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August 24: Flash Fiction Challenge

Toward the pink I go. Sand and pine needles muffle my steps between trees spaced apart by an unseen arborist’s hand. What mythologies lie beyond where the sound of surf tumbles copper stones? Does Narnia await? Will the Lady of the Lake deliver up Excalibur? Where is the veil of time and can I get a ticket out of here?

With numerous bags slung over my shoulder, I descend to the shoreline with items of escape. One bag is empty; maybe I’ll fill it with found magic: Thompsonite, prehnite, unakite, jasper and rare copper agates. Under the spell of thundering waves, I can disappear for hours, days, millennia. Who knows where I go when rocks tumble and pelt my bare calves. Stone enchantments hold strong.

To sustain a journey of epic distinction, another bag holds elixir, ambrosia and Elven lembas: strawberry-rhubarb beer, cheese curds and pumpkin seed crackers. As the pink spreads through thinning clouds, a feat the sky will host for several hours before sinking the sun for the night, I spread the food across a wave worn log. It’s an enchanted feast.

The final item of escape I withdraw from a bag is a worn leather-covered Kindle. The setting is complete, and I morph into an escape artist.

Books are a vehicle of escape. Stories crafted like spells transport us to other places to become other people. For the avid reader, Narnia remains within reach. Some books play important roles — they introduce us to cultures we can’t travel to on our own. Some teach us empathy and allow us to experience the journey of a thousand others. Some make us think, provoking uncomfortable thoughts, leaving us changed at the close of the final page. Yet the books that offer pure escapism are no less valued for their transformative role.

Most days I feel in and out of life. There comes the moments where I need to focus and set up interviews to write profiles for a client. And then the professionalism breaks down when one call involves interviewing my former boss who is now retiring. I’ve been tasked, no bestowed, the honor of writing her 37 years as a leader. A fifteen minute interview stretches past an hour and I’m taken back in time to when I’d sit in her office and discuss matters of marketing with the highest expectations of authenticity and transparency. How much I learned from this woman of servant leadership, of life-long learning, of taking calculated risks to pursue one’s passion.

My passion, writing; hers, leading a cooperative movement “…to make a difference in the lives of those we are serving.” She taught me that we serve others with our gifts. She taught me that to be a writer I must serve readers. She taught me that if I created a community of writers and readers, it would only work if it is authentic. Just as her co-op worked. As she retires, a co-op that once sold $5 coupons to open its doors twice a week to sell bulk foods — local cheese, honey, oats and wheat germ — is now 12,000 members strong with 130 employees and over 1,000 customers a day. And it was grown from a small group of passionate people who still retain ownership after 40 years.

A moment of reflection whisked me away and a million opportunities presented themselves like a million different plot twists. What if I had stayed? What if we had not left north Idaho? What if Todd went into the Coast Guard and never volunteered to be a paratrooper? Our lives twist with the what-ifs, but it is the writer who works in them. Especially if plots are ones to create space for escape. I can’t escape the decisions I’ve made in life nor my circumstances, but I can escape into a pinking twilight where gems are possible and C. S. Lewis’s lion, Aslan roars among the copper included waves.

Last week, writers approached a hard challenge — Stories to Heal America. What impressed me most was how each writer tackled the prompt with authenticity. Even when ideas or perspectives varied, writers showed the grace of accepting something different from their own view. I’m always delighted at the level of creativity and how writers push the edges of the constraint of 99 words, but last week showed a greater depth of skill and communication, as well as creativity. It’s not easy to write about hard truths, to find an inroad to reach a reader with surprise or agitation.

This week, writers get to be escape artists. Run away to Cirque du Soleil, stow away on a ship, become a master magician in a time-traveling show. Think of where you might want to escape. How you can use escape in a story. Think about your favorite books to escape into. Perhaps take a mental mini vacation and write it in 99 words. Have fun this week; remember the joy of escaping into a story.

August 17, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an escape artist. It can even be you, the writer, escaping into a different realm or space in imagination. It can be any genre, including BOTS (based on a true story) or fantasy. You can focus on the escape, the twist or the person who is the escape artist.

Respond by August 29, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published August 30). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Fowl Play (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“He pulled a hen egg from Roe’s ear, Da!” Cling imitated the move he saw. Lizzie squealed, and Julius practiced his own flourish. Mary stood on the porch, silent.

Cobb saddled his horse, tightening the cinch. “Well, boys, he pulled more tricks than that one.”

“How’d he do it, Da?” Monroe asked.

“The egg was probably up his sleeve. Just a charlatan’s trick.”

“I mean…”

Cobb scowled. “I’m sure he had an accomplice. He distracted you and your Ma.”

“Stop messin’ around,” Monroe told his siblings. “Da’s gotta find where our chickens disappeared to with that escape artist.”

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Time Travel Interrupted (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni disappeared into the 19th century. Darkness clung to corners and only the light of her head lamp glowed. It reflected off pieces of dull white china – service glass like you’d find in a restaurant or boarding house. She picked up barbed-wire scoured free of its earlier rust. With luck the design of the barbs would reveal the maker. Just one more clue, she thought as she reached deep into the past.

Overhead lights illuminated the school auditorium. “Hey, Dr. Gordon?”

Danni growled inwardly at the disruption to her time travel.

“Want some pizza? Archeologists have to eat, too!”

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Level 6 by Charli Mills

Slick hung his brass key on Level 6. It remained; a tarnished token to a missing miner. Some thought he entered a low tunnel to follow a vein of copper. He might have fallen. Jeb reported hearing the widow-maker chipping until lunch. Maybe he collapsed. They all recalled the pasties that day. Slick’s was gone, so at least he vanished satisfied. His mother grieved. His father grumbled the boy never paid attention. Not many paid attention to Slick, the quiet sixth son of eight. Who’d suspect he’d escape the Keweenaw mines with enough native to buy a life elsewhere?

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