today.”

Mom rolled her eyes and asked, “What is it now, skooder-do?”

“Sisu!”

“What!” Mom shouted, reaching for homemade soap to wash her daughter’s mouth out.

“It’s not a curse word, Mom! It’s a word that describes you.”

“This better be good,” Mom grumbled.

“You sew clothes from remnants, make all our curtains and you reupholstered our furniture,” Callie said. “You grow our veggies in the summer and can the rest for later.”

“We can’t afford anything else.”

“Mom,” Callie said, hugging her warmly. “You’re the strongest person I know.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bricktown Boys by Pete Fanning

Mom pulled me into her, holding me as she sobbed. “Sam, I’m so sorry you got hurt.”

I hugged her back. A stale, bitter smell clung to her shirt, to her skin. I realized it was the smell of our apartment. Of our lives. How we smelled to people. The stench of desperation, mistakes, of dating the same men over and over again.

She rocked along with sobs and apologies, but I wasn’t about to wait for Troy to hurt us again. I was tired of the stench. Of our lives.

I would take matters into my own hands.

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by H.R.R. Gorman

“What’s this two year gap in your resume?” The hiring manager pointed to circled dates on the paper. “What did you do there?”

Joaquin clenched his fist. “There’s a Finnish word – sisu. It means to keep trudging through multiple adversities.” He tapped the circled words on the resume. “That’s why I’m here. I want this job because I can overcome my past.”

The manager scowled. “So you were traveling? To Finland?”

“No, I…” He coughed. “I was in prison.”

“For what?”

“Drug charges,” he squeaked.

She handed Joaquin his resume. “Thank you, but we won’t be needing your services.”

🥕🥕🥕

Abundant Optimism by JulesPaige

The man has sisu. Very close to living to that century mark. Served his country in the Navy. Got into computers at the git go. Loved his wife for over fifty years with unflappable devotion.

The Vets Administration told him he was legally blind at ninety five. Sold his car to a local dealership, who then drove him back to his house.

The man has sisu. He’s lived alone for over twenty years. Refuses to leave his home. Finally accepts help from the neighbors, on his terms.

enduring strength, life;
living as you choose daily
the man has sisu

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by Brendan Thomas

Jane opened the door, I was shaken. Back to back to back Cancers took a toll on her body, but not her spirit. We sat, drank tea, talked, laughed long and loud, planned for future meetings.

“I can do that, I’m in remission. My calendar is filling up with fun appointments again.”

As I was leaving I remembered the t-shirt, removing it from the bag to give to her.

“This is for you.”

Unfurled it read SISU, blue letters against white.

“What does it mean?” she asked.

“It’s Finnish for Jane,” I responded. I’m not sure she believed me.

🥕🥕🥕

After The Funeral by Joanne Fisher

I had just come back from the funeral of my girlfriend. We had been in a car crash. I survived, she didn’t.

“How do I go on without her?” I cried out to my father who had come back with me so I wasn’t alone.

“With sisu.” My father replied.

“Sisu?” I didn’t understand.

“It’s a Finnish word for having determination, or possessing inner strength. I know you are strong Kathleen. It may not seem like it now, but I know you will get through this, like I did with your mother.” he told me.

I really hoped so.

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu – DNA by Sally Cronin

They found the old bones in a cave in Southern France. They were packed carefully and dispatched to a laboratory where they identified them as the remains of a woman in her 40s. This was elderly for her time, with arthritis and healed broken bones evidence of her hard life. Her mitochondrial DNA was matched to millions of women who migrated across the continent as ice thawed, populating almost every part of Europe and beyond. Her genes survived through the centuries and 20,000 years later matched to a young woman, who discovered where all her strength had come from.

🥕🥕🥕

More Strength Than Meets the Eye by TN Kerr

It is born from bitter winter cold
Not a nip or chill, but a biting, vicious cold
A cold that comes with long, nights, and
Northern lights
It has nothing to do with gain
It’s about diving into the water
Simply for the sake of it
It’s about laughing in the face of tragedy
It’s about mocking and defeating whatever adversity is thrown your way
Always getting up
Something akin to, yet more than,
Dogged perseverance
Intensity that thrives in the long days of summer

You are stronger than any one of us, or even you, could ever imagine

🥕🥕🥕

Plowshares by D. Avery

Her little boy and her daughters worked chores according to their size and ability but he, the youngest, wasn’t scolded when he sometimes fell to playing. But this?

Flinging the stick, she stalked off to the barn.

“Ma, it was just pretendin’!”
He had never known his father and older brother who used to do the heavy fieldwork. ‘Back before harvest time,’ they’d said, left together, eyes bright with adventure.

Pressing her forehead against the horse’s broad neck she confessed her worries.

She wouldn’t allow another son to play at war.

She harnessed the horse and hitched the plow.

🥕🥕🥕

Snow Storm by Abhijit Ray

Mikka was out to do some fishing, catch up with reading and have some quiet time in his cottage up north. He must have missed weather forecast. Storm caught Mikka unprepared. Running low on food and fuel, and suffering from poor cell phone connectivity, Mikka realised the extra can of gasoline in the trunk will only last so long.

“Either I make an effort to reach home or freeze here to death,” Mikka reasoned and made his way following a weak GPS signal.

“Show Sisu, when in trouble,” dad taught him. In his country, “sisu” meant grit to overcome hurdles.

🥕🥕🥕

Make It Work by Kelley Farrell

“Find your inner strength. We all have something we’re good at. Something we’re prepared for, even if we don’t realize it. What ignites that fire in you?”

That was when Becky had one dollar to her name.

Joe was right of course. Everybody has something to be fanned from sparks of passion.

Becky had three mouths to feed and an extensive debt to the local sex shop.

“Made it work indeed!” Joe admired Becky’s new business locale. “Mistress Cyan’s Pleasure Room.”

“Number 1 in the city.” Becky smiled, “Want to try it out? No charge for my oldest friend.”

🥕🥕🥕

Dedication by Shane Kroetsch

Langdon sat staring at his hands. He scratched at the dry skin on his knuckles. “I did what needed to be done. It wasn’t easy, but I found a way.”

“That’s something to be proud of, isn’t it?” Emma said.

Langdon shrugged. “I gave my word. Not much more to it.”

“I think it says a lot about your character, the fact that you dedicated years of your life to the cause.”

Langdon’s lips went thin and he looked up to Emma. “Maybe it does say a lot. What it doesn’t say is whether it was worth the cost.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by Anita Dawes

Sisu is woven into our DNA
lying dormant, waiting , trapped quicksilver
hoping the day never comes where we will be tested
Do we freeze, or jump into action to save a life?
where we meet a part of ourselves
we would not recognise in the mirror
the hero who hides behind that pinstriped suit
mild-mannered like the man of steel
we would you run into a burning building
because you heard a cry for help?
many think we could go one step beyond
if called upon to act
would you leap without thinking
does quicksilver run through your veins?

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu Book-su by Ritu Bhathal

Finally, time to sit down and read.

“Mum! I’m hungry!”

Don’t worry book, I’ll be back.

“Okay dear.”

Child fed. Back to my book.

“Honey, do you know where my tie is?”

Tie found. Where was I?

Raised voices and screaming.

Book down.

“What is the matter with the two of you? Okay, Tom, you sit here with that Lego. Amelia, draw me a picture over here. No, not near your brother!”

Ah, chapter two I think–

Ring, ring.

“Hello? Hi mum…”

Twenty minutes later.

“Okay, bye mum. Speak to you tomorrow.”

That book. I will get it read.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Says You by Bill Engleson

In that moment, he prepared to let go.

Time had stopped.

Nothing moved in the room.

A spike of sun slipped along the ceiling.

No breeze ruffled the curtains.

Outside, there were street sounds.

Tires.

Metal clanging.

Voices.

Life moving.

Jill held his hand. Steady. No squeezes. Just steady.

“You’ll be fine,” he thought.

“Says you,” she said.

“Says me,” he thought.

“A lot you know,” she said.

“I know you,” he thought. “I might waver without you, but you, you have a steel spine. A Viking’s heart.”

A gust of warm wind blew in.

A candle flickered.

Darkness.

🥕🥕🥕

New Bride by Ruchira Khanna

“Dad, I can’t take it anymore!” the new bride lamented over the telephone.

“Give it some time. Don’t make a hasty decision.”

“But, Dad his family’s so different than how I’ve been brought up! They have weird tastes, and most of the time they live with us,” she sobbed.

“Look at the positive side; you have a loving husband. Give it some time; otherwise, we’re always there for you!”

She put down the phone as she wiped her tear, “For the sake of Sam, I shall become sisu for a few days and then decide what to do next.”

🥕🥕🥕

Cross Roads by Saifun Hassam

As a marine archaeologist, Pierre Yandeau loved exploring deep ocean waters. Then his fiance and colleague Georgina was killed in a diving accident off the Great Shelf Peninsula. Sisu. Pierre returned to his research at the Pacific Institute. He would never forget Georgina. He knew he had a decision to make.

The Great Shelf Institute invited him to join their ecological and archaeological faculty. He walked along the endless desert shores of the Shelf. Once this was under deep ocean water. Who had carved those ancient runes on the rocky plateaus inland? He would explore, he would learn. Sisu.

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by Kay Kingsley

She’d been through a lot more than most but she knows it’s not as much as some others. Described as a rock, strong and sturdy, people were drawn to her strength like a magnet. And when she was young that need fed her soul, gave her purpose, direction, and she felt like a mountain.

But as the years passed, she learned that even the toughest rocks are worn smooth by a gentle trickle of water and strong winds can erode mountains into dust.

It’s a fine line she thinks between sisu and stubbornness and she walks it with grace.

🥕🥕🥕

Claire’s Sisu by calmkate

Claire a vivacious 32 year old roamed the world sorting out ‘awkward’ situations for a billionaire for over a decade. Confronted with aggressive breast cancer her imminent demise was her greatest challenge.

Resilience is our inner strength, our ability to deal with overwhelming even impossible challenges. It has a strong spiritual component supplemented by mental and emotional factors. Most don’t realise they have it until they are truly tested.

Claire had to dig deep and with the right support her sisu kicked in empowering her until the brain tumour took over. She died with dignity, love and real peace.

🥕🥕🥕

Seeding by Sascha Darlington

he rains come early. My granddaddy used to say: can’t put seeds in drenched soil.

Almost immediately it’s hot. The cool weather crops produce little. Too hot, too soon.

And then there’s more rain, and Daniel yells at me and the kids, while taking off his Cardinal’s cap, splaying his fingers through his crop of hair, his eyes searching here and yet remotely for answers that won’t come.

He sits on the edge of the bed, staring at the floor. “The seeds rot in the soil, Cam.”

“We’ll start them indoors.”

“Might work. But we’d need a butt-load.”

“So?”

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by Ann Edall-Robson

Some mornings she watched the moon set as the sun rose. Night and day blended into each other. Days off became planning time for the days to come. Often the work made her brain weary and physically worn, yet Hanna continued to push herself.

Mrs. Johnson understood Hanna’s tenacity, her sisu. The older woman had seen it before. There was no doubt why the young woman would not rest until she had accomplished what she had quietly taken on.

Others didn’t understand Hanna’s attitude, but Mrs. Johnson could see the reasoning in her eyes, her stance, and relentless perseverance.

🥕🥕🥕

We Got Grit by Susan Sleggs

“Remember when we were teenagers, we thought we had the world by the tail,” Lillian mused.

“Those were the days,” Maude answered.

“Guess we learned life wasn’t easy didn’t we?”

“Yeah, about my 40th birthday I figured out I didn’t know sh*t back then.”

“Now you’re 90, what do ya think?”

“The truth; there are only tiny snippets of peace in any one’s life. Responsibilities, hardships, and illness are ever present and only thing means anything is how a person handles all the crap.”

“That’s grit my friend.”

“Good thing we both got it. It’s what’s kept us goin’.”

🥕🥕🥕

Paid in Full by Nicole Horlings

He sat down heavily. She looked up with disappointment. “No overtime?”

“Not today. And I may come home early tomorrow. The market’s been dead lately.” He leaned back and groaned. “I promised to provide for you.”

“And you are. I was able to pay all of our bills in full today.”

He looked surprised, then a grin broke across his face. “Really?” She nodded, and pulled a letter out of her pocket, handing it to him. “Your artwork won first place? That’s fantastic!” She grinned, took the cheque, and slipped it into a jar of loose change labeled vacation.

🥕🥕🥕

No Lion Sleeps Tonight by Susan Zutautas

One scorching sunny morning everyone gathered together by the Quiver tree, deep in the forest to discuss the shortage of food.

Leo starts the meeting with, “Good morning” to the pride.

“Tonight, we will go and hunt a zebra. I spotted a dazzle last night and if we’re quick and stealth there won’t be a problem.”

“Papa, papa, can I come too for the hunt?” said Leo’s cub.

“Yes, I think it is a fine time for you to join us, time to develop your sisu.”

“Okay all, we’ll meet back here at dusk, don’t be late,” said Leo.

🥕🥕🥕

The Animal Facts of Life by Chelsea Owens

“Elephants are pregnent fohr two years!”

“Really?”

“Uh-huh. Dhey also have duh biggest bwains of mammals.”

She smiled in the rearview mirror at her son. He sat hunched over his animal facts book.

“You know,” she ventured, “there’s a saying that ‘an elephant never forgets.’ Maybe because of their big brains.”

He didn’t answer. She knew he heard; he always did. That, the slight speech impediment, and his obsession with one topic made adults think he didn’t.

She sighed and rubbed her stomach, wondering how he’d handle being a big brother. Unlike an elephant, they only had nine months.

🥕🥕🥕

Targets Targets! by Anurag Bakhshi

“Get up,” he called out, insistently, incessantly.

I shook my head and tried to get on to my feet, but tumbled down, again.

It was just too cold, and my body needed rest, desperately.

But he just wouldn’t give up.

“Get up,” he cried out again, “they’re counting on us.”

And that, more than his pushing, is what led me to dig deep into my sisu, my inner strength, and with a huge heave and a loud wheeze, I finally got up.

Harsh winters or not, Christmas Eve was no time for one of Santa’s chief reindeer to sleep!

🥕🥕🥕

Sisu by Roberta Eaton

I have been thinking about my situation. Now that my headache has receded, I need to formulate an escape plan. I must exhibit sisu and find a way out of this locked room.

I have no idea why I have been locked in, but I know that my wife and son must need me. Someone brought me food and drink while I was sleeping so my superiors are clearly monitoring my movements. I need to find a way to fool the microchip in my head into believing I am sleeping. Then, when someone comes, I can make my move.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

His Darling Susi by Di @ pensitivity101

Her name was Susi, but to him she was his little Sisu.
From an early age, she had always been the stronger of the two of them. She had this way about her, would accept anything that life pushed her way and simply deal with it without complaint or fuss.
He’d read to her that night and like every other night, she told him she loved him.
‘Don’t worry Daddy,’ she said snuggling into his chest and pointing to his heart. ‘I’ll always be in here.’
God came for her that night, his darling Sisu, just ten years old.

🥕🥕🥕

Marathon Reversal by Anne Goodwin

At fifteen miles, she hits the wall. A stich in her side, legs in cramp, she staggers, sapped of juice. But she’d run through the pain in training. Today, the crowds and her fellow runners would cheer her on.

Wolfing down an energy bar, she recovers her mojo. But what the fuck? When she turns around to jog back to the beginning, they ask if she’s lost her mind.

If all goes well, she’ll do the distance. And a little more. She laughs at the thought of missing that marathon medal. ‘My way’ fills the hollow in her head.

🥕🥕🥕

Keeping Promises by Jo Hawk

Eino said caring for his invalid mother wouldn’t be easy, but his work took him abroad for months. The cabin had been her home since childhood. I didn’t imagine it would be this difficult. The closest neighbor lived miles away. We were alone.

Daytime was bearable. Aiti’s care and the daily chores kept me busy. I marked the calendar, counting days.

Then the storms descended. Howling winds crashed waves against the cliff, and spray pelted the windows. The house creaked, while my mind played games. The meager fire staved off ghosts while the clock counted the minutes until dawn.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Ranch Yarns by D. Avery

“Pal, you been on the ranch yer whole life?”

“Yep, reckon ya could say so. In thet I cain’t remember nuthin’ afore bein’ here.”

“Well, that’s a whole lotta hard work, all that ranchin’, day in and day out.”

“Yep, I reckon. Jist what a ranch hand does, Kid. Roll out ever mornin’ an’ jist do what’s gotta be done.”

“That’s sisu, Pal.”

“How is thet Japanese physical combat training?”

“Finnish. Sisu.”

“Says you. An’ finish whut? Ranch work ain’t ever finished Kid. No matter the weather or season. But it’s who I am. It’s what I do.”

“Sisu.”

***

“Sisu, Pal. Means yer tough, resilient.”

“If ya say so, Kid. Jist know I like ranchin’, an’ this here’s a good outfit. Shorty’s good ta work for.”

“Ya sure ‘bout that, Pal? This job have benefits?”

“Lots uv’em. Fresh air, wide open spaces, good folks,—“

“No, Pal. Benefits. Health insurance, fer instance. What happens if ya git hurt on the job?”

“Reckon Shorty’d take care a me.”

“Ya’d let Shorty take care a ya?”

“Yeah.”

“Now that’s true grit. Heard she heps till it hurts. Might wanna talk ta her Cowboy ‘bout her care givin’ skills.”

“That’s cold, Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion

Exhaustion can grind down even the most energetic person. It fogs the brain and slows the limbs. Slumber, rest, reprieve, all or sought as remedies. Sometimes we get a second wind.

This week, writers overcome exhaustion to write about it. That doesn’t mean these stories will put you to sleep!

The following is based on the April 25, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes exhaustion.

PART I (10-minute read)

Comfort Food by Saifun Hassam

Diamante struggled with the Abbott’s decision. To be a scholar, yes. But to be a priest? He loved to teach the village children. Being a guardian of the ancient temple was fine. He was exhausted emotionally and mentally, trying to find a way out.

From the cliffs overlooking the sea, he trekked down to the ancient temple. He sank into the shadows and fell asleep. A fragrant aroma of mint and giggling laughing children woke him up. A feast was ready for him: potato patties, fried fish and sun drenched peaches. He would find a way through his dilemma.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhausted by TN Kerr

“Raul, please rest. You can’t help us if you’re dead.”

“I’m sorry, Alondra. I have to finish before the rains come.”

She shook her head and returned to the house, where she made a big jar of Sandia Agua Fresca. Then she made Pambazos and wrapped them in a napkin, to keep him going. He was bleary-eyed when she returned with the food.

“Raul, you need to rest.” She took his hand and led him to the cool shade of a large Alamo tree. They ate. They made love in the dappled sunshine. Afterwards, she watched him sleep, exhausted.

🥕🥕🥕

Making Hay by D. Avery

“Hey. I’ve got dinner warmed in the oven. You’ve been haying since before sun-up till after sunset. You must be exhausted.”

“No, just tired.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Hmm. Well, this is good work that matters. It had to be done, especially with the rain forecast. Luciene helped us then I helped him. Our cows are provided for and our families. I’m a little sore and tired but it feels good. Especially coming into this kitchen seeing you, knowing our Hope’s asleep upstairs, safe and sound.”

“Hmm. Are you too tired? For more good work?”

“Not if we’re working together.”

🥕🥕🥕

Exhausted Love by Bill Engleson

He went to bed late. It was after nine.

He told the cat, “You should’ve reminded me.”

The cat squawked as if to say, “Yeah, right.”

It was only him and the cat these days. Sal had packed up and split a month or so earlier.

He’d said at the time, “The cats yours,” meaning quite clearly, he thought, “take the cat.”

She didn’t.

All she said was, “I can’t hear you.”

He thought that an odd thing to say but he didn’t tell her.

There would’ve been no point.

The upside was, he’s almost sure the cat listens.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by Pete Fanning

I couldn’t believe she would show up like this, tapping on my door. Like I had nothing to do but sit and wait for her. She was drunk, or close, her hair up in a lazy bun, curls dangling, spilling in a way Hollywood could try to replicate but never get right.

She was breathtaking. And she knew it. And she wasn’t supposed to be within 100 yards of my door.

Her smile widened, like her path of destruction. “Hi.”

I closed my eyes. From exhaustion—no, to stop seeing her, stop wanting her—when her lips found mine.

🥕🥕🥕

Heavy on Dark by Michael B. Fishman

Table, paneling, carpet, the room was heavy on dark.

She cited “irreconcilable differences”. Two dark words.

I said, “Is there anything in life that’s really irreconcilable? You know, outside of death and taxes.”

She looked at her lawyer and said, “See?” He looked at me like I was a child and offered a dark nod.

I said, “Would it have been easier if I’d cheated?”

She and her lawyer exchanged a dark glance and they both gave me the disapproving parent look. “You’re exhausting, you know that,” she said.

I signed the paper. Stood and walked into the light.

🥕🥕🥕

Catching a Nap by Susan Zutautas

Flopping down on the couch with pillow in toe, I knew I’d be asleep in no time at all. Hopefully Sandy would let me get an hour’s sleep or so before calling me. Exhaustion had kicked in and out I went.

I woke with a startle, looked up and saw Ian standing there.

“Oh no, I hope I didn’t wake you, Meg.”

“No, that’s okay I was just sneaking in a few zzz’s while your mom was resting. I should get up and check on her.”

“No, no, you stay put, I’ll tend to her for a few hours.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bonding Via Fabric by Susan Sleggs

Lillian leaned on her cane and perused the only two shelves of fabric she had left. She needed four complimentary ones to make the project she had in mind. After trying many combinations she exhausted her options so limped to her chair and eased herself into the worn seat. After a little nap, she called her granddaughter. “Would you have time to take me shopping.”

“I can on Friday.”

When they returned from their excursion, Sally said, “My youngest starts school in September. Could we schedule time to sew together?”

Lillian’s misty eyed response was, “Of course my dear.”

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by Anita Dawes

There isn’t enough hours in the day to do all that needs doing
I can’t afford a maid, I don’t have a rewind button
Although I could do with having one fitted
Maybe some new batteries, like the ones that keep the bunny running
Now I don’t have the strength to run, to hide just for a while
Sleep does not help much, I awake with a backache and sore feet
Head spinning with the thought of all that is yet to come
The day is full before I start
I can get through another one because of love…

🥕🥕🥕

Taking What it Wants by Dorinda Duclos

Exhausted. The mere thought of the word makes me tired. I suppose staying up until the wee hours of the morning isn’t the best way to overcome it, but writing has a way of taking what it wants. There’s never a choice.

Still, finding the chance to sneak a few winks before Marsha shows up is difficult. Once she is here, there is no hope of relaxing. She is a spitfire, a jumble of energy. I am just a tired old woman. She never understands. But then again, editors never really do.

Chapter 1… my mind is a blank.

🥕🥕🥕

Sleepless in a Dormitory by Anne Goodwin

What an eventful day! Matty could sleep standing up.

Yet she lies on her back. Then on her side. Her thoughts racing, jumping, spinning: packing one away, another springs up.
When the guests retire, she must contend not only with her own mental disarray but the groans that are the external manifestation of theirs. Could she smother them one by one with a pillow? Simpler to step outside.

Shivering in the cobbled courtyard, she cinches her dressing gown. Finally soothed by the diamond-studded sky, she makes to go indoors. But, when she tries the handle, the door won’t budge.

🥕🥕🥕

Exodus by D. Avery

“I know she’s old but just two days ago she was walking and talking and taking meals with us. You try talking to her.”

“Bobe?”

“Come in child, sit. I’m old it’s true but I see and I hear. Come, talk with me but do not talk to me of getting out of bed, of eating food. I tell you, I am done.”

“Why? Why are you giving up on life?”

“I’ve seen enough. I’ve seen too much. When I was a child. And now in this country. At Passover no less. I’m tired of the hate. I’m exhausted.”

🥕🥕🥕

Getting The Right Signal by Geoff Le Pard

‘You look exhausted, Morgan.’

‘It’s mum and her death wish.’

‘Death wish?’

‘Well, wishes. This whole “when I go…” malarkey.’

‘It was the music last week…?’

‘Oh that was easy. She told me yesterday she doesn’t trust me to carry out her wishes.’

‘She still hasn’t decided on cremation or burial?’

‘That’s part of it. It’s after that.’

‘After?’

‘She doesn’t want to be lonely.’

‘Sorry?’

‘If she’s cremated how can she guarantee I’ll spread her ashes near her friends so she can keep up with the news.’

‘And burial?’

‘She’ll take a radio but will she get a signal?’

🥕🥕🥕

The 36 Hour Day by tracey

Last night’s game had gone thirteen innings followed by a long flight across the country. A 5:00p first pitch the next day left no time for a nap.

The radio announcer found himself giving an involuntary snort of laughter over the airwaves. An unexpected foul ball in the booth started the infectious chuckling. The announcers couldn’t look at each other for fear of bursts of mirth escaping. Their words came out strangled with laughter.

Punch drunk with exhaustion the radio announcers lost it in the seventh inning. Baffled listeners were confused, not recognizing sleep deprivation when they heard it.

🥕🥕🥕

Night Watch by Joanne Fisher

They had spent the entire day walking south and now they were both exhausted. In the darkest part of the night Aalen kept watch. She could see quite well in the starlight.

She looked at the sleeping form of Ashalla covered in a blanket. She had grown fond of this human. She would never have thought that possible. All her life she had been trained to keep humans out of their forest, or to hunt them down if they dared to enter. And now she was friends with one. Maybe they weren’t all as bad as she’d been told.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhausted by The Dark Netizen

Living on as a survivor is not easy in this wretched world.

I have fought countless battles through my life: For glory, for food, for money, and some times for the sheer fun of it.

In my youth I courted war, but as the years passed, my disgust of those who fuelled conflicts began increasing.

Every man that I have ever killed, every instance when I ended a life, sometimes swiftly, cleanly and sometimes slowly; they are still fresh in my memory.

I am exhausted now, awaiting a quick death.

However, my blade still remains hungry for more blood…

🥕🥕🥕

The Royal Bodyguard by Anurag Bakhshi

The sword almost slipped from his hand, as his opponent feinted sharply. He was weary with exhaustion, but giving up was not an option.

Giving up meant breaking the trust of the king who had made him his royal bodyguard.

And so, he dug deep into the inner recesses of his soul, and attacked, one last time.

A fountain of blood spurted out, followed by a cry that shook the palace to its core.

And as he looked in alarm at the king’s bloodied nose, and the triumphant fly flitting about, all that the monkey could say was, “Oops!”

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by Shane Kroetsch

“I can’t do this anymore.” Sabine said.

“Do what?” Kalvin said.

Sabine spread her arms wide. “Any of this. Put up with people who refuse to use their brains. People who care so little about their own responsibilities that they don’t see the rest of the team struggling to pick up their slack. Why should I be the one working after hours and losing sleep over whether or not the job that these idiots refuse to do gets done?”

“Come on, Sabine, we can figure this out, can’t we?”

Sabine shook her head. “No. It’s too late. I quit.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Hard Life of a Hector by H.R.R. Gorman

Home defense is no joke. I thwart dozens of attempted break ins, assaults, and thefts every day.

Look at that two-legged creeper. “BARK!” I shout, warning him that my house is occupied by a threatening set of teeth.

“WOOF!” I combine it with a growl to ward off that four-legged menace. Other dogs make me so mad – sometimes I get a little over the top and attack the walls. Hooman doesn’t like that, but at least the house is still standing, I say.

Guard duty’s exhausting. It’s nice to settle down with a peanut butter Kong and a snooze.

🥕🥕🥕

DIY by Di @ pensitivity101

‘My get up and go has got up and left,’ Hubby said.

‘Lucky you,’ I replied. ‘ Mine hasn’t got the strength to actually get up!’

These days, our energy levels are a fraction of what they were and it takes weeks to get over any additional exertion.

Despite being exhausted though, both of us have had restless nights this past week, managing only a few hours sleep.

Our routine is the same, and we take our cue from Maggie who puts herself to bed at 9pm. Wish we could sleep at the drop of a hat like she does!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

The Author of a Long Night by Chelsea Owens

The cursor blinked from an empty screen, the only light in a night-draped house. Walls slept; world slept; he, for a moment, slept. She looked over at his backlit-shadowed features; they frowned.

She sighed and could not frown. Or smile. Expressions felt as elusive as the absent story arcs on her page.

I must write something, she thought.

Blink, answered the screen.

Anything?

Blink.

Then; through morning oatmeal mind mush, an idea came. Her fingers poised to type…

He groaned. Sat up. Named her.

She turned to his care.

The cursor sighed, yawned, and went to sleep without her.

🥕🥕🥕

Life in a Wakeful Trance (two parts) by JulesPaige

Part 1

You know you’re a parent when you seem to be exhausted all the time.
Especially in early years when multiple night feedings happen.
Or when the little tyke has regular two and four o’clock nightfrights.
To bed by ten, and up at six the child; not remembering the screams.
The advice is; don’t turn on the light, coo and calm the itty bitty.
And you wonder how many months or years this is going to go on.

where’s independence
the confident adult who
just now needs some sleep?

Life goes on, they grow up, move out; and you retire?

Part 2

You know that you’re a child when you seem to be exhausted all the time.
Especially in years when multiple calls to your old folks occur.
When your elderly parent starts to have memory and health issues.
You’ve the same ten minute conversation three times in thirty minutes.
Mother or Dad never seem to sleep or be awake when they should be.
You offer support, loving them; trying to keep your own sanity.

where’s independence
that confident adult who
you wanted to be?

Life goes on, and you can only that hope your own children remember you… with kindness too.

🥕🥕🥕

The Longest Days by Susan Zutautas

Meg never realized how fatiguing it would be being the main caregiver for Ian’s mother who’d fallen and broken her hip.

It had only been four days since she’d been released from hospital and Meg still had six to ten weeks of this to look forward to.

If there weren’t so many stairs in Sandy’s house it would be so much easier but at the same time, Meg knew she was helping someone and getting exercise.

On one trip Sandy said to Meg, “I’m so lucky to have you and so is Ian.”

That made all the exhaustion worthwhile.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustipated by Ritu Bhathal

Tired?

Seriously, you don’t have a clue.

Yes, so what? You get up, get ready, catch a train and work 9-5. The evening commute is hard, so you need a drink at the end of the day. Then you sleep. And repeat.

At least you sleep.

Me?

I’m not sure what time I wake up, because I’m not entirely sure I go to sleep. It’s an endless round of feeding, changing, getting housework done whilst he sleeps, then all over again. Babies don’t have a clue about tiredness.

Exhausted?

No. I’m exhaustipated.

Simply too tired to give a sh*t!

🥕🥕🥕

Exhausted 24/7/365 by Ann Edall-Robson

“You’re exhausted?” Hanna’s voice reflected her disgust.

Tal lay stretched out in the shade next to the hay bales. His hat covering his face so he didn’t have to see the look in Hanna’s eyes. He knew what was coming next. She was right, but it still didn’t make it any easier to watch her work as hard as everyone else. She shouldn’t have to. She was a woman, but he would never tell her that.

“You’d think by now you would have learned that ranching is 24/7/365. It doesn’t stop just because you think you’re exhausted!”

🥕🥕🥕

Expedition by Miriam Hurdle

It had been thirty-five days in the ocean desert. Their boat was beat up brutally. The sun was on their right, but the boat was drifting.

“We have exhausted the food supply and fresh water.”

“Such a pity we couldn’t pass Cape Town.”

“We set out together and will end here together.”

“Some of us could hang in a little longer.”

“How?”

“We’ll draw the lots to decide who goes first to sustain us.”

“What? I’m throwing up.”

“I’m in the same boat. Here are three straws in my fist.”

“Wait! I spotted something.”

“A bird.”

“Ay, the land.”

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by calmkate

Emily was totally exhausted after another sleepless night.

All that worry and anxiety caused her so much fright

The abuse had been hideous, nobody had the right

to violate a child who always felt as if no end were in sight

Her experience had left her with nightmares pale and white

Victimhood wrapped tightly around her with all her might

Family and friends tending to avoid her odious plight

could she now become victor by wise choices in spite!

Experiences shape us but our attitude and choices define us

Forgiveness can heal although we never forget such blight …

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by Floridaborne

We run, from church to church, telling our story.

People smirk, as if they know it can’t be true. Then the accusations begin.

“No one bombs a peaceful congregation. What did you do to enrage them?”

“We prayed,” I said. “And they beheaded our children for believing in the wrong religion.”

Still, it gives me no joy to read about another church being bombed, or burned. Exhaustion is our constant companion as we make our way north.

We have lost our family, our home, and tire of arrogant people who will not listen. Perhaps the human race deserves extinction.

🥕🥕🥕

Our Hero? by Joanne Fisher

She walked out of the smoking crater in the middle of Kingsport City. A crowd stared at her in fear and excitement and at the blasted remains of Dr. Hat, the latest super-villain to threaten their world.

“I am so exhausted.” Giant Explosion Girl said. The Mayor congratulated her.

“It’s amazing the job you do for us. Can I ask a question?” The Mayor asked.

“Sure.” she replied.

“Why do you put your life on the line to defend us every time?” She looked at him.

“Because I want it to be me who destroys the world, not them.”

🥕🥕🥕

Drama Lama by Annette Rochelle Aben

Legs with the strength of over cooked spaghetti, kept her from being able to stand at the kitchen sink. If she could raise her arms from the dead, she’d move the shock of hair that had fallen, blocking her view. Instead, she made a feeble attempt to blow it out of the way.

“Motheeeeerrrrrr.”

“Puhleeeeezzeeeee.”

“I am sooo tired!”

Mother had heard it all before. Of course, her daughter didn’t have the energy to get the dishes washed. If she expended all that effort doing chores, then she’d have no energy left to spend the evening with her friends.

🥕🥕🥕

Bad Decision by Tina Stewart Brakebill

God she was exhausted. The constant questions. The scrutiny. Knowing she was being judged. Constantly. About every single thing.

Her friends had tried to warn her but she didn’t listen. “It’s not like I’m new at this this.” Her naïve arrogance dripping off her words. But California isn’t like New York they insisted.

Now she believed. Too late.

What it would feel like to escape it all? Just run. Dive in. Sink. Just rest.

Free? Quiet?

“Ms. Emma? … Ms. EMMA!”

The kids weren’t even the worst. It was the parents. Private school teacher in Malibu. Worst decision ever.

🥕🥕🥕

Pilfered by Violet Lentz

The pen wasn’t worth anything, but Maddie pocketed it anyway. It wasn’t about the pen. It was about the rush. Stepping so far outside of her exhausted reality, that she could feel the hair on the back of her arms standing at attention.

Sometimes Maddie believed, stealing was the only thing that made her life worth living.

Mindlessly whisking her toddling two year old into the car seat, Maddie caught a glimpse of something sparkly dangling from her daughters tightly clenched fist. A necklace pilfered from the display adjacent the cash register, where Maddie herself had pocketed the pen.

🥕🥕🥕

Tramp’s Heartbreak by Sally Cronin

He had been walking in the lashing rain for hours. He contemplated the long straight road ahead known as tramp’s heartbreak and bowed his head in exhaustion

Cars had ignored his raised thumb all day as they sped past. In the distance he heard a vehicle approaching and braced himself for icy spray. Instead the truck stopped.

‘Hey old timer, hop in’. The teenager smiled from the warmth of the cab.

The lad chatted away as he sat in grateful silence. His eyelids fluttered and he slept, leaving his fate to a boy with the heart of an angel.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhausted Possibilities by Norah Colvin

Jolted awake when the bus reached the terminal, they grabbed their belongings and stumbled out. The driver shrugged when asked about accommodation.

‘NO VACANCY’ signs flashed along narrow streets. ‘NOT WELCOME’ lists accompanied the few with vacancies.
Trudging back to the terminal, hoping for seclusion, a ‘VACANCY’ appeared where none before. An old man bade them enter, waved away their money and installed them comfortably.

“Thank you. Thank you,” they bowed, and collapsed into sleep.

In the morning, they were alone. A note lay on the table:

“When you think you have exhausted all possibilities, there is always more.”

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

Exhaustion by Reena Saxena

Feeling exhausted is not worth it, when a world of opportunities awaits out there. Maybe, it is time to shed old skin and don new apparel. Maybe, it is time to refill the tank. Maybe, it is time to find new inspiration.

The immediate world around has shown its true colors, and changed those again like a true-blue chameleon (or is it true-green?). I’m ready to paint on a new canvas.

Moving on is not quitting. It is well, just quitting something that has outlived its course.

To be exhausted speaks of a limited stock. And I am unlimited…

🥕🥕🥕

NanoWriteMore by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She dropped her pen, hand cramping. Why had she defined success as the number of pages she filled?

She’d been sure that using paper and pen would slow her thoughts, access a deeper, more creative part of her brain, that would result in less typing and less editing.

She squinted at the stack of curled, etched paper, unable to decipher her scrawl.

Certainly what she had was good, publishable work, ready for the next stage?

Except her hand was cramped, her vision blurred, and her stomach roiled with hunger and nausea.

And most of all, she needed a nap.

🥕🥕🥕

If Ya Try Sometimes Ya Git What Ya Kneed by D. Avery

“Hey, Pal! Where’s Sho-mmmfff?”

“Kid, I will remove my hand from yer big mouth if ya kin hush and jist whisper. Okay?”

“Mmmffhhhmmff.”

“Okay.”

“Where’s shorty at?”

“Shorty’s Cowboy finely got inta the sawbone’s. Done got a new knee.”

“YEEEHmmmmf. Oopfff.”

“Tellin’ ya Kid, ya wake Shorty up whilst she has a chance ta rest, I’ll more ‘an cover that mouth a yers.”

“Ah’m whisperin’. Shouldn’t Shorty be celebratin’? This is good news at last.”

“Ain’t really news, Kid, more like the happy endin’ to a long story a the frustrations a gittin’ ta here.”

“Reckon Shorty’s exhausted.”

“Yep.”

***

“Now Shorty’s heppin’ her Cowboy git on his feet after the surgery.”

“She’s some sweet on that Cowboy. An’ he let’s her wear his shirt.”

“Don’t be givin’ Shorty shit over that shirt Kid.”

“Who’d ever give Shorty shit over a shirt that her sweetie shared with her?”

“Mebbe a shithead thet don’t know enough ta look where he’s steppin’.”

“Reckon Shorty’s Cowboy’s gonna have ta learn ta walk right agin. Pal, with jist one good knee ain’t there a possibility he’ll end up walkin’ in circles?”

“Reckon thet’ll make it less exhaustin’ fer Shorty ta track him.”

“Mebbe.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gender

Baby showers often declare blue or pink party favors. What those colors denote of sexes, have evolved back and forth over the centuries. Like color, gender identity and ideas are becoming more fluid, more colorful.

Writers addressed gender in literary art. These stories reflect broad perspectives from around the world — gender stories that color outside the boxes with more crayons than blue and pink.

The following are based on the April 18, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about gender.

PART I (10-minute read)

Two Cents Worth Sense? by JulesPaige

Our eldest child was almost three years old when the second one was due.
A soft baby doll resembling our eldest was bought for love practice.
Changing the cloth diaper, singing lullabies, ever gentle hugging.

crabby old lady
said what good was it for him
to have a dolly

Our eldest is now a Daddy; he’s got one of each a peach, a plum.

crabby old lady
may not have had children or
a dolly to love

He’s changed diapers for both, sang lullabies and gives gentle hugs with love.

The world is a better place with gentle love.

🥕🥕🥕

Third Gender by Abhijit

“Boy or girl Sakharam?”

“Dr Saheb wants to see me?” Sakharam answered, “I have cleared dues.”

“Sakharam, your baby is a third gender,” Dr Sahai head of obstetrics and gynecology informed “we can make her a girl by surgery; it will cost money.”

“What is this third gender, brother?” a confused Sakharam asked.

“Bhai looks like your baby is a hijda,” a better informed Dayaram explained.

Sakharam, a daily wage laborer, was found hanging from a tree next morning. Hoping for a son, after three daughters, Sakharam lacked money and conviction to face the reality of fathering an eunuch.

🥕🥕🥕

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.”

🥕🥕🥕

Her Story by Joanne Fisher

She had grown up as a boy, but never felt like she was one. Her outward form never mirrored what she felt like inside. She developed anxiety, depression, and tried to kill herself multiple times. Then one day after losing hope of ever being herself, she finally talked to a therapist about her secret. This led to hormones and testosterone blockers, and changes. Her body became more curvy, her skin softer, and her breasts grew. When she looked in a mirror now she began to see herself. For the first time her body felt like it was hers.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s a Choice by Reena Saxena

“Gender roles are assigned based on biology. A man cannot give birth.”

“Sure! But he can raise a child.”

“Why did the caveman not do it? There must have been a reason.”

“They had no feeding bottles and breast pumps. We live in a different age.”

“Is that your condition for marriage?”

“Marriage is a choice. You are an artist who paints in a home studio. I am a civil engineer who has to be on the site. Who do you think can manage home and kids better?”

“Well, I’d prefer being child-free.”

“That is a choice – fully acceptable.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gender Comrades by Bill Engleson

“In my day, there weren’t no genders. Just men and wimin. Pretty sure that’s the way it were. Hard to remember, though.”

“Well, Luke, I’ll tell ya, your day was my day. I recollect it different.”

“Ya do, do ya. How so?”

“That time I sailed over ter France, daddy told me, ‘neither a borrower nor a gender be.’”

“What the heck did he mean?”

“It befluxed me, too. Said it were from Shakespeare’s Piglet… or Cutlet…anyways, it meant, be yourself, and keep your hand on your purse. Or your person. Somethin’ like that.”

“It’s a headscratcher, alright.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Greenhorn by Ann Edall-Robson

The greenhorn was getting his ranch introduction under Tal’s tutelage. The kid, as Mrs. Johnson called him, was an exchange student. He would be with them for a couple of months.

Hanna leaned on the fence listening to Tal explain the difference between the horses found on the ranch.

“Mares are the females. They get bred to stallions. Most of the horses here are geldings.”

“What’s a gelding?” The kid asked.

Tal thought for a moment before answering. “We classify them as being non-gender specific.”

Hanna couldn’t help but laugh. She had to agree, Tal was bang on.

🥕🥕🥕

Confusing by Di @ pensitivity101

Life was straightforward growing up, you had girls and boys.

Girls liked pink, boys liked blue.

Girls played with dolls, boys played with soldiers.

Or did they?

Suddenly pink shirts became fashionable, and from then on, the colour stereotype got slung out of the window.

There is no such thing as one or the other gender now.

It’s confusing, and the space on the job application form has multiple choice.

For security staff, it’s a nightmare, especially when it comes to body searches.

The world’s gone mad.

Imagine when asked

‘What gender are you?’ the answer is

‘You pick.’

🥕🥕🥕

Gender by Y. Prior

Ben placed me on hold.

Said he found my online stalker.

Exhaling with relief, I was eager to possibly have normal again. I could reconnect the wireless at home. No more power outages when I walked into the store or café. This stalker dude would sometimes get into my phone – so I stopped using apps. The airlines called me because someone unauthorized accessed my itinerary. And last year, he drove –

“Well Mrs. Jansu,” Ben said, “Your hacker is Lisa Hazel with the ip – “

“What? Lisa? Thought my stalker was a guy.

“Nope. Female. Thirty-three – from Boston.

🥕🥕🥕

Gender Bender by Deborah Lee

Jane holds up a flash card with a dress on it.

“La vestido,” Chelsea says promptly.

“El vestido,” Jane corrects. “It’s a masculine noun.”

Chelsea blows out an exasperated breath. “Women wear dresses! How is a dress masculine?”

Jane shrugs. “I didn’t invent the language. Try learning the article along with the word, and don’t look for male or female quality about the object itself. A pen may look phallic, but la pluma is feminine.”

“Well, it’s stupid.”

Jane picks another flash card. “The test is tomorrow. Be glad you’re learning Spanish and not Polish. Polish has five genders.”

🥕🥕🥕

Life’s Big Question by Anne Goodwin

“What are you having?”

“Isn’t it obvious? A baby!”

“Hah, right! Boy or girl?”

“Probably.”

“Gosh, sorry, if you don’t want to tell me … I didn’t mean to intrude.”

“It’s fine. I don’t mind.”

“So, er, which?”

“We’ll find out when they’re born.”

“Didn’t you have a scan?”

“Of course I had a scan. Had to check they were okay.”

“They? You’re having twins?”

“Just the one. Thank God!”

“But you don’t know what it is?”

“Like I said, a baby.”

“But, but, what colour outfit do I buy for it?”

“Who cares if it’s chosen with love?”

🥕🥕🥕

Boys and Girls by Anita Dawes

My mother’s despair plain to see
At my unladylike behaviour
As I climb the conker tree
With my dress tucked inside my underwear
To beat the boys was my game
I take my brother’s double cap gun holster
Make my own bow and arrow
Dolls and frills were not for me
Until a daughter came to me
I dress her in silks and frills
As my mother would have liked to see
Quite the woman I turned out to be
My daughter never climbed a tree
No guns, no bows and arrows
Today’s boys and girls play the same…

🥕🥕🥕

The Guest Room by Luccia Gray

‘Alice, Billy’ll have to stay in the guest room, tonight.’

‘Mum, we’ll be up late, finishing our project.’

‘You can’t sleep together, not since…’ She nods towards Alice’s waist, ‘you were ill.’

Billy frowned. Alice didn’t look unwell.

‘It’s not contagious.’

‘You’re not a little girl anymore.’

Billy’s eyes widened. He stared at Alice. She looked the same to him.

‘So, you’re going to punish Billy because of me?’

‘Everything’s different now, Alice.’

‘Billy’s afraid of the dark. I’m grown up, so I’ll look after him, won’t I Billy?’

Billy’s jaw dropped and he nodded. Alice was always right.

🥕🥕🥕

Rainbow Futures by Norah Colvin

The children went around the circle telling what they’d be when they grew up: police officer, paramedic, teacher, doctor, prosecutor, influencer …

Laughter erupted when Rudii responded, “Mother.”

“You can’t be a mother,” taunted one.

“Can too.”

“But you don’t have, you know, boobies,” said another, glancing at the teacher.

“Dad said I can be anything I want,” retorted Rudii.

“But—”

The teacher silenced them and the circle continued, punctuated only by an occasional half-giggle or nudge.

A rainbow of opportunity awaits, Teacher smiled inwardly, contemplating the question he and his partner were processing: who would be Mom?

🥕🥕🥕

I Fixed Your Car! by Joanne Fisher

“I’ve fixed the carburetor and the oil leak, and given the engine a tune-up.” I said. The man smiled handing over some money.

“Thanks miss. Remember to thank the mechanic for me.” He said walking to his car. I rolled my eyes.

“Hey I fixed your car!” I called out after him. He just got in his car and drove off.

I’m wearing overalls and I’m covered in grease yet still some people just think I’m a receptionist or something. What do I have to do to be taken seriously? I shook my head and went back to work.

🥕🥕🥕

Are We Not All One? by David Harris

“What an idea this woman wishes to preach a sermon. Not sure it will fly with some of the congregation though.”

“Did God not make man and woman?”

“Yes, but didn’t He make us before them?”

“The Bible, Pastor.”

“Yes what of it? I recite scripture everyday, young deacon.”

“Does it specify what gender can or cannot speak of it?”

“…..No…No it doesn’t?”

“If you know scripture, do you not recall Galatians 3:28 saying no matter the race or gender, we are ‘all one in Christ?'”

“Hmmm actually it’s been a while since I saw that one.”

🥕🥕🥕

Prince Charming by Papershots

The little girls, four to eight years old, form a line backstage, demanding a kiss from Prince Charming. Prince Charming, a gay guy, texts his fellow – “How did I get talked into this? Got to kiss all these girls! I’m an actor, for god’s sake!” Pay is good, though. Before the show, the little girls were restless already, fidgeting in anticipation, no idea Prince Charming is not who he is, no suspension of disbelief. PC hides his phone, flips back his golden locks, and his charming smile opens the door to his dressing room. The little girls fire up.

🥕🥕🥕

Transient by Kelley Farrell

Rian floated from one form to another. Ice to water, glitter to dust, male to female and back again.

Rian frothed, dissipated, cycled through the clouds to the ground again.

Every nerve was disconnected. Each sensation coagulated around the indecisive form.

Rian’s thoughts blitzed the sky above. The ground pulsed with a steady heartbeat.

There was understanding. Then it was gone.

There was breath. Then stone settled in its place.

There was anger, now blinding regret.

Rian slipped between fire and glass, remnant of overheated ash; a permanent in memoriam to the transition between football and a silver dress.

🥕🥕🥕

Alex by Saifun Hassam

Alexander and Alexandria were super-intelligent AIs. Like other AIs in the Zeta-Tau galaxy, their digital code was integrated with DNA code from the genius brains of humans and galactic races. The AIs could take on any physical form; as humans, they could be a woman or a man. Aboard their starship “The Tsarina,”,they would startle Captain Mira and her crew by dressing to the hilt, in full officer’s uniform, or a tuxedo or a ballroom dress, jeweled pins adorning blue flowing tresses; their voices exactly matched. You could not be sure which Alex you were really talking with.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

The Devil and Some Deals by H.R.R. Gorman

“You let me screw with Job,” the Devil said to God, “Let me take away any gender-determination.”

God nodded. “Go for it, man.”

The Devil clicked clawed fingers, and bathroom signs became unreadable. Gender reveal parties ended with green colors. Identification cards lost a few M’s and F’s. The ability to think that way didn’t come back.

But, to the Devil’s horror, long-seated problems went away. Men’s fashion finally eclipsed Beau Brummell, and women could finally choose the veil or not. The two sexes and everyone outside and in between no longer guarded their supposed uniqueness.

“Lol,” said God.

🥕🥕🥕

Gender-proof Names by Susan Sleggs

The proud parents of toddler twins, a boy and a girl, couldn’t wait for Christmas morning to see which child picked which “rocking horse.” Without hesitation, Taylor went to the black and white motorcycle shaped one and Devin went to the golden pony. The parents smiled.

Years later the gender argument arose when the twins got their driver permits. Taylor asked, “Dad, in this day and age do we really have to mark the Female or Male box on this application?”

He answered, “It’s only good for statistics these days, each of you pick one, but make them different.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Shadow Show by The Dark Netizen

“Mommy, what is happening here?”

I looked at my child looking confused.

“This is a shadow show, my darling. It’s just like the movies we watch, but this is done right in front of us, in real.”

“So there are heroes and heroines here also? But I can’t tell which ones are boys and which ones are girls.”

My child was too young to understand this. This show was made so that the artists and the story is highlighted. It aimed to show genders are inconsequential. My child was too young to understand. I smiled.

“That’s what’s special here.”

🥕🥕🥕

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.”

🥕🥕🥕

Girlie by D. Avery

“Do you get picked on?”

“What do you think? Two moms? My style?” She twirled a finger in the long snarly part of her hair.

“You could change your style.”

“I could.” Jamie stroked my hair, “Long hair would look good on you.”

When I chickened out on one of Jimmy’s stunts he’d call me Girlie.

I knew I’d be following Jamie to edges and dangers unkown, knew I’d man up in ways that only this wild girl would appreciate. School wasn’t going to be much easier, but it would be some easier. I’d no longer be sitting alone.

🥕🥕🥕

This Diwali by Rupali Banerjee

Walking back home, little Riya asked Aunt Sarla why she didn’t buy her crackers for Diwali while she bought them for her own son. Aunt replied “Girls don’t burn crackers. They are meant for boys“.

After returning home, Riya went to her father and asked if what her aunt told was true. Her father replied “Absolutely not, my dear. Girls can do every task that boys can do and even more. But burning crackers pollute the environment. Even your brother shouldn’t burn them.”

Her father then took the children to the market, returned the crackers and bought lamps instead.

🥕🥕🥕

The Basketball by Tien Skye

She was puzzled when her seven-year-old girl left the counter empty-handed. “Where’s the basketball?” she asked.

“The man at the counter said I should play with dolls instead,” her little girl replied. “It’s ok, Mama. I don’t like the ball anyway.”

Furious, she grabbed her daughter’s hand and marched straight to the counter, pausing long enough only to get the basketball on the way.

“Here, we’re getting this basketball. For my girl! And don’t you dare tell her what she can and can’t play.”

Both the man at the counter and her daughter learnt a valuable lesson that day.

🥕🥕🥕

Heading South by Joanne Fisher

Aalen and Ashalla traveled southwards. Aalen could hear Vilja ahead bounding along.

“In my village we do what we’re best at. If you’re good at protecting the borders then that’s what you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re female or male.” Aalen said.

“Where I’m from it tends to be the men that are the hunters and use bows. When I told my parents I wanted to be a hunter it raised a few eyebrows.” Ashalla responded.

“Why do you only let men be hunters? Do human bows need penises to operate them?” asked Aalen.

Ashalla laughed out loud.

🥕🥕🥕

East to West – Which Gender is the Best? by Ritu Bhathal

“Hmmm, what is it?”

“Not what. Who!”

“Huh?”

“It’s the scan picture! There. That’s your grandchild right there!”

“Looks like an alien.”

“Well, we all know where the weirdness will have come from, Dad!”

“So, a he or she?”

“Does it matter?”

“No, not to me. Just as long as the child is healthy and happy, that’s all that matters. But you know what the rest of the family will be like…”

“I know, they’ll all want a boy. Typical Indian families.”

“Gender doesn’t make someone right or wrong, it’s their actions. Teach your child well. Make me proud.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Place for Friendly Men by Roberta Eaton

Sannie and I spent an anxious night locked in the house with the four children. Earlier in the day a cloud of dust appeared on the horizon. As it drew ever closer, we could make out a great crowd of horseman and ox-wagons.

The Boer Commando* stopped in our yard and the commandant knocked on our door. He told us they would be resting at our farm overnight and asked for some milk. I was angry with the commandant. A lonely farmhouse inhabited by two women and four children was no place to rest with so many “friendly” men.

* – The Boer commandos or “Kommandos” were volunteer military units of guerilla militia organized by the Afrikaans-speaking farmers of South Africa. The term came into English usage during the Second Boer War of 1899-1902.

🥕🥕🥕

Benders by D. Avery

Marge drew the blanket closer, nuzzling Ernest, snuggled cozy together on the couch. She could smell bacon and coffee and hear Ernest in the kitchen.

Marge sat upright. Ernest was in the kitchen.

“Nard! Ernest? What’s going on?”

“You two kept drinking. When you passed out together the love-hate relationship was in love gear so I only had to spread one blanket. Don’t worry, I have pictures for insurance.”

“Mmm. Morning Mommy.”

“Morning Nard. Breakfast’s ready.”

“Ernest. And after I slept with your fiancée. You’ll make someone a fine husband one day.”

“I intend too, Nard. When she’s ready.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Question of Identity by TN Kerr

Jimmy and Nancy continued to go steady for about three more days after the party. A year after high school Jimmy managed to secure some venture capital and founded a software company in San Jose. There’s a scholarship fund named after him now. Nancy works at the Speedy Mart.

Tito never came back from Vietnam, still MIA.

Becky is the Assistant DA of Lincoln County and has been in a committed relationship with Samantha Christian since she got out of law school. Samantha is a stay at home mom, taking care of the two boys she and Becky adopted.

🥕🥕🥕

Sequins and Heels by Violet Lentz

“Poor little thing. She looks so unhappy. All sad, and overgrown.”

“Can’t you just imagine her with a fresh coat of paint, maybe change the dark trim to something a little more vibrant?”

“Seafoam?”

“Heavens no. She is definitely not a seafoam kind of gal. I was thinking of something a little brighter. Maybe in between salmon and cerise?

“Gavin, dear, your crown is showing.”

“And that my darling Marcus, is exactly why you love me.”

“That being true, I’ll meet halfway, at rouge- if you’ll cut the grass.”

“Only if I can do it in sequins and heels….”

🥕🥕🥕

Room 112 by Nancy Brady

It’s an historic building where Julie worked, and according to some people, it was once a home for orphaned children. Some of her co-workers claim they still hear the moans and screams of children when the building is empty.

One office suite was unusual as it had been converted. It was the only one in which girls, women, and those who identify as female entered and exited with regularity. Julie, too, visited the office regularly and always felt better (perhaps relief would be a better word). Rarely was she not satisfied even with her short visits to Room 112.

🥕🥕🥕

Gender Fluidity by calmkate

Born a pretty blonde Joel’s mother decided to dress and treat her fourth son as the daughter she so desperately wanted.

Simone had grown into a lanky young man who desperately wanted to be a woman. He had long flowing locks and preferred slinky dresses.

Joel is happily married with three children of his own. He always knew he was a man but was comfortable playing the daughter for his mother.

Hormones meant Simone grew perky firm breasts and shrank his manhood. He decided not to undergo surgery because most men got excited to discover she was a he!

🥕🥕🥕

Charity’s Childhood by Kerry E.B. Black

Charity played football while wearing her tutu and tiara. Her Barbies explored sunken treasures, donned armor, and battled evil warlords. She named her bike Ragnarok and imagined charging into battle every time she pedalled, yet she stopped to admire flowers, searched for fairies in mushroom rings, and danced like Shirley Temple.

Deeana broke from a group of gossiping classmates, manicured hands on her designer jeans. “Charity, why do you think boys like you because you can hit a baseball?”

Charity’s nostrils flared like a wolf scenting prey or a doe ready to flee. “Why do you hate me because I do?”

🥕🥕🥕

Questions of Gender by Irene Waters

I was a girl. I wore dresses but I didn’t have those monthly cramps and pains my friends suffered. Lucky, I thought. Perhaps I was. Boys attracted me. I fell in love but no pregnancy happened for me. My friends all had babies, cooking and changing diapers. My husband cooked for me. My friends led a conventional life but I did what I wanted – no constraints were placed on me. Menopause came unnoticed. No mood swings or hot flushes unlike my friends. Lucky me I thought. Now I wonder as talk is of grandchildren – was I ever a woman?

🥕🥕🥕

There They Go Again by D. Avery

“Let’s git goin’ Pal, Shorty’s steerin’ us ta some delicate ranchin’ chores. Git it? ‘Steer’?”
“No, I don’t git yer meanin’, Kid.”
“We’s ta do some gender fixin’. Ya know, gelding the colts, deballin’ the bulls.”
“Kid, that ain’t what they meant when they said fixed gender.”
“They? Shorty said; jist the one Shorty. She.”
“Nowadays ya kin say they fer a singular pronoun; gives ‘em wiggle room. Fluidity.”
“Pal, yer nuts, an’ speakin’ a such, do we or don’t we got some geldin’ ta do?”
“No! No geldin’!”
“Ok. But there goes dinner. Was gonna serve ya oysters.”

****

“Okay, Pal, then what is this prompt about? I’m confused. Ya know as well as I do when a calf is born we look and’ there’s only so much we’s expectin’ ta see.”
“It ain’t about that neither Kid. It’s mebbe more how the calf sees itself and how it sees itself in the world an’ all it kin do in the world.”

***

“Pal, then what’s this prompt about? I’m confused. Ya know as well as me, when a calf is born we look an’ there’s only so much we’s expectin’ ta see. Innies or outties.”
“It ain’t about that neither Kid, ain’t about parts. It’s mebbe more how the calf sees itself , how it sees itself in the world.”
“Ain’t really ‘bout calves, is it Pal?”
“Nope.”
“But folks is folks, kin be who they want, dress how they want?”
“Yep.”
“World might be a more peaceful place if we weren’t jammin’ folks inta jist a couple a boxes.”
“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕

On Fire

Burning bright, fire gives us power — to create, to destroy. Flames follow us through time and life, giving us memories of camping trips and ancient moments witnessed by the moon. We dance to fire and we let it burn within us from our sickbed.

Writers wrote flames that readers will seek like moths. Stories that will linger.

The following are based on the April 4, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fire.

PART I (10-minute read)

Condemned by H.R.R. Gorman

I feel like a traitor.

There had been a military tribunal, and the officer acting as judge declared guilty. Death by firing squad.

I take a deep breath while the soldiers line up. What a way to die. Every soldier was given a gun with a bullet, some blank while others are deadly. But someone has the gun which will kill.

“Aim!” an officer shouts.

I struggle to keep my eyes open.

“Fire!”

I pull my trigger, and the man drops.

Was it my gun that held the bullet that killed him?

Did the judge know he’d condemned me?

🥕🥕🥕

Flame by Anita Dawes

Prometheus stole fire to give to mankind.
For this the great Titan was punished by Zeus
tied to a rock so an eagle would eat his liver
which would heal overnight
to be eaten again the next day.
Until a hero comes. Hercules to the rescue.
I have thought of Prometheus as my hero
his punishment did not fit the crime.
Now he is mostly forgotten,
we sit on the beach, toast our marshmallows
the fire taken for granted.
Fire can take a forest, leaving burnt ash
yet it will grow again like Prometheus liver,
magic in the flame…

🥕🥕🥕

The Haunted Seas by Saifun Hassam

Tormented turbulent seas flung “Aurora” onto the promontory’s rocky shores. Lightning split the skies like a needle-thin tree with myriad fine and delicate branches. The clouds shifted into terrifying monstrous shapes as they raced across the sky driven by gale force winds.

At dawn the sky and seas were gray, and fog shrouded the shores. Beacons of fire were lit along the promontory where the lighthouse had sunk into an underground cave. A deep sense of loss and mourning filled the hearts of the seafaring community. The “Aurora” was listing over the rocks. There seemed to be no survivors.

🥕🥕🥕

Testimony and Sacrifice by Liz Husebye Hartmann

A moment, all I remember:

Her face, cupped by the flickering glow of a night fire shared against a greater darkness.

Her hands, rolling thin-shaved bark around crumbles of tobacco, mushroom, moss, bone-white shards… something I couldn’t identify, even as she tossed it into the edge of the roiling embers.

Her voice, raised only slightly “And thus we vanquish you, Darkness” as she stepped, barefoot, into the circle of stones.

An exploding funk of flesh and forest as I’m thrown back, onto the ground.

Moon’s cold eye staring down on me.

She is gone, but the darkness? Defeated.

You’re finished.

🥕🥕🥕

Prodigy by Sherri Matthews

What kind of Firestarter? A crazy, twisted one, that’s right. Hair horns and piercings mother would not approve – get them and you’re out, got it? My house, my rules. Yeah…one day… YouTube takes me down that tunnel night after night. Never too loud, thank God for earphones. Mother’s not here but the nurses are, so I crank up the music and it blasts my eardrums and I wonder what it was like to be a teenager in the 90’s. My generation now, sick but I’ll mend. Keith Flint’s gone but his flame still burns, that brilliant unleashed Firestarter.

🥕🥕🥕

Soul Dance by Di @ pensitivity101

She watched the flames dance within the stone circle.
Sparkles shot skywards, like prayers to the gods in times past.
She closed her eyes, and let the memories wash over her.
Hugging herself, she thought of another night like this.
Here, dreams were realised, emotions explored, passions spent.
Innocence surrendered, lives changed forever and a new life begun.
She wouldn’t change any of it. She called for him.
Footsteps approached, a hand reached down to caress her neck.
Eager lips nuzzled and nibbled.
They were young, together again, as one.
The fire died, leaving just embers of a memory.

🥕🥕🥕

Internal Inferno? by JulesPaige

When playing with matches one can get burnt or burn things to powder ash.
Sometimes a child is lucky, they only burn down a kitchen curtain.
What though would make a child want to get attention by flamboyant flame?

Is it a crime to want to be in the limelight, to have some, any attention?
Elder sibling gathering no dust; displays intelligent conversation.
Baby in nappies still, needs and wants blend; screams at fevered pitches

a burning desire
pulses in a shadowed soul
can laughter be found?

phoenix can rise up from flame
but they must be consumed first

🥕🥕🥕

As the Flames Fling High by Papershots

In the smoky gray courtyard, the firing squad is lined up, awaiting those to be shot. The former smoke while the latter lit candles in the night on their windowsills. But a section of the confiscated buildings is on fire and firefighters are trying to tame the ever-spreading flames – those who live in the area are out firing questions at officers ill-equipped at this fired-up injustice. The morning sun rises firing the tops of burned-out trees. “Fire! Fire!” a second of hesitation too many, “Fire, fire!” And all, at present, is gone up in tiny little bits of smoke.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire Mage by The Dark Netizen

We were never promised a glorious battle nor death worthy of remembrance.

All we understood was that if we did not fight our hardest, the dark king would slay our loved ones, and ravage our lands.

The Dark King’s minions were summoned from the blackest depths of earth, where no men wander.

Vicious and vile to the core, their only weakness was the blaze of holy fire.

As a senior mage of our kingdom, the responsibility of supporting our troops had been shifted to my shoulders.

I wasn’t the type to shun responsibility, besides I loved playing with fire…

🥕🥕🥕

Attack! by Joanne Fisher

The sentries were taken out silently. Aalen and Ashalla moved quickly into the camp. In the center was a fire-pit still burning. While Ashalla took care of the drunken stragglers Aalen spied the largest tent and silently went inside.

She roused their leader awake. He look confused.

“I thought we had killed you all.” he said.

“Why destroy my village?”

“I was only acting under orders. We wanted your forest for timber but we knew your people wouldn’t like that. So we decided to get rid of you. The Baron sent us.”

Aalen stuck her knife in his throat.

🥕🥕🥕

Blazing Pen by Reena Saxena

He has experienced gut-wrenching hunger in his early years.

Later, he found that fighting hunger is easier than fighting evil which suppresses independent thought.

He is a writer who dares to present things in a different manner, and superimposes his vision on existing or non-existent objects. The vision may contradict known logic.

The fire in his belly refuses to die, as does his metaphoric pen blitzing across a literary canvas. The hunger for his share of the pie continues to drive him. He changes the code of subservient minds. He unleashes control of a different kind – hypnotism with words.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire on the Moorland, Fire in the Writer’s Head by Anne Goodwin

Beneath the surface calm, she smoulders. Quiet now, change is on its way. The fuel’s deep, it only takes a spark to ignite it and, when it does, it sets her whole world alight.

There, a glowing flicker! There, another, crackling the bracken. The fire jumps from one hummock to the next. Connect, connect to horseshoe around her. Should she stay inside the circle or race to safety through the gap?

Peat burns and engulfs the moor, like ideas in a writer’s head. Should we douse the flames to save the landscape, or fan them into a new story?

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Sally Cronin

The firelight flickered across the walls of the cave and the healer stared into the flames.

Fire was a precious gift that had been passed down by their ancestors, but for some it brought a great burden. Those with healing skills saw visions within the heart of the burning mass.

It would not happen in her lifetime, but as the healer sat transfixed by the prophetic images, tears rolled down her wrinkled face. Her time was nearly over, but she hoped, that in the future, one of her descendants would be strong enough to put out the coming conflagration.

🥕🥕🥕

Olympic Achievement by Chelsea Owens

Panting, moving; legs dance; running? Slow he moves, yet forward goes.

Yelling, waving; crowds smile; cheering! Quick their hands and banners flow.

Road goes under, step by stepping; even’ning sunshine asphalt raised.

Signs flash by, their message flapping; glinting sun and wind-blown praise.

Turn now, hero, enter warmly; enter ‘neath the crowds and flares.

Swift and surely, climb the mountain; climb your metal, switchback stairs.

Raise your head now, torch-lit runner

Lift your eyes from up and under

Hear now, see now raised-face crowd sight

Bring your arm: the dimmer torch light–

To zenith goal; now, flame -IGNITE!

🥕🥕🥕

The Torch Relay by Miriam Hurdle

“Did you see the torch?”

“The flashlight?”

“No, the torch carried by the runner yesterday.”

“The tick with fire burning at the end?”

“Yes, the runners were on their way to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.”

“There’re 337 competitors from my country Britain.”

“Yes, 522 from the United States. The Torch Relay began in New York City and ended in Los Angeles, traversing 33 states. There were 3,636 runners passing on, carried the torch on foot for over 9,320 miles. Los Angeles will host the Summer Olympics for the third time in 2028, 44 years from now.”

“I’ll be here.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why the long face, Morgan?’

‘It’s Mum.’

‘Really? Is she ill?’

‘She’s planning her funeral.’

‘Some people do. Was she miserable?’

‘Not at all. Quite energised.’

‘That’s good.’

‘Is it?’

‘What did she say?’

‘She wants to choose her music. Three songs. Two were easy, cabaret stuff, but the third caused the difficulty.’

‘How?’

‘She couldn’t decide if she wanted to be cremated or buried. If cremated she wanted Arthur Brown’s Fire…’

‘And buried?’

‘Going Underground by the Jam.’

‘What’s bad about that?’

‘I can’t have a mother who’s a punk fan. That’s just wrong on so many levels.’

🥕🥕🥕

Sebastian’s Bird by Nancy Brady

Sebastian didn’t know where it came from, nor where it disappeared to every so often, but he loved that bird. It appeared most often when he was upset, angry, or needed help, or at least, that was the way it seemed. That is, until his bird became lethargic and his red-gold feathers began to droop. He fed his bird a special diet to bring him back to health, but nothing he did for his bird seemed to work. In fact, the bird burst into flames, and died. From the ashes of the fire, the phoenix arose to new life.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bonfire – Haiku-Style Poem by Susan Zutautas

Firewood is gathered

Firepit is made, wood is placed

Kindling set throughout

A match is stricken

Holding the flame to the twigs

Smoldering begins

Seconds pass quickly

Twigs caught, setting wood a fire

Bonfire has begun

Aroma intense

Flickering flames hypnotize

Heat is powerful

People gather round

Rubbing their hands together

Over the fire’s glow

Someone starts a song

Everyone joins in singing

Party has started

Guitars are brought out

Strumming and picking is heard

Hands clap out a beat

Cheerful happiness

Cold lagers are abundant

People having fun

The moon is shining

Fire is blazing overhead

Submersing begins

🥕🥕🥕

Autumn Camping Joys by tracey

Crisp air
Achingly blue skies
Trees full of red and yellow leaves
Crunching leaves underfoot
Legs pleasantly aching after a long hike
Sizzling hot dogs over the fire
Laughter as yet another marshmallow bursts into flame
Smoke scented air drifting up
Hands stretched toward the warmth
Darkness falling
Stars emerging
Ghosts stories making you glance over your shoulder
Crackling logs
Steaming mugs of tea and cocoa
Sparks snapping
That drying leaves smell
Bursts of flames from pinecones
Snuggles under a fleece throw
The hooting of an owl
Moonlight shadows
Feeling the joy of togetherness under a vast sky
Contentment

🥕🥕🥕

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?

🥕🥕🥕

Making Notification by Susan Sleggs

The Army officer stopped the fleet car in front of the brick house at 217 Maple Avenue. As they looked at the house, he said to the Chaplain sitting with him, “I hate doing these notifications. All the family has to do is see us walking up the sidewalk and they know what they’re going to hear.”

“True, but these days they can hold on to the fact their child volunteered and had wanted to serve their country.”

“Doesn’t make losing one any easier, especially when I have to admit friendly fire was the cause. And they always ask.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Nope! by Nobbinmaug

I thought she was cute the first time I saw her.

Nope!

That smile.

Nope.

The more I talked to her, the more I thought about her.

Nope?

The more I saw her, the more she smiled at me, the more I realized she wasn’t just cute, she was beautiful.

Maybe?

The more I got to know her, the more I saw how sweet and kind she was.

Maybe.

It wasn’t until it was too late that I realized, she lit a fire in my soul. The likes of which I’ve never known. It might just burn me alive.

🥕🥕🥕

Love Spell by Kelley Farrell

“Dear Ana,
My love for you burns brighter than a thousand suns. I would walk through fire for you. You would never wonder where my heart lies. Please Ana, be mine.
Yours eternal,
Marco”

Ana rolled her eyes. This was the third one this week.

All she wanted was a trip to the mall. Her ever pious mother refused and took her to antiques roadshow instead. She bought her an old rusty teapot.

It was better than expected, but when she told the genie she wanted love spell to wear she meant the perfume.

“Marco,
No.
Don’t write again.”

🥕🥕🥕

Streetlights in Winter By Erica Schaef

There was something I wanted. The glow of home, or the bittersweet ache of fulfillment. Something not tangible.
Looking at street lights in winter gave me a sort of peace. Here you belong, they said. Here, you may rest. I sipped my coffee, having long since abandoned my attempt to join in the conversation at the table. The restaurant was crowded, too loud, too bright. I sat by the window, watching flurries dance around white glowing orbs outside.

A man appeared under one, lit a cigarette. Its flame intrigued me, illuminating broad shoulders and full lips. I wanted him.

🥕🥕🥕

Machine Man by calmkate

machines were his passion, they really lit his fire

collected one of each kind, had a burning desire

had the skills to maintain them all

loved the variety, it was his call

but they don’t come cheap

long hard work just to keep

yet his infatuation ran deep

they haunted his dream sleep

when using any he would visibly ignite

his eyes lit up, the flame burnt bright

his well trained wife accepted his flame

she enjoyed his childlike delight as it came

his kind heart helped those he met

if using a machine it was a sure bet!

🥕🥕🥕

The Heart of a Teacher by Norah Colvin

“It’s storytime, children.”
They gathered at her feet, bright-eyed, transfixed.
Jane read, instructed and encouraged. They never tired.
Later, all snuggled up in bed, Mum asked, “What will you be when you grow up?”
“A teacher.”

“Storytime, children.”
They gathered at her feet, bright-eyed, hearts open, minds buzzing.
Miss Jane read. They hung on every word, contemplating obstacles and possible resolutions, following the heroes’ journey into the cave and out.

“Ple-ease!”
“No time for stories. It’s test time.”
They slumped at desks, eyes glazed, minds dulled, hearts heavy.
The cave was cold and dark. Were they ever coming out?

🥕🥕🥕

Friendship by Joanne Fisher

“Who’s there?” The Anointed One called out frightened. She had woken to see a shadow in the doorway. She was barely twenty summers old but had been chosen to be the Keeper of the Sacred Flame and brought to this temple against her will then burnt by the Fire.

“It’s me Kali!” A familiar voice replied. It was her best friend Ananya.

“How did you get here?” Kali asked.

“I followed the soldiers and priestesses after they took you. Then I sneaked in.” Ananya replied jumping onto her bed. They hugged. “I’m going to get you out of here.”

🥕🥕🥕

Where There’s Smoke… by John Rieber

The restaurant was packed as usual. The busboy was frantic, maneuvering through the crowd with a large round platter on his shoulder, filled to the brim with half-full water glasses, dirty dishes, old napkins and candles. His head was turned so he hadn’t noticed that one of the napkins had caught on fire. If he saw flames, that platter was going airborne – what a disaster! Just then, a Waiter sauntered up and said: “hey man, you know you’re on fire?” He reached up, grabbed a water glass and put him out. The Busboy’s eyes widened. Dinner service was underway.

🥕🥕🥕

Scared as Hell by Susan Zutautas

Sitting by the pool I looked up to see smoke coming out from our apartment window.

Panic-struck, I yelled, “Oh my God”, I’d left candles burning in my bedroom unintentionally.

Panic turned to terror then into shock thinking my step-mother would kill me for setting fire to our home.

A neighbour saw how stressed I was, grabbed me and took me into her apartment where she made me get into a cold shower and drink a straight shot of whiskey hoping that this would calm me down.

Everything turned out okay. My step-mother was happy that I was alright.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Roberta Eaton

Jack woke up, coughing. Thick, choking smoke filled his room. Within moments he realised the house was on fire. Pulling his blanket over his head, he slipped out of his bedroom door and up the stairs.

“Fire! Wake up!” Turning back, Jack could see tongues of flame licking at the first wooden step. Tendrils of bright fire ran up along the banister.

Mr Farriner appeared with his daughter and the maid. “There’s no way down. We’ll have to climb out of the window and crawl along the guttering. We can climb in the window of the house next door.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tyranny Tango by Macy Brown

My eyes shot open.

What was it that had awoken me?

Then I heard it again… that ear shattering scream. I jumped out of bed and raced out into the hallway, but as soon as I opened my bedroom door my heart dropped. Bright orange and yellow flames danced in front of my face, engulfing the west side of my apartment.

I got down on the ground and crawled on my belly under the flames to my front door.
How could this happen to me? I asked myself. This was the kind of thing that only happened in movies.

🥕🥕🥕

Campfire by Kerry E.B. Black

While the other Girl Scouts gathered close to the campfire to sing traditional songs and roast marshmallows for s’mores, Lottie kept to the shadows. She studied the ground and regretted the trip.

Her friends regarded the fire as an exotic beauty shooting fairy sparks to dance with the starry sky, but Lottie could only recall its destructive power. Fire consumed without mercy, devoured with no discrimination.

She shrunk from its warmth. She hated the smoky stench. When the wood popped like gunshots, she squeezed her eyes tight. Flames flickered like an antique film, replaying her family house consumed.

🥕🥕🥕

Smouldering Fire by Ann Edall-Robson

After a month of loading hay bales and mucking out stalls, Hanna had become one of the depended upon employees at the ranch. She didn’t flaunt her ability to work shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the crew, and she volunteered when opportunity arose. She ignored the grumbling remarks when she was singled out to show a newcomer around. So when the request came to help Mrs. Johnson in the cookhouse, she automatically stepped forward.

“Not you, Hanna. Tal can go.”

The smouldering look of disgust directed towards Hanna could have started a fire anywhere Tal’s gaze lingered.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Deborah Lee

Again. AGAIN. She can’t do anything right. It’s the 50-50-90 rule: If she has a 50-50 chance of choosing the right thing, there’s a 90% chance she’ll choose wrong.

Anxiety rushes through her veins, ice water for blood. She sidles up to Greg’s desk, opens her mouth, knowing she’s hanging her desperation out for all to see.

On second thought, the whole floor heard the shouting anyway.

Fight or flight.

Barely keeping her voice steady, she asks, “Does Lesley ever fire anyone?”

Greg’s glance is sympathetic. “Sometimes,” he says. “But usually they get fed up and walk out first.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Floridaborne

“Go away,” June said, slamming down the receiver. “Men!”

Her Persian cat, Fifi, purred at June, nuzzling against her leg.

She found men at an on-line dating service, and then used the “cat test.” They’d meet at a park, and if Fifi hissed at him, there were no second chances!

At 35, and still single, she wanted a child. Though she wasn’t showing yet, her last paramour had served his purpose.

“Men want to burn with desire instead of giving comfort and understanding.”

Fifi sniffed June’s stomach and hissed.

“Thanks, Fifi. Looks like I’ll be aborting this one, too.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Threat in His Eyes by M J Mallon

The fire raged, and a ring of flames circled the card, avoiding it as if it contained the deadly plague. The sand timer ran out. The fire burnt down leaving its mark on the card with black singed edges.

I felt a chill creep up my spine. When I searched Dad’s face for some clue to his strange behaviour, I reeled back, struck by the sight of a dull emptiness in his eyes. I couldn’t tear my gaze away from his face. I thought I spotted a weird reflection in his eyes, maybe a bug…

🥕🥕🥕

You’re Fired by Bill Engleson

I wake up in the middle of the night and hear the Donald.

He has a discordant voice, scratchy, like a nicked LP, a voice muffled from reason, as if someone, perhaps his late father, is still holding his head in a bulky, slightly used prophylactic.

Young Donald, six-year-old Donnie, is frightened, terrorized, but I get confused. I see the squeaking child that he was, that he is, for I also see the Presidential poser, invested in his hollow trajectory.

His belly is not on fire.

Rather, it smoulders away, a residue of burnt bunkum it’s final, futile fuel.

🥕🥕🥕

Fired! by Anurag Bakhshi

Clyde had come to the city all fired-up, but the harsh reality of life had set fire to his dreams, till they had all burnt down to a cinder.

But now, the time had finally come for him to take-off.

Clyde straightened up as he heard footsteps approaching. He could not afford to get fired.

Breathless with anticipation, he willed all the noise from outside to disappear.

As the countdown clock in his head said ONE, Clyde shut his eyes…..and the last word that he heard before he went flying through the roof of the circus was- FIRE!

🥕🥕🥕

Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Fire by Ritu Bhathal

I sat at the bar, nursing my whiskey. Needed to be sensible. I couldn’t afford to be reckless with my drink again.
I hadn’t meant to leave the barbeque unattended, but after a few drinks with my guests, I forgot it, and turned to see the flames licking the sky.

Gina wasn’t planning on letting me back in the house. I had to keep my cool, give her a few hours, then I’d go back, and she’d forgive me.

But would she?

I threw the fiery liquid down my throat in a single gulp.

“Bartender, another one please.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Pete Fanning

Mrs. Cobb screamed for us to get away from the fire. A ball of wrinkles and gums, she charged after us with a cane, demanding we stay out of her yard. Tab grabbed my wrist, gripping me with terror, her fascinated smirk leaking a squeal as we raced down to Grandma’s room.

Mom snapped her fingers harshly, pointed to a chair. “Hush.”

We hushed, trying not to giggle, keeping watch on the door as the nurses sped past. Mom tended to the lump in the bed. We swung our legs, still flushed, waiting for Mrs. Cobb and her fire.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Frank Hubeny

Despair defeats hope with fire.

Pete wondered what that was supposed to mean while reading the fortune to his wife. He felt enough despair for it to feel like the fires of hell.

“What does yours say?”

“It’s blank.”

“Remember when I got ‘A fool at forty is a fool indeed’?”

She remembered, but her blank fortune worried her.

“Maybe I should ask for another one?”

“Let’s switch.”

“Does that count?”

They switched. She read these words, “The fire of hope defeats despair”, and gave it back.

“This one belongs to you.”

She asked for a new fortune cookie.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fire by D. Avery

“Shorty! Quick!”

“Whoa Kid. Where’s the fire?”

“All across the Ranch, Shorty! We better put ‘em out!”

“No, Kid, don’t. They’s flash fires. All the hands’ve been sparked ta write an’ now the Ranch is ablaze with inspired imagination. Jist enjoy all the warmth an’ light, Kid.”

“You started all this, didn’t ya, Shorty? What are ya, an arsonist?”

“Don’t you be an arse, Kid. D’ya think these fires should be contained? Lights kept under a barrel?”

“Shorty, this cain’t be safe, havin’ all these ranch hands playin’ with fire.”

“Yep, writin’s risky. But we’re safe at the Ranch.”

***

Net more information about Ranch safety at https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2019/04/05/how-dya-do-buckaroo/

🥕🥕🥕