Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » Posts tagged '#1000Speak'

Tag Archives: #1000Speak

Courage to Care

Courage to CareThunder claps and I awaken. The camp trailer is dark and I reach up to feel the paper towels and garbage bag just inches above my head. Damp, not dripping and the bag still holds. Too much moisture and pooled water will break the seal of packing tape around the plastic between me and a leaking ceiling seam. The latest leak I’ve stuffed with paper towels and change them out when they reach saturation.

I relax until the rain cuts loose. I’m beyond crying any more, having sobbed yesterday when I cried out in frustration, “I want to go home!” I yell it at my husband when he arrives from his contract job. We exchange frustrated barbs until one dog scrambles up the wall, trying to get into the overhead bed. The dogs are a litmus test for stress. We are in the danger zone and I simply sit down in the chair that aggravates my sciatica and let tears slide down my cheeks. Home. Comfort. Security. Certainly many are worse off than me, but I’m weary. In the dark of night before the thunder arrives, I shower in a cement public restroom and cry beneath hot water until I can’t cry any more.

When the rain cuts lose, splattering the aluminum roof that is my transition between homes, I know it will take a few hours before the water pools and leaks. I have no tears left so I roll over and go back to sleep, wishing I didn’t have to wake up. Yet cold water dribbling to my hip does the job, and my day renews.

Waking up to news of Trump’s nomination does nothing to lift my spirits. I don’t bother making the bed, and the routine I’ve established this week dissipates into apathy. Politics are nothing but brand campaigns and I’m clearly not the target audience. Where does civic concern for a nation go when brands force sides as if this were a choice of pops — Coke or Pepsi — when the people need water? I was going to write letters to my state rep to express my outrage at the injustice of a state that tolerates veteran homelessness. The house we rented for nearly four years stands empty; all the real estate sites list it as “CLEAN and now ready to SHOW and SELL.”

When I first saw that selling point, I felt punched in the gut. Clean? CLEAN? As if our living there had made the place dirty? I’m a writer who used to work from home and although housekeeping was not tops on my daily to-do list, my home was not dirty. As if to invalidate my sense of reality, the property managers will not give back our security deposit despite the cleaning I did and the housekeeper I hired to shampoo the carpets. Feeling as if the world sees me as unclean stabs me in the heart of shame; shame from childhood, family incest, isolation. Having broke the silence decades ago and the cycle for my own children now grown, I’m  pained to recognize that shame still exists in the shadows of self.

It’s hard to get motivated to write civic letters when water drips from my trailer and shame clouds my head.

Two motivations I’m trying to embrace allow me the opportunity to write through my shame:

  1. From the Honeyed Quill, Shawna Ainslie posts: EMERGENCY #‎LinkYourLife PROMPT: Fear, Compassion and Community Action. #LinkYourCompassion.
  2. 1000 Voices for Compassion: Compassion and Courage.

Compassion is not something I see this morning following the hate-stirring rhetoric of a man who embodies the worst of America, yet seems capable of convincing others that his brand of hate is a cure-all. Compassion is not something I’m feeling. Then it occurs to me — it takes courage to care.

From self-care to that of others, it takes courage. We risk much to admit we are in need or struggling, but that’s where self-care begins. I’ve not been bashful about expressing my experiences current or past, though it is painful to do. How can one break the silence without speaking? I don’t want to dwell in anger or be the sum of my circumstances, nor do I want to be avoided by friends, family or readers because I speak out my truth — the good, the bad, the ugly.

Speaking out has its dangers. Anger can consume. I found it difficult to let go of even for a weekend, but denying my anger doesn’t make it go away either. I have to face it, feel it and make choices as to how to direct it. I have to be real (and compassionate) in acknowledging that shame is still an issue for me. I read a blog this morning by a survivor of sexual abuse who states she had no shame. It made me feel mine all the more keenly — like now, I’m ashamed of my shame.

Not feeling emotion only leads to the numbness I felt when the rain began before dawn.

Self-care, self-compassion is where healing can begin. And it’s okay if healing has to begin again and again. Establishing a routine in homelessness is one way I’m trying to take care of myself. Walking is another. But these are not enough for my circumstances. I’ve pushed hard to get my veteran husband into VA counseling for PTSD and I’m going to behavioral therapy sessions, too. I’ve signed up for an online workshop called Unshamed. I’m asking for help, even when it embarrasses me to do so, and I’m also being honest about what I can handle at the moment.

I’m homeless. I can’t have huge expectations upon my productivity.

Without self-care we can’t care for another, let alone a stranger. If we don’t have the courage to examine who we are and what we want out of our brief lives, we will fall into the traps of fear, perfectionism and judgement. It’s good to acknowledge what makes one fearful. I’m terrified of not having a home and here I am, not having a home. I’m not perfect. I can’t compare myself to another abuse survivor and feel inadequate because she has conquered shame and I’ll most likely go to the grave with mine. I don’t know that I can ever scrub it clean enough. But it doesn’t make me dirty. When I accept my own weaknesses, I can be more forgiving of another person in their weakness.

It takes courage to care for others when I facing my own fears. It took courage to help my brother-in-law yesterday to find his own DVA rep when his politics and lack of empathy upset me. I could have chosen to ignore his question of how to go about VA benefits, after all, he didn’t even thank me and he gave me a “chin up” talk as if I had no right to feel overwhelmed by my leaking trailer or lack of home. I could have taken delight in thinking, “Let him figure it out,” knowing how difficult it is to navigate the VA system. It even took courage to correct my own thoughts when I felt like comparing his service to his brother’s (my husband). He didn’t see combat! But I stopped myself and remembered that he served. It took courage to care, to look up his DVA and send it amidst my own pain he has no capacity for understanding.

Compassion doesn’t mean we don’t feel negative emotions. Courage is what it takes to overcome those barriers of our own negativity and that of others to show compassion. Both courage and compassion are acts.

Writing is a powerful tool for exploring and expressing voice. No matter what we write professionally, personally or in community, voice is what resonates. And the truth is more powerful than purple prose. Maybe that’s why I squirm when trying to read Trump’s speech. Even the annotated version by NPR only adds to the either/or struggle between 2016 US presidential candidates. Facts are not always truth. The truth is that politics is playing upon fear. Trump’s entire campaign message is summed up in his speech: he will restore safety to America if he wins. But who is stirring up the feeling that America is un-safe? America is in need of self-compassion and Americans need to overcome their fears through the courage to care for others.

A writer and comedian whom I admire for speaking truth with humor and compassion is Jon Stewart. He gave me back my motivation this morning. Truth has a way of calling us to action with justice and purpose; lies and denial use hate and fear to agitate action. Stewart offers us the revelation that Trump can’t give Americans back their country. He says to those wanting to take back America:

“You feel you are this country’s rightful owner. There’s only one problem with that. This country isn’t yours. You don’t own it. It never was. There is no real America. You don’t own it. You don’t own  patriotism. You don’t own Christianity. And you sure as hell don’t own respect for the bravery and sacrifice of military, police and firefighters.”

Further he says, “Those fighting to be included in the ideal of equality are not being divisive. Those fighting to keep those people out are.”

Full version is on YouTube and worth watching. More so than watching any of the RNC speeches.

What you do own is this: you own your truth; you own your experience as a human being; you own your choices; you own your actions. I own my leaky eyes and leaky un-home, but I also own my resolve to speak out. I’m not living the RVer’s lifestyle, nor am I having a grand adventure. I own my stress and shame, but I also own expectation to be treated with human dignity. I have the courage to speak my voice. I am not silent. I am not perfect, but I am not silent. I will continue to look for ways to take care of myself, my husband, our two dogs and others in my life.

As much as I want to wrap my arms around the world and invite every weary traveler of hardships to sit by my campfire, I will start with those I see — the blogs I read, the people I encounter. Compassion starts with me. It starts with you. Have the courage to care where you are right now no matter how shitty or spectacular life might be. Circumstances don’t dictate one’s capacity for compassion and courage. Compassionate and courageous people will trump…well…Trump-like hatred.

If you are having difficulty today, please reach out here. Speak out, use your voice. There are communities where compassionate and courageous people reside. Read their stories. Respond. Add your own.

#LinkYourLife is found on Facebook, Twitter, The Honeyed Quill and OTV Magazine

#1000VoicesforCompassion is found on Facebook, Twitter and you can link up to monthly themes.

 

Hard Places

Hard PlacesHard places are universally known. The teacher put on the spot by a parent; the childhood friend who died too young; the ailing family member; the medical condition that won’t go away; roadblocks and stream-blocks; abandoned buildings and glimpses of earlier struggles.

Yet circumstances such as these have a rock — a way through the hard place. It might be the support of a colleague or pure determination to get through. It might be a way to remember or a way to honor what has passed. This week, writers looked for connections. We might not control the hard places we are in, but we can find connection.

Connection is the monthly theme for a group of writers and bloggers who gather to overcome hard places and connect with one another in compassion. These stories are part of the May collection from 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion and are based on the May 13, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows a hard place and a connection.

Connection in a Hard Place by Irene Waters

Natasha dreamed of death. These visions were always pleasant unlike the bombs that fell around her, killing all in their path. Except her. She who longed to die seemed immune to the terror surrounding her. All her family were dead. Her lover too had died, beheaded. They had forced her to watch. Now, except when dreams of death lulled her, the nightmare never left. The latest bomb left her scrabbling at the rubble to reach the trapped cry below. She pulled the unharmed baby to her and connected her to her breast. She smiled as the milk flowed again.

###

A Game by Mercy.James.

Rock  Paper  Scissors

Scissors cut paper. Rock smashes scissors. Paper weighs upon both.

Who wins?

None exists without the other – each complimentary – a serving of needs met – sometimes left wanting – as reliable as the waxing and waning moon, sitting in crescent left or right-faced.

Does not paper come from the earth? From trees that are deeply rooted in soil, rock and nutrient infused. And silver – precious metal – it too comes from the earth, lying in rock’s embrace.

What matters in the end – now – we realize connection is absolute truth – no room for control over elements in purity – nature’s way.

###

A Dawn Concert by Jeanne Lombardo

Four a.m. The pain a staccato knock. No going back to sleep. She pushed up on gnarled hands, scooted, let the sharp ache push her into the wheelchair.

She followed the grooves in the carpet, pushed past the girls’ rooms, imagined their young bodies. They looked like her, thirty years ago, before the arthritis made a crippled birch of her.

She parked at the kitchen table. No coffee until Dan rose to percolate it. She waited.

At last a pale lemony light washed through the window. The familiar room emerged. And the concert began.

The robins never forsook her.

###

United With a Song by Kate Spencer

She sat on a log hugging her knees, smiling softly as she gazed at the campsite community seated around the blazing fire. Some were chatting quietly; others were busy roasting marshmallows.

She nodded to her husband who leisurely reach behind him and pulled out the worn guitar. He tinkered with the strings and began strumming an old familiar ballad.

Slowly he started singing, the lyrics filled with love and sorrow, longing and hope. Tears formed in the corner of her eyes as she raised her own voice, joining her husband. Gradually everyone joined in – united with a song.

###

Fiona Meets the Universe by Ula Humienik

Fiona felt alone and small under the twinkling of the universe and sweeps of the Milky Way. She’d never seen the night sky living in the city all her life. Tears made rivulets on her cheeks.

She remembered her last conversation with her sister.

“Dad never meant to hurt us,” Nina said.

“But he did. He hurt me. I can’t trust men, I’m afraid of them.”

“You have to forgive him.”

“I can’t,” Fiona said as she ran off. They hadn’t spoken since.

She looked up at the expansive sky and imagined each star a soul watching over her.

###

The Friend Inside by Sarrah J. Woods

A sudden breeze rose up and ruffled Maggie’s hair as she gazed over the valley. The wind was changing inside her, too.

Loneliness had become her straightjacket in the past year. The more desperately she struggled to make friends in this unfriendly town, the more isolated she felt.

Now she was giving up. Aloneness had won.

But, somehow, this decision only lightened and sweetened the silence that had oppressed her for so long.

“I’ll keep trying to make friends,” she said, “but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy my own company. I will become my own friend.”

Her heart smiled.

###

House of Thorns by A. R. Amore

Nesting in the back are a pair of cardinals. They’ve chosen the most evil of shrubs, a dark red demon laced with poisoned oblong pellet sized berries and black tipped briars. The bold male roots in empty planters on the deck for building materials while the duller female scuttles in and out of the shrub seemingly unscathed, her beak filled with a gathering of grass or twig or twine. Like any couple, they visited and revisited, no doubt debating merits and drawbacks. Flitting in and out, despite the risk of harm, they nestle hopeful in their house of thorns.

###

Little Boy Lost by Sherri Matthews

I saw him, that little boy. His back turned to me, holding the hand of a man leading him further into the crowd.

I recognised his saggy blue jeans and the curl of his boy-short, soft brown hair.

Don’t go, oh God, please don’t go.

Then the boy, hearing my silent cries and knowing my love turned back, and his brown eyes locked into mine.

He tugged at the man’s hand, but the man held too tight and kept walking.

Mummy!

Gone. Just like that.

Now my boy is a man and I hug him with everything I have.

###

Just a Soul by Ruchira Khanna

Jane was pensive, yet persistent as she was staring at the pen.

Took a deep breath, blinked a couple of times.

“I am not the body. I am not even the mind,” she chanted as she disinfected a small area of her thigh and placed her pen over it.

Clicked the pen, and the pain was intense. Her eyes were moist by the ache.

She waited for the syringe fluid to enter her body, while she continued her chant, “I am not the body. I am not even the mind.”

Released the pen, and wiped the drop of blood.

###

Brown by Norah Colvin

She glanced at the child, usually so eager to please, and knew this was no ordinary day.

Downcast and avoiding eye contact, the child trembled. Her instinct was to reach out with comfort to soothe the hurt; but stopped. Any touch could end her career. What to say? Brown earth/brown rocks? would ignore and trivialise the pain. Any talk now would be insensitive with other ears listening. Any word could unravel the relationship built up over time. Nothing would harm more than doing nothing. Her steps moved her body away but her heart and mind stayed; feeling, thinking.

###

Selfish Devotion by Rebecca Patajac

Fist clenched, Warrick scribbled signatures across paperwork. His wife, face pale, breathed hard on a hoverbed. She looked worse with each day.

Labouring took a greater toll.

She screamed before the relieved laughter and a nurse placed their child in her arms.

Warrick relinquished the papers and nodded.
The nurse reclaimed the newborn.

His wife turned her head to him, eyes trained on their child, “Warrick? What’ve you done?”

Men guided the hoverbed to a cryo-chamber.

She screamed, “No! I want my baby!”

Warrick steeled himself, muttering, “should’ve had the treatments.” He left the child. “I’ll find a cure.”

###

Mentoring the Gaps by Roger Shipp

“Mr. Raycomb, you are needed in the office.”

Having just left the office, I wondered why I was needed to return.

“Come on in. Push the door shut.”

I do so. With stomach and thoughts intermingling… I’m wondering why the sudden closed door conference with our new principal.

“Steven’s mother is on the phone. She has asked, what I feel is a very unusual request.”

I gasp. I immediately know what has happened.

He presses speaker-phone.

“Hello, Ms. Jackson.” My faltering voice answers.

“I can’t tell him it’s returned. I won’t win this one. Will you tell him? Please!”

###

For Chris – The Rock by Susan Zutautas

I have a rock I keep upon my window ledge that is my connection to you
They were handed out at your funeral so we had something to hang onto
It sits in sunshine almost every day
I pray your pain has left and gone away
Young children should never die so young
Your life had just begun
You are and always will be Garth’s best friend
For the rest of eternity
We talk about you after all these years
Remembering your courage, showing no fear
Until we meet again one day

You are in our hearts Chris Jackson

###

The Yellow Rose of Kennedy by Deborah Lee

It feels subterranean inside the ruined cabin. Dust motes eddy in the beam of light fingering through the glassless window. This gold-panner’s squat has long been picked clean of souvenirs. Fine dirt like powder covers the floor. Smell of decay and old scat.

Outside again, he is brought up short. Growing hard against the cracked and weathered wood under the window is a vibrant green rosebush, blooms at once shy and defiant in this wilderness. Not wild; deliberate.

Who planted it? A woman, in a mining camp? A cultured forty-niner? That is the story he would like to hear.

###

Aunt Gloria by Geoff Le Pard

Rupert called, ‘She’s taken a turn for the worse. Her cancer is back.’

Mary dreaded visiting. Letting herself in, Gloria’s call was as usual cheery. But her face was grey. She saw Mary looking. ‘Cheekbones like Garbo. About time.’

Mary wept and felt guilty that it was Gloria comforting her. ‘Who will I talk to?’

‘Paul’s a rock. Rupert too…’

Mary shook her off.

‘God’s still here.’

‘I don’t believe in him anymore.’

Gloria put a hand on Mary’s stomach. ‘I’m here, every time you need me. Just talk, dear and we’ll be listening.’

‘I’ll try. Both of you.’

###

The Power of Science by Larry La Forge

Ed stared at the weathered concrete wall still standing behind the Science Hall patio. His mind drifted back nearly five decades.

A power outage had sent the class outside. Ed sat on the wall facing the professor. A cute coed plopped down next to Ed—it was the only spot left.

“This stuff’s impossible,” she said.

“Tell me about it,” Ed replied as he mimicked the current assignment: Calculate the magnetic flux density of a parallel plate capacitor when completely submerged in a homogeneous isotropic dielectric.

They agreed to try to figure it out together.

Her name was Edna.

###

New Friends by Ruth Irwin

First day at this school. She had been to many schools before, but not long enough to settle in and make friends. Small for her age, very thin, unkempt hair, stained ill-fitting clothes and battered shoes revealed that this six year old had been doing it tough. She remained aloof at recess, watching the other children as they played in already formed friendships. She wondered how long she might be at this school and if she would have friends. Then she saw an out-stretched hand and a smiling face saying “come and play with me”. How could she resist?

###

The Rock by Sarah Brentyn

“It’s cool that you don’t say stupid shit like ‘How do you feel about that’ or whatever.” She grabbed a grey rock from its shelf and examined it.

“Well,” he swiveled in his chair, “glad to hear that. But I do need you to talk to me.”

She turned the rock over in her hand, “Okay. I’ll talk. You have this like professional office with expensive leather couches and shit then there’s this ugly, little rock. Seems out of place.”

“It’s special.”

“Why?”

“My father gave it to me. He died last year. You think it’s ugly?”

“Not anymore.”

###

The Portal by Ann Edall-Robson

A welcome familiarity reached out as she stood in the doorway.

The aroma of coffee brewing and bacon frying coming from the old wood stove. The quiet murmur of voices around the kitchen table, interrupted by intermittent laughter.

Through the curtain-free window, the hand hewn log barn stands silhouetted against the early morning sky. A stoic soldier offering shelter and sanctuary while scrutinizing the activity beneath its massive structure.

There was no doubt within her soul. These old abandoned buildings were the portal to the inception of life. The premonitions would be answered. Finally, she had arrived home.

###

Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

Revenge fantasies kept me warm in bed. She’d lose her job; she’d crash her car; some thief would take her precious ring. The news infused my heart with joy. Let her learn how it feels to lose a husband.

The kids, though, mine and theirs, would lose a father.

I made a casserole, seasoned with rosemary, his all-time favourite. Thought I’d leave it on the doorstep, but the door opened before I could nip away. I took no pleasure from seeing her so unkempt. She opened her arms. We wept on each other’s shoulders. Soon we’d both be ex-wives.

###

River Ganges by Kalpana Solsi

And she tried desperately to hold his deliberate loosening grip, the diamond

ring slipped off and remained in his cupped palm, as she saw his sinister smile

before the foaming Ganges sucked the bride into the river-bed.

After the last rites, he sat, staring at the diamond ring.

Horror was largely writ on his face as he saw a hand with the wedding ring,

rising above the rapid Ganges water-current. His feet gave away as he

couldn’t resist her strong grip dragging him.

“In life and in death together”, the wedding vow, he remembered.

A watery grave they had.

###

A Chink in Her Armor by Sarah Unsicker

“We are concerned, Mama,” Kate said. “You spend too much time alone. I found a widow’s support group that might help you …”

“I don’t need a support group,” Cecilia said.

“You need friends.”

“John’s been gone too long. My pain is stale.”

“Pain doesn’t go stale, Mama. It fades away, and yours hasn’t.”

Cecilia sighed dramatically. “I’m going up to bed. You know where the door is to leave.”

Before she had time to answer, she heard the stairs squeak as her mother climbed up to her bedroom.

For the first time, Kate’s arrows had pierced Mama’s armor.

###

Indomitable by Pat Cummings

The racetrack surges with imperative: we must return. Each mile upstream also means climbing a body-length vertically, darting past the rocks, and the other racers. Our run has the ultimate prize, but there is no call to win. There is only the urgent invitation of the water upstream.

Closer and closer we come to the finish. Suddenly the water almost disappears. The final lap is a tight tunnel, already full of racers. Has someone already won?

No, there is one more obstacle, a leap to a tighter passage. I alone make it home, one salmon of thousands hatched here.

###

The Rock by Charli Mills

A contact rock. Yin and yang. Feldspar and…?

Ramona frowned, retrieving the smooth river rock from beneath a wild rosebush in the west pasture. It felt heavy, familiar. She closed her eyes, willing recollection. Running water. Yes! She and Vic riding to the grotto, up the creek, metallic horse-shoes clanging on rocks this size. Vic, off his horse, reaching elbow deep into the water.

“Look, Ro, a contact rock.”

Her eyes fluttered open. Why did her memories have holes? She cradled the rock to her chest, willing herself to remember the twins. This rock was connected to them somehow.

###

Bugle Boy by Pete Fanning

They found his bugle amongst the bodies. A few of the survivors recounted of how fourteen-year-old Eli had charged right into the line of fire and dragged three soldiers to safety, only to return and man the cannon as confederates advanced on his position.

When Eli awoke his chest ached. Nearby, a soldier screamed out in agony. He watched through blurry eyes as a bandaged Colonel limped over and laid his mangled bugle beside what was left of his family’s songbook. Eli grimaced, studying the musket ball embedded in its pages.

Those rebels were going to pay for that.

###

Ministering by Paula Moyer

“Thou art Peter … upon this rock I will build my church.” When Jean heard these words – like most Baptists – she remembered what Simon did that caused Jesus to rename him: he declared his faith.

The rock was more than Peter.

Now Jean sat in her house with her little kids, five days after her husband had moved out.

The phone rang. “Jean, it’s Lynn.” Her cousin, a rock in her own right. “I’m here for you.”

Thirty minutes on the phone.

Lynn showed her faith by enacting a passage from a letter of Paul’s: Bear one another’s burdens.

###

May 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

May 13On a warm May evening, we sat around a glass-top patio table, and looked at rocks. Two budding geologists had reduced Wyoming’s cache of minerals by several buckets. They displayed the best of their month-long field study, and I was as eager as a child watching a parade.

My eyes flitted from a large quartz crystal face to a pile of fossilized dinosaur bones to three geodes that looked like caveman golf balls of sandy stone. It was my birthday and the following day one geology student was to marry the other  — my daughter and the son of Rough Writer, Paula Moyer.

Below the deck on a trampoline, my other daughter bounced a series of unending back handsprings. My future son-in-law explained to my son the forces that created the slickened granite that he held; a chunk of rock that had a polished edge of mottled black and green like petrified snakeskin. My daughter pointed out garnet crystals to me in a chunk of granite with large pink feldspar crystals.

I’m rock crazy, and that evening, nearly six years ago was transcendent.

How was I to know that the three young children who followed me through Montana creek beds and mountainsides would all grow up connected to that experience? My eldest is a trained geologist and environmental journalist; my middlest is a rock climber and white-water rafter; and my youngest is a cross-country runner. All are outdoors enthusiasts.

Hunting rocks outdoors still thrills me, and you can follow my latest rock adventure at “What’s This?” on Elmira Pond Spotter.

Rocks are grounding. After all, they form the foundation of the world upon which we live. We use rock to build, crystals to communicate and metals as currency. The Bible even has 59 verses about God, the Rock — And they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer (Psalm 78:35).

When we are in hard places, we often seek to find connection. I find mine outdoors, sitting upon a rock in the middle of a creek beneath the sun. Some might focus on the water; others meditate; and like me, many find peace in knowing God.

My best friend, my sister of the heart, my muddy buddy is in a hard place.

Let me tell you about Kate. We met our first day of classes at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. We were both “older than average” students with the same flaky adviser who didn’t even show up that day, which put us both in a pickle. We connected immediately, muddy buddies crafted from the same layer of clay. And so did our kids. Her two teens became role models to my three grammar-school aged children. We shared holidays, frustrations and life’s joys.

Kate and I were both writing majors and we set the English Department on its ear with our combined curiosity and enthusiasm. Some professors joked that they would have to split us up in class. Could we help that we actually loved to write and found medieval literature fascinating? We were the only two students from our department to each write an honors thesis.

Like slickened granite, we were a force of nature.

Our paths parted physically after graduation. Kate stayed in Montana and I moved to the Midwest. Hard times. I dreamed of the day I could move back and I relished each visit we had. Finally, I did move back, though I overshot Helena by six hours.

Kate has had hard times that would rock most people to their core. In the midst of living as full-time caretaker to both aging parents with dementia and working as an English teacher for a Catholic school, she developed cancer. Life spiraled. Hard times took her through losing first her father, then her mother. After kicking cancer it came back. She kicked it again.

Six weeks ago Kate was hospitalized. This time the cancer is aggressive and prevents her from eating. While I’m out here in Elmira lighting up the barbeque, my my muddy buddy is subsisting on ice chips, Popsicles and IV fluid. You’d think my friend would be crushed in the hardest place of all — facing death.

Yet Kate has a great gift. Faith. Her faith is unshakeable built on the Rock, and she leads her loved ones down this path. She wrote to us last night, and she was the comforter. She’s unafraid and beautiful in her faith. My son responded that she was brave and that he loved her. She wrote in return, “Love you too. How brave is it to let God be in charge? The ultimate prayer is ‘Jesus I trust in you.'”

Her hard place; her rock.

I stare at my granites and crystals and ponder what this all means. My connection to my friend feels stronger than ever. To be connected is to be certain that things happen for a reason. We were certain to become heart-friends. Connection is the May theme for #1000 Voices Speak. While bloggers around the world will write out its meaning, my friend is living her final days in the ultimate connection to a higher power, a higher purpose.

Hard places shape what is next. In the grotto at Grouse Creek, my geologists showed me a flow of quartz that pushed up through basalt. I witness where basalt once bent to liquified quartz and created an s-curve. Forces more powerful than the trivial control we have in life.

Perhaps we are not meant to live in control, but in connection.

May 13, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows a hard place and a connection. It could be a prisoner who discovers friendship; a cedar that grows from a crack in a cliff; an abandoned dog rescued by a homeless teen. Maybe it is a reconciliation or connecting with students during a turbulent time. Is the hard place part of something larger in the scope of a character’s development? Or is it a plot twist?

Respond by May 19, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

The Rock by Charli Mills

A contact rock. Yin and yang. Feldspar and…?

Ramona frowned, retrieving the smooth river rock from beneath a wild rosebush in the west pasture. It felt heavy, familiar. She closed her eyes, willing recollection. Running water. Yes! She and Vic riding to the grotto, up the creek, metallic horse-shoes clanging on rocks this size. Vic, off his horse, reaching elbow deep into the water.

“Look, Ro, a contact rock.”

Her eyes fluttered open. Why did her memories have holes? She cradled the rock to her chest, willing herself to remember the twins. This rock was connected to them somehow.

###

Nurturing Neighbors

Old NeighborsA person who lives near another is a neighbor. The word evokes closeness beyond proximity and can have a friendly feel to it. This week, writers explored what it is to nurture neighbors as part of the nurturing theme for #1000 Speak for Compassion, which is itself a growing neighborhood of bloggers around the globe. Social media can make us feel as though we live next door.

Earth Day is also on the minds of writers this week and we pause to wonder what kind of neighbors we humans are to other inhabitants on this shared earth. To nurture creation, to be stewards of the land, we can consider neighborly acts that make a difference.

Writers follow where the prompt leads. The following stories are based on the April 15, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about nurturing a neighborly relationship.

***

Sanctuary by Sherri Matthews

A loud thump shattered Carrie’s sleep.

Cold fear seized her racing heart as she swiped in panic at the bedside lamp, sending it crashing as her baby wailed into the darkness.

Carrie raced to his room as Bumble bolted across her feet, black tail spiked like a Christmas tree.

Damn cat…

Relief, like a hot bath, melted Carrie’s terror when, as she flipped the light switch, she saw a picture frame knocked to the floor.

Cuddling her baby in the soothing silence, Carrie breathed again.

It wasn’t gunshot; nobody was on their roof.

Safe at last, in their sanctuary.

###

Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

Another bloody parcel? Working from home, I’m their unpaid concierge? Answering the doorbell kills my concentration. Stomach rumbling, I peer into the cavern of the fridge.

No time to trek to the shops for something healthy. Scarfing crisps and biscuits, I stare out the kitchen window. Must ask the neighbours to cut that tree back: it’s encroaching on my patch.

Funny, I never wondered what kind of tree. Now’s my chance to take a closer look. Reckon I’ll take a bowl with me, a big one. There’s plums and pears beyond and strawberries. Perfect for a nutritious fruit salad.

###

Unproductive Progression by Rebecca Patajac

The future had come. Endless chambers of cold lights and pre-fabricated possessions created a norm no one felt part of.

One small council of a great metallic city met.

“Daily accidents again,” reported a hard eyed man, “sicknesses, absences.”

“Lines can’t continue this way,” said a stiff lady, “we’ll hear from higher up soon.”

“No one’ll be excepted,” said a shaken, elderly male.

A young girl took a breath, “what if we asked people? Found out what they need? What’ll help them be happy?”

The council members fell back in their chairs; it can’t be that easy. . .can it?

###

Vanda’s Vision by Taly Pendragon

“Wow, this vision of yours is pretty special, isn’t it?” Brian soothed as they walked back across the precincts of Glastonbury’s ruined abbey. “Would you tell me about it?”

Vanda continued: “It’ll be a visitor attraction. One where visitors will experience how a medieval monastery worked on a day-to-day basis, and feel how it was to live the experience. But so much more … a centre of learning, for all ages … archaeology, history, and spirituality. We’ll give people the understanding of it all, while all the time entertaining them beyond their wildest dreams, and rekindling a real community.

###

New Neighbors by Sarah Unsicker

“Welcome to the neighborhood,” Cecilia said as she handed a plate of fresh chocolate-chip cookies to the woman supervising the furniture movers.

“Howdy,” the woman said. “I’m Mary. You can see my renegade children, Gracie and David.”

Cecilia was taken aback when she noticed David. He had black hair, like Carlos, and was the same age as Carlos had been when he—

Choking back tears, Cecilia answered, “You’re not— not from around here, are you?”

Mary looked at Cecilia, and her eyes softened. “The house is a mess, but would you like to come in for some coffee?”

###

A Finite time for Nurturing by Irene Waters

She gave birth to me,

suckled and fed me

Taught me my manners

Raising me

the ten commandments

to heed.

She mothered

She nurtured me.

I felt safe and warm

my tummy was full

I was encouraged

My learning fostered

and my interest fuelled

in that about me

She mothered

She nurtured me.

That was then.

Now I am older

She needs to let go

Allow mistakes to be made

Stop rescuing

Not stop caring

But release me

to be the adult

I was raised to be.

Nurture belongs to the young

Don’t smother me

Let me be free

The final

selfless Act

of Nurture

Is to let my child go.

###

Cracking Up by Sarah Brentyn

“Hi, there. Can I borrow some eggs?”

“Um. Sure, I guess. I…” Molly opened the door wider. The woman on her front porch stood a solid foot taller than Molly, who took a step back. “Um…how many do you need?”

“Whatever you’ve got,” she smiled and held her hand out. “I’m Louisa. Just moved in next door. I haven’t even unpacked the truck yet and that one,” she jerked her head toward the house across the street, “already complained about my lawn, insulted my garden, and yelled at my dog. I’m egging her house.”

Molly grinned. “Please, come in.”

###

The Caravan by Norah Colvin

Children waited anxiously at windows and front garden fences.

Mothers and fathers hurried to complete the last of their chores.

Others, already at the park, were unable to wait.

Ears strained, listening for music signalling, “It’s time!

Suddenly “Girls and boys come out to play!” announced the arrival of the brightly painted caravan.

“Come on!” urged children, tugging at skirts, trousers and hairy legs.

“Come on!” chimed parents, downing cloths and brooms. Clasping small hands they whisked them out.

Everyone watched as the doors of the caravan opened; ready for fun: stories, games and much to explore!

###

Better Than Par by Geoff Le Pard

Mary didn’t know where to start restoring her parents’ garden, now the police had finished. There were the terracotta edging pieces for the flowerbeds, the plants and turfs, roughly stacked in a corner. The police hadn’t said anything about helping. And now Paul had gone away on business.

‘Hi. Mary?’

Just what she didn’t need. Her half-brother. She could just make out his eyes, like an old-fashioned Chad, peering over the gate.

She pulled it open. Rupert stood back, grinning. “I told them at the golf club about the mess. They all admired dad so they said they’d help.”

###

Chipping in by Luccia Gray

‘Where are you taking that roast chicken and the cake you baked?’

‘Down to Dolores.’

‘Stop meddling. It’s none of your business.’

‘But he’s done it again.’

‘He’ll be back.’

‘Not this time. It’s been over two months.’

‘She’ll sort it out.’

‘How? She’s got three children under eight, and she’s unemployed.’

‘She can claim social security.’

‘She has. She gets 400 euros a month and she has four mouths to feed.’

‘Do you really think we can feed four more people?’

‘Just once every two weeks. It’s our turn today. The neighbours have all decided to chip in.’

###

The Ceremony by Urszula Humienik

I’d say the ceremony had begun as usual, but there was no usual anymore. We all met in the abandoned concert building we’d been working hard for several weeks to restore best we could. The heat was merciless to the wood, but the paint made it look almost new. When Daniel and the rest of our neighbors arrived, the ceremony began.

Alan, our next door neighbor, got up on stage and spoke. “Welcome to our new community center. This is where anyone can come for advice and support, where we will divvy rations, and we will meet every week.”

###

Ivor Oaks by Ann Edall-Robson

The old schoolhouse located at the edge of the hamlet of Ivor Oaks was surrounded by oak trees and grain fields.

The windows in the building had been boarded up to protect the flawless six-square glass frames. The walls were solid and the roof had the look of a well loved patchwork quilt. The light from the open door revealed the smooth, well worn, original wooden floor.

Restoration funds had been procured. At the project’s completion, the Ivor Oaks Art and Cultural Retreat would be nurtured into a sanctuary for artisans to gather together to create and inspire.

###

Nurture Thyself by Ruchira Khanna

Ann jumped into the train. She could squeeze herself partially through the door, and that alarmed her co-passenger. Was about to pull the chain, but instead she shouted, “I have a 9am crucial meeting. Let the train go on!”

She would always be coaxing herself to go on, strive for the best!

Until one day, her body collapsed on the road.

She was in the hospital, and while the doctors and the medicines helped recuperate her organic structure, she chose to meditate and chant while nourishing her soul that was bruised by her continuous vexations, and negative stimulus.

###

Roses by A.R. Amore

Stooped in the garden, mulching the fourth rose bush, an elderly woman appears outside my wrought iron fence. “Excuse me,” she says. “May I have a rose?” Looking up, I tell her absolutely and cut several red blooms, shearing off the thorns then handing them to her. “My father planted those,” she attests, “after he built this place in 1918.” She clutches the roses close to her nose, inhaling and then shuffles out of sight. Her daughter arrives, breathless having just run around the corner. “Mom, wait,” she yells. “You found the house.” Still kneeling, I offer another rose.

###

The Friendship Time Couldn’t Break by Sacha Black

I hated conferences. Too many people, too much small talk. I leant against the wall headphones in, hoping for peace.

Our song was playing in my ears, a reminder of tarnished memories, a friendship lost. We were both wrong. Both proud.

“Sacha,” she waved, icy recognition flooded my body.

I froze. I’d been the one to hold out an olive branch. She’d snapped it.

But it was a friendship time couldn’t damage. If I put my arm out, I had to forgive. Forget. Nurture the friendship back.

Sometimes the universe brings you together for a reason.

“Shell…” I smiled.

###

Cage Free Kids by Pete Fanning

They ran along the creek, a twig snapping gust of pants and giggles bound for the nearest refrigerator. Jacob led the way, lurching to a stop when he saw the police car. Mrs. Morton, his new neighbor, jabbed a finger at the boys. The officer waved them over.

“Where are your parents?”

They stood heaving, their mud-speckled legs tattooed with briar whelps and mosquito bites. Jacob finally piped up.

“At home.”

“What are you kids doing out all alone?” Mrs. Morton asked. Jacob glanced at Tyler, then to Keon, whose water-logged shoes left dark imprints on the asphalt.

“Playing.”

###

Save the Park by Susan Zutautas

Martha, I hear they want to remove the children’s park down the street and build some fancy hi-fluting high rise in its place.

But they just put in that new pool for the kids last summer and upgraded the play equipment. What a waste of good money!

I’m sure that I read somewhere that that park always had to stay a park. I’m going to investigate this.

Ha! Looky here, it states that William Right donated this as park land with the stipulation that it would always remain a park. I’m going to put a stop to their plans!

###

Jimmy by Larry LaForge

Edna smiles every time Jimmy calls her husband “Mr. Ed.” It reminds her of a talking horse on television.

As a youngster growing up next door, Jimmy was constantly in Ed’s garage. Ed helped keep Jimmy’s bicycle in top shape. Chain, brake pads, tires, handle bars—all monitored and adjusted.

As the years passed, the caring continued—with the roles reversed.

Jimmy inherited his family home and is still constantly in Ed’s garage.

Jimmy wipes his greasy hands after tuning up Ed’s aging Chevrolet. “That should do it, Mr. Ed.”

Edna chuckles as she rocks on the back porch.

###

Neighborly Garden by Marigold Deidre Dicer

It was the first summer she’d noticed the little garden hadn’t been tended. The flowers were still managing, but the ground was cracked and the leaves had begun to dry. It was always a highlight on her walk, and she’d always wondered who tended to the strangely well-kept garden that sat outside the old apartment block.

So the next day, she came back with a watering can. The day after, someone had tipped fresh soil around the flowers, but it hadn’t seemed properly tilled. She smiled and came back with trowel and fork to finish what her neighbour started.

###

Pacing Polly by Paula Moyer

Jean saw her in the store every Friday. “Pacing Polly.” Skinny, gorgeous white hair, she paced the aisles, yelling to someone no one else saw.

But Polly had good days. So Jean held out hope and greeted Polly every Friday. Most of the time, “hello” got a glare back, more pacing.

Then one day.

“I need some objectivity.” The voice from behind startled Jean. Polly’s eyes were blue and lucid. “I got this as a gift.” A wrap-throw combo. “What’s it for?”

Jean explained. Polly flashed a radiant smile.

Next Friday, Polly paced. Jean hoped for another good day.

###

Welcome to the West by Charli Mills

Viola graduated from normal school in Wisconsin, class of 1909. She assisted a teacher her father knew back home. Most of her students were children of neighbors she grew up with. Viola craved something more wild. Her father winked, though her mother fussed when she announced her appointment out west.

A strong wind battered the train as it pulled up to a remote rough-hewn platform. Whistles blew and Viola stepped off to face strangers. A man approached her, doffed his hat and introduced her to the small crowd gathered.

“Howdy, Neighbors! Welcome our new schoolteacher!”

They smiled and cheered.

###

A Visitor on the Verandah by Jeanne Lombardo

The first arrived, a slip of night on the verandah. A sunset flash of carp trembled between sharp teeth, then disappeared. “Meeer,” he said.

At first he lived outside, lapping his milk among the morning glories and cyclamen. When the wine-colored maple leaves spiraled down, she let him in.

Through the winter, she loved him.

In spring, three others appeared.

In summer, the end came.

“You’ll have to get rid of the cats,” the university president’s secretary said. “It’s Sensei’s koi pond . . . ”

And she’d thought herself lucky to get that apartment overlooking President Nonaka’s garden.

###

March 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

March 25As we drive to Spokane at 4 in the morning, all is dark. My job as side-seat driver is to scan the narrow shoulders between forest and pavement for eyes — often the only warning before a deer, elk or moose dashes onto the road. As the black sky turns purple, I can distinguish tall pines from the darkness. They look like construction paper cut-outs against the illuminating horizon. I’m no longer searching for eyes, caught up in this wonder of early morning twilight.

We arrive ahead of schedule to the VA clinic in Spokane. It’s one of many buildings on a large medical campus for veterans of US military. The Hub had test results that require more tests. While grateful that he’s finally getting the benefits he earned in service to his country, I grumble mentally over modern medicine in general. In my estimation, it relies too much on technology and disregards common sense and simple solutions. Regardless, his job won’t let him drive until he is fully diagnosed and under the care of a physician.

But like many doors we’ve encountered since seeking this medical care, the VA clinic door is locked. The interior is as dark as a 4 a.m. forest. “Coffee?” I ask.

What else can we do at this early hour in the city.

Starbucks is a familiar sight. Having spread from Seattle across the globe like an infectious disease, one can always find early morning coffee. Inside the smell of pungent brew dominates. Pastries line a lit counter case, promising of sweet tastes. Hip music and smiling baristas add to the vibe. I can almost drink coffee without thinking of birds.

Birds and coffee are my usual mornings now that rainy spring has arrived. I have at least three sets of binoculars set in key places. Upstairs I keep the best ones at the window by my desk. It overlooks Elmira Pond where March Madness has taken hold. Birding has taught me much about observation. For the past three weeks I’ve crafted a March Madness series, sharing in writing what I’ve learned about the birds.

At Starbucks I stare across the rim of my cup at a strip-mall parking lot. It looks empty, yet often I look at Elmira Pond and it looks empty, too. Parking lots and ponds can speak to us about emptiness. Why is that? Or is it simply a mark of a writer, someone who observes and derives meaning from the mundane?

Goodness, give a writer something meatier than an empty parking lot like a movement of other writers and the world comes alive as if it were a tent-revival. It’s a special dynamic when writers collide in the universe — I’m convinced it makes creative particles jump and jive like unseen dark matter that makes up everything we do see. No wonder the weekly compilations take on greater depth once knitted together, or that #1000Speak would become a force like wind.

Thus connecting a compilation to a monthly movement can move literary creativity through a conduit of meaning. Once a month we will take part in this greater experience with a prompt that supports bloggers on a mission to speak compassion. If you are a blogger interested in upcoming prompt ideas for #1000Speak’s April theme of nurturing, see the list here. If you are a writer without a blog, but want to participate, email the organizers with your story before April 20, 2015: 1000Speak@gmail.com.

Next month, you can expect Carrot Ranch writing prompts that will also support the nurturing of nature as we approach Earth Day (April 22). Which brings me back to parking lots and ponds. It’s like a juxtaposition, to compare concrete to organic matter, and deduce meaning from the intersection. So that is where we will go.

March 25, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include a juxtaposition between the ordinary and natural worlds. It can be civilization and nature; an edifice and a nest or cave; a human act and a natural occurrence; acculturation and adaptation. Compare or contrast as the prompt leads you to write.

Respond by March 31, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

I’ll be heading to LABinderCon on Friday, coming home on Monday. I think my internet will be better in California — with the recent problems I’ve had with my satellite provider, smoke signals would be better. Just in case, know that I’m traveling if I’m not responsive over the weekend. I expect to return with a head full of learning to sort and share, and perhaps know what my next Rodeo Ride will be like.

***

Making Friends by Charli Mills

Jenny’s back ached after a night of boiling moose meat, potatoes and rutabagas. She used lard to make rich gravy and flaky crust like her mam did for the copper miners back in Michigan.

Mona Gigliotti stopped by her cabin, pointing at linen-wrapped stacks. “Cosa!”

Her parents’ native Cornish faded in memory, but Jenny now recognized Italian. “Pasties.”

She stepped outside and watched an agile king bird fetch an insect midair and share it with others perched on budding dogwood. Like this bird, she would feed new friends in the Idaho wilderness where her Italian husband planted steel rails.

###

Circling the Bullies

Circling the BulliesWe know what it is to get the treatment from a bully. The urge is to give it back in kind. Bullying begets more bullying. Until we circle the bullies and choose to do something different.

This week, in preparation for #1000 Speak Building for Bullies blog event on March 20, writers have crafted stories that show  a different approach to bullies. Characters build up from their encounters. Whatever the act, it breaks the silence. And silence breaks the cycle.

The following stories are based on the March 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the bully mentality countered with a different, unexpected or kind action. Follow the compassion movement on Twitter or Facebook. #1000 Speak. And our voices make a difference.

Internal Monster by Rebecca Patajac

Her hands shook as new friends welcomed them inside. How would they take her? Life before her partner used to mean refusing these invites; too scared to take risks.

They sat together. She stared at her dinner. Everyone laughed at his jokes as he kept her safe from attention, helped her relax.

She started contributing, a word here, comment there.

“He always forgets things, he’s male,” she said smiling, glancing at him.

The light in his eyes faded.

Her stomach felt sick.

“But I do too,” she added, kissing him tenderly to fend off her hated negativities of old.

###

Bystanders by Pete Fanning

“Hey Oreo Cookie!”

They lined the school hallway, cat-calling and pointing. She walked between the lockers—between them. Too white for her black classmates, too exotic for her white ones. Her gaze hardened. She cursed her olive skin. Her green eyes. Her frizzy, untamed hair.

“Beautiful! Oh just look at those features!”

She hit the runway, a shield of apathy guarding her steps. They marveled at her staggering beauty. They sold eye contacts and hair products to mimic her look. She was a natural, with no formal training. She just knew how to set her eyes above the crowd.

###

Blood Will Out by Geoff Le Pard

‘Have the police told you?’

‘Yes Rupert. They have interviewed me…’

‘So why not tell me? Christ Mary, our father wasn’t some religious nutter.’

‘I know, but they…’

‘They said you called them, that you found the body?’

‘Yes. We were preparing for the sale…’

‘And no word to me? Dumping me in it like this? They pulled me out at work, you know?’

‘I’m sorry.’ Mary squeezed her eyes shut. She didn’t need Rupert’s hectoring. ‘Why not come round? We can decide what to do.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘He was our father. That makes us family, doesn’t it?’

###

The Video by Larry LaForge

The kid climbed the steps of Precinct 14, opened the oversized metal door, and approached the front desk officer. “I’m here to turn myself in.”

“Huh?” the cop replied, scratching his bald head. The kid extended his trembling arms, hands together, waiting for the handcuffs.

The cop froze.

“I didn’t know,” the kid said. “I thought it was just fun. Then they showed the video.”

“What?”

“In kindergarten class today.” The kid sobbed. “The bullying video.”

“Huh?”

“I’m real sorry. I didn’t know it could hurt people. When I get released I”ll never do it again. Ever. I promise.”

*****
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.

###

Consider the Source by Pat Cummings

Each time around the park’s dance-floor, passing the crowd of snickering guys standing outside the railed edge, my neck got redder. Whenever my partner and I passed one particularly loud heckler, he would holler,

“You can’t dance, fatty! Get off the floor!”

Dub and Rose, the eighty-something stars of the Disneyland dance floor, made a point of sitting with us when we finally left the floor, shoulders drooping. I have never forgotten his words:

“Keep one thing in mind when you hear criticism like that. YOU are dancing in public, enjoying yourself with a wonderful partner. THEY don’t dare.”

###

Velma’s Requital by Charli Mills

Students thronged the hallway tight as Kokanee. Velma pressed a path to her locker covered with sticky-notes.

“Velly has a HUGE belly!”

“Go back to the rez!”

She plucked each note, words stinging like bee bites the long bus ride home to her reservation.

Mother was cooking beans. Grandmother hunched on the floor, shelling pine nuts, and Velma snuggled against her. No words were spoken, just the aromas of home and fellowship of family. She decided what to do. She’d show them.

The next day with a hall pass, Velma fastened a sticky-note on every locker.

“You are loved.”

###

Once A Politician Always A Politician By Sacha Black

Had I become what I hated? All for an election?

I gazed at the broken body of my opposition, on the floor beneath me. A trickled of red oozed from his whimpering mouth. I smiled.

“I win, Franklin. Fair and square.”

Tugging at my leg drew my attention away from the floored politician. Golden locks and porcelain skin were frowning at me.

“You’re a bully, Mister. A mean old bully.”

“No. No.” I said frantically shaking my head, “You don’t understand little girl, he’s a cheater.”

“Didn’t your mummy ever tell you? Two wrongs don’t make a right, Mister.”

###

She’s Got Style by Ula Humienik

“She’s so pretty. If only she’d lose a few dozen pounds.”

“This store doesn’t sell clothes for people like you.”

“She’s hungry AGAIN? You’d think she wouldn’t have to eat for days with all that fat.”

Emily wore the blood orange curve hugging dress despite what anyone said, and she felt gorgeous. She ate as much chicken Alfredo as she wanted at the party, even though she noticed the stares and heard the sighs. She went to the bathroom to check her makeup, fixed her lipstick, gave herself a toothy smile, and said, “You are beautiful. You are loved.”

###

Appreciating Self-Deprecation by Roger Shipp

It was no secret.

Everyone knew.

It’s just they thought it was funny.

“Whoops… I spilled some water on my new blouse.”

“Whoops… I there’s some lint on the shoulder of my sweater.”

All because I had stumbled while leaving the auditorium and fell into his arms: Lance, our star quarterback. He had caught me. The room had gone quiet. And all I could think of to say was “Whoops…”

The basketball players were the worst.

Tonight’s game against Lincoln High could change everything.

I continued to type the headline for the lead story. “Whoops… Lincoln Falls in 2OT.”

###

In the Cafeteria...by Ruchira Khanna

Katie tripped over a foot in the cafeteria that made the contents of the tray fly all over the place.

That led to angry faces, rude remarks and loud shouts from students that became a victim to the droplets and particles of food over them.

Harry sneered over the scenario while bringing his feet together as he attempted to wipe a drop off his sleeve.

Katie was quick to get up wipe herself and the particles of food around her ex-boyfriend who was responsible for this act. His color changed from red to white after her selfless act.

###

Not Funny at All! by Norah Colvin

Jasmine and Georgie rushed towards the cluster of children who were laughing hysterically at something unseen. They expected to see an entertainer performing magic tricks. Instead they saw Marnie, face down in a puddle, reaching for her unicorn; sobbing.

“Good one, Brucie!” Two boys high-5ed. Another called, “Way to go!”

The children stood transfixed by the spectacle. Jasmine pushed through. She picked up the muddied unicorn, stretched out a hand to help Marnie up, then put an arm around her waist,

As she led Marnie away Jasmine glared at the group of disbelieving faces.

“Shame on you,” she mouthed.

###

Look at That Stupid Girl by Tally Pendragon

It was like a heat-seeking missile searching out its opportunity, calling in all the attributes of hatred in its wake. She couldn’t be sure if The Woman understood the alchemical process that was happening inside of her, was aware of this hostility and was consciously driving it, or if it was controlling her. Vanda could feel it pulling Silver in ways that must surely be hard for her to ignore, and she certainly didn’t want to give The Hostility any more reason to turn its enmity in her own direction than she already had. She just smiled, sweetly.

###

Flash Fiction by Irene Waters

“I’m sick. I can’t go to school.”

“You have to Charles. This is the third time this week.”

“No. I’ve got a tummy ache.”

“Okay.” They heard him banging on the drums as they left.

“He’s behind with his school work, he doesn’t mix”

“He’s being bullied.”

“Leave it with me.”

“I’ve heard Imagine Dragons will be at assembly today.” The words and excitement buzzed around the playground and the hall filled quicker than normal.

“Charles Smith please come up and help Andrew out.” said Dan Reynolds.

A hush settled. Charles smiled. The children smiled back, at their hero.

###

Flash Fiction by Luccia Gray

“What’s this?”

“It’s apple pie. Don’t you like it?”

“I like the chocolate cake your mum makes,” she shouted gobbling it up. “Bring some tomorrow, or I’ll kick you again till your legs turn purple.”

“She’s working double shifts this week, so she hasn’t got any time to cook.”

“Make it yourself.”

“I’m not allowed to cook when mum’s not at home.”

“Find a way if you know what’s good for you,” she warned.

The following day, I watched her swallow greedily and whispered, “I won’t tell anyone what exactly you just ate if you stop bullying me. Deal?”

###

The Bully and Quick Thinking by Susan Zutautas

Terrified to answer the door, I thought it might be Deb waiting to harass me. When I didn’t answer, she started calling, I know you’re in there; I just want to talk to you.

Maybe she’d had a change of heart, her voice sounded friendly. Reluctantly I let her in. What came next had me perspiring.

Following me into the kitchen she told me she had her mother’s gun on her and planned to use it on me.

Go ahead, My Dad just pulled into the driveway. Quickly out the back door she fled.

Dad was still at work.

###

Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

“This is gonna have to go!”

For weeks they’d loitered at the fringe of my plot, smirking and scowling at each new development. I’d dismissed their comments as gentle teasing, the old-timers’ traditional defence. Yet now I was back in the playground, the wrong kind of shoes on my feet.

Where I saw innovative recycling, they saw mountains of junk. “The judges will be here on Sunday. You’ve got five days to clear this mess.”

I tapped in the number as they marched off to their regimented gardens.

“The organic allotment award? You can come on Saturday? That’s great!”

###

March 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

March 11An old brick house sits on Amador Hill among twisting branches of old apple trees, overlooking preserved prairie of Minnesota’s St. Croix River valley. Inside that house is a large circle of mismatched rocking chairs in a large room by a fireplace — the remnants of hearth and home. Women typically were the keepers of hearth cooking and rocking chair councils. Even in modern cultures, women remain vulnerable to food inequities as child bearers and parents.

Just what is food inequity? It’s a lack of access to clean, fresh, healthful food. In urban centers, great numbers of people live in food deserts. Concrete covers the ground and corner gas stations sell candy bars, white bread, chips and soda. Food shelves stock what they are given — often discarded canned goods people clean out of their pantries once a year or day-old-donuts from suburban bakeries. Even if people donated garden tomatoes or kale, food shelves typically lack fresh food storage. And marginalized people often lack kitchen stoves, pots and pans.

Conversely, food justice is defined as:

“Food Justice is the right of all communities to produce, process, distribute, access and eat good food, regardless of race, class gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion or community.” ~F.R.E.E. Milwaukee

Thus the Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI) on Amador Hill focuses its mission of food justice on women, children and marginalized communities. It provides educational outreach to develop urban and rural food growing; environmental justice research when governments fail to do so; and an organic demonstration farm.  Its board gathers in those rocking chairs.

As I excitedly prepare for my own garden, I’ve had food and bullies on my mind. Not the school bully who twists arms to steal lunch money, but the city governments and developers who ignore the plight of those living in a food desert. Everyone should have access to growing food, whether it’s education on container gardening, organizing apartment rooftop gardens, establishing community gardens in vacant lots or helping rural families develop acreage for growing food.

And that connects us to the next upcoming #1000Speak for compassion blog events — “Building from Bullies.” After a successful launch of compassionate blogging on February 20, bloggers are asked to write about the anti-bullying theme on March 20.

As writers, we are vulnerable to cyber bullies. An advocate for food justice, historian and writer Michael W. Twitty, is even more vulnerable because he takes on topics that not everyone is open to discuss, such as the vital contributions of enslaved African Americans to southern cuisine. In a recent interview on MUNCHIES (if you are a foodie, this is a big deal kind of like getting a short story in The New Yorker) he brushed off the cyber bullies with humor and wit.

Micheal’s highroad attitude is at the heart of “Building from Bullies.” He gave me permission to post his Facebook status to show you the appalling bullying directed at him in the comments section of his MUNCHIES video story. Warning, rough language, but applicable to witnessing the power of his defiance by not engaging or succumbing to bullies:

“Never read the comments, but when you do…have a sense of humor and wit about you. The comments on the Munchies video are kinda predictable. One individual said “this guy needs to get his head out of his crack,” another said “this nigga done enslaved his refrigerator,” another, “he wears sunglasses inside?” “Is he blind?” “Yeah, that’s why he’s dressed as a clown.” My personal favorite was “nothing makes white people feel better than a Black person giving the ‘we’re all family speech rather than confronting white supremacy.” Not one novel criticism. Just behind the screen blather. 27,000 views though…..

Do I scare people that much? If so, I’m doing the right thing. One made reference to my cleavage….lol..fat Black gay Jewish guys with a purpose in life sure scare the hell out of people with pre-packaged identities and no ambition. I don’t care, I feel right in myself.”

That last phrase is where the building blocks are made: “I feel right in myself.” To build from bullies is to first accept what they cannot. You do not have to conform to bullies. You do not have to wear their hate, eat their wonderbread or be denied earth to plant seeds. Gather around the hearth in a circle of rocking chair solidarity and be one of those #1000Speak for compassion.

March 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the bully mentality countered with a different, unexpected or kind action. Bullies can be known or incognito; Goliaths or small-minded; in-person or online. Think of ways to unplug a bully’s power. Show characters with strength and dignity and even humor.

Respond by March 17, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

As writers, we know the power of words. I was inspired by a high school student who opposed a bully’s action and started a community movement. It reminded me of when my eldest slathered my house with sticky-notes during a low time in my life. Her words built me up. I thought back to high school when my Washo classmate was bullied so pitilessly. Yet she always smiled and shared Farley Mowat books with me.  She showed me what it was to be right with yourself.

***

Velma’s Requital by Charli Mills

Students thronged the hallway tight as Kokanee. Velma pressed a path to her locker covered with sticky-notes.

“Velly has a HUGE belly!”

“Go back to the rez!”

She plucked each note, words stinging like bee bites the long bus ride home to her reservation.

Mother was cooking beans. Grandmother hunched on the floor, shelling pine nuts, and Velma snuggled against her. No words were spoken, just the aromas of home and fellowship of family. She decided what to do. She’d show them.

The next day with a hall pass, Velma fastened a sticky-note on every locker.

“You are loved.”

###

 

Feeling Good

Feeling GoodWriters all having fun, you know what I mean. A reprieve in traffic — you know how I feel. Holding hands, letting go, friendships, games, gentle love — you know how I feel. It’s all about feeling good.

After the inaugural #1000Speak for Compassion it feels appropriate to feel good. It’s a new line, a new page.

This week, writers responded to the February 18, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about feeling good. A variety of posts and stories rolled in to lift up our spirits and dance to the likes of Michael Bublè and Ella Fitzgerald.

***

Feeling Good by Sherri Matthews

He reached across the dining table, taking her hands tenderly in his.

“I know you have a lot of healing to do, but if you want to meet again, I’ll be waiting.”

Her heart raced even as the warmth of his gentle touch gave calm.

Then she panicked.

“I…I think I better go now…the kids will be waiting…”

He waved her off from the car park as she tore away into the night, leaving him in dust.

I’ll never see her again…

Two years later, he held her hands once more as she beamed and he said, “I do”.

###

A Reprieve by Jeanne Lombardo

Rotten shits. She hated this city. Hated all the assholes rushing about on their shallow, pathetic pursuits. All the monumentally self-absorbed fakes she had to serve at work. That coifed woman today, stinking of Chanel, so worried about that one wilted leaf of lettuce, then the temperature of her lobster bisque. She should get out. Now, before she died in some pile-up on this god-forsaken freeway. “Let me in you bastards!” she screamed from the on ramp. “Arrgghhh, you sonsabitches!” Oh, what’s that? A break. A woman in a Mercedes waving her in. Smiling at her. God in heaven.

###

Today by Luccia Gray

“Mum, I’m doing a survey for a school project on happiness.”

“Sounds like fun!”

“Which was the happiest day in your life?”

“It’s hard to pinpoint one. What’s the next question?”

“That’s the only question.”

“I could say my graduation, my wedding day, my first day at work, the day you were born, your last birthday, when all the family got together, the long summer holidays at your grandmother’s…. so many days.”

“So, which one, mum?”

“Today. Definitely today.”

“Why today?”

“Because I’ve just recalled and relived all those wonderful days, and there are so many more to come.”

###

I Feel Good! by Norah Colvin

She stood at the door for one final glance. Not much had changed, but it felt, oh, so different. They were gone. Gone!

Almost twenty years had passed since she’d stood in this spot; since she’d fled their cruel ways. Twenty years of dodging shadows, double-locking doors, and fearing the phone’s ring.

But no more. They were gone. Gone! And for more than five years! Five years to track her down! All that remained was the house. She’d sell of course.

With the door closed behind her she almost skipped down the stairs, her heart singing, “I feel good!”

###

Just a Game! by Ruchira Khanna

Sounds of loud groan, grunt, grumble and sighs were heard followed by a loud cry from the next cubicle. Curious Darci walked across with the intention to help but had mixed feelings when the person in that booth removed his headphones and had his head on the desk.

“Are you alright?” inquired Darci with apprehension.

“My favorite team lost the match, and I am just not used to losing.” he said with his head propped up.

That statement made her laugh like crazy as she uttered, “It is just a game, and you were not even playing. Lighten up!”

###

Glorious Gloria by Geoff Le Pard

‘How did it go?’

Mary sat still, a grin slipping unbidden across her face. ‘Gloria made me feel lighter, you know?’

Paul nodded. ‘Did you learn much?’

‘No. But I don’t mind. I think, even if those bones are my twin… well let’s see.’

Paul let her speak in her own time.

‘No one knows if she’s alive. I believe Rupert. Dad’s diaries don’t mention her, only me. It looks like Mum knew who my birth mother was, though not Dad’s… affair.’

‘Can we bottle Gloria?’

Mary hugged her husband. ‘From here on, I just need you and Penny.’

###

Thanksgiving 1995 by Phil Guida

2600 miles of lost causes left behind him. Not looking for happiness through others any longer, a totally new environment, a chance to re-start his life anew was just a hopeful dream. It was a roll of the dice if this move would even workout; an escape from the turmoil more than anything else.

An invitation to a festive holiday changed all of those feelings. Surrounded by a family of strangers, dinner was served. A no meat Thanksgiving was a meal he never experienced before, nor was the act of falling in Love with the hostess of the invite.

###

Invincible by Rebecca Patajac

Mind cycling through the daily routine, I slowly slide off the bed. I waddle around with my swollen belly, pain erupting from inconveniently placed baby kicks.

I feed the animals, step back inside, breathe. Head spins from standing too long washing dishes. Turn on washing machine, more pain; crouch down, turn, bend, breathe.
I waddle up the stairs. Panting at the top, I head toward the girls’ room.

“Good-morning Mum-mum!” my three year old squeaks, “cuddle please!”

I embrace her.

She nuzzles into my chest “I love you thousands and millions!”
My heart swells and I feel invincible again.

###

One a Day by Larry LaForge

Miller looks at his watch. The unusually hectic day has had him swamped at his desk. He hasn’t had his opportunity yet, but knows to be patient. It will happen.

Some days it comes easily. Yesterday it was on the morning train commute. The day before it was in the restaurant at lunch. Sunday it was in the supermarket parking lot.

It has to be spontaneous and genuine. It can’t be forced.

Miller has committed to it every single day. He never misses, and it always finds him.

When it does, he’ll seize the opportunity to brighten someone’s day.

*****
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.

###

Life’s Good by Irene Waters

“The operation was successful. We expect a full recovery.” The doctor said. She left happy.

“Knowing your Mum will be okay I can’t wait. I love you so much. Will you marry me?” She nodded, her heart filled to overflowing with love and joy.

Blissfully reflecting on her day, she slowly became aware of her surroundings; tall trees with moss on their trunks, a view to the sea, soft grass. She was in heaven.

“Henry Miller” she said out loud, “according to you, now might be the time to die but life’s good and I choose to live.”

###

Hundred Year Cookbook by Sarah Unsicker

The cookbook cover was frayed and worn, but the binding had stayed intact over the years. The effort it took to read Grandmother’s script was well worth it as she felt the scratchy wool of Grandmother’s sweater and smelled the combination of baked chicken and nutmeg, the way this kitchen had smelled when she was a child. Add cinnamon! Grandmother had written in this sweet roll recipe. Cecilia remembered feasting on these rolls every Saturday of her childhood.

With the cookbook invoking so many fond memories, it was no wonder she loved to bake.

###

Feeling Good by Anne Goodwin

They laughed when I told of my desire; it was no surprise when you laughed too.

You claimed you were different, you claimed that you cared.

You prodded and cajoled me to dig deeper still. You absorbed all my words and left me only tears.

You cut me open; put my ugly wanting on display. Like an old-time fairground freak show, the butt of scorn.

You stared at it lovingly, never once averting your gaze. You named it beautiful, exciting, brave.

You helped me to touch it. I laughed, you laughed, we laughed in perfect harmony, brimming with joy.

###

Merlin Learns a New Way: Part II by Tally Pendragon

“On balance, I think I’ll stay,” I reply to this woman named Anna, who clearly knows who’s boss! I give her my real smile too, the one that says I’m glad she can cut through convention to what really matters. I don’t get the chance to use this one often.

“Good!” she replies, hands on hips and a damp ringlet brushing her cheek where her efforts have worked it loose from its braid. The man she’s just patched up looks up at her, shocked thanks written in his worn features. “Because now we have a wedding to get to!”

###

Jessica? by Pete Fanning

He edged closer—through the whispers of those gathering—towards the shyest girl at Redding High. She sang out. Her hands danced along the keys, flooding the roadside piano with a melody that was both beautiful and tragic.

It really was her, ordinary Jessica singing like an angel, her confidence building as her voice soared above the hum of traffic and everyday life.

When she finished they all cheered. Evan snuck off, into the sun, looking back one last time.

Good for her.

###

Delivering the Goods by Paula Moyer

Jean was fed up. Stopping a medication she had been on for 20 years “may cause” caffeine-withdrawal migraine. Three days running.

And this new guy. Enthusiastic as a puppy. Why did she leave him that voicemail? Her headaches?

She dropped off her kids at the ex’s, snaked back home and plopped on the couch beside a pile of laundry.

Brrrnng. “Jean, it’s Steve. Got your message. Ouch. So sorry. Need some company?”

Wow, Jean, thought. How to show up!

“My hair’s dirty. The place is a wreck,” Jean mumbled. “Come on over.”

No pause: “Sure. What can I bring?”

###

What I’d Buy You by Charli Mills

If I had a trillion dollars, I’d buy you Bob’s Red Mill. The gluten-free division. I’d rebuild it in your back yard and every morning you’d rise to the smell of blueberry muffin happiness. I’d buy the land between Idaho and Kansas, moving it somewhere else so we could be closer and laugh out loud between our open doors. I’d buy you a costume-making business and you could make us those riding dresses we saw online, and I’d buy us horses to ride to your wedding. But money can’t buy what we already share: a friendship that feels good.

###

Mr. & Mrs. Brant: we all hope these stories leave you feeling as good as your recent wedding merger in the land of sunshine! Congratulations!

Literary Compassion

1000Voices_zps11edff99February 20, 2015 marks a special occasion: bloggers around the world have committed to speaking out on compassion. #1000Speak. Voices unite. Words move mountains. Compassion is expressed.

Many will be writing today about topics, people and places they have compassion for. Some will write to share awareness. Some will tackle the daunting questions — what is compassion and how can we arouse it in others? Compassion is a deep well from which we can draw.

My take is literary compassion: how writing literature can be an exercise in finding compassion; how reading literature can be an entry point to developing compassion for people, places or causes; and how literary communities can be compassionate places to grow among other word artists.

Writing Literature: How to Find Compassion for a Soldier

My journey to write Miracle of Ducks was one to find compassion for my husband, a former US Army Ranger.  Often we have compassion for war-torn places. We protest war. And we feel puzzled as to why anyone would volunteer to go to war.

Soldiers serve. I never really understood that about my husband because he signed up for the military and got out all before I knew him. I recall his mom saying how scared she was when she learned he was on a C130 headed to Grenada. In military history, “Operation Urgent Fury” was the shortest conflict that America ever fought. Many don’t even remember the event and other soldiers often scoff that it “wasn’t a war.” Even my husband minimized his experience until he went t a 20 year reunion for the event.

Thanks to a friend, I began to volunteer with soldiers in need of stress-relief. It opened my heart to my husband and understanding his experience. Soldiers are human. I began to feel compassion for those who have served so I began to think about a character who is trying to understand why her husband would suddenly want to go to Iraq 20 years after getting out of the service. My character, Danni Gordon, is left behind with her husband’s three hunting dogs. She even contemplates leaving him. But he doesn’t come home; he goes missing.

In this scene, Danni is coping with her grief by collecting the stories of war widows. She’s making an effort to understand why her husband Ike would have put himself in a war zone voluntarily.

From Miracle of Ducks by Charli Mills

“Okay, Genny. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, today. I want to let you know I am using audio equipment to fully record your stories.” Danni explained and listened to the ear piece to make sure her voice, as interviewer, was picking up.

“And I thought you were just draping me in newfangled techno-jewelry.” Genny joked, sitting upright on the studio stool.

Danni smiled. “Just required to state the obvious: you’re being recorded. As I mentioned to you on the phone, I am a historical archaeologist, meaning I collect both written and oral data that can be used to assist with the scientific recovery of data from the ground.”

“So, one day when they dig up the war zones of this century, there will be oral data to support it?”

“Something like that,” said Danni.

“Well, honestly, I don’t know how much light I can shed on war or military.”

“Actually, I’m here to collect your story as a war widow,” said Danni sitting down opposite Genny.

They were in a tiny studio at Northland College in Ashland. Danni was using her skills to collect these stories from war wives and widows. If Ike could serve, she’d find a way to serve, too. It was like the time when Danni had been a fellow on Baffin Island and she used audio equipment in the field to collect the disappearing oral traditions of the Inuit. Back then, nothing had surprised her more than to hear throat singing first hand. She wondered what would surprise her today.

“Why are you doing this,” asked Genny.

“I’ve interviewed a woman whose husband was a pilot in WWII and several women in our community whose husbands have or are serving in Iraq. I’ve even met other women who were married to Vietnam vets and one who is the war widow of the Korean conflict. They said no one ever asked for their stories before.”

“Why me,” asked Genny.

“My husband served with yours. After my husband went to Brad’s funeral, he enlisted with a private security company and tried to explain to me his need to serve. I’m trying to understand. I thought your story would be important to this collection.”

“You do know that Brad and I were divorced almost 10 years before he was killed,” Genny said.

“Married or divorced doesn’t matter. Your story can communicate what it is like to be a war widow. Ike said you were at Brad’s funeral.”

Genny was silent, poised on the stool in the studio. Then she asked, “I’ve heard through the grapevine that Ike went over to train for Watersand Security. He seemed to get the ‘brother fever’ at Brad’s funeral, but I never did hear what came of him. Are you a war widow?”

“I don’t know. Ike’s been missing for 15 months. Officially, Watersand Security called off the search.”

“I’m sorry,” said Genny.

“I’m doing this because I want to hear something different than ‘I’m sorry.’ I’m trying to understand. When Ike came back from Brad’s funeral, raving about how he was needed over there, I thought he was deranged. I thought it was a mid-life crisis. Why do they put themselves in danger?”

###

After I wrote the novel I felt more compassion for my husband, his army brothers and those who serve. Writing literature can be a powerful experience and can bring about the understanding necessary to feel compassion for something outside our own experiences.

Reading Literature: Getting Readers to Care About Something

My second novel is still a work in progress and its working title is Warm Like Melting Ice. I found Will Steger’s Global Warming 101 Expedition across Baffin Island (2007) so profound that I have wanted to write about the people of Baffin Island ever since. In 2008 I had the privilege of hosting a farm tour and dinner for the first ever cultural exchange of high school students from Baffin Island to Minnesota. I wanted others to know about this cultural group. I wanted others to develop compassion for their plight with melting ice.

Here’s a video that shares a story that moves me. Note the compassion that the Inuit guide expresses in his statement:

Literature can draw us into to stories we didn’t know about. We meet characters in situations we didn’t think existed. We finish the book and know about a new place. We get curious about those who live there and we learn that climate change is a big threat. Suddenly, a reader who once dismissed climate change, has a change of heart. She’s found compassion through literature.

The following stories are from 21 writers who all took on writing 99-words of literature using compassion as a prompt. What we find in reading these stories is a variety of situations, points of view and understanding we may not have had prior to reading. Think about it. A reader can feel compassion in 99 words. It’s a seed, a beginning, a turning point. Literature matters: Stories of Compassion.

Literary Communities: Places of Compassion

It’s not easy, walking the road to becoming a published author. Some writers are content to blog, others call their writing a hobby and some work at it t build a career. No matter, each writer communicates with an unknown world. Negative comments about quality of writing or content, bad reviews or the difficulty of finding an audience can break down a writer’s resolve. A community can form out of like-minded writers, fellow pilgrims on the path, to take the sting out of sore feet.

“When we offer more to others than what we ask of them in return, good things happen. When we work to benefit the greater good of our literary circles, everyone benefits.” Lori A, May, author of “Why Literary Citizenship Matters.”

What does compassion look like in literary communities? It’s writers who focus on building up other writers, who point out strengths, who create safe places for writers to express voice or practice craft without judgement. Compassion is found in acts of encouragement, sharing experiences, reading, commenting, sharing writing. Meet the Rough Writers who form a compassionate literary group at Carrot Ranch.

Please take time to read about compassion for the bloggers supporting #1000Speak. Use literature to express, encourage and explore compassion.

We are writing around the world in one big literary connection:

RoughWriters_Map2_Jan12

Stories of Compassion

Stories of CompassionCompassion is complex. It involves both empathy and action, but how much of each and for whom? How is compassion aroused? Can it be taught? One person can lack compassion for animals and another weep for their plight. Relationships and the self are both in need of compassion. Does it have to be received before it can be given?

As a reader, you might be surprised by the variety and you might not agree on every interpretation. The point is that writers have explored the idea of compassion and literature seeks to make sense of that undertaking. Join the discussion in the comments!

This week, writers answered a special call to write stories that explore compassion in support of February 20, 2015 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. The following stories are based on the February 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that demonstrates compassion.

Embracing the Individual by Geoff Le Pard

The girl laid flowers on the mossy grave. ‘What was grandpa like, Dad?’

Her father said, ‘He was a mixture of things, love. Kind, caring…’

‘At school they say he was gay.’

‘Yes. He was. After he divorced grandma he realised…’

‘And they say he had a weird religion.’

Her father forced a small smile. ‘A Buddhist. Not many in Liverpool.’

‘And he lived with a black man.’

Her father knelt down. ‘Those things are just dull wrapping paper. You have to rip that off to find the gift inside. Everyone is different but everyone is still a gift.’

###

True Grit by Sherri Matthews

The old man went down at the first push. “Not so tough now, are yer?” spat Vin as he aimed a heavy kick into the man’s ribs.

The others laughed and jeered, their voices echoing in the dimly lit alley. Vin threw his arm around Joe’s neck as they walked back to the pub.

“I warned that old git before not to ask for money. He had it coming.”

“Yeah, good on yer mate,” Joe lied, pulling away. “Look, I need a slash, you go on…”

Joe slipped behind a charity shop, then ran back to the old man.

###

Coffee Break by Larry LaForge

Robert scooted from his early morning sociology class to the coffee shop downtown.

Turning onto Main, he spotted someone sitting on the corner holding a crude cardboard sign: A FRIEND IN NEED. He watched as many passersby nodded with sympathy but generally avoided eye contact. Some folks tossed coins into the box without missing a step as they continued on.

Robert checked his pocket for cash, entered the cafe, and ordered two large coffees to go.

“Cream and sugar?” Robert asked as he plopped down next to the vagrant.

They talked for two hours about sports, weather and politics.

*****
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.

###

Compassion by Luccia Gray

I closed the storybook.

“The writer depicts a poor, hungry, and frightened little match girl with bare head and naked feet in the snow, lighting matches to keep warm, before finally dying while sitting against a wall on the pavement.”

“That happened a long time ago, Mrs. Smith. It doesn’t happen anymore.”

I turned on the projector.

“The journalist was killed after watching a little baby’s horrific death. She saw shells, rockets and tank fire during the massacre.”

“Wars are different.”

“It’s never different. It’s the same over and over; greed, hate, violence, suffering, and worst of all…. indifference.”

###

Mutiny by Paula Moyer

Sunnie couldn’t take it anymore. True, Jean disregarded her homework. She sassed. But Jean was little. Watching Mrs. O’Brien drag Jean out of class hurt.

“I can’t stand it!” Sunnie cried inside.

The next day at recess, Sunnie began conspiring. “We need to stop this,” she said over and over. Finally two classmates agreed.

During spelling class with Mrs. Pearl, Sue said, “Mrs. Pearl, Mrs. O’Brien isn’t fair.”

Sunnie spoke up. “She’s always mean, but she picks on Jean more.”

Annie then said, “That’s right. She picks on Jean.”

Mrs. Pearl listened, then said quietly: “I need to know.”

###

Understanding by Norah Colvin

In the ‘smart’ outfit carefully selected by the charity shop attendant, Marnie was surprised how well the confident exterior masked the whirlpool of fear, anxiety and insecurity.

Without looking up, the receptionist handed Marnie a number and waved her to the waiting area.

“9”. Her heart sank. “That many?”

Avoiding contact and ‘contamination’, she squeezed into the only available space: between a boy slouching awkwardly and a girl picking her fingernails.

The girl started crying. Marnie stiffened, but glanced sideways. The girl cried into her sleeve.

Marnie breathed, proffered her unopened purse packet of ‘just-in-case’ tissues, and smiled, “Here.”

###

Sole Mates by Pete Fanning

“Yo Marcus, what is on your feet?”

Marcus shrugged. His white socks glowed under the filthy pair of shoes. He got a few laughs as he did a dance and found his seat.

“Yo, check it out,” someone said. Clinton plodded sheepishly to his desk, his steps pronounced by a shiny pair of Lebron James sneakers.

Marcus smiled, yesterday he’d watched the snickering and pointing over Clint’s split and frayed Nike’s. Then last night he tried to put himself in Clint’s shoes. And only minutes ago, when he’d found Clint whimpering in a bathroom stall, that’s what he did.

(Author’s Note: This was based on a story I read a few weeks back.)

###

Rainy Night by Kalpana Solsi

Finishing her frugal dinner of dry loaf of bread and yoghurt, she tucked the spare loaf into the wicker basket for next morning.

The rain lashed on the window pane engulfing her little cottage with its ferocity.

Who could it be at the door at this time of the night? There was no soul when she saw through the peep-hole. She cautiously opened the door and he sneaked inside between her legs.

Ramming the door she looked into his innocent eyes sending waves of compassion.

Woof, woof he said. Smilingly, she took out the loaf.

Tomorrow is another day.

###

Compassion by C. Jai Ferry

The reality show slipped into a commercial break, and his fiancée wiggled her hand in front of him again.

“My sister’s gonna flip with jealousy.” She smirked, splaying her fingers wide. “I can’t wait!”

He turned back to the screen. Puppy eyes stared at him as melancholy notes seeped from the television’s speakers.

She groaned. “They should just put them down.”

“Excuse me?”

“It would save money.” She shrugged, then readjusted her ring. “No one wants them anyway.”

He clasped her hands in his, kissed her cheek, and slid the ring from her finger. He’d make a better investment.

###

Compassion by Irene Waters

So beautiful. No external mark hinted at the catastrophic injuries she had sustained in the crash. She was my patient and I would give her the last dignities of life despite the tubes which gave her breath and drained her fluids.

“I’ll get security. The boyfriend’s getting angry. I’ve told him it’s relatives only. Some people.” My colleague went off, her huff travelling with her.

Some people indeed, I thought. I couldn’t leave my charge. I called over another colleague, who did my bidding.

The boyfriend stood behind the closed curtain with me. Tears streamed from four eyes. We hugged.

###

Compassion for the Relationship by Anne Goodwin

We never reserved I love you for Valentine’s and anniversaries, so why should it matter that, this year, you forgot? Yet I contemplate arsenic-on-toast for your breakfast; you couldn’t even bring me a cup of tea in bed.

Once you’re cleaned, fed and dressed, we wait for the sitter. The hairdresser’s booked and the theatre, a restaurant reservation for one.

This evening, when I’m calm again, we’ll look through the photographs. “Who’s that handsome man with the carnation buttonhole?” I’ll say. I won’t mind if you can’t tell me; my memories of our marriage are strong enough for two.

###

Compassion Disjunction by Pat Cummings

“Attacks Against Schoolgirls on the Rise” he reads, and sips his coffee. Next page of the paper, he sees “University Shooting Victim Left Paralyzed”. He brushes bagel crumbs from his shirt; they land on the page over “Racial Slurs Written on Stabbed Woman’s Body”. He shakes the paper, flips to the international section. “Jordanian Pilot Burned Alive in Shocking Video” provokes a “tsk” as he takes another sip of coffee. He scans onward.

With his last sip of morning coffee, his throat closes, and tears spring to his eyes, as he reads “35 Cats Dead in Weekend House Fire.”

###

Her Worth by Charli Mills

The old mare hung her head low, lips quivered above grass-forsaken dirt, ribs protruded beneath a swayed back. She was broken.

“How much you want for her,” asked the Fed Ex driver.

A lean cowboy scrawled his signature for his box. “That nag?”

“That our wine?” A beautiful woman stepped out onto the deck.

The cowboy winked at the Fed Ex man. “There’s a beauty worth buying.”

“Can’t afford that one. How much for the horse?”

He knew his boss would ask how a starving mare got into the back of his van, but already her ears had perked.

###

No One Should Have It Coming by Amber Prince

“He’s a troublemaker.”

“He has been in trouble before, but I wouldn’t call him a troublemaker.”

“Does it matter? It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

“It does matter, it’s a big deal, he came to you for help and you ignored him.”

“I heard what he had to say, but how was I to know that the other kid was going to actually do something? That one is a good student.”

“And now?”

“What do you want me to say? That I’m sorry? Fine, but the boy had it coming.”

“You’re wrong. No one should have it coming.”

###

Lucky by Nicky Torode

He etched the final day onto his wall. As he walked out the gates, he drunk in the sunlight like he had done 15 years ago. The first thing he’d promised himself was to go to 289 Phoenix Road – the destination he had been planning for 14.5 years. As he approached the building, he saw the man’s familiar silhouette opening his door. This was his lucky day. Picking the lock, he entered. He pulled out the paraffin, struck the match. This is for me and the other innocent ones you got locked up, he yelled, free at last.

###

Merlin Learns a New Way by Tally Pendragon

Anna thought and worked quickly, stanching the flow of blood with a cord around the man’s leg, patching up the gash the falling masonry had made, and being sure that he was safe, in mind and body, before moving on through the mass of poorer dwellings all huddled together like shy schoolgirls.

“Next time you can do the healing, Merlin!”

“Me?”

“Did you think yours was to be a watching ministry while you’re with us?”

“But surely healing’s for women.”

“Healing’s what the ministry’s all about, whether you’re man or woman, Merlin. Get used to it, or go home!”

###

Invisible by Sarah Brentyn

“We’re late!” Jeremy snatched his coat from the closet. “Mum!”

“I know! Stop…stop yelling. We’ll be right there.”

“Mum, seriously! Coach will bench me!”

The clicking of cleats on tile echoed down the hallway. Jeremy’s face tightened with each step. He swung into the kitchen, “If I have to sit this game out I’ll…”

His mother sat on the floor stroking his little brother’s hair as he reached out again and again, touching the edge of the countertop. She didn’t look up. “We’ll be right there.”

“No, it’s good.” Jeremy crouched down. “We’ll go when you’re ready, okay buddy?”

###

A Plate of Food by Ruchira Khanna

Sarita opened the door to her maid, who had brought her kid to work.

“He is my son; Jay.” introduced the maid in pride.

“Friend’s?” Sarita’s son, Hari extended his hands towards him.

“Sure” nodded Jay and they walked towards the toys.

While playing, Sarita brought a plate of food for her son.

Jay pretended to play while Hari was being fed. Just then, a morsel came towards him.

He looked up to see Hari’s hand holding a snack.

With moist eyes, he took the grub and soon both the boys were munching and giggling away.

###

Compassionate Neighbours by Susan Zutautas

Easter was approaching and there was barely enough food to feed the family of six let alone get the children any chocolate eggs or bunnies.

Stop worrying Agnes, surely some work will turn up soon, said Roy.

Normally he was right but Agnes felt deep in her heart that this year there’d be no ham on their table for dinner.

It was Good Friday and Agnes heard a knock at the door. No one was there but there was a fairly large box sitting on the porch. It was filled with food, chocolate, and a ham.

Agnes’ heart melted.

###

An Arm Outstretched by Geoff Le Pard

‘Your mum never knew.’ Mary’s Aunt Gloria sipped tea. ‘About the twin.’

‘Sharon?’

‘I don’t know her name. Sharon was your imaginary friend.’

‘Do you know what happened to her?’ Mary shivered; she hadn’t told Gloria about the bones in the garden. ‘She is dead, isn’t she?’

Gloria sighed. ‘Have you asked Rupert?’

Her hated half-brother.

Gloria wiped her mouth. ‘This is killing you, isn’t it? Come on, let’s go and see him and get to the bottom of all this.’ She enveloped Mary in her grandmotherly bosom. ‘Poor thing. Your dad was many things, but not a monster.’

###
Graphic crafted by The Quiet Muse.

Graphic crafted by The Quiet Muse.

Link up! Today is THE DAY! #1000Speak. Add your voice: 1000 Speak. Link up.