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The sun dips late, casting its copper hue over Lake Superior. The lower it sinks, the redder it grows and forms a brilliant pink path from horizon to shore. The sky takes forever to darken in the Northern Hemisphere even after summer solstice. Sparkling planets and stars pop like diamond studs across a jeweler’s midnight blue velvet.
This is the season of the Perseid meteor showers. Time to wish upon shooting stars.
JulesPaige reminded me about the connection of comets to my WIP, Rock Creek. In 1858, before Cobb McCanles left Watauga County, North Carolina with his one-time mistress, Sarah Shull, a comet had featured in the October sky and slowly faded by the time the two left in February 1859.
Cobb’s Father James McCanless, known as The Poet, marked the occasion of Comet Donati:
THE COMET OF 1858
Hail! beautious stranger to our sky,
How bright thy robes appear,
Noiseless thou treds thy paths on high,
And converse with all our stars.
In radiant flame of glowing light
Thy silent orb rolls on,
Through vast eternities of night,
To mortal man unknown.
Thy magnitude thy fiery glow,
Thy towering wake of flames,
But mock our wisest skill to know,
We’ve barely learned thy name.
Through boundless depths of space unknown,
Beyond the realms of days,
In blazing language of thy own,
Thou speaks thy Maker’s praise.
This week, I’m sharing a different kind of post, a longer scene that features the Comet Donati. I shared this in 2014 when I wrote the first draft of Rock Creek. Although my novel has evolved from this early writing, including my later decision to give Cobb two bs to his name, this scene holds an essential piece of the later tragedy that unfolds for the McCanles family who had hoped to escape the coming war.
Perhaps the comet was not the glorious sign James thought it to be. It turned out to be a natural phenomenon occurring before an unnaturally violent war between families and neighbors. Unfortunately, human contempt is not as uncommon as a visible comet.
Excerpt From Rock Creek:
“Truthfully, it grows fainter as it passes us by. Comet Donati,” said James.
“That’s a pretty name.” The cider was sweet and warm as Sarah drank.
“It’s named after the Italian astronomer who first sighted it last summer.”
“Is it an omen?”
James leaned against the oak tree and looked skyward. “Omens are for old ladies.”
“What do the old ladies say? It’s not as if any speak to me.”
“They say that such terrible lights burn for killed kings and slain heroes. They say a bloodbath is coming.”
Sarah shuddered. “And what do you say?”
James raised his upturned hand to the comet. “Thou speaks thy Maker’s praise.”
A clomping of hooves sounded from the snow-covered road. Cob was walking Captain and leading another horse.
“Evening, Da, Sarah. Are you ready, lass?” Cob swung down from Captain and stood eye-to-eye with his father.
“Might I dissuade you son?”
“You may not. What it done, is done and now I must flee. Leroy will follow with his family and mine in the spring.” He grabbed Sarah’s bundle and began to tie it to the saddle of the second horse. Sarah wondered if she would have to walk.
“I cannot imagine a more beautiful place than Watauga, this lovely vale. I brought my children here to make a home. And now my children leave. My grandchildren, too.”
“Da, come out with Leroy. Get out of here before the war.”
“Bah! These traitors who talk of succession are just blustering. A new President. We have a Constitutional Unionist on the ticket…”
“Enough of politics.The west is were we can prosper.”
“Yes, and I hear that Mormons can have many wives.” James looked pointedly at Sarah.
“Leave her be, Da. Mary knows I’m getting her out of this place so she can have a fresh start, too.”
“Do not be leading your family to a cruel fate, David Colbert.”
The two men grasped arms until James pulled Cob to him. “May angles guard over your journey. Your mother and I shall weep in our old age, not seeing the single smokestack of any of our offspring.”
“Come with Leroy, Da. At least go to Tennessee. It’s safer at Duggers Ferry and you’ll have two daughters to spoil you in old dotage.”
“Ach, I’m not leaving my native land. How could I stray from the Watauga River? Who would fish her silver ribbons the way I do?”
“Then mind yourself angling and take care of mother. Fare thee well, Da.”
To Sarah’s surprise, Cob reached for her and slung her up into the saddle as easily as he had tossed her bundle. He swung up behind her and seated her sideways on his lap. He nudged Captain and the horse responded with a spirited trot.
Sarah heard James call, “Farewell.” His voice sounded choked with tears, yet she couldn’t deny her joy at leaving this place. She would be a free woman.
It was hard not to fidget and the night grew even colder. Sarah watched the comet as they rode up the mountains, cresting the ridge and breaking through drifts of snow. Occasionally they would pass a cabin or farm, a coon dog barking in the distance, but no other signs of life.
“Where are we going, exactly,” asked Sarah. West seemed like a grand place, but she had no idea where west or how long it would take.
“We’ll catch the train at Johnson’s Tank.” His voice rumbled in the cold silence of the mountains.
Johnson’s Tank was a start. Sarah had never seen a train and now she would get to ride on one. Somehow she failed to summon the earlier excitement and she glanced at the comet, hoping it meant nothing at all. Yet, it had to mean something. It was no coincidence that it appeared in her darkest hour of despair or that it was still present the night she escaped the damnation of her family’s punishment. It had to be a sign for good. Her lucky star.
Sarah must have dozed off because she awoke, startled to see the light of dawn shining from behind them. They had ridden out of the the mountains and the land before them was rolling with woods and fields.
“Good. I have to stop.” Cob reined in Captain. “Slide down,” he told her.
Sarah did and hopped to the ground that was wet with dew and free of snow. Cob dismounted and handed her the reins. He stepped a few paces and with his back to her, she heard him urinating. Her face grew flush and she realized she needed to do the same, but how could she?
“Do you have to go?”
“No.” She stood uncomfortably aware that she had to go even more now that she had denied it.
“Just go.” He took the reins from her.
“Pick a clump of grass and sprinkle it with dew. How about that clump there?” Cob pointed to a small bent row of grass in front of Captain.
Sarah looked each direction and finally walked around to the other side of the horses. Lifting her skirts and spreading her knickers she squatted with her back to the horses feeling somewhat shielded. Her stream sounded like a roaring river in her ears. Rearranging her underclothes and skirts, she turned around to see Cob leaning against Captain staring at her with a big boyish grin. “I knew you had to go.”
“Do not watch me!” Sarah turned away, feeling the flush rise from her neck to her scalp.
“It’s natural.” He chuckled.
“For men, perhaps.” She turned back around and glared.
“Oh? And women politely pass on pissing? What happens when you have to…”
“Time to mount up, my damsel in distress.” Cob bowed as if he were a gallant.
Thank you for indulging my historical fiction as a post this week. For those of you who’ve kindly expressed interest in my veteran saga, we are still in a holding pattern, waiting for news on whether or not the Hub will “get a bed” in Minneapolis. His therapist is now pushing to help that cause, as well.
On the Keweenaw homefront, we have the urgent sense of savoring every last ray of summer sunshine. Winter is coming. And for our writing prompt this week, so are comets.
August 16, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a comet. You can consider how it features into a story, influences a character, or creates a mood. Go where the prompt leads.
Respond by August 21, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.
Origins of Comets (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
Sarah spread a quilt on the knoll above Rock Creek to watch the night sky.
“The year before I was born, stars landed.” Yellow Feather pulled a pitted gray stone from his medicine pouch. He passed it to Nancy Jane.
“Feels kinda like lumpy metal.”.
“It’s heavy, too. This is a star?” asked Sarah.
Yellow Feather said, “My grandfather found it where many small stars burned the prairie grass.”
“Look – there’s one,” said Nany Jane.
“I saw it! Did you see Comet Donati last year?”
Yellow Feather laughed. “Comet Donati? That was just First Shaman urinating across the sky.”
Writers contemplate the watcher’s next move. They craft the place and people involved. Peering from the woods, stories emerge. (Photo Credit: J. Madland)
August 9, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes an act of “peering from the woods.”
PART I (10-minutes)
Ed in the Woods by Charli Mills
Ed was peering at me again. I could feel his gaze crawl across my shoulders. Let me finish the chapter, Ed. The Legendary Leaphorn is in the arroyo. The tickle continues. I persevere, finish the chapter and set down Tony Hillerman’s latest southwest detective book.
Snagging a sip from my gin, tonic, and blueberries, I grab a fresh-husked corn.
Ed still peers at me from the edge of the woods. His ears twist like radar. Slowly I raise my offering. He hesitates, leans in and nibbles from my hand. The deer dashes off, leaving me to read in peace.
Into the Forest by Jack Schuyler
I peered into the woods and the woods peered back.
“Enter into my respite.” Said the woods. It spoke in tongues of wind and beckoned me with all the rhythms of the earth. “Walk beneath my shade, swim in my streams, eat of my harvest.”
“But mother told me no.” I replied, “She says beasts of night roam your shadows and sweet poisons wait beneath your trees.”
“All true,” growled the forest, “and you would do well to heed her advice. But if you stay in the shelter of the village, do not expect to share in my treasures.”
Mountain Lion by Heather Gonzalez
“Aren’t there mountain lions in these woods?” Samantha shivered as she pulled her sleeping back closer to her body.
“Stop worrying so much and just enjoy it.” Jack turned off the lantern and settled in.
Noises kept coming from beyond the clearing. Jack had fallen asleep and no amount of whispering for help would wake him. Samantha slowly unzipped the tent to peer out upon her fate. She saw the eyes peering from the woods and froze in fear. There was nowhere to run.
A soft meow came from behind the bushes.
“Some mountain lion you are.” she laughed.
Luminesce (from “Lynx Valley Biohabitat”) by Saifun Hassam
Valerie and Carmen tracked Luminesce to a tumbled mass of boulders and ledges. The bobcat’s den was hidden by tangled vines and woody shrubs.
Lynx Valley Biohabitat was a mix of woodlands and open scrub land. Tall grass grew along the Lissoire River. From the Rover, Valerie caught the glint of eyes peering from the woods.
Luminesce stole into the tall grass. A panicked rabbit shot out. Near the river, the red deer froze. With powerful strides, the bobcat pounced ferociously on the deer. She dragged it through the tall grass, to her waiting cubs at the woods’ edge.
Sad Cat Diary: Wildlife Edition by Robert Kirkendall
The mountain lion came up to the forest’s edge drawn by the scent of food. She peered from the woods at a flock of livestock in a nearby pasture.
One of those sheep could feed me and my little ones for a week, the mountain lion thought as she longed for the forbidden sustenance, but if I take one, the humans will come after me and kill me! I only want one, the lion moped, and they have so many, it isn’t fair.
The dejected feline slouched in defeat. Why must the humans be so cruel? she wondered piteously.
Lone Ranger by Nancy Brady
Going crazy, our cat saw something in the dark that she felt shouldn’t be in her territory. At first, I couldn’t see anything, but her night vision is better. But then I noticed the glint of dark eyes staring at us from the wildflower garden. A tangle of weeds and flowers blossom on the edge of the property, allowing for fauna hiding within, and on this night, the masked bandit was hiding inside.
Why the raccoon was there wasn’t apparent until the next day when we discovered our sweet corn was decimated, a tasty snack for a midnight marauder.
Watching Out for the Birdwatcher by Anne Goodwin
Birdseed on the fence post again. My heart skips. Who would dare feed animals when people starve? An ornithologist, that’s who. Another forbidden word.
Scrambling over the layers of barbed wire, I pick my way through a soggy carpet of mashed leaves into the shelter of the trees. Birds flit from branch to branch, their sweet song sweeping all worries from my mind. Then I hear it, smell it: someone’s stopped at the fence.
Peering from the woods, I must be dreaming. Whacko has a gentle side? Something to use against him the next time he brandishes his cane.
Possum by kate @ aroused
Polly swung through the forest
of large macadamia trees
drawn by the scent of ripened fruit
She spied a woolly alpaca herd
grazing contentedly with a horse
Buster watched on from a distance
But Polly was blinded by the sun soaked
fields as she was accustomed to the dark
yet the orchard beckoned heavy with fruit
She would have to wait until dark
to scamper across those open fields
to gorge on a gluttonous banquet
Alpacas and horse would by asleep
but Buster might be on alert
so she would need a sprinting spurt!
Polly’s long peep was fruitful!
Flash Fiction by Di @ pensitivity101
Here’s Looking at You.
Did you hear it? That gentle rustling in the leaves.
Did you see it? A quick flash of a white flagged rump.
Did you catch it? Yes, but only on film.
Did it see you? Most definitely, it was looking right at me.
I often wonder what animals think of us humans when they see us intruding on their domain. I am certain there are more creatures looking at us than we realise.
The woods are alive with insects, snakes, animals and birds.
It is their world, and we abuse it. In fact, we’re killing it with our pollution.
The Heat of the Day by Carol Keefer
The clearing in the forest was so bright, filled to the rim with hot sunlight suddenly free of trees to beam down and touch the earth with its heat. I had had enough of the sun’s heat and wanted only to observe this quiet, serene oasis from a point in the shade of trees so I peered from the woods. Suddenly, a black grizzly and a doe sprang from the trees on the other side. What could be pursuing them? They were running together. It was only a few minutes later when I smelled the smoke wafting towards me.
Fox Cub by JulesPaige
Seeming to be always at as well as on edge;
creeping closer just to see if it was safe. Like
her namesake, senses on high alert – always.
They had left her to fend for herself. Was there
a lesson to be learned? Distant from community,
yet wanting to be a part – included, but always
to some extent excluded.
They made up excuses for her lack of cooperation. Dim-witted, ignorant, lame; would limping be her way of life.
The forest had felt safer when the sun was out.
But there were predators everywhere. Perhaps
that was the lesson They taught?
The Fawn by Rosemary Carlson
She watched him when he was a fawn. Come summer, he grew spikes. A young buck. He was unafraid of her. He grew accustomed to her apples. He came to the porch and snatched the food from her hand. She grew to love him that winter. She was alone.
The next summer, he was a four-point buck. He came to the porch. She tried to make him go away, fearful he was too accustomed to people.
It’s been ten years. An old buck comes to the porch. He takes the apples. She knows by his eyes that it’s him.
Peering Through by Peregrine Arc
Mary stood in her bedroom, staring closely into the antique mirror hung on the peeling wallpaper. Music crackled on the radio from across the hallway.
An oil painting hung behind Mary of a lake and cabin scene at dusk. A man was smoking a glowing pipe patiently, peering from the woods. She could smell the smoke.
But every night, after Mary finally turned away from the mirror, the man vanished. The painting returned to normal, barren of any figures.
But the light was left on in the cabin tonight. And its front door was left open, quiet and inviting.
The Connection by D. Avery
“I can’t do this anymore.”
“What? The research? The constant camping it requires? Or…us?”
“All of it. I’m just done.”
“Ok. I’m sorry if this crazy venture made our relationship impossible. I’ll hike out with you. I’ve given up on ever finding Sasquatch. I’m done too.”
It wasn’t just his obsession with his work. She’d never felt a strong connection with him. She knew now that she could have more.
While he packed up the equipment, she hid the tufts of hair she’d found under a stone, brushed over a footprint.
Sasquatch peered from the woods, relieved and sad.
Knowing by D. Avery
They trudged to the logging road together, loaded the equipment into his truck, rode in silence to the general store where her car was parked.
“I guess he doesn’t exist”, he said to her as goodbye.
“I guess not”, she replied, and went into the store as he drove away.
Resupplied, she returned to where she had seen the signs and had felt Sasquatch’s presence. She was learning that finding Sasquatch doesn’t require any electronic equipment, only being fearless and open-hearted.
She smiled to find wildflowers left for her on a log, smiled that he’d known she’d be back.
Surprise! by Norah Colvin
She parked her car beside his and grabbed her bag. As she locked the car, she looked around. Where was he? He said he’d be watching for her. Cicadas buzzed louder than her footsteps crunched the gravel. A bird startled as it squawked and flapped overhead. Where was he? He must know she’d arrived. Even with the fairy lights, it was darker than she liked. Peering from the bushes, he willed her to be brave, to open the tent, to find what he’d made for her. Finally, tentatively, she pushed aside the flap. Her screams silenced the night chorus.
Feral Natives by Chelsea Owens
The small natives, unkempt and unruly, peer from a shadowed arch. They stop, keenly watching an inert female creature just ahead.
The first whispers, “What’s she doin’?”
His companion checks. “Nuffin’. Sleepin’, most like.”
Urrrrhaghaaah! She moans. They scamper back to shadow’s safety.
“Did she see ya?” The younger sucks a finger.
A quick peek. “Nah. I think she’s fakin’.”
One second later: “Now what’s she doin’?”
He looks again. “Rolled over.” He scowls. “-Wait! I saw a light. She’s got her phone!”
“She’s awake!” Excited, the younger boy grips his brother’s arm.
Drat, she says.
“Let’s get ‘er!”
Becoming Wild by Paula Moyer
February, 1966: Jean’s family did a suburbs-to-small-town move. Home was a two-bedroom rental at the edge of town. Behind the house, a woodsy spot. Jean was 13, Sam 11, Donny 9.
When summer came, that spot grew dark with leaves. Sam and Donny disappeared into it every morning after breakfast. They would grab lunch and vanish again. Jean ignored them, practiced the piano.
“Jean, go get the boys,” Mom called from the kitchen. “It’s supper time.”
Sounded easy. Jean stood at the trees’ edge. “Guys, supper!”
A Taste of Wisdom by Molly Stevens
Mary tapped a forbidden cylinder from the box. She couldn’t believe her good fortune, having found half a pack beside the road. She peered through the woods at her home, struck a match, and took her first drag.
I didn’t even cough. I knew I’d be good at this.
Later she shuffled home, wondering how to conceal her headache and nausea.
At the sound of the screen door, her mother said, “What have you been doing?”
“Does God give you what you want to teach you stuff?”
Her mother smelled cigarette smoke, observed her daughter’s pale countenance, and smiled.
Peering by Floridaborne
“You say you’ve never been camping before?” He asked, with a twinkle in his eye that I didn’t like.
I looked down at two sleeping bags thrown on top of ferns and bristled. “We don’t belong here.”
“Don’t worry about that rusty, no trespassing sign,” he scoffed.
“She told me we’ll die here tonight,” I replied, pointing at a deer peering out at me from the bush. “We’ll be thrown into a mass grave.”
He threw his sleeping bags into the back seat and we drove to the paved road in silence. Yet another relationship ruined by my gift.
Caught In The Act by Ritu Bhathal
“Well Annie, that was fun! We should make these meetings of ours interesting more often.”
Petey unzipped the front flap of his yellow tent, allowing for a slice of light to cut through the darkness of the forest.
He stepped out and stretched, post-coitally, opening his eyes to the beauty of nature.
What was that?
Peering from the woods, he swore he saw the face of his wife, Susan, eyes open wide in horror.
A rustling sound followed.
“Come back Petey honey, we’ve still got time.” Annie’s voice brought him back.
Petey feared his time was up.
Ready by The Dark Netizen
Cadet Billy peered from the woods.
Perseus’ bullet had missed. Medusa had spotted them. Things were not going well. This was his first field mission, and he already felt that he was out of place. These were not mere humans. What chance did he have of contributing at all? He could see Medusa approaching, almost gliding towards them. He began to feel numb. Was he turning into stone? No. This was fear. He watched as Perseus drew his heavy pistol drawn. Keynes caught Billy’s eye, and nodded at him. Billy could not let his mentor down.
Billy was ready.
PART II (10-minutes)
Devastation by Diana Nagai
Night fell over the property. A leather lead dangled useless in his hand. He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder and he looked up. The firefighter shook her head. So, his horse had not been found.
“It’s time to evacuate.” She paused, then added, “Please.”
His heart constricted and he wiped a tear.
As he turned to the flames engulfing the barn and beyond, he could have sworn he saw eyes peering from the woods behind the fire line. God, he hoped so. He screamed a silent prayer. Run! The eyes disappeared. He never saw Diamond again.
Fawn Within Fawn by Late Night Girl
“Oh deer! No headlights this time; Just eye to eye”, I thought to myself when I encountered this beautiful beast unsuccessfully trying to camouflage as a tree. Its two-leaf ears gave it away! My green coat may have equally looked like food, too, but I actually was looking for some game, yet couldn’t bring myself to break it to the fawn, gun in hand!
What now?! We could both pretend neither is here or just hop on to the next best eatable opportunity down the food chain.
I leave it to the reader to decide what happened next.
Imagination – Another Strange Meeting by Gordon Le Pard
“Then they looked out of the wood – and saw dinosaurs!”
The novelist put the papers down. “A good way of ending the episode?”
The palaeontologist nodded, “Wonderful, what an imagination you have.”
“You too must have imagination, to create lost worlds out of fragments of bone.”
“But not like you.”
As he left he thought of the bones in his workshop. His imagination had created something very special, the Missing Link, but no one would realise it wasn’t real for many years, if ever.
His friend was just a great writer, however he was the greatest scientific hoaxer ever.
Dashing by Miriam Hurdle
Peering from the wood, something got its attention. It dashed across the road.
Thump, thump, thud!
“Oh, no. I didn’t see it coming.” Sid and Cindy jumped out of the car.
“The impact was forceful. It crushed the front of the car.”
“Is the deer okay?” Cindy looked at its head.
“Let’s wait. It’s trying to get up…”
“It’s limping across the road.”
“It went across okay… No, it flopped and lied still.”
“Do we want to go camping?”
“The engine suffered the impact. Let’s go home.”
* * *
“Our car took the last breath getting us home.”
Flash Fiction by Geoff Le Pard
‘You can’t see the woods for the trees, eh?’
‘That’s another stupid expression. All I was saying was I saw something in there.’
‘Seriously, it was alive.’
‘It could be that weirdo.’
‘Any specific weirdo?’
‘I’m going home.’
‘Don’t be a wuss, Morgan. Probably a deer.’
‘Or a lion.’
‘You know they say a tree makes no sound if there’s no one to hear it when it falls. Do you think you can see a lion if you’re not there when it appears?’
‘You’re a moron as well as a coward, Morgan.’
The Deadly Hunt by Anurag Bakhshi
Travis looked at the cute, round-as-buttons eyes peering at him through the woods, and smiled.
He had spent half his life searching for the Ringa-Tinga-Ling, the mythical oldest animal species in the world. Today, he and his cameraman had finally found him.
Still smiling, Travis raised his rifle, and took careful aim. His cameraman saw what he was doing, and shouted, “What the…” But before he could finish, Travis had fired.
And even before the cameraman had hit the ground, Travis took out his handgun, and shot himself.
The Ringa-Tinga-Ling looked on with his cute, round-as-button eyes, and smiled.
Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle
Going on a picnic was a treat for the family. Dad carefully cleared a circular patch in the undergrowth while the children collected rocks. Dad packed the rocks around the cleared patch to ensure that the fire he was building was well contained. Everyone was busy preparing for the fun of cooking their lunch sausages on sticks over the open fire.
“Where’s Hayley,” Mom asked.
She was nowhere to be seen. She must have slipped away while they were all working.
Sheila smiled with relief when she saw her peering from the small copse of trees nearby. Thank goodness.
Who’s Watching Julie by Oneta Hayes
Four-year-old Julie, intent on filling her basket with flowers, wandered from camp, unaware that eyes were peering from the woods. She walked deeper and deeper into the brush and trees. Julie – as sweet and innocent as Little Red Riding Hood going to her grandmother’s house.
Fortunately Julie’s Grandmother was not sick in bed; she was in the camp. Where’s Julie? She sounded the alarm and campers began the search. Aha! It wasn’t long before Grandmother herself found Julie. Neither was aware of the Wolf who slunk away without a sound except for the hungry growling of his stomach.
Pee(r)ing Through the Woods by Deborah Lee
Jane hunkers down in the foliage. Her knees already ache from the awkward stance. She checks her pants and shoes; both should be out of the splash zone.
Just as she relaxes her muscles, feels the stream start beneath her, of course that’s when she hears voices.
She’s been here for hours, hoping for someone who might buy a paper. Naturally, it’s not until she can’t hold it anymore, with the nearest public restroom an hour away, that anybody comes along.
Jane narrows her eyes, peering through the bushes. If she can’t see them, they can’t see her…right?
Flash Fiction by a story forms my mind
Startled. Her eyes snap open. The right side of her face and mouth pressed into wet pine needles. Above her the sky, barely visible through the dark canopy of spruce.
Her arm aches and somehow her dress has been torn. She unfurls herself from the forest floor, searches for her phone, her bag, anything that will explain why she is here.
The only sound, the creaking of trees as they move in a wind she cannot feel. She sees eyes peering brightly from the trees and hears the roar of traffic from the highway.
Then nothing but cold.
Those Two by Reena Saxena
All the persuasion by his friends failed to make him participate in a jungle picnic. He looked petrified, and his wife insisted that he be left alone. The friends decided to take him to a counsellor later.
Nobody realized that he was consumed by guilt. It was a crime committed in the first flush of youth. He finished college, found a job and married a beautiful girl.
But, those two eyes never stopped peering at him from the woods. Those two eyes spewed fire, and swore revenge. He did not know if those two eyes were dead or alive.
Silhouettes by Bill Engleson
At that time, the lake was more a swamp.
Stumps rose like rogue cannons, wooden effigies of flooded farmland.
We hiked the deer path that edged the water.
Eventually, we found a grassy knoll that afforded a cushion of comfort and privacy.
Our adolescent fumblings did not betray us.
Soft sun bathed my lover’s skin.
Still, something, real, imagined, concerned her.
“Are you sure we’re alone?” she whispered.
I was sure of very little then.
“Why?” I asked, looking into the nearby bush.
“I don’t know,” she said. “It just feels creepy.”
That did it.
We hightailed outta there.
Cache Only Memory Access by Deepa
I could feel Thomas hands intertwined in mine. I could hear him. He was telling me about the memories of our adventures. I am not sure how long I had been lying in the coma.
Thomas gently caressed my hands and peered into my eyes, “the auburn color of your hair reminded me of the woods, and now it shines like the snow. You ask me why I didn’t seek adventure over the years.”
How could I do it without you? We are partners in crime.
Thomas was an adventure freak. Tears trickled from my eyes.
Sanctuary by abhiray59
Deer calf was peering through the bush. It was looking curiously at the movement of humans down the trail. Other members of its family and friends were nearby having their daily feed of green grass. This calf was curious.
Sam raised his rifle to aim at the deer. “Don’t shoot. This is a sanctuary. Wild animals are expected to be safe here”, said Sid, a fellow hiker.
A leopard pounced on the calf. Curious calf was enamored with humans. It forgot about other lurking dangers in the sanctuary. After all, it was a sanctuary for the leopard too.
The Hollow by Kati MacArthur
It was a dim, dark forest. I stood on the edge, looking in at a large green fern, solitary in the darkened clearing, spotlighted by a single dusty beam of filtered verdant light. No crickets here, no birds. Just sunlight and darkness: cool, green, quiet.
I see these things when my serenity is threatened. They are images from the hollow where my friend goes to mourn her horse.
In times of strife, I remember this: melancholy sunshine with cool, green quiet a few steps away. Two separate worlds, one before me, one behind me. Which way do I turn?
From the Woods by Allison Maruska
I crawl through Darkness, the ever-present being, one I can’t touch but knows me completely.
Darkness wants to keep me here, in these woods, surrounded, lost. If I have no hope of escape, Darkness gets her wish. But if I find the way out, Darkness is powerless to stop me.
So I crawl, unsure of direction. I could be heading farther into her depths. But then, I see it: a light. It’s a pinpoint at first, but it gives me direction. And so I crawl.
Finally, I find Darkness’s edge, and peering out from the woods, I see hope.
Flash Fiction by Anita Dawes
About an hour into the woods, I thought I heard a sound. Just ahead of me, peering through the trees I could see 12 standing stones with a large stone table in the middle. I had never seen these before so I took dozens of photographs.
The air seemed to whisper with strange sounds, almost words I could not hear.
I reached home and downloaded them. My breath was taken by the sight of King Arthur and his knights. There had been no one there. Had my imagination imprinted these images, or was it my desire to be there?
Silence by oneletterup
She likes it here. How the breeze blows her hair as she swings. Back and forth.
The soft sweat pants protect the scabs on her legs.
“What’s your name?” the little boy keeps asking.
But she keeps shaking her head. Silent.
The little girl asks “Ya wanna swing with me?”
She smiles and nods.
In mid swing she sees it.
A flash of red. Movement.
In woods across the street.
Foot down scraping grass.
Swing slows. Jumps off. Stares hard.
Someone is peering at her from under a tree.
Turning around, she runs.
The little girl follows.
Unwelcome Guests by Susan Sleggs
“My Dad told me the new people in the fenced mansion belong to the Mob,” Rock said.
“I heard it was some rich old guy with a sexy young wife,” Dude answered.
Crazy, always needing excitement, suggested, “Let’s sneak through the woods to see what we can see by their pool.”
Shortly the rowdies peered around dense manicured bushes at scantily clad young beauties.
A body guard turned their direction saying loudly, “I can feel eyes on us.” He reached behind his back bringing a gun forward and fired a shot above their heads. “Next time I won’t miss!”
Fred’s Confession by Sherri Matthews
Fred peered out from behind the garden shed into the steely-eyed glare of Ethel through the kitchen window. He froze.
‘Hello my sweet, you look lovely today,’ Fred squirmed.
‘Get yer hairy arse back inside, now!’
Fred padded gingerly into the kitchen and gulped. ‘Ethel, me and Mavis…’ He caught his reflection in the mirror, distracting him from his confession. Funny, the dentist hadn’t mentioned how long and sharp his teeth had grown. And his hair, so grey…
‘Shut up yer gormless twit,’ Ethel fumed, ‘Mavis is a slut, but you…you’re a bleedin’ werewolf and it’s full moon tonight.’
The Lewis and Rebman Expedition by TN Kerr
Lewis increased his pace to catch up and have a word with Rebman, “I expect our way will be blocked when we round the next bend. Have you seen them?”
“Seen whom?” Rebman asked. He glanced about, now noticing flashes of bright crimson and deep indigo between the dense trees. He asked, “Who are they?”
“The locals here are autochthonous,” Lewis advised. “They claim to be descended from Lellages, the purported elder son of Belabub. Who, in turn was a Philistine god. The Hebrews called him Beelzebub, the Christians, called him Satan.”
“I believe so, Rebman? I believe so.”
The Target by Patrick O’Connor
Breathe in, Breathe out.
Breathe in, Breathe out.
Breathe in, Breathe out.
The wind is negligible.
No one would be able to see me from this perch as I peer from the forest.
I am a good mile away anyway.
Looking through the scope again.
Breathe in, Breathe out.
Don’t move at all.
Last check. I’m ready.
Big inhale. Slow exhale.
Squeezing the trigger until…
Three, Two, One.
Looking through the scope again.
Right on target.
That guy won’t be a problem anymore.
Lone Wolf to command.
On to the next target.
Outlast by Kerry E.B. Black
We’ve always lived in the woods. Of course, back in the day, woods stretched for acres. Now they’re confined to a small patch surrounded by manicured lawns and asphalt.
Few venture here. They linger along the outskirts and peer into the cool depths beneath the leafy canopy, as though they fear once they enter, they’ll never return to their civilization.
We wait here, sneering at their brash attempts to confine us. We bide our time.
Soon, they’ll become negligent groundskeepers, and with quiet tenacity, we’ll reclaim land, break through turf, swallow structures.
We will outlast, as always.
So They Say So by D. Avery
“G’day Pal. Where’s Kid?”
“Hmmph. I ain’t too sure. Still tentin’ I reckon. Complained last week about yeller tents and then takes off fer the woods totin’ one.”
“Look here, Pal, a note. It says, ‘See ya later Pal. Shorty says I am to appear in the woods.’ Seems Kid has misread the prompt again.”
“’Appears so Aussie. Dang!”
“What’s wrong, Pal? Kid does just fine in the woods.”
“Normally, yeah, but who knows what these ranch hands is gonna put inta the woods with this prompt. Why, they even say there’s a Bigfoot out and about.”
“Oh, I hope Kid doesn’t come across Bigfoot!”
“Me too, Aussie, poor Bigfoot doesn’t deserve that. Hey, do you feel like we’re bein’ watched or somethin’?”
“Yes, I do, Pal. Why, who is that peering from the woods there? Kid!”
“Aussie! Pal! I’m back.”
“We kin see that. Where ya bin?”
“I been appearin’ in woods all over. Went west. It was wild. Saw fossils an’ artsy facts an’ muse-icians.”
“You call that campin’?”
“Call it vacationin’. Guess who I spied peerin’ from the woods when I was tentin’?”
“Frannie Hooe. Least they say it was her.”
Ed peers at me from behind the ferns. He’s caught between the darkness of the deep woods and the sunlight pouring through the opening in the trees. I’d like to think Ed is “Ed McMahon” with a Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstake check the size of a refrigerator door and enough zeros to last a lifetime of book-buying. Or Ed, as in the name of a yet-unknown publisher who knocks to say, “Golly-gosh, we love your writing – here’s a contract.”
No, Ed is a deer. A soft-eared doe with big dark, curious eyes peers at me from a glen in Minnesota that I’ve never seen. The photo is a gift, one of several that Keto Man gave me after an interview.
First, Keto Man is the very last member-owner of a co-op I will ever interview. He marks the conclusion of an era for me, the final one after seventeen years of interviews. During that time, I caught the stories of hundreds of co-op members, organic farmers, artisan cheese producers, and entrepreneurs.
Peering back at that time in my life, I see all who I interviewed as part of a colorful tapestry of a vibrant community food system. Food cooperatives in the US rose out of the need for people to have whole food. The movement countered processed meals, added sugar, and expense. In Berkley and Minneapolis, co-ops adopted the symbol of a fisted carrot: Food for people, not for profit!
Sound familiar? Carrot Ranch…Words for people! Sure, I lopped off the “not for profit part” because I emphatically believe literary artists, like all artists, should be valued and paid for their work. The name Carrot Ranch acknowledges community activism centered on fairness, and as a literary arts community, I believe in the power of writers to rise and say something powerful in the world tussle between chaos and order.
Literary art belongs to the people, not the ivory towers or pocketbooks of profit-first publishing. People first. Nothing against publishing dynasties or ivory towers. I love New York and vow to go back as a published author one day. But the industry strangles voices with a profit-driven model. And I’m not against higher education — I’m headed back to the ivory towers of liberal arts next month.
Of course, my position at Finlandia University suits my inner maverick. As an adjunct, I’ll be teaching a CTE Marketing course to high school juniors and seniors who get to enroll in college. Already I get to circumvent some of the pomp of being a full-fledged prof. I’m invited to the week-long orientation for new professors, but I can pick and chose which events to attend. I like that.
But I did have to get fingerprinted and entered into the FBI database. That’s a requirement of the Copper Country School District. I understand and made the most of my jail visit to the Houghton County Sheriff’s Department. I even got to sit in the sheriff’s office and talk to him about teaching (he used to be an adjunct at Finlandia, too). He agreed to talk to my class about how professionalism is part of his department’s brand.
In fact, I’ve been reaching out to many local business owners, companies and entrepreneurs to speak as guests. I hope to have one a week. I want to expose my students to many varied ideas about what they could do with a marketing career. And I want to drive home the only rule my classroom will have: always be professional. If any disciplinary issues arise, as administrators fear given that this is the first time they’ve opened their campus to high school students, I can begin with, “What would a professional do?” One required reading for the course will be “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.
Keto Man didn’t think our interview would last 20 minutes. My former client wanted one more member-owner profile after I completed my last project for them. As is the case with such last-minute stories, they turned over a willing candidate to interview. Keto Man didn’t think he was interesting. He wasn’t. He was fascinating and inspiring.
For starters, he led me to a dark place, as dark as the woods behind a deer. Like me, he has no cable television thus eliminating the 24-hour news media nonsense. While I support journalism and believe in a nation’s free-press, the US saw the information age give way to the misinformation age. Keto Man directed me to Jordan Peterson and The Intellectual Dark Web. I’ve only watched a few clips and not anything I’m compelled to share yet, but I fully understand the allure of intellectualism, of long conversations, of discourse.
As a literary writer, I support what Jordan Peterson says: When you are in college and have those years carved out for you, read every book you can in the library. Yes! Read deep and read broadly. It reminds me of how I often struggled as a writer in my twenties because I felt I didn’t have anything to say. And I was right. The twenties are for reading, for digesting. Sure, writing is a huge part of processing what you think about what you read, but you must input information and experiences, first.
Also, I’d add – go live! Go be a parent and understand that dirty diapers are daily, and you’ll get over yourself in a hurry. Go to college and cram all night, write every day and read every book until your eyes cross. Go work a job, any job, especially a job that doesn’t fulfill you, so you can understand what does bring you satisfaction. Go to the mountains, to the sea, to the desert, to the city, to someplace new. Go travel and talk to people who are different until you understand they are just like you.
And never stop. Never stop learning, experiencing, and using your voice to say something. Observe. Create. Express. Write. Repeat.
I connected with Keto Man. I understood his interest in long conversations and civil debates. I like the idea of the Dark Web for taking hot social topics and debating them on a long forum and following up with audience questions. Yes, I long for more intelligent discourse. However, I also long for more compassion. As with everything, balance.
Further in the interview, Keto Man explained a health crisis he experienced to which he responded by eliminating all sugar and grains. I felt inspired by his action. He’s on a ketogenic diet which has eliminated the culprit of inflammation. He is able to process his health so differently from many veterans like the Hub. Next time a VA doctor says the Hub is normal for his age, I have a comparison.
My adjustment with the Hub correlates to a phrase Anne Godwin gifted me with last week: my veteran’s a reluctant patient with a hard-to-diagnose condition. He’s not normal for his age. Even the 86-year old man who conversed with me at the beach/office today could hold focus better than the Hub.
I’m writing, and occasionally peering at others, as I’m officing from a picnic table at Hancock City Beach. A man with two teeth approaches and tells me a joke in such rapid Finnish-English I laugh, not because I understand but because I don’t. Then I tell him a joke. Evidently, this is a Finnish custom for opening a conversation. He lingers and asks why I’m at a picnic table with a computer on such a beautiful day. Exactly! It’s such a beautiful day, I wanted to go down to Portage Canal and write.
Tomorrow we have the first of several evaluations for the Hub. They will be peering into his service records, his medical records and at his old bones. I’d rather be peering at rocks or at a deer that might be named Ed. That will come later.
August 9, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes an act of “peering from the woods.” Go where the prompt leads.
Respond by August 14, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.
Ed in the Woods by Charli Mills
Ed was peering at me again. I could feel his gaze crawl across my shoulders. Let me finish the chapter, Ed. The Legendary Leaphorn is in the arroyo. The tickle continues. I persevere, finish the chapter and set down Tony Hillerman’s latest southwest detective book.
Snagging a sip from my gin, tonic, and blueberries, I grab a fresh-husked corn.
Ed still peers at me from the edge of the woods. His ears twist like radar. Slowly I raise my offering. He hesitates, leans in and nibbles from my hand. The deer dashes off, leaving me to read in peace.
Writers stepped up to the challenge like queueing up for the circus. Some rogues found romance, some yearned for Yellowstone. The dialog, tension, and humor flows from the imaginations and shared memories of writers from around the world.
The following are based on the August 2, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a yellow tent.
PART I (10-minute read)
Boxing Up the Past by Heather Gonzalez
They say you can’t go home again. Lucy and Rick had to deal with what to do with their childhood home now that their parents were gone. Covered in cobwebs and memories, it was like stepping back in time to the 80s. Boxing up the past, Lucy came across a box of photographs.
“Hey, Rick! Come look at these!” Lucy held up a photo of them in their homemade fort as children.
Using a bright yellow sheet, they recreated their childhood. Under that tent, they felt young again, letting the loss of time melt away into the linoleum floor.
The Crawlspace by Bill Engleson
“Help me?” she pleads.
“Sure. With what?” I reluctantly query.
“The crawlspace…under the back porch. It’s a fire hazard.”
The world is ablaze, I think, and she’s worried about the dank confines of the porch.
“Okay,” I concede. “I’m too big to slither in there, though.”
“Fine,” she says, ticked. “I’ll slither in…hand the stuff to you.”
Delighted with my negotiating skills, I wait while she inches in.
“This is heavy…smells to high heaven.” She shoves out the old canvas tent, once khaki, now splotchy yellow.
“Full of sweet memories,” I opine.
“And fat spiders and mummified mice, sweetheart.”
The Yellow Tent by Anita Dawes
I have never been camping, nor slept in a tent
But I do know that yellow is the colour of magic.
Maybe I should try sleeping under a yellow canvas
To see where magic might take me.
To an enchanted forest with a babbling brook
Listening to the music made by flowing water
With fairy lanterns to light my way.
A castle where I might find my own Prince Charming
King Arthur and the Round Table
With Merlin by his side.
The golden chalice having been found
Back in its rightful place
Maybe there, I will find my happiness…
Yellow Tent by Reena Saxena
During a session in neuro-linguistic programming, she was asked to imagine the peak of happiness, and visualize being swathed in golden-yellow light. It was like a magic bulb she was supposed to switch on in depressing moments, to migrate to a different mindset. It seemed like quackery, then.
Fifteen years later, she had lost her husband and retired from work. There was not much left to live for. But she brightened up talking about events in her prime, during interactions with her old-age home inmates.
It was the yellow tent she sought shelter in, to protect her against misery.
Sunny Cindy by kate @ aroused
Most prefer to blend into the bush when camping but not Cindy. When searching for firewood she had a tendency to often wander off completely distracted by an insect or looking for rocks or flowers. Hence she found a bright yellow tent was much easier to spot from afar.
And let’s face it if there are other campers about they cannot wander into Cindy’s by mistake as it’s so distinct. Besides yellow suited her personality as she was a sunny type of lass always smiling and chatting to anyone with the time. Ready to help or listen whenever needed.
Yellow Tent by the Dark Netizen
“You know its a one in a million chance, right?”
The two were sitting in their yellow tent, entrance flap open, hoping for a shooting stars shower.
“You have said this before, Sammy. But, I really want to watch it.”
He wrapped his arms around her.
“I know that.”
She placed her head on his shoulders. And then it happened. Suddenly, the dark sky was filled with a stream of white stars. He held her tighter.
“For once, I am glad I was proven wrong.”
“It happened because we are one in a billion.”
“That we are.”
With Intent II by Norah Colvin
“I have to work.” She feigned disappointment.
“That’s okay. Come after work.”
“But I’m working late. It’ll be dark.”
“It’s well-lit all the way.”
“But I don’t know the way.”
“That’s okay.” He punched the address into her navigation device. “Just follow the directions.”
“How will I find you when I get there?”
“I’ll be watching for you.”
Conjuring no more excuses, she wasn’t yet ready to explain her attraction to him didn’t include camping.
Later, when entering the campgrounds, deserted but for one yellow tent lit by solar fairy lights spelling the words, “Marry me,” her fears melted.
The Sunshine Kid by Kay Kingsley
I emerged at dawn to a silence only those who have known solitude in the forrest long for. The sweet dampness of the morning burned the smell of warming Redwoods into my memory as I sat quietly by the fire perking coffee I drank from a tin cup.
The smoke rose into the forrest’s canopy as the fire pit crackled and popped and as peace settled in the sun broke free, cascading a kaleidoscope of light all around and from our yellow tent emerged my favorite person of all, my sunshine kid, beaming a smile from ear to ear.
Blonde Dreams? by JulesPaige
Yellow was the color of my true love’s hair
Never quite long enough to act as a tent
For me to hide in –
But with hugs and silent strength
(even when a very few times when
patience ran thin)
I’ve always had that haven…
Camping out in a yellow or any tent –
Not high on my radar.
However I hope that when we retire
We can travel in or out of country
(we’ve not yet been to all fifty states –
I’ve been to a few countries)
Maybe the hotel walls will be
White-washed yellow – and that will
No Vacation by Paula Moyer
Jean was 10 years old when she saw it in the catalogue: a bright yellow tent. It gleamed and beckoned. Oh, wouldn’t it be so marvelous – to live in that tent, with her family, on a vacation?
She sighed and dreamed.
“I’ve camped enough.” Her dad’s flat response woke her up.
Twenty years before: “the war.” Simple name.
Clarence, her dad, served in North Africa, Sicily, France. Like everyone else – “for the duration.” Three years in a khaki tent – no playful yellow.
“I’ve camped enough.”
Years later, in her own yellow tent, with her boyfriend, Jean swatted mosquitoes. Understood.
A Wretch Like Me by Sherri Matthews
‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…’
Will sang to his heart’s content, as tuneless as he cared to in his truck and no chiding from Pauline back home fixing dinner, no ma’am.
‘That saved a wretch like me…’
The radio cut dead and Will clamped the breaks. ‘Well, I’ll be damned…’ A tent as yellow as Pauline’s lemon pie covered Bud Wilson’s field and not a soul in sight.
Then he heard it again, but from the tent. He walked inside.
‘I once was lost, but now am found…’
Bud found Will’s body next morning, comforted by his smile.
The Birdcage Cover by Susan Sleggs
My sisters and I were gathered around an open trunk from our family home. Angelina took out a piece of yellow fabric that was shaped like a small Christmas tree skirt but only had a tiny hole and snaps along the open edge. I asked, “What’s that?”
Deanna said, “Do you remember the yellow canary we had when you were little?”
“Yeah, it sang when we ran water and louder when anyone whistled.”
“Mother made this from a tablecloth after Dad put the umpteenth cigarette burn it to cover its cage at night. I wonder why Mom kept it?”
Luxury Home by D. Avery
If you’ve ever sat and watched a mountaintop succumb to dusk’s misty cover; if you’ve sat long enough to see the fog reveal the mountaintop again but linger in the cuts and valleys; if witnessed a westward mountain reluctantly letting go its grip on the slanting sunlight that battled clouds all day, now trailing yellow rays, grasping at the underside of high branched leaves, streaking yellow ripples across the water, then you know. You’re just a poor camper, with all the riches that heaven and earth have to offer, the late evening sky the roof of your yellow tent.
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
Judy always loved the countryside drive. All that fresh air, the postcard views, the streams, the tattered American flags—some confederate ones too. She could almost hear the hymns of old spilling from the window-less clapboard church, its steeple at a tilt.
But the yellow tents were new.
Her breath caught. A camp, but nothing like she’d seen, with black and brown bodies, childrens’ hands grasping a gleaming chain link fence. Judy’s foot found the gas pedal.
Judy thought the scene belonged in Europe. In the news. Debated from podiums. Instead it was sitting between cornfields, confronting her scenery.
Before The Gold Rush by Liz Husebye Hartmann
We’d started loading at the dawning of the third moon. Triage overflowed after the fifth wave from the Kipstanian Crisis. We tried to get the word out to all survivors; transport off our doomed planet ended today.
There would be no more planet to doom.
Flashing a light in the evacuees’ eyes, I direct them to the three loading tents. Green equals “Go”, red “Stop”, and yellow “Caution.” The Kipstanian crisis made id-ing dangerous types easy. Red eyes never made it off the planet. Blue, Brown? Approved.
Then SHE came, one eye blue, one green.
I point. “Yellow tent.”
The Autumn Leaves by Kenzie Farrington
Autumn leaves wander aimlessly through the breeze
They’ll tell you stories of the trees, if you bother to listen
Hear them pass, hear them humm
Past the city streets they run
Past the children
Past the swings
Beyond the buildings–
To where the river sings
Listen, listen, watch them glow
Green, red, orange, yellow
They’ll bring you something–
Something familiar, but far away
You’ve seen it before
Sometime last May
You were lying in your yellow tent
You met the moon, and she was beautiful
And those autumn leaves made you cry
Because there, you knew you were alive
Yellow Tent by oneletterup
“Are you okay kid?”
The last thing she remembers is a truck door closing.
Then sleeping in this soft lap.
She struggles to open her eyes. So tired.
Where Am I?
“Kid! What’s your name? Who are you?”
She turns toward the voice. A kind voice.
A smooth hand covers hers. Gentle and warm.
Something in her untwists.
Tears escape, sliding down her face.
She feels herself lifted up. Hears a door opening.
She peeks. A blue house. Flowers. Swings.
A little girl. A little boy.
A little yellow tent; flap up. Toys inside.
“Ya wanna play?”
Solitude, Wait for Me (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam
The tide was out. Sand dollars were scattered across the wet sands. Diamante pitched his yellow tent near the broken wood fence, and walked along the deserted seashore. Solitude.
A yellow butterfly fluttered past him. Seagulls swept out to sea from the dunes. A dragon kite sprang into the skies, its tail a ribbon of yellow flags, its eyes glinting with multicolored sequins. Children’s laughter rang out on the warm sea breeze.
Diamante sighed. He loved butterflies and kites. He loved the villagers. And it was time to fix the broken fence. Solitude would have to wait another day.
Bright Yellow Tent by Teresa Grabs
“Let’s get you guys this one,” Lucy said, picking up a dome tent.
Amber and Gin moaned.
“Girls, the tickets alone were nearly a thousand dollars. I am not buying a top of the line tent for a music festival. Besides, how many people there will have a bright yellow tent?”
They knew she could still change her mind about letting them go and she had a point about the color of the tent. No one wanted a bright yellow tent. When they arrived and was blinded by sunlight lying on the ground they learned how wrong she was.
Flash Fiction by Geoff Le Pard
‘Logan, what are you doing?’
‘Trying… what a stupid idea to use this tent.’
‘Why? It’s fine…’
‘It’s so small I can’t even fart…’
‘That’s one blessing. Anyway, you’ve happily spent hours crushed with 100,000 strangers by the main stage, dancing to Metallica…’
‘I didn’t know them. I know you.’
‘Surely it’s the other way round?’
‘No… is that what I think is sticking in my leg?’
‘On the tube, if a stranger stinks, elbows me, I get off. Here, I’m stuck with you.’
‘I don’t smell. Do I?’
‘No Morgan. Are you sure that’s your elbow?’
PART II (10-minute read)
Big Yellow Tent by Sascha Darlington
Have you ever heard sunshine in laughter?
It was moments before I saw her, head tilted back, laughing up into the cerulean sky so free-spirited that I was charmed.
But then there was her big scary yellow tent.
“Hello,” I said, always great with words.
She grinned. “Hello, yourself.”
“What’s with the tent?”
“It’s my big yellow taxi.”
“Where’re you from?”
“Scotland. Ever heard of Joni Mitchell?”
I shook my head. Politician? Actress? Reality TV?
“One of the greatest singer/songwriters who ever existed.”
“My big yellow taxi takes me away.”
And, somehow, it took me too.
The Porch by Late Night Girl
Reinhold Messner sought the Heights
and found his Porch
No Mansion by the Beach
or Villa in the Hills
can bargain with him
for his little Yellow Tent
on top of the Peak
No incentive of a fake Sky
via a tasteless satellite dish
can pay him to observe
electronic stars and purple rain
sprinkle down upon his Summit
The Snow is his Sand
the Tent his Castle and
the Sky his Umbrella
to protect him from
a moderate Life
The Crisp Air is his Coffee
the Moon his Bread
and the Earth his Bed
Being Yellow by floridaborne
Two pictures sat on mom’s kitchen counter; my parents standing near a yellow tent, and a rich bitch wearing yellow standing next to my dad taken days after he’d abandoned mom for her when I turned one.
Mom and I lived in subsidized housing. I made straight A’s in school, had a free ride to the local state college, and mom died a month after I received my degree.
The doorbell rang. I opened it to stare into eyes just like mine.
“Go to hell. It’s yellow there, just like you,” I said, slamming the door in Dad’s face.
Sales Shopping for a New Dress by Anne Goodwin
“You don’t have it in a different colour?” Or a different shape? It could be fancy dress. Marvellous! they’d say. You’ve come as a tent.
“Not at this price,” says the assistant. “But yellow’s definitely your colour.” How does she know? Because of my sunny disposition or because I’m a coward? Or because this frock is taking up space she needs for the winter stock.
“I’ll take it.” If only to hang in my wardrobe along with several other outfits I haven’t the courage to wear. “On second thoughts … Snap off the sales tag! I’m wearing it home.”
Yellow Tent y Robbie Cheadle
“I bought us a two-man tent so we can go camping.”
“Really,” said Helen, “are you referring to the child-sized, yellow tent you just put up in the garden.”
“Yes, and it’s not child-sized, the man in the shop said it would sleep two people comfortably.”
“Does it have a bathroom and kitchenette?”
“No,” said Dave.
“Does it have wi-fi, air-conditioning and plugs for my laptop, iPad, iPhone and hairdryer.”
“You’re being ridiculous, of course it doesn’t have those things. It’s for camping. We’ll have a great time experiencing the great outdoors.”
“You mean you’ll have a great time.”
Cowardly, Chloe Goes Camping by JulesPaige
I knew I’d be a heel if I didn’t go camping with him. He said it was a time to heal, being in nature. He’ll provide everything he said.
I dreaded him coming down my lane. All night I
had lain stiffly prone trying to sleep in the comfort of my bed… I tried to dream up some excuse not to go. I couldn’t find any…
Maybe one night wouldn’t be so bad? We got to
the lake and he set up a yellow tent. He brought
an air cushion …
No indoor plumbing. I’d be peeing in a can.
Wanting to Hide (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls
Danni unzipped her tent. Vapors rose from the creek where it meandered smooth and flat across a meadow dotted with daisies. The sun cast colors across the eastern horizon of sharp mountains. She checked each boot, a habit from growing up in Nevada where scorpions liked to take refuge in a cozy shoe. The feel of laced boots gave her confidence to face the day. The volunteers would soon be arriving to camp. Ike had always teased her about how bright yellow her tent was – “Astronauts in space can spot it.” Today, she wished she had his camo tent.
Yellow Tent for Sale by Peregrine Arc
“Yellow tent for sale, never used. Complete with stakes and poles. Good for camping trips. $99, OBO. Sleeps four comfortably. Inquiries at…”
I squinted at the ad as I picked up the phone. Files littered my desk. Paper clipped photos of children stared back at me vacantly.
“Hello? I’m interested in the tent. Would $70 do? Great, I’ll pick it up today. Cash only–I understand.”
I grabbed my keys and stuck my head into my boss’ office.
“Got another tent for a family. Be back in ten.”
Misunderstanding by Kerry E.B. Black
They pitched their tent at the top of the hill, its brilliant golden canvas welcoming as the sun.
A hundred other campers went about their lives at the hill’s base. They lit fires and toasted marshmallows, roasted hot dogs, and gossiped around the flickering flames. “Why’d they build their tent atop the hill? Do they think they’re better than us?” “Yellow’s an ostentatious color. Why not pitch blue or grey tents like ours?” “We distrust them.”
Atop the hill, they hoped for visitors. They baked scones, percolated coffee, and fried platters of bacon and eggs to share.
At the Midway by D. Avery
It was a yellow tent, not well placed in the carnival midway, but its owner sang out to prospective customers, enticing them to come closer, come curious, come in.
*Come in, come in, all will be revealed
Lived well, or sinned, come see how you’ll be dealed.
Step through the yellow tent
See how your end of days are spent.*
Most went in just for a lark, laughing.
Some came out beaming, said the tent had the buttercup color of sunshine summer days. Others came out shaken, said the tent was sulfur colored, reminded them of lightning, striking close.
The Fortune Giver by D. Avery
Also on the midway, an exotic red haired Portuguese gypsy woman spun fortunes from words. Her tent was unmistakably the color of sunshine, which drew people eager to spend their 99 cents for the gift of story. In every story the gypsy spun, they heard their own story and left emboldened enough to tell their stories themselves. This yellow tent buzzed and hummed with story as more and more people came to hear and to tell. The gypsy woman glowed, basking in her good fortune, measured not in the 99 cents, but the 99 word stories of her community.
A Cold Night by Anurag Bakhshi
It was a cold night, and my teeth were chattering as I made my way towards the yellow tent in the middle of the desert.
There was a feeling of warmth emanating from inside the tent that seemed to be calling out to me.
I peeped in through a small hole, and saw a girl, alone.
Unable to resist any longer, I rushed into the tent…and fell right into a boiling cauldron.
And the last words I heard before I lost consciousness were, “Aah, rattlesnake soup will be just perfect to keep me warm on this brutally cold night.”
For All In Tents and Purposes by Nancy Brady
The truck pulled up and parked on the side of the road. The two men climbed out of the truck. Arrayed in green shirts, khaki pants, boots, and a utility belt to rival Batman’s, they attached their belts and shimmied up the telephone pole.
With the sky looking overcast, the men put up a little safety yellow tent on the telephone line. Looking more like a tiny house than a typical pup tent, it hung there fifty feet above the street. It sheltered the two men as they worked furiously to fix the phone lines before the storm hit.
The World Through Prismatic Glasses by Chelsea Owens
“When I grow up,”
From too-tall counters, unfair portions, summer bedtimes.
When I grow up,
For friends, a car, no one ever telling me, “No.”
When I grow up,
Promises will be kept, rules followed; the world blacks and whites.
Crumb-filled countertops, imperfect pieces, little sleep.
For friends, fewer expenses, parents’ good advice.
People are human, rules bend; the world….
I take a crayon and draw my mind:
And a yellow tent,
Glowing from within.
Not What She Had in Mind by Molly Stevens — Shallow Reflections
“What are you watching?” asked Chester.
“The Travel Channel,” said Ruth. “Don’t you wish we could drive an RV across the country? There is so much to do and see.”
“I’m pretty happy right here,” said Chester scratching his ample belly.
But he saw the wistful look in Ruth’s eyes.
“I’m going to run into town,” he said.
When he returned, he was as radiant as a cloudless July sky.
“This is going to be our home at Park’s Pond campground up the road in Clifton,” he announced.
“Oh, Chester, I was longing for Yellowstone, not a yellow tent!”
Yellow Tent by Frank Hubeny
Perhaps it was the sunshine yellow that attracted the bear or the food or curiosity. Bill had a camper over his Ford pickup truck, but he could not stand up in it and so he bought the tent.
He thinned naturally grown trees on clear-cut paper company land. This kept him alone in the woods for a week at a time or until the project finished.
He thought the tent was perfect until the bear came. It pushed its nose into the fabric deeply breathing. Bill swatted it and it ran off.
After that they left each other alone.
Yellow Tent by Miriam Hurdle
“How was your sleep last night?”
“Awful. I’m not the camping type. My back hurts.”
“You slept in a cot. Didn’t it help?”
“It’s just the idea of not having walls around that gave me a nightmare.”
“The tent is our wall.”
“But that yellow color is so light that I could see the moonlight.”
“That should be soothing and relaxing.”
“But, but… it’s like transparent. I felt like sleeping in the open air. I heard growling and saw a bear chasing me.”
“The bear didn’t chase you. We had a bear visit and stole our food last night.”
Thin Layer of Bravado by Oneta Hayes
Our traditional Kidz Kamp was marked by tent colors: blue for boys, red for girls. Mine, as Counselor, was yellow. I said it meant “courageous” and the young children believed me. Bigger kids would catch on right away. It stands for “coward.”
That was not always so. “Just give me a flashlight and let me at ‘um,” was my motto. I was an owl-chasing specialist. Until the “spider” incident. I screamed. The kids came running to offer their help. Betsy stepped on the spider – barefooted.
Those kids have grown; the story is dead. But it sticks with me. Coward.
A Beatle’s Wasteland by Late Night Girl
‘How did I get myself into this mess?!’ he thought while trying to find beauty in his surroundings, with freeze burn on his toes.
His mind was frozen from the cold. And in this solitude all he managed to do was to hum a tune to try and stay awake.
All that came to mind in this ironic turn of events was a song he used to sing with his friends under a starry night around the camp fire:
“We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow sub…mmaa….riiinee…”
And then he dosed off into the stars.
Lovers by Patrick O’Connor
Strolling through the woods on a hot summer afternoon.
We’d been three days in the forest, looking for a place to camp for the night.
Coming to a small clearing, we noticed a tent.
It wasn’t really much of a tent. More like a lean-to.
Looking closer at the material, it looked like a tarp that was once green but now a dirty, faded yellowish, grey.
Walking around the front, we got the shock of our life.
Inside the lean-to? Two skeletons. Obvious lovers, cuddled together.
They must have been there for years.
A sad ending to two lives.
Watching From Above, Waiting by TN Kerr
peering through his scope at the landscape below
an encampment, an encampment of one
that almost went unnoticed.
a flax coloured tent with a muted hue, sombre. quietly
blending into the background,
a cold camp, no fire and the only sign of life is a yellow dog
stretched out and still
near an assortment of gear, stacked to one side
it has to be him
it must be Munroe
nothing to do now except stand by,
Munroe will be back.
a disturbance from behind, then a voice, whispers,
“Hullo, Sutherland. What took you so long?”
Yellow Light District by Ritu Bhathal
A rustling noise caught my attention.
I trudged through the forest, kicking up the leaves, trying to trace the source of the sound.
A glow emanated from a clearing up ahead.
As I got closer I saw the glow came from the inside of a yellow tent.
It was a hastily erected contraption, and accompanying the rustles were giggles.
The light created shadows.
There were definitely two.
The giggles became moans.
The shadows moved slowly, the moans became more intense.
I turned around, embarrassed to be there, until I heard “Oh Petey!”
That was my husband’s name…
Tent Tense by D. Avery
“Huh? Oh, hey Pal. Jeez… Yellow tents… ”
“You seem a might tense, Kid. Maybe a might yeller too. Just go where the prompt leads, don’t be afraid.”
“I ain’t afraid, Pal, in fact I prefer ta sleep out under the stars, no tent at all.”
“Don’t Kid, ‘cause I’m afraid I’ll have ta listen ta yer complainin’ ‘bout skeeter bites.”
“Hmmph. Pal, why is Shorty’s tent yeller?”
“It ain’t yeller. It’s transparent.”
“Yep. The midnight oil she burns makes it ‘pear yeller. Claims it’s like sunshine.”
“I prefer moonshine.”
“Jist go ta yer tent Kid.”
White-washed buildings gleam beneath a blue sky streaked with high clouds. They’re the kind of clouds that don’t do much more than add brush strokes to a painting. No humidity. No heatwave. No black flies. Sunshine rests comfortably on my head as I carry a box of books and my computer to the western garrison.
I’m at Fort Wilkins to give a presentation on how to use flash fiction to explore history.
1844: Fort Wilkins stands to protect the copper. A young nation encroaching further west, the Michigan wilderness known to the fur traders and voyageurs, marks a lucrative spot on territorial maps. From the decks of sea-faring, Great Lakes mariners can trace veins of copper rich ore to the shoreline of the Keweenaw Peninsula. At its tip where land juts into lake like a bent finger, the Pittsburgh & Boston Mining Company stakes its claim. The garrison of soldiers with memories of the War of 1812 forge a fort. Peaceful as a Sunday picnic. No one badgers the copper miners.
Mowed summer grass surrounds the fort grounds as it faces a lake — not Lake Superior, but Lake Fannie Hooe. A small gurgling stream flows from the lake, past the fort and mingles with the greater one in a half-moon cove with pinchers of craggy rock at each point. The John Jacob Astor floundered in 1845 after missing the safety of the harbor.
Champagne doused her prow on the shores of Sault Sainte Marie – the first tall ship built on Lake Superior. The pride of the American Fur Company, she bore the name of its progenitor. Cutting across heaving waves, she carried cargo and passengers. Eight could squeeze around her dinner table. Fully loaded with winter supplies for Fort Wilkins, she sailed for the harbor. Crashed upon the rocks, every man in the garrison soaked by surf and slashing rain fought to release her. No one died, but with supplies lost to the Great Lake, together they faced a winter of rations.
After I set up in the lecture hall, I eagerly head to the harbor. An artist’s rendering superimposes a modern photo of the harbor with the wreck of the John Jacob Astor. It’s part of an interpretive display to explain the shipwreck. The cove seems pleasant, not one that could take down ships, but I’ve seen Superior on high energy days.
It’s neither too cool nor too hot. It’s a perfect spring day, a gift in mid-summer. The greater gift is the death of black flies. Those winged beasts fed upon my blood just a week before when I came to Copper Harbor to hike in the old growth cedar grove. This evening, I’m alone, savoring my time on the rocky beach.
I settle into a seat of warm pebbles to eat bison jerky made with cranberries and seeds. Almonds and dried apple rings finish the light meal. My energy rises before a presentation, and I eat little. Afterward, I’ll be ravenous! Likely the fish and chips will be closed by then, and I’ll make do with organic fig newtons.
For now, I relish the moment of perfection. Life rarely offers such a perfect mingling of nature, anticipation, tasty fare, sunny skies, warm pebbles and lapping water. I watch the Isle Royale Queen approach the harbor and promise myself that one day I will have a writer’s retreat on the island.
It’s a bucket list kind of place — so remote in Lake Superior, it takes six hours to reach.
Wolves sheltered on the dock in crates. Daddy’s expression never changed but I could feel his tension. He didn’t want wolves on his island. This was our third summer on Isle Royale since Daddy became National Park Superintendent. Mother said some zoo in Cleveland wanted to purge its wolves, but they were too used to people to set loose on the lower 48. So, they shipped them to Daddy by boat in crates. That summer, shadows followed me and my sister, but never materialized where we walked or played. If wolves knew of people, they knew to stay away.
Recently I collected the oral histories of two sisters who lived in Ripley but summered on Isle Royale where their father had served as the National Park’s second superintendent. It was happenstance that I met the women. In flood-torn Ripley, of all places. They described their childhood to me, living next door to Cynthia’s house and attending school at what is now an apartment complex next to the fire hall.
99-words is catching on in the Keweenaw. I love its artistry, the form’s ability to distill a story in surprising ways. I love how it births creative moments, solving problems with a constraint. I love how it can be a tool. To the entrepreneur, 99 words are 45 seconds. One 99-word story can express a vision. Eight can launch a compelling pitch. To the historian, 99 words can digest historical facts, fictionalize the gaps and imagine times past.
Fiction lets us question history, to dig deeper than the facts and records. Writing historical fiction is all about asking what if…and why…and how…and who would… We might know when, but we want to know so much more. In my own historical research, I find that these questions drive me to examine the records more closely.
I learn about the mystery of Lake Fannie Hooe. A friend from my veteran spouses group grew up not far from Copper Harbor, spending her summers exploring old mines and logging camps the way I did in my hometown. She told me that legend has it, Fannie was a little girl, perhaps the daughter of an officer, who went missing. As they circled the lake they called, “Fannie…! Fannie, hooe!
They say, they never found her body.
As a story-catcher, I have an affinity for “they say” stories. Usually, they are not accurate historically, but they contain a nugget of humanity. “They say” stories express our fears or need to be entertained. I find “they say” stories fun to research. When I lived in Idaho, I wrote a column for a magazine that explored local history beginning with they say. From there, I tried to match the story to historical records.
Questions help discovery. The night of my presentation, I had planned for attendees to write their own Fort Wilkins flash fiction. I forgot that writing can be intimidating to non-writers. I tried to convince a wide-eyed crowd that they could pencil their own historical fiction. Realizing their trepidation, I led the questioning and did the writing from their responses.
The one prompt they all wanted to explore was, “Who was Fannie Hooe and why did she go missing?” Two historians from the fort sat in on the presentation and knew a great deal about the real Fannie. She was from Virginia and came as a single woman to Fort Wilkins to help her pregnant sister. She was not a girl, but a young lady. They say she went missing, mauled by a bear or murdered by a spurned lover.
Truth is, she returned to Virginia, married and lived a long life.
Flash fiction remains my favorite tool to explore history. It allows me to write quickly from multiple perspectives and test different points of view for my characters. If I don’t like a POV or discover a different path for a character, I’ve only committed a batch of flash fiction to the discovery instead of having to overhaul chapters or revise an entire draft.
Flash fiction lets me push into the space between the gaps. It lets me crawl under the skin of those the record shows were there. It tolerates my line of questioning with 99-word answers.
July 19, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Fannie Hooe. Although she is a legend in the Kewenaw, feel free to go where the prompt leads.
Respond by July 24, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.
Grandma Fannie by Charli Mills
Grandma Sarah rocked with restraint as we drank mint water over chipped ice, a luxury in 1870s Virginia, especially after the War. Grandpa Hooe was a Union officer, commissioned in the wilds of Michigan. Grandma told stories about how they met at Fort Wilkins the year she stayed with her sister. She told me how her nickname was the same as mine – Fannie.
“My bonnet blew off, and your grandfather swore he was bedazzled by the sun on my blond hair.”
All the men from the garrison courted her, but she left the wilds with Grandpa as Fannie Hooe.
He shuffles across the rubble that bridges the 2nd Street drainage system of Ripley Creek. Wisps of white locks curl from beneath a baseball cap, and his t-shirt glows as white as if he reserves a brand new one for rare occasions. Spotting this reclusive Vietnam veteran hovering in what used to be the front yard of one of his neighbors feels like a sighting an elusive Sasquatch.
He hesitates and reminds me of a moth that bobs back and forth on my back porch, seeking entrance through the glass and darting away just as quickly. Like the lapping waves of Lake Superior on a hot calm day. Shy, uncertain but reaching out. Cynthia rises from the silt-covered floor of her gutted house, speaking his name in reverent tones.
As much as I want to dash out the front door and greet this rare neighbor, I hold back, letting Cynthia guide him up the front steps. I’ve heard much about the man. Cynthia has a big heart for the elderly. He lives alone in his mother’s old house down the street. When she first moved to Ripley, a girl in the neighborhood told her that the man’s house was haunted. The lights came on after midnight.
Like many who live in seclusion, this neighbor keeps odd hours. He is the only specter in his domain. Cynthia befriended him not in person but on social media. Although only one house separates them, they chat late at night on Facebook. She’s told me how brilliant he is, knowing much about music and art. Vietnam secluded him, fenced him off from community.
It’s a kind gesture on his part that’s he’s ventured well beyond his comfort zone to see if Cynthia is okay. With last night’s rain, Ripley Creek overflowed, washing away the sandbags along Cynthia’s house. We’re filling out applications for funding and trying to find immediate resources so Cynthia can get temporarily housed. It worries me when my friend is unsure of where she is sleeping each night.
It’s also troubling to wait on the dictates of others — no one has a permanent solution for the Ripley drainage and the elephant hunkered on the hill above our community is the unstable sand escarpment that can trigger more landslides. Powers that be monitor the temporary silt mitigation, but no one knows how to work together or even if Federal funding is coming.
Another neighbor, HockyPuck because he has the personality of one, strode by earlier, bragging about how the flood got him started on his home improvement projects early. He can afford to put his family up in a hotel and start repairs without care to grants, funding or donations. I heard he was brave the night of the landslide, rescuing his wife and children. But he refuses to give me an interview because he’s too busy.
I want to say I’m not interested in his story anyway. It’s the broken fences I find more interesting. Who cares about a fence that never breaks because it has all the resources and support it needs. Capitalism forgets that while some earn a comfortable life surrounded by ornate fences, most struggle. My friend and this gentle neighbor buckle beneath worry and real-life fears.
But everyone’s story matters. When collecting the stories of an event — or even here at the Ranch, the way we collect multiple stories on a single theme — different perspectives contribute to the greater story of us all. No one is to be excluded. No perspective matters more than others. It’s not about the best but the invitation to have your story heard.
My friend is not without her support network. In fact, the fence of human hands that surround her is amazing. All these hands, reaching out, pulling up. Even the Hub showed up with his truck to build weirs and fill sandbags. A few friends did the best they could do. I returned home to finish some paperwork for Cynthia, and that’s when I opened a portal to a long-held dream.
It came via email like Elvis popping up in a chat box.
You see, the dream is old — I wanted to be Indiana Jones. Not just an archeologist, but one who traveled and adventured. Who learned in the field and archives. Who taught college and wrote books. Oh, that was the original Big Dream! I even left my hometown to study archeology for a semester. It didn’t work out.
In 1998, I graduated from college ten years after my first failed attempt. Back then, to be a career author, one had to get an MFA. I could have been a contender! Instead, I chose to be a wife and mother, and I veered from the dream and used my creative writing degree in a marketing career.
I never lost touch with my literary roots and as I gained life experience, I better understood what the Big Dream meant to me. To be Indiana Jones, I had to be open to adventure, travel, and discovery. I’m not an archeologist, but I certainly excavate stories from the layers of the past. I’m now writing, and I’ve taught workshops for years. Not exactly college, but satisfying enough.
Until now. Until the pinch-me-Elvis-sighting moment.
I’ve written here before about my presentation to 1 Million Cups. Carrot Ranch Literary Community made the evening news, and many in the room warmed to the idea of storytelling and flash fiction as a tool. Already, I’m finishing up a small but mighty gig I landed from that presentation, coaching six entrepreneurs to craft their 10-minute pitches in a series of 99-word stories. Tomorrow they test-run their speeches.
Another organization met with me after the 1MC presentation to talk about workshops — Finlandia University. I toured their facility on campus where I can use conference rooms and the large hall for public workshops. It’s great space from intimate settings to large presentations. I shared my Curricula Vitae and received an unexpected response — had I ever considered teaching adjunct?
Short answer, yes! And quickly followed by the fact that I never went on to get my MFA, let alone my Ph.D. to complete the Big Dream. However, it was suggested that my CV was robust enough to waive the masters. I felt light like a butterfly flitting among honeyed flowers. So, I looked at their need for adjuncts, of course. One stood out as perfect — a marketing course intended for high school students through a partnership with the university. I thought, why not try!
Today, I received my appointment at Finlandia University for nine months to teach the CTE Marketing course. That’s about as close as I’ll ever get to sighting Elvis! Never did I think that part of the Big Dream would happen without a different journey. It’s only 10 hours a week, all hands-on (so no homework), includes 60 hours of prep time (I get to design the course!), a budget for materials, a van for field trips, and my very own college classroom.
I’ve become Indiana Jones, after all. Carrot Ranch is my beloved field work of discovery and treasure; I have a college appointment to teach; and I continue to write novels through the stories I catch 99 words at a time.
Broken fences can be mended. Everyone’s story matters.
July 12, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a broken fence. You can mend it, leave it, or explain its place in a story. Go where the prompt leads.
Respond by July 17, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.
Horses Have Greater Value (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
“Blast it you duck-billed buffalo!” Cobb lunged at the stock handler.
Despite his injuries, Hickok dodged the charging man better than the bear that tore him up. “It weren’t me,” he said, confronting his angry boss.
“That busted fence didn’t happen on its own accord,” Cobb growled, pointing to the corral empty of horses.
“No Sir, pert sure it didn’t. Found it that way before you showed up. Recon’ Dock rode out after ‘em.”
“Then quit idling and get after that herd!”
Hickok sighed and set out on foot, his left arm hanging as useless at the fence post.
Captured quickly at the moment, a sketch can linger. It teases the mind with what has been included, as well as left out by the artist. But who is the artist? The one who creates a visual on the page or writes the vision imagined in the mind?
Writers took to their sketchbooks this week to draw stories of those who draw. Enjoy the resulting sketches.
June 28, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch.
PART I (10-minute read)
Rainy Day Sketches of a Very Small Village by Bill Engleson
There are two tables and five chairs on the General Store porch.
The location affords a front row seat on not much.
I relish looking at not much.
A delivery truck departs.
Our community eats a ton of chips.
I certainly do my bit.
There’s no late June morning sun.
Sprinkles nip the air.
“It’s like autumn,” she moans.
“So, you want to leave?”
“Too cold to people watch. Let’s go home. Check on Trump.”
I grimace, say, “Can’t beat cold weather people gawking. You go. Besides, Trump aggravates my hemorrhoids.”
“Maybe. Tell them that.”
Sketches by Anita Dawes
Looking for something to inspire me, I took a walk through our local flea market and fell in love with a half-finished sketch of a young woman lying on a grave.
I was about to ask how much, when a man standing beside me, said ‘It’s sad but lovely, isn’t it?’
My heart jumped so hard I thought I would join the woman at the graveside.
I turned to see who had spoken, but there was no one standing beside me.
The price was just £40 because it was unfinished work.
Holding it, I could see my grandmother’s signature…
Flash Fiction by Jan Malique
The artist’s model sat on the chair, her face reflecting a series of emotions. The sketch was infused with pathos and great delicacy. He had captured her sense of sadness, the yearning to be her true self. His hand had traced the lines of her face with such artistry and, love.
Love, what a loaded word. They always seemed to fall in love with her. She was Galatea to their Pygmalion. A dream glimpsed in marble and paint. Forever out of reach. Alas, unlike Pygmalion, Aphrodite hadn’t answered his prayers. This Muse was strictly off-limits, for everyone.
Muse Mother by H.R.R. Gorman
My mom taught me she had a superpower: any picture, from a grand work of art to a doodle on the fridge – could transport her. A wave of her hand and she could travel back in time, speak with the artist, and return instantly to entertain me with the tale.
As I got older, I realized she couldn’t do magic. Her power was a wealth of art history knowledge and a sensitivity to visual media. I confronted her about the lie.
She gave me a half-smile and filled up my lemonade. “Leonardo will be disappointed to find that out.”
Sketchy Perceptions by Norah Colvin
He sketched the outline with chalk then filled in the details, outside-in. Curious passers-by gathered as the image emerged. Was the artist a paid entertainer or busker earning a buck? Some pushed coins into children’s hands to add to the chalk-drawn cap. When satisfied with his work, the artist stood in its centre and tossed the cap and contents high. As they fell, he spread his arms and disappeared into the painting. Perplexed on-lookers reported different perceptions. Many said he plummeted into darkness. Some said he flew on gold-tipped wings. Others described him simply as absorbed by his art.
Topsy Turvy by Juliet Nubel
The audience watched in silence as the artist swept huge strokes of white paint onto the black canvas.
They were intrigued to see this man on stage. His act was far removed from the befrocked dancing poodles and gangly prancing singers.
The sketch was taking shape, gradually becoming a beautifully abstract snowy landscape, accomplished in three minutes flat.
As the clapping began, he turned the canvas on its head, revealing the unmistakable face of Albert Einstein.
A loud gasp filled the air.
The artist smiled as his message rang loud: look at things differently and all will become clear.
The Flower by Sarah Whiley
It was the same sketch every time.
All culminating to form a rudimentary flower.
For as long as I could remember, this was the “bored” doodle that I defaulted to.
I briefly wondered why.
I sighed a barely contained, deep exhalation, attempting to communicate the need for a break.
Why was it, that teacher professional development, all about the importance of engagement and best practice, used the exact opposite to inform its audience?
I looked up, hopeful, as the presenter paused.
Disappointingly, she promptly launched into the next diatribe.
Time for another flower…
An Urban Truth by Liz Husebye Hartmann
He shambles out of the park, swaying side-to-side, shyly dominating the Midtown sidewalk. Sun glints in his blonde-bronze pelt, furry toes squashing—or shall we say “squatching”?—his platform flip-flops.
Not that he needs the extra height. At 6’ 10’’, he towers over everyone he passes, including the tiny Russian grandma and her yappy little dog.
He hears a snatch of French Zydeco from a hipster coffee shop, and hops a quick shuffle and turn. He smiles, tipping his head to the babushka. Hot sun glints off his blinding canines.
She nods. They’re old friends, Sasquatch and Baba Yaga.
Beware the Man in Gray Teresa Grabs
The man in gray traveled alone. Always alone. He never stayed long in one town and never carried more than his sketch book and pencil that never seemed to whittle down to nothing no matter how many sketches he made. News traveled fast in these parts. Stories about the man in gray in the dead he leaves in his wake. Women in Empty Gulch saw him coming first and hollered for their children. Shutters slammed shut as he made his way through town. The miners quaked watching him sit down under the oak tree and open his sketch book.
It’s the Eyes by Wallie and Friend
There was no mistaking her pursed lips. It was always dangerous when she frowned at her own work. But for the last week, Annie hadn’t looked at her sketchbook any other way.
He asked what was the matter. It was an innocent question. He didn’t expect to be confronted with his own body.
“Technically, it’s perfect,” she said.
He didn’t know anything about art, and as embarrassing it was to see himself in graphite, he wasn’t about to argue.
His wife’s lips pursed again. She looked hard at his face.
“It’s the eyes. I just can’t capture your eyes.”
Assault in the Forest by Anurag Bakhshi
The sketch artist looked at me skeptically.
“You are saying the assault occurred without provocation?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” I replied unhesitatingly, “I was just walking home, minding my own business, when…”
The sketch artist shook his head and continued, “And you’re sure you didn’t see a face? I need something so that we can send out a BOLO.”
I screwed up my eyes in consternation, trying to grasp at that fleeting memory….the forest…the axe….
And as I finally remembered everything, I shouted,”It was a human female. She was riding a bicycle, and was wearing a red hood.”
Sketchy b FloridaBorne
A hospital bed elevated her upper body. One son took Lorna’s hand. Too weak to pull away, she tried ignoring the unwanted touch.
Strange the things a writer remembers. One of them was her mother’s plea to save “her children,” framed sketches of family life and childhood home, now tucked away in Lorna’s storage shed.
“Now I understand, mom,” Lorna whispered.
“What did you say?” Her son asked.
“Make sure my editor gets my books published.”
Her sons snickered, the same way she had when she’d said the same words to her mom, “We’ll take good care of them.”
The Sketch of Jessamine by Lady Lee Manilla
A sketch from a brother who loves her so
She who left us so early in her life
Siblings she left and grew long time ago
Let her soul be in peace in afterlife
Remember her poems, paintings, and art
Singing and dancing, seeing the wildlife
Her memories lingered on in our hearts
Her brother and sister are doing well
Sang like angel, played piano like Mozart
Jessamine was her name, our belle
Legacy of faith, love, and fun
She moved like she was a gazelle
She brought the light to us like sun
Treasured every moment with her
Picturing Us by Sascha Darlington
I have sketched us in charcoal on stark white. I have obliterated lines, assuaged others. The charcoal coats my fingertips, chin, and cheeks. Lines become blurred as I adjust, change, smooth angles. Your eyes, your smile are not right. I sketch you again, and somehow, my own image becomes fragmented, disjointed, a smear of darkness. Frustrated, I draw myself. Yet, when I peer into the mirror, my eyes haunt me, but I cannot convey this on paper despite my attempts. Ignoring the mirror, I start again. You and me, side-by-side, but somehow, despite numerous iterations, we never come together.
Raw Romance by kate @ aroused
Felt the need to retreat from every day life,
Check in with myself to see what caused strife
Emotional up and downs yet silence was profound
Words flowed unstoppable, expression without sound
Found my true love residing deep within
Not voicing those words would be a real sin
Our loving connection is like most romances
We have moments but then draw even closer
Soul mates forever, passion can’t be denied
Weaving words to share what’s deep inside
Blogging an outlet for those who wish to spy
On our raw relationship bared for all without lie
Words ignite emotions and unite!
A Delicate Erasure? by JulesPaige
Stan wasn’t sure what to make of this woman. A Pen-pal who was sketchy at best. He knew she was married. Why did her husband disappear for weeks at a time. Was the gent in the service? Must be hard when there wasn’t any
family around and young children to raise.
While he knew it was a copy – the drawing of her hand, her wedding band clearly displayed, was placed in an envelope for him to open. Had he wanted more?
Then as Stan got involved with local woman. Written exchanges became less frequent. And eventually, correspondence stopped completely.
Woman Reading by Anne Goodwin
Her province’s a palace, a kitchen, a farm,
the White House, a rocket, a sty.
She’s a thousand years old, she’s black, and she’s white,
she’s a phantom long dead or unborn.
She’s shackled and swayed in the bowels of a boat;
she’s blessed with the freedom to roam.
She’s a boxer, a banker, a beggar, a boy;
a cleric, a cleaner, a crow.
Her lip curls or curves, she wrinkles her brow,
she laughs, wipes a tear from her eye.
Her vista refreshed with each turn of the page;
she’s a citizen of everywhere, a reader, she’s me.
Memory Scars by Patrick O’Connor
The call came in after 9pm and interrupted movie night with my daughters.
My doctor called to tell me I had a brain tumor. I’ve never been so shocked in my life.
The emotions associated with that phone call are etched forever in my memory.
There was a flurry of activity that took place to find the right doctor for the surgery. Six months later, I landed in Los Angeles to get the best care I could find around the country.
Four years after that, I created a sketch of my head scar. I titled it “Scarred Not Broken.”
Part II (10-minute read)
A Neighbor by D. Avery
We’ve met before on this lake. She’s a big one. Today she’s lazing just underneath the surface, her mossy plated shell a hub for four bumpy, clawed legs that dangle beneath her, for the spiny leathery tail ruddered behind, for her massive craggy beady-eyed beak-tipped head. She dives then comes back to the surface, sticking her snout out of the water, taking air in through flared nostrils. Seeing me, she swims silently away. I feel she’s ancient, wonder at her long life, but cannot begin to say what she thinks or feels. Out of respect, I don’t even try.
The Sketch Artist by D. Avery
“Okay, let’s begin,” Officer Mills said, sketch pad in hand.
“He had a round face, with brown eyes.”
“No, describe him. Did he harbor a storm in his eyes? Did his past linger at the edges of his unspoken thoughts?”
“Umm, he was tall… about six foot four.”
“Six foot four?! How tall was he? We need a sketch. Was he simply tall like a tree, or did he walk in that head hunched way that tall people do, ducking through doorways, folding into cars?”
“I don’t know! You’re just writing words! Where’s the sketch artist?”
“Right here, literally.”
Heaven Knows by D. Avery
“Didn’t think it’d be like this. I always heard it was more like a movie, you know, your life replayed for you.”
“I was surprised too. A pile of sketches they hand you. Your own sketches.”
“So, you have to go back too?”
“Ha, you bet I do. Any of us with these skinny little sketchbooks have to retrain and go back for another lifetime. Next time, I’m going to make more time for sketching. For etching deeds and memories.”
“Yeah, they say if you get here with good stories to tell you’re all set.”
“Heaven knows, that’s life.”
A Sketch of Rock Creek by Charli MIlls
From the barn, you can see across the draw that is Rock Creek. Wagon ruts remain visible on both sides. David Colbert “Cobb” McCanless built a toll bridge across the deep cut. He arrived at this road station along the Oregon Trail in March of 1859. Family denies that a woman, not his wife came with him, but records show her signature as his bookkeeper. His wife and children arrived from North Carolina in September 1859. The women know what happened when two years later a young Wild Bill Hickok shot Cobb. But no one thought to ask them.
Escape Cave by Paula Moyer
Sixth grade, spring of 1964. Another homework assignment, staring Jean in the face. She couldn’t make herself do it. It would never be good enough for Mrs. O’Neal.
The box of crayons – “64 colors.” The pad of sketch paper, a hobby store gift. Both sang to her, and soon Jean was drawing. The thing almost drew itself.
The cavern appeared in sketch after sketch. An inverted “V” opened to a secret place with pastel walls, alternating blues, and pinks. Oh, secret, soft cave. Safe cave.
If only this place were real, Jean thought. Mrs. O’Neal would never find me.
Eulogy for Aunt Tillie by Nancy Brady
I remember Aunt Tillie affectionately although she preferred my sisters Sally and Connie more. I think she liked me more once I began wearing glasses. Aunt Tillie was a bit silly, even odd. She always wore dresses and slippers. She loved food, especially collard greens, and haddock, but food had to be served on a platter. She loved puppies and kittens, too, but her favorite pet was her guppy, Freddie. She would watch him swimming around all afternoon long. She was an accountant. Bookkeeping was her life, but she was happiest when reading books, her favorite being Atlas Shrugged.
Traveling the Hayfields with Pop by Roger Shipp
Humping down the stairs and around the backyard, Pop, his cane waggling in front being used to scatter the beagle and the three strays more than for maintaining any semblance of balance, was headed toward the chariot… a ‘62 Valiant… and into the hayfields.
I raced beside him knowing there was no waiting.
Opening the door, I swung from the roof into the backseat.
“Wait!” I bellowed. My fingers had not released from the roof before Pop had slammed the door.
Exasperated, Pop opened and shut the door. Hard.
“Next time, get’ya whole self in.”
And off we went.
Sad Regrets by Susan Sleggs
The devastating, but expected call came just before six-o-clock, her father was dead.
The Uber could only get within two blocks of the extravagant condo high rise because downtown streets were blocked for a jazz festival.
She entered the building with feelings in check and said her goodbyes. The music drew her to the balcony where a large sketch book lay on a table. She sat and opened it.
Sketch after sketch of the street below from each year of the festival. She was in each one but had never been there. Regrets swept her; she should have been.
The Sketch by Eric Pone
Ducky stared at the paper and slowly drew out the neighborhood as he remembered it. He included the storefront the gang used for cover. He drew the small storefront church that was next to it. And he included the trees and other details that struck him. He also drew the little girl who had died in his friend’s arms from a drive-by shooting. “They actually targeted a child…”He got up and lit his first cigarette and thought through what he was considering. He looked out at the harbor and considered the thousand who would die with that nuke.
“The Psychologist” by Goldie
“I’m Sergeant Phillips. This is Ivy.” – he announced walking in and led the blind girl to the sofa.
Ivy was a witness to a homicide when she was 5 years old. She hid, while her family got brutally murdered.
“Do you want her to sketch the assailant?”
I looked at him wondering how a blind girl could describe, much less draw a suspect.
As she drew, the sketch became apparent.
I slowly looked up at the sergeant, but his gaze was already fixed on me.
“She lost her sight in an accident a couple of years ago.”
Sketching Uncertainty by David Wesley Woolverton
Isabelle studied her sketch of her newly found mother. It’d felt almost unearthly to finally draw the woman who’d been a mystery for so long. The eyebrows still weren’t quite right, though. There was also too much white space beside her, demanding a sketch of the still-unknown father. She lowered the pencil to sketch how she imagined he looked, but fantasy would look wrong next to reality. She forced herself to start the circle for the face but stopped half way. In the end, she turned the semi-circle into a question mark and put down the pencil.
Raw Draw by JulesPaige
Emma had enjoyed art classes in High School. So taking one in college seemed the right thing to do. It was after all the easels were set up and the charcoal sticks were distributed that the professor called in the model they were to sketch. This was a preliminary exercise that was not going to be graded. Any style would be accepted.
In waltzed Randy. Emma knew him from watching him practice soccer on campus. She, however, was not expecting him to disrobe… while all the students were adults. Young Emma wondered if she was the only one blushing.
Sketches of Love by Kay Kingsley
Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain played in the background as I poured us another glass of Barolo. With a charismatic smile, he turned dinner into an art form.
All the burners were going, the fan on full blast, steam from the pots flushed his cheeks, his stripped apron danced along with him.
As he danced the moment slowed softening its edges along with the lighting and I was aware that this was an ordinary moment I would cherish forever. The next time someone would ask when was it that I knew I loved him, this moment would be it.
Beautiful Portrait by Kerry E.B. Black
Young, beautiful, filled with a blend of self-belief and doubt, your expectations of the world dazzle you, terrify me.
I remember staring into the future at your age. I, too pictured flashing lights and red carpets, a mansion of admirers and contented philanthropy.
I suppose I’m in the future, and the artist did not sketch the lines as I imagined. Frayed edges and smudges mar success, but I see the beauty in the simple design.
From its frayed brushstrokes came you.
A Hospital Sketch by Gordon Le Pard
‘I will bring a sketch’, he said.
The train left Bristol, maximum speed, the genius on board could command anything. But now he would be tested to the limit.
‘A hospital, prefabricated, weatherproof, well ventilated, easily heated’, designed by the time he reached London. By Bath he had the idea, by Swindon he was drawing, in London he rushed to her house, papers in hand.
“Mr Brunel”, Miss Nightingale.”
“Perfect, this is more than a sketch. When can you have them ready? The ship sails in six weeks.”
“They will be ready in five.”
They saved hundreds of lives.
Forensic Sketch by Chelsea Owens
“You say the perpetrator was female?
“And had dark eyes?”
“Yes, and dark hair. No bangs. Not very thick. Or curly.”
“Mmm-hmmm.” *scrrritchh* “Tell me about her face shape. Would you say she had a long face, fat, skinny…?”
“Oh, not fat. Long, pale, serious.”
*shhhushh* *scrrrratch* “How about the eyes? Dark, yes -but were they large?”
“No. She had small eyes. Close together.”
“Mmmm. And, mouth? Nose? Ears?”
“Umm, very small mouth and long, thin nose. Ears -medium?”
*scrrrrtch* *scrrratch* *shhhhsh* “Hm. Ma’am?”
“This looks like you.”
“Yes, well. I am my own worst enemy.”
Who Gets In by Susan Sleggs
“I’ve never laughed so much at a sketch in my life. The make-up on St. Peter made him look 1000 years old.”
“Can you imagine some woman with big boobs actually telling him they were her reason to be invited into heaven because they were God’s gift and he would enjoy seeing them regularly? I wonder if they were real?”
“And a toilet at the gates of heaven. It didn’t even look odd sitting there or for the Queen to flush it.”
“And a royal flush beats a pair, so the Queen was granted admittance. Ya gotta love it.”
Odd Rancher Out by D. Avery
“Why’re ya askin’ me what the ranch looks like, Kid?”
“I wanna sketch the ranch. Ain’tcha been here yer whole life? Who else should I ask?”
“Ya could ask anyone includin’ yerself, Kid. We all see it. How ya see it is how it is.”
“Huh. Reckon we all see it kinda the same. On account of it bein’ so ironic.”
“I think ya mean iconic.”
“Yeah. It’s a hoot though, ain’t it Pal? Folks from aroun’ the world can come here an’ be a buckaroo, git their old west on. Be literary oddests.”
Don’t Take Yer Guns Ta Town by A. Kidd
The scene an old west town, façaded building, lined dusty street, wooden sidewalks, horses tied up outside the saloon where cider flows like whiskey which flows like water. Trouble simmering like the shimmering high noon sun.
An over-eager wannabe steps out of the saloon to face the notorious Nemmy Cyss. Who would draw fastest? Whose aim would be true?
“No! Kid, what are you doin’? Yer not s’posed ta be drawin’ sixguns!”
“Well, Pal, I know it seems sketchy, but Shorty said ta draw an’ so I figgered…”
“No, read agin, Kid, yer ta sketch. With words.”
In Line, Outta Tune by D. Avery
“This ranch is yer ranch, this ranch is my ranch, from the cookhouse griddle, ta the windswept prairie!”
“Jeez Pal, yer outta tune.”
“Wrong again, Kid, I’m in tune, in tune with this here ranch. Don’t it jist produce an’ provide! Yep, Shorty sure works fer us.”
“Works fer us? Ain’t Shorty boss?”
“Hardest workin’ boss a ranch hand could ever work for, Kid.”
“Yer right, Pal.”
“All we have ta do is play with words, an’ we don’t even Have ta do that.
“I shovel shit.”
“An’ yer full of it. Now git ta work an’ go play.”
My hand races across the page and I sketch the scene unfolding — Suomi dancers in blue aprons and kerchiefs over white-blond hair circle around, stepping in time to violins. To my left I’m vaguely aware of the large brick structure that once served as a high school and now classrooms to Finlandia University. Its bricks offer a backdrop of ghostly students, sons, and daughters of copper miners.
A shadow crosses my sketch, and a person asks, “Are you an artist?”
“Yes,” I answer glancing from dancers to page. I scribble a bit more, shade less, and turn the page to capture another scene.
“Can I see?”
I pause. The spell has broken, I’m now firmly aware of the rush of sights and sounds beyond the dancers. I’m at the Hancock Tori. The local farmers and craft market. A jewelry maker hawks carved stone beside me and a Calumet couple cut fresh microgreens for $3 a bag. My neighbor Cranky displays her collection of antique hand-crank sewing machines. Across the green from us, painters set up tents with scenes of Lady Lake Superior.
“Sure,” I say, handing over my sketchbook.
The man holds my raw art committed hastily to blank pages recycled from a dump on the East Coast. His eyebrows scrunch, and he shakes his head. “It’s just words,” he says.
I’m a literary artist. A writer. A novel-drafter. A publisher of weekly collections and annual anthologies. I flash, and I write for the long-haul of longer trains of words. I’m a story-teller, a story-catcher, a story-forger. I am an artist, and I sketch with words.
Years ago, in high school, I had a mentor who told me to carry sketchbooks. I had no trouble catching the wingspan of a hawk or the gurgle of a spring. Deer didn’t give me odd looks if I stared too long at their rumps or horns, figuring out how either end could feature in a tale.
But when I was among people, I felt self-conscious of observation. I didn’t enjoy thinking about the length of someone’s hair in relation to the tone of their voice. I became more adept at capturing emotions and motives than looks. I was too shy to sketch in front of other.
Now, I roll my eyes at the man’s comment and offer to read my scribblings. I really do look at people and write without looking at the page so it can be a mess of ink, jumping outside of lines, slanting and scratching out words, interjecting new ones. I clear my throat and read:
A blonde quartet draw bows across time and strings of old-world violins. They remake the songs of midsummer in Finland. No longer homeland, home is here, Finlandia, USA. Voices rise, the blue cross on white flag rises, the Juhannus pole rise. It’s summer solstice and young girls in blue dresses with matching kerchiefs circle around the adults from out of town and suomi-dance with joy. Around and around they skip and step. Holding hands, they dance inward and back out again. Just like celebrations back home, a thread of culture unbroken dances lively beneath a copper country sun. Hey!
He smiles. Nods. “Cool,” he says.
We’ve discussed names and what we call ourselves as writers many times before at the Ranch. Artist is the latest evolution for me because it captures the spirit of all I write and arrange, as well as my vision for Carrot Ranch as a literary art community. Artist might feel weird for some writers, but we are — words are the medium we use, it’s what we paint and sketch.
A few days ago, collecting updates from Cynthia at ground zero at Ripley village, she realized with delight that her three friends were all writers. She said earlier that day her artist-artists were with her. The poet among us frowned and said, “Wait, artist-artists? Like, we aren’t real artists?” We all laughed, knowing we weren’t being excluded.
I’m happiest sketching freely. I carry a waterproof sketchbook for trips to hunt agates. I carry several in my purse, one in my car and have a stash in my desk next to the chocolate. Sometimes I meditate, give three cleansing breaths, then sit in my own stillness and catch what is around me. I listen for stories. I stare awkwardly at people’s clothes and gestures, but if I remain quiet and calm people don’t notice the way a nuthatch ignores a birdwatcher.
Sometimes, I know someone has a good story, and after coaxing them into telling me, I boldly whip out my sketchbook and say, “I’m writing this down, and make a few notes.” I captured the story of one of the Ripley firemen that way:
From Kitten to Fish
Bill wades into the muck to grab the flopping silver steelhead. Disaster all around and he can’t bear to see this fish die, gasping in the muck. The flash flood has wiped out the spawn. Had Bill been fishing in his boat, he’d have a great catch. Today he’s in waders and his volunteer fire department t-shirt. He thinks about keeping the fish for dinner later but sees the state patrol and thinks he better wade out to the flooded creek instead. A flash of a camera and the newspaper headline cheers the firemen for rescuing kittens and fish.
He really did save a steelhead trout, and the story is sad, although I chose to give it a lighthearted tone. In reality, Bill (whose name is not Bill, but I told him he’d recognize his tale by that name) saved a large steelhead stuck in the Ripley mud. All these floods in our local creeks washed out the spawning salmon, and the smelt are done for, which may take years to recover.
Not to mention most of our beaches are closed due to sewage and e-coli. I’ve vowed to stop licking rocks when I hunt! Already I’ve developed a different way of wetting Lake Superior rocks to see their best colors and definition. I take a small bowl to the Tori with me and keep a pool of water for dipping.
Visitors to the Tori enjoy the #CarrotRanchRocks stories, and I have a set of educational rocks to teach people a bit of geology. Then I read some 99-word literary art. Two of my tent-mates are rockhounds. One is going to take me out in his Jeep, the other gifted me with his art so I could assign stories about his etchings. This community doesn’t grip me — it holds me up.
In addition to sketching, teaching rocks, reading stories and selling books at the Tori, I’ve set up several activities in literary art. Once we get dates settled, I’ll be renewing Wrangling Words at the Portage Lake District Library. I offered this literary program at other libraries, and I thoroughly enjoy working with libraries. Susan Sleggs, one of our Rough Writers, is also giving a Wrangling Words presentation to her writer’s group.
My writers retreat at the Ripley Home of Healing is on hold. My nature writing workshops might be, too because McLain is cut off. But my presentation at Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor is still a go July 16:
Copper Country History in 99 Words, No More, No LessJoin local author Charli Mills in a presentation of her flash fiction with a focus on local history. Participants will also learn the literary art of flash fiction and get to craft one of their own, using prompts from Fort Wilkins.
A Vision of Success (99)
Writers high-fived across the string of comments, appreciating craft and creativity in their sandbox, 99 words at a time. Carrot Ranch, an imaginary place made of real people from around the globe. A tribe. Buckaroo Nation. Authors and entrepreneurs arrived too, looking to forge brands and learn how to tell stories around investor campfires. Readers found literary art in small bites palpable to a modern diet of busyness. A buckaroo wrangled the words and published collections, hosted rodeos for writers, and flashed her way to write novels about veterans, history and earth science. The vision for the future rocked.
Carrot Ranch and A Lead Buckaroo’s North Star (59)
Carrot Ranch understands that writers and entrepreneurs need safe space to explore the craft of literary art and harness the power of storytelling. Lead buckaroo, Charli Mills, gave up riding horses to write brand stories. Now she wrangles 99-word flash about history, veterans, and rocks. Flash by flash, she crafts award-winning novels, leads authors on retreat and coaches entrepreneurs.
Tagline: Making literary art accessible 99 words at a time. (9)
June 28, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be “A Sketch of a Romance” or “The Sketch of Aunt Tillie.” Go where the prompt leads you to scribble.
Respond by July 3, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.
If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.
A Sketch of Rock Creek by Charli MIlls
From the barn, you can see across the draw that is Rock Creek. Wagon ruts remain visible on both sides. David Colbert “Cobb” McCanless built a toll bridge across the deep cut. He arrived at this road station along the Oregon Trail in March of 1859. Family denies that a woman, not his wife came with him, but records show her signature as his bookkeeper. His wife and children arrived from North Carolina in September 1859. The women know what happened when two years later a young Wild Bill Hickok shot Cobb. But no one thought to ask them.
When disaster slams into neighborhoods and crisis encroaches in the middle of the night, when the waters sweep away all the photo albums and fire burns the family home to ashes when nothing seems to fit including us — not all is lost.
Writers turned to what remains when all seems lost. Differeing perspectives will surprise you.
The following is based on the June 21, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “not all is lost.”
PART I (10-minute read)
Not All Is Lost… by JulesPaige
Less light after the solstice here
Only marginally though as
Summer starts with the passing of the
Solstice – here in the northern hemisphere
Loosened land added by torrential rains
Over churned mud and debris land-
Sliding, slipping and seeping while
Some were sleeping…
Love is given selflessly
Over and over – helping those
Survivors of the unexpected – to them
Salutations – living saints or angels?
Lend a hand if you can –
Over and over, anywhere, then
Somewhere far or nearer to your heart
Stop a moment – and say a prayer…
tears flood, as eyes see;
and all strangers too
Look for the Helpers by Kerry E.B. Black
Rain drenched everything, as it will during a hurricane. It flooded the storm drains and backed sewage into basements. It bubbled through foundations and drowned landscapes. People two towns over clambered onto roofs and prayed for rescue. I lent my entreaties.
In our home, sewage swept through plumbing until the basement stank of rising refuse. First the bottom stair, then the next, the landing, and still, it climbed. I didn’t know what to do. Busy emergency lines. Sirens. Panic.
Yet after the waters receded, it wasn’t FEMA that helped. It was family and friends who hauled, cleaned and sanitized.
Starting Over by Sascha Darlington
At 11, her daddy died, taking away the sunshine.
At 15, she destroyed her knee and her chances for a sports scholarship.
At 37, she watched her husband, who didn’t want children, leave for his pregnant, much younger assistant.
Eight years later, as muddy waters careen around the sides of her house and her bedraggled pup is tethered to her, she yells at the sky: “What the fuck do you want from me?”
“To save you to start with,” the Coastie says.
The sun peeks out. Harbinger of hope. Maybe all’s not lost.
She’s very good at starting over.
Lost And Found: An Argument For Caring by Geoff Le Pard
‘You’ve lost me, Morgan.’
‘I’m just saying it’s easy to be liberal if you don’t have to deal with all the crap.’
‘So helping people, caring for others you don’t know, that only counts if, what, you suffer equally?’
‘I’m saying you can’t really understand if you don’t experience something. Otherwise it’s make believe.’
‘When you broke your leg, my sympathy didn’t count?’
‘Helping your sister after her husband left didn’t count because I’ve never been abandoned…’
‘The schmuck… no, that’s different. I think. Give me a minute… I might have got this wrong…’
‘Not all is lost.’
Lost and Found by Chelsea Owens
Becky always heard housefires described poetically. Tendrils of curling smoke, for example; or, flakes of softly drifting ash. Looking around; she could only think: burned, smoky, ruined.
Clearly, most poets didn’t stand in the charred remains of their own homes.
“That’s about it, ma’am,” the fire marshal said. Becky turned to him. His eyes were red beneath a sweaty, sooty hairline. Becky managed to nod, to dismiss him and his crew. Sighing, she shuffled behind them through the detritus.
A box. Squatting amongst flakes of softly drifting ash, she uncovered her fire safe. She smiled, through her tears.
Down Under by Carol Keefer
The earth quaked for several minutes of hard shaking. Immediately, the floor fell from under my feet, and then something hard hit my head followed by instant unconsciousness. When I awoke, I was pinned under a file cabinet under concrete. I was hurt and gasping for air. I prayed and expected to die, but how long would death take? Then, I heard an animal sniffing nearby. The rescue dog barked, and I cried out, “Help me. Please help me.” I heard voices outside. They began to move away debris. Someone said, “Hold on. We’re going to get you out.”
Not All is Lost by kate @ aroused
The company hadn’t ensured that safety was paramount. So sixteen men were trapped underground. Poisonous gas was leaking so nobody could go in or out as the fresh air might trigger an explosion.
Distraught families and first response teams were anxiously waiting above ground. Children were confused not really comprehending the threat. CWA ladies were handing out cups of tea. People were trying to stay positive but the underlying tension caused tears to fall and fears to surface.
They heard a resounding crack followed by a loud heartfelt cheer … the engineers had found a way through, miners saved!
Not All is Lost by Charli Mills
Annabel retreated from the mourners. Thirty miners, four boys, and her beloved mine captain dead. Fire erupted at level 27 and none evacuated. Men continued to drill, eager to chase the new copper load, believing the updraft would smoother the flames. Greed overcomes common sense, Annabel thought. Ripley was ambitious, a hard-worker and a smart man. He cared about the land and community, but even good men succumb to copper fever. They dug their own deaths. She left the mass funeral and wandered to the falls. Ripley was gone, but his babe grew in the swell of her belly.
Rock Bottom by Sherri Matthews
He hit rock bottom and I thought it was the end.
“If you keep drinking, you’ll be dead in six months,” warned the doctor.
I was wrong; he stopped, for a few months at least. Then he started again and I feared his next fall could be his last.
I wondered if spending nights hunched up in a doorway might change things, or late night rants down the telephone cursing his dear, beloved father, who he hoped would rot in hell.
It was the years in prison writing letters to his daughter that told me all was not lost.
Not All is Lost by Anita Dawes
A burning rose lay on the hot desert sand, if not found, I would be next.
I lay there beneath the hot sun, waiting to burst into flame, the voices of the Bedouin tribe close by.
Hope still beat in my chest that someone would come looking for their daily water. Would they walk this way?
Buzzards circle overhead, waiting for a feast.
As I reach for the rose, my eyes beheld a child’s feet. All was not yet lost, she would go back to her people for help.
Much later, I would discover the child’s name was Rose…
A Fresh Start by Anurag Bhakhshi
As his beautiful wife opens the door, I stare longingly at the ornate interiors of his palatial mansion.
All this could have been mine, if the boy whom I’d raised as my own son had not betrayed me.
Unable to bear the loss of everything I’d held dear, I was on the verge of ending my life, when I recalled his words “Not all is lost, till you lose hope.”
And so, here I am, looking for a fresh start.
Hoping against hope that Aladdin’s wife will exchange that ‘useless old piece of junk’ for a brand new lamp.
A Tribute to Military Pilots (BOTS) by Susan Sleggs
An Air Force pilot friend shared: My crew and I were walking to our plane for a training run and stopped in our tracks when the base fire siren went off. We looked around and then up. Our hearts jumped into our throats when we saw a plane rushing the runway on fire. It hit with a huge explosion. We didn’t believe anyone could survive, but not all was lost, within minutes six airmen walked from the smoke. We learned the meaning of “any landing you walk away from is a good landing; some are just better than others.”
I’ve Got You Now by Jan Malique
I’ve got you now, hold on tight. The fall hurt, you’re bleeding. I’m so sorry you decided to take this course of action. I didn’t realise you heard, damn me for being so selfish! I didn’t need help, just acting out like a spoilt child.
I can’t hear what you’re saying. Does your throat hurt? What you must think of me. Your eyes are so sad, I can’t bear to look at them. Hold still, I’ll wipe the blood off you. Sorry, so sorry! Your beautiful wings, torn and charred. Can you ever forgive me, my dear guardian angel?
The Remedy by Wallie and Friend
He hadn’t wanted her to see. It was inevitable that she should. In his mind he had pictured her reaction, imagining a thousand teasing quips—“I always said you were the handsome one”—but when she came in his humor failed. He saw her shock and it brought the walls down around him.
She went straight to the bed. His heart monitor was racing, but she wrapped him in her arms, her hand soothing his broken face. He felt her kiss as he cried. Her touch was gentle, as steady as her voice.
“My angel,” she said. “My angel.”
The Crows Secret by Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer
She was losing control of her powers. Zaria woke up, hovering above the bed staring down at the rumpled sheets twisted below. She fell, landing hard on the floor. Without her magic, she was nothing. She would be banned from the witch’s council.
Zaria arose from the floor. From his perch on the windowsill, crow flapped his wings and landed on her shoulder. He whispered in her ear, “Not all is lost. I’m here to give you the gift of clairvoyance.”
The young witch grinned. She felt the veil lift. Thank you crow, I see what you are saying.”
That Kind Of Day by Heather Gonzalez
Today has been the worst. It started off like an ordinary Monday, but it definitely didn’t end that way.
My car wouldn’t start right away. I got to work late, but just in time for my boss to notice. If that wasn’t bad enough, they announced that we would be working this weekend.
I made it home later than usual due to the rain. I poured myself a glass of wine, put my feet up, and turned on Netflix. A large cracking sound came from outside. Everything went dark. Not all was lost. At least I still had wine.
Let It Go by Susan Sleggs
The cocky author had gone to the writing conference feeling he would come away with an agent; the pamphlet said he could pitch them. He listened, open minded, to the various panel discussions and realized he would have to rewrite his whole manuscript so it started and ended with a bang. He decided it wasn’t worth his time, and appreciated the writing he had done had gotten him through a rough patch in his life. All was not lost: the next time he read a book, he read for pleasure instead of learning the craft. He felt oddly free.
PART II (10-minute read)
Creative Cul-de-sac? by Anne Goodwin
Some days I led the way and, obediently, they followed. On better days, they raced ahead and I trailed after. On bad days, I bribed and begged for their company.
Sometimes, the path unwound for miles ahead. Sometimes, each step seemed virgin territory. Sometimes, we backtracked to try from a different angle. But always moving, discovering, until they abandoned me in darkness, sour and dank, patting the walls but no sign of an exit. Stuck. Despairing. All that effort wasted.
A chink of light that, as I watch, grows. Bigger. Brighter. Braver than before, we leave the cave together.
Not All is Lost by Robbie Cheadle
She gazed at the results of the board examinations in shock. This was her final academic hurdle to qualify as a lawyer and she had failed one of the three papers. She didn’t know how she would face her family, especially her Mother who had such high hopes for her. Her Mother would say that she would never pass. She knew her Mother’s negative cast of mind.
The conversation didn’t go as she expected at all. “You can re-write the examination next year,” her Mother said with surprising positiveness. “You will definitely pass next time, all is not lost.”
A Different Way of Being Faithful by Paula Moyer
Jean and Bill had been divorced for 12 years when she got the call. “Your father died this morning.” Her mother’s voice, baffled.
Later that morning, she and her husband Steve flew to Oklahoma. Later that night, Bill arrived, along with the girls, Lydia and Nola. The next day, as Jean and her mother put together the funeral, they needed one more pallbearer. A quick call to Bill’s hotel room settled it: “I would be honored.”
At the cemetery, Jean watched the coffin trundling past, Steve and Bill shouldering opposite sides. After everything, she could still count on Bill.
Losses and Gains by D. Avery
Ilene was first to the lawn chairs, Marge huffing behind.
“I gotta sit down. Phew. Do your feet hurt?”
“Not even one of them. Marge, stop walking in your work boots. I happen to have extra left footed sneakers if you want to start there.”
“Ilene, you’re something, always joking about your leg.”
“I lost a leg, Marge, not my humor. I’m lucky I didn’t lose my life.”
“Well, let’s have a beer to celebrate. I think I lost another five pounds on that walk.”
Ilene watched her friend bend to open the cooler. “All is not lost, Marge.”
Believing by Allison Maruska
Infernal wailing resonates. I gulp my drink, wishing it would drown the torture.
A regular beat permeates the mood. One by one, my compatriots take their place. Some surprise me with their poise. Others…well, I need another drink.
But not all is lost. When I think my nerves and head can’t take any more, my name is called. I trudge to the center. Now, others are swigging their drinks, wondering what I’ll bring.
The beat starts, followed by a that famous piano riff. My onlookers groan as I grab the mic.
Screw those guys. I haven’t stopped believing.
A Tumble in Time by Bill Engleson
“Yes, sockless. Shoeless too.”
“On a damp grassy incline?”
“So, quite slippery, I assume?”
“As slick as a grifter’s tongue.”
“Thanks for that. So?”
“So, why did I do it?”
“Yeah, good guess. Don’t you keep sandals by the back door?”
“For stepping outside?”
“Too much trouble?”
“To slip them on? No. But they’ve seen better days.”
“So have you, it appears.”
“Never fallen like that before. Scared the bejesus out of me.”
“Nothing broke, though.”
“Dumb luck. Still, it took me two hours to crawl up.”
“Yup. Never ever go outside.”
You Can’t Get There From Here by Robert Kirkendall
A city person pulled into a rural service station. “Excuse me, sir, do you know the way to Davenport?”
“Davenport?” the rustic attendant answered. “Don’t reckon I do.”
“How about Greenfield?”
The attendant pondered. “Nope, don’t know the way there either.”
“Well can you tell me the way to the nearest Interstate?”
“I suppose if you keep driving down this highway you’ll run into one, but I don’t rightly know exactly where.”
The driver became frustrated. “I must say, you don’t seem to know your way around here.”
The attendant chuckled. “Yeah, but I’m not the one who’s lost.”
And All Shall Be Equal Before the Law by PaperShots
So we walked on, our hands on our friends’ shoulders. We could barely see ahead. From the crowd, some shouted at us, “Where are you going?” – the kids cried. The echo below the vaults was terrifying. It rippled the filthy water! (raises his voice) “Where are you going?” The stench in the sewers was unbelievable. (a thought strikes him) And at the same time on the other side of town the defense lines had been broken through. Those neighborhoods were free. We didn’t know. Communication was so bad. We ended up in a field miles to the north. (laughter)
It’s a Matter of Getting Up by Miriam Hurdle
It was early December 2017, the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, California devoured 307,900 acres and 1,300 structures. 230,000 residents described the wildfires in the neighborhood as a war zone. Smoke stretched 1,000 miles across the Pacific.
By Christmas, residents came back to their burned home, found pieces of displaced family photos. They pinned them on a bulletin to find owners. Some put up Christmas trees, decorations to bring cheer to the neighborhood. Strangers hugged each other and shed some tears. Homes and belongings were gone. Yet not all is lost. They wanted to rebuild and be neighbors again.
Not All is Lost by Jack Schuyler
Heat wafts over the night breeze and the somber smell of wood smoke settles in the neighborhood. Two stories are no more and the once sturdy foundation is now a bed of coals. Amid the destruction, I am struck by an overwhelming wave of gratitude. Not all is lost.
With our arms around each other, we watch firemen scurry like ants over the burning wreckage. The fire dwindles and the light goes out. Sirens cease and the stars return. At the edge of the smoldering ruins, we embrace in the bittersweet spirit of, “at least I didn’t lose you.”
A Flower Called Hope by Di @ penitivity101
The land lies barren and dry,
Drought is a killer.
Crop fields harvest dust,
Bairns cry in hunger.
The heat shows no mercy,
Hands blistered and sore
Until the blood flows.
Animals have deserted
This once bountiful place,
The bones of the unfortunate
Bleach in the relentless sun.
Bowls and vats lie hollow,
Their meagre contents
Rationed rather than shared.
Their days are numbered,
Maybe only single figures.
A tear falls from the sky,
One becomes many
And a lone flower dares
To raise its head.
All is not lost:
Clouds are gathering,
And with them,
Hope by Kay Kingsley
“Not all is lost” he says in a protective, loving voice.
She shakes her head, trapped in an internal conversation between good and bad, like refereeing a match between reality and remaining positive. She chuckles at the absurdity.
What he means to say is ‘All hope is not lost’. You can lose everything but it’s only hope that rescues the lost, only hope brings you back, only hope paves the way through the darkness ahead.
The irony of her name is not lost on her. You have to lose it to find it but she’s been Hope all along.
Not the End of the World by Norah Colvin
Ever have one of those days? You know—it seems the world is against you, and everything you do goes wrong. Maybe you oversleep and in your rush, you fumble, make mistakes and get even later. You hurry to the stop as your bus pulls away. You flop down reviewing life’s punishments, and some jackass walks by telling you to “Smile, it’s not the end of the world.” What would he know? You open your phone and scroll: trivial drivel. Then this one story blows your insignificancies away. You phone your appointment, apologise and reschedule. All is not lost.
Stand and Deliver! by Juliet Nubel
‘Gimme your bag!’
She almost laughed at her friend’s attempt at the local thick accent until she felt the hard pull on her shoulder.
He wore a strange trilby hat pulled low onto his forehead and had tied a bandana scarf around his face. All she could see was the shining whites of his eyes and the gun pointing in her direction. Real or a toy? She didn’t want to know.
She handed over the bag. Keys, credit cards, telephone would now belong to this stranger.
But she held onto the gold locket around her neck. And her life.
Not All is Lost by Sarah Whiley
The strangers with her on the rooftop paused in unison.
Too scared to move, she realised she was holding her breath.
A single shot echoed off the bricks, shattering clay at her feet.
The shooter had found them.
She couldn’t believe this was happening. This was her high school, not the six o’clock news!
She felt something wet and realised she had peed her pants. She watched the yellow trickle out until two black boots stopped it short.
She squeezed her eyes shut and waited.
The click of an empty chamber told her, not all was lost after all.
Comic Relief by FloridaBorne
My mind in fog, the car wandered through a mall parking lot the day after New Year’s. A few empty spaces waited near an expensive store and I walked past a perfume counter with one goal.
I needed a black dress.
Passing the cosmetics counter, I hear wailing. No one scrambling to call 911, no sirens, just 2 high school girls consoling their friend over a broken nail.
I laughed at the irony. Should I tell the 3 Stooges, “Not all is lost?”
No. It was the first time I’d felt like smiling since my husband had passed away.
Signposts by Saifun Hassam
In the garden, Lisa grieved for Aunt Veronica, an artist and illustrator of all things botanical. Lisa’s own interest in archaeology was sparked on a family vacation with Veronica, to see prehistoric rock and cave paintings in Brazil. Not all is lost.
Veronica swiftly sketched the cave artwork, and the prehistoric villages. Lisa caught her aunt’s excitement. She learned how to glean the stories of people, to look for ancient and prehistoric signposts, when there are no written records.
Lisa inherited Veronica’s Library. Not all is lost. Veronica’s generous gift filled her with a deep abiding sense of gratitude.
Disaster Strikes by Teresa Grabs
Even when times looked their darkest, everyone could count of the sun to rise, and drive away the night and its memories. No one would ever believe that the sun would not rise, but that is exactly what happened on June 28, 3258. Reports indicated a massive black hole developed behind the sun and devoured it, just like one had to Jupiter three years earlier. We had less than twenty-four hours to get off this planet before we all perished. Thankfully though, our global distress signal was intercepted by the Third Intergalactic Fleet. I wonder if they eat humans.
Grant Gain by JulesPaige
Gather together, permit others
As they offer their aide
In your heart of hearts, fear not – forbid
Nightmares their tight grasp upon reality
Golden opportunities await
Angels in plain clothes to host
Individuals, families – some will
Need less others more…
Grant those who come as a visitor
An opportunity to become family
Include them as repairs begin –
Not all is lost…
healing can take years –
fears ebb and flow like water
mud can cloud good hope
let those in who filter out
dark diteris and debris
focus on mending
both that which is solid as
well as what’s unseen
Reality Check by D. Avery
“Pal, buy me a beer.”
“Cain’t Kid, spent ma beer money on the Go Fund Me fer Cynthia Riley.”
“Same here, Pal.”
“That’s good, Kid, ‘cause them folks up there really need ta dry out.”
“Whyn’t they jist come shelter here at the Ranch?”
“Ah, Kid, the Ranch is a wonnerful shelterin’ place, but yer always fergittin’ ‘bout the virtual elements of it.”
“Here ya go agin, Pal, havin’ ta remind me we’s fictional characters. But I really wanna help.”
“I’m sure the Rileys ‘preciate you givin’ up yer beer money, Kid.”
“Could be worse.”
Ripley House of Healing (For Cynthia) by Charli MIlls
After the river subsided and rubble settled, Cynthia found a photo of her daughter at age nine lying face-down in red mud. Memories flood like the main floor of her 112-year-old home. She came to Copper Country to help the elderly. As a young intern, she worked out of a house below now buried in a debris field. She stayed, married, raised a family, and raised her voice to protect the vulnerable. She looks up at the house still standing, gutted of walls and floors. She stands up for her Ripley House of Healing. Her story is not lost.
You can help Cynthia Drake who had a Copper Country mountain slide into her house and force a river to reroute through her Ripley Home of Healing where Carrot Ranch was to host writing retreats. GoFundMe: Help the Drakes.