The results of the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo are in and we thank our judges:
Charli Mills came to the Keweenaw from everywhere out West. As lead buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, she makes literary art accessible 99 words at a time and writes stories about the veteran experience and those marginalized by history. The Rodeo is a chance for her to encourage writers to push through creativity with courage.
Cynthia May Drake lives at the Ripley Falls Home of Healing, having lived in the UP for 30 years. She creates retreats and coaches clients to reach their spectacular potential. She regularly practices the 99-word and TUFF formats to resolve life conundrums, which has her fired up to be a literary judge for the Rodeo’s TUFF contest.
Marie Bertineau, born amidst the copper mining ruins of northern Michigan, is the daughter of an Ojibwe mother and a French Canadian and Cornish father. Her memoir, The Mason House, is set for release in September 2020 by Lanternfish Press of Philadelphia. She enjoyed the opportunity to work with Carrot Ranch on the Rodeo contest.
Tammy Toj Gajewski is an educated artist who recently retired from 24 years in prison where her nickname was Sgt. Carebear. She has written poetry and stories her whole life and is working on her book. She moved to the UP over 25 years ago and loves rock hunting, foster parenting, and dogs.
Bonnie Brandt came to the UP for MTU education and never left. As the daughter of a math teacher, she reads voraciously and belongs to a book club. She lives for the pun. She loves kayaking and cooking. She often will be reading even in summer!
Paula Sahin visited Carrot Ranch Headquarters during judging and joined in a session at the Continental Fire Company. She is a leadership development consultant trained by Brené Brown and manages Inner Wisdom Coaching and Consulting. She has a serious passion for learning and development.
Donna Armistead is a native of Florida and has taught dance and theatre in the Copper Country for over 30 years. Finally emerging from research mode to write a novel inspired by the lives of her Georgia ancestors, she is honored to have been invited to assist as a judge for the Rodeo.
Rodeo #1: A Modern Tall Tale
Untitled by Denise DeVries
Where I live, gossip spreads faster than sound. For example, I eat the same breakfast at the same café every morning. Yesterday, I told Edith, “I won’t see you tomorrow. I have a doctor’s appointment across the county line. I’ll eat afterwards on Main Street.”
This morning, I took a blood test, left the doctor’s, and walked to the restaurant. A waitress I’d never seen before said, “Hey, Walter, I know you usually have bacon and eggs, but since your cholesterol’s high, it’ll have to be an egg white omelet. And with that blood pressure, you’d better drink decaf.”
Why I Had to Cancel Our Date by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Yes, I’d promised to be there by 7:00, but my shower took longer than anticipated because the hot water heater was on the blink and I had to crawl underneath to light the pilot and then dropped the one match I’d brought and the explosion knocked me clear into the neighbor’s kitchen and I couldn’t just ignore her offer of cocktails and she’s divorcing her third husband if she can raise the cash and I knew exactly where this was going so I excused myself to quickly shower but the dog had eaten the soap.
I should’ve called. Sorry.
The Scotsman by C. E. Ayr
Angus Hamish MacBeth MacPherson takes the US wrestling scene by storm.
When asked how such a big man can be so fast, he laughs.
‘Haggis,’ he says, ‘I’m the World Champion Haggis Hunter.’
‘These wee beasties have teeth like daggers,’ he explains, ‘when you’re in the kilt you don’t
want them too near your knees.’
‘But you’re also immensely strong and astonishingly flexible.’
‘That comes from my practice partner back in Glen Teuchter,’ he nods, ‘she’s a bit useful.’
‘You’ve learned all this from a woman,’ they gasp.
‘Aye,’ he grins, ‘but she’s not your average lassie, our Nessie!’
Millennial Milly by Kerry E.B. Black
Millennial Milly fought crime, but not just any crime. Eco-crime.
Costumed sustainably, she diverted environmental catastrophes with a blink of tear-filled eyes.
She cooled the polar-caps with icy stares and adjusted the ocean temperature as though preparing a bath.
At science seminars, with impassioned words that flowed freer than an unpolluted Mississippi, she educated billions about environmental dangers. Her Tom’s pounded after politicians and bested their skewed logic faster than a You-Tube Gamer earning his Diamond Button.
At last, she harnessed the social media until her army of gazillions flooded the internet with well-founded concerns until the threat ended.
U-Turn by Nobbinmaug
“I hate doing u-turns on these dark, narrow backroads.”
“What’s the big deal?
“There’s not much room for error.”
“Just turn around. I have to get home.”
“All right, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Don’t be such a drama queen.”
“Drama queen? One time, I was out here driving with Stu. I tried to turn around. A jacked-up pickup truck came around a turn going way too fast and smashed into my car. Stu and I were both in the hospital for months. We’re lucky to be alive.”
“Oh my god! When did that happen?”
Untitled by Colleen M. Chesebro
“Do I plant the seeds like this, mamé?”
The old woman nodded and pushed her hat higher on her forehead. “Did I ever tell you about the time I grew zucchini bigger than you?”
The child giggled and shook her head.
“Your mama was so tired after you were born. I’d watch you so she could rest. One day, when she returned, I handed her one of my squash wrapped in a blanket and wearing a diaper. She made it home before she realized I’d tricked her.”
The child’s eyes lit up. “So that’s why she calls me Courgette.”
Untitled by Goldie
“This world is coming to an end” – said David to his friend.
“Stop whining. Every generation has its time” – replied Quan.
“We need the Internet to file an Internet outage complaint. Soon we will need money to buy money. Like in Zimbabwe…”
“At least we have water” – David added.
“When pigs fly…”
At that very moment, Quan’s son came into the room with his newly purchased guineapig.
“Look what I’ve got, Daddy” – he said right before he tripped over his own feet.
The pig went flying out of his hands.
The two men looked at one another in terror.
High Seas Adventure by Jo Hawk
“The ship’s bow rose as we climbed the Mount Everest size wave. We dangled atop the precipice while all around, rolling water raged.
Gray storm clouds billowed overhead, dousing the deck with bucket loads of rainwater as our vessel groaned. Sensing her fate, she threatened to crack, and we didn’t dare to breathe.
Over the edge, I glimpsed a multitude of creatures staring at me, before we tipped, sliding into the abyss. A deluge rushed into the void and colliding with the rushing flood, pelting spray engulfed us.”
“Daddy, it was only a puddle.”
“A puddle to you, maybe.”
Grandma’s Tall Tales by Norah Colvin
“When I was your age, we didn’t have iPads or smartphones. We didn’t have computers or even television.”
“What did you do, Grandma?”
“Plenty—played outside, played board games, read books—and talked to each other.”
“And, we had an outside toilet. We used newspaper to, you know—”
“What’s newspaper, Grandma?”
“Tell ‘em about your pet dinosaur,” winked Dad.
“What sort was it, Grandma? Did you ride it to school?”
Grandma laughed, “I didn’t really have a pet dinosaur—”
“We know, Grandma.”
Grandma leant closer. “But I did have a pet dragon— a fire-breathing dragon.”
The children’s eyes widened.
Whalestrom by Bill Engleson
Brain’s bubbling like Krakatoa.
Tried warm milk.
Drove to the sea.
Stripped down to my fleshy finery.
Treading water, hundred yards out, I’m thinking, ‘this is a fine kettle of fish.’
Suddenly I get that not alone feeling.
“Hey, human. Howdy doody.”
My head does a 360.
Three huge mothers.
I suck up my trepidation, splutter, “Hi yourself, guys. What’s cooking?”
“Well, we’re whale watching.”
“You’re watching yourselves?” I babble.
“Nope. We’re whales watching humans.”
“Tit for tat, human. Tit for tat.”
The ABCs of the Seas by Joshua G. J. Insole
A wave rolled the ship, and the crew rolled with it on well-practiced sea legs. A perfume of rum lingered above the crowd.
The captain (a bodacious eccentric, if there ever was one) looked at the contestants stood behind their podiums. Each held a wriggling seagull. The rest of the crew hushed; the tension palpable.
“Final question! What’s a pirate’s favourite letter?”
Squawk! “R!” shouted Nose Bender triumphantly. He was named for being both a skilled pugilist and accident prone.
The audience gasped.
The Heartbreak Kid smirked and squeezed his avian buzzer. Squawk! “Nay… it be the C!”
Untitled by Chris Hewitt
“Right ye bilge rats, I’ve ‘eard enough, time fer a game o’ truth or consequences.”
The three scurvy pirates stood on the plank staring into the abyss.
“Ye first, Heartbreak Kid. Where’s the map?”
The pistol rang out. The captain shook his head.
“Nose Bender, yarr wouldn’t lie to yer cap’n would yarr?”
Bender trembled. “No cap’n”
“Jolly good matey, so?”
Bender hesitated, the captain sighed and unloaded another pistol.
“Bodacious Bob, it’s down to ye lad, what’ll it be?”
Bob smiled sheepishly, before unrolling the map from his shirt.
“Yarr, I always liked ye Bob.”
Who Will Walk the Plank? Liz Husebye Hartmann
Captain Hand sneered, boot heels pounding across the bridge of Starship Ridgemont. “You abandoned your post, Ensign Spicoli. My orders will be followed without question!”
“The refugees from planet Nose Bender had the munchies,” Spicoli nodded toward an empty pizza box. “It was the righteous thing…Sir.”
“By plundering 54 boxes of Bodacious Brothers pizza from the officer’s mess?” Hand’s antennae twitched with rage. “Recite penal code 289753-c…or walk the plank!”
“I’m calling in my Lifeline.”
“Fine,” snapped Hand, “Heartbreak Kid…”
“The code’s irrelevant, Captain,” Admiral Hamilton’s sweet contralto drawled from the Comscreen. “Kindness is the eternal law.”
Pirates! by Joanne Fisher
“Well, we’ve safely sailed the Bodacious through the Nose Bender, a labyrinth of reefs. Any sign of pursuit?” the Captain asked. The First Mate looked through a spyglass in the darkness behind them.
“It’s no good Captain! Heartbreak Kid is still following us.”
“Shiver me timbers! We may just have to fight.” The Captain replied. “We’ll have to arrange a boarding party.”
“Pieces of eight!” said the parrot on his shoulder.
They suddenly froze.
“And my question to you is: in that film clip, what colour hat was the First Mate wearing?” The game show host asked the contestants.
A Dream Killer Hack by Susan Sleggs
Moments before the bodacious architect was to present his competition bonus round subdivision design to investors, he sat at his computer searching for the file, Safe Harbor. It wasn’t there, but Not-So-Safe Harbor was. He clicked on it, then nearly lost his mind. His yachting themed street names had been switched to Walk the Plank Drive, Golden Snitch Avenue, Confetti Drop Circle, and Nose Bender Boulevard. He screeched, “I’ve been hacked by a pirate.” There was no time to fix the changes and his presentation was an epic fail.
Afterwards, his mentor said, “You didn’t deserve that heartbreak, kid.”
Make it to the Bell by Prior at Priorhouse
Anton’s idea of bull riding to win a lady’s affection was bodacious, at first. After falling off, she called him a lan’lubb’r and left. He was a buccaneer – not a buckaroo – but he didn’t become the heartbreak kid. Stayed in the game. During the speed round, he was assigned the nose-bender bull, the meanest brute. Anton’s heart raced as he secured the rope and spurred. He only received a Rice-a-Roni consolation prize, but left with a new motto: life is like a rodeo, the trick is to continue – keep trying – and make it to the bell.
Pirate’s Revenge by Jo Hawk
The sloop bucked and rolled, as her new commander navigated the cumulonimbus clouds thundering along the squall line. They sailed in pursuit of the notorious Nose Bender, the pirate who had slain their beloved captain and stole their hard-won booty.
The Heartbreak Kid, trained for pirate antics, seized the helm and dared to spin the wheel of fortune. He took command, shouted orders, and tamed the Bodacious Mermaid. His actions earned the crew’s respect. They knew they played a deadly game. Facing sudden death, vowing revenge, they swore to fight in the bonus round, until the losing horns sounded.
Swashbucklers by Michael B. Fishman
I held the thin branch in front of his face. “Time to walk the plank, Nose Bender.”
“The Bodacious is my ship, Kid. I’ll decide who walks the plank.” I admired his swagger, even if he did have a stupid nickname.
I leaped onto the seesaw and waved my ‘sword’. “No one tells Heartbreak Kid what to do.” I said.
He laughed. “C’mon down, Kid. You’re the next contestant on Walk that Plank!”
Backing away I said, “Come get me, Bender!”
“Hey, I’m hungry.”
“Yeah, me too. Hey mom,” I yelled. “Can me and Phil come in and eat?”
Space Pirates From Space by Nobbinmaug
The universe’s most popular game show, Guess Who Farted, was holding its championships on Epatrus.
Captain Mauve Oyster entered two of his space pirates, Bodacious and Heartbreak Kid. Flower Blossom McLotus, their resident computer hacker, inserted the pair into the Nose Bender Finals against the reigning champion, Lawd Fawtsalot.
The pirates did their best to sabotage Mr. Fawtsalot but were no match for his snout. Meanwhile, Flower Blossom McLotus siphoned the digital starbucks from the show to a dummy account on LLacor.
“Cyber pirating is the only way to pirate,” Flower Blossom McLotus said to his robot companion, RDRR.
Woke the Plank by Bill Engleson
Ahoy, Mateys! I’m your host, Bodacious Bob Beak. Welcome aboard the gamey ship, Woke the Plank, where your swampy sense of smelly turkeys, tyrants and presidential pirates will go on a nose bender meltdown and your eyes will binge-twinge at the corruption.
So, Norm, who are our Whistleblowers tonight?
Well, Bob, buck boarding in from Wyoming is the Heartbreak Kid, a lad of eighty who’s going to blow the lid off the faux cattle racket.
And representing millennials, Ms. Calamity Tyke, toodling in on her electric bike and taking aim at aging Game Show hosts who refuse to retire.
Untitled by Chris Hewitt
The doctors had called him a miracle. He’d confounded their every expectation, firstly by surviving the night and ultimately by awaking from the coma. Bedridden, he’d buried himself in his books, discovering a lifelong passion for mathematics.
He had a gift. The youngest recipient of the prestigious Fields Medal before his tenure of the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics. He never did walk again, but he’d leave giant footprints.
His final discovery and his greatest leap would lead him back to a familiar stairwell and a terrible choice. His first and final sacrifice, the discovery that there were no accidents.
The Story In The Mirror by Nobbinmaug
Annie awoke hours later, bruised, beaten, bleeding, raped.
She stumbled to her car and drove home in a daze. Hospital? No. Sleep. She just wanted to sleep.
In the morning, Annie could hardly get out of… Couch? She passed out on the couch? What happened? The mirror told her a story that seemed unreal, a story that only happened to other people.
Hospital? Yes. Shower? No. Rape kit. Is it too late? Maybe. Maybe not.
Annie sat in a room, shaking. It seemed like forever. The doctor finally arrived, and Annie stared up into the face of her rapist.
Untitled by Nidheesh Samant
All he had ever known since he first held a sword was the sand and the blood shed on it.
The crowd roared his name as he entered the arena. After years of fighting, the day had finally come when freedom was within his grasp. His fiftieth victory as champion would earn him liberty from slavery, the highest honor a gladiator could hope for. The fight was bitter as attested to by the wounds on his body. However, he seized victory and clinched independence.
He would continue fighting on these sands. Not as slave, but as a free man.
Defying Omens by Jo Hawk
Captain Graclynn Silver took the helm, barking orders for the crew to set sail. Doubt’s icy tendrils wheedled into her brain, clutching at her heart as the foghorn blew. Filmy sheets glazed the water’s surface, fusing with the sky to create a veil of uncertainty that did not bode well for their journey.
“Omens be dammed,” she shouted as she sought her bearings, and the ship crunched forward in search of open seas.
She tacked to starboard, advancing slowly, allowing history to drown in their dissipating wake. The fog lifted. Freed from fear, the sun promised smooth sailing ahead.
The Last Scene by Michael B. Fishman
They met in 1971 and were married six months later. He was 21, she was 20.
“My love,” he said at the wedding. “You turn storms into rainbows, you make gray skies blue.” Angie smiled when she said, “I do” and everyone whispered that they were a once upon a time couple. Five years and three children later had proven everyone correct.
Another five years and Gary sits next to his lawyer at an 18-foot cherry wood table. Looking at Angie he wonders when her smiles turned into tears and how ‘happily ever after’ became who gets the house.
Ellie’s End by Chelsea Owens
Ellie prided herself on her independence. Nothing, no one could affect her -certainly not internet whispers or radio station warnings.
She left for work with her earbuds in. She returned to her lonely apartment in the same way. She never listened to the wind, the silenced birds, nor the ever-increasing beeping of impending doom.
In fact, one might say that Ellie was the least prepared for the aliens when they came. No matter -hers was a quick and painless death, immediately decomposing in the stomach of Earth’s attackers. It was those silly survivalists who dragged out humanity’s inevitable demise.
Abandoned by Hugh W. Roberts
Having found herself abandoned by her parents; Annabelle tried to settle down for the night. This was the first time she’d be alone, and the world out there was dark, damp and smelly.
Squeezing into the smallest corner, she could find; Annabelle began to sob. Why had her parents decided now was the time to leave her? She was far too vulnerable to be left alone.
It was a bright light that woke her. Screaming, she was covered in a minty mouthwash that killed her instantly.
Being a germ in the mouth of a human was fraught with danger.
Untitled by Michael Guy Rua
The sight of the lake gives him solace. He learned to shoot a gun here. Hunting mallards with father on Sundays.
He sits in his car, holding an envelope in one hand and a .22 caliber pistol in the other. His breath fogging up the windshield. His heart pulsating through his chest.
He sets the pistol on the passenger seat. His hands quiver opening the letter.
Fixating on the pistol, he grasps his phone. Tears trickling down his cheeks.
“Hey Pumpkin. Test results came back negative. Zero trace of the virus. Leaving work now.”
The lake takes the pistol.
The Game by Colleen M. Chesebro
We’d been friends since grade school, which made getting through Janice’s funeral all the harder. The overpowering scent of roses choked the air out of the room.
Returning home was no easier. On the table in the dining room sat our Scrabble game still unfinished, a testament to Janice’s life. We’d played almost every night since 1972. How would I manage without my best friend’s companionship?
I sat down and stared at the game board. Our scores were tied, and Janice would have played next. Four tiles remained on the rack, spelling out her last word to me. Live.
Literary Immortality by Kerry E. B. Black
Benny stroked his wife’s brow. She hugged a teddy bear he’d given her when they were children. Benny knew even as a kindergartener he’d love her always.
They’d been married five years before the sickness.
“I’m dying.” She nestled closer.
He kissed her sunken cheek. “Not really.”
When she passed, his emotions bled into words.
Benny wrote a stirring obituary and composed poetry in her honor. He poured adoration into books in which she was the hero, a beloved literary legend.
As Benny faced his mortality, a biographer asked his inspiration. Benny hugged a teddy bear to his chest.
Untitled by Saifun Hassam
99-word first draft: On Market Day the bustling port city of St. Laurant was overflowing with fresh seafood and farm produce. In the surrounding green rolling hills, farming communities grew some of the best black beans, chickpeas, olives and walnuts in the area.
Elena thought of the family farm. Every Saturday for their “patio picnic lunch.” her mother prepared a delectable layered salad of black beans, jalapenos, olives and sour cream served with lamb stew and rice cakes.
The farm was gone. Elena, a photojournalist, was on a journey to the historic harbors several miles down the coast south of St Laurent.
59-word reduction of first draft: The St. Laurant Market was overflowing with fresh seafood and farm produce. From the green rolling hills, farmers brought their best black beans, olives and walnuts. Elena remembered her mother’s delectable layered salad of black beans, jalapenos and olives served with shrimp stew and saffron rice cakes.
A photojournalist, Elena was on a journey to the Isidore Channel Islands.
9-word reduction of first draft: Ancient stone portage trails were buried in bean fields.
99-word revision of first draft: Ancient Bean Fields
Elena was fascinated by the historic Isidore Channel Islands. Abandoned harbors and farmhouses, old recipes, resounded with echoes of seafarers bringing fruits, nuts and beans that grew well in the Islands.
Farmers brought beans, olives and walnuts to the St. Laurant Market. Elena remembered her mother’s delectable salad of black beans and jalapenos served with shrimp stew and saffron rice cakes.
From Dorian Harbor she followed a stony trail uphill past rye and bean fields. There were many island songs and folk tales about pirates, the most notorious being Simeon. Was the abandoned farmhouse once a hideout of Simeon?
Bean There, Done That by Goldie
99-word first draft: “Tonight’s guest is the winner of this year’s Sharp Knife Award – Julian Knight.”
“Thank you for having me.”
“I’ve eaten at your restaurant before and have to admit that everything I tried was absolutely delicious.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Everything is freshly made in-house.”
“Although, there was one item on the menu that I felt didn’t belong with all the other fancy foods.”
“From Rugs to Riches Beans.”
“Ah, yes. It’s a nod towards my childhood. We couldn’t afford fancy. I want everyone to be able to afford a meal at my restaurant. All are welcome.”
59-word reduction of first draft: “Your restaurant won this year’s Sharp Knife Award. How do you feel?”
“I’ve dreamt about it since I was a kid.”
“Did your mom cook?”
“Whenever she wasn’t working, trying to make ends meet… Beans were a staple food.”
“Is that where “From Rags to Riches Beans” came from?”
“Yes. It’s affordable. I don’t want anyone to go hungry.”
9-word reduction of first draft: From Rags to Riches Beans, never forget your roots.
99-word revision of first draft: “Julian Knight won this year’s Sharp Knife Award with his new restaurant, and so I had to see for myself if his food was any good. For an appetizer, I ordered octopus, for dinner lobster and for dessert – creme brulee. Everything was perfectly cooked. It was delicious. The owner of the restaurant came to check up on me and so I took the opportunity to ask him about a menu item that didn’t quite fit with the rest.
“I wanted to pay homage to my childhood with “From Rags to Riches Beans”. Everyone should be able to afford food.””
Untitled by Tracey Robinson
99-word first draft: A silvery steady rain fell from a cold gray sky. No hint of sun or heat penetrated the cloud cover.
But the blue and white kitchen sang with warmth. Beans bubbled in a rich brown molasses sauce in the bright red Dutch oven. Golden yellow cornbread with a crispy tan edge added to the good scents perfuming the kitchen. On the counter a pale yellow lemon pie patiently awaited it’s meringue topping.
Pine logs crackled in the fireplace sending orange showers of sparks up the chimney.
No hint of the dark and cold penetrated the heart of the home.
59-word reduction of first draft: Cold rain called for comfort food. Something slow cooked in the oven, warming the kitchen all day. Beans in the red lodge pot bubbly with molasses and brown sugar. Cornbread to serve with the beans and lemon pie for dessert. Board games in front of the fire after dinner, everyone huddled together. We would create our own warm sunshine.
9-word reduction of first draft: A red pot of oven-baked beans warmed the day.
99-word revision of first draft: The forecast called for days of cold rain. “Climate change,” I thought glumly looking out at the gray, sullen sky. Rain dripped down the windows obscuring my view. I flipped through cookbooks looking for warming comfort food. Something we hadn’t had in awhile, something different. Ah, beans, the kind cooked all day, but in the oven in the red Lodge pot, not the crockpot. Brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, check. Cornbread with honey butter and lemon pie for dessert. Board games after dinner in front of the fire. Scrabble for sure, and maybe Monopoly? The day felt warmer already.
Untitled by Michael B. Fishman
99-word first draft: “Things were a lot different when I was your age, son.”
I close my eyes and take a breath, preparing for the story I’ve heard dozens of times. “Yeah, grandpa?”
“We worked hard back then. We didn’t waste anything.”
“The Depression. It made us tough.”
He looked at something beyond me. “Your grandma, she was a strong one. With no work and no money there were plenty of times when all we ate in a day were beans, but that woman never complained. Not once. I miss her, son.”
I looked away. “I miss her too, grandpa.”
59-word reduction of first draft: My grandfather stirred. “It was different then. The Depression made us different.”
“Made us appreciate what we had for one thing. Made us recognize the value in something like a simple can of beans.”
Brushing away a tear he said, “Your grandmother; a strong woman. None of us would be here if not for her.”
9-word reduction of first draft: Waste not, want not. My grandpa: one smart bean.
99-word revision of first draft: Old Stories
“It was different then, son.”
He repeats his stories often now. I’ve heard them all, but I lean forward, eager to listen again. “How’s that, grandpa?”
He stares. “We had nothing. Worked—”
A long pause.
“The Depression,” I prompted.
His eyes glaze over. “Your grandmother, such a strong woman. No steady work, no money; plenty of times when all we ate, the three of us, were beans, but she never complained. You remember?”
I blinked hard and nodded.
“I sure do miss her,” he said.
I watched a fat tear roll down his cheek. “I do too, grandpa.”
Untitled by Sascha Darlington
99-word first draft: Aunt Lou holds a puy lentil between thumb and index finger. “A perfect protein. Not an animal hurt, low fat. What’s not to love?”
“We add cumin, tahini, tomatoes, garlic. Voila! Flavorful and kind.”
Her hands swiftly conjure the meal. The taste blossoms on my tongue.
Observing my satisfaction, she smiles. “All in the ingredients. Fresh vegetables, herbs, spices mesh. This is love. With beans we don’t need to eat animals.”
I know my parents, especially Dad, would disagree; I, however, am open-minded.
“Tomorrow: lard-less refried beans.”
Dad halts tomorrow: “A lunatic. Vegan. What the hell?”
My light fades.
59-word reduction of first draft: Aunt Lou treasures a lentil. “A perfect protein. What’s not to love?”
“Cumin, tahini, tomatoes, garlic.”
Her hands conjure the meal. Flavor bespells my tongue.
“All in the ingredients. Local vegetables, herbs, spices mesh. Beans are a vegan’s blessing.”
Dad would disagree, but I don’t.
“Tomorrow: lard-less refried beans.”
“You can’t go,” Dad says. “Crazy hippy.”
His words scar.
9-word reduction of first draft: “I’m giving her alternatives.”
“Vegan? Lentils? My dead body.”
99-word revision of first draft: Aunt Lou treasures a lentil. “A perfect protein. Tiny legume of love.”
“We add cumin, tahini, tomatoes, garlic. Voila! Flavorful yet kind.”
Her hands swiftly conjure the meal. Thirty minutes later, flavor bespells my tongue.
Seeing my delight, she grins. “All in the ingredients. Local vegetables, herbs, spices mesh. This is love. Beans give us so many blessings.”
Dad vehemently disagrees with his sister, but I’m open-minded. In fact, I’m enthralled. She’s my idol, my hero.
“Tomorrow: lard-less refried beans.”
“You can’t go,” Dad says.
“She’s a crazy hippy who’ll scar you.”
Instead, his words scar me.
Jacob’s Cattle by H.R.R. Gorman
99-word first draft: Pink tips.
Sweaty summer mornings of planting, weeding, and harvesting heirloom bean varieties makes afternoons of stringing the green beans and shelling the soups.
“Do you want to eat this winter?” mother asked me. “Shell faster.”
I don’t like the soup beans like Jacob’s cattle. I dread the vomit-inducing winter stews laced with pintos. Starving is worse, but can’t I just string pink tips and eat the hull? Dry them into leather britches, boil them with potatoes?
Dry them into leather britches, plant them as seed, and re-start the summer cycle next spring?
59-word reduction of first draft: Summer days start with sweaty field work and end with shelling and stringing beans.
“Shell faster if you want to eat this winter,” Mother orders.
Foul soup beans. Jacob’s cattle beat starving, but can’t I just string green beans and eat the hull? Can’t I dry pink tips into seed and enhance my desire to obey next summer’s threats?
9-word reduction of first draft: “Shell beans now or starve this winter,” Mother threatened.
99-word revision of first draft: I sweat in the bean fields then prepare the crop for canning and seed. I enjoy the heirloom pink tips and their soft hull, but I shell Jacob’s cattle beans today.
“Shell faster. You want to eat this winter, don’t you?” Mother threatens.
Soup beans beat starving, but why couldn’t they let me dry delicious pink tips into leathery seed and grow more next year?
I hush and shell the Jacob’s cattle beans. Hunger now isn’t as bad as winter starvation and beatings for shirking chores. I’ll have to sweat next summer anyway or somehow stop the seasonal cycles.
A Tale of Two Sisters (BOTS) by Nancy Brady
99-word first draft: Carrie and Julia were sisters, but they differed in many ways, one of which was food likes/dislikes. This was true in regards to vegetables. Carrie especially liked green beans and peas from the garden, but also Lima beans. She even preferred wearing “bean” panties, made from a pebbly cotton fabric.
Julia, however, was a picky eater. Julia survived on drinking glasses of milk and only eating meat. Casseroles like pot pie were barely tolerated; only the chunks of beef were eaten, never the peas or beans. Even her underwear was different than Carrie’s. Smooth, satiny cotton covered her bottom.
59-word reduction of first draft: Carrie and Julia were sisters, but they were different. Their food choices were some of them. Carrie liked fresh green beans and peas, which she also called beans.
Julia, a picky eater, preferred milk and meat, but avoided most vegetables.
Their underwear also reflected their differences. Julia’s were silky cotton; Carrie’s were pebbly cotton, which she called “bean” panties.
9-word reduction of first draft: Two sisters had different ideas about food and underwear.
99-word revision of first draft: Carrie and Julia were sisters, but they were not alike in their tastes when it came to food.
Julia was a picky eater; she didn’t even like the foods on her plate to touch. She didn’t like vegetables, but loved milk.
Carrie, on the other hand, was more adventurous in her eating habits. She liked vegetables especially beans. Green beans and peas were grown in their garden. To Carrie, peas were beans.
Not only that, but her underwear preference was made of a pebbly cotton that, to her, looked like beans, which is why she called them “bean panties.”
Untitled by Chris Hewitt
99-word first draft: He was a bean counter. Not some pedantic accountant, an actual counter of beans. His party piece was to grab a handful of dried beans, announce the total, then count them out for all to see. He was never wrong. It was a gift. He was unbeaten until the harvest fair when a pretender to the title stepped up. Round after round they counted, neck and neck. Neither had missed a bean. Neither would give up. After two weeks they’d counted the towns entire pinto bean harvest, without a mistake. A draw was announced until next year years harvest.
59-word reduction of first draft: The state fair had become hugely popular and its highlight had become the pinto bean count. The challenge was simple – guess the number of beans in the jar and win the cash prize. For fifty years the prize remained unclaimed, until the pot was a million dollars and the crowds threatened to close the fair down with their numbers.
9-word reduction of first draft: Count the beans in the jar, win the prize.
99-word revision of first draft: Their rivalry had become legend, a tall tale of caution told to kids. For forty years the two neighbouring farmers attended the county fair, its highlight, the annual bean count. Each year, a new jar of beans was offered up. Each year only the two rivals guessed correctly.
They could have shared the prize, but for the bad blood between them. Instead, year after year, the prize pot grew, as did their bitterness. Ultimately, it would come to a bloody end one hot summer.
A young girl won the prize pot that year. Their forty year hatred her delight.
Untitled by Sherri Matthews
99-word first draft: I can see the advert now, the kid home from school with a plate of beans on toast in front of him, the slogan: ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ splashed across the TV. Baked Beans. Staple for any kid growing up in 1970s England and a good memory replacing the bad. Each day at school, I had to write a couple of paragraphs of ‘Morning News’ in my exercise book. Mum kept it and years later, we laughed our heads off reading it. Always, ‘we had beans on toast for tea, they were delicious.’ You’d think that’s all we ever ate.
59-word reduction of first draft: The TV advert sticks in my mind even now: ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’. Good old beans on toast, a staple for my tea growing up. You’d think that’s all I ate reading my old ‘Morning News’ from primary school years later. And always described as ‘delicious’. But not all my morning news was funny. Out of the mouths of babes…
9-word reduction of first draft: I learnt young how not to spill the beans.
99-word revision of first draft: My mother kept my primary school book, ‘Morning News’. Every daily entry ended: ‘We had beans on toast for tea, they were delicious.’ Reading years later, we laughed our heads off. You’d think that’s all we ever ate. One page was different. I’d drawn a stick figure of a man by a toilet and written, ‘Daddy tells rude jokes and drinks too much and gets sick.’ But he wasn’t my daddy except for appearances. My real daddy didn’t rub my leg and leer. I wonder even now why I wrote that. And I wonder why my teacher said nothing.
For the Love of Beans by Norah Colvin
99-word first draft: Fred Green loved beans more than anything. His garden was his heaven. He just needed someone to share it with.
So, he advertised for a wife; “Must love beans” his only requirement.
Harriet Primrose, who thought her chances were done, applied and won. “What’s a few beans?” she thought.
Initially, she accommodated his ways—earplugs and room deodoriser buffered the worst. But when he called her Haricot, she snapped and did a runner.
Finding him skewered on a beanpole, the villagers weren’t surprised. “She’d buttered him up. He was stringing her along. It could only end in a bean stew.”
59-word reduction of first draft: Fred Green loved beans but was lonely and wanted a wife. Harriet Primrose agreed. At first, Harriet suffered his toots—earplugs and room deodoriser helped. But when he called her Haricot, she snapped. Before doing a runner, she skewered him on a beanpole in his garden. The villagers weren’t surprised—they always knew it could only end in a bean stew.
9-word reduction of first draft: Bean farmer’s wife fed up with his tooting ways.
99-word revision of first draft: For the Love of Beans
Reading the advertisement, Harriet Primrose couldn’t believe her luck. “Must love beans” was all it specified. “Can’t be difficult,” she thought.
And it wasn’t. At first. She loved preparing his beans—anyway he liked: fried, baked, boiled, even double-fried. She quickly discovered the benefits of nose and earplugs but, when the novelty waned, she couldn’t abide what he found hilarious.
One day when he called her haricot, she snapped. “I’m tired of your godawful beans, your godawful toots, and godawful you. I’m outta here.” She flummoxed him with a humungous fart and disappeared in a cloud of rotten bean gas.