Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » Posts tagged 'community'

Tag Archives: community

February 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Falling Shadows (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

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

She felt…watched.

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

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

###

Courage to Care

Courage to CareThunder claps and I awaken. The camp trailer is dark and I reach up to feel the paper towels and garbage bag just inches above my head. Damp, not dripping and the bag still holds. Too much moisture and pooled water will break the seal of packing tape around the plastic between me and a leaking ceiling seam. The latest leak I’ve stuffed with paper towels and change them out when they reach saturation.

I relax until the rain cuts loose. I’m beyond crying any more, having sobbed yesterday when I cried out in frustration, “I want to go home!” I yell it at my husband when he arrives from his contract job. We exchange frustrated barbs until one dog scrambles up the wall, trying to get into the overhead bed. The dogs are a litmus test for stress. We are in the danger zone and I simply sit down in the chair that aggravates my sciatica and let tears slide down my cheeks. Home. Comfort. Security. Certainly many are worse off than me, but I’m weary. In the dark of night before the thunder arrives, I shower in a cement public restroom and cry beneath hot water until I can’t cry any more.

When the rain cuts lose, splattering the aluminum roof that is my transition between homes, I know it will take a few hours before the water pools and leaks. I have no tears left so I roll over and go back to sleep, wishing I didn’t have to wake up. Yet cold water dribbling to my hip does the job, and my day renews.

Waking up to news of Trump’s nomination does nothing to lift my spirits. I don’t bother making the bed, and the routine I’ve established this week dissipates into apathy. Politics are nothing but brand campaigns and I’m clearly not the target audience. Where does civic concern for a nation go when brands force sides as if this were a choice of pops — Coke or Pepsi — when the people need water? I was going to write letters to my state rep to express my outrage at the injustice of a state that tolerates veteran homelessness. The house we rented for nearly four years stands empty; all the real estate sites list it as “CLEAN and now ready to SHOW and SELL.”

When I first saw that selling point, I felt punched in the gut. Clean? CLEAN? As if our living there had made the place dirty? I’m a writer who used to work from home and although housekeeping was not tops on my daily to-do list, my home was not dirty. As if to invalidate my sense of reality, the property managers will not give back our security deposit despite the cleaning I did and the housekeeper I hired to shampoo the carpets. Feeling as if the world sees me as unclean stabs me in the heart of shame; shame from childhood, family incest, isolation. Having broke the silence decades ago and the cycle for my own children now grown, I’m  pained to recognize that shame still exists in the shadows of self.

It’s hard to get motivated to write civic letters when water drips from my trailer and shame clouds my head.

Two motivations I’m trying to embrace allow me the opportunity to write through my shame:

  1. From the Honeyed Quill, Shawna Ainslie posts: EMERGENCY #‎LinkYourLife PROMPT: Fear, Compassion and Community Action. #LinkYourCompassion.
  2. 1000 Voices for Compassion: Compassion and Courage.

Compassion is not something I see this morning following the hate-stirring rhetoric of a man who embodies the worst of America, yet seems capable of convincing others that his brand of hate is a cure-all. Compassion is not something I’m feeling. Then it occurs to me — it takes courage to care.

From self-care to that of others, it takes courage. We risk much to admit we are in need or struggling, but that’s where self-care begins. I’ve not been bashful about expressing my experiences current or past, though it is painful to do. How can one break the silence without speaking? I don’t want to dwell in anger or be the sum of my circumstances, nor do I want to be avoided by friends, family or readers because I speak out my truth — the good, the bad, the ugly.

Speaking out has its dangers. Anger can consume. I found it difficult to let go of even for a weekend, but denying my anger doesn’t make it go away either. I have to face it, feel it and make choices as to how to direct it. I have to be real (and compassionate) in acknowledging that shame is still an issue for me. I read a blog this morning by a survivor of sexual abuse who states she had no shame. It made me feel mine all the more keenly — like now, I’m ashamed of my shame.

Not feeling emotion only leads to the numbness I felt when the rain began before dawn.

Self-care, self-compassion is where healing can begin. And it’s okay if healing has to begin again and again. Establishing a routine in homelessness is one way I’m trying to take care of myself. Walking is another. But these are not enough for my circumstances. I’ve pushed hard to get my veteran husband into VA counseling for PTSD and I’m going to behavioral therapy sessions, too. I’ve signed up for an online workshop called Unshamed. I’m asking for help, even when it embarrasses me to do so, and I’m also being honest about what I can handle at the moment.

I’m homeless. I can’t have huge expectations upon my productivity.

Without self-care we can’t care for another, let alone a stranger. If we don’t have the courage to examine who we are and what we want out of our brief lives, we will fall into the traps of fear, perfectionism and judgement. It’s good to acknowledge what makes one fearful. I’m terrified of not having a home and here I am, not having a home. I’m not perfect. I can’t compare myself to another abuse survivor and feel inadequate because she has conquered shame and I’ll most likely go to the grave with mine. I don’t know that I can ever scrub it clean enough. But it doesn’t make me dirty. When I accept my own weaknesses, I can be more forgiving of another person in their weakness.

It takes courage to care for others when I facing my own fears. It took courage to help my brother-in-law yesterday to find his own DVA rep when his politics and lack of empathy upset me. I could have chosen to ignore his question of how to go about VA benefits, after all, he didn’t even thank me and he gave me a “chin up” talk as if I had no right to feel overwhelmed by my leaking trailer or lack of home. I could have taken delight in thinking, “Let him figure it out,” knowing how difficult it is to navigate the VA system. It even took courage to correct my own thoughts when I felt like comparing his service to his brother’s (my husband). He didn’t see combat! But I stopped myself and remembered that he served. It took courage to care, to look up his DVA and send it amidst my own pain he has no capacity for understanding.

Compassion doesn’t mean we don’t feel negative emotions. Courage is what it takes to overcome those barriers of our own negativity and that of others to show compassion. Both courage and compassion are acts.

Writing is a powerful tool for exploring and expressing voice. No matter what we write professionally, personally or in community, voice is what resonates. And the truth is more powerful than purple prose. Maybe that’s why I squirm when trying to read Trump’s speech. Even the annotated version by NPR only adds to the either/or struggle between 2016 US presidential candidates. Facts are not always truth. The truth is that politics is playing upon fear. Trump’s entire campaign message is summed up in his speech: he will restore safety to America if he wins. But who is stirring up the feeling that America is un-safe? America is in need of self-compassion and Americans need to overcome their fears through the courage to care for others.

A writer and comedian whom I admire for speaking truth with humor and compassion is Jon Stewart. He gave me back my motivation this morning. Truth has a way of calling us to action with justice and purpose; lies and denial use hate and fear to agitate action. Stewart offers us the revelation that Trump can’t give Americans back their country. He says to those wanting to take back America:

“You feel you are this country’s rightful owner. There’s only one problem with that. This country isn’t yours. You don’t own it. It never was. There is no real America. You don’t own it. You don’t own  patriotism. You don’t own Christianity. And you sure as hell don’t own respect for the bravery and sacrifice of military, police and firefighters.”

Further he says, “Those fighting to be included in the ideal of equality are not being divisive. Those fighting to keep those people out are.”

Full version is on YouTube and worth watching. More so than watching any of the RNC speeches.

What you do own is this: you own your truth; you own your experience as a human being; you own your choices; you own your actions. I own my leaky eyes and leaky un-home, but I also own my resolve to speak out. I’m not living the RVer’s lifestyle, nor am I having a grand adventure. I own my stress and shame, but I also own expectation to be treated with human dignity. I have the courage to speak my voice. I am not silent. I am not perfect, but I am not silent. I will continue to look for ways to take care of myself, my husband, our two dogs and others in my life.

As much as I want to wrap my arms around the world and invite every weary traveler of hardships to sit by my campfire, I will start with those I see — the blogs I read, the people I encounter. Compassion starts with me. It starts with you. Have the courage to care where you are right now no matter how shitty or spectacular life might be. Circumstances don’t dictate one’s capacity for compassion and courage. Compassionate and courageous people will trump…well…Trump-like hatred.

If you are having difficulty today, please reach out here. Speak out, use your voice. There are communities where compassionate and courageous people reside. Read their stories. Respond. Add your own.

#LinkYourLife is found on Facebook, Twitter, The Honeyed Quill and OTV Magazine

#1000VoicesforCompassion is found on Facebook, Twitter and you can link up to monthly themes.

 

The Hub of Community

CommunityA wheel turns and gets one places. We have wheels in our minds and wheels on our modes of transportation — cars, trucks, trains. To be strong, a wheel needs a hub. Just like a community is strongest at the core. From that strength, a community can reach out through the spokes and inform the wheel.

This week, writers explored community hubs. How do they work? Who do they serve? The resulting compilation is a validation of the importance of a hub to community.

The following stories are based on the January 27, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about how a community reaches out.

***

Bittersweet Memories by Christina Rose

The worst type of loss imaginable. Only in their arms a few short days, a lifetime of memories to be cherished in bittersweet agony.

They rallied. Friends, family, complete strangers who heard. Bake sales and car washes. Mom and Pop shops donating proceeds earned.

The raw, piercing heartbreak a connection even an outsider could relate to. I couldn’t fathom their pain, simple words of comfort insignificant, monetary donations seemingly futile in the grand scheme.

Years later, the community still remembers. Keeping his memory alive the greatest honor. The love of loss still a visceral reminder of what really matters.

###

Snow Removal by Larry LaForge

Ed was blown away. “Holy cow! It never snows like that around here.”

Edna looked nervously at the steep driveway. “What’ll we do?”

Ed grabbed his shovel but hesitated as he stared at the thick white covering. “There’s no way. We’ll just have to wait for it to melt.”

An hour later everything changed.

Six neighbors converged with flat shovels to scrape the snowy driveway. A path was cleared before they were even noticed.

“Where you going?” Edna asked as Ed retrieved his shovel.

“To join them at the Wilkins’ yard.”

Edna reached for her overcoat. “Wait for me!”

###

Family by Ula Humienik

“I was buying flowers from the flower sellers by Cloth Hall and noticed a girl sitting on a stool facing the Church. I approached to see what she was doing and there was Basia. Painting,” Milena said.

“And we talked about art, but that was it,” Basia added. “We met again by chance at the Wyspanski Museum.”

“It was love at first sight.” Milena giggled.

“Yes it was.”

Lukas looked at Milena, studying her. She could feel her cheeks getting warm. His eyes were the same color blue as Basia’s.

“What kind of art do you make?” he asked.

###

Communal Riots by Ruchira Khanna

“So tonight the members of apartment C-1,2,3 will be on guard until 9am” Mr. Doshi commanded then peeped through the rim of his glasses while looking at them, “Any Questions?”

The three gentlemen nodded their heads from left to right denying.

“The following members from apartment D-1,2,3 will be on guard from 9am until 3 pm” he announced while looking at those men, who nodded in assertiveness.

Communal riots had made communities all over the town unite to keep themselves safe from unstable minded people who had gone berserk over a political issue and were going about slaying people and insanely raiding homes.

###

Diverse and Casual People and Togetherness by Carol Campbell

“Don’t enter the house yet!”, I bellowed at the other community volunteers gathered to help a family who had lost their modest home to fire. It had started in the middle of the night and the family had almost been trapped. Our diverse community is very together so we watch out for each other. The Franklin family had called the firefighters immediately. Now, every one of us was in one way or another, pitching in. One was providing hospitality, one an extra car and others too, in every way they needed. We citizens are the hub of our community.

###

Neighbourhood Watch by Sherri Matthews

“Did you hear the racket last night?” asked Dee as she handed Jean a mug of tea.

“Did I? Sirens and all sorts, saw the police outside Mary’s place, woke me up. What happened?”

“A break-in I heard, according to Eric next door. Caught the sod, some young drug addict, but poor Mary’s in hospital with the shock of it…”

“That’s awful. Things are getting bad around here…”

“I heard about this Neighbourhood Watch thing, maybe we should join?”

One month later, they held their first meeting at Dee’s house, and Mary felt safer than she had in weeks.

###

Rural Neighbours by Ann Edall-Robson

They radio says move to higher ground. Take refuge and register at the school. Neither are possible. The road is washed out. The river crested hours ago. Trees ripped from the ground, devastation everywhere.

Thankful for the neighbours that came to the rescue. The ones who changed out their swather blades for the massive buckets. They traveled on land immersed in water. Not missing a farm or home. Gathering friends, neighbours and strangers in the buckets and cabs of their huge machinery; depositing them at the school before continuing on their quest to bring others to town and safety.

###

Community Adjudication by Charli Mills

“String ‘em up,” one of the returning gold-miners shouted. Others laughed.

Ben, the grizzled trader who’d been buffalo hunting with the Pawnee since 1846 shook his shaggy head. “Now that ain’t fair. A man deserves due process.”

Cobb agreed. The old frontiersman understood democracy better than did most of these farmers who liked the idea of wielding deadly force over miscreants. Cobb stood and towered over them all. “Gentlemen, I wrote a proclamation to our Territorial Governor to petition for our right to adjudicate minor crimes.”

Heads nodded.

“But we won’t be hanging anyone in our community,” he added.

###

A Community of Two by Jeanne Lombardo

Mrs. James McClure. Lucy McClure. Is that who I am? I hardly know. Look at me! Living in a dirt house. My only music the godforsaken wind. The space outside my door maddening in its infinitude. I wish I’d never heard of Kansas! But they say there’s another woman on these plains. I’ve walked hours to see if it’s true. And Lord above, it is! We look at each other across the mean, trodden yard. We daren’t breathe. Then we break. Fall into each others’ arms. Laughter and sobs leap from our throats. Oh, neighbor, how sweet the name!

###

They Reached Out by Sarrah J Woods

They always reached out to me.

First with hugs and diaper changes in the nursery.

Then snacks and flannel boards in children’s church.

Then games, catchy songs, Bible memory contests, and church camp.

Then emotional youth group retreats, prayer huddles, advice, and tissues.

Then awards, leadership opportunities, intense worship services, and missions trips.

By this point it was clear my community had successfully worked together to create something: me.

When I finally struggled to break free, they reached out again: with rebukes, warnings about Hell, and, in my nightmares, stones thrown at me.

They were powerful.

But I escaped.

###

Belonging by Norah Colvin

He waited quietly as yet another teacher heard his life story; a story without hope of redemption or the expectation of a happy ending. With each familiar incriminating snippet, “more schools than years”, “single parent”, “transient”, “neglect and abuse”, he’d instinctively glance towards the teacher. Instead of the usual furrowed brow and flat-mouthed grimace, he found sparkling eyes and a turned-up smile. He peered into the room. When the children saw him looking, they waved him in. He hesitated. Then the teacher said, “Welcome to our class, David. We’ve been waiting to meet you. Come and join us.”

###

In Their Shoes by Deborah Lee

People saw the shoes. Many signed the petition, most just kept walking. But hundreds, thousands, saw.

In Westlake Square, more than 3,000 pairs of shoes, to make it real, how many people are without shelter in this city. How many kids’ shoes.

Jane Doe is here, too. She signed the petition. Mostly she’s here for the free hot dog and coke.

Demonstration over, the organizers give the shoes away to those who need them. Jane shakes her head no, thank you, she has shoes. She has a home too, so to speak. Unheated and illegal, but it’s shelter.

###

Squabble Creek by Pete Fanning

A hawk sailed over us, his outstretched wings washed amber in the late sun. “Mom, they can’t actually move a cemetery. They’ll have it re-fenced, right?”

Mom shrugged. “Oh sure, and who doesn’t love some old gravestones beside a Mega More Super Store?”

Dad called her an idealist. But as my gaze wandered to our bikes, leaning on the sagging split-rail fence along the dusty two-track path, I thought it was actually quite simple. I caught Mom staring. When she smiled a small fire ignited in her eyes.

“Starting to see why I write those letters to the editor?”

###

Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

The high notes battered my rib cage, a bird struggling to break free. How I admired them. How I envied them. Even the one who turned the page a beat behind the rest.

At the interval, I queued for tea between two of them. Blushing, like they were film stars, I confessed I was impressed.

“You should join us,” they said.

I shook my head. “Can’t read music. Can’t hold a tune.”

“Nonsense,” they said. “Everyone can sing.”

If I could stand among them, my voice mingling with theirs. Soaring to the vaulted ceiling. Like a flock of songbirds.

###

Healthcare Delivery by Paula Moyer

Jean sat dazed while the IV cranked a repetitive rhythm. Preterm labor was stopped, bur next came four weeks of bedrest.

How? she wondered. With Chuck’s job and a three-year-old with asthma, how?

Once home, a visiting nurse came twice a week. Sally, a neighbor, brought Lydia home from daycare three days a week. The first day, Jean taught Sally how to give Lydia her nebulizer. Another friend from church covered the remaining two days.

Cards. Phone calls. Hot dishes. Visits. Every day something.

With bedrest and friends, Jean, Chuck and Lydia made it. Nola came right on time.

###

Special Delivery by Jules Paige

Some pregnancies are planned. Others clearly are not. And
of course to say the weather is unpredictable is just a pure
understatement of the facts. So before they started naming
blizzards…well it was the one of 1996, his pager went off.
There wasn’t anyway the volunteer firefighter was going to
get to the station, but the address in distress was just up the
street.

The neighbor with the snowblower cleared the drive. Two
plows and two ambulances circled the block, stopped by
her door and took her to the hospital. Two days later her
healthy baby boy arrived!

###

The CCR Committee by Pat Cummings

“First agenda item: Winnie Collin’s place.” Peter’s tone was grim. “We have covenants and restrictions in this community. Winnie agreed to them, but lately her trash bins are left out, her garden’s full of weeds… And far too many cars are parked outside.”

Jennifer raised a timid hand; new members were not expected to speak. “You know Winnie is in terminal home care, right? Those cars belong to caregivers and nurses and visiting family.”

“Right!” Peter harrumphed. “So… Who here is going to weed her garden? And who can commit to take care of Winnie’s trash bins every week?”

###

Rallying Round by Geoff Le Pard

Bad luck comes in threes. Overnight rain, a burst water main and a blocked drain. Hansa’s cafe flooded. The mess, the stench, when Mary arrived were dreadful. Hansa sat on a chair, stoney-faced. ‘This will take forever. I’m not sure I have the energy.’
It wasn’t a one man job. ‘You call the insurers. Leave this to me.’
‘But…’
‘Go. Now.’ Once alone Mary called Rupert her half-brother. ‘You remember the posse you organised to clear Dad’s garden last summer? I need them for a friend?’ Mary explained the problem.
‘On it now. Put the kettle on.’

###

The Firmament #5 by Sacha Black

Brightly coloured prayer flags looped around enormous columns in the temple corridors.

Entering another chamber, a chorus of ‘Om mani padme hum,’ was coming from a hundred Tibetan monks.

“How the hell are we going to find one specific monk in here, Luke?” I whispered.

He shrugged and broke left to investigate. Instead I chose to sit cross legged and face the front row of monks. Reverberations filled my body. I leant in to check if the monk in was really entranced. His eyes shot open. I flew back.

“Lexi Orion.”

“What the…How do you know my name?”

###

Recommended essay from our community:

The Groundhog Day Blizzard of 1916 by Kate Spencer

January 27: Flash Fiction Challenge

January 27Rain has come early. Like a great science experiment it transforms snow into white fog and ice into silver slush. A woman driving northbound on State Highway 95 hit a patch of slush and spun her lumbering SUV out of control. When the tires caught the snow bank, the vehicle flipped twice, landing briefly upside-down before coming to a rest upright and askew to the railway bed. She had been going about 60 miles per hour; the speed limit.

I didn’t hear the accident, yet sensed it. No squeal of tires, no crunch of metal. Just a silent spin and double somersault, and those who saw it held their breath and pulled over. At that very moment the vehicle landed in three feet of grimy roadway snow, I turned from my computer and was stunned to see an SUV off the highway, other cars braking, some stopping, drivers running to get to the vehicle.

I yelled loudly for the Hub who didn’t even ask what was going on. He clearly heard my tone. I met him downstairs, breathless. “A car’s gone into the ditch.” He nodded, put on his shoes and a hat to keep off the rain. Without discussing it with me, he reacted by instinct. He knows me. He helped her out, talked to neighbors, waved at those who slowed down to ask about injuries through rolled down windows, and then he escorted her to our home. I already had a fresh pot of coffee going, hot water for tea and I set out brownies.

It’s what a community does.

And that’s not all. Those attached to our community in the capacity of civil service showed up — Idaho Highway Patrol, Emergency Medical Service, Volunteer Fire Department, Sandpoint Towing. In and out men in boots and emergency gear or uniforms traipsed, apologized for wet shoes. I offered coffee, tea. She sat in my rocking chair by the fire, ice on her broken nose, cup of tea at her side. She filled out paperwork, answered questions, let EMS examine her head. She laughed at the irony of surviving the accident only to break her nose trying to get out of the vehicle. She was in shock. We kept her warm, talked to her and eventually one of the responders took her home.

The internet technician who arrived days later was more curious about the obvious disturbance to the snow across the road from our mail box than our continuing connectivity woes. Connection, however, is paramount to me.

Though I live in a small community I don’t often see my neighbors or go to town. Lack of internet connectivity forced me to open up secondary offices in the community brew and beer houses. Just in time for no internet, my magazine editor gave me new assignments. I want to stay home, hide out and work within my routines. Then I realized what was really bothering me — I didn’t want to be disconnected from my writing community. It truly is the hub of my work.

Some writers worry about the time spent on social media as if being social were a bad thing. Going to town reminded me that it is not, and I like my new magazine gig that has me interviewing my local community. My interview style is to collect stories and that requires a degree of sociability. And I like it, despite my introverted desire to stay home. Being an introvert does not make one unsocial. Not only is my online community important to being social, it forms an important part of my writer’s platform.

Community is my foundation. All else pushes out from that hub like spokes on a wagon wheel.

Ever since I began decoding the writer’s platform, I had been trying to figure out how to visually show others the importance of community, especially when some writers began to wonder if it was a guilty pleasure or a time-waster. I knew it was neither, but I couldn’t make it “fit” my brick and mortar design for a writer’s platform. As I thought of community, I was reminded of a marketing model from the wellness segment called the “world view.” It’s a core, surrounded by a thicker layer and then a thinner crust.

Then the hub, spokes and wheel idea came to me.

Community is the hub; it’s our core. From the community, spokes of opportunity open up to reach the wheel that drives us in the writing market — readers. While I don’t have a developed visual, I’m working on it! First comes the breakthrough idea. Community is essential and the more organic it is the better. No, I don’t mean we need USDA labels or unadulterated ingredients. An organic community is one that occurs naturally. It’s the kindred-spirits, the shared-values bloggers, the like-minded who gather to write, read and discuss. We might be from varied backgrounds, genres and experiences, but we find common ground in our process, ideas and words.

From this hub of community, important spokes come into play. Like the woman who crashed, our community quickly responded with emergency services. That’s a spoke. For writers in a community, a spoke might be finding advice or trusted beta-readers. It might be an unexpected spoke of realizing that the genre you write is beloved to someone one of your community members know. Another spoke might be the sharing we do for each other in mentioning posts or books on our own sites. Yet another is collaboration, whether it is a Blogger’s Bash, judging a contest or sharing work in an anthology.

All these spokes reach out from our community and touch readers we don’t yet know.

January 27, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about how a community reaches out. Who, or what cause, is touched by a community “spoke”? Do you think communities can impact change and move a “wheel”? Why or why not? Explore the idea of a community hub in a flash fiction.

Respond by February 2, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Community Adjudication by Charli Mills

“String ‘em up,” one of the returning gold-miners shouted. Others laughed.

Ben, the grizzled trader who’d been buffalo hunting with the Pawnee since 1846 shook his shaggy head. “Now that ain’t fair. A man deserves due process.”

Cobb agreed. The old frontiersman understood democracy better than did most of these farmers who liked the idea of wielding deadly force over miscreants. Cobb stood and towered over them all. “Gentlemen, I wrote a proclamation to our Territorial Governor to petition for our right to adjudicate minor crimes.”

Heads nodded.

“But we won’t be hanging anyone in our community,” he added.

###