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February 20: Flash Fiction Challenge

Clickety-clacking rings across the house as guest-dog, Monte, prances on the hardwood floor. It’s been silent and I welcome the sound of canine life. His humans have left for an extended weekend out of state, and we get to enjoy the company of this nine-year-old Dautchund. He curls up on the couch next to the Hub, who rubs his head and calls him, “Big dog.” It’s hard to adjust to not having the big dogs around.

We also have a visiting tabby cat — a prowler caught on NOAA’s satellite. From 23,000 miles up in space, the weather image captured fuzzy plumes of lake-effect snow across Lake Superior, and it looks like a hunkered tabby cat. If you check out the NPR story here, scroll down to see the plumes in action. That tabby has been a frequent visitor, only it looks more like fluffy white kittens from our perspective.

Domestic animals aside, I’ve also conquered a wild beast. Last Sunday, I turned in the first draft of a plot outline to my proposed novel thesis. Last term, I completed a plot following Snyder’s Beat Sheet. In case you are wondering, a plot and a plot outline are not the same. One is telling the story of the plot, and the other maps what happens when. Turns out, I have seven plots and subplots — who knew? Well, that’s the problem. You don’t know until you are forced through the sieve of mapping a plot.

My W-storyboard is getting a workout. Just because I have a plot outline does not mean it is the novel’s final structure. Index cards and sticky notes rearranged on the board will provide the blueprint as I write. My inciting incident is due in another week. Having an outline forced me to contain my ideas, which is similar to what happens when I write a story in 99 words. It’s made me rethink my beginning.

I’m not even going to say how many times I’ve written the beginning to Miracle of Ducks. If my outline holds, this novel will be nothing like the first draft I wrote. However, my original opening was closer to a proper inciting incident than any subsequent one I wrote. What is proper? Something that gets the reader reading — a character who compels, action that excites, a mystery that begs resolution.

My professor made an astute observation. He told my cohort that we are also competing against technology for readers’ attention — Netflix, YouTube, streaming, social media, video games. Not only do we need to stand out among books, but we also have to get readers away from different screens. It’s daunting to think about in those terms. That’s a lot of pressure to place on an inciting incident.

Another consideration is that I’ve mapped my inciting incident deeper into my book. It does not occur on page one. I’ve designed a trap for my protagonist called “Danni in a box with a knot.” The box includes four different plotlines that emerge to squeeze down on her. The knot is the fragility of her need to belong. She thinks life is good and she has what she has longed. Except, it comes with a cost, and she’s about to get delivered the bill.

What excited me in mapping out the plot outline is that I realized the inciting incident. The box traps Danni, but it is one particular incident that moves the story toward its trajectory of growth, specifically, Danni’s growth. If I hadn’t (been forced) to complete a plot outline, I would have missed this incident. While painful for a pantser to knuckle under and learn, I feel more confident as a writer. Instead of committing to XX number of words a day, I’m now setting specific goals for what to write.

We can debate when, how much, and why we should plot. The most important point to keep in mind is that each one of us must find the process that works. I signed up for two-year writing boot camp, so I have to execute processes that are not my first (or fiftieth) choice. I’m finding out that the pain is worth the gain. At some point, a pantser has to plot, and a plotter has to write into the draft. If you think you can get away with not plotting, you’ll learn differently by the time you get to writing a synopsis.

You’ll be faced with defining your structure at the beginning, middle, or end.

On Twitter, Sherri Matthews posted an interesting article, When ‘Situational’ Writing Works Better Than Plotting. The author quotes Stephen King in regards to being a situation writer, coming up with a situation that is the story. The advice is to keep the momentum going by writing, what next? And then, what next? He also says that writers can be hybrids. I think what we call a hybrid is a plantser!

With snowcats and situations in mind, I thought it would be a fun and informative exercise to write 99-word stories based on a situation. You’ll start with the situation and add what next, what next, what next until you arrive at “until finally.” In 99 words, of course.

February 20, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a library cat named Rainbow who escapes. Use this situation to write what happens next. Where does this e=situation take place, and who else might be involved? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by February 25, 2020. 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.

 

Rainbow Makes Her Move by Charli Mills

Rainbow faked a yawn, stretched a declawed mitt toward a shelf of new releases in fiction, and calculated the distance to the door. She had made several tests runs the day before and knew how long the door opened before shutting. Preening her calico fur, Rainbow waited to blow this boring book joint. When a group of homeschoolers entered the library, she made her move on the open door. Swerving in and out of gangly legs like a feline slalom racer, she won the race and made it outside. Shivering beneath plumes of lake-effect snow, Rainbow calculated her reentry.

The Sugar Report

In WWI, letters from girlfriends and wives back home were called sugar reports. Messages might sustain soldiers on their quests, giving them something sweet to look forward to. It’s not certain if this phrase was used in other wars, but the idea is ageless.

Writers were asked to imagine (or reimagine) what could be contained in a sugar report. Letters and ideas expanded across the battlefield to include new uses for the word, or clever twists.

The following are based on the

PART I (10-minute read)

The Female Pilot by Joanne Fisher

Mary was at the controls of the B-29 bomber. She was helping ferry the new aircraft to a military base. Mary was part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots program, or WASP for short. That was all she could do for the war effort, since she wasn’t allowed to fly combat missions, that certainly wasn’t part of the program. Only in Russia could women be combat pilots…

In her jacket pocket was a letter from her “friend” Lucy. She would wait until she got to the base, and then she would find somewhere quiet to read her “sugar report”.

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Right Direction by Reena Saxena

It was a tough choice, but she had always done things differently.

Rosy decided to join the army after her husband Herbert became a martyr to the country’s cause. She was welcomed, and her decision glorified to start with. Gradually, the grim reality of the situation set in.

Tears rolled down her eyes as she opened her sugar report – mails from her two lovely children. Isn’t this what Herbert referred to her letters as – sugar report?

“Mom, we are proud of you. Don’t worry about us. We have joined the NCC- it is a stepping stone in the right direction.

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1917 Sugar Report by Jules Dixon

I inhale deep. She’s here. It’s one of the only times of quiet among the men. Names on white rectangles called out into the cold air. Words that keep us going when we don’t want to. Some of the guys call them sugar reports; sweet, concerned words melting chests and eyes. I save mine. I don’t let anyone see me reading what will show my weakness. It might be the last words I ever hear my sweet Madeline whisper and I always imagine she’s right there beside me. The letter smells like her. I inhale deep. She’s not here.

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Dear, Sweet Sugar Report by Chelsea Owens

“Looks like t’mail’s come,” Private O’Boyle said. He leaned over the M-2’s exposed, greasy innards and smiled at his friend.

Pfc. Flanagan grinned back. The two watched a soldier unloading a canvas bag.

“Betcha got one from Mary,” O’Boyle teased. He dodged Flanagan’s kick.

“Oh; aye? And what of *you*, Joseph O’Boyle?”

O’Boyle pretended sudden concentration in securing a bolt. A smudge of grease almost worked to hide his half-smile.

“Aha!” Flanagan said, “I knew it.”

“Knew what?”

“You’re not foolin’ anyone! You’ve had more Sugar Reports from Miss Josephine Callahan that the rest of the unit put together!”

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Mail Drop by D. Avery

“She didn’t forget you this week, Dougie.”

The lieutenant handed out the mail, watched as the steamy jungle faded and the men disappeared into familiar kitchens, old neighborhoods, into embraces remembered or imagined.

Then his radio man was at his side. He didn’t need to tell his men; they were folding their letters, tucking them into their breast pockets, some kissing them before putting them in the band of their helmets. The jungle was back in full focus.

“Time to draw straws.”

“Don’t bother Lieu. I’ll go.” Dougie took point, his crumpled letter left behind in an MRE can.

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Sugar Sugar by Kerry E.B. Black

The wind hung heavy with dust and destruction, but his pocket shielded a secret. Encased in Army-issued green, a letter from home bore the sweetest message. His girl expected their baby’s arrival before spring bloomed. Although it was hard to imagine anything as delicate as a flower or a baby, such images sustained him through dark nights and hellish days. Shells broke bones. Under fire, skin shriveled. Yet his spirit clung to a need to meet and love his little family. He’d collect the honey of their innocence and craft from it a balm to heal his wounded soul.

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Mail for You by Padmini Krishnan

“Was this the mail you were reading?” the young lieutenant passed a letter to Henry.

“Thank you,” Henry took it and wondered if he was expected to salute the lieutenant

The lieutenant hesitated, “I found this under the wires. It probably fell from your pocket.” Henry looked at the bruises in the lieutenant’s hands where the barbed wires had cut him. He took the crumpled photo of his girlfriend. “Thank you,” he said, quietly.

The lieutenant saluted him and walked away. Henry stared at his back, then walked back to his tent to join the other prisoners of war.

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Sweet Words of Home by D. Avery

Since at least the second World War
And all wars after and all before
Now Iraq, or Afghanistan
It’s sweet words of home sustains a man

That you send comfort shows your strength
You’re the one deserves parades of thanks
You speak to me of a life at home
Thinking me the man you’ve known

And I know you say you love me still
But I began to die with my first kill
Your letters delivered to my hell
And I reply but cannot tell

I want to die, yet Death I refuse
Because of you, my Living muse

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Sugar Report by Jacquie Biggar

Unashamed tears roll down my face, words on scented paper imprinted on my mind.

Darling Ken,

I think about you every day, but never more than now.
He’s beautiful, my darling. A full head of hair, nut-brown like yours. Ten perfect fingers and toes, and a smile that fills my heart.

The nurse says gas, but we know better. He’s thinking of the day you’ll come home and take us into your loving arms.
I pray it’s soon.

Love you always and all ways,
Sara

Three long months ago, my baby wrote me a love letter- I’m a father.

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Found Letters by Susan Zutautas

Jenny was cleaning out her mom’s house after she’d died and came across a stack of letters tied together. She was curious to find out who they were from, so she settled into a big comfy chair and was shocked as soon as she started to read them. They were from a man in the army and from the written words she could tell that he was in love with her mother and planned to marry. After putting two and two together Jenny found out that this man was her father who never returned from the war. Tears flowed.

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1917 Sugar Report by Charli Mills

In 1916 it wasn’t clear if America would send troops overseas, but if they did, John Kellerman was enlisted and ready. His mother refused to say goodbye the day he left their Midwest farm. She was a widow against the war. His kid sister ran after his bus, waving proudly. She sent him letters scented with pink roses from her victory garden. Kellerman let his squad believe he had a sugar report from home, enjoying the minor deception. When he was killed on the frontline, they buried him and his sister’s letters beneath a white cross. Nothing sweet remained.

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Sweet Roses by Saifun Hassam

Sitting on the park bench, Ginny was lost in her memories of Grandpa. Among his personal photos and letters were Grandma’s sugar reports when Grandpa served in Vietnam.

Her reverie was suddenly interrupted by the young guy who had been walking impatiently up and down the path, a beautiful bouquet of roses in his hand. With a smile and a gallant bow, he offered her the roses. Before she could thank him, he strode off.

Ginny returned to the old First Avenue Cemetery. Lovingly she placed the roses near the potted peonies and daisies, for her Grandma and Grandpa.

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Future Days by Sascha Darlington

It was getting harder, preparing care packages, mementos, conjuring sweet sayings, keeping her hand steady to write. Sitting even became a struggle.

“Please, Casey, please write this one,” Bea implored.

“You must tell him.”

“We’ve been through this. I want him home safe.”

Casey penned Bea’s words, her own hand trembling.

“The blooming daffodils smell of spring, remind me of you,” Bea dictated.

Casey’s heart clenched. Bea hadn’t been outside in days.

“I imagine future days we’ll walk, hands clasped.”

Weeks later, Casey gazed across the meadow, where a trick of light revealed a couple, hand-in-hand, picking poppies.

Together.

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Send ‘Em a Letter by Susan Sleggs

At the Home-front Warriors meeting, Tessa’s father asked, “How do you communicate with your service member?” He was surprised all the answers involved electronics. “Doesn’t anyone write letters anymore? In my father’s era, they were called sugar reports. Do you realize if your loved one pulls out a phone in a war zone, the enemy can track the GPS coordinates.”

There were murmurs of surprise and dismay.

“I challenge you all to write a happy, newsy letter. One that can be carried in a pocket and reread in silence reminding them they have a reason to get back home.”

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PART II (10-minute read)

Sweet Lamb by Sherri Matthews

My dearest Harry,
How I miss you! It’s raining here, the puddles by the barn are knee-deep. Father’s out there now with Lucy, remember her, the old, fat sheep we didn’t think would lamb? Well, she did, a boy. Father let me name him Harry, after you, the most handsome lamb I’ve ever seen. If only you were here, we could sneak into the barn like we used to. Come home soon, my dearest love, so we can marry. I think we’ve got our own little Harry on the way and Father is getting suspicious. Your darling, Daisy.

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Alex’s Sugar Report by Lisa R. Howeler

“Warner. Mail.”

The sergeant tossed the letter at him on his way by. Alex snatched it from where it had fallen on his bunk. He smelled the perfume before he even saw the return address.

A smile tugged at his mouth. He closed his eyes, pictured her smile, her green eyes, remembered her lips warm and soft under his.

“What’s that, Alex? A sugar letter?”

Alex let out a long sigh. “Indeed.”

“What’s it say?”

Alex read the words. The smile faded.

“Bad news?” Matthew asked.

Alex laughed. “No. The best news ever. I’m going to be a dad.”

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Sugar Report by FloridaBorne

He remembered his high school sweetheart’s kiss the day Private Smith vowed to marry her once the war was over.

That day, he’d felt like a hero. After a year of fear, exhaustion, death… killing, he wasn’t the same man.

“Sugar report!” His sergeant chuckled, giving him two letters.

Same thing from his girlfriend: gossip.

He’d met a librarian in London, someone with a brain, marrying her on leave 3 months ago.

He tore open her letter. He was going to be a father?

He began a letter to his girlfriend, long overdue, “Dear Millie, I’m not returning home…”

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Sugar Report: Code Red by Lisa Listwa

Kiddo was unusually wound up when Mom picked her up at school.

“How was school today?”

“Great!” she said. Kiddo, backpack, lunchbox, and Valentine’s box all tumbled into the car. “The Valentine party was SOOOO much fun!”

“Hmm…” said Mom. “What did you eat today?”

“I only had my lunch that you packed. It was good.”

“Is that all?” Mom was skeptical. “Did they have treats at the party?”

“Oh yeah!” said the Kid. “I forgot!”

Please say water, apples, and air-popped popcorn…

“Red candy hearts, lollipops, cupcakes with pink and red sprinkles…”

Great, thought Mom. Code Red Dye.

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Valentine’s Day at School by tracey robinson

“So, how was school today?” I ask as my son bounces around in the back seat. “Good,” he says, which is his typical response.

“Did you do anything special for Valentine’s Day?” “Well, in advisory we got Hershey Kisses and in Latin Mr. C gave us donuts. Oh and Mrs. P handed out Smarties.” “Oh, really? “What about lunch, anything special?” “We got ice cream sandwiches, the Neapolitan kind.” “Great,” I replied with a sigh, regretting the chocolate cake I had baked for dessert.

“So what’s for snack?” my son asked, oblivious to the impact of his sugar report.

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My Sugar Report by Colleen M. Chesebro

It’s been a difficult month. I’ve fought temptation the best I could, to no avail. My sugar report for this month is a bust. I couldn’t fight the temptations. I gave in to my demons.

My weight loss journey has been fraught with many ups and downs. One day, I meet my goal without breaking a sweat. The next day after a three-mile ramble, I’m starving and willing to eat every carb in the house. And, I do.

Some battles just aren’t worth the fight. My mom said for special occasions, just go ahead and just eat the cake!

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Sugar Report by Anita Dawes

A letter I found inside a second hand book
From a nine-year-old called Charlotte
Addressed to Santa dated 1976
Dear Santa, I don’t need any toys
Or new clothes this year
I need help to make my daddy better
He’s been sick a long time
And mummy is very worried
Doctor said we have to wait
For daddy to get better
Mummy prays,
because she does not think he can.
She said I should pray
I try hard, please help, love Charlotte
With Santa’s magical delivery in one night
I hoped that Charlotte’s request for help
was answered somehow…

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Sugar Letter by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

The report was no sugar letter. Its message was clear; devoid of any chocolate coating. The shadowy shape on the sonar was a tumour. It was wrapped around the main artery in William’s stomach making effective surgical removal difficult.

“I’ll remove as much of it as possible,” Dr McDonald said, “the piece left behind should shrivel up and disappear.”

He looked at the parents sitting across from him, their faces white and troubled. “The piece I remove will be biopsied.”

“I’ll donate my blood if it’s ever needed. We are a match.” It was all he had to offer.

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Clewiston, 1973 by magpie477

Rosario, I miss you and the children so much. Our camp is crowded and filthy: nine other men in this shack, no toilet or running water. Every morning we are driven to the cane fields where we cut until our backs ache and the machete blisters our hands. For lunch, rice, sometimes a little pork. (Oh, for a cassava!) I can cut eight tons a day but am lucky to get two dollars. Boss treats us like pigs. If we complain, says, “Why don’t you go home?”

I wish I could. But there is no job for me there.

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Sugar Report by M J Mallon

I’m missing you so much; the days are endless without you. Yesterday, I placed some flowers on Richard’s grave. The cold and I stood shivering by his gravestone. No one was around so I confessed everything. By the time I’d finished, it was getting dark and the tombstones were getting darker.

I feel so guilty with you in prison. Passion drove us to his mess. I wish I’d stuck with Richard’s humdrum, instead of going for your sugar kisses. But, I’d murder again for one sweet kiss.

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Back Before Email and Text by Anne Goodwin

She basked in the cultural difference. She dodged the landmines of Give-me-pen and What-is-your-name? She swapped travellers’ tales over masala dosa. She pulled the dupata over her head and slinked away. She wandered blissfully through cities where no-one knew her. She felt so lonely she cried.

She re-read the letters on blue onion-skin airmail paper. The sugar reports from home. Relived the joy of leaving the Poste Restante with a stack of reminders she was more than Anonymous Westerner. Some days she’d queue at the office knowing there’d be nothing for her. In towns she’d never planned to be.

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Letter of Intent by JulesPaige

from what I could tell
Valentine was up all night
go on grab hold – love

such a brief message, he sent;
healed, my faith – sentenced to death

who could judge my heart
such a sugar report those
lines restoring faith

While reading about Valentine, Lee imagined the blind girls’ thoughts. Did Ife, her guardian spirit whose name meant woman of love; was Ife also helping to restore the faith of those who had lost so much? The Judge who sentenced Valentine to death, could he have imagined his role in the modern holiday.

Ife’s rose scent wafted gently through…

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Torn by Hugh Roberts

The first words that entered Mike’s head when looking at the picture were ‘I love you.’ He wished he’d kept the sugar letter he’d received while on duty in Iraq.

***

Torn by love and lust, Sophie suddenly remembered the reply she’d got from a sugar letter she’d sent. Had he meant what he had said? Was now the right time to find out?

***

Two floors above, Doug dreamt about a tall stranger dressed in military uniform stood in a field of daisies, and who held an unopened letter towards him. ‘Not everything is as it seems,’ whispered the stranger.

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Dispatch From my Third Floor Cubicle by Bill Engleson

Darling, what a lovely surprize. I’d expected nothing more this Valentines Day than my usual excruciating hour commute, often as not sitting next to that irritating millennial, Dulcie Ditherspoon, the new HR manager from the fifth floor, who just happens to board at the next station to ours and never fails to find a seat inches from me.

Today, she was clutching a dozen roses and a box of chocolate, and saying, “My sweet Riley, he’s so woke. I’m so quiche. He’s so goat.”

I almost tossed my cookies.

Your valentine-shaped peanut butter cookies.

Work is such dense warfare.

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The Sweet Price of Freedom by Curious Archaeologist

“Those damn women.” He slapped the paper down.

His colleague looked up, surprised.

“This report, sales of West India sugar have slumped. This campaign not to use our sugar, just because of slavery – ‘Am I not a woman and a sister’ indeed.”

“What can we do? We’ve tried everything, it’s not working.”

She sipped her tea, the sugar bowl labelled ‘Not made by slaves’. The report was wonderful news, the campaign was working.
In the newly reformed parliament, the MP’s had been told how to vote, across the tea tables of Britain the battle for freedom was fought – and won.

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Frankie Rides. Again by D. Avery

“Thanks agin fer the sugar cubes Kid. It’s got Burt eatin’ right outta my hand.”

“Reckon it’s another busy week fer you an’ Burt, ‘ey Frankie?”

“What d’ya mean, Kid?”

“Deliverin’ mail. Last week all them condolence cards, this week Valentines an’ love letters— sugar reports as she says.”

“Kid, I reckon those condolence cards and notes was letters a love too. Funny thing about mail. It’s all jest somethin’ in a envelope, ya jest don’t know; could be sugar, could be salt, looks the same. An’ some a this week’s sugar reports are sure ta be bittersweet.”

“Yep.”

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February 13: Flash Fiction Challeng

Coursework on plot scatters across my dining room table as if I were translating old Medieval letters, seeking the alchemy of novels. How do I turn base pages into golden books? I’m overwhelmed with formulas so I draw pictures in the margins. My stick-figure protagonist ends up with a knot in a box with wheels, and I have the slightest shift in understanding. I can visualize what I’ve been trying to do with my W-storyboard for years.

Of course, it helps that with each a-ha of chemical compounds to create a novel in a lab, I have fellow mad-scientists to work with and Dr. Frankenstein to guide in our critique. The hard work of my MFA has arrived and I didn’t know my writing could be pushed to such depths where heat and pressure crystalizes material. Will strands of gold emerge? Time will tell.

Needing to relieve some of that pressure, I suggest to the Hub that we go to the cheap-seats night at the movie theater and catch 1917. One of the plot techniques I’ve studied is the Blake Snyder Beats. Save the Cat! is a website of diverse writer resources based on Blake Snyder’s series of books for developing screenplays and novels. His genres include Dude with a Problem, and that’s what 1917 is — a movie about a soldier with a problem. I justify going to the movie because after I can read the Beat Sheet and learn more about novel alchemy.

The movie rolled on from opening image to closing image with a single blackout break. Otherwise, the viewing experience remained intense. If you have not seen the movie, know that the 1917 Beat Sheet reveals spoilers. If you have, it’s worth comparing what you viewed to how the beats apply to the screenplay. In order for my thesis to be accepted, I have to complete a detailed plan including plot and character development. At this point, I’m reading books and watching movies to study the plans beneath.

That doesn’t mean my mind has avoided windows or playtime. In fact, I feel my imagination is heightened. I worried that if I gave in to plotting I might lose the fun of discovery in pantsing, but I’m finding that discovery exists in plotting, too. I’m starting to see stories emerge more quickly, which is a huge relief given my propensity to stare. I still get to window-gaze. The flow comes faster.

This week, Mental Floss posted a list of antiquated words or phrases associated with Valentine’s Day. One is sugar report, which is what soldiers in WWII often called mail from wives and girlfriends. This made me think of the character, Schofield, in 1917, and his reluctance to see his family on leave because he’d have to leave them again. It made me wonder how the sugar report was received in WWI. It’s a phrase that can be applied to modern sweethearts, too.

I’m not full of insights this week, adjusting to the absence in our home and working toward that thesis plan. If you were here, I’d invite you to the Parade of Confections tomorrow at the Finnish Heritage Center. I’m a newly appointed Board Director for the Copper Country Community Arts Council and this is one of our big fundraising events. I’ll be pouring wine and helping to keep the appetizer trays full. In the future, I look forward to bringing literary and other artists together for learning and collaboration.

Somewhere in all of this, I’ll find transformation. I hope we all will. In the meantime, let’s write love letters to the frontlines, no matter where a sugar report might turn up.

February 13, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a sugar report. Use its original meaning of a letter from a sweetheart to a soldier, or invent a new use for it. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by February 18, 2020. 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.

 

1917 Sugar Report by Charli Mills

In 1916 it wasn’t clear if America would send troops overseas, but if they did, John Kellerman was enlisted and ready. His mother refused to say goodbye the day he left their Midwest farm. She was a widow against the war. His kid sister ran after his bus, waving proudly. She sent him letters scented with pink roses from her victory garden. Kellerman let his squad believe he had a sugar report from home, enjoying the minor deception. When he was killed on the frontline, they buried him and his sister’s letters beneath a white cross. Nothing sweet remained.

 

Dog in the Daisies

When we lose a pet, their brief lifespan frames a period within our own. Bobo was born to us from our family dog, all five of us present. We were able to witness her last exhale, surrounding her with love for the good dog she was. The dogs of my children’s childhood are gone. The dogs that followed me to Idaho and Mars have gone on to other places. The dog that witnessed the renewal of home has left us alone in it.

We work through the emotions and capture the memories in stories. Writers were invited to play in honor of Bodetta Bosephine — Bobo. The dog in the daisies, a favorite snapshot from her lifetime with us.

The following are based on the February 6, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to the theme “a dog in the daisies.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Ode to Bobo by Susan Zutautas

Last night I dreamt about you. You were running through a field of daisies. Your favorite place. You looked like you were young, happy, with not a care in the world, and pain-free. You’ll never know how much this delighted me.

From the day you came into our lives, till the day you left us, and beyond our hearts have been full of love.

Oh, sweet pup of mine

I take this as a sign

That you’ve been thinking of me

Letting me know you’re running free

We will meet again one day

We will run, we will play

🥕🥕🥕

Life’s Cycle by Jacquie Biggar

Bodetta Bosephine, Bobo to her friends, paused for a moment. The sun warmed her back and the meadow’s grass tickled her feet, but that’s not the reason she stopped. A faint call, one she thought she’d never hear again, made her delicate ears quiver.

“It’s time,” her brother’s voice whispered on the dew-laden breeze. “I’ve missed you, sister.”

Her heart skipped a beat. “Grenny, is that you?”

“Come,” he said. “We must go.”

Bobo glanced back to where she knew her humans waited. Could she? They loved her so, and she them. But Grenny was right- it was time.

🥕🥕🥕

Dog in the Daisies by Charli Mills

I yearn to see you twitch your nose one more time to sniff the wind. To hear you woof a greeting to me, making sure I trail your winding path. To see you poised, a dog in the daisies, ears perked. Happy. I am happy for you. I am content to have had you in my life. You look away from me, toward something I can’t yet see or trust is there. This I know — daisies die and life goes on. Nothing ever breaks down so completely as to disappear. Joy fizzes the smallest particles. So, I follow.

🥕🥕🥕

To Everything by D. Avery

The first time was summer, she the calm nucleus of a full bloom meadow, unexpected but somehow perfect, that dog sitting so intent, so purposeful.

I traveled that way again one fall. The flowers had become angels, borne by the wind, the brown dog running and leaping amidst their winged seeds and spent petals, her pure joy singing through the grasses.

Should I have expected her in winter? There was just a cold sea of snow.

In the spring the meadow held only the memory of the dog. The daisies’ green leaves unfolded from the earth. Grasses reached skyward.

🥕🥕🥕

Good Boy by Michael Guy Rua

My 6 year-old son yearned for a dog and to be Spiderman. He frolicked in those wilted daisies with his imaginary dog, pretending it was his sidekick. He even named the dog Marvel. His spirit flourished despite his withering world.

One day he came to me with a list of reasons to own a dog, with the promise that he would take care of it “all by himself.” The sincerity behind those words nourished my soul, rooting itself to my heart.

He died before his 7th birthday.

Soon after, a dog appeared amongst the blooming daisies.

What a marvel!

🥕🥕🥕

This Puppy with a Cold Wet Nose by Donna Matthews

I’ve always had this practical streak. Emotions with their sharp edges disallowed. But watching you jump at the butterflies in this daisy patch threatens to loosen this carefully crafted facade. There was another puppy and another girl in another time — a girl with nothing else to do but play in a sun-filled meadow. But the sunshine dimmed behind dark clouds. Wind blew. And a cold rain fell, soaking her in despair. She nearly lost all her joy that day. That is, until this new puppy. This puppy with a cold wet nose and daisies caught in her fur.

🥕🥕🥕

Doggie Grace by Bill Engleson

Dog’s in the tulies
Dogging my trail
Dog’s in the daisies
Chasing it’s tail.
Oh, my goodness
Look at that old mutt,
Chewing on a rug
Sniffing its own…rump.

Dog’s in the water
Soaked to the skin,
Looking like an otter
Flashing it’s puppy grin.
Oh, my goodness,
Look at rover’s smile,
Rushing to the pasture,
Goin’ a thousand miles…an hour

Livin’ deep in our heart
Sleeping on the couch,
Snuggling in our lap,
Like a Roo in a pouch.
Oh, my goodness
Its licking my face,
Eyes full of love,
full of doggie grace…
full of doggie grace.

🥕🥕🥕

Loyalty by Padmini Krishnan

“Wait here. I will be back,” he told me as he walked inside the house, coughing. He stumbled and I heard a loud crash. I wanted to check on him, but he had asked me to wait. I heard a voice sobbing softly. People came and left, wooden-faced. That evening, I smelled lilies and heard the wail of terrifying silence. Everyone from his house came out, except him. I knew where he was kept. Should I follow him? But, he had said he would be back. I waited in the garden, amongst the daisies. He always kept his word.

🥕🥕🥕

Daisy by FloridaBorne

When you live in the country, abandoned dogs and cats find you. Over the past 25 years, four footed companions have lived and passed on knowing they were loved. At present, we have six dogs and three cats.

But none were like Daisy.

If the dog world had an IQ test, the results might show a mutt with enough brain power to put one foot in front of the other.

What made Daisy outstanding in a field of other dogs?

The day she decided I was her human, she never left my side. She possessed a galaxy of love.

🥕🥕🥕

Dog in the Daisies by M J Mallon

‘What’s the point of these daisies?’ Bandit asked.

‘I’ve no idea, you can’t eat them, their flowers smell’s rank, but our human pets like them,’ replied Duchess.

Bandit poked his nose towards human pet Annie, who was sitting on the grass making a daisy chain.

‘Stop nosing about Bandit! Hey, girl.’ Annie stroked Bandit’s imaginary friend’s coat and popped a daisy chain over her head.

Bandit barked.

‘Okay Bandit, I have one for you too. Look how it contrasts with your black coat, boy.’

‘Woof!’

The two Labradors ran away, one black, another camouflaged by the field of daisies.

🥕🥕🥕

Goodbye by Ritu Bhathal

Buster bounded through the field, trampling daisies as he ran.

“Come on, boy. Let’s go.” Max called out to his canine pal. “I’ve got your favourite steak at home. Come on!”

Petra gently put a hand on Max’s shoulder. “Come on Maxy, we need to go.” She squeezed. Max turned, his eyes moist with unshed tears.

“He’s not coming back, is he?”

Petra swallowed a sob. She always knew this would be the hardest part, scattering the ashes of the family’s beloved pet dog in his favourite field.

Shaking her head, she took Max’s hand as her tears fell.

🥕🥕🥕

Dog in the Daisies by Anita Dawes

I love daisies, they are a tiny slice of heavenly perfection
I don’t know why they remind me of young angels
My dog Poppy also likes to dash about
through a field full of them
Leaving them smiling, dancing in her wake
As if waving, clapping hands
Someone loves us, we’ve done a good job
I see a family wearing the daisy chains they made
As I pass, they offer one, which I take gladly
Placing it around Poppy’s neck
I walk on with a smile
Then lie awhile with sweet white daisies
Whispering sweet nothings in my ear…

🥕🥕🥕

Good Dog! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Down they come, twirling, sun-sparkling, lilting in sudden gusts. Daisies dancing in summer–except it’s winter. The falling flowers are snowflakes.

Buster gallops and romps, red-gold coat growing white as he frolics in froth. He barks at the joke, kibble-sized flakes vanishing in the heat of his breathy attempts to capture them.

Nevermind! He plunges his muzzle in deep, rolling to catch what treasure of scent lies buried beneath. Finding his feet, he plops his butt down, and tips his head in invitation.

Dark for too long, I pull on boots and coat, slide on mittens, and step out.

🥕🥕🥕

Out of the Fire by Lisa R. Howeler

Nothing felt the same since the fire. They’d lost everything. Barking in the distance caught his attention. He looked out across the field of daisies, searching. There. On the other side of the brook. Could it be him? Another bark and his speed picked up. It was him.

Patrick felt tears sting his eyes as he lowered himself to greet the black and white creature rushing toward him, tongue lolling to one side, tail wagging crazily.

“Rufus! You’re alive!”

The tongue was wet, warm, the paws placed solidly on Patrick’s chest. Patrick laughed. They hadn’t lost everything after all.

🥕🥕🥕

A Dog’s Power by Susan Sleggs

Tessa suggested to Michael they get a puppy. He argued at first, not wanting people to think he needed a therapy dog but in the spring they got a floppy eared, goofy acting big mutt.

Weeks later Tessa, looking out an upstairs window, called her sister Alley. “You should see the two of them. Michael’s wearing his legs whenever he takes Jester out. Right now I’m watching them search for a ball in the field out back. The daisies are in bloom and it’s a marvelous sight. Michael’s even laughing more and that’s a bonus. Thanks for the idea.”

🥕🥕🥕

George by Lisa A. Listwa

George was a very blue dog.

Being stuffed as he was, George didn’t spend much time romping among the daisies. He most often played indoors with his favorite sidekick, Kiki the green turtle. Being a turtle as she was, Kiki didn’t do much romping, well, anywhere.

George the blue dog loved Kiki and he loved his little girl person.

He and Kiki sat happily nearby while she played. When she danced in her navy blue and daisy-spotted pants outfit with the white fringe and green ribbons, she held them both tight and they all flew through the fields together.

🥕🥕🥕

Visiting Mickey by Kerry E.B. Black

Minnie planted daisies on the grave, blooms beautiful in their simplicity. “Daisies mean innocence.” Tears blur the words on the stone. “In flower language. I bet you already know that, though. Knew.”

Past tense took getting used to.

She scattered sunflower seeds among their stems. “I figure you’d probably want some company, and I know you love birds.”

Atop the stone she placed a rose quartz. “No regular stone for you.” She sniffed and pulled the last object from her pocket. “You’re always in my thoughts.” She rested a play-worn rubber ball beneath the engraving – ‘Mickey, beloved family member.’

🥕🥕🥕

Here Boy by Annette Rochelle Aben

She’d been out wandering the better neighborhoods all day, hoping to find something special for her new home. One last house on the block, just one last shot before calling it a day. Then, Wanda couldn’t believe her luck. Right there, in the middle of all the bric-a-brac, was a cast-iron statue of an Irish Setter! Yes! Those garage sale finds were the best.
All the way home, she imagined pulling into her driveway each night and seeing this magnificent creature waiting for her, standing proud. What a wonderful way to be welcomed, by a dog in the daisies.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Dog in the Daisies by tedstrutz

“Hello, Ethel.”

“Cheryl, to what do I owe the honor?”

“Don’t be a smart ass, there’s a dog in my daisies, I’m not happy!”

“Sounds like it. What happened, why tell me?”

“It’s the dog you and Betty rescued from that shelter in Cicero. I still don’t know what the hell you two were doing in Cicero.”

“That was last summer. Betty heard there was a boxer, and we saw this little terrier that would be perfect to replace Marty’s Sweetie.”

“Well, I loved Sweetie, but this one’s in my garden and Marty’s not home. Get over here, Ethel!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Dog in the Daisies by Joanne Fisher

Cindy saw movement in her flower bed. Wondering what it was, she crept up to investigate. Among the daisies she found a dog lying there. It was a Labrador that looked emaciated and dehydrated.

“You poor thing!” Cindy said stroking it. She ran back to the farmhouse and brought back some food and water. The dog slowly lapped up the water, but it was a while before it touched the food. Jess came to see what Cindy was doing.

“We should keep them.” Cindy told her.

“So long they don’t belong to someone. Every good farm has a dog.”

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Things We Do for Love by Jo Hawk

Abra was true to her name – mother of many. I had qualms about breeding her, but since she was the county’s best herder, every farmer wanted one of her pups.

She whelped ten, five males and five females. I named the girls after flowers and the boys after trees. Everyone asked about them. When would they be weaned? How much did I want for them?

I auctioned nine and they passed on the runt, Daisy. I gleefully keep her. Daisy resembled her mother, and she stole my heart. And like her mother, she became the county’s best herder.

🥕🥕🥕

JJ by Saifun Hassam

JJ jumped from the pickup truck the moment Tim parked it at the Horticultural Farms filed office. JJ ran down the familiar path into the meadow of coreopsis, sunflowers and daisies. He popped out from the tall fescue near the dense shrubs of oleander and honeysuckle. Running along the west fence, he seemed to want to follow an egret flying to the distant hills.

JJ was on home territory of vineyards and vast gardens. He and Tim were gone one year working at another vineyard. This meadow was where he was born and grew up. Glorious to be back!

🥕🥕🥕

Buck by Nancy Brady

Buck, a border collie, was always herding, keeping his charges in line. Whether it was cows, gulls, or people he loved, he was in the thick of things. Running ahead, racing back, or lying in wait in the daisies, the exuberance of Buck was palpable.

With head and tail high, he would grab his leash and walk himself, feeling in control. The neighbors laughed at his antics, shaking their heads at his sassy attitude. Buck chased gulls like he once chased cows in Montana until his body failed him.

Now, he lies beneath the daisies he once ran through.

🥕🥕🥕

A Memory Now Faded And Pastel… by JulesPaige

In the open field in mid day, there wasn’t a reason to yell
Nor to the spirit of the roaming dog to quell
While at each bush, pebble or leaf she did stop to smell
And read all the signs of who went before; to dwell
To linger and learn of what to share and tell
What secrets might be transferred from a flowers’ bell…
We would dance willy nilly and pell-mell
Unaware and unconcerned about what the future might foretell
We would walk and run until exhausted; we fell
Enjoying all the spatial freedom amid the farmers’ dell

🥕🥕🥕

Puppy Love by Vinci Lam

This is my favourite spot in the park. The grass field drapes over two slopes. My roommate and I like to jog here from home and relax by the water. Instead of sitting on the bench, we like to lay on the grass where all the daisies are.

Today, I see her. She is frolicking in the daisies like there isn’t a care in the world. Her blue eyes shining in the sun, piercing into my heart. Without holding back, I sprint towards her, almost tripping over my hind legs. My roommate is yelling “stop!”, but I don’t care.

🥕🥕🥕

Copperhead Capers by Kerry E.B. Black

Like puppies among posies
they frolicked,
Fillies in clover-cloaked fields,
Innocence personified,
Their halo-like hair
framed simple smiles
Untainted by artifice.

These joyful Jills jumped a log,
Youthful fun,
Jiggling gelatin giggles,
Unaware of danger
Crouched in cucumber coils
Beneath weathered decay
Upon the forest floor.

The silent strikes sent screams
Ripped and raw
From frantrantic friends far afield
Vehement venom invaded
Delicate tissues
Wrapped in fight or flight,
Paralyzed peril.

Their cries alerted others
rescued runs.
Helpers and hospitals,
Recovery, reflection.
They returned to their play
Warier and wiser
Wonderful girls.

🥕🥕🥕

Dog in the Daisies by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Estelle hears a dry rustling noise in the patch of tall grass and wild daisies near their camp. She looks in the direction of the noise and sees two green lights shining in the dark, near to the ground. Her blood turns to ice and her hair seems to physically stand on end.

“Look, Papa, look,” she screams.

Papa grabs his Mauser and aims it at the eyes, ready to fire. The eyes stop moving forward. They stay still in the dark, looking at them.

Is it a hyena?

Nothing moves in the vast stillness of the African night.

🥕🥕🥕

The Picture by Hugh Roberts

Sophie’s face wasn’t the last thing Doug saw as his eyes finally closed. Having fallen to the floor, it was the picture hanging on the wall, of a dog sitting in a daisy field, that was his final vision. It spoke to him.

***

Two floors below, after removing the revolver from his trouser pocket, Mike’s eyes became transfixed on the same picture of a dog sitting in a field of daisies. It spoke to him.

***

Outside Mike’s room, Sophie hesitated before knocking on the door. Was she doing the right thing? Shouldn’t she go back and check on Doug?

🥕🥕🥕

Star Gazing by D. Avery

Bringing the familiar picture, she climbed into her grandmother’s lap.

“You’re looking at that old picture again?”

“That’s your dog, Grammie.”

“Yes, that was my dog. What’s she looking at?”

“She sees a Bigfoot in the bushes.”

“That’s something your Auntie told you. What do you think?”

“I think she’s looking at you, Grammie.”

“But I took her picture. I was behind her.”

“No, you’re right here with me. She’s looking ahead and she sees you.”

“And what does she see me doing?”

“Silly. She sees you seeing me!”

“You wise child.”

“And Grammie? I see her. She’s running!”

🥕🥕🥕

My Kind of Dog by Anne Goodwin

“What you need is a dog. A big brown dog with floppy ears and waggy tail.”

He was right I needed something. But I hated dogs as much as I hated people telling me what to do.

Even so, I heeded his advice, a sour taste in my mouth as I scrolled through canines online. Without luck: I’d find the eyes I wanted paired with the wrong kind of nose.

“Is that one of those crossbreeds?” they asked at the exhibition. “A labradoodle or somesuch?” I smiled, didn’t admit my dog among the daisies drew breath solely on canvas.

🥕🥕🥕

Fred’s Best Friend by Chelsea Owens

“He’s in t’flowers again.”

“Mmm-hmmm.”

Mae put a hand on a hip and glowered at Fred. The look failed, on account of his facing open-hood engine and not openly-hostile wife.

“Fraey-ed!”

“Mm?”

Fred hunted around for some lost cap or perhaps a lost widget. His wife was a determined sort, bound to hold her position till he acknowledged her.

“Fred!”

He couldn’t keep up the pretend-hunt. “Yes’m?”

“I say-ed that yer old dog’s out in m’flowers agin!” She whined. “I jest planted them daisies!”

Fred found his wrench. “Ah, Mae. I say t’let the old dog have his day!”

🥕🥕🥕

Mail Call by D. Avery

“Thet Frankie agin? Frankie, poor ol’ Burt’s burdened with some bulging mailbags.”

“Pal. Kid. It ain’t Burt that’s burdened, it’s Shorty. This mail is all fer her. Condolences.”

“Well, here, Frankie, we’ll lighten Burt’s load an’ git these cards ta Shorty, try an’ lighten hers. Kid, lend a hand. Kid?”

“Think Kid just went up the Poet Tree, Pal. This does getcha, doesn’t it? I been thinkin’ on Shorty’s dog, thinkin’ ‘bout Burt— been dabbin’ at my eye all day.”

“Grievin’ are ya?””

“Tears a joy, Pal. I only got one eye, can’t do both; chose joy over grief.”

🥕🥕🥕

Pullin’ T’gether by D. Avery

“Frankie, I cain’t git Kid ta climb down outta thet tree.”

“I’ll try, Pal. Hey, Kid? I was over at the cookhouse. Would you like some bacon?”

“Would I?!”

“Wood eye? No it’s glass. Now come on down an’ git some breakfast then git ta chores. Shorty needs you.”

“Sorry, Frankie, it’s jest that I got ta thinkin’ on my good dog. May she rest.”

“Well then you know what a time Shorty’s havin’ right now. Pepe has gone back ta Head Quarters, but you an’ Pal gotta ride the range.”

“Keep an eye on things?”

“Very funny, Kid.

🥕🥕🥕

Bodetta Bosephine (Bobo) The Original Dog in the Daisies

2006-2020

Read the A Teacher’s Reflection by Jennie

Bobo the Storyteller’s Dog

February 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

One night, two great horned owls hooted outside our flimsy camp trailer that leaked in the rain and scorched in the sun. It was during a time I was homeless with my veteran spouse and our two dogs, showering in public restrooms and buying bottled drinking water. We had landed on Mars, which is how the southern Utah desert felt to me after living on Elmira Pond in North Idaho for four years. It’s hard to believe this is our fourth year since leaving Elmira, Idaho. Like the broad wings of night owls, life seeks balance.

I remember the unease of hearing the owls that night. Harbingers of death. I didn’t really believe that, but it’s an ingrained thought from the western culture I grew up in, and a line from one of my favorite songs,

“There’s been a hoot owl outside my window now/ for six days in a row/ she’s coming for me I know/, and on Wildfire we’re both gonna go…” Michael  Martin Murphy, Wildfire

If ever I was going to pass from this walk to the next, I wouldn’t mind riding out on a horse named Wildfire, all the dogs I’ve loved before running at my heels.

And if a hoot owl called me to the next journey, I suppose I wouldn’t mind such an escort.

That night back in Utah, I pushed aside my unease because I lived in a constant state of unease. The Hub and I stepped outside the camp trailer to see if we could spot the winged duo. We ended up chasing after them from tree to tree, catching glimpses of their massive wingspan as they flew low. Finding a new perch in the cottonwoods along the Virgin River, they’d pause and hoot.

I remarked how much they reminded me of our two dogs, brother, and sister, and the way they loped together, her with a limp and him with cocky stride, but both in unison the way connected spirits can be. The next day, Grenny fell violently ill and was gone by the second day after the owls visited. Worse, his sister Bobo, not understanding where her brother went, sought him everywhere and stopped eating. She wasn’t well — the vet said her kidneys were failing on top of an old spinal injury that decreased her mobility, sporadic seizures, and a congestive heart. We had been surprised by Grenny’s undetected prostate tumor that shut down his organs because we thought he was the healthy dog of the pair.

Somehow, the two owls made me think that Bobo would soon follow Grenny. She didn’t. She pulled through with her joyful determination.

There has always been something amazing about that dog. She was born the day after Christmas in 2006, into our hands. We all watched the miracle of birth that day, me, my husband and our three kids. She was the runt with the bow-marking on her head. Her brother was the only male and a big brute of a pup. We all fell in love with her that moment and although the Hub intended to keep the male, we all insisted we keep Bo(w)detta Bosephine — Bobo. Yet she enamored him, too. She would become his “snort,” his beloved dog.

No matter what life dished out to her, Bobo overcame with little fuss. At age five, a rough but accidental tumble from two of her pack on a hot summer day left her back legs paralyzed. We did what we could at the time, and our vet said she’d get better or not. We walked the dogs every morning, and she was pined to go. So, we lifted her into the car, propped her up in the back seat, and she learned that rides were much better than walks. Despite the odds, she did get better and walked with the drive of a wounded warrior (she had much in common with the Hub).

When we moved to Idaho, the seizures came next. They remained intermittent enough that we never had to medicate her but they left us all shakey after she’d have one. Her needs challenged both my strengths and my weaknesses. Yet, no matter what, she grabbed life with joy. I wrote about how writers could learn from her joyful determination and I still live by those teachings. She died exactly six years to the date that I wrote that post. Yes, our amazing Bobo, our sweet girl has walked on.

Bobo did not succumb to the call of an owl, but when we rushed her to the vet on Tuesday afternoon, I saw a lone pigeon sitting on the eave of the office, with markings like the ones we helped fledge. Always looking for meaningful connections, it’s part of what drives me as a fiction writer and gives me purpose as a human. Connections make us not feel alone. Our eldest left work and met us at the vet’s office, and our Arctic daughter called us and stayed with us while we sat and cried and told Bobo what a good dog she was. Our son called later that night. The pup that was born into our family’s hands passed in our arms.

In the end, I realized that she was determined to have joy. Another lesson. Joy is something we cultivate, persevere to grab hold of and choose. Not all the time. Not every moment. But we get up and notice the beauty, the preciousness of life, the good that exists, the purpose we can find. I grieve, but I’m determined to keep joy in my life.

That’s about all I can muster for now. What I’d really like is for us to tell stories about the “dog in the daisies.” It’s my absolute favorite photo of Bobo and it captures her essence. She was poised in a field of daisies as if looking right at that joy she chased. Maybe it was deer, but whatever she saw filled her being with mindful purpose. In that moment she was a happy critter in a mountain meadow. For those astute regulars, this is a repeat photo (White Flowers, December 28, 2017) but with a different prompt.

I might not be real social over the next week as I draw inward and plug away at school and ranch and writing. Not doing anything unsettles me, but doing anything makes feels thick and sluggish. It’s a muddy emotional time. I’m glad I’m a writer and have a way to process. I’m grateful for a compassionate community of literary artists. Thank you to those helping to keep the community connected. I appreciate you all taking extra care this week to notice any newcomers and welcome them and to keep each other encouraged.

We don’t have our pets for the duration of our lifetimes, but we are better off for the time we do have them. I am content that a dog named Bodetta Bosephine had me from her first until her last breath. One day, I’ll hear a hoot owl calling for me, and on Wildfire I’m going to ride, Bobo greeting me with a woof — there you are!

February 6, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to the theme “a dog in the daisies.” It can be any dog, real or imagined. Push into the setting and as always, go where the prompt leads!

Respond by February 11, 2020. 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.

Submissions closed. Find our latest Flash Fiction Challenge.

Dog in the Daisies by Charli Mills

I yearn to see you twitch your nose one more time to sniff the wind. To hear you woof a greeting to me, making sure I trail your winding path. To see you poised, a dog in the daisies, ears perked. Happy. I am happy for you. I am content to have had you in my life. You look away from me, toward something I can’t yet see or trust is there. This I know — daisies die and life goes on. Nothing ever breaks down so completely as to disappear. Joy fizzes the smallest particles. So, I follow.

Mail Carriers

In the Keweenaw, we experience deep snows, and occasionally get snow days that allow people to stay home from school or work. But not mail carriers. US Postal Service operates by the creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Writers were asked to imagine the kind of extreme conditions mail carriers could face. Some stories are based on real people, others fictionalized.

The following are based on the January 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a postal carrier in an extreme situation.

PART I (10-minute read)

Island Postal Service by Anne Goodwin

The islanders turned their backs initially; they’d never had a woman ferry across the mail. But braving squalls and breakers earned their trust, and gratitude. Eventually, they greeted me with smiles.

The day my boat capsized, they rowed out to help me right it. Swapped my uniform for blankets, warmed me by the fire. When I lamented letters lost, they stopped my mouth with whisky, coffee, cake.

They shared their family stories. I kept quiet about my wife. Our friendship wasn’t strong enough to divert their chapel’s warnings. I’d tossed the island’s equal marriage ballot papers to the waves.

🥕🥕🥕

Postman by Anita Dawes

I have the best postman
No matter the weather
Rain or snow
Pushing his post trolley
Getting more snow
Around the wheels
As he goes
He’s not so young these days
Five foot tall
I think he’s a super man
He has a shiny red nose
Like Rudolph
I decided to have a hot cup of tea
Waiting for him
Warm his back on my hall radiator
Thaw out for five minutes
We have a lot in common
Not least, my favourite place
Cornwall
It’s the one place he likes to take time off
No matter what the weather…

🥕🥕🥕

Broken Monotony by Allison Maruska

I sling the bag over my shoulder, adjusting the weight. With a sigh, I trudge to the first box. Open it, put in the mail, close it. Then to the next box, then the next. Open, fill, close, over and over down the street.

I thought delivering mail would be interesting. I’d meet people, pet dogs, enjoy the sunshine. But nothing ever happens.

Open, fill, close. Open, fill, close. Open–

“Shit!”

A squirrel leaps out and bounces off my chest.

Breathless, I watch my furry attacker dart across the road.

I hope there aren’t more surprises waiting for me.

🥕🥕🥕

The Attack on the Exeter Mail by Curious Archaeologist

Night had fallen as the mail coach pulled up in front of the Inn, the ostlers ran out to change the horses, postbags were exchanged, and mugs of ale were passed to the driver and guard.

Then

The lead horse screamed, in the gloom the driver saw that something had leapt onto the horses neck. He could see blood flowing, but what was it? The terrified ostler swung his lantern round, and they could see. Now it was for the men to scream, it was impossible!

In Wiltshire, in 1816, the Exeter Mail had been attacked by a Lion!

🥕🥕🥕

Postman Pat by Ritu Bhathal

Postman Pat steeled himself as he walked towards the door of The Bite, 13 Ruff Lane. If there was one thing he was good at, it was delivering post, and no one had ever created a situation that he couldn’t get through, to make sure his letters reached the correct hands.

Until today.

Since the new owners had moved it, ten different postal workers had been taken off this route, through stress.

A large, ferocious pet, apparently.

Phooey! No dog had ever hindered his job, no matter the size.

Then he heard the growl – Was that even a dog?

🥕🥕🥕

Confrontation by clfalcone *

New route plus fresh spring morning equaled walking.

Going old-school, he parked the jeep and hoofed between boxes at cottages, ranches, bungalows, whistling Bach.

The adobe hut was a hand-delivery though, so he slipped in, gate clicking behind him. Then he heard that low, mean growl.
Guarding the door was Satan. How he disliked chihuahuas.

More growls echoed as chihuahuas flooded around the corner, a mass of beady eyes, sharp teeth, pointy ears challenging him.

He flinched. They charged. He bolted out the gate, down the road, mail streaming from his bag, some fifty chihuahuas nipping at his heels.

🥕🥕🥕

Route 6 by Sascha Darlington

The blue car in the driveway’s different. Usually just Mrs. Drake’s old minivan leaking oil. Must be her husband’s. He’s got his finger in a lot of pies. None hers.

Never seen him in the six years I’ve carried this route. She’s nice, though. Warm smile, kind words. Cold water in summer. Hot coffee in winter.

Inside glass shatters. I imagine big hands around Mrs. Drake’s throat. The door handle gives under my hand. A blue-suited man stumbles out. Mrs. Drake threatens him with her Louisville slugger.

“Stinking cheater. It’s over. Don’t come back.”

And there’s always a surprise.

🥕🥕🥕

Inspiration from Dr. Suess’s Peter the Postman from Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! by Cara Stefano

Early morning; a faint blush shows on the horizon. Peter sits on the ice rimed bench beside the door, stamping his feet into heavy ski boots. Buckled up, Peter clicks into his skis; grips his poles. The villagers are counting on him for news from the outside world. Calming breaths, he thinks; don’t freeze, stay alert; gotta go! Peter begins a slow glide down the slope towards the village across the lake. A nod of his head, a wave as he passes the fishermen in their lonely shanties; Peter fervently hoped he would not encounter an angry seal again.

🥕🥕🥕

Special Delivery by JulesPaige

Stan was the rooster of his route. He even made friends with the nasty fowl goose that Mrs. Lucy Chang had as a pet. He worked in fair and foul weather. The hardest, most extreme day was when he had to tell his customers he was retiring. They had all become his second family. Being a mail carrier had brought him a comfortable life for him and his wife.

Stan’s coworkers had raised monies to pay the fare to see the Grand Canyon up close and personal. That’d put his daily strides to good use on the happy trails.

🥕🥕🥕

Restraint by T. Marie Bertineau

The Jeep listed to the right. So many packages. Too many. They overwhelmed the old jalopy. Overwhelmed him. He shook his head, pinched his lips. She had really done it this time, the hoarder on Pinkston.

Enough was enough.
He turned left at the corner, toward the thick, droopy elm, eased curbside at the peeling, yellow bungalow, the same way he’d done the past thirty years.

Today was the day—this had to stop.

Armed for bear, he grabbed his first load, headed to the door.

She waited there, tattered robe, kerchief. “How kind,” she said.

And he nodded.

🥕🥕🥕

Plans Change by Susan Zutautas

Excited for the night ahead, Joe had a romantic wedding anniversary dinner planned for the Mrs but first, he had to deliver his last piece of mail to Martha Perkins.

As Joe placed Martha’s mail in her mailbox, he noticed that the mail was starting to build up. This worried him and he rang the bell but there was no answer. Mabel, her neighbor saw Joe and came out to tell him that Martha was in the hospital.

Martha was 98 and had no family. Dinner would have to wait. Joe was going to visit Martha in the hospital.

🥕🥕🥕

Sometimes the Old Ways Are the Best by FloridaBorne

My father owned a moving company until he could no longer strap a piano on his back and walk up a flight of stairs.

He was hired to sort mail in 1964, when your 100% accuracy rate meant more than having only a 5th grade education.

Then, the unions took over and he had to pass a test to keep his job.

Test anxiety meant failure.

Demoted to janitorial! The people hired to fill his job laughed at him while his former boss said he was a better employee than all three combined.

Sometimes, the old ways are best.

🥕🥕🥕

Rita’s First Day by Joanne Fisher

It was Rita’s first day working for the Fairyland Postal Service. She flew off feeling incredibly excited with a full mail bag.

“Hello Mr Grysluk!” she beamed a smile at the gnome while handing him a letter.

“They’re now allowing pixies to deliver the mail? What are we coming to?” he rudely replied as he stomped back to his home.

Slightly crestfallen, Rita flew on only to encounter similar comments through the rest of her route. Nobody liked pixies.

Regardless of how she was treated, she resolved she would carry on with this job until they all accepted her.

🥕🥕🥕

Carrying Mail by D. Avery

When he first started, his route rolled through the seasons, each the same in turn. Christmas catalogues, seed catalogues and boxes of yellow chicks, postcards from traveling friends and relatives, fall catalogues; often letters, always bills. He knew his families by what he left at the end of their driveways.

Driving the same route, he now felt disconnected. He rarely saw a postcard anymore, seldom a letter, even had fewer bills to deliver.

Thank goodness for Helen. She and her son exchange letters every week. She says he’s doing well, was himself working in the mailroom at the penitentiary.

🥕🥕🥕

An Overworked Poem About the Post by Chelsea Owens

The post

Sky ghosts,

is never late.

‘gainst earthbound weight.

In backward cars

Self-lifted, ours

down country roads

with cloud-held loads

The smart-dressed man

The barefoot clan

(Or, smart wò-man)

(And –true– bare-hand)

Come round each day

Cavort and play

to drop a note

Whilst ‘letters’ float

turn down a flag

From heav’nly bags

for

For

Neither snow

When winds blow

nor rain

‘gainst wingèd pain

nor heat

Lofty feet

nor gloom of night

Always in flight

stays these couriers

Windflung ferriers

from the swift completion

Our mail tote: depletion

of their appointed rounds.

Soaring o’er the rabbl’ing ground.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Turning Point by Hugh W. Roberts

Putting his right hand into the trouser pocket of his postal carrier uniform, Mike felt the outline of the handle of the revolver. He knew his jealousy was forcing an extreme situation to develop.

***

Two floors above, Sophie wished she could wish herself back to the postal depot where she and Mike worked, so she could escape the extreme situation Doug was putting her in.

***

Just before deciding now was the right time to smother Sophie’s face with the pillow; he was holding, Doug’s vision became a little blurry. Why had Sophie put them both in this extreme situation?

🥕🥕🥕

Lucy’s Letter by Padmini Krishnan

Lucy woke up, optimistic, knowing that something was about to change. She ran down the street when she heard the postman’s bike a couple of streets away. A letter from her wayward son! The postman looked at the 90-year old Lucy jumping up and down and realized that his efforts had been worth it. He had braved the storm, the governmental warnings, and a pickpocket to reach his destination. He smiled at Lucy. At this, Lucy became self-conscious and looked angrily at the postman. The grinning dumbo! After all, how would this man know how important her letter was!

🥕🥕🥕

Dead-Letter Drop by Bill Engleson

He was a spy fan, old Clarence was. Mailman by day, James Bond in his head by night.

Life held few mysteries for Clarence. No adventures. Just methodically serving his regular route in our hamlet, getting to know the people, forming friendships, sharing part of their lives.

When a customer died, word would spread, correspondence would stop, time would move on.

For a few, the lonelier ones, the occasional letter still showed up.

Before he’d return to sender, he’d steam open the envelope, visit the grave, read the epistle in the sinking twilight, reseal, send it on its way.

🥕🥕🥕

That Knock by Geoff Le Pard

Jem hated his left foot. Clubbed, they called it. ‘It’s okay, son,’ they said. ‘You’re useful. Post has got to be delivered.’
He’d got at white feather, too, from the woman he’d given the telegram to. ‘We’re sorry to inform you…’

Couldn’t blame her being bitter. Might have been him if they’d let him go.

And now there were two telegrams for Mrs Cutts. The ‘sorry’ one and one saying Petey’d got the Military Medal. Petey Cutts used to tease him about his foot. She took both, hands shaking like she’d the palsy. Petey didn’t seem so cruel now.

🥕🥕🥕

Changing Vocations by Susan Sleggs

In the PTSD group, a young war vet hung his head. “I quit nursing school because I had a panic attack every time I got near patients.”

Michael nodded with understanding, “Nothing to be ashamed of. What drew you to nursing?”

“I wanted to feel useful and help other people plus I’m good with details.”

“Admiral strengths. Well suited to a mailman. Delivering in all sorts of weather would be like serving.”

Six months later. “I dig my mail route and I met a gal that asked where and when I served, not what I did in the Army.”

🥕🥕🥕

Turning Points by Saifun Hassam

After college, Arlene returned to Nolan City, to hiking the SeaSquall Mountains. Freelancing in computer graphics, she also worked as a postal worker. Her favorite mail deliveries were to the rural residents along the winding mountain roads.

Today, a frigid January day, her last stop was for Mr. Travis, a retired forest ranger. He was unconscious, sprawled on the deep snow in the backyard.

Her mountain experience kicked in. She called ER. She piled warm clothes on Travis. When the ER Team arrived, the battered barbecue grill was ablaze with firewood.

A grateful Travis recovered. Arlene became a paramedic.

🥕🥕🥕

Mail Carrier by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Mr. Prichard, are you home?”

Jeanine nudged the door further ajar. Why was Mr. Prichard’s door open, she wondered? Her instincts kicked in. The hairs on her arm stood on end.

Regulations required postal workers to be alert for older patrons. If they didn’t pick up their mail regularly, a call to the police was mandatory.

But Mr. Prichard was her friend, and she couldn’t leave without making sure he was safe. She stepped inside the kitchen. The old man lay on the floor in a pool of blood. Without thinking, she dialed her phone.

“911 what’s your emergency?”

🥕🥕🥕

Mail Theft by tracey

Rhonda stood in the windy monsoon rain and stared at the back of the mailbox in dismay. Twenty-three years on the job and she was still shocked every time she encountered mail theft. Her own sense of integrity was so innate that she could never quite believe people would steal mail.

She tried to remember what she had delivered the day before knowing the thief was most likely looking for drugs.
With a sigh she called her supervisor and then carefully stowed the current mail back in the truck before removing all the remaining mail from the damaged box.

🥕🥕🥕

On the Horns of a Dilemma by Margaret G. Hanna

“It’s easy. Everyone here does it.”

“It’s theft. And not everyone does it.” I glanced around. The mail room was bustling. Would anyone notice?.

Joe slit the parcel open. “Jackpot! A digital camera!” He took it out and retaped the box, then handed me the knife. “Your turn. Pick a parcel.”

I was new, bottom of the ladder. Would I be shunned, or worse, if I told the supervisor? Could I live with myself if I didn’t?

I pushed the knife away. “No thanks.” I wouldn’t steal but I wouldn’t blab. I needed the money for my wife’s medical expenses.

🥕🥕🥕

Working Conditions (BOTS) by Nancy Brady

Recently, a postman climbed out of his truck, grabbing a package to deliver. Although his vehicle was pulled to the side of the road, he was sideswiped by a driver who wasn’t paying attention. The driver didn’t stop; he hit the man and kept going.

Sustaining injuries that included two broken legs and a crushed pelvis, Carl was off work recovering for more than a year.

Now, all the post office trucks around here sport a red flag. The flag is a recent addition, but became necessary to protect the men and women who deliver the mail, particularly packages.

🥕🥕🥕

Vestiges of Forgotten Purpose by Jo Hawk The Writer

Tristao shifted the heavy pack, gnarled fingers burrowed under the frayed strap as he eased the pressure on his stooped shoulder.

Once, he bounded through town, nimbly negotiating steep steps, winding ascents, and narrow passageways like the goats that climbed the mountain protecting his birth city. The residents greeted him, eager for the letters he carried. He was their noble messenger, their link to far-flung family and friends. They shared the latest gossip and a welcome snack.

Now he met only faceless receptacles. He fed blank gaping mouths, with empty messages no one wanted. Tomorrow, Gaspar collected the garbage.

🥕🥕🥕

Dead Letters by Annette Rochelle Aben

Ted nonchalantly punched in the access code and waited patiently for the arm to rise. The maze of storage units could be confusing but not to Ted, as he had been coming here nearly once a day for several months.
Without a care in the world, he began tossing the white plastic bins in left and right. Laughing, Ted thought about how much he hated everything about being a postal worker. The weather, the barking dogs and he especially hated the mail! He hated it so much that he hadn’t delivered any in months, except to this storage unit.

🥕🥕🥕

The Tenacious Mailman by Ruchira Khanna

Jimmy squinted his eyes and took laborious steps towards the last drop out.

Sweat dripping from his grey sideburns and his tongue hanging due to thirst under his sun hat.

He dropped off the post in the mailbox of the mansion-like house and admired the manicured lawn while wiping sweat off his forehead.

Walked back to his postal van and sat gingerly on the seat. After gulping a copious amount of water, he let out a deep sigh with a smile as if he did a touchdown!

“Ten more days until I retire, and all this will be history.”

🥕🥕🥕

Express Mail by D. Avery

“Frankie! Dang! Cain’t believe ya ventured through this blizzard.”
“Had to. There’s letters for Carrot Ranch.”
“Can we git ya anythin’ Frankie?”
“Yes, Kid, get me a glass so I can keep an eye out. I’m eyein’ that glass a whiskey too, Pal. Ah, thanks. Now. How ‘bout you read them letters I delivered?”
“This un’s from thet reliable Ranch hand Susan Sleggs. It’s ta ever’one at the Ranch:

Dearest Ranch Hands,
I look forward to your stories. Lots of times you make me
laugh and there is always some excitement added, or
thought to ponder. You’ve also shown me how to
accomplish meeting the prompt’s expectations, especially
during the Rodeo. You’ve helped me improve as a fellow
“hand.”
Thanks for letting me ride with you.
Susan Sleggs

Thank you for showin’ others how Ranch writin’ works.

Whoa. That’s purty heartfelt. Kid, you read this ‘un. Looks ta be a poem by the Poet Lariat.”

“Roses are red
Violets are blue
Adore all the Hands at the Ranch
That one ‘hudret’ percent true
(Though mine own self I like alot –
Some days the prompts
Put me in a spot…)
We’re all seekin the right combination
To keep our friends attentions
Sharpen’ our pencils
Making sure our pens have ink
‘Specially when we choose
To challenge ourselves
Every week to the edge, the brink
Of what we think are limitations
Of our imaginations…
Keeping our learning sharp
Accepting all for their worth
Because characters matter
As we pursue and fine tune
The Literary Arts!”
-The Poet Lariat
(©JP/dh )

“Don’t thet jist sum it up?”
“Frankie ain’t the only one kin deliver.”

January 30: Flash Fiction

A wisp of tarragon grows from a small pot in my windowsill, a gentle summer monk on a cold winter path to enlightenment. Or maybe not. Maybe, a frail twig of indoor tarragon dreams that one day it might be a hardy spear outside rooted in real dirt. How about — the emergence of tarragon in winter was unexpected as a pregnancy at age 50. Even — the tarragon leaned like a colt on spindly legs toward the window, seeking sunnier pastures.

What am I doing here, you might be pondering? I’m characterizing the upstart of growth in my kitchen herb box, surprised by the frail determination of tarragon I thought dormant. You see, this term of my MFA focuses on character development. Not only do I get to be Dr. Frankenstein to Danni Gordon, but I’m also tasked to bring life to her novel-mates. Thus, I’m practicing on a personified herb.

Character traits come in two forms — external and internal. Which do you dive into first? For me, character development is internal, considering who the character is and why. How did they get to be that way? What personality traits do I use to share the sense of this person with a reader? External traits help, and some are necessary if it matters to the story or character’s growth.

Take gender, for example. It’s an important external trait, typically. We want to know if Harry Potter is a boy or girl. Little Women would be silly if the characters turned out to be male (or perhaps profound with a deliberate framing). I recently read The Whale in the Wolf by Jordanna Max Brodsky. It’s the story of Omat, a small clan’s next shaman. The character is born to a young widow following a tragic accident on the ice that claimed all the young hunters (there were four, which conveys how small and vulnerable this group of people are). The baby is limp, the mother has expired, and the midwife abandons the newborn to the elements. The next day, a wolf appears over the baby who has survived the night, heralding the child as the new guide to a people whose hunting skills also rely on pleasing the spirits.

As a reader, we follow the child’s upbringing through his own story. We know he is small, has two freckles on his cheek from his mother’s final tears at birth, and is male. Omat was the name of his uncle. It’s believed that the spirit of the wolf and Omat reside in this young apprentice to the spirit realm. Those are the external traits. Internally, we learn that Omat is fiercely loyal to his family, determined to succeed as a shaman and a hunter, learning at every chance. A serious and studious person. He recognizes the jealousy of his older brother, who is bigger and stronger but envies Omat’s abilities. As characters, they are a striking contrast in personality. This deepens our understanding of who the Inuit are — individuals, and yet dependant upon group dynamics for survival.

Internal characteristics enrichen a story. They are the traits we can slip into. When we feel like Harry Potter or Omat, we don’t become boys. Instead, we become the personalities having experiences we relate to through the characters. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what shade of green a character’s eyes; it matters that we can see through her eyes and experience a new culture, past event, or future predicament. Internal traits embody the emotion of a novel, which is where character growth resides. Note: character growth is not a mandate, but it is an element crucial to some genres. For example, both characters must grow in romance to experience the happily ever after (or good enough for now) ending. Contemporary character-driven novels often hang a satisfying conclusion upon that growth.

Yet external traits come into play with that growth (or character arc), too. Those freckles, dark hair and coloring, and size add up to Omat’s unattractiveness to a blond, strapping Viking he’s rescued when later trying to find his brother. Brodsky manages to develop a natural unfolding of two people from different cultures through a process of friendship. Both find their external traits initially repulsive, but as they become friends and build trust to survive the harsh climate and rescue of Omat’s brother. In a way, this phenomenon shows that looks matter less than intention and action.

What is surprising is that one physical trait becomes the cornerstone of character growth for Omat. He was actually born a female biologically. The reader learns of this early on and comes to understand that Inuit have three genders because of their belief in ancestor souls returning to the newborn of their clan. It’s a complicated system where one’s son might also be a grandfather. And, in the case of Omat, the male spirit inhabited the baby girl. The book is Omat’s identity struggle physically, spiritually, and between cultures. It’s intricately written and well-plotted to be concerned for Omat on many levels.

According to one of my professors and the books I’m currently plowing through, every character has a core trait. For example, Omat’s concern for clan survival formed the core of a person who learned to accept both a woman’s body and a male spirit. Every plot point that emerged, Omat responded from failure or success to integrate self with survival. Another way to look at core personality is to examine psychology or personality tests. I once did numerology on the birthdates for the historical characters in Rock Creek and gained valuable insight.

Do you have to go take the Meyers Briggs for your character as I did for Danni Gordon? No. But you do need to have a core internal trait that guides your character’s actions and growth. As authors, we run the risk of developing characters who are flat, false, or familiar (to ourselves). If you want as deep  of a dive as I’m currently submerged in, here are some reading materials:

  • Plot Versus Character by Jeff Gerke
  • Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey (recommended by Jeff Gerke)
  • The Psychology Workbook for Writers by Darian Smith (I’d buy one from Anne Goodwin)
  • Writer’s Guide to Characterization by Victoria Lynn Schmidt (and yes, it includes the Hero’s Journey)

I’m also reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and recognizing why this book won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It’s a portrait of one woman’s life through the multiple perspectives of those who know her. It spans numerous decades but is not linear, with each chapter reading like a short story from different periods of her life. Some chapters aren’t even about her but have something to reveal who she is. It’s a remarkable contemporary novel and has saved me from the despair after having clawed my way through Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies.

It’s important to read as a writer.

Read your genre. Read yesterday’s classics and today’s big prize winners. Read independents and small presses. Read what you like and define why. Study what succeeds even if you are not the target reader. Build your apprenticeship that not only takes you where you want to go but also gives you a fabulous journey along the way. Write daily. Plot fairy tales in the shower for practice. Talk about what you read or wrote and why either moved you.

Like a single sprig of tarragon, we grow our gardens from the faintest ideas to the strongest cores.

With winter piled upon the Keweenaw and garden season far away, I wondered what it must like to be a mail carrier in extreme conditions or unusual locations. How does the character’s core trait interact with such environments? What conditions can happen on the job to create a conflict, tension, or a plot twist?

January 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a postal carrier in an extreme situation. Even if you base your story on a true one, focus on the core trait of this postal carrier. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by February 4, 2020. 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.

Submissions closed. Find our latest Flash Fiction Challenge.

Tough-Minded to the Core by Charli Mills

Poking at her glass eye with a felted mitten, Frankie yelled over the storm, “Ain’t no use, Burt. Can’t get through this detestable blizzard.”

Burt relied on her to find shelter. With one eye, she followed flagged Ponderosa pines back to the ridge where she stored supplies in a cavern. “This is why we scouted last summer, Burt.”

Prepared to ride out the storm, Frankie secured the US mailsack, unsaddled Burt, and cleaned her glass eye while beans bubbled in a tin over a crackling fire. Burt nickered for more oats. Just another day delivering mail to mining camps.

Life Stories of a Bench

In a single timeline, a clock ticks off the day in a life of a bench. It stands alone until people emerge and interact. The stories this bench could tell from dramas to tragedies to comedies to everyday people doing everyday things.

And that’s what writers got to do this week — capture those life stories of a bench. Who are the women in conversation? Why was the man left standing with roses? Some writers had fun with the word bench in its different variations. Gather around the bench for some tales!

The following is based on the January 23, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a park bench.

https://66.media.tumblr.com/5f96e62c4e0801ac15197bb4696d4afd/tumblr_pmwougFDsl1rcicodo1_540.gifv?fbclid=IwAR1b4djHeZpZ9cE4hASngWsF39GV_uymXOTi9LZaa7HanZOtRQe2YVQEVjY

PART I (10-minute read)

Secrets and Moments by DG Kaye

If I could tell you I would. It’s my job here to offer a place to rest your weary selves. All knowing, listening and watching as countless people land here to share a moment.

Broken hearts rested here in refuge with their grief, new beginnings created as some knelt on bended knee declaring their love and proposing to another who has rested upon me.

Shady characters too have used my inconspicuous location for an incognito drop-off. While others come just to relax and take in a beautiful day.

These secrets traded between visitors remain ingrained within my wooden confessional.

🥕🥕🥕

Stories to Tell by Anita Dawes

A simple wooden bench
Beneath welcome shade
May not seem exciting
The stories it could tell
Of lover’s first kiss
Under moonlight
It’s now they’re go-to place
After fifty years
Each kiss as good as the first
That’s what they would tell you
Margaret and Ethel
Meet there at lunch time
Discuss their aches and pains
Walk home feeling less lonely
Sixty-year-old Tom
Brings breadcrumbs
To feed the pigeons
Remembering times
His wife sat beside him
This simple wooden structure
Serves the community
I thank God it’s there
To sit, watch life go by
More stories yet to tell…

🥕🥕🥕

6am: The Empty Bench by Cara Stefano

Empty street
A desolate breeze
Waiting, Hoping
Here come the street sweepers and the trash trucks – roaring by without pause
The laughing children on their way to school – they stop; then saunter off in giggles
Harried mothers with their babes in tow, grateful to sit a moment before leaping up – they’re gone
Puffed up business men on quick lunch break
Families stop to picnic – sunset’s glow
Two nearly strangers meeting for their first date – how will it go?
Who knows what might happen in the dark?
The empty bench will wait.

🥕🥕🥕

06:00 Empty Park Bench by tracey

What a lovely morning! The sun feels good after that chilly night. I am enjoying this fragment of quiet tranquility, possibly the last one of the day. I am really glad no one threw up on me during the night. I wonder if anyone will need consoling today? Will I witness moments of great joy? I hope some kids come and play near me; I love the sound of their laughter. It would be nice if someone ate lunch here, the smell of chicken soup would be wonderful. I guess I’ll know soon enough what visitors today will bring.

🥕🥕🥕

6:00 by Caroline Scott

Well, it was early morning yet. No need to worry.

The old split wood knew he would come. He had always come. He had found that one area no one ever sits in at the park because it isn’t pretty, not really, and he had been so proud in himself, the silly little man.

In time he had brought friends. Later there was a woman who knew what it was as much as him. Then children.

Now the little man was old, but the bench sat very still for him, and when it heard his voice it was alive.

🥕🥕🥕

Observations from a Park Bench by Jo Hawk

The clock in Trellech announced his daily passage. At seven-thirty he traveled into town, his feet dragging him forward, his pack dwarfing his tiny frame. Every afternoon at precisely two-thirty, lighter steps whisked him home.

Time slipped into years. As he grew into his backpack, it was replaced by a one larger and heavier than the last. His shoulders bent beneath the staggering weight, but he endured his regimen and never faltered.

His stamina increased, his burden kept pace, and I marveled at his quiet suffering.

One fateful day he stopped, dropped his albatross, and dared to fly free.

🥕🥕🥕

Park It by Bill Engleson

“You’re benched, Potter.”

“Coach, that’s nuts. I’m playing darn well.”

“Not arguing with that. I agree, you’re channeling Gretsky.”

“Then why you benching me?”

“Stop hovering. Sit your arse down. I don’t appreciate a 6’9” fifteen-year-old sucking my air.”

“Sorry coach. So, what’s your tofu with me.”

“Potter, you know how much time you spend at the rink? Playing? Practicing?”

“As much as I can, Coach.”

“Every waking hour, boyo. You ever go outdoors? Walk in the park? Sit on your duff?”

“No time for that stuff. I’m going to the NHL.”

“But at what price, Potter. What price.”

🥕🥕🥕

Maternal Isolation (9.00 daren’t become 9.30) by Anne Goodwin

Someone’s nabbed the bench beside the sandpit, a proper mother with clean clothes and groomed hair. Erica could go and sit alongside her, there’s room for another set of carrot sticks, juice boxes, wet wipes and menagerie of plastic toys. But the proper mother might speak to her and Erica wouldn’t know if she was sniping at her choice of toddler snacks or inviting her for tea. Even if she trimmed her words so Erica could understand, she couldn’t answer. She needs quiet, a clear channel to her children’s cries. She’s already distracted by the voices in her head.

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9:00 by Nancy Brady

The day was sunny and warm so Victoria decided to take her little boy to the park. Jamie held his mother’s hand as they crossed the street and walked to the playground.

Jamie loved the slides, and Torie loved the Little Free Library that was adjacent to the bench. There was always a good selection of books for both kids and adults.

As Jamie played nearby with his trucks, Torie chose a chick-lit novel from the library and began to read. She also chose The Very Hungry Caterpillar for Jamie’s naptime.

Tomorrow, she’d bring a couple books to share.

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9:30 by Charli Mills

Gina sat and talked about auras. Maizie chalked vivid colors on the sidewalk, capturing the world’s energy field. She said my daughter was an inquisitive “indigo” and that I was a wise “violet.” I leaned back on the bench, hand in hair, wanting to believe my aura held meaningful hues like she said. But as we walked back to our apartment, all  I could think about were the lonely shadows waiting inside. I wonder what color his aura was when my husband died in a botched training? In return, Maizie and I received a flag – red, white, and blue.

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9.30 by Joanne Fisher

“Is that your daughter?” the woman asked sitting beside Andrea.

“Yes, she’s obviously a budding artist.” Andrea replied, watching her draw on the footpath.

“My name is Penelope.” the woman said.

“Hi I’m Andrea.”

“I see you here every day. I thought I’d say hello.”

“My daughter loves the park.” Andrea told her. She doesn’t say she has only just moved here, and at least the park was free…

Penelope and her continued talking, until they both had to leave. As Andrea walked away with her daughter holding onto her, she wondered if she had just found a friend.

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11:00 by D. Avery

He might be retired, but he keeps busy, keeps fit in mind and body. Every day a brisk walk through the park, then some time reading the daily news; he keeps up with current events like it is his sworn duty and obligation.
So he assumes a scowl when rain interferes with his ritual, forcing him to repurpose the paper as an umbrella as he retraces his route. He retreats, dampened, secretly grateful for the rain that disguises escaped tears; he fervently and futilely wishes the world’s woes could be as easily washed away as a child’s chalk drawings.

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11:30 by M J Mallon

It’s raining again and I think of you. The park bench with your name rests, waiting for another raindrop to thirst quench my sorrow.

By 11.30am it’s raining hard. I capture a single drop of heaven’s rain on my tongue. I taste it. It’s lonely, like this new day without you.

You loved the rain;your days were full of joy. I have an umbrella in my bag but no need for it. And neither do you.

It’s tranquil today,

November Rain, June Sunshine,

Seasons talk of Love,

Strolling side by side – Mists, gusts,

Welly boots squelching the earth.

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The Bench by Floridaborne

Etched in a marble bench were the words, “Donated by Jacob Smith 1942 in memory of Pearl.”

Ruby had played in the park while her mother sat on this bench in 1950. Her husband proposed to her on this bench in 1965. Every one of her 4 children sat on this bench with her, or played on the new slides and swings. Now, she grieved for her husband of 55 years newly buried.

Two kids around 13 snickered. “Someone needs to remove that eyesore.”

“Which one, the bench or the old lady?”

Her older sister, Pearl, would’ve been appalled.

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This Is a Problem Llama by Donna Matthews

Linda had met the cute new guy in the far north field yesterday. He had wandered in during the snowstorm, and seeing that he was new, she asked his name.

“Larry from the South, ” he replied.

After a few flirtatious moments, Larry asked Linda if he could see her again. Linda, thinking he was just the cutest thing ever, was quick to reply yes! They made a plan to meet at the park bench between the two fields at noon tomorrow.

But she was late. Larry was nowhere. Ugh. This is a problem, llama, she thought to herself.

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An Acrostic of the Subjected Subject by JulesPaige

Placement, location; a free place to rest old bones
Atmosphere dependent upon the continuum of reality’s timeline
Rehearsals, rituals; just a place to pass en route; to and fro
Kinetic action witnessed of who does or does not make use thereof

Beacon of respite? Seat, table, bed. A voiceless witness of life’s vibrations.
Entrenched; bolted in pavement… if flight were even possible on four steel legs
Nicks and scratches heal without aid of medicinal plasters; just weathered air
Cobbled recollections; laughter, joy, sorrow, nightmares – litter of memories
Helpless to record what passes for this inanimate object… maybe not?

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Reincarnated Love by Reena Saxena

I used to spend an hour on this park bench every evening – petting furry creatures, feeding them biscuits, watching their competitive pranks, smiling and laughing a lot.

I’m back there after a decade. The darlings do not come running to me. There are a few loitering around, who have to be woo-ed with biscuits.

Realisation dawns about the difference in life span and lifestyles. It is love that remains supreme, and will bind me again to the new spirits.

Deep inside somewhere, I wish there is some reincarnated love, and I do meet my old friends once again.

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The Bench by Ruchira Khanna

“I am tired.”

After giving a glance at her face that glistened with sweat courtesy the bright sun, he said, “Let’s take a five-minute break.”

Mrs. D was quick to plop on the bench that overlooked the green grass where children were playing ball.

As the north-west wind blew, she flared her nostrils to absorb the energy that’ll help her walk home.

While Mr. D gave out a deep sigh as memories flashed in front of him.

He placed his wrinkled hand over his wife and uttered, “Our life has transitioned, but this bench has been constant for us.”

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Newton’s Gravity Story by Simon

As decided to travel back in time, I traveled back to 1647 to find out how Newton figured out law of gravity.

Newton was on the bench with his curly long hair and tried to remove the hair tangles with a pencil.

Then the pencil fell down to ground. He stared it for a while.

It didn’t fly. He wondered why it didn’t fly. Then he jumped from bench.

He took his little diary and started to write theory, then I saw myself sits next to him, asked to write his theory finding with an apple and he did.

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PART II (10-minute read)

15:00 Hours by Lisa A. Listwa

Jean-Luc sat easily on the park bench, one arm draped over the back. He pulled a slow, hard drag from his cigarette, inhaling the afternoon heat.

“Your first time in Paris, monsieur?”

The man’s aroma suggested it had been some time since he bathed.

“I’ve been…away for many years.”

“I know places to see, monsieur. For a few francs?”

“Tell you what, brother,” said Jean-Luc. He stood, stuffed the cigarette between his lips, and unbuttoned his prison drab. “How about the shirt off my back instead?”

Handing the shirt to the stranger, Jean-Luc walked bare-chested out of the garden.

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15:30 to Midnight by Hugh Roberts

Sophie wished that right now she still had the knife she had used to inscribe their names on the park bench where she and Doug had first met.

***

Doug’s mind wandered back to their first date. It was a bunch of flowers he had held in his hands at 15:30 that day. Now, here he was holding an oversized bed pillow in front of Sophie. He wondered if their names were still inscribed on the park bench.

***

Two floors below, Mike thought about the park bench where he and Sophie had first made love at the stroke of midnight.

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16:00 by Ritu Bhathal

How much longer?
It’s been half an hour now.
I know she likes to keep me waiting, but this is taking the mick.
I hadn’t counted on the bench being wet either.
Who would have expected rain in June?
Actually, what am I thinking?
It’s England. Rain can happen at any time.
At least the flowers still look good.
They should, at that price.
Does this mean I’ve been stood up?
I wonder how many others have sat on this bench, waiting.
What’s that? Oh, a message.
Seriously?
She’s not coming.
Had a better offer.
Prosecco with the girls…

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16:00 You’re Gone by Sascha Darlington

A thousand voices echo. Reprimands. Insecurity.

I’ve lost it all.

I got drunk, flirted, danced, hugged, and kissed a girl. Not you. When I kissed her, I made believe she was you.

The walls have eyes and voices that repeated events to you.

“It’s over,” you said.

“I’m sorry. What can I do?”

Those last four words I repeated over to you for days until finally, you acquiesced. “Meet me at our bench at 4.”

I brought your favorite pink roses. They smelled like heaven, like you.

After three hours, I tossed the roses into the bin.

Accepting truth.

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16:30 by Saifun Hassam

Someone had tossed a bouquet of dark red roses into the trash bin. The park bench was deserted. The roses beckoned, fresh and fragrant on a cold wintry afternoon. Was it a proposal that turned into a lover’s quarrel? Who ditched the roses? Perhaps a date didn’t turn up.

Was there a greeting card tucked into the bouquet? Curiosity beckoned the storyteller. No love letter, no birthday wishes. The writer strolled on down the winding path to Frendale Cafe. Sometime later, walking back through the park again, curiosity led the writer to the bench. The lovely roses were gone.

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16:48 by Pete Fanning

My mother took her life on a park bench. It made the evening news. They spoke of tragedy, witnesses, of what drove her to such desperation.

Sitting on the same bench, I wonder if the breeze gave her a chill or if the squawk of the geese reminded her of grandma’s pond. I hope her last thoughts were peaceful. It’s why I brought flowers to the place she died, not where she’s buried.

But it’s no good, standing, sitting, people telling me she’ll show up.
She won’t show up. And so I throw the flowers in the trash.

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17:00 by Elpy

Pidgey, Pinky, Plump, Pokey, plus many extras today, the gang was all there. Will she forget their names one day soon? Will she fade like the light and become one of the birds no one tries to remember?

Pokey, the old one wandered off like they do, drawing her attention to the bouquet in the trash bin at the end of the bench. Were they old news, pitched because they’d served their purpose?

No, it is an old woman especially who knows heartache. Her brain might be collapsing in on itself but she still knows well what life is.

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17:00 (Regrets) by Margaret G. Hanna

Every afternoon, as I walked to work, I saw the old woman sitting on the park bench, feeding pigeons. Then, one day, she wasn’t. I stopped, stared. Questions: Where was she? Was she sick? Dead? Who was she? Perhaps a renowned scientist, a poet, a successful businesswoman. Was she a beloved grandmother? Mother? Sister?

The question that truly burned: Why could I notice her in her absence when I couldn’t take the time to notice her when present? Why didn’t I smile, say hello?

Regret filled me. I should have stopped. What memories did I miss by ignoring her?

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17:00 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She supposed she should scatter birdseed, as her grandson often admonished her.

Her widow’s pension was meant for sustenance, not luxury, so she shared what she had. The birds didn’t object. They gathered at her feet at this park bench, every day at 5 pm.

She prayed on it, asking for a sign. A brush of wings, a whisper in her ear. “Look left, and many thanks, Svetlana.”
On the trash bin’s edge sat a half-dozen perfect red roses, reminiscent of the sweet nosegays gathered by her gallant Sergei.

What she wouldn’t give for one more walk with him.

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5 o’clock by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

Molly sat down on the bench and breathed a sigh of relief. With age, even walking became challenging, especially after hip surgery. Before she could pull out a piece of bread, pigeons surrounded her feet. Molly smiled and greeted them each by name. To others, they were impossible to tell apart, but to her – a daily visitor, they were all so very different.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here the other day” – she said to the pigeons and the men she stood up and never got to meet 40 years ago.

Who knows how her life would have turned out…

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17:00 by D. Avery

I see you not seeing me, see that my chuckling hastens you on.
I recently read about the ground being a mirror-line for an inversion of two realms, the living and the dead walking sole to sole. I chuckle to think there’s a frumpy old lady sitting on a park bench upside-down underneath me.
Yes, I read. And I think. My mind is sharp, though a little stroke’s made talking difficult. The pigeons don’t notice.
I know I could have another stroke but I wouldn’t go to a doctor even if I could.
I’m braver than I look too.

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Babuska and Bengay by Kerry E.B. Black

17:00

It was 5:00 somewhere, the pigeons knew. There, in fact. They waddled and cooed as they congregated around their benefactress, she of the babuska and Bengay who brought sacks of seed for their always ravenous stomachs. She flouted the posted signs. “Don’t feed the wildlife.” To her, though, these were not “wildlife.” They were named friends. In their soft grey feathers sparkled the iridescence of acceptance. They enjoyed her company and never missed a meal. She counted on their companionship in her increasingly lonely twilight. She emptied the bag and waved. “See you tomorrow, darlings! Same time. Same place.”

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The Hereafter, Aloft by Chelsea Owens

She came every day at 5:00; after making her way from the bus [D’you need a hand, Mrs. Parker?], down the sidewalk, to the bench.

She needed more and more assistance from those sweet young nurses [What if we skipped the park today, Mrs. Parker?] with each passing day.

The birds know her. Chirping – flitting – pecking. She laughs at their avian antics.

[Come with us.]

“What?” Emiline Parker glances around. A sparrow eyes her.

[Come fly.]

“…Why?”

[You’ve cared. It’s the least we could do.]

Considering, she nods. The birds alight; a new friend among them, an old life behind.

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 22:00 by clfalcone *

What started as a discussion over vodka and football quickly became a brawl.

Sergei maintained Spartak had the better drinkers, Vassily countered that Dynmo were superior drunks.

Then shouting, pushing, spitting and suddenly Sergei punching Vassiliy’s lights out with a jaw shot. Dimka would have kicked both their asses, declaring Red Army as vodka champs, had he not passed out, falling off the bench.

Sergei glared down his opponent passed out and snoring, then saw the flashing lights.

The Militsia rolled up to inspect the commotion. Vassily helped Sergei up, they rousted Dimka, and three gopniki fled the park.

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Midnight by Susan Sleggs

Kera straddled Brent on the park bench. “I love you and getting engaged has made me very happy, but doing this without protection is a bit scary.”

“We’ve been talking about kids and when I told Mom about the ring she said Michael was looking forward to her having grandchildren. They just might get one sooner than any of us thought.”

“My Mom would only be upset about not getting to plan the perfect wedding.”

“A perfect wedding would be our families and friends in this park.”

“I’d prefer a church but this would be fine, if we must.”

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23:30 by Nancy Brady

Young and vibrant, the couple first met when he was a sailor on one of the Great Lakes ore boats. He was the ship’s cook, and she, a teacher.

Whenever he came into Huron, the pair met at the park overlooking Lake Erie. Over time, their love grew with kisses, cuddles, and poetry. Eventually, they married, settling here.

Sixty-four years later, they celebrate once again. She has dementia; he has Parkinson’s, but their love is still strong.

In the park where they once met is a bench with a dedication to them: “The sailor comes home from the sea.”

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Four O’clock by  Michael Fishman

A morning walk. Four O’clock, before the realities of the day begin shining on the concrete of downtown.

The busses haven’t started running yet so the streets are quiet. Marquette Avenue is lined with bus shelters and it’s in the 6th street shelter that I see him every morning. You know what he looks like 4because you’ve seen him, or someone like him, before. They’re generally invisible, but when they’re asleep on a bus bench at four in the morning, they stand out.

I walk over, step into the shelter and leave a package of Hostess cupcakes for him.

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The Bench by Ann Edall-Robson

Hanna walked toward the pasture’s evening light, veering off to where she had seen the trail. Pushing past the bushes, the pungent freshness of the rain that had fallen earlier in the day engulfed her. The overgrown track took her to the creek and a surprised. It had seen better days, but the weathered bench felt sound when she sat on it.

Closing her eyes to the setting sun, her mind danced with memories until the sound of a shutter clicking brought her back to reality.

Striding from the sanctuary, Hanna knew the days of being alone were gone.

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Park Bench by Christine Bialczak

“Ouch! Come on, you again? Why do you keep coming to me to sit? I don’t know why you choose me when there are all those other benches sitting around. I thought I was full just a few minutes ago. What did you say? This bench was empty? Are you saying I am not worth more than a place to sit?”

Ten minutes later…

“Phew! Thank you for getting up! I can’t believe that I have to withstand all of the weight on my legs.
Didn’t you know that I have other people to support?”

Finally, alone.

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Aspirations and Sympathy by Kerry E.B. Black

Benches mark places of ease, spots for reflection and rejuvenation. To provide a trysting spot or safe haven for leisure is the bench’s highest aspiration.

Not so for the broken wooden bench strangled in bindweed, abandoned to wither to metal framework and scattered tacks.

Its replacement, made of synthetic “wood-look,” cradles new parents bragging parental concerns and an old man who, despite repeated warnings from the ranger, feeds the squirrels.

All who seek its comfort, though, notice the new bench remains cool even during hot summers – So unlike the lost wooden bench that warmed to every drama and sympathized.

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Benched by D. Avery

“Dang. This prompt looks ta be a workout, Pal. Not sure I kin bench press 99 words.”

“Here’s Kid with the weekly whine. Speakin’ a beer, did ya see thet Shorty’s still visionin’?”

“Yep, she’s real big on vision questin’ an’ goal settin’. Got a positive outlook fer the future.”

“No, I mean Visions. She’s got a window looks out inta the past.”

“Does the Ranch have a window like that?”

“Window’s wide open. Folks kin reflect an’ let their ‘maginations run free range here.”

“Should shut that window. Ya never know what kinda characters might come through.”

“Hmmff.”

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Bench Pressing 99 Words by D. Avery

“Well, jeez, Pal. Last week it was hands in the air, standin’ up protestin’, now this week it’s ‘bout settin’ down on a bench. Ya ever even seen a bench aroun’ here? I’ll set alright. Gonna set this one out.”

“So where ya headed, Kid?”

“Might’s well set in the Poet Tree.”

“Yer navel’s hardly a window on the world, Kid, but sure, go up yer tree an’ contemplate.”

*history’s imprint
heavy stories come to light
bench pressing 99
lifting portal lids, mirrors
giving apparitions form*

“Ya didn’t really follow the prompt Kid.”

“I went where it led, Pal.”

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January 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

Same window, different image. Downtown Houghton gathers Tech grad students, professors, locals, sledders, and window apparitions. I settled into my Wednesday spot and wondered if I’d see my three Italian sisters in mourning across the street. I didn’t. I saw a row of miners as if sitting on a bench, wearing blue overalls. I never really thought about what copper miners wore. They could have been futuristic astronauts or ancient argonauts. I can’t say I was prepared to see a different image from the one I saw last time I peered across the nighttime street into the darkened window of a closed business.

I thought about ignoring it. We do that with what disturbs us — put the blinders on and pay it no heed. It’s how the chronic homeless on the streets slip into oblivion before our eyes. They become the unseen. It’s not our pain we fear but the reminder of our own vulnerability. And, thoughts go straight to my favorite researcher storyteller, Brene Brown, who expands the idea of embracing our vulnerability:

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”~ Brene Brown

So I explored the darkness. I looked at what was disturbing me about the image I could see of miners created by the reflection of lights and my imagination — they had black hoods on their heads as if they were condemned. Was my mind feeling the pressure of my first week back to school? Regardless, I opened my Word Doc and spun a story in 99-words.

Gerard’s Tale by Charli Mills

Rumbling, the tram lumbers nineteen levels below to the copper veins. Sun, snow — the weather fails to influence the deep. I inhale pulverized basalt, hack black snot. Time slips away, my hands numb [hold the drill, young Geri]. I dream of sweet Maggie’s warmth in our bed, our mewling babe between us [hold the drill, young Geri]. Rock cracks, steel sings, the widow-maker hammers above my head [hold the drill, young Geri]. The tram rumbles like a beast upward, toward my wife and child. My body exits, wrapped in canvas. My soul trapped below, black dust to black dust.

When I realized  I only caught one miner, I cut them off. After all, I had work to do. Maybe I’ll continue to press into the songs of condemned copper miners. The brackets reminded me of a chorus as if the group was singing of the individual’s cause of demise. Actually, it’s an influence from a contemporary novel I’m loving to loathe. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff is a beautifully written novel about a seemingly perfect couple (with brackets to denote narrative interruptions from the characterization of their marriage). They are not. And I’m having difficulty with pretention parading as suffering. But I’m pushing myself to dig deeper past my dislike to unravel the workings of the novel.

The Business of Writing class had a reading assignment that amused me because I like to go on about visions and vision-based goals. The article, How to Set Goals for the Life You Actually Want, echoes the Twitter chat I did in December about setting joyful goals. But I’m hoping to learn what I don’t know.

Today’s challenge is going to be something different. Susan Sleggs shared a gif that shows the daily cycle of a park bench, and it is full of different human stories in each timeframe. An option will be to watch the gif play out and write one of the scenes in a story. If the gif is inaccessible for some reason (technology), the prompt will remain “park bench.”

January 23, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a park bench. Use this gif to choose a timeframe and write the story behind that particular scene. Use the time as your title. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by January 28, 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.

Submissions closed. Find our latest Flash Fiction Challenge.

9:30 by Charli Mills

Gina sat and talked about auras. Maizie chalked vivid colors on the sidewalk, capturing the world’s energy field. She said my daughter was an inquisitive “indigo” and that I was a wise “violet.” I leaned back on the bench, hand in hair, wanting to believe my aura held meaningful hues like she said. But as we walked back to our apartment, all  I could think about were the lonely shadows waiting inside. I wonder what color his aura was when my husband died in a botched training? In return, Maizie and I received a flag – red, white, and blue.

Protests

A protest can be small as the silence of a single person or big as a clamoring crowd. Social injustice, human rights, better conditions for workers can add to suppressed voices. Yet, objections can come from even the protested.

Writers gave much thought to the prompt and explored who and why what was the object of protests.

The following is based on the January 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a protest story.

PART I (10-minute read)

Remember the Revolution by Doug Jacquier

Remember causes
and affectations of effect on war
in cities now gone five-star?

Remember social action
sitting in smoke-filled rooms with Nescafe activists
and battered women with no teeth and less hope?

Remember death
when it belonged to rock stars
and people your mother your mother knew?

Remember money
and how it wasn’t going to concern you
until you learnt the golden rule and its defensible limits?

And do you remember when the penny dropped
that the personal was the political
and you found out you had to change?

And you decided to forget the revolution?

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Standing by D. Avery

“Staff members shouldn’t join student anti’s, Ms. Higginbottom.”

“Anti’s. My dad, a member of the NRA, called protesters that, Mr. Mathy.”

Mr. Massey the math teacher looked at Ilene, unsure of her lisp and her tone.

“But this is not my father’s NRA. Not by a long shot.”

“You give up one constitutional right, the rest are vulnerable.”

Incredulous, Ilene finally spoke. “Look at the reciprocals; not what they’re against but what they are for; that’s what pro-test means, testifying for a cause.”

“And what are these children standing for Ms. Higginbottom?”

“Life, Mr. Massey. They want to live.”

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My Way or Protest by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

Riley stared at the plate in front of her in disbelief. It wasn’t what she ordered.

She watched the waitress slowly approach the table.

“I wanted mac ’n’ cheese” – Riley spat out.

“This IS mac ‘n’ cheese” – the waitress calmly replied.

Riley folded her arms, pouted, and frowned at the broccoli. She was not going to eat anything until she got exactly what she ordered. Or chocolate, which was the one thing that would always magically fixed things.

“You will eat whatever I give you, young lady” – Riley’s mother said, sitting down next to her at the kitchen table.

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A Child’s Protest by Ritu Bhathal

“No more slop! No more slop!”

The sound of the butts of knives and forks being bashed against the tabletops echoed through the dining room.

“Children, please!” Mrs Garrett, flapped her arms up and down, trying to calm the situation, to no avail.

“We ain’t eating that rubbish anymore, Miss! It’s rank!” Tommy, the protest ringleader, piped up.

A chorus of voices echoed his sentiments.

Mrs Garrett looked at the greying mass of potato, with an unidentifiable beige stew, and cabbage that had long since lost any goodness, and sympathised.

I think it’s time to talk to the cooks…

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Protested Internally, Murtle’s Story by Tammy L. Toj Gajewski

She pointed at her leg making a stabbing motion. I shook my head and said, “What?” even though she couldn’t hear. Murrow took my hand and made me touch her pudgy belly, then took my finger to stab her upper thigh repeatedly. Oh oh… I see . “You don’t like the insulin shots?” I sign into her palm. That was it she went crazy signing and jibbering so fast I couldn’t keep up so I just hugged her and said yes I know over and over. She raised her shoulders finally in triumph that I knew her pain and internal protest.

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A Small Protest by Chelsea Owens

“Won’t!” The small face scrunches.

Father sighs. “I’d let you go like this, Arnie, but-”

“No no no!”

“Arrrnie,” Father begins, his tone less calm, “Daddy‘s wearing-”

“Daddy’s fart face!” A small tongue protrudes from the small mouth.

Father straightens. He takes a small arm in a big hand and marches small legs up big stairs. “That’s enough, young man! We do not stick our tongues out or call names.”

“Fart. face. Fart. face,” Arnie gasps at each stair.

“Now,” Father concludes, setting him at the top. “You’ll sit in Timeout, then you WILL put your pants on!”

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A Little Classroom Protest by Ellen Best

“Quiet!” shouted Miss Brooks, “Okay Girls, hands up if you think you’re the weaker sex.” Shouts, and stomping shoes echo. Her voice raised, her palm hit the desk. A puddle formed in her eye, she grabbed her hands rubbing vigorously, as a drip plopped against her lip. Her tongue, snatched it away unseen, while she counted raised hands.

“Please miss,” eyes swivel, and I colour. “I think it depends if they smack the desk harder than you.” The noise level climbed. “It isn’t gender or braun that predicts strength, but Emotional intelligence Miss, females win that every time.”

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Protest Proposal by Caroline Scott

He was going to do it.

She could see it in his eyes. There was a strange, liquid gleam in them, and a kind of manic terror.

She should speak. She needed to stop this before he did something either of them regretted. A protest rose on her lips but he was already on his knees.

She’d never seen a man so afraid.

“Will you marry me?”

It was his question, but she said it. If the point was at all worth arguing, he didn’t say so. When her arms went around his neck, all he said was,

“Yes.”

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A Parent’s Nightmare by Jacquie Biggar

“There’s no easy way to say this—” Matt met the growing horror in Mrs. Carter’s eyes, his heart hurting, “your daughter was murdered last night on the Galloping Goose Trail. We believe she was on her way home at the time.”

The poised woman who’d met them at the door disappeared in a swelling tide of despair. She vigorously shook her head. “No, you’ve made a mistake. Emily was home last night. I brought her home from school myself. It’s not possible.”

“How do you know it’s our child?” Carter asked, his voice gruff. “It could be anyone.”

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Methinks We Doth Protest Too Much by Cara Stefano

I have often wondered what I should protest: world hunger, needless war, homeless children right here in my home town? There are so many reasons to be angry, to wish for a soap box to stand upon, exhorting the masses to action; there are so many reasons to “get all up in arms” about this or that pressing issue. We are so often preaching to the choir – our tiny group of friends and family, acquaintances whom we know agree. Perhaps I simply want to protest the very idea of protesting. Let’s all just try to get along, shall we?

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The Gift of Music by Susan Sleggs

The wheelchair-bound veterans weren’t surprised when asked to join Gil Brandt near his bus. The musician learned names then turned to Michael, “I’ve heard of your talent and that you live near multiple VA medical centers so I’m giving you this to share.”

A vehicle whose sides were painted with music murals and the words “Veterans’ Music Van” pulled up. Doors were opened to reveal many instruments and other band equipment.

“I can’t accept such a gift,” Michael said.

“No protesting. I hope you’ll develop or add to a music program at each center because music has healing power.”

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Rebel Released by Ann Edall-Robson

“What’s going here?” Hanna pointed at the picture.

“The whisper went through the halls of the school.

‘We’re walking out as soon as first period starts after lunch.’

Rumours had been swirling for weeks. Finally, the day arrived to protest having to wear skirts and dresses at school, especially in -40F weather. All we wanted was to be able to wear slacks.

There I was, a junior, scared to death I’d be expelled, making my way down the halls, out onto the lawn with the others.”

Liz closed the Yearbook with a laugh.

“My inner rebel had been released.”

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Student Protest by Nancy Brady

Julia wanted to be inducted into her school’s National Honor Society.

Each year she saw outstanding upperclassmen selected for the honor. As a junior, she watched her classmates and the seniors get chosen one by one.

The school administration and teachers were shocked when one senior refused in protest over a blatant prejudice against another student. Apparently, the seniors knew that the student was treated unfairly, making a pact to reject the honor; however, only Jerry had the strength of character to protest this injustice.

How they found out was never revealed, but it forever changed the school’s policy.

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Protest by Joanne Fisher

An angry crowd had gathered outside protesting the sweeping new laws passed by the Government.

“How can I create art if there’s no more human misery and suffering?” shouted the artist.

“Now I can afford to feed, clothe, and house all my kids without having to work three jobs. HOW DARE YOU!” screamed a woman.

“But I wanted all my money to be sucked up by the global billionaires!” another man complained.

“Now I can have decent healthcare. What made you think I wanted that?”

“The environment cleaned up? Who said we wanted a utopia?” a woman cried out.

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Not Mad, but Angry by Anne Goodwin

Although medication dulls my senses, that headline hurts. An assault on language. An assault on me.

When I first acquired the label, I feared it would swallow me whole. Would I still be a person? Or turn into an axe-wielding lunatic overnight?

I upload a screenshot to Facebook. An emoticon scowl. SCHIZOPHRENIC ATTACKS DIABETIC would be more balanced. UNEMPLOYED ACCOUNTANT ATTACKS SHOP ASSISTANT more polite.

The LIKES accumulate. The expressions of rage. We’re more than our diagnoses. More often the target than the perpetrator of abuse.

While social media can be mentally toxic, it’s a place of protest too.

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Silent Protest by Lisa Listwa

Harold felt someone touch him.

Or did he?

It was hard to tell from behind the curtain of darkness shrouding his eyes. Every inch of his leaden body resisted all appeals for movement. His mind was too clouded for inquiry.

He could probably rally himself, but the only thing he wanted was to let go, to sink deeper into the noiseless black pawing at his consciousness.

Something – or someone – moved nearby. Harold sensed a change in the area immediately surrounding him.

Falling.

No. He was rising.

“C’mon, cat,” said his human. “Time to get up. Get off the bed.”

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#81 Discharge? by JulesPaige

my mind protests, sighs
you’re not what I expected;
mirrored reflection

Hoping that I’m not still blushing when Sam arrives; I am still in wonderment about how my body protests… But I smell Ife’s rose scent – I calm down. Just what can I tell him? That some myths are prophecy, like history is doomed to repeat itself if we don’t learn from it? Quite a bit of the Underground Railroad, just like the Pony Express has been amplified, romanticized. Yet there were kernels of truth.

Maybe I’ll open with; “Have you ever used a psychic to help solve cases?” …

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I Must Protest by H.R.R. Gorman

The man in the top hat knocked the soapbox with his gold-tipped cane. “I must protest this… this sin! How dare you peddle this Godless brew?”

The squirmy man with thin mustache bent down from atop his box. “Godless brew? No, it’s a true cure for everything from apoplexy to zinc deficiency, from premature birth to heart failure! Care to take a sip and put some pep in your step?”

The man with the top hat smashed the bottles at the foot of the soap box. “Even worse! If you cure mother, how else will I get her money?”

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Protest to God by Pedro Padilla

He felt broken. Heart striving. Body moving in nuanced physical patterns. Depending on what action the work requires. Sweat, clenched fists, spider like hand movements. All include use of the back.

Outside the mine his 4 children, motherless, wait. When he comes out to check on them he spies a snake near by. Family says that’s when he broke. Hair went white at 30. His protest to God. No man, or woman, as proxy. Straight to the source.

“We work. I work hard. She died. I’m broken. How? What to do? You are too hard. Too unfair. Please help us.”

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Legacy Survived by Charli Mills

Three sisters opened a yarn shop in Houghton 19 miles from where their children died in a stairwell. They stood stiff as marble in the back corner, the waists of their dresses pinched as tight as the grief in their eyes. Round skeins of yarn soft as a baby’s head inspired sales to knitters whose wealth they had once protested. Next door, another displaced Italian family opened a confectionary with fireproof ceiling tiles. In business, they dispensed softness and sweets, set codes for stairs, and prospered. Their surviving children’s grandchildren expanded family enterprises long after the copper mines closed.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Be The Change by Nobbinmaug

“Here’s another depressing news story. We should do something.”

“Like what?”

“Protest.”

“Protest what?”

“I don’t know. Pollution. Corporate tax cuts. Guns. Puppy mills.”

“Car washes.”

“What? You’re mocking me.”

“I am. What about actors who play roles inconsistent with their ethnicity? Innocuous lyrics to Christmas songs from the ’40s?”

“I’m serious. We live in a world where a xenophobic, rapist, megalomaniac, demagogue was elected president over a qualified woman amid cries of ‘Lock her up’ because she sent emails from the wrong account.”

“That’s why I’m protesting elections. You’re not gonna change anything.”

“Maybe we should protest apathy.”

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Protest by Floridaborne

My name is Ambivalence. I know not of the ways those around me live. I am a ghost condemned to this globe called Earth, searching for my daughter, Kindness.

My world died in the fires of protest, a civilization created by Peace and Prosperity. My crime? I believed our golden era could never end and failed to see Greed stop at nothing to prevail. Greed created disease, and then Greed survived the death of our world, giving birth to Psychopath and Victim.

Five thousand years later, I watch the birth of twins; Obliteration and Apocalypse.

When can I rest?

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Wait to Speak by Jules Dixon

A ghostly hand silenced my heart. Wait to speak it whispered, to hold my truth until I heard their decree of masked respect. But I wouldn’t be told when to scream from the mountains and when to cry from the valleys. My spirit straightened and I bellowed into the night that their ruse of order wasn’t going to work. My triumphant heart sang the words I’d longed to release. Their reaction an unwanted ghost to be banished forever. Now I stand on the podium, my voice strong, my heart wild, my emotion true. My time is now, and ever.

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A Pregnant Protest by Colleen M. Chesebro

Susan squeezed her husband’s hand, turning his knuckles white.

“I’ll never let you into my bed again,” she protested.

Tim nodded his head. “I’m so sorry love,” he whispered.

The contractions began again as Susan shrieked out a primal wail. She panted through the waves of torment.

“You’re almost there,” the doctor murmured, intent on his ministrations. “One more push, Susan, and that should do it.”

Susan closed her eyes in concentration. With one long scream she pushed out the reason for her pain.

The infant resembled his father. A long-tail protruded from the base of his spine.

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Protest by Simon

Fight between two monkeys inside a forest. Both were fighting rigorously and accidentally discovered a chest under the grass. Both monkeys stared at the chest in unison. One of them opened it. Two hands from inside holds both monkeys hand and they both scream and saw vision of a great hero past, died in a protest, fighting the secret enemies disguised as protestors cornered this Hero and pushed to death. But before he died, none of the enemies left protest alive. His rage was incredibly strong, even after he dies his soul now turned dark demon “Coming for you!”

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The Protest by Teresa Grabs

Shouting roared outside as Davey and I huddled in the bathtub. Breaking glass sent shivers up my spine. My fingers ached from gripping the baseball bat as hard as I was, but I promised Mom I would keep him safe. I had to. Sure, he was my little brother and I loved him, but he was so much more than that.

Mom screamed and Dad started shouting vulgarities as a door somewhere in the house burst open. I don’t understand why the humans are protesting. Davey wouldn’t hurt anyone. He wouldn’t.

Unless I tell him to.

“Go ahead, Davey.”

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Confusion’s Blunt Knife by M J Mallon

‘I didn’t do it,’ he howled.

‘Stop your protesting, we saw you!’

‘It wasn’t me, it was them.’

‘Excuses, excuses. Them don’t do that, only this does.’

Confusion handed the boy the knife. It was blunt.

‘Why you always blunt?’ he asked.

‘To see if you will sharpen your mind, you idiot!’

The boy looked lost. He pulled his jacket tight around him searching for the right words.

‘My mind is tired, too wired to remember this: who, did what to whom.’

‘Who, or what are you, boy?’

‘I’m tight wound like this jacket.’

‘Strait, that’s what you are.’

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Protest by Dave Madden

Hundreds stood before the venue’s mouth, pumping signs in the air, screaming for an end to MMA—human cockfighting.

The manner in which these social justice warriors rallied online and postured at anyone trying to cross their fence of fiery flesh, it was unclear whether they were attempting to cancel California’s biggest MMA promotion or start up a new fight league of their own.

A long weekend defending territory, skipping meals in hopes of tipping the scales in their favor, and celebrating victory after effecting attendance.

Too bad the band of misguided protestors never noticed their similarities with MMA.

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Attention/Protest by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Snowmageddon! Stay home if you don’t have to go out! Feels like double-digit negative temps! Treacherous conditions! Freezing drizzle! Mega-storm sweeping the continent, laying waste to everything in its path!

She switched off the t.v., powered down her computer, snapped off background radio reports. She believed the footage:crashes; spinouts; canceled flights; people braving the cold for ice hockey; solo skiing (her, today); folks bundled like pineapples, walking their dogs.

What about those living rough? Surely these people, and the relief efforts, are newsworthy? She grabbed her keys, groceries and blankets loaded into the SUV, and hit the streets.

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The Gorge’s Protest by Nicole Osmond

The Gorge is breathtaking – a natural wonder carved in a mountain. A chiselled masterpiece a million years in the making.

When the rains come the Gorge shouts its fury in protest.

I am forced to look away.

Its rage terrifies me.

When the clouds are vacant and the sun does it wonderous job with full commitment, the Gorge speaks in whispers.

The rage now replaced with a soothing lullaby at times accompanied with a choir of mist that joins in harmony and sings its melody in vibrant colors.

Each soothing note of color stretching to arch its maker.

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In Protest of the Planet by DGKaye

What remains of the trees, struggle to stand tall, casting thin shadows across the water with reflection in their retaliation. Birds make swift exit when the weather turns ominous. Where do humans flee when there’s no longer a safe place to exist?

What remains is nature’s leftovers from man’s thoughtless lashings. Angels band together, looking down from above in God’s sanctuary as God’s planet drowns and burns in salty tears. When will the natives wake? Action is needed now. Let us stand up in defense of the planet against the wrongs of man and start to repair with change.

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At Home in the Land of the Privileged by Bill Engleson

We were stoned that night. I’ll admit that much. Me, anyways. Sitting behind them I was, slumped on our ratty old davenport.
Listening.

Gangster-like they were, huddled at the-steal-at-five-bucks, pink arborite table Rose scored at the Sally Ann. She was the key insurgent in our ménage à pick-a-number. She’d transferred up from Berkeley, following the crimson flame of revolution into Canada.

Tommy was a prairie kid, swooning over Rose, brain-fried by hormones.

Larson. He was something else again.

Angry as a twister.

Larson’s the one who proposed, “one well-placed bullet, comrades. If we’re serious, we need to draw blood.”

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The Protest by Lisa R. Howeler

Fern watched her father gathering his winter clothes together.

“Dad, you’re not going to that protest are you?”

“It’s not a protest, it’s a rally,” he said with a sigh, pulling his woolen har down on his head over his ears.

“But it’s 21 degrees out and you’re — ”

“I know, I’m 76 but age shouldn’t stop me from standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.”

Fern sighed, shaking her head. “Okay, Dad, but I better not get a call from the police that you and Nancy have chained yourselves to the courthouse steps again.”

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Protest by Anita Dawes

Wave your hands in the air

Like you just don’t care!

They do care very much

About the conditions they work in

Too often the loos don’t flush

Water is turned off

Waiting repair

Which takes too long

Poor management in winter

Means working in the cold

This in turn, slows down production

Which means working late

No extra pay

Too many break times cancelled

People become sick

Our floor manager asked

For hot drinks to be made

Every four hours

This went down with management

like a lead balloon

it’s no wonder we’re shouting

and waving our arms…

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World Peace and Beetles by Donna Matthews

My daughter is past curfew. I’m pacing the room, obsessively checking her location on my phone. This new boyfriend of hers is an earth science major. Loves to talk about the planet, climate change, and world peace. He reminds me a little of her father, but I’d never tell her that.

Finally, “I’m home!” she yells from the entryway. My mouth drops open. She’s in bell-bottoms and tie-dye. Her long hair straightened and reeking of patchouli.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Mom! Stay trippy, little hippie!”

On her arm, a little beetle tattoo.

OMG, wrong kind of Beatles.

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Stewardship by Saifun Hassam

Elena was an environmentalist. In her journal she wrote of her exploration of the Ancient Sea. She was fascinated by its history of thriving ports, an abundant sea, ice-capped mountains.

A time came, imperceptible but certain when sea life was less abundant. The ice caps melted. The immense glaciers along the farthest northern shores turned into giant icebergs.

Elena was killed in a protest of the drilling of the ancient seabed for minerals. Her journal was incomplete. Her granddaughter Jessamine found in it the seeds of her own journey as an environmentalist on a planet beyond the Solar System.

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Prompted Protest by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal. Tellin’ ya, Shorty’s all over the map with her prompts. Now a protest story? I cain’t write a protest story.”

“Thinkin’ ya protest too much, Kid. Ever dang week yer protestin’, or is thet jist whinin’? This here could be serious ya know. Stop yer whinin’ an’ complainin’ an consider the plight a them’s thet really git the short end a the rope.”

“Reckin I kin try, Pal, but I ain’t got Shorty’s machinations.”

“Do ya mean ‘magination? It’s a difference ‘tween seemin’ and schemin’.”

“Guess as long as she does the write thing it’s all good.”

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Snowshoe Princess by D. Avery

*Once upon a time Princess Buckaroo lived on a enchanted snow-globe peninsula.*

“Writin’ after all Kid?”

“Yep.”

*One day all the Yooper Scoopers quit shov’lin an’ plowin’. They marched on snowshoes, holdin’ their their shovels up like signs, protestin’ ‘gainst low wages an’ high accumulations a snow.

Princess Buckaroo retreated ta another story.*

“Lit out fer another tale?”

“No, she went upstairs when the first story got snowed over.”

*Snow kep fallin’. The Buckaroo Princess got out on snowshoes as ever’thin’ got buried over.*

“What happened?!”

*The Buckaroo Princess was at new heights; snowshoed right ta her north star.*

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