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Watchers

Watchers at Carrot Ranch by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsEver had that feeling of being watched? The hair on your neck prickles, you turn around, or maybe you flee. Who, or what is watching?

This week, writers pushed into the territory of watchers, exploring who and possible motives.

The following is based on the February 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a watcher.

***

The Watcher (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Torry aims her phone at rubbish in her newly-acquired back yard and clicks a picture. Turn slightly, aim anew, click. Turn, aim, click. These should let Juan-Jose-Jorge-whatever-his-name-is know what to haul off.

Her back to the empty house, she can feel it, a physical force between her shoulder blades.

Watched.

She whirls toward the house. Upstairs, undraped windows stare like blind eyes. Lower, behind winter-bare rhododendrons tangled with weeds and trash, sun manages to glint off a dirty basement window.

Nobody.

When she’s done, safe in her car, her skin is still crawling. And she’s supposed to live here?

###

Haunted? by Jules Paige

When a person dies before their time…or at least the time is too
early, like a parent before a child reaches the age of recognition
and memory; often the child is told that their parent is angelically
watching over them.

I saw the staged play ‘Our Town’ – where the dead are boldly
told to let go of earth and what they can no longer have. Does it
help to imagine the photographic eyes of our loved ones watch
our decision making?

Perhaps I believe that only genetics are the true watchful eyes of
where I might go next…

###

The Watching Spirits by Ann Edall-Robson

Tall. Silent. Formidable. Welcoming only those true of heart. In search of guidance, not all who make the journey pass the test. Their search not always clear. Their direction muddied.

Yet, they come knowing they are watched over. They’re not alone. They will be given the chance, only once, to reach the desired result of the challenge. They must be focused. Ready for the trial. Ready for the blistering, mind altering vision.

It is here the young men came. Following the path to the towering rocks. To the place of the watching spirits. And so began their vision quest.

###

Falling Shadows (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

The Beehive was where granite met duff and towering larch. Hikers said they saw a dog like Bubbie run up the trail. She swore she saw dog-prints by the spring. Nothing. No Bubbie. Just a warm breeze through the pines.

She felt…watched.

Looking up, high on the granite mound considered sacred to the Salish, and called the Beehive for its shape, Danni could see the shadow of a dog. How did Bubbie get up there? She’d need a rope to ascend.

Her breath left her as the shadow fell. Before impact, it spread wings and an eagle flew away.

###

Watched by FloridaBorne

“Dingo,” his master called out, opening the gate to her country home. “Let’s walk.”

A head peeked through the dog door. “YiP-yIp-YIP!” he announced his joy.

Ears up, eyes alert, each bush an adventure, he ran toward an all-you-can-sniff world of possibilities.

Feet fluttered over a carpet of pine needles. Tail up, head outstretched, he sprang forward.

Zagging around a flora of obstacles, he jumped at the squirrel scurrying up an oak tree, missing the back legs by an inch!

“Dingo!” A scolding voice yelled. “I’m watching you!”

Tail tucked between his legs, head down, he lumbered toward home.

###

The Watcher by Irene Waters

He lay watching, hidden by the elderberry. Its clusters of purple fruit succulent like the woman he watched. Visualising his capture his pupils narrowed as he imagined her softness. She would not be able to escape. She would succumb to his attentions. He’d cut her if she didn’t and she’d know that he would. He’d captured her in the garden on another occasion. She didn’t sit on the love seat often, usually protecting herself with the tools she toiled and turned the earth with. But he watched. Today he’d have success. She sat. He pounced.

“Oh! Killmouski good pussy.”

###

The Porcelain Cat by Allison Maruska

Skylar sees it as soon as she wakes—the small figurine on her desk. She picks it up, turns it, strokes its glass ears. I wish she could see how happy her discovery makes me.

I couldn’t give it to my granddaughter before I passed, as my grandmother had done for me. The porcelain cat is old, precious. It deserves to be in kind hands.

So, I broke a silly old rule and moved it. I was careful. No one saw it floating.

And watching her now, I know I’ve done the right thing. They will protect each other.

###

The White Porch by Sarah Brentyn

She was about five when she stopped crying. But she still crawled into bed with me. Me. The broken one, the brave one, the older one.

My identity was older sister.

I’d been alive three years longer than she. That’s all I had to offer.

She snuggled with me, her raggedy stuffed rabbit tucked tightly to her chest.

Sometimes, on summer nights, we’d tiptoe to the porch. I’d point to the trees and tell her they were our watchers. They would protect us.

I remember those evenings the most. When the skies were beautiful watercolor paintings of our bruises.

###

Friends by Norah Colvin

He stood at the periphery, silently observing, calculating their disposition, weighing his chances. Were they friend or foe? Appearances could be deceiving, as could his gut reaction.

They seemed harmless enough; but his sweaty palms, throbbing temples, and churning belly turned his legs to jelly. Even breathing was a struggle.

He became aware of someone tugging his shirt. Though unsure if she was talking or mouthing, he understood, “Would you like to play?”

His head would neither nod nor shake, but she led him by the hand anyway.

“Hey, everyone! This is Amir,” she announced.

“Hi Amir!” they chorused.

###

Mamma’s Here, Leroy by Anne Goodwin

His mother watches. First the cap. Then the wrist and ankle straps.

He always welcomed me and my “box of tricks”. Vocabulary, comprehension, digit symbol. If there were points for effort, he’d have been off the scale.

Mamma’s here, Leroy. She knows her words can’t penetrate the glass. She’s here because she birthed him, the cord around his neck. I’m here because I couldn’t trade his failures for the court’s compassion. He’s there because he’s poor, uneducated and black.

She watches the electricity convulse her baby’s body until it breaks him. I watch his mother witness this country’s shame.

###

Watching the Hanging by Luccia Gray

‘We’re going to Horsemonger Lane, Boys,’ said Fagin.

Dodger pulled away. ‘Ain’t nothing there except Southwark prison.’

‘A public hanging!’ said Fagin.

When they arrived, the street was teaming with watchers, howling, screeching and yelling like animals.

Oliver gasped. The place was crawling with thieves and prostitutes fighting and shouting obscenities.

‘Might as well get some work done. Look, there’s a fancy looking toff over there,’ said Fagin, pointing to Charles Dickens.

‘Bet I can half inch his bread and honey,’ bragged Dodger.

‘Watch the hanging carefully, boys,’ warned Fagin. ‘Remember, if you get caught you’ll be brown bread.’

###

Watchword by Bill Engleson

I can’t take my eyes off me. When I was younger, that observation might have embarrassed me. But there is nothing to be ashamed about.

We, each of us, are unique. We live our lives creatively, every step, every thought, every breath.

I look outward, sometimes to the sea, sometimes to the sky, less than I should to her.

I always see me.

Good citizenship requires us all to have a strong and honest eye looking inward.

This is how we serve our great country.

We know when we deviate.

It is our duty to report every single deviation.

###

Being Watched by Pensitivity

It was a big world out there, one where they did not belong and would never begin to understand.

It was unsafe and unpredictable, a place where no-one could be trusted.

You couldn’t tell a friend from an enemy, and who would know the truth from a lie?

Here inside, no-one could harm them, they could live forever in a safe haven, everything always familiar and unchanged.

Some saw it as boring and dull. They wanted adventure, to explore the unknown.

They were tired of predictable and fed up with being watched.
Tentatively they stepped out of the television.

###

The Watcher by Victoria Bruce

I watch. I wait. I report. I never intervene.

Day or night, I watch.

I watched her laugh with the barisita as she picked up her coffee. I watched her walk down the sidewalk, her bright pink coat a splash of colour in the early morning grey.

I’d watched her all of her life – in silence.

I watched as the black van turned the corner. I watched as it sped up.

I said nothing. I made no sound of warning.

I watched as they collided and as her blood turned the white snow crimson.

And I wept in silence.

###

Being Watched by Michael

When I look down my hallway I catch a glimpse of someone standing there. It happens often enough for me to think it’s real. I am being watched, not like a guardian angel but more like by someone curious about who I am and what I’m doing.

They vanish when I glance up at them, blending into the background, the dark curtains in the back room an ideal hiding spot for them.

I wonder what they make of me, sitting here tapping away. The past trying the fathom the future?

One day they might have the courage to ask.

###

The Watcher by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Joseph leaned against the hardware store’s outside wall, impatiently tapping his fingers. Its surface was cool in the shade of what promised to be another scorcher. He drew on his cigarette, then used the same hand to slide his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose. His fingers trembled and the ash dropped to the dirty sidewalk.

He’d waited here every morning for the past week, sure that she would walk down this neighborhood street again. She’d shown up every couple of months, in her bright yellow dress, ever since they’d split.

He had some words for her. Finally.

###

Flash Fiction by Paul Chiswick

April stares at me, invitingly. What a woman: glowing olive skin, hair the colour of espresso, deep brown eyes, glossy red lips.

Oh, man.

My eager fingers trace the pencil-thin seams from the heels of her impossibly high red stilettos, up along her shapely calves, past the contours of her perfect thighs. Her eyes never leave mine, never blink.

Oh, man, oh, man.

‘Lights out!’ The screw’s barked command echoes on the cell’s bare walls.

I kiss the tip of my finger and place it on the calendar girl’s bare rump.

‘Till tomorrow, babe.’

I smile. Close my eyes.

###

Who is watching who? by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum please.’

‘It’s just a painting. It can’t watch you.’ Mary smiled at her daughter’s scowl.

Penny turned away. ‘It just does, like it’s possessed or something.’

‘You watch too much TV. Well the wrong sort.’ She followed her daughter into the kitchen. Penny had picked up her father’s laptop bag. ‘What are you doing?’

Penny said nothing until the computer was on the table. ‘There’

‘What’s that?’ Mary studied the piece of tape on the edge.

‘Dad says it’s to stop anyone watching him through the internet.’

Mary picked it off. ‘You’re both as bad as each other.’

###

The Watcher by Kecia Sparlin

Mall shoes still did a fairly brisk business. Browsing the internet wasn’t the same, not for them, not for him. At lunch time, Marty often sat alone on a bench facing into the store.

Her skirt was slit, ankles slim, her shoes…worn and scuffed. He winced. Then she took them off. Marty clenched a fist and gnawed his knuckle. When she wiggled her toes, he swallowed his gasp.

The salesman brought a box and slipped her tired foot in a new, patent leather shoe. Candy apple red. Marty swiped sweat from above his lip. His eyes watered with love.

###

Third Time Lucky by Sherri Matthews

Three times around the park, that’s what she always did. He’d watched her so long that he almost regretted it was coming to an end.

Almost.

He crouched down low behind the hedge, his heart racing at the thought of having her all to himself at last.

She walked by, once, twice and almost upon him, third time a charm.

And she kept walking, oblivious to the danger lurking just a heartbeat away.

‘Business owner found dead of heart attack in park’, the local news reported days later.

The body was found by a woman who walked there regularly.

###

February 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

february-16There’s a juniper tree on the slope of scree between my view outside the library window and the cliffs of Zion Canyon. The juniper is the size of a person, and each time I glance out I think someone is there, watching me. I’m torn between my inside world of words and my outside world of nature. A person on the periphery of both is startling. As if this Juniper Tree Watcher can see through to me.

I’m not paranoid. I use aluminum foil for BBQing, not blocking nefarious satellite spying. Honestly, I don’t feel watched in that sense. I don’t feel the need to wear hats in public to hide my face from Big Brother cameras or apply duct tape to the video cam on my lap top. Seriously, if anyone is watching me as I write, they have weird clips of me contorting my expression in frustrated pain when internet feeds are slow, deep breathing, arm/shoulders/neck exercising, or drooling when in a daze to flow thoughts from the head to tapping fingers.

The worst Big Brother can nail me for is one-handed keyboarding and scratching my nose (it was just a scratch).

I’ve long known the NSA is watching my email and blogs and bank accounts. The NSA alerts come from Idaho neighbors who’d come over for coffee and the latest conspiracies. I don’t doubt the government is watching, but doing something with that data is beyond their abilities. Try getting VA care. They have tons of data. They lack resources.

Once, when I was 12, a Native American elder warned me about water babies and watchers. He described a place where the Washo knew the watchers to be. It was a spot I avoided because my horse snorted every time I rode past this low bit of land along a creek. My friend said my horse recognized the watchers. I began to think about other places I felt watched, yet another correlation emerged: history.

Feeling watched became a clue for me to look for historic or even pre-historic evidence of habitation. I got so good at it that I recorded 11 archeological sites around the town where I grew up, including the spot I had been warned about. Of course I learned to identify features and clues, but that sense I feel, like a hunch, also feels like being watched.

The top of Dalton Wash felt like a hunch the first time we crested the mesa. It didn’t take long before I found chippings and tools, indicative of an encampment. Subsequent times I’ve been back, I’ve brought loose tobacco to share, a gift to the ancients my Native friends taught me. The first time I brought tobacco, I had the hair on the back of my neck stand up at a certain point. I felt I should not go past and I left my gift there on the wind.

I’ve been asking around, to fill in the gap between knowing this place was once inhabited and wanting discover their story. Some of the rock shops had said the Shoshone and Paiute lived and hunted here. It didn’t feel like my watcher, though. Then I discovered a small warning to hikers on the Zion side of the mesa above Dalton Wash — leave rocks, petrified wood and artifacts behind for others to enjoy; do not climb or disturb the rock dwellings.

Rock dwellings would mean Pueblo or even the mysterious Anasazi. I began asking outfitters and all were reluctant to say anything more than the park doesn’t want people to know in order to protect the ruins. In a round about way they confirmed the existence of ancient ruins in the vicinity where I felt watched and compelled to leave tobacco.

Whatever the feeling is, it taps into my imagination. Of course, a logical explanation would be my mind attempting to fill in the gaps it doesn’t know. I could agree with that. When I was younger I thought an archaeological career would be the greatest ever. I had always wanted to write historical novels and I saw the possibility of being an archaeologist/historical fiction novelist. It was beyond what I could do at the time, and college was not part of my family dynamic. By the time I got to college, I was a mother of three. Practicality dictated a teaching profession, but history and creative writing called my name. Creative writing called the loudest.

When I started writing Miracle of Ducks, Danni came to me as Dr. Danni Gordon, an historical archaeologist. She disdains dogs until her husband Ike abruptly decides to serve a private military company in Iraq. She has to overcome her dislike of dogs and Ike’s best friend to hold her life together in Ike’s absence. She ends up finding a friendship and a pup, and eventually she even finds her community after believing she never needed to be part of one.

The friend, Michael Robineaux, is the perfect foil for Danni’s career — he’s Ojibewe. He frequently challenges both her profession and disbelief in the supernatural. While the plot doesn’t get too “far out there” there is a thread of supernatural regarding the pup, Bubbie. Most of it is easily explained away like my sense of feeling watched by those who’ve gone before, but there’s several incidents that are left to the reader to decide.

The community element was something I originally set up to contrast Ike’s commitment to duty and Danni’s need for solitude. Community is a dynamic force, and complex. Miracle of Ducks drills down through the layers until Danni can finally see her own placement and come to understand why Ike would feel the need to put himself in harm’s way.

Last week I had a huge breakthrough in revising. I’ve mentioned before that I’m changing the setting from northern Wisconsin to north Idaho. One chunk of story that I wasn’t sure how to transfer involves Bubbie getting lost on Madeline Island. There is no such place in north Idaho, although several peninsulas on Lake Pend Oreille might work. Last week, I responded to the prompt and was thinking about Danni’s angst over her missing pup. In my original scene, Danni and Michael spend days searching for Bubbie, following up on sightings including a farmer who finds the pup in his hen-house.

Without thinking, I wrote Bubbie was lost on the Pack River and a group of rednecks shot at him for sport. Suddenly, the transfer was complete in my imagination. I could see Bubbie getting lost on the Pack (many dogs do each year) and the dangers became real and unfolded. I’m biting at the bit to get this scene rewritten now, thanks to the insight from that flash. Sometimes, my own responses to the prompt are like a flash light showing the path in the darkness!

I hope to find that ruin above Dalton Wash before we leave Mars. We don’t know where we are going next, or how we are going to move our RV, but I hope we get a flash of insight before the snowbird season ends, early April. Like a good story, I know something is up on Dalton Wash. It interesting to note, it’s not the only Anasazi ruin in the area.

The other is beyond the slope where the Juniper Tree Watcher stands.

February 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a watcher. It can be a sentinel like the Watchman formation that overlooks Zion Canyon, or a Big Brother conspiracy theory. How can you use a watcher to set a tone or present a twist?

Respond by February 21, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published February 22). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Falling Shadows (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

The Beehive was where granite met duff and towering larch. Hikers said they saw a dog like Bubbie run up the trail. She swore she saw dog-prints by the spring. Nothing. No Bubbie. Just a warm breeze through the pines.

She felt…watched.

Looking up, high on the granite mound considered sacred to the Salish, and called the Beehive for its shape, Danni could see the shadow of a dog. How did Bubbie get up there? She’d need a rope to ascend.

Her breath left her as the shadow fell. Before impact, it spread wings and an eagle flew away.

###

The Murky Side of the Rainbow

The Murky Side of Rainbows by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsMud is murky. It’s certainly dirty. Yet sometimes it can hold surprising reflections. A mud puddle is an unlikely place for a rainbow, but it was the place to look.

This week, writers went where rainbows in puddles led them. The murky side of the rainbows holds some surprises.

The following stories are based on the February 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rainbow in a puddle.

***

Good Riddance by Diana Nagai

Kelly descended the front steps, leaving her first love in the doorway. Sliding behind the wheel, she ran her hand over the many tears in the leather seat and tugged firmly on the belt. She cranked her window down, using a pair of pliers gifted to her by her father when she left home; a man who truly adored her. Crisp air flowed over her, creating a lightness that gave her the moxie to reach out and wave goodbye.

With mirrors in place and a blinking oil light, she vanished with a smile, leaving rainbow puddles in her wake.

###

Jaguar Baby by Kerry E.B. Black

A dreaded rainbow glistened on the garage floor, the tell-tale oil which portends the death of a beloved machine. Chris kicked a pile of tires heaped in the corner. “Darn it. She never listens.”

Fumes from Aunt Connie’s 1968 E-type Jaguar still lingered after her hasty departure. She’d waved, ignoring Chris. “Thanks for fixing my baby!”

Water eddied through the oil slick. She judged from the size of the slick the car would make it to Aunt Connie’s destination, but coming back would not be happening. She packed oil and mounted her Vespa, rushing to rescue her impatient aunt.

###

Faith (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“A rainbow in a puddle. We’ll have good luck in our search today,” Michael said.

All Danni could see was a biohazard in mud. She climbed into Michael’s truck and they left to follow leads on Bubbie, missing along the Pack River for a week.

“Did you see it?”

Michael was as bad as Ike, Danni thought. Signs, wonders, miracles. “Yes I saw the oil slick.”

“Ever the scientist. Today, have faith.”

Their first encounter with campers reminded Danni why she had none. The rednecks with AR-15s claimed they peppered a dog fitting Bubbie’s description. For fun, they said.

###

Fight Own Battle by Lady Lee Manila

rainbow in a puddle

we’re tiny dots of whole

everything takes its toll

testing if we’re able

gives us hope to scramble

feel of trust in our soul

 

silver lining or not?

up to us to decide

perhaps good if we tried

for us ourselves bethought

and let’s not be distraught

if we make it, it’s pride

 

we trek some dirty mud

not always smooth, the road

got to pay what we owed

if there’s luck, we’re blessed

depends if we acted

carry on as we flowed

 

rainbow in a puddle

tells us that we’re able

fight own battle

###

Rainbow in the Puddle by Reena Saxena

I loved RainBow till I studied Physics. The charm of the rainbow gradually disappeared. The arc transformed into a circle of knowledge, and lost the open element of awe. I was picking up wet laundry from the clothesline, after a shower, rather than look for the rainbow.

I am sure, RainBow was mighty disappointed, and missed my childhood. It was pretty lonely, amidst dense, gray clouds on the gray sky. There it came … down to earth with a thud, in a puddle of water. And the Sun helped the world in noticing its existence. Damn the physics lessons…

###

Coulored Lights by Jane Dougherty

The puddle in the path reflected like a mirror the tracery of the trees and the sky beyond. I stood on the edge captivated by the still beauty. The sun came from behind a cloud and struck the water, covering the surface with rainbow lights. Diesel, a film of leaked fuel turned the timeless pastoral scene into a surreal nightmare. I raised my head, looked beyond the clouds to the scritch-scratched vapour trails across the blue, smelled the traffic on the road ahead and felt the tree roots curling and straining to find the lifeblood of the dying earth.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

The two giants walked side by side, cursing Man’s folly and the weather.
‘This thunderstorm was due today.’
‘Indeed it was and the rain is badly needed.’
‘Water was their most precious resource but they believed the taps would never run dry.
Overpopulation led to reclaiming wetlands for property development.’
‘Man was stupid, filling in lakes, building on floodplains and not dredging the rivers properly’.
‘So here we are, starting again by making puddles with every step.’
‘They’ll know we’ve been here.’
‘Because we’ve left our footprints?’
‘No. Because you dropped your bow in the rain and it’s arched.’

###

Making a Rainbow by Luccia Gray

‘Look a puddle!’ James rushed to the playground.

‘What’s a puddle?’ asked Timmy.

‘Some water on the floor,’ replied Susan.

‘But we mustn’t spill any water,’ said Timmy. ‘Who did it?’

‘The clouds spilled the water,’ said Miss Rushbrooke.

‘Does that mean the drought’s over?’ Asked Jenny.

The teacher sighed watching the toddlers dip their fingers. They hadn’t seen rainfall in their short lives. ‘Look for a rainbow. That’ll bring us good luck.’

They shook their heads; the sky was clear blue again.

‘Don’t worry,’ said Miss Rushbrooke. ‘Bring the watercolours. We can make a rainbow in the puddle.’

###

The Magic Rainbow by Ann Edall-Robson

The mystical, magical colours dance through the willows and along the creek. Shades of a second rainbow reflects in the puddles. Transparent in the sun showers happening in the valley.

Race to the end of the rainbow. To the pot of gold protected by the little people. Closer and closer. Beneath the small, yellow booted feet, the puddles on the trail scatter in a spray of water and mud. Droplets of rain on rosy, apple cheeks turn to into rivulets. The hunt for the elusive rainbow and the leprechauns that play under its arch gone now for another day.

###

Of Puddles and Rainbows by Norah Colvin

For children of the drought who had never seen rain, the gush when the pipe from the bore burst a seam was a rare opportunity for water play and unexpected learning. While Dad and his Station Hand worked to repair the hole, the children danced in puddles under the cooling spray.

“Look at the colours,” a child exclaimed, trying to capture each one. The men paused to smile at the children’s delight, remembering their own childhood glee. Mum watched from the verandah – without their precious resource, there’d be no washing off mud or cooking the dinner that night.

###

Puddles by Sarah Brentyn

Tina’s legs, splattered with droplets of mud, stuck out from under her dress. A white, frilly thing her aunt insisted she wear today.

“What are you doing? Get off the ground!” Her aunt put her lips close to the girl’s ear, “People are staring!” She hissed.

“White is for weddings,” Tina traced patterns in the brown puddle by her hip. She swirled her finger in circles then squinted. “White is for clouds,” she pointed at the puddle. “Look. They bring rainbows to the mucky mud.”

“Get. Up.”

Tina wiped mud on her dress. “White is not for funerals, Auntie.”

###

The Rainbow by Michael

Through the window I could see him standing by the puddle. He would stoop down and scoop his hand in the water, stand up and look to see if something was there.

I went out to investigate and found him still mesmerised by the puddle. He pointed and I saw in the puddle a rainbow’s reflection.

Together we stared at it. Then he bobbed down and scooped another handful.

I said, “Look at that, you’ve got it.”

He grinned at me proud of his catch.

Not wanting to drop it we stepped towards home. His mum loved his imagination.

###

Rainbows and Valentines by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Nora sat on a low rock, head tipped to one side. The meadow’s shallow pond flashed morning’s sun and last night’s shadows. Peter watched the breeze flip her fine blonde hair, seeming to whisper to her. He left the path to the meadow, and dropped down beside her, “Nora, what do you see?”

Since the accident, she’d become more quiet, and a little strange. His catapult had launched the rock and knocked her to the ground.

His responsibility.

She plunged her hand in the rainbow waters and erased the vision of their future together, and smiling, met his gaze.

###

She Gave Me a Rainbow by Drew Sheldon

I always hated the time after a rainstorm. I was just trying to dry off in peace while the schoolkids would run around the park I called home. They’d splash in the puddles and make all the noise they couldn’t make while cooped up inside. One time a little girl couldn’t catch her friends’ attention so she turned to me. “Look!” she yelled at me, pointing at a puddle. Something in the water was making rainbow colors, something she apparently had never seen before. I couldn’t help but smile and realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had.

###

I Cannot Kill a Rainbow by Anne Goodwin

Even our uniforms are mud coloured, the better to blend with the terrain. Where once was meadow, now is quagmire; our every step hefts a sticky stinking shadow, as if our boots have built a platform sole. No grass, no flowers, no sun to lift the spirits; the only bright spot on the battlefield is blood. Mud paints our hearts with fear and hatred. Where massacre is our mission, colour is a crime. Thus I meet my enemy across a muddy puddle, until I recognise the badge on his lapel. I cannot kill a rainbow. I cannot murder love.

###

Mud Slide by Geoff Le Pard

The urge to call them back was almost overwhelming. Mary rocked Charlotte and focused on Penny, following Paul across the cliffside. He was confident, Penny less so, but determined nonetheless.

Mary shut her eyes, travelling back decades: another cliff, another daughter following her father. This daughter, her, slipping on the wet mud, falling, landing hard aware of the likely pain of the impact (there wasn’t) and her own mother’s screams. Her father, all worried face saying ‘not to fuss so.’

‘Mum, look!’ Penny and Paul stood on the top waving.

Did you ever really let go of your children?

###

What Comes First: The Cloud or the Silver Lining? by Geoff Le Pard

Mary focused on changing the baby while Paul pulled out the picnic. ‘You didn’t need to climb up there.’ She couldn’t look at him.

‘It was safe enough.’

‘Is ‘safe enough’ your standard? I had kittens.’

He put his arm round her waist. ‘She was terrified at the start and buzzing at the end. You know, she saw this rainbow, reflected in a puddle, when we finished. It was her pot of gold, challenging herself like that.’

Mary sighed. Was she the only one to worry the next cloud might be the one not to have a silver lining?

###

Seeing the Wood for the Trees by Ellen Best

Sandy, her boots splashed, hat pulled low, frowning with lips pursed, determinedly marched on. “Keep walking the same path Sand; (she heard in her head) you’ll fall down the same hole”. “Okay dad enough!” She roared wiping her face “Avoid the wood; you’ll miss the trees”. ” just leap shall”? She cried. Jumping she landed smack in the puddle, hiccoughed as tears cleaned mud from her cheeks.

Robert on seeing her, threw a leg over the stile and ran. “Don’t tell me … there was a rainbow at the bottom.” He smiled, his strong arms gathered her and Sandy saw the rainbow.

###

Here’s to Mud in Your Eye! by Jules Paige

Why is it that the groomsmen had (or have) such bawdy
traditions? At the bachelor party the groom had wished
he’d had mud splattered in his eyes. He’d have rather
enjoyed the toasts to his upcoming nuptials more. He
wasn’t really a drinker. And when his best friend took
him home. The bride to be, saw her intended’s green face.
She warned; Take him straight to the bathroom. But neither
man listened.

Instead of a simple mess, the resulting chaos resulted in
more slung mud than necessary. Clothes and bed sheets
had to be changed… and the floor mopped.

###

Why Some Poets Are Falsely Viewed as Irritating Husbands on Occasion by Bill Engleson

“Before the melt, the snow pile was higher than my bearded chin.”

Shelley looks at my hyperbole and shakes her head.

“But,” I clarify, “that’s all behind us. Slush now rules the world, mudpuddles are in bloom and the sun is casting a kaleidoscopic arc of multi-colored joy into the mush of mud and snow.”

“All I said, Sweetie,” Shelley continues to show teeth-grinding patience with me, “Is that we should go for a walk. Put on our booties, go for a simple walk. A quiet walk.”

Alas, she sometimes exhibits limited tolerance for my compulsion to wax poetic.

###

The Murkiness of Emotion by Jeanine Lebsack

There are mud puddles all around as I step gingerly around them not wanting to get my new Ugg boots wet. The sheep lining encompasses my feet making me feel such coziness.

As I tip toe across the plethora of puddles I glance at my reflection. I look so sad as the tears start to glisten in my eyes. I think of my sweet Mama and her saying “this too shall pass remember there’s always pain, but the sun shines after the rain.” I smile as I wade through the murkiness of my emotions and see the rainbows reflection.

###

Celebrating Love by C. Jai Ferry

Rainbeau glanced at the chalkboard: hamburger, cheeseburger, and beer. Fish on Fridays, but today was Tuesday. Puddles was a lonely mom-and-pop bar—perfect for her first Valentine’s Day alone.

“A burger, I guess.” She smiled at the blue-coiffed septuagenarian not-so-patiently waiting for her order.

“That it?” The disgust was thick in the woman’s voice.

“And a coke?” Rainbeau added as an olive branch.

The woman shuffled away.

Rainbeau refused to let the woman’s cantankerous attitude steal her smile. She counted out the money for dinner. Tonight was the first of many celebrations. The divorce was final; she was free.

###

Delusional by FloridaBorne

“Rainbows!” I scoffed. “A delusion of colors.”

My son, far too smart for a 5 year old, asked, “Why?”

“My father told me there was a pot of gold at the end of one, and liked to chase them. We found a beauty at the edge of a muddy field. I jumped into a puddle up to my hips trying to find gold.”

“What did you find?”

“Bacteria,” I frowned. “ I was sick for days. It’s called dysentery.”

“Mom tells me to remember the love,” my son smiled sweetly.

“She should’ve thought of that before she divorced me.”

###

February 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

february-9Mud is murky. It gets a bad wrap as dirty — it’s the stuff that clings to soles, tracking across clean surfaces. Dogs are notorious for muddy paws and children are often chided for playing in it. Politicians perfect the art of slinging it. Yet, there’s an allure to mud. It’s become the stuff to haunt me, fearing it’s slickness to slide a full-sized truck geared down into 4-low slowly over the rim of a snaking canyon road. So focused has my mind been on mud, I began to see it had lessons for me.

First, I have to admit I ventured up the mesas too soon. The sun came out after overcast and rainy days, after snow on the mesas and flash floods in the canyons. The sky spread out like a blue tablecloth inviting me to picnic beneath the warm sun. We waited a week. The Hub says, “It’ll be okay.” The dirt road that winds up Dalton Wash certainly looked dry when we turned up it.

“See, it’s dry,” says the Hub.

I watched the brush, the boulders, the small crevice of a creek. “Look! Deer.” Two mulie does with yearlings trot along side the truck like an escort welcoming us back to the mesas.

“See, it’s dry,” says the Hub.

Spindly apple trees stand like dead sticks in fields of mud on the first mesa level. It appears dry…on the surface. “I don’t know,” I say.

The road turns sharply right before climbing several thousand feet through a boulder-strewn canyon — the deeper crevice of Dalton Wash, cutting through layers of time. “It’s fine,” says the Hub.

I suck air hard and grab the steel frame between my lowered window and open wing.The canyon shrouded in shadow, the road cut deep with ruts begins to twist and rise. “Four-wheel drive!” I shout this like making the sign of the cross in reaction to danger. Salvation of trucks, entering unknown terrain. Holy 4WD.

“We don’t need it,” says the Hub. The truck lugs and if it stops we’ll spin tires; if we spin tires we might get stuck of slide off the road. Off the road to the left is gnarly debris, the scree of mesas. Off the road to the right is a rocky shelf, a wall of layered clay.

We need it. The Hub stops when the road flattens before a churning river of mud. Each current carved by a truck before us. That’s hopeful; Other Trucks have made it. He steps out into the road/mud-river and turns the hubs of each front wheel.

NOTE: Hubs engage or disengage the front wheel axles, thus engaging the hubs is to put both axles to work for climbing mountains or navigating spring mud. I have one Hub as in Husband and two manual locking hubs on my truck which requires the Hub to get out and turn. Although I live in Utah, I do not practice polygamy. One Hub is enough.

Hubs engage and Hub settles behind the wheel, we lurch forward and take on the incline the same time a truck above descends. There’s not enough room to pass and the descending truck can’t stop. Can’t. Stop. We call dibs on the wall and the other driver slides between us and the drop off to the canyon bottom below.

“Are we stuck?” I ask when my breath returns. The other truck slides to a stop behind us.

“We’re fine,” says the Hub and indeed we begin to churn mud like brown butter beneath the wheels and bit by bit we edge forward. Until the rock. It stops us and we slide back to where we went off the road.

“You folks stuck?” asks the driver of the other truck. He greets the Hub with a handshake and shovel.

“Just a rock,” says the Hub who proceeds to pick up a rock big enough to stop a truck. Like a shot put he heaves it over the edge. The other driver shovels a patch and we gun it so hard we fish tail out of the rut and up the road. We cant’s stop and the driver understands we aren’t being rude to stop and says thanks. We are entering the steepest grade and the mud actually lessens, but another truck is facing down at us. The driver is slow to understand he needs to hit reverse and hit it fast. We can’t stop or else we’ll slide backwards and off the road, into Dalton Wash.

The nose of our truck is inches from the nose of his and we drive this way the last stretch and then we pass waving, and telling them “Good Luck!” For a while, I’m happy to be in the sun walking through the litter of petrified wood, cherry-picking chunks of jasper. A wet winter has revealed previously buried treasure. By foot I make it to the edge of the Zion Wilderness and I pass through the gate. There’s something I want to find…

…Not today. The Hub catches up with me, the dog dodging between us on shaky legs, howling after rabbits like a banshee. We have to leave before the sun sets.

The sun glows like a distant apocalypse on the far horizon of another mesa. We don’t want to go down in the dark, yet we can’t see with the last rays of sun burning away our sight. We sit at the top of the mesa until the bright orb dips and we go down in dusk.

Sliding in mud.

There’s no stopping the truck. The Hub turns into each skid as the back end of the truck whips around. The back end slides right, he turns left. The back end slides left, he turns right. All I can do is focus on my breath. I think “breathe in” as I breathe out. Halfway down the mesa I realize I’ve focused the wrong words to each inhale and exhale. I calm the rising panic with the thought, it doesn’t matter; just breathe.

We get to the bottom and the Hub says, “See, it was fine.”

What I have learned…

Mud is still. It’s motion that causes the friction. Steady and slow is best

Mud is murky. It teaches me I don’t have to see to get through. It’s okay not to know all the details.

Mud is sticky. Persistence is the lesson here — stick-to-it-ness. Stick like mud to what needs doing.

Mud is mild. As scared as it might make me to drive on it, mud is not a torrent.

Mud has benefits. It has minerals, water and reflections of sky above. It calls me to look for what’s good.

My take away as a writer, is that writing is often messy and murky. It can be like mud. Sometimes, I think I’m flinging mud at the blank page, looking for what sticks. And revising feels like sliding down a mesa, and I feel uncertain how to control the weight of my words upon the flow. No one teaches you how to navigate mud and when it comes to the process no one can teach you to write your stories in your voice. Certainly we can learn to drive, and we can learn the craft of writing, but mud is the original material.

If you haven’t yet read, Carrot Ranch has launched a new guest series that gets muddy, exploring the idea Raw Literature. It’s meant to be an ongoing conversation from different perspectives, and a look at the lives of writers behind the screen. These are the essays so far, and I hope you take time to read, ponder and even submit an essay of your own:

With all that seems to be unfolding in the world, it can feel muddy. The challenge is to find something worthwhile — a piece of land worth preserving; a civic duty worth taking on; a cause you can contribute to; a way to bring art to the artless. Certainly we can create from the clay we are given.

February 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rainbow in a puddle. Is it a silver lining of sorts or a false reflection? Think about what it might mean or convey. Simple science? Hope? Or the doom of humankind? Create action or character reflection. Go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by February 14, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published February 15). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Faith (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“A rainbow in a puddle. We’ll have good luck in our search today,” Michael said.

All Danni could see was a biohazard in mud. She climbed into Michael’s truck and they left to follow leads on Bubbie, missing along the Pack River for a week.

“Did you see it?”

Michael was as bad as Ike, Danni thought. Signs, wonders, miracles. “Yes I saw the oil slick.”

“Ever the scientist. Today, have faith.”

Their first encounter with campers reminded Danni why she had none. The rednecks with AR-15s claimed they peppered a dog fitting Bubbie’s description. For fun, they said.

###

Rock in the Road

rockThe rock is unexpected. But there it is, where it shouldn’t be. It’s in the way.

This week, writers considered the various ways a rock in the road could tell a story. Sometimes it was the story, and other times it was a prop to carry the story. These writers wrote right around that rock in the road.

The following are based on the February 2, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock in the road.

***

The Rocky Road by C Jai Ferry

Stella stood several feet from the courtroom entrance. You can do this. She fumbled for the small bluish-gray rock in her pocket, one side rubbed smooth by her anxiety-prone thumb. You don’t have to be afraid anymore. Her thumb moved more furiously.

“You ready?” her lawyer asked, guiding her through the double-wide doors.

Stella nodded.

“What’s with the rock? Lucky charm?”

“S-sorta,” Stella said. Dammit, focus! You can do this. “I fell on it. My first visible scar.” She pointed to her hairline.

“Doesn’t sound very lucky.”

Stella exhaled slowly. “It was the day before I filed for divorce.”

###

Steve Goes Underneath by Anne Goodwin

Childhood taught me home was an illusion but, twenty years on, I was living the dream. A regular job, my own house and a fabulous woman to share it with, I could’ve cruised like that for evermore. Until Liesel changes her mind about children, decides she wants a family with or without me. I can’t be a father, but I can’t let her go.

What do you do when a rock blocks the road ahead? Blast it with dynamite, scramble over it or tunnel underneath? Luckily my house has a cellar … with three strong bolts across the door.

###

The Rock by Michael

I couldn’t believe it but the rock suddenly sprouted rocky arms, then legs as it stood towering above us. In its hand was a giant hammer which it swung above its head. Mum was screaming, dad was screaming it was pure chaos. Then I sat up, mum was wanting to know what was wrong. A bad dream I said, sweat pouring off me. Out of the car window I saw dad negotiating his way round the fallen rock. As we passed to one side I noticed a long crack and a hand appeared. That’s when I totally freaked out.

###

Sticks and Stones by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Two boys huddled on the battlement wall, wind-blown and on fire with An Idea.

pony-2Between them the small catapult waited, fragrant with fresh-tanned leather straps. A pile of stones glittered, rubbed free of ocean, with chapped hands and tunics needing a wash.

No girls around to interrupt their weapons test. Ponies wandered the path to the sun-bright meadow.

Thor loaded the bucket, and with a nod, Peter released the catapult’s arm. The small stone flew and smacked a pony’s flank. It whinnied and shied.

“This time? Bigger rock!”

They didn’t notice the girls step out on the path below.

###

Blocked Way by Kerry E.B. Black

Insurmountable as a mountain, a boulder blocked the trail. Cindy’s mount snorted a cloud of displeasure into the winter air as Cindy considered other paths. Ice made the left impassable, and thick, snow-covered branches provided an impenetrable barrier into the woods.

She sighed into her mount’s neck. “My life.” An overbearing ex, condescending family, and unpleasable boss filled her existence with self-doubt. Only riding healed her.

She dismounted and pushed, but the stone remained. She rounded it and began breaking branches. Blood trickled from scrapes from the effort, but she forced a path, determined not to be stymied again.

###

Rock Diplomacy by Joe Owens

“I’m not moving it,” the Virginia highway worker said.

“Nor am I,” his Tennessee counterpart insisted.

The trouble was the large boulder had come to rest on the state line and neither man saw a majority of the rock in their jurisdiction. Had there been a noticeable portion in either the decision would be simple.

“We can split it in two, then take care of our half,” Virginia said.

“Not with my tools,” Tennessee nodded negatively.

“You’re not suggesting I use mine?”

“Well someone must,” Tennessee stated.

“Let’s call the feds. We can claim interstate commerce or something.”

“Alright!”

###

Rock’s in the Road by Nona Morris

“Rock’s in the road.”

“Already?”

“Getting faster.”

“Guess it is.”

It was hot out, the sun high. Moving the rock was hard work.

“You gotta stop this, Darlin.” he drawled at the stone. Laying his hand on it, he felt the vibration, like it was purring without sound.

He wondered if they ought to call somebody. Rocks shouldn’t purr, even silently. Rocks shouldn’t move on their own, no matter how slow.

“Alright then,” he said, putting his tired shoulder against the vibrating mass and shoving. He wished, not for the first time, it had never fallen from the sky.

###

First Day on the Job by Gwen Couture

The call came early in the morning. Stuart, the sheriff of highway patrol, had his feet up on his desk. Reluctantly, he picked up the phone after letting it ring 5 or 6 times.

“Sheriff, you better come down here.”

Stuart arrived to raw chaos. The 1996 Chevy Malibu was crushed beyond anything he could imagine. The Malibu must have been heading down the steep mountain road going at least 80kph. They simply couldn’t see the massive fallen boulder in time. He knew there could be no survivors.

“Well?” Stuart probed, knowing the answer.

The rookie shook his head and cried silently.

###

Rocks in Her Head by Norah Colvin

The newcomer was intrigued. Every morning she’d be there, filling a battered barrow with rocks from the road. You’d think that, after a day or two, she’d have removed them all. But, every morning, even earlier, a quarry truck would rumble by, spilling more.

Longer-term residents shrugged indifferently, “She’s got rocks in her head.”

When he asked her one day, she replied, “Come and see.”

He followed into her back garden, and watched. She stood at the edge of a pit and threw in the rocks. After each she listened, hopeful of a sound, of one day filling it.

###

That Rock That Talked by Lady Lee Manila

I had a dream, a lucid dream
Lying on a beach and I saw a big rock
A pervious rock and somehow gleamed
All of a sudden, facing me, it talked

That rock that talked, it warned me to be wary
Wary of things that might hinder my growth
That it’s not smooth sailing and could be blistery
Things might not come my way, perhaps I might loath

Lying below a cellular blanket
Never felt so cosy by the brooklet
I can tell you everything coherent
In the ancient world, life could be brilliant
Come what may, I’m ready

###

Rock! Checkmate! by Bill Engleson

He could feel it.

It seemed to be shuffling around in his belly, in the pit of his gut, a dark shaft of coiled intestine, wrapping around his innards like a viper, slippery-skulking, hardwired for perseverance, soft, mushy fat tissue, oozing up against it, seeking to dissolve its granite impact.

He could feel it.

He shifted his butt, seeking something approximating comfort. It wasn’t going to happen. His body had failed him, corrupted his future, made a lie of his dreams.

He could feel it.

He would forever be less than he might have been, or would ever be.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

He was late.
They had told him where to meet them so that they could arrive together at the surprise birthday party.
They had picked this spot with care knowing he couldn’t miss it.
If he’d arrived first, he could park up and wait for them. How difficult could it be?
They went inside for coffee.

“Look for the rock in the road,” they said.
There was nothing here dammit, except a rock in the road!
He got out and pulled out his cell.
‘Where the hell are you? he shouted.
‘In the Rocky Road cafe waiting for you!’

###

Timed by Reena Saxena

I have always loved your way of doing things, Tim the Timid! You placed a boulder on my path, but left ample space for me, to bypass it, and drive ahead. And I don’t hold it against you, either! Your wife does not like me, and somebody has paid you to do this.

I have become so adept at ducking bullets and manholes. Life has never been easy. Good things happened, but always at the wrong time. Just like my ill-fated rendezvous with you! You will regret this soon, Tim, the Wrongly Timed! I do not forget or forgive.

###

When Mae and Her Dogs Met Jasper by Jules Paige

Until she uploaded her day’s photos onto the computer,
she never noticed the shadow in each of them.

…From the dawn without telling anybody, she made green
pinecones stop heart disease ~ would grimace, moan, and
pray for homeless ex-wife’s, hawk, grizzly bears, John, Steph,
and Dakota, in the back of the truck…

Jasper had come between a rock and a very hard place –
knew Mae was special right off, the way she treated her
dogs. At dusk was she was thankful when the kind man
offered to change a flat on her truck…and the dogs even
liked him.

###

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Sherri Matthews

Tears streamed down Carrie’s face as she read out loud, her hands shaking:

“While we sympathize, we are unable to comment on civil matters, and therefore, we have no choice but to enforce our thirty day eviction notice and foreclosure.”

“Bastards!” yelled Tom as Carrie threw down the letter and ran to their baby, who screamed for them both from his crib.

Two months later, eating dinner at a homeless shelter, Tom took a call about some possible part-time work. He hoped the fact that his mother was Mexican born and bred wouldn’t be another rock in the road.

###

Cracking Rocks and Other Chores by Luccia Gray

‘You’ll get up at 5, carry hot water and light the hearths in all the bedrooms.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘After breakfast, you’ll empty the latrines and make the beds.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Then you’ll prepare lunch and do the laundry.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Such a pretty girl, but so frail.’ He smiled maliciously. ‘The master may use you for other chores.’

Let him try, I thought.

He wasn’t to know I had worked cracking rocks with a heavy hammer all day, until I splintered the forman’s skull when he put his hand down my breeches and discovered I wasn’t frail at all.

###

A Rock in the Road (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane trudges wearily, wondering what on earth made her think a walk was a good idea. It’s cold but she’s hot.Troubles has clearly never been leash-trained; she’s not sure who’s walking who. It’s a pretty day, but it would be just as beautiful from the backyard.

She realizes what the problem REALLY is as she comes abreast of a boulder jutting dangerously into the travel lane. She perches on it and breathes a sigh as she works her shoe off and shakes out a surprisingly tiny pebble.

“Much better,“she says.Troubles whuffs happily and pulls her onward.

###

Flash Flood by Ann Edall-Robson

Water gushed through the trees and across the rutted trail, to blend into the prairie grass on the other side. It wasn’t the torrent it had been in the previous days, but still it flowed with force. Stone boats, pulled by teams of horses had been moving rocks from the flooded road since before daybreak. Each time it rained, they had the same problem. Flash floods carrying rock and debris down the mountain to rest on the open space of wagon road and meadow. It was time to find a different route to move the freight from the railhead.

###

Rocky Road by Florida Borne

In 1989, my third Geology field trip in 3 years, our instructor took the back roads into Nevada and Utah. Instead of a rental van, we were part of an Isuzu Trooper convoy.

Dust flew from his back wheels, impeding the vision of those behind him. Stinging sand became vultures nesting in our hair. With days between shower facilities, I was happy that I’d chosen a cap and NOIR dark glasses for the trip.

On a rare paved road, hillside striations intrigued the newbie. “What kind of rock is this?”

“I don’t do 60 MPH geology,” the instructor replied.

###

The Rock that Changed My World

“I knew it was cheesy. But there was no other way.”

“Throwing my twelve-string in the Chevy, I was there in under ten.”

“But Daddy, it takes almost twenty minutes to get to Grandma’s.”

“Light traffic, sweetie.”

“Mommy’s window was open and the curtains were flapping out the window.”

“Jumping out of the car, I grabbed ole Betsy and I was under the window before I could change my mind.”

“But had to know she was there.”

“Daddy, what did you do?” Vanessa loved this part.

“This, sweetie.” he said, holding a small rock. “This rock changed my world.”

###

‘These Rocks Don’t Lose Their Shape..’ by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why are boys so stupid?’

Mary studied her daughter. ‘Stupid?’

‘Jack. I thought he was different. But all he’s interested in is Pokémon cards.’

‘Does that make him stupid?’

Penny frowned. ‘No, but… all boys do is collect stuff. They’re not interested in people.’

‘Maybe that’s generalising…’

‘But they do!’

‘So do I. Tea pots.’

‘They pretty. And useful.’

‘True. At least cards are easy to store. Not like when I first knew your dad. He collected rocks.’

‘Rocks? What for?’

‘Their colour, their rarity…’

‘Like diamonds?’

‘Hardly.’

‘Exactly. They’re never useful.’

‘Rocks or boys?’

Penny laughed. ‘Both!’

###

Midnight Rock (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Michael knelt at the bumper, shining his flashlight. “Hell of rock you hit, Danni.”

“It was an easy target, squatting there in the middle of the road like a legless grizzly.”

Michael shined the powerful light up the canyon wall. “Can’t see anything else unstable.”

“A rock just for me.” She slumped her head on the hood. “Ike loved this truck.”

“He still does.”

“Yeah, Ike’s in some hell-hole, pining for his truck!”

“He’s enduring because of what he has back home, Danni. You, the truck, the dogs.”

“Too bad he won’t have a home to come home to.”

###

A Rock in the Road by Drew Sheldon

During a stop one day, a kid asked me for my pen. It was nice, and I didn’t want to give it up. So I asked him what he had for me, knowing he’d have nothing. He ran around the corner and came back with a rock that he obviously just picked up from the road. “Magic,” he said. “Bring you luck.” You could tell that pen was like gold to him. Giving it to him brought me a rare smile during that hellish year. I lost a few bucks, but I got the better end of the deal.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

I found him leaning against the rock, peaked and scared.

“You okay, Papa?”

He slapped the rock. A car-sized boulder unearthed from blasting, when they put in the new sewer line along the edge of the creek. The blasting went on for months, cracking the walls and stirring up old memories in Papa’s head.

“Papa.”

He slouched down low, his back against the only place he could trust. I could see the house, but Papa was floating the Mekong Delta, lost but looking for the ambush. With a sigh, I crouched with Papa, hoping he’d find a way out.

###

Snow Day by Kate Spencer

“Some boys were out tobogganing at McDonald’s hill today,” said Jim, his mouth full of Glady’s lasagna.

“Really,” said Gladys, reaching for the garlic bread.

“Yup. It looked like Tommy dared the others into it.”

“He would. He takes after his dad. Dave was always getting into scrapes as a lad.”

“One of them broke his sled; ran it into a rock.”

“He okay?

“Just a bruised ego,” said Jim and wiped his mouth. “I heard we’re in for another blizzard tonight.”

“Well it may as well be snowing rocks. We ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

“No, but the boys will.”

###

Dancing on Rocks by Allison Maruska

“There.” I tighten the band securing my daughter’s hair. “You excited for your first day?”

“Yeah!” She hops down from the stool. “Mrs. B. said a new school means new friends.”

“Well,” I kiss her nose, “I’m happy you’re happy. Now hurry, or you’ll miss the bus.”

Smiling, she hoists on her backpack and skips out the door.

I watch her head to the corner. She’s twirling.

I laugh. I’d worried how she’d adjust to a new school after hers closed.

I’d worried needlessly. Some people let rocks in the road stop them.

My baby girl dances on hers.

###

February 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

february-2Hills old as dirt. Rocks ancient as time. Mesas drawn from memories of dinosaurs. It’s old around here. Solid as a rock.

And yet…

Hillsides mess with our sense of time and solidity. Geologically speaking, the wrinkled hills of debris at the foot of mesas and canyons in Zion National Park are newborns. Water carves rivulets into canyons so deep and serpentine that many of these winding features miles long went unnoticed by surveyors for years. If you believe the canyons rock-solid, I have some alternative facts for you. But before we get to fiction, let examine a few facts from science:

  • Zion’s geological features are indeed old: 250 million years old.
  • The sandstone features with cliffs over 3/4 of a mile high were once sand dunes. Sand dunes!
  • Water shapes the area’s stunning geology, including hidden canyons and the winding Virgin River.
  • Water is also trapped in sandstone, forming a weeping feature that takes water 1,000 years to emerge.
  • The park’s 229 square miles includes wide mesas, narrow sandstone canyons, seeps, springs and waterfalls.

The Zion features are not alive with music; instead they pulse with mud-pushed rocks, reshaping debris heaps. The process accelerates any time water joins the mix. Mud becomes a powerful sludge, and sometimes entire hillsides calve like a glacier. Other times a trickle of rocks tumble across trails and roads.

And some times there’s a rock big and brown in the middle of the road.

Geology reminds me that life is not static. We never have the same day. We never truly have an ideal image of ourselves in the mirror. We never fix the meatloaf exactly the same way as last year. Even the institutions we believe unshakeable are not the same from year to year. Everything shifts and sheds like Zion rubble.

Mostly the process equates to the movement of sand. It’s over the years we notice the ravages of grain — the days’ activities are noticeably different; the face in the mirror has aged; meatloaf had a makeover; governments erode. Sometimes, though, the rock crashes down in an instant and we are shaken by the change. We prefer the illusion displaced sand gives us. Sand seems easier to sweep away. And we do. But that rock — that rock in the road cannot be ignored. It calls us to change or be changed.

Rocks always take us by surprise. We know they exist in the sludge of life, but we always believe we can dodge the big ones. We do what we can to avoid the dangerous slopes where we know rocks lurk. One might acknowledge vulnerability. How often I’ve heard many people say, “I know, I know, we’re all just one paycheck away from being homeless.” But that’s just a fear many use to stay in an unsatisfactory job, town or relationship. We settle and take our chances with the sand, avoiding rocks.

When it does happen to someone — that rock of homelessness — we shore up our own crumbling edges with notions that the person struck by the rock of unexpected change must have done something. “That’s right, they asked for it. They were digging where they shouldn’t have dug.” People say those things to justify walking past a panhandler on the street. They justify not giving money because it would be spent on drugs or drink, without thinking to buy a meal or a blanket. They justify dehumanizing the homeless.

Let me introduce you to a few faces besides mine. There’s the divorced woman whose husband hid the assets and at 62 she has no employability. There’s the man and his wife and their two sons who can’t come up with first, last and deposit on a rental so they camp while raising the money that never seems to be enough. There’s the woman kicked out of a motel room after the landlord beat her. He. Beat. Her. She lost her room and now sleeps in a tent a church gave her. There’s the veterans in their trucks, belongings piled in the passenger seat and a bed in the back beneath a camper shell.

And the boy with the big grin blowing out seven candles on two cupcakes for his birthday. He’s in his third shelter, or transitional motel room. The rock that hit his parents was an unrenewed lease. The apartment complex preferred adults to seven-year-old boys with no where else to go. Once you have no where else to go, the complex web of family homelessness awaits like Shelob’s lair. More rocks dislodge — most shelters separate men from women and children; shelters have rigid rules that interfere with jobs; some shelters have a lottery system. There’s long-term motels with their own set of dangers and frustrations.

This boy’s mama dreamed of a kitchen. She dreamed of cooking. I know, Sweet One, I know. I miss my kitchen most. I miss everything that a woman creates in a kitchen —  meals and memories. Sweet One is a daughter to me. I’ve known her for nine years, ever since she was a teen working where I worked. I respect her privacy, but I want you to know this is a good woman, a good mama. She and her family got hit hard by one rock after another and they do not have the normal familial safety net. Adult orphans.

That can be hardest, which is why I asked her if the Hub and I could be Nana and Papa to her boy, Our Boy.

After six months, Our Boy, his Dad and Sweet One got an apartment. Our Boy has been doing well in school, although he had some scary days when he was taking public transportation to school, arrived late and got locked out. A seven-year-old alone in the city! Sweet One nearly lost her mind over that one and the school worked with her to make Our Boy safer in his transitions. Think about the dedication of these working parents to get their son to school every day. Together we believe in him going to college.

Carrot Ranch is hosting a Welcome Home J-Family house-warming for Sweet One and her family. Between now and February 28, there will be a Wish List on Amazon for the family. When families become homeless, they often lose most their possessions. I’ve heard people say, “It’s good to purge.” But unless you’ve had to get rid of your personal and household belongings, you couldn’t know the sorrow. Or the frustration when you want to cook after getting re-homed and are missing what’s needed.

At first Sweet One was modest and asked for three items: microwave, muffin pan and a crock-pot. After some nudging she got into the spirit of dreaming! She and Our Boy dreamed of waffles, zucchini zoodles and omelettes shaped like hearts. Then she thought out how to set up her kitchen, and I added cookbooks. Could I ask you to share this house-warming far and wide? If you can, and are moved to help one who got hit by the homelessness rock, consider buying her an item on her list. Her son is seven if you want to send him books, too. Let’s give them a landslide of a house-warming!

It was hard for me to think about my character’s homeless event this past summer even though I knew I wanted to hit Danni with that rock. I had already written a scene where she is unable to access Ike’s account right after he leaves for Iraq. Often these banking issues arise and when the spouse is deployed, they can be tricky to sort out. Using my own experiences and understanding of how easy it was for banks to foreclose on military families, that becomes Danni’s event.

Seeing what is happening in our government seems like a catastrophic event in the US, but some of us had earlier hits to know the whole thing had become unstable for those not billionaires many years before the orange rock hit DC. Although why those hardest hit would elect a demolition man to office seems counter-productive. Maybe they just wanted to see a rock-slide hit everybody else, too.

February 2, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock in the road. It can be physical, adding to a plot twist, or it can be metaphorical for a barrier or hardship. Go where you find the rock.

Respond by February 7, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published February 8). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Midnight Rock (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Michael knelt at the bumper, shining his flashlight. “Hell of rock you hit, Danni.”

“It was an easy target, squatting there in the middle of the road like a legless grizzly.”

Michael shined the powerful light up the canyon wall. “Can’t see anything else unstable.”

“A rock just for me.” She slumped her head on the hood. “Ike loved this truck.”

“He still does.”

“Yeah, Ike’s in some hell-hole, pining for his truck!”

“He’s enduring because of what he has back home, Danni. You, the truck, the dogs.”

“Too bad he won’t have a home to come home to.”

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Women Create

Women Create by the Rough Writers & Friends at Carrot Ranch @Charli_MIllsWhat is the mystique of a woman if not her ability to create? A home. A family. Give her an apple, she’ll make you a pie; yarn and she’ll knit you a hat. Give her a Sharpie and she’ll make signs and march on Washington, DC to express her heart, mind and voice.

A women’s role is whatever she creates it to be. Yet she’s often faced with standards or expectations she didn’t create. Some women crave the safety of traditional roles, and others won’t stop creating new ways until the glass ceiling rains shards. Writers this week explored this vast territory of women and what, how or why they create.

The following is based on the January 26, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme, “women create.”

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Stirring False Creation (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Joseph mumbled, “Sorry, Nancy Jane. I wanted to borrow a suit from Irish Hughes.”

“He borrowed my whiskey, too.” Hughes shot Joseph a dark scowl. Cobb unbundled a fiddle, leveling the bow at Hughes. “He’ll return it.”

“Put that away. This is a burial, if you men please,” she said.

“I’ll play for your child. I’m no preacher, no devil either.” A soft, mournful strain rose from the strings.

Nancy Jane had never heard the like in her life. It stirred creation in her womb, as if the notes could resurrect her son. But men have no such power.

###

Creation Comedy, Starring Trump, Bill Gates and Freud by Anne Goodwin

In the beginning, says God, was the Word …
In the beginning, says Bill, was Microsoft.
Ahem, Wordperfect was created long before your Word.
In the beginning, says Donald, is and was the phallus, source of power and pride. And who needs words when 140 characters can express the deepest truths.
Or lies, says Meryl (the overrated actress), and the women in their pussy-hats raise a defiant cheer. Besides, the Creator must be female; it’s She who bears the child.
As a penis substitute, says Sigmund. Born of envy.
Yours or ours? says Anna, as she confiscates his pipe.

###

Women Create by Melissa G.

Change is a constant. The action of change is something that’s always enabled personal growth and eventual peace. One mom’s journey shows how two babies inspired fierce feminism.

She read the test, it was indeed positive. She was pregnant. She was both shocked and amazed. We create babies.

Baby number one was here for six months. Baby number two would arrive in another nine months. We create unplanned babies.

Baby one and baby two are amazing. Mom is inspired to truly make this world a place where girls can do anything their little heart’s desire. We create strong children.

###

Prize Pies by Norah Colvin

“Life’s not on a plate. It’s what you create.”

Two little girls in their Sunday best

Snuck outside when they should have been at rest;

Splashed in the puddles, laughed in the rain,

Shared mud pies and murky champagne.

Two young girls with flour in their hair

Climbed on the bench from the back of a chair;

Opened up the cupboards, emptied out the shelves,

Less in the bowl and more on themselves.

Two young women watching TV

Decide master chefs are what they will be;

Enter the contest, invent new pies,

Wow the judges and win the prize.

###

Monday by C. Jai Ferry

I tried to create a feel-good dinner
but burned the onions and rice
(the carrots were still edible).
I tried to create harmony
but people-pleasing? Not my forte.
I gave up pretty quickly.
I tried to create smiles
By telling stories about my muddy dog
who has more Facebook friends than I.
I tried to create awareness
but my friends asked why my wall is so depressing.
It’s not me, I said; it’s the world.
I tried to create hope
but was trolled on Twitter.
Hope’s so trite these days.
I tried and tried.
I will create again.
Tomorrow.

###

And On The Seventh Day…by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum, are you a feminist?’

Mary titled her head. ‘Sure. Not the burning bra sort.’

Penny pulled a face. ‘Eww. You didn’t?’

‘No but your grandma might have.’ Mary shook her head. ‘We made posters once, and hats. Your grandma loved making things.’

‘What was the protest?’

‘Nuclear weapons. Seems a long time ago. I was ten. Grandpa stopped me going but grandma went. She cooked for the campers. At her happiest doing that. Creating.’

Paul looked up. ‘She was pretty good at creating a fuss too. A pacifist but never passive.’

‘Can I get a pussy hat, then?’

###

What Women Create by Florida Borne

Proudly I raised my flag, “Feminists unite.”

A matronly woman smiled, walking over to greet me. “What did the women of Egypt in the 1950’s, Iran in the 1970’s and the USA in the 1940’s have in common?”

“They wanted equal rights?”

“They had more rights than at any other moment in their history. Those rights were taken away overnight,” she said. “Remember Mileva Marić?”

“Who?”

“Einstein’s first wife, a physicist. She deserved equal credit for his work. What women create, men will take. Until all men recognize that women are equally as important, we will never have equality.”

###

The Other Woman by Jules Paige

Butterflies? She thought of pupa, remembering pinned winged
insects at the museum. She could not create an image with a
nice nose – while waiting in the ward bed. She thought first of
mice, then of rats – She wanted to collectively sear mankind.
Grab a triptych of insufferable egotistical men and ramble
pleonasmic about their faults.

The pregnancy had been difficult. The stillbirth…cruel. Once
a mistress always a mistress? Yet…this other man, he said he
loved her with undying passion. His children became hers…
She created a new life filled with honorable love. And just a
few secrets.

###

Flash Fiction by Michael

She’s a small woman, not the type you would say stands out in a crowd but within her is a feisty energy.

I was first attracted to her passion and compassion, the way she reached out and touched the lives of so many. I don’t know how we connected as we come from opposite ends of the social and cultural spectrum but we have. She has created network of support, of encouragement and of love.

For me she showed me it is never too late to love again. I’m eternally grateful, this tiny sassy woman, created desire within me.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

She’d ruined dinner again.
No going to the takeaway this time to cover her inadequacy,
he was due home in fifteen minutes.

The scene was set for romance, candles burning seductively.
A kiss on the cheek, and a cold beer in his hand, he sat.
Wearing nothing but a smile and an apron, she lay the plate before him.
In the flickering light it looked intriguing.
He took a bite. Grimaced. Spat it out.
She bolted like a scared rabbit.
‘I’m sorry,’ she blurted. ‘I can’t cook!’
‘I know’ he said, ‘but you sure are creative in disguising it!’

###

Dana’s Song by Kerry E.B. Black

The Apocalypse destroyed Dana’s beauty as it ravaged the world, and Henry dreaded looking at her. No more diamonds danced in her eyes. Manicures gave way to peeled, raw hands, and bony-bare and charcoal-grey described her once lush, nubile figure.
She prepared the protein they pretended was beef and set it sizzling over the fire. She swiped a wisp of mousey colored, anemic hair from her wrinkled brow as she turned the meat, sprinkling it with chopped greens scavenged nearby. A sweet sound eclipsed his stomach’s growl. Her song of better days somehow brought beauty to their hideous state.

###

What Darkness Inspires by Liz Husebye Hartmann

There was little light in the cellar, but it was nothing to the darkness of the army of boot heels sinking into the bloody ground overhead.

Their families had been murdered in the homes they’d built with their bare hands, burned in fields they’d tilled with the muscle in their backs, and watered with the sweat and tears of desperate hope and determination.

They’d been purged.

They were the lucky ones, hidden underground. And because they were the lucky ones, they would squeeze out their remaining life force to start again.

Clasping one another’s hands, they bowed their heads.

###

A Bookish Woman by Bill Engleson

There is something in the way she holds the book, a ratty old 1951 Penguin edition, dust-covered, that draws me in.

“I see the way it is now,” she smiles. Her smile is etched with a twist.

“And…?” for she is deeper in thought than me.

“When Orwell says, ‘Perhaps a lunatic is simply a minority of one,’ “Well, we know who that is, don’t we?”

“We do,” I confess. “So…?”

“We build a resistance. We have no choice, love.”

My heart sinks. I am a peaceful creature. But she, she is not.

I will follow. She will lead.

###

The Rebel by Allison Maruska

I squeeze my hankie as I approach the massive cathedral. The veins in my old hands stand out, and my husband’s words echo in my mind: You’re one of the only ones left. Who else will attend the service?

I ignored him. The woman created an escape from the ghetto. Because she rebelled, I lived.

Even if I’m alone, I have to attend.

A young man opens the door for me, and I freeze at the threshold.

The foyer is packed wall-to-wall with people, families of those she saved. Smiles and tears coexist.

Because she rebelled, we all live.

###

The Idea is Everything by Sacha Black

Two things were wrong. First, the morgue was warm. Morgues aren’t meant to be warm. The second, her skin despite the heat, was cold and skin shouldn’t be cold.

I took a deep, lasting breath and bit back the tears. “You started a rebellion,” I say, brushing my fingertips over her icy hand, “and now I’ll turn it into a revolution.”

She did so much more than just organise a group of heretics. It was the idea she created that was the power behind us. The hope of freedom.

“Goodbye, Liza. I loved you in ways you never knew.”

###

Freedom by Sherri Matthews

Another. Fresh. Start. That’s what she told herself as she stared at the ceiling. More like another sleepless night she thought as she slid out of bed.

She hadn’t wanted to move again, but this was her escape, shabby, cold bedsit or not.

“Damn him and damn his lies” she said to the peeling papered walls. “He can keep the house and I’ll keep my sanity.”

She shivered and grabbed her knitting bag. At last, she could do what she wanted without him. A warm scarf first, she thought and for the first time in too long, she smiled.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Julia held court, serving Bud, Jack, and Jim to Bud, Jack, and Jim. She’d heard it all, which wasn’t much. But the rules were clear: One word of politics equaled a searing blast of Fiona Apple.

She found Hank, roughly her father’s age, eyeing her rear. “I’ve got a new drink just for you.”

“Hell no. Your last creation had me pissing stones.”

“I don’t think it was the drink, Hank.”

The bar erupted. Julia spun off, wielding objectification like a super power. She let them look. And she left each night with $300 and a girl named Guy.

###

Last Stitch by Ann Edall-Robson

Her vision was not what it used to be. Too many hours doing close work without good lighting. Back in the day, there were chores that needed her attention. At day’s end, when the house was quiet, her hands created beautiful pieces she stored in the cedar chest in the closet. Intricate, hand stitched quilts and doilies for new brides and new borns.

The elderly widow tucked the needle into the cloth. Sewing the ends in would be for tomorrow. She turned off the lamp, sitting for a moment. Her eyes closed. The hoop slipped from her frail hands.

###

The Diary by Gordon Le Pard

“Nothing, I have been wandering all day and nothing.”
She looked up from her writing, her brother was always irritated when he couldn’t get an idea for a poem.
“I am supposed to be the writer, yet you are writing. What is it?”
“Just my journal, I am writing about the trip we took across the lake, do you want to see?”
He looked, read for a moment then his eyes glazed over.
“flock, no host” he muttered.
Dorothy smiled and left to make tea. Later she returned to see him writing furiously. Looking over his shoulder she read;

‘I wandered lonely as a cloud …….”

Many scholars believe that William Wordsworth’s great poem was inspired, at least in part, by an entry in his sister Dorothy’s journal.

###

Creating Jane Eyre by Luccia Gray

“Who’s the author of this abhorrent attempt at a novel?” asked Lady Eastlake.

“Currer Bell,” replied Mrs. Mozley.

“Who on earth is he?” asked Mrs. Rigby.

“Some say he’s a woman,” said Mrs. Mozley

“Women don’t describe such coarse and shameful relationships between men and women,” snapped Lady Eastlake.

“Unless it is such a woman who has long forfeited the society of her own sex,” said Mrs. Rigby.

“It’s unchristian. We should make sure it’s banned,” suggested Mrs. Mozley. “Just in case it’s a woman’s creation. Imagine how degrading it would be for the rest of us.”

They nodded.

###

Woman Writes by Elliott Lyngreen

Yes. the same for generations. like women preparing newborn nieces.

That escalates quickly. She snaps upon getting dressed. Over shoulders. Like Waiters.

Shredded flag. Stripes separate wind. Lets remember to provide pull strings for future cabling. In the conduits.

Chimes. Winds.

She twists off the holder. grabs a shovel. Spring enters, a tidal wave of white-dark.

11 puppies Zen. 3 did not survive.

She thinks as i am the poor, tired, weak insides.

And i will never my love tell your name. Or the song she begins. Yes, them women can write. Even best, are where stories been heard.

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Women Create (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane shifts the notebook balanced on her backpack balanced on her lap, twisting her wrist so pen meets paper.

How long since words flowed like this, since a concept glowed so brilliantly inside that she has no choice but to give it voice? She scribbles, oblivious to the lurches of the bus, other passengers brushing by, gabbing into phones, herding children.

Words flow, like the river behind a broken dam.

She pauses and looks out at the bus stop shelter just in time to see the sign, “poetryonbuses.org,” and almost laughs aloud. She feels free, and not alone.

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