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December 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

Cora Kingston lived alone in Cat Harbor. When the storms turned violent in November, she’d add more wood to the parlor stove and bake a batch of corn muffins. That way she felt less lonely, listening to the wind moan through weathered chinks in her small frame house that her friend John built. Cora–

No, Cora Kingston never lived in Cat Harbor. But it sounds good and what sounds good to a writer with imagination becomes the plaster used when crafting a historical story. Names, dates, events, and places leave gaps. Historical fiction tries to fill them with believable details — colorful but plausible ones.

Cora and Cat Harbor are two mysteries that my mind often puzzle. The Keweenaw Peninsula dots the map with names left over from 150 years of copper mining. Yet Cat Harbor is an unusual name not linked to a mine or historic figure.

They say…

….when all the trees were logged the curve of land resembed the paw of a feline.
…long ago wildcats roamed this inlet.
…when the Ralph Budd wrecked on the rocks of this small harbor in 1929, cats from the boat swam to shore.
…when the Ralph Budd wrecked, carrying butter and cream, it attracted all the felines in the area for miles.

Whatever they say about the name of Cat Harbor, they say less about Cora Kingston. As a writer who researches the lost stories of women, I can tell you this is a common problem. Often the stories of women are not passed down, and names are easily lost through marriage.

Passing through Cat Harbor during a wild October storm with my friend and local maritime historian, Barb, we paused to watch the massive waves hit a reef of exposed basalt. The force of the water on rocks sent spray 40 feet into the air like geysers. The waves crashed to shore with such force, they sprayed across the road.

It’s easy to imagine the energy of such storms instilling awe in those who first settled this remote region along the shores of Lake Superior. We certainly felt it, standing there, shivering in the cold wind, mesmerized by the force. And that’s when I thought about Cora Kingston.

My friend is a cemetery lurker like me. Barb hunts down the final resting spots of former light-keepers and surfman — the men who rescued stranded and wrecked ships. She writes their biographies and gives presentations to honor their service. Maybe she could help me figure out who Cora Kingston was, I thought.

Several years ago, on my first visit to the Keweenaw, my daughter took me to the cemetery near Eagle River where white-washed stones stood among ephemeral flowers and chattering squirrels. It was at the beginning of my “wandering time,” and yet I was filled with the passion I have for cemetery stories and wrote about it in the May 18, 2016, prompt. Cora Kingston was the woman I mentioned who left a memorial for her dearest friend.

I thought the friend was John Vendow. Turns out I misread the marker (as have others who’ve recorded names from the cemetery). I showed the memorial grave to Barb. She recognized the surname Kingston as one of the “old families” of the area. She later corrected me on John’s name — it’s Yendow. Further research shows he was the son of a French-Canadian carpenter and the surname was originally Gendeau.

In 1870, 1880 and 1894 the Gendau/Yendow family lived in Keweenaw County, which is a broad area full of copper mines, harbors, and towns. The 1880 Federal Census revealed that at the age of 13 John Yendow found employment at a stamp mill. Likely that was the one in Gay. Remember the raven graffiti photo I used last week with the challenge? That’s from the remaining smokestack where John Yendow once labored as a teen in the 1880s.

He died in 1892 at the age of 25. According to a family member that Barb tracked down, John and two siblings succumbed in 1892 to typhoid. Their parents passed on in 1916 and 1918. All are said to be buried in the same cemetery near Eagle River and yet none have grave markers. The Kingstons are all buried in the cemetery near Eagle Harbor, about six miles away. Cora Kingston erected a marker the Yendow family could not afford, and it leaves her name etched in stone:

Erected
by
Cora Kingston
In
Loving remembrance
of
her dearest friend
John Yendow
Born May 31, 1867
Died October 5, 1892

The beautiful white marker joining her name with his stands among an ornate wrought-iron fence with an old tin pot that once held planted flowers. It begs so many questions, but the primary one is who was Cora Kingston?

The Yendow descendant says the family has no idea. He thinks they were to be married. Barb found records for three Cora Kingstons. The most likely Cora was born in 1871, four years John’s junior. Her parents were from England — Charley and Hanna Kingston, who came to the copper mining region. Here’s a small biography of Cora’s father:

“CHARLES KINGSTON, contractor of the Central Mine, has been connected with this company for more than twenty years. He was born in Hampshire, England, May 22, 1824; was brought up a farmer, and emigrated to America in 1851. He came direct to Lake Superior; landed at Eagle Harbor, and engaged in wood chopping. He was next a miner three years. About 1862, he located at the Central Mine, and engaged in contract work for this company, getting out wood and timber and doing their teaming. He also has had charge of the road work for the township of Sherman, as Road Commissioner, some seventeen years. In 1874, he made a visit to his native country, spending about four months abroad. Mr. Kingston is one of the old pioneers of this region, and is widely and favorably known.”

~Keweenaw County History, 1883

John Yendow’s mother, Elizabeth (Nankervis) Yendow was the daughter of a Cornish miner who worked the Cliff Mine. She married Fabien Yendow in October of 1860. John was one of 11 children. By the time the couple celebrated 50 years of marriage, they had six remaining daughters, all married. Thus no trace of the Yendow/Gendeau/Yeandeau name remains. The women slip into other families.

And Cora? It seems she married another John — John Blackwell Holman who was three years younger than her and another English immigrant son of a miner. They moved to Seattle, Washington where her second John worked as a mail carrier, and she took in lodgers.

The story fades. The questions linger.

Did Cora and John Yendow grow up together? Were they sweethearts? If they were going to marry, why weren’t they married by the time they were 25 and 21? How did Cora come up with the money for so elaborate of a gravestone for John? And why leave her name etched with his?

When the records can’t tell the story, that’s when we gather around the campfire and make them up.

December 13, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Cora Kingston. You can answer any of the questions history obscures or completely make up a Cora Kingston story. Go where the prompt (and the name) leads you.

Respond by December 18, 2018. 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.

Cora’s Scrapbook (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni stood up, stretching stiff muscles after hours of sitting on the hardwood floor of Ramona’s bedroom. It was one thing to scour historical records for work, another to snoop through a box stashed under her husband’s grandmother’s bed. But Danni couldn’t pull herself away from the scrapbooks she found. One belonged to Ramona, another to Ramona’s mother, and a third to Cora Kinston Holman. Each documented events, recipes, photos and newspaper clippings. Was Cora Ramona’s maternal grandmother? The name was unfamiliar to Danni. Yet Cora’s scrapbook brimmed with poetry and sketches similar to Ramona’s stories and fairy drawings.

Graffiti

If art is about expression what does graffiti have to say? Sometimes it is territorial marking, gangs claiming streets. And sometimes the artists of a community take to the streets with paint on buildings to tell the stories of heritage. Graffiti can be an outcry, art at its most basic level, one person with something to say.

Writers took to the medium of graffiti in this week’s collection of stories.

The following are based on the December 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti.

PART I (10-minute read)

Paint by Numbers by Bill Engleson

“So, you start with a title?”

“Often do.”

“And this time the flash is about…graffiti?”

“Yup.”

“Know much about the subject?”

“Can’t say that I do?”

“So, what follows the title? I mean, how does your brain work?”

“Well, I’ve got an arty sounding title. It suggests…that paints involved.”

“Good. What comes next?”

“Fine-tuned google research. Learn the language. Like…tagger.”

“Tagger?”

“Artist. Then…a twist. Picture this, a tag team of jungle artists. A Tiger tagger and a Giraffe graffiti artist…a Girafffiti Tiger, so to speak. Political animals, eh! Exposing trophy hunters…”

“Sounds good. You better start writing.”

“Okey dokey.”

🥕🥕🥕

Graffiti by Floridaborne

“So much graffiti!” My mother complained.

As we drove toward the thrift shop, our old car sputtered. She fought to guide it next to the curb.

I asked, incensed, “Why don’t you buy a new car?”

“For the same reason I go to thrift shops,” she grumbled. “Your dad said he fixed this thing!”

I opened the car door, wanting to get a closer look at a good portrait, but mom’s hand grabbed my arm. I pulled away, and said, “This car is graffiti! That’s art!”

“It’s vandalism!”

What would she think if she knew my graffiti was better?

🥕🥕🥕

Pure Art by Ritu Bhathal

Stepping back, he looked up to admire his work.

He inhaled the spray paint, fresh on the wall.

A huge mural filled with colour.

It had taken him the best part of six hours, what with dodging
oncoming traffic.

His tag proudly displayed at the bottom.

Sure, the wall wasn’t his property, and there was a slight chance that
if he got caught, he’d end up at the police station again…

He pulled his hat down firmly and wrapped his scarf over his mouth,
rendering himself unrecognisable.

Some might call it graffiti, but to him, it was pure art.

🥕🥕🥕

Exterior Decorator by Di @ pensitivity 101

It was an eyesore, and Harold didn’t know what he could do about it.

He was too old and unsteady on his legs to sort something out himself but his neighbour George came up with an idea and agreed to split the cost as it affected him too.

Jim and Chris were identical twins and had a gift with paint and colour. The two boys were happy to help, and at the end of the day, with £50 in their pocket, Harold had a piece of modern art at the bottom of his garden instead of a dirty concrete wall.

🥕🥕🥕

Writing on the Wall by H.R.R. Gorman

I washed the filthy language from the overpass. I swear, the internet is ruining today’s youth and ruining hearts and minds.

A driver crossing the overpass rolled down his window. A man pointed at my pressure washer then asked, “Ain’t leaning over the side there dangerous?”

“State don’t like swastikas on the overpass. Obvious reasons.”

“Looks mighty dangerous to me. Wouldn’t want to fall, would you?”

I caught the threat in his voice, and turned down the pressure washer. As he drove off, I took down his tag number.

Adults these days … rotting the minds of the youth.

🥕🥕🥕

The Masterpiece by Anurag Bakhshi

“Dave, stop painting graffiti on the hotel wall. Mom will be furious when she sees it,” Brad cautioned his brother.

“No, she won’t,” replied Dave insouciantly, as his paintbrush destroyed everything in its path.

Brad tried once again, “Mom hates it when you do such things.”

Dave confidently responded, “Not any more.”

Savouring Brad’s confusion, Dave continued, “Don’t you remember her expression when she saw that graffiti on that ceiling yesterday? In that church? Sister…No…. Sistine Chapel. If that Michael guy can paint on the walls of a church, I can certainly do it on these hotel walls!”

🥕🥕🥕

Not in Tablets of Stone by Anne Goodwin

He had all the signs of seasonal affective disorder. “But I should be above all that.”

Gabriel was sympathetic. “God Almighty, no-one’s immune.”

“Avarice, gluttony, debauchery. That was never in my plan.”

“Then tell them!”

“How? No-one listens to me anymore.”

“You need to forge a stronger connection.”

“Christ, I can’t send my boy again. He still suffers flashbacks two millennia on.”

“Remember Moses, and the ten commandments?”

“Stone tablets? Everything’s electronic now.”

“Not entirely.” Gabriel handed Him a can of spray paint. “Jesus’ll love this.”

And so we awoke to graffiti on Christmas morning: NOT IN MY NAME!

🥕🥕🥕

Looking For a Sign by Tracey Robinson

3:00 a.m. She knew she was done sleeping for the night. It was barely snowing; she decided to walk to the river. She thought about how she was so not having a wonderful life. She got to the bridge and whispered, “Where are you Clarence?” She looked at the frothing water below and then glanced at the bridge trusses. There was new graffiti and she walked closer to read it. In white and blue script were the words “ U R Not Alone”. Next to that in green was “Philippians 4:13”. And off to the left in red: “Clarence.”

🥕🥕🥕

Clued by Reena Saxena

He looks at the graffiti on the ground carefully.

The nose and lips are slightly deformed with coins thrown on it. It is perhaps an appreciation of the art by pedestrians. He bends down to remove the outer layer of thick coloured chalk used to draw the picture.

His companion is amazed to see that a different picture emerges in white, and the face is familiar. They now know who is the culprit, and that he has gone this way.

Someone has been kind enough to leave this clue. He wonders what could be the motive of helping them.

🥕🥕🥕

Engaging Students by kate @ aroused

Barney was really struggling at school, homework seldom done, wagging class, coming late, fighting in the playground. His teachers despaired of how to engage him.

When walking home one night Mr Burnett spied another kid spraying the walls. These graffiti artists were costing council a lot of money to blank out their undecipherable scrawls.

But as this one finished and turned to leave his face was surely Barney. Then Burnett saw the artwork that Barney had left … This was no scrawl this kid had talent!

Next day Burnett convinced the Head to supply Barney’s cans and work began.

🥕🥕🥕

Graphic Artists by Nancy Brady

Angela was going to the museum to see the new collection of graphic artists. That is, until she got stopped by the train. It was a good thing she wasn’t in a hurry because the train was barely moving.

As Angela sat there, she noticed all of the graffiti-covered boxcars and car carriers. Someone certainly had talent with spray paint; how did anyone find the time to paint them, she wondered. Intricate and detailed designs graced the sides of nearly every car. Although they may have been gang symbols, Angela realized she was enjoying an art collection on wheels.

🥕🥕🥕

The Petroglyphs at Three Rivers by TN Kerr

Istaqa was a sentry. The night threatened to be as cold as it would be long. He was not vigilant. He spent the night carving pictures of goats on the rocks surrounding his post. Come morning he would show the goats to Chosovi’s father. Chosovi would be his wife if Istaqa could present her father with sufficient goats, and a rifle.

The goats were a symbolic transference of wealth. The rifle was a true symbol of peace between their families. No warrior would arm his enemies.

Istaqa already had the rifle and by morning he would have enough goats.

🥕🥕🥕

The Cultural World of a Forgotten People by Irene Waters

“Look Pops. Someone’s painted on the wall. Mum sure would be mad.”

“It’s graffiti Donald.”

“What’s that.”

“Writing or drawing on a wall. We all want to leave a mark. You know. The oldest graffiti, a hand, is in Indonesia. Thousands of years old.”

“Do’ya reckon this’ll be here in thousands of years.”

“Not a hope and if it was done by Banksey he’s probably organised for it to self-destruct. You know though Donald, stuff going back even a few years gives a snapshot of ordinary people’s lives and what they care about.”

“So Pops, graffiti is pop culture.”

🥕🥕🥕

Body Graffiti by Susan Sleggs

The ballet dancer lay motionless on the stage allowing the music to draw me in. After a few bars he raised into a standing position with undulations I couldn’t imagine a body being able to accomplish. The music quickened and he leaped along with the beat then twisted and rolled across the stage as it slowed. His torso and legs were waxed bare, and his leggings matched the color of his skin. His perfected physique was a delight to view in so many different positions. Alas, he cheated himself because the dark blue body graffiti distracted my mind’s eye.

🥕🥕🥕

Out with the Class by Papershots

“This is obviously not art.” “Because they changed Best of Luck with Best of F…?” “Please!” He was making another point. The giggles died down, outside the station, writings everywhere; they thought those fonts were not available in Microsoft Word. It was also the, well, artistic process: at night, on the sly, “how can they see the colors if it’s dark?”, “it’s not legal, you know.” Surely writing that This City is Anti-fascist & Always Will Be was a cliché, but the unassuming flower next to it, thin black stem, red petals starting to wither, welled up an inexplicable tear.

🥕🥕🥕

Finding Liberty? by JulesPaige

Over water to the separated land, visitors came to see the expressed art in the form of graffiti, which stood for about twenty eight years. Only when the wall was finally taken down could families connect again to some normalcy.

Some artwork of the west side of the Berlin wall has been preserved. Most of it was by anonymous artists. If given the opportunity to express hope to a divided people what could be expressed. One piece of wall projected a series of an American viewpoint. Lady Liberty who once welcomed strangers seeking freedom. Many hope She still does.

🥕🥕🥕

The Rat Ass Nutcracker by Sascha Darlington

Look at that graffiti, adding whimsy, art even, to this otherwise festering blight of a urine-soaked street dotted with discarded used syringes, shattered malt liquor bottles, and hamburger wrappers.

One of the sanitation workers shouted “rat-ass” upon viewing my latest creation, but it’s not like they’re going to remove it, or me—they’d have to catch me first and no one ever suspects a blonde teenaged girl in this area.

One remarked, “You be careful. Lousy neighborhood.”

I begin my next creation for Christmas, I decide; a rat pirouetting in a pink tutu to be named: The Rat-Ass Nutcracker.

🥕🥕🥕

Scribbling About by Neel Anil Panicker

“Son, what’s it you want to become?”

‘A graffer’.

“A what, son? I mean I’ve heard of photographer, videographer, even choreographer. Pray, what’s a graffer?”

‘Relax, dad. He’s a graffiti artist__one who writes, scribbles, scratches, or sprays on a wall or other surface in a public place for a living.’

“What? Who in his right mind pays for such mindless vandalism? Plus, isn’t all this illegal?

“Dear Dad, world over everyone’s in a hurry. We graffer force them to stop, albeit temporarily, and drive home some homely truths. As for legality, when it comes to art, who requires permission.”

🥕🥕🥕

Classic Graffiti by Ann Edall-Robson

“99 words,” she says. “Graffiti,” she says. My mind goes to rail cars painted with obscure words and hieroglyphics. Nothing surfaces to write about. But wait, there is graffiti with an old school twist! Sidetracked for a few hours, the memories prevailed throughout one of the best movies of all time. A classic to be watched over and over – American Graffiti. Drive-in theatres were still the rage. It’s where I saw it for the first time. A must-have addition to the VCR collection with Wolfman Jack spinning the vinyls for an amazing soundtrack. Now this is graffiti!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Starship Mira by Saifun Hassam

A fine red Martian dust drifted over the derelict Starship Mira. In the Martian sunlight, one wing was aglow with neon pink and green and blue graffiti, sketches of stargates, starships and constellations deep in space, and of the Solar System.

A fragment from the “journal”

“One line I write every day
on this starship
the last of the crew
how many days before I die
travelers deep into space
to countless Sols beyond our own
return to Sol
to mystery, a vast emptiness
no trace of the past
no voices from home

tired perhaps last day
artist mira”

🥕🥕🥕

Noteworthy Collaboration by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Stepping back, Nora tipped her head, listening to the bright voices within the subterranean waterfall. They wove in and out, considering the words and images she’d already painted on the cave’s rock wall, and stopped on a questioning note, awaiting further input.

Corwin lowered his head and lightly brushed the bow across his fiddle, nodding as the voices rose again. Entranced, Nora smiled and lifted her brush and palette, painting what she heard in both fiddler and faerie notes.

Human effort had begun the healing after the brutal Republic Purge, but a thriving world required Nora’s magical collaborative vision.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction: Discovery by The Dark Netizen

This is a discovery that could get us featured on big networks.

Are you recording this, Ryan? Okay good. So here we are, having completed our journey into the caves. We see some clear indications that human life once existed here. These paintings on the wall, seem to depict some kind of script. These are some well drawn lines and some good colour choice. I think we may have discovered a stone-age Picasso. Let’s back up a bit and illuminate the whole wall. There you see folks, a cave painting that seems to read P-S-Y-C-H-E!

Fuck!! Stop recording, Ryan!!!

🥕🥕🥕

Graffiti by Joanne Fisher

“If you want to be included in things maybe you shouldn’t be so obviously lesbian!” taunted Bill.

Teri tried to pay him no attention as she spray painted the wall in front of her. She felt angry and hurt and disappointed. She was always left out of things. Maybe it was because she was gay, but she wasn’t going to change so she could fit in. If she had do face things alone then so be it. She would continue to be herself.

She surveyed her finished graffiti: a big red hand flipping off the rest of the world.

🥕🥕🥕

Graffiti by Bladud Fleas

I remember one assembly, the headmaster kept us back for admonishment over the proliferation of graffiti. We knew why. It was ZP.

Around the school, singularly or amongst others, the initials “ZP” could be found. Originally, the perpetrator must have fashioned them with a blade into the soft brickwork. Latterly, he had employed more expedient methods.

Who was ZP? I spied a boy once in the act, but was it he? By then, years had passed. I heard the originator had gone to study archaeology. I hoped so: in time, he may be required to account for his folly.

🥕🥕🥕

Livelihood by Chelsea Owens

No passersby knew why he sat, in the sun, staring at nothing. A few threw coins or insults. One threw lunch, which he ate, staring as he chewed.

Night fell to all but the wall before him; the whiteness of antique, virgin brick burned into his mind. He paused to start a silent soundtrack. Nodding along to *beat-beat-beat* he opened equally invisible paints.

Pain sprayed black in a wild arc, then red for beating love, then blue for days without the red; then green, grey, purple, orange –

Till, breathless, he stood staring at his soul upon the wall; satisfied.

🥕🥕🥕

The Meliorist by Norah Colvin

He opened his bag and glanced about — nobody in sight. A faint glow emanated from single street light further down. A cat meowed somewhere close but the hum of traffic was too far away to deter. The can warmed in his hand as he shook it. He hesitated, then removed the cap. Pressing his lips together, he began spraying, high first, then low. Only when a car horn sounded did he pause. When his cans were spent, he melded into the night and slipped away. In daylight, commuters paused to admire his work and contemplate its message of peace.

🥕🥕🥕

The Artist (Part I) by D. Avery

“Ms. Higginbottom, you do recall that I’m the principal?”

“Bob, I’m not calling.”

“Graffiti can’t be tolerated. And you know this boy has problems.”

“And suspension’s a solution, Bob?”

“What can be done, Ms. Higginbottom?”

“Pull him from Health and Geography. Put him in Art, Theatre Workshop.”

“Health and Geography are required courses!”

“I see more of him than those teachers do they send him to the office so often. He’s going to have to repeat them anyway, so let him learn to like school first. Channel his artistic ability.”

“You’ve already made the schedule changes, haven’t you?”

“Yes.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Artist (Part II) by D. Avery

“Administrative Assistants should not be making these sorts of decisions. I’ll remind you again that you work for me.”

“When you hired me you said everyone here worked for the students. Everyone. I figured I’d assist you in assisting this kid to stay in school where he belongs.”

“Ms. Higginbottom… You are neither an educator nor a guidance counselor.”

“You said that everyone in your school is a teacher and a learner.”

“Yes, but…”

“We can put a brush in his hand and a canvas in front of him or send him away with his spray can.”

“Oy. Okay.”

🥕🥕🥕

Voice of the Streets by Kay Kingsley

Under cover of darkness they run along rooftops, scaling walls and dangling from ropes to scrawl messages of political plight and advocate for change.

They are urban activists and urban artists and the city’s streets and walls are their canvases.

The size of the message doesn’t indicate importance, it’s all equal social commentary except perhaps the occasional professions of love which are grand on their own scale.

Graffiti has always been the voice of rebellion, forbidden by law yet still the artists and poets speak and if you listen well enough you can hear the voices of the streets.

🥕🥕🥕

Gingerbread Art by Kate Spencer

“Ger, you’re the best artist I know,” said Janet dropping the gingerbread showcase pamphlet on the kitchen table. She picked up a photo of the graffiti-laden Kelburn Castle in Scotland and handed it to her brother. “You can do this.”

“Sis, I only paint with oils, not icing.”

“And I don’t see the difference; both are messy. Look, all you need to do is duplicate their Picasso-like mural onto my gingerbread.”

“Not interested,” he said opening the fridge door.

“I’m baking the castle and Julie’s helping create the garden paths, yurts and–”

“Julie?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. Count me in.”

🥕🥕🥕

Painted Faces by Jo Hawk The Writer

I work at night, heading home as office workers rise. Later it reverses. They sleep as I gather my tools and lock my door.

Deep into the night, I tread, cans clanking in my bag. The world is silence. A cat slinks through the alley and the wind whispers secrets.

Arriving at my chosen wall, I don my respirator and shake my aerosol can. The can’s clinking echoing the sound of the approaching freight train. Ever vigilant, I spray the wall according to plan.

The morning light reveals my newest creation, and they smile at yesterday’s plain brick wall.

🥕🥕🥕

The Cultural World of Forgotten People by Irene Waters

“Look Pops. Someone’s painted on the wall. Mum sure would be mad.”

“It’s graffiti Donald.”

“What’s that.”

“Writing or drawing on a wall. We all want to leave a mark. You know. The oldest graffiti, a hand, is in Indonesia. Thousands of years old.”

“Do’ya reckon this’ll be here in thousands of years.”

“Not a hope and if it was done by Banksey he’s probably organised for it to self-destruct. You know though Donald, stuff going back even a few years gives a snapshot of ordinary people’s lives and what they care about.”

“So Pops, graffiti is pop culture.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Graffiti Artists by Robie Cheadle

“Someone has covered the props for our Christmas play with chocolate graffiti,” Miss Christmas Cracker sobbed.

“What are we going to do?”

“The people of Chocolate Land will be so disappointed if there is no play,” said Mr Christmas Pudding.

“Calm down,” Said Sir Chocolate, “I am sure that if all the folk of the town work together we can clean this mess up quickly. The play must go on. It is a tradition.”

Mr Christmas Pudding smiled.

“You are right. I will give Constable Licorice a call and see if he can find any clues to our artists.”

🥕🥕🥕

Unintended Art by Kerry E.B. Black

Paint splashed the walls, speckled the carpet, and dripped on the windows.

Shock froze Benjamin’s features.

He’d tripped over an errant toy Mom had repeatedly asked him to put away. He still grasped his plastic palette, but its contents splattered the room.

Panic rose as he toweled the mess. Instead of cleaning, the paint’s presence grew in smeared rainbows.

A strangled sound escaped Mom as she rushed toward the graffitti. She tripped over the toy. The tray of cookies she’d brought arced through the air and rained upon Benjamin and his unintended art.

It added texture to the design.

🥕🥕🥕

A Sign (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni traced graffiti on the grain-car. What did it mean? A message? A name? Traffic stalled on both sides of the tracks where it crossed the highway. She didn’t want to think about Ike who had been ahead of them. Better to study the graffiti and let Ronnie find out what happened. She wasn’t in a hurry to know.

“Danni?”

She stiffened and asked, “Who got hit?”

“An elk.”

Danni blew out the air she’d been holding in. “Ah, damn elk.” Ike had made it across then. Maybe the graffiti was a symbol of gratitude to live another day.

🥕🥕🥕

Scratches – One Man’s Art Is Another Man’s Crime by Geoff Le Pard

‘Bloody vandalism.’

‘It’s street art.’

‘Give me a break, Logan. These yobbos don’t care about art.’

‘Some of it’s really clever and they’re not breaking anything…’

‘So it’s ok to cover someone’s house in paint?’

‘Often the owner wants it…’

‘What if they don’t?’

‘Ok, that’s wrong. But if the building’s grotty and they bring a smile…’

‘Who gets to judge? What if they upset everyone else? They’re just thoughtless.’

‘So when you go out and get absolutely blotto and ruin everyone else’s night, that’s ok, is it?’

‘It’s different.’

‘Why? You always call it “painting the town red”…’

🥕🥕🥕

Paint the Town Spaghetti Western by D. Avery

“Shorty’s repeatin’ herself.”

“What?”

“We was prompted with pasta a while back, found out they’s at least 39 dif’rent kinds.”

“What are ya talkin’ about, Kid?”

“Graffiti, ain’t that some kinda pasta?”

“Here’s a dictionary Kid. Read it.”

“Graffiti: ‘writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place’. Illicitly? Shorty wants folks ta write dirty?”

“Read some more Kid.”

“Illicit: ‘Forbidden by law, rules, or custom’. Oh. Shorty jist wants folks ta break the law.”

“Kid, Shorty jist wants folks ta write-wildly, freely, openly. “

“Put it out there?”

“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕

December 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

If winter on the Keweenaw Peninsula of upper Michigan were a masterpiece, then the sky works in collaboration with Lake Superior. Together they manipulate air temperatures to create color and texture. You might be surprised to learn that Lady Lake prowls on land during the winter. I don’t mean waves that batter her shores — she’s an artist hovering in the air, twisting her waters into a scattering of icy snowflakes, mist, or battleship-gray clouds.

Today’s collaboration features patchy blue sky milky as glacial till. After a furious night of banshee-snow, Lady Lake has calmed and sorts her art into glowing pink remnants of moisture that look like clouds made of shell. Soon the sun will dip, but it won’t grow as dark as you might expect. That’s the gift of living in a snow globe — all that white from below to above captures light.

Colorful Christmas lights make the neighborhood festive. We humans add our own imprint upon the natural winter art of the region, expanding the collaboration. I’m surrounded by an ever-changing canvas.

Is the nature of art collaborative?

It’s like the philosophical question — if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a sound? Sure, it might reverberate, but if the vibrations don’t hit an eardrum, the sound is not heard. Art requires one to produce and another to receive. I suppose an artist can appreciate his or her own work, but the sharing creates a dynamic. In such a way, artist and reader/viewer/listener/beholder work in collaboration.

As a writer who’s share work, you’ve probably experienced comments that observe something in your story you did not intend. And yet the reader points it out. To some, this interaction can feel disconcerting. But we don’t have to own (or defend) the alternate perspectives. We can embrace it as an expansion. As a collaboration of sorts.

Like another philosophical question — which came first, the chicken or the egg? — I also wonder which came first — art or the inspiration?

When did you first become inspired to craft stories or imagine the lives of characters? Likely you read or were read to. I remember Mrs. Couch reading to us every day in first, second and third grade. In fourth, fifth and sixth grade, Mr. Smith read us YA sci-fi. In seventh and eighth grade, Mr. Price required us to write weekly spelling stories.

Growing up in a buckaroo culture, I heard stories swapped with regularity and recognized that the tellers had a rhythm and often delayed an element of surprise for humorous effect.  I read comic books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, classics, Ian Flemming, Louis L’Amour, and discovered romance novels.

And everywhere I stepped I was acutely aware that others had passed this way before me from the Washo people to the likes of Kit Carson and nameless pioneers. History told it’s own stories if you knew how to read a cemetery or discarded artifacts of another era.

Somewhere in the mixture of all those influences, I found inspiration to write stories I imagined. Mostly, I get strong impressions about people who lived where I do now because I’m curious as to why they came to some of the remote regions I’ve known.

When does inspiration become art?

Often, these near-winter days, I watch the dense gray bank of moisture that rises up from Lake Superior. I get a better view when I cross the Portage Canal and look back toward where the Lake nestles below the ridge of Keweenaw hills with start white birch and leafless maples. I image Lady Lake “soaking up” before she creates a storm across the sky. As writers, artists, we do that too — we soak up.

Then we let it out. Lady Lake can change wind directions so swiftly that I can see the snow shift out one window and yet still blow the opposite direction out another window. To me, that’s a master who can blow all those details and craft their shapes in multiple ways at once. Drafting is often like spewing snow.

Yet, the masterpiece is not complete until after the snow. Wind can reshape drifts, temperature can crystalize snow and suspend icycles, sun can sparkle, and sunsets can add color. Writers return to the storm upon the page make it into something different, something new.

Inspiration also comes to me from those who create in different mediums.

Growing up, Greek mythology, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones inspired me (hence my fascination with the hero’s journey). I could recognize artistry and felt drawn to it — I once spent my entire month’s earnings on a hide painting a traveling artist painted when I was 14. Music moved me. I played the radio, records, 8-tracks, and cassettes all the time, and thought the greatest invention in the world was the boombox.

Johnny Cash, Regina Gigli (the print artist I cleaned house for), John Beata (the cowboy foreman I rode for who trained horses like an artist), and Bob Parker who hand tooled a leather scene of my horse were my go-to’s for inspiration. But I never dared to think I could collaborate with any of them. Not that I had a chance to work with Johnny Cash, but I knew plenty of dancers, musicians, poets, crafters, and artists.

Somehow I thought I had to do my art on my own. My guilty pleasure was to “feel” a song and let it color a story I wrote, or admire a painting and imagine it’s likeness in a character. One writer would post a story and ignite a spark of an idea. Last year, one Carrot Ranch writer invited others to add to her Boots flash fiction in what emerged as a collaborative murder-mystery.

I think it’s natural for creative impulses to rise and feed others as much as it feeds our intended interest. Like Lady Lake, we soak up. And we share.

Last night I was listening to an interview with Hozier, an Irish musician. He was influenced by the 1960s civil rights movement in America, and its impact on his own country. His latest song is not only one that honors those who influenced him but also features the voice of an American blues singer who knew the very protestors in his song. What a collaboration!

“It’s not the song, it’s the singing!” What that makes me think is that it isn’t the art but the making of it. It isn’t the story so much as it is the catching of it. Art in action and the more people involved, the more powerful. I don’t mean in its creation but in it’s sharing and influencing and making new.

Consider Hozier’s first song. It moved a young Ukraine ballet dancer, and this video of collaborative art went viral:

And when I say collaborative, I’m talking more about the natural space of artistic influences. Hozier didn’t know about this dance project. I think the record label got snippy about it at one point, but in the interview, Hozier was humbled by the interpretation and use of his song. So much that he did collaborate with Sergei Polunin on a new song.

We are like Lady Lake and the sky. Every week we soak up, share and form a collective voice on a single topic. Creativity knows no bounds.

There’s something open and uplifting about art expressed without boundaries, taking influence from other artists and mediums. This week, we are going to turn toward graffiti, an expression of art on the street. How can we take it to a story in 99 words?

December 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti. It can be an artist, art or the medium itself. Get out your can of spray paint and go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by December 11, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

A Sign (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni traced graffiti on the grain-car. What did it mean? A message? A name? Traffic stalled on both sides of the tracks where it crossed the highway. She didn’t want to think about Ike who had been ahead of them. Better to study the graffiti and let Ronnie find out what happened. She wasn’t in a hurry to know.

“Danni?”

She stiffened and asked, “Who got hit?”

“An elk.”

Danni blew out the air she’d been holding in. “Ah, damn elk.” Ike had made it across then. Maybe the graffiti was a symbol of gratitude to live another day.

Into the Dark

We find the dark unsettling because it’s unknown. We don’t like to be “kept in the dark;” we want to know. We want to see where are, where we are going. Darnkess snuffs the light and we quiver, afraid. And yet we face the darkness and the unexpected.

That’s where writers took their stories this week, into the dark. Like a ship coursing across the Great Lakes in the black of night, writers plowed onward.

The following are based on the November 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “into the dark.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Into the Dark by Michael

The old man struggled with every breath. In the past week the darkness he sensed was coming closer. He’d been a man in charge of his destiny throughout his life and now he was approaching what for him was uncertainty.

He realised he was no longer in control, “I don’t think I can get out of this,” he told his son as he gripped his hand tighter. Dependence was foreign to them both, but together they resolved to be together until the end.

Eventually, the old man’s breathing slowed and the son gave his father up to the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

His Final Descent by Anne Goodwin

When wood meets soil, only Barry’s left holding the rope. Even the undertaker scowls, throws him that look reserved for outsiders and lily-livered pansies with clean hands.
As a boy, Barry feared the cage that delivered working men into the dark. When they arose, skin stained with sweat and coal dust, it seemed a temporary reprieve.
Of course he’s glad his mother pushed him away, to a safer job on the surface of things. But it severed the tie to his dad, to the community that raised him. Now, his father crated forever in his coffin, it’s too late.

🥕🥕🥕

Darkest Destiny by Di @ pensitivity101

I cannot go into the dark alone,
Hold my hand, make me strong,
Help me face this cruel Unknown,
Stay with me, prove me wrong.
Emerge with me on the other side,
From darkness into the light,
Tell me that I haven’t died,
That everything will be alright.
You are the one that I embrace,
My rock, the one that I adore,
My heart and mind memorize your face,
Lead me through this unfamiliar door.
Into the dark, I am not afraid,
Knowing you are there beside me,
Senses enhance whilst others fade,
With you, I face my destiny.

🥕🥕🥕

Itinerary by Bill Engleson

Even my best-case scenario involved no light.
Oh, you bet your booties I gave it a lot of thought. Research, Man, that’s the ticket. Every trip I ever took, I planned to the minute, down to the second.

I wasn’t one of those guys, you’ve seen them, they can’t even plan far enough ahead to tie their shoelaces.

That was never me.

I hate surprises.

The not knowing.

Gives me the willies.

But this little adventure.

It had me going.

I started a blog.

Into the Dark.

I’ll pay well, I said.

Tell me, I begged.

What’s death like?

🥕🥕🥕

The Christmas Tree by Hugh W. Roberts

“Are you sure this is what you want to see?” sobbed Moriah.

Her daughter nodded her head.

‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it? You know how much I love Christmas,” Mummy.

Choked, Moriah could not answer her young daughter’s question. The tears in her eyes made the lights on the Christmas tree blur into each other.

As they stood together, holding hands, Moriah made a Christmas wish. A wish that would prove the doctor’s predicament of her daughter’s upcoming journey into the dark, because of blindness, untrue.

High up, in the skies above Trafalgar Square, a shooting star ferried the wish.

🥕🥕🥕

How Do You Choose to Look at It? by Reena Saxena

“There is an incredibly beautiful universe out there – the kind you have only dreamt about. And it will be yours soon enough …..”

“How much do we have to pay?” yelled an enthusiastic young lad from the back rows.

“It is free.”

“Then there is a catch somewhere. What is the hidden cost?” said another over-cautious person.

“Is it a game to be played?” a techie looked up from his device for a moment.

“It depends how you choose to look at it. One has to get into the dark tunnel first, to come out at the other end.”

🥕🥕🥕

Darkness Enfolds by kate @ aroused

The headaches are oppressive,

medication only dulls the pain.

Kids due home from school soon

and I haven’t moved from my room

Eight long years with this tumour

laser treatment stopped it growing

My wish to embrace death

gets stronger by the day

oh for relief from this constant pain

feels like my life is down the drain

The boys have their father

Mitch couldn’t cope

Government says I’m not disabled

I’m so tempted to give up hope

Have no training to get a job

car has died, I can’t cope!

Please give me strength to find the light

🥕🥕🥕

The Crate by H.R.R. Gorman

The smoke makes it difficult to breathe. Where is my human? Why is she screaming outside instead of helping me?

Blaring noises and blinking lights scare me. I crawl away into the dark, to my crate, to safety. I curl up on my pillow and whimper as the smoke in the air thickens.

A monster bursts through the door. I bite at its thick hide, but it doesn’t care – it just grabs me and drags me outside where I see her.

“Human!” I bark. “Human!”

I break free of the monster’s grasp and leap into my human’s protective arms.

🥕🥕🥕

Darkness Comes by Roberta Eaton

She gazed into the dark depths of the water.

Why had he done it?

Christmas could be a time of great loneliness for people living alone. The good cheer and smiles of families around them resulting in deep despair.

She had received a call from a friend informing her of the death the previous evening. The body had been in the water for a few days making identification difficult.

Water was destructive.

She signed, recalling the message she had received from him a short while before.
Was it a cry for help? Maybe, but it was too late now.

🥕🥕🥕

The Black Hole Beyond by Chelsea Owens

Ethereal stardust touched her; tickling, licking, tempting her forward. A thousand thousand glittering steps pulsed the way.

She stepped. And stepped.

One hesitant footfall at a time led her past an eternal tunnel of cosmic shimmering, but also to the edge of inevitable, gaping nothing. Here, there was no stardust, no glitter, no shimmer. Not even a chill, poetic wind whipped against her hesitant spirit, paused on the edge of infinity.

With no eyes to close, no throat to swallow, no resolve to strengthen; she stepped over the edge…

Looking back only once, at the discarded Earth-body far behind.

🥕🥕🥕

At This Hour of Eve by Papershots

The world doesn’t have time for this street dancer, his white undershirt and black pants, his slowed-down watery Black Swan, his crystal ball rolling over arms, shoulders, hands, fingers – it never falls! There’s so much else, after all. Like people who turn into fashionable streets or buildings as if they lived there, striving to give that casual impression to those looking. And there are many. Being surprised, deceived possibly, but always to be kept in the dark about the person they glimpsed at rushing by being or not somebody important. Or, some day, a star. Étoiles, they call them.

🥕🥕🥕

Another One Through Ellis Island by JulesPaige

Into that dark of Adam’s ale, to hold onto
The waxed brass ships rail, and just look.
T’was a gentle rain that night when
She’d gone above, to walk the deck.
Feel the ocean rocking, breath clean air.

Into that dark of transformation
From old to brand new.
Every fiber of her being was
Excited to see and explore those
Gold paved streets.

Into that dark of all unknown things
To be enlightened, to see Lady Liberty.
The story was told that she had won
A writing contest… her trip to freedom?
No one could confirm her Grandmother’s story.

🥕🥕🥕

One Good Turn by D. Avery

He leaned on the doorjamb looking in on his sleeping daughter. His wife slipped under his arm. “She is so beautiful,” she whispered.

“She’s my light.” They walked back to the living room.

“You’re nervous as a cat tonight. What’s wrong? You’ve missed those awful ‘meetings’ before.” She twisted her blonde bangs, showing her own anxiety. “I wish you never went. No job is worth it.”

“I took Angela and that girl Celia to the vet’s. Celia’s cat got hit… Her parents met us there. Buzz saw us.”

Pulling the curtain aside again, he peered into the dark night.

🥕🥕🥕

Dark and Light, Black and White by Geoff Le Pard

‘Amanda’s a dark one.’

‘As in?’

‘Sorry?’

‘Do you mean she’s mysterious, or you’re being politically incorrect about her racial characteristics or she’s the primordial, sapient, cosmic force of evil.’

‘Probably, though the last one’s a stretch; it’s more she can be a bit of a pain if I forget she likes her coffee black.’

‘Or dark?’

‘You wouldn’t say that.’

‘Why not? If you want a room dark you get blackout curtains.’

‘Are thin curtains whiteout then?’

‘No, that’s a bad snow-storm.’

‘I’m lost.’

‘That’s because going inside your head is always like going into the dark, Morgan.’

🥕🥕🥕

Darkness by Pete Fanning

I sleep with fear and cuddle with failure. My restless bed-mates jostle me awake, thrashing in the dark—in my head—as I pore over my words. Oh the mistakes, the holes, the terrible grammar. My own personal monsters in the closet.

My bed is where doubt and desire dual. Ten paces into the dark. My quickening heartbeats produce sweat on my brow, dread in my chest, an avalanche of worry.

Why bother?

But morning arrives, and the sunlight finds my window, squeezing through the sliver of curtains. New words are knocking around.

And so I must meet them.

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Dark by @DaveMMAdden

Coach’s voice, as if falling into the dark, could still be heard, yet he was nowhere in sight.

“For all the practices coach berated me for being a little late, where was he for the biggest fight of my life?” The thought illuminated the hopeful champion’s mind, de the intersection where hopes and dreams are put on hold.

“Travis.”

Coach’s voice was crystal clear now, but Travis couldn’t understand why he wasn’t coaching?

At that moment, Travis’ eyes popped open. There was coach kneeling next to him, haloed by the lights above.

“What happened?”

“Ya got caught, champ.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lights by Anita Dawes

I watched as my soul sailed into the dark,
the thinking animated part of me disappearing.
A black cloud held me in a bubble,
my mind washed clean, my muse shut out.
There was no way for me to know
how long the darkness would last.
Would my muse be able to find her way back to me?
Would I pick a pen, touch my keyboard;
find those words to place inside a new cover?
It wasn’t too long before the scales dropped from my mind,
soon I could see beautiful lights
sailing across the blue black dark horizon…

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Voyage by The Dark Netizen

Into the darkness, I lead my ship.

It seemed like the best idea before it became reality: Escape the mundanities of  regular life, and set sail on a voyage to explore the world. I wanted to experience the various adventures this world had to offer. A bunch of young ones who were influenced by my words, joined me on my escape from reality. This scares me now. What if I made a mistake? Will these young ones suffer because of me?

Not on my watch…

The darkness does not look so bad, with the moon and stars guiding me…

🥕🥕🥕

Trust by Jo Hawk The Writer

“Are you sure?” Lenore asked leaning over Artel’s shoulder to peer at the map.

“Damn it. Don’t you believe me?” Artel said shoving the map at her before stepping away.

“Of course, I do. But I didn’t expect this.” Lenore waved her hand indicating the opening in front of them. She wrinkled her nose at the dank smell.

“He said ‘expect the unexpected’. So, I guess the real question is…” Artel paused and looked hard at Lenore, “do you trust the oracle?”

Lenore glanced at the map, then nodded.

Together they lit their torches and stepped into the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

Stepping into the Unfamiliar by Norah Colvin

The car lights dimmed as she reached the door – timed perfectly. But, when the porch light didn’t activate, immersing her in total darkness, she cursed the storm. As she pushed the door of the still unfamiliar house, she rummaged for her phone. Dang! No charge. She inched along the wall, fingers seeking the corner and toes the step she knew was close. Stepping down, she dumped her bag and tossed her saturated scarf. She edged towards the sideboard and a battery-powered candelabra. As she fumbled for the switch, the room was flooded with light and cheers of ‘Happy housewarming!’

🥕🥕🥕

Snowy Vacation by Nancy Brady

On that first weekend in December, our family decided to spend a few days at our mountain cabin. We were excited to spend a last weekend away before winter.

Flakes fell, becoming a blizzard, and we were plunged into the dark, the power knocked out. Our old oil lamp became our only light, but we made the best of it.

The following morning, with impassible roads, we hunkered down, knowing we weren’t going anywhere soon. Still, we had plenty of food, but not much lamp oil. One night followed another, but our lamp continued to shine, lasting eight days.

🥕🥕🥕

Further Into The Dark by Kay Kingsley

We walked arms lengths apart scanning the forest floor, our heads sweeping back and forth methodically, praying to recognize anything out of place other than ourselves. It was getting cold as the night crept up behind us. Our hearts were racing as sticks and branches snapped below our feet from our weight. Flashlights turned on, we were nowhere near stopping. She’d already been missing for three days and was out here, somewhere. There was still a chance. The tension was broken as I yelled, “Cara, can you hear me?” Only silence responded as we walked further into the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

Gordian Knot by Kerry E.B. Black

Bonnie squeezed Michelle’s hand and begged, “Don’t go. It’s scary.”

Michelle’s eyes glistened with unshed tears, but whether formed of fear, sadness, or excitement, Bonnie couldn’t tell. She tugged on her sister’s arm. “Michelle, please. Don’t leave. Who’ll take care of me?”

Without a sideways look, Michelle tousled Bonnie’s curls. “You don’t need me,”
She pointed with her chin into the unknown, “but I need this.”

Bonnie clung to her sister, but Michelle loosened her fingers with ease, as though the Gordian Knot of reliance bore no challenge. She ignored Bonnie’s cries and stepped away and into the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

Into The Dark by Ritu Bhathal

Swaying slightly, she stumbled out into the dark.
It took Penny a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the dim light.
The door had slammed shut behind her.
Why had she decided to have that last drink?
She knew alcohol and her didn’t mix, yet all it took was the encouragement of a few mates, and she was knocking them back.
And with each drink, came confidence.
She danced, and smiled, and flirted.
But he took it too far.
The pushing to the toilets.
The clawing hands.
She shoved him and ran, fleeing via the fire exit.

🥕🥕🥕

The First Night by Juliet Nubel

The key turned stickily in the lock. She would get the knack of it soon, the twist and pull necessary to open the flimsy front door.

Reaching for the light switch she heard nothing. Silence was a bad sign. Where was the damn mains box to shed electricity on her new abode?

Her phone was so old that its unhelpful face was a small grey square and the one number she would have called in the past had been erased forever.

She stumbled blindly into the lumpy sofa and sat there, letting her tears fall quickly into the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Closet by Regina Davis-Sowers (The Humble Word Nerd)

Today, a new horror entered her life. Johnny Campbell had spitefully called her “Little Monster,” and the other kids had shouted the name at her in all of her classes. Caroline nearly tripped and fell as she raced for home, needing more than ever the solitude found only in the closet. It had been her refuge from her mother’s verbal abuse. Being in the closet was like moving in the dark of night, safely hidden from the light where people can see you to hurt you. She hated to return to school tomorrow, but the closet always awaited her.

🥕🥕🥕

Lost Compass by Sascha Darlington

The rainy days are the easiest. I turn over, pretend the sun hasn’t risen, the day hasn’t begun, except for the hum of traffic, mocking in its ocean-like rhythm.

At work, I cajole, pretend. At home, I sink, obsess over regrets that lure me into the dark, driving me to ask how did I get here?

When I was little, my granny would open a can of tuna. I’d eat the flakes from the can while she mentored. “You can be and do anything you want.”

Molten desire. Wrong road. Answered naïve prayer.

Gran, I let us both down.

🥕🥕🥕

Darkness by Frank Hubeny

We knew but didn’t know. Walking into the dark without a good flashlight on this road from our cabin wasn’t the smartest thing we did. Street lights at home were everywhere, but there were no lights here and then there were stars, bright and unbelievably everywhere, but not bright enough.

Our phones helped give some light and our feet felt for the edge of the road. We rushed back. We hoped it wasn’t too far. The Moon would rise soon. We saw it through the trees on the horizon. Would it help us see?

And then there it was.

🥕🥕🥕

Darkness by Floridaborne

“You can’t keep writing and rewriting,” my husband says. “You’re not learning anything and getting nowhere.”

“I’m searching in the darkness with my characters,” I explain. “As they learn, I learn.”

He continues to admonish me. “When you give an explanation, you must be concise!”

“What do you want me to explain?” I ask.

“Whether it’s right or wrong, you must present it well!”

“I know that during the holidays it’s best to steer clear of you,” I sigh. “Learn to take your own advice.”

He grunts and says, “Then you’ve learned nothing,” as he heads toward the door.

🥕🥕🥕

The Meaning of Life by TNKerr

Abelard Stiles turns his profile and strong jawline to the audience as he clasps both hands of Marissa Herring, his costar, playing Angelique. He looks longingly into her cerulean eyes, pellucid as gems of northwestern azure.

“Angelique, my love, I must go. I leave you now for the glory of Canada. My comrades await. ” He drops her hands and pivots melodramatically, walking out of the spotlight, into the dark at the back of the set.

Marissa pushes her hair back, clasps her breast, and collapses like a husk to the stage. “Oh, Neville; don’t go, come back, please.”

🥕🥕🥕

Upon reading Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Saifun Hassam

Camilla sat on an oaken bench in the twilight of a fall evening. An owl hooted as the evening sky deepened into night. She rose quietly, drawn irresistibly into the dark of a crumbling arbor among whispering willow trees.

Once the mysterious and beautiful Esmeralda lived in a cottage there, among gardens of fragrant flowers. Exotic and poisonous flowers from her father’s botanical gardens. Esmeralda breathed in the wondrous and magical scents, and was drawn into the darkness and mysteries of the Dream.

The cottage was no longer there, the gardens had vanished. And yet a haunting fragrance lingered.

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Darkness by Irene Waters

“It’s good to have you here.” Her mother nodded agreement, squeezing Rebekkah’s arm.

“See you in the restaurant sixish for breakfast love.” The elderly couple turned and walked away, heading to the burré they had been allocated in their daughter’s hotel. The dim lights from the house disappeared plunging them into the dark.

“I didn’t know blackness like this existed.”

“No stars. No moon. No electricity.”

“Wish Beccy’d given us a torch.” They stumbled into trees, down ditches unable to find their way.

“We know the light always comes. Let’s just sit and wait. We’ll sing.”

“What?”

“Two blind mice.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Night Before by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“What have you got there?”

“Special order for Daniel, in Minnesota!”

“Minnesota is too general, see? The original says Minnetrista.”

“Where?”

“Check the database. Where’s your tablet, Kringle?”

“Dammit, I’m a driver and a toymaker, Rudolph, not a techie,” He pulled his beard, frustrated.

Apologetic, Rudolph bumped his belly with an antler. “You’re also an innovator, Santa…the guy who saw promise in a young buck’s red nose.”

“I’m good with elves, but those consultants in the brown uniforms creep me out.”

“You’re fine. Just do your Ho-ho-ho routine, and go bravely into the dark.”

“Still guiding my sleigh, Rudolph…Thanks!”

🥕🥕🥕

Sunrise is Expected by Ann Edall-Robson

Sunrise is expected
Over the ridge
Of towering pines
Shades of melon and lemon
Touch blackened sky
Clear blue whiteness
Scattered by the wind
Lofty darkened clouds
Destined to where
Colour turns to flattened gray
Scurrying with speed
Driven by turbine winds
Time evolves in minutes
Welcoming day colours gone
Pushed from sight by gusts
Distant thunder rumbles
Mountain peaks push
Up into the dark
The subtle warning spoke
Of what is yet to come
Relentless prairie winds howl
On into the stormy night
Until their quiet song settles
The towering pines
On the ridge
Where sunrise is expected

🥕🥕🥕

Light in the Lode by D. Avery

“Is Shorty a spelunker, Pal?”

“More like a miner. Why?”

“Jist wunderin’. She’s often talkin’ ‘bout caves an’ dark places. What’s she do, dig in the ground, mine fer copper?”

“Nah, but she does gather rocks, right in the light a day at the shore.”

“Shorty selects stones in the sunshine by Superior’s shore?”

“Sure as shift, Kid.”

“Then what’s she a miner of, Pal?”

“Yer thicker an’ a Superior snow squall, Kid. Shorty works words. She mines stories. Heard she hit a mother lode that starts right here at the ranch an’ reaches all ‘roun the world.”

“Priceless!”

🥕🥕🥕

All Write in the End by D.Avery

“We’re here.”

“Course we’re ‘here’, Pal, we’re always where we’re at. Uh, where we at?”

“That spot I was tellin’ ya ‘bout.”

“This’s more ’n a spot. This’s a big ol’ hole in the hill.”

“Yep.”

“Mineshaft?”

“Dunno.”

“Cave?”

“Dunno.”

“Gateway ta Hell?”

“Go.”

“Why? It’s darker ‘n dark’s night.”

“Shorty says, that’s why. Anyway, what’s the worst thing could be in there?”

“Bats, bears, spiders, snakes, catamounts. Mebbe a pack a writers, think nuthin’ ‘bout killin’ off characters.”

“I’m thinkin’ on it. Let’s go. We’ll catch a story.”

“Ta bring back ta the campfire?”

“Yep. Write light.”

“Elixir!”

🥕🥕🥕

November 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

The last of the turkey and wild rice soup is gone. Officially, Thanksgiving has ended, and the break at Carrot Ranch is over. The barn doors open, the campfire is stoked, and we are ready to share stories.

My mind wanders like a sailor on the inland seas of the Great Lakes. From wooden craft to steel ones, many a ship scatters across the floor of Lake Superior. Writing something big is like navigating dangerous waters — it can be sink or swim, and when the gales of November come early, well, we ride out the storm. We write into the dark of night.

I have a confession to make: I’ve felt frozen since March of 2016. If I looked at a calendar, I could probably name the exact date. Just weeks before, I had led a successful BinderCon live event in Missoula, Montana. I was flowing between two manuscripts, developing sketches for another, writing a weekly history column for a regional magazine, and writing a quarterly publication for a client.

Every morning I rose to more migrators on Elmira Pond. Mergansers, buffalo-heads, widgeons. A research room flanked my large office where I dreamed that one day I’d have a custom table for small workshops in North Idaho. Already I had a writer’s room where guests could stay to write and experience my “peace of Idaho.”

I froze that March day when our landlord sent me an email informing us our lease was up and the owners were planning to sell. All along I had wanted to buy the place, but they weren’t interested in selling. The long-term lease was fine with us. We had no intention to move. Now what? That uncertainty seeped into my bones the way I imagine the sound of the final bell ringing on the Edmond’s Fitzgerald.

Of course, the journey that unraveled was so far from anything I thought would happen. Early on I knew I could succumb to bitterness.

“This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrow
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow”

~from Natalie Grant’s “Held.”

In the midst of losing our rental, it was apparent something was not right with my husband. What had been easy to dismiss could no longer be ignored. I never thought we’d actually be homeless long, but it’s been two years and five months. Of course, we finally made it to our daughter and her husband after wandering the west, and we finally got the Hub the medical help he needs.

My North Idaho has given way to my Keweenaw. And I’ve rediscovered wander and peace. My Carrot Ranch community never faltered, and like wandering bards we continued to flash. Many circled the wagons when I needed it and have become cherished friends.

But my confession that I froze is an essential lesson in tenacity. I’ve said before that writing is more about tenacity than talent. You know I’ve hung in there, but I also lost my writing mojo — that magic I felt when I chased stories and worked with my characters. I lost my joy.

Last year I signed up for NaNoWriMo to jump start my missing spark. And I couldn’t get past 17,000 words. I experienced a great freeze when I tried to get the flow of my WIP moving. Several months later I asked for help from a few close alpha-readers (these are readers you know and trust and differ from beta-readers who are less familiar with you as a writer and more familiar with the genre you are writing).

Even with their honest feedback, I still couldn’t thaw. Frustrated, I turned to work on other projects. More recently, I asked a few more alpha-readers to look at my original manuscript. Maybe I should go with the original story and setting. With feedback and indecision for a setting, I signed up for NaNoWriMo again.

TUFF was my tool. Flash fiction is not part of my deep freeze, so I used that to flash my way into writing 1,800 words a day. Then something magical happened. Oh, the joy, the writing mojo returned, and I cranked out 91,000 words. Not that they are great words or even a cohesive draft, but from their depths, I salvaged a new perspective, a new character to carry a burden that wasn’t working on my protagonist.

The world of Dr. Danni Gordon, archeologist and reluctant wife of a warrior who doesn’t know it’s time to quit, came to life.

It’s important that I retain and share two important lessons — first, just because you can’t feel the creative magic doesn’t mean you quit writing. Second, community is everything. We cannot be writers in isolation. When I went into the dark of night, I never felt alone. I was like a ship that could send and receive signals.

Don’t quit and don’t quarantine yourself from your tribe.

How amazing our technology is and how it can connect us! I’m choosing to celebrate technology because it’s so easy for us to curse it and wonder if it’s complicating our lives. We, humans, are complicated. Technology is not going to simplify anything for us. But it opens doors of wonder for the creative and curious – right now, I’m communicating with Carrot Ranchers all around the world from a remote shore with waves and ships we can all monitor while listening to a favorite station from our resident yarnist in New England and reading a book that arrived from (old) England by an author and friend who reminds us all that we write because we are in the process of “becoming someone.”

Keeping connected to creative expression is one of the tenets of Carrot Ranch. It has helped me, and I hope it helps you. Now, we are going to write about what it is to go into the dark night.

November 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “into the dark.” What must a character face? Write about an encounter, journey, relationship, or quest. Follow the ship’s lights on gloomy seas. Go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by December 4, 2018. 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.

 

Rescue in the Dark of Night (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Shivering, Danni danced with both her hands flash-frozen to the chukar cage. They ignored her. Danni breathed deeply, wiggling each foot, swaying. Blackjack stomped in his stall, lowered his head and nickered. Danni cocked her head, listening for a vehicle. She told her horse, “Wishful thinking, boy.” In the dark of night, Danni marched, thought about hot chocolate, and imagined a noon-day sun overhead. Blackjack’s head rose, ears perked and alert. Danni strained to hear soft crunching in the snow. She crouched, helplessly stuck to the cage when the barrel of a rifle opened the barn door. Ramona arrived.

Scraps

Often we think of scraps as what remains. Sometimes they can be what rebuilds. Fragments can be anything from torn photos to memories. Fabric and recall can fade, yet we piece together what we can and hang on to our stories.

Writers naturally grasp at scraps to build stories. This week they took to the prompt with surprisingly powerful responses.

The following are based on the November 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses scraps.

Part I (10-minute read)

Darkest Before Dawn by Sascha Darlington

Harrowing words split midnight, my parents dissolving.

The next morning, bleary-eyed, I arrived at the breakfast table to witness their ultimatum. Shredded pictures of not only them as a couple, but us as a family strewn across the oak table, on the vinyl, like crumbs of discarded bread.

I was sixteen. By then I’d witnessed relationship suicide for fourteen years, but I strived to separate it from my younger siblings.

Mom sauntered into the kitchen, smiling. “Pancakes, honey?”

My gaze moved from the fragments before me to her. She noticed my gaze, shrugged.

“No worries. We’re fine. Just fine.”

🥕🥕🥕

Seashore Days (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam

Chattering and giggling, the village children trekked along with Diamante, Jenvieve, and Francine to the seashore. There was work to be done first. Along the sand dunes, they gathered scraps of broken wood, twine, and sea algae from the broken fence, for a low fence around the brown thistle and yellow coreopsis.

After devouring a picnic of fish and potato pancakes, they created sand castles and fantastic sea monsters. Their excited cries carried in the breeze when they found sea urchins and starfish in the tidal pools.

The tide flowed in, the children turned towards home, reluctant, tired, happy.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s the Dog’s Fault by Susan Sleggs

“Damn it! I knew your dog didn’t like my moving in. My clothes from vacation are now scraps on the laundry room floor.”

“I warned you to keep that door closed.”

“Well I forgot.”

He handed her the bills from his wallet. “Go shopping. I don’t want to lose you or the dog.”

She gave half the money back then kissed him. “Partly my fault.”

He stuffed the pieces into a garbage bag.

At Christmas he gave her a quilt his mother had made from the scraps. Its origin was told to family members with much adoration and laughter.

🥕🥕🥕

The Circle of Our Love by Colleen M. Chesebro

Sally watched Nana roll the scraps of dough into a ball on the floured cutting board. This was her first time baking, and she couldn’t wait to mimic every move her grandmother made.

“Why do you roll it into a circle?”

Nana smiled as she maneuvered the rolling pin. “Because it’s easier to fit inside the pan.”

“But you could use a square pan, right?”

“Yes. I could, but the circle reminds me of our family. I gave birth to your mommy, and she gave birth to you. If we all hold hands, it’s a circle of our love.”

🥕🥕🥕

Russian Eggs by TNKerr

When the new Pastor showed up at the parish potluck bearing Russian eggs; the Elders all objected.

“This is a church event,” they insisted, “deviled eggs are inappropriate.”

Pastor Huberd chuckled until Elder Belknap blocked his path and an argument ensued. The Elders all were adamant, they stood united. Soon chests puffed up. There was pushing and shoving.

No one knows, for sure, who threw the first punch; I believe it might have been the Widow Montes.

In the course of the ensuing scrap, the fancy plate broke and the eggs were trampled underfoot. It was a total loss.

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Dave Madden

From the moment baby Drew could swing his tiny arms and legs of his own volition, he’d connect hands or feet to anything moving with an uncanny level of precision.

Everyone would coo in unison, “How cute!”

As Drew aged, his aggression intensified and its adorable nature quickly vanished.

Before shipping Drew off to military school, his parents tried enrolling him in martial arts. One martial art snowballed into others, which caged his rage and directed him on a path toward MMA.

Undefeated and well on track to becoming a champion prizefighter, his career was pieced together from scraps.

🥕🥕🥕

The Sibling E – A Fighting Vowel by Geoff Le Pard

‘What now, Morgan?’

‘My brother. He said we used to scrap all the time while all I remember is being told we got into scrapes.’

‘It’s possible you did both.’

‘You’re sitting on the fence again.’

‘No, look. You scrap with each other but together you get into scrape.’

‘I suppose. We did both sometimes.’

‘Wadya mean?’

‘When mum made a cake she’d let us fight for the bit of cake-mix in the bottom of the bowl.’

‘Ah, you’d scrape the scraps.’

‘Yep and then we’d scrap for the scrapes.’

‘I preferred cake-mix to cake.’

‘Me too. Weird huh?’

🥕🥕🥕

Memory Quilt by Norah Colvin

She was old but definitely not out. Because they were the sons, they had responsibility for her affairs. But they knew her not and cared little for her comfort or her dignity. They signed her away without consultation, denied their sisters access to her home, sold what they could and disposed of what was left. Their one compensation for their sisters was her sewing box. What they considered worthless, the sisters stitched together. With tears of joy as well as pain, mother and daughters shared the stories embedded in each tiny piece of fabric and woven into their hearts.

🥕🥕🥕

Puss by Kerry E.B. Black

Oma taught me everything has value, even discards.

That’s good, because I’m a cast-off. My parents left me in a basket on Oma’s doorstep one winter night after Oma had gone to bed. Two of her cats curled their warmth about me. That’s how she found me, with cats guarding my makeshift crib.

That’s why she calls me Puss.

Oma saves bits of fabric and sews colorful quilts.

With her lessons I weave a tapestry of experiences. I talk to outcasts, befriend the friendless, and gravitate toward the lonely. I hope to thereby create something beautiful of this life.

🥕🥕🥕

Fight by the Dark Netizen

I ducked and rolled, dodging the roundhouse kick thrown at me.

The crowd cheered on as my opponent backed up and assumed his ready stance. I got back to my feet and brushed the dust off my body. This was one tough bugger. He was still standing after three of my punches had made acquaintance with his face. Underground fighting is a dirty, tough world. I have been bruised and battered in the many scraps I have been a part of. But none were as tough or as important as this one.

This one is to save my family…

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps From the Past by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She picks up a marble, rolling and squeezing it in her palm at a searing memory of betrayal.

She lifts another object to her nose, breathes deep the unidentifiable organic aroma. This tiny scrap, nap nearly bald with love, is all that remains of her early childhood.

That other, wedged into the corner of the wooden box she’d pulled from the top closet shelf, is handled with care. Its barbs, rusted with neglect, are still dangerous. She remembers the doctor, his kind blue eyes as he snipped and extracted. She touches her cheek.

All alive, only in her memories.

🥕🥕🥕

Scrapbooking by kate @ aroused

Andrea loved to scrapbook, so much that her house was overcrowded with all the paraphernalia. Fancy borders, stick ons, clothe pieces, anything that would make her scrapbooks more beautiful, more exceptional.

Each Saturday she met with two like-minded friends and they’d create and chat, a habit of many years. Sad part was nobody really wanted to view their exotic creations … so full of meaning to them but lost on others.

Andrea knew her ‘collecting’ had got out of hand, no room for visitors. Barely a path to get to bed, her scraps had accumulated to become a hazard.

🥕🥕🥕

Time to Let Go by Kay Kingsley

Sifting through boxes stacked to the ceiling, I relived my old life one memory at a time.

Boxes I packed to one day take with me, instead I sifted through and weaned, taking only the memories I couldn’t part with.

Flashes of childhood, high school, memories of first crushes, of family before the divide.

I discarded some items with ease wondering why I kept such silly things so long, other items required time to mourn.

Life has changed.

I realized these scraps make up me and yet none of these are who I am.

It’s time to let go.

🥕🥕🥕

Memories by tracey robinson

The cemetery was gray this February morning. I sat on my mother’s grave and looked at the flat marker.

I remembered her sitting on the kitchen floor playing jacks with me. Bounce, scoop. The smell of sugar cookies cooling on the counter. The radio playing “Summer Nights” and her pretending to be Olivia Newton-John. I heard her voice: “You’ve got this, you are strong”.

Scraps of memories were all I had left of her. A gust of wind blew crunchy brown leaves and brittle pages of yellowed newspaper past me. I hoped my memories didn’t blow away as easily.

🥕🥕🥕

C.E. by D. Avery

They approached warily. The car had been gutted, no longer habitable. She spied a scrap of paper stuck to the floor. The glove box yielded another and a stub of pencil.

“That’ll make good tinder.”

“No. It’s mine.”

He shrugged. They trudged on until dusk.
He coaxed a fire from his bow drill while she sharpened the pencil against a rock. The scrap of paper was a fragile promise in her shaking hands.

“Write already.”

She wanted to. It’d been so long. She’d start with the date.

It felt like fall. Was it November? The year she knew- 2023.

🥕🥕🥕

Neglect by Anita Dawes

The great castle on Forest Hill
Long deserted, the dining hall left in a hurry
The plates mouldy with the remains of a feast
The church in the private grounds
Broken by long years of neglect
Stained glass windows smashed by time
Lay like tiny shards of coloured lights
Stolen from a kaleidoscope
Would that I could put it all back together again
Make it whole, no more scraps of things
That once were made with love and care
Tourists come and go, visiting the great sites
Never knowing the people who lived there
When time was whole, loved…

🥕🥕🥕

When Old Is Made New by JulesPaige

The old building was being torn down to make new class rooms. The artist wanted to use some of the clay from the bricks of the building to make a Mezuzah that resembled the structure. A Mezuzah holds a Hebrew prayer of blessing. Some of the script could be seen through the windows of the sculpted clay piece.

On the door frame of the new building is a reminder of the old. A simplistic copy that older generations could see and say; ‘Ah, ha.’ And newer members entering part of the new social hall could also see what was.

🥕🥕🥕

Life Scraps by Ritu Bhathal

Brenda hobbled backwards and admired her handiwork.

It had taken a long time. A lifetime.

Gazing at the large quilt, pieced together lovingly, she wiped a tear that had settled on her cheek.

Each and every scrap of material used showed another step taken in their life.

She gently fingered the white satin patch at the top, sewn next to a rough, black patch.

Their wedding outfits.

Scraps from old curtains, sheets, special clothes, even a tartan square from Reg the dog’s old blanket.

Wrapping it around her, she knew he was still close by, always in her heart.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bone and Rag Man’s Goose Dinner by H.R.R. Gorman

The rag and bone man picked through the pile of refuse with his hooked walking stick.  A bit of metal glinted, so he bent to pick it up.  He grunted and bent his arthritic knees, then sifted through the greasy pile of scraps.  Fingers that jutted out of hole-ridden gloves chilled in the frozen goose fat.

He turned the goose carcass over and brushed some of the blackened grease off the  shimmering metal inside, only to find a golden egg.

His good mood turned foul: who was rich enough to kill and eat a goose that laid golden eggs?

🥕🥕🥕

Part II (10-minute read)

SCRAPS by Papershots

Cher is in Vegas and you can fly out to see her. And talk to her backstage. The revolving billboard slides in some nasal spray, get rid of congestion and back to your day; no day seems worth it unless you fly out and see her – Cher, again – light-blue, young, divine. She slides back. Then there are other events in this town and those preferred flyers or paper of cheaper quality, too light not to swirl around in the chilly wind. It’ll be daybreak before Personnel will clean up the crumpled mass of fantastic evenings not to be missed.

🥕🥕🥕

Same for Me by Juliet Nubel

“And I’ll have scraps with mine, please”.

My definition of the word obviously wasn’t hers. What was this big strapping Yorkshire lass, queuing in front of me, actually asking for?

I watched as the young man behind the counter drove the huge serving spoon to the bottom of the bubbling oil. What he brought back to the surface looked other-wordly. Burnt, brown, greasy little pieces of batter, piled high in a mound of calories. He poured the lot on top of her fish and chips.

“Same for me, please.”

He smiled at my out-of-place accent.

“Comin’ right up, love”.

🥕🥕🥕

No Longer Alone by Di @ Pensitivity101

He was there again, sitting quietly, waiting.

The old man took his seat outside and placed his usual order.

The bacon, sausage and eggs arrived, the smell making his nose twitch, but he stayed where he was.

‘Come here Boy,’ the old man said, and the dog wandered over to sit at his feet.

No collar, no lead, but obviously not starving as he was not the only one feeding him scraps.

The plate now clean, the dog looked directly at him, head tilted.

‘Want to come home with me Boy?’ he asked.

The tail wagged.

‘Come on then.’

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps to Treasured Heirlooms by JulesPaige

Yarn leftovers. Some from Grandmother’s blanket that was knitted. And more from a two headed sweater that Ma was gifted as a joke. But most were from yard sales or charity shops. Crocheted two or three ply into squares. The blankets have our initials in them. Carefully crafted into those stitches that hold a single square together.

They weigh a ton! Staying overnight at the firehouse in winter, Ma wanted us to be warm. We can only guess at the places where some of the skeins came from. But we do know that love is bound in every stitch.

🥕🥕🥕

A Patchwork of Love by Teresa Grabs

The kids laughed and pointed, but I never cared. When we were supposed to be playing Red Rover, Red Rover, they’d call Patchy, Patchy whenever it was my turn to come over. I would smile and run over as if Patchy was my name. I loved it.

Mama made my clothes from scraps that friends and family gave her. My shirt was part Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Lucy, and even Baby Joseph. My pants were part Dad, a little Grace, and a whole lot of Uncle Hal.

The more they called me Patchy, the more I felt my family’s love.

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Frank Hubeny

Words are like scraps found in a drawer of former times. We saved them, whoever we were back then, some stranger we would not want to talk to today.

Now we re-read those words and remember what we didn’t think existed to remember. Were there any truth in those words, ever?

That’s how Peter read a letter from Janice explaining that she didn’t mean to hurt him arguing how one and one meant two and did not involve three and because of that, and because Phil had someone else as well, he should take her back.

Peter never did.

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps of Memory by Bill Engleson

I press my fingers tightly against my temple. That helps sometimes. The pressing in. Perhaps it touches some point of recall, some lobe of a button.

Sometimes I know my entire life is stored inside me.

I know that like I know my…

My?

Oh my!

She will call me a name from time to time. Hold my face with her weathered hand, smile, whisper…words…”I miss you. You’re here…but I miss you.”

Words?

I knew so many.

Do I really remember that?

I release my fingers from the brow of my history.

The fog rolls in.

It rarely lifts.

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps of Imagination (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Cleaning out Ramona’s dresser felt wrong, but Danni could no longer sulk over coffee at the kitchen table. She heard Ike tell his Uncle Logan, “At least she wasn’t a hoarder.”

True, Danni thought. Ramona was frugal but wrapped in her sock-drawer were rolls of dollar bills. She thought about showing the men and making a Grandma-was-a-stripper joke. Ramona would have chuckled. Danni spied a scrapbook beneath. Curious, she opened up pages to fairy drawings and cursive writing. Scraps of dried flowers mingled with Ramona’s fertile imagination before dementia robbed them all of who she was.

🥕🥕🥕

Crafting Scraps by Nancy Brady

Scraps of paper with just the right word; a snippet of a line; a phrase or two…she crafted poems like she crafted collages.

She chooses her words like she chooses the bits and pieces of paper and string to make up her vision for her art piece. Rearranging the lines to fit the rhythm, to fit the idea of the poem is as complex as arranging and rearranging the papers into the completed collage.

Does the poem express her inner thoughts? Has she put the words together to craft the poem that she originally envisioned? Does the poem succeed?

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps by Quiall

“It sits on a counter, waiting . . .”

“Can it be alive?”

“He knows he is about to die when . . .”

The scraps of an idea swirl around her head. Is it a poem? A short story? Should she tell the truth or concoct a believable lie from the scraps he left behind. But these are his words in her head, his lies. The only way to escape the torment he inflicted for so many years, through so many stories, is to act now.

She did. She placed the knife on the countertop and smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps of Ideas by Susan Sleggs

A writing class after retirement seemed like a good idea, but the first assignment, write a short story about anything, left me paralyzed. I went to my husband for help and he reminded me of the scraps of paper in my bedside table that I had written bits of dreams down on. We read them aloud and found a few that I could combine into one story. I had my outline. My first assignment garnered an A and whenever I needed another subject I went back to my scraps for inspiration. They turned out to be unexpected treasure trove.

🥕🥕🥕

Snippets of Treasure by Patrick O’Connor

For years I would write notes on napkins and scraps of paper.They would be folded and stuck into my pocket.

Oftentimes, I would throw them in a drawer and promptly forget about them.

Recently, I went to a garage sale and bought an old trunk.

There were no keys so, at home, I broke the lock open.

Inside were 50 scraps of paper.

Each had short snippets of stories written long ago.

Transcribing the notes and scanning the originals has now set me up for an exciting time of trying the write a story using all these thoughts.

🥕🥕🥕

Too Glossy for Him by Anne Goodwin

“We’ll make a memory book. A scrapbook of his life.”

I imagined rough grey pages, flour-and-water paste. But the occupational therapist grew up in the digital age.

She pointed out his name on the cover. He turned away. She turned to me: “Let’s discuss care homes.”

Not yet, surely? I wiped dribble from his chin. Of course he didn’t recognise the fellow in the photographs. He never thought he’d find himself in a glossy hardback book.
Old newspapers, a tattered notepad, a stick of glue.

Like the gentleman I married, he took my hand. Raised it to his lips.

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps by Floridaborne

A sign said, “Welcome to the 1969 Dance of Elegance.”

An orchestra began to play “The Blue Danube” Waltz.

My date asked, “Care to dance?”

He loved my irreverence, my sense of adventure. I loved how he made me feel so accepted.

Dresses of the finest satin swirled around while we spoke of universal concepts. But it was my tight empire dress, with velvet top and satin brocade, my favorite, turning heads!

“Such a lovely dress,” my date said.

“My mom created this dress with 25 cents worth of remnants.”

“And that is why I love you,” he chuckled.

🥕🥕🥕

Interactive Themes by Reena Saxena

It is an excellent workshop. We choose fabric scraps we like from the heap, and fashion it into outfit ideas. Then, we move to the circular rack with hanging garments, and make our choices a second time. Some of us make different choices the second time.

The facilitator helps us interpret our choices to show our personality types. If the choices vary the second time around, it is due to the cut, structure or style of the garment, and our self-image.

It is the interaction of human stories that makes us connect, or disconnect from each other. Presentation matters.

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Michael

When I met Mary she was scrounging throwing items into an old shopping trolley.
The trolley contained everything that was important to her. When I asked her about her life she pulled an old photo album from the bottom of the trolley and laid it out on the ground. “My life,” she said pointing to photos of a young girl, a woman in uniform and finally a woman with child.

“I’m not a scrap of good anymore,” she said shutting it up and burying it again. She shuffled off, the scraps of her life moving in front of her.

🥕🥕🥕

Patchwork by Chelsea Owens

They called it trash, and it was. Humanity’s selfishness was strewn about the world; molding, stinking, soaking in.

“Don’t bother,” they said.

“Save yourself.”

“Self…”

Amongst the walls of yelling filth she closed her ears, strained her eyes.

There! A flutter of love beneath that greed.

There! Some tattered trust nearly blown away.

And there! Hardly a scrap of deepest hope, wedged between bigotry and vice.

Tiptoeing past an open pit of malice and an oozing patch of some sort of thoughtlessness, she made it home. Inside the stained and leaning walls, against the howling narcissistic winds-

She sewed.

🥕🥕🥕

Swept Up by D. Avery

“What’re ya doin’, Pal?”

“Ever week they was writin’ fer the Rodeo, now ever week they’s celebratin’ ever’one’s accomplishment, an’ here I am, sweepin’. Ya’d think the dang Beatles had been through.”

“Well, it was the Fab Five, but Pal, ya might wanna update yer pop culture references.”

“Hmmf. “

“Sir Paul’s got a new album out though.”

“Do they still call ‘em albums?”

“I dunno. I’ll help ya sweep up, Pal. Is this confetti? Or scrap paper from the draftin’?”

“Is there any other way ta write?”

“Computers?”

“I feel ir-elephant, Kid.”

“More like a woolly mammoth, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

November 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

The urge to craft a story surpasses available material. Sometimes I forget my sketchbook and resort to what I have at hand — the blank side of the insurance card in the car, a discarded grocery list at the bottom of my purse, a recycled envelop.

When I was nineteen, I waited tables at a casino dinner house.  Between serving meals and refilling ketchup bottles I wrote bits of stories on napkins. More often than not, I tossed the words in the garbage along with food scraps at the end of my shift. Back then, I was practicing stories. I had no desire to share them.

It’s not until the story develops into an emotional being that takes on a life of its own that the need grows into one of sharing. But what if all you have are scraps?

I’m sitting at an oak library table, casting my eyes between the bank of windows overlooking Portage Canal and the magazine I’ve opened to read. Outside, snow falls like drifting down feathers. Seagulls still circle low over the water that has yet to freeze but looks dark gray as if it were slowly morphing into steel.

This space that envelops me in books and snow-scape is called the Michigan Room. It’s where I lead a small writing activity called Wrangling Words once a month. It’s just like our weekly flash fiction challenges but in person. The snow has returned without ceasing, and likely everybody has stayed home to hunker down. But I love this space I’m in, outside my desk, filling my mind and imagination. Wood grain, pages, snowflakes — scraps of the moment.

The book review I’m reading of Retablos by Octavio Solis has introduced me to a folk art that I’ve seen in the southwest but did not know by name. It’s as old as the Spanish Conquest, based on the religious decorative panels found in Catholic Churches. As a storytelling medium, a retablo often uses scraps of metal to commemorate a near-disaster by those who survived.

The book reviewer, Deborah Mason, writes:

“By commemorating the event, the retablo can transform that story of salvation into myth. But memory is slippery, and retelling a story, even on a buckled sheet of metal, results in embellishments and refinements.”

I’m staring at snow, realizing no one is coming today, and I’m relieved for the moment to grab a scrap of paper from by box and start scrawling ideas. It’s an old woman’s story. It’s a story about me embellishing the natural wonders of a humble bog pond. It’s a story I’m trying not to kill beneath the hammer blows of revision. I feel surreal, writing in this strange and yet wonderous space.

None of it makes sense to read. I’ve been writing every day on Miracle of Ducks, pushing aside my inner critic who has rolled eyes so much I think I’ve blinded the annoyer. What I’m writing feels like a train wreck. I was almost ready to give up, to concede that one’s first novel is indeed practice. It’s not saying what I want it to say. I keep TUFFing my drafts and overhauling chunks to fit a new scene.

But it is this idea of myth of slippery memory that brings me back to a character who once emerged in my flash fiction. She actually fits into Danni’s story like a missing puzzle piece. Ramona is now Ike’s grandma who helps carry the story and solidify my decision to relocate it in Idaho.

It took 30,0294 words, a scrap of paper, and a book review about Retablos to figure out my blueprint, the underlying motivations of my protagonist.

I never stop writing. I write every day. But that doesn’t make me productive. Often, it’s exploration and communicating the stories of now. It’s about creating and connecting. I’m hardly accurate in my goals, but my vision, my north star shine brightly, and so I write my way through it all.

Deborah Mason continues in her review:

“Yet despite its imprecision, the retablo expreses a profound  truth not only about its maker but also in the world he or she lives in. The retablo itself becomes part of the myth as well.”

Fiction or non-fiction, we write into the truth. We feel the story and layer the details onto the page. We rework the scraps until they bloom — the quilter, the painter, the metal worker, the writer — we all work in scraps until we have captured the story that speaks our truth.

And speaking of table scraps, I hope to be enjoying left-overs next week. It is Thanksgiving. I’ve decided to take that week off, something I don’t often do at the Ranch. After posting this collection, I’ll be on turkey duty and savoring leftovers until the next challenge on November 29.

November 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses scraps. It can be scraps of dried flowers, paper, metal, fabric, food — any kind of scraps you can think of. Then write a story about those scraps and why they matter or what they make. Go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by November 20, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. Rules & Guidelines.

Scraps of Imagination (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Cleaning out Ramona’s dresser felt wrong, but Danni could no longer sulk over coffee at the kitchen table. She heard Ike tell his Uncle Logan, “At least she wasn’t a hoarder.”

True, Danni thought. Ramona was frugal but wrapped in her sock-drawer were rolls of dollar bills. She thought about showing the men and making a Grandma-was-a-stripper joke. Ramona would have chuckled. Danni spied a scrapbook beneath. Curious, she opened up pages to fairy drawings and cursive writing. Scraps of dried flowers mingled with Ramona’s fertile imagination before dementia robbed them all of who she was.

Creative Mash-Up

Who knew mashed potatoes possessed such superpowers? Sure, the buttery mashed tubers sway our senses, paired with bangers or served alongside turkey and gravy. But they can do much more, unexpected feats.

This week, writers played dangerously, pairing mashed potatoes with superpowers. The imaginative responses are out of the ordinary kitchen and into realms you never thought potatoes would take you.

The following stories are based on the November 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower.

PART I (10-minute read)

Gravy Witch by H.R.R. Gorman

I put my plate on the table pulled the napkin from atop my crystal ball centerpiece.  A tap of my spoon on the orb’s surface initiated my process to scry for criminals.

A man shoveling jewels into a bag appeared in the cloud at the center of my ball.  I curled my finger toward myself, pulling his spirit from the ball and dropping it on my plate.  It settled in the mashed potatoes.

I tipped my gravy tureen over the potatoes and watched the orb with glee as his body suffered from a heart attack.  His soul tasted delicious.

🥕🥕🥕

Super Mash by Ritu Bhathal

I sat at the table, awaiting my meal.

It was bangers and mash tonight. My absolute favourite.

I don’t know why, but somehow mum managed to make the best mashed potato ever.
Creamy, fluffy, light, with no lumps: something I had still not mastered, despite copying her technique.

And no matter how I was feeling, it made me feel better. If I was ill, the buttery mash would make me feel better. If I was upset, I’d leave the table smiling.
I don’t know why, but it was that mash. Maybe mum had some sort of mystical mash superpower…

🥕🥕🥕

Wielding Power (Part I) by D. Avery

It was Ilene’s idea to include Marge’s senile mother for Thanksgiving.

“Everyone just be whoever she thinks you are. It’ll be fine.”

Fortunately she thought Marge and Ernest were her parents. Marge would wield some power.

“Betty, I think you know everyone.”

“I see Ida brought George.”

Marge smirked. Lloyd was to be her mother’s best friend’s brother; Ilene would have to keep her hands off him.

“Look who’s here.”

Nard spilled his beer when Betty Small embraced him. “Billy! You got leave!”

Marge grinned. “Yes, your fiancé.”

She could have asked Betty to mash the potatoes but didn’t.

🥕🥕🥕

Wielding Power (Part II) by D. Avery

“Make room on the couch for Betty and Billy,” Marge commanded. “Let them get caught up.” She laughed at Nard’s desperation as he helped her mother to the couch.

“I’m your father?”

“No. Billy didn’t make it back.”

“Oh.”

“She never loved my father as much.”

“Oh.”

When everyone in the crowded singlewide had a full plate Nard spoke, holding Mrs. Small’s hand.

“Thanks Lord for these friends and all this food. Lord, I’m grateful for Betty, love of my life… I’ll come home,” he promised.

After a moment of astounded silence Ernest coughed ‘amen’ and everyone dug in.

🥕🥕🥕

Wielding Power (Part III) by D. Avery

“Marge, Ernest- epic. Good food.”

“Thank you Lloyd. I sure do miss my mother’s mashed potatoes though. These are just ok. She did something that made hers….”

“Epic?”

“Yeah, Lloyd, epic. I wish I knew what it was.”

“Marge, these are fine. A little garlic and rosemary wouldn’t of hurt either.”

“Mom?!”

But Marge’s mom was already Betty again, mooning over Nard. Nard’s uniform was just his cleanest Dickies from the dealership, but he was soldiering on in his role.

Leaning against Ernest, Marge smiled gratefully. “My mother hasn’t called me by name in two years.”

“Happy Thanksgiving, Marge.”

🥕🥕🥕

Mashed Potato Surprise by Rosemary Carlson

The family sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. She had cooked quite a dinner and he had helped. Everyone was at the table and they were both carrying the dishes of food to the table when she heard a crash. She turned around and he had dropped a large bowl of mashed potatoes on the floor, splattering them everywhere. They were everyone’s favorite dish.

He smiled, walked to the table, and pointed his finger. A lightning bolt appeared and at the end, a large bowl of mashed potatoes.

She said, “Hmm, so why have I bothered cooking all these years?”

🥕🥕🥕

The Eye of a Potato Superhero Hurricane by Bill Engleson

There we were, jawing over a cuppa Joe at Ernie’s Eats. Ernie was in a small businessman funk.

He gets that way.

“Spud, its always the little guy that gets the short end of the superhero stick.”

“I don’t getcha,” I said.

“Well,” said Ernie, stroking his chin like it was a cat, “Take dine and dashers. You don’t see guys like the Spy Smasher showing up, givin’ them what for, do ya? Nope. Too darn busy smashin’ spies. What I need is…well, you. Spud Smasher! Yeah! Spud Smasher! Mashin’ those dine and dashers.”

“Dream on, Ernie. Dream on.”

🥕🥕🥕

Captain Amazing vs Mashed Potatoes by Teresa Grabs

Captain Amazing was known throughout the universe as the one person you wanted in your corner. He had faced the mighty Balthazar and squashed the Fidget uprising in ’22. After a remarkable career as a galactic superhero, he retired. He had a soft spot for kids, so when Amy cried for help, he had to answer. He misjudged his landing and smashed through the window. Airborne mashed potatoes landed on his head.

“Not mashed potatoes! My only weakness!”

Amy’s mother looked at the puddle on the floor, then at the broken window, and shrugged. She had a turkey to prepare.

🥕🥕🥕

Educated Boars? by JulesPaige

As one of three brothers, finally living free from our adversary, I can be grateful to look out of our window and see rainbows after a rain. But we are not so foolish to be lax in our preparedness. Our larder is full of potatoes that we can broil, boil or mash. Our stash is secure.

Our superpower is knowledge. At any time our walls could crumble. We need to prepare for the slyest of villains, keep the hounds at bay and be wary of all wolfs. Especially those in overalls, driving tractors bent on destruction. We are prepared!

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Michael Grogan

Super Mashed Potato Boy looked out his kitchen window and saw the world was in trouble. There were weevils in the potato patch, and it needed his urgent attention.

There was one way to deal with such a world-wide crisis. A huge plate of mashed potato, eaten hurriedly and washed down with an icy ginger tea.

Having done so, he flew out his window and dealt a deadly blow to the weevils. Around him, grateful farmers sang his praises and the world was once again saved from potential disaster.

He went home and took up his trusty potato peeler.

🥕🥕🥕

Hannah by Saifun Hassam

With determination and extraordinary willpower, Hannah transformed the farmer’s cottage into a popular restaurant. Over her faded blue jeans and bright yellow T-shirt, her apron proclaimed “Spuds Forever!” Her magical touch turned mashed potatoes into super delicious meals.

Lunch or Dinner: beef and potato dumplings; mashed potato and leek soup; garlic fried chicken in mashed potatoes; golden fried mashed potato cakes; jalapeno veggie mashed potato quiche; and the intriguing “spiderweb” mashed potato salad bowl.

Cathy and Trish were caught in the early downpours of September rain as they drove through the farmlands. Hannah’s cottage was a warm welcoming shelter.

🥕🥕🥕

Mashed Potatoes by Anita Dawes

When I read these words this morning, I was taken back to my childhood, reading the Dandy comic. Desperate Dan with his huge plate of mashed potato with two large sausages sticking out, looking like a bull had landed there.

I have to tell you that no one does mash like Jaye does! The minute she begins peeling the spuds, I swear my kids pick up some strange signal. They come knocking from all over Hampshire, just popping in, big smiles on their faces. They know there’s mash on the go and they say it is just a coincidence…

🥕🥕🥕

The Apple Pie from the Same Tree by Chelsea Owens

Ann’s mother was special when it came to food. She could scan a printed page, retrieve a container from the cupboard, and *poof* add to the mixing bowl. Later, the family would eat freshly-baked casserole or chocolate-crusted cake.

And that is why Ann thought she might be magic, too. Surely, by the same means, Ann could create with a pinch of this or dash of that.

After Ann’s first attempt, only her father would taste it.

“Ah. Mashed potatoes?” he asked.

Ann nodded, trying not to feel sick as he stirred her mix of potato, milk, and runny eggs.

🥕🥕🥕

Super Foods by Di @ pensitivity101

‘It’s a special dinner, made to make you strong. That’s why it’s blue, just like Superman.’

‘OK Mom.’

Celia looked at her nine year old son as he ate. Mashed potatoes were the only thing he could manage just now, but it was a start.

Tomorrow she would add red dye as well as the blue, and it would be Spiderman to encourage him.

He snuggled down under the covers, exhausted, but he’d eaten most of what was on his plate.

‘Mom?’ he asked sleepily.

‘Yes love?’

‘Batman hasn’t got any superpowers, so please don’t give me black potatoes.’

🥕🥕🥕

Super Carl by TNKerr

Carl knew he was different from his classmates. Yes, he had superpowers like all the other kids, but his gifts were more eccentric. He couldn’t see any practical applications for them.

Carl had the ability to manipulate plants. He could also transform himself into a gelatinous substance, like potatoes mashed with an electric mixer.

School was torture and constant teasing until he slathered up the opponent’s lanes at the track meet against Eastwood High. Their star runner, Flash, never left the starting blocks, he couldn’t gain any traction.

All the trees and shrubs in the schoolyard fell over laughing.

🥕🥕🥕

The Time-Traveler’s Thanksgiving by Haley Booker-Lauridson

Paul watched the last glob of mashed potato splat onto hardwood floor. His eyes moved to the baseball, to his wife, to two mortified faces.

“What did I tell you about playing ball in the house?”

“Not to,” his sons answered in unison.

Paul sighed. “Honey?”

Alice obligingly closed her eyes.

Alice started awake. Darting to the kitchen, she saw her husband fussing over the turkey, mashed potatoes safely on the counter.

She turned. A ball speeding to the bowl of mash instead smacked into her raised hand.

“What did your father tell you about playing ball in the house?”

🥕🥕🥕

Mo’s Superpower Mash Disaster  by M J Mallon

Mo had always wanted to know what people really thought about her so she developed a special mash infused with a truth serum. What a disaster! Mo’s cafe was now closed until further notice. No one wanted Mo’s magic mash infused with such a bizarre superpower. Who would want to be on the receiving end of that kind of damaging ability? Finding out what people really think about you isn’t great – unfiltered thoughts and comments hurt. Mo’s Mash cafe reopens tomorrow with a new menu topped by:

Tell a bunch of lies mash to keep the regular punter’s happy.

🥕🥕🥕

The Super Food by The Dark Netizen:

One whiff of it, and I knew it was ready.

It was almost time for the meeting. I had promised my peers that I would cook something pep their moods up. And boy, did we all need a boost. We had lost for the tenth time in a row. Few of us had already decided to call it quits. However, as the team leader, I decided to take matters into my own hands. With my experiment turning out to be a success, one spoonful of my mashed potatoes, and we would remain villains no more.

We will become super-villains!!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Blown Cover by Allison Maruska

Anyone who thinks having superpowers is so cool doesn’t have a sister.

McKenzie hasn’t stopped sucking up to Mom today. She set the table, cooked side dishes, and collected coats at the door.

Phony.

Time to prove she isn’t so nice. I just have to make her randomly lose her temper.

I turn invisible and creep to the Thanksgiving table, planting myself behind her seat. When she lifts her full glass to her mouth, I shake her arm, soaking her.

“Matthew!”

I dart away, but something warm and gloppy hits my invisible shoulder.

Mashed potatoes.

My cover is blown.

🥕🥕🥕

Taterman To The Rescue by Patrick O’Connor

Look, out the left window. It’s a squirrel. It’s a train. It’s Taterman!

Taterman. A superhero who gets his strength from mashed potatoes.

His favorite mashed potatoes are from Popeye’s Chicken. It’s all about the cajun gravy.

Whenever there’s a call for help, Alvin Wyatt becomes – Taterman.

His secret lair is in his mother’s basement.

In his regular life, he’s a struggling comedian.

Alvin doesn’t pay attention very well and forgets punchlines. He’s frequently unemployed.

The next time you need help, cook some mashed potatoes and Taterman will be there shortly.

Don’t forget the cajun gravy. He’ll respond faster.

🥕🥕🥕

Mash Master by oneletterup

“More garlic!” He shouts. “I’ll do it.”
Masher in one hand. Stick of butter in the other.
“And cream.” “Garlic and cream.”

Twenty years old. Slouching. Half awake.
Scruffy beard. Stained sweatshirt.
Waving them aside.

He scoops up twelve cloves. Minced and done.
Their eyes water from the steam. Whirr of the beaters.
Minutes pass.
“Taste!” he commands.
They obey.
The garlic bite smoothed out by the creamy russets.
“Salt!”

The pot of potatoes transformed.
They watch awestruck.
His eyes brighten. He stands up straighter. Grinning.
It’s magical.
“You’ve done it again,” they cheer.

The Almighty Master of Mashed.

🥕🥕🥕

Where Farmers Get Their Strength by Molly Stevens

“Grandma, what it was like when you lived on a farm growing up?”

“It wasn’t an easy life, Nick. Everyone worked hard – my parents, brothers, sisters, and hired hands. We got up before the sun, and worked in all kinds of weather – from blistering heat to frosty mornings.”

“What did you do?”

“I milked the cows, shoveled manure, drove a tractor, and picked potatoes. But that was nothing compared to the hours my parents put in to keep things going. It was like they had superpowers.”

“Where did they get their strength?”

“Mashed potato – it was their kryptonite.”

🥕🥕🥕

Count Spudula by Susi J Smith

“That’s your superpower?”

Count Spudula grinned, posing with hands on hips as he awaited applause from the studio audience.

The presenter cleared her throat. ”You un-mash mashed potato?”

“I call it…re-formation.”

“So no laser vision, or invisibility?”

His smile faltered.

“No curing the common cold?”

“No…”

“What about mushy peas, or diced carrots?”

The count lowered his arms and sighed.

“Just spuds?”

“Just spuds.” He dropped down onto the armchair and rubbed his brow. ”I spent a fortune on gamma rays…changed my name legally…My wife left…”

The presenter smiled, rubbing his forearm. “Maybe next time, Gary.”

🥕🥕🥕

But the Greatest of These … by Anne Goodwin

He isn’t the man she married. Not even the man whose passions she failed to comprehend. Ten hours to cook a meal consumed in ten minutes? Ten herbs and spices to flavour the flesh when one would do. Now the gourmet’s reduced to eating pap.

When the diagnosis came she panicked. How would she live with his shell when the man it was built for was gone? Now, feeding him mashed potato like a baby, she draws on the power he gave her long ago. Back when he found her, lost and wounded, and, by loving, taught her love.

🥕🥕🥕

Potato Dead by Deepa

“It was the table’s mistake!” I came crying and hugged mom tightly.

“It hit me!” I murmured slowly with heads down.

“You have got the first potato on your head, Roy!”

Mom laughed and kissed the bump on my head.

When I was four years old, it was a challenging time for mom to handle me. She tells me even now that she never had to detox or diet to lose her post-pregnancy fats. All she had to do was follow me wherever I ran.

🥕🥕🥕

Super Spud by Kay Kingsley

“If Popeye can eat spinach and get super powers, I can eat mashed potatoes and get MY superpowers!”

“Kevin, who wants to eat mashed potatoes to get super powers? That’s lame. Wouldn’t you rather get bit by something and turn into something cool?”

“No. Why should I have to get bitten by something?”

“Um, because that’s what happens. Duh. Mashed potatoes… so lame.”

“It’s my drawing. Stop looking!” I covered my paper with my arm. I was SUPER SPUD! A 50-foot potato with huge mashers for feet, ready to squish my brother, my red cape flapping in the wind.

🥕🥕🥕

Mashed Miracles by kate @ aroused

My love for humans is so divine.
with their hearts mine does entwine
as a universal one I regard them mine

Know they have hardships to work through
by doing so they will become more true
add mashed spuds made like glue

So they can unite through adversity
know they must embrace diversity
wherever they live rural or city

Such power will truly transform their life
if for kindness and insight they do strive
they will blossom and emerge from strife!

They can develop clairvoyance and healing
if they avoid drama and stealing
live ethically dealing with their feeling!

🥕🥕🥕

THAT Thanksgiving by Kerry E.B. Black

I always knew Momma was more than her lithe frame suggested, but THAT Thanksgiving I was sure. Money was tight, and winter’d set in with a merciless, frosty stranglehold. “How’re we gonna feed everyone?” I wondered, but Momma sang as though she hadn’t a care in the world. Baking turkey perfumed the air before guests arrived. Stuffing spilled from its belly when we carved. Golden gravy and ruby cranberries sparkled like treasures beside a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes light enough to be an angel’s cloud. I wept, ravenous. She’d done it. With meager rations, Momma produced a feast.

🥕🥕🥕

If Only by Norah Colvin

Jake pushed the plate away. “Don’t like mash.”

Mum sighed and turned away.

As Jake stared at the potato, out popped a tiny, lumpy, and obviously grumpy, old man. He shook his fists.

Jake leaned forward. “Pardon?”

“I’m leaving.”

“Why?”

“Ya always push me away. Say ya’d rather chips or roasties. Doncha know we’re all the same—inside—only outside’s different.”

“Didn’t think—”

“Your kind—unkindness—never do. Gotta learn ta look beyond the differences, kid.

Learn ta love us all.”

“Wait—”

“What?” said Mum, turning as Jake scooped the last spoonful of mash into his mouth.

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Wild by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Lizzie stared at the monitor, hands folded in her lap. The cursor blinked.

Sighing, she trotted off to the kitchen for more coffee.

Returning, she sat again and watched the cursor blink.

Blank.

A dearth of inspiration.

Even that third cup didn’t raise Lizzie’s superpower: quirky imagination.

“Wonder what the weather’s doing?’ she clicked to raise the radar map on her screen.

And there: a dense cloud of snow skating toward her town, like a sneeze of mashed potatoes.

“No inspiration inside? Then it’s outside for me!”

Lizzie rose to dress in layers, inspired enough to don a bra!

🥕🥕🥕

Smashed Potatoes by Miriam Hurdle

“What are you doing, Meg?”

“Helping, sis.”

“By doing what?”

“Smashing the potatoes.”

“You do what? For what?”

“Didn’t you read the email from the Community Center. They need additional 50 lbs smashed potatoes with opinion power to serve the Thanksgiving dinner to the veterans.”

“Oh no, let me check the email.”

“I’ll do 10 lbs mixed with fortune cookie opinions.”

“OMG. That’s what it says. Let me call Judy.”

~

“Meg, let’s pick up the smashed potatoes and cook them.”

“What did she say?”

“Judy made some typos. We still can make mashed potatoes with your smashed potatoes.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fast Hands (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Nancy Jane flung the bowl of mashed potatoes at Horace. The bowl bounced off his shoulder and Hickok caught it midair. Horace hadn’t even moved except, Sarah noted, his eyes had widened the way a cow might look when protesting a lead rope to the milking barn. No one spoke as glops of white, buttery mashed potatoes slid down Horace’s shirt. Nancy Jane growled and slammed the heavy oak door when she stomped outside. Sarah understood her friend’s upset with how poorly Horace had handled Cobb’s interference at the station. More than that, she marveled at Hickock’s super speed.

🥕🥕🥕

Super Power Heroes by D. Avery

See how the engineer’s designing a structure to retain the gravy?

The starving artist here, she’d rather sculpt and splatter than put fork to mouth.
Her twin’s a musician. He’ll plop and slop and get every sound he can from this meal. Every fork’s a tuning fork in his hands.
The historian’ll tell you all about pomme de terre, and how the reason it’s associated with the Irish is because the English couldn’t be bothered to steal them from under the ground.

That one’s a magician, mashed potatoes disappear in a flash.
Me? I fed them on the cheap.

🥕🥕🥕

Mash Flash by D. Avery

Pal, you sleepin’?

Not anymore.

Started readin’ that book, Creative Courage. Been thinkin’ on Shorty’s post.

I know Kid, it’s intriguin’ ta think on what Anne Goodwin would think.

It is Pal. An’ I’m inta the epiphany of it ain’t gotta jist be the protagonist that changes. Could be the writer or the reader- any an’/ or all.

It’s a trifecta all right. Makes sense, long as someone gits some elixir.
Pal, have you been inta the elixir?

Yep. Ornery come by, brought some product.

He never comes by.

Came fer the mash.

Ain’t corn mash, it’s potato flash.

🥕🥕🥕

November 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

While up north on the Keweenaw Peninsula, I overheard one elderly local tell a monk that an early October snow was no indication that we’d have a long winter. At the time, I was returning from a brief retreat at a lighthouse keeper’s cottage, and the monks were closing up shop for the winter and selling the rest of their jams while fat fluffy flakes covered the ground. I bought six jars. Who could resist blackberries jammed in rum?

It was like overhearing a riddle, though. My mind pondered how early snow could be anything but a long winter on a peninsula fiercely guarded by Lady Lake Superior who has the power and desire to create her own snow globe? It’s different from out West where a late August blizzard in the Rockies reminds us to prepare, but that long cool, even warm, autumns could follow.

Here, the snow means snow. It didn’t stick, but it didn’t return to blue skies, either. The gray mist and soggy cold rain feel dreary. The snow falls brightly and white-washes the world, removing the dinginess of constant cloud cover. Snow illuminates the globe Lady Lake keeps on the mantle of her ice-water mansion. Snow has returned.

And with flair. Of course — it’s Lady Lake. Why not be a drama queen on the fourth day of the 41 North Film Festival at Michigan Tech University? I walked out of the Rosza Center, following a film on the WWI Hello Girls, and into the lobby with 30-foot glass windows facing east. Snow fleeced the view. The next film up was a work in progress called Copper Dogs about female dog-mushers in our region. Well played, Lady Lake.

Culture and snow fill our winters, so I don’t mind. Travel, for me at least, shuts down. After my terrifying drive in a true Copper Country blizzard at the start of last winter, I vowed to be a winter home-body. Students return to our universities and with them come cultural events. So it’s a good time to hunker down. The film festival filled my well.

Tuesday night, I returned to the Rosza Center to listen to Welby Altidor speak on creativity and collaboration.

Altidor believes that each of us possess creative genius, but it must be cultivated and developed through practice. Creative courage is more than practical tools and strategy, it’s a way life for Altidor and those who dare to embrace it.

Yes, yes, yes! You betcha I was going to drive across snow-paved roads to listen to Welby. He was speaking my love-language — make (literary) art accessible!

Welby was the creative director for Cirque du Soliel, and as a dancer and choreographer, he understands the universal power of telling a story. Art is the great communicator wrapped in many mediums from movement to written words. He began by telling us that every good story includes three elements.

Welby teaches that every good story includes love, power, and transformation. You could compare this to the classical teaching of the Greeks, who perfected the three-act story: pity –> fear — > catharsis. Love seems more universal to me than pity, although I understand the Greeks intended for an audience to love the protagonist enough to pity his or her plight. Power is what we might call tension and leads to the Greek ideal of the audience fearing for the well-being of the protagonist. Catharsis is an emotional release (from the fear) and transforms the audience.

Note that in the hero’s journey, the three acts still apply. Of course, I started thinking, what would Anne Goodwin say… After much discussion on the model of the hero’s journey failing to capture the protagonists who don’t change or return with an elixir, I had an a-ha moment. We change. Not the protagonist, but we — the writer, the reader, the creator changes.

That’s the universality of the hero’s journey. Even if the hero falls flat, the creator of the story needs to provide a transformation for the reader — a greater awareness of self, others, or the world around us. And Welby was speaking directly about creatives and how to build creative teams. We must love our art enough to give it power and transform ourselves and audiences.

Welby’s book (and presentation) center on creative courage. To create transformative work we must start from a place of caring. Like at Carrot Ranch — we gather because we care about literary art. We care about writing. We care about stories and words and what we can do with them. We care about our stories. We care about the stories of others. This is the beginning of creative courage.

What comes next wouldn’t surprise anybody who understands Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but it might surprise you to think it applies to art. We need to secure safety. Yes, creativity needs a safe place to plant the seeds. That is also the purpose of Carrot Ranch — to create safe space to practice, explore and discover our literary art. I felt like Welby was looking at our community!

For collaboration, Welby says we next need to foster trust. Our literary community builds trust through positive feedback and consistency. We also learn to trust the 99-word constraint as a creative process. Our weekly collections are creative collaborations.

So what happens next? This is where we get to play with danger!  Welby explains that art pushes limits and takes calculated risks. Writing dangerously is to push deeply into an idea that you might think is on the fringe. It’s breaking the rules to create something different. It’s risking creative failure, submitting to a contest or writing outside your comfort zone. It’s earning the “runs with scissors” badge.

Once we start writing dangerously, we dream! We experience breakthroughs! We grow!

Welby went on to say that many of us are disconnected from our superpowers. Part of our mission in life is to discover them, accept them, and share them with the rest of the world. He asked us to tell the person seated next to us what our superpower is. If you can identify your superpower, you will better understand your voice as a writer.

And don’t think any of this creative business is easy. It isn’t. Welby also points out that there is a war on imagination. He said it hit him hard when he had the opportunity to go to North Korea, and he recognized constrained people the way his father was. It’s rooted in fear of failure. Methods might be taught and learned, but what we really need is creative courage.

A significant shift occurred the night I listened to Welby, and it didn’t have to do with my creative art. I wondered as I took notes, how can my family create fertile soil for the Hub. No matter his condition, our circumstances, or unknown future we need creative courage. I looked again at the seven dimensions of creative collaboration and realized the answers were there.

My daughter went with me to listen to Welby speak. We stepped out into the snow, and I told her that the seven dimensions could apply to her dad. She went home and sketched the concentric circles around each one and posted this statement with her photo on Instagram:

Great talk tonight with @welbyaltidor@rozsacenter. Here’s the mental model he presented; good insight into how to rebuild relationships and goals with Sgt. Mills. Walking the tightrope of late effect traumatic brain injury (LE-TBI) starts with taking care, raising safety nets, and building trust.
#creativecourage #love #veteranfamily #braininjuryawareness #tbiawareness #onestepatatime”

And Welby Altidor replied:

“Great stuff! I love your reinterpretation! Honoured it provided inspiration. Never give up!”

On that fine note, let’s move on to mashed potatoes. In the US we near the festival of turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy — Thanksgiving. I’m working on my menu and my novel which seems like opposing creative efforts. But Welby told us that fitting two things that don’t go together is how the troupe creates such memorable choreography and art in Cirque du Soliel. His examples: drones and lampshades; clowns and robots; treadmill and hoop-diving.

So we are going to write mash-ups that pair an unusual superpower with mashed potatoes.

November 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be in any circumstance, funny or poignant. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by November 13, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. Rules & Guidelines.

Fast Hands (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Nancy Jane flung the bowl of mashed potatoes at Horace. The bowl bounced off his shoulder and Hickok caught it midair. Horace hadn’t even moved except, Sarah noted, his eyes had widened the way a cow might look when protesting a lead rope to the milking barn. No one spoke as glops of white, buttery mashed potatoes slid down Horace’s shirt. Nancy Jane growled and slammed the heavy oak door when she stomped outside. Sarah understood her friend’s upset with how poorly Horace had handled Cobb’s interference at the station. More than that, she marveled at Hickock’s super speed.

Festival of Lights

Light up a lamp, candles, hot air balloon and more because around the world people believe that light overcomes darkness. Even when our festivals are attacked or melded strangely when cultures collide, our humanity glows brightest with hope.

As we enter a season filled with holidays, writers lit up the page with stories about festivals of light.

The following are based on the November 1, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a festival of lights.

PART I (10-minute read)

Festival of Lights by Charli Mills

Glass shatter during dinner. Papa grabbed the boys and we sheltered beneath the table. Patterns of woodgrain forever etched my memory. Mama stood until Papa hastened her to hunker down with us in frightened silence.

We waited for boot thuds and forced entry. A truck engine revved. Guttural voices hurled invocations hard as the pick-ax that smashed our front window and toppled our Menorah – “Big-nosed Jews!” “Death to Hymies!”

My 10-year old mind probed why Papa’s features fated us to die. Friends at school said, the Holocaust wasn’t real, grow up, get over it, this is 2018 in America.

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It only takes One: by Di @ pensitivity101

There is no darkness
When a single light shines,
It brings hope and promise,
A gathering of minds.
Another light beckons,
Two soon becomes three,
Four, five and six,
Reaching out to set free
Festival torches,
All sizes and bright
Dazzling in glory,
Embracing the night.
Some call upon spirits
For Lost Souls to find peace,
Warmth, joy and kindness
Are within easy reach.
All join together,
No-one is ever alone,
Lend a hand, ear or shoulder,
Or just pick up the phone:
Celebrate living,
Let light show the way,
It only takes one
To keep darkness at bay.

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The Festival of Treats and Lights by Rhuchira Khanna

Raj lights lamps in all corners of his house with hymns playing in the background.

He is celebrating Diwali the festival of light that symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance.

Just then the bell rings, he opens the door to a bunch of kids dressed in spooky costumes and shouting, “Trick or Treat.”

He smiles, grabs his bucket full of treats and shouts “Treat…Treat!” As if surrendering to their threat in a sweet way!

Shuts the door, and continues with his prayers of the Hindu festival that comes around the same time as Halloween.

🥕🥕🥕

Glowing Lights by Patrick O’Connor

It was a dark evening. The clouds didn’t allow the stars to easily be seen. On top of that, the New Moon meant visibility would be low.

Then the announcement.

“Burn in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…”

Multiple flashes and suddenly the whole park lit up in multiple colors.

Seventy-five hot air balloons lit their fires all at once causing a kaleidoscope of color.

It could not have been more beautiful.

Once a year, in September, the balloon festival comes to town.

As the balloons slowly lifted to the night sky, the glowing lights offered an image of peace.

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Chester Learns About Hygge by Molly Stevens

Chester stomped into the house after getting his ice shack ready for winter. He said, “What in the blazes are you doing with all these candles everywhere?”

Ruth took a sip of hot cocoa. “Now that the weather’s turned cold and the days are darker, I’m practicing the Danish art of Hygge.”

“Hoo-gah? Where’d you get that cockamamie idea? From our loony neighbor, Myrah?”

“No, I read a book about it. You have to admit. The candles make the house look cozy and inviting.”

“Inviting? Yes, to a crew of firemen.”

Ruth smiled. “That might not be so bad.”

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Lustre by Reena Saxena

The festival was extra special this time around. Her husband had splurged on the best of everything for Diwali, and the children had an excited look pasted on their sweet faces. She couldn’t deny being happy …. but she sensed a dark secret somewhere, which the illumination could not cover.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau guys were at the doorstep, early morning. Their house was being raided.

The lamps looked morose in the light of dawn, and the floral designs lost lustre. She handed over the keys to the officer, and moved out, not wanting to see the can of worms.

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The Light of My Life by Susan Sleggs

I sit alone most evenings in my dark high rise apartment looking out at the colorful lights that make the city seem like a welcoming, safe place. Too bad I know most of it isn’t friendly at night even for a man. I have admitted to my co-workers that I do this but I haven’t shared why. It isn’t any of their business. They say it’s a strange habit. I know when my cell sounds a specific tone the whole place will be brightened with the chatter of my daughter while we Face Time. She is my true light.

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Brown Mountain by H.R.R. Gorman

Recent floods had stopped the trains from winding through the mountains, and Stewart took advantage of this darkness to investigate the Brown Mountain lights.

Lights glinted ahead. They didn’t flicker like a lantern or candle, but this region wasn’t lit by electricity. Stewart picked up his pace.

The massive, golden source became more apparent as he closed in on it. He noticed the light streamed from an open doorway, and a queue of skeletal figures entering. The ghosts ventured forth with smiles, and Stewart felt no inclination to stop them.

He reported on the haunting, “Lights caused by trains.”

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Festival of Lights by Frank Hubeny

“I saw one once,” Joel’s grandfather admitted.

“We knew Teresa didn’t understand things like we did because of some birth defect. At her mother’s funeral, dark thunderclouds approached. Her father wanted to speak but couldn’t at the podium. Teresa rushed to him, ‘Don’t cry, Papa! She’s right here.’”

“With a lightning crack the power shut down. Someone lit candles so we could see.

“When I told them what I saw, they thought I was as nutty as Teresa, but a ten-year-old doesn’t misunderstand the way adults do.”

Joel’s grandfather paused. “Teresa’s mother was there caressing her husband and daughter.”

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Come On Baby by Geoff Le Pard

‘Wassup, Morgan?’

‘Mum’s left Dad.’

‘Why?’

‘He came back from that Jazz festival, turned all the lights on, got all frisky…’

‘Eeew, gross.’

‘Right? She asks what’s up, he says he’s high…’

‘Your dad!? How’d that happen?’

‘One chap brought cake. Dad asks what is it. According to Dad the guy said they’re not brownies but Dad had a bite, insisted they were and had six. Larry, Dad’s mate checks. They guy actually said “They’re pot brownies” by which time Dad’s on his way to light Mum’s fire.’

‘Sounds like you’ll have a sibling come spring…’

‘Or they’ll divorce…’

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A Quality of Mercy by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Alas,” Lady Arabella sighed, holding a palm out from under her parasol. Days of full darkness had been followed by months of half light. “It seems the sun will never again shine, nor rain warm our moonless nights.”

“I fear you’re correct, sister, but what can we do?” Rob, hand tucked behind his back, reached down to adjust a spat. He noted the striped caterpillar crawling across their path, and raised his heel

“Hist! Show mercy, brother!” Arabella touched his arm.

With that, soft drops of rain began to fall, shimmering with all the colors of love and hope.

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Star of the Show (Part I) by D. Avery

Hope made her guess. When her mother had incorrectly guessed Mary, Joseph, wise man, sheep, donkey, cow, inn keeper, and even baby Jesus, Hope finally told her what part she had in the Christmas pageant.

“It was my idea, Mommy! I got them to let me do my idea!”

“What, Hope? What role is left?”

Hope’s eyes shone with her broad smile. “The star! I’m going to be up on a ladder behind the stable dressed up like the star!”

“Do you have lines to memorize?”

“Nope. I just have to shine.”

“Oh, Hope, you do. You’re a natural.”

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Star of the Show (Part II) by D. Avery

“Our Hope is a star, alright. Come on, we’re going snowshoeing.”

“Now? It’s so dark out.”

“I have a surprise.”

“Let’s go, Hope. I’d rather tramp in the snow than have to guess again.”

From the top of the meadow the frozen lake was an empty blackness in the moonless dark, framed by twinkling lights of houses on the surrounding rolling hills.

Below them their own kitchen window glowed warmly.
Suddenly beams of light reached out from the high roof of their barn.

“Daddy! A Christmas star in the cupola!”

“Not just Christmas. We’ll light up every dark night.”

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Brief Outage by Bill Engleson

In the night, there is the increasingly familiar hum. The neighbour’s high-end generator has kicked in again.

The house is silent, a symphony of darkness, save for the thump of the fatter cat’s feet in the room above.

And a near-spent nightlight.

The electric bedside clock is unforthcoming.

I stretch.

My toenail slashes her ankle.

I get a wallop. “That hurts,” she points out.

“Sorry.”

“Damn! You’re sorry, are you? You always do it.”

“Sorry.”

It’s the best I can do…

Then the house starts to buzz.

The clock flashes its resurgent time.

Power surges.

The night’s electric again.

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Where is Clarity? by Jules

Gnat. Sat. After annoying my nose, flying past my glasses.
Adding an extra period where it did not belong on my screen.

I could imagine the gnat elsewhere, like visiting simmering dew, outside.
While thinking about what to write I forgot about my coffee.
The rim of fluid enchanted by the glowing reflection of the chandelier.

swimming contently?
not quite caught in a raindrop;
gnat gained afterlife

could’ve drowned in a raindrop
did his soul add any light?

Saturday we will switch from later dawn to an earlier dusk.
Just who are we fooling by ending Daylight Savings Time?

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November the fifth … and the third and the fourth and the sixth too by Anne Goodwin

Rainbow sequins burst onto a velveteen sky. With every screech and bang of the lightshow’s soundtrack, she feels him flinch. People scowl: his barks and yelps foul their outdoor entertainment. She grips his collar, strokes his head.

In the before, they baked potatoes in the embers, her brother’s boxer snug in his basket beneath the stairs.

Only one more night before the park’s returned to her and him and others like them. Pitch and peace from sunset to sunrise. Until Christmas. Hopefully, they’ll be bedded down in a shelter then. When another batch of fireworks explodes in the sky.

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Tragedy by kate @ aroused

Some use their tragedy to educate the masses. Talk to politicians, schools, service clubs, whoever will listen. About the ongoing violence and abuse, the demeaning vitriol and sadistic mind games that was their life for far too long.

But some feed off the drama, others wonder why they never left, most can’t listen with their heart. We don’t want to believe this is our sons, fathers and husbands.

They hold mass candle light vigils to mark extremely violent deaths, or the just sheer vast numbers. But still the laws and attitudes don’t really change. The women are to blame.

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River by Anita Dawes

This river of lights, each one a wish
Hope to pin your dreams upon
A prayer to Lakshmi to chase away the darkness
To turn your demons into dust
A river of starlight echoing the world above
Each light a prayer to the ghosts of old Gods
In the heart of the people
India, a place of colour
Smiles light the faces of people passing by
Hope lives here
The old Gods love them for it
Each light above, connected to the ones below
To the dreamers who believe Lakshmi will come calling
To greet each wish made tonight…

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Return: by The Dark Netizen

Praises be sung, our lord has returned victorious!

The cheers and chanting continued throughout the capital as its ruler made his triumphant return. The citizens lit torches and kindled celebratory flames in order to welcome their light bringer. They sang praises of his exploits in battle, how he alone destroyed half the enemy army. They celebrated their victory over their greatest enemy, one who was threatening their very way of existence. The roads leading to the palace looked like rivers of gold, and the palace itself shone like the sun.

The Festival of lights marked the Demon king’s return.

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Haunted by Rosemary Carlson

“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” That old quote popped into her head at 4 a.m. It wouldn’t be daylight soon this morning since the Earth was spinning toward the shortest day of the year. She was still awake at this ungodly hour, as she often was, yearning for the light.

She couldn’t sleep until it was daylight. The old dreams, the terrible dreams of her childhood, haunted her, and she knew she couldn’t sleep until dawn when they would subside. She remembered them when she awoke, screaming, but only for a few seconds. Only the light chased them away.

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Harvest (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam

Spring’s unusually heavy rains flooded farms and orchards in the villages. Working together, the villagers replanted the fields and shared the harvest.

Diamante, a school teacher, was also responsible for the ancient temple until the Abbott could send a priest. For the fall harvest celebration, the children festooned the ancient temple with flowers and lit countless candles. From the open roof, sandalwood smoke drifted into the sky.

As evening deepened into night, Diamante recited the ancient prayers. The children excitedly traced the paths of shooting stars, imagined them falling into the sea, turning into myriads of tiny green lamps.

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Christmas Eve by Margaret G. Hanna

We begin our ritual.

We’ve been here before. We know what to do. We sit in silence and darkness. Quietly. Calmly. Anticipating. The organist plays one single note. We sing “Silent Night.” Softly.

The minister lights the first candle. We pass the flame from one person to the next until the sanctuary is bathed in the soft, warm, gentle glow of candlelight. The primal call of flickering flame draws our attention to why we are here. To remember and celebrate the miracle of birth, of rebirth.

We go out into the night, to the sound of snow falling silently.

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Festival of Lights by Kay Kingsley

Along life’s backyard fence hangs endless strands of twinkling lights.

Each strand is separate but when viewed from a distance, they all seem connected, end to end, as far as the eye can see.

We each have a strand of our own, each bulb shines bright for a wonderful life event but suspended between those bright events an invisible darkness remains, the home of hardships and monotony.

With a little luck, we try not to linger there as the dim glow of hope beckons in the distance.

Our chains are unique and together our festival of lights hang eternal.

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PART II: (5-minute reads)

Bandi Chorr Diwas by Ritu Bhathal

Emperor Jehangir found no reason to keep Guru Hargobind imprisoned anymore, for he had shown no danger towards the leader.
The Guru insisted upon the release of fifty-two innocent Hindu kings imprisoned alongside him.

Whoever was able to hold onto the cloth of his gown would be free.
He had a special cloak stitched with enough tassels so they could all hold on.
The day Guru Hargobind arrived back in Amritsar happened to be Diwali where the whole city was flooded with the light from candles, lit in joy at his return back to the holiest of Sikh cities.

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Gert by Kate @ aroused

Many gathered for the monumental celebration of Gert’s life. She inhabited our earth for nearly a century seeing so many changes we can barely comprehend.

Gert struggled with the night as sleep evaded, she would be restless so we chose a theme of light as she transitioned to better things. Her favourite opera was broadcast as we had a light parade … some with lanterns or candles, their wax safely caught. The entire village strung with vibrant coloured lights.

Then we gathered in the local for her favourite toddy while we shared stories of her many adventures and achievements.

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The Tradition by tracey robinson

Every December the family went to the huge light display in Winterhaven. Mom complained about the crowds, the kids complained about the cold and Dad complained about the cost. But it was a family tradition. This year Mom said she just couldn’t face it and Dad didn’t want to pay so they didn’t go.

On Christmas Eve, once it got dark, Mom said, “Everyone get your coats on, we have a hole in our holiday that needs to be filled”. They walked through their still, silent neighborhood, savoring all the small light displays, happy to continue their family tradition.

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Horticultural Thoughts by D. Avery

“Whatcha thinkin’ on, Kid?”

“Thinkin’ on plants Pal.”

“Shorty said ta be thinkin’ on light.”

“I am. Ever heard a phototropism?”

“I favor geotropism. Like ta keep rooted, grounded in my place.”

“Plants kin take root jist about anywhere. Patient and perseverant. I reckon plants gotta be rooted firmly an’ reach fer the light. Always pointin’ towards the light.”

“Yep, Kid, they’s a lot ta contemplate with plants. Mebbe it ain’t so far afield, you thinkin’ on plants. Reckon folks is like plants, Kid?”

“Some is Pal. Some need cultivatin’.”

“How?”

“Light. We gotta stay grounded and shine on.”

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Ranch Lite (Yarn I) by D. Avery

“You fixin’ ta build a fire, Pal?”

“Yep. Figger if ever’one’s as tuckered out from the rodeo as me, they might wanna jist set a spell by the light of a warming fire.”

“Pal, ‘member when we first showed up here?”

“We? ‘Member, I’ve always been here, jist no one knew it.”

“Oh yeah. Then how come we’re always together?”

“I wish I knew, Kid. Prob’ly ‘cause when people hear voices it’s always plural, not ‘voice’. Someone needs us.”

“Someone could do worse.”

“Yep.”

“You set, Pal, I’m gonna tell about showin up here.”

“Can I stop you?”

“Nope.”

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Ranch Lite (Yarn II) by D. Avery

It was a dark an’ stormy night.

“Kinda cliché, Kid.”

“Well it was, ‘an mebbe it’s metaphorical.”

“Meta for who?”

“Shush.

It was a tumultous time, deep winter. A young greenhorn, feelin’ her age-

“What? You describin’ cheese? How kin a young greenhorn be old?”

“That’s the way it is, Pal. Jeez, where was I?”

“On yer way here.”

“Okay.”

An old greenhorn was wanderin’ the desert. The wind was blowin’ an’
somewhere in that wind was the answer, my friend.

“The answer was blowin’ in the wind? Was this 1963? Jist cut to the chase already.”

“If’n you’d…

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Ranch Lite (Yarn III) by D. Avery

…let me.”

I was wanderin’ somewhat aimless, had gone off trail. I was stumblin’ in the dark. Then, crestin’ a rocky ledge-

“What’s that meta for?”

“Shush Pal!”

I saw a strange glowin’ light, color of carrots on the horizon…

“Were you near Roswell, New Mexico?”

“Pal!”

“Okay!”

I went closer, real cautious like. I wasn’t sure what it was, if’n it were safe. If’n it were meant fer me…

“Was it?”

“Sure was.”

I followed the light and come ta the fire here at the Ranch.

“That’s it?”

“Yeah.”

“Not much of a story, Kid.”

“Lighten up Pal.”

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