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July 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

A sure way to loosen the black earth embedded beneath my fingernails is to go bob in Lake Superior. The icy cold water disperses warm pockets, electrifying the experience between soothing and shocking. My new favorite beach is off-limits with a big sign saying so. I’m not trespassing though; I’m a guest of a friend of a friend who owns property along a gated road of an undeveloped development. It’s not something we can do regularly. We don’t want to be obnoxious and ask to borrow the beach again, week after week, but it soothes my soul, cools my heels, and cleans my grubby fingernails.

While I was weeding yesterday, Monreal Dorb entered the July 2 Flash Fiction Challenge 574 times. He had all manner of websites to direct me to, but none were written in 99-words. I had to wade through pages and pages of his entries to find any accidental spam in the folder. We once had a literary spammer who spammed a Rodeo contest with a bizarre 99-word story about bitcoin, knock-off purses, and other suspicious topics. We blocked his website but included his amusing story in the roundup. We later questioned, who he was. I’m nostalgically wondering is Monreal Dorb is Nanjo Castille. Spammers have lives too, albeit strange and virtually criminal. How does one become a spammer?

It was an odd thought to ponder as I ripped up purselane. Spam, like the edible weed, sends tendril everywhere in hopes of taking hold and taking over. Soon, wildlife distracted me. A spider exited my blooming lavender in a huff, inspecting my activity. She saw me on my knees, pulling up groundcover, probably sending vibrations throughout the garden village at the soil level. That spider marched over on eight tall legs, climb my poppy, and looked me in the eye. I told her not to worry, that I had bought out the half-priced annuals at the grocers on Quincy Hill. Soon, she’d have a different cover, like new carpeting. Next, the toad revealed himself ever so quietly. I tried to convince him to go to the potato patch but he had none of my attempts to hold him. The toad wanted no kisses. He hung out, though.

One of my professors confessed that when she’s writing on deadline her house is immaculate and she hates housework. That sparked conversation about writing rhythms and where creativity comes from. For me, creativity permeates the air, the soil, the water. Like the truth, it’s out there. But my plot is upstairs, dissected, and tacked to my W-storyboard. The full write-up is pinned to a corkboard along with the character arc, subplots, and timeline that includes birthdates and anniversaries of my characters. The more I write into the book, the more I crave to be outside. I need to wash my nails and stare a spider in the eyes. Somehow, I need to fill up as I put out.

Then there is the craft side of the writing issue. The plot requires mastery of cause and effect. When life happens to your character, that’s plot. What happens though, stirs your character’s deeply buried desire and exposes their misbelief. This is the character arc reacting to plot, and one is internal tension the other external action. This creates a cause-and-effect trajectory that moves your novel forward (it can move your short story or memoir, too). To really get at the heart of your character’s current situation, you have to understand their past. It helps you focus on what is happening internally with your character because you want your readers to connect. And we do so through emotion. We have to write with feeling.

Emotions also play out in the classroom. Along with my thesis, I’m studying to teach creative writing. Our textbook this term is all about emotional intelligence in the classroom (EQ). It didn’t take long for me to figure out that my professor for this course is my favorite so far. He models what he is teaching, responding to tough discussions with great empathy to turn them into teaching moments for all of us. I’m in awe of his ability and, yes, I’m taking notes — or, as he says, “Fill the toolbox.” He prompts us to consider how we will respond, saying, “Good intentions do not make a good professor. Good actions make a good professor.” Then, it hit me — I’m going to be a professor! I think that realization made my knees weaker than any thoughts about being a writer.

I wonder what makes Monreal Dorb’s knees weak? Yes, I’ve circled back to our barndoor spammer. Before we answer that thought, I want to draw your attention to something exciting that’s happening right now — the Buxton Festival Fringe in the UK is going on virtually. Check out all the online events and performances. Among them is Anne Goodwin’s Becoming Someone event and Carrot Ranch’s Art of the 99-word Story. If you want an extra writing opportunity, you can enter the International Flash Fiction Challenge. Anne and I will select stories to read live (by us or the authors) on July 17 at 5 pm UK time (12 pm EST). Recently, Anne, Norah, and I met up on Zoom to record a reading and discussion. D. Avery will be playing it in the future at the Saddle Up Saloon (if she can convince Kid and Pal).

In the meantime, pull weeds, plant annuals among your perennials, and frequently jump in a lake to clean your nails and you’ll be all set to follow the creativity to your writing.

July 9, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes that answers the question, who is Monreal Dorb. You can imagine the life of this fictitious person in any era or circumstance. Is there cause and effect at play? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 14, 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.

 

A Senior Citizen Will Survive by Charli Mills

Monreal Dorb teased her hair into a beehive, saturating her silver locks with hairspray. She dabbed her lips hot pink and stepped out into the blazing Arizona sunshine in wide-width flip-flops. Her neighbors sweltered in the shade, waving. Monreal – Rea to her friends, and she had many – mounted her scooter and set off for the office at the head of the gated mobile home park. There, she’d wipe down her desk after Russian Peggy’s shift of credit card hacking, don a glam mask, and start spamming. She’d survive covid-economics on spam just like her mother did during the Depression.

Blossom

A blossom drops from a summer courgette, and the fruit continues to grow on the vine. Maybe a girl or a cow named Blossom comes along and nibbles what has dropped. From that a story blossoms. You see how it goes.

That’s the path writers were asked to follow — to chase after blossoms in any kind of iteration. And so they did.

The following stories are based on the July 2, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the word blossom.

Blossom by Ann Edall-Robson

Quiet and unassuming, but don’t get her riled. Dedicated to everything she does from raising her children to providing for others. Not many are as capable of mastering their lives the way she does. She is happy with her life, her surroundings, and doesn’t ask much in return. She enjoys a wander across the field when the urge takes her and is glad for the options of shelter and a roof over her head when the weather turns ugly. She’s always been part of the extended family living at the ranch. There isn’t a better milk cow than Blossom.

🥕🥕🥕

Blossoming by D. Avery

As if moved by a gentle breeze, the purple blossoms nodded and swayed under working honeybees.

“They buzz like sunshine, Mommy.”

“We’ll follow when they take off with their pollen.”

Mother and daughter set across the meadow towards the hardwoods. Though they used no compass or bee box he wouldn’t be surprised if they found the hive. He saw his wife and daughter crouched at what must be another patch of clover. Well out of hearing range, he felt their laughter, a buzzing hum like sunshine. Even if they didn’t locate the hive, none of them would be disappointed.

🥕🥕🥕

Before Antibiotics by H.R.R. Gorman

You were so young, so tiny. You’d not even had dreams, not sought to see your goals blossom and bloom.

And here you are – in a hole, next to other families’ headstones all marked “INFANT” with a single date underneath. Could I get you one of those stones? A final blanket that might comfort you as you look down from Heaven and remember that your mother always loves you, no matter how young you were taken?

And here I am – moving on to the next grave, an unmarked patch of earth where sweet Ona, six, was buried last year.

🥕🥕🥕

Doing Right by Charli Mills

“What’s wrong?” Cate snapped open the canvas covering the freight-wagon. Three pale faces from within stared back in wide-eyed silence.

“Zeb broke my blossom.” Abigail, the youngest, wailed.

“Not-uh. Just made a pile of petals, teachin’ Joseph numbers like Ma did.” Zeb, the eldest, scowled. Joseph hid his face on his older brother’s shoulder.

Cate bit the stem of her pipe. She was a muleskinner not a childminder. With their parents buried three days back, none of the other families stepped up in charity. So, Cate found another blossom, wiped the tears, soothed the fear, and resumed her mules.

🥕🥕🥕

A Posey Piece of Reflection by JulesPaige

Many different things cross my mind. The distractions of the first summer monarch butterfly. Yet strawberry fields, or heather, blossoms are just temporary. Images that you might love to watch over and over like the way a sun sets on an ocean beach after you’ve picked your skin in the waves. But the clock ticks and time plays weirdly with your memory, making an off kilter kind of scene. One that you greedily wish you could repeat whenever you needed the calm balm of recovering from a mistake…

Heather
Help me
Sleep to dream
Of pleasant and lovely
Things

🥕🥕🥕

In the Dust by Bill Engleson

I get there early. I’m always early. I sit in my Van, full of recyclables, cans, cardboard, plastic, lots of plastic.

Listening to a little blues, reading my book. The Plaque. Camus. Cheery stuff.

Traffic goes by. COVID carrying caravans of holiday makers. Each their own blossoming bubblehead.

I’m not feeling charitable.

I’ll switch to the news.

Three tykes crushed by tractor wheels back east.

A Canada Day country bucket ride.

I spot the ant.

Big sucker.

Crossing the road.

At an angle.

Foolish ant.

Go straight.

It’ll be shorter.

Doesn’t listen.

Ants never do.

Might make it.

Didn’t!

🥕🥕🥕

Far From Home by Jenn Linning

The first time I glimpsed cherry blossom in London, anguish twisted up within me. I longed to bundle the little tree into my arms like a babe, wrap her in blankets, remove her from her tiny traffic island, deliver her to my distant land where Mother Nature was monarch.

Instead I watched, horror coursing through me, as one pure pink petal dared to float towards Earth. A shriek rose and died in my throat as brave pink became mushy pulp under heavy urban rubber.

Bowing my head, I shuffled on, wrestling with what I must become to thrive here.

🥕🥕🥕

Tendrils by Cara Stefano

Bloom where you are planted, dear
A weed is only a flower growing in an unexpected (oft times unwanted) place or time
Stop and smell the fragile roses
Admire hardy dandelions for feeding sleepy bees
Some plants wither in the harshest desert sun
Surprising, the color and variety of desert flowers I have seen
Others flourish in cool, wet marshes
I covet the tenacity of a bramble growing up through city sidewalk cracks
Winter’s dormancy is a time of rest
And every spring tendrils of hope and growth emerge – slowly, surely
Everywhere I look: blossoms.

🥕🥕🥕

The Baby’s Nickname by  Susan Sleggs

A month after Lexi and Adam, Tessa’s daughter and son-in-law, were settled in their new house, Emma got baptized with families present. Michael’s youth choir sang two children’s dedication songs and Adam’s parents were thrilled to see how he was accepted into the close-knit group. At the luncheon, Lexi tolerated her grandmother’s proprietorship over the baby just so long then retrieved her so Adam’s family could cuddle her too. Adam’s grandfather beamed at her and said, “So this is the new blossom that made our family grow.” And that’s how the pink-cheeked infant came to be called Emma Blossom.

🥕🥕🥕

Blossomed  by Simon

I heard her first time over the phone, after days of work at same office, I met her first time in the cafeteria. She was having her cup of coffee, I heard her voice, realised who she is. I introduced myself to her, something between us connected immediately. Days passed, years passed, our bond grew stronger everyday. Then one day I opened up to her, she dropped her coffee cup in shock, with my good reflex I caught the cup and gave her back a ring, she said ‘Yes’. This is how our friendship blossomed into a relationship. 🥰

🥕🥕🥕

Blossoming by Joanne Fisher

Jennifer and Kelly first met at a marketplace. They had both wanted the same necklace, but decided to go for a drink together instead. Both considered themselves as loners believing they were better off on their own, but after they met only once, they perceived they were kindred spirits that made each other feel more whole. There was resistance from both of them at first as they began to question themselves, but they could feel themselves be drawn irresistibly to the other, like they were planetary bodies coming into one another’s orbit. Their feelings of love began to blossom.

🥕🥕🥕

After Midnight by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Ella arrived back home just before midnight. The golden carriage’d been delayed—unexpected maintenance—so she’d had to find her own way. Skirts rain-soaked, glass slippers…well, slippery…she shucked the gown and ran home in her chemise, dropping one slipper in the mud.

The prince was sure. The prince was an excellent tracker. He followed her prints to the kitchen door of the small estate, arriving almost before she did. Her figure was outlined in the firelight from the flickering stove. He stepped closer, slipper in hand.

She turned, muddy, skin-soaked, and utterly herself.

An eager flush blossomed his cheeks.

🥕🥕🥕

The Recital by R. V. Mitchell

It had been four years since Dave and Reena had visited Reena’s sister, Tracy. With things being slow in the shop, they thought that the invitation to their niece Carrie’s recital would be the perfect opportunity to catch up.

They arranged to meet at the concert venue, and Carrie was already backstage when they arrived.

Carrie made a spectacular solo performance.

As she stepped from behind her cello to take a bow, Reena said, “She has really blossomed.”

Dave’s whose gaze was firmly locked on the sixteen year old said, “She certainly has,” gaining him a well deserved slap.

🥕🥕🥕

Blossoms fo My Lady by Irene Waters

She lay looking skywards on the blanket of grass populated with daisies. The blue was obliterated by the huge cherry blossom in full bloom. Strange she’d never noticed it this time last year. Happiness washed over her for the first time since he’d left and she felt the coldness finally leaving her. Sometimes he brought her flowers and other times he meant to but didn’t. Either way had made her happy but that now seemed so long ago. “You kept your promise,” she whispered. “You’ve brought me flowers.” Her hand stretched out to caress the cold granite beside her.

🥕🥕🥕

Blossoming by kathy70

The way watercolors blossom on the paper is magical, an extra drop of water changes everything.  Staring at the blank page like a writer seeing magic in the water drops  I’m watching.

Soon I will leave this place and find my true home. This planet is scheduled to reverse it’s course so I can jump off.

Where I land will be like that water drop in the watercolors.  My landing will change the climate and structure in this new place but will it change me?  Without a parachute to guide the spot will be a surprise.  Here goes nothing.

🥕🥕🥕

“PPG” by SGK

“The Powerpuff Girls,” my college roommates and I were labeled. The girl who opened the door for me on move-in day was Bubbles – sweet, but capable of extreme rage. I was Buttercup – spontaneous, always ready to fight. Blossom completed our dynamic trio by being the most level-headed one.

It seemed like college was going to be exactly what I expected it to be after watching enough movies. Friends for life were going to be made.

Unfortunately, Blossom and I got tired of Bubbles’ split personality quickly. Then, Blossom got tired of me.

We could have ruled the world together…

🥕🥕🥕

Essential by Kerry E.B. Black

Everyone feared the symptoms outlined on the news. The WHO recommended self-isolationism. Governments mandated quarantines. As beds filled, hospitals set up exterior triage units.

However, essential workers donned safety suits and reported for duty.

“How come I don’t feel essential,” Michaleigh griped as she squinted at wish lists for delivery. “Just expendable.” She packed groceries destined for 354 Victory Lane.

Break time. Finally.

She removed her mask to splash cool water on her face, then froze.

“No.” she breathed, leaning closer.

The mirror revealed what the mask obscured. Red blossomed her cheeks, the first “tell” of the deadly virus.

🥕🥕🥕

Light by Eliza Mimski

She grew up inside the dark alcoholic walls of her childhood. Drapes pulled. Bottles littering the table. Voices screaming.
She looked for a place of light but she couldn’t find any. Nowhere to escape.
At school, she never talked about herself or her family, then returned home to the shroud of people she belonged to.
She buried herself inside of books. She was transported to other lands far away from her home. Otherwise, she withered.
Years passed, and she received a scholarship to college. She left the house that she never wished to return to. Finally, light. She blossomed.

🥕🥕🥕

Every Man Is a Flower by Paula Puolakka

The boys I have met have said that girls are like foreign flowers to them. I have heard so many tales about a certain begonia or a cherry blossom that the narrations have made my mind feel like it was chewing a tasteless piece of gum.

What has driven the guys crazy is the fact that they have been unable to identify what flower I am. The reason is that I am a tree. To me, every man is a flower, and the idea has made the boys act like crybabies. Where is my carnation? I do not know.

🥕🥕🥕

Grandma’s Gifts by Saifun Hassam

By late June ivory and lemony magnolia blossoms were opening up, glowing in the sunshine. When Aunt May became Grandma’s caregiver, she also became the gardener.

On her walks, she photographed trees, shrubs, and gardens in bloom. She transformed the photographs into digital art. Somewhere along the line, designs emerged for fabrics, pottery, and book covers.

If you asked Aunt May what sparked her artistic journey, her eyes would light up. She pointed to the framed prints of magnolia, tiger lilies, purple iris, and tall columbine. And the many stories Grandma shared, as they enjoyed lunch on the patio.

🥕🥕🥕

Mature Blossoming by Yvette Prior

Sitting poolside in the moonlight, my feet dangled in tepid water
Decompressing from the flight
Ready to enjoy a few days away
life is at another crossroads
Another hot season of change to deal with
But for now…
A pause
palm trees reflected light from the garden and I remembered how God always makes a way.
Always.
In this still moment….
Contentment swelled.
worth more than rubies
or diamonds
worth more than an easy life
Because mature blossoming is a gift from challenging experiences
Lightly splashing my feet, I feel hope in my belly.
I smile
Life’s a gift

🥕🥕🥕

The Order of Things by John Lane

When the flowers of drupes are in full bloom, we notice them as blossoms. Vibrant peach, cherry and orange colors emerge, marking its annual rite of spring. Our thoughts never once entertain this complex process.

The plant manager of genes, Apetala1, calls the shots. The proteins within the gene, in turn, notify the one-thousand other supervisory genes to send a “stop” signal to the plant’s meristems, the laborers assigned to the leaf production. This allows the blossoms to do their work because each member of the organic chain-of-command knows its job.

Nature proves that order is better than chaos.

🥕🥕🥕

Rising by D. Avery

“Sunrise coffee? Yer outta yer bedroll early Pal.”

“Yep. Set an’ injoy it. Tell ya, sure is good ta be out ridin’ the range. Don’t git me wrong, Kid. I’m right proud an’ pleased Shorty’s got us runnin’ thet saloon. But it’s a lotta time indoors. Umm. Lookit dawn, jist beginnin’ down in thet east runnin’ valley.”

“I’m lookin’, Pal. Now shush, so’s I kin see it better.”

“I hear ya.”
“Look…
Swollen budded dawn
Sun’s gold-rayed petals unfold
This new day blossoms.

“Promises ta be a bloomin’ beautiful day, Kid. Time ta ride out.”

“Write on Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life

Nina Simone understood what it was to lack, but she crooned about having life. What we have lost can often define what we yet have — life. The world spins, seasons change, and generations pass on the baton.

Writers explored life and what it means to have it. Some stories offered insight, others humor, or unexpected twists. This collection has life!

The following stories are based on the June 25, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story with the phrase, “I got life.”

(10-minute read)

I Got Life by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Pre-COVID, we met, early Saturdays, in the Midtown Market. Few stirred: lady mall cop, staff from the attached hospital, lone coffee shop doing brisk business, shops from around the world setting up. We were inspired by Heaven’s scents.

One restaurant owner allowed us space for a free-will donation; he’s a poet and painter himself. In another, possible future, we’ll enjoy his hospitality again. For now, we Zoom.

“Time?”

“Three minutes!”

“OK…prompt is ‘I got life.’”

Puzzled looks.

Anguish.

Biting pens, we gaze to a corner in our separate boxes. Pens touch paper. We begin to scribble.

We got this.

🥕🥕🥕

Result by Joanne Fisher

The scout ship jumped into a new system. Almost immediately the pilots launched probes to the nearest planetary body.

“Results should be coming up now.” said one of the pilots looking at the display in front of them.

“So far nothing.” the other pilot commented as she examined the results. As always, nothing promising… Suddenly there was an alarm and the screen went red. “Hey, I got life!”

They both looked through the window. There in the distance, just coming into view, was a small blue green moon orbiting the larger planet.

They now had somewhere to go to.

🥕🥕🥕

Planet Earth Is Blue by D. Avery

At first, before they sedated and intubated me, my eyes were open. They looked like spacemen.

Can you hear me Major Tom? They don’t know I can hear them. I can.

Though I’m past/100,000 miles/I’m feeling very still. I can’t move. I can’t speak. But I can hear them. They are worried about me. They are worried about themselves. They are scared.

Tell my wife I love her very much/ She knows.

They talk about how pointless it is, say I’m going down. I hear them. Can you hear me Major Tom?

‘Yes,’ I silently scream, ‘I got life.’

🥕🥕🥕

No Lazarus Me by Anne Goodwin

Nine weeks, they told me. Could’ve been nine years. Suspended in a solitary space capsule. Crashing violently to earth.

Resurrection bewildered me. Scarred throat sore from the breathing tube. Limbs learning gravity anew. Homegoing a second culture shock. Staff in scrubs a guard of honour down the exit corridor. Wheelchair-bound, I cringed at their applause.

I couldn’t scale the cliffs to seize the media moniker. I didn’t want to be a heroine. Lazarus. I wanted to be me.

Then sobbing in his arms, I got it. Comeback wasn’t me alone, it was everyone. I got life. We all did.

🥕🥕🥕

Now I’m Living by Susan Sleggs

I was a single military man
A lady here and there
Living the life
I thought of you
Even on the day I met the bomb
I lost my driver
I lost my legs
What’s the point in living
You wouldn’t want me
I met a fierce lady
She taught me to walk
I called her Clarice
She wasn’t you
I went back home
And by God, you did too
Twenty five years later
We’re together again
Today we held baby Emma
Her parents are moving to be near
Now I know why I have life
Four generations’ll do

🥕🥕🥕

Life Sentence by Jeff Gard

Closing his eyes, Marcel imagines there ain’t cinder blocks squeezing the bunk bed, creating a corridor so narrow he can’t walk in his cell without turning sideways first. He dreams of sky, sun, fresh air.

He can’t pretend the bed don’t shake when his roommate coughs and wheezes. He can’t ignore the face mask. When he inhales, it flutters against whiskered cheeks, contaminated air fogging his glasses.

“I got four more months,” his roommate repeats. “What you got?”

Marcel wants to disappear into the threadbare blanket around his shoulders. He’s sweating, but he can’t get warm.

“I got life.”

🥕🥕🥕

Private Percussion by Kerry E.B. Black

I’m a dancer hobbled by regulation. Still, I hum along to the private percussion my heart.

Momma secured an advantageous match for me, one with all the trappings of “making it.” So I try to live up to bejeweled expectations. However, I tumble from atop my stilettos, disused to the thinner, refined air.

I pull within a designer veneer until I’ve buried my old, rebellious self, but it’s like hiding muck-covered boots beneath my mother-in-law’s tea table. I notice guests wrinkle their perfect noses and feign ignorance.

And in private, I still tap out the percussion of my heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Full Sentences by Geoff Le Pard

‘Morgan! Morgan! Are you alright?

‘Wha…? Bloody hell, that was weird.’

‘You were screaming something.’

‘I think it was eating those cheese straws last thing. We had a huge fight.’

‘What about?’

‘What we should wear when we get to the Ranch.’

‘Seriously?’

‘Oh yes. I said jeans. You said a pin-striped suit and spats.’

‘Jeans?’

‘We fought. You died.’

‘Blimey.’

‘I was found guilty of murder, you of a crime of fashion.’

‘What was the sentence?.’

‘Since you’d got death, I got life.’

‘They threw away the key?’

‘They said I’d suffered enough and let me go.’

🥕🥕🥕

He Who Hesitates... by joem18b

I was on vacation in Virginia City when I stopped into an antique store to browse. In the back I found a stack of New Yorker magazines from the Thirties. I opened one at random and found a movie review of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Huh. Interesting. Put the magazine down.

Thought about it that evening. Returned the next day and headed for the back of the store. The stack of New Yorkers was gone.

Up front, I asked a handsome young fellow where the New Yorkers were kept.

“Sold the lot yesterday,” he said, “but I got Life.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hairy Thoughts by Bill Engleson

Simone!

Singing that song!

Hippie joy gone deep.

Soulful!

Hadn’t thought about this in years.

I took a bus to Seattle, late spring, 1970. June, maybe! I’d been bunking in with a friend, providing a shred of male influence to her house guests, first nations borders, teens, from isolated communities up the coast, on the island.

Its pretty much a blur. I was in such an in-between world, a lonely space, sleepwalking, trying to readapt.

So, off I went south to Hair, a local production playing at the Moore theater.

On my return to Vancouver, I got life back.

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life by FloridaBorne

Once an eager student, the gangly girl finished her paper far later than the rest, eyes downcast.

“Your title is, I got life?” Mrs. Jones asked. “You have an IQ of 134.”

“My brother hits me if I talk like you.”

“We have two languages in the same country! The first is for people who want to have a good job, the second is for those who want to blame others for their failed lives.”

“I don’t know what to do?”

“What if I tutored you after school and called it detention?”

Sheena brightened, “I’d like that a lot!”

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life! by Eliza Mimski

Miriam had grown up during the time when shaming fat girls was okay. She was heavyset in the middle and by the time she reached fifth grade she wore a C cup bra. Even though she loved to dance, loved sports, she quit because of the comments on the sidelines. But now, in her twenties, times had changed. Fat girls flaunted their bodies in yoga pants and form fitting tops. Miriam’s breasts, her large stomach jiggled up and down when she danced in nightclubs. “I got it! I got life!” she yelled as she kept time to the music.

🥕🥕🥕

Private Percussion by Kerry E.B. Black

I’m a dancer hobbled by regulation. Still, I hum along to the private percussion my heart.

Momma secured an advantageous match for me, one with all the trappings of “making it.” So I try to live up to bejeweled expectations. However, I tumble from atop my stilettos, disused to the thinner, refined air.

I pull within a designer veneer until I’ve buried my old, rebellious self, but it’s like hiding muck-covered boots beneath my mother-in-law’s tea table. I notice guests wrinkle their perfect noses and feign ignorance.

And in private, I still tap out the percussion of my heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Parting Gift by Simon Prathap D

Hey! Mr.Clown, Why you look sad?

I got this bag from a kid, that cried on my whole show, she lost her bag, it has cancer reports. she is just 17.

She will live.

No she won’t, My mom didn’t .

Let’s pray for her.

No, I got this life, with purpose, she never smiled today. I’ll never let her die without smiling.

That is not going to save her.

I am not going to save her, I will give her most happiest days of her life. No one deserves to die in pain. It’s my parting gift for her.

🥕🥕🥕

“I’ll Chase My Dreams! Find New Dreams!” by Saifun Hassam

Crystal clear mountain streams raced down ravines and clefts into the valley creeks. Water wheels turned furiously channeling water onto farms as they always did in springtime.

But this spring there were no farmers. Earthquakes had ripped through the coastal lands. The shores tumbled into the pounding thunderous seas. People fled. People died.

One lone figure stood near the broken ancient temple on the crest of a hill. His mind’s eye saw blue butterfly kites. He remembered children singing.

“I got life, got dreams! I’ll fly into the skies!
I got life! I’ll chase my dreams! Find new dreams!”

🥕🥕🥕

Let’s Do It by Donna Matthews

The little boy lying on his side pushed the car back and forth, whining, “I’m bored!” Rain on the windows and a virus lurking outside, the indoor day spread out before us like a neverending road to nowhere.

Play a game? No
Build a fort? No
Paint a picture? No

In defense, we’ve done these things. Life before the pandemic, a day stuck at home a delicious treat. Now, it’s more of the same with no end in sight.

He looks up at me, eyes pleading, “I got life to live!”

“Outside? Play in puddles?”

“Really?!”

“Let’s do it!”

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life by Robert Kirkendall

Father ran out of the closet holding a board game. “Hey, look what I got. Life!”

“Another old people’s game?” son moped.

“Yeah, those those things are so passé,” daughter dismissed.

“It’s a classic!” father insisted.

“The kids these days just aren’t into board games,” mother said.

“But they’re so much fun!” father pleaded.

“We’ve already played a ton of board games because of this sucky quarantine!” son complained.

“We’re bored of board games,” daughter said.

“Then how about more stories of my high school glory days,” father said dreamily, “back when I…”

“Please! No more! We’ll play Life.”

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life by Irene Waters

At sixty
the doctor said,
“Prepare to die.”
Not ready for death
she followed orders
special diet,
multiple pills ingested.

At seventy
the doctor said,
” Carry on.
Increase these pills
breathlessness will be gone.”

All good,
she thought
I got pills.
I got life.

At eighty
the doctor said,
“Things are worse.
Let’s experiment
for a longer life.”

Medication
replaced religion
giving life.

At ninety
“I don’t want to live.
Please Help me die.”
Stopping tablets
Not easily done
when the habit of living
is so strong,
pills taken.

No good,
she thought
I still got life.

🥕🥕🥕

Thank you, I Get It by Annette Rochelle Aben

When I think of all I’ve been through in sixty-three years on this little blue planet, I am in awe. The sad experiences that seemed they would tear my heart out. The happy times I enjoyed so much, they drained me of my energy. But I am not about to complain!

It has all made me the person I am today. Even though when you take a look at me, I may appear to be a bit worse for the wear, I am still here. No worries. And though there’s so much more to learn, halleluiah, I got life!

🥕🥕🥕

gone green and rainbow by JulesPaige

Used to up and left the building. Used to get a box full of mail, mostly junk. Nowadays days go by and nuthin’ honey. No cereal samples, no magazine subscriptions. Less stuff to toss. And because I don’t answer junk calls – I get less of them too.

I got life! My raised garden is growing, I completed a project, and I’m going out to eat tonight!

a tumble in time
chores, favors, fill the gas tank
sun shifts the shadows

six digit number on cell
out of country, hit delete

two hours til dinner
actually inside an
eatery…with friends

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life by Pete Fanning

For weeks the crowds had swelled in numbers, a collective resistance simmering into rage as they marched the town. They were loud, boisterous, lighting fires and smashing windows, drunk on pilfered spirits as they arrived at officials’ quarters.

These final acts had pushed them too far. Treated as second class citizens, the wealthy had the nerve to say they lived too well. And now, led by Samuel Adams, the mob ransacked the Lieutenant Governor’s mansion, destroyed his possessions and looted the house of furnishings.

In the flames, a resistance was born. And soon, a new country would have life.

🥕🥕🥕

They Can’t Take It All by John Lane

The company can fire me because I argued to the supervisor that I felt running the bandsaw was unsafe. The mortgage company can claim a default on my mortgage because I don’t have a job to pay my bills. The bankruptcy court can take my home because I don’t qualify to have a plan. The bank can take my car for repossession because I don’t have the money to pay my loan. Landlords can refuse to rent to me. All these people can take everything from me, but one thing they can’t take. My spirit. Because I got life.

🥕🥕🥕

After the Boomtown by Charli Mills

Saxophone notes squeaked across the empty hard-packed street. Sophie swung her hips to the tempo, stirring a pot of slow-elk stew over a campfire. “What I’d give for carrots,” she told Hal.

He paused his playing. “You got seeds Miss Sophie. Plant a garden.”

“A garden means I have to stay in this god-forsaken ghost town.” She missed Italy. She missed rain.

Hal played lower, softer until Sophie dished them up bowls. “Won’t always be deserted,” he said when she handed him dinner.

“Got no customers. Got no gold. Got no carrots. Got no husband. But I got life.”

🥕🥕🥕

Got My Fingers, Got My Pal, Got My Hunger, Ain’t Got No Bacon…by D. Avery

“I’m hungry Pal. What’ve we got fer breakfast?”

“Outta bacon. Hens ain’t been layin’.”

“Dang, sure coulda gone fer some eggs an’ bacon. Mebbe you’d make me a smoothie?”

“Couldn’t even if we had the fixin’s. Yer fergittin’ yer blender blunder.”

“They was jist twigs.”

“Yeah, well, now ya know where birch beer don’t come from. S’prised ya still got yer fingers after thet. Shut thet fridge already, Kid. Starin’ an’ wishin’ ain’t gonna put food in it.”

“They’s a jug a milk. We got any cereal?”

“Thinkin’ we are a serial.”

“Aha! Here’s some cereal! I got Life!”

🥕🥕🥕

June 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

My son tells me its 55 days until his wedding. Then he asks, “Dad got his suit, yet?” Trying to get a 56-year-old brain-altered former US Army Ranger into a tailored suit for his son’s wedding is no minor feat. Never mind it was this same man who taught his son to dress up for flying back when the Hub worked for the airlines and we flew standby, dressed to take seats in first class. Now he tells his son he’s going to wear navy-colored sweatpants. Last year, the joking was funny. 55 days out, not so much.

So, my son is harassing me. (Not that I mind, if this is how I get my son to call me every day, I’ll happily be harassed.)

I thought I was on top of the game. I found a mother of the groom dress I liked and contacted a tailor I know through one of my good Keweenaw friends. Her sister designs and sews all her clothes, and they are stylish and vibrant. The tailor looked at the dress and said she could put various patterns together and make me a one-of-a-kind. My friend and I planned to drive to Chicago where her sister lived for a measuring session. Then COVID hit in March.

That’s when I decided to order the original dress. Except, the online bridal shop gets their dresses from China and they could not confirm delivery. At the same time, I ordered something small from China for the Unicorn Room and it still hasn’t arrived. So, I think it was a good call that I did not plunk down hundreds of dollars for an uncertain delivery of a dress. Still, I haven’t had such a fuss over a dress since my own wedding when a friend re-created a western chantilly lace wedding dress from a 1980s Este Lauder ad.

Finally, I found a dress online, in the states, and on the low end of my budget. When it arrived, I tried it on only to find it was too big. I mailed it back and re-ordered a different size, and now I’m worrying that it’s too plain. I’m the kind of person whose fashion sense vacillates between favorite threadbare flannel and blaze orange capris with flowy butterfly top. My gears are too plain and too garish, and I know my son would be horrified if I showed up with his dad in sweats and me in some sequined purple chiffon.

And if that’s not worrisome enough, when the Hub settled on the suit jacket he hastily bought while we were homeless, our son said that would be appropriate for the rehearsal dinner. I had forgotten about attire for the pre-event. In another tailspin, I began searching for a summer cocktail dress on Amazon (how’s that for desperation?). Don’t knock the soul-sucking warehouse of everything — they literally sell everything. I found three dresses and three pairs of sandals. Only one of the dresses would arrive on time so that’s the one I ordered. The shoes, British-made Clarks which I love for comfort and fit, will mysteriously arrive next week.

Then, today I received a package from another dress shop. Somehow, I had forgotten that I panicked over the rehearsal dress sometime shortly after the COVID lockdown began and it arrived today! Where my memory goes, I do not know sometimes. And I say the Hub is brain-altered. Well, aren’t we all. When I pulled the item out of the package, it was a slinky black dress. I’m flannel or eccentric, definitely not slinky black dress. I looked at the size and barked a laugh. I’m also definitely not a size Extra Small. Evidently, some extra-small gal is scratching her head over my extra-large flowy floral cocktail dress. Having taken months to arrive, I dreaded calling the company, but they were helpful and promised to expedite my order.

So when my son calls to check in on his dad’s progress, I hold back on the full naked truth of our wedding clothes snafus. And we did make progress thanks to a wedding shop in town that just re-opened. As of now, the Hub has rented a tux and ordered a suit online after talking to a specialist. Who would have thought it would be the boy to fuss over what to wear for his wedding? The eldest girl got married on an organic farm and butchered her own pig prior to the ceremony. No, that wasn’t part of the ceremony, just the commitment to harvest her own food for the reception. That, the Hub and I could handle. The other girl? She’s brewing beer on Svalbard with her partner and they have no plans to marry. If they do, we’ll need passports and parkas. Easier than finding me a dress or getting the Hub to agree to a suit, I assure you.

At the end of the day, I can take stock and declare, “I got life.”

It’s not the things. It’s not the clothes. As much as I appreciate the home and its fixings, being homeless taught me the value of life. There’s something empowering about declaring ownership over yourself. I got my toes. I got my arms, my hands, my thumbs. I got fingers. I got my head, my brain, my liver. I take in breath. I got life. Let Nina sing it to you, let her words crawl into your soul, watch her face, her body as she gives her life over to her song and piano. Write like you got life.

Things are looking mighty crazy out there in the big wide world, but if we got life, we got hope. This is a time to keep writing. I know the distractions are huge, but so is our capacity for art. Be oppositional — if you want to write a story one way, write it the opposite and see what pops up. You might be surprised. Let characters talk in your head. Don’t interfere, take notes. Imagine the world upsidedown. What would it be like to walk on the sky? Shake it up, shake your booty, dance on the page. And if you have any tips on how to dress up for a special wedding, I’ll try to pay attention.

June 25, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story with the phrase, “I got life.” It can be told from any point of view. What meaning does it lend to your story? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 30, 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 closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

After the Boomtown by Charli Mills

Saxophone notes squeaked across the empty hard-packed street. Sophie swung her hips to the tempo, stirring a pot of slow-elk stew over a campfire. “What I’d give for carrots,” she told Hal.

He paused his playing. “You got seeds Miss Sophie. Plant a garden.”

“A garden means I have to stay in this god-forsaken ghost town.” She missed Italy. She missed rain.

Hal played lower, softer until Sophie dished them up bowls. “Won’t always be deserted,” he said when she handed him dinner.

“Got no customers. Got no gold. Got no carrots. Got no husband. But I got life.”

Good Vibrations

Feel the crackle of excitement, the hum of expectation, the warmth of good vibrations. It might be the dentures or it could be the mob to welcome refugees with life-affirming signs. No matter the reason or sensations, we can readily embrace the promise of good vibes.

This week, writers chased the source. They explored people feeling or distributing the good vibes, and came up with surprising stories.

The following are based on the June 18, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes good vibrations.

Music as a Painkiller by John Lane

A cut-rate dentist pulled out the final piece of Jim’s molar using as little Novocain as possible. The dentist refused to sign a prescription for pain, insisting that he could go right back to work. Jim made it as far as the next town before he barely pulled into the convenience store parking lot with his mouth throbbing from the pain. Aware that Jim placed his hand on his jaw, a quick-thinking store clerk grabbed his CD player, walked to Jim’s car and played the song, Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”. The pain slowly went away and Jim fell asleep.

🥕🥕🥕

The Devil Is In The Dentures by Geoff Le Pard

‘Can’t you sit still, Morgan?’

‘I am.’

‘You’re not. Your foot’s twitching like you’re wired to the mains and everything is vibrating. I can hear my own teeth.’

‘My gran was convinced the devil was in her dentures.’

‘I don’t want to know.’

‘You do.’
…….

‘Go on.’

‘She’d a new plate made and the first evening heard voices.’

‘She was a loony?’

‘The neighbour’s radio. Something to do with a harmonica…’

‘Do you mean harmonics?’

‘Do I?’

‘Yes.’

‘Caused vibrations, apparently.’

‘Fascinating. Will you stop vibrating?’

‘They’re good vibrations…’

‘Morgan, please don’t start singing….’

‘I’m picking up good vibrations…’

🥕🥕🥕

Novice Sensations by R. V. Mitchell

Patrick filed into the choir and waited for the signal to sit. As the abbot made his way into the chapel, Brother Isaac played a low simple piece on the organ. Vespers had begun.

Soon the gathered brothers were fully engaged in the chants, and Patrick, only in his first full day in the house, felt a deep vibration shivering, no shimmering through his entire being.

Was it the physical effect of Isaac’s base notes? Was it the numinous of the collective praise? Or was it the true realisation that he was being touched by the finger of God?

🥕🥕🥕

Good Vibrations by kathy70

How long since I felt vibrations about something, it was just a little over a week ago.  A friend put a picture of a quilt block up and it drew me in totally.  I created 4 similar blocks in just over a week using scraps. Unheard of.  New fabric’s quarantined.

I am now in the final stage of quilting the entire quilt inspired by that picture.

It is 4 faces made from random fabric pieces and things like a purple nose seemed to work for me. Today a friend reminded me about a quilt show looking for covid-19 projects to display.

🥕🥕🥕

Liberation by Charli Mills

Gran’ma’s mama was an Okie from Muskogee, a fruit-picker in Tres Pinos, California, where Steinbeck Country ended in hayfields, orchards, and coastal mountains. She died young – 36 – cancer from unbridled use of pesticides in the 1930s. Gran’ma married a bull rider, a real bull shitter, too. They chased the tails of rodeos and ranch work across Nevada and back to Tres Pinos too many circuits to count. When he finally died of liver cirrhosis, Gran’ma shocked us all and married a Moscogo. White hand in black, they held the good vibes of Juneteenth, understanding the long wait for liberation.

🥕🥕🥕

Sixties Vibe by Sherri Matthews

She got up early, made tea and thumbed through Gardner’s Weekly. The Beach Boys played on the radio while she waited for her husband to get dressed. Hmmm…Good Vibrations…he loved that one! His other favourite song ran through her head and he appeared, fresh and bright, at last. Ready? Ready! Their arrival at the allotment was greeted by a patch of once empty scrub ground now awash with giant sunflowers in full yellow bloom. ‘You grew all these?’ ‘Yes’, she said, beaming. ‘Sixty-Four, for you’. She kissed his head. I still need you and I’ll still feed you. Always.

🥕🥕🥕

Good Vibrations by Anita Dawes

The sight of spring flowers
Rushing me back to the sixties
Where we believed in liquid bliss
Not the bottle kind
It’s something in the air
It washes over you.
Dark days drop away
Days when we wore flowers in our hair
Music, smiles on people’s faces
Especially on the faces of my grandchildren
When I speak about the old days, strange clothes,
like the bell bottom jeans, the mini skirt.
Nowadays, I walk home washed over
With good vibrations
From the smile of a stranger
Young man who offers to carry my shopping bags
I look for tomorrow…

🥕🥕🥕

Rainbow by Reena Saxena

What was so pathetic about her, that most people turned apathetic?

She silently suffered the punishment for being different. Her skin color and facial features all resembled that of the family, but the mind was different. Her mother often made these remarks, that her brain on a petri-dish, would look green or black or some atrocious color, not pink.

She grew up to be a writer, and discovered to her delight that readers loved her flow of thoughts. The atrocious green had metamorphosed into a lovely rainbow.

The good vibrations she waited for all her life were finally there.

🥕🥕🥕

Growing Pains by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Janina sat on the stone wall of the spring-fed pool. Behind her, her father’s castle clashed with loud music, shattering glass, and women’s high-pitched giggles. Her fourteenth birthday; she was sick of it all.

Slipping out a door, she’d dashed to the ocean-side pond, losing her shoes and muddying her hem in the marshy grass.

“Boo!” the frog interrupted her thoughts, nodding at the golden ball balanced in her palm. “All that glitters isn’t gold. Choose and transform!”

The ball became translucent; it vibrated, glowing. Popping it in her mouth, she swallowed.

Flipping her new tail, she dove deep.

🥕🥕🥕

Minority by Eliza Mimski

People always tell me I have a 100-watt smile, that I give off good vibrations. I light up a room. I’m a breath of fresh air. The sun has nothing over me.
I use that smile to hide my rage. Inside, I simmer. I boil. I seethe. The years have worn me down. All the crap I’ve put up with. But there’s something called self-preservation. Yeah. You do what you have to do. That smile has protected me. It’s been my friend. It’s a force I hide behind. My smile is white and bright and it will eat you.

🥕🥕🥕

Fight’s A Beach by Dave Madden

The cage on the sand with a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean made the first installment of Shark Tank the, as advertised, “most scenic violence in MMA.”
James sold over a hundred tickets for his pro debut, but all the nerves that served as a disruption throughout his time as an amateur drifted away in the salty breeze.

To coincide with Shark Tank’s theme, James walked out to “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys. Win or lose, he intended on having some fun in the sun when the cage door locked and the referee ordered the bout to begin.

🥕🥕🥕

Butterfly Kites by Saifun Hassam

Early morning sunlight and flitting shadows weaved between open spaces around broken sandstone pillars of the temple.

A sea breeze sent elusive vibrations rising and falling in the air. Wind chimes and miniature bells caught the good vibrations from the sea.

Sandalwood smoke wafted through the temple. Diamante prayed for the coastal villages. Tears fell as he prayed for rain, for a plentiful harvest on the farms, for the sea to share its abundance of fish.

The excited laughter of children came up the path, tugging at blue butterfly kites, winged kites vibrating with celestial music of their own.

🥕🥕🥕

Perfect by Ritu Bhathal

Pete took a few steps onto the pathway leading up to the house.
After seeing numerous houses, he was hoping that this would be The One.
Positive energy radiated off the property.
He glanced over at his wife, Nina, noticing a glimmer of a smile curling her full lips upwards.
She could feel it too.
Taking her hand in his, they stepped up to the door, lifting the brass knocker.
Nina winced, suddenly, and pulled his hand to her swollen belly.
A kick reverberated against the palm of his hand.
Looks like Junior was feeling the good vibrations, too.

🥕🥕🥕

Good News by Joanne Fisher

Cindy spent the afternoon planting saplings. Hidnoot, her gnome helper, dug the holes while she brought them over. During a break Hidnoot surveyed the land.

“You’ve done a great job with the farm,” he said.

“Thanks, I appreciate your help.”

“My pleasure Miss Cindy. I think good news is coming. I can feel it in my bones.” He suddenly hid behind a bush. Cindy saw Jess was walking over with a letter in her hand.

“Hey sweetheart, we’ve been accepted for IVF treatment! We’re going to have a baby!” Jess told her excitedly. They hugged for a long time.

🥕🥕🥕

Meeting the Granddaughter by Susan Sleggs

Michael said, “I’m sorry. I need to stop at the next rest stop.”

Tessa reached for his hand, gave him a sideways glance, and asked, “Are you all right? I can feel you shaking. Besides, we just stopped.”

“Believe me, I know. I don’t know if I’m excited to meet your granddaughter, or scared, but I need to go again.”

Tessa laughed aloud. “I thought only women had nervous bladders.”

“Don’t pick on me,” he laughed. “I haven’t held a baby since I was in high school and I want this to go well.”

“You’ll be a fine Grandpa.”

🥕🥕🥕

Summer, 1966 by Bill Engleson

The sweet river water flows. The small G.E. transistor catches bits and pieces of the local station’s airwaves…”the way the sunlight plays on her hair…” and it does, glancing off the light blond strands that dangle just above her left breast.

“Is that where…?” I ask.

“The tick? Yes,” she says.

“We should have come back here earlier,” I lament.

“You’re the one who left.”

“I did. And I shouldn’t have.”

“It might not have mattered. It was destiny.”

“You were destined for me,” I say.

“That’s sweet…but…”

“Don’t say it….” I dream…as “the sunlight plays on her hair…”

🥕🥕🥕

A Dream of Airliners by Gordon Le Pard

Men dream, these men dreamt of airliners.

The wings vibrated as the tiny steam engine spun.
“Good to go.” Called Henson.
Stringfellow released the tail and the Aerial ran along the line gathering speed, as it came free at the end the wings lifted it and the machine flew across the room, dropping into the catch net at the far end.
For a moment the engineers looked stunned, then grinned and shook each other’s hands.
The world’s first powered flying machine, the first aeroplane (albeit a model), had flown.

The first step to realising their dream had been made.

🥕🥕🥕

Good Vibrations by Marjorie Mallon

Good vibrations can come in the most unusual ways! A friend of mine asked me to beta read for her. She mentioned that her story wasn’t her usual style of writing and she was using a pseudonym. With various writing projects on the go, I didn’t give it much thought. I knew I’d help her, as she’s always supported me.

When I started reading the manuscript, I soon realised what she meant. This was a sensual read. I ploughed on; completing the beta edits of the romantic erotica in record time!

🥕🥕🥕

We Are Here For U by Simon

Sam: Please take a seat Mr. Berlin, I have a surprise

Berlin: Well, Thanks. What kind of surprise?

Sam: It’s about the secret to good vibration

Berlin: Really? Can’t wait to learn that.

Sam: Repeat my words slowly “I will never do this again”

Berlin: What? Why should I say that? Berlin face changed.

Sam: repeat after me, you got no choice (Sternly said)

Berlin repeated, after seconds a cop showed up and gave boxes of foods, We know what you go through Berlin. If you need something, ask, don’t steal, we are here to help! Berlin hugs both!

🥕🥕🥕

Migrants Welcome by Anne Goodwin

Turn around! Turn around! There are people on the beach.
White people.
Waving.
Weapons?
Books!
Mein Kampf? Atlas Shrugged?
Who knows?
I’m weary, let’s chance it!
I’m hungry.
I’m so thirsty I could drink seawater.
Turn around! I won’t birth my baby in a detention centre.
They’re waving placards!
To beat us?
To warn us?
To greet us!
Don’t rock the boat, I’ll vomit!
Can’t you feel the good vibrations? Row nearer so we can read the words.
Wow: MIGRANTS’ LIVES MATTER!
What makes you think we can trust them?
Isn’t it obvious? The apostrophe’s in the right place.

🥕🥕🥕

A Walk by joem18b

Walking through this young forest on a game trail, I breathe deeply. The path beneath my feet is soft. Light from a friendly sun, filtered through green canopy, dapples my face. The variety of trees here is amazing. Beech, tulip, oaks and hickories, other hardwoods. An understory of hornbeam, flowering dogwood, strawberry bush. Animals of all kinds thrive in this forest. That’s the word. Thrive. An environment in balance but evolving through vigorous growth. I count my breaths as I walk, to clear my mind. To let in the positive vibrations that envelope me. Life is good in Antartica.

🥕🥕🥕

Resonance by JulesPaige

opportunity
in that empty train car waits
imagine what fills
that vibrating space like birds
taking flight – here’s my ticket

Wynn Woo had never traveled by train before. While he was no longer a younger man, there were still many surprises left for him to encounter. All he had to do was open the door step inside his train compartment. The Steward said he would return in the evening to set the Pullman Bed down. While meditation usually calmed him, it was difficult to keep his eyes from the window and the rolling landscapes filled with free flying birds.

🥕🥕🥕

Shaken, Not Stirred by D. Avery

“Really, Kid? Ya come limpin’ in here, all bruised, an’ yer blamin’ our writer?”

“She decided ta write that ma hoss threw me.”

“Thet’s outta character fer a Carrot Ranch hoss. Why’d it toss ya?”

“They was a rattlesnake.”

“She brought a rattler ta the Ranch?! Not cool. Folks gotta feel safe here.”

“Desperation, Pal. Realized time’d run out on the prompt, thought ‘bout the vibration of a rattler’s tail. I’m jist collateral damage.”

“This ain’t even well writ. An’ she give up her day job? She’ll go hungry at this rate.”

“Mebbe not. Claims rattler tastes like chicken.”

🥕🥕🥕

June 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

When my eldest was a toddler, she’d express her excitement by clenching her fists close to her head and vibrating her entire body. Ever get that feeling? I want to clench, squeal, and vibrate every evening as the Roberts Street “Littles” emerge — a menagerie of baby critters. Somehow, the word’s gone out that my fairy gardens and below deck are safe places to leave off little ones, including two baby chipmunks, two fledged robins, a baby gray squirrel, a baby bunny, and a juvenile frog. They are so cute, my body hums.

Pre-summer evenings linger at the 47th parallel on the tail-end of the eastern time zone. Throughout June and most of July, last light remains past 10:30 p.m. It’s deceptive when we BBQ in the “evening” and realize it’s 9 pm. Of course, my personal time clock is wonky — I come to life in the evening and write or study most productively until 3 am. It’s a joy to watch young life unfold in my yard before sunset the way I imagine some people enjoy sunrises.

My former boss was a sunriser. She’d get that vibration about her every new place we went for conferences or work-related travel. It was bad enough that she was parsimonious (her favorite word), cramming her senior managers into as few hotel rooms as possible. I’ve even slept with my boss. Slept. I joked that I was going to turn her into HR, and from across the room, HR laughed with me. We were a close-knit management team, and I wouldn’t trade the lessons of that period of my life. My boss was a true servant-leader and taught me the value of building platforms that benefited communities. And sometimes, that meant sharing a room, bed, and sunrises.

One particular sunrise I remember was on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota (that Lady Lake of mine gets around). We were on a work retreat, and it was close enough to autumn to be cold in the pre-dawn morning. No one else would go with our boss to the lake to catch the sunrise. She had figured out the precise point to see dawn slip over the lake’s eastern horizon. By the time she laid a hand on my shoulder, I could smell coffee brewing. We filled a thermos and grabbed two mugs. Everyone else slept. We walked along a narrow and craggy trail to a place where we could sit on the bedrock and wait for the sun to appear. We shivered, huddled around our coffee, and were not disappointed.

When I watch the sunset over the western horizon of Lake Superior, I feel like that sunrise over a decade ago reflects back to me. I’m on the opposite side now, in tune with what harmonizes in me.

Earlier today, I met with a representative at the Michigan Small Business Development Center. It’s a resource of the US Small Business Administration, a government organization that supports entrepreneurs and small businesses. As a professional writer (meaning, this is my source of income), I’ve contracted a patchwork of services. Every author grapples with the reality that books alone will likely not make a living. I say likely because there are exceptions, superstars, and specific strategies to that truth of authorhood. Some exceptions include moderate success within a lucrative commercial genre (this requires multiple books). Superstars are the likes of J. K. Rowling and Stephen King. Specific strategies include shrewd studies of market trends and writing books to fill readership gaps (rather than writing the books you want to pen).

Mostly, professional authors find secondary sources of income. One professor told me he publishes books and “assets” (and, obviously, he teaches). Assets are value-added products that enhance your book — e-book, audio recording, a graphic novel based on your book, a series of podcasts, figurines or jewelry based on characters or props, music based on your book, character drawings. In addition to products (books and assets), professional authors teach — universities, online courses, webinars, workshops, retreats — or speak at conferences for a fee. Some work the book club angle and sell packages of their books and access to Q&A with the author. Some sell international book rights, others option their books for movies or Netflix series. Some offer services — agencies, PR, editing, coaching, marketing. Some supplement income, working odd jobs or temporary gigs in between writing and publishing books.

Whether you make it to superstar status or you work the secondary sources of income, authors do more than pound away at the keyboard and publish books.

This is what I’m working with the SBA to develop — a way to recognize the hard work of any path a writer takes and define what steps next for personal growth and professional development (if that is your path; it doesn’t have to be). Imagine being a writer who writes every single day — that’s commitment! But this dedicated writer has no interest in creating products or offering services, which leads to others not counting them as a “real” writer. I’ll be creating something that honors such a writer in addition to recognition for annual growth. It’s based on a program I used to apply for as a marketing communications manager.

Earlier in my MFA, I got excited (not quite full-body vibrations) about the possibility of coaching. However, after creating plans in my course, I realized it’s hard for me to offer individual services. I’m a high-energy person, and I put a lot into anything I do. Coaching would wipe me out. I realized it’s why I was struggling to work as a writing contractor. What I’m going to build will be more like mass coaching with a platform where I can invite other writers to coach and teach, too. I can get focused, manage my time, grow the literary outreach to expand beyond libraries and veterans to include more diversity and greater involvement from the community. The SBA is helping me build a business plan that is both sustainable and supportive of the writing community. I can incorporate the lessons of my sunriser boss to lift up others to make the writing world a better place. And I get to define my role in that ecosystem as a professional author.

Often, when you follow your North Star, the excitement can be palpable. Yet the possibilities of how to get there can be overwhelming. Sometimes, it shines down on us, and we are in the worst place to manifest its promise. But circumstances are always shifting, like it or not, life is in a daily flux between sunrises and sunsets. What’s important is that we set our North Star and follow its guidance. Right now, mine is starting to hum. And I’m ready.

June 18, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes good vibrations. What is unfolding? Is someone giving off or receiving the feeling? Where is the story situated? Gather some good vibes and go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 23, 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 closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

Liberation by Charli Mills

Gran’ma’s mama was an Okie from Muskogee, a fruit-picker in Tres Pinos, California, where Steinbeck Country ended in hayfields, orchards, and coastal mountains. She died young – 36 – cancer from unbridled use of pesticides in the 1930s. Gran’ma married a bull rider, a real bull shitter, too. They chased the tails of rodeos and ranch work across Nevada and back to Tres Pinos too many circuits to count. When he finally died of liver cirrhosis, Gran’ma shocked us all and married a Moscogo. White hand in black, they held the good vibes of Juneteenth, understanding the long wait for liberation.

Deep Water

Before you take the plunge, take a deep breath. The calming presence of water runs deep — cooling, stilling emotions. There’s an element of exploration, too, a confrontation with the depths.

Writers sought deep waters for stories this week. Take the plunge with them.

The following is based on the June 11, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story deep waters.

PART I (10-minute read)

Lofty Undertaking by Jo Hawk

Skyscrapers defined the canyon walls of Anders’ world. Imposing shadows modulated light and dark and framed his existence. He marched predictable paths that left him stuck in mechanized monotony.

Searching for more, his friends convinced him to kayak a Norwegian fjord. Landmasses dwarfed anything he had ever seen. The guides told stories of massive sperm whales, sixty feet long and weighing eighty tons, they ate giant squid who swam four thousand feet below his kayak’s thin fiberglass shell.

Anders imagined he was the whale, diving deep, he hunted dark waters. He breached the surface, reborn, and ready to soar.

🥕🥕🥕

Still Waters by R. V. Mitchell

“Still waters run deep.” What an amazing metaphor. But out on the big pond, still waters are a godsend. “The Deep,” has her moments of calm, but Magellan got it wrong when he named the Pacific. This expanse of deep shows her temper far too often.

Well, that is what the still waters of Petty Officer Mike Sanchez’s mind were pondering as he checked the lifeline on his harness, and made his way from the gun deck of his destroyer. As he did, the vessel pitched headlong into a trough, and the bow disappeared into a next rising peak.

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing by Allison Maruska

My destination lies ahead; its glassy surface reflects the morning sky. I beat my massive wings, and in a minute, I’m there. Tucking them against my sides, I dive. Water envelopes my scales. I can’t feel it through my tough hide.

Beneath me, several trout dart away. My keen eyesight zeroes in, and I push into the deep waters. I capture two fish and lurch around, facing the surface. With a waving motion, I propel upward, launching from the lake. When I extend my wings, spray reaches the opposing shores.

This is so much better than a fishing rod.

🥕🥕🥕

Emerging by D. Avery

He and Hope followed the brook through the softwoods to his favorite fishing spot. But when Hope saw the clear deep pool she was no longer interested in catching trout. She became a trout, flashing sleek and slippery through the water.

Hope stood briefly, a little girl again. Then she knelt beneath the surface, remained curled up on the gravel bottom. He held his own breath until finally Hope unfolded, emerging at last from the cold water. Solemnly she disclosed that she’d been a rock for ten million years.

“There’s magic here, Daddy.”

“Yes, Hope. I see it too.”

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by Anca Pandrea
I have a pocketful of dreams. Heavy, they forgot how to breathe. I drag my feet through the afternoon light, dancing over the surface. Shadows reach out from the abyss, and ghosts are all shadow. I don’t look back, the shore I can’t call home anymore. I stumble. It’s hope that tugs at my feet, tiny and fleeting. The river runs slow and cold and blue. Do dark, almost black. Quiet and gentle and infinite. Not enough to drown the tears. I let go of my breath one last time. Between myself and I, only the deep waters.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by Anita Dawes

Forgotten by the people they had made
They came from a timeless place
Cold, hollow, brittle
I hoped they would not speak
For fear my bones would break
Already I am fading from this world
I heard a soft voice take my hand
You have fallen into a pit of despair
Let me pull you out…
I felt myself reaching for something
For something I could not see
The sea had swallowed me
Dashing my body against sharp rocks
Reaching my hand above the waves
Mind and body pulled together as one
I was no longer treading deep water…

🥕🥕🥕

Overlapping by D. Avery

She was eighty years my senior, I the youngest child of her youngest child’s oldest child. From the 20 years our lives overlapped I have only a handful of memories, recalled like sepia snapshots. But if I examine any one of those snapshot memories of us together, somewhere in the frame, in distinct shiny color, is her queen conch shell. Me trying to fathom the spindrift shell, she saying put it to your ear, smiling as ageless ocean washes over me in a rushing tide; us, swimming easily, floating in timeless deep waters that muffle all but that moment.

🥕🥕🥕

Still Waters Run Deep by Ritu Bhathal

We sat there, together, staring down into the water. Pops had allowed the boat to come to rest in the middle of the lake. Once the water settled, there was a stillness – just the gentle bobbing motion of our boat causing minuscule ripples along the surface.

“It’s deep, son. You gotta be careful. Going overboard here, goodness knows what you’d see, down below.”

Quiet contemplation from the both of us.

I looked at him. A serenity emanated from his form. He seemed at peace, but I knew what he’d been through in the past. Still waters run deep.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by Kathy70

I think I was 4 when it happened.  I was sitting in the metal tub that we used for our baths and the water was cold, more was heating on the kitchen stove.  An older brother came in, kettle in one hand, book in the other.  The water began pouring and I began screaming, it went right on my leg.  Mom came to my rescue, only time in my entire life as I recall.  She was a lost person with all us kids, never had a chance to be herself. Then the real abuse started as best I can recall.

🥕🥕🥕

Podunk by Paula Puolakka

Y’all so crazy like you just escaped from an insane asylum!
That’s what I thought when I read about the NASCAR Confederate flag ban.
I’m listening to “Backyard” by Kevin Costner & Modern West and flipping through the pictures from the trip to Charlotte’s NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Whose life is this? Whose heritage are we treasuring? There should be room for everyone, they say, but that’s a lie.

I put on Kid Rock’s “Po-Dunk” and think about the stereotypes associated with us. I’m gonna move to Finland and start a colony somewhere deep in the eastern swamplands. Hell!

🥕🥕🥕

Cargo by Anne Goodwin

The body to my right had stopped breathing but the left one still groaned. I tried to comfort him but my words were babble to his ears. Too late, the white man taught me skin speaks stronger than tribe.

When they unshackled us, I expected new neighbours, but they hauled me to my feet, strapped a carcass to my back and whipped me up the ladder to the deck. My head span, the boat swayed, sea spray slashed my wounds. Parched, skeletal, unmuscled, I summoned strength to save myself and toss my brothers to deep water. Complicit? Plotting revenge.

🥕🥕🥕

Still Waters by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Okay, you can uncover your eyes now.”

“Wow! That’s beautiful…and heartbreaking. Who made this mural?”

“Trevor made this one. And take a few steps around this corner. This is one by Teresa. Yeah…it makes me tremble, too.”

“Wait! Those quiet kids who never join in on anything?”

“Apparently they just don’t join in on the things we’ve been offering.”

“I had no idea.”

“Neither did I. It seems those still waters run deep.”

“So what do we do now?”

“We go back to school. Donate groceries. Attend drum circles and honor Juneteenth.”

“And never go back to normal?”

“Exactly.”

🥕🥕🥕

A New Tradition by John Lane

Many centuries ago, when the seventeen-feet deep Jordan River was clean and thriving, a man that wore camel’s hair was called by a higher authority.

After consumption of his diet of locusts and honey, John the Baptist waded in waist-deep to baptize in the name of his higher authority.

One day, his higher authority, also known as the Messiah, the straps of whose sandals he was not worthy to untie, showed up to be baptized. The Spirit of God descended like a dove.

And many centuries later, believers still carry out the tradition of baptism from John the Baptist.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by Hugh McGovern

“You can’t keep me here,” I said clutching the pillow in defiance.

“You are not ready to go home, yet,” she said. “Give it more time.”

“There is nothing wrong with me. You lot are insane not me.”

“No one said you are insane,” she said, coming to sit by the bed. “These things take time. What difference does a few weeks make?” She sat on the bed. “Do you still believe in global harmony?”

“I did. Now I don’t know.”

“Why not grow a beard?”

Drowning would be better!

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by FloridaBorne

“The human race reminds me of a fool walking along a precipice,” my father said. “He falls and lands on the only tree growing out of the cliff.”

I once asked mom, “Why does he have to be so negative all the time?”

“He’s dying,” she said. “Agent orange is taking him away from us.”

I’d remembered his words as we stood on the deck of our family’s boat to throw his ashes into the sea. Sunny days, a soft breeze, calm waters, and whiskey were his solace.

Fifty years after his death, I’d never visited the ocean again.

🥕🥕🥕

There’s Always the Eye of a Needle by JulesPaige

Sun under wood, shaded yard
Scavenger loop, just to see the ‘mettle’ of the earth
My endurance lacking in the humidity for the time and being

And never said a word (not boo), let the crow catch a few seeds…
Those blackbirds they are skittish ~
Like me shopping with a mask this morning, just wanting home…

But before that, I paused at the first yard sale of the season –
Reaching into the depths of my wallet for two dollars.
More buttons and spools ~

if the bobbin would
stop cutting its own thread I’d
sew me together

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Deep Waters by Joanne Fisher

“It’s surprising we never became lovers. You know I’ve always had feelings for you Emma?” Michelle asked me in the cafe.

“Yeah I guessed. I have feelings for you too,” I admitted.

We looked at one another in awkward silence. We both knew it could never be. We had our own lives that seldom intersected with each other. This was the first chance meeting in a long while.

“Well I had better go,” she said. I wistfully smiled at her, not wanting to explore this any further. These were deep waters neither of us wanted to get lost in.

🥕🥕🥕

Famous Classmates by Susan Sleggs

Michael and Tessa gazed at the Wall of Fame in their high school. Tessa asked, “Did you see Phillip Sheppard when he was on the TV show Survivor?”

“I did, and his pink underpants didn’t surprise my Aunt Sue a bit. She said he was the character in her class. I wonder how much ribbing his brother James took as the Rochester Police Chief at the time. He probably felt like he was wading in deep water.”

“And Bill T. Jones was her student instructor in choir. Who knew at the time these three African-American students would become famous.”

Author’s Note: I ate lunch with Bill T. Jones and other friends every day when I was in eighth grade at Wayland-Cohocton Central School. He is now a world-renowned modern dance teacher and Kennedy Center Honors recipient. James and Phillip Sheppard were a few years younger than me. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Phillip after his second appearance on Survivor. What a fun guy to hang out with. And no, we had no clue while in high school these classmates would become household names. (photos on my blog)

🥕🥕🥕

Still Waters Run Deep by Eliza Mimski

My mother always told me that still waters run deep, that an ordinary man with ordinary looks could smolder with passion. He could take you to places you’d never been before, hidden places wild with excitement.

Oh, how I used to watch these ordinary men. The grocery clerk behind the counter. The man waiting for the bus, reading his newspaper, his glasses down his nose. The humble old man collecting plastic bottles from the recycling bins.

Inside of these men were hidden talents. They ran deep. Once you’d been with one of them you’d never settle for anything less.

🥕🥕🥕

Electric Skin by Janet Guy

Hot bubbles swirled around Dominic. Strong jets of water targeted sore muscles above his shoulder blades, along his spine, the backs of his calves. Dom shifted against them, letting new muscles get pounded back to health. Wrinkled fingertips skimmed the top of the water. A bell rang. Dom heaved himself out of the jacuzzi. He trudged over to a small circle in the floor. Bright light illuminated its still waters. Dom braced himself. He plunged into the icy depths. Every nerve sparked with life. Rainbows danced across his eyelids. Dom pulled himself out of the chilly water and grinned.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by Dave Madden

Terry was cognizant of the deep waters, though he hadn’t yet been there.

Ten-minutes disappeared from the clock, and he labored to leave his stool for the final round. Across the cage, a maniacal grin appeared across the opponent’s face as he observed Terry’s struggle.

Coach urged Terry to circle the cage. Easy advice when you’re not wearing weights around your ankles.

The opponent flashed some combinations before diving in on Terry’s legs, hoisting him into the heavens, and smashing him to the canvas. Too tired to escape the pressure, Terry drowned in the center of the cage.

🥕🥕🥕

Under the Waves by Joanne Fisher

“What’s down there mummy?”

“That’s the deep. We never go down there child.”

“How come?”

“There are dangers in those deep waters. Not even the light from above can penetrate that darkness and the nameless horrors dwelling there. We swim nearer to the surface.”

“What’s up there?”

“That is the place where the water ends. We can survive for a while there, but it is here where we belong. Not like humans.”

“What are humans?”

“They have legs instead of tails. They cannot breathe down here, which is why it’s amusing to drag them under and watch them drown.”

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Waters by Reena Saxena

The widow did not shed a tear, and the world was aghast.
They were such a happy-go-lucky couple.

She was labelled as stoic, determined not to display emotion in public, cold, manipulative and whatever they could think of.

Nobody knew she was breathing free for the first time.

Nobody knew the mental torture she had suffered for decades. Nobody knew that her parents did not stand by her when she needed help, and she had shut off the emotional tap.

You may be a coach, therapist or expert swimmer, but wading in deep waters of relationships is never easy.

🥕🥕🥕

Never So Free by Donna Matthews

They planned this excursion for the past year, pouring over brochures, scouring the internet, and reading the reviews of each tour guide. But now, here at the edge of the tiny boat, she wasn’t sure she could go through with it. Her new husband winked and fell backward into the sea. Finally, she surrendered and fell in too. Her first few labored breaths threatened to overwhelm her, but as she settled in, she saw a school of fish off to the right. Kicking her fin, she cruised right into the middle, scattering class. Giggling, she never felt so free.

🥕🥕🥕

Into Deep Waters by Charli Mills

What to place in my memory box? That last night out at the Fitz when the sun slanted across the western horizon dazzling like a copper-clad ruby while five-foot waves chomped the last of winter’s ice. March 13. We reached across the table, five friends sharing poutine and smoked brisket. We sang happy birthday. Later we dodged deer crossing the road back to Calumet, we stopped for a Bota Box of red wine. We found toilet paper, joking that Yoopers wouldn’t panic buy TP. Into deep waters, memories plunge. Most vivid — the last time I felt normal.

🥕🥕🥕

A Memory of Long Lake by Bill Engleson

It was my toughest bike ride ever.

Up to then, anyways.

Ernie and I usually rode up to the Dam to swim.

Or walked two blocks to the Millstream.

Not this time.

“We can’t do it,” I whined. “Gotta be a hundred miles.”

“Nah. Ten.”

“Fifty.”

“Come on.”

Early July.

Hot.

Pumping away.

Dripping sweat.

Train tracks snuggling the old highway.

Wishing we were crows.

Got there by noon.

Dog-tired.

A dozen local kids swimming away.

“There’s really no bottom to it, Ernie?”

“Goes all the way to China, I hear.”

I believed every word then.

Kinda still do.

🥕🥕🥕

Displacement by Jeff Gard

Nobody knows which raindrop transmuted our reservoir into a frothing bull that breached the levee, stampeding downriver, chased by debris. One moment, we marveled at the storm; the next, our recreational area transgressed its cage and reclaimed its territory: roads that scarred the landscape healed by a fresh, muddy skin, cloned McMansions gutted of their trophies, converted to bird houses.

On higher ground, we found sanctuary in the high school, now a bed and breakfast for a thousand refugees. While we waited on our cots, calmer voices gathered to assign blame with flashes of insight, booming words of consolation.

🥕🥕🥕

Profoundly Shallow by Geoff Le Pard

‘Where are we?’

‘The Great Lakes, Morgan. Lake Erie.’

‘It sure is eerie. Too bloody quiet.’

‘Can’t we just enjoy its magnificence?’

‘It scares the willies out of me. It’s… so deep.’

‘Yes mysterious. Profound.’

‘It’s just a lot of the wet stuff that given half a chance will swallow me whole.’

‘It’s majestic. Unknowable. Imagine what memories it holds…. You know what they say about Still Waters?’

‘He’s the best Pokemon Go hunter ever?’

‘What?’

‘Stile Warters, German Guy. He caught more Pokemon last year. Shall we see if any are here?’

‘Sure. Why not try out there?’

🥕🥕🥕

Terrified by Susan Zutautas

The waves that day were perfect for bodysurfing.

I headed into deeper water where the waves were forming so I could ride one back into shore. What I didn’t realize was that the undertow was quite strong and just as the wave was breaking, down under the water I went. The undertow literally dragged me across the bottom of the sea, my body feeling the gritty sand scratching and stinging my skin. I could feel the weight of the sand filling my suit. Finally surfacing disoriented, opening my eyes I saw I was at the shoreline, and stood up.

🥕🥕🥕

Crossroads: Journeys by Saifun Hassam

Over millennia, the chasm became a long narrow lake, its deep waters aquamarine, and emerald under the sun. The lake glowed, a burnished golden sheen as the sun set. Craggy volcanic cliffs stood sharply, sentinels guarding the lake.

The stranger gazed reflectively at the lake. He was from an oasis that shriveled as snowpacks on distant mountains shrank. He left when his father died in calm and peace. His heart broke as he buried his father under a giant palm tree. What sustained those groves, he wondered.

The shimmering lake beckoned, lifting his deep grief, healing, renewing his spirit.

🥕🥕🥕

Kiddhartha by D. Avery

“Feels like a long while since we jist ranched.”

“Yep, it’s good ta be out ridin’ the range, herdin’ hosses, gittin’ ‘em ta greener pastures. Whoa. There’s a river. Think we kin ford it?”

“We ain’t gotta buy it Kid, jist gtta git acrost it. Carefully.”

“Water looks still.”

“Still waters run deep. We’ll git the hosses down ta the river, let ‘em quench their thirst an’ rest up. ***
Dang, Kid. I led ‘em ta water but cain’t git these hosses ta drink. Kid?”

“Shush, Pal. I’m a settin’ here watchin’ the river flow. Havin’ me a think.”

🥕🥕🥕

June 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

Deep waters fill my cup. A teabag bobs like a small raft, brown stains the water. The cup — Polishware handpainted in circles and flowers, blue and orange — is too hot to hold, so I pull down the long sleeves of my flannel shirt like makeshift potholders, and I grip the cup between my covered hands. Heat seeps into cold bones. It’s 40 degrees F tonight, and the Hub has all the windows flung open. I huddle in my recliner, tuck up my knees, and sip hot tea. I contemplate deep waters.

In my mind’s eye, I can see to the bottom of the lake. The deep water is so clear it acts as a lens. I scope the watery landscape for large agates, but sediment covers the rocks, and they all look like brown cobbles. Farther out, the shelf drops so steeply all you can see is clear blue, clear blue, clear blue. I don’t dare venture that far, a novice in a kayak. I know better than to tempt Lady Lake into an invitation to tea below. The vastness of water feels so big it swells around me.

I once lost sight of mountains. In all of my life, I could look to familiar ridges and peaks. I used to tell people I was born in the Gabilans, raised in the Sierra, and educated in the Rockies. Then we moved to Iowa. The final mountain ranges faded, and prairie flattened all around me. In a panic, I wondered if this was what it was like to lose sight of land. Did a sailor feel what I felt when the shore dipped away? Roads laid out in grids across Iowa, and every day I’d get lost; the farms with house, silos, and cornfields all looked the same. There were no mountains to guide me home. Laura Ingalls Wilder once lived in Iowa and never wrote about it. All I have to say is that I lost my identity there.

Deep waters brought me home. Not to Montana, but to Minnesota with its North Shore of Lake Superior — the craggy, wild side of the lake. I orientated to co-ops, local food, and up north. Identity adapted. No mountain, but I could feel the energy of the lake, and I was lulled. Every summer, we tossed the canoe on the Expedition, loaded up three kids, tents, and outdoor cooking kitchen. On a lake in the boundary waters, the Hub and I paddled, the kids on shore, when we heard our daughter bellow, “Mooooose!” We cut across those deep waters of emerald green, headed to the rocks and pines of shore, frantically calling out the names of our children. That canoe never glided so fast. One daughter bumped into the backend of a moose and scared it worse than it scared her. We laugh to this day over her bellow. That kid could have been a yodeler. I decided I was pleased that moose lived near mountains and deep waters. A connection.

They say moose crossed the ice of Lake Superior when it froze between Canada and Isle Royale. The wolves followed. Another camping trip north, the kids and I rode Voyeguer II across Lake Superior to visit the most remote National Park in the lower 48. Over deep waters, the air temperatures drop 30 to 40 degrees from land. We saw another moose that day, swimming along the shore of the island. We hiked the park trails, and when the Voyeguer blasted its horn to call passengers back to harbor, we turned around, passing another person from our boat. He started to say something to me about my dog. I gave him a funny look because I had no dog with us. The wolf who decided to be our canine companion dashed off into the trees. No one had time to yell, “Wolf!” Somehow, the kids were less excited over a predator following them than running into a sleeping moose. We crossed back over those deep waters on 14-foot swells.

That’s how I like to enjoy Lake Superior — on her shoreline facing the roar of rolling water. She’s become my mountains, my solitude, my place of reflection. May we all take time to reflect. Waters run deep.

June 11, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story deep waters. It can be literal or metaphorical. Think of a place and person and situation. Explore. Bathe. Renew. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 16, 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 closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

Into Deep Waters by Charli Mills

What to place in my memory box? That last night out at the Fitz when the sun slanted across the western horizon dazzling like a copper-clad ruby while five-foot waves chomped the last of winter’s ice. March 13. We reached across the table, five friends sharing poutine and smoked brisket. We sang happy birthday. Later we dodged deer crossing the road back to Calumet, we stopped for a Bota Box of red wine. We found toilet paper, joking that Yoopers wouldn’t panic buy TP. Into deep waters, memories plunge. Most vivid — the last time I felt normal.

And Justice for All

Hand over my heart, as a child, a white child in America, I pledged allegiance to the flag, reciting, “…and justice for all.” I believed those words, but now I’m an adult facing the truth of hollow ideals. My life’s work is to collect stories — I listen, process, write, read, and discuss. My platform is one I share with writers around the world to make literary art accessible. My white privilege is evolving into something I can use for good, but I’m still learning what that means.

This week, I invited writers to take on writing 99-word stories about justice for all. With a global community, the theme broadened beyond American civil rights. Each writer processed what the phrase means, or looks like, or how it is abused. This is a safe space for writers to explore, using literary art. Until all voices can feel safe sharing their stories, we’ll hold the space.

A long time ago in Montana, a young girl used to babysit my children so I could drive over a mountain pass to attend college classes for creative writing. When I’d take her home she’d chatter about the latest characters she was reading in a book. I was so proud of her when she moved to Minnesota to attend college, graduating with an English teaching degree. She now has a family of her own, and a masters, teaching college. She recently shared this with her students:

“All lives do *not* matter *until* Black lives do. {That’s how words work. “All” cannot be true as long as some are excluded.}”

The following is based on the June 4, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about justice for all.

Entitled by Anne Goodwin

They could’ve stayed in the apartment with their three sleeping children.

They could’ve grieved in private, they could’ve owned their guilt.

They could’ve recognised all families face tragedy and some tragedies loom larger than theirs.

They could’ve searched for ALL abducted children, campaigned for all victims of parental neglect.

They could’ve accepted police budgets have limits, that lost-cause investigations siphon resources from elsewhere.

They could’ve used their power, their professional contacts, their shiny media profile; they could’ve raised their white middle-class voices to shout for justice for all.

In their shoes – or flip-flops – would you have done the same?

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Just Is by Bill Engleson

“S’not fair.”

“T’is.”

“Tain’t.”

Noisy kids. Neighbour’s grand-progeny. Visiting. Been a while. A Covid-19 while.

COVID?

DIVOC!

Hmm, need my morning cuppa…

Ready soon.

Sit on the porch.

Suck in the spring air.

“You’re hurting me. Get off!”

“Don’t be a sissy. And stop squirming.”

“I can’t…you’re hurting…”

What did Sam say? Oh, yeah; “Eight and ten-year-old’s…been cooped up in an apartment for months…missed seeing them…hope they don’t bother you.”

Right!

“Ear plugs, Sam,” I joked. “Ear plugs.”

“…under arrest…”

“Whafor…?”

“Being a brat.”

“Can’t brea…”

“Sure ya can…”

“Can’t bre…why?”

“Just is…is all.”

“Can’t…”

Kids, I think.

Kids.

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Unrealized by D. Avery

“I think about Sofie’s Great Northern Migration project, how my grandparents’ dream is still unrealized.”

“It’s so sad, so scary, Toni; I have nightmares— it is a nightmare.”

“When my Joe came home from Afghanistan he had nightmares, haunted by what he’d experienced, but he went back, always a dutiful soldier. Said he fought for justice for all… If he hadn’t gotten killed over there, fighting against the Taliban— I wonder would he have been killed here in his own country? Here where it’s still the wrong time and place to be walking around in the ‘wrong color’ skin.”

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The Injustice of Forgotten History by Charli Mills

Heat from the foundries blasted Big John every day. Sweat froze to his body when he walked home to Cliff where Sweet Mo had stew and thimbleberry cobbler waiting. He wore massive leather boots, tailor-made because he could afford them. Mo sewed colorful calico dresses and on Sunday they lifted the rafters with Jesus and friends at the African Methodist Episcopal. When the nation passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, escaped slaves and freed people knew slave-hunters would avoid the rough and remote Copper Country.

One day, when there’s justice for all, we’ll record these erased black histories.

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Take It All Back by Jo Hawk

It should have been a simple assignment. A modest portrait of his patron’s daughter. While he didn’t like children as his subject, the commission promised to launch his budding career.

Except, when she showed for her appointment, she wasn’t a child. She was no blushing bride-to-be, but a temptress with a siren’s song. Engaged, another man’s prize, she exchanged the poor artist’s heart with her own. Forbidden love blossomed.

There was only one solution.

“I cannot do her justice,” he declared, “For all our sakes, take these godforsaken sketches, and I will try to forget I ever met her.”

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Running Low by D. Avery

“Right there, Nard. Why mention that the new guy is black?”

“Just providing a picture. He probably refers to us as white.”

“He doesn’t need to.”

“Anyway, he’s got a good sense of humor.”

“Yeah? What kind of jokes is he compelled to laugh along with? Jokes like your anti-gay name calling?”

“I’m more sympathetic now.”

Kristof chuckled. “Now that his steering’s aligned.”

“What are you saying, Ilene, I have to monitor my speech, reconsider what I think is funny?”

“That’s what I’m saying. But no hard feelings. Help yourself to my cooler.”

“It’s empty!”

“Just ice. For all.”

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Justice to a Little Girl’s Eyes by John Lane

Eight-year-old Shanice Imani watched the news. She saw people of her color get their necks crushed, tazed on their backs and dragged throughout the streets. All done by police. Whenever Shanice slept, she had nightmares of police taking her out of her home to beat her. She woke up with tears in her eyes, afraid to go outside.

Shanice’s mother took a long time to convince her, but Shanice eventually agreed to join the peaceful march. During the march on Black Lives Matter Plaza, she noticed a policeman. She cried.

The policeman said, “I won’t hurt you.” Shanice smiled.

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Justice for All by Susan Budig

I can’t write about justice
unless I write about peace
repeat after me, I will write about peace

I can’t write about peace
unless I write about healing
repeat after me, I will write about healing

I can’t write about healing
unless I write about brokenness
repeat after me, I will write about brokenness

Broken by what we lack–
compassion for our neighbor
empathy for one another

Broken by what we need—
energy
direction and
focus to stay the course

Broken in our poverty—
deliverance from evil

Deliver me into the hands of justice
and then I will write

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Building Over Bones by Diana Nagai

“Remember,” Jiichan* bowed his head, “ the local bank president and minister bought our farm for one dollar. When my family was released from the internment camp, we bought the farm back for one dollar. They felt helpless in stopping what the government did to us, but they showed up. Others, not as lucky, had their homes and businesses destroyed or stolen. White establishments rose from those Japanese boneyards. It is my turn to show up. Until graveyards no longer serve as the bedrock for white success.” In alliance, he fell silent for the full eight minutes, 46 seconds.

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Will There Ever Be Justice For All by Susan Sleggs

Michael sat with his fellow bandmates discussing the Pledge of Allegiance. He asked, “Have you ever thought about that last line, ‘Justice for All’?

Colm McCarthy, first-generation Irish -American who served in Vietnam, said, “Only when I get mad about how hard it is to get an appointment at the VA.”

Colm’s son, Thad, a Vietnamese-American who served in Granada, gave a disgusted grunt. “Try being a 50-50 and see how you are treated by others.”

Tyrell, the band’s African-American drummer, and Iraq veteran asked, “Are we talking about justice or equality.”

Michael responded, “I don’t believe they’re separable.”

Author’s Note: A 50/50 was the term used to describe a Vietnamese child that was half American.

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Dime-store Justice by T. Marie Bertineau

“You did WHAT?” Mama asked.

Helena wasn’t expecting that tone, that volume, the stern expression. Not of Mama. A moment earlier, the grade-school girl with the fiery red ponytail had bounced in the back door. She’d been eager to share the news, eager to tell her mama what she’d done. How she’d stood up for the little Black girl. How she’d seen with her own eyes the neighbor boy take the candy from the dime-store—not the girl. She felt she had done a good thing, a just thing, the right thing.

But Mama’s face said otherwise.

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Crossroads by Saifun Hassam

Jalil gently covered his mom with her green shawl. She was asleep on the sofa, exhausted from cleaning up their Little Asia neighborhood, after last night’s violent protests.

Little Asia in East Newberry. People from all over Asia lived and worked here, before moving on to other American cities. Shoppers came from other neighborhoods for delicious international foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Little Asia. Brown, beige, ivory skins. Ancient Silk Road stories. Graeco-Roman features. Sky blue and hazel green eyes. Connections to North Africa, the Mediterranean, East Africa, the Indian Ocean.

Crossroads of ancient humanity written into their DNA.

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Crossroads by Saifun Hassam

Jalil gently covered his mom with her green shawl. She was asleep on the sofa, exhausted from cleaning up their Little Asia neighborhood, after last night’s violent protests.

Little Asia in East Newberry. People from all over Asia lived and worked here, before moving on to other American cities. Shoppers came from other neighborhoods for delicious international foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Little Asia. Brown, beige, ivory skins. Ancient Silk Road stories. Graeco-Roman features. Sky blue and hazel green eyes. Connections to North Africa, the Mediterranean, East Africa, the Indian Ocean.

Crossroads of ancient humanity written into their DNA.

🥕🥕🥕

The Aftertaste of Language by Jeff Gard

Today his name is John. They want him to forget what he was called yesterday, to reject his past, his traditions. They cut his hair, gave him proper clothes.

Their government created this school with trees from sacred forests. Its limestone foundation violates land that birthed his nation.

Teacher’s bony hand squeezes his darker fingers into the chalk, which drags against the slate, crying the letters of her language. Spirals and swoops, lines that lean, trembling with meaning.

He repeats the lumpy, starchy words she gives him. Pruned syllables, flogged rhythms, distorted shapes with an aftertaste of blood:

“Lib-er-ty.”

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In the Impossible Woods by Liz Husebye Hartmann

In deep woods, somewhere near the middle and the end, launching from the first and hovering near the last, always returning to the origin, is a clearing. Sometimes there, other times elsewhere, most often not present at all.

In that clearing, in a shaft of light that is frequently utter darkness, rests a statue, carved in stone but liquid as snow near the edge of wildfire. It’s a work of ultimate, unwavering justice.

She journeys there, rucksack over her shoulders, wooden staff ready, to support or fight. Mapped in a dream, sent by the Oracle, it’s her lifetime’s journey.

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The Next Morning by Joanne Fisher

“Brian Kent?”

“Yes Officer?”

“Last night you were observed going on a killing spree leaving around 80 dead, judging by the number of corpses left. How do you plead?”

“They were zombies!”

“So you admit it?”

“Of course I do! They were zombies trying to eat me.”

“Zombies have a right to live too. This isn’t the 1980s. You just can’t go on a killing spree and expect there’ll be no repercussions. How did you know they were wanting to eat you?”

“I just knew.”

“You mean you assumed. Think about the effects your actions have had. Sandra, cuff him!”

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Injustice by Eliza Mimski

When she was eleven years old, her mother married a man who didn’t want kids, at least not her and her younger brother. Her mother and this man who she hated and whose name she never said aloud, wrote down or thought to herself and refused to speak to had two children of their own. Two different sets of rules applied: one for her and her brother and one for the new children, the first treated cruelly and the second treated with respect.

It’s taken her years to find peace around this, to let go of her burning resentments.

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Justice For All by Kathy70

These words were repeated by rote as a child and shelved as a busy new mom, single parent of 3 and older independent woman.  Now they shape all our worlds, force us to look at ourselves and everyone else.  No longer can we ignore or hide from them.  I am still learning and hope never to take them for granted, I may need help, so call me on it if you see it. I also hope we can all live and learn by this standard. Where we go from here could be very beautiful for all of us. I hope.

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Bias Blinds and Binds by Reena Saxena

“Is the American story reminiscent of India against Corruption movement?”

“No. India against Corruption was an inorganic, planted idea, hence it fizzled out. It comes closer to the subversion of a particular community and their acts of rebellion.”

“The perception of justice may differ, but the ground reality remains the same. The people do not get justice.”

“There are predefined slots for problems – economic, racial, moral, socio-political…”

“Can I sum it all up? The fight is always put up by a minority against the majority. The majority view has become the norm. Confirmation bias blinds and binds the world.”

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Misogynistic Scoundrel by Donna Matthews

That long-ago morning, Sue kicked Joe out. It would be the final time she bailed her scoundrel husband, drunk and violent again, out of jail for “disorderly conduct.”

It was 1955, and as she stood outside the Secretarial School, she didn’t know WHERE she was going, but she knew she couldn’t stay here.

As the years passed, she discovered scoundrels didn’t always come in the form of drunken husbands. She found them in break rooms and later board rooms.

Now, spending time with these beautiful young Ugandan school girls, Sue realized the biggest scoundrel of all… a misogynistic culture.

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Racism (Dedicated to George Floyd) by M J Mallon

Jordan vowed to protect his world from deranged, hate-filled people. He vowed to be a braver man, to speak up against injustice, standing unified with his loving wife beside him.

His words: “Racism kills. It divides and discriminates.”

Her words: “We are one, we refuse to let the racists win.”

After the protest, his wife’s creamy fingers cupped his obsidian skin. Her loving eyes filled.

They both wept, remembering George Floyd.

Their thoughts raged no more hatred, ever.

Denounce racism, curtail this relentless boot inflicting suffocating death. Stop it now, end the pain.

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Here Ends the First Lesson by Ellen Best

‘Anne, What if we chose not to feed that bird,’ Daddy pointed, ‘because it has a yellow beak? None with yellow beaks.’ Mummy joined in, ‘We could tell everyone how wicked the yellow beaked ones were, they would copy, and soon there would be nowhere for them to go.’ Tears welled in Anne’s eyes, her lip trembled. She stood, her eyes swollen with unshed tears. “No! Everybody needs kindness, you always tell me that. I will be very cross and sad if you do. Please don’t.’ They hugged her, assured her she was right not to discriminate.

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Just Desserts by Ritu Bhathal

She walked into the kitchen, sniffing around for snacks.

Always hungry, that one.

Could never resist my cupcakes. There she goes, into my cake box…

Ha! Go on, eat that old collection of My Little Pony toys!

All those years I craved ice cream, and would reach to the carton in the freezer, only to find another frozen curry, or opened the biscuit tin for a cookie, and instead, pulled out a sewing kit… typical Indian mum trick.

Wouldn’t buy decent Tupperware, instead using all the old food containers and fooling us.

Finally, Mum, you got your just desserts!

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Choices by JulesPaige
(haibun pair each 99 words)

Part 1

How can we remain neutral to injustice? Some countries believed they could just so during some very horrendous warring.
But mostly they stayed neutral to keep their own productions and exports going to feed their own. Too many are taught to think individualistically. Where is peace for the greater good, the majority, who often do not have a clear cut voice?

there is a great veil
that blinds the eyes of justice
whose eyes are open?

who can holiday when cries
cast out of cold dark shadows

Today, our worst enemy is atomic in size, attacking the global community.

Part 2

I am not a scientist in a lab able to determine how to fight the unseen enemy. While I am an individual, I can be part of the greater good. I can contribute in the best ways that I can, without compromising my own health. It is a war of emotions that everyone must face. Just what can I do to encourage justice for all?

there is a great veil
that blinds the eyes of justice
whose eyes are open?

we must work together to
strengthen positive life force

A case of water was donated to first responders today.

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The Wrong Lesson by Dave Madden

“Attack first, answer questions later.”

Sensei Rodrigo’s message was unorthodox, to say the least. Whatever his intention, the students’ aggression, both at home and school, slowly turned toward the red.

When Salvador got into a fight at school and repeated Sensei’s teachings, his parents decided to confront Mr. Rodrigo.

Sal’s Mom stormed through the dojo’s doors, “These kids worship you. Why would you encourage fighting?”

Sensei Rodrigo’s bark was worse than his bite because as he aggressively approached her, Sal’s dad responded with a hook across his chin.

While walking out, Sal suggested, “You should start a gym, Dad!”

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The Thoughts of Wittgenstein by Paula Puolakka

All lives matter. This had been Golda’s guideline, and she had tried to make people conscious of environmental issues: clean water and oxygen were essential to everyone. Now, however, all the events had been postponed because of the riots.

“I’m glad I’m living in the world’s richest country. I’m glad I’m not the fair-skinned slave of the Egyptians,” she thought. For a Jew, the concept of justice was a joke.

To keep herself safe from both the protesters and the Covid-19 virus, Golda decided that it was time for a double-lockdown. She buried herself in the thoughts of Wittgenstein.

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Justice by Simon

You are the talk on social media, this is so cruel, beheading, all these men? This is not a big crime, it happens everyday, why did you make such a big change in the law?
Which is not a big crime? rape, sexual assault, insult to modesty, kidnapping, abduction, cruelty by intimate partner or relatives, trafficking, persecution for dowry, dowry deaths, indecency, anything that hurt a women, will be beheaded! And I’m here to serve justice for all, because some of us don’t respect each other as a human. You must forget kindness to restore one being a human.

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Justice for All by FloridaBorne

Grandpa Buckley had never tired of telling the story. “My Irish great, great, great grandmother was a slave in the south. My great, great grandmother was paired with the new black slaves. Her children escaped and Indians took them in.”

“I know,” I’d said, rolling my eyes. “Buckley means servant. The name was handed down by my great grandmother who was sold to a French fur trapper. She escaped. Their five sons became Buckley’s.”

I thought of him when I opened the results of my DNA test, and gasped: 2% Nigerian, 5% Cameroon, 4% Native American.

DNA doesn’t lie.

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Pandemic of Fear by D. Avery

The older woman slammed the loaded clip into her semiautomatic rifle. “This is for if they come by.” She tucked the handgun into her waistband. “This is if they come close.”

“Aunt Fannie!”

“What? I told you when you came here from college I was ready for anything this pandemic had to offer.” She chambered a round. “I don’t claim to be colorblind, but this rifle truly is. It delivers justice for all.”

“Auntie! You don’t have to be afraid of them.”

“Don’t I? We all do.”

“Black men aren’t inherently dangerous!”

“No shit. It’s white men I fear.”

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Destiny Dawning by D. Avery

“What’s the matter, Mommy? It’s still dark.”

“Move over?”

Marlie lifted the covers and made room. “Did you have a nightmare?”

“Actually, Marlie, I did.”

“Don’t be afraid. Teddy? Or Destiny?”

Liz took the Destiny Doll, but what she really wanted— needed— was this, to just lie close with her little girl.

“Mommy, tomorrow can you make a cape for Destiny? And one for me and one for Sofie?”

“Sure. What color?”

“Every color!”

“Like a rainbow?”

“Rainbow colors, brown colors, black colors, tan colors— every color. We’re caped crusaders. Justice! For all!”

“Marlie, I’m feeling less afraid now.”

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Protest and Pandemic by Geoff Le Pard

‘Are you wearing two masks, Morgan?’

‘I’m worried.’

‘You’re indoors, watching from a window.’

‘There’s no social distancing.’

‘You don’t think they should protest?’

‘No, of course not. It’s just… with this virus… They could get ill, spread it…’

‘What would you do, Morgan?’

‘I’d keep my distance…’

‘There must be 20,000 people. Sometimes, getting involved means taking risks…’

‘But, Logan…’

‘What, then? Reschedule it? Book a slot for September? You have to grab the moment. Justice delayed is justice denied.’

‘I know… that’s why I’ve got two masks.’

‘?’

‘One for you. Come on, time we got involved….’

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Fabric of the Nation by D. Avery

“Kid, what’re ya doin’ ta my fav’rite rodeo shirt?”

“Here, ya kin have yer shirt back, I jist wanted the fringe off it fer a flag.”

“A fringed flag?”

“Yep, represents fringe folk. An’ I gathered ev’ry kinda color an’ cloth imaginable. Gonna make a flag fer Buckaroo Nation.”

“Aw, Kid, let’s not be flyin’ flags here, not even thet inclusive one. Let’s take all thet cloth ya gathered an’ make quilts instead.”

“Quilts!”

“We kin give ‘em ta displaced folks, ta them thet’s on the streets an’ them who’ve taken ta the streets.”

“That idea warms my heart.”

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Contradictions

Contradictions can provide the kind of contrasts that push us to consider the connections between opposing ideas. Creativity often flares brightest in divergent pairings. Hard rocks and marshmallows, caskets and baby blankets, love and destruction.

Writers got to play and formulate their own contradictions for their stories, creating surprising results.

The following is based on the May 28, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using two words that contradict.

PART I (10-minute read)

Moon Dust and Boat Wood by Charli Mills

Two young star-gazers giggle, floating on boat wood lashed into a stationary raft. Papa salvaged the lumber from a shipwreck on the beach, tethered it to the edge of the pond. On his one night off, he’d settle with them, tracing stars in the sky. A full lunar light beams overhead, dimming the Milky Way and illuminating the rock house that towers above the miners’ homes and woods. The girls wait for Papa to emerge from the trail to the mines, repeating constellations he taught them. They open their mouths to moon dust floating downward. It tastes like copper.

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A Stiff Breeze by T. Marie Bertineau

She woke to bright sun, an impish nip in the air, treetops bursting lush and lime. It was like any modest spring day—except for the wind. Oh, the wind! Flags whipped, chimes clanged. Hanging baskets clutching tender blossom caps leaned into the stiff breeze. The wind had come on hard that morning. Unrelenting, bellowing like a bitter newsboy. It blew in gusts of mayhem, carried a current of grisly headlines: untimely death, social injustice, violence in the streets, manipulative factions mucking up the cause. It blew in everything—everything but what was needed most in that moment: peace.

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Opposites Attract? by Sascha Darlington

“Doomed!” Old Lady Hennessy declared.

“Doomed!” agreed the other quilting club ladies.

Russell was the town bad boy. I was the town good girl.

He started a rock band. A rock band in Little Falls? Scandalous. We’re bluegrass true!

I was destined to be the librarian. Finger upon my lips: shush!

But you can’t control who you fall in love with. Maybe it’s pheromones. Maybe it’s his sky eyes. Maybe it’s the song he sang round midnight while meteorites zipped across the sky.

Russel and me? We’re opposites. Do opposites attract?

I’ll let you know. After one more kiss.

🥕🥕🥕

Contradictions by FloridaBorne

He loved listening to the solitude; birds singing, the way a breeze felt as it whispered through pine needles.

Thirty years of peace, broken to pieces in seconds by one new neighbor.

A mile down the road, music for the tone deaf, often referred to as Rap, blasted into the night, stopping at 22:00 hours.

He’d asked the family to please respect their neighbors. Their response? “Stupid redneck! Get off my property.”

“As you wish,” former Master Sergeant Murphy had replied.

Under a full moon, he wandered through the woods carrying a sniper’s rifle. Tonight, the misery would end.

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Contradictions by Liz McGinty

His body language speaks frustration. He kicks his leg incessantly against the table leg as his fingers twitch a rhythm on a cigarette paper packet.

I am frustrated, with the sound of my voice as I ask the endless questions in a monotone. Invasive, unending details to complete his claim.

His answers become aggressive, and my heartbeat quickens. The booth fills with hostility. He curses me. My shoulders ache with the weight of compliance. I glance at the zero-tolerance poster, he smiles perceptively.

An appreciation passes between us. We begin again.

We shake hands.

He leaves.

I cry.

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Love and Destruction by Joanne Fisher

It began with astronomers noticing a group of objects heading towards our planet, and then a message came: “Humans, we come in peace. We love you. We care for you so much.”

The entire world was amazed. We were not alone, and now they were coming. Their fleet of sleek silvers spaceships approached.

The next day all major cities were incinerated in nuclear explosions. The aliens said: “We come in peace. We love you.”

The remnants of humanity were put into camps and slowly our numbers dwindled away. “We come in peace. We love you,” the aliens told us.

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Water and Stone by Saifun Hassam

Torrential rain poured through myriads of tiny cracks of the ancient caverns. The deathly silence of ancient stone tombs fled the living rising waters. Small pebbles by the thousands crashed into writhing and roaring waters. Caves melted into rivers of mud and silt under a sky chaotic with lightning and deafening thunderclaps.

The storm weakened, the raging waters slithered to a calm against rocks and boulders in ravines. Shards of tombs and bones lay buried under mounds of drying mud. In another time, flash floods would roil through dry gorges and ravines. Water would again unearth those ancient stones.

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Storm’s Eye by Cara Stefano

Floating, blissful, beneath the waves
All is calm and clear and blue.
Bright fish dart and school around me
The scintillating silence wraps me in a soft cocoon of beauty.
Sea anemones and water grasses wave hello as I glide by
Flippers slowly propel me through these magic gardens.
A shadow passes over head, and then another, many more
I am no longer alone in the eye of the storm.
Thrashing fins and flippers; flashing spear point teeth
Binding, cutting nets of plastic poison engulf my body.
Peace and Violence side by side – always

🥕🥕🥕

Contradictions by Rachel McBride

She remembered the taste of strawberry slushy, and still ordered them to this day. Some had dripped on her tank top, but she didn’t move to clean it off-entranced by the fireworks going off over the pier. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM resounded in her chest, beating her pounding heart like a charioteer spurring the horses to run faster. BOOM-like her heart when she wiped the blood off her cheek. BOOM-like the last slam of the storm door. BOOM-like her phone hurtling out the window and bouncing apart on the pavement. She chewed through the straw, feeling fireworks in her blood.

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Caskets Verses Baby Blanket by Susan Sleggs

Tessa caught the look on Michael’s face when he opened the package. She commented, “My son thought you would like a U.S. flag flying out front. Was he wrong?”

“I’m sorry. The flag reminds me of the number of draped caskets I’ve escorted and the families who paid the price.” Tears formed. He let her see them. “Now that soft baby blanket you are knitting gives me hope and helps me focus on the future.”

“I’ll explain to Brent and we’ll pass the flag to my parents. Theirs is quite faded.”

“Thank you, for understanding and backing me up.”

🥕🥕🥕

Minimized Identity by Reena Saxena

silver moonlight hits hard rocks
drenched in apprehension
blasphemy will follow
can’t shed lingering aromas though…

drenched in apprehension
pain finds its place after joy
can’t shed lingering aromas though…
those moments feel like eternity

pain finds its place after joy
women are born to be non-existent
those moments feel like eternity
they give me an identity

women are born to be non-existent
their existence is minimized
but I have discovered my identity
I intend to stay with it…

their identity is minimized
silver moonlight hits hard rocks
but I intend to stay with it
let the blasphemy follow…

🥕🥕🥕

Snowy Summer’s Day by Susan Zutautas

It was June, Meg and Ian had just moved into their first home. Ian was outside exploring when the wind picked up. “Meg come outside; you have to see this.”

Meg was in the kitchen busily unpacking boxes and welcomed the break.

Walking out into the yard Meg saw exactly why Ian had called her out. On the ground laid hundreds of tiny white flowers carpeting the pathway to the side yard. Just as Meg was about to say something hundreds more floated down from above.

“Oh, Ian how beautiful, it looks like we have a few Dogwood trees.”

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Spots by D. Avery

Marlie held up a pebble-eyed, twig-lipped marshmallow. “He’s got hard-rock eyes set in a puffy white face.”

“Who? Mr. Marshmallow?”

“Tommy’s father.” Marlie thrust the skewered marshmallow into the flames. “He was at the fence with Tommy. He said Daisy was so ugly she was almost cute. Daisy wouldn’t go to them. Tommy called her stupid. His dad said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

“And leopards can’t change their spots.”

“Liz…”

Marlie’s parents watched with her as the pebble-eyed marshmallow face browned, then blistered black, finally oozed onto the coals, flaring and spluttering before it disappeared.

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Lavender and Sewage by Anne Goodwin

Time backflips and there is her mother slipping off her wedding band to finger the soil. The lavender’s perfume mingles with the sweet smell of manure recently deposited outside The Willows by the milkman’s Bay. “Nurture it, Matilda,” says her mother, “and it will delight you when you are old and grey.”

Now it straggles, a tangle of desiccated flowers and near-naked twigs. Neglected. Rage bubbles in her belly as the earth erupts around the shrub. Matty pinches her nose against the pong as shit froths over her shoes. A signal from her mother: time is ripe for revenge.

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Bonehead by Simon Prathap D

I was watching the TV last night

I heard the symptoms of a thunderstorm. I checked the sky, it was clear, then I came inside and saw TV The d2h was saying a message ” services has been temporarily blocked due to poor weather.” I called my wife and told her it’s contradictory how I heard thunderstorm but no clouds and TV says poor weather but the sky is clear, what’s happening?

She hit my head and said

1st floor New tenants are moving things, and recharge TV, read the warning message in full.

Bone head! She said 🙄

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Upstairs or Downstairs by Norah Colvin

Granny scratched her head. “I don’t know if I’m Arthur or Martha.”

“Whad’ya mean, Granny? I’m Arthur,” Arthur laughed.

“It’s just an old saying. Means I don’t know if I’m coming or going.”

“But you’re not coming or going. You’re staying here. With us.”

“I know,” laughed Granny. “I’m just a bit confused is all.”

“What’re you confused about?”

“I just came all the way down here for something, and I can’t remember what.”

“But this is upstairs, Granny. Not downstairs.”

“Silly me. There’s not much in my upstairs anymore.”

Now it was Arthur’s turn to scratch his head.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Contradictions by Anita Dawes

Yesterday I found some words lying around
Pages from a book.
I followed them around the house
They reminded me of scattered rose petals
The pages were not from a book
One spoke of love, while the other
Spoke of betrayal
Echoes of Romeo and Juliet
Yet this is not from Shakespeare
These pages are handwritten
As I gathered each one
I felt the weight of heartbreak.
The words shone like neon
Would there be light when I reached the end,
A reunion?
These pages belong to my mother’s old diary
I hope I can find the last page…

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Square Head in a Round Roll by Bill Engleson

Here, in the darkness, in the sleepiness, night sweats cascade.

The blade, glistening in the mid-October sun, slams down.

SWOOSH!

“Heads will roll! Lemonade; Square that circle; Make the Grade!”

“Hey. Sweetie!”

The sentinel roughly shoves me up the steps.

I can’t be here. I must dance.

I am a dancing fool.

“Handyman left! Sashay slow; Slip your shod; Mousey nose!”

“Darling! Wakey wakey!”

Cake?

What’s wrong with eating cake?

Everyone likes cake.

“Bend the curve! Step on toes; Circle the square; Go cat go!”

“That’s it. Enough’s enough, lover. I’ve had it with your Covid-19 Marie Antoinette nutmares.”

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Tories and Compassion by Anne Goodwin

Tradition deemed only white boys could touch the tuck-shop cash-box; the maharaja would be proud Rishi held the key. He dreamt of stuffing it with gold and silver, but plague confined juniors to the dorm. Rishi was willing to deliver but, with fagging outlawed, they lacked the coin to pay.

“Handouts?” said Boris. “Rewarding them to stay in bed?”

“We’ve stock to shift,” said Rishi. “See it as a loan.”

Boris rubbed his hands. “Which they’ll repay with interest?”

“Eventually.” Yet Rishi’s loyalties were split: between the brown boys who were dying and the club he yearned to join.

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A Crock Tale by JulesPaige

Lacey only heard bits and pieces of the guys telling tales at the bar. She was in a booth, eating dinner after a long day of working out of town. A guy ended his story with; “…And the sign said bait for catchin’ yer Jumbo Shrimp!”

The men ‘round him guffawed and laughed. The smarty pants guy who told the story grinned like a crocodile that swallowed a whole double Devil’s Food chocolate cake with icing too boot.

That’s where the story took her, seeing the mouse Dr. De Soto tending to the crocodile needing his rotten tooth pulled!

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Sleepy Square-Dance by Ritu Bhathal

The upbeat music created a jaunty atmosphere in the air. All around Jack, there were revellers dressed up in what they considered to be true ‘Square Dancing’ attire, i.e. a check shirt, some with fringes, denim, and obligatory cowboy boots.

It was all rather surreal. He was sitting in a church hall in the UK, not America!

Trying to stifle a yawn, he caught eyes with Jill. Oh great, now she’s coming over.

“Come on, sleepy head, I know you’re tired, but a bit of aa dance will wake you up!” She grabbed my arm, dragging me up.

Help!

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Open Secret by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Shhhhh… don’t tell anyone what I’ve told you.”

Marnie shook her head. “You’re missing the point, Susan. Jim’s been cheating on Janet for months. This is an open secret, and the entire town knows what’s going on.”

“What? Mrs. Parker only told me the details today when I ran into her at the market.”

“That’s because you’re new in town. She probably told you not to tell anyone because it makes her feel important.”

Susan looked crestfallen as she waved goodbye to her neighbor.

Marnie grinned. Besides, she knew the truth. She and Jim had been lovers for years.

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Cadillacs and Crocodiles by H.R.R. Gorman

The little lady showed up at the pump riding a hot-red Cadillac convertible with ostrich leather seats. She put out the cigarette in her ash tray and told me with pouty, vermilion lips, “Fill ‘er up.” She got out and, with her crocodile-skin purse, went into the store.

While she perused the candy shelf and soda fountain, I pumped in the liquid at 10 cents a gallon lamented my paltry pay. Rich people, getting richer off the backs of us poor. I’d like to kick people like her down a couple pegs.

And she’d left her keys in the ignition.

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She’s Off for Good by Donna Matthews

Cruising down the wide-open road, music on max volume, she crossed the unseen, invisible, and arbitrary line known as the grid. Some believe this place as a mythical or naive place to be. But not her. For years, she was a weekend warrior – driving here or there, sometimes even hopping on an airplane. But it was always just a visit—one foot on and one foot off. Invariably, when she returned, she plugged back in, downloading all she missed and her weekend away fading like a dream. But not this time – this time she’s off for good.

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A Small Crowd by John Lane

As Mrs. Sylvia Potts parked her 2006 Mercury Mountaineer in the lot near Sam’s Grocery, she noticed several people in front of the store. She walked over to see what was going on. It was people that she recognized from her neighborhood: Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Ms. Clearance, Mrs. Done and Mr. Forester. Mrs. Potts asked, “What’s this?” Mrs. Jones spoke for the whole group. “We’re tired of not being heard! This is against our civil rights!” Mrs. Potts saw the signs: WE WANT MORE THAN ONE PACK OF TOILET PAPER. Mrs. Potts rolled her eyes, then walked inside.

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My Aunt Babette by Eliza Mimski

My father’s sister Babette would let out these frenzied bubbles of a laugh that set my nerves on edge. A wicked, menacing laugh that mimicked the hysterical sounds of a pack of hyenas. With each laugh, her stomach would ride up and down in her seemingly blood-colored dresses.

Her speaking voice was different. She became this other person.

“Hi,” I’d say when visiting her, not knowing if I’d get the laugh or the voice.

“Here’s some candy, baby,” she’d say, each mellifluous syllable bouncing on its own little trampoline of air. At these times, her dresses turned pinkish.

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Graduation Party by Ruchira Khanna

“Come on, Meg, at this rate, you’ll be a postgraduate, and we’ll miss our graduation party.” urged Felicia, who was prancing outside her room like a horse.

“Jeez! You are so impatient!” she shouted back at her twin sister and came out with a sulk.

Felicia froze like a statue upon seeing her.

“You don’t need to stare at me like that.” Meg exclaimed as she placed the stray locks around her forehead behind her ear, “What can I do? The tutorial to dutch braid your hair was taking forever that I had to entwine them in random order.”

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Oil and Sea by Saifun Hassam

A sea breeze sprang up in the late evening. The tide rushed in, surf high, pounding and bulldozing through thick brown undercurrents, crashing on stinking tarry sands. The sea breeze was no match for that deadly vast oil spill. The salty air was saturated with oily drops.

Dawn brought no relief from ugliness. Fish lay dead, silver scales painted a deep dirty yellow ocher. Ducks struggled to shore. Alive, hopeless, crying for help. The oily sheen on feathers glistened deceptively with rainbows in the sunlight.

Broken but determined, we vowed to cleanse the sea, to somehow seek its forgiveness.

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Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part I) by D. Avery

It was a dark an’ stormy night. A. Rancher sought shelter in the old mine shaft only ta find Buggs M. Lotts already holed up there. They got along like oil an’ water.

“Kinda cliché ain’t it, Kid?”

“S’posed ta be, Pal. I wanna show how these two don’t git along, ‘cept I’m gonna switch out oil an’ water fer… bacon, yeah! An’… brussel sprouts! No, that’s purty good. Bacon an’… maple ice cream! Wait, that sounds tasty.”

“Kid, ever’thin’ goes good with bacon. Ya’ll have ta git rid a it.”

A. Rancher was glad ta see Asa O’Buddy…

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Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part II) by D. Avery

“’Ello, Keed. Dees ees a tough prompt for you, non? Perhaps I can help.”

“LeGume!”

“Eet ees I, Pal.”

“LeGume, whut makes you think ya know any more’n Kid here ‘bout writin’? It’s a tough prompt all right, but jist stay outta the way. Kid’ll figger it out. Heck, LeGume, you don’t know shit from shine-ola.”

“Au contaire, Pal! Dees I know ver’ well. An’ Keed… we all know Keed knows sheet. Keed can shovel da sheet till da cows come home. Dat ees raw writing, non? But revizeeng! Dat ees polishing.”

“Puttin’ the shine on?”

“Write on, Pal.”

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Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part III) by D. Avery

Dark green waves of thundercloud roiled over the mountain. A. Kidd searched for the cave entrance, seeking refuge from the fierce storm. Even as violent flashes of lightning tore at the darkening sky Kidd hesitated. Was someone already in the makeshift shelter? The sound of laughter echoed from within the hard-rock walls, seeped out into the rain swept night; or was it the keening sound of someone crying? Kidd stepped into the dark, kept a small flame burning and looked within. There was no one else.
When morning finally dawned the dew on the grass sparkled like green champagne.

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