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I Got Life

Nina Simone understood what it was to lack, but she crooned about having life. What we have lost can often define what we yet have — life. The world spins, seasons change, and generations pass on the baton.

Writers explored life and what it means to have it. Some stories offered insight, others humor, or unexpected twists. This collection has life!

The following stories are based on the June 25, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story with the phrase, “I got life.”

(10-minute read)

I Got Life by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Pre-COVID, we met, early Saturdays, in the Midtown Market. Few stirred: lady mall cop, staff from the attached hospital, lone coffee shop doing brisk business, shops from around the world setting up. We were inspired by Heaven’s scents.

One restaurant owner allowed us space for a free-will donation; he’s a poet and painter himself. In another, possible future, we’ll enjoy his hospitality again. For now, we Zoom.

“Time?”

“Three minutes!”

“OK…prompt is ‘I got life.’”

Puzzled looks.

Anguish.

Biting pens, we gaze to a corner in our separate boxes. Pens touch paper. We begin to scribble.

We got this.

🥕🥕🥕

Result by Joanne Fisher

The scout ship jumped into a new system. Almost immediately the pilots launched probes to the nearest planetary body.

“Results should be coming up now.” said one of the pilots looking at the display in front of them.

“So far nothing.” the other pilot commented as she examined the results. As always, nothing promising… Suddenly there was an alarm and the screen went red. “Hey, I got life!”

They both looked through the window. There in the distance, just coming into view, was a small blue green moon orbiting the larger planet.

They now had somewhere to go to.

🥕🥕🥕

Planet Earth Is Blue by D. Avery

At first, before they sedated and intubated me, my eyes were open. They looked like spacemen.

Can you hear me Major Tom? They don’t know I can hear them. I can.

Though I’m past/100,000 miles/I’m feeling very still. I can’t move. I can’t speak. But I can hear them. They are worried about me. They are worried about themselves. They are scared.

Tell my wife I love her very much/ She knows.

They talk about how pointless it is, say I’m going down. I hear them. Can you hear me Major Tom?

‘Yes,’ I silently scream, ‘I got life.’

🥕🥕🥕

No Lazarus Me by Anne Goodwin

Nine weeks, they told me. Could’ve been nine years. Suspended in a solitary space capsule. Crashing violently to earth.

Resurrection bewildered me. Scarred throat sore from the breathing tube. Limbs learning gravity anew. Homegoing a second culture shock. Staff in scrubs a guard of honour down the exit corridor. Wheelchair-bound, I cringed at their applause.

I couldn’t scale the cliffs to seize the media moniker. I didn’t want to be a heroine. Lazarus. I wanted to be me.

Then sobbing in his arms, I got it. Comeback wasn’t me alone, it was everyone. I got life. We all did.

🥕🥕🥕

Now I’m Living by Susan Sleggs

I was a single military man
A lady here and there
Living the life
I thought of you
Even on the day I met the bomb
I lost my driver
I lost my legs
What’s the point in living
You wouldn’t want me
I met a fierce lady
She taught me to walk
I called her Clarice
She wasn’t you
I went back home
And by God, you did too
Twenty five years later
We’re together again
Today we held baby Emma
Her parents are moving to be near
Now I know why I have life
Four generations’ll do

🥕🥕🥕

Life Sentence by Jeff Gard

Closing his eyes, Marcel imagines there ain’t cinder blocks squeezing the bunk bed, creating a corridor so narrow he can’t walk in his cell without turning sideways first. He dreams of sky, sun, fresh air.

He can’t pretend the bed don’t shake when his roommate coughs and wheezes. He can’t ignore the face mask. When he inhales, it flutters against whiskered cheeks, contaminated air fogging his glasses.

“I got four more months,” his roommate repeats. “What you got?”

Marcel wants to disappear into the threadbare blanket around his shoulders. He’s sweating, but he can’t get warm.

“I got life.”

🥕🥕🥕

Private Percussion by Kerry E.B. Black

I’m a dancer hobbled by regulation. Still, I hum along to the private percussion my heart.

Momma secured an advantageous match for me, one with all the trappings of “making it.” So I try to live up to bejeweled expectations. However, I tumble from atop my stilettos, disused to the thinner, refined air.

I pull within a designer veneer until I’ve buried my old, rebellious self, but it’s like hiding muck-covered boots beneath my mother-in-law’s tea table. I notice guests wrinkle their perfect noses and feign ignorance.

And in private, I still tap out the percussion of my heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Full Sentences by Geoff Le Pard

‘Morgan! Morgan! Are you alright?

‘Wha…? Bloody hell, that was weird.’

‘You were screaming something.’

‘I think it was eating those cheese straws last thing. We had a huge fight.’

‘What about?’

‘What we should wear when we get to the Ranch.’

‘Seriously?’

‘Oh yes. I said jeans. You said a pin-striped suit and spats.’

‘Jeans?’

‘We fought. You died.’

‘Blimey.’

‘I was found guilty of murder, you of a crime of fashion.’

‘What was the sentence?.’

‘Since you’d got death, I got life.’

‘They threw away the key?’

‘They said I’d suffered enough and let me go.’

🥕🥕🥕

He Who Hesitates... by joem18b

I was on vacation in Virginia City when I stopped into an antique store to browse. In the back I found a stack of New Yorker magazines from the Thirties. I opened one at random and found a movie review of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Huh. Interesting. Put the magazine down.

Thought about it that evening. Returned the next day and headed for the back of the store. The stack of New Yorkers was gone.

Up front, I asked a handsome young fellow where the New Yorkers were kept.

“Sold the lot yesterday,” he said, “but I got Life.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hairy Thoughts by Bill Engleson

Simone!

Singing that song!

Hippie joy gone deep.

Soulful!

Hadn’t thought about this in years.

I took a bus to Seattle, late spring, 1970. June, maybe! I’d been bunking in with a friend, providing a shred of male influence to her house guests, first nations borders, teens, from isolated communities up the coast, on the island.

Its pretty much a blur. I was in such an in-between world, a lonely space, sleepwalking, trying to readapt.

So, off I went south to Hair, a local production playing at the Moore theater.

On my return to Vancouver, I got life back.

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life by FloridaBorne

Once an eager student, the gangly girl finished her paper far later than the rest, eyes downcast.

“Your title is, I got life?” Mrs. Jones asked. “You have an IQ of 134.”

“My brother hits me if I talk like you.”

“We have two languages in the same country! The first is for people who want to have a good job, the second is for those who want to blame others for their failed lives.”

“I don’t know what to do?”

“What if I tutored you after school and called it detention?”

Sheena brightened, “I’d like that a lot!”

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life! by Eliza Mimski

Miriam had grown up during the time when shaming fat girls was okay. She was heavyset in the middle and by the time she reached fifth grade she wore a C cup bra. Even though she loved to dance, loved sports, she quit because of the comments on the sidelines. But now, in her twenties, times had changed. Fat girls flaunted their bodies in yoga pants and form fitting tops. Miriam’s breasts, her large stomach jiggled up and down when she danced in nightclubs. “I got it! I got life!” she yelled as she kept time to the music.

🥕🥕🥕

Private Percussion by Kerry E.B. Black

I’m a dancer hobbled by regulation. Still, I hum along to the private percussion my heart.

Momma secured an advantageous match for me, one with all the trappings of “making it.” So I try to live up to bejeweled expectations. However, I tumble from atop my stilettos, disused to the thinner, refined air.

I pull within a designer veneer until I’ve buried my old, rebellious self, but it’s like hiding muck-covered boots beneath my mother-in-law’s tea table. I notice guests wrinkle their perfect noses and feign ignorance.

And in private, I still tap out the percussion of my heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Parting Gift by Simon Prathap D

Hey! Mr.Clown, Why you look sad?

I got this bag from a kid, that cried on my whole show, she lost her bag, it has cancer reports. she is just 17.

She will live.

No she won’t, My mom didn’t .

Let’s pray for her.

No, I got this life, with purpose, she never smiled today. I’ll never let her die without smiling.

That is not going to save her.

I am not going to save her, I will give her most happiest days of her life. No one deserves to die in pain. It’s my parting gift for her.

🥕🥕🥕

“I’ll Chase My Dreams! Find New Dreams!” by Saifun Hassam

Crystal clear mountain streams raced down ravines and clefts into the valley creeks. Water wheels turned furiously channeling water onto farms as they always did in springtime.

But this spring there were no farmers. Earthquakes had ripped through the coastal lands. The shores tumbled into the pounding thunderous seas. People fled. People died.

One lone figure stood near the broken ancient temple on the crest of a hill. His mind’s eye saw blue butterfly kites. He remembered children singing.

“I got life, got dreams! I’ll fly into the skies!
I got life! I’ll chase my dreams! Find new dreams!”

🥕🥕🥕

Let’s Do It by Donna Matthews

The little boy lying on his side pushed the car back and forth, whining, “I’m bored!” Rain on the windows and a virus lurking outside, the indoor day spread out before us like a neverending road to nowhere.

Play a game? No
Build a fort? No
Paint a picture? No

In defense, we’ve done these things. Life before the pandemic, a day stuck at home a delicious treat. Now, it’s more of the same with no end in sight.

He looks up at me, eyes pleading, “I got life to live!”

“Outside? Play in puddles?”

“Really?!”

“Let’s do it!”

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life by Robert Kirkendall

Father ran out of the closet holding a board game. “Hey, look what I got. Life!”

“Another old people’s game?” son moped.

“Yeah, those those things are so passé,” daughter dismissed.

“It’s a classic!” father insisted.

“The kids these days just aren’t into board games,” mother said.

“But they’re so much fun!” father pleaded.

“We’ve already played a ton of board games because of this sucky quarantine!” son complained.

“We’re bored of board games,” daughter said.

“Then how about more stories of my high school glory days,” father said dreamily, “back when I…”

“Please! No more! We’ll play Life.”

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life by Irene Waters

At sixty
the doctor said,
“Prepare to die.”
Not ready for death
she followed orders
special diet,
multiple pills ingested.

At seventy
the doctor said,
” Carry on.
Increase these pills
breathlessness will be gone.”

All good,
she thought
I got pills.
I got life.

At eighty
the doctor said,
“Things are worse.
Let’s experiment
for a longer life.”

Medication
replaced religion
giving life.

At ninety
“I don’t want to live.
Please Help me die.”
Stopping tablets
Not easily done
when the habit of living
is so strong,
pills taken.

No good,
she thought
I still got life.

🥕🥕🥕

Thank you, I Get It by Annette Rochelle Aben

When I think of all I’ve been through in sixty-three years on this little blue planet, I am in awe. The sad experiences that seemed they would tear my heart out. The happy times I enjoyed so much, they drained me of my energy. But I am not about to complain!

It has all made me the person I am today. Even though when you take a look at me, I may appear to be a bit worse for the wear, I am still here. No worries. And though there’s so much more to learn, halleluiah, I got life!

🥕🥕🥕

gone green and rainbow by JulesPaige

Used to up and left the building. Used to get a box full of mail, mostly junk. Nowadays days go by and nuthin’ honey. No cereal samples, no magazine subscriptions. Less stuff to toss. And because I don’t answer junk calls – I get less of them too.

I got life! My raised garden is growing, I completed a project, and I’m going out to eat tonight!

a tumble in time
chores, favors, fill the gas tank
sun shifts the shadows

six digit number on cell
out of country, hit delete

two hours til dinner
actually inside an
eatery…with friends

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life by Pete Fanning

For weeks the crowds had swelled in numbers, a collective resistance simmering into rage as they marched the town. They were loud, boisterous, lighting fires and smashing windows, drunk on pilfered spirits as they arrived at officials’ quarters.

These final acts had pushed them too far. Treated as second class citizens, the wealthy had the nerve to say they lived too well. And now, led by Samuel Adams, the mob ransacked the Lieutenant Governor’s mansion, destroyed his possessions and looted the house of furnishings.

In the flames, a resistance was born. And soon, a new country would have life.

🥕🥕🥕

They Can’t Take It All by John Lane

The company can fire me because I argued to the supervisor that I felt running the bandsaw was unsafe. The mortgage company can claim a default on my mortgage because I don’t have a job to pay my bills. The bankruptcy court can take my home because I don’t qualify to have a plan. The bank can take my car for repossession because I don’t have the money to pay my loan. Landlords can refuse to rent to me. All these people can take everything from me, but one thing they can’t take. My spirit. Because I got life.

🥕🥕🥕

After the Boomtown by Charli Mills

Saxophone notes squeaked across the empty hard-packed street. Sophie swung her hips to the tempo, stirring a pot of slow-elk stew over a campfire. “What I’d give for carrots,” she told Hal.

He paused his playing. “You got seeds Miss Sophie. Plant a garden.”

“A garden means I have to stay in this god-forsaken ghost town.” She missed Italy. She missed rain.

Hal played lower, softer until Sophie dished them up bowls. “Won’t always be deserted,” he said when she handed him dinner.

“Got no customers. Got no gold. Got no carrots. Got no husband. But I got life.”

🥕🥕🥕

Got My Fingers, Got My Pal, Got My Hunger, Ain’t Got No Bacon…by D. Avery

“I’m hungry Pal. What’ve we got fer breakfast?”

“Outta bacon. Hens ain’t been layin’.”

“Dang, sure coulda gone fer some eggs an’ bacon. Mebbe you’d make me a smoothie?”

“Couldn’t even if we had the fixin’s. Yer fergittin’ yer blender blunder.”

“They was jist twigs.”

“Yeah, well, now ya know where birch beer don’t come from. S’prised ya still got yer fingers after thet. Shut thet fridge already, Kid. Starin’ an’ wishin’ ain’t gonna put food in it.”

“They’s a jug a milk. We got any cereal?”

“Thinkin’ we are a serial.”

“Aha! Here’s some cereal! I got Life!”

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Water

Before you take the plunge, take a deep breath. The calming presence of water runs deep — cooling, stilling emotions. There’s an element of exploration, too, a confrontation with the depths.

Writers sought deep waters for stories this week. Take the plunge with them.

The following is based on the June 11, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story deep waters.

PART I (10-minute read)

Lofty Undertaking by Jo Hawk

Skyscrapers defined the canyon walls of Anders’ world. Imposing shadows modulated light and dark and framed his existence. He marched predictable paths that left him stuck in mechanized monotony.

Searching for more, his friends convinced him to kayak a Norwegian fjord. Landmasses dwarfed anything he had ever seen. The guides told stories of massive sperm whales, sixty feet long and weighing eighty tons, they ate giant squid who swam four thousand feet below his kayak’s thin fiberglass shell.

Anders imagined he was the whale, diving deep, he hunted dark waters. He breached the surface, reborn, and ready to soar.

🥕🥕🥕

Still Waters by R. V. Mitchell

“Still waters run deep.” What an amazing metaphor. But out on the big pond, still waters are a godsend. “The Deep,” has her moments of calm, but Magellan got it wrong when he named the Pacific. This expanse of deep shows her temper far too often.

Well, that is what the still waters of Petty Officer Mike Sanchez’s mind were pondering as he checked the lifeline on his harness, and made his way from the gun deck of his destroyer. As he did, the vessel pitched headlong into a trough, and the bow disappeared into a next rising peak.

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing by Allison Maruska

My destination lies ahead; its glassy surface reflects the morning sky. I beat my massive wings, and in a minute, I’m there. Tucking them against my sides, I dive. Water envelopes my scales. I can’t feel it through my tough hide.

Beneath me, several trout dart away. My keen eyesight zeroes in, and I push into the deep waters. I capture two fish and lurch around, facing the surface. With a waving motion, I propel upward, launching from the lake. When I extend my wings, spray reaches the opposing shores.

This is so much better than a fishing rod.

🥕🥕🥕

Emerging by D. Avery

He and Hope followed the brook through the softwoods to his favorite fishing spot. But when Hope saw the clear deep pool she was no longer interested in catching trout. She became a trout, flashing sleek and slippery through the water.

Hope stood briefly, a little girl again. Then she knelt beneath the surface, remained curled up on the gravel bottom. He held his own breath until finally Hope unfolded, emerging at last from the cold water. Solemnly she disclosed that she’d been a rock for ten million years.

“There’s magic here, Daddy.”

“Yes, Hope. I see it too.”

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by Anca Pandrea
I have a pocketful of dreams. Heavy, they forgot how to breathe. I drag my feet through the afternoon light, dancing over the surface. Shadows reach out from the abyss, and ghosts are all shadow. I don’t look back, the shore I can’t call home anymore. I stumble. It’s hope that tugs at my feet, tiny and fleeting. The river runs slow and cold and blue. Do dark, almost black. Quiet and gentle and infinite. Not enough to drown the tears. I let go of my breath one last time. Between myself and I, only the deep waters.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by Anita Dawes

Forgotten by the people they had made
They came from a timeless place
Cold, hollow, brittle
I hoped they would not speak
For fear my bones would break
Already I am fading from this world
I heard a soft voice take my hand
You have fallen into a pit of despair
Let me pull you out…
I felt myself reaching for something
For something I could not see
The sea had swallowed me
Dashing my body against sharp rocks
Reaching my hand above the waves
Mind and body pulled together as one
I was no longer treading deep water…

🥕🥕🥕

Overlapping by D. Avery

She was eighty years my senior, I the youngest child of her youngest child’s oldest child. From the 20 years our lives overlapped I have only a handful of memories, recalled like sepia snapshots. But if I examine any one of those snapshot memories of us together, somewhere in the frame, in distinct shiny color, is her queen conch shell. Me trying to fathom the spindrift shell, she saying put it to your ear, smiling as ageless ocean washes over me in a rushing tide; us, swimming easily, floating in timeless deep waters that muffle all but that moment.

🥕🥕🥕

Still Waters Run Deep by Ritu Bhathal

We sat there, together, staring down into the water. Pops had allowed the boat to come to rest in the middle of the lake. Once the water settled, there was a stillness – just the gentle bobbing motion of our boat causing minuscule ripples along the surface.

“It’s deep, son. You gotta be careful. Going overboard here, goodness knows what you’d see, down below.”

Quiet contemplation from the both of us.

I looked at him. A serenity emanated from his form. He seemed at peace, but I knew what he’d been through in the past. Still waters run deep.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by Kathy70

I think I was 4 when it happened.  I was sitting in the metal tub that we used for our baths and the water was cold, more was heating on the kitchen stove.  An older brother came in, kettle in one hand, book in the other.  The water began pouring and I began screaming, it went right on my leg.  Mom came to my rescue, only time in my entire life as I recall.  She was a lost person with all us kids, never had a chance to be herself. Then the real abuse started as best I can recall.

🥕🥕🥕

Podunk by Paula Puolakka

Y’all so crazy like you just escaped from an insane asylum!
That’s what I thought when I read about the NASCAR Confederate flag ban.
I’m listening to “Backyard” by Kevin Costner & Modern West and flipping through the pictures from the trip to Charlotte’s NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Whose life is this? Whose heritage are we treasuring? There should be room for everyone, they say, but that’s a lie.

I put on Kid Rock’s “Po-Dunk” and think about the stereotypes associated with us. I’m gonna move to Finland and start a colony somewhere deep in the eastern swamplands. Hell!

🥕🥕🥕

Cargo by Anne Goodwin

The body to my right had stopped breathing but the left one still groaned. I tried to comfort him but my words were babble to his ears. Too late, the white man taught me skin speaks stronger than tribe.

When they unshackled us, I expected new neighbours, but they hauled me to my feet, strapped a carcass to my back and whipped me up the ladder to the deck. My head span, the boat swayed, sea spray slashed my wounds. Parched, skeletal, unmuscled, I summoned strength to save myself and toss my brothers to deep water. Complicit? Plotting revenge.

🥕🥕🥕

Still Waters by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Okay, you can uncover your eyes now.”

“Wow! That’s beautiful…and heartbreaking. Who made this mural?”

“Trevor made this one. And take a few steps around this corner. This is one by Teresa. Yeah…it makes me tremble, too.”

“Wait! Those quiet kids who never join in on anything?”

“Apparently they just don’t join in on the things we’ve been offering.”

“I had no idea.”

“Neither did I. It seems those still waters run deep.”

“So what do we do now?”

“We go back to school. Donate groceries. Attend drum circles and honor Juneteenth.”

“And never go back to normal?”

“Exactly.”

🥕🥕🥕

A New Tradition by John Lane

Many centuries ago, when the seventeen-feet deep Jordan River was clean and thriving, a man that wore camel’s hair was called by a higher authority.

After consumption of his diet of locusts and honey, John the Baptist waded in waist-deep to baptize in the name of his higher authority.

One day, his higher authority, also known as the Messiah, the straps of whose sandals he was not worthy to untie, showed up to be baptized. The Spirit of God descended like a dove.

And many centuries later, believers still carry out the tradition of baptism from John the Baptist.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by Hugh McGovern

“You can’t keep me here,” I said clutching the pillow in defiance.

“You are not ready to go home, yet,” she said. “Give it more time.”

“There is nothing wrong with me. You lot are insane not me.”

“No one said you are insane,” she said, coming to sit by the bed. “These things take time. What difference does a few weeks make?” She sat on the bed. “Do you still believe in global harmony?”

“I did. Now I don’t know.”

“Why not grow a beard?”

Drowning would be better!

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by FloridaBorne

“The human race reminds me of a fool walking along a precipice,” my father said. “He falls and lands on the only tree growing out of the cliff.”

I once asked mom, “Why does he have to be so negative all the time?”

“He’s dying,” she said. “Agent orange is taking him away from us.”

I’d remembered his words as we stood on the deck of our family’s boat to throw his ashes into the sea. Sunny days, a soft breeze, calm waters, and whiskey were his solace.

Fifty years after his death, I’d never visited the ocean again.

🥕🥕🥕

There’s Always the Eye of a Needle by JulesPaige

Sun under wood, shaded yard
Scavenger loop, just to see the ‘mettle’ of the earth
My endurance lacking in the humidity for the time and being

And never said a word (not boo), let the crow catch a few seeds…
Those blackbirds they are skittish ~
Like me shopping with a mask this morning, just wanting home…

But before that, I paused at the first yard sale of the season –
Reaching into the depths of my wallet for two dollars.
More buttons and spools ~

if the bobbin would
stop cutting its own thread I’d
sew me together

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Deep Waters by Joanne Fisher

“It’s surprising we never became lovers. You know I’ve always had feelings for you Emma?” Michelle asked me in the cafe.

“Yeah I guessed. I have feelings for you too,” I admitted.

We looked at one another in awkward silence. We both knew it could never be. We had our own lives that seldom intersected with each other. This was the first chance meeting in a long while.

“Well I had better go,” she said. I wistfully smiled at her, not wanting to explore this any further. These were deep waters neither of us wanted to get lost in.

🥕🥕🥕

Famous Classmates by Susan Sleggs

Michael and Tessa gazed at the Wall of Fame in their high school. Tessa asked, “Did you see Phillip Sheppard when he was on the TV show Survivor?”

“I did, and his pink underpants didn’t surprise my Aunt Sue a bit. She said he was the character in her class. I wonder how much ribbing his brother James took as the Rochester Police Chief at the time. He probably felt like he was wading in deep water.”

“And Bill T. Jones was her student instructor in choir. Who knew at the time these three African-American students would become famous.”

Author’s Note: I ate lunch with Bill T. Jones and other friends every day when I was in eighth grade at Wayland-Cohocton Central School. He is now a world-renowned modern dance teacher and Kennedy Center Honors recipient. James and Phillip Sheppard were a few years younger than me. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Phillip after his second appearance on Survivor. What a fun guy to hang out with. And no, we had no clue while in high school these classmates would become household names. (photos on my blog)

🥕🥕🥕

Still Waters Run Deep by Eliza Mimski

My mother always told me that still waters run deep, that an ordinary man with ordinary looks could smolder with passion. He could take you to places you’d never been before, hidden places wild with excitement.

Oh, how I used to watch these ordinary men. The grocery clerk behind the counter. The man waiting for the bus, reading his newspaper, his glasses down his nose. The humble old man collecting plastic bottles from the recycling bins.

Inside of these men were hidden talents. They ran deep. Once you’d been with one of them you’d never settle for anything less.

🥕🥕🥕

Electric Skin by Janet Guy

Hot bubbles swirled around Dominic. Strong jets of water targeted sore muscles above his shoulder blades, along his spine, the backs of his calves. Dom shifted against them, letting new muscles get pounded back to health. Wrinkled fingertips skimmed the top of the water. A bell rang. Dom heaved himself out of the jacuzzi. He trudged over to a small circle in the floor. Bright light illuminated its still waters. Dom braced himself. He plunged into the icy depths. Every nerve sparked with life. Rainbows danced across his eyelids. Dom pulled himself out of the chilly water and grinned.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by Dave Madden

Terry was cognizant of the deep waters, though he hadn’t yet been there.

Ten-minutes disappeared from the clock, and he labored to leave his stool for the final round. Across the cage, a maniacal grin appeared across the opponent’s face as he observed Terry’s struggle.

Coach urged Terry to circle the cage. Easy advice when you’re not wearing weights around your ankles.

The opponent flashed some combinations before diving in on Terry’s legs, hoisting him into the heavens, and smashing him to the canvas. Too tired to escape the pressure, Terry drowned in the center of the cage.

🥕🥕🥕

Under the Waves by Joanne Fisher

“What’s down there mummy?”

“That’s the deep. We never go down there child.”

“How come?”

“There are dangers in those deep waters. Not even the light from above can penetrate that darkness and the nameless horrors dwelling there. We swim nearer to the surface.”

“What’s up there?”

“That is the place where the water ends. We can survive for a while there, but it is here where we belong. Not like humans.”

“What are humans?”

“They have legs instead of tails. They cannot breathe down here, which is why it’s amusing to drag them under and watch them drown.”

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Deep Waters by Reena Saxena

The widow did not shed a tear, and the world was aghast.
They were such a happy-go-lucky couple.

She was labelled as stoic, determined not to display emotion in public, cold, manipulative and whatever they could think of.

Nobody knew she was breathing free for the first time.

Nobody knew the mental torture she had suffered for decades. Nobody knew that her parents did not stand by her when she needed help, and she had shut off the emotional tap.

You may be a coach, therapist or expert swimmer, but wading in deep waters of relationships is never easy.

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Never So Free by Donna Matthews

They planned this excursion for the past year, pouring over brochures, scouring the internet, and reading the reviews of each tour guide. But now, here at the edge of the tiny boat, she wasn’t sure she could go through with it. Her new husband winked and fell backward into the sea. Finally, she surrendered and fell in too. Her first few labored breaths threatened to overwhelm her, but as she settled in, she saw a school of fish off to the right. Kicking her fin, she cruised right into the middle, scattering class. Giggling, she never felt so free.

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Into Deep Waters by Charli Mills

What to place in my memory box? That last night out at the Fitz when the sun slanted across the western horizon dazzling like a copper-clad ruby while five-foot waves chomped the last of winter’s ice. March 13. We reached across the table, five friends sharing poutine and smoked brisket. We sang happy birthday. Later we dodged deer crossing the road back to Calumet, we stopped for a Bota Box of red wine. We found toilet paper, joking that Yoopers wouldn’t panic buy TP. Into deep waters, memories plunge. Most vivid — the last time I felt normal.

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A Memory of Long Lake by Bill Engleson

It was my toughest bike ride ever.

Up to then, anyways.

Ernie and I usually rode up to the Dam to swim.

Or walked two blocks to the Millstream.

Not this time.

“We can’t do it,” I whined. “Gotta be a hundred miles.”

“Nah. Ten.”

“Fifty.”

“Come on.”

Early July.

Hot.

Pumping away.

Dripping sweat.

Train tracks snuggling the old highway.

Wishing we were crows.

Got there by noon.

Dog-tired.

A dozen local kids swimming away.

“There’s really no bottom to it, Ernie?”

“Goes all the way to China, I hear.”

I believed every word then.

Kinda still do.

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Displacement by Jeff Gard

Nobody knows which raindrop transmuted our reservoir into a frothing bull that breached the levee, stampeding downriver, chased by debris. One moment, we marveled at the storm; the next, our recreational area transgressed its cage and reclaimed its territory: roads that scarred the landscape healed by a fresh, muddy skin, cloned McMansions gutted of their trophies, converted to bird houses.

On higher ground, we found sanctuary in the high school, now a bed and breakfast for a thousand refugees. While we waited on our cots, calmer voices gathered to assign blame with flashes of insight, booming words of consolation.

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Profoundly Shallow by Geoff Le Pard

‘Where are we?’

‘The Great Lakes, Morgan. Lake Erie.’

‘It sure is eerie. Too bloody quiet.’

‘Can’t we just enjoy its magnificence?’

‘It scares the willies out of me. It’s… so deep.’

‘Yes mysterious. Profound.’

‘It’s just a lot of the wet stuff that given half a chance will swallow me whole.’

‘It’s majestic. Unknowable. Imagine what memories it holds…. You know what they say about Still Waters?’

‘He’s the best Pokemon Go hunter ever?’

‘What?’

‘Stile Warters, German Guy. He caught more Pokemon last year. Shall we see if any are here?’

‘Sure. Why not try out there?’

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Terrified by Susan Zutautas

The waves that day were perfect for bodysurfing.

I headed into deeper water where the waves were forming so I could ride one back into shore. What I didn’t realize was that the undertow was quite strong and just as the wave was breaking, down under the water I went. The undertow literally dragged me across the bottom of the sea, my body feeling the gritty sand scratching and stinging my skin. I could feel the weight of the sand filling my suit. Finally surfacing disoriented, opening my eyes I saw I was at the shoreline, and stood up.

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Crossroads: Journeys by Saifun Hassam

Over millennia, the chasm became a long narrow lake, its deep waters aquamarine, and emerald under the sun. The lake glowed, a burnished golden sheen as the sun set. Craggy volcanic cliffs stood sharply, sentinels guarding the lake.

The stranger gazed reflectively at the lake. He was from an oasis that shriveled as snowpacks on distant mountains shrank. He left when his father died in calm and peace. His heart broke as he buried his father under a giant palm tree. What sustained those groves, he wondered.

The shimmering lake beckoned, lifting his deep grief, healing, renewing his spirit.

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Kiddhartha by D. Avery

“Feels like a long while since we jist ranched.”

“Yep, it’s good ta be out ridin’ the range, herdin’ hosses, gittin’ ‘em ta greener pastures. Whoa. There’s a river. Think we kin ford it?”

“We ain’t gotta buy it Kid, jist gtta git acrost it. Carefully.”

“Water looks still.”

“Still waters run deep. We’ll git the hosses down ta the river, let ‘em quench their thirst an’ rest up. ***
Dang, Kid. I led ‘em ta water but cain’t git these hosses ta drink. Kid?”

“Shush, Pal. I’m a settin’ here watchin’ the river flow. Havin’ me a think.”

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And Justice for All

Hand over my heart, as a child, a white child in America, I pledged allegiance to the flag, reciting, “…and justice for all.” I believed those words, but now I’m an adult facing the truth of hollow ideals. My life’s work is to collect stories — I listen, process, write, read, and discuss. My platform is one I share with writers around the world to make literary art accessible. My white privilege is evolving into something I can use for good, but I’m still learning what that means.

This week, I invited writers to take on writing 99-word stories about justice for all. With a global community, the theme broadened beyond American civil rights. Each writer processed what the phrase means, or looks like, or how it is abused. This is a safe space for writers to explore, using literary art. Until all voices can feel safe sharing their stories, we’ll hold the space.

A long time ago in Montana, a young girl used to babysit my children so I could drive over a mountain pass to attend college classes for creative writing. When I’d take her home she’d chatter about the latest characters she was reading in a book. I was so proud of her when she moved to Minnesota to attend college, graduating with an English teaching degree. She now has a family of her own, and a masters, teaching college. She recently shared this with her students:

“All lives do *not* matter *until* Black lives do. {That’s how words work. “All” cannot be true as long as some are excluded.}”

The following is based on the June 4, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about justice for all.

Entitled by Anne Goodwin

They could’ve stayed in the apartment with their three sleeping children.

They could’ve grieved in private, they could’ve owned their guilt.

They could’ve recognised all families face tragedy and some tragedies loom larger than theirs.

They could’ve searched for ALL abducted children, campaigned for all victims of parental neglect.

They could’ve accepted police budgets have limits, that lost-cause investigations siphon resources from elsewhere.

They could’ve used their power, their professional contacts, their shiny media profile; they could’ve raised their white middle-class voices to shout for justice for all.

In their shoes – or flip-flops – would you have done the same?

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Just Is by Bill Engleson

“S’not fair.”

“T’is.”

“Tain’t.”

Noisy kids. Neighbour’s grand-progeny. Visiting. Been a while. A Covid-19 while.

COVID?

DIVOC!

Hmm, need my morning cuppa…

Ready soon.

Sit on the porch.

Suck in the spring air.

“You’re hurting me. Get off!”

“Don’t be a sissy. And stop squirming.”

“I can’t…you’re hurting…”

What did Sam say? Oh, yeah; “Eight and ten-year-old’s…been cooped up in an apartment for months…missed seeing them…hope they don’t bother you.”

Right!

“Ear plugs, Sam,” I joked. “Ear plugs.”

“…under arrest…”

“Whafor…?”

“Being a brat.”

“Can’t brea…”

“Sure ya can…”

“Can’t bre…why?”

“Just is…is all.”

“Can’t…”

Kids, I think.

Kids.

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Unrealized by D. Avery

“I think about Sofie’s Great Northern Migration project, how my grandparents’ dream is still unrealized.”

“It’s so sad, so scary, Toni; I have nightmares— it is a nightmare.”

“When my Joe came home from Afghanistan he had nightmares, haunted by what he’d experienced, but he went back, always a dutiful soldier. Said he fought for justice for all… If he hadn’t gotten killed over there, fighting against the Taliban— I wonder would he have been killed here in his own country? Here where it’s still the wrong time and place to be walking around in the ‘wrong color’ skin.”

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The Injustice of Forgotten History by Charli Mills

Heat from the foundries blasted Big John every day. Sweat froze to his body when he walked home to Cliff where Sweet Mo had stew and thimbleberry cobbler waiting. He wore massive leather boots, tailor-made because he could afford them. Mo sewed colorful calico dresses and on Sunday they lifted the rafters with Jesus and friends at the African Methodist Episcopal. When the nation passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, escaped slaves and freed people knew slave-hunters would avoid the rough and remote Copper Country.

One day, when there’s justice for all, we’ll record these erased black histories.

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Take It All Back by Jo Hawk

It should have been a simple assignment. A modest portrait of his patron’s daughter. While he didn’t like children as his subject, the commission promised to launch his budding career.

Except, when she showed for her appointment, she wasn’t a child. She was no blushing bride-to-be, but a temptress with a siren’s song. Engaged, another man’s prize, she exchanged the poor artist’s heart with her own. Forbidden love blossomed.

There was only one solution.

“I cannot do her justice,” he declared, “For all our sakes, take these godforsaken sketches, and I will try to forget I ever met her.”

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Running Low by D. Avery

“Right there, Nard. Why mention that the new guy is black?”

“Just providing a picture. He probably refers to us as white.”

“He doesn’t need to.”

“Anyway, he’s got a good sense of humor.”

“Yeah? What kind of jokes is he compelled to laugh along with? Jokes like your anti-gay name calling?”

“I’m more sympathetic now.”

Kristof chuckled. “Now that his steering’s aligned.”

“What are you saying, Ilene, I have to monitor my speech, reconsider what I think is funny?”

“That’s what I’m saying. But no hard feelings. Help yourself to my cooler.”

“It’s empty!”

“Just ice. For all.”

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Justice to a Little Girl’s Eyes by John Lane

Eight-year-old Shanice Imani watched the news. She saw people of her color get their necks crushed, tazed on their backs and dragged throughout the streets. All done by police. Whenever Shanice slept, she had nightmares of police taking her out of her home to beat her. She woke up with tears in her eyes, afraid to go outside.

Shanice’s mother took a long time to convince her, but Shanice eventually agreed to join the peaceful march. During the march on Black Lives Matter Plaza, she noticed a policeman. She cried.

The policeman said, “I won’t hurt you.” Shanice smiled.

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Justice for All by Susan Budig

I can’t write about justice
unless I write about peace
repeat after me, I will write about peace

I can’t write about peace
unless I write about healing
repeat after me, I will write about healing

I can’t write about healing
unless I write about brokenness
repeat after me, I will write about brokenness

Broken by what we lack–
compassion for our neighbor
empathy for one another

Broken by what we need—
energy
direction and
focus to stay the course

Broken in our poverty—
deliverance from evil

Deliver me into the hands of justice
and then I will write

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Building Over Bones by Diana Nagai

“Remember,” Jiichan* bowed his head, “ the local bank president and minister bought our farm for one dollar. When my family was released from the internment camp, we bought the farm back for one dollar. They felt helpless in stopping what the government did to us, but they showed up. Others, not as lucky, had their homes and businesses destroyed or stolen. White establishments rose from those Japanese boneyards. It is my turn to show up. Until graveyards no longer serve as the bedrock for white success.” In alliance, he fell silent for the full eight minutes, 46 seconds.

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Will There Ever Be Justice For All by Susan Sleggs

Michael sat with his fellow bandmates discussing the Pledge of Allegiance. He asked, “Have you ever thought about that last line, ‘Justice for All’?

Colm McCarthy, first-generation Irish -American who served in Vietnam, said, “Only when I get mad about how hard it is to get an appointment at the VA.”

Colm’s son, Thad, a Vietnamese-American who served in Granada, gave a disgusted grunt. “Try being a 50-50 and see how you are treated by others.”

Tyrell, the band’s African-American drummer, and Iraq veteran asked, “Are we talking about justice or equality.”

Michael responded, “I don’t believe they’re separable.”

Author’s Note: A 50/50 was the term used to describe a Vietnamese child that was half American.

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Dime-store Justice by T. Marie Bertineau

“You did WHAT?” Mama asked.

Helena wasn’t expecting that tone, that volume, the stern expression. Not of Mama. A moment earlier, the grade-school girl with the fiery red ponytail had bounced in the back door. She’d been eager to share the news, eager to tell her mama what she’d done. How she’d stood up for the little Black girl. How she’d seen with her own eyes the neighbor boy take the candy from the dime-store—not the girl. She felt she had done a good thing, a just thing, the right thing.

But Mama’s face said otherwise.

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Crossroads by Saifun Hassam

Jalil gently covered his mom with her green shawl. She was asleep on the sofa, exhausted from cleaning up their Little Asia neighborhood, after last night’s violent protests.

Little Asia in East Newberry. People from all over Asia lived and worked here, before moving on to other American cities. Shoppers came from other neighborhoods for delicious international foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Little Asia. Brown, beige, ivory skins. Ancient Silk Road stories. Graeco-Roman features. Sky blue and hazel green eyes. Connections to North Africa, the Mediterranean, East Africa, the Indian Ocean.

Crossroads of ancient humanity written into their DNA.

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Crossroads by Saifun Hassam

Jalil gently covered his mom with her green shawl. She was asleep on the sofa, exhausted from cleaning up their Little Asia neighborhood, after last night’s violent protests.

Little Asia in East Newberry. People from all over Asia lived and worked here, before moving on to other American cities. Shoppers came from other neighborhoods for delicious international foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Little Asia. Brown, beige, ivory skins. Ancient Silk Road stories. Graeco-Roman features. Sky blue and hazel green eyes. Connections to North Africa, the Mediterranean, East Africa, the Indian Ocean.

Crossroads of ancient humanity written into their DNA.

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The Aftertaste of Language by Jeff Gard

Today his name is John. They want him to forget what he was called yesterday, to reject his past, his traditions. They cut his hair, gave him proper clothes.

Their government created this school with trees from sacred forests. Its limestone foundation violates land that birthed his nation.

Teacher’s bony hand squeezes his darker fingers into the chalk, which drags against the slate, crying the letters of her language. Spirals and swoops, lines that lean, trembling with meaning.

He repeats the lumpy, starchy words she gives him. Pruned syllables, flogged rhythms, distorted shapes with an aftertaste of blood:

“Lib-er-ty.”

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In the Impossible Woods by Liz Husebye Hartmann

In deep woods, somewhere near the middle and the end, launching from the first and hovering near the last, always returning to the origin, is a clearing. Sometimes there, other times elsewhere, most often not present at all.

In that clearing, in a shaft of light that is frequently utter darkness, rests a statue, carved in stone but liquid as snow near the edge of wildfire. It’s a work of ultimate, unwavering justice.

She journeys there, rucksack over her shoulders, wooden staff ready, to support or fight. Mapped in a dream, sent by the Oracle, it’s her lifetime’s journey.

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The Next Morning by Joanne Fisher

“Brian Kent?”

“Yes Officer?”

“Last night you were observed going on a killing spree leaving around 80 dead, judging by the number of corpses left. How do you plead?”

“They were zombies!”

“So you admit it?”

“Of course I do! They were zombies trying to eat me.”

“Zombies have a right to live too. This isn’t the 1980s. You just can’t go on a killing spree and expect there’ll be no repercussions. How did you know they were wanting to eat you?”

“I just knew.”

“You mean you assumed. Think about the effects your actions have had. Sandra, cuff him!”

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Injustice by Eliza Mimski

When she was eleven years old, her mother married a man who didn’t want kids, at least not her and her younger brother. Her mother and this man who she hated and whose name she never said aloud, wrote down or thought to herself and refused to speak to had two children of their own. Two different sets of rules applied: one for her and her brother and one for the new children, the first treated cruelly and the second treated with respect.

It’s taken her years to find peace around this, to let go of her burning resentments.

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Justice For All by Kathy70

These words were repeated by rote as a child and shelved as a busy new mom, single parent of 3 and older independent woman.  Now they shape all our worlds, force us to look at ourselves and everyone else.  No longer can we ignore or hide from them.  I am still learning and hope never to take them for granted, I may need help, so call me on it if you see it. I also hope we can all live and learn by this standard. Where we go from here could be very beautiful for all of us. I hope.

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Bias Blinds and Binds by Reena Saxena

“Is the American story reminiscent of India against Corruption movement?”

“No. India against Corruption was an inorganic, planted idea, hence it fizzled out. It comes closer to the subversion of a particular community and their acts of rebellion.”

“The perception of justice may differ, but the ground reality remains the same. The people do not get justice.”

“There are predefined slots for problems – economic, racial, moral, socio-political…”

“Can I sum it all up? The fight is always put up by a minority against the majority. The majority view has become the norm. Confirmation bias blinds and binds the world.”

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Misogynistic Scoundrel by Donna Matthews

That long-ago morning, Sue kicked Joe out. It would be the final time she bailed her scoundrel husband, drunk and violent again, out of jail for “disorderly conduct.”

It was 1955, and as she stood outside the Secretarial School, she didn’t know WHERE she was going, but she knew she couldn’t stay here.

As the years passed, she discovered scoundrels didn’t always come in the form of drunken husbands. She found them in break rooms and later board rooms.

Now, spending time with these beautiful young Ugandan school girls, Sue realized the biggest scoundrel of all… a misogynistic culture.

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Racism (Dedicated to George Floyd) by M J Mallon

Jordan vowed to protect his world from deranged, hate-filled people. He vowed to be a braver man, to speak up against injustice, standing unified with his loving wife beside him.

His words: “Racism kills. It divides and discriminates.”

Her words: “We are one, we refuse to let the racists win.”

After the protest, his wife’s creamy fingers cupped his obsidian skin. Her loving eyes filled.

They both wept, remembering George Floyd.

Their thoughts raged no more hatred, ever.

Denounce racism, curtail this relentless boot inflicting suffocating death. Stop it now, end the pain.

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Here Ends the First Lesson by Ellen Best

‘Anne, What if we chose not to feed that bird,’ Daddy pointed, ‘because it has a yellow beak? None with yellow beaks.’ Mummy joined in, ‘We could tell everyone how wicked the yellow beaked ones were, they would copy, and soon there would be nowhere for them to go.’ Tears welled in Anne’s eyes, her lip trembled. She stood, her eyes swollen with unshed tears. “No! Everybody needs kindness, you always tell me that. I will be very cross and sad if you do. Please don’t.’ They hugged her, assured her she was right not to discriminate.

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Just Desserts by Ritu Bhathal

She walked into the kitchen, sniffing around for snacks.

Always hungry, that one.

Could never resist my cupcakes. There she goes, into my cake box…

Ha! Go on, eat that old collection of My Little Pony toys!

All those years I craved ice cream, and would reach to the carton in the freezer, only to find another frozen curry, or opened the biscuit tin for a cookie, and instead, pulled out a sewing kit… typical Indian mum trick.

Wouldn’t buy decent Tupperware, instead using all the old food containers and fooling us.

Finally, Mum, you got your just desserts!

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Choices by JulesPaige
(haibun pair each 99 words)

Part 1

How can we remain neutral to injustice? Some countries believed they could just so during some very horrendous warring.
But mostly they stayed neutral to keep their own productions and exports going to feed their own. Too many are taught to think individualistically. Where is peace for the greater good, the majority, who often do not have a clear cut voice?

there is a great veil
that blinds the eyes of justice
whose eyes are open?

who can holiday when cries
cast out of cold dark shadows

Today, our worst enemy is atomic in size, attacking the global community.

Part 2

I am not a scientist in a lab able to determine how to fight the unseen enemy. While I am an individual, I can be part of the greater good. I can contribute in the best ways that I can, without compromising my own health. It is a war of emotions that everyone must face. Just what can I do to encourage justice for all?

there is a great veil
that blinds the eyes of justice
whose eyes are open?

we must work together to
strengthen positive life force

A case of water was donated to first responders today.

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The Wrong Lesson by Dave Madden

“Attack first, answer questions later.”

Sensei Rodrigo’s message was unorthodox, to say the least. Whatever his intention, the students’ aggression, both at home and school, slowly turned toward the red.

When Salvador got into a fight at school and repeated Sensei’s teachings, his parents decided to confront Mr. Rodrigo.

Sal’s Mom stormed through the dojo’s doors, “These kids worship you. Why would you encourage fighting?”

Sensei Rodrigo’s bark was worse than his bite because as he aggressively approached her, Sal’s dad responded with a hook across his chin.

While walking out, Sal suggested, “You should start a gym, Dad!”

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The Thoughts of Wittgenstein by Paula Puolakka

All lives matter. This had been Golda’s guideline, and she had tried to make people conscious of environmental issues: clean water and oxygen were essential to everyone. Now, however, all the events had been postponed because of the riots.

“I’m glad I’m living in the world’s richest country. I’m glad I’m not the fair-skinned slave of the Egyptians,” she thought. For a Jew, the concept of justice was a joke.

To keep herself safe from both the protesters and the Covid-19 virus, Golda decided that it was time for a double-lockdown. She buried herself in the thoughts of Wittgenstein.

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Justice by Simon

You are the talk on social media, this is so cruel, beheading, all these men? This is not a big crime, it happens everyday, why did you make such a big change in the law?
Which is not a big crime? rape, sexual assault, insult to modesty, kidnapping, abduction, cruelty by intimate partner or relatives, trafficking, persecution for dowry, dowry deaths, indecency, anything that hurt a women, will be beheaded! And I’m here to serve justice for all, because some of us don’t respect each other as a human. You must forget kindness to restore one being a human.

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Justice for All by FloridaBorne

Grandpa Buckley had never tired of telling the story. “My Irish great, great, great grandmother was a slave in the south. My great, great grandmother was paired with the new black slaves. Her children escaped and Indians took them in.”

“I know,” I’d said, rolling my eyes. “Buckley means servant. The name was handed down by my great grandmother who was sold to a French fur trapper. She escaped. Their five sons became Buckley’s.”

I thought of him when I opened the results of my DNA test, and gasped: 2% Nigerian, 5% Cameroon, 4% Native American.

DNA doesn’t lie.

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Pandemic of Fear by D. Avery

The older woman slammed the loaded clip into her semiautomatic rifle. “This is for if they come by.” She tucked the handgun into her waistband. “This is if they come close.”

“Aunt Fannie!”

“What? I told you when you came here from college I was ready for anything this pandemic had to offer.” She chambered a round. “I don’t claim to be colorblind, but this rifle truly is. It delivers justice for all.”

“Auntie! You don’t have to be afraid of them.”

“Don’t I? We all do.”

“Black men aren’t inherently dangerous!”

“No shit. It’s white men I fear.”

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Destiny Dawning by D. Avery

“What’s the matter, Mommy? It’s still dark.”

“Move over?”

Marlie lifted the covers and made room. “Did you have a nightmare?”

“Actually, Marlie, I did.”

“Don’t be afraid. Teddy? Or Destiny?”

Liz took the Destiny Doll, but what she really wanted— needed— was this, to just lie close with her little girl.

“Mommy, tomorrow can you make a cape for Destiny? And one for me and one for Sofie?”

“Sure. What color?”

“Every color!”

“Like a rainbow?”

“Rainbow colors, brown colors, black colors, tan colors— every color. We’re caped crusaders. Justice! For all!”

“Marlie, I’m feeling less afraid now.”

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Protest and Pandemic by Geoff Le Pard

‘Are you wearing two masks, Morgan?’

‘I’m worried.’

‘You’re indoors, watching from a window.’

‘There’s no social distancing.’

‘You don’t think they should protest?’

‘No, of course not. It’s just… with this virus… They could get ill, spread it…’

‘What would you do, Morgan?’

‘I’d keep my distance…’

‘There must be 20,000 people. Sometimes, getting involved means taking risks…’

‘But, Logan…’

‘What, then? Reschedule it? Book a slot for September? You have to grab the moment. Justice delayed is justice denied.’

‘I know… that’s why I’ve got two masks.’

‘?’

‘One for you. Come on, time we got involved….’

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Fabric of the Nation by D. Avery

“Kid, what’re ya doin’ ta my fav’rite rodeo shirt?”

“Here, ya kin have yer shirt back, I jist wanted the fringe off it fer a flag.”

“A fringed flag?”

“Yep, represents fringe folk. An’ I gathered ev’ry kinda color an’ cloth imaginable. Gonna make a flag fer Buckaroo Nation.”

“Aw, Kid, let’s not be flyin’ flags here, not even thet inclusive one. Let’s take all thet cloth ya gathered an’ make quilts instead.”

“Quilts!”

“We kin give ‘em ta displaced folks, ta them thet’s on the streets an’ them who’ve taken ta the streets.”

“That idea warms my heart.”

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Contradictions

Contradictions can provide the kind of contrasts that push us to consider the connections between opposing ideas. Creativity often flares brightest in divergent pairings. Hard rocks and marshmallows, caskets and baby blankets, love and destruction.

Writers got to play and formulate their own contradictions for their stories, creating surprising results.

The following is based on the May 28, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using two words that contradict.

PART I (10-minute read)

Moon Dust and Boat Wood by Charli Mills

Two young star-gazers giggle, floating on boat wood lashed into a stationary raft. Papa salvaged the lumber from a shipwreck on the beach, tethered it to the edge of the pond. On his one night off, he’d settle with them, tracing stars in the sky. A full lunar light beams overhead, dimming the Milky Way and illuminating the rock house that towers above the miners’ homes and woods. The girls wait for Papa to emerge from the trail to the mines, repeating constellations he taught them. They open their mouths to moon dust floating downward. It tastes like copper.

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A Stiff Breeze by T. Marie Bertineau

She woke to bright sun, an impish nip in the air, treetops bursting lush and lime. It was like any modest spring day—except for the wind. Oh, the wind! Flags whipped, chimes clanged. Hanging baskets clutching tender blossom caps leaned into the stiff breeze. The wind had come on hard that morning. Unrelenting, bellowing like a bitter newsboy. It blew in gusts of mayhem, carried a current of grisly headlines: untimely death, social injustice, violence in the streets, manipulative factions mucking up the cause. It blew in everything—everything but what was needed most in that moment: peace.

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Opposites Attract? by Sascha Darlington

“Doomed!” Old Lady Hennessy declared.

“Doomed!” agreed the other quilting club ladies.

Russell was the town bad boy. I was the town good girl.

He started a rock band. A rock band in Little Falls? Scandalous. We’re bluegrass true!

I was destined to be the librarian. Finger upon my lips: shush!

But you can’t control who you fall in love with. Maybe it’s pheromones. Maybe it’s his sky eyes. Maybe it’s the song he sang round midnight while meteorites zipped across the sky.

Russel and me? We’re opposites. Do opposites attract?

I’ll let you know. After one more kiss.

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Contradictions by FloridaBorne

He loved listening to the solitude; birds singing, the way a breeze felt as it whispered through pine needles.

Thirty years of peace, broken to pieces in seconds by one new neighbor.

A mile down the road, music for the tone deaf, often referred to as Rap, blasted into the night, stopping at 22:00 hours.

He’d asked the family to please respect their neighbors. Their response? “Stupid redneck! Get off my property.”

“As you wish,” former Master Sergeant Murphy had replied.

Under a full moon, he wandered through the woods carrying a sniper’s rifle. Tonight, the misery would end.

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Contradictions by Liz McGinty

His body language speaks frustration. He kicks his leg incessantly against the table leg as his fingers twitch a rhythm on a cigarette paper packet.

I am frustrated, with the sound of my voice as I ask the endless questions in a monotone. Invasive, unending details to complete his claim.

His answers become aggressive, and my heartbeat quickens. The booth fills with hostility. He curses me. My shoulders ache with the weight of compliance. I glance at the zero-tolerance poster, he smiles perceptively.

An appreciation passes between us. We begin again.

We shake hands.

He leaves.

I cry.

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Love and Destruction by Joanne Fisher

It began with astronomers noticing a group of objects heading towards our planet, and then a message came: “Humans, we come in peace. We love you. We care for you so much.”

The entire world was amazed. We were not alone, and now they were coming. Their fleet of sleek silvers spaceships approached.

The next day all major cities were incinerated in nuclear explosions. The aliens said: “We come in peace. We love you.”

The remnants of humanity were put into camps and slowly our numbers dwindled away. “We come in peace. We love you,” the aliens told us.

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Water and Stone by Saifun Hassam

Torrential rain poured through myriads of tiny cracks of the ancient caverns. The deathly silence of ancient stone tombs fled the living rising waters. Small pebbles by the thousands crashed into writhing and roaring waters. Caves melted into rivers of mud and silt under a sky chaotic with lightning and deafening thunderclaps.

The storm weakened, the raging waters slithered to a calm against rocks and boulders in ravines. Shards of tombs and bones lay buried under mounds of drying mud. In another time, flash floods would roil through dry gorges and ravines. Water would again unearth those ancient stones.

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Storm’s Eye by Cara Stefano

Floating, blissful, beneath the waves
All is calm and clear and blue.
Bright fish dart and school around me
The scintillating silence wraps me in a soft cocoon of beauty.
Sea anemones and water grasses wave hello as I glide by
Flippers slowly propel me through these magic gardens.
A shadow passes over head, and then another, many more
I am no longer alone in the eye of the storm.
Thrashing fins and flippers; flashing spear point teeth
Binding, cutting nets of plastic poison engulf my body.
Peace and Violence side by side – always

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Contradictions by Rachel McBride

She remembered the taste of strawberry slushy, and still ordered them to this day. Some had dripped on her tank top, but she didn’t move to clean it off-entranced by the fireworks going off over the pier. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM resounded in her chest, beating her pounding heart like a charioteer spurring the horses to run faster. BOOM-like her heart when she wiped the blood off her cheek. BOOM-like the last slam of the storm door. BOOM-like her phone hurtling out the window and bouncing apart on the pavement. She chewed through the straw, feeling fireworks in her blood.

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Caskets Verses Baby Blanket by Susan Sleggs

Tessa caught the look on Michael’s face when he opened the package. She commented, “My son thought you would like a U.S. flag flying out front. Was he wrong?”

“I’m sorry. The flag reminds me of the number of draped caskets I’ve escorted and the families who paid the price.” Tears formed. He let her see them. “Now that soft baby blanket you are knitting gives me hope and helps me focus on the future.”

“I’ll explain to Brent and we’ll pass the flag to my parents. Theirs is quite faded.”

“Thank you, for understanding and backing me up.”

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Minimized Identity by Reena Saxena

silver moonlight hits hard rocks
drenched in apprehension
blasphemy will follow
can’t shed lingering aromas though…

drenched in apprehension
pain finds its place after joy
can’t shed lingering aromas though…
those moments feel like eternity

pain finds its place after joy
women are born to be non-existent
those moments feel like eternity
they give me an identity

women are born to be non-existent
their existence is minimized
but I have discovered my identity
I intend to stay with it…

their identity is minimized
silver moonlight hits hard rocks
but I intend to stay with it
let the blasphemy follow…

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Snowy Summer’s Day by Susan Zutautas

It was June, Meg and Ian had just moved into their first home. Ian was outside exploring when the wind picked up. “Meg come outside; you have to see this.”

Meg was in the kitchen busily unpacking boxes and welcomed the break.

Walking out into the yard Meg saw exactly why Ian had called her out. On the ground laid hundreds of tiny white flowers carpeting the pathway to the side yard. Just as Meg was about to say something hundreds more floated down from above.

“Oh, Ian how beautiful, it looks like we have a few Dogwood trees.”

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Spots by D. Avery

Marlie held up a pebble-eyed, twig-lipped marshmallow. “He’s got hard-rock eyes set in a puffy white face.”

“Who? Mr. Marshmallow?”

“Tommy’s father.” Marlie thrust the skewered marshmallow into the flames. “He was at the fence with Tommy. He said Daisy was so ugly she was almost cute. Daisy wouldn’t go to them. Tommy called her stupid. His dad said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

“And leopards can’t change their spots.”

“Liz…”

Marlie’s parents watched with her as the pebble-eyed marshmallow face browned, then blistered black, finally oozed onto the coals, flaring and spluttering before it disappeared.

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Lavender and Sewage by Anne Goodwin

Time backflips and there is her mother slipping off her wedding band to finger the soil. The lavender’s perfume mingles with the sweet smell of manure recently deposited outside The Willows by the milkman’s Bay. “Nurture it, Matilda,” says her mother, “and it will delight you when you are old and grey.”

Now it straggles, a tangle of desiccated flowers and near-naked twigs. Neglected. Rage bubbles in her belly as the earth erupts around the shrub. Matty pinches her nose against the pong as shit froths over her shoes. A signal from her mother: time is ripe for revenge.

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Bonehead by Simon Prathap D

I was watching the TV last night

I heard the symptoms of a thunderstorm. I checked the sky, it was clear, then I came inside and saw TV The d2h was saying a message ” services has been temporarily blocked due to poor weather.” I called my wife and told her it’s contradictory how I heard thunderstorm but no clouds and TV says poor weather but the sky is clear, what’s happening?

She hit my head and said

1st floor New tenants are moving things, and recharge TV, read the warning message in full.

Bone head! She said 🙄

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Upstairs or Downstairs by Norah Colvin

Granny scratched her head. “I don’t know if I’m Arthur or Martha.”

“Whad’ya mean, Granny? I’m Arthur,” Arthur laughed.

“It’s just an old saying. Means I don’t know if I’m coming or going.”

“But you’re not coming or going. You’re staying here. With us.”

“I know,” laughed Granny. “I’m just a bit confused is all.”

“What’re you confused about?”

“I just came all the way down here for something, and I can’t remember what.”

“But this is upstairs, Granny. Not downstairs.”

“Silly me. There’s not much in my upstairs anymore.”

Now it was Arthur’s turn to scratch his head.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Contradictions by Anita Dawes

Yesterday I found some words lying around
Pages from a book.
I followed them around the house
They reminded me of scattered rose petals
The pages were not from a book
One spoke of love, while the other
Spoke of betrayal
Echoes of Romeo and Juliet
Yet this is not from Shakespeare
These pages are handwritten
As I gathered each one
I felt the weight of heartbreak.
The words shone like neon
Would there be light when I reached the end,
A reunion?
These pages belong to my mother’s old diary
I hope I can find the last page…

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Square Head in a Round Roll by Bill Engleson

Here, in the darkness, in the sleepiness, night sweats cascade.

The blade, glistening in the mid-October sun, slams down.

SWOOSH!

“Heads will roll! Lemonade; Square that circle; Make the Grade!”

“Hey. Sweetie!”

The sentinel roughly shoves me up the steps.

I can’t be here. I must dance.

I am a dancing fool.

“Handyman left! Sashay slow; Slip your shod; Mousey nose!”

“Darling! Wakey wakey!”

Cake?

What’s wrong with eating cake?

Everyone likes cake.

“Bend the curve! Step on toes; Circle the square; Go cat go!”

“That’s it. Enough’s enough, lover. I’ve had it with your Covid-19 Marie Antoinette nutmares.”

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Tories and Compassion by Anne Goodwin

Tradition deemed only white boys could touch the tuck-shop cash-box; the maharaja would be proud Rishi held the key. He dreamt of stuffing it with gold and silver, but plague confined juniors to the dorm. Rishi was willing to deliver but, with fagging outlawed, they lacked the coin to pay.

“Handouts?” said Boris. “Rewarding them to stay in bed?”

“We’ve stock to shift,” said Rishi. “See it as a loan.”

Boris rubbed his hands. “Which they’ll repay with interest?”

“Eventually.” Yet Rishi’s loyalties were split: between the brown boys who were dying and the club he yearned to join.

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A Crock Tale by JulesPaige

Lacey only heard bits and pieces of the guys telling tales at the bar. She was in a booth, eating dinner after a long day of working out of town. A guy ended his story with; “…And the sign said bait for catchin’ yer Jumbo Shrimp!”

The men ‘round him guffawed and laughed. The smarty pants guy who told the story grinned like a crocodile that swallowed a whole double Devil’s Food chocolate cake with icing too boot.

That’s where the story took her, seeing the mouse Dr. De Soto tending to the crocodile needing his rotten tooth pulled!

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Sleepy Square-Dance by Ritu Bhathal

The upbeat music created a jaunty atmosphere in the air. All around Jack, there were revellers dressed up in what they considered to be true ‘Square Dancing’ attire, i.e. a check shirt, some with fringes, denim, and obligatory cowboy boots.

It was all rather surreal. He was sitting in a church hall in the UK, not America!

Trying to stifle a yawn, he caught eyes with Jill. Oh great, now she’s coming over.

“Come on, sleepy head, I know you’re tired, but a bit of aa dance will wake you up!” She grabbed my arm, dragging me up.

Help!

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Open Secret by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Shhhhh… don’t tell anyone what I’ve told you.”

Marnie shook her head. “You’re missing the point, Susan. Jim’s been cheating on Janet for months. This is an open secret, and the entire town knows what’s going on.”

“What? Mrs. Parker only told me the details today when I ran into her at the market.”

“That’s because you’re new in town. She probably told you not to tell anyone because it makes her feel important.”

Susan looked crestfallen as she waved goodbye to her neighbor.

Marnie grinned. Besides, she knew the truth. She and Jim had been lovers for years.

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Cadillacs and Crocodiles by H.R.R. Gorman

The little lady showed up at the pump riding a hot-red Cadillac convertible with ostrich leather seats. She put out the cigarette in her ash tray and told me with pouty, vermilion lips, “Fill ‘er up.” She got out and, with her crocodile-skin purse, went into the store.

While she perused the candy shelf and soda fountain, I pumped in the liquid at 10 cents a gallon lamented my paltry pay. Rich people, getting richer off the backs of us poor. I’d like to kick people like her down a couple pegs.

And she’d left her keys in the ignition.

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She’s Off for Good by Donna Matthews

Cruising down the wide-open road, music on max volume, she crossed the unseen, invisible, and arbitrary line known as the grid. Some believe this place as a mythical or naive place to be. But not her. For years, she was a weekend warrior – driving here or there, sometimes even hopping on an airplane. But it was always just a visit—one foot on and one foot off. Invariably, when she returned, she plugged back in, downloading all she missed and her weekend away fading like a dream. But not this time – this time she’s off for good.

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A Small Crowd by John Lane

As Mrs. Sylvia Potts parked her 2006 Mercury Mountaineer in the lot near Sam’s Grocery, she noticed several people in front of the store. She walked over to see what was going on. It was people that she recognized from her neighborhood: Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Ms. Clearance, Mrs. Done and Mr. Forester. Mrs. Potts asked, “What’s this?” Mrs. Jones spoke for the whole group. “We’re tired of not being heard! This is against our civil rights!” Mrs. Potts saw the signs: WE WANT MORE THAN ONE PACK OF TOILET PAPER. Mrs. Potts rolled her eyes, then walked inside.

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My Aunt Babette by Eliza Mimski

My father’s sister Babette would let out these frenzied bubbles of a laugh that set my nerves on edge. A wicked, menacing laugh that mimicked the hysterical sounds of a pack of hyenas. With each laugh, her stomach would ride up and down in her seemingly blood-colored dresses.

Her speaking voice was different. She became this other person.

“Hi,” I’d say when visiting her, not knowing if I’d get the laugh or the voice.

“Here’s some candy, baby,” she’d say, each mellifluous syllable bouncing on its own little trampoline of air. At these times, her dresses turned pinkish.

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Graduation Party by Ruchira Khanna

“Come on, Meg, at this rate, you’ll be a postgraduate, and we’ll miss our graduation party.” urged Felicia, who was prancing outside her room like a horse.

“Jeez! You are so impatient!” she shouted back at her twin sister and came out with a sulk.

Felicia froze like a statue upon seeing her.

“You don’t need to stare at me like that.” Meg exclaimed as she placed the stray locks around her forehead behind her ear, “What can I do? The tutorial to dutch braid your hair was taking forever that I had to entwine them in random order.”

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Oil and Sea by Saifun Hassam

A sea breeze sprang up in the late evening. The tide rushed in, surf high, pounding and bulldozing through thick brown undercurrents, crashing on stinking tarry sands. The sea breeze was no match for that deadly vast oil spill. The salty air was saturated with oily drops.

Dawn brought no relief from ugliness. Fish lay dead, silver scales painted a deep dirty yellow ocher. Ducks struggled to shore. Alive, hopeless, crying for help. The oily sheen on feathers glistened deceptively with rainbows in the sunlight.

Broken but determined, we vowed to cleanse the sea, to somehow seek its forgiveness.

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Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part I) by D. Avery

It was a dark an’ stormy night. A. Rancher sought shelter in the old mine shaft only ta find Buggs M. Lotts already holed up there. They got along like oil an’ water.

“Kinda cliché ain’t it, Kid?”

“S’posed ta be, Pal. I wanna show how these two don’t git along, ‘cept I’m gonna switch out oil an’ water fer… bacon, yeah! An’… brussel sprouts! No, that’s purty good. Bacon an’… maple ice cream! Wait, that sounds tasty.”

“Kid, ever’thin’ goes good with bacon. Ya’ll have ta git rid a it.”

A. Rancher was glad ta see Asa O’Buddy…

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Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part II) by D. Avery

“’Ello, Keed. Dees ees a tough prompt for you, non? Perhaps I can help.”

“LeGume!”

“Eet ees I, Pal.”

“LeGume, whut makes you think ya know any more’n Kid here ‘bout writin’? It’s a tough prompt all right, but jist stay outta the way. Kid’ll figger it out. Heck, LeGume, you don’t know shit from shine-ola.”

“Au contaire, Pal! Dees I know ver’ well. An’ Keed… we all know Keed knows sheet. Keed can shovel da sheet till da cows come home. Dat ees raw writing, non? But revizeeng! Dat ees polishing.”

“Puttin’ the shine on?”

“Write on, Pal.”

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Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part III) by D. Avery

Dark green waves of thundercloud roiled over the mountain. A. Kidd searched for the cave entrance, seeking refuge from the fierce storm. Even as violent flashes of lightning tore at the darkening sky Kidd hesitated. Was someone already in the makeshift shelter? The sound of laughter echoed from within the hard-rock walls, seeped out into the rain swept night; or was it the keening sound of someone crying? Kidd stepped into the dark, kept a small flame burning and looked within. There was no one else.
When morning finally dawned the dew on the grass sparkled like green champagne.

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Response to Danger

Brianna Mills is 30 years old, and no stranger to danger. Yet she has quick wits about her, fast reflexes, and a calm mind to see her through. All of us at Carrot Ranch wish her a happy birthday on Svalbard, her latest place of residence and Arctic scooter adventures. She gave writers their prompt this week, asking how we respond to danger.

Writers, familiar with creating danger for their characters and plots, responded with gusto. Their stories reflect their keen sense of human behavior.

The following are based on the May 14, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that answers the question, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you are in absolute danger?

PART I (10-minute read)

First Response by Charli Mills

One car flipped belly-up in the broad ditch of Kansas grass and sunflowers, the other crumpled to half its original size against the guardrail. Jess instructed her 18-year-old niece to pull over, her voice calm, all thoughts pushed away except for a running list: check breathing, smell for gas, stabilize necks. Plural. There would be multiple people in danger of dying this moment. They called this stretch of highway, “Bloody Kansas” and it was the route her niece would drive now that she had graduated and would begin college in two months. Check breathing, smell for gas, stabilize necks.

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Flash Fiction: Stand & Fight by Dave Madden

The official told Terry, “You’re next.”

Terry paced behind the curtain, awaiting his walkout music to burst from the speakers. The butterflies in his stomach darted in every direction at once.

“Get those butterflies to soar in formation,” coached reminded, sensing his anxiety.

He shook out his heavy arms, rolled his head on his shoulders, and took a deep breath before marching toward the cage.

Feeling the canvas beneath his feet was familiar, but every logical fiber in Terry’s being told him to run.

When he heard the door lock behind him, a flip switched, and his nerves surrendered.

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Introspection by Padre of Padre’s Ramblings

It had started out pretty much like every other day had for the last week. Up early, and then a hike through the forest with the guys. But not today. No today, as he rounded the same bend he had taken for six consecutive days, he was greeted by the whiz and buzz of passing rounds. He dropped to the ground along with his companions, as the First Sergeant called out “Whiz – Crack, not a problem. Whiz thud’s the B***h.” David laughed to himself with his only thought being, “And I volunteered for this.”

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Absolute Danger by Susan Sleggs

Tessa said, “At our Home-front Warriors meeting we discussed what flashes through our mind when we meet with danger. Do you remember what you thought?”

Michael looked away. “I’ve never admitted this. I can’t answer, because I blackout. Remember in high school when I wedged my car against a tree after hitting black ice?”

“Yeah.”

“I recall the car starting to skid, and getting out of it, no impact, no details.”

“And in Iraq.”

“We were talking about our mission, and then it was three weeks later. Coming to was terrifying.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I can talk about it now.”

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A Reminiscence from World War II by pendantry

“I want that,” said the German soldier, in badly broken French. His uniform was impeccable, though his command of the local tongue was not.

“What do you want?” responded the Frenchman, standing astride his bicycle.

“Your bicycle.”

The Frenchman shook his head. “It’s mine, you can’t have it!” he protested, and made as though to cycle off.

Calmly, the soldier reached into his pocket and brought out a pistol. He aimed it squarely at the Frenchman, who froze. The fear was evident in his eyes.

There’s a time to fight; and a time to admit that you have lost.

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Skidmarks by Doug Jacquier

My Mum was a stickler for cleanliness. One day she said to me, ‘Goodness, there’s enough dirt in your ears to grow potatoes.’ So she did. I missed a lot that the teacher said because of those King Edwards in my earholes.

She would always ask if I had clean underpants on. She said she’d die of embarrassment if I got run over by a car and the doctors saw that I had skidmarks on my undies. Forget any inconsolable grief. She wanted to be able to hold her head high when she went to pick up my body.

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Photo & Film on NewsLine Tonight by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Jack stood at canyon’s edge, his phone set to selfie. “Ugh! Too much face, not enough canyon.”

He climbed the ledge, noting the low safety railing. Holding the camera at arm’s length, he noticed the screen icon for many figures, versus one. He chose many, and raised his arm again.

The wind gusted his bangs into his mouth. He hadn’t gotten a chance to visit his masked, shielded barber before this road trip. His buddy Tyler’d bailed because of Shelter in Place.

“This picture’ll be worth the risk!”

That was his last thought before he tripped over the railing.

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Swamp Lake by Saifun Hassan

Herons and egrets fished in the dense marshes of Swamp Lake. I maneuvered my kayak closer to the giant spring lotus blooms in the middle of the Lake.

I was entranced. I took photos of the lotus blooms. I forgot the world around me. A multitude of pink and ivory shades; a multitude of angles to shoot from. Frogs on giant lily pads.

Suddenly the sky disappeared. A giant shadow flew over me. I was yanked from my kayak. The Swamp Jubjub! I was terrified.

“My cameraaaa! Noooo!”

With a contemptuous glare the Jubjub dumped me into the water.

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Dark Encounter by Jo Hawk

I stayed too late. Perils line the path home and no guiding lights pierce the darkness to keep dangers at bay.

A rustling bush. I freeze. Frozen. Heightened awareness, my senses alerted to keep me alive.

Muscles tense, heart pounds, breath held, pupils dilate. My mouth fills with cotton balls.

Grasses sway without a breeze, an inky silhouette and steely eyes regard me. Somehow, they seem as surprised as I.

Flight or fight. Fight or Flight.

Sinews prepare for action as we stare, access, evaluate.

Golden orbs wink, I inhale and dip my chin.

Tonight, we go separate ways.

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Dangers of a Motel Room by Geoff Le Pard

‘Logan! Logan! HELP!!’

‘What on earth…? It’s 4.00 am.’

‘I’ve gone blind!’

‘Here. Stand still.’

‘I’m falling!!’

‘Better?’

‘I… oh yes. My eye-mask. I forgot.’

‘Why do you wear that thing?’

‘I stop dreaming…’

‘And have nightmares instead? What was that about falling? You were standing by the coffee table.’

‘I thought I’d wandered onto the balcony and I was bang up against the parapet. I was sure I’d die if I moved.’

‘You did sound terrified. You ok?’

‘Yes, thanks. You know what hit me, when I thought I’d die?’

‘Go on.’

‘I’d miss you most.’

‘?’

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Story Time by Wallie and Friend

“Were you ’fraid, Tilly?” Noel’s sounded as tiny as he was, looking up into Mr. Caddy’s face with the wide open eyes of a six-year-old.

“Wisht, no,” said Mr. Caddy. He challenged his audience with mischievous eyes. “D’ye know why I wasn’t afraid? Well I’ll tell you. I knew, sure I knew, that Hattie would save me.”

The goblin Green Hat, or Hattie, looked at him with unappreciative somber eyes.

“You were scared,” said Josie, bouncing on her heels impatiently. “I saw you!”

“Aye, you saw me,” said Mr. Caddy. “And see how I am now? I was right!”

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Infinite Challenge? by JulesPaige

compounded terror
unable to conceive then
the hearts empty nest

When as a toddler, in the mall the child was lost. Familiar tug on clothing gone – who does one call first? Panic must remain at bay.
An organized search must be started before there is time to even think that someone else could walk off with such a treasure.

Frankly there is limited memory. There was a positive result and that is what mattered most. And soon a child leash once thought cruel, now became a comfort in the crowd.

That empty nest of a grown child, is different…

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Scared to Death by Susan Zutautas

Lounging by the pool Kate looked up towards her window and was panic-stricken. A billow of black smoke was erupting. Then it hit her, she had left candles burning. “Oh my God”, she yelled. A neighbor grabbed Kate from running towards the fire.

“My mother is going to kill me, what am I going to do?” Petrified, Kate started to hyperventilate.

“Try to calm down, Kate,” her neighbor said while taking Kate to her place.

After a few shots of whiskey and a cold shower, Kate was still scared to death and kept saying, “She’s going to kill me!”

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A Treat Turns to Terror for Those Already Spooked by Anne Goodwin

How spiffing! Afternoon tea with the Mayor!

Yet, as a hostess approaches, Matty’s spirits sink. Matilda! Spruced up in Matty’s own polkadot dress!

Matilda’s dreadful lies cannot harm her if she keeps her eyes on the door. Yet it is worse than she realised. Matty had prepared for the Palladium but they have delivered her to the Folies Bergère. The man assisting the Mayor is a pimp.

Before Matilda can shout Fire! Matty races outside. To the safety of the street. A screech of brakes. A thump.

“Call an ambulance!” screams Matilda. “I’m a first aider. A qualified nurse.”

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Cast Out by Michelle Wright

I’ve been following my body around since it woke up from the car accident. Another soul is occupying my body. Who is in my body? The soul in my body is saying things that I would never say to people who I love. I scream for this person to stop. I don’t know if I’m heard. My body gives no indication one way or the other. I have absolutely no control. I don’t know if I ever will. I don’t know if there’s a way to push this other soul from my body so I can become whole again.

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When She Was in Danger by Sarah Brentyn

I wanted to be brave.

Not like heroes in fairy tales.

Not like that.

Just an ordinary courage that snuck in the drafty front window in our kitchen and found me in the midst of calamity.

But I froze. Mind blank.

For all the bravery I thought I possessed, that I claimed I would have, should the moment arise, I failed.

Whether it dissipated when need barked at it or I never had it to begin with, I was frozen in a time when she couldn’t respond and I wear that coldness like a lead vest. My badge of dishonor.

🥕🥕🥕

The Question by John Lane

Arriving at the Kirti monastery in Ngaba, Sichuan, I passed by the charred body of a monk in a dhonka and shemdap. It took all my strength not to vomit on their sacred ground.

One of the elder monks, Palden Choetso, stopped me. “Sir?”

I barely got out the words. “What happened to him?”

Palden shook his head. “One of our youngest, Marpa, practiced self-immolation.”

“Why?”

Palden faced me. “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you are in absolute danger?”

I just noticed surveillance cameras posted everywhere and a lack of monks around.

Palden whispered, “Sinicization.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Danger by Y. Prior

Hands on the side of my head

Eyes shut lightly

Body wound tightly

What to do?

What to do?

Grounded feet

Imagined roots

anchoring into the street

What to do?

What to do?

Tailbone down

Back strong

Head lifted high

Waiting

pondering

the next move

He followed me inside –

and has trailed my stride

too close for comfort

the smell of danger

emitted in the night air

with skin heated  and heart beating a little faster –

quiet prayers form on my lips

Then

I reached the female security guard.

“Need a walk out tonight?”

“Yes! That would be great.”

🥕🥕🥕

Danger by Hugh W. Roberts

As the sound of cracking floorboards got louder, Sophie remembered what Doug had told her should she ever find herself in danger. Run for your life.

***

As Mike felt the foul-smelling breath of his other-self hit his body, he put his army training into good use. Rolling his body away from the cracking floorboards, he watched, stunned, as the floorboards rose, instead of falling.

***

Two floors above, a strange feeling of being in danger germinated in Doug’s head. He had to get up and run for his life, but something or somebody seemed to be holding down his legs.

🥕🥕🥕

Absolute Danger by FloridaBorne

Walking home, you hear footsteps echoing in the night. You stop to look around at the loneliness.

The footsteps stop. Nothing but air and the eerie glow of streetlights surround you.

One more house to pass.

Head held high, you repeat inside a mind hollow with fear as you approach your front door, “Don’t panic…turn the key.”

Once the lock clicks, you rush in, closing the door behind you…laughing at yourself for being so paranoid.

Then, you turn on the news. “Just in! A body was discovered…”

A block away from your house. The killer hasn’t been found.

🥕🥕🥕

Life Crossing by Ritu Bhathal

I had only just pushed the wheels of the buggy onto the road, after checking to see all was clear, yet the roar of the engine was close. Either I had missed seeing this approaching car, or the driver wasn’t driving at the designated speed limit.

Knowing I wouldn’t be able to reach the other side, I grabbed the buggy handles and jerked it back, as fast as I could.

Heart beating as if it would break out of my ribcage, I checked inside.

Bless him, he was still asleep. But I knew our lives had flashed before me.

🥕🥕🥕

Earthquake by Joanne Fisher

It first began as distant rumbling. I thought it was a train, but as it quickly got louder, I realised it was something else. I quickly jumped under a doorway just as the house began shaking violently. I knew I’d be safer under a table, but the doorway was closest.

It felt as though the house was rolling on a turbulent ocean. In the darkness I could hear plates, cups and glasses smashing onto the floor and shelves falling over. Almost a minute later the shaking subsided. The house was a mess, but I was glad to be alive.

🥕🥕🥕

Flat Tire on the Freeway by Miriam Hurdle

“I had a flat tire.”

“When? Where?”

“Today when I was on the freeway to downtown Los Angeles.”

“It must be awful.”

“My car spun several times until the rear end hit the guardrail.”

“Were you okay?”

“I held the steering wheel but released my foot from the pedal. After the car hit the guardrail, I saw the cars were 1,000 feet away. A police car zigzagged to slow down the traffic. Then he used the speaker to escort me to the next exit. I felt the angel created a shield around me.”

“The angel surely watched over you!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Cold After the Storm by Caroline Kribbs

Annie was shaking so hard her teeth were chattering. It was infuriating, somehow, to see the man so calm. The gunfire was in her ears and her heart was thundering so hard it hurt. It was over, but she still felt how it was to lie in the mud, waiting to die.

“How do you stand it?”

Hamish wanted to be impatient because she reminded him of what he had been, before the outlaw gang that had killed his family and destroyed their farm. Instead, he was only quiet and brief.

“I don’t think,” he said. “I never think.”

🥕🥕🥕

Danger by Irene Waters

Seeing the steep drops close to the edge of the winding road my body tensed and my heart starting to thump as though I’d just run a marathon. The now snake-like dirt road, punctuated with tight hairpin bends that dropped away on either side of us, narrowed even further. My gut constricted. Panic became a restrictive vest around my chest. Clutching the seat belt my knuckles whitened. Uncontrollably I screamed. Jake pulled into a siding.

“What a view.” Grabbing his camera he headed across the road.

“No, don’t leave me,” I screamed, “What will I do if you die?”

🥕🥕🥕

Sunlight by Anita Dawes

In the car on my way home when a Sunlight lorry
was spun around by a careless driver
Now he was on the wrong side of the road
Barrelling straight at me
I stopped my car close to a row of parked cars
And thought, God, I am knocking on heaven’s door!
Someone had called my number.
Waiting for the sound of metal being crushed
Time slowed, inside the car became still
Sound vanished
I could see the whites of his eyes
as he wrestled his lorry into control
He smiled, I thanked God
someone put my number back…

🥕🥕🥕

The End by Kathy70

Nothing too unusual happened this day, we went to a friends house and they were having a small barbeque and a hop in the backyard pool.  The guys were doing their regular shots and we ladies had wine.  Fun day.

Home for a couple of hours and I can’t even recall the discussion or disagreement.  He goes upstairs and comes down with a pistol. I said put it back, but now it’s pointed at me. I stayed calm and would not show fear,  he put it away and I left.  That’s the beginning of our end, of being together.

🥕🥕🥕

A Shooting Pain by Reena Saxena

A sharp pain shoots through my head on the left side, as my husband animatedly makes a political argument. We do not support the same ideology.

Life is back to normal in a while, but the pain continues. I wonder how much of it is psychosomatic. And what exactly is the trigger that generates discomfort in the body? None of us plan to contest an election or file for divorce.

But a sense of danger is inherent. I know the nation will continue to go downhill, as long as people refuse to acknowledge reality.

I hope better sense prevails.

🥕🥕🥕

Head Games in a Flash by Bill Engleson

“You’re quite old,” I hear myself think.

Then I sigh.

“No denying that,” I hear my other little voice admit.

“By many standards, you’ve had a good run,” I soothingly allow.

“You saying the race is over?” other voice asks.

“No, I’m not saying that. Just trying to be real,” I clarify.

“It’s that ravenous throng of under thirty terrorists getting into your head, isn’t it?”

“I’ve read their manifesto. There’s not a lot of wiggle room.”

“Yeah, they threw nuance out the window with that mob. And that COVID-19 motto…”

“THIRTY OR DUST! You gotta admit. It’s catchy.”

🥕🥕🥕

COVID Fear by M J Mallon

I stood by the platform waiting for my train, my mask tight against my face. A man jeered at me, his lips twisted in a cruel grimace. I moved back.

“I have something for you,” he smiled as he spat. I felt his wet spittle on my exposed skin. I screamed, frantically searching for a tissue to erase death from my face.

Onlookers stared, their hearts bound by fear as their masks sagged. He wiped his mouth, licking his cruel lips. Tears streamed from my eyes. I vowed to fight this virus; killers mustn’t win.

🥕🥕🥕

Absolute Danger by Simon Prathap D

Doctor opens the report🧐, My god I’ve never seen such bad report, he says.🙁

What happened anything wrong?🥺

Your health in absolute danger😔, you must get admitted first

I’m sorry doctor😏

I should say that to you🤨

No doctor😟, I am sorry, you are looking at a wrong report🙄

Thank god, I thought it’s yours.😊Doctor turns the page and searches for the name. It still says your name.🧐

No doctor, it’s not mine😉, I suspected you are not a doctor🧐, so I gave your blood for test, you don’t even know that it’s your blood report😏

😳🤯😵 Doctor faints!

🥕🥕🥕

What’s in a Name? by Chelsea Owens

Mimi’s mum named her something, “fun, cheery; a bit totty.” To say Mimi’s actual personality fell short of that was a wee understatement. Had she been allowed an opinion, Mimi would’ve chosen a sensible moniker like Mildred.

“Mildred? Whoever’d want to be Mildred unless she thought to run a convent?” Mum would’ve said, had she still been around and not jumped before the pilot gave the all-clear at the Seniors’ Skydiving Surprise.

The Surprise was how little liability the company claimed.

What had gone through Mum’s head before passing, Mimi wondered, apart from that church spire? She’d never know.

🥕🥕🥕

All’s Well That Ends Well by D. Avery

“Ever been in danger, Pal?”

“Absolutely. Thet time the bull was seein’ red. Charged me like a Amazon purchase, but I thought ta jist grab thet bull by the horns. I honked fer Jesus, flipped right over thet bull an inta the creek.”

“Lucky landin’.”

“Ya’d think, Kid, but it’d been droughty. I landed in a creek without a puddle, an’ facin’ a rattler. First thing I thought was, tastes like chicken. Secon’, I’d have ta strike first. Lightnin’ reflexes.”

“You ain’t that fast Pal.”

“No. But lightnin’ struck thet snake, had it skinned an’ sizzlin’ fer my dinner.

🥕🥕🥕

“Lucky lightnin’ strike, Pal! Outta danger an’ dinner in hand!”

“Ya’s think so, Kid. But that drought had all the critters edgy an’ hungry. When thet mountain lion yowled at me I wasn’t sure if she wanted ta eat me or my rattler, still sizzlin’ warm from the lightnin’.”

“What’d ya do, Pal?”

“Afore I could think ‘bout thet, the rain finally came, hard and fast an’ thet creek swelled right up an’ my most eminent danger was a flash flood.”

“Imminent.”

“No, it warn’t about ta happen, was happ’nin’ right then, ‘an I was positively gittin’ washed away.”

🥕🥕🥕

“What luck, Pal. Um, is it good or bad luck?”

“It’s all good, Kid. I still had thet snake, still warm an’ sizzling’ from the lightnin’, held it up outta the water. An’ I was gittin’ farther an’ farther away from thet bull an’ thet mountain lion. So I jist went with the flow as they say, waitin’ ta see where I’d fetch up.”

“Sounds like you was goin’ downhill, Pal.”

“Downstream, Kid. The creek started ta flatten out an’ slow down an’ things came familiar. I had arrived. At the Ranch.”

“Lucky, Pal!”

“Ya got thet right, Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Nourish

Deep down, what truly nourishes us? It could be in the moment, a passing season, or over a lifetime. It might even be beyond death. During these unsettled times of isolation and overwhelm, we need to nourish at all levels

Writers explored what it is to nourish this week. From lacquered nails to after death, these stories will surprise you.

The following are from the May 7, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to nourish.

PART I (10-minute read)

Lacquered Lovelies by Annette Rochelle Aben

“Ladies, do either of you want your nails done today?”

It was this familiar Tuesday query from the activities department of the nursing home that rallied all the women who wanted to feel special every time they looked at their hands. Usually, everyone except these two roommates said yes.

There was a box of bright colors from which to choose. This day, most of the ladies chose colors that reminded them of beautiful flowers. And here they were, beautiful flowers planted in wheelchairs and hospital beds. Their bodies may be failing them, but their souls were glowing and alive!

🥕🥕🥕

Good Fences by D. Avery

“Tommy, don’t climb the fence! You still have to stay at your house.”

“Nu-uh. My daddy and me been shopping for our party this afternoon.”

“I had a party with my mom and dad too.”

“No, we’re having a real party, with daddy’s friends. There’ll be tons of good food— kool-aid, cheese puffs.”

“Yuck! That’s not good food! It’s not nourishing.”

“Who says, your mommy?”

“Scientists.”

“Scientists don’t know nothing. You coming over? I’ve missed playing with you.”

“Goodbye Tommy.”

Marlie stumbled past the dirt pile, the tree fort, went inside to use a tissue and wash her hands.

🥕🥕🥕

Standing Up to Mother by Susan Sleggs

Tessa’s mother paced. “I’m fearful Michael will suck the life out of you if you move in together.”

“I thought you approved.”

“Not of you living with him.”

“He nourishes the youth choir, the Vet’s music programs, and he goes to D.C. when asked. You don’t think he’ll enhance my life too?”

“Behind closed doors is where the nightmares and anger dwell. You’ll have no escape.”

“Don’t you remember my ex had nightmares. It isn’t new to me.”

“He was an officer.”

“So that’s what this is about, status, not my well being. Good thing it isn’t your choice.”

🥕🥕🥕

Ruminating on Roosts by JulesPaige

Blue Jays prefer string
colorful yarn not so much
for their nest today

somewhere in the pines they build
this Mother’s day, I just watch

my own nest just has
we too – you made me breakfast
will our chicks call home?

We’ve done what we could – had our share of scrapes. Now we get to sit back just a little. Though we need to remember life is a continuing lesson, parent or not. We all need to nourish each other with care as the days pass. Sharing the light of our love lamps to brighten temporary gloom.

🥕🥕🥕

Days I Remember by Anita Dawes

Days I try to remember when food was plentiful
Father in the fields, Mother filling the house
With the warm aroma of fresh bread
We were loved, fed. Taken care of
Now I am alone, remembering new days
That passed when I filled our home
Like mother, with fresh baked bread
That had my children running for the crust
First into the house to claim the first slice
Butter melting, thick home-made jam
Is there anything better than feeding your family?
A fresh-baked loaf on my neighbour’s doorstep
Could be the start of something new
A touch of warmth…

🥕🥕🥕

Matty in Wonderland by Anne Goodwin

Matty was wary when the March Hare invited her to join them. “I’m not thirsty.” The last thing she drank had shrunk her to the size of a thimble.

“Forget tea,” said a fellow in a top hat. “We’ll give you a nourishing story. Dormouse, begin!”

“Not the one about the treacle well.” Matty had a sense of déjà vu.

“A well of kindness,” said the Hatter. “Without food banks.”

“You think it kind to starve the poor?”

“Where this story is set everything is shared fairly. No-one need beg for food.”

Matty sat. “Tell me! I will emigrate.”

🥕🥕🥕

Come In by Priorhouse

Come in, tired one.
Sit down.
I see you are on your way south –
to the sea.
Your bed for the night is there.
Soup’s simmering on the stove – there.

Please leave soup on when you hit the sack.

“Thanks” replied the visitor.

As we left the room, I asked dad if he’d build into the guest – nourish his soul with faith talk or advice before his body was nourished from soup and sleep.

“No,” replied dad.
Sometimes words are not needed. People are often better nurtured by giving them space.
And love.
“Yes, dad, many ways to nourish.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Amazing Jar by Gordon Le Pard

He looked in amazement at the little fern, growing in the sealed jar. According to Dr Ward it had been growing there for three years.

“But what nourishes it?”

“Sunlight.” He replied, “Water evaporates, and condenses in the jar. Minerals feed the leaves, and return to the soil, all it needs is light.”

“Is it of any use?”

“Use! Glass boxes filled with plants, on a ships deck, will carry them safely around the world. We will move useful plants wherever we want. This could end famines, create industries and beautify gardens, it could change the world.”

It did.

🥕🥕🥕

Mindful Eating by Ruchira Khanna

“No, eatables are allowed on the plane.” Said a voice that was soft yet stern.

He had no choice but to comply.

Going home was a definite priority over defying the rules of the TSA.

He chose to empty all his pockets and walk towards his gate with sluggish steps while gnarling noise was accompanying him. His stomach muscles were squeezing tight as if wringing a cloth.

Traveling in wee hours with no shop open, he chose to board the flight.

Mark decided to eat mindfully from the tiny in-flight bag of pretzel that helped nourish his hunger pangs.

🥕🥕🥕

Nourish by Geoff Le Pard

‘I’m hungry, Logan.’

‘You had dinner less than an hour ago.’

‘Can we stop?’

‘Yes…’

‘Why do I feel a but coming?’

‘I’m not spending another moment in one of those fast food places.’

‘You enjoyed the Mexican…’

‘Was that the tackies?’

‘Tacos.’

‘Are you sure they’re not tackies? Mine was pretty sticky.’

‘And you like a Big Mac.’

‘I do not. I prefer my Scotsmen small and easily tamed.’

‘You’re such a fusspot.’

‘Morgan, I need something nourishing.’

‘Isn’t that what you do to a pot plant?’

‘Pot plant? Have you been smoking? Is that why you’re hungry?

🥕🥕🥕

Comfort Food by Janet Guy

One pound of lean ground turkey, one pound of 80-20 ground sirloin, one packet of McCormick meatloaf seasoning, one egg, one generous handful of Progresso Plain Breadcrumbs, half of a medium diced onion, one squirt of ketchup. It’s important to mix everything into the ground meat by hand, but don’t overdo it. Your grandfather and I added a twist: divide the mixture into twelve muffin cups. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Your grandmother always tried to sneak a half a meatloaf muffin without us noticing. She was so silly! I see both of them in you, my child…

🥕🥕🥕

Love the World by Chelsea Owens

Broken friendless lying dying, lifts a hand for

-anything-

Walking talking presses buttons, flashes past within her world.

Why stop living in the mirrors, in the spotlight;
save lying dying friendless one?

—–
.sneaky unseen creeping coughing, enters silent crownèd killer.
—–

Broken homebound lying sighing lifts her hand for

-anything-

Walking talking, in his sunshine, stops outside her locked front gate.

Why not wave at silent windows, in the sunshine;
save lying sighing homebound face?

—–

Then or now, we all are people;

Now or then, we all need love.

-Look around-

and nourish others

Smile, wave, and love the world.

🥕🥕🥕

Nourishment by Reena Saxena

The monk has travelled across the world in search of meaning of life.

Gone are the days when people congregated in an ashram to partake of wisdom… there are umpteen agencies to get him online and share his learnings. The digital marketing campaign lasts 90 days to generate a feeling of emptiness in people, and make them pay to find nourishment. The lockdown is supportive, as people struggle to adopt a new way of life.

Finally, the monk’s serenity appears on screen..

You are exactly where you need to be. I learnt that travel serves no purpose at all.

🥕🥕🥕

Survival by Joanne Fisher

All around her was wasteland. Kali’s mouth felt like sandpaper, there had been no water for several days. The hot dry wind whipped the rags of her clothes. She walked forwards and then collapsed. Everything went black.

Kali awoke. She was lying in a hut. She tried rising, but felt dizzy. A woman came over giving her a bowl. Kali drank the soup deeply. After so long it felt nourishing.

“You were near death when we found you.”

“Where am I?”

“In our village. You can stay as long as you want.”

Maybe she would stay here a while.

🥕🥕🥕

Nourish by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Long, dark days alone
Habit well-practiced for years
My coffee brings cheer…

Grateful that strongly suggested isolation began after the bone-chilling months of in-between, she pulls on sweats and Tee, runs a handful or two of tap water through her hair and over her face. The cat’s been provisioned, his vomit mopped up (what he hasn’t re-eaten). She’s set to go.

And yet, even as an introvert, she misses noisy Happy Hours she was pleased to walk away from, the long hikes with the usual crowd strung like pearls through wooded path and prairie.

The Keurig mimics her sigh.

🥕🥕🥕

Noirished by Bill Engleson

First, she sucked on the stogie. Then she plucked it from her gingered lips, glanced skyward, blew a smoke circle that looked, swear to God, like the Greasy Phil’s onion rings of my lost youth.

“I didn’t think you’d have the…” she said, before I rebounded with, “Yeah, I know.”

“So, what’s next?”

“Quarantine for life.”

“Not me, Shamus. Never.”

“You’re a menace, Katie.”

“What, just because I hugged them?”

“And nasal dripped them.”

“My nose always ran,” she snickered. “You know what they’re calling me?”

I did. “Yeah. COVID Katie.”

“Yeah,” she smiled. “Sounds…important.”

And crazy, I thought.

🥕🥕🥕

Nourish by FloridaBorne

“You take too many vitamins,” hubby scoffed, watching me wash them down with Rooibos tea.

Grunting from the strain of standing upright, he held onto the table for support. As usual, he left his soda can and potato chip wrappers for me to throw away.

“I have yoga at 10:00 today,” I said joyfully. “I’m walking with Lois, and grocery shopping after that. I’ll be home around 4:00.”

“You’re 70! Grow up!”

“A person either grows up or gives up,” I replied. “Don’t chastise me for choosing to nurture my body. Ask yourself why you chose to destroy yours.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Smiling Roses by Doug Jacquier

As Phoebe drove home with her husband, Spike, safely strapped into the passenger seat, she decided it was time for him to hear some home truths.

‘You know, Spike, in all our married years, never once have you praised anything I’ve done or supported me when it mattered. Frankly, I can’t even recall you being anything remotely like happy, except when you were sounding off about the stupidity of everyone around you.’

Silence.

Phoebe arrived home, unstrapped Spike’s urn, removed the lid and spread his ashes under her rose bushes.

‘Last chance to nourish something, Spike.’

The roses smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Nourishment by Sarah Brentyn

She felt magnolia petals falling on her grave.

Freshly dug, soil still loose, the mound surrounded by mourners, she heard crying. Noisy sniffles, gentle sobs, painful wails.

She shifted focus from those above her, fixing her mind on the tree. Its branches reached for her. This time of year, it offered pale pink flowers.

This time of year, it needed her most.

And every spring these coming years. Her body would nourish the magnolia roots and, in return, her grave would be speckled with velvet petals. Nourishment for her soul.

When the grieving left, would dance in nature’s bouquet.

🥕🥕🥕

Bat Incident by Simon Prathap D

Two vampire bats 🦇 talking to each other

I am so hungry today 🦇

Go ahead, get something to Dad 🦇

I am going to get some nourishing foods for both of us🦇

A few moments later….🦇

🦇 Son, this is called being selfish😠

For real?🙄 what makes you ask that?🤔

Look at you 🦇 , mouth full of blood🧛, You had alone🧛? How you got this much blood yourself, where is the nourishing foods for your Dad🤷‍♂️?

Dad🦇, You need to calm down first😠, did you see that black rod in the middle of that gap

Yes I do🤔🦇

But I didn`t dad🤕🦇

😂🦇😂

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Hematite Eyes by Kerry E.B. Black

Her baby’s eyes discomforted her. Odd, hematite, and unblinking. But his infant fist encircled her finger, and maternal instinct supplanted concern. She nursed the unblinking child until his eyes slid shut and he drifted to sleep.

He remained odd, different from other children, even when they shared activities. She coached, suggested, scheduled hopeful playdates, but he stayed aloof. With quiet, precise attention, he approached games like a soldier following orders. He studied others’ reactions, mimicked, but without emotion. He made no friends.

“Are you lonely?” she worried.

He studied her face, never blinking his hematite eyes. “Should I be?”

🥕🥕🥕

Nourish by Kathy70

I watch as a street-wise elderly woman takes a small bag out and looks around to see if anyone is watching, she slowly opens the bag and begins throwing out bread on the grass. Pigeons become brazen and hop on her hand to get more food.

Smiling she starts talking to the birds. A mom and 2 small children sit on a bench nearby and the children walk slowly up to the woman to pet the birds.  She lifts her hand to help a bird to sit on the child’s shoulder. They all seem happy and nourished by each other.

🥕🥕🥕

Sand Stories: Inspired by Shakespeare’s words: “tongues in trees, books in running brooks.” by Saifun Hassam

Diamante loved to sit on the seashore when the tide was out. Away from the bustle of village and temple life. Solitude. Calm. No gusty winds today hurling sand across the rocks. No shapeshifting dunes.

Last winter was a difficult one. A raging sea storm took the lives of three fishermen. One empty lonely boat drifted into a sheltered cove.

Today, children’s laughter and chatter filled the air. With Diamante’s help, they would create sand paintings, draw, and learn more about those intricate shells washed ashore. They would build sandcastles on the shore, stories drawn from their vivid imaginations.

🥕🥕🥕

A Little Something by Allison Maruska

I open the pantry, scouring it for nourishment. Scooting cereal and pasta out of the way, I see it–a box of Girl Scout cookies, unopened! My mouth waters as I tear off the tab and pull out a sleeve, anticipating the flood of minty goodness about to find me.

“Dinner’s in an hour.”

Wincing, I turn.

Mom holds her hand out.

Scowling, I hand it over. Instead of returning the box to the pantry, she opens the sleeve and hands me a cookie. “One won’t ruin your appetite.” Winking, she takes one for herself.

She’s pretty cool, I guess.

🥕🥕🥕

Extra Nutrition by Robbie Cheadle

“This bread is delicious, Mom. Can I have some more.”

“Of course, that’s why I’m baking fresh bread every day.”

“Why don’t you just buy it like you used to?”

“The grocery stores are not selling freshly baked bread. When the lock down restrictions reduce, the bakeries will re-open, but until then, I’m baking.”

“You could buy sliced bread.”

“I can’t stand those thin and insubstantial slices that taste like cardboard. Now that I look like Cousin Itt, with all this hair hanging down my back, I need extra nutrition to maintain it. Fresh bread with lots of butter.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sprinkles of Tenderness by Miriam Hurdle

“I’m amazed Rosie has changed so much since we adopted her six months ago,” said Sam.

“For a while, she went to the corner and face the wall every time I talked to her.” Elaine still puzzled.

“The social worker suspected something happened in her previous foster home.”

“She was afraid of us.”

“I admired your patience. You showed your affection by physical touch, warm smile, and inviting gesture instead of talking.”

“I’m pleased she trusts us.”

“It took us six months to break the ice.”

“She talked and called me Mom two days ago. It melted my heart.”

🥕🥕🥕

Nourishing the Mind by Susan Zutautas

Little one, you must always remember to nourish your mind.

But father how does one feed the mind?

Not feed … nourish.

Please explain as I am confused.

Each day, be sure you take time for yourself to breathe and relax, to reflect, to find peacefulness within, to count your blessings. Sit down, read a book that interests you, learn something new. Keep a journal and write what your heart says to you. Write down what is troubling you, your joys, your dreams, your hopes, and your desires. Get fresh air and enjoy your surroundings. Socialize, always be kind.

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The Singing by Wallie and Friend

She liked to listen to them sing. The myyr always sang when the moon first showed its pale silver light over the Sleepless Sea. The little girl would sit on the pier, swinging her bare feet, and look out over the still black water.

Myyr song was not instinctively beautiful. It was a harmonious calling that made the child wonder. She could not sing with them, having no voice herself, but she liked to imagine she sang as she looked up at the thousands of stars. She felt that by listening, some part of their song must be hers.

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Solo Nourishment by Ritu Bhathal

Mae gently emptied the last of the water from her watering can into the flowerbed.

The roses were doing rather well, all things considered.

All around her, news filtered in of the deaths of people around the world, and even some friends.

It had been tough.

Her usual routine of seeing her grandchildren at the end of each school day, with her feeding them nourishing snacks, and sometimes dinner, if her daughter was running late, was gone.

They couldn’t meet one another.

A video call sufficed, and the odd drive-by wave.

At least she could still nourish her garden.

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The Seedling by John Lane

Matthew’s mother watched the eight-year-old remove the weeds, dig several inches, put the quaking aspen seedling in and place some organic compost around. All in the backyard.

Every day he would run out to check the seedling.

“Mom, it is not growing.”

His mom shook her head. “Matthew, give it a chance.”

At summer’s end, Matthew’s mother was hired, and they flew cross-country.

Matthew forgot about the tree.

Sixty years and one accounting career later, Matthew decided to visit the tree.

In the backyard was an enormous, smooth tree with yellow leaves.

He sighed. “Mom, sorry I doubted you.”

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Grandfather’s Legacy by Jo Hawk

We discovered the tenacious evergreen sprig on our daily walk. Grandfather pitied the seedling clinging to bare stone. A full-grown pine needed access to the earth’s nutrients, and the minuscule reserves in the stone’s clefts and crevices would stunt the tree if it lived at all.

I was only a child, but I vowed to help the sapling. On warm days, we carried water. We sheltered it from storms and patted dirt at its roots.

Today my grandson and I took a walk. I introduced him to the tough tree and smiled when he vowed to protect Grandfather’s legacy.

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The Blood-Trees by Joanne Fisher

The two men wandered into the clearing as it grew dark. To their horror it was littered with bodies.

“It’s like they’re empty vessels that were discarded.” One of them said checking a body. “They were exsanguinated. Vampires?” The other man looked around, the colour drained from his face.

“No, not vampires. Blood-Trees.” He stated.

“Blood-Trees?”

“Trees that get their nourishment from the blood of the living, rather than from out of the soil.”

It was now dark. All around them they heard the creaking of branches. The moon arose showing trees with black twisted shapes now surrounded them.

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Apples by Charli Mills

Who’ll love the apple trees, Hester wondered as the wagon lurched forward. The youngest, she sat among her family’s meager belongings. A wagon-train of evicted miners trundled past shuttered copper mines.

When they married, Hester told Albert about the company houses and the community orchard. The county sold them the whole abandoned neighborhood on cheap terms. Albert flattened the other houses to grow potatoes. “Don’t harm the apple trees,” she said.

She nourished the trees into widowhood until they packed her up in a station wagon for the old-folks home. “The apples,” she whispered as the car drove away.

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Apple Charlie by Michelle Wright

There is a place I love to go
Apple trees, row after row
Named after my grandfather who so many know
Apple Charlie’s

Apple Charlie lived there then
He lives there still
In all his descendants
With their strong wills

There is a place where barn animals eat
Children give them feed
Nutritious treat after treat
Apple Charlie’s

Charlie watches the children and smiles
He smiles as they shine an apple on their shirt
He smiles when they savor donuts dipped in cider

Like the bumblebees
We care for the orchard
Like Apple Charlie
We care for one another

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And Then Alone by Sascha Darlington

I didn’t want to come home for Thanksgiving, navigate the endless sessions of why aren’t you like Nathan or Rachel? Why are you working an administrative job, pretending to be a writer? Why aren’t you going to graduate school? Becoming a lawyer, a doctor? It’s in our genes. Why are you our disgrace?

My grandmother survived Auschwitz. You’d think I could survive Thanksgiving.

I breathe a hundred breaths into the ending of this novel. My grandmother read every word, blessed them, before she passed. Now, I am alone.

My homemade pumpkin pie will nourish. Will my novel will appease?

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Scion the Prize by D. Avery

“Kid, git in here! Dang. Shorty entrusted us with runnin’ our own Saloon, a place fer folks ta relax an’ rub elbows— git away fer a while. But then she done gifted ya with a scion, an off shoot a thet Poet–tree ya discovered outside the bunkhouse at Carrot Ranch.”

“Yep. So?”

“So, ya ain’t been tendin’ the Saloon! Yer always out back with thet offshoot an’ them kid goats an’—”

“An what, Pal? What’s the problem?”

“Ya gotta nurture the saloon, Kid.”

“Yep. An’ I gotta nourish the Poet-tree.”

“Why’s thet impor’nt?”

“’Cause it nourishes me.”

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Long Boards

The world has paused. During this stillness, we perhaps look to the past with nostalgia and wonder how our ancestors made do. Maybe that’s how the long boards came up. They were tall Finnish skis used when the snows came too deep to walk into town. For how long have we used long boards for recreation and purpose?

That’s the idea for writers to explore. They could craft a story about the use of any long boards, true, or imagined. Many thanks to Keweenaw storyteller, Myra Möyrylä, for the use of her story and photo to inspire this collection.

The following are based on the April 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features long boards.

PART I (10-minute read)

Finnish Elite Troops by Paula Puolakka

Every time the “Swedish Crown” needed to recapture lost land from Russia, and it was winter, the Finnish skiing troops were sent to action. The old Russian war accounts include descriptions of the swift and almost invisible Swedish soldiers who caused fear among the Russians. No, those were not Swedish, but Finnish elite troops. “Sukset” made them move as smoothly as Tolkien’s elves. Their status was equal to the status of the feared 14th-century longbowmen of England. They were not English noblemen but mainly Welsh retainers. The Finnish peasants (mastering the long wooden boards,) too, were promoted during wartimes.

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Diving Board by Susan Zutautas

Joe had butterflies in his stomach long before his alarm clock went off. Today he’d be diving in a state competition. Scouts from well-known universities would be there and Joe was hoping for a scholarship.

Climbing the high dive ladder a wave of total confidence came over him.

The first dive was a backward dive. He sprung on the board once then twice, then it snapped startling him, but he carried through like a pro leaving the snapped board behind. Three scores from the judges were all 9.5. Joe and his team were ecstatic!

Joe was offered a scholarship.

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Board Games by D. Avery

He skated into the park on the longest longboard any of us had ever seen; stood nonchalantly mid-deck, told us his name was TuKu.

He held everyone’s attention as his due, reveling in the anticipatory silence as we clutched our boards, shuffled in our Vans. Like a patient teacher, TuKu waited for Sammi to follow suit, but Sammi just kept rocking in place, tip to tail.

“Catch me, Not-So-Ku,” she said, and was instantly on the rail, landing after a double kickflip. We breathed, grinned. Nothing had changed.

“Come on,” we invited TuKu, and followed Sammi best we could.

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When Life Gives You Lemons by Dave Madden

To say Josh had been inundated with bad luck would be an understatement: his transmission terminated; the boss made him work overtime, without extra pay; and his girlfriend dumped him, saying he loved Jiu-Jitsu more than her.

Josh’s troubles disappeared in the breeze while gliding on his longboard to practice. His mind was absorbed in the moment, and the board’s polyurethane wheels flattened the troublesome bumps along the way.

After several hours of strangling one another, Josh, carrying his board up the steep hill toward home, was more mentally prepared to tackle the lemons life threw at him.

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Safety Measures by Simon Prathap

What are you doing?

Corona safety measures dad

Is that my board?

Yup the same long board you used in the beach last year

What are you trying?

I tie this to myself

So…?🤔

So that I will maintain social distancing, no one can come close to me

Brilliant son!🙄

Thanks, a help please

Okay, what am I supposed to do?😕

Here hold this, now I am going to tie this with a rope

What are you doing?🤔

I am going to tie this rope in this lock and…

This is a corona safety measure?🙄🤔

It’s Lock down dad!

🙄😵

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The Race by John Lane

Hansel drove his Polaris snowmobile through the snow-covered trails until he hit upon Gretel’s truck. Gretel wiped a greasy concoction that smelled like fecal matter in a pine forest onto two wooden slats.

Hansel chuckled. “You can’t get up the mountain with that.”

Gretel shook his head. “Twenty dollars says that these longboards will get to the top first.”

“Easy money.”

Three times, Hansel tried to climb the mountain. And three times, the throttle safety switch cut out.

Gretel waited at the top for Hansel as Hansel finally made it.

Gretel held out his hand. “Easiest twenty ever made.”

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Winter Roundup by Ann Edall-Robson

Full moon night
Twenty below
Spooked by a holler
From downwind
Horses charge
The chase begins
Handcrafted longboards
Replace saddles
Leather bindings
Cinched down tight
Lariats hung snug
Across chests
The stud horse nips
At rumps and withers
Wild horses
Are running hard
Cowboys push
Keeping up
Down the hill
Through spruce and pine
Frozen ground shakes
Branches snap
Destination
The pawed meadow below
Corral wings loom
Into their path
Slowing
Guiding the herd
Swirling, snorting
Freedom flight lost
Gate rails slide home
Ropes snake out
Horses shy
Nostrils flare, blowing
Winter full moon
Skiing cowboys
Wild horse roundup

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Optimal Velocity by Jo Hawk

Miners extracted millions from Gold Mountain, but Peggy didn’t want money. She sought powder and speed. The day dawned bright and clear, as she and the longboarders climbed the 1,700-foot slope to the starting position.

Reaching the top, she strapped on her 12-foot long Norwegian skates. She had rubbed her secret dope into the hand-hewn, kiln-dried, vertical-grain Doug fir skis. The mixture of paraffin, tallow, tar, and hemlock oil guaranteed optimal velocity.

The contestants crouched, waiting. The starter hammered the giant saw blade. Peggy pushed against her pole and shot downhill. Sixteen seconds later, she began her next ascent.

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Longboard Records Are Meant to Be Broken by Chelsea Owens

Helle sped the slope, pushed and doped. Her longboard grooves dug into powder-kissed snowbase. Down down down she sped, chasing a memory’s record.

“Hm,” said Riku, peering down from winter’s cloud. “Those be longboards.”

*WHOOSH* Helle still sailed. The stopwatch blinked 10 seconds.

“Oh,” said Riku, gripping at edge of sky. “She be a fast ‘un.”

Helle squinted against snow spray, wishing for goggles instead of scarves. She squatted, splashing a trail behind her.

“Oh. Oh!” exclaimed Riku. “She be my granddaughter!”

Sliding to a stop, Helle turned to check her time.

“13 seconds!” The clouds proudly quivered. “She beat me!”

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Making Tracks by D. Avery

The old wooden skis had hung on the wall ever since I could remember. I’ll never forget how Granpa’s eyes twinkled like stars on a winter’s night as he proclaimed they just needed fresh klister, already warming in a crucible. Smiling through his snow-white beard, Granpa spread and scraped molten wax onto the bases of the skis, rubbed it smooth with the heels of his wizened hands. He told me he had waited his whole life to make these longboards sing.

I held the door. Then SWISH! Granpa was kicking up fresh powder, carving tracks along the Milky Way.

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Long Boards Too Short by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“I’m sure there’s an old pair of your mom’s long boards…skis…here, with the children’s skis. Like you, she was full grown when she fostered with us. They should work for you, too.”

Hjordis twitched her troll’s tail as she peered past the snow giant’s thigh. “Sorry I didn’t bring mine, Magnhildr. When the Berserkers raided my home, I had to run.”

“I don’t imagine the horse you stole would’ve been happy galloping with a pair of skis on his back. Ah! Here they are. Hold your arm straight up.”

“They’re too short!” Hjordis grinned.

Magnhildr cursed. “That’s…inconvenient.”

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Alley Oops by JulesPaige
(reverse haibun)

long boards down the lane
oiled for a game of ten pins
are alleys open…

We’ve played other versions too. Duck and Candle Pins. Each just slightly different, but still fun. We used to be in a league and still have our lockers at the local alley. I think hubby’s bowling shoes are at least half a century old. I used to get intimidated looking down those long boards. Shifting slightly left or right, hoping for a strike or spare. All the fears gone though – as now we just play for fun. I wonder is the Alley even open?

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Surfer Girl by Sascha Darlington

The boys from the mainland think I’m weird. I have a shortboard, sitting in the sand, while they ride their longboards. They’ve never seen me ride. They think, because I’m a girl, I’m there to stalk them.

“A shortboard,” the tall one laughs. “Is that to match your height?”

Hurricane Anna builds waves. These boys surf when it’s calm, when waves are weaker. Today’s for real surfers.

I tug off my shorts and hoodie, grab Hugo the Shortboard, and run.

There’s nothing better than balancing on a board, feeling seaspray, adrenaline, unless it’s the shock on surfer boys’ faces.

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The Art of Skateboarding by Ruchira Khanna

While sipping my tea at the crack of dawn, an idea sparked in my mind as I stared at my son’s longboard, “I should try this. After all, it’s all about balance.”

I lifted the board and walked towards my cemented yard.

After centering and grounding myself, I placed one foot on the board, and it whooshed off before I could put the other foot on it.

The result was a loud thud with an Ouch of a higher decibel that was quick to wake up my family.

“Nah! this is all about practice, not just a jiffy exercise!”

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The Move by Priorhouse

Movers came and went.
Packaging tape screeched across boxes.

“Yes, I want them.”
“Mom, you have the other box already. One bedroom, remember?”
“Okay. Charity then.”

Rooms emptied.
Piles dissolved.
Later, a mover held up an old skateboard, “Keep or Donate?”
“Keep” we all exclaimed.

Unwrapping the cover, the wooden longboard was bent – clay wheels cracked. In the 1950s, when waves were flat, this longboard let grandad screech across the land.

“Isn’t that how he scarred his arms?”
“Yup, clay wheels were dangerous.”

The house was completely empty now – but finding grandad’s long lost longboard – filled us immensely.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Due to Unprecedented Circumstances, the Boarders Extend Their Stay by Anne Goodwin

Matty will extend the hand of friendship to anyone, but the manners of her current guests leave much to be desired. There are even men among the party, and bass notes do drum on her ears. She should not judge, for they know no better, but the fellow who sat opposite at breakfast slurped his tea.

Alas, she must continue to suffer their company. She cannot withdraw her hospitality with the world in disarray. Fortunately she has parlour games and monologues to entertain them. Matty will select exceptionally long board games to spread cheer throughout her boarders’ extended stay.

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Long Boring by Simon Prathap

Don’t talk to me

But what did I do?

You hesitated to talk with my family and disconnected phone!

No! I did not hesitate, it’s a long boring conversation and they were not talking to me and they were talking to your parents

I know how you use to talk with them

But darling, I did not do it on purpose I thought the conversation will end and it was long, I am sorry darling, it is my mistake. I know it is our family.

You always realize that late?

Please forgive me, Please

Okay, No dinner for you.

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Borberline Dull by Geoff Le Pard

‘Morgan, what is it now? We need to find a motel…’

‘Stop, Logan!’

‘You can’t need another pee…’

‘I was just reading…’

‘Are you feeling faint from all that intellectual effort?’

‘Shut up. The guide book says there’s this museum…’

‘You want to go to a museum? You are to museums what rats are to traps. Not a happy combination.’

‘It’s the American museum of boards. Skate boards. I’ve got to see this. Next left.’

‘A museum devoted to men whose trousers don’t fit?’

‘There’s the longest board in the world.’

‘It’ll be the longest I’ve ever been bored…’

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Long Bored by FloridaBorne

Tilde didn’t care if yawning was uncivilized.  This museum was boring!

She wanted to see swords and axes used in battle — images of Vikings defeating Europeans, who were no match for their skill; not spun cloth and pottery.

Long boards stood in a row, skis by any other name.  They held no meaning to a girl who loved cuddling in a blanket as her mother spoke about their ancestors.

Her father said they’re name meant “sword,” but the tour guide said that Øster meant someone on the east.  What would she tell her next, that there was no Santa?

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Awaiting Fame by R. V. Mitchell

Einar and Destin shifted the long pine plank into position as Thorbold prepared to rivet it into place.

“Don’t let it slide beyond the mark I made,” the master boat-wright snapped.

“Sorry Thorbold,” the pair said almost in unison.

Destin wasn’t really sure he was “sorry,” after all he had been building clinker ships nearly as long as his brother, Thorbold had.

He would show him one day. Sooner rather than later, in fact, that he, Destin Olafson could rival the skills of any boat builder in all of the Norse lands.

Just, today was not quite that day.

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A Long Board by Doug Jacquier

The boss said to the boy ‘Fetch me a long board from the hardware. Ask Gus, the owner, he’ll know what I mean.’

Gus listened to the boy, grunted, and said to wait.

The boy waited, patiently.

Eventually Gus said ‘How long you been waitin’ now?’

The boy replied “Couple of hours.’

‘Are you bored?’

The boy nodded cautiously.

‘Well, then I guess you’re long bored, so you can go back to work now.’

When he got back his boss said ‘Well, where’s the long board I sent you for?’

‘The pigs are flying it in tonight.’

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Building on a Dream by Annette Rochelle Aben

Frankie let out a deep sigh. No matter how hard he tried, the long boards were too heavy for him to carry. His older brothers, Ron, John, and Al could haul those boards around as though they were toothpicks. When would he be big enough to help his father build houses?

Dejected, Frankie sat down behind the lumber pile and began to cry softly.

“Where’s Frankie?’

“Yeah, we need someone to grab these boxes of nails.”

His older brothers were in trouble and they needed his help!

Frankie dried his tears, grabbed the nails, and ran after the crew.

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Playing Pirates by Wallie and Friend

Two long boards made a very comfortable walk, and Tom appreciated the space to turn around, even though the boards were bendier than he liked. This was the moment he made his grand speech to the evil pirates before plunging into the watery depths of the sea.

Tom was about to speak when the boards suddenly creaked. He lost his balance and instead of drowning, sat down hard on the carpet.

The outrage from the pirates in their coffee table pirate ship made the boy rub his bruised elbow and glare.

“I thought you said that plank was safe!”

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Precautions Not Needed by Charli Mills

Sam King parked the Willys Jeep in first gear. “Get the long boards,” he told his daughter.

Gripping the roll bar, Danni swung out the open side. Near the gate, the Lazy T Ranch kept long boards for crossing the boggiest parts of the high-meadow springs. Using her leather gloves, Danni moved one board at a time, setting each through the open space in the backseat. They stuck up at an angle. “Dad, you want me to tie a bandana on the end?”

Sam laughed. “We’re not likely to get rear-ended, Kiddo. The bulls are all down at headquarters.”

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First Kiss by Susan Sleggs

Tessa stomped snow off her boots before going into her parents’ house. “Is our toboggan still around? The choir kids want to go sledding.”
Her father answered. “I’ll get it out if you promise not to allow co-ed rides.”

“Why would you say that?”

“I seem to remember my teenage daughter coming home all flushed because she had been kissed while in a jumbled pile after a toboggan mishap.”

Tessa’s eyes widened and she laughed aloud. “I haven’t thought about that in years. Wait till I tell Michael you remember that.”

“Your feet didn’t touch ground for a month.”

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The Board Ritu Bhathal

Jonah let himself into his house and popped his keys on the sideboard when a strangled grunt of a noise startled him. It came from the living room.
He dropped the bags and rushed in to find his mother laying on her stomach, or rather, hovering, on her arms and feet.

“Mum! What’s the matter?” He went to help her up.

“Go… away… Jonah… I… am… trying… to… do… a… two… minute… long… board…” She struggled for breath, before the alarm beeped on her phone.
He laughed as she collapsed onto the floor. “Board? Oh, you mean a plank?”

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Crack by Hugh W. Roberts

Rolling his heavy body towards the spot where Clarice had disappeared, Doug rubbed his hand over the long, bare floorboards. A crackling sound of static made the hairs on the back of his hand tingle.

***

Two floors below, Mike looked down at himself and took a deep breath. Pushing out the air hard, he aimed it towards the long boards just below where his other-self lay.

He watched as the boards started cracking.

***

Terrified by what the woman had yelled at her, Sophie’s shielded her face as the long floorboards underneath the woman began to make a cracking sound.

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Ladybug by Saifun Hassam

At each end of the patio there were “steps” each made of two long cedar boards, supported by wood posts, cinder blocks, and rocks. Spider plants, morning glories, clematis, jasmine, and yellow climbing roses spilled over from the patio onto the steps.

Susan loved the mosaic of colorful petals and leaves drifting onto the boards, the changing patterns of light and shade. She transformed the mosaics into artwork.

Ladybugs clambered over roses, coral bells, petunias, hunting for aphids. Soapy water also helped to control aphids.

A strange season this was, also using soapy water to keep COVID-19 at bay!

🥕🥕🥕

Bored by Bill Engleson

She slowly peels the potato, lightly catching the skin. I pull her apron string.

“Not again!”

This time, she’s not smiling.

“I’m bored.”

“Go outside. Play.”

“Too hot.”

“Play in the shade.”

Outside, a buzz saw whines.

I peer through the fence.

Mister Jack is cutting 2 X 4’s.

I crawl through, watch, wait for silence.

He looks up, winks.

“Hot day, eh!”

My feet shuffle in the sawdust.

“Wanna help?”

I beam.

“Good. In the shop, then.”

I follow him in.

The door closes.

In the dark I hold my breath.

He hisses, “Let’s play our game, sweetie.”

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Away From It All by Joanne Fisher

Stacey lay on her long board as she swam out from the shore. When she was far enough out, she sat on her board and waited for a decent wave to come.

Other surfers were mystified why she used a long board, the truth was she enjoyed the stability it offered while she sat and waited. Out here she was alone, she could breathe and think and ponder, and wonder at the vastness of the ocean that lay around her. Then a wave would finally come and she would surf back to the shore, and start all over again.

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Establishments by D. Avery

“They’s openin’ up a ennertainment an libation establishmint over ta the Slim Chance Ranch.”

“Huh. We run sech a place.”

“Callin’ his place the Longboard Lounge. Claims ta have the biggist a ever’thin’.”

“Aw, Pal, that’s jist big talk. Bigger ain’t better. Don’t ya go worryin’ none ‘bout the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Bigger pours, bigger portions…”

“We’re big on fun, Pal.”

“He’s offerin’ discounted prices.”

“An’ we ain’t never ast no one ta pay, Pal.”

“All ya kin write, he says.”

“An’ we say 99 words. Refreshin’ an’ satisfyin’.”

“Reckon thet’s the long an’ the short of it.”

“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕

Crazy

The human world stays at home in solidarity during these crazy COVID-19 times and yet, the natural world spins on oblivious of its 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Some want to escape the crazy train (and some do, look — a mothership arrives). Some explore crazy good times, like a ’70s rock concert. Words of comfort, agitation, and rhyme circle around what is crazy.

This week, writers around the world followed the prompt wherever it led. And when crazy is the word, expect the unexpected.

The following stories are based on the April 16, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something crazy.

PART I (10-minute read)

Crazy by Pete Fanning

They say the world has gone mad. But maybe it’s the people who’ve lost their balance. On this giant planet two tiny ants play chase on a stalk of grass, blissfully uninformed. Two butterflies thrash about in silent beauty while a woodpecker calls out with a maniacal laugh. A stream races over the rocks, in a rush to join broader waters. Flowers bloom.

The world we knew months ago has changed, but the trees still bend and whine in the gusts. The squirrels still dash between limbs. And the sun still rises in a spectacular way… if anyone’s looking.

A Stir-Crazy World by Ritu Bhathal

I can’t help but laugh.

When else have we seen people:
Lunge for loo roll?
Fisticuffs over flour?
Battle for bread?
Scuffle over sanitiser?
Persist over pasta?
Tiff over tinned tomatoes?
Dual over dried milk powder?
Brawl over bleach?
Challenge over chicken?

The world is stir-crazy right now.
All we can do is
Sit it out
Walk it out
Watch it out
Read it out
Write it out
Create it out
Cook it out
Eat it out

We’ll come out the other end
Possibly fatter
Maybe thinner
Hopefully more compassionate
Definitely grateful

And able to still raise a smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Crazy by Jaye Marie

Most people would object to being called crazy but I kinda like it, for I have never been what you would call normal.
I knew I was different from a very early age and in a funny way I have always been a little proud of the difference.
I’ll let you into my secret.

Being crazy I can get away with almost anything and no one has ever tried to stop me.
When I went shopping wearing my bunny rabbit onesie, no one was shocked or batted an eyelid.
but when I fixed the fence in the pouring rain…

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Concert by H.R.R. Gorman

We screamed at the stage, the speakers so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves. Through the smoky, cocaine-riddled haze, I spotted the Wilson sisters wailing on their guitars.

“Crazy on you-”

I sang in return, mind spinning, body sweating, blood pulsing, lips grinning. I wasn’t sure where all of my pants had gone, and my wallet was probably surfing through the opposite end of the crowd by now. But it had no money in it anyway, and I lived in such a small town the police didn’t need to see my ID when I got pulled.

“Crazy, crazy on you…”

🥕🥕🥕

Backyard Quandary by Susan Zutautas

Exhausted from a long crazy day at work I needed to take a little time to relax before starting dinner. I grabbed a beer and headed outside to the backyard. The sun was just starting to go down, and I didn’t feel the need to turn on the outside lights. Sitting in my favorite chair sipping my beer I saw the neighbor’s black cat in the distance. Here kitty, kitty, I called again and again until he finally started walking towards me. As he got closer to me, I stopped breathing and froze. Not a cat … a skunk!

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The “CRAZY”s by Michelle Wright

Cringe-worthy
Ringleaders
Arousing
Zany
Yearbook pictures

I joined the “CRAZY”s. We tried to sabotage every photograph. You can find our symbol hidden within most photos. Our demise began with the cat of our art teacher. Mr. Whiskers used his claws to grab hold of the plastic spider I was dangling from my hideout spot. The darn cat kept pulling down while I tried pulling the spider back up. I came to realize how overfed Whiskers had been as he was able to pull me down to face plant on the floor.

We say, “Now the ‘CRAZY’s are no more.”

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Dog Crazy by D. M. Seyfer

After a long night fretting about contagious this and that, my eyes finally sealed for a few hours until barking, yelping, whining. A deliveryman plodded to my door with stacks of boxes in hand. Three dogs bounded to the double-pain window barking and pawing. Umphf! A large brown paw pushed into my gut. What a crappy way to wake up! I shoved him off and curled to avoid another barrage of paws to my body. My small dog’s high pitched warning to stay away continued, and the other two pushed and shoved each other off the cushion with excitement.

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An Australian on the road in Tenby (Wales) by Doug Jacquier

At the Buccaneer Pub, inside the walls of the old town, I’m drinking with ancients like myself, pretending to be interested in rugby, while they pretend to be interested in cricket, but neither of us fakes their distrust of the Royals. Although it must be said that the man in the top hat and overalls, feeding his bar-stool-perched water spaniel some crisps and Guinness, is a little less harsh than his mates. He would allow them to take their own lives come the revolution. ‘Your round, convict lad,’ smiles Top Hat, ‘and mine next if the dog thinks you’re funny.”

🥕🥕🥕

Crazy Situations by Hugh W. Roberts

While shielding his eyes from the bright light, his army service time in Iraq made Mike expect an explosion to follow, but nothing materialised.

Opening his eyes, a crazy situation unfolded in front of him. He found himself looking down at himself.

***

Thinking she recognised the warning voice, Sophie couldn’t help but keep her eyes on the crazy situation in front of her.

“Time to die. But who?” yelled the woman.

***

Two floors above, Doug moved his hands away from his face and found he was alone again.

“That’s crazy. People don’t just disappear into thin air,” he insisted.

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In the Mind of Crazy Rhyme by Chelsea Owens

Soft the silence screaming
names she’s standing, sighing

Soft the sickness of the
suffocation singling

Soft the sex they had be-
fore the space between them

‘Fore the years of silence

‘Fore the mental sickness

-Can’t he hear her scream?-

Loud the longing yearning
pushing pulling prompting

Loud the laughing demon
in her head is lying

Loud the lightning-flashes,
loading mem’ries of him

Listing years-of-longing

Listing dreaming-lyings

-Can’t he see her yearn?-

Fly now, fleeting fledgling
first to reach the window

Fly toward feet-led floating
to the hallway’s ending

Fly now, and be free

-Can’t he see she’s free?-

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Gull Mafia by Janet Guy

A seagull perched on a cement post along the railing as I leaned over. A second seagull stood ankle deep in the river over a prone pigeon. The gull snapped here and there along the pigeon’s body, pushing its head below the water. The pigeon’s wings flailed. Was it from the motion of the waves, or was it still alive? I jumped back. The first seagull met my look of horror with cool amber eyes. Was it the lookout or waiting for sloppy seconds? Had I just witnessed a hit by the seagull mafia? “This is crazy,” I whispered.

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Crazy Day by Lisa A. Listwa

It was a Monday kind of Tuesday.

Ellis sat on the bus with hat in his hands and briefcase on his lap as he did on any other normal Tuesday. But this Tuesday was about to get as unnormal as it possibly could.

Ellis waited patiently for his stop. Standing silently when it was his turn, he placed his hat on his head, nodded to the driver, descended the steps, and landed squarely in a bowl of tomato soup.

“Finally! You’ve arrived!” said a well-dressed platypus on a raft.

“Yes.” Ellis blinked in the greenish sunlight.

“Let’s get started.”

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Goin’ Crazy by Cara Stefano

Lock downs started four weeks ago. Visiting Walgreens’s drive through pharmacy has been my social hour. At the grocery store I wore my bank robbin’ get up, feeling sad and scared and foolish and deadly serious all at once. No one laughed at me. My favorite time of day is when the mail truck comes through our development. Taking the trash out is the highlight of my week. I’ve never felt more like I’m on a roller coaster; however, I actually prefer the spin and puke rides. Come and take a spin with me?

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Crazy Eight Hill by Ann Edall-Robson

The cattle liner slowed, dust swirling. Three days earlier, Crazy Eight hill had been a rutted, rain-drenched, slimy road. It had taken every bit of sinew in his arms to maneuver the loaded truck safely to the bottom. Delivering the cattle to the ranch on the other side of the river below was his goal.

This was the third load from as many auctions. His reputation assured the new owner that the heifers would arrive in good shape. Thankful it hadn’t started raining again, he started the tedious eight-mile descent to the hairpin turn onto the bridge.

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A Poet’s Imagination by Saifun Hassam

He would sit by the Sea at dusk. He read aloud from his favorite poems. Possibly the first one was Longfellow’s “The Sound of the Sea” or Poe’s “The City in the Sea.” Later it would have been Frost’s “Neither Out Far Nor In Deep” or Merwin’s “Leviathan” or Stevens’ “The Idea of Order at Key West.”

Possibly he drifted off to sleep as the sun set, into skies of misty yellows, red and purple. Was it his imagination? He heard voices from the depths, whispering poems. Perhaps inspiration, a spark of crazy creativity that filled his own poetry.

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Broken Freedom by Dave Madden

Nearly two months had passed since John had punched anyone in the face, and he was about to begin punching himself. The world between his ears had become hectic.

John called his teammate Derrick, “Let’s train in your backyard.”

Finally, Derrick budged.

Of course, light mitt work soon turned into a brutal sparring session, and a straight right hand gave John’s nose a grotesque hook.

“If I go to the hospital, I’ll be fined for leaving my house. This was supposed to be a secret,” John said through a bloody towel.

Derrick said, “I’ll reset it. Ready, one, two…”

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Returning by D. Avery

“Guess we’ll pack up,” said Bill.

Of course hunting was off. Aaron noticed they’d removed the bolt from his rifle. “You guys must think I’m nuts.”

Harry spoke. “Dad’ll know what to do.”

Always ‘Dad’; not ‘my dad’, or ‘our dad’. ‘Dad’. But theirs. Not Aaron’s.

“Guys, let’s go sledding down Bear Hill. Like that time.” He saw the brothers both smile at remembering a long ago weekend at this camp with their dad. And with him. Aaron remembered having a crazy idea then that he could be their brother too, could say the word ‘dad’ capitalized, fully formed.

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C r a z y by Hanna Streng

The dam that had held me captive for so long had finally broken and a roaring river of words had rushed out of me. They had told him everything he never asked to hear, and more still. Now I could feel it ebbing out so I just let out a last, deep sigh of relief.

“You must think I’m crazy.”

“Depends.” He turned to look at me for a moment, as to reveal the slight smile in his eyes. “Convince me you’re not.”

“I’m not.”

At this his smile slowly traveled down to his lips.

“Okay, I believe you.”

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PART II (10-minute read)

Delightfully Daft by JulesPaige

I have a little fairy
she plays on my chandelier
upon her dress is printed a message;

wonder, explore, seek;
“Plunge boldly into the thick of life.” – Goethe
She goes where I cannot…
to the opening between the rocks –
to converse with other fae

Am I crazy to dream
that when she returns… she’ll
share her adventures with me?

I have a little fairy
to remind me to fantasize
about kind dragons
that will slay my dis-ease
of what may lurk in shadowed caverns

though I am beyond
the time to entice magical unicorns…
am I crazy to believe?

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Bitten by Joanne Fisher

“I see there are a couple of marks on your neck.” The Doctor said examining me. He pressed down on one of them and I felt a sharp pain.

“Yes they’re vampire bites.” I told him.

“Vampire bites?”

“A vampire regularly feeds on me. That’s why I’m always lacking energy and prone to anemia.” I informed him.

“I see.” He answered while sitting back down. “You do know vampires don’t exist?”

“Do I sound crazy to you?” I asked him.

“I’m afraid you do.” He replied calmly.

“Okay. Maybe I am crazy.” I conceded. “But what if I’m not?”

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Blank Canvas by Reena Saxena

unlimited imagination
a ton of rebellion
a dash of madness
is lot of inspiration
to defile blankness
with lines and shapes
fill them up with
hues and shades…
of eccentricity

He is now transported to a place where he has to live by rules. Certain acts are to be executed at a certain time, if you don’t want to be chastised by robots.

There is a vacuum inside with no perception, judgement, initiative or intensity.

He has lost everything of value to him. There is an empty canvas on the easel, his colors and tools. What will he paint?

🥕🥕🥕

Crazy Mom by Ruchira Khanna

The alarm wakes me up by 6 am. After freshening up, I pick up my bell and perform a ritual that has given me a nickname, ‘Crazy mom.’

But nothing can derail my enthusiasm about it, since being an advocate of energy medicine, I love to stir up energy into the stagnant particles of my home with this gentle jingle. This shift activates all the molecules that will eventually also liven up the spirits of all the humans living in it.

I call it killing two birds with one stone since the above activity also wakes up my teen.

🥕🥕🥕

Hide-and-Seek by Kerry E.B. Black

June crab-walked under the manicured forsythia bushes surrounding the wrap-around porch, holding her white party dress in an unwieldy bunch before her belly. Sweat straightened her curls and trickled saline into her eyes. Somewhere along here, a tiny door led to a slide she could take into the basement if need be. Of course, then her dress would definitely be ruined, since it used to be the coal cellar, and much of the soot lingered even all these years later – sort of how the “crazy” stuck around her bloodline no matter how hard her relatives tried to dilute it.

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Plucked by Charli Mills

Hazel plucked an avocado from the tree in Granny Clemmie’s yard and skipped on bare feet down the tarred road toward the canal. It stunk like ripe garbage, which was better than the constant snort of dust back in Oklahoma. California burst with crazy abundance. Model T’s rattled out of fields stacked with fruit crates. Only problem were them busybodies pestering mama about her kids being little malingerers. What was a child but a wild wanderer, laughed mama? Crazy thing, they ended her freedom that day, shipped her back like a burlap of walnuts to the Oklahoma Girls School.

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Brutal Craziness by Faith A. Colburn

Majda Obradovic thought she had left the craziness behind when she escaped Bosnia with only her daughters and her life—and some engraved shell casings. I’d realized before how people make beautiful things out of horrors—my dad had a coffee table made of military brass from the Korean Conflict. I don’t know the calibers of Majda’s shell casings, but I’m in awe of the engravings. Around the base of each casing were fleur de leis, and on the largest, central Sarajevo with its mosque, its synagogue, and its temple, and all the people on the promenade walking together.

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Crazy Expectations by Susan Sleggs

“Hi Michael, it’s Clare.”

“A phone call! What’s up?

“I need your help. How about a road trip?”

“Medical or musical?”

“Medical. Remember when you called me crazy the first time I asked you to get from the floor into your wheelchair on your own?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I have a young lady that added ‘bat s__t’ to the crazy part. She’s fully capable, but won’t even try. I think you’d be able to get through to her. Besides, I want to meet Tessa.”

“You know Tessa’s name?”

“Yeah, from your Mom’s Facebook page.”

“Figures. How soon are we traveling?”

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What Not to Do by John Lane

In February 1988, during my third week of Basic Training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, I fired an M-16. Unfortunately, I kept missing the target. Frustrated, I told the drill sergeant that I had enough. Here is what followed:

“PRIVATE LANE?”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant.”

“YOU WANT TO GO HOME?”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant.”

“GUESS WHAT, PRIVATE LANE?”

“What, Drill Sergeant?”

“YOU’RE NOT GOING HOME!”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant.”

“GET BACK IN THE FORMATION.”

Four the next four weeks, I was the target of every drill sergeant in the company. Four years later, I completed my Army enlistment with an honorable discharge.

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In the Time of COVID-19, Two Guys Remembering the War Measures Act of 1970 by Bill Engleson

‘He was straight as a friggin’ arrow. Can we say that?’

‘Don’t know. Doesn’t really matter. Who’s listening, anyways?’

‘Yeah, well, that’s a whole other story.’

‘I remember the way he was back in high school. Couldn’t get a peep out of him.’

‘It was crazy the way he was. Teenagers are supposed to go a little nuts. Cut loose. Do something wild.’

‘How’d it happen that he suddenly became…?’

‘Deranged?’

‘I was gonna say crackers.’

‘His family did have this anti-government thing.’

‘So un-Canadian.’

‘So were armed troops in the street.’

‘Better get used to it, again eh.’

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Crazy by FloridaBorne

“Crazy gypsy,” I muttered, as the fortune teller babbled nonsense.

“A disease created by China will bring this country to her knees. Killing newborn babies will be an… an… essential… service, but you will not be allowed to purchase an American Flag.”

“I’m living in 1950, not crazy world,” I chuckled.  “This is nuts!”

The gypsy smiled. “Just because I’m crazy doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”

“I fought in the war!  My friends died protecting flag, family, and freedom!  No veteran would allow that to happen!”

She looked into me with sharp blue eyes and said, “But your children will.”

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Argh Chute by Gary Holdway

The deafening roar of the engines grew too far away to be heard over the awesome power of the air. I raced toward the ground at frightening speed, the skin of my face flapping in the wind. I pulled my chute, and everything shuddered and slowed. My lips relaxed back into position across my mouth, I could breath again. It was beautiful, looking out over the horizon, drifting high above the ground like a dandelion carrying a wish.

Once the parachute slowed me down enough I reached for my knife and cut the ropes. I thought It’d be fine!

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Crazy, Plum Crazy by Geoff Le Pard

‘This place is driving me crazy.’

‘You’re doing their driving, Logan.’

‘What?’

‘If you’re doing the driving and it’s making you crazy, then it’s, you know, self-inflicted.’

‘What are you on about, Morgan?’

‘No, listen. Ever since we entered Michigan, you’ve been banging the steering wheel.’

‘That’s because these people are crazy. They overtake on the inside, for pity’s sake.’

‘That’s because they drive on the right.’

‘That’s crazy.’

‘At home the inside is the outside. So here the right is the wrong.’

‘And you fella! Morgan, you’re an idiot.’

‘Thanks.’

‘Don’t change, will you?’

‘Not a chance.’

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A Stir-Crazy World by Ritu Bhathal

I can’t help but laugh.

When else have we seen people:
Lunge for loo roll?
Fisticuffs over flour?
Battle for bread?
Scuffle over sanitiser?
Persist over pasta?
Tiff over tinned tomatoes?
Dual over dried milk powder?
Brawl over bleach?
Challenge over chicken?

The world is stir-crazy right now.
All we can do is
Sit it out
Walk it out
Watch it out
Read it out
Write it out
Create it out
Cook it out
Eat it out

We’ll come out the other end
Possibly fatter
Maybe thinner
Hopefully more compassionate
Definitely grateful

And able to still raise a smile.

🥕🥕🥕

On Thursday Evening by Anne Goodwin

Out they poured from their houses
Paused on their doorsteps
Ready to proclaim
Their support
The ritual way
With their hands.
Primed by the media
The government briefings
The slogans targeted at their hearts,
They knew what was needed,
They’d done it before.
In common cause with their neighbours,
Albeit socially distanced
In their separate booths,
They picked up the pens
They marked their crosses
In the box
For the party that promised
To rid dear Blighty
Of the infection
The virus
The scourge of immigration
Of social justice
Of healthcare free at the point of delivery for all.

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A Matter of Perspective by Jo Hawk

Insanity is measured by degrees, strictly classified by definitions, interpretations, and clever disguises. A tight white coat choked the evaluator, stripping him of his humanity. If he would only release himself from his strait-laced leash, he would see. He scribbled unintelligible notes with invisible ink and labeled my actions a Hail Mary call for help.

Nobody listened to the warnings I screamed loud and clear. Sometimes a hero must first rescue herself, so that night, with the walls closing in, I climbed Signal Mountain and sent my desperate S.O.S.

The mother ship answered, and I escaped this helter-skelter world.

🥕🥕🥕

Attitude Shift by D. Avery

“Pal! There’s a uni-corn wand’rin’ Carrot Ranch!”

“Yer crazy, Kid.”

“It’s fer real. If’n I kin find this uni-corn I’ll… I’ll…”

“Jist what will ya do if’n ya track down thet uni-corn?”

“Reckon I’ll rope it.”

“Uh-huh. Then whut?”

“Reckon I’ll lead it back ta the Ranch. Corral it.”

“Uh-huh. Or git it inta a stall. Think it’d be happy, roped an’ corralled?”

“Not at first. But…”

“But what? You gonna tame it?”

“Yeah. Tame it an’ train it. Till it’s—”

“Docile as any old plug?”

“Um…”

“Some things cain’t never be undone, Kid.”

“I’ll leave it be.”

🥕🥕🥕

Shield Your Face

Around the world, people are making and wearing facemasks. “Shield your face,” is not only a declaration for safety but for solidarity, as well. In the Keweenaw, like places elsewhere, sewing facemasks is a way to “protect me, protect you, and protect the community.” Shields have long protected humans from armored knights to face-shielded emergency room workers.

This week, writers thought about ways — new or old — to consider how the declaration could be used. Who states, “Shield your face,” and why?

The following stories are based on the April 9, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that declares, shield your face.

PART I (ten-minute read)

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Staying Fit by Geoff Le Pard

‘What are you doing, Morgan?’

‘Hang on… There.’

‘The duck mask does what exactly?’

‘It’s my upgraded internet security.’

‘You’ve lost me.’

‘Barty warned me. He was watching this video…’

‘Right…’

‘About staying fit…’

‘Working up a sweat?’

‘Exactly. Anyway, they filmed him through his thingy.’

‘Laptop?’

‘They said they’d show his friends…’

‘That he was watching an exercise video?’

‘Imagine if the lads knew.’

‘Quite. Barty in Lycra… horrid.’

‘I’m shielding my face. No one’s stealing my personality.’

‘I’m sure the online world is breathing more easily.’

‘More than I am. Can you help me take this off?’

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Good Friday, 2020 by Anne Goodwin

Matty has been abducted by aliens. She lies on her back, examined by spacemen, her lungs fit to burst on their oxygen-depleted rock. Matty has been rescued by welders. They will fuse the parts of her windpipe that have rusted and split. Matty is backstage, amid mumbling servants in fancy dress. Preparing for a new production, a mime for Easter, a Passion play. Naturally, Matty is the star.

The star? The chosen one? God’s only child, Jesus Christ? Matty does not want to be crucified. She struggles. She spits. “Shield your face!” says an alien. A welder? A nurse?

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TV Night by Michael Fishman

Derek stood up and jumped in front of the television. Blocking Fannie Flagg’s answer to a Dumb Dora question, he grabbed the collar of his t-shirt and ripped, revealing a sunken chest and a round belly fueled by pizza, soda and Big Macs.

“Whatcha gonna do,” he growled wide-eyed. “When Derekmania runs wild on you.”

Jessie nuzzled closer to her mom on the couch. “What’s wrong with dad,” she whispered?

“It’s the sheltering at home, kitten. I think it’s finally gotten to him. Don’t worry.”

“But that –”

“He’s only having fun.”

“It’s weird.”

“Just shield your face, dear.”

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Shield by FloridaBorne

“Hey, Yeshua,” Lucifer said.  “I’ll betcha I can destroy the USA in six months.”

“You’re on,” Yeshua laughed.

“I’ll take the common cold, have the Chinese weaponize it, use statistics from the yearly flu, and then…then…”

“What’s so funny?”  Yeshua asked.

“You know how much American’s hate Arab face and head coverings?”

“So?”

“I’ll bet I can willingly make them walk around like that!”

“What do you want if you win?”

“I want every churchgoer in the USA forced to stay home on Easter instead of worshiping you.”

“My people aren’t that naïve,” Yeshua laughed.

And Lucifer won… again.

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July, 1933 by Margaret G. Hanna

John ran in. “Dust’s coming, Mom!”

I grabbed the basket. “Maisie, help me get the clothes off the line.”

I could taste dust. Russian Thistles bounced across the yard. “Where’s your dad?” I yelled at John.
He pointed. “Across the tracks.”

The wind twisted the clothes. “Mom, the dust’s stinging my face.”

“Here, use this pillowslip to shield your face”

I heard horses and the discer clatter into the yard. Caleb unharnessed the horses and put them in the barn, then rushed to the house, his kerchief over his face.

The dust cloud hit. The world was blotted out.

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Bucket Heads by Doug Jacquier

‘We’re going to have to tell him.’

‘What do you mean “we”. It was your idea!’

‘But you went along.’

‘True. You do realise he’s going to go mental?’

‘Oh, I realise alright. Hence these two buckets?’

‘OK, why the buckets?’

‘For protection.’

‘From what?’

‘From what’s going to happen when I tell him.’

‘You’ve lost me.’

‘You’re familiar with the phenomenon that is euphemistically called the waste substance hitting the revolving blades?’

‘The waste … oh, yeah, I get it.’

‘So when I tell him, put the bucket over your head to shield your face.’

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Shield Your Face by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Frustration washes over Cathy, and she concentrates on keeping her voice steady. A shaking voice will be misinterpreted as anxiety. Thank goodness this meeting is virtual, and she can hide behind her computer with the camera off. Nobody can see her face which is suffused with blood. She has never been good at disguising anger and strong emotion.

The facts are decisive, and she can’t understand this lengthy argument against the obvious answer. Then it strikes her. This discussion has nothing to do with logic or getting to the right answer. It has to do with pandering to fear.

🥕🥕🥕

Knights So Bold by Anita Dawes

In days of old
Knights may well have been bold
Not so much when facing a leper colony
Their faces wrapped in filthy rags
To hide what lies beneath
No hand will shake
those dark wrapped fingers
No hug given in greeting
Their eyes tell of a thousand deaths
Each day grows darker
Leave food outside the dark
open mouth of forgotten caves
Where no family dare enter
To watch from a distance
As bread is eagerly taken
So many lost in dark hollow walls
Then comes a Knight so bold
To tell of bright new life to unfold…

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Battle Of Newbies by Tanmay Jain

The King had decided to try and break the siege. No one believed it’ll work. But he was the king and following the king even if you know you’d die is the kind of stuff they’d agree to do around here. So tomorrow, they were gonna break the siege.

Aion didn’t care about such treasonous opinions, all he wanted was to live and die for the king.

He started getting ready for battle.

”Wear the helmet, boy,” the muscly soldier next to him said. ” Your head may not work very well but that’s the first thing you gotta protect.”

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Showing Emotions by Susan Sleggs

An IED bomb is a localized small blast meant to destroy one vehicle. All Michael remembers of the fateful sunny day when he met one was going outside the fence in a convoy. A month later he would be told, “Private Amanda Jennings was driving the truck behind your jeep. We had all come to accept her as one of us, but when your jeep went up, the male in us automatically took over and we made every attempt to shield her face from the sight. She cried right there on the spot; we wish we could have too.”

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Anxious Impression by Kerry E.B. Black

Bobby’d stolen a peek at the clock. The numbers were either wrong, or Daddy should’ve been home long before. He scanned the road outside his window, his heart beating an anxious rhythm.

He wasn’t the only worrier. His mom curled under a quilt and stared unseeing at late-night television.

Finally, the crunch of gravel and a car door’s thump restarted Bobby’s heart. Though long past bedtime, he dashed to fling open the door. He buried his face in Daddy’s unyielding uniform. Daddy’s silver shield badge imprinting upon his face – the way his Daddy left loving traces on Bobby’s heart.

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Landing by D. Avery

He hadn’t expected to get shot at for trying to land at the airport.

*It’s not the virus, just cancer; her dying wish is to spend her last days at the cottage.*

He flew low along the deserted shoreline, circled back into the wind. Resisting the compulsion to shield her face, he kept his hands clenched on the yoke, *Nose up, come on, there it is, yeah!*

*Here we are, Dear, let’s just catch our breath before getting you settled in the cottage. I’ll unload the plane before the tide comes in, then together we shall enjoy the sunset.*

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Trissemene Sea: Diamante by Saifun Hassam

Jagged lightning lit up the skies over the thundering stormy Trissemene Sea. Fine grains of sand danced madly in gusty gale force winds. Shifting sand dunes piled up on rocks and boulders.

Diamante ran down to the shore when the lookout at the ancient temple hit the giant bell three times. Other men followed swiftly. Diamante pulled up his multilayered bandana, shielding his face against the pelting sand.

Against all hope, a single fishing boat rode the rising waves in a cove of the headland. Diamante prayed for the three fishermen who had not returned. Two boats still missing.

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Shield Your Face by Allison Maruska

I stand behind the barricade, bracing myself. Nearby, my soldiers grip their weapons and wait for the signal. A wind gust blasts through our bunker, coating us with dirt.

“Ugh.” James removes his mask, wiping the debris.

The alarm blasts. My soldiers rush out, weapons pointed.

James tosses his mask and runs into battle, unprotected.

“Shield your face!” I yell.

Soldiers holler. A round hits James, sending streams of green into his face. He closed his eyes just in time.

Sighing, I hurry to him. “What’s the first rule of paintball?”

My twelve-year-old rolls his eyes. “Always wear protection.”

🥕🥕🥕

Starfall by Joanne Fisher

There was a sudden flash and instinctively I raised my arms to shield my face. I opened my eyes to see one of our starships was in smouldering pieces. No doubt our enemy was using nukes.

“The use of nuclear weapons has now been authorised.” The Commander ordered.

My heart sank. I feared for our populations across the many worlds we had colonised that would now face destruction, as well as the “enemy” populations that would meet a similar fate. We almost had peace, but the talks had failed, and now led to this.

Then there was another flash…

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Recover Home by Jo Hawk

Heavy metal blared, drowning the crackling and buzzing, as sparks flew. The fiery shower bounced on the cement floor.

“Jason.”

Switching off the torch, he pushed his heavily gloved hand against his forehead, lifting the face shield. Except for the music in his helmet, the garage was silent. Hot wind blasted through the open door.

He was alone.

Desperation clutched his heart. Glancing at his watch he assessed his chances of completing the needed repairs. He couldn’t stay. He had to find the passage home.

“Shield your face. Return to me.”

“I’m coming.”

Or I’ll die trying, he vowed.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (ten-minute read)

Shields Down by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d gotten in near midnight, after the evening shift at the group home. Her own home was a shambles: beer cans and wine bottles, scummy bong water, butts strewn all over the floor, some of them human. They weren’t supposed to be here.

Rodney emerged from the bedroom, a very drunk, half-clothed Britanny hanging off his shoulder, sharing his wide grin.

“Sheralynn,” Rodney drew up his familiar shield of nonchalance. “I thought you were working a double shift.”

“They sent me home. Likely COVID exposure,” she wiped her brow, unsure if it was fever, or rage. “Everybody out. Now.”

🥕🥕🥕

Homegrown Ingenuity? by JulesPaige

Working with what they have on hand folks become creative in the ability to shield themselves and protect the ones they love. Prototypes and various patterns abound with the use of basic cotton envelopes pleated on one side, folded to make pockets to hold layers of more cotton and other accepted shop type towels that are N95 approved.

Working with coffee closures (found on bags of that product) to hold the nose channel in place and headbands and ponytail hair circles of various sizes in side channels; paperclips and zip ties hold the elastic tight against cheeks. Stay safe.

🥕🥕🥕

Shielded by Cara Stefano

Karen awoke with the sun, before her children, her husband, even her dog was awake. She sat at her dressing table in a cozy robe, arranging her pots and powders, brushes, wands and other devices seemingly meant only for torture. Painstakingly she straightened her chestnut curls and twisted them up into a serviceable ponytail. With exquisite care she applied her makeup: foundation, blush, eye shadow, and eye liner, mascara in darkest black. She glossed her worried lips in poppy flower red. Satisfied, she stood. Her mask firmly in place, Karen went downstairs to make coffee.

🥕🥕🥕

Whatever Gets You Through the Night. It’s Alright by Tina Stewart Brakebill

Frustrated, Jane muted the tv and glared at her roommates.

Returning Jane’s glare, Peter lit up a joint and took a deep hit before blowing the smoke directly into her face.

“Damn it! Pete. You know I’ve got a Zoom meeting.”

“Not my problem. Shield your face. Wear one of those damn masks you keep sewing.”

Ignoring Pete, she returned to the muted tv. But watching the orange faced idiot gesticulate wildly just made it worse. Feeling the rage building, she closed her eyes and surrendered. Humming “whatever gets your through the night” she whispered, “Pass me that joint.”

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Shield & Taylor by Janet Guy

I need a face shield.

Certainly, Ma’am. Will it be used for hiding? Protection? Disguise? Fear? Shame?

Hiding and disguise.

One of our most popular combinations. This suburban-camouflage balaclava is a best seller. Blend into any background whenever you can’t listen to the children for one more second. It comes with a flask for “mommy juice.”

It fits like a dream, but do you have anything for summer?

Here is our latest line of contouring makeup. All the rage with Gen-Z. ‘Look Carved From Marble.’

I prefer something less artistic.

I have a vintage catcher’s mask in the back…

🥕🥕🥕

Beaten by Lisa A. Listwa

Carla stepped into the sunlight as she had on a hundred other Monday mornings.

The bright beauty of the day was stark contrast to the terror she would experience once she completed the journey from school bus to classroom.

The brutality was relentless. She suffered in silence, no one aware of the battle scars she accumulated day after day.

Protection and safety were illusions. No suit of armor deflected the assaults. No knight came to her rescue.

She learned to believe the things they said. No one told her to shield her face from attacks on her own self-esteem.

🥕🥕🥕

At the Supermarket by Joanne Fisher

Jess and Cindy drove down to the supermarket in Lawrence. Lucky sat in the back seat with his head permanently out the window and his tongue hanging out.

While shopping they saw Lynn, a former classmate of theirs. She took one look at them together and suddenly shielded her face from them and began walking down another aisle.

“Maybe we’re just too damn awesome to look at.” pondered Cindy as they loaded their shopping into the back of the station wagon. Jess smiled.

“No, she’s totally jealous of us,” she suggested. They knew the real reason but laughed anyway.

🥕🥕🥕

Screens by Sarah Brentyn

The door was wide open.

She never had that screen installed and cursed herself for it now. Nothing stood between them. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

She shifted, torn, wondering if she should relent or fight. Quickly dismissing her chances winning, she thought of running. How far could she get? Her eyes darted to the back slider, the yard beyond stretching into dense woods.

“It’s cold out here. You going to make me push my way past you?”

“What? Oh, sweetie, you caught me off guard,” she smiled, shield up. “Come in, please. What a pleasant surprise.”

🥕🥕🥕

Shielded Eyes by Ann Edall-Robson

Raking a hand through his blonde hair, he watched the moving silhouette in the arena. Stepping onto the bottom rail of the fence he settled his hat on his head in an effort to shield his eyes from the fall sunset.

The woman reined the buckskin gelding towards the intruder, offering him a flash of a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.

“You’re a long way from where you should be.”

His eyes never wavered from hers.

“You know damn well this is where I should be!”

“You don’t belong here. Never have, and you never will.” She taunted.

🥕🥕🥕

A New Dance Begins by Charli Mills

The Texas sun baked the canvas tent where Jess ripped lengths of satin. She cranked her sewing machine, finishing the edges of royal blue scarves. When she had enough, she carried the stack outside and handed two to every man who rode for her husband’s brand. The trail ride to Montana with a herd of longhorns would be arduous. Her husband survived the War and sacrificed all he had for this cattle drive. The least she could do was sacrifice ballroom gowns. “Shield your face,” she told him. He understood the gesture, her willingness to trust a new dance.

🥕🥕🥕

Public Service Announcement by John Lane

As Sylvia crossed the New York border in her two-door Chevy, her coughing picked up the pace.
And she refused a mask.
*It messes up my make-up.*

She wanted more toilet tissue, although she had enough for two weeks.
But she refused a mask.
*It itches my face.*

At the store, Sylvia coughed on the toilet tissue located on the shelf where eight-year-old Melissa took a pack. Sylvia then coughed on Bobby, the cashier.
Without a mask.
*It’s too tight.*

Four days later, Melissa and Bobby died in the hospital from complications of COVID-19.

Be safe. Wear a mask.

🥕🥕🥕

Keep Your Guard Up by Dave Madden

“Every time you start throwing a combination, your hands drop, and you don’t shield your face properly.”

Derrick didn’t think his older brother was a liar, but it’s not like he had a lot of fight experience of his own.

“Three amateur boxing matches doesn’t make you an expert,” Derrick fired back.

Derrick’s brother chuckled, “That’s been your best defense all day.”

What Derrick didn’t know was that his brother had been video taping the entire training session. When he watched back the tape and saw his hands drop for himself, he knew his brother was telling the truth.

🥕🥕🥕

Bat Girl by Padre of Padre’s Ramblings

Some called her a vigilante, others a local hero. Whichever viewpoint you took, one thing was certain, petty crime had fallen in Braddockville. She wore no Lycra-based catsuit or cape, but a plain set of blue denims and a blue patterned bandanna tied cowboy style about her face to shield her identity.

No one knew who this foiler of misdeeds was, but she was popularly referred to in both casual conversation and the local papers as Bat Girl. Bat Girl? Yes, the term was first used to describe her by the drug dealer that first experienced her Louisville Slugger.

🥕🥕🥕

The Shield Of EDICT by Bill Engleson

“Move along, rogue. This is not your place.”

He wears the shield of EDICT.

I make to move.

I always move.

Even before the scourge, I had no true place. But now the frayed net that caught bits of me, bits of all the others like me, has dissipated.

We have no voice to stand our ground.

We have no ground.

And certainly no shield.

This one’s no mucky muck.

He could be me.

Once.

“You deef, buddy?” he persists.

Why do I hesitate?

Could now be my time?

Can I utter the words, “When I’m good and ready!”

🥕🥕🥕

Unveiled by Ritu Bhathal

I stepped outside, onto our rooftop veranda.

The sun, still warm, was beginning to set.

I needed to collect the clothes from the line, but first, I just had to make the most of this moment.

As far as the eye could see, roof terraces were visible, but, unlike other days, no one was out on them.

This virus had scared everyone.

Slowly, I unhooked my veil, allowing the warm rays to touch my face.

This was a bliss I was rarely allowed to experience.

“Shield your face!” My father appeared.

I scrambled to reinstate the veil. “Sorry, Abba.”

🥕🥕🥕

Anarchists and Aliens by Chelsea Owens

Despite overwhelming evidence of humanity’s intelligence and observational abilities, Dr. Straussnüd’s research covering the period shortly before the collapse of civilisation appeared to lead to one conclusion: that people failed to utilise said abilities in order to avert subjugation and demise.

For, for what other reason did the records he had unearthed bear markings of carefree ignorance on the part of Earth’s inhabitants?

When a literal invasion of alien species flashed its conscience-altering devices, they had not followed admonitions. Why? Once informed, audio records proved their leaders to have yelled, “Shield your faces!”

Straussnüd frowned. He required further study.

🥕🥕🥕

Essential Characters by D. Avery

“Kid, where’s Frankie? I’m waitin’ fer a delivery a coasters fer the saloon.”

“Really, Pal? Times like this an’ yer worried ‘bout bar coasters? Even fictional folks is busy. Ernie’s runnin’ his still agin, makin’

‘Corn-U-Cope-Ya’ll’, his homebrewed antiseptic lotion. With aloe.”

“Uh, hello. An’ where’s Pepe LeGume?”

“Pepe an’ Logatha been hunkered down sewing masks en masse, fer folks ta shield their face, pertect one ‘nuther. So let’s have Frankie send them coasters along ta Pepe, ta use as inserts.”

“Ok. Whut kin we do, Kid?”

“Reckon jist keep the Saddle Up Saloon open as an essential business.”

🥕🥕🥕

Pizza

Do you ever think about the best pizza you ever had? There’s something about a flat round of dough smothered in sauce, cheese, and toppings that captivates attention like the moon in the sky. Maybe you aren’t partial to pizza but it reminds you of family gathering, pitchers of beer (soda), or similar flatbread food.

This week, we asked writers to think about pizza. How do stories pan out from a global perspective? We’ll let the collection speak for itself.

The following is based on the April 2, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes pizza.

PART I (10-minute read)

Once Upon a Time in Sicily by Paula Puolakka

One of the reasons why the Sicilian housewives had strong arms was the lifelong practice in the pizza dough kneading. Before the era of the modern gyms and fitness cults, the daily house chores were enough to keep women in shape: the beauty standards were down-to-earth and natural.

The pizzas were usually thin and crispy. Sometimes they lacked either cheese or tomato sauce, and they could have been called “burnt bread and vegetables.”

Once upon a time in Sicily, pizza rose to become the food of every family. It made the gap between the rich and the poor disappear.

🥕🥕🥕

War and Pizza Store Menu by Doug Jacquier

PETA special – Contains no animal products but please note that wheat screams when it’s harvested.
Four Seasons – Perfect for the procrustinator
Meet Lovers – Could be anything but comes PDQ
Blonde – Toasted open sandwich (they’ll never know)
Neapolitan – Ice-cream pizza you can spoon
Deep dish – Intellectuals special
Frutti di mare – Italian for pretentious
Viagra – No droop, all satisfaction
Hawaiian – Take-away only, for the benefit of sensitive in-house diners
Carbonara – For that burnt crust taste
Pizza Cake – Easy combination of main and dessert
Aussie – with a dozen eggs, half a pig, beetroot, tomato sauce and attitude
OCD – exactly 17 olives

🥕🥕🥕

Romantic Evening in Quarantine by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“How long ago did you order that pizza?” Sheralynn tipped her wine glass to catch the last drop.

“Hmmm?” Rodney examined the hole in his tube sock, intent on covering up his big toe without using his hands.

“And did you get half pineapple and veggie for me, half megameat for you?”

Resigned to having to use one foot to clothe the other, he didn’t answer.

“Rodney! I know it’s Shutdown, but it’s been 2 ½ hours now!”

“What? Do you need more wine?”

“No! When did you order the pizza?!”

“I didn’t do it,” he sighed. “Didn’t you?”

🥕🥕🥕

Flirting by Pete Fanning

Business was booming. I zoomed down the open road, pockets bulging with tips. My knitted face-mask hung at my chin as I sang along with The Police.

“Don’t Stand So Close To Me.”

Last house. I started up the stairs when a voice rattled through the intercom.

“Please set the pizza on the porch.”

Sure. The order was prepaid, came with a generous tip. I turned to leave when someone inside rapped on the window. A masked girl, with sandy blonde hair and a gorgeous set of hazel eyes. She gave me a thumbs up.

“Nice mask.”

“You too.”

🥕🥕🥕

Cold Pizza for Breakfast by Joanne Fisher

“Morning!” Astrid said kissing me on the cheek, and then the lips.

There was an hour before work. I got up and wandered into the kitchen. I hadn’t eaten much and was feeling ravenous. Fortunately my fridge was full of pizza. I grabbed a large wedge and began stuffing it into my mouth. Astrid followed me into the kitchen. She was frowning.

“You’re having cold pizza for breakfast Melissa?” She asked surprised. I shrugged my shoulders and kept eating.

“I don’t care.” I answered with a full mouth. “I’m hungry and I love cold pizza.”

“Obviously.” She replied unimpressed.

🥕🥕🥕

Pizza by Di @ pensitivity101

We’d only just met and it was my turn to cook. He had cooked me the most wonderful liver and bacon with onion gravy, cabbage, and mashed potatoes.

There wasn’t much in the cupboard………. a tin of tuna, an onion, some mushrooms, a tomato and some cheese.

I made a pastry base, cooked it blind, then sliced the tomato and mushrooms really thin,
chopped the onion and mixed that with the tuna fish and spread it on the top, then covered the lot in grated cheese and finished it off in the oven.

Perfect……. the out of nothing Pizza!

🥕🥕🥕

To Pizza or not to Pizza? by tracey robinson

I frowned walking into the break area. Pizza again? While I didn’t mind working late I was tired of pizza being the only food provided. What about subs or fried chicken for once?

I suppose this is what one gets working in a predominately male environment. And there was no way I was going to take over food duty. I had worked way too hard to get near the top. I have heard most people leave their jobs because of their boss. Would I be the first person to leave because of food? Don’t be silly, of course not!

🥕🥕🥕

Did Someone Say Pizza? by Susan Zutautas

On our last trip to Montreal, I insisted we have pizza.

If you’ve never tried an all-dressed Montreal pizza you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s almost impossible to eat this pie with your hands and I suggest you have a knife and fork handy.

Thin slices of pepperoni atop a puffy golden crust that has been moistened with a delicious tomato sauce. Fresh mushrooms and green pepper generously follow then the pizza is covered with a carpet of cheese that has been baked till the cheese is slightly browned.

I swear it tastes like a slice of heaven.

🥕🥕🥕

Pizza-in-a-Box by Faith A. Colburn

Pizza came to Nebraska in the early 60s. It arrived in a box. Back then, a pizza party did not involve take out or delivery, or even popping a frozen treat in the oven. We mixed the dough, according to directions, inhaling the yeasty aroma. We tried tossing it on our fingers, then we gathered up the mess and pressed it into a pan, crimped the edges and spread the tomato sauce around. Then we scattered cheese over the top. Sometimes I make pizza, but not the bare bones concoctions we giggled over. Nor is it as much fun.

🥕🥕🥕

Pees Ta by H.R.R. Gorman

“What is this?” asked Papaw. He squinted his glaucoma-weakened eyes, inspecting the food.

“Pizza,” Mama responded. “It’s just bread, cheese, and sauce.”

Mamaw harrumphed then told someone invisible, “This woman’s crazy. I’ll die – it’s poison. Look at how fat she is; I won’t eat her food.”

“Pees-ta,” Papaw said. “Sounds foreign. I was in the war, and I don’t like foreign food-”

“Just eat it,” Daddy commanded. “You’ll get used to it.”

Papaw took a bite, grimaced, and pushed away his plate. “This is for damn Garlic Eaters. I’m not eating this foreign trash.”

Mamaw just cackled. “Poison!”

🥕🥕🥕

Pizza by Tammy L. Toj Gajewski

When dad passed away, the five of us kids all asked Ma where’s the pizza pan. This pan was aluminum, twenty inches across and scratched to hell. My dad used it at Dequardoes Pizza in Milwaukee and it was a gift when he left. Sammy Dequardoe would make us Shirley Temples while we watched Dad throw dough up in the air and spin it like a hula hoop. I remember running around the bar after all the sugar with my pizza slice slapping the air while I tried to put it in my mouth. I got the pan.

🥕🥕🥕

Only Pepperoni by Sarah Brentyn

Outside, wind howled, rain pounded our windows, but that was nothing compared to what was happening inside.

In our kitchen, my brother’s storm startled me even more than Mother Nature’s.

It arrived with a force that sent my dog running. I wanted to follow but I stayed, frozen, under my mother’s glare. I had to stay, always, so as not to make my brother feel bad.

Him. We don’t want him to feel bad. Because, with changes in routine, like pizza being delivered with mushrooms alongside the pepperoni, he struggles. But, standing near his pizza-fueled rage, I struggle, too.

🥕🥕🥕

Lynn Valley: Tom by Saifun Hassam

Tom relished the pizza his cousin Hannah made. Spicy chicken sausage, caramelized sweet onions, bell peppers, olives, feta cheese. Salad with peppery feathery arugula leaves and sweet apple slices.

Tom now lived in Lynn Valley, in the frame house willed to him by Aunt Bev. She and Hannah knew well his devoted care for Janice, his wife, as she struggled with a brain tumor. When she died, Tom moved from Seattle to Lynn Valley. He continued his successful online accounting business.

As the COVID-19 pandemic widened, he was very glad to be with the only family he now had.

🥕🥕🥕

Sticky Pudding by Ann Edall-Robson

His granddaughter was right on time for her Thursday afternoon visit. Spending time with her was the highlight of his week. They’d catch up on family gossip, play cards, or work on a puzzle. Like every Thursday, she had called before she came, to see if he needed anything. Today, he had asked her to bring some pizza for their snack.

Lifting the lid he shook his head, “What’s this?”

“Your favourite, sticky pudding, I brought ice cream to spiff it up. ”

“I asked for pizza.”

She laughed as she hugged her granddad.

“I thought you said some pizzaz.”

🥕🥕🥕

Scattered by D. Avery

Your son-in-law brought pizzas up. Some of us ate at the cluttered table, some sitting cheek to cheek on the sofa that would be my bed. Your grandchildren clambered or were passed around your crowded apartment, one teething on a crust.

I remembered our stories; for you, but also your family.

We took turns laying with you, that even in your sleep, fitful as the late spring snow, you felt us near.

You wouldn’t die alone.

spring veiled gray mourning
rain raked windows rattle cold
shrill and sharp wind keens
unsettled birds fly scattered
like everything we once knew

🥕🥕🥕

Mexican Pizza by Michelle Wright

Daisy smiled as she and her sister, Lilly, passed by a Mexican restaurant while walking on the sidewalk together, dressed in black.

“What are you smiling about?” Lilly asked.

“Pizza,” Daisy smiled then continued, “One night while you were at basketball practice momma took me to a Mexican restaurant. I didn’t know what to order so I said I wanted to make my own thing. Momma ordered all the side dishes. I threw them together and called it Mexican pizza.”

Lilly smiled, “I wish she could make Mexican pizza with her grandchildren.”

Daisy said, “Let’s do it for her.”

🥕🥕🥕

Pizza Memories by Susan Sleggs

At Tessa’s parents, Michael said, “This pizza is better than what I remember from high school.”

“Who remembers that far back?”

“I do. I came in one day and saw three pizza boxes on the counter. My mouth started watering, but I couldn’t smell them so I peeked in a box and it held quilt blocks. The other two boxes had the same. My hopes were dashed.”

They laughed at the visual.

Tessa added, “We now have square plastic boxes with handles to carry blocks in, but back then an unused pizza box was gold and hard to get.”

🥕🥕🥕

With the Assistance of a Lyre… by JulesPaige

Each member of the choir held their quire
As the dire driver of the van spun in the mud his tyre in the mire
They were late, nearing the wire
Of the time their pizza was to come out of the stone oven’s fire…

Hoping no ill wrath from Meyer the sire of the shire
it truly was their sole desire
to put on a heavenly performance lead by their sprier Pryor
once known as the shyer, friar Dwyer

After downing all their slices, neatly in their elegant attire
It was with relief they raised their sated voices higher!

🥕🥕🥕

Pizza by Anita Dawes

No food in the shops
The cupboards are bare
My children are hungry
There is nothing to share
My stomach is rumbling
I try racking my brains
What on earth can we do while
All our energy drains?
A meat pie sounds great
A roast dinner would be better
I am being haunted by food
buttered toast would be kind
but pizza would be good
I can see it now, my mouth waters
I can smell the delicious aroma
of tomato, ham and cheese
A joy to my heart, my stomach too
Will someone bring me a pizza, please?

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Feeding the Soul by Jo Hawk

Saffron sunk the measuring cup into the container. The flour poofed, and billowing white clouds dusted the counter. The scent of yeast permeated the kitchen, as she worked the tacky, gloppy mess until it formed a loose ball.

The heel of her hand pushed into the dough and rolled it to its starting point. She kneaded the dough to a silky smoothness. After a quick rise, she created a rough circle and added simple toppings. The hot oven melted the mozzarella and browned the crust on her classic Margherita Pizza.

Accolades were nice, but baking was its own reward.

🥕🥕🥕

Pizza by Cara and Mikey Stefano

A delicious meal of pizza!
Oh pizza you are SO delicious!
Do we do delivery or shall we make it here at home ourselves?
We have to roll the dough out instead of spinning it high up into the air soaring like an edible i.f.o (that’s an Identified flying object!) – I sure wish that we could do it that way!
Soft and chewy crust!
Sweet and spicy sauce – but not too spicy, please!
Bubbly and fragrant cheese!
How do we decide what toppings we should use today?
Open the refrigerator door, point – YUM!

🥕🥕🥕

Pizza by Ruchira Khanna

“Yeah! Make your pizza night is here!” Friday morning, Nate wakes up with this hum.

He’s so excited about the evening that he gobbled down the oatmeal amidst getting ready for school.

“Are all your books in order?”

“Yes!”

“Did you fill up your water bottle?”

“Yes!”

‘Sigh! What an incentive this pizza night can be. My third grader is ready even before the school bus has arrived. I wish I had thought of it earlier.’

Evening comes, Nate is dragging his stool to be around the kitchen countertop to layer his pizza crust with cheese, olives, and pineapple.

🥕🥕🥕

Pizza Exchange by Charli Mills

Rosa lived with her parents in a single-wide behind the barn. Her mama hummed as she pounded tortillas and mashed a fresh pot of simmering pinto beans. After school, Rosa often went to the big house to study with Becky Ainsworth. That’s where she tasted frozen mini pizzas that left an essence of cardboard in Rosa’s mouth. One Friday, Becky suggested studying at Rosa’s home. Quickly she whispered to her mama, “Becky likes pizza.” Her mama smiled, and fried two corn tortillas crisp and flat, adding mashed pintos, olives and queso. Becky’s eyes widened. “Best pizza ever,” she said.

🥕🥕🥕

Corona Dreams by MRMcrum

Back in Maryland after being gone ten years, what he missed most was the food that had comforted him as a child. The friend he had come to see asked, “So what do you want to do first?”

“I want Ledo’s pizza. I don’t want take out. I want to sit in the joint and eat it.

“You got it”, his friend said, “Ledos, here we come”.

Sipping beer and catching up, his mind was more about the pizza than the conversation. He saw a waiter headed their direction……..

“Hey, wake up. The kids want frozen pizza for diner.”

🥕🥕🥕

How to Wake a Teenager by Chelsea Owens

The way to get a teenager out of bed is with last night’s pizza. Just lean in to the lifeless lump of blankets atop your teen’s bed, plug your nose against the smell of the room, and whisper the magic words: “Pizza,” “Breakfast.”

You may think they want it fresh, or hot, or crispy. You are wrong.

“Pizza for breakfast” will result in the sudden escaping of a barely-dressed teenager from his blanket cocoon. You’ll find your teen illuminated by the open refrigerator; feet on your best cushions; happily consuming an old, cold, slimy pizza slice.

Yes, for breakfast.

🥕🥕🥕

Pizza Face by Ritu Bhthal

“Stuffed Your Face Pizza. Hmm, that’s an interesting name for the business, Marcus.”
Lorraine was flicking through the pile of newly printed flyers, ready to go out the next morning.

“Let’s just say it has meaning…”

“Well, I hope people stuff their face with your pizza, considering the loan we’ve take, against our home.”

“Oh, it’ll be worth it, all right.” Marcus spread moisturiser on his smooth skin as he thought back to school.

“Oi, Pizza Face! You’re stuffed!”

Thankfully, the acne that plagued him then, was long gone, and his newest employee was one of the tormentors.
Revenge!

🥕🥕🥕

In Pizza Parlance by Bill Engleson

“Anchovies!”

“Huh?”

“You heard me.”

“Context would help.”

“What’s your problem? You think I’m speaking in tongues?”

“Pshaw! I didn’t say that. Now that you mention it, what were you speaking in?”

“Lips. I was speaking in lips.”

“Lips are pretty close to tongues. Either way, you’ve lost me.”

“I’ll start again. When I say anchovies, it only means one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Pizza. Papa Dave’s pizza.”

“Don’t know it.”

“It was from before. My old life in the city.”

“Life’s often about loss.”

“No one should have to lose the best pizza ever.”

“Yeah. Anyways, finish your porridge.”

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Flash Fiction: Wrong Person, Wrong Piece of Mind by Dave Madden

Jeremy and Kevin had been cruising the Broadway bars all evening, and it was around midnight when they stepped into the Broadway Lounge & Terrace.

Kevin, as usual, was three sheets to the wind.

“Dude…,” Jeremy slapped Kevin on the shoulder, “That’s Tyler McNeal, the Middleweight Champion of Iron Fury Fight League!”

While Jeremy wanted to get a picture with McNeal, Kevin replied with a slurred New Yorker bravado, “I wanna give him a piece-uh my mind.”

Before Jeremy could stop his belligerent buddy, McNeal was dragging Kevin through the restaurant and planting him face first onto the sidewalk.

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Pizza by Hugh W. Roberts

“I know what you did, Clarice,” giggled the face looking down at Mike. “You tampered with the pizza, didn’t you?” As alarm bells rang in his head, pains raced across Mike’s chest and down his arms.

***

As the woman turned around slowly to reveal her face, Sophie’s heartbeat increased. Horrified, she watched as the book in the woman’s hand turned into a slice of pizza.

“Now, I’m in control,” screamed the woman.

***

Two floors above, Doug became more and more terrified at the way Clarice looked at him.

“Sophie? The one who poisoned the pizza you ate?” she asked.

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The Social Work Course Reunion by Anne Goodwin

Janice’s gaze swept across the debris: grease-smeared delivery boxes; glasses mottled with burst beer-bubbles; cigarette butts shipwrecked in olive oil. She didn’t begrudge her friends their gallows humour, but that baby was a case to them.

A wailing baby, a washed-out mother, a blaring TV. A typical home visit. The punchline – pun intended – was the mother screeching into the pram, “Tom and Jerry! It’s your fucking programme!”

“A two-month-old propped up to watch a cartoon cat take a mallet to a mouse.”

Janice nibbled a shard of pizza crust. “I’m thinking of tracing my birth mother.” The laughter stalled.

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Pizza by FloridaBorne

Dad used to bring pizza home as a treat. Never in my entire life have I eaten a pizza that good.

One day, it stopped, I asked, “Why?”

“There was a roach on his counter.”

I used to get up in the wee hours, looking for something to snack on. The moment I hit the light switch, a crowd of roaches scattered away to their hiding place. Dad refused to believe me.

When you live in Florida, you have roaches waiting in your walls, your yard, or just outside your door.

That day, I learned the meaning of hypocrisy.

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No Offense Mom by Annette Rochelle Aben

Pizza. As children, we had this treat about once a month. Mind you, this wasn’t what we know now as pizza. This was a gastronomic wonder mother created from a box bought at the store It contained a bag of crust powder, a can of cheese and a can of sauce. And it worked!

That was until we were taken to a pizzeria. Buddy’s Pizza had these tiny, Italian grandmas who took your order, cooked and served it. We’d clean our plates as they smiled with approval. The only pizza boxes we used after that said to-go on them!

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New Invention by joem18b

“They won’t patent it,” I said, when I had returned to Naples from Rome.

“Of course not. You can’t patent a recipe,” said my friend, the chef Raffaele Esposito.

“I thought if I petitioned the pope…”

“Listen, everyone eats flatbread. This focaccia…”

“No.”

“This family-sized piadina or borlengo or… I can serve it to King Umberto and Queen Margherita. They are visiting Naples. I am to make a meal for them. Let me use your invention,”

This was in 1889. He served it, they liked it, and shortly my name was lost to history and Raffaele’s name was elevated.

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Primo Pizza by Kerry E.B. Black

He scowled at the static-ridden phone. “I can’t come to America. Momma made arrangements for me to meet my wife.”

“Dominic, you can’t be serious. An arranged marriage? Here, you can play the field, see who suits. You make the choice, not your Momma. Besides, I need a partner.”

“Do Americans even like pizza?”

Joe chortled. “They’re crazy about the stuff. We’ll be rolling in cash.”

“After I marry, maybe.”

“Courtship takes what, three months minimum. I can’t wait.”

“If you want me, you have to.”

He waited, and when Dominic and his bride arrived, the business took off.

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Pizza by Geoff Le Pard

‘What are you looking forward to, Morgan?’

‘Pizza.’

‘You’re going to the States and that’s top of your bucket list?’

‘It’s the home of great pizza. That and fruit.’

‘Fruit?’

‘They have the biggest apples…’

‘Seriously?’

‘I’ve seen it on film. Their pizzas are as big as…’

‘Apples?’

‘Bigger.’

‘Isn’t Italy the home of pizza?’

‘Nah. That’s like saying curry comes from India.’

‘But…’

‘No listen. Who are in all those American films? You know, the history ones?’

‘I’m sure you’ll tell me.’

‘Indians. So if Indians come from America then why not pizza?’

‘Morgan?’

‘Yes?’

‘You’re an idiot.’

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Nay See Doe by D. Avery

“Kid! What’re ya doin’? Why’s thet little whip of a poet tree all caged in here behind the Saloon?”

“Fer its own pertection, Pal. I got a bunch a kids!”

“Kids, Kid? Wish ya’d leave thet to someone responsible an’ sensible, like Aussie.”

“Not kids, Pal, kids, baby goats!”

“Goats? Ya got ta be kidding.”

“Zactly. Gonna raise ‘em up fer milk goats. Make cheese.”

“Oh, doe yer not, Kid. Ya’d think ya’d been ranchin’ long ‘nough ta know ta look fer certain credentials, if ya know what I mean. These are billies, Silly.”

“Buck! No goat cheese pizza!”

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