Carrot Ranch Communications

Home » Posts tagged 'flash fiction'

Tag Archives: flash fiction

February 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

february-16There’s a juniper tree on the slope of scree between my view outside the library window and the cliffs of Zion Canyon. The juniper is the size of a person, and each time I glance out I think someone is there, watching me. I’m torn between my inside world of words and my outside world of nature. A person on the periphery of both is startling. As if this Juniper Tree Watcher can see through to me.

I’m not paranoid. I use aluminum foil for BBQing, not blocking nefarious satellite spying. Honestly, I don’t feel watched in that sense. I don’t feel the need to wear hats in public to hide my face from Big Brother cameras or apply duct tape to the video cam on my lap top. Seriously, if anyone is watching me as I write, they have weird clips of me contorting my expression in frustrated pain when internet feeds are slow, deep breathing, arm/shoulders/neck exercising, or drooling when in a daze to flow thoughts from the head to tapping fingers.

The worst Big Brother can nail me for is one-handed keyboarding and scratching my nose (it was just a scratch).

I’ve long known the NSA is watching my email and blogs and bank accounts. The NSA alerts come from Idaho neighbors who’d come over for coffee and the latest conspiracies. I don’t doubt the government is watching, but doing something with that data is beyond their abilities. Try getting VA care. They have tons of data. They lack resources.

Once, when I was 12, a Native American elder warned me about water babies and watchers. He described a place where the Washo knew the watchers to be. It was a spot I avoided because my horse snorted every time I rode past this low bit of land along a creek. My friend said my horse recognized the watchers. I began to think about other places I felt watched, yet another correlation emerged: history.

Feeling watched became a clue for me to look for historic or even pre-historic evidence of habitation. I got so good at it that I recorded 11 archeological sites around the town where I grew up, including the spot I had been warned about. Of course I learned to identify features and clues, but that sense I feel, like a hunch, also feels like being watched.

The top of Dalton Wash felt like a hunch the first time we crested the mesa. It didn’t take long before I found chippings and tools, indicative of an encampment. Subsequent times I’ve been back, I’ve brought loose tobacco to share, a gift to the ancients my Native friends taught me. The first time I brought tobacco, I had the hair on the back of my neck stand up at a certain point. I felt I should not go past and I left my gift there on the wind.

I’ve been asking around, to fill in the gap between knowing this place was once inhabited and wanting discover their story. Some of the rock shops had said the Shoshone and Paiute lived and hunted here. It didn’t feel like my watcher, though. Then I discovered a small warning to hikers on the Zion side of the mesa above Dalton Wash — leave rocks, petrified wood and artifacts behind for others to enjoy; do not climb or disturb the rock dwellings.

Rock dwellings would mean Pueblo or even the mysterious Anasazi. I began asking outfitters and all were reluctant to say anything more than the park doesn’t want people to know in order to protect the ruins. In a round about way they confirmed the existence of ancient ruins in the vicinity where I felt watched and compelled to leave tobacco.

Whatever the feeling is, it taps into my imagination. Of course, a logical explanation would be my mind attempting to fill in the gaps it doesn’t know. I could agree with that. When I was younger I thought an archaeological career would be the greatest ever. I had always wanted to write historical novels and I saw the possibility of being an archaeologist/historical fiction novelist. It was beyond what I could do at the time, and college was not part of my family dynamic. By the time I got to college, I was a mother of three. Practicality dictated a teaching profession, but history and creative writing called my name. Creative writing called the loudest.

When I started writing Miracle of Ducks, Danni came to me as Dr. Danni Gordon, an historical archaeologist. She disdains dogs until her husband Ike abruptly decides to serve a private military company in Iraq. She has to overcome her dislike of dogs and Ike’s best friend to hold her life together in Ike’s absence. She ends up finding a friendship and a pup, and eventually she even finds her community after believing she never needed to be part of one.

The friend, Michael Robineaux, is the perfect foil for Danni’s career — he’s Ojibewe. He frequently challenges both her profession and disbelief in the supernatural. While the plot doesn’t get too “far out there” there is a thread of supernatural regarding the pup, Bubbie. Most of it is easily explained away like my sense of feeling watched by those who’ve gone before, but there’s several incidents that are left to the reader to decide.

The community element was something I originally set up to contrast Ike’s commitment to duty and Danni’s need for solitude. Community is a dynamic force, and complex. Miracle of Ducks drills down through the layers until Danni can finally see her own placement and come to understand why Ike would feel the need to put himself in harm’s way.

Last week I had a huge breakthrough in revising. I’ve mentioned before that I’m changing the setting from northern Wisconsin to north Idaho. One chunk of story that I wasn’t sure how to transfer involves Bubbie getting lost on Madeline Island. There is no such place in north Idaho, although several peninsulas on Lake Pend Oreille might work. Last week, I responded to the prompt and was thinking about Danni’s angst over her missing pup. In my original scene, Danni and Michael spend days searching for Bubbie, following up on sightings including a farmer who finds the pup in his hen-house.

Without thinking, I wrote Bubbie was lost on the Pack River and a group of rednecks shot at him for sport. Suddenly, the transfer was complete in my imagination. I could see Bubbie getting lost on the Pack (many dogs do each year) and the dangers became real and unfolded. I’m biting at the bit to get this scene rewritten now, thanks to the insight from that flash. Sometimes, my own responses to the prompt are like a flash light showing the path in the darkness!

I hope to find that ruin above Dalton Wash before we leave Mars. We don’t know where we are going next, or how we are going to move our RV, but I hope we get a flash of insight before the snowbird season ends, early April. Like a good story, I know something is up on Dalton Wash. It interesting to note, it’s not the only Anasazi ruin in the area.

The other is beyond the slope where the Juniper Tree Watcher stands.

February 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a watcher. It can be a sentinel like the Watchman formation that overlooks Zion Canyon, or a Big Brother conspiracy theory. How can you use a watcher to set a tone or present a twist?

Respond by February 21, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published February 22). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Falling Shadows (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

The Beehive was where granite met duff and towering larch. Hikers said they saw a dog like Bubbie run up the trail. She swore she saw dog-prints by the spring. Nothing. No Bubbie. Just a warm breeze through the pines.

She felt…watched.

Looking up, high on the granite mound considered sacred to the Salish, and called the Beehive for its shape, Danni could see the shadow of a dog. How did Bubbie get up there? She’d need a rope to ascend.

Her breath left her as the shadow fell. Before impact, it spread wings and an eagle flew away.

###

February 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

february-9Mud is murky. It gets a bad wrap as dirty — it’s the stuff that clings to soles, tracking across clean surfaces. Dogs are notorious for muddy paws and children are often chided for playing in it. Politicians perfect the art of slinging it. Yet, there’s an allure to mud. It’s become the stuff to haunt me, fearing it’s slickness to slide a full-sized truck geared down into 4-low slowly over the rim of a snaking canyon road. So focused has my mind been on mud, I began to see it had lessons for me.

First, I have to admit I ventured up the mesas too soon. The sun came out after overcast and rainy days, after snow on the mesas and flash floods in the canyons. The sky spread out like a blue tablecloth inviting me to picnic beneath the warm sun. We waited a week. The Hub says, “It’ll be okay.” The dirt road that winds up Dalton Wash certainly looked dry when we turned up it.

“See, it’s dry,” says the Hub.

I watched the brush, the boulders, the small crevice of a creek. “Look! Deer.” Two mulie does with yearlings trot along side the truck like an escort welcoming us back to the mesas.

“See, it’s dry,” says the Hub.

Spindly apple trees stand like dead sticks in fields of mud on the first mesa level. It appears dry…on the surface. “I don’t know,” I say.

The road turns sharply right before climbing several thousand feet through a boulder-strewn canyon — the deeper crevice of Dalton Wash, cutting through layers of time. “It’s fine,” says the Hub.

I suck air hard and grab the steel frame between my lowered window and open wing.The canyon shrouded in shadow, the road cut deep with ruts begins to twist and rise. “Four-wheel drive!” I shout this like making the sign of the cross in reaction to danger. Salvation of trucks, entering unknown terrain. Holy 4WD.

“We don’t need it,” says the Hub. The truck lugs and if it stops we’ll spin tires; if we spin tires we might get stuck of slide off the road. Off the road to the left is gnarly debris, the scree of mesas. Off the road to the right is a rocky shelf, a wall of layered clay.

We need it. The Hub stops when the road flattens before a churning river of mud. Each current carved by a truck before us. That’s hopeful; Other Trucks have made it. He steps out into the road/mud-river and turns the hubs of each front wheel.

NOTE: Hubs engage or disengage the front wheel axles, thus engaging the hubs is to put both axles to work for climbing mountains or navigating spring mud. I have one Hub as in Husband and two manual locking hubs on my truck which requires the Hub to get out and turn. Although I live in Utah, I do not practice polygamy. One Hub is enough.

Hubs engage and Hub settles behind the wheel, we lurch forward and take on the incline the same time a truck above descends. There’s not enough room to pass and the descending truck can’t stop. Can’t. Stop. We call dibs on the wall and the other driver slides between us and the drop off to the canyon bottom below.

“Are we stuck?” I ask when my breath returns. The other truck slides to a stop behind us.

“We’re fine,” says the Hub and indeed we begin to churn mud like brown butter beneath the wheels and bit by bit we edge forward. Until the rock. It stops us and we slide back to where we went off the road.

“You folks stuck?” asks the driver of the other truck. He greets the Hub with a handshake and shovel.

“Just a rock,” says the Hub who proceeds to pick up a rock big enough to stop a truck. Like a shot put he heaves it over the edge. The other driver shovels a patch and we gun it so hard we fish tail out of the rut and up the road. We cant’s stop and the driver understands we aren’t being rude to stop and says thanks. We are entering the steepest grade and the mud actually lessens, but another truck is facing down at us. The driver is slow to understand he needs to hit reverse and hit it fast. We can’t stop or else we’ll slide backwards and off the road, into Dalton Wash.

The nose of our truck is inches from the nose of his and we drive this way the last stretch and then we pass waving, and telling them “Good Luck!” For a while, I’m happy to be in the sun walking through the litter of petrified wood, cherry-picking chunks of jasper. A wet winter has revealed previously buried treasure. By foot I make it to the edge of the Zion Wilderness and I pass through the gate. There’s something I want to find…

…Not today. The Hub catches up with me, the dog dodging between us on shaky legs, howling after rabbits like a banshee. We have to leave before the sun sets.

The sun glows like a distant apocalypse on the far horizon of another mesa. We don’t want to go down in the dark, yet we can’t see with the last rays of sun burning away our sight. We sit at the top of the mesa until the bright orb dips and we go down in dusk.

Sliding in mud.

There’s no stopping the truck. The Hub turns into each skid as the back end of the truck whips around. The back end slides right, he turns left. The back end slides left, he turns right. All I can do is focus on my breath. I think “breathe in” as I breathe out. Halfway down the mesa I realize I’ve focused the wrong words to each inhale and exhale. I calm the rising panic with the thought, it doesn’t matter; just breathe.

We get to the bottom and the Hub says, “See, it was fine.”

What I have learned…

Mud is still. It’s motion that causes the friction. Steady and slow is best

Mud is murky. It teaches me I don’t have to see to get through. It’s okay not to know all the details.

Mud is sticky. Persistence is the lesson here — stick-to-it-ness. Stick like mud to what needs doing.

Mud is mild. As scared as it might make me to drive on it, mud is not a torrent.

Mud has benefits. It has minerals, water and reflections of sky above. It calls me to look for what’s good.

My take away as a writer, is that writing is often messy and murky. It can be like mud. Sometimes, I think I’m flinging mud at the blank page, looking for what sticks. And revising feels like sliding down a mesa, and I feel uncertain how to control the weight of my words upon the flow. No one teaches you how to navigate mud and when it comes to the process no one can teach you to write your stories in your voice. Certainly we can learn to drive, and we can learn the craft of writing, but mud is the original material.

If you haven’t yet read, Carrot Ranch has launched a new guest series that gets muddy, exploring the idea Raw Literature. It’s meant to be an ongoing conversation from different perspectives, and a look at the lives of writers behind the screen. These are the essays so far, and I hope you take time to read, ponder and even submit an essay of your own:

With all that seems to be unfolding in the world, it can feel muddy. The challenge is to find something worthwhile — a piece of land worth preserving; a civic duty worth taking on; a cause you can contribute to; a way to bring art to the artless. Certainly we can create from the clay we are given.

February 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rainbow in a puddle. Is it a silver lining of sorts or a false reflection? Think about what it might mean or convey. Simple science? Hope? Or the doom of humankind? Create action or character reflection. Go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by February 14, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published February 15). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Faith (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“A rainbow in a puddle. We’ll have good luck in our search today,” Michael said.

All Danni could see was a biohazard in mud. She climbed into Michael’s truck and they left to follow leads on Bubbie, missing along the Pack River for a week.

“Did you see it?”

Michael was as bad as Ike, Danni thought. Signs, wonders, miracles. “Yes I saw the oil slick.”

“Ever the scientist. Today, have faith.”

Their first encounter with campers reminded Danni why she had none. The rednecks with AR-15s claimed they peppered a dog fitting Bubbie’s description. For fun, they said.

###

February 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

february-2Hills old as dirt. Rocks ancient as time. Mesas drawn from memories of dinosaurs. It’s old around here. Solid as a rock.

And yet…

Hillsides mess with our sense of time and solidity. Geologically speaking, the wrinkled hills of debris at the foot of mesas and canyons in Zion National Park are newborns. Water carves rivulets into canyons so deep and serpentine that many of these winding features miles long went unnoticed by surveyors for years. If you believe the canyons rock-solid, I have some alternative facts for you. But before we get to fiction, let examine a few facts from science:

  • Zion’s geological features are indeed old: 250 million years old.
  • The sandstone features with cliffs over 3/4 of a mile high were once sand dunes. Sand dunes!
  • Water shapes the area’s stunning geology, including hidden canyons and the winding Virgin River.
  • Water is also trapped in sandstone, forming a weeping feature that takes water 1,000 years to emerge.
  • The park’s 229 square miles includes wide mesas, narrow sandstone canyons, seeps, springs and waterfalls.

The Zion features are not alive with music; instead they pulse with mud-pushed rocks, reshaping debris heaps. The process accelerates any time water joins the mix. Mud becomes a powerful sludge, and sometimes entire hillsides calve like a glacier. Other times a trickle of rocks tumble across trails and roads.

And some times there’s a rock big and brown in the middle of the road.

Geology reminds me that life is not static. We never have the same day. We never truly have an ideal image of ourselves in the mirror. We never fix the meatloaf exactly the same way as last year. Even the institutions we believe unshakeable are not the same from year to year. Everything shifts and sheds like Zion rubble.

Mostly the process equates to the movement of sand. It’s over the years we notice the ravages of grain — the days’ activities are noticeably different; the face in the mirror has aged; meatloaf had a makeover; governments erode. Sometimes, though, the rock crashes down in an instant and we are shaken by the change. We prefer the illusion displaced sand gives us. Sand seems easier to sweep away. And we do. But that rock — that rock in the road cannot be ignored. It calls us to change or be changed.

Rocks always take us by surprise. We know they exist in the sludge of life, but we always believe we can dodge the big ones. We do what we can to avoid the dangerous slopes where we know rocks lurk. One might acknowledge vulnerability. How often I’ve heard many people say, “I know, I know, we’re all just one paycheck away from being homeless.” But that’s just a fear many use to stay in an unsatisfactory job, town or relationship. We settle and take our chances with the sand, avoiding rocks.

When it does happen to someone — that rock of homelessness — we shore up our own crumbling edges with notions that the person struck by the rock of unexpected change must have done something. “That’s right, they asked for it. They were digging where they shouldn’t have dug.” People say those things to justify walking past a panhandler on the street. They justify not giving money because it would be spent on drugs or drink, without thinking to buy a meal or a blanket. They justify dehumanizing the homeless.

Let me introduce you to a few faces besides mine. There’s the divorced woman whose husband hid the assets and at 62 she has no employability. There’s the man and his wife and their two sons who can’t come up with first, last and deposit on a rental so they camp while raising the money that never seems to be enough. There’s the woman kicked out of a motel room after the landlord beat her. He. Beat. Her. She lost her room and now sleeps in a tent a church gave her. There’s the veterans in their trucks, belongings piled in the passenger seat and a bed in the back beneath a camper shell.

And the boy with the big grin blowing out seven candles on two cupcakes for his birthday. He’s in his third shelter, or transitional motel room. The rock that hit his parents was an unrenewed lease. The apartment complex preferred adults to seven-year-old boys with no where else to go. Once you have no where else to go, the complex web of family homelessness awaits like Shelob’s lair. More rocks dislodge — most shelters separate men from women and children; shelters have rigid rules that interfere with jobs; some shelters have a lottery system. There’s long-term motels with their own set of dangers and frustrations.

This boy’s mama dreamed of a kitchen. She dreamed of cooking. I know, Sweet One, I know. I miss my kitchen most. I miss everything that a woman creates in a kitchen —  meals and memories. Sweet One is a daughter to me. I’ve known her for nine years, ever since she was a teen working where I worked. I respect her privacy, but I want you to know this is a good woman, a good mama. She and her family got hit hard by one rock after another and they do not have the normal familial safety net. Adult orphans.

That can be hardest, which is why I asked her if the Hub and I could be Nana and Papa to her boy, Our Boy.

After six months, Our Boy, his Dad and Sweet One got an apartment. Our Boy has been doing well in school, although he had some scary days when he was taking public transportation to school, arrived late and got locked out. A seven-year-old alone in the city! Sweet One nearly lost her mind over that one and the school worked with her to make Our Boy safer in his transitions. Think about the dedication of these working parents to get their son to school every day. Together we believe in him going to college.

Carrot Ranch is hosting a Welcome Home J-Family house-warming for Sweet One and her family. Between now and February 28, there will be a Wish List on Amazon for the family. When families become homeless, they often lose most their possessions. I’ve heard people say, “It’s good to purge.” But unless you’ve had to get rid of your personal and household belongings, you couldn’t know the sorrow. Or the frustration when you want to cook after getting re-homed and are missing what’s needed.

At first Sweet One was modest and asked for three items: microwave, muffin pan and a crock-pot. After some nudging she got into the spirit of dreaming! She and Our Boy dreamed of waffles, zucchini zoodles and omelettes shaped like hearts. Then she thought out how to set up her kitchen, and I added cookbooks. Could I ask you to share this house-warming far and wide? If you can, and are moved to help one who got hit by the homelessness rock, consider buying her an item on her list. Her son is seven if you want to send him books, too. Let’s give them a landslide of a house-warming!

It was hard for me to think about my character’s homeless event this past summer even though I knew I wanted to hit Danni with that rock. I had already written a scene where she is unable to access Ike’s account right after he leaves for Iraq. Often these banking issues arise and when the spouse is deployed, they can be tricky to sort out. Using my own experiences and understanding of how easy it was for banks to foreclose on military families, that becomes Danni’s event.

Seeing what is happening in our government seems like a catastrophic event in the US, but some of us had earlier hits to know the whole thing had become unstable for those not billionaires many years before the orange rock hit DC. Although why those hardest hit would elect a demolition man to office seems counter-productive. Maybe they just wanted to see a rock-slide hit everybody else, too.

February 2, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock in the road. It can be physical, adding to a plot twist, or it can be metaphorical for a barrier or hardship. Go where you find the rock.

Respond by February 7, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published February 8). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Midnight Rock (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Michael knelt at the bumper, shining his flashlight. “Hell of rock you hit, Danni.”

“It was an easy target, squatting there in the middle of the road like a legless grizzly.”

Michael shined the powerful light up the canyon wall. “Can’t see anything else unstable.”

“A rock just for me.” She slumped her head on the hood. “Ike loved this truck.”

“He still does.”

“Yeah, Ike’s in some hell-hole, pining for his truck!”

“He’s enduring because of what he has back home, Danni. You, the truck, the dogs.”

“Too bad he won’t have a home to come home to.”

###

Women Create

Women Create by the Rough Writers & Friends at Carrot Ranch @Charli_MIllsWhat is the mystique of a woman if not her ability to create? A home. A family. Give her an apple, she’ll make you a pie; yarn and she’ll knit you a hat. Give her a Sharpie and she’ll make signs and march on Washington, DC to express her heart, mind and voice.

A women’s role is whatever she creates it to be. Yet she’s often faced with standards or expectations she didn’t create. Some women crave the safety of traditional roles, and others won’t stop creating new ways until the glass ceiling rains shards. Writers this week explored this vast territory of women and what, how or why they create.

The following is based on the January 26, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme, “women create.”

***

Stirring False Creation (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Joseph mumbled, “Sorry, Nancy Jane. I wanted to borrow a suit from Irish Hughes.”

“He borrowed my whiskey, too.” Hughes shot Joseph a dark scowl. Cobb unbundled a fiddle, leveling the bow at Hughes. “He’ll return it.”

“Put that away. This is a burial, if you men please,” she said.

“I’ll play for your child. I’m no preacher, no devil either.” A soft, mournful strain rose from the strings.

Nancy Jane had never heard the like in her life. It stirred creation in her womb, as if the notes could resurrect her son. But men have no such power.

###

Creation Comedy, Starring Trump, Bill Gates and Freud by Anne Goodwin

In the beginning, says God, was the Word …
In the beginning, says Bill, was Microsoft.
Ahem, Wordperfect was created long before your Word.
In the beginning, says Donald, is and was the phallus, source of power and pride. And who needs words when 140 characters can express the deepest truths.
Or lies, says Meryl (the overrated actress), and the women in their pussy-hats raise a defiant cheer. Besides, the Creator must be female; it’s She who bears the child.
As a penis substitute, says Sigmund. Born of envy.
Yours or ours? says Anna, as she confiscates his pipe.

###

Women Create by Melissa G.

Change is a constant. The action of change is something that’s always enabled personal growth and eventual peace. One mom’s journey shows how two babies inspired fierce feminism.

She read the test, it was indeed positive. She was pregnant. She was both shocked and amazed. We create babies.

Baby number one was here for six months. Baby number two would arrive in another nine months. We create unplanned babies.

Baby one and baby two are amazing. Mom is inspired to truly make this world a place where girls can do anything their little heart’s desire. We create strong children.

###

Prize Pies by Norah Colvin

“Life’s not on a plate. It’s what you create.”

Two little girls in their Sunday best

Snuck outside when they should have been at rest;

Splashed in the puddles, laughed in the rain,

Shared mud pies and murky champagne.

Two young girls with flour in their hair

Climbed on the bench from the back of a chair;

Opened up the cupboards, emptied out the shelves,

Less in the bowl and more on themselves.

Two young women watching TV

Decide master chefs are what they will be;

Enter the contest, invent new pies,

Wow the judges and win the prize.

###

Monday by C. Jai Ferry

I tried to create a feel-good dinner
but burned the onions and rice
(the carrots were still edible).
I tried to create harmony
but people-pleasing? Not my forte.
I gave up pretty quickly.
I tried to create smiles
By telling stories about my muddy dog
who has more Facebook friends than I.
I tried to create awareness
but my friends asked why my wall is so depressing.
It’s not me, I said; it’s the world.
I tried to create hope
but was trolled on Twitter.
Hope’s so trite these days.
I tried and tried.
I will create again.
Tomorrow.

###

And On The Seventh Day…by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum, are you a feminist?’

Mary titled her head. ‘Sure. Not the burning bra sort.’

Penny pulled a face. ‘Eww. You didn’t?’

‘No but your grandma might have.’ Mary shook her head. ‘We made posters once, and hats. Your grandma loved making things.’

‘What was the protest?’

‘Nuclear weapons. Seems a long time ago. I was ten. Grandpa stopped me going but grandma went. She cooked for the campers. At her happiest doing that. Creating.’

Paul looked up. ‘She was pretty good at creating a fuss too. A pacifist but never passive.’

‘Can I get a pussy hat, then?’

###

What Women Create by Florida Borne

Proudly I raised my flag, “Feminists unite.”

A matronly woman smiled, walking over to greet me. “What did the women of Egypt in the 1950’s, Iran in the 1970’s and the USA in the 1940’s have in common?”

“They wanted equal rights?”

“They had more rights than at any other moment in their history. Those rights were taken away overnight,” she said. “Remember Mileva Marić?”

“Who?”

“Einstein’s first wife, a physicist. She deserved equal credit for his work. What women create, men will take. Until all men recognize that women are equally as important, we will never have equality.”

###

The Other Woman by Jules Paige

Butterflies? She thought of pupa, remembering pinned winged
insects at the museum. She could not create an image with a
nice nose – while waiting in the ward bed. She thought first of
mice, then of rats – She wanted to collectively sear mankind.
Grab a triptych of insufferable egotistical men and ramble
pleonasmic about their faults.

The pregnancy had been difficult. The stillbirth…cruel. Once
a mistress always a mistress? Yet…this other man, he said he
loved her with undying passion. His children became hers…
She created a new life filled with honorable love. And just a
few secrets.

###

Flash Fiction by Michael

She’s a small woman, not the type you would say stands out in a crowd but within her is a feisty energy.

I was first attracted to her passion and compassion, the way she reached out and touched the lives of so many. I don’t know how we connected as we come from opposite ends of the social and cultural spectrum but we have. She has created network of support, of encouragement and of love.

For me she showed me it is never too late to love again. I’m eternally grateful, this tiny sassy woman, created desire within me.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

She’d ruined dinner again.
No going to the takeaway this time to cover her inadequacy,
he was due home in fifteen minutes.

The scene was set for romance, candles burning seductively.
A kiss on the cheek, and a cold beer in his hand, he sat.
Wearing nothing but a smile and an apron, she lay the plate before him.
In the flickering light it looked intriguing.
He took a bite. Grimaced. Spat it out.
She bolted like a scared rabbit.
‘I’m sorry,’ she blurted. ‘I can’t cook!’
‘I know’ he said, ‘but you sure are creative in disguising it!’

###

Dana’s Song by Kerry E.B. Black

The Apocalypse destroyed Dana’s beauty as it ravaged the world, and Henry dreaded looking at her. No more diamonds danced in her eyes. Manicures gave way to peeled, raw hands, and bony-bare and charcoal-grey described her once lush, nubile figure.
She prepared the protein they pretended was beef and set it sizzling over the fire. She swiped a wisp of mousey colored, anemic hair from her wrinkled brow as she turned the meat, sprinkling it with chopped greens scavenged nearby. A sweet sound eclipsed his stomach’s growl. Her song of better days somehow brought beauty to their hideous state.

###

What Darkness Inspires by Liz Husebye Hartmann

There was little light in the cellar, but it was nothing to the darkness of the army of boot heels sinking into the bloody ground overhead.

Their families had been murdered in the homes they’d built with their bare hands, burned in fields they’d tilled with the muscle in their backs, and watered with the sweat and tears of desperate hope and determination.

They’d been purged.

They were the lucky ones, hidden underground. And because they were the lucky ones, they would squeeze out their remaining life force to start again.

Clasping one another’s hands, they bowed their heads.

###

A Bookish Woman by Bill Engleson

There is something in the way she holds the book, a ratty old 1951 Penguin edition, dust-covered, that draws me in.

“I see the way it is now,” she smiles. Her smile is etched with a twist.

“And…?” for she is deeper in thought than me.

“When Orwell says, ‘Perhaps a lunatic is simply a minority of one,’ “Well, we know who that is, don’t we?”

“We do,” I confess. “So…?”

“We build a resistance. We have no choice, love.”

My heart sinks. I am a peaceful creature. But she, she is not.

I will follow. She will lead.

###

The Rebel by Allison Maruska

I squeeze my hankie as I approach the massive cathedral. The veins in my old hands stand out, and my husband’s words echo in my mind: You’re one of the only ones left. Who else will attend the service?

I ignored him. The woman created an escape from the ghetto. Because she rebelled, I lived.

Even if I’m alone, I have to attend.

A young man opens the door for me, and I freeze at the threshold.

The foyer is packed wall-to-wall with people, families of those she saved. Smiles and tears coexist.

Because she rebelled, we all live.

###

The Idea is Everything by Sacha Black

Two things were wrong. First, the morgue was warm. Morgues aren’t meant to be warm. The second, her skin despite the heat, was cold and skin shouldn’t be cold.

I took a deep, lasting breath and bit back the tears. “You started a rebellion,” I say, brushing my fingertips over her icy hand, “and now I’ll turn it into a revolution.”

She did so much more than just organise a group of heretics. It was the idea she created that was the power behind us. The hope of freedom.

“Goodbye, Liza. I loved you in ways you never knew.”

###

Freedom by Sherri Matthews

Another. Fresh. Start. That’s what she told herself as she stared at the ceiling. More like another sleepless night she thought as she slid out of bed.

She hadn’t wanted to move again, but this was her escape, shabby, cold bedsit or not.

“Damn him and damn his lies” she said to the peeling papered walls. “He can keep the house and I’ll keep my sanity.”

She shivered and grabbed her knitting bag. At last, she could do what she wanted without him. A warm scarf first, she thought and for the first time in too long, she smiled.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Julia held court, serving Bud, Jack, and Jim to Bud, Jack, and Jim. She’d heard it all, which wasn’t much. But the rules were clear: One word of politics equaled a searing blast of Fiona Apple.

She found Hank, roughly her father’s age, eyeing her rear. “I’ve got a new drink just for you.”

“Hell no. Your last creation had me pissing stones.”

“I don’t think it was the drink, Hank.”

The bar erupted. Julia spun off, wielding objectification like a super power. She let them look. And she left each night with $300 and a girl named Guy.

###

Last Stitch by Ann Edall-Robson

Her vision was not what it used to be. Too many hours doing close work without good lighting. Back in the day, there were chores that needed her attention. At day’s end, when the house was quiet, her hands created beautiful pieces she stored in the cedar chest in the closet. Intricate, hand stitched quilts and doilies for new brides and new borns.

The elderly widow tucked the needle into the cloth. Sewing the ends in would be for tomorrow. She turned off the lamp, sitting for a moment. Her eyes closed. The hoop slipped from her frail hands.

###

The Diary by Gordon Le Pard

“Nothing, I have been wandering all day and nothing.”
She looked up from her writing, her brother was always irritated when he couldn’t get an idea for a poem.
“I am supposed to be the writer, yet you are writing. What is it?”
“Just my journal, I am writing about the trip we took across the lake, do you want to see?”
He looked, read for a moment then his eyes glazed over.
“flock, no host” he muttered.
Dorothy smiled and left to make tea. Later she returned to see him writing furiously. Looking over his shoulder she read;

‘I wandered lonely as a cloud …….”

Many scholars believe that William Wordsworth’s great poem was inspired, at least in part, by an entry in his sister Dorothy’s journal.

###

Creating Jane Eyre by Luccia Gray

“Who’s the author of this abhorrent attempt at a novel?” asked Lady Eastlake.

“Currer Bell,” replied Mrs. Mozley.

“Who on earth is he?” asked Mrs. Rigby.

“Some say he’s a woman,” said Mrs. Mozley

“Women don’t describe such coarse and shameful relationships between men and women,” snapped Lady Eastlake.

“Unless it is such a woman who has long forfeited the society of her own sex,” said Mrs. Rigby.

“It’s unchristian. We should make sure it’s banned,” suggested Mrs. Mozley. “Just in case it’s a woman’s creation. Imagine how degrading it would be for the rest of us.”

They nodded.

###

Woman Writes by Elliott Lyngreen

Yes. the same for generations. like women preparing newborn nieces.

That escalates quickly. She snaps upon getting dressed. Over shoulders. Like Waiters.

Shredded flag. Stripes separate wind. Lets remember to provide pull strings for future cabling. In the conduits.

Chimes. Winds.

She twists off the holder. grabs a shovel. Spring enters, a tidal wave of white-dark.

11 puppies Zen. 3 did not survive.

She thinks as i am the poor, tired, weak insides.

And i will never my love tell your name. Or the song she begins. Yes, them women can write. Even best, are where stories been heard.

###

Women Create (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane shifts the notebook balanced on her backpack balanced on her lap, twisting her wrist so pen meets paper.

How long since words flowed like this, since a concept glowed so brilliantly inside that she has no choice but to give it voice? She scribbles, oblivious to the lurches of the bus, other passengers brushing by, gabbing into phones, herding children.

Words flow, like the river behind a broken dam.

She pauses and looks out at the bus stop shelter just in time to see the sign, “poetryonbuses.org,” and almost laughs aloud. She feels free, and not alone.

###

January 12: Flash Fiction Challenge

january-12The mail arrived with two cases of Give a Crap. It’s environmentally-friendly recycled toilet paper from Australia (with a US division in California). The boxes boldly ask, “Who Gives a Crap” and considering global dissension, I’m proud to answer, “Me! I give a crap!” Trouble is, at the root of dissension, others don’t necessarily give a crap about what I do, and it’s questionable if I give a crap about their complaints in return. Often our concerns are what polarizes us.

Many of my Minnesota friends give a crap about the environment. My two daughters graduated from the School of Environmental Studies in Minnesota, and I served on the school’s foundation board for several years. Educating youth about the environment is important because it is their future. Will Steger, Minnesota native and arctic explorer, gave a crap about Global Warming long before we decided Climate Change was the appropriate phrase to use. He’s one of my living heroes for traversing Baffin Island in 2008 to bring awareness to the plight of the Inuit who live in places others rarely see. My eldest was a student on the expedition and you can see her at frame 2:20 (girl in the gray sweatshirt on the couch with Will Steger).

If you notice the photos and natural references in my writing, you know I give a crap about nature. But many others do not. Many of my Idaho friends give a crap about living in Idaho, and in order to live in such a beautiful and remote area often they have to work jobs at odds with environmental concerns. Many work in the Bakken Oil Fields; many more were laid off when oil prices dropped; and many voted for the only presidential candidate to speak of jobs in America. Often those who give a crap for the environment forget to give a crap about the hardworking Americans who dig ditches, tip trees and mine resources. Here’s where things get messier than toilet paper can handle.

For every concern, I can cite a counter concern. Environment versus labor. Solar energy versus existing infrastructures. Police brutality versus racial disparity in inner cities. Firearm rights versus gun control for safer communities. Food safety versus access to healthier food. Farm industry versus community food deserts. Privatized healthcare versus social medicine. It goes on and on, around and around the tables of coffee klatches and yoga classes. Who is right? Who is wrong? Fight, fight, fight.

Standing up in the toilet bowl of what dissension in the US has become, is the most underqualified, unprepared, unfit person for the position of US leadership. Now the fight is really on — his right to grab women’s genitalia versus a women’s right to not be grabbed; white privilege versus black lives matters; populism versus humanity. Add to this all the other swipes of wanting jobs, wanting healthcare that’s not socialism but affordable, wanting personal rights; and it’s no wonder I feel like I just want to flush it all away. I give a crap, but I have whiplash trying to contemplate all sides.

We are forgetting something important. Fighting is about winning; about sides. That means we want a loser. Not only do we want a loser, but we feel like we want someone to be punished. That’s the rage behind, “Jail Hillary!” Sometimes, I can see the person shouting this battle cry, see the contorted face, and I imagine the job loss this person might have endured, or the pile of unpaid medical bills on the kitchen counter. I care about another’s loss, but why the fight, why the sides? When did we start thinking that only our crap matters and stop giving a crap about others? In the fight, we forgot about middle ground, about the idea that conflict management is win-win.

Holy crap, folks, I’m just a writer living in an RV down by the river, and I don’t know how many weeks I can take like this one. It started with an emotional farewell to President Obama. I did not agree with all his policies and I was disappointed enough by his first term that I did not vote for his second. Yet, I have greatly admired his family dynamics, his poise as an orator, his many outreaches to bridge gaps in America to bring equality of rights to every citizen, his wife’s initiatives as First Lady (including outreach to homeless veterans), and his classiness as a principled man. It was hard to say goodbye, knowing his replacement couldn’t be more different.

This week the PEOTUS (president-elect of the US) held a “press conference” that gives many of us in the writing industry chills, calling out a CNN journalist as Fake News. Seriously? This from the very person who says the most outrageous lies. His attacks on the press and his continuing lies which confuse and conflict many threatens freedom of speech and destabilizes truth. His gaslighting triggers my PTSD and I’ve had to employ many coping skills. I’m unable to overlook the man’s behavior. His billionaire cabinet in the making gives me less confidence. His resistance to divest himself of his businesses, his continuing obsession with telling us “He won!” and his lack of concern for Russian interference unnerves me.

Yet, I’m not wanting to fight my fellow citizens. I give a crap about conflict resolution.

Conflict resolution is finding a peaceful solution to a disagreement. It’s drawing back my hand from the urge to smack. It’s letting go of a need to punish. It’s hearing both sides of the concerns and working toward a way to save our environment and jobs. It means acknowledging the rights or privileges of all. It means agreeing to disagree with compassion for the other. It means uplifting the lowest in our midst instead of only seeking to better our own. It also means checking our words and behavior. It doesn’t mean giving a pass to the PEOTUS because of his office; rather it means we all hold him accountable to the respectability and credibility of his office.

As a literary artist I have a civic duty to explore the experiences of others, unlike me.

I honor the diversity at Carrot Ranch. That’s why it is a literary community and not a historical writers club, or a fiction writers group, or a writing outlet for Libertarians-Only, women-only, Gen-Xers-only, college degree holders only, published writers only or any other only of exclusivity. Look at how diverse the perspectives are each week in constrained responses to a single prompt! Raw Literature, as we are exploring in a new series at Carrot Ranch, is a truth-seeking exercise. The closer to a universal truth, the more fiction resonates with readers. I give a crap about literature and its role in society. You might think you are “just a writer” but you are a truth-seeker. Do not be afraid to seek your own truth. It’s a lifetime pursuit.

What do you give a crap about? Write about it, write into it, write about its enemies as friends, write about its friends as enemies. As a literary artist, how can you be a truth-seeker? How can you be an agitator for good? How can you be brave? How can you be part of conflict resolution?

January 12, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that expresses a strong concern, something to give a crap about. Something that brings out the feeling to stand up. How can you use it to show tension or reveal attitudes?

Respond by January 17, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published January 18). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Serving All (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Officer Roubineaux, explain why you were in Naples that day,” said the judge.

“Yes. I made a promise to a friend who is serving in Iraq to look out for his wife.”

“Which branch of service,” the judge asked.

“He’s a contractor for private security,” answered Michael.

“That’s not service. That’s a cover for meaningless acts of mercenary.” The judge made the comment as casually as if stating a fish has scales.

Danni resisted the urge to throw her shoe at the judge. He had no idea how much Ike gave a crap about serving his country, even jerks.

###

 

January 5: Flash Fiction Challenge

january-5Balls of ice the size of frozen peas pelt my RV, and I know what it is to live inside a rattle.Winter on Mars is not what I expected. The red desert of southern Utah, dominated by the sandstone pillars of Zion and mesas of clay is a region carved by water and baked hard in the hot sun. Winter as I know it something white and gray. Winter in Virgin, Utah is colorful — vegetation turns green, white snow caps and stripes the mesas, skies display different shades of blue, and the clay darkens when wet. It’s wet more than I expected. And the rattling hail is the noisemaker of January.

These days, in the US, conversations between divided political alignments clamor over one another to be heard, but it only sounds like discordant hail on a fiberglass roof. We prepare for the transfer of leadership this month, and so much doubt has been cast upon what is true that everyone thinks their neighbor is a liar.  Journalists scramble to uphold their profession in a hostile climate. No one trusts the media. Fake news has become a buzzword. Critical thinking and courtesy ran away with the dish and the spoon. And everyone tweets, including our incoming president.

Like my character Danni in Miracle of Ducks, I want to hide out in the basement of a research library as if it were a bunker and society has become dangerously zombie-like. I don’t want my brains eaten. I still use them. History, my haven of sorts, only mocks my desire to retreat by reflecting back to me the same noisy division happening right here, right now. My other WIP, Rock Creek, takes place at the cusp of the US Civil War (or War of Norther Aggression, depending upon which side you read, and read both). North Carolina featured then, and now.

David Colbert “Cobb” McCanles was a real person in history, and he was born in North Carolina. It’s a state marked by distinct boundary lines of class division. Plantations fueled by the institution of slavery stretched across the rich coastal plains. In the Appalachian mountains to the west, descendants of the Scots-Irish carved out a tough living growing grain and hogs, proud of their subsistence-living. Another class was emerging, educated and of minor means, seeking to participate in an economy that was heavily divided between ballrooms and backwoods. Cobb was from that emerging class.

History has not been kind to Cobb. Historians from North Carolina to Kansas have vilified his name, intentions and memory. James Butler Hickok, Wild Bill, was similarly muddied in history, but he had a champion who took to research as diligently as my character Danni. Biographer, Joseph Rosa, sifted through the opinions, examined as many facts as he could find, and applied careful consideration to his interpretations. When it came to Cobb, Rosa accepted the very opinions he dismissed for Hickok. Not exactly an even playing field. But Rosa taught me the value of diligent research.

While combing through North Carolina newspapers to find any mention of Cobb to corroborate or refute claims regarding crimes and career, I noticed a huge introduction of laws in January 1859, a month before Cobb left North Carolina. Other than finding it mildly interesting that the new state governance passed more laws than previous election years, I pushed past to find mention of sheriff activities. I thought back to this outline of law changes recently when I read the modern headline: “North Carolina is no Longer a Democracy.” I thought, North Carolina is experienced at this. It is almost as if the pre-Civil War politics is repeating.

As a fiction writer, I can imagine how Cobb must have felt after the November 1858 election. I believe he did not intend to get elected, but elected (for a fourth term) he was. By this time, he had moved his parents to Tennessee across the mountain pass where two of his sisters lived with their husbands who were twin brothers to Cobb’s wife Mary. He and his brother Leroy had already scouted the Colorado gold fields which were not producing much, and that’s most likely when Cobb first eyed the potential of the road ranch at Rock Creek, Nebraska Territory. Cobb wanted economic opportunity and the elected North Carolina body supported the slave industry and sought succession.

Reading over those law changes in North Carolina in January 1859, many required sheriff’s to take action Cobb must have felt was wrong. What do you do when your state is no longer “a democracy”? One option, the one I believe Cobb took, is that you leave. Today, I doubt people are going to leave North Carolina as the outgoing state government attempts to cripple the incoming leadership. After all, there really is no settlement on the next frontier. I may call southern Utah Mars, but fleeing to Mars for better opportunities is not an option.

So, I’m stuck here in an icy winter storm contemplating what to do next. Like Danni, I think I’m going to bury myself in quiet research, but like the women who followed Cobb, I’m also going to stand strong wherever it is I find myself standing. The sabers are rattling, but I don’t yet know if its an echo from the past or a vision of the future.

According to Chilean history, saber-rattling  comes from an incident that took place on September 3, 1924, when a group of young military officers protested against the political class and the postponement of social measures by rattling their sabers within their scabbards. In case you might want to use this phrase in the prompt.

January 5, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rattling sound. It can be an intimidating sound of protest, a disorienting loud sound, a musical expression or a gentle baby’s toy. Go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by January 10, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published January 11). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Unexpected Help (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Coins in a coffee can rattled as the boy ran across the parking lot. “Dr. Danni Gordon!” He yelled.

Danni and Michael turned. She recognized the boy from the class she had toured with Bubbie.

“For you. To find Bubbie.”  He thrust the makeshift rattle at her. She peeled back the lid to see dollars among coins.

“To find Bubbie?”

“I heard Bubbie the Archaeology dog was AWOL. I took up a collection  for a reward.”

Despite her panic, she forced a smile. Michael joined her and asked, “AWOL?”

“My Dad’s gone to Iraq. He’s a soldier, not AWOL.”

###

NOTE: AWOL is a military term for “absence without leave.”

With the New Year reflections, I’ve decided to alternate working on my two WIPs. I’ll write from the one I’m working on for the week.

December 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

december-29He told me he rode in wagons. Whatever faults I find in memory, that one has long held certainty for me. My Bumpa rode in wagons!

I can’t remember how old I was when my mother’s mother’s mother died of a final stroke. She was Mayme Ferreira Bundeson, born in 1888 Honolulu, Hawaii, and the wife of my Bumpa. He was born Marcus Bundeson in 1884 in Hollister, California where I was born. She was the daughter of a red-haired and green-eyed Flanders Portagee cast off from her home of Medaria, and married to a Brazilian ship’s interpreter. He was the son of poor Danish immigrants who planted apricot trees in California.

Bumpa went to the old folks home after his wife died. I don’t remember her at all. But I remember Bumpa at the home. Often, my mother dropped me off to visit with him while she went elsewhere. We played bingo with the other residents, and he told me about farming apricots and riding in a wagon. Maybe that’s why I felt a kinship later in childhood when I discovered the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder who also rode in wagons as a pioneer girl. Wagons were my entry point to a lifelong fascination with history. Bingo, Bumpa and wagons are all I know of my Danish heritage.

Until I read a curious article in the New York Times about Hygge.

Hygge is Danish for getting cozy. Evidently my predilection for cake, curling up with a blanket and a drink, and watching crime dramas (Peaky Blinders, Sherlock, Longmire) is part of my DNA. While Bumpa failed to mention this lovely Danish tradition, I’ve naturally been drawn to it, especially over the December holidays when winter is darkest and cold. Oh, yes, I’ve been in hygge-mode all week and plan to add Prosecco to my cozy nook to mark the New Year. After that, I’ll disrobe the fleece blanket and get to work on the ranch.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. However, I believe in the power of written goals and taking time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you plan to go. As a writer and literary buckaroo, goals are important to me. Whether you experience set-backs or success, you can learn from examining and adjusting your goals. My long-term goal is to publish fiction about women of the west and build a synergistic writer’s platform. My short-term goals are the steps to get there. Those are the ones I examine and adjust.

One benefit to setting goals annually is that you can reflect on what you expected and compare it to what happened. 2016 has not been an easy year, and I’ve had to confront a personal crisis that continues to rock my goals. I can reflect with disappointment on the short-term goals that didn’t fruit. I can reflect with gratitude on the solidity of community at Carrot Ranch. I can reflect on breakthroughs I’ve had in understanding my own long-project writing process. With much reflection these past two months (November was a NaNoRanCho) I’m eager to move forward.

My writing completely shifted and now I’m revising two WIPs at once. Flash fiction has helped me find my way through bothprojects. I also wrote personal essays about military PTSD and homelessness — two subjects that now feature in one of my WIPs. When I do publish Miracle of Ducks, I’ll have a list of pitches on those subjects to write articles in vetted publications to reach my target readers. That’s the goal. And it’s a big one. The short-term goals are to maintain that pitch list, better define who is reading those topics, finish the revisions, work with beta readers, complete final edits with an editor, and find a publisher or outlet.

That’s another adjustment I’ve made — I’m more open to independent publishing. I better understand the benefits of different publishing paths and can make final decisions later. This year I have two publishing goals, including our Anthology Vol. 1. While the delay was unintended, it did give me time to reconsider publishing options. I’ve gained a greater respect for flash fiction in the development of raw literature. Next week, I will introduce a new guest series to explore what raw literature is, how we are participating in literary arts at Carrot Ranch, and how writers can participate in this greater discussion of what the writing process is.

This year, I’m cautious. Instead of wrapping my arms around all the opportunities that pop up, I’m focusing on specific  short-term goals, and I’m writing them down and plugging them into a greater business plan. It’s my map. I will refine my vision, too. A vision is the northern star by which I’ll plot my map. Instead of expanding my schedule at once, I’m adding incrementally, and waiting until it’s solid before executing the next goal. Already I prepared the way by changing the challenge date, deadline and compilation publication. Tuesdays will be the raw literature guest series. The intended marketing series will follow after raw literature is established.

So what is Carrot Ranch? “Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community online for those practicing craft, reading stories and discussing process.” The flash fiction challenges are the entry point, much like my Bumpa getting me excited about wagons, thus history. This is a place to get excited about writing. Your writing. And this post is to get you thinking about goals. Your goals. What you do matters to me, too. Together, we unite on the common ground where we are actively engaged in the literary arts. We create with words and craft with language. Whether we write YA, modern lit, historical fiction, humor, romance, children’s books or lessons, memoir, creative non-fiction, fusion rap, poetry, westerns or sci-fi we are all artists. Literary artists.

Take time to reflect. Even if it’s a hand written page or a post on your blog, write down your long-term goals and your short-term goals for 2017. But for now, it’s time to extend a bit more hygge with another holiday weekend approaching and a new year looming. Will you join me in a toast with something bubbly? Then get cozy.

December 29, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a cozy story. What is it to be cozy, to experience Danish hygge? It doesn’t need to be culture-specific, but it can be an interesting point of comparison or contrast. A character might long to feel cozy, or you might describe the perfect cozy scene. It may or may not include Prosecco.

Respond by January 3, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published January 4). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Homecoming (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Mary swept the hard-packed earthen floor. “Cobb, put my rocker by the hearth.”

“And the trunks, Wife?”

“Porch.” Her skirts flared as if she was dancing across a southern plantation ballroom. Children darted in and out the door, stew simmered on the hearth and Mary unpacked. She hung fresh calico curtains and made beds. By dark, tallow candles and stew in wooden bowls ended the day. It smelled like home. After three months of camping out of a creaking wagon, Mary felt a renewal of hope in her heart.

“Mary! Cobb! The new boys in the barn. They’re sick.”

###

Night Battle (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Danni sloshed her Prosecco the night they set off the M-80s.

Before the first explosion echoed through the river canyon, Ike rose from his sportsman’s chair. He set down his glass, poised for battle. He’d later say this was why he disliked bonfires — he needed night vision. Danni’s desire for marshmallows and warmth wouldn’t persuade Ike to risk night blindness. Her idea of cozy-camping never meshed with his need to stand guard between life and death.

He slipped into the dark. Danni almost felt sorry for the jerks who lit off fireworks near a former Army Ranger’s campsite.

###