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April 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

Today, I’m dressed for success. My hair is cut to shoulder-length with a buzzed undercut that I will keep until I die. At least that’s what I told my new hair-dresser, NC (she’s from North Carolina). How freeing to have that mass of heavy hair lifted from the back of my head. I rub the fuzzy stubble that feels like velvet. Head velvet. The rest of my hair covers it, so unless I clip my hair up, you’d not know I shave part of my head. It pairs with my favorite worm flannel shirt of blue and gray buffalo plaid. No strappy undergarments hem me in today, and I’m wearing a cheap flowy and floral yoga pants I found on Amazon for nine dollars.

A board room executive might feel confident in a tailored suit and expensive shoes, but I’m writing away, barefoot and comfortable. This is my definition of success — pursuing a creative life without dressing and primping to codes that don’t fit me.

NC shaves the left side of her head. She has pretty blond curls and a shaved patch which was impulsive — her hair was hanging in her face one day, and she buzzed it off. She laughed, admitting she picked up the razor impulsively but justified that as a hair-dresser, she knew the look would be in fashion. My daughter asked her dad to shave her head into a high-and-tight and women are exploring razor cuts. NC said, “It’s freeing.”

And yes it is. Freeing physically — it feels great — and from social expectations of how women are supposed to wear their hair. I like the undercut because I can have both buzzed and longer locks.

I know women who had to wear dresses growing up. I loathed dresses. I felt most like me in Wrangler jeans, flannel shirts, and boots. Certain activities, however, dictated I had to have a dress or two in my closet. At age 15, I had three jobs and money to hire a local seamstress who made me two dresses according to patterns I pieced together. Both were checked gingham and looked pioneer-meets-80s-pop. The fad never caught on with anyone else, but if I were going to be forced to wear dresses to compete in forensics, it would be on my terms and in my white, gold-tipped cowboy boots.

When I had three children — two girls and one boy, I let their own tastes dictate their choices. Mostly they wore hand-me-downs or clothes we bartered for at yard sales, but they got to pick what to wear. My son’s favorite color to this day is hot pink. My girls both disdain pink because it’s girly (yet they don’t think of their brother as girly). Colors are colors. Why do we assign gender association?

Recently, I saw a post on Twitter. The photo had two cards side by side. The card with a pink envelop read, “I’d buy you flowers.” The card with the blue envelop read, “I’d make you a sandwich.” The person posting made a comment about capitalism and cooking, or something like that. I didn’t really pay too much attention because I got lost on the tangent that the line of cards targeted kids. I was like, wait, kids are buying each other greeting cards? I thought kids still made cards for others.

But the image stayed with me because I later became confused. Yes, the messages were gender tropes, or were they? Nothing on the cards said which gender had to buy which card and for whom. I thought of my son and his favorite color. Why would my son buy such a card, and I imagined him as an eight-year-old boy. He studied ballet, loved receiving flowers at recitals, and the color pink. If he were to buy a card for his best buddy, he would have selected the pink one about flowers.

Where is the pressure to be binary come from? Obviously family of origin, secondary would be the culture we grew up in and participate in. My family called me Charli from the time I came home from the hospital. I rode horses, pushed cattle, worked on logging sites, and cleaned houses after school. I wore dresses when necessary, and find joy in wearing a broad range of colors. Some days I’m a lumberjack, and other days I’m a colorful diva. I like feeling a mixture of appropriate and rebellious.

Sometimes I’ve had to be strong. Resilient. Other days I’ve cried over the beauty of a sunset.

What does this say about my gender? Honestly, I don’t know. The more I think about it, the more confused I become. I can fall back on social norms and say that I’m a married mom of three. Duh. Female. But one of my daughters, married and choosing not to be a mother, says she is gender fluid. Her husband, a self-proclaimed feminist, accepts this. They are less confused about the fluidity of gender. They don’t experience the rigidity of binarism.

Gender binary by definition is “the classification of gender into two distinct, opposite, and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine, whether by social system or cultural belief.”

And I feel free to not choose sides. I accept that others freak out at the thought of not having the boxes. If they want the boxes, they can have the boxes. But why can’t we also accept boxlessness?

Today, an extraordinary thing took place — I officially became a resident of Michigan. I have a new enhanced driver’s license (meaning I can cross borders into Canada and Mexico, which I will need when D. Avery and I go road tripping between the Kingdom and the Keweenaw after the Writing Refuge where JulesPaige, Susan Sleggs, and Ann Edall Robson will be meeting up). I’m also registered to vote. But all the applications and paperwork made me choose: (box) male or (box) female. I was fine ticking F, but I worried for those who are not.

<And here is where I insert, you really need to read Anne Goodwin’s Sugar and Snails.>

I’ve been toying with gender as a prompt but didn’t know how to prompt it without complication. Literary art expresses our deepest authentic selves if we are brave enough to dive below the surface. Last Saturday, I met with local writers for Wrangling Words at the library. They are a terrific bunch of authors and poets. I told them I was experimenting and wanted to know is “gender” could elicit a response as a prompt. The variety ranged from a confused ivy-like intergalactic being misunderstanding human genders to my own exploration of a boy buying a friend a card. So I’m going to go with it!

<And here is where I insert, if you have any recent books you wish to promote, I’ll be updating ads next week. They are free for all our Ranchers who play here with 99-words and more.>

April 18, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about gender. It can be fixed or fluid. Explore the topic on your own terms and open your mind to possibilities and understanding. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 23, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Why Choose? by Charli Mills

The conference held at the UCLA campus thought of everything to address gender identity. The bathrooms were resigned, and attendees could declare their preferred pronouns.

“I’m not a pronoun. I am me.”

“Yes, but do you identify he or she.”

“Yes.”

“Which?”

“I am he or she.”

A line piled at the registration table. The woman seated, and we’ll call her a woman because a petunia pink ribbon beneath her conference Volunteer badge declared such, tapped her finger. “Look, organizers are sensitive to your identity. But you gotta tell me – do you want a blue ribbon or pink.”

“Both.”

🥕🥕🥕

Simon’s Pink Card by Charli Mills

Simon’s best friend Frank had crashed his bike, breaking his ankle. Simon’s mom suggested he make his friend a card. But Simon couldn’t draw the lines right and this made him sad.

“Let’s go buy Frank a card, okay?”

Simon brightened. Standing before rows of cards, he finally found the perfect one. The words described what he tried so hard to draw and couldn’t afford to purchase.

“But it’s pink.”

Simon smiled. “I like the words.”

That day, Frank grinned from ear to ear when his best buddy delivered a card that read, “I’d buy you all the flowers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

When you have nothing but the sack slung over your back, beggars can’t be choosers. But does lack or a downturn in circumstances really negate choice? Who says, “Beggars can’t be choosers”?

Writers explored the proverb and its potential for stories. Pack a little sack, fling it over your shoulder, and come with us on a literary adventure.

The following is based on the April 11, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Beggars Can’t be Choosers? by Sally Cronin

The memo announced the chairman would be evaluating managers for a senior position. Everyone set out to impress

Outside, tucked into a doorway, an old man huddled, a dog by his side. Most staff ignored him. But every day one particular individual would place several coins into his hand, smile and pat the dog before entering the building.

On Friday an elegant man stood in front of the eager staff and announced the manager who would be promoted. Delighted a young woman stepped forward and looked into his familiar face…

He smiled warmly ‘Who says beggars can’t be choosers’.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggar That by calmkate

The lady in the welfare office is banging on again,
why do you move so often you need to get a life plan!
The recipient once more belittled tries to explain
it’s difficult to live more than 40% below the poverty line
in a supposed developed country.
But the highly paid worker has heard this song far too long,
got several pay rises due to the hardship of listening to the whiners.

Dole has not changed for 25 years
and how much has daily cost of life risen?
Landlords prefer those with jobs and income
Beggars can’t be choosers!

🥕🥕🥕

That’s the Way It Is by Susan Zutautas

What’s for dinner Mom?

You won’t like my answer, but we are having roasted chicken, broccoli, rice, and a Caesar salad.

Oh great, chicken again. I hate chicken and you know that.

Chicken is what’s on sale this week, and you know that we don’t have a lot of money right now. It’s funny how you will eat Popeye’s chicken and Wild Wing but you give me a hard time every time I make it.

I don’t know why; I just don’t like homemade chicken. Never have.

You know what I always tell you, dear, beggars can’t be choosers.

🥕🥕🥕

Discerning by Abijit

“Tock, tock, tock, tock,” repeated knocks on my window pane brought my focus back from the e-mails I was checking on my phone, as I waited at the long traffic signal under an overpass. “Give me some money,” a young girl with a baby  pleaded, “I have not eaten all day.” Her face forced me to look for some change money. Not finding anything lower than a ten rupee, I handed over an one rupee coin from the dashboard. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” went the adage till the girl disproved it saying, “what do you get for a rupee?”

🥕🥕🥕

Brother Francis By Violet Lentz

“Alms for the poor!” Brother Francis cried out from the corner of High Street on which he’d become a fixture. Scarcely noticed, his pleas mingled with the street sounds. His robes became part of the scenery.

He often returned to the monastery penniless, and was reprimanded by the Abbot, as the tenants of the order stated they must subsist on the kindness of strangers alone.

But Brother Francis was not chided by the Abbots rebuke. He knew, it wasn’t the pennies, but the feeling of comfortable acceptance he experienced every day on his corner, that gave his vows meaning.

🥕🥕🥕

Boundaries by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Holly sighed, dropping her sweaty forehead into her palm. It was the same words, the same argument that wasn’t an argument. She tugged her bangs and tried one more time.

“You can’t keep doing this.”

“Why’s it such a big deal to you?” Rita crossed her arms over her chest, and leaned back.

“I see the future,” Holly whispered. “It’s not sustainable the way things are.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers, Dear,” Rita hissed.

“I’m not begging,” Holly picked up her baby. “We’re leaving.”

“I’m calling Toby!”

Toby was the Ex-boyfriend, not the father.

So Rita wasn’t Gramma.

Problem solved.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Anita Dawes

Years ago when I wore second- hand clothes
Worn out shoes
Sleeping in a room with no heat
Blankets as thin as rice paper
I made my way long ago,
I am happy
Some I know are still searching
Most days, he sits at the corner of Waitrose
Playing his clarinet
I hear the coins drop into his open case
At his feet as I pass
Today, I would give him a choice
Between a sandwich and coffee or a two- pound scratch card
I walked home eating the sandwich
Without waiting. I hoped he made the right choice.

🥕🥕🥕

Evie’s Choice by Margaret G. Hanna

“Evie, why don’t you leave? He’s no good for you!”

“I have to stay, Mom. I don’t have any choice.”

“Yes, you do. You can leave.”

“Leave? Him? No way. He’ll find me, just like all the other times.”

“Evie, there are safe houses. They’ll protect you.”

“There’s no such thing as a safe house, not from him.”

Mona clasped her daughter’s hand. “Leave him. Now! I beg you!”

Evie yanked her hand away, stood up. “No, I can’t. Good-bye.”

She stormed out the door, slamming it behind her.

That was the last time Mona saw her daughter — alive.

🥕🥕🥕

No Choice by Michele Jones

Dane stared at the tracks. Ahead could be anything, but he couldn’t go back, Zell had made that very clear. He had no choice if he wanted the money. And he did. He had to move forward.

The path looked clear, but noise echoed from the tunnel ahead. Inside, the key to his freedom. If only he didn’t need the money. Sweat rolled down his brow and his heart pounded. He sucked in a deep breath and moved on.

If only he’d listened to Amy. He’d have a choice.

A loud growl echoed from the cave.

God help me.

🥕🥕🥕

Juma by Saifun Hassam

Juma was sixty years old when the small railroad station closed. He had earned a living transporting goods for the farmers and businesses in nearby hill townships. Now he was reduced to working odd jobs, begging for food and money. In a nearby forest, he made his home in a small cave among banana and mahogany trees. Beggars can’t be choosers. One day, as he puttered around a junkyard, he found planks of wood, even a hammer. He scrounged for nails and wire from the local hardware store. He would build himself a splendid hut among the banana trees.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Floridaborne

Sharing a hotel room with four high school girls on a trip to NYC, I’d never been anyplace quite as opulent.

I still felt the pain of an unsatisfying breakfast, when a waitress yelled out, “This is New York! We don’t serve grits!”

I was the tiny one, the poor outcast wanting to be accepted, always put down. Girls were swapping clothes, but I was told, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

That day, I learned from a waitress that I might be poor, but not defenseless. I honed a mighty verbal sword, wielding it toward anyone who dared cross me.

🥕🥕🥕

Choice Metaphorical Beggary by Bill Engleson

Doubt

I began writing this elegy rather niggardly,
And by that I mean I was gracelessly leaning
To thoughts quite obscure, wrought somewhat haggardly,
Thoughts gaunt, sickly, words with barely a meaning.

Confirmation

What ho, scripting peasant, why are you so buggered,
With slapdash terms, such sloppy old bruisers,
Ungainly lexes that daub you a sluggard,
A slouched writing beggar snubbed by the choosers?

Doubt

He had me there by the byzantine tail.
I’d wended my way to the edge of the page.
Ninety-nine words with no wind in their sail,
Fresh bottled wine with no time to age.

🥕🥕🥕

Flaking Off the Walls by Papershots

A gust of warm wind rushed in with the man from the foyer. The chandeliers rattled; dust whirled down onto the carpeted floors.

“Lily and Becky?” he asked.

“My sister couldn’t…”

“Yes, it’s you and your sister. The gig’s outside the castle. 6am to 8pm.”

Lily nodded.

In the abandoned megaphone-shaped auditorium, ghosts of opera-goers gazed at their own paint flaking off the walls. Mr. Reynolds excused himself with his best beggars-can’t-be-choosers look; rushed backstage echoing orders. Now a car horn reached Lily’s ears from outside. Becky, of course, double-parked! By the entrée des artistes – the Irony of it.

🥕🥕🥕

Aftermath by Joanne Fisher

“Beggars can’t be choosers!” Ashalla said as she tried on a pair of boots she had taken from the soldier’s camp. They almost fit.

With their leader dead, the army had become fragmented and disorganised. It wasn’t hard to pick them off in smaller groups.

“Now all we need is to find the person who sent them. The one they call The Baron.” said Aalen as she washed herself in the river and Vilja hungrily crunched on a joint he had found.

“Not an easy man to get to, but I’m sure we can find a way.” Ashalla replied.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Roberta Eaton

“I’m not eating it,” he said. I could have cried. My entire day had been spend foraging for fruit and now he was rejecting it.

“Why won’t you eat it?” I asked. He pointed towards a large, brownish bump on the skin of the apple, “It’s damaged and it might make me sick.”

All the fruit looks like this. Since the war, nothing is perfect. Thomas may be right about the dangers of eating the food but there is nothing else and beggars can’t be choosers. Next time, I’m going to peel the apple before offering it to him.

🥕🥕🥕

A Choice by Ruchira Khana

“Come on! you can do it, Nate!” Mom urged her teen as he sat all heartbroken with a droopy head.

“Beggars can’t be choosers. I shall take what’s offered,” he shouted back at her.

There was silence.

With moist eyes, but a stern voice she said, “That’s untrue! Cause even beggars get an opportunity

to choose. But they choose to take the easy route!” The son looked at her with a frown as she

continued, “What do you choose to do about your low grades? Accept defeat or get your concepts

right and take the retest?”

“Choice is yours!”

🥕🥕🥕

Chosen People by D. Avery

When John Williams comes to Kahnawake I feel an old fear of being taken by force from people I love. My family, and even Governor Vaudreuil, agree; it is my choice. I am no longer a child, I am a Catholic woman of the Bear Clan, Marguerite Kanenstenhawi, no longer John Williams’ daughter Eunice. I no longer understand the English words he speaks, but I remember his contempt for the Jesuits and the Kanienkehaka people. Should I return to New England I would truly be captive. He pleads but I choose to remain with the family who chose me.

🥕🥕🥕

Equally Nice by The Dark Netizen

I walked around the shop.

With every step I took, I was met with a pair of adorable eyes. There were more beauties in the pet-shop than I could buy. I walked up to an Alsatian. It looked majestic just like its price tag. I shook my head and turned to the shop attendant. I told him my budget. He nodded understandingly. He showed me a white Pomeranian, not as good-looking as the Alsatian, but it would have to do. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all.

Besides, I bet both of them would taste equally nice in a stew…

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Friendly by Sascha Darlington

After Daddy died, my mom, who was fifty-two at the time and out of the workforce for six children and thirty years, tried to make ends meet. It was a different time when kid friendly meals comprised: “You sit at the table until you’ve finished every pea on your plate.” Tough love, but we were a healthy bunch.

When you’re a kid, you don’t comprehend adults nor why your four brothers, so much older than you, rarely visit or why visits end in bitterness.

You just hear your mother say, “Beggars can’t be choosers” and choke down every mushroom.

🥕🥕🥕

Grape Juuuice by Kelley Farrell

“Uggghh.” Janey’s fingers left long claw marks in the hot sand around her.

As the sun beat down on her bare legs the scent of burning flesh tickled her nose.

“Ugghh … grape … juice …” In all of her five years she had never been so thirsty.

“Janey!” A mirage of her older sister appeared; just like the movies. “Mom said to sit up. You’re taking up too much room in the sandbox.”

Hana dropped a bottle of water into the sand beside her younger sister. Janey flopped onto her back, “Grape juuuice.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers, Janey.”

🥕🥕🥕

Santa’s Surprise by Kerry E.B. Black

We were poor. We didn’t indulge much. Basics filled bellies. Hand-me-down clothes drew derisive attention from their classmates. I scrimped and did without while trying to shield them.

Holidays stressed me most of all. I supplement their experience with hand-crafted traditions, but I couldn’t fulfill their wish lists. Failure pressed and drained maternal enthusiasm.

One afternoon, I answered a knock. Nobody greeted me. A package on the stoop read “from Santa.” Inside, gifts for the kids burst with cheer. I spirited the box into my bedroom and dissolved into tears. Gratefulness battled embarrassment, yet for my kids, I’d swallow pride.

🥕🥕🥕

Cheerful Choices by calmkate

those trying to survive well below the poverty line

do have basic choices

public housing seldom available some return home

or share with strangers and all the unknown

many choose a life of crime

to cover their bills

people who would never consider such risks

or sell their body then their soul, become homeless

but we can choose our attitude

embrace our inner wealth

serve others by volunteering

spread cheer and good will to all we meet

don’t let long term poverty poison your soul or defeat

sure it severely inhibits life choices

Reflect wisely and turn that around!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

🥕🥕🥕

Maggie’s Sulking by Di @ pensitivity101

I always get treats. Always, always, always!

Now I get some pongy stuff they call ‘breakfast’ and they’ve pinched my food bowl!

My big brown eyes usually work to get some titbits off plates, but I never pinch. No sir. Don’t want my nose tapped thank you.

Got to keep the sniffer in tip top condition.

It’s not fair. No biscuits either, not even in my dinner!

And they’ve told the postman I’m not to have any!

I’m hungry. My heart is set on chicken.

Guess I’ll have to eat the pongy stuff.

Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.

🥕🥕🥕

No Beggin’ Dogs at the Table by tracey

I couldn’t catch the rabbit no matter how fast I ran. Darn, I was hungry. My twitching paws woke me up and I looked at the clock but I had never learned to tell people time. My stomach gurgled. I yawned and stretched and then trotted through the house sniffing for small child. Ah, he was at the kitchen table. He smelt of peanut butter and yogurt. I licked his foot but found nothing tasty there. I was impatient but settled on the floor under his feet where food was sure to be dropped. I hoped it was bacon.

🥕🥕🥕

The Chosen by Allison Maruska

I skulk on the edge of the wasteland, my movements quick to avoid detection. Once a bounty, this place is now barren. My stomach remembers, just as my heart remembers the once-constant presence of The Chosen.

The Other is near. I don’t want to approach, but beggars can’t be choosers. Securing sustenance is worth a little indignation.

Softly, I creep up. With expert dexterity, I jump.

The Other has me. She squeezes, barraging me with unholy shrieks. “Aw! Does Mr. Snooglepoof want some din din?”

I purr a little to appease her.

The things I do for a meal.

🥕🥕🥕

Choosey Little Beggar by Ann Edall-Robson

Hanna had drawn the short straw, meaning the night shift. The calf needed to be fed every three hours using a big plastic bottle. If she couldn’t get the orphan heifer to suck, she would have to call for help. She didn’t want to give Tal the satisfaction.

Squatting next to the animal, she lifted the calf’s head, hoping she’d take the bottle.

“C’mon you little beggar, quit being so choosey.”

“What’s the matter, can’t get her to ear?” Tal’s smirky voice sliced through the darkness.

Sounds of sucking made Hanna smile.

“Us girls gotta stick together.” She whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

Safer To Eat At Home by Susan Sleggs

Eight year old Becky came home from school to see her mother had liver and onions ready to prepare for supper. She sought permission to go play with best friend Arlene and bolted out the door. Together the two girls hatched a plan then went to Arlene’s mother to ask if Becky could eat dinner with them. They were triumphant until they sat down to lima beans and fried Spam. Arlene’s mother, seeing Becky’s face said, “Beggars can’t be choosers. Eat up.”

Later, outside, Becky said, “Lima beans are yuckier than liver. Do you think they called each other?”

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Frank Hubeny

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Ryan pontificated.

“We’re all beggars. We all depend on a handout, on something going right once in a great while.”

“Not all of us. Some of us can choose.”

“You know you’re a beggar just like I am.”

“Nope. I can choose.”

“What can you choose?”

“I can choose to sit right here.”

That’s when they saw Hawkins, a policeman, approach.

“I wonder what he wants?”

“You know what he wants.”

Hawkins stopped. “OK, guys, it’s 10 o’clock. Time for both of you to go to the shelter.”

“I get top bunk.”

“No, you don’t.”

🥕🥕🥕

If Wishes Were Horses...by Nancy Brady

Julie was one of the smallest kids in her class, and she was always picked last for every team. Despite that, she loved playing volleyball.

The school started an intramural league for the students; the team members would be picked for each volleyball team. First, however, Coach Coffman would decide who would be the captains of the teams. The captains then selected their players.

Julie asked the coach if she could be a captain. Wringing her hands, she implored him, saying, “Please, please, can I be a captain?”

To which, Coach Coffman said, “Absolutely not. Beggars can’t be choosers.”

🥕🥕🥕

In The Beginning, There Was Distraction by Chelsea Owens

Phan clutched her halo, rubbing already-tarnished finish. And sighed. If only she hadn’t been so diverted this morning, with the clouds. Then there’d been flowers. Then path swirls -which led right to the end of the lengthy queue…

“Next!” the angel matriarch called.

Phan floated forward. At a scowl, she hastily replaced her halo and hoped it aligned itself. It didn’t.

“Late again, Phanuelle.”

*Gulp*

“There’s only one assignment left; a newer one.”

Phan peered beyond the matriarch at the mostly harmless-looking blue and green sphere to which she must go. Oh, well. Perhaps it would have flowers, too.

🥕🥕🥕

A Man with a Golden Voice by Miriam Hurdle

A man saw a homeless person begging. The beggar’s voice sounded familiar, but he had to move on with the traffic.

The next day he saw the beggar again.

“Are you Ted Williams, the man with a golden voice?”

“Yes.”

“Hop in… Why are you on the street?”

“I was fired in 1994 for drugs and booze.”

“You’ll clean up and come to the radio station to see my boss.”
~
For the first time after 20 years, the beggar had numerous job offers. He worked in the radio show again.

“Beggars can’t be choosers” didn’t apply to him.

🥕🥕🥕

The Missing Car by Anurag Bakhshi

He gulped, and said, “Well, you see, I was getting really late for a date….”

I stared piercingly at him, and asked, “So?”

He stammered, “So, I drove at breakneck speed to meet her at the Theater, but…”

“But?” I growled menacingly.

“But,” he wiped his brow, “she was already inside. I hunted desperately for a parking space, but…beggars can’t be choosers….and so…”

I sagged even further into the chair as I completed his sentence for him, “And so, you left my Batmobile on the road, doors open, and engine running! Thanks Alfred, that will be all!”

🥕🥕🥕

Reena and Jay Do Beans On Toast by Ritu Bhathal

It had been a long trek.

Those last three mile had really dragged but finally Reena and Jay arrived back at the campsite.

Kicking off her trainers, she sighed. What she wouldn’t give for a pedicure, long soak in a tub and a chilled glass of Prosecco…

“Reens, can you remember how this works?” Jay was fiddling with camping stove, so they could prepare the feast that was Beans on Toast.

He rummaged around in the food bags, found some cans of lager and tossed one over to her.

Not even chilled. Reena sighed again. Beggars can’t be choosers.

🥕🥕🥕

Smart Beggars (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Danni overheard the receptionist say. She had stopped by the division office to resupply the fire-camp. Her grimy skin felt foul as her temper. Danni would set that uppity woman straight.

When Mavis hung up, Danni asked, “Who’s that?”

“Oh, hi, Danni. You look a fright.”

“I’m taking back the new supplies.”

“The ones that didn’t arrive?”

Danni slumped. “What will we do,” she mumbled.

Mavis answered brightly, “Beggars can’t be choosers, but Daddy raised no fool. I just sweet-talked old Jeb at DNR to find a roundabout way for us. Beggars can be smart.”

🥕🥕🥕

Who Says by Reena Saxena

He asked for help.

His father was a renowned doctor, so a drugstore was set up for him. He could not garner any new customers other than his father’s patients. The money was not enough to raise his children, so his father supported them as long as he lived.

His real face was exposed after the parents passed away. His brothers found to their dismay, that every valuable from a silver coin to diamond jewellery had been stolen. The parents’ bank account had been drained out to pay for the grandson’s foreign education.

Who says beggars can’t be choosers?

🥕🥕🥕

Imaginary Characters by M J Mallon

Brick fitted in the space well. It was narrow, like a cupboard to slot in, a place to be noticed. Brooke Trout sauntered past him. When she saw Brick her eyes opened wide. He smirked at her bemused expression. She didn’t notice but he followed her up the escalator. When she exited out of the toilet he was there angling for her.

‘Beggars can’t be choosers,’ she wasn’t much of a catch but she had a sense of humour. He valued that.

Brick smiled, ‘Babe join me? We can disappear together…

🥕🥕🥕

Tables Turned by Anne Goodwin

She hammers on the door, pleading, begging. It’s too late. She’s made her choice.
I’m not without pity, but her desperation soothes me, cancels the pain from when I was the one in need. From when I begged and Liesel chose.

She gave me two options, both impossible. If she left, I’d lose everything; if she stayed on her terms, how could our love stand the strain?

When she’s calm, I’ll go down to the cellar, take her some food and some clean underwear. I’m no cook, but she’ll relish whatever I give her. Beggars don’t get to choose.

🥕🥕🥕

Harsh Reality by Rupali Banerjee

One morning, as I was taking my car out of the Garage, I heard a pleasant sound of flute been played. I could find no one in close vicinity. Mesmerized at the sound, I drove down the valley. The music of the flute was like a beautifully cascaded flowing river. After driving some distance, I found an old man playing the flute and begging alms. A crowd had gathered around. When suddenly he started coughing, the crowd dispersed. Panicked, he again picked up the flute and somehow managed to play. “Beggars cant be choosers“, I thought sympathetically.

🥕🥕🥕

Restoration of Hope by TN Kerr

He didn’t hold a sign or jingle a cup with a few coins.

He wasn’t selling apples or matches, or singing street music.

He sat with his eyes closed in the chill evening air; had his blanket pulled tight.

So, he didn’t see her approaching from across the road.

“Hey,” she said to catch his attention.

When he looked up at her he was startled.

She was well dressed, but looked stern, the way his teachers had done.

He took the white paper bag that she proffered.

“It’s warm,” he said.

She simply nodded, turned around and walked away.

🥕🥕🥕

Breaking Old Stereotypical Molds by JulesPaige

Being the younger in a hard working family means hand me downs.
Maybe there’d be one new outfit a year, shoes when needed, things like that.
Cheap proteins; buckets of peanut butter, making due with leftovers.

there are choices, yes;
some allow us to reach stars
others for handouts

life throws all curve balls; cannot
beggars be choosers for love

To remember to give when we are comfortable can be key
To stretch outside of that comfort zone to help another, would, could you?
Without expecting some reward, remembering to give of the self.

Who says beggars can’t choose?

🥕🥕🥕

Hat Trick by D. Avery

“Pal, ya ain’t noticin’ my new hat.”

“It’s a beautiful day, Kid. Good day ta ride.”

“Yep. An’ ya still ain’t said nuthin’ ‘bout my hat.”

“I see ya’ve got a new hat settin’ on yer head.”

“Cain’tcha tell me what ya think of it?”

“Why? You went an’ bought it. You must like it.”

“Come on, Pal. Do ya like my hat?”

“No, Kid, no. I do not like yer hat.”

“Jeez, Pal, ya gotta like this hat.”

“No, Kid, I don’t. Ya begged me ta respond, ya don’t git ta choose my response. Now go Kid, go.”

🥕🥕🥕

April 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s one of those days that my calendar has an extended period of time and so I choose to fill it with writing. Every morning, I rise, answer the Hub’s question — “Watchya doin’ Tarli?” — go downstairs, take my probiotics, set the timer for 30minutes, and write. It  doesn’t matterwhat I  write. I give myself permission to write junk. Words help me to process, to think and  express my emotions. I can brainstorm any project, work out resolutions, let my characters talk, or describe a scene I’ve having difficulty extracting from my head. I complain, celebrate, but never censor. I write.

With entended time and ticked boxes on my list, I enjoy a good run. This morning, I wrote past and started to hunger for lunch. But I chose to keep writing. The UPS man delivered a box and that broke my thoughts. My tummy rumbled. I hadn’t yet had black tea. Soon it would be time to go help at the yoga studio my SIL is opening May 1. I almost felt finished. I wrote on.

Satisfied, I thought maybe I could  use what I wrote as a post. When I copied it over to edit and revise, I realised it was over 5,000 words. Ugh. Easier to write  a 1,000 than edit five times as much. While writing, an interesting phrase popped up that caused me to wonder — beggars can’t be choosers.

By definition, it’s a proverb, meaning that those with no other options must be content with what is offered.

But is it true that we have no other options? Who tells us we must be content? Those who took away the options? The phrases felt jarring and I recognized it as old programing from the  environment in which I was raised. I see it’s essence in the lack of compassion people have today for the hardships of others. I better understand how cleverly crafted the phrase is to let injustice stand because the victims have no other choice than to accept what is. I can imagine greedy capitalists hiding behind the proverb as if their meager handouts bring satisfaction, making them righteous and right. Take what’s left from the raping of the land — be content with your lot — beggars can’t be chosers.

While I’m not going to share my 5k mind explorations, I can say why it came up.

We are preparing for the Hub’s knee replacement surgery on April 22. He destroyed his knee on a bad jump into Grenada in 1983. It pained him and locked up after  that  but he soldiered on and the  military took no interest in his gait, altered mood, and trouble with cognition. The jump that bashed his knee also smacked his head, twice. This less than  a week after he was knocked out cold in a base game of soccer. I was processing all we’ve been through since a doctor proclaimed in 1987 that he needed a total knee replacement. Only, no insurance would cover it and the VA denied it. What they denied then, we got them to finally service connect in 2016 after we filed in 2014. I also wanted them to check his head. Something was wrong.

Almost 36 years after the injury, one that has caused a multitude of problems, the Hub is getting his knee replacement. Beggars can’t be choosers. In other words, he’s had to be content with “no other options.” And I’m not going to write another 5,000 words on what I think about that.

Because I come back to the same conclusion and three empowering words:

We have choices.

Always. We always have choices. Suspect those who say you don’t. What are they trying to rob you of? In 1862 when the Dakota tribe of Minnesota was starving, three teens chose to go looking for food. A Norwegien family who did not speak English feared the natives when they rode up to their farm, asking for eggs. Begging. But asking nonetheless. The teens didn’t set out to start a war that day. They chose to ask their nbeighbors for food. But beggars can’t be choosers, so the frightened farmer grabbed a rifle and shot over their heads to run them off. Historians can debate who robbed whom first — some will say the treaties for land favored the Dakota; others will bring up the shady dealings of the traders who intercepted the treaty money with claims that the tribe owed them money for goods. The boys that day never robbed the farmer. They asked. But in the heat of the moment, the rising anger, the sense of being born to land their ancestors once owned but now failed to feed their hungry bellies — the beggers rebelled, retatiated and killed the farmer and his family.

We always have choice. It doesn’t mean we choose well or smart. It doesn’t mean the world must be just first. It doesn’t mean we will act with justice. Accountability is acknowledging our capacity of choice and taking responsibility for our actions. Accountability can also mean deciding to make better choices next time.

Little Crow, as leader of the Dakota, had a choice to make. He deliberated over whether or not to hand over the teens to US authority. He had made multiple trips to Washington DC on behalf of his people, explaining their predicament, asking that the treaties be honored. He was told money would come “soon.” It never did. Aid never came, either. But more  immigrants from Europe crowded the  land where his people tried to adapt to farming, but cut worms killed their 1861 crops. They even adapted to the language and religion. Little Crow was Christian but politicians in power regarded them as savages. He was  leader of his starving tribe and the center of unacknowledged injustice. His ribs were emaciated. Beggars can’t be choosers.

When the anuities for the tribe never came, and the stores refused to let Little Crow take food on credit, he reportedly said, “Starving men will help themselves.” Sometimes choices are  forced, which is why the proverb tries to teach those at their lowest to be content. But it is human to rise after getting knocked down. Little Crow did not turn over the teens to authorities. Neither did he agree that war was the answer. He deliberated and chose to go to war with the US instead of hunting buffalo. During the Civil War, the Dakota attacked Minnesota and won several of their battles. They also killed many settlers, graves I have visited, battefields, I’ve seen, wondering about the fool choices of an expanding nation that pressured a tribe to draw first blood.

Little Crow survived the battles. The Dakota were rounded up — every woman, child, elder and warrior — and imprisoned. President Lincoln commuted the death sentence  for hundreds of warriors but on Christmas Eve (remember, this was a cultural group who had  adopted Christianity so they understood the holiday) 36 men were hung in front of their families and  tribe. Years later, while picking raspberries with his grandson, Little Crow was aprehended by men from a nearby town, hung, shot and drug behind a wagon with firecrackers in his nostrils for the cheers of the town who felt he was a monster for not knowing his place as a beggar.

And how did  I come upon these cheerful thoughts? It was the dilema of a bed that got me thinking of the phrase. You see, the Hub will have surgery and require weeks of home care during recovery. We are guests inour daughter’s home, and not to belittle all they have provided for us, but we don’t even have our own bed. The one we use is an antique and so tall that I have to  use a box to get on top. It will be impossible for the Hub post-surgery. When we received the list of alterations we needed make, I felt like we had no choice and that phrase popped into mind.

I corrected my thinking. I have choices. I don’t have to go without or settle for what is offered or be content with what won’t work. I looked through the local classified and did not find what we needed or wanted. I turned to Amazon and found a beautiful bedframe with sturdy steel slats and a low (but not too low) height. It was in our price range, too. It meant we would have to choose not to do something else, but that’s for later. Choices are empowering.

Our task might be less so, but I think this topic is worthy to explore.

April 11, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers.” You can play with the words, alter them or interpret them without using the phrase. Give it any slant you want — show what it means or add to its  meaning. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 16, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Smart Beggars (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Danni overheard the receptionist say. She had stopped by the division office to resupply the fire-camp. Her grimy skin felt foul as her temper. Danni would set that uppity woman straight.

When Mavis hung up, Danni asked, “Who’s that?”

“Oh, hi, Danni. You look a fright.”

“I’m taking back the new supplies.”

“The ones that didn’t arrive?”

Danni slumped. “What will we do,” she mumbled.

Mavis answered brightly, “Beggars can’t be choosers, but Daddy raised no fool. I just sweet-talked old Jeb at DNR to find a roundabout way for us. Beggars can be smart.”

On Fire

Burning bright, fire gives us power — to create, to destroy. Flames follow us through time and life, giving us memories of camping trips and ancient moments witnessed by the moon. We dance to fire and we let it burn within us from our sickbed.

Writers wrote flames that readers will seek like moths. Stories that will linger.

The following are based on the April 4, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fire.

PART I (10-minute read)

Condemned by H.R.R. Gorman

I feel like a traitor.

There had been a military tribunal, and the officer acting as judge declared guilty. Death by firing squad.

I take a deep breath while the soldiers line up. What a way to die. Every soldier was given a gun with a bullet, some blank while others are deadly. But someone has the gun which will kill.

“Aim!” an officer shouts.

I struggle to keep my eyes open.

“Fire!”

I pull my trigger, and the man drops.

Was it my gun that held the bullet that killed him?

Did the judge know he’d condemned me?

🥕🥕🥕

Flame by Anita Dawes

Prometheus stole fire to give to mankind.
For this the great Titan was punished by Zeus
tied to a rock so an eagle would eat his liver
which would heal overnight
to be eaten again the next day.
Until a hero comes. Hercules to the rescue.
I have thought of Prometheus as my hero
his punishment did not fit the crime.
Now he is mostly forgotten,
we sit on the beach, toast our marshmallows
the fire taken for granted.
Fire can take a forest, leaving burnt ash
yet it will grow again like Prometheus liver,
magic in the flame…

🥕🥕🥕

The Haunted Seas by Saifun Hassam

Tormented turbulent seas flung “Aurora” onto the promontory’s rocky shores. Lightning split the skies like a needle-thin tree with myriad fine and delicate branches. The clouds shifted into terrifying monstrous shapes as they raced across the sky driven by gale force winds.

At dawn the sky and seas were gray, and fog shrouded the shores. Beacons of fire were lit along the promontory where the lighthouse had sunk into an underground cave. A deep sense of loss and mourning filled the hearts of the seafaring community. The “Aurora” was listing over the rocks. There seemed to be no survivors.

🥕🥕🥕

Testimony and Sacrifice by Liz Husebye Hartmann

A moment, all I remember:

Her face, cupped by the flickering glow of a night fire shared against a greater darkness.

Her hands, rolling thin-shaved bark around crumbles of tobacco, mushroom, moss, bone-white shards… something I couldn’t identify, even as she tossed it into the edge of the roiling embers.

Her voice, raised only slightly “And thus we vanquish you, Darkness” as she stepped, barefoot, into the circle of stones.

An exploding funk of flesh and forest as I’m thrown back, onto the ground.

Moon’s cold eye staring down on me.

She is gone, but the darkness? Defeated.

You’re finished.

🥕🥕🥕

Prodigy by Sherri Matthews

What kind of Firestarter? A crazy, twisted one, that’s right. Hair horns and piercings mother would not approve – get them and you’re out, got it? My house, my rules. Yeah…one day… YouTube takes me down that tunnel night after night. Never too loud, thank God for earphones. Mother’s not here but the nurses are, so I crank up the music and it blasts my eardrums and I wonder what it was like to be a teenager in the 90’s. My generation now, sick but I’ll mend. Keith Flint’s gone but his flame still burns, that brilliant unleashed Firestarter.

🥕🥕🥕

Soul Dance by Di @ pensitivity101

She watched the flames dance within the stone circle.
Sparkles shot skywards, like prayers to the gods in times past.
She closed her eyes, and let the memories wash over her.
Hugging herself, she thought of another night like this.
Here, dreams were realised, emotions explored, passions spent.
Innocence surrendered, lives changed forever and a new life begun.
She wouldn’t change any of it. She called for him.
Footsteps approached, a hand reached down to caress her neck.
Eager lips nuzzled and nibbled.
They were young, together again, as one.
The fire died, leaving just embers of a memory.

🥕🥕🥕

Internal Inferno? by JulesPaige

When playing with matches one can get burnt or burn things to powder ash.
Sometimes a child is lucky, they only burn down a kitchen curtain.
What though would make a child want to get attention by flamboyant flame?

Is it a crime to want to be in the limelight, to have some, any attention?
Elder sibling gathering no dust; displays intelligent conversation.
Baby in nappies still, needs and wants blend; screams at fevered pitches

a burning desire
pulses in a shadowed soul
can laughter be found?

phoenix can rise up from flame
but they must be consumed first

🥕🥕🥕

As the Flames Fling High by Papershots

In the smoky gray courtyard, the firing squad is lined up, awaiting those to be shot. The former smoke while the latter lit candles in the night on their windowsills. But a section of the confiscated buildings is on fire and firefighters are trying to tame the ever-spreading flames – those who live in the area are out firing questions at officers ill-equipped at this fired-up injustice. The morning sun rises firing the tops of burned-out trees. “Fire! Fire!” a second of hesitation too many, “Fire, fire!” And all, at present, is gone up in tiny little bits of smoke.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire Mage by The Dark Netizen

We were never promised a glorious battle nor death worthy of remembrance.

All we understood was that if we did not fight our hardest, the dark king would slay our loved ones, and ravage our lands.

The Dark King’s minions were summoned from the blackest depths of earth, where no men wander.

Vicious and vile to the core, their only weakness was the blaze of holy fire.

As a senior mage of our kingdom, the responsibility of supporting our troops had been shifted to my shoulders.

I wasn’t the type to shun responsibility, besides I loved playing with fire…

🥕🥕🥕

Attack! by Joanne Fisher

The sentries were taken out silently. Aalen and Ashalla moved quickly into the camp. In the center was a fire-pit still burning. While Ashalla took care of the drunken stragglers Aalen spied the largest tent and silently went inside.

She roused their leader awake. He look confused.

“I thought we had killed you all.” he said.

“Why destroy my village?”

“I was only acting under orders. We wanted your forest for timber but we knew your people wouldn’t like that. So we decided to get rid of you. The Baron sent us.”

Aalen stuck her knife in his throat.

🥕🥕🥕

Blazing Pen by Reena Saxena

He has experienced gut-wrenching hunger in his early years.

Later, he found that fighting hunger is easier than fighting evil which suppresses independent thought.

He is a writer who dares to present things in a different manner, and superimposes his vision on existing or non-existent objects. The vision may contradict known logic.

The fire in his belly refuses to die, as does his metaphoric pen blitzing across a literary canvas. The hunger for his share of the pie continues to drive him. He changes the code of subservient minds. He unleashes control of a different kind – hypnotism with words.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire on the Moorland, Fire in the Writer’s Head by Anne Goodwin

Beneath the surface calm, she smoulders. Quiet now, change is on its way. The fuel’s deep, it only takes a spark to ignite it and, when it does, it sets her whole world alight.

There, a glowing flicker! There, another, crackling the bracken. The fire jumps from one hummock to the next. Connect, connect to horseshoe around her. Should she stay inside the circle or race to safety through the gap?

Peat burns and engulfs the moor, like ideas in a writer’s head. Should we douse the flames to save the landscape, or fan them into a new story?

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Sally Cronin

The firelight flickered across the walls of the cave and the healer stared into the flames.

Fire was a precious gift that had been passed down by their ancestors, but for some it brought a great burden. Those with healing skills saw visions within the heart of the burning mass.

It would not happen in her lifetime, but as the healer sat transfixed by the prophetic images, tears rolled down her wrinkled face. Her time was nearly over, but she hoped, that in the future, one of her descendants would be strong enough to put out the coming conflagration.

🥕🥕🥕

Olympic Achievement by Chelsea Owens

Panting, moving; legs dance; running? Slow he moves, yet forward goes.

Yelling, waving; crowds smile; cheering! Quick their hands and banners flow.

Road goes under, step by stepping; even’ning sunshine asphalt raised.

Signs flash by, their message flapping; glinting sun and wind-blown praise.

Turn now, hero, enter warmly; enter ‘neath the crowds and flares.

Swift and surely, climb the mountain; climb your metal, switchback stairs.

Raise your head now, torch-lit runner

Lift your eyes from up and under

Hear now, see now raised-face crowd sight

Bring your arm: the dimmer torch light–

To zenith goal; now, flame -IGNITE!

🥕🥕🥕

The Torch Relay by Miriam Hurdle

“Did you see the torch?”

“The flashlight?”

“No, the torch carried by the runner yesterday.”

“The tick with fire burning at the end?”

“Yes, the runners were on their way to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.”

“There’re 337 competitors from my country Britain.”

“Yes, 522 from the United States. The Torch Relay began in New York City and ended in Los Angeles, traversing 33 states. There were 3,636 runners passing on, carried the torch on foot for over 9,320 miles. Los Angeles will host the Summer Olympics for the third time in 2028, 44 years from now.”

“I’ll be here.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why the long face, Morgan?’

‘It’s Mum.’

‘Really? Is she ill?’

‘She’s planning her funeral.’

‘Some people do. Was she miserable?’

‘Not at all. Quite energised.’

‘That’s good.’

‘Is it?’

‘What did she say?’

‘She wants to choose her music. Three songs. Two were easy, cabaret stuff, but the third caused the difficulty.’

‘How?’

‘She couldn’t decide if she wanted to be cremated or buried. If cremated she wanted Arthur Brown’s Fire…’

‘And buried?’

‘Going Underground by the Jam.’

‘What’s bad about that?’

‘I can’t have a mother who’s a punk fan. That’s just wrong on so many levels.’

🥕🥕🥕

Sebastian’s Bird by Nancy Brady

Sebastian didn’t know where it came from, nor where it disappeared to every so often, but he loved that bird. It appeared most often when he was upset, angry, or needed help, or at least, that was the way it seemed. That is, until his bird became lethargic and his red-gold feathers began to droop. He fed his bird a special diet to bring him back to health, but nothing he did for his bird seemed to work. In fact, the bird burst into flames, and died. From the ashes of the fire, the phoenix arose to new life.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bonfire – Haiku-Style Poem by Susan Zutautas

Firewood is gathered

Firepit is made, wood is placed

Kindling set throughout

A match is stricken

Holding the flame to the twigs

Smoldering begins

Seconds pass quickly

Twigs caught, setting wood a fire

Bonfire has begun

Aroma intense

Flickering flames hypnotize

Heat is powerful

People gather round

Rubbing their hands together

Over the fire’s glow

Someone starts a song

Everyone joins in singing

Party has started

Guitars are brought out

Strumming and picking is heard

Hands clap out a beat

Cheerful happiness

Cold lagers are abundant

People having fun

The moon is shining

Fire is blazing overhead

Submersing begins

🥕🥕🥕

Autumn Camping Joys by tracey

Crisp air
Achingly blue skies
Trees full of red and yellow leaves
Crunching leaves underfoot
Legs pleasantly aching after a long hike
Sizzling hot dogs over the fire
Laughter as yet another marshmallow bursts into flame
Smoke scented air drifting up
Hands stretched toward the warmth
Darkness falling
Stars emerging
Ghosts stories making you glance over your shoulder
Crackling logs
Steaming mugs of tea and cocoa
Sparks snapping
That drying leaves smell
Bursts of flames from pinecones
Snuggles under a fleece throw
The hooting of an owl
Moonlight shadows
Feeling the joy of togetherness under a vast sky
Contentment

🥕🥕🥕

Hard to Take a Break (from Miracle  of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Fire spun a halo in the night sky. Danni’s stomach churned. Nothing more she could do tonight. She leaned against her Forest Service truck, away from the camp chatter. Some recruits buzzed from the adrenaline, fighting wildland fires for the first time. Nearby, the Canadian Bombardier pilot regaled his earlier flight to the crew of Australians newly arrived. Danni scanned the distant flames, feeling impatient. In 1910 they didn’t luxuriate in rest and strategy in shifts. Is this what Ike felt before he left –restless while others fought a war he had to watch burn from the sidelines?

🥕🥕🥕

Making Notification by Susan Sleggs

The Army officer stopped the fleet car in front of the brick house at 217 Maple Avenue. As they looked at the house, he said to the Chaplain sitting with him, “I hate doing these notifications. All the family has to do is see us walking up the sidewalk and they know what they’re going to hear.”

“True, but these days they can hold on to the fact their child volunteered and had wanted to serve their country.”

“Doesn’t make losing one any easier, especially when I have to admit friendly fire was the cause. And they always ask.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Nope! by Nobbinmaug

I thought she was cute the first time I saw her.

Nope!

That smile.

Nope.

The more I talked to her, the more I thought about her.

Nope?

The more I saw her, the more she smiled at me, the more I realized she wasn’t just cute, she was beautiful.

Maybe?

The more I got to know her, the more I saw how sweet and kind she was.

Maybe.

It wasn’t until it was too late that I realized, she lit a fire in my soul. The likes of which I’ve never known. It might just burn me alive.

🥕🥕🥕

Love Spell by Kelley Farrell

“Dear Ana,
My love for you burns brighter than a thousand suns. I would walk through fire for you. You would never wonder where my heart lies. Please Ana, be mine.
Yours eternal,
Marco”

Ana rolled her eyes. This was the third one this week.

All she wanted was a trip to the mall. Her ever pious mother refused and took her to antiques roadshow instead. She bought her an old rusty teapot.

It was better than expected, but when she told the genie she wanted love spell to wear she meant the perfume.

“Marco,
No.
Don’t write again.”

🥕🥕🥕

Streetlights in Winter By Erica Schaef

There was something I wanted. The glow of home, or the bittersweet ache of fulfillment. Something not tangible.
Looking at street lights in winter gave me a sort of peace. Here you belong, they said. Here, you may rest. I sipped my coffee, having long since abandoned my attempt to join in the conversation at the table. The restaurant was crowded, too loud, too bright. I sat by the window, watching flurries dance around white glowing orbs outside.

A man appeared under one, lit a cigarette. Its flame intrigued me, illuminating broad shoulders and full lips. I wanted him.

🥕🥕🥕

Machine Man by calmkate

machines were his passion, they really lit his fire

collected one of each kind, had a burning desire

had the skills to maintain them all

loved the variety, it was his call

but they don’t come cheap

long hard work just to keep

yet his infatuation ran deep

they haunted his dream sleep

when using any he would visibly ignite

his eyes lit up, the flame burnt bright

his well trained wife accepted his flame

she enjoyed his childlike delight as it came

his kind heart helped those he met

if using a machine it was a sure bet!

🥕🥕🥕

The Heart of a Teacher by Norah Colvin

“It’s storytime, children.”
They gathered at her feet, bright-eyed, transfixed.
Jane read, instructed and encouraged. They never tired.
Later, all snuggled up in bed, Mum asked, “What will you be when you grow up?”
“A teacher.”

“Storytime, children.”
They gathered at her feet, bright-eyed, hearts open, minds buzzing.
Miss Jane read. They hung on every word, contemplating obstacles and possible resolutions, following the heroes’ journey into the cave and out.

“Ple-ease!”
“No time for stories. It’s test time.”
They slumped at desks, eyes glazed, minds dulled, hearts heavy.
The cave was cold and dark. Were they ever coming out?

🥕🥕🥕

Friendship by Joanne Fisher

“Who’s there?” The Anointed One called out frightened. She had woken to see a shadow in the doorway. She was barely twenty summers old but had been chosen to be the Keeper of the Sacred Flame and brought to this temple against her will then burnt by the Fire.

“It’s me Kali!” A familiar voice replied. It was her best friend Ananya.

“How did you get here?” Kali asked.

“I followed the soldiers and priestesses after they took you. Then I sneaked in.” Ananya replied jumping onto her bed. They hugged. “I’m going to get you out of here.”

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Where There’s Smoke… by John Rieber

The restaurant was packed as usual. The busboy was frantic, maneuvering through the crowd with a large round platter on his shoulder, filled to the brim with half-full water glasses, dirty dishes, old napkins and candles. His head was turned so he hadn’t noticed that one of the napkins had caught on fire. If he saw flames, that platter was going airborne – what a disaster! Just then, a Waiter sauntered up and said: “hey man, you know you’re on fire?” He reached up, grabbed a water glass and put him out. The Busboy’s eyes widened. Dinner service was underway.

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Scared as Hell by Susan Zutautas

Sitting by the pool I looked up to see smoke coming out from our apartment window.

Panic-struck, I yelled, “Oh my God”, I’d left candles burning in my bedroom unintentionally.

Panic turned to terror then into shock thinking my step-mother would kill me for setting fire to our home.

A neighbour saw how stressed I was, grabbed me and took me into her apartment where she made me get into a cold shower and drink a straight shot of whiskey hoping that this would calm me down.

Everything turned out okay. My step-mother was happy that I was alright.

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Fire by Roberta Eaton

Jack woke up, coughing. Thick, choking smoke filled his room. Within moments he realised the house was on fire. Pulling his blanket over his head, he slipped out of his bedroom door and up the stairs.

“Fire! Wake up!” Turning back, Jack could see tongues of flame licking at the first wooden step. Tendrils of bright fire ran up along the banister.

Mr Farriner appeared with his daughter and the maid. “There’s no way down. We’ll have to climb out of the window and crawl along the guttering. We can climb in the window of the house next door.”

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Tyranny Tango by Macy Brown

My eyes shot open.

What was it that had awoken me?

Then I heard it again… that ear shattering scream. I jumped out of bed and raced out into the hallway, but as soon as I opened my bedroom door my heart dropped. Bright orange and yellow flames danced in front of my face, engulfing the west side of my apartment.

I got down on the ground and crawled on my belly under the flames to my front door.
How could this happen to me? I asked myself. This was the kind of thing that only happened in movies.

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Campfire by Kerry E.B. Black

While the other Girl Scouts gathered close to the campfire to sing traditional songs and roast marshmallows for s’mores, Lottie kept to the shadows. She studied the ground and regretted the trip.

Her friends regarded the fire as an exotic beauty shooting fairy sparks to dance with the starry sky, but Lottie could only recall its destructive power. Fire consumed without mercy, devoured with no discrimination.

She shrunk from its warmth. She hated the smoky stench. When the wood popped like gunshots, she squeezed her eyes tight. Flames flickered like an antique film, replaying her family house consumed.

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Smouldering Fire by Ann Edall-Robson

After a month of loading hay bales and mucking out stalls, Hanna had become one of the depended upon employees at the ranch. She didn’t flaunt her ability to work shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the crew, and she volunteered when opportunity arose. She ignored the grumbling remarks when she was singled out to show a newcomer around. So when the request came to help Mrs. Johnson in the cookhouse, she automatically stepped forward.

“Not you, Hanna. Tal can go.”

The smouldering look of disgust directed towards Hanna could have started a fire anywhere Tal’s gaze lingered.

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Fire by Deborah Lee

Again. AGAIN. She can’t do anything right. It’s the 50-50-90 rule: If she has a 50-50 chance of choosing the right thing, there’s a 90% chance she’ll choose wrong.

Anxiety rushes through her veins, ice water for blood. She sidles up to Greg’s desk, opens her mouth, knowing she’s hanging her desperation out for all to see.

On second thought, the whole floor heard the shouting anyway.

Fight or flight.

Barely keeping her voice steady, she asks, “Does Lesley ever fire anyone?”

Greg’s glance is sympathetic. “Sometimes,” he says. “But usually they get fed up and walk out first.”

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Fire by Floridaborne

“Go away,” June said, slamming down the receiver. “Men!”

Her Persian cat, Fifi, purred at June, nuzzling against her leg.

She found men at an on-line dating service, and then used the “cat test.” They’d meet at a park, and if Fifi hissed at him, there were no second chances!

At 35, and still single, she wanted a child. Though she wasn’t showing yet, her last paramour had served his purpose.

“Men want to burn with desire instead of giving comfort and understanding.”

Fifi sniffed June’s stomach and hissed.

“Thanks, Fifi. Looks like I’ll be aborting this one, too.”

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The Threat in His Eyes by M J Mallon

The fire raged, and a ring of flames circled the card, avoiding it as if it contained the deadly plague. The sand timer ran out. The fire burnt down leaving its mark on the card with black singed edges.

I felt a chill creep up my spine. When I searched Dad’s face for some clue to his strange behaviour, I reeled back, struck by the sight of a dull emptiness in his eyes. I couldn’t tear my gaze away from his face. I thought I spotted a weird reflection in his eyes, maybe a bug…

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You’re Fired by Bill Engleson

I wake up in the middle of the night and hear the Donald.

He has a discordant voice, scratchy, like a nicked LP, a voice muffled from reason, as if someone, perhaps his late father, is still holding his head in a bulky, slightly used prophylactic.

Young Donald, six-year-old Donnie, is frightened, terrorized, but I get confused. I see the squeaking child that he was, that he is, for I also see the Presidential poser, invested in his hollow trajectory.

His belly is not on fire.

Rather, it smoulders away, a residue of burnt bunkum it’s final, futile fuel.

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Fired! by Anurag Bakhshi

Clyde had come to the city all fired-up, but the harsh reality of life had set fire to his dreams, till they had all burnt down to a cinder.

But now, the time had finally come for him to take-off.

Clyde straightened up as he heard footsteps approaching. He could not afford to get fired.

Breathless with anticipation, he willed all the noise from outside to disappear.

As the countdown clock in his head said ONE, Clyde shut his eyes…..and the last word that he heard before he went flying through the roof of the circus was- FIRE!

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Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Fire by Ritu Bhathal

I sat at the bar, nursing my whiskey. Needed to be sensible. I couldn’t afford to be reckless with my drink again.
I hadn’t meant to leave the barbeque unattended, but after a few drinks with my guests, I forgot it, and turned to see the flames licking the sky.

Gina wasn’t planning on letting me back in the house. I had to keep my cool, give her a few hours, then I’d go back, and she’d forgive me.

But would she?

I threw the fiery liquid down my throat in a single gulp.

“Bartender, another one please.”

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Fire by Pete Fanning

Mrs. Cobb screamed for us to get away from the fire. A ball of wrinkles and gums, she charged after us with a cane, demanding we stay out of her yard. Tab grabbed my wrist, gripping me with terror, her fascinated smirk leaking a squeal as we raced down to Grandma’s room.

Mom snapped her fingers harshly, pointed to a chair. “Hush.”

We hushed, trying not to giggle, keeping watch on the door as the nurses sped past. Mom tended to the lump in the bed. We swung our legs, still flushed, waiting for Mrs. Cobb and her fire.

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Fire by Frank Hubeny

Despair defeats hope with fire.

Pete wondered what that was supposed to mean while reading the fortune to his wife. He felt enough despair for it to feel like the fires of hell.

“What does yours say?”

“It’s blank.”

“Remember when I got ‘A fool at forty is a fool indeed’?”

She remembered, but her blank fortune worried her.

“Maybe I should ask for another one?”

“Let’s switch.”

“Does that count?”

They switched. She read these words, “The fire of hope defeats despair”, and gave it back.

“This one belongs to you.”

She asked for a new fortune cookie.

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Flash Fire by D. Avery

“Shorty! Quick!”

“Whoa Kid. Where’s the fire?”

“All across the Ranch, Shorty! We better put ‘em out!”

“No, Kid, don’t. They’s flash fires. All the hands’ve been sparked ta write an’ now the Ranch is ablaze with inspired imagination. Jist enjoy all the warmth an’ light, Kid.”

“You started all this, didn’t ya, Shorty? What are ya, an arsonist?”

“Don’t you be an arse, Kid. D’ya think these fires should be contained? Lights kept under a barrel?”

“Shorty, this cain’t be safe, havin’ all these ranch hands playin’ with fire.”

“Yep, writin’s risky. But we’re safe at the Ranch.”

***

Net more information about Ranch safety at https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2019/04/05/how-dya-do-buckaroo/

🥕🥕🥕

 

April 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

On March 29, Northern Lights flamed orange and gold over the Keweenaw. The sky colors raged like solar flares. These were no gentle green and blue sheets of shimmering arctic lights, but full expressions of Copper Country fusion. It came as no coincidence that 47 North raised the roof of the Continental Fire Company earlier that night.

Awakening began at 8 p.m. to a full house. The dance performances have grown in popularity, and the management had to open the upstairs bar and create a theater in the round perspective from above. My son-in-law opens every show as a theatric MC, grabbing attention with his voice and humor. The dancers opened with a remix of Wicked Game, a slow smoldering beat-heavy song that begins, “The world is on fire, and no one can save me but you.”

Each beat, the dancers popped in unison.

Pops are an under-appreciated element of belly dance. When most people hear the style, they think Mediterranean restaurants and women in sheer costumes swiveling hips and smiling for men. Not this troupe. 47 North Belly Dance is raq sharqi, Egyptian-style cabaret, ballet, hip-hop, and modern. They are fusion. And pops come from the ability to isolate muscles and control movement. They include the shape-shifting choreography of modern dance where dancers meld in and out of shapes with contrast and flow. Balletic grace infuses fiery strength. 47 North is a warrior tribe of strong female dancers.

After Wicked Game, I stepped onto the stage and read:

Welcome to the dark side: The black loamy soil from which crocus bulbs must break the surface. Before there can be spring, there must be winter. Life germinates in the dark, undulating to a restless energy, the manifestation of what comes next, a stirring felt by birds and bees and rising maple sap. On the stage dancers cast long shadows in the bright lights. They embrace the ancient rhythms, become the crocus spears beneath the surface. This too is part of life. The dance with darkness, the dance within shadows, the pre-emergence, incubation, propagation of winter absorbed by spring.

Two stories of bar chatter, clanking glasses and shaking ice creates a buzz I project over the top of like some Beat Generation poet, hustling literary art on the crowd. It’s not a typical reading venue, nor is it friendly. People don’t listen politely. It’s Friday night, and the party is underway. But I love this fusion of art, this opportunity to attend dance rehearsals, discuss meanings with choreographers and share a bit of their stage to read 99-word stories. I retreat to the shadows in the wings and two succubi, one short, one tall, dominates the stage, filling the space between their differences with an energy of seductive strength. This is not come-hither-boys seduction; it’s the dance of women owning their own sexuality.

The crowd roars and the fires are lit.

Throughout the evening the troupe dances from dark, sultry pieces that include bats to the in between stage we know so well on the Keweenaw  — before there is the daffodil spring we must endure the long melt of grit and snow-husks. We must crack the thinning ice. In Between, I read:

They chiseled their way into deep shafts, miners drilling through the basalt of a peninsula rich in copper. Men searching for copper. Women carve deep into the pits of their own souls to discover treasure within – the power to create, the power to renew. Spring awakens the miners. Tommy Knockers never stop searching in between dark and light. Fortune glistens in the returning light of spring to illuminate hidden veins held in the dark. Smell the musty earth and search for copper in your own blood. Plant a seed, pluck a stone. Spring has returned to Copper Country.

As MC, Solar Man entertains the crowd. He makes jokes: “Why did the belly dancer cross the road? She heard there were costumes on the other side.” We all laugh, but I’m not sure the crowd fully understands the troupe’s obsession with costumes which, like their dance style, is an eclectic mix to create vibrant visuals on stage. Hip belts are often the product of ripped leather coats resewn with cheap baubles and dime-store rhinestones. Tops are enhanced bras studded with costume jewelry, satin, and lace. Skirts are often scarves. Dancers use fans, veils, swords and golden canes to accent their costumes.

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The light dawns. The dances and costumes become more golden and glittery, the dances more joyous. This performance has been a full awakening. Before the finale, I have a point to make. One I want every artist to understand. We can strive to do our best, but no one is ever “the best” at art. You can tell the dancers, like my daughter in her high-and-tight buzz cut, that have trained for years in ballet. Grace imbues the way they hold their arms and necks. You can spot the dancers that flow with the music. You can compare ages, heights, and other numbers that hold no real meaning but are easy descriptors.

But you ‘d be hard pressed to agree on who is best.

I bring this up because writers often compare themselves to perceptions of best. Discipline doesn’t shape art, but play does. You can’t draft from the editor’s chair. You have to write first. After you write you can certainly improve. The trick is, you have to keep writing.  When you’ve amassed, then you can take a scalpel and practice precision. But keep writing. It becomes a dance. Pay too much attention to the other birds, and you can lose your will to chirp. Sing alongside the birds and add your unique voice, practicing the best you can do, not concerned about being the best bird.

Before the dancers took to the stage where they would  flow and  merge as small groups into one big group  with each dancer creating different movements, I read:

The Greatest Show on Earth returns in spring with birdsong. It has been said by ornithologists wiser than me that if only the best birds sang, the woods would be silent. How can we possibly define the best bird song anyhow? How can we say that the golden-wing warblers out-sing the piping plovers?  How can we deny the soul-stirring refrains of our favorite songs on the radio though yours and mine will differ? How can we not leave a live performance unchanged? The light has returned, and the birds have brought you out of the dark. Own your transformation.

47 North took to the stage and owned the transformation. The first time I saw them rehearse The Greatest Show, I cried. This troupe expressed how each dancer was different, but together they were stronger in their expression of art. They danced the way I feel when I arrange the collection of 99-word stories each week. I say this over an over, but it is true — art requires interaction. I might feel awesome writing my best, but it’s nothing if I don’t connect with others who read or hear it. Connecting when I’ve not written my best still feels more awesome than unacknowledged work. Unread, that’s what it is — my work. Shared, it becomes art.

The Continental Fire Company likes flash fiction. It’s because of my small readings they sponsored our Rodeo. The club manager always comes over to my chair in the shadows and explains how he likes the dances better with my stories, he feels drawn in to better understand what the performance means. Several people listen. Most talk. I don’t mind because the few who plug in, connect like a spark to fuel the flames.

But that night — March 29, 2019, those dancers took to the stage knowing one of their members was retiring to take a job out of town, and they all danced for her, with her, and for the mutual love of their shared art. The fire roared! The crowd caught it, ignited, and they roared back, feet pounding, hands clapping, hoots and hollers, whistles and trills. When the audience gave back the energy to the dancers, it was like a vortex opened up. It was a  rock-star moment, and the performance ended with a thundering standing ovation.

I don’t want to be “the best” writer. I just want to write the way those women danced!

Sunday followed the performance, and I had my first To Cultivate a Book retreat at the Ripley Falls Home of Hygge (or Healing). It’s a safe space to explore the creative life. I’m not here to tell someone the magic way to get published, the traditional way, the indie way. I’m here to listen. I meet writers where they are at, and I help them see what the terrain looks like. I help them plant and grow the book they envision. That’s the retreat part. Interspersed, I offered practical knowledge. Each attendee is working on an Author Action Plan that is cultivated to fit their book on their terms, knowing their options in the greater industry.

This is something I’ve felt called to do for a long time. Like all writers who face doubt, I wondered if it would be of value. Sunday I had my answer. Six women came together. Three had previously unshared works. Three felt called but had not figured out what their books were. I listened. I let my story-catcher out, and I caught nuggets to reveal as gems to each person. Seeing the fire light up in their eyes made my day!

Three of the women have serious books that each blew me away. I couldn’t believe they had not shared them, but then I understood. Our seedlings are fragile, and we must share with care lest someone stomp out the flames too soon. I felt like a book farmer, helping people grow the books they want, not necessarily the books they “should” write (unless of course, what they want is a book dictated by markets and readership).

Literary art is meant to be accessible, not put on a top  shelf for “the best.” Literary art has the power to move people just as dance can.

Keep your flame burning.

April 4, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fire. It can be a flame that burns or a light that inspires. Follow the flames and go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 9, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Hard to Take a Break (from Miracle  of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Fire spun a halo in the night sky. Danni’s stomach churned. Nothing more she could do tonight. She leaned against her Forest Service truck, away from the camp chatter. Some recruits buzzed from the adrenaline, fighting wildland fires for the first time. Nearby, the Canadian Bombardier pilot regaled his earlier flight to the crew of Australians newly arrived. Danni scanned the distant flames, feeling impatient. In 1910 they didn’t luxuriate in rest and strategy in shifts. Is this what Ike felt before he left –restless while others fought a war he had to watch burn from the sidelines?

Eminence

From high above, a distinct vantage point is set. A view from an eminence of land, a hillock, the hump of an anthill, a sand dune. People can also place themselves above others and claim a position of eminence. Those who bow and scrape, acknowledge, “Your Eminence.” And some confuse the word for a white rapper.

Playful or serious, writers set out for the hills to wrangle stories from eminent advantages. A few even found spiders and webs along the trail.

The following is based on the March 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses the word eminence.

PART I (10-minute read)

Eminence by Michael Groban

His Eminence the Good and Virtuous Cardinal read the morning paper and cringed as he read of another abuse claim.

He felt a twinge of guilt as he read the charges against one of his priests. It wouldn’t be long before they’d come knocking on his door. But he was a cardinal, and they’d believe his story over any kid who claimed he knew or did anything.

He’d taken years to reach this pinnacle within the Church. Hiding and denying, who’d a thought he be so good at it. He took up his pen and started on the crossword.

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What You Don’t Talk About Doesn’t Exist by Papershots

He took a milk carton from a kitchen cabinet, then put it back there even though it was now open – it should have gone into the refrigerator. He took a sip of water. The smell of oranges about to go bad wafted from the fruit bowl on the table (made of wood ever so slightly darker than that of the fruit bowl.) The party at His Eminence swirled in his hangover – its theme: “What You Don’t Talk About Doesn’t Exist” – they called him His Eminence after his ascetic countenance by day, and his “torrent of bizarre gaieties” by night.

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Mongolian Pie by H.R.R. Gorman

The jester bowed before the king and queen. His coat, a tattered, borrowed thing, seemed unfit in the presence of royalty’s eminence. “I will sing you a traditional overtone song of my people.”

The jester pulled the bow across his khuuchir, and the two-stringed instrument wailed. The voices of the people came from his throat, some deep and worrisome while others were clear, melodic.

After the song finished, the king stood from his seat and clapped. “Excellent show!” He bent to look down on the jester.

The jester reached up and snatched the king’s gloried crown, then dashed away.

🥕🥕🥕

Oh to Be in England on Non-Brexit Day! by Anne Goodwin

We voted to abolish experts. Let the people have their say! Don’t bore us with details, wave your magic wand and make it happen. Would a surgeon go through such a back-and-forth to amputate a limb?

Yes, the Leave campaign deceived us. Yes, the rich will win whichever way we go. We’ll wave our flags as pigs fly in eminence above us. We’ll plug our ears when boffins threaten to explain.

We are the mother of parliaments. We are the brave who take back control. We are the laughing stock of Europe. We are the fools of the world.

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Long Live The King by Nobbinmaug

His rise to eminence was halted by my hand. He wasn’t hard to find. Everybody in town knew where he hung out.

I pulled out the gun I took from dad’s nightstand and pointed it at him.

“Whoa! What are gonna do with that, little man?”

“I’m gonna be 10 next month.”

“All right, big man. Put it down before you hurt somebody.”

He reached for it, and I pulled the trigger. The kick knocked me down. The bullet knocked him down.

He was the only person I ever killed. My sister was the last his drugs would kill.

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Portrait of Marion Gray by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Marion stared at herself, staring at herself, daring the other to step over the line.

“What d’you want me to do about it?”

“Can’t you absorb one more?”

“I’ve run out of room to absorb your blemishes.”

“Just one more. I’ll never ask again…Promise!”

“You said that last time.”

She stared at herself, daring herself to step over that line.

“Fine, but come closer. Touch your nose to the glass.”

A moment’s touch, the eminence was grabbed, pulled in.

Marion stepped free, no longer the face in the mirror.

She waved farewell and turned the mirror to the wall.

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Your Eminence by Sally Cronin

As I pass him on my way to the village, I remember to say ‘Good morning your eminence’. To ignore him is to invite untold misfortune. Wise ones tell of signs of impending death if he is seen close to your window. And should that be open to the spring air, thefts of gold and silver. I laugh at the warnings, for I am young and carefree, but ancient beliefs stir in my blood, for lone magpies bring sorrow. So I pay him respect, wishing him a mate for life, to bring joy to those who see them together.

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Prelude by Joanne Fisher

Aalen and Ashalla were hiding on an eminence looking down on the soldiers in the distance. Aalen’s wolf Vilja lay between them.

“Last year there was a drought and game was scarce. These soldiers came to our village demanding food. When we refused because we needed our food stocks for the winter they began killing all the hunters until we acquiesced. I came back to find my brothers had been killed. I painted my arrows black and started hunting them down.” Ashalla said.

Aalen looked down at the army. Once they set up camp, that’s when they would attack.

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My Scar by The Dark Netizen

It is rightly said that behind every scar there is a story of survival.

My story took place many years ago, during the invasion of the dark king.

Led by our Prince, we were fighting for our survival in a battle that defined ages.

Our Prince’s eminence in warfare was unquestionable on the battlefield, as he skewered numerous dark minions in front of my eyes.

In the heat of battle I saw one minion slip behind the Prince, ready to end his life, when I jumped in between.

My sacrifice won my kingdom’s freedom and won me this scar…

🥕🥕🥕

Shattering Illusions by Jo Hawk

Jules was his father’s second son. He was deemed the spare heir to the kingdom. Always second best, he fought to win favor, to stand free from his brother’s shadow. Each passing year, the competition between them grew.

Their rivalry forced his vision higher, to the eminence of Mont Aiguille. He imagined looking down onto his brother’s domain. Determined, he focused on his goal, fought through doubts and fear until his kingdom became a reality.

He grew stronger than the mountain, hardening his heart he stood alone, freed from the shadows, he realized there had been nothing to prove.

🥕🥕🥕

Cross Roads (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam

Near the ancient cypress and olive trees, silky spider’s webs interlaced thorny yellow thistle. Early morning dew drops on the silvery threads glittered like tiny jewels. Fleeting and fragile, the jewels would disappear into the warming air.

From an eminence of boulders on the cliff, Diamante gazed out at the seashore. He would miss the coastal villagers deeply. He was a village teacher and became a temple guardian after Father Martinez died a year ago. The Abbott was sending another priest and he had plans for Diamante to enter the Dove’s Ministry, to become a scholar. And a priest.

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Glad Tidings of Nymble by Chelsea Owens

Nymble didn’t stand so much as gently flit above the waving grass, the first of the season’s signs of change. Leaning back as much as her grass and sunlight mote companions; she drank the deep, fresh air.

“Spring,” she whispered. She breathed.

A smile tickled her dimples. It pushed at her mouth-corners. As she looked out and over the gathered folk and fae, the smile spread to every feature of her pointed face. She grinned and opened her arms to hold the warm sun from toe to wing tip.

Atop the eminent rise, she addressed the expectant crowd. “SPRING!”

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Owls and Auks by TN Kerr

He chose to stand atop a grand eminence, banked by steep outcroppings; a sentry, ever vigilant who watches over the Pacific. He has stood this post for more than fifteen hundred years. He is a giant towering over 300 feet high. He is massive, with a base of more than 30 feet in diameter. A Giant Coastal Redwood, a landmark with owls and auks living amongst his branches.

I come here to admire him from time to time. I always come alone. I am humbled.

Majestuoso y eminente, por derecho propio, es bien conocido a lo largo de esta costa.

🥕🥕🥕

The Judge by Roberta Eaton

The judge sat on a chair high raised high above the platform to ensure the accused understood his eminence. My son was forced to tip his head back at an unnatural angle to meet the judge’s eyes while stating his case. The comments made by the defendant were meaningless. Any defaulters who ended up on trial in the arena knew they were guilty in the eyes of the law. The punishment for wasting limited water resources was a swift death. The bodies of the guilty were buried in the surrounding forest to fertilise the trees that provided vital oxygen.

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Eminence by Tracey

I dragged myself into the kitchen and apathetically checked the fridge. Spouse and small child would be home soon and looking for dinner. That was part of my “job”, cooking, meal planning, grocery shopping. I could feel the surge of pre-menopause hormones coloring my brain. I wasn’t even hungry, why should I cook dinner? I checked the freezer. The emergency frozen pizza had already been eaten this week. I started to cry and told myself, “enough”. The eminences would have to fend for themselves this once. I retreated to the couch and a movie. “Double Indemnity” suited me perfectly.

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Age of Imminence by D. Avery

“What? Her Eminence drinking alone? Where’s Ernest?”

“Can’t I be somewhere where Ernest isn’t, Nard? Like you should talk. Where’s Kris?

“Visiting his mother. I just couldn’t.

“Yeah.”

“Hey, Lloyd tells me Ernest gave you a ring.”

“Yeah.”

“Thought you gals were supposed to be all giddy at a time like this.”

“Ernest’s giddy enough for the both of us. Driving me nuts.”

“Am I a peckerhead for being glad Kris is gone for a couple days?”

“Not if you’re looking forward to him coming back.”

“I am.”

“We’ll have to get used to being happy, huh, Nard?”

“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕

Two Meanings by Susan Sleggs

“Look at all those eminences in the back yard.”

“What are you talking about? Speak English.”

“If you did crossword puzzles like I do, you would know I was referring to all the little mounds of dirt.”

“Oh, yes. We have a mole problem.”

“And if your furry, four legged friend lounging in the sun over there knew she was a cat instead acting like a feline eminence, she might go outside and kill the moles.”

“She’s an indoor cat and I don’t think it’s funny that you used the same word with its opposite meaning.”

“Glad you noticed.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lost In Translation by Geoff Le Pard

‘You look smart, Morgan. In court?’

‘Ha. I’m meeting a rather special person. Very influential. I hope he can help me.’

‘How?’

‘He understands how the system works, you know, all those back passages.’

‘Corridors of power?’

‘Exactly.’

‘A sort of eminence grise.’

‘You what? Immense Grease? That sounds like what you get before an outbreak of spots.’

‘Eminence Grise. Someone who works in the shadows.’

‘He had the lights on when I saw him.’

‘It’s just a figure of speech.’

‘Like Imminent Cheese?’

‘Eminence Grise.’

‘Is it French?’

‘Yes.’

‘Thought so. They’re greasy and like cheese.’

‘God, Morgan…’

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Your Eminence by Norah Colvin

She glided in, regal robes flowing, loyal subjects lining the path.

“Your eminence,” they bowed as she passed.

She occasionally extended her gloved hand to receive their kisses of adoration or stopped to bestow a gift of royal chatter.

Though her crown and responsibilities weighed heavily, she held her head high as she proceeded towards the throne.

Decorum dictated every move. She dared not breathe out of sync. Her subjects depended upon her.

When seated, she motioned for all to sit. They obeyed, listening respectfully.

“I decree– “

“Lunch is served, Your Majesty.”

“Aw, Mu-um!”

🥕🥕🥕

Blessing by Anita Dawes

My school was buzzing today, the nuns were all running around like deranged penguins. We were to receive a special throat blessing from the Bishop and were to address him as Your Eminence if spoken to.

The blessing involved two large candles joined in the shape of a V.
Sister Margaret held my hair away from the flame as the candles were placed around my throat and I have never suffered from a sore throat since.
Not bad going for 72 years.

I have wondered whether it was the blessing or just good luck
It still puzzles me today…

🥕🥕🥕

A Special Guest by calmkate

“It’s highly eminent that His Eminence will join us for tea in the forecourt this morning. So please ensure that our sandwiches have more than an eminence of cucumber!”

“But in high society the bread and filling must be thin to tempt. A sliver to tease”

“Please indulge my preference for something a bit more substantial”

“Will His Eminence be requiring a particular blend of tea or the usual earl grey?”

“I would prefer that you serve a selection of three or four for this highly honoured guest.”

“Your every wish is my command sir!”

“Thanks so much Jeeves”

🥕🥕🥕

Eminence by Deborah Lee

The house is a lovely lakeside pile on a low eminence above its neighbors, cocooned among trees. Jane lugs her few belongings up the slope easily, eagerly. Hangs her few clothes, arranges her few toiletries.

Hers, hers, for six whole weeks, in exchange for being present and tending to the animals while Audrey is in Europe.

The kitchen gleams, the den lulls, the shady deck beckons. But, she decides, luxuriating, paradise is a bathtub. And it hits her, making her sit up so abruptly she sloshes wine and bubbles. Is housesitting something she could do as an actual career?

🥕🥕🥕

Celebrity Chef by Macy Brown

As I locked my office door and headed down the stairs to leave the building I heard all kinds of commotion coming from outside. What could be going on?! I thought to myself. When I stepped outside I saw a crowd of people surrounding a town car that was parked in front of the building next door. A thin blonde in a perfectly pressed skirt stepped out of the car and the crowd went wild. I did not know who she was, but based on the people around her, her eminence was clear. Maybe she was a celebrity chef?

🥕🥕🥕

The Leader of The Pack by Susan Zutautas

From the day we brought Bruce home Maggie let him know that she was the leader of the pack.

It was sad to see how she showed her eminence over him. Bruce was such a laid-back kind of guy that we were never sure if this bothered him.

I’m sure they had this telepathic thing going on between them. Bruce would go to eat his food and Maggie would look over at him as if to say, “Leave it”. He’d not eat until she had left the room or until she started eating.

I suppose dogs have pecking orders.

🥕🥕🥕

Power by Janice Golay

“So I hear you are your husband’s eminence grise. “

“His imminent grease?”

“No, my dear. His gray eminence. The power behind the throne. That shadowy figure, peering from behind a velvet curtain, who holds and wields the real power.

“Well, we don’t have any velvet curtains in our house, just over-laundered hangings from Bed, Bath and whatever.”

But if you really wanted some velvet curtains in your house, they would appear. Right? You could manage that, couldn’t you?

Of course! But if I had the power and wished for velvet curtains, I tell you they wouldn’t be GRAY!

🥕🥕🥕

On the Couch by Michael B. Fishman

“Did you see ‘his eminence’ on the news today telling us how good everything is?” she said.

“You’ve got M&Ms?”

“No, ‘eminence’.”

“I don’t watch the news anymore. You really got candy?”

“I’ve got M&M’s.”

“It’s all a front, you know.”

“What is?”

“Politics.”

“Let’s both have some candy.”

“The M&M’s?”

“Plain or peanut, I’ve got both.”

“Then let’s have both!”

She went to the kitchen and returned with two bags. “Guess what?”

“What?”

“Dead Reckoning is on.”

“Ooh, Lizbeth Scott.”

“You like her.”

“Not as much as I like you.”

“You’re sweet.”

“Not as sweet as those M&M’s.”

🥕🥕🥕

Feeling Like A Fraud by Ritu Bhathal

“Jill, could you just glance over this, please?”

Nancy thrust a piece of paper in Jill’s hand.

“I’d really appreciate your opinion. Would you mind?”

“Sure, why not.”

Jill smiled and turned around, surreptitiously rolling her eyes.

Ever since her book had been released and had shot to the top ten in the charts, she’d been inundated with ‘friends’ who wanted her advice on their writing. It’s like her eminence in word craft meant she was now a fully-fledged expert.

But that was furthest from the truth.

All she’d done was write from the heart.

And readers had appreciated.

🥕🥕🥕

Teaching by Reena Saxena

“It took twenty-eight long years of struggle to reach eminence.”

My father’s story was interrupted,

“Granpa, are you Eminem?”

“No, darling, the word is eminence. It means reaching a certain height where you tower over others – metaphorically.”

“Two difficult words – what is metaphorically?”

“Like, you are the magic which transformed my life, when I was about to give up. You are not magic, but I describe you as such.”

“Me? Okay, show me which Eminem…”

“I received the Best Writer’s Prize for 2018,” he pointed towards the trophy.

“Can this Eminem sing and rap?”

Teaching is a tough job.

🥕🥕🥕

Eminence  by Floridaborne

Their Jaguar stopped, rolling down the tinted windows to sneer at me.  I knew the look, people of eminence…northerners!

He frowned at my ramshackle house and asked, “Is this Azalea Avenue?”

“Yep,” I replied, stroking my beard.  “Why?”

“We might buy the property across from you.”

“It’s full of rattlers. “

“Rattlers?” A teenager with a Gucci bag asked.

“If you don’t kill the 8 inch daddy long legs, they eat 3 inch roaches like this one,” I said, pulling one out of my pocket.

And another irritant flees the trees, never to know my doctorate is in entomology.

🥕🥕🥕

Eminent Domain (Or, Why I’m Moving Out Of My House) by John Rieber

I was just stepping on the front porch when Jill screamed: “SPIDER!”

The Tarantula was a BIG one. I instinctively jumped backwards as it raised itself up on eight powerful legs and announced its eminence. Jill raced to the back of the house and grabbed a bottle of bleach. I poured it on our guest. It got angrier.

In a panic I called Animal Control. “We have a Tarantula on our porch!”

“No you don’t”, the voice calmly replied.

“Yes, we have one!”

“No,” they said again, “you have many. They never travel alone.”

I still miss that house.

🥕🥕🥕

Queen Wolfric Returns by Joanne Fisher

Her Royal Eminence Queen Wolfric III returned to her Court in the cellar after inspecting her Royal Domain. She addressed her assembled subjects:

“It’s great to be back. While it is true I got caught Upstairs, one of the giant denizens that live there managed to free me, but not before another one of them performed a rather energetic dance before me in my honour. I was most impressed.

All this said I think it should a while before I tour those regions again. Those giant denizens seem friendly, but if the truth be told, they really terrify me.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Weight of Time by JulesPaige

From the edge of the field, five deer emerged from the wood line, a brief view.
The car on this long highway emerges from fits and starts of traffic.
Heading south from seven hours north I see emerging signs of late spring.

While away yellow daffodils emerged in the side and front gardens.
A soft smile emerges from my lips, the front of my home looks happy.
On the road home an emerging issue from a distance; Hubby’s work

his eminence to
solve issues drains our time
rising ground slip slides

Heavy sighs emerge, shoulders sag… as day ends

🥕🥕🥕

Eminence by Frank Hubeny

After moving to the beach town whose eminence attracted him he no longer got up early to join the seagulls as the sun rose above the ocean. He no longer paid attention to the tiny lizards running on the sidewalks. He stopped celebrating the tropical climate and started complaining about the heat.

It shocked him to realize that he no longer wanted to go to the Cuban-run bakery for a cortadito. He made his own coffee.

His relatives from northern lands were still awed by palm trees and lizards, but by moving to paradise he had become a local.

🥕🥕🥕

Find What Glints  (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Eminence of sand rolled across flats, forming dunes. Danni recalled following an old pioneer trail across the Forty Mile Desert of Nevada in her dad’s Jeep, top down, spring sun beating warmly. What was that he said? Turn around and look for the glints among the dunes. Every time he pulled over, Danni scrambled among the hollows of sand, sun to her back. She trotted toward the glints – a purple glass nob from a dresser, a marble, an obsidian arrowhead. Even today, trained as an archeologist, she heard her dad’s voice coaxing her to find the discards of history.

🥕🥕🥕

A Legendary Demise by Anurag Bakhshi

The old man rasped sharply,”How many times did they shoot me?”

The younger man asked tentatively, “Twice?”

The old man immediately corrected him authoritatively, “Make that three times…and… just add that I was poisoned too.”

The younger man nodded, and had just shut his notebook when the old man said, “And just for kicks, also say that I almost managed to claw out of my grave in the frozen river.”

As his PR Head left, Rasputin smiled in contentment.

Nothing went further in helping one attain a position of eminence in history, than a death that was legendary.

🥕🥕🥕

Typo by Sarah Whiley

The neon glow enveloped the city built by and for corporations.

It was late and Sandra was alone in the cavernous office. Pounding the keyboard furiously she tried to finish the never-ending paperwork her boss delighted in giving her.

Bastard, she thought. He actually enjoyed the power, dictating when she could leave and knowing it was her weekend with her daughter.

Her email pinged.

She despaired as she saw yet another assignment.

Gazing out at the city lights, Sandra contemplated her reply. His eminence wouldn’t like it, but life was too short.

Smiling, she typed two words.

“I quit”.

🥕🥕🥕

His Eminence by Ann Edall-Robson

On Hanna’s first day of the job she figured she would meet a few people, be shown some of the ropes, and get her bearings.

There was no surprise when the foreman drove in the direction of the outbuildings.

Along the way, he showed her where she would stow her gear, pointing to the living quarters and the cookhouse. Both, he explained vehemently, were Mrs. Johnson’s domains.

The barnyard came into view, and so did a large grey cat wandering out to meet them.

“That,” muttered the foreman, “is His Eminence. He thinks he runs the show around here.”

🥕🥕🥕

Crowned Eminence by D. Avery

“Kid, yer emanating fear.”

“I ain’t afeared a nuthin’.”

“Ever one’s afeared a somethin’ Kid. It’s okay ta admit it. Then ya kin face yer fears. So jist admit what yer afeared of.”

“Well, what are you afraid of, Pal?”

“Me? I ain’t afeared a nuthin’.”

“Huh. Was afraid you’d say that. But you gotta admit yer fears Pal. You said.”

“Well. I don’t like spiders Kid. Jist don’t.”

“Right? All scrunchy and hairy and sudden moves. But do ya fear ‘em, Pal?”

“Mebbe… Why ya pushin’ this Kid?”

“I’m afraid one’s bein’ an eminence on yer hat, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

March 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

Wolfric III has terrorized me all day. It began while soaping the breakfast dishes, rinsing a cup and spying a slight eminence below the drying rack in the second sink. A small hump of gray darker than the stainless steel about the size of a cast-off peel of avocado caught my eye. When I focused, I realized it was a massive wolf spider. Wolfric denotes the name we give the eight-legged beasts of the basement, adding the suffix for annual lineage. In other words, this is the third wolf spider I’ve seen since relocating to the Keweenaw. Well, third one in this house on Roberts Street.

Last October, while sequestered away with my friend and seafarer historian at a lightkeeper’s cottage on Eagle Harbor, I stirred up a resident wolf spider in the bathroom. When they move, they hustle like arachnid lightning. Without my glasses, the world blurs. Nothing is distinct, but I can catch movement. I was about to step into the shower when I thought a mouse was scurrying toward me. I screamed, scrambled backward, hitting the bathroom door which obliged my force of contact and opened, launching me naked into the dining room. My friend, around the corner in the kitchen, asked, “What’s that you say, Charli?”

Mumbling all was well, I bravely, and vulnerably stepped back into the bathroom, grabbed my glasses and faced the biggest wolf spider I had ever seen. They are poisonous, though hardly aggressive. Living up to their name, wolf spiders are hunters. I’m actually curious about them because they often seem calculating and keen. Reputedly they have far better eyesight than I do. My shower was quick that day, and later my friend and I laughed about her missing Charli Verses Spider Show.

Mona, my daughter and son-in-law’s cat, is tiny but mighty. She’s the most loving critter on our block, possibly in the whole universe. She greets every person who comes to our home on Roberts Street with purrs and snuggles. Mona cuddles the dogs, runs to greet the kids at night, and brushes against Sgt Mills to gain affection. Sometimes, her love runs over. Like when I’m trying to write, and she decides it’s the loving hour. Often she escapes to the basement to hunt the hunter. But being the lovable Mona she is, she’s never hurt Wolfric I, II, or III. I’ve found her with all four paws tucked beneath her, staring at Wolfric staring at her as if she’s keeping the beast company.

It’s not Wolfric’s fault he’s terrorized me. I’m not adverse to spiders, and I understand that his emergence is a cheerful omen of spring on the Keweenaw. I’d prefer he stay in the basement, however. My issue with wolf spiders, in particular, is their size and speed. It triggers one dandy of a panic attack deep in my amygdala. I took caution with WIII and finished loading the dishwasher. Any I washed by hand I carefully avoided dripping water over him. Throughout the day, as I drank water, sliced cheese for an afternoon snack, rotated our baby flower seedlings to sunny spots, and prepped dinner, my mind never released the presence of the spider trapped in the sink.

At last, Radio Geek and Solar Man arrived home. Sgt Mills has a long day of therapies on Thursdays, so he won’t be back until later. And he’d only tease me, calling me his “Cowardly Cowgirl” so I’d prefer asking our kids to help rescue Wolfric.

We’re in the kitchen, Radio Geek and me. I’m tentatively searching for Wolfric as she’s making a snack of popcorn. She has dance rehearsal for the big show at The Continental Fire Company on Friday, and my dinner of roast chicken and cauliflower won’t be done until after. She’s feeling peckish for a snack, and we are chatting. I’m getting nervous because I can’t see Wolfric and I don’t want him to startle me. He’s had me on edge all day. It’s hard to polish my flash fiction for the dance show with spiders on the brain.

Bravely, I bend over the sink, searching. I hear my daughter say in cautious tones, “Mom…Mom…”

All hell breaks loose in my mind. I think she’s spotted the spider and is trying to calmly warn me. This does not calm my heart which is now ready to burst from my sternum. The next instant slams me with unexpected pain. I distinctly feel a whump to my back, claws in my neck. My logical mind goes on instant hiatus. It’s wonderful to be an imaginative person except in instances like this. Without the backup of logic, I interpret that I’m under attack. The hunter has me, and I scream, and scream, and scream.

Through the fog of sheer terror, I hear my daughter howling in laughter. This grounds me, and I realize  I’m bucking and pitching around the kitchen, screaming my lungs out with Mona dug into my back. She figured since I was bent over the sink, it might be a good time to jump from the kitchen table to my shoulders,  She does this sometimes when I do dishes or cook. My feline parrot who nestles into my shoulders and purrs in my ear.

Mona is a cowgirl. That cat can ride.

When I realized what was happening, I slumped across the counter, the cat dropped to the floor, and I joined my daughter’s mirth, and we both laughed until we cried. When she had seen Mona perched, wobbling on her toes to make the leap, Radio Geek tried to warn me. I thought the spider had me. Wolfric had actually crawled into Solar Man’s coffee mug, and my daughter rescued him, releasing him on the kitchen floor.

I thought we agreed to set him outside. There’s only five feet of crumbling snow left. Ah, well, I step firmly into spring. If something emergent doesn’t frighten the life in me, it doesn’t seem like a transition. Spring roars in like a wolf spider or a bronc-riding cat.

Last Friday I coaxed Sgt Mills to go with me up the peninsula. We drove along the shoreline of Lake Superior, looking for signs.  No open water, but the ice is changing color, promising ice-off soon.

An artist couple who live on the lake announced the passage of three freighters, meaning the Coast Guard has cut the ice from the shipping lanes. A small group of friends celebrated Ostara, and we planted seeds together. Last Sunday, I attended the local Iranian community’s Norooz celebration and next month I’ll celebrate Easter. I feel like my candy basket is full of special treats. Hopefully, not spiders.

Once again, I’ll be adding 99-word literary art to a 47 North Dance Show (Awakening). That’s this Friday. Tomorrow! It’s about the transition from dark to light and the fusion of accepting both within ourselves.

On Sunday, I’m leading a writing retreat called To Cultivate a Book. It’s based on other workshops I’ve developed, but allows for continual growth both personally and professionally.

We have room for four more writers at the Carrot Ranch Writer’s Refuge in Vermont at D. Avery’s A-frame cabin in the woods near the Northeastern Kingdom. I’m excited to be living a life-long dream of working with writers in natural settings, experiencing literary art and nature as one. I’ll be adding more details and photos to the Refuge tab.

Let this encourage you to plant, grow, nurture, weed and harvest. No matter if your world is upside down because you live in the southern hemisphere or life sends you unexpected spiders, you can always plant what it is you want to grow.

Here are some photos I wanted to share  with you from last  Friday’s jaunt up the peninsula. Pressure ridges from freezing  waves and erupting sand have formed what look like ice-encased dunes, eminences that will crumble with warmer days, and persistent waves. It’s stunning, gritty and transformative:

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March 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses the word eminence. It’s a rich word full of different meanings. Explore how it sounds or how you might play with it. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 2, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Find What Glints  (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Eminence of sand rolled across flats, forming dunes. Danni recalled following an old pioneer trail across the Forty Mile Desert of Nevada in her dad’s Jeep, top down, spring sun beating warmly. What was that he said? Turn around and look for the glints among the dunes. Every time he pulled over, Danni scrambled among the hollows of sand, sun to her back. She trotted toward the glints – a purple glass nob from a dresser, a marble, an obsidian arrowhead. Even today, trained as an archeologist, she heard her dad’s voice coaxing her to find the discards of history.

A Bucket of Water

A familiar item found around the world and throughout time– a bucket of water. And just as common — a Harry Belefonte song, Hole in the Bucket.

No matter how familiar, creative writers can shape the ordinary into remarkable stories.

The following are based on the March 21, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a bucket of water.

PART I (10-minute read)

Note to the Netherworld by Violet Lentz

When I abandoned all aspects of self, and melted into you, I thought, how can I lose you, if there is no distinction between where you end, and I begin?

So when I lost you, still impervious to the fact that I was ever a whole person without you, I built a life on the foundation of your loss.

Recently I remembered, I once had a bucket list all my own. I checked off Aurora Borealis in February, and I am prepared to check off the second entry next month.

No, I haven’t forgotten you- I just remembered me.

🥕🥕🥕

Sunrise Brings Hope by Ruchira

“Wake up!” mom nudged her hard enough to make her sit upon her bed.

After a big yawn, and a stretch Prema walked with empty buckets in her hand towards a destination where the water truck would station.

While she waited in a queue for the truck to arrive, ‘Despite no water in our pipes, Life is beautiful.’ she muttered as she saw how the sun broke the spell of darkness with one drop of shine at a time.

She brought the two buckets of water to her cottage with the intention that the water crisis will end soon.

🥕🥕🥕

Water Wastage by The Dark Netizen

I was shocked at the spectacle I was watching.

People were running around on the street, in a dust-storm of colours, flinging water at each other. They were tossing water from their houses, many storeys high, at the chaotic crowd below. The people were throwing water balloons and using guns to squirt streams of water all around. Nobody seemed to care about the water that they were wasting. If only they knew what us village folk have to bear. I was almost in tears, but I held them back.

I knew the cost of a single bucket of water…

🥕🥕🥕

More Precious than Gold by Norah Colvin

The children observed the bucket.

Teacher explained, “Let’s find out about what’s in the bucket. Ask only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. Do not say what you think it is.”

“Is it wet?” “Yes.”

“Is it a liquid?” “Yes.”

“Is it heavy?” “Try.” “Yes.”

“Do we drink it?” “Does it come from clouds?” “Does it make puddles?”

“Yes. Yes. Yes.”

“Is it more precious than gold?”

“Don’t be stupid,” spluttered Andy. “It’s water!”

Teacher glared. Andy’s smirk dissolved.

Ahmed looked squarely at Andy. “In my country… “

Teacher closed the book. Ahmed’s lesson was more effective than any she’d prepare.

🥕🥕🥕

The Penrose Conundrum by Geoff Le Pard

‘My bloody mother.’

‘What’s she done now?’

‘She asked me to take her car for a service…’

‘…Okay…’

‘…so I was in a rush to get to the Post Office to pick up her letter, which had her new credit card in it and she had to sign for it…’

‘…which meant you needed the car to take her…’

‘…who’s telling this…?’

‘…but you couldn’t get it without her paying by her new card…’

‘…has she been talking to you?’

‘Only you…’

‘It’s my dear Liza moment…’

‘…I was thinking Catch 22…’

‘… and there lies the difference between us…’

Author’s Note: dear liza moment: see Harry Belafonte’s song there’s a hole in my bucket
Penrose conundrum: a reference to the Penrose steps drawn by MC Escher

🥕🥕🥕

At the Well by Leara Nicole Morris-Clark

I opened my eyes to blinding sun. I pulled the rope, hoping to finish before anyone noticed.

I was startled by a man leaning against the well. Had he been there?

“Let me.” He took my burden before I could respond. He poured the bucket into my pot. The water flowed until it was full.

“How did you…it takes three times for that container.”

I stared at refreshing water inside the vessel. “Have faith. You’ll do great things.”

I looked up. He was gone.

Somehow, I now held the bucket. I opened my eyes. Morning rays infiltrated my room.

🥕🥕🥕

Letting by D. Avery

Robert trotted right past his little brother without seeing him. Before Thomas could follow, his father called for him.

“Yes, Pa?”

“Thomas, I need an extra pair of hands. Bring those buckets there and come around the back of the barn.”

“Yes Pa. Pa? I thought you didn’t want me helpin’ with that chore yet.”

“Looks like I need you now. You know it’s got to be done, right Thomas?”

“ I know. Them pigs was always meant to feed us.”

“That’s right Thomas. And Thomas? I don’t want you pesterin’ Robert no more for stories about the war.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bucket of Water by Macy Brown

Sweat drenched Elsie’s shirt as she lugged the overflowing bucket of water up the steep hill that her cottage sat upon. She was annoyed she had to do this two days in a row since Sasha decided to disappear into town when it was her turn to collect water from the river to take care of their sick father.

“Here Papa, drink up.” she said to him as she walked into their living room where he laid on his make shift bed in front of the fire.

If only they could afford a warmer house, maybe he’d get better.

🥕🥕🥕

Water is Life by SusanSleggs

Ezra sat waiting for his wife to come home from the field hospital. He had fed their children bacon, biscuits slathered with butter and wild berry jam, and fresh cow’s milk for supper. The garden wasn’t yet producing vegetables, but it would in a few weeks. Keeping it weed free was something he could manage even with his wounds. When Louise finally arrived on horseback, he offered her dinner.

“No,” she said. “Just water. Cold, fresh and clear water.”

Their eldest ran to fetch a bucket of water from the stream, careful not to muddy it while doing so.

🥕🥕🥕

Wet Monday by Goldie

In silence. Side by side. Grandma knitting and grandpa reading the paper.

“Papa, how did you meet Nana?”

He turned towards her, but she didn’t even flinch.

He folded the paper in half three times and said:
“If you think your grandmother is beautiful today, imagine her when she was twenty” – he said and looked at her again.

Blush crept onto her cheeks, but she remained unperturbed.

“Monday after Easter, I dumped a bucket of ice-cold water on her while she was still in bed.”

“Stupid old traditions” – she said with a smile and went right back to knitting.

🥕🥕🥕

The Banty and the Bucket by Faith A. Colburn

I was headed to the chicken house with a bucket of water when the banty rooster attacked my bare legs. It wasn’t the first time. I grabbed and caught him. We looked each other in the eye. I ducked his head in the water. We had another staring contest. He didn’t look remorseful. I ducked him again. He still didn’t blink. After the third waterboarding, he fluffed up his feathers and strutted off. I can’t say he stopped spurring—my son his shirt pulled up, changing a tire, my daughter any time she left the house. He avoided me.

🥕🥕🥕

When It Felt Full (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Unable to stop smiling, Danni bought a galvanized steel water bucket. After twelve years of studying, summer digs, teaching undergrads, and crediting her work to advisors, Danni had completed her Ph.D. She promptly married Ike and bought a horse.

“I was thinking we might need a house,” Ike said, staring up at the stars above their sleeping bags.

“We can find a barn by winter.”

“Mrs. Gordon, we need more than a barn.”

Ike’s uncle sold them his small spread when he moved to town. Danni’s bucket of water felt full for ten years. Until Iraq poked a hole.

🥕🥕🥕

Centered by D. Avery

I am the Moon that orbits the Earth
I am the Earth; I am her Oceans that gather Moon’s beams

I am the woman who gathers water
I am the woman whose water breaks

I am the woman who carries water
Who nourishes, who cleanses, who sustains the child

I am the child who swings the bucket in play
Denying gravity with centripetal force

I am the child who gathers gifts from oceans
Who collects moonbeams in the bucket

I am the Child become the Woman who gathers water
Becomes the Oceans becomes the Moon becomes a centered force.

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Tumbling Tale by Kerry E.B. Black

The condensation trickled down the side of the bucket mimicked sweat slicking the sibling’s reddened faces.

The eldest swiped her forehead. “Carry that, J.J.”

He whined, “No way, Jilly-bean! You’re stronger.”

“How do you think I got strong? Chores.”

He pouted.

She shrugged. “You know, Dad’s the kingdom’s giant killer. He doesn’t want a scrawny namesake.”

“Fine.” He groaned and hefted. After a few steps, his feet entangled, and he tumbled down the hill.

She darted to help, slipped on the spilled water, and rolled after.

At the bottom, she consoled, “You know, this’ll make an interesting tale.”

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Bucket of Water by Robbie Cheadle

The four boys emerged from the sandpit looking like sand monsters. Sand matted their fair hair and stuck like a second, gritty skin to their bodies and swimming costumes.

Earlier, the three bigger boys had dragged the hosepipe over to the giant sandpit and run water into holes dug into the sand. They burrowed into the resultant mud like baby hippos.

Mom laughed when she saw them. “It’s time to clean up.”

She reappeared with a bucket filled with soapy water. “Get in, Michael, and rinse that sand off. I’ll squirt the rest of you down with the hosepipe.”

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Three Plastic Buckets by Papershots

They must both work downtown, but downtown is big. So the suburban rail carries them both in, briefcases and all. They must see a bit of the country in between the dark tunnels, which is “quite something” now that the sun rises early. Once off the train at the Northern Junction they go their separate ways. A have-a-good-day kiss never seemed so week-daily real amidst the morning rush, dusty litter swirling in the breeze and the three (red, blue and green) plastic buckets where the dripping water off the humid station walls sets a rhythm nobody pays attention to.

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Waterfall by Sarah Whiley

The staccato rhythm on the roof became a dull roar.

It was really coming down and the children’s focus had wandered from their work to the window.

“It’s just a little rain, we’ve all seen it before,” I redirected, whilst simultaneously reaching for the bucket for the roof’s long-standing leak.

“Honestly”, I thought, “how hard was it for the school to fix this issue?”

I watched with horror and awe, as it soon overflowed and the roof began to bow.

With a crash, the roof caved in and I witnessed my first ever indoor waterfall… right in my classroom!

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A Basket of Water by Sarah Unsicker

At the shallow river, she hoists the worn basket of water onto her head. The basket her mother mended this morning. The basket carries the weight of her worry. The child walking by her feet, his stomach protruding with malnourishment, trembles with exhaustion. Stone soup will not carry him another day.

She stumbles over a tree root. Catches herself and the water that splashes. The child laughs weakly – music she has not heard in days. The splashes reveal an egg, precious protein for the soup. With some leaves and roots, there will be dinner tonight. Tomorrow is another day.

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Lizard Lake (from “Crater Lakes”) by Saifun Hassam

By late spring, the well near Lizard Lake was stone dry. Jagged cracks ran along the edges of the drying muddy lake. Lizards basked on the pebbly shores. The drying marsh was rich in grubs, larvae and buzzing insects, attracting blue jays, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees.

Jeff watched the changing scene from the old log house on the lower ridge. Marta Jensen and her family once lived here. An underground spring still fed a backyard well. In her journals, Marta wrote of the dry seasons when a bucket of water from the wells was a gift to be treasured.

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My Bucket by Anita Dawes

Sacred water, the giver of life
we do everything with it
bathe, clean windows, wash cars
Leave a bowl out for the birds
Christen our new borns
As children, we splash in it
laughing and screaming getting soaking wet
We go boating on a summer afternoon
hand held over the side
Gentle water slipping through our fingers
Hidden trails of water beneath our feet
The Hindu God of Oceans, Varuna
Salty water, secret life below
Water is calm and violent
we cannot do without it
It sustains all life, take time
to bless the magic that falls on us…

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Trip to the Well by H.R.R. Gorman

Sally lugged the bucket of water up from the well.  Her hands stung from the day of labor, but the taskmaster wouldn’t ease up.  She picked up the pail and carried it while the foreman fiddled with his whip.

Struggling to remain standing, Sally tripped and spilled half the water in the bucket.  She chanced a look at the foreman, hoping emptily that the foreman hadn’t noticed.

Scared of the whip, she dumped the bucket and ran towards the foreman.  She placed the empty bucket over his head, punched him in the gut, and took off for the Railroad.

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Ambrosia by Sascha Darlington

Despite Ranger nipping my heels, I followed the butterfly until it fluttered onto something putrid and not for the first time marveled how a beautiful creature feeds upon death.

The net result of my ill-advised venture was that I was lost.

The breeze kicked wood smoke toward me, so I followed a deer trail toward the smoke and an old piecemeal cabin.

A twangy voice asked, “You lost?”

I nodded.

“Road’s that way.”

“Do you have water?”

The gnarled woman pointed toward a well.

I raised the bucket. Nothing I imagined could prepare me for the cold sweet ambrosia.

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Water Rationing by Miriam Hurdle

“This is the third year we suffer from the drought.” The Hubby said.

“The temperature was above 100o Fahrenheit for six weeks, too hot.” The Wife sighed.

“The city announced water rationing, limits watering the lawn to twice a week, no hosing the driveway.”

“How do we wash our cars?”

“Use buckets of water.”

“How do you wash the top of your SUV? The city doesn’t know if you use the water hose.”

“There must be a way of monitoring.”

“Well, I know. You can still use the water hose, just put a bucket of water by the car.”

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Surprise! by Joanne Fisher

“Do you really think a bucket of water is going to harm me?” the vampire asked as they approached me smirking and sizing me up as their next meal.

I smiled and casually emptied the bucket of water all over them. As they slowly began to burn I watched the look of surprise on their face as they realised they had made a major mistake.

“A bucket of water? No. A bucket of holy water on the other hand? Yes!” I replied as they quickly ran away leaving a trail of smoke and ash. They wouldn’t trouble me again.

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Transformation by Coleen Chesebro

I stared into the bucket of water expecting to see my own image stare back at me. Instead, the image of a Rusalka water nymph wavered within the watery depths. Her eyes glinted with green fire and her golden hair drifted around her shoulders.

She slipped from the water and stood before me clothed only in the gray mists that circled the banks of the river.

“Come, friend. I’ll show you the way.”

“The way?”

“You died before your time, and now you’ve transformed into a Rusalka water nymph.”

“I’m dead?”

“Of course. You belong to the river now.”

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Bull’s Eye by Abhijit

“if you want Draupadi’s hand in marriage,” Arjuna was told, “ hit the fish eye, on the other side of circling wheel, all by looking at its reflection in water.”

“do you see wheel, and eye of the fish, mighty Arjuna?”

“Yes master, I do,”

“Pierce the eye, now!”

Of all assembled royalties from all over Aryabarta, Arjuna alone managed the feat and won Draupadi’s hands in marriage.

Another, equally capable man, suta putra Karna, was not allowed to compete for not being born in a royal family.

Who did Draupadi want? Karna or Arjuna? We may never know!

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Speaking To Me by John Rieber

“The Anishinaabekwe agree that Nibi speaks. But they want us to understand that we must first speak to her.”

I had never heard this before. A name for water: “Nibi”. So how do you speak to it? Staring at the ocean, I sensed its power and peacefulness in equal measure. I grabbed a bucket, ran to the edge and filled it full of briny, icy cold water. I dipped my fingers in it, I waited for a sign, but everything was quiet, still. I was disappointed for a moment, then thought that perhaps that was the point after all.

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Following Elephants by Sally Cronin

The young boy raised the heavy tin bucket full of dusty liquid onto the rolled up shirt on his head. Both hands steadied the precious cargo as he watched the herd of elephants moving slowly off into the sunset. He had followed them all day from his village across the parched earth, knowing they were creatures capable of finding the most hidden of watering holes. They had led them to this ancient secret spring; a life-giving find for his village. He turned and retraced his steps homeward, cloaked in the dangerous predator filled dusk. Today his family would drink.

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Buckets by FloridaBorne

His beard reached to his chest, touching a faded flannel shirt. I held tight to my backpack, thankful the truck with my furniture had waited out the hurricane in another state.

“Where ya from, girl,” he asked, rowing along a suburban street.

“Originally, I lived in Arizona. I just returned from two years with the Peace Corps in Mali, where I lived in a hut. The place was so dry I walked three miles each day for a bucket of water. I swore I’d never live in a desert again.”

“Better watch out what you wish for,” he chuckled.

🥕🥕🥕

That Winter by Joanne Fisher

There had been a snow warning so I stocked up on milk and bread. By the time I got home thick clumps of snowflakes were falling. I turned on the heater, made dinner and settled in for a cosy night in my warm living room, but it was not to be. There was a phone call saying the workshop had sprung leaks in the roof and so within a short time I was back at work emptying endless buckets of icy water in an unheated workspace all night. The rest of that winter I was sick with the flu.

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Fetching Water by Michael B. Fishman

At the top of the hill Jack watched Jill bending over to fill the bucket with water. His eyes roamed over the seams of her denim cut-offs. His mind roamed the ample flesh hiding beneath.

Jill straightened. “What’re you looking at?”

“N…nothing.”

“Nothing is right,” she said as she poured the water over Jack’s head. “Now you fill it.”

A dripping Jack filled the bucket, turned, lost his balance and started rolling down the hill.

“Help me!”

Jill, reaching to help, stumbled, lost her own balance and tumbled after Jack. And the rest, my friend, is nursery rhyme history.

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Farmer Henry by Chelsea Owens

Liza’s dad waited ‘nside the barn; toe tappin’, scowl deepenin’. Where was that girl? He’d sent ‘er ten minutes ago ‘n hadn’t seen hide nor hair since.

“Uhmmmooobreuhhh,” lowed Maybelle.

He patted the cow. “I know, girl. I know.”

Right as ‘e settled on fetchin’ ‘is daughter, a glimpse a somethin’ yeller showed in the winder. Shore ‘nough, ’twas Liza. She weren’t movin’ fast, which perplexed the farmer.

“Liza!” he holler’d. “Whatcha dallyin’ fer?”

Sniffin’ and silent, she showed ‘im what she’d bin sent after.

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Ashes of the Truth by TN Kerr

Kenny hitched his trousers up and plopped on the front porch couch. A cloud of red dust rose up; some settled back on his Momma’s old Chesterfield, while the rest got picked up by the breeze and carried away.

He sat for a while watching the clouds roll in. When he was sure it was gonna rain he went and fetched the old galvanized bucket with the broken bail from beneath the sink. He sat the bucket in the bedroom directly below the ceiling stain.

Tonight he would say his prayers and ask for cash to fix the roof.

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Surfs Up by calmkate

Dad was ever the larrikin, always up for a practical joke and his favourite involved a bucket of fresh seawater. After his early morning dip he’d return to camp with his bucket full then select his targets.

My cousins were all older teens and early twenties trying to sleep off their late night capers … no idea what as I was too young.

Then he would whip their bedclothes back and douse them in water calling out “surfs up!” This gave the others a slim warning that he was on his rounds. He had zero tolerance for ‘lazy bones’.

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Yuck by Annette Rochelle Aben

She always hated camping. The bugs, sleeping on the ground and the weird outhouse bathrooms. Yuck! Here at her grandfather’s place just outside of Bouche, Quebec, Canada, they may have been in a cabin, but it was still like camping. Hauling water in a bucket from the lake to wash dishes, to cook with and with wash your hands before meals. Yuck!
And there was that hateful outhouse! Only during the day, of course. At night, there were buckets in each of the two bedrooms. Buckets that had to be washed out the next day before hauling the water.

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Well I Never! by Di @ pensitivity101

We are more into barrels than buckets these days, but before hosepipes and rain catchers, the bucket was a familiar and important part of our camping gear.

We had two, one black and one orange. It was important to remember which colour was for what, and as far as I can remember nobody got it wrong.

It was my job to collect the water in the orange bucket for washing and drinking.

I filled it to the brim and carried it back to the tent, not understanding why it wasn’t very heavy.

I will never live down the song.

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Chester Has a Little Problem by Molly Stevens

“Why is there a bucket of water in the bathroom?” said Ruth.

“There’s a little problem with flushing the toilet,” said Chester.

“Fiddling with the handle is a ‘little’ problem. Not being able to flush without a bucket is a big problem!”

“Relax. I’m plannin’ to fix it as soon as March Madness is over.”

Ruth walked over to the television and unplugged the cable box.

“Woman! What are you doin’? LSU and Maryland are tied, and there’s only two seconds left to play!”

“I believe your ticket to The Big Dance is waiting for you at Home Depot.”

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The Big Leak by Ritu Bhatha;

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Colin lay on the bed, trying his hardest to sleep but the incessant dripping noise was keeping him from his beauty sleep.

He’s already emptied the bucket, just before going to bed, though it sounded like it would be full of more rainwater before long, and he’d have to dispose of it again.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

It was typical that a leak had to spring now, during the rainiest of seasons, with a hurricane brewing, when no roofer was willing to risk his life to patch up a few shingles on his roof.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s Nippy in the Florist’s by Anne Goodwin

After an hour, I texted Mum: Can you bring my padded coat?

The fat suit? she texted back. The one you vowed you’d never wear?

She brought it. By lunchtime, I was snug. Loving my Saturday job, even though Marge wouldn’t let me touch the flowers. Except to bung them in buckets of water.

Then Romeo walked in. No time to shed that coat. So what? He wouldn’t notice me in a bikini.

“For your girlfriend?” Marge made him blush as she added a bow to the bouquet.

He paid, turned, passed me the flowers. What? “Happy Valentine’s, Juliet!”

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Panic by Susan Zutautas

Quick, quick, I yelled.

Where’s the bucket? Asked my son

It’s down in the basement by the washing machine.

Please just hurry up!

A candle that I’d left unattended for a few minutes had tipped over on the nightstand in my bedroom and had started a fire while landing on a book. All I could think was I could easily put it out before it spread.

Damn, I should have run and got the bucket of water myself.

Here, mom, I’ll toss the water on the fire for you.

Thank God it worked, just leaving an awful smoky smell.

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PART III (5-minute read)

Bucket Lost by Ann  Edall-Robson

The roar of the spring runoff over still frozen layers of ice was deafening—making the bridge the only safe place to access the water. Tossing the bucket into the creek with a rope tied to its handle was the easy part. Within seconds of resting the filled vessel on a piece of ice before pulling it up, there came a thunderous crack. The bridge shuddered. The taut rope went limp leaving the frayed remnants swinging in an outstretched hand. The bucket? It sloshed its way downstream on the rural iceberg before being tossed unceremoniously into the swirling water.

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Legend Keeper by Jo Hawk

No one remembered the well digging ceremony, the water pump’s installation, or the water bucket’s significance. During the troubles, it was the only county pump to provide clear, pure water.

This was my family’s land. My land and my responsibility. The caretakers ensured we wasted not a drop of precious life-giving fluid. The task grew more difficult with each passing year. Many had forsaken the old ways, and the relic’s existence faded, erased from common memory.

As the keeper, I held the stories, legends, and rituals. With the full moon, the remaining guardians gathered and spoke with the sprites.

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Water Daze by Bill Engleson

I first saw Sharallee in the brilliance of my youth.

I lived in the far valley.

She was of the mountain people.

We were strangers to each other.

Then, one day, our stars aligned.

I was seeking a change.

She was a restless and thirsty beauty.

The Sweetflower River cascaded down from her hills to ensure that our fertile farm land would produce all the food a people could desire.

Me with my bucket of dreams, she with her grandmother’s locket, some said we were ill-prepared for the adventure.

These many years later, I cannot but disagree with them.

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Bucket of Water  by Frank Hubney

Grace fills a small bucket of water from her sink for four plants on her balcony overlooking the bay overlooking her former life far away. She hopes the plants thrive. They may not like it here and they have no way to escape.

With the water delivered she looks down on the tiny neighbors walking the street all accustomed to being here, mentally preoccupied. They look happy, but who knows? Happiness is not what it’s all about. It’s all about – what?

She figures those tiny plants have to trust her, but sometimes water comes from the sky as well.

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The Wait of Water (American Sentence haiku; tanka haibun) by JulesPaige

A human fish; swimming before being bipedal, so I was told.
I am one with natural liquid, especially salted oceans.
Now that I have a home by a creek; all future homes will have flow too.

If I were to have a bucket list in retirement; home on the beach.
I’d be able to take said bucket and fill it to my heart’s content.
To explore everyday all the gifts therein; brought to me by the sea.

born out of water
Into a sign of flowing
to write on beach sands

am I asking for too much
simple serendipity

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When The Well Runs Dry by Nobbinmaug

They sprinted to the well. Liza frantically pulled up the bucket.

“Test it!” Mike just looked down and shook his head. “Damn it!”

Liza vented her frustration on the bucket.

The same scene played out countless times.

Their pouches ran dry before Mike sighed and smiled.

“Finally!”

They greedily drank from the well before filling their pouches and bucket.

“We have to get home and hope we haven’t lost anyone else.”

Two days later, Mike and Liza stumbled into the village.

“We found water.” Liza held up the empty bucket. “What?”

“There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza.”

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The Follies of Youth by Anurag Bakhshi

“Where’re you off to?” I called out to him.

He pointed towards the empty bucket in his hand.

“I’ll come along too,” I said.

As we silently trudged up towards the well, I recalled the times when the hills used to echo with our carefree laughter.

But now…

I quietly wiped off a tear.

If only I hadn’t seen him kissing Mary that day.

If only I hadn’t pushed him in anger.

Jack wouldn’t have fallen down and broken his crown, and I wouldn’t have had to go tumbling after him to prove that it was just an accident.

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Watering Whole by D. Avery

“Well, Kid, water ya waitin fer? The prompt has arrived, it’s time ta saddle up. Oh, let me guess, yer gonna turn water inta whine, gonna whine about the prompt. Again.”

“Well…”

“That’s a deep subject, Kid, an’ Shorty’s done subjected us ta deep thinkin’. Thinkin’ that musta been quite a time, bein’ amongst those water walkin’ women. Sounds right powerful.”

“Reckon it was, Pal. Ain’t nuthin’ more powerful ‘an a group a women ‘an water. Makes me smile ta think a Shorty at a tribal gatherin’.”

“Kid, Shorty’s at a tribal gatherin’ ever week. She leads Buckaroo Nation!”

🥕🥕🥕

March 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

Water Walkers, women of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, take the floor and welcome the audience to Tribal Water Day. I sit at a bingo table near hanging art created by local schoolchildren. One poster reads,  “Water feels no bad vibes.” My daughter, Radio Geek, is interviewing guest speakers who range from state representatives to PhDs from the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Tech. On the way down from Hancock to Baraga on the Keweenaw Bay of Lake Superior, we plowed through lakes of melting snow while a spring squall spit more flakes at our windshield.

So it goes with transitions — are we rain or snow? Are we who we were or who we have become? Transitions tread the space between. For us, on this day, the focus is on water. Outside Nibi (the Ojibwe word for water) moves from one state to another in a gritty arrival of spring. Melt is not beautiful, and yet it gives way to what we know as the most inspiring time of year. Snow breaks down into icy pebbles, shedding its fleecy white coat. Sand from road traction piles up and mud emerges as the first glimpse of soil hidden for months.

Radio Geek tells me she wants to add a question to her interviews. Among queries about mercury in white fish, tribal data, and water-related research, she wants to ask, “What does water say to you?”

One of the Water Walkers introduces herself at the front of the room in what usually serves as a Bingo Hall. Today it transforms into a community center. She speaks in her native language and then explains she has identified herself as an Anishinaabe woman, her clan, her name. She says, “We welcome you today. Community members of sincere heart, mind, and spirit join us in seeking truth, knowledge, and healing through the original sacred way of life.”

Notebook open, colored pens laid out before me, I can’t deny the feeling of awe in being here. Having grown up out west, I can’t remember a time when a native tribe opened up teachings to the general public. This is not an anthropology class or a dominant culture history-speaking over a marginalized one. This is the Anishinaabekwe — the Women — providing teaching. This group refers to themselves as the Water Walkers because they carry the sacred Nibi in a bucket to honor her. To speak to her.

To answer Radio Geek’s question, the Anishinaabekwe agree that Nibi speaks. But they want us to understand that we must first speak to her. I smile, hearing Nibi personified as a woman because I knew Lady Lake Superior was female. I came here this morning, rising earlier than I’m inclined to because I wanted to glimpse the Water Walkers in action. It feels like a cultural transformation is taking place — borders and boundaries give way like warming ice.

And I anticipate beauty carried in a water bucket.

A secondary motive drove me across wet roads today, as well. In my novel, Miracle of Ducks, I’ve constructed a project for my character, Dr. Danni Gordon. I had to give her an archeological task not only for her profession, but to explain why she lives in North Idaho. I also wanted it to be a source of tension. Earlier drafts focused on her dislike of children and had her leading a volunteer site further south. After pouring over Forest Service records I finally found a poosibility in North Idaho, and it was multi-agency, including tribal input.

In 2017, while the Hub and I were limping toward Michigan, beaten down by our homeless travels, we took a break at his sister’s home in Kansas. Several days earlier I had turned 50. In Kansas, Sis had a birthday surprise for me — archeology school. It infused a greater sense of topic authority for my character. I met and interviewed archeologists, worked alongside them in grids and labs, and kept in touch with several as alpha readers.

One gave me a great backstory for Danni and then joked that it might look like what he lived. I felt honored to have someone share their story with me — a fiction writer who will take that story and mold it into something new. The experience gave me greater confidence as a novel writer to interview people. For so long, I’ve interviewed people for articles and profiles that doing so for an imaginary story felt off. I’m glad I got over feeling that way. Interviewing authorities provides great research.

That is what has brought me to Tribal Water Day. I’ve been drafting scenes around the project I gave Danni, and one includes a public presentation led by the Kootenai Tribe of North Idaho. I’ve never experienced such a gathering and wondered how it would differ from a presentation led by the Forest Service or a local special interest group.

Before me, I have two pens — turquoise for general notes and purple for drafts.

Danni joins me at the bingo table, and I begin to feel her nervousness. Unlike me, Danni hates public speaking. Her palms tingle and she can’t feel her feet. Danni’s greatest desire in life is to belong. But she’s often thwarted by her greatest secret fear that she doesn’t believe she belongs anywhere. I can feel her tensions as I look at the unfolding presentations through her lens. Danni relaxes, inhaling deeply of the smoldering sage, her heart beating in rhythm to the deep drumming of the tribal Singers. Then Michael Robineaux walks in, and she flinches, remembering she is an outsider.

Not once throughout the day do I feel like an outsider. I marvel that every speaker is a woman! Several are official water specialists, working for their tribe. Others are wildlife and environmental biologists. My daughter is the media representative of Michigan Tech. The men serve in supporting roles. The Tribal Singers drum for the Water Walkers. Many men assist the water specialists and biologists in their work. A tribal artist displays his portraits of Anishinaabekwe.

As a woman, I feel affirmed. I observe a room full of leaders among my gender. I feel hope for Danni in her chosen profession and gaining the credibility she needs to make her project work. I feel hope for the water surrounding us. And I decide to accept the invitation to walk next time the bucket of water is carried from Copper Harbor to Sand Point.

Life is good.

Officially, Macaroo is a workhorse, and I’m almost back in the swing of things. A flu-bug is winding its way through the Keweenaw, and I’ve caught it, though it’s not so bad. I just feel low on energy. Nonetheless, the snow is receding slowly, our local township group is progressing, and I’ve officially been accepted into the MFA Creative Writing program at Southern New Hampshire University. It’s online so I will travel virtually. Miracle of Ducks will be my thesis, and I’ve also added studies to get certified to teach writing online for universities.

I’m pleased with how everything is settling down like a bucket of clean water from an artesian well. Dare I say, the rough ride is mellowing out.

Grab a bucket. And as the Anishinaabekwe said to me, “Come with an empty mind, open heart, open hands” and scoop a story in 99 words among a community of literary artists.

March 21, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a bucket of water. What is the condition of the water and what is the bucket for? Drop deep into the weel and draw from where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 26, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

When It Felt Full (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Unable to stop smiling, Danni bought a galvanized steel water bucket. After twelve years of studying, summer digs, teaching undergrads, and crediting her work to advisors, Danni had completed her Ph.D. She promptly married Ike and bought a horse.

“I was thinking we might need a house,” Ike said, staring up at the stars above their sleeping bags.

“We can find a barn by winter.”

“Mrs. Gordon, we need more than a barn.”

Ike’s uncle sold them his small spread when he moved to town. Danni’s bucket of water felt full for ten years. Until Iraq poked a hole.

To Chisel

What does it mean to chisel? To begin with something raw and peel back layers until a shape emerges. What does it take for a sculptor to chisel marble, a woodworker to cave wood, a conman to chisel money from someone unsuspecting? So many questions for writers to explore with the unusual prompt.

Many felt stumped. Chisel? Others jumped in with characters who possessed chiseled cheeks and rippling bodies. All pushed through and came up with a fascinating look at humanity. Put a tool in an artist’s hands, and you’ll be surprised by the results.

The following is based on the March 14, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a chisel.

PART I (10-minute read)

Red Carpet by The Dark Netizen

He put on his best smile, and began walking down the red carpet, flashing his perfect set of teeth to the cameras.

The paparazzi had all gathered to one side of the carpet.

He was unperturbed even when he knew the press wanted a piece of him.

He had been nominated for best actor this year, as he showed flashes of sheer acting brilliance, in addition to his chiseled features.

Dressed in his well fitting tuxedo, he posed for the flashing cameras.

The fitting had turned out quite tight, and as he turned, he ended up flashing the cameras…

🥕🥕🥕

Deception by Ann Edall-Robson

His chiseled features had softened with the years. Still handsome, with a rakish look, and eyes that flashed like lightning bolts when his thoughts turned to what his son had done so many years ago.

He stood with his hip leaning against the workbench, looking out the window of his saddle making shop. The cloudy expression changed when he spotted his grandson working with a young colt in the corral across the way.

Watching the young man, he could see himself at that age. The family traits, and looks had definitely not missed a generation, but would the deception.

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Chisel by Robbie Cheadle

Dan slammed his toolbox down on the table. “My new paint scrapper is missing. I haven’t even used it yet.”

“Are you sure it’s gone?”

“Yes,” he opened the box. “See, it’s gone. You haven’t seen it anywhere, have you?”

“No,” said Julie, thinking of the little fondant man who was reposing on the paint scrapper in her art cupboard. It was a great tool for moving her artworks with and she planned to keep it.

She smiled at him. “Why don’t you leave your toolbox in the kitchen until you find it?” His chisel had caught her eye.

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Princess and Pauper by Abhijit Ray

Princess Pihu had five maids taking care of her every needs. Laborer Ramu had to take care of needs of his family. Pihu had never done any work, Ramu had not done anything but work.

Watching Ramu’s sweat soaked body, chiselled by hard labor would evoke unexplored feelings in Pihu.

Land lord’s daughter has fallen for the daily wager’s son was the story in the grapevine. Jealous coworkers, raised the matter with Pihu’s father.

Pihu saw Ramu being beaten up tied to a pole. Neither Pihu nor Ramu uttered a single word. Pihu was mute and Ramu was deaf.

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The Assault by Anurag Bakhshi

I woke up to see someone leaning over me, as if he had just kissed me, and was about to do so again.

The man had blue eyes, a chiseled jawline, an equine nose, and that blind confidence that only comes from lifelong entitlement.

“You creep,” I screamed, as I pushed at him, hard. His face registered shock as he went flying back.

I jumped up, and landed next to his supine figure. The last words I heard before I choked the life out of him were, “I’m Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty….”

I wonder why he called me that…

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An Interlude by Joanne Fisher

Aalen had made camp for the night. Not feeling like sleeping she had found a piece of wood and used a sharp stone for a chisel. She began chiseling it into shape, though she had no idea what she was making. She heard movement in the bushes near her and then there was a loud panting by her ear.

“I wondered when you were going to show up.” Aalen said as she looked at Vilja. “They’re all dead Vilja. Killed in cold blood. We need to make things right.” She hugged her wolf and wept. Vilja licked her face.

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Those Beaks Are Made for Eating by Susan Sleggs

Outside my window suet feeders for woodpeckers hang on the crabapple tree. They are chained because climbing critters like to steel them. The little Downy Woodpecker feeds with the tiniest beak, the size of a push pin, but it’s the fiercest of the bunch. The Hairy is next in size and its beak resembles a small nail. The Red-bellied sports a picture hanging nail and the Flicker’s beak is long and sleek, like a sharp needle. The extra large Pileated Woodpecker has a huge beak in comparison. It looks like two chisels on a hinge. He takes big bites.

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Carve the Cake by H.R.R. Gorman

The cake melted like butter beneath his carving knife. He chiseled through the icing and fondant, into the raspberry jam and vanilla center.

“What did you wish for, Pop-pop?”

Pop-pop gave the granddaughter a toothless smile. Though his eyes were clouded from cataracts and his body now feeble, he put the knife to the table smoothly and handed his “little pet” a slice of cake. “If I tell you, will you promise to make it come true?”

“Yes.”

“I wished to share another cake with you next year, sweetie.” He pinched her cheeks and cut another slice of cake.

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The Hospital Closure Is Announced by Anne Goodwin

Excitement flutters inside her like the start of a baby. Could it happen, or is it a fairy tale? Amy Johnson flying so high she could chisel a chunk of cheese from the moon.

“Who decided the hospital had to close?” A woman jabs a gnarled finger at the Belgian. “Was it you?”

Rather than solving a mystery, the detective has created one. But, Mrs Christie having summoned him for a reason, Matty wracks her brain for a solution that would appease her guests. “Buck up! We must all forgo some comforts in wartime. Even our dear King George.”

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Scraped by Tanushka Dangayach

I found myself Lying on the ground. Silver and metallic, scraping the ground. I glance around the area. Shoes lay about on the ochre ground. Kids loitered in the parking lot. Lying there, I looked up at the sky. The sun shined in my eyes, bright and brilliant. Shoes thudded on the pavement. Dropping down on the ground, a person bent down grasping my handle tight. “Aah! Look what I found!” said the raspy voice. Picking me up, he pushed my head against the ground.

I walked up to Larry. There he sat with a chisel in his hand.

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Learning Curve by D. Avery

“What did you say Marlie?”

“Basswood. Google said it was a good carving wood, and then I learned we had it in our front yard, except we’d been calling it Linden, and I cut a piece of it to carve. Daddy taught me how to carve, Mommy! Mommy! You’re not even looking at my carving.”

She wasn’t, either; she was looking quizzically from Marlie’s bandaged hand to Marlie’s quiet father.

“Daddy taught me how to be real careful with the knife and chisel, but that was after I’d used the limbing saw. That’s when Daddy taught me about first-aid!”

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TImeouts by Ruchira Khanna

“I don’t want to go to school tomorrow!” Nate announced loud and clear when he entered his home and sat down with a sulk.

“What happened, honey?” Mom was quick to take the eight-year-old in her lap.

The Mom continued to tickle and caress.

After a couple of minutes, he blurted, “My teacher gives me a lot of timeouts!”

There was silence.

“I’m sure you cannot identify what is right and what is wrong,” said Mom as she gently stroked his arm, “These timeouts are like a chisel. They will help you recognize and analyze your behavior, going forward.”

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Perspective by Norah Colvin

The monumental task cast a shadow deep and long, miniaturising the toolkit at his feet.

He shook his head, muttering complaints and impossibilities.

The supervisor appeared. “Better get started. No time to waste.”

He rummaged through the toolkit, lifting, inspecting and replacing each implement in turn.

“What’s the holdup?” bellowed the supervisor.

He grabbed the mallet and whacked the stone. “Take that!” Chunks smashed around him. He wiped his brow and whacked again.

“Great. You’ve started at last,” encouraged the supervisor.

Later, as the light turned, the shadow faded and diminished. He lifted his chisel and refined his work.

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Perfection by Reena Saxena

“Don’t be afraid of gathering enemies! It shows that you have chiselled your life to perfection.”

“How can enemies make a life perfect?” She was still reeling under the impact of a breakup, and the threats she received after that.

“Chiselling involves making a choice – you keep what you like, need or want and delete the rest. You revise your opinion on seeing the final outcome, and then, refine it a little more…”

I’m happy to see the glow in her eyes. Happiness shows in the pink flush of renewal on her cheeks.

“Welcome and embrace the New You!”

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Chiseled Cheekbones by Susan Zutautas

You’re so bubbly, Sarah? Her mother said. What’s up?

It was going to be a surprise but I’m going to get my cheeks done.

Oh, for heaven’s sake don’t tell me you’re serious!

Sarah’s father was in the other room and heard the conversation. He went out to his workshop to grab a tool thinking he might be able to change his daughter’s mind.

See this Sarah, showing her a chisel. This is a tool they use to chisel your cheekbones.

Oh, Dad, you’re so silly, the one they use is much smaller and besides I won’t be awake.

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A Muse by Goldie

His black,
luscious hair
was styled to perfection.
A stray lock,
gently hanging off the side
of his forehead added
to his “good bad boy” attitude.
The piercing blue eyes
beckoned to me,
causing me to almost get lost in the moment.
The face chiseled.
Slim,
with pronounced cheekbones
and dimples.
I kept analyzing him further.
Broad shoulders.
Sculpted arms.
Visible pecks.
An impeccable six-pack.
An ideal specimen.
Could be Praxiteles’ muse.
“There’s pressure on men, too…
You know?
Not only women need to look a certain way.” –
I thought with contempt,
As I put the glossy magazine away.

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Even if Flawed by Kerry E.B. Black

Michaelangelo saw the angel in marble and carved until he set it free. The world admires him. For hundreds of years, people have clamored for a mere glimpse of his work.

I’ve studied, learned every technique.

My teachers whisper appreciation of my creations, yet I’m poised with a chisel, too pertrified to begin. I touch smooth, unblemished stone so flawless it glows.

Yet I imagine my inadequacies disrupting its natural perfection.

The master’s words return then, and an angel’s wings pound beneath the placid surface.

Art must be freed, and even if flawed.

I place the chisel and swing.

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The Fisherman by TN Kerr

My father was an artist; a sculptor, usually working in clay or stone. One day he, and six of his drinking buddies, brought a large stone and sat it in the centre of his studio.

“What are you going to make from that, Papa?” I asked.

“I won’t make anything from it,” he said, “I think I can find something.”

He told me that he believed a fisherman was hiding in the stone. That he would find the fisherman by knocking off small bits and pieces. He promised he’d take care not to cut the fisherman with his chisel.

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Laurie’s Nature Journals by Saifun Hassam

Laurie often visited Mira and Jade at the Farmers Four Market. Their intricate designs in jewelry of metal and precious stones fascinated her. How had Jade captured bluebirds and wispy clouds in that silver filigree pendant?

She remembered her grandfather. With his keen eyes, a deft hand and a fine blade chisel, his oak and butternut wood carvings captured rich details of woodland deer, fox, owls and eagles. His chisel weaved along the grain of fallen logs, vividly portraying backyard visitors: sparrows, woodpeckers, hawks, mice and squirrels.

That had sparked Laurie’s own passion as a nature observer and writer.

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Rain Pending by calmkate

An eerie stillness pervades

following some super hot days

a clear warning to one and all

that calm before a big storm

as I reel off some mantras [sacred sounds]

awareness arises fully aroused

heavy clouds drift swiftly over

as swallows dart and glide

eagerly catching erratic currents

to glide and play up high

as more dense clouds

skid across the sky

the birds call out warnings

each species on high alert

to the pending deluge

do they tuck each other in

sounds and visions gently collide

emotions deeply chiselled inside

all creatures weather together

whatever nature does provide

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PART II (10-minute read)

The Master’s Hands by Jo Hawk

Turner’s left hand skimmed the tools on the workbench, each tool in its assigned space. To his right, the lathe hummed, a familiar cadence to the master’s tune. His ear told him his piece was unbalanced. Spinning at twelve hundred RPM, the music didn’t sing.

He found the required chisel and returned to his work. Touching his chisel to the spinning form, the tool bounced, and the wood chirped. Firm against the guide, severed wood spiraled in curls, deflected by his visor, the continuous curls covered his hands. He worked meticulously, immersed in the rhythm of his spinning reality.

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The Attic by Anita Dawes

Clearing out the attic
I found Grandads chisels
carefully wrapped in cloth.
He is no longer with us
But I remember him telling me
Always look after your tools.
He was the same with all his tools
Paintbrushes must be thoroughly cleaned.
Unwrapping the cloth, five chisels
as good as the day he bought them
Rosewood handles, each blade sharp
as the last time he held them.
I could feel him beside me
nudging me to find the wooden train set
he made for my twelfth birthday.
I found so much more, I rediscovered
My grandfather, his lost wisdom…

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Seeing by Nascent Ederren

It is that secret joy, which none may ever notice, those things stolen in a moment yet still left behind.

It is not loneliness which drives the urge to see. But a pause, a thought, a reason to remember why the silence is so blessed.

To come and go unnoticed, to spend time with and without. To stare at all around, and chisel into memory, the thoughts and faces all left behind.

It is time to retreat again and listen to the silence. Where words echo so loudly though spoken long ago, and flame alone will light the world.

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My Grandfather’s Chisel by K. J. Watson

I never met my paternal grandfather. I have two mementos of his life, though: a photograph of him in his silversmith’s workshop, circa 1947, and a chisel with a split handle. In the photograph, my grandfather leans over a clamped silver dish, a chisel in his hands. The chisel is possibly the one I now possess. Family lore says that the V&A Museum in London has a silver cup with a design my grandfather conceived and engraved. I did go to the museum, but I could not find the cup. No matter. I have the photograph. And the chisel.

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A Light in Dark Places (A true story from the Curious Archaeologist) by Gordon Le Pard

He struck the chisel with the wooden mallet, carefully. There was hardly any light as there was firedamp in the mine. Any flame or spark and the explosion would be devastating.

Then he saw it – a flame. It was approaching, he had nowhere to run, he shouted.

“Stop! there’s firedamp, stop!”

The flame approached, he continued to scream, the man was trying to shout something but the miner didn’t hear, as he fainted in terror.

He came too to see his vicar looking down, by the light of an impossible flame burning in – the world’s first safety lamp.

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Dumbfounded Duplication by Papershots

“It’s in that drawer.” He marched to it confidently. “Found it?” He opened the drawer but found various types of tools, of which, let’s see… pliers, a kind of screwdriver… this looks like a hammer with a double blade at one end, it has to have a name, and, hold on, two more. So one is a chisel, the other is not. They do look similar, though. Small chisel and big chisel? “I didn’t know which size you preferred.” She grabbed the small one. “You do know that’s not really a chisel?” “You mean the big one?” “Yes.” “Yes.”

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Technology: Chisel by Frank Hubeny

Brad knew he didn’t have the proper tools to do the job right, but he rarely did. The door and opener cost under $50. He’d reuse the old hinges.

He did have to buy a chisel. They told him he couldn’t return it when he was done. He could live with that.

After sort of measuring everything, he realized it wasn’t as easy as he thought to carve out where the hinges should go.

Eventually in spite of everything he hung the door.

Happy wife happy life: she was happy. For the most part the new door even closed.

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Businessmen by Macy Brown

My stomach did back flips in my body as I mentally prepared myself for what was about to happen. My whole life, everything that I built, was on the line here. One wrong move and it could all be over; all of my hard work and late nights all for nothing. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. I force my feet to move into the room as I repeat the same words to myself over and over again, “I will not let them take control over my company. I will not let them chisel into my hard earned profits.”

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Repeat Offenders? (subtitle: For those ‘Groupies’ who need to get a different grip!) by JulesPaige

I want to chisel off the barnacles.
Those leeches, those hanger on’ers
That have no connection to my creativity.

I’ve just got a simple sailboat
I do not run with the ‘big dogs’
Yachts, cruise ships; not for me

I’ll get my news from where I choose
Not from another’s opinionated feed.
I don’t do greed…

I have chiseled out my own niche
Letting the wind blow through my hair
I set my own course, by my own rules

I use my eyes to see, ears to listen
If you’ve been asked to leave;
Then please, just go away…

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Charli the Chiseler by CG Brik

Charlie wandered the streets of Dublin chiseling everything he could.

Bread from the baker, pills from the apothecary, meat from the butcher, shoes from the cobbler, kisses from women, dosh from men.

Sauntering and swaggering, smiling to all who passed by, fingers too quick to catch, hands seemingly perpetually in pockets.

One day a bobby had enough, knocked him upside the skull with a billy club.

Charlie had no business being in prison, but he never stopped chiseling.

Cutlery from the kitchen, brushes from the bathroom, and he’d bring his booty to his secret corner, every day, always chiseling.

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The Dancer by Sally Cronin

His chiseled good looks and toned body set the dance floor alight as he twirled one girl after another around to the music. But he was performing for one particular beauty, sat in a booth with her friends in the corner. Finally, having discarded his latest partner to return desolate to her table alone, he sauntered over to his quarry.

‘Wanna dance babe?’

Without replying, the stunning blonde stood and brushed passed him. She gathered all the girls he had danced with before, and led them onto the floor, where they boogied for the rest of the night together.

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Drop Dead Gorgeous by Ritu Bhathal

All the ladies stopped what they were doing and stared.

Zeus sighed. He was used to it.

No matter where he went, the first sight of his chiselled features always rendered the opposite sex speechless.

His mates would often comment jealously about his ability to have any woman he wanted, falling at his feet.

But it’s not all it’s made out to be, being drop dead gorgeous.

A mute partner, who is always staring at him gormlessly, falling at the sight of him, or even dropping dead on occasion…

Not quite the kind of relationship he was looking for.

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Chinese Whispers by Geoff Le Pard

‘What’s made you look so smug?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Sure. I know you, Morgan. Spill.’

‘That woman over there? The one with the purple hair…’

‘A fine arbiter of good taste…’

‘She told her friend I look chiselled.’

‘You?’

‘Is that so strange?’

‘Oh come on. Your Mum might call your features angular but even Lego people have more curves.’

‘You’re jealous.’

‘Sure. Have I chiselled you out of a compliment? I’ll check. Miss…’

‘You don’t… Bum.’

‘They said you look frazzled, not chiselled.’

‘That comes from knowing you.’

‘I love you, Morgan, just the way you are.’

‘Bog off, Logan.”

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A Corrosion of The Heart by Bill Engleson

I see them there, burning the proverbial midnight oil, hunched over their devices, adding wealth where it likely isn’t needed, chiseling away at social programs.

Out in the hinterland, their minions, the simmering feudalists of hate, wind up their scabrous hearts, seek out their weaponry, plot heinous acts, all in the name of their purity, their virtue.

They meld, these separate trajectories, the political, the wastrel, the fanatic, the idol.

They meld.

They serve each others darkest desires.

And where am I in this collision of hateful terrorist evil?

What part do I play?

Am I simply a shaving?

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A Classic Swindle by John Rieber

“He chiseled me out of my savings!” Perhaps I shouted louder than I needed to, but he was walking away.

“Come back!” No one was really paying attention. Perhaps this scene was normal to them, but if they had been cheated the way I had, they’d be screaming too.

As I turned to leave the “Chiseler” returned.

“Mr. Turner,” he said quietly, “we warned you about volatile investments.” He leaned in closely. “But I do have a tip for you…”

He winked at me and I reached for my wallet – we both knew it was time for a comeback.

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Sunday Morning by Michael B. Fishman

“Hey,” she says. “Trick or cheat.”

“What?”

“Trick or cheat.”

“You mean ‘trick or treat’?”

“No, trick or cheat.”

“I don’t get it.”

“The crossword puzzle, doofus.”

“How many letters?”

“Six.”

“CHISEL.”

“You sure?”

“Sure I’m sure. Don’t you trust me?”

“When I’m using a pen I don’t even trust Will Shortz. Wait… Fits, OK, I trust you.”

“As you should.”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“What’d you say?”

“Nothing.”

She gives me a sidelong glance. “You said something.”

“Your ears OK? I said I love you.”

She leaned over, kissed the top of my head. “That’s what I thought you said.”

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Necessity by D. Avery

“Jeez, Marge, you’re turning the trailer upside down these days.”

“It’s needing a good spring cleaning, Ernest.”

“Now with a hammer and chisel?”

“Ending the ice age in your freezer.”

“That’s a brilliant solution, Marge.”

With a sculptor’s eye Marge placed the chisel and hammered out great chunks of hoary frozen food while Ernest looked on.

“We should name our kid Invention. Get it?”

Marge told Ilene about it on their walk.

“Ha! Good one. You, the mother of Invention.”

“Ilene! I don’t want to be a mother! Damn it. Things were so good.”

“Go talk with Ernest, Marge.”

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First Day Volunteers (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“I found something, Dr. Gordon.” Danni followed the volunteer who grinned.

She noted the group was digging near the mystery foundation. She expected these greenhorn volunteers to soon lose interest. Ruby City held no treasure. Danni confirmed the woman had found the edge of a tool. She instructed the group to continue peeling back layers centimeters at a time.

To her surprise, they did. At the end of the day, the volunteers left what looked like a chisel in situ. Two days later they cheered its liberation. Danni realized her first day fear of volunteers was unfounded. She grinned.

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Tea with Mr Windsor by Anne Goodwin

A street so grand the houses had names chiselled on the gateposts. Like gravestones. As at the cemetery, trees lined our route, pushing through the pavement at intervals, as if Briarwood was so healthy, vegetation reigned over stone.

I did not slurp from the saucer or forget to extend my pinkie on raising my cup. I did not drop jam on the Chesterfield or gobble up the dainty sandwiches in one bite. But I thanked the lady who offered me the plate as our host’s wife. How could I know she was the daily woman if she wasn’t introduced?

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Like Michelangelo by Kelley Farrell

Why couldn’t my parents be dream crushers? My proclamation of wanting to become a marble sculptor should have scared them.

Perhaps the pieces which are grand are worth it but starving artist isn’t just an expression, and who buys marble sculpture anymore?

Men who spend on everything and still afford sculptures of themselves. Naked.

“Make sure it’s a testament to my … manhood. Like Michelangelo.” The man, overweight and sweating, purs.

“Michelangelo was the …” Not worth it. “If you insist on staying you’ll have to be quiet. I’d hate for my chisel to slip and … reduce your manhood in anyway.”

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Haibun: My Son is a Woodworker by Cie

My son is a woodworker. He does chip carving.

The tools he uses for this type of woodworking are a knife and a gouge rather than a chisel. However, one day he would like to try different types of woodworking, some of which involve the use a chisel.

People worry about him working with sharp tools. They say that he should beware when working with gouges and knives. It is true that he must be prudent when using imprudent (or perhaps impudent) tools. However:

The cuts that hurt worst
Come not from the sharpest knife
But from jagged edge

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No Means No by Annette Rochelle Aben

She hated their Michigan Basement; cement brick walls and a dirt floor. If not for the washing machine being down there, she had no reason to be down there. She started her laundry and turned to run back upstairs, when the sight of her father’s work bench caught her eye.

Hammers, hand saws, baby food jars of nails, all lined up neat and tidy. She noticed, but wondered why he didn’t, that something was missing. A shudder ran through her body to think what would happen if he found that she stashed his chisel under her mattress and why.

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PART III (5-minute read)

Some Things Are Not Chiseled in Stone by Sascha Darlington

Conversations weren’t easy with Dad after Mom left. What he said, went. Case closed.

The case for my art didn’t close, not for me. I spent hours at Megan’s in her father’s workshop chiseling aspen, Foo Fighters pounding through my head. When I qualified for the art competition, I lied to Dad about where I’d be and forged his name on the permission slip.

At the show, Dad stood by my carving of our dog, Dali. My stomach dropped.

“I’m not a monster,” he said. “You lied.”

“I’m sorry.”

His finger drifted across the first-place ribbon. “We should talk.”

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Chisel by Eluminora

Her mouth is the last thing to chisel into existence. He does not know why he left it until the end, when all the rest of her is already finished. Perhaps she does not need a mouth. The smooth plain where it should be intrigues him. But she is his companion, the fulfillment of a promise to himself: he will no longer be alone. Damp with effort, he lowers his chisel yet again until its tip barely touches the stone. Sweat beads on his temple as he strikes the first mark. Then his hand slips and gashes her cheek.

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Poured Out by Alexander De (Zander)

“Chisel me this, Batman!” she said, laughing.

“Riddle,” I corrected her. “It’s riddle me this.”

She silently shuffled the salt and pepper shakers. I drank my coffee; stared out the window. Cars passed.
She always says the wrong thing, like she doesn’t quite get the punchline and I feel this stupid need to correct her. Me, and everyone else.

“I don’t really fit in the world,” Her sadness slipped into a smile.

I smiled back, took her hand. Held it, as it turned out, for the last time over pancakes.
She poured out the entire syrup jug, slowly, deliberately.

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Ruth Signs Up for a Woodworking Class by Molly Stevens

“What in blazes are you gonna do with a chisel?” asked Chester.

“It’s for my woodworking class. I signed up for a two-day session in Rockport,” said Ruth.

“Dadblast it, woman! I suppose you think because you’re goin’ outta town, you’ll learn more. That class is likely run by some hippie who moved here from California who doesn’t know his dovetail from his biscuit joint. And I bet he learned it all by watchin’ YouTube. You’re wastin’ money! Why didn’t you ask me to teach you?”

“Because for all your experience, there’s something you don’t have.”

“What’s that?”

“Tolerance.”

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She Knew Him So Well by Di @ pensitivity101

The smile brought out the dimples in his cheeks, creating a path to the laughter lines around the eyes perfected to capture their charm, sparkle and warmth.

His chin showed strength of character. She had even managed to reproduce the scar he got from horse riding as a child.

It was her best work, but there was something not quite right.

She studied the photograph again, tracing the lines on the image and comparing them to her art.

Taking her narrowest chisel, she gently scooped away the blemish.

Not on her beloved’s face, but a blot on the photograph.

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Chiseled Beauty by Nancy Brady

Julie and her friends had gone to the art gallery. She saw him first across a crowded room. He was tall, lean, and his face was chiseled, the penultimate male. He was the man she had seen in her dreams so many times even though he was turned away from her. She would have recognized him anywhere, but he was surrounded by many admirers.

She just had to get closer and hope that a few of those hangers-on would have left. She would be patient. She slowly made her way towards him, waiting to see Michelangelo’s David up close.

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Three Spirits by Sarah Whiley

The djembe is West Africa’s best known instrument. This goblet-shaped drum is traditionally carved from a single piece of African hardwood and topped with animal skin. Its name is derived from “Dje” (gather) and “be” (everyone).

It is said, each drum contains three spirits – that of the tree, the animal whose skin is played, and the carver who chiseled and shaped the wood.

The djembe is a vessel for these spirits to come through. The sound is past, present and future; that which is not in us until it comes into consciousness through our hands and into the world.

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Wood Be Artist by D. Avery

“What’re ya doin’ Pal?”

“I’m a’hewin’.”

“Bless you. Looks like yer carvin’. When’d ya learn ta carve?”

“I’m a learnin’ jist now as I’m a doin’, Kid. Try it.”

“Oh, I cain’t carve, Pal, not even a whittle bit.”

“You could if you’d wood, and a knife. Jist try.”

“I don’t know how. It won’t turn out.”

“Won’t if ya don’t start ever. Here. Cedar wood.”

“Yeah, I see da wood Pal. An’ cain’tcha see I cain’t carve?”

“Jist shush. I’ll teach ya.”

“There a charge?”

“Yeah, sure Kid, pay me in bacon.”

“You chiselin’ me?”

“Maybe a whittle.”

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