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Modern Tall Tale Challengers

Tall tales aren’t just for contestants. Some writers took to telling whoppers like they were alligators born to drive golf carts. Some tall tales are less flamboyant. The following are submissions as challenges (not contest entries) to the Rodeo #1: Modern Tall Tales.

The contest is now closed. Rodeo #2 launches October 10, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Make America Skate Again by D. Avery

“Hard ta tell a tall tale from fact these days Kid, ‘cause fact is there’s some shift goin’ on ya jist cain’t make up.”

“Yep. Pal, tell the one ‘bout the guy who denied global warmin’, claimed it was all a part a his plan.”

“Called it coastal improvement, got folks in South Dakota ta invest in waterfront property. Water kep risin’ an’ when them extreme cold snaps a winter came it all turned ta ice. Whole country iced over. Guy said it was all part a his plan, an’ he sold hats. Hats said, ‘Make America skate again’.”

🥕🥕🥕

Blasting Bunyan by JulesPaige

Paul and Babe worked hard to keep their farm going. The city slowly encroached. The two were a simple pair that got the job done. Their undoing was the tourists looking to escape the city. Some young kids had mom and dad stop the car to take photos on their tablets. The youngsters not being thrilled with being taken away from the city created video manipulating the farmer into a giant and coloring Babe blue.

The giant hatchet throwing farmer and his dancing blue Ox soon had over ten thousand likes, and too many city folks looking for them.

🥕🥕🥕

Lou Ell, Master Photosnappishooter by Faith A. Colburn

No chance of unremembering Lou Ell. He was the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission wildlife photographer. A bachelor, he spent most of his time outdoors somewhere fulfilling his role as “photosnappishooter.”

On vacation, he shot a film on the Alaska brown bear. In one spectacular sequence, he got between a sow and her cub. The momma attacked. Backed against a cliff, Lou kept shooting. “Somebody will find the camera,” he thought. Since he survived, he intended to make wildlife movies.

I visited him once years later. He lived alone in the dark. You see, he had lost his sight.

🥕🥕🥕

Say Mozzarella by Sharon C

Influencers travel the world to capture photogenic spots for social media. Traditional travelers’ enjoyment is ruined by Millenials lining up to ‘hand heart’ iconic locations. In response, camera bans are enforced at tourist sites across the world.

Not so at the Tower of Pisa. Millions of visitors annually photograph the ‘straightening’ of the tower. The impact of this phenomenon is now being scrutinized. Permanent human activity has caused denser, more resistant, air composition around the tower, significantly reversing the leaning process. Consequently, the combined minuscule lifespans of a million Instagram posts may be saving the landmark for future generations.

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Pete Fanning

Ben tore out of the job site, his spotless boots on the gas, dust trailing the truck.

He was happy to have a task. Being new, he’d worried the guys would mess with him. He wanted to get the errand done without any trouble.
He entered Green’s Hardware, his hardhat gleaming.

At the desk, he presented the levels the guys had handed him. “Hello, I need to get some new bubbles for these levels,” he said proudly.

Old Green gave him a wizened smile.

“First day?”

Ben removed his hat. “Sure is.”

“Thought so, I’ll check on your bubbles.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tall Tales: A Trio of Fledglings by Charli Mills

Wind flapped across my neighborhood so fiercely every maple leaf fell at once. Powerlines went down, and we had to call a tow truck to dig out cars and trucks along Roberts Street. Piles of red and orange drifted like snow. My neighbor said he ain’t seen the likes of this occurrence ever, and he’s older than the Porcupine Mountains. While everyone was looking at the leaf mess, I was looking up. Starlings. They flew as if the flocks were a single wing, beating over us like a thundercloud. Two small notches marked where the hatchlings would have flown.

***

It began with starlings. The urge to rescue something vulnerable. My heart is rose quartz, and it fractures when I fail. That day, before my house was home, I failed two baby starlings, and my quartz fractured twice. Later, rose quartz still beating, I held a baby loon to my chest. Again, I failed, and another crack emerged. Giving up on nestlings, I fed the grown chickadees. Then, one fall day, two fledged pigeons appeared, motherless, flightless, and so I became a surrogate again. They grew, they flew. Only one returned to roost. This is how crystals are formed.

***

Summer ended. The starlings razed the birdfeeders by the millions and left behind two changelings. They grew big, peeping. That’s when the street coyotes showed up to circle the house, howl at the moon, and demand plum pie. Turns out, the big starling babies were really coyotes. This is how I knew they were changelings. The peeping always stopped when the coyotes emerged, scratching at grizzled coats. I caught them pulling downy nestling feathers from their fur. Tricksters. That’s how I’ll remember the departures. Tricked into raising vulnerable things that go away. My empty nest is an abandoned den.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid’s KEVA Kiosk by D. Avery

“Kid. What’re ya doin’ asettin’ in thet upended stock tank?”

“I decided ta set up shop fer the rodeo crowds. This here’s my think tank. Folks’ll pay me fer my thoughts.”

“I don’t think much a this idea, Kid. Didja clear it with Shorty?”

“What do you think?”

“Thinkin’ not. So how’s yer gig work?”

“Easy. Ask me a question, I give ya the Kid’s Eye View Answer.”

“In 99 words?”

“Naw, jist somethin’ quippy. But if’n someone was ta request a 99 word tale fer themsefs an’ were ta donate via Shorty’s paypal button…”

“Huh. Who’da thunk it.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

September 26: Flash Fiction Challenge

From his post in the Eagle River Lighthouse, a young surfman spied a double-stack steamer through his binoculars. It was dead in the water, listing sideways and he couldn’t see the ship’s name. The maple and birch leaves must have started to turn because it was September 16, 1901. Autumn colors and gales hold hands in September. It can be warm and muggy one day, blustering with cold rain the next. In between, mist hovers and chlorophyll dissolves to expose brilliant oranges and yellows. Concern might have wrinkled the surfman’s brow. A gale with steady eight-foot waves will even stop the modern US Ranger from going out to Isle Royale. Today’s lake freighters will plow through autumn gales but change their course, wary of the Keweenaw. The western edge is unfriendly when Lake Superior orchestrates a gale.

That day, 118 years ago, communication systems fainted at the mere mention of winds, so fragile were the lines to weather. The surfman had no communication with the ship. It was not flying any distress flags, but it was no time or place to have cut the engines. Did they fail? Did something precipitate the quiet listing, such as the ship’s load shifting or another below decks emergency? The winds whipped, the waves roared with a pushing surf, and colored leaves blew from the shoreline trees. The American flags along the Keweenaw were flying half-mast on September 16, 1901, while President McKinley laid in state, assassinated two days earlier. No other signals indicated distress. The surfman watched from his post as the ship rolled over whole and disappeared.

For days, uncertainty cast doubt upon the sole witness. Boats launched to rescue survivors and found nothing and no one. No other ships experienced difficulties with the September 16th gale; it had not been particularly forceful or noted for rogue waves. With communications down, and trips taking days or weeks to complete, it was hard to determine if a ship was yet missing. Newspapers and the nation were focused on the tragic death of the president, not on speculation over what one young surfman at a remote Lake Superior post might have seen.

Then debris began to emerge, most of it wood, including the black and yellow masts that caused alarm — could it be the famous steamer known by those colors? A few bodies emerged, wearing lifevests clearly marking the ship’s identity. As feared, it was the Hudson. 288 feet long, her steel hull never appeared. It took mere days for Lake Superior to bash her wood parts and release the debris to surface and shore. A lake not known for giving up her dead, the surfmen must have felt surprised that a few escaped. None survived. Lake Superior held tight to the crew of 25, including the ship’s master, Angus J. McDonald.

But that is not the end.

There is a maritime legend to consider. In the 1940s, a tug coming around Keweenaw Point encountered a rusty, mud-slimed ship. It plowed toward them, and the tug had to veer to avoid a collision. Thinking the ship in distress, the tug captain boarded it. While it was solid beneath his boots, the apparitions that appeared were not. The ghosts warned him to get off as they were the crew of the Hudson and doomed to relive their sinking every year for eternity. The date was September 16.

That’s not the end, either.

Two Great Lakes shipwreck hunters located the Hudson, using sonar equipment they built. They had narrowed their search to 32 square miles, which in regards to the size of Lake Superior, was a relatively small area. In July of 2019, they found the Hudson in deep water, its bow plowed into the bottom of the lake. Eerily, the Hudson remains intact as if she could rise and float the way the tug captain described of his ghostly encounter. On September 16 of this year, the explorers who found the wreck attempted to see if she remained on her historic day of sinking. They were unable to determine.

It’s not the ghost stories or the maritime history that captivates me. I’m drawn to the Keweenaw shipwrecks because of those unremembered. Immediately, my imagination flashes to the surfman who witnessed the ship capsize. What a sight! And to have no one believe you for days, how would that feel? Who were the people who waited for those 25 men to return to Detroit? One account claimed that the ship’s master was “wedded” to the Hudson. What did that mean? And if the ship were doomed to relive its sinking every year, why? And who was that tug captain anyhow?

The best way for me to answer these questions is a combination of research and writing. You all know my favorite format for writing — 99 words, no more, no less. I start my research with Wreck Reports and other records my maritime historian friend collects. Her interest is in the surfmen who risked their lives to save those in peril on Lake Superior. Over 30,000 lives have been lost on the Great Lakes. That’s a lot of unremembered sailors and such. Alas, I must wait for the initial documents and can do nothing more but imagine the whipping winds and the shock of the sight, a ship rolling over.

This past week, my coursework prepares me to begin training in the infamous MFA workshop process. As writers, we can feel intimidated to receive feedback. Receiving criticism on our writing is not easy but is necessary for improvement. It’s not the writer who is critiqued, but the work. Authors make common mistakes, and we are learning what to look for when critiquing our peers. An amusing but informative primer from the Science Fiction Writer’s Association blog pinpoints such problem areas with humor specific to sci-fi. However, all writers can learn from it’s evolving list. The same site also offers guidelines for critiquing work for publication.

This training will inform the bedrock of workshops we’ll one day have online at Carrot Ranch. In addition to my MFA, I’m also studying for a certificate to teach creative writing online. While that fruition is a ways off yet, another endeavor at the Ranch is right around the corner — next week, the Flash Fiction Rodeo begins.

Leaders and judges from last year might feel unremembered, but that was not the intent. So much has happened between last Rodeo and this, I simply did not plan as I had in the past. D. Avery, Sherri Matthews, Norah Colvin, Geoff Le Pard, and Irene Waters and their judges did a fine job last year. Their creativity and critique are much appreciated. This year, a group of local judges will manage their duties at a Roberts Street Writery event. Judges will converge over a shared meal and relaxed environment to pair up on four different contests to pick a top-prize winner and two runners up. I’ll be the tie-breaker judge in all events.

The purpose of the Rodeo is to provide writers with an opportunity to showcase your best skills. It’s also a chance for those who have not entered contests to get their feet wet in a safe environment. This year, I intend to provide a brief critique to the top ten contestants. It’s a way for me to practice, and an opportunity for writers to gain an insight into the effectiveness of flash fiction writing. 40 critiques, even brief, is as much as I can manage. As I did last year, I’ll publish all the contest entries in collections.

Another difference: This year, writers can only submit one entry. Why? Because it is a contest. I want us all to learn how to first critique our own work. I want you to take enough time to let your first draft sit. Sit, don’t submit. Then read it over after a day or two. You’ll be surprised at how you’ll read it differently. Read it out loud. How does the language flow? Is it complete? Is it correct? Polish it up. A contest is different from a challenge. Focus on your best draft. If the prompt leads you to multiple drafts, you will have the opportunity to submit extras as challenge responses. Or, if you don’t like the idea of a contest, submit as usual, but indicate Challenger in the box that will ask you Contest or Challenge. Challengers will be published weekly through the submission form as usual.

Top prize offered is $25 in the form of US dollars or an Amazon gift card or as a donation to the charity of the winner’s choice. The Rodeo is meant to be fun, and also a step up from a weekly challenge. I hope you all enjoy the next four weeks. The Flash Fiction Rodeo begins October 3 and ends Oct. 29. We’ll run on the same schedule — contests announced on Thursdays, ending the following Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. The only difference is that I’ll be more punctual! After all, I have to step up, too.

Now, let’s play one more week before the Rodeo commences.

September 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone unremembered. Is it a momentary lapse or a loss in time? Play with the tone — make it funny, moving, or eerie. Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by October 1, 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.

 

The Night After Lake Superior Swallowed the Hudson by Charli Mills

“And she rolled over like a lapdog!” First-mate of the Eagle River Life-Saving Station hooted. He slapped Charles on the back, blowing pipe smoke in his face.

Charles coughed; his lungs weak from a bout of pneumonia after attempting to reach a floundering fishing boat last month. “Saw it, I did.” He glowered at their jovial faces and stalked off, rounding the dark corner of the station, nearly colliding with the white-bearded keeper.

“Wreckage will rise, Charles. The teasing will cease. Let them laugh for tonight. It’s the best they can do for those unremembered beneath this cold-hearted sea.”

Interludes

Between the big moments in life, there are interludes. Like the sweet piece during an orchestra’s intermission or the pause between acts in a play, these interludes set a different pace. Perhaps the temporal episodes add up to characterize more than a transition. They can even become more important than the significant markers of life.

What will writers make of interludes? You can count on variety and enlightening ideas.

The following are based on the September 19, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an interlude.

PART I (10-minute read)

Sweet Interlude by Ritu Bhathal

Sophia leaned against the headboard, taking a drag of her cigarette.

She smiled at her reflection in the mirror; hair messed up, lipstick a mere stain left on her lips.

She watched him pull his pants back on.

“Hurry, Sophia!”

Marco slipped his shirt on, still buttoning as he left.

Voices. Her supervisor was coming.

She flushed the cigarette down the toilet, changed, and flung the door open.

“Oh Sir, these guests, too much! Smoking in here. Smell it!”

She bustled out, to the next room waiting to be cleaned, wondering when her next interlude with Marco would be…

🥕🥕🥕

A Woman Scorned by TN Kerr

It was early morning when Enrique crept home. Treading softly and turning his key slow; he eased the door inward. He started when a heavy glass ashtray bounced off the wall and shattered. Mesmerized, he watched as pieces of glass scampered across the dark blue tile floor. It brought to mind ‘la galassia via lattea’ it was beautiful. So was the dark-haired fury who came in quick and attacked.

“Ma il mio amore, eravamo in pausa.” Enrique shouted as he tried in vain to dodge her blows.

Marida continued to pummel him. Her fierce countenance set and forbidding.

🥕🥕🥕

Replay by Nobbinmaug

In the two hours since she stormed out, I’ve done nothing. I’ve hardly moved as the fight replayed in my mind.

Was she wrong?

Was she right?

Was I right?

Was I wrong?

Were we both wrong?

Were we both right?

I looked at every angle. I examined every word.

I watched the tears stream down her face. I rewound them and watched them fall again. I watched her leave, slamming doors, and wiping her eyes.

I sat as the garage door slowly crawled along its track.

The garage door groans again.

Have we cooled or will we reignite?

🥕🥕🥕

A Brief Encounter by Susan Zutautas

The sun was shining and there was a soft breeze coming off the lake. I’d laid the blanket down on a grassy knoll. Thinking, tis perfect for a picnic.

When Pat arrived, I had everything set up from the wine, pate, cheese, and crackers to a few slices of pecan pie.

I suppose I should feel guilty, meeting a married man and all but hell it was just a little lunchtime picnic that turned into three hours.

We talked, we laughed, we flirted and then Pat told me he was leaving his wife.

Not the encounter I was expecting.

🥕🥕🥕

To Be Left Behind (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Iraq was Ike’s interlude. He said it was what he needed to do between jobs, something temporary, a way to make money until they got better situated. Danni sensed it was greater than a diversion. Iraq threatened her marriage. It was the husband-stealer, a merciless sexpot siren with a hunger for middle-aged soldiers, Dolly Parton’s Jolene. “I cannot compete with you, Jolene,” the words sang without mercy in Danni’s mind, clenching her chest. Interludes end and the main event picks up again. Ike would come home. But Danni could not get over his leaving. What if Iraq kept him?

🥕🥕🥕

A Space In The Sun by Sherri Matthews

The light of day in a sunshine blaze flooded my room. Sun. Now. Get up. I shuffled outside, flopped on the grass and closed my eyes to the sound of summer bee buzz. No sirens, no sprinklers, no screen doors slamming. Strident and angry, left back in LA. In a single sigh I caught the scent of lavender and thyme. The smell of home. Not pot, weed, whatever, choking my lungs. That smell. All the time. Not anger – rage.

Why, I pleaded? But he kept me sweet with his smile and his kiss. For now though, I’ll stay here.

🥕🥕🥕

Going Out by Joanne Fisher

It had been a while since Tiffany had last dated someone. Her last relationship had ended so badly she felt she needed a long interlude so she could lick her wounds. Not that she minded being on her own. She was rather proud of the fact that she could quite happily survive by herself. It just that sometimes she missed the affection. She loved cuddling and being kissed.

Tonight she had her first date in a long time. She was nervous as hell, but also knew that if it didn’t work out this time, she could always try again.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by Pete Fanning

Ricky had never felt so alive. The passionate, lunchtime romps. The no-strings-attached goodbyes. She smelled exotic, like fruit. Julie always smelled like a hospital.

He told himself many things. He was a man. He had needs. He would stop once the baby was born. It was—what did she call it?—a romantic interlude. Sounded better than cheating.

But when the baby came, she wouldn’t let it go. She called him at home, when Julia was trying to nurse the baby. When his in-laws were sitting in the kitchen. When the baby started crying.

It wasn’t so romantic then.

🥕🥕🥕

Ainsworth’s Strange Situation by Anne Goodwin

The playroom’s made of cuddles and bright shiny colours. Choo-choo trains and farm animals and smiling dolls. Mummy’s teddy kicks a ball to me. When my teddy goes to kick it back, she’s gone.

The playroom’s made of sharp hurty edges and darkness. Witches and goblins and things that make me jump when they go bang. Why did Mummy leave me? What did I do wrong?

The door opens, bringing Mummy’s smell, her flowery dress, her outstretched arms. Is it the Good Mummy who shoos away the monsters? Or is it the Bad Mummy who’s one of them herself?

🥕🥕🥕

The Movie by Ruchira Khanna

“Mom, I need to go to the bathroom,” whispered six-year-old Nate into his Mom’s ears with a sense of urgency.

“Shhh!” she said with twisted brows as she continued to glare at the screen with an intense look while shoving popcorn in her mouth and chewing nervously.

“Mom!” he said again, and this time in a loud decibel.

The folks sitting around also Shhhhed him

“This is a very intense scene. Control your pee! I’ll take you when there is an intermission,”

Poor Nate sat there with crossed legs and hands-on his crotch while the Mom enjoyed the movie.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by clfalcone*

‘Intermission – break,’ he thought. ‘Resin up those bows.’ He didn’t hear them approach, the Beethoven article was so well written.

“There!” She pointed, scowling. “That dirty bum there – he’s disrupting eveyone, waving arms, his reading light… we can’t enjoy the show!” She sniffed scornfully.

“Excuse me, sir…” implored the usher.

He turned, big blue eyes flashing through matted, unruly red hair.

“Maestro!” Exclaimed the usher. “Why are you way up here?” Shocked, thrilled.

“The only seats left.”

“Come up front… there’s an extra seat,” helping to gather scores, instruments, clothing, thus leaving behind a befuddled, miffed patron.

🥕🥕🥕

Inner Demons by Sai Muthukumar

Broken, left for dead. On the river Styx, ferryman waits. A shattered soul dances with the devil, as the Tchaikovsky plays. Wings detached, lay separated in the darkness. Hollow heart, weightless, left in the corpse. Demons toil, fuel the torment, words echo in the cave. A figure stands at the gate, greetings unnecessary. The quiet goes uninterrupted. Been here before, it’s different now. On his own, in the darkness, a boy turns his back on the gatekeeper. The figures stand divided. The wings eclipse the black. The fallen angel shall rise once more. The flames don’t accept the undefeated.

🥕🥕🥕

The Origins of Princess Ota by Goldie

“This is boring” – Ota announced, letting out an audible yawn.
Frank and Veronica looked at the girl, their eyes filled with sympathy.

”Around the world in 80 days” is a classic. Sit still” – said Frank, placing his hand on Ota’s shoulder.

“Shhhh” – came from all around.

“An interlude!” – exclaimed Victoria.

Before she could say anything else, Ota ran out.

They saw the girl trip and pull down the curtain to steady herself.

“We gave you our daughter to show her how it is to be average. Not to teach her how to be simple” – the queen said with disgust.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by Faith A. Colburn

My grandparents met in an interlude, peacetime between our nation’s many wars. Yet, turbulence attended their meeting.
My grandfather arrived from Ohio with Uncle Johnny Bivens, my grandmother’s grandmother’s brother. The men spent a night in the Douglas Nebraska, train depot, held by the first horizontal snow Grandpa George had ever seen—a plains blizzard.

Later, the town cop, drawn by light in the station, came to make sure the escaped murders from the state penitentiary hadn’t holed up there.

Once the excitement ended, though, Hazel and George had two peaceful years to assemble a grubstake and get acquainted.

🥕🥕🥕

Choosing to Decide by Jo Hawk

Annora teetered, swaying back and forth, she walked a thin line. She heeded the lessons, listened to the morality tales, and promised to be a good girl. Yet, she questioned their version of the golden rule.

What once was black or white, now wore shades of gray that obscured tender truths and polished vicious lies. Distorted glass magnified the glaring light, while trapped in shadows, Annora couldn’t tell if she was the spider or the fly.

Praise or disdain, honored or disgraced, right from wrong, good versus bad, her fate lay in her choice. Annora let her heart decide.

🥕🥕🥕

St. Nicholas by tracey

I studied my son and wondered if he still believed in Santa. He was almost twelve now. I had the story ready. How Saint Nicholas was a real person who did good works and when he died people wanted to continue his kind deeds. How everyone gets a chance to be Santa for others.

Was my son ready to be Santa? Was I ready? Maybe this was an interlude where he didn’t quite believe but had a year to grow into the idea of Saint Nicholas. Or maybe this interlude was for me to adjust to him growing up.

🥕🥕🥕

Key Change by Miriam Hurdle

“Choir, that’s beautiful. All the parts blend well. We’ll add something to our rehearsal.”

“What? I just got all the lyrics memorized.”

“Wonderful, Liz, you can look at me rather than the music score.”

“What else do we have to learn?”

“We change key for the last stanza. The lyrics are the same. Chris composed the interlude. Now listen once.”

“It sounds heavenly, but I can’t catch the note for the key change.”

“There are sixteen bars. Listen to the last bar. Hum the last note that takes you to the first note of the next stanza.”

“Got it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Just a Moment by Bill Engleson

I saw the sea; the sea I saw.
And on the sea, sea sophistry.
Was it a dream, the dream I saw,
Or simply sea, sea mystery?

I saw my love, my love I saw
Upon the sea, my sea-tossed love,
Was it my love whom I did see,
and did she wave, her hand, her glove?

I caught a glimpse, a glimpse I caught,
Then she was gone, gone from my sight,
Into the mist, a new life sought,
A sky of red, a red winged night.

I dream of you,
And you of me
under the sea.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Interlude by Donna Armistead

In the cool quiet of midmorning, one forgets it was nearly ninety degrees yesterday. A blue jay’s raucous cry, the tinhorn call of a nuthatch at the feeder, pierce the equinoctial stillness.

Summer fled, leaving only vague regret and mosquito bites. Seasonal residents decamp dragging boats, cargo trailers and other detritus of modern life. Waves of flickers rise from the road shoulder, gathering to migrate above them.

And now, the waiting. The low-lying fog blanketing the neighbors’ field soon gives way to a blanket of snow, crisscrossed by deer, offering gemlike the rare gift of a lone wolf track.

🥕🥕🥕

The Interlude by Norah Colvin

It was intended as an interlude filling the gap between childhood and marriage. Hired as governess to a grazier friend of a friend, they relished the possibility she’d meet a wealthy future-husband—plenty of single men in the bush— while she made herself useful. But life doesn’t always comply with one’s plans, especially for another. The grazier’s children were eager students and she taught them well. Soon others came to learn from her tuition. They built a small schoolhouse which filled with willing minds. While suitors were a-plenty, none captured her love for teaching which became her main event.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by Robbie Cheadle

During the brief interlude between their visit to the burned-out farm and re-joining their commando, Pieter’s hair and beard became streaked with grey and new lines creased his skin burned brown by the sun. A shadow of desolation filmed his once bright eyes and his mouth curved down at the sides. They speculated that their families had been taken to the Mafeking concentration camp, but they could not be sure. They did not even know if they were still alive. Terrible stories about the poor conditions at the camps circulated among the various commandoes as they traversed the countryside.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by Jack Keaton

Ethan was walking to the office and was listening to a podcast: “Global Meltdown.” He loved his new noise-cancelling headphones. They made everything around him seem insignificant. The world is coming to an end! That Swedish girl is right, and no one is listening to her, except Ethan, Ethan was all ears. Behind him, a driver was unloading Red Bull from a truck when he fell off the ramp, spilling cases of the drink all over the street. Ethan didn’t hear the crash nor the sound of the exploding cans as the carbon dioxide gas released into the atmosphere.

🥕🥕🥕

Interludes by Reena Saxena

Don’t you remember me?

I’ve been on a break.

So what? I hope there is no break in memory.

There is a break in connectivity, relevance and the lessons I learnt. The major lesson is about trust.

???

There are no second chances for people who betrayed me once. Interludes give an opportunity to look back and learn, but it does not help unless one can link it to the future. If you do not find connectors, abandon the past and move ahead.

Who betrayed you?

Is it enough to say you are a part of my abandoned past?

🥕🥕🥕

The Sweetest Interlude by Chelsea Owens

She felt him: fluttering rolls across her belly, monitor heartbeats strong and loud. What will you be like? she wondered, pausing life to grow another.

She chased him: rolling, crawling, walking, running; breaking, laughing, climbing high. When will you slow down? she wondered, curtailing career to care for child.

She watched him: growing taller, speaking deeper; leaving parents for teenage crowds. When will you grow up? she wondered, forgoing sleep for curfew calls.

She hugged him: leaving nest to start his own; walking tall beside his wife. When will you come back? she wondered, looking round at what remained.

🥕🥕🥕

The Moment Between Night and Day by Sascha Darlington

All the angry words thrust like rockets into the atmosphere, irretrievable, hovering in the oxygen-drought of space.

Intolerable from my parents, I won’t tolerate it from us.

You take my hand; I want to snatch it back. You kiss my knuckles.

“We were in Manteo listening to that woman perform ‘Night and Day.’ When she sang: ‘we’re both so different,’ she was singing about us.”

I remember. So many years ago, a favorite moment, sepia afternoon, music, walking, loving. Still I feel the breeze cross the Sound, our hands entwined.

“There’s no going back.”

“No, we move forward. Together.”

🥕🥕🥕

Terrible Interlude by Chris Hewitt

She’d had enough. For an age she’d stood at the precipice, staring down at the mob below. They’d tried to talk her down, she couldn’t hear them over her beating heart. Deep down, she knew they were there just to see her fall. Hateful people. How had it come to this?

The ground rushed to embrace her. Arms flailing, stomach knotted, time slowed. Her life flashed before her, she had regrets, many, in that terrible interlude. She could see their jeering faces now, bastards, so this was how it would end. She closed her eyes.

The bungee cord stretched.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by FloridaBorne

“Thank you, Ron, for a place to stay until I can afford my own,” Jean said.

“Never thought Dan would leave you for someone his daughters age.”

“Not the first time he’s cheated on me. We had five kids, he was a good provider, and I looked the other way.”

“He waited until they all graduated from college to ask for a divorce. You won’t get much in a no-fault state.”

“The house is in both our names, so I’ll get half.”

Ron hoped she’d fall in love with him and this might be more than a simple interlude.

🥕🥕🥕

Between Acts by JulesPaige

Claire gave what she thought were clear instructions about getting a second opinion. Let the consult Doc find someone who will consider what we want. But her hubby had his own ideas. While he did get the process started he chose for himself, someone out of town. The consult Doc was surprised that his man, that he had recommended wasn’t part of the fifty percent that did the minimal procedure. The consult Doc had heard of the ‘New Man’ and was happy to forward the needed information.

life in the pause lane;
we wait with our positive
determined gusto

🥕🥕🥕

Last Requests by Annette Rochelle Aben

She wouldn’t leave the hospital alive. Acceptance lead to a coma. Any time now. Any time now. Family was called, many came to visit.

Suddenly, she sat up, and asked for ice cream. Nurses leaped over each other to make that happen. They rubbed a bit on her parched lips and she licked them while closing her eyes in pleasure. Then, she looked at her daughter and smiled. Her last words were.

“Can I go home now?”

With tears of joy and sorrow in her eyes and a lump in her throat, her daughter gave her permission to die.

🥕🥕🥕

Passages (from “Seasquall”) by Saifun Hassam

Today, yesterday, even the months before, were an interlude, a passage in time and space so different from the past. Last year her husband of forty years had passed away.

A pot of coffee at hand, she sits on the back patio of their home. In the gentle breeze, tall pine and white birch trees sway, then, a pause, an interlude of stillness.

Her home, their home would have new owners next month. She would live for a while in a nearby apartment, with shaded walkways and birdbaths. Then it would be time to join her sister in Seasquall.

🥕🥕🥕

A Musical Interlude by Sally Cronin

The loss was unbearable. They had been together for forty years after bumping into each other on the dance floor of the youth club. He was gangly and thin as a rake, and she still chubby with puppy fat. They danced all evening and had done so every night since. Her daughter took her hand as the music she had selected began to play. Family and friends around her smiled as the song reminded them of the wonderful love they had witnessed. For just a few more minutes, they were together, dancing, as they would be again one day.

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The Chiseled Dash by Donna Matthews

You know those black and white images with a single item of color. Maybe it’s the eyes, a book, or the outfit. Muted everything to shades of gray so you can focus on the point. Much like these flowers against your new gray headstone. The dates chiseled in the stone stare back at me. How did I get here? No, not the car but here, in widowhood? Your life compressed to a tiny chiseled dash and untwined from mine? Did I know? Our last cup of coffee? Your safe embrace? That belly laugh last week? Ugh, I miss you.

🥕🥕🥕

Interlude by Anita Dawes

Time between sleep when dreaming
A spyglass into another life
On waking, may not belong to you
An uninvited interlude
With pictures, sound and music
A hidden message maybe
Inviting you to explore a mystery
You may have forgotten
The short film that meant more to you
Than the main attraction
That had you thinking, talking about
Reminding you of those in-between moments
When walking on a beach
Your bare feet kissed by the sea
That quiet moment when out walking
When the wind drops
The silence becomes the in between
You hear the echo of your own footsteps.

🥕🥕🥕

An’ a One, An’ a Two…by D. Avery

“Where ya goin’ Kid?”

“It’s intermission. Goin’ ta the outhouse.”

“Intermission? No, the prompt is interlude.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Well, if’n were talkin’ ‘bout a break in the show, interlude implies more of a performance, music mebbe.”

“Oh. Yep, I kin do that.”

“Well hurry up Kid, we got things ta do.”

“Like what?”

“Carrot Ranch’s hostin’ its third Rodeo, comin’ soon. October. Gonna be busy aroun’ here. We have ta make sure they’s plenty a hay fer the hosses an’ carrots fer the contestants. Shorty cain’t do it all.”

“Cain’t she?”

“Ha! If anyone can it’d be Shorty.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lead Out by D. Avery

“Shorty, when ranch hands go where the prompt leads, does that mean they’s trackin’ it down nose ta trail?”

“Sometimes, Kid. Some sniff out their story like a hound-dog. Some bird-dog the tall grass ta flush their story. Some ranch hands see thet prompt, jist throw their lasso, git dragged along till they kin wrangle their story and git it tied down.”

“Sounds dangerous.”

“It kin be a wild ride, Kid, but no one gits hurt at Carrot Ranch. Wranglin’ words is a entertainin’ way ta build writin’ muscle.

Next month folks’ll flex that muscle at the rodeo.”

“Yeehaw!”

🥕🥕🥕

 

September 19: Flash Fiction Challenge

Last night my hands shook as I checked my iPhone battery obsessively, focused my camera, and touched the American flag on a stick in my back pocket. I didn’t want to gouge somebody with the flag, but I couldn’t hold my sign, banner, and phone all at once. My sign read, Welcome home, Rich. His wife made a batch of them for us who gathered with her. I did not want to miss the loving moment 49 years in the making. B had waited that long to welcome home her soldier.

On July 4, 1969, R left for Vietnam, giving his fiance a rhinestone American flag pin. He married her, perhaps with reluctance as most returning Vietnam soldiers felt like damaged goods, unworthy for loved ones they had left behind. Many broke off engagements. Many lashed out at wives, initiating cycles of generational trauma. Some rode out the storms, finding help, finding balance, finding peace.

B waited for R, and they exchanged vows. Their marriage has been both loving and fraught with the specters of Vietnam. Every veteran adjusts — or not — differently. The spouses do, too. Those who are strong, like B, hold onto their identities, advocate for healthcare, and shake up their veterans when necessary. At lunch a few weeks ago, R told me his wife is a pit bull. He means she fights for him as committedly as he fought for his nation. He then said I was a pit bull, too. I take it as a term of honor, coming from a combat veteran who fought an unpopular war.

Standing next to B at the Delta County Airport in Escanaba, Michigan which is 200 miles from their home on the Keweenaw, I asked her what it felt like to welcome home her hero 50 years after he had left for Vietnam. She confided that she never thought she’d see the day. R never spoke of what he experienced in-country, but he finally opened up after seeking help for PTSD ten years ago. Like me, B was surprised to meet other combat veteran spouses. We are so invisible that we don’t even know about each other until we end up in groups like ours. The Vet Centers of America are the only organizations that actively include veteran spouses in readjustment counseling.

Three of us BABs (veteran spouses) stood next to B on the tarmac, watching the sunset turn the scattering of horizontal clouds copper. We waited with B to welcome home R from the Mission 17 UP Honor Flight to Washington DC. It’s a project that helps combat veterans find closure. They visit war memorials, meet their state representatives, read mail call on the flight, and return to a patriotic reception. Koppers, a local plant, charted a bus and catered our dinner, all free of charge, so we could travel the 400 miles to be part of the crowd that welcomes home our veterans. R. was on Mission 17 yesterday.

B with her new blue hoodie that reads on the back, “It’s never too late to say thanks,” printed off greeting signs for us. One of our other BABs bought us all small flags to wave. B wore a huge smile and her 50-year-old pin. Beneath it was a new one to commemorate the Honor Flight. She said she never believed she’d see the day R would be welcomed home. A youngster waiting in the crowd told a bystander, “My friend thought it was disgusting that my grandpa got spit on, but we are not going to spit at him this time.” No, we were going to cheer and hug.

And I was going to capture that reunion. A welcome home born of war, cancer, and interludes.

Just like when we write a novel, life holds key kernels, those events that shape us and our relationships. All else are satellite details in terms of narratology. But the interludes add up too and quantify who we become. Despite war on one end of marriage and cancer on this end, B and R have had sweet interludes with family, friends, and living on the Keweenaw. B was there to welcome him home like they were young and in love all over again. She was going to welcome him home with the expectation of the young woman who waited 50 years ago, not knowing if she’d ever see the young man who gave her a pin. B was going to welcome him home with every ounce of energy she had left in her bones and soul.

Interludes are not the transitions, but the sweet music that fills in the gaps of life. After we graduate school, often we take an interlude of traveling or working. When the kids leave home, we fill the space with distractions until we find purpose again. Writers complete a novel and paint until words come again, and a new novel takes seed. Veteran spouses know many interludes and are adept at filling the space. I find that my own life has entered an interlude of sorts. Not a transition, not a beginning or an ending, but a song until the orchestra returns; coursework until I’m ready to tackle the manuscript with new vigor.

Soon, I’ll be starting the workshop process. I want to learn both sides — as a writer and as a teacher. One gap I see for indie writers is the lack of access to creative writing critique. It’s crucial to development, and yet it can be crushing if not executed with respect and expertise. Kind of like squashing the spirit of a veteran who is trying to find healing and closure. For now, I’m learning with an eye to offering critique groups in the future. It can help develop a book to prepare it for an editor. My instructor has advised us that how we learn to critique is like developing our own editorial style. I hadn’t thought of editing being a style like writing.

And so it progresses. Life with its big moments and small interludes in between. How can we use those to tell stories?

September 19, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an interlude. It can be a pause between two key moments, the pause between acts in a play, an intermission, or a temporary amusement Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by September 24, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

SUBMISSIONS FOR PUBLICATION CLOSED

To Be Left Behind (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Iraq was Ike’s interlude. He said it was what he needed to do between jobs, something temporary, a way to make money until they got better situated. Danni sensed it was greater than a diversion. Iraq threatened her marriage. It was the husband-stealer, a merciless sexpot siren with a hunger for middle-aged soldiers, Dolly Parton’s Jolene. “I cannot compete with you, Jolene,” the words sang without mercy in Danni’s mind, clenching her chest. Interludes end and the main event picks up again. Ike would come home. But Danni could not get over his leaving. What if Iraq kept him?

The Greatest Gift

If you asked people what the greatest gift is, you might be surprised at how varied our answers can be. This prompt initiated a conversation that explored the shadows of life. The sun doesn’t always shine, and happiness can feel fleeting. The longer we live, or the more direct experiences we have outside normal expectations, the answer shifts.

So, of course, the greatest gift makes an interesting exploration among writers. Ultimately, we can say the greatest gift is life — but we have many ways to express what that means, why it is so, and how we can manage such a precious and uncertain gift.

The following is based on the September 12, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the greatest gift.

PART I (10-minute read)

A Better Way to Serve (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Freya returned from Iraq, friendless. Mark Bastia didn’t survive the IED blast. His dog tags hung with hers. Despite combat, she was never counted as their brother. She pulled a long drag from her last cigarette, eyed the perfect branch from which to hang herself, and decided the greatest gift to the world would be to remove herself from its spinning. She touched the branch and recoiled. 22 a day, and she would not become another nameless statistic. Instead, she enrolled in college to battle veteran suicide and opened the first satellite Vet Center in North Idaho. She survived.

🥕🥕🥕

The Greatest Gift by Jo Hawk

As the day approaches, my anticipation increases. Doubt wrings conviction from my heart while my head constructs lists designed to weigh each decision’s consequences.

My worry consumes me, and my mother sends me to visit the shrine. The Omikuji will predict my future she says.

Thousands of paper strips tied to pine rods dominate the temple grounds. I fear the multitude of curses and bad fortunes others have tried to leave behind.

Still, I make my donation and follow ancient customs. Trembling hands clutch the paper. I read my destiny and press the god’s great blessing into my soul.

🥕🥕🥕

Let There Be Light! by Anne Goodwin

When I was small, the chores all done, I’d rest my head in my mother’s lap and watch the fireflies dancing, Grandfather’s stories music to my mind. But as I grew, the village shrank, the daylight hours too short for all I longed to learn. My teachers praised my intellect; they scolded me for homework half-done. Until I got the greatest gift: a lamp that caught the daytime sun and gave it back at night-time. Now I’m off to study in the city where neon never stops burning. When I’m trained, I’ll return as teacher to my classmates’ kids.

🥕🥕🥕

The Greatest Gift by Norah Colvin

The class was aflame with a mix of sadness and excitement.

“She’s is leaving.”

“She’s gunna have a baby.”

“I’m gunna bring her a gift.”

“I am too.”

On her final day, the children jostled to give first, hopeful she’d love their gift the best.

“Mine’s bigger than yours.”

“Mine’s better.”

“Mine’s the greatest.”

The children gloated and nudged each other as the teacher opened the gifts.

“How perfect.”

“This is great.”

“Thank you, everyone.”

Finally, Tommy edged forward. His hands were empty. He looked shyly into his teacher’s eyes and whispered, “I’ll miss you, Miss. You’re the best.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Greatest Gift by Donna Armistead

Daisy, my grandmother, comes to the living room arch to watch me practice pirouettes on the sculptured carpet. The soft slippery loops help my turns a lot. Unless I lose my balance.

I stop. She knows I hate it when people watch me practice. Though slightly annoyed, I love her and her faith in me. Even when every muscle hurts and Vicki gets cast in all the best roles.

Ten years later, she writes me in Boston. “Keep dancing,” she always signs her letters.

Fifty years later, and I’m still teaching kids. Trying to get them to “Keep dancing.”

🥕🥕🥕

Time Traveler by Donna Matthews

My mother told me I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. I could be anything from an astronaut to an astrophysicist. But all I ever wanted to be was a time traveler. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t want to roam through the dusty pages of history? Tiptoe silently into the unknown future? But alas, as it turns out, my sheer will and determination can’t quite transverse the time-space continuum…yet. I desperately hold out hope that the smart people of NASA will figure it out before it’s too late to make my mama proud.

🥕🥕🥕

The Guardian by Bill Engleson

It was such a little thing.

He’d always lived in the house, worked in the mill. Ruth taught grades 1-3 for twenty-five years, interrupting her work twice to have their children.

She loved teaching almost as much as their life together.

After she was gone, he went too far inside himself.

Finally, he came up for air.

After that revelation, he’d sit on his porch in the fall, the spring if it got even a tad warm, the early part of the summer, and watch the kids go by, wave, smile, just be.

He knew she would love that.

🥕🥕🥕

The Gift of Courage (from “Lynn Valley”) by Saifun Hassam

Teresa was a nurse physician. Her excellent skills in the care of surgery and chemotherapy patients were a great asset. Some of her patients were children.

Her rapport with the children was remarkable. They would often talk to her about their fears and worries. She would ask them perceptive questions about what had happened. It was never easy but somehow that helped the children to focus more on their recovery, and going home, a fresh start. She would read from their favorite story books. They loved her. She gave them the greatest gift they needed in those moments: courage.

🥕🥕🥕

Greatest Gift by FloridaBorne

I’ve been asked the question before and the answer changes according to my age.

“What is the greatest gift you’ve received?”

Age 5: The doll I wanted
Age 15: GoGo Boots.
Age 25: Son
Age 27: Daughter
Age 36: A bachelor’s degree.
Age 46: Enlightenment
Age 54: The perfect part-time job.
Age 63: Holding my first published book in my hands.
Age 67: My first office with a window.
Age 69: Doing a yoga headstand and carrying a gallon of milk with my pinkie finger.

Health, it seems, is the greatest gift. For without it nothing else is possible.

🥕🥕🥕

The Greatest Gift by Jim “Quincy” Borden

“I think I’ll make up a story about how for Christmas I wrapped everyone’s present in gray wrapping paper. Each box was a different size and weight, and everyone could pass the boxes back and forth until they all agreed on which box they wanted to claim as their own. I’ll then write about everyone’s immediate reaction.”

Tommy was explaining to his sister about the latest Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge.

Suzie looked at him quizzically and asked, “How are you going to relate that to ‘the greatest gift’?”

“Greatest gift? I thought it was the gray gift test…”

🥕🥕🥕

Edward Bear Has A Good Day by Joanne Fisher

Edward Bear wandered the forest looking for honey. His love hadn’t woken yet from her winter sleep and she would be hungry when she did, just like he had been. During his search for a beehive, he encountered two humans. They took one look at him and screamed as they ran off leaving behind a large basket. Edward rummaged though it finding all sorts of foods, including a jar of honey. He took the basket to where his love still slept. There would be all sorts of food for her when she woke. It would be the greatest gift.

🥕🥕🥕

The Stupidity of the Sexes by Chelsea Owens

“What, Isla? What did I do?” Peter stared into her eyes; if his were not close to tears themselves, they at least reflected hers.

Isla sniffed. She felt the lines of wet on her face, the dryness of her lips, the misery of her soul. ‘Surely,’ she thought bitterly, ‘He knows what he did.’

Peter felt clueless. ‘All I said was that people never forget their first girlfriend,’ he mused, ‘Just because Stella said, “Hi…”’ He looked at Isla’s splotchy face. Maybe a comforting smile would help.

Isla burst into fresh tears. “I -I -I -gave you my heart!”

🥕🥕🥕

Time, Heart and Head by tracey

She was 83, too old to be living alone said her grandchildren. Her house was worth a fortune they said.

“It’s my home, not a house,” she groused. “Fine, when the Cubs win the World Series I’ll move.”

She spent her 92nd summer as always, listening to the Cubs on the radio. She was tired, worn out; it had been a hard year. In her head she knew it was time to move.

Finally, game seven of the World Series. Tie score. Rain delay ends at last. Her heart races, knows: it is time for the Cubs to win.

🥕🥕🥕

The Greatest Gift by Anita Dawes

Being here in the first place
The friendships we make
The lovers we take
Fighting through the storms
While an angry mother
Tries to rearrange the world we live on
The beauty of a coral reef
The sunsets, the full moon
So many gifts
The hand of a stranger offering help
The sound of a new-born baby’s cry
Life continuing
Someone will always be here
While others leave
A reminder of our immortality
Art made by a stranger’s hand
That we like to look upon
Most of all to be loved
To love in return, to live, to prosper…

🥕🥕🥕

Given, Not Gone by D. Avery

The gift of creation, with free will, was given long ago. Somehow this planet came into being in this solar system; over time each one of us also had a beginning. In our beginnings was wonder, was potential, power, and promise.

That was then, this is now.

Now we might dwell on our flaws and misspent potential, might despair at our human failings, might mourn the state of our planet.

Or, right now, we might acquire humility and gratitude for the Gift. Every Now is a beginning. We could choose to cultivate and nurture potential and promise, right Now.

🥕🥕🥕

Reciprocation (Rerun! first published for the April 6, 2017 Carrot Ranch prompt) by D. Avery

Do not forget Turtle who brought the earth up from the watery depths. Do not forget Tree, whose roots hold and cradle the earth, whose branches hold up Sky. These ones, Turtle, Water, Tree, Sky, are sacred.

Long ago these ones spoke together, and together thought to provide and to sustain; they thought us into existence that we might use their gifts.

Be humble. Our creations are mere imitations, expressing gratitude, expressing wonder. Be mindful. Give thanks to Turtle, to Water, to Sky, to Tree. We are their thoughts that receive their gifts, and they think us most sacred.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

The Greatest Gift by Faith A. Colburn

My son and his father don’t get along and that means Ben is losing half of himself. My former husband gave us scary times and he wanted to make up for it, so when he got his life under control, he gave Ben the greatest gift he knew how to give—a horse. That’s because when he was going through the worst of his own adolescence, his horse provided him solace. During summers Ben spent in Colorado with him, they rode horses and took packing trips. Those were good times for Ben, but somehow he’s lost whatever they had.

🥕🥕🥕

Properly Prioritizing by JulesPaige

Jackie was never just one of the girls. Life, if it’s too perfect, move along. Because you are dreaming. Once you wake up you’ll see that the greatest gift is to be present in the moment. And you don’t have to have any cards to carry to say you belong to this group or another.

One day you are thinking of making wedding anniversary plans and the next you learn your husband has cancer. A small slow growth removable by surgery. Which might not even require lifelong meds or radiation. Take each day as a gift, learn to live.

🥕🥕🥕

Time to Heal by Chris Hewitt

“I don’t understand, why can’t you just bring her back?” he sobbed, “You could just bring her back!”

“I can’t,” said Death, “I don’t choose who lives and who dies.”

“You’re Death!” he spat, “If you don’t choose, who does?”

Death shrugged and pointed up, “Someone upstairs.”

He shook his head, “I don’t want to live without her, I can’t!”

Death looked down and played with his hourglass.

“Please!” he pleaded, staring into empty sockets.

“I can give you something that will help,” said Death.

“What?”

“The only gift I have,” said Death, handing over the full hourglass, “Time!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Greatest Gift by Ritu Bhathal

“What would be the greatest gift you could give me? Honestly?” Maggie looked at her husband, who was trying his hardest to make her looming 40th birthday one to remember.

“Of course, honestly Love. It’s your big day. The kids and I want to make sure it’s a day to remember for you. Don’t be shy.”

“Alright then, the greatest gift you could give me is time.”

“What, like a new watch or something?”

“Not a watch, John, no. Time. Every day. Help me out a bit. Act like their dad, not their babysitter. That’d be the greatest gift.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Gift of Life by Susan Zutautas

The gift of life

Was given to me

Not once, not twice, but three times

Cancer can be a killer

I’ve escaped it

I am forever grateful

I’ve fought hard over the years

To survive and the fighting paid off

I will never give in to this horrible disease

That takes far too many lives every day

Remission does not mean it won’t come back

If it does, I will do battle again

Miracles happen

I’m proof of that

Live each day as if it were your last

Whether you’re battling or not

Life is truly the greatest gift

🥕🥕🥕

A.C.V.M.M.B. by Nobbinmaug

Don went to the same coffee shop and sat at the same table. He sipped his coffee and played with his phone. No calls. No texts. He saw the same people, but no one spoke to him.

When his drink was gone, he returned to his empty apartment.

He went back the next day. This time, he was greeted by a wave and a smile.

“Hi, Don. Apple cinnamon vanilla matcha macchiato blend?”

He looked up, smiled shyly, and said, “Yes, please. Thanks, Alice.”

She gave him the greatest gift of all, an apple cinnamon vanilla matcha macchiato blend.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire Within by Reena Saxena

She quit the family business to start something of her own. It’s not an easy task. She had always worked in a well-defined structure. The absolute freedom she has now, excites as well as unnerves her.

“I saw the angel in the marble, and carved till I set him free,” famously said Michelangelo of his epic statue of David.

There are not just miles, but light years to go, before she reaches her destination. The greatest gift she is born with, is her hunger for perfection and the ability to see that angel in the marble – her fiery soul.

🥕🥕🥕

The Greatest Gift by Miriam Hurdle

“It’s easier for me to give than to receive.”

“I know, Martha. When you receive, you feel weak.”

“You’re right, I feel helpless and vulnerable and admit other people are stronger.”

“Being able to receive gifts is a gift. When we receive gifts from others, we give them a gift of giving.”

“I never thought of it. When I receive a gift, I feel obligated to precipitate and feel guilty when the chances to return the favors become impossible.”

“The movie Pay It Forward comforts me and changed my understanding of giving.”

“I can tell it’s a great concept.”

🥕🥕🥕

Make Mine Music by Di @ pensitivity101

Mine is something I was born with, courtesy of my father.

As a young child, it was fun playing duets with my Dad on Mum’s old piano, then I started to play both parts. Dad always encouraged me, and my gift from him was the gift of music without music, a good ear to pick out a melody and transform it to suit my own style.

My aunts and uncles never knew I could play until a wedding in 1970. My grandfather stood proud and nodded to everyone

‘That’s my grand daughter.’

Happy times, memorable songs, my gift still apparent.

🥕🥕🥕

Old Friends by TN Kerr

She was sixty-three years old that year, but age didn’t deter from her excitement about the gaily wrapped gifts staged beneath the tree. There was one though, that stood out. The wrapping was heavy brown paper. Once wrinkled, but now rubbed smooth, it was an old shopping bag from The Seventh Street Market. A store that had closed almost forty years ago. She’d saved this gift for last and cradled it in her hands turning it over and over. It was rather diminutive, not large.

Neatly lettered in the corner she could read: “Happy Christmas, Clarissa – With Love, Hayley.”

🥕🥕🥕

Life’s Greatest Gift by Sally Cronin

Thomas prowled the corridors of the care home as its residents slept. During the day he would jump from lap to lap, rubbing gnarled hands with his head, accepting tender touches and morsels of food, hoarded and saved for his visit. For many he became the family they no longer knew, and was adored.

The cat slipped through a door left ajar, and approaching the bed, he leapt onto the pillow. Thomas purred gently into the old woman’s ear. She sighed and gave one last gentle breath, accepting the greatest gift in life of being loved until its end.

🥕🥕🥕

Repeat by Kelley Farrell

Life can twist our minds and rip dreams away
But in some moments we find
The greatest gift is perhaps not physical
But a moment in time
When we no longer have to be held to the reality of who others believe we are.
That moment wrapped in a lovers arms, the true idea of home dancing through every sensation.
Or a moment alone with nothing more than a breath and a soft whisper for patience.
Libations given in sacrifice of every moment thereafter.
When we come under fire we close our eyes willing ourselves to aim higher.
Repeat.

🥕🥕🥕

Slingin’ Words Fer People  by D. Avery

“Pal, is’t true this Ranch’s a literary community?”

“Reckon so, Kid. Open ta one an’ all.”

“So is it a gated community?”

“Heck no. No gates, no borders. Free range writin’ fer anyone who wants ta play. Long’s they play nice a course.”

“Are there boundaries?”

“Jist in the word count, 99, no more, no less. Otherwise, it’s a place fer boundless imagination.”

“Why’s it always me gits imagined shovelin’ out the barn?”

“Shovelin’ shit’s yer special gift Kid. Yer real good at slingin’ it.”

“Yeah well, someone should imagine Shorty slingin’ bacon.”

“Tough shit, Kid. She’s slingin’ carrots.”

🥕🥕🥕

September 12: Flash Fiction Challenge

Lightning flashes as quickly as minnows in the shallows. It’s fall, cool, and a storm rumbles over the Keweenaw in the black of night. A few seconds after sharp silver pulses, thunder rattles the window panes. The radiators that sat silent throughout summer now diffuse a cozy heat that keeps the cold outside with the rain. Hot tea sits on my desk, and I ponder, what is the greatest gift?

Life. Liberty. Family. Art. Love. Home. A laundry list of answers comes to mind. It’s not my question but the suggestion of a prompt from my husband’s cousin. She and her mom sit on our couch in Hancock, the one they bought for us when we started to rebuild our household. It’s midnight, stormy, and conversation rolls around the room. The Hub is happy, sharing stories of the past. I wonder what my cousin means about the greatest gift when she says her story is dark.

I call J my cousin because she and the Hub’s sister, Silly the Kid (his nickname for her), were part of the greatest gift I got when I married him. Early on, I knew J was going to be one of my greatest friends. I loved her humor and intelligence and free-spirit. As a young couple, the Hub and I went weekly to her house to play board games with her and her husband, who was serving in the Navy. I marveled at their young three-year-old boy whose bedtime story was The Hobbit.

At the time, so long ago, J had a baby girl, a precious baby that made me anticipate the one I was expecting. Then a sheriff’s deputy showed up to our house one day with their son. We were the trusted people to watch over him the day tragedy struck. A few days later, we were burying that sweet baby girl over her great-grandfather’s grave. J’s husband was restationed out week, and J left.

I sit here now, 32 years later, thinking how heavy such an incident remains. J’s greatest gift, I suspect, was the second daughter she had years later. But as all mothers learn, daughters and sons are not our gifts to keep. They are their own people. We might give them life, but they make of it what they will. But it’s a pleasure to see J and Aunt M, her mom, travel the world together, staying in New Zealand January through March, visiting family across the US, visiting places like Poland or Alaska and taking world cruises.

Aunt M and Uncle R are my patron saints. Many, many years ago, Uncle R read something I wrote, and he told Aunt M that I was going to make something of my writing. She explained to me that he had vision and believed in my ability and dreams. He was subtle about it. He never complimented me directly but always showed interest, asked questions, and read my published work. When he lay dying, Aunt M read him my very first, and very raw draft of Miracle of Ducks. Whatever the book will be one day, it will be dedicated to them.

Perhaps the greatest gift one can give another is the support and encouragement to achieve potential. It’s a gift Aunt M, and Uncle R gave to me. I miss him. As any of us do when loved ones pass.

We are calling this trip, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. J and Aunt M flew from Phoenix to Chicago, boarded a train to the Wisconsin Dells, and hopped in my car last night. We stayed over in a motel after dark, so we weren’t on the road late. It was a five and a half-hour trip. The greatest gift can be the conversations on a road trip — the connections and deep sharing, the confessions and insights. Deep communication.

We arrived in time to meet up with the Hub, our daughter, her husband, and his dad and step-mom. We shared a meal at a new restaurant in Houghton called The Den. Family meals create some of the best moments, especially when the food and fellowship rank high. The gave me a bite of his scallop, and it was as near perfect as seeing my daughter so happy. I wish I could see all my three children framed in such happiness and enjoyed the moment, memorized its texture like the edges of a comforting quilt.

Tomorrow night is another dance performance where I get to perform four new flash fiction pieces. Having family in town for the show is a treat. Sharing art is another gift and a great one. The greatest gift this year came in Vermont, sharing scams and words, kayak trips and waterfalls, loons and laughs. Art is best shared. Art must be shared. For all the critics have to say or teach about art and define what it is, those who create it and experience understand art at such a deep level as to escape definition.

This week, both of my courses are focusing on the writing community and what it means to be a literary citizen. Well, my oh, my. I might have something to say on those topics! The greatest gift to my writing life is the ranchers of Carrot Ranch, their literary art, aspirations, and community. We might need solitude to write, the courage to go to lonely corners, and the solitary act of dragging words from the brain to the page to shape stories, but we also need companionship. If you are interested, one of the articles I’m reading is Do Writers Need to Be Alone to Thrive?

I want to take time to explain participation at Carrot Ranch. Ranchers can come and go as they please. The idea is that we play, remembering why we love the ride. You bring your own goals to the Ranch where it is safe for you to share, grow, and discover. The literary critics do not reside here. Personally, I feel that literary art involves three actions — reading, writing, and discourse. We discuss what strengths we see in writing and how a story moves us or leads us to recall or realize.  I believe in the 99-word art form as one that can open up creativity and be useful as a tool. I believe writers who regularly practice the constraint experience magic or breakthroughs in creativity.

But what does this means to the mechanics of participation in our literary community?

You can write to the prompt and share in different ways. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, submit your response in the form. One, it streamlines collecting. Two, it signals permission to publish your writing in the collection. You don’t have to do anything more if your goal is to publish at Carrot Ranch. If you submitted a response, but do not see it in the collection, shoot me an email at words for people(at)gmail(dot)com. Some weeks I get a storm of spam, WP can be glitchy, and I’m at risk for human error.

If you want to build up your blog traffic, you can share a link or your story (or both) in the comments. However, passive sharing might not garner more traffic. Community requires interaction. Think of it this way — if you went to a social event to network, you would introduce yourself, hand out business cards, and respond to the cards you collect, as well. In the comments, be social at the level you hope to cultivate. If you want blog traffic, visit the blogs of others, and make supportive and meaningful comments.

If you want kinship among writers, get to know people through the comments, stories, and blogs you encounter. You’ll find that many writers who come here are also on other social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Many host or participate in other prompts. Some also have blog opportunities such as indie book reviews or posting thematic blog archives. Get to know what is happening in the greater writing community.

As a rule of thumb, comment “high and low.” In other words, read the story before yours, and the story after. You are not obligated to read them all in the comments, although I highly recommend taking time to read each 10-minute part in the weekly collection. If you were moved by a particular 99-words, let that author know.

Next month, we will have a Rodeo of Flash Fiction Contests. I’ve been remiss all year in following up with my terrific leaders from the past two years. But the show will go on — instead of challenges, Carrot Ranch will host four weekly contests next month instead of challenges. Each contest will be juried and a top prize of $25 awarded. Each contest is meant to test the skills of a writer, and your best work is anticipated.

September 12, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the greatest gift. Answer it as if it were a question, or show what it could be. Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by September 17, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

SUBMISSIONS FOR PUBLICATION CLOSED

A Better Way to Serve (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Freya returned from Iraq, friendless. Mark Bastia didn’t survive the IED blast. His dog tags hung with hers. Despite combat, she was never counted as their brother. She pulled a long drag from her last cigarette, eyed the perfect branch from which to hang herself, and decided the greatest gift to the world would be to remove herself from its spinning. She touched the branch and recoiled. 22 a day, and she would not become another nameless statistic. Instead, she enrolled in college to battle veteran suicide and opened the first satellite Vet Center in North Idaho. She survived.

True Grit

Grit abrades, wears down, even crumbles into quartz sand or the stuff you sprinkle on porcelain to scrub it clean. True grit is a roughness on the inside, a rocky kind of defiance in the face of life’s storms. Grit is determination, resilience, perseverance.

Writers scrubbed words into stories and played with true grit. Like no grain of sand is alike, you’ll find creative variety within this collection.

The following is based on the September 5, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true grit.

PART I (10-minute read)

True Grit by Joanne Fisher

I was at the excavation site. I walked into William’s tent. He was the Chief Geologist of the site. Inside there were various rock samples of different sorts. We were digging into some strata we had never encountered before.

William sat on the chair by his desk. In the palm of his hand there seemed to be some coarse sand he was peering at intently.

“What do you have there?” I asked.

“It’s the grit that all other grit in the world originally comes from.” He informed me.

“You mean it’s the True Grit?”

“Yes.” He replied quite seriously.

🥕🥕🥕

True Grit by Sally Cronin

Each year on her late father’s birthday, Molly would watch True Grit, his favourite western. This year she was nine months pregnant and hoping after three boys it might be a girl. Her husband rubbed her ankles, passing her tissues as she wept at the end of the movie. The baby kicked and Molly felt a sharp pain.

‘It’s on the way love.’ She smiled at him. ‘I am going to call the baby Mattie, boy or girl.’

‘Thank God, I thought you were going to say Rooster for a minute.’ Laughing and excited they headed out the door.

🥕🥕🥕

Stepping Out by D. Avery

When Dad told us Jimmy’s mom had asked him on a date, Jamie took my bike to her house.

“Is it okay, August?” He was looking at the trunk underneath the tired white shirts in his closet.

I swallowed. “Yeah, Dad. It’s okay.”

Pounding up the stairs, Jamie was back, brandishing brightly colored shirts. Dad protested but seemed glad.

“It’ll be all right.” He smiled then because when Jamie says something you believe it.

Later Jamie told me what he’d said so quietly I hadn’t heard, that he’d whispered this was the hardest thing he’d done in seven years.

🥕🥕🥕

This Woman Has True Grit by Susan Zutautas

Let me tell you about a good friend of mine. When she has something, she wants to do she goes out there and does it. Being achievement-oriented with long term goals she’s full of confidence and creativity. No matter what the situation is, good or bad, Charli will fight for what she believes in for herself and others. This gal has moxie and has true grit.

What’s true grit to you

Someone fighting with their might

For you and for me

Courageous as hell

Never giving up or in

Supportive to all

Confident
Harmonious
Accepting
Reliable
Loving
Idealistic

🥕🥕🥕

Bobbi Bowen by Faith A. Colburn

In 1937, at fifteen, my mother quit school and went to work singing in a nightclub—to support herself and her parents. For the next seven years, she dodged pinching fingers and groping hands. She traveled the Great Lakes and Eastern Seaboard and got stranded, alone, without a job. For three days, without food or shelter, she hit the streets until she found another, but as soon as the Army started signing women, she joined, then she got an offer for her own radio show that she couldn’t take because she already had a contract with her Uncle Sam.

🥕🥕🥕

True Grit (or Determination) by Anita Dawes

Over the years I have noticed
How many members of my family
Grit their teeth when trying hard
To achieve their goal
I tend to do this when getting angry
My teeth grit, my jaws clench
Muscles moving, trying not to let out words
I could not take back
I have seen a young woman
Eyes bulging, teeth gritted
Trying desperately to move her car out of harm’s way
A lot of teeth are getting worn down by determination
I did wonder why no one offered to help
Maybe they worried about their teeth
Do you do the same?

🥕🥕🥕

The New Becchino (Part 1) by JulesPaige

Seemed like Ole Ricciardo had a high forehead. He was teaching young Marcell about gravedigging. “You’re early,” he said as Marcell’s long legs seemed to lope towards the open door of his caretaker’s cottage at the far back edge of the large old cemetery. “Takes true grit to do this job. Especially when you’ve got to put someone in an unmarked grave.”

“Get many of them kind,” asked the younger man?

“More than the locals think. Mostly ‘cas they don’t wanna know. Them lives, they lived true. All they got left is me and you now. Soon just you.”

🥕🥕🥕

The New Becchino (Part 2) by JulesPaige

Marcell wondered if Ole Ricciardo had always been bald. Or if the job made him lose his hair? With times being tough one took on the apprenticeship of whatever was available. If grave digging was going to be his lot, might as well be the best at it.

Even with the shifting of burial practices, most folks seemed to think that six feet under was earned. The paupers field in his old home town held too many who couldn’t afford fancy boxes. Marcell had gotten used to quiet of such sacred spaces. Especially after having to bury his kin.

🥕🥕🥕

The New Becchino (Part 1) by JulesPaige

Ole Ricciardo sized up Marcell. There was a quiet about Marcell that said he had what it took. The young man had true grit. Had to have had it to come from a war torn town that probably wasn’t going to be on future maps. Ricciardo couldn’t imagine how much could be built over unmarked graves.

Ricciardo thought he’d end up an unknown himself. After a lifetime of caring for the dead, especially the unknown… It was time to live in a different light. Maybe some sandy oceanside place where nature’s grit would blend with his own salty tears.

🥕🥕🥕

True Grit? by Chelsea Owens

Sand grinds ‘twixt dusty yellers; red-shot eyeballs glint and glare; farm-strong flexes years-old cotton.

Spit.

Squint.

“Mmm-breeay!” bawls the milk-hung ma, denyin’ an’ defyin’ all. “Don’tcha touch ma babe; her drink.”

Shake.

Stare.

Laughter breaks ‘top wind-bent grass; ‘top cow-pied field; ‘top boy an’ cow. “‘Reckon she’s got best a’ YOU.” Cacklin’ grandpap crows and coughs.

Snicker.

Snort.

Eyes-bright pride waits, sideline spyin’: apple seed not far from tree. Rope loop lies in glove-sweat hands.

Set.

Sigh.

Brain-bright boy drops standoff staring; proffers dusty, gloved-hand oats.

Cow an’ calf come happy, hungry. Dad, an’ dad, shake worn hat heads.

🥕🥕🥕

Finish Line by Allison Maruska

I round the second curve for the eighth time. The first to finish crosses the line, his arms raised in triumph. I have four more laps to go.

I slow to a walk, catching my breath and imagining what else I could be doing at 7:30 AM. I wish I had a bagel with blueberry cream cheese.

I slow jog through the next three laps. Time is almost up.

The finish line appears and I sprint, desperate to finish. When I cross, my friends cheer for me. They don’t care that they finished first.

All that matters is we finished.

🥕🥕🥕

Determination by Annette Rochelle Aben

“You can do this! Keep breathing.”

The physical therapist was encouraging but firm. Of course, she could do it, in spite of the fact that her body would shake as though it wasn’t as certain.

Every day, she could stand was a victory over the weeks she’d spent in a hospital bed. Every day she could move her feet forward even an inch, she was one step closer to the door.

So, here was the walker. She steeled herself for standing and with one loud, YES, I CAN! she rose and gripped the walker with firm and determined hands.

🥕🥕🥕

Jack & Sally by Colleen Chesebro

After the hurricane, Jack, the monarch, fought the constraints of the chrysalis. He struggled, but his foot remained lodged within his birth home. Wings as delicate as tissue paper flashed in the afternoon sun, drying at an odd angle. Jack would never fly.

Sally, the monarch, emerged from the chrysalis drunk with victory. Weak, she staggered and fell to the ground where a fight ensued. She had to break free from the fluid she’d pumped out so her wings would dry. Now, deformed, Sally would never fly.

Despite their handicaps, the pair remain triumphantly alive – vibrant inside the lanai.

🥕🥕🥕

On Her Terms by Di @ pensitivity101

She refused to give in to it, to feel sorry for herself and let it take over her life.

Determined to smile, she’d make jokes about losing her hair and chosing a variety a wigs in colours and styles she’d only ever dreamed to try.

She sought out others, raising their spirits, encouraging positivity rather than misery and defeat.

She exuded unbounded energy, forever upbeat, offering a listening ear, hand to hold, or shoulder to cry on.

When her time came, she met it full on, surrounded by friends and family, and died with a smile on her lips.

🥕🥕🥕

True Grit by tracey

I stare at the steep path up the canyon wall and breathe deep. “I can do this. One step at a time. Nice and easy,” I tell myself.

“Think about how happy you will be at the top,” I continue with my pep talk. “How many people can say they have hiked rim to rim of the Grand Canyon? You chose to do this. So what if you are 55 years old. You are in shape for this. Eat some granola and keep moving.”

“You okay back there?” the guide yells. “Yup, gritting it out just fine,” I reply.

🥕🥕🥕

Diamante (from “Trissente”) by Saifun Hassam

Diamante trekked through the Trissente coast and mountain region. The villagers always welcomed him. Children gathered around him fascinated by his stories and sketches of the world beyond.

When he returned to his village at the coast, he wrote to the Abbott. His hand trembled but he was resolved to remain a teacher, to live in the Trissente region. He did not wish to be a priest.

The Abbott’s reply was terse but wise. Diamante was an excellent teacher. The Trissente villages wanted him to train their own teachers. He would remain a guardian of the ancient Tramonti temple.

🥕🥕🥕

A Bucketful of Grit
“Miss, Jimmie’s crying.”

“Thanks for letting me know, Susan,” she smiled through gritted teeth.

What now? Couldn’t she just finish her tea for once? Something trivial, no doubt. Better go see, just in case.

She met a small posse escorting Jimmie across the playground. Their imploring eyes begged her sympathy.

“What’s wrong, Jimmie?”

“I, I —”

“He got grit in his eye, Miss.”

“Let’s see. Ah, yes. Better take him to First Aid.”

The children moved off as one, except George. He turned and held out a bucket.

“What’s that?”

“You told Jimmie to find some grit. Here ‘tis!”

🥕🥕🥕

Teacher Grit by Ritu Bhathal

It’s not easy, teaching.

Sure, the kids are there from 9 to 3ish, but I’m still up at 6 am, at school at 7.30 am or a bit later if my kids drag their heels.

I set up, get the classroom ready to engage the minds of little sponges.

They go, and I’m there past 5 pm, clearing up the messes their enquiring minds created, assessing, planning, preparing for the next day.

Then I go home to be wife and mother.

I’m exhausted.

Don’t mention holidays…

But I love it.

It takes true grit to be a dedicated teacher.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Grit Storm by Bill Engleson

Ainsley Bilge tossed and turned throughout the night. Grit! Grit! What the hell was grit? The question not only bedeviled his sleeping hours; it haunted him through the day.

He vaguely remembered Gramp’s telling him about Clara Bow, the IT girl back in the twenties. What the hell was IT? He never knew. She was just a girl. A little too flashy for the times, he supposed.

By the time Gramps related the story, she’d become a crazy recluse.

Her IT Storm drove her bananas.

Was that his future?

He had no idea and remained grit to be tied.

🥕🥕🥕

Chin up, Boris! by Anne Goodwin

The game kicks off at Eton, wellspring of uneven playing fields. Tactics tested and perfected in the hallowed halls of Oxbridge, it’s bowled by banking barons to the Palace – Westminster, that is – batted back and forth between the Commons and the Lords. Though dressed in Greek and Latin, there’s nothing classy about the rules. Leave truth behind in the changing rooms, trounce the opposition and lay tripwires for those of your teammates who won’t pledge one hundred percent support. Forget fair play, sell your granny if you have to: winning’s all that matters; true grit will grab the prize.

🥕🥕🥕

Another Hit by Yvette

Marcel

Sat down

Stirred his tea

Pulled off his hat

Looked around

Waited for his food

Meager meal

‘Twould suffice

Rather nice

Midst of humdrum

Waiting

settling down

hoping for new normal

Getting closer

each goal

Still far

Yet in view

Quietly digging

For GRIT

To make it through

ANOTHER HIT

Sitting tall – rather than slouching

He forced a smile – avoiding grouching

Food set down

Sniffed the crust

“Thank you,” he said,

then chomped his bread

Each bite

Restored might

Helped insight

One day at a time…

adding to

Hard Knock’s Degree

Last sip of tea

assuaged misery

slightly free

🥕🥕🥕

Road Crew by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The road ahead was long, no end in sight. Maybe relief…just over that hill? She couldn’t be sure.

She sighed, squinting into the midday sear, then looked down at the road under her naked feet. The gravel, poured heavy and sharp from the back of the Transportation Department truck glinted maliciously.

Those assholes’d stolen her shoes again, their jeers floating behind as they drove out of sight. Practical jokes were one thing, but with sexism in the mix, was it worth the higher pay?

Bullshit! This was about more than money. Her feet bled as she started to walk.

🥕🥕🥕

True Grit by Pete Fanning

George glanced at his fellow soldiers. Most were sleeping, recovering, hocking into spittoons, sprawled and spent against a fallen oak. The 8th New York Cavalry was plum exhausted.

It the quiet after battle where George found it hardest to hold his secret. Here, in the sweltering humidity of Virginia, it was almost easy to melt away.

George…

Virginia…

Maria…

She’d enlisted searching for freedom. Having escaped, she found a way to disguise herself. It was a plan so crazy it worked. Now, with a sword and rifle, an equal among white men, she’d found she was an excellent soldier.

🥕🥕🥕

A Few Good Men by TNKerr

Gunnery Sergeant Michael Paxton kept his head down as he worked his way forward. The fighting had died down somewhat, but the enemy knew he was still there. There was constant gunfire directed toward him, but they mustn’t have known exactly where he was. The rounds weren’t hitting all that close.

That ‘boot,’ Bim was the last man in, but when Paxton found him, it was too late. Undeterred he hefted Pvt. Bim over his shoulder and carried him back to the LZ. Where the quick and the dead waited together, waited for the Hueys; no one left behind.

🥕🥕🥕

True Grit by FloridaBorne

“I wasn’t this way when I was twenty,” I told my new therapist.

“What created such anxiety,” She asked.

“My husband might get out of prison soon,” I said, lifting my shirt to show her a scar. “I’m scared he’ll hurt our children.”

“Knife wound?” She asked. I nodded yes. “How old are they?”

“Eight and ten. If he serves his time, they’ll be eighteen and twenty…”

Between heaving sobs, I explained about his upcoming hearing for early release. Good. She was forming tears.

It takes courage to stab yourself with a knife. Anything to keep that parasite away.

🥕🥕🥕

True Grit by Jane

They dragged her into the brightly lit interrogation room, struggling and spitting, and forced her down into a chair.

Once they’d read her the standard caution, the words flooded out of her exhausted frame. How she’d put up with his violence for years until she’d finally snapped and decided to kill him. How she’d set up an alibi and learned the patrol patterns at his heavily guarded office so she could slip between them unnoticed, in and out like a ghost.

“And I’d have got away with it too, if it wasn’t for that stupid pebble in my shoe.”

True Grit by Charli Mills

Jose tended cattle while Angelina refried pinto beans, mashing them in the cast-iron with lard and flour. At night he tooled leather to sell at the market, making coin purses and wallets. Nightly she carpooled with three other amigas from the ranch into Paicines where they cleaned the elementary school, using grit to shine the grout on the bathroom floors. When the winter rains returned, the foreman would drive them all south to the border so they could spend three blessed months with family before returning to work the rest of the year. Only now, there was a wall.

🥕🥕🥕

Gritty Gray Hope by Jo Hawk

Walking the city streets, I choke on the summer heat as it boils the simmering stench. Gray skies descend, reflecting the hell rising all around me. Everything lays dead or dying, and the devils threaten to consume the little I have left. This is my creation.

Time killed the last honest man. There is no way to wash away the rain. My black hole life ensures I cannot move past this singularity.

A warm wind blows, prying the cold, damp dread from my heart. I grit my teeth, grasp a sliver of hope and dare to reinvent my future.

🥕🥕🥕

Miles of Mountain, Miles of Sand by Anne Goodwin

“Go home!” they hissed, when she left the high-rise, dragging a child by each hand. Did her headscarf offend them, or the coffee tint of her skin? Those who were kind were equally confusing, saying, “It takes true grit to survive as you have.” Checking the words in the dictionary in the refugee centre, they clashed with the nightmare in her head.

Miles of mountain, miles of sand, a boat so overladen it was bound to capsize. Robbed of her dollars, fearful of rape, grit was the stone in her shoe that plagued her every step of the way.

🥕🥕🥕

Stick to Your Guns by Chris Hewitt

The train pulled away in a cloud of steam. His breath hung heavy in the crisp morning air, he dreaded the walk home. They’d point and shout the usual names, spit on him as he passed and barge him into the gutter. The vicar would turn his back as the children kicked his shins. Every day was the same.

One more mile of hell and he was home. Leant against the closed door, his angry tears fell into another handful of white feathers. Tomorrow he’d do it all again, and the next, but he would not fight their war.

🥕🥕🥕

Bunker by The Dark Netizen

It has been four days now.

For four days we have been trapped in this bunker as those dastardly planes bomb our city relentlessly. The torrential explosions in the day are followed by distant detonations in the night. It then that we venture out of the bunker. A group of four or five at a time. We make a run for the storeroom and grab food for those in the bunkers. The devils in the sky think they can make us quit with their rain of hellfire. That won’t happen. We will never give up.

Long live our Fatherland!

🥕🥕🥕

Good Boy by Joshua G. J. Insole

During the days they walked, the man and his dog, searching for food, clean water, and shelter for the evening. They also searched for other survivors in the rubble, but were yet to find anything alive.

At night, they hid, and took refuge from the things that stalked the twilight for prey. They slept sporadically, huddled together for warmth.

They shared each other’s food and each other’s company, refusing to surrender that last ounce of hope. They held on to their reminiscences, remembering the good times.

But they could not erase the awful memory of that blooming mushroom cloud.

🥕🥕🥕

His Knees by Nobbinmaug

He fell to his knees as a bomb exploded in his chest.

It was P.J.’s school on the news. Sae was dropping her off. She’s not answering her phone.

Again on his knees at the graves. “God, if you’re there, take me too. You can’t take them and leave me.”

Alone in the dark on his knees with the gun to his temple.

“Just fuckin’ do it!”

“She wouldn’t want this.”

“She’s gone. I can’t live without her, without them.”

“You have to.”

“I can’t.”

“You can’t pull that trigger either.”

“I’m scared. I’m too weak.”

“You’re too strong.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bacon Grit by D. Avery

“Up an’ at ‘em Kid. Time ta ride.”

“Agin?”

“Yep, agin. Let’s go.”

“I need sustenance. Shorty servin’ breakfast?”

“Grits.”

“Ugh. You’ve groat ta be kidding. I need food that’ll give me the strength ta do what’s gotta git done. By the way Pal, what needs ta git done?”

“Dang, Kid, why’m I always havin’ ta wrangle you? Ya need goals fer yersef.”

“My goal is ta have breakfast.”

“Ya need a big goal.”

“A big breakfast then. With bacon.”

“What’s yer long term goal?”

“Ta eat fer a long time. Ya might wanna git started without me, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Safebreaker’s Daughter

A safebreaker is one who cracks open safes. Usually, the purpose is theft of the treasure protected within the vaults. Possibly an insurance company or wealthy individual might hire a safebreaker to test anti-theft systems. Who knows? This is the realm of fiction. The idea is based on a song by Mean Mary called The Safebreaker’s Daughter with the tantalizing chorus that warns not to underestimate her.

So, writers went on a mission to tell the story. They cracked their own codes to follow where the prompt led.

The following is based on the August 29, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter.

PART I (10-minute read)

She Learned What Not To Do by Sue Sleggs

The business man built the mansions, the banker financed them, and when the safebreaker was notified, he robbed them. The three men didn’t care about laws, nor who they hurt. Years went by. The builder’s and banker’s sons took over for their fathers. Having not been taught a work ethic, nor adequate skills, the sons faltered. They were at constant odds with the safebreaker’s daughter who had decided it was up to her to break the ill-gotten chain of control. The young men never recognized their own foibles and blamed their troubles on THAT woman. She hadn’t underestimated herself.

🥕🥕🥕

I Double Dog Dare You by Faith A. Colburn

I was thirteen when Mom went to prison for cracking a safe. I’m actually pretty proud of her because she never took anything. It was just a dare.

She’d been raggin’ on my dad for not giving her jewelry—like her friends got.

“I ain’t got that kind of dough,” Pop said, “so when you rob a bank, I’ll get your diamonds.”

We knew she had the skills and what she didn’t know, she’d learn. But it was just idle conversation.

“Maybe I will.”

“I double dog dare you,” Dad said. “You ain’t got the nerve.”

But she did.

🥕🥕🥕

Thelma on Roberts Street by Charli Mills

The light overlooking Roberts Street flickered and faded. Thelma smiled and accepted the omen – all that glows holds no permanence. Probably the gales blew out a transformer nearby. Wind gusted through the maple trees, scattering small flocks of leaves to the ground. Summer was over. The tourists went home; the college students returned. The latest batch of football players for Finlandia made a good excuse for her to walk this path. Just another smitten female sauntering home late. Who would think she was casing the football coach’s house? She had ten minutes to prove she was the safebreaker’s daughter.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Joanne Fisher

There was a loud insistent knocking on the door. She opened it to find there was a policeman standing there.

“We’re looking for your father!”

“Why? What has he done now?” She asked.

“A safe has been broken into. It looks like his handiwork.”

“I haven’t seen him in a long time.” She replied.

“If you do see him, let us know.” The policeman ordered.

“Okay.”

The policeman left and she closed the door. She picked up the bags full of money she had just left in the hallway, and hid them away. Her father had taught her everything.

🥕🥕🥕

Cutting Loose by D. Avery

I liked the rush, I liked the crunch. Never did look back at the fallout.

My whole life I’ve lived and dreamed bikes. But my brother was to run the family shop. I was to go to college, fulfill their dream.

And here I am, strolling another campus, bike tools in my bag. I’ve always been a better mechanic than my damn brother. Nowadays I favor the bolt cutters and the hack saw.

My father’s practical advice to his customers? “Invest in a good lock when you invest in a good bike.”

No lock is too good for me.

🥕🥕🥕

To Crack a Nut by Chris Hewitt

“Put your damn phone away,” he growled.

“I’m bored,” she grumbled, rolling her eyes.

He’d been at it 40 minutes now and she had long lost interest.

“If you can crack a Mk50,” he started.

“You can crack anything, yeah, yeah,” she snapped.

With well-practised moves, his fingers manipulated the combination.

She stood up and walked around the safe.

“Gotcha,” he finally said thrusting the handle up with a satisfying clunk.

He swung the door open to reveal her beaming face staring at him through a large hole.

“Amazing what you can do with the right tools, old man!”

🥕🥕🥕

Like Mother, Like Daughter by Anne Goodwin

From the age of three my mother took me with her. Silenced by a lollipop, she bade me look and learn. And, fingers wiped of stickiness, feel the vibrations in my heart. It wasn’t about codes or numbers, it was bonding with the barricade, to coax the treasures from within. The way a musician melds with her instrument, creating the music between them.

In my teens I rebelled, forged my own furrow as a cat burglar, a pickpocket. But lower risk brought lesser rewards. Like mother, like daughter: a safebreaker’s daughter can’t escape tradition, so I’m a safebreaker too.

🥕🥕🥕

There Was A Caper in Washington by TN Kerr

Marni left school about 4:00 and headed for the teacher’s parking when out of nowhere she was flanked by two burly men with sunglasses and dark suits.

“You guys Special Agents?” she looked back and forth.

The left guy flashed a badge case, she caught a glimpse of tin. The right tendered a card, they were indeed Feds.

“We need to speak with your father, Miss Gilroy.”

“Last I heard he was still in jail,” she answered.

First agent, “We think he might’ve been in Seattle last night.”

“You haven’t seen him, then?” the second agent asked.

“Nope, sorry.”

🥕🥕🥕

Decoding by Reena Saxena

A career path that started with ethical hacking has taken a different turn. There’s money, there’s fame (some call it notoriety), and there’s the excitement of doing something which makes people drop their jaws.

“Is there a way to turn back?” implores Mom, “It is the path to disaster.”

She travels on high roads and the journey is exciting. New companions …

Nope… these are people from the Fraud Detection Cell.

“Young lady, I must say that you did too much, too fast.”

She only had this to say during interrogation, “I’m a safekeeper’s daughter, know how to decode.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by FloridaBorne

The perfect wife and mother…a consummate actress holding a gun on him.  “Why did you poison my entire family?”

“A promise to my father, John O’Malley.”

“The safebreaker?”

“My oldest brother burned the Smith’s in their yacht and forged papers showing I was their daughter. Another brother heads the security agency your father used to research prospective brides. What better place to dispose of parasites than a remote country hide-away? All that you once owned now belongs to us.”

Their guard, dying from heroine overdose, didn’t hear the shot, or feel the gloved hand position the gun into his.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safe-Breaker’s Daughter by Shweta Suresh
The room was as silent as a grave.
The owner was fast asleep in the room next door.
The sleeping pills she had put into his night drink were working.
She had managed to gather as much jewelry as she could.
Effortlessly, she slipped into the locker room.
She did not expect to get caught.
Alas! Luck was not in her favour.
She had not anticipated that his wife would be home.
She hadn’t done anything wrong either.
She was just returning what her father had stolen.
But the cops thought otherwise.
She was a safe-breaker’s daughter after all.

🥕🥕🥕

What Does Your Daddy Do? by Norah Colvin

The children drew portraits and wrote profiles of their fathers’ work. Some had accompanied their father to work and related first-hand knowledge of laying bricks, wearing a fireman’s helmet, sitting in the manager’s chair, or distributing medication to patients. Then it was Patsy’s turn. She read:

“My Dad

My dad goes to work at night. He is a cleaner. He works when everyone else is sleeping. He wears black jeans, a black shirt and a black hat. He wears gloves so he doesn’t leave fingerprints where he has cleaned. He usually cleans up banks and jewellery stores.

The end.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Deborah Lee

“…so then, they couldn’t figure how to break into the safe, so they got some dynamite and blew it up!”

Laughter.

“All that money, blown to shreds. My dad’s friend the cop said when they got there it was still fluttering around like snow. All that cash, just confetti.”

“Order now, kids,” the teacher snapped.

Jane had turned her head, feigning a deep interest in the bare trees outside the homeroom window. Thirty years later, her face still burned like fire at the memory.

Her father had gone to prison, and she hadn’t seen him since. The safecracker’s legacy.

🥕🥕🥕

Can’t Take It with You by Jo Hawk

His body lay dead and buried in the ground before Nydia met the man she had lived with for thirty-two years. He arranged his funeral, she signed the papers, and the undertaker handed her a yellow envelope bearing her carefully printed name.

An address and a key revealed a storage locker lined with shelves stuffed with labeled boxes. Thousands of them greeted her.

She opened the note with trembling hands:

Dearest Nydia,

I lied. My late nights were never at bars. I was a safecracker. The contents are here, chronicled, logged and stored. Consider them your inheritance.

Love,
Dad

🥕🥕🥕

Type Cast? by JulesPaige

Astrid knew he did it for her, not to get dollar bills for the topless dancer, the one who might have been her mother. Who he spoke of in his sleep – when dressed wore bell bottoms and gypsy blouses. Astrid, his little chick, didn’t get the woman’s outer beauty. However, her father saw in his daughter, her inner beauty and he never wanted her to take the blame for his own faults.

Don’t become a thief he begged on his deathbed. Take my money, educate yourself. So Astrid without fear of debt, started her career as a professional student.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Call Dad by Donna Matthews

He whispers the sweetest words. Murmuring sounds about beauty, smarts, perfection. He tells me I’m not like the other girls — my cheeks flame. I am valuable! I am loved! After weeks of timid touches, I finally surrender. We are one now.

Tiptoeing out of his room, I see a photo of him. As I tenderly trace his face, the portrait shifts. Realizing I have discovered his treasure, I can’t help but glance inside. To my astonishment and dismay, the vault is crammed with pictures of girls before me. I believed his false promises. Devastated, I call my dad.

🥕🥕🥕

Safebreaker’s Daughter by Shane Kroetsch

Her daddy worked with the Overton crew. Best safecracker on the west coast is what they said. It was like a magic trick. He did it all by feel. Never left a mark.

She worked the same way, except it wasn’t money she was after. When she’d touch you, it would last just long enough. She’d look at you, and you’d forget about anything else. Before you realised what happened, it’d be too late.

Her daddy always told her that if you’re gonna do something, do it right. What she knew how to do, was break a man’s heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Safebreaker’s Daughter by Doug Jacquier

Her Dad was a legend amongst the other surfers at Bell’s Beach, which was in itself a legend in world surfing. His legendary status was nothing to do with his reckless but skillful derring-do but was based on the exact opposite; his unwillingness to take a risk. He was always looking for the safe breaker.

So when his daughter came along, grew up and had kids of her own, his words would ring in her ears as she swam towards the reef, beating down the desire to catch the biggest wave she could. She was indeed the safebreaker’s daughter.

🥕🥕🥕

The Things They Do To Me by H.R.R. Gorman

She tossed some of the powder onto the safe’s handle and brushed off excess, but the results came back as she expected. “Perp wore gloves,” she told the officer.

The uniformed man snorted. “Good lord. Sendin’ me a lady fingerprintist… the things they do to me.”

She pursed her lips, then ran out of the room. The cop laughed, thinking he’d sent her crying, but time ran short.

If she couldn’t solve the case from the perp’s traces, she could follow the money trail. Her dad had been a safebreaker – and she knew where he’d sell jewels and jade.

🥕🥕🥕

Your Sins Will Catch You Out by Di @pensitivity101

The letter arrived along with the usual bills and flyers.
Type written, she opened it and sat down quickly.
She wanted to know how they found out. She was the vicar’s wife, right?
A pillar of society and liked by most, she thought she had escaped her tarnished past.
Now she’d received this open threat to expose her to her husband as a fraud due to her father’s criminal activities unless she paid £1,000 for the writer’s silence.
She took the letter into her husband’s office and anxiously showed him.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said calmly, as he knew everything anyway.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s All in the Clicks by Susan Zutautas

“I know how to do this, just be quiet”, Mary said to Pete as she listened intently with her stethoscope up against the safe’s dial.

Stopping briefly, Mary said to Pete, “It should only take a few more tries to break this baby.

Frightened as a rabbit Pete replied, “I sure hope so, we’ve been here almost an hour. I need to see my fathers will”.

Hearing the clicks, carefully turning the dial clockwise and counterclockwise, then back again, she knew she had it.

“Voila, Pete. I’ve never met a safe that I couldn’t crack. Dad would be proud”.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by The Dark Netizen

She rode on, the bags of coin and jewels jingling behind her.

This was her biggest haul yet. It was larger than her father’s greatest score. He would be happy had he still been with her. This life of thievery was full of perils, and she recognised that it could lead her to a quick end. However, it was all she knew, all that was taught to her by her father – The Safebreaker. She liked the name. It announced her skill. Her other skills helped her get into the houses of rich spoilt sons.

They were considerably poorer now…

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Anita Dawes

Could it be called a skill
Getting into places
That are locked against you
Something Annie learned at her father’s knee
Now it’s time to branch out on her own
Will nerves get the better of her
She’s hoping to perfect all she has learned
There’s one big job she looks forward to
Snatching the crown jewels
from under the queen’s nose.
She has studied every part of the great tower
The yeoman, the black ravens
that guard this wonderful tower in London.
A man once sat on the queen’s bed while she slept
How hard can it be?

🥕🥕🥕

Jailbreaker Ritu Bhathal

It’s about time I carved a name out for myself. I’m fed up of everyone thinking of him whenever they see me. Mary. That’s my name. Not the Safebreaker’s Daughter. It wasn’t so bad, when things were good. No one could touch him. And we never did without. Then he went and got himself caught. Hand still in the jewellers safe. He’s sitting in jail now, rotting away. I need to do something. Something that will change the way they all talk about me. No more Safebreaker’s Daughter. No, soon, I’ll be known as the Jailbreaker. Dad, I’m coming.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter, Her Twin, & the Fen by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Hananah’d never before been to this part of the fen, but wasn’t worried. Eavan had promised to meet her at moonrise, to raid the castle’s treasury. The villagers on the mountain were in sore need of funds.

He was a safebreaker’s son, she his twin. Raised in a convent of sorts, they’d been trained as thieves to do good.

She shivered, then tensed when the wind stopped, but the leaves continued to rustle.

“Eavan?” She turned to the fen. Leaves heaved in a belch of blue, revealing a pair of glowing green eyes within a mound of rotting bracken.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Space Archeologist by Saifun Hassam

Captain Lacey was a space engineer and an archeologist. Her space capsule was in orbit around a derelict Terran ship, probing for airlocks or hidden entrances or exits. The data was automatically transmitted to her own spaceship high above the Terran ship. Certain anomalies had already sparked her curiosity about the abandoned ship.

Lacey’s love for space engineering had come from her dad. He was a test engineer for space technologies back on Terra. Nicknamed “Safebreaker” he was a genius at testing and cracking AI codes to spaceship areas controlling life support systems or space drives or ship’s instruments.

🥕🥕🥕

Time Change by Bill Engleson

“His torch dimmed?”

“It did. Comes to us all. Even him.”

“It’s good you could be there. How was it for you?”

“Comforting. Oddly comforting.”

“Did you talk?”

“It was hard for him. I held his hand. Then I remembered something he told me as a child. He always had that wall safe. One day, I was, maybe seven, I asked, ‘what do you keep in there?’

He said. ‘Nothing but time!’

I didn’t understand.

He could see that.

There, as he lay dying, I joked, ‘what’s in your safe, now?’

He smiled, and said, ‘It’s your time, now.’

🥕🥕🥕

Poet-Tree Place by D. Avery

“Ever’thin’ ok up there, Kid?”

“Jist thinkin’, Pal. Thinkin’ on how ya said ya ain’t from anywheres but right here at the Ranch. Thinkin’ I cain’t figger if yer a part a this place, or if this place is a part a you.”

“I reckon places beget the folks thet live in ‘em. Mold’em. Shape ‘em.”

“Do places tell stories or is it the people?”

“Reckon it’s both, Kid. But folks has ta work harder at listenin’. Git thet figgered out, places jist hum with stories.”

“And buckaroo-ku:

Earth hums Her stories
immeasurable songlines
pulse through time and space

🥕🥕🥕

Breakin’ and Reckonin’ by D. Avery

“Eh; don’t give up yer day job Kid. Come down outta thet tree and git ta yer chores.”

“Okay, Pal.”

“Careful now, be safe. Break ‘er branches on thet tree an’ Shorty’ll be upset. Yer climbin’s gittin’ better. Who taught ya?”

“Jist practice. Who taught you ‘bout ranchin’ Pal?”

“Reckon if a character gits made up fer a ranch thet character knows ranchin’. Who taught ya ta buckaroo-ku?”

“Learnin’ as I go. Jist tryin’ to find my way, mappin’ the wide open spaces of the ranch with words.”

“Reckon words make space a place.”

“Yep. 99 at a time.”

🥕🥕🥕

August 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

Grab your notebook and walking stick, a light coat, and maybe a hat. It’s cold enough to turn a few maple leaves into fire paintings. We’re going for a walk.

Feel the brisk air? Inhale deeply and watch your breath frost on the exhale. I wasn’t kidding about the cold. I know, it’s dark so let your eyes adjust a moment. See my tomato plants in the shadows of night? It won’t frost yet. They’ll be okay. If you can strain your eyes, that’s a potted eggplant. No flower, no fruit. Ah, well. It was worth a try. See over there to the right of the tomatoes? Yes, I know it’s dark, but see how the light-colored leaves illuminate? Those are all Brussel sprouts. Six of them and they will continue to grow until frost. After that, they will sweeten on the stalk.

Carefully take the stairs, and we’ll gather beneath the street lamp. Look back at my home (MY HOME!) and see how the light in the back windows glows. It makes me sigh in satisfaction. A heavy sigh frosts my breath again! Notice the color of the lamplight is pinker than the warm yellow tones emanating from inside my house. Just an observation. Smell that? Crisp fall air smells sharp and clean. It clears the sinuses the way champagne cleanses the palate. Did you catch the whiff of smoke? Someone has lit a fire against the chill.

This narrow street we are standing in is named Jensen. It’s a one-way alley. See Mrs. H’s house over my shoulder? She’s on the corner of Roberts and Ethel. Next door on the corner of Ethel and Jensen is her granddaughter’s house. Their back yard is a run-on sentence to ours. We really don’t know the property lines. That bank of lilacs might be mine, or they might belong to Mrs. H. Their snow gets shoved into our yard each winter. But I’m jumping ahead.

If you count those two houses and the ones across the alleyway down to where Jensen curves back up to intersect Roberts, we total six houses. There’s only one other house on the other side of my next-door neighbor. That makes eight, ours makes nine. Let’s walk to the corner. The alleyway slopes downhill slightly then rises again to meet Roberts Street. That open space fills with snow removal in winter.

If you go past the last house, there’s a hillside where we all dump our maple leaves after they drop. That house on the corner is for sale. Bet the new owners will be surprised to see the neighborhood crossing their yard with a parade of leaves this fall. Okay. We are at the corner. If we turn left, we’d have to cross the snowmobile trail. It’s great for walking the dogs in summer. If you walk up the long hill, you’ll pass the county fairgrounds where the city of Hancock stores all its removed snow. It’s like glacial melt in the spring.

Further, are the Maasto Hiihto Trails. I know, it looks like a misspelling, but double vowels are typical in the Finnish language, and you’ll find that our area is imbued with Finn culture. The Laurn Grove Park is only a block up the snowmobile trail. It has an ice hockey rink and play area for kids. If I had young children, they’d play there, making sport of cutting paths through the small copse of woods on the other side of the trail.

The park is named for two boys who grew up in the scattering of neighborhoods like ours on this hillside. Both died in WWII on different ships in the Pacific. Past the park is the house where the Koski boys grew up a generation later. They both served in Vietnam, and their wives are good friends of mine.

The opposite way down the snowmobile trail is the Finlandia football field. I heard them practicing well after dark tonight. The Hancock high school squad practices there, too, and I know the parents of one of the boys. His dad served in Iraq, and his mom works fulltime at Michigan Tech. She takes care of him. He has back injuries, TBI and PTSD almost to the point of agoraphobia. But he watches his son play.

War has left its mark on my small neighborhood. My husband is a veteran of Grenada and deployments to Central America. My next-door neighbor was in the Army. Not sure if he’s a combat veteran, but he can seem intimidating. I talk garden matters with him, and that softens him.

Let’s walk back to the house from Roberts Street and add to our count the neighbors on the opposite side. Fourteen. That’s our block. A good baker’s dozen of us. A friendly bunch. Dog walkers and bird watchers. A few general landscapers, just two of us gardening, but everyone mows their lawns or hires Mrs. H’s great-grandson.

Come on inside. I don’t know about you, but my hands are cold! The tip of my nose, too. It was quiet tonight. Last week, when the fair was in town, traffic got loud up and down Ethel. Sometimes we can hear noisy bikes or trucks blasting down Quincy Hill. Otherwise, it’s a quiet place for town-living. I’m going to link a map for you, and you can zoom in to see 1112 Roberts Street or zoom out to where I live in proximity to Lake Superior.

What a glorious tool, Google Maps! You can also click on places like Maasto Hiihto Trail or Franklin Mine or McLain State Park and look at streets and satellite views and click on photos. You can measure distances and see the terrain. Maps used to show space on a grid. Now they can be more interactive. The purpose of our walk tonight was to introduce you to something I just learned and feel excited about — deep mapping.

Consider the difference between space and place. Space spreads out on a map and can be measured in longitude, latitude, and altitude. Place is what we make of space, the meaning we attribute to it. To deep map a place, we start with observation. We took a walk. According to Linda Lappin, author of a book I’m reading for my MFA called The Soul of a Place, “A deep map, then, is a sample swatch of the multiple manifestations of the genius loci [the spirit of a place].” The term comes from PrairyErth: A Deep Map by William Least Heat-Moon and shows the stratification of a geographical spot.

Walking the spot is the first step to deep mapping. This is exploration. Next is a gathering of details — how does the light of day, the cold of winter change the place. Lappin advises authors to learn the names of plants and birds and streets. This act transforms a writer into a camera, a recorder, a scientist before artist. As artist, deep mapping then calls the writer to respond to all discoveries, to learn and observe. Push deeper and research the place names and local history. Think about how your personal story intersects with all this information about a single place. Finally, a deep mapper must organize all this material into blocks, miles, and themes.

Lappin writes that she gathers superstitions, plant lore and recipes to add local color. All this true-to-life background informs the details upon which she traces out the plot of the story. She shows that deep mapping crosses all genres and can include interiors as well as exteriors. I find it fascinating because I’ve intuitively deep mapped places I write about not realizing there’s an entire process to this kind of work. Film-makers, visual, and performing artists also use the tool.

And as a writer of 99-word stories, I often use that literary artform to catch my mapping impressions, which makes me even more excited about the process. If you give deep mapping a try or find, like me, you already do some of it, let me know your thoughts in the comments.

While reading The Soul of Place, Lappin shared a list of street names she collected in Italy. One translated to Girl Thief Road. This jogged my memory of a Mean Mary song:

The banker’s boy, the boss’s son
They’re hoarding all the treasures their daddy’s won
And they think the vault is safe but she’s smarter than they thought her
They always underestimate the safebreaker’s daughter

You can listen to the full song here: The Safebreaker’s Daughter. One of the techniques for deep mapping can be music. I like songs that hint at a story, ones I can apply to a place. Mean Mary never reveals “the story” in her song, and that’s why it always niggles at me. How did they underestimate the safebreaker’s daughter? And, who was the safebreaker? Did he have a legitimate job, or was he a thief? What if I plopped these characters from a song onto my street? Deep mapping can be fun, and there are endless ways you can use it to spark your own writing.

August 29, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter. Who is she, what did she do, and where? Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by September 3, 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.

 

Thelma on Roberts Street by Charli Mills

The light overlooking Roberts Street flickered and faded. Thelma smiled and accepted the omen – all that glows holds no permanence. Probably the gales blew out a transformer nearby. Wind gusted through the maple trees, scattering small flocks of leaves to the ground. Summer was over. The tourists went home; the college students returned. The latest batch of football players for Finlandia made a good excuse for her to walk this path. Just another smitten female sauntering home late. Who would think she was casing the football coach’s house? She had ten minutes to prove she was the safebreaker’s daughter.

Old World Charm

Perhaps the phrase is a colloquialism, a new world nostalgia. Maybe we use old world charm to describe architecture, homey restaurants, or ethnic festivities. Whatever its use, the phrase holds space for reminiscing about what we left behind.

Not the easiest of prompts to play with, but writers followed its lead nonetheless. Some took us beyond old world traditions to new, and others reimagined places. We encounter different perspectives and some unexpected treatments of the prompt.

The following stories are based on the August 22, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about old world charm.

PART I (10-minute read)

Mettle of Life by Donna Matthews

Shutting off the television after another Stranger Things binge-watching session, she couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. Not for the terrifying, family destroying monsters portrayed. And indeed not the fashion. Bright geometric patterns and splatter paint? Good heavens, what were we thinking in the 80s?

No.

It is the mettle of life she misses. The 14-year-old girl she once was. Long afternoons with friends, secrets shared, dreams whispered. It was her age of becoming. She could be anything. Anything at all.

Silence falls heavy without the television. Unsure of what to do next, she ends up doing nothing at all.

🥕🥕🥕

Clouded (Part I) by D. Avery

Hope felt pride and belonging here, enjoyed seeing her last name on the neatly arranged stones, many flagged, indicating service as far back as the Revolution.

“Mom?”

Hope’s mom stood at the edge of the woods, still and silent. Hope went down the slope and joined her.

“Mom?”

Her eyes glistened. She placed one of her earrings on the tiny stone before walking with Hope toward the road.

“Who was she?”

“I don’t know Hope. Just a gypsy baby, abandoned they say, over a hundred years ago.”

Winding back through the family plots, Hope’s pride clouded over with questions.

🥕🥕🥕

Clouded (Part II) by D. Avery

“A gypsy baby? I didn’t know we had gypsies in Vermont. I thought gypsies were from long ago and far away, like Italy, or Romania, somewhere like that. Why is there a gypsy baby in our cemetery?”

Her mom stopped and turned, silently stared back down the slope at the isolated marker. Her long black hair veiled her face.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Hope, ‘gypsy’ does sound Old World; European; maybe sounds more charming than other words they might have used for impoverished dark skinned people wandering homeless in their own homelands.” She sniffed. “Christianity’s an Old World idea too.”

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Clouded (Part III) by D. Avery

Hope stood with her mother, looked down the slope at the little grave by itself just beyond the boundary of the old cemetery.

“It’s like she’s on the outside looking in.”

“Yes, it’s like that.” She spoke softly. “The story is, she was found around here and one man wanted to give her a decent burial but the others wouldn’t allow a heathen, a gypsy, amongst their own.”

“I still can’t imagine gypsies around here.”

“Can you imagine Abenaki families? Selling handcrafts, baskets and brooms?”

“Indians? That seems long ago and far away too, Mom.”

“Not so far, Hope.”

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Saving Babies by Faith A. Colburn

We often think of culture as arts, but some cultural practices are so basic as to be essential to life. I haven’t used the prompt words “old world” from the Carrot Ranch Literary Community blog prompt in my text, but the meaning is there.

“It’s because we were midwives—from Scotland,” Grandma said.

“What’s that got to do with a family that doesn’t touch each other?”

“They didn’t want anybody slobbering over their babies.”

“Slobbering!”

“Germs.”

“They didn’t know about germs back then.”

“The experts didn’t know.” She gave me one of her now-think-about-this looks. “Women who took care of mommas and babies didn’t have microscopes, but they knew that boiling water and washing everything within an inch of its life resulted in more live babies. The fewer people handling babies, the more they lived.” She gave me another look. “Generations of observation.”

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Days Gone By by Reena Saxeena

It was a busy day in office, as the Managing Director was visiting. The premises needed to be spotlessly clean, all reports ready and the housekeeping/secretarial staff on call.

I bumped against someone, speeding through the corridor in my new suit and high heels. The gentleman stopped, held my elbow till I regained balance, and spoke calmly.

“I should’ve been careful. Hope you are fine, young lady!”

That was the venerable MD himself.

Years later, I thought of him when the new MD walked in before 9 am, and cribbed that nobody bothered to wish him a good morning.

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Gesture by Bill Engleson

Hopped the Number 3 bus one lonely summer Sunday recently.

At loose ends.

Feeling sorry for myself.

I get that way.

So, I’m sitting there when this young girl boards.

Pregnant, but oh so young.

The bus is full.

Loads of Sunday shoppers: a mob of middle-aged lavender matrons, crinkly codgers, me!

She looked like she was about to pop.

Christ, I thought, I’ll never get to where I’m going.

Wherever that is.

Then this ancient dude, foreign looking, old school-like, smiles at her, gets up, offers her his seat.

You just don’t see classy moves like that anymore!

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Date Night at Hungarian Village by Annette Rochelle Aben

We loved the non-descript store front, because the fewer people who knew about this place, the easier it was to get a seat. Authentic Hungarian food was all they served and when what had been cooked every morning was gone, they locked the doors.

On the patched vinyl cushioned chairs, we sat patiently, at a faded, red Formica table. Soon, a woman, whose age could be determined by counting the wrinkles on her face, delivered our plates. She wiped gnarled fingers on a food stained, white apron and smiled. Then, she handed us each a fork and said: Eat!

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Polka Pantomine by priorhouse

I saw her dancing, again, this Sunday

polka played from the radio

cabbage and meat aroma filled the air

the low heels of her shoes

clicked with certain moves

the dress, that covered most of her body, barely moved

while her shoulders sometimes grooved

soft face wrinkles

with eyes that twinkled

as her feet stepped side to side

doing some sorta polka slide –

and I, barely 13, stayed back

watching from the shadow

curious about this old grandmother of mine

as she traveled back in time

every Sunday

doing the Polka pantomime

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High Tea by Di @pensitivity101

The room was lit with yellow light from tired bulbs, heavy brocade curtains hung at the windows and doors.
A fire burned merrily in the hearth, the smell of fresh bread and home made jam wafting across the room to tease my nostrils and make my mouth water.

Tea and scones sat on a table with a heavy cloth topped with a circlet of hand woven lace.
Cakes on a three tier stand stood centre stage, thick cream in a jug alongside.
Tea was always a nostalgic trip going back 50 years when my great aunt and uncle were newlyweds.

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Old World Charms by Anita Dawes

Here in England
We used to have afternoon tea dances
In ballrooms across the country.
Those were the days when a gentleman
Enjoyed dancing with his lady
Holding open the door to let her through first
Pulling her chair out to help her sit
There are so many old-world charms we have lost
Writing love letters, eagerly waiting for the postman
To deliver those words you long to read
Taking pen and paper to reciprocate
A gentleman would also lift his hat when passing a church
I still I cross myself whenever a funeral goes by.
Those golden days…

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Suomi Dancing by Charli Mills

A blonde quartet of girls dressed in blue dances. They twirl, holding hands. Singing, they remake the lyrics of Finland’s midsummer. No longer homeland, home is here, Finlandia, USA. With old world charm, they brighten the backyard of a house owned by the Calumet Mining Company. New life for Finns.

Aunt Jo kneads the dough until it stretches smooth. She slices parsnips and carrots thin the way her neighbor instructed. “Thin layers keep ‘em hot longer in the mines,” she told Jo.

Jo smiles at the children Suomi dancing under maples trees. “Supper,” she calls. “Time for pasties, hey!”

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Recipes Passed Down by Susan Zutautas

Every year at Christmastime Meg’s grandmother who was from Paisley Scotland would make shortbread.

Shortbread was an expensive luxury at one time and was usually only made for special occasions.

It is said that these rich delicious biscuits date back to the 12th century.

Meg would watch intently as her grandmother carefully measured out flour, icing sugar, and of course the butter. Into a big bowl, the ingredients would go, and the hand beating with force would begin.

Ever since her grandmothers passing Meg has carried on with her traditional recipe and bakes many batches of them at Christmas.

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Melanie by Padmini

He squinted at the braided girl in brown hair with his half-blind eyes. The first time he saw her, she was dancing to the same tune. Has it been 60 years? They were married the next year and she had passed away a year after their marriage. She was back now, wearing the same dress. “Melanie’, he whispered weakly. Melanie, for the first time in her traditional attire, danced exuberantly. She looked at him and sensed that something was wrong. She hurried over to him. ‘Grandpa’, she shook him. His limp body fell to the ground with a thud.

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Olde World, New Light by Ritu Bhatal

Jackie picked up the lantern and held it up against the shop light.

It was exquisite, the intricacy of the cast iron frame, twisted into patterns.

“That would look amazing, hanging outside our front door, wouldn’t it, Dave?” She turned to her husband, who stood impatiently, tapping foot, waiting for her to make a decision so they could leave. He had a beer at home with his name on it.

“It has such an olde worlde charm. Yes,” she smiled as she clasped it to her chest. “This is the one. Let’s go and pay.”

“Thank God,” mumbled Dave.

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La Florentine Torrone by JulesPaige

Nonna always has old world treats in her pockets those special nugget candies that have nuts, and come individually wrapped in their own boxes. So when the children visit they all run to her.

Nonna used cook, back in the day when standing in the hot kitchen over her famous red sauces and homemade pastas could be found for supper any day of the week.

The other adults debate on whether she knows too much or doesn’t grasp the modern world enough. I think that my Nona, she’s just fine the way she is. I am her secret supplier.

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Just Up from the Compleat Angler by TN Kerr

In the village of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the visitor will find an agreeable climate, a magnificent bridge, delightful restaurants, and river walks. At the top of the High Street sits Albion House, where Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary lived. In this house, Mary Shelley finished her Gothic novel.

It’s a lovely old home; painted white. It features floors of hardwood and terracotta tiles. French doors open to a small garden off the ground floor, and the entire structure glows with the patina brought by old age and meticulous care. A simple, small brass plaque marks its literary significance.

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Host with the Most! by Anurag Bakhshi

Rhonda and Steve were awestruck as they stared unblinking at the magnificent interiors of the Airbnb.

The walls were covered with such grand paintings that it looked like they were in the Louvre.

Add Bach’s Goldberg Variations playing in the background, and they felt as if they’d been transported to another century.

“We simply love it,” Rhonda cried out, ecstatically, “I don’t ever want to leave this place, Doctor.”

“I’m sure that can be arranged, my dear,” replied their host with an indulgent smile, a picture of old world charm, just like his home, “And please call me Hannibal.”

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PART II (10-minute read)

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Old-World Charm by Jim “Quincy” Borden

In 1494, Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan friar, wrote one of the first published descriptions of double-entry bookkeeping. He described journals, ledgers, year-end closing entries, and proposed that a trial balance be used to prove a balanced ledger. He warned that a person should not go to sleep at night until the debits equalled the credits. His ledger had accounts for assets, liabilities, capital, income, and expenses — the account categories that are reported on an organization’s balance sheet and income statement, respectively. These terms are still used today. Who knew there was a certain old-world charm to what I teach.

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So Last Century by Norah Colvin

“What did you play on the iPad when you were little, Grandma?”

“There weren’t any iPads when I was little.”

“What?”

“We didn’t even have computers.”

“What? How did you watch movies? On your phone?”
Grandma laughed. “No, we couldn’t watch movies on our phones. They didn’t have screens. And we couldn’t carry them in our pockets either. We went to the cinema to watch movies. When I was really little, we didn’t even have television.”

“Wow! What did you do then?”

“Lots — played games, read books, made our own fun.”

“Can we play a game?”

“Of course, love.”

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Old World by FloridaBorne

“AnnaLisa,” My granddaughter said. “Join us for chocolate cake!”

“Haha u,” She chuckled. “Old.”

“In my day, no child refused this lusciousness!”

“2020?” She chuckled. “Virtual eat. No hydrolos.”

“Can you translate?” I asked my granddaughter.

“Language is now thoughts. Words are a second language to her.”

“Well?”

“Translation: I have a program installed. I can taste the cake as if I’m eating it, but there’s no calories, it’s not 2020, Great Grandma.”

“Whatever happened to tradition?”

“Two words,” My granddaughter said. “Artificial intelligence. She can’t keep up in school without it.”

“Robots by any other name,” I grumbled.

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Lost by Allison Maruska

I settle onto the flat boulder overlooking the valley. The verdant field and trees welcome the rare visitor, promising a breath of nature and a taste of old-world charm. A world that existed before technology ruled. The afternoon sun bathes it in warm light.

“Daddy, what are you looking at?”

Twisting around, I wave my boy over. He wiggles next to me, his legs stopping at my knees.

“This is the land our ancestors saw,” I say.

He tilts his head. “Can we go home now?”

I laugh. “In a little bit.” After I figure out where we are.

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That’s One Old Building by Susan Sleggs

While touring a small British town my aunt pointed to the historical plaque on the outside wall of a pub. It said 1158. We commented we didn’t think there was a building in the US that was 700 years old because we tear everything down and build new. We went in for lunch and a pint. The old-world charm was a respite and matched by the personalities of the young owners who asked where we were from in the states. When we questioned how they knew, the answer was, “You are wearing bright colors. Gives you away every time.”

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So Much for Old World Charm by Margaret G. Hanna

“Bodicote is a dump!”

Mary’s letter from Oxfordshire shocked me. She didn’t like the village where I grew up? How could she not? The cobblestone streets. The village pub (I got drunk there many nights as a lad). The Green where everyone caroused on Fair night.

I read further. And sighed. The pub was gone. The Green was Brown. Banbury was encroaching, razing everything in its path. Dad’s farm, which he had rented from Mrs. Wyatt, was in shambles, about to be bulldozed for houses.

I had never wanted to return to England. Now there was even less reason.

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Trip to the New World by H.R.R. Gorman

The old world had been good, but not perfect.

What would this new one hold? She’d never been told exactly what this place would be like, and all the souls held in the bow of this ship were similarly confused – if they even spoke the same language.

Which, much to the sailors’ consternation, most of them didn’t.

She couldn’t understand the sailors’ tongues, but she did understand their sticks, whips, and clubs. She understood angry glares, uncaring tones, and raised hackles. She understood the chains around her wrists and ankles.

And she could guess their destination wouldn’t be fun.

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Olde Worlde Charm by LizHusebye Hartmann

“You’re certain this will work?” The charm, clasped in the Anna’s smooth young hand, was redolent of rose hips, cinnamon, and sweet basil…and something exotic from the far southern lands. Eyes shining with hopeful, as yet unshed tears, she clasped the woven bag to her breast.

“Do your part, with an open heart. Your prayer will be answered, anon.”

Molly accepted the girl’s hug; then shooed her away with a smile. It was a gig—keen observation and a little theater kept ‘em coming back. She’d seen the two to-be-lovers together; why did women always doubt their own power?

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The Old World by Chris Hewitt

Disembarking from the ship she was utterly overwhelmed. The old world was more than she had ever imagined, an assault on her senses. The air was thick, pungent, with the promise of culinary adventure. Countless bustling stalls, nestled in the shadows of the old brick buildings that lined the dock. And oh my it was so bright, so vivid, the green of the trees, the blue sky, everything!

She stumbled and fell from the gangplank onto hard cobbles.

“Whoops, are you ok?”, a helping hand reached down, “First time on Earth? Don’t worry we all trip the first time.”

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Just Lousy with Charm by Doug Jacquier

In my old world, nits were removed with kerosene, visits to the spider infested outhouse were completed with newspaper squares, mothers bored into your ears to stop the potatoes growing in there and rubbed at your face with their spit on a handkerchief, fathers twisted your ears as they dragged you to the scene of your latest sin, teachers clipped your ears to instill learning and the local copper handled juvenile delinquency with the toe of his boot. Charming. I tell my grandson but he just scratches his head. Now where did I put that kerosene?

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Celebration by Kerry E.B. Black

With a pomp of woodwinds, the children joined the parade about town, welcoming everyone to join. Ribbons swirled from braids in the little girls’ hair. Embroidered flowers festooned hems and lines of traditional garb. Traditional foods perfumed the air, available for the sampling. The celebration swept everyone up with its joy. The world bloomed, the earth produced, and people created beauty to compliment nature. Peace, not protest. Harmony, not war. For the brief span of an afternoon, the community embraced the simplicity of existence. Unity in expression, inclusion of all. People paused to admire the beauty in one another.

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The Gift of Water by Anne Goodwin

Our forefathers took time and trouble to appease the elements. Didn’t they rely on sun and rain for their daily bread? In summer they’d decorate the springs with gleanings from nature’s pantry, and thank the Lord for that cool clear liquid that enabled the crops to grow. In our pick-and-mix culture, we shed their superstitions but kept their art: village competing with village for the best display. For five long days we’d diligently press petals, seeds and berries into a clay-covered board until the design took shape. Now our great-grandchildren fight wars for water. The village wells are dry.

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Cinnamon Roll by Kelley Farrell

“It has that old world charm.”

“It smells like death.”

Anise inhaled the bitter air. Remains of buildings, and their citizens, dusted the ground in an ashen snow storm. In the distance an alarm still blared, signaling catastrophe. Something sweet and savory mingled with the distinct smell of smoldering wood.

“Do you smell that?”

“Delicious.”

The sweet smell pulled Clove and Anise forward. In the center of the destruction a small bakery’s ovens hummed away. An old woman pointed her cane at the creatures.

“You. Are you responsible for this? Have a cinnamon roll, I fucking hated this place.”

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The Charm Bracelet by Sally Cronin

Keira stood in line with the other teenagers. Dressed in plain cotton overalls, the queue stretched back for miles.

Above them, lining the cliff edges, were their families, held back by a tall fence. She looked down at the silver charm bracelet her mother had placed around her wrist as she had said her tearful goodbyes.

‘This will remind you of the old world my daughter, and our love.’

Keira finally reached the head of the line and was called forward by the guardians.

Placing her hand over the bracelet, she stepped through the portal, into the new world.

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The New World by Joanne Fisher

“What happened to the original inhabitants of this planet?” my daughter asked.

“We left the Old World after it became too polluted and when we arrived at this New World it was a verdant paradise with an indigenous population. They helped us survive the first few years by providing food and shelter. Once we built up our settlements we took their lands, as we needed the resources. We moved their survivors onto reserves where they mostly died out from sickness and disease. They’re gone now.”

We both looked out onto the now crowded skyline of skyscrapers and hazy skies.

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Old Earth: Sketch of a Bygone Dream by Saifun Hassam

In that far away long-ago dream, there was a deep azure lake with tall evergreens along the shores. Towering snowy peaks glowed in the early morning sunlight. Light and shadow drifted with the mist swirling over the lake. From the shores, stone steps led to a garden of goldenrod and delphiniums and a cottage. Smoke rose from the chimney. Old Earth. Swept away millennia ago.

Who was the artist? Who was the astronaut from Earth? Millennia ago someone had left signatures of Old Earth, artwork in the derelict digital libraries of Earth-like planets in the deep reaches of space.

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Holding On by Jo Hawk

The sand flew right out the window. It left me frozen, asleep for a thousand years. The one thing I craved, I never found. Solid ground. I slipped, descending the slope, my fate was sealed.

Sentenced, I watch your world from total darkness. Longing for sweet sun to kiss my face, I promise to try harder, even if it never matters. My once dark doors are open wide, my soul laid bare. Will you be there? Will you reach for my hand? Judge me, forgive me, save me?

Please, answer my prayers for the charms of my old world.

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Old World Customs by Chelsea Owens

Zrolt bent in half; crinkled his tentacles. Although he lacked the same appendages as the assembled dignitaries, he hoped his efforts at imitating formal gestures passed.

A bright figure, resplendent in the same hue that graced Zrolt’s planet’s bog pits, crinkled its breathing orifice in response. Zrolt’s translator told him this meant pleasure. Or amusement. Or, in 14% of cases, djr,osk.

He hoped it did not indicate djr,osk.

The bright figure spoke, moving more of its appendages as it did. Zrolt ingested a gland, a sure sign of boredom. Why did these sort of functions always entail old world customs?

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A Call Fer Art by D. Avery

“Pal, where yer folks hail from?”

“Hail if I know, Kid. I jist got made up right here at this ranch.”

“But the real folks that come through here, they’s from all over the world!”

“Thet’s right, Kid.”

“I been thinkin’ on Pepe Le’Gume’s idea fer a Buckaroo Nation totem pole. It’s a great idea, if’n we had artists ta make it take shape. A carvin’ ta honor all a us.”

“Reckon the first thing would be ta have folks jist tell what symbolizes their home place.”

“Prob’ly a beaver fer our Vermonter.”

“Thet’s one critter. Speak up, ya’ll.”

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