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2018 Rodeo

The 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo Results and Entries by Contest

Rodeo #1: Dialog

A dialogue competition isn’t straightforward. If it is limited to 99 words with three picky judges who want a story, believable and relatable characters, humour and a twist and has a wretched prompt, well… I have to say you gave us a lot of entertainment, showed an extraordinary range of skill and some wholly novel approaches to the challenge. There have to be winners and while there are some who we pushed hard for inclusion on the podium. Finally though we had to limit ourselves as did you and these are the select few. But you’re all winners, natch…

FIRST PLACE: Untitled by Sarah Brentyn

SECOND PLACE: Untitled by Sarah Brentyn

THIRD PLACE: Seems Terminal by Anne Goodwin

HON MEN: Man To Man by Deborah Shaw Wagner; Of Old Men, Teens, and Tortoises by Nidheesh Samant; and A Shell of His Former Self by Bill Engleson

***ENTRIES***

dialogue/monologue ( about Parkinson and a drink) by Frank Prem

thank you
friend

I’ll have
another

it’s been a long day
to here

I’ve hauled my ass
from this morning
till this moment
and my thirst’s
got a mind
of its own

thank you
for asking

see
the hospital said
mister Frank
we need to see you
and the hospital said
I had to go

so I’ve been all day
interpreting dementia
figuring
what my mother meant

figuring
what did my mother
say

son
don’t let ‘em tell you
that Parkinson’s won’t claim
the soul

I’ve just been
in Parkinson’s strange hell
take my advice
and don’t you go

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Joelle LeGendre

“I’m your worst nightmare, taking forever to attack…”

“You’re a turtle, Louie.”

“No, I’m a giant tortoise who can live to be over 100 years old.”

“Mom said you’d weigh ten pounds, at most.”

“Fifty years later, saddled with a four hundred pound mascot, you continue to wonder about her sanity.”

“She’s dead. Without a brain she’s no longer insane.”

“Mmmm. Your toes look yummy.”

“Funny, Louie. You’re a vegetarian.”

“Halloween is coming soon. I’m summoning my inner dinosaur.”

“What costume are you wearing this year?”

“Either The Flash or Zorro. I can’t decide. What about you?”

“Sleeping Beauty.”

🐎🐎🐎

Exclamations by Sam Kirk

“Hey. Hey, you!”

“Shhh, I’m trying to take a nap here.”

“You came here to take a nap?”

“I brought a class of unruly teenagers to roam around the zoo to get some peace and quiet.”

“Well, isn’t it convenient?”

“Yes, it’s a genius plan. You have to admit. Now, please, go. Go away.”

“I need your eyes.”

“You WHAT?”

“I need your EYES.”

“I heard you the first time, but what di… oh, umm…”

“I have no eyes of my own, so I thought I could have yours, since apparently you don’t use those…”

“KIIIIIIIIIIIDS? We’ve gotta go!”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Sam Kirk

“Brother Pang?”

“I’m too old for this.”

“Is that you, Pang?”

“What was I thinking having all these drinks last night?”

“ANSWER ME”

“Huh? Who? What? Where?”

“My poor brother. What have they done to you?”

“Teddy? Where are you? Is that you?”

“Stop freaking out.”

“Is my hangover THAT bad? Am I now seeing and hearing things?”

“Listen, brother, I know someone who owes me a favor. We can get you back to your normal form.”

“Normal form? That’d be great. My head is pounding.”

“The spell has you confused. I’ll get you help. Don’t worry.”

“Quiet, please.”

🐎🐎🐎

Bradypus Tridactylus by JulesPaige

“No, Brady I am not a Red Eared Slider. I am a tortoise”

“I can never get that straight. Sorry Fred”

“Listen I understand that you think this coffee shop is a zoo.”

“Yep, it’s true. I see cougars, like that hot babe over there.”

“Brady you are so easily distracted.”

“But Fred, there really are some cool chicks that come in here. Did you see the one with the seven earrings in one ear? Cute, but I gotta wonder how she sleeps.”

“Brady, I think you have cornered the market on sleep, being that you are a sloth.”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Willow Willers

“Does that chap realize he’s talking to St Francis.”

“No way not a chance in hell”

“Does St. Francis know who he’s talking to? ”

“Well he just might , he is patron Saint of writers after all.”

“Tell me, why did Satan turn Frank into an ancient Tortoise?”

“Well he is always dicking about trying to upset the status quo.”

“Yes but it’s usually you,Gabriel who’s his target.”

“Can you hear what he is saying Michael”

“Not really but I’m pretty sure it’s not the meaning of life”

“Omg, he’s bitten Frank. No”

“I wander what he said.”

🐎🐎🐎

Brussel Sprouts by Jenny Kearney

“Hello Jean, how nice to see you, come in and sit down. Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Well thanks Mary, if it’s no trouble. I’m so sorry to hear about your husband. Ive only just found out or I would have come to the funeral.”

“That’s very kind, Jean.”

“So Mary, how exactly did your husband John die.”

“Well, he went into the garden one evening last month to pick some brussel sprouts for dinner, just keeled over and died.”

“Good gracious, whatever did you do?”

“Well Jean, I just had to open a can of peas.”

🐎🐎🐎

Conversation with a Tortoise by Joy Lennick

‘You’re looking smug. No mortgage, protected and symbolized for longevity in China…’

‘PRAISE BE…but I’m in New York, bud.’

‘Still…you don’t work hard like I do, or pay for your food.’

‘Yeah, but how would you like to be taken from your home in the beautiful Galapagos Islands, kept in a building and gawped at by endless queues of people?’

‘Yes, but you get to live for. maybe 150 years!’

‘Well, pardon me, you lose some and you win some.’

‘On reflection, I do have freedom of choice and live in a democracy. Not bad, eh!’

🐎🐎🐎

Necking by Ritu Bhathal

“Whatcha looking at?”

“Mmmmnnmmnggrr.”

“Look, dear! He’s trying to say something to me!”

“Mmmmngghhrr!”

“Oh do be careful, Mr Tortoise. If you strain your neck too much, you might just do something to yourself.”

“Mmmnnnghrrr!”

“I do wonder what these animals are thinking. Is he just making random noises? Or is he trying to communicate with me?”

“Mmmmnnnngghrrrr!!! I AM trying to say something!”

“Geoff, dear, we need to move along now.”

“But…”

“Mmmmmnnnnnggghhh! No! Don’t go! For the first time, I found a man with a neck to rival mine! I’ll even forgive you calling me a ‘he’!”

🐎🐎🐎

A Shell of His Former Self by Bill Engleson

“Yes?”

“Yes.”

“I thought…”

“That it would last longer?”

“Yup.”

“It lasted as long as it did.”

“I suppose. But that’s not much of an answer.”

“Hmmm! Do you really have a question?”

“Of course. It seems like it has ended…far too soon.”

“It always does. But what did you expect?
Advance notice?”

“Maybe. Why not?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because LIFE is all the notice you’re entitled to. By all accounts, you’ve had a good one.”

“And still have, right?”

“Time does flit.”

“You are so fucking cryptic.”

“I’ve been told that. Regardless. Better pack your bags.”

🐎🐎🐎

The Contest by Nancy Brady

“A staring contest? Really, Tommy? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Why not? We gotta give the tourists something to talk about. Besides, I’ve
been practicing.”

“Yeah, and that’s the problem; you’ve had years to perfect your steely-eyed, non-blinking ability.”

“George, you chicken? You are; you’re chicken. Bock-bock-bock-bock…”

“I’m not chicken, but geez Louise, it’s a silly game, but you’re on.”

“Okay, on your mark, get set,..”

“Wait a minute, just one minute ‘til I’m ready.”

“You ready?”

“I guess.”

“On your mark, get set, go.”

“Check out that hot tortoise over there…”

“Where?”

“Made you look. I win.”

🐎🐎🐎

What’s the Difference? by Norah Colvin

“What’s ‘e doin’ now?”

“Looks like ‘e’s gunna kiss the turtle.”

“Didja see what ‘e was doin’ before—”

“I know. I know. Can’t wait ta tell t’others.”

“They won’t believe—.”

“He is really strange.”

“Shh! ‘ere ‘e comes. Pretend you’re lookin’ at your phone.”

“Oh my god. ‘ja see the look ‘e giv’us?”

“Do ya think ‘e knew we’re laughing at ‘im?”

“Couldn’t.”

“Wanna see where he’s goin’?”

“Yeah. ‘sgo.”

“Where’d ‘e go?”

“Looking for someone, girls?”

“Oh, um, not —”

“Good, cause I was waiting for you — want you to know it’s a tortoise, not a turtle.”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Kay Kingsley

“Come here often? Afternoons are always busy. Best time to people watch. Do a lot of people watching?
No? Well, I do. Seems sometimes they’re watchin’ me more than I’m watchin’ them. Don’t say much, do you? That’s OK. You know it’s a good friendship when you can sit in silence, just sit and be quiet, looking around, nice and….
Hey, see those girls over there? They’re totally checking you out! I think she’s coming over. Quick, look at me. May want to picker up like this. If you’re anything like a banana slug, you’re in for a surprise.”

🐎🐎🐎

Reptile Retirement by Darlene Foster

“Hello, Howard”

“Hi, Dave”

“How do you like it in here?”

“It’s OK, but I miss my wife.”

“Really? I didn’t think you liked her that much.”

“Well, turtles don’t really show affection, but she was my soul mate.”

“She was eighty years old when she died.”

“Yup, she was just a little younger than me.”

“So what do you miss about her?”

“She always lifted my spirits when I was down. She saved the freshest lettuce leaves for me and…”

“And what?”

“She told me I was handsome.”

“Are you blushing, Howard?”

“Gosh, no, Dave. Turtles can’t blush.”

🐎🐎🐎

Interviewing Old Thom by JulesPaige

“Sir, is it true that your full name is Thomas Theodore Temperance Tortoise The Third?”

“Yup.”

“So, you are retired from racing?”

“Yup.”

“I believe that the hare underestimated you as an opponent.”

“Yup.”

“Is it true that the hare’s heirs have challenged you to a rematch?”

“Yup.”

“There absolutely no chance that you’ll be bullied into another race?”

“Yup”

“Now you are traveling the world teaching patience and persistence are virtues – and that’s how you ended up at this cafe?”

“Yup.”

“There you have it – straight from old Thom himself. This has been WZOO’s reporter; Geoff Le Pard.”

🐎🐎🐎

Of Old Men, Teens, and Tortoises by Nidheesh Samant (The Dark Netizen)

“Do you see that old man there? The one talking to the turtle.”

“Yep, I see him. He’s looking like a retard.”

“Hahaha! These senile old farts, I tell you. I bet he believes that the tortoise over there understands what he is saying.”

“I guess it can’t be helped. Comes with old age.”

* * *

“You see that girl there, Mr. Tortoise? The one who’s looking here and talking to herself. I bet she’s making fun of me.”

“Teenagers, I tell you. They think everyone else is an idiot. I bet they also think tortoises don’t speak.”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Marjore Mallon

“Hey Fred…”

“Flaming Frankie. You Freddie me every time.”

“Sorry, man you look like a Freddy to me,”

“Well I’m not!”

“Don’t pout, handsome lawyer dude. Let me kiss you better.”

“UGH!”

“Now you’re being rude.”

“I don’t get no kick out of kissing turtles.”

“Live a little, bro. Let’s make a splash together.”

“A splash, I’d flood the pond!”

“I’d show off me wares. Mr Hot Blue Tee-Shirt might notice.”

“Notice, he’d love you to take that long neck and extend it backwards.”

“Oh! A surprise manoeuvre. A sneak a kiss turtle style.”

“Now you’re making me jealous!”

🐎🐎🐎

The Will by Colleene M Chesebro

“I’ve completed the necessary paperwork.”

“Do your children know?”

“Not yet. It will be a surprise for them, I suppose.”

“They might think you’re…”

“Crazy? Well, they know we grew up together.”

“True. My kind has been on the earth since long before the dinosaurs. We are rather durable.”

“I don’t think that fact will assuage their greed.”

“How much longer?”

“Only a few weeks, maybe less.”

“Cancer is a horrible disease. I appreciate everything you’ve done for us. The gift from your estate will keep the preserve active for many more years.”

“You’ll outlive us all, my friend.”

🐎🐎🐎

Choices by Sascha Darlington

“Spring me from this joint?”

“Spring you?”

“Help. Me. Escape.”

“I can’t.”

“Sure, you can. You’ll need a forklift…”

“You’re safe here.”

“You’re safer not getting in your car. It’s life, amigo.”

“Point taken.”

“Gotta check on the wife, all the little carapaces.”

“Do you even know where you’re from?”

“Sure. An island.”

“What island?”

“Southern. Sand, water. My. Family.”

“Guilt won’t work. You know, they might not be there.”

“I’ve considered that, but I’ve outlived two handlers, dude. You people mean well, but I want to meander with my compadres. Have choices. Sexy times. Live content. Die free.”

🐎🐎🐎

On Closer Inspection by Robbie Cheadle

“You didn’t clean up your work station before you went on vacation, Alexander. Your culture plate is overflowing with mould. Can you sort it out today please?”

“I was just looking at the mould on that plate, William. I’m sorry about the mess but did you notice what has happened. The staphylococcus colonies on the plate have become transparent. They are obviously breaking down and being destroyed by lysins. This mould seems to be the preventing the growth of the bacteria.”

“Let me take a closer look. You’re right, this is astonishing. What a way to make this discovery.”

🐎🐎🐎

The Eye by Saifun Hassam

“Samantha, I’ve got our Lighthouse plans mapped out.”

“Red flags around the shores, promontory–”

“And Lighthouse. Safety limits. Rogue waves. Rip tides.”

“How close can we get to the Lighthouse?”

“Outer fence. Security limits. In case.”

“In case the Cassiopeia Eye beams us up into Space. Aagh! Sorry, Tim.”

“It’s OK. You’ve been thinking over the radiation data?”

“Offshore, suborbital, satellites. There’s an intense radiation cone from the Eye. No ships or planes can get close enough to the Lighthouse.”

“Low tech land approach may not work either.”

“If we survive, we’ll go diving. Search for energy sinks.”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Stephen Tanham

“It’s dead…”

“What’s dead?”

“This creature with the long neck, here.”

“Eat your sandwiches…”

“That would be disrespectful; it’s dead.”

“It’s the lethal ‘pretend you’re dead to get fed’ giant tortoise, and it’s hungry.”

“You’re being flippant. Creatures die on the spot, sometimes, you know.”

“But this one hasn’t. It’s not dead, it’s a giant tortoise. It wants a bit of your sandwich. I’d eat it before it reincarnates if I were you.”

“It hasn’t moved for five minutes.”

“Neither have you.”

“See, even its eyes aren’t moving.”

“Give me your sandwich.”

“Why?”

“I’m hungry and you’re both dead.”

🐎🐎🐎

Blink by Kerry E.B. Black

“Who do you think’ll blink first, your dad or the tortoise?”

“I’m betting on the tortoise. Been alive longer.”

“I don’t know. Your Dad’s pretty determined.”

“Yeah, determined to ruin my life! Like insisting on coming to the zoo. When’s he going to stop being overprotective?”

“Beats me.”

“Hey, that’s Tommy from accounting class. He’s cute, don’tcha think?”

“He’s alright.”

“Wait, what’s he doing? Why’s he sitting near Dad?”

“Don’t freak out. He’s staring at the other tortoise, just like your dad.”

“Well, that puts him out of the running, if he’s just like Dad.”

“Hey, your dad blinked!”

🐎🐎🐎

The Book Versus The Movie by Elliott Lyngreen

“Weee dont even care about the Nothing.. oh how did it go? You_you remember The Neverending Story? I just canmot help it. Every time that I see a turtle poking its head out like this, it makes me think of that movie.. Remember the part when Atreyu is speaking from that soaked tree with – oh what…? But did you know, let me tell you this, did you know the original Atreyu in the book had blue hair? I mean, how cool would that have been if as a kid you watched that movie and Atreyu had blue hair?”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Frank Hubeny

“If you keep staring at that turtle, you’ll turn into one.”

“You wish.”

“That would make you even slower than your current brand of molasses.”

“Shhh. It’s saying something. Go on, Tommy. What is it? Oh, you say you’re an alien trapped in this creature and can’t get out? You’re from another universe? Beyond the black hole?”

“What black hole?”

“Shhhhh. I’m trying to find out. You say you don’t have much time before you self-destruct?”

“Tell it to self-destruct.”

“Tommy wants to see what happens when he zaps you.”

“I imagine nothing will happen.”

“Go ahead. Zap away.”

🐎🐎🐎

Oracle by Kate Blake

“Geoff why am I continually telling you that we can’t keep having these conversations where others might hear.”

“But Sir Thomas parliament needs your input into who should be our Chief Justice? And you”

“Only a yank would involve an old turtle … I might be wise but I’m no fool! You need to give me a candidate with impeccable values not these aggressors with zero respect for half our population.”

“Please sir we need your endorsement”

“Read my lips, find a gentleman who respects women you have enough psychopaths in charge already. The Brits just wouldn’t allow it.”

🐎🐎🐎

Taciturn Turtle by Kate Blake

“Hey Gramps is talking to that turtle”

“Now those kids over there think I’ve lost the plot but what would they know! Just checking in as you’re in the know …”

“Come on Gramps we’ll miss the bus”

“Yea yea in a minute” “Who will win the footy this weekend? You’re the only one with 100% accuracy so far. Others can’t even call it an hour before the final whistle.”

“Hey Gramps that turtle can tell you who’ll win the footy”

“Told you those kids don’t have a clue … come on tell me the winner and I’ll leave”

🐎🐎🐎

Looking for Advice by Molly Stevens

“Should I break up with Jack?”

“Sarah, I’m not sure what to say.”

“It’s a simple question.”

“I don’t have an answer for that.”

“I need your help to know what to do.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Should I break up with Jack?”

“I don’t have an answer for that.”

“You sound like a broken record.”

“Here’s what I found for ‘broken record.’”

“I don’t want to know about broken records.”

“Give me another chance.”

“You want another chance?”

“I have very few wants, Sarah.”

“What are your wants?”

“I don’t want to talk about myself.”

“Okay, Siri.”

🐎🐎🐎

Life, the Universe and Everything by Anne Goodwin

“Forty-two.”

“No! Sign says you’re ninety-six.”

“Fake news, Geoffle.”

“Fake olds, more like.”

“Composing a comedy?”

“Okay, that joke’s rather lame. But forty-two! You’re younger than me.”

“Quit squeaking, this isn’t a pantomime.”

“What is it, then? A fever dream?”

“Flash fiction.”

“What’s the point of that?”

“I’d shrug, but I don’t have the shoulders.”

“But really, why make stuff up?”

“To impress the judges, dear Geoffle.”

“I’m being judged?”

“Haven’t you clocked the cameras?”

“Security. Lest anyone nicks a forty-two-year-old turtle.”

“Tortoise, and I’m not forty-two.”

“But you …”

“Different question, Geoffle. The one you’re aching to ask.”

🐎🐎🐎

Inside Geoff’s Dream by Anne Goodwin

“What’s he …?”

“Been staring into that creature’s eyes for all of …”

“Three minutes!”

“And oldies say we’ve no manners.”

“Why doesn’t he …”

“Take a fucking selfie and make way for the real fans?”

“Who is he, anyway? I’m getting five million results for wrinkly, old.”

“Lonesome George.”

“Nah, died in 2012.”

“How could they tell?”

“Slow movers … but one did beat an amber-eyed hare.”

“Boxing?”

“London Marathon.”

“A tortoise ran the marathon? Virus infected your phone?”

“You talking tortoise?”

“…”

“I’m done waiting. Step aside, reptile! My favourite author’s here and I want a word.”

🐎🐎🐎

Seems Terminal by Anne Goodwin

“I’ve seen some serious cases, but this.”

“So tragic.”

“Should’ve taken precautions.”

“They don’t all end up in this state?”

“Not the ones who exercise self-control.”

“But isn’t it addictive? No going back once you’ve hit that high.”

“No return to normal, admittedly. But lots draw the line at earwigging on conversations on the bus.”

“Wouldn’t you be curious, though? Wouldn’t you want to inhabit the mind of a tortoise? Or a former lawyer obsessed with words?”

“Sure, if it were reversible.”

“How do you know it’s not?”

“Go and talk to the tortoise. Betcha he answers to Geoff.”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Sarah Brentyn

“Mommy, that man’s kissing the tortoise.”

“He’s not kiss…oh, dear God. Zookeeper!”

“What seems to be the problem, Ma’am?”

“The turtle—”

“Ah, yes. Sad state of affairs, that is. And it’s a tortoise.”

“What are you going to do about it?”

“Not much I can do, you understand.”

“I do NOT understand.”

“Can’t just magically change the situation, now can I?”

“You must do something. The turtle—”

“Tortoise.”

“Whatever! Stop giggling, Jenny.”

“Don’t worry, Ma’am. We’ve hired a witch to reverse the spell. Should be here next week. He’ll have his wife back then. Enjoy your day.”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Sarah Brentyn

“Mr. Le Pard?”

“He’s not here.”

“Isn’t that him?”

“Yes. It is.”

“Okay. Well I need to deliver—”

“He’s not here at the moment.”

“But he’s right there. You just said.”

“He’s probably at the park…maybe the zoo.”

“Excuse me?”

“You must be new.”

“Well, yes. Today’s my first day. I’m Susan. I told him that earlier but he called me Shelley.”

“Ah, the zoo it is then. He’s off visiting his friend, Shelley, the tortoise. No telling when he’ll be back. Just leave the lunch tray, Susan. One of the nurses can bring his meds back later.”

🐎🐎🐎

Jeffries and Gally by Susan Sleggs

“That man looks like he’s talking to that turtle.”

“Tortoise. I’ve read they have facial recognition.”

“Really? Haven’t we seen him on TV with other animals?”

“Nah, that guy’s from the San Diego Zoo.”

“I wonder who he is.”

“I couldn’t help overhearing. That’s Mr. Jeffries; he built this reserve for endangered and rescued tortoises then opened it up for the public to enjoy.”

“Can they actually communicate?”

“He’s often seen doing it. I would guess Gally, that’s the tortoise’s name, is imploring him to ask the lady in blue to get her kid’s foot off of his tail.”

🐎🐎🐎

Man to Man by Deborah Shaw-Wagner

“You seem like a wise old thing. May I ask a question?”

“Well, I don’t know from wise, but I’m old enough. Ask away.”

“It’s just you’re the first I’ve come across where I feel comfortable asking. You look like you’ve seen a thing or two.”

“Or three, sure.”

“Don’t tell anyone, but I’m having woman trouble. We don’t move through life at the same pace.”

“Can’t she slow down? Can’t you speed up? Compromise?”

“We’ve tried. Nothing works.”

“Then maybe it’s time to move on.”

“I live in a giant terrarium! How far am I going to get?”

🐎🐎🐎

Rodeo #2: Memoir

Rodeo #2: Memoir led by Irene Waters and her judges: Angie Oakley and Helen Stromquist.

  • Third Place: Liz Husebye Hartmann (e-book of The Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1)
  • Second Place: Juliet Nubel (e-book of The Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1)
  • First Place: Anne Goodwin (winner of $25)

***ENTRIES***

Because That’s How Things Were Done Back Then by Anne Goodwin

Because boys can’t help it? Because she let him? Because of Babycham? I don’t know why she did it. I don’t know what ‘it’ is.

Because “You made your bed, now lie in it!” Because the neighbours. Because abortion’s a sin. My friends think the wedding’s at eleven but it’s really half past three.

Because my mother’s smile is wooden. Because I hate hairspray. Because my auntie caught me faking bellyache, I shuffle behind my sister to the altar steps.

Because I’m not allowed to question. Because weddings need bridesmaids. Because hypocrisy’s the shotgun that slays my parents’ shame.

🐎🐎🐎

This Time by Juliet Nubel

His angry words still rang in her ears as she climbed the unfamiliar staircase:

“Come one step closer and I’ll punch you in the face.”

She had heard these words before but had always swept them and the apologies and promises under one of the many rugs in their beautiful home.

This time, however, they had drilled a deep hole into her heart and the last dribbles of love she felt for him were seeping onto the bare floorboards of this tiny apartment.

“When can I move in?” she stammered softly.

“Whenever you like, madam.”

“Now. Right now, please.”

🐎🐎🐎

Red Sky at Morning  by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She stood by last night’s bonfire. Flames leapt high, our drunken faces and dancing limbs in hideous relief, like Dante’s inferno on the shore of this northern bay.

Driftwood burns to cool embers. We flee to our tents to couple, or sleep it off.

Night shifts, heavy indigo to thin green, cool breeze shredding night to red dawn.

She slips off her shoes, shucks off sweatshirt and jeans, no zip cracks the morning silence. Wasted thin by her disease, she steps into the water to die on her own terms. She did that.

That part I want to remember

🐎🐎🐎

Announcing the Marriage of Grace Lillian Bolton to Captain Percival Francis on 14 October 1920 by Geoff Le Pard

‘Captain Francis was lucky to survive. Three days before they found him.’

Grace wrapped the bread. ‘That all Mrs Johns?’

‘Yes, Grace. How’s your father?’

Grace looked at the bag of empty beer bottles and grimaced.

*

‘Grace, take him his tea and…’

‘Yes ma.’ Better me than mother, she thought.

*

‘Grace!’

‘Captain.’ Frowns. The wheelchair. ‘Percy…?’

‘I’m getting back on my feet! Started a little business. Useless with money, mind.’

‘I’ll help… if you like?’

*

‘You’ve put up with enough, Grace. You must leave.’

‘Where? I’ve nowhere.’

‘Here.’

‘I can’t…’

‘Marry me and you can.’

Smiles. ‘Let’s do it.’

🐎🐎🐎

Show Time by Kerry E.B.Black

Though the youngest in her class, three-year-old Alexi knew she was a star. Hair in a bun, she donned her sparkling pink tutu and ballet slippers. She’d practiced and didn’t miss a step.

Alexi’s class changed into pale blue body suits and tap shoes. “I don’t want to be in the back,” she explained. “Nobody can see how hard I practiced if I’m back there.”

The instructor patted Alexi’s sequence-infested headband. “Show time.”

The class stomped and shimmied in time until Alexi, with a determined jut of her chin, took extra-long strides. Tap, slide, and surprise! Alexi appeared front-and-center.

🐎🐎🐎

My Aunt Remembered by Nancy Brady

Even before my aunt’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, I wondered. With our birthdays only two days apart, she never forgot to send me a card, even after I was an adult. The last one she sent, though, was signed “Grandma,” which was crossed out and signed “Aunt Connie.”

At the funeral for my cousin, my aunt sat near her casket. I wasn’t sure she’d recognize me. In her signature style, she put her hands on my cheeks, saying, “Nancy! There’s my baby doll!”

A minute later, she asked me, “Who are you?” Just that quick, my loss and mourning doubled.

🐎🐎🐎

Changing Worlds by Saifun Hassam

She was born and grew up in British Kenya, in the 1920s. Her parents were from India. In primary school, the only schooling available for girls at the time, she learned to read and write English and also Gujarati, her mother tongue.

She was 16 when she married, typical of young Indian girls of her time. She wanted to somehow continue learning, remembering her schooldays. When an adult class in her community offered to teach English and dressmaking, she jumped at the opportunity. The dressmaking classes taught her embroidery for saris. The English? A road to understand her children.

🐎🐎🐎

Tasters Choice by JulesPaige

Without laying down a strong foundation, she did it. Lost her perspective, almost lost me, my sister. And still that is debatable.

Siblings have unique relationships. That birth order thing. The parents unintentionally or not playing favorites. It doesn’t matter how many years separate you. When there isn’t any trust built up in the beginning it is hard to forge new bridges to fill in the gaps. She expects too much out of nothing. And listening isn’t her strong suite.

Trust is earned. And when not there, even love, the shared blood bond tends to percolate a bit stale.

🐎🐎🐎

I Return Home From Vacation Tomorrow by Nez Hewitt

I am anxious.

The sun is setting. It’s a beautiful sunset! I’m sitting on a lunge chair by the pool in my bathing suit. And I’m anxious.

I will see my chocolate Labrador tomorrow. She will greet me and walk back to her bed and sleep! I…wish…she’ll do this instead: cuddle, then cuddle, then turn around in circles like those army veterans’ dogs whose videos are all over the internet! I wish my dog did that! Then I won’t be as anxious!

6:30 pm. I’m finally home. She did it!

I’m not anxious.

🐎🐎🐎

Lost & Found by Sherri Matthews

For weeks I searched for him in the crowd until one Sunday, I found him.

‘Oh god, it’s the American,’ I gasped, seizing my friend’s arm.

He approached the bar, but didn’t see me. I sprang from my stool and landed square at his feet.

‘Hi, remember me?’

His bemused expression told me he did not.

‘We met a few weeks ago, outside…’

A flicker of recognition. ‘Yeah,’ he nodded, ‘now I do…Hi.’

He bought drinks and later we kissed and he promised to take me to California.

If it was bullshit, I was in too deep to care.

🐎🐎🐎

She Did It by Rebecca Cunningham

Twenty-nine anemic Earl Grey tea bags sat dried to the top lip of the sink. The smell of spaghetti dinner past rose from the Aztec dish pyramid. The colander sported a dried wheat noodle ellipse bailing out a metal hole. These and the water’s oily orange-green film told our story. My husband was absent. His resident brother monitored me with arms crossed as I looked for the Joni Mitchell CD I’d left behind. She was gone, so I said goodbye and used the familiar exit.

My brother-in-law slammed the door behind me saying something muffled like, “You flunking clump!”

🐎🐎🐎

Octopi Pie–or Maybe It Was Octopus Stew? by Bill Engleson

Memories! Sometimes, they just bubble up.

It was early September, ‘68. Our communal scullery was a sweatbox. I hated cooking in it. By “cooking,” I mostly mean crafting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

High art cuisine!

Eventually, ambition bit me on the butt. “Communards,” I announced, “Gonna cook up some octopus.”

Rainbow was enthusiastic.

About the only one.

“I’ll hitch home. Wouldn’t want to miss this.”

She usually avoided hitching.

Three charming guys picked her up.

“Let’s boogie, hippie chick.”

Rainbow countered. “I’ve got Maui Wowie…at home.”

They nibbled.

Fifteen hairy sous-chefs surveying scalding Octopi.

A libido torpedo, eh!

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Kate Blake

Young and adventurous I had no burning ambition. Knocked back from a librarianship and housing loan coz I was the wrong gender.  Decided to work long hours at three jobs to save up.  Then took off to travel around more than thirty countries at the age of just twenty-one.

Explored foreign cultures and wondrous religions, loved their food and dance.  Eventually did my studies for more interesting jobs and better income. Not tied to societal norms, I refused to conform.

Too many boyfriends, rebuilt motorbikes then spirituality became my passion. Continue to do what I want when I want.

🐎🐎🐎

Firsts and Lasts by Jules Paige

Riding in an aircraft in First Class is a real thrill. You get to board the plane first. You have your own lavatory. Get food on real china plates.

The circumstances though weren’t the best. I was taking the quickest route, upgrades with my hubby’s travel points south, by myself. Though my husband did join me a day later. My father was dying.

Somehow, I got to the hospital. My dad, in the bed – couldn’t speak. Really, what was there to say? I held his hand and read to him as I waited for more family to show up.

🐎🐎🐎

For Joy, She Did It by Sacha Darlington

For eight years of organized sports, I despised the required running. The weakened legs. The side stitches. The charley-horses.

Then one May, heavier after an injury, I trotted around the neighborhood. Trotting became running that took me miles from home through Sligo Creek to Brookside Gardens in early morning where deer appeared statues in thick fog, ducks paddled the lake, and sneakers on pavement echoed.

“Let’s run a 5K race,” my running companion suggested.

I blanched but agreed.

On the morning of the race, he never showed, but I ran, not part of the race. I ran for joy.

🐎🐎🐎

Against all Odds by Colleen Chesebro

“You’re not smart enough to go to college. You’ll never be any good.”

Kalena swallowed the knot in her throat as she climbed the steps to the community college, her step mother’s words resonating in her head. Today of all days, that timeworn disbelief resurfaced as if that woman still controlled her destiny.

Like the Phoenix, Kalena had risen from the ashes of her childhood. Now, the time had arrived to demolish those seeds of doubt forever.

She walked to the auditorium where she took her place in line with her classmates, ready to accept her hard earned degree.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Marjorie Mallon

It’s a gut-wrenching fear of mine: Roller-coasters, a grim holding on, tempting death. Sometimes you have to face your fears and deal with them. I’m proud of the ride in Portugal. I was with my family, my two daughters and my husband. I had to be brave and I was. I’ve got the photo to prove it but never ask me to do it again! Not now, not ever. It was a once in a lifetime moment, one I’ll treasure forever. But I still imagine what could have happened and an author’s imagination is the most dangerous, evil ride.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Joelle LeGendre

Dad used to say, “Your mom squeezes a nickel until it… screams.”

When he started a taxi business with Uncle Jack in 1947 Miami, there was one problem; they needed a vehicle. She owned the car, but women couldn’t own a business.

Mom despised my uncle, telling dad he was a thief, but dutifully put her car in their name and dispatched calls. He tried to take out a loan on her car, thwarted by a banker.

She’d say, “Behind every cloud is a silver lining.”

As she succumbed to sun stroke, this one memory haunted her into death.

🐎🐎🐎

Cold Turkey by Andrea Sinclair

“Your baby is more likely to die of SIDS if you smoke when pregnant.

Recent studies now show….” The car radio newscaster droned on.

What?

Spotting a parking lot, I pulled in. Stopped. Cut the engine.

And lit another cigarette. To think. The new life, barely started, inside me.

Maybe low birth weight. But SIDS?

My sweet sleeping baby never wakes up?

No.

Sudden. Infant. Death. Because I smoked?

No.

I rolled down the window and looked out.

Squinting into the sun, I exhaled into the warm spring air.

And finished my last cigarette.

My baby is now 36.

🐎🐎🐎

The Woman Who Was Pushed by Hugh Roberts

As the woman fell to the platform floor right in front of me, I looked down and went to her aid.

“It wasn’t me, it was her. She did it,” were the words I heard over the hustle and bustle of a busy Kings Cross underground station.

“Are you alright?” I asked, as the train doors closed.

“Yes, I’m fine. I’ll walk to work,” she said as she tried getting up.

As I helped her up, people still pushed past us. Only the sound of the bomb going off on the recently departed train stopped everyone in their tracks.

🐎🐎🐎

Uncle Frank’s Crate by Lori Bonati

My father spent summers at Uncle Frank’s, in picturesque Cohocton. Frank raised chickens, grew grapes, made wine.

We went there as kids. We’d fish, chase chickens, eat spaghetti. Frank nodded, smiled, spoke Italian.

Much later, on a whim, I visited Cohocton, saw a sign in Frank’s yard, stopped.

“You’ve been here before!” the owner said.

“Years ago.” How did she know?

“Wait here.” She went downstairs, brought up a dusty wooden crate.

“This was Frank’s. For wine-making. Fifty cents.”

I paid. If Frank’s ghost saw me, it was nodding, smiling, and saying, “lo ha fatto lei,” (“she did it”).

🐎🐎🐎

She Did It by Ritu Bhathal

My teenage years were influenced by many, but very heavily by someone who lived with us for a few years.

I was the young one, trying desperately hard to impress; so keen that I was naïve enough to do pretty much anything I was asked.

“I like him,” she said, “And you can like his brother.”

It was decided that we would write letters to these boys, expressing our interest.

How did I know that they would tell their mother?

And that she would call my mum?

And that my cousin would turn the finger at me, “She did it!”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Kate Blake

Aunty nursed her parents then married later, Dick the light of her life.  They entertained, she a gifted pianist so guests would gather around to sing along and dance a few steps.  They’d cook and garden, so well matched.  A heart attack took him swiftly walking down George St.

With her true love gone her spinster sister Gert moved in.  They cooked and gardened but the music had died with only an occasional tune.  Card games and flower shows absorbed them. Well educated and community minded she learnt fluent Italian at 76, had to speak with her new neighbours.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Chelsea Owens

Anticipation clung to my twitching legs. A girl nearby hopped; I copied. Another stretched, as did I.

We pretended to ignore the waiting barriers. We’d glance to the nearest, flit to the next and next and next, then end at the finish line.

Too soon, I heard, “Runners, take your mark.”

“Se-e-e-e-et!”

*POP!*

Out of the blocks, I ran to the first hurdle.

Fell.

And sat and crumpled and cried.

Then, felt an arm about my shoulders. Heard a repeated lullaby of encouragement from a onetime friend.

“You won,” she reminded, “By not hesitating.

“And, tomorrow, you’ll run again.”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Kate Blake

Aunty nursed her parents then married later, Dick the light of her life.  They entertained, she a gifted pianist so guests would gather around to sing along and dance a few steps.  They’d cook and garden, so well matched.  A heart attack took him swiftly walking down George St.

With her true love gone her spinster sister Gert moved in.  They cooked and gardened but the music had died with only an occasional tune.  Card games and flower shows absorbed them. Well educated and community minded she learnt fluent Italian at 76, had to speak with her new neighbours.

🐎🐎🐎

A Georgia Portion by Susan Sleggs

In my grade school years, my three older sisters and I watched TV westerns with our father on the weekends. Occasionally Mother would serve us dishes of vanilla ice cream with home-made chocolate sauce. One particular night Mother came to us with an open ice cream carton that only had about two bites in it. “Who did this?” We all looked at my oldest sister. To this day we all call a two bite portion a “Georgia portion” and expect it to be eaten not left for the next unsuspecting victim who’s taste buds are ready to be satisfied.

🐎🐎🐎

The Narcissist by D.G. Kaye

Mother broke hearts with her beauty. Her heart was impenetrable. Her razor-sharp tongue peppered with acidic words, seared holes through my self-esteem, perplexing my childhood and self-worth. I envied her beauty, despite not desiring to emulate.

Cutting words, her specialty. Brainwashed by lies, I thought I needed help. It was my mother requiring analysis. Desperation loomed, anticipating escaping her twisted manipulation and projecting unto others of what festered in her soul.

I escaped. The wounds didn’t. Words embedded, stifled with guilt, my spirit shattered from her black, troubled soul.

Fifty years later, the shackles released. “I banish you Mother.”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Robbie Cheadle

It intrigued her how the catastrophe that had befallen the firm the prior year had changed her life. The hurtful loss of previous friends and colleagues made her indifferent towards befriending new work colleagues. She didn’t attend any of the social functions. Conversations with people she had known and worked with for over twenty years felt stilted and forced as she avoided anything controversial or personal. It didn’t leave much conversational fodder. It was time to move on with her life. She made a conscious decision to resign. She did it and felt all the better for the change.

🐎🐎🐎

She Did It by Sam Kirk

“Stupid girl! I told you Marlboro Gold, not Red!” – he yelled at her back as she rushed to the kitchen to finish cooking.

She sighed as she meshed the potatoes with one hand and flipped the pork chops with the other.

“You will never amount to anything” – he often said.

She opened her eyes, glanced out the window of her corner office and then took the picture from her desk into her hands. A picture of her family – her husband, their children and her last December in Brazil.

“I did it” – she thought to herself.

🐎🐎🐎

Winning an Argument by Molly Stevens

I adored my grandfather but when I was ten he said something that made me furious. He said that women didn’t need to go to college. I told him he was wrong, and vowed I would become the first woman in our family to graduate from college.

It took me eight years, but I persevered and achieved my dream.

Grampie died years before I marched down the aisle to Pomp and Circumstance. I remembered his laughter, teasing, and cribbage skills but forgot the argument.

The memory flooded back when grasping my diploma I heard him say, “She did it!”

🐎🐎🐎

Rodeo #3: Travel with a Twist

FIRST PLACE: Colleen Chesebro

SECOND PLACE: Frank Hubeny

THIRD PLACE: Faith A. Colburn

HON MEN: Tracey Robinson, Nidheesh Samant, Liz Husebye Hartmann

***ENTRIES***

A Visit with Grammy by Colleen Chesebro

Jess ran. She couldn’t miss this bus, or Grammy would worry at her late arrival.

She stumbled into the queue as a woman towing a wheeled suitcase pushed past her. Jess swerved to miss it, whacking the woman’s elbow with her own. She stepped out of the way and bumped into the man in front of her.

“Sorry,” Jess muttered.

“Ouch! Who’s there?” asked the woman.

“It wasn’t me,” said the man.

Then, Jess remembered. They couldn’t see or hear her, only feel her ghostly touch. She didn’t need to ride the bus to visit Grammy – she flew.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Frank Hubeny

James had just enough cash to fill the tank of his pickup. He started up the ramp to the interstate when he saw the couple in the dark wave him down. He stopped, but he didn’t expect them to ask to be taken to Canaan, over a hundred miles away. At this time of night there would be few cars. She was pregnant.

He brought them to their rundown apartment.

While driving back James wondered why he was asked to help those two angels in the north woods. He never saw them again, but they never left his side.

🐎🐎🐎

Time Travel by Faith A. Colburn

Exploring Grandma’s house, I set a ladder into the attic. As if waiting for me, a leather-bound journal appeared in a stray sunbeam next to the ladder. Opening it, I journeyed back to 1886. With Great-Grandma, I watched workmen lay limestone foundation stones, level them, and frame the two stories with gables. She couldn’t wait to move into her very own space. At the end, she wrote that things started moving mysteriously. She heard noises. She described a ghost in the attic: brown hair, green eyes, dressed like me. She even noticed my silver barrette—her barrette I inherited.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Tracey Robinson

The greenhouse effect was brutal in the car and Lindsey’s three year old howled with misery. It was a long drive from Montana to Arizona. Spying a park at the next exit she found a deserted, shady playground. Soon Katie was worn out. “Want ice cream?” Lindsey asked Katie.

As Lindsey strapped Katie into her car seat she felt dizzy and decided to find a place with air-conditioning. She closed the car door and collapsed, her head bouncing off the pavement. Katie’s wails went unheard as the temperature in the car climbed and then she too succumbed to death.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Nidheesh Samant (The Dark Netizen)

This was it, the conclusion of my long journey.

I was tired of the slum I was living in. It was suffocating, seeing the same sad faces every day. I could not continue living in the darkness as my family did. One day, I left my home and decided to travel to the glamorous big city. I managed to hitchhike at a highway diner.

As I reached my destination, I thanked the man in the only way I knew how. I drank his blood. Now it’s time to live my dream of spreading dengue and malaria in the city.

🐎🐎🐎

Homeward Hike by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Above the timberline, stunted trees of high altitude are little more than memory. As far as the eye can see, reindeer moss is sparked with tiny white flowers and golden clusters of cloudberry. My boots crunch and drag across sharp gravel. I should break for steaming tea and chocolate squares, gather cloudberries, and save my orange.

The final peak stands stern above the clouds.

No stop, berries abandoned, I emerge, eyelashes ice-coated, blinded by sunset. I’ve made it from filthy city to purified mountain top, in time for transport.

I lift my hands to the pulsating beam of light.

🐎🐎🐎

Batter Up! By JulesPaige

Such a pleasure to travel and get together with family. Read into that sarcasm. Stuffing people into all corners into a crowded motorhome is a challenge. One family of four in one room barely big enough for the double bed. Kiddies slept on the floor. What a treat.

Controlling cook can’t take friendly advice… Grandma just has to make waffles for everyone, but the batter sticks. Ignores husband’s suggestion for vegetable oil spray. Wants to start over. Son In Law hadn’t heard; just sprays the unit… Look Mom, no sticking!

Observers excuse themselves, to the backyard. For hysterical laughter.

🐎🐎🐎

Twisted Trail by Carol Keefer

The bus driver quit after about an hour on the road. We were delayed for quite a while until a new driver took over driving the bus. The delay meant that I would miss the departure of the commuter van from Rock Springs and would have to stay overnight at the bus station in Rock Springs and depart the next morning for Jackson Hole. To my surprise, the Rock Springs bus station wasn’t open at night. I didn’t have money to get a hotel room in Rock Springs. I had to sleep outside in the cold under the stars.

 🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Joelle LeGendre (Floridaborne)

Morocco. My God, the stench!

My daughter met me at the airport, taking my luggage to a train, and then stuffing it into a taxi the size of a two person bathtub.

No lines on the road, cars weaving… a near miss! Daughter insisted upon talking at a woman in the midst of an anxiety attack.

I barely heard the list of cultural no-no’s thrown at me, “Never enter a taxi without a meter. Wear flip-flops if there’s a shower… ”

I did hear the very last one, “Don’t say anything bad about the King or you’ll be killed.”

🐎🐎🐎

A Boor Abroad in Europe (1963) by Bill Engleson

That first week, we hit Paris. A week of baguettes, cheese and wine.

Kavanaugh may like beer, but me? Vino, mon ami.

The second week? Switzerland. Clocks and way too much cheese.

The third week? Italy. Venice. More vino. And tons of pasta.

But I’m here to talk about the fourth week.
Austria.

I must say that Austria is a blur.

Except for Hellbrunn Castle.

Now that was a brilliant castle.

Maybe you have to be sixteen to appreciate an outdoor concrete dining table…and chairs, each chair outfitted with a geyser shooting guests up the butt?

I sure did.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Lori Bonati

When my husband divorced me, I gave myself one week to recover. Then I booked a flight to Rome. Time to move on!

My preparations were simple. I bought a suitcase, studied Italian, and researched my family tree.

I discovered I had a second cousin my age, living in Rome. When I arrived at my hotel, I emailed him.

Me: Please join me here for a glass of wine!

Him: Sì, naturalmente! Ciao!

He was tall, dark, and vaguely familiar. He kissed me and removed his sunglasses. It was my husband! The cad had been living a double life.

🐎🐎🐎

Lilith by Saifun Hassam

Along the coastal highway to SeaQuail, the stormy gray Pacific mirrored my heartache. Near the crest of Old Forest Road, I turned into Lilith’s cottage. On the teak desk was my birthday gift to Lilith, from several years ago. A driftwood cornucopia of sailboats, seashells, and seagulls.

I remembered long ago summer days, when Dad, Lilith and I sailed to the Sea Caves. And the up and downs of living with Lilith.

A week ago, Lilith died while sailing along Seaquail’s forested shores. She left the cottage, and a deep love for the sea, to me, her stepdaughter Geena.

🐎🐎🐎

Always Be Prepared by Ritu Bhathal

Travel light. That’s what mum always said.

Easy enough when you are off on holiday to a sun-soaked destination. What more do you need than a few swimsuits, some cheap sundresses, sunglasses and sun cream?

So, there I was, with my one bag, ready to be slung into the overhead locker.

And there was Jen.

With her huge suitcase.

“Jeez Jen! What’s in there? Your whole life?”

“Always be prepared,” she smirked.

***
The wind howled.

For the third day running the weathermen warned us to stay inside.

I sat, shivering.

Not Jen: in her emergency thermals and gloves.

🐎🐎🐎

‘C’est la vie’ Maui by JulesPaige

Maui, what could go wrong on an island that has every temperate zone you would ever want?

Freezing your backside off at Mount Haleakala, sipping pineapple wine at the old plantation distillery. Snorkeling to witness ancient and colorful coral with fishy companions in bath water? Maybe even finding (on private property) petroglyphs on a cave wall.

That is one way to spend your twenty fifth wedding anniversary. What we didn’t expect were the high grocery prices, since almost everything has to be shipped in.

Hubby did not want a photo of the flat petrified frog. ʻO ia ke ola!

🐎🐎🐎

What Are Friends For by Susan Sleggs

About a year after my older husband died, my high school chums, Tina, Joan and Liz invited me for a long weekend in Key West. I had my doubts it would be a fun time, but the sunshine, sea and reminiscing over drinks was therapeutic. One particular bar had an awesome piano player that always played with his head down. On our fourth visit it was my turn to feed his tip jar. As I dropped the five, he looked up and said, “Hi Christy.” I nearly fainted onto Liz’s bother’s piano bench; my fondly remembered high school sweetheart.

🐎🐎🐎

A Break with Tradition by Norah Colvin

As was their tradition, a month before their anniversary, they’d spread out the brochures. “Where to this year, love?” they’d say, then close their eyes and spin the globe. Wherever the pin stuck was their destination. This was her turn.

“The Pacific. A cruise,” she said. “You always loved a cruise.”

As always, she organised and packed.

“It’s time,” she said when the taxi arrived.

She pulled the door and twisted the knob.

“On your own this year?”

“He’s done with travelling.” A little too much in parts.

The insurance made hers an around-the-world ticket; his to worlds beyond.

🐎🐎🐎

A New Life in Australia by Marjorie Mallon

Michael opened the pill pack and saw a tiny warning – you may experience unknown side effects. He disregarded caution and swallowed. As he boarded the plane, he felt no flight anxiety, but a weird sensation lingered around his nipples. He took his seat and within seconds he fell asleep. Before he knew it, the plane landed and he made his way towards his lover. His body trembled with excitement. As he approached her, she looked past him. She wasn’t wearing her glasses, so he hugged her. She shrieked.

His huge breasts and an absence between his legs overwhelmed her.

🐎🐎🐎

How far from Home Had She Travelled? By Debbie Harris

Who knew, and in the end, who really cared?

All she knew was that she had left her old world behind. The water filled, floating world inside her carrier was long gone.

This was now her home.

A new world in which to start over again, blissfully ignorant of what lay ahead.

Starting over was always like this, a bit of a thrill and yet slightly sickening at the same time.

Life would never be the same again, for her, or this new family she’d been gifted to.

She’d travelled a long way and her new life had begun.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by H.R.R. Gorman

The houses looked like tiny squares from my vantage in the sky. San Francisco, home to this year’s Harry Potter conference, grew closer as I descended. The pyramidal financial tower became noticeably taller, and the garbage-laced scent of the atmosphere burned my nostrils. I clenched as my descent steepened.

When my broom finally landed, I dusted off my robes and shuffled through the barbecue rubs in my satchel. I found my Slytherin house sticker sunk to the bottom. I peeled it off the wax paper and stuck the cosplay camouflage on my breast. Those muggles wouldn’t suspect a thing.

🐎🐎🐎

Leaving His Mark by Geoff Le Pard

‘This is fine, Martin.’ Sheila wiped away sweat.

Martin squinted at the harsh blue sky. ‘You going to tell me now.’

Not sweat, tears. She looked round. Scarfell hadn’t changed much.

Martin shivered. ‘Come on. Seven hours in the car, before this bloody mountain and…’

Sheila opened her rucksack. ‘We met just here…’

‘Are they dad’s…?’

She unscrewed the lid of the urn. ‘I promised him.’ She knelt by a sloping rock. ‘I caught him taking a leak.’ She smiled. ‘I covered up for him. Many times.’ She tipped out the ashes. ‘Now he can cover up for himself.’

🐎🐎🐎

Escape by Sascha Darlington

Uneasily Mariele guided the horse-drawn wagon, her stomach roiling. Dressed as a boy, she was accompanied by her little brother, Marc.

Soldiers stopped them before the exit leading to the monastery.

“What do we have here?” a soldier asked.

“Hops for the Trappists.” Marc’s voice quavered slightly.

The soldiers examined the hops, joked about beer, then waved them on.

They rode to the back of the monastery. Monks swarmed the wagon. To an onlooker, they appeared industrious.

The tall British flier escaped into the stone building, unnoticed, except for Mariele, teary-eyed, yet lighter of heart, knowing he was free.

🐎🐎🐎

Ancient Treasures? by JulesPaige

Lake Michigan, even in the summer can be a very cold body of water. There is a nice little historical town on its south west border that I got to explore. The two beaches had some limitations due high liquidity. That didn’t stop me from exploring those sandy shores almost every day.

The best things I found after all the colorful beach glass and a few shells were two pieces of pottery. A local expert explained they were from shipwrecks. I also found a aged clay bit decorated with fossils. Better than diamonds and pearls for a history buff.

🐎🐎🐎

Nailed It! by D.G. Kaye

My seat vibrates with the familiar sound of wheels locking, in preparation for landing.

Good to be home despite missing the sizzling sunshine of St. Martin.

Glancing my souvenir, my stomach tightens at the familiar fear of having to pass customs with zero intentions of mentioning my sparkler. Sliding the ring off, I stashed it in my bra. Please don’t send me to inspection, a familiar prayer I chant in silence awaiting my turn to declare, or not.

Customs form in hand, I immerse myself in the cattle-like crowd, hoping to go unnoticed by the inspection deciders.

Home free!

🐎🐎🐎

Honeymoon by Kerry E.B. Black

After frantic wedding festivities, Cam and Saleem rushed to the solitude of a Bermuda honeymoon. Pink sand beaches, intimate dinners, Vespas instead of cars.

They’d planned the elaborate wedding for over a year, accommodating international guests and coordinating elaborate expectations. They’d dated for seven years before his proposal.

Cam longed to finally enjoy alone time with Saleem. She admired his chiseled profile as she slipped into her negligee. With a sigh, she nestled into his lap. “Now we can begin married life.”

Saleem pushed her away. “This is a mistake.”

“What is?”

“Us. Married. I want an annulment.”

🐎🐎🐎

No Vacancies by Anne Goodwin

As we left yet another fully-booked hotel, the woman beckoned. Down a dingy hallway, up a ramshackle staircase, along a corridor scented with pine. No fire escape, but it was only one night.

Proudly, she unlocked a panelled door and flicked on the light. No window, however tiny. No wash basin, however grimy and cracked. No bed, not even a hammock or sperm-stained mattress on the floor. The woman cackled when we voiced our disappointment. “You wanted room. No-one mentioned bed.”

Streetlights spangled the drizzle as we headed to the station, striking Lima from the itinerary in our heads.

🐎🐎🐎

Garbled Creese by Steve Lodge

I’d had a lot on my mind lately, but not a lot in it. I filled the car so full of petrol, that I couldn’t get in it. So I took the train.

I remembered our parents taking my sister, Moon Over Tuppence and me to some hotel near the gorge at Garbled Creese, so we could taste emmental.

Now I return in triumph, having created a stuffed broccoli cheese premix. If blended in a wok the mix could be taken intravenously, while Shakespearean lessons could continue uninterrupted. Let’s see them try dangling me off the gorge bridge now!

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Sam Kirk

Off I was on an adventure of a lifetime. Kissing my mother goodbye, I assured her I would call every day. She was happy for me, but also fearful, knowing she could not protect me any longer.

It felt freeing to be on my own. But when I made some friends along the way, who joined me, I could not have been happier.

We rented a car, but soon the fuel flashed “empty”. Having nothing to refill the tank with, we crawled towards the horizon where we found a toll booth.

“I will now weigh your sins” – said God.

🐎🐎🐎

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Nancy Brady

Daniel told Bonnie to dress for hiking and to pack water and trail mix.

When they arrived at the trailhead, they began the climb to the top of the hill where the Sand Cave was located. Each switchback provided a new wonder to behold: a babbling brook, deer crossing the trail, a cataract whose droplets formed a rainbow in the sunlight, and most wondrous of all, the cave itself with its colorful sands and a proposal.

Wreathed in happy smiles, they hiked down. Still staring at the rock on her finger, Bonnie twisted her ankle in the parking lot.

🐎🐎🐎

Chester Takes Ruth on a Trip by Molly Stevens

Ruth burst in after a visit with their neighbor, and said, “Chester, we need to go away!”

“What cockamamie idea has Myra planted in your head?”

“She went to Mexico.”

“I see plenty of the world here in my recliner watching the Travel Channel. And I don’t have to wear pants.”

“You know it’s not the same.”

But Chester heard her, and did the unexpected – booked them a trip around the world.

“What country did you like best?” he asked.

“It’s hard to pick, but I loved Morocco.”

“Next year I’ll rent us a scooter. Epcot is humungous.”

🐎🐎🐎

Rodeo #4: Fractured Fairy Tales

Writers were asked to in 99 words, no more, no less, fracture a fairy tale.

They were told that the story must:

  • involve a recognizable fairy tale, character or setting,
  • feature food,
  • entertain or surprise with a twist or a new point of view.

Only entries that met the criteria are included in this compilation.

FIRST PLACE: Scarlett by Nancy Brady

SECOND PLACE: Friends of Goldilocks by Hugh W. Roberts

THIRD PLACE: Untitled by Sam Kirk

HON MEN: Not-so Modern Love by Liz Husebye Hartmann; Goldie’s Quest by D.G. Kaye; An untitled story by Geoff Le Pard.

***ENTRIES***

Scarlett by Nancy Brady

It was the end of Scarlett’s long day at her new job when she got a text from her mother:

“Take dinner to Gram.”

Grabbing some food from the establishment, Scarlett then plugged Gram’s new address into her GPS, and set off in her little red Bug towards The Woods Senior Living Complex.

Yet, despite this, she got lost, making a wrong turn. At a stop light, she saw a handsome young man. She asked for help. Sniffing the aroma, he smiled wolfishly, gave her directions, and then hoofed it to Gram’s for Domino’s deluxe pepperoni and sausage pizza.

🐎🐎🐎

Friends of Goldilocks by Hugh W. Roberts

Looking in the fridge, Goldilocks was surprised the Bear family had left milk. However, it had turned sour, so she couldn’t make herself a big bowl of porridge to get rid of her hunger pains.

This was pointless, thought Goldilocks, as she got out her mobile phone to check who else had told their Facebook friends they were away.

Sure enough, local food blogger Chris P. Bacon had informed her followers that she was on an overnight food hygiene course.

Perfect. Not only would there be plenty to eat, but Goldilocks could rob the house at the same time.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Sam Kirk

The wolf was hungry and needed some action. On his way, he saw a beautiful girl in a straw house.

“Let me in, or I’ll blow your house in.”

“I don’t negotiate with terrorists” – were her last words.

Next, the wolf stumbled upon a house made of sticks.

“Let me in, or I’ll blow your house in.”

“I don’t negotiate with terrorists” – were her last words.

He salivated at the thought of bacon, looking at a piggie in a brick house.

He repeated his line.

“Not on my watch” – she shot him and used his fur as a rug.

🐎🐎🐎

Not-so Modern Love by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“WTF! You cut off your toes to fit into my glass slipper? And you cut off your heel! What were you thinking?”

“Cindy!” The two stepsisters looked at each other. “You gotta give up something if you wanna marry a prince!”

Cindy rolled her eyes, grabbed an apple, and pushed through the kitchen door. “You found my slipper?”

“We’ll see,” Flashing his perfect princely grin, he held out the sparkling shoe.

She took it and slid it on.

“Perfect fit!” he crooned. “Now, I also require a prenuptial lobotomy…”

She crunched into the apple. “You really are a jerk.”

🐎🐎🐎

Goldie’s Quest by D.G. Kaye

Starving and exhausted, Goldie trudged through the forest scavenging for anything edible when she discovered the house in the woods.

Goldie rapped on the door. Curious and desperate, she tugged on the door handle, elated to find it unlocked.

The aroma of freshly cooked sauce filled her nostrils and aroused her taste buds as she spotted three bowls of pasta.

Goldie didn’t hesitate to gobble up all three bowls then headed for the couch for a nap.

Half hour later she awakened to the discomfort of her rumbling, expanding stomach.

“Oh crap,” Goldie exclaimed. “That pasta was not gluten-free!”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mr ‘ansel? Bad news I’m afraid.’

‘Again? Do you builders ever bring good news?’

‘In Fairyland? You’ll want a happy ending next. It’s the gingerbread cladding…’

‘Yes? Has the cost gone up?’

‘I can’t get any, even with a sack of giant’s beans. You’ll have to make do with carrot or pumpkin.’

‘No way. You heard what happened with that Ella woman?’

‘Cinders?’

‘That’s the one. Her godmother turned the town’s allotment into transport. No one’s changing my house into a veggie vehicle. Where’s the gingerbread gone?’

‘It’s that caterpillar, gone for partially peckish to very hungry and…’ *shrugs

🐎🐎🐎

Cinderella’s Pumpkin by Ritu Bhathal

She watched, as her fairy godmother turned the pumpkin into a glorious carriage, then the mice to horses.

“Go, my dear! Find your Prince!”

It was a whirlwind of food, dance and laughter.

He loved her, she was sure of it, but that dreaded bell had to chime, didn’t it?

The beautifully crafted glass slipper left behind in the rush, she would mourn.

But not as much as that giant pumpkin.

It had been the largest one in the garden.

Oh, the plans she’d had for that beautiful gourd.

All those potential meals, ruined, and for what?

A man.

🐎🐎🐎

A Crime In The Name Of Cooking by Geoff Le Pard

‘Name?’

‘Mummy Bear.’

‘Mummy?’

‘Dad believed in role assignment.’

‘Ok, and this girl…’

‘Locks. Miss.’

‘… stole your breakfast?’

‘Upset everyone. Daddy, Baby.’

‘Cute names. And you Miss? Why?’

‘They had three bowls. I only…’

‘You’re from Fairytown, Miss?’

‘Yes, why?’

‘Seems everyone’s food obsessed there. I… Yes, control?’

‘Sarge? You near the Magical Forest? Someone’s eating Cottages again.’

‘Bloody Hell, Doreen. Can’t someone else go? PC Gretel?’

‘On a call. Wolfie’s in a huff, threatening to cook his neighbours.’

‘This place is worse than Newcastle on a wet Saturday. DI Rapunzel?’

‘Also busy. That Cereal Killer is back, apparently.’

🐎🐎🐎

Trouble of the Set-Behind the Scenes of the 1937 Production of Snow White and the Seven (or Eight) Smaller Individuals by Bill Engleson

“Disney can’t be trusted.”

“Oh, Gumbo. Stop complaining. Life’s too short.”

“Easy for you to say. You’re getting star ingenue wages. And my seven thespian amigos are getting mucho moolah as well. Me, what am I getting? Leftovers. A hefty dose of not much.”

Snow White, aka Gladys Glutenski from Ponchatoula Louisiana, sympathized with the sad eighth dwarf. He’d gotten the short end of Walt’s stick. Hired on as a culinary grip, her personal pastry chef, he was indispensable…to her.

“I love your strawberry shortcake.”

Gumbo thought, how can I tell her she’s eaten herself out of a job?

🐎🐎🐎

Momma’s Revenge by Darlene Foster

Momma Bear took the porridge off the stove. She placed a huge steaming spoonful in Poppa Bear’s bowl, a medium dollop in hers and scrapped the rest into Baby Bear’s special little bowl. She hoped that nosey, spoilt Goldilocks left it alone while they went for their morning walk to collect berries. Nothing like oatmeal with fresh berries. She couldn’t understand why that bratty girl always broke into their house and did damage, breaking chairs and messing up the bed. Wasn’t she supposed to be afraid of bears? She grinned as she sprinkled chilli pepper in baby bear’s bowl.

🐎🐎🐎

Goldilocks Hates Chocolate by Marjorie Mallon

Goldilocks was due to arrive at any moment. Little bear kept a look-out for papa bear and mama bear hoping that they wouldn’t return too early from their leisurely morning walk.

Goldilocks sauntered in and handed little bear a huge chocolate croissant which he ate down greedily.

Goldie sat on the floor and tucked in to little bear’s bowl of steaming porridge.

‘Ugh, how can you eat that muck, Goldie?’

‘It’s yummy. I hate chocolate and sweet things.’

‘With a name like Goldilocks it’s no wonder you’re weird. Porridge reminds me of sticky snot.’

‘Rubbish, it’s mighty gold-i-delicious gunk!’

🐎🐎🐎

In Spades by JulesPaige

Ron Wolf was a wily politician. This year he was being challenged by Porter Pigg. Porter’s brothers Sam and Ned said they were going to rake Ron over his pork barrel projects, which they had deemed to be full of hot air. But Ron had his own scrapple on those Pigg brothers!

Wolf had been whining and dining the wealthy widow grandmother of Little Red. Ron sent his brother Ralph, who had bullied Little Red, to the Hunter’s Military Academy; out of state. That had made the widow very happy. It really paid to be holding the trump cards.

🐎🐎🐎

A Golden Backstory by JulesPaige

Ms. Goldie Locks had become a recognized attorney. Few knew the backstory. That as a child she had trespassed at the Baer’s. As a child she had only stolen some porridge to fill her hunger. The Baer’s hadn’t pressed charges. What they did do was take in the orphan and provide a wonderful education.

Goldie excelled under the loving tutelage of the Baer family. Of course she would represent them when the Mega Resorts wanted to buy up the land.

With an impassioned plea, Ms. Locks won her case of protecting the forest. The Baer’s lived happily ever after.

🐎🐎🐎

Rapunzel by Saifun Hassam

Pregnant, Belle feasted on sumptuous pasta salads savoring those delicious rapunzel leaves stolen from the Witch’s Garden.

The Witch watched all on her camcorder. She took away Belle’s baby, named her Rapunzel and imprisoned her in the penthouse. Bewitched by Rapunzel’s beauty, Prince Campanula flew with his magic cape into the penthouse.

The lovers fled down a gold and silver staircase. Halfway down, Rapunzel’s golden tresses and the Prince’s magic cape became entangled, and to their death they fell.

The Witch buried the lovers in the Garden, where every summer, a flowerbed of rapunzels waves gaily in the breeze.

🐎🐎🐎

For Better or Worse by JulesPaige

Jack Horner and Peter Piper met in northern California in the early 1970’s. They joined volunteers who along with Gilbert Baker and Harvey Milk proudly flew one of two hand dyed and hand stitched Rainbow flags in San Francisco on June 28, 1978.

Colors in the flag represented: hot pink, sex; red, life; orange, healing; yellow, sunlight;
green, nature; turquoise, magic/art; indigo, serenity and violet, spirit. In 1979 the flag was modified when turquoise was removed.

Jack and Peter now in their seventies, often talk over beer and brats on how things have changed for them since then.

🐎🐎🐎

Theatrical Grimalkins! by JulesPaige

Show business can turn your life upside down. That wasn’t a problem for The Pride and their fabulous aerialist act. The team consisted of two sisters and their brother.

Kitty, Catherine and Tiger were triplets who played nightly near Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The svelte trio were so acrobatic and were just amazing to watch. These cats always seemed to land on their feet even after twirling and seemingly falling from death defying heights.

Momma Lionnie, their mother was a now a famed mince meat pie maker, who fondly remembered them as forgetful children, always losing their mittens.

🐎🐎🐎

Psychedelic Red by James M Caldwell

Red’s parent were Aster and Moonglow. They were founding members of Blue Earth commune located in ever green northern California. One morning Moonglow asked her daughter Red to deliver a macrame bag of mushrooms to dear old Granny also a lava lamp that Aster had repaired for her. Red dawned her best tie dyed shawl and headed off down the dark forest path. It wasn’t long before she was lost. She was spotted four days later on a stolen moped being pushed by a wolf in bell bottoms, sporting a mullet, and wearing a bandanna of yellow caution tape.

🐎🐎🐎

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf by H.R.R. Gorman

A shepherd boy’s mother was turned into a werewolf who ate his father, leaving the child alone to tend the flock. The child developed an idea. He went into town and shouted, “Wolf! Help!”

The villagers sprung into action. Once they arrived at the pasture, they saw no wolf and chastised the child. The child argued, “Your response time is terrible!”

The townspeople stomped back home.

A few days later, a sheep bleated. The boy’s werewolf mother had returned for slaughter. He sprinted to town and cried, “Wolf!”

“Buzz off, liar!”

Soon after, his mother ate all the townspeople.

🐎🐎🐎

Idiosyncrasy of Aristocracy by Kerry E.B. Black

They drop presents, homage to their queen, but I only see their hypocrisy.

They ignored Stepmother’s abuse. They forgave her murder attempts, overlooked her desired cannibalism, considered it part of the idiosyncrasy of aristocracy.

What they found unforgivable is laughable.

Our kingdom’s apple crops are world-renowned, a source of national pride.

So when Stepmother used one to poison me into a nearly-eternal sleep, the people struck images of her from public places and currency, hoping to erase the embarrassment and possible financial ramifications.

I remember, though. They forgave Stepmother’s tyranny. Now they’ll do the same for their Queen Snow.

 🐎🐎🐎

Present Rewards by JulesPaige

Jack Sprat and his wife, Jull were yoyo dieters. For years they were polar opposites. Too thin, too thick. No love handles, or spare tires that could have retrofitted a Mac Truck. They had tried counting points, buying prepackaged portioned meals and even drinking smoothies of kale and bananas.

Then one day they just started living in moderation. They treated themselves to eat out once a month. And restricted what was in the larder to fruits, vegetables and grains that were made tasty by adding spices.

Jack filled out. Jull slimmed down. They celebrated with a vacation to Cancun.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Chelsea Owens

Prince Charming sat, morose.

“Sir?!” His paige approached. “Your Highness requested we search for the girl -”

“Lady, Stebbs.”

“…Lady… and report if we found anything…”

The prince looked up. Hope peeked from a drawn, pale face. “Well?”

*Ahem* “We scoured the dance floor…”

“Yes?!”

“Erm. Nothing.”

The light in Charming’s eyes dimmed slightly.

“But,” Stebbs continued, “Then we searched the landing.”

“And?!”

“We-e-e-ell, actually, nothing as well.”

*Sigh*

“But,” the paige said, “Then we went to the staircase.”

Prince Charming steeled himself. “And?”

His paige proudly extracted an object from his waistcoat. “The lady left behind …An apple core!”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Chelsea Owens

“Erg damatha gloric zah!”

Bubbling light danced in the old hag’s rheumy, bloodshot eyes. Carefully, she lowered the basket to the cauldron’s surface.

“Erg damatha gloric zoon!”

The potion within foamed and rose; drenching basket, fruit, and tips of long, black fingernails. She lifted all free, frowning at what remained of her nails. Then, Aldetha saw the produce.

“Eeeergha!” she screeched, startling her talking crow out of sleep.

“Cerraw!” he shouted, flapping. “Whaaat?!”

“My spellll!” Aldetha lamented.

Her crow looked at the dripping basket.

She sniffed. “They’re ruined!”

“Well,” he considered, “Maybe you shouldn’t have tried to poison watermelon.”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Chelsea Owens

Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. Like all pigs, they spent their days lounging in mud and eating table scraps from the bushy-bearded farmer.

One day, the pigs’ mother told them they’d have to go out into the world. “And whatever you do,” she warned, “Watch out for the big, bad wolf.”

The pigs agreed, though felt sore at being put out and away from the mud. Accordingly, each decided to build himself his own pit.

Before any could acquire straw, sticks, or brick; however, Farmer Wolf slaughtered them all and sold the meat at market.

🐎🐎🐎

Beware the Baker by Teresa Grabs

The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker heard rumors of three little pigs that decided to live on their own instead of together like all good little pigs do. Sure enough, there were three houses, but a hungry wolf had also heard the rumors. The trio watched as he huffed and puffed, and tried to capture the little pigs, but he couldn’t. So, after the wolf left, the baker knocked on the brick house’s door and sold the little pigs three hot cross buns laced with arsenic. The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker reported record profits.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Chelsea Owens

Hansel and Gretel -both greedy tikes-
Set out to find more food.
They’d bread; yes, and water, but thought to try
To get cake and eat it, too.

“Look, Gretel,” said Hansel,
“I see a house, all sugar and gingerbread.”
His sister, a-rumbled, thought that sounded swell.
Said she, “Let’s go right ahead.”

But, alas for the pair
Who ne’er thought in sense,
A witch saw them circling
And licking her fence.

The morsels drew nearer; Witch smiled, she sighed;
She plotted and recipe’d.
But, Gretel, with roof piece and Hansel with pane, cried,
“Ugh! It’s all gluten free!”

🐎🐎🐎

Munchies and Moves by kate @ aroused

Staggering along in stilettos, more comfortable in pumps. Plain and practical was my style.

But I’d made an effort for a free banquet with hi-tech music and displays. Always hoping to be rescued by prince charming I was tarted up to turn some heads.

The banquet was something I’d never seen … a real vegetarian feast. Just as I’d piled my plate this nutter insisted on dancing.

“leave me alone, can’t you see I’m eating”
“ah please you’re the sexiest thing I’ve seen”
“leave it alone, maybe after I’ve eaten”

Turned out he was the DJ, loaded and keen.

🐎🐎🐎

Blind Punters by kate @ aroused

Three blind mice see how they stagger
off to the ranch bar to pick up a cow girl
Too many beers and some tasty tapas
turns them into real tipsy charmers

Their pick up lines a bit rusty
Their boots far too dusty
but determination their key
as they chat up the cows flea

So blind they can’t tell
too large or so small
When cheese slices arrive
they’re gnawing away

Cows and their fleas move on
Deciding on the group approach
blind mice circle their chosen prey
loud laughter and roaring erupts

as they mount the mechanical bull!

 🐎🐎🐎

A Gentle Assist by JulesPaige

Mr. Pine was whittling away. The blood in his veins flowed as slowly as molasses in January.

He looked back in his mind’s eye at his life. It had been good, though while in his youth he had played the Jackass. Almost had himself and his father eaten by a terrible dogfish monster. Such are the lessons of real men. Now all he wanted to do, was once again met his maker.

Mr. Pine really just wanted to let his spirit go. Once again the Fairy with the Turquoise hair came to Gheppetto’s son. She gently released his soul.

🐎🐎🐎

Old Fools by JulesPaige

The new neighbor wanted to borrow my frying pan. Sure. I wasn’t doing much cooking these days. I wasn’t about to tell her that our social security checks barely covered the canned cat food we were eating.

When she returned the frying pan she was sweet. She said we could have three wishes.
I thought; yum, sausage. When my husband got home he wondered where my brains were and wished the sausage on my nose!

How could I been seen like this. We laughed and cried. Until Sam said; “Begone sausage!”
That night we treasured each other over dinner.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Frank Hubeny

Little Red’s mother sent her off to Grandma’s house with a basket of goodies.

“Be careful crossing the bridge. The Trolls are mean. Give them these brown cookies.”

Little Red rolled her eyes.

“Avoid the Dragon in the cave. If she should come out, give her this green cookie.”

Those eyes rolled again, “I know. I know.”

Her mother didn’t think she knew. “Now, listen. When you get through the Enchanted Forest, past the Swamp of Forgetfulness where the Wicked Witch has that stupid gingerbread house, don’t call Billy, the “Big Bad Wolf”. His mother complained horribly last time.

🐎🐎🐎

Rumpelstiltskin Revisited by Lori Bonati

King Cake’s ultimatum: “Accept our buyout, or be reported for food tampering.”

Miller Foods’ counteroffer: “Take my daughter (Betty). Her carrot cake recipe’s priceless.”

“Bake cakes or die!” King Cake’s CEO screamed at kidnapped Betty, locked in his kitchen.

“If only I’d watched the Cooking Channel!” Betty wailed. She was no cook.

Suddenly, a handsome chef appeared. “I’m Rumpelstiltskin,” he said, handing the servant a grocery list.

“8 eggs, 5 carrots, 12 raisins, 16 walnuts? A code!” the servant deduced, telling police: “These numbers mean HELP!”

Betty, now rescued, opened a restaurant with Rumpelstiltskin and lived happily ever after.

🐎🐎🐎

Three Silly Billy Goats by Susan Sleggs

The billy goat triplets, ignoring warnings about the dangerous resident troll, jumped over each other and did body twists in the air while they crossed his bridge. Their noisy landings woke the troll, who peeked his ugly head out planning to eat the offenders. Instead he laughed at their antics. The troll discovered he liked laughter so he left strawberries for the silly triplets to ensure they would return daily. On the sixth day he popped a strawberry into his own mouth and choked on it. The billy goats found him dead and declared the bridge safe for all.

🐎🐎🐎

Little Blue Tidy Hood by Miriam Hurdle

Little Blue Tidy Hood hummed and pranced her way to grandmother’s cottage.

“What happened to you, Gingerbread Boy?”

“The Big Bad Wolf bit off my arm.”

“He caught you?”

“My mother will bake another arm for me. Where are you going?”

“Take porridge to my grandmother.”

“We must take care of the Wolf. Oh, the growling noise sounds so near.”

“Gruuu… got you. Humm… your legs are delicious. Now you, Hood.”

“Run fast, Gingerbread.”

“But, but…”

“Little ones, I’m Witch of the North. Let me wire-stitch up the Wolf’s teeth. Gingerbread, your mother will bake the legs for you.”

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Jack Schuyler

There was once a shepherd boy who tended sheep near the forest. One morning, he shouted “Wolf!” at the top of his lungs. The villagers ran from their homes and to the forest’s edge, but there was no wolf—only the shepherd boy rolling in the grass laughing.

After lunch, he cried “Wolf!” and again made fools of them.

Then the Wolf came at dinnertime. The boy cried out, but no one responded. “All day you’ve made fools of the others,” said the wolf, grinning, “but now you are the fool.”

And now the boy cries wolf no more.

🐎🐎🐎

Insatiable by Sascha Darlington

Out of discipline and hope, I stir the pumpkin soup; its aroma overpowers the gumdrop roof stench.

Once my fairy godmother promised me a prince, and for one night he was mine.

Alone in the woods, in a candy-thatched house, I fight against the stirrings the witch put in me, of how to survive, how to stay young.

I hear them approach: chattering children. Ignoring me, they begin to devour my home.

“Children, stop at once.” The Prince appears as he did so many nights ago, handsome, charming, carefree. He barely acknowledges me.

Decided: I will eat him too.

🐎🐎🐎

Baby Bear and the Vegan Wolf by Sherri Matthews

‘Goldilocks,’ said Daddy Bear as he pulled on his slippers, ‘I’ve told you before, I want fish and chips for supper, not a bowl of porridge.’

‘Don’t be a grump, Boris,’ teased Mummy Bear as she set the table. ‘It’s Goldie’s special recipe, you’ll love it. Besides, Grandma and her new wolf man, Fred, are coming for dinner and they don’t eat fish now they’ve gone vegan.’

Later, Daddy Bear had to admit that Goldie’s porridge was delicious.

But Fred secretly thanked his higher power for Meats Anonymous, or he would have gobbled Baby Bear right up for afters.

🐎🐎🐎

Rodeo #5: Sound and Fury

FIRST PLACE: Contested Contingent by JulesPaige

SECOND PLACE: To the Rescue by Anne Goodwin

THIRD PLACE: Goodbye Fall by Ritu Bhathal

HON MEN: Chasing the Past by Sascha Darlington; Addressing the Animated Alarm by JulesPaige; and He Had Kind Eyes by Susan Sleggs

***ENTRIES***

Contested Contingent by JulesPaige

They are silent soldiers. A rare unified army. Commanded by a queen to seek the supplies to survive. Instinctual training leads them through dense foliage to the structures of giants. With all the unseasonable torrential rains their homes have become flooded. Yet they expect no outside relief. They are a self-sufficient bunch.

Mother has not seen the arrival of the invaders. In her nightgown, robe and slippers she ventures into the morning light of the kitchen and… draws a blood curdling scream. Father rushes to her aide. His bravery unsurpassed, he calms Mother and calls the local ant exterminator.

🐎🐎🐎

To the Rescue by Anne Goodwin

Cold cruel enough to cut the breath from me. Waves roar loud enough to drown out other sounds. It took a fool to dive in after her. It’ll take a hero to ferry her to shore.

Hair and beard turn to icicles. Arms to cartwheels, legs to flippers, brain to military command. Kick harder! Plough faster! Fight off lakebed vegetation, fear and fatigue!

I’ve almost reached her when a tether takes my ankle. I yank it back. It reins me in. I’m swallowing water when I grab her wrist. How will history judge me: a hero or a fool?

🐎🐎🐎

Goodbye Fall by Ritu Bhathal

Below me flowed water, fast and furious.

I tightened my grip on the pot.

“All ready?” The instructor checked my harnesses.

I gulped.

But I nodded. I needed to do this.

Launching myself, as instructed, I fell, headfirst, feeling the air zoom past me.

The elastic went taut and I bounced up and down several times.

My heart was in my mouth.

As I came to a stop, I looked at the pot, still in my hands.

Loosening its lid and allowing the contents to fall into the water, I whispered “Goodbye Jake,” before slowly being pulled back up.

🐎🐎🐎

Chasing the Past by Sascha Darlington

Blake’s ultimatum: “Stop storm chasing or I’ll leave.”

The first fat drop of rain hits the windshield as I pull onto Rafferty Road. Forget Blake. Focus.

The hail throttles me awake. The tornado falls out of the sky, barrels toward me. Momentarily, I’m awed by the intensity, the blackness, the harsh windy sound of the twisting, family-killing creature.

“Stupid!” I jerk the Suburban’s wheel, bounce over the median, then turn right onto a dirt road. I’m nearly standing on the gas pedal. The rearview shows only blackness. Debris shatters the back window.

If I survive, I’ll never storm-chase again.

🐎🐎🐎

Processing the Results by JulesPaige

Sylvia tries to remember to breath. All she can think of is that this is his fault. Well she did sort of consent, and at the time it was a rip roaring heck of a time. What a ride!

Now though, Sylvia feels like an elephant with duck feet. She wants to trumpet wildly, OK just plain scream. They keep telling her that it’ll all be worth it. But she can see her mother snickering, just wanting to outright guffaw like a bellowing jackass.

Hal stuffs more ice chips between Sylvia’s parched lips. Says she’ll be one great mother!

🐎🐎🐎

He Had Kind Eyes by Susan Sleggs

The bartender told the tarted up woman, “There’s a rule; the boss gets first dibs on any strange and then they share?”

She stayed, sipping whiskey a little too fast. The Harleys roared in.

The group entered. The noise level tripled. They eyed her until she ordered another. A man smelling of leather, and aftershave paid; took proprietorship. Soon walked her out.

In the quiet night, he said, “Your perfume smells like fear. What do you want?”

Tears formed. “To prove I’m not a mouse.”

He kissed her like no other had. “Go home. You proved it to me.”

🐎🐎🐎

Ride To Riches by Sherri Matthews

She lunges strong against the reins, foam spewing from her bit.

He digs in hard, metal stirrups on a quivering mass of chestnut lean muscle and the gun fires.

She pulls out fast ahead of the crowd, grass clumps fling from her hooves…That’s it, here’s the jump, come on girl…her flank, rippling flesh steams with sweat and she snorts and lifts, long and high, scraping over the fence.

She lands hard and her knees buckle: he twists in the saddle and slams to the mud and the end of his wealthy retirement.

She bolts and leaves him for dust.

🐎🐎🐎

Silent But Deadly by Norah Colvin

The sun danced seductively on turquoise ripples and glistened suggestively on snow-white sands.

“Come play with us,” the ripples teased. “Share our joyful mood.”

“Stay,” soothed gentle sands, caressing his supine body. “Stay safe.”

Green fronds bowed and whispered the warnings planted in the dunes, “Beware.”

But still the ripples teased. He wasn’t fooled, knowing their sparkles belied the dangers lurking underneath. But this day was like no other.

He tossed back his head and, with arms outstretched allowing the golden orb to imbue him with invincibility, charged into the water.

Silently he disappeared beneath gloating ripples now blood-red.

🐎🐎🐎

A Once and Final Statement by Bill Engleson

They’ll think we missed the turn, careened over the levee, plunged into the river.

Icy roads.

Smoke-crusted cortex.

Speed.

That’s what I would think.

A nasty convergence of triple bad luck.

“No,” she screamed as the car plunged hard into the freezing water.

“Yes,” I yelled. “Yes!”

“Why?” she bawled and punched me on the shoulder. “Why, you freak?”

There was that moment went we just floated, air tight, water tight.

Her hand reached for the door handle.

Her brain told her wait.

The weight of the water pressed in.

You could almost hear the metal wail.

Then…the swoosh.

🐎🐎🐎

Whales Ahoy by kate @ aroused

High-pitched screams from my baby are freaking me out! I need calm to focus on which direction to rescue him. He’s so distraught he can’t even hear me.

Oh no he’s tangled in a shark net. I try in vain to ram that net with all my physical might, tons of it. We’re only this close coz I’ve just given birth and thought the shore was safer.

Some men come to help. Hard to hear your new born in such distress as they wrangle with that net. At last Wally is free and we swim straight out to sea.

🐎🐎🐎

Bite Me! by JulesPaige

Bitten smitten. My extra sensory tingling tells me when wrongs need righting. I thread my way through shadowed city streets to wrangle the bad guys. That is a breeze. Weaving through those iron walls of skyscrapers that are hiding villains that need to be secured behind the walls of the law. That is the easy peasy part.

Being a teenager, school, dating and living with my widowed aunt. That’s the rough road to ride.

I’ve had to learn on the fly, so to speak without a mentor. And I have to work for clowns. That’s my Spidey’s hero life.

🐎🐎🐎

A Debt Repaid by Colleen Chesebro

The old mage dallied, his breath ragged. “Turn over the animal.” Fragments of dark energy rippled around his form like an ebony cloak. The fetor of blood churned through the glade.

Evanora crouched in defense. A crimson stain spread down her arm where the mage’s magic had found its mark. “He’s my responsibility,” she screamed.

She steadied her injured arm and aimed her wand as flames erupted in a torrent to immolate her foe. Black smoke drifted from his remains.

Beside her, the last unicorn touched his horn to heal her wound, a grateful acknowledgment for saving his life.

🐎🐎🐎

Joyful Leap by Kerry E.B. Black

Air pounds a deafening roar, buffeting ear drums as Rick falls. He’s flattened himself as instructed, spread like a deranged seastar out of its element. Below, the miniscule landscape grows defined. He counts, calms his thundering heart, controls his breathing, but he doesn’t close his eyes. He’ll not miss a second. He’d allowed others to dictate his risks his whole life, but not now. Now he was old, and he would leap with joy. With a thrilled whoop, he dove from the plane. Some would declare him crazy, but this exhilaration made him feel alive despite the growing cancer.

🐎🐎🐎

Her Biggest Challenge by Anne Goodwin

I’ve skydived, run with bulls, surfed giant waves across the reef. Relishing, until today, that adrenaline rush.

Approaching, for the umpteenth time, the iron gates. Shying away again. Sweaty palms, parched throat, trembling limbs.

“Try harder, Sharon. Sound it out!” The letters blur; my classmates’ giggles burn my ears. Twenty years ago feels like now.

We’ll climb trees, splash through puddles, bake mud pies. Cross deserts on horseback, cruise waterways in dugout canoes. Real-life adventures, better than books.

With another kick my unborn son insists I’ll read him bedtime stories. For him, and me, I brave the remedial class.

🐎🐎🐎

Untitled by Floridaborne

I fear the quiet night.

When he rides a motorcycle, it’s like watching a perfect tango. Why do I dance with fire?

A car roars down our dirt road and I glance at the rifle on our wall. I shot it once. He laughed when I fell backwards.

I cry, wishing for the strength to walk away, to forget about a year of fists, slaps and accusations.

He enters, the acrid scent of whiskey fouling my air, and grabs the 30.06.

“No! That’s your wife!” his mistress screams.

He points it at me, squeezes the trigger…

Finally, I’m free.

🐎🐎🐎

The Fallen and the Dead by Geoff Le Pard

Two steps, don’t look down. I should have gone again. Did Jerry need to go? Is that sweat?

‘Open eyes, mister. Looky, look.’

The river’s like a suture on a corpse. Fuck, stop. Just breathe.

‘On three. One…’

They say you can detach a retina.

‘Two.’

Stupid idea, step back. Jerry’d be happy with a toast. You don’t have to jump.

‘Three’

‘Oh fuck….’

When had Jerry’s aneurism blown? Was the air still screaming in his ears?

Thank Christ, I’m bouncing.

It really is silent. They said it goes quiet, when you stop falling.

When had Jerry’s silence begun?

🐎🐎🐎

Addressing the Animated Alarm by JulesPaige

They sit around quite a bit. But their hands aren’t idle. In their spare time they keep their credentials current and their equipment clean. Each man and woman forming a bond, a second family that they can depend on. Some are volunteers, others get compensation. Some paid members volunteer at other locations. Not a one would consider themselves a hero.

Whenever that klaxon rings, fear gets pushed aside. Danger gets treated with respect and all follow the leader who barks the orders of where the equipment and bodies need to be. There is no hesitation for the brave firefighters.

🐎🐎🐎

Never Underestimate A Butcher by Marjorie Mallon

‘How’s your day been?’

‘Exhausting, but exhilarating. I saved a young man’s life today. And you?’

‘Boring, I hate being a butcher.’

‘Nonsense. Your meat’s terrific!’

My identical twin sister is an eminent brain surgeon. I dream of her delicate hands working their masterful magic.

I raised the scalpel in a fury of sibling rivalry. My eyes twitched, but no one questioned my power to play God or to ruin my sister’s reputation as a top surgeon. My hands shook, until I sliced. I smiled, she’d be so proud. Blood pounded in my head as bright, red blood spurted.

🐎🐎🐎

Not on My Watch by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The wildfire reared and roared, wrapping blistering arms around the rare bambinus aqueous. They steamed and chittered, unable to fully transition to their aquatic form and reach the river.

Chase cursed. Was that a natural fire break? The wildfire shrieked denial; Chase’s arms sizzled as he jumped the fireline.

River goddess Jewel torpedoed through the water. Neither protector nor wildlife was going to burn on her watch.

She emerged, green and dripping. Chase gathered as many bambinus as he could. Jewel scooped up the rest, wrapped him in her arms, and dove into the river, her mouth on his.

🐎🐎🐎

Maestro by Saifun Hassam

The rising river roared past the horse corrals. The rank smell of marshland permeated the humid air.

Grayson stood very still. His heart was pounding. Maestro was determined not to leave the river. Grayson could not leave him. They would swim or drown together.

He threw the lasso. Maestro sidestepped nimbly, oblivious to the muddy quagmire. Grayson slipped. Maestro reared up, walked towards him, lowered his black satin head.

Grayson opened the gate. Maestro glanced momentarily at him, went flying out the gate through the flooded fields, and into the hills. He would return, he was a river horse.

🐎🐎🐎

Eight Seconds by Traci Kenworth

Steve bent to the ground. Shards of glass poked up. Was this part of the game? He shook his head. Concentrate. What brought him here tonight? He couldn’t say for sure. His head ached. He needed the upper hand on this. Otherwise, he’d forfeit. The taste of whiskey filled his mouth. Who had he made the bet with? He’d said, “Death.” But that couldn’t be right, could it? He stepped forward. Glass blocked his steps. He backed. More glass jutted up. He searched for a way out. There wasn’t one. Dead end. A shadow loomed ahead. Was it him?

🐎🐎🐎

Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio

The good folks at the Continental Fire Company selected the following writers as their winners. They may use taglines or stories from this collection to develop local radio spots in the future. We’ll share those when we have the sound bytes. Carrot Ranch thanks the CFCo of Houghton for supporting literary art!

THIRD PLACE: D. Avery

SECOND PLACE: JulesPaige

FIRST PLACE: Kay Kingsley

ENTRIES

99-word Radio Spot by Charli Mills, Hancock, Michigan

[Narrator with a reserved tone] Students have walked the halls of the Continental Fire Company for over a hundred years. Horses in the basement, fire engines on the second floor, 23 students on the third.

[Sounds of shuffling feet, tin pails, soft nickering of a horse.]

[Student 1] S’cuse me, coming through.

[Narrator with a reserved tone] The first students learned to engineer mines.

[Student 2] Yes, Sir, the most common deposits of copper are—

[Cut to club music, sounds of crowd chatter, clinking of glasses]

[Narrator with an enthusiastic tone] But today’s students learn to unwind after the challenges of classes at a public research university.

[Student 1] S’cuse me, coming through.

[Music recedes]

[Narrator back to a reserved tone] Once these brick walls housed students and firefighters. Today they heat up with Scorpion Bread, dancing to frighten away the Tommy Knockers and the best local mixologists.

We remain smart.

59-word Radio Spot

[Narrator] Students have walked the halls of the Continental Fire Company for over a hundred years. Horses in the basement, fire engines on the second floor, 23 students on the third.

Once these brick walls housed students and firefighters. Today they heat up with club dancing, gastropub delights and the best local drinks from mixologists.

We’ve changed but remain smart.

9-word Radio Spot

[Narrator] Horses, fire-engines, 23 students. We’ve changed but remain smart.

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by JulesPaige, Pennsylvania

[Haunting background music]

[Spirited narrator number 1] Unwind while engaging our historical ‘spirits’ with your own!

[Bell chimes or fire house claxton in the background]

[Spirited narrator number 2] That’s got a nice ring to it.

[Some nice background chimes]

[Current live mixologist or bartender] The old fire bell may have moved to the new fire station but we can still ring your chimes.

[Current live owner or chef] And we’ll feed you too!

[Change of class bell for school]

[Current owner or chef] Education can light a fire in your belly!

[Sounds of ice shaking in a tumbler]

[Live mixologist or bartender] Welcome one and all to The Mining School Restaurant!

[Food sizzling on a grill and or pizza board being slid in and out of pizza oven]

[Current owner or chef] Open yourselves to the history of our Continental Fire Company! Now delighting the Houghton community with nourishment from our smoker and pizza oven.

[Club music, laughter of happy customers]

[live mixologist or bartender] Come drink at our lounge, nightclub or host your own event right were the past speaks to the present.

[Spirit narrators laughing together along with living customers]

59-word Radio Spot

[Change of class bell for school]

[Current owner or chef] Education can light a fire in your belly!

[sounds of ice shaking in a tumbler]

[Live mixologist or bartender] Welcome one and all to The Mining School Restaurant!

[food sizzling on a grill and or pizza board being slid in and out of pizza oven]

[Current owner or chef] Open yourselves to the history of our Continental Fire Company! Now delighting the Houghton community with nourishment from our smoker and pizza oven.

[Club music, laughter of happy customers]

[live mixologist or bartender] Come drink at our lounge, nightclub or host your own event right were the past speaks to the present.

[Spirit narrators laughing together along with living customers]

9-word Radio Spot

[Live mixologist or bartender with sounds of ice shaking in a tumbler] Unwind while engaging our historical ‘spirits’ with your own!

[Spirit narrators laughing together along with living customers]

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by Norah Colvin, Australia

[surf in the background, murmurs of people, calls of evening birds]

[Tour Guide]

Our tour finishes here. The evening is yours. Classes start back on campus 9 am sharp tomorrow.

[people talking and moving away]

[Young woman, wistfully] It’s so beautiful, and so much history. I think I’m gonna like it here.

[Young man, not so wistfully] I’m famished. Let’s find somewhere to eat.

[Young woman] The guide mentioned the Continental Fire Company.

[Young man] Fire? I don’t want fire. I need food. And a drink!

[Young woman] The Continental Fire Company has food. And drink. The guide said meals are generous, and affordable, and there’s local beers on tap. Entertainment too

[rustle of paper as opens and checks brochure]

— trivia night tonight. Come on. We’ll ace the history questions.

[change of scene to inside the Continental Fire Company with background music, people talking, laughing, having a good time, clatter of people eating]

[Young man] This is good. I’ll like it here, for sure.

[clink of glasses as in a toast]

59-word Radio Spot

[inside the Continental Fire Company with background music, people talking, laughing, having a good time, clatter of people eating]

[Young man] The guide was right. The Continental Fire Company is my new favourite place. The food is great, and I love the choice of beers.

[Young woman] I love the history. It’s like having one foot in the past and the other in the future. These photographs are fascinating.

[Young man] We showed them a thing or two in the history questions. Tomorrow —karaoke!

9-word Script

Where history greets the present – a great meeting place.

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by Charli Mills, Hancock, Michigan

[Sounds of rock mining]

[Narrator] 1.75 miles below the surface of Old Reliable, hard-rock miners extracted copper. Quincy Mine yet prevails, overlooking Portage Canal — a monument to the most successful 1840s-era mines.

[Softer sounds of water lapping, seagull]

[Narrator]Across the canal in Houghton, the Continental Fire Company stands as the historic building where the earliest mine engineers attended class.

After sharing space with fire-engines, hayloft and horses, technology education grew to be an internationally recognized university.

[Murmur of socializing]

[Narrator] And the Continental Fire Company? It’s brick and mortar still stands, too, welcoming university students to socialize. We still recognize hard work in the Copper Country.

[Clink of glasses]

[Narrator] We toast the students and the strong.

🐎🐎🐎

59-word Radio Spot

[Sounds of rock mining]

[Narrator] Hard-rock mining and engineering built this community.

[Softer sounds of water lapping, seagull]

[Narrator] Across from the Quincy Mine, the Continental Fire Company stands as testament to the work of miners and technology.

[Murmur of socializing]

[Narrator] Where earlier students once shared space with fire-engines, hayloft and horses, modern ones come to socialize.

[Clink of glasses]

[Narrator] We recognize hard work and smarts in the Copper Country. We toast the students and the strong.

9-word Radio Spot

[Hard rock mining sound, murmur of socializing, clink of glasses]

[Narrator] Recognizing hard work and smarts in the Copper Country.

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by JulesPaige, Pennsylvania

[pub music and laughter]

We have been your historical Houghton neighborhood go to for pub grub at the nightclub.

[sizzle of food on the grill]

Now enjoy all that the Continental Fire Company is offering!

[soft yet discernible three alarm fire house klaxon and maybe a fog horn too]

Book your special event with our ‘superior’ menu of “elevated traditional items” including vegan and gluten free options using many locally produced ingredients.

[buoy bell and/or fog horn]

Or just come in and horse around.

[horse whinny and nickering]

Yep, the kitchen is where the firehouse horses were kept, but you’ll only find a the best modern kitchen that’s now a spectacular showplace!

[trumpeting ta da music]

We’ve got a smoker and a pizza oven too.

[pub dance music starts to play as and continues in the background as the last line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant surprise you for lunch or dinner.

59-word Radio Spot

[pub music and laughter]

The Continental Fire Company has been your local historical Houghton neighborhood go to for the finest pub grub at the nightclub.

[sizzle of food on the grill]

Come on in and horse around!

[horse whinny and nickering]

Yep, the basement kitchen is where the firehouse horses were once kept.

[trumpeting ta da music]

Now, our kitchen is a spectacular culinary showplace!

[pub dance music starts to play as and continues in the background as the last line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant’s menu surprise you for lunch or dinner.

9-word Radio Spot

[Change of class bell ringing, followed by soft pub dance music playing, increasing slightly and continuing in the background as the line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant’s ‘superior’ menu surprise you!

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by Bill Engleson, Canada

[Narrator-wistful, a strong voice, thoughtful] I was there, you know, back in 18 and 83. The Continental Fire Company was a crackerjack fire hall then. Brand new! But so was I. A lot of fine memories. The kind that stick with you.

[Fire bell ringing, then the clop of horse hooves, then the crackling of fire.]

But…through the smoke of time, I can’t help but see the joy that’s here now.

[happy voices, glasses clinking]

And hear the voices of folks enjoyin’ themselves.

[more happy voices, glasses clinking]

It’s so lovely to see the old brick beauty being put to such mouth-watering use. And it sure smells a lot sweeter now.

[the sound of food sizzling on the grill]

And did I mention the vittles? I don’t remember food ever smelling so good…lookin’ so good.

59-word Radio Spot

[Narrator-wistful, a strong voice, thoughtful] I was there. Back in 1883. The Continental Fire Company was a crackerjack fire hall. Brand new! Fine memories. The kind that stick.

[Fire bell ringing, then the clop of horse hooves, then the crackling of fire.]

But…through the smoke of time, I see the joy that’s here now.

[happy voices, glasses clinking]

The old brick beauty’s being put to mouth-watering use.

[the sound of food sizzling on the grill]

And did I mention the vittles? Don’t remember food ever smelling so good…lookin’ so good.

9-word Radio Spot

[Narrator-wistful, a strong voice, thoughtful] Crackerjack memories, eh!

[Fire bell ringing, then the clop of horse hooves, then the crackling of fire.]

And did I mention the vittles?

[the sound of food sizzling on the grill]

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by Kay Kingsley, Germany

[sounds of a busy restaurant/bar, happy hum of talking and distant laughter over text]

[Narrator] The past has a way of leaving its mark on the future and here at the Continental Fire Company we bring life to a place with a history, a place we all can find a little bit of home in.

[insert sound of an old engine and siren then bell ringing, sounds of students transitions to current music, loud laughter and ding of the “foods up” bell over text]

[Narrator] From the screaming sounds of engine sirens to the steadfast ring from our bell tower, we’ve transformed the university quarters and haylofts of Houghton Fire Hall into a vibrant atmosphere of live music, lounge events and cutting-edge gastropub cuisine.

[Sound of clinking glass to cheers and busy bar sounds over text]

[Narrator] Cozy up with a drink and stay for the laughs, where history is more than a thing of the past.

59-word Radio Spot

[old man voice] The bell tolls for a fire station long lost to time,

[teachers voice] for a university that no longer shapes young hearts and minds,

[farmers voice] for a hayloft that no longer houses the horses in stalls,

[students voice] nor the students that occupied the length of its halls.

[one staff member of CFC] With food and laughter The Continental welcomes you inside, discover Houghton’s past, keep our history alive.

9 word Radio Spot

[narrator] The flavor, the vibe, CFC keeps Houghton’s history alive.

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by Robbie Eaton, South Africa

[Waiter] “This is your table, Sir.”

[Dad] “Thank you.”

[Son] “Who are the people in the pictures on the wall, Dad?”

[Dad] “Those are heroes, son. The man with the shovel pictured in front of the rock face is a miner. Men used to mine coal to generate electricity and for heating.”

[Son] “What about the men standing around the truck in that picture over there?”

[Dad] “Those are firemen. They are also heroes and often have to go into burning buildings to rescue people from smoke and flames.”

[Dad] “Now you must eat so you can grow big and also be a hero one day.”

59-word Radio Spot

[Son] “Who are the people in the pictures, Dad?”

[Dad] “Those are heroes, son. That man is a miner. Coal is used to generate electricity and for heating.”

[Son] “What about the men standing around the truck in that picture?”

[Dad] “Those are firemen. They are heroes and rescue people from smoke and flames.”

[Dad] You must eat to grow and become a hero.”

9-word Radio Spot

You must eat to grow and become a hero.

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by D. Avery, Nantucket Island

[narrator] The Continental Fire Company first housed the horses, equipment and men that were prepared to protect the people and property of their community. For a time it was also home to the Mining School that served the local industry.

[fire chief] You want to serve in the Company? You must be of age; a citizen of Houghton with a job or business, and be of good moral character and temperate habits.

[Background sound of modern-day patrons]

[young applicant] Yes sir. But, sir? Are these Mining School students?

[patron sounds, sounds of CFC have increased in volume]

[narrator] Houghton’s past is alive and present in the restored Continental Fire Company.

Food, drink, and entertainment are served with community spirit.

59-word Radio Spot

[narrator] Once housing the firemen that bravely served their neighbors as well as housing the Mining School that served the local copper industry, the Continental Fire Company continues to serve the Houghton community.

More than a place to enjoy good food, drink and company, the CFC features local artists, musicians, and Houghton’s own rich past. A spirited place since 1883.

9-word Radio Spot

[narrator] CFC- the spirit of Houghton’s past is always present.

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Radio Spot by Charli Mills

[Crackling barrel fire and murmur of voices gathered on the street]

[Friend 1] “Nothing like a warming libation on a snowy night.”

[Friend 2] “Whoa, Ed. You can’t take spirituous liquors int the firehall. House rules.”

[Friend 1] “Not at all?”

[Friend 2] “Not upstairs with the Mining students. Definitely not in the engine room with the Captain. Not even downstairs with the horses. This is 1886 Houghton, Michigan and we are a modern outfit, not some frontier wild west show.”

[Sounds of revelry, Christmas carolers in the background]

[Modern Friend 1] “Victorian Christmas in 2018, downtown Houghton – what a winter wonderland!

[Modern Friend 2] “These crackling fires in barrels make me want something warmer.”

[Modern Friend 1] Let’s go the Continental Fire Company for warming libations.

[Narrator] Good thing the Victorian Rules no longer apply.

59-word Radio Spot

[Narrator] Stroll back in time when Victorians walked the snowy streets of Houghton. Gather around the fire and chat with friends during the Victorian Christmas in downtown Houghton. Stop by the Continental Fire Company in the heart of the historic Sheldon Avenue District.  Good thing Victorian Rules no longer apply – the ban on spiritous liquors in the firehall is lifted.

9-word Radio Spot

[Narrator] Victorian Rules no longer apply – fine spiritous liquors available.

🐎🐎🐎

99-word Script by D. Avery, Nantucket Island

[nickering of horses]

[fireman 1] Fire in the basement!

[fireman 2] Don’t ring the alarm! That’s the wood fired pizza oven.

[sounds of cooks/staff in the kitchen, pizza board]

[cook] Order up! Pizza! Scorpion bread!

[fireman 1] Food has changed since the mining school days. These Michigan Tech students sure eat and drink well.

[fireman 2] A lot has changed since we firefighters shared our fire hall with the Michigan Mining School. There are no longer horses in the basement and the engine room is where students and locals come to eat, drink, and enjoy the arts.

[sound of local live music; sound of belly dancer music, sound of literary artist reading aloud; sound of patrons laughing, talking, eating]

[fireman 2] Nowadays the Continental Fire Company serves the community in many ways. Past and present keep good company at the Continental Fire Company.

59-word Radio Spot

[narrator] The Continental Fire Company has a history of service. Where firefighters once fed the horses that pulled their equipment, now wood is fed into a pizza oven. In the engine room good food and drink is served as local artists and musicians feed the soul.

Serving the Houghton community, the CFC is where past and present keep good company.

9-word Radio Spot

[narrator] At the CFC past and present keep good company.

🐎🐎🐎

The TUFFest Ride

The following stories are the result of the 2018 TUFFest Ride — a process to free-write a story, revise it through a series of reductions and build it back up into a revised draft. It’s a pure writing process, not editing. That comes later. Five writers were selected out of 118 entries to take a month-long challenge: Bill Engleson (First Place), Kay Kingsley ( Second Place), Pete Fanning (Third Place), Ritu Bhathal (Honorable Mention), and Liz Husebye Hartman (Honorable Mention). Bill, Kay, and Pete were selected to complete second drafts after the TUFF process. All totaled, five writers explored, discovered and pushed through their creative writing process. Note that this contest emphasized writing, not editing.

***BILL ENGLESON, FIRST PLACE***

FREE-WRITE: An Overwhelming Sense of Suffocation at Fifteen

Once upon a time, I slept in my parent’s bed, left alone, sleeping in their bed, orphaned by two weeks of union-won summer vacation, the first time I recall, a test of age, of maturity, a test of me.

“He’ll manage, for Chrissake! He’s fifteen. Old Hawkins will look in. Whip up the odd meal. Make sure he’s not starvin’ to death.”

I had never really been tested, trusted, before.

Never.

And then, days in, Monroe.

Dead!

Dead.

I am inconsolable.

Night.

August 6.

Monday.

Midnight.

Crawling out the window, shimmying down the dying grapevine, the still sticky night air, heat lingering, clinging, slapping skin, hop, skip, tripping through the neighbours yard, the gravel driveway, a stretch of asphalt, loping along the tracks south to town, sliding down the coal tailings, slipping on the dead, dark-damp Pavilion lawn, the ancestral miners soccer pitch, tiptoeing into the river, that slight stream, the wet slippery stones, ankle deep, bent under drooping boughs, half-moon light, under the bridge, a sludge of mud flats, scrap iron scarring the low tide, the soft sea-slop sucking me down into a slurping mire of mud.

My hands swarm into the bog, fingers clutch the spillage, rocks, busted shells, artifacts of remorse, shards of metal, the foul quagmire of industrial rejects, a boneyard of rotting rubber.

The humdrum august sun rises over the island beyond. I am exposed, naked, a runt in long shadows. Dawn traffic hammers into the day. Each step in the muck draws me down deeper. Knees! Thighs. I am swallowed.

The gasoline air revives me, the bridge jamboree fuel fires me alive.

I retrace my descent, the slurry releases me back to the river’s mouth, akimbo scrambling along the stones, stumbling into pools, cleansing, breathing.

My recoil outruns the revealing sun.

###

99-WORD ORIGINAL POV: An Overwhelming Sense of Suffocation at Fifteen

Two-weeks.

Alone.

Monroe abruptly expires.

I am inconsolable,

Midnight gremlins call.

Crawling, shimmying, clinging, slapping, tripping, tracking south, sliding, coal tailings, slipping, dark-damp Pavilion lawn, the river, slippery stones, bent under drooping boughs, half-moon light, bridge, sludge, soft sea-slop, a slurping mire of mud.

Hands swarming the bog, fingers clutching rocks, busted shells, shards, a boneyard of rotting rubber.

Exposed, starkers, a runt in long shadows.

Traffic hammering.

Muck drawing me down.

Knees! Thighs.

I am swallowed.

Gasoline air revives me, the bridge jamboree fuel fires.

The slurry releases, scrambling stones, stumbling, pools, cleansing, breathing.

Outrunning the revealing sun.

###

99-WORD DIFFERENT POV: An Overwhelming Sense of Suffocation at Fifteen

It doesn’t matter to me now. All that anger, the self doubt, the humiliation.

I’m passed that now.

I see you, boy.

And yes, I see me.

You couldn’t possibly be as miserable as I was?

Your small-town light barely flickers this night.

I see you.

Creeping out the window.

A pale-skinned bare-naked boy.

Where are you going?

Along the tracks, through the bush, into the river,
frolicking,
drowning in the sludge of your trashy estuary.

Machismo mountebank!

This is how you grieve for me?

How outrageous you are?

How selfish?

Grieve for yourself, young fool.

Never for me!

###

59-WORD + ALTERNATE POV NUGGET: An Overwhelming Sense of Suffocation at Fifteen

We are both fifteen.

You…seeking you…but blessed. Knowing where you are. In one place. Life, a constant.

And I, dangling on the dreary edge of a cultural fault: a mother… mislaid, her paramours…mine.

No orphan sob stories from me, brother.

I am swallowed in my own time.

You remain.

I am gone, yet ever exhumed?

Think well of me.

###

9-WORD SUMMATIONS WITH EMOTION

Her spectre blazes in my brain, dangling in time. [wonder]

Mudslide! Low Tide!! Suicide! I have done your will. [resignation]

###

SECOND DRAFT: An Overwhelming Sense of Suffocation at Fifteen

Once…once upon a time, I slept in my parent’s bed, left alone, sleeping in their bed, orphaned by two weeks of union-won summer vacation, the first time I recall, a test of age, of maturity, a test of me.

“He’ll manage, for Chrissake! He’s fifteen. Old Hawkins will look in. Whip up the odd meal. Make sure he’s not starvin’ to death.”
I had never really been tested, trusted, before.

Never.

And then, days in, Monroe.

Dead!

Dead.

I am inconsolable.

I do not understand. Death is not only a mystery, it is unknown to me.

A song swims into my head.

Seventy-eight repetitions.

Endless!

“There is a river called the river of no return. Sometimes its peaceful…”

And I weep, am engulfed by a ferocious rush of sudden bewildering loss.

My loss.

Hers!

The night crushes in.

August 6.

Monday.

Midnight.

There is no sleep to be had.

“…sometimes its peaceful and sometimes wild and free.”

The stifling summer heat, the lifeless air hanging like dead skin on California bones, a resolve to resist, the overwhelming night…

Crawling out the window, shimmying down the dying grapevine, the still sticky night air, heat lingering, clinging, slapping skin, hop, skip, tripping through the neighbours yard, the gravel driveway, a stretch of asphalt, loping along the tracks south to town, sliding down the coal tailings, slipping on the dead, dark-damp Pavilion lawn, the ancestral miners soccer pitch, tiptoeing into the river, that slight stream, the wet slippery stones, ankle deep, bent under drooping boughs, half-moon light, under the bridge, a sludge of mud flats, scrap iron scarring the low tide, the soft sea-slop sucking me down into a slurping mire of mud.

Yet, still the song sounds sweet and sad…

“I can hear my lover call…come to me…”

My lover? My lover! No lover, mine.

Mind?

Do I think this?

Can I hear her?

Does she speak to me?

“This is how you grieve for me?

How outrageous you are?

How selfish?

Grieve for yourself, young fool.

Never for me!“

And there I am, floundering in the sweeping sewage, my self, swirling in my own mournful mash.

“No return, no return, no return.”

It ricochets, the rumble of the river. Mine. Hers.

Mine, my river swims to the shallows. My hands swarm into the bog, fingers clutching the spillage, rocks, busted shells, artifacts of remorse, shards of metal, the foul quagmire of industrial rejects, a boneyard of rotting rubber.

With the East at my back, the humdrum august sun rises over the island beyond. I am exposed, naked, a runt in long shadows. Dawn traffic hammers into the day. Each step in the muck draws me down deeper. Knees! Thighs.

I am swallowed.

Gasoline air revives me, the bridge jamboree fuel fires me alive.

I retrace my descent, the slurry releases me back to the river’s mouth, akimbo scrambling along the stones, stumbling into pools, cleansing, breathing.

My recoil outruns the revealing sun.

“No return, no return…”

###

***KAY KINGSLEY, SECOND PLACE***

FREE-WRITE: Here’s To Us

What’ll you have?”

“Surprise me.” I said with a smile.

It was my bachelorette party and next weekend I would be Mrs. Jack Thompson. Looking off in the distance I waited for my drink and for the first time in a long time, I thought about Rory.

****

We were madly in love the summer before I left for college. I was leaving in August and begged him to come with me. His response was always, “We’ll see” as he winked and flashed me a smile. He loved our town and I knew he wouldn’t leave but he also knew I couldn’t stay. We knew we had the summer to love without limits no matter what the future might bring.

Nearly every night we camped by the river in the canyon where the air was cooler and the sweet smell of dry grass hung thick. Serenaded by the songs of crickets and frogs, we would talk for hours into the night by firelight, discovering each other, discovering who we were and laughing until our sides hurt.

One night while we sat by the fire we drank Mudslides from ice filled coffee mugs and talked about growing old together. We joked about grandkids, grey hair and doctor’s appointments. We were drunk and happy in love as we entertained all our dreams that night. It was, however, the closest we would come to growing old together. Two months after I left for college, Rory died in a motorcycle accident, taking all of our dreams with him.

****

The bartender touched my arm pulling me back into the moment, “Something told me you might like this.” and with a wink he walked away placing a Mudslide over ice in front of me.

I raised my glass and smiled. “Here’s to us, Rory.”

###

99-WORD ORIGINAL POV: Summer Dreams

Rory and I were madly in love the summer before I left for college. I begged him to come with me but his dream was to run the farm and my dream was to see the world.

Thinking this summer might be our last we lived to discover each other, to discover ourselves, shaping who we would become.

Our dreams gave us the hope that our reality could not. We dreamed of growing old together, side by side, hand in hand.

Months after I left, Rory died in a motorcycle accident taking all of our dreams along with him.

###

99-WORD DIFFERENT POV: Rory

“I let her go. I wanted to go with my whole heart but I couldn’t give her the life she was seeking. This life is my speed and honestly, a bigger world outside this city terrifies me. I never thought she’d be mine in the first place and now my heart is hers forever. The way I could show her I loved her was to let her go, taking the best part of me with her. Now the only way to quiet my mind is to ride my motorcycle through the wind, chasing her memory, waiting for her return.”

###

59-WORD + ALTERNATE POV NUGGET: Payback

A tearful goodbye. Crushed, he promised he’d visit.

I wanted to leave and he had to stay but we needed each other, and like a sapling nurtured, our love grew into an Oak that summer.

Friends said he was “chasing her memory, waiting for her return” when the accident happened.

With him went my heart, my payback for leaving.

###

9-WORD SUMMATIONS WITH EMOTION

Sapling nurtured, love grows an Oak death can’t fell [strength]

Unanswered dreams denied by fate suspended our love eternally [sadness]

###

SECOND DRAFT: Dancing With The Leaves

I could feel the warm breeze on my face and although I lacked the strength to really move, I could still close my eyes and smile. The time between opening my eyes after closing them was getting longer and longer and I knew it wouldn’t be long now. While the breeze billowed the white curtains and the shadows from the birch danced across my comforter, peace settled within me as I lay in bed remembering.

I wound my memory clock as far back as it would go and I slowly let my memories tick by, savoring each one as they passed, hoping to revisit them all before I had to go. Like an afternoon spent with an old friend, there was a lot to catch up on.

I drifted through the snapshots of my life and felt again the depths of my humanness.

Jack and I had been married for 53 long, beautiful years. We raised two children together, grew a business together, traveled the world, watched as our family grew from our original 4 to now 16, with another great grand baby on the way. Sure, we had our fights, said our angry words, but we cried our tears and then apologized and we always grew stronger together.

And with my eyes still closed, I said my thankful farewell to Jack somewhere deep within my heart.

I opened my eyes and watched the leaves dancing back and forth to the music of the breeze and closed them again to see Rory that summer before college all those years ago.

We were so in love but I had to get out of that small town. I pleaded with him to come with me but he couldn’t leave and I couldn’t stay so that summer we lived and loved enough for a lifetime.

I can still see us camped by the river in the canyon, talking for hours into the night, discovering each other and who we were. I can still hear the clink our tin mugs made as we drank by the campfire and laughed about growing old together. Grandkids, grey hair, doctor’s appointments, all of it. I thought we’d be together forever and I guess in a way we have been even though his death parted us nearly 50 years ago. When Charlotte was born seven months later, it kept a part of Rory here beside me forever. It’s funny how love continues to grow long after we think it can’t. She was and still is my saving grace. Charlotte and my son Robert, grew my heart in directions I didn’t know existed. My heart is full. “Goodbye, my loves” I whisper as I open my eyes for the last time.

I die knowing I’ve lived a life on love’s spectrum and like a sapling nurtured, love grew an Oak death couldn’t fell.

Slowly I exhale from my heart into the wind, taking all the love with me as I dance with the leaves.

###

***PETE FANNING, THIRD PLACE***

FREE-WRITE: Untitled

They were dancing when the winds picked up, throwing smoke and ash and char from the hills. The gusts flipped their hair, fluttered their shirts, knocked them back with a howl before it chased them into the kitchen.

The radio issued warnings, emergency broadcasts of wildfires and evacuations. The music returned and they smiled, flushed, tasting the savory burn of summer heat, smoke, and the thrill of escape.

They danced as the fires ate their fill, digested the land and exhaled with a smolder. The rain pummeled the leaky roof, filling window sills, flecking their arms as they danced. When the mudslides followed, heavy, unyielding, causing the power to flicker, they continued do dance because they were young and nothing too terrible can happen to those who are young and in love. Even when sandbags line the streets.

Their parents called with frantic tones. But there was big news.

The baby arrived in spring. They bought a house and danced in celebration. They filled the kitchen with shiny objects, insured against disasters. They tested the smoke alarms. They wore phones on their hips and met deadlines. They boxed up the radio, the dog-eared novels, the thrift store furnishings.

Summer passed, fires raged. The child danced as the news reported the damage. They hushed the child. They worried about the planet. Who could dance at times like these?

Years whirled ahead. They saved for the child’s education. They bought sandbags to protect against the mudslides—to halt the disasters sliding towards their home.

The child grew. Until he took his youthful dance to college. They boxed up what he didn’t want, and found what they’d left behind.

The radio, through tinny speakers puffing out the dust of fires settled, seemed like a time machine.

And so they danced.

###

99-WORD ORIGINAL POV

They swayed through the wind, unlacing a lifetime of long hours and late nights, overtime and office meetings. Moving slower now, a careful waltz, drifting to a different house on a different street, when fires burned, and ash fell like snowfall that clung to their hair. They twirled back, before the blurry debris of vacations and promotions, frantic hospitals, a baby clinging to life with each breath—crashing down with the weight of what was to come. When they danced out of restlessness, to rain and music, when they slid through the mud and laughed the whole way down.

###

99-WORD DIFFERENT POV

Across the street, the neighbors danced and carried on, radio blaring, the girl laughing and twirling in the fog and ashes from the wildfires on the hill. Eventually, the winds drove them in, but I could still hear them.

How could people dance at times like this?

When the heavy rains swept in, flooding with the mudslides and mess, the lights went out and I was left in the dark, an old man with only his thoughts to get him through. And the couple across the street, still dancing, candles flickering in the kitchen, it made me feel okay.

###

59-WORD + ALTERNATE POV NUGGET: Untitled

Swaying in the grass, a small lifetime burned between two silhouettes. They’d been lost in a rhythm when the winds stirred the debris of life. When the ashes fell and grayed their hair. When their love was framed in a neighbor’s window. When they refused the warnings of rains, fires…mudslides. How could you not dance during times like these?

###

9-WORD SUMMATIONS WITH EMOTION

Whether fire or rain, they danced through the pain. [Happy]

Two souls, one dance. Muddy shoes, singing the blues. [Love]

SECOND DRAFT: Untitled

They were dancing when the winds picked up, carrying ash and char from the hills. The gusts sifted through their hair, fluttered their shirts, and knocked them back with a howl before chasing them into the house.

They collapsed onto the sagging kitchen floor in a whirl of laughter. They caught their breaths as the radio issued stern warnings and strict advice—emergency broadcasts of the wildfires and evacuation routes. Their eyes met and they laughed just as the music returned, and they stood, still flushed, not as much from the weather but from the wild rush of love crashing through their bodies.

A smoky fog extinguished the sun. The fires ate their fill before the sky turned inward and the rains pummeled the leaky roof. They huddled at the window sill like children, as flecks of water found their arms. They were back to dancing when the flooding started, and still when the mudslides came, heavy, unyielding, causing the power to flicker then fail.

The dancing, the candlelit poverty, the sandbags lining the streets. It was the perfect setting for a marriage proposal.

With the pregnancy news, their parents issued stern warnings and strict advice. The young couple exchanged smirks, the phone tucked the phone between their necks as they giggled. Because they had no idea.

The weather broke. The streets cleared. They got married and bought a house and danced in every room. The baby arrived, healthy and full, with eyes that stole their breaths and stalled their hearts. But the song changed abruptly. It was as though the record skipped and derailed the groove of time. And just that simple, the world became dangerous.

They worked to get ahead. They planned and they met deadlines. They fought. They made up. They filled the kitchen with shiny appliances. They tested the smoke alarms. Batteries. Flashlights. Candles. The dusty radio, the dog-eared novels, the cheesy love letters and curled photos were reduced to a storage box.

Summers passed. Seasons turned. Neighbors changed. They saved for the child’s education, family vacations, even their own retirement. They purchased life insurance. New locks to halt the deluge of disasters trying to break into their home. But it came. A ding on the phone, monitors at gas stations, the scrolling politics, scandals, hunger, violence, wildfires…mudslides. Yet the boy smiled. And what a smile it was, only they couldn’t figure out where they’d seen that smile before.

He was smiling now. His new car was packed with new groceries, dorm room furnishings, and all of his invincible youth. They issued stern warnings and strict advice as the boy backed out, gripping each other as a final gust of reality hit them straight on. In the kitchen, they sulked, they marveled, they laughed when they realized where they’d seen that smile.

She found the emergency candles. He dug out the radio. They dimmed the lights and tuned in to a station that had been lost in time.

And they danced.

###

***LIZ HUSEBYE HARTMANN, HONORABLE MENTION***

FREE-WRITE: Mudslide

Dahlia stood on the high embankment, past midnight, clutching her biceps as the swollen creek tore past. She’d been trying to hike her way to a decision along the Stuttgart Township trail, in the intermittent midnight rain. Billy was waiting for an answer. Always waiting, but never really hearing what she said. She wondered if he would grow out of that.

Lightning flashed stark, followed by the tang of ozone. After a few beats, thunder shook the ground. Dahlia stepped forward and peered over the edge to get a better perspective on the flood waters. Closing her eyes, she inhaled the coppery scents of red clay and leaf rot.

She knew Billy loved her. She’d loved him in childhood for how far he could hawk a loogie. He’d been equally impressed with her signature spitfire pitch that sizzled across home plate striking out batter after batter. By junior high, her baseball skills were so impressive that the neighboring towns’ teams wouldn’t play her town anymore. So she’d folded and took up running, instead.

“Dahlia’s running riot,” the townsfolk sighed, as she jogged past the pane glass window of the barbershop on Main, or declined buttery baked goods at the Women’s Sewing Circle. She’d been good enough, though, to have earned a Track and Field scholarship at an out-of-state college and take a semester in Germany. Her teammate, Beatriz, had family there.

Billy wanted her to get married immediately, and not return to college. Such an old-fashioned boy, she marveled. Opening her eyes, Dahlia poked out her tongue to catch refreshing cold, clean raindrops. She stepped back from the roiling creek and turned away. Flash of lightning, clap of thunder, and a burst of rain drummed the ground. The embankment loosened and slid into the torrent behind her.

###

99-WORD DIFFERENT POV: Barbershop Duet

“Dahlia’s runnin’ riot!” Emil snapped. My barber shears nearly trephined his freckled, balding head.

“What is it now?”

“She wants another semester in Germany, ‘stead of marrying my grandnephew Billy!” The barber cape rustled indignantly.

“She’s only nineteen,” I murmured.

Turning my attention back to Emil’s shaggy fringe, I remembered my own sweet Rose, who’d run off to Paris and never returned. It’d opened the door to darling Daisy, my true life partner.

“Think of her as a fine wine. She’ll be better a bit aged.”

“Or turn to vinegar,” huffed Emil. “Ouch! Dammit, Leon!”

“Sorry. My scissors slipped.”

###

99-WORD ORIGINAL POV: Priorities (original POV)

Dahlia yelped, scrambling from the mudslide to the shelter of her and Billy’s willow. Grasping its trunk with one arm, she turned. The embankment was gone, the creek chomping greedily at loose stones and the last summer blooms.

Was this a sign? Of what?

She slid down the thick trunk, slim fingers tracing letters carved so long ago:

Billy + Dahlia

4Ever.

Still true. But she also had some growing up to do. She had an answer for him, just not the one he wanted.

First things first. She ran back to town; the floodwaters were spreading too fast.

###

59-WORD + ALTERNATE POV NUGGET: [Loss + Time => Happy Endings]

“You seen Billy?” Dahlia poked her head inside the barbershop door.

“Just left. Hurry, and you can tell him you’ll marry him,” growled Emil, from the chair.

“Slow down, and you can give it more thought,” smiled Leon, barber shears aloft.

She dashed out in the torrential rain, still undecided. Meanwhile, the creek swelled dangerously and the embankment groaned.

###

9-WORD SUMMATIONS WITH EMOTION

Everybody had opinions, but the mudslide called it in. [acceptance]

Dahlia embraces freedom as New Stuttgart is washed away. [disapproval]

###

***RITU BHATHAL, HONORABLE MENTION***

FREE-WRITE: Just Another Day

The lights were flashing all around.

Peter sat, wrapped up in an emergency blanket. The chill of the cold and wet seeping through his clothes and penetrating his skin, left him feeling like fingers of ice were creeping through his veins.

“You alright mate?” Kate sat next to him. “We did it! All fifteen safe.”

*

He had been sitting there idly at the desk, only a couple of hours before.

The rain lashing down had obviously put off potential climbers tonight.

A yawn threatened to break out, but instead he surreptitiously covered his mouth and allowed a slow one to escape.

“I’m just going to make a brew. You want one?”

Kate’s head jerked up. “God yeah. I need some caffeine. I can’t handle being here when it’s so quiet!”

He found two mugs and flicked the kettle on, preparing for a couple of minutes to daydream, while it boiled.

The phone rang.

Then the other one started.

He spooned coffee into the mugs, savouring the aroma, but wishing it was a decent, strong espresso that he was smelling, and not the instant kind.

Another call came through as he walked back.

He picked it up, aware that Kate was already on a call. “Hello, mountain rescue, how can I assist?”

As he listened, it all got a little crazy. A cacophony of beeps coming through, as all the other lines started to light up.
Peter could barely hear what the caller was trying to say, as the line kept breaking up.

“Help… rain… slipping… mud…”

It cut off.

He turned to look at the job board that Kate was hastily scrawling across.

Mudslide
North side
Group of fifteen
Eleven trapped above
Four disappeared

She looked across at him. “Time to go, Petey. Call for reinforcements.”

###

99-WORD ORIGINAL POV: Just Another Day

Another quiet night in the rain left Peter twiddling his thumbs.

“D’ya wanna drink, Kate?”

“Make it a strong one mate, I can hardly keep my eyes open. Hate it when it’s so quiet. Eerie, almost.”

Peter heard the phones ringing and rushed back with two hastily filled cups of coffee.

“Mountain Rescue. Yes. Where. How many? Right. On our way.”

He looked up at Kate who was busy filling the job board with the details.

“Not had to deal with a mudslide for a while now.” She glanced over to where he was sitting. “Will you be okay?”

###

99-WORD DIFFERENT POV: Just Another Day

I hate it when there’s nothing to do.

Nights like that night really dragged. It was quiet. The weather was awful.

I needed to do something constructive, so got up to make a drink, offering to get Kate one too.

It seemed like the phones started to ring off the hook as soon as I left my seat.

“Mountain Rescue.”

My blood turned cold as I heard the word – mudslide.

I could hear Kate asking me if I was okay, whether I was ready for this, but I felt rooted to the spot.

Could I do this? Again?

###

59-WORD + ALTERNATE POV NUGGET: Just Another Day

“Mountain Rescue. Yes? Where? How many?”

The phones rang out – every line beeping, yet Peter felt unable to answer one.

He sat there, rooted to the spot, flashbacks of that night, two years ago playing through his mind.

Abandoned cups of coffee sat there, slowly getting colder.

“It’s a mudslide Pete,” Kate gently approached him. “Will you be okay?”

###

9-WORD SUMMATIONS WITH EMOTION

Mudslide. This could not be happening again – could it? [Fear]

Fear aside. They need me. I’ve got to help. [Courage]

###

Carrot Ranch Literary Community makes literary art accessible 99 words at a time through flash fiction challenges and a group of contests called the Rodeo. 

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Entries are as submitted and not edited. Entries not meeting the specified word count or specific contest rules are not included at the discretion of each contest leader and judges.

Published by Carrot Ranch Literary Community led by Lead Buckaroo, Charli Mills.

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