Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » Posts tagged 'creativity'

Tag Archives: creativity

October 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

An early memory is getting a pair of little white kid gloves to wear at San Benito County Rodeo. Maybe they were cotton. But in my memory, they linger as fine kid leather. Not from the hide of Kid or a young person, but from the hide of a young goat. Why were goats involved in buckaroo culture? I have no idea. I tackled them, hog-tied them, licked them (unintentionally, I swear), and apparently, I wore their hide on my hands. Well, we could pick that apart as perhaps an unusual childhood. But authentically buckaroo.

California is a region of assimilation. I can only imagine what a place it must have been under the stewardship of the many and varied tribes that lived there for thousands of years before the rest of the world finding out about gold in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Did you know that Indigenous people practiced fire management in California? I like to think of buckaroo traditions stemming from the rancho culture that arrived with the missionaries and their Spanish horses and cattle. People whose ancestors managed mountains and forests and coasts took to horses with a special kind of wisdom.

They say buckaroos evolved out of the vaquero culture, but they fail to say how much earlier influence came from the original Native Californians. With the Gold Rush, people from around the world flooded into California. Among them, two sets of Basque 3rd-great grandparents. They ranched a small place near Paicines and later ran the hotel in Tres Pinos. Through marriages and descendants, I can claim Basque, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Brazilian, Flemish, and Dane. Talk about the Californian melting pot. Each one of those heritages came under the direct influence of the vaqueros.

And I had the kid gloves to prove it. Well, maybe not the gloves, but the early gear we used spoke of our heritage. My grandfather was a rawhider, and I learned the basics. I know how to make rawhide, string it, and braid it. We carried riatas (braided ropes) and rode with bosals to keep a horse from tossing its head. We had hefty horns on our beautifully tooled saddles because we roped cattle in a certain style. My grandfather was a figure-eight roping champion at this same rodeo grounds where I once won my own championship (okay, it was just a goat, but I won a trophy). This video gives you a glimpse of the style of roping and the land where I was born as a fifth-generation Californian

If you want to read an insightful essay about the buckaroo culture I come from, the Library of Congress recorded a bit of it here.

Our own Flash Fiction Rodeo is unfolding with a new event every Tuesday. Kerry E.B. Black is currently hosting Fables and Tall Tales. Colleen Chesebro is up next, and her contest is the equivalent of the figure-eight loop to syllabic poets. Kid and Pal hit the Dusty Trail last week, and I took over the Saddle Up Saloon to host TUFF, a progressive flash fiction contest. Part Two posts early Monday morning and offers the first twist to the sequence of word count reductions.

I’m going to do my best to keep up with all of you taking the weekly challenges, but I may be eyebrows deep in my thesis. The complete first draft is due by the end of the month, and then I’ll be using NaNoWriMo to revise it. That might sound like crazy-talk, but I do have a strategy in mind! My first draft is a mess. I want to use November to make it more cohesive and streamlined so that when I go into thesis revisions with my professor and peers, I have a better working manuscript. On a side note — Danni is the daughter of a Basque buckaroo from Nevada. Her life was much different from my own, but I wanted to use a culture I’m familiar with, and when writing about the West, I reached into my own back pocket. With kid gloves, of course.

October 8, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes kid gloves. A prop in the hands of a character should further the story. Why the gloves? Who is that in the photo, and did he steal Kids’ gloves (of the Kid and Pal duo)? Consider different uses of the phrase, too. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 6, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

Dressed and Ready by Charli Mills

Annabelle’s mother braided her hair so tight her eyes tugged at the corners. “Ma,” she wailed, “I won’t be able to see.”

“Get hair in your eyes, young lady, and you won’t see to throw your loop.” Ma was all business about rodeo events.

Already Annabelle had on her boots, jeans, frilled shirt, turquoise vest, and a hot-pink scarf with a concho slide. Ma zipped up the back leg on each side of her navy blue shotgun chaps and tightened the belt. Her brand-new kid gloves would protect her hands.

All this for a chance to rope a calf.

Dusty Trail

Dusty trails lead in and out of the arid lands of the American West. Iconic to cattle drives, pioneers, and the Pony Express, there’s more to the west than frontier, dry land, rugged mountains, and big sky. It was a wild place — still is — but it was known long before settlers and ranchers, loggers and miners hit the trails. Where did they come from? What dusty trails lead people to wander and settle? Are we ever really settled, or is our large human family restless to kick up dust?

Writers had a challenge before them, and like the argonauts before them, they set out with just 99 words in their knapsacks to catch a story on the trail. Read where the prompt led them.

The following is based on the October 1, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that happens on the dusty trail.

My Life’s Dusty Roads by Sue Spitulnik

Growing up dusty dirt roads connected friends farms. We drove them to hunt and parked on them to explore life.

In my thirties I drove dusty roads alone into the mountains, looking for me.

Now in retirement, Charli Mills introduced me to Stegnar and Abbey, lovers of open and natural places.

Then Sean Prentiss took me along to Find Abbey and I rode on some of the same roads while driving Rt66.

Now I’m riding the same roads again with the Ghost Rider, who is sharing his knowledge of ghosts, wishing life didn’t have them.

Coincidence. I think not.

🥕🥕🥕

Dusty Trail by kathy70

Sally walked along the trail covered with dust, no rain in almost two months along her beloved ridge of mountain.  This was where she came to clear her head from all the noise of her family of 11 siblings, all talking at the same time.  She knew that she could only have a few minutes before someone was looking for her.  What would she find here today? Would he still be here, was he feeling well enough to leave?

As she searched the trees and bushes there was no sign of him.  The eagle free from his trap was gone.

🥕🥕🥕

Star Dust by D. Avery

“It’s my magical palace, Mommy!”

Taking her mother’s hand Hope twirled and danced in the hayloft until they both fell back into a pile of loose hay, laughing. Dusty trails of chaff sparkled in the shafts of sunlight.

“Stars!” her mother exclaimed.

“Make a wish, Mommy.”

“Does wishing work with this kind of star?”

“Yup. Mine came true.”

“What did you wish for?”

But Hope only grew quiet and snuggled closer to her mother, who stared up into the glittering dust. “I’m so sorry, kid,” she whispered. “But I’m here now, I promise.” Then she wished upon a star.

🥕🥕🥕

Grand Canyon Cowboys by Deborah Dasante

Confusion. That’s their game. Starched jeans. Stetsons. So you to think that’s who they are. It’s a disguise. I paid good money to ride a mule in a line with a group of others too lazy or too afraid to hike the South Rim. Paid a store-bought cowboy to ‘Howdy’ and to not look like a fool going in circles unable to move forward. Not a dimes worth of difference between a forty dollar mule and a store-bought cowboy. Cost money to find that out. I should of known better when I read the flyer –

“Grand Canyon, My Ass”.

🥕🥕🥕

The Mares of Mars by Anonymole: Apocryphal Abecedarian

Haus spurred his robotic steed. By ‘spurred’ we mean he spoke code into his suit’s helmet that translated to ‘giddy-up’. Within seconds his six legged rover, a cross between a horse, a spider and a stainless-steel nightmare from a 20th Century film, began a sinuous saunter, one that allowed Haus to barely feel the trail.

The pair arrived at a crevasse, one that plunged deep into the dusty crust of Mars.

“The span exceeds safe leaping distance,” said Bray-burry, the mount’s name.

“Bah! This oughta be easy. Back up a bit.” The robot complied. “Now git!”

And over they…

🥕🥕🥕

Gold Dust by Hugh W. Roberts

Heading up the dusty trail of the desert city, nine-gallon, cowboy hat adorned and wobbling around on the spurred boots that were one size too big, Barry remembered the words of his now-deceased, bachelor uncle.

“The trail leads to gold.”

But where was the gold? There was no gold here, just dust, some of which was dirtying his new boots and making him sneeze.

Opening the doors of the venue at the end of the trail, Dusty’s, his heart leapt while butterflies flew around his stomach. A brightly-lit room full of cowboys, all line dancing together.

He’d struck gold.

🥕🥕🥕

A Barf Story by Simon

He entered the bar, covered with brown sand as he came from a dusty trail. Young boy stared at a guy in whites. He bravely went close to him and asked if you are not eating this, can I take this? he was hungry.

The man nodded. He quickly grabbed the spoon and ate it fast as soon he reached the bottom of the Cup he found a dead rat, he barfs up back in the bowl and stared at the man

The man replied calmly, Gross, I did the same when I reached that bottom.
He barfs again.

🥕🥕🥕

Slave by FloridaBorne

Martha Smythe refused her father’s choice, eloping with the man she loved instead.

She remembered little about the siege; her new husband dying from a pirate’s bullet… their ship sinking… being thrown into a hold with other women, faces blank from shock… sails blowing as strong winds propelled them toward the Barbary Coast… huddling in a Morocco slave market.

Her hands bound, she walked a dusty trail to the home of a man with dark face. Instead of a new life in Connecticut, a stranger beat her, used her body, and threw her into a room with barred windows.

🥕🥕🥕

Looking for the Comfort of Autumn… (a dream scene?)
(two verses of a Vers Beaucoup) by JulesPaige

There’s a strain on the prairie plane – no hill or dale, putting a strain
On this traveler’s brain – dry ground, no trained hound
On a lead bound to find any water for this daughter
Who oughter have stayed close to home, but did roam

Running from the season, with no rhyme or reason, spirit to be pleasin’
Yet the nose is just sneezin’ – no thirst quenched, arid dry air first
In spiral clouds burst from the not so shy, dust filled sky
The trail far from the shade of the leaves of willow for my pillow…

🥕🥕🥕

Scorcher by R. V. Mitchell

It was a scorcher for sure, easily ninety degrees in the shade. Too bad there weren’t no shade. George Mason, took off his hat and wiped his forehead with a sleeve. The dust clogged his throat despite the scarf he wrapped around his face.

He had been doing scouting ahead of the train for about two hours or so, and the water holes were still an hour or so ahead of him. The terrain looked tolerable enough, but he was concerned that the dust raised by the wagons behind him might call some unwanted attention to Captain Little’s train.

🥕🥕🥕

The Darnedest Cowboy by M J Mallon

The darnedest cowboy walked towards me. His cowboy boots churned up the dusty road. My heartbeat so loudly I swore it was going to giddy up, catch a ride on a wild horse and land on his Western shirt. His eyes twinkled as he dawdled a few feet away. He kicked a stone, spat some cheeky grits into the ground and walked right past, lassoing my heart with his.

I stayed still until I heard the deafening gunshot. Damn. Wild West gals sure don’t remember no dead cowboy long.

Love ain’t for dead buckaroos!

🥕🥕🥕

Histories Hidden Below Layers of Dust by Anne Goodwin

They trod lightly on the earth, but their footprints were visible for those who cared to see. The White Man did not care: fearing their prowess, he stripped them of their language, their culture, their land. Made them a commodity. Robbed them of their worth.

Centuries later, their descendants plough through the dusty trail to dig up the bones of their accomplishments: the hidden histories of science, literature, music and architecture. Scour museums for stolen artefacts, ornaments appropriated when the White Man rewrote their stories, swapped heroes for victim or villain. Let’s be brave now and face the truth.

🥕🥕🥕

Carrot Ranch by Anita Dawes

We cannot see the wind
Only the lifting of leaves
The swaying or grass
As it passes
We cannot hear the wind
Only the echo
It leaves behind
The dark curtain of dust
It sweeps from the ground
All but swallows
The four horsemen
Riding from the Starbuck Ranch
Out to recover a few stray cattle
Before the savannah winds
Cover the small town of Starbuck
With a dark blanket from hell
Ask my mother
When she tries clearing it up
The air around her turns dusty blue
The four riders return
Spitting blue dust…
Cattle safe and sound.

🥕🥕🥕

Divergin’ Trails (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal, I’m ready fer a vacation. Where we gonna go, anyway?”

“We? This is vacation, Kid. My vacation is gonna be time away from you.”

“What? Yer leavin’ me?”

“Fer a bit Kid. I’m jist gonna have some quiet time. Mebbe do some fishin’. Catch up with ma cuzzins. Ash and Dusty. Trales.”

“Ya never told me ya had cuzzins.”

“Ya never asked. They run a little farm jist west a the ranch. Raise turnip. At one time they figgered ta give Shorty a run fer her money.”

“Did they?”

“Nah. Turnips is too bitter.”

“Kin relate, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Divergin’ Trails (Part 2) by D. Avery

“Don’t be bitter, Kid. Whyn’t ya use this time ta go back east? Check out thet fall foliage they talk about.”

“Too far.”

“How kin thet be? Ya got here from there didn’tcha?”

“Mean I’ve come too far. I ain’t goin’ back ta where you know who lives. Asides it’s cold there. Think I’d git homesick if I lef’ the Ranch. Reckon I’ll jist spen’ my time up in the Poet Tree. Have ma own quiet time.

Crimson foliage
Crackling conflagrant hues
Ignite morning frost

Burning campfire memories
Smoke’s dusty trails dream west

Yep, I’ll stay here, tanka anyways.”

🥕🥕🥕

Outlaws on the Dusty Trail by Charli Mills

Frankie wiped her glass eye with the scarf she used to cover her face.

“Gotta mask up, Bert,” she told her horse (who wasn’t listening). “Dang dust.”

The dry storm blew like a devil whirling across the flats. Ahead, Frankie made out the outline of riders that looked to her one eye like two outlaws. They were wearin’ masks, too! She tightened the rains and thought about lunging old Bert to keep the mail safe (Bert had no run left in him).

“Hey, it’s Frankie.”

Blowing dust and relief, she realized it were jist her friends, Kid and Pal.

🥕🥕🥕

Too Far From Home by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d worn new Oboz hikers and thin wool socks, afraid of snakes on the trail since there’d been none on the plane. She’d strapped on a hip belt with double water holsters, and a chin-strapped billed cap with cape to for sun protection.

She gleamed like a beached whale, from all the sunscreen applied, and wore layers, like multiple skins, to transform from wallowing walrus to near naked nymphette, as the weather deemed. She’d traveled far, with no plans to stay out after dark.

But then she lost the trail, and found two Carrot cowpokes singing by a fire.

🥕🥕🥕

Jess and Cindy Stumble Across the Ranch by Joanne Fisher

“If only our car hadn’t broken down. I hope this trail will lead somewhere.” Jess said. Cindy coughed.

“It’s rather dusty!”

The two women came to a ridge. Below them they saw a ranch.

“We’ve been here before! This is Carrot Ranch where Kid and Pal work. I wonder if they’re around.” Jess wondered. They walked to the fence.

“Look at all those carrots they have to wrangle.”

“Maybe we should take some so we can compare them to our ones.” Jess suggested.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Cindy responded. “It may be regarded as carrot rustling.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Trail Down Under by Norah Colvin
The hooves thundered along the trail kicking up a storm of dust. Mary watched the cloud clear the trees and turn towards her across the home paddock.

How often had the boys been told to not push their horses so hard?

“Might as well talk to a dead cow,” her dad always said.

Before they’d reined in their mounts, Mary was outside, ready to give them a serve.

“Mum! Mum! It’s Kid and Pal. They’re here,” they shouted.

Mary sighed. Hadn’t they outgrown imaginary friends?

Her jaw dropped when, out of the dust, two figures materialised. “G’day,” they said.

🥕🥕🥕

Saguaro ‘N Seek by Chel Owens

Pal spat into the wind, instantly regretting he’d done so. “Ware be Kid?” he growled as he wiped his face.

“Ware be you?” the wind answered.

Pal whipped around. He slid off the rocky outcropping he’d carefully climbed and scooted across just a few minutes before. His gun flew after him, landing stock first into a Saguaro and shooting its contents sky-high.

“Hey!” yelped the cactus, falling over.

Pal squinted. “Kid?”

“Nah, yer gramma.”

Pal laughed. “Welp,” he said, standing and walking over to his dusty, cactus-clad friend. “I guess you won this here round o’ hide ‘n seek.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Trail: Crater Lakes by Saifun Hassam

Lorena trekked along a dusty trail to Coyote Ridge in the Crater Lakes Habitat. Green Lake shimmered blue in the fall sunshine. To the south were the mudflats of Lizard Lake.

Lorena was a writer and artist. Crater Lakes, with its rich American West history and extraordinary natural beauty, captivated her.

Lorena hiked past cottonwoods, aspens, and majestic lodgepole pines. On the trail, Ranger Carmen greeted her warmly. Lorena grinned at the other two familiar faces.

“Hey, Kid! Hi Pal! You’re a long dusty ways from home!”

Pal was exploring rancher history.

Kid? He was in Poet Tree heaven!

🥕🥕🥕

The Morning After by Geoff Le Pard

‘Where did you get to, Morgan?’

‘Those two reprobates, Kid and Pal…’

‘You went drinking with them? Give me you wallet.’

‘I didn’t spend much.’

‘It’s not the money; I’m tearing up your donor card. You can’t expect anyone to want your organs now.’

‘I think I must have dropped my brain and bruised it. Did I disturb you?’

‘How kind of you to worry. As it happens, no, though you did leave a sad trail of shed clothes, keys, burger wrappers…’

‘Sorry, I was feeling a little dusty…’

‘Yeah, I get it. They’re hard to refuse, aren’t they?’

🥕🥕🥕

Taking Control by Sue Spitulnik

Katie’s eyes went wide when she saw Kid and Pal standing at the No Thanks bar. “Howdy guys. What brings you here, and, how’d you get so dusty?”

“We’re on hiatus from our Saloon and gettin’ pulled every which way. One writer’s got us drinkin’, one ridin’ the range and another sittin’ at a campfire, so we rode over for a busman’s holiday. Sorry ’bout the dust.”

“Don’t care ’bout the dirt. Couldn’t be better timing! If you’ll tend bar, I’ll go see my students dance at the Irish Festival.”

“We’d love to.”

“Can’t thank you enough.”

“Have fun.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Which One Doesn’t Fly East, The Other Goes A Little Farther West (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal, I’m ready fer a vacation. Where we gonna go, anyway?”

“We? This is vacation, Kid. My vacation is gonna be time away from you.”

“What? Yer leavin’ me?”

“Fer a bit Kid. I’m jist gonna have some quiet time. Mebbe do some fishin’. Catch up with ma cuzzins. Ash and Dusty. Trales.”

“Ya never told me ya had cuzzins.”

“Ya never asked. They run a little farm jist west a the ranch. Raise turnip. At one time they figgered ta give Shorty a run fer her money.”

“Did they?”

“Nah. Turnips is too bitter.”

“Kin relate, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Which One Doesn’t Fly East, The Other Goes A Little Farther West (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Don’t be bitter, Kid. Whyn’t ya use this time ta go back east? Check out thet fall foliage they talk about.”

“Too far.”

“How kin thet be? Ya got here from there didn’tcha?”

“Mean I’ve come too far. I ain’t goin’ back ta where you know who lives. Reckon I’ll jist spen’ my time up in the Poet Tree. Have ma own quiet time. I’d git homesick if I lef’ the Ranch. Asides it’s cold there.

Crimson foliage
Conflagrant hues crackling
Ignites morning frost

Campfire memories burning
Dusty trails of smoke drift west

Yep, I’ll stay here, tanka anyways.”

🥕🥕🥕

September 17: Flash Fiction Challenge

Ranch radio interrupted its regular programming schedule to deal with mice. First, it was the stripey mouse (aka The Camp Chipmunk), and then the mice squatting in my tea cupboard. Please accept my squealing apology for the lateness of the collection. I’ll offer you a story of mice.

Really, I should have gone camping over break, not the first two days of school. I even had two weeks, which I can hardly believe was that long. How did those days get compressed and shifted so quickly? My calendar bears the marks of numerous scribbles where camping had to be delayed for weather or other pressing issues. I covered my squash and tomatoes, winning an extension for my garden. At last clear blue skies, extra courgettes, and a date emerged.

I reasoned that I could “catch up” at school, and earnestly completed all my tasks from the last term and worked on my thesis plot, planning when I’d schedule my next submissions with my prof. Typically the first week back is a light load. I researched the properties belonging to Northwoods Nature Conservancy and made a date with my COVID buddy (we do outdoor activities together). Sunday night, I even set up my weekly schedule and planned my posts, of which this is not the one I planned. That’s when I realized I double-booked camping with 5 at the Mic.

As I stared at my calendar, I couldn’t understand how this was already the third Tuesday in September. Next, I realized I had a Zoom meeting with my spectacular Rodeo Leaders and that I was the one who asked to move it from Thursday to Tuesday! Groaning, I decided to delay 5 at the Mic and cancel Tuesday night by the Lake but stay as long as I could. Which I did, arriving home seven minutes late only to realize one leader forgot, two thought it was Wednesday, and the fourth had waited 15 minutes for me to show up, leaving as I got on. (I still think they are spectacular and patient with my scattered brain). We all connected off-Zoom and agreed to meet next week. Wait until they reveal their contests! You are all in for a wild ride in October with five contests.

And the mice? Well, first, it was the Northwoods mouse. He was stripey and adorable. As I set up my kitchen camp, he grew excited and galloped over everything I set out from tablecloth to bottle of garden flowers, hopping into my washtubs. I’m careful not to leave out food, so he was soon disappointed. He tried to get into our tents, urging me to be diligent about zipping. Later he ran over my camp buddy’s foot. This was a mouse underfoot! Ah…but we built a rock campfire ring and lit a beach fire right on Lake Superior. It was glorious. The stars hid behind high clouds, and the sun dipped into the smoky haze of the west, turning red. That night I slept with the mouse nearby as waves lulled us all to sleep.

The next day I had coffee, sitting at the shore in agate cobbles. I found ten while tending to my caffeine. The wind shifted, and soon, the waves rose, eventually cresting the high watermark on the beach. I watched rock pickers comb, and soon my camp mouse returned, this time begging. He’d stand on his hind legs, clasp his tiny front paws, and quiver. I told him it was not good that he knew to beg. I didn’t think pistachios, tangerines, or chocolate courgette cake were part of a natural way of eating for woodland critters so wee. It didn’t stop him from bravely checking out my empty bowl. What a sight — a mouse in a bowl!

That should have prepared me for later events in the week.

Back home, I washed, laundered, and repacked my camp gear. I was so tired from my refreshment, I went to bed early, thinking I was ready to hit the books Wednesday morning. Instead, I took care of other business with the Hub. Then I called the Northwoods Nature Conservancy to clarify which sites were “designated” where we camped. The No Camping signs confused us. The mouse didn’t explain. We scanned the website, and under rules for this property, it said camping only in designated sites. We did our best to comply. Again, no complaint from Stripey. A county worker pulled in early, and I was in my jammies and slippers, all bed-headed and sleepy-eyed, smiling and drinking coffee. I said, “Hi,” and he said, “Hi,” and I figured we were in the right spot.

Turns out, No Camping means No Camping. I’m a recent member of the Conservancy and called tp clarify for next time and was embarrassed to admit I camped with the Northwoods mouse (no wonder he was excited — finally — people food). Turns out, they have not been the Northwoods Nature Conservancy for two years. I had carried their brochure for three years until I finally joined, paying monthly to help with their mortgages on these natural places meant for the public and protection from development. We sleuthed the situation and discovered that their old website was still live. They have changed their name to Keweenaw Natural Areas. And there’s no camping at Gratiot River Beach.

But it was one of those serendipitous moments. I have found a place for a rustic Writer in Residence and with my monthly donation, I can reserve the Conglomerate Falls Cabin for a week. I will certainly make this an annual retreat and open it to others once we get to do such things again. It’s a way-off thing, but it is what I’ve wanted to find in our area! Does it have mice? Likely. Mice are natural. This would be in addition to Vermont. And an exchange of residencies with the Vermont Folks. Kid and Pal, Frankie, Stinky, and all.

Once my excited brain subsided, I focused on downloading my coursework. To my horror, I realized this was no typical MOD One. Instead of the light week I anticipated, I had three assignments due Thursday. Here’s the thing with the first week. If a student is late the first week, they are administratively dropped from the course. That’s why instructors go easy and send lots of reminders. With my heart pounding, I raced over to my Thesis II cohort, knowing I had to submit my schedule, and I didn’t want to forget while panicking over three assignments due in 24 hours. To my dismay, I was one of only two grad students who hadn’t yet submitted, and both my preferred slots were taken. I had to choose one of the two left, and both will make my next two weeks nearly impossible. I’m going to have my own two-week mini-NaNoWriMo.

Working into the night, I went to bed before 4 a.m. with two assignments completed and edited. The third, I saved to finish in the morning. I had also promised the Hub that I’d help him move our RV and get it clean to show a potential buyer on Saturday. We have tried to give our rig to one of several veteran organizations, and none were interested. We tried to set it up for a couple who lost their home in a house fire, but COVID broke out, and we never heard back after that. The people who have stored it on their property needed us to move it. We have nowhere to move it to. Land and storage in winter on the Keweenaw are difficult to come by. I’ve tried to sell it, but it’s too big for this area. We can’t move it to a different market because our truck has an engine problem. It’s become an albatross and holds no good memories for me other than the kindness of those who helped us get through difficult times.

Now it’s a hot commodity. But no one can move it. I field at least ten inquiries a day, and that drives me crazy. Hopefully, the couple driving all the way from downstate will haul it home. We attempted to move it, renting an RV spot at the Baraga Casino ten miles from where we had it. I laughed as the veteran who owns the property told my husband we could bring it back if it doesn’t sell. I laughed because I know his wife. I’ve assured my friend we will not bring it back. These vets can’t say no to each other, so we spouses have to mark the boundaries. We both expelled our breath when we safely arrived at the casino without losing it or blowing an engine.

Then we found the mouse nest in my tea cupboard.

It could have been worse. We went through the whole trailer, and it was only one nest but a rank one. Field mice must have thought they found Valhalla. Masses of flies emerged on the outside of the slides. It disturbed me. At least it was outside, not inside. But it is so dirty and so disheartening. We cleared out most of the random remaining items, and the Hub took care of the mice palace. Still, I came home and showered and smudged with sage. We have to return tomorrow with Clorox and the shop vac. Many minor repairs like missing screws and a cabinet door we broke, forgetting how to open the slides properly. I feel like our fate hangs in the balance on Saturday, which is entirely untrue. It just feels ominous. Of mice.

Saturday is also our 33rd anniversary, and iron is the traditional gift. Cast iron? Certainly not an iron for the ironing board or a branding iron. I’ll go with a Dutch Ove made of ceramic sealing iron. I’ll go for selling the trailer to get enough money to one day retrieve our belongings from Idaho. The Hub is now convinced I’ve changed, and he’s always been wonky. Well… The way my brain is lately, maybe it’s me with the CTE and not him. We’ll make a great dementia couple — him with no filters, and me with no recollection between fact and fiction. Anyways, I told him he was right, I’m certain I’ve changed. That’s part of growth. But there’s still that old me who doesn’t really like mice.

September 17, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story of mice. It can feature any variety of the little critters in any situation. Are the character or the inciting incident? Use any genre, including BOTS (based on a true story). Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 22, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

Of Mice, No Men by Charli Mills

In the end, the packrat was her only companion. Clara rode into Vaquero Camp after her diagnosis. What do big city bone-setters know of a woman’s breasts, anyhow? She was born with ‘em and would die with ‘em. Jake said she was foolish. After all, girl babies aren’t actually born with breasts. He’d heard that Flatfoot Bob’s wife had hers reconstructed into perky 20-year-old versions. Clara wanted no men with her. Not the son who left for Portland. Not the dead-beat cowboy who fathered him. Not even Jake, her best friend. Solitude with a packrat set her soul free.

High Winds

Weather shifts and high winds blow sails and change. Fierce, it topples sunflowers, fences, and rooftops. If harnessed, high winds energize travel and electricity. It’s a phenomenon that can be destructive or helpful.

Such a dichotomy brings opportunity to writers to play between the lines. High winds blow across the stories in this collection, drifting between different ideas and storylines.

The following is based on the September 3, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about high winds.

Breakwater by D. Avery

Stories distracted and comforted her younger sister. “One night a mighty wind banged and tore at the trailer until the trailer lifted right into the air and carried the two girls far away, where they lived just them.”

“No dad?”

“No. A big tree killed him. The mom cried and didn’t even notice her girls were gone. But they lived happily ever after in the candy meadow.”

Sudden pounding and roaring stole the younger girl’s smile.

“It’s just that wind, Sis. You stay down.” Biting her trembling lip, the older girl stepped into the hall to meet the storm.

🥕🥕🥕

High Winds by Frank Hubeny

The only high winds were Windy, the wolf, so Straw, the pig, built a house of straw. Brick overbuilt with bricks. Stick used what was lying around, sticks. Both annoyed Straw. “It’s not fair!” Straw complained to Windy. He wanted all three houses.

Windy went to Stick’s home and blew it down. Chomp! He ate Stick. Then he went to Brick’s home. Brick gave Straw a key. Straw lent it to Windy. Chomp!

When Windy returned Straw squealed, “Perfect!” Windy, mind-blown as ever, thought: yummy. Chomp! He (gasp!) ate Straw.

Moral: Some high winds can take your breath away.

🥕🥕🥕

The Tree of Life by M J Mallon

I encouraged my mother-in-law to venture out for a walk. She hadn’t been out since a fall laid her low before lockdown. We sat by the wise old tree. I had no idea that just a few days ago this area had been the site of a funeral gathering. The family decorated the branches with colourful ribbons, dream catchers, pretty baubles and teddy bears. As we talked, a tremendous gust of wind blew the ribbons, twirling them in a whirl of colour as the baubles and teddies danced.

I heard leaves rustling; it was his last goodbye.

🥕🥕🥕

Where The Wind Carries Us by Hajar / ‘Douryeh’

Native American wisdom says, wind is God’s voice — maybe

Wind easily always reminds me of this: The sky

Looking at the sky, is looking at unending history

At daytime, you see the Sun; maybe the Moon

At nighttime, you may see stars, dead since millennia

Also wind, reminds me of history — but, my own

Its sound in the foliage brings me back decades

I heard the same whisper, when walking to school

Wind brings us back to history and to nature

Maybe indeed wind reminds us of our very core

🥕🥕🥕

Smoke and Rain (Diamante) by Saifun Hassam

Fierce unseasonal northerly winds drove forest fire smoke over southern coastal villages. Diamante and villagers trekked into the upper valley farms inland for shelter. Like generations before them.

An eerie ochre murky red sun sank into a churning turbulent sea. At midnight calm descended. A silver moon rose over the mountains. The harvest was lost. Shorelines were buried under endless hillocks of sand dunes.

Grit and fortitude was part of survival on the coast. The villagers would rebuild. Like their families before them. Diamante’s spirits lifted. The sea was tranquil. In a few months, southeasterly winds would bring rain.

🥕🥕🥕

The Sudden Storm by Joanne Fisher

Eliza, Captain of the The Crimson Night, was asleep when the squall hit. She quickly arose and staggered to the deck. The scene was complete chaos. The high winds shredded the mainsail to shreds, while the mizzen looked in danger of collapsing.

The crew desperately tried to bring the sails down as high waves crashed over them, washing some overboard. Eliza took the wheel trying to keep the ship on course, holding on to prevent being swept into the brine herself.

When morning came, the squall had blown itself out. The ship was heavily damaged, but they had survived.

🥕🥕🥕

Eros Wind by Kerry E.B. Black

Mary rested her chin on her hands, framed like a Madonna by the window frame. The day brought challenges, and she wished for someone to love.

The wind stole sighs from her lips and swirled them into intricate hearts until it found its quarry.

Ed rubbed the small of his back, soothing work-weary muscles, and blinked into the setting sun. A breeze brought sweet, perfumed sighs as he drove his Harley toward home.

The winds picked up and whirled.

“Better stop.” Ed parked at a diner.

Mary strolled by – that familiar perfume! Their eyes met.

The wind whistled self-congratulations.

🥕🥕🥕

You Are Late!  by Simon Prathap D

It’s been three years, I have to propose her’ he said and took a step forward.

A strange noise, a high wind approached them, he looked around no one was there, he quickly removed his long coat and covered then both and took her into his car and Parked his car under a building.

Breathing heavily he turned didn’t waste his moment, her face was crimson red already, our nervous hero finally opened up and said ‘I love you’ with a rose in hand without petals. She shows a new ring in her hand, she replied ‘you are late.’

🥕🥕🥕

The High Winds of Temptation by Donna Matthews

My dad was a boisterous one in the morning. He would be whistling a tune with his coffee and pouring over the newspaper. He scoured the want ads, marking those that sounded promising. He had a job, but he believed one needed to be open to opportunities. He’d finish off his research and bounce out the door, signing off with “another day, another dollar, a million days, a million dollars. He never did earn that million dollars. Taken out by the high winds of temptation, he tried his luck in an embezzlement scheme and ended up broke, drunk, alone.

🥕🥕🥕

Flare-up by Bill Engleson

The pressure builds. Each second of squall is a minute of gale, is an hour of fury, is a lifetime of rage.

Hoble is the town weatherglass. When he is at peace, found comfort in food, in conversation, in those placid moments most of us can kick into gear with planning, common sense, whatever you call it, then we breathe one of those sighs of relief found when wars end.

When Hoble explodes, when the world twists him pretzel-like, when he steps into an errant cheerless shadow, we cower.

And we wonder, how did we allow this to happen.

🥕🥕🥕

Gale Force Winds by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa struggled against the wind to open the front door and once inside, the gale slammed it behind her. She heard no greeting. “Michael?”

The wind squealed through the house’s old window frames with such ferocity she feared they would break. She went from room to room calling, “Michael? Jester?” She saw Michael’s empty chair in the bedroom and discovered him in the closet cuddling the dog under a sleeping bag.
Tessa crouched down. “You two all right?”

“Yeah. Jester buried himself in here when the wind got bad so I joined him. I think we need new windows.”

🥕🥕🥕

Last Pass by Charli Mills

In the Sierras, high winds herald snow. A wagon train of weary souls had hoisted beasts and conveyances to the top of Kit Carson’s pass to reach California’s goldfields below. They looped their way around bulging batholiths and high-altitude lakes glimmering like cut emeralds. The air thinned and the wind rose. The wagon master bellowed, and oxen trundled faster, sensing danger. They didn’t stop at night to rest. By the light of lanterns, they battled banshee winds, tarps snapping like sails. Sunrise opened with peaceful silence followed by splats of rain. Behind them, snow closed the pass until spring.

🥕🥕🥕

Beyond Bluster by R. V. Mitchell

“How did this happen? You saw the alert, and should have known better,” the superintendent scolded.

“I did my best, and as far as your message, I never got a chance to read it,” the manager retorted.

“And why, might I ask didn’t you read it?” the superintendent snapped.

“The wind! You sent a message warning all camp managers to evacuate the campers to the solid structures based on the weather report back in Capital City. You didn’t take into consideration that those of us on the ground, out here in the west, got the storm five hours earlier.”

🥕🥕🥕

Worst Storm of My Life by Susan Zutautas

Can’t we just pull off somewhere, I said as I was clutching the grab handle strenuously thinking I was going to die tonight. How the hell can you see anything?

The rain was pounding down with a furry. Turbulent winds were slamming us as we tried to make it further down the highway.

All that could be heard on the radio was take cover and stay off the roads if possible.

We were losing ground trying to keep ahead of the hurricane.

Cars were pulling off to the shoulder, but we kept going until we made it home safely.

🥕🥕🥕

Winding Up by Geoff Le Pard

‘You’re not going out, Logan!’

‘Why not? Just a light breeze.’

‘It’s a hurricane. Did you see that trash can fly by?’

‘A tr… oh the rubbish bin. Rather flimsy.’

‘You think British bins are better?’

‘No, it’s just they make such a fuss…’

‘The US gets stronger winds than we do.’

‘Of course. They supersize everything. They call that a lake, but it’s the size of Wales.’

‘It destroyed those sunflowers.’

‘My point exactly. When Sevenoaks was devastated by the 1987 hurricanes, the citizens just changed the town name to Oneoak.’

‘They were lovely sunflowers, though.’

‘I know.’

🥕🥕🥕

Bettering Michael Fish by Anne Goodwin

His family spent summers camping. Idyllic, except the canvas never dried out. Back home, he kept his sleeping bag beside his wellingtons. Rain equalled holidays to him.

He was five in 1987, when the famous hurricane struck England. Old enough to ask why the weatherman said don’t worry. Young enough to fear he’d be yanked from his bed when the wind took the roof from the house. Now, as climate change makes high winds more common, he’s determined he won’t get caught out. A degree in meteorology got him in front of the weather chart on the evening news.

🥕🥕🥕

High Winds by Eliza Mimski

California is burning. Lightning. Sparks. Heatwaves. Rescue missions. High winds. Wildfires, ambivalent, rage up hills.

The house had belonged to them for years – decades. It was their first and only home. They’d collected memories. The photographs on the mantel. The ones hanging on the walls. The bed they had slept in, the table where they’d eaten. Their pets. Their garden.

Before they fled, they watched the house burn, a wall of orange reducing it, their life together extinguished. They lost their memories, their photographs. They can’t find their precious cat.

Winds blow. Fires spread. Trees, land, houses burn.

🥕🥕🥕

Blown Away by JulesPaige

The high winds left from the last hurricane pelted Gina and James as they tried to get to the pier. Even without getting into the water sand managed to find its way into every crevice of their bodies. The ocean water had risen to make rivers across the beach and over the sidewalks and onto the road. The ocean had risen so for the safety of the public, the pier closed. The couple made their way back to the ice cream parlor for refuge. What a vacation!

deafening air moved
across their ears; no gulls flew
was nature angry?

🥕🥕🥕

Bring on the Rain by Chel Owens

“I am in control!” She screams, gripping fists of invisibility so hard she feels what’s left of fingernails digging against her palms. Forget the past; forget what Steve or Phil or Jack or even James -if that was his name- said. “I am in control!”

Forces more powerful than any touched by man answer, without words. Pushing, tearing, whipping the lake’s edge against her -her, a small, insignificant figure to challenge God’s great breath.

“I am -” she gasps, “in control!” Spray and tears stream down her face;
wipe clean
spray
clear

Till, beckoned by her challenge, the sky-fall comes.

🥕🥕🥕

The Void by Tyler Deal

Arture dashed across the windswept plain. His heart pounded in his head; his feet pounded the ground. Sand bit at his face as it was dragged away into the void behind him.

What now?

A rocky outcropping jutted up ahead. Perhaps it would shield… Arture faltered and dodged as the mighty wind peeled giant jagged stones away from the earth.

Every fiber of his body strained forward. Then… Arture left the ground. The void pulled him in like a great whirlpool.

Arture set his jaw, tucked his legs, and sped at the void like a cannonball. This wasn’t over.

🥕🥕🥕

When the Wind Blows High by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Cora stretched her long neck, beak pecking the fast moving clouds in the pale sky. Twisting, she at last freed herself from her heavy, confining carapace. It’d been necessary protection against wicked solar radiation, brought on by the forebears of those singing blessings to the thin creek twisting through desert, below.

Wind off the melting icecaps ruffled her damp feathers, coaxing the final stage of her transformation to fierce dragon, like breeze to butterfly. When the wind blew high, she would fly to find the rest of her kind.

She eyed the scant group of humans below, stomach rumbling.

🥕🥕🥕

Landscapes by Reena Saxena

My heart aches at the thought of what could have been.

I woke up with a dream on the morning of 1st January, like many others, and prayed for a more sane and sensible world. I am a doer, not a vanilla dreamer. There was an action plan in place, in process of implementation.

And then, tragedy struck. Nobody had any control on the high winds which swept the landscape altering the structure and foundation of dreams.

altered landscapes
call for new designs
I wait with a pen
but Ink that dried
with uncertainty
Is yet to flow again

🥕🥕🥕

Erie Kai by Nancy Brady

The cat was roaring…
wild
roaring all night long
I could hear it
in night visions—
a feral cat
invading dreams,
disturbing sleep.

In the morning still angry
with power,
lashing out its claws,
swishing tail,
leaving marks as it paced
and scratched, attacking its prey
with waves and water flying
all up and down the coast.

Anger spent,
the wind subsides, turning 180 degrees.
The cat begins to purr,
paws now velvetted,
lapping and grooming the shores once again,

Except in Canada where
winds are high,
blowing from the south, and
the cat begins to roar.

🥕🥕🥕

Strong Westerlies by D. Avery

“Seen mighty high winds in my day Kid. ‘Member one time winds was so strong they took the barn apart, all the boards and beams swirlin’ in the air. When it settled down thet wind had put the boards back t’gether its own way, had us a silo. ‘Nuther time it blew fer days an’ days. Carrot greens flew like feathers.”

“Still had the roots?”

“Yep. But the animals was upset, felt thet wind deep inside themsefs. All the hens give after thet was scrambled eggs. Milk cow was so churned up all we got was butter.”
“Unbelievable Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

August 27: Flash Fiction Challenge

So it has begun. Neighbors slink in the shadows of my house, transgressing both front and back doors with summer bounty. The forager has left puff balls and cut petunias on my back deck. The gardener’s wife next door tried sneaking a bowlful of tomatoes on my front steps. A friend offered to share beans and another found me camping and brought lavender. Even my daughter is peddling chard and arugula, offering trades of patty-pans for courgettes. This season of shifting excess from the garden makes me grin. I feel whole and home, surrounded by community and yard-grown food.

The biggest surprise in my potager towers over all the neighbors leaving offerings. My gentle giants with prolific and cheerful heads will make migrating birds a feast. I stand outside looking upward of eight feet to bask in the presence of the Lemon Queens. A single staff holds as many as twenty sunflower heads and I planted five. They hold court, these reigning sisters of Roberts Street. Each petal is slender, forming a pale yellow fringe around each dark center rich with pollen. The honey bees buzz from high above, dropping closer to earth with legs fully loaded for feeding the hive.

When my heart feels as heavy as a ladened bee, I stand beneath the Lemon Queens and look up. White clouds pull across the blue sky like spun sugar, the kind county fairs would be serving if it not for a pandemic. I watch as the oldest sunflowers begin to brown and form seeds. For such hardy stalks and large heads, the petals flutter ephemeral. They don’t last long enough for the seeds to mature. Such could be said about many life events — life itself — passes so quickly. The beauty and joy we once celebrated have left a legacy of seeds for more, and yet a darkness stretches between memory and hope. The royals pass too soon.

And so it came to be that I needed to check out of my home, neighbors and shared abundance. I needed to abandon the studies, thesis, and literary community. I needed to step back from all that is good and appreciated to just simply be. The emotions of travel, wedding, funeral, and school needed a reset. My inner introvert demanded a fresh air cacoon. When a friend who also needed downtime suggested a camping trip to Big Traverse Bay on the sandy side of the Keweenaw, I was all for it. We each had our own small tents and we physically distanced around a campfire beneath the stars.

I met the Lemon Queens of the universe, standing on the beach of Lake Superior at 3 am. Already the coyotes had yipped and howled three times from the direction we heard the late-summer gathering of sandhill cranes in the wild blueberry marshes. An American toad hunkered by my tent, his shape evident in the light from the campfire. The fish flies, midges, and mosquitos had finally tired of blood draws. The lake spread flat and silent like ice, yet the air remained warm enough to feel comfortable in a flannel shirt. I had kicked off my Keens and walked over the small sand bluff to see the stars over the lake. I looked up.

Regal and twinkling, the brightest stars hung like Lemon Queens, reflecting light on the water. The lake ran an occasional wave across the sand to let me know she was awake and star-gazing, too. Mars, a bright orange bulb had risen earlier from the horizon and I swore it must be the lamp of a ghost ship. By 3 am, the planet had risen in an arc. The Milky Way frothed with light and the Perseids shot meteorites across the black sky. When I stood, bare feet in the cool, wet sand, I felt the universe so close it tickled my nose. The soft silence wrapped me up in the night’s blanket. Lemon Queens live.

The next morning I rose early — for me — to see a long-legged spider hanging out on the mesh screen overhead. I supposed she was eating the last of the waiting mosquitos. The air felt thick and warm and the lake barely lapped. I brewed coffee in my French press and drug my chair into the shade of a pine, savoring the first cup of the day. By the time I lit my single-burner butane stove, a stiff wind challenged my efforts. Blue flames fluttered and the bacon fried in the cast iron pan. I poured seeds and nuts and blueberries over Brown Cow maple yogurt and topped both bowls with fresh nasturtium from my garden. We dined at a distance in our camp chairs, adding a second pot of coffee and chocolate zucchini cake to the meal. The wind increased.

We didn’t have much time before checking out but the camp hostess offered that we could day use any of the open campsites (Schoolcraft only has eight sites and the hostess A-frame, a familiar feel). Ours was reserved for new campers that day. We packed up the kitchen and most of our stuff and carried our tents to a new spot to rest or read later. Waves began to roar, the sound I love best from Lady Lake. We walked the beach and with no rocks to pick I collected anything plastic and unnatural. Mostly the beach was clean but the debris of humanity nests everywhere like an invasive species. We scoped out other campsites and watched a young couple take over ours from the night before. A young Finnish mother with six blond children all under the age of ten showed up and I delighted in watching the three eldest ride the waves like fearless pros.

An immature eagle flew overhead as if to say he had this flight thing down. I sat in the sand, feet buried, hair blowing away from my face, head nodding in droopy peace. I felt refreshed and ready to return to garden exchanges and revitalize the rhythm of life. Time to catch up with ripe tomatoes, the last of my term coursework, and comments and stories from the community. The Lemon Queens have come and will go. The stars will continue to dance barely out of reach. We will remember those who have gone on to those who remain. And we will be witness to milestones and castles in the sky until we forget and someone else remembers.

August 27, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features Lemon Queens. Maybe it’s an ancient fairy tale or a modern brand name. What ideas seep into your imagination? Is there a character or place involved? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 1, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

Lemon Queens of Nevada by Charli Mills

Lara, Eugenie, and Jess scrambled up the wooden slats of the corral to watch Big Bones Janey sort the dinks from the keepers. Roundup always smelled of warm sage and fresh horse apples. Wispy sun-bleached hair escaped the matching braids on the young cousins and in the afternoon breeze, their fringe formed halos. Janey trotted past the wide-eyed girls, winking. She called them Lemon Queens and taught them how to settle a stallion without breaking his spirit. Fifteen years later, riding stunt horses for Hollywood westerns, the Lemon Queens owed their skills to the maverick horse trainer of Winnemucca.

T-Shirt by Pete Fanning

The other day I was running errands, going about my business and sweating in the blaze of the midday sun when an older gentleman stopped and looked me over with a smile.

“Good to see a fellow Owl.”

“Oh,” I said, unsure if I’d heard him correctly. It wasn’t until I got in my car and started down the road that it dawned on me. I was wearing my ratty, sweat-patched Temple Basketball t-shirt.

Oh, right.

I love random t-shirts. Always have. As long as I can remember I’ve foraged thrift stores and flea markets, rummaging through estate sales in search of the perfect tee. If it fits and it’s comfortable, I’m wearing it. Family reunions, YMCA staff, at least one Seoul 2003 marathon long sleeve—I’m a regular international man of mystery.

My favorite ones are the colleges: Temple Basketball, Vermont, SUNY Plattsburgh. I get asked all the time, “Did you attend Random College?”

Sometimes I’ll play along, shrug and smile. But the first time it happened I was too shocked to do much of anything.

As a shy, awkward, pimply freshman in high school, I clearly remember one day in the cafeteria. I was waiting in line to pay for lunch, wearing a Duke Blue devils t-shirt. I’m no Duke fan by any means, but back in the nineties I was a big fan of Grant Hill, the superstar freshman on the national championship basketball team. Maybe it was the only clean shirt I had that day. Nonetheless, I never would have remembered any of it had the shirt not attracted the attention of an old assistant coach.

He came hobbling over to me, his gut protruding from his track suit. “Boy, why are you wearing that shirt?

I blushed. My ears went hot. Again, I was painfully timid, self-conscious about my shadow. I spent a lot of time figuring out ways to avoid people, be it slinking through the hallways, hiding in the crowd, or arriving early to class and NEVER volunteering for anything. Ever.

But this was a coach, calling me out in the cafeteria. I was half expecting him to smile, maybe chuckle and spill the punchline. Instead the old man only looked me up and down, shaking his head. I knew he was a football guy, a legend back in the day. And yet, here was this silver-haired old man regarding me like I’d personally insulted him.

He pointed to my chest. “You don’t deserve to wear that shirt. You know that?”

I did not know that. I was fourteen. Today people speak of this man as a mentor, a great coach and motivator. We hear so much about the impact our coaches have on a young person’s life, how they build kids up, make them feel like they can do anything they put their minds to do. Well, it must have been an off day, because according to him I didn’t deserve to wear a shirt with his alma mater on it.

And that was it. He stalked off, still grumbling about a kid wearing a shirt.

Such an insignificant part of his life. And today I know more hard truths about the world. We can’t do anything we put our minds to do. I couldn’t learn quantum physics if you gave me a lifetime to do it. But here I am in my forties, and I can remember with great clarity this moment on some random day this man had on my life. So many times it’s popped into my head and I’ve laughed, wondering just what this great coach saw (or didn’t see) as he wandered into the cafeteria that compelled him to approach and lay clear a kid’s limitations. To tell me what I didn’t deserve.

And hey, I’m not saying he was wrong. Sure enough, I didn’t go to Duke. I followed the path this wise old gruff already knew to be my destiny. I attended community college, only to drop out and go to work at the car wash. After that I cut grass. I cleaned bathrooms. Joke was on me, right?

Perhaps. But what the old ball coach didn’t know—couldn’t have known because I certainly had no idea at the time—was that while I was toiling away, be it waxing cars or push mowing through a haze of grass clippings, I was coming to terms with what I could do.

With every car I washed or lawn I mowed, every mop I pushed, a story spun its way through my mind. And well before I was ready to admit it, when I was without story, skills, or even the first letter on a page, I was dreaming. Dreaming of what I could do.

I read constantly. I cut grass and came home to Steinbeck, Hemingway, Fitzgerald. Richard Wright. From Stephen King to John Grisham, even my mother’s Nicholas Sparks collection wasn’t safe. I loved the smell of the pages, the yellowed rinds of life’s tragedies told in so many different ways. I dreamed of the day it would all work out.

As I moved on in the real world, got a new job and made several dumb decisions, I thought maybe I’d buried the dream. I learned several painful lessons about eviction, debt, consequences, love and loss, while crossing paths with too many colorful characters to count. And just when it seemed nothing would ever work out, my dream would surface with a whisper, having followed me faithfully into whatever hole I’d dug. Even after I’d told it to get lost.

How could I write? I couldn’t even finish community college. Heck, I didn’t even deserve to wear the t-shirt of a college. Think I forgot?

But it was there, fighting to claw its way out. And still, I kept telling myself for years, I couldn’t do it. Why even try?

So I read. I continued to keep journals and write silly things that caught my mind. And then, years later, as I was dealing with personal issues, I was on a walk with my dogs by myself when the voice piped up again.

You’re a writer.

I don’t write.

But you should.

I can’t.

But I had nothing to lose. And so I wrote. Short nothings. Then some more. I wrote and it was like scratching an itch that had been nagging me all my life. It wasn’t good writing, but it could be. And what did it matter. I was a writer. I am a writer. I deserve this.

It’s still hard for me to embrace. To open up and put it out there. To speak in front of the class or even believe it’s happened. I’ve had two books published this year, with four more on the way next year. One every three months. You win, Dream.

Am I Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald? Not even close. I’m just a guy who didn’t deserve to wear a t-shirt.

Pete Fanning is the author of Justice in a Bottle, Runaway Blues, and Bricktown Boys (scheduled to publish in January of 2021). He’s a regular Rough Writer at Carrot Ranch and published in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, Vol. 1. You can read more of his writing at Lunch Break Fiction and follow him on Twitter @fatherknwslttle.

Her Crowning Glory

Hairstyles might be low on the priority list mid-2020, the Year of COVID Hair but her crowning glory is still at the forefront of many minds (and heads). Traditionally, we might think of a regal character with long locks braided, curled, or teased like the heroine on the cover of a romance novel. But it could be unicorn mane. In the hands of creative writers, what might her crowning glory look like?

Those who chased the prompt this week found unique expressions and ideas to describe different possibilities. You’ll read about hair and so much more in this collection.

The following stories are based the July 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that uses the phrase “her crowning glory.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Gifts by Reena Saxena

“The Gift of the Magi” by O.Henry was a lesson in gifting. The writer’s intention may have been completely different.

It is difficult for a girl to give up her crowning glory to buy a gift, more so than it is for a man to give up his inheritance. I think about the story more now, when people are losing their steady source of income. Gifting may soon acquire new forms, as modes of celebration change.

Ria spent hours designing an online gift for her beau. Digital art is not easy, but one piece suffices for three boyfriends.

🥕🥕🥕

Crowning Glory by FloridaBorne

Queen Catherine loved her silver crown inset with sapphires and diamonds. She sat quietly on a smaller throne, a trait expected of the window dressing sitting next to her husband, and sank into mental soliloquy.

Her only sister had a washerwoman’s build and face. Catherine, graceful and filled with a legendary beauty, was traded into loveless marriage at 15 for a substantial fee. Women envied Catherine, but her sister chose to read, chose to be tutored by scholars, and still lived with her brothers.

Catherine had chosen the design of her crown.

Why did it seem a hollow victory?

🥕🥕🥕

Mrs. Brouillette’s Auspicious Adventure by Deborah Dansante

On Ellen Brouillette’s 99th birthday, unable to find anyone to climb Mt. Monodnack with, she decided to go alone.

Later, from her hospital bed, during an interview with Channel 2 News, Mrs. Brouilette insisted that her failed attempt had only to do with those awful black flies, which were particularly troublesome that year.

When Missy Jan, Channel 2 news anchor, suggested to Mrs. Brouilette a less dangerous activity for her 100th, Ellen Brouillette looked into the camera and asked the audience if they thought knitting cozies would’ve been her crowning glory or have gotten her on the evening news.

🥕🥕🥕

Stacking Stones by Frank Hubeny

Nature does a grander job. What we made was mindful. Besides that wasn’t why we piled stones on top of one another. We were testing each other’s patience.

I failed the test and let her set the last stone, her crowning glory, on top. They didn’t fall and so per agreement she left.

I would have told you about the arguments, but I’ve forgotten them. I only remember where we set those stones. It was out of the way. A decade later I came back. I looked everywhere.

Nature let us take our turn then washed it all away.

🥕🥕🥕

Glory by Pete Fanning

I was raised to think I was special. My mom liked to call me her crowning glory. She’d smile proudly whenever she said it, blind to my blemishes, immune to my mistakes. She’d look at me, eyes glazed, seeing what no mirror could ever produce.

The last time she said it was the day I went clean for good. We held hands, my tears spilling to my arm, washing over the scabs and needle marks.

“My crowning glory,” she rasped, sinking away, leaving me alone with my demons.

I knew there was a will.

But I wanted her glory.

🥕🥕🥕

Her Crowning Glory by Anita Dawes

She stands on the edge of decision
Beneath the pale silver crescent
Her earthly form chosen
Dark mane flowing
Magic cannot be contained
Her crowning glory, the spiral horn
Long sought after by man
One such as hers
Said to be held by Merlin
The magician, to raise Camelot
She must risk going back in time
When magic held no mystery, it just was
To find a mate, to keep magic
Between the worlds
As it had been from the beginning
Will she risk losing her magic
At the hands of some eager
Wannabe wizard
Or find her mate?

🥕🥕🥕

Unexpected Escort by Charli Mills

In the end, a unicorn fetched Sarah from her deathbed. She’d been hearing Cobb’s steed galloping five nights in a row, expecting he’d finally come to take her to hell. She’d lived with the guilt of his death for 76 years. Cobb’s soul would have vengeance soon. But it wasn’t the specter of the man she once loved. It wasn’t his horse pounding past her door. The unicorn’s crowning glory wasn’t flowing mane or golden horn. It was Sarah’s lovely daughter grown past the infanthood she’d never survived. Resplendent on the beast’s back, she said, “Let’s go home, Mama.”

🥕🥕🥕

Crowning Glory by R. V. Mitchell

Dora was the plainest maiden in all the kingdom. Some even said that she was ugly. It was precisely that fact that led to her retaining her virtue far beyond the time in which it was relinquished by her peers.

This purity, however, was also her crowning glory, for she could see and converse with unicorns.

“Oh, I wish I was as beautiful as you,” she said to Daisy, one day.

“And I wish I had your lovely voice,” the unicorn replied.

They were suddenly transformed, but Dora could tell no one – for she had become a little horse.

🥕🥕🥕

Crowning Glory by Jenn Linning

One evening, the national animals of England, Scotland, and Wales met to settle a friendly argument: who, if it came to it, would overthrow all the others in a fight to the death?

England’s lion went first, flashing his claws, gnashing his teeth, and roaring as menacingly as he could. Wales’ scarlet dragon laughed quietly at his non-magical cousin’s display, orange flames escaping carelessly from his nostrils as he did so. Scotland’s white unicorn simply rolled her eyes and bowed to display her crowning glory: her twisted opal horn, sharp as a dagger and a hundred times as deadly.

🥕🥕🥕

15 Years Later by Norah Colvin

A reunion wouldn’t normally appeal but the timing seemed right and, anyway, Miss R. would be there and, hopefully, Jasmine so she wouldn’t be alone.

Marnie inspected her reflection, predicting their scrutiny and subsequent reaction. What was once a nest of tangles was now her crowning glory, sparkling like gold. A final touch of the lightest spray smoothed every strand to perfection. Brucie, who’d once poured an entire pot of glue over her head, declaring it an accident, could — well, it didn’t matter. He couldn’t touch her now.

As she was announced, the room hushed. “Marnie? Really?” Brucie spluttered.

🥕🥕🥕

Coda? by JulesPaige

The instrumental of her voice, soft whispers, forced grunts, maybe even a scream or two. When she’d thought of all she’d ever done it was her crowning glory to ‘gift’ a safe arrival to her children. Everything else paled. Departing from graduation ceremonies, even the wedding ceremony – while still high on the list of accomplishments – the light of her life that brought her out of the darkest of thoughts were the successes of her children.

lullabies she’d sung
created solely from love
easing them to sleep

Still, she remained an individual. And perhaps that counted the most.

🥕🥕🥕

He’ll Walk for Emma by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa leaned close to Lexi to ask, “How did you get Michael to wear his legs for the baptism?”

“Reality, Mom. I simply told him I was afraid Emma wasn’t safe being perched in his lap while he was using his arms to wheel his chair and I wanted her grandfather to carry her forward when it was time for the ceremony.”

“That will be your crown of glory for years to come my daughter. Next time I think he should walk instead of ride, I’ll get you to convince him.”

“Not my doing, Mom. Give Emma the credit.”

🥕🥕🥕

Nandini by Saifun Hassam

Nandini, a graduate in the marine sciences, was a daughter of the Samari Archipelago. Her ebony curls and lithe bronze body reflected her ancient ancestry of Black slaves and Pacific traders.

Nandini loved exploring the abundant lagoons. Coral reefs ringed lagoons and extended into deeper waters. Her studies focused on reef growth and fragility, the impact of human activities and nature’s forces, of weather, of deep ocean volcanos.

When she won the coveted student award, “The Sea Urchin” in marine and oceanographic research, it became both her crowning glory and gave her a sense of direction in her career.

🥕🥕🥕

Knees Up by Geoff Le Pard

‘Aunty Madge mailed.’

‘How is the old loon?’

‘Fed up with lockdown, though she’s ridiculously excited she’s got a hair appointment.’

‘What is that all about? A hair cut? Sheesh!’

‘You’ve got none to cut. Mum always said her hair was her crowning glory.’

‘What’s yours, Logan?’

‘I’ve not given it any thought.’

‘Mine’s my knees. I’ve always thought they were rather finely sculptured.’

‘Seriously? Knees have to be man’s ugliest feature.’

‘No, that has to be elbows. Awful things. Come on, what’s yours?’

‘If I have to pick, then my intellect.’

‘More like your crowing glory, then.’

‘?’

🥕🥕🥕

Her Crowning Glory by Irene Waters

“I need a bathroom quick. “Ahhhhhhh.” Cramp.”

He guided his wife to the toilet block worrying about food poisoning. As he looked beads of perspiration dotted her brow and her crowning glory became wet and lank.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!” His strong grip prevented her collapsing. He guided her into the first stall.

“Gosh it’s big. There’s a loo for everyone………..”

His wife moaned. “Feels like a ring of fire.”

“You’re Not pregnant?”

“No.”

He pushed her back and looked. “You’ve crowned. ” He caught the baby. “Who knew the family loos would be where we became a family. Let’s call her Glory.”

🥕🥕🥕

Leaving by Joanne Fisher

Though her work for the company was quite pivotal, Lily found herself largely ignored there. She had worked for a number of years in accounting, but often felt she was passed over, forgotten, even taken for granted.

One day Lily decided to leave, as she wanted to work somewhere where she would be more valued and appreciated. She baked a cake for her last day of work there, to let everyone know what she thought of them. Lily believed it was her crowning glory: the cake was the shape of a large hand, with the middle finger fully extended.

🥕🥕🥕

Part II (10-minute read)

Tip of the Hat by Ann Edall-Robson

The quiet rumble reminds her of far off thunder as the truck tires roll over the cattle guard. She knows her way out of the blackened ranch yard by heart, not turning on the headlights until she reaches the end of the lane. Her hand drops automatically to flick on the turn signal. She laughs at herself knowing the courtesy is only necessary when headlights or dust tails are coming toward you. In twenty minutes she’ll be in the hills waiting for the sun to rise. The morning’s tip of the hat, her crowning glory, to start the day.

🥕🥕🥕

Clover Crowns and Dancing Rings by Kerry E.B. Black

The cousins braided daisies into crowns and rested them atop each other’s heads. “What a perfect May Day!” The girls spun, hands clasped, until they fell laughing to the ground. The world spun on without them, and their stomachs fluttered.

“Let’s find 4-leafed-clovers!” Heather found one. Then another, and another. She discovered so many she braided them into her daisy crown.

Kay scowled at the field, determined to find at least one. Instead, she discovered a circle of white mushrooms.

Heather gasped. “Fairies dance inside those.”

They left their daisy chains within.

Heather sighed, “Fairy rings are cooler than 4-leafed-clovers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Never Mind by D. Avery

Never mind what exactly the boys said, the gestures they made. It was rude. It was disrespectful. And how they waited for her response, grinning, still taunting. Who would treat an elder this way?

She calmly unpinned her gray bun, shook loose her long hair. She stood tall, her hair now a high wind whipping and lashing the cowering boys. She watched, impassive, her hair now a frenzied torrential rain that pelted the whimpering boys.

Then she brushed her hair, now a golden sun, a dazzling halo. And she wound it back into a gray bun, her crowning glory.

🥕🥕🥕

The Queen of Winter by Colleen M. Chesebro

The wind howled like a banshee as the first storm of the season battered the cottage. Niall settled into his chair for the night.

Wild dreams tortured his thoughts. The image of the Cailleach Béara bloomed in his mind. Each year the old crone brought winter’s fury. When she appeared, stones flew from her apron and landed upon the ground. These stones, her crowning glory, grew into rock formations or mountains.

The next morning Niall’s home perched on the cliffs above the sea. Nearby, a large rock resembled the ancient Cailleach’s face. There she remains to the present day.

🥕🥕🥕

The Wheel Turns by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Chad scrunched his brow, tapping the turntable with a desultory forefinger. The sculpture rotated slowly, displaying all its sides, seeming to delight in its own ineffable shimmer and elegance. It almost winked at him, whispering “You don’t get me, do you?”

He shook his head and turned away to pour another dram of Scotch into the ceramic mug, one of the first pieces Susan’d submitted to apprentice with him. He threw back the Scotch and grimaced at its bite.

This was her crowning glory?

Yet there was something…artistic genius he couldn’t grasp.
The student had bypassed the teacher.

🥕🥕🥕

Crown of Snakes by Kerry E.B. Black

Medi scrubbed marble columns, hands raw but heart swollen with adoration for her goddess, Athena.

Poseidon, smelling of brine and lust, pushed Medi to the floor and stole what she’d sworn as sacred.

Athena found Medi clutching her torn chiton to her ravaged body.

Fury seized this goddess of wisdom. Dare Poseidon violate her temple with carnal acts? Debase Her by soiling Her maiden?

Athena couldn’t punish Poseidon, but by Zeus, she’d be avenged. She seized Medi’s silken locks and cursed. “Let none desire you.”

Hair transformed into hissing snakes. Eyes steeled into weapons. From then, all feared Medusa.

🥕🥕🥕

Mis-steps by Eliza Mimski

Genovese’s goal had always been to snatch away a married man. She was competitive by nature. The married man offered a certain kind of drama other relationships lacked. The clandestine atmosphere, the sneaking around, the mis-steps. So far she hadn’t reached her goal, but that in no way meant she wouldn’t, and that it wouldn’t happen soon.

She had her sights on the CEO, married for forty years to the same woman, and with three grown children. Just think of the accomplishment, hearts broken, tears falling, anger raging, and all because of her.

It would be her crowning glory.

🥕🥕🥕

Stand on Your Feet by Sanjuna.SR

A curly haired girl with honey-eyes well-groomed in blue gown is serving the most delightful delicious desserts in a small shop which was famous for its taste and People were praising her cooking skills stating “health to her hands”

To find the curiosity of why this pretty doll is working here? We asked her name.

For my surprise, her surname belongs to a  respectful posh society yet she acts like a normal person and does not tout her background.

She is trying hard to stand on her own feet in spite of all the inheritance is her crowning glory.

🥕🥕🥕

Elevated Upcycle by kathy70

As we stepped off the elevator I felt a bit anxious.  I was visiting my friends family lake front condo on the 32nd floor of this building and I had heard stories about the fabulous decor.  The huge entrance hallway was a deep dark brown with floor to ceiling world renown famous artists works on display.

To me her crowning glory in this unit was the 3rd bathroom we saw. Bath mat, seat cover, tissue box and wastepaper basket all covered with mink.  Upcycled old coats rescued and remade by her mom.  So unexpected it took my breath away.

🥕🥕🥕

He Was Right by Paula Puolakka

The shift of the north magnetic pole has increased the leakage of space radiation. People are worried about its effect on The Global Positioning System, but nobody’s interested in health issues. The radiation is, for example, corrupting our brains and memory and increasing eye and heart problems.

In her crowning glory, as she’s trying to figure out things by using intuition and keeping her crystal skull (Sahasrara) clean, she understands even more clearly how Mr. Kaczynski was right all the time. The violent acts of today have been caused by radiation, together with the falsity spread through technological devices.

🥕🥕🥕

It Grows Back by Annette Rochelle Aben

They went to visit her mother. Both were in need of a haircut. Her mother was enrolled in beauty school and needed to practice on real heads as opposed to mannequins.
He went first. Drape in place, the scissors could be heard merrily snipping away. Renegade hairs were whisked off his shoulders and they pronounced him perfect.
When it came to her crowning glory, her mother was not so attentive. As her husband walked by to get a drink of water, he shrieked in horror. Her mother had replicated HIS cut on the left side of his wife’s head!

🥕🥕🥕

Shaggy Inktop by Anne Goodwin

Feathered frame for her face, her surprise lockdown hair was a triumph, visually. That couldn’t be said of the inglorious thicket that sprang from her crown. Sweat lathered her nape as the sun reported for duty. Fatigue in her arms as the queue formed outside the shower. Should she chop it to the bone, don a hat with her mask for the supermarket? No-one saw the back of her head on Zoom. Should she make it a feature, a topknot, a śikhā, a Hindu thread to heaven? Inspiration dawned with a fungus: inky black dye topping her shopping list!

🥕🥕🥕

Scat by Bill Engleson

She’d sneak into the rooms of others, paw their possessions, hold the ones that appealed, and then, rather than scurry away, hide in a closet, and listen for the sounds of other people living their lives.

We suspected she’d use whatever hairbrushes she could find and stroke her hair, leave some of the hairball bramble that always seemed to tangle her up.

More often than not, she would be discovered.

Occasionally though, her crowning glory was a sly entry, a sensuous caress of some personal items of another, secreting away, being pleasured by their sounds, and a clever exit.

🥕🥕🥕

Hiding Her Crown by Charli Mills

When Thomas fell down the main shaft and died, the mining company told his widow to send one of the boys or leave the company house. Jack was ten and frail from illness. Robbie was eight, and Brad six. Lizzie was fourteen and fit. She sheared her crowning glory of long red curls. No one likes a ginger, Mrs. Lewis next door would say, her mouth pinched perpetually. Wearing her father’s clothes tied and tucked into her brother’s boots Lizzie settled the miner’s helmet on her bald head. No one ever paid the poor Irish kids much mind, anyhow.

🥕🥕🥕

Colorful Souls by Donna Matthews

I hurried up the steps of the little clapboard house. Entering, I couldn’t help but notice the signs of neglect. But no time. I made my way down the hall and gently pushed open my mother’s bedroom door. Seeing her tiny frame under the covers, I swallowed my grief whole and picked up her white hand with my brown one.

Oh, mama

Tears falling, I consider the painting above her bed, from her college days. Colorful Souls, she called it. It was her crowning glory as an artist and how she met my dad. Two beautiful artists together again.

🥕🥕🥕

Acceptance As Kid’s Crowning Achievement (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid, whyn’t ya ever take thet hat off yer head?”

“Whyn’t you? Ain’t we s’posed ta wear these hats, bein’ ranch han’s an’ all?”

“Ya mean fer UV ray pertection out here on the range?”

“No, I mean fer our iconic stock character status. Ya know, brandin’, like… a look.”

“Yeah, well, now I’m curious. Let’s have a look unnerneath thet hat a yers.”

“You first.”

“Oh fer shifts sake, Kid, jist take it off!”

“All right. There, ya happy, Pal. Pal?”

“Oh I never ‘magined thet!”

“Lemme guess, a dirty sweaty hat ring?”

“Ya’ve got a uni-corn horn!”

🥕🥕🥕

(Part II) by D. Avery

“Impossible!”

“Why? Jist ‘cause I an’ you ain’t never ‘magined it? Someone must’ve ‘magined it, ‘cause there it is, a nubby little horn jist unner yer forelock.”

“Someone! Indeed! D. Avery! Dang her! Why in heck’s she doin’ this? Thought she di’n’t even like uni-corns.”

“Heard she’s got a couple neighbors up in them woods a hers is workin’ on her uni-corn issue. Mebbe she’s jist ‘sperimentin’.”

“Hey, stop puttin’ a hole in ma hat!”

“Jist givin’ ya room ta grow Kid.”

“Hmmph!”

“Mebbe, Kid, it’s like Pinnochio, mebbe ever time ya whine an’ complain thet nub grows longer.”

🥕🥕🥕

(Part III) by D. Avery

“Hey Pal. Thanks fer doin’ ma chores. Don’t feel like goin’ anywhere’s like this. Uni-corn horn’s gittin’ bigger.”

“Huh. ‘Cause I know ya been workin’ real hard at not whining an’ complainin’. Mebbe thet ain’t the cause a it.”

“I been real calm, Pal, been mindful an’ grateful, an’ even practicin’ self-compassion. But when I git all like that, the uni-corn horn grows! This is some situation. Wunner what Shorty’s gonna say?”

“Shorty’ll be fine with it. Reckon she might even snort laugh.”

“That’d make this all worthwhile. Ya know, I’ve come ta accept this thing!”

“Kid! It’s gone!”

🥕🥕🥕

Protect Nature Around Us

Aldo Leopold once proposed a land ethic — that we treat the environment as we would humanity. It’s not a new concept. The Native Tribes of North America have co-existed with the plant, animal, and fish nations. A land ethic calls us to protect resources and maintain wild spaces for the future. There is a balance between what we domesticate and use and what we leave untouched.

Writers resolved to tell stories to protect nature, which is not an easy task. Some turned to the past, others to the future. Most presented moments to pause and understand why we need to heed this call.

The following stories are based on the July 23, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to show what it is to protect nature around us. It can be set in any era or told in any genre.

Bug Killer by Sascha Darlington

Words never suffice for non-believers. They need to see. They all think they’re suddenly from Missouri saying: show me.

I’d tried to tell them:

“Pesticides kill baby birds.”

“We have no ladybugs since you’ve started spraying.”

“Don’t you care about the environment for your kids?”

Well, sure. They buy organic. They spray their yard, so their kids won’t get all kinds of mosquito-induced diseases because they are very good parents. They are hands-on.

Bugs? Insects?

A raised hand, a shake of the head. “Our guy said the spray only kills mosquitoes.”

I offered a nest of dead baby catbirds.

🥕🥕🥕

Steward by Frank Hubeny

Jim spent decades getting sick without realizing it. When finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disease he didn’t believe it. Sure he had a belly, but he felt fine. Reality smacked him and he rejected all prescribed medications. He would rewind his life’s bad habits starting with his diet.

That took time, but he lost weight. His biomarkers improved. The diet became habitual. Jim forgot he was even on it.

He stopped thinking about himself. He realized he was consuming less. Perhaps even he, old Jim, could steward the earth rather than want to eat more and more of it.

🥕🥕🥕

Prayer to the Nature Spirits by Colleen Chesebro

Tara heaved the last rock into place. Twelve stones twisted in a spiral around the ancient Rowan tree.

“What does the tree mean, Nanna?”

“The tree symbolizes the nature spirits, Maeve. It’s roots sink into the earth, past the Ancestors to the water below while its branches touch the sky, to reach the Shining Ones. We live in the middle realm between the Ancestors below and the realm of the Shining One’s above. It’s up to us to give offerings and thanks, and to protect the land.”

The two knelt down in the earth and said a silent prayer.

🥕🥕🥕

Grandpere’s Farm by Saifun Hassam

When Grandpere died, Pierre gifted the family farm to the University. He and Grandpere had discussed the matter some months ago. Pierre was the sole surviving family member. He was a marine scientist and he knew it would be difficult to manage the farm.

The farm’s apple and peach orchards were well known for their distinct delicious varieties, including two heirloom apple varieties.

Grandpere had leaped at the idea of protecting the orchards. He was very open-minded and excited to learn that new varieties of fruits could be developed. The farm would “live on” long after he was gone.

🥕🥕🥕

Spirits Within by Jessica E. Larsen

When I was a little girl, my grandfather told me, “Jen, remember there’s a spirit within everything,” he stretched his wrinkled fingers toward the mountains. “Even the grass and the trees got spirits, so be kind toward them. They will never fail you.”

Because grandpa was my favorite, I listened and treated everything with care.

It was during my teens when I got lost in the forest with my sister. I heard a soft voice “this way.”

When we were out, I said “thank you” and smiled to my sister. “Good thing the voice guided us huh?”

“What voice?”

🥕🥕🥕

Take Me Back by Ann Edall-Robson

Windrows thick
Sweet smell of fresh-cut hay
Brown Eyed Susan nods approval
From beyond the fields
Calves hide in back-high grass
Mothers lay nearby
Content, chewing cuds
Silence shattered, momentarily
The crunch of gravel under tires fades
Reflections ripple across the water
Slough grass supporting life
Cattails sway in the breeze
Rustling grasses serenades
Golden dragonfly rests nearby
A blowfly buzzes past, circles back
No hurry to go anywhere
Mauve Harebells dance
Bobbing their heads
Fingers caress sage
Savouring earthy aromas
Interlude soothes
Cherished moments, gifts
Focus, click, captured
Take me back
When I am far away

🥕🥕🥕

Mother Nature’s Fingerprints by Kerry E.B. Black

Biological systems are dynamic and interconnected, she realized. Each aspect leans into the next to build an overall structure. Mother Nature’s fingerprints.

She boosted social consciousness using her amassed science. Mankind, she asserted, needs to question “who speaks, and why?” Sometimes, the loudest voices preserve the wrong things. After all, people can not eat money or gold.

She became a Mother of the Modern Environmental Movement and gave voice to a Silent Spring. Her words acted as harbinger of the dangers of treating plants with pesticides.

Rachel Carson was not only my neighbor. She was a good steward to the world.

🥕🥕🥕

Privileged by D. Avery

They swept through like a squall, igniting the canopy, alighting on branches that swayed and bent under their weight, climbed tree trunks like woodpeckers. The actual woodpeckers stopped their work and watched, astounded at this swarm of grackles. The surprised robin watched their feeding frenzy from an uppermost perch of a slender maple before flying off. I bore witness. What appears as pillage must surely be feeding on insects invisible to my eye.

Some people say grackles are useless. Others tell me these trees block the view.

I don’t listen. I know a good thing when I see it.

🥕🥕🥕

Leave No Trace by Deborah Dansante

Niela spent two years secretly planning her thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. Neila’s journey began and ended in Georgia on Springer Mountain. There she met a man who spends his days clearing paths, blazing trees and leaving ‘trail magic’ for eager hikers. Neila now spends her days writing notes of encouragement to tie around protein bars. Charlie, Neila’s husband, spends his days mulling over which cable channel to add to the “line up”. He wonders sometimes as he is shouting out consonants if his wife will ever come to her senses. He wonders if Neila is ever coming home.

Deborah Dansante resides in south Louisiana with Ponder, her golden retriever. In their twilight years they are more often found paddling wild rivers or sleeping in a tent on distant mountaintops.

🥕🥕🥕

To Protect and to Serve by Charli Mills

Reba pointed her kayak east and sprinkled a pinch of asemaa into the breeze when the sun’s first light touched the water. Her grandson had grown the tobacco last summer that she dried over winter to fill her pouch. It became an offering to the spirits, a promise. She paddled to shore, singing to Nibi her gratitude and respect. Driving to work at the tribe’s fish hatchery, Reba passed the community gardens and the inlet where rice grew on the water – manoomin. Everywhere she looked, she saw the First Treaty upheld – to protect and to serve the precious gifts.

🥕🥕🥕

Bosco Verticale by Jo Hawk

Stefano lifted the heavy portfolio in his hand and swiped his forearm across his sweaty brow. A city bus whooshing past, momentarily offering a welcome breeze followed by the acid aftertaste of hot exhaust. Concrete, glass, and steel, absorbed, intensified, and reflected the summer heat.

As a child, Nonna told tales of long-ago country summers. Tree leaves danced in gentle breezes, birds sang, and the earth cradled soft blue skies.

He featured urban forestation and nature in his architectural designs. Trees, shrubs, and perennials festooned every design, and he proudly wore the title of The Baron in the Trees.

🥕🥕🥕

Come into the Garden, Maud! by Anne Goodwin

He showed her his outdoor Jacuzzi. She showed him her wildlife pond. She gave him a tour of her birdfeeders. He commended the pellets that kept his hostas slug free. He presented his PVC decking. She volleyed with her woodpile, a haven for hedgehogs, she hoped. The advantage of lockdown dating: exploring his habitat safely online.

She made a tisane from her herb garden. He poured wine from his well-stocked cellar. Where was his commitment to conservation? Was his profile a lie? “I never buy wine with a plastic stopper. Preserve the cork forests to save eagles and linx.”

🥕🥕🥕

Small Steps by E.A. Colquitt

Hoarding began when he researched, on a whim, his favourite childhood holidays. The pair of four-hour flights alone drained nearly all his annual carbon footprint allowance. Each trip itself had lasted a mere fortnight, maximum.

He’d shuddered, then investigated more. The eating would be hardest, meat and dairy being his favourite groups in the food pyramid…

He tried his best. Hopefully, the netting from chocolate coins would twist together, one day, into bird feeders. In good weather, he tended a new vegetable patch. On rainy days, he spent hours with search engines that used ad revenue to plant trees.

🥕🥕🥕

And I’m Still Alive To Tell About It by FloridaBorne

The first day I met her, I knew she had my sense of humor.

She’d been a military MP. After retirement, she chose a receptionist job that lacked the stress of policing soldiers.

“It’s hot in here, and you’re wearing a sweater?” she asked me.

“People move here from up north, complain about the environment, and add to the problem by turning on the air conditioning.”

“It’s essential,” she insisted.

“If everyone who couldn’t live without air conditioning fled, true Floridians would be so happy.” Her frown became a scowl. I added with a smirk, “All ten of us.”

🥕🥕🥕

If We’d Known by Donna Matthews

“Do you ever wish you could see the future dad?” the small girl asked her father.

“Hmmm, I don’t know, Hunny. What’s on your mind?”

“Well…if we’d known the forest fire was coming, we could have told mom. And we could have told everyone else to watch out.”

Her dad, his hands shaking, knelt in front of his now motherless daughter and answered quietly, “Sweetheart, just because we know something’s coming, and we tell everyone, doesn’t mean they’ll listen.”

Her sad eyes met his sad eyes.

“What do we do, Daddy?”

“I don’t know, baby. I really don’t.”

🥕🥕🥕

An Addition to the Family by Liz Husebye Hartmann

A morning breeze tripped through the back garden. Tall cornstalks shivered and shushed one another, delighting in the sleeping baby that had fallen from the sky overnight.

The woman here would find her, not knowing of the fiery, silent dragon battle of the night before. The mother’d died, but not before dropping her egg through suburban power lines to what she sensed was a place of protection.

The children, in a pancake coma, were installed in front of Public TV. Caroline headed to the back garden, to sit with a quiet coffee.

Peace abandoned, she scooped up the egg…

🥕🥕🥕

The Vision by Joanne Fisher

The crystal had shown terrible things. The Elder came out her dwelling. She clapped her hands and the entire village looked up at her.

“Humans are coming with axes to destroy our forest. We must protect it! All remaining archers need to go to our northern border. Falnek, take the children to the sacred Bloodwood.” There was sudden activity in the village. “Aalen, when the humans are defeated come back to us.” Aalen nodded and left with her wolf bounding in front of her.

The Elder looked over the village and her people. The crystal had shown terrible things.

🥕🥕🥕

That’s It by Simon

Ocean is dying, nature died animals died, it’s only few of us at 2060, how it all started?

It all started with the discovery of plastic, and our pathetic ancestors acted like they cared for environment and none of them truly stopped using plastic. Greedy entrepreneurs in plastic industry never let plastic disappear, now all our natural foods have micro plastics and here we are at the last moment of the world.

That’s it?

That’s it! Earth was destroyed by nature many times, this time it’s us, and we caused this to ourselves.

This is the end?

Yes indeed!

🥕🥕🥕

Plastic by Reena Saxeena

Julie holds my hand, as I’m about to fling the empty water bottle away.

“Let’s walk a little more. There must be a recycling bin somewhere.”

“Bottles are picked up to be refilled and sold again.”

“Crush it as much as you can. Do you remember how my sister could not receive medical help during the floods, and …..” Her voice was choked.

“What does it have to do with this bottle?” My left arm was around her, as I held the empty bottle in the right.

“It is this plastic at the bottom of the sea which causes floods.

🥕🥕🥕

Teamwork Rewards by Sue Spitulnik

The youth choir’s annual adopt-a-highway clean-up day dawned sunny and warm. Michael whistled while he inventoried coolers of iced water and boxes of sweet-smelling homemade cookies. He loved escorting the teens. There was a freedom of expression while they were outside working together that didn’t happen at choir practice. Last year they discussed the ills of littering and not showing respect for the natural beauty of their area. Gaylan had written a serious but comical essay about it that ended up in the school newspaper. Today Tessa planned to point out wildflowers and weeds that could be used medicinally.

🥕🥕🥕

Freedom by Padmini Krishnan

“Caesar doesn’t belong with us, Sal,” Clare said firmly.

“Don’t do this. He’d never survive the predators.”

“Don’t deer co-exist with lions?”

“Caesar is domesticated.”

“We are forcing him into domestication.”

“But we treat him as an equal…like a human”

“Humans are not chained. We should let him go.”

They had come to the dense part of the jungle. Clare let Caesar down. He licked her hands and wagged his tail.

“Nobody owns you now, Caesar,” Clare said, softly, “You are free.”

Caesar heard a howl from afar. He took a few tentative steps, then ran into the wild.

🥕🥕🥕

Human Nature Being What It Is by Bill Engleson

Gilpen was an odd duck.

No two ways about it.

As a child he was gone for hours.

The woods back of his family farm were delightfully wild.

Undeveloped.

His playground.

The Terrific Rewards and Unparalleled Motivation for Profit Corporation eventually bought the land.

It was never a question of would they build a swack of monstrous multi-million-dollar mansions: just a matter of when.

Until Gilpen took them to court.

“Not on my watch,” he argued.

“A Nature Preserve?” critics scoffed. “Fool! The wealthy need their palaces.”

“And Mother Earth needs her lungs,” he countered.

It was some battle.

🥕🥕🥕

Common Land by R. V. Mitchell

This wasn’t some Seuss Lorax or a Horton saving a clover. No, this was the real deal, the council was trying to sell off the water meadow for development. Had they considered the added run-off and flood risk? Of course not, they were trying to make a quick buck to balance the books.

Many were up in arms over it, as it was one of the few unspoiled places in the entire town, but it looked a done deal, especially when the words “affordable housing” were uttered.

That was until Mary Denning found the Medieval deed to the property.

🥕🥕🥕

I Love You and You Are Part of My Life by Eliza Mimski

I am seven years old. There is a large shade tree in front of the roominghouse where we live in St. Louis. It sends down its circle of shade. I sit there to get out of the sun. I name the tree Stella and I talk to it, asking it how it is.

There is a deep lawn. And the hot summer sidewalk. Overhead, the blue sky. At night, the lightning bugs.

Now, I am 73. I live in San Francisco. I water my many plants. I tell them they are beautiful. I tell them, You are my babies.

🥕🥕🥕

Commonalities? by JulesPaige

We had weekly meetings to contemplate more than just our navels. Each of us on screen at our own table with our own china cups. It wasn’t safe to meet together. The diversity of our ages, professions and passions we hoped would bring forth some solutions.

We all so wanted to hug a tree; besides each other. Hoping that the youth of the world would know what a tree was… in 2030 or 2040.

the future tea leaves
is anyone’s guess; action, though
speaks louder than words

We would be leaving no footprints. Just possibly a remedy or two.

🥕🥕🥕

🥕🥕🥕

Pal Speaks by D. Avery

It’s like this Kid: we got jist this one planet thet sustains us. Shush, I ain’t listenin’ ‘bout no Mars. We got jist one. So ever’one’s got ta do their part. Got ta do their part ‘cause we’s all part a the whole. D’ya see, Kid? We’re each a us a part; a piece a it, a component. Not apart. Don’t matter where in the world ya’s at, yer a part a this one world. It’s yer home. It’s yer food an’ shelter. It’s yer Mother.

green and blue Her robes
Love’s elemental colors
we’re threads in Her cloth

🥕🥕🥕

July 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

When I was a kid, maybe eight or nine, I remember plucking reed-like horsetail plants and dismembering each section. I was left with an imaginary pack of green cigarettes. I never lit them on fire, but I did “smoke” them. Gratefully, pretend smoking never led to an actual habit (unless you count the marshmallows I like to light on fire to eat their crunchy, gooey, charred remains). I suppose I was fascinated by the way the plant came apart like a natural erector set and by the positions smokers took when lit up. I never liked the actual smoke my aunts blew my way, not wanting to foul their air with the exhalations, but I did notice how they seemed to take a different body stance during the act. That smoker’s poise was my intent with imitation.

I also didn’t know that when I grew up, I’d be hunting for wild horsetail to make a bone-strengthening brew as a mid-menopausal woman. I’m yet a teeny-bopper in crone years, but I understand that the transitions my body is experiencing require a different medicine cabinet than the mothering years. No longer do I need raspberry leaf or yarrow. I’m incrementally adding more Motherwort to my daily intake, and I can’t seem to get enough nourishing nettles these days. No longer do I believe cigarettes make women look cool. I’m okay with looking like an oddball at any age, wearing expandable waistbands, and returning to the flannel shirts of my youth.

For my son’s wedding, though, I’m being aiming for classy. I bought three new pairs of sandals — a fancy copper-toned heel, strappy white flats, and open-toed black leather wedges. We have rehearsal dinner, the wedding and reception, and time to visit. My excuse for watering in these heels is that I want to make sure they fit properly, that I can walk in them safely, and, well, I feel extra pretty in my PJs and flannel overshirt with heels on. I don’t need a cigarette, real or fake, between my fingers to strike a cool pose with my garden hose. Despite the heels’ few inches of extra height, my MOG gown is about 8-inches too long. My necklace is two inches too short. And I’m running out of time to order any online fixes.

Don’t get me started on my hair. It’s starting to escape clips and binders, emerging a wild thing. It’s curling in weird ways, and I’m starting to think I should shave it all off. However, my future DIL arranged for a hairdresser for the mothers and wedding party. Technically, I’m still in lockdown per Michigan orders until August 11. They get married on August 15. I’m also in quarantine, waiting to hear back on the COVID test the Hub had to take after being exposed. I’m lost in limbo with a shaggy, uncooperative mop with no access to beauty parlor visits.

Nature is wide open, however, and I go to places where I can avoid people, pick rocks, and tie a scarf around my roaming hair.

Last week I returned to my favorite McLeans beach and encountered seven loons, one a month-old chick. They sat at the edge of gentle waves and shoved off the rocks into the water as soon as I started fumbling in my daypack for my phone. Later, one loon returned to the beach and I swam-crawled (my way of crabbing among the rocks to stay cool in the water and not get rolled over by the waves) for a closer examination. He either found me not-threatening (I doubt I look threatening to anyone when swim-crawling) or thought I looked loony enough to be close kin. He preened his feathers and sunbathed until other beachgoers emerged from the wooded trail, and he was out of there, zipping into the water in such a way that he shoved off from the rocks with back legs not built for waddling but for swiftly swimming.

Among the rocks, I also picked up litter. Some old, like sea glass, some new, like plastic. Evelyn Ravindran, Natural Resources Director for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), says, “This is what it means to be human. You have to take care of the world you live in. You have a responsibility to do that.” It’s not enough to trample across beauty. We need to slow down, appreciate it, and truly experience its wonder. It’s important that we have wild spaces where all the nations can be. I mean, the plant and animal nations. We need to protect nature around us.

While we’ve been in a pandemic, the indigenous tribes of America have not slowed down in their protection of the natural world. The Water Walkers of KBIC have been fortifying their medicine cabinets with the plant nation and upholding their first treaty as stewards. They are preparing for their annual 17-mile walk around the bay to honor Nibi — water. I’ve been singing to Nibi as I was taught and hope to join the Water Walkers once again on their three-day walk across all the ceded territories of the Keweenaw.

My wise Water Walker mentor, Kathleen Smith, says, “What matters is that we advocate and give a voice to the things that cannot speak.” That fits in with what we do as writers. We explore ideas, culture, relationships, and the recesses of our own hearts and minds. We seek our voices, as well as give voice to the voiceless. Creative writing does much to instill empathy in both readers and writers.

This video is one example of how people all around the world are working to protect nature. What is happening in your part of the world, in your neighborhood? The opening song is the one I learned to sing to Nibi.

Submissions closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

July 23, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to show what it is to protect nature around us. It can be set in any era or told in any genre. You can fictionalize a true story or completely make it up. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 28, 2020. 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.

 

To Protect and to Serve by Charli Mills

Reba pointed her kayak east and sprinkled a pinch of asemaa into the breeze when the sun’s first light touched the water. Her grandson had grown the tobacco last summer that she dried over winter to fill her pouch. It became an offering to the spirits, a promise. She paddled to shore, singing to Nibi her gratitude and respect. Driving to work at the tribe’s fish hatchery, Reba passed the community gardens and the inlet where rice grew on the water – manoomin. Everywhere she looked, she saw the First Treaty upheld – to protect and to serve the precious gifts.

July 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

There’s a soul-quenching silence that greets me in the forest at the edge of Lake Superior. Once I adjust, I start to hear the chirps of birds flitting from birch to pine, the roll of the surf from the pebble beach below the ridge, the muffled padding of my footsteps. At that moment — I realize the silence is not a lack of sound but rather a wealth of calm. Walking the trail, I feel at peace. I find a path that veers off the main walking trail and climb to the top of the ridge of eon’s worth of blown and packed sand. Surveying Lady Lake Superior below, I see her waves are fully agitated and yet the sky stretches cloudless. It’s a hot summer day for the Keweenaw and I’ve come to ride its rollercoaster.

Life of late has provided its own thrill ride. The news cycle has become as nauseating as the spinning teacups I remember from the carnivals that often followed the rodeo circuit. Even trying to keep up on important topics leaves me up and down, around and around. Somebody get me off this carousel. I feel like the grumpy old-timer who wants to find a sturdy bench in the shade and eat cotton candy in peace. Pandemic times might be a wild ride from the norm, but I’m seeking a different escape from it all. Without a kayak, I’m here to ride the waves.

From the ridge, I consider my descent. I can plunge down the thick steps of sand, leaving my own bowls of footprints, or I can follow the ridge to a lower slope. Each year, the lake gnaws away her shoreline in fits and furries like a teething monster, devouring birch and scattering their bones. Previous trees get sucked out into the lake to bob until washed ashore in pieces as driftwood. This cycle changes the landscape, buries or removes trails, and dares me to find a new path. I feel like I’m sneaking off to a hidden amusement park, seeking secret passage. Not far away, the waves roar.

I choose the bold sandy route, the direct path. Sand gives way to encroaching pebbles that range in size from stepping stones to corn kernels. Some are flat and worn but most are rounded or oval-shaped, smooth, and dull unless wet. Water enlivens the mineral make-up, a dragon’s hoard of variety — basalts with gas bubbles, basalt with veins of quartz, basalt omars, quartzite, calcite, granite, plagioclase (pink and white), hornblende, copper, pyrite, mica, chalcedony, chert, prehnite, sandstone, and the always sought-after agates. You can find a variety of mixes like creativity without end.

It’s been a hot summer, unusual for the Keweenaw and I want the relief of Superior’s cold water. She has a secret, though. Her waters are pleasant on a wave-crashing day because sun-warmed surface water rolls to shore. I step into the first wave I reach and feel a luxuriant warmth. Rarely do I get to say that the lake is perfect in temperature. It is a rare day and no one is here to share the wonder of this natural phenomenon. I scan the horizon and see the big thrill-seekers are further down the shore, tucked safely near the entrance to the canal. One is kite surfing and others riding sail-boards.

And it wasn’t just the people who showed up. I watch as loons follow the cresting waves northeast only to fly past again to catch the rollers and ride.

Those who know how to ride the Keweenaw rollercoaster go as far as they can out against the waves and then turn around and ride them in. How amazing that must be! I’m less daring, willing to wade out waist-deep and let the water crash into me. Overheard a seagull casts a shadow, but I can’t hear its raucous cry, so loud is the surf.

Another shadow arrives, and I turn to see my friend Cynthia coming down the beach, lit up with a smile to be in nature’s playground. We were starting to do things together as “double bubbles” until Covid-19 officially arrived at Copper Country where an influx of escaping tourists met with mask aversion of locals. Now we keep our distance. Even though we’re outside, recent exposure makes it too risky to get close enough to hear one another over the waves.

We kept physically distant but shared the ride without ever talking. We are present.

Watching for riptides (which can be strong about 30 to 40 yards out), I find a good place to stand against the waves. Is it my imagination, or are they growing? One massive wave strikes me and I go down like the Edmonds Fitzgerald. Well, not exactly. I don’t break in two. Instead, I land firmly on my behind, then the next wave hits me in the chest and drives me back and at an angle to the shore. I catch sight of Cynthia and she’s in the water, too. Lady Lake has us both, dragging us across the pebbles to about three-feet off the shore. We are positioned to ride.

For the next two hours, we ride the Keweenaw Rollercoaster. Waves pull out into the next one and if they meet at the right spot, the water empties all around us. We watch as incoming walls of water rise eight to ten feet high, looking to swallow us whole but then cresting and diminishing, smacking us playfully in the belly, chest, or face. When the water rises the sun shines through like light inside a priceless jewel. Each facet reveals a mirror to the bottom of the lake, explaining why the loons repeatedly hunt the coast like fishing surfers. Each loon sighting makes me think there’s a portal to waters in Vermont. Each wave that hits causes us to laugh. We roll and reset, howl and squeal.

I understand why people want to escape Covid woes at amusement parks. We all could use a break and two hours of deep tummy laughing. Sure, there’s laughing yoga, but sometimes we need a ride to sweep us away. In Japan, you can ride the rollercoaster with a mask, but you have to “scream inside your heart.” What restraint! To me, the point of the ride, waves or coasters, is to let go. I don’t think I can sit in these waves, roll with the water or watch the loons nearby without expressing delight. Without giving up my tension to the experience. Without screaming out loud.

Yet, it is an intriguing idea, one we will explore. For now, I’ll squeal a little while longer, riding the Keweenaw rollercoaster.

July 16, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that expresses the phrase, “scream inside your heart.” Who is involved and why is the scream contained? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 21, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

Nap Time by Charli Mills

Two nurses checked Esther’s vitals when the twitching began. Every nap, the 99-year-old woman slept fitfully in her lift-chair.

Esther leaned back, listening to the clicks before she felt her body plummeted then jerked left and then right, up again, down again, rattling over a series of swells before coming to a jolting stop.

“Esther must be having puppy dreams is all.” The other nurse nodded.

Locked inside her head and sleep, Esther screamed in her heart, a carefree teenager once again at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk in 1924. When the Big Dipper ended, she woke up and grinned.