Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » Posts tagged 'creativity'

Tag Archives: creativity

April 19: Flash Fiction Challenge

I’m riding high in the dentist’s chair. This is not where I expected to be after fighting a cold-turned-sinus-infection since January. Two weeks ago, facial nerve pain drove me to find something stronger than my arsenal of herbs. That’s how I met Dr. Bob, local dentist.

Now, I’m sucking down nitrous oxide, preparing for the crack and pull of a tooth the dentist can’t save. If the sequence of age for a woman is maiden, mother, crone, I must be working on my crone’s smile now. Yet, I don’t want to be thinking about what Dr. Bob is setting up to do. As beautiful as the falling snow can be, neither do I want to be thinking about what’s falling outside the office window.

Instead, I turn my thoughts to the characters of Rock Creek. I wonder which one of them I’m going to torture with a toothache. Cobb came to mind first, maybe because I wanted to sit in this chair with my toughest character. I imagine that his wife, Mary, would try folk remedies first to ease the agony of tooth pain. But once such remedies fail, people seek the torture of extraction in desperation.

George Washington felt such desperation. History records that he had one tooth a year pulled from the time he was 22 until he had none left to pull. As children in the US, we learn early on in school that our first president wore wooden teeth. And yet this is false. Washington wore dentures of human teeth. I suppose those who extracted teeth had a side gig for creating dental wear.

Cobb would likely liquor up before letting someone yank his troublesome tooth. I’m lucky to be sitting in a near trance, daydreaming about my characters as my own procedure progresses. I wonder how much corn whiskey it would take to equal novocaine shots and laughing gas. I’m not going to test any theories. I also wonder who would pull the tooth? Likely a blacksmith who had pliers.

My thoughts drift to gentler musings, and I realize how ready I am to return to my forest trail at McLain State Park. I’m not even craving the rock-hunting, just the healing vibes of the forest. I can picture the trail as it winds through the pine trees on a ridge overlooking Lake Superior. Its scent hangs sharply in the air I imagine as warmed by afternoon sun.

Arms outstretched, feet rooted above roots, ground solid, air clean and the roar of waves crash in the distance. Now, stepping forward not in a sprint but a relaxed walk. This is Shinrin Yoku — forest bathing. First developed in Japan during the 1980s, JulesPaige introduced it to Carrot Ranch in a flash fiction. It’s healing, restorative and rejuvenating. No wonder I recline and bathe in my imagined forest.

An interesting purpose of Shinrin Yoku is

“To transform our cultural relationship to forests through fostering deeper relationships and positive experiences with forested areas.”

Two years ago, I wrote an article about the push to create a wilderness area out of a mountain range in North Idaho. The idea is that we need wild spaces, even those that might be difficult to access. The leader of the project told me that it’s enough to know wild spaces still exist.

This also makes me think of Aldo Leopold, and his essay from A Sand County Almanac called, “Land Ethic.” He argues for humans to see the land as something more than a commodity; to see it as a community to which we all belong.  He sees that we are not separate from the environment. Along with the idea of transforming our relationships to forests, or preserving wild spaces, so they exist, he acknowledges that we won’t succeed. But it remains important that we try. Leopold writes:

“We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.”

From this single dentist’s chair, I’m connected to the past and future, to the Lake Superior pines not yet free of snow, to the wilderness I’ve seen and not seen, to forests on distant shores. For a time of healing, I’m going to imagine forest bathing.

April 19, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about forest bathing. You can use the Japanese term, Shinrin Yoku, or you can make up your own ideas about the phrase. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 24, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

***

Free Among the Trees by Charli Mills

Gabriella tapped the last spigot. She caught the trickle of clear sap in a wooden bucket. Daughter of a French trader and an Ottawan mother, she belonged to no one. She kept to the forests outside the ports and mining towns, trading maple syrup with the Black Robes at L’Anse. The forest kept her company, bathed her in its healing embrace. The Black Robes enticed she could become a neophyte, and claimed gospels in her native tongue. They didn’t know she could read her father’s books and already chose her classic path – she was happy as a forest nymph.

April 12: Flash Fiction Challenge

Sloppy snow pools like white slush and I realize this so-called return to winter barks but doesn’t bite. It can’t hide the push of life from the exposed patches of earth. In fact, the heavy moisture feeds the burgeoning life. Yellow-green shoots of new grass blades poke up like stubble from the grit the city snowplows left behind on curbside lawns. Most yards still house sagging snow drifts, pocked and dirty. At least the spring snow adds a dash of freshness.

This week, I have two new friends — one a neighbor and the other a long-lost cousin.

I’ll call my neighbor Cranky as long as you realize that’s not her disposition. Cranky is delightful. She’s an antique Singer Sewing Machine shop owner and seamstress who specializes in the same era for which I write historical fiction. How is that for neighborhood serendipity? We met right before winter when a stray cat turned up at her house. She stopped by to see if the cat belonged to us. Then, last week she stopped by to see if I’d go walking with her.

It’s thrilling to get asked to walk with a neighbor. Except for the walking part! Since winter closed off the rock beaches to me, I’ve not walked much or far. My glutes and calves are feeling the burn from the hilly roads we live on, but it feels good to get outside and observe spring. We spotted two red robins on our walk last night and located the neighborhood murder of crows. We even saw two nuthatches and heard a few unidentified birds.

Along one house where the southern exposure to sun melted the snow, we marveled over the spears of daffodils. We plan to walk three days a week and even talked about field trips. Cranky is a real birder, meaning she has expertise in identifying birds whereas I have lots of curiosity. As you can imagine, we have much to discuss about 1860 as we walk.

My second friend found me through Ancestry. We connected when he sent a message regarding errors in my tree. It’s a working tree, thus I appreciate any corrections from others. Then he asked about a lost cousin who had red hair and disappeared when she was seven. I realized he was asking about me. It’s stunning that we have found each other all these decades later. I feel more like I’ve found a long-lost brother. Already, he knows me too well which has made me laugh. He’s got a great sense of humor and a big heart. He’s creative and witty and I’m so pleased to get to know him again.

With ongoing VA appointments, I’m feeling batty this week. How we can be back to square one with the Hub’s knee is mind-boggling, but here we are asking for yet another orthopedic referral. His primary care doctor is lighting fires, but the system is practiced at snuffing them out. While we don’t have complete answers to the memory tests, we did conclude the Hub has an extraordinary memory. It’s his focus and attention that is suffering. With the onset, we are not ruling out traumatic brain injury. At least we have some validation that there is indeed something screwy with his brain.

Considering the ignorance of the military 30 years back, the way Rangers train is similar to American football players. Tough blows made the young man. We are learning more about TBI as these men age.  The Hub’s unit never had medical physicals after combat. Instead, they deployed to another hot spot. Today, or at least beginning with the Iraq War, soldiers are examined, and they deploy with psychiatric units. Let me tell you, that makes a difference. Hopefully, the Hub will get what he needs for a better quality of life.

With all these scattered thoughts beneath sloppy white stuff, I have one more to add — white-nose syndrome. This deadly disease impacts bats and often they become unseasonably active and die in winter instead of hibernating. In Iron Mountain, where we frequently travel to go to the VA hospital, scientists study the bats at Bat Mine, which is considered one of the most significant hibernating and breeding concentrations in the world. They begin to emerge in late April.

Last fall, 47 North Belly Dance Troupe, dedicated a dance to the bats. Before the dance began, they played this creative video as a public service announcement. It includes several of the dancers, and my SIL lends his voice to the narration. The second video shows part of the bat dance.

As we move through life, we become aware of those around us — neighbors, environment, family. Awareness opens us up to curiosity and possibility. The more we learn, the more we grow. We are all part of the web of life, a fitting idea as we connect through the playful activity of literary art in constrained form. Each week, I appreciate how diverse the individual stories are, and how they express a deeper meaning in a collection.

Yes, we are going to get batty this week.

April 12, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a bat. You can use an association to the winged, cave-dwelling critter, or you can explore the word for other meanings. Bonus points for including a bat cave. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 17, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

Lullaby of Bats (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Logs of cottonwood crackled and threw flames toward the night-sky. Most of the travelers had left the bonfire to bed down beneath their wagons. The baby Sarah heard crying earlier had stopped. Night insects chirped, and somewhere near the wagons a horse stomped. Night sounds of camp. Sarah relaxed on a log stool while Cobb played a slow fiddle tune. Back and forth he rubbed the bow. Bats darted in and out of the visible light, bobbing to the gentle lullaby with wings spread. Sarah sighed, looked toward the stars and watched the last of the evening’s dancers fly.

Sun Sillies

INTRO

Have you ever thought about how silly our planet is? When it’s spring in one hemisphere, it’s fall in another. And yet, we can share stories of sun sillies across the world. We all experience the elation of sunshine and how we can respond.

Some writers found serious topics, such as melanoma. Some simply discovered seriously silly stories or crafted sheer wordplay.

The following are based on the April 5, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a silly sun story.

PART I (5-minute read)

Sun of a Gun by Bill Engleson

“Sun.”

“Beach.”

“Blanket.”

“Bingo.”

“Smoke.”

“Cigarette.”

“Bogart.”

“Bacall.”

“Bogart.”

“NO.”

“OH! Robards.”

“Shakespeare.”

“Huh?”

“Bard?”

“Oh! Jason.”

“Friday.”

“Huh?”

“The Thirteenth.”

“Huh?”

“Voorhees. The Killer.”

“Spoiler Alert!”

“You’ve never seen it?”

“Saturday.”

“Sunday.”

“Monday.”

“Tuesday.”

“Grace.”

“Slick.”

“Oil.”

“Water.”

“Beach.”

“Ball.”

“Fornicate.”

“Sex.”

“Male.”

“Postal.”
“Duh! M.A.L.E.”

“Mail.”

“Postal.”

“Going.”

“Crazy.”

“Nuts.”

“Squirrels.”

“Stew.”

“Wart.”

“Frog.”

“Hollow.”

“Empty.”

“Pool.”

“Swimming.”

“Sharks.”

“Jaws.”

“Dentist.”

“Teeth.”

“Sharp.”

“Pencil.”

“Lead.”

“Follow.”

“Gimme a break. LED.”

“FOLLOW!”

“Fine. FOLLOW. Fanatic.”

“Believer.”

“True.”

“False.”

“Teeth.”

“Choppers.”

“Bikers.”

“Gangs.”

“Mafia.”

“Italian.”

“Pasta.”

“Fettucine.”

“Parmesan.”

“Cheese.”

“Whiz.”

“Urinate.”

“Water.”

“Thirsty.”

“Desert.”

“Sand.”

“Beach.”

“Sun.”

“Swim.”

“YES…”

🥕🥕🥕

Sponge Cake Petit Fours by Kerry E.B. Black

Cali hummed as she spread a thick layer of buttercream icing over the pink sponge, creating perfect petit fours. She dotted each with stripes of dark chocolate and the first initial of each of her four children’s names. Proud of the accomplishment, she set the completed deserts on a paper doily. She washed the bowl and spatula, put away scissors and discarded tell-tale plastic wrappers.

When each kid came home from school, starting with the eldest, they eagerly grabbed their treats. When they bit into them, though, the cake rejected their bites. “Hey, these aren’t sponge cake! They’re sponges!”

🥕🥕🥕

Family Portrait by Heather Gonzalez

The Parkers were already posed and ready to go. As the photographer was about to take the shot, the sun hid behind a cloud.The Parkers tried hard to hold their perfect smiles as they waited.

The longer they waited, the more their smiles faded. Little Bobby started poking Suzie. Grandpa began to yawn and scratch himself. Grandma even began to fall asleep. Mr. Parker kept his smile as if he noticed nothing. Mrs. Parker visibly showed her disappointment.

After seeing the photos, Mrs. Parker chose a photo of a dog in a Santa’s hat for their Christmas card.

🥕🥕🥕

Missing Winter by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Outside my window is a dour study in black and gray and soggy white. No wind, no blue sky, even the evergreens are evergray. Twenty degrees below what we’re supposed to have in April, looking at another tiresome visit from the Abominable Snowman next weekend. So many reasons to whinge.

Yet months ago…

Deep snow, lovingly scratching the long bellies of my skis.

Thighs burning from herring-bone stomps uphill.

Butt-ache from sitzmarks and sliding sideways.

Boots clomping down grocery aisles, grabbing salad and oranges,

Feeling strong as Skadi.

Driving with windows wide open.

Mouth howling wide, joyful Classic Rock.

🥕🥕🥕

Sunny Spring Weather? by Patrick M. O’Connor

Yay! It’s Spring!

I’ve been waiting for the trees to start budding, flowers to bloom, and all the sensory feelings of spring.

I wake up and get dressed. Shorts, Flip-Flops and a T-shirt. It’s going to be a great day.

Moving to the kitchen, I eat a hasty breakfast.

A game of soccer to kick off the day. Kick off the day. Ha! I crack myself up.

Grabbing the keys, I open the door. Brr! A frigid cold chills me right to the bone.

I check my phone. 30 degrees. Ugh!

So much for spring in Upstate New York.

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Sillies by Deborah Lee

Torrey steps out the front door and into full spring. Azure sky tops the budding trees, home to birds gone mad with singing, still-ragged yard blooming. Happy to be out of bulky sweaters and boots, Torrey knows she is a vision in cream slacks and shell, draped cardigan in petal pink, neutral pumps, her favorite pink-and-gold-chain envelope bag barely still fashionable. Sunshine. Spring, finally!

Thirty minutes later she emerges from the parking garage on Pike Street into a downpour. Of course, she left her umbrella at home. Of course, she’s wearing cashmere and suede.

Spring? April Fool’s, silly girl.

🥕🥕🥕

Unconvinced by D. Avery

We don’t believe you, they cried. That is a preposterous story!

It’s true, you insist. It has an incredible mass, which keeps our spinning planet orbiting around it. As our planet rotates, you explain, it appears to ‘rise,’ bringing light and warmth- day.
Prove it, they demand.

Again you pull out the globe, the flashlight, begin to demonstrate. That’s not proof they groan, and disperse to the gym, the greenhouses, to the light therapy reading rooms.

You sigh. How silly, you muse, that there are still windows. Outside the gray is sprinkled with snow. You struggle to remember otherwise.

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Silly Preschoolers! by Ritu Bhathal

Billy hung precariously from the climbing frame.

Jane was running round and round the playground like a crazed lunatic.

Another group was taking great pleasure in pulling the flowers off the line of shrubs in the planter.

And there was more…

Mrs Jackson sighed.

She’d heard of the full moon doing something to the children’s behavior in school. Not just heard, but experienced many times over the years.

But after a long winter and delayed spring, this was the first time she had seen the effect of the long awaited sun on her charges – truly sun silly, they were!

🥕🥕🥕

The Exam by Luccia Gray

“Come outside and watch our dance!” Beth called waving her arms in the air.

Sister Mary looked out of her open, classroom window, squinting at the blaring midday sun. “Play in the shade, the sun will make you frisky.”

“We’ve been rehearsing a dance!” They shouted in unison, twisting and turning rhythmically.

“You’d better study for this afternoon’s biology exam.”

“Please, sister, just five minutes!”

She sighed. “Very well, but then you’ll sit in the shade and revise.” They nodded.

As their teacher walked out, Susan crept inside, opened her drawer, snapped a photo of the exam and grinned.

🥕🥕🥕

Running in the Sunshine, Dancing in Shadows y Norah Colvin

Dad was working and didn’t look up.

“Can we play outside?” the children asked.

“It’s very hot,” said Dad. “Wait until it cools down.”

“We’ll stay in the shade.”

“We’ve got sunscreen on.”

“I’ve got my hat.”

“And sunglasses.”

“There won’t be much shade,” said Dad.

“There is a little bit.”

“Can we?”

The deadline loomed.

“Well, stay in the shade,” he conceded.

When finished, Dad sought the children.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Dancing in each other’s shadows,” they laughed.

“But you’re in the sun.”

“We have to be. We don’t have shadows without the sun, silly.”

🥕🥕🥕

Overturning David Harum by Irene Waters

“Jazzy ain’t spring grand.” The dog scratched. “Yep. Blue sky, melted snow, blooming daffodils and tonight romance. Just fantastic. A glorious day my boy.”

If only you’d develop a different philosophy and treat the fleas, I’d be happy. Bugger the sky, the melting snow, and romance.

xxxxxxx

“A nightcap?” Winston invited the girl. “Come meet Jazzy.”

Jazzy scratched. “He’s got fleas.”

“David Harum says its essential for a dog to have fleas. Keeps ’em from brooding over the fact they’re a dog.”

“Treat that dog, or you’re getting no romance.” Winston produced a can of insecticide.

Thank you lust.

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Silly by Frank Hubney

“Wake up, kid! It’s that time of year when spring fever makes them run. They’ll soon all be sun silly. We don’t want to miss it.”

“Why do they run, Pa? There must be some scientific explanation for it. Don’t they have brains in their heads?”

“I don’t know why they run. They run. They’re stupid.”

“Yeah, but if we knew why they ran maybe we could encourage them to run more often?”

“Why would we want to do that?”

“So we don’t have to get up so early? So we can harvest them more than once a year?”

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Hat by Sherri Matthews

Bob couldn’t get out of the house fast enough.

‘Pick up the milk on your way home and don’t forget to put out the rubbish before you go,’ screeched Vera.

‘Yes, dear.’

At the allotment, Bob hoped the only screech might come from an owl in the woods.

Sunlight escaped through the grey clouds, despite the weather forecast predicting rain.

Darn, left my hat at home. Never mind.

Bob set out his tea flask and sandwiches for later and turned on his radio. He started digging as he whistled along…the sun has got his hat on…coming out to play…

🥕🥕🥕

The Silly Sun by Michael Grogan

It was such a silly event. We all laughed, oh how we laughed. Winter had arrived with its long dark days. But we awoke to a sunny morning, and it was simply ridiculous because we realised it was the sun playing its silly tricks once again.

Sure enough within a half hour of being fooled into thinking it was a sunny day it disappeared behind dark wet clouds, and the cold descended, as it is want to.

We giggled to one another as we packed away our shorts and t-shirts, thinking that silly old sun was giggling with us.

🥕🥕🥕

No Laughing in Church (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Reverend Smith’ voice rose to heaven and plunged to hell, persuading his brethren to choose the higher path. It was the first sermon before wagon trains broke winter camp.

Nancy Jane had promised to make “holy garbage” for supper. She and Sarah stood behind the crowd. The venison stew required horseradish and a priest’s blessing, but a circuit preacher would do. Sarah remained skeptical of both the sermon and her friend’s recipe. Breathing deep, she fought back the giggles.

When Sarah saw Cobb switch out Reverend’s water for what was probably moonshine, she succumbed to full out sun sillies.

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Sillies by Susan Sleggs

The new pastor was determined to bring some energy into the rural church. The week after Easter, with snow flurries still happening on a daily basis, he announced, “Next week, services will be in our barn at 3pm. I’ve heard a lot of you worked on parade floats there in years past so you know what a fine space it is. We’ll have a potluck after and music to do a little dancing like we have the sun sillies.”

The following week attendance doubled, everyone forgot their winter blues and baby goats antics were the hit of the event.

🥕🥕🥕

Man Down by Eric Pone

I was down wondering how the hell I got here. “Sorry LT you are going home.” I had prepared for Ranger qualifying school or Q School for months. I had sacrificed everything girlfriend, friends, my family thought I was at church camp. But here I was flushing my dream down the toilet.

As I laid on the cool Earth having collapsed on a company run, I looked up at the sky. The Sun — like a coy little bitch breathed above the tree line at me. “I guess it’s time for plan b,” I said to it, and everything went black.

🥕🥕🥕

The Awakening of the Fey by Colleen Chesebro

The hibernating Rusalki fey dangled from cocoons attached to the rafters. They stirred when the rays of father sun streamed in through the window. One by one, they hatched. The tiny creatures floated on newly formed wings.

Lada was not amused. “Not in my tea,” she sputtered placing her hand over her cup. “Sister Serafima, are they like this every year? How do you put up with it?”

A chuckle escaped Serafima’s lips. “They’ve hibernated with me for years. Do you know what this means, sisters?” Lada and Vasilisa shook their heads. “The silly sun of Ostara has arrived.

🥕🥕🥕

Call Me Madame by Juliet Nubel

She was out early in the long-awaited rays of sunshine. The others would arrive soon, but she longed to be the first to feel the gentle warmth waken the bright colours she wore.

She moved between the new blossom and the virgin daisies, drinking in their springtime scents.

The sun made her feel silly and daring, so she tried an aerial cartwheel then backward flip, landing effortlessly on the wooden garden table where a man sat watching her in admiration.

“The first Red Admiral of the season. He’s a beauty!”

He? Could he not see? She was Madame Butterfly.

🥕🥕🥕

The Ringmaster by Robbie Cheadle

The sun is the ringmaster. He introduces the clandestine night circus with a great show of fiery splendor and then disappears. The stars sparkle and shine in their flashy tutus as they dance and twirl, walking the tightrope and riding bareback across the night sky is all part of their show. The pale moon enchants the crowd with her fantastic control of the oceans. The tides rise and fall at her beckoning. An array of thrilling creatures and heroes make guest appearances before the ringmaster reappears and closes the show with a splash of yellow, pink and orange light.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (5-minute read)

Boys of Summer by Christina Coster

We were heading down the Pacific Coast Highway cruising with the top down; hair dancing in the breeze. Tank top and shades on; Mr. Sunshine had his hat on and was out to play. Not a cloud in the sky.

We didn’t have a care in the world on those blissful summer afternoons. Just me and my four girls: young, beautiful, free. The radio blared the tunes of the day. We laughed turning it up as the voice of Don Henley came through the speaker. We sang until our voices were hoarse, ‘after the boys of summer have gone’…

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Citation by Molly Stevens

“I can explain, officer,” said Myra.

“I doubt that,” he said.

“I’ve endured harsh Maine winters my whole life. For decades I’ve seen this atrocity dangling in the sun on the first warm spring day. It traumatizes me more than finding a spider hulking in the bathroom sink.”

“I’m listening.”

“Every fifty-degree day this disgusting visual stains the beauty of budding trees and melting snow.

“Get to the point.”

“I knew mine was more splendid, more befitting the season.”

“So you’re saying I should give you a pass because your bosom is better looking than your neighbor, Chester’s?

“Exactly.”

🥕🥕🥕

Don’t Blame the Sun by Miriam Hurdle

“It’s the sun’s fault when people get melanoma, the visible kind, Erica.”
“Why do people choose to sunbathe long hours just to get tan? Don’t they know that they ask for cancer?”
“Are you saying people don’t get skin cancer if the sun hides behind the clouds?”
“I didn’t say that, Joyce. The ray is powerful that it penetrates through thick clouds.”
“I get it. You’re saying the sun is at fault to impose cancer on people even when the clouds try to protect them, right?”
Hey, look, don’t blame me, just wear suntan lotion wherever you are, okay!

🥕🥕🥕

Seasoned by FloridaBorne

This is Florida,” The ancient man with a white beard and grimy baseball cap chuckled. “We have three seasons.”

“Three?” The Midwestern tourist asked.

The way she said her “a” sounded like fingernails down a chalkboard to him. His southern drawl made her skin crawl.

Idiot, he thought; while she was thinking, moron.

“Wanna know what they are?” He asked.

“Sure,” she sighed.

“Pollen season, flea season, and tourist season,” He grinned.

“That is ridiculous!”

“Y’all have two. Silly season and winter.”

“We also have a lovely fall,” She said, with umbrage.

“So that’s what y’all call ski season?”

🥕🥕🥕

A Straw Cap for Spring? by JulesPaige

Winds whipping the lake waters at twenty one miles an hour
made them look like ocean waves. And I was fool enough
to try and walk into town. Only because the sun still shone.
I’ll not attempt a nature walk on Lake William’s trail this day –
with a high of twenty seven Fahrenheit even without wind.
Since snow is supposed to fall mixing with freezing rain.

(Alice was fooled by a bump on her head. I wonder if I’m in
a snow globe …that the March Hare is shaking.)

New England in spring
as unpredictable as
Wonderlands Heart Queen

🥕🥕🥕

Spring Fever by Chelsea Owens

Nature whispers warming tones

“No,” the pessimistic minds reply.

Determined of a White Witch winter, they grumble in groundhog shadows.

Meanwhile –

Shaking snowflake buds unfurl

To chirping, flitting birdsong

Pushing, pulsing, happy faces open;

Drinking deeply from dew-warmed sundrops

Sparkling

Stretching

– Springing –

“Six more weeks,” the cynics warn,

Waking in the pre-dawn cold;

Shivering over cold, black cups of darkness.

Nature laughs and paints the sky

In God’s finest pastel shades:

Pink, yellow, grey, but

blue Blue BLUE

Blossoms turn to watch;

Dancing

And we, caught in Springtime’s lively song,

Can’t help but laugh,

Smile heavenward

And sing along

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

The sun was on the backswing when Lia led me to the parquet dance floor. The bridesmaids oohed and awed as she set her arms around my neck.

I stumbled along, breathing in the sweet smell of flowers, a hint of sweat. My best friend had lived in a cocoon of long sleeves and coats, but now, in a haze of pollen…poof!

“Hey,” she said. A tiny speck of icing on her lips. I swallowed, trying to figure out where in the heck to put my hands. Lia rolled her eyes, giggled, and moved them to her waist. “There.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Laughing Matter by Anne Goodwin

“The sun’s out,” says Flora. “Let’s away!”

A threadbare shawl cloaks my shoulders. I’d been saving my coin for a new one, but this will suffice until November’s snow.

The queue snakes around the close, jigging and joshing as if at the Highland Games. Sobering as our turn approaches, as if for Kirk.

Mr Hill seats each individual, helps us adopt the most appealing pose. On checking the light, Mr Adamson dips beneath the camera hood. “Hold!”

I avert my gaze from Flora’s gurning. But when the calotype is printed, you can see the laughter leaching from my eyes.

🥕🥕🥕

Shorty’s Sun Sized Heart by D. Avery

“Pal, what ever happened ta Shorty’s big heart?”

“Still big, near as I know, Kid.”

“No, I mean a certain someone was offrin’ prizes fer similes in the March 15th roundup.”

“Oh. Yeah, the undisclosed amount fer that one was a picture book fer Shorty, on behalf of Aussie, Jules, Still Waters, Susan an’ Liz.”

“Ya jist disclosed it.”

“Oh well. Don’tcha agree a book amounts ta more’n money? Money cain’t bring happiness, books do.”

“Some do fer sure. Like the Anthology.”

“Yep, that book rocks. But this ‘uns about rocks.”

“Perfect. Ever’body needs a rock book.”

“Even Shorty.”

🥕🥕🥕

April 2018 #TwitterFlash

By C. Jai Ferry

Social media was built on the idea of being social, but many writers using the various social media tools think this means being social with readers. Charli and her literary community have demonstrated that connecting with other writers can be an important part of our regular online activities. So this week, think about how you are connecting and engaging with other writers through your social media.

Of course, the easiest way to connect with writers is to follow them on Twitter and other social media accounts, but this is also the least engaging connection. Reading other writers’ posts can help you get ideas for what you should (and should not) be sharing on your accounts with your own followers, and you can see the kinds of interactions that other writers are generating on their posts. If you are following a lot of writers but not engaging with them, you might be missing out on some wonderful insights. This month, try to make a point of interacting with at least one new writer by commenting on their posts or posing questions to them.

A second way is to follow others in the literary field, such as journals, publishers, editors, agents, and anyone who promotes writing. These professionals can help you identify trends in the field as well as opportunities for new writing outlets. They can spark ideas for writing and help you stretch your writing chops in new challenges. But again, simply following without engaging can mean you are missing out. Look for ways to engage with these professionals in meaningful ways. Try asking their opinion about a new development in the field.

Finally, you might want to try having public conversations on social media with other writers and professionals in the literary field. It can be daunting, but public conversations are visible to more than just your followers. If the thought of going public terrifies you (as it did me, initially), try finding a fellow writer you trust to create conversations. I have done this with a writing friend; we talk privately on a daily basis and have the same approach to social media. Once we realized this, we took some of our conversations about writing or scenes that weren’t working to Twitter. The conversations generated more engagement than simply posting updates or sharing information online.

As storytellers, we should be able to mold social media to meet our unique needs, but sometimes this means stepping outside of our comfort zone—not the easiest task for introverted writerly types. So this month, try to find ways to focus on creating conversations and stories in public with other writerly types. This approach may be less intimidating when exploring social media.

April Challenge

For this month’s #Twitterflash, your goal is to create connections and conversations by building on someone else’s story. You can do this in different ways:

Options (in no particular order)

  1. Search for #Twitterflash on Twitter and find a story from a previous challenge. You can expand on/continue the story, write it from another character’s perspective, or use it as inspiration to create an entirely new story. Tweet the outcome, tagging the original story’s author.
  2. Join the “Small-town Diner” #Twitterflash started by the Head Buckaroo and fellow Carrot Ranchers (for details, check out the March share post).
  3. Collaborate with fellow writers to create your own multi-author #Twitterflash (a la “Small-town Diner”), then use Twitter Moments to summarize your story in a visual form.

Play around, have fun, and come back at the end of the month and let us know what you learned. Remember to use #Twitterflash when you tweet your stories and then check out what your fellow writers are doing on Twitter.

Ready…set…tweet tweet.

C. Jai Ferry is a flash fiction freak, human trafficking warrior, and Master Ninja at novellaninjas.com, an online space promoting published short stories and novellas to readers. Her titles include Unraveled, a collection of microfiction and flash fiction stories, and “Skeleton Dance,” 2014 winner of the Vermillion Literary Project Short Story Contest, which was turned into a film and included in the 2016 Nebraska Noir collection. She tweets from @CJaiFerry

Carrot Ranch’s Twitterflash 2018 is a monthly challenge focused on expanding writers’ use of Twitter as a tool for writing. Throughout the year, writers will experiment with storytelling via tweets using the following areas of focus:

  • Content
  • Hashtags
  • Engagement
  • Retweets
  • Visual Aids
  • Polls
  • Multiple tweets

Have an area you’d like included in this year’s Twitterflash project? Drop me a line.

 

April 5: Flash Fiction

Spring in the Keweenaw, I’m discovering, is like having a mood disorder. Blizzards, squalls, and gray skies make me feel lethargic. My fingers plod to tap keys. My shoulders hunker, and my eyelids droop. I realize it’s not me; it’s the cloud cover.

By afternoon, Lady Lake parts the snow clouds like she’s our local Moses, and I can see blue so deep it must be heaven’s direct gaze. A choir of angels hums in my ears. My shoulders straighten. My fingers quicken their pace, and I feel wide awake. I take another swig of water and feel energized enough to think of rocks on the beach. So close!

We’re headed to the VA hospital in Iron Mountain, a five-hour roundtrip in good weather. It’s the first no-snow day since spring equinox. On Easter Sunday I sat clustered with families in a small dark chapel on the tip of the Keweenaw while a full-blown blizzard raged outside the windows. The Son may have risen, but the sun did not. Today, the cerulean sky over white snow stirs spring in my blood.

We turn a corner following the curves of the Portage Canal to Keweenaw Bay and instead of an expanse of white sea ice through the stands of naked white birch, azure beams back at us. Open water! Back in Hancock, the canal remains froze over, but local gossips spread rumors of the Coast Guard ice-breakers opening the shipping channels. Nothing says spring in a northern climate more than blue.

Blue beckons robins and hastens snowmelt. Open water calls to migrators braving a journey north to mate and nest. Just around another corner, a mass of iridescent green heads catches sunlight where mallard males sleep on a snow bank above another opening in the bay. The white surrounds the blue like crown jewels of diamonds and sapphires. The duck heads glimmer like little emeralds.

VA visits increase, yet they all hedge around what to do with the knee. At the hospital, the Hub hustles down a corridor outpacing me as if we’re on a road march. His gait rolls and dips like a pirate with a peg-leg. The last orthopedic we saw two weeks ago claimed the Hub had no limp after asking him to take three steps around the tiny examination room. I’ve followed this limping gait for years and know the effort it takes to muster through it.

Limp or no limp, the last ortho didn’t even have the MRI that took us three years to get. They sent the left knee image instead. The last ortho before last saw it and said it was pointless to view because the Hub has no meniscus left to examine and she said she’ll monitor the degradation of the knee as bone wears down bone.

Other appointments don’t require my advocacy because they are the actual care the Hub needs. After years of asking, doctors referring, Iron Mountain has approved much — acupuncture, physical therapy, and chiropractic. Next up, the Hub has several medical tests and memory tests to get a better idea of what is happening above the orthopedic system within the matter between the ears. Whatever the results, we will make a plan, continue to push for a knee replacement 30 years overdue, and take moments to appreciate the blue.

It’s now evening, and the sun still sits above the wooded hills of Hancock. As the solar orb sinks toward the western horizon, the abandoned Quincy Mine reflects a copper light as if to say, “Here they dug copper.” Sky ablaze, I walk into the local co-op to grab pecans and dried cranberries for my morning cottage cheese, feeling energized by a full day of sunlight. It’s nearly 8 p.m. and still light.

The cashier laughs with me as we joke and dream about it nearly being grilling season. She then tells me, “You have the sun sillies!”

Turns out, sun sillies is what she calls the energetic high people up north experience after the return of light following a long dark winter. I laugh. I do feel silly and full of spring fever. I feel hopeful. I feel like I’m on extended holiday full of Nowruz, Easter and Solstice celebrations. Is it no wonder we play April Fool’s jokes on April 1? We’re full of sun sillies!

Speaking of April Fool’s Day, my favorite toilet paper company, Who Gives a Crap, pulled a fast one and I fell for it. They sent me an email announcing the release of Crappy Coffee. I thought it brilliant. I wanted eco-friendly, small-batch roasted Crappy Coffee, so I signed up to receive it. Instead, they emailed me, “Aprils Fools!”

Time to get silly.

April 5, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a silly sun story. Up north, “sun silly” is the energetic and playful response to returning sunlight. It could also be an April Fool’s jest, a silly story, or a reaction to spring fever. Be silly and write playfully! Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 10, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

***

No Laughing in Church (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Reverend Smith’ voice rose to heaven and plunged to hell, persuading his brethren to choose the higher path. It was the first sermon before wagon trains broke winter camp.

Nancy Jane had promised to make “holy garbage” for supper. She and Sarah stood behind the crowd. The venison stew required horseradish and a priest’s blessing, but a circuit preacher would do. Sarah remained skeptical of both the sermon and her friend’s recipe. Breathing deep, she fought back the giggles.

When Sarah saw Cobb switch out Reverend’s water for what was probably moonshine, she succumbed to full out sun sillies.

###

March 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

At first sniff, the clear liquid smells sour. The menu reads: grape leaf vinegar, mint and rose water. The concoction does not evoke the subtleties of pink petals or the promise of a fresh taste. Above the richly dressed crowd, lights beam geometric shapes across the ceiling in red, green, pink and blue. Digital flat screens display a New Year countdown that moves to the beat of electronic dance music. The pulse dares me to sip.

And I do.

To my surprise, the liquid glides sweetly across my tongue. Never judge a drink by its smell? Perhaps. But the aromas emanating from the buffet tables raise my expectations — grilled meats, heavy-handed spices, and frittered vegetables. Last, I grab a cup of dessert pudding with more rose water. Food infused with romance settles on my plate, and I weave my way back to the reserved table. I’m a guest tonight.

It is March 25, and we are celebrating the New Year. Tables packed with guests, many with families, form a horseshoe around a central stage. Even if you can’t see the stage directly, the digital flatscreens are mounted for clear viewing from any angle. Men are dressed in suits and women in evening dresses. I don’t mind that my outfit is simple. No one here is judging a book by its cover. Everyone smiles, welcoming.

Accouterments scatter across a table on the stage. Goldfish swim in a glass bowl surrounded by apples, garlic, sweetgrass and a bowl of painted eggs. Each item symbolizes health, prosperity, and happiness. Traditionally, all the guests wear new clothes. It’s spring, if not the exact equinox, then merely a few days later. The days are lengthening in the northern hemisphere, and no one can deny the renewal of life the season heralds.

Outside, snowbanks sag like swayed-back horses. Their geological record of snowfalls dips around the objects hidden beneath — boulders, park benches, small sheds. Spring can be dirty business. The south-facing bank of Quincy hill exposes bare ground as plain as the skin on a potato. Everywhere grit covers streets and sidewalks. Dog pellets slowly emerge day by day as the sun erodes their icy receptacle. We can only dream of freshness in the Keweenaw as dirty snow gives way to dirt.

We hold on for blades of grass.

Inside, the countdown ends, and we cheer in the New Year. A pianist flies his fingers across the keys and dinner tastes all the more succulent. It feels like renewal in this banquet hall at Michigan Tech University. Photos flash on the screen of places I’ve never before seen — moss on rocks, rivers, mountains, trees, cities, and deserts. Thes images connect many in the room to home. The celebration will suffice while they are away in a foreign land, studying engineering and technological sciences.

I’m an American celebrating an Iranian holiday among people my nation’s president would call enemies. How can I possibly view a culture whose writing reminds me of teacups and black olives as hostile? Laughter, rose water, and artistic performances tell me another story. People are not the enemy. Our fears and hatred cling to cultures like cancer. When we fight cancer, we don’t malign the person. To stand up for humanity, we must call out injustices, not cultures.

Tonight, I’m in love with Iranians.

Midway through the performances, a trio of musicians takes the stage. One plays the sitar, another a violin, and the third drums. I recognize the doumbek because my SIL, Solar Man, plays one as a drummer for my daughter’s belly-dance troupe. When the drummer plays his large frame drum, his fingers fly. I’m mesmerized. And so is he — eyes closed, frame tipped back, fingers dancing across tightened skin.

Next, my daughter and her fellow dancers take the stage in tribal influenced garb and dance to a Persian song. Radio Geek has recently cut her hair — it’s part classic bob, part shaved-head punk. By day in the office, the bob covers the undershaved sections. Tonight, she flaunts her inner punk. The troupe dances with energy to an appreciative crowd, and a delighted mum. This is the Persian New Year — Nowruz.

No-Rooz Mobarak! Happy Easter! Happy Spring! Chag Sameach! May peace and joy be with us all.

Before we get to the prompt, a bit of Ranch spring cleaning. Following last week’s deluge of information, you can now find the newly erected Rancher Badge page beneath the tab, Support Literary Art. You’ll find all the badges (plus a few new ones from your suggestions) in a clear and concise format. Now is the time to set goals. June 1 will be the first quarter to claim badges.

You will erase from memory, any mention of Facebook as a way to collect flash fiction. A great idea went downhill. It didn’t work as intended. Interact in the comments as usual — share your links, stories or pingbacks. If you want to be included in the published collection, submit your story via the form. Forget about short links, too! Write, and let your fingers fly across the keys.

March 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fingers that fly. Think about the different ways we use our fingers and what happens when we add speed. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 3, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

***

Rumors of Quick Draws (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Grab the mochila, boy!” Dock wasn’t any older than the new crippled stock handler, but he oversaw the mail exchange.

Sarah watched from the barn. The new handler grabbed the leather cover from the panting horse and draped it over the saddle of the waiting mount. The rider clambered up and sat on the mochila containing US mail.

“Haw!” The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company rider departed Rock Creek.

Hickok’s fingers flew, grabbling leather straps, unsaddling the weary mount. His injured arm did nothing to hamper his agility. Rumors had it, the boy was a gunman.

***

Author’s Note: The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company is a mouthful. No wonder we took to calling it the “Pony Express.”

###

 

March 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

My son, Runner, always finishes the race.  He’s the kind of man who takes the time to achieve his goal. I like to think he’s a chip off the mom-block, but he’s his own person.

By the time he was ready to apply to college, he only wanted to visit one. He had narrowed down all the possibilities to one. Of course, teachers, coaches, and parents suggested having a few secondary options.

Nope. Runner knew what degree we wanted, the level of college sports he wanted and what region he wanted to further his education. He applied to one school, tried out for one team and graduated with his Bachelors and Masters from one University.

He finished the race.

Next came job seeking. Again, Runner held a laser focus toward the type of job he wanted with his psychology degree in industrial organization. He worked as a bartender and restaurant manager for the interim and then moved to a place called Baraboo when his girlfriend found her dream job. He didn’t give up, and yesterday he texted to tell me he got his first entry-level job with a company that will use his degree.  I texted back my excitement.

Runner has been on my mind this week because of all my three children he was the one to take to the kitchen. In high school, we called him Betty Crocker because every Sunday night he’d get out my cookbook and bake — pies, cookies, quick bread. One pie he’d give to his dad with the instructions to stay out of the remaining desserts. Those were for his cross-country and track friends. While Runner always finishes the race, he also makes sure everyone on his team does, too.

He has a gifted social intelligence; a strength called “woo.”

Perhaps it was his gift of woo that also made him adept at sales when he was still just a teen. He worked as a sales rep for a Minneapolis office supply store and one day he met a customer who returned with an offer for Runner — to sell Cutco Knives. For a year, he did. The knives are gorgeous and high quality, but high priced, too. As a gift, when Runner left for college, he gave me his demo set.

Of course, they are wickedly sharp knives. After a prolific pumpkin harvest in our backyard (to the annoyance of my suburban neighbors, I grew food and pollinator plants all over our lawn and flower beds), Runner nearly cut off his thumb. The bone stopped the knife. After that, we all developed respect for the Cutco set.

Throughout wandering, a few of the Cutco Knives have traveled with me. One is an eight-inch chef knife. I’m not sure how it wrangled its way into my small box of kitchen gear. Perhaps it had been too big to plant safely in a storage box. But it is with us yet, and the Hub likes to use it to cut ham and cheese slices. I avoid the monstrous straight edge.

This past weekend, we received sad news that our cat of 15 years had died. She had gone to a new home after we had lost ours.

Both the Hub and I cried when we received the text. It was early afternoon, and I decided to cook a vegetable stir-fry. Solar Man and Radio Geek had left for Minneapolis to spend the birthday weekend with his mom. After all we’ve been through, it was a vulnerable moment. We were in the kitchen together, me prepping veggies and him slicing ham because I was cooking vegan.

The Hub dropped the knife. The Cutco Chef blade. Stainless steel, heavy duty, forever sharp. Guaranteed.

He was barefooted. The knife — as he has since described — spun a perfect pirouette and fell point-down, bouncing off his bare foot. I didn’t see it happen, so much as I realized he dropped the monstrosity of a knife, and automatically, I grabbed the roll of paper towels with one hand and shut off the gas burner with the other, and sunk to my knees.

The first glimpse was not good. The Hub’s foot split open like a ripe plum. When shock first hits, the body does not bleed. Did you know that? Maybe you didn’t want to know that, but it’s a fascinating scientific fact. No blood is a bad sign. Shock can be fatal. Bleeding out can be fatal, too. And blood arrived in a torrent. He cut a vein.

I was thirteen years old when I signed up for my initial first responder’s class. My father served as volunteer fire captain, and when the Red Cross trained the volunteers, I was one. Growing up in a remote mountain town where the nearest hospital was an hour away in good weather, I not only knew first-aid, I had ample practice. I can shut off any emotions of fear or squeamishness. It’s like going into a soundproof room — everything slows down, noise cancels, and I breathe rhythmically.

That’s what I did, kneeling with paper towels, compressing the Hub’s foot. I became hyper-aware, noting where each dog was, assessing the stove was off, planning our trip to ER. The Hub reacted the same way — his Ranger training kicked in, and without a passing word between us we knew the plan. He slid his foot toward the front door, and I crawled and compressed.

At the edge of the kitchen, I told him to stop. With one hand on the third wad of red-soaked paper towels, I reached with the other to open the junk drawer, hoping to find…packing tape! Grabbing it and a fresh wad of towels, I wrapped the Hub’s foot tight. We grabbed jackets, and I made sure he had his VA card for insurance purposes.

We discovered the Hancock Emergency Room to be a friendly and quiet place. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to an ER where they had to turn on the lights and heat because it the room with all its beds sat empty. Our nurse shared a good sense of humor, and when she asked the Hub if he felt safe at home, she glanced my way and laughed.

The Doc irrigated the wound and delivered the good news that no tendons suffered a slice. But the vein was a concern, and she sewed up the wound. The next day his toes and foot turned purple from bruising. We met with his therapist that day and had a good story for her. She is working with us to get the Hub’s knee fixed, too, recognizing that his mental health issues stem from the crisis this long-overlooked war wound causes him. She told us, “It’s about quality of life.”

I didn’t cry once, seeing all the blood, but I wept for a cat I gave up six years ago, and I sobbed at the thought that someone in the VA system gave a damn about my husband’s quality of life. It’s good to have someone who cares.

So that brings me to cake. Carrot cake, of course. Cake is my all-time favorite celebratory and comfort food. I’m celebrating Runner’s new job, the Hub’s continued care with the VA, sharp knives and sharp wit. With all of you, I’m celebrating four years of literary art we all get to share. I’m passing around the cake.

March 16, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about carrot cake. It can be classic or unusual. Why is there cake? How does it feature in the story. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 20, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published March 21). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

An Unexpected Exchange (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Mary McCanles set the carrot cake in the window sill to cool. Several Otoe boys hunkered beneath the window, and Sarah watched them from the shade of the horse-barn. One boy reached toward the cake. From inside the house, a man’s large hand grasped the boy’s wrist. Instead of squeals of terror, they all laughed at the one who got caught. A flour sack of carrots passed from the man’s hands to the boy’s and the Otoe ran off toward their family holdings. Sarah shook her head. Leave it to Cobb to be generous to those others feared.

###