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June 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

Many hands make light work. Women converged on Lady B’s yard, a twisting wreckage slammed by flood and debris last year. Someone — maybe a county worker — laid down straw last summer which snow matted like unruly hair. Depressed and unable to muck out her yard, Lady B expressed sadness. That’s when we formed an informal rake brigade. With six women and six rakes, we piled leaves and straw, collected debris and shattered ceramic pots. Lady B, 86-years-old, fussed over all of us with graciously served cups of sweet tea.

On Saturday, I’m looking forward to returning with annual plants to splash color in remaining pots, and give my friend something to water and care for each day. My daughter will join her hands with mine to plant, and other women plan long-term garden solutions. Approaching a year after the Father’s Day Floods, my community remains Copper Country Strong.

Across town, all hands are on deck to celebrate the Vet Center’s 40th Anniversary. A BBQ fires up, women set up tables laden with food — sloppy joes, taco salad, fruit salad, cheesy potatoes — and the color guard stands at attention. Vietnam Vets and their spouses stand to receive recognition pins.

But let’s back up past WWII, WWI and the American Civil War to better understand what the Vet Center is all about. President Abe Lincoln made a promise to the surviving soldiers and families of the Civil War. The following opens Miracle of Ducks, my novel-in-progress:

In his second inaugural speech, President Lincoln delivered a remedy of justice to those who have served a nation in times of war, understanding that the price paid by soldiers and their families comes at a cost to the nation:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

To this day, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs operates under a solemn commitment made to those injured in service and vows to take care of the families whose soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice. Less than one percent of US citizens ever serve, giving the entire group of veterans an obscure and minority voice. Veterans rarely speak up for their own justice, making it difficult to receive their benefits for what they endured. It is important that we speak up for them. That we welcome them home, understanding they won’t fit in with the civilians they protected. That we do the one and only thing they ever ask for — “Please take care of my family when I pick up arms for you.”

Those who marry these veterans are loyal. A service to nation that often goes unrecognized.

Miracle of Ducks gives voice to veteran spouses through the story of Danni Gordon. This character has evolved with my own understanding of the service spouses give to the nation. Mary Gauthier, a songwriter who works with veteran families to capture their experiences in song, sings about the War After the War. Here are the lyrics that resonate with the “invisible” spouses:

Who’s gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who went to war
Land mines in the living room eggshells on the floor
I lost myself in the shadow of your honor and your pain
You stare out the window as our dreams go down the drain
Invisible, the war after the war
I’m a soldier too, just like you
Serving something bigger than myself
I serve unseen, caught in between
My pain and the pain of someone else
I’m stronger than you think I am, I’m right here by your side
I am not your enemy I don’t want to fight
There’s no going back in time I know you’re not the same
But you are not the only one for whom the world has changed
Invisible, the war after the war

Yet, the price soldiers and their families pay comes at a cost to the nation. In subsequent wars, US citizens paid taxes to fund war efforts, which is why great thought was given before entering into such a commitment. Those who stayed home planted victory gardens, learned to cook and eat rice so that grains could go overseas to soldiers, went without nylons and other items to ration resources. When soldiers came home, citizens rejoiced with ticker-tape parades. And then came Vietnam, an unpopular war during a time of civil unrest. Soldiers became objects of derision.

The Hub remembers when Georgia hated the Army Rangers. They were barred from businesses and snubbed by society. Grenada changed that attitude and made the Hub wary of fickle views of citizens. He enjoyed getting a parade and allowed in establishments previously off-limits, but he still feels annoyed when someone says, “Thanks for your service.” I’ve tried to understand because I recognize that most people are sincere when they give thanks.

But consider this: Post 9/11 “War on Terrorism” has been the longest US war in history, and yet the smallest percentage of population serves. The toll on physical and mental health is high because of repeat tours. Giving thanks is not what Abraham Lincoln intended. The nation — its citizens — must bear the burden of the cost of war. What does this ideal look like in practice?

Soldiers get medical and mental healthcare without stigma, shame, or pressure to soldier up and take the pain and suffering in silence. That’s the VA’s job. On the homefront, soldiers get readjustment counseling to improve quality of life. That’s the Vet Center’s job. So what do citizens do? They can hire veterans, prevent homelessness, and break down barriers that cause veteran isolation. Isolation kills. Even though veteran suicides have dropped from 22 a day to 20, the VA reports that 14 of those suicides never sought VA services.

And I can tell you why — the VA is difficult to access and penetrate, staff often minimize or ignore concerns, funding goes into marketing a suicide prevention hotline instead of programs that encourage veteran inclusion and fitness, homelessness prevention is nonexistent and does not actually help veterans, and moral injury continues after service. Today, at the open house, I expressed my views based on three years of homelessness and 35 years of VA medical neglect to the regions suicide prevention coordinator. I gave her the view from the other side. And as a spouse, I don’t soldier up, I advocate.

My hands are not alone. As Josh Groban sings in The War at Home, “they are a million strong.” I stand beside my Warrior Sisters. Today, I wept as those of the Vietnam era were honored alongside their husbands with pins that represent their courage and indicate a grateful nation. My husband sat beside me and wept to see his Vietnam era Brothers honored and welcomed home. The Vet Centers exist because the Vietnam vets insisted on helping one another if their country wasn’t going to. The Vet Center exists to keep the promise Abe Lincoln made. It is the legacy of the Vietnam Vets.

Many hands make light work. Won’t you join me in bearing the burdens found in our own hometowns? A better world is not just about veterans. I know we are a global community, but each of us can see and meet the needs of others around us — helping a new mom, visiting the elderly and writing down stories, breaking barriers that isolate vulnerable populations, seeing the humanity in a homeless person, fostering community beautification, giving voice to the voiceless, taking on stories bigger than ourselves. We can all be of service.

June 13, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the work of many hands. Is it a cooperative effort or something else? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 18, 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.

Difficult Decision (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Hands reached out to Danni as she slumped in her chair. “I can’t do it alone,” she said. The women in her group, surrounded her.

Roxie patted Danni’s shoulder. “What do we need to do? I’ll bring my vacuum cleaner.”

Everyone offered to help Danni tackle Ramona’s empty house. She wanted to be angry with Ike for his absence, leaving her to make the decision no one in his family wanted to make. Ramona’s dementia progressed beyond Danni’s ability to keep Ike’s grandmother safe.

“Will she hate me?” Danni asked.

“Nah, she won’t remember you,” said Roxie. “We’ll help.”

June 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

Most of the white beach-washed pebbles are limestone fossils, remnants of a former coral reef. Some are chert with a coating of lime. When I first began hunting rocks on the shores of Lake Superior, I couldn’t tell my limestone from my chert, but with one I learned to recognize glossiness and a microcrystalline structure, and with the other distinct patterns and often a macrocrystaline structure. If I could see crystals like rock sugar, it’s likely a limestone fossil. Yet sometimes — sneaky as metamorphosis can be —  chert can replace the original fossil structure.

A big black tote bag holds all my rocks not yet displayed in window sills or gifted away. The window sills are so nearly mine, I’m taking the chance to clean them. Deep cleaning. Nesting. Rock sorting. I don’t have time to sort rocks, so lively as my days have been, but I find comfort in the process. If my rocks are organized, if I can name them, recognize their details and structures, then everything might yet be okay. I could also go to hell in a big black tote bag, and it will still be okay.

Point is, it’s okay. It’s more than okay. I don’t have to name all the rocks, but I can dream of what I’ll do next with them.

In the span of a week, I spent the night with a ghost, attended and presented at a writing conference out of town, met my next great author mentor, helped my kids  move out of my not-yet house, picked out paint for the walls, got a bed (GOT A BED!), moved from the Rodeo Room to the Happy Trails (named rooms), deep-cleaned kitchen cupboards, swapped out the spice cupboard for the tea cupboard and contemplated how to fill the rest of the pantry, unburied my desk and planned how to live in more space than my previous four foot by two foot corner, spent late nights at the Lake with Cynthia to watch sunsets and listen to cold spring-peeper, talked to my neighbors, talked to my flowers (which confused a neighbor who thought I was telling him to “Grow, baby, grow”), planned curtains with the Hub’s cousin, and buried a grandmother.

Some of these things were more life-altering than others. My neighbors will adjust. Before Sunday, they were my daughter’s neighbors, now they are mine. Now they get to learn I talk to flowers and chipmunks and stare long and hard into the eyes of the stars late at night. It has to be late — I don’t get back from the Lake until dark, and that’s after 11 p.m. My new bed is glorious (do you hear angels singing?), and I’ve been slipping off to sleep earlier than normal. We are adjusting to space. We are preparing to own this space. The Hub leaves a trail of socks and discarded shirts from room to room like he’s marking territory.

Of all these things, the biggest splash came from the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association Writing Conference in Marquette. That’s where I met the ghost and my newest writing heroine. I want to tell you about my teacher, but you’re probably curious about the ghost story and starting to wonder if my new neighbors are right to think I might be a bit off my rocker. So first, the eerie tale.

When I signed up for the writing conference back in November, I didn’t know it would coincide with the weekend my kids would move out, and I was designated Cook to the Movers. Sunday was the official move day, and my conference was all day Saturday, so I canceled my second night and drove home afterward to fix strata and macaroni salad. I drove to Marquette on Friday after Warrior Wives group to attend a dinner for presenters and UPPAA board directors.

A funny thing happens when I get to a hotel — my inner introvert wants to curl up and stay in. But I had a BOGO free card for drinks, a $20 meal credit from the hotel for having signed up for the room during their Spring Fling, and the expectation to show up. Marquette is home to Northern Michigan University, which has a competitive MFA in Creative Writing. This gives the town a strong literary base. From that base, grew UPPAA which welcomes authors of all genres and forms of publication. When they asked for someone to join the marketing panel, I raised my hand.

Let me pause a moment and encourage you to attend regional writing conferences. When I lived in Minneapolis, I attended Loft events, Rain Taxi, and workshops throughout the upper Midwest. When I lived in Idaho, I won a scholarship to attend BinderCon in LA and worked with Montana organizers to bring a satellite BinderCon event to Missoula. Sometimes you have to travel, but the biggest gains are networking and learning the current state of the industry and publication interests. It’s fun, too! Which I told my inner introvert who just wanted to hang out in the room with the purple and lavender wallpaper.

Before dinner, I sat down with ten strangers. After dinner, I parted from new friends. I sat next to a brilliant children’s book author and her seeing eye dog, Floyd. I met a historian who writes about Upper Michigan history, and he told me about his latest discovery — an abandoned quarry where the town was built into the rock like some 1800s Anasazi city. It’s off the grid with no discernable road. I met the incoming UPPA president, one of my co-presenters who publishes regional imprints. Then I met the outgoing president, author of Haunted Marquette. He asked me if I was staying at The Landmark Inn, and I said yes, up on the sixth floor.

“Not the Lilac Room?”

“Uh, yes, the Lilac Room.”

“It’s haunted.”

After a brief chat about the librarian and her lost-at-sea lover, I was warned to check for screws in the bed. Upon retiring to my (haunted) room, I was skeptical. The room was bright and clean and didn’t feel creepy at all. I pulled back the sheets — no screws. Settling into bed, I read and nodded off, waking up to bright lights. I opened my eyes, and it was dark. I flipped on the bedside lamp, feeling a bit uneasy. I chalked it up to the ghost story playing with my mind. But when I turned back off the light and closed my eyes, I could see bright lights. I wondered if I was getting an ocular migraine, a rare occurrence but I’ve had three in my lifetime, and I see bright lights in my periphery. Whatever the phenomenon, it was difficult for me to fall back asleep. So I read and finally drifted off.

In the morning, I thought about my “haunting” and laughed it off as being tired, impressionable, and maybe something weird but explicable with my eyes. On a whim, I tossed back the covers and no screws. No sheet, either. I know there was a  top sheet because I folded back the cover and just used the sheet until I went to bed. I found the sheet at the far corner as if it had been neatly pulled taut all the way down. Not scrunched or kicked down. Pulled. I couldn’t explain it. I turned to coffee, but my Keurig would turn off seconds after I pressed the power button. I gave up, showered, packed, and gratefully left the Lilac Room.

What isn’t in the haunting stories is that the lovelorn librarian hung herself with the sheets in that room.

Okay! Moving on from haunted rooms (don’t let that deter you from going out of town to conferences). On my way out of the hotel, I recognized one of my author, idols. I was surprised because Karen Dionne had been at Finlandia University the week before and I was bummed to have missed her. I try not to idolize authors, but I have great admiration for her breakout novel. I called her by the first name and asked if she was headed to the Peter White Library — turns out she was our keynote speaker. I felt embarrassed that I missed that detail, but thrilled that not only would she be there, but I was walking with her. Karen is lovely and down to earth. And she had just sent off her next novel to her publisher. Like that morning. She rose at 4 a.m. and wrote until 9 a.m.

Good thing she didn’t get the Lilac Room.

I want to share with you, what Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic, says of teachers and why I look to my  favorite authors as mentors, whether they know I exist or not:

“Do you want to study under the great teachers? Is that it? Well, you can find them anywhere. They live on the shelves of your library; they live on the walls of museums; they live in recordings made decades ago. Your teachers don’t even need to be alive to educate you masterfully. No living writer has ever taught me more about plotting and characterization than Charles Dickens has taught me—and needless to say, I never met with him during office hours to discuss it. All I had to do in order to learn from Dickens was to spend years privately studying his novels like they were holy scripture, and then to practice like the devil on my own.”~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Karen Dionne shared with us her story and lessons from her journey. To me, she made a big splash when she said, “Have the temperament to take risks.”

And here I sit, at the end of what’s been a long journey to home, surrounded by all the risks I took to keep writing no matter what. And I will keep going. Don’t quit. Adjust, as needed. Learn. Take a deep breath but don’t quit. Bat-crazy stuff will go down in your life. Sorrows will rise, distractions will tempt. But stay the course. Writing is a journey with disappointing and astonishing destinations along the way. It is the act of writing, of shaping yourself into a Writer. Go catch stories, haunted, real, or imaginary. Find mentors. Take risks. Take risks with your writing and write something that scares you — not ghosts, but pushing into that deep place, feeling uncertain about what is rising to the page. Let it rise. Go write.

It’s been a rough few weeks for me emotionally. And it will be a difficult wait until we close. The Hub is having trouble with the transition, and I have to occasionally escape to the Lake to ground so I can return and practice patience when I want to come unhinged, too. No matter what, I still write. And sort rocks.

June 6, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that makes a big splash. It can be fluid, or you can play with the idiom (to make a big splash is to do or say something that becomes unforgettable). Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 11, 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.

 

Lucinda Arrives (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

The rumble of a Harley echoed across the valley, crushing the crackle of a nighttime bonfire. Ramona leaned forward on her lawn-chair and asked Michael, “Is that her?”

“Yes, that’d be Lucinda.”

Danni hoped Michael’s tension was excitement. Ever since he visited his aunts last fall, he spoke about the Navajo biologist he met at powwow. Lucinda rode her bike from Red Cliff, Wisconsin to Elmira, Idaho.

Rumbling up Danni’s driveway, the woman dressed in fringed black leather stopped and dismounted. Ramona gaped when Lucinda shook thick black hair from her helmet. “Oh, Michael. She’ll make a big splash.”

Strawberries and Mint

A refreshing collection that may send readers to the grocery store, farmers markets, or backyard gardens. The combination of fruit and herb brought out recipes and food-based stories. As with any evocative detail, strawberries and mint also inspired stories to explore emotions and situations, some weirder than you might expect from standard summer garden fare.

Writers bellied up to the challenge, took to the streets, bars and brambles to bring tasty stories to the page. No matter your weather or hemisphere, let strawberries and mint wash your cares away with a good read.

The following are based on the May 30, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes strawberries and mint.

PART I (10-minute read)

Strawberry Queen by Kerry E.B. Black

Mont loved her the moment he caught her stealing strawberries from his Grandmother’s back garden. Her dark hair waved secrets, secrets he longed to share.

Footfalls crushed mint as he crept closer where she gathered berries as if they were rubies.

His family would disapprove. Old money protected itself, especially from dark-eyed thieves, be the theft strawberries or a young heir’s affections.

When she bought silence with a strawberry pressed to ripe lips, Mont cast aside titles and inheritance, his the disregard of one who’d never done without, and pressed a crown of mint onto his strawberry queen’s head.

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Competition by Jo Hawk

Edith set the heavy mixing bowl on the counter and surveyed today’s haul. She absentmindedly patted her chest with her right hand as she thought.

She was tired of strawberry shortcake, and Elenore’s receipt had won for two years running. Strawberry pie was too simple, and Edith’s strawberry jam cookies had competition from Ruth.

She caressed the velvety surface of a large berry.

“Red velvet,” the words slipped from her lips, and an idea formed. Red velvet strawberry cupcakes with minted whipped cream, topped with a huge glazed berry.

“Eat your heart out, Elenore,” she said with a smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Angel on the Bridge by TN Kerr

I met Lavinia in early July
at The Angel on the Bridge
in Henley,
where I came to see the regatta.

I was smitten

I sought to impress
To ply her with food
Strawberries, cream, and a sprig of mint

She turned up her nose

I strove to impress
by quoting the Bard,
Demetrius in Titus Andronicus,
“She is Lavinia, therefore must be loved”

She laughed as I obviously knew not the story

I hoped to impress with my wealth
Alas, I had no wealth, but
She sat with me on the riverbank
She took my hand
She smiled

🥕🥕🥕

Incompatible? by Anne Goodwin

Her taste is traditional, her habit a herb. Whereas he was weaned on fruity flavours and won’t give them up. When they kissed for the first time, their breath was tinged with garlic; tomato and marjoram layered underneath. Neither of them noticed, having picked the same starter and main. At the time, she thought that signalled they’d be soulmates; she happily skipped desert to go back to his flat. Now, rummaging through her washbag, she wonders. When her torso presses closer, her mouth might pull away. Afraid his cloying strawberry toothpaste would defeat her clean fresh shield of mint?

🥕🥕🥕

Double Play by Pete Fanning

Billie sat back, her jaw working the gum. A shortstop with a pitcher’s gleam in her eyes, she blew a bubble, sucked it back in. “The entire team signed this hat, Darryl Strawberry, Len Dysktra, Dwight Gooden, so…” She shrugged. “Take it or leave it.”

I leaned closer. “Why do all the signatures look the same?”

Pop went the bubble. Billie stood. “You know what….”

“Wait.” A lasting glance at the mint condition Ken Griffey Junior rookie card. But that hat, the signatures. I took a breath. “Deal.”

Billie swiped the card. “No take backs.”

Then she was gone.

🥕🥕🥕

Light Up by Ruchira Khanna

“The usual!” Sarah said with a heavy accent to which the bartender was quick to nod and started preparing the concoction.”

She sat there with one of her hand supporting her face while the other was fidgeting with her long brown curls.

The bartender noticed her and could not resist, “Long day?”

She nodded with a yawn.

“Here, this could cheer you up!” he brought the big glass towards her.

Her eyes lit up after a sip, “Wow, who would have thought strawberries and mint could compliment my Screwdriver!”

“Yup! these ingredients can light up anybody’s screwed up day!”

🥕🥕🥕

Flavored by Reena Saxena

They would have flavoured water served to the guests – strawberry, mint and lemon. The mocktails would have pineapple, coconut water as the main ingredients, other than the ubiquitous tomato juice.

It’s not easy planning a party for vegans and teetotallers. She has spent two days scanning recipes online, writing shopping lists and buying the ingredients.

“I told you to have three different flavors of water, not mix strawberry and mint in the same glass. Florence likes strawberry only.”

“It tastes nice. She liked the combination.”

How could I tell now, who had consumed the poisoned glass earmarked for her?

🥕🥕🥕

Blood from a Stone by Jody Perejda

The red flesh of the strawberries entices the birds. Targets for my slingshot practice. I wait. I smell the mint my mom grows to keep ants away from her garden. A sparrow, brown fluttering wings and short beak, hops toward the bait. Left hand holding the Y-shaped frame, right pulling back rubber straps, I let the stone fly. The bird cartwheels. Rigid, stick-like legs point accusingly. I never thought I’d actually hit one. I retrieve the fragile body. I’m shamed by its stillness. I dig, burying the bird, and stab the slingshot into the earth as a grave marker.

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberry Mint Lemonade by H.R.R. Gorman

Jack sidled up to the bar where a single woman sipped her drink. The shimmering lights of the disco ball moved over his face as he waved down a bartender. “Whiskey.” The bartender slid the glass over.

She bit her straw seductively.

“What’s your name?”

“Strawberry.” Her voice had a strange accent. “Strawberry Mint Lemonade. Good to meet you, Whiskey.”

He chuckled. “My name’s Jack – whiskey’s what I’m drinking.”

The beautiful woman tilted her head further than natural. “Is not saying of humans, ‘You are what you eat’?” She grabbed him by the wrist. “What does ‘Jack’ taste like?”

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberries and Mint by Deborah Lee

Becca sips from her garnished glass. “What is this?” she asks, surprised.

“Strawberry and mint,” Michelle tells her.

Becca sips again. “Not bad, for fancy food.”

“Fancy?”

Becca gulps. “New-fangled. Yuppie. Millennial.”

“New-fangled? My grandmother made this, like her grandmother did. It’s old-fashioned as the hills.”

Becca frowns, sips again, raises her glass to Michelle in appreciation. “I was raised by a mother who thought broccoli and eggplant were ‘weird food.’ Her only seasonings were salt and pepper. I learn something new with every meal invitation I get.”

“What shall it be next time?” Michelle laughs. “Saffron? Or lavender?”

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberries and Mint – The Devilish Mojito by Sally Cronin

The witch’s handbook – Spell # 356 – Removal of inhibitions.

The Devilish Mojito

Ingredients

Ten fresh picked Strawberries
Juice half a lime
Six crushed mint leaves
Two ounces white rum
Two ounces dark rum
Pour over crushed ice
Dash of club soda
Sprig of mint to decorate.

Warning:

One drink will increase desire to wear frivolous clothing.
Two drinks will increase desire to dance on tables.
Three drinks will increase desire to remove frivolous clothing.
Four drinks are not advised.

Disclaimer : The handbook accepts no liability for the actions or consequences resulting from the over indulgence of this potion…

🥕🥕🥕

Opportunity Knocked by JulesPaige

misadventure makes
memories as well as plans;
pipers played minuets

The carriage returning the ladies from an afternoon picnic where they had feasted upon wild strawberries and mint tea. T’was embellished that tea. The ladies were feeling no pain. So while through the purple moors they road home by moonlight ignoring the tempest of threats that the Highwayman might strike were ignored. Their driver well thought the ladies welcomed trouble.

“The tread of time is so ruthless that it tramples even the kings under its feet.” Claude spoke to his troupe, when he heard rambling wheels, “Time to dance!”

🥕🥕🥕

Pimm’s O’Clock by Ritu Bhathal

Right.

I’ve laid all the components out.

A jug.
Glasses.
The lemonade is chilled and ready.
Succulent red strawberries just waiting for me to slice them.
A firm, green cucumber, already transformed into slices, then quartered.
A big, juicy orange chopped into little triangles; peel still attached.
Ice. Lots of cool, refreshing ice.
Fresh, minty leaves.
And that beautiful bottle of fruity gin liqueur.

I slowly pour in the alcohol, and add the lemonade, watching the bubbles fizz up.
A big handful of ice, then the assorted fruits.
Just a few leaves of mint.
Perfect.

It’s Pimm’s o’clock now!

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberry Delight by Susan Zutautas

Meg was anxious to make Aunt Alice’s delicious strawberry dessert and was sure that Ian would love it too.

Stopping at the fruit stand on her way home she found a basket of huge berries. Perfect she thought, now to get a lemon.

Back at home she washed the berries, sliced them into a bowl, added the zest of one lemon, then added three tablespoons of sugar, and mixed gently.

After dinner that night Ian commented on the strawberry dessert. “This was really good Meg, have you ever tried making this and adding some mint?”

“That’s what I forgot!”

🥕🥕🥕

Different Tastes by Joanne Fisher

“Ugh! Why do you keep eating strawberries and mint together? I think it’s a disgusting combo!” exclaimed Linda.

“Says the girl who slathers mustard over EVERYTHING! What did I catch you eating the other day? A sandwich with fish fingers, tartare sauce, pickled onions and MUSTARD! It’s like I don’t even know you sometimes!” Rose answered.

“I like mustard. it gives a nice zing to everything.” Linda said defensively.

“Some days I wonder why I married yer.”

“Obviously for my stunning good looks and exquisite taste!” Linda replied beaming a smile at Rose.

They both broke out into laughter.

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberries and Mint by Anita Dawes

Strawberries and ice cream
Under the summer sun
With ice cold lemonade
And a sprig of mint
The best seat at Wimbledon
Venus and Serna playing at their best
Throw in Boris when he was young
Andre Agassi, not forgetting Martina Navratilova
Turn back time, watch Pat Cash climb the stands
Andy Murray, fight year in and out
Henman Hill should be called Andy’s hill
He has earned his place in history
When day is done, I sleep to dream
I am playing each one on hallowed ground
Centre Court
The crowd grow wild as I slay each one…

🥕🥕🥕

Friendships by Saifun Hassam

Teresa loved to eat lunch at the Saturday Farmers’ Market. Her friend Hannah, the owner of “Spuds”, served sandwiches, salads, and one of her special dishes. Today there was pan-fried perch redolent with the aroma of onions, garlic and cumin; fried potato wedges with red pepper flakes; and garden mint chutney.

She was a nurse physician at Lynn Valley Hospital where Hannah’s mother Bev, a former nurse, was a patient counselor. Bev was a wonderful listener, a sounding board for Teresa. They chatted as they enjoyed Hannah’s strawberry pound cake and tea with a hint of ginger and mint.

🥕🥕🥕

Mint Julep by Kelley Farrell

“I love strawberries.”

Helen watched her son pick the pieces apart and stuff them into his waiting mouth.

“What’s your favorite fruit momma?”

Helen never cared much for fruit. A flash of regret seared through her. She ruffled the small boys blonde hair, so different from her own.

He was the reason she was alive so how did he manage to remind her of every failure she possessed?

“I like mint.”

“Is mint a fruit?”

“It is when I add it to my special drink.” No amount of sugar could keep the bourbon from burning all the way down.

🥕🥕🥕

Bedtime Dilemma by Brendan Thomas

“It’s difficult,” Emma exclaimed.

Her father looked exasperated holding pajamas aloft in both hands.

“The strawberry pj’s are my favorite,” five year old Emma said, “But tonight feels minty.”

“Great.” Her father offered mint.

“Hmmm,” Emma said looking at the strawberry.”

It continued until patience was lost, pajamas thrown on bed. “It’s too late. Make a decision, see you tomorrow,” Emma’s father declared retreating from the room.

Emma arrived at breakfast strawberry top, minty bottoms.

“Good compromise,” her father said.

“I woke up and changed from minty top and strawberry bottoms during the night,” she said with a smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberries and Mint by Floridaborne

I remember the day he asked, “Wanna dance?”

I couldn’t say no to those intense brown eyes and six feet of sexy man.

My Roman nose made a platform for glasses so thick they’d never fall off my face, and I hated the space between my teeth. I was wearing a horrible dress with a strawberry and mint design that my mother made.

One glorious night ended in a police raid. I’m pregnant by a serial killer who never got to use the nightmares under his bed.

They say I’m lucky to be alive. I hate strawberries and mint.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Grandma’s Garden by Norah Colvin

Jess blew kisses to Mum, then raced Grandma into the garden. She pulled on her boots and gloves and readied her digging fork. Emulating Grandma, she soaked up explanations of magic combinations that helped plants grow. At the strawberry patch, they filled baskets with ripe red berries. On the way inside, Grandma clipped sprigs of mint.

They dipped strawberries in chocolate and garnished them with mint.

“For Jess?”

“For Mum.

“Birfday?”

“Just —”

Jess inspected the chocolate bowl. “All gone.”

“Stawbwee?” said Jess, pointing to the remaining few.

“For Jess,” smiled Grandma.

Jess munched strawberries and Grandma chewed mint.

🥕🥕🥕

The Garden by Allison Maruska

I clap the dirt off my hands, admiring my work. Rows of vegetables, berries, and herbs adorn my new garden.

“Pitty pwants!” my toddler screeches.

“Yes, pretty plants.” I spot my pre-teen on the deck then focus on my youngest. “Stay here with Sissy. I’m going to wash up.”

Inside, I scrub grit from my fingernails. As I turn off the water, a small voice startles me.

“Pitty pwants!” JJ holds up strawberry plants and mint.

Sighing, I take the greenery that had been in the ground a whole ten minutes.

Maybe it’s a sign to make a mojito.

🥕🥕🥕

Love Game by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Heather clicked the radio buttons, desperate for a station that didn’t play classic rock. She snuck a shocked glance at Mom, behind the wheel, as MGMT’s “Little Dark Age” floated from the speakers.

Mom said nothing, minuscule smile quirking her lips. One point, Mom.

Heather grunted. “Look, I’m going on this lame hike because you’re taking me shopping after.”

“So happy to have your company,” Mom remembered her sparring teen years.

“What’s this?” Heather opened the tin of strawberry breath mints. “Disgusting!”

Mom shrugged.

Heather tossed one in her mouth. “S’good,” she mumbled to the window.

Game, set, match!

🥕🥕🥕

Said No Child Ever by tracey

“Mom, there’s nothing to eat.”

“Sure there is.”

“I can’t find any chips, mac and cheese or lunch meat.”

“Try the garden.”

“The garden?”

“You know, that thing I am always weeding and watering.”

“But that’s just vegetables!”

“So? You like vegetables.”

Door slams.

“What did you find?”

“Spinach and strawberries and green onions! I’m gonna make that salad you made last week. Where’s the recipe for the dressing?”

“This cookbook.”

“This is so good, do you want some? I made extra.”

“Thanks. What’s that in your water?”

“Mint. Quite refreshing in this heat. Want some for your water?

🥕🥕🥕

Mix and Match by Di @ pensitivity101

‘This diet is so BORING! Fruit and salads are so dull!’

‘Have you thought about mixing and matching?’

‘It’s all right for you, you’re already skinny.’

‘I had to work at it though. Have you tried adding a chopped apple to your prawn salad?’

‘No. Is it nice?’

‘Well I like it, and it adds a tangy bite to the lettuce.’

‘OK. What else?’

‘How’s about including cucumber in your stir fries?’

‘I could try that I suppose with mushrooms and sliced carrots.’

‘Cereal and yoghurt?’

‘Duh. Double boring.’

‘Maybe, but add some strawberries and a sprig of mint…’

🥕🥕🥕

The Annual Extravaganza by Roger Shipp

“Dwight, many of the strawberries are ready. Take the basket and pick the ripest; I’ve a mind for a shortcake trifle for the picnic.”

Strawberry trifle was his favorite. Dwight was out like lightening and soon returned with the finest strawberries mouths could desire.

The guests arrived; ravenous men with their genteel lassies. Dinner completed, they went out back for their annual Horseshoe Extravaganza.

“Don’t worry ladies. The icebox is ours.”

Upon its opening, the upper shelf was lined with iced strawberry mint smashes. We adjourned to the Adirondack chairs out back to enjoy the swearin’ and the fuedin’.

🥕🥕🥕

Perennial Memories by Ann Edall-Robson

Occasionally the ranch hands were asked to help thin perennials around the edge of the garden. The greenhorn had been sent and stood smiling beside the compost heap.

“Heard you needed help. Thought I’d get to it.”

Standing at the gate to her dynasty, Mrs. Johnson’s mind staggered. All of her precious mint and wild strawberry plants were gone.

His smile quickly faded to an ‘oh shit’ look of terror on seeing Hanna striding towards him, and Mrs. Johnson had disappeared.

“Do you have any idea what you did here?”

“Pulled weeds. What’s the big deal? They’ll grow back!”

🥕🥕🥕

Lady of the House by Bill Engleson

She was an elegant woman. Even a scruffy twelve-year-old paperboy could see that.

Her mansion, my only mansion, was crawling with ivy.

The lot, pared down by time, by intrusion, rested on a busy corner.

A harried highway.

Usually, my monthly collection, and generous tip, was left in an envelope by the door.

This late summer day, she was there, inviting me in, through to a small, inner rose-infused courtyard.

“Jacqueminot roses,” she said, “A fading passion.”

She smelled of peppermint gum and blossoms.

“I so love strawberries with my tea. Don’t you?”

Decades later, I’m still not sure.

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberries and Mint by Shane Kroetsch

I swipe the sliver of tomato across the grains of salt and pepper on the plate and then pop it in my mouth. I lift up the glass but there’s only a drop of sweet liquid left under the crushed strawberry and browning mint leaf. It’s not worth the sip so I set it back down.

I sit back and interlace my fingers over my satiated belly. The sun is deep orange as it prepares to say goodnight. Off in the distance birds are chittering and singing. I close my eyes and smile, grateful for one last perfect day.

🥕🥕🥕

Maybelle Annabelle Lee by Chelsea Owens

She hummed and danced then danced and hummed, though only Maybelle Annabelle Lee would have called her actions musical. Perhaps a passing bumblebee might’ve appreciated the art, so similar to his own buzz-buzz to nectar from one drunken dip to another.

For that was what Maybelle Annabelle Lee was doing as well: dip, dip, dip into this leafy patch and skim, scoop, skim from that berry bush. As she wavered and wove down what may have been a path she somehow collected enough for her basket.

Then, just as coincidentally, she returned home; gatherings ready for a refreshing sunset.

🥕🥕🥕

Stream of Conscious by Susan Sleggs

This will probably be the last year I come to pick strawberries. It isn’t the same doing it alone. I remember the fun we had when I brought my kids here and then their children. Now, no one is interested in coming along. I wonder if I would hear about it if I didn’t make preserves for each of them anymore. Good thing I still have my mint bed, they do show up the day before they have a party to raid that so they have fresh mint for making mojitoes. Maybe I could make mint jelly next year.

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberries and Mint by Michael Groban

“You can’t kill it,” my neighbour said to me when he gave me a mint plant. “Just keep the water up to it and it will thrive.”

That much was true as the mint in his place had been growing in the same spot for well on fifty years. He had a green thumb, his strawberries grew strongly and produced huge fruit that melted your taste buds. My plants struggled no matter how well I thought I cared for them.

But they survived despite my neglect, and the strawberries look healthy though producing not much fruit to brag about.

🥕🥕🥕

The Global Warming Effect by Hugh W. Roberts

Strawberries and mint! She’d forgotten to order them.

The local shop was too far away to go and get any before her first guests arrived.

A few years ago, she would have gone out into her garden and picked both. How sad that the return of global warming had since not only turned her green garden into a dusty, bone-dry desert but had also robbed her of her love for gardening.

Looking out of her kitchen window, onto the vast Martian landscape, she asked herself again if the human race would ever learn the lessons of their past mistakes.

🥕🥕🥕

A Peek (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

A hardbound journal lay open on Ramona’s bed. Danni reached for it, and  paused, examining the pencil strokes. On one top corner, strawberry plants clustered with leaves, flowers and berries drawn in great detail. On the opposite bottom corner, mint vined in sweeping strokes. Danni smiled. Ramona liked to say, plant your mint across the garden from your strawberries. On the page, the two plants formed a continuous frame around two little girls with identical braids and short gingham dresses, holding hands. All she could see was their backs and the pond they faced. Were these the elusive twins?

🥕🥕🥕

Seeing Red by D. Avery

“Kid! Yer outta yer tree.”

“Yep, Pal, I figger the Ranch is at a safe elevation.”

“The Ranch is safe alright Kid. Not gonna set up in yer Poet tree and mint more buckaroo-ku?”

“Figger ya might need me. What’s her name is claimin’ ta be too busy, might not be around fer the roundup.”

“Kid! Ya done used my old red flannel shirt ta mend yer torn britches. Ya look like a baboon.”

“I like the color, like ripe strawberries. It’s a strawberry patch!”

“Kid, what’s the real reason ya clumb down?”

“Hopin’ Shorty’s gonna make strawberry shortcake.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lunar See by D. Avery

“Why’d ya git us out here, Shorty? It’s mighty dark.”

“I know; it’s the new moon.”

“Where? I cain’t see it. But the stars sure are sparkly.”

“Yep, stars are shinin’ bright ‘cause the moon’s outta sight. Ever’thin’s in alignment.”

“That sounds good, Boss.”

“It is good, Kid. New moon, new beginnings.”

“Ain’t you got enough started?”

“It’s all comin’ ta fruition. Think that’s why the next alignment’s the Strawberry Moon. Now help me pick mint.”

“Hmmff. Pickin’ mint in the dark a the new moon?”

“Yep. Mint’s fer hospitality. Gonna have a home, Kid, where all are welcome.”

🥕🥕🥕

May 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

A chipmunk huddles in a hollow at the base of a stump. She hunkers down beneath dry maple leaves, quivering at my proximity. I ignore her. Go about my planting, aware she is inches from my left Keen. A massive black cauldron, likely a relic left over from copper mining, engulfs the circumference of stump. My daughter says it was a planter long before she bought this house in 2015. It’s hip-height and full of soil. Mullein and the bones of last year’s annuals remain. I’ve come to leave my mark with seedlings.

Beneath the flowering moon of May, I planted a bleeding heart at the corner of the house that was my daughter’s and might yet be mine. It’s an act of faith, gardening. Seeds may or may not germinate, but when they do, life breaks a crust of soil and becomes something. Every day, I water my Brussels sprouts still in eggshells, waiting for a garden. I’ve turned the dirt and wait for the Hub to help me with a few details before I can plant. The kids move this weekend, so I’m waiting. I ask the Hub if he’s excited about the Brussel sprouts, and he says he will be when we harvest. Not until they are on his plate.

That’s too long to wait. I’d lose hope if I didn’t enjoy planting and nourishing. I’d harden if I didn’t love something until it fulfilled its purpose. Yes, that means I’m often disappointed more than most. It’s painful. But the contrast feels real, feels like living. It’s risky business hoping for a home after the crashes we’ve had. I understand his protective stance, but I’m the planter as well as the hunter, going after the potential every day until it arrives.

As a planter, I’m an all-out plantser. Like a writer who crafts by the seat of their pants, I plant wild beneath the full moon and sow where I see potential. My daughter is a planner. She plots her gardens on grid papers and calculates the amount of sun and shade. Her spring garden blooms by design and she thins veg seedlings with measured exactness. I smile at the spreading raspberries, and she tells me, “Mom, you’ll need to weed those suckers mercilessly.” Kind of like the advice to writers — kill your darlings.

But like writing, I must first dream far and wide and get my hands dirty. I believe in writing to explore, to dig deep, to mulch and compost and feed and weed and plant and water and cultivate the story with bare fingers. My wide plantsing knows means errors. I’ll mistake the plant and the sun it needs. I’ll not like how something in the cauldron grows, or maybe it won’t like it. I’ll go soft-hearted and leave in too many seedlings, again. I’ll ignore the creeping raspberry runners,  I’ll plow the margins and plant in clumps.

For the two summers I’ve helped with my daughter’s gardens, I’ve abided by her plans. Tentatively, I’ve bought a few plants, grown the seeds I like. I’ve held onto hope that I might plant and plants. I’ve respected her boundaries, delighting in how different from me she is as a gardener. When I show her my blue cohosh, she asks, “Did you research it?” No, I bought the cutting.

So we are at the cauldron, pressing a myriad of seedlings into the pot along with my cohosh, a wise woman herb. We leave the mullein, and I transplant fleabane from the lawn. She raises an eyebrow. “It’s white,” I say.

The cauldron was her moon garden — all white flowers. We’ll wait and see what grows.

I’m not the only one in this garden who dreams big. I pat the soil gently, and the chipmunk decides she’s waited long enough. She darts over my shoe and dashes down the hole she’s burrowed in the strawberry patch. I know I’ll have to share because I’m not going to evict her. She’s not in the middle of the plants, and even if she burrowed elsewhere, she could still sneak in and steal bites of strawberries. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to let the raspberries ramble.

The chipmunk dreamed of a place with abundance and shelter. But the unexpected arises, too. My old lady dog still remembers chasing gophers in Idaho, and when I walk her past the strawberries, she catches a whiff and old ears perk like a puppy’s in excitement. Bobo doesn’t get around well, so I think the chipmunk will be safe. Maybe we have to be on the lookout for the bad that can happen but not to the exclusion of the flowers and possibilities. With hope, I add to my daughter’s spring garden — something that rambles — catmint. She’s a bit surprised and reminds me that it spreads.

Yes, I’m in a spreading mood. Feather by feather, I plan to unfurl my wings and fly home soon.

***

My friend Cynthia is holding a Homecoming Event to help the Hub, and I plant a new household. We have two lists on Amazon, one for household and one for the future Roberts Street Writerly. Part of the dream I’m planting here is two guest rooms that will be space for visiting writers. Just as we did in Elmira, we offer the rooms without charge and invite the writers to read in the community, privately or at public events. If you want to help us get home, you can find our Household list here and the Roberts Street Writerly list here.

Our new address is:

1112 Roberts Street
Hancock, MI 49930

We still have to close, so keep June 20th in your prayers and positive thoughts. We have contingency plans if the worst happens. I’m familiar with that, but I keep in mind that I have a community and choices. We landed in the right place and will continue to get care for the Hub and even get to NYC for brain scans. Those won’t alter any treatment or definitely diagnose, but it will help track what is going on with his brain and how it could help the next generation of soldiers. I’ll be writing more about CTE, subcussive impacts, and impacts of aging on the veteran’s altered brain over at Medium.

I’ve planned to use my literary art to build awareness for the veteran spouse experience and veteran isolation, which are themes in my WIP. Next, I’ll be workshopping Miracle of Ducks in an MFA program that begins August 12. On Wednesday, I received official notice that SNHU accepted my military benefits. As part of a VA system, that’s a huge hurdle to get over, and I’m so relieved! I have to pay enrollment on Monday, and hopefully, the VA will catch up with me on those payments.

Like a darting chipmunk, I’m going for it all. Strawberries and mint, the fruit and rambles are in sight. And it’s looking beautiful from here. Deep breath! Skitter, skitter, skitter…

May 30, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes strawberries and mint. The combination evokes color contrast, scents, and taste. Where will the combination take you? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 4, 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.

 

A Peek (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

A hardbound journal lay open on Ramona’s bed. Danni reached for it, and  paused, examining the pencil strokes. On one top corner, strawberry plants clustered with leaves, flowers and berries drawn in great detail. On the opposite bottom corner, mint vined in sweeping strokes. Danni smiled. Ramona liked to say, plant your mint across the garden from your strawberries. On the page, the two plants formed a continuous frame around two little girls with identical braids and short gingham dresses, holding hands. All she could see was their backs and the pond they faced. Were these the elusive twins?

Without Ice

Imagine a world without ice. Not just the occasional inconvenience when you run out of cubes in the freezer or your favorite pub has none to offer. What would the world be like without skating ponds, Zambonis or polar ice caps?

Writers explored situations without ice. Some humorous, some stark. Grab a drink on the rocks and read while you still have ice  to clink.

The following is based on the May 23, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story without ice.

PART I (10-minute read)

Without Ice by D. Avery

Archeologist walks into a bar.

“What’ll ya have?”

“Whiskey.”

“Neat?”

“No.”

“Ice?”

“No ice.”

“Water you’ll have?”

“With whiskey.”

“Nice.”

“So, how long have you worked here?”

“Are you digging into my past?”

“Aren’t I an archeologist?”

“Another whiskey ditch?”

“Why would I switch?”

“No ice?”

“Save the ice.”

“Yes, save the ice.”

“How do we save ice?”

“Keep it on ice?”

“How then do you keep that ice?”

“Sawdust. Lots of sawdust.”

“Sawdust?”

“From sawn trees.”

“Sawn trees?”

“Yes. Sawdust insulates the ice, keeps it from melting.”

“Last week’s prompt won’t like this.”

“Another?”

“Yeah. Save the ice.”

🥕🥕🥕

Whiskey Ditch (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Honky-tonk music crackled over speakers, the kind her dad listened to – Merle Haggard. Danni’s boots crunched peanut shells on a floor that hadn’t been swept in years. Not recognizing anyone in particular, she noted the regulars easily – the hovering barflies and closed-eye drunks reliving better days. It’s the kind of place her dad would have entered, leaving her to sit in the cab of his truck, reading a book. For a moment, she felt small again. And it hit her. Ike had really left. Iraq had beckoned him becoming the other woman. Danni ordered a whiskey ditch without ice.

🥕🥕🥕

Kronwalled by Jo Hawk

Ice.

The old-timers spoke the word, reverently. The miracle from their childhood, they waited for it each fall. Water buckets outside the door told them when to don sweaters and hunt for a sheet of holy grail on reservoirs, playgrounds, and ponds. Skates slung over their shoulders, twigs in their hands they gathered for a barnburner and the immortal words, “He shoots. He scores.”

They spoke of gods named Chelios, Esposito, Hall, Horton, Howe, Hull, Mikita, Orr and the Great One—Gretzky. Masters from a vanished game.

Zambonis sat silent and “top shelf” was now Hennessy straight, no Gretzky.

🥕🥕🥕

Pining for Ice by tracey

I was separated from my unit, deployed to a critical spot at a forward operating base.

I worked sixteen-hour shifts catching sleep when I could. The a/c worked just enough to take the edge off the heat. Couldn’t even get a cool shower.

As I ate the peanut butter and crackers in my MRE I looked at the picture my unit had sent. I glanced at their smiling faces gathered around a table in a chow hall but my gaze lingered on the ice filled glasses of sweet tea in front of them as I chugged my lukewarm water.

🥕🥕🥕

To the Victor Go…by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d let the dandelions go unchecked too long. Creeping Charlie was on the march, cannons of blue and green vines poised, ready to trip the unwary.

Nevertheless, she persisted. There were city ordinances and fines to deal with.

She donned her uniform of baggy shorts, stained t-shirt, and tennies from a prior decade. A colossus in her own mind, she revved the lawnmower, bearing down with a determined grimace.

Hours later, she emerged, victorious.

Shedding shoes, leaving a trail of grass and dust, she cracked open the ‘fridge.

No ice for her water, but at least it was wet.

🥕🥕🥕

Scotch On The Rocks by Abhijit Ray

“A large scotch please,” Sam ordered, “and whatever my friend wants.”

After a hard couple of days of business meeting, friends decided to relax on the final evening.

“Shall I bring the ice separately?” asked the waiter, “and for you sir, what should I get you?”

“Make one large peg, no ice.” Som asked mocking, “What exactly are these rocks, anyway? Would you stop drinking, if you you run out of ice?”

“How do you drink your whiskey, Som?!”

“Neat, ofcourse!” answered Som, “why waste money and good scotch whiskey. If you are thirsty, drink water, don’t waste alcohol.”

🥕🥕🥕

Whiskey Snobbery by Kerry E.B. Black

No shooters. Refined aficionados converged.

Paul, the tender, inwardly groaned. “Of all days.”

A couple slapped bills atop the gleaming bar. “Double malts.”

“So far, so good,” Paul poured liquid amber into Glencairn glasses.

Paul presented three orders before the dreaded request.

“On the rocks.”

Paul quaked. No ice in a broken freezer. Sweat tickled his face.

The group bristled. “You’re ordering wrong, Son.” “A drop of water, maybe.” “Not on the rocks.” “Even ice balls dilute spirits.”

A blush spread across the offender’s face. “I meant neat.”

Relief flooded as Paul poured, reputation intact thanks to whiskey snobbery.

🥕🥕🥕

Red Wine by Sarah Brentyn

She always added ice to red wine. Reds should be enjoyed at room temperature and I wasn’t shy about saying so. I guess I shouldn’t have picked on her for such a thing.

It annoyed me.

She’d chill a bottle of Chardonnay in the cooler and leave a Merlot on the counter. Why add ice?

She stirred the glass with her finger and I could hear sloshing and clinking. It grossed me out but I never said.

It was the sound of unhappiness. And that, too, annoyed me. At the gathering after her funeral, I ordered red wine, without ice.

🥕🥕🥕

Cold as Ice by Di @pensitivity101

Another day, another boring evening.

Something smelt nice and he lifted the lid on the pan to have a taste.

‘I wouldn’t,’ she said. ‘That’s for the dogs. Your dinner’s in the fridge.’

Chicken salad again. Great. Not even new potatoes.

He sighed, got a glass and peered into the freezer.

‘There’s no ice Honey.’ he said.

‘Tough. Have tea instead.’

‘I don’t want tea.’

‘Coffee then.’

‘I don’t want coffee. Any beer?’

‘No.’

The dogs were getting excited for their supper as she spooned it into their bowls.

‘I’m off down the pub,’ he said.

‘Sure.’ she replied.

🥕🥕🥕

Ice Between Us by Reena Saxena

“There you go – messing it up again. Why can’t you ever get things done right?”

Martha’s shrill voice pierces my soul. I let my imagination go astray – a life without being blamed for every inconsequential act or mishap, a life with total freedom of doing things my way. The heat of a mismatched marriage was searing my sanity.

How I wished to be on non-speaking terms with her – several hours being whiled away without speaking a word, as it happened in the early stages of our relationship.

How I wished for the ice between us to build up again…

🥕🥕🥕

Sex on Ice by Anne Goodwin

No ice could kill their ardour. Nor would they want it to. But what fun to test it out with a second honeymoon at an ice hotel.

Bucket-list experiences are pricey, especially half a world away. Through years of sweltering summers, they dreamed of making love on ice blocks topped with reindeer hides, of sipping vodka from glasses made of ice.

Their lust still flamed when they finally found the funds to finance it. They made love, put champagne on ice and went to book it. Unfortunately, climate change got there first. No ice, but meltwater, swelling the seas.

🥕🥕🥕

No Ice Tonight by Kay Kingsley

We sat on the patio in the heat of the summer night listening to frogs and bird’s banter in the distance.

There was so much to say yet we sat there in anxious silence as the last seconds of calm before our storm expired like sand in an hourglass.

The tension was palpable.

Who’d throw the first arguments punch?

She opened her mouth to speak and I panicked, “Drink?”

I got up and heard the screen door slam behind me.

Normally, we sipped our whiskey on the rocks but tonight, no amount of ice would put out this fire.

🥕🥕🥕

Without Ice by Ann Edall-Robson

Thwunk. Quiet. Thwunk.

He watched Hanna from the shadow of the cookhouse. A glass of lemonade, without ice, in his hand. That’s how she liked it.

With each swing of the axe, she sent wood flying. Methodically stopping to stack the split pieces before settling the next chunk of wood in place.

“Why aren’t you using the splitter?”

Wiping the sweat from her brow, Hanna gave him a sarcastic look with a lopsided grin.

“And miss working off some steam?”

Tal wondered what had ticked her off. He hoped it wasn’t him.

Stepping closer, he offered her the glass.

🥕🥕🥕

Freezer Woes by Carol Arcus

I woke up terrified.

Last cyclone season was horrible, power cuts, no air-con.

Eating that half defrosted food meant I was sick, vomiting for days.

I stared into the freezer.

Carefully packaged cut bananas for smoothies.

Ice cubes for those tropical nights.

Frozen lasagne and steaks.

All would useless soon, when the power lines came down.

“Do you want to have a party, make some smoothies, fire up the grill?”

We drank gin and vodka, banana smoothies and grilled maniacally.

I woke needing to vomit. I found the cyclone had turned and I had no ice in the freezer.

🥕🥕🥕

Removing the Glaze of Grief by JulesPaige

independence lost
calm weather would not, could not
ease the burn of pain

Just when had it happened and really did it matter. Marge and Tina were talking. There were years that a berg had been between them. The base had spread through misunderstanding the others youth. But they had to join forces now. Dad needed them, now at a loss without Mom. Her illness had started slow, gained strength and then within moment froze the life out of the woman, as well as the man who had adored her. Now if they could just get James on board.

🥕🥕🥕

In That in Between Time by Saifun Hassam

In that in between time
In that slip space
Fall drifted into winter
Night drifted into day
No ice clouds drifted across skies
Dry cool air drifted over valleys
Cool waters lapped lake shores
No icy vapor, no needle thin ice flowers
Prairie and meadow summer blooms
Yellow and purple and pink ironweed
Long faded on tall stems
Swaying ever so wistfully in the cool breeze
No petals of frost flowers at dawn
No icy ribbons on fallen pines.
In the open seas of the Arctic
frost flowers drifted melting
In that in between time
In that slip space.

🥕🥕🥕

No Ice for Cassandra by Gordon Le Pard

Jane Austen smiled at her sister’s letter, she enjoyed hearing from Cassandra, but sometimes her letters just contained a litany of complaints. Some, such as missing seeing the King and Queen were reasonable enough, but a lack of Ice! In September! After a hot summer! Really.

She picked up her pen, tucked her tongue firmly in her cheek, and wrote;

“Your account of Weymouth contains nothing which strikes me so forcibly as there being no Ice in the Town. Weymouth is altogether a shocking place I perceive, without recommendation of any kind, only suitable for the inhabitants of Gloucester!”

🥕🥕🥕

Titanic, The Maiden Voyage by TN Kerr

Birdie stood at the top deck railing smiling and waving; holding her hat in the breeze. Edward stood stoically nearby, as he imagined a new husband should do.

While the crew cast off lines and got underway Birdie turned to Edward, “I’m terrified. What if the weather takes a turn and the ship flounders?”

“Rest assured, darling,” he replied, “We’re aboard the pride of the White Star Line, she’s unsinkable.” They retired to their stateroom, where Birdie remained, panicked, for the duration of the voyage.”

Eight days later the newlyweds disembarked in New York and began their life together.

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Safety Precautions by Nicole Horlings

The boy wriggled through the crowded fair, determined to make it to the dragon exhibit before it closed. He’d been waiting for this moment for months, ever since he saw the advertisement in the paper.

“Three tickets to hold a baby dragon,” he said, thrusting the crumpled slips into the attendant’s hand. He’d made it just in time, and there wasn’t even a line up.

“Sorry kiddo. Exhibit’s closed.”

“But it ain’t six yet!” He shoved his watch in the attendant’s face.

“We’re out of ice, and our safety contract says we need ice in case you get burned.”

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Let’s Hear it for Ice by Norah Colvin

A world without ice —
That made me think tw—
Two times.

A world without ice
Would not be so n—
Pleasant.

We couldn’t play games
With a six-sided d—
Numbered cube.

We couldn’t have fries
With a side-serve of r—
Food grain.

Our food would be bland
Without pinches of sp—
Flavour.

A world without ice
Where rule is by v—
Badness.

A world without ice
We’d all pay the pr—
Cost.

A world without ice
I’d say in a tr—
Moment.

A world without ice
I’d even say thr—
Three times

Would never
Could never
Be anything nice!

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New Way of Talking by Annette Rochelle Aben

A world without ice, how could that happen? What would cats do, with no rodents to chase? And think of everyone stressing out because they’d have to nail it the first time, because they can’t repeat anything.

We’d have nothing to toss at weddings AND Chinese food would be pretty darn boring.

Some might like it, because they could just be mean and never have to change.

Where fewer words normally worked, you’d have to say, “How much does that cost?”

With all the sage wisdom I have accumulated over the years; a world without ice, would be, cold.

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Part II (10-minute read)

Lawmaker Has Shocking Epiphany about Climate Change by Molly Stevens

“The walrus’s testimony was convincing,” said senator Doughty. “But I wanted to walk out of the hearing when he started rambling about shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings, and whether pigs have wings. I’m sorry he’s endangered, but I don’t believe the ice cap is melting. Or that the time has come to ask, ‘why the sea is boiling hot.'”

The server approached, and the senator said, “I’ll have the lobster.”

“Lobsters have had a pleasant run. But with higher ocean temps, we’ve eaten every one!”

With sobs and tears, he squealed, “Climate change is real!”

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On The Rocks… Or Not? by Ritu Bhathal

“Hey, Sam, get me a scotch. On the rocks. Actually, make it a double.” James loosened his tie.

Some day it had been.

Markets were rocky with this whole Brexit fiasco, and then that Theresa May announced her departure from being the Prime

Minister… Things went haywire.

What with client calls, deals falling through, share prices dropping, he deserved a stiff drink, diluted only by that melting ice…

“Sorry, Boss, we’ve run out of ice. The machine’s on the blink. Typical on a hot day like this.”

James sighed. Guess it was a day that warranted a neat shot.

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Not Ice by Bill Engleson

“I trust you got the notice?”

“Notice?”

“Yes. The Intergalactic Commissions Epistle on Global Defrosting.”

“Oh, yes. The ICE Notice on Not Ice. I got it.”

“Whew. Good. Everyone needs to be in the loop. Communications have been patchy.”

“Everyone? Even…?”

“The Holdouts? Sadly, there’re still a few. The ones who can make their own cubes. You know, at home. So selfish. I’ve got mine, they say. I’m good.”

“And what about…you know…?”

“Ah! The Impeachable Colluding Entity? He’ll be the death of us. We have the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he says. Global Warming be damned.”

“So sad!”

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Sadly Starving by Susan Zutautas

The mama bear and her cub were getting tired, so they stopped for the night. They were traveling towards Churchill, Manitoba on Hudson Bay, the polar bear capital of the world. Here they would be able to hunt for ringed seals. Sadly, not knowing about climate change, the ice normally on Hudson Bay was late coming this year.

The bears are hungry

Starving, anticipating

Ice to appear soon

When arriving in Churchill they came upon many other polar bears and new friendships began.

Finally, when the ice formed, it was game on for seal hunting.

Still many would die.

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A Mother’s Dilemma…by Sally Cronin

My cubs and I swim further each day between melting ice floes. Some are only strong enough to carry the weight of my babies as they rest, at the limit of their strength. The seals that I hunt are also disappearing without a safe place to gather between fishing. I need to eat soon if we are all to survive. I may have to return to land and into the world of humans. Their waste food may be our only chance. They fear and hate my kind and there is great risk. But soon I will have no choice.

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Life is Beautiful! by Anurag Bakhshi

I finished my 20th lap in the heated swimming pool and came out, drying my wet hair with a towel.
I pressed the button on the remote, and messaged my butler to get me some Beluga Caviar. As I waited, I looked at my luxurious surroundings…and thanked my lucky stars once again for global warming, which had pushed us polar bears to evolve enough to take over the world.

My Man was still not here. It was so difficult to get good help these days.

I shouted in exasperation, “Donald Trump…get your lazy ass here right now”.

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Inaction by wilnako

Sticky and salty, sweat dripping off me.

I feel the desert, all-consuming.

Burning hot sand under my feet, sun burning my cheeks.

I’m burning up, my body shaking the world won’t stop turning.

I moan and groan while polar bears have no home.

Icy lands a fading memory

what am I doing here I should be helping!

I do one last squat, one last puff, one last jump

I collapse on the floor, my fats giggling and jiggling.

The problems of the world were what?

Forgotten, phone in my hand.

Procrastination.

Distraction.

My inaction.

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It Was Only After…by Joanne Fisher

It was only after the sea ice disappeared from the polar regions. It was only after the ice sheets collapsed into the sea creating mega-tsunamis that wiped out coastlines. It was only after the permafrost melted releasing ancient viruses killing millions. It was only after violent storms appeared on a scale never seen before. It was only after the oceans died.

It was only after all this that the people who thought it was all a hoax or simply thought it would never affect them realised that something needed to be done.

But by then it was too late.

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Without Ice by Frank Hubeny

Bart looked left and right at the majestic Atlantic Ocean, the blue skies and hot sandy beaches. It was 90 degrees. He told the real estate agent, “I suppose if the global economy heats up so much that the ice caps melted then all of these high-rise condos would turn into part of the Everglades.”

“I’ve been waiting for it to happen for over two decades.”

“This place could sink into the ocean. I wonder who’d want to live here then?”

“I’m sure the alligators wouldn’t mind.”

Bart agreed with the agent: Better buy while the ground’s still dry.

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Back From the Warmth by Eric Pone

At 16 April is as far from summer as Earth is to her moon. A distant memory that longs to spring forth into common memory.  As Andrea looked out at the long prairie-like expanse of green that was Anoka Senior High’s front lawn she sighed as her senior high social teacher droned on about the importance of Indian Mounds. The red sedan came up the driveway slowly yet deliberately. The man getting out was a tall elegant man of dark complexion with salt and pepper hair. The ice was gone but salt between them remained. Dad was back …again…damn.

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The Last Voyage by Miriam

“Where are we going, honey?”

“Real estate office.”

“Again?”

“They have a new listing.”

“Anything bigger?”

“Yes, a living quarter of 300 square feet, a share of 8 square feet of vegetable patch in the atrium, and a 5 square feet chicken farm.”

“How much time do we have?”

“Billions of people live on house ships already. We’re the last group. The ice from Arctic and Antarctic is melting fast. The ocean level has raised one inch a year for centuries. The last pieces of ice will collapse any minute.”

“Our ancestors couldn’t perceive us living on house ships.”

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Taking Ice With A Pinch Of Salt by Geoff Le Pard

‘Ice with it?’

‘My dad said that was sacrilege.’

‘He liked his scotch warm?’

‘He didn’t like scotch. He just didn’t like others having it with ice. He was a G&T man.’

‘No ice?’

‘Always ice and a slice.’

‘Bit of an odd relationship with ice.’

‘He called me Ice.’

‘Why? He can’t have thought you were cool.’

‘I found it in his phone. My contact was “Ice”. I liked that.’

‘You doofus. It means ‘In Case Of Emergency. You were his nominated contact.’

‘Really? Oh well. At least I was his best pick.’

‘From a small field.’

‘True.’

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Cooler Warming Part 1 by D. Avery

“Marge, any ice cubes left in the cooler for my beer margarita*?”

“Outta ice, we’ll have to finish framing the shed under less than ideal conditions, though there’s still beer, thank goodness.”

“It’s a cycle, Ilene, we run out of ice sometimes, but it’ll come back, like I told my nephew when he said the polar icecaps are melting.”

“Nard, you didn’t spread lies to that boy about climate change!”

“Told him things work in cycles, Marge, told him not to worry, then took him fishing.”

Kristof whispered, “Leave it, Marge, he knows; Nard cried so hard that night.”

***

Cooler Warming Part 2 by D. Avery

Both muttering about needing something, Marge stomped stage left up the steps into the singlewide, Nard stalked stage right off to his truck leaving the others in the glare of the halogen work lamps.

“What just happened?”

“Anger flashes bright burning flame, Dark dusty ashes smoldering blame.”

“What Lloyd’s trying to say, Ernest, is our beloveds have been spoiling for a fight. They’d rather feel anger than grief or fear.”

“Oh. Thanks Kristof. You deal with yours, I’ll go see about mine.”

“Marge?”

“Just seeing if the ice trays are frozen yet.”

Ernest hugged her. “I’m afraid too, Marge.”

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Ice Removal by Susan Sleggs

When we go to bed at home it’s silent. Not so in a hotel. That little refrigerator always makes distressing noises. I turn it off and prop open the door. Feeling I’ve overcome the demon, my husband and I lounge and read. CRASH! A few expletives fly and we are both standing looking around. What was that? Nothing appears broken or moved. Peeking out from the fridge door is a half inch slab of ice. I have unwittingly defrosted the freezer. Ice falling on plastic is noisy. We laugh away our adrenaline. Husband remarks, “There’s no ice build-up now.”

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Without Ice by Anna-Maria Amato

The sterile stone building was brightened, one day with the sculptures, installations images on the wall. The overly opinionated middle aged women, the distracted students, the stuffy middle class men, the wanna-be artists who thought that getting involved would draw attention to their own practise, which was lacking in everything except a degree. They were all being told that global warming was a major concern. That ice, in this world, was so scarce several years ago, now no longer existed. They seemed concerned as they looked around the building they knew, now covered in messages. Where is the ice?

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Ice by Roberta Eaton

As we stepped outside, a chilly wind embraced us, making my eyes sting and water. The cold of the air felt more intense than when we had arrived a few hours ago and more white flakes flew from the dark sky. Our feet crunched on ice encrusted grass as we trudged across a wide expanse of lawn towards the first outhouse. Dizziness and confusion gripped me and thought I might collapse, but, drawing a few reviving and slow breaths, I managed to reach the small building and open the door. I stepped into its shelter, dragging Thomas after me.

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Searching for Diamonds in the Rough by JulesPaige

The replicator could create many things in space. Synthesized alcohol, drugs for healing any number of species, humanoid or not. Even books. But it could not recreate ice.

Which was partly why Sherman had gotten involved with this crew. They were to explore and to a point exploit those silent balls of ice where no life lived. The trick would be finding any. Most of the nearest systems had been over harvested.

Sherman’s secondary reason, that he had kept hidden from the crew was that he was a Glaciologist. He wanted core samples of ice to read its history.

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Ice, Ice Everywhere, But Nary a Place to Skate by H.R.R. Gorman

Fourchad took the first step on planet Khione, entirely blanketed with ice, ripe for exploitation. They’d melt the ice and create water for the colony.

Brevard scraped a sample of the ice into her scanner. “Something’s not right.”

“What is it?”

“Water has unique physical properties – the weight of your body should add enough pressure to turn the ice into water and cause you to slip.”

Fourchad’s heart skipped a beat. “If it’s not ice, what is it?”

“Scanner says carbon dioxide. Dry ice.”

Wind chilled their hearts and the dead planet. They didn’t have the fuel to leave.

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Without Ice by Floridaborne

Hamara wriggled in her wooden seat.  A daily Bible reading.  Boring.

“In the beginning, Yawina created cities.  She commanded people to be good stewards of the Earth, but they began to worship Phone. They chattered with others anywhere on the planet, and sought to become one with Phone. They built mountains of garbage as tribute to his wife, Consumerisma.  Yawina warned her people, Do not forsake me or I will tilt this planet. They did not listen! Down came towers of Phone!  Yawina warned Righteousness, “Enter caves!” Then turned glaciers to water.”

Why must she endure mythology in 19392?

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Shortchanged by Joanne Fisher

I booked passage to a small blue-green planet. I was assured it had a nice temperate climate and polar ice caps. However when I got there I found it was extremely warm and there was no ice to be seen anywhere.

I complained to the travel company about false advertising, but was told that while traveling there the planet had an unprecedented warming period due to the indigenous bipedal primates and their attempts at industrialisation. The company said it was regrettable but they couldn’t accept any responsibility since all this occurred while I was still in transit.

Well really!

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With a Paddle? by D. Avery

“Hey, Ranger.”
“Pal. Where’s your side-kick?”
“You mean that pain in the ass Kid? Up a tree.”
“Is Kid stuck again?”
“Claims not, but chooses ta stay, come ‘hellish high water’. So sayeth the Kid. Kid’s kinda freaked ‘bout meltin’ glaciers and risin’ waters.”
“Want me to climb up there, have a chat?”
“Naw, let’s enjoy the peace and quiet. Kid’ll come down at the first whiff a bacon.”
“You going to cook up some bacon?”
“Naw. Anyway, Kid’s onta buckaroo-ku.”

*Impermanent frosts
ancient glaciers speeding by
unnatural nature
Kid paddles in poet tree
Asses below, heads in sand*

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May 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

Work, work, and more work. If you want to know why my daughter is living on the Svalbard Archipelago, she’s there to work. Her partner is head chef at a top restaurant that caters to eco-tourists, and given that he’s fed scientists in Antartica and elite lodgers in Alaska, he’s no stranger to cooking on ice. She went with him for a few months, which turned into a year and a half.

Rock Climber lives on an arctic chain of islands in Norway, working in all the restaurants. Off-shift for one, another calls her in to wait tables or tend bar. She has the effervescent personality of a wandering bard, and I can understand why hospitality on one of the world’s most remote arctic places holds her in high demand. To get to work, she often has to travel by boat or plane. Stories bubble up all around her.

If you’re wondering why I have Rock Climber on the brain, it’s because she’s back on land, among trees, and in Montana for a friend’s wedding. This means cell-phone service! On ice, I rarely get to communicate with my daughter, just crossed messages. When she calls, my heart soars, and I soak up her stories and laughter and love. She might be the Sgt.’s daughter, the wild child of a US Army Ranger, but she’s 100 percent buckaroo storyteller.

I call my daughter Rock Climber because she embraces the thrill of the climb. A kinesthetic learner, she masters hand-holds and knows where her body is mid-tumble. For years, she competed in gymnastics. Now, she is the Polar Bear Whisperer. I’m not sure I like that designation because it implies that the bears seek her out.

One night, at a place where she works, a bear broke into the wine cellar and feasted on the fine vintage and chocolate. She says it was a bear after her own heart! As long as the bear only eats her chocolate and not her internal organs. When they go out of town past the guards, they carry rifles and flare guns, not to shoot the bears but to scare them off.

She tells me about commuting to work on a Zodiac, which are the same boats the Hub managed as the lead combat diver for his Ranger unit back in the early ’80s. The arctic sea spray leaves crusts of ice in her ears, and she has to wear a survival suit with a beacon. On one trip, the sea rolled and dipped as the boat cut through the waves. Rock Climber and her partner stayed at the bow, and when it tipped downward, two walruses emerged. These behemoths pack tusks, and she says she fears them more than polar bears.

Yet, like polar bears, they are dying.

The reality of climate change impacted the polar regions of our world first. Think of the Arctic as our canary in the coal mine. If you aren’t familiar with that phrase, let me explain. Coal mines emit deadly gases that will kill a caged bird before building up to levels lethal enough to kill miners. It can’t be detected until it’s too late. To say the Arctic is the canary means that our planet is changing so rapidly that species are dying. The bi-peds who can actually understand this and do something about it choose to agitate their fellows into arguing semantics and causes in a stupendous show of disregard for our environment. It’s like the American politicians spin the death of the canary into myth and convince constituents that rising sea levels are nothing more than falling rocks.

Walruses are falling into the ocean. From cliffs high above the northern waters where they feed, they plummet to their deaths, front flappers wobbling like hopeless wings. Their carcasses litter miles and miles of Svalbard. My daughter fears a walrus tusk ripping apart her commuter boat on frigid seas, but she cares about their well-being. They are not well, the flightless walruses. Once, they rose above waters to dry out in the sun on the shelves of ice. Now, icemelt forces them up dangerous cliffs to sunbathe. Without ice, they endanger their own lives.

Without ice, we endanger our lives, too.

Rock Climber tells me human bodies don’t decompose in the permafrost. If you think this is a gruesome statement, hold on, you haven’t heard the story, yet. In 1998 a crew of gravediggers from London punched their way through the ice to solve a global puzzle — what killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people worldwide during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic? Because permafrost preserves bodies, and what remains in them, scientists hired professional gravediggers to hack into a mass grave of seven coal miners who arrived near Longyearbyen already sick with the flu in 1918.

Today, without ice, these graves pose a biological disaster waiting to be released by the unprecedented mudslides in the region. Before Rock Climber arrived, an avalanche wiped out the rental her partner arranged. For the first year, the two of them couch-surfed between the various islands.  Svalbard is no stranger to the oddities of humanity arriving at the land of the midnight sun and retreating ice. Climate change, epidemics, mining, and tourism all in one place.

But not cats. Cats — and dying — are forbidden on Svalbard. Because of the isolated ecosystem, cats are banned to protect migrating birds. Also, a rabies outbreak started last year in 2018. Polar foxes contract the disease, as well as reindeer. Rock Climber has witnessed rabid reindeer, which makes me imagine Santa Claus horror stories.

For now, my daughter is happy to be stateside where polar bears don’t eat her chocolate, and people speak her native language. She loves trees and this planet. She lives at ground zero of a planet changing. Life is full of contradictions.

Denial wraps us up in a comforting blanket while we whisper the boogeyman away from under our beds. But to ponder walruses that can’t fly, polar bears that starve, and biology ripe for a zombie-apocalypse plotline seem horrific alternatives. The Beauty Way of the Navajo teaches that for all things out of context with life, we bring them back to the natural order. In a way, that’s what writers do.

We can write into the Shadowlands, shape what a world of great loss looks like, offer warnings more tangible than a flat-lined canary. We can write satire, use humor to call out political leaders making up science, or erasing it. We can write into the wave where the walrus yet live, put readers in the bow of a Zodiac prepared to journey to the center of their minds. We are writers. We can imagine the possibilities.

I can hear it in my daughter’s voice no matter the story — sad, funny, surprising — I can hear life.

In the end, it’s not about work. It’s not about what we did to save or end the planet. It’s all in how we live today. They say we only live once. But writers get many lives. Catch all the stories you can. Write them down. Find beauty among the rock outcroppings.

May 23, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story without ice. It can be a world without ice or a summer camp that runs out of cubes for lemonade. What does the lack mean to the story? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 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.

 

Whiskey Ditch (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Honky-tonk music crackled over speakers, the kind her dad listened to – Merle Haggard. Danni’s boots crunched peanut shells on a floor that hadn’t been swept in years. Not recognizing anyone in particular, she noted the regulars easily – the hovering barflies and closed-eye drunks reliving better days. It’s the kind of place her dad would have entered, leaving her to sit in the cab of his truck, reading a book. For a moment, she felt small again. And it hit her. Ike had really left. Iraq had beckoned him becoming the other woman. Danni ordered a whiskey ditch without ice.

Seeking Trees

Trees root us to life. Traditionally, cultures believed trees to be life-giving, and modern science proves our ancestors were right. Trees provide oxegyn, shade and building materials. What would a world without trees look like? Life in the extreme polar regions hints at the bleakness — we would miss trees.

Writers explored all that trees have to offer. Some wondered what their loss might mean.

The following are based on the May 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that goes in search of trees.

PART I (10-minute read)

Planning a Poem by TNKerr

The hour is early – predawn.

The clouds – vanished,

the storm – over,

the moon – full.

I shiver by the back window, listening to some nameless chanteuse croon and confess from the confines of the FM dial.

Warming my hands on a cup of tea, I watch the last two leafs in the tree.

They dance in the moonlight. Embracing, spinning, reaching – enjoying one another.

Caressing like lovers until one falls away; surrendering to the pressure of the wind and the weight of the clinging raindrops.

The fallen leaf touches down. I pore over archaic words and phrases, planning a poem.

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Knowledge of Tree by D. Avery

He’d gone to her, as most did, as a last resort.

“The peace you seek is held by a special tree.”

And so he wandered. He’d crossed desert landscapes and alpine heights but none of the few trees encountered were the one. Deep in the forests he searched among the many trees, seeking the special one.

After many seasons he knew well the different tribes of trees, recognized their many gifts. Resting now, back against a sturdy trunk, cooled by the leafy whispering shade, he realized he had long ago ceased to search for the one. He sighed, content.

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The Golden Tree by Gordon Le Pard

The tree was new to him, a massive silver needled pine. He climbed off his horse and walked slowly round the fallen giant, in the root plate he noticed a yellow glint, carelessly he dropped the golden nugget in his pocket, then found what he was looking for. In what had been the topmost branches were mature cones. Carefully he collected the seed.

His letter to Kew began; “Wonderful discoveries, you must think I have been manufacturing pines, I have found so many.”

He never mentioned the gold, to the plant hunter David Douglas, trees were much more important.

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The Last Forest by H.R.R. Gorman

I plodded into the forest with a tape measure. The age of a tree couldn’t be divined without coring, but I don’t have that equipment. Size will have to suffice.

Grandma once told me that the forests hold memories and grudges. She taught me how to ask forgiveness from the apple tree in the backyard, to seek the oldest tree for the absolution from a grove.

I decorated what limbs I could with prayer tags. “Please, don’t leave. Please grow again.”

It didn’t work, but maybe that wasn’t the oldest. A lot of trees had a five inch diameter.

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Lucy Lockett’s Missing Trees by JulesPaige

within a mist dream
desert sands cover the land
cacti arms blooming

Where is the sprocket, asks Lucy Lockett
To turn on the watering hose, who knows?
Where are the oaks and willows, north moss for pillows
In this dust dream of desert rust?
Show me a sign, with an arrow to the Pine.

within a mist dream
Haleakala rises high
date palms far below

Where’s the maples and wild crab apples.
Tossing and turning, is a fever burning?
And where’s the spade, I laid?
A plum, peach, yes one of each!
Let a ripe apricot, hit the spot!

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Oh Tannenbaum by Annette Rochelle Aben

The local radio station announced they were reviving a time-honored tradition for the holidays. The Carol Tree would “dance” to the music and all were invited to gather around to witness the jolly sight.

She had never heard of such a thing but needed to be there. It did not disappoint! Bright colored strings of holiday lights were blinking in time to the rock and roll oldies pumped through the speakers at the base of the stately pine tree. Oh, so much fun and it was difficult to know who had a better time, the people or the tree.

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Tree Search Exclusive Tours, Ltd. by Chelsea Owen

“And this…” he paused, turned, faced the group with the red sun at his back and ash clouds beneath his boots. “Is where trees once stood.”

If the group had breath to gasp between their regulated air streams, perhaps they would have gasped. At least they stood in silence. Wearing the most stylish protective suits and SCBA money could buy, they stood in silence.

He shook his head inside his own, more functional suit. What good did these exclusive tours do, anyway? Surely these people, heads of companies responsible for the radioactive waste around him, did not actually care…

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Homecoming! by Anurag Bakhshi

I’d returned home after a long time, but I knew in my heart that I would find her in the grove, picking up those lovely oranges.
And I was right.

There she stood, head wrapped in her red scarf. My heart leaped up, and I started grinning like an ass.

I moved closer, wanting to surprise her.

SQUELCH!

Startled, she turned around! A horrified look came on her face, and as she threw an orange violently at me, she exclaimed, “YOU! I thought I’d driven you away permanently. Grandma was right, you donkeys don’t have much brains, do you?”

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What Lives in Trees? by Norah Colvin

The teacher displayed photographs of trees.

“We’ve been learning about where animals live. Today, we’ll list animals that live in trees.”

Hands shot up, bursting to contribute.

The teacher wrote:

possums, koalas, beetles, snakes, birds …

Amir’s English was developing but his classmates were puzzled when he said what sounded like ‘goat’.

“Repeat,” encouraged the teacher.

“Goat.”

When asked, Amir drew a tree with a recognisable goat standing in it.

“Not story,” smiled the teacher. “Real.”

Amir nodded and pointed to the laptop. “Google.”

A quick search confirmed it.

Everyone cheered. Amir added to their knowledge tree that day.

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Children !!! by Brendan Thomas

“Careful. Stop swaying. You’ll shed leaves, maybe break a branch.”

“But it’s fun. Weeeeeeeeeee.”

“Listen to Dad. He lost branches playing like that. They never grew back to full size.”

But he didn’t listen. He swayed watching with glee as leaves fell, some swirling in the chaotic wind, some falling slowly to his roots.

“Look I’m naked,” he shouted.

Finally strength won. The sound of timber cracking as a branch fell to the ground. Surprise, anguish, large sobs,

“I’m broken. It hurts Mum.”

“I know son. It’ll grow back bigger than before,” she lied.

His father looked away,

“Children !!!”

🥕🥕🥕

Childhood Memory by Nancy Brady

Before Mister Rogers Neighborhood and Sesame Street, there was a local program called Luci’s Toy Shop.

Luci had puppet characters including George the Giraffe, Dragon, and Mr. Tree.
Mr. Tree talked after he was awakened with a song.

“Hi there, Mr. Tree, we’re very glad to see you.
Wake up Mr. Tree; it’s daytime, can’t you see?’

With a big yawn, Mr. Tree would finally wake up, and he and Luci would converse about the day of the week. Eventually, Luci would slip, saying the word sleep and Mr. Tree would fall back to sleep until the next time.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s Not Where You Walk, It’s Who You’re With by Anne Goodwin

Swinging my arms, I followed him up the slope towards the spinney. Casual. As if a country walk with my dad were an everyday thing.

He pointed out the ash and the spindly silver birch, its bark like alligator skin. I showed him a squirrel, scampering across the path, up a tree trunk shelved with bracken fungus.

At a sudden tapping, he grabbed my shoulder. Though we strained our eyes and necks to scan the treetops, the woodpecker eluded us. It didn’t matter; the shared not-seeing made me feel close to him. For the first time, he’d seen me.

🥕🥕🥕

Space. Boring! by Floridaborne

Most people have to share a small cabin with three other people. I get a 4 x 6 room. They want windows, but I don’t care to see what’s coming at the ship.

I spend my days cleaning floors, repairing worn machinery that creates our food, and thinking about my father’s Earth stories.

He died last year, on my 10th birthday… radiation leak in the engine section. The bastard didn’t die quick.

With his final breath he said, “I wanted to touch one last tree.”

If we find a habitable planet, the trees can have his ashes.

🥕🥕🥕

Trees by Roberta Eaton

The enormous tree drew her. Its branches reached up into the bright, blue sky, far above its fellows. She knew only too well that all of the trees were nourished with the flesh of humans deemed by society to be wasteful squanderers, but she still admire this particular tree’s tenacity in beating its competition and achieving such great proportions. She thought of another tree. The one she had seen on the eve of the Great War after the bombs had rained down. She recalled the tendrils of fire running up its wide trunk and licking greedily at its branches.

🥕🥕🥕

Aftermath by Sarah Whiley

My feet crunched on the blackened ground. Even the rocks had not been spared. So intense was the heat from the bushfire, they too had been singed.

All around me was devastation.

Twisted sheets of metal were all that was left of the house. I bent down and touched the ground where our mailbox once stood, my fingers trailing through the ash.

I trudged the perimeter fence and noted with irony, the eucalypts still standing.

Charred.
Naked.
But still standing.

Then, I saw a tiny patch of green – the tree already beginning to regenerate itself!

We too would rebuild.

🥕🥕🥕

Through the Woods by Susan Sleggs

Me and my dog walk down the hill through the woods to the river most days, usually to bring the cows back up to the barn. In the springtime we pick leeks that grow under the black walnut trees. Rascal rolls in them and Mama gets mad because he stinks. In the fall we collect the nuts. They’re bitter but add a good flavor to cookies. If we sit quiet under the willow in the summer we see beaver swimming and deer drinking. I wish the house had been built down by the river. It’d save lots of walking.

🥕🥕🥕

Laid to Rest (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni asked Ike to fall the tree, an ancient Ponderosa with thick plates of bark assembled like puzzle pieces. She estimated it had stood over the abandoned cemetery at least three centuries before burials. Mostly sawyers and log-camp followers found final rest beneath its branches. A hundred years ago, this Ponderosa would have netted the logging company enough money to cover wages. Yet they had spared the tree. Danni didn’t guess why, but she asked her husband to fall it because he understood the code of the forest. He’d remove the diseased old-timer with respect to those it guarded.

🥕🥕🥕

Twin Trees by Kerry E.B. Black

They grew from a single trunk, an anomaly of separate identities jointed by common roots dug deep into the loam of fallen ancestors. They vied for sunlight, pushed against each other’s branches in an attempt for superiority, but neither bested the other. Their leaves shook to distinguish themselves, but noone addressed them as individuals. In concert, they burst into flower, fleshed out greenery in time. By autumn, their leaves rustled the same impatient song. After years of struggle, they towered over others, since woodsmen stayed their axes when confronted by twin trunks. Others wished they, too, had a lifetime companion.

🥕🥕🥕

Garden Tree by Anita Dawes

I don’t have to go too far to find a great tree.
It is in my garden, my beautiful gum tree.
Tall and magnificent, a small amount of wind
sets it swaying like a row of flamenco dancers
I can almost hear the roots tapping away
in time with the rhythm above.
Soothing and calming my mind.
I sit there often unburdening the misery
I have accrued over the last few days.
I know it listens, never judging.
The soft sway of its leaves above my head,
A blessing, a benediction.
Gentle giants, they are the air we breathe…

🥕🥕🥕

Exposed by D. Avery

Strong leaders of proud communities, they were protectors, providers of sanctuary, comfort, inspiration.

How they danced! Sweeping, stretching, swaying movements, at once bold and gentle, a beautiful ballet.

They were poets and prophets, translating the ancient secrets of stone, their every whispered word lyrical and mystical. They were emissaries, bridging Heaven and Earth. They were heard by any who listened.

Nobody listened. Their ballet became frenzied, their movements frantic and desperate. Their toppled bodies and exposed roots a broken covenant, we are disconnected.

The sky is falling.

We didn’t listen.

They are silenced, gone. Winds and waters roar, unimpeded.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Comforts of Crab Apples by Kerry E.B. Black

She’d grown too old to climb, but the crab apple tree in her family’s backyard remained her favorite spot. She leaned against its rough bark to meditate or reflect as life rearranged. Here, beneath a tree whose bitter fruit none ate, in whose boughs she hid as a child when life bruised her burgeoning psyche, she regained balance. In the spring, lovely pink-kissed blossoms speckled new grass like fairydust. Summer shade soothed. Autumn saw a lack-luster display of spotted, pale yellow foliage, while Winter’s bare branches reached toward Heaven like prayers, yet year-round, this tree welcomed and comforted her.

🥕🥕🥕

Our Tree by Di @pensitivity101

It was just one, but in the company of others.
It was an elm, or was it an oak?
It was tall, and had several broken branches, one of which dipped down to the earth as if bowing in servitude.
It was along this path, or was it that one?
No, it was this way, towards the clearing, where it stood magnificent and almost alone.
One mile in, or maybe two? So long ago. It may not even still be there.
I hope so.
We designated it as Our Tree, and buried bottles with love messages in its roots.

🥕🥕🥕

Island of Trees by Bill Engleson

They’re always there, you know. Likely always have been.

Eons, I expect.

I don’t think about them much. Maybe I should. There’s that old saying…you can’t see the forest for the…and here I am, knowing they are there. In my face. Never really paying them any heed.

Like the air.

The dying air.

Or the sea.

The dying sea.

Every so often, we get hit with storms. Fierce gales, they are. Whipping in from the north, the south, occasionally from the west.

The trees sway.

Loom.

They surely loom.

Sometimes, threatening, bending towards me,

towards my house,

my life.

🥕🥕🥕

Alive by Carol Arcus

It was dark when she woke, wintertime, dark mornings and cold biting winds. The coffee machine made a hum that could wake the dead. She smiled knowing her husband and daughter would rise soon.

She looked forward to speaking to her son.

He loved the trees, the hills around the property were his refuge, especially when he was ill. She always took him to that one special tree at sunset. It was summer then, those glorious warm days.

Today she stood under the tree, and chatted about everything.

He was still alive to her, this way, under this tree.

🥕🥕🥕

Carved in Wood by Sally Cronin

She traced the names, carved in the bark of their special tree fifty years ago, with her fingertips.

Peter loves Sarah forever.

But they had taken different paths. She to a wonderful husband and children, and now as a widow and grandmother. She often wondered what had happened to him, and if he had been happy. On a whim, she had returned to the wood to see the bluebells, that like their romance flowered so briefly. Beneath the carving were numbers. Intrigued she took out her mobile and dialled.

‘Hello, who is this?’

‘Sarah’

‘What took you so long?’

🥕🥕🥕

Apple Tree by Ann Edall-Robson

“Liz.”

“Mac. Coffee?”

“No thanks, just looking for the kids.”

“Kids?”

He pointed out the window.

“They’ve been out there toe to toe debating for quite a while.”

A quiet rumbling from Mac told Mrs. Johnson he was laughing.

“He sure gets under her skin.”

“And she pushes back just as hard.”

Mrs. Johnson’s comment was accentuated by Hanna poking Tal in the cheese before walking towards the barn.

“We’ll need to keep an eye on those two. Might be the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.”

Liz heard the door close, leaving her alone in the cookhouse.

🥕🥕🥕

White Pine by Sascha Darlington

I wanted to return to my soul home, West Virginia. Didi wanted to go with me for a white pine, a strategy he plotted with his younger brother Uli.

Funny how all these years later, I don’t remember walking the soil with him, him being there, although we did dig up pines. A neighbor mowed over mine, devastating me during the break-up. Mother yelled at him despite neighborly kindness. She could be a fierce mother lion.

So many years later, air conditioning humming, my always love snoring, I consider affectionate memories, although coldness pervades, just like Didi’s eyes, calculating.

🥕🥕🥕

The Red Maple by tracey

She bought the house in winter and didn’t realize the tree in the backyard was dead until spring. She had it removed at the end of the summer and told herself she didn’t want to rake leaves anyway.

As the year progressed she thought the yard looked naked and found she missed raking leaves.

In the spring she wandered around the nursery feeling overwhelmed until she saw a six-foot tall red maple. Her tree.

She took her home and named her ‘Betty’.

Thirty years later her heart still contracted with joy as she raked up Betty’s jewel colored leaves.

🥕🥕🥕

The Tree Fort by Susan Zutautas

Johnny and Cindy were at Grandma’s summer cottage having a heated argument. Cindy wanted to see Johnny’s tree fort, but he wouldn’t hear of it.

When Johnny left, over to the tree she went climbing the rungs up and into
the fort. She was sitting with her back against a curtain when Johnny appeared.
“There’s not enough room, leave now!”

“Sure, there is,” Cindy replied, moving back thinking there was a wall behind the curtain. Out she went, falling onto the ground just missing a boulder.

Startled but fine Cindy got up, brushed herself off, never again to return.

🥕🥕🥕

Tree of Memories by Ritu Bhathal

I need to find it.
I know it’s here somewhere.
We used to visit here regularly when we were courting.
Where is that tree?
I think it was an Oak.
Huge sprawling branches that created a vast canopy, under which we used to sit, backs resting against the thick, sturdy trunk.
It was here we had our first kiss.
Here, we professed our love.
Here, you proposed.
Is it this one? My fingers trail over the rough bark. A spark of memory.
Yes, here.
Here, my love, I’ll lay you to rest, scattered amongst the memories of our love.

🥕🥕🥕

Renewal by Saifun Hassam

Ancient olive trees grew on the cliffs overlooking the sea and along the foothills of the extinct volcano. One flagstone path led to a grove of olive trees planted around a stone fountain. Their great gnarled trunks were intricate colorful patterns of countless shades of brown and yellow. Warm sea breezes set their silvery green leaves sparkling in the afternoon sun.

Ammerra loved these ancient trees. Legends spoke of how the trees grew again when the volcano erupted covering the foothills with lava and ash. She loved the peace and solace here, a sense of renewal through life’s difficulties.

🥕🥕🥕

Portents by Joanne Fisher

Aalen was suspended above the Bloodwood, the most ancient and sacred tree in their forest. The tree was part of their spring rites when they celebrated the fertility of their people and the forest. As she hung there she noticed there was huge crack in the Bloodwood that went down the entire tree, as if it was ready to split open.

Aalen awoke with a start. She could hear Ashalla softly breathing beside her. Vilja was curled up beside the glowing embers. Bleary-eyed she got up realising they hadn’t set a watch. In the dark she pondered the dream.

🥕🥕🥕

A Momentary Silence by Nicole Horlings

The forest was silent. Where there should have been birdsong, there was only the sound of the wind howled as it thrust through the charred remains of a thicket. He held out hope that their tree had been untouched, since it stood alone in the center of the clearing, a tall and proud elder watching over the saplings as they grew up.

Alas, the forest fire had been indiscriminate in its rage. Their carved heart was ashy beneath the gentle caress of his fingers.
But as they had repaired the damage from their fights, the forest too would regrow.

🥕🥕🥕

Medicinal Mango by Abhijit Ray

“Your mother is not well Sakharam,” the village doctor announced, “feed her mango from Nawab’s orchard.”

“An hour’s walk from the bus stop,” man spoke again before Sakharam could protest at this unusual prescription, “mango from Nawab’s orchard are medicinal.”

“Brother how far the famous mango orchard?” after almost an hour’s trek, the least he could do for his ailing mother, Sakharam asked a road side vendor, “one with medicinal fruits!”

“God! Another one!” exclaimed the tea seller, “Nawab sold his orchard almost a decade back. A warehouse came up in its place. You have walked past it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Restoring a Giant by Jo Hawk

The forest of Laurel’s childhood was gone. She remembered great stands of the mighty American Chestnut tree, which grew nearly one hundred feet tall with trunks ten feet in diameter. It was once the most common hardwood tree in the Northeastern United States. The tree’s wood was rot-resistant, straight-grained, and it produced nuts that fed cattle, hogs and other wildlife. Laurel remembered eating roasted chestnuts every fall.

A tree that had survived for 40 million years, disappeared in 40, destroyed by the chestnut blight. Her children worked to restore a forest they had never seen and could only imagine.

*** To learn more about restoration efforts, check out The American Chestnut Foundation.

🥕🥕🥕

In Place of Majesty by Jen Goldie

The area I live in, is one of the oldest communities
In Toronto, Ontario. It is referred to, as “The City of Trees”.
One day on my usual walk I discovered them preparing
to cut down this magnificent tree. I was astounded
and angry.
It was obviously a done deal to accommodate
some new town houses. I sadly, day by day, watched
the construction of these narrow row houses. They
left the stump of the tree sitting there. I now
pass and think of the tragedy.
Four narrow townhouses at the edge of a road in
place of majesty.

🥕🥕🥕

Paperbark by calmkate

I stand tall, like to shed my bark.
human beans use it to create art
sentinels that guard sacred grounds
unusual majestic versatility astounds

shorter ones produce tea tree oil
we prefer to grow in swampy soil
Australian natives we grow quick
bark is whitish papery n thick

all trees contribute to clean the air
home to many creatures, we care
we grow nuts and fruits with flair
mango plums peach and pear

destroying us is mighty unfair
we grow with grace don’t make us rare
plant more and hug us if you dare
we are vital for survival

🥕🥕🥕

A FINAL WORD FROM THE CHARACTERS AT THE RANCH

Highku by D. Avery

“Look up, Pal. I’m here.”
“Kid, what’re you doin’ up in thet tree?”
“It’s my poet-tree. I’m writin’. Told ya, I ain’t waitin’ on whats-her-name. Here’s yer buckaroo-ku:

when the people fall
and no trees remain to hear
deserts on the march.”

“Two things Kid. First, ya lifted that last line from Paul Sears’ book he wrote back in Dust Bowl days.”
“Yeah, but no one knows that, Pal.”
“Second, that ain’t buckaroo-ku.”
“Ain’t it?”
“No thet’s highku.”
“Highku?”
“‘Cause yer so high up in thet tree. Now git down.”
“About that, Pal… Kin you git me a ladder?”

🥕🥕🥕

Up a Tree Without a Pal by D. Avery

“Kid, ya mean ta tell me yer stuck up in thet there tree?”

“Yep. Seems with trees what climbs up cain’t always climb down.”

“An’ now ya ‘spect me ta git a ladder an’ hep ya git down?”

“Yeah, was hopin’ ya would.”

“Sorry Kid. Ya said ta heck with our writer, so jist now, I’m gonna go write my own flash. Ya kin wait fer D. Avery ta show up and write ya down outta there, or ya kin write the ending yerself. But me, I’m goin’ off ta write a story.”

“Pal!”

“It’s called ‘Tree Huggin’ Kid’.”

🥕🥕🥕

Coffee & Reverse Prose by Susan Sleggs

“Kid, if you think about it, you can get down.”

“Nope.”

“Yes you can. Think about the position of your hands and feet took for each climbing step and reverse them.”

“That’d be like writing prose backwards. I only know how to go forward.”

“Not true….you know how to edit by rearranging or removing. In this case you just have to rearrange by going backwards.”

“Maybe I’ll try it come daylight.”

“I’ll have the Ranch cook brew up some strong coffee in the morning…..smelling that’ll get you moving.”

“Maybe now is a better time if there’s coffee.”

🥕🥕🥕

At Home in a Tree by Charli Mills

A tree stretched its limbs upward and felt the weight of a human nestled in its branches. The tree’s bark tingled where boots had scurried upward more clumsily than the thorny grip of a black bear or the agility of a cat. But the end results remained – the human was stuck. Several visitors tried to coax the perched one down. Stubborn as a cat, the human remained stuck. After the bipeds left, the human hollered. The tree rustled, attempting a buckaroo lullabye –

Get along little humie, get along,
Rest in my branches,
For I will be your new home.

🥕🥕🥕

Shorty’s Call by Charli Mills

“Kid, get yer carcass outta my apple tree. Boots on the ground.”

“Kinda stuck.”

“Pal? Hey Pay – where’d you go off to?”

“Pal’s huggin’ a tree.”

“Kid, looks like that thar tree is huggin’ you.”

“Quilter said somethin’ ‘bout reverse prosin’ my way down.”

“Yep, that Quilter’s a wise gal. Not a wise acre like you or yer Pal.”

“Quilter sure does know her pieces.”

“Sure does. Kid, time you make hay and git down.”

“Down is not lookin’up fer me.”

“Now Kid, I might hav’ta wrangle ya from them thar branches.  Don’t make me fetch the Poet Lariat.”

May 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

Two days after my middlest child turned 29 years old, I’m seeking trees. My daughter, Rock Climber, lives on a craggy glacier island in the Arctic, surrounded by massive mountains, polar bear prints, and eternal snow beneath skies as wide as any final frontier. She travels by Zodiac in seas so tumultuous she has to wear a full life-suit with a beacon. When she flies between islands, she lands on airstrips made of permafrost. For fun, she rides snowmobiles in the midnight sun and sends me goofy snapshots. When her dad was in the hospital, she taught her Norwegian friends to sing a raunchy rugby song she learned when watching him play in a Montana league.

This is my Bug Child. My wild girl crafted in her Ranger/Rugby father’s image.

She tells me she misses trees.

Have you ever lived someplace where there were no trees? Even in the North American deserts, juniper, pinion, and Joshua trees grow. I was born beneath a canopy of California oaks and raised in the Sierras where the Jeffry pines and cedars grow. Eyes wide open, I can still smell their scent — Jeffrey pines smell like vanilla when the sunshine warms their broom-like clusters of needles. I’m not a tree-hugger as much as I’m a tree-cuddler.

I used to ride my horse Captain Omega (don’t judge, I named him when I was 12, reading Greek Mythology) to the cedar groves. There, I’d sit with my back to a cedar with its auburn bark that I could peel like fiber. I used to compare the color of my long braids to the tree and pretend we were distantly related. I’d read, devouring books and traveling in my mind to places as remote as where Rock Climber now lives.

Trees are in my DNA. Bumpa, my nonagenarian great-grandfather who used to tell me stories when my mother dropped me off to visit him in the nursing home beneath the oaks. I only knew him in his nineties. He died when I was ten, and he was 99. But those stories live on within me, roots of his life touching mine. His parents were farmers from Denmark, immigrating to America. They came west to California and planted apricot orchards. He grew up, tending those trees. My grandmother continued to harvest their fruit even after her father sold the orchards. My mother and her sisters would eat green apricots until their bellies ached. I grew up eating dried apricots every Christmas. When my Bug Child was two, my mother taught her to filch fruit from low-hanging branches, declaring these were the one’s Bumpa’s father planted.

I once wrote a story about the sweetness of stolen sunshine, keeping in mind the female tradition of San Benito apricots. Those trees produced fruit I thought must taste like the ambrosia of the sun. Throughout life, I continued to nibble from trees. First apricots, and then the nuts from Sierra pines. Jeffry pinenuts are flat and acrid but carry that luscious scent. Pinion pinenuts are fat, greasy, and sweet. Yet they don’t produce every year. When pinenuts come into season, the Washo and Ute would flock to high desert groves and harvest from pitchy stunted trees. I can taste American history with each nibble, I can experience Johnny Appleseed with the plucking of wild apples. I dream of Rock Creek and Little House on the Prairie when I slurp the tart fruit of a wild Nebraska plum.

Family legend holds that my other great-grandfather could create trees. He knew how to splice and get a crab apple to grow on a Macintosh. What scientist do in labs with genes, my ancestors did with trees. They brought their own hybrids with them from the Basque lands, the Azores, and beyond. Not from Ireland though. I once had a family member tell me that the English cut down all the trees in Ireland, and perhaps my Irish blood still misses those trees. I’ve watched shows on how the modern English take care of ancient oaks, and Monty Don is welcome to teach me anything about trees. My British roots are all mixed up in the different eras of history, place, and culture but undoubtedly go back to the Celtic worshippers of trees.

Deciduous trees of the Keweenaw have root systems that communicate throughout the woods. When  I’m alone on a trail, I can hear them talking. White pines once grew in abundance on this peninsula, but like most other places, trees of today displaced the trees of yesterday. Climate change is displacing us all. Weather patterns and extreme weather events change what trees grow where.

At times I feel like a wind-whipped pine holding onto the cliffside. Then the sun comes out, or a gentle rain washes away the dust. Maybe I’ll find a home in a tree, a nest to call my own.

So I ask again, have you ever lived someplace without trees? Can you imagine having to hunt for them, to grow up not knowing what it is to smell bark or rake leaves or taste fruit?

My daughter misses trees. So I am seeking trees to give her stories to remind her.

May 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that goes in search of trees. It can be one particular tree, a grove, woods, or forest. What makes the tree worth seeking? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 21, 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.

 

Laid to Rest (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni asked Ike to fall the tree, an ancient Ponderosa with thick plates of bark assembled like puzzle pieces. She estimated it had stood over the abandoned cemetery at least three centuries before burials. Mostly sawyers and log-camp followers found final rest beneath its branches. A hundred years ago, this Ponderosa would have netted the logging company enough money to cover wages. Yet they had spared the tree. Danni didn’t guess why, but she asked her husband to fall it because he understood the code of the forest. He’d remove the diseased old-timer with respect to those it guarded.

Growing Older

Perhaps growing older is a disgusting venture, but as one writer quipped, it’s better than the alternative. We can age with dignity if we simply allow each other the forgiveness for doing so. We can forgive memory gaps and welcome each day as a chance to yet live. Wrinkles never stopped a grin or an expression of love.

Writers took to age as if they’ve been living a long time to write about it.

The following are based on the May 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about growing older.

PART I (10-minute read)

On Aging by Susan Sleggs

When I dream I am younger, energetic, and always thinner. There is excitement, intrigue, people I don’t recognize and fascinating cartoonlike experiences. There are animals, unlikely pets, a tiger on my bed, horses waiting at the window for an apple. I travel to exotic places, by sailboat, with a dark haired sexy partner. I go back to laughing about life’s entanglements and mistakes don’t happen. There is no pain, no memory loss, no pills to take, no hurt feelings, and no guilt for bad decisions. Then I awake. I am old and infirm, but still happy to be alive.

🥕🥕🥕

Hands Across the Years by Nancy Brady

An early memory of Mom was of her wearing a yellow, full-skirted seersucker dress to the zoo on a bright June day. Her dress rivaled the sun and epitomized a young mother full of energy. I was only five at the time.

Time aged us both, and suddenly, I was a mother myself. Visits to my parents brought both delight and sadness as I noticed her worsening rheumatoid arthritis. Her hands became more gnarled and disfigured through the years.

Now, I look at my own hands for signs of aging and wonder what my sons see when we visit.

🥕🥕🥕

From Mother to Son by Anne Goodwin

“Did you hear the one about the Japanese Emperor, Mamma? He ab-ab-ab …”

”Abrogated his responsibilities? Abandoned his subjects to his imbecile son?”

“Don’t you get tired, Mamma? All that travelling. Dressing up in your gladrags. Smiling at proles waving silly flags.”

“Of course I get tired. I’m ninety-three. But duty must trump human frailties. That’s what monarchy means.”

“Talking of The Donald, how can you …”

“There’s a man who tears up the rulebook …”

“As you could too, Mamma.”

“You know what I’d really like, Charles? If I could skip a generation. Give my grandson a turn.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tooting Marvellous by Ritu Bhathal

Mabel sat in her armchair and glanced around her surroundings.

Look at them all — old fogies.

She was, undoubtedly, at least ten years younger than them. Goodness knows why they’d put her in here. There must have been some mistake.

But that silver-haired Derek, sat across the room, he looked rather dashing. Someone to get to know and, maybe, help ease the boredom.

Shifting slightly in her chair, she felt a build up in her stomach, and a loud fart escaped.

At least there were some benefits to growing old…No embarrassment factor; she could toot to her heart’s content!

🥕🥕🥕

Photograph by Brendan Thomas

Peig sat in the middle, between her standing daughters, grandchildren clustered to her right, great granddaughter Nelly standing closest, touching her shoulder.

“Hold Nelly’s hand.”

No, her old arm wouldn’t bend. She remembered previous photographs, standing behind her Nonna, moving across the screen, left to right as she aged. Now promoted to the seat in front. She once was the light hand on the shoulder and missed it.

“Ready? Cheese!”

Photographs were boring now, no smokey flash to enliven, no wait before enjoying the outcome. “Will photographs exist when Nelly’s a Nonna?” she wondered, before approving the digital image.

🥕🥕🥕

Runner by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Sophie gazed down the long oaken table, half-light of a dozen candle sticks melted to shining copper holder. She squinted to blur the face drooping at table’s end.

Looking down, she studied the pattern of barn red, deep woad, and white twined with emerald leaves. Were these flowers from her homeland? She barely remembered weaving the runner for her trousseau…or the excited young girl she’d been. Her parents had been proud to boast her move from farm to manor as a wonderful match.

After so long, she’d adjusted her dreams. Looking up, she wondered what he thought of her.

🥕🥕🥕

Ada by Violet Lentz

Ada never visited the small wooden crosses that marked the sandy loam where her husband had interred the tiny corpses of the babes that would never suckle at her breast.

She never shed a tear at their passing, nor spoke the christian names they had been given.

She was a dutiful, if not loving wife, and reared the one child she was spared with a firm, yet caring hand.

She was on her deathbed the first and only time she ever told her husband, or her son that she loved them.

Just a moment after she realized it herself.

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Growing Old by Pete Fanning

The boy sat against a tree, watching the tall grass in the field. The sky held a few clouds overhead, clouds in no hurry to do anything but laze in the blue. A soft breeze, a whisper between leaves, scurried through the stalks without order or sequence, weaving and bending and—

“Boy, what are you doing?”

The boy stood, eyes down, face flushed. “Nothing.”

“Nothing, huh? Must be nice. When you get older you won’t have time to watch the grass grow.”

The boy took one last look back, at the dancing grass, and promised to never grow old.

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Menopause by tracey

A woman spends the latter half of her life in three phases:

Perimenopause – Characterized by so many different symptoms you are sure you are losing your mind. Coping mechanism is eating brownies while hiding in the pantry. You long to live alone in a mountain cabin.

Menopause – This phase has many false starts. Six months without a period and then you get surprised by your ‘friend’. Still eating brownies, you now wake up in the middle of the night and have to endure hours thinking about brownies.

Post-menopausal – The sun comes out again and you live happily ever after.

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Being Seen by Sascha Darlington

She fell. Nothing was broken, something twisted, enough to keep her down. Down, like her brain, her emotions, her feelings.

When she started walking, nothing worked the same. Sadness poured through her veins instead of blood. Overnight, she felt…old.

Every morning she rose, thought, this will be the day to turn it all around, but she didn’t, couldn’t. It was like being mired in molasses.

Maybe the worst thing was: no one noticed. No one saw her struggles. No one hugged her or recognized pain that grew beyond physical.

On bad days, she evaluated ways to completely, finally disappear.

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Generations by Floridaborne

Grandma loved our visits to her nursing home. From her window, she’d watch us find a place to park in a treeless lot.

She’d give us hugs and say, “Thank you for coming.”

Grandma listened to stories about our lives and once, when I turned 9, she said, “It seems like only yesterday I danced in the streets at the end of the Great War.”

My dad said, “Do we have to hear that story again?”

She looked down at her hands in the same way my father does now, as he waits for a family that never visits.

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Aging by Dorinda Duclos

I’m living a wonderful life, though age has decreased my gait. Still, I manage to have some fun, I want to live it, before it’s too late. Life, is much too short, to leave it on the side of the road. The older I get, the more I know, take it all, before you’ve slowed.

Growing older is beautiful, I was put here, for a purpose. Until that is complete, I’ll remain here, on this surface. To live, laugh, love, play, until time is not a thought, then I’ll say I’m finally done, but… I haven’t lived for naught.

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Wisdom Lines by Kerry E.B. Black

My friend calls them wisdom lines, wrinkles etched into the face. They’re experience trickled, as though life’s efforts leave sweaty tracks. Smiles, worry, and frowns use skin not to mar but to record.

Like marionettes, we’re often controlled by emotions, and as we age, this becomes evident in our countenance.

I think of tree trunks. They also begin smooth, and their texture grows course and tough with age. So, too, our exterior seasons to endure difficulties and challenges.

As I study the patina of my aging skin, I decide my life’s experiences make a pretty pattern. I’ve a good life.

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Growing Older by Robert Kirkendall

“Grandma, tell us about the time before television.”

Grandma leaned back in her rocking chair nostalgically. “Ah yes, the Golden Age of Radio. Every night the family would get together and listen to Jack Benny, Bob Hope, or Edgar Bergen. Those were the days; good, clean wholesome entertainment.”

“Ever want to go back, Grandma?”

Grandma sat back up. “Hundreds of channels, On Demand, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, podcasts…this is a new platinum age of entertainment. You really think I want to go back to listening to some old, tinny AM radio when everything was repressed and censored? Hell no!”

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Old Bones (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“That bone is heavy as iron,” Ramona said, picking up a fossil from Danni’s workbench. Ramona no longer recognized the bone or knew its story. Nothing seemed familiar these days.

Ike put his arm around Ramona, grinning. “It’s old as you, Gran’ma.”

Danni was brushing glass shards, musing over what they might tell her about 19th century occupancy near her garden. She paused. “Ike, you know that’s a dinosaur bone.”

Ramona winked. “Well, if bones get heavier with age then that explains the numbers on the bathroom scale.”

Danni laughed. At least Ramona hadn’t forgotten her sense of humor.

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Great-Grandmama’s Teeth by Norah Colvin

The sound like freight trains roaring through a tunnel assured Billy Great-Grandmama was asleep. He turned the doorknob ever so slowly, pushed the door gently and slipped into the darkened room. A chink of light bounced off the glass at the bedside. He daren’t breathe as he tiptoed over. Three quick whistles and he froze. The cavern with wibbly wobbly edges stretched wide. Would she wake? No, but better be quick. He lowered his fingers into the glass and withdrew his prize. All that was left was to fool the fairies and he’d buy his Mum that birthday cake.

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Growing Older by Susan Zutautas

Joan was the lively one, with the most energy in her group of friends but lately it seemed she was starting to slow down.

Partying was no longer her choice for a fun evening. Now content to stay home and watch TV. She never dreamt she’d see this day come when she was younger.

Getting up in the morning some days were painful on her joints. She could no longer kneel on the floor let alone sit on the floor like she always did before. Afraid that if she got down, she’d never get back up.

Growing older sucks.

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Aging Out by Deborah Lee

“You need to hustle. You can only stay in this program for two more weeks,” the placement advisor says.

Jane’s stomach plummets; her veins ice over. Fear. Cut loose. Again.

“Why?”

Shrug. “It’s the rule. If you’re still here after three months, we make way for others who are actively looking.”

Jane bristles. “I am active. I’m here at least twice a week. I’m applying, interviewing. I want a job. I need a job.” Tears press.

Eyes drop. Silence.

“Just wait,” Jane says, “until you’re fifty, with all the skills and triple the experience, and nobody wants you anymore.”

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Aging Disgracefully by calmkate

Ageism is rife here, anyone over fifty can’t get employment. Considered over the hill, senile and well past their use by date!

Milly played on that, on being the poor old lady. She would speak forthrightly and con many into doing various tasks for her. If they were foolish she wouldn’t fight it, easier to go with the flow and make it work for her.

Although physically declining her grey matter was sharp as a tack. She attended several Church services, any who would provide a lift to and from as she found those Christians ripe for a con!

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Growing Old by Hugh W. Roberts

She sat, watching the world around her getting older, her included. It had been a rather tough day and she disliked what ageing did to her.

I may be wiser, she thought, but I feel like I’m on my last few breaths before I leave this world again. I don’t want to go, but know it is time to move on.

As she sat back to take in the last sight of the world she loved, a door behind her opened and slammed loudly.

“Move over, Saturday. The day of rest has arrived. See you in a week’s time.”

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PART II (10-minute read)

Aging by Roberta Eaton

Would you really want to live for longer? It is an appealing idea to slow down the aging process and retain the good looks and vibrant good health of your 20s, but there is a down side. Imagine having to work for double the amount of years. Instead of spending 40 years of your life caught up in the turmoil and intensity of paid employment, 80 years would be required. After that amount of time, even the most interesting job could become mundane. Maybe we would have to switch careers and go through learning and training years again. Ug!

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Young at Heart by Di @ pensitivity101

Neil looked in the mirror, wondering who the old man was looking back at him.

He pulled his cheeks in, brushed his teeth then put them in his mouth, changing the shape of his lips. He smiled, a gleaming cosmetic whiteness in a rugged face.

It was an old face, accompanied by old joints.

Old age was a bind.

He could no longer do what he used to, or if he did, it took longer or he forgot half way through the task.

He flicked on the radio and Ol’ Blue Eyes sang out Young at Heart.

Yeah, right.

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Birthday by Abhijit Ray

“So the big day is here!” asked a friend, “is a gala celebration on the cards?”

“Celebrate ageing!” Shefali wondered, “earlier a birthdays ushered in anticipation of impending adulthood and glimpses of independence; now birthdays have become just another number.”

Crossing thirty, Shefali wished she was a teenager again when life was more colorful and full of possibilities.

“Thud, thud, thud,” her daughter knocked on the door, “mom, everyone is waiting for you, hurry up!”

“Coming dear,” Shefali answered with a sigh, wore her smile and got ready to mingle, “another year, another day and another party.”

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Becoming 100 by Kelley Farrell

The chair creaks under me, weighted by century old bones.

“Congrats! You just amaze me; to think of the things you’ve seen and done!”

I shift through the archives in attempt to place the young girl. She has the family blue eyes and my sweet Harry’s smile. A fanged man dominates her dark shirt.

“Old stories say witches and vampires drink blood to stay young.” Her face contorts uncomfortably as she slinks away, no doubt on her way to tell.

I can’t hide my sneer.

Maybe tonight I’ll run away. Surely it’s not too late to become a vampire.

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Growing Old by galaxywanderer

Every grey hair, every new facial line, made her face a universal truth she didn’t want to. Contemplating one’s own mortality, is, after all, not a pleasant business, for anyone. In the ledger of regrets, the reds were the things she never found the time to do, rather than the ones she did. Watching the seasons go by had a poetic beauty that appealed to her. But the reality was a tad more daunting. To think that one day in the not so distant future, she will cease to exist was almost unfathomable, no matter how real it was.

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Geiron (from Crater Lakes) by Saifun Hassam

Wild rhododendrons and berry shrubs were in full bloom spilling over the broken backyard fence of the Marta Jensen log homestead. Built over a hundred years ago, its west wall was tilting as tree roots grew under its foundations. Old oak and elm trees provided an enormous canopy of shade.

Geiron was a retired forest ranger and writing a book about the history of the Crater Lakes Biohabitat. Over time, Marta Jensen’s journal became a wellspring for him to write richly imagined novels of the pioneers, filled with his beautiful sketches of the Green Lake and Lizard Lake Craters.

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Older . . . Wiser by Ann Edall-Robson

Tal and Hanna watched the leathery, old cowboy walk slowly to the middle of the corral and stop. It wasn’t long before the curious young horse moved towards him, neck outstretched, sniffing. The man never moved, his voice barely audible. Each day was the same with little additions introduced to the routine.

Over coffee one morning, Tal questioned the cowboy’s tactics.

“Why didn’t you just rope that colt and show him who was boss right from the get go?

A lazy smile creased the cowboy’s face.

“Son, there’s no use getting any older if you don’t get any wiser.”

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Senescent Sighs by JulesPaige

Only once did Aubrey feel the terror of aging. It was when she, as the second child was going to have her own second child. Because it was when she was about two years old her own mother died. Those two years of her second child went by quicker than she thought. Bountiful happy memories were added to her life.

Without warning her second child became engaged. Where did the time go? The saddest thing though, to her was that child’s choice to be childless. We can only live our own lives and remember all the happiness we have.

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To Be Old Again by The Dark Netizen

Has this road become longer, or have I become slower?

Definitely the latter. I really have become old.Look at me, can’t even manage to walk without my cane. I see the road is covered with petals from the tree. The same tree that only a few months ago, stood barren and cold in the winter. If only all us humans had that ability to shed our old skin and look young all over again. Well, I can’t speak for all the humans. But, I’m lucky I discovered the fountain of youth.

Now where did I keep that water-bottle?

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Flashback by Jewel Ingalls

I’m so excited. Mommy promised to take me to the roller rink if I kept my room clean. My army men were off the floor everyday by the time she was home from work.

I think she’s pulling in now! I hurry to use the bathroom before we leave.

“Arnie?”

Weird. Mom’s voice is different. I wash my hands lifting my head. An old man stares back. White beard; wrinkled face.

A woman rounds the corner. “Arnie. You shouldn’t be walking around with no one home.”

The visiting nurse dried Arnie’s hands and led him back to his recliner.

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A Year Old by Ruchira Khanna

Happy-birthday-for-grandmother-from-granddaughter

“Sammy, blow the candles!” Christine said with delight.

Sammy claps her hands with joy and walks with ginger steps towards the table. She attempts to puff in the air as she pouts and her chest expands. Tired, she pauses with her lips contracted and then huffs the breath with all her might.

“Oh, Oh!” All shouted in the background as something blew across Sammy and onto the cake.

She forgot to remove her dentures before the blowout!

Needless of the incident, her grandchildren applauded Samantha who preferred to be addressed by her name had entered a three digit number.

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Flash by Nancy Brady

Flash is our cat. Born in April, 2001, she is now eighteen years old. What that exactly equates to in feline years, we can only guess. According to the veterinarian, she is probably a centenarian.

Despite her geriatric status, Flash has always acted like a kitten. Even now, as she deals with minor tooth infections and cloudy vision, she still manages to act like the feisty little kitten she once was, racing and meowing through the house as if hellhounds are chasing her.

Flash has aged, but so have we. Her time is limited, but then so is ours.

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Simple Things by D.G. Kaye

I dropped a fork, bent down, took a minute to get back up, but I did.

I went to the fridge, forgot what I went for, so I closed the door and saved on calories.

The days of putting on socks while hopping on one foot are long gone or I’d fall flat on my face. A chair now works fine.

Naps used to be looked at as punishment when young, now a treasured opportunity.

Days pass too quick as years progress.

More wrinkle cream, vitamins and brisk walks. Whatever it takes, I’m in.

Getting older aint for sissies.

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‘It Always Seems To Be Breakfast’* by Geoff Le Pard

‘I suppose this death fixation of your mum’s is worrying about growing old.’

‘She’s a “do not go gentle” sort of person, actually. But having gone, gentle or otherwise, she wants some sort of certainty.

Like she wants to wear her flowery Doc Martens in her coffin.’

‘Nice.’

‘Maybe. She’s not said what else.’

‘Oh…’

‘Exactly. Though Dad had this saying: he’d get his own back on his kids and live to be a hundred.’

‘Didn’t make it, did he?’

‘No, though that didn’t stop him practicing just in case.’

‘Old sod. Got to love him, haven’t you?’

‘Indeed.’

*said by a famous nonagenarian, when asked what change was the most notable now he was in his nineties

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Growing Older by Janice Golay

Reminder: consult Dr. Einstein about “Time” and growing older. “Sir: Why does our perception of time change as we travel the average human lifespan? Is it subjective or is it ‘real’?

“For example, no longer a young filly eager to escape the corral but not yet ready for pasture, I’m falling very slowly between the cracks. Previously I moved easily, judged hastily. Now 70, my real-time movie is shot in slow motion. Slow is vexing when targeting destination X, exquisite while sauntering through a garden of fragrant June roses.

“Please reply before the rapidly approaching end of the film.”

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Wisdom of the Ages by Jo Hawk

It was the time of Antiquity. The temple rose, constructed with care to mark a sacred spot. Tested by fire, its original purpose faded from consciences. Each day, the sun painted the walls in a soft luminous glow, recording the years, decades and millenniums. The Oculus recorded the words of countless stories and etched them on the dome’s geometric perfection.

Time evolved, morphing into something different. It became elastic and unimportant. Wisdom replaced foolish desires and meaningless acquisitions of petty trinkets. It distilled the truth, divulging the secret simplicity of being, seeing and feeling with no reservations, without judgment.

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Towards the City by Joanne Fisher

As Aalen, Ashalla, and Vilja got nearer to the city they saw the land become more cultivated and ordered.

“How many years do your people usually live?” Ashalla asked.

“We don’t measure time the same way as you.” Aalen replied. “So I don’t know. As we get older our responsibilities increase. I helped protect the borders, so little was expected of me, but if I survived I would have eventually become an Elder of the village who were the sources of our wisdom and knowledge.”

Aalen looked out at the land. She knew that future was gone for her.

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A Small Price to Pay by Sally Cronin

The old man stood to attention by the memorial in the village square, as he did each day during his afternoon constitutional. His knees were playing up, but nothing a stout stick couldn’t handle. Getting older had challenges, but unlike his drinking pals in the pub each evening, he knew aching joints were a small price to pay. As was his habit, he read the names on the brass plate aloud, remembering each one of his comrades who did not live to grow old. He wiped away a tear and continued his walk, feeling like the luckiest man alive.

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POETIC REFLECTIONS

Gramma Dear by Chelsea Owens

Flowered pots and colored notes
fly gently on the walls;

Whose smiling, standing stick-men

Wave out from rainbowed pen?

Wrinkled cheeks and vacant eyes
of startling, once-clear blue;

What’s inside now, Oh Gramma dear?

What’s cloudy and what’s clear?

Gnarled hands and anxious grip
that once held mine with love;

Whose fingers do you think these are?

Whose hand felt from afar?

Silent words and down-turned mouth
mar lips that laughed and spoke;

What joke or story would you say?

What do you think today?

Who are these strangers milling round;
unfamiliar people?

Where is the you

You know?

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AGE – One Letter Short of A Four Letter Word by M J Mallon

AGE IS ONE LETTER SHORT OF A
FOUR LETTER WORD!

Desire’s three syllables entwined in kinky Karma Sutra positions,

Movement’s six hundred plus muscles belly aching to stop,

Career crises simplified, await twin oldies bus pass, plus pensions,

Adolescent giggles groan as multiple false teeth fracture,

Luscious locks lost greying in gazillions.

STOP!

Six pack? Remember that? Welcome new look naughty pot belly,

Two elastic boobs yonder yoga style yodeling the floor,

Face it fellows, we’re on
TRACK…
NUMBERED…

Until… endless sleep of blessed youth,

FORESHADOWS ETERNAL
SLEEP TO US ALL!!!

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How Did I Get This Old by Susan Zutautas

Growing older

Growing wiser

Kids are grown and gone

Bones are aching

Back is breaking

Arthritis settling in

Many memories to enjoy

When I can remember them

Retired early

Now I’m squirrely

But writing is my thing

Gray hairs are abundant

Get new ones every day

Always looking forward

To the month of May

Cataracts developing

Sight is getting worse

I really think the eye doctor

Put on me, a curse

Look forward to my naps

Each day at three

If I didn’t have them

I’d be cranky as can be

So, let it be told

I am old

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A Dogs Perspective Of Growing Old by Susan Zutautas

When I was a puppy, we’d play every day

Now that I’ve grown older, lie down is what you say

I’d still love to fetch a ball even though I’m ten

A few years ago, I was your best friend

I hope I’m not too old for you, and you get a younger pup

Get rid of me because I’m old and you think I’m fed-up

Dogs do grow older every day

Please oh please don’t send me away

I have arthritis in my hips, but I still want to play

Let’s go outside and have some fun today

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Growing Old by Anita Dawes

I don’t look in the mirror these days, because there is a road map where my face used to be.
Time makes strange marks on all of us, some you cannot see.
From my window, I have watched my neighbours grow old. Two that used to walk to town, now in wheelchairs.
One used to pedal his bike everywhere, now uses a stroller.
We are shrinking back to childhood.
Others I have watched through nine months, waiting to produce new life. Now that same child walks beside her mother on her way to school.
I watch life go by…

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At The Mall by Joanne Fisher

my niece is the grand display

at the Westfield food court

delighting us all

with her furtive glances

and wide open grins

it’s my birthday so

I’m being treated to lunch

and opted for Chinese

my sister and I ponder

we are getting older

I tell her

I thought by now

I would have found

a soul-mate

and now it’s getting

too late

maudlin thoughts

on your birthday

my niece smiles and giggles

saying things in gibberish

that only Carmela can

understand

she holds her tiny hand

outstretched to us

offering

a mostly eaten cracker

with marmite on top

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A Couple of Old Farts Flatulatin’ by Bill Engleson

“Then there was that fella…”

“What fella, Whit?”

“Ya know, Stewie…that European fella. It was on the news. Went to court. Changed his birth year. Made hisself twenty years younger.”

“Ya can do that?”

“Yup. Over there in Europe, you’re only as old as your paperwork.”

“Ain’t that a wonder. Might give it a try, myself. Wouldn’t mind gettin’ an extra twenty years.”

“Don’t quite work that way, Stewie. Yeah, you’re twenty years younger on paper…but nothin’s really changed. You’re still as old as you’ve always been.”

“That don’t seem fair.”

“Life’s chock full of weird wrinkles, ain’t it.”

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FINAL WORD FROM OUR YARNIST

Clodhopper by D. Avery

“Jist ‘cause D. Avery’s been ridin’ herd on her family we git left behind? Tellin’ ya Pal, we gotta part ways with her, do our own writin’. We cain’t always be waitin’ on her. I ain’t gittin’ any younger.”

“Good thing, ‘cause the prompt’s ‘bout growin’ older. Ok, Kid, what’s yer idea fer the prompt?”

“Uh, well, nuthin’ yet.”

“Try haiku.”

“Bless ya.”

“Haiku!”

“Bless ya agin. Jeez.”

“No, Kid, haiku. Like this:

Bunkhouse floor dirt tracked
Every clod has a story
Time swept clean away”

“That ain’t haiku, Pal.”

“Ain’t it?”

“Naw, that there’s buckaroo-ku.”

“Yer cuckoo, Kid.”

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May 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

Soon, I’ll be another year older. I don’t really think of birthdays in terms of age; I’m more excited about cake and the possibility of a champagne sunset on Calumet Waterworks Beach. The 1.2 billion-year-old rocks interest me more than contemplating my meager years. I’m a mayfly in comparison to a Lake Superior agate. Why waste life worrying about growing older?

On Wednesday, I attended One Million Cups and listened to an eighty-something gerontologist talk about her experiences of growing older. Before she reached a high number of decades, she studied the aging process. According to definition, gerontology is the study of the social, cultural, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of aging. This woman educates readers on what to expect during the natural aging process. And I’ll give you a hint — aging is not a sickness.

Writer, Jolayne Farrell, answers questions at her popular blog, On Growing Older just as she did for decades in her newspaper column. When she told her story, I picked out many instances of her willingness to take risks. She talked about discomfort and uncertainty, but she also lit up at the idea of pursuing passions. In fact, she passed out her business card attached to a colorful blank card with a red circle she called a life-saver. She invited us to write down our dreams and keep that card with us at all times.

We might not be spared growing older, but our life-saver will keep us alive.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Gabriel García Márquez:

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

Jolayne shared with us her travels, work as a hospice nurse, and pursuit of what drives her own passions. She mentioned visiting other octogenarians in their mining homes (on the Keweenaw) surrounded by their memories. This made me realize how static we often try to make life. Do we think we can slow down the slippage of sand through the hourglass? I’m certain I don’t want my end-goal to be safe-guarding memorabilia.

My first year on the Keweenaw, I had a transformative experience at an estate sale. After the final owner of a home dies, a company comes in, working with the family, to clean out and sell the household items. I overheard a conversation at a sale — an elderly woman pined over a vintage set of glassware, commenting that they were “just like hers.” The woman’s daughter responded that they had downsized her belongings and she certainly was not going to get more “stuff.”

My heart ached. In part, I understood the daughter’s frustration. Likely, mom was living in assisted living or with family. She didn’t have the comfort of her old home surrounded by her memories. I felt the pining in contrast to the burden stuff can also bring.

When my best friend’s father died, and her mother went into a memory care facility, I helped my friend pack up her parents’ house. It was a painful experience, although we had plenty to laugh about (like all the teeth and hoard of toiletries we found in the bathroom). Sadly my friend died untimely of cancer. Is death ever timely?

Her children then had to sort through their mom’s and grandparents’ stuff. They were grieved and overwhelmed.

Yet, I felt for the elderly woman longing for her glassware. Sense of home stems from stuff surrounding us. I collect stories — books, rocks, and even broken glass. Other people gather family mementos or tools. One generation passes down glassware to the next. But not everyone wants great-grandma’s china. I have my great-grandmother’s recipes which I fashion into stories and serve along with the sopas or enchiladas. Yet both find connection to the past.

My imagination surges out west where the pining pictures pioneers unloading treasured household stuff to abandon glassware, dishes, and hutches along the Forty Mile Desert Trail across northern Nevada. The woman I briefly encountered at the state sale becomes one I imagine standing beside the wagon, gripping her apron as her husband deposits everything of hers deemed unessential on the blowing sand. The oxen stagger, needing water and hay. The children must walk in the sun, and they continue on, hoping the beasts don’t die to add their bleached bones to others. Once this woman makes it to Ragtown, did she dream of going back? In California, was she never satisfied, longing for her desert glassware?

Often, pioneers only had what they could take to remember home. Many would not see family again, and losing stuff adds to the sense of isolation. If you only had room for a few things, would you save a glass? Could you deposit your belongings in the desert if it meant your safe passage? Would you miss it years later?

I once saw a t-shirt that read, “Growing older is not for sissies.” It takes courage to balance what to take and what to leave behind; what to remember and what yet to experience. All the while we lose or sprout hair, find our posture slacking or our feet tapping out of sync. Did you know that a woman can experience hot flashes in her teeth? Yeah, no one told me that one, either. Digestions change and senses diminish. It’s the kind of transformation that signals the reality of change. Children grow up, waists expand, stuff matters more or less.

But Jolayne’s message was about embracing life. Not life at 20 or life at 50. But life. Life as it presents itself at the moment. Each day we ask, how will I live my best today?

The creative life is every day. It’s not when it’s now. On May 14, my middlest child turns 29, and a week later I’ll turn 52. It’s a middle of the spectrum age — it sounds young to some and old to others. It’s a number I can’t feel. I’m me, no matter what shifts. I have a robust imagination that sees beyond the day-to-day. Waly Disney said, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.”

So dream.

May 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about growing older. It can be humorous, dark or poignant. It can be true or total fiction. It can be fine wine or an old fossil. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 14, 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.

 

Old Bones (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“That bone is heavy as iron,” Ramona said, picking up a fossil from Danni’s workbench. Ramona no longer recognized the bone or knew its story. Nothing seemed familiar these days.

Ike put his arm around Ramona, grinning. “It’s old as you, Gran’ma.”

Danni was brushing glass shards, musing over what they might tell her about 19th century occupancy near her garden. She paused. “Ike, you know that’s a dinosaur bone.”

Ramona winked. “Well, if bones get heavier with age then that explains the numbers on the bathroom scale.”

Danni laughed. At least Ramona hadn’t forgotten her sense of humor.