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August 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

Pasty Fest holds all the old world charm: Finnish dancers in traditional dress, street-side vendors in the shadow of copper-mining era buildings, and — of course — pasties. Hearty dough enfolds savory meats and vegetables, and old-world debates rage across the Keweenaw to declare who first brought pasties to the region.

Pronounced pass-tee (like from the past, not pastey glue), the etymology is British. Tradition holds that Cornish miners from England introduced expertise, technology, and pasties to the Keweenaw when copper mining began during the 1840s. However, a contender for origination comes from Finland. During ethnic events like Pasty Fest, the Finns of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan declare the food a Finnish specialty.

The dispute doesn’t end with who brought pasties from the old world to the new.

Another debate contends which filling is best — sliced or diced. Those in the veggies-must-be-diced corner claim the “grandma says” rule of filling pasties. Families heatedly argue the issue, though, when one grandmother dices and the other slices. Knife skills aside, modern observation notes that pasties made with sliced ingredients stay hotter for a longer period. Amy J’s Pasties in Hancock (world headquarters to Carrot Ranch) slices. Roy’s Bakery across the Keweenaw waterway, dices. I have taken both to the beach to hunt rocks on Lake Superior, and I can tell you that Amy J’s pasties stay hotter much longer.

What does this tell us? The Cornish miners probably understood that slicing created thermal layers.

The next argument has led to Copper Country divorces and involves veg. To carrot or not to carrot? Well, you can guess my opinion on that subject. Fortunately, the Hub agrees (no divorce lawyers needed). We like carrots in our pasties. The other questionable veg is parsnip. It’s a root vegetable similar to carrots, and likely has old-world connections to Finland. Amy J’s adds both carrots and parsnips to their pasties, and Roy’s omits parsnips. Some add gravy to the filling, other ketchup. I like my veg naked and in harmony with the meat.

Shape creates more consternation. The final shape of a pasty that is. Suomi’s, a local diner that serves pannukakku and remains a place where you can still hear the Finnish accent, mounds their pasties into softballs. Amy J’s conforms to a more traditional (Cornish) half-moon pie. Roy’s fills a pastie that is in between the two shapes. And some, frankly, have no shape at all. If pasty-makers were to be on the Great British Bakeoff, the judges would question the efficiency and aesthetic of their shapes. Does the dough hold the liquid of the filling? Is it appealing?

A more current debate has less to do with pasties and more with land, as in, who claims the Keweenaw. Yes, Canada, sometimes we wish it was you. I’m fond of describing my home as “that thumb of land that juts into the belly of Lake Superior.” It’s part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, an unwanted mass of land that came with the old world land deals. No one wanted the remote region, but after the Toledo War of 1835, Michigan and Ohio fought over “downstate land” because of erroneous geographical maps from 1787. In the end, Michigan was given the Upper Peninsula. Better historians than me can understand the land dispute, but I get that the Keweenaw was a consolation prize that paid dividends to Michigan when geologists discovered copper.

But Wisconsin is the state to cry sour grapes. Even today, the UP is referred to as “that land Michigan stole” from the neighboring cheese state. It would make more sense for the UP to be Upper Wisconsin (or Lower Canada). Water does not divide us like it does from downstate Michigan. To go to our state capital (and all major cities), we have to cross the Mighty Mac. Recently, a Mountain Dew marketing campaign mislabeled the UP of MI as the UP of WI. The cheese-heads laughed, and Mountain Dew had to apologize. Everyone in the UP got free sodas.

Despite our old world squabbles, we get along well in the UP. We gather for Pasty Fest in Calumet to celebrate tradition as we each best experience it. The city that once boasted a population over 30,000 is now a National Historic Park with 727 remaining residents. The streets feel wide, and the buildings loom tall because it was once a booming epicenter of copper mining full of migrant workers and millionaires. The oldest cobblestone street in Michigan is open to vehicles, though it’s advisable to avoid the jarring drive, especially if you are eating a pasty.

The first Pasty Fest I attended was in 2017. The Hub and I finally limped to our destination the night before. Although we had arrived, I felt defeated. My daughter and her troupe were dancing at the community celebration, and on our way to the performance, I saw the Vet Center Mobile. It’s a mobile unit dispatched to meet veterans in need where they are at. I bum-rushed the staff, pleading our case — my husband needed help, we were homeless, and I was desperate. No pasty could soothe me that day. I didn’t even eat one.

Two years later and I attended Pasty Fest as a guest author in the local author’s booth. I hawked 99-word stories, handed out Carrot Ranch bookmarks, and sold anthologies. I earned enough to eat pasties and drink a thimbleberry margarita. What a difference two years, a ton of advocacy for the Hub, and hard work make. I feel as much a part of this community as I have ever felt anywhere. It’s welcoming, vibrant, and full of history. The Keweenaw has old world charm, and I’m smitten no matter who invented pasties, sliced or diced.

This week, my coursework includes discussion of genre — what it is and how it informs our writing. Even the experts struggle to define genre beyond the obvious ones of romance and cozy mystery. Marketers stretch genre to use them as labels to sell books to audiences defined by reading preferences. Ursula K. Le Guin protested the value judgment critics past on genre writers as if such writing was of lesser quality than literary fiction. Authors often have no idea what genre they are writing. If you want to add your thoughts, give this article a read (keep in mind that it was written in 2011, but it remains relevant).

August 22, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about old world charm. It can be nostalgic or irreverent. You can invent an “old world,” return to migrant roots or recall ancient times. Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by August 27, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Suomi Dancing by Charli Mills

A blonde quartet of girls dressed in blue dances. They twirl, holding hands. Singing, they remake the lyrics of Finland’s midsummer. No longer homeland, home is here, Finlandia, USA. With old world charm, they brighten the backyard of a house owned by the Calumet Mining Company. New life for Finns.

Aunt Jo kneads the dough until it stretches smooth. She slices parsnips and carrots thin the way her neighbor instructed. “Thin layers keep ‘em hot longer in the mines,” she told Jo.

Jo smiles at the children Suomi dancing under maples trees. “Supper,” she calls. “Time for pasties, hey!”

A Sweet Jam

Spread across crumpets, or drizzled over ice cream, a sweet jam tastes like sunshine. Yet, deep in the city down a dark alley in the basement of a speakeasy, musicians gather as friends and jam old songs and new sounds. No matter the jam, it carries satisfaction.

Writers investigated where a sweet jam leads, and you can expect some tasty stories. Grab a cup of tea, slather your favorite preserve on a piece of toast, and cozy up for a 99-word story jam.

The following is based on the August 15, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sweet jam.

PART I (10-minute reads)

Wine and Dine by Di @ pensitivity101

Steve and Sally let themselves into their flat after an enjoyable evening with friends.
They heard singing and when then looked in the lounge saw their babysitter cross legged on the floor munching toast between bars. Their two children were curled up on the sofa fast asleep surrounded by crumbs, their faces smeared with jam.

Jenna grinned at them.

‘Great scherry jam!’ she hiccoughed with a giggle. ‘Tho’ ya chouldn’t liv it in’t garage……… it migh go orf!’

Sally burst out laughing as Steve looked in dismay at the slops and what was left of his fermenting blackcurrant wine.

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Jam by Susan Zutautas

Come one, come all to Bellevue’s Last Call Bar and Grill to listen to the sounds of Head First. They’re sure to satisfy your thirst.

Dance the night away with songs from the 1980s unless nine o’clock is past your bedtime. Come on out and rock till you drop.

On horns and flute, we have Mike who can start one sweet jam with the band.

On drums, there’s Chris who will beat to your heart.

Paul takes care of the vocals and he’s a local.

Sing along they don’t mind in fact they think it’s always a good time.

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Strawberry Jam by Norah Colvin

Overhearing a conversation about the jam session at Lorna’s that night, Ailsa assumed the email was buried in spam which had jammed her inbox recently. She collected her Vacola jars and headed for the motorway. Discovering the traffic jam too late, she had no choice but to wait. The jam drops prepared for supper eased the monotony. At Lorna’s, she jammed her car into a tight spot and rushed inside. The living room was jam-packed, and music indicated a different kind of jamming. Setting down her Vacola jars, she leaned against the door jamb. “Sweet strawberry jam!” she breathed.

🥕🥕🥕

As Sweet As Jam by Oneiridescent

With the accomplice of peeping moonlight, Sam was scanning the perimeter. He was in a hunt and his jungle was the kitchen. The clanging cutlery called out and Mother came running.

“What are you doing, at this midnight ?” She switched on the lamp.

“I wanna candy, caramel – anything sweet,” cried seven year old Sam.

“You had your share. No more now with your tooth condition,” warned Mother.

Disappointed Sam, sat down on the floor. It was a week, he was deprived of chocolate.

“Ding Dong !” Father returned from work and brought Sam a sweet smile – a healthy raspberry jam!

🥕🥕🥕

Well Preserved by FloridaBorne

“Happy Birthday, Grandma,” Joy said.

Edna reached into yet another gift bag. A jar of strawberry preserves.

“I asked my family to pool their money,” Edna said. “I’m going to take a writing class!”

“But Grandma, you’re old!”

Edna held the unwanted gift toward Joy. “Get your money back, tell my family I expect a check for $200 made out to Hoover Community College, and bring it to me.”

“But…the party…”

“Go!” Edna ordered.

Never willing to settle for less than the best, Edna opened a cabinet full of her homemade strawberry jam, slathering some on fresh baked bread.

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Jam by Colleen M Chesebro

One of the fondest memories I have of my mother in law was the day we made strawberry jam. The kids washed the flats of strawberries in the sink, careful to pinch off only the green leaves. I dumped the ripe fruit into the pot.

Arlene never measured ingredients. She didn’t have to. Like a conductor at a symphony, she coaxed the natural sweetness out of the berries cooking on the stove before she added any additional sugar.

The older girls filled the jars with the delectable strawberry compote. Billy the toddler, dipped his fingers into the sweet jam.

🥕🥕🥕

The Fallen Apples…by Ruchira Khanna

“Hey, don’t hit those fallen apples with your bat?” Grandma rebuked her grandson, Pedro.

“What should we do with it, grandma?” he asked innocently, “Mom doesn’t allow us to eat them, once fallen.”

Granny paused for a bit; it helped her cool down.

“Let’s collect all of them, I’ll make use of these fallen apples!” she said with a gentle smile.

The excited eight-year old collected all the juicy red apples in his red pail.

Grandma got to the task to make an end product that was sweet and fruity.

“Yum! the grandson licked the jelly off the spoon!”

🥕🥕🥕

Jellied Jitters by Donna Matthews

I feel it in my seeds. A juicy, delicious purpose awaits me. My skin is radiant…the perfect hue. I am ready.

A small boy comes skipping down my row. I quiver in anticipation as he spots me. He leans over, grabs me with his chubby hands, and in his basket I go. Arriving at his house, I see the water boiling, glass bottles standing ready, pectin on the counter.

Soon, I am transformed. No longer an individual berry but a sweet jelly jam. But why…why am I in the basement? Jellied and abandoned? Will I be forgotten down here?

🥕🥕🥕

Strawberry Jam by Sally Cronin

Margaret sat in the sitting room of the nursing home, in a chintz covered chair by the window. She couldn’t remember why she was there, but perhaps the family had brought her out for tea. She tried to think of her daughter’s name; a pretty girl in a blue overall who spoke gently with a lovely smile. Margaret looked at the plate on her lap, lifting the contents to her lips, it tasted delicious with something red and sweet that stirred distant and happy memories. Jam, strawberry jam, on scones, with butter and cream. How could she have forgotten?

🥕🥕🥕

Jammed Up in Time by Bill Engleson

“Well, body’s gone!”

“Yup. Morrison’s Mortuary…they don’t dawdle. Let’s get to ‘er.”

“The old guy…he had no family?”

“None we knew of. No visitors. Nada.”

“Sad.”

“Yeah, maybe. But he had his memories.”

“You talked to him?”

“That’s kinda what we’re here for. Yeah. Not often. Cranky old cuss.”

“So, where do we start?”

“Let’s start slow. Personal stuff. The bedroom, I guess. Box it up neat.”

“Hey, lookee here. A jar of jam on the bedside table. Odd, eh!”

“Not so much. Blackberry Jam. Last one his wife ever preserved.”

“Really!”

“Like I said, he had his memories.”

🥕🥕🥕

Home Remedy by Tom Stewart

“I’m making mango jam,” announced Gertrude. “Your favorite.”

“You know how, Gert?” asked Wendell, her husband of 27 years.

“I’ll figure it out, and please, it’s Gertrude.”

“Can’t we just buy some? said Wendell. “Why all the bother?”

“Really?” said Gertrude. “It’s news to you that I like doing things myself?”

“All I’m saying, we could be watching television instead of you spending so much time.”

“You can’t buy the kind of jam I’m making,” said Gertrude.

“Don’t go overboard,” said Wendell. “I like things uncomplicated.”

‘Amen to that,’ thought Gertrude, removing a vial of strychnine from her apron pocket.

🥕🥕🥕

Faire de la Confiture Cucrée… (or a sweet reunion) by JulesPaige

she kept snakes in the
garden, allowed them free reign;
they rid her of pests

he was a lout for leaving
or a hero in disguise
*
at the edge, he stood
unrecognizable man?
she stood quietly

he spoke her name like music
as the late autumn wind danced
*
rooted in the ground
she stood, tears of joy forming
then flowing freely

(of course we used to tell them
that time stood quite still, waiting…)
*
yet time did march on
to the beat of our drumming
hearts; running to grasp

See next page
to touch, to reassure and
taste again sweet jam kisses

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Jam by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Clara’s thumbs tick-tocked the steering wheel’s curve, her eyes intent on any break in the blocked-up freeway traffic. She’d said what needed to be said. She was done.

Harald, hands tucked under his thighs in the passenger seat, hummed his seven-note tune, over and over again. He nodded as her annoyance grew. It’d only take a moment—the right moment–to change her mind.

Clara took a chance, swerved onto the shoulder. “Get out!” she roared.

Harald smiled victory as her car spit gravel and grew small as it sped away.

Sweet! He knew she’d talk to him again!

🥕🥕🥕

Sweetest Jam by Sherri Matthews

On Saturday morning, Matt Kline woke up, groaned and rolled over in bed, finding an indent and a crumpled sheet where his wife should’ve been. The angry clatter of dishes from the kitchen reminded him why.

That, and his wife screeching for him to get his lazy ass in there. Right now.

‘Honey…I’m sorry… I drank too much…’

‘You sonofabitch; I’m outta here.’

‘But honey…she’s nothing to me… ‘

The jar landed square on his head. The last Matt Kline knew was the taste of his wife’s strawberry jam bleeding slowly into his mouth. The sweetest batch she’d ever made.

🥕🥕🥕

Soured Sugar by Anne Goodwin

Bending to strip the bush of berries, her shoulders strain and fingers stain inky black, like hunching over essays at her desk. Except for the insect buzz and her sun-warmed neck. A holiday from study, from her drive to showcase her brain in a world that stops its gaze at her skin. A different virtue in the steaming pot, gleaming jars, foraged fruit others would leave to rot.

Yet her mood dips, her hand shakes as she adds the white crystals. Sugar. Ghosted by her ancestors’ lament, backs striped with whip marks as they stooped to cut the cane.

🥕🥕🥕

Everything Tastes Better With Jam by Barb Taub

She hesitated, then entered the alley, her stilettos clicking, hands cradling the large jar. Under a streetlight, dark windows on all sides and dead end ahead, she stopped. Her follower straightened, light glancing off the blade in his hand.

She turned, smiling.

Silent figures gathered behind her attacker, surrounding him. One held out an arm for her sweet jam. “Glad you could make it. How’s your mama?”

She waited politely until the screaming stopped abruptly. “She’s good. Sends love.” Over the slurping sounds, she raised her voice. “Sorry I’m late. I had to pick up takeout on the way over.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hijacking Euphoria by H.R.R. Gorman

Johnny hopped in. “Gun it, Euphoria!”

The hot, 375-horsepower Cadillac roared, but she pressed the brakes at a screeching metal sound.

“Door’s jammed! It got caught on the sidewalk!”

Euphoria screamed. “What the hell you doin’ to my car!?”

“It don’t matter! Gun it, or the cops will catch us!”

She put her long, pink fingernails up to her face. Tears streamed down. “Oh no, my baby!”

The cops caught up, guns at the ready. They saw Euphoria’s tears and manhandled Johnny out. “Hijacking a car and robbing a bank!? You’re going to jail for a long time, bub!”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute reads)

Train Jam by Ritu Bhathal

Arjun peeled back the cover of the tray and peered at the contents.

Two cooling pieces of toast lay there, with a pat of white butter and a container containing something that was jelly-like with a luminous pink glow.

“What’s that?” he grimaced.

“I think you’ll find it’s jam.” Aashi couldn’t help but smirk at his expression.

“That’s not like any jam I’ve ever seen before.”

“Well, you’re not in England anymore, either. It’s Indian jam, made to cater to the Western travellers. Probably filled with sugar, colouring, sugar, flavouring and a bit more sugar. Just don’t expect strawberries!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Special Breakfast (Lynn Valley) by Saiffun Hassam

In the center of the dining table, sunflowers and hollyhock rose from the base of the boat shaped cornucopia. An ornamental iridescent hummingbird hovered over blue delphiniums. One end of the boat was loaded with almonds and pistachios. The rest of the boat was packed with jars of home-made sweet jam: blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, plum, fig and peach.

The tantalizing aroma of freshly baked bread wafted into the dining room from the restaurant kitchen. Omelets filled with salmon, scrambled eggs and pancake potatoes were ready. It was Hannah’s birthday today and her staff had a surprise breakfast for her.

🥕🥕🥕

A Brief Respite by Joanne Fisher

Aalen and Ashalla stayed in a cheap inn. They both sat on the bed together while Voja curled up on the floor. Ashalla had brought back some bread after scoping out The Baron’s keep a further time.

“If only I had got some cheese.” Ashalla said as she chewed on the bread.

“Wait a moment.” Aalen said as she produced a vial from her belongings. “When the fruit in the forest ripens my people make this.” Ashalla spread its contents on her bread.

“It’s wonderfully sweet jam.” Ashalla said.

“Jam?”

“That’s what we call it.” Ashalla told her.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s a Trust Issue by Susan Sleggs

A month before my wedding, Gran advised, “You will discover marrying into a large family can have its pitfalls.”

“I already feel like I belong.”

“Let’s hope that lasts.”

Years later I remembered those words when a member of my husband’s family stated, “No in-law would know the family history we are discussing.”

I replied aloud, “I take umbrage with that,” and was ignored, so I left the room.

A few days later I received an e-mail from the speaker. “I was out of line. Sorry.”

The words felt like swallowing sweet jam, with a hint of invisible mold.

🥕🥕🥕

Tart Wars by Mused Blog

No one could remember how the war had started.

What transgression, what folly had launched that first missile? They could not have been blind to the terrible carnage that would follow. Mutually Assured Destruction indeed. And when all ammunition was spent, they stared at each other across the table, accusations flying.

“For the last time! Who started it?” mom yelled iridescent with rage.
“She did”, they both said in unison, fingers pointed.

Emma plucked a fragment of raspberry jam tart from her sticky hair and hastily devoured it. She smiled at the sweetness and winked at her bedraggled sister.

🥕🥕🥕

In a Sweet Jam by Anita Dawes

I was fourteen when I borrowed a bike
The judge sent me away for three weeks
for assessment to determine whether
I would be put away or given probation
This came as a shock.
You can’t wear your own clothes
Cleaning duties before breakfast
Two hours of school each day
The older girls had other duties
Sewing lessons where I made a felt penguin
Which I could take home when I leave
I never saw it again, I guess someone borrowed it
This is where I fell in love with marmalade
The kind with no bits, smooth and sweet…

🥕🥕🥕

In a Jam by Anurag Bakhshi

As I opened the refrigerator door, my wife’s words of warning reverberated in my ears, “No more sweets, or you’ll be in a right royal jam!”

But her words soon faded away, and all I could see was a treasure trove of cakes, pastries, muffins…and standing tall amidst them, a bottle of fresh home-made rhubarb jam.

I took out the bottle, gazing at it lovingly, when suddenly, the lights came on, and a voice, possibly belonging to the owner of the house, spoke sharply, “Gotcha! Robert, keep the gun trained on this thief while I call the police.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet, Sweet Song by priorhouse

“Really? You did it? Officially took the new job and put in notice?”

Yeah, baby.  We can move for the new job as early as next month.

Exhaling, hands across face, Lisa sat down, pulled her hair back saying, “I cannot believe how sweet this feels.”

I know…. and hey… what song is that? Turn it up a little.

song lyrics poured out: “You are beautiful my sweet, sweet song. And I, will sing again….”

That’s the perfect song for this transition.

“It’ll be our song, honey.”

It sure is a sweet jam.

“Also….

WE WILL

sing again.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Jam by Allison Maruska

I settle into my seat in front of the stage. In a moment, the performer will take his place, having promised an evening of musical magic. His exact words were, “I’ve been working on a sweet jam.”

How could I pass that up?

He steps onto the stage to uproarious applause. Propping himself onto the stool, he holds up his instrument, and after a moment of contemplation, the notes of Hot Cross Buns fill the room.

Though I’ve heard the recorder tune enough during the week that it pierces my dreams, I pretend it is the sweetest of jams.

🥕🥕🥕

Not a Typical Sweet Jam (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Boiling quinces filled Danni’s kitchen with a lively scent, something between citrus and pears. Something remembered. In the canner, she prepped a hot bath to disinfect her jars and lids. She opened the sack of white sugar, ready to make sweet jam. Michael raised an eyebrow, continuing to look as skeptical as he did when he helped her pick the lumpy fruit.

“How’d you hear about these quince things?”

“The joy of being a historical archeologist. I read old books and journals.”

“Huh. Nothing from my Anishinaabe roots.”

Later, spread thickly across slabs of sourdough, Michael updated his history.

🥕🥕🥕

Harvest (Part I) by D. Avery

“Pull in this driveway here, Marge, this is the place.”
Marge and Ilene climbed stiffly from the truck and stretched, taking in the weather worn clapboard house. Two gangly apple trees stood guard in the unmown lawn. Ilene investigated the blackberry bushes that grew where the unkempt meadow met the woods.

“Marge! They’re ripe!” She made her way back to Marge and faced her mother’s house.

“Well, Marge, I’m supposed to get what I want from the place before leaving matters to the lawyers and realtors. And what I want is to make blackberry jam like my mother did.”

🥕🥕🥕

Harvest (Part II) by D. Avery

Marge and Ilene, scratched from the blackberry brambles, fingers stained purple, now stood over large pots of steaming, bubbling blackberry ooze.

“I don’t know, Ilene, I haven’t done this since my father died. He and I always made jam together.”

“We’ve got this, Marge.” She stirred, carefully eyed the drip from the wooden spoon. “I always enjoyed helping my mom with jamming but knew it meant the beginning of school. Used to feel like we were putting summer in a jar, to be savored later.”

“She’d be proud you’re back in school Ilene.”

Ilene blinked. “It’s ready Marge. Pour.”

🥕🥕🥕

First Homemade Low Sugar Plum Jam by Miriam Hurdle

“What are we doing with all the plums?”

“We eat them.”

“How many can we eat?”

“As many as we can for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

“You picked 475 in two weeks but only ate less than 75. They are getting mushy.”

“I know. I’ll take them to some meetings to give them away.”

“Can we sell them?”

“Are you kidding? How do I do that and who would buy them?”

“What if we can’t give them away fast enough?”

“I’ll find some low sugar plum jam recipes and do the first homemade jam.”

“It sounds like a plan.”

🥕🥕🥕

Red Light Rescue by Jo Hawk

I volunteered, although it was the last thing I wanted to do.

She waited outside her brownstone, with her carryon balanced atop her suitcase. I double-parked while the cabbie honked, cursing me, as he squeezed his way past.

“You’re late,” she said, and I stuffed the luggage in the trunk.

“You said six, it’s a quarter to.”

She ignored me and got in the car.

Rush hour in New York, made worse by some hidden force, gave me an opportunity. My one last chance.

The traffic jam was sweet, providing the salve we needed to mend our strained relationship.

🥕🥕🥕

Wild Sweet Jam by Faith A. Colburn

Today it’s wild plums. You step in the back door and the smell of sweet jam overwhelms your senses. On the stove, pulp boils with sugar. You hear thick, red bubbles spatter like hot lava.

Another bucket of fresh fruit rests on the floor. You pick up a few. You rub them between your fingers. The frosty coating rubs off, leaving shiny, bright skins—deep red, pink, and gold. A colander holds dry husks of bitter skins for the compost.

Sparkling jars line the counter tops, waiting to seal the taste of summer for mid-winter.

🥕🥕🥕

Hello Spring by tracey

Sophia walked into the kitchen and wondered where spring was. Fat snowflakes swirled outside the window, carpeting the grass and mounding on empty flowerpots.

“This would be pretty if it was December,” Sophia told Mother Nature, “but here in May you are just being cruel.”

She put the kettle on and popped an English muffin into the toaster. “Guess I’ll just have to make my own spring,” she said, moving a vase of tulips to the table. She opened her last jar of homemade strawberry jam and breathed in the sweet berry scent. “Take that Mother Nature,” she crowed.

🥕🥕🥕

Summer Memory in Winter by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Unexpected, not unprecedented. Lucy opened the cabin door to a wall of snow. Stores, as well as spirits, were running low. Something had to liven the hard tack and rabbit stew, hairy root vegetables and pale wrinkled peas. Evan sat by the glowing fire, his fiddle forgotten on his knee, the bow lying on the floor.

She snapped her fingers, grabbed a candle, and lifted the trap door to the cellar underneath their home. The animals, fed and watered, called greeting as she passed to the cooler corner where she kept summer memories. There! One remaining jar of Lingonberries!

🥕🥕🥕

August 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

Raspberries, plump, and red hang from canes my daughter planted. It’s my patch now, and I savor the connection. Reminders fill my home, memories of my daughter’s love for this grand old copper-mining house on Roberts Street. The walls she painted yellow, russet, and teal. The worn patches on the maple hardwood floor mark where her two huskies slept. The kitchen holds warmth where we shared meals.

Paint cans wait for me to dip a brush in Easter Grass yellow-green and Inspire purple-blue. I’m not covering up the memories but adding layers of my own. I’m plucking the fruit my daughter planted, and I’m making sweet jam. The peace of home fills my every fiber. When you have not had a home of your own, you appreciate how luxurious space can be. I’m in no hurry to claim and decorate and fill. I’m enjoying the space to just be.

A new desk also waits for me. It’s a Flexsteel, marbled-wood beauty with matching bookcase and filing cabinet. Already, I’m setting up my files in both desk and bookcase drawers. I ordered dark purple hanging folders and beautiful files with realist paintings of botany on parchment. It matters what surrounds me. I’m slow to bring in new belongings, quick to say no to household purgings of friends, and satisfied to make do with much less. What I take in must have function, joy, and meaning.

Much that we have in storage in North Idaho will not see the Keweenaw. My purge list is longer than my keepers. We fixed the truck, including the death wobble, but then the Hub decided he didn’t have enough funds for the trip. Thankfully, we got him to listen, to look at the paper with costs. He did make a few calls to get quotes on delivery, and it could be within our range to do if we save up by next spring. I feel no urgency, though there are boxes and items I’d want as soon as possible.

Having a home has mattered more than belongings, so I feel content with a sparsely filled house. It feels like potential.

Right now, I’m all about potential. I’m a grad student. This week, I started my online MFA at SNHU, and every course I take adds to the ascension of my novel. I’ve written four manuscripts, hoping that I’d learn from one to the other. And I have! But I felt stuck, not knowing where to turn my attention to improve my craft skills. I can distinguish misinformation from quality sources, but even good information gets buried. Where to start?

And I want quality feedback to grow my skills and discipline as an author. One way or the other, you have to pay for that standard — hire a top-notch editor in the publishing industry of your choice; pay to attend national writing conferences; sign up for online or in-person workshops; hire a writing coach with credentials; go back to school.

When I worked for wages, I took time every year to attend writing workshops. It furthered my motivation, and I always learned something new to apply to my craft skills. When I left my career to write full-time self-employed, I paid for an expensive ($2,000) multi-day workshop. Like many writers, I’m a self-learner capable of finding the information I need.

Eventually, I won a scholarship to a writing conference and laid out the groundwork for building a literary community. And I wrote four complete manuscripts. What I mean by complete is that they started and ended with lots of wordcount and self-editing in between. I even hired an editor from NYC for several revisions of one manuscript.

Then I scrapped it when life got hairier than Sasquatch’s feet. I rewrote it, mid-crisis. Shopped out the new beginning to trusted alpha-readers, received encouragement, and honest assessment.

One reader reminded me that our first novel isn’t always the book that makes it to print.

Remember, I used alpha-readers. These are readers I trust. These are people who are more than friends; they are also qualified to give feedback I  trust. Beta-readers differ in that they are people you often don’t know but who read the genre you write and offer feedback on how well your manuscript would be received in that genre.

Trusted opinions don’t mean they are my thoughts, too, but I agree that our first novel isn’t always going to be the one that makes it.

We live (and publish) in interesting times. Independent publishing gives second life to first novels. Some might argue that a green manuscript should stay in the desk drawer. Others believe you have to start somewhere. I actually enjoy reading the progress of an author. And I’ve gone back to the first novels of some of my favorite authors and recognized even the masters were once green.

The point is — don’t stop, but publish according to your goals.

My goal is lofty, I know. I want to traditionally publish. I’ve waxed and waned on that idea and even came to the conclusion that hybrid authors are successful (those who publish both traditionally and independently).  My dilemma was, though, how do I get better? I knew it was investment time.

You can invest sweat equity, but without paid feedback, the return will be hit and miss. I had sweated enough. It was time to write novels smarter. When the opportunity came up to pursue an MFA, I snapped like a hungry trout. But I thought carefully about it, too. Were there online programs I could invest in, and would I have the motivation to go at my own pace without instructor feedback? If I’m going to get an MFA, do I go back to college, do a low-residency, or go online?

Just for giggles, I wrote to Brigham Young University because I know that Brandon Sanderson teaches creative writing there. I also checked out grad schools with MFA programs across the country. And I looked online. I like the SNHU online MFA best, but I kept looking. In the end, I simply liked the program and the support they offer to students.

I didn’t want to go back to college on campus and disrupt my life after finally coming home. I don’t need the in-person connection of a low-residency because I get that through my own workshops and literary community. So online it was.

Let me tell you, four days into my journey, and I’m walking on clouds of whipped cream sweetened with apricot jam. This structured learning is precisely what I needed, and it tastes like mana! I didn’t even realize how much I was struggling to articulate some of my needs as a writer until I began interacting with my instructor, peers, and course material.

I’m in awe of how much technology has improved the overall experience of online schooling. And both my professors this term rock — experienced, eager to be part of the learning environment, and committed to the hard work and thrill of being a professional writer.

This week, we are studying genre and how it predicts craft skills. We are comparing craft to writing skills, and reading the opinions of greats, such as Ursula K. Le Guin. I’m reading Wallace Stegner’s thoughts in his book, On Teaching and Writing Fiction. I have two video discussions to write and record tonight, and three books to read in addition to weekly assignments. All coursework informs how I will advance my novel (my thesis).

Learning is looking a lot like rebuilding a home — what I take in must have function, joy, and meaning.

August 15, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sweet jam. It can take you to the kitchen or the smokey room of a back-alley bar. What makes it sweet? Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by August 20, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Not a Typical Sweet Jam (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Boiling quinces filled Danni’s kitchen with a lively scent, something between citrus and pears. Something remembered. In the canner, she prepped a hot bath to disinfect her jars and lids. She opened the sack of white sugar, ready to make sweet jam. Michael raised an eyebrow, continuing to look as skeptical as he did when he helped her pick the lumpy fruit.

“How’d you hear about these quince things?”

“The joy of being a historical archeologist. I read old books and journals.”

“Huh. Nothing from my Anishinaabe roots.”

Later, spread thickly across slabs of sourdough, Michael updated his history.

Poisoned Apples

We know how the story goes for Snow White. The Evil Queen sends a poisoned apple that only true love’s kiss can overcome. Well, there are different versions of the familiar tale. We wish fairy tails were true, and maybe, in a way, they are. Through one act of kindness, choosing love over hate, writing through the mess no matter how toxic — we can deliver an anecdote.

Writers explored the apple tree, daring to touch the poisoned variety. Some followed myth, some used realism, and others mashed it all up like cider.

The following are based on the August 8, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a poisoned apple.

PART I (10-minute read)

Miss Scarlet – In the Kitchen – With an Apple by TN Kerr

She who’d smiled and cooed when she gave him the fruit,
now laughed out loud
and watched him chew.
The fruit glowed red, juicy, crisp, and tart.
When he bit in, droplets ran to his shirt and
down his chin.
They burned through the soft cotton and scarred his skin.

He reached for her, in pain, confused;
his finger was cut
on the hem of her red pleated skirt.
I watched the rent spread wide, filling with crimson before
overflowing the wound and splashing onto her open-toed mules.
Shoes that were once white, were now scarlet,
like her name.

🥕🥕🥕

Inconclusive by Jomz Ojeda

The victim lay on the ground, sprawled, while clutching his throat.

“Choked on an apple? Classic.” Detective Monroe commented as he surveyed the scene, a half-eaten apple by his feet.

The victim, a young man in his twenties, had a twisted, horrified look on his face. His eyes bulged, and his mouth open and moist with bubbling saliva.

“Was it an accident, inspector?” A rookie cop asked.

“It could be. You never know.” The detective took slow, calculated steps all over the room. His eyes fell back on the apple.

“Take this to forensics… it might tell us more.”

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The Don’s Move by The Dark Netizen

Don Pazta stared at me triumphantly.

“You’ve done it. Don Peeza is dead. Now his territory belongs to us. Well done.”

I smiled at the old man while gingerly sipping on my glass of wine. Don Peeza’s half eaten apple lay on the plate, next to his resting head. Don Pazta giddily got up from his seat and did a small jig.

“Tell me though. How did you know he would pick that apple from the basket?”

I grinned at the old don.

“I didn’t.”

Don Pazta glanced towards the half-eaten apple on his own plate, before keeling over…

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Fear had eaten into his mind’s core like a malevolent caterpillar. Fear of the future. Fear of the soldiers. Fear of losing his farm. It had been there, rotting his brain matter, ever since the declaration of war in October the prior year. The injury he had sustained early this year had exacerbated its effect until it felt as if his mind was like a worm-infested apple, brown and soft inside. He took some deep breaths, determined to prevent the poison from spreading and affecting his reactions. Poor reactions could result in the deaths of him and his family.

🥕🥕🥕

How Far from the Tree? by Di @ pensitivity101

She was different, though didn’t understand why.

They came from the same gene pool, the same background, the same upbringing.

They had grown up together, been taught the same values, attended the same school.

But she was different, and she knew it.

She stood out. It wasn’t intentional, and the others tried to put her down, swamp her with their opinions and demanding attention.

Their offspring were the same as them.

Calculating, scheming, self-centred and selfish. No good deed done or thought of unless it benefited them.

Where had the poison originated?

And thank god she not been affected.

🥕🥕🥕

Staying Close to Mother by Anne Goodwin

There wasn’t much my mother loved, but she sure did love that tree. Sharp shade at summer’s peak; soft pink blossom at its dawn. Come summer’s end she loved to feed its sweet-sour fruit to me.

When time was ripe she’d pick a golden orb and shine its skin with hers. Warmed and polished by her breast, I’d accept her offering solemnly. As if cradling the whole world in my palms.

“Eat!” she said.

Obediently, I crunched, as juices dribbled from my mouth. Although it gave me bellyache, I never once declined an apple from my mother’s poisoned tree.

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The Bad Apple by Ritu Bhathal

April bit her blackened lips in frustration. Just how long was mum going to go on and on about her clothes. All she wanted to do, was get out of the house.

She absentmindedly rolled a corner of the rug back and forth with her clumpy boots.

“April! Stop doing that to my rug! Honestly. I don’t know what’s got into you. It’s like those friends of yours have just brainwashed you.”

She rolled a heavily khol-lined eye. The doorbell rang.

“I’m going, mum.” She turned. “And just remember, they say the apple never falls far from the tree.”

🥕🥕🥕

If the Mirror Said More by Susan Sleggs

The Queen questioned her reliable magic mirror but this time the answer was different. Snow White was deemed more fair.

“Why?” screamed the angry queen.

“Your beauty is still supreme but not your heart. Snow White cares for others more than herself. She is loyal without being jealous. She works hard, without complaining, nor expecting return. She follows the laws while still helping the less fortunate and she sees her near empty glass as replenishable with good fortune.”

“I shall kill her with a poison apple!”

“No, my Queen. Learn from her or the poison will surely kill you.”

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Floridaborne

“…Snow White lived happily ever after,” my daughter said.

“Where’d you hear that?”

“Jane’s mom said we live happily ever after without haters.”

“She doesn’t understand the story,” I said.  “Do you want to be imprisoned in a palace?”

“Ewwww.  No!”

“When the story was written, Princesses were baby factories ensuring one kingdom had ties to another. Jane’s mom is a socialist.  We live in a Constitutional Republic.  Our founders knew we had to be diligent.”

“What’s diligent?”

“Socialism, the evil step mother, is delusional. It wants to change what the mirror tells her.  Never allow delusion to live.”

🥕🥕🥕

Skeletons by Reena Saxena

“Splash some green paint on the apple. It is needed for Halloween décor.”

“Do a Google search for ‘poisoned apple’ images. You might get better ideas.”

“ I don’t like fairy tale themes. Those are repeated everywhere.”

The skeleton surprised me on the party evening.

“Where did you get this from?”

“Somebody’s cupboard.” Am I hallucinating? The hollow voice seemed to emanate from the skeleton.

“Don’t worry. The cupboard is not yours, Honey, but someone is in for a shock today.”

“Herbert, get out of that costume. I don’t like being targeted for pranks.”

“Oops, Honey gave me away….”

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Jim “Quincy” Borden

I was working in the lab late one night, tasked with trying to find a safer, cheaper, and more environmentally-friendly formula for our top-selling weed killer.

While typing notes on my Macbook, I absentmindedly reached for the beaker containing the latest compound.

Unfortunately, some of the liquid fell onto the keyboard, and I watched in horror as smoke began to come out of my computer.

The screen went blank a few seconds later, and nothing I could do would bring it back to life.

It was then that I realized what the problem was, I had a poisoned Apple.

🥕🥕🥕

The Apple by Chelsea Owens

Doug stared at the cursor which marked the end of a lengthy piece. A smashing piece, really; one for which he might garner literary praise.

-If not for a little thing called conscience. Doug’s finger poised over the ‘Submit’ option, pulled back.

It’s not a factual article. Don’t publish it.

His conscience sounded deeper than Jiminy Cricket but was no less annoying. He was a grown man, working for The Apple, for the love of -! Well! He, Doug, was not to be bullied by a fantastical creature.

He clicked the button, releasing his minor poison to the unsuspecting masses.

🥕🥕🥕

How to Un-poison the Apple by tracey

The morning sun wakes me and I know I should be grateful for the possibilities of this new day. It stretches out before me, empty and endless.

I drink my tea. Do I dare turn on the radio? What are the chances of hearing good news? No, I will not poison my brain first thing in the morning.

Instead I bake chocolate chip cookies. I make sandwiches. I count out ten bottles of water. Then I fill ten sack lunches.

I spend my morning seeking out the homeless and giving them lunch – sandwiches, cookies and one crisp, sweet apple.

🥕🥕🥕

Like a Poisoned Apple (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni wrinkled her nose at Ramona’s offering. A tomato, freshly plucked. A Kellogg, an heirloom bright as carnelian and hard to grow in North Idaho. But Ike’s grandmother had forgotten that Danni gagged at the taste of any tomato.

“Thank you, Grandma. I’ll take it home.”

Ramona glared.

Danni sighed. “How about we share it?” Maybe Ramona would forget by the time they hauled veggies into the house.

The old woman continued to scowl. “I’m not your grandmother.” Dementia worsened when Ramona tired. It was like a poisoned apple.

Maybe Ramona would remember her if Danni took a bite.

🥕🥕🥕

Thief by Joanne Fisher

Red Riding Hood walked down the forest path carrying a basket of food for her Grandma. Suddenly a big black wolf leapt out from among the trees.

“I’m so hungry!” The wolf declared.

Alarmed, Red threw the basket at the wolf and hid behind a tree. The wolf went through all the baked goods and devoured them. Lastly, it munched down an apple and then started convulsing and foaming at the mouth until it collapsed on the ground.

Red looked at the now dead wolf. Good thing she didn’t give Grandma the apple she had stolen from Snow White.

🥕🥕🥕

Fairest In the Land by Kelley Farrell

Purple veined trees dangled darkened fruits above her head.

“I’ve never been to this part of the woods before.” Words she was barely brave enough to speak disappeared into a pulsing air of mystery. She would swear her feet were no longer her own.

“I’m so very hungry and tired.” The stiffness of the air crushed her voice but the woods protects its own. One of the purple veined trees dropped a fruit into her hands.

Her teeth tore the skin, unleashing a dark gush to dribble over her chin.

And that’s how she became fairest in the land.

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Susan Zutautas

Okay, I think we finally have a winner here, would you like to test it? As soon as this hits the shelves people will be running each other over trying to purchase this. Here, hold out your arm Elizabeth.

Hold on a few seconds, I need to wash off my wrist first.

Pierre gently applied a touch of the new fragrance to Miss Arden’s wrist and waited intently.

Well, tell me, what do you think?

The scent is fruity yet slightly spicy. I love it! What shall we call it? Oh, wait I know, Pomme Empoisonnée or Poisoned Apple.

🥕🥕🥕

An Annulment Achievement by JulesPaige

Part 1

The queen of the fae was in a big huff. This poison apple thing was getting out of hand. The forest was littered with sleeping beauties, princes and even peasants. The dwarves were trying to keep up with building enough glass shelters for all the bodies. Pretty soon the whole countryside was going to be in a deep sleep and it was going to be up to strangers to kiss all these dreamers.

What was the cause? Was it a ruthless royalty? Turned out to be a clan of worms that had been contaminated by that first poisonous fruit.

Part 2

Fruit laced with sleeping draught – Poisoned from a jealous Queen. And worms just doing what they do naturally, multiplying and crawling through apples. The wicked queen who had wanted Little Snow-White dead had been forced to dance to death in a pair of red hot iron shoes… who would be able to save the worms? For even worms have a valued place in the forest.

Time to enlist someone with some mad science skills. How could they save the genetically modified worms. How could they capture all the affected worms? Maybe with one giant apple with the right antidote?

Part 3

The queen of the fae offered a generous reward for and antidote that would save the worms and get all the sleeping people out of her domain. The fae kisses weren’t strong enough to wake deep sleep of all the humans. She would have to see if extracting saliva and making a potion for wakefulness would work. Maybe she could employ the Tooth Fairy Guild?

Within a fortnight everyone and everything was ready. The giant apple sat in the middle of a special glade that had been sprayed with a special ode du decay to attract all the worms.

Part 4

The dwarves and fae teamed up. As soon as the dwarves removed the glass coverings several fae flew to the lips of the sleeping bodies to paint on the wakeful kissing potion. And then as quick as a wink they ran and hid to see what would happen.

Slowly the people began to stir from their dreams. They could only wonder why they had been resting on odd platforms. And without hesitation made their way back to their homes.

Dwarves dismantled the platforms with joy. In time, all that was left of the great big Apple was the core.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

It’s an Institution by Norah Colvin

They arrived with bright eyes, open hearts and curious minds. As they entered, each was handed a shiny apple full of promises. They took their places and followed instructions. In unison, they bit off small portions of their apple and chewed to the beat of the enormous metronome suspended above. On cue, they swallowed but, with insufficient time before the required regurgitation, were unable to digest any components. Before they had finished, the taste was bland, swallowing difficult and regurgitation almost impossible. On exiting, their eyes were dull, their hearts closed, and their minds shrivelled, poisoned by false promises.

🥕🥕🥕

The Poisoned Apple by Faith A. Colburn

We used to have a row of mulberry trees on one side of our driveway. In midsummer, when the skies shone cerulean and ships of clouds sailed the prairie, the trees turned green and shiny as holly and began producing the first sweet purple fruit.

My sister and I climbed those trees, but like Snow White’s sweet apple, they exacted a price. We’d climb out of the trees with scratches and rips on our bare legs and arms, even our faces, twigs in our tousled hair. Our purple mouths, fingers, and purple-stained playsuits testified to our willingness to pay.

🥕🥕🥕

Telling by D. Avery

“I’m Snow White. I’m dead.”

“Oh dear.”

“Don’t worry, only for a while.”

“Until a prince happens along?”

“That’s how Tommy’s mom tells it.”

“Hmm. Is there another way to tell it?”

Marlie unclasped her hands and sat up. “Well, Sofie’s mom says the apple was yellow, not red. And it wasn’t poison, it was the apple of wisdom that the mother shared with her daughters.”

“What else?”

“No princes, just farmers and craftsmen. Useful and polite. Oh, and Snow White is really called Eartha Brown.”

“Marlie, now that you’ve come back to life you could invite Sofie over.”

🥕🥕🥕

Yandeau Sea (from Yandeau) by Saiffun Hassam

In the bright sunshine Yandeau Sea glittered like myriads of tiny silvery pearls. But the great beauty of the Sea was marred along the shores by red, orange and yellow algal blooms.

Pierre remembered apple picking on Grandpere’s farm. Grandpere tossed moldy apples into the mulch pile. Poisoned apples he said. Pierre, then a young biologist, was struck by the intertwining of shiny golden apples and black fungal rot.

Now he was a marine scientist. From a distance the algal blooms appeared to be beautiful carpets. Underneath that carpet the waters were toxic to fish, starfish, crabs and crustaceans.

🥕🥕🥕

Immunity by Adil EL Bourichi

“I didn’t poison that apple!” was my orchard’s previous owner’s explanation .

My apple tree had born a pumpkin instead of an apple.

My chemist neighbor said that it was a poisoned apple and that it was his duty as a scientist to tell the world about it.

Soon, it became a worldwide phenomenon and more poisoned apples appeared pretty much everywhere. No country seemed immune.

All those who ate the pumpkins died… All, except the inhabitants of a tiny Pacific island.

When interviewed, an inhabitant said: “You see, poison is medicine and medicine is poison… It’s about balance.”

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Tien Skye

He could scarcely believe it. Months of effort – of planning, of sleepless nights – wiped out in matters of seconds.

Oh, how can the apple be poisoned so?

Known for its immunity, most viruses are unable to affect it. Yet, he could deny the truth no longer.

His MacBook Pro is not responding to any of the commands.

Well, every cloud has its silver lining. Or at least he hopes the iCloud has, that the documents have been backed up to the online server.

Then he realises, he has forgotten to switch on the Wi-Fi.

Poisoned Apple indeed.

🥕🥕🥕

Poisoned Apple by Sally Cronin

It is common in this modern world, to be offered promises that seem as wholesome as a bowl of shiny apples. However the red skinned fruit may hide toxic untruths and evil intent. Once it is swallowed, the poisoned apple will stick in your throat, causing you to spout the heinous words hidden within; spreading the evil like a virus. The only antidote to its venom; is to establish the truth, and wash the words down with random acts of kindness. We must all think carefully before embarking on a dangerously addictive diet of fake news and ill intentions.

🥕🥕🥕

The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil by H.R.R. Gorman

“And this is the core of the poisonous apple which Adam and Eve ate.” The tour guide pointed to a core, browned from oxidation but otherwise in good shape. “This was unearthed 10 years ago in Mesopotamia, and no scientific explanation regarding its preservation has come forth.”

Someone raised a hand. “Why do we want to keep it?”

“Many reasons! The NIH wants to research its antibiotic properties. The DOE wants to examine its timelessness to find clean fuels. And, of course, the DOD wants to weaponize it. One of these efforts has already succeeded – I’ll let you guess which…”

🥕🥕🥕

Dark Places by Anita Dawes

Our universe has an evil twin
That’s where I live,
walking through black molasses
With the past present and future
Stuck in the same place
My life has been overlaid
by the juice of a poisonous apple
There are times when I believe
I am living on the dark side of the moon
Where the unknown waits
Taking time before devouring my soul
Sleeping dreaming, it is all the same
Nothing changes in the dark spaces of my mind
There are black holes
where my other six souls try to live
I pray for just one to be reborn…

🥕🥕🥕

Think of the Devil by Anurag Bakhshi

“Eat it, you know that you want to,” the Devil whispered in Eve’s ears.

Eve looked apprehensively at the apple and replied, “It…does look delicious…but Adam told me not to accept anything from strangers.”

The Devil plucked the apple from the tree, and said, “Let ME have a bite first, so that you know it’s safe.”

He smiled as he bit into the apple, he knew it was unsafe only for humans.

Eve smiled as the Devil clutched at his throat, it was a good thing she’d had the foresight to poison the apple the night before!

🥕🥕🥕

Dressed to Kill by Sarah Brentyn

The fall of 1978 would be remembered for generations.

I loved the story of the princess woken by a handsome prince. Each year, on Halloween, I became that princess.

I walked alone, trick-or-treating, while groups of guys mocked my dress and made lewd comments. Girls threw rotten apples poisoned with hatred and intolerance.

Mrs. Halloran, who was always kind to me, held a bowl of candy but pulled me aside. She gave me a bright, red apple and a smile.

Our neighborhood lost 27 kids that year. Poisoned. All but the boy in the Snow White costume.

🥕🥕🥕

A New Story by Donna Matthews

How did the story go, she wondered? A girl bit into a poisoned apple and fell asleep? The evil step-mother, jealous of her beautiful step-daughter?

Yes!

And the seven drawfs? Or was that detail from another story? She couldn’t recall clearly. Except that maybe the story was titled, “Sleeping Beauty.” The character had to be awakened by a kiss from a prince.

Hmmm. Now exasperated. Stories about girls waiting around for the prince to save the day. Sleeping beauty waiting for someone to wake her up.

Yeah, no. She never did care for fairytales — she’d write a new story.

🥕🥕🥕

Changing the Story by Jo Hawk

I lift my eyes to behold the fairy tale wrapped in a make-believe land. I am defenseless, cold, and empty inside. Laying on my deathbed, the heroes turn away, and the wise men tremble. They are lost on the path leading nowhere.

But my story is not over. I refuse to bow. Rocks cannot break my glasshouse. Searching deep inside, I find the spark, light the fire, prove I am still alive. Flames reveal the true ending.

I reject the poison apple you fed me, and it becomes the instrument of your death. My revenge is my life, well-lived.

🥕🥕🥕

Dust by Allison Maruska

I sit on the porch, watching your dust settle.

It was all a lie. A performance. Years of attention and validation that you required of me blow away, meaningless as the dust your truck tires kicked up.

A little pushback, and I’m dead to you.

You taught me a lesson. I’ve now eaten from the poisoned apple of narcissism, one I accepted too gladly. God damn your charm. And God help the next who tries to make me his supply.

The dust has already returned to the earth, your impact forgotten.

Now it’s my turn to do the same.

🥕🥕🥕

Bitterness by Mark A Morris

I dug my thumbs into the divot at the top and pulled it apart. The apple split unevenly, breaking into two but with one part twice the size of the other. It was this piece I took first, nibbling away at one side. It was juicy but sharp in its flavour, a bitterness I’d not expected causing me to gag a little as I chewed.

“They’re perfectly ripe,” she said, a half smile flickering across her face. “But the one that I ate hadn’t been doctored with cyanide.”

I already knew it was too late. I should have known.

🥕🥕🥕

A Rotten Apple by Neel Anil Panicker

All who knew her made a very conscious effort to steer clear of her by a mile.

Asha had that thing about her, emanating vibes that could only be described as venomous.

Pretty insular to the negativity she spread all around, Asha hurled her barbs at one and all.

And woe betide all those who came under her crosshairs; or worse, happened to come under her bad books.

Then, she would turn a virago, and wreck vengeance of a scale and intensity that can only be termed diabolical.

A poisoned, rotten apple is what the world knew her as.

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A Desperate Balance by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She stands in the shallows of the hidden cove, salt water lapping at her toes.

“What does she want?” the ocean wonders. “Here as supplicant…or queen?”

She draws an apple from her heavy cloak. It drops, its power releasing into the shadows.

The apple glints wickedly.

Naked in the scarlet sunrise, she lifts the apple to her lips, bites, and mumbles a spell, so quiet, weary of a world gone sour. The ocean hears these words and more, and accepts.
She swallows, drops with the poisoned apple, into the shallows.

The waves surge, accepting both poison and cure.

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Word Up by D. Avery

“Kid, is thet Le’Gume character still around?”

“Reckon Carrot Ranch’s a hard place to leave,. Pal, are you still worried Pepe is a bad apple?”

“Naw, s’pose not, though he does have some noxious qualities, if ya know what I mean.”

“Yep, I smell what yer steppin’ in, if ya know what I mean. Hey Pal? Ya ever worry that folks don’t know what ya mean?”

“Well, Kid, word is, speakin’ is a big responsibility. Was much simpler when we jist used sticks an’ stones. If ya know what I mean.”

“Mean words could git us back ta that.”

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August 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

My heart is heavy, so I pick tomatoes. Not big slicers or heirlooms, but round dark globes black as cherries on a tree. Indeed, they are cherry tomatoes. Black cherry tomatoes. My fingers carry the lingering scent, a distinct aroma that can only be described as tomato, sharp like poison.

From the time I was a child, I called tomatoes poisonous. I can’t tell you why. I didn’t like them. Maybe I thought they muted the tang of a sandwich, or rendered a salad bland. Maybe someone tried to feed me watered down spaghetti, and I thought it tasted awful without proper spices.

As a kid, I favored spice — I appreciated garlic, herbs, black pepper, and spoonfuls of vinegar. Vinegar lessens the poison of tomatoes. It spruced up the blandness. Because of vinegar, I love tomatoes in ketchup, salsa, and Caprese. I grow cherry tomatoes for bite-sized snacks constructed of one cherry tomato, one fresh leaf of Thai basil, one small fresh Mozza-ball, and a good dousing of balsamic vinegar.

I eat two Capreses, sit in the canopy my maples, and contemplate the toxicity of the world.

We need less poison. Today’s headlines (and I’m referring to responsible journalistic sources) offer a range of trends from someone airing grievances to others demanding justice to a young person blasting and organization to families scrambling after a raid. And none of these stories relate to the loss of life from mass shooters over the weekend. It’s apparent people feel angry. Understandable. People also feel scared and unheard.

Voice is something I encourage writers to develop. You can think of voice as a person’s style of writing, an imprint on the page as unique as a thumbprint. The process of writing can also help people find their voice. It’s not a technique you can learn or imitate from another. You can’t take on someone else’s set of fingerprints. Voice is your core authenticity and something for you to explore and discover.

The late Toni Morrison — a mentor I read from afar but held close to my heart — has this to say about writing:

“Make up a story. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”

The origin of voice comes from our bank of experiences. Where we have invested our energies, passions, and actions gives back dividends unique to each of us. Consider that every week, a group of writers set out to craft 99 words about the same theme or topic. Individually, we submit stories as unique as our own lives and personalities. Even when we share similar backgrounds or hit upon the same idea, each story carries a unique voice.

And the more authentic you can be to your own voice, the more it will stand out. The better we are at articulating our deep places — the dark recesses and the breaks that let the light shine in — the stronger our voices will be. Toni would agree to go where the prompt leads you! She said,

“Writing is really a way of thinking, not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet.”

Today, I’m thinking about the toxicity of words, not just what we say but how we say it. Yes, writing can help us poke into those painful areas where injustice is unresolved and equality not yet achieved. Writing explores our scariest what-ifs and most cavernous mysteries of the human psyche. But when we write about our darkest hours, fears, and observations, it is a clear voice of authenticity that resonates the most. In other words, scathing rhetoric does not justify the problems delved.

The world is losing the humanity of its voice. Those who want to air their grievances are doing so by stepping on the heads of others. Language of politicians — spin and bias — permeate mainstream media and choke the social media networks with soundbites that lose meaning with regurgitation. Language has become a battlefield, and not everyone fully understands they are speaking with grenades in their mouths.

On Sunday, I read more articles than normal, trying — once again — to get a handle on where all this toxicity is coming from and why my nation is killing itself with an icon of its democratic freedom. I read everything from how mass shooters have domestic violence in common to the accessibility to weapons of war. Take away the guns seems a simple solution, but how do you remove the hate?

Consider these recent acts: a week ago, three Michigan men (mid-20s) were run down by a neighbor when they shouted for him to slow down on their shared access road. After killing one man, and maiming another for life, the neighbor drove back to the scene and continued to shout at them. Over the weekend, two local friends had a dispute, and one got in his SUV and ran over his friend twice. In Montana, a man cracked the skull of a 13-year-old-boy for not removing his hat during the national anthem at the start of a rodeo.

I mention these three acts because they are people within my known circles, not removed mass shooters. Yet, all senseless acts of violence are rooted in hatred, in the toxicity of I’m-right-you’re-wrong. And this poison begins with language. Light bulbs went off after I read this article in The Atlantic about Language in the Trump Era. It addresses the clarity of Trump’s simple language and what many hear as truth-speaking. But it also addresses how the more articulate opposition also creates a hierarchy and sense of superiority with its language.

The more individuals shout for their voices to be heard, the more shouting. The more shouting, the more emotion rises without thought. The more shouting, the more intellect rises without emotion. Toxic shouting erases our common ground of shared humanity. Yes, I’m tempted to shout, “Stop shouting — and listen!”

Toni Morrison also had this to say:

“I feel totally curious and alive and in control. And almost … magnificent, when I write.”

Why? Think about your answer for a moment. Make that your next private journal prompt or public post. Why do you feel curious, alive, in control, magnificent when you write? Because you are exploring and discovering what is most authentic to you — your voice. All that shouting comes from people either desperate for their voice to be heard or manipulated by that desperation. And because it is not authentic (yes, you supposed truth-speakers are not speaking from your truth; you are voicing opinions because you are afraid to discover your own true voice).

It’s easy to tune out the shouting, to post memes of peace, and disengage from seeking justice. But apathy is as dangerous as agitation. Can I make the world write in 99 words what is really at the heart of their fear? Can I get them to write 99 words about what they love most and set it in a collection to show the world we are more alike than our othering makes us? If I had a hammer…I’d hammer out 99 words of love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this land.

I’d say love is the answer, but Toni Morrison wisely cautioned:

“Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind.”

It’s daunting enough to send us all into hiding. Writer, Cheryl Oreglia, shared a post exploring her own experience with what it is to feel like hiding away from the toxic world events: Fill the Potholes.

Writing has a place in this world. You are called to not only tell stories but to use your voice in the telling. We can spend a lifetime — and I hope I do — exploring who we are and what our voices have to say. We can easily tear down. Toxicity does that — it destroys. But think about how we can build up with our words. What can we construct with our authenticity?

A final thought from Toni Morrison:

“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge – even wisdom. Like art.”

August 8, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a poisoned apple. Let’s explore dark myth. Deconstruct the original or invent something new. Negotiate the shadows, shed light, but go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by August 13, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Like a Poisoned Apple (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni wrinkled her nose at Ramona’s offering. A tomato, freshly plucked. A Kellogg, an heirloom bright as carnelian and hard to grow in North Idaho. But Ike’s grandmother had forgotten that Danni gagged at the taste of any tomato.

“Thank you, Grandma. I’ll take it home.”

Ramona glared.

Danni sighed. “How about we share it?” Maybe Ramona would forget by the time they hauled veggies into the house.

The old woman continued to scowl. “I’m not your grandmother.” Dementia worsened when Ramona tired. It was like a poisoned apple.

Maybe Ramona would remember her if Danni took a bite.

Rock Star

Maybe it’s in the swagger, or how fans react. It’s a chemical reaction between one who holds the fascination of many. Without a doubt, we recognize rocks stars, even dream of being one if only in our kitchen or as a parent.

Writers pursued rock and roll this week, chasing down stories to capture what makes a rock star. Familiar names cross the threshold and surprising takes join their ranks. Get ready for the show!

The following is based on the August 1, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock star.

PART I (10-minute read)

A Real Rock Star by Jo Hawk

Stars floated above Kye’s head. He couldn’t sleep when the ancients whispered. His gaze shifted from the sky to his sleeping brother. Their sheep rested quietly in the canyon’s safety.

Kye hefted a rock tossing it in his hand before using it to scrape images into the desert varnish coating the granite wall. The scene completed; his fingers rested on the depiction of his world.

The stars spun, eons passed, and the ancient voices grew silent. Kevin hiked into the park, hunting for answers. Placing his hand on the petroglyph he reached through time to touch the creator’s soul.

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Rock Star by Miriam Hurdle

John Livingston stood in the center stage. It was their first concert on the road.

Ringo started the percussion. John, Paul and George plucked the guitars for three beats. They sang on the fourth beat.

“Hey Jude…, don’t make it bad…”

The fan screamed. The girls reached out their hands.

“Take a sad song and make it bet…ter…”

The screaming got louder.

“…Na-na-na na… hey Jude.”

The four bowed to reach to their fan. One girl pulled John so hard, he fell off the stage and hit his head.

“Ouch!”

“John, wake up. You’re late to your camping trip.”

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Rock Star by Pete Fanning

Dave exited the meeting room to high fives and back slaps.

“Well done, my man. Can you fly out tomorrow?”

Dave smiled at his manager. Of course. His spreadsheets were impeccable, his PowerPoints sharp. He’d been killing it at work.

A glance to the windows, the Rockfish mountains in the distance. Shoot, the camping trip with Seth. Maybe Phil could step in. Seth’s loser stepdad worked at a bookstore, made ten bucks and hour. And Seth talked like he was a rock star.

“Dave, you in?”

Dave turned from the mountains. “Yeah, I just need to make a call.”

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Back to the Garden by D. Avery

Without their devices, his children complained they had nothing to look at. “Look up,” he said.

They did. On a cloudless night his children looked up and saw a summer sky.

“Look at all the stars! What’s that big one there?”

“That’s a planet, one of the wanderers. Mars, fourth rock from the sun.”

“That one’s moving right across.”

“Satellite.”

Lying on their sleeping bags they identified what constellations they could. They had more fun inventing their own.

“Dad, look! A shooting star! Make a wish.”

“I already have,” he said. “You are stardust,” he whispered. “You are golden.”

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Rock Star by Sally Cronin

The performance came to a climax, the singer whipping sweat laden hair around in a frenzy. Voice gravelly with fatigue, he growled out the final lyrics, gyrating across the stage. The last notes faded to the roar of the crowd. Thrusting his guitar above his head, he backed into the wings. Grabbing a towel he headed to his dressing room, eager for what waited for him. He sat back in the chair satisfied. Nothing like a fish paste sandwich and glass of cold milk to end the night. He smiled at the woman. ‘Thanks Mum just what I needed.’

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Rock Star Famous by Nancy Brady

My son Mark and his friends formed a band called Spike Strip. They rehearsed daily after school their two songs in the run up to the concert planned for Halloween.

During trick-or-treat, they sang and played those songs over and over again as kids came to the door for candy.

The concert was over before I returned from work, but that night Mark and his buddies were rock stars.

So much so that when there wasn’t a concert the following year, many kids asked where the band was, disappointed that they weren’t playing. Apparently, it was a memorable event.

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Rock Star by Jim “Quincy” Borden

Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.
Just because you’re not a rock star, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t paying attention to you.
Just because some psychologist came up with the idea of the spotlight effect, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t watching everything you do.

Because you are a dad.
In their eyes, you are a rock star.
And they are watching everything you do,
And hanging on every word you say.
And you will always be in the spotlight.
Because you are a dad.

And that’s better than being a rock star.

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Mama Was a Rock Star by Faith A. Colburn

She starred with big band orchestras in cities along the Eastern Seaboard and around the Great Lakes. Then she married a Nebraska farmer. He moved her to a stark little square house with a hip roof in the middle of a howling wilderness. In less than three years, she ran back to city lights—nightclubs—singing all night. .

But she came back. She adapted to the prairie’s silences and its screaming winds, the outhouse, the washboard, and the tyranny of crops and livestock. She became a better farm wife than many women who grew up on farms—she rocked.

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Caffeinated Rock Star by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Click, click, and click. She scrolled down, drumming her non-mousing hand, as pictures froze and popped at slower than a snail’s pace. Definitely not rocket science, but she had places to go, things to do, people to be. Really, she had to dust her shelves, vacuum her carpet, wash summer dust from her picture window…

And she’d had the coffee—too much—so she HAD to do the things. Her neck clenched.

Before all, she had to change that doofy Facebook profile pic. And the damn thing wouldn’t load.

Finally done! She’d feel like a rock star, except duh!

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Cookie Rock Star by Ann Edall-Robson

The aroma of a busy kitchen lingered. Cookies in all shapes and flavours waited for the taste testers. Each cookie made to fit into a grandchild’s hand. There would be chatter and updates before sampling every morsel on display. Eventually, she would settle into the old rocker. They’d stand beside her, touching the worn wooden arms, rocking her and singing made-up lyrics to favourite tunes. Ending in giggles, and dancing with arms in the air. Today, they added one last line they had somehow practised together.

“Our G…R…A…M…M…Aaaaa is a cooookie roooock starrrrr!”

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Meeting Idols by Matthew Shepherd

‘Hey sweetie. What’s your name?’

‘Nancy.’

Meeting the star whose posters plaster the child’s bedroom prompts a broad grin at odds with her doleful voice.

‘How old are ya, Nancy?’

‘Eight.’

Zeta fills with an urge to hug her beaming fan and is leaning forward when the girl’s mother steps up.

‘Don’t even think about it,’ she snaps. ‘Get your own kid if you want to do that. C’mon Nance, we’re going.’

The crestfallen child turns towards her idol, but Zeta looks away, unable to bear a world with one less smile.

The door slams as Zeta’s face crumples.

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Movin’ It by Norah Colvin

Miss Prim turned from the board just in time to see Max land a punch on Michael.

“Ma-ax!”

“He bumped me.”

Miss Prim sighed. “What were you doing, Michael?”

“Noth—”

“He was rocking the desk again.”

“How many times—”

Without direction, Michael removed himself to sit in the corner. Before long, his feet were twitching, his elbows were pumping and his whole body was squirming.

“Michael!”

Everyone looked.

“Sorry, Miss,” Michael muttered.

But he couldn’t keep still.

Years later, when he was a rock star, Miss Prim said, “I knew he’d make something of himself one day.”

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Ready to Rock by Jomz Ojeda

The noise was deafening, yet he could hear nothing but the loud thumping of his own heart.
Jeffrey was ready.

The stage they were on was small, but the venue was packed. Jeffrey cradled his electric guitar and placed his fingers on the first chord he needed to hit.

He looked up at George, their singer. He was beaming, a smile on his face stretched from ear to ear. George pointed a finger at Mark, their drummer.

Mark pointed back at George with his drumstick, and banged on the drums.

Today they will win the battle of the bands.

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Living Like a Rock Star by Susan Sleggs

OMG being involved with someone famous is hell. I’ve been followed by paparazzi, and can’t go shopping or out to eat with my own mother without security. I can’t buy anything, at any price, without people saying she paid. She wouldn’t date me if I didn’t have my own money. Why didn’t I listen when my friends told me living like a rock star wasn’t going to be all that easy? I’m just realizing, if I can get out of this relationship, I will always be HER ex and it will be years before I’m known as anything else.

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Never Alone by Kelley Farrell

The observatory was dark, giving way to a stunning array of constellations above. These quiet moments with Danny were Maeve’s favorite. Too often she found herself pushed to the side for women giggling like school girls.

She always tried to be nice but sometimes, like during their long awaited reunion dates, she found it hard to be accommodating.

“I love you.” Danny pulled her closer. “Hey, I wanna ask you something.”
“Of course.” Butterflies settled in her stomach. Was this it?
“I wanted to ask …”

A shrill scream cut through the dark.. “Oh my gaawwddd! It is you!”

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Let’s Rock by Joanne Fisher

I’ve always secretly wanted to be a rock star. Strutting my stuff on a stage in front of screaming fans as I do an incandescent guitar solo that drives them all crazy.

In reality I’m rather shy and awkward, and virtually a recluse. I can play a guitar, but not in front of others. Instead I sing along to all my favourite tracks in my bedroom pretending there is an adoring crowd in front of me. That’s probably the closest I’ll ever get.

I’ve always wanted to be a rock star, but I guess quite a few people do…

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Song, for One by Chelsea Owens

I changed my name
You changed your mind…

Linzee squinted at the spotlights. Rows of apathetic audience saw only themselves in her mirrored lenses.

I should’ve listened
When you weren’t kind…

They were philistines, all of them. Uncultured. Uncaring. Still, better than him.

You think I’m all alone;
You think I’m yours to own!

Someone perked up. Another. Linzee strummed the crescendo to the chorus, sunglasses sparking in the rudimentary stage lights.

I shouldn’t’ve told you anything
Except where to shove that ring!

It didn’t matter. Tonight was hers; hers and those few who knew exactly what she sung.

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Rock Star by Floridaborne

We sing to the energy inside a stadium, a concert hall, an empty field where thousands pay a day’s salary to watch us do what we love.

The very rich are revealed through eyes reflecting their abundance and expectations.  Their stance screams out, “I deserve the best.”

Those who scrimped, who saved to pay for this one night stand, drink in the energy of an event that might be the pinnacle of their desperate lives.

We sing for the joy of it, for outside these walls there’s no place we can travel, nowhere we can find anonymity, or peace.

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Always a Rocker by Kerry E.B. Black

A silvery line of droll punctuated the vacant expression that landed David in the locked down unit with nineteen other impared individuals. Once he commanded a tour bus and bested the world’s stages. Now his wheelchair and a disease kept him captive. He stared into private abysses until the activities girl arrived.

From her music player, drums drove a beat. Keyboards provided the backbone. Guitar wailed.

David perked up. He recognized the song. His song.

She sang.

With an anemic voice, a mere ghost of his past, he performed.

The girl patted his shoulder and nodded. “Once a rocker.”

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PART II (10-minute read)

Rock Star by Robert Kirkendall

Young Timmy held a broom horizontally and pantomimed strumming it like a guitar. He moved to the tune inside his head of the latest pop song and pretended he was playing as he wailed out the lyrics best as he could remember them. His mother came across his imaginary guitar virtuosity and beamed maternally.

“Well this is more useful than sweeping,” mother kidded.

Timmy stopped playing. “Someday I’m going to be a rock star!” he proclaimed with unrestrained, youthful enthusiasm.

“Why that’s just splendid, dear!” mother said approvingly. “So what are you going to do for a day job?”

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A Star is Born by Anurag Bakhshi

As I reached the edge of the stage, and saw the crowd, I almost ran back.

I knew how merciless this seemingly innocent crowd could be.

But then, I thought of the adulation that would follow my performance, and my spine stiffened.

I turned around, and marched towards the center of the stage with a swagger.

The crowd immediately fell silent.

But I could sense them getting restless as I fumbled with the mic.

And then, I cleared my throat and started singing, “Baa Baa Black Sheep….”.

And students of Class Nursery-A finally had their very own rock star!

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Rock It! by Anita Dawes

Rock and roll is in my soul
Born kicking and screaming my lungs out
Taking the fast track, music burning with every step
I wanted to find the songs to change the world
One day I would be famous, see my name in lights
I am dirt poor now, but not for long
Odd jobs along the way, I now had my first guitar
My style stood out, too far for some
Sam Phillips gave me my first break
It’s All Right Mama, playing on the radio
There was no stopping me now
I brought Graceland,
Who am I?

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Sister Rosetta by H.R.R. Gorman

Rosetta’s fingers blazed over the fingerboard, twanged the strings with a fire never before seen. She infused a plain instrument with dripping sexual tension and lightning power. Fans clamored at her feet, and her soprano voice carried through the speakers.

The lights went down at the end of the show, and Rosetta made her way backstage. On her way there, a young boy attempted to accost her in the hall. “How do you play like that?”

“Why sugar,” she said, “I practiced and did it ’cause I loved it.” She pinched his cheek. “What’s your name, honey-child?”

“Elvis Presley.”

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Fishin’ by Bill Engleson

‘Course, no one believed Swampdeck.

“Ton ‘a bullcrap,” bellowed Calgary Pete. “Don’t even measure up to bullcrap, I’m thinkin’.”

“Most things don’t,’ I chimed in, lookin’ to contribute.

Swampdeck was insistent. “Saw ‘em. Saw ‘em fly in this mornin’. Stayin’ up at the Lodge. Big as life.”

Fact was, the odd moderately famous person did show up at Cuddles Cove to get away from the agony of glory.

But not him. Too big.

“Knew ya doubting tommyknockers wouldn’t believe me. So, I took a selfie.”

And sure enough, it was faint, but it sure looked like THE BOSS.

🥕🥕🥕

Could’ve Been a Rockstar by Ritu Bhathal

“ROCKSTAR IN MAKING SHOT ON STAGE!”

Minnie wiped a tear from her cheek as she scanned the article on the front page of the local paper.

He had indeed been someone destined for more than a few shifts in the Walmart down the road.

Jamie Smith.

Simple boy, with a talent for playing his guitar and singing.

It was the end of term, and school had its annual talent show.

The audience was held captive, in more than one way.

During his performance, gunmen stormed in, opening fire around the hall.

Jamie was one of the first to fall.

🥕🥕🥕

The Tragic Tale of the Woman Who Shot Andy Warhol by Anne Goodwin

Your mother’s rock, her shining star; you could’ve been a professor, president, you. But you were the seer who saw too much, the dreamer who dreamt her utopia alone. You preached that men grew stiff at the thought of women as stiffs, and peddled your thesis to addicts and whores. Childhood, drugs, poverty and patriarchy drove you crazy, yet you were the only sane one in the room. You could’ve been someone. You could’ve been a rock star. But a black hole swallowed your prospects and talent when you put a hole in the body of a famous man.

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Worship by Reena Saxena

He appeared on pages that mattered, donated to the right charities, got invited to all prominent do’s. The PR was perfect, more than his business was.

But all was not well in La-La land. Debts had been mounting. Financial institutions were not willing to lend any more.

Then… newspapers flashed news of his suicide. The suicide note blamed banks and tax authorities of harassment. The sympathy wave did not stop to think that tax evasion and default is not honest. The image he had so carefully built could over-ride logic.

A painstakingly carved out rock star, even in death…

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A Flash of Fiction by JulesPaige

“Is not!”

“Is so!”

“Out, the bus is coming…Love, you,” I say.

I hear the children arguing. “It’s mine!” They bicker. Then, they get on the school bus. For a few hours I’m free. I can turn the radio on and while vacuuming I can feel like a rock star. I can sing at the top of my lungs while dancing. Take that Mrs. Nosey McGillicutty.

I’ll drink my carbonated soda pretending I’m drinking champagne at some local gala that is honoring my accomplishments. Too soon the end of the school day will come to burst my bubble.

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My Rockstar! by Ruchira Khanna

One unforgettable torrid evening, I get unexpected news from my brother, “She is no more!”

I grew numb at first then shouted and cried relentlessly.

‘How can this be? She had promised to visit me in a few months.’ I murmured while I tried to make sense of the news.

‘Who shall give me priceless advise when I’m low and down?’

After a lot of sobbing and contemplation, I came to peace with the news that my rockstar, aka my mom, has left me for heavenly abode.

🥕🥕🥕

Stars of the Future (Lynn Valley) by Saifun Hassam

At the Farmers Market, Hannah and the other local chefs were serving a special luncheon today. Live music from the Lynn Valley High Rock and Jazz Band echoed around the Market. Hannah knew the stars of the day had arrived.

Jessica and Hannah grinned at each other. Jessica was the teacher in charge of the Rock and Jazz Band. Time for the celebration! The twenty students were totally surprised as Jessica and Hannah unfurled a huge banner:

“Welcome future stars! Thank you for your help!”

The students’ benefit concerts for the Children’s Learning Center had been very successful indeed.

🥕🥕🥕

A Star in the Rock – 1720 by Gordon Le Pard – The Curious Archaeologist

“Professor, this rock has a star on it.”
“Wonderful, another of these marvellous stones.”
“But don’t you think it looks as if it has been carved by hand?”
“Indeed it does, the hand of God. My theories about the nature of fossils are proved, I must write the book immediately.”

The conspirators were delighted.
“If he publishes he will be laughed at across Europe. We will be revenged.”
“But what if we are discovered? Already the stonecutter wants more money.”
“Don’t worry, he will lose his place in the University and we will be safe.”
They were very wrong.

🥕🥕🥕

Geology 101 by Nancy Brady

Dr. Wright taught geology. It was his passion; it was his life. He loved his subject, teaching college students the rudimentary elements of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. He taught them how mountains formed, about the shifting of fault lines, and about volcanic lava forming scoria and obsidian as it spewed forth from inside the earth.

At the end of the quarter, he took his students on a field trip to one of the local quarries. He handed them all tiny bottles of hydrochloric acid which reacted with the sedimentary rock, limestone.

This geologist truly was a rock star.

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Star in a Barn (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Jukebox Hero” blasted from Danni’s speakers. She structured her barn to be her lab – a place to clean, catalog, and store artifacts. It was no University sanctum. Even the small budget she once had as a grad student in Pullman, Washington dwarfed her western set-up. But she used the space efficiently. She trained Ike’s family to save meat trays for her, and she scoured yard sales and free piles for anything useful. Like the bathroom cupboards some homeowner was throwing away. It formed a washing station. The freedom her own space produced made Danni feel like a rock star.

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Shining Bright by JulesPaige

The rock stars are the volunteers who help those who are recovering. Children and women are the most abused. And there is a project bringing awareness to this plight. “One Million Stars to End Violence” a project of PERAK WOMEN FOR WOMEN SOCIETY”

I watched the video and made some ribbon stars of various colors and sizes. And I mailed them off to Malaysia. It took about two weeks in a flat rate envelope for them to arrive. My friend posted photos of them on her blog site. …I hope for more than one day the cause remains highlighted.

🥕🥕🥕

Karaoke Is Not Your Friend by tracey

Lisa’s friends nudged her and told her it was her turn. She gulped down the rest of her drink and as she stood up the floor tilted underneath her. She gently touched people’s shoulders for balance as she made her way to the stage.

She belted out “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. “I sound just like Pat Benatar,” she thought. She finished to a thunderous ovation, people laughing and clapping. “I am a rock star!” she yelled as she left the stage. She continued to feel that way, at least until she saw the video the next day.

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CenterStage by D. Avery

“Why not, Marge? You guys always pick, always either the same old pub or Nathan’s. Kristof wants to go to that karaoke place. Besides, it could be fun, we can pick on the wannabe singers.”

“Ok, Nard. I’ll let Ilene and Lloyd know.”

“No way, you two. You’re not going if you intend to pick on the participants.”

“Come on, Kristof, they’re always funny. Up there butchering good songs, strutting their rock and roll fantasies for all to see.

Fair game. Price of rock’n’roll. Besides, what do you care?”

“I care because I’ll be taking the stage. *Rocket Man*.”

🥕🥕🥕

Straight Shootin’ Stars; or Fortune and Fame is Fer the Byrds by D. Avery

“Pal, ya ever wanna be a rock’n’roll star? Git yerself an electric guitar, take some time an’ learn how to play?”

“No, Kid I ain’t. Always bin content right here, jist doin’ my ranch chores.”

“I know it’s last week’s prompt, but really, not even for one day?”

“Nope. Never wanted ta be a jukebox hero. The only stars in my eyes is these ones sparklin’ at night.”

“I s’pose yer right. I mean, what ya’d pay for yer riches and fame; sech a strange game, a little insane.”

“Yep. Them’s shootin’ stars. Here there’s rising stars, burnin’ bright.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

August 1: Flash Fiction Challenge

The merlins chatter in the rain, impatient to hunt. As far as I can tell, they only have one beak to feed, and it attached to noisy vocals. Further down Quincy Hill at the lift bridge, the peregrine falcons fledged four hungry beaks. Birds of prey must be this year’s winged rock stars.

How easily rhythms of home return to me. It’s the first of the month, and I’m cheerfully paying bills. Electricity, natural gas, sewer, water, and garbage indicate that I have a fully functioning human nest. I’ve washed my dishes, swept the floors, and watered my veg. Last night I cut my own red-leaf lettuce with my own kitchen scissors.

But it gets even better.

The past two days, I’ve reviewed my upcoming creative writing courses with my academic advisor. I have an attentive academic advisor, not some loon too busy for a chick. Twenty years ago, I waited by the closed door of another academic advisor who never showed up the first two days of college, leaving me in a lurch. As an “older than average” freshman, I needed her signature for a class change.

Another student also waited, one who would have been old enough to babysit me as a kid, but age differences didn’t matter. We became fast friends. She advised me on what course to take, questioned my logic to pursue teaching English, and convinced me I’d be happier with a creative writing degree. By the time our absentee advisor showed up, my future was set.

It also led to an embarrassing moment. My advisor signed off on the course my friend recommended and just in time — the class was already in session, and I had missed the first day due to my advisor’s absence. I nervously walked into the class, interrupting the lecture. All heads turned to me, and I flushed. Stammering, I didn’t know how to address the instructor.

You see, I got my undergrad degree at a Catholic liberal arts college. I knew enough back then about Catholicism to address men like Father, and women as Mother — or, wait — was that men as Brother, and women as Sister, or Father and Sister, Brother and Mother. Lord, help me. I was confused! Professor would be a proper term, too, but I felt the flames of hell burnishing my cheeks, and I blurted out, “Father Downs, forgive me, I’m late.”

The class erupted into laughter. John Downs, as I would come to know him on first-name basis as one of my honors thesis advisors, laughed the hardest. He said, “I am indeed a father to my children.”

We feel vulnerable when we do something new and far beyond our comfort zone. We don’t want to become the butt of a joke or held up as an example of what not to do. It’s hard to breathe sometimes when you don’t know which foot to step forward first and everyone else seems to know the hokey-pokey. But we step out anyways.

I’m grateful to have the support of my current academic advisor. She has walked me through the entire online process of my first three courses. One doesn’t count, or as she said, “You can’t screw it up.” It’s an introduction to the technology for taking graduate-level courses online. Amazing, really. I get to study without leaving the Keweenaw, and in winter, I’ll sip hot tea while Tech and Finlandia students bundle up for an Arctic walk to class.

My first two classes at Southern New Hampshire University are 505: Introduction to the Online MFA and 507: Advanced Studies in Literature. The first one explores the culture and approach to writing fiction at SNHU. We each have to pick a book to discover the habits and behaviors of the creative process and begin to forge ties with our peer and faculty community. My book is On Teaching and Writing Fiction by Wallace Stegner. The course is all about the importance of the writing community for literary citizenship.

Be still my fluttering heart! I’m like a rock star on stage, acknowledging that this is where I want to be!

And the second course immerses me in the contemporary fiction genre by reading and comparing two books. The pairs are interesting — one classic (like Willa Cather), and one modern (like Sue Monk Kidd). The purpose of this advanced study of literature is to analyze storytelling craft elements in the genre we will be writing (my manuscript will be contemporary fiction). From our analysis, we are to develop a writer’s toolkit to advance our own careers as creative writers.

It’s school, but it is the Big Times for me. I’ve longed for an MFA even after I had decided I would not pursue one. I recognize the sparking joy as excitement fills me for this two-year journey. And how tidy everything has cleaned up in my life — the Hub has good care, we now have a groovy nest, I’m blessed with a strong and inspiring writing community at Carrot Ranch, and all the pursuits that failed have merely cleared the way for this. And I am ready.

Birds yet fly in the Keweenaw. No snow, yet. We will, therefore, attempt a run to Idaho to get what we can salvage of belongings. It’s a daunting task, but we have a plan. First, we fix our truck (the death wobble and bumper), then we head west for three days. Our budget is small, but we’ve priced all the expenses, found the best routes and stops, and we will rent a Uhaul trailer. It’s not much room, but I will rescue research and family photos, maybe some books. The only furniture we will bring back is my oak glider, a small desk, and our bed frame.

I’m far more anxious about this last leg of our journey, but I know it will be okay. It will be the final closure, the last chapter. This — merlins chirping outside, walls ready to paint, new desk for new writing, sourdough starter, a new king-sized mattress, rooms ready to fill, veggies growing on the vine, raspberries ripe for jam — this is home. My nest, my stage. Cue the guitars.

August 1, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock star. You can feature a central character or write about the feeling like a rock star. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by August 6, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Rock Star in a Barn (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Jukebox Hero” blasted from Danni’s speakers. She structured her barn to be her lab – a place to clean, catalog, and store artifacts. It was no University sanctum. Even the small budget she once had as a grad student in Pullman, Washington dwarfed her western set-up. But she used the space efficiently. She trained Ike’s family to save meat trays for her, and she scoured yard sales and free piles for anything useful. Like the bathroom cupboards some homeowner was throwing away. It formed a washing station. The freedom her own space produced made Danni feel like a rock star.

For One Day

We never know what magnificent moment might be around the corner, what unexpected development, or devastating turn of events. Like an ephemeral sun-dog or a once-in-a-lifetime hatch, what happens in a day can last a lifetime with memories and ramifications.

Writers chased the tail of such singular days. From the deep well of human kindness to the reaches of alien portals, this collection brims with a parcel of memorable days.

The following stories are based on the July 25, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the phrase “for one day.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Pandemic by Norah Colvin
It started slowly. First an outbreak in a school in central Australia, barely newsworthy. Then another in South America. A post on social media drew a few views but was largely ignored. When a third occurred in Western Europe, reports flooded news services. Soon, small isolated pockets erupted on every continent, and they multiplied and spread. The touch of a hand, a pat on a shoulder, the nod of a head, a brush of lips, the trace of a smile; all were infectious. The contagion was rampant. Random acts of kindness proliferated, and unbridled bursts of joy exploded everywhere.

🥕🥕🥕

My Darling by JulesPaige

My Darling,

When will it end? Can the world be still? Must it fluctuate. Is it my task to prove that even for one day, I am not crazy? Must I always fight going up the falls? Am I to be known as the Corpse Flower, and not a red rose? Must I always defend my territory as the loon, and lose my chick in the process?

spirit and soul; one
together within the skin
shakes, seeks acceptance

I am not a conformer. I am a creator. And I was lonely until I met you.

Love, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

🥕🥕🥕

Wishful Thinking by Goldie

That night Bill laid in bed and prayed: “If she would only stop nagging. Even for one day. God, just one day. It’s all I need. One day without her nagging.”

When morning came, the sound of silence penetrated his ears. Usually, he would hear clinking dishes and what he always thought was purposeful – Angela slamming pots and pans against one another.

Bill turned to his right.

Her lips blue. Her body cold.

“Noooooo” – he screamed into the heavens with deep sorrow.

An eternity without her nagging.

An eternity without her love.

He got more than he bargained for.

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Driving Home D. Avery

The billboards were his wife’s idea. So many truckers and tourists saw those signs. How many knew anything about the pictured boy?

He knew. He was one of the commuters that drove by them everyday. But if after work he took the back roads to the tavern he could miss one of the signs completely. And if he stayed late he’d not notice the others.

But always was that smaller sign. “Let’s remember Adam.” Right there at the end of the driveway. Right there.

How he wished that even for one day he could forget. He ordered another drink.

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I Wish………….. by Di @ pensitivity101

Let me turn back time,
Reset the clock for One Day,
That day when I lost you.
I never said the words I should,
Never held you,
Kissed you goodbye,
Or told you I loved you.
And now it is too late.
Too late for you,
But not for others.
I am not afraid
To say what I feel,
Hold someone close,
Breathe in their essence,
Feel their heartbeat parallel to mine.
But for you,
I would not do these things.
In passing,
I realised what was important.
I would dearly love
To have you back.
For one day.

🥕🥕🥕

For a Day by Kerry E.B. Black

A toddler plied her mother with questions at a check-out line as the mother stacked goods onto the conveyor. Another toddler sat in the next cart in line, limp-legged and watchful. “You have such a sweet baby,” the harried mother said to her line-neighbor. “Mine won’t shut up. I wish I could have silence for just one day.” She chuckled darkly and turned when the cashier asked, “Paper or plastic?” without noticing the grimace on the mother-behind-her’s face.

That mother’s child was born mute, and how she longed to hear even one word from her child. Even just one.

🥕🥕🥕

For One Day by Susan Zutautas

Daydreaming about my mother is something I do quite often. What was she like, how did she smell, what would it have been like to have her with me other than for just a few short years?

My mind started wandering and for one day I had her all to myself. My emotions got the best of me and through tears of joy I embraced every moment. The love I felt was like no other.

We laughed, we cried, we hugged, we never wanted the day to end.

Although this is only daydreaming, I often return to this day.

🥕🥕🥕

Superior D. Avery

On this day Lady Lake is calm, her waves a soothing song, a gentle caress. On this day raging storms and surging ice are as distant as the hazy horizon. On the sun warmed rocks that pave the beach, I pick seven from among the millions and millions of smooth stones to build a small cairn. The stones, the seven and the millions, indulge me, and with them I laugh at myself, at this ridiculously human endeavor. I listen for the ancient stories of these water-worn stones. My labors won’t last but this cairn might stand for a day.

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A Tail of Two Cats by Nancy Brady

Bearcat, my black cat with just a touch of white on her chest, was a few months shy of twenty-two years when she died in my arms.

Flash, our calico with an attitude, was eighteen years when finally she lapsed into a coma and passed away.

Neither of them was particularly happy to have other cats around; they both preferred to be the only cat in the house.

Bear died on April 5, 2001, and Flash was born on that same date. For one day, their lives briefly overlapped; while they never met each other, they certainly owned us.

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30 by H .R. Hardman

I was twenty-nine for one day more. Tomorrow, I’d hit the big three-O. My family had planned a surprise party. I had half a mind not to turn up. I’d get on a plane, the next flight to anywhere and have a holiday alone.

But that would upset so many people and all the money and effort everyone had put in. Perhaps, I would enjoy it more then I thought? I don’t know, there is something unwanted about birthdays when you are an adult but it’s an inescapable part of life, so it might as well be enjoyed.

🥕🥕🥕

Sunday by TN Kerr

Rita tucked her hair behind her ears, sipped her coffee and turned ‘The Times’ to read below the fold.

“Mark,” she asked her husband, “if you could do, or be anything for one day; what would you do or be?”

“I don’t know, dear but it would probably involve sex or food. Why?”

“I’d want to be queen.”

“Queen for a day? Like that old television show?” Mark looked up at her.

“Uh huh,” she said, “and, I freed a genie from an old lava lamp at Goodson’s Antique’s yesterday. My day is Sunday.”

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Consumption Function by Jo Hawk

9098195663 gaped at his screen.

“See this?” he asked.

But 2207344907 contemplated a different image.

“This is interesting,” 2207344907 murmured, ignoring 9098195663.

Her finger touched the ‘Buy Now’ button. Was it a good selection? Her days were exhausting, constant pressure, endless images, never-ending decisions.

“No, 2207344907. Look. Now,” 9098195663’s voice rose as he spoke.

“It says ‘for one day only’. I haven’t seen that.”

2207344907 peeked at his screen and navigated hers to the same image. It was true. She could not believe their luck. She and 9098195663 slammed the ‘Buy Now’ button until they bought the last one.

🥕🥕🥕

Invasion by Joanne Fisher

Luckily I was there in the middle of the city at the precise moment when a portal from another dimension opened up. Out came these tall creatures with tentacles and rubbery skin. They looked at me with eyes that were coldly arrogant and inhuman. As I was a sorceress I used what powers I had to push them back through the portal and then closed it shut. The entire city celebrated the victory, but our revelry only lasted for one day.

The next day more portals began opening up everywhere and these alien creatures marched out in overwhelming numbers.

🥕🥕🥕

Monochrome by The Dark Netizen

Monochromes. That was the name given to us.

It was more of a label than a name, because names were reserved for humans. We were just animals in a cage. The regular humans casted us out from the society and gave us our separate quarters. We were not allowed to interact with the regulars lest we steal their colours. If only they understood that we never chose to be this way. We never wished for a colourless life. It is my dream to become a regular human, even if for one day.

Just once, to live a normal day…

🥕🥕🥕

For One Day by Ann Edall-Robson

For one day the sun rises
Oranges, reds, greys, and black
Filtering through the trees
Peeking over the ridge

For one day the wind blows
Caressing rosy porcelain cheeks
Tousling fringes to au naturel
Rambling carelessly among leaves

For one day the creek talks
Quiet, soothing, tender words
A journey of abandoned vigour
Chattering with rocks and eddies

For one day the moon hovers
Draping light shards across water
While stars dance through indigo
Twinkling to a kindred song

For one day there will be tenderness
Propelled by devoted moments
Perhaps rapture awaits
For one day when love evolves

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

One Spring Day (Crater Lakes Habitat) by Saifun Hassam

In spring the salt marshes and woodlands around Green and Lizard Lakes were alive with nesting birds. Jeff was excited when a flock of Canada geese arrived at Green Lake. They were rare visitors. He set up one vidcam at Green Lake and texted Carmen to set up another one at Lizard Lake.

The geese stayed for one day and with great fanfare flew away in the late afternoon. The videos showed songbirds whizzing across Green Lake. Hawks circled muddy Lizard Lake. A heron waded along the shores. Jeff saw the lakes from a new perspective, a bird sanctuary.

🥕🥕🥕

Just for a Day by Anita Dawes

We feed the swans at our local park.
You can walk around the pond.
In the past, we watched their eggs hatch,
today, I picked up a duck feather.
I sat twirling it between my fingers,
closed my eyes. Just for a moment,
I could see sun shining through my shell.
Does that mean I am ready to meet the world?
I pecked, broke my way out. Let me tell you,
lying inside, growing feathers
must be like humans growing teeth. Sharp, itchy.
Just for a day I felt like a duck,
as my webbed feet hit the water…

🥕🥕🥕

The Ugly Duckling Bites Back by Ritu Bhathal

I’ve spent my life in her shadow; the beautiful sister, tall, willowy, popular.

And me, well, I’m just me. Plain, average in every way, and described as ‘nice’.

But not today.

Today is my day.

I was the one who managed to find a lovely lad.

I was the one proposed to at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

I am the one looking at my reflection in the mirror today, unable to recognise the princess that stands here in my place.

I am the bride walking down the aisle.

For one day, all eyes will be on me.

🥕🥕🥕

Loony Tunes – Or the Dangers of Processed Food by Anurag Bakhshi

“You might be a loon,” I shouted at my daughter, “but could you please avoid acting loony for one day?”

“But Mommy…” my daughter started off, but I stopped her mid-sentence.

“How many times have I told you to keep away from processed foods?” I asked rhetorically.

“19,418 times,” she replied irritatingly, but accurately.

I continued my tirade, “I know they’re tasty, but they’re equally deadly.”

“But Mommy, don’t you think you could have explained this to him a bit more calmly?” she replied, pointing towards the mangled body of the human who’d just tried to feed her a bagel.

🥕🥕🥕

Retail Therapy by Sally Cronin

The slinky red dress in the window of the boutique caught her eye as she trudged home from work, laden with groceries and the burden of the day. There was a sign beneath the ravishingly daring and crimson outfit.

For one day only, half price. Dress as the woman you’ve always wanted to be.

In her case that would be the woman she used to be. She looked at her reflection in the window. Greying hair, dowdy clothes and weariness etched on her face. She pushed open the door to the shop taking the first step to her rejuvenation.

🥕🥕🥕

For One Day by tracey

Kate lies in bed listening to the quiet. The boys are off on a fishing trip. Laundry and groceries flit across her mind. And then, what if for one day she did only what she wanted to do? She breathes deep, does she dare?

In the shower she contemplates and discards options. Then the answer arrives.

She throws her journal, sketchbook and pencils in her backpack. She stops at the cute corner café she always wanted to try and requests a box lunch: “Surprise me,” she says. She heads toward the river, hiking until she finds solitude. Tranquility. Herself.

🥕🥕🥕

One More Day by Chelsea Owens

Smoky, slatted sunlight lay in lines across the staring face. Soon, only a muted glowing shone there as the associated hand pulled the blinds closed again. *Snap*

He’d said he’d be different; for one more day. That had been a gigantic step, vocalizing. Into the dark of night and mind he’d stood and whispered, “Tomorrow, I go out.”

A laugh escaped the lips. Whose, he did not know; but then, he did. A distant memory of non-lined sunlight views and happier company than his own filtered to recollection.

Then; he was sure he’d laughed. Then; she had, too.

🥕🥕🥕

I Promise by H.R.R. Gorman

The spoon is hot, sterile, bent to give me the best angle. The needle is sharp – it’s new, straight from the packaging, not something I get every day.

“You don’t have to do this.”

I shake off that inner critic, that Jiminy Cricket that always chokes me with guilt. It wasn’t my fault I had back pain in 2005 and was overprescribed. It couldn’t help my kids left as soon as they turned 18. I didn’t mean for this to happen.

I promised this was my last hit. I’d take this dose and, just for one day, everything would feel better.

🥕🥕🥕

Independence Day by Anne Goodwin

For one day, Britons will feel great again, commemorating deliverance from fronceys and krauts. For one day, Nelson’s peers will admire him, as he steers the procession through flag-waving crowds. For one day, security will slacken at the borders, and Rommel’s determined to defect.

“Come with me, Nelson. You’ll die at Bootcamp if you don’t.”

Rommel’s dad can’t influence the Ministry. Rommel’s dad can’t trust him to infiltrate a traitors’ ring. When Nelson learns his dad’s limitations, he’s already jeopardised his friends.

For one day, Nelson must rise above his terrors. One day, one chance to save his skin.

🥕🥕🥕

The Crumb’s Obituary by M J Mallon

For one day I crave silence.

Your words crush my soul making me weep. Your tongue is bitter, cruel and relentless, it pokes fun at my crawling. I must do as you please, surrendering to your every whim.

‘Look at this,’ you say, scowling.

I move towards it, this lonely crumb which sits on the kitchen surface begging for forgiveness.

‘Oops,’ I respond, trembling.

‘Dear God. You’re multiplying ant – look at the state of this place.’

I step back waiting for him to strike.

Instead, his thumb bears down on the tiny crumb and crushes it to death.

🥕🥕🥕

For One Day by Janice Golay

I will exist for one day. That’s it, my destiny and my biology. I awake with shy petals folded inward, hugging my center. Gradually light and warmth encourage me to unfurl, peering at what the world offers on this unique day: watercolor blue up above, soft breezes inviting me to sway in slow waltz time; a quick touch from a bumblebee, a tentative glance from a monarch.

I avoid human grasp and am saved from premature death. Just let me end my day’s life naturally, peacefully, with petals dry, stem a-droop, content to have lived fully for one day.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire and False Hope (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

For one day, the crew held back the advancing fire. Danni dropped onto her sleeping bag, boots still on her feet, proud that she had shoveled in a way archeologists seldom do. They worked hard and deterred the fire with their break. Sometime during the night, the wind kicked up, and a chill woke Danni. Stretching, she groggily left the tent to refill her water bottle. The skyline glowed with orange flames, trees exploded, shooting embers the wind carried across the break. For one day, they saved their community from burning in hell. Now it was time to evacuate.

🥕🥕🥕

Lost and Found by Tien Skye

For one day, he wished he could hear that familiar voice again.

The voice he knew so well, the deep baritone which aged into higher pitch over the years. By the time he married, his father’s voice had thinned out.

Death robbed him of his father’s voice; fire robbed him a second time as it swallowed everything.

He stood in front of what was left behind, himself and his wife included.

“Oh boy, what happened?” that laughing voice sounded out.

He thought he was seven again; his wife had saved the audio recording of his father’s voice.

He cried.

🥕🥕🥕

For One Day by Dave M. Madden

Stan had consumed every self-help book the store he frequented often could offer.

The problem didn’t have anything to do with his actions; in fact, he sought assistance from outside resources because of the lacking action.

As an aspiring writer, he locked all the suggestions offered by others into memory: unplug from all your devices, read more, write down your goals, go for a walk, go observe some people in public, and talk with someone about what’s on your mind were some of his favorites.

He just kept waiting for one day when the advice began working.

🥕🥕🥕

What’s in a Name by D. Avery

“Pal, I been thinkin’.”

“Uh-oh.”

“Thinkin’ we gotta hep Shorty rethink this ‘flash fiction’ term. Seems the only rule she keeps is the 99 words no more no less part. But there’s BOTS an’ poetry an’ creative non-fiction. Heck, if all Shorty cares about’s them 99 words, flash (italics) fiction’s (end) a might misleadin’.”

“So what would you call it?”

“Well, if it’s a short form of literary art she’s after, (italics) shlit (end) covers it. Pepe suggests (italics) l’shart. (end)”

“Jeez, Kid! Git some class. Who’s Pepe?”

“Pepe LeGume. A real character.”

“Dang. Thought LeGume was jist for one day.”

“Nope. Legume’s a repeater.”

🥕🥕🥕

Call for a Totem Pole by D. Avery

“Dunno, Kid. Got a not so fresh feelin’ ‘bout this Le’Gume character. Where’s he from?”

“Be a close reader, Pal. Shorty an’ D. Avery picked him up along the way.”

“Read betwixt the lines, Kid. Pepe Le’Gume’s somethin’ they passed along the way.”

“Don’t matter. Le’Gume is fulla beans, poppin’ with ideas. Could be a handy ranch hand.”

“Don’t want him lingerin’.”

“Lighten up Pal. Jest deal with the hand ya’ve smelt.”

“So what’s one a his ideas?”

“Buckaroo Nation totem pole! Koalas, unicorns, ravens, longhorns…”

“Thet idea don’t stink. Kin he carve?”

“Reckon he kin cut a log.”

🥕🥕🥕

July 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

For one day, I held space for a loon chick. Not at a distance, but so close that I could gently blow her downy feathers like making a wish to black dandelion seeds. Her tiny body could fit in my cupped hands while her father’s penguin-like body could race across water with wings firm as a bodybuilder’s biceps. For one day, I stepped through a rent in nature and swam with a baby loon.

My second home in Vermont, my newly adopted state of steep rolling hills and backroads that wind through valleys and across clear rocky creeks, welcomes loons. History hides in abandoned stone fences and old cemeteries. Soldiers once fought in New World wars and later marched south for the Grand Army of the Republic. Vermonters think their own minds, though. At least one marched south to fight on the side of the Confederacy.

The place had me at loon lakes and Green Mountains, dirt roads and backwater bars, Cabot cheese, and Citizen Cider, but the sweetest slice of life served in Vermont comes with a side of words. Vermonters read. Literary art still matters, and I did not meet people who said, “I’m busy.” I met folks who swam in the lake after work and went home to read books. At every general store, locals swapped books. This came as a delightful surprise.

Some Day is now Next Time.

Next Time Carrot Ranch has a Nature Writing Refuge on Greenwood Lake in Vermont, I’ll include literary events. The libraries promoted Wrangling Words and offered a table at the farmers market. D. Avery packed the Galaxy Bookstore for a reading, and we joined local musicians at open mic night at the Whammy Bar. We also had several private readings, impromptu readings, and even sold a book or two on the fly.

Last night, D. and I rolled into Hancock, Michigan, World Headquarters of Carrot Ranch. We left Vermont two days earlier and crossed Quebec and Ontario in her truck. Once in Michigan on the Upper Peninsula, we drove and drove. D. began to doubt there was civilization. But we arrived, and today she got hooked on picking rocks and got to see the Continental Fire Company. Tomorrow we read from the History Meets Literary Art collection at Fort Wilkins where Fannie Hooe once went missing.

Sitting by the campfire over Greenwood lake, reading stories with Sue Sleggs, Ann Edall-Robson and JulesPaige remains a shining star of the whole trip. Sharing kayak time and waterfalls with them will shape all our writing to come as such experiences do. That is the long-burning fuel of a nature writing retreat.

What stays with me most is the One Day. For one day, I swam with a baby loon.

A nesting pair of loons live and breed on Greenwood Lake. Throughout the Nature Writing Refuge, we heard the calls and hoots of loons and frequently saw the big waterbirds on the lake. We even got to kayak up to the boundary of the nesting loons in Turtle Cove where author Sean Prentiss lives with his family. Yet, D. noticed odd loon behavior.

Every day, a trio of loons landed on the lake and circled like synchronized swimmers. The male of the nesting pair often joined in, and the routine looked cooperative, not aggressive. We thought Big Daddy might be swinging on the side. When the Loon Day Survey arrived, D. was going to observe the nest with its overdue egg, and I was going to report on any loon hook-ups. In kayaks, we split up and listened for the calls. When the trio arrived, Big Daddy showed up. And oddly enough, so did Mama.

Meanwhile, D. and another kayaker approached the abandoned nest, finding what was likely an infertile egg. To their surprise, a bobbing black puff appeared on the water — a newly hatched loon chick! But no adults in sight. While we were merely citizen scientists for the survey, we knew it highly strange for loon parents to leave a chick. I’ve found an article that might explain the behavior at The Loon Project. Chicks need more than hiding. They need warmth, food, and nurturing through constant vocalizations. This baby was shivering and stabbing her tiny beak at D.’s kayak straps.

Soon, the Prentiss family joined us on the water as we all tried to decide the best course of action, mystified by the absent parents. We got the baby back on the nest, but it wouldn’t stay, insisting on floating next to Mama D. We discussed calling the Vermont Loon Biologist, knowing it was Loon Day and he was likely out of cell service. We looked up the number for loon wildlife rescue, and it was the same number. We called, left a message, and waited.

During six hours — that’s how long the parents swam with the intruders — we caught a minnow, fed a baby chick, and D. gave her belly-time when she insisted on seeking a warm spot on her new human to rest. Finally, we decided the chick was abandoned, and we would keep her safe until we could hand her over for rescue. That’s when I got to swim and be eye-to-eye with a baby loon. Eventually, the parents returned, and we reunited the chick with them.

However, the territorial take-over turned violent while the baby slept at the edge of the nest. The loons in this video are not the ones we observed, but we did witness this level of violence. Who knew loons could punch? We watched one loon hold another under the water.

That night, we were relieved to hear the cheerful calls and hoots of the parents, as if all had returned to normal. I even woke up, certain I could hear the baby chirping. I fell back asleep, hopeful. In the morning we learned that the calls stopped and no one had seen the baby. I still hold out hope that the parents got better at successfully hiding their chick.
The following flash fiction is based on this true story (BOTS).

Citizen Science Checklist

July 20, 2019 and a kayak slips into the water carrying gear poised to document activity for the Vermont Loon Survey. 8:11 a.m. The lake spreads flat beneath a sun rising to Vermont hot. Composition notebook, turquoise pen and a homemade cider donut ride in a Ziplock bag. Coffee in a travel mug slops dark brew. Binoculars and Nikon D80 with telephoto lens hang at the ready from straps. A life-vest within reach concludes the checklist required to count loons on Greenwood Lake for an hour. Ready and backed into the shadows of the eastside three loons glide by.

 

Celtic Knots

Below camp, three loons circle. Water ripples like lines of an inked Celtic knot. The loons, black and white like the written word extend long black beaks forward poised to write on water. Circling slender dragon-head quills. If one periscopes red loon eyes to scan beneath the surface, the other two follow. What do they see? Fish for dinner or foe to challenge? They all submerge in unison. Thirty seconds later they bob to the surface and write their saga in circles. Territorial posturing distracts the nesting pair and the Celtic knot erases the idea of mating for life.

 

How It Happened

Nothing more than a puffball of black down, the newly hatched loon enters the water without parents. Hearing the swish of a kayaker who is examining the abandoned nest during loon survey, the hatchling follows. The volunteer nudges her back to the nest and departs to find the parents. When the volunteers converge without loon parents, the hatchling boldly swims among the kayaks oblivious to the lurking dangers below and above ready to make a meal of her. She tires, hungrily pecking her beak at kayak straps. That’s how it happened – a baby loon spent a day among humans.

 

Stay Objective

While calls go out to the state loon biologist, I stay objective, photographing the puff of black feathers that is the loon chick. We understand she’s doomed without the care of her adults, and in those long stretches of waiting for direction, I feel my own human instinct to nurture intensify. I watch as the tired chick is placed in the safety of a kayak-well. I watch as she struggles to clamber out, seeking the warmth of the kayaker. I watch the inadvertent bonding. I stay objective until it is my turn to feed, swim and warm the chick.

 

Sunburn

I once swam with a loon chick. Five hours old and already diving. She hears me laugh and paddles tiny webbed feet to me, searching for a wing. It’s Vermont hot, and I sizzle under the sun. I create a makeshift wing from my bandana to protect her. She snuggles to my chest, peeping softly as she sleeps. My heart swells for this tiny wonder, thumping in awe to witness her existence, this ephemeral dandelion wish. From volunteer citizen scientist to impromptu parent in half a day, I know nature’s course wins in the end. My sunburn outlives her.

 

July 25, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the phrase “for one day.” The words single out a special occurrence. What is the emotion and vibe, where does it take place and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 30, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Fire and False Hope (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

For one day, the crew held back the advancing fire. Danni dropped onto her sleeping bag, boots still on her feet, proud that she had shoveled in a way archeologists seldom do. They worked hard and deterred the fire with their break. Sometime during the night, the wind kicked up, and a chill woke Danni. Stretching, she groggily left the tent to refill her water bottle. The skyline glowed with orange flames, trees exploded, shooting embers the wind carried across the break. For one day, they saved their community from burning in hell. Now it was time to evacuate.

Koala in the Kingdom

A koala arrived at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters by post from Australia in time to take a trip out to the first Carrot Ranch Nature Writing Refuge in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. This critter made the rounds and connected the international writing community that hangs out at the Ranch.

Writers had two weeks to ponder a koala and a kingdom. Where would it lead? As always, each writer followed the prompt.

The following are based on the July 11, 2019, prompt: “My kingdom for a koala!” In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a koala in a kingdom.

Koala in the Kingdom by Charli Mills

Koala jangled plastic hips when the morning sun hit her solar panels. She danced with a big grin while three loons circled in a pattern like a watery Celtic knot. She guarded the birding binoculars from her book perch beneath wildflowers. Koala stood in a mound of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, watching the Lead Buckaroo sneak bites when she was supposed to be fixing dinner. Koala smiled when the card from her Australian writer connected the gathered Ranchers from the Kingdom to Down Under. In 99-words, no more, no less, Koala bore witness to literary art and writerly friendships.

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The Koala’s Picnic by Susan Zutautas

“The wombats are coming, Mama,” said joey koala all excited after waking up from his nap.

“Yes, they are dear now would you help me set up the picnic table for the feast.”

“When are they going to get here mama?”

“They should be here shortly. They move much faster than we’re able, so I’d say sooner than later.”

“Here put this plate of tussock beside the eucalyptus leaves and then we’re going to tidy up before everyone gets here.”

When the wombats arrived they all mulled around the picnic table enjoying the food before starting to play games.

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Surprise Party for a Koala by Norah Colvin

BANG! BANG! BANG!

Little Koala’s eyes pinged open.

There it was again. BANG! BANG!

She stretched, clambered down the tree and headed towards the noise.

She stopped under possum’s tree and peered into the branches.

“What’s going on here?”

Possum peeked out, glancing left and right. “Nothing.”

“Tell me!”

“Nothing. Go away.”

Koala scrambled up the tree. “What’re you doing?”

Possum grimaced, pointing to a sign.

“You know I can’t read yet.”

Possum placed a crown on Koala’s head. “It was supposed to be a surprise. Happy birthday.”

Koala felt special as a princess when all her friends arrived.

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My Spirit Animal by Goldie

Visiting Australia and NOT seeing koalas? A travesty.

“The koala’s been sleeping all day” – the caretaker said as soon as we entered the exhibit.

A sleeping marsupial meant no good pictures.

We approached not knowing what to expect.

“Oh, he’s up! You guys are lucky” – said the caretaker enthusiastically.

The koala’s black, beady eyes met mine.

Time froze.

Jonah whistled and Dot – the kangaroo hopped on over.

“Get in!” – Jonah motioned for me to get inside Dot’s pouch with him and I swiftly obeyed.

We went around the zoo, meeting every animal in there.

Ah, the eucalyptus haze…

🥕🥕🥕

Up to here with Koalas by Bill Engleson

Aussie stuff’s ringing out loud and clear today.

An Australia bound Air Canada hits a vortex and plummets’ down.

Or up.

It returns to the nearest land.

Honolulu.

Two day earlier, I wheeled a wheelbarrow of scrap, crap wood and punctured skin. I go to the Doctor for an infected hand.

He gives me some Australian Papaw Gel.

Charli posts “My Kingdom for a Koala.”

My Kingdom, such as it is, a little ratty by regal standards, is overflowing with Australian minutae.

Then I remember that my cousin once got deported.

Weed, eh!

Koalas!

Cute, maybe, but unbearably pushy.

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Princess Koala at the Kingdom Diner by Sascha Darlington

Small town America. Ya gotta love it. I try to, although they don’t understand me or my humor.

But he gets me.

From the moment he strode into the Kingdom Diner, his motorcycle boots heavy on the wood floor, and settled on a stool, his crystalline blue eyes searing through me, I knew.

“What can I get you?” I asked.

He grinned the grin of a kid with an ice cream cone.

“Australian?”

I nodded.

“Koala cutie.”

I bristled.

“I love koalas,” he added as if that would solve everything.

Arms across chest, I glared.

“Can I start over?”

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Koala’s Kingdom by Ritu Bhathal

A parcel had arrived, covered with Australian postmarks.

‘Oh, how thoughtful,’ Ritu smiled at the generosity of her cousins.

The baby was only a few weeks old, and a package rammed full of gifts for her and her son had been sent to her.

Books, clothes, little fur boots, and a tiny koala for baby to snuggle with.

Soon his cot became crowded with soft toys, so Ritu had to move them.

A small hammock was constructed where the myriad toys sat, with Koala right at the front.

He was totally happy, high up, able to survey his kingdom.

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Koala Kingdom by Kerry E.B. Black

Beth retreated into her imaginings where her stuffed koala reigned and she served as his loyal subject.

There, nobody ridiculed her childish ways or belittled her stuttered speech. There, she read beautifully, and the court gathered from miles away to hear her recitations. They applauded and admired instead of laughed and tormented.

Beth labored over tongue placement to produce the correct sounds, to please her liege. She calmed her voicebox and sing-songed to get by difficult passages and emulate her dream self.

Beth’s mother listened from the doorway as Beth’s articulation improved with each session in the Koala Kingdom.

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Koalas by Floridaborne

Do koala’s have migraines?  If they do, I don’t want a koala.  But why would I want to transport a creature made for Australia to Florida?  What a cruel thing to do.

My daughter used to have a toy koala she hugged at night.  Perhaps she’d give her kingdom to have her koali back?

I’d give my kingdom just to go back in time for a day, when she was five years old, to give innocence and her koali one last hug.

I wonder when the pain is going to go away, and if a migraine is Satan’s plaything.

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Kingdom in a Twist by Geoff Le Pard

‘They’re updating Shakespeare’s Richard III. He’s no longer the baddy.’

‘A modern setting?’

‘I suppose.’

‘Somewhere with unspeakably awful politicians?’

‘Australia?’

‘They’re just called silly names like flymo. No, the US. You’ve warring houses, a King who’s
pretty bloody awful…’

‘He’s not got a twisted spine.’

‘His mind is pretty bent.’

‘You’d need to rewrite some of the language.’

‘The battle scene could be in front of the Lincoln Memorial, old Rughead on his knees pleading with Fox News for their help. “My kingdom for a cola.’

‘Unless it was in Oz. Then it’d be “my kingdom for a …’

🥕🥕🥕

A Kingdom for a Koala by Norah Colvin

“Bring me a koala!” The king bellowed, sending servants scuttling.

His zoo was complete with all, except a koala. The omission stoked his anger daily. He wouldn’t accept that his destruction of eucalypt forests had decimated their population.

From the shadows came a tiny voice. “What will you give for a koala?”

“Anything!”

“Your kingdom?’

“Yes, my kingdom! Anything! Just get me a koala.”

“I have a koala. First, your sceptre and your kingdom.”

Blinded by rage and desire, the king complied.

The koala removed her mask. The king gloated pre-emptively.

“Throw him into the dungeon. Free the animals!”

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Crisis in Ucalypta by Abhijit Ray

Staring at the distant horizon, His Majesty Ucalypton X, the king of Ucalypta, appeared helpless. His only son was unwell.

“Your majesty!” pronounced the royal physician, “procure me eucalyptus leaves.”

The King had despatched the royal mule train under leadership of his trusted general.

“You returned alone?” an anxious king met his emissary at the palace gate, “where are the eucalyptus leaves?”

“Forgive me, your majesty, I have failed,” pleaded the general, “koala bears have feasted on eucalyptus leaves during mating season.”

“No Koala to be seen in the kingdom of Ucalypta,” pronounced the royal edict, “koala for a prince.”

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The Koala Kingdom by Miriam Hurdle

“Welcome to the Round Table. The top agenda today is on Koala.”

“We had that six months ago.”

“I’ve met with Koala King. His concerns are about the millions of acres of their kingdom being destroyed.”

“By the developers for housing?”

“And the wildfires too. There’re no consistent legislation or adequate resources from the government to protect them.”

“What do we do?”

“The researchers suggested upgrading the Koala status from Vulnerable to Endangered. We’ll recommend that the government declaring the Koala habitat a sanctuary.”

“Yes, the Koala Foundations will jointly go to the government for securing the Koala Kingdom.”

🥕🥕🥕

In the Greenwood Kingdom by JulesPaige

Sheila Koala took a walkabout in a different outback. She needed a solar recharge… she wondered if even the coming full moon would be enough to allow her to dance with all the words she was planning to pen to paper. Just imagining how to listen to the wild strawberries and decode the lightning bugs, and luxuriate in the loons compelling call… this is a strange new world.

At the waterfall the sun not quite out, the trail slick from the previous days rain. Moss was growing brown veined white quartz. These are things that would also help renewal.

🥕🥕🥕

Koala by Anita Dawes

Mr Tom had walked for miles today
Looking for somewhere to call his own
Not easy, on short koala legs
His journey made longer by
The amount of time needed for sleep
A good eight hours is not good enough for Mr Tom
More like twenty is needed
This kingdom of eucalyptus trees
Had better be the best in the land,
He told himself.
He settled down for a spot of lunch
Then dreamily drifted off into sleep
He dreamt of his friends at the wildlife park
Upon waking, he realised his kingdom
was waiting back there all along…

🥕🥕🥕

The Two Koalas by Paula Puolakka

She was born in the year of the Koala (so did the new wave Japanese astrology hippies say,) and so was her son. Together they went everywhere, the tender mom and son, and teasingly she called him “Bubba,” but he replied, every time, “I am not your Bubba, but you are my momma,” and together they laughed.

Their kingdom was the God-given world. They loved the flowers, ancient trees, and the lakes, but unfortunately, many of their favorite places were violated by the aggressive building projects.

Yet, wherever the two went, people said: “Their Koala kingdom is the best.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Gift Fit for Royalty by Anurag Bakhshi

The raucous court of the Emperor went deathly quiet as I walked in.

The Princess, sitting next to her father, squealed with delight and ran up to me.

“I thought they’d gone extinct…” she cried out, looking at the cute and cuddly bundle of joy that I was holding.

“Apparently not, Your Highness, I found this wandering in the forest,” I replied.

“What should I call it?” the Princess wondered excitedly.

“I believe the humans used to call it a baby, Your Highness,” I answered with a smile, as the Koala Princess almost snatched her gift from my arms.

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Peace of Mind by Susan Sleggs

When young I could stare at lake water long spans of time noticing the passing boats, the size of or lack of white caps, or a splash made by a fish jumping to catch its supper. Often there would be just the surface to watch; the ripples changing direction with the breezes. This past week I got to do the same in an unfamiliar, beautiful location. I again experienced a peace of mind, free of all other thought. I wonder if it’s the same peace a koala might experience in its kingdom in the tops of a eucalyptus tree.

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Jill the Pirate and the Koala King by Joanne Fisher

Jill the fearsome pirate girl landed on the island. All she could see was sand and palm trees.

“Who are you?” Asked a voice.

Jill looked up to see a koala in the palm tree.

“My name is Jill the Pirate and I’m searching for treasure!” Jill declared holding up a piece of paper. “And who are you?”

“I’m Jack. The king of this island.” Jack replied.

“I didn’t know this island had a king.” Jill replied.

“Jill where are you? Lunch is ready!” Jill’s mother called out.

Jill quickly grabbed her stuffed toy koala and ran for home.

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A Midsummer Night’s Teddy Bear’s Picnic by Anne Goodwin

Reaching the clearing, we unpacked the hamper, while the girls danced their teddies around the fairy ring. In the balmy twilight, it couldn’t have been more magical if we’d staged it. If we’d already popped the champagne.

“The forest looks different.” Bean-pole trees, peeling blue-grey alligator bark.

“It smells different.” Like an antiseptic spray.

“It sounds different.” Like a gargling bull.

“That teddy’s climbing the tree!”

“That one’s eating it!”

“So cute! Can we take one home?”

The girls didn’t know about the diagnosis. We’d come to make memories; finding Koala Kingdom ensured she’d live on in their minds.

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The Encyclopedia Kingdom by Nancy Brady

Julie loved picking up random volumes of the encyclopedia, discovering new animals. It was there that she found entries for wombats and koalas. Both were from Australia, but she’d probably only see them in pictures.

One Christmas, however, she saw a Moore’s ad with a stuffed koala bear on sale, ninety-nine cents. She circled it and hoped the hint would be taken.

On Christmas morning, Julie was excited to open a package containing the little koala. It looked less like the pictures, but she was happy.

Years later, she saw koalas at the Cleveland Zoo. Wombats? Fingers still crossed.

🥕🥕🥕

So Hot by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Sweat slid down between her breasts, over her taut belly, dipping into her round navel and dampening the fabric of her summer shorts. Her sports bra was soaked, unable to absorb more sweet summer effusions.

After having mowed the lawn in 80% humidity, there were plenty.

She tipped her head back and downed the last of her water bottle, shaking it for the final shivering drops. Leaning back on the cement stoop, she peered at her boyfriend, Ted, sipping an icy Koala Cooler.

“I’m parched, Ted. My Kingdom for a Koala!”

Waggling his brows, he tossed her a bottle.

🥕🥕🥕

Koala Range by Ann Edall-Robson

Mac stood leaning on the fence, one foot resting on the bottom rail. He came here when he needed to think without interruption from humans. This was the pasture the retired horses were turned out in to enjoy the rest of their days, the old-timer’s kingdom. A tradition his grandfather had started, and one Mac was happy to carry on.

“Remember son, you never turn your back on the ones that made you the man you are.”

A soft nose pushed at his hand looking for a treat. Mac’s favourite gelding waited for attention.

“Here you go, Koala.”

🥕🥕🥕

Grin and Bear It by Roger Shipp

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through my house … all seven grandchildren were racing up and down my back stairs like little rats.

The tree was up (I keep it up year round. Yes, I’m one of those…) and the lights were blinking.

This year, each family member was to bring a small bear.

We sipped warn cider with toffee cookies as we each told our story and placed our treasure upon the tree. Collectibles… Grizzlies… Polar…and Teddies.

Emma Sue, the youngest, always wanted to go last.

“Two-for-one, Grandma,” as she hung a beautiful koala and child.

🥕🥕🥕

Dreamtime (Crater Lakes) by Saifun Hassam

From the eucalyptus pole at the Ranger’s old cabin, Koala can see Green Lake. Her fluffy ears are perked up, enjoying the calls of spring songbirds in the salt marshes. Her sharp claws grasp the pole, ready to climb to the upper curving branches on hot summer days.

Fall approaches. In Dreamtime she sleeps in eucalyptus woodlands in rain and wind. Green Lake woodlands turn bright with red, orange and yellow leaves. Koala hears the gentle whinny of a horse, senses the friendly park ranger checking the cabin. She dreams of crossing a vast sea, to a vast island.

🥕🥕🥕

Fascinating Stories From Science – I by TN Kerr

Scientists from the Kingdom of Australia are reporting that the marsupial species known as Thylarctos plummetus, commonly called ‘dropbears,’ and previously believed extinct, are thriving in the forested regions of eastern and southern Australia. The Australian Museum describes these creatures as “predatory marsupials related to koalas.”

Little is known about dropbears, to date, as they have only recently been rediscovered. Preliminary research indicates that they seldom prey on Australians. This may be caused by the marsupial’s uncanny ability to recognize Australian accents, or they may be repelled by the scent and taste of Vegemite, common in the Australian diet.

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Goin’ All Out by D. Avery

“What d’ya think a this Pal?

Meanwhile, back at World Headquarters, the head honcho, Shorty, returned to find her many minions toiling away in their cubicles. The Ranch was fine.

Eh?”

“Kid, whut’re you doin’? You ain’t left the Ranch. Yer jist makin’ shift up about World Headquarters.”

“So what? Ain’t that what writers is s’pposed ta do?”

“Ah, Kid, still tryin’ ta write? We ride fer Shorty, but we’s fictional characters thet git written. Leave it alone.”

“Cain’t Pal. Tired a bein’ left behind.

The guards were overcome by noxious gas. World Headquarters had an intruder- Pepe LeGume!”

***

“Kid, you ain’t even addressin’ the prompt! This ain’t about Carrot Ranch World Headquarters, s’posed ta be about koala bears and kingdoms or some sech.”

“Ok…

Pepe LeGume approached the imposing building that housed World Headquarters, in the Keweena Kingdom. “Shorty, you ol’ has beans, I come all a way here ta take yer Kingdom,” yelled Le Gume. “Gonna take over the Ranch.”

“You kin go all a way back where ya come from, LeGume,” Shorty retorted.

“Wait a minute, Kid. Are you really gonna try an’ git away with using ‘go all a’ fer the prompt response?”

“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕