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January 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

Just call me Wrong-Way Charli.

I might have boots but they don’t always go the beaten path. You might find me calculating the drop on a rock face or attempting to access a naturally secluded beach. The faintest hint of a trail through forest duff speaks louder to me than the exposed dirt of the worn path.

Adventurous? Mostly by accident. More like curious. As in curiosity-killed-the-cat. I’m Shirley temple chasing the bluebird of happiness. I’m Hayduke weeping at the beautiful places of solitude. I want to know what’s over the rise, if the loons will give chase, and take time to look for just one more agate. I want to be there when the hawk flies past unscheduled.

Snow condenses in layers now. The merengue grows stale. Lady Lake keeps a fresh coat of white paint over it all but cut into the layers and it’s turning grey. The county recently bladed our street and I can see snow in geological layers. Have we been buried for eons? It feels like it.

I press each foot into my boots and tighten the laces. My red cap and scarf keep me warm and I look like a plump elf in my dark green wool coat that flares like a dress. I grab a tote bag, my wallet, and my headphones. These snow boots are made for walking and I head out the door to shop the co-op on the hill.

Passing by the fresh cut of snowbank I can no longer read the Fire Lane street sign. It’s buried. The snow slides like grease with each step and I struggle to stomp my way up the hill. Beneath is a compact layer of ice more solid than concrete. Snow sits in the saddles of trees, taking up permanent residence. Ever-present flakes kiss my cheeks. Lady Lake is loving today.

The heater in our car stopped blowing. Without the fan, the windows ice over making it impossible to drive. Thus I’m experimenting with being car-less. I’m walking to buy my dried mango slices and Wisconsin cheese. I overfill my tote with vegetables to make bone-broth soup. The flu is raging through Hancock and across the canal in Houghton. Fresh snow, fresh veggies — my plan to stay well.

Magnificent Mondays rolled around and car-less, I put out a call for a ride. It’s a twice-monthly gathering of local creatives at the Ripley House of Healing where I will debut my TUFF workshop. Through a few missteps in communication, I got a ride (next time I’ll know to go outside and wait). It was lovely riding in a warm vehicle that I didn’t have to brush off the snow to ride in.

Liking this car-lessness, I let my cake baker know that I wasn’t able to meet up with her downtown, could she swing by the house? This time I put on my boots and elven winter-gear and waited outside. She’s a homesteader and makes gorgeous cakes from whole ingredients. She even bakes vegan. But this first cake will be German chocolate with the sides and middle frosted with traditional pecan and coconut.

Later that evening, I had a meeting for local entrepreneuers. I asked for another ride and was delighted when a local poet and book designer answered the call. We laughed all the way down Quincy Hill and over the canal bridge to the meeting. She lets her inner child run wild with the sharp wit of an adult. I find her fun and fascinating.

We laughed at her car, which was leaking gas. She had recently replaced her rear windshield after it shattered in the cold. This poet lives 16 miles up the Keweenaw Peninsula, so she had to drive to Houghton without a rear windshield in the snow. She said now she can claim she’s a Yooper. After fixing the glass, the mechanic told her about the leak. She asked, “Will my car explode?” After he replied no, she was relieved because things seem to be exploding in her car. It made my heater problem sound better.

About the time I thought I would fully embrace car-lessness, the Hub looked at YouTube videos and figured out how to fix it. He does have his moments. That’s how I came to be Wrong-Way Charli. I got my car back.

Today has been a flurry of preparation and blowing off nervous energy for my presentation and book signing tomorrow. I have felt the rainbow of emotions from over the moon excited to down in the dumps depressed. I feel moody as a teenager, not a time I wish to recreate in my life. I breathe. Following the breath in…following the breath out…and carry on.

When I found out the Vet Center has no projector, I researched buying one. Surprisingly they aren’t too expensive but it wasn’t in my budget, like cake and local advertising. The Vet Center and my lovely group of veteran spouses helped me track down a rental at Finlandia University which is on the Hancock side of the canal. I talked with the librarian who explained to me how to find the campus library.

First, let me explain Quincy Hill. It’s so steep that the Quincy Copper Mine on top of the hill built a special tram to deliver ore to the smelters and docks below. It’s so steep it’s now a ski resort. Mind you, it’s a hill, not a mountain, but its verticle climb is impressive. In snowstorms, some streets are blocked.

And that’s what I drove up today, a blocked-for-one’s-own-safety Quincy Hill Steet. It was one of those mistakes a person makes and realizes it’s the wrong way, but stopping would be worse. So upward I drove, willing those snow tires to work. The car slipped and careened, the dashboard flashing the light to tell me I had lost traction. I know, I know! Two young boys with shovels watch me, probably hoping to see a backward Yooper left turn.

At the crest of the hill were three choices: another hill to the right, a sharp dip downhill to the left or straight into a cavernous parking lot. I say cavernous because the snow banks were so tall and tight at the entrance it looked like driving into a snow cave. I opted for the cave, after all, I am presenting on the hero’s journey tomorrow.

My elixir turned out to be that I found the Maki Library. The door looked rather industrial and I thought maybe it had to do with being a university library. No other cars were parked in my cavern, so I approached the door and walked down the hall. Five people turned around and stared at me. That’s when I read the sign that said staff only. I had entered the wrong way and could see the front lobby beyond. There was no escaping my error.

A man with a ponytail and glasses halfway down his nose asked, “Can I help you?”

Awkward situations bring out my inner comedian and I pointed to the staff sign and said, “I’m looking for a job.”

He smiled, so I told him I was the person picking up the projector. He then escorted me out of the staff area into the lobby. Without further complication, I became a public member of the Finlandia University Maki Library, and I successfully rented a projector, cords, and speakers for free. Then I had to ask how I was supposed to get to my car. “Best go the way you came, Wrong-Way Charli.”

And that’s how I got my Yooper name.

January 18, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes boots. Whose boots are they, where do they go and what is their significance? Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 23, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published January 24). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Easing Frustrations (From Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Between public affairs and citizen scientists on her archeology dig, Danni wasn’t surprised to see Ike show up with his dogs.

Now she had someone familiar to lash out at. She stomped her boots down the gravelly trail toward Ike and the pointers at his side. Danni trudged past the silent volunteers. She marched right up to Ike and he swung her up into his arms, planting a lingering kiss on her angry lips.

Danni sagged against him. He growled in her ear, “I missed you, Babe.”

“Damn it, Ike. I missed you, too.” She refrained from kicking him.

###

Wet Ink

Freshly applied to the artist’s canvas, or scrolled across the page, wet ink implies an idea newly committed to expression. It’s still vulnerable to smudges and drips. Yet it shimmers with inspired creativity, too.

Where would wet ink take writers who tap type on a screen without the cursive inkiness of a quill? Do they long for pens or go elsewhere for a story? Read on and find out.

The following are based on the January 11, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink.

***

Wet Ink by Pensitivity

It was unique, a masterpiece and accolade to her artistry, the scrolls and attention to detail second to none.

When asked, she said the secret was in the ink.

In order to get the definition and blooming effect, the red ink had to be wet so that the coloured segments ran into each other.

Silk of course was the best fabric, though with sufficient care on cottons the effects could be produced almost as well.

No two garments would be identical, and she could name her price.

As she settled down to work, she pricked her finger and began.

###

Hazzard Lights by Abby Rowe

Within each act, there is a point of no return. Like ink, flowing wet, from nib to sheet. Still fluid, but now indelible.

In my car, rain pounding, wipers bust, hazard lights flashing. I work out who to call, but find my phone is dead.

I assess my options. Waiting out Irish rain is plain silly. Walk home twenty miles? Flag down a car? Or approach the nearby farmhouse. Huge and dark. If windows reveal the soul, this one is empty.

I must trust.

All possibilities still exist as I knock on the door.

“Come in.”

Nib hits paper.

###

When She Holds Me by Michael Fishman

I love when she holds me.

So many years – her hand, now heavily veined and knuckled with arthritis is, even after all this time, still strong and comforting.

The magic lives in that hand.

Me, I’m the same. A little nicked here and there, also showing my age, but she warms me, and keeps me happy. She keeps me young.

I’m lucky. Others her age would have abandoned me. Would have left me for the new WordPerfect, but she never stopped writing words in longhand. She feeds me with ink and I dance across the parchment, singing her song.

###

Dear John by Juliet Nubel

She almost began with ‘My Darling’ but this letter had to be the last, so she wrote simply ‘Dear John’.

Then, weeping silently, she listed the reasons she wanted to leave him after thirty long years.

She could take no more of his sporadic, misplaced fury. It coated her in a dirty, thick sludge of angry words which sullied and betrayed their miraculous marriage.

As she folded the page, the tear-soaked ink became a bright blue pool of illegible smudges.

So she crumpled it, slipped into bed beside her tortured, grieving spouse, and wrapped him tightly in her arms.

###

Saying Goodbye by Eric Pone

Staring at the ink on the page. She just cried. As the emotions flowed she could not help but finally realize that their relationship was over. “Barry I can’t continue to live a lie with you.” Ono wrote this by hand with the pen and inkwell inherited from her great aunt. Fitting she thought. The same pen and ink that ended her aunt’s marriage now ended hers. She watched the dots of ink dance up and down her hand as she reloaded the cartridge, she felt a renewed sense of peace and wholeness. Things would finally be right again.

###

Bitter Ink by Bill Engleson

Jowls droop, fleshy things they are, dangling like fudgy cleavers, poised to slaver and savour his shabby instincts which tauntingly venture deep beyond the pale.

Eyelids, bulbous and midnight dune, glint dull in the moonlight, his bruising purple prose, vile acid-tainted dispatches from his fatuous demons, etching the air, scratching our communal spine, cavorting to the venom of his dark refrain.

Lips, antediluvian lips, fouled by callous conversations held in rooms of gold, rarely resist pronunciations from his poisoned pen.

Our spirits marrow is breached, the seepage flows into our organs, our minds, our dreams, with its bitter ink.

###

A Blot on Whose Copybook? by Norah Colvin

Ever so carefully, she dipped the nib in and out of the inkwell. Her tongue protruded, guiding the pen as she copied the black squiggly lines dancing across the page.

“Start at the top. Go across; then down. Lift, dip…,“ the teacher droned.

“Start at the top!” The cane stung her knuckles, sending the nib skidding across the page.

“Now look what you’ve done!” The teacher grasped the book and held it aloft, sending ink in rivulets down the page. Her thumb intercepted one, smearing another opportunity for humiliation across the page.

“Girls, this is what not to do!”

###

But the People Can’t Wait by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He lay the quill down beside his Manifesto, reaching to close the cap on the near-empty inkwell.

Leaning back, he gazed out his window at the sunrise, the horizon full with rooftops. It was a sign of Providence for the impoverished people of his city, he decided.

His fingers rasped over his many-days growth of beard, poetical hair flowing long and dark over his shoulders… like the ink that had poured from his pen!

“Finished?” Eliza’s heels clicked over the bare wooden floor. “Let’s get moving, then!”

“The ink’s still wet! Let me enjoy my moment!”

“We’ve no time.”

###

Wet Ink by Ben Laing

“I used to write with these damn things all the time!” he huffed, looking at the smear of the still wet ink that obscured his words on the page and had blued the edge of his hand.

Grimacing in a way that turned his broad, bushy mustache downward at the ends, gave his face a sour expression. Casting the fountain pen aside, he instead picked up his trusty pipe. Swiftly lighting the crumbles of leaf in the bowl, he squinted through the smoke, down at the ruined page. He furrowed his brow in frustration.

“I cannot write this again!”

###

The Blot by Irene Waters

The stain spread like octopus tentacles. Grace felt sick. One mistake. That’s all it took to destroy everything. Too late to take back the action. It was done. She’d blotted her copybook and now, she had to live with it. Tears came unbidden. Not her fault. Alcohol was the culprit. The six gin and tonics had made her lose control but she’d chosen to drink. She’d wanted Dutch courage. She needed more than that now. She’d have to hand it in. Perhaps they’d overlook the ink as the content was good. Better than saying the dog ate her homework.

###

Wet Ink by Michael

My mother always said there was no point in crying over spilt milk, but spilt ink was a different matter.

There was immediate panic to clean it up as mum knew the stain would never come out. And it didn’t. Not that it happened much, but it was a constant source of danger.

Each of us was given a bottle of Swan Ink. We guarded it with our lives. Hours each day we practised our script, our curved lettering.

In front of us was the reminder to take care, the stain of the spilt ink fresh in our minds.

###

Inked by Ritu Bhathal

It was the bane of my life at school, being left-handed…

The most annoying thing?

Writing with an ink pen.

Now, if only I could write from right to left, like the Arabic community, I’d be fine, but no, we need to write from left to right, meaning my hand would smear the still wet ink across the page, as I wrote my essays.

I’d get told off, have to redo my work, and each inked page would look the same, despite my taking extra care holding my pen.

As I said… the bane of my life being left-handed…

###

Blue Marks by Paula Moyer

Being left-handed is over-rated. So Jean thought as she assessed the past hour’s journaling. The blank book and the gel pen seemed like a good idea. But now she looked down. The writing was not legible due to the smudges. And big, blue circles shone on each knuckle of each finger.

It looked like more than just a left hand sweeping across still-wet ink before it dried. As if the ink were more plenteous than that used by right-handed people.

Both moved left to right. While right hands moved across virgin paper, lefts caught all the marks. Held grudges.

###

Artistic Pages by Kerry E.B. Black

Youngest of the order, Brother Seamus crafted ink by scraping carbon from candle backs, crushing Gum Arabic, and adding drops of wine to reach the correct viscosity. He carried a bottle stained black to replenish his brothers’ failing supplies. They hunched over vellum made from animal skins stretched until translucent. Hours, weeks, and months bled into each of their artistic pages. Awed by a piece, Brother Seamus leaned closer, forgetting himself. Fresh ink poured over an illuminated letter, marring the holy scene. His eyes widened in horror, and Brother Seamus fled before the artist broke his vow of silence.

###

The Pen is Not Mightier Than the Tablet by Heather Gonzalez

Billy’s world seemed futuristic to his grandpa. All he ever did was touch a screen. Grandpa pulled a pen out of his pocket and held it out for him.

“What is this? How do you turn it on?” Billy scrunched up his face as he inspected what he was given.

“That is a pen. You use it to write. This is how you turn it on.” Grandpa clicked the pen as if it would magically bring his grandson the urge to use it to write.

“No, thanks,” he said handing him back the pen and turning to his tablet.

###

Fit to Print by Denise Aileen DeVries

Myra Jean believed cleanliness was next to godliness. She picked up the local newspaper with misgivings. Why did the ink stay wet forever, staining her fingers? She had asked her father, a linotype operator for the Baltimore Sun, but that was one of the few things he didn’t know. He was a fount of wisdom with a brilliant wit. On his rare days at home, they would read the paper together, pointing out typos and clichés. Even today, the smell of newsprint evoked her father’s wry grin. He would have enjoyed this weekly rag; it was full of howlers.

###

The Scoop by Anurag Bakhshi

Jimmy excitedly picked up the newspaper fresh from the press, ink still wet and smudgy. But he didn’t care. He eyes were transfixed on the front page photograph that would save his career.

His name had been on the list of those being given the pink slip at month-end. Not after this exclusive!

The scheme to push the kid into the snow leopard’s cage had been hare-brained and hair-raising, but it DID work out brilliantly in the end, thought Jimmy Olsen to himself, as he looked at the photograph of his friend Superman rescuing a child from the cage.

###

Dusty Bottles All in a Row by JulesPaige

The wet colored ink is mostly dry… but there was a time
that an Italian Glass Fountain pen had been used to write.
Frequently dipping for the store of ink in the nib only scripted
six to eight letters.

Poems, thoughts, the importance of actual communication
through postal correspondence. That was one way to occupy
the time of day when alone for a spell and other chores were
put on hold with the prospect of believing the recipient really
cared about you.

Oh, the colors; purple, orange, green – flowing into and
gripping the warp and weft of woven paper…

###

Story Hunting by D. Avery

Recognize the spoor, that tuft of hair on the twig, blood like ink on the ground; this one’s been hunted before. It’s okay if someone else spooked it, if it crosses your path it’s fair game. Don’t follow too close, don’t give chase too soon. A direct approach will send it running. Same with your searching eyes; relax, over-focus and you’ll never see it. Trust; your quarry will reveal itself to you. The shot has to be well aimed and certain. Make sure it’s in the clear, ready for its own end, final and swift. There; there’s a story.

###

Wet Ink by Jack Schuyler

Wet ink is the closest thing in this world to inspiration.

I ponder this statement as I splatter the dark liquid across my paper.

Its formless, free spirited, and it leaves its mark on everything it touches.

I reach up to scratch my face and leave behind a smeared black stripe. I look into the reflection of my spectacles and chuckle.

Even inspiration must dry eventually. If we don’t let it become physical—become permanent— then we will never realize its full beauty.

A strange shape has settled on my canvas. It looks like an octopus. I smile. Nice.

###

Skeletons in the Closet by Irene Waters

“Dad’s got skeletons in his closet.” My brother showed me an old, leather book. Inside were some blank pages and skeletons.

“Dad said we can do ours.” Excited, we raced to the study where the ink lived in a little glass pot at the top of the blotter. My brother went first, creasing the page in half then signing his name along the line made in the middle. Whilst the ink was still wet he folded the page in half again and pressed down on the fold. On opening it he had his own unique skeleton. Mine quickly followed.

###

Inky by FloridaBorne

“You say you’re dyslexic?” the head of human resources asked.

He held my application as if it contained a dead fish.

“Have you heard about the ADA?”

“You don’t use a wheelchair.”

“It’s 1995 and you still think the Americans with Disabilities Act only applies to wheelchairs?”

“I must have a secretary who can write!”

“I know, my handwriting looks like ink blots. Have you heard of a computer?”

“For what purpose?”

“I type 90WPM. This company uses a computer messaging system. The message goes to your inbox…”

“Computers will never last,” he smirked, sending me on my way.

###

Red Ink by Lucia Gray

The poet always wrote with red ink.

A constant reminder that his blood, the blood that pulsed through the fingers that held his pen, was red, not blue like the rippling sea, or black, like a moonless night…

His blood was red, a bold, vibrant scarlet, ablaze with love or hate, sometimes sizzling with lust, others fierce with rage, but never tepid.

His blood was red like a crimson dawn, or a ruby sunset.

Black or blue was the choice of those who embraced the vulgarity of conformity.

He lifted his pen, growled at the blank page and bled.

###

Unexpected News by Susan Sleggs

With great excitement and anticipation I opened my son’s first letter since he had joined the Air Force. I expected personal news and an address. I got the opposite.

“I’m sure you don’t know, Dad told me to never come home again for enlisting without his blessing. I don’t think it’s safe to give you any contact information because he will force you to choose between him and me. I’m sorry.”

My sudden tears wet the ink. I realized any letters would have to be kept secret and I didn’t know if I would ever see my son again.

###

Wet Ink by Colleen Chesebro

“How much longer?” The man asked, squirming face down in the chair.

“It’s done.” Diavolo laid the iron on the table. The ink wasn’t dry but the tattoo was finally finished.

“Can I see it?”

“In a moment. Just relax until it cures.”

The tattoo had morphed and changed several times over the last few days. Diavolo’s artistry came from a higher source, one that would determine this man’s fate. Today, the anchor tattoo faded and was replaced with the image of a sinking ship.

Diavolo shook his head. “What ship are you from, sailor?”

“The USS Arizona, Sir.”

###

PTSD Personified by Susan Sleggs

“Doc, my family feared I would die shortly after the ink was dry on my enlistment papers. Now I’ve made it back home without a visible wound they want me to tell them what my days were like: what I ate, what I saw, if I met any nice girls. They have no idea all the Army wanted from me was a body count. Having done what I was expected to do in order to survive, now I am dead inside. I’m afraid to go to sleep at night because of the nightmares and ashamed I made it home.”

###

Tattoo by Sascha Darlington

“The ink’s running. Is it supposed to do that?” My husband shows me his forearm, the new tattoo leaking color.

How would I know? His freshly engraved arm evokes uncertainty in me. Who is he now?

“Have you googled?” I don’t wait for his reply. I jab words into my browser, thrust my phone at him, and bite my lip. Passive-aggressive much?

“This has nothing to do with you.”

“Obviously.”

He sighs. “It’s an expression of creativity. I knew you wouldn’t understand.”

“You’re an accountant.”

“And bass player.”

Comprehension drizzles coldly over me: Saturday night’s groupie hot for ink.

###

Wet Ink by Rugby843

He thought it was just spilled wet ink, he felt. He thought he had committed the perfect murder. He thought it looked like she fell on her own letter opener. He thought leaving her body slumped on the desk would be believable. He thought he was through with her finally and forever.

He didn’t think she already informed her brother of the meeting. He didn’t think she was expecting a volatile argument. He didn’t think she would set up a video camera. He didn’t think it was not wet ink, but blood. He didn’t think she was still breathing.

###

Crime in 99 by MRMacrum

Outwardly, Harold was a picture of calm as the cop pressed his hand into the ink saturated blotter.

Sgt. Pine handed Harold a towel. “Confirmation prints, Mr. Jenkins.”

“Confirmation prints?” Harold stopped wiping his hands. His stomach knotted.

“You mean elimination prints, yes?” Harold felt his blood begin to rush.

“No sir. … Confirmation ……. You said you saw the victim through the window and never went inside, right?”

“Uh, Yes,…that’s right.”

“Well, we found a print with a nick running through it. We think the perp cut himself recently.” The Cop’s eyes sparkled.

Harold slowly turned over his hand.

###

Ink by Alice

Smooth as a new laid egg, the way the fountain pen flowed on a piece of paper was exactly how the sales assistant described it to be. Excited, he clipped the pen to the inner pocket of his suit and smoothed any creases with a nervous laugh.

“You’ll be fine,” his best man reassured, “Just be yourself!”

“Easy for you to say. Can you double check that you have the ring?”

“For the nth time, yes. We should leave now or we’ll be late!”

They never got to the church and the only document signed was a death certificate.

###

Wet Ink (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“…to hold you in shadow and light, in doubt and certainty, when times are hard and when they are easy…”

Richard’s sister may have legally taken his earthly possessions, but this single page covered with scribbled bits of the vows he was writing are worth more than his computer equipment and manga art collection could ever be. Vows for the wedding they would never have. Becca gives in and allows herself to weep for a minute, then flings the pages away in horror at her carelessness. She can’t even read his words now, his pages smeared with her tears.

###

Rorschach Discovers the Inkblot Test by Anne Goodwin

Five minutes to prepare for my next patient, a haughty fellow who loved goading me. Did reluctance make my hand slip, knock over the bottle of ink? Before I could grab the blotter, a black splodge obliterated last session’s notes. I folded the page, was still trying to dry it when the patient took his seat. “It’s beautiful! Randomness and symmetry.” He looked awestruck, but he might have been taking the piss. “What do you see in it?” I ventured, still expecting him to scoff. “My mother!” He bent his head, began to weep.

###

The Evaluation by Charli Mills

“This?”

“Looks like an athlete running.”

“And this?”

“Definitely a giraffe dancing the mamba.”

I can’t tell if the suit showing me ink blots takes my answers seriously. He’s just another cog in the government wheel of oppression.

“This?”

“A storm with black raindrops.”

His pictures are stale blots. After watching FBI agents shoot my mother why would I conform to the government? They killed the adults in our compound. I’m only 13, but I know the freedom he doesn’t.

“This?”

“A deer in the willows.”

My imagination is wet ink. I’ll survive captivity to create a better world.

###

Blot by Dan C Julian

I sat, pen poised, at pot and pad, to put to words a thought I’d had, when a fat drop dripped from the quill’s thin tip. By reflex, my hand flashed forth to catch it! But I was far too slow… What’s more though, the pot was caught by my reaching arm and overturned onto the page. In fuming self-rage at my clumsiness, I righted the inkwell, tissued up the black mess, regained the pen, and with it – in large surly letters alongside the Rorschach, suggestive to me of the proverbial catfish uncaught – wrote this: “Aborted Jot!”

###

Smudge and Psychometrics, Logan Style by Geoff Le Pard

‘You write neatly, Morgan.’

‘Teachers always moaned, said I had hooves, not fingers. Called me Smudge.’

‘Why’d you not type?’

‘Can’t get the words right, typing.  I need to have wet ink if I want to make progress. Otherwise writing is hard.’

‘That explains it, then.’

‘What does it explain, Logan?’

‘Your call to your mum, about your writing. Last night.’

‘Does it? I don’t recall talking about ink to my mother?’

‘Course not. You used your writerly code. You said, “I’m happy with my WIP”. I wondered what WIP stood for but now I know. Wet Ink Progress.’

###

Wet Ink by Robbie Cheadle

She sat working on her laptop in the dark. The power was of and she had a deadline to deliver on. The lights suddenly came back on and she looked up. Perched on top of her screen was a huge Parktown Prawn. She shrieked and jumped backwards. The enormous bug jumped to the floor and scuttled towards the doorway. She grabbed a heavy book and brought it down on the creature. When she lifted the book, she saw it was dead. A viscous black substance oozed out of its crushed body. It looked like it was leaking wet ink.

###

Wait for It to Dry by Chelsea Owens

“Nearly done, darlin’.” Her purpled tongue-stub protruded.

“Sue’s the best,” they’d said, in town.

I flinched. “I wouldn’t do that.” Her potato-skin face was expressionless. Cataract-blue globes never strayed from her age-veined fingers.

“Just don’ get the snake,” an old-timer warned.

A stool creak told me Sue was done. I peeked, gasped, and shifted my shoulder to view the deep golds and blues of the dragon’s ink-birthed scales.

Sue looked …the same. “Don’t you forget to let ‘im dry,” she scolded.

I nodded, paid, left. Absentmindedly, I slipped on my jacket. It was cold, everywhere except my arm…

###

Wet Ink by Annette Rochelle Aben

She dug through her purse for the stamps she just bought a week ago. This card needed to be posted today to reach him in time for his birthday.

Cars behind her in line honked impatiently as she absentmindedly popped the card into the box slot in the drive through at the post office. She waved out the window and pulled away, smiling

The postal worker came to collect the drive through mail. Dodging the automatic sprinklers, he reached for something face down on the ground. It was a goner, as he couldn’t read anything for the wet ink.

###

Wonderland by D. Avery

“Kid ya kin sure shovel it. Barn looks good.”

“Yep, shovelin’ manure’s a winter chore I got talent for.”

“Kid, ever think about goin’ on vacation, mebbe travel?”

“Uhuh. Leave the ranch? There’s so much goin’ on. This is the place ta be.”

“Hmmph. Ain’t snow an’ cold Down Under.”

“Still thinkin’ ‘bout trippin’ down there?”

“Nah, best keep an eye on ya here at the ranch. B‘sides, thet snow sure is purty.”

“Yep.”

“Kid?”

“Yep?”

“Where’d all the shit from the barn go, anyway?”

“Ph.D.”

“Huh?”

“Piled higher an’ deeper.”

“But where?”

“Spring’s comin’. All will be revealed.”

###

Double Trouble by D. Avery

“Shorty sent ya ta town?”

“Yep, said she needed ink.”

“Hope she also told ya not to talk ta strangers, ta stay on the trail, ta not take magic beans nor wooden nickels in trade.”

“Fairytale funny, Pal. I’m smarter than ya think.”

“Ya went ta the General Store I hope.”

“Well, I was headed there but there was this guy on the corner.”

“Uh-oh.”

“Who had some good deals on ink cartridges. Only slightly damaged. From fallin’ off his cousin’s wagon.”

“What’d he look like?”

“Dunno. He stayed in the shadows. Spoke with an accent. Offered good deals.”

***

“Kid, that was Nanjo! Tell me ya didn’t git ink from Nanjo.”

“I didn’t git ink from Nanjo. Got this.”

“A bucket? You bought ink by the bucketful?”

“No, Pal. They’s squids in there.”

“You got squid, Kid?”

“Yeah. Feller said we’d never run outta ink if we had us some squid. Squirts ink if ya scare ‘em.”

“I’m gonna scare the ink outta you, Kid.”

“Squid. Jeez Pal, yer color’s changin’. Like a squid.”

“We cain’t be keepin’ squid on the ranch!”

“Pal, who’s Amari? Guy said, call Amari ta git rid of squid.”

“That’s calamari, Kid.”

“Squid.”

###

Copper Country

Copper Country by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MIllsWelcome to the Keweenaw, the original Copper Country in upper Michigan where miners from around the globe migrated to work for over 150 years. The University founded by the mining industry remains a world-renowned technical and engineering school. And copper nuggets can still be found on the shore of Lake Superior.

But this is not the only Copper Country or its only interpretation. Writers from around the globe have gathered like miners to delve this prompt for nuggets of stories told in flash fiction.

The following is based on January 4, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country.

***

Francis Stacker Dutton: Copper Country by Irene Waters

Funny how things turn out. Here I am. An Englishman born in Germany ending up in South Australia. Sheep was my game. Fine merino. I had an eye; could pick fine fleece from inferior. My sheep went missing. Looking for them changed my direction. Found copper and started a mine. Needed miners so I went to England to find ’em in Cornwall. Sold my mine shares instead and wrote a book about South Australian mines. Made a fortune. Didn’t have to work but ended up South Australia’s Premier. Seat of Light. Ironic. Can’t have light without copper. Copper country.

###

Copper Country by Abby Rowe

Before the mine closed, Poldice was copper country. When I was nought but a cheel, I’d see the men trudging down the village, gads in hand. No help found from boss or owner, but, if you kept the Knockers sweet with crusts, our Dad would say, they’d rap and tap to guide you to the lode.

Young Jory Pascoe was not so wise. They say he ate each morsel to himself, so the Knockers hammered and bashed the faults ’til the roof caved.

Mrs Pascoe’s famed pasties, so fine you couldn’t refuse them, were the death of her son.

###

Pass the Pasties by Annette Rochelle Aben

Mom always made us pasties. We grew up eating the pocket meals filled with beef, potatoes, rutabagas and onions. Her father’s people were from Cornwall, England and that is what they ate.

Years later, I married a man whose grandmother was from Cornwall, England. He and his family ate pasties too.

One year, he took me on vacation to Copper Harbor, Michigan. Beautiful country. We saw black bears on Brockway Mountain. Enjoyed a Woody Herman concert in the haunted, Calumet theatre and we ate pasties. Because that’s what the “Cousin Jacks” and “Cousin Jennies” would eat in Copper Country.

###

Up Harbor by D. Avery

The Strawberry Moon, low on the horizon, trailed a coppery sheen. A chain of beads glimmered with each paddle stroke, their dripping the only sound as she sliced along the shimmering path of moonlight across the harbor. Playfully she pursued the moon, mirrored in the water, always just out of reach. Finally she stopped paddling, just sat, rocking gently, cloaked in the soft fleece of moonlight. The moon had risen higher, a shiny penny in the sky, and she smiled to herself, feeling truly lucky. “But, time to return. Goodnight, Moon”, she said aloud. “Shit, where’d my paddle go?”

###

Fuzzy Thinking-From the Writers Perspective by Bill Engleson

We needed a place where we could…you know…just be, just serve and project. Whatever you think of us, we all started out with the best of intentions. Sure, some of us proved to be bad pennies. They weren’t worth a plug nickel to begin with.

We all start out shiny and bright, but the sparkle quickly tarnishes.

So, when that actor, Joe Penny…played Office Phil Buchwald in S.O.B., suggested we buy our own country, well, no lead balloon there. ‘Course, you can’t buy much country these days, but we acquired land in Northern BC, called it Copper Country, eh…

###

Grandpa Amlodd’s Dragon by Roger Shipp

“He’s not supposed to be green, Jess.”

The six-year-olds gazed high atop the old stone barn. Bedtime stories of Merlin… Arthur… and dragons… filled their heads.

“Grandpa Amlodd smithied the copper dragon to protect our farms. Now look at him.”

“The copper dragon has to be freed.”

Racing to the farmhouse, the boys quickly did what they did at school. They googled.

“Ketchup!” They explained at the same time.

Armed with two ketchup bottles in one hand and the extension ladder from the gardening shed penned under their opposing pits, the boys set off the release Grandpa Amlodd’s dragon.

###

Mixing Metal by Juliet Nubel

She had always known why their village was nicknamed “Copper Country”. You just had to look around.

Everywhere the same metallic orange tint to the hair, the same green rain-washed patina in the eyes. Even their skin bore the same burnish of the sun.

But not James. He was just a little brighter, shinier, his green eyes with a hint of the ocean in their depths.

Nine months after they wed, their little princess arrived. She wore pale cream skin, azure eyes and finely spun blond curls.

Who would have thought that copper mixed with copper could make gold?

###

Prospecting by Jules Page

Jade was looking for ideas. So she had gone on a road
trip. Patina was a different shade of green. And that was
all she was finding in this abandoned town. Copper roofs,
shutters, statues. It must have been a thriving community,
once. Now it resembled a ghost town.

The old man at the rustic general store had said there was
still buried treasure in Tawnytown about twenty miles north.
He hadn’t exactly said what element was.

As a jewelry artist, Jade began snapping photos. Jade
thought that working in copper with jade might give her a
new angle.

###

An Alternative Discovery by Charli Mills

Christopher Columbus informed the Queen. “Your Majesty, a great procession sails from where the earth ends.”

“Is it possible?” she asked Ferdinand. They gathered, soldiers honing flint-knapped spears, the royals at a safe distance, all praying to God.

Invaders clad in red metal came in the name of Gitchigumee. Flint spears shattered, no match for glimmering red weapons.

Many who survived that day in 1492 succumbed to foreign germs. North America wiped out most of Spain, enslaving her children to dig in the New Copper Country.

If only Christopher’s Queen had known to make weapons of the native metal.

###

Coppers Bring Copper to Utopia by Anne Goodwin

The visitors try to impress us, as usual. We stifle our yawns. They tell us they’re coppers, but we can police ourselves. He empties his pockets of a handful of coins and a card. “Electronic money. No need for coppers.” We hate to disappoint him, but we’ve no need for money at all. “Look how it turns from orange to green as it loses its shine!” But we’re not impressed by decoration. “Don’t touch it! It’s dirty.” The coppers disagree. “Copper kills bacteria and viruses.” Really? We took a sack and in exchange for a lorry load of gold.

###

Low-balled by Kerry E.B. Black

Jenkins wiped grime along his plumber’s bottom.

The homeowner, a single mother of two, wrung her hands like an old-time heroine. “What’s the damage?”

He cleared his throat. “How long were you away, Ms. Rowen?”

“A week. Make-a-Wish gave my littlest a trip.” She hugged the kids. “It was the kindest experience we’ve ever had, right boys? Then we got home, and the basement’s flooded.” A nervous giggle escaped.

Jenkins considered the pipeworks, yards of stolen copper mined from the vacationers’ house. He estimated the cost. A minimum of $5,000. More than she had, he suspected.

So he low-balled.

###

Copper Country Destiny by Ann Edall-Robson

Her destiny had changed forever on that fateful night, or had it? The lightening laced sky had been accentuated with the screaming, crying, flashing lights and tangled metal. Her potential as a great athlete who had lived for each practice, for each competition ended there and then. The accident had taken its toll on her young, exuberant lifestyle. It was her great personality that kept her from being shunned or worse. Her gentle eyes that spoke volumes, captured hearts. The Copper Country lineage prominent throughout her bloodlines would now be passed onto every foal born to the Palomino broodmare.

###

Copper Country by Pensitivity

It had started as a joke, then a recognised charity event, this Mile of Pennies.

Then it became a significant tradition when visiting the county to place a penny next to the last one and cement it in place.
The mile stretched to two, then three, then fifty, a single line of coppers, leading from the centre of town to somewhere not yet determined.

Only pennies were allowed, nothing of any higher value, they came in all currencies from all countries.
It became known as Copper County, even though the pennies had long since been covered by the Highway.

###

Logan and Morgan are Go by Geoff Le Pard

‘What made you scared as a kid, Logan?’

‘Lots of stuff, Morgan. Dad’s nose hair. The vacuum cleaner hose…’

‘No, like when were you most frightened?’

‘When my poo turned blue. I was five. Thought I’d die.’

‘How come? You eat copper sulphate? That turned my hands blue.’

‘I liked Thunderbirds.’

‘Is this going somewhere, cos I think I’m on a different bus to you.’

‘Thunderbird two is green, right?’

‘I’m waiting, Morgan.’

‘I ate the icing, turned my poo blue.’

‘I didn’t know they made icing out of copper sulphate.’

‘Lots you don’t know Logan.’

‘Troo dat, Morgan.’

###

Nearly Pictureless Frame by Daniel C Julian

At the bending end of a gravel road along a forested ridge far and away from the nearest town, down a half-mile of rough path over hill and through dale, on some flats beside a gushing little creek, there stood a tiny shack. One whole wall of the shack was a bay window looking out on nothing but trees, and before this window was a writing desk upon which sat an old manual typewriter. Clickety-clack, DING, brrack and clickety clack some more, the machine made its music as the writer wrote. It was the tale of the Copper King…

###

Copper Country by Pete Fanning

We worked fast. Kendall handed off the pipes and I ran them to the truck.

“Easy with the noise.”

I nodded. With arms overhead, his pits were sour and his sweat reeked of Schlitz. He looked to me through a haze of smoke, his Marlboro drooping with his smile. “Few hundred bucks running under these floors.”

A teaching moment. Mom’s boyfriend couldn’t always tell you the day, but knew to the cent the market on metals. Kendell could strip a house clean in a few hours before getting off to the scrap yard—Copper Country, as he called it.

###

Fields of Copper by Heather Gonzalez

In the early morning, when my family is sleeping, that is when I watch the sun rise over dancing wheat and I hold my breath to listen for music. Leaving the urban jungle for the countryside was the best thing I could have ever done.

I once spent my nights disassembling copper pipes for profit, now I spend my mornings gazing upon the fields of copper. I know that one day the truth will catch up with me because no one can stay in hiding forever. But until then, I will watch as the sun rises over Copper Country.

###

The Last Bastion by Anurag Bakhshi

The town looked dead, as everyone had gathered in the castle to celebrate our victory.

The war between zombies and humans had been going on for decades. The entire planet was under the rule of zombies, except Copper Country, which kept resisting with unprecedented bravery.

And then, just in the nick of time, we discovered that copper could ‘kill’ zombies.

Rejuvenated, we gathered all the copper in the kingdom in one place…

…and destroyed it.

The castle had not taken too long to fall once it ran out of copper.

We zombies now had complete control over the world.

###

Copper Country by Eric Pone

Hunter woke up from the copter crash tasting blood in his mouth and dizziness reminiscent of a hard nights drinking. Copper country can be a relentless place but as he fumbled with the belts he felt confident that he could evade the ops teams looking for him. “Great….well this experimental went down lovely.” He mumbled as he extracted himself to snow HK10 at the ready. Footsteps in distance met by a Pop pop then nothing. He knew his dad was leading the search. He also knew that he would make it really hard on them to find him.

###

Copper Country by Michael

There was great excitement as the date for the Annual Lenten Ball to be held in the White Rose Ballroom of the Copper Country School of Arts.

Everyone dressed up, there was much polishing of boots, ironing and starching of shirts and collars, hairdressing appointments and new dresses ordered and adjusted.

Copper Country and its tiny hall was all that was left of a once bustling town at one time boasting six pubs.

All that remained now of those days was the hall and us, the locals from all around, dressing up and having a night of homemade fun.

###

Copper Country by Robbie Cheadle

“Complete darkness always woke her. With the crime problem escalating in her city, she felt very vulnerable and slept with the bathroom light on. The light had gone off and who knew why. She slipped out of bed and peeped out of the window at the neighboring house. That house was also in darkness. Somewhat mollified, she went back to bed and eventually fell asleep. The following morning, she discovered that the copper power cables had been stolen during the night causing the power outage. It seemed that her suburb was the new copper country.”

###

Parenting by Kerry E.B. Black

Heather combed through the older woman’s thick hair, separating it into sections using plastic clips. Layers of steel and silver gave way to a small cove of copper. She ran a finger along the silky strands, recalled brushing and braiding when her mother’s head boasted autumn, not winter, a child mothering.
She blinked back tears. “You were an awful mother.”
Her mother shrugged, unconcerned. “Orphans don’t know how to parent.”
Heather’s scissors snipped, creating the requested fashion.
Heather’s children dominated her every thought, their needs always first; not at all how her mother raised her. “Yet somehow I learned.”

###

A New Puppy by Susan Sleggs

“Is it time for a new dog?”

“No! Maybe. Sandy was such a good girl how can I replace her so soon?”

“Because a pet is a companion. Maybe a different color or breed.”

“Has to be a cocker spaniel, but another color is intriguing.”

I went to meet a litter that was almost ready at the breeders.

“The mom’s name is Fancy. She’s from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

“Looks like she got dyed in the copper mines there.”

“Yes. We named her daughter, Miss Revere, like the pans.”

“I could call her Revi; sounds more doggish. Consider her sold.”

###

The Coppersmith by D. Avery

Patriot and artisan, Paul Revere made a variety of contributions to the American War of Independence. The pen was a strategic weapon, and Revere, using copper plates, made political cartoons and illustrations, including his famous and inflammatory engraving of the Boston Massacre. Brawnier contributions had to do with munitions and weaponry. Yet many associate Revere the coppersmith with the making of alloy bells and with pots and pans. Let’s. Let’s melt down brass cartridges and copper bullets and make a pot to cook shared meals and bells to ring in peace. Surely we have the resources to do that.

###

Looking For Change by Michael Fishman

I was shocked when Kristy Benson, a year older – a senior no less – said yes.

To me! You believe it?

If I had the words I’d tell you how beautiful Kristy is, but my vocabulary, it’s, you know, just so-so, so you can use your imagination.

Problem was coming up with money. I got some extra hours at the theater when Deliverance opened last weekend – Burt can bring them in – but I needed more so I took my brother’s penny collection and sold it down at “Copper Country” for $17.00. He’s 19 and he’ll understand; he’s been in love.

###

Copper Country (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“And it took me forever to clean the damn kitchen! If that man would learn I’d prefer a reservation to his cooking, I’d be so happy…” Michelle’s voice trails off as her office door snicks shut.

Jane pauses her filing, transported back in time to her mother’s kitchen, her child self scrubbing those hated copper-bottomed pans with steel wool until they gleamed. What she wouldn’t give for a meal home-cooked just for her! For her own kitchen to clean!

Her mother’s kitchen, closed to her since their estrangement. It seems a lifetime ago now, in a country now foreign.

###

Earworm by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“I swear, if you sing that one more time, I’ll push you out the hatch myself.”

“Aw lighten up, Schmitty,” Dirk laughed at his co-pilot. “I just can’t wait to get home!”

“You and me both,” the co-pilot muttered.

The swept low over the canyon, lining up for their annual supply drop to the Earth outpost. Next stop: Moon Base Nine, Home Sweet Home.

“This is the song that never ends
Yes, it goes on and on my friend…”

“That’s it, Dirk. Here’s your parachute…”

“Too late!” He dropped the payload and flew up and away from Copper Country.

###

Secrets by FloridaBorne

“Another basement, Dr. Williams?”

Dust flew around my hand on the oak railing.

“Your paper about copper mines in Michigan, and worldwide trade over 10,000 years ago, turned heads.”

At basement bottom, a coffin-shaped box was being carried out the door.

“What is this place?”

“The world can’t know humans vacillated between space and stone-age for over 1,000,000 years. You’re caretaker of this secret.”

I was in awe of a radio built 950,000 years ago when the door slammed.

I heard it lock.

Behind the door was a message: “You will not leave this place until you die.”

###

The Land of Bobbies! by Ritu Bhathal

Wherever you turned, they were there.

If you popped out for a bite to eat, guaranteed there would be at least four you would see in the establishment.

On your way to work, you were sure to be flanked by a couple.

Putting your rubbish out on collection day, there would be eyes on you.

Even in your home, you couldn’t escape. At least one family member was going to be one.

Still, at least you felt safe, if a little intimidated, by their presence.

That’s what you got for moving to Copper Country – The police were just everywhere!

###

Copper Country by Drake Scott

“Now listen to me Judith, you need to understand the situation here. It won’t be much longer until they’ll be able to pull one proton from a zinc atom and whamo! turn it into copper. The tech is there and its getting pushed through regulations as we speak.”

Judith’s heart sank as she thought about what that would mean for her family who’d owned the copper mine for the last two Earth centuries.

“But its not too late. Sell the mine before the market crashes and you can walk away a winner. The offer is good until Tuesday…Earth time.”

###

Ray, Arizona by Mr Macrum

Atop Teapot Mesa, a Great Spirit cast sad eyes over the mile deep mine below. He had witnessed mountains grow tall and rivers gouge deep. He had never seen creatures as destructive as these puny humans busy carving out the base of his home. Did they not understand they were only hastening their own destruction?

Great Spirit shrugged. He was but a witness tasked with remembering all that he saw and reporting back to Her. He was her eyes. It would be up to Her how to handle these ingrates and the overwhelming insults they heap onto her back.

###

Elemental Problem by D. Avery

“Hey Kid.”“Hey Pal. Got a copper?”

“Ya mean sheriff?”

“No, copper.”

“Ya mean like a penny?”

“No, ah, heck Pal, I may have ta cop out on this round-up. I don’t know nuthin’ about copper or copper country.”

“Gonna cop a plea of ignorance, Kid?”

“Yep. Anyway, the hosses’ve left some gems for me ta shovel. They’s all shut up in the barn what with all the snow.”

“That’ll test yer mettle.”

“Yeah, I’ve shoveled so much shit I should git a medal.”

“So whyn’t ya try shoveling some regarding the shiny orange metal?”

“We’ll see.”

“Cu later.”

###

January 2018: #TwitterFlash

By C. Jai Ferry

On December 30, the high temperature in my neck of the global woods was a whopping -21 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 Celsius). That didn’t take into account the wind chill, which even today, with our balmy 2 degrees (-16 Celsius), makes my toes curl up in icy protest just thinking about. Needless to say, I am not a fan of winter. Oh sure, a scene of giant, feathery snowflakes drifting down to blanket a cottage with a fire in the hearth and steamed up windows looks all nice and cozy from the outside, but anyone who has had to take a dog out to do his business in sub-zero temperatures knows that blanket of snow brings with it a chill that settles into your bones.

But, if we’re being honest, I must admit that I do like one aspect of snow-filled days: They give me the perfect opportunity to hunker down and write without any distractions. When the roads are covered with white fluff, no one expects me to run errands or meet them for lunch. During this time, I spend hours and hours trapped in my own little worlds without having to come up with an excuse about why I so rarely leave the house. Living an excuse-free life—even if only for a season—translates into my writing process, as the words flow on to the page, taking on a life of their own.

So why am I talking about beautiful but bitterly cold snow when this is our first Twitterflash post of 2018? Because social media is a lot like snow: It can be a cold, unforgiving environment despite all the crowds oohing and ahhing over how a handful of people have used social media to create a cozy and warm home in their neck of the woods. Many people who have much lower socialization needs cringe at the thought of using social media, especially when all the people “in the know” are telling them they must do this or that—activities so far beyond their wheelhouse that they immediately set up all sorts of roadblocks that prevent them from ever using social media.

Let’s get one roadblock out of the immediately. There is no right or wrong way to use social media. Just because one writer got a book deal or sold a million books or was crowned The Greatest Writer Ever by tweeting or posting on Facebook doesn’t mean that you will have the same results if you follow his “9-step foolproof plan to mastering social media.”

A writer friend likes to remind me that the Universe rewards those who speak to it, responding with exactly what you are asking for. I tend to think of social media, and especially Twitter, as a megaphone to the Universe. If you share stories and insights on potentially flaming content, you will likely attract flamers in epic proportion (flame is slang for sharing angry, critical, or disparaging comments online). If your tweets focus on bursts of microfiction related to today’s social injustices, you will probably still attract a flamer or two (they’re ubiquitous, unfortunately), but you will also attract followers interested in those injustices, who will read your tweets and, over time, build a relationship with you. You may never realize the power of your tweets for others, but powerful they will be—whether you’re writing about a fictionalized account of a refugee separated from her family, a story about surprising your child with a puppy, or a scene about herding cattle during a snowstorm.

The idea behind Twitterflash at the Carrot Ranch is to help writers find their voice on Twitter. I’m not going to tell you what to say or how to say it. Rather, I am going to help you explore Twitter’s tools, take them for a test run, then ask you to come back here at the end of the month and share your discoveries. How you use the monthly challenges is completely up to you, but if you want to take some risks, I will be there to support you as best I can.

Now, before we jump into this month’s challenge, I have to offer a few words of wisdom from my own less-than-successful experiences on Twitter. I’m trying not to overwhelm you, so just offering a few tidbits for now. If you have specific questions about anything, drop them in the comments on this post and I will do my best to find an answer for you.

  1. Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter’s power is in its public nature. People do not need your approval to follow you on Twitter (unless you set your account to private, which defeats the whole purpose and power). If you want to control who sees what you share, don’t use social media. Seriously. On any social media platform, even you put in place every security gatekeeper that exists, you still cannot stop your friends and followers from showing your content to others. Privacy does not exist in social media. Assume that everyone in the world will read what you post.
  2. Because anybody can (and will) follow you on Twitter, make sure you visit their Twitter page before you automatically follow them back. Many users think it’s an unwritten rule to follow those who follow you. Not so, although you do want to follow a variety of people. Some followers you will immediately recognize as not worth following (e.g., accounts that offer to “sell” you new followers). Others might not be as obvious. When you get a new follower, click on their profile and go explore. Read some of their tweets and look at what they retweet. Some accounts you will need to block (which is done from their profile page) right from the get-go. Trust me. You’ll know what I mean when you see them. Others, you might not see anything negative, but also nothing that makes you want to follow that person. But what if the person’s tweets are ho-hum, but they’re someone you think maybe you should follow (e.g., an acquisitions manager). That’s where lists come into play.
  3. Start using lists as soon as possible. Lists are Twitter’s way of organizing your followers so that you don’t go insane. They don’t explain it that way, but really, that’s what lists are for. According to Twitter: “A list is a curated group of Twitter accounts. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. Viewing a list timeline will show you a stream of Tweets from only the accounts on that list.” (Twitter’s information on setting up lists.) Note: List titles are public. So don’t do what I did and create a list entitled “Book scammers & spammers” because the people added to that list will not be happy. But you can create lists for writers, publishing industry, and new friends (which could mean new people you meet online or your secret code for “they seem nice, but let’s keep them at arm’s length for a while…just in case”).

 

Okay, feeling like you might have just been crushed by an avalanche? Before we wade any deeper into the Twitterverse, let’s grab our security blankets and cozy up to the fire in the hearth. It’s time for this month’s Twitterflash challenge.

January Challenge

Content rules on Twitter.

You can have all the sparkly emojis and flashing GIFs you want attached to your tweet, but if the content doesn’t live up to the hype, people will just scroll on by. So for this first challenge, focus on creating content.

Twitter users have a lightning-fast attention span. If the first few words in a post don’t grab users, they scroll to the next tweet in their feeds. Twitter users are also merciless when it comes to keeping their attention. You can have the most amazing first five words in a tweet, but if words six and seven are meh, time to scroll. When you are writing your Twitterflashes this month, try to create as many powerful word/phrase/sentence/idea combinations in your stories as possible. Subtlety can be powerful too, but if you choose this route, create your subtleties in layers rather than textual combinations (e.g., the kind of story that, the more the reader thinks about it, the more meaning they find in it).

The good news is that Twitter users are fairly forgiving when it comes to following grammar rules. Abbreviations are the norm, especially when you’re pushing that character limit. As long as the reader can understand the abbreviation, it’s all good. So don’t shy away from abbreviations and shortcuts; they will not impede your storytelling on Twitter. (Check out this resource for a comprehensive list of shortcuts used on Twitter.)

Don’t change your writing voice. Rather, push your limits.

Think of Twitterflash as an espresso version of your writing. You’ve got a month to practice and tinker. You can try a couple of different approaches with the same story or write several different stories. Engage your Twitter followers in the process. Ask them to recommend a title for your story or to choose between two options in the plot (remember the Choose Your Own Adventure stories?). And if your followers don’t want to engage, that’s okay too. Remember: Even if they don’t engage, someone is always reading your tweets.

Ok, ready to dive in?

January #Twitterflash: In a single tweet (which is 280 characters, or in the ballpark of 50 words), write a story about seeing coldness in a new light. It can be physical cold, psychological cold, emotional cold…wherever you want to go with it. Tweet your story (or stories), including the hashtag #Twitterflash. Tweet them all month long. Tweet the same story more than once. Tweet at different times during the day (or night). Notice anything different in your approach or the reception? If so, make a note of it and share with the group.

On the last Friday in January, we’ll ask you to come back to the ranch to share your favorite Twitterflashes. I’ll also ask you to share one Twitter account that you think other Rough Writers would enjoy and/or benefit from.

Drop your questions/comments/concerns in the comments below, but save your Twitterflashes until January 26, when we’ll gather around the hearth to share here at Carrot Ranch. C. Jai Ferry is a flash fiction freak, human trafficking warrior, and Master Ninja at novellaninjas.com, an online space promoting published short stories and novellas to readers. Her titles include Unraveled, a collection of microfiction and flash fiction stories, and “Skeleton Dance,” 2014 winner of the Vermillion Literary Project Short Story Contest, which was turned into a film and included in the 2016 Nebraska Noir collection. She tweets from @CJaiFerry

Carrot Ranch’s Twitterflash 2018 is a monthly challenge focused on expanding writers’ use of Twitter as a tool for writing. Throughout the year, writers will experiment with storytelling via tweets using the following areas of focus (in no particular order):

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

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

January 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

January 4 Flash Fiction Challenge by @Charli_MillsDraft horses busted through drifts of snow, pulling heavy rollers to pack lake effect accumulations into paths for wagons mounted on skis. Horses, known as hay-burners, passed their fuel in droppings that became part of the snow cement of winter travel in the Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan.

Easier to say, Copper Country.

So those draft beasts packing snow and adding road-apples to the mix all winter come to mind as I walk the dog in yet another lake effect squall. She’s an old short-hair pointer, and I bundle her up in in a fleece-lined snow-coat the color of hunter’s orange. I don’t want her to get run over by a snowmobile.  As snow blasts my face with what stings like flakes of lead glass, Miss Bobo decides to revive an old Copper Country tradition and poops in the middle of the road.

What can I do but laugh and draw off my mittens to fumble with the poop bag in my coat pocket, chasing after steaming clusters (she’s not one to stop and poop in one place)? I’m encased in perpetual snow, my own private globe. Already, 103 inches have accumulated (if you want to watch my snowfall from afar, Michigan Tech monitors it daily). She has nowhere else to go but in the driveway or road, the spaces we clear. Imagine those horses…chickens, cattle, goats and stray dogs, too.

A local told me a story about those draft horses and rollers — his great-granduncle was once a snow removal laborer. He said those horses dropped and packed so much processed hay that by the time spring melt arrived the roads were awash in melting horse poop. Winter hides yellow and brown snow beneath her renewable white blanket.

As we turn back toward the house on Roberts Street, snowmobiles scream past us, filling the air with burned gasoline. They, too, pack the snow. It compacts like clay, and our neighbors are out, raking their roofs with long-handled roof-rakes so it doesn’t cause a cave-in. Last year, a downtown building — a large historic brick structure — caved in from the weight of snow and ice.

Folks came to this snowy region for what they found beneath — copper.

Cornish miners with their pasties come in the 1840s. Mining lasted longer than frontier towns out west. In fact, Native Americans had mined native outcroppings of copper since 5000 BC. That places North America on the map during the Copper Age. Yet that’s not a well-known piece of history. But it attests to the amount of copper found in the Keweenaw. According to Michigan Tech, in 150 years, over 12 billion pounds of native copper was mined here.

Copper Country Mall is a small-town 1980s era sprawl of indoor retail shops, mostly out of business. Gogebic College, Sears and the Vet Center occupy the space. On January 19, I’m presenting The Hero’s Journey to my fellow veteran spouses and our vets. During a group discussion, one spouse mentioned that her husband likes to watch war movies because at least in the movie, “they took the hill.” In Vietnam, US forces often repeatedly took and lost hills. They represent battles that felt meaningless.

As a literary artist, my favorite form is the hero’s journey based on Joseph Campbell’s work in mythology. Every culture shares stories about the hero’s journey. It resonates with us because we are all heroes on a journey called life. That day in group, my mind jumped to veterans and the hero’s journey. I think combat veterans are called to their hero’s journey when they serve. What might be missing is the elixir. In order to come home, the hero must find the elixir — the meaning to why they took the hill, or perhaps acceptance of the lack of meaning.

This is what makes the hero’s journey so rich. It’s like copper — malleable.

After the presentation I’m serving cake and hosting the first of several book launches (because I like cake) for The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. Print books will be available by then. It’s an honor that the Vet Center is letting me use their facility, but I have found the Copper Country to be a welcoming community. I plan to read flash fiction (something I enjoyed doing in North Idaho) and I thought I’d see what the name of this place could inspire for stories.

And be sure to catch tomorrow’s post. It’s now 2018 and Carrot Ranch is determined to have a fulfilling year. That includes all of you! During the Rodeo, C. Jai Ferry led us all to the TwitterFrontier. She’ll be joining us the First Friday of every month with Twitter tips for literary artists and a month-long #TwitterFlash. You’ll tweet your responses, and all the Last Friday of the month you can share any in the comments. Check it out tomorrow! It will be fun and we’ll all get to learn more about Twitter.

January 4, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, historical, or on another planet. Go where the copper leads.

Respond by January 9, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published January 10). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

An Alternative Discovery by Charli Mills

Christopher Columbus informed the Queen. “Your Majesty, a great procession sails from where the earth ends.”

“Is it possible?” she asked Ferdinand. They gathered, soldiers honing flint-knapped spears, the royals at a safe distance, all praying to God.

Invaders clad in red metal came in the name of Gitchigumee. Flint spears shattered, no match for glimmering red weapons.

Many who survived that day in 1492 succumbed to foreign germs. North America wiped out most of Spain, enslaving her children to dig in the New Copper Country.

If only Christopher’s Queen had known to make weapons of the native metal.

###

 

A Wishing Star

A Wishing Star by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_Mills

No matter where we are in the world, we can look up at our night sky and wish upon a star. A wish might require action to come true, but without the wishing process, we might not know what action to take.

This week, writers turned to wishes, crafting stories destined for the stars.

The following is based on the December 28, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a wishing star.

“Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.”

***

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

The meteor shower hit the East coast just before midnight.
Many witnessed thousands of ‘shooting stars’, and as such thousands of wishes were made.
The nursery rhyme is based on the first star seen, shooting or not.
Against the darkest velvet of night, a child’s wish reaches out to the stars.
By the time it reached its destination, it was no more than a whisper, but it was heard.
The following night, the star shone more brightly than ever, a sign that the wish would be granted.
But as with all wishes, if you tell, they won’t come true.

###

Wishing, Wondering and Wandering: Morgan and Logan Debate the Imponderables by Geoff Le Pard

‘What you looking at, Morgan?’

‘The stars, Logan.’

‘Wishing stars?’

‘Nah. More wondering.’

‘Wandering?’

‘That too, but mostly wondering.’

‘What about?’

‘The human condition. My feet. Scallops.’

‘All together or separate?’

‘See, the human condition is a mystery, right? I know a lot about it and lots I don’t know. While I know all there is to know about my feet, unlike the scallops who’re unlikely to know my feet at all.’

‘True. And the stars made you think this?’

‘Not really, they just popped into my head.’

‘I’ve made a wish, Morgan.?’

‘Yes?’

‘I wish you’d talk sense.’

###

My Wishing Star by Kerry E.B. Black

Storms crowd the night sky, eager to take in the splendor of my wishing star. I imagine them with outstretched Sirius arms clutching pens and pads to collect her autograph, and she’d smile a cool and radiant dismissal. She has work this evening, as always. No time to cavort. She shines in the work, glorious minion of the heavens. She waves them away to peek upon her awaiting penitents. I stand among them, whispering my wishes as fervently as prayers. She collects them in shimmers and sigh and keeps them with ancestral wisdom until they are every one fulfilled.

###

Ephemeral by Jan Malique

She looked at the shooting star speed across the Milky Way. What a pretty, pretty thing! Clad in shimmering star-dust, with limbs of opalescent light and eyes of velvet darkness, a beauty fit to wear the crown. Ah, what ambition nestled within her proud starry heart.

Time to fall my pretty, pretty thing. The Faerie Queen decreed and the starry assembly obeyed. She fell burning from the heavens, bringing hope to many. The Earth waited for this gift, a wish made manifest. How dark the journey looked for this starry exile. Pretty, pretty thing! Hush, dry your tears.

###

When You Wish by Michael Fishman

“Whoa! You see that?”

“I did!”

Evan and Carol were laying side by side on the blanket. The dark sky above them flickered with lambent stars.

“Did you make a wish?” Evan asked.

“I did.”

“What was it?”

Carol huffed, “I’m not gonna tell you.”

“You don’t believe that, do you?”

“I believe it as much as I believe making wishes in the first place”

“Wanna know my wish?”

“You wanna risk it not coming true?”

Holding Carol’s hand, Evan rolled onto his side, leaned over and kissed her.

“That was my wish.”

She kissed him back.

“Mine, too.”

###

Wishing for Warmth by Heather Gonzolas

The fire had begun to die. The young newlyweds had not expected to be trapped. With no signal or electricity, that fire was the only thing keeping them alive. They had wished to be alone on their honeymoon, but they should have been careful what they wished for.

He went in search of wood as the snow began to fall again. When there was no wood to be found, he looked to the sky and could make out a single star. Like a child, he made a wish for warmth. That is when he saw the pile of wood.

###

Wishing Star by Michael

The old couple sat at their back fence looking out over the farm watching the last of the year’s sunset. It was a typical muggy New Year’s Eve, and they wanted to see in the new year watching the fireworks from across the town in the distance. Just then a star shot across the heavens.

“Gosh,” they gasped.

“Make a wish,” said the woman staring up at the stars.

“You think all this will last,” asked the man wistfully.

“No, but we have now, and that’s what I live for.”

“Good thinking,” he replied as their hands gripped tightly.

###

Shoveling Midnight Snow (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Wolves padded across the snowy field, mere shadows dappled by moonlight. Danni gripped the shovel and paused. As loudly as her own boots crunched the tight snow, the wolves passed in silence. Had she not turned to shovel the path to the barn she would have missed the pack. Before the last one merged with the cover of night, he stopped and cocked his head. A shooting star rolled across the sky like a snowball down a hill. Before Danni could make a wish both star and wolf vanished. Would her wish still count? Come home to me, Ike.

###

Wishing Star by Pete Fanning

Jimmy sat in his usual seat, working the trivia machine, trying to wrap his bourbon-soaked mind around the lifespans of supergiant stars–how they took a billion years to see.

Shooting stars. Dead beauty.

Between drinks, Jimmy felt a fleeting ache under his shirt pocket. A clink of ice in his glass, the stutter of his daughter’s giggle. The splash of Beam, quick blast of Ginger Ale. He wished again to see his wife’s sleepy eyes shining as she nursed the baby. A billion years ago…

The new drink arrived. The ache had passed.

Jimmy worked the trivia machine.

###

The Haunting by Colleen Chesebro

Althea had made a noble sacrifice, and now, as a ghost, she resented her decision. That night when she wished upon a star, she took her own life to save their business. Mike had inherited her retirement account and had paid off all their debts. There was money left over; now he had taken a lover.

Althea gazed at the writhing forms on what had once been her bed. Mike always did enjoy a bit of fun. What the heck? Althea slid her cold, lifeless hands over their naked bodies as she crawled between them. The haunting had begun!

###

Bringing Mum Home by Lisa Rey

Every night Susan would look up at a star in the sky, wish upon it that her mother would return from the dead. Her father had told her she was gone away forever. Susan heard a kid at school say her mother was gone away ‘forever’ meaning dead.

Her father Mark sat in the kitchen not known his nine-year-old daughter’s pain. One day, he’d have to tell her how her mother walked out of their home to go far away because she was in love with his best friend Mike. Now, he thought she was too young to know.

###

Innocence of Youth by Susan Sleggs

“Mama, I’ve been reading some of your flash fiction. Why are they all such downers?”

“Well, flash fiction by definition is a short story and it requires an arc with a problem and a resolution; something with an adrenalin rush to keep the reader’s interest.”

“But I want to read short happy stories; maybe about puppies. I’m going to wish for that on the next falling star I see.”

“That would be an admirable wish honey.” I turned away from my ten year old with tears forming, wishing she could stay that innocent for the rest of her life.

###

The Wish by Denise Aileen DeVries

When Mattie Brown’s mother said “if wishes were horses…,” Mattie started wishing on more than stars. Today she was in a field of dandelions when Jeb’s voice startled her. “Whatcha’ wishin’ for?”

“A dime to see Shirley Temple,” she mumbled. She hoped nobody would notice her in conversation with “one of those Thompsons.”

“I’ll have more than a dime after I sell these at the steamboat dock,” he said, indicating a burlap bag with his walnut-stained fingers. “I can give you one.”

Mattie jumped up, scattering dandelions. “I can earn it! I’ll help you sell them. Let’s go!”

###

Winter Realities by JulesPaige

Gina was small then, holding some grownups hand while
they stopped briefly to talk. Maybe they all had been saying
good-bye after some holiday visit. It was cold. While no one
else was looking – there it was – a flying wishing star. Later
Gina found out it was a meteor. And wishing on it hadn’t
really changed anything, at least not then.

Present time, years end; A clear night – a huge halo around
an almost full winter moon. Who could tell what the first
wishing star had been? It really didn’t matter – wishes only
come true if ‘you’ follow through.

###

Conversation on the Midnight Ferry-August 1965 by Bill Engleson

“It’s a wonder, eh!”

“What is?”

“Looking up to a glittering sky, a clear night, that one cloud there…see?”
“I do…”

“And how it’s shading the moon, and that star…do you know your stars?”

“Once…a few years back, I knew them pretty well. Our Cubmaster…drilled them into us.”

“You were lucky.”

“I suppose. He was a cookie salesman too…stars and cookies. Great times.”

“Now that’s real luck. Look, there it is again…a shooting star…is that what they call it?”

“Yeah…a beauty, that’s for sure…I wish…”

“What for?”

“Ah, man, I’ll be livin’ in the city. University. No stars, probably.”

###

Wishing Star by PipeTobacco

I am sitting outside in the backyard, smoking my pipe when I look into the night sky and see a “falling star.”

“A wishing star.” I mutter to myself quietly.

I take the pipe out of my mouth, and with my palm of my other hand, I rub across my face and smooth out the edges of my beard and mustache. A tear forms and brims out of my eye.

“Life did not used to be so complex.” I think to myself. “How have things gotten so stressful and anxiety filled?”

I knock out the ashes and go inside.

###

The Wish by Norah Colvin

The words replayed continuously as he sat on the step searching the sky for a wishing star: “When you wish upon a star …”

Inside, the adults’ voices grew louder and harsher. He covered his ears and sang through his tears.

A crash followed a thump, then all went quiet. He held his breath.

He crept to the door and peeked in. Mum, slumped on the floor, cradled Dad’s head in her lap. Blood was everywhere.

“Call triple zero.”

Huddled together they watched paramedics try to revive him.

“I didn’t mean …” each whispered to themselves, but weren’t convinced.

###

A Lonely Wish by Amber Prince

The darkness suffocated me; even the moon had abandoned me tonight. My eyes never adjusting, my nerves never settling, but I continued on. There was nothing to turn back to, but if I was to be honest, there was nothing to go forward to either. My body begged for rest, but I was afraid to listen. Stopping wasn’t an option, quitting meant giving up, giving up meant…

I watched the black sky, hoping for a sign, but not a single star granted me its presence tonight. It was as if they had all died as well. I wished anyway.

###

Wishes by Ritu Bhathal

We’ve all got our jobs, our charges to look out for.
I have 403 at the moment.
And for the most part, they aren’t really that demanding.
Wishing to win the lottery, to get that fast car, or a new house.
Wishes that are empty really. No one expects them to come true.
But those wishes, heartfelt pleas, they are the ones I know I have to get right.
The wishes that Daddy comes home for Christmas.
That Granny will pull through tonight, at least.
That the bully won’t get her today.
Being a Wishing Star is not easy…

###

Heavens Above by Juliet Nubel

“Let them stay healthy, happy and safe.”

She repeats this twice more then starts reciting the list of names.

It used to be a short list – ‘Mummy, Daddy and my sister.’

With the years it has stretched, gathering in a fiancé turned spouse, then children, then their children and their loves.

Her hands are clasped tightly as she looks at the lone star.

If you saw her you might think she were praying. But her god has no name, no face, no man-made place of worship.

She is speaking to the sky, her blue-edged blanket of the universe.

###

Hunters and Other Heroes by Alexander De

I don’t remember much of it, only
the nurse, he was a god with great big arms,
when they sucked the middle from my bones he
told me stories about Orion’s charms

saved gobs of my hair for my mom to keep
said I would grow up to be strong like him
left presents for me while I was asleep
sang funny songs when my heart beat grew dim

gave me a star for my fourth Christmas tree
did not know how much wishing there’d be
‘til it got broke when I turned twenty-three

still tryin’
to reach Orion

###

Nashville Dreams by D. Avery

People come here to where the stars burned bright.

Stirring embers of memories, sifting through the ash
They’re looking for Patsy, looking for Johnny Cash

Tourists ignore my singing, walk by my coin sprinkled case, go inside where it’s warm, go inside for ten-dollar drinks, where they’ll tip the band for playing lousy covers, tell them they sound real deal. Like they’d know.

They walk by they look right through me,
unseen space between the stars
Just another street bum, all I have is my guitar

Cold. It’ll be another sleepless night of shivering, of wishing underneath the stars.

###

It’s Too Fekkin’ Cold! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The granite was rough and hot under her bare feet. She squatted by the tidal pool, peering at the life teeming beneath her.

Kelp crowded in the center, tiny multicolored crabs parting its fronds with their dominant claw, blowing bubbles in irritation at being observed. Near the edge, barnacles glinted under the same sun that sizzled her shoulders and tightened her skin.

Soon they’d board the plane, back to Winter-socked home.

There! Behind that collection of miniature mussels! She gently grabbed a perfect star, stood and flipped him seawards, an exchange—a wish.

She smiled, knowing she’d be back.

###

Limits by MRMacum

“Wish I were, Wish I might……… Ah, screw it. This doesn’t work anymore.”

Crestfallen, Jesus stood on the Mount and stared up at the night sky. Moments passed as he wallowed in self pity. Off to his left, a brighter star than the rest seemed to come closer.

“Boy, I told you there were limits. “

“But Dad, how can I turn this planet around if you won’t cooperate?”

“Well son, I’ll tell ya. No water walking, leper healing parlor trick is going to upstage that damn Free Will clause I enacted ………… Time to pull the plug.”

###

Sequestered by FloridaBorne

“We have a proverb,” The farmer said. “A child looks to the starry skies and sees hope…”

“Whatever does that mean?” A man in strange green uniform asked.

“Allow me to finish,” The farmer scoffed. “…but the wise woman sees drought.”

“Where are your men?”

“We have one per 100 women, and those are sequestered away,” she said. “When men rule, destruction reigns.”

He spoke into a box on his shoulder and said. “Kill them all!”

“We don’t wish upon stars, we develop our minds” she chuckled. A starship and their crew turned to dust. “Prepare to be sequestered.”

###

Star-fall by Chelsea Owens

Someday, soonday my detachment from familiarity will send me soaring, burning, melting
Painting lightscape brushstrokes on empty air-void blackness:
A fantastic farewell sky-faint; a final, fiery death-stunt
For unknown, sight-blessed audience.

Up, from sparkling sprinkle-glittered hills,
Glowing backlit forms will gasp in distant, wondered silence –
My dying skydance, reflecting glints of living fellows;
Laughing, pointing limbs following my curtain-call bow.

Frosted pine-pinnacles will point, in vain,
Where once I sat, aglow, forever and a million years
Before the laughing, lasting exhalations mouth their frozen, “Wow;”
Their million dream-thoughts floating sky-high, tailing me forever.

###

Falling Up by D. Avery

Outside the window snow fell, snow flew, snow blew in all directions, silently, and it felt like in this room they were figures in a snow-globe. Her bedroom now her hospice room, the ventilator pulsed time towards the inevitable yet still uncertain end; none of them had been here before.

Finally the snow stopped, the clear and cold night sky sparkling, so many stars that to stare up at them was like being in a snow-globe, mesmerizing and oddly comforting. Through a lens of tears one figure thought she saw a falling star, falling up, so bright, so distant.

###

Flash Fiction by Rugby843

She gazed at the star every night, wishing, but this evening was different. She was desperate, all pleas for help were exhausted, this being her last hope.

Mary’s mother was dying. Mary had prayed but it seemed whatever she did would not help her mother.

The doctor visited every day, but there was no cure to save her. This night Mary was on her knees by the window, praying to the star. Suddenly it started sparkling much brighter than before. Mary rushed to her mother, finding she passed away a moment before.

Now “Mary’s mother’s star” never stops glowing.

###

Wishing Star by Irene Waters

Crushing, celebrating crowds filled the foreshore. Multicoloured glo-sticks made it seem as though finally, I’d found the end of the rainbow. I was sitting in it. Laughter rang out amidst the hum of chatter. It was awhile before countdown to New Year would begin and the fireworks would explode in the night sky.

“What’s up with you Gemma?”

“Nothing. Why?”

“You’re the only glum face here that’s why.” Peter stared at me but I turned my eyes heavenward searching the storm clouds that obliterated the stars.

“I want to make a New Years wish but my star isn’t there.”

###

Be Careful What You Wish For by Anurag Bakhshi

For 30 years, Donald prayed day and night, standing on one leg, not eating or drinking anything.

God finally relented and appeared in front of him. “What do you want?” HE asked Donald. “I want my very own wishing star,” Donald replied, dreaming of the thousands of wishes that the star would help fulfill.

“As you wish,” said God.

The next morning, Donald got up excitedly, and told the star, “Take me to Paris for breakfast.”

The star replied, “Wish you a very good morning Sir. Wish you a Merry Christmas. Wish you a very Happy New Year! Wish you…”

###

The Meteor Shower by Urszula Humienik

“Let’s go outside, I heard there’s supposed to be a meteor shower tonight. We can make some wishes.”

“Isn’t it wishing on falling stars?”

“Oh I don’t know. Meteor shower, falling stars, it’s all the same to me.”

“Look at that moon! Isn’t it huge?”

“I didn’t realize it was a full moon tonight. It’s beautiful.”

“Have you ever howled at the moon?”

“No. You?”

“No.”

“I dare you.”

“Me? Here? Now?”

“Yes.”

Anne faced the silver sphere hanging low over the property and let out a deep belly howl.

Something howled back.

The girls broke out in laughter.

###

Borrowed Light by Reena Saxena

George quit a high-paying sales job to become a writer. His friends and family were perplexed.

“What made you do that?”

“It is easy to set writing goals for the year. Vision boards are complex when achievement of goals is subject to the ecosystem ….”

“Everything depends on the ecosystem.”

“Sure, but markets are uncertain and sales targets infinitely complex.”

“What triggered that move?”

“I felt like a wishing star living on borrowed light, and dispensing it to fulfill others’ wishes. What if the source dries off? I will cease being a star.”

“What if your books don’t sell?”

###

Wishing Star by Charley

Two hours down Bonita Klondyke Road in Arizona summer heat, sun cooking through the ragtop of his classic Chrysler. Air conditioning long dead. The sign read, “Wishing Star Saloon, turn right.” He cranked the wheel. It was right there in sight.

* * *

“Dang!” said the woman behind the bar, “Windows down in this heat?”

“AC’s broke. Heinie.”

“Tuff.” She slid the bottle over.

“‘Wishing Star?’”

She motioned with her head. “Every wish granted.”

“Right.”

She shrugged.

He stepped over to the painting. “Wish I was someplace cooler.”

* * *

Colder than hell, snow blowing. Teeth chattering. A sign. “Klondyke River, Yukon Territory.”

###

A Wishing Star by Bobby Fairfield

She stepped out of the long white limousine onto the spotless red carpet. wearing her famous smile but little else she elegantly turned and striking a pose, first to the left and then to the right allowing her long elegant legs to peep out from the thigh-slit silk dress. Flashbulbs popped as they clamoured to take her photo, to be the first to get a risque shot of a slight wardrobe malfunction. Taking the arm of her tuxedo-clad companion the young star of many films entered the hall wishing for the ultimate accolade. To be given her first Oscar.

###

Broken Dreams by D. Avery

“Kid! Found ya. Ya weren’t in the bunkhouse.”

“Cain’tcha see I’m lyin’ out here in my sleepin’ bag enjoyin’ the stars? Jeez, Pal.”

“Really?”

“Really. An’ mebbe I’m even wishin’ on a star.”

“Kid, ya cain’t jest be wishin’ an’ dreamin’. Ya gotta git up an’do! I swear ya ain’t never gonna amount ta nuthin’, jest layin’ aroun’ wishin’ at stars. Git up Kid. Make yer dream happen!”

“I had done achieved it, Pal, till jest now.”

“What?”

“Yep. I had wished ta lay out here enjoyin’ the stars in peace an’ quiet. Now I’m wishin’ ya’d go away.”

###

December 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

Ice crystals lace silver threads of intricate patterns across glass so thin I feel surrounded by frozen cellophane. Any minute I expect ice-spiders to skitter across the glass, adding more crystalline webbing. All I hear is the distant hum of a neighbor’s snowblower, chewing mounds of white drifts, recreating front lawns into winter parking lots.

Then snow crunches and squeaks, alerting me to the return of the Huskies to the top of the deck. The door handle is so cold I fumble several attempts to open it. Two dogs with enviable fur puff through the door, their breath froze in the moment, driftless and white. Everything is white, and this porch is officially below zero (Fahrenheit).

We all rush into the welcoming warmth of the kitchen, quickly closing the seeping snow and leaving the unseen ice-spiders to spin their webs until it warms or the earth shatters.

Lady Lake Superior holds us captive like a Winter Queen in a Fairy Tale. On her blustery days, she forces the lake upon us and I imagine drowning in snow. On Christmas Eve we drove out to a friends and family party, a local Finnish family’s tradition for so long that it’s become generational. Our gracious hostess, an artist of local renown, served us food as if she had painted a canvas or raku-fired pottery.

Many people came and went that night as we lingered close to the table with magic abilities to refill platters of meatballs, spinach puff pastries and bowls of salmon spread. My own offering of smoky twice-baked potatoes dwindled and our hostess proclaimed them delicious. It boosted my spirits to receive a nod from one artist to another.

My art, words upon a page, lately feel frozen, ink stuck in the nib. Tis only a season and this too shall pass. Yet like the hunter, I can’t stop. Maybe the rabbit hunt results in a small mouse, but that sustains me until I snag the rabbit. It’s possible I might cross paths with an elk, and as a hunter, I know that will only happen if I go out on the trail frozen and snow-blown as it is.

That evening I met a delightful artist in her 80s. She lives at the end of the Keweenaw at Copper Harbor. We spoke about mentors and how every artist needs one. She told me about her aunt who was trained back east and highly regarded. She was plucky. At age 15 she rode a bus to apply for a copy-writer job in downtown Chicago, lying about her age. She told me many stories that night, still feeling the tug of writing after decades of painting, and concluded, “Artists are weird.”

I laughed. I think the drive to create also drives us to take risks and experiment. Recently the New York Times published an article, “Why Trying New Things  is So Hard to Do.” If artists are weird, then it’s because we go against the genetic code and try new things. As you can see, week after week, literary artists at Carrot Ranch can try to write one thing in a new way.

Flash fiction is an exploratory tool. Maybe it makes us weird, but it’s a response to the passion to create and tell stories.

After a jolly Christmas Eve, we left while Lady Lake Superior thrust her might upon the land. Have you ever been in a torrential downpour? Snowflakes pummeled existing drifts like pouring rain. To stand in pouring snow was awe-inspiring; to drive in it was terrifying. It fell so fast it covered all hints of the road and made looking out the windshield like staring into strobe lights. All I could see out of the corner of the windshield was the faintest hint of deeper piles to indicate the edge of the road.

Once back at the house in Hancock, I asked my kids how they navigate in such conditions. They both responded that you learn not to look forward but to the side to find the road’s edge. I had it right but found it frightening to drive snow-blind. Perhaps that is what it’s like to write — we navigate the page blind to all but one edge we follow.

If the stars ever return to the sky, when Lady Lake decides to pull back from dominating the terrain, I know I have one up there — my wishing star. Even covered, I know it guides me. And I think of this star on the cusp of one year to the next because I believe in activating my wish. You might call it a dream, but it’s not a goal — goals are what you set to attain your dream.

Pretend ice-spiders exist for a moment. Pretend Lady Lake is real and in a giving mood. She parts the veil of gray clouds to let the electric particles dance in sheets of apple-green and orchid-purple. The sky displays a light show and stars burn like diamonds on black velvet. She momentarily resets the night sky until one star, your star, shines brightest. She grants you a wish:

“Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.”

Don’t think, don’t blink, write it down now!

This wish holds meaning for you. Perhaps it’s obvious. Maybe you have to ponder its symbology. It’s a wish made when you thought anything possible. Now I want you to think about your calling as a writer, a literary artist, an educator, a philosopher, a traveler, a missionary. Pick or add what resonates with you. If you could call yourself anything, what would that be?

You now hold two hints to your vision.

Did you know that visioning is a process? It’s a business process and entails more than wishing upon stars. It sets a northern star in the sky over an organization to lead the way. Goals are like arrows aimed at this star. At times when you are not sure what is next for you, realign to your star, your vision. Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, I trained with Ari Weinzweig and his team from Zing Train. From him, I learned how to train trainers, give great service and include visioning as part of planning.

“Begin with the end in mind,” Ari advises (you can read more in his book, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building Great Business).

If you set goals, to what end? How will you know what success looks like? You probably already do this, but like your wish, it feels private and fanciful. But Ari calls visioning “positive futuring.” It’s a way to innovate and inspire the action you take. Zing Train is a division of Zingerman’s Deli (yes, a small college town deli cultivates business leaders). In 2007, NYT called them “The corner deli that dared to break out of the neighborhood.” And I’ve reworked the training I received and used in my own workplace to encourage writers to do something with that wish: vision.

Three years ago in the December 24, 2014 prompt I shared the following peek at my own vision:

Recalculations help redefine goals. Why set goals? Because if you have dreams, goals become a way to navigate to them. Your vision is like the north star, guiding you along the way. My vision is big and includes much more than successfully publishing novels. It includes creating literary spaces both physically and digitally–places to learn grow, create and recalculate. Collaboration is part of the vision.

Carrot Ranch fosters a literary space to practice craft, communicate ideas and read stimulating writing. Rough Writers are regulars or founding contributors, and Friends are our readers and commenters. We have many friends who pop in once in a while when inspired and others who faithfully read. Together we create a community that honors what literature is about–progressing the imagination to describe, define or experience life. Literature thrives in an open environment.

Join the dream. An open invitation to the Congress of Rough Writers & Friends:

  • Help develop a Carrot Ranch Anthology (expanded shorts based on flash fiction, for example). It can be a fun way to explore collaboration and indie avenues from crowd-sourcing to publishing.
  • Help develop a Christmas project for next year (what trouble can we write Rudolph into with his visits around the globe).
  • Research a possible text or workshop based on how flash fiction can build skills and that college classes or writing groups can use.

Three years ago, I had no idea that my husband’s behavior was sign of cognitive demise, that my best friend had incurable cancer or that we’d ever leave Elmira Pond. I was expressing to the early writers at the Ranch my wish to do more than write my books. I wanted a literary community, writer collaboration, the opportunity to explore independent publishing, a fun event at the Ranch, and a way to teach flash fiction as a skill-building tool.

Here’s where I get goosebumps. Despite unexpected circumstances, my vision stayed constant. Carrot Ranch thrives, my books have progressed, we have our first anthology of flash fiction in Kindle, I know tons more about independent publishing and it’s altered my goals, Rudolph morphed into a Rodeo, and I now teach Wrangling Words as a community outreach course and will debut TUFF workshop in February. Retreats on Elmira Pond took me to bigger waters where I dream of one on Isle Royale and another on a cruise to New Zealand.

I’m dreaming big! Are you? Let it all out — in a journal, in an email to someone or no one, in a story, in a conversation. Dream out loud. Wish. And craft a vision for your northern star.

Like flash fiction, visioning has magical results; but also like flash fiction there’s science behind focusing an intention and writing down goals. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California found that you become 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis (“The Power of Writing Down Dreams and Goals” by Mary Morrissey).

As the year turns, set your goals pointing to a bright and shiny vision. Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

December 28, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a wishing star. It can be central to the story or used in a different way. You can have a character interact or not. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 2, 2018 to be included in the compilation (published January 3). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Shoveling Midnight Snow (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Wolves padded across the snowy field, mere shadows dappled by moonlight. Danni gripped the shovel and paused. As loudly as her own boots crunched the tight snow, the wolves passed in silence. Had she not turned to shovel the path to the barn she would have missed the pack. Before the last one merged with the cover of night, he stopped and cocked his head. A shooting star rolled across the sky like a snowball down a hill. Before Danni could make a wish both star and wolf vanished. Would her wish still count? Come home to me, Ike.

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