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The Greatest Gift

If you asked people what the greatest gift is, you might be surprised at how varied our answers can be. This prompt initiated a conversation that explored the shadows of life. The sun doesn’t always shine, and happiness can feel fleeting. The longer we live, or the more direct experiences we have outside normal expectations, the answer shifts.

So, of course, the greatest gift makes an interesting exploration among writers. Ultimately, we can say the greatest gift is life — but we have many ways to express what that means, why it is so, and how we can manage such a precious and uncertain gift.

The following is based on the September 12, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the greatest gift.

PART I (10-minute read)

A Better Way to Serve (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Freya returned from Iraq, friendless. Mark Bastia didn’t survive the IED blast. His dog tags hung with hers. Despite combat, she was never counted as their brother. She pulled a long drag from her last cigarette, eyed the perfect branch from which to hang herself, and decided the greatest gift to the world would be to remove herself from its spinning. She touched the branch and recoiled. 22 a day, and she would not become another nameless statistic. Instead, she enrolled in college to battle veteran suicide and opened the first satellite Vet Center in North Idaho. She survived.

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The Greatest Gift by Jo Hawk

As the day approaches, my anticipation increases. Doubt wrings conviction from my heart while my head constructs lists designed to weigh each decision’s consequences.

My worry consumes me, and my mother sends me to visit the shrine. The Omikuji will predict my future she says.

Thousands of paper strips tied to pine rods dominate the temple grounds. I fear the multitude of curses and bad fortunes others have tried to leave behind.

Still, I make my donation and follow ancient customs. Trembling hands clutch the paper. I read my destiny and press the god’s great blessing into my soul.

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Let There Be Light! by Anne Goodwin

When I was small, the chores all done, I’d rest my head in my mother’s lap and watch the fireflies dancing, Grandfather’s stories music to my mind. But as I grew, the village shrank, the daylight hours too short for all I longed to learn. My teachers praised my intellect; they scolded me for homework half-done. Until I got the greatest gift: a lamp that caught the daytime sun and gave it back at night-time. Now I’m off to study in the city where neon never stops burning. When I’m trained, I’ll return as teacher to my classmates’ kids.

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The Greatest Gift by Norah Colvin

The class was aflame with a mix of sadness and excitement.

“She’s is leaving.”

“She’s gunna have a baby.”

“I’m gunna bring her a gift.”

“I am too.”

On her final day, the children jostled to give first, hopeful she’d love their gift the best.

“Mine’s bigger than yours.”

“Mine’s better.”

“Mine’s the greatest.”

The children gloated and nudged each other as the teacher opened the gifts.

“How perfect.”

“This is great.”

“Thank you, everyone.”

Finally, Tommy edged forward. His hands were empty. He looked shyly into his teacher’s eyes and whispered, “I’ll miss you, Miss. You’re the best.”

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The Greatest Gift by Donna Armistead

Daisy, my grandmother, comes to the living room arch to watch me practice pirouettes on the sculptured carpet. The soft slippery loops help my turns a lot. Unless I lose my balance.

I stop. She knows I hate it when people watch me practice. Though slightly annoyed, I love her and her faith in me. Even when every muscle hurts and Vicki gets cast in all the best roles.

Ten years later, she writes me in Boston. “Keep dancing,” she always signs her letters.

Fifty years later, and I’m still teaching kids. Trying to get them to “Keep dancing.”

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Time Traveler by Donna Matthews

My mother told me I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. I could be anything from an astronaut to an astrophysicist. But all I ever wanted to be was a time traveler. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t want to roam through the dusty pages of history? Tiptoe silently into the unknown future? But alas, as it turns out, my sheer will and determination can’t quite transverse the time-space continuum…yet. I desperately hold out hope that the smart people of NASA will figure it out before it’s too late to make my mama proud.

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The Guardian by Bill Engleson

It was such a little thing.

He’d always lived in the house, worked in the mill. Ruth taught grades 1-3 for twenty-five years, interrupting her work twice to have their children.

She loved teaching almost as much as their life together.

After she was gone, he went too far inside himself.

Finally, he came up for air.

After that revelation, he’d sit on his porch in the fall, the spring if it got even a tad warm, the early part of the summer, and watch the kids go by, wave, smile, just be.

He knew she would love that.

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The Gift of Courage (from “Lynn Valley”) by Saifun Hassam

Teresa was a nurse physician. Her excellent skills in the care of surgery and chemotherapy patients were a great asset. Some of her patients were children.

Her rapport with the children was remarkable. They would often talk to her about their fears and worries. She would ask them perceptive questions about what had happened. It was never easy but somehow that helped the children to focus more on their recovery, and going home, a fresh start. She would read from their favorite story books. They loved her. She gave them the greatest gift they needed in those moments: courage.

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Greatest Gift by FloridaBorne

I’ve been asked the question before and the answer changes according to my age.

“What is the greatest gift you’ve received?”

Age 5: The doll I wanted
Age 15: GoGo Boots.
Age 25: Son
Age 27: Daughter
Age 36: A bachelor’s degree.
Age 46: Enlightenment
Age 54: The perfect part-time job.
Age 63: Holding my first published book in my hands.
Age 67: My first office with a window.
Age 69: Doing a yoga headstand and carrying a gallon of milk with my pinkie finger.

Health, it seems, is the greatest gift. For without it nothing else is possible.

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The Greatest Gift by Jim “Quincy” Borden

“I think I’ll make up a story about how for Christmas I wrapped everyone’s present in gray wrapping paper. Each box was a different size and weight, and everyone could pass the boxes back and forth until they all agreed on which box they wanted to claim as their own. I’ll then write about everyone’s immediate reaction.”

Tommy was explaining to his sister about the latest Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge.

Suzie looked at him quizzically and asked, “How are you going to relate that to ‘the greatest gift’?”

“Greatest gift? I thought it was the gray gift test…”

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Edward Bear Has A Good Day by Joanne Fisher

Edward Bear wandered the forest looking for honey. His love hadn’t woken yet from her winter sleep and she would be hungry when she did, just like he had been. During his search for a beehive, he encountered two humans. They took one look at him and screamed as they ran off leaving behind a large basket. Edward rummaged though it finding all sorts of foods, including a jar of honey. He took the basket to where his love still slept. There would be all sorts of food for her when she woke. It would be the greatest gift.

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The Stupidity of the Sexes by Chelsea Owens

“What, Isla? What did I do?” Peter stared into her eyes; if his were not close to tears themselves, they at least reflected hers.

Isla sniffed. She felt the lines of wet on her face, the dryness of her lips, the misery of her soul. ‘Surely,’ she thought bitterly, ‘He knows what he did.’

Peter felt clueless. ‘All I said was that people never forget their first girlfriend,’ he mused, ‘Just because Stella said, “Hi…”’ He looked at Isla’s splotchy face. Maybe a comforting smile would help.

Isla burst into fresh tears. “I -I -I -gave you my heart!”

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Time, Heart and Head by tracey

She was 83, too old to be living alone said her grandchildren. Her house was worth a fortune they said.

“It’s my home, not a house,” she groused. “Fine, when the Cubs win the World Series I’ll move.”

She spent her 92nd summer as always, listening to the Cubs on the radio. She was tired, worn out; it had been a hard year. In her head she knew it was time to move.

Finally, game seven of the World Series. Tie score. Rain delay ends at last. Her heart races, knows: it is time for the Cubs to win.

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The Greatest Gift by Anita Dawes

Being here in the first place
The friendships we make
The lovers we take
Fighting through the storms
While an angry mother
Tries to rearrange the world we live on
The beauty of a coral reef
The sunsets, the full moon
So many gifts
The hand of a stranger offering help
The sound of a new-born baby’s cry
Life continuing
Someone will always be here
While others leave
A reminder of our immortality
Art made by a stranger’s hand
That we like to look upon
Most of all to be loved
To love in return, to live, to prosper…

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Given, Not Gone by D. Avery

The gift of creation, with free will, was given long ago. Somehow this planet came into being in this solar system; over time each one of us also had a beginning. In our beginnings was wonder, was potential, power, and promise.

That was then, this is now.

Now we might dwell on our flaws and misspent potential, might despair at our human failings, might mourn the state of our planet.

Or, right now, we might acquire humility and gratitude for the Gift. Every Now is a beginning. We could choose to cultivate and nurture potential and promise, right Now.

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Reciprocation (Rerun! first published for the April 6, 2017 Carrot Ranch prompt) by D. Avery

Do not forget Turtle who brought the earth up from the watery depths. Do not forget Tree, whose roots hold and cradle the earth, whose branches hold up Sky. These ones, Turtle, Water, Tree, Sky, are sacred.

Long ago these ones spoke together, and together thought to provide and to sustain; they thought us into existence that we might use their gifts.

Be humble. Our creations are mere imitations, expressing gratitude, expressing wonder. Be mindful. Give thanks to Turtle, to Water, to Sky, to Tree. We are their thoughts that receive their gifts, and they think us most sacred.

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PART II (10-minute read)

The Greatest Gift by Faith A. Colburn

My son and his father don’t get along and that means Ben is losing half of himself. My former husband gave us scary times and he wanted to make up for it, so when he got his life under control, he gave Ben the greatest gift he knew how to give—a horse. That’s because when he was going through the worst of his own adolescence, his horse provided him solace. During summers Ben spent in Colorado with him, they rode horses and took packing trips. Those were good times for Ben, but somehow he’s lost whatever they had.

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Properly Prioritizing by JulesPaige

Jackie was never just one of the girls. Life, if it’s too perfect, move along. Because you are dreaming. Once you wake up you’ll see that the greatest gift is to be present in the moment. And you don’t have to have any cards to carry to say you belong to this group or another.

One day you are thinking of making wedding anniversary plans and the next you learn your husband has cancer. A small slow growth removable by surgery. Which might not even require lifelong meds or radiation. Take each day as a gift, learn to live.

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Time to Heal by Chris Hewitt

“I don’t understand, why can’t you just bring her back?” he sobbed, “You could just bring her back!”

“I can’t,” said Death, “I don’t choose who lives and who dies.”

“You’re Death!” he spat, “If you don’t choose, who does?”

Death shrugged and pointed up, “Someone upstairs.”

He shook his head, “I don’t want to live without her, I can’t!”

Death looked down and played with his hourglass.

“Please!” he pleaded, staring into empty sockets.

“I can give you something that will help,” said Death.

“What?”

“The only gift I have,” said Death, handing over the full hourglass, “Time!”

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The Greatest Gift by Ritu Bhathal

“What would be the greatest gift you could give me? Honestly?” Maggie looked at her husband, who was trying his hardest to make her looming 40th birthday one to remember.

“Of course, honestly Love. It’s your big day. The kids and I want to make sure it’s a day to remember for you. Don’t be shy.”

“Alright then, the greatest gift you could give me is time.”

“What, like a new watch or something?”

“Not a watch, John, no. Time. Every day. Help me out a bit. Act like their dad, not their babysitter. That’d be the greatest gift.”

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The Gift of Life by Susan Zutautas

The gift of life

Was given to me

Not once, not twice, but three times

Cancer can be a killer

I’ve escaped it

I am forever grateful

I’ve fought hard over the years

To survive and the fighting paid off

I will never give in to this horrible disease

That takes far too many lives every day

Remission does not mean it won’t come back

If it does, I will do battle again

Miracles happen

I’m proof of that

Live each day as if it were your last

Whether you’re battling or not

Life is truly the greatest gift

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A.C.V.M.M.B. by Nobbinmaug

Don went to the same coffee shop and sat at the same table. He sipped his coffee and played with his phone. No calls. No texts. He saw the same people, but no one spoke to him.

When his drink was gone, he returned to his empty apartment.

He went back the next day. This time, he was greeted by a wave and a smile.

“Hi, Don. Apple cinnamon vanilla matcha macchiato blend?”

He looked up, smiled shyly, and said, “Yes, please. Thanks, Alice.”

She gave him the greatest gift of all, an apple cinnamon vanilla matcha macchiato blend.

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Fire Within by Reena Saxena

She quit the family business to start something of her own. It’s not an easy task. She had always worked in a well-defined structure. The absolute freedom she has now, excites as well as unnerves her.

“I saw the angel in the marble, and carved till I set him free,” famously said Michelangelo of his epic statue of David.

There are not just miles, but light years to go, before she reaches her destination. The greatest gift she is born with, is her hunger for perfection and the ability to see that angel in the marble – her fiery soul.

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The Greatest Gift by Miriam Hurdle

“It’s easier for me to give than to receive.”

“I know, Martha. When you receive, you feel weak.”

“You’re right, I feel helpless and vulnerable and admit other people are stronger.”

“Being able to receive gifts is a gift. When we receive gifts from others, we give them a gift of giving.”

“I never thought of it. When I receive a gift, I feel obligated to precipitate and feel guilty when the chances to return the favors become impossible.”

“The movie Pay It Forward comforts me and changed my understanding of giving.”

“I can tell it’s a great concept.”

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Make Mine Music by Di @ pensitivity101

Mine is something I was born with, courtesy of my father.

As a young child, it was fun playing duets with my Dad on Mum’s old piano, then I started to play both parts. Dad always encouraged me, and my gift from him was the gift of music without music, a good ear to pick out a melody and transform it to suit my own style.

My aunts and uncles never knew I could play until a wedding in 1970. My grandfather stood proud and nodded to everyone

‘That’s my grand daughter.’

Happy times, memorable songs, my gift still apparent.

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Old Friends by TN Kerr

She was sixty-three years old that year, but age didn’t deter from her excitement about the gaily wrapped gifts staged beneath the tree. There was one though, that stood out. The wrapping was heavy brown paper. Once wrinkled, but now rubbed smooth, it was an old shopping bag from The Seventh Street Market. A store that had closed almost forty years ago. She’d saved this gift for last and cradled it in her hands turning it over and over. It was rather diminutive, not large.

Neatly lettered in the corner she could read: “Happy Christmas, Clarissa – With Love, Hayley.”

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Life’s Greatest Gift by Sally Cronin

Thomas prowled the corridors of the care home as its residents slept. During the day he would jump from lap to lap, rubbing gnarled hands with his head, accepting tender touches and morsels of food, hoarded and saved for his visit. For many he became the family they no longer knew, and was adored.

The cat slipped through a door left ajar, and approaching the bed, he leapt onto the pillow. Thomas purred gently into the old woman’s ear. She sighed and gave one last gentle breath, accepting the greatest gift in life of being loved until its end.

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Repeat by Kelley Farrell

Life can twist our minds and rip dreams away
But in some moments we find
The greatest gift is perhaps not physical
But a moment in time
When we no longer have to be held to the reality of who others believe we are.
That moment wrapped in a lovers arms, the true idea of home dancing through every sensation.
Or a moment alone with nothing more than a breath and a soft whisper for patience.
Libations given in sacrifice of every moment thereafter.
When we come under fire we close our eyes willing ourselves to aim higher.
Repeat.

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Slingin’ Words Fer People  by D. Avery

“Pal, is’t true this Ranch’s a literary community?”

“Reckon so, Kid. Open ta one an’ all.”

“So is it a gated community?”

“Heck no. No gates, no borders. Free range writin’ fer anyone who wants ta play. Long’s they play nice a course.”

“Are there boundaries?”

“Jist in the word count, 99, no more, no less. Otherwise, it’s a place fer boundless imagination.”

“Why’s it always me gits imagined shovelin’ out the barn?”

“Shovelin’ shit’s yer special gift Kid. Yer real good at slingin’ it.”

“Yeah well, someone should imagine Shorty slingin’ bacon.”

“Tough shit, Kid. She’s slingin’ carrots.”

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True Grit

Grit abrades, wears down, even crumbles into quartz sand or the stuff you sprinkle on porcelain to scrub it clean. True grit is a roughness on the inside, a rocky kind of defiance in the face of life’s storms. Grit is determination, resilience, perseverance.

Writers scrubbed words into stories and played with true grit. Like no grain of sand is alike, you’ll find creative variety within this collection.

The following is based on the September 5, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true grit.

PART I (10-minute read)

True Grit by Joanne Fisher

I was at the excavation site. I walked into William’s tent. He was the Chief Geologist of the site. Inside there were various rock samples of different sorts. We were digging into some strata we had never encountered before.

William sat on the chair by his desk. In the palm of his hand there seemed to be some coarse sand he was peering at intently.

“What do you have there?” I asked.

“It’s the grit that all other grit in the world originally comes from.” He informed me.

“You mean it’s the True Grit?”

“Yes.” He replied quite seriously.

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True Grit by Sally Cronin

Each year on her late father’s birthday, Molly would watch True Grit, his favourite western. This year she was nine months pregnant and hoping after three boys it might be a girl. Her husband rubbed her ankles, passing her tissues as she wept at the end of the movie. The baby kicked and Molly felt a sharp pain.

‘It’s on the way love.’ She smiled at him. ‘I am going to call the baby Mattie, boy or girl.’

‘Thank God, I thought you were going to say Rooster for a minute.’ Laughing and excited they headed out the door.

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Stepping Out by D. Avery

When Dad told us Jimmy’s mom had asked him on a date, Jamie took my bike to her house.

“Is it okay, August?” He was looking at the trunk underneath the tired white shirts in his closet.

I swallowed. “Yeah, Dad. It’s okay.”

Pounding up the stairs, Jamie was back, brandishing brightly colored shirts. Dad protested but seemed glad.

“It’ll be all right.” He smiled then because when Jamie says something you believe it.

Later Jamie told me what he’d said so quietly I hadn’t heard, that he’d whispered this was the hardest thing he’d done in seven years.

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This Woman Has True Grit by Susan Zutautas

Let me tell you about a good friend of mine. When she has something, she wants to do she goes out there and does it. Being achievement-oriented with long term goals she’s full of confidence and creativity. No matter what the situation is, good or bad, Charli will fight for what she believes in for herself and others. This gal has moxie and has true grit.

What’s true grit to you

Someone fighting with their might

For you and for me

Courageous as hell

Never giving up or in

Supportive to all

Confident
Harmonious
Accepting
Reliable
Loving
Idealistic

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Bobbi Bowen by Faith A. Colburn

In 1937, at fifteen, my mother quit school and went to work singing in a nightclub—to support herself and her parents. For the next seven years, she dodged pinching fingers and groping hands. She traveled the Great Lakes and Eastern Seaboard and got stranded, alone, without a job. For three days, without food or shelter, she hit the streets until she found another, but as soon as the Army started signing women, she joined, then she got an offer for her own radio show that she couldn’t take because she already had a contract with her Uncle Sam.

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True Grit (or Determination) by Anita Dawes

Over the years I have noticed
How many members of my family
Grit their teeth when trying hard
To achieve their goal
I tend to do this when getting angry
My teeth grit, my jaws clench
Muscles moving, trying not to let out words
I could not take back
I have seen a young woman
Eyes bulging, teeth gritted
Trying desperately to move her car out of harm’s way
A lot of teeth are getting worn down by determination
I did wonder why no one offered to help
Maybe they worried about their teeth
Do you do the same?

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The New Becchino (Part 1) by JulesPaige

Seemed like Ole Ricciardo had a high forehead. He was teaching young Marcell about gravedigging. “You’re early,” he said as Marcell’s long legs seemed to lope towards the open door of his caretaker’s cottage at the far back edge of the large old cemetery. “Takes true grit to do this job. Especially when you’ve got to put someone in an unmarked grave.”

“Get many of them kind,” asked the younger man?

“More than the locals think. Mostly ‘cas they don’t wanna know. Them lives, they lived true. All they got left is me and you now. Soon just you.”

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The New Becchino (Part 2) by JulesPaige

Marcell wondered if Ole Ricciardo had always been bald. Or if the job made him lose his hair? With times being tough one took on the apprenticeship of whatever was available. If grave digging was going to be his lot, might as well be the best at it.

Even with the shifting of burial practices, most folks seemed to think that six feet under was earned. The paupers field in his old home town held too many who couldn’t afford fancy boxes. Marcell had gotten used to quiet of such sacred spaces. Especially after having to bury his kin.

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The New Becchino (Part 1) by JulesPaige

Ole Ricciardo sized up Marcell. There was a quiet about Marcell that said he had what it took. The young man had true grit. Had to have had it to come from a war torn town that probably wasn’t going to be on future maps. Ricciardo couldn’t imagine how much could be built over unmarked graves.

Ricciardo thought he’d end up an unknown himself. After a lifetime of caring for the dead, especially the unknown… It was time to live in a different light. Maybe some sandy oceanside place where nature’s grit would blend with his own salty tears.

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True Grit? by Chelsea Owens

Sand grinds ‘twixt dusty yellers; red-shot eyeballs glint and glare; farm-strong flexes years-old cotton.

Spit.

Squint.

“Mmm-breeay!” bawls the milk-hung ma, denyin’ an’ defyin’ all. “Don’tcha touch ma babe; her drink.”

Shake.

Stare.

Laughter breaks ‘top wind-bent grass; ‘top cow-pied field; ‘top boy an’ cow. “‘Reckon she’s got best a’ YOU.” Cacklin’ grandpap crows and coughs.

Snicker.

Snort.

Eyes-bright pride waits, sideline spyin’: apple seed not far from tree. Rope loop lies in glove-sweat hands.

Set.

Sigh.

Brain-bright boy drops standoff staring; proffers dusty, gloved-hand oats.

Cow an’ calf come happy, hungry. Dad, an’ dad, shake worn hat heads.

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Finish Line by Allison Maruska

I round the second curve for the eighth time. The first to finish crosses the line, his arms raised in triumph. I have four more laps to go.

I slow to a walk, catching my breath and imagining what else I could be doing at 7:30 AM. I wish I had a bagel with blueberry cream cheese.

I slow jog through the next three laps. Time is almost up.

The finish line appears and I sprint, desperate to finish. When I cross, my friends cheer for me. They don’t care that they finished first.

All that matters is we finished.

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Determination by Annette Rochelle Aben

“You can do this! Keep breathing.”

The physical therapist was encouraging but firm. Of course, she could do it, in spite of the fact that her body would shake as though it wasn’t as certain.

Every day, she could stand was a victory over the weeks she’d spent in a hospital bed. Every day she could move her feet forward even an inch, she was one step closer to the door.

So, here was the walker. She steeled herself for standing and with one loud, YES, I CAN! she rose and gripped the walker with firm and determined hands.

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Jack & Sally by Colleen Chesebro

After the hurricane, Jack, the monarch, fought the constraints of the chrysalis. He struggled, but his foot remained lodged within his birth home. Wings as delicate as tissue paper flashed in the afternoon sun, drying at an odd angle. Jack would never fly.

Sally, the monarch, emerged from the chrysalis drunk with victory. Weak, she staggered and fell to the ground where a fight ensued. She had to break free from the fluid she’d pumped out so her wings would dry. Now, deformed, Sally would never fly.

Despite their handicaps, the pair remain triumphantly alive – vibrant inside the lanai.

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On Her Terms by Di @ pensitivity101

She refused to give in to it, to feel sorry for herself and let it take over her life.

Determined to smile, she’d make jokes about losing her hair and chosing a variety a wigs in colours and styles she’d only ever dreamed to try.

She sought out others, raising their spirits, encouraging positivity rather than misery and defeat.

She exuded unbounded energy, forever upbeat, offering a listening ear, hand to hold, or shoulder to cry on.

When her time came, she met it full on, surrounded by friends and family, and died with a smile on her lips.

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True Grit by tracey

I stare at the steep path up the canyon wall and breathe deep. “I can do this. One step at a time. Nice and easy,” I tell myself.

“Think about how happy you will be at the top,” I continue with my pep talk. “How many people can say they have hiked rim to rim of the Grand Canyon? You chose to do this. So what if you are 55 years old. You are in shape for this. Eat some granola and keep moving.”

“You okay back there?” the guide yells. “Yup, gritting it out just fine,” I reply.

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Diamante (from “Trissente”) by Saifun Hassam

Diamante trekked through the Trissente coast and mountain region. The villagers always welcomed him. Children gathered around him fascinated by his stories and sketches of the world beyond.

When he returned to his village at the coast, he wrote to the Abbott. His hand trembled but he was resolved to remain a teacher, to live in the Trissente region. He did not wish to be a priest.

The Abbott’s reply was terse but wise. Diamante was an excellent teacher. The Trissente villages wanted him to train their own teachers. He would remain a guardian of the ancient Tramonti temple.

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A Bucketful of Grit
“Miss, Jimmie’s crying.”

“Thanks for letting me know, Susan,” she smiled through gritted teeth.

What now? Couldn’t she just finish her tea for once? Something trivial, no doubt. Better go see, just in case.

She met a small posse escorting Jimmie across the playground. Their imploring eyes begged her sympathy.

“What’s wrong, Jimmie?”

“I, I —”

“He got grit in his eye, Miss.”

“Let’s see. Ah, yes. Better take him to First Aid.”

The children moved off as one, except George. He turned and held out a bucket.

“What’s that?”

“You told Jimmie to find some grit. Here ‘tis!”

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Teacher Grit by Ritu Bhathal

It’s not easy, teaching.

Sure, the kids are there from 9 to 3ish, but I’m still up at 6 am, at school at 7.30 am or a bit later if my kids drag their heels.

I set up, get the classroom ready to engage the minds of little sponges.

They go, and I’m there past 5 pm, clearing up the messes their enquiring minds created, assessing, planning, preparing for the next day.

Then I go home to be wife and mother.

I’m exhausted.

Don’t mention holidays…

But I love it.

It takes true grit to be a dedicated teacher.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Grit Storm by Bill Engleson

Ainsley Bilge tossed and turned throughout the night. Grit! Grit! What the hell was grit? The question not only bedeviled his sleeping hours; it haunted him through the day.

He vaguely remembered Gramp’s telling him about Clara Bow, the IT girl back in the twenties. What the hell was IT? He never knew. She was just a girl. A little too flashy for the times, he supposed.

By the time Gramps related the story, she’d become a crazy recluse.

Her IT Storm drove her bananas.

Was that his future?

He had no idea and remained grit to be tied.

🥕🥕🥕

Chin up, Boris! by Anne Goodwin

The game kicks off at Eton, wellspring of uneven playing fields. Tactics tested and perfected in the hallowed halls of Oxbridge, it’s bowled by banking barons to the Palace – Westminster, that is – batted back and forth between the Commons and the Lords. Though dressed in Greek and Latin, there’s nothing classy about the rules. Leave truth behind in the changing rooms, trounce the opposition and lay tripwires for those of your teammates who won’t pledge one hundred percent support. Forget fair play, sell your granny if you have to: winning’s all that matters; true grit will grab the prize.

🥕🥕🥕

Another Hit by Yvette

Marcel

Sat down

Stirred his tea

Pulled off his hat

Looked around

Waited for his food

Meager meal

‘Twould suffice

Rather nice

Midst of humdrum

Waiting

settling down

hoping for new normal

Getting closer

each goal

Still far

Yet in view

Quietly digging

For GRIT

To make it through

ANOTHER HIT

Sitting tall – rather than slouching

He forced a smile – avoiding grouching

Food set down

Sniffed the crust

“Thank you,” he said,

then chomped his bread

Each bite

Restored might

Helped insight

One day at a time…

adding to

Hard Knock’s Degree

Last sip of tea

assuaged misery

slightly free

🥕🥕🥕

Road Crew by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The road ahead was long, no end in sight. Maybe relief…just over that hill? She couldn’t be sure.

She sighed, squinting into the midday sear, then looked down at the road under her naked feet. The gravel, poured heavy and sharp from the back of the Transportation Department truck glinted maliciously.

Those assholes’d stolen her shoes again, their jeers floating behind as they drove out of sight. Practical jokes were one thing, but with sexism in the mix, was it worth the higher pay?

Bullshit! This was about more than money. Her feet bled as she started to walk.

🥕🥕🥕

True Grit by Pete Fanning

George glanced at his fellow soldiers. Most were sleeping, recovering, hocking into spittoons, sprawled and spent against a fallen oak. The 8th New York Cavalry was plum exhausted.

It the quiet after battle where George found it hardest to hold his secret. Here, in the sweltering humidity of Virginia, it was almost easy to melt away.

George…

Virginia…

Maria…

She’d enlisted searching for freedom. Having escaped, she found a way to disguise herself. It was a plan so crazy it worked. Now, with a sword and rifle, an equal among white men, she’d found she was an excellent soldier.

🥕🥕🥕

A Few Good Men by TNKerr

Gunnery Sergeant Michael Paxton kept his head down as he worked his way forward. The fighting had died down somewhat, but the enemy knew he was still there. There was constant gunfire directed toward him, but they mustn’t have known exactly where he was. The rounds weren’t hitting all that close.

That ‘boot,’ Bim was the last man in, but when Paxton found him, it was too late. Undeterred he hefted Pvt. Bim over his shoulder and carried him back to the LZ. Where the quick and the dead waited together, waited for the Hueys; no one left behind.

🥕🥕🥕

True Grit by FloridaBorne

“I wasn’t this way when I was twenty,” I told my new therapist.

“What created such anxiety,” She asked.

“My husband might get out of prison soon,” I said, lifting my shirt to show her a scar. “I’m scared he’ll hurt our children.”

“Knife wound?” She asked. I nodded yes. “How old are they?”

“Eight and ten. If he serves his time, they’ll be eighteen and twenty…”

Between heaving sobs, I explained about his upcoming hearing for early release. Good. She was forming tears.

It takes courage to stab yourself with a knife. Anything to keep that parasite away.

🥕🥕🥕

True Grit by Jane

They dragged her into the brightly lit interrogation room, struggling and spitting, and forced her down into a chair.

Once they’d read her the standard caution, the words flooded out of her exhausted frame. How she’d put up with his violence for years until she’d finally snapped and decided to kill him. How she’d set up an alibi and learned the patrol patterns at his heavily guarded office so she could slip between them unnoticed, in and out like a ghost.

“And I’d have got away with it too, if it wasn’t for that stupid pebble in my shoe.”

True Grit by Charli Mills

Jose tended cattle while Angelina refried pinto beans, mashing them in the cast-iron with lard and flour. At night he tooled leather to sell at the market, making coin purses and wallets. Nightly she carpooled with three other amigas from the ranch into Paicines where they cleaned the elementary school, using grit to shine the grout on the bathroom floors. When the winter rains returned, the foreman would drive them all south to the border so they could spend three blessed months with family before returning to work the rest of the year. Only now, there was a wall.

🥕🥕🥕

Gritty Gray Hope by Jo Hawk

Walking the city streets, I choke on the summer heat as it boils the simmering stench. Gray skies descend, reflecting the hell rising all around me. Everything lays dead or dying, and the devils threaten to consume the little I have left. This is my creation.

Time killed the last honest man. There is no way to wash away the rain. My black hole life ensures I cannot move past this singularity.

A warm wind blows, prying the cold, damp dread from my heart. I grit my teeth, grasp a sliver of hope and dare to reinvent my future.

🥕🥕🥕

Miles of Mountain, Miles of Sand by Anne Goodwin

“Go home!” they hissed, when she left the high-rise, dragging a child by each hand. Did her headscarf offend them, or the coffee tint of her skin? Those who were kind were equally confusing, saying, “It takes true grit to survive as you have.” Checking the words in the dictionary in the refugee centre, they clashed with the nightmare in her head.

Miles of mountain, miles of sand, a boat so overladen it was bound to capsize. Robbed of her dollars, fearful of rape, grit was the stone in her shoe that plagued her every step of the way.

🥕🥕🥕

Stick to Your Guns by Chris Hewitt

The train pulled away in a cloud of steam. His breath hung heavy in the crisp morning air, he dreaded the walk home. They’d point and shout the usual names, spit on him as he passed and barge him into the gutter. The vicar would turn his back as the children kicked his shins. Every day was the same.

One more mile of hell and he was home. Leant against the closed door, his angry tears fell into another handful of white feathers. Tomorrow he’d do it all again, and the next, but he would not fight their war.

🥕🥕🥕

Bunker by The Dark Netizen

It has been four days now.

For four days we have been trapped in this bunker as those dastardly planes bomb our city relentlessly. The torrential explosions in the day are followed by distant detonations in the night. It then that we venture out of the bunker. A group of four or five at a time. We make a run for the storeroom and grab food for those in the bunkers. The devils in the sky think they can make us quit with their rain of hellfire. That won’t happen. We will never give up.

Long live our Fatherland!

🥕🥕🥕

Good Boy by Joshua G. J. Insole

During the days they walked, the man and his dog, searching for food, clean water, and shelter for the evening. They also searched for other survivors in the rubble, but were yet to find anything alive.

At night, they hid, and took refuge from the things that stalked the twilight for prey. They slept sporadically, huddled together for warmth.

They shared each other’s food and each other’s company, refusing to surrender that last ounce of hope. They held on to their reminiscences, remembering the good times.

But they could not erase the awful memory of that blooming mushroom cloud.

🥕🥕🥕

His Knees by Nobbinmaug

He fell to his knees as a bomb exploded in his chest.

It was P.J.’s school on the news. Sae was dropping her off. She’s not answering her phone.

Again on his knees at the graves. “God, if you’re there, take me too. You can’t take them and leave me.”

Alone in the dark on his knees with the gun to his temple.

“Just fuckin’ do it!”

“She wouldn’t want this.”

“She’s gone. I can’t live without her, without them.”

“You have to.”

“I can’t.”

“You can’t pull that trigger either.”

“I’m scared. I’m too weak.”

“You’re too strong.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bacon Grit by D. Avery

“Up an’ at ‘em Kid. Time ta ride.”

“Agin?”

“Yep, agin. Let’s go.”

“I need sustenance. Shorty servin’ breakfast?”

“Grits.”

“Ugh. You’ve groat ta be kidding. I need food that’ll give me the strength ta do what’s gotta git done. By the way Pal, what needs ta git done?”

“Dang, Kid, why’m I always havin’ ta wrangle you? Ya need goals fer yersef.”

“My goal is ta have breakfast.”

“Ya need a big goal.”

“A big breakfast then. With bacon.”

“What’s yer long term goal?”

“Ta eat fer a long time. Ya might wanna git started without me, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Safebreaker’s Daughter

A safebreaker is one who cracks open safes. Usually, the purpose is theft of the treasure protected within the vaults. Possibly an insurance company or wealthy individual might hire a safebreaker to test anti-theft systems. Who knows? This is the realm of fiction. The idea is based on a song by Mean Mary called The Safebreaker’s Daughter with the tantalizing chorus that warns not to underestimate her.

So, writers went on a mission to tell the story. They cracked their own codes to follow where the prompt led.

The following is based on the August 29, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter.

PART I (10-minute read)

She Learned What Not To Do by Sue Sleggs

The business man built the mansions, the banker financed them, and when the safebreaker was notified, he robbed them. The three men didn’t care about laws, nor who they hurt. Years went by. The builder’s and banker’s sons took over for their fathers. Having not been taught a work ethic, nor adequate skills, the sons faltered. They were at constant odds with the safebreaker’s daughter who had decided it was up to her to break the ill-gotten chain of control. The young men never recognized their own foibles and blamed their troubles on THAT woman. She hadn’t underestimated herself.

🥕🥕🥕

I Double Dog Dare You by Faith A. Colburn

I was thirteen when Mom went to prison for cracking a safe. I’m actually pretty proud of her because she never took anything. It was just a dare.

She’d been raggin’ on my dad for not giving her jewelry—like her friends got.

“I ain’t got that kind of dough,” Pop said, “so when you rob a bank, I’ll get your diamonds.”

We knew she had the skills and what she didn’t know, she’d learn. But it was just idle conversation.

“Maybe I will.”

“I double dog dare you,” Dad said. “You ain’t got the nerve.”

But she did.

🥕🥕🥕

Thelma on Roberts Street by Charli Mills

The light overlooking Roberts Street flickered and faded. Thelma smiled and accepted the omen – all that glows holds no permanence. Probably the gales blew out a transformer nearby. Wind gusted through the maple trees, scattering small flocks of leaves to the ground. Summer was over. The tourists went home; the college students returned. The latest batch of football players for Finlandia made a good excuse for her to walk this path. Just another smitten female sauntering home late. Who would think she was casing the football coach’s house? She had ten minutes to prove she was the safebreaker’s daughter.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Joanne Fisher

There was a loud insistent knocking on the door. She opened it to find there was a policeman standing there.

“We’re looking for your father!”

“Why? What has he done now?” She asked.

“A safe has been broken into. It looks like his handiwork.”

“I haven’t seen him in a long time.” She replied.

“If you do see him, let us know.” The policeman ordered.

“Okay.”

The policeman left and she closed the door. She picked up the bags full of money she had just left in the hallway, and hid them away. Her father had taught her everything.

🥕🥕🥕

Cutting Loose by D. Avery

I liked the rush, I liked the crunch. Never did look back at the fallout.

My whole life I’ve lived and dreamed bikes. But my brother was to run the family shop. I was to go to college, fulfill their dream.

And here I am, strolling another campus, bike tools in my bag. I’ve always been a better mechanic than my damn brother. Nowadays I favor the bolt cutters and the hack saw.

My father’s practical advice to his customers? “Invest in a good lock when you invest in a good bike.”

No lock is too good for me.

🥕🥕🥕

To Crack a Nut by Chris Hewitt

“Put your damn phone away,” he growled.

“I’m bored,” she grumbled, rolling her eyes.

He’d been at it 40 minutes now and she had long lost interest.

“If you can crack a Mk50,” he started.

“You can crack anything, yeah, yeah,” she snapped.

With well-practised moves, his fingers manipulated the combination.

She stood up and walked around the safe.

“Gotcha,” he finally said thrusting the handle up with a satisfying clunk.

He swung the door open to reveal her beaming face staring at him through a large hole.

“Amazing what you can do with the right tools, old man!”

🥕🥕🥕

Like Mother, Like Daughter by Anne Goodwin

From the age of three my mother took me with her. Silenced by a lollipop, she bade me look and learn. And, fingers wiped of stickiness, feel the vibrations in my heart. It wasn’t about codes or numbers, it was bonding with the barricade, to coax the treasures from within. The way a musician melds with her instrument, creating the music between them.

In my teens I rebelled, forged my own furrow as a cat burglar, a pickpocket. But lower risk brought lesser rewards. Like mother, like daughter: a safebreaker’s daughter can’t escape tradition, so I’m a safebreaker too.

🥕🥕🥕

There Was A Caper in Washington by TN Kerr

Marni left school about 4:00 and headed for the teacher’s parking when out of nowhere she was flanked by two burly men with sunglasses and dark suits.

“You guys Special Agents?” she looked back and forth.

The left guy flashed a badge case, she caught a glimpse of tin. The right tendered a card, they were indeed Feds.

“We need to speak with your father, Miss Gilroy.”

“Last I heard he was still in jail,” she answered.

First agent, “We think he might’ve been in Seattle last night.”

“You haven’t seen him, then?” the second agent asked.

“Nope, sorry.”

🥕🥕🥕

Decoding by Reena Saxena

A career path that started with ethical hacking has taken a different turn. There’s money, there’s fame (some call it notoriety), and there’s the excitement of doing something which makes people drop their jaws.

“Is there a way to turn back?” implores Mom, “It is the path to disaster.”

She travels on high roads and the journey is exciting. New companions …

Nope… these are people from the Fraud Detection Cell.

“Young lady, I must say that you did too much, too fast.”

She only had this to say during interrogation, “I’m a safekeeper’s daughter, know how to decode.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by FloridaBorne

The perfect wife and mother…a consummate actress holding a gun on him.  “Why did you poison my entire family?”

“A promise to my father, John O’Malley.”

“The safebreaker?”

“My oldest brother burned the Smith’s in their yacht and forged papers showing I was their daughter. Another brother heads the security agency your father used to research prospective brides. What better place to dispose of parasites than a remote country hide-away? All that you once owned now belongs to us.”

Their guard, dying from heroine overdose, didn’t hear the shot, or feel the gloved hand position the gun into his.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safe-Breaker’s Daughter by Shweta Suresh
The room was as silent as a grave.
The owner was fast asleep in the room next door.
The sleeping pills she had put into his night drink were working.
She had managed to gather as much jewelry as she could.
Effortlessly, she slipped into the locker room.
She did not expect to get caught.
Alas! Luck was not in her favour.
She had not anticipated that his wife would be home.
She hadn’t done anything wrong either.
She was just returning what her father had stolen.
But the cops thought otherwise.
She was a safe-breaker’s daughter after all.

🥕🥕🥕

What Does Your Daddy Do? by Norah Colvin

The children drew portraits and wrote profiles of their fathers’ work. Some had accompanied their father to work and related first-hand knowledge of laying bricks, wearing a fireman’s helmet, sitting in the manager’s chair, or distributing medication to patients. Then it was Patsy’s turn. She read:

“My Dad

My dad goes to work at night. He is a cleaner. He works when everyone else is sleeping. He wears black jeans, a black shirt and a black hat. He wears gloves so he doesn’t leave fingerprints where he has cleaned. He usually cleans up banks and jewellery stores.

The end.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Deborah Lee

“…so then, they couldn’t figure how to break into the safe, so they got some dynamite and blew it up!”

Laughter.

“All that money, blown to shreds. My dad’s friend the cop said when they got there it was still fluttering around like snow. All that cash, just confetti.”

“Order now, kids,” the teacher snapped.

Jane had turned her head, feigning a deep interest in the bare trees outside the homeroom window. Thirty years later, her face still burned like fire at the memory.

Her father had gone to prison, and she hadn’t seen him since. The safecracker’s legacy.

🥕🥕🥕

Can’t Take It with You by Jo Hawk

His body lay dead and buried in the ground before Nydia met the man she had lived with for thirty-two years. He arranged his funeral, she signed the papers, and the undertaker handed her a yellow envelope bearing her carefully printed name.

An address and a key revealed a storage locker lined with shelves stuffed with labeled boxes. Thousands of them greeted her.

She opened the note with trembling hands:

Dearest Nydia,

I lied. My late nights were never at bars. I was a safecracker. The contents are here, chronicled, logged and stored. Consider them your inheritance.

Love,
Dad

🥕🥕🥕

Type Cast? by JulesPaige

Astrid knew he did it for her, not to get dollar bills for the topless dancer, the one who might have been her mother. Who he spoke of in his sleep – when dressed wore bell bottoms and gypsy blouses. Astrid, his little chick, didn’t get the woman’s outer beauty. However, her father saw in his daughter, her inner beauty and he never wanted her to take the blame for his own faults.

Don’t become a thief he begged on his deathbed. Take my money, educate yourself. So Astrid without fear of debt, started her career as a professional student.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Call Dad by Donna Matthews

He whispers the sweetest words. Murmuring sounds about beauty, smarts, perfection. He tells me I’m not like the other girls — my cheeks flame. I am valuable! I am loved! After weeks of timid touches, I finally surrender. We are one now.

Tiptoeing out of his room, I see a photo of him. As I tenderly trace his face, the portrait shifts. Realizing I have discovered his treasure, I can’t help but glance inside. To my astonishment and dismay, the vault is crammed with pictures of girls before me. I believed his false promises. Devastated, I call my dad.

🥕🥕🥕

Safebreaker’s Daughter by Shane Kroetsch

Her daddy worked with the Overton crew. Best safecracker on the west coast is what they said. It was like a magic trick. He did it all by feel. Never left a mark.

She worked the same way, except it wasn’t money she was after. When she’d touch you, it would last just long enough. She’d look at you, and you’d forget about anything else. Before you realised what happened, it’d be too late.

Her daddy always told her that if you’re gonna do something, do it right. What she knew how to do, was break a man’s heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Safebreaker’s Daughter by Doug Jacquier

Her Dad was a legend amongst the other surfers at Bell’s Beach, which was in itself a legend in world surfing. His legendary status was nothing to do with his reckless but skillful derring-do but was based on the exact opposite; his unwillingness to take a risk. He was always looking for the safe breaker.

So when his daughter came along, grew up and had kids of her own, his words would ring in her ears as she swam towards the reef, beating down the desire to catch the biggest wave she could. She was indeed the safebreaker’s daughter.

🥕🥕🥕

The Things They Do To Me by H.R.R. Gorman

She tossed some of the powder onto the safe’s handle and brushed off excess, but the results came back as she expected. “Perp wore gloves,” she told the officer.

The uniformed man snorted. “Good lord. Sendin’ me a lady fingerprintist… the things they do to me.”

She pursed her lips, then ran out of the room. The cop laughed, thinking he’d sent her crying, but time ran short.

If she couldn’t solve the case from the perp’s traces, she could follow the money trail. Her dad had been a safebreaker – and she knew where he’d sell jewels and jade.

🥕🥕🥕

Your Sins Will Catch You Out by Di @pensitivity101

The letter arrived along with the usual bills and flyers.
Type written, she opened it and sat down quickly.
She wanted to know how they found out. She was the vicar’s wife, right?
A pillar of society and liked by most, she thought she had escaped her tarnished past.
Now she’d received this open threat to expose her to her husband as a fraud due to her father’s criminal activities unless she paid £1,000 for the writer’s silence.
She took the letter into her husband’s office and anxiously showed him.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said calmly, as he knew everything anyway.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s All in the Clicks by Susan Zutautas

“I know how to do this, just be quiet”, Mary said to Pete as she listened intently with her stethoscope up against the safe’s dial.

Stopping briefly, Mary said to Pete, “It should only take a few more tries to break this baby.

Frightened as a rabbit Pete replied, “I sure hope so, we’ve been here almost an hour. I need to see my fathers will”.

Hearing the clicks, carefully turning the dial clockwise and counterclockwise, then back again, she knew she had it.

“Voila, Pete. I’ve never met a safe that I couldn’t crack. Dad would be proud”.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by The Dark Netizen

She rode on, the bags of coin and jewels jingling behind her.

This was her biggest haul yet. It was larger than her father’s greatest score. He would be happy had he still been with her. This life of thievery was full of perils, and she recognised that it could lead her to a quick end. However, it was all she knew, all that was taught to her by her father – The Safebreaker. She liked the name. It announced her skill. Her other skills helped her get into the houses of rich spoilt sons.

They were considerably poorer now…

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Anita Dawes

Could it be called a skill
Getting into places
That are locked against you
Something Annie learned at her father’s knee
Now it’s time to branch out on her own
Will nerves get the better of her
She’s hoping to perfect all she has learned
There’s one big job she looks forward to
Snatching the crown jewels
from under the queen’s nose.
She has studied every part of the great tower
The yeoman, the black ravens
that guard this wonderful tower in London.
A man once sat on the queen’s bed while she slept
How hard can it be?

🥕🥕🥕

Jailbreaker Ritu Bhathal

It’s about time I carved a name out for myself. I’m fed up of everyone thinking of him whenever they see me. Mary. That’s my name. Not the Safebreaker’s Daughter. It wasn’t so bad, when things were good. No one could touch him. And we never did without. Then he went and got himself caught. Hand still in the jewellers safe. He’s sitting in jail now, rotting away. I need to do something. Something that will change the way they all talk about me. No more Safebreaker’s Daughter. No, soon, I’ll be known as the Jailbreaker. Dad, I’m coming.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter, Her Twin, & the Fen by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Hananah’d never before been to this part of the fen, but wasn’t worried. Eavan had promised to meet her at moonrise, to raid the castle’s treasury. The villagers on the mountain were in sore need of funds.

He was a safebreaker’s son, she his twin. Raised in a convent of sorts, they’d been trained as thieves to do good.

She shivered, then tensed when the wind stopped, but the leaves continued to rustle.

“Eavan?” She turned to the fen. Leaves heaved in a belch of blue, revealing a pair of glowing green eyes within a mound of rotting bracken.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Space Archeologist by Saifun Hassam

Captain Lacey was a space engineer and an archeologist. Her space capsule was in orbit around a derelict Terran ship, probing for airlocks or hidden entrances or exits. The data was automatically transmitted to her own spaceship high above the Terran ship. Certain anomalies had already sparked her curiosity about the abandoned ship.

Lacey’s love for space engineering had come from her dad. He was a test engineer for space technologies back on Terra. Nicknamed “Safebreaker” he was a genius at testing and cracking AI codes to spaceship areas controlling life support systems or space drives or ship’s instruments.

🥕🥕🥕

Time Change by Bill Engleson

“His torch dimmed?”

“It did. Comes to us all. Even him.”

“It’s good you could be there. How was it for you?”

“Comforting. Oddly comforting.”

“Did you talk?”

“It was hard for him. I held his hand. Then I remembered something he told me as a child. He always had that wall safe. One day, I was, maybe seven, I asked, ‘what do you keep in there?’

He said. ‘Nothing but time!’

I didn’t understand.

He could see that.

There, as he lay dying, I joked, ‘what’s in your safe, now?’

He smiled, and said, ‘It’s your time, now.’

🥕🥕🥕

Poet-Tree Place by D. Avery

“Ever’thin’ ok up there, Kid?”

“Jist thinkin’, Pal. Thinkin’ on how ya said ya ain’t from anywheres but right here at the Ranch. Thinkin’ I cain’t figger if yer a part a this place, or if this place is a part a you.”

“I reckon places beget the folks thet live in ‘em. Mold’em. Shape ‘em.”

“Do places tell stories or is it the people?”

“Reckon it’s both, Kid. But folks has ta work harder at listenin’. Git thet figgered out, places jist hum with stories.”

“And buckaroo-ku:

Earth hums Her stories
immeasurable songlines
pulse through time and space

🥕🥕🥕

Breakin’ and Reckonin’ by D. Avery

“Eh; don’t give up yer day job Kid. Come down outta thet tree and git ta yer chores.”

“Okay, Pal.”

“Careful now, be safe. Break ‘er branches on thet tree an’ Shorty’ll be upset. Yer climbin’s gittin’ better. Who taught ya?”

“Jist practice. Who taught you ‘bout ranchin’ Pal?”

“Reckon if a character gits made up fer a ranch thet character knows ranchin’. Who taught ya ta buckaroo-ku?”

“Learnin’ as I go. Jist tryin’ to find my way, mappin’ the wide open spaces of the ranch with words.”

“Reckon words make space a place.”

“Yep. 99 at a time.”

🥕🥕🥕

Old World Charm

Perhaps the phrase is a colloquialism, a new world nostalgia. Maybe we use old world charm to describe architecture, homey restaurants, or ethnic festivities. Whatever its use, the phrase holds space for reminiscing about what we left behind.

Not the easiest of prompts to play with, but writers followed its lead nonetheless. Some took us beyond old world traditions to new, and others reimagined places. We encounter different perspectives and some unexpected treatments of the prompt.

The following stories are based on the August 22, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about old world charm.

PART I (10-minute read)

Mettle of Life by Donna Matthews

Shutting off the television after another Stranger Things binge-watching session, she couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. Not for the terrifying, family destroying monsters portrayed. And indeed not the fashion. Bright geometric patterns and splatter paint? Good heavens, what were we thinking in the 80s?

No.

It is the mettle of life she misses. The 14-year-old girl she once was. Long afternoons with friends, secrets shared, dreams whispered. It was her age of becoming. She could be anything. Anything at all.

Silence falls heavy without the television. Unsure of what to do next, she ends up doing nothing at all.

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Clouded (Part I) by D. Avery

Hope felt pride and belonging here, enjoyed seeing her last name on the neatly arranged stones, many flagged, indicating service as far back as the Revolution.

“Mom?”

Hope’s mom stood at the edge of the woods, still and silent. Hope went down the slope and joined her.

“Mom?”

Her eyes glistened. She placed one of her earrings on the tiny stone before walking with Hope toward the road.

“Who was she?”

“I don’t know Hope. Just a gypsy baby, abandoned they say, over a hundred years ago.”

Winding back through the family plots, Hope’s pride clouded over with questions.

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Clouded (Part II) by D. Avery

“A gypsy baby? I didn’t know we had gypsies in Vermont. I thought gypsies were from long ago and far away, like Italy, or Romania, somewhere like that. Why is there a gypsy baby in our cemetery?”

Her mom stopped and turned, silently stared back down the slope at the isolated marker. Her long black hair veiled her face.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Hope, ‘gypsy’ does sound Old World; European; maybe sounds more charming than other words they might have used for impoverished dark skinned people wandering homeless in their own homelands.” She sniffed. “Christianity’s an Old World idea too.”

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Clouded (Part III) by D. Avery

Hope stood with her mother, looked down the slope at the little grave by itself just beyond the boundary of the old cemetery.

“It’s like she’s on the outside looking in.”

“Yes, it’s like that.” She spoke softly. “The story is, she was found around here and one man wanted to give her a decent burial but the others wouldn’t allow a heathen, a gypsy, amongst their own.”

“I still can’t imagine gypsies around here.”

“Can you imagine Abenaki families? Selling handcrafts, baskets and brooms?”

“Indians? That seems long ago and far away too, Mom.”

“Not so far, Hope.”

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Saving Babies by Faith A. Colburn

We often think of culture as arts, but some cultural practices are so basic as to be essential to life. I haven’t used the prompt words “old world” from the Carrot Ranch Literary Community blog prompt in my text, but the meaning is there.

“It’s because we were midwives—from Scotland,” Grandma said.

“What’s that got to do with a family that doesn’t touch each other?”

“They didn’t want anybody slobbering over their babies.”

“Slobbering!”

“Germs.”

“They didn’t know about germs back then.”

“The experts didn’t know.” She gave me one of her now-think-about-this looks. “Women who took care of mommas and babies didn’t have microscopes, but they knew that boiling water and washing everything within an inch of its life resulted in more live babies. The fewer people handling babies, the more they lived.” She gave me another look. “Generations of observation.”

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Days Gone By by Reena Saxeena

It was a busy day in office, as the Managing Director was visiting. The premises needed to be spotlessly clean, all reports ready and the housekeeping/secretarial staff on call.

I bumped against someone, speeding through the corridor in my new suit and high heels. The gentleman stopped, held my elbow till I regained balance, and spoke calmly.

“I should’ve been careful. Hope you are fine, young lady!”

That was the venerable MD himself.

Years later, I thought of him when the new MD walked in before 9 am, and cribbed that nobody bothered to wish him a good morning.

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Gesture by Bill Engleson

Hopped the Number 3 bus one lonely summer Sunday recently.

At loose ends.

Feeling sorry for myself.

I get that way.

So, I’m sitting there when this young girl boards.

Pregnant, but oh so young.

The bus is full.

Loads of Sunday shoppers: a mob of middle-aged lavender matrons, crinkly codgers, me!

She looked like she was about to pop.

Christ, I thought, I’ll never get to where I’m going.

Wherever that is.

Then this ancient dude, foreign looking, old school-like, smiles at her, gets up, offers her his seat.

You just don’t see classy moves like that anymore!

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Date Night at Hungarian Village by Annette Rochelle Aben

We loved the non-descript store front, because the fewer people who knew about this place, the easier it was to get a seat. Authentic Hungarian food was all they served and when what had been cooked every morning was gone, they locked the doors.

On the patched vinyl cushioned chairs, we sat patiently, at a faded, red Formica table. Soon, a woman, whose age could be determined by counting the wrinkles on her face, delivered our plates. She wiped gnarled fingers on a food stained, white apron and smiled. Then, she handed us each a fork and said: Eat!

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Polka Pantomine by priorhouse

I saw her dancing, again, this Sunday

polka played from the radio

cabbage and meat aroma filled the air

the low heels of her shoes

clicked with certain moves

the dress, that covered most of her body, barely moved

while her shoulders sometimes grooved

soft face wrinkles

with eyes that twinkled

as her feet stepped side to side

doing some sorta polka slide –

and I, barely 13, stayed back

watching from the shadow

curious about this old grandmother of mine

as she traveled back in time

every Sunday

doing the Polka pantomime

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High Tea by Di @pensitivity101

The room was lit with yellow light from tired bulbs, heavy brocade curtains hung at the windows and doors.
A fire burned merrily in the hearth, the smell of fresh bread and home made jam wafting across the room to tease my nostrils and make my mouth water.

Tea and scones sat on a table with a heavy cloth topped with a circlet of hand woven lace.
Cakes on a three tier stand stood centre stage, thick cream in a jug alongside.
Tea was always a nostalgic trip going back 50 years when my great aunt and uncle were newlyweds.

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Old World Charms by Anita Dawes

Here in England
We used to have afternoon tea dances
In ballrooms across the country.
Those were the days when a gentleman
Enjoyed dancing with his lady
Holding open the door to let her through first
Pulling her chair out to help her sit
There are so many old-world charms we have lost
Writing love letters, eagerly waiting for the postman
To deliver those words you long to read
Taking pen and paper to reciprocate
A gentleman would also lift his hat when passing a church
I still I cross myself whenever a funeral goes by.
Those golden days…

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Suomi Dancing by Charli Mills

A blonde quartet of girls dressed in blue dances. They twirl, holding hands. Singing, they remake the lyrics of Finland’s midsummer. No longer homeland, home is here, Finlandia, USA. With old world charm, they brighten the backyard of a house owned by the Calumet Mining Company. New life for Finns.

Aunt Jo kneads the dough until it stretches smooth. She slices parsnips and carrots thin the way her neighbor instructed. “Thin layers keep ‘em hot longer in the mines,” she told Jo.

Jo smiles at the children Suomi dancing under maples trees. “Supper,” she calls. “Time for pasties, hey!”

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Recipes Passed Down by Susan Zutautas

Every year at Christmastime Meg’s grandmother who was from Paisley Scotland would make shortbread.

Shortbread was an expensive luxury at one time and was usually only made for special occasions.

It is said that these rich delicious biscuits date back to the 12th century.

Meg would watch intently as her grandmother carefully measured out flour, icing sugar, and of course the butter. Into a big bowl, the ingredients would go, and the hand beating with force would begin.

Ever since her grandmothers passing Meg has carried on with her traditional recipe and bakes many batches of them at Christmas.

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Melanie by Padmini

He squinted at the braided girl in brown hair with his half-blind eyes. The first time he saw her, she was dancing to the same tune. Has it been 60 years? They were married the next year and she had passed away a year after their marriage. She was back now, wearing the same dress. “Melanie’, he whispered weakly. Melanie, for the first time in her traditional attire, danced exuberantly. She looked at him and sensed that something was wrong. She hurried over to him. ‘Grandpa’, she shook him. His limp body fell to the ground with a thud.

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Olde World, New Light by Ritu Bhatal

Jackie picked up the lantern and held it up against the shop light.

It was exquisite, the intricacy of the cast iron frame, twisted into patterns.

“That would look amazing, hanging outside our front door, wouldn’t it, Dave?” She turned to her husband, who stood impatiently, tapping foot, waiting for her to make a decision so they could leave. He had a beer at home with his name on it.

“It has such an olde worlde charm. Yes,” she smiled as she clasped it to her chest. “This is the one. Let’s go and pay.”

“Thank God,” mumbled Dave.

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La Florentine Torrone by JulesPaige

Nonna always has old world treats in her pockets those special nugget candies that have nuts, and come individually wrapped in their own boxes. So when the children visit they all run to her.

Nonna used cook, back in the day when standing in the hot kitchen over her famous red sauces and homemade pastas could be found for supper any day of the week.

The other adults debate on whether she knows too much or doesn’t grasp the modern world enough. I think that my Nona, she’s just fine the way she is. I am her secret supplier.

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Just Up from the Compleat Angler by TN Kerr

In the village of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the visitor will find an agreeable climate, a magnificent bridge, delightful restaurants, and river walks. At the top of the High Street sits Albion House, where Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary lived. In this house, Mary Shelley finished her Gothic novel.

It’s a lovely old home; painted white. It features floors of hardwood and terracotta tiles. French doors open to a small garden off the ground floor, and the entire structure glows with the patina brought by old age and meticulous care. A simple, small brass plaque marks its literary significance.

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Host with the Most! by Anurag Bakhshi

Rhonda and Steve were awestruck as they stared unblinking at the magnificent interiors of the Airbnb.

The walls were covered with such grand paintings that it looked like they were in the Louvre.

Add Bach’s Goldberg Variations playing in the background, and they felt as if they’d been transported to another century.

“We simply love it,” Rhonda cried out, ecstatically, “I don’t ever want to leave this place, Doctor.”

“I’m sure that can be arranged, my dear,” replied their host with an indulgent smile, a picture of old world charm, just like his home, “And please call me Hannibal.”

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PART II (10-minute read)

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Old-World Charm by Jim “Quincy” Borden

In 1494, Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan friar, wrote one of the first published descriptions of double-entry bookkeeping. He described journals, ledgers, year-end closing entries, and proposed that a trial balance be used to prove a balanced ledger. He warned that a person should not go to sleep at night until the debits equalled the credits. His ledger had accounts for assets, liabilities, capital, income, and expenses — the account categories that are reported on an organization’s balance sheet and income statement, respectively. These terms are still used today. Who knew there was a certain old-world charm to what I teach.

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So Last Century by Norah Colvin

“What did you play on the iPad when you were little, Grandma?”

“There weren’t any iPads when I was little.”

“What?”

“We didn’t even have computers.”

“What? How did you watch movies? On your phone?”
Grandma laughed. “No, we couldn’t watch movies on our phones. They didn’t have screens. And we couldn’t carry them in our pockets either. We went to the cinema to watch movies. When I was really little, we didn’t even have television.”

“Wow! What did you do then?”

“Lots — played games, read books, made our own fun.”

“Can we play a game?”

“Of course, love.”

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Old World by FloridaBorne

“AnnaLisa,” My granddaughter said. “Join us for chocolate cake!”

“Haha u,” She chuckled. “Old.”

“In my day, no child refused this lusciousness!”

“2020?” She chuckled. “Virtual eat. No hydrolos.”

“Can you translate?” I asked my granddaughter.

“Language is now thoughts. Words are a second language to her.”

“Well?”

“Translation: I have a program installed. I can taste the cake as if I’m eating it, but there’s no calories, it’s not 2020, Great Grandma.”

“Whatever happened to tradition?”

“Two words,” My granddaughter said. “Artificial intelligence. She can’t keep up in school without it.”

“Robots by any other name,” I grumbled.

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Lost by Allison Maruska

I settle onto the flat boulder overlooking the valley. The verdant field and trees welcome the rare visitor, promising a breath of nature and a taste of old-world charm. A world that existed before technology ruled. The afternoon sun bathes it in warm light.

“Daddy, what are you looking at?”

Twisting around, I wave my boy over. He wiggles next to me, his legs stopping at my knees.

“This is the land our ancestors saw,” I say.

He tilts his head. “Can we go home now?”

I laugh. “In a little bit.” After I figure out where we are.

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That’s One Old Building by Susan Sleggs

While touring a small British town my aunt pointed to the historical plaque on the outside wall of a pub. It said 1158. We commented we didn’t think there was a building in the US that was 700 years old because we tear everything down and build new. We went in for lunch and a pint. The old-world charm was a respite and matched by the personalities of the young owners who asked where we were from in the states. When we questioned how they knew, the answer was, “You are wearing bright colors. Gives you away every time.”

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So Much for Old World Charm by Margaret G. Hanna

“Bodicote is a dump!”

Mary’s letter from Oxfordshire shocked me. She didn’t like the village where I grew up? How could she not? The cobblestone streets. The village pub (I got drunk there many nights as a lad). The Green where everyone caroused on Fair night.

I read further. And sighed. The pub was gone. The Green was Brown. Banbury was encroaching, razing everything in its path. Dad’s farm, which he had rented from Mrs. Wyatt, was in shambles, about to be bulldozed for houses.

I had never wanted to return to England. Now there was even less reason.

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Trip to the New World by H.R.R. Gorman

The old world had been good, but not perfect.

What would this new one hold? She’d never been told exactly what this place would be like, and all the souls held in the bow of this ship were similarly confused – if they even spoke the same language.

Which, much to the sailors’ consternation, most of them didn’t.

She couldn’t understand the sailors’ tongues, but she did understand their sticks, whips, and clubs. She understood angry glares, uncaring tones, and raised hackles. She understood the chains around her wrists and ankles.

And she could guess their destination wouldn’t be fun.

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Olde Worlde Charm by LizHusebye Hartmann

“You’re certain this will work?” The charm, clasped in the Anna’s smooth young hand, was redolent of rose hips, cinnamon, and sweet basil…and something exotic from the far southern lands. Eyes shining with hopeful, as yet unshed tears, she clasped the woven bag to her breast.

“Do your part, with an open heart. Your prayer will be answered, anon.”

Molly accepted the girl’s hug; then shooed her away with a smile. It was a gig—keen observation and a little theater kept ‘em coming back. She’d seen the two to-be-lovers together; why did women always doubt their own power?

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The Old World by Chris Hewitt

Disembarking from the ship she was utterly overwhelmed. The old world was more than she had ever imagined, an assault on her senses. The air was thick, pungent, with the promise of culinary adventure. Countless bustling stalls, nestled in the shadows of the old brick buildings that lined the dock. And oh my it was so bright, so vivid, the green of the trees, the blue sky, everything!

She stumbled and fell from the gangplank onto hard cobbles.

“Whoops, are you ok?”, a helping hand reached down, “First time on Earth? Don’t worry we all trip the first time.”

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Just Lousy with Charm by Doug Jacquier

In my old world, nits were removed with kerosene, visits to the spider infested outhouse were completed with newspaper squares, mothers bored into your ears to stop the potatoes growing in there and rubbed at your face with their spit on a handkerchief, fathers twisted your ears as they dragged you to the scene of your latest sin, teachers clipped your ears to instill learning and the local copper handled juvenile delinquency with the toe of his boot. Charming. I tell my grandson but he just scratches his head. Now where did I put that kerosene?

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Celebration by Kerry E.B. Black

With a pomp of woodwinds, the children joined the parade about town, welcoming everyone to join. Ribbons swirled from braids in the little girls’ hair. Embroidered flowers festooned hems and lines of traditional garb. Traditional foods perfumed the air, available for the sampling. The celebration swept everyone up with its joy. The world bloomed, the earth produced, and people created beauty to compliment nature. Peace, not protest. Harmony, not war. For the brief span of an afternoon, the community embraced the simplicity of existence. Unity in expression, inclusion of all. People paused to admire the beauty in one another.

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The Gift of Water by Anne Goodwin

Our forefathers took time and trouble to appease the elements. Didn’t they rely on sun and rain for their daily bread? In summer they’d decorate the springs with gleanings from nature’s pantry, and thank the Lord for that cool clear liquid that enabled the crops to grow. In our pick-and-mix culture, we shed their superstitions but kept their art: village competing with village for the best display. For five long days we’d diligently press petals, seeds and berries into a clay-covered board until the design took shape. Now our great-grandchildren fight wars for water. The village wells are dry.

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Cinnamon Roll by Kelley Farrell

“It has that old world charm.”

“It smells like death.”

Anise inhaled the bitter air. Remains of buildings, and their citizens, dusted the ground in an ashen snow storm. In the distance an alarm still blared, signaling catastrophe. Something sweet and savory mingled with the distinct smell of smoldering wood.

“Do you smell that?”

“Delicious.”

The sweet smell pulled Clove and Anise forward. In the center of the destruction a small bakery’s ovens hummed away. An old woman pointed her cane at the creatures.

“You. Are you responsible for this? Have a cinnamon roll, I fucking hated this place.”

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The Charm Bracelet by Sally Cronin

Keira stood in line with the other teenagers. Dressed in plain cotton overalls, the queue stretched back for miles.

Above them, lining the cliff edges, were their families, held back by a tall fence. She looked down at the silver charm bracelet her mother had placed around her wrist as she had said her tearful goodbyes.

‘This will remind you of the old world my daughter, and our love.’

Keira finally reached the head of the line and was called forward by the guardians.

Placing her hand over the bracelet, she stepped through the portal, into the new world.

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The New World by Joanne Fisher

“What happened to the original inhabitants of this planet?” my daughter asked.

“We left the Old World after it became too polluted and when we arrived at this New World it was a verdant paradise with an indigenous population. They helped us survive the first few years by providing food and shelter. Once we built up our settlements we took their lands, as we needed the resources. We moved their survivors onto reserves where they mostly died out from sickness and disease. They’re gone now.”

We both looked out onto the now crowded skyline of skyscrapers and hazy skies.

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Old Earth: Sketch of a Bygone Dream by Saifun Hassam

In that far away long-ago dream, there was a deep azure lake with tall evergreens along the shores. Towering snowy peaks glowed in the early morning sunlight. Light and shadow drifted with the mist swirling over the lake. From the shores, stone steps led to a garden of goldenrod and delphiniums and a cottage. Smoke rose from the chimney. Old Earth. Swept away millennia ago.

Who was the artist? Who was the astronaut from Earth? Millennia ago someone had left signatures of Old Earth, artwork in the derelict digital libraries of Earth-like planets in the deep reaches of space.

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Holding On by Jo Hawk

The sand flew right out the window. It left me frozen, asleep for a thousand years. The one thing I craved, I never found. Solid ground. I slipped, descending the slope, my fate was sealed.

Sentenced, I watch your world from total darkness. Longing for sweet sun to kiss my face, I promise to try harder, even if it never matters. My once dark doors are open wide, my soul laid bare. Will you be there? Will you reach for my hand? Judge me, forgive me, save me?

Please, answer my prayers for the charms of my old world.

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Old World Customs by Chelsea Owens

Zrolt bent in half; crinkled his tentacles. Although he lacked the same appendages as the assembled dignitaries, he hoped his efforts at imitating formal gestures passed.

A bright figure, resplendent in the same hue that graced Zrolt’s planet’s bog pits, crinkled its breathing orifice in response. Zrolt’s translator told him this meant pleasure. Or amusement. Or, in 14% of cases, djr,osk.

He hoped it did not indicate djr,osk.

The bright figure spoke, moving more of its appendages as it did. Zrolt ingested a gland, a sure sign of boredom. Why did these sort of functions always entail old world customs?

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A Call Fer Art by D. Avery

“Pal, where yer folks hail from?”

“Hail if I know, Kid. I jist got made up right here at this ranch.”

“But the real folks that come through here, they’s from all over the world!”

“Thet’s right, Kid.”

“I been thinkin’ on Pepe Le’Gume’s idea fer a Buckaroo Nation totem pole. It’s a great idea, if’n we had artists ta make it take shape. A carvin’ ta honor all a us.”

“Reckon the first thing would be ta have folks jist tell what symbolizes their home place.”

“Prob’ly a beaver fer our Vermonter.”

“Thet’s one critter. Speak up, ya’ll.”

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A Sweet Jam

Spread across crumpets, or drizzled over ice cream, a sweet jam tastes like sunshine. Yet, deep in the city down a dark alley in the basement of a speakeasy, musicians gather as friends and jam old songs and new sounds. No matter the jam, it carries satisfaction.

Writers investigated where a sweet jam leads, and you can expect some tasty stories. Grab a cup of tea, slather your favorite preserve on a piece of toast, and cozy up for a 99-word story jam.

The following is based on the August 15, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sweet jam.

PART I (10-minute reads)

Wine and Dine by Di @ pensitivity101

Steve and Sally let themselves into their flat after an enjoyable evening with friends.
They heard singing and when then looked in the lounge saw their babysitter cross legged on the floor munching toast between bars. Their two children were curled up on the sofa fast asleep surrounded by crumbs, their faces smeared with jam.

Jenna grinned at them.

‘Great scherry jam!’ she hiccoughed with a giggle. ‘Tho’ ya chouldn’t liv it in’t garage……… it migh go orf!’

Sally burst out laughing as Steve looked in dismay at the slops and what was left of his fermenting blackcurrant wine.

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Sweet Jam by Susan Zutautas

Come one, come all to Bellevue’s Last Call Bar and Grill to listen to the sounds of Head First. They’re sure to satisfy your thirst.

Dance the night away with songs from the 1980s unless nine o’clock is past your bedtime. Come on out and rock till you drop.

On horns and flute, we have Mike who can start one sweet jam with the band.

On drums, there’s Chris who will beat to your heart.

Paul takes care of the vocals and he’s a local.

Sing along they don’t mind in fact they think it’s always a good time.

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Sweet Strawberry Jam by Norah Colvin

Overhearing a conversation about the jam session at Lorna’s that night, Ailsa assumed the email was buried in spam which had jammed her inbox recently. She collected her Vacola jars and headed for the motorway. Discovering the traffic jam too late, she had no choice but to wait. The jam drops prepared for supper eased the monotony. At Lorna’s, she jammed her car into a tight spot and rushed inside. The living room was jam-packed, and music indicated a different kind of jamming. Setting down her Vacola jars, she leaned against the door jamb. “Sweet strawberry jam!” she breathed.

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As Sweet As Jam by Oneiridescent

With the accomplice of peeping moonlight, Sam was scanning the perimeter. He was in a hunt and his jungle was the kitchen. The clanging cutlery called out and Mother came running.

“What are you doing, at this midnight ?” She switched on the lamp.

“I wanna candy, caramel – anything sweet,” cried seven year old Sam.

“You had your share. No more now with your tooth condition,” warned Mother.

Disappointed Sam, sat down on the floor. It was a week, he was deprived of chocolate.

“Ding Dong !” Father returned from work and brought Sam a sweet smile – a healthy raspberry jam!

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Well Preserved by FloridaBorne

“Happy Birthday, Grandma,” Joy said.

Edna reached into yet another gift bag. A jar of strawberry preserves.

“I asked my family to pool their money,” Edna said. “I’m going to take a writing class!”

“But Grandma, you’re old!”

Edna held the unwanted gift toward Joy. “Get your money back, tell my family I expect a check for $200 made out to Hoover Community College, and bring it to me.”

“But…the party…”

“Go!” Edna ordered.

Never willing to settle for less than the best, Edna opened a cabinet full of her homemade strawberry jam, slathering some on fresh baked bread.

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Sweet Jam by Colleen M Chesebro

One of the fondest memories I have of my mother in law was the day we made strawberry jam. The kids washed the flats of strawberries in the sink, careful to pinch off only the green leaves. I dumped the ripe fruit into the pot.

Arlene never measured ingredients. She didn’t have to. Like a conductor at a symphony, she coaxed the natural sweetness out of the berries cooking on the stove before she added any additional sugar.

The older girls filled the jars with the delectable strawberry compote. Billy the toddler, dipped his fingers into the sweet jam.

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The Fallen Apples…by Ruchira Khanna

“Hey, don’t hit those fallen apples with your bat?” Grandma rebuked her grandson, Pedro.

“What should we do with it, grandma?” he asked innocently, “Mom doesn’t allow us to eat them, once fallen.”

Granny paused for a bit; it helped her cool down.

“Let’s collect all of them, I’ll make use of these fallen apples!” she said with a gentle smile.

The excited eight-year old collected all the juicy red apples in his red pail.

Grandma got to the task to make an end product that was sweet and fruity.

“Yum! the grandson licked the jelly off the spoon!”

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Jellied Jitters by Donna Matthews

I feel it in my seeds. A juicy, delicious purpose awaits me. My skin is radiant…the perfect hue. I am ready.

A small boy comes skipping down my row. I quiver in anticipation as he spots me. He leans over, grabs me with his chubby hands, and in his basket I go. Arriving at his house, I see the water boiling, glass bottles standing ready, pectin on the counter.

Soon, I am transformed. No longer an individual berry but a sweet jelly jam. But why…why am I in the basement? Jellied and abandoned? Will I be forgotten down here?

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Strawberry Jam by Sally Cronin

Margaret sat in the sitting room of the nursing home, in a chintz covered chair by the window. She couldn’t remember why she was there, but perhaps the family had brought her out for tea. She tried to think of her daughter’s name; a pretty girl in a blue overall who spoke gently with a lovely smile. Margaret looked at the plate on her lap, lifting the contents to her lips, it tasted delicious with something red and sweet that stirred distant and happy memories. Jam, strawberry jam, on scones, with butter and cream. How could she have forgotten?

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Jammed Up in Time by Bill Engleson

“Well, body’s gone!”

“Yup. Morrison’s Mortuary…they don’t dawdle. Let’s get to ‘er.”

“The old guy…he had no family?”

“None we knew of. No visitors. Nada.”

“Sad.”

“Yeah, maybe. But he had his memories.”

“You talked to him?”

“That’s kinda what we’re here for. Yeah. Not often. Cranky old cuss.”

“So, where do we start?”

“Let’s start slow. Personal stuff. The bedroom, I guess. Box it up neat.”

“Hey, lookee here. A jar of jam on the bedside table. Odd, eh!”

“Not so much. Blackberry Jam. Last one his wife ever preserved.”

“Really!”

“Like I said, he had his memories.”

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Home Remedy by Tom Stewart

“I’m making mango jam,” announced Gertrude. “Your favorite.”

“You know how, Gert?” asked Wendell, her husband of 27 years.

“I’ll figure it out, and please, it’s Gertrude.”

“Can’t we just buy some? said Wendell. “Why all the bother?”

“Really?” said Gertrude. “It’s news to you that I like doing things myself?”

“All I’m saying, we could be watching television instead of you spending so much time.”

“You can’t buy the kind of jam I’m making,” said Gertrude.

“Don’t go overboard,” said Wendell. “I like things uncomplicated.”

‘Amen to that,’ thought Gertrude, removing a vial of strychnine from her apron pocket.

🥕🥕🥕

Faire de la Confiture Cucrée… (or a sweet reunion) by JulesPaige

she kept snakes in the
garden, allowed them free reign;
they rid her of pests

he was a lout for leaving
or a hero in disguise
*
at the edge, he stood
unrecognizable man?
she stood quietly

he spoke her name like music
as the late autumn wind danced
*
rooted in the ground
she stood, tears of joy forming
then flowing freely

(of course we used to tell them
that time stood quite still, waiting…)
*
yet time did march on
to the beat of our drumming
hearts; running to grasp

See next page
to touch, to reassure and
taste again sweet jam kisses

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Jam by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Clara’s thumbs tick-tocked the steering wheel’s curve, her eyes intent on any break in the blocked-up freeway traffic. She’d said what needed to be said. She was done.

Harald, hands tucked under his thighs in the passenger seat, hummed his seven-note tune, over and over again. He nodded as her annoyance grew. It’d only take a moment—the right moment–to change her mind.

Clara took a chance, swerved onto the shoulder. “Get out!” she roared.

Harald smiled victory as her car spit gravel and grew small as it sped away.

Sweet! He knew she’d talk to him again!

🥕🥕🥕

Sweetest Jam by Sherri Matthews

On Saturday morning, Matt Kline woke up, groaned and rolled over in bed, finding an indent and a crumpled sheet where his wife should’ve been. The angry clatter of dishes from the kitchen reminded him why.

That, and his wife screeching for him to get his lazy ass in there. Right now.

‘Honey…I’m sorry… I drank too much…’

‘You sonofabitch; I’m outta here.’

‘But honey…she’s nothing to me… ‘

The jar landed square on his head. The last Matt Kline knew was the taste of his wife’s strawberry jam bleeding slowly into his mouth. The sweetest batch she’d ever made.

🥕🥕🥕

Soured Sugar by Anne Goodwin

Bending to strip the bush of berries, her shoulders strain and fingers stain inky black, like hunching over essays at her desk. Except for the insect buzz and her sun-warmed neck. A holiday from study, from her drive to showcase her brain in a world that stops its gaze at her skin. A different virtue in the steaming pot, gleaming jars, foraged fruit others would leave to rot.

Yet her mood dips, her hand shakes as she adds the white crystals. Sugar. Ghosted by her ancestors’ lament, backs striped with whip marks as they stooped to cut the cane.

🥕🥕🥕

Everything Tastes Better With Jam by Barb Taub

She hesitated, then entered the alley, her stilettos clicking, hands cradling the large jar. Under a streetlight, dark windows on all sides and dead end ahead, she stopped. Her follower straightened, light glancing off the blade in his hand.

She turned, smiling.

Silent figures gathered behind her attacker, surrounding him. One held out an arm for her sweet jam. “Glad you could make it. How’s your mama?”

She waited politely until the screaming stopped abruptly. “She’s good. Sends love.” Over the slurping sounds, she raised her voice. “Sorry I’m late. I had to pick up takeout on the way over.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hijacking Euphoria by H.R.R. Gorman

Johnny hopped in. “Gun it, Euphoria!”

The hot, 375-horsepower Cadillac roared, but she pressed the brakes at a screeching metal sound.

“Door’s jammed! It got caught on the sidewalk!”

Euphoria screamed. “What the hell you doin’ to my car!?”

“It don’t matter! Gun it, or the cops will catch us!”

She put her long, pink fingernails up to her face. Tears streamed down. “Oh no, my baby!”

The cops caught up, guns at the ready. They saw Euphoria’s tears and manhandled Johnny out. “Hijacking a car and robbing a bank!? You’re going to jail for a long time, bub!”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute reads)

Train Jam by Ritu Bhathal

Arjun peeled back the cover of the tray and peered at the contents.

Two cooling pieces of toast lay there, with a pat of white butter and a container containing something that was jelly-like with a luminous pink glow.

“What’s that?” he grimaced.

“I think you’ll find it’s jam.” Aashi couldn’t help but smirk at his expression.

“That’s not like any jam I’ve ever seen before.”

“Well, you’re not in England anymore, either. It’s Indian jam, made to cater to the Western travellers. Probably filled with sugar, colouring, sugar, flavouring and a bit more sugar. Just don’t expect strawberries!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Special Breakfast (Lynn Valley) by Saiffun Hassam

In the center of the dining table, sunflowers and hollyhock rose from the base of the boat shaped cornucopia. An ornamental iridescent hummingbird hovered over blue delphiniums. One end of the boat was loaded with almonds and pistachios. The rest of the boat was packed with jars of home-made sweet jam: blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, plum, fig and peach.

The tantalizing aroma of freshly baked bread wafted into the dining room from the restaurant kitchen. Omelets filled with salmon, scrambled eggs and pancake potatoes were ready. It was Hannah’s birthday today and her staff had a surprise breakfast for her.

🥕🥕🥕

A Brief Respite by Joanne Fisher

Aalen and Ashalla stayed in a cheap inn. They both sat on the bed together while Voja curled up on the floor. Ashalla had brought back some bread after scoping out The Baron’s keep a further time.

“If only I had got some cheese.” Ashalla said as she chewed on the bread.

“Wait a moment.” Aalen said as she produced a vial from her belongings. “When the fruit in the forest ripens my people make this.” Ashalla spread its contents on her bread.

“It’s wonderfully sweet jam.” Ashalla said.

“Jam?”

“That’s what we call it.” Ashalla told her.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s a Trust Issue by Susan Sleggs

A month before my wedding, Gran advised, “You will discover marrying into a large family can have its pitfalls.”

“I already feel like I belong.”

“Let’s hope that lasts.”

Years later I remembered those words when a member of my husband’s family stated, “No in-law would know the family history we are discussing.”

I replied aloud, “I take umbrage with that,” and was ignored, so I left the room.

A few days later I received an e-mail from the speaker. “I was out of line. Sorry.”

The words felt like swallowing sweet jam, with a hint of invisible mold.

🥕🥕🥕

Tart Wars by Mused Blog

No one could remember how the war had started.

What transgression, what folly had launched that first missile? They could not have been blind to the terrible carnage that would follow. Mutually Assured Destruction indeed. And when all ammunition was spent, they stared at each other across the table, accusations flying.

“For the last time! Who started it?” mom yelled iridescent with rage.
“She did”, they both said in unison, fingers pointed.

Emma plucked a fragment of raspberry jam tart from her sticky hair and hastily devoured it. She smiled at the sweetness and winked at her bedraggled sister.

🥕🥕🥕

In a Sweet Jam by Anita Dawes

I was fourteen when I borrowed a bike
The judge sent me away for three weeks
for assessment to determine whether
I would be put away or given probation
This came as a shock.
You can’t wear your own clothes
Cleaning duties before breakfast
Two hours of school each day
The older girls had other duties
Sewing lessons where I made a felt penguin
Which I could take home when I leave
I never saw it again, I guess someone borrowed it
This is where I fell in love with marmalade
The kind with no bits, smooth and sweet…

🥕🥕🥕

In a Jam by Anurag Bakhshi

As I opened the refrigerator door, my wife’s words of warning reverberated in my ears, “No more sweets, or you’ll be in a right royal jam!”

But her words soon faded away, and all I could see was a treasure trove of cakes, pastries, muffins…and standing tall amidst them, a bottle of fresh home-made rhubarb jam.

I took out the bottle, gazing at it lovingly, when suddenly, the lights came on, and a voice, possibly belonging to the owner of the house, spoke sharply, “Gotcha! Robert, keep the gun trained on this thief while I call the police.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet, Sweet Song by priorhouse

“Really? You did it? Officially took the new job and put in notice?”

Yeah, baby.  We can move for the new job as early as next month.

Exhaling, hands across face, Lisa sat down, pulled her hair back saying, “I cannot believe how sweet this feels.”

I know…. and hey… what song is that? Turn it up a little.

song lyrics poured out: “You are beautiful my sweet, sweet song. And I, will sing again….”

That’s the perfect song for this transition.

“It’ll be our song, honey.”

It sure is a sweet jam.

“Also….

WE WILL

sing again.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Jam by Allison Maruska

I settle into my seat in front of the stage. In a moment, the performer will take his place, having promised an evening of musical magic. His exact words were, “I’ve been working on a sweet jam.”

How could I pass that up?

He steps onto the stage to uproarious applause. Propping himself onto the stool, he holds up his instrument, and after a moment of contemplation, the notes of Hot Cross Buns fill the room.

Though I’ve heard the recorder tune enough during the week that it pierces my dreams, I pretend it is the sweetest of jams.

🥕🥕🥕

Not a Typical Sweet Jam (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Boiling quinces filled Danni’s kitchen with a lively scent, something between citrus and pears. Something remembered. In the canner, she prepped a hot bath to disinfect her jars and lids. She opened the sack of white sugar, ready to make sweet jam. Michael raised an eyebrow, continuing to look as skeptical as he did when he helped her pick the lumpy fruit.

“How’d you hear about these quince things?”

“The joy of being a historical archeologist. I read old books and journals.”

“Huh. Nothing from my Anishinaabe roots.”

Later, spread thickly across slabs of sourdough, Michael updated his history.

🥕🥕🥕

Harvest (Part I) by D. Avery

“Pull in this driveway here, Marge, this is the place.”
Marge and Ilene climbed stiffly from the truck and stretched, taking in the weather worn clapboard house. Two gangly apple trees stood guard in the unmown lawn. Ilene investigated the blackberry bushes that grew where the unkempt meadow met the woods.

“Marge! They’re ripe!” She made her way back to Marge and faced her mother’s house.

“Well, Marge, I’m supposed to get what I want from the place before leaving matters to the lawyers and realtors. And what I want is to make blackberry jam like my mother did.”

🥕🥕🥕

Harvest (Part II) by D. Avery

Marge and Ilene, scratched from the blackberry brambles, fingers stained purple, now stood over large pots of steaming, bubbling blackberry ooze.

“I don’t know, Ilene, I haven’t done this since my father died. He and I always made jam together.”

“We’ve got this, Marge.” She stirred, carefully eyed the drip from the wooden spoon. “I always enjoyed helping my mom with jamming but knew it meant the beginning of school. Used to feel like we were putting summer in a jar, to be savored later.”

“She’d be proud you’re back in school Ilene.”

Ilene blinked. “It’s ready Marge. Pour.”

🥕🥕🥕

First Homemade Low Sugar Plum Jam by Miriam Hurdle

“What are we doing with all the plums?”

“We eat them.”

“How many can we eat?”

“As many as we can for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

“You picked 475 in two weeks but only ate less than 75. They are getting mushy.”

“I know. I’ll take them to some meetings to give them away.”

“Can we sell them?”

“Are you kidding? How do I do that and who would buy them?”

“What if we can’t give them away fast enough?”

“I’ll find some low sugar plum jam recipes and do the first homemade jam.”

“It sounds like a plan.”

🥕🥕🥕

Red Light Rescue by Jo Hawk

I volunteered, although it was the last thing I wanted to do.

She waited outside her brownstone, with her carryon balanced atop her suitcase. I double-parked while the cabbie honked, cursing me, as he squeezed his way past.

“You’re late,” she said, and I stuffed the luggage in the trunk.

“You said six, it’s a quarter to.”

She ignored me and got in the car.

Rush hour in New York, made worse by some hidden force, gave me an opportunity. My one last chance.

The traffic jam was sweet, providing the salve we needed to mend our strained relationship.

🥕🥕🥕

Wild Sweet Jam by Faith A. Colburn

Today it’s wild plums. You step in the back door and the smell of sweet jam overwhelms your senses. On the stove, pulp boils with sugar. You hear thick, red bubbles spatter like hot lava.

Another bucket of fresh fruit rests on the floor. You pick up a few. You rub them between your fingers. The frosty coating rubs off, leaving shiny, bright skins—deep red, pink, and gold. A colander holds dry husks of bitter skins for the compost.

Sparkling jars line the counter tops, waiting to seal the taste of summer for mid-winter.

🥕🥕🥕

Hello Spring by tracey

Sophia walked into the kitchen and wondered where spring was. Fat snowflakes swirled outside the window, carpeting the grass and mounding on empty flowerpots.

“This would be pretty if it was December,” Sophia told Mother Nature, “but here in May you are just being cruel.”

She put the kettle on and popped an English muffin into the toaster. “Guess I’ll just have to make my own spring,” she said, moving a vase of tulips to the table. She opened her last jar of homemade strawberry jam and breathed in the sweet berry scent. “Take that Mother Nature,” she crowed.

🥕🥕🥕

Summer Memory in Winter by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Unexpected, not unprecedented. Lucy opened the cabin door to a wall of snow. Stores, as well as spirits, were running low. Something had to liven the hard tack and rabbit stew, hairy root vegetables and pale wrinkled peas. Evan sat by the glowing fire, his fiddle forgotten on his knee, the bow lying on the floor.

She snapped her fingers, grabbed a candle, and lifted the trap door to the cellar underneath their home. The animals, fed and watered, called greeting as she passed to the cooler corner where she kept summer memories. There! One remaining jar of Lingonberries!

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apples

We know how the story goes for Snow White. The Evil Queen sends a poisoned apple that only true love’s kiss can overcome. Well, there are different versions of the familiar tale. We wish fairy tails were true, and maybe, in a way, they are. Through one act of kindness, choosing love over hate, writing through the mess no matter how toxic — we can deliver an anecdote.

Writers explored the apple tree, daring to touch the poisoned variety. Some followed myth, some used realism, and others mashed it all up like cider.

The following are based on the August 8, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a poisoned apple.

PART I (10-minute read)

Miss Scarlet – In the Kitchen – With an Apple by TN Kerr

She who’d smiled and cooed when she gave him the fruit,
now laughed out loud
and watched him chew.
The fruit glowed red, juicy, crisp, and tart.
When he bit in, droplets ran to his shirt and
down his chin.
They burned through the soft cotton and scarred his skin.

He reached for her, in pain, confused;
his finger was cut
on the hem of her red pleated skirt.
I watched the rent spread wide, filling with crimson before
overflowing the wound and splashing onto her open-toed mules.
Shoes that were once white, were now scarlet,
like her name.

🥕🥕🥕

Inconclusive by Jomz Ojeda

The victim lay on the ground, sprawled, while clutching his throat.

“Choked on an apple? Classic.” Detective Monroe commented as he surveyed the scene, a half-eaten apple by his feet.

The victim, a young man in his twenties, had a twisted, horrified look on his face. His eyes bulged, and his mouth open and moist with bubbling saliva.

“Was it an accident, inspector?” A rookie cop asked.

“It could be. You never know.” The detective took slow, calculated steps all over the room. His eyes fell back on the apple.

“Take this to forensics… it might tell us more.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Don’s Move by The Dark Netizen

Don Pazta stared at me triumphantly.

“You’ve done it. Don Peeza is dead. Now his territory belongs to us. Well done.”

I smiled at the old man while gingerly sipping on my glass of wine. Don Peeza’s half eaten apple lay on the plate, next to his resting head. Don Pazta giddily got up from his seat and did a small jig.

“Tell me though. How did you know he would pick that apple from the basket?”

I grinned at the old don.

“I didn’t.”

Don Pazta glanced towards the half-eaten apple on his own plate, before keeling over…

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Fear had eaten into his mind’s core like a malevolent caterpillar. Fear of the future. Fear of the soldiers. Fear of losing his farm. It had been there, rotting his brain matter, ever since the declaration of war in October the prior year. The injury he had sustained early this year had exacerbated its effect until it felt as if his mind was like a worm-infested apple, brown and soft inside. He took some deep breaths, determined to prevent the poison from spreading and affecting his reactions. Poor reactions could result in the deaths of him and his family.

🥕🥕🥕

How Far from the Tree? by Di @ pensitivity101

She was different, though didn’t understand why.

They came from the same gene pool, the same background, the same upbringing.

They had grown up together, been taught the same values, attended the same school.

But she was different, and she knew it.

She stood out. It wasn’t intentional, and the others tried to put her down, swamp her with their opinions and demanding attention.

Their offspring were the same as them.

Calculating, scheming, self-centred and selfish. No good deed done or thought of unless it benefited them.

Where had the poison originated?

And thank god she not been affected.

🥕🥕🥕

Staying Close to Mother by Anne Goodwin

There wasn’t much my mother loved, but she sure did love that tree. Sharp shade at summer’s peak; soft pink blossom at its dawn. Come summer’s end she loved to feed its sweet-sour fruit to me.

When time was ripe she’d pick a golden orb and shine its skin with hers. Warmed and polished by her breast, I’d accept her offering solemnly. As if cradling the whole world in my palms.

“Eat!” she said.

Obediently, I crunched, as juices dribbled from my mouth. Although it gave me bellyache, I never once declined an apple from my mother’s poisoned tree.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bad Apple by Ritu Bhathal

April bit her blackened lips in frustration. Just how long was mum going to go on and on about her clothes. All she wanted to do, was get out of the house.

She absentmindedly rolled a corner of the rug back and forth with her clumpy boots.

“April! Stop doing that to my rug! Honestly. I don’t know what’s got into you. It’s like those friends of yours have just brainwashed you.”

She rolled a heavily khol-lined eye. The doorbell rang.

“I’m going, mum.” She turned. “And just remember, they say the apple never falls far from the tree.”

🥕🥕🥕

If the Mirror Said More by Susan Sleggs

The Queen questioned her reliable magic mirror but this time the answer was different. Snow White was deemed more fair.

“Why?” screamed the angry queen.

“Your beauty is still supreme but not your heart. Snow White cares for others more than herself. She is loyal without being jealous. She works hard, without complaining, nor expecting return. She follows the laws while still helping the less fortunate and she sees her near empty glass as replenishable with good fortune.”

“I shall kill her with a poison apple!”

“No, my Queen. Learn from her or the poison will surely kill you.”

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Floridaborne

“…Snow White lived happily ever after,” my daughter said.

“Where’d you hear that?”

“Jane’s mom said we live happily ever after without haters.”

“She doesn’t understand the story,” I said.  “Do you want to be imprisoned in a palace?”

“Ewwww.  No!”

“When the story was written, Princesses were baby factories ensuring one kingdom had ties to another. Jane’s mom is a socialist.  We live in a Constitutional Republic.  Our founders knew we had to be diligent.”

“What’s diligent?”

“Socialism, the evil step mother, is delusional. It wants to change what the mirror tells her.  Never allow delusion to live.”

🥕🥕🥕

Skeletons by Reena Saxena

“Splash some green paint on the apple. It is needed for Halloween décor.”

“Do a Google search for ‘poisoned apple’ images. You might get better ideas.”

“ I don’t like fairy tale themes. Those are repeated everywhere.”

The skeleton surprised me on the party evening.

“Where did you get this from?”

“Somebody’s cupboard.” Am I hallucinating? The hollow voice seemed to emanate from the skeleton.

“Don’t worry. The cupboard is not yours, Honey, but someone is in for a shock today.”

“Herbert, get out of that costume. I don’t like being targeted for pranks.”

“Oops, Honey gave me away….”

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Jim “Quincy” Borden

I was working in the lab late one night, tasked with trying to find a safer, cheaper, and more environmentally-friendly formula for our top-selling weed killer.

While typing notes on my Macbook, I absentmindedly reached for the beaker containing the latest compound.

Unfortunately, some of the liquid fell onto the keyboard, and I watched in horror as smoke began to come out of my computer.

The screen went blank a few seconds later, and nothing I could do would bring it back to life.

It was then that I realized what the problem was, I had a poisoned Apple.

🥕🥕🥕

The Apple by Chelsea Owens

Doug stared at the cursor which marked the end of a lengthy piece. A smashing piece, really; one for which he might garner literary praise.

-If not for a little thing called conscience. Doug’s finger poised over the ‘Submit’ option, pulled back.

It’s not a factual article. Don’t publish it.

His conscience sounded deeper than Jiminy Cricket but was no less annoying. He was a grown man, working for The Apple, for the love of -! Well! He, Doug, was not to be bullied by a fantastical creature.

He clicked the button, releasing his minor poison to the unsuspecting masses.

🥕🥕🥕

How to Un-poison the Apple by tracey

The morning sun wakes me and I know I should be grateful for the possibilities of this new day. It stretches out before me, empty and endless.

I drink my tea. Do I dare turn on the radio? What are the chances of hearing good news? No, I will not poison my brain first thing in the morning.

Instead I bake chocolate chip cookies. I make sandwiches. I count out ten bottles of water. Then I fill ten sack lunches.

I spend my morning seeking out the homeless and giving them lunch – sandwiches, cookies and one crisp, sweet apple.

🥕🥕🥕

Like a Poisoned Apple (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni wrinkled her nose at Ramona’s offering. A tomato, freshly plucked. A Kellogg, an heirloom bright as carnelian and hard to grow in North Idaho. But Ike’s grandmother had forgotten that Danni gagged at the taste of any tomato.

“Thank you, Grandma. I’ll take it home.”

Ramona glared.

Danni sighed. “How about we share it?” Maybe Ramona would forget by the time they hauled veggies into the house.

The old woman continued to scowl. “I’m not your grandmother.” Dementia worsened when Ramona tired. It was like a poisoned apple.

Maybe Ramona would remember her if Danni took a bite.

🥕🥕🥕

Thief by Joanne Fisher

Red Riding Hood walked down the forest path carrying a basket of food for her Grandma. Suddenly a big black wolf leapt out from among the trees.

“I’m so hungry!” The wolf declared.

Alarmed, Red threw the basket at the wolf and hid behind a tree. The wolf went through all the baked goods and devoured them. Lastly, it munched down an apple and then started convulsing and foaming at the mouth until it collapsed on the ground.

Red looked at the now dead wolf. Good thing she didn’t give Grandma the apple she had stolen from Snow White.

🥕🥕🥕

Fairest In the Land by Kelley Farrell

Purple veined trees dangled darkened fruits above her head.

“I’ve never been to this part of the woods before.” Words she was barely brave enough to speak disappeared into a pulsing air of mystery. She would swear her feet were no longer her own.

“I’m so very hungry and tired.” The stiffness of the air crushed her voice but the woods protects its own. One of the purple veined trees dropped a fruit into her hands.

Her teeth tore the skin, unleashing a dark gush to dribble over her chin.

And that’s how she became fairest in the land.

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Susan Zutautas

Okay, I think we finally have a winner here, would you like to test it? As soon as this hits the shelves people will be running each other over trying to purchase this. Here, hold out your arm Elizabeth.

Hold on a few seconds, I need to wash off my wrist first.

Pierre gently applied a touch of the new fragrance to Miss Arden’s wrist and waited intently.

Well, tell me, what do you think?

The scent is fruity yet slightly spicy. I love it! What shall we call it? Oh, wait I know, Pomme Empoisonnée or Poisoned Apple.

🥕🥕🥕

An Annulment Achievement by JulesPaige

Part 1

The queen of the fae was in a big huff. This poison apple thing was getting out of hand. The forest was littered with sleeping beauties, princes and even peasants. The dwarves were trying to keep up with building enough glass shelters for all the bodies. Pretty soon the whole countryside was going to be in a deep sleep and it was going to be up to strangers to kiss all these dreamers.

What was the cause? Was it a ruthless royalty? Turned out to be a clan of worms that had been contaminated by that first poisonous fruit.

Part 2

Fruit laced with sleeping draught – Poisoned from a jealous Queen. And worms just doing what they do naturally, multiplying and crawling through apples. The wicked queen who had wanted Little Snow-White dead had been forced to dance to death in a pair of red hot iron shoes… who would be able to save the worms? For even worms have a valued place in the forest.

Time to enlist someone with some mad science skills. How could they save the genetically modified worms. How could they capture all the affected worms? Maybe with one giant apple with the right antidote?

Part 3

The queen of the fae offered a generous reward for and antidote that would save the worms and get all the sleeping people out of her domain. The fae kisses weren’t strong enough to wake deep sleep of all the humans. She would have to see if extracting saliva and making a potion for wakefulness would work. Maybe she could employ the Tooth Fairy Guild?

Within a fortnight everyone and everything was ready. The giant apple sat in the middle of a special glade that had been sprayed with a special ode du decay to attract all the worms.

Part 4

The dwarves and fae teamed up. As soon as the dwarves removed the glass coverings several fae flew to the lips of the sleeping bodies to paint on the wakeful kissing potion. And then as quick as a wink they ran and hid to see what would happen.

Slowly the people began to stir from their dreams. They could only wonder why they had been resting on odd platforms. And without hesitation made their way back to their homes.

Dwarves dismantled the platforms with joy. In time, all that was left of the great big Apple was the core.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

It’s an Institution by Norah Colvin

They arrived with bright eyes, open hearts and curious minds. As they entered, each was handed a shiny apple full of promises. They took their places and followed instructions. In unison, they bit off small portions of their apple and chewed to the beat of the enormous metronome suspended above. On cue, they swallowed but, with insufficient time before the required regurgitation, were unable to digest any components. Before they had finished, the taste was bland, swallowing difficult and regurgitation almost impossible. On exiting, their eyes were dull, their hearts closed, and their minds shrivelled, poisoned by false promises.

🥕🥕🥕

The Poisoned Apple by Faith A. Colburn

We used to have a row of mulberry trees on one side of our driveway. In midsummer, when the skies shone cerulean and ships of clouds sailed the prairie, the trees turned green and shiny as holly and began producing the first sweet purple fruit.

My sister and I climbed those trees, but like Snow White’s sweet apple, they exacted a price. We’d climb out of the trees with scratches and rips on our bare legs and arms, even our faces, twigs in our tousled hair. Our purple mouths, fingers, and purple-stained playsuits testified to our willingness to pay.

🥕🥕🥕

Telling by D. Avery

“I’m Snow White. I’m dead.”

“Oh dear.”

“Don’t worry, only for a while.”

“Until a prince happens along?”

“That’s how Tommy’s mom tells it.”

“Hmm. Is there another way to tell it?”

Marlie unclasped her hands and sat up. “Well, Sofie’s mom says the apple was yellow, not red. And it wasn’t poison, it was the apple of wisdom that the mother shared with her daughters.”

“What else?”

“No princes, just farmers and craftsmen. Useful and polite. Oh, and Snow White is really called Eartha Brown.”

“Marlie, now that you’ve come back to life you could invite Sofie over.”

🥕🥕🥕

Yandeau Sea (from Yandeau) by Saiffun Hassam

In the bright sunshine Yandeau Sea glittered like myriads of tiny silvery pearls. But the great beauty of the Sea was marred along the shores by red, orange and yellow algal blooms.

Pierre remembered apple picking on Grandpere’s farm. Grandpere tossed moldy apples into the mulch pile. Poisoned apples he said. Pierre, then a young biologist, was struck by the intertwining of shiny golden apples and black fungal rot.

Now he was a marine scientist. From a distance the algal blooms appeared to be beautiful carpets. Underneath that carpet the waters were toxic to fish, starfish, crabs and crustaceans.

🥕🥕🥕

Immunity by Adil EL Bourichi

“I didn’t poison that apple!” was my orchard’s previous owner’s explanation .

My apple tree had born a pumpkin instead of an apple.

My chemist neighbor said that it was a poisoned apple and that it was his duty as a scientist to tell the world about it.

Soon, it became a worldwide phenomenon and more poisoned apples appeared pretty much everywhere. No country seemed immune.

All those who ate the pumpkins died… All, except the inhabitants of a tiny Pacific island.

When interviewed, an inhabitant said: “You see, poison is medicine and medicine is poison… It’s about balance.”

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Tien Skye

He could scarcely believe it. Months of effort – of planning, of sleepless nights – wiped out in matters of seconds.

Oh, how can the apple be poisoned so?

Known for its immunity, most viruses are unable to affect it. Yet, he could deny the truth no longer.

His MacBook Pro is not responding to any of the commands.

Well, every cloud has its silver lining. Or at least he hopes the iCloud has, that the documents have been backed up to the online server.

Then he realises, he has forgotten to switch on the Wi-Fi.

Poisoned Apple indeed.

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Sally Cronin

It is common in this modern world, to be offered promises that seem as wholesome as a bowl of shiny apples. However the red skinned fruit may hide toxic untruths and evil intent. Once it is swallowed, the poisoned apple will stick in your throat, causing you to spout the heinous words hidden within; spreading the evil like a virus. The only antidote to its venom; is to establish the truth, and wash the words down with random acts of kindness. We must all think carefully before embarking on a dangerously addictive diet of fake news and ill intentions.

🥕🥕🥕

The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil by H.R.R. Gorman

“And this is the core of the poisonous apple which Adam and Eve ate.” The tour guide pointed to a core, browned from oxidation but otherwise in good shape. “This was unearthed 10 years ago in Mesopotamia, and no scientific explanation regarding its preservation has come forth.”

Someone raised a hand. “Why do we want to keep it?”

“Many reasons! The NIH wants to research its antibiotic properties. The DOE wants to examine its timelessness to find clean fuels. And, of course, the DOD wants to weaponize it. One of these efforts has already succeeded – I’ll let you guess which…”

🥕🥕🥕

Dark Places by Anita Dawes

Our universe has an evil twin
That’s where I live,
walking through black molasses
With the past present and future
Stuck in the same place
My life has been overlaid
by the juice of a poisonous apple
There are times when I believe
I am living on the dark side of the moon
Where the unknown waits
Taking time before devouring my soul
Sleeping dreaming, it is all the same
Nothing changes in the dark spaces of my mind
There are black holes
where my other six souls try to live
I pray for just one to be reborn…

🥕🥕🥕

Think of the Devil by Anurag Bakhshi

“Eat it, you know that you want to,” the Devil whispered in Eve’s ears.

Eve looked apprehensively at the apple and replied, “It…does look delicious…but Adam told me not to accept anything from strangers.”

The Devil plucked the apple from the tree, and said, “Let ME have a bite first, so that you know it’s safe.”

He smiled as he bit into the apple, he knew it was unsafe only for humans.

Eve smiled as the Devil clutched at his throat, it was a good thing she’d had the foresight to poison the apple the night before!

🥕🥕🥕

Dressed to Kill by Sarah Brentyn

The fall of 1978 would be remembered for generations.

I loved the story of the princess woken by a handsome prince. Each year, on Halloween, I became that princess.

I walked alone, trick-or-treating, while groups of guys mocked my dress and made lewd comments. Girls threw rotten apples poisoned with hatred and intolerance.

Mrs. Halloran, who was always kind to me, held a bowl of candy but pulled me aside. She gave me a bright, red apple and a smile.

Our neighborhood lost 27 kids that year. Poisoned. All but the boy in the Snow White costume.

🥕🥕🥕

A New Story by Donna Matthews

How did the story go, she wondered? A girl bit into a poisoned apple and fell asleep? The evil step-mother, jealous of her beautiful step-daughter?

Yes!

And the seven drawfs? Or was that detail from another story? She couldn’t recall clearly. Except that maybe the story was titled, “Sleeping Beauty.” The character had to be awakened by a kiss from a prince.

Hmmm. Now exasperated. Stories about girls waiting around for the prince to save the day. Sleeping beauty waiting for someone to wake her up.

Yeah, no. She never did care for fairytales — she’d write a new story.

🥕🥕🥕

Changing the Story by Jo Hawk

I lift my eyes to behold the fairy tale wrapped in a make-believe land. I am defenseless, cold, and empty inside. Laying on my deathbed, the heroes turn away, and the wise men tremble. They are lost on the path leading nowhere.

But my story is not over. I refuse to bow. Rocks cannot break my glasshouse. Searching deep inside, I find the spark, light the fire, prove I am still alive. Flames reveal the true ending.

I reject the poison apple you fed me, and it becomes the instrument of your death. My revenge is my life, well-lived.

🥕🥕🥕

Dust by Allison Maruska

I sit on the porch, watching your dust settle.

It was all a lie. A performance. Years of attention and validation that you required of me blow away, meaningless as the dust your truck tires kicked up.

A little pushback, and I’m dead to you.

You taught me a lesson. I’ve now eaten from the poisoned apple of narcissism, one I accepted too gladly. God damn your charm. And God help the next who tries to make me his supply.

The dust has already returned to the earth, your impact forgotten.

Now it’s my turn to do the same.

🥕🥕🥕

Bitterness by Mark A Morris

I dug my thumbs into the divot at the top and pulled it apart. The apple split unevenly, breaking into two but with one part twice the size of the other. It was this piece I took first, nibbling away at one side. It was juicy but sharp in its flavour, a bitterness I’d not expected causing me to gag a little as I chewed.

“They’re perfectly ripe,” she said, a half smile flickering across her face. “But the one that I ate hadn’t been doctored with cyanide.”

I already knew it was too late. I should have known.

🥕🥕🥕

A Rotten Apple by Neel Anil Panicker

All who knew her made a very conscious effort to steer clear of her by a mile.

Asha had that thing about her, emanating vibes that could only be described as venomous.

Pretty insular to the negativity she spread all around, Asha hurled her barbs at one and all.

And woe betide all those who came under her crosshairs; or worse, happened to come under her bad books.

Then, she would turn a virago, and wreck vengeance of a scale and intensity that can only be termed diabolical.

A poisoned, rotten apple is what the world knew her as.

🥕🥕🥕

A Desperate Balance by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She stands in the shallows of the hidden cove, salt water lapping at her toes.

“What does she want?” the ocean wonders. “Here as supplicant…or queen?”

She draws an apple from her heavy cloak. It drops, its power releasing into the shadows.

The apple glints wickedly.

Naked in the scarlet sunrise, she lifts the apple to her lips, bites, and mumbles a spell, so quiet, weary of a world gone sour. The ocean hears these words and more, and accepts.
She swallows, drops with the poisoned apple, into the shallows.

The waves surge, accepting both poison and cure.

🥕🥕🥕

Word Up by D. Avery

“Kid, is thet Le’Gume character still around?”

“Reckon Carrot Ranch’s a hard place to leave,. Pal, are you still worried Pepe is a bad apple?”

“Naw, s’pose not, though he does have some noxious qualities, if ya know what I mean.”

“Yep, I smell what yer steppin’ in, if ya know what I mean. Hey Pal? Ya ever worry that folks don’t know what ya mean?”

“Well, Kid, word is, speakin’ is a big responsibility. Was much simpler when we jist used sticks an’ stones. If ya know what I mean.”

“Mean words could git us back ta that.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Star

Maybe it’s in the swagger, or how fans react. It’s a chemical reaction between one who holds the fascination of many. Without a doubt, we recognize rocks stars, even dream of being one if only in our kitchen or as a parent.

Writers pursued rock and roll this week, chasing down stories to capture what makes a rock star. Familiar names cross the threshold and surprising takes join their ranks. Get ready for the show!

The following is based on the August 1, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock star.

PART I (10-minute read)

A Real Rock Star by Jo Hawk

Stars floated above Kye’s head. He couldn’t sleep when the ancients whispered. His gaze shifted from the sky to his sleeping brother. Their sheep rested quietly in the canyon’s safety.

Kye hefted a rock tossing it in his hand before using it to scrape images into the desert varnish coating the granite wall. The scene completed; his fingers rested on the depiction of his world.

The stars spun, eons passed, and the ancient voices grew silent. Kevin hiked into the park, hunting for answers. Placing his hand on the petroglyph he reached through time to touch the creator’s soul.

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Star by Miriam Hurdle

John Livingston stood in the center stage. It was their first concert on the road.

Ringo started the percussion. John, Paul and George plucked the guitars for three beats. They sang on the fourth beat.

“Hey Jude…, don’t make it bad…”

The fan screamed. The girls reached out their hands.

“Take a sad song and make it bet…ter…”

The screaming got louder.

“…Na-na-na na… hey Jude.”

The four bowed to reach to their fan. One girl pulled John so hard, he fell off the stage and hit his head.

“Ouch!”

“John, wake up. You’re late to your camping trip.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Star by Pete Fanning

Dave exited the meeting room to high fives and back slaps.

“Well done, my man. Can you fly out tomorrow?”

Dave smiled at his manager. Of course. His spreadsheets were impeccable, his PowerPoints sharp. He’d been killing it at work.

A glance to the windows, the Rockfish mountains in the distance. Shoot, the camping trip with Seth. Maybe Phil could step in. Seth’s loser stepdad worked at a bookstore, made ten bucks and hour. And Seth talked like he was a rock star.

“Dave, you in?”

Dave turned from the mountains. “Yeah, I just need to make a call.”

🥕🥕🥕

Back to the Garden by D. Avery

Without their devices, his children complained they had nothing to look at. “Look up,” he said.

They did. On a cloudless night his children looked up and saw a summer sky.

“Look at all the stars! What’s that big one there?”

“That’s a planet, one of the wanderers. Mars, fourth rock from the sun.”

“That one’s moving right across.”

“Satellite.”

Lying on their sleeping bags they identified what constellations they could. They had more fun inventing their own.

“Dad, look! A shooting star! Make a wish.”

“I already have,” he said. “You are stardust,” he whispered. “You are golden.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Star by Sally Cronin

The performance came to a climax, the singer whipping sweat laden hair around in a frenzy. Voice gravelly with fatigue, he growled out the final lyrics, gyrating across the stage. The last notes faded to the roar of the crowd. Thrusting his guitar above his head, he backed into the wings. Grabbing a towel he headed to his dressing room, eager for what waited for him. He sat back in the chair satisfied. Nothing like a fish paste sandwich and glass of cold milk to end the night. He smiled at the woman. ‘Thanks Mum just what I needed.’

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Star Famous by Nancy Brady

My son Mark and his friends formed a band called Spike Strip. They rehearsed daily after school their two songs in the run up to the concert planned for Halloween.

During trick-or-treat, they sang and played those songs over and over again as kids came to the door for candy.

The concert was over before I returned from work, but that night Mark and his buddies were rock stars.

So much so that when there wasn’t a concert the following year, many kids asked where the band was, disappointed that they weren’t playing. Apparently, it was a memorable event.

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Star by Jim “Quincy” Borden

Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.
Just because you’re not a rock star, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t paying attention to you.
Just because some psychologist came up with the idea of the spotlight effect, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t watching everything you do.

Because you are a dad.
In their eyes, you are a rock star.
And they are watching everything you do,
And hanging on every word you say.
And you will always be in the spotlight.
Because you are a dad.

And that’s better than being a rock star.

🥕🥕🥕

Mama Was a Rock Star by Faith A. Colburn

She starred with big band orchestras in cities along the Eastern Seaboard and around the Great Lakes. Then she married a Nebraska farmer. He moved her to a stark little square house with a hip roof in the middle of a howling wilderness. In less than three years, she ran back to city lights—nightclubs—singing all night. .

But she came back. She adapted to the prairie’s silences and its screaming winds, the outhouse, the washboard, and the tyranny of crops and livestock. She became a better farm wife than many women who grew up on farms—she rocked.

🥕🥕🥕

Caffeinated Rock Star by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Click, click, and click. She scrolled down, drumming her non-mousing hand, as pictures froze and popped at slower than a snail’s pace. Definitely not rocket science, but she had places to go, things to do, people to be. Really, she had to dust her shelves, vacuum her carpet, wash summer dust from her picture window…

And she’d had the coffee—too much—so she HAD to do the things. Her neck clenched.

Before all, she had to change that doofy Facebook profile pic. And the damn thing wouldn’t load.

Finally done! She’d feel like a rock star, except duh!

🥕🥕🥕

Cookie Rock Star by Ann Edall-Robson

The aroma of a busy kitchen lingered. Cookies in all shapes and flavours waited for the taste testers. Each cookie made to fit into a grandchild’s hand. There would be chatter and updates before sampling every morsel on display. Eventually, she would settle into the old rocker. They’d stand beside her, touching the worn wooden arms, rocking her and singing made-up lyrics to favourite tunes. Ending in giggles, and dancing with arms in the air. Today, they added one last line they had somehow practised together.

“Our G…R…A…M…M…Aaaaa is a cooookie roooock starrrrr!”

🥕🥕🥕

Meeting Idols by Matthew Shepherd

‘Hey sweetie. What’s your name?’

‘Nancy.’

Meeting the star whose posters plaster the child’s bedroom prompts a broad grin at odds with her doleful voice.

‘How old are ya, Nancy?’

‘Eight.’

Zeta fills with an urge to hug her beaming fan and is leaning forward when the girl’s mother steps up.

‘Don’t even think about it,’ she snaps. ‘Get your own kid if you want to do that. C’mon Nance, we’re going.’

The crestfallen child turns towards her idol, but Zeta looks away, unable to bear a world with one less smile.

The door slams as Zeta’s face crumples.

🥕🥕🥕

Movin’ It by Norah Colvin

Miss Prim turned from the board just in time to see Max land a punch on Michael.

“Ma-ax!”

“He bumped me.”

Miss Prim sighed. “What were you doing, Michael?”

“Noth—”

“He was rocking the desk again.”

“How many times—”

Without direction, Michael removed himself to sit in the corner. Before long, his feet were twitching, his elbows were pumping and his whole body was squirming.

“Michael!”

Everyone looked.

“Sorry, Miss,” Michael muttered.

But he couldn’t keep still.

Years later, when he was a rock star, Miss Prim said, “I knew he’d make something of himself one day.”

🥕🥕🥕

Ready to Rock by Jomz Ojeda

The noise was deafening, yet he could hear nothing but the loud thumping of his own heart.
Jeffrey was ready.

The stage they were on was small, but the venue was packed. Jeffrey cradled his electric guitar and placed his fingers on the first chord he needed to hit.

He looked up at George, their singer. He was beaming, a smile on his face stretched from ear to ear. George pointed a finger at Mark, their drummer.

Mark pointed back at George with his drumstick, and banged on the drums.

Today they will win the battle of the bands.

🥕🥕🥕

Living Like a Rock Star by Susan Sleggs

OMG being involved with someone famous is hell. I’ve been followed by paparazzi, and can’t go shopping or out to eat with my own mother without security. I can’t buy anything, at any price, without people saying she paid. She wouldn’t date me if I didn’t have my own money. Why didn’t I listen when my friends told me living like a rock star wasn’t going to be all that easy? I’m just realizing, if I can get out of this relationship, I will always be HER ex and it will be years before I’m known as anything else.

🥕🥕🥕

Never Alone by Kelley Farrell

The observatory was dark, giving way to a stunning array of constellations above. These quiet moments with Danny were Maeve’s favorite. Too often she found herself pushed to the side for women giggling like school girls.

She always tried to be nice but sometimes, like during their long awaited reunion dates, she found it hard to be accommodating.

“I love you.” Danny pulled her closer. “Hey, I wanna ask you something.”
“Of course.” Butterflies settled in her stomach. Was this it?
“I wanted to ask …”

A shrill scream cut through the dark.. “Oh my gaawwddd! It is you!”

🥕🥕🥕

Let’s Rock by Joanne Fisher

I’ve always secretly wanted to be a rock star. Strutting my stuff on a stage in front of screaming fans as I do an incandescent guitar solo that drives them all crazy.

In reality I’m rather shy and awkward, and virtually a recluse. I can play a guitar, but not in front of others. Instead I sing along to all my favourite tracks in my bedroom pretending there is an adoring crowd in front of me. That’s probably the closest I’ll ever get.

I’ve always wanted to be a rock star, but I guess quite a few people do…

🥕🥕🥕

Song, for One by Chelsea Owens

I changed my name
You changed your mind…

Linzee squinted at the spotlights. Rows of apathetic audience saw only themselves in her mirrored lenses.

I should’ve listened
When you weren’t kind…

They were philistines, all of them. Uncultured. Uncaring. Still, better than him.

You think I’m all alone;
You think I’m yours to own!

Someone perked up. Another. Linzee strummed the crescendo to the chorus, sunglasses sparking in the rudimentary stage lights.

I shouldn’t’ve told you anything
Except where to shove that ring!

It didn’t matter. Tonight was hers; hers and those few who knew exactly what she sung.

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Star by Floridaborne

We sing to the energy inside a stadium, a concert hall, an empty field where thousands pay a day’s salary to watch us do what we love.

The very rich are revealed through eyes reflecting their abundance and expectations.  Their stance screams out, “I deserve the best.”

Those who scrimped, who saved to pay for this one night stand, drink in the energy of an event that might be the pinnacle of their desperate lives.

We sing for the joy of it, for outside these walls there’s no place we can travel, nowhere we can find anonymity, or peace.

🥕🥕🥕

Always a Rocker by Kerry E.B. Black

A silvery line of droll punctuated the vacant expression that landed David in the locked down unit with nineteen other impared individuals. Once he commanded a tour bus and bested the world’s stages. Now his wheelchair and a disease kept him captive. He stared into private abysses until the activities girl arrived.

From her music player, drums drove a beat. Keyboards provided the backbone. Guitar wailed.

David perked up. He recognized the song. His song.

She sang.

With an anemic voice, a mere ghost of his past, he performed.

The girl patted his shoulder and nodded. “Once a rocker.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Rock Star by Robert Kirkendall

Young Timmy held a broom horizontally and pantomimed strumming it like a guitar. He moved to the tune inside his head of the latest pop song and pretended he was playing as he wailed out the lyrics best as he could remember them. His mother came across his imaginary guitar virtuosity and beamed maternally.

“Well this is more useful than sweeping,” mother kidded.

Timmy stopped playing. “Someday I’m going to be a rock star!” he proclaimed with unrestrained, youthful enthusiasm.

“Why that’s just splendid, dear!” mother said approvingly. “So what are you going to do for a day job?”

🥕🥕🥕

A Star is Born by Anurag Bakhshi

As I reached the edge of the stage, and saw the crowd, I almost ran back.

I knew how merciless this seemingly innocent crowd could be.

But then, I thought of the adulation that would follow my performance, and my spine stiffened.

I turned around, and marched towards the center of the stage with a swagger.

The crowd immediately fell silent.

But I could sense them getting restless as I fumbled with the mic.

And then, I cleared my throat and started singing, “Baa Baa Black Sheep….”.

And students of Class Nursery-A finally had their very own rock star!

🥕🥕🥕

Rock It! by Anita Dawes

Rock and roll is in my soul
Born kicking and screaming my lungs out
Taking the fast track, music burning with every step
I wanted to find the songs to change the world
One day I would be famous, see my name in lights
I am dirt poor now, but not for long
Odd jobs along the way, I now had my first guitar
My style stood out, too far for some
Sam Phillips gave me my first break
It’s All Right Mama, playing on the radio
There was no stopping me now
I brought Graceland,
Who am I?

🥕🥕🥕

Sister Rosetta by H.R.R. Gorman

Rosetta’s fingers blazed over the fingerboard, twanged the strings with a fire never before seen. She infused a plain instrument with dripping sexual tension and lightning power. Fans clamored at her feet, and her soprano voice carried through the speakers.

The lights went down at the end of the show, and Rosetta made her way backstage. On her way there, a young boy attempted to accost her in the hall. “How do you play like that?”

“Why sugar,” she said, “I practiced and did it ’cause I loved it.” She pinched his cheek. “What’s your name, honey-child?”

“Elvis Presley.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fishin’ by Bill Engleson

‘Course, no one believed Swampdeck.

“Ton ‘a bullcrap,” bellowed Calgary Pete. “Don’t even measure up to bullcrap, I’m thinkin’.”

“Most things don’t,’ I chimed in, lookin’ to contribute.

Swampdeck was insistent. “Saw ‘em. Saw ‘em fly in this mornin’. Stayin’ up at the Lodge. Big as life.”

Fact was, the odd moderately famous person did show up at Cuddles Cove to get away from the agony of glory.

But not him. Too big.

“Knew ya doubting tommyknockers wouldn’t believe me. So, I took a selfie.”

And sure enough, it was faint, but it sure looked like THE BOSS.

🥕🥕🥕

Could’ve Been a Rockstar by Ritu Bhathal

“ROCKSTAR IN MAKING SHOT ON STAGE!”

Minnie wiped a tear from her cheek as she scanned the article on the front page of the local paper.

He had indeed been someone destined for more than a few shifts in the Walmart down the road.

Jamie Smith.

Simple boy, with a talent for playing his guitar and singing.

It was the end of term, and school had its annual talent show.

The audience was held captive, in more than one way.

During his performance, gunmen stormed in, opening fire around the hall.

Jamie was one of the first to fall.

🥕🥕🥕

The Tragic Tale of the Woman Who Shot Andy Warhol by Anne Goodwin

Your mother’s rock, her shining star; you could’ve been a professor, president, you. But you were the seer who saw too much, the dreamer who dreamt her utopia alone. You preached that men grew stiff at the thought of women as stiffs, and peddled your thesis to addicts and whores. Childhood, drugs, poverty and patriarchy drove you crazy, yet you were the only sane one in the room. You could’ve been someone. You could’ve been a rock star. But a black hole swallowed your prospects and talent when you put a hole in the body of a famous man.

🥕🥕🥕

Worship by Reena Saxena

He appeared on pages that mattered, donated to the right charities, got invited to all prominent do’s. The PR was perfect, more than his business was.

But all was not well in La-La land. Debts had been mounting. Financial institutions were not willing to lend any more.

Then… newspapers flashed news of his suicide. The suicide note blamed banks and tax authorities of harassment. The sympathy wave did not stop to think that tax evasion and default is not honest. The image he had so carefully built could over-ride logic.

A painstakingly carved out rock star, even in death…

🥕🥕🥕

A Flash of Fiction by JulesPaige

“Is not!”

“Is so!”

“Out, the bus is coming…Love, you,” I say.

I hear the children arguing. “It’s mine!” They bicker. Then, they get on the school bus. For a few hours I’m free. I can turn the radio on and while vacuuming I can feel like a rock star. I can sing at the top of my lungs while dancing. Take that Mrs. Nosey McGillicutty.

I’ll drink my carbonated soda pretending I’m drinking champagne at some local gala that is honoring my accomplishments. Too soon the end of the school day will come to burst my bubble.

🥕🥕🥕

My Rockstar! by Ruchira Khanna

One unforgettable torrid evening, I get unexpected news from my brother, “She is no more!”

I grew numb at first then shouted and cried relentlessly.

‘How can this be? She had promised to visit me in a few months.’ I murmured while I tried to make sense of the news.

‘Who shall give me priceless advise when I’m low and down?’

After a lot of sobbing and contemplation, I came to peace with the news that my rockstar, aka my mom, has left me for heavenly abode.

🥕🥕🥕

Stars of the Future (Lynn Valley) by Saifun Hassam

At the Farmers Market, Hannah and the other local chefs were serving a special luncheon today. Live music from the Lynn Valley High Rock and Jazz Band echoed around the Market. Hannah knew the stars of the day had arrived.

Jessica and Hannah grinned at each other. Jessica was the teacher in charge of the Rock and Jazz Band. Time for the celebration! The twenty students were totally surprised as Jessica and Hannah unfurled a huge banner:

“Welcome future stars! Thank you for your help!”

The students’ benefit concerts for the Children’s Learning Center had been very successful indeed.

🥕🥕🥕

A Star in the Rock – 1720 by Gordon Le Pard – The Curious Archaeologist

“Professor, this rock has a star on it.”
“Wonderful, another of these marvellous stones.”
“But don’t you think it looks as if it has been carved by hand?”
“Indeed it does, the hand of God. My theories about the nature of fossils are proved, I must write the book immediately.”

The conspirators were delighted.
“If he publishes he will be laughed at across Europe. We will be revenged.”
“But what if we are discovered? Already the stonecutter wants more money.”
“Don’t worry, he will lose his place in the University and we will be safe.”
They were very wrong.

🥕🥕🥕

Geology 101 by Nancy Brady

Dr. Wright taught geology. It was his passion; it was his life. He loved his subject, teaching college students the rudimentary elements of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. He taught them how mountains formed, about the shifting of fault lines, and about volcanic lava forming scoria and obsidian as it spewed forth from inside the earth.

At the end of the quarter, he took his students on a field trip to one of the local quarries. He handed them all tiny bottles of hydrochloric acid which reacted with the sedimentary rock, limestone.

This geologist truly was a rock star.

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Star in a Barn (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Jukebox Hero” blasted from Danni’s speakers. She structured her barn to be her lab – a place to clean, catalog, and store artifacts. It was no University sanctum. Even the small budget she once had as a grad student in Pullman, Washington dwarfed her western set-up. But she used the space efficiently. She trained Ike’s family to save meat trays for her, and she scoured yard sales and free piles for anything useful. Like the bathroom cupboards some homeowner was throwing away. It formed a washing station. The freedom her own space produced made Danni feel like a rock star.

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Shining Bright by JulesPaige

The rock stars are the volunteers who help those who are recovering. Children and women are the most abused. And there is a project bringing awareness to this plight. “One Million Stars to End Violence” a project of PERAK WOMEN FOR WOMEN SOCIETY”

I watched the video and made some ribbon stars of various colors and sizes. And I mailed them off to Malaysia. It took about two weeks in a flat rate envelope for them to arrive. My friend posted photos of them on her blog site. …I hope for more than one day the cause remains highlighted.

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Karaoke Is Not Your Friend by tracey

Lisa’s friends nudged her and told her it was her turn. She gulped down the rest of her drink and as she stood up the floor tilted underneath her. She gently touched people’s shoulders for balance as she made her way to the stage.

She belted out “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. “I sound just like Pat Benatar,” she thought. She finished to a thunderous ovation, people laughing and clapping. “I am a rock star!” she yelled as she left the stage. She continued to feel that way, at least until she saw the video the next day.

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CenterStage by D. Avery

“Why not, Marge? You guys always pick, always either the same old pub or Nathan’s. Kristof wants to go to that karaoke place. Besides, it could be fun, we can pick on the wannabe singers.”

“Ok, Nard. I’ll let Ilene and Lloyd know.”

“No way, you two. You’re not going if you intend to pick on the participants.”

“Come on, Kristof, they’re always funny. Up there butchering good songs, strutting their rock and roll fantasies for all to see.

Fair game. Price of rock’n’roll. Besides, what do you care?”

“I care because I’ll be taking the stage. *Rocket Man*.”

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Straight Shootin’ Stars; or Fortune and Fame is Fer the Byrds by D. Avery

“Pal, ya ever wanna be a rock’n’roll star? Git yerself an electric guitar, take some time an’ learn how to play?”

“No, Kid I ain’t. Always bin content right here, jist doin’ my ranch chores.”

“I know it’s last week’s prompt, but really, not even for one day?”

“Nope. Never wanted ta be a jukebox hero. The only stars in my eyes is these ones sparklin’ at night.”

“I s’pose yer right. I mean, what ya’d pay for yer riches and fame; sech a strange game, a little insane.”

“Yep. Them’s shootin’ stars. Here there’s rising stars, burnin’ bright.”

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For One Day

We never know what magnificent moment might be around the corner, what unexpected development, or devastating turn of events. Like an ephemeral sun-dog or a once-in-a-lifetime hatch, what happens in a day can last a lifetime with memories and ramifications.

Writers chased the tail of such singular days. From the deep well of human kindness to the reaches of alien portals, this collection brims with a parcel of memorable days.

The following stories are based on the July 25, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the phrase “for one day.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Pandemic by Norah Colvin
It started slowly. First an outbreak in a school in central Australia, barely newsworthy. Then another in South America. A post on social media drew a few views but was largely ignored. When a third occurred in Western Europe, reports flooded news services. Soon, small isolated pockets erupted on every continent, and they multiplied and spread. The touch of a hand, a pat on a shoulder, the nod of a head, a brush of lips, the trace of a smile; all were infectious. The contagion was rampant. Random acts of kindness proliferated, and unbridled bursts of joy exploded everywhere.

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My Darling by JulesPaige

My Darling,

When will it end? Can the world be still? Must it fluctuate. Is it my task to prove that even for one day, I am not crazy? Must I always fight going up the falls? Am I to be known as the Corpse Flower, and not a red rose? Must I always defend my territory as the loon, and lose my chick in the process?

spirit and soul; one
together within the skin
shakes, seeks acceptance

I am not a conformer. I am a creator. And I was lonely until I met you.

Love, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Wishful Thinking by Goldie

That night Bill laid in bed and prayed: “If she would only stop nagging. Even for one day. God, just one day. It’s all I need. One day without her nagging.”

When morning came, the sound of silence penetrated his ears. Usually, he would hear clinking dishes and what he always thought was purposeful – Angela slamming pots and pans against one another.

Bill turned to his right.

Her lips blue. Her body cold.

“Noooooo” – he screamed into the heavens with deep sorrow.

An eternity without her nagging.

An eternity without her love.

He got more than he bargained for.

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Driving Home D. Avery

The billboards were his wife’s idea. So many truckers and tourists saw those signs. How many knew anything about the pictured boy?

He knew. He was one of the commuters that drove by them everyday. But if after work he took the back roads to the tavern he could miss one of the signs completely. And if he stayed late he’d not notice the others.

But always was that smaller sign. “Let’s remember Adam.” Right there at the end of the driveway. Right there.

How he wished that even for one day he could forget. He ordered another drink.

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I Wish………….. by Di @ pensitivity101

Let me turn back time,
Reset the clock for One Day,
That day when I lost you.
I never said the words I should,
Never held you,
Kissed you goodbye,
Or told you I loved you.
And now it is too late.
Too late for you,
But not for others.
I am not afraid
To say what I feel,
Hold someone close,
Breathe in their essence,
Feel their heartbeat parallel to mine.
But for you,
I would not do these things.
In passing,
I realised what was important.
I would dearly love
To have you back.
For one day.

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For a Day by Kerry E.B. Black

A toddler plied her mother with questions at a check-out line as the mother stacked goods onto the conveyor. Another toddler sat in the next cart in line, limp-legged and watchful. “You have such a sweet baby,” the harried mother said to her line-neighbor. “Mine won’t shut up. I wish I could have silence for just one day.” She chuckled darkly and turned when the cashier asked, “Paper or plastic?” without noticing the grimace on the mother-behind-her’s face.

That mother’s child was born mute, and how she longed to hear even one word from her child. Even just one.

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For One Day by Susan Zutautas

Daydreaming about my mother is something I do quite often. What was she like, how did she smell, what would it have been like to have her with me other than for just a few short years?

My mind started wandering and for one day I had her all to myself. My emotions got the best of me and through tears of joy I embraced every moment. The love I felt was like no other.

We laughed, we cried, we hugged, we never wanted the day to end.

Although this is only daydreaming, I often return to this day.

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Superior D. Avery

On this day Lady Lake is calm, her waves a soothing song, a gentle caress. On this day raging storms and surging ice are as distant as the hazy horizon. On the sun warmed rocks that pave the beach, I pick seven from among the millions and millions of smooth stones to build a small cairn. The stones, the seven and the millions, indulge me, and with them I laugh at myself, at this ridiculously human endeavor. I listen for the ancient stories of these water-worn stones. My labors won’t last but this cairn might stand for a day.

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A Tail of Two Cats by Nancy Brady

Bearcat, my black cat with just a touch of white on her chest, was a few months shy of twenty-two years when she died in my arms.

Flash, our calico with an attitude, was eighteen years when finally she lapsed into a coma and passed away.

Neither of them was particularly happy to have other cats around; they both preferred to be the only cat in the house.

Bear died on April 5, 2001, and Flash was born on that same date. For one day, their lives briefly overlapped; while they never met each other, they certainly owned us.

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30 by H .R. Hardman

I was twenty-nine for one day more. Tomorrow, I’d hit the big three-O. My family had planned a surprise party. I had half a mind not to turn up. I’d get on a plane, the next flight to anywhere and have a holiday alone.

But that would upset so many people and all the money and effort everyone had put in. Perhaps, I would enjoy it more then I thought? I don’t know, there is something unwanted about birthdays when you are an adult but it’s an inescapable part of life, so it might as well be enjoyed.

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Sunday by TN Kerr

Rita tucked her hair behind her ears, sipped her coffee and turned ‘The Times’ to read below the fold.

“Mark,” she asked her husband, “if you could do, or be anything for one day; what would you do or be?”

“I don’t know, dear but it would probably involve sex or food. Why?”

“I’d want to be queen.”

“Queen for a day? Like that old television show?” Mark looked up at her.

“Uh huh,” she said, “and, I freed a genie from an old lava lamp at Goodson’s Antique’s yesterday. My day is Sunday.”

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Consumption Function by Jo Hawk

9098195663 gaped at his screen.

“See this?” he asked.

But 2207344907 contemplated a different image.

“This is interesting,” 2207344907 murmured, ignoring 9098195663.

Her finger touched the ‘Buy Now’ button. Was it a good selection? Her days were exhausting, constant pressure, endless images, never-ending decisions.

“No, 2207344907. Look. Now,” 9098195663’s voice rose as he spoke.

“It says ‘for one day only’. I haven’t seen that.”

2207344907 peeked at his screen and navigated hers to the same image. It was true. She could not believe their luck. She and 9098195663 slammed the ‘Buy Now’ button until they bought the last one.

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Invasion by Joanne Fisher

Luckily I was there in the middle of the city at the precise moment when a portal from another dimension opened up. Out came these tall creatures with tentacles and rubbery skin. They looked at me with eyes that were coldly arrogant and inhuman. As I was a sorceress I used what powers I had to push them back through the portal and then closed it shut. The entire city celebrated the victory, but our revelry only lasted for one day.

The next day more portals began opening up everywhere and these alien creatures marched out in overwhelming numbers.

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Monochrome by The Dark Netizen

Monochromes. That was the name given to us.

It was more of a label than a name, because names were reserved for humans. We were just animals in a cage. The regular humans casted us out from the society and gave us our separate quarters. We were not allowed to interact with the regulars lest we steal their colours. If only they understood that we never chose to be this way. We never wished for a colourless life. It is my dream to become a regular human, even if for one day.

Just once, to live a normal day…

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For One Day by Ann Edall-Robson

For one day the sun rises
Oranges, reds, greys, and black
Filtering through the trees
Peeking over the ridge

For one day the wind blows
Caressing rosy porcelain cheeks
Tousling fringes to au naturel
Rambling carelessly among leaves

For one day the creek talks
Quiet, soothing, tender words
A journey of abandoned vigour
Chattering with rocks and eddies

For one day the moon hovers
Draping light shards across water
While stars dance through indigo
Twinkling to a kindred song

For one day there will be tenderness
Propelled by devoted moments
Perhaps rapture awaits
For one day when love evolves

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PART II (10-minute read)

One Spring Day (Crater Lakes Habitat) by Saifun Hassam

In spring the salt marshes and woodlands around Green and Lizard Lakes were alive with nesting birds. Jeff was excited when a flock of Canada geese arrived at Green Lake. They were rare visitors. He set up one vidcam at Green Lake and texted Carmen to set up another one at Lizard Lake.

The geese stayed for one day and with great fanfare flew away in the late afternoon. The videos showed songbirds whizzing across Green Lake. Hawks circled muddy Lizard Lake. A heron waded along the shores. Jeff saw the lakes from a new perspective, a bird sanctuary.

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Just for a Day by Anita Dawes

We feed the swans at our local park.
You can walk around the pond.
In the past, we watched their eggs hatch,
today, I picked up a duck feather.
I sat twirling it between my fingers,
closed my eyes. Just for a moment,
I could see sun shining through my shell.
Does that mean I am ready to meet the world?
I pecked, broke my way out. Let me tell you,
lying inside, growing feathers
must be like humans growing teeth. Sharp, itchy.
Just for a day I felt like a duck,
as my webbed feet hit the water…

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The Ugly Duckling Bites Back by Ritu Bhathal

I’ve spent my life in her shadow; the beautiful sister, tall, willowy, popular.

And me, well, I’m just me. Plain, average in every way, and described as ‘nice’.

But not today.

Today is my day.

I was the one who managed to find a lovely lad.

I was the one proposed to at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

I am the one looking at my reflection in the mirror today, unable to recognise the princess that stands here in my place.

I am the bride walking down the aisle.

For one day, all eyes will be on me.

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Loony Tunes – Or the Dangers of Processed Food by Anurag Bakhshi

“You might be a loon,” I shouted at my daughter, “but could you please avoid acting loony for one day?”

“But Mommy…” my daughter started off, but I stopped her mid-sentence.

“How many times have I told you to keep away from processed foods?” I asked rhetorically.

“19,418 times,” she replied irritatingly, but accurately.

I continued my tirade, “I know they’re tasty, but they’re equally deadly.”

“But Mommy, don’t you think you could have explained this to him a bit more calmly?” she replied, pointing towards the mangled body of the human who’d just tried to feed her a bagel.

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Retail Therapy by Sally Cronin

The slinky red dress in the window of the boutique caught her eye as she trudged home from work, laden with groceries and the burden of the day. There was a sign beneath the ravishingly daring and crimson outfit.

For one day only, half price. Dress as the woman you’ve always wanted to be.

In her case that would be the woman she used to be. She looked at her reflection in the window. Greying hair, dowdy clothes and weariness etched on her face. She pushed open the door to the shop taking the first step to her rejuvenation.

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For One Day by tracey

Kate lies in bed listening to the quiet. The boys are off on a fishing trip. Laundry and groceries flit across her mind. And then, what if for one day she did only what she wanted to do? She breathes deep, does she dare?

In the shower she contemplates and discards options. Then the answer arrives.

She throws her journal, sketchbook and pencils in her backpack. She stops at the cute corner café she always wanted to try and requests a box lunch: “Surprise me,” she says. She heads toward the river, hiking until she finds solitude. Tranquility. Herself.

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One More Day by Chelsea Owens

Smoky, slatted sunlight lay in lines across the staring face. Soon, only a muted glowing shone there as the associated hand pulled the blinds closed again. *Snap*

He’d said he’d be different; for one more day. That had been a gigantic step, vocalizing. Into the dark of night and mind he’d stood and whispered, “Tomorrow, I go out.”

A laugh escaped the lips. Whose, he did not know; but then, he did. A distant memory of non-lined sunlight views and happier company than his own filtered to recollection.

Then; he was sure he’d laughed. Then; she had, too.

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I Promise by H.R.R. Gorman

The spoon is hot, sterile, bent to give me the best angle. The needle is sharp – it’s new, straight from the packaging, not something I get every day.

“You don’t have to do this.”

I shake off that inner critic, that Jiminy Cricket that always chokes me with guilt. It wasn’t my fault I had back pain in 2005 and was overprescribed. It couldn’t help my kids left as soon as they turned 18. I didn’t mean for this to happen.

I promised this was my last hit. I’d take this dose and, just for one day, everything would feel better.

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Independence Day by Anne Goodwin

For one day, Britons will feel great again, commemorating deliverance from fronceys and krauts. For one day, Nelson’s peers will admire him, as he steers the procession through flag-waving crowds. For one day, security will slacken at the borders, and Rommel’s determined to defect.

“Come with me, Nelson. You’ll die at Bootcamp if you don’t.”

Rommel’s dad can’t influence the Ministry. Rommel’s dad can’t trust him to infiltrate a traitors’ ring. When Nelson learns his dad’s limitations, he’s already jeopardised his friends.

For one day, Nelson must rise above his terrors. One day, one chance to save his skin.

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The Crumb’s Obituary by M J Mallon

For one day I crave silence.

Your words crush my soul making me weep. Your tongue is bitter, cruel and relentless, it pokes fun at my crawling. I must do as you please, surrendering to your every whim.

‘Look at this,’ you say, scowling.

I move towards it, this lonely crumb which sits on the kitchen surface begging for forgiveness.

‘Oops,’ I respond, trembling.

‘Dear God. You’re multiplying ant – look at the state of this place.’

I step back waiting for him to strike.

Instead, his thumb bears down on the tiny crumb and crushes it to death.

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For One Day by Janice Golay

I will exist for one day. That’s it, my destiny and my biology. I awake with shy petals folded inward, hugging my center. Gradually light and warmth encourage me to unfurl, peering at what the world offers on this unique day: watercolor blue up above, soft breezes inviting me to sway in slow waltz time; a quick touch from a bumblebee, a tentative glance from a monarch.

I avoid human grasp and am saved from premature death. Just let me end my day’s life naturally, peacefully, with petals dry, stem a-droop, content to have lived fully for one day.

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Fire and False Hope (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

For one day, the crew held back the advancing fire. Danni dropped onto her sleeping bag, boots still on her feet, proud that she had shoveled in a way archeologists seldom do. They worked hard and deterred the fire with their break. Sometime during the night, the wind kicked up, and a chill woke Danni. Stretching, she groggily left the tent to refill her water bottle. The skyline glowed with orange flames, trees exploded, shooting embers the wind carried across the break. For one day, they saved their community from burning in hell. Now it was time to evacuate.

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Lost and Found by Tien Skye

For one day, he wished he could hear that familiar voice again.

The voice he knew so well, the deep baritone which aged into higher pitch over the years. By the time he married, his father’s voice had thinned out.

Death robbed him of his father’s voice; fire robbed him a second time as it swallowed everything.

He stood in front of what was left behind, himself and his wife included.

“Oh boy, what happened?” that laughing voice sounded out.

He thought he was seven again; his wife had saved the audio recording of his father’s voice.

He cried.

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For One Day by Dave M. Madden

Stan had consumed every self-help book the store he frequented often could offer.

The problem didn’t have anything to do with his actions; in fact, he sought assistance from outside resources because of the lacking action.

As an aspiring writer, he locked all the suggestions offered by others into memory: unplug from all your devices, read more, write down your goals, go for a walk, go observe some people in public, and talk with someone about what’s on your mind were some of his favorites.

He just kept waiting for one day when the advice began working.

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What’s in a Name by D. Avery

“Pal, I been thinkin’.”

“Uh-oh.”

“Thinkin’ we gotta hep Shorty rethink this ‘flash fiction’ term. Seems the only rule she keeps is the 99 words no more no less part. But there’s BOTS an’ poetry an’ creative non-fiction. Heck, if all Shorty cares about’s them 99 words, flash (italics) fiction’s (end) a might misleadin’.”

“So what would you call it?”

“Well, if it’s a short form of literary art she’s after, (italics) shlit (end) covers it. Pepe suggests (italics) l’shart. (end)”

“Jeez, Kid! Git some class. Who’s Pepe?”

“Pepe LeGume. A real character.”

“Dang. Thought LeGume was jist for one day.”

“Nope. Legume’s a repeater.”

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Call for a Totem Pole by D. Avery

“Dunno, Kid. Got a not so fresh feelin’ ‘bout this Le’Gume character. Where’s he from?”

“Be a close reader, Pal. Shorty an’ D. Avery picked him up along the way.”

“Read betwixt the lines, Kid. Pepe Le’Gume’s somethin’ they passed along the way.”

“Don’t matter. Le’Gume is fulla beans, poppin’ with ideas. Could be a handy ranch hand.”

“Don’t want him lingerin’.”

“Lighten up Pal. Jest deal with the hand ya’ve smelt.”

“So what’s one a his ideas?”

“Buckaroo Nation totem pole! Koalas, unicorns, ravens, longhorns…”

“Thet idea don’t stink. Kin he carve?”

“Reckon he kin cut a log.”

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Paint

Color me something new, something bold. Color over the mistakes and past regrets. Pick up a brush and paint bold strokes, flashy colors. This is a time to refresh.

Writers met the challenge with colorful stories full of emotion, surprise, horror and humor. All the paint cans opened to reveal a rainbow collection.

The following are based on the June 27, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves paint.

PART I (10-minute read)

Charli’s Starlings by Chelsea Owens

No one knew where the starlings came from. One day, the sidewalks and light posts and old brick buildings were bare; the next, they were scattered with flight.

Up and down Shelden Avenue elderly friends stopped their morning walk and children pointed and pulled at parents’ pants.

Winged, irridescent forms swooped up a wall. Yellow-beaked stills observed from flower pots. A proud male perched atop an awning.

Passersby soon realized that, lifelike as the birds were, they existed solely as pictures. For one woman, that mattered little.

She kissed her paint-stained fingertips in fond farewell, turned, and headed home.

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Three Mistakes by Tony Amore

“The first mistake,” he says, “is not loading your brush with enough paint.” Nodding, I steady the ladder as my father works deep blue where wall meets vaulted ceiling.

“The second is pulling and dragging,” he looks down gauging how much attention is being paid Glasses perched at the edge of his nose; a bead of sweat hanging there. “Push into the space where the wall meets the ceiling,” he insists. “Push don’t pull.”

He teeters and jerks slapping a blue smudge across pure whiteness. Dabbing it with a damp rag, he notes the third is not being tall.

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Paint on a Smile by Richard Dee

Mom used to say, “whatever life throws at you, paint on a smile and get on with it.”

Easy to say. Not so easy to do. Stood in front of the mirror, eyes blackened from too many tears, the memories still fresh, the smell of him not yet gone.

“C’mon,” the voice of Mom had been replaced by the voice I knew so well. “I’m not here and staying in won’t bring me back.”

I opened the drawer, the paint was all there, in bottles and tubes.

I had his blessing; it was time to face the world again.

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Perfect Paint Product by Tien Skye

I looked at the botched paint job. I could have hired professionals but I insisted on doing it myself. I started scrapping away at the paint and started sobbing.

“What are you doing, son?”

“That was a lousy paint job and I just want to repaint it!”

He frowned as he processed my blubbering. “You want to repaint the entire wall because of that small mistake? Besides, the table goes there and it will cover up that section.”

“I want a perfect job! I just can’t let it go!”

He stared at me for a moment. “Can’t? Or won’t?”

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Paint by Pete Fanning

Painting with my son is messy. Mom makes him put on too-small clothes. I change too. Once we’re sufficiently hideous, it’s to the backyard—to whatever we’ve thrown together from pallets I’ve brought home. Birdhouses, treasure boxes, last time I built a planter.

We slap it on thick, until paint is slathered on our knees and we’re picking it from our fingers. I try to teach him to go with the grain of the wood, but my son is an against-the-grain type of guy.

I like that about him. He’s not afraid to make mistakes.

He’s taught me so much.

🥕🥕🥕

Challenge Accepted by Ruchira Khanna

“I dare you!” he said with a snort and arms on his hips.

“I accept the challenge!”

Now ‘have to wait for the right moment!

Soon sleep encroached my athletic brother who had come home after playing a game of soccer in the scorching sun.

I was quick to collect my mom’s cosmetics and tiptoe in his room, and the process of painting started.

I painted the foundation gently on his tanned face with a brush; created a mole on his left upper lip with a liquid eyeliner; the Cindy Crawford style! Then concluded with painting, his lips red.

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Natural Beauty by Susan Sleggs

The bride stared at herself in the hotel room mirror, horrified. Her soon-to-be mother-in-law had insisted they go for a makeover. They had their hair painted with highlights and their faces painted to clown level, or so the bride felt as she never wore make-up. She and her fiancé were naturalists, working and playing in the wilderness.

The door flew open, her benefactress strode in and handed her make-up removal towelettes. “My insistence you look like me was wrong. I apologize; we have enough time to get you back to natural, how my son loves you.”

“Thank you. Mom.”

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White Washing by Sally Cronin

One angry brush stroke at a time, the old man painted across the words on his neighbour’s garden gate,

They were a lovely family, who had been kind to him since they been granted asylum three years ago, and moved in next door. Having recently lost his wife he had been lonely, but they invited him in each Sunday for dinner, did his shopping when he was ill and the father often popped around for a chat after work.

The least he could do in return was to white wash over this mean spirited graffiti before they discovered it.

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A Green Field by JulesPaige

In the room she never wanted, in the house too far from friends, Essie was allowed to paint one wall. It didn’t make up for not being included in what should have been a family decision. At least that’s how she saw it. So she took her time with her artistic eye spreading green.

To add insult to injury, Essie’s father was impatient that his youngest was taking so long. “It’s not rocket science,” he shouted!

Knowing that Essie would never win, all she could do was plot her escape. In the room that would now be her sanctuary.

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Art Class 101—Portrait Painting by Norah Colvin

The task completed, he took a fresh sheet of paper and sketched the teacher with an enormous warty chin and hair sprouting like an unravelling steel wool pad. He added her name and then, with a flourish, his. He nudged his neighbour whose stifled guffaws drew attention. When the teacher investigated, only the task was visible.

Behind the papers, the portrait remained forgotten at class end. Until discovered by the teacher.

Later, having no satisfactory explanation, he was sentenced to weeks of lunchtimes painting bricks.

Years later, when he was a famous cartoonist, they delighted in telling his story.

🥕🥕🥕

The Girl on the Bridge by TN Kerr

Stavo picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder
the cans rattled together, they shifted in the sack
Tonight he carried mostly blues, greens, yellows, and greys
He took the path through the park, from his van to the bridge

His canvas was already chosen so he promptly set to work
Shaking each can before use
Ducking down as cars passed
He painted a portrait of Caledonia

The young girl with colourful corkscrew hair and full, lush lips

He never sold his work
Just put it out- to be loved or hated
By whoever happened across it

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The Muse by Pratibha

It did not surprise me anymore, this struggle between holding on and letting go. It has started recently, but I had felt myself giving it more thought with every stroke. It was his doing; I wanted to scream but did not want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he could provoke me.

I stepped back to look at the painting.

Earlier, I was bolder in colors and the grandness of the scenes, while he taught me to add the details. The muse had become the teacher I was not ready to please. He still demanded it all.

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Paint by Anita Dawes

I’m ten years old; it’s the middle of Summer.
My father gives me a bucket of whitewash,
a large paintbrush, telling me to paint the front fence.
The only thing on my mind is the cool blue lake, my friends waiting.
That’s where I should be. Not being used like a work horse
I’m a kid; I need fun before I’m old.
I stood in front of our fence, trying to make my arm work,
then it came to me.
Give everyone something to talk about.
Paint a lake scene.
Dad wondered why folk were looking at our fence…

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Painting Clouds by Colleen Chesebro

I measured the pigments into the old jelly jar using an ancient long handled spoon used only for my spell casting rituals. Slowly, I dribbled rain water from the last storm into the vessel and stirred with a clockwise motion. My eyes snapped shut as the colors swirled behind my lids pulsing with a life energy that desired recognition.

The contents of the jar spewed forth in a magnificent arc of light gracefully materializing into the shape of a rainbow – a manifestation of the divine. I smiled, content to paint the clouds with the stuff dreams are made of.

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Painting the Butterflies by Anne Goodwin

On the fifth day, God created the birds and beasts. But, as midnight loomed, he still hadn’t started on the invertebrates, so he delegated them to the angels. The angels, however, were too ham-fisted to paint the delicate wings of the moths and butterflies, so they handed over the brushes and paint pots to the elves. All the colours of the spectrum, apart from dark green, which ran out painting the rainforest on the third day. It was a minute to midnight when they checked God’s list, which is why the dark green fritillary is primarily orange and black.

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It’s Not About The Paint by Geoff Le Pard

‘You decorating, Logan?’

‘I was fed up with the colour.’

‘I always thought it was one of those pretentious ‘white with a hint of snot’ thingies.’

‘It was Forest Dapple.’

‘You’re kidding? Which bit of that “yesterday’s cappuccino” effect was forest and which dapple?’

‘You’re right, it was just brown. Now it’s Sunshine Glory.’

‘Yellow?’

‘But a really deep and inspiring yellow that speaks to love and harmony.’

‘Sort of lemony, then?’

‘Why don’t you decorate your flat rather than scoff.’

‘I plan to, tonight but I’m going much bigger than my flat.’

‘Yeah?’

‘I’m painting the town red.’

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Evening by Joanne Fisher

“Let’s go out tonight and paint the town red!” exclaimed Zana.

Krystal smiled. When Zana mentioned painting the town red, she sometimes meant it literally, given her proclivities.

“You planning to go out and have fun, or go on a killing spree again?” Krystal asked.

“The two aren’t mutually exclusive.” Zana pointed out.

“Yes, but killing loads of people ends up being rather messy doesn’t it? Maybe we should just stay in and order some room service.” Krystal suggested.

“Now that’s a great idea! The staff here look very tasty!” said Zana enthusiastically.

Krystal rolled her eyes and sighed.

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Paint Chips by Bill Engleson

“They look–so colourful.”

“Thank’s. That’s precisely the reaction we’ve been seeking. Try a few.”

“There’s quite a selection, isn’t there? Its hard to choose.”

“They look appealing, don’t they? That’s all a result of our community consultation. Our WORLD consultation, really.”

“The world, huh?”

“Our oyster, so to speak. From the get-go, we were out to corner the market.”

“Wow! Ambitious! And all of it based on a person’s colour personality?”

“You betcha. Very scientific. The four key elements, earth, air, fire, water, the primary colours, our magnificent colour wheel…”

“Yet, they’re just potato chips?”

“Crunchy, colourful and delicious.”

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Independence Paint by Frank Hubeny

The hot afternoon brought a sinister cloud extending across the western horizon that painted the sky behind it dark. From the distance of our heroes on Earth they could not estimate its speed, but they knew it would be upon them at any moment.

“That is the largest alien vessel I have ever seen! It covers the sky.”

“It’s a storm cloud. We need to reach shelter before the downpour.”

“It’s part of the rebellion to liberate the universe from the evil empire. They want our planet as a base of operations.”

“I hope not.”

Then the aliens landed.

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Paints of Peace by H.R.R. Gorman

“Dance well.” I stroke my fingers across my son’s cheeks, drawing symbols to praise the creator. “Please the gods and praise their creation.” The white paint of peace applied, I clean my fingers then swirl them in a blue paint made of crushed berries and buffalo fat. This will remain smooth through the day while the white clay cracks and falls. I hope my paints strengthen him throughout the ceremony.

“It is excellent, mother.” My son in his ceremonial clothing exits the tent.

A white soldier frowns and, through the translator, growls, “Why are you painted up for war?”

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Home to Say Goodbye by Kay Kingsley

I sat and let out the exhale I’d been holding in for years. Coming back home didn’t mean I had a home to come back to. It’s not like it was, anyhow. My parent’s death shattered our family scattering us kids, we abandoned the only home we’d known.

Quietly she called at first, then stronger, she beckoned.
In two weeks, eminent domain would swallow her whole and I think she needs to grieve, we both do. So, we visit in the sun as I scratch at her paint flakes and thank her for calling me home to say goodbye.

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PART II (10-minute  read)

The Interview by The Dark Netizen

Thank you sir, for agreeing to do this interview.

“That’s okay. Let’s get on with it.”

Sure, sir. Before beginning, any message for your fans?

“It’s just a medium I’m adding. I’ve always spoken to my fans through my paintings.”

Of course. They are definitely most expressive. What is the secret behind your unusually emotive paintings?

“It’s the water I use.”

Wow! Is it imported from a secret place?

“Imported? No. My tears give my paint their magic. Earlier, when I was a poor nobody, they were tears of sadness. Today, they are tears of joy and satisfaction…”

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Born This Way by Tina Stewart Brakebill

What would he say when he saw them? Sparkly and pink, they matched her t-shirt and her lip gloss. Or would have, if she’d been brave enough to wear lip gloss. Baby steps. That’s her plan. Painted nails today. Maybe painted lips next week.

What was she so afraid of? She needed to live her true life. She needed to tell him! And she would. Soon.

Still, she remembered his menacing tone before last year’s talent show. “No son of mine is going to strut around like a painted whore!”

So, less Britney. And more … what?

Baby steps.

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Pretty in Pink by Annette Rochelle Aben

I had never had my nails done professionally. But since I was now a female business executive, who did a lot of public speaking, it was suggested that I spruce up the ends of my fingers.

The nail tech was chatty and did a great job! We chose a bright shade of deep pink polish and everything was perfect.
She admonished me to use the side of my finger to open my car door, lest I break the new nails.

Sheepishly, I walked back into the salon a few minutes later. Smiling, she said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

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House Painting 101 by Nancy Brady

Julia always liked bold, bright colors, and she was tired of having walls of cream, beige, or off-white year after year. Just this once, she and her husband picked jewel tone colors for their new home.

The living room was now midnight blue; the kitchen, burgundy, and the bedrooms, cypress green; even the den was turquoise. Still, the baseboards were painted white to match the ceilings.

Their friends and family were shocked by the boldness. “How will you ever be able cover over the paint? If you decide to sell the house?”

“We won’t,” they said. “Our heirs will.”

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Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time by Liz HusebyeHartmann

We’d started with a couple buckets of ice blocks, and another couple with dried ice. These’d cool down the backyard while creating thick fog in our North Minneapolis back yard. Full sun, tropical temps; we’d lost a bar bet around nude sunbathing in a semi-public place.

Friends showed up to gloat, but brought their own buckets of ice…and craft beer. We decided to paint our side of Mrs. McCready’s ugly adjoining fence, Tom Sawyer style. Fog to cover from neighbors’ prying eyes, ice to keep things cool. Brilliant!

Seemed like a good idea …

Wish we’d remembered sunblock.

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Paint and Bells (Part I) by D. Avery

Marge leaned down to speak with Ilene through the rolled down window of the El Camino.

“I’m heading out to get some paint.”

“Hop in Marge, I’ll drive.”

Marge’s maneuver was more of a plop than a hop but she did fit herself into the El Camino.

“I was headed to the hardware store myself, Marge. Wedding supplies.”

“Won’t be any wedding until I’ve finished painting the boys’ handiwork.”

“Painting. Just a letter switch away from waiting.”

“That’d be wainting, wordsmith.”

“Wainting– when one wants and waits and wants to wait at the same time; wainting. A dreadful condition.”

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Paint and Bells (Part II) by D. Avery

“What’s going on Marge? You taking your Paxil?”

“This is a big change, Ilene.”

“Marrying the man you’ve been living with? Marge, nothing’s going to change except that you’ll make Ernest so happy.”

“Will Mr. Biggs be happy if I don’t take his last name? That’s a change. Ilene, I’ve been Small my whole life.”

Ilene looked sidelong at her friend. Marge was contorted on the bench seat that was pulled forward so that Ilene could reach the controls.

“Hyphenate, both of you. Small-Biggs, Biggs-Small…Marge, it’s all good. And if you want, I’ll help paint.”

“Waint that be nice.”

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Paint and Bells (Part III) by D. Avery

“Jeez, Ilene, put the seat back so I can get out.”

Ilene was already out and taking measurements the El Camino bed. “Oops, sorry Ms. Small, I forgot you’re too Biggs for this vehicle.”

“Only when you have the seat crammed into the dashboard, Ms. Higginbottom. Let me drive on the way back. What’s with the measuring?”

“You put me in charge of decorating. You’ll have to wait and see.”

While Marge got her paint Ilene picked up a rectangular blow-up kiddie pool. She would transform the El Camino into the largest beer cooler the gang had ever seen.

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Repainted Landscape by Ann Edall-Robson

It had been two years, but Tal remembered the day vividly. A wall of smoke and flames coming towards the ranch. Neighbours banding together to do what they could before everyone was told to leave. And then the wind changed in their favour.

Tal stood beside his horse looking out over the valley at the still visible aftermath of that raging firestorm. The healing shades of green across the land accentuated the shards of brown-black. Haunting sentinels of burned trees left behind with the scorched fencing. The blatant reminder of Mother Nature’s power to repaint her landscape, anytime.

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Dream House by tracey

She felt like Myrna Loy in “Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House” as she recited paint colors to the contractor.

“I am still figuring out my office”, she confessed. It felt terribly important to get the color exactly right in the room she would spend the most time in.

Since she couldn’t even narrow down a color family she was going by name now. She wanted something literary like ‘Writer’s Retreat’ or ‘Chapter and Verse’.

She flipped through the paint chips and read ‘All Your Dreams’. The palest of pinks, more of a rosy cream. Her future in paint.

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A Coat of Paint by Abhijit

There was agreement that the room needed a fresh coat of paint. Disagreement was on the choice of color. Daughter wanted a pink color. Mother wanted a yellow or a white, a color that was bright. Father preferred green, the color of almighty, but also a wanted consensus. As controller of purse string, father had hoped that his wish would prevail.

Time passed. Consensus eluded. Father passed away. Daughter got a job and moved to a different city. Property changed hand.

Today, standing before the brightly painted two storey building, their old home, the memory of earlier times flashed.

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Protest in Paint by Floridaborne

I loved my home on a half acre in the rolling hills of North Carolina with a fenced-in yard. It was 1979, and hubby did his job so well, they didn’t need him any longer.

It was easy for an engineer to find another job, and our home sold in a month, but the cost of housing in Wisconsin gave us few choices. At that time, homeowner’s associations were not common. We didn’t know until the day of the signing that we couldn’t have a fence.

In protest, I painted my home psychedelic green. It glowed in the dark.

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New Paint by Joanne Fisher

“Has he gone colour blind?” My aunt asked.

We had just pulled up at my dad’s house and seen the new paint job. His entire house was now a rather shocking turquoise colour. A colour I had never liked. Still it had always been his favourite, and I wondered why.

I was now living in Christchurch so it had been a few months since I had seen the house, and now the entire family was coming here for Christmas. They ended up being as mortified as we were.

Dad was his usual self and dismissed our opinions with kindness.

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Golden Snowdrops by Valerie Fish

It said on the tin ‘Golden Snowdrops’; he said it looks like vomit.

Painting a room two weeks away from your due date is no bundle of fun, making me feel nauseous, and last night hadn’t helped.

I’d been nagging him for weeks to decorate the nursery, when I dared to mention it again yesterday, I should have known what was coming…

‘Why can’t you do it?’ he bellowed. ‘You’ve nothing better to do now you’re home all day.’

Then the punch came.

I fear for myself and my unborn baby.

Tomorrow I’ll go and get some more paint.

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War Paint by Deborah Lee

Caroline peers over Jane’s shoulder at Jane’s reflection in the mirror, her breath hot. “Why doll yourself up?” she says. “You’re not going to find a boyfriend here.”

Janes snaps the compact shut. “I’m not here for a boyfriend. I’m here because it’s my job.”

The restroom door slams shut as Caroline huffs out. One step closer to fired, Jane thinks.

It’s not a job, it’s a war zone. War zones require war paint. Magical protection: It’s not blush, it’s a shield. Transformation: Look like who you want them to think you are.

Maybe she should buy some woad.

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Something Different (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Want some paint for that brush?” Danni smiled, remembering. Her brushing a mammoth tusk, Ike standing at the edge of the mud with his fishing pole. The first time they met.

A wet nose nudged her hand while she cleaned shards and the paint brush flew from her grip. It dropped to the concrete of the barn floor. “Det, you are a pesky hound.” She patted the dog and picked up the brush. Maybe she should paint.

If Ike wanted to do something different, then she would too. Danni left for the hardware store to pick out cheerful yellows.

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Meditations by Sascha Darlington

There’s meditation in painting. The up-and-down strokes whether with a brush or a roller. Up and down.

I didn’t tell my family Scott left me.

Cornflower blue, up and down.

They never liked him, although they pretended, because that’s what you do for family.

Apply masking tape around baseboard. Paint the baseboard: white.

“You’re family’s overwhelming. You’re overwhelming.”

I use a smaller brush, which takes longer without the mess.

I still hear the slam of the screen door, the Metallica song wailing over his car speakers when he started the engine: “Nothing Else Matters.”

Stroke.

He won’t be back.

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War Paint by Kelley Farrell

Lilli plopped two tubes of lipstick down in front of her mother.

“Red for strength and energy.” Her mom admired the purple tube and cherry red lipstick.

“Black to signal you’ve been here before.” At this her mother frowned.

“You know I don’t like you wearing black lipstick.” Lilli rolled her eyes and huffed.

“Mom, I really think black lipstick is the least of the problems here. Besides, you need war paint to show the cancer who’s boss.”

Lilli’s mom tucked the black tube into her pocket.

“I’ll just keep this with me … to show the cancer who’s boss.”

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Gardeners by Saifun Hassam

The garden shed was Tanya’s canvas. In summer she painted twining tea roses on one wall. In fall giant bronze chrysanthemums sprawled across another wall. In winter she painted pine needles and acorns on the back. In spring her neighbor Vinnie helped her scrub and wash the walls. She painted pink and purple hyacinths near the door and planned another season of flowers.

Vinnie brought fresh veggies from his garden and Tanya made his favorite casseroles. Their children said they should marry. Vinnie and Tanya grinned. They were seventy, great garden buddies and loved those casseroles. Leave it that.

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Smile! by Di @ pensitivity

In our first house, we were fed up with grey walls in our lounge, so decided to buy a large tin of white emulsion and a colour syringe to tone it down a bit when we decorated.

As it turned out, one syringe didn’t do very much to the white so we added another, stirred it all together and set to.

We couldn’t have matched the original colour better if we’d tried. The only difference was the large smiley miley we’d put on the wall behind the stairs before starting which still showed through when the lights were on.

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Anhalonium by Kenneth Cahall

At night, Devin painted abstracts. Once, I sat sipping coffee watching him paint. I asked about the unusual smell of his paint. He told me he’d added peyote for that nuclear test site green color and laughed.

His laughter continued but his mouth wasn’t moving. Then Devin, his painting, everything in the living room floor slammed into me. Now Devin and I were in his painting. We could see it in the mirror across the room: Devin holding his paint brush, me holding my coffee mug.

“I like this one better than your others,” I admitted.

“Thanks,” said Devin.

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A Painted Poem by Susan Zutautas

I had a picture painted in my mind

But where was I going to find

Someone who completed me

To give them my hearts key

Then one night

My heart took flight

Meeting you, such a delight

I want to paint you a picture in a poem

How long it was, how long I roamed

To find a person that would love me

One who wanted to spend an eternity

The night I met you I started a new life

One year later we became husband and wife

Thirty-two years have now passed

Baby it has been a blast

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Painting Passion by Ritu Bhathal

“Mrs Smith, you can come and sit over here.”

I put my book into my bag and sat at the chair indicated by the technician.

“What are we doing today, Mrs Smith?” She smiled at me, awaiting my answer.

“I’d like my nails painted please, Jemima.”

I chose my colour, a deep red, always my favourite.

Red, the colour of passion

Apt for our date night.

It had been a long time since we’d been out together, as a couple.

Usually, it was all about the children, but tonight was for us.

Time needed, to keep the romance alive.

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Standing in It by D. Avery

“What’s goin’ on Kid? Why’s all the furniture out here on the porch?”

“Stop right there, Pal. Don’t come in. I decided ta pitch in an’ hep Shorty spruce up the ranch. Decided ta paint the floor of the bunkhouse.”

“Oh, yeah, thet looks real good, Kid. Looks like yer almost finished, too. Jist thet there corner left.”

“It’s gonna be awhile, gittin’ this bit finished.”

“Thet’s ‘cause yer standin’ in it, Kid. Ya done painted yersef inta a corner. Reckon you’ll be waitin’ on the paint ta dry.”

“Yep. Reckon they’s worse things ta have ta wait on.”

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Waiting

We wait in line. We wait for life. Waiting is not something most people like to do but everyone has to do it. What we wait on might be universal, some as different as our reactions.

Writers wrote about the wait and what it could mean. They wrote surprising stories you won’t want to wait to read.

The following are based on the June 20, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about having to wait.

PART I (10-minute read)

Adult Swim by  Chelsea Owens

“I can’t stand no longer,” I tell Mama, but she gives me That Look; so I wobble and watch the grown-ups flop around slowly like old, fat whales-

“Maahm,” I start. Now Janie shoots me The Look an’ it’s just like Mama’s -but I can tell that Janie wants ’em to hurry jus’ as much as me, ’cause up she goes on her toes then back down.

The whole line of us kids is bobbing and dancin’ -I think maybe the lifeguard sees; for, jus’ when I know we’re gonna jump, we fin’lly hear the whistle.

An’ we run.

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The Waiting by Pete Fanning

It began with a tearful goodbye. With a sleepless night, then two, then a week until it just was. It clutched her heart with every knock at the door. It stung when she watched the boys play baseball in the street with another kid’s dad. It ruined Christmas.

The waiting grew heavy. It promised tomorrow. It made her feel selfish. It consumed her.

Then it did the unthinkable. It broke its promise.

It came with too many casseroles and a folded flag. It left her with the boys in the street, waiting for a pitch that would never come.

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The Beginning of a Long Wait (from Miracle  of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Waiting for the phone to ring, Danni started a batch of cookies. She stalked over to the phone. “Ring, damn it!” She picked it up to check the dial tone and returned to the kitchen. She started a pot of macaroni and cheese. The phone range and she jumped, answering.

“Hello?”

“Hello. This is the National Coalition for—”

Danni slammed down the receiver. She needed tea. Instead of boiling macaroni, she poured the water over a Lipton tea bag, watching the stain spread. Danni waited to hear if Ike lived after the attack on his convoy in Baghdad.

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Torment by Ann Edall-Robson

Watching the truck and trailer leave the yard, Liz played Mac’s call over in her mind. He insisted Tal be the one to bring the rig. The anguish in his voice when he told her he needed a medivac NOW, continued to send chills through her. He’d fill her in when he got home. Cell service was minimal at its best near the falls.

Liz tried to remember who Mac had sent to check on the cows out there. Stay busy she told herself. Then she remembered.

Ranch life could be a torment to those who had to wait.

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Waiting by Joanne Fisher

“We’re going to have to wait, The Baron is away for a few days.” Ashalla informed her.

“I can wait.” Aalen replied looking around the crowded streets. She hadn’t realised there were so many people in this city. Where did they all come from?

They were standing in the city’s square. Above them all rose the Baron’s Keep like a giant solitary black tooth. Aalen spied the walls of the fortifications. She reckoned she could scale them with no problems, and she thought Ashalla could do the same.

Revenge would come. She could wait. What was a few days?

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He Waits by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He waits on the bridge by the lagoon, staring down at the moon, a pale and wavering contrast in dark water. Further down the shore, a splash and pop, followed by crunching, draws his attention. A moose shakes its ears in greeting and turns back to its evening snack.

She’s late. He worries about her, and for the moose.

He worries too much. She’s the best: intelligence and empathy, seasoned with practicality. She’ll arrive, having hunted and fed, and easily change with the sunrise.

Tonight they run together under the full moon. Tomorrow they hold hands in the sun.

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Some Wait by Susan Sleggs

The couple watches the birds. The cardinal pair arrives together but she eats first while he waits on a near-by branch. The Flicker waits for no other, he lands at the suet and others skedaddle. The chickadee waits; darts to the unoccupied feeder then takes his prize elsewhere. The squirrels try to invade the feeder but fail, falling to the ground and making a thumping sound that satisfies. The husband waits also; for his wife to stop complaining about something that happened days ago. If only he knew a way to help her let go of what angers her.

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Waiting for the Bus by Sally Cronin

The young girl waited anxiously for the bus. She huddled into the long queue of people standing impatiently in the rain, hiding her bulging rucksack between her feet. She was cold and wet but determined to get away from this place. The planning had been carried out meticulously, and she was happy that she had everything needed for a new life. Her stomach began rumbling. It was Friday and her mum made fish and chips for tea. People muttered as the five year old pushed through them, dragging her rucksack and heading down the street. She smiled in anticipation.

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Waiting by Floridaborne

He chuckled when he asked, “Where did you say you’re calling from?”

“Flor’da,” I replied. “I’m looking for my brother. His friend said he was in this hospital.”

“I’m not able to provide any information.”

“Look!”  I yelled out at the insufferable jerk.  “He has Down Syndrome. He’ll be frightened!”

“I can say he wasn’t in an accident, but HIPAA rules… I can’t tell you anything else.”

“What do hippos have to do with it?”  I asked.  “He’s not an ape in a zoo.”

So… until I can hop a plane to Oregon, he’ll wonder why he’s all alone.

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Running For the Border by TN Kerr

“Moooom,” I wailed from the backseat, “It hurts.” She looked over her shoulder before pushing her cigarette out the wind wing and turning down the radio.

“You just have to hold it, Billy,” she said; turning her attention back to the road that stretched out in front of us. “I can’t simply call a time out.”

We were going fast when she hit the spike strips and the tires all burst. My bladder let go when the wheels began tossing sparks like lightning bugs past the windows.

We skidded sideways to a stop and the troopers boxed us in.

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Frozen Man by Reena Saxena

The most peculiar thing happened on the eleventh of November, just as the snow had begun to drift down.

The snow assumed a peculiar shape, like a man frozen in snow. Passers-by ventured ahead to rescue him, but the shadow was elusive for their almost frozen hands.

An old lady stepped out of the crowd and waved. Surprisingly, the shadow waved back.

Her husband was a martyr in the war, and had died on 11th November. She came here on the day, every year, hoping that he would take her with him. In a moment, she had dropped dead.

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Lucy Locket: Opposing Summer? by JulesPaige

no wolves in my sight
waiting for the strawberry
moon in a stale sky

Lucy Locket, fills the docket
By reading quotes, in a book that she totes
Hartly says; “The past is a foreign country…”, brings to mind a cold memory
“…they do things differently there.” That old summer home, lost, somewhere.

Now she just waits, …on her table to clear used paper plates…
From the crowd that has dispersed, in sporadic spurts
From the picnic reunion that many waited for; a delightful chore
What will be different in the next year? Will she be even be here?

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Earthquake by Saifun Hassam

Sally was jerked awake by the roar of a train hitting the house. She tensed, waiting for the earthquake to ease. Scrambling from the bed and swaying with the floor she sidled along the hallway into the living room.

Steve was working on his blog “Vineyards, Wineries and Gardens” when the quack hit. He crawled under the dining room table as the strong tremors continued. Experience had taught them to wait it out. A herd of elephants pounded across the lawn. After long minutes the earth subsided. Utter stillness, silence. A twittering of birds announced the coming of dawn.

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Your Call Is Important by Anne Goodwin

“All our operators are busy at the moment. Your call will be answered as soon as one becomes available.”

Jingle jangle music.

“Your call is important to us. Please hold the line.”

Jangle jingle music.

“Thank you for your patience. We will answer your call as soon as an operator becomes available.”

Jingle jangle music.

“Thank you for calling Westminster Talent Limited. Apologies for keeping you waiting. How may I help you?”

“I need speak Boris.”

“I’m afraid Boris isn’t available right now. Can I be of service?”

“Can you tell please, his lunch left kitchen table. And phone.”

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Waiting by M J Mallon

Only two more hours, she joked as she left. I smiled. I knew I would say the same to her after two days’ time. The weekend is teasing me, waiting with a glass of wine. At two minutes past five I open her drawer to eat the snack she left me. It kills me to admit it but it tastes good. She’d said it was foul but lied. One more bite.

Shame that death arrived before the weekend. She didn’t need to poison me—we were both on the same prolonged career path.

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Voodoo by Carol J Forrester

‘Take a ticket,’ said the man behind the scratched perspex glass.

‘It’s empty,’ said James, glancing at the busted plastic dispenser.

‘Huh?’ The man looked up. ‘Oh, so it is. Well, take a seat to wait and we’ll be right with you.’

‘We?’ asked James. The man didn’t answer.

Turning, James shuddered and stumbled as the room stretched like elastic.

‘Careful there.’

A set of hands steadied him.

‘The voodoo throws you at first. It’s how they fit us all in.’

‘Us all?’ James asked.

‘Yeah, all the demons,’ said the voice. ‘Sorry mate, looks like you got busted.’

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Waiting by Di @pensitivity101

Hurry up and wait.
Waiting, watching life pass us by.
Hours wasted, waiting for someone else.
Time is money,
But not to those waiting.
God’s waiting room, that’s what they call this place.
Take a seat.
Someone will be with you shortly.
But how long is shortly?
The clock ticks on.
Time waits for no-one.
Yet we are expected to wait.
It’s only polite to do as one is asked.
Joints seize, breathing shallows,
Eyes close,
Dreams waiting.
The mind drifts, the spirit leaves,
Looking down at those souls waiting,
Shells of humanity,
Waiting for something to hurry up.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Treat by Brendan Thomas

Toby smiled. Jane held the treat agonizingly close.

“Wait.” Toby waited. He waited for dinner, a belly rub, a walk. Wait, wait, wait. Yesterday he waited for Jane to finish in the bathroom making it to his favorite bush just on time. When he wormed through the fence to play with Jasper last week he was waiting in the shade of the apple tree for his dinner. Finally he ate two apples and got sick, poor Jasper.

“Wait.”

Toby looked at the treat, then walked away.

“You have it,” he thought digging out his bone from behind the sofa.

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Waiting by Anita Dawes

Tomorrow is today in waiting
It seems to me, that even when it arrives
It is still waiting
Where is yesterday in all of this
We all constantly wait for tomorrow
You can stand on the shore
Look to the horizon, watch the sun set
You cannot see tomorrow
Yet you know it’s coming
We spend a lot of our time waiting
For one thing or another
As for myself I cannot bear waiting
If I say I’ll be there at eight
I expect my friends to be on time
The future is the greatest opportunity we wait for…

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Faith by Kerry E.B. Black

We waited together for the results. Kinda gross, really, staring at a plastic stick I’d peed on, but in the end, a plus told us. A baby! My tears drenched his shoulder as we embraced.

Anxious, we held hands at the obstetrician’s to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Quick as a bunny, it raced away with our hearts.

At the ultrasound, we watched her suck her thumb and chose her name. Faith. We painted the nursery, anxious to meet this precious child.

But one day, I bled. I rushed for help, but no amount of waiting brought back our Faith.

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A Thousand Years by Nicole Horlings

She had been patient for a thousand years. Those years had been tiring, and she eagerly looked forward towards her well-earned retirement. Life, especially blossoming life, was a fragile thing that had to be treated with the utmost care.

From the days of keeping the egg warm to hunting for food, from guarding the nest to leaving it behind, from first fire to first flight, she had watched her son grow from a drake to a dragon.

Today was his coming of age ceremony, where he would be given his adult name.

She wished for a thousand more years.

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Never Never Land by Sherri Matthews

Months we’d waited. We took our seats towards the back of the stadium with a clear view of the stage. Men and women, some in their twenties most middle-aged and wearing black, like me, filled the stands. Others strode towards the standing area armed in sleeveless leathers, long hair and tattoos, fired up for the mosh pit. We waved to three of them before they disappeared into the mosh pit. My boys. The crowd cheered for the first band, but roared when the headliner came on. Metallica. This was it. Off to never never land with my adult kids.

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A Wee Wait by Ritu Bhathal

“I know you’re desperate dear, but I’m afraid, you’ll have to wait. They’re all desperate.” Mrs Brown turned around, indicating the long line of children stretching to the end of the corridor.

“But Miss, I can’t wait!” Millie hopped from foot to foot, performing a toilet dance typical for a child, crotch clutched as if that was all holding a possible flood from occurring.

The queue moved down one.

“Just get to the back of the line, Millie.”

“I can’t.”

“Why on earth not?”

Millie looked down at the puddle slowly forming.

“Oh dear. so you really couldn’t wait!”

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Take Turns to Wait by Miriam Hurdle

“My dear Heather, would you marry me?”

“Oh, yes, dear Jason.”

“We must have our engagement party soon and the wedding in six months.”

“Well, we’ve been dating for seven years and I didn’t know when you’d asked me to marry you.”

“I needed to save up money.”

“You know that I applied for several grad schools. The one accepted me with big scholarship is in New York.”

“It’s only five and a half hours flight from Los Angles.”

“Now, your turn to wait for two years.”

“I know. Let’s have our engagement party ASAP.”

“We can do that.”

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Ernest Biggs and Marge Small by D. Avery

“Marge, your she-shed is finished. The waiting is over. Go to your prince.”

Nard smirked. “Ernest’s just waiting for Marge to get back in charge.”

“Ilene, the wedding’ll be in the garage, get started on decorating. Lloyd, you get ordained, get some words together. Nick, invitations. Remember, I can barely stand you most days, so take care who you invite from the dealership. Kristof, since you still claim this peckerhead as your boyfriend, you’ll be involved too. You and Nard’ll take care of food. Ernest, we’ll need a lot of beer.”

“Ernest, you poor thing. The waiting is over.”

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The Waiting Game by Norah Colvin

Her entire life, she’d waited:

To be old enough, big enough—

To have left school, completed her degree—

To have enough money—

Until after the wedding—

For the birth of her children

For her children to have started school, left school, left home—

When would be the time, when she could choose what she wanted, for her, no conditions imposed?

In the waiting room, she contemplated these things and delivered her own answer—never! Death was knocking, refusing to wait. She’d hoped to live before she died but life got in the way.  Ah well, the waiting was over.

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Eager by Abijit

His life did not depend on it, but a news would have been welcome. It was nearly a month earlier, he had shared his resume. He was certain about his selection. Afterall, his resume was rich in qualification and relevant experience.

He was certain that his pay package will see a significant jump. He had started planning his new life in a different city and dreaming of family vacations he would lie to take.

It is four weeks now. He has not heard from the head hunters. Well it is their loss! He still has his life, doesn’t he?

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Test Results by Susan Zutautas

“How soon will be able to get me the results?”

“I should have them in by say nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”, the doctor said.

“Alright, well I’ll be waiting to hear from you then, and thanks so much for doing this for me, I know this isn’t something you regularly do.”

“That’s true but in this case, I’m happy to.”

I couldn’t sleep that night, waiting wasn’t something I liked to do.

Sitting patiently by the phone the next morning anticipating what the doctor would say, the phone rang.

“I have your test results and you are indeed pregnant.”

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A Foetal Wish by H.R.R. Gorman

Will the outside be beautiful or scary? I find it cozy here, even if it is dark, and I’m not sure I want to go. At the same time, I know I will leave soon, so why must I wait another whole month? Why not just get it over with now?

Who will I be when I spew forth from this cozy cavern? I hope the doctors find me healthy. I hope people will like me, and I hope everyone will be my friend. Most of all, I hope my parents are nice and will take care of me.

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No News by Sascha Darlington

Some wise sayings, like no news is good news, are easily refuted. Take the fact Mom called Dad three hours ago to say she’d been hurt then nothing.

Aunt Cici calls everywhere. Urgent care. Hospitals. Police. The morgue. She doesn’t mention this last one, I just happened to see it among her outgoing calls.

We wait. Not a single one of the seven people in this room believes no news is good news.

Dad hopes for a miracle text.

Aunt Cici searches for another number.

I gnaw over the last ugly exchange Mom and I shared: I despise you.

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Mental Health Day by tracey

At the beginning of the year Jennifer impulsively penciled in a mental health day on her calendar. Now the day was here and she wanted a spontaneous adventure.

She drove two hours west and found a small town on the coast. She sat outdoors at a quaint café, opened the menu, closed her eyes and lightly ran her finger over the plastic sheet. Strawberry and cream cheese crepe appeared under her finger. Perfect!

She sat back, the sun warming her face, noticing an Artist Co-op across the road. Stop two she thought as she waited patiently for her crepe.

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The Time Between by Nancy Brady

She was waiting in the airport, sitting in those uncomfortable chairs. She was waiting to board the plane that would take her away from the life she’d known.

No one had ever told her that most of her life would be spent waiting. Waiting for appointments, waiting for the mail, waiting for her children to be born, her grandchildren to be born…just waiting, waiting, waiting.

And in that waiting, she began to see her life unfold, a little at a time. She saw her mistakes, her triumphs, and all her losses. Her days waning, she finally lived without regret.

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Nuthin’ by D. Avery

“Shift, Kid, we might not make it ta the corral, might miss the round-up. Ya got anythin’?”

“Nah, I ain’t got nuthin’. Thing is, I cain’t be thinkin’ ‘bout waitin’ on thangs when I’m jist so content right here right now.”

“Yep. Ya got a good fire goin’. An’ thet storm had a good light show but blew right on through quick enough.”

“Storm didn’t hardly damp the fire. An’ lookit the light show now. Lightnin’ bugs flittin’ about. They was worth stayin’ up fer.”

“Yep. We’ve got it good Kid.”

“Yep. Cain’t wait ta share it with Shorty.”

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