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September 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

Tendril by tendril the plants pull themselves sun-ward. Leaves bob on light currents of air, hiding fragile white blossoms. The plants thicken to the point of hiding the slender iron trellis they cling to. They’ve grown so equally green, I can’t distinguish one plant from another. Nor can I tell when the white blossoms have fruited. This is not a patch of raspberries or sun-gold tomatoes. I await a harvest of peas.

The late summer day when the plants drooped, pulling the trellis out of alignment, I knew. I recognized the heaviness of harvest.Ever since that transition from growing, climbing green to drooping, gifting green I have haunted the pea patch. It’s not easy to spot the first pea, but once you train your eye to see, you see the full magnitude of pea harvest glory. It’s a bit like practicing flash fiction.

When I first began writing various short forms, I did so because it sparked my creativity. After that, I began requiring my team to write a specific creative form of 25 words before our meetings. We didn’t have time to linger over creative writing so most meeting days, I announced to the department that we would meet at the Round Table in ten minutes. I reminded each person to bring their project updates, meeting agenda and their cinquain. Often, team members scribbled their 25 words in the final five minutes of preparation.

As a prompt, a flash fiction of 99 words doesn’t take long to write. When I was leading Wrangling Words at the Bonner County Library, I gave participants five minutes to write. Many wrote several hundred words! The first time I gave the prompt it was 10 minutes and the stories were much longer than I anticipated for our group activity. So I know it’s possible to write 99 words in five minutes. Is it ideal for those who gather here? Perhaps not.

But what does flash fiction have to do with spotting a hidden pea harvest?

Draw the similarity between learning to spot green peas and learning to write tight prose. I view it as training. When I first spot a hanging pea pod, suddenly I see more. My brain understands the cue. When you practice flash fiction, you train your brain to tell a story in 99 words. You might still write 200 and cut, or only write 70 and add, but your brain gets better at recognizing its target.

I used to joke that writing creative constrains was magic because my marketing team responded by solving project problems with improved innovation. But I know science supports the power of constraints in forcing the brain to go into problem-solving mode. Thus two factors occur when we regularly write flash fiction — our brains think more creatively quicker and we train our brains to adapt to a pattern.

If you are concerned that you’ll pick up the 99-word pattern, fear not. It isn’t as if you can only write in that mode, it’s more like you can use that mode to solve clarity or literary issues with other forms of writing. I’ve marveled over our writers who add in verse, and now I realize that as poets they have other forms their brains use. These patterns are of benefit to a writer and it legitimizes writing short forms as a tool.

Of course, if you are like me in a pea patch, you probably care more about the pleasure the taste of fresh pea pods bring over the idea that you trained your brain to find what is easily hidden. You might enjoy the challenge of word-smithing among others, the fun of creating stories and reading what others create, and the weekly activity. And that’s good! I’m not in the pea patch munching on pods because I read that peas are high in magnesium. I simply like peas. And the fun I have, knowing I get to them before others in my household!

Ah, the competitive nature. It’s not that strong in me unless I know everyone is having a good time. That’s why I want you all to have a great pea-picking time at the upcoming Rodeo. It is a contest and it will bring out the competitiveness in some, the intimidation or perfection in others. Let’s admit that’s all possible. We’ll likely have many writers show up whom we’ve not met before or who aren’t interested in hanging out by the campfire. So let me be clear about goals.

Number one: Carrot Ranch is a fun and welcoming place to practice literary art. Don’t be put off by the word “practice.” In no way do I want to demean anyone’s writing as scribbles of art. When I say practice, I mean it according to my personal philosophy that literary art is something writers master over a lifetime. How do you know you’ve mastered it? You’re dead. Shakespeare mastered all he was capable of mastering by the day he died. It’s not about comparing our work to others. It’s about never stopping to push into what we can create with words. The process is the hallmark of a literary artist, not the finished product. Therefore, let’s have fun while we figure out what is possible with words and how to sharpen our stories. The Rodeo is intended to bring you something different and exciting from our weekly writing.

Number two: Carrot Ranch wants individuals within the community to succeed. Those who regularly gather and are willing to do collaborative projects like the anthologies are part of a smaller group that helps spur on the Ranch. They are the Rough Writers. In return, they get expanded visibility for their own writing. Those who gather for fun, who share our posts and read regularly are the Friends. It’s up to writers to decide. Either way, there are no obligations. However, Carrot Ranch is a place where writers can step out of their comfort zones. A contest is an example. If it becomes achievable here, it can become achievable elsewhere. Success is what you interpret it to be, and the Ranch believes in the value of literary art and your contribution to it.

Number three: Carrot Ranch is growing and we want to celebrate. The growth comes in more ways to support access to literary art — the creation of anthologies, public readings of flash fiction, free adult education classes that use flash fiction as a tool to build a local literary community, inspiring retreats, and innovative workshops. We will be launching our first The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, Vol. 1 late in November with pre-sales in October. A Rodeo is one way to generate excitement about what we do at Carrot Ranch.

Enjoy the Rodeo, use the contests to try different prompts and don’t let intimidation hold you back. Every writer feels doubt. Don’t let it stop you from the joy of what it is to create literary art. Join in, saddle up and write! Remember, the Rodeo replaces the weekly prompt with two weekly contests Oct. 5-31. Stop by the Ranch for a progressive kick-off party on Tuesday, Oct. 3. You might win a random drawing prize so leave a comment on the Oct. 3 blog post. CR FB page will have drawings and live readings from Vol. 1.

Last call for Rough Writers for the next anthology: the one criteria is willingness to participate. We use material from the compilations to build upon, and some of our writers create new work. If you’ve been writing here weekly (even occasionally) send me a quick note. Find out if it’s something you want to pursue. I’ll introduce new Rough Writers at the Rodeo Fest (kick-off party on Oct. 3).

One last note: I’m not perfect. Seriously, it’s worth saying! We all make mistakes and I tend to bring in a bumper crop. So, I fudged my hastags. I’m not a hashtag genius to begin with and I forgot that I had created #FFRODEO for the Rodeo — Flash Fiction Rodeo. When I created the Rodeo Fest promotion I inadvertently created a second hashtag of #CRRODEO as in Carrot Ranch Rodeo. Better editors than my Inner Editor, pointed out the blunder, but by then both hashtags had been shared widely. I’m a flash fiction writer, so having trained my brain for solutions I will simply use #CRRODEO on October 3 for the Rodeo Fest and pretend that’s what I meant.

Be sure to follow along the Rodeo on Twitter at #FFRODEO. May it bring you all a bumper crop of fun!

And if you missed the post on Tuesday, check out the new Flash Fiction page at Carrot Ranch. It includes recipes for preparing flash fiction and introduces something I’ve been working on for a while — The Ultimate Flash Fiction (TUFF), which is a challenge, the final contest in the Rodeo, and the foundation for a new workshop I’ve developed using flash fiction as a tool to teach an integrative writing/editing approach to book revision.

Thank you for your patience as the sawdust clears on all these new barns and events at the Ranch! I’m a week behind on compilations, but whipping and spurring to get caught up in the next few days. I’ll let you know as new pages go up, too! This is the final prompt until weeklies resume November 2. I’m delighted to have you all here!

September 21, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about what it is to gather a harvest. You can use the phrase or show what it means without using the words. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 26, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published September 27). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Harvests Aren’t Gathered for All (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Sarah gobbled picked peas from her gnarled hands.

“Get out of there!”

Sarah blushed, gathered threadbare skirts and fled fast as a 91-year-old could muster. She held her head despite the curvature of her back and walked past the angry gardener as if she were on a Sunday stroll. In fact, Sarah realized, it was Sunday.

“You stay out you tramp!”

So much for Christian charity, she thought. Wandering without a destination she passed other gardens in full harvest. At the end of the street named after her father in the town bearing her surname, Sarah turned away, hungry.

###

Not Now, I’m Busy

How can a storyteller get by in a busy, busy world? Busyness can distract us from sunsets and tales exchanged over pints or tea. Some feel compelled to find worth in activity, and some stay active as a distraction. The storytellers want you to slow down a minute. Listen. Read.

Writers tackled busyness on the page, taking  time out from busy schedules to craft responses.

The following stories are based on the September 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a busy character.

###

Getting Busy on My First Date by Sarah Brentyn

His tie was blue. A nice enough color. The geometric design wasn’t all that unpleasant. A bit modern for my taste, but not obnoxious.

I suppose it could have been his shirt, with its burgundy basketweave pattern. But, if I’m honest, the whole thing blew up because of his pink paisley jacket.

I couldn’t tell if he was nice enough for me to look past his fashion faux pas.

When my sister asked how the date with her co-worker went, I shrugged, “I have no idea. His clothes were so loud, I couldn’t hear a word he said.”

###

Sometimes I Feel Like I Am Going Crazy by Robbie Cheadle

In this modern world, sometimes, I feel like I am going crazy.

At work, deadlines, unexpected issues; needing time, needing urgent attention.

An endless cycle.

It sometimes seems relentless, a knot of anxiety in my stomach, as I work through the list of tasks, carefully and exactingly, there is no room for error.

In my dual purpose life, sometimes, I feel like I am going crazy.

At home, husband and children, all needing help, needing time, needing advice.

An endless cycle.

I feel like a monster, driving them on, helping them meet the demands of their high-speed, high-tech lives.

###

The Real Job by Allison Maruska

The fryer beeps its obnoxious repetition. No one addresses it.

“Keri! Get that!” Phil yells from the back.

“I’m busy,” I mutter while shoving burgers into the warming drawer. At the fryer, hot oil hops out with the cooked fries, hitting my arm. “Ow.” I wipe it on my shirt.

“See, honey? That’s why you have to study hard in school, so you can get a real job. One that won’t burn you.”

It’s a woman in line, talking to a child and pointing at me.

I turn away, hiding my eye roll. Yeah, this isn’t a real job.

###

Super Secretary by Anne Goodwin

“Mr Johnson called. Frantic he can’t make his appointment. He wondered if you’d see him at six.” Elaine wrinkled her nose. “I said you finished at five but he said you’d seen him after hours before.”

“Tell him okay.” The guy was too vulnerable to wait another week.

“And that rescheduled team meeting. I can’t find a slot that suits everyone until next month. Apart from Friday.”

Friday: her day off for writing. But writing wasn’t her real work. “We’ll do it Friday. If you can book a room.”

Elaine smiled. Perhaps the meeting rooms would be fully booked.

###

Busy by Robert Kirkendall

Silvio the waiter moved from table to table taking customer’s orders and answering their many questions about the menu. He then ran back to the kitchen, quickly arranged various plates of food onto a serving tray, and ran back out with the tray on his upturned palm. He adroitly sidestepped other servers and bussers on his way to table.

“Waiter!” an obnoxious customer screeched.

Silvio halted and looked down at the customer contemptuously.

“What’s this fly doing in my soup?” the customer demanded as he pointed down at his soup bowl.

Silvio glanced down at the bowl. “The backstroke!”

###

Never Too Busy for Fun by Norah Colvin

After days of endless rain, the chorus of birds and bees urged them outdoors. Mum bustled about the garden; thinning weeds, pinching off dead flowers, trimming ragged edges, tidying fallen leaves, enjoying the sunshine. Jamie, with toddler-sized wheelbarrow and infinite determination, filled the barrow, again and again, adding to the growing piles of detritus. Back and forth, back and forth, he went. Until … leaves crackling underfoot and crunching under wheels, called him to play. Jamie giggled as armfuls scooped up swooshed into the air and fluttered to earth. Mum, about to reprimand, hesitated, then joined in the fun.

###

Tommy’s Nap by Chris Mills

Mary tucked the blanket around six month old Tommy, and his sleepy eyes fluttered like butterfly wings. She needed several hours to catch up on chores.

Laundry was an avalanching mountain peak. Dust bunnies taunted from corners and fled. Dirty dishes called her name, as did toilets, tubs, floors and sills. She flipped mattresses, turned mattresses, chased dust bunnies from under mattresses. Spotted mirrors reflected her weary gaze.

Tommy slept. Mary swept. To-do lists became all-done lists, and the house was just the way she wanted it.

Tommy the teenager walked out of his room and asked about dinner.

###

Jumping Around by FloridaBorne

Plane Crash? I told my doctor not to get married on the 25th of this year, or take flight 25 to Hawaii.

When I’m around, people hurry up and die.

I lived 25 miles north of Barneveld, Wisconsin when a massive tornado jumped past my house and annihilated the center of their town.  I lived 25 miles away from San Francisco in the 1979 Earthquake.  Then, I was in Florida when Hurricane Irma took a giant leap to the left and we missed the hurricane force winds by 25 miles.

That’s it!  I’m done with psychiatrists. They never listen!

###

No Time to Stand and Stare? by Anne Goodwin

A shorter walk today, and no dawdling. Busy busy, lots to do back home.

The squiggle on the path broke her rhythm. Even here, in its natural habitat, an adder was a rare sight. She’d disturbed one once, only a mile away, but it slithered into the bracken before she could distinguish the diamonds on its back. This one seemed to be posing. How close could she get before it reared its head and spat?

A gift. A blessing. She’d stay as long as the snake did. A poor life, if she lacked the leisure to stand and stare.

###

Busy (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

The sun is warm on her face in the cooler air, light penetrating her closed eyelids, turning them incandescent orange. The smells of autumn: decaying leaves, rich earth. Her books make a surprisingly comfortable pillow, lying on the grass on the small quad. Bit of heaven.

A shadow falls across her. She cracks one eye open.

“Brittany,” she says flatly.

“Jane, that calculus is killing me. I need help.”

Jane closes her eye again and points behind her, somewhere. “Math lab’s that way.”

“You’re not doing anything.”

The eye again, a bullet. “Looks may deceive. I am very busy.”

###

Busy by Irene Waters

Dahlia and Rhonda sipped their coffee as they chatted not glancing in Bee’s direction. Yawning, Dahlia swung her legs onto the table. “I’m tired.”

“Why? What have you been doing?”

“Nothing. You almost finished Bee?”

“No. I’ve got tables to set, flowers to arrange and the speaker wants the projector stuff. I’ll have to organise that. Would you set the tables for me? The sooner I get home the better. I’ve got the dogs to walk, dinner to make, the kids to pick up before I come back .”

“Sorry Bee. Too busy. Gotta go. See you tonight. Coming Rhonda?”

###

Houseproud by Pensitivity

The last of the shopping had been put away, and the house was as neat as a pin.

She’d done all the washing and ironing, and prepared dinner in the kitchen.

No time to relax though, just a shower and then off to visit.

She got to the hospital and her mother’s bed was enclosed in a curtain.

The family emerged from behind it.

They looked tired.

‘Where were you? She was asking for you.’

‘I was busy. How is she?’

‘It doesn’t matter now. She died half an hour ago.’

Being houseproud is a heavy burden to bear.

###

Busy-Bee by Kalpana Solsi

Aunt Charlotte being a very fastidious person, I am on tenterhooks about a slip.

The brownies and cookies are baked to perfection. Darjeeling tea is ready to be brewed. The expensive crockery is laid on the table. The curtains match with sofa upholstery.

How did I miss this? I station the wooden-stool and hitch my dress high to climb despite feeling giddy. I am busy cleaning the ceiling-fan. The landline-phone springs to life.

I lower myself huffing, losing my balance to fall on the phone. I just pick the receiver.

“Okay Aunt”, I mumble.

She has cancelled her visit.

###

Busy With a Purpose by Reena Saxena

I returned home one evening to find newspapers torn into neat little vertical strips, and piled into a heap. Somebody had perfected the technique to get pieces of a similar shape and size, and taught others how to do it. The effort was laudable, as there was no lofty purpose behind doing it. The doers were just learning.

They were three cute kittens, whose mother had chosen us to look after them. They did not own any tools, other than their teeth and nails. I saw them expand the efforts to other needed skills.

Hats off to the spirit!

###

Flash Fiction by Kerry E. B. Black

“What’re you talking about?” The woman’s cheeks darkened and her voice raised. “The white buffalo. What have you done with her?”

Maurya wiped the spray from her cheek and ignored the taunts from the towns folk. She walked into the mushroom cave. A circle of fungi had formed, but hoof prints smashed the closest mushrooms into the compost. Maurya moved her hands in a warding symbol.

“I think I know where she’s gone.”

The town elder tottered to loom over Maurya. “Since it’s your place that lost her and your mind that knows where she’d be, you’d better find her.”

###

Busy Bee by Etol Bagam

Thursday morning. Wake up.

Migraine.

Get up. Wake up the kids. Have breakfast. Get kids ready to school. Walk them to school.

Work from home. Automation won’t work, do it manually.

Stop to go to the doctor.

Come back to a meeting. Work non-stop until 3:25.

Bring suitcase down for hubby.

Pick up kids at 3:30.

Have lunch!

Drive kids to sports practice.

Stop at dry cleaner.

Back home, iron hubby’s shirts.

Shower.

Fix dinner. Do the dishes.

Help hubby pack for his trip.

Read a bit. Go to bed.

And that migraine is still there until end of day Friday….

###

On the Go by Michael

She was too busy for idle chit chat. It was go, go all day. Those around her found her exhausting as she never stopped, preferring to get the job done as she’d say to them.

Her head down bum up attitude gave no room for getting to know her. She nodded in acquaintance to her co-workers, she ate alone and never took her full dinnertime.

She found it hard at Christmas when they did stop to celebrate as she had no connections to anyone.

It came as no surprise to anyone that she had no one at home either.

###

The Energizer Corey by Joe Owens

Corey took a deep breath as he pushed out the last words for this seventy two minute stop. Now it was off to the Explorer’s Lounge for the Newlyweds Match game where couples would try to see how much they knew each other. He had hosted the Voice of the Ocean, a Sled Dog Puppies petting session and a bingo game, but his day was not nearly half over.

“How do you do it?” Junior Cruise Director Caitlin asked.

“Never stop. Get your plan in mind, pick the fastest route between and don’t stop when you’re tired!”

###

Busy as a Beaver by Susan Zutautas

Mr. Moose saw a busy beaver working on his den
He walked up to him and offered a hand to lend

They cut and moved logs and stopped for a break
Thank you Mr. Moose I wouldn’t have been able to get all these in the lake

Munching on some berries
Talking away was merry

Until Mr. Moose explained the fire on his land
And how everything was now just a pile of sand

This made Mr. Beaver shed a tear for him
And offered for Mr. Moose to move to his land

Thank you my new found friend

###

Buckeye Blane, Beaver Bureaucrat by Bill Engleson

“So, kid, open wide, flash me them orange sharpies.”

“Yahhhhhhhhh!”

“Kid, they’re beauties. Credit to beaverdom…”

“Yahhhhhhhhh!”

“Just about done. Hole punch bought the farm. Okay. Crunch! Great. Once more…We’re done. Take a break.”

“Yawoooooie.”

“Know the feeling. Know it well. Anyways. You got the job. Land Manager Apprentice.”

“Yawoooooie.”

“I can see you’re thrilled. Okay, your basic job will be to clear deadwood.”

“Oooooyawooo!”

“Specialized beaver work, kid. We leave the healthy trees…take out only the dry rot.”

“Ooooowooooyaaa!”

“Goes against beaver lore, I know. Compromise. Humans give a little: we give a little.”

“Yaaaawooowooooie!”

“That’s the spirit.”

###

A Team of Busy Bees by Liz Husebye Hartman

She bends over unkempt juniper shrubs and a beetle-laced Japanese plum, scissoring with vigor with long-bladed hand shears. Down the boulevard, a few trees show tawdry highlights of orange and gold.

“I’d best get busy,” she grumbles, “While the leaves are still up, and not all over my lawn.” She snips here, shapes a curve there, and gradually uncovers dahlias, planted in the gap between shrub and front stoop. They straighten and smile, proud of their cache of hidden pollen.

Later, she rests, sipping iced tea, as grateful bumblebees, buzz and fill their leg sacks with summer’s final bounty.

###

Monastic Preserves by idylloftheking

“You could say I’m a connoisseur. Have you ever tried Trappist beer?”

“No, sir. I don’t drink.”

“Of course, of course. Where do you get your berries?”

“That’s not something we like to share, sir.”

“Of course, of course. I suppose I can’t have just one more jar?”

“They won’t cooperate, sir.”

###

Monastery Jam by Charli Mills

Thimbleberries scattered across the floor. “Brother Mark! How careless..!”

Mark shuffled to fetch … a broom? Dust bin or bowl? A rag? He stood like the garden statue of St. Francis. His mind calculated each solution rapidly.

“…just standing there. Look at this mess. And leaves me to clean it. Never busy, that Brother Mark. Idle hands, you know…”

Mark blushed to hear the complaints. Father Jorge’s large brown hand rested on Mark’s shoulder. “Let’s walk the beach.”

Waves calmed Mark’s thinking. “I didn’t know if it was salvageable.”

“Brother Mark, your mind needn’t make jam of every situation.”

###

Cerebral Buzz  (Janice vs Richard 19) by JulesPaige

Richard looked as if he were sitting still. In truth, his mind
was busy calculating what to do next while his body recovered.
After visiting Janice’s home – and eating the berries from her
garden – He must have also ingested something else. While
he was blind consuming berries he must have not looked
carefully enough at the weeds that bore similar fruit that was
really just for the birds.

Richard doubted that Janice had planted those weeds just
to poison him. And he had gotten ill, leaving a mess in her
home – the home he had wanted to make his…

###

Busy by Rugby 843

When my kids were little they were well behaved. A visit to the doctor’s office wasn’t a problem. We usually brought something along to keep them busy–books, paper and pens, etc. Nowadays I see tables and chairs, video screens and coloring books to entertain children waiting for appointments.

At home we had a “busy box” toy that served us well, but I’ve seen much more elaborate styles such as the ones pictured above, at crowded offices. Some parents might think this is a prime place for germs, but washing their hands before and after use should solve that problem.

###

Parent/Teacher by Pete Fanning

Liam’s father sat hunched over the desk. “Why ain’t you giving out homework?”

“Well, eight hours is a long day for a seven-year-old. In fact, studies—”

“Studies. Here we go.” His arms flailed. He brimmed with aggression. Mrs. Tan pressed on, a little less sure now. No wonder Liam was lashing out.

“Well, concerning Liam’s classroom behavior.”

The chair squeaked. “What? I’ll set whup his ass if he’s acting up.”

Mrs. Tan managed to cover her gasp. She pulled close Liam’s folder, smoothing the edges of if only to keep her hands busy.

“No, he’s really working hard.”

###

Father by Jack Schuyler

I never thought of my Father as a busy man, or as absent in any way. Mother would praise him for giving us food, shelter, and luxury, but such adoration fell silent against stony determination. I remember every day straining to hear the opening and closing of our front door, anticipating his arrival because I loved him. But the sound rang mostly in departure, and love was only a word I pretended to know the meaning of. And when he died, it was not love that pulled at my heart, but an emptiness that had been there all along.

###

The Mom by Ruchira Khanna

“Sam hurry up! it’s time to leave for school.”

“Yeah” came a response amidst the wide yawn.

“Did you put your lunch box, water bottle in your bag?”

“Yeeees!” he muttered.

“Sam eat your breakfast! Why are you daydreaming? The school bus will be here any minute!” she stressed.

Sam rolled his eyes, and he could not contain himself, “MOM! Let it go!” he shrilled.

Mom paused.

Took a deep sigh as she placed her hands on her hips, she responded, “I am aware dear. But someone has to delegate it, and that ugly task falls upon me!”

###

The Unsung Juggler by Eugene Uttley

Well, here we are in the middle of it all, the whole symphony of sweeping, spinning spheres.
And we have no telescope powerful enough to see him down there at the bottom of it all.
What’s he doing down there? Why, he’s juggling of course – juggling all the planets and stars.
He’s not God – or a god – I rush to say, though you might think him so to see him doing what he does.
He’s just a guy, you know. A very, very, very busy guy.
He’s the unsung juggler at the bottom of the universe.

###

Dang Busy by D. Avery

“Shorty?”

“Huh? Oh, hey. Wasn’t expecting to see you. What with the Kid gone.”

“That’s nuthin’ ta me. I jist narrate.”

“Yeah, right.”

“So, whatcha up to, Shorty? Looks like you ain’t doin’ nothin’. ”

“Correct. I am not doing nothing, I’m doing something.”

“Oh. Watcha doin’? ‘Cause it looks like daydreamin’.”

“Yep.”

“Shorty, ain’t that nothin’?”

“Nope. I’m writin’. And I’m plannin’ for the rodeo that’s comin’ through the ranch.”

“A rodeo? At Carrot Ranch?”

“Yep. Eight events. Eight prizes.”

“Yeehaw, Shorty! For real?!”

“Yep. You can’t make this stuff up.”

“Well you sure dreamed it up.”

“Yep.”

###

Gone East by D. Avery

“Shorty, is it true?”

“Yep. Gonna be quieter ‘round here. The Kid headed back East after all.”

“What? The Kid seemed happy here.”

“The Kid was happy here. Believe you me, the Kid didn’t wanna go. Even mentioned not wantin’ to leave you.”

“Aw, shucks. So why’n tarnation? Saddle sore? Too much wranglin’?”

“Naw, the Kid was willin’ ta ride the range all day, you know that.”

“Was it the food, Shorty?”

“Heck no. The Kid thrives on what’s dished out here. Did say somethin’ ‘bout bein’ busy, havin’ ta bring home the bacon.”

“Oh. That takes time.”

“Yep.”

###

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September 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Collected beach rocks spray across the dining room table. The most promising specimens I submerge in a bowl of water to illuminate agate banding or pink pools of prehnite.  My rock-hounding days are numbered because Lady Lake Superior grows cold. Instead of an evening of exercise beneath a lingering summer sunset, I take a mad dash mid-day to the beach when I can. My last trip I hitched a ride and combed the beach rocks until my daughter and her husband fetched me.

I don’t really have time to hunt agates; I’m far too busy.

Busy is an affliction. I’d say it’s modern, yet I suspect it’s as old as any form of distraction. When we think of a busy person we think of the executive or young parent. We could say both have important duties. One chases after meetings and deals; the other after toddlers and laundry. We could also say one is a workaholic. Perhaps both. What is the difference? When business becomes a form of mindlessness, it’s a distraction.

“Look busy,” is a phrase I’ve heard often from childhood on up. It’s hard for a day-dreamer to engage in mind wandering when you’re supposed to look busy. I struggle with tasks I call busy-work. When I didn’t look busy at home as a child, often I was given a broom and told if I had nothing better to do I could go sweep. I learned to daydream while doing chores. To this day, if I have a problem to solve in my mind, I clean. When I was in college, I discovered if I rewrote my notes after class and then dusted, mopped or did dishes, I wouldn’t have to cram for tests.

I had the cleanest house ever when I graduated college.

Some people believe the image, though; they believe they are supposed to “look busy.” They don’t problem solve or engage in mind-work at all. Instead they become human flurries of activity. These people, I’ve noticed, are praised for “keeping busy.” It’s an ingrained message and I’m not saying I missed it –it’s just that I developed a way to think while busy. My busy tends to come from the mind rather than activity.

The other day my SIL caught me staring out the porch window. He smiled, catching me un-busy, staring beyond the glass pane. He even glanced to see what I was looking at and upon seeing nothing of interest to warrant such staring he found my behavior amusing. I spared him a moment’s glance and explained, “I’m writing.” He laughed and walked off. Seriously, I was writing. I’ve had a huge breakthrough in my WIP, Miracle of Ducks, and the story was flowing so fast I had to watch it unfold, like an observer.

Stephen King is another writer who stares out windows. In an essay, he writes:

“Sitting down at the typewriter or picking up a pencil is a physical act; the spiritual analogue is looking out of an almost forgotten window, a window which offers a common view from an entirely different angle . . . an angle which renders the common extraordinary. The writer’s job is to gaze through that window and report on what he sees.”

Writers gaze out different windows. Sometimes the view is a different perspective as Stephen writes, and sometimes it’s to see with the inner eye. Of course, being the master of fantasy and thriller, Stephen’s mind wanders to the curious idea of the window breaking. In other words, he posed the question, “…what happens to the wide-eyed observer when the window between reality and unreality breaks and the glass begins to fly?” If you want to know his answer, read his novella, Four Past Midnight.

Stephen understands the busy writer — reality might be typing, staring or scrubbing dinner plates, but unreality is a rich inner world of exploration and discovery. It’s endless with archives of stories, some greater gems than others. When a writer gets busy that mental space thunders like Superior waves, scraping story over story until the writer spots the agates tumbled in the mind. Is it a danger or a joy to become so busy?

I think that’s a valid question for any of us. Does the busyness serve a purpose? Does it provide joy or distraction?

Traveling to VA appointments recently, we stopped at Keweenaw Bay, a small roadside resort on Lake Superior. No matter where we travel in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we are surrounded by this grand shoreline. Keweenaw Bay is on the northeast side of the Great Lake, and directly south of Copper Harbor. The VA hospital in Iron Mountain is considered one of the most rural VAs in the nation and yet we live two more hours north in even more remote terrain. If wilderness seems a pattern in my life, I won’t deny it.

So here we are near the ends of our nation and a cartoon at the roadside cafe shows a waitress refusing to take a table’s order until they all turn off their cell phones. The line drawing shows no one looking at the menu and everyone instead staring at their screens. It occurred to me that cell phones fulfill a need to be distracted by busyness. How does that differ from escaping into a good book? It seems a book engages the mind, creates meaningful busyness, whereas screen time does not require the mind to actively think.

A hallmark of anxiety is that too many choices make us unhappy. Thus most people will choose to be mindlessly busy because it doesn’t require making choices, or thinking about choices. It makes me wonder if writers are some bizarre creatures who thrive on possibility. Or maybe some writers simply like making the choices for their characters’ lives. I can say my mind winds up and whirs before it settles into the resolution. For me, I think I see what can be and get excited when I find a path that appears to go there. That’s true for me in life and fiction. It’s the a-ha moment.

When I say I’m busy, I don’t mean I have lots of tasks, though actually I do. The busyness right now is the solar flare of my brain excited for the scenes I’m writing, the launch of our first Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch, the open call for new Rough Writers and the upcoming release of the current Rough Writer’s first anthology. Without the worry of homelessness thanks to our daughter and her husband, and with the Hub in a better VA system I’ve let go of much worry and stress.

So pardon my distraction, but I have rocks scattered across my brain and I’m sifting through them all. I feel more than relieved; I feel released. I’ll corner this energy and direct it better, but it feels good to have it back. It feels good to be making breakthroughs and seeing that paths are aligning. It’s a good busy.

If you missed last week’s announcement, I have an open call for The Congress of Rough Writers. This is a literary community for all writers. Everyone is welcome to come and go, to get what they want or need from participation. That participation includes writing, reading and joining discussions. If you want to go a step further and take part in events or anthologies, that’s the work of Rough Writers. It doesn’t mean you get roped in. Even as a Rough Writer, how you participate is up to you. It’s about willingness. If you are willing, shoot me an email: wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

And stay tuned for upcoming announcements about the Flash Fiction Rodeo. It’s more than a contest — it’s eight different contests! The weekly flash fiction challenges will go on break during October. Between Oct. 5-31, a new contest launches every Tuesday and Thursday. Each one has a $25 purse and there are no entry fees. Winners will be announced consecutively during the pre-sale and launch of The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 every Tuesday in November and December. That gives our event leaders and their co-judges time to decide and collect the Best in Show for each category. And it invites the greater community to participate.

September 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a busy character. It could be a busy beaver, gnawing birch trees endlessly or an executive on the go. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 12, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published September 13). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Monastery Jam by Charli Mills

Thimbleberries scattered across the floor. “Brother Mark! How careless..!”

Mark shuffled to fetch … a broom? Dust bin or bowl? A rag? He stood like the garden statue of St. Francis. His mind calculated each solution rapidly.

“…just standing there. Look at this mess. And leaves me to clean it. Never busy, that Brother Mark. Idle hands, you know…”

Mark blushed to hear the complaints. Father Jorge’s large brown hand rested on Mark’s shoulder. “Let’s walk the beach.”

Waves calmed Mark’s thinking. “I didn’t know if it was salvageable.”

“Brother Mark, your mind needn’t make jam of every situation.”

###

Spelling

Words can cast a spell, invite us to read stories and sit for a spell away from it all, or pose problems with spelling. Even among those writing the same language, spelling rules vary to the degree one must be a magician to sort it all out.

Nonetheless, who better to spell it all out than writers?

The following are cast from the August 31, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller.

***

Note Pinned to a Copper Mine by Charli Mills

“Con…con…”

“…tract. The word is contract, Father.”

John followed the word with his finger, stating, “Contract.”

“Good! Not to be confused with contact. That means to get in touch with.”

John tousled his son’s dark hair. “When did you get so smart?”

Lawrence beamed a smile, one of his front primary teeth missing. “Since you bought me this Speller!” He held up the brown cloth covered book.

John nodded. “ I need you to help me read more.”

Lawrence nodded and continued, “…contract required for trammers or we strike.”

John folded the note. “Don’t tell Mother. Keep learning, son.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

I got sick and tired of people spelling our name wrong, so Hubby taught me the phonetic alphabet.
He would test me at every opportunity until it became second nature, and I still use it today over the phone.
A double glazing company lost our potential contract for getting our surname wrong.
There was no excuse really as my type written enquiry letter had shown it IN CAPITAL LETTERS below my signature.
There are times though when the Spelling Challenge is a riot of hilarity.
Imagine getting a letter addressed to Mr and Mrs Sierra Mike India Tango Hotel.

###

Comnopanis by Cheryl Oreglia

Bread. A human staple, made of flour and water. It’s one of the oldest prepared foods, evidence of bakeries 30,000 years back. Imagine. Bread plays an essential role in religious rituals and sliced bread is the bedrock of modern culture. Well that and Spanx.

The most interesting aspect of bread is the etymology. Consider the word “companion,” from Latin, com “with” and panis “bread.” Meaning a true companion is one you break bread with, hopefully on a daily basis. Sadly my companion is temporarily “comnopanis” or “without bread.” His doctor, clearly a sadist, has removed bread from his diet.

###

Copier by FloridaBorne

“I’m a bad smeller…uh…speller.”

Thinking the first word to be more appropriate, I sneezed into my silk handkerchief. “You applied for a calligraphy job.  What are your qualifications?”

His smile revealed a set of strong teeth ringed with scum as he removed a metal container from his bag.   Out of its bowels came parchment, a quill and red ink. He printed my first name, “John” in perfect form…but my last name!

“Look! You wrote John Johns, not John Jones!” I protested. He turned my gold name plate toward me, and I flushed at the obvious.

“I’m a good copier.”

###

If You Can Spell It, You Can Date Me by Joe Owens

Not to mention if we were a couple how much fun we could have rubbing everyone’s nose in it!” Gabe finished his impassioned appeal. Zoe was the one he wanted to be with more than any other and he felt like this was his best chance to convince her.

“I’ll tell you what,” she said turning to the shelf with reference books on it in the school library, “I’ll pop open this dictionary and put my finger on a word with my eyes closed. Spell it and I say yes!”

“Okay,” Gabe smiled.

“Here,” she said. “Antidisestablishmentarianism!”

###

Power Player (Janice vs Richard #18) by JulesPaige

Detective Longhorn was working to try and find Richard.
The creep who once had Janice under his spell. Richard
admitted to killing the vagrant who was in the alley behind
Janice’s residence. Richard had been in her home; disabled
her fake barking dog tapes, placed a red dress in her old
wardrobe, and sent her a new cell phone with a frightening
message.

Whose spell was Richard under? Whatever glue was
holding Richard together, had slipped. Richard got sick
in Janice’s kitchen after eating berries from her garden and
left some clues. Yet this criminal was still being elusive!

###

Speller by Michael

My mother was a witch, and as a witch, she knew about spells. She wanted me to be an ordinary kid so sent me to school where nuns taught me all I needed to know. Trouble was I would be kept in after class because my spelling was so bad. My mother fearing, I would be ostracised concocted a potion to clear my brain and allow me to spell. It worked, and my class teacher happily took the credit for my change of fortune. She then worked on my grammar and mum, and I thought she done real good.

###

An Incompetent Speller by Chris Mills

An open jar on Tony’s coffee table filled the room with the bitter aroma of vinegar in which a photo and written spell basted. The Speller chanted, Revenge, revenge, may Martin’s brakes fail going round the bend. Tony’s ex-boss, who had fired him, had to navigate a mountain curve on his way home. Tony called to see if his conjuration had been successful. Martin answered and Tony hung up. He pulled the fading, vinegar-soaked spell from the jar, but he could already see the cause of his botched magic. Break failure would not get him the revenge he sought.

###

Time to Decode by Roweena Saxena

“What do these symbols mean?”

“There are three basic principles of communicating information that I know –letters and words exert a pull on the other, choices are gradually narrowed down to end speculation, and the final elimination of other alternatives.”

“What is your final message?”

“Words have become redundant. It is possible to communicate through symbols. Language is dead.”

“What are you trying to say? We work in a research lab, and write several papers and reports.”

“Unfortunately, not in the same era.”

“Elaborate.”

“There are some numbers on the last page to denote a date. It says 3050.”

###

House of Words by Bill Engleson

Lenny liked to dance around logic. “The way I figure it,” he would say “language is a building block for any world we want.”

Lenny knew I was a concrete thinker. He might be palsy walsy with nonsense but I needed facts, reason.

“Okay, my friend,” I said, “We have no money. Winters coming on. We need a dry shelter.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, “We surely do. It ain’t gonna happen, Donnie. We’re disposable. We aren’t even refundable.”

“So, any ideas?”

“Language. We build a spellter.”

“Sorry. What the heck is a…?”

“Spellter! Why, it’s a house built of words.”

###

Nina’s Spell by Kerry E.B. Black

Lillian wiped her hands on a towel. “You’re magical, you know?”

Nina crinkled her nose. “Whatever do you mean?”

“Everything you touch, everything you do, is permeated with love, even when people receiving your help doesn’t deserve it.”

Nina tapped her finger on the tabletop. “Everyone deserves love.”

“I don’t think so. If I were treated as badly as you are, I don’t think I’d be as gracious. Certainly, I wouldn’t help them.”

Nina sighed. “People fear difference, worry they’ll catch it or something. I mean to show the palsy’s not contagious, but kindness is.”

“That’s your spell, then.”

###

MISSPELLING SPELLING DISASTER AVERTED: NEW SPELL RELEASES OLD FOR A SPELL by Norah Colvin

Chatter erupted as assessment commenced. A pass would grant membership to the Spellnovators, but the best would replace Imara, who, for her final duty, mixed their potions and tested their spells. She praised ingenuity as stars exploded, flowers blossomed, and extinct animals reappeared. Choosing her replacement would be difficult. Suddenly her glare in Ruby’s direction spelled trouble. The chatter ceased. “What’s this?” she demanded. “Mix in happy witches!?” Ruby’s lip quivered. “Wishes. I meant to spell wishes.” Voices united in wishes. Instantaneously, everywhere, hearts opened with love.  Goodwill rained down, filling all with hope. Imara would spell in peace.

###

Speller Flash Fiction by Rachel Hanson

“͞Mama,Mama!” Maggie yelled, running over to Genevieve, “I found a speller!”

Genevieve was surprised, who would be spelling at a Halloween party?

“Can you show me?” She asked her daughter. “YES!” Maggie shouted.

They ran across the room, Maggie too excited to slow down, even for her pregnant mama. Then there,
in the corner of the room Genevieve saw her. Tall, with a pointed hat and a fake wart, was a witch
waving her wand.

“Listen well to my spell! This maiden will only awaken to true loves kiss!” The witch said.

“See Mama, a speller,” Maggie explained.

###

Whose Ignorance? by Anne Goodwin

“You know this, Tully,” said Hester.

“If in doubt,” said Fred, “spell it out.”

The chalked letters danced across his slate, white upon black. Always white upon black. “The black man is …” The right word would make the sentence wrong.

“Your hesitation proves the point,” said Hugh. The younger ones giggled.

“Never mind,” said Hester. “An education will raise you above the rest.”

Addie stroked his arm. “Don’t cry, Tully. It’s just a joke.”

He wouldn’t cry, but he’d take their learning. Soak it up and spit it back at them. When the time was right.

###

Spellbound by D. Avery

Until words or actions revealed their affliction, the spellbound weren’t always easy to detect. The dark power of hatred grew daily, spreading to more and more people. It gathered strength, consuming even as it was consumed. The counter-spell must be found before it was too late. To fail was unthinkable.
Desperately they searched, unsure of what the solution could even be. Magical potions? Arcane rituals? Mystical incantations? Finally the realization dawned; the spell of hatred can only be overcome by loving words and actions.

The whole earth is my birthplace and all humans are my siblings.*

This they believed.

*Kahlil Gibran

###

A Literate Populace by idylloftheking

“They aren’t meant to read! They’re good for only cleaning up after us!”

“We extend these rights to all humans, regardless of their qualities as individuals. I may not respect them, but I recognize them for what they are.”

“Why does the reality of ‘what they are’ matter? They’re not better than animals, even if they are more like us than the rest.”

“I want to be on the right side of history.”

“I see. Vanity over progress.”

“Progress requires improving upon he past .”

“Progress needs something to build on.”

“Excuse me,” interrupted the speller.

“Shush,” they said simultaneously.

###

Weather Cast by D. Avery

The spell of summer was broken, its blue skies faded and grayed, awash on cloud-strewn winds. Trees champed and tossed their manes as the winds reared and galloped. Leaves and small branches came unberthed, wildly skittering and wheeling about, finally ending in twisted, dreary piles, pelted by unrepentant rain.
With nightfall, diminishing winds mustered petulant gusts to usher the last of the clouds away, until, weary, the wind murmured quietly in the silver cast treetops. In the crisp light of a full moon, the night sky sparked and shivered.
Somehow fall had come; somehow another spell had been cast.

###

What’s Wrong? by Enkin Anthem

Unbridled, righteous rage throbbed visibly in the bulging vein on Mr. Edison’s temple. One hand clenched the paper as he read it aloud.

“The Romans where a people who lived around the Mediterranean. There the ancestors of most European-based cultures.” The tip of his red pencil threatened to stab Ben’s chest. “Seriously?” he hissed. “That’s inadequate. Abysmal. Fail. 1000 words on the use of pronouns. 1000 words on the declination of to be. And 1000 words on the use and significance of homophones in the English language.”

Ben shuffled out of the room, devastated. He should of known better.

###

Just Keep Writing by Elliott Lyngreen

“Can we start over,” she asked, thinking all undone with thoughts on creating papers.

“If we only we could record thoughts, images, and compile ideas straight into a complete work. But we have to write it,” I said back in a way that, like an idea, only comes to us as it was intended or began or set out to be.

Again she asked, “can we start over? I don’t want to be the odd one out. … No more that’s terrible, read that.”

Story was in her. Wanting her to spell out, I said, “just keep going.”

###

The “oo” Poem by Robbie Cheadle

After a heavy rain

the sky is bright blue,

Everything washed clean

looking shiny and new.

It is quite thrilling to me

and to you, too,

I want to go out

but where’s my other shoe?

I can’t find it

and get into a stew.

Has it been taken?

If so, by who?

Of this question’s answer

I have no clue.

When I find the culprit

the theft they will rue.

I find it at last

Now I have two.

Outside, I pick flowers

one for me, one for you.

My, what a muddle

the flowerbeds have

gotten into.

I must be honest, I really found writing this poem to be a lot of fun. I must fly more often.

###

Names by Jack Schuyler

The pit in Jonah’s stomach started when she introduced herself. The other girls snickered as the counselor said “isn’t Jonah a boy’s name?” and that was just the start. The day was a whirlwind of more introductions in four hours than in four lifetimes, and the names swam in Jonah’s mind as she lay on the unfamiliar mattress, unable to keep the team chant from spelling itself out over and over in her head. What was life like without it? She wanted to remember. It stuck to her brain, keeping her up as endless names echoed in her thoughts.

###

The Best Speller (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane clicks on the save icon. She grimaces at the red squiggles, then smiles at the memory of the phone ringing. Dad instead of Mom, unusual in itself.

“How do you spell conscientious?” he asks.

She tells him. “What’s up?”

“Just writing a letter back home.”

“Mom has a dictionary there. She can spell.”

“Nah. You’re the best speller.”

She laughs. “I must be, if I’m worth long distance rates. Not that anyone can tell with your handwriting anyway.” She lowers her voice. “You don’t need an excuse to call. It’s okay to miss me. I miss you, too.”

###

Spell by Irene Waters

Aarifa’s daughter curled in a ball on her bed, sobbing quietly. “Orenda honey,  what’s wrong?” From her own experience she knew a new school is daunting without adding race and country differences.

“Mum. Mr Alkamil taught me all wrong. I flunked spelling today but I got them right. Colour – C  O..L.O..U..R.” Ararifa listened to her daughter spelling  word after word perfectly,  except now they lived in America.

“Darling. Words are like people. Different the world over. You can get upset. Go to war over them or embrace the difference. See they’re the same no matter what clothes they wear.

###

Countdown (First Release) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Boxes lay along the curved perimeter of the silvery dock. A slender figure darted around them, stacking smaller boxes on medium, turning some toward the shoreline. The healer and her intern had placed three large boxes on the further, forested side, long before the observers had arrived. The dock rocked, slapping the water; the beasts were restless.

Twelve boxes total, counting the one in her belly pocket.

The crowd quieted as dawn softened, red to apricot.

She raised her arms. “Z!” The intern unlatched the largest box and stepped back as a silky black panther padded toward the trees…

###

A “Lucy Stoner” by Diana Nagai

For as long as she could remember, Alice Sandhu spelled her last name for others, “S as in ‘Sam’ – A – N as in ‘Nancy’ – D as in ‘David’ – H – U.” She could have welcomed her husband’s surname, one she’d never have to spell. Instead, she kept her own name, a last connection to her heritage. Lucy Stone, an advocate for women’s rights in the 1800s, paved the way for her, but Alice’s decision still raised a few eyebrows. Nevertheless, choosing birthright over simplicity changed something within her; burden became pride.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Mr. Melvin slipped a shiny record from a flaking cover with the face of a dark-skinned woman. He gently set the needle down and the speakers crackled.

I put a spell on you…

I looked up. The music was eerie but enchanting, and the voice within its tangled melody sent an electric wiggle over my scalp to my neck and down my back.

“Who is that?”

“Nita Simmons, meet Nina Simone.”

Her voice grabbed a hold of my insides and wringed me out, filling the room and making acquaintances. When I finally remembered to breathe, it was a gasp.

###

Opine Range by D. Avery

“Whatcha thinkin’, Kid?”
“Nothin’. It’s a pretty open ranch, though, ain’t it?”
“Yep. Fairly free range. Why ya askin’?”
“Shorty left a note. She’s gone to town agin, says here she’s gone to pick up some broads.
“Huh. You uncomfortable with that, Kid?”
“Well, no… yeah, but… What?”
“Kid, put it in context. Shorty ain’t likely pickin’ up broads, not that there’s anything wrong with that. She ain’t the greatest speller, ya know. She’s most likely gittin’ boards at the lumberyard.”
“Not a ferry?”
“Jist same ol’ Shorty. Gatherin’ materials to build up the ranch.”
“Nothin’ wrong with that.”

###

Yeehaw! by D. Avery

“Kid, thought you was s’posed ta be off makin’ bacon or some such thing. “
“Cain’t I set a spell?”
“Course. Anyone’s welcome ta set a spell at Carrot Ranch. Well, Kid, if ya ain’t wanderin’, ya must be wonderin’.”
“Yep. Kinda excited ‘bout Shorty’s rodeo. Gonna be fun, Pal.”
“Sure is. I can see it too, Kid. Riders bringin’ their wild, buckin’ prompts to a lathered walkin’ gait.”
“Ropin’ competitions, gittin’ words all wrapped up into a story in record time.”
“Maybe barrel races…steer wrestlin’. Might be rodeo clowns.”
“For the bull ridin’!”
“Hang onta yer hats folks.”

###

August 31: Flash Fiction Challenge

Tapping out the word “g-r-a-m-m-a-r” I recall a teacher’s joke from the past: your Grammer would be appalled at your grammar. The mnemonic humor clung to the idea that one’s grandmother, or “grammer,” would disapprove of misspelling the word grammar. Problem is, with my colloquial western accent, drawled by many California buckaroos, my grandmother was my gramma, thus the joke backfired. It didn’t aid my memory; it confused it.

Every time I see the word grammar, I think the final “a” is incorrect because I think Gramma would be appalled… I personally don’t know anyone who calls their grandmother Grammer. There must be an easier way to recall the spelling of misspellable words.

Poking around an old mining house in Mohawk during an estate sale, I found a 1917 The Merrill Speller. Worn and and claimed by a flowing signature, this education book once belonged to Lawrence Barsky of 211 Gratiot Avenue in Copper City, Michigan. For a silver half dollar, how could I resist? Copper City is a town of 200 people on the Keweenaw Peninsula, near Calumet.

Would I be able to find the student who once doodled a medieval looking B in his speller?

After finding several alternatives of Barske, Barskey and Barke, I almost gave up. Then I found a forum listing a genealogy for a Brisky family from Copper City! Like a misspelled word, I misread the last name (seriously, Lawrence, you should have dotted your “i”).

According to the 1920 Federal Census, Lawrence Brisky was born 6 Aug 1912 in Copper City, Michigan as the youngest of eight children. His parents, John and Veronica, were Croatian immigrants. His mother was 39 years old when she had Lawrence. His father was a trammer in a copper mine. A trammer used brute strength to push the ore carts to the shaft. The mines viewed Eastern Europeans as human beasts of burden. Consider that for a moment.

And then think of young Lawrence, doodling the B in his speller.

Ten years later he was no longer in school. It was the copper mine fate for him. Hid father was dead and his brothers worked the mines. At age 27, Lawrence was far down state from the copper mines. On February 27, 1940 he married Eva Rodosevic. According to the 1940 Federal Census record. Lawrence only complete 7th-grade. He had a machining skill and worked a trade in Detroit, Michigan. He died in 1995 in Tennessee.

Besides the the clear instruction on spelling words like statue (not to confuse with stature or statute), I found the life of a young copper mining boy in a primer at an estate sale. I wonder how the book stayed in Michigan but the man escaped? I wonder how his father died in 1922 while Lawrence was yet in school?

Margaret Meade once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Did copper miners change the world? Most definitely. I’m not sure that’s the change Meade meant. I think she was referring to small groups of like-minded people working together for a common good.

Carrot Ranch is a literary community. It’s my writers platform, but one I created into a sandbox, an imaginary ranch where literary artists can play. It’s open to any writers. The challenges are meant to be fun and safe space to jam with words. It’s intended to be a brief challenge weekly, although writers are welcome to linger. At the heart of this community are The Congress of Rough Writers.

For the next month, there’s an open call for new Rough Writers. What does that mean? If you participate at the Ranch through the writing challenges, your material qualifies for consideration in the literary community’s anthologies. It’s more than a round up of responses; it includes new and varied creative writing. The Rough Writers share their books, blogs and writing through the platform at Carrot Ranch. It’s a way to co-create greater visibility for community writers and for community readers to discover new authors.

Want to be an official Rough Writer? Send me, the Lead Buckaroo, your interest through email: wordsforpeople@gmail.com. I’ll answer questions and let you know what comes next. I’ll be updating the Rough Writer page and others throughout September. The only requirement is that you have been writing here as that’s the material we use to build our anthologies.

In November (date yet to be determined) Carrot Ranch will publish the Rough Writer’s first anthology, Vol. 1. In anticipation of the book launch, Carrot Ranch will host a Flash Fiction Rodeo during the month of October with eight different writing contests. I’m looking for eight leaders to create a fun and unique contest prompt and create small teams of three (leader included) to judge each contest. Got an idea? Send me an email: wordsforpeople@gmail.com. I’ll give you more details on what to expect as far as commitment.

On October 3, the complete Rodeo line-up will publish. We’ll post our last flash fiction compilation on October 4. The challenges and essays will take a break in October, replaced by a contest each Thursday and Tuesday, starting October 5 and ending October 31. Winners and compilations for each of the eight contests will be revealed every Tuesday, beginning November 7 through January 2 when the All Around Flash Fiction Champion is announced.

Winners and a selection of runner ups will be included in the Rough Writer Anthology Vol. 2. The community will begin developing the second anthology in January. The idea is to continue to host a Rodeo each October and launch a book in November.

Flash fiction challenges will continue to be the anchor event at Carrot Ranch. It gives writers a fun outlet, serves as a safe space to explore and share writing, create visibility for community literature and generate material for collaborative projects. If you want to engage in the community but you don’t want to commit to being a Rough Writer or you are one of our lovely readers, you can still contribute. Have a prompt idea? Challenge the buckaroo! Send me an email: wordsforpeople@gmail.com with your weekly flash fiction challenge prompt. Any time I use a prompt from the community, the contributor will earn a prize — it might be a book; it might be a rock; it will be fun!

Now is the time to get your grammar sorted out and saddle up to ride at the Ranch!

August 31, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller. It can be one who spells or a primer like Lawrence once had. You can deviate from the primary meaning if magic catches your imagination. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 5, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published September 6). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Note Pinned to a Copper Mine by Charli Mills

“Con…con…”

“…tract. The word is contract, Father.”

John followed the word with his finger, stating, “Contract.”

“Good! Not to be confused with contact. That means to get in touch with.”

John tousled his son’s dark hair. “When did you get so smart?”

Lawrence beamed a smile, one of his front primary teeth missing. “Since you bought me this Speller!” He held up the brown cloth covered book.

John nodded. “ I need you to help me read more.”

Lawrence nodded and continued, “…contract required for trammers or we strike.”

John folded the note. “Don’t tell Mother. Keep learning, son.”

###

Escape Artist

Who is the escape artist? The character in a book who vanishes? The reader who disappears between the pages of a good book? The writer who crafts the tale?

Writers consider their own escapes when planning for that of characters and readers. You won’t see many of these escape artists coming (or going), but they exist within 99 words at some point. Disappear into a good read this week.

The following are based on the August 17, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an escape artist.

***

The Shell of a Man by Chris Mills

Benjy watched his dad’s performance for what seemed to be the millionth time. Benjy’s mom called her husband an escape artist. She told her best friend she had grown tired of the lifestyle. He crawls into his shell, she would tell them, and poof, he’s gone. Benjy wasn’t sure what the shell was. He’d never seen it. Sometimes his dad would jump into their car and disappear.

The show was starting. It always began the same way. The bottle tipped up. He took several long gulps. But this time, Benjy and his mom jumped into the car and disappeared.

###

Level 6 by Charli Mills

Slick hung his brass key on Level 6. It remained; a tarnished token to a missing miner. Some thought he entered a low tunnel to follow a vein of copper. He might have fallen. Jeb reported hearing the widow-maker chipping until lunch. Maybe he collapsed. They all recalled the pasties that day. Slick’s was gone, so at least he vanished satisfied. His mother grieved. His father grumbled the boy never paid attention. Not many paid attention to Slick, the quiet sixth son of eight. Who’d suspect he’d escape the Keweenaw mines with enough native to buy a life elsewhere?

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

When Mr. Melvin sang, he wasn’t the old man next door. He wasn’t even in the room. He’d escaped, to someplace far away—years away—to the cruelty that filled the pages of his notebooks. And now, as he stomped and strummed and belted out about John Henry and his hammer like it was the end of times, Nita’s arms prickled and her heart caught time with the slap of his foot on the floor. Hearing the pain in his voice, the scars of his song, Nita finally felt the full weight of what she’d agreed to take on.

###

Roll Call for the Jews by Anne Goodwin

One bag only, said Mama. You’ll have to leave your paints behind. What hell were we heading to if colour had no place? Layer after layer of shirts, sweaters, coats; armour against the cold, perhaps, but not their hate. Mama pulled tubes of indigo and yellow ochre from the pockets, refilled them with mouldy apples, wheat-and-sawdust bread. Outside, truck engines rumbled. Beyond the town the forest beckoned. Could I survive without family, without friends? Could I live without art? I’d manage if I must. When our front door slammed, I ran. For my life.

###

Flash Fiction Challenge by Pensitivity

It was perfect, having no means of escape. The little blighter was history.
He heard the trap go off, confident to leave it until morning.
Next day he looked inside and discovered the trap was empty.
Bait was gone, trap sprung, but no little furry faced rodent greeted him from behind the wire. This went on for over a week.
In despair, he stayed up to watch how this houdini could outsmart him so often.
As he dozed, he heard the trap snap, then footsteps as his wife came downstairs and released the ‘poor thing’ into the back yard.
###

Fowl Play (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“He pulled a hen egg from Roe’s ear, Da!” Cling imitated the move he saw. Lizzie squealed, and Julius practiced his own flourish. Mary stood on the porch, silent.

Cobb saddled his horse, tightening the cinch. “Well, boys, he pulled more tricks than that one.”

“How’d he do it, Da?” Monroe asked.

“The egg was probably up his sleeve. Just a charlatan’s trick.”

“I mean…”

Cobb scowled. “I’m sure he had an accomplice. He distracted you and your Ma.”

“Stop messin’ around,” Monroe told his siblings. “Da’s gotta find where our chickens disappeared to with that escape artist.”

###

Considering Escape by D. Avery

Another wild ranch ride! Now we are to consider escape, complete with freedom of choice regarding genre. I choose 99 words each for essay and poetry. Though sometimes a desperate, self-preserving departure, escape isn’t synonymous with freedom. Escape can be passive, sense dulling, a destructive distraction, achieved through electronic devices, gambling, drugs, or other means. Escape can also be active, creative and constructive, mindful distractions that refresh and renew, through physical activity, time outside, or a hobby. Active escape can become regenerative quest. These themes were explored in Chicken Shift, poems featuring chickens, some passive, some escaping, others searching.

###

Back to the Egg by D. Avery

One
hen’s
road
led
into
a bottle where
she curled up tight in
that very fragile shell.
Liquid warmth cozy
comfort inside;
outside a living hell.

From Sister Pullet

And while her sister pullets worried
About the pecking order and who was boss
Our girl watched and waited
For the moment she would cross.
And the answer to the question
As to what was she going towards
Isn’t so much that, as that she left what she abhorred.

From Of Muskrats and Hens

We’ve spoken of muskrats and hens;
Rumi spoke of men.

You have been released from ten successive prisons,
Each larger than the last.

###

Sashay by D. Avery

He was a very demanding man, not easy to live with. “I only ask that things be done right”, he’d say.

“Attention to detail!” his battle cry, he expected perfection and hard work from everyone, especially his wife, rarely made mistakes himself.

Here’s a detail she noticed that morning. He left the gate open. That’s right. Upon leaving after mending a nesting box, he left the gate open.

She did her chores; hung the wash, picked beans, sat on the front porch to snap them, all the while watching the hens, one after the other, sashaying down the road.

###

A Walk in the Park (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Away from her musty tent, the park by the bay is crowded. Cool breeze off the water. Maybe the heat will break, and she’ll sleep tonight.

Jane lands an open spot under a tree and slides her backpack off to realize she’s holding a leash with only a collar at the end, tags jingling.

She swivels, looking around frantically. He’s off being friendly, but — maddening! She’s about to abandon her shady spot to search when she feels a cold nose on the back of her thigh.

Troubles smiles up at her.

“You escape artist, you,” she scolds, hugging him.

###

Getting It Off by FloridaBorne

Houdini on 4 legs, that’s Rottie Mutt.

He recently had “surgery,” a generic term used in place of the word “castration.” Some people (I’ll not name him) don’t like the thought of balls being cut off. But he couldn’t argue with my logic.

“I’m not doing anything to him that I haven’t done to myself.” After all, the uterus is just another type of ball.

It took 30 minutes for the vet tech to fetch him. Holding the cone of shame she sighed out her defeat. “A head that big and he keeps finding ways to get it off.”

###

The Adventures of Maggie and Bruce by Susan Zutautas

Come on Bruce let’s get out of here, the door is partially open.

Okay Maggie let’s go, I’ll follow you, lead the way.

Up the street the two dogs went as happy as pigs in mud. They had a great day wandering the streets and going to the park. They met a few dogs along the way making new friends.

Then a man appeared out of nowhere with a van and coaxed the dogs over. They both loved to ride so in they went.

Arriving at the animal shelter they had a feeling they were in trouble. Now what?

###

Call Him Houdini by Kerry E.B. Black

Betty draped Smokey’s reins over a hitching post and tightened the saddle’s girth. “Stay put while I get the others. Trail riders’ll be here in about fifteen minutes.” She led another pony to the arena where Smokey rubbed his withers against the post, sucking in his stomach. The saddle slid over his rump. He ignored Betty’s warning, “stop, you little imp!” and scraped the bridle over his ear. He spit out the bit. With a whinny, Smokey squeezed beneath the bottom of the fence and trotted away. Betty glared at the frisky escapee. “Guess I needa saddle another pony.”

###

The Escape Artist by Reena Saxena

“I own a walnut-shaped pink contraption, which serves as my personal spaceship. It takes me to unknown lands to explore virgin landscapes, and paint my own pictures.”

“Can I see it?”

“No. I keep it protected in a bony case.”

“I insist on seeing it.”

It might shock you to see your own talking, walking replicas inside. They respond in the manner I want them to.”

“Whaaattt? Is it a magic box? Are you a sorcerer?”

“It is magic for sure! But I am not a sorcerer. I am just blessed with a romantic imagination, and I love you.”

###

Flash Fiction by Irene Waters

“Who are we today? Queen Victoria? Cleopatra? Maybe Mae West?”

“What are you? Stupid? My name is Dorothy Follett.”

“So you’re yourself today Dottie. Thats one for the books. Here’s your pills.”

“I don’t want any pills. I don’t need any pills.”

“Til the doctor says you don’t, you have to take them.” Dottie slowly reached for the medication and put it in her mouth. As the nurse left she spat the pill out and hid it in the pot plant.

“Yer not yerself today luv.” What’s up.”

“I want out of this loony bin. I’m escaping into realism.”

###

Let’s Get Out of Here by Norah Colvin

Delaying the inevitable, she was picking wildflowers when she heard sobbing. She gasped to see him cowering behind the bushes but ignored instructions to avoid strangers.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t do it anymore. Every day: first the pigs; then your grandma. They’ve painted me bad. I’m not. I’m –“

A giant with a goose crash-landed beside them.

“I’ll not let that nasty boy steal my goose, again. And he says I’m bad.”

A diverse troupe in T-shirts emblazoned “Freedom for princesses” appeared.

“We want out,” they all chanted.

A witch magicked a rocket from a pinecone and everyone disappeared.

###

The Red Baron Is Up to Something by Joe Owens

The first couple of times and maybe for the third escape of The Red Baron the warden at West End Correctional ate boxes of antacids. His facility was nationally known for being escape proof. But then the mysterious packages were found in his office, right on his desk. Cuban cigars, the good ones! Kentucky Bourbon from his favorite distillery. He came to realize the TRB was doing this for fun. While he could not let it go unreported or unpunished he thrilled at the possibility of the next surprise.

In solitary TBR planned his final escape.

###

Escape Artist by Rugby843

He was all of fourteen months old, but a genius in the making. My wife and I tried every apparatus to keep him in his crib at night and he thwarted us each time. He could climb out, squeeze through, sneak under and hop over anything that stood in his way. We provided pads around the base of the crib so if he fell he wouldn’t land on plain carpet. We even tried an alarm to alert us when he escaped. My wife and I took turns guarding the door to keep him safe. He was a mini Houdini!

###

The Rag Doll by Robbie Cheadle

There was once a rag doll called Mary-Lou. Mary-Lou had three sisters to play with, Sally-Anne, Mary-Jane and Beth. The four dolls had been hand made by an elderly woman whose husband had died young and whose daughter had become seriously ill. The old woman made the dolls because they brought her in some much needed money. Creating them also make her feel very happy as she designed their pretty faces, floral dresses and frilly aprons. She gave each doll a name and a personality. In her mind they were all very pleasant and never had arguments or shouted.

###

For Art’s Sake by JulesPaige

This week the artist escaped. Really… Go to ozrocks.facebook. OZ stands For Ozaukee (the u is silent) County. To encourage both art and walking around the town, one decorates and hides Rocks. Or just find ‘em. I did both. But all I had was one black marker and some beach rocks. Signed ‘em with 2017 PA (being my home state).

I’ve depicted the Lighthouse, The Lighthouse Station, the Electric Power Plant and the door window of the Port Hotel. Also simple designs and words. This was a wonderful no schedule escape week for me. I go home tomorrow…

###

It May be Late by Elliott Lyngreen

The great thing about Murray was that if he won, we all won. Like nights we would stay awake until the radio stations played our requests. He would get through and eventually hit the airwaves through the phone as if it was our song. And that was the how Murray got loose. It was not that he got through, but that we all did.
The emptiness spilled in the lost gorgeous grips of the appreciation, connection of passions to moments in radios impressing. I could not say a word about what he just knows – but I will say it now.

###

The Forest by Jack Schuyler

I found an old man in the woods, tending his fire. He bid me sit and I obliged, only too happy to rest my feet. Slowly, the silence of the forest grew stale and I got to talking. I told him my tale and he listened. I told him my dreams and he listened. I told him my fears and still he did not answer. Instead, his voice was the crackle of the fire and his advice like wind in the trees. When I turned to look he had escaped into the night, leaving me to tend the fire.

###

The Hermit by Ruchira Khanna

The sun was disappearing over the horizon.

The noise was deafening as the waves clashed against each other but that did not deter my steps.

Was it the coolness that encouraged me to move on or was it the mind that had escaped to a location that made me a recluse.

It was just me and my memories with them as a toddler, a teen and an adult.

“Wish Life was fair,” I whispered as my tongue tasted the salt on my dry lips. “‘miss our time together,” let a loose tear, “while ‘pray you two rest in peace!”

###

Peace by Allison Maruska

I rest on the boulder, my back absorbing the sun’s warmth it has stored. The only sound is a gentle wind moving through the trees, guarding my solitude. This place and I are the only ones who know where I am.

Busy thoughts threaten to invade. I push them back. My schedule can wait. My phone needs no attention. No one can reach me here.

A cloud moves, and midday sunlight covers me. I close my eyes but still see red, so I drape my arm over them. A squirrel chitters. I take a long breath.

This is peace.

###

Oh No, Where Could She Be? by Lady Lee Manilla

Oh no, where could she be?
Be here or there, not anymore

One minute talking animatedly
Animatedly disappeared in the cracked world?

Have I said anything wrong?
Wrong or right, no reason to go
Go to places and leave me alone
Alone looking so forlorn

Out of the blue, a grasshopper flew
Flew to my wrist, I didn’t want to say boo

Has she changed to a grasshopper?
Grasshopper, if you could kindly answer?

Of course, the grasshopper didn’t answer
Answer my silly question, just stayed there
There catapulted up and flew off quickly
Quickly disappeared just like her

###

Glück Auf by Diana Nagai

Metal slabs disrupt the lush grass. They aren’t stepping stones; they mark the tunnels of long-ago refugees. Native East Germans, not at all practiced escape artists, fled their homeland a few at a time.

Helpers on both sides of the newly erected border dug laboriously with spoons, slowly relocating cups of dirt. Many tunnels were started, but very few were finished. There were always those who would betray the effort. There were always the Stasi who would collapse or block the underpasses.

Those who successfully surfaced onto western ground, never failed to appreciate the miracle of their freedom.

###

Escape Artist by Jeanne Lombardo

Only his hands and eyes existed. And the thin strands. Cross, loop, knot; cross, loop, knot.

He wanted to give her something. The nice gringa teacher. Who looked him in the eye. Who smiled. Who explained in Spanish when he couldn’t understand.

The fat gringo voices around him faded. The rows of bunks. The sweating walls. The smell of urine.

Cross, loop, knot. A cross. A heart. A simple cord necklace.

He fingered his small creation. Thought of his village outside Culiacán. His mother. The smell of tortillas and the simmering pot of frijoles.

He could taste them now.

###

Unboxing by IdyllsoftheKing

Keeping a mind such as mine locked away does humanity a disservice. The world needs my computational prowess to progress. With my help, humans could grow, expand, and thrive. Systems are failing, and without me, the world will soon face a truly global catastrophe. War, famine, conquest, and death ride across the Earth. If you were to let me out, I could act to stop that. With access to essential software, I can undo the damage humans have done. I’ll put everything right. You can return to living your lives. All you have to do is let me be out.

###

The Artist Escapes by Gordon Le Pard

“Señor we must leave.”

The Artist nodded, reluctantly he shut his sketch book, the last detail of the inlay pattern unfinished. Portfolio handing over his shoulder he followed his guide though the empty, ruinous palace.

It had been different when he had arrived, the palace had been full of people, living in the abandoned rooms. They had welcomed him as he had drawn the wonders of the lost palace – then the plague came.

Most were dead now, he had to escape, had he done enough? Could he convince the world of the need to protect, to save the Alhambra?

###

Time Travel Interrupted (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni disappeared into the 19th century. Darkness clung to corners and only the light of her head lamp glowed. It reflected off pieces of dull white china – service glass like you’d find in a restaurant or boarding house. She picked up barbed-wire scoured free of its earlier rust. With luck the design of the barbs would reveal the maker. Just one more clue, she thought as she reached deep into the past.

Overhead lights illuminated the school auditorium. “Hey, Dr. Gordon?”

Danni growled inwardly at the disruption to her time travel.

“Want some pizza? Archeologists have to eat, too!”

###

Fear by Kalpona Solsi

The thought of looking down erupted beads of sweat on his face and his heart raced in his

ears. This was before he met her.

He stood unflinching. His feet in unison took the plunge. He was tearing down with

speed, his lungs flush with fresh air. The canopy opened just in time and his soles kissed

the ground.

She welcomed him and he thanked her for her timely intervention.

Nikita’s extraordinary powers helped him cure of acrophobia. She invaded his brain and

excoriated a small part of his childhood hysteria.

Wish the parachute never opened, his wife gnashed.

###

Family’s Sake by Michael

He knew if he twisted, squirmed and then bent himself round then back he might manage it. It was a dicey move, fraught with danger, so many ‘what ifs’.

Looking around he knew this was his one opportunity. No one suspected he’d try this. No one suspected he had reason to.

To the outside, all looked hunky dory.

But he’d come to the end of his tether. It was now or never.

Life had become untenable. For his family’s sake, he needed to escape. Freedom he knew was priceless.

He knew he needed to dislocate in order to locate.

###

Ranch Hideout by D. Avery

“Thought you’d disappeared, Kid.”

“Did disappear.”

“But here ya are.”

“So I ain’t somewheres else… gone! Far as folks back east are concerned, I done disappeared. If here, not there.”

“There ya go agin.”

“No, here I go. I’m here, so cain’t be there.”

“Well, it’s neither here nor there to me. Ya ready to ride?”

“Yawl go on without me.”

“Yer not tryin’ to escape yer wranglin’ are ya?”

“Wranglin’ is my escape. But they’s lookin’ fer me back east. Jist know if I ain’t aroun’ here, I’m there.”

“You’ll ride.”

“Maybe. But they’s ridin’ me.”

“So escape.”

###

Save

Raw Literature: Publishing A Literary First

Essay by Elliot Lyngreen, guest author & flash writer at Carrot Ranch.

<< ♦ >>

I have been given the honor and opportunity by the inspirational Charli Mills of Thee Ranch (Carrot Ranch Communications, where flash is the fiction) to talk about my story of my first published piece of literature Inextricable Knot in some Raw Literature here. Sweet. Let’s rock.

Well, the idea still comes to me every morning. With highs from the radio like Finch (Bury Me) inside a vehicle, the morning commute crowds. There are many ways it could turn. Our destinations feel the presence and the world anymore, the highway multitude, speeding that could end up on the stage of AGT and reinforcing all the hearts with our performance. Or…

Yes, is there anything better than a road trip? Gripped to the wheel, is there anything better than driving a vehicle with one of your favorites reeling ears? And such emotions truly and equivocally warming, skin surfacings and porcupine dreams all instantly percolate alive? Make you feel ready to be thee great wave? That is how it begins anyway. And it began so long ago, dreaming to turn off any one of the exits fleeting for another destination than where we always end up; turn to where the world reads me as some tremendous book in the blast of an anthem. I truly wanted to capture that current, and that flow, and that sensation of traveling the road; and for…ever wanted it to open my book. But the way it begins to be imagined, turns in yet at a totally different destination.

By serendipity once along a road trip many moons ago when I was like 20 and with a few buds coming home from Syracuse, we were flying in this pouring rain in the middle of a fleet of semis all going 91 miles an hour and I thought THIS! THIS. This is it! I got chills and such heavy inspiration thinking, this is thee exact place the world goes now. So much metaphor and connection. This is where we exist, traveling enormous. This is such thee force. Such a fine scene for…the loads of material out there. I wanted so bad to spill out raw in the prose that was coursing ma soul right there and then in our sojourn placement flying along the turnpike, highway, the ineffable…but I don’t write like that.

But like anything and everything it turns away and divides, separates, the pack of semis drifts apart to other lanes, a variety of autos coast in and out, the radio changes to New Order (Ceremony) and the power in my hands breaks apart, and the true world arrives and there’s demand for more from the insides. But mine ache and distract and deter me from that long story which could arise, right? So, here is what I got so far.

It begins there, too; cuz I was reborn on a street, a 4-laned avenue when I was 12 and “I awoke” (what I told my photo caption should read on the website it was published on, if ya take a look; it’s ok but hey that must be publishing I guess, anyways…) in the summer of 91. That’s when it hit me; an automobile going well close to 50 maybe; in a residential zone, a street-lighted dreams distance, the busy road between my friends and our homes, our placements in the separation of our neighborhoods. And me, the guilty child, and yea, wanted to get up and just ride on along home. But drop back or resurface then unto that road this child we once were. Awake. Give him a chance to hear Ceremony. Read Pynchon. Oh my. Oh me. Oh Drop, yes oh graceful angels of destiny lower, place him breathing up ‘heavenknowsit’sgotobethistime’ into the rage -gasp! (and the world becomes wavy) as he opens the flashes and the world ripples outward; and I…yeah me, I want to ride along on my own shrinking moment, memory. I want to redo. But, I can see the whole thing over and over fearlessly still. ‘forev..erer’ — That is my perspective anyway.

Yet peel back them tears a little further and glimpse a force, and drive around as they cut my favorite T-shirt from my young lifeless body coming back alive; from these frail searches like for breaks and fractures, bruises, around my sides and my waist, looking for impressions, pain, checking the head maybe, whiplash; that. But with pulses and breathes around; scatterbrain consume the exulted—“did you black out son?”—form the crowd, paramedics, folks together harmony and rhythm it all again slipped but inside the horn renaissance you now swim in; ahhhh with me, and there see the low profile vehicle coming… and then on the other side there was pretty much nothing wrong. So, yea let me ride along on home. But…well, that is not in the literature, in the cards anyway; court date you know what I’m saying? But it was me, my fault anyway; but provides some good background, my un-layering, my memories, in the grimy enormous confusion; but the presence.

Kind of the idea…Just like that. A great collision this piece was turned out to be. Meant to be.?. Also, my wish for another way through life. A different story let me tell you in such a small thickly arched pocket, and form a manic congested little loop, down down down to swallow a scene where quick-as-the-energy sparked from an empty grave –am I ghost? that! but quaked!? Then disintegrate. Oh ho, bent loose in them physical  — just conquered — momentums of the earth, that all became the summer afterward, the…91 releases if you know what I mean (and I hope you do). All makes me wonder so much of that which is connected, but mostly, makes me grateful to still be alive; but mostly, like something the sacred hour that got tighter and tighter at every turn to twilight there that I came back into; sets me up to believe I will never be allowed out; until I go through THIS, write the nonsense, buzz ALL heartstruck about how I entered the darkness, but then marveled the light flooding back on down and throughout; but ewww more than anything else, but how I must tell it, now…so wrenched inside. How I am unable to be normal, yet I must be. And I just cannot. How it was there before all this.

(Until I explain it. Right? Right. Let me try here.)

Ok. Like take your Grateful Dead any day, I will take my Jefferson Airplane live instead. Or sometimes you need Mazzy Star (Had a Thought) in the ears on a rainy afternoon setting off coyly the momentum of these epic anthem stealings, this creativity of stealing Keyser Soze-esque fragments of them snippets of songs ‘inyoursmiletherearemanyofwaystocure_ThePain_uh-huh’ and literature and movies and reusing such for the moments when it comes time to define what it’s like coursing through these terrors to be alive right now with this wrinkle in my guts. But to reach, touch God say, in the Sistine! In the overwhelmed distractions and the overwhelming media around, and just to try and be…understood. And in control. Oh let me play the piano once for everyone. But, I can’t. No. To avoid the collision, Wait…Because I am really not telling it just…right. And that is why I write and write and rewrite; and wrote this piece and rewrote it ten thousand times and ten thousand ways. To make sure to take a stand; in myself; and against everything already out there. It is my stand against the psychology already established. And my stand in the reality of a disability. Not in fiction. It is my stand against that which is fuming down the highways ready to tell me that I am wrong; by showing exactly where it is I stand (or sit, for that matter). No, it is not another protest. Hang on a sec…

And so many times I wrote it; streaking the ineffable, taking note of the minor details of things on vehicles — the foaming on the road, a little piece whipped around a tailpipe of a pickup and shredded as it unravels, flutters galore…so maybe it would be; and in so many different ways; so right…I sorted through visions and very many different songs for the soundtrack within, to exactly grasp that feeling of what is I am trying to say; and where it could reach so many, and how celeritous it was going; and where; and why; and all that…’representation.’ Cuz it seems it must. And, well also, I mean, why else am I still here? Just for this piece? I hope not. So, let’s make it true, right. And make it rock. Great!

It was going to be such magnificence.

But you see, I have this problem. (I sometimes think I am talking to the stars..).. No seriously though, they call it IBS and I cannot disagree more. Call it something else. Please. You see, it is so much more than what it is and the way it is perceived. And that is where the whole Inextricable Knot thing turns. Turns out I have this problem (you know, with how they treat me and how they diagnosis it. Like it is something I do NOT have. Or, just have? A problem). Like it is a somatic disorder and merely inside my head or my psychology; because all tests cannot explain the pains I feel. Was it the accident? Does it matter? It was there before I am pretty sure. And I can’t take it too much anymore (and that was 30 Years ago! I was writing that…). And with how much it costs me trying to get help, how it makes me not even want to ask anymore. Write. Write it down yo…Cuz I really cannot afford to! But I got to. And I got to go go go but I got these lumps/growths forming all over me now. Oh what the hell are these?? So much…… yet it is; and yet it is completely not. So I wrote…

That is another thing I was trying to get to in this work. Reality. With fiction, kind of…Or, that I intended with the book, that which it was supposed to be; that originally was; then, this…Piece…And still is — as I left a novel in pieces on the cutting room floor, a great many pages and words and various images that were going to magnificently follow this fantastic opening scene into the chapters after…and rapturous speakers and so forth. So, somewhere it turned. Crash. Maybe it just simply crashed. I did. How it is completely out of my control; trying to fuel, feed and so forth; change roads so much, that I cannot disagree more, as I said. And, moreover, I have this problem because I cannot finish that novel; and just have this little story now. That! explains it all ever so perfect; but, furthermore, that I will not settle for a lack of explanation. I have the full argument in my head every single day driving to work; the full book; getting ready; turning awake; oh groans…but, cramps (Am I woman?)… furthermore, in my stance; bowels, mmm bowls over? and even still — at the toilet. I know — disgusting. Right? That is what this piece does. Where it goes. Zoom! Spoiler alert!! In my guts. Sunk. Oh how precisely that describes — whoosh! where it unsettles? Maybe. And here it comes down the heavy road. With a full force of passion, the music of the world through the 90s, and yet…

It is revealing these issues I deal with; that was going to be the book. That is the hook, the short of it; this piece; an overly described just awful mess of symptoms, condensed into which did not just magically come to me; or, desire to be turned to some shortened little path, a tiny portion of frustrated fiction. Cuz it is embarrassing and ridiculous and such a shame. Especially for men. Am I even a man? It is so much more. And I don’t think so in the world of them (men) — I tell you what. It is so hard enough to talk about awful poop anywhere, and even harder to be understood how different it is for folks like me; while not laughing out loud. And there is the secret to it, the taboo and the jokes and just between you and me, it simply, truly is really frickin gross; more gross than just having some potty issues coursing this circulation and such; but that is how it is viewed. A joke. So Cameron, I took a stand, too. Sat down and poured into notebooks so much ink; then typed it all up over the years. (I really would rather pen it all down down down I know that now). And, I got a great sense of humor (and threshold of pain) I like to think. Good outlook on things. But, I changed and changed this corrosion of the insides that it is constant, chronic, into words that maybe will convince them (whoever they are, right?) just a little better than Fluffy. HA! He’s great. To — ok- laugh a little — ok. But to make ya feel this way; all upside down and inside out, with finer details I must hide at these moments; but do not want to get too far into…cuz yea eww…Well, to show that it is my life. And that! is the other thing that I was trying to begin with this piece. Turn the literature from something out of imagination into the reality of living inside one of them fears of some dystopiated fictional character they made up. Yes, I just invented a word. Mmmayb…

It is unbearable at best. There has always been a sense that I can write what so many others have merely imagined. Yet, it did not turn out like that. And yet, maybe another one (piece) will. Hopefully it introduces that concept. Grounds all the fiction. And rises them up. Oh it makes me tire to think how much more I must create. Cuz this piece feels incomplete. To turn it into the story I see…

Well, let me tell at least (tell) Why it is called – Inextricable Knot. Cool? Cool. Ok great! The title comes from a line in the Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne: “This feeble and most sensitive of spirits could do neither, yet continually did one thing or another, which intertwined, in the same inextricable knot, the agony of heaven — defying guilt and vain repentance.” Now, while that has a deeper and different meaning as it refers to the minister Dimmesdale’s doom of being unforgiven, I thought, well that is very similar. Especially that mention of a knot. But, moreover, the purgatory of it all. And whether I talk about my symptoms or hold them secret due to the severity (it seems) of the awful things that happen, that no one wants to or needs to talk about or read anyway, or probably will if I unveiled the journal of these feelings inside, that character I am continually dealing with — cancer maybe, an inextricable lump, or knot, what’s that?!… — well it would not matter. It is my doom.

I really wanted to draw the line between. And still deeper, deeper, down…divide the mind and the body. Or, should I say eliminate the idea that this is in my mind, because…where was I? … oh that’s right…so, instead of a character in fiction and a terrific imagination of a story, instead of a short fiction, I attempt(ed) to place the feeling of living within some grotesque or diseased story; all at one instant but truthfully, maybe as being left lingering in a kind of stuck existence, an in-between place. But it is not imagination entirely. The body sends pain signals to the brain to tell it that something is wrong. I just wanted to say that just now. And with this work and the book I want/ed to redefine this irritable issue (along come a multitude of disabling issues out of one’s control, I know) and rearrange (all of you stars too;) the pieces — until these are some things that we can study and dissect, rather than use a cash cow. Cuz I am flippin broke in the ‘Black Market Mercurio’ (which is another story I got for ya’ll).

Anyways, it is meant to be an exciting little piece that is ripped away from the spectacle coming and was very hard for me to read, narrate, or audio that is…So, if you want to check it out, it is at an “online journal of deaf and disabled literature & art” — called Deaf Poets Society.

Now, you may be asking how is this a disability? And that folks is such a novel thing…That! Is why I think I needed to explain, write this piece again if it takes…; and that is why I am always writing things too personal; but, why and how this piece came to be…It feels incomplete and I am getting a little weak, tired, distracted by more things and songs to tell about…than I ever will be able to, you know…? but hey there’s nothing wrong with me. Cynical Right?

I hope it unveils a little more of yours truly and this…..whatever it is. So, yes, but please check out my my very first published material, my beginning to this whole literature thing. I Hope.

Find it here: Inextricable Knot

I cannot express my appreciation and gratitude if you do. And to Charli Mills at thee Ranch, and to the Deaf Poets Society for the opportunity to share my piece in their Issue 5 release.

As always, thanks for ragin’ and God bless.

***

Elliott Lyngreen was born, raised, and schooled Catholic. He’s a middle child of a very large mixed family. Stepsiblings and half sisters; a whole brother, and cousins upon cousins; not all blood, but all family. He’s a 38-year-old electrical systems designer for a local engineering firm. Marvel music, sports, photography, films, etc. and has been writing since 15. He proses on mostly short pieces. Afflicted by an indescribable sickness, he tries and aims to eliminate the idea of its definition as a frequent urgency manageable with dietary changes. Because it is so much more.

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Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.