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November 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

We look through screens all the time and never see the mesh. In the latest spit of snow, Lake Superior warmed enough to drop flakes like meringue. It clings to the screen, and I see the mesh. Small gingham squares of space fill the lines between fine steel wire. No longer do I see out the window; my eyes cast no further than the screen.

He interrupts my study, standing in the doorway. A wide arched entry between the living room and hallway. The oak banister leading upstairs gleams behind him. He has a mug of coffee, steaming in his hand. He looks good in his black sweatshirt. The man in black, not like Johnny Cash. More like tactical black. Army Ranger.

Why do you think he’s stuck in Ranger mode?

It’s just a pointless question that echoes in my head. I’m no brain doc or expert on neural connections. Instead, I recall a presentation I went to years ago about the hard-wiring of boys’ brains. The significant discovery was that boys don’t complete their neural connections until their mid-twenties. The presenter’s point regarded the dangerous influence of violent video games.

What about war, M16 rifles and extreme military training?

Like a small beach gravel stuck in my Keens, the idea rolls around my thinking uncomfortably. If video games are detrimental to the final phase of the developing male brain, then the military training, Ranger training, combat dive training, paratrooper training, live training in covert South American operations, and smash-landing in Grenada by the age of 22 has to be influential. Possibly injurious.

I can’t say when I noticed for certain that PTSD became a problem for the Hub. Wiser and more experienced friends suggested he should go to the VA. For four years I volunteered to help my friend give acupuncture to soldiers who did “not” have PTSD. To say so was to kill a career. So we helped with “stress,” the covert word.

And that’s what angers me. The denial from those who not only know better, but who could have helped. If we know male brains are not hard-wired until mid-twenties, isn’t it insidious to train them up as elite soldiers? If I were writing a conspiracy thriller I’d plot out how the government takes advantage of those qualifying for Navy Seals, Delta Force, or Army Rangers. What if they know, and that’s the point of the extreme training?

Problem is, once hard-wired, the off-switch goes missing. Readjustment counseling seeks to guide combat veterans back to civilian life. The Vet Center is a part of the VA but also a separate department set up in 1979 to acknowledge the difficulty Vietnam-era soldiers experienced adjusting to civilian life. In 1981, the Hub joined the Army, hard-wired for combat. His first combat jump smashed his body. 34 years later and he’s still seeking help.

What if he received readjustment counseling after Grenada?

If he had received it, would I be looking at him, standing in the doorway, wondering where he’s gone? Maybe the hard-wiring is irreparable. Maybe he could have found a way to use it productively. He did, on his own, for many years. Although the signs flagged, especially during times of stress, he always soldiered up. If I was certain of one thing, it was that my husband would protect us.

Now he is magnificently untrustworthy. It’s mind-blowing to me on many levels. He began to see the mesh and only the mesh. This started when we left Minnesota. The holes in the mesh are empty space. Look through the screen outside the window and you see clearly. Begin to focus on the mesh and it distorts your view. Focus too long and all you see is the screen.

Somewhere, the Hub is behind the screen in his mind. It unfolded slowly with moments that left me wondering why he was so unreasonable. That’s when I began to push for him to seek help for his injuries and PTSD. When we experienced crisis last year, he did not react the way a normal person would. He led us a merry chase with me prodding the whole way to get into the VA.

Fast-forward through the quagmire of the past year. Here we are, living with our eldest daughter. And he wants to go. Where? Just go. It’s the deployment response. Here, in the land of Lady Lake snow, he’s finally getting help. He’s finally meeting doctors and therapists who see the red flags. But is it too late?

Staring out through the window I look past the screen. I’ve returned from a healing retreat where I sat among women who’ve lost children to car accidents, mothers to cancer, husbands to heart attacks. Yet I was not the only veteran spouse there. I’m finding solidarity among for this specific pain. Ultimately, what matters is that we sit with each other, share and find our joy among the ashes.

We all bared our vulnerabilities, our pain and grief. We let go. I took off my earrings which I’ve worn every day since June 16, 2016. They had become my symbol of suffering at his side. Instead of taking the house on Sunnyside and continuing my writing retreats, I stayed with him, hoping for help, seeking help, not leaving him to wander alone.

I’m letting go of my position behind the mesh. It’s not what I choose to see. I know it’s where he’s stuck, but I can still support him from a different view. It may seem a little thing to let go of, but it’s profoundly shifted my perspective. As another friend recently told me, this is my new normal. I’m not sure what that is, but I’m feeling freer. I sigh, and hope he can feel that way again, too.

I turn back to the doorway, and he’s gone upstairs.

November 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use the word mesh in a story. Mesh is both an object and a verb, which you can freely explore. You can play with its sound, too. Go where the prompt leads.

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

***

Between Here and There (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni trailed a finger across the mesh. The screened box rested empty, all the dry artifacts now collected. Her vision blurred. The mesh veils the place between here and there. The thought startled Danni. No, the mesh is a tool. She shook off her stupor and focused on the Styrofoam trays that contained shards of crockery, broken glass and rusty square nails. After transporting sixty-seven trays to the lab, she flicked off the lights. In the dark, she thought again about space and time. If material items and bones remain, where does the energy of the spirit depart to?

###

The Real Nanjo Castille

“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…You killed my father, Nanjo Castille…Prepare to die!”

When writer Liz Husebye Hartmann left that opening line in her comments to the November 9 writing prompt, it promised more creative fun to follow from the Rough Writers & Friends at Carrot Ranch.

During the Flash Fiction Rodeo #2 : Little & Laugh, we discovered a literary side to one of the spammers at Carrot Ranch (the often strange keyword bait calls that end up in our Askimet or other spam folders). It gave us a chuckle, which was the point of the contest. However, Mr. Castille blew the word count.

Not to mention he doesn’t pass the spam test (read more at the SPAM PSA post). Yet you won’t want to miss these robust responses from clever, witty, thoughtful and brilliant writers searching for Nanjo’s identity in the literary world.

The following stories are based on the November 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fictional story about The Real Nanjo Castille.

***

Aegean Dream by Sherri Matthews

Sunset diamonds scattered bright the Aegean Sea.

Summer warmed my bare shoulders there, high above the glassy plain beneath the ancient Pepper Tree.

Sea Nymph’s breeze whispered tales of gods and glory and the Minotaur while I clutched his words to my chest: scrawled on yellowed paper he declared his ageless love while I dreamt.

I listened for his voice through the rustle of the small, crisp leaves; for the step to his music as I followed my pan piper.

‘I am Nanjo Castille’, he breathed into my hair.

I reached to touch him.

But he was never there.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Thanks for coming in, Mr. Castille. Have a seat.

Thank you.

What are you doing?

I’m taking the chair.

No, I meant to sit in.

What is good for Gestapo is good for gander, right?

I don’t think that’s it.

Nice for you having me at your bored meeting. Very FAQ. Very yawn introducing.

Right. About the bags.

The bags, yes. $10 apiece.

Are they knock-offs?

Fine, I can do $20. Would you like the Ralphie Doppelganger or Tommy Realfinger? Also have her fumes.

Perfumes?

Top merch. At my house. Very aware. Aware house indeed.

I’ll be in touch.

###

The Anagrammer by Juliet Nubel

She looked at her screen and let out a huge, belly-filled hoot.

She had done it. Fooled them all. She laughed harder as she pictured them imagining her as Nanjo Castille. Could they see a wide sombrero hat and thick stripy poncho?

Where was mousey Ms Stelliac now? Never one to joke around at school she was making up for it now. On their blogs and in these contests. She was the Queen of Pranks.

They had even missed the last clue in the text – a second anagram, Najno.

Joann grinned from ear to ear. Spamming was such fun!

###

A Day in the Life of Nanjo Castille by Irene Waters

Nanjo stretches in the one room he shares with his mother and ten siblings. Rarely does he get to lie in past 5am.

“Nanjo. You get your good for nuttin’ butt in here NOW.” His mother’s voice is angry but weak from hunger. “We gotta clear out Choco Caramel, Coochi, Ralphiger and Verskatche today. You get your arse on the street and start sellin’.’”

“Ma I think Duparts will come through today.”

“Out!”

Nanjo stepped outside with his goods. He hated begging on the street corners. Preferred the internet.” Cameras whirred. Questions buzzed. Fame from form. “You give’em me bitchcoin.”

###

A Job for Nanjo? by Nora Colvin

The parents waited.

Start positive, she reminded herself.

“Nanjo has a wonderful imagination.”

They smiled.

“Very creative too, especially with spelling and punctuation.”

They exhaled.

“Has trouble understanding money though, and his knowledge of number facts is non-existent – “ she hesitated, then continued quietly. “I can’t think of any employer who’d have him.”

“Pardon?”

“I mean, employment, suited to his – ah – special skills.”

She cracked.

“I’m sorry. Your son is unemployable. His spelling and grammar is atrocious. He can’t even spell his own name, for god’s sake! I don’t think he could even get a job as a spammer!”

###

Can dei;ver by D. Avery

The ‘student of concern’ meeting was heated.

“Well”, said the ELA teacher, “His spelling and grammar are low even for a second language student. He doesn’t even try.”

“Sure he does. He tries to jerk your chain. This kid is smarter than you think. Just looking for attention.”

“Yes, I agree. The kid does ok in math. Great flexible thinking and problem solving.”

“That may be, but this kid’s behavior alarms me. He has no empathy and no boundaries. I worry he’s going to grow up to be a sociopath.”

“Right. And Nanjo Castille could become president.”

###

Nanjo’s New Pitch by Michael

In a small darkened room in the basement of his parent’s home Nanjo sits at his computer wishing more than anything to be a writer. He has learning issues, he knows that, but with the aid of his spell checker, he is making every post a winner. He was told, the purpose of a good writer is to make your reader believe you are who you say you are.

Today he has an idea: “Its Chewsday, I wan tell yous all about a grate deel, sex for the price of one.” Nanjo sits back pleased with his opening statement.

###

Nanjo Castille by Telling Stories Together

“Several consumer surveys have shown,” said Nanjo Castille, “that having a human name helps customers identify with our brand.”

“Okay,” said Detective Merrick, “but I’m gonna call you by your model number, NAN-50.”

“As you wish, officer,” said Nanjo, “perhaps a handbag for the missus?”

Merrick produced a hologram photo from his trench coat. “Have you seen this girl? Name’s Cheryl Wei.”

“No,” said Nanjo, and held up one of the handbags, “but this is a very popular purchase among our sixteen to twenty-one demographic.

Merrick inspected the tag, and in that instant drew his sidearm. It read “Cheryl”.

###

The Real Nanjo Castille by Rita Bhathal

Her dad had always been terrible at writing.

Downfall of being a doctor.

When he went to register her birth, instead of stating Margot, he handed them a scrap of paper to read, seeing as he’d wet the baby’s head a little too much the night before.

And so, Nanjo Castille came into existence.

It was obviously an omen.

She was diagnosed with dyslexia as a secondary school student, but help came too late. Reading and writing were never her strong point.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining…

She’s now the most popular human spam bot in existence!

###

The Clone by Robbie Cheadle

It had sounded like such a good idea when her friend’s husband, an expert on human genetics, had suggested that she clone herself. A clone would be useful and could do all the social media and other marketing paraphernalia that was expected of her, as a writer, and which she currently didn’t have time for.

Little did she know that Nanjo Castille would soon become unsatisfied with playing a supporting role in her life. The clone’s ambitions soon became apparent when she entered her own short story into a flash fiction competition and was identified as a potential spammer.

###

Mysterious by Reena Saxena

The Real Nanjo Castille had enticed kids for more than a decade. It was the mystery surrounding his existence that built up his charm. He would appear as a gymnast in the circus, a clown or be seen entertaining kids in local schools and events.

Walt Disney wanted to buy the rights, seeing the popularity of the character.The meeting did not happen. Folklore goes that it was not one person, but several appearing with identical masks and outfits. The creator of the myth chose to remain in anonymity.

What could be the reason for turning down a profitable deal?

###

Fatal Error by Ann Edall-Robson

“What have you done?”

“I’ve been watching you. It didn’t look hard. I created a name and took a run at it. ”

“But why, when I promised I’d help you set everything up to sell your bags?”

“I’m old, impatient, and I don’t see what the big deal is. It still turns on and off.”

“It’s not a light switch, it’s my computer. The one I’m writing my next book on.”

“If you were going to show me how to use it, you should be able to fix it!”

“Oooohhhh, Nana Jo Castle, if only it were that easy.”

###

The Story of Nanjo by Joe Owens

Nanjo drummed his fingers on the desk as his to slow laptop churned away at the internet address. He knew the latest rodeo deadline quickly approached and he wanted in.

“Five minutes!” he exclaimed when his screen finally held the needed information.

Nanjo typed so fast, too fast, relying on his newly installed bargain auto-correct to save him. In the bottom right corner his screen continue to tick away the time, adding to his panic. He checked the word count, but there was no room to explain his situation. His entry would look like this.

“Oh well!”

###

The Different Sides of Me by Susan Sleggs

I Nanjo Castille sit in my office staring at funeral home handouts. When with the public, I am calm, reassuring, kind and almost stoic. The mourning around me is not my own. When time permits, I write nonsensical flash fiction that looks like spam and submit it to Carrot Ranch. It eases the pain I see on a daily basis. I absolutely hate good-byes, those of others or my own. At day’s end, I loose my tied back hair, hang the suit up, and ride the long way home on my Harley enjoying the smells and sights of life.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Nanjo Castille was a member of a street band.

He wasn’t very good, but what he lacked in talent he more than made up for in personality and enthusiasm.

Nanjo had got his name due to a typing error on a Music Hall billboard which his mother had thought ‘cute’. It didn’t help that his father was the banjo player originally given top billing and had legged it as soon as it was discovered Nanjo was on the way.

His Mom had died three years ago and his busking friends had offered him a home.

He played the tambourine.

###

The Real Nanjo Castille by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Blat of mule’s bray, and Nanjo rattled into the village square. People grumbled, crowding the buckboard wagon. They’d been waiting since dawn. The stench of unwashed clothes hung heavy in the morning heat.

“Sorry, sorry!” Nanjo called. “My last stop had dire need of my services, but I’ve saved my best for you!”

He reached behind him and flipped a tarp back. The crowd gasped at the rows of golden bars gleaming in the sun.

“Accept no substitutes! The Real Nanjo Castille soap, a heavenly marriage of Greek olive oil and Viking lye, will cure all your laundry ills!”

###

The Funeral by Frank Hubney

Senor Nanjo Castille sat alone in the church except for his bodyguards. No one else dared attend. They crossed the line this time.

As the Mass for the Dead progressed his business adversary’s money laundering restaurant was destroyed. Twelve dead. The warehouse was next. Fourteen dead. Then the offices. One hundred dead.

In his adversary’s desperation the expected fight around the church began. It lasted ten minutes.

When the service ended Senor Castille walked behind the caskets outside the church and viewed the mess in the street. Then he went to the cemetery to bury his wife and daughter.

###

What’s a Body to Do? by Bill Engleson

Hank looked down at the latest donation.

“Bit grizzled, Phil. None of his organs will be top quality…”

“Check his pockets. See if he’s go a name.”

“Huh, waddayaknow? A bloody diary. Here’s the name. Nanjo Castille!”

“Not from around here, I guess.”

“Small mercies. What’s it say?”

“Okay… ‘My name is Nanjo Tyrone Castille. At the orphanage, they said I’d been left outside the Rialto Theater in South Pasadena on December 25, 1947. The Captain from Castile was playing. Two nuns, Sisters Nancy and Josephine found me…’

“That’s it?”

“The rest is blank?”

“Yup!”

“Odd.”

“Great movie, though.”

“Agreed.”

###

“To Tell The Truth” by JulesPaige

There they were, three people on the panel. All claimed to be Nanjo Castille. Each of the four Judges got to ask questions. Charli, Geoff, Sherri and Norah.

Norah started with; “Where did you go to school? Your Grammar and spelling are atrocious.

“Hard Knocks,” said One.

Geoff quipped through tears of laughter; “Where’d you come up with ‘Bitchcoin’?

“My dog had puppies,” said Two.

Sherri wondered out loud; “What bridge do you troll under?”

“Took over from the Billies…” said Three

Charli queried; “Did you know you remind me of Lake Michigan?”

“We know!” The ‘Three’ said in Unison.

###

Musing on a Spammer by FloridaBorne

Not everyone has his dream fulfilled, but for one man this represented the culmination of a life well-lived.

The panelists on “To Tell The Truth,” singers and a politician, were easily fooled. An impeccable liar, he was delighted they’d chosen another.

“Will The Real Nanjo Castille please stand up.”

The man at the other end knew a lot about spamming, that was certain, but he wasn’t a billionaire who had built an empire.

Nanjo stood, so proud and confident, until the man at the end laughed and whispered, “I’m a hacker. You’ve just donated your entire fortune to charity.”

###

Nanjo Castille: All the Places by Anne Goodwin

You didn’t see me, as you set off for the fells from your tents and your smart hotels. You didn’t see me, from your government palaces, as you closed the steelworks and pits. You didn’t hear me when you moved the call centres to India where graduates paid a pittance had better English accents than mine. You didn’t smell, from your barn conversions by the lakeside, the stench of slime and shit and sorrow.

See me now, friends, brothers, strangers! See the blood, the bone, the bullet holes. Hear the sirens. Smell the fear. Remember my name: Nanjo Castille.

###

Unknown Soldier by Geoff Le Pard

Mary shivered, regretting her choice of coat. Remembrance Day parades brought back memories of the cold like no other.

As the last note of The Last Post drifted away, Mary read the names on the War Memorial. She’d never studied them before. Two Thompsons, three Greys and Nanjo Castille. Now that was an odd name for a Surrey village in 1918.

Who was he? Spanish immigrant? South American dissident? Did anyone else see his name and wonder? Maybe a writer would take it to embed it in a story, giving him a life beyond his current chiselled anonymity.

###

Historical Fiction View 1 by Gordon Le Pard

The French General read the letter and smiled, the English were on the run.

“This Nanjo Castille is certainly our best agent, he seems to know exactly what they are doing. We march at dawn.”

“But the reinforcements and supplies haven’t arrived.”

“Read the message, they are demoralised, they have lost supplies, it will be the victory we need if we can catch them soon.”

Two weeks later, as he looked across the ruins of the army at the impregnable defences, the Lines of Torres Vedras, he cursed Nanjo Castille.

“Find him, kill him, he has cost us Spain.”

###

Historical Fiction View 2 by Gordon Le Pard

Wellington looked across the battlefield at the retreating French, they had fallen into his trap and been decisively defeated.

“I never thought they would believe it.”

“Ever since we broke their codes we have been able to deceive them. But I must admit that the success of Nanjo Castille was unexpected.”

“Who is Nanjo Castille?” Wellington asked.

The spymaster pointed to two clerks.

“NAthaNiel Chalk and JOhn Castle. They made that name up out of their own names, and the French swallowed everything.”

He laughed, “We march at dawn, if all goes well, Nanjo Castille will have freed Spain.”

###

Interviewing the Real Nanjo Castille by Charli Mills

Danni pressed record, fluffing the sound muffler Ike called “The Muppet.” Today, she had access to living history. An elderly man called “The Real Nanjo Castille.”

Wrinkled and shrunken, he hunched beneath a blanket in a wheelchair. “I was born the year they assassinated my father, Pancho Castille.”

“1923. What were you told about your father?”

“He was a great revolutionary. He captured Buffalo Soldiers after Americans attacked our border towns.”

“Wasn’t it the other way around? Castille’s forces attacked US towns, stealing gold coins and burning a purse factory.”

“Why interview me if you already know the story?”

###

Freedom by Colleen Chesebro

The sun slipped behind the mesa. Nanjo Castille dropped to the ground, thankful for the shade. His travels from Mexico to Arizona had kept him on the run from U.S. Border Agents and the Federales. Yet, real freedom was worth the risks. Selling knock-off designer purses on the streets of Tijuana had been his downfall. If he could make it to California, he was home free.

In the coolness, Nanjo slept; never hearing the agent creep up on him. When he awoke, he was handcuffed. From the window of the truck, he watched his chance at freedom evaporate.

###

An Order for Nanjo Castille by Judy E Martin

Dear Mr Castle, or can I call you Nando?

I heard you have some classy bags and perfumes for sale for a tenner. I am after a Christmas prezzie for my mum and she can’t stand that Coco Caramel, but is rather partial to Optimum. I think John Paul Goatier’s perfume in that bottle-shaped like a girdle would suit her better. Oh, and I need a handbag for my sisters. Have you got any of them Blueberry or Herman’s ones in stock? I’m prepared to pay you twenty quid for the lot! Let me know, please.

Jef Leppard

###

And…from…The Real Nanjo Castille…

The Sales Pitch (spam edited to 99 words) by The Real Nanjo Castille

Dear Mr Chalres and Mrs Gerar Depardue, hi Nanjo.
Iget new email as lAst email say bammed as span.
I nanjo. Not Spanbomb. Spanbomb say “Hello. Is there anything you need any editional assistants wtih?” ectrestera. >>>>no wrories forgive I forgie.
>>>>but perfemes/ is nwo at premeim. for you.nO?
You dont >>>>>>>>>>want Perseus?and Bags? sUperier than orgininal? Not that ether.
Wait.
I no wat you want, you 2 wthi dongle tehchnoelgoy:
Hi-edn forch lift truc; parts?. Letme say how thirs owrks for toughguy lyk u,Mr Xharles Mils:

Run now before boss sees me sales pitch.
By bni. Najnno/Project Shipping

Editor’s Note: Nanjo struggled with the 99-word constraint, which continues to be his Achilles Heel. This had to be cut down from 206 words. And yes, he really did respond! If Nanjo wants a second career as a humorist, he needs to get a legitimate email, website and a more transparent purpose.

November 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

Yellow cats prowl the neighborhood. She has come, the Lady of the Lake. I expected her cloak of white, her hair of ephemeral snow, and her rasping howl. The cats are not hers, although I could imagine creatures trotting at her feet, purring, and observing the wake through golden eyes translucent as honey agate. Instead, the cats belong to the county — grand Caterpillar road graders the color of working-man gold. They’ve come to plow what the Lady has wrought.

In all my life, I’ve known snow. Last winter was my first experience in a warmer climate (Mars) and even there I marched for justice and voice in half a foot of snow at the Kanab Women’s March. Yet, this is my first time experiencing lake-effect snow. It’s a weather phenomenon easily given over to myth and mystery because the science reads like fiction. According to air temperature over water temperature, the result can be snow, blizzard or thundersnow.

It’s the Lady. I’ve hunted the shores of Lake Superior to develop a deep respect, awe and healthy fear of her depths and power. Some days she pelts my calves with tumbled rocks like a mischievous sprite. Other days she intimidates the combers with roars and riptides. I’ve glimpsed her on the North Shore of Minnesota where I first fell in love with Lake Superior. I’ve bobbed in her gentle waves at Chequemegon Bay in northern Wisconsin. Now, I’m seeing her take shape as she rises to the land of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan.

Think about it — lake-effect snow is a visitation. Science or myth, it’s amazing to behold.

During the Flash Fiction Rodeo, Carrot Ranch had visitors of another kind — spammers. Because I pay for WordPress, I have hearty spam filters in place. Sometimes, too hearty. I’ve learned to check it frequently for the occasional writer who gets nabbed for no discernible reason. The spam never makes it through. But with the forms we used spammers did get inventive (such as copying and pasting their spam message in every required field). A few got through.

While it could have been the opening to a murderous musing, I doubt the Cialis ad qualified for Sherri Matthew’s Rodeo #7. Soon after, a dubious person named Male Enhancement began following the Ranch. Sherri quipped perhaps we were on someone’s target list because of her dongle, which had come up in conversation through comments. As naughty of a word as dongle sounds, especially in the presence of those selling vasodilators, it is a technology devise to enhance internet receptivity. Oh, the lurking innuendo in all of that.

And that’s why another piece of spam caught us off guard. Was it brilliant innuendo? Was is intentionally misspelled and miscalculated to look like spam, but be humorous? It was submitted to the Funny Man himself, Geof Le Pard of Little & Laugh Rodeo #2 for which the winner will be revealed on Tuesday, November 13. We laughed. We said, truly this is spam, and then we wondered. Norah Colvin, educator that she is, pointed out the plausible intention behind the content and its errors. One of the L&L judges suggested she might even know this character.

A character he is (or she). We’ll pick a gender and go with he to balance the Lady of the Lake. Both blow over Carrot Ranch in a shroud of mystery with a hint of playfulness. He, our humor spammer, is Nanjo Castille. While disqualified, we will share this clever spam that pulled our chain as an entry to Little & Laugh:

Website Overstock

Hello Mrs Geoffarey DuParts. How are you for ten dollars? Or just a $20?
i am Nanjo. I have lots of extra high end luxyry purses and handbags because of website overstock gilch.
Are you intestrested? Let me explain to you how this works, Mrrs Geofarai:
Perfume and excessories all loaded up ready to ship out. The man came in and fool#s forch lift broke down. Cant transport stock out of the building. Gfppd fpr the gppse. Good for the gander/. Hence shooting off quick message in your FAQ bored.
Some of the finest stitching amd sewing work in many of the persfume bptt;es.
Not only that but you will find purses and hand bags of Ralphiger, Verskatche, Mr. Tommy Rott, and Coco Carmel.
How much would you be willing to me for this in money? A very little amount of bitcoin?
$20? For as little as $20 of BiTCHcoin we candei;ver to you a fine Channel bag and perfume for just £20. Reverse the other side of it, and it will fill your home with deliicsours vagrance!
>>>>This is 1 time deal because of warehouse overstock. Lots of high end
>>>> merch including Coochi, Pravda and Choco Caramel handbags.
Fo go go! No time!
By bi.
Najno/

Whether it was intentional or not, Nanjo harvested laughs among Rodeo Leaders. The only clue to his name was the email which we all avoided like the plague. Charming as Nanjo Castille might be, funny, nonetheless, we didn’t want to get sucked into his sketchy world. And if perchance you are a writer now realizing you absolutely fooled us with what was meant to “read” like spam for the sake of a good guffaw, fess up!

Writers are fond of personifying snow and lakes, imagining the lives of people in house we pass, and studying circumstances for stories. So, we are going to make up the life of Nanjo Castille.

November 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fictional story about The Real Nanjo Castille. You can set any gender, era or genre to reveal the character behind the mystery. You can also imagine the daily life of The Real Nanjo Castille. Go where the prompt leads.

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

Interesting, but when I sat down to write my response I was thinking of all the funny stories we’d get. I’m a NaNo Rebel, revising Miracle of Ducks this month, so I chose to question what interaction my character might have with Nanjo. As what happens often, what I set out to write did not end up on the page. And I was struck by the lack of humor. Instead the  irony of those who witnessed history being told it happened differently appeared.

I mention this to encourage you to go beyond your expectations. This is your time to explore. You never know what you will discover.

***

Interviewing the Real Nanjo Castille by Charli Mills

Danni pressed record, fluffing the sound muffler Ike called “The Muppet.” Today, she had access to living history. An elderly man called “The Real Nanjo Castille.”

Wrinkled and shrunken, he hunched beneath a blanket in a wheelchair. “I was born the year they assassinated my father, Pancho Castille.”

“1923. What were you told about your father?”

“He was a great revolutionary. He captured Buffalo Soldiers after Americans attacked our border towns.”

“Wasn’t it the other way around? Castille’s forces attacked US towns, stealing gold coins and burning a purse factory.”

“Why interview me if you already know the story?”

###

Of Porches & Chairs

Like another dimension, the porch invites us across the threshold. We can obverse the world from here. Or be observed. Every porch needs a chair to complete this transportation from the world.

Writers explored the world of a porch with a chair this week. As you might suspect, the responding stories include many different porches. Cross over and read awhile.

The following stories are based on the November 2, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story a chair on a porch.

***

The Red Chair by Lisa Listwa

Rob’s heart beat faster as he parked his pickup and climbed the steps to the porch. The little red chair sitting in the corner couldn’t be the same one he lost years ago, but he had to ask.

It had been his dad’s chair first, then his. Rob couldn’t remember if it was lost by accident or thrown away on purpose, but he wished he still had it. The same could be said of his dad, if truth be told.

He knocked.

“Ma’am?” he said to the woman behind the screen door, “I was wondering about the red chair…”

###

Just Her Size by Kerry E.B. Black

The sight nearly made Kai cry. A child-sized wooden rocking chair for which she’d searched.

“Just what the doctor ordered.”

Literally.

Kai didn’t haggle, simply handed over the asked for amount and hugged the chair with possessive eagerness. It fit between the pediatric wheelchair and the unused walker in her van’s trunk.

She set it beside their fireplace, certain the view included access to the television and allowed for easy conversation. When her daughter arrived home from school, Kai ushered her inside.

The child squealed with delight. A chair just her size which could help improve her muscle control.

###

Chair on the Porch by Deborah Lee

Lora steps out of the SUV and inhales deeply, the scent of dead leaves and humus and apples, oddly enough. She doesn’t remember apple trees around here.

She picks through brambles to the overgrown cabin. How many years since anyone has been here, this jewel in the woods, where they used to hide from civilization?

She eases into the cobwebbed chair on the tiny porch. She has just settled her gaze on the autumn-brilliant tree line when a splintering crash lands her on the plank boards.

Maybe you can go home again, but you have to fix it first.

###

A Chair on the Porch by Ruchira Khanna

“Maggi!”

No response.

“Can’t find the girl anywhere in the house. Aha! Must be on the porch on her old ragged chair.” Mom muttered as she stepped towards the patio.

“Cathedra, Alison did not invite me to her b’day party and instead poked fun at my dress.”

Maggi whimpered as she caressed the arm of the chair.

“She is not my friend anymore!”

Wiping her tears, “But you will always be my pal since you are here to listen to my pain and joys.”

Mom overheard and changed her opinion. She was now in awe of the chair!

###

Rock On by Sherri Matthews

Rain pelted the window like small stones.

“Will Jax find his way home in this?” Andy ran his face across his sleeve in a failed attempt to stem his tears.

“Oh Honey, he’s a cat, no amount of rain will keep him away.”

“But mama…” Andy wailed.

A tap came at the door. Then another; and again. Rhythmic. It took a few more before mother realised it was the tap of the rocking chair on the porch.
She edged open the door and found a soggy ball of Jax fur curled up on the rocker like he’d never left.

###

Empty Rocker by Diana Ngai

John sank into the porch rocker, pulling a blanket over his lap; the cat looked to John expectantly. “I miss her, too,” he whispered as he reached to scratch its furry chin. John closed his eyes and recalled they way she snuggled in his lap as they read stories and rocked together. Later, at ten-years-old, she had sat and read on her own.

The rocker had been empty for almost a year now; no one had dared to disturb the dust. But, today’s news reported another bullet, another daughter taken. John came back to the chair and wept.

###

Flash Fiction by Ritu Bhathal

Nanna would always be sat there in her chair on the porch.

I would spend hours with her, sat at her feet as a child, playing with my dolls, or reading a book. Sometimes she’d read me a story.

As I got older, she was still there, my sounding board, always giving me sage, simple advice for any problems I was facing.

Today I really need her. It’s a big step I’m about to take. I only wish she was still here…

Looking over, the empty rocking chair slowly creaks, as if encouraging me.

See, she is still here.

###

Flash Fiction by FloridaBorne

Growing up in the south, porches extended around the house and windows were so large that breezes flew freely through each room. Shotgun doors meant you could run from the front yard to the back in a straight line and race through trees surrounding the house with shade.

Grandma sat in her rocker watching a golden sun pour across the earth from the front door. We awoke to her rocker creaking near our back porch window.
Nowadays, people cut all the trees down, have a few small windows, use air-conditioning, and complain about the heat. I miss common sense.

###

Porch by Judy E. Martin

Amelia sank into the overstuffed chair which enveloped her body with warmth.

“The, ahem, Doctor will be with you shortly, Miss.”

Nervously, twisting her rings, Amelia’s stomach lurched contemplating what she was about to do.

Distracting herself from the pounding in her head, she glanced around the porch. Comfortable and homely, like any other house in a pleasant neighbourhood. Only it wasn’t. The odorous smell of bleach pervaded the room; Amelia shuddered.

“How many desperate women had sat on this chair awaiting their fate?”

“Good morning Ms Johnson.”

“It’s Sergeant actually. I am arresting you on suspicion of murder…”

###

Where Stories Begin by Charli Mills

Between Danni and the front door sagged a small front porch. Inside the cabin lived a former log-skidder. Rumor had it Old Man Moe was blind, but his stories of the Great Fires of 1910 remained vivid.

“Take a chair,” spoke a voice behind her.

Danni startled, not hearing the man with foggy eyes ride up on a mule. “Moe, I’m the Forest Service archeologist.”

Moe slid from the saddle as if sighted, and walked confidently up the decrepit stairs to one of two rickety wooden chairs. He patted the one next to him. “Stories begin here Doc Gordon.”

###

The Chair on the Porch by Crystal Cook

When the autumn winds blew, the old rocking chair came to life and creaked a ghostly sound, familiar and comforting.

Through the window she watched the weathered wooden armrest gently come into view and disappear again, like the ebb and flow of her memories.

When she closed her eyes, she’d imagine him sitting there with the Sunday paper on his lap, rocking to the rhythm of her beating heart.

She tolerated the still, summer days knowing the season would soon enough change and the winds would come, bringing with them, her fading memory of him.

###

The Notice by Colleen Chesebro

Zane leaned back in his chair. He popped a handful of sunflower seeds into one side of his mouth while spitting out the shells with the other. Zane had much to mull over, and the porch offered no judgments.

The government warning said using Neonicotinoids in the seed treatments for the wheat crop was the reason the bees were dying. It was nonsense, and it rankled against his understanding of how insecticides worked.

He was a farmer, and the Feds didn’t know how to grow wheat. He ripped up the notice and let the scraps blow in the wind.

###

Porch Settin by Elliott Lyngreen

The porch swing was made of logs. There, Elsie passed fyre to the aromatic Heather Glastonbury like a powerful message.

Patrick Hamilton and Bowen traded cards for beer sips on a capstone.

Garrison Grantley discussed various lyrics stemmed from radio speakers perfectly screened through, surrounding Chuck Koehler’s deep reflections.

“Wanna hit, Lynk?” Laurian softened me as the flame recourse around the ledges and wide opening at the stairs from one to the next within arms reaches.

The metronome swinging, sneaked the crumbling indifference exchanging Elsie’s dreams for Heather’s observation of the traffic and streetlights forming a smiley face.

###

The Chair by Hugh Roberts

As the sun set, Agatha Brunell sat in her favourite chair knowing that her life was about to end.

Her sixty-nine years of life had been amazing. She’d never allowed anyone to get the better of her. Now, however, she knew it was time to leave her favourite lumpy chair for the very last time.

“Goodbye, chair,” she said, as she placed the gun to her head. “You were my saviour and the perfect place to hide the hair of my victims.”

As the police closed in, the sound of the gun told them they were too late.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Emotional blackmail, cheating spouses, bootleg liquor, illicit meetings, pregnant minors whisked away in the middle of the night, moonlight flits to avoid debt collectors, whispered secrets, drunken brawls, child and animal abuse. The list was endless.

There was only one witness.

The creaking rocking chair gave him away and he was found murdered in it on his porch, his throat slit from ear to ear.

The owner of number 12 thought he’d got away with it as there was no evidence.

As he beat his wife for burning his supper, the chair on the porch creaked and started to rock.

###

The Porch by Annette Rochelle Aben

Don walked his faithful companion of 18 years across the street. He and Duke were just going to sit on the white, wicker rocker until Nancy got home from work.

Making himself comfortable, Don looked back at the unfamiliar house he had just come out of and wondered who lived there. The warm, late summer sun was going behind Nancy’s house and it was chilly. He knew she’d be home soon.

Lori turned onto her street and noticed Don and Duke on her porch. They appeared to be napping, just like they did most days since her mom’s funeral.

###

Montressor House by Stephanie Ascough

Penelope found the chair on the old house’s back porch. Strange, for an armchair to sit outside a historical museum. She looked over her shoulder. The tour guide’s muffled voice faded behind the porch door.

“I feel like Goldilocks,” Penelope said. The armchair enveloped her in the deep, cushioned seat. Over the railing, sunlight sparkled on the lake and the skyscrapers of downtown. A splash caught her attention. Was it the famed lake monster of Montressor House? Penelope squinted, scanning the water eagerly when the voice spoke. Downtown disappeared in sudden mist.

“Well, you know what happened to Goldilocks.”

###

Serenity Steeple Chase by Ruth Cox

In the dark of night while sitting alone on the front porch in an old rocking lawn chair I find I feel serenity. I need only look to the sky; chase the steeple with mine eyes.

Mesmerized by the sight of the light, I am mindful of the moment.

At the steeple of peace I stare as I rock to and fro in my chair. Back and forth, and once again.

I pause, listen to the nothingness in the still of the night.

Silence steals my serenity.

Come Sunday morning this girl’s going to church!

###

The Old Chair by Michael

When his dad died, and he inherited the house, there were so many reminders of his dad. The one that impacted on him the most was the old wicker chair on the front porch. It was here that his dad sat most afternoons watching the neighbourhood go by. The two of them had sat there in his dad’s declining years talking over world issues and reminiscing about the good old days of his childhood. The old chair was plenty worn, but he left it there. He found he needed it there, if made him feel close to his dad.

###

Just in Time by Jack Schuyler

I was told I could find you here, that you never left this shack. And I drove for hours across this God-forsaken plain, to find you sitting there in that chair on the porch. Because you never do leave this shack, and now you never will. The chair is slumped, and your body sprawls uncomfortably limp over its broken frame. Fresh blood seeps from those fatal wounds, fresh bullet holes decorate the wall, and a fresh trail of dust points opposite the way I came.

I came just in time.

Just in time to miss you and your killer.

###

Reclining Line by Line by JulesPaige

On the train heading south, at least when there’s daylight,
one can see a variety of porches. Front and back. As we
rock to the rhythm of the rails we wonder about how they
manage with hearing all the lonesome whistles and rickety
rack noise – however briefly passing at seventy or close to
eighty miles an hour.

How about that old Victorian. White with green trim? Who
sits back and stargazes, or sips their morning brew
wrapped in dew’s shawl?

Part of traveling by train is imagining whose setting a spell,
where. And what they’re thinking as we pass…

###

Three Clinics by Bill Engleson

The first clinic didn’t have a porch. Nestled in the woods, you stepped right in from the trail to a parlour with a small electric heater.

It was very inviting.

The second clinic had a fine porch with three cushioned chairs and looked southwest over the highway. The porch was draped with sweet grapes in the summer and by the sagging limbs of a giant monkey tree year-round.

The third clinic was the second clinic, moved years later to a permanent acre of land a kilometre away. The front porch became the rear porch and sat in permanent shade.

###

Jaded Shade by JulesPaige

This was suppose to be the summer that the porch got
cleaned out. Two or was it three years now that the
space had become a storage unit for her things. Stuff
that had to be removed from her studio apartment. Add
that to leftover toys from children and even boxes from
when the living room was repainted.

In the porch still; birdseed, tools, bikes, and wood stacked
for fireplace use. Along with her chair, now only holding her
memories. Embroidered threads fading, scarred from use,
not worth reupholstering. Was it going to be a winter home
for mice?

###

The Untold by D. Avery

The open porch was curtained by the rain that sheeted off the roof, drilling a trough underneath the eaves. Behind this curtain Hope rocked slightly, pushing against the floorboards with her toes, her father beside her in his chair. A third cane rocker sat empty.

“It’s a good porch”, he said, “Best part of this two-story house.”

“Yup”, agreed Hope. Recognizing the prelude, she looked forward to hearing his stories. Rain drummed the porch roof overhead.

A sudden gust of wind rent the curtain, whipped them with cold rain, rocked the empty chair.

“Daddy, tell a story about Mommy.”

###

Second Story by D. Avery

“I don’t really know that story Hope. That’s for her to tell. When she comes back.”

“She doesn’t tell stories like you do. She’s quiet.”

“Yup.”

“How’d you meet her, Daddy?”

“You know that story Hope. Comin’ back from my fishing trip up in Quebec I picked up a hitchhiker. At the border she had me pretend we were together so she wouldn’t get questioned too much.”

“And after, she said she wanted to keep pretending.”

“Yup.”

“And she came back with you to the farm and you thought she was never gonna leave.”

“Yup. That’s what I thought.”

###

Life Changes by Ann Edall-Robson

You came to me for quiet moments to write your thoughts. We had interludes in our time together when you introduced me to your family as it grew. Boisterous and fun-loving, they clambered over my seat and jumped from my back. Even as the seasons changed, you made time for me. Dusting the leaves away in the fall and clearing the snow in winter. Life changes for all of us. I see you watching me from within your confines, no longer able to make your way down the path to be with me. I miss our time together.

###

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

She sat in her large wicker chair on the porch. The chair was so large it seemed to envelop her small frame. Her fragile look and small stature belied her strength of spirit. She was the matriarch. The woman who held the threads of the entire family firmly in her delicate hands. It was from her that her girls had learned to cook, sew and clean. It was also from her that they had each developed a love of books and reading and had gained the ambition to become educated. She sat quietly, basking in their admiration and love.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Amy’s friends laughed when she bought the splintered wicker chair at a yard sale. Hideous, they said, much too bulky for her tiny outdoor space. They reminded her how she couldn’t sit still.

But Amy bought the chair, and a flowery cushion to go with it.

And sitting still? Sure, her foot bounced along whenever she read a thriller in the chair. She squirmed and shimmied when a decent song hit Pandora. But her heart did most of the heavy lifting, in that chair, as Amy thought back to those many lazy afternoons on the porch with her grandfather.

###

Supernatural Hair by Anne Goodwin

The chair creaks like old knees, as it rock-a-bye-babys me back and forth, the gentle rhythm drowning my so-much-to-do. Pushed back and farther back, beyond the patio, the rose garden, the vegetable plot. Responsibility retreats beyond the fence, the neighbours’ house, the town. Over fields onto moors and farther, to where the land meets the sea. I could sit and rock and watch the spinach grow.

A clock chimes the work hour. Reluctantly, I rise. And stall. My head jerked back, chairbound by ropes of tangled hair. My supernatural hair knows my needs better than my brain.

###

Porch Lore by Geoff Le Pard

‘Where were you just now?’

‘Hmm?’

‘You were miles away.’

‘I feel I’ve been gone ages.’

‘You had that thousand-mile stare.’

‘Dad was like that. He’d sit on his rocker and disappear somewhere. I used to think how important it must be.’

‘Life, the Universe…’

Mary laughed. ‘And everything. Something like that. I thought if he was that far away it had to be really big.’

‘And you? What were your big thoughts?’

‘Me? I wasn’t thinking about anything, not really. Just an empty head.’

‘I guess sometimes they’re the most profound moments.’

‘I miss him, Paul.’

‘I know.’

###

Chatting on the Porch by Irene Waters

Mormor sat on the porch. The seat Morfar had occupied was vacant. Lillian didn’t remember her grandfather but in her imagination Mormor’s hands intertwined with his, her eyes fluttering and hearts racing. As time past, their hands still held, the glances were loving and hearts beat in happy unison. “Can I join you Mormor?” Her grandmother patted the seat and Lilian sat. She told her about her day at school and the stick insect she’d found on the way home.

“Who you talking to Lilian?” Her mother broke the easy rapport.

“Mormor.”

“Lillian love, she died twelve years ago.”

###

Porch Sittin’ by Norah Colvin

“There you are. What’re you doing out here?”

“Just sitting. Enjoying’ the cool.”

“Everyone’s been looking for you. Will you be coming back inside?”

“Soon.”

“Mind if I sit too?”

“Sure.”

“You thinking about Jim?”

“Mmm.”

“He was a good man.”

“Mmm.”

“It’s near three years now.”

“Today’s his birthday. Would’ve been thirty-six.”

“I know.”

“I still don’t understand –”

“There’s no reason. Wrong place at the wrong time is all.”

“But it’s not fair.”

“Life’s never fair. Will you ever love me like you loved Jim?”

“Oh honey, I do. It’s just hard on his birthday.”

“I know.”

###

A Porch, A Chair, A Dog by Joe Owens

Clara stood in the kitchen sipping her coffee as she studied her husband’s favorite rocker. It remained in its normal place on the porch with his old dog Scout also in his regular place.

Clara could sense Casey, her adult daughter approach on her right. Casey was in to visit, worried about her widowed mother and how she was adjusting.

“He believes Henry will return at any time,” Clara said.

“Poor Scout, he has no idea what ha happened to his master.”

“Nope.”

“How long do you think he’ll wait?”

“Until he is out of days too!”

###

No Goodbye by Juliet Nubel

It was the most beautiful armchair in the whole house. Carefully crafted from a thick coppery leather, it had softened and smoothed since it had left the shop all those years ago. A faded, red, feather-filled cushion sat far back into its spine, rubbed shiny where her back had pressed hard against it every day, for as long as they could all remember.
They would have loved to drop wearily into its comforting warmth, but it had sat empty for months, ever since she had slipped slowly from its embrace onto the cool porch floor, without even saying goodbye.

###

Get It Write by D. Avery

“Kid, what are you doin’?”

“Settin’ up croquet wickets.”

“Croquet? Why?”

“Well, we got lots a folks comin’ by the ranch these days, an I reckon they’ll be lookin’ fer somethin’ ta do, what with the rodeo packin’ up.”

“Croquet?”

“Yeah, croquet. A good, relaxin’ activity. Fer the folks comin’ by the ranch.

“Did ya git bucked, Kid, bump yer head?

“Shorty mentioned somethin’ ‘bout croquet on the ranch.”

“She mentioned crochet, but-”

“Oh yeah, yer right Pal. Crochet and crafting. Well, that’s fine. We can all set on the porch and stitch.”

“Think you dropped a stitch, Kid.”

###

November 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

Coffee spiced with fresh shavings of nutmeg warms my hands while I settle into the cool fabric of the porch reading chair. It’s not porch weather, but tolerable with a sweatshirt. After tossing tantrums of snow squalls for nearly a week, the cool lake air cracks open the cloud cover and presses in like icy tendrils.

Regardless, there’s something irresistible about a porch.

On sweltering days we clink ice cubes in a glass of lemonade. When it’s cold, we still seek the porch with a hot beverage. We aren’t here to resolve any particular issues. Typically meetings are held in windowless rooms, not on open-air porches. Some porches are screened and others paned in glass.

Despite the chill, the south-facing windows capture enough sunlight to set the seasonal room aglow. Bright and warped from old-time glass techniques, the windows overlook the lower neighborhood of six houses and a hockey-field visible through the leafless maples. All the houses have south-facing porches.

It reminds me of the ancient stonework my father discovered at a timber sale located near Lake Tahoe. He showed it to me before logging destroyed the structures that were old enough to contain towering pines nearly a thousand years in age. It was a high elevation job a mill in Sacramento got for top bid. Virgin lumber in the Sierras was rare on the market.

And ancient structures on a mountaintop were so unheard of that the Forest Service didn’t even bother to send out an archeologist. They thought my father mistaken. But my father showed me. He explained how the slope faced south, catching the lowered winter sun, melting the snow naturally.

How long have we humans known the wisdom of south-facing slopes? When did we desire to retire to south-facing porches? You know the longing — growing old together in our rocking chairs on the porch.

In my daughter’s home, the back porch is the reading nook. I find the windows alluring, they call to me to contemplate. We’ve discussed writers and windows before. But this time its more than writers and windows. I’m curious as to why older homes have porches for sitting, yet modern homes eschew the thoughtful space.

If a modern home has a porch, typically it’s an entry space, a catch-all for discarded shoes and jackets. A place for the mail delivery to set a package. In Paco Underhill’s merchandising book, Why We Buy, he talks about how an entry space allows customers to convert hurried thoughts into a slower shopping space.

Thus even as an entry to home or business, the idea of a porch slows down our minds.

My mind is a whirligig today. I’ve gone from a year of wandering to growing Carrot Ranch as a literary community to hosting a collaborative and wild Flash Fiction Rodeo to diving feet first into the mess I made of my WIP, Miracle of Ducks. I’m a NaNo Rebel in search of the clues I need to publish this muddy novel as a gleaming book worth reading. I’m in need of a porch.

Just 10 minutes of cold porch time serves me well. My breathing slows, my coffee cools and disappears sip by sip, and I clear my mind enough to see what needs doing. I’ve already taken my opening chapter to TUFF (which any writer can also enter as the final Rodeo contest by 11:59 pm EST November 6). TUFF acts like a porch, giving me windows to contemplate.

Let me show you what I’m doing:

First, I have revised my W-storyboard with a Dollar Store posterboard and placed it where I write. I can’t miss it. I’ve tweaked it from how I had it set up earlier. Originally, I had my five key scenes (the circles on the W) correlated to five points of the hero’s journey: The Call, The Test, The Cave, The Transformation, and The Return.

After trying to sell my manuscript, the weak point of my novel was its opening. It didn’t punch any agents or publishers in the gut. My editor had advised on an earlier draft that I didn’t give enough page time to Ike. Then I became homeless and decided to shred my manuscript to give my protagonist a western location and more hardship. I went to archeology field school in June and found my opening. All this processing taught me that we need to focus on the hero before we can focus on the call. This moves the test and the cave, which is more towards the end. The transformation is part of what happens between the cave and the return, which I like thinking of as the elixir — what gives the journey meaning.

For my NaNoWriMo Rebellion, I’ve also include a few more Dollar Store purchases: notebooks. What I’m doing in this notebook is applying the TUFF steps to work out revision issues I’m having. On the first day, I did a free write “about” my opening. I chose to brainstorm about it because the last thing I need is yet another opening: I have three!

I brainstormed the action I wanted to set up in the opening, drawing upon the three choices I have. Next, I wrote a 99-word flash fiction. It was flat, but revealed where I was getting hung up (it’s easier to see what is NOT working in 99 words than in 1,099 words). Next I wrote a 59 word flash and I actually liked what emerged. So when I wrote 9 words, I felt I nailed what the opening needed to be about. Of course the next part was to rip into those three scenes and make them the opening to MOD. That was my word count for today as a NaNo Rebel.

Not one to pass up on $1 notebooks, I bought several. This one is just for free writes. I’ve kept fiction journals the way others might keep diaries. Here’s what I learned about free writing many years ago: it’s your best tool against resistance. in his book The War of Art, Steve Pressfield writes about resistance as the enemy of creativity. He compares it to Freud’s Death Wish, our inclination to block our creativity or sabotage our own efforts. For years I wrote three pages very morning, “I hate mornings, I can’t think, I have nothing to write…” Not exactly Pulitzer winning stuff. But the discipline taught me to meet the page no matter what.

 

So here we are, back at the Ranch, sitting on the porch and sharing a cuppa. I’ve given you a window from my porch before and now I’m giving you a window into my process. I want you to write. You aren’t here because you want to take up parasailing or crochet. You’re here because you want to write a spy thriller about a crochet-loving, parasailing agent. Well, maybe not exactly that story, but one like it. You want to craft with words. Me, too.

November 2, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story a chair on a porch. Why is it there, and what might it mean? Think about using it as a prop or the main thrust of your story.

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

***

Where Stories Begin by Charli Mills

Between Danni and the front door sagged a small front porch. Inside the cabin lived a former log-skidder. Rumor had it Old Man Moe was blind, but his stories of the Great Fires of 1910 remained vivid.

“Take a chair,” spoke a voice behind her.

Danni startled, not hearing the man with foggy eyes ride up on a mule. “Moe, I’m the Forest Service archeologist.”

Moe slid from the saddle as if sighted, and walked confidently up the decrepit stairs to one of two rickety wooden chairs. He patted the one next to him. “Stories begin here Doc Gordon.”

###

Save

Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1

When I Grow Up

By Norah Colvin

Do you remember being asked this question as a child? Or contemplating it, even if you weren’t asked? Do you recall your childhood thoughts?

I remember having no aspiration prior to the age of ten when I decided I wanted to be a teacher. Although I loved writing, creating stories, songs, poetry and plays; writing was a part of who I was, an integral part of me, I didn’t consider a writer as something I might be.

It is often mooted that we are educating today’s children for a future of which we have no knowledge, a future we can’t begin to imagine. But hasn’t that always been so? Has any generation known exactly what life will be like for those following? While the rate of change may be increasing, change has always been.

Though it may sometimes appear otherwise, change creates more possibilities than the opportunities it erases. It may require us to let go of prior, and even current, world views in order to adjust and adapt our vision to altering paths.

I am envious of many of the choices available to young people now, and often lament that I was born too soon. But is it less to do with the time of my arrival than with choices I made? I think the answers are intertwined. The choices were influenced by the expectations of the era in which I grew up, choices that seem extremely limited, and limiting, now.

I wonder, if we could travel back in time and whisper in the ear of the child we were, somewhere between the ages of six and ten, what would we tell them to think, and how would we tell them to respond, when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” How would we steer the journey?

Would you rather stay in the era of your childhood; or perhaps in childhood forever, as did the child in A.A. Milne’s poem who decided, “I’ll think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.”

Maybe you’d give instructions on how to be happy, a choice that is often attributed to the five-year-old John Lennon.

While John Lennon was supposedly told that he didn’t understand the assignment, I am giving you greater flexibility in how you respond to this first of the challenges of the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo.

CHALLENGE OPTION: This contest has now closed. You may use this as a prompt challenge. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

When I grow up. Cast yourself back to six years of age, knowing what you do of life in the present; what would you want to be when you grow up and how would you go about achieving that goal? Tell us in 100 words, no more no less. It can be real or imaginary, serious or light-hearted. Extra points for comparing it to your childhood choice, if you remember it.

Aim for a century – 100 words, not including the title.

Submission information 

THANK YOU FOR ENTERING! CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

Submissions close at Midnight AEST 10 October. Submissions after that date will be disqualified.  

 

The winner will be announced on Tuesday, 7 November. 

 

Judging by Robbie Cheadle, Anne Goodwin, and Norah Colvin, Contest Leader.

Judges will rate the stories according to

  1. Story length.
  2. Relevancy to the prompt.
  3. How well the story captures the voice of a child.
  4. Originality, engagement, and interest.
  5. Story structure.
  6. Consistency with tense and agreement.
  7. Grammar.
  8. Spelling.
  9. Punctuation.

 

About Carrot Ranch 

Carrot Ranch is a literary community committed to providing all writers access to literary art regardless of backgrounds, genres, goals and locations. Common ground is found through the writing, reading and discussion of flash fiction. The weekly online flash fiction challenges promote community through process, craft and exploration, and regular participants form a literary group called The Congress of Rough Writers. Their first anthology, Vol. 1 publishes in 2017. Carrot Ranch offers an adult-learning program called Wrangling Words, available to all communities where Rough Writers reside.

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Not Now, I’m Busy

How can a storyteller get by in a busy, busy world? Busyness can distract us from sunsets and tales exchanged over pints or tea. Some feel compelled to find worth in activity, and some stay active as a distraction. The storytellers want you to slow down a minute. Listen. Read.

Writers tackled busyness on the page, taking  time out from busy schedules to craft responses.

The following stories are based on the September 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a busy character.

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Getting Busy on My First Date by Sarah Brentyn

His tie was blue. A nice enough color. The geometric design wasn’t all that unpleasant. A bit modern for my taste, but not obnoxious.

I suppose it could have been his shirt, with its burgundy basketweave pattern. But, if I’m honest, the whole thing blew up because of his pink paisley jacket.

I couldn’t tell if he was nice enough for me to look past his fashion faux pas.

When my sister asked how the date with her co-worker went, I shrugged, “I have no idea. His clothes were so loud, I couldn’t hear a word he said.”

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Sometimes I Feel Like I Am Going Crazy by Robbie Cheadle

In this modern world, sometimes, I feel like I am going crazy.

At work, deadlines, unexpected issues; needing time, needing urgent attention.

An endless cycle.

It sometimes seems relentless, a knot of anxiety in my stomach, as I work through the list of tasks, carefully and exactingly, there is no room for error.

In my dual purpose life, sometimes, I feel like I am going crazy.

At home, husband and children, all needing help, needing time, needing advice.

An endless cycle.

I feel like a monster, driving them on, helping them meet the demands of their high-speed, high-tech lives.

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The Real Job by Allison Maruska

The fryer beeps its obnoxious repetition. No one addresses it.

“Keri! Get that!” Phil yells from the back.

“I’m busy,” I mutter while shoving burgers into the warming drawer. At the fryer, hot oil hops out with the cooked fries, hitting my arm. “Ow.” I wipe it on my shirt.

“See, honey? That’s why you have to study hard in school, so you can get a real job. One that won’t burn you.”

It’s a woman in line, talking to a child and pointing at me.

I turn away, hiding my eye roll. Yeah, this isn’t a real job.

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Super Secretary by Anne Goodwin

“Mr Johnson called. Frantic he can’t make his appointment. He wondered if you’d see him at six.” Elaine wrinkled her nose. “I said you finished at five but he said you’d seen him after hours before.”

“Tell him okay.” The guy was too vulnerable to wait another week.

“And that rescheduled team meeting. I can’t find a slot that suits everyone until next month. Apart from Friday.”

Friday: her day off for writing. But writing wasn’t her real work. “We’ll do it Friday. If you can book a room.”

Elaine smiled. Perhaps the meeting rooms would be fully booked.

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Busy by Robert Kirkendall

Silvio the waiter moved from table to table taking customer’s orders and answering their many questions about the menu. He then ran back to the kitchen, quickly arranged various plates of food onto a serving tray, and ran back out with the tray on his upturned palm. He adroitly sidestepped other servers and bussers on his way to table.

“Waiter!” an obnoxious customer screeched.

Silvio halted and looked down at the customer contemptuously.

“What’s this fly doing in my soup?” the customer demanded as he pointed down at his soup bowl.

Silvio glanced down at the bowl. “The backstroke!”

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Never Too Busy for Fun by Norah Colvin

After days of endless rain, the chorus of birds and bees urged them outdoors. Mum bustled about the garden; thinning weeds, pinching off dead flowers, trimming ragged edges, tidying fallen leaves, enjoying the sunshine. Jamie, with toddler-sized wheelbarrow and infinite determination, filled the barrow, again and again, adding to the growing piles of detritus. Back and forth, back and forth, he went. Until … leaves crackling underfoot and crunching under wheels, called him to play. Jamie giggled as armfuls scooped up swooshed into the air and fluttered to earth. Mum, about to reprimand, hesitated, then joined in the fun.

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Tommy’s Nap by Chris Mills

Mary tucked the blanket around six month old Tommy, and his sleepy eyes fluttered like butterfly wings. She needed several hours to catch up on chores.

Laundry was an avalanching mountain peak. Dust bunnies taunted from corners and fled. Dirty dishes called her name, as did toilets, tubs, floors and sills. She flipped mattresses, turned mattresses, chased dust bunnies from under mattresses. Spotted mirrors reflected her weary gaze.

Tommy slept. Mary swept. To-do lists became all-done lists, and the house was just the way she wanted it.

Tommy the teenager walked out of his room and asked about dinner.

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Jumping Around by FloridaBorne

Plane Crash? I told my doctor not to get married on the 25th of this year, or take flight 25 to Hawaii.

When I’m around, people hurry up and die.

I lived 25 miles north of Barneveld, Wisconsin when a massive tornado jumped past my house and annihilated the center of their town.  I lived 25 miles away from San Francisco in the 1979 Earthquake.  Then, I was in Florida when Hurricane Irma took a giant leap to the left and we missed the hurricane force winds by 25 miles.

That’s it!  I’m done with psychiatrists. They never listen!

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No Time to Stand and Stare? by Anne Goodwin

A shorter walk today, and no dawdling. Busy busy, lots to do back home.

The squiggle on the path broke her rhythm. Even here, in its natural habitat, an adder was a rare sight. She’d disturbed one once, only a mile away, but it slithered into the bracken before she could distinguish the diamonds on its back. This one seemed to be posing. How close could she get before it reared its head and spat?

A gift. A blessing. She’d stay as long as the snake did. A poor life, if she lacked the leisure to stand and stare.

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Busy (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

The sun is warm on her face in the cooler air, light penetrating her closed eyelids, turning them incandescent orange. The smells of autumn: decaying leaves, rich earth. Her books make a surprisingly comfortable pillow, lying on the grass on the small quad. Bit of heaven.

A shadow falls across her. She cracks one eye open.

“Brittany,” she says flatly.

“Jane, that calculus is killing me. I need help.”

Jane closes her eye again and points behind her, somewhere. “Math lab’s that way.”

“You’re not doing anything.”

The eye again, a bullet. “Looks may deceive. I am very busy.”

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Busy by Irene Waters

Dahlia and Rhonda sipped their coffee as they chatted not glancing in Bee’s direction. Yawning, Dahlia swung her legs onto the table. “I’m tired.”

“Why? What have you been doing?”

“Nothing. You almost finished Bee?”

“No. I’ve got tables to set, flowers to arrange and the speaker wants the projector stuff. I’ll have to organise that. Would you set the tables for me? The sooner I get home the better. I’ve got the dogs to walk, dinner to make, the kids to pick up before I come back .”

“Sorry Bee. Too busy. Gotta go. See you tonight. Coming Rhonda?”

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Houseproud by Pensitivity

The last of the shopping had been put away, and the house was as neat as a pin.

She’d done all the washing and ironing, and prepared dinner in the kitchen.

No time to relax though, just a shower and then off to visit.

She got to the hospital and her mother’s bed was enclosed in a curtain.

The family emerged from behind it.

They looked tired.

‘Where were you? She was asking for you.’

‘I was busy. How is she?’

‘It doesn’t matter now. She died half an hour ago.’

Being houseproud is a heavy burden to bear.

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Busy-Bee by Kalpana Solsi

Aunt Charlotte being a very fastidious person, I am on tenterhooks about a slip.

The brownies and cookies are baked to perfection. Darjeeling tea is ready to be brewed. The expensive crockery is laid on the table. The curtains match with sofa upholstery.

How did I miss this? I station the wooden-stool and hitch my dress high to climb despite feeling giddy. I am busy cleaning the ceiling-fan. The landline-phone springs to life.

I lower myself huffing, losing my balance to fall on the phone. I just pick the receiver.

“Okay Aunt”, I mumble.

She has cancelled her visit.

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Busy With a Purpose by Reena Saxena

I returned home one evening to find newspapers torn into neat little vertical strips, and piled into a heap. Somebody had perfected the technique to get pieces of a similar shape and size, and taught others how to do it. The effort was laudable, as there was no lofty purpose behind doing it. The doers were just learning.

They were three cute kittens, whose mother had chosen us to look after them. They did not own any tools, other than their teeth and nails. I saw them expand the efforts to other needed skills.

Hats off to the spirit!

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Flash Fiction by Kerry E. B. Black

“What’re you talking about?” The woman’s cheeks darkened and her voice raised. “The white buffalo. What have you done with her?”

Maurya wiped the spray from her cheek and ignored the taunts from the towns folk. She walked into the mushroom cave. A circle of fungi had formed, but hoof prints smashed the closest mushrooms into the compost. Maurya moved her hands in a warding symbol.

“I think I know where she’s gone.”

The town elder tottered to loom over Maurya. “Since it’s your place that lost her and your mind that knows where she’d be, you’d better find her.”

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Busy Bee by Etol Bagam

Thursday morning. Wake up.

Migraine.

Get up. Wake up the kids. Have breakfast. Get kids ready to school. Walk them to school.

Work from home. Automation won’t work, do it manually.

Stop to go to the doctor.

Come back to a meeting. Work non-stop until 3:25.

Bring suitcase down for hubby.

Pick up kids at 3:30.

Have lunch!

Drive kids to sports practice.

Stop at dry cleaner.

Back home, iron hubby’s shirts.

Shower.

Fix dinner. Do the dishes.

Help hubby pack for his trip.

Read a bit. Go to bed.

And that migraine is still there until end of day Friday….

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On the Go by Michael

She was too busy for idle chit chat. It was go, go all day. Those around her found her exhausting as she never stopped, preferring to get the job done as she’d say to them.

Her head down bum up attitude gave no room for getting to know her. She nodded in acquaintance to her co-workers, she ate alone and never took her full dinnertime.

She found it hard at Christmas when they did stop to celebrate as she had no connections to anyone.

It came as no surprise to anyone that she had no one at home either.

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The Energizer Corey by Joe Owens

Corey took a deep breath as he pushed out the last words for this seventy two minute stop. Now it was off to the Explorer’s Lounge for the Newlyweds Match game where couples would try to see how much they knew each other. He had hosted the Voice of the Ocean, a Sled Dog Puppies petting session and a bingo game, but his day was not nearly half over.

“How do you do it?” Junior Cruise Director Caitlin asked.

“Never stop. Get your plan in mind, pick the fastest route between and don’t stop when you’re tired!”

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Busy as a Beaver by Susan Zutautas

Mr. Moose saw a busy beaver working on his den
He walked up to him and offered a hand to lend

They cut and moved logs and stopped for a break
Thank you Mr. Moose I wouldn’t have been able to get all these in the lake

Munching on some berries
Talking away was merry

Until Mr. Moose explained the fire on his land
And how everything was now just a pile of sand

This made Mr. Beaver shed a tear for him
And offered for Mr. Moose to move to his land

Thank you my new found friend

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Buckeye Blane, Beaver Bureaucrat by Bill Engleson

“So, kid, open wide, flash me them orange sharpies.”

“Yahhhhhhhhh!”

“Kid, they’re beauties. Credit to beaverdom…”

“Yahhhhhhhhh!”

“Just about done. Hole punch bought the farm. Okay. Crunch! Great. Once more…We’re done. Take a break.”

“Yawoooooie.”

“Know the feeling. Know it well. Anyways. You got the job. Land Manager Apprentice.”

“Yawoooooie.”

“I can see you’re thrilled. Okay, your basic job will be to clear deadwood.”

“Oooooyawooo!”

“Specialized beaver work, kid. We leave the healthy trees…take out only the dry rot.”

“Ooooowooooyaaa!”

“Goes against beaver lore, I know. Compromise. Humans give a little: we give a little.”

“Yaaaawooowooooie!”

“That’s the spirit.”

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A Team of Busy Bees by Liz Husebye Hartman

She bends over unkempt juniper shrubs and a beetle-laced Japanese plum, scissoring with vigor with long-bladed hand shears. Down the boulevard, a few trees show tawdry highlights of orange and gold.

“I’d best get busy,” she grumbles, “While the leaves are still up, and not all over my lawn.” She snips here, shapes a curve there, and gradually uncovers dahlias, planted in the gap between shrub and front stoop. They straighten and smile, proud of their cache of hidden pollen.

Later, she rests, sipping iced tea, as grateful bumblebees, buzz and fill their leg sacks with summer’s final bounty.

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Monastic Preserves by idylloftheking

“You could say I’m a connoisseur. Have you ever tried Trappist beer?”

“No, sir. I don’t drink.”

“Of course, of course. Where do you get your berries?”

“That’s not something we like to share, sir.”

“Of course, of course. I suppose I can’t have just one more jar?”

“They won’t cooperate, sir.”

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Monastery Jam by Charli Mills

Thimbleberries scattered across the floor. “Brother Mark! How careless..!”

Mark shuffled to fetch … a broom? Dust bin or bowl? A rag? He stood like the garden statue of St. Francis. His mind calculated each solution rapidly.

“…just standing there. Look at this mess. And leaves me to clean it. Never busy, that Brother Mark. Idle hands, you know…”

Mark blushed to hear the complaints. Father Jorge’s large brown hand rested on Mark’s shoulder. “Let’s walk the beach.”

Waves calmed Mark’s thinking. “I didn’t know if it was salvageable.”

“Brother Mark, your mind needn’t make jam of every situation.”

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Cerebral Buzz  (Janice vs Richard 19) by JulesPaige

Richard looked as if he were sitting still. In truth, his mind
was busy calculating what to do next while his body recovered.
After visiting Janice’s home – and eating the berries from her
garden – He must have also ingested something else. While
he was blind consuming berries he must have not looked
carefully enough at the weeds that bore similar fruit that was
really just for the birds.

Richard doubted that Janice had planted those weeds just
to poison him. And he had gotten ill, leaving a mess in her
home – the home he had wanted to make his…

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Busy by Rugby 843

When my kids were little they were well behaved. A visit to the doctor’s office wasn’t a problem. We usually brought something along to keep them busy–books, paper and pens, etc. Nowadays I see tables and chairs, video screens and coloring books to entertain children waiting for appointments.

At home we had a “busy box” toy that served us well, but I’ve seen much more elaborate styles such as the ones pictured above, at crowded offices. Some parents might think this is a prime place for germs, but washing their hands before and after use should solve that problem.

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Parent/Teacher by Pete Fanning

Liam’s father sat hunched over the desk. “Why ain’t you giving out homework?”

“Well, eight hours is a long day for a seven-year-old. In fact, studies—”

“Studies. Here we go.” His arms flailed. He brimmed with aggression. Mrs. Tan pressed on, a little less sure now. No wonder Liam was lashing out.

“Well, concerning Liam’s classroom behavior.”

The chair squeaked. “What? I’ll set whup his ass if he’s acting up.”

Mrs. Tan managed to cover her gasp. She pulled close Liam’s folder, smoothing the edges of if only to keep her hands busy.

“No, he’s really working hard.”

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Father by Jack Schuyler

I never thought of my Father as a busy man, or as absent in any way. Mother would praise him for giving us food, shelter, and luxury, but such adoration fell silent against stony determination. I remember every day straining to hear the opening and closing of our front door, anticipating his arrival because I loved him. But the sound rang mostly in departure, and love was only a word I pretended to know the meaning of. And when he died, it was not love that pulled at my heart, but an emptiness that had been there all along.

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The Mom by Ruchira Khanna

“Sam hurry up! it’s time to leave for school.”

“Yeah” came a response amidst the wide yawn.

“Did you put your lunch box, water bottle in your bag?”

“Yeeees!” he muttered.

“Sam eat your breakfast! Why are you daydreaming? The school bus will be here any minute!” she stressed.

Sam rolled his eyes, and he could not contain himself, “MOM! Let it go!” he shrilled.

Mom paused.

Took a deep sigh as she placed her hands on her hips, she responded, “I am aware dear. But someone has to delegate it, and that ugly task falls upon me!”

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The Unsung Juggler by Eugene Uttley

Well, here we are in the middle of it all, the whole symphony of sweeping, spinning spheres.
And we have no telescope powerful enough to see him down there at the bottom of it all.
What’s he doing down there? Why, he’s juggling of course – juggling all the planets and stars.
He’s not God – or a god – I rush to say, though you might think him so to see him doing what he does.
He’s just a guy, you know. A very, very, very busy guy.
He’s the unsung juggler at the bottom of the universe.

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Dang Busy by D. Avery

“Shorty?”

“Huh? Oh, hey. Wasn’t expecting to see you. What with the Kid gone.”

“That’s nuthin’ ta me. I jist narrate.”

“Yeah, right.”

“So, whatcha up to, Shorty? Looks like you ain’t doin’ nothin’. ”

“Correct. I am not doing nothing, I’m doing something.”

“Oh. Watcha doin’? ‘Cause it looks like daydreamin’.”

“Yep.”

“Shorty, ain’t that nothin’?”

“Nope. I’m writin’. And I’m plannin’ for the rodeo that’s comin’ through the ranch.”

“A rodeo? At Carrot Ranch?”

“Yep. Eight events. Eight prizes.”

“Yeehaw, Shorty! For real?!”

“Yep. You can’t make this stuff up.”

“Well you sure dreamed it up.”

“Yep.”

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Gone East by D. Avery

“Shorty, is it true?”

“Yep. Gonna be quieter ‘round here. The Kid headed back East after all.”

“What? The Kid seemed happy here.”

“The Kid was happy here. Believe you me, the Kid didn’t wanna go. Even mentioned not wantin’ to leave you.”

“Aw, shucks. So why’n tarnation? Saddle sore? Too much wranglin’?”

“Naw, the Kid was willin’ ta ride the range all day, you know that.”

“Was it the food, Shorty?”

“Heck no. The Kid thrives on what’s dished out here. Did say somethin’ ‘bout bein’ busy, havin’ ta bring home the bacon.”

“Oh. That takes time.”

“Yep.”

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