Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » Flash Fiction Collections

Category Archives: Flash Fiction Collections

Winning

Carrot Ranch announces the 2019 Rodeo Winners and invites writers to craft 99-word stories about winning. One of our community writers went where the prompt led him, past a story and into an exploration of winning. Michael Fishman wrote an excellent introduction to this week’s collection:

“As I steamroll way past 99 words what it all boils down to for me is courage. Just trying takes courage and you don’t win or lose when you try. Putting on your shoes: courage. Taking a step outside: courage. Taking a deep breath and saying “hello” to someone: courage. Trying to do something that makes your head spin with uncomfortable thoughts: courage. Trying something difficult even though it hurts inside: courage.

Courage = winning.”

The following stories are based on the November 28, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about winners.

PART I (10-minute read)

Keep Trying Until You Win by Charli Mills

Martha posed her best winning grin to the reporter, spitting dirt as she smiled. The bulb flashed so brightly it turned everything to white blotches. Blinking, and wiping at the mouthful of arena dirt she received after the goat clocked her a second time, she looked for Auntie Bess. The old woman was leaning against the railing beyond the chatter of family and fans. Ducking the swipe of a hankie, Martha joined her Aunt.

“Why’d ya win kiddo?”

“Cause no one else would go after that stinkin’ goat three times. Figured, I keep trying ‘til I got him tied!”

🥕🥕🥕

Every Child Wins A Prize by Norah Colvin

Melissa goggled at the toy-laden shelves.

“Only $2 a ticket,” the vendor encouraged.

Melissa indicated a music box on the top shelf.

“You won’t win that. It’s just a ploy to get your money,” grumbled Mum.

“You won’t know if you don’t try,” he winked.

Melissa turned to Mum. “It’s my money.”

Mum humphed as Melissa parted with her coin.

The man fanned the envelopes, favouring one. “Take it,” he whispered.

Melissa ripped the envelope open and passed him the card.

“What did I win?”

The man handed the music box to Melissa.

“Prizes are for triers,” he smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Winners by clfalcone*

“We won! We fucking won!” Shouted the guitarist, fist pumping the air. The reticent bassist just stared blankly – he was thinking about notes and riffs….

The drummer rhythmically pounded the bar to a screamo chorus of ‘Rät Pöyzýn!’

The keyboardist read it out loud again: ‘After grueling auditions comprising 102 bands, Rät Pöyzýn is awarded the opening slot at Black Metal Fest next month.’ All mayhem broke loose after the announcement.

The bassist just sighed, saying in his best British, “The day will come when they have Rät Pöyzýn on their lips….”, then stared off into note land again.

🥕🥕🥕

Must Have Imagined It? by Anne Goodwin

As the compere brandishes the envelope, I rehearse my routine. Feigned surprise, a single tear, a never-expected-this speech. Out comes the card, my name announced, a hug and I’m on my feet. Squeezing past knees, deafening applause, fake smiles. Too busy balancing on five-inch heels to glance up at this stage.

“Oh my God, I’m sorry!” A sweaty hand on my bare arm, why has the clapping stopped?

Another starlet rises, is rushed along the rows. Some tuxedo guy explaining they must have mixed up the cards.

Of course, no problem, it happens. My aching chest. My frozen smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Winning by Anita Dawes

I couldn’t win a raffle,
if I bought every ticket, they have for sale
The prize is a 4-inch gold cup and
It would have been nice to win
Alas, I tried to cheer myself up
with a stroll around the charity shops
with ten to search through
I stopped for lunch in Poppins
Opposite is the Heart Foundation charity shop
In the window I could see a small cup
Nipping out to take a closer look
Hidden in the corner, I found it
Green glass, dark rim, orange base
At last, I could declare myself a winner!

🥕🥕🥕

Recipe for Success by Annette Rochelle Aben

Her brother had just gotten a big break, starting work for a local soup and sandwich shop. The hope was that this job would provide him the opportunity to shine with his creative culinary skills.

She received notice of a chili cookoff with prizes for home cooks as well as professionals. Why not enter! If she won, she could give the recipe to her brother, and he could make it at the shop. This just might kick start his career.

She was able to perfect the white, chicken chili recipe. And it won second place. Alas, the shop closed.

🥕🥕🥕

Victory by Reena Saxena

High political drama unfolds over a month. Broken promises, split in alliances, unexpected parties joining the fray, and finally, a grand swearing-in ceremony for the Chief Minister at a prime location in town.

Supporters go berserk in celebrations of victory. They claim to have been on high moral ground, while others manipulated things. There is a small news leak. Funds received from the Japan for a Bullet Train project have been diverted from State control during that month, by the caretaker CM.

The new CM takes charge with aplomb, but knows he has paid a price for the victory.

🥕🥕🥕

To The Victor by Iain Kelly

To the victor goes the spoils, that’s what they say.

There is cheering, waving flags, smiling faces. But it doesn’t feel like winning.

Surrounding them is destruction and death. Buildings and homes reduced to rubble.

They said the last one would be the war to end all wars. Maybe this one will be.

They are glad to be the victors, proud and patriotic.

Yet beneath the smiles and relief there is so much grief.

They have lost so much: friends, lovers, comrades, innocence.

History will immortalise them as heroes.

But can anyone really be called a winner in war?

🥕🥕🥕

Winners by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

He shuddered at the sight that beheld his desolate eyes. Stiff bodies ending in bloody stumps where their heads had been blown to pieces. Others, in which the pulse of life still beat, despite their shattered limbs lying in parts all over the field, spurted blood in bright sprays. There was also the noise; the screams and shrieks of pain from those who could muster the energy to expel such sounds from their desperate throats. These combined with the underlying low pitched moans and relentless whining of the dying, to form a symphony of despair. War had no winners.

🥕🥕🥕

Flight Training by Colleen M. Chesebro

Tina balled up the award notice and threw it on the floor. She stomped out of the room.

A chorus of voices questioned, “Miss Henshaw, didn’t she win?”

“Yes,” she answered. “Remember, this challenge wasn’t about winning. It was about determination and whether you gave up or kept trying.”

“Yet, she still won,” whispered Mary.

“Ah, but you gave up, Mary,” Miss Henshaw quipped. “Look outside.”

A crowd gathered at the window. Outside, Tina attempted to mount her broom. Her magic fizzled, and she landed face first in the mud. Yet she kept trying. At long last, she flew.

🥕🥕🥕

Winners by Bill Engleson

‘They’ve a glow about them, don’t you think?’

‘Who?’

‘Winners.’

‘Ah yes, whiners. They do sparkle away. Hog the light. Prance about, yelling, LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!’

‘Not whiners, you nit. Winners.’

‘Whiners! Winners! What’s the difference? They all think they’re special.’

‘Maybe. But there are differences. Whiners are sometimes grumpy, right?’

‘Agreed!’

‘And winners, well, they’re gleeful. They’ve won.’

‘Won what?’

‘It doesn’t matter. Anything. A contest. An election.’

Yet, when they don’t win, whadda they do? They whine.’

‘So, you’re saying?’

‘One day they win, one day they lose. Win! Whine! Peas in a pod.’

🥕🥕🥕

Harvest (from “Trissente Sea”) by Saifun Hassam

A late summer hailstorm left the ancient Temple’s veggie garden in a mess. The village children had planted peppers, eggplants, and all kinds of squash.

After the storm, the children gathered veggies that could be used for the day’s cooking. Perhaps the mint would grow back again. The squash leaves were shredded. The vines seemed intact buried under the wet mud.

When the garden dried out, much of the squash had survived. Excited, the children harvested all they could. With Diamante’s help, they hauled the produce to the village market, for the Pumpkin Festival. They were winners after all.

🥕🥕🥕

#47 Acceptance by Jules Paige

1
“While you are making tea, how about a Hot Toddy and make it a double for me?” Sam asked as he continued, “I’m off duty and being a police officer in this town can be stressful! The reality and the gossip can really be a challenge to decipher and that’s just within the department.”

While I’d really love to be adrift in a calm sea where everything was moving in slow motion – that wasn’t how this day was ending up. There was Dawg curled up in a ball of delight at Sam’s feet. Lucky was a winner his lap.

2
Meanwhile Byrd, I think was feigning sleep… I did think I saw a few curious winks from that crow’s curiously swiveling head. I was a winner to have three pet friends.

Sam was just a bonus. The cherry on the sundae. When he told me that my home might have been part of the route for the Underground Railroad – I could only imagine all those people who were shuffled off into freedom to become winners in their own right. I looked up a center and museum honoring William C. Goodridge; a slave became a free man to aid others.

3
I had also wondered about the family who may have owned the Dutch Snickersnee I was now using as a bread knife. It was also possible that trades had been made for food or safety. Each person thinking they were winners in that bartered transaction? Could it be one of Jack Seedsmen’s treasures or was it here long before he had lived and worked this place?

Amid the losses of life, I had to remain positive. I would work at finding the whole truth.

each breath that we take
we win the right to carry
forth our earned knowledge

🥕🥕🥕

Champions by Kerry E.B. Black

The percussion of applause deafened, an unyielding wave of enthusiasm and appreciation. The team leapt, joyful. They embraced, all previous competitive jealousy forgotten, for the moment. En masse, they lifted their coach upon their shoulders, an idol of inspiration. Confetti and iced Gatoraide rained like blessings upon them all.

Their opponents drooped. Many dragged their helmets through the grass, defeated in this pivotal game, second place, championship without the accolades. Their coach glowered at the winners while ushering his team into the showers. They’d congratulated the others before their display grew too extreme. “Next year, guys, that’ll be you.”

🥕🥕🥕

Who Won? by Faith A. Colburn

I’d been graduated for twenty-five years when an old classmate climbed up the bleachers to my family’s perch near the top.

“Do you remember me?” he demanded.

Of course, I remembered. My graduating class was only thirty-one.

“I’m the guy you embarrassed in advanced algebra class.”

I shook my head. I hadn’t been competing. I just enjoyed advanced math. I loved solving puzzles and math was an especially complex series of puzzles.

Since then, I’ve been asking myself who’s the winner. If he was the only one competing, then was he the winner? He didn’t seem to feel victorious.

🥕🥕🥕

What It Takes by Nancy Brady

From the time her classmates started playing football in the seventh grade, they never lost a game. Their winning streak continued through their senior year including winning the state championship.

Many went to college and tasted defeat for the first time. Some didn’t make the teams and for those that did, their team lost games.

The biggest defeat they often faced was the reality of college classes, which required hours of hard work.

Ironically, those boys who diligently studied throughout high school often persevered more easily than those who hadn’t. For the others, it required a change of attitude.

🥕🥕🥕

Winter Growth by tracey

Winter was descending, short cold days followed by long cold nights. Distraction was needed. No, not distraction… learning. Yes! This was valuable time that needed to be used thoughtfully. Much growth could happen in the cold with a little encouragement.

So many topics beckon, but let’s be real, nothing that involves leaving the warmth of home will happen. And yes, there it was, an on-line art class. Collage: cutting and gluing bright bits of paper. Abstract flowers and cats. Back to kindergarten and my simplest self. Growing from the roots. My heart lit with joy, I had a winner.

🥕🥕🥕

Winners and Losers by Joanne Fisher

She led a quiet simple life mostly tending her garden at the back of the house. Most people didn’t give her a second look, and probably thought she was some poor lonely soul, but the truth was she was happy. She had friends, more than enough food, shelter, and clothing. What more did she need? She enjoyed her life’s simplicity. She saw many people living wretched lives rushing around and working every hour of the day so they could buy things they didn’t really need. If it was all about winners and losers, who was the real winner here?

🥕🥕🥕

Winner by Ann Edall-Robson

It was dark when Tal stopped the truck and horse trailer next to the barn. He had been in the saddle at sunup looking for cows, watching for game, and doing the job he loved—being a cowboy.

Mac’s voice rumbled through the darkness near the barn door. “How’d it go?”

Tal smiled into the night, before turning to answer his boss.

“Found twelve head, caught a fish for my lunch, and I’ll sleep in my own bed tonight. I’d say the day was a winner.”

His stomach grumbled. Dinner would have to wait. Always, the animals came first.

🥕🥕🥕

No Contest by D. Avery

“Ya ever won anythin’ Pal?”

“Nope.”

“Me neither. But this outfit here says I might be a winner. Fer a small fee they’ll let me know fer sure.”

“What outfit is thet, Kid?”

“The Slim Chance Ranch. Says here they’d be willin’ ta let me ride with ‘em. Fer a small fee.”

“Kid, why would ya even consider it?”

“Says here it’s a good deal, might even increase ma chances of winnin’.”

“What the deuces d’ya win?”

“Says here I could win the chance ta ride with Slim.”

“Slim Chance.”

“Yeah, yer right, Pal. I never win nuthin’ no-how.”

****

“Shorty’s sure busy, huh Kid?”

“Yep.”

“So you jist shush up ‘bout yer foolish notions. Shorty’s got enough ta do without worryin’ ‘bout you takin’ off fer Slim Chance Ranch.”

“Kin go if I want, Pal. Might win, ya know.”

“If’n yer so het up on winnin’ why didn’tcha enner the rodeo contest here at Carrot Ranch?”

“B’cause.”

“B’cause why, Kid?”

“B’cause I never win nuthin’.”

“Cain’t never neither without ennerin’.”

“Asides, Pal, them writers that won? They’re great.”

“You grate on my nerves Kid. Ever one thet ennered is great.”

“Yer right. Carrot Ranch is a great place.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Romance

The focus on two people in a relationship, the barriers they meet and overcome, and a happily ever after ending (HEA) characterize the genre of romance. We often think of covers that portray women trussed up in bodices in impossible positions to intertwine limbs and lips with bare-chested men that all seem to look like Fabio. It’s easy to poke fun at romance, yet it’s the number one selling genre. We all yearn for love stories.

This week, writers took the challenge to hone their writing skills, emphasizing emotional connection and relationship development. They wrote romance in miniature.

The following are based on the November 21, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a romance.

PART I (10-minute read)

Romance Outline by Ann Edall-Robson

“Write a romance. Focus on a relationship.” She instructed.

“Not my genre!” I screamed back at the screen.

“Try writing what you know.” Came the silent words from the picture on the desk.

“I know the West and crusty old cowboys!” I countered to the voice in my head.

I could hear him laughing.

“Oh, what the hell, it won’t hurt to write an outline…”

Young hearts in love…Separated by fate…Reunited by a chance call…Devoted to each other…Ripped apart by life…

“Keep going hon. You got this.” ​

“I’m not ready yet,” I whispered through tears.

🥕🥕🥕

The Queen’s Secret by Nicole Horlings

The peace negotiations had just concluded for the evening when her court advisor entered the room. “The riders have returned. They cannot find a trace of your hus—the former king.”

“Continue the search. We must comply with the treaties and officially banish him. Even if his actions were for valid reasons,” she added bitterly.

“He must be hiding somewhere.”

“I’ve told you every place I can think of.”

The advisor looked suspicious, but left.

She pressed on a stone behind her throne, opening a secret passageway. “We’ll keep them fooled for as long as we can, my love.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Barriers To Love by Geoff Le Pard

Dorinda knew falling for someone rendered inert by illness made no sense. She sat and learned about his unremarkable life, loving him for it. Talking and singing, she attended his needs. She couldn’t explain her curious infatuation but it fulfilled her in ways beyond logic. She heard the prognosis, knew it hopeless but alongside his inevitable decline her love grew, albeit wrapped in an ineffable sadness and guilt that he couldn’t know how she felt about him.

Locked-in, Thomas didn’t know this angel who stroked his hand, wet his lips and cared but he loved her all the same.

🥕🥕🥕

The Proposal by Iain Kelly

They had been friends since the first day of school.

Archie knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

Tomorrow he left for University, leaving home and starting a new life in a new city.

He knew Agnes was staying at home with her parents. Would she wait for him to return?

She arrived late as he stood freezing outside the cinema.

The cheap ring burned a hole in his pocket. Flustered, he pulled it out and looked into her eyes with a pleading hope.

She smiled and took his arm in hers, ‘About time.’

🥕🥕🥕

Meg and Ian Flash Fiction by Susan Zutautas

Meg, in a daze, was reminiscing about the first time Ian said, “I love you,” She got butterflies, felt intoxicated, and for the first time in her life without a doubt knew he was the one.

Not being able to sleep Meg got up, put on coffee, and ran a hot bath for herself. In ten hours, her life was about to change. Passionate love filled her heart.

Getting dressed, Meg heard her father’s voice and then a light tap at the door. “Come on Hun, I need to get you to the church on time. Are you ready?”

🥕🥕🥕

Romance by Donna Matthews

Is romance a thing after 25 years of marriage? These and other critical thoughts haunted her as she perused Pinterest for anniversary dinner ideas. Candlelight, chocolate, diamonds, and whispers in the dark. But what if you’re not that kind of gal, she pondered and fretted? What if, instead of diamonds, your idea of rocks are those you climb over. Instead of the glow of candlelight, you prefer the twinkle of starlight — a roaring campfire over indoor heating. Tempted to make reservations at the swanky new restaurant in town she instead booked a flight. For two. A new adventure.

🥕🥕🥕

An Old Romance by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She rinsed the last dish and set it in the drainer. Days had again grown short, this season and over the years. The leaves, crisp from a day’s rain and evening’s temps, were barely visible out the window. Her silhouette softened in its reflection; the living room light glowed orange behind her.

They snuggled, one inside the other’s arms, enraptured by Melmed and LaMarche’s “The Rainbabies.” It had been a favorite of theirs and she remembered how they’d read to each other, before children, then after, and now again with this grandchild.

A wave of love washed over her.

🥕🥕🥕

Romantic Gestures by Sally Cronin

For sixty years red roses, hearts and grand gestures had been his way of showing how much he loved her. Now as he sat beside her hospital bed he was at a loss. He desperately wanted to make her last moments as love filled as possible; but grand gestures were of no use now. She stirred and turned her head to look at him, attempting to speak. He leant closer to her and heard the words ‘You are the love of my life.’ He smiled and nodded as he kissed her frail hand gently. ‘And you too my darling’.

🥕🥕🥕

My Fantasy by Tracey Robinson

“Your boyfriend and my wife, who would have thought it,” said Kris. “You really caught them in flagrante delicto?”

I nod.

“You don’t seem too upset. So what are you going to do now?”

I shrugged.

“What about Thanksgiving?”

Another shrug.

“How about coming home with me to Chicago?”

I looked at Kris quizzically.

Kris gazed at me as he lightly touched the back of my hand. “Are you seriously going to continue to ignore the spark between us?”

I blushed. No. No reason to now, I thought as I leaned over and softly kissed him on the lips.

🥕🥕🥕

Bringing Out The Best by Susan Sleggs

Newly divorced Tessa, visiting her sister, sat in their childhood church. When the choir started singing from the loft her face registered recognition. She whispered, “I can hear Michael’s voice. I’ve never stopped hearing it.”

Aggie rolled her eyes.

“Is he home for good?”

“Medical discharge. In a wheelchair, he can do without. Very different.”

“Same beautiful bass.”

Later in the day, Michael approached Aggie’s door. She watched. “I’ll be dipped, he’s walking. You always could bring out the best in him. You sure about this?”

“It’s just dinner.”

“Yeah, right.”

“It’ll be good to be wanted and needed.”

🥕🥕🥕

Romance #1 by Grace Davis

A garden. A girl. A lingering glance. He wakes from the dream, her face still more vivid than the shabby room which greets his eyes. All day she distracts him, so much so that he gets lost going home.

Across town a girl awakes, starts her day, the fragments of a dream about a handsome stranger still fogging her mind. Later she takes the long route home – often too hot and tired to bother but today the garden is calling her.

A garden. Two people. The glance. It’s not possible. It can’t be real. And yet somehow it is.

🥕🥕🥕

Romance by Anita Dawes

My parents are the stories of poets, romantics
Married fifty-six years, they still hold hands
I hope some of that love has rubbed off
That I hold my husband’s hand as long
I remember years ago, asking mum
How she knew dad was the one
He was persistent, for three weeks he sent flowers
With a handwritten poem
Until I agreed to our first date
The rest is history,
dad was the romantic one
I asked my dad the same question
His answer, She’s my star
Without her there’s no light in the world
What more can I say…

🥕🥕🥕

Inferno Love by Bill Engleson

“It’s like fire scorching my brain,” she says.

I look into her eyes, see the furious flames. The heat is irresistible.

“You can see it, can’t you? The furnace?”

I have to look away. As I do, she reaches for me, says in a sweet nothings voice, “Keep looking at me. Never stop. Your love is so cool to the touch.”

I need her warmth. She needs my frosty ways. I touch her brow with my fingers, trace the shape of face.

“You are a river flowing down from the snow-capped mountains,” she sings. “I have been waiting forever.”

🥕🥕🥕

Safe from Unsuitable Men or Miss Fluart’s Romance by Gordon Le Pard

The weeping girl was handed into the carriage, her father looked at the black veiled woman.

“I am counting on you to keep her safe from unsuitable men.”

Miss Fluart nodded, “My house in Devon is very secluded, she will be safe from men there.”

As they drove off Charlotte smiled at her friend,

“I think that went very well, but you said nothing about unsuitable woman?”

“I don’t know what you mean, my dear.” Replied Miss Fluart squeezing Charlotte’s hand.

Charlotte settled back, “But Maria, what am I to do in wildest Devon?”

“Have adventures, my dear, adventures.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Talk by Joanne Fisher

“Cindy we need to talk.” Jess said. Cindy followed her outside fearing the worst.

She’s going to dump me! Cindy fretted. Jess stopped and faced her.

“I know you think I’m going crazy, but please don’t leave me!” Cindy pleaded. Jess looked at her confused.

“What are talking about? I’m not worried about that.” She replied. She then got down on one knee, produced a small jewelry box revealing a ring. “Cynthia, will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?” Cindy gasped and fell to her knees.

“Yes of course! Nothing would make me happier!” They hugged.

🥕🥕🥕

A Blind Date with a Difference by Anne Goodwin

She didn’t smile all evening. He didn’t look her in the eye. But they both saw the funny side of their blind date.

Their wedding photos were unusual. Authentic: his white stick and her downturned lips ruled out fairytale illusions. They didn’t bother dressing up.

They’d both been rejected. Pitied. Defined by what they lacked. For her, facial muscles. For him, one sense out of five. Now she had a spouse who only saw beneath the surface. Now he had a lover who thought looking overhyped. They ditched diagnoses – Moebius syndrome, blindness – for honesty and humour. A perfect match.

🥕🥕🥕

Starship Romance by Joanne Fisher

I worked on a starship freighter, often feeling alone.

Another woman began working on the same shift. Her name was Brigid and we quickly became friends and often hit the bar after work ended. One night we kissed and shared a bunk together. All was good, but suddenly she announced she’d been offered another position that paid more money. And then she was gone, and I was alone again.

To my surprise, one day she reappeared.

“I thought you were working on another ship.”

“It wasn’t the same without you Emma.” she replied taking my hands and kissing me.

🥕🥕🥕

Celestial Consorts by Annette Rochelle Aben

He was a golden Adonis. Warm and friendly with energy to spare. He hung around most days, filling the world with light.
She was his biggest fan. Always waking from a good night’s sleep, hoping he’d be there. It made her day to have him with her wherever she was.

One day, his arch-enemy appeared and tried to rain on their parade. She was frightened for it seemed she had lost her golden love. But he sent a rainbow of protection to show her he was close by. And as soon as the clouds parted, the lovers were reunited.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

True Love by Norah Colvin

Although he’d written love notes and brought flowers nearly every day, he’d caught her unawares when, one morning, he whispered, “Will you marry me?”

His eyes glistened with hope, but she hesitated. She’d not encouraged him, not that way. How could she have anticipated this?

Crouching to look him in the eyes, she said, “Thank you for the compliment, Josh. You’re very sweet, but I can’t. I’m sorry.”

His lips quivered as he asked, “Why not, Miss Ruby?”

“Josh, I’m already married,” she said, showing her rings.

He was downcast momentarily, then suddenly brightened. “You could get a divorce?”

🥕🥕🥕

Not a Good Day to Become an Outlaw by TN Kerr

Kid Kevin rode into town ‘bout high noon. He tied Ole Paint to the rail at the bank, drew his pearl-handled revolvers, and kicked open the door. The new schoolmarm, Hermione Perkins, was inside.

“Oh Kevin,” she swooned, “Thank God you’re here, Grizzly Hank just emptied the vault.” She gathered her skirts and ran to the door. “He went thataway,” she pointed. “If you hurry you can most likely still catch him.”

Thinking quickly Kevin decided not to become an outlaw today. He mounted up and took off in hot pursuit of the robber.

Miss Perkins might be grateful.

🥕🥕🥕

Max and Mouse by Nancy Brady

Max and Mouse met the day he moved next door, and they became best friends. Max said, “I am going to marry you, Mouse.”

Years of school changed his affections; while he was always dating someone, he and Mouse remained close.

After college graduation, Micha found herself in her new apartment when Max called about the class reunion. “No, I’m not going, Max,” she said.

“You are,” he replied. “Because I’ll bug until you do.”

Weeks later, Micha found herself at the reunion. Max was astounded by the changes in his Mouse. Would she still marry him, he wondered.

🥕🥕🥕

The Pitch by Bill Engleson

Dear Kate, you may not remember me, but I was a year ahead of you in High School.

Scratch that. Different tact.

Katie, old bud, Howdy. Have you ever received a letter from someone you once knew…?

Right. I can see her scrunching it up and tossing it into the wastebasket. She played Varsity Basketball…it would be instinctive.

My Dearest Katherine, Hear me out. I know its been a few years, but we went to school together and I have this need.

Need?

Sounds so pathetic.

Kate, time is such a tease. Could we meet for coffee?

Coffee?

Maybe?

🥕🥕🥕

Romance by Joanne Ashley

“Black coffee,” I mutter to the waitress. Eyeing the door, I add three sugars and inhale the aroma, sweet and bitter.

The clock’s hands leap ahead. How late is late? How many possible explanations is too many? How hollow can a life feel when your love refuses to push open the swing door and allow your heart to fill? I picture the earth, scooped out by a cosmic drum maker, skin of a sun stretched taut against it’s sides, being hammered on by a god’s hand. The rhythm mimicking my beating heart.

The door swings open, and Venus laughs.

🥕🥕🥕

As Romantic as It Gets by Reena Saxena

“Anamika and Arun have decided to separate. Another fairytale wedding ends.”

“I’m not surprised. There’s a difference between knowing, understanding and loving.”

“One leads to another.”

“No. We don’t like everything we understand.”

“And what do you prefer?”

“Being understood correctly, rather than being loved for the wrong reason….”

It’s time to leave for work after the morning coffee we have together at Starbucks.

I foresee myself as single in the near future. His expressions speak a lot, though he tactfully remains silent. I’d like to remain friends though, meeting for a coffee and then leading your own life.

🥕🥕🥕

For Now D. Avery

He strode through Westerns, then paused long at Historical Fiction. Not knowing what adventures might lie ahead, I followed in suspense, wondering what shelves he’d search next. I secretly thrilled when he turned the corner and browsed gentle reads and women’s novels. Was this a man in touch with his emotions? My own emotions ran high. Hiding behind an open book, a Fantasy Romance Suspense Adventure that was surely too good to be true, I followed through Literary Fiction. He brought (italics)my book(italics) to the counter.

Bells jangled.

I looked down the street but he’d disappeared in this Flash.

🥕🥕🥕

That Awkward First Date by Chelsea Owens

“So, whaddya like to do?” *Dumb! Why did you ask that?*

“Um, well, I like reading.” *Crap! Now he’s going to think I sit at home and knit.*

“Oh. Reading.” *And probably knitting.*

*Say something; say something.* “So, what do you like to do?”

“Me?” *Think of something impressive.* “Uh; not much. Mostly I …” *Impressive!* “I …like movies.”

“Oh.”

*She’s not impressed.*

“I …I like movies, too.” *Like everybody does… * “What’s a favorite?”

*Say it. You’ve bombed the date anyway.* “Actually; Big Trouble in Little China.”

*What??* “No way. Me, too!”

“No way!”

“Way.”

“So… wanna go get Chinese?”

🥕🥕🥕

Second Date by Vinci Lam

Her name is Rosalie. She lives seven blocks from the train station two towns over. She likes mochas, stray white cats, and a man who holds the door.

She walks backwards when she talks—like girls in romantic comedies—and sometimes she jaywalks just to watch street performers.

Rosalie dislikes popcorn and the new Spiderman movie. She reveals her predictions of the night, her lacking faith in surprises.

Sitting in the dark, in silence. Disappointment glues me to my seat, my sweaty hands gripping the armrests.

In the pitch black, Rosalie places her hand on mine and gently squeezes.

🥕🥕🥕

Romance #2 by Grace Davis

She had donated the wrong book. The community book table allowed you to leave and take books. Emma was its biggest benefactor but this was a mistake: Persuasion, creased with love, filled with her own annotations and thoughts. She ran back but it had gone.

Days later, glancing through the new offerings, something caught her eye. Heart pounding, Emma picked up her beloved book. Thumbing through, she noticed a change: brand new annotations. She read every one and fell in love there and then.

She left the book again, with just one note added. That night the phone rang…

🥕🥕🥕

Cupid’s Call on the Range by Charli Mills

A cow caused it all. Maria Sanchez lived on the backside of Hope Valley, watching her father’s herd of Angus, selling steaks to silver miners. Garett Meadows owned the mine. He spotted Maria one day, lifting her skirts to chase a cow, exposing curvy brown calves. A range cow charged the encroaching horse, and Garret struck his head in the fall. Worried that her father would be blamed, Maria hid the injured man in a trapper’s cabin to tend to him alone. Garett was only playing injured. A month later, at their wedding, he blamed love on the cow.

🥕🥕🥕

Veronica’s Gift by Saifun Hassam

Lisa, an archeologist, met Nick when she donated Aunt Veronica’s renowned botanical art to the University. Nick, Curator and Archivist immediately suggested digital archiving of the gorgeous irreplaceable paintings and illustrations.

Working through the collection, Nick read Veronica’s extensive annotations and notes about the worldwide locations that inspired her art. Lisa loved his suggestion of bringing together art, botany, and travel in a book. They decided to start with a trip to Crater Lakes, a biohabitat vibrant with natural history, archeology, and very significant resource for Veronica’s art.

Their personal relationship deepened. Veronica’s gift had enriched both their lives.

🥕🥕🥕

Emotional Reconciliation by JulesPaige

(1)

I wondered if Marilyn’s parents ever thought “These kids today!” – One moment they are remembering a time when they could still hear happy children exclaim “Are we there yet?”
when taken out of town to some special surprise place.

What kind of relationship did Marisol and Jack Seedsmen have? From my own uncovered evidence I knew he loved his daughter. Could his wife had wished for teenagers to just scram like her half sister Margoth? I couldn’t believe that, especially with the care that Marisol had taken to replicate her family in the carefully preserved scarecrows that awaited me…

(2)

In Marilyn’s Vent Diary I had read that her parents put on a solid front. They supported each other. They displayed affection and seemed to be romantic. Well in the eyes of a teenage girl anyway. Whenever her mother had to travel with her sister Margoth, Jack missed Marisol. He became just a tad sullen and moody as if no one else in the world could understand him.

When Marisol returned Jack was over the moon. He couldn’t seem to do enough for her. Jack would get her some new art supply and read her poetry while she created.

See next page

(3)

I had found the yellow cup in the top back corner of the pantry. Marilyn had described her mother’s attempt at pottery – the class was a gift upon one of her returns from out of town. Yellow was Jack’s favorite color. On the yellow cup was Marisol’s first attempt at painting a sunflower with glaze.

Mr. and Mrs. Seedsmen would sit on the enclosed porch and watch the sunset. Marisol would brew Chamomile tea. Mother’s cup was one that Marilyn had made in an art class, but Jack always had his yellow cup that Marisol had made for him.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Sheep by D. Avery

“’Ello, Buckaroo. Love ees in da air, no?”

“Pepe LeGume. Something’s in the air alright. J. Geils sang that love stinks. Might be right. Seen Pal or Kid?”

“You ask, I tell. Day did not like da prompt. One rode east, da odder west. I teenk day odd ta’ve gone nort an’ south, as day are one an’ da same bipolar.”

“Didn’t like the prompt?”

“Genre-ly speaking, no. Day rode off. But not eento da sunset.”

“So no whining from Kid?”

“No, but whine cood be romantic, no?”

“You’re just passing through, right?”

“Like a sheep in da night.”

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Windows

Something brews beyond our portal of vision. In a northern climate, storm windows add an extra layer of insulation to the glass that allows vision from an interior world to the exterior. By definition, storm windows protect in bad weather.

What can a writer do with that concept? This week’s challenge encouraged writers to interpret storm windows in new ways or write a story that involves the physical object.

The following is based on the November 14, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using storm windows.

PART I (10-minute read)

Stormy Windows by Nobbinmaug

My windows fogged up as she talked. An illness, a preexisting condition cost them their home. A burden on family and friends, they were left to the streets.

Child protective services took their children. They couldn’t know how they were fairing in the system. It had to be better than the streets, right? Right?

She prayed for God to bless me for the dollar I gave her. It was the least I could do but more generous than most.

At my warm, cozy home, rain fell from the windows to my soul as I wished I could do more.

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Windows by Aweni

Onye rolled in dirty gritty slime. She locked herself in this dark space, devoid of air, every time she remembered his hands on her body.

She peered through the thick storm windows at the other Onye, as she let her hands linger on the frame. Unable to reach her, she could only wish she was her as she watched herself run through the storm, bright and happy, air blowing through her hair with abandon. She could almost smell the fragrance from newly bloomed flowers and the spring tinkling where she was headed. Almost. Alas, she was locked in here.

🥕🥕🥕

Grandma’s Grateful for the View by Anne Goodwin

“Is Grandma sick? She’s been in there for hours.”

“She likes solitude. Peace and quiet from you.”

“She’s remembering the bad old days.”

“She’s enjoying the view.”

“Grey skies and rain-lashed wall?”

Grandma’s told us how it used to be, before drainage and latrines. How the water in the streets rose above her kneecaps but nature couldn’t wait for the floodwaters to subside. No other option than to squat in the field outside amid the neighbours’ floating turds. No wonder she’s happy when in the rainy season, enthroned in her small cubicle, behind the storm window, relishing the view.

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Windows by tracey

Gray clouds scurried across the sky as the wind knocked the last of the red maple leaves off the tree. I stepped back and looked up at the house. “Only two storm windows left, I’ll go get them,” I said.

“Nope. That was the last one,” Grandma replied.

“What about the window on the landing and your south bedroom window?” I asked.

“I don’t like to shut up the house completely. A body needs to be able to breath fresh air year round. The house likes a little air too.

I grinned, “hot cocoa and cookies it is then.”

🥕🥕🥕

Winter Fun by Susan Zutautas

Winds were horrendous, snow squalls blinded my vision and I was cold to the bone. Couldn’t get the furnace relit and I was afraid the pipes would soon freeze. I had to get outside to turn the handle for the water. Why it was outside was puzzling.

Bundling in my winter outerwear I made it around the corner of the house, wet, heavy snow sticking to my toque and eyelashes.

Underfoot I felt something slippery and looked down trying to see what it was. Then I heard a crack. So, here’s where that storm window went. Dammit, always something.

🥕🥕🥕

I’ll Take the View by Susan Sleggs

The couple stood staring at the upper floor southeast corner of their unfinished house.

Lizzy’s face turned red. “Isn’t that where my sewing studio is going? Why the hell are there such large windows? I asked for small ones.”

Her husband answered. “We’re building here for the view. I changed the plans as a surprise.”

The builder hearing the commotion came to intervene. “We will be using Indow Museum grade indoor storm windows that block 98% UV rays. I promise anything inside will not be harmed.”

“Will you put that in writing?” she challenged.

“I will, with a guarantee.”

🥕🥕🥕

Safety Glass by Annette Rochelle Aben

Ear-splitting thunder followed by spectacular lightning; she loved storms. She didn’t like being out in them. No sir, if she was planning to drive someplace and heard about a storm brewing, plans had to be changed. She didn’t even want to be a passenger during a storm.

Wrapped up in her flannel robe with a cup of golden milk to sip, she cocked her head to look beyond the trees. BOOM! The thunder sounded another battle cry followed by the brilliant light seeming to split the sky. Thank goodness for the triple pane windows between her and the storm.

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Windows by Anita Dawes

In England we don’t have storm windows
We have triple double glazing
Which distorts the view outside something terrible
They’re only good for keeping out the cold and sound
Looking at the moon at night, you will see three
I can’t imagine needing them for the kind of winds
That sound like an angry animal
Trying to take the house brick by brick
Tornados, snowstorms the size of mountains
Whiting out the familiar, trapping families
In their homes, enforced imprisonment
By the local weather
I watch Chasing Tornados on TV
Wondering how it would feel to be up close…

🥕🥕🥕

Idea of Fantastic by Donna Matthews

I used to lie. I’d tell lies when the truth was just as acceptable. I’m not sure where or why the habit started, but, it was troublesome enough that one Saturday morning, mama had had enough, grabbing me by the back of the head, shoving Dove soap inside my mouth, and holding me under running water. As her rage dissipated, she let me up, my eyes darting to the kitchen storm window, where I knew Kevin from next door was waiting. My mouth foaming, his mouth agape. Our family no longer his idea of fantastic; he turned to run.

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Windows by Sally Cronin

She looked out through the slightly distorting storm windows that protected the house from the harsh winds that swept onto the coast from America. This part of Ireland was notorious for its harsh winters, but also its outstanding coastal views and warmhearted people. She had moved here to escape her past, and preferred the natural violence of the weather to that she had endured for many years. She sighed as she turned to face the man in the room. Another more dangerous storm had breached the defences and windows could not protect her. It was time to be brave.

🥕🥕🥕

Weekend Plans by Nicole Horlings

The storm had been bad. There were branches strewn across the road along with garbage from a knocked over bin. He had to park along the side of the road and walk the rest of the way to the property.

It was worse than he had hoped. A piece of siding was banging against the lee side of the cottage. The barbecue was upside down in the middle of the yard. One of the storm windows had been left partially open, and he could see that the water inside hadn’t dried up yet.

So much for a relaxing weekend.

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Windows by Pete Fanning

I held the plywood while Dad drilled in the screws. The board shook against my hand and I slammed my shoulder into it.
Dad gave me a look.

I’d begged to stay in New Jersey, little good it did. Dad was sick of the harsh winters. No shoveling snow for the Harris family. No Sir. We were going to the beach.

Now look at us.

A gust of wind at my back. Two windows left, then we could get in the car and get up the road. The drill stopped. Dad looked down and laughed.

“Sure beats shoveling, huh?”

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Windows by FloridaBorne

“Where’r you from Marcy?”  Mary Jo asked.

“Well, Mary, I’m from Joisey,” she snickered.

“I see you tore down the 100 year old oaks, two foot thick pines…”

“They’ll make good firewood,” Marcy said. “And I don’t like raking leaves.”

“This is Florida. You might need a fireplace in January. You shoulda put your money into double pane storm windows and storm shutters.”

Why, Mary?”

“My name is Mary Jo.”

“Well, where I come from, only hillbillies have two names.”

There was a cat 4 hurricane on approach. Some people had to learn the hard way, if they survived.

🥕🥕🥕

The Husband’s IQ by Ruchira

Carl was sitting at ease with a cigar while his daughter was by his semi-conscious wife’s bedside.

Farah was sobbing uncontrollably, “Get well soon, Mom.”

Hearing his daughter’s sobs, the Dad gave out a chortle.

Sarah was quick to ask him the reason for his behavior.

“She can’t go anywhere. Her soul, even when it leaves the body, has no choice but to go back into the body.”

“How so?”

“I have storm windows installed, and nothing can escape them.”

The partially conscious Mom came back to her senses upon hearing the above and laughed over her husband’s IQ.

🥕🥕🥕

# 33 Account Holder? by JulesPaige

…While reading a love ode I become homesick for simpler childish times.

The storm windows of my farm house keep out the cold, yet my heart feels chilled.

Put the kettle on, we’ll all have tea; just me, my Dawg, Byrd and Lucky.

Was the diamond bracelet was bought or stolen; are they even real?

Could Sam Marshall look at documents of recording missing items?

At the very least I could ask; a good excuse to see him again.
***
…snowflakes create crystals on the windows.
***
lost and found, trinkets
of love; words of longing reach
what are they saying

🥕🥕🥕

The Secret Life of Your Hammer by H.R.R. Gorman

Usually the hammer lived happily in a drawer next to the tape measure and a molten pack of gum, but sometimes the humans would attack. Someone would be abducted, sometimes for days, and abused mercilessly at their hands.

Today storm clouds whirled above, and the humans had innocent sheets of plywood to serve as storm windows. They withdrew a nail from a sack on their belts.

“Ow! Ow!” screeched the hammer.

But the human didn’t care. He beat the hammer senseless, imprisoned the poor nails in the plywood and siding, then left them precariously outside as the hurricane blew…

🥕🥕🥕

Nothing Left by Ann Edall-Robson

There is nothing left
The soul is gone
Standing stoic
Though aged and tattered
Drab and lifeless
Dressed in brown and grey
A welcome hearth, frozen
Expecting no one
Laughter long since vanished
Life drained from within
There is no remorse
With no appetite to return
Broken, shattered
Solitary and waiting
Darkness is everywhere
Lanterns hang, unlit
Lifeless forms peer out
Past craggy glistening shards
Edging traumatised storm windows
Wooden shutters hang lifeless
Snow swirls around collapsed beams
Mournful, piercing, wailing sounds
Challenging the lifeless rooms
The storm, it rages on
Outraged and unforgiving
The homestead lives no more

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Tipping the Beaufort Scale by Nancy Brady

Serafina loved wind, from warm southern breezes to biting northern squalls; she loved rain especially thunderstorms; she loved snow, blizzards as well as all the feathery, drifting flakes; but hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, and cyclones may have been her favorite meteorological events.

Serafina controlled them all from her tower room, which had four windows, one to the east, one to the west, one to the north, and one to the south. With the touch of her hand on the panes of the storm windows, she sent out tempests to wreak havoc on the land and the humans, who wanted sunshine.

🥕🥕🥕

Rescue Mission by Joanne Fisher

“Take us in.” ordered the Captain.

Once our starship dropped into the violent Crimson Nebula, we were buffeted by strong winds. We saw through the storm windows of our bridge thousands of lightning flashes before us. I knew the storm windows were built for conditions like this, but I secretly wondered if they were strong enough…

The huge manta-shaped Ecraw, who lived in nebulae like this, flew around our ship unaffected by the conditions around them.

Then I finally located the signal that we’d been unable to find due to the electromagnetic radiation. We had found the missing ship.

🥕🥕🥕

Size Matters by Geoff Le Pard

Storm Windows’ fame was legendry. Her ‘they shall not pass’ attitude protected the Empire from the evils winds that swirled around the Universe. She pacified Arturo V, negotiated a truce with the Phrngg, despite mistakenly calling their leader a shriveled turd throughout their discussions and battled countless animal vegetable and mineral enemies across a multitude of galaxies. First to enter a black hole, she redirected comets for fun and spent a sabbatical cleaning an event horizon. But nothing defined her like her death. Exiting hyperdrive, she mis-scaled the return to reality and splattered the Starfleet across a badly-hung fly-screen.

🥕🥕🥕

Yandeau Observatory by Saifun Hassam

Daniel loved his work at the Yandeau Observatory on a high plateau facing the Sea. It connected two worlds for him: Earth and Space.

Immense storm windows gave him a panoramic view of valleys and hills. He tracked sea storms through powerful Weather Telescopes. The Astronomy Telescopes gave him a spectacular window into constellations and planets. He imagined himself aboard a spaceship with storm windows as he downloaded satellite images of the outer planets.

Under a rising moon snow glistened on the mountains, high plateaus and ridges. The night sky was ablaze with magnetic storms of the Aurora Borealis.

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Windows by Reena Saxena

“Nothing will happen till you learn networking and promoting yourself,” my business mentor shuts his laptop with a vengeance before leaving.

A solution is needed without overhauling the entire structure. It needs to be something like an overbridge or subway or bypass road. And then, I need a plan to divert traffic. I trained as a civil engineer, and do not lack in soft skills. It is just about the mode of expression.

You see, I’m an introvert and install storm windows outside every exit or entry. The structures I build are strong and secure – to a fault.

🥕🥕🥕

A Skeptical View by Jo Hawk

I know it exists to protect me, that invisible, visible layer. Glass over glass, engineered to exacting standards, safeguards designed to stand between me and… I pause. From what does it save me? Certain death? Or the thrill of living on the edge?

Engineers have created car airbags, helmets for a bicycle ride, handrails, guardrails, safety instructions, protective eyewear, ear protection, and countless other safety buffers. I experience my life as a boy in a bubble. Germ-free. Sterile.

I long to defy their rules, stretch past the double pane, storm window, touch the beautiful chaos and dare to live.

🥕🥕🥕

Snow is the Mother of Invention by Charli Mills
Trudging snowy streets in blizzard conditions, Regis arrived home. He flipped a spring-loaded mechanism at the side of each lens of improvised goggles. In place, the outer lenses prevented moisture from coating the inner ones. Tiny nozzles spayed an anti-freezing gel that kept the outer frost-free without harming his eyes. “Eureka,” he shouted, startling the crows in his bare maples. He hopped, skipped and slid, crashing through the basement door, grasping for any handhold. Empty-handed he sprawled across the floor. Regis pushed himself up and whistled cheerily. Storm windows for the nearsighted might be his best invention to date.

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Windows by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Jared leaned against the bar, one boot heel hooked on the rail. His spurs lay next to his whiskey, silent as the glass was empty. Time to decide.

He could ride south to his father’s oil refinery. That way lay fine suits, easy money, easier women. His father’d left his family, but he might want to know his son. The resemblance? Startling , if his mother Lula’s cameo locket was any indication.

Or he could ride north to the sweetest, most beautiful girl, with the meanest daddy.

A storm brewed outside the window. He walked out into it, anyway.

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Window by Iain Kelly

The view was bleak, much like his future.

The waves rolled along, grey with white crests, unrelenting, unremitting. His stomach had finally settled down after two days of sickness.

What did he care about these countries over the ocean? They could bomb themselves into oblivion for all he cared.

The rain battered the window, but the bad weather would pass soon.

Underneath those foreboding waves they knew they were being hunted by the German U-boats.

He had heard stories from those who had come back. Those who had survived.

He knew the real storm lay in front of him.

🥕🥕🥕

Nightmare by Simon Prathap

11 year old Sara is a curious little girl, never listens to her parents.
Her Mom use to say to never play with storm shutters.
But she never listened.
That fateful day, Sara opens the storm shutter and jumped.
What she saw through the window was her worst nightmare.
A man with a big axe waved fast at her head.
Sara screamed.
Her mom came fast and hugged her and consoled.
Little Sara It was just a dream and asked what she dreamed?
I opened the storm shutter, I am sorry mom I won’t play with storm shutters again.

🥕🥕🥕

Storm Clouds by Bill Engleson

Like a chaotic cyclone, the trickster spins his webs,
A dervish of deceit, a gong of goose-steps,
A shallow man of no dimension,
Of mirror’d pleasure, of foul intention.

There in his bunker, his mind aflutter
With tortured tweets and callow clutter,
He grasps the world through his video shutter,
A portal seen from his POTUS gutter.

How are we to understand this mock-man kitsch,
His toxic assault on Marie Yovanovitch?
Slathered in his cholesterol tweets,
His cries descend to bulbous bleats.

Will there be a reprieve, a cleansing storm,
A clarity, a return to reason, to decent form?

🥕🥕🥕

A Confusing Session by Chelsea Owens

“Storm windows.”

“Sorry; what?”

“That’s it. That’s what I live behind!”

Matt Burdsall, PhD, moved from his leaning-forward mirrored-glasses scrutinization into a leaning-back mirrored-glasses scrutinization.

“Your glasses made me think of it.”

Dr. Burdsall attempted to keep his expression neutral. This new patient, Holly Runner, was a curious one. First, she’d explained Social Anxiety as, “Party Aversion,” then she’d said her Passive-Aggressive mother had, “Tangled Trauma.” He’d needed his daughter to explain that Tangled was a film…

Now storm windows. *Ahem* “How so?”

“Well!” Holly sounded excited. “Whenever bad things -storms- come up, I block them! Ta-da! Storm windows!”

🥕🥕🥕

Whatever happened to Rose and Storm? by Anne Goodwin

They buddied up at college, the way chalk buddies up to cheese. Each sharpening her own perspective on the whetstone of the other’s worldview. Zooming in on each other’s flaws and limitations, the better to eliminate their own.

Later, Rose made a decent living peddling soft-fringed portraits for high days and holidays; Storm tailed evil to the ends of the earth. Rose bought a house with double glazing; Storm spread her sleeping bag in foxholes or on dusty floors. The same degree, the same camera, different outcomes: one with pink-tinged lenses, the other opening a window on life’s storms.

🥕🥕🥕

Climate Storm v. Storm Windows by Tina Stewart Brakebill

She wondered whether the storm windows would hold. They were meant to keep out bad weather not … well whatever was falling from the sky. It was funny she used to think the end of the world would come later. After she was gone. Not when her dreams were finally within her grasp.
Climate Storm v. Storm Windows by Tina Stewart Brakebill

It wasn’t fair. She had done everything right. And now. Now the sky was literally falling.

Lost in thought, her mind barely registered the hissing as the bubbles burst through the window pane.

As the drops burned through her flesh, her mind screamed “It’s not fair!”

🥕🥕🥕

Where Mankind Can Weather the Storms of Life by Brenda Fluharty

There is said, to be a realm where one can go to weather the storms of life.  When the events of your life overburden you. You can call on the archangels.  And, if you are in touch with your higher-self and the energies of the Universe.  The archangels will open the storm windows for you.  You will find a place where all is known and the books of lives.  A realm where you will find all the answers you are looking for. It is a place where all mankind can weather the storms of life. The Storm Windows Realm.

🥕🥕🥕

The Plop Thickens by D. Avery

“Yer lookin’ grumpy, Kid. What’s the story?”

“Pal, there ain’t no story. Dang D.Avery jist plopped us onta the ranch where we jist plod along week after week. We’re jist a plotless premise. Thinkin’ we should git us a better writer.”

“So yer schemin’ ta git a plotter ‘stead of a plodder?”

“Yep. Nuthin’ ever happins ta us; we’re jist a collection a what’s with no why’s.”

“Ya wanna have problems? Go inta a cave?”

“Well…”

“Kid, ya might not think it’s enough action, but yer fittin’ the prompt.”

“How’s that?”

“Yer an extra pane in the glass.”

🥕🥕🥕

Water Walkers

In the Anishinaabe tradition, Water Walkers are the women who do the work of the water. They collect water from one place, relay the water in a copper pot, and return it to another. Water Walkers pray for the water, contemplating its life-giving force. They sing with gratitude and respect. Modern Water Walkers unite all people and all nations to protect the water for the next generations.

Writers from all walks used Water Walkers as a title or phrase, offering new stories and different genres to expand the concept.

For a personal account of the 90-mile three-day 2019 People of the Heart Water Walk and 99-word stories inspired by the experience, see the article in KeweenawNow by Charli Mills.

The following stories are based on the November 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes Water Walkers.

PART I (5-minute read)

I Am Water by Ann Edall-Robson

I remember the rumble of the rocks and the quiver of the earth below. The same memory that took me into darkness; but it did not stop me from breathing. Hope in my heart moved me onward beneath the lifeless blanket. A continual hunt for an escape route. Always in search of new orifices to travel. The rocks are on the move, again. A pinhole of light encourages me to push, gushing upward. Released. Victorious! A breeze dances across my soul. Carefree and unchecked I tumble over rocks that once were my jailer. I am water. I am life.

🥕🥕🥕

Elemental by D. Avery

Since the beginning, These Ones delighted in their individual strengths but the essence of These Ones was harmony. In celebration, they sought to give form to harmony by coalescing their essences. Fire would spark potential, Air would give breath, but it was formless Water that gave form to the colorful soils Earth gave for their bodies. Without Water, these creations would be dust. Like the plants that gave them life, these creations could only stand when filled with Water.
Water prayed as these creations walked the Earth, breathed the Air and tended their Fires. Go in peace, Water Walkers.

🥕🥕🥕

A Walk Amongst Watery Words by Bill Engleson

Somewhere under the earth,
in veiled aquifers,
water waits for birth,
the magic that occurs.

Drawn from the depths,
life sustaining fluid,
purified in steps,
swallow, and we’re refueled.

And though it gives life,
quenches our parched thirst,
it also causes strife
for some, forever cursed.

Locked in arid land,
water walkers sacred soil,
poisoned rocks and sand,
blighted by extorted oil.

Fields opined, “I never drink water.
That’s the stuff that rusts pipes.”
And there was gurgled laughter
cause it takes all types.

Yet, beneath the earth
in hidden aquifers,
water waits for birth,
the magic that occurs.

🥕🥕🥕

Water Striders by H.R.R. Gorman

Skri water walks over to me. “Lookit – those things are on the island again.”

The short-limbed creatures watch me from the shores. I do not bounce as if to play, do not acknowledge them. Instead I reach below the surface to grab a chunk of algae. “I thought nothing lived on land.”

“You know what the elder says?” Skri leaned in close. “She thinks they’re monsters.”

The materially-rich monsters move as if to avoid scaring us. There’s something knowing about them, something intelligent, but they’re absent the holiness of water.

I shudder. Nothing with a soul walks on land.

🥕🥕🥕

The Water Walkers by Joanne Fisher

The abandoned house was so cheap they were practically giving it away. A local told me I shouldn’t have moved into it as the house was too close to the bay and the Water Walkers would come. Water Walkers, apparently, lived under the waves and occasionally took people away. As local legends go, this was a crazy one! I ignored their superstitions.

One night I awoke to find dark figures standing above me. Their wet slimy hands grabbed hold and carried me off to the water. I was screaming when they dragged me down into the depths with them.

🥕🥕🥕

#27 Liquidity by JulesPaige

I walk, carrying my own water. uncomfortably, but manageable. I should have gone before I went on my Día de Muertos errand. I think am my own conversation piece – with a mutt, a crow in a basket and a kitty in my jacket pocket.

I think I’ll have one right here, a little rest by little fresh water spring that draws me closer. Dawg drinks, and looks at me; “Try this!” His eyes say. “Magic water”. Byrd caws…My eyes blink like wipers on a windshield… there is a sparkle poking out from under a rock, a diamond bracelet…

🥕🥕🥕

Water Walkers (“Crater Lakes”) by Saifun Hassam

In early spring waterfalls cascaded from caves high in the Granite Mountains. Creeks filled with rapidly flowing water. In the valleys, underground springs fed the Crater Lakes with an abundance of water. By early summer the lush green mountain ridges turned golden brown.

Mountain goats and deer followed trails of Water Walkers from the ridges down to the Crater Lakes. There were trails of Water Walkers along the ridges, of vanished pueblo dwellers and of more recent pioneers. Ruins of wells dotted the ridges. Nesting blue jays, blue birds and nuthatches splashed in the overflowing water in the spring.

🥕🥕🥕

The Last Laugh by Jo Hawk

They laughed and said I was off my rocker.

I smiled, content to bide my time. I would win the bet, earn the last laugh and gain some cold, hard cash. Summer turned to fall, and autumn succumbed to frigid winter. I set the date to prove them wrong.

“It’s the coldest day in a century,” they complained. I remained steadfast.

The polar vortex froze Lake Michigan’s shoreline, her beaches transformed from a liquid to a solid, firm enough to hold my weight. Warm vapor rose from her waves, and for a moment, I dared to walk on water.

🥕🥕🥕

No Water, No Walk in Life by Miriam Hurdle

“Dad, what is the most powerful of the five elements of nature? Metal, wood, water, fire or earth?”

“If you were deserted in an island, or a drifting boat in an ocean, what is one thing you need to survive?”

“You made a point. I guess it’s water.”

“A human can be without food for more than three weeks, but he can only go without water for a week.”

“Lost at sea could drink seawater.”

“Seawater contains salt higher than human can process and makes us thirstier.”

“Only fresh water helps us survive then.”

“You got it, Son.”

🥕🥕🥕

Water Walker by Susan Sleggs

I am an American. I raised my right hand and affirmed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against any who oppose it. I agreed to follow the orders of the President and all others ranked above me. I have been to war and done things I believe are morally wrong, but would do them again to protect my country. Like my friend’s grandmother, a Water Walker who fights to protect water because it is life, I will fight whenever and wherever I am told because Freedom isn’t free and I’m willing to pay the price.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (5-minute read)

Water Walkers by Charli Mills

My Nakomis shields my body with hers when they pelt us with rubber bullets. They don’t understand why we don’t die like all the others around the globe. They think we hoard a stash of stolen science. We are the Water Walkers, and we speak on behalf of the world’s poisoned water. Scientists can now alter the DNA code of entire families to survive the hydro-toxicity crisis. Only select families, though. They want to know why we aren’t altered or dead. Threatened us to give up our secret. Nakomis says we never held back. We tried to teach them.

🥕🥕🥕

Water Walk by Anita Dawes

Water has a memory
Especially when it comes
to trying to wash the world away
Down some metaphorical drain hole
Flooding seems to drag all water together
It’s hard being reminded that there are many
Taking the water walk to survive
When so many take their hot and cold taps for granted
I remember my grandmother walking out of the house
To the pump room where she would carry her bucket
the three flights to her two small rooms
From preparing food, washing, cleaning house
she would need to take the water walk
I like to walk beside her…

🥕🥕🥕

Women at Work by Anne Goodwin

From a distance, you’d think they were walking on water. Serenely they float in bright-coloured saris, balancing baskets and pots on their heads. Traversing lagoons with gifts for their gods in the temple or visiting friends for chai and a chat.

Come closer and you’ll see something different, as they hitch up their skirts and step down from the banks built of mud. In the fields, crosshatched by embankments and walkways, tender green shoots poke out from ankle-deep water and mud. These women have no time for gossip: rice demands their devotion; their families need rice or they’ll starve.

🥕🥕🥕

Lluvias Monzónicas by TN Kerr

Just up country from the old church, a redbud tree stood alone on a rock strewn hillock, a vigilant sentinel minding the landscape, watching. At least thrice a week Miriam would walk there with a yoke and two large buckets filled with sweet water drawn from the creek. She’d sing and offer water to the tree.

When the lluvias monzónicas came and swept away Miriam’s adobe she went to plead with the redbud tree. She went to ask for shelter. Redbud shuddered with the storm and cooed, “Of course niña. Come close, take refuge, and sleep beneath my branches.”

🥕🥕🥕

Water Walker by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The days were endless, the nights not long enough. She was tired, but too well-rested. She had all she needed to restore her health, but was weary of doing the work to rejoin the world.

Yet there remained moments–lilac’s scent, chickadee’s song, soft cashmere blanket lying beneath her cooling hands–that hinted shucking her failing body, she’d become what, rather than who she was meant to be.

The child with her own smile approached from the dark corner of the room. Thirsty, she received the child’s caress, the sweet water in a simple glass, finally hers to enjoy.

🥕🥕🥕

Erie Kai Water Walker by Nancy Brady

This Water Walker was a member of a tribe who left during the war that was being waged by the British, Canadians, and Americans. While they left, she stayed to protect her home and family. Her bones were discovered later near the shoreline of the lake. She was called Old Woman (Minehonto), and the stream bears her name still.

Even now, Old Woman Creek forms a natural estuary with the lake her tribe called the Wildcat, Lake Erie. Just as she protected her territory long ago, the locals of the Estuary Research Center protect the creek and the lake.

🥕🥕🥕

Anishinaabe and Josephine Mandamin by Susan Zutautas

It was grandmother Josephine’s purpose in life to save, and protect the clean water, and the unpolluted lakes.

She could not do this on her own so she would protest along with other water walkers every chance she got to tell people how sacred water was and how it was a lifeline for all of us. The water was becoming endangered and she was determined to let the people know.

Josephine walked 17,000 kilometers around the great lakes, and she co-founded the Mother Earth Water Walk.

The first Mother Earth Water Walk was in 2003 and still continues today.

🥕🥕🥕

Oo-wa! by D. Avery

“Hey Kid.”

“Hey Pal.”

“Got anything?”

“Ya mean fer the prompt?”

“Yep.”

“Nope.”

“Nuthin’?”

“This’s a tough one, Pal, talkin ‘bout water. I’m comin’ up dry.”

“Kid, yer all wet. It ain’t ‘bout talkin’ ‘bout water. More ‘bout listenin’ ta water. Lookit Shorty there, walkin’ the talk.”

“Yeah, Shorty’s walkin’ tall. Thet’s somethin’, the leader of Buckaroo Nation carryin’ on with the Anishinaabe.”

“Yep, carryin’ Nibi. Shorty took her chuck wagon on the road an’ ended up bein’ a Water Walker.”

“Oo-wa! It’s good work. Was that sacred water Pal?”

“Course, Kid. All water is sacred; water is life.”

🥕🥕🥕

November 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Water is life.

It’s 4 a.m., and I’m brewing a pot of coffee in the Hub’s stainless steel pot. I pour the water into the reservoir, scoop coffee grounds dark as dirt into a filter, and hit brew. Back upstairs, I shower beneath hot water, letting the flow ease the stiffness from my body and revive my senses. I dress in layers to prepare for the biting cold of Gichigami — the Big Sea called Lake Superior. It’s October, and I have no plans to dip a toe in the sea, but I will be spending much of the day along her frigid fall shores. In a skirt.

Skirts feel like a foreign language to me; I’m never sure if I’m wearing one correctly. But I’m part of something sacred, and protocols state that kwe wear skirts so the earth can recognize that we are women. Fortunately, protocols also allow for pants underneath (translation for Brits in case you thought I might go commando, pants as in trousers). I’ve packed extra socks, a first-aid kit, communal drinking water in a 10-gallon cooler, snacks baked or donated by my Warrior Sisters, food for tonight’s feast in a small church basement, and the steel coffee pot.

Forty-five minutes later, I’ve avoided the deer hanging out alongside the road and drive in the pitch dark past Copper Harbor. It’s 5:30 a.m., and I park my car at Astor Shipwreck Park across the road from Fort Wilkins, which is shuttered until next spring. My car companion is going to drive a truck behind two senior citizens who will ride behind a group of women who are gathering this early morning to walk the water from Copper Harbor to Sandpoint Lighthouse in Keweenaw Bay, home of the Anishinaabe. They are meeting us here in the dark, teaching us their protocols so we might unite all peoples to do the work of the water. The Anishinaabekwe — the women — all wear traditional ribbon skirts and good walking boots or tennies.

It’s so dark, we don’t know each other and laugh as we begin to figure out voices. The air is cold, and the weather forecasters predict mixed precipitation. The Water Walkers of the tribe plan to make the 90 mile trip in three days. I’ve been helping with logistics — social media, communications, securing food and shelter. No one is in charge, but without a doubt, the Anishinaabekwe lead us. They hope to break down cultural barriers and teach us to protect the water according to their traditions. Gichigami is their Big Sea. The lands we walk across are ceded territories. To do the work of the water is to take a spiritual journey.

A small motor put-puts in the dark, heralding the arrival of two elderly women in a golf cart. People move and shift in shadows. Terri has the copper pot with Nibi (water), and another person carries the Eagle Staff. I can’t see, but I hear the pitch of excitement in her voice. The walk has begun. We are all asked to place acema (tobacco) in our left hand, the hand closest to our hearts, and say a prayer for the water as we cross over Fannie Hooe Creek and follow the kwe carrying Nibi in a copper vessel. Once the water is in motion, it cannot stop. Kwe take turns conveying the water, and any gender or non-binary can hold the staff. Several young and robust women from the Copper Harbor area will take turns with the Anishinaabekwe.

My friends are among those who have gathered — Cynthia and Laura (rodeo judges, they are, too). I set out with them at a brisk speed. It’s so dark and silent as we walk to Copper Harbor. We chatter and laugh. I start to worry that the pace is faster than I anticipated. My friend, Bon, is waiting at her house along the lake route with breakfast for the walkers. I plan to walk and catch a ride back to my car, but no one seems to know how far ahead the relay van is. So, I turn back and walk alone to my car, my thoughts on my role to support the Water Walkers. I feel like a contrary clown, walking backward.

That was October 19.

I had planned to offer snacks and water. Bon gifted me with the use of her air-pots for coffee and a recipe for omelets on the go. The ones she made for the walkers were a huge hit. I had set up the feast at Bethany Church in Mohawk. I would feed people. The next day, I might fill in where I could, but I knew another person was managing that night’s feast, and the following day, I’d touch base. The Tribal Council was in charge of that feast. I felt like the event was going smoothly, and I’d be needed less and less.

Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans? Nibi had other intentions.

Fourteen years ago, my daughter was a junior in high school. I had hoped she would attend secondary school at my alma mater — Carrol College in Montana. But she was also interested in another liberal arts college — Northland in northern Wisconsin. We made trips to both places, and the first time I saw Bayfield, Wisconsin, I fell in love with the Chequamegon Bay. For years, we had camped in northern Minnesota, and the North Shore of Lake Superior captivated me. The cliffs and waves of the North Shore are terrifying and majestic. Along Chequamegon Bay, the Apostle Islands buffer the inland sea.

When I first wrote Miracle of Ducks, I set it in Bayfield. I knew that Ike’s best friend, Michael Robineaux, would be from the band of Red Cliff Ojibwa. That’s how he came to me, in the way characters do.

What I didn’t know, until after the walk, is that Bayfield is ceded Anishinaabe lands. Madeline Island, where I studied the W-story structure at MISA, is a spiritual place for the tribe. It’s a sacred water place. In 2012, I seriously contemplated making it my home, the draw of the water had been so strong that summer I had lived there, writing and bobbing in the bay. Instead, I went to Idaho to be with the Hub. My eldest and her husband moved to Missoula, Montana. Our middle daughter moved out west, and we joked that our son would come next. But the water called us back. Gichigami called me home — Lady Lake Superior.

Day two of the Water Walk I learned that it is not about the walk. People peeled off, leaving a small core group. We had to strategize relaying the water, keeping it flowing forward. My focus shifted to the Grandmothers — the two in the golf cart. I felt drawn to carry Nibi and asked the Hub if he’d carry the Eagle Staff. He said no, citing his other knee, which will need surgery. That deflated me. I’ve had three back surgeries, and I’m fit to run a desk. I realized I was not one to walk the water. And I had a role to play. I was doing the work of the water, too. When the Water Walkers crossed the Houghton Bridge, more people joined. I wanted to walk across the bridge, too, but someone needed to drive the Tribal van.

Kwe in skirts with Nibi.

Arranging for police escort was tricky. They wanted to meet the walkers at a certain point and time, but the water doesn’t stop or wear a watch. Neither does the woman carrying Nibi. I stayed in contact with our officer as another woman, and I scouted the route and where we could cross. By the time the Water Walkers caught up, the group had grown to twenty. At that point, I took over the van (“Look Native,” Kathy told me). I parked on the other side of the Keweenaw Waterway, the great canal large enough for lake freighters, and hoofed it back up to the bridge, camera in hand.

The video catches an awkward cultural miscommunication — the Water Walkers recognized me and shouted oo-waa! I did not shout back. Sometimes I’m slow to understand social cues. Later, when I learned more about this vocalization, Kathy told me she likes to go into the woods and shout. Sometimes she gets a call back. It’s the early communication system of the Anishinaabe: “I’m here, I see you, where are you.” But I knew I was seen, I was called to merge with the walkers as they passed me on the bridge followed by the flashing lights of the Hancock Police.

People asked what we were protesting. The police asked if we were carrying signs, and what did they read? One of my roles was to educate people, and I made small handouts to explain the Water Walk. Our message joins all colors, philosophies, faiths, and beliefs — no matter our differences, no matter our political standings, no matter our knowledge of science, one simple truth binds us all — Water is life. Cutting through the bike trails to avoid traffic in Houghton, our Water Walkers passed homeowners mowing lawns and raking leaves. One man dismounted his riding mower and salutes the procession with his hand on his heart. The Grandmothers teared up, touched by the simple recognition.

Our mixed group is called People of the Heart. Kathy and Terri come from the same Lodge where they practice traditional healing. Their teachings clearly state that they are for “all people.” In fact, 500 years ago, the Anishinaabe left their eastern lands to adhere to prophecy. They were to go where the food grows on the water (wild rice, manoomin) — the Northland (north Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and the upper peninsula of Michigan). There would come a time when the world would need the teachings of the Anishinaabe. The time has come for us to protect our water

Water is life.

Not oil, not money, not the latest iPhone or Unicode emoji. Kathy is not only a Water Walker, but she is also a biologist for the Tribe. For many years, she fought wildfires out west, leading a Native crew. Terri is an early childhood educator for the Tribe. The Grandmothers both serve on Tribal Council and sew. Sewing includes traditional skirts, shirts, and vests with ribbons, embroidery, and beading. The Anishinaabe traditions co-exist with the modern world, and it’s a gift packed with wisdom and experience and wonder. It’s teaching based on responsible use, respect, gratitude, and protection. Water is life, and we are to protect it not only for our generation but for the next seven.

How will decisions made today impact the future? Does policy or pollution threaten those seven generations from now? If we do this today, what happens tomorrow? Imagine if seven generations ago, those in power thought this way. We have become short-sighted. Doing the work of the water means taking time to contemplate its future, our future, a future we won’t live to see, but one we impact right now. Water has no voice. Corporations have personhood, but water does not. Kwe speak for the sovereignty of water, we are the life-bringers, the women with the capacity to carry a baby to term in a sac of water. Corporations have legal rights, but water is life.

Day three dawned long after I had. Three mornings in a row, I rose at 4 a.m. to fix four pots of coffee, refill the water jug, pack snacks, and fix breakfast on the go for the Water Walkers. I have relaying down by day three. Our support vehicles leap-frog ahead half a mile. My warm car is ready for walkers to take a break. We are operating lean — one kwe to carry Nibi, one person to carry the Eagle Staff. Once the sun comes up, several other women walk in support, and we continue the half-mile to a mile relay. The water moves forward, not stopping

The Grandmothers have accepted me, and they laugh and joke, waving their mugs my direction for more coffee. They take my succession of snacks, loving bologna sandwiches the best. Kathy calls it “Indian steak.” In America, it’s the comfort food of the poor. I know bologna well. When we were broke down and homeless in Gallup, we shared all the poor food I knew growing up with the Natives in New Mexico. Never had pinto beans tasted so good as when shared by others who know life’s struggles and yet still smile and give all they have to give. At feast the night before, the Grandmothers claimed me, and the Hub says the Navajo wanted me, too. Kathy says, “The Dine can not have her,” and we all laugh.

It’s a wonder to me, a moment of serendipity, that Michael Robineaux came to me as an imaginary character for a novel years before I’d come to be known to his people. When I felt the draw to Lake Superior, I was called by Gichigami to know her fully, to know all nations touching her shores. Oo-wa! I am seen. This time I understand enough to call back. Oo-wa! I see your humanity, too. We are one. The water unites us.

At dawn on the third day, I found a snowmobile bar open and willing to let us use the restrooms. By then, the whole UP had heard of the Water Walkers with news coverage. All the kwe used community connections and news media to get the word out. Somehow, an officer with the State Troopers missed all that. He pulled over Terri’s truck that drove behind the Grandmothers like an honor guard. In her absence, I slid in. The Grandmothers are all-seeing from behind. They watch the walkers, the water, the staff, the land, and the sky. They speak up when they need to and stay silent to let the younger ones experience for themselves. We need all generations in unity.

We need all peoples, all nations. Water is life.

One of the walkers asked me to walk Nibi. I didn’t think I could. But I tried. She said she’d walk with me, carrying the Eagle Staff. This kwe, whose dog was dying as we walked, focused on life, not death. This strong woman wanted all of us kwe to spend time in contemplation, carrying Nibi no matter our levels of strength. As I faced the Water Walker coming my way, I confessed my fear — it’s the same one that hits me when I submit my writing — it’s not enough, I’m not enough. Old recordings, debilitating doubt, lies we believed. I focused on the truth. Water is life. I grabbed the copper bucket, I did not look to the left, I did not look to the right, I walked forward. At my own pace.

I’m surrounded by women dancing circles around me in skirts and shawls. Why was I ever averse to skirts? They flow like water, skirts to skirts, shawls to shawls, women encircle the work, doing the work of water. I carry Nibi in me. Gitchigami rises overhead in a thick bank of clouds pushing away the storm that was supposed to hit us during the walk. Water kept us dry. Eleven eagles greeted us at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community border. We walked the Anishinaabekwe home. I walked the water. I am a Water Walker. I am kwe. This time the story caught the story-catcher.

Lead Buckaroo walks the water.

November 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes Water Walkers. It does not have to be in the Anishinaabe tradition; in fact, it would be more interesting to see interpretations from across all nations and walks. It can be a title or used as a phrase. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 12, 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.

NOTE: Contest winners from all the flash fiction contests during the 2019 Rodeo will be announced on November 28, 2019.

SUBMISSIONS CLOSED. SEE OUR LATEST CHALLENGE.

Water Walkers by Charli Mills

My Nakomis shields my body with hers when they pelt us with rubber bullets. They don’t understand why we don’t die like all the others around the globe. They think we hoard a stash of stolen science. We are the Water Walkers, and we speak on behalf of the world’s poisoned water. Scientists can now alter the DNA code of entire families to survive the hydro-toxicity crisis. Only select families, though. They want to know why we aren’t altered or dead. Threatened us to give up our secret. Nakomis says we never held back. We tried to teach them.

Day of the Dead

Lurking in the shadow of Halloween is a Mexican holiday memorializing ancestors and influenced by the Catholic feast of All-Saints Day. Today, many popularize the Day of the Dead with its unique sugar skull art and skeletal face paintings.

Writers from around the world might not be acquainted with the actual holiday, which is distinctly Mexican, but Halloween seemed a good day to see where such a prompt might lead.

The following is based on the October 31, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead.

PART I (10-minute read)

Traditions by Annette Rochelle Aben

When we were little, most children prepared for trick or treating, while we built altars. Dear Angelitos were invited into our homes on October 31st. Bringing all spirit children together with earthly children.
The next day, All Saints Day, we were welcoming the spirits of all our adult family members. They celebrated with us joyfully for we were all together again.

We gathered at the cemetery on All Souls Day recognizing the connection of family and friends between those on earth and those in heaven.

In my world, there is no death. Only transitions. Because, I grew up, Mexican.

🥕🥕🥕

Day of the Dead by Faith A. Colburn

We played their music—Moonlight Serenade, In the Mood, Begin the Beguine, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie. Dad liked roses, so we bought some and poked them behind our ears, pinned them in our hair. We sprayed the room with Mom’s favorite, White Shoulders. I broiled big T-bones, shucked oysters, baked lemon meringue pie. We ate by candlelight. Sis made Manhattans and we sipped them between dancing the Latin Walk, and jitterbugging, swinging around the livingroom like we knew what we were doing. By midnight when we played Sentimental Journey, it almost felt like they were dancing with us.

🥕🥕🥕

Visitation by Joanne Fisher

“Grandma?’ Cindy said surprised.

“Cindy! It’s wonderful to see you again.”

“You’ve been gone for over 15 years, and now you’re standing in my kitchen.”

“It’s the Day of the Dead, sweet child. I’ve been in your thoughts recently, which is why I’m here.” Grandma replied.

“I remember you telling me you talked with the fairies, and I’ve been talking with them too, but Jess thinks I’m going crazy.”

“The entire town thought I was crazy, so be careful who you tell, but you’re not crazy my child.”

Then Grandma was gone again. Had she been really talking with her?

🥕🥕🥕

Una Visita Con Los Muertos by TN Kerr

It was dark and I clutched the hand of mi Abuelita as we picked our way over the lichen covered grave markers in the cementerio viejo, where our ancestors lay buried. Abuelita was fearless.

“Stand with your own dead,” she told me, “look death in the eye when it comes for you. Be strong and be brave. Celebrate life. It is the only way to defeat death. We all die anyway, but it is not the end. It is just something different.”

My grandmother had passed when I was ten. We had taken this walk together every year since.

🥕🥕🥕

Bridging Culture by Charli Mills

Stage lights bounced to the beat of the music and Carmen danced with her college friends. Halloween landed on a weekend and that sent the entire engineering department to blow off steam in town. The floor was sticky with spilled beer and Carmen’s ears rang. She grabbed her roommate; said she was getting a breather. Outside, she walked downhill to the waterway. From her pocket, Carmen retrieved one of the sugar skulls she had made to delight her American friends. She held it to her heart, cast it into the water, and prayed to the memory of her father.

🥕🥕🥕

Full Bags, Dying Heart by Norah Colvin

From his room, Johnny watched the parade of monsters and ghouls wending from door to door. They laughed and giggled, whooped and cheered, clutching bags bulging with candy.

“Get inside,” she’d admonished.

“Why?”

“It’s the devil’s work. Dressing up like dead people. It’s not our way.”

She’d dragged him inside, shut the door and turned off the lights.

“We don’t want those nasty children knocking on our door.”

“But, Mum. It’s Graham and Gerard and even sweet Sue …”

“Enough! Get to your room!”

He watched, puzzled—How could it be devil’s work? They were his friends having fun.

🥕🥕🥕

Visitation by Goldie

“Trixie, get up! It’s the Day of the Dead!” – Bart exclaimed, pulling a blanket off his sister.

He has heard so many stories throughout the years, but was never allowed to participate in any of the festivities. This year, he was finally old enough. He turned ten in August and his mother agreed that this year was going to be “the year”.

***

“Is that… Dad?” – Bart asked Trixie.

“Yes, it is” – she replied.

“Why doesn’t he see me?”

“Watch this” – said Trixie, pushing the mug off the table onto the floor.

“They’re here” – he said with a smile.

🥕🥕🥕

The Day of the Dead (“Trissente Sea”) by Saifun Hassam

With great tenderness and sorrow the village women prepared the dead young mother and her baby girl for burial. Along the Trissente seashore the spirits had kept watch. The baby was still in the thin shawl wrapped around her mother’s shoulders. She was not from their village, but it did not matter. Diamante lit the sacred fire in the ancient temple to pray for her peaceful passage to the world beyond.

In the burial gardens, mimosa trees closed delicate leaves in prayer. The women wept softly. The wreck of a small barque washed ashore. Where had it come from?

🥕🥕🥕

Reunited by Sally Cronin

She had loved her stepfather, and he had always treated her as his own. She understood and respected his wishes when it came to the headstone when her mother died. But now he was gone too, and rather than be buried in this plot, he had chosen to have his ashes scattered in the memorial garden.

She reached out and touched the new headstone that had replaced the original and hoped that her mother and father would now be at peace.

Georgina Walsh
1890 – 1942
Beloved wife of
Lance Corporal Herbert Francis Walsh
Killed in action November 2nd 1918.

🥕🥕🥕

Send ‘Em Off Right by Kerry E.B. Black

Emptiness fills her, oxymoronic. Leaves drip like tears to cover Bella’s skirt as she sits before the fresh tombstone. She wishes they’d bury her in elegant decay.

Instead, winds pick up, whispers of promise, and sends them skipping to the next row. A parade approaches, dark-suited, broad-hatted, walking sticks and polished shoes. The leaves dance around their feet as a crow-like preacher eulogizes.

Handkerchiefs catch tears until an old man with an antique trumpet plays. Slow and sad turns uptempo, then jubilation.

An apparition swathed in black tulling calls to Bella. “That’s how we send ‘em off right, child.”

🥕🥕🥕

Birth From Death by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Karoline felt the ache in her back radiate around to her front, the pressure increasing. She breathed deeply, willing her belly to unclench. Thinking herself safe to hike alone, she’d fled her family, their sole skill for processing grief in quarreling.

She longed for her deceased mother’s soothing hands, now that the birth was imminent. A child born too soon, her back labor excruciating, she prayed, “Mother! Help me!”

A whisper of mist stroked her belly, turning the child.

At sunrise, Karoline suckled her babe at her breast, wondering whether to return home, or continue refuge with Mother Nature.

🥕🥕🥕

Familiar by D. Avery

“Who could that be at the door?”

“Well, it is Halloween.”

She opened the door to a group of children.

“Oh, my. What lovely costumes. You look just like my son when he was young. And you look like my best friend did. Lorraine’s here too, as a kid, before the accident. Honey, come see!”

He stood beside her. “I know, Dear. My heart attack, remember?”

“Oh, right.”

“We’re all here for you.”

“So, what do you think?”

He shrugged, with his familiar half smile. It was up to her.

“Alright.”

She stepped out into the cool dark night.

🥕🥕🥕

Day of the Dead by Susan Zutautas

Hey Joe, Day of the Dead will soon be here, and I am looking forward to the festivities. It will be nice to see my loved ones that are left.

I’m not sure that I’ll recognize anyone, but I’ll go with you, it’ll be fun.

You know that they’ll have all our favorite dishes there, don’t you?

Ah yes, the aromas from the foods are quite appetizing. Only wish we could sample them.

Joe, how many people do you think will be here?

If you count all the live people in town and us dead ones, quite a few.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Night Munchies by Bill Engleson

I stay in on nights like these.

Perhaps it is the late October chill.

Perhaps not.

Still, it is a far cry from my youth, from those cemetery rambles, the half-eaten moon growling out its cannibal cries, the twisted wind blowing through our sullied skin, our meatless bones.

I do peek out though.

I relish the sight of them playing at death, their homemade horrors, strips of flammable paper costumes, their clustering together like pups at a mother’s tit.

Will they come to my door?

If they do, surely, I’ll invite them in.

Sweet tasty creatures that they are.

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by FloridaBorne

First, he lost his eyes to diabetes. For a chemical engineering manager, it meant the end of his career. When his kidneys failed, he endured it without complaint. The fall from his mountain of pain began when hypoglycemia induced hallucinations.

“Which one of you is my son?!” he demanded of a seven year old guiding him into the hospital restroom.

“It’s me, daddy. I’m holding your hand,” his son gently replied.

Peace came on the dialysis table, December 31, leaving behind the body of a once vibrant man.

The death of one year, birth of another, has two meanings.

🥕🥕🥕

Uneasy Retirement by Anne Goodwin

He’d been at peace till his granddaughter died; it wasn’t his fault but he was the one at the wheel. Soon after, the others came calling, their deaths accidental too. They came without teeth, ears, noses or fingernails; scorched genitals, soles of their feet.

He’d been good at his job, no question: give him a month and they’d beg to confess. Though some thought they could beat him, return to their Maker without ratting on friends. He termed such foolishness suicide: thankfully the General agreed. Now they haunt him with unfinished business; it’s an infinite day of the dead.

🥕🥕🥕

Shine a Light by Joshua G. J. Insole

Dusk dissolved into the hungry night. Night fed into dawn. Dawn became day.

In the space of 24 hours the planet had undergone a revolution. The cold light of day shined upon the smoking ruins and gore-strewn streets, revealing the new world.

Watery grey light washed over the city. The horrors that had been obscured by shadow were now unflinchingly illuminated. That which had been denied or debated was held under the microscope. Stony truth thudded down.

She picked up her satchel and set off, listening to the moans of the dead sighing through the streets like a gale.

🥕🥕🥕

Decent Substitutes by Susan Sleggs

On a recent summer trip through the southwest US Annie admired the many brightly painted ceramic skulls she saw in gift shops. They seemed to be happy, not scary. She wondered why so many people collected them, skulls weren’t her thing. After getting home she read for the first time the definition of the Mexican Holiday, Day of the Dead. Now it all made sense and she wished she had bought some for her parents and brother-in-law’s grave sites. She decided to paint flowers on three flat stones and leave them for her loved ones next time she visited.

🥕🥕🥕

Dia de los Muertos by Allison Maruska

She tells me this is Dia de los Muertos, the day of the dead. It’s not an altogether new concept; I’d seen the decorations, the bright skulls meant to honor loved ones departed before us.

She thinks adopting the celebration will help me move on.

I don’t want to disappoint her, so I play along. I set pictures up. I hold her hand. I pray. We’ll visit the grave tomorrow. We even have sugar skulls to leave there.

She doesn’t need to know I have my own plans to ensure the Monster pays.

My baby will rest in peace.

🥕🥕🥕

# 20 Official Check(ing)? by JulesPaige

Before going down in the basement to learn more about my scarecrow friends, I thought it might be a good idea to pay my respects to the Seedsman family plot. The more I thought about it, I liked the idea. “Hey Dawg, hold up…,” I bent down to scratch behind one of his black and grey ears…”I know just what to do with Margo’s flowers. Come November second we’re going to bestow them to the little cemetery. We’ll visit with the birds at dawn. You don’t want to go at midnight!” Dawg, shook affirmatively. “Nope, neither do I.”

🥕🥕🥕

Catching Up by Reena Saxena

It took two nights after work, to put together the Halloween costume. Lily liked it, and is off to her round of Tricks or Treats.

I lay the table with some special treats, and put my feet up in front of the television set. There is a horror show on, keeping with the weekly theme. I sit up as I see Lily’s costume on the screen. She didn’t tell me she was going to a live TV show.

And then… the screen crashes, costume discarded. Only the face behind it isn’t Lily.

Some spirits just never let you go…

🥕🥕🥕

Survival by Ann Edall-Robson

I long to hold you close. Burying my nose in your essence. Trailing my fingers across your features hidden in the shadows of the evening. Our lifelong affair is destined to go nowhere. You have made me suffer through teary, reddened eyes while I saturate my hanky. Our contact is finally allowed when the season turns cold, and what is left of you, still waits for me. Then, and only then, do the tears stop. The day you no longer irritate my senses. The day I am freed from the clutches of my allergies. The day of the dead.

🥕🥕🥕

Day of the Dead by Anita Dawes

A day of celebration, joy, painted faces
Sweet scent of marigold
Calling the spirits to join in the moment
Food, drink, sweet candy
after their long journey
For three thousand years the dead have been returning
To dance with their families once more
Many will keep the candy skulls in their home all year for good luck
While others visit the graves placing picnic blankets
To sit a while remembering happy days together
Halloween fits in here,
with the dead allowed to return on the 31st of October
We often forget it’s not just about candy
It’s about love…

🥕🥕🥕

Erring Ideas Part 1 D. Avery

“Day of the Dead, huh? Is’at ‘cause the excitement from the rodeo’s dyin’ down?”

“It’s gonna git pretty lively at World Headquarters, Kid. Now comes the judgin’.”

“Whooee, that’s right. Mebbe Pepe can help. He’s headed up there ta World Head Quarters now.”

“What? Kid, why’n tarnation is LeGume goin’ ta HQ?”

“It’s a place a higher learnin’. Pepe wants ta air some ideas.”

“Kid, Shorty’s got enough on her plate, she don’t need this character around. The quality a his ideas is questionable. An’ now the Keweenaw’s air quality’ll be questionable too.”

“She’s the one platin’ beans Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Erring Ideas Part 2 D. Avery

“Pepe’s figgers there’ll be bio-engineerin’ eggsberts aroun’ them universities. Wants ta see ‘bout crossin’ a ostrich with a chicken; git big eggs ever’ day, good fer cookin’ fer crowds.”

“Why not an emu?”

“Hey Aussie! He who?”

“Emu.”

“Bless you.”

“Kid, an emu is Australia’s big bird. Cross an emu with a chicken.”

“An’ with a cow, call it a emoo. An’ while we’re down there we kin cross a pig with a platypus. Eggs an’ bacon in one go.”

“Oh, Kid, and a kangaroo. They can deliver the eggs in their pouch.”

“Et tu, Aussie? Yer killin’ me.”

🥕🥕🥕

TUFF Beans Challengers

It wouldn’t be a Flash Fiction Rodeo without a TUFF contest. The Ultimate Flash Fiction asks writers to write and revise a single story by reducing it to its sparest form and then rewriting it again in 99 words. TUFF goes from 99-59-9-99 words with one story. The process challenges writers to rethink their stories and revise. The final output shows a transformation from the original idea. It takes courage to rewrite original stories and TUFF introduces a tool to help.

The following are challenge submissions for fun.

The Calypso Triplets by JulesPaige

99-word first draft: The triplet Calypso sisters liked to call the biggest pot they had a cauldron. It wasn’t always easy figuring out what to cook for dinner. They were very independent and had very different tastes.

Amy wasn’t fond of split-peas it was just too mushy. Bernadette wasn’t impressed with any bean that increased flatulence. Connie pretty much ate anything, but she didn’t like cleaning the cauldron.

Breakfast was a challenge too. Amy liked full brew coffee, Bernadette decaf and Connie just liked to keep the grounds for the garden. However they all agreed that sharing an apartment was cool beans.

59-word reduction of first draft: The triplet Calypso sisters liked to call the biggest pot they had a cauldron. Amy wasn’t fond of split-peas it was just too mushy. Bernadette wasn’t impressed with any bean that increased flatulence. Connie pretty much ate anything.

Lunch was often a soup mixture of Green, Red Kidney Beans, Black Eyed, Borlotti, and Haricot Beans. Bernadette kept Beano handy.

9-word reduction of first draft: “Excuse me’s” peppered the lives of the Calypso sisters

99-word revision of first draft: The triplets tried to live a very healthy lifestyle. They didn’t want to become ‘has been’s’. So they attempted to be good vegetarians, which required much of their protein to come from a variety of beans.

Amy enjoyed experimenting with soy based tofu. Bernadette thought most beans were bland and needed herbs and spices. Connie pretty much ate anything.

Connie let her sisters do all the cooking. They didn’t need to know that she stopped at the Golden Arches for a burger now and then. What they didn’t know was just one less ‘explosion’ they’d have to deal with.

🥕🥕🥕

Movie Talk by Bill Engleson

99-word first draft: “It’s a saying. Means you’re cookin’, doing what needs doin’. ”

“I don’t know. I think you’re wrong.”

“Come on. Everyone knows it. It’s as common as saying…big fish eat little fish.”

“That one I know. But this one, Man, I think we ought to look it up.”

“Don’t have to look it up. Hell, it was in the Godfather a couple of times. Sonny said it and Moe Greene, you remember him, waking up with that horse’s head in his bed?”

“That wasn’t Moe Greene.”

“Doesn’t matter. My bad. But both Moe and Sonny said, “I made my beans…”

59-word reduction of first draft: “Come on. It’s as common as the saying… a hole in the head. Means you’re cookin’ doing what needs doin’. ”

“Think you’re wrong.”

“No, I’m not. Hell, it was in the Godfather. Sonny and Moe said it different times.”

“Moe…the one with the horses head?”

“That was another guy. Anyways both Moe and Sonny said,” I made my beans.”

9-word reduction of first draft: It’s gangsterese, right, to say, “I made my beans.”

99-word revision of first draft: I thought, beans. I like beans. I like slow cooking them. A bonanza of dishes is possible.

Charli mentioned Chili Con Carne, eh. A childhood favorite food. And while I’m thinking, I decide, okay, I’ve got two tales in the hopper. How about a third?

I’ve done this before. Recently. Played with a prompt. Like a teasing cat with a silly mouse in its paw.

To honour Leo Gorcey’s, Slip Mahoney, I seek out a one syllable b word.

Balls?

Bras?

Beads?

Then I watch the news.

Fires in California.

That horrible human trafficking story from England.

Beans, indeed.

🥕🥕🥕

Yellow Roses by Charli Mills

99-word first draft: Yellow roses climbed sun-bleached lattice where silage soured the air like beans. A teenaged boy in hot-pink satin shorts watered roses with a milk bucket. His grandfather once mulched with cedar chips, but having none, the teen used manure. A setting sun bruised the horizon with a purple haze. His father pulled up and the leaking exhaust of the rusty truck lingered like stale smoke. “Get that bucket to the barn, boy.” The teen nodded. He had the patience to grow his grandfather’s roses in the desert. One day, he’d leave and take his yellow roses with him.

59-word reduction of first draft: The teen grew yellow roses in the desert and cultivated a plan to escape silage and endless beans. Wearing hot-pink satin shorts to irritate his old man, he watered roses with a milk bucket. The setting sun bruised the sky. He could almost smell his grandfather’s pipe and cedar mulch, but the rusty rattle gave away his father’s truck.

9-word reduction of first draft: He’d escape the beans, taking yellow roses with him.

99-word revision of first draft: Yellow Roses of Saigon

“Get that bucket to the barn, boy.”

A teen in hot pink satin shorts rose from watering his grandfather’s yellow roses. Exhaust leaking from his old man’s rusty truck choked the sour air of dairy cows and beans. The setting sun bruised the sky like a beating from his father’s fists. Putting the bucket down, the boy pruned cuttings from the bush. He could almost smell his grandfather’s pipe. He turned to face his father. “I joined the Army, Dad. Me and my roses leave tomorrow.”

“Fool.” His father spat into the sand. “Yellow roses won’t grow in Vietnam.”

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by D. Avery

99-word first draft: They ran out of milk and eggs first. When the hay ran out and her milk had run out they ate the cow. When the hens had picked every scrap of anything edible from the hay and the scraps from butchering they ate them. They’d been out of meat for days. Still it snowed.
He went through the barn again, she went through the cupboards again, but there was nothing except a sack of beans for planting come spring. But by the calendar, spring was long overdue, and still it snowed.
Her children were starving. She opened the sack.

59-word reduction of first draft: Still it snowed. He went through the barn again, she went through the cupboards again, but again there was nothing, nothing left to eat except a sack of beans intended for planting come spring, seeds for future harvests. But by the calendar, spring was long overdue.
As snow fell she fed her children unsweetened boiled beans, bitter but filling.

9-word reduction of first draft: Her starving children found the plain beans sweet enough.

99-word revision of first draft: “Those are seeds. There’ll be nothing to plant.”
In normal circumstances his logic would hold. They’d kept the cow for milk until all the hay was gone, kept the chickens for eggs until their feed was gone. Then the meat from those animals had run out. They’d boiled every scrap into soup. Snow fell though calendar spring was two months past. Her children were starving. Her logic would prevail. She made him promise. Her children would eat those beans, the last meal she would prepare for them. But it would not be the last time she would feed them.

🥕🥕🥕

Stinker of a Ranch Yarn by D. Avery

99-word first draft: “Ello, Keed, how have you bean?”
“Pepe LeGume! It’s tuff times, but I’m all right. You?”
“I am so very happy, Keed. You see dat post? No, not dat fence post, de post dat ever body read. I am mentioned in eet. So. I am real, no?”
“Reckon ya could pass fer real.”
“Keed, I been passed so much. Now I find dees ranch, I jes’ want to linger here and smell de roses.”
“Phew. I think ya dropped a rose.”
“Keed, I am going to cook beans for ever’body. Weeth bacon.”
“Fer real?”
“How you say? Darn tooting.”

59-word reduction of first draft: “Pepe, this might be a tuff question fer ya. How’d ya end up here at the ranch?”
“Keed, I am from south of the border, that ees, da border of Quebec. I snuck in weeth dat lead buckaroo when she crossed Quebec and Ontario returning to her headquarters in the Keweenaw.”
“LeGume! Yer a bean stalker!”
“Ees magical, no?”

9-word reduction of first draft: Legume blew in after the Writers Refuge, lingers still.

99-word revision of first draft: Beans are magical. Not Jack’s magic beans, not the magical fruit that’s good for your heart; something more is encased in those symmetrical shells.
The magic of plants and cycles is revealed to young children who can easily observe a plant unfold from the hard bean; can plant them, watch them grow, flower, and bear more beans.
A great source of protein, traditions and stories are revealed through the preparations, memories stirred, savored, and shared. Beans are the humble communion of gatherings and of campfires, the places where friendships are forged and where magic unfolds like a favorite story.

🥕🥕🥕

Three-Act Story Challengers

A writer uses many craft elements to tell about something that happens to someone somewhere. When told in three acts, a story has a beginning, middle, and end (BME). Rodeo #3 is all about the mechanics behind storytelling in 99 words. The contest has now ended, but you can enjoy the following submissions by challengers. Some are prolific 99-word story writers and had more than their one contest entry. Some just wanted to have fun, telling a tale. In three-acts, of course. Winners of the contest will be announced on November 28, 2019.

Coursework or Coarse Work? by JulesPaige

Acme constantly delivers to Wile, who thinks he will succeed in his quest of catching his nemesis. It is an old story of chasing one’s dinner. Being the mighty hunter. Yet the coyote seems to only have a series of unfortunate events repeat. Most often damaging more than his ego.

We root for underdogs because we desire the right recognition. Dreams though seem to be elusive, like the Road Runner that escapes unscathed. Are our human wants just a different hunger that can only be sated by hard work?

Where’s the fairy tale ending? You gotta write it yourself!

🥕🥕🥕

A Water Story by Charli Mills

The ground above Lake Itasca releases an underground spring. A trickle becomes the 2,348 mile-long Mississippi River, nicknamed Father of Waters. Yet, it is within the wombs of women where life grows in sacs of amniotic fluid – water from mothers. Women bring life.

Scientists document facts about water. They can tell us our bodies use it for cell development and waste elimination. They point out the rapid rate of glacier melt as a phenomenon of climate change.

Men pass laws against women’s bodies and reverse protections for the environment. In the end, who can deny — Water is Life?

🥕🥕🥕

Bare Facts by JulesPaige

Looking through her rearview mirror she spied the driver behind her dangling an unlit cancer stick from his mouth. Her internal thought dripped with sarcasm that he could not hear; My, isn’t that attractive.

Cancer has become a dreaded word. Often becoming the elephant in everyone’s living room. Survivors abound every day due to those skilled in various treatments.

Three males in her family were being treated for three different cancers in the same month. She only knew the full circumstances of her man. And he was going to make it because of early detection and a skilled surgeon!

🥕🥕🥕

And Then the Sun Shone by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The yard was covered, leaves bright yellow, and wet from last night’s rain. Randall shook his head, tipped his cap to scratch his balding pate, and looked up to the sky. No help there. Rainclouds fisted up again overhead.

Marla’d promised to bring the grandkids over for his birthday tomorrow since Sadie had passed. Five years now, and he missed her every day. She would’ve ensured the place was spotless. Dragging the rake to his front porch, he eased into the wooden chair.

He lifted his head as the truck rumbled in.

“We came early to help! Happy birthday!”

🥕🥕🥕

Neighbours by Joanne Fisher

One night a vampire moved into the vacant house next to us. At first we were concerned, but she turned out to be no bother really.

Life went on in our street. The vampire was rather quiet, and kept her house and grounds tidy. We only usually saw her in the evenings flying off to somewhere. Occasionally she would come round to ask for a cup of blood.

Then a hunter came and the vampire was no more. After that a guy who constantly plays the drums moved into the now vacant house. Honestly, I’m really missing the vampire.

🥕🥕🥕

Fetching by Charli Mills

Bare limbs of birch pointed skyward, yellow leaves buried roots. A pup burst through the woods, scattering leaves. A woman ran, red leash in hand, calling, “Maxwell, come here!”

Max chased snowshoe hares down the birch-lined trail, pulling a woman on skis. She laughed and he pulled harder, kicking up a lone yellow leaf.

She wrapped him in a fleece blanket. “Good boy, Max,” she said, her hand lingering on his head. Walking the leaf littered road, a tear slid down her cheek. It had been fourteen autumns since she had walked this way alone. But water needed fetching.

🥕🥕🥕

Beginning, Middle, End by Chelsea Owens

Top Bun was the epitome of a beginning: first to stand in line at the condiments counter, first to graduate in his class, and always top bread at work.

Meat, meanwhile, existed in the middle. Middle child, middle man, middle class -that was him.

Poor Bottom Bun was last. No matter what he tried, he always woke late. He never caught the train on time; if he did, it was behind. The best dance partners were already taken, and even his mother had run out of names when he came out. He was, as one might guess, The End.

🥕🥕🥕

A Quitting by D. Avery

She felt proud. It’d been six months; she was sure she was done smoking for good.

“That was a bad habit I never should have started. Well, it’s done now.”

He blew smoke rings; sipped his coffee.

She could taste food again. She was more mindful of the food she ate, made healthy meals. She lost weight. She felt good.

He complained there weren’t mashed potatoes anymore. He crushed each beer can after draining it. She winced at the sound.

He’s only been gone a week, but she’s sure.

“That was a bad habit I never should have started.”

🥕🥕🥕

Pro-Bull Mashup Challengers

Writers faced the bullpen at the Rodeo with the rip-snorting task of combining three pro-bull names into nouns and mashing them into two genres — game show and pirate. They faced, rode, and wrote Bodacious, Nose Bender, and The Heartbreak Kid onto the stage, the plank, or perhaps a strange new reality tv show.

Each writer gets to enter the contest once. Some only want the fun of the challenge, and others are prolific and wrote extra stories. These are the challengers from Rodeo #2: Pro-Bull Mashup.

The contest is now closed. Rodeo #3 launches October 17, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Foul Play by D. Avery

“Pal, I won us tickets ta see the bull ridin’. Nose bender seats.”

“D’ya mean nose-bleed?”

“Nose bender. From pressin up against the fence an’ peerin’ through the knothole. Guy said ringside seats is sold out, this is such a bodacious event.”

“Sold out? This rodeo don’t charge.”

“The guy said we had to pay, Pal, but said I could git these seats if the price was right. I answered some ranch trivia questions an’ I won!”

“Nanjo Castille! This ain’t trivial, he’s a pirate! This could lead ta heartbreak, Kid. Where’s he at?”

“Sleepin’ off Ernie’s ‘lixir.”

“Shorty!”

🥕🥕🥕

One Chance to Ride by Charli Mills

Heartbreak Kid tightened the rigging. Daddy schooled her in knots. She’d want it to come loose, not drag her through the arena like a ragdoll. They all wanted her to bomb, break bones. It would serve her right. She had pirated the sport meant for cowboys, not cowgirls. Daddy’s nose-bender against the county rodeo association made salacious headlines. He fought for her right to ride. The paper dubbed her the Heartbreak Kid, mocking her dreams of riding eight seconds. This was no game show with winner’s confetti. Getting to ride a bull named Bodacious would be her prize.

🥕🥕🥕

Sink or Swim! by JulesPaige

The very bodacious hostess was looking for a ‘Romeo’, not a heartbreak kid for her contestant. Michael Nosebender needed a new name if he was going to compete on national television. So he pirated the first name he thought of; Mickey Rooney. Since this was a match up for the silver hair set Carol let the guy slid in the third seat. Not that anyone with any brains would want to date that old curmudgeon.

The widow Della Street wanted someone young to offer her a very romantic cruise far away from raunchy buccaneers. Florida’s Gulf coast would do.

🥕🥕🥕

A Bull in a China Store by Goldie

“I’m Mark – Will’s best-man. We met in college” – Mark smiled and took a sip of bourbon.

“I don’t want any surprises” – said Will before the rehearsal dinner.

“No problemo” – Mark replied.

200 guests.

“He was known as the Heartbreak Kid. The ladies loved him. I had to break a nose, or two when a jealous ex came after Will. They called me ‘Nose Bender’.”

Another sip of bourbon.

“She was dressed as a pirate that Halloween. Bo-dacious! Will says she’s the one that got away. Will, I have a surprise for you. Let’s see what’s behind curtain number 3!”

🥕🥕🥕

Games off the Coast of Brazil by Charli Mills

Nosebender ruled the deck of her ship Bodacious with its black sails. She was French Basque, busty and disfigured. Sometime during her trade, gaming Spanish galleons out of Brazil, the butt of a pistol bent her nose. It frightened God-fearing captains during raids she crafted into a high-seas game show. She called her first-mate, a Portagee with a blind left eye, the Heartbreak Kid. A bit of a pirate joke — he was ugly as Nosebender. But he supported her slick game of ridding Spain of her ill-gotten riches, sharing the winnings with the wretches of the New World.

🥕🥕🥕

And They’re Off by Susan Zutautas

Standing at the ticket window Ian placed his bet. Twenty dollars on Nose Bender to win. Meg the practical one put twenty dollars on Heartbreak Kid to show.

At the starting gate, the bell rang, and the horses were off.

Heartbreak Kid took the lead with Nose Bender three horses back. Meg and Ian, both excited stood cheering their horses on.

Out of nowhere the favorite to win, Bodacious took the lead leaving the couple’s horses behind. The favorite won, Heartbreak came second, Nose Bender way behind, came in sixth.

Both disappointed but they had a fun day out.

🥕🥕🥕

The Parrot Nation by Charli Mills

“Welcome back to the celebrity edition of, ‘Whose Parrot is This?’”

Cheers rose from the audience, responding to cue cards. No one knew who the famous person would be. Anticipation dripped like sweat.

The host, a man with a plasticized smile and pirate hat initiated the hints to three audience members on stage

“Squawk! I speak Russian!”

“Putin?”

“No! Squawk! Diplomats suck!”

“Giuliani?”

“No! Squawk! Make America—”

“Trump!”

“Ding, ding, ding! Yes! This parrot belongs to President Trump, Stable Genius, Grand Pirate of the Walled Swamp.”

The crowd roared, prompting unnecessary. The rally had begun, the games continued.

🥕🥕🥕

Reality Show by D. Avery

“Kid, stop poutin’ up in thet poet tree. What’s wrong?”

“Reckon yawl should jist vote me off the Ranch. I feel awful fer indangerin’ ever’one. Agin. I’m heartbroke.”

“Kid, don’t git yer nose bent outta joint. Nanjo’s gone. Some bodacious city slicker name of Rudy come by an took ‘im east.”

“Ta the Big House?”

“I heard White House. They’ve got friends there.”

“Hmm. I’m russian ta conclusions now.”

“Right? But where else kin a corrupt pirate like Nanjo be tried by a jury of his peers? The $64,000,000 question is, kin we vote thet gang off the Island?”

🥕🥕🥕

Modern Tall Tale Challengers

Tall tales aren’t just for contestants. Some writers took to telling whoppers like they were alligators born to drive golf carts. Some tall tales are less flamboyant. The following are submissions as challenges (not contest entries) to the Rodeo #1: Modern Tall Tales.

The contest is now closed. Rodeo #2 launches October 10, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Make America Skate Again by D. Avery

“Hard ta tell a tall tale from fact these days Kid, ‘cause fact is there’s some shift goin’ on ya jist cain’t make up.”

“Yep. Pal, tell the one ‘bout the guy who denied global warmin’, claimed it was all a part a his plan.”

“Called it coastal improvement, got folks in South Dakota ta invest in waterfront property. Water kep risin’ an’ when them extreme cold snaps a winter came it all turned ta ice. Whole country iced over. Guy said it was all part a his plan, an’ he sold hats. Hats said, ‘Make America skate again’.”

🥕🥕🥕

Blasting Bunyan by JulesPaige

Paul and Babe worked hard to keep their farm going. The city slowly encroached. The two were a simple pair that got the job done. Their undoing was the tourists looking to escape the city. Some young kids had mom and dad stop the car to take photos on their tablets. The youngsters not being thrilled with being taken away from the city created video manipulating the farmer into a giant and coloring Babe blue.

The giant hatchet throwing farmer and his dancing blue Ox soon had over ten thousand likes, and too many city folks looking for them.

🥕🥕🥕

Lou Ell, Master Photosnappishooter by Faith A. Colburn

No chance of unremembering Lou Ell. He was the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission wildlife photographer. A bachelor, he spent most of his time outdoors somewhere fulfilling his role as “photosnappishooter.”

On vacation, he shot a film on the Alaska brown bear. In one spectacular sequence, he got between a sow and her cub. The momma attacked. Backed against a cliff, Lou kept shooting. “Somebody will find the camera,” he thought. Since he survived, he intended to make wildlife movies.

I visited him once years later. He lived alone in the dark. You see, he had lost his sight.

🥕🥕🥕

Say Mozzarella by Sharon C

Influencers travel the world to capture photogenic spots for social media. Traditional travelers’ enjoyment is ruined by Millenials lining up to ‘hand heart’ iconic locations. In response, camera bans are enforced at tourist sites across the world.

Not so at the Tower of Pisa. Millions of visitors annually photograph the ‘straightening’ of the tower. The impact of this phenomenon is now being scrutinized. Permanent human activity has caused denser, more resistant, air composition around the tower, significantly reversing the leaning process. Consequently, the combined minuscule lifespans of a million Instagram posts may be saving the landmark for future generations.

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Pete Fanning

Ben tore out of the job site, his spotless boots on the gas, dust trailing the truck.

He was happy to have a task. Being new, he’d worried the guys would mess with him. He wanted to get the errand done without any trouble.
He entered Green’s Hardware, his hardhat gleaming.

At the desk, he presented the levels the guys had handed him. “Hello, I need to get some new bubbles for these levels,” he said proudly.

Old Green gave him a wizened smile.

“First day?”

Ben removed his hat. “Sure is.”

“Thought so, I’ll check on your bubbles.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tall Tales: A Trio of Fledglings by Charli Mills

Wind flapped across my neighborhood so fiercely every maple leaf fell at once. Powerlines went down, and we had to call a tow truck to dig out cars and trucks along Roberts Street. Piles of red and orange drifted like snow. My neighbor said he ain’t seen the likes of this occurrence ever, and he’s older than the Porcupine Mountains. While everyone was looking at the leaf mess, I was looking up. Starlings. They flew as if the flocks were a single wing, beating over us like a thundercloud. Two small notches marked where the hatchlings would have flown.

***

It began with starlings. The urge to rescue something vulnerable. My heart is rose quartz, and it fractures when I fail. That day, before my house was home, I failed two baby starlings, and my quartz fractured twice. Later, rose quartz still beating, I held a baby loon to my chest. Again, I failed, and another crack emerged. Giving up on nestlings, I fed the grown chickadees. Then, one fall day, two fledged pigeons appeared, motherless, flightless, and so I became a surrogate again. They grew, they flew. Only one returned to roost. This is how crystals are formed.

***

Summer ended. The starlings razed the birdfeeders by the millions and left behind two changelings. They grew big, peeping. That’s when the street coyotes showed up to circle the house, howl at the moon, and demand plum pie. Turns out, the big starling babies were really coyotes. This is how I knew they were changelings. The peeping always stopped when the coyotes emerged, scratching at grizzled coats. I caught them pulling downy nestling feathers from their fur. Tricksters. That’s how I’ll remember the departures. Tricked into raising vulnerable things that go away. My empty nest is an abandoned den.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid’s KEVA Kiosk by D. Avery

“Kid. What’re ya doin’ asettin’ in thet upended stock tank?”

“I decided ta set up shop fer the rodeo crowds. This here’s my think tank. Folks’ll pay me fer my thoughts.”

“I don’t think much a this idea, Kid. Didja clear it with Shorty?”

“What do you think?”

“Thinkin’ not. So how’s yer gig work?”

“Easy. Ask me a question, I give ya the Kid’s Eye View Answer.”

“In 99 words?”

“Naw, jist somethin’ quippy. But if’n someone was ta request a 99 word tale fer themsefs an’ were ta donate via Shorty’s paypal button…”

“Huh. Who’da thunk it.”

🥕🥕🥕