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July 20: Flash Fiction Challenge

During my first attempt to make a pie crust, I slammed the ball of dough on the kitchen floor like a tennis player who lost the match. I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and somewhere along the lines she wrote I became convinced that a happy home had pie. If I couldn’t master the crust, would I ever find happiness?

Throughout the years others have tried to teach me how easy it is — add ice water only to the dough; vinegar is the secret ingredient to great flakes; beat an egg yolk into the water; don’t over-knead; don’t under-knead; use a wooden rolling pin; stick your tongue out just a little to the left and it will all be okay. I’ve savored the crust of others, but never accomplished the task.

My fillings are divine, and I have a talent for spicing anything. Even when I omit the sugar, something Laura once wrote about doing, my balance of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger hold up. But that blasted crust; I just can’t get it right. I began cheating, buying refrigerator crusts, but even those substitutes can fall apart.

Does a home truly need pie?

Odd thing is, I prefer cake, and I make a marvelous yellow cake with deep dark chocolate frosting. But there’s something about pies. America is baseball and apple pies; Norman Rockwell captured Americana by painting pies from the oven. And Laura, well my beloved heroine of the frontier pioneers, mentions pie in nearly every book she penned.

Every time we moved when our kids were little, the first thing I’d think is that the kitchen needs a pie. Think of the wafting aroma of baked apples and buttery crust. The heat it gives off as it cool on the windowsill. Home is where the pie is. But there is not going to be a new home. The Calumet house fell through the cracks of miscommunication. The chickens are safe from becoming my first Michigan pie.

It’s disappointing to report, especially after the shared excitement and celebration last week, but it was not to be. When we accepted the rental offer, I told the landlords we’d discuss the matter with our kids and give them a move-in date. I asked for the full cost and was quoted first month, last and a deposit.

It was going to be tight. In fact, I burst into tears at JC Penny after realizing I couldn’t even buy the bargains. I realized the rental would strap us in a way, I couldn’t see how we’d make it work. We could afford the place month to month; we couldn’t afford to get in and buy the things we needed — like a pie pan or pants.

All our stuff remains in Sandpoint in storage and we have no plan to retrieve it this far. We simply keep paying on the storage. Because I earn an income as a writer, we don’t qualify for homeless veteran programs. I mean seriously, who works while homeless? I’ll tell you it’s extraordinarily difficult even with a flexible job like writing. That was the whole point of stabilizing. So when the landlord expressed disappointment that we wouldn’t move in until August 1, and tried to pressure us into paying for July to keep the rental, we passed.

As much as I’m craving pie, I’m also relieved.

We don’t want to be a fixture in our daughter’s home, languishing in her space, but they have kindly offered us the time we need to find the right place, save up money and figure out how to retrieve our belongings. In saying no, I felt empowered. So did the Hub. We’ve had to make so many hasty decisions or be at the mercy of transmission shops and VA gatekeepers this past year, that it felt good to make a decision to not be pressured too soon.

Like a kitchen with pie, it feels right to take small steps to stabilize. Already, Todd has had multiple VA appointments and slowly that wheel is turning again. His CBT intake begins today, something we’ve pushed to do for years and finally are receiving. Lots of personal goals are back on the table after being shelved, and I might find office space locally. We are still establishing roots in this marvelous community.

I know it’s a good place because the cultural heritage here is a lunch pie in the hand — pasties. It’s a heated debate as to whether or not the meat pies are of Finnish or Cornish origin, but I know the best pies in town come from a Fin family. I can imagine how miner’s wives once swapped recipes in their kitchens long ago, passing down assimilated foods for their descendants. My latest obsession is to look forward to a pasty on the beach before combing for agates.

Laura Ingalls Wilder has something to say about pie that reminds me about how I feel when writers gather around the table here to partake in the weekly meal, share their talents and hopes, express their ideas and encourage each other in writing:

“Ma said nothing, but a little flush came up her cheeks and her eyes kept on smiling while they ate that delicious pie.”

My pie crusts in the kitchen aren’t much, but my challenges are like a crust by which to frame the filling you all bring. So on that note, let us dig into pies.

July 20, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a pie. You can make it any kind of pie, focus on filling or crust, or tell us about the pie-maker. How does pie set a tone in a story? Does it warm the hearth or bring disappointment?

Respond by July 25, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published July 26). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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A Ruined Pasty (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Danni settled into the sand of Sioux Beach, burying her heals in warmth. A crowd of locals splashed in the bay off to her left, leaving this bit of solitude near the sloshing waves. She unwrapped her Bayfield Pies pasty from thick paper. It warmed her fingertips, and her first bite of crust filled with thin slices of carrots, potatoes and beef made her toes wiggle.

“Mmm…” Danni’s eyes closed while she chewed.

A shadow crossed her face and Danni opened one eye. Michael Robineaux. Ike’s best friend. He hated her, and he made her pie taste like sand.

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Beacons of Light

Beacons of Light by the Rough Writers & Friends@Charli_MillsWhen it’s dark, foggy or dangerous we look for beacons of light to guide our way. Beacons can be what we expect and fill us with relief or hope. Yet beacons can be unexpected, even deceptive.

Writers considered how to tell a story about beacons and shed light on shadowy places, feelings and situations.

The following stories are based on the July 6, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a beacon.

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Beacon (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane edges up the tiny spiral staircase, bending to look through the mullioned windows. Gulls wheel, screeching; the sea murmurs. The top level is nothing like she’d imagined a lighthouse would be: Hardwood floors, foghorn mechanism, and arc lamp all gleam in angled sunlight. On tiptoe, she can see the noses of seals playing below.

It’s not Paris; it’s not a beach weekend; it’s not even a bus ticket home to her mother’s kitchen. But escape was a beacon; the sandwich in her bag, her student bus pass, the Internet list of area lighthouses, all gave it to her.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Most have been lost from the roadside and replaced under the guise of progress.

The modern ones have little charm, despite being made from similar components.

The striped pole denoted a rigid sentinel either side of the childhood chasm, dignified in its support of an amber globe which flashed intermittently and continuously on the crossing, topped by its familiar dark cap.

What is this mediocre dotted halo over a dull orb that pathetically illuminates the way to safety?

The Red Man may warn before the Green Man takes over this vigil, but I will always remember the Belisha Beacon.

###

Woman Overboard by Joe Owens

Wayne gripped the rail of the light house beacon house as tightly as he had anything short of his beloved Claire. She knew this storm would be bad, but she was determined to make her run. Just one more job.

The water churned away while the wind roared. Wayne futilely wiped the rain from his face trying to catch a glimpse, any sign really, that she might be out there. But there was only more darkness, more despair to find.

“Why you stubborn woman, why?”

It took three days for her boat to be found. Her body never was.

###

Lighthouse by Robert Kirkendall

Wendy and Jack approached the old lighthouse with other tourists.

“I just love these old buildings!” Wendy gushed. “Don’t you, dear?”

“They’re okay, I guess,” Jack replied.

“But it’s so grand looking! They knew how to build things then.”

“It’s just an archaic brick building with no more use. Modern ships rely on more advanced technology.”

“But it’s historical!” Wendy reminded.

“It’s useless,” Jack insisted. “There is no more need for it.”

Just then the long, ugly sound of a ship crashing upon rocks and resulting screams filled the air.

“Okay,” Jack admitted, “maybe this lighthouse is still useful.”

###

In Extremis by Anne Goodwin

The white light drew me, summoned me, invited me, called me to dissolve where pain was unknown. The blue light flashed, on off, on off. Although much colder, it wanted me too. If my body could divide into a white side and a blue side, I could rest in peace. If I could float in the white till I was mended, I could give myself to the blue. But there was no going back from the white light. I had to decide.

Another light, sharp, beams into my eye. “Got a response here!” I’d been chosen for the blue.

###

The Arc of Descent by Elliott Lyngreen

Almost sideways
Against surface
set to angles

(There’s nothing to lean on)

hovering us above
then below the lake

crests

from an emerging ship,
groaning up-sideways-steep-

The world lost your stories
when you had your stroke

In the channel
At West Sister
You’re the ghost in the Lighthouse now
(grinning from ear to ear)
signaling beams
over distances I miss

Casts. The drifts.
trolling as we were
Thee Great Fishing King
and a chosen boy
lingering…

so to not have a moment
Like this.

Like, reeling in two-ton shitheads
how We slammed them against
Starboard side,
pure, disgusted, whips

###

A Sign by Ruchira Khanna

“Step outside, Thea.” asserted mom as she entwined her fingers.

The daughter was adamant, ” The world will judge me. I want to spend the remaining days of my life inside.”

She silently wiped her tears and stroked her daughter’s crown that was hairless and bisque in color. Her eyes that were lively and naughty were pale and dejected. She was pronouncing herself dead even before the last breath.

Just then there was a knock.

Thea’s friend entered with a warm smile.

The Mom envisioned it as a signal of hope and sunshine in her daughter’s life.

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Self-Doubt by Reena Saxena

For how long has the lighthouse been there, in the middle of the sea?

The ships have moved, using information relayed by it, and escaped hazardous shoals and reefs. Have they, or have they not? Maybe, they own better technology – the electronic beacons and navigational systems.

I am forever on the move – mentally and emotionally, and sometimes physically – collecting, curating, processing and disseminating information, along with my interpretations of reality. I wonder if I have been useful to others, or only to myself, at a high cost of maintenance.

I think of the lighthouse again. Should it start moving?

###

The Storm by Susan Zutautas

Squinting, trying to see a few feet in front of the car was impossible. I only wish there was a car in front of me to follow.

OH NO ICE! Don’t panic, I said to myself, and for God’s sake don’t hit the brakes.

Slipping and sliding losing control of the car ….. SHIT, I was in a ditch! Oh great now what.

Unprepared for this dressed in heels and a short skirt, walking would be suicide in this snowstorm. Better stay put.

Freezing to the bone, hours later, I could see a most welcomed beacon of light. Safety.

###

Meeting Destiny by Kerry E.B. Black

Like overgrown fireflies, they bounce before me, silent beacons to the unknown. Be they corpse lights or Will-o-the-wisps, their pale glow fascinates me.

Grandmama whispers prayers when they appear. She says they’re the spirits of passed ancestors, but Aunt Emilia warns not to heed their invitation. “They work with monsters to lure the unwary to their doom.” However, my uncle scoffs. Swamp gas, says he, and nothing more.

Wordless invitations pull at my curiosity. I imagine they’re a gateway to mysteries, lighting a path to my destiny. I’m bold. I’ll face them, follow their lead, and discover for myself.

###

Night Search by Bill Engleson

It’s not that anyone thought that Mickey and Sal were bad parents. And if they did, most wouldn’t say anything. Why beat up on folks that were as full of sorrow as they were.

“We’ll keep looking beyond sunset,” Sam Travers, local fire chief and search party head honcho, told us. “Are you with me?”

One hundred heads nodded in the fading light.

“We’ve got a good supply of torches. Lucas is only three and there’s a storm due by morning.”

Lucas had gone missing the night before.

One hundred flashlights might be just enough to bring him home.

###

Let there be Light by Norah Colvin

Eyes squinted in the dim light under low ceilings. Immobilised by never-ending paperwork, the menials dared not look up. Flickering numbers on data scoreboards mesmerised supervisors. Inconsistencies meant remonstrations, even punishment, from above. Heads down, keep working, don’t ask questions. The system worked fine, until … Maxwell nodded off. His pencil fell, tapped first, then rolled away. Startled, Maxwell went after it. The room stilled. Sliding too fast, he slammed into the wall, activating a button that illuminated a set of stairs leading up. Everyone gasped. Maxwell hesitated, took one step, then another. Nothing happened. He continued. Everyone followed.

###

The Light by Allison Maruska

My brother sits next to the window, shaking. “I’m scared!”

I roll my eyes and join him. “It’s just the dark.”

“I don’t know the dark!”

“It’s never dark forever. Okay?”

“How do you know?”

“I’m older.”

“Barely.”

“Still counts.” I try to be patient. It wasn’t that long ago that I was stretching my wings and looking for a beacon of familiarity.

A light behind us comes on and he takes off.

“Wait!”

He smacks into the bulb and falls back.

The human bats at my brother. “Stupid moth.”

Sighing, I park on the ceiling. He’s still learning.

###

Beacon by Jeanne Lombardo

I search the night sky. As if the answer were there. As if science fiction were true and benevolent aliens could save us. Why bother? I see nothing. The stars are snuffed out.

Here below flames rip at cars and barricades and shop fronts—bonfires of fury and pain. The undercurrent of violence deafens me, pulls me down on streets wet from water cannons. My hands bleed from the bricks I have thrown.

You pull my arm. You scream. The maelstrom snatches your words and eats them.

But I follow at last—you—a brighter beacon than the flames.

###

Mother Hope by Kalpana Solsi

Flashing the red beacon light and a shrill siren announcing urgency, the white metal body moves.

A budding life, inhumanly left to wither is picked up with love. The ‘unwanted’ tag is abandoned and a new name and home is given.

The wrinkled destitute breathe their last with dignity.

Bodies afflicted with diseases get palliative care.

Women and children counselling programmes uplift the society.

Refugees, prostitutes, street-kids are accommodated.

The selfless Sisters at Missionaries of Charity in the City of Joy spread sunshine under the darkest conditions.

The Mother in white and blue sari is a beacon of hope.

###

Hope Is A Four Letter Word by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mrs. North? Greg O’Connell. I tracked down your sister to the Sisters of Mercy.’

Mary felt a familiar cloud cast a chill shadow. ‘I remember.’

‘They’ve found the records. At last, eh?’

Mary couldn’t speak.

‘Bit of light at… sorry, I’m rambling. A beacon of hope, maybe. Katherine Potts. Your sister, right?’

‘Yes.’

‘She had a daughter, who was adopted. The family was from Dublin. Mrs. North? You there.’

‘Is she… alive?’

‘That’s why I rang. Do you want me to keep looking?’

Mary shut her eyes. Could she stand more disappointment? Was this beacon really bringing good news?

###

First Cut Pt. 1 by D. Avery

“Did I hurt you when I left?”

They were sprawled on the grass in the pasture that overlooked the house, the barn that held the first cut of hay. She stroked the baby’s dark hair as she nursed.

“Yup. Hurt a lot.”

“I’ve always been a bolter. It’s like I can’t help it after a while.”

“Uh.” The baby sighed and fell asleep against her.

“I never was scared before though.”

“You were scared?”

“Afraid I’d gone too far. That I wouldn’t be able to come back. To you.”

His arm around her was strong, gentle. “I’m always here.”

###

First Cut Pt. 2 by D. Avery

He stood on the porch, watching the storm rolling over the mountain, trees bowing before it, excited leaves anxiously twisting and turning on their stems, murmuring at the rumbles of thunder. Soon it would rain.

The Highlands would be fine. The calves were healthy, feeding well, the new mothers patient and fiercely protective.

Quietly, he went back inside where she had fallen asleep on the couch. He sat before the sleeping baby in the bassinet, still awestruck. Would that feeling ever go away?

Would she ever leave again?

“Hey”, she whispered. “How’s Hope?”

“She’s a light in the storm.”

###

Beacon by Rachel A Hanson

“I know your name,”

She was standing at the kitchen sink, feeling low as she sipped her coffee. She looked up to see Moana.

As the tears flowed out she realized how invisible and alone she felt.

“What’s wrong, Mama?” Her little one ran over.

“I just love you so much,” she said.

Her little face lit up with a smile a mile wide that shone like a beacon, cutting through the darkness in her soul.

“I love you too, Mama.”

As they embraced the smile of the baby became another beacon of love that shone through the dark.

###

Beacon of Goodness by KittyVerses

As the day of my friend’s wedding grew near,excitement in all of us rose to the next level. Exuberant, like the rest of us about her attire and the celebrations that would follow, she was eagerly looking forward to her D-day.

A typical Indian arranged wedding, they hardly knew one another for six months. A new person , new family, new lifestyle, these thoughts kept haunting her. An element of fear lay hidden beneath her otherwise joyous face.

As we parted, I wished fervently, Let the beacon of goodness shine and may she be that beacon in this new journey.

###

Philandered Pharos (Janice vs Richard #13) by Jules Paige

Carla Scott wanted nothing more in life than to own a little
bookshop in the coastal town she’d grown up in. Instead
she’d become a policewoman. Helping people like Janice
from cabal men who held tightly onto the concept of
‘disregard’ of humanity in their absolute quest to make
women feel Fremdschämen. Men like Richard rarely
worked alone, belonging to some kind of opaque group,
whose asomatous leader didn’t leave paper trails.

What turn of events or item preceded a criminal’s mind to
hum above decent coherency? Blip off and then stand tall
withdrawing from the beacon of justice?

###

Beacon by Michael

He was a beacon of hope to so many. He spoke the language they craved to hear.

To others, he was a beacon of disaster. Everything he said was a lie a falsehood designed to deceive and confusion.

Where he promised prosperity for all to others, he spelt poverty a modern-day Judas selling out those whom he should have supported for the lure of the mighty dollar.

He used people for his own ends, he cared little for their well-being concentrating totally on what was best for him.

In the end, he was justifiably condemned to rot in hell.

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A Beacon of Her Light by FloridaBorne

“Are you telling me you are what you write?” Lee asked.

“No.”

“You’ll never be a Hemingway,” he sneered.

“It’s the journey, not the destination that’s important.”

“I’ve heard the cliché,” he snickered.

“I hear the universal heart and my write-house shines out a beacon of her light.”

“That’s a stupid pun! If you’re the lighthouse, I’m the caretaker that straightens the beam.”

“No,” I chuckled. “You’re a ship’s captain refusing to allow a light to tell you there’s danger ahead.”

“What danger?”

“You’re about to crash on the rocks. My lawyers have pictures of you with your mistress.”

###

Night Riders (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

 “Nancy Jane, it’s dark. I can’t see!” Sarah reached for her friend.

“Beyond the ravine we’ll have light. Come on!”

When they emerged from the creek oaks and cottonwoods, the plains remained cloaked. Stars cast no light on this moonless night, but lone campfires topped the hills. Sarah asked, “Why are people in small camps? I thought they were afraid to sleep outside groups.”

“Nah, those are the fires warning where the ridges are.” Nancy Jane whistled and her horse nickered in return. “Ready, Sarah? Let’s ride the plains and let the Otoe night signals light our way.”

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The Royal Navy by Gordon Le Pard

Here it is again, and a sequel

“They’re here!”
He looked out at the horizon and saw nothing, “Nonsense” he thought as he walked over to his excited colleague bending over the strange device, he looked through the little lens. There was a tiny ship – with the cross of Spain on its sails. Moving it he saw more, the Armada had arrived!
Moments later the beacon was lit, within hours the English fleet was at sea.
The Spanish thought they had the English trapped in Plymouth harbour – but at dawn the Royal Navy launched their first attack. The defeat of the Spanish Armada had begun.

The first telescope was probably invented in the 1570’s by Leonard and Thomas Digges, but kept secret because of its military importance. I have placed one in the hands of one of the men keeping watch for the invading Spaniards in 1588.

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The Spanish Armada by Gordon Le Pard

Admiral Recalde was worried, the Royal Navy was supposed to be in Plymouth, and no knew they were coming. Last night they had glimpsed the coast and seen twinkling lights on the hill tops.
“Fires, to burn the heretics.” The priests had said encouragingly.
But he feared they were beacons.

As dawn broke he found he was right. The grey western horizon, which should have been empty, was full of ships, English ships, the fastest warships, the best guns and the finest seamen in the world.

He no longer thought of victory, instead he prayed that they would survive.

Admiral Recalde, one of the most experienced officers in the Spanish Armada, was always doubtful about its chances of success. He managed to bring several ships home after the disastrous defeat, but collapsed and died a few days after reaching Spain.

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A Hero’s Welcome by Pete Fanning

The whistle hit as the train rounded the bend. At Jem’s, couples abandoned dancing and ran for the door. Drowsy children lifted warm cheeks from the padding of their mother’s arms. Old timers rocked forth to have a gander.

The boys wanted to shoot his Springfield. The girls wanted to hear all about Paris. Lawrence had seen the world. He’d taken on the Nazi’s and defended freedom.

Six hours late, a beacon shined on the withered streamers and curled signs of patriotism. They stood as brakes screaked, they watched patiently as the “White Only” cars passed.

Lawrence was home.

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Between by Sarah Brentyn

He flies halfway between day and night.

His wings reach out, touch the rooftop of my home.

The silence outside me, the noise inside me…

I hear him.

Tomorrow, he tells me, will be softer. More forgiving. Wait.  

I believe him.

His message quiets my raging mind.

Delivered tenderly, I feel the force behind his words not to go gentle into this good night.

 

Feathered fingertips brush blue sky down into the pinks and purples of evening.

I will live to see him, this paintbrush of the Gods, bring the periwinkle light of sunrise up into sapphire skies.

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Whatt the Blazes? by D. Avery

“Hey Shorty. That’s a fine fire you got there. Cookin’ somethin’ up? Bacon sure would be nice.”

“No, ain’t cookin’.”

“Oh. Cold?”

“No, I ain’t cold.”

“Oh. Scarin’ away coyotes?”

“No, ain’t seen any sign of coyotes.”

“Shorty, why’n heck you got this here fire blazin’ away if you ain’t cookin’, ain’t cold, and ain’t worried about coyotes?”

“Let’s just say this fire is for anyone who is hungry, or cold, or worried about coyotes. A welcome to set a spell. Share stories.”

“A beckoning beacon.”

“Exactly.”

“Still, some bacon would be nice.”

“Here, have a carrot.”

“It’s raw.”

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July 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s a muddle of music and smiling people in sunglasses beyond the orange fence of plastic netting. Entrance requires a red wristband and resolve. It’s Independence Day in the US and on the Keweenaw Peninsula, locals flock to Eagle River to celebrate. As crowds go it’s relatively small, but it’s still a crowd and I’m yet an introvert among so many unfamiliar things. What is it about unfamiliarity that seems unnerving?

Earlier at a beach on Lake Superior I heard the lament of a six-year-old boy, “I can’t overcome my fear!” I turned my gaze away from the rolling waves, to inspect a group of young boys splashing in the water. They were playing an imaginary game, a team of heroes on a mission. Except for the lone reluctant hero in a life vest and swim goggles who stood while his friends floated and swam. I can’t overcome my fear.

His tone was one any of us at any age could cry out. We fear new places and faces. We fear what we don’t know. We fear change. So we stay in the shallows, watching for danger.

I take a deep breath and extend my wrist to receive a band. I’m committing, going in, going deep. I’m shaky at first, not knowing anyone, but soon I follow the wafting aroma of smoked brisket, and loving arms reach for me with the familiar call of “Mama!” It’s my eldest and she’s with her husband in line for food. Fear melts away with a familiar anchor.

And maybe that’s what each of us needs — a guide to bring us in to a new harbor, a light to show us the rocky shoals. Once received we open up to the newness. Another boy at the beach stood up with his friend and together they went into the water. A few fearful cries soon diminished into laughter and together they splashed and played heroes. With my own lighthouse guiding me through the community event, I opened up to meeting new people and experiencing a Copper Country celebration.

A curious man approaches wearing pants of apricot and a silk neck scarf. My daughter mentions he’s filming a documentary and he invites us to a fundraiser with an invitation that is both artsy and strange. I wonder who he is and why he’s making a film. My daughter is part of a belly-dancing troupe and her husband drums. They know many people in the community who are living life to their own beat. I’ve yet to figure out the local beat, but feel more at home among the artistic and eccentric. I’m searching for the literary artistic and history eccentric.

So I ask the filmmaker if he’s from the area. He was born and raised on the Keweenaw, leaving in increments until he made it to NYC where he’s been making films for years. One of his films was received at the Sundance Festival in 2009. He tells me, “They’ve all been wondering what I’ve been doing since.”

“This documentary?” I ask.

He rolls his eyes with exaggerated drama. “It’s not a documentary. Well, I suppose some parts are. It’s creative. It’s different, no genre like it exists. It’s my creative expression.”

“I see.” Not really, but I see enough to hook my curiosity and decide I’ll go to the fundraiser and learn more. I might meet some writers, as I’ve heard there are a few about this area. One is even hosting a workshop on poetry and flash fiction. Ha! You bet I’m going to that one.

Then the filmmaker in the apricot pants explains what he’s been doing since his Sundance success: filmmaking. “It’s what I do. I make films.”

It’s what I do. I write. It seems such a simple statement on one hand and so bold on the other. And yet, in writing I do so much more than tap keys or splatter sentences in ink. I process. What I feared and faced, I write about at some point whether it’s something I acknowledge consciously or not. What I fear and think I’ve smothered also comes out. It’s not all about fear, but fear certainly has great sway over us.

I think about fear as fireworks flare in the sky. I watch the shadow of a person fogged in pyrotechnic smoke light the mortars on the beach. Is he not afraid of his task? I watch my husband who says he loves the fireworks display, and recall last year’s holiday when he charged across a Forest Service campground in the dark because someone was “shooting.” It was fireworks and he soon realized after a camping neighbor calmed him down.

The difference was not the fireworks but the unfamiliarity — he expects fireworks at this event.

Houses stretch three stories tall around this region. Most are old houses from the grand mining era pre-1900s. The bedrock is too close to the surface to dig basements so they are rocked as the ground level, then the main floor and a second. Some bigger houses have a fourth attic or maid’s quarters. They look scary to me, tall and speaking of deep snow and old ways. Yet I love the house my daughter owns. She and her husband have painted the walls vibrant colors, the hues of sunflowers and of sky and deep lake water.

Did technology bring about too many changes, or ones that left people without a lighthouse to guide them? I always thought the globalization of the internet would bring us all closer together. In many ways it has. Perhaps blogging, writing, are mediums of light that shine a path to bridge cultural differences. The fear expressed by many in the US reminds me of the child’s admission, “I can’t get over my fear.” Instead of looking for a way, some people have backed out of the water and barricaded themselves on the beach.

It’s not that there’s nothing to fear. Terrorism itself is the invoking of fear; it’s meant to terrorize. Water can be dangerous; children do drown. But we have choices. We have offers of hands to join together. It reminds me of the Great American Desert beyond the Missouri River, which terrified Americans yet beckoned them to cross for riches or land. Many did overcome their fear and a few even settled, including the McCanles family.

In my research, I’ve come across a written oral history of a family contemporary to the McCanleses — the Helvey family. Frank Helvey was 19 when his family decided to run a road station the same year as Cobb bought Rock Creek. The Helvey’s bought the Big Sandy Station 15 miles up trail from Rock Creek. Frank writes, “With McCanles and his men I was very well acquainted, and can say that a wrongful impression was given of him, and of the affair between him and Wild Bill, who I also believe was much maligned.”

Why do we run around in the dark with an inferior torch claiming the world is scary and preferring to only see in front of our face what we think we know? The settlers “knew” the Pawnees and Otoes were dangerous. The historians “knew” Cobb was a bad hombre. Many waited until people like the Helvey’s and Mary McCanles carved homes and ranches and communities on the prairie before they decided it was safe to wrest away from the remaining reservations. Indeed, there were a few raids on settlers in 1864 and 67, but in comparison to the massacres by US Cavalry, it was the Natives who should have had the greater fear.

It’s not that fear itself is so bad. Fear is a warning — proceed with caution; be safe. Entrepreneurs and artists take calculated risks — they strategize to overcome doubt and fear to do or create something new. Fear is best acknowledged, not justified. It’s fear justified that skews thinking and actions. In this recent body of research, I read about the Pawnee and Otoe and how fearful they made the settlers in their war to save their hunting grounds. That fear became an entrenched justification for robbing them of their lands. The extreme prejudice I’m reading in this history echoes today.

Like the boy on the beach, we need to overcome our fears to participate fully in a modern and connected world of many cultures. Like his friends, maybe we can offer to light the way for others.

July 6, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a beacon. It can be from a lighthouse or other source. Use the word literally or figuratively and go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by July 11, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published July 12). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Night Riders (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

 “Nancy Jane, it’s dark. I can’t see!” Sarah reached for her friend.

“Beyond the ravine we’ll have light. Come on!”

When they emerged from the creek oaks and cottonwoods, the plains remained cloaked. Stars cast no light on this moonless night, but lone campfires topped the hills. Sarah asked, “Why are people in small camps? I thought they were afraid to sleep outside groups.”

“Nah, those are the fires warning where the ridges are.” Nancy Jane whistled and her horse nickered in return. “Ready, Sarah? Let’s ride the plains and let the Otoe night signals light our way.”

June 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

Lake Gitchi Gumee erodes the shore wave by endless wave. Ringed-bill lake gulls careen wide circles, wings spread. A loon trills from water so vast as to hide the fowl rolling in waves, but occasionally the sun slants just so, and a loon appears to be fast-paddling like a vessel full of rowers all in sync. The land giving way to water is part of the synchronization of the whole mass, a geological cycle that refuses to conform to state park boundaries or nostalgic memories of generational Kumbaya campfire singers.

Bit by bit I have frayed.

No one beach facing the endless waves maintains its original shoreline. Was it ever original? Maybe it’s just a memory of what was compared to now what is. When you visited the shore as a child, it’s not the same shoreline you visit as an adult. You are not the same, either. Yet mainstream media sells us on an ideal of “anti-aging.” It’s ridiculous. You only stop aging the day you die and even then you molder. Who I am now is not who I was a year ago.

When I packed for camping I thought at worst it would be until September. I grabbed two pairs of jeans, four t-shirts, a flannel and a sweatshirt. Wisely, I brought all my underclothes. Two pairs of Keens, my good turquoise pair and my ratty hiking ones, seemed enough shoes. I had to buy socks when it turned cold (even Mars slips away from the sun). A small wardrobe is like a sandy hill over the Great Lake, use after use, launder after launder, all fades and frays.

Internally I cracked before the storm ever began. Like a cowardly fisherman confronted with the weather report, I retreated. No way, give me some warm slippers, a comfy couch and popcorn; I’ll sit this one out. Like any hero’s journey, I refused the call. A year later when I should be due some elixir, I’m still stunned I made the journey. We intended to head to Michigan last year, to go to Rock Creek and Kansas along the way, to meet up with friends and family. But our vessel leaked and our path wandered.

We shipwrecked on Mars, broke-down in Gallup among the Great Indian Nations. How does one remain the same after endless waves?

And yet a beach is still a beach. A cliff recedes and still remains a cliff. I listen to the waves and the occasional tremolo of the loons, recognizing I am yet who I am, and I am becoming who I will be. Where does one’s energy go after the body fails? Ideas, emotions, intellect cannot simply dissipate. Sit still long enough and you can feel the impression of a place left by others. You can feel it in your own DNA. Did  I ever have a grandmother dance wildly in Mali? Can I still see the highlands my Scots grandmothers left? Does Danish hygge offer me the comfort of grandmothers before me? Does my rebellious Basque grandmother still rise in me?

Lacking any Native American DNA, I also lack the blood of conquerors — I’m not Spanish, French or English, but I’m many cultures dominated by the three. My ancestors were chained to the galleons, endentured after lost battles, and endured hardships of famine and loss. It’s without a doubt my ancestors were always striving, reaching to pluck the promised fruit, the fabled gold pavers. Luckless? I don’t believe in it. Hard-working? Without a doubt. Stubborn? Just a wee bit.

I ponder these things as my frayed edges catch in the breeze. Soon it will be Independence Day and I no longer know what that means to me. Gallup was patriotic. The town served in military wars despite the injustices its communities suffered. They were proud to serve America, united. Here, in the wilderness of a copper country in the Michigan U.P., the least skilled of the immigrant copper miners remain — the White Finns. They are patriotic in skewed ways — believing the cities are breeding terrorists, and that Trump is their savior, many turn to fundamentalism and patriotism in ways I find strange. They are frayed and wanting a mender.

Here beats the heart of America who has failed to examine her social injustices and buries it beneath a false image of greatness-returning. And one of the top universities in the nation thrives here, a holdover from its origins in 1885 as a mining technology institution. Now it is an engineering beacon with a majority of its students international. Professors, students and those who’ve built engineering firms in the beauty they found while at school create a vibrant yin to the yang of what remains.

Not to dismiss what remains of the mining culture. They are no different from my own rural roots. Hardworking and stubborn folks who believe they’ll get ahead, but generation after generation they work to pull wealth from the ground for others. They turn a fierce faith to God and get a jump on the judgement they believe is coming. Apostolic Lutherans. Firstborn Laestadians. Not my kin or kindred spirits, but I recognize the determination to not fray.

Thus I give in to the fraying.

I don’t want this year to harden me. I don’t want to become poured cement to prevent change, or fear the erosion, the synchronicity of wearing down, energy against energy. I want to lift my wrists to the wind and let the frayed cuffs of my sweatshirt fly, release my frayed soul to life yet to be and accept a new weave, one the wind might direct or the waves carve. I note the heart at my cuff and know good things come out of unraveling. It’s our fear of change of going through hard processes that convince us the garment must be tossed and proper seams displayed. I have become the fray. And who knows what is coming next.

Carrot Ranch has finally come to a resting juncture. A few internet hiccups, rectified as of today. Know there are still places where hot spots and boosters do not work. Even Mars and Elmira Pond had better receptivity. I’m now connected, and Operation Stabilization has officially commenced today. We met with a true advocate at the U.P. Vet Center, an energetic female Captain (Airborne, too) who has no problem understanding or reaching Sgt. Mills (Airborne Ranger). Another counselor I met a few days ago also works with vets and understands their filters which gave me peace through validation.

I’ve not been here long, but already I have a community and the support of my grown kids (Rock Climber is now living in Svolbard, Norway and the other two and partners are up nort’ here, ay). I’m most grateful to the community who has traversed this year with me or has fearlessly joined up during the crazy trail ride.

This is a safe space to craft, draft and connect. Come as you are, write as you are and let your frayed edges fly. Let’s get the saddle show started this week — writers on your mark…get set…go…!

June 29, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about something frayed. It could be fabric, like a flag or garment. It could also be nerves or temper. What is it to be frayed?

Respond by July 4, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published July 5). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Let Freedom Ring (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“I heard her husband led the Palmetto Guard.”

“He murdered free-staters on raids.”

“Hussy!”

Mary McCanles walked bare-headed through the crowd with her basket, ignoring the fine women in stiff bonnets deep enough to hide wrinkles and scowls.

She settled on the quilt her daughter Lizza spread. A gray-haired woman herself, Lizza smiled broadly and attended several Otoe-Missouri papooses. Though frayed, it was Mary’s treasured marriage quilt.

“I love babies, Mama!”

“You are good with them, Daughter.”  Mary dared anyone say anything to Lizza. Born a blue baby, she was often ridiculed. Not today.

“Ain’t Independence Day grand, Mama?”

###

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Dreaming

Dreaming Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsIt can be a relief to wake up and realize, it was only a dream. But what if we are always dreaming? Dreams are the veil between the conscious and subconscious. Perhaps daydreams are the bridge between possibility and practicality.

With dreaming, anything goes. Writers plunged into the prompt, one offered by Rough Writer and author, Ruchira Khanna.

June 22, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves a dream.

***

Beach Daydreaming by Susan Zutautas

I stare into space
Where no one knows, where I’ve gone

I like to hide in my mind
And daydream

Sometimes I think of younger years
Sometimes I think of my fears

My favorite dream is on a beach
Lying in the sun and sand
Feeling the heat beating down on me

I feel the sand between my toes
A gentle warm breeze goes by slow

Listening for the waves to crash
The warmth of the water hits my back

The sweet smell of salty sea water
Fills my nostrils and I smile

There’s nothing like an ocean dream

###

Deep Sleep by D. Avery

The stone dreamt of cold grinding ice and was not afraid; dreamt of twisting transforming heat and was not afraid; dreamt of the crushing weight of oceans, and was not afraid; dreamt of the acidic embrace of mosses and was not afraid. The stone dreamt it was asleep and dreaming that it was asleep and dreaming of timelessness and fearlessness. The stone dreamt that it was the Earth, that it was the universe, that it was a tossed pebble.

She awakened suddenly, slowly, acclimating herself to her limbs, her body, to the return from dreaming of being a stone.

###

A Writer’s Dream by Reena Saxena

The woman in black finally decided to reveal her identity. I watched with bated breath, as she lifted her veil, and then, I almost stopped breathing for a while. She was not strikingly beautiful, as I had expected, but was a relic of the past.

What had happened in her life, in the interim period? And why was she following me? It was scary, but these are the twists and turns of fate, that keep the story of life going.

I woke up drenched in sweat. Why don’t the characters of my novel leave me alone, when I sleep?

###

Lost in a Dream (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Young Sally stirred the bean pot and twittered about lace she’d seen in Beatrice. Sarah saw herself as if in a dream, a memory vividly sketched in mind but dormant for years.

“Beans look ready Miss Sarah?”

Her hands, no longer stiff and aged, trembled at what she knew came next. She heard herself repeat words from 70 years ago. “Check one.”

Sally blew on the wooden spoon, a lone pinto perched in thin liquid. Bread cooled next to churned butter and wild plum jam.

Sarah succumbed to the memory of the day. There never was a last supper.

###

But I Can Have a Dream, Too by Joe Owens

Erin studied Eric’s speech he had spent so many hours on, checking and rechecking it as her good friend requested.

“It’s great except for one thing. You can’t use the ‘I have a dream’ line at the beginning.”

“Why not?”

“There is a very famous speech with that line you don’t want to copy.”

“Doesn’t every speech reuse some words from another?” Eric asked.

“I suppose, but I think you should try again on your opening,” Erin said handing the papers back to Eric.

Two days later Eric began his speech like this: “Dreams are the mind cataloging memories!”

###

A Dream is Just a Dream by Anne Goodwin

“What does it mean, doctor?” She sat back, wide-eyed, expectant.

Flying cats, talking trains and flowers oozing blood. The ward staff called her an attention-seeking fantasist, but I gave her an hour a week of my full attention and she filled the space with her rambling dreams.

I didn’t want to disappoint her, but none of my interpretations had hit the spot. Sometimes a dream is just a dream. But only in their telling did she seem alive. “I wonder,” I faltered, “did you ever dream of writing a novel?”

She snatched a tissue. At last, we could begin.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

The organ blasted out ‘Here comes the bride’.

What was I doing here?

This wasn’t what I wanted or needed.

The pews were full, of people I didn’t know.

Was I in the right place?

I walked alone up the aisle, no-one to give me away.

My groom had his back to me.

His stance was unfamiliar, strange to see a Morning Suit.

Oohs and aahs echoed all around me.

I looked down to see I was stark naked.

Exposed for the fraud I was perhaps?

The music stopped.

So did I.

He turned slowly.

A man without a face.

###

I Saw Her Again by Drew Sheldon

I ran into her the other day. She looked great. She got divorced and quit smoking a few years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her look so happy and healthy. We talked and laughed just like we used to all those years ago. No topic was off-limits. No joke was too tasteless. She was just as brilliant and funny as I remembered. Somehow I hadn’t realized how much I missed her. Suddenly it occurred to me in all the excitement I had forgotten to hug her. So I reached over to her…
And then I woke up.

###

Visitations by Sascha Darlington

I feel gentle fingertips caress my temple, wake to his brown eyes fastened on mine, concern etched in them. His breath, hot upon my cheek, once would have been enough.

“Are you getting up?” he asks, a whisper.

“I need a little more sleep,” I say. He nods, kisses my brow. I almost pull him to me, to have him close.

I’ve never told him that sometimes she appears in dreams and her laughter clutches me. I sleep hoping to dream of her.

I think I hear him say: “Please come back to me” before I slide into slumber.

###

El drac dels somnis by Jules Paige
(Janice vs Richard #11)

Clothed in a neat kimono type wrapper, Janice felt there was
nothing mundane about this dream. She’d been spirited off to
a tentative safe house. There was no going backwards as far
as escaping Richard was concerned. Even with attempting
La gaudiere for the man – there couldn’t be even a partial
reconciliation.

Warm air vented from the nostrils of the tree brown dragon
that nudged her, as she patted its’ spine. Janice wasn’t
opposed to staying in this dream and felt herself smile.

The Dragon’s eye swirled into a scenic window of greenery.
It was time to wake up.

###

Livin’ the Dream (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Becca pushes out of the consignment shop, not daring to breathe lest it tip the tears poised to fall. A year ago she had bliss. Now she’s selling what left she has of Richard.

That happy life, that wonderful man, it must have been a dream. She would never have been so careless as to lose him if it was real. She would have felt its fragility, would have known not to let him leave the house that day.

But why would anyone wake from a dream like that one, if dream it was?

Same result. Gone, either way.

###

Dream by Lady Lee Manila

I never believe in dreams
They were just for kids, it seems
Like one of their childish games
But you came and I’m in flames
I’m still smiling with that beam
When I sleep, I dream of you
In the blue sky and you flew
Searching and calling my name
– Believe in dreams
Now I believe in daydreams
Hoping you are my mainstream
And my heart you have inflamed
Dream to be with you I claim
With preference, my eyes gleam
– Believe in dreams
When I sleep, I dream of you
In the blue sky and flew

###

The Spider by Jeanne Lombardo

Rain-washed light filtering through the glass doors. The snug kitchen dawning with the day. The woman pondering her dream.

She’d been sitting in this kitchen. An egg, perfect in its pure, curved symmetry nestled in a china bowl before her.

She cracked it open. The yolk dazzled. But it was not a yolk. It was a magnificent spider, its body a glinting gold topaz.

In the waking world, she would have recoiled. She would have screamed.

But in the dream she watched, smiling.

Now it seemed a visitation, a hopeful omen, a sign. What did the jeweled spider portend?

###

Dreaming Well by D. Avery

“There’s people there now, but I’ll clean up after them, check on the well.”

Johanna couldn’t believe her fortune in finding a special remote location for her “gang” to base their retreat ride.

“I’ll take the tractor out there and brush-hog the meadow and grade the lane so you ladies can get in and set up your tents. My, having visitors does keep us young.”

“Okay”, smiled Joanna, reaching for her helmet, “We’ll all be back next weekend, it sounds great, like a dream come true.”

“Yes”, said the older woman, her eyes gleaming, “It’s a dream come true.”

###

Dawn, Noon, Dusk by idyllsoftheking

When he wakes up, the red light of morning streaming through his window, his heart skips a beat. The sun? Natural sunlight! He rushes out of bed greet it.

When she logs in, she responds to emails in order of panic. No, she assures the recipients of her comforting lies. No, there is nothing to fear. It will hold. Their arcology is the best on Io.

When they crouch down, underneath the sparking and burning wreckage of their glass and plastic castle, they look at each other with undeniable hatred. His dream lives, hers died. Simple. She kills him.

###

Dream Crashers by Sascha Darlington

You can’t keep dead people and dead dogs out of your dreams. They think they have a right to be there in all of their once alive glory. They laugh and hug or pant and bark and wag their tails and make you believe during your REM state that they are totally alive. For blissful moments, you believe, like it was yesterday, but the sepia tones should be a giveaway. When your dog wiggles her rear end and skips, your chest tightens as consciousness fights for witness: this is a dream and when I wake up, I will cry.

###

Dream by FloridaBorne

“Mother? Where am I?”

“We’re having a nice hot cup of tea.”

She held her plain white porcelain mug with dainty fingers, and took a sip.

“Why are you wearing a white dress? You hate white.”

The scent of Earl Grey intermingled with six white fresh-cut roses from her garden. The sun began to drift down…down…down…fiery golds, orange and red becoming muted greys and green while we silently sipped tea together.

Darkness…bone chilling cold…legs pinned…arms pressed under tons of earthquake.

“Mama…I don’t want to die. Not like this!”

“Sleep my child,” Mother said. “Soon you will be coming home.”

###

Yet Another Day by Kittyverses

It was yet another day. After the death of her husband, their son decided to travel overseas to seek fortune, promising to return soon.

Days turning to months,months to years, all that she cherished of him were the weekly telephonic conversations.

It wasn’t that her son didn’t want to care of her but monetary circumstances prevented him from returning back.

There was a knock on the door, one fine day. Hurrying to open, standing in front of her was her son. Pinching herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming, she cried in joy, Son! My faith has won.

###

Dream by Kalpana Solsi

She lay supine on the hospital bed surviving on prayers of children and modern medicines.

She feels her soul separate from her mortal body as Chitragupt calls her name.

“Beware, thorns and stones that hurt you” he cautioned.

“I have experienced pains and downfalls”, she trailing him.

“Regrets?”

“None”, confidently.

“Wishes?”

“My Home needs a replacement to be run altruistically. The children would suffer”, she requests.

“Those orphans?”,

“They’re my children”, she emphasizes.

Doctors credit her recovery to a miracle.

“Was it a dream or trance?”

“Was it re-birth?”, questions a journo.

She nods, waves at the vanishing Chitragupt.

###

Lion Fish Vacuum by Anthony Amore

Robert follows the Lion Fish deeper into the reef, spear ready. An invasive species in the Keys, these are legal prey.

Within reach something yanks from behind, tugging; the mask falls from his face. Oxygen evaporates gulping water gasping.

He jolts awake. He’s never been diving in his life. He’s never been anywhere. HIs legs, his arms, they do not work. This was a scene from a cooking show that flickered last night and glowed deep into the vacuum of his hospital room.

Feeding him water from a straw, the night nurse says. “Sleep tight.” He will likely not.

###

Sharing Dream Time by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She rolls in flickering blue and white, darts between other bodies, slick and shining, touching but not colliding. Breaching, she leaps into the moon, heavy with promised bounty. She swallows silver light, joyfully sated as it fills her center.

Deep drumbeats increase in speed and volume, drawing near. Writhing and diving, she hides from grey and black shadows that slash and shred. In an eyeblink, Moon’s soft rays hang bloody between wicked spearhead teeth.

She wakes, wiping salt tears from her son’s eyes. Repeated night terrors; she no longer knows if he’s sharing her dream, or she’s sharing his.

###

The Dream Tweeter by Bill Engleson

“She’s finally asleep.”

“You sure? She fakes it sometimes.”

“I lingered awhile. Just watching…if she’s a faker, she’s damn good at it.”

“She tell you the story?”

“Story…?”

“That thingee she’s been rambling on about…the dream tweeter, the goblin who steals dreams and then tweets them to God knows where.”

“Yeah, she mentioned him. It?”

“It about covers it. I think she’s been watching too much television…especially cable news. She doesn’t even know what a tweet is.”

“Who does. I mean, what’s the actual point of twitter.”

“Well, by some measure, its purpose is to keep the President sedated.”

###

Dumbfounded by Michael

I was watching TV when a boy from the school over the road set himself up on my veranda. He thought my place was his study centre. I told him to leave. I thought of child protection and all that involved.

Then there was a noise in my kitchen. Around my kitchen table eating my food were a heap of Year 9 students. I rang the school and the Principal came over. He thought it a great joke. He shuffled them out explaining in the kindest terms it was time to go back to class.

I woke up! Dumbfounded!

###

Off with the Fairies by Norah Colvin

Each year the school reports told the same story:

He’s off with the fairies.

Poor concentration.

Needs to pay more attention.

Daydreamer.

Doesn’t listen in class.

Must try harder.

Needs a better grasp on reality.

Will never amount to anything.

Meanwhile, he filled oodles of notebooks with doodles and stories.

When school was done he closed the book on their chapter, and created his own reality with a best-selling fantasy series, making more from the movie rights than all his teachers combined.

Why couldn’t they see beneath the negativity of their comments to read the prediction in their words?

###

Writing about The Island before Writing about The Island by Elliott Lyngreen

The outfield was a road; curved. Another couple formed an unoccupied lot, an island which resembled a baseball diamond..

Frontyards were HOMERUN territory.

Relays came from manicured gardens, yard niches, overwhelmed ivy, realms in two-story architecture; swiftly from Murphy, swung to Fearns, divided down to Harold at the sidewalk crosshairs—pitcher’s mound—to goofy Darryl – who tags Stewart with a catcher’s mit.

Bicycles.

We knew John Zaciejewski’s garage code; for more gloves, bats, balls…; and his pool.

Dreams never stood a chance for the Major Leagues.

Yet immersed….from wonderous transition, to awake neck hairs softly tingled.

Formed as literature.

###

I May Be A Dreamer by Geoff Le Pard

Rupert steepled his fingers. ‘My dreams? Goodness.’

Penny sat at her uncle’s feet, rocking her baby sister.

Mary shared a grin with her half-brother. ‘Mine were cliched. Ballerina, show jumper.’

Penny waited. Finally, Rupert said, ‘I didn’t know it then, but finding you. A family.’

‘You had your mum.’

‘Oh and I was happy but now, well, it’s better.’

Penny frowned. ‘Does that count as a dream? I mean, looking back?’

‘A retrospective dream? What do you think Mary?’

‘Why not? Especially if it comes true.’

Penny smiled. ‘We’ll make it a thing. Our thing.’

‘Yes, a family thing.’

###

Family Resignation by Diana Nagai

The summer sunset held my gaze as I pulled the blanket tighter. My aunt, who had raised me, sat close.

“Are you happy?” she broke the silence.

“I achieved the life I wanted.”

“When did you stop dreaming?”

I tensed at the implication. “Did I? I hadn’t realized.”

“I’ve always been proud of you, you know that. But, you could have been so much more.”

Her words stung. I was happy with who I became. And I still dream, everyday, that my parents hadn’t gotten into the car that fatal night. But out loud, “Yes, auntie.”

###

Flash Fiction by Carrie Gilliland Sandstrom

I sit in my arm chair like a cat, curled up in the sun. My book lays open but its words cannot capture my attention today. I am pulled under, into a dreamy state by warmth and comfort. I like to play there while the light dances on my eyelids giving my world an orange-red glow. I dream of sandy beaches, cool crystal blue water and a tanned lifeguard named Rico.

“Mom?”

Rico walks over to me, eyes inviting and warm.

“MOM!”

I ease my eyes open to address my interruption, “Yes?”

“I can’t find my other frog slipper.”

###

Family Sacrifice by Kerry E.B. Black

The sight paralyzed Ward, a vestige of a nightmare brought to reality. They walked from the fog, cloaked figures wearing crosses that swung with each step. Faces once familiar contorted with fervor and undeterred purpose.

Ward backed to his door, certain they would rip through their clothing to reveal their natures. Wolves, hungry for a kill, anxious to devour the weakest of the pack. Instead of howling, the lead man presented official documents to Ward. “We’ve come for the woman named Nina. Relinquish her, and there will be no trouble.”

Nina. His secret sister. Sacrifice for his family’s safety.

###

The Anthem by Allison Maruska

I approach the lone microphone on the 50-yard line. Stadium lights shine down, obscuring the thousands of spectators. I clasp my shaking hands in front of me.

“Singing our National Anthem tonight is Cassandra Jenson, senior at Ridgefield High School.” The announcer’s voice echoes off the stands. “Please stand.”

Silence fills the stadium, and I take a breath, remembering my starting pitch. “Oh say—”

“Cassie!” Jordan shakes my arm, pulling me from my daydream. “I got it! I’m singing the anthem!”

“Oh.” I smile, covering my disappointment. We both knew only one singer would get the job. “Congratulations!”

###

Dreams Come True by Susan Zutautas

Meg was having a hard time finding a new job. She’d been on countless interviews and was starting to wonder if she’d ever find a job. Exhausted from travelling all over the city, she flopped down on her bed in tears. As she drifted into a deep sleep she was thinking the move to this new city might have been a bad idea.

That night her deceased mother came to her in a dream and told her everything was going to be okay.

Meg was woken by the phone. She was offered a position and could she start immediately.

###

Transmission to Transition by D. Avery

“Kid, you gotta grin a mile long on that face a yours.”

“‘Less I’m dreamin’, Shorty’s back!”

“Yep, I saw. She brought us flowers from the prairie, by gosh.”

“She’s been on walkabout.”

“Walkabout? You been talkin’ with Aussie?”

“Well, it has been kind of a vision quest for Shorty, ain’t it?”

“I reckon so. She’s been runnin’ down a dream alright.”

“Well now what?”

“There’s work involved in a dream coming true, Kid.”

“I know. What can we do to help?”

“Shorty will keep us posted. In the mean time, dream along.”

“Dreamin’ big as a prairie sky!”

###

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Raw Literature: Seasonal Summary #4

No matter where you are in the world, seasons hold a certain cadence. It might reflect work patterns or lifestyle; weather or crops; and even a season of writing. Whether or not you are at the beach with a good book, eating strawberries freshly plucked, or tapping the keys in a windowless nook, take time time to catch up on the Raw Literature guest essays at Carrot Ranch.

In this round up of essays, you will enjoy some visual creativity, discover newly published works, experience the weather and possibly develop a craving for cake and milk. Our essayists range from Poland to South Africa to England to Canada to the US. Raw literature knows no boundaries.

Raw from California Past: Charli Mills Imagines the Weather’s Impact. This is from my own pen, in response to the interesting memoir prompt hosted by Irene Waters in Times Past. Writing raw, I dug into memories of California weather to recreate the lives of historic figures in a trio of 99-word stories.

Raw from Poland: Art and Literature in the Raw by Urzula Humienik. While many writers visualize their characters, this novelist creates visual art as her characters. Urzula explains why she pursued a degree in art to expand her passion for literature. She writes, “There seems to be an interwoven connection in my mind between art and literature, and it’s possible I’m not the only one.” Her original artwork from current characters are included.

Raw from the East Coast: Sarah Brentyn is a Writer Unplugged. A master of brevity, Sarah writes from the raw center that marks her style. With a new book out, Hinting at Shadows, Sarah explores her process and awe for “raw.” She writes, “This tiny three-letter word is like a super hero. I’m a word nerd and I love that this petite power house can describe so many items, objects, and states.”

Raw from England: Anne Goodwin Goes Underneath. Crafting fiction from raw concept to publication ready is becoming second nature to Anne. In fact, she’s recently launched her second novel, Underneath, how one man decides to make use of his cellar. In her essay, Anne considers her obsession with stairs as a reoccurring theme in her writing. She writes, “In my novels, stairs symbolise the transition from one state to another, and possibly back again.”

Raw from Canada: Casia Shreyer Gives an Interview. With a new anthology published by Shreyer Ink Publishing, Casia answers questions about her creative process and working with other writers to develop collaborative works from raw literature. The theme is that of tolerance. “Everywhere we look people are grappling with the idea of tolerance and acceptance, weighing it against theology and tradition and their other personal values.”

Raw from Northeastern US: Lit Like Raw Milk by D. Avery. Long in the saddle and new on the scene at Carrot Ranch, D. Avery is making cream at the top of raw literature. The author of two books of poetry, Chicken Shift and For the Girls, D. reflects on memories of milk as a child. She writes about her recent experience writing with the literary community at the ranch, “The writing that is gathered there is rich and flavorful, like raw milk. It is filled with associations and connections, showing evidence of its origins and of its journeys.”

Raw from South Africa: Baking, Writing and Children by Robbie Cheadle. An interest in baking leads to one of writing and it’s a family journey with mother and son, Robbie and Michael. Both have expansive imaginations and now they are published. Robbie writes, “This original idea of Michael slowly developed into the Sir Chocolate series of books that exists today. We have written ten books, three of which are currently published.”

Cheers to whatever season may find you. May you live and write raw from the heart, from your deepest parts to your highest aspirations.

<<♦>>

Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

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June 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

Sixty miles an hour, windows rolled down, paved highway humming to the spin of tires, and I’m daydreaming about prairie flowers.

My hand rests on the steering wheel while I follow the truck and trailer in front of me. This must have been the view of pioneer women, only the pace much slower and the landscape emptier. No road signs to follow; only wagon ruts cut through the rolling hills. No modern rest stops or gas stations with odd names like Kum & Go; only free fuel for the oxen and skirts for privy privacy. When Mary Green McCanles followed her brother-in-law’s family out to Nebraska Territory, what did she dream during the long drive?

It’s easy to lump “pioneer women” into generic categories like loaves of commercial bread — you can barely discern a difference between white or wheat. In my mind, I recite the different prairie flowers to bloom during my stay in Kansas and focus on color, height and texture. Each one has a different season, grows in different soil and might even have surprising purposes. So it was with the women. My appreciation for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about her pioneer years renews. She took the time to cast each character in a unique role. Laura was different from her mother, sisters and peers. Each was her own prairie flower within the settler ecosystem.

When I became interested in telling the Rock Creek event between two historic men, I wondered if I’d have anything new to say about July 12, 1861. James Butler Hickok has been thoroughly investigated by British historian, Joseph Rosa. Often accused of being yet another fancier of Hickok mythology, Rosa had a sharp mind and a ready pen. Best of all, he did due diligence in his research, something his peers and predecessors did not do as thoroughly. When anyone called out Rosa for his disclosures or discoveries on Hickok, he readily responded and editorial battles ensued in western history associations and magazines for all the world to read. And Rosa supplied evidence for his claims or counter-strikes.

However, when it came to David Colbert “Cobb” McCanles, Rosa pulled from the error and gossip filled annuals he corrected for Hickok, but not for Cobb. I understand. Rosa’s lifelong focus was Hickok, and that’s why no one expects anything new to be discovered. At first I felt annoyed that McCanles didn’t receive fair scrutiny. While his grandson attempted to “set the record straight” after seeing his family name besmirched in dime store novels and Hollywood westerns, the result was an over-correction. Who was D.C. McCanles? It depends upon which faction one reads, but each side has gaping holes in documentation.

Early on, I wrote the man as a character in a white hat, then black. But it wasn’t until I picked up on how the women would have seen him that the story came to life.

Like many before me, I first saw the pioneer women of Rock Creek in general terms — the wife, the former mistress and the station manager’s common-law wife. The wife/mistress tension had been played out ad nauseam and the more I wrote into the story, the less it held up as the linchpin to the events of July 12, 1861. I couldn’t find out much about the station manager’s wife. I felt if I could peer into the lives and minds of these women like a botanist scoping prairie flowers, I could understand better what happened that fateful day. I could come up with something new like Rosa had.

Women get lost in the records, often because of name changes. Thankfully Mary (the wife) had sons, and I could track her whereabouts through their names. After all, she did remarry. Sarah Shull also remarried, and other historians discovered her married name and subsequent locations, but they fixated on an imagined love triangle between her, Hickok and Cobb. Because it annoyed me that the lover’s spat angle was cliched and yet another way to diminish the expression of women on the frontier as anything else other than wives or whores, I followed the leads that pointed to Sarah’s profession. The pioneer was an accomplished accountant and store-keep. Given Cobb’s interest to expand his business holdings, it places Sarah in another role.

Jane Holmes was the hardest to research. We know through oral accounts she was the daughter of Joseph Holmes, a frontiersman and carpenter. She is also documented as being the common-law wife of the Pony Express station manager, Horace Wellman. She might be the young unmarried woman with an infant listed in the Joseph Holmes household of the 1860 territorial census. Her name is Nancy J. Nothing can be found of her before or after Rock Creek. Nor can I find a likeness of the sort of woman she might have been among the more proper journals, diaries and scrapbooks of pioneer women. She’s my imagined free spirit.

Research, writing and daydreaming has been my Rock Creek dance. I’m not penning a biography like Rosa did, but I will take a page from his strategy book. While thumbing through the crisp, brown and musty ledgers of the Kansas State Archives, I used Hickok as an entry point once I couldn’t find anything relating to my principal women. That led me to Rosa’s research. I mean, his actual research he himself did at the Kansas State Archives for decades. For 20 years he did all his research from London, writing correspondence with the state historians. After that he traveled to the Midwest annually to research for 30 days, his holiday. Once he began to publish, he stood on solid documentation. Like Rosa, my fiction will stand upon solid research.

Unlike Rosa, I dream the gaps. I drive and daydream of prairie flowers, digesting what I discovered in Rock Creek on this trip.

Mary, deepened in character when I gave her a competitive edge over Sarah to wield like power. Cobb’s father wrote of Mary’s vivaciousness and a photo no historian has ever published in a book about Rock Creek shows her to be a gorgeous young woman at the time of the incident. But what else? Even the prairie rose has more to offer than beauty. I learned several stories, digging into old pioneer accounts about the era after the Rock Creek incident. One, told by her two children Cling and Lizza (as “old-timers”) recounts how they grew up playing with the Otoe-Missouri children near Rock Creek. Cling says his mother traded with them.

In a second account in another book, Mary features in an obscure incident involving the Otoe-Missouri tribe. They often stopped at her ranch, even wounded. Further, the author relates a simple passage: “Mary often walked the trails alone and at night to midwife and doctor folks.” Not only was she not afraid of the “redman” her neighbors often feared, she took care of them as a prairie doctor. This rose suddenly bloomed in my mind, and I daydreamed about Mary and what her life was like and how she became a lone woman on the prairie, doctoring and delivering babies no matter the origins. No wonder many lovingly called her Grandma McCanles in her old age. No wonder proper history overlooked her improper activities.

A third story related to me by a local historian was that Mary’s second husband divorced her because of infidelity. She said I could find it in the county records. Not that it pertains to the events in my book, but it certainly colors the character of Mary who has only her first name inscribed upon her gravestone above “Wife of D. C. McCanles.” I once thought perhaps she was uncertain of who she was — a Green, a McCanles or a Hughes. No, I think she knew exactly who she was and didn’t require the name of a father or spouse to legitimize her life in death.

Another conclusion I drew from experiencing Rock Creek in person was that Nancy Jane might be missing from the records, but she served an important role in life. She was friend to Sarah Shull, and able to reinvent herself. I suspect her next relationship was that of marriage. The wildest of the three might have assimilated into a proper life. But I like to imagine her racing a horse across the hard-packed earth with hair as wind-whipped as mine while journeying north. She did not fear change. She might have been a bit like Calamity Jane whom Hickok treated kindly later in life. Newspapers and records might have missed their lives, but the women of Rock Creek live on in my dreams.

This week, Rough Writer and author, Ruchira Khanna, has offered a guest prompt. I’d like to pause, near the end of a long journey (or at least a rest stop) to thank everyone at Carrot Ranch for carrying on while I traverse the trails. Especially, I’d like to thank Norah Colvin, D. Avery and Ruchira Khana for stepping up to ranch chores. I’ll catch up with you all once settled on the healing shores of Lake Superior. Keep writing, keep pushing on, and happy trails to you all.

June 22, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves a dream. This action could have happened while awake, such as daydreaming, or make up a dream when asleep. Go where the prompt leads as it could be a nightmare or just fond memories or ambition.

Respond by June 27, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published June 28). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Lost in a Dream (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Young Sally stirred the bean pot and twittered about lace she’d seen in Beatrice. Sarah saw herself as if in a dream, a memory vividly sketched in mind but dormant for years.

“Beans look ready Miss Sarah?”

Her hands, no longer stiff and aged, trembled at what she knew came next. She heard herself repeat words from 70 years ago. “Check one.”

Sally blew on the wooden spoon, a lone pinto perched in thin liquid. Bread cooled next to churned butter and wild plum jam.

Sarah succumbed to the memory of the day. There never was a last supper.

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