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Games for the Fun of It

Guest Compiler: Rough Writer & Ranch Hand, Norah Colvin

Last week when Charli wrote about games, she wrote about games for the fun of it, and more serious games that give us the run around with very little enjoyment. She challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball, hoops, tag. It can be made up, traditional, cultural or any kind of twist. Go where the prompt leads. There was no question about whether writers were game or not, and many joined in the fun. These are their contributions, starting with Charli’s own:

Games Across Rock Creek (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Rawr!” Cobb charged his five children on his hands and knees in the cropped grass in front of the west ranch house. Lizzie stood and giggled, blind since birth, she relied on her brothers to get around. Even playing games, the boys guided Lizzie. Cobb gently bumped her with his head and she squealed in delight. Young Charl tried clambering up Cobb’s back. Monroe boosted his youngest brother so he could ride Da’s back like a horse. Laughter carried across Rock Creek.

Sarah watched from the shadows on her side. Away from his precious family. The games they played.

Flash fiction by Pensitivity

It was the annual family picnic, everyone brought something for the table, we had a portable stove for making tea and loads of games.
With inherited grandchildren due to second and third marriages, there were over forty of us now, so we had plenty of options for team games and even a treasure hunt.
There were prizes too which was why the kids loved it so much.
The grand finale was always Scrabble.
Wrapped sweets were thrown into the air for the little ones to catch and collect. The older kids helped them so no-one went home empty handed.

###

Like Mother-Like Daughter by Ruchira Khanna
“Twist your waist along the loop,” she commanded from her balcony on the fourth floor.
“You silly girl!” she screamed when her daughter’s hula hoop came sliding down, “You ought to move your waist all the way!”
“Mom!” she cried out, “Chill!”
Sara’s friends tee-heed while the embarrassed mom stepped away.
There was a pause, and the daughter clarified with perched eyebrows as she adjusted her plaid skirt and put her loose strands of hair behind her ear, “My mom is the best, and she wants me to be the best too! What can I say!”

###

I’m Game by Geoff Le Pard

‘What shall we play? Rounders? Frisbee? Wheelbarrows?’

Penny and Mary exchanged a look as Paul pulled a ball from the bag. Penny giggled. “I’ll look after Charlotte, mum. You can be dad’s stooge.’

‘Stooge?’ Paul put hands on hips. ‘Is that what that school teaches.’

‘Love the double teapot, dad. What about a sand sculpture?’

Paul smiled. ‘Best one gets to choose the ice cream.’

‘Does everything have to be a competition, dad?’

Paul began digging. ‘Hmm?’

Mary whispered to her daughter. ‘Give it an hour and he’ll be fast asleep. Then we can go and get some tea.’

###

Bush rescue by Rowena

Bob saw the helicopters hovering over the lookout again.

“Blimey, another bloody tourist’s lost,” Bob announced, taking his eyes off the footy. “All our taxpayer dollars going up in smoke. They should pay. This isn’t a free country.”

“Daddy! Daddy!” The kids puffed. “Jet’s stuck in a tree.”

“How on earth did the dog get stuck in a tree? You gone mad?”

“Hamish threw his tennis ball over the edge, and Jet flew straight after it.”

“Bob, told you that dog’s a maniac.”

“So, all those helicopters are out saving our dog????  Thank goodness, he doesn’t have a collar.”

###

Bricktown Boys by Pete Fanning

Ron and I rode our bikes past the abandoned brick factory that lined Clay Street. I checked for new graffiti or tags or any signs of life.

Our part of Fairview was known for bricks. The blackened stackhouse stood defiantly against the sky as our monument, the teeth-like shards of broken windows were a warning, and the immovable darkness inside those old walls seemed to live in every man who’d walked into my living room.

The factory was our landmark. A big, tough, ugly, brick trophy we held up to prove how tough our neighborhood was. Bricktown. Enough said.

###

Counting by D. Avery

“Come on, Buddy, that’s at least fifty.”

When they were younger, they counted to ten. Then twenty-five. Fifty was a maximum.

Sometimes they just had their hands, clenching a fist with the index finger serving as barrel, thumb as hammer. Sometimes they’d find perfectly shaped sticks. Christmas might bring a realistic looking cap gun.

Cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians; “Bang, you’re dead”, and if it was an obvious hit you had to fall down for a specified count.

Now they were playing army. They were the good guys.

“Buddy, just get up. I don’t want to play anymore.”

###

Flash fiction by Bill Engelson

May 30th 1955

We were not supposed to play after dark.

“I want you back before the sun goes down. You pay heed.”

And our old lady meant it.

But the thing about dark, it sneaks up on you like the devil.

When your kid brain is consumed by the action, heart pumping, feet stomping, bush tromping, heavy breathing, finding that sweet spot to nuzzle into, to hide, to be sought but not found, that was the rush.

But there was that thing about dark.

It snuck up on sister Sue.

It stuck her in a sack.

And she was lost forever.

###

Come, Play along! by Kittysverses

The elders of Vasant Housing Society, were in a fix. It’s was two weeks since the summer vacations began, and all that they could hear was silence in their compound. True, the kids were forced to studying during the school days, but it was the vacations the elders wished they played. The victim in the form of modern gadgets was found. This kept the elders thinking, and they came up with a planof organizing traditional Indian outdoor games for the young and old. *Kho-Kho,**Gilli Danda, ** *Lagori, ****Dog and the bone were among the main events of the D-day.

###

Remembering Kabaddi by Anne Goodwin
Ram often dreamt he was a child again, running barefoot across the dusty earth. Amid the singsong voices of the staff, he often felt a child, unable to dress, wash or eat without assistance. But never before had he been led to believe he’d been transported back to childhood, his playmates’ chants ringing in his ears: Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi …
He opened his eyes. The care staff considered the sports channel invigorating, but Ram wasn’t interested in cricket, rugby: English games. Now TV had stolen his memories, his village roots, taming the ancient game with a court and referee.

###

Let’s Play a Game (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane smooths lotion over her knee, pausing over the scar. Ten, she’d been, suited up in roller skates with the key around her neck. Her friend Carla on her bike, eyes full of the devil. “Hold on to the sissy bar and I’ll pull you. It’ll be fun. Just like waterskiing.”

And it was. Hair flying, eyes streaming in the wind, both of them shrieking laughter, blazing down the middle of the street until Carla wiped out and Jane went flying and blood flowed. No helmets or kneepads back then.

Kids can’t come close to fun like that now.

###

Golem’s Truth by Jules Paige
Carrie wasn’t sure she wanted to play Golem’s Truth – being
Mal de coucou in this new neighborhood. The tendency in
these new situations was to play the awestruck outsider.
Be a parallel player without spilling too much of her own
Background.

With a strong desire to fit in with this group, Carrie had to
build up some nerve to please these ‘new’ friends. Without
putting up too much of a smoke screen.

This new twist on Truth or Dare and Spin the Bottle. A
couple had to go behind the barn, do something – And not
tell what they did.

###

Around and Because by Kerry E.B. Black

Henry stepped to the plate. Eager teammates turned from loaded bases. “Come on, Henry. Don’t blow it.”
“Again,” added Henry.
Two outs. Two runs down. The last inning of a decisive game weighed.
Queasy wriggled his stomach. His hands sweated. He gulped and swung.
“Strike one.”
Coach yelled, “Shake it off, Henry.”
“Strike two.”
He blinked tears. Two balls. A foul tip.
He prayed, swung, connected. The ball soared. Unaccustomed to hitting, he watched it ascend, bounce, roll. Team mates screamed, “run.” He did not. Three slid past him to home plate. They won around and because of Henry.

###

The First Game by Gordon Le Pard

“We will have to stop Sir.”
Prince Frederick looked up to the sky, there was no way the rain was going to stop.
They stopped the game sadly and walked into the tavern.
He enjoyed sports, and knew that this was a way into his subject’s hearts. The British loved sport, so did he and knew he had to show he was British, ‘Glory in the name of Briton’ he had told his son, and playing traditional British sports was one way to show it.
This game, however, was new to him.
“What’s it called?”
Lord Middlesex replied.
“Baseball!”

###

Safety first by Anthony Amore

The neighbor kids started using a basketball but it proved too heavy to shoot with a hockey stick. The six rode either skate boards or roller blades around the cul-de-sac taking turns shooting into a lacrosse net alternating between a tennis and a soccer ball.

Then someone upped the ante.

“Put the net at the end of our driveway,” he said. “No, there,” he added pointing down the steep asphalt incline.

“There?”

The first nodded, “We skate down, shoot, score.”

“How will we stop?” someone asked, sensibly.

“Don’t worry; that’s why we have helmets. Who wants to play goal?”

###

I Got My Dude Right Here by Elliott Lyngreen

This dude had strolled up the cosmic black walkway spinning a gray-weather shreaded basketball ahead of himself so the english zipped it perfectly rolling atop the backside of one hand, up his arm, around his chest, swiftly down the other arm to a flip-spin onto the original hand with the middle finger extended in such wobbling revolutions he casually slapped, straightened so the ball turn smoothly and faster with each tap; then dropped so sweet as his knee come up, bumped the rock back up in one continuous motion continuing the tight whirling.

Asked, “who got last ya’ll?”

###

Face tag is our game by Joe Owens

Kaley looked at Casey with an unsure expression.

“It’s simple. Make sure they don’t see your face. If they do you are frozen.”

Kaley nodded with her understanding. She was totally zoned in until they picked the tagger.

“No!” she thought without speaking. Not him. Anyone but Eric.

Casey saw her expression, tapping her on the arm while asking with her eyes what was wrong.

“It’s nothing. I am good.”

“Wait,” Casey said her look of concern morphing into a wide smile. “I guess I know who you like now, huh?”

“Don’t say anything, promise!”

“I won’t have to.”

###

Wifflduff by Michael

This is a fun game to entertain kids in the back yard. The idea is to disassociate the words given with their meanings. For example, spaghetti. If you answer pasta or food, you would be wrong and out of the game. If you say dog/cat/elephant, you would be correct.

In the one minute, you attempt as many as you can. If you survive a minute, you accumulate how many you got right. One wrong and you are out, and as added fun, you have to prance around the yard like a chicken saying whiffleduffwhifflduffwhifflduff.

Hours of fun and excitement.

###

Wanna play? by Norah Colvin

From the verandah, the park looked enormous and inviting. The men, lugging boxes and furniture upstairs, stopped chatting. Mum bustled them too, ‘Here. Not there.’

‘Stay out of the way,’ she’d commanded. He suggested the park. ‘Not by yourself,’ she’d said.

He went anyway, crossing the wide road alone. He watched a group of kids kicking a ball around. They looked friendly, but… He glanced back at the house. Not missed. Would they let him play?

‘Hey, kid,’ one shouted. He turned to run. ‘Wait!’ called the voice. ‘Wanna play?’

Reassured by smiling faces, he joined in the game.

###

Strategy in the game by Jules Paige

Longhorn knew it was a paradox; Janice full of tension but
being in a semophoristic mood, she didn’t want to talk, not
in the park. The detective would have to bite his tongue on
all the questions that were musing around in his head. No
woman deserved the smooth playhouse of thieves that
people like Richard played in.

Once Longhorn had moved Janice into the safe house
code named ‘Neptune’ – he could end this stalemate and
she could open up about any information she possessed that
would put a final checkmate on Richard and put the rogue
behind bars.

###

Aw, Skip It! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Find one that’s flat and smooth…no bigger than your palm.”

“Bigger than your palm?” she tipped her head. “Or mine?”

“Great question! Let’s look and see what we find.” The water was clear, chilling his pale feet. She followed, knee-deep, eyes round.

“Curl your finger around the edge, and flick!” The stone sailed, tripped half a dozen times and sunk.

She grabbed a rock from his hand and threw it underhand. It arced and splashed.

“Good first try!” He spied the perfect stone, heard a deep splash and got soaked from behind.

“How’s that?” she laughed, hands on hips.

###

Up and At ‘Em, by D. Avery

“Come on Kid, up and at ‘em.”

“Uhhnn. Where’s Shorty at anyway? I heard she mighta went into town.”

“You heard, you heard. Ever heard of herdin’ cattle?”

“Shorty’s in town, probly playin’ cards, havin’ fun.”

“Shush. Shorty’s busy. And she might be gambling, but it’s a serious game she’s playin’.”

“I heard Shorty’s at the rodeo.”

“Well you heard right. She is, and it ain’t her first time. But this one’s big.”

“What can we do with Shorty away?”

“We’ll do what we always do.”

“Yee haw! Time to play with words.”

“That’s it Kid. Round ‘em up.”

###

Games in white gym suits by Floridaborne

“Gym suits, the only piece of clothing that could make Marilyn Monroe look dorky,” I said, showing my teenage daughter a garment hated by anyone with a brain in the 1960’s.  “PE is why I had glasses in junior high!”

“You’re blind without them, mom!”

“I’ll compare it to making you wear one of my suits,” I said.

“Ewwww!  Gross!”

“We had a saying that boy’s don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses. You might as well be hiding behind a wall.”

“Why were you forced to wear glasses, mom?”

“I mistook my archery instructor for the target.”

###

 

 

More Than a State of Mind

Guest Compiler: Rough Writer & Ranch Hand, Norah Colvin

Guest Compiler @NorahColvinIn the introduction to her post and flash fiction challenge, Charli discussed her feelings of contentment at having reached Kansas. She said,

“I had such a feeling of contentment when we breathed a sigh of relief upon arrival. Contentment to be among loving family. Contentment to be up to my eyeballs in historic records. Contentment to be gifted a chance to dig.”

But the feelings were somehow overshadowed by

“the shadowy beast of homelessness (that) follows, lumbering and restless. It’s been a year, and normalcy is something for other people. Rootlessness is something you can’t understand without experiencing it. And it’s punishable by society. The silent judgement of you did something wrong, you deserve this.”

With her feelings of contentment mixed with those other shadowy, less pleasant feelings, Charli challenged writers to write a story about feeling content. And write they did.

While Charli doesn’t often ask, she reached out for help with chores around the ranch, including compiling the flash fiction responses. I agreed to do it, and here is the result. Please forgive any errors and omissions. I’m not as experienced as the Boss Lady.

We’ll begin with Charli’s own story, which got us all started on thinking about contentment.

***

Happily Digging (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni heard Ike’s truck rumble down the gravel road. She knelt barefoot by a window to the past – a square troweled to reveal debris from long before. Sifting had revealed ceramic sherd, a few square nails, and a cigar token to the old Congress Hotel in Sandpoint. A window gave an archeologist quick insight to a possible site.

Danni pondered possibilities when she heard Ike’s truck door close. The sun had warmed the soil all day, and Danni was content.

He approached the fence and freshly tilled soil. “I thought you were gardening today.”

“I am,” she replied, smiling.

###

And on the advice of Anne Goodwin, this one comes in second with a story that shares a simple but effective way we can help ourselves by helping out here at the Ranch.

 Contentment by D. Avery

“But I thought Shorty was the cook.”

“Shorty knows roundup like no other, one heck of a wrangler. Why she’s the ridin’est, ropin’est wrangler out here. There’s no better out on the range.”

“I hear she wants to grow the ranch. Expand the brand.”

“Yup.”

“In a setting like this, we characters oughta rob a bank, hold up a train. For the Ranch.“

“Now Kid, Shorty don’t need that kinda trouble. Snap outta character and just hit the paypal button.”

“Yeah, I will. ‘Cause I like the content at this here ranch.”

“Didn’t you mean contentment?”

“Yeah, that too.”

###

Time Enough by Bill Engleson

One leg up. Then the other. Crack open a Club Soda. Mid-week. Something about being on the wagon.

It’s a warm day. I see the chores, piling up like a smattering of mumblety-pegs. Each one demands I take a huge bite and wrestle the task to the ground.

I exaggerate. But not by much.

“You’re taking a busman’s holiday,” she says, sneaking up on me.

“You mean, same old same old!”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean. Can’t get a lick a work out of you, Simon.”

“I’m a big disappointment to myself, sweetie.”

“Enjoy it while it lasts, lover.”

### 

To Be Content by Pensitivity

I don’t need complications.
I’m a simple girl who likes the simple things in life.
They say the best things in life are free.
A walk in the park, birdsong, the scent of lilac on the tree, the gentle trickle of water from a country stream, dipping your toes in the water on a hot day, the sound of kids laughing, ducks and swans with their young, a tender smile from the one you love.
So many things we take for granted or miss altogether because we are too busy trying to survive in this cut and thrust world.

###

Contented by Michael

She watched him breathing deeply, the look on his face told her so much but she wanted to hear what he might say.

“So how are you feeling?”

“Very contented,” he replied in between breaths.

“So, what does that mean?

He waited a few minutes before replying. “I feel loved like never before, you have accepted me with all my flaws, and despite that, we get along so well.”

“You are worth it babe,” she said kissing him lightly on the cheek.

“You make me feel so good about myself.”

“It’s what happens when both of us are contented.”

###

Content by ladyleemanila

Do we do things or wait our chance?
I’d like to dance
And then you came
Told me your name
Sweet serendipity, what’s that?
I dropped my hat
You picked it up
Sweet as syrup
Overlapping paths we do take
We make or break
Life’s a delight
Makes us excite
So in love with you
At a sea so blue
You look so cool
Your smile, your care
We are such a pair
A flower that blossom
You’re my superstar
You came down from far
To make me happy on earth
And so with pleasure
I’ve got the answer

###

The Anniversary Dinner by Susan Zutautas

As soon as Jim walked through the front door the aroma of Megs cooking put a smile on his face.

“Oh my goodness woman what are you cooking? There’s enough food here for six people!”

“Just the two of us, I wanted to make it a special dinner. After all, it is our anniversary.”

“Are those lobsters?”

“They sure are, and to go with them we have steak, mushrooms, crab legs, shrimp skewers, scallops, and a Caesar salad. Just wait till you see dessert.”

Jim could barely do it, but he ate his cherry cheesecake and felt totally content.

###

The Return by D. Avery

“How far’d you get?”
“Far enough to figure some things out.”
“Uh?”
“Figured out they don’t have as many seasons out west. If they have deer season, you’d hardly know it. They never heard of sugarin’ or mud season. I wanna settle in for mud season.”
“You came back because you wanna be here when the roads turn to shit?”
“Early April, right?”
“Yup. Lotta my Highland heifers are due to calve ‘bout then.”
“I figure that’s about my time too. We’re pregnant.”
“Well.”
He knew that rangy heifers usually became content after calving. He hugged her thankfully, hopefully.

###

Flash Fiction by Carrie Gilliland Sandstrom

She loved dusk most of all. The sky was an indigo blue with tiny stars sparkling, trying to be seen. She starred out their bedroom window, which she insisted on keeping open, even if just a crack. There was nothing better than feeling a cool breeze across her face as she burrowed deep under the warm covers.

A strong arm wrapped around her and pulled her close. She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.

He kissed her gently on the shoulder. “This is still my favourite place to be,” he whispered.

“Mine too,” she said, already half asleep.

###

Gramma’s Legendary Cheesecake (A Tall Tale) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“How’d I get here?” Alice tipped back in her porch rocker, watching sunset over misty mountains. “Cheesecake, darlin’…”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Back in the 80’s, Gramma’s Great Smoky Cheesecake was multi-billion, multi-national, with an option to go intergalactic. I was so busy dealing with the Martians, I didn’t see what was happening with my husband and the Venusians. When he filed for divorce, he wanted alimony—which translated to all-my-money. He got it, he spent it, but he still can’t make cheesecake.

“So here I am, and I couldn’t be happier! Have a slice…it’s Gramma’s special secret recipe.”

###

Zen by Reena Saxena

Michelle had been trying to befriend Maria in the club, for several weeks. But, Maria had chosen to ignore her, for reasons best known to her. One evening, they found themselves seated on adjoining bar stools.

“It is always a pleasure to see you. You radiate so much peace”.

“Yes, because I am content with my life”.

“I wish you would mingle a little more. Others need those Zen vibes”.

“I am content with the blessings in my life, and also problems. I do not wish that people add their two bits to it. Hence, I prefer my solitude”.

###

A Familiar Content by Lisa Listwa

It is almost time.

Steam rises in front of me, blurring my vision slightly. I inhale deeply, taking in all that I can by breath. A gentle heat kisses my cheek, turning my skin warm and moist. Bright flashes of orange and green swim before my eyes, darting impishly in and out of bouncy cream-colored curls. Metal brushes against porcelain. The distinctive clang of a muted bell beckons to my body and soul.

Slowly, I sip and taste, letting the warmth rush through my body, spreading goodness contentment around me like a favorite blanket.

Familiarity breeds comfort and content.

###

Contentment by Floridaborne

Contentment depends upon perception.

From age 0 to 20, I experienced a dream many children coveted; to live in the same house with caring parents.  I wanted, more than anything, to travel.

At 23, I married.  We were in Minnesota for 2 years, then traveled through 5 states, and lived in 9 homes during our first 7 years together.  I loved that life.

Widowed at 33, I drifted around in a sea of discontent…until I discovered writing.

I might live in a shack with walls crumbling around me, but as long as I can write, I’m happy.

For now.

###

Silent Connection by Irene Waters

The cabin walls closed in. The fixed porthole prevented fresh air entering and the stale air weighed down on me. ‘I’m a sardine in a can,’ I fought the urge to scream. My heart pounding, I escaped to the deck. I paced, looking for a place I could sit and drink in the velvety night. All the seats, bar one, were occupied with lovers entwined. A solitary man, a priest, sat alone. He patted the seat, inviting me to sit. I did. We sat in silence. Connected. Content. Hours later he stood to leave, saying, “Sometimes, words aren’t necessary.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Mr. Melvin strummed a gentle chord, as though playing a soundtrack to his memories. The guitar wailed, spilling sounds from his soul, crying out with all the hurt he must have felt in that old lying heart of his.

Another strum of the strings. Another song. Outside a siren wailed. The world was riddled with crime and hurt and too little kindness. I had a long way to go in my quest for peace. But in his apartment, watching him play, my mouth hung out to dry. I knew exactly what he’d meant.

There was truth in the blues.

###

The Traveller Returns by Anne Goodwin
No more lumpy mattresses in airless dormitories resonant with other people’s snores. No more restaurants serving chicken as a vegetarian meal. No more conducting conversations with a two-year-old’s vocabulary. It’s time to go home.
Home to a choice of more than three outfits. Home to friends for whom neither your accent nor your humour needs translation. Home to shelves of books you never thought you’d miss.
Enough of novelty and adventure. The old familiar everything thrills you now. Rain and roses, the Bobbies in their uniforms, traffic on the left side of the road. No excitement, no effort. Content.

###

Crossfade by Elliott Lyngreen

emanating layer upon layer
of prodigious cells burning off,
into, spectacular sun-bathing
upon a blanket.
cross fades flickering heats, afire,
but meaning poetry indescribably, harmlessly
watching these cilia in her corners
flares candelabra
a cinnamon scent of some grand unlost memory
and recovers the eternity, grace
(the first smooth thighs of a 90s girl)
in incredible rays
and solid hypnotic
radiated sinks in radio-waves
into the way I can’t
see into this place
where my heart endlessly compresses
in these sweet beams,
but ricochets
to leave via the upstairs garrets
glided
flew
for more soft views,
transitions smooth.

###

Flash Fiction by Kalpani Solsi

I make an arduous mental effort to garner sepia toned 

images vividly scattered on the periphery of my subliminal 

existence and they slowly coalesce   to form a perfect 

collage. 

As I obambulate the muddy road, the sights and smells 

tickle my senses.

The play-ground reminds me of the agility of our minds 

and bodies.

I lose myself in the pages of the library to find my voice.

Rainy splashes bring out the fecund innocence.

Pals widen the curve of my lips to spread consoling 

warmth.

I refuse to come out the labyrinthine garden of 

Contentment

Return If Possible, childhood.

###

The Bundle by Allison Maruska

I lift the bundle from the floor

Heavy yet not burdensome

I support with both hands

Though one would do fine

I’m holding more than it seems

I hold dreams

Plans

Potential

The future

So I use both hands

Resting, I set the bundle on my chest

Carefully

No rolling allowed

My hand offers support

Encouragement

Love

A small yet meaningful gesture

The bundle settles

And takes a long breath as sleep arrives

I stroke his back

Feel his warmth

His life

I close my eyes

Breathing in the contentment

Of his being

My joy

My heart

My son

###

Contentment by Rachel A. Hanson

She was sitting on the deck listening to her children play while holding a steaming cup of coffee as the morning sun shone down as she closed her eyes, drinking in the sensations surrounding her.

“This is what perfect contentment feels like,” she thought.

“Mama, look!” Her toddler exclaimed excitedly.

She expected to see something remarkable. Maybe a butterfly or a squirrel scampering across the lawn.

She was not met with beauty, but danger! The baby had been trying for weeks to pull herself onto the ledge with no success. Today was the day the season of contentment ended.

###

Purpose in Play by Norah Colvin

They worked furiously as if with one mind; digging, piling, shaping, smoothing the sand.  As if on cue, two began to tunnel through from opposite sides, meeting in the middle. Others carved into the surface, forming window-like shapes. Sticks, leaves, and other found objects adorned the structure. Then, simultaneously, the work stopped. They glowed with collective admiration. But Than was not yet content. Something was missing. He swooped on a long twig and stuck it into the top, antenna-like. “For communicating with the mother ship,” he declared. Soon they were all feverishly adding other improvements to their alien craft.

###

Finding Contentment in Being the Greatest of all Time by Dave Madden

The champ awoke in a daze. After a ten-year reign, his eyes struggled to focus on the cage side physician’s finger wagging in front on his face; the taste of blood in his mouth had yet to register.

An eerie silence filled the arena, and whispers of ‘next steps’ for the most electrifying mixed martial artist of all-time resonated into a deafening energy.

As his cognitive faculties slowly returned, the realization, at the age of thirty-eight in a young man’s game, of contentment from an untouchable legacy would lick his warrior spirit’s wounds after walking away.

###

Tentative Content by Kerry E.B. Black

Like their ancestors, they huddle in caves, but instead of hiding from beasts, predators come from their own blood-lines. They use the caves’ walls as chalk boards, creating places to teach cross-legged children in an attempt to establish some normality for their war-torn lives. From scavenged bits, they craft toys to amuse their little ones. They recite stories and sing nursery songs. Of the little food they scavenge, the best goes to the young. From their faces they try to hide the ravages, turning instead gazes of hope upon their progeny. In their safety they find a tentative content.

###

Serenity Square by Jules Paige
(Janice vs Richard #8)

Janice hadn’t realized that she had been leaning on the tall
Detective, James Longhorn while he had lead her into the
secluded park.

The police station and the court house were connected ‘L’
shapes that had two secure emergency egresses where
the two buildings’ brick and concrete stonework met.

Private offices looked into the acre of serene park that had
several shade trees and a koi pond in the middle. It was a
place to ease fears and promote contentment for witnesses
that needed a safe place as well as for officers of the precinct
and court to decompress.

Contentment Earned (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

This one day makes the last five worthwhile.

Forcing herself to the grocery to stock up when she’s overwhelmed by a full workweek of politics and deadlines, senses raw from the onslaught of noise and movement. Barely edging the fenders past the posts in the underground garage, battling traffic and crowded aisles. The panic, the people.

All deposited against today, when she can stay in bed with the quiet, linger over coffee and sweet cream, plant flowers on the terrace high above the street. Dirt under her nails, the sun shining for her alone.

Far above the madding crowd.

###

Hope Doesn’t Knock by Sarah Brentyn

They say we should have hope.

Yet they take away everything that might make us feel hopeful. People seem content. I don’t understand.

One morning, after breakfast, I ask my father. He sits with me. Takes a breath. I think he is going to speak but he ruffles my hair. Tells me to enjoy my day. His eyes flick to the doorway.

I turn and notice my mother, watching us, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.

This is my cue to leave. When the door shuts, I see an ornament on the wood. This is not good for our family.

###

Summer Vacation by Diana Nagai

The waves gently buoyed them on the surface of the lake. Their floaties connected by each other’s resting feet. The summer sun heated their skin to burning levels.

She looked over at him, eyes closed, content as fuck. As if they hadn’t just fought World War III over breakfast. As if his half-assed apology was supposed to make her forget his need for constant confirmation of his masculinity. He only highlighted his frailty.

The resentment bubbling within her reached dangerous limits. Dipping her foot deep into the water, she kicked with everything she had, tipping the smug son-of-a-bitch overboard.

###

Just One Minute by Sherri Matthews

It’s a rope tying my guts together in hard knots. It sits there, like a weight pressing down on my chest making it hard to breathe. My heart pounds so loud I feel it pulsing in my eardrums and my head spins; I think I’m going to throw up. Anxiety Disorder, the doctor says. Not to be confused with ‘feeling anxious’. This is its bigger, older and uglier brother. It means business. It never leaves. But all I want is calm. A place where I can breathe again, to sink deep into a minute’s worth of contentment. That’s all…

###

Being Content by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum what is adult content?’

‘You know. Stuff that only adults should see or hear.’

‘Oh yeah. Soz. Silly.’ Penny sniggered. ‘It’s con-tent, isn’t it? Not content. You know like dad after a curry.’

Mary smiled. ‘The content of the curry makes him content.’

‘What makes you content, mum?’

‘The family being happy.’ She smiled. ‘Your grandma was the same. She always said if we were happy, she was content.’ Mary thought back to her mother’s last days, when she knew she was dying. She’d been content then. It angered Mary then, that acceptance. Now maybe she understood it.

###

Gather the Longhorns

Gather the Longhorns Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsYippee-ki-yi-ay, get along little longhorns, Carrot Ranch will be your new home! Yippee-ki-yi-ay, get along little longhorns, these stories are rich black loam. 

And so the writers sing a herding song this week as they gather the longhorns and tell the tales. An unusual topic, perhaps, but it’s approached as usual by versatile and creative writers with wit, tenderness and even some creepy-crawlies.

The following are based on the May 25, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a that includes the word longhorn.

***

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

It was all Horace’s fault, having said the grass was always greener on the other side.

In the early hours before anyone else was up, Longhorn Bert set off on his lone adventure.

Somehow though he’d lost his sense of direction, and found himself in a bit of a scary predicament.

Though the leaves were greener than his familiar pasture, they were definitely not grass.

Not wishing to attract attention to himself or give up his new found freedom, he decided to stand still on the roof and hope no-one would notice.

He wondered if anyone would miss him.

###

Where’s the Beef? D. Avery

“Fifty musta’ made her cantankerous.”

Shorty just smiled. Even as they whined and complained they were checking cinches, adjusting stirrups. Getting ready.

“We’re not all country western singin’ cowgirls!”

“A short piece on longhorns! I’d rather a tall-tale than a longhorn.”

“Are there even any left?”

Shorty finally spoke. “There’re longhorns out there for you to wrangle and round up. Bring one back to the ranch on the hoof; raw, if you will.”

More grumbling but they were already mounted and ranging out.

Shorty never used a stick, and knew that the carrot was simply a job raw done.

###

Myths of Longhorns (from Rock Creek) by Charli MIlls

“Ever see cowboys riding the trail with their longhorns?” Jesse asked.

Sarah was tucked in a blanket, sitting on Jesse’s porch. Shulls Mill squatted dingy with lumbering dust and brick buildings. Not the crisp colors of the prairie. “No,” she replied.

“But I thought Hickok was Marshall of the biggest cowtown.”

“That was later. I saw plenty of oxen and some had long horns.”

“I pictured longhorns on the prairies.”

“Buffaloes. I once saw a herd so large the ground shook.”

“Weren’t you afraid of Indians?”

“Jesse, there’s much about the west not in those dime novels you read.”

###

Holy Cow! It’ a Long Shot by Norah Colvin

The enclosure was built, the hay delivered, the trough filled. We children watched from the rails, as Dad and Mum manoeuvred Cow #1 into the yard.

Everyone clambered to be first to milk her.

“We can all milk her – in the morning,” assured Dad.

But in the morning, the cow was gone. The gate lay crumpled on the ground.

A stronger gate contained Cow #2, but she squeezed under the fence.

More repairs must secure Cow #3? She jumped over to flee.

Defeated, Mum replenished her powdered supply, and we kids never learned to milk.

Should’ve got a longhorn?

###

Steakhouse by Elliott Lyngreen

She had put contacts in.

He put on deodorant and her favorite button-down.

She offered, “you can move here,” smiling without glasses, taking him to glimpses in here many years ago, before the lumps appeared.

He accepted, “dont mind if i do,” nearly wincing into the booth against her.

He knew exactly what she wanted. Steak and potatoes.

The restaurant always resembled a giant tree hollowed, carved into places to eat.

He had far away stares of her, them; laughing contagiously; two kids up too late in a treehouse.

She squinted, “you will never go south again. ok?”

###

Defining Moment by Jules Paige

Detective James Longhorn knew that there would be no syncretism for Janice and Richard. The reformation of a psychopath was like trying to collapse the tough cast iron barrel of an old cannon.

Richard seemed to have a stiff vertebra, and the uncanny tendency to warren his way into the nerves of a woman whom he had once controlled. Longhorn would do all he could to catch Richard whether the troll was actually lucid or oscitant.

When that horrid call came over the invisible strands of transmission; to the unboxed cell phone – everyone in the police precinct room shuttered.

###

Long on the Horn by FloridaBorne

Texas, the longhorn state. The real thing isn’t anywhere to be found in the city of Houston. Sure, you have plastic replicas of longhorns, but the days of the cowboys tending them are relegated to rodeos.

Sleeping on the ground, stepping in manure, and being bath deprived aren’t my idea of an ideal any more than doing garbage pickup or plumbing. Nor would I want to have the job of keeping predators away from the livestock. Nowadays in Houston, braving the traffic is just as dangerous.

That’s today’s cowboy: It’s a dirty job and someone has to do it.

###

Flash Fiction by Geoff Le Pard

Mary smiled at Paul. ‘One more round.’

He affected a sigh, ‘If I’d known the booze was shit, I’d have babysat…’

‘Harry doesn’t understand wine.’ She glanced at their team captain.

‘Ok so who knows about Americana? Paul, you’ve been to the States. You’ll be good at this. Odd man out. Which isn’t a Longhorn? A cow, a cheese, a basketball team and a steakhouse?’

Paul grinned then shook his head.

‘Well? Share your ideas Paul. I’m sure we’ll all be grateful.’

‘Sounds like the name of a male porn star.’

Mary sighed. Paul wouldn’t be invited again.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Gruene Hall was roasting. Renee and I sat drenched from drink and dance. Her hair shined. My favorite curl had slung itself around her cheek as we heaved, giggling when the headliner, Merlin Mowers, slid next to Renee. A round of Lonestar longnecks followed.

Renee squealed. We snapped selfies. All was wonderful until Mowers veered into Renee, his long face like a Cadillac Deville, his mustache a set of longhorns affixed to his grin.

Renee’s eyes widened. Her grip tightened around the longneck.
I could’ve told Merl to duck.

Instead I bailed out my lovely wife the next morning.

###

The Longhorn Saloon (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane walks past the bar, its door open to the summer evening. How wonderful to step inside, clink a frosty mug with those of others, join the ritual of shaking off the workweek.

But it could never be like it was back home. Clack of balls on a pool table, shrieking laughter of women with too-big hair and too-tight jeans, jukebox blaring country music she only likes with draft beer and too many cigarettes.

The Longhorn Saloon. How she’d loved that dive. Of course, last she heard it changed hands and was Bob’s Place or something.

Jane walks on.

###

Curds and Wheys and Means by Bill Engleson

Sally Longhorn Wakely made her pitch to me one night on the corner of Blather and Scrounge.

I wasn’t ready for it but knew it was coming.

Sally was a little like Runyon’s Apple Annie but with cheddar dreams.

You just knew she would bake a swell pie.

“I just wanna make cheese, Gerry. Cheese. Is that so much to ask?”

Well she had me there. I’d funded a brick load of Yankee lads and lasses who knew no other dream then one pleasured with carroty joy.

Trump had delivered their moment of revival.

We were feeling the auburn.

###

A Horn for Hearing by Anne Goodwin

Squeezing the mouthpiece between her lips, Liesel exhaled. Two short blasts sandwiched between one long one, timed by the beating of her heart. Heads turned, foreheads creased at the woman-made incursion on the birdsong but, seeing the alphorn, longer than the instrumentalist was tall, they smiled and cocked their ears towards the distant hills, tuned for his reply. Nothing heard. She blew again without response save the call of a cuckoo. Red-faced, she tramped back to the car.

His hearing horn discarded on the backseat. Without it he could not hope to hear her call.

###

Andy Longhorn by Michael

Andy Longhorn was the lawman in my part of the world. Everyone called him Longhorn and no one was sure where the name came from though some women in the town thought it was because…but that was just hearsay.

He cracked the great cow rustling caper back a few years ago. Tracked down those thieving wretches and put them well and truly out of business. That act alone made the town feel a debt of gratitude to him.

He never wanted any reward. He wanted a quiet town. A quiet town meant a happy Longhorn, and that suited us.

###

Highlander by D. Avery

These green mountains had never held her the way they held him. She’d always chafed at the constrictions of hill farming, pined for open range. With dual citizenship she could be anywhere; Texas, Alberta, anywhere her wild western dreams led her. He wouldn’t look.

He was pioneering right here, innovating with heirloom breeds and traditional farming methods. He raised Highlanders for meat, but kept one as a milk cow, another tradition for this loyal breed. These Scottish Longhorns were hardy and independent, but also good-natured and reliable, good mothers.

He’d be right here with his fold should she return.

###

Long on the Horn by Ansham

The hidden light of the sun barely cut through the thick fog that covered the prairie in that remote village when, unexpectedly, a strange shape could be discerned in the distance. I stalled in fear.

The crisp winter air and the moisture made the scene even more ethereal. There I was, face to face with the most magnificent animal staring deep into my eyes. She was standing still, enamored, looking beautiful, majestic and grandiose. I was stunned, speechless and mesmerized as this longhorn cow communicated to me the essence of her right to live. And then she was gone.

###

Saints Marching by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They clattered down the long hallway, down stairs littered with rocks, crossing the division into darkness.

“There it is again,” they whispered. A low bellow moaned from the depths below.

Right, left, left again, then down once more. Their torch flickered in the thin breeze.

“Any Minotaurs in this labyrinth?”

“Don’t worry. I know the way out.”

Another bellow, followed by sliding sobs. They sprinted hard now.

And then, a Sousa solo.

“About time you got here!” The earthquake had wrecked the practice room, tipping the sound panels and trapping Tony.

“We’ll save you, but that trombone stays here.”

###

Longhorn’s Tale by KittyVerses

There wasn’t any connectivity through roads and no means of transport from his village to the nearby hospital. One had to pass through the forests to reach the other side. He had to visit his ailing mother. The village folk ensured they reached their destinations before dusk. It was rumored that a giant inhabited and nobody lived to tell the tale.

He was asked to duel with the giant. Sensing defeat, he escaped between the legs of the giant.

Always mocked at for being puny and untrue to his name, he received a hero’s welcome,

Hail Longhorn! Brain is mightier than brawn.

###

Cerambycidae by Sarah Brentyn

I feel them crawl over my skin before I see them.

Looking up, I notice hundreds of insects skitter across my floor, up the walls. They are everywhere. I want to scream. To call for help. But I don’t.

I study one on my left arm and become entranced with its bright, colored spots and antennae.

I have a memory of school where I learned about this species. The common name, ‘longhorn beetle’, fits well as the antennae extend past the end of their bodies. It’s fascinating. I lean in for a closer look but see only my bare arm.

###

Longhorn by formicatio

She stared out across the field as one of the mighty beasts lumbered over to her.

She hated the ranch.

Born a book lover on a longhorn ranch, a disappointing oldest child followed by three born-farmer brothers, she couldn’t wait to get out. The scholarship she’d won to what her parents called a ‘fancy city college’ had been her dream, and now her packed bags were waiting in her pick-up truck. The longhorn pushed its nose against her arm, and she scratched his forehead affectionately. “Bye, buddy,” she said, “seeya in three years,” doubting very much that she would.

###

Wise Words

Wise Words Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsHalf a century seems to carry the weight of wisdom. Yet, wise words can come from any age or background, and growing older doesn’t guarantee growing wiser.

This week, writers were asked to contribute wise words through the literary vehicle of flash fiction. As expected, the unexpected also made its way into the collection. Perhaps wisdom is less in the stories and more in the act of storytelling. Perhaps wisdom comes nt with age but with reflection.

The following are based on the May 18, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a wise story.

***

On Wisdom by Lisa Listwa

“Am I wise?” I asked the Sky.

Can you balance dark and light? Hold within you the vast potential of the future?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Sea.

Can you wash away just enough of the past to refresh yet leave a lasting impression?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Earth.

Can you take root and cling to what gives strength?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Wind.

Can you take flight when your time comes? Touch all else around you?

“Am I wise?” I asked my Self. “I have much yet to learn….”

Knowing this is wisdom.

###

The Light in the Empty Room by Elliott Lyngreen

In an empty room save for a fixture absent a bulb, yet with its string; doors exactly cater-cornered of parallel walls; after opening one, walking through only led him into another room perfectly mimicking the previous.

So he tried the opposite door, diagonally, again entered yet another inversion.

After exhausting attempts to leave, he only re-entered flipped patterns – one after another; lone empty lamp holder.

He decided to pull the string; over, around his arm, down himself like pulling open a sleeping bag or circumventing a body bag, unzipped the room, and became the light, illuminating ideas within vision. . . .

###

Wisdom by FloridaBorne

I glared at my sister, Myra, her brown eyes shining with youthful expectation. Her shapely body filling out a tight t-shirt and slinky jeans, she still looked 35.

“Where are you going?” I asked, leaning on my cane for support.

“Dancing.”

“You’re 50. It means you’re old!” I said, shaking a finger at her. “When will you understand that truth!”

“Never,” she said, running a brush through naturally thick, brown hair.

“I’m 57 and have the wisdom to admit I’m past my prime. Why can’t you?”

“Because old will always be travelling 7 years ahead of me,” Myra giggled.

###

Happy Birthday! by Ruchira Khanna

“Happy Birthday Angie” shouted Tiffany as she shut her car door and walked towards her friend who was seated on the patio.

The birthday gal squealed with delight upon seeing the bouquet and after a quick embrace dashed in to put them in the water.

Angie was chattering nonstop.

When the birthday girl came out with two cups of hot beverage, she found Tiffany’s head on her hands, “What’s wrong?” she inquired.

“Oh, Angie! start behaving your age!” Tiffany was quick to comment.

“Age is just a number!” she responded as she exhibited her bright white dentures.

###

Grey Wisdom by Kalpana Solsi

Combing my long silky tresses, I admired my reflection in

the mirror.Tessie grimaced.

I turned to face her.

Her celluloid image had painted nails, each hair in place

and a made-up face hiding all its flaws while my oils were

a connoisseur’s prized possessions.

“Silver streaks in your hair”, almost gasping.

“I know”, a calm and confident me.

“Let me fix an appointment with Yasmine’s Colour

Parlour”, Tessie panicking, “You have hit fifty”.

“I have accumulated streaks of wisdom in half a century

and will unabashedly flaunt it”.

Thud…… Tessie’s cell -phone lay on the floor, broken,

bruised.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

I was brought up to respect my elders.

In fact, I have always got on better with those some twenty or thirty years older than me, and my first little job at 12 was working with then pensioners who I probably drove mad with my jokes and pop music!

One of the best bits of advice I ever received was from the supervisor I worked with 1980 – 1981. As he was breaking into her car having locked her keys inside, she nudged me, grinned and said ‘Keep him. He’s useful.’

So I did. That was 28 years ago, and I’ve never regretted it.

###

That Thing That’s Before Godliness by Geoff Le Pard

Paul looked at his wife’s face. ‘Looks like you need more than tea.’

‘That woman is impossible.’ Mary accepted the wineglass. ‘Mrs Wise. Talk about misnamed.’

Paul settled back into his seat. ‘Go on. What now?’

‘Milk in the washing machine. She thought it was the fabric conditioner.’

‘Aren’t the bottles different?’

‘She cracked the conditioner so decanted it into an old water bottle last time. I labelled it carefully. Calling her a cleaner is such a misnomer.’

‘We could look for a new one?’

‘Like Miss Peaberry? Remember what she di wit your toothbrush?’

‘So more wine?’

‘Please.’

###

Growing into Wisdom by Norah Colvin

“My Dad knows everything!” bragged six-year-old Billy.

“Parents,” grumbled Will E., at surly sixteen, “They know nothing.”

For thirty-year-old William, at the top of his game, conversations were strained. One more “In our day…” he’d surely explode.

By forty-five, with kids of his own, “But kids are different these days,” Will would state.

Dad would wink and suggest, “Not that different.”

Throughout the fifties, his recalcitrant teens mirrored those years of his own.

Into his sixties, with kids gone and more time for chatting with Dad, he discovered, almost too late, they shared more than he had ever appreciated.

###

Flash Fiction by 40levenreasons

Today, I let my tired body slide down the school yard fence and I took a moment to reflect.

At what point, on my journey through life, did I decide the road less travelled might be the best?

Recently, my post, “Is 50 Too Old To Start Again?”, saw me tentatively enter the blogging world.

I did not envisage myself feeling beaten so soon. I sat, now, sweltering in the Pilbara heat, looking upon my punctured bicycle tyre, thinking, “What next?”

How the Universe might respond to my innocent query, left me feeling sombre and unsettled.

What next indeed?

###

Insurance by Reena Saxena

“Turning 40 heralds middle age, and 60 is retirement. What is it about 50?”

“Well… Life spans are lengthening, and work spans are shortening. So, you never know, where will you be?”

“Oh, Uncertainty!” I exclaimed dramatically, “Do you sell insurance or retirement plans?”

“The pathos lies somewhere in between – the inability to plan in the fast-changing scenario, and the millennial epidemic – ageism. People above 50 are treated as they don’t exist. There is no insurance against changing mind-sets.”

“Hmmm … Can you insure my ability to reason, to fathom the deeper meanings, rather than just reading status updates?”

###

Wisdom by Michael

Oh, to be wise he thought as he read through the student’s exam papers.

He turned over the effort from Betrice Walker, the smartest girl in his class. In amazement, he read her literary genius. He felt humbled that someone so young could evaluate the question so clearly.

For goodness sake he thought, she’s a child still, what will she be like in twenty years?

So much wisdom in one so young.

He wrote an A on her paper.

Tomorrow he’d watch the glow on her face knowing she’d be pleased.

Sipping coffee, he picked up the next paper.

###

A Valuable Piece by KittyVerses

Little Myna got into a lot of trouble that day. This wasn’t something new, and it bothered her parents much.She was always carrying tales of one person to the next, people were apprehensive of her.

Punishments were meted out, she was reprimanded and isolated but to no avail. One fine day she was asked to collect the water that was emptied from the bottle by her mother.

Well, did she succeed? Words once lashed out can’t be taken back as much as the water which was poured.

Never to forget,the things we learn as kids shapes our identity of tomorrow.

###

Crab Apple Crisis by Anthony Amore

She thought it ridiculous their son had been stuck for hours in that tree.

“Help him now,” she told her husband.

Through the slider he saw the boy caught in high crooked branches, “He”ll figure it out.”

“Two hours,” she folded into a harsh angle pointing. “Go.”

With a nod the ladder was gotten, but his son had fallen shirtless to the ground. He sprinted to him.

“My back’s scraped,” he said. “Apples are safe; tied in my shirt.” Four crabapples the size of chestnuts rolled free, “Mom can make pie.”

He kept quiet, saying, “Very wise move, son.”

###

Mother’s Support by Diana Nagai

“My daughter won’t talk to me,” I vented.

I saw my mother’s expression which showed amusement and compassion. Shame filled me as I remembered myself as a teen. Once, I gave her the finger when I thought she wasn’t looking. I don’t remember why I was angry, but I carry the guilt that she witnessed my outburst. My shoulders slumped. “I’m so sorry for what I put you through.”

She pulled me into an embrace of comfort and wisdom from “the other side”. Right then, I knew we’d survive these teenage years together.

###

Flash Fiction by Mike Kempster

I have no way of winning any battle with my 14 year old daughter. She’s right, I’m wrong and there’s no way that’s going to change even in the face of all reason. We’ve had some blazing rows. At the end of a row there has to be some reconciliation and one person ends up reaching out to the other. Mostly that’s my job; however, yesterday morning, after a huge row the night before, she sent me a text saying, ‘any breakfast service running this morning XXX.’ For a change she’d reached out and showed she has some feelings.

###

Flash Fiction by Carrie Gilliland Sandstrom

I watched as she moved ever so slowly, as she always did, living as if time had no meaning. I bit my tongue to swallow my reprimand. “Charlotte, I am going to tell you something that my Mother told me when I was 7, like you are now.”

Her yellow hair glowed in the sun creating a halo around her face as she looked at me, waiting for my words of wisdom.

“What?”

“Your husband is going to have to be a very patient man.”

She only paused for a heartbeat and replied. “I don’t know any patient man’s.”

###

Seeking to Understand (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Does your creative outlet help you, Jen?” asked Danni.

“Does interviewing war widows help you?”

“Feels like I’m doing something,” Danni answered.

“Me, too. Same with the brothers. They want to feel useful. Do something good. Let me ask you, why did you stay?”

“You mean when Ike left for Iraq?”

“Yes. This was new to you. You must have felt deserted. Why did you stay?”

Danni  paused, reflecting on all her earlier turmoil. She could have left the day she took Ike to the airport.  Had she gained any wisdom?  “I stayed to take care of his dogs.”

###

The Getting of Wisdom by Anne Goodwin

It’s easy, they said, as easy as breathing, just follow this five-point plan. It’s hard, camel-through-the-eye-of-the-needle difficult, but, if you give us the money, we’ll show you how it’s done. No-one can tell you the answer, you’ve got to seek it inside yourself. There’s a pattern, proofed against any fool prepared to apply herself to the task. There’s so much to learn, you can’t waste a minute. There’s so much, you might as well not try. What’s wisdom, the nub of ice that melts in your fingers or the mountain of knowledge the ocean obscures?

###

Intuition by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They circled the pit, noted the downward spiral that curled into thick darkness. Dropped a stone and waited for a splash, a thud, the clatter of a change in angle.

“Hell bent?” she quipped.

He sniffed. “No smell of sulphur.”

“Literal much?”

He tipped his head, brow knit.

“Never mind,” she scanned the landscape for dust devils, signs of life or breath. Nope. Only them: isolate, arid, no stars nor moon above.

“Ladies first,” he nodded towards the pit.

Always leaping, never moving.

She senses a curl of light, a sweet new scent, opens her hands and steps down.

###

Alien Anthropology by D. Avery

“Strange. They develop automation, even as they suffer obesity, depression and anxiety. They have many devices for communicating, but they aren’t saying anything. They desire access to information but don’t seem to value knowledge, with no apparent interest or ability in interpreting or analyzing information.”

“They are poisoning, mining, and bombing what’s left of their natural environment… They are ruining this planet. We should just take over.”

“No, our orders are to just observe and to seek wisdom. We shall consult their older people.”

“And artists?”

“Yes, and we’ll visit the ancient sites and natural wonders.”

“We’d better hurry.”

###

The Battle by Allison Maruska

The apprentice watches as I light the incense. “How can you stay so calm?”

“Trouble will always find us, so why worry?” Wafting the smoke, I channel the spirits to help. “This battle is not a new one.”

“I think it is,” he says. “We’ve never fought anything like this.”

“Of course we have.” Picking up the lantern, I head outside. “And we will do what we always do. Pray. Fast. And fight if needed.”

An echoing roar reaches us. Our gaze follows the beast sailing through the sky.

“I don’t think fasting will help this time,” he says.

The battle was Monks vs. Dragons.

Told you it was kickass.

###

Flash Fiction by 40levenreason

An old friend

Unseen for years

Messages now

Through unshed tears

She said, School was hard

Not how she’d planned

The loneliness daunting

The taunts out of hand

Yet through all of her pain

What stays with her best

Was my warmth and my kindness

I was not like the rest

Little did I realise

What small gestures might mean

To my quiet young classmate,

Broken spirit, unseen
I read her messages of thanks, 35 years later, and looked upon my punctured tyre.

My wise words from a 50 year old?

Do unto others…….

AND CARRY A REPAIR KIT!!

###

Withdrawn? by Jules Paige

Richard picked up the thirteenth pottery shard never expecting
to be found hidden – engulfed in the weeds. The colors reminding
him of Janice’s eyes…

A short elusive keta with the magnitude of a heavy chair being
thrown across the room, and hitting his head allowed the elusive
emotion of disgrace to flash across his mind. Janice wasn’t the
traitor. Was he?

How had Janice been so wise, to know how broken he was.
That she could not fix him, she had to leave him… Richard,
behind the shed in her yard…wanted her – she wasn’t home…
Where was she?

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Kylie handed over the bow. “They were late, right? Doesn’t seem wise to me.”

“Here we go,” Nat grumbled, steadying the arrow. “It’s the three WISE MEN.”

Kylie arched her brow, fixed her ponytail. “If you say so.”

Nat’s eyes pulled to Kylie instead of the can. His shot sailed wide. Again. He was down 3-0.

Kylie scoffed, snatched the bow and yanked back the arrow. “Now, Margaret WISE Brown…”

“Who?”

“Goodnight Moon.” The arrow was gone in a wink. Nat heard the clink of the can without looking. Kylie stood, her smile spreading like wildfire. “4-zip.”

“Show off.”

###

Old Skills by Kerry E.B. Black

Aunt Amaryllis gripped the table. Veins rose from translucent skin, yet her voice remained sure. “Remember, control the material.”

Kirsten fed silk into the machine, but it snagged.

Aunt Amaryllis’ perfume accompanied her nearness. “Slow and steady. Even pressure on the foot. Gentle guidance here.” The cloth flowed with her direction, stitches marching along the seam. She handed Kirsten a seam ripper. “This tool’s your friend.”

Kirsten groaned but removed the snag. She pressed and sewed.
Aunt Amaryllis smiled at the complete the garment. “What a fine wedding gown!”

“I wish you’d be there.”

Aunt Amaryllis dabbed Kirsten’s tears. “I will, in spirit.”

###

The Wizard of the North by Gordon Le Pard

“Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones.”

“But Jane, nobody knows who wrote it. How can you be so sure?”

“Because it is just like him, but it’s not fair. He has Fame and Profit enough as a Poet, and shouldn’t be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths.”

Cassandra smiled as her sister picked up the book again.

“I do not like him.” Jane continued, “And do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must.” Silently she thought, “I wonder if he will like Emma?”

He did.

###

Seeing the Other Side by D. Avery

I’ve got a lot of stories, none have been told

I’m not very wise for someone born old.

I’ve long been a miner, never seen the lode

I’m the chicken just starin’ ’cross the road.

I’ve got lots of where I’ve been, got lots of what’s behind me

But I still don’t know where I am, and don’t know where to find me.

I’m not exactly fleeing, ’though I’d like a place to hide

Crossing isn’t just about seeing the other side.

I’m walkin’ and I’m walkin’, some might say I’m lost

I’m that chicken that finally went across.

###

Trading Stories

Trading Stories Carrot Ranch @Charli_MIllsWhat would you trade for, or trade away? It’s an act as old as humans with possessions. Trading can be the foundation of many stories from dragons with an inclination for shoes to school children anticipating what fresh bread can net. Even vows and leadership can be traded.

Writers have explored what can be traded and with whom. Trading creates interesting motives and twists in stories.

The following are based on the May 11, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about trading.

***

A Trader All His Life by Irene Waters

“I’ll trade your undefeated conker for my cats eye marble.” Winking at his mates Farman turned to Edwin. Reluctantly Edwin agreed and handed over the well hardened horse chestnut.

********

“I’ll trade your signed copy of Sgt Peppers for my King of the Road. Farman held out his record knowing that Edwin would pass over his. All his life he’d traded with him, now would be no different.

*********

“I’ll trade your place for those tatty photo albums of mine.” Edwin hesitated then nodded his head.

As the dust settled, Edwin smiled. “I knew one day the trader wouldn’t diddle me.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

“Does it hurt?” Kylie asked, wide-eyed, admiring the fresh blood on her neighbor’s elbow.

They were hip to hip on the limb of the cherry tree. Nat shook his head, wincing. Kylie, still gloating after winning the footrace, stopped swinging her legs. “Look at this one.”

Nat admired Kylie’s knees. Both riddled with scabs and scrapes. Suddenly she nudged him, her troublesome hazel’s stoked and brimming. “Hey let’s trade blood.”

“Kylie, I think it’s blood BROTHERS.”

“Wuss.”

A press of flesh.

A union made.

Later, chuckling through a toast, Nat’s brother would publicly question the legality of their marriage.

###

Sweet Reasons by 40levenreasons

My son snuggled in as we watched a little sneaky television, his siblings, already tucked up in bed.

He turned his large brown doe eyes to me.

“Mum. I love you and I love the treats you make for our lunchboxes. You make nice sandwiches too, but sometimes….”

He looked down, unsure if he should continue.

“Sometimes…?” I prompted.

He continued. “Sometimes, I get jealous of the other kids’ lunchboxes. They have chips and lollies and stuff…..just sometimes”, he finished with uncertainty.

I smiled and kissed his forehead.

“That’s where the schoolyard trading tradition comes into play Mate.”

###

The Fresh Bread Sandwich by MichaelSchool lunches were made for trading. As I was from a poor family we had fresh bread only of a Friday when the baker delivered before we went to school.

Our staple diet was vegemite* sandwiches. Mum always had an ample supply in the cupboard. The richer kids at my school had ham and cheese sandwiches and after a week of vegemite, as good as it was, Friday was open season on lunch trades.

It was the fresh bread that was the important currency. You could name your price, ham and cheese for example, with a fresh bread sanger.

###

The Perfect Thing by Lisa Listwa

“I would give just about anything for a cheeseburger right now,” I said, thinking of that perfect state of meltiness achieved by marrying hot, juicy beef to cool, creamy cheese. I drove on, debating whether pulling into the drive-thru was wise.

After a moment, a small voice chirped from the back seat of the car. “Would you give me?”

Shocked, a slight gasp escaped my lips. “Of course not!”

“What about Dad? Would you trade Dad for a cheeseburger?”

“Nope, not Dad either. But I might think about it for a minute,” I laughed, “because cheeseburgers are mighty delicious.”

###

Trade Fair by Norah Colvin

Cards, were coveted like gold. To belong, one was enough; more better. Each lunchtime the boys showed off new acquisitions, compared intelligence and strength points, and traded duplicates. Fair and friendly battles pitted minds, the winner claiming card supremacy. Then bully Boris won, and none dared challenge. Until Justin, tired of Boris’s tactics, dared. The group gasped. It seemed Justin would be crushed. But clever cardless Frank slipped in and showed the winning move. Boris growled, “Inadmissible” and threatened repercussions. Defiant, Justin handed Frank a card, bestowing membership. Empowered, each boy followed, declaring Frank the Master, and trading opened.

###

Sick Day Sacrifice by Kerry E.B. Black

Matthew protested when his mom said, “No school. You’re sick.”

“But Nate’s bringing his cards today so we can trade.”

“You’ll trade when you’re better. Rest.”

Later, Mom brought the phone. “Are you feeling up to talking with Nate?”

Matthew grabbed the phone. “’sup, Nate?”

A strange silence, then, “They took ‘em.”

“Who took what?”

“My cards. Kids took all ‘sept 8.”

“Didja tell teacher?”

“What good’d that do?”

Matthew ignored his shaky legs and burning throat. He’d never had 800 cards like Nate, but he could sure share what he had with his best friend. No trades needed.

###

Trading Places by Susan Zutautas

“I wouldn’t want to trade places with you for all the money in the world.”

“And why is that?” she asked.

“I am married to my best friend, my soulmate, and I couldn’t possibly be happier.”

“But I get to travel the world and live in a much nicer house than you have, not to mention all the expensive things I have.”

“Things, travel, a house not a home, could ever replace what I share with my husband. We have something so special that you will never understand. It’s sad that you think your life is so much better!”

###

Duped! by Ruchira Khanna

“I will trade it for your five marbles.” said young Boyd with disheveled brown hair and two missing incisors while one hand scratched his bum and the other grasped the ball.

After a brief pause.

He heard giggles, chuckles, and chortles; but Boyd was determined he stood there tapping his foot.

“Time is running out! If no marbles. I walk!” he said with a stern voice.

Silence and that was followed by marbles rolling in Boyd’s direction.
A crooked expression and the nimble boy picked the marbles. Teased them with the ball and was swift like a hyena.

###

All Trades are Not Created Equal by Joe Owens

“For sure it is a tired cliché,” Donaldson heard his doppelganger say. “Trading places would be easy though. You take over my business and I yours.”

“You know nothing about building hydro dams and I nothing about building cruise ships,” Donaldson answered.

“We both sit in offices the whole day. How often do we actually do the work?”

“True,” Donaldson said. “Why not. For thirty days then we switch back.” The men shook and parted, ready to live a different life.

The doppelganger phoned his boss minutes later.

“We’re good. I will tank the stock at first light sir!”

###

Trading Rats: The Rat Catcher by Luccia Gray

The seller stood with his back to the door holding a swinging cage of squealing rats.

‘How much?’ asked the buyer.

‘A guinea.’

The buyer stroked his beard. ‘Two shillings.’

‘What? I went down the gutters for days risking my life to catch them!’

The buyer looked at the bite marks and blood on the seller’s hands. ‘You need to sell and find a doctor or you’re a dead man.’
The seller leaned back into the door which closed with a loud bang. ‘Two guineas, or I drop this cage, it smashes and we’ll both be devoured for dinner.’

###

The Last Trade by Reena Saxena

She traded her freedom for the social security her husband provided. She accepted subjugation for the wealth that her children would inherit.

She had mastered the art of silent manipulation. She would not eat till her husband came home, just to draw him homewards. She pampered her own spoilt brats, so they would look after her in her old age.

She wanted to write, paint and find channels of expression for her creativity. The family saw it as an insane whim, beyond her perceived capability.

She walked out, giving up everything. It was the last trade to pamper herself.

###

Miss Universe by Kalpana Solsi

“World peace is the need of the hour”, she mouthed and a thunderous applause deafened the stadium.

She adorned the sparkling tiara, as the curve of her lips widened.

Uneasiness lies in the head that wears the crown, Mrs. Ruth’s words buzzed in her head.

Her new itinerary made her travel through various time zones.

********************

The little fingers generously dug into the sinful chocolate.

The anorexic frame balancing the crown bent down to kiss the orphaned cheeks while television screens beamed her actions.

“Will you trade places for a day?” begged the Miss Universe.

The innocent eyes stared disinterestedly.

###

Devil’s Devotee by Jules Paige

His world had been comprised of hastily constructed philosophies,
which upon close examination, had failed him and promptly
collapsed. Richard had not thought he was gullible – and yet
he fell hard and fast for a cruel master. Hate, pain, distrust
those were the breaths he had taken and consumed. Janice
had been a distraction. He had traded some moments of his
life for her compassion. But then she had drugged him, not
knowing of his immunities the ones he had built up to counter
act anyone who would destroy him.

Richard had traded too much to find her…again.

###

Dearly by D. Avery

Some have had to trade so dearly for it. They lost their hair. Their skin got burned. Oh, they paid, gave the proverbial pound of flesh, or more, first in general terms, a lump, a mass, then specifically, a breast or two, some glands. They lost their balance. They lost their mobility and independence in the deal, negotiated the terms of their dignity in exchange for more. Throughout these transactions they realized true value, learned and taught lessons of living and of loving. They traded so dearly for something we sometimes waste, often claim to have none of. Time.

###

Blue Ribbon by Kerry E.B. Black

Carla felt honored to judge the annual Riding for the Handicapped competition. She marked the scores on her clip board. The announcer began with the honorable mentions and proceeded to the overall winner, David. Volunteers pinned the blue ribbon to his riding habit. He clapped along with the audience.

Jenny, the rider to David’s left, pulled her yellow second-place from her chest and sobbed.

David reached over. “What’s wrong?”

“I wanted the blue.”

David patted her arm. “We’ll trade.”

Carla interceded. “No, David, you won. That’s yours.”

“I know, but it is making her sad. Besides, I like yellow.”

###

From a Trader (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Well, the bear fetish is invaluable during times of change. Turquoise is the stone of protection,” Danni explained.

Michael held it in his palm. “Bear is the Guardian of the West.”

Danni didn’t want to spoil their newly agreed truce. For Ike’s sake. Yet, it was also for Ike’s sake she’d placed the Zuni fetish by his photo. Keep him safe, Danni thought.

“Powerful medicine. Good totem for Ike in Iraq.”

Danni waited for the question she knew he’d ask.

“Where did you come by this?”

“A trader in Gallup.”

Michael’s grasp tensed. “Stolen. Danni, your bear needs cleansing.”

###

Fair Trade by Anne Goodwin

Don’t take the price quoted at face value, said the guidebook. Bargaining is taken for granted here. When she kicked off at five hundred, I offered two. She replied with four, I raised it to three; we danced around and shook hands at three-fifty. How could she smile when I’d purchased ten hours of her time for the price of a coffee back home? Maybe I should’ve stuck at three hundred. Maybe I should’ve bought a sackful to sell on at a profit. Maybe I should’ve bought a different guidebook: a guide to building a fairer world.

###

Something’s Afoot by Sarah Brentyn

“I don’t accept money,” his eyes traveled over me.

“But,” I took a deep breath, “I need it.”

He leaned against the moss-covered stone. “Obviously. Since you’re trading with the likes of me under a bridge…”

“Tell me what you want. Anything.” I shifted from one foot to the other under his gaze.

“Your shoes.”

“My…wait, what?” I looked at my strappy sandals. “These?”

“Yes.”

I slid them off and held them out.

“Over there,” the dragon extended his wing to a mound of what I now realized was shoes. “We don’t just hoard gold, you know. Carl fancies teacups.”

###

A Bargain’s a Bargain, Whoever You Negotiate With by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum, can I get a job?’

Mary peered over her glasses. ‘Have you something in mind’

‘The village clothes shop.’

‘In principle yes.’

‘Great. What do you mean? In principle?’

‘Well, what are the hours, the pay. Is it legal at your age? What about your school work, music practice..’

‘Ok. I get it. I can’t, can I?’

‘If you’re giving up so easily you don’t want it then.’

‘That’s not fair.’ Penny looked furious.

‘If you’re going to work in retail you need to know how to sell your product…’

‘Forget it. I should have asked dad.’

‘Probably.’

###

Levels of the Trade by Elliott Lyngreen

“I detest drawing blanks.”

“I insist you’re demanding too considerably.”

An entire vacant cinema. An afternoon matinee remarkably unoccupied.

“Just permit your mind clearance. Stop imposing the write. Creation may come throughout this movie.”

The two hardly exchanged noises throughout the film.

Upon leaving, the one struggling exclaimed,
“I still didn’t think of anything.”
—“that was so fantastic!…!” the other countered. Then, some eager deliberation, “what if your story – filled that empty place!?

-Characters?! People. Events that brought them into the theater?!”

“I want a story to pass on, not something invented. Besides, I barely paid it any attention.”

###

Beer Parlour Tricks by Bill Engleson

“You can have my soul.”

“Seriously? How will I know when I have it?”

“That’s your problem. I’m done with it. It has no meaning for me.”

“So, you offer me something for which you have no more use. What do you expect in trade?”

“What would you offer?”

“How about a 1914 Baltimore News # 7 Babe Ruth?”

“You have one?”

“No. In the same way that you don’t have a soul. I would like one but so far, nope.”

“You’re saying I don’t have a soul.”

“Body and Soul. No difference.”

“Fine. The next rounds on me.”

###

Traded by FloridaBorne

“I traded one problem in for another,” I muttered at my new 1976 Plymouth Volaré, a car destined to become the Edsel of its time.

“Problem?” the dealership mechanic asked.

“If the speedometer works, the hot/cold indicator doesn’t. Now I’m hearing a rattle in back.”

After 4 years, the electrical problem continued to plague us, but we found the rattle when my dad and husband took out the back seat…an empty tape roll on which a bored factory worker had scribbled, “Haha, find this.”

“I should’ve kept the Plymouth Fury III,” I sighed

Dad replied, “I told you so.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

It was a good harvest, looking set to continue for a few more weeks.

The freezer was full, as were those of friends and family. Roadside signs brought in some trade, but there was still much more surplus to requirements.

Such a shame to waste it, even fallers from the apple tree were snapped up when left in bags on the dogwalk.

Inspiration struck, and loading up the car we headed to a local tearooms.

Homemade jams and chutneys were for sale, so we offered a trade.

Our surplus fruit and veg for a cream tea once a week.

###

Wishes by D. Avery

Once upon a time, there lived an old man and an old woman. They had little in the way of possessions, and wanted for nothing. Nothing very unusual ever happened and they noticed small miracles everyday. They gardened and gathered and occasionally fished in the stream that coursed through the meadow.

One day something unusual did happen. A talking fish offered them three wishes if they’d let it live.
This amazing trout ended up in the same pan that more ordinary trout had, and they smiled at each other, not wishing to trade one of their days for anything.

###

A Bite of Comfort

Comfort food. Sometimes it’s familiarity, and other times it’s an escape. To seek a bite of comfort is to capture a feeling or state of mind. It can be a chocolate kind of comfort or a healthy high from gardening.

This week writers explored comfort food. Stories emerged from the relationships people forge with food, and it isn’t always what you expect.

The following is based on the May 4, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about comfort food.

***

Morning Song by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Midnight river of earthy darkness, tumbles into indigo coffee cup, cutting the heavy silence of an empty house. A single Tangelo, head snapped open, peel bent and bursting forth with the sharp scent of new ideas.

Sunrise dapples through east-facing trees, trickles onto the cement stoop, floods cracked stairs stepping down to suburban street. Neighbors, unmet after double-decade’s propinquity, are starting their daily commute.

Do they see the other reality, the tumbled out of bed into shorts and sweatshirt, knees hugged close with coffee steaming, dreaming?

No matter.

Citrus sprays, catches sun, as she bites into the new morning.

###

Adobo by Lady Lee Manila

My comfort food
Our national dish
One way to preserve food
The taste of the Philippines anywhere in the world
I can use chicken or pork, marinade it with vinegar
Soy sauce, garlic, onions, salt and pepper, bay leaves
Cook the meat until brown, then add the marinade
Simmer until cooked. Serve with rice and peas
Also good for picnics and family gatherings
So easy to make and no two adobos are alike
No other dish can replace adobo in my heart!

###

Comfort Food by FloridaBorne

“What are you eating,” my sister asked.

“Dried lima beans and ham hocks,” I replied.

“You know I hate lima beans!”

“You eat cantaloupe in my presence even though you know it smells and tastes like vomit to me,” I said, stabbing a giant Lima with a fork.

“Something is wrong with your taste buds,” she decreed.

“Thank you for sharing a medical expertise that a million doctors with actual degrees can’t match,” I chuckled. “If you don’t like my comfort food, don’t watch me eat.”

The door slammed shut and I smiled, eagerly reaching for my hidden chocolates.

###

An Uncomfortable Meal by Gordon Le Pard

Everyone else was asleep but he couldn’t settle.

“What had he eaten?” He felt uncomfortable.

His companions had caught the bird, a Rhea, a flightless bird that was good eating, but there was something wrong. He looked at the scraps that were left, then he saw it, the legs were the wrong colour!

He scrabbled around for what hadn’t been eaten, the head, wing, legs and feathers, but it was enough, it was a new species. In London they were impressed, perhaps this young man would make other discoveries, now they would honour him by calling it – Darwin’s Rhea!

All I have done is retold the account that Darwin gave of how he discovered Darwin’s Rhea.

###

My Biscuit by Michael

It starts with a cup of self-raising flour, two cups of rolled oats, butter, an egg, a teaspoon of both cinnamon and ginger, throw in some apple sauce and away you go.

My comfort food. Baked for twelve minutes they have become a food I enjoy several times a day.

As a part of my diet, I take them wherever I go, packed in a sandwich bag, stowed in my trusty cooler I can devour them at any given time. In summer, they are best eaten frozen, in fact as I write this I am happily munching on one.

###

Kitchen Healing by Lisa Listwa

“What’s for dinner?” I asked, mounting the yellow Cosco stool in the corner of the kitchen.

“Tuna casserole. Bad day?” chop chop She always knew.

“Yeah.”

“You’ll have more.” Her eyes never left the cutting board, but her attention was fully on me.

I felt tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. “I think I’m having my first heartbreak,” I croaked.

She smiled gently. chop chop chop “You’ll have more.”

Our meal was simple – poor food some call it – but filled with love. It helped and it healed. And of love, we would always have more.

###

Comfort Food by Geoff Le Pard

‘Did you have rationing, mum?’

Mary laughed. ‘How old do you think I am?’

‘Soz mum. It’s a school project.’

‘Your grandad said he saw his first banana when 9 and tried to eat the skin.’

‘Was it awful? Did he starve?’

‘Some say people were healthier. Not much sugar for starters. He hated whale meet, though.’

‘I bet he was pleased when it ended.’

‘It was then he found his comfort food. Bread and dripping.’

‘What’s that?’

‘A slice of bread wiped round a roasting tin, soaks up the fat and meat juices.’

Penny’s face was a picture.

###

Fruit Salad by Norah Colvin

Billy barely paused to say, “Hi, Mum,” as he tossed her a piece of paper and kept going.

The back door slammed, startling Baby. ‘In one door and out the other,” Mum said, as Dad appeared. “What’s he up to?”

Dad watched from the window as Billy took pebbles from the garden, inspected them carefully, then arranged them in neat piles.

“Strange,” said Dad. “I don’t know. He seems to be looking for something. Said they’re making fruit salad at school tomorrow.”

Mum read the note he’d tossed at her, then smiled.

“He’s to take stone fruit,” she said.

###

Normal Tastes (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Tobasco Sauce?” Danni sat down with Michael and sprinkled her eggs liberally.

“I tasted it once on raw oysters, and it was not pleasant. Might have been the oysters, though.”

“I love fried oysters. If we ever ate out as a kid, we’d go to the Red Lion in Elko. I’d have liver and onions or fried oysters.”

“No hamburger and fries like a normal kid?”

“Nope, but if I’m to eat slimy things I like them peppered, breaded and fried.”

“Hmm.” Michael sprinkled two dots of sauce on his eggs. “Not sure I like food that bites back.”

###

Comfort Food by Hugh W. Roberts

“Strawberry cheesecake ice cream? A family sized fruit and nut chocolate bar? Iced-coconut sponge? What the heck is going on, Simon?”

“Comfort, you said, so I got you some of your favourite comfort foods. I thought the popcorn would bring back memories of our first date. These will all make you feel better. Oh, there’s one more thing.”

Julia rummaged around the shopping bag, hoping he’d got her what she wanted.

“Hot-cross buns? Are you kidding me? When I said comfort, I meant something I could put on my piles so I could sit down and be more comfortable!”

###

How Far Was Far Enough? by Jules Paige

Janice didn’t like the rotten masquerade of life she had with
the man Richard; who always had a visible whitewash type
pastey sheen about him. Often singing in bedlam, an odd
smatter of a narrow genre – briefly, because it also lead to
him quarreling about the price of just about everything.
Janet had to scramble to quelch any argument – with a good
homemade meal.

The insect on her computer keyboard reminded her of a
tsetse fly. That last dinner she served Richard before running –
it was tainted with enough potion to keep a bull elephant
asleep for a week.

###

Gone Fishing by Sarah Brentyn

“This is boring,” Caleb whined.

“It’s father-son bonding. It’s fun.” He wiped sweat from his forehead. “It’s…hot.”

“Something we agree on,” Caleb mumbled. “Can we go now?”

“I’ve got the boat until two.” His father sighed. “Crap. This is boring.”

“Race?” Caleb stood, pulling off his t-shirt.

His father dove into the water. “Head start for the old man!”

She rose from the waves. Glorious and horrible. Eyes gleaming, hair spilling over her breasts.

“Dad!”

“Aw, c’mon…” He splashed Caleb.

“Get back here! Swim back…now!”

She smiled at Caleb, her mouth rows of shark teeth. “Fear. My comfort food.”

###

Burnspots by Elliott Lyngreen

Sneak the narrow path between the neighbor’s garages as a squirrel crashes off branches to triplex above.

Another squeezes hiding behind space under the shredded portion of tarp that meets the old garage slab; where the disease-ridden boat sits.

While a different cousin crouches up the jutted back of the kitchen; I am slinking past its open back door, that warm aroma – burnspots of homemade tortillas.

I see another cousin duck into the broken bricks, gapped, behind shriveled yews, hear his palm slap the chalky capstone off the front porch; and shout limitless to the curbless sideroads, “JAIL-BREAAAAAKK!!!”

###

Comfort Food by 40levenreasons

“He’s going to be alright.”

As the tears continue to flow down my cheeks, these words hold little comfort.

The young man laying beside me, hooked up to countless machines, is my son.

I feel an arm around me. Someone’s comforting me.

I hear voices.

Someone’s talking to me.

I smile and nod, but the tears continue to flow and I pray another silent prayer.

It all seems a blur now. An indescribable nightmare.

His rhythmic breathing, a reminder that prayers are sometimes answered and as he sleeps, I eat. Hospital food has never tasted so good, so comforting.

###

Heart Attack by Diana Nagai

“Your father’s had a heart attack.”

I processed my mother’s words. “We’ll meet you at the hospital.” I skipped showering but, after a tormented debate, we picked up the food we ordered minutes ago.

The pragmatic doctor told us that while my father was alive and resting, the next 24 hours were critical.  Family and friends, who were with him when 911 was called, had nothing more to do but wait. While my father received nourishment through tubes, we huddled around the cold pizza box. What was once comfort food had become rubbery sustenance. We ate in weary silence.

###

Comfort Food by Kate Spencer

Carrie sank deeper into the armchair and sighed. “Granny, being here feels like a heaping bowl o’ comfort food. Why is that? ”

Granny sipped her tea and smiled knowingly.

“The recipe is quite simple really. I’ll teach it to you. You take a heap of patience, a gallon of understanding and an armful of hugs. Add large cozy chairs, soft cuddly comforters and freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Mix it all with a load of love, a dash of faith and barrels of laughter. Stir in kindness, hope and forgiveness. And your home becomes comfort food for the soul.”

###

Mac N Cheese by Susan Zutautas

The day at school had not been that great for Brenda. The bully in her class decided to pick on her for some stupid reason.

Walking home in the cold damp rain, chilled her to the bone, and she couldn’t wait to get home.

As Brenda opened the door the sweet aroma she knew oh so well, coming from the kitchen, put a smile on her face. Warmth returned and the day was forgotten. Grandma had made homemade macaroni and cheese for dinner.

How could she have forgotten? This after all was traditionally made on Thursdays. Life was grand.

###

Comfort Food by Irene Waters

“Mum, cook something different? Soup and casseroles are so passé.”

“Because it isn’t what is needed.”

“I’m sure they’d prefer some tappas. Some fried green spanish olives and perhaps beetroot, fetta and sweet potato empanadas with chimichurri.”

“No. Pumpkin soup and chicken casserole like I always do. Not because I always do it but because it is needed.”

“Mum you have no idea!” Jenny stormed off shaking her head.

******

Jenny shook her head with disbelief. Her Mum gone.

“Here darling. Have some warm orange and thyme olives.” Aunt Meredith held out the tray.

“No, I need Mum’s comfort food.”

###

Resurrections by D. Avery

There are still mason jars filled with sweet pickles, and dill beans; jars of raspberry and blackberry jelly, apple-butter. The potato bin is at the last board, but there should be plenty.

With spindly white sprouts, the potatoes feel about for spring. The sprouts are rubbed off. They need to feed us a little longer before the leftovers can go back into the ground.

The ice isn’t yet out in the lake, though peepers are singing in the beaver meadow. Soon there will be fiddleheads and wild onions, then cattail greens.

Soon enough there will be freshly dug potatoes.

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Consuming Compassion by Kerry E.B. Black

Janie Higgins rarely got sick, yet Wednesday she woke from feverish dreams, shivering in the summer heat. She rolled into a ball and groaned.
Her mother nestled her beneath Great-Grandma Leslie’s quilt. “You’re not going to camp today, young lady.”

Jane whispered a protest, but her mother stroked her sweaty hair and hummed her to sleep.

When Jane woke, her mother presented a tray with creamed eggs on toast and steaming, honey-laden tea. She propped Jane up on pillows and read poetry to her.

“Yum, Mom.” One of six children, Jane consumed her mother’s attention and compassion with appreciation.

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Soup by Allison Maruska

I crumble six crackers into the bowl. Six crackers per ladle, just like Mom used to make.

Steam rises off the red liquid as I pour it. A stray drip hits my glove. I wipe it on my blanket.

I carry my bowl to the sofa and peek outside, trading heat for daylight. Snow covers the ruins. Brisk air blows through the broken pane.

I drop the window covering and hold my bowl near my face. The warmth and smell take me back. Laughter echoes in my memory.

Shaking, I take a spoonful.

Just like Mom used to make.

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Whatever Works (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“You look like you’ve had a tough day,” the librarian says kindly. “Go home and have some comfort food.”

Oh, yes. Her mother’s macaroni casserole, or pot roast…how long since they’ve even spoken? No, anything from Mom is not possible. There’s scrambled eggs and toast, or a hot turkey sandwich with gravy, or a pot of soup simmering. Make the house smell good. But those take money she can’t spare, or a kitchen she doesn’t have, or both.

The 7-11 is right next door. “One Hostess cupcake, one Pepsi,” the clerk says cheerfully. “Anything else?”

One makes do.

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Comfort Food by Kalpana Solsi

Spreading his ample bottom on the cushioned chair, his gaze caressed the colorful bowl.

The taste buds tickled and saliva lubricated the cave of his mouth.

The smile widened to form wrinkles at the corner of his spectacled eyes.

The unsteady shivering hand brought the spoonful close and the dentures chomped away greedily the crisp bell peppers and lettuce.

The slightly chilled yogurt dressing brought solace to his mouth ulcers.

“Comfort food”, he uttered under his breath, his companion for the past six decades.

And so is the constipation, a faithful shadow.

The salad bowl was licked clean.

Contented.

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Chocolate Cake Dreams by Anne Goodwin

From dreams of chocolate cake and gingerbread she tiptoed downstairs. She conjured slender sleek-haired schoolgirls as she beat sugar into eggs. While it cooked, she sipped from her water glass and jogged on the spot. Once done, she snapped the cake for Instagram before scraping it into the trash.

Her mother, hair wet from the shower, cheeks wet from tears. “It’s an illness, darling. You can’t go on like this.”

She should’ve waited till she’d left for work. She should’ve thought about the smell. But baking cakes was her only comfort. Eating them her only fear.

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Molten Lava by Reena Saxena

Mona weighed herself for the third time on that day. The gain of twenty pounds was not likely to vanish soon.

Just like the never-ending problems in her life. Food was faithful, food was not fickle. It never failed to satisfy, unlike human beings. She had found solace in the brown molten mass of chocolate desserts since childhood. The background score had changed from her mother’s rants to her husband’s violent outbursts.

She loved the spike in serotonin and dopamine levels, more than the shape of her body. The scales would continue to groan for some time to come.

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“Meatloaf” by Pete Fanning

Thanks to Mom I was probably the healthiest kid in the seventh grade. And thanks to her genetics, I was also one of the shortest. But tonight’s meal was hardcore, even for her.

The blue rectangular dish meant only one thing. A pulsing sponge of wet cardboard held together by carrots, red onions, asparagus, bell peppers. A gathering of yuck. Calling it meatloaf was false advertising.

I reached for the ketchup. Mom spooned a pile of lima beans and I began to protest. Then she went for the nukes.

“I can heat up the Brussel sprouts if you’d like?”

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Wrangling by D. Avery

“Whoa there, Kid.”

“Guess I’m anxious to git ’em to the Ranch.”

“You’ll git ‘em all there in good shape. Just watch for strays.”

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, Shorty was busy at her chuckwagon. Shorty, who was of great stature, preferred the wagon to the cookhouse, liked to have her wheels ready to roll.

Shorty congratulated and cajoled the hands as they rode in from near and distant ranges. She noted the herd amassing in the corral, some branded, some a bit wild and unpredictable.

Hungry for Shorty’s nourishing comfort food, the hands hung around the chuckwagon.

“Carrots!”

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Save

Save

Oil Slicks

Oil makes for a slippery slope. Something that is so integral to modern living has become a threat because of dependency and pollution. Yet, writers found slick inspiration and greatly expanded the idea of oil in stories.

From the harsh realities to sweet moments, oil created a rich collection this week.

The following are based on the April 27, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes oil.

***

Crudely Oil by FloridaBorne

Three decades ago, at the slender age of 41, unemployment loomed in my future. My sister tried to help me find a job, so she asked a friend in the oil industry about hiring me.

Pre Hurricane Ike, amidst the oil refineries of coastal Texas and Louisiana, my sister arranged a lunch meeting to discuss the terms of my employment.

Startled, like he’d just witnessed the first case of a tyrannous walking into a bar with a greyhound, he said, “She’s so delicate, not sturdy like you. I was expecting someone built like a man.”

I think he lived.

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Oil and Water by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum, I want to volunteer to help the environment.’

‘What prompted this? Not that I’m against it.’

‘We watched Deep Water Horizon in Geography. The oil industry is awful. We need to have renewables and non-pollutive power.’

‘Are you going to protest?’

“Protest? Like online?’

‘No. A march, a sit-in? That’s what we did. To make people sit up.’

Penny picked up her sandwich. ‘What did you protest about?’

‘Stopping Cruise missiles. The miners. You grandpa hated it.’

‘What happened?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Did it make a difference?’

‘Not really.’

‘I think I want to do something useful.’

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Extractions by D. Avery

After straining the rust, he combined their gleanings. His children had become experts at extraction, at syphoning gas and oil from the abandoned and decaying automobiles. Their specialty was in finding smaller machines that others overlooked, lawnmowers, leaf-blowers. Today they found almost five gallons of gas, three of oil. It was good, but what was the current rate?

“I’ll be back.” His voice was husky and raw. Trading was dangerous. And necessary. His children watched him go.

He hoped for a good rate. The last time they were only giving a quart of water for each gallon of fuel.

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Green Enough (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Ma, look!” Monroe lofted a green pumpkin.

Mary nodded, wishing away the queasiness. Even standing she could feel the sway of the wagon. “Leave ‘em on the vine, son until they ripen.”

“Will you make pies?”

She managed a nod although the thought made her ill.

Her brother-in-law joined her on the porch, excited. “Mary, we need to convince Cobb to take a stake along the San Juan. Running rivers. Mountains, even! And sand you can burn in a lamp. Black oil.”

Mary inhaled deeply. “Leroy, if it requires a wagon ride from here, no! This Territory will do.”

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VR Won’t Put Money in Your Pocket by Joe Owens

“What the heck is Ramsey doing out there Clem?” Abe questioned.

His seventy-two year old neighbor was blasting away at the ground, kneeling to watch the newly created hole, moving another ten feet and repeating the process.

“Ever hear of them Virtual Reality things?”

“Yep.”

“Apparently Ramsey strapped on Aaron’s new set last night and watched the Beverly Hillbillies. Now he’s convinced he can repeat Jed’s luck,” Clem said

“Stupid redneck. Don’t he know he is using the wrong ammo?”

“What are you talking about?”

“In Jed’s book ‘Finding Oil For Dummies’ he said to use real lead shot!”

###

Depot Antipsychotics by Anne Goodwin

As the medicine penetrated her muscle, it felt as if her posterior was swallowing castor oil. Sliding out the needle, the nurse rubbed the spot with cotton wool. “That’s it for another fortnight.”

Matty pulled up her panties. “No more babies.”

The nurse looked perplexed. “You do realise what your injection’s for?”

Was she old enough to know what men did to ladies in the dark? “For protection, of course.”

“That’s one way of putting it. Protection against disturbing thoughts.”

Matty nodded. So she did know about those shenanigans. She hoped it was not through personal experience.

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When That Oil Well Erupts by 40levenreasons

Her naked body trembled, yet it wasn’t cold. Her heart raced, yet she lay motionless. Darkness engulfed her and her breathing became rapid; urgent gulps at the air surrounding her. She felt the hairs on her body rise and she strained to listen; for the black silence, was deafening. Her back arched in anticipation, as she waited…..

and waited……..

She didn’t ‘hear’ him enter, rather, felt him. His presence, captivating, rendered her breathless.

She heard the familiar ‘click’ of the oil being opened and she knew what to expect.

Then, she felt it.

So familiar, yet so tantalisingly foreign…….

###

Oil Stains by Sarah Brentyn

He was oily. His hair, his smile.

“Sit,” he licked his lips. “It’s not often I get a visit from such an elegant lady.”

“I’ll stand.”

“As you wish, beautiful.” His eyes scanned me head to toe then met mine. “Better view for me.”

I slid the envelope across to him.

He took his time looking through the contents, enjoying what was inside. “Here’s your money,” he leered.

I reached for the cash too quickly, brushing his knuckles with my fingertips. I cringed.

He laughed.

I would wear the stain of this day for the rest of my life.

###

Protected by Reena Saxena

The court verdict proclaimed him ‘Not Guilty’, against public expectations.

His opponents had teamed up to support him. The secret lay in the few files in his cupboard, which threatened to expose their lesser misdeeds.

He was sent to learn wrestling in childhood. He never really mastered the sport. But he clearly remembered applying baby oil to avoid cuts and bruises, and then spraying water on it, to create a glistening skin finish. Vaseline was a substitute, at times, but it was the oil that helped him slip from the opponent’s grip.

It was a lesson he never forgot.

###

Oil by Hugh W. Roberts

There I was minding my own business, checking out the cool animals going round and round, when I heard this conversation.

“Yes, madam, that’s the one made with coconut oil. It’s made from the finest coconuts.”

“And this one?”

“That one is made from our finest lavender oil, which we grow ourselves. It’s guaranteed to help you sleep.”

“And what about something for my itchy legs?”

“Try this baby oil, madam.”

“What’s it made from?”

That’s all a 7-month old baby could take. I screamed the place down and my mother ended up with just the coconut shampoo. Phew!

###

Massage by Michael

It was the best and worst of massage. The girl with pudgy fingers slapped on the massage oil which I could feel running under my stomach.

Her fingers generated the nervousness you associate with a first-time massage.

She had used far too much oil, her fingers slipped every so often and dug into my neck creating a pain and anxiety such that with my brain asked the pertinent question: “Does this woman know what she is doing?”

She forged ahead, with muscles manipulated, I felt the beginnings of relief, before she slapped me on the rump announcing job done.

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Midnight Vanity by Pete Fanning

Wilma broke the vitalization capsule, and took caution to rub the oil in around the eyes, per Doctor Prott’s instructions. She hummed a tune. Her evening dress hung from the bathroom door.

“Stunning,” they’d said. “Radiant.”

The capsules—78% human sebum secretions as they were—smelled awful, and took some getting accustomed. But the results had shimmered in the gaze of every man in the room.

Another smear of oil. The door swung open and Harold stood, in his boxers, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. A blink, and he leaped back with a scream.

Every man but one.

###

The Hope Chest by Kate Spencer

Martha side-steps her way past the busy work tables toward the back of the wood-shop. “Tom, where are you? Tom!”

“Mom, you’re early.”

“I know, but we gotta go. Pew, it smells in here,” says Martha brushing sawdust from her sleeves.

“That’s the tung oil wood finish reacting with maple. It’ll dissipate. Wanna see what I made?”

“Maybe next time,” and Martha suddenly gasps when she sees the exquisite hope chest with birds, hearts and the word ‘MOM’ engraved on the lid.

“Tom?”

“It’s something for you to store your hopes in Mom, so you won’t ever lose them.”

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Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

The smell of the oil took him back fifty years.

She was young and beautiful, a true stunner.

Standing a little taller than he, her chestnut mane glowed in the sunlight.

Love at first sight, their relationship lasted over twenty years.

They were inseparable, he had eyes only for her. Totally loyal to each other, theirs was a match made in heaven.

He was inconsolable when she died, her ashes scattered in the meadow behind the property where they had spent so many private hours.

As a child, she was his life. To others, she was just a horse.

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Child Citizen to Scientist by Norah Colvin

Familiar sounds heralded his arrival: feet scraped stairs, bag thudded deck, screen door crashed.

Shouts of “Mum! Mum!” preceded him as he charged down the hallway, arms flailing, holding something aloft.

His words exploded in a jumble. She deciphered few. Baby stopped suckling, curious.

“Slow down,” she said, patting the sofa with her free hand.

He thrust the brochure at her.

“I wanna adopt a penguin. Please, Mum. Can I?”

“Penguins can’t live here. It’s too hot,” Mum teased.

“Mu-um!” The words tumbled again. “Scientist… school… oil… penguins dying… ‘dangered… We have to save them from going extinct! Please!”

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Black Gold Indeed (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane flips from one screen to another, trying to find what it would be worth.

She still remembers the “gas shortage,” finally her turn to fill her VW Bug’s tiny tank, outraged at paying a dollar a gallon and waiting in line for over an hour for the privilege. There was no “Come back later;” stations closed at dusk. 1979, that was.

Dammit, this should be readily available information. Well, suffice it to say, if she’d bought oil shares instead of beer back then, she probably wouldn’t be homeless right now. Of course, she’d also be a hypocrite.

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Raw Materials by Elliott Lyngreen

Shopping for something to eat, he realized boxes hold more substances. Foods invented them. There was a time he never consumed enough – food. So he thought.

In his dreams were elixirs. As if there is some magic oily substance yet discovered; like a pure clear milk, that will thickly coat and satiate rather than seem tingly, clear, and empty his circulation.

Immediately sinking awareness, something that filled absolute, made him wholly distraught within seconds. All the sections of the aisles and gondolas reconstituted this; each item constructed that catalyst of thought.

Unresolved shelves upon shelves as he continued through.

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Motives and Motivation? by Jules Paige

Three hours into the desert their engine choked and buckled,
rolling dark smoke into the pale blue sky….Janice remembered
that Richard appeared a kinder person then. They had flown
into the Prescott airport – Richard was penny pinching again
and took cheapest car the they could rent. The car was a
beater, but they were told it was in working order. The desert
had been all Richard’s Idea. The car leaked oil from the start…
Janice didn’t want to think of what nasty thing might have
would have happened if the Trucker hadn’t come along to save
their rears.

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The Road Home by Lisa Listwa

“What did he say?” she asked.

“The engine is leaking oil, but the mechanic is gone for the night. We can come back tomorrow. Or, he said if we get a case of oil from the auto parts store next door and keep dumping it in, we’ll make it home.”

They drove in silence for a long while; tears burned the back of her eyes.

“It’s an omen,” she said. “This happening on the way back from our honeymoon? It means our entire marriage is going to be filled with trouble.”

“Let’s keep going,” he said. “We’ll be fine.”

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Heal Me by Kerry E.B. Black

Lily rubbed her hands together, warming the oil before smoothing it across her husband’s shoulders. With clever circles, her fingers eased stored tensions. He sighed. She kissed his ear and continued her ministrations. Spearmint and eucalyptus opened her sinuses. With closed eyes, she felt along taut muscles to the source of his discomfort. The feel of him imprinted upon her fingertips.

He twisted in the chair and folded her in an embrace. “How’d you do that?”

She blinked as though awakening from a trance. “Do what?”

His warmth radiated from him, and he breathed into her lips. “Heal me.”

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Memory by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She sat in the dayroom, warmed by morning sun through the picture window. Her pink sweater mounded over her shriveled form and stick-thin arms, pooled around her bony thighs. Mostly unresponsive, she seemed content in her isolation. But perhaps her mind swooped, hawk’s wings over her long and verdant life, or trembled, a butterfly over nectar-sweet memories with family and friends.

We couldn’t tell. We wanted reassurance.

We researched and assembled our tools: tiny jars of oil infused with essences of everything.

“Smell, bring memories!” we prayed, gathered around her chair.

She smiled, silent and vague, appreciating the attention.

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